"My Kind of Town, Chicago!" Thanksgiving & Round Up!

Every year, we take time out to give thanks for the many blessings we have. For us, one thing we are very thankful for is our group of friends who share the same food passion as we do. As a result, we hosted our annual Thanksgiving party with friends we’ve made from our group, What’s Cookin Chicago. Rather than feasting on classic Thanksgiving fare, we graced our table with Chicago inspired dishes and friends brought dishes that were enjoyed in previous events we’ve hosted.

It was a successful party with over 50 guests celebrating with us. It really made me feel warm & fuzzy to see folks enjoying themselves and knowing our place is here in Chicago. Chicago is really our kind of town and is definitely home. 🙂
For our “My Kind of Town, Chicago” Thanksgiving, I prepared an appetizer buffet & dinner buffet which included the following:

Baked Buffalo Wings platter
served with ranch & blue cheese dressings,
baby carrots & celery sticks

Baked Parmesan & Romano Wings platter

served with marinara sauce
Dip Trio:

Spinach & Artichoke, Chili Cheese, Jalapeno Popper Dip
served with crostini, crackers & tortilla chips
Cocktail meatballs

Warm Pumpkin Walnut Brie

served with crackers


Cranberry Praline Spinach Salad

Lou Malnati’s Chicago Deep Dish Pizzas
ordered from Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
Chicago Hot Dogs
served with all the fixins
Italian Beef Sandwiches

served with pepperocini peppers
(unpictured unfortunately)

Tilapia DeJonghe
(twist on Chicago’s Shrimp DeJonghe)
served with brown rice pilaf

Palmer House Brownies

Our guests also brought dishes to share including the following… and so much more that weren’t pictured!:

Howard’s Bacon Wrapped Dates Tricia & Barney’s Mac & Cheese Chanese’s Chicago Chicken Vesuvio
Kurt’s Thai Chicken Salad Spread
Robert’s Fava Bean Stew
Teresa’s Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
served with new potatoes
Teresa’s Zucchini Salad
with Miso dressing Emma & Rich’s Tabbouleh Salad Tricia & Barney’s Italian Pasta Salad Jen & Wayne’s Gingerbread Cupcakes
with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting Bethany’s Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Jenn’s Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake
Laura & Mike’s Pear Crumble
Susan’s Coffee Toffee Pie
Paulo’s Papaya Flan
Linda’s Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Tart
John’s White Cheddar & Caramel Popcorn


To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted recipes specific to their hometown, city, region, and/or country. As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Courtney of Cook Like a Champion! Courtney has won a package of Chicago specialities including spices from The Spice House and local foods. Congratulations Courtney and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…

Spicy Living
from Connecticut (India)
Appam & Thenkuzhal
Spicy Living joins us to share some specialities of India – Appam & Thenkuzhal. I loved this entry because I learned about new ingredients, cuisines and dishes! Check out Spicy Living’s blog for recipes and information on specific Indian dishes!
Jen of Beantown Baker
from Massachusetts
Boston Baked Beans
What food comes to mind when you think of Boston? For me, it’s Boston Baked Beans and Jen shares with us her recipe. Even better is that this recipe is made in a crockpot! Check out Jen’s blog and give these a try, even if it’s an excuse to use your crockpot!
Courtney of Cook Like a Champion
from Florida (Alabama)
Fried Pickles
I recently met Courtney and what a sweetheart! I learned about her Alabama roots and her many travels before she settled in Florida. As a native of Alabama, Courtney shares a recipe of Fried Pickles. Fried Pickles is common in the south and most folks may be familiar with it being prepared with pickle chips. Courtney’s entry is made with pickle slices and is one of her faves at a local Alabama restaurant. Check out her blog for the recipe and get a taste of the south!
Jayasree of Experiments in Kailas Kitchen
from Kerala, India
Kappa Cutlet
In Jayasree’s corner of the world, tapioca is a staple ingredient and as a result, she shares a recipe for Kappa (Tapioca) Cutlets. This is a great recipe to try tapioca that isn’t from a box! Check out Jayasree’s blog for the recipe and how she got her hands on a real tapioca plant!
Karen of Loves To Eat Weblog
from Florida (Michigan)
Apple Betty
Although currently living under the Florida sun, Karen is from Michigan and celebrates her roots with her entry. She shares with us her mom’s Apple Betty recipe made with Michigan apples. Michigan is well known for the wonderful apples they produce in the state and Karen loves to prepare them in various ways. Check out her blog for the recipe and give this a try with the many apples available this season!
Harini of Tongue Ticklers
from India
Dal Khichdi
No one likes getting sick… but I’ll admit being sick may be worth it just to give Harini’s Dal Khichdi recipe. Harini shares with us this comforting dish that’s common in India to give to babies as an early food or to coax a cold. Perfect for the fall weather, this is a great recipe to try. Check out Harini’s recipe and make this on a cool fall night to warm up to!
Shayne of One Bite At a Time!
from New Jersey
Dirty Jersey Disco Fries
Who doesn’t like fries… even as a little indulgence now and then? Well Shayne has shared her recipe for Dirty Jersey Disco Fries and boy, talk about indulgence! This happens to be a popular way to serve & enjoy fries in diners of New Jersey & New York. Oven roasted fries, topped with a bechamel sauce and gravy, then garnished with crisp bacon – YUM! Check out Shayne’s blog for a great step by step recipe and get dirty with these disco fries!
Cathy of Cathy’s Kitchen Journey
from New York
New York Style Cheesecake
with Strawberry Topping

One of the first foods that comes to when I think of New York is cheesecake! Cathy represents New York wonderfully with her recipe for New York Style Cheesecake. I’ve had New York Style Cheesecake on a previous trip to NYC and I’m anxious to try Cathy’s recipe. You should too so check out her blog for the recipe!

Chicago Inspired Recipes (Thanksgiving 2008)

Here is the menu of dishes I made for our “My Kind of Town, Chicago!” Thanksgiving party. Click on the links below to view the recipes:

Baked Buffalo Wings platter
served with ranch & blue cheese dressings,
baby carrots & celery sticks

served with marinara sauce


Dip Trio:
Spinach & Artichoke, Chili Cheese, Jalapeno Popper Dip
served with crostini, crackers & tortilla chips

Cocktail Meatballs
original Joelen recipe

original Joelen recipe



Cranberry Praline Pecan Spinach Salad
inspired by friend, Megan

Tilapia DeJonghe
(a twist on the traditional Shrimp DeJonghe)

Chicago recipe

Food Swap: Soup & Sandwiches!

Food Swaps are a great way to get a sampling of different variations of foods, such as a cookie swap/exchange normally held during the holidays. Well, we can continue this concept throughout the year, not just during the holidays! Food swapping is also becoming a recent food trend in which people are sharing what food they do have for other food they don’t have. With the rising costs of food & groceries, let’s utilize our own cooking/baking skills in the kitchen as an alternative to the grocery store.

For this event, friends brought a slow cooker, Crockpot or a pot of soup, chowder, or chili. We shared our delicious creations by placing them in freezable containers for everyone to take some home and/or enjoy for lunch. To accompany our delicious soups, I provided a panini bar with various breads, cheeses, meats and fillings for some great sandwiches.

As a result of this event, we all took home a whole variety of soups, chowders, and/or chilis to enjoy for the week ahead. What I love about this event is that it not only is an event for friends to score quality local food, but it also fosters a unique community by giving everyone the opportunity to actually meet the people who make what they eat.

Here are the soups that we swapped:

italian chicken bruschetta soup
yellow split pea soup
curried pear & butternut squash soup
smashed potato soup
roasted tomato soup
spicy vegetarian chili


assorted paninis
assorted chips

Megan & Matt’s spinach salad

fudge brownies

Carribbean Inspired Weeknight Dinner Party

Tonight we had another couple over for dinner. It’s amazing that despite living within a mile from each other, we all haven’t gotten together in almost a whole year! To celebrate the much needed reunion, I prepared a special dinner that was inspired by Caribbean flavors. Here’s the dinner menu I prepared:

Click the links above on for pics and recipes of the dishes I made!

International Chef Spotlight Dinner & Round Up!

Every month I host a Chef Spotlight dinner with friends and is dedicated to the many chefs who have shaped our culture and our palates. In these “Chef Spotlight Dinners” a specific chef or group of chefs are highlighted where attendees prepare a recipe created by the chef(s) and bring it to share potluck style. During the event, we can discuss our thoughts on the chef, their cooking style/cuisine and the recipes prepared.

Everyone’s view on food is different, based on one’s exposure, cultural background, environment, etc. This month, we prepared dishes of non-US chefs who are known worldwide for their culinary creations. Below are the dishes that graced our table, along with recipes…

Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed w/Chicken Apple Salad
shared at the event by Ruby
recipe courtesy of Robert Irvine

shared at the event by Paulo
recipe courtesy of Paulo & Recipezaar

shared at the event by John
recipe courtesy of Tarla Dalal

shared at the event by Robert
recipe courtesy of Ferran Adria

shared at the event by Teresa
recipe courtesy of Madhur Jaffrey
shared at the event by Laura
recipe courtesy of Jacques Pepin


shared at the event by Shirley
recipe courtesy of Massimo Buttura

Cabbage Rolls
shared at the event by Kevin & Marla

recipe courtesy of Graham Kerr
shared at the event by Yumi
recipe courtesy of Vikas Khanna


Roasted Pepper, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

shared at the event by Howard
recipe courtesy of Chef Bahija, Jnane Tamsna Cooking School

shared at the event by Jen
recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson


Apple Galette

shared at the event by Joelen
recipe courtesy of Jacques Pepin


shared at the event by Joelen
recipe courtesy of Jacques Pepin


Crab & Mushroom Mac & Cheese
shared at the event by Michael
recipe courtesy of (?)
(awaiting recipe…)

Smoked Salmon Black Bean Tostaditos
shared at the event by Janet
recipe courtesy of Rick Bayless
(awaiting recipe…)

Nigeria Chicken Stew, Plantains & Rice

shared at the event by Tricia
recipe courtesy of her Mom
(awaiting recipe…)


Jess of
Cooking Up Memories

from Wisconsin
Margarita Ice Cream
Too cold for ice cream? Never! Jess shares with us a great recipe for Margarita ice cream courtesy of Nigella Lawson. Check out Jess’s blog for the recipe and try this for your next dinner party!

Oktoberfest Adventure Round Up!

It’s an Oktoberfest dinner this month with wine & beer! Friends came over tonight for a German inspired dinner in celebration of Oktoberfest. Here’s what we enjoyed (my apologies for some of the bad photos):

Sweet Red German Wine by Carl Reh

German Rieslings

German style lagers

Art & Carol’s Beer Bread

Fondue Fixins:
bread cubes, baby gherkins, picked onions, steamed cauliflower

Unfortunately Not Pictured
…but definitely enjoyed!:
Shirley’s Bean & Corn Salad
Tricia & Barney’s German Stollen Bread
Yumi’s apple harvest


To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted their favorite German inspired recipes! As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Jen of Beantown Baker! Jen has won a some German inspired spices from The Spice House. Congratulations Jen and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…

Dell of Cooking & the City
from Australia
German Apple Cake
German cuisine is a great one to enjoy during the fall, especially because apples are widely used in German desserts. Dell joins us to share a wonderful German Apple Cake which highlight cinnamon and apples. Check out Dell’s blog for the recipe!
Becke of Columbus Foodie
from Ohio
Sauerbraten & Spaetzle
What German feast would be complete without Sauerbraten? Becke shares this dish and it looks absolutely fabulous. It’s such a comforting dish, perfect with spaetzle and a cold frothy lager. Check out Becke’s blog for the recipe!
Jen of Beantown Baker
from Massachusetts
Crockpot Kielbasa and Kraut
Jen saves time but doesn’t skimp in flavor with her Crockpot Kielbasa & Kraut. Especially with the fall temps, the crockpot comes in handy and with little effort, you could have a wonderful meal like this! Check out Jen’s blog for the recipe!
Carly of Live. Laugh. Grow.
from West Virginia
Pork with Sauerkraut, Apples & Potatoes
Sauerkraut is definitely a must in German cuisine and I’m glad that Carly incorporates it in her recipe of Pork with Sauerkraut, Apples & Potatoes. It’s an amazing combination of sweet and sour which is common in German eats. Check out Carly’s blog for the recipe!
Kelly of Kelly Cooks… and Other Amazing Feats
from Pennsylvania
Laugen Brotchen (Bretzel Rolls)
In an attempt to make a German bread that her husband liked, Kelly found the recipe for Laugen Brotchen, also known as Bretzel Rolls. These look absolutely wonderful and remind me of the rolls served at a great lunch place downtown (Hannah’s Bretzel.) Trader Joes grocery store also have similar rolls, but I’m thankful to have a recipe that I can try at home. For the recipe, check out Kelly’s blog!

Martini Mixer Adventure Round Up!

For this month’s TGIF Happy Hour event, I hosted a Martini Mixer paired with Swanky Snacks. This was such a great night with friends… but then again, you can’t go wrong with some delicious martinis. We set up our “Martini Room” with a whole assortment of fun ingredients for martinis including:


Fruit juices:
Peach, mango
Flavored liqueurs: Apple Pucker, Papaya Schnapps
Mixers: Raspberry Vodka, Triple Sec

Fruit juices: Pineapple, pear, strawberry
Flavored Liqueurs: Blue raspberry, Mango, Double Chocolate, Mint Chocolate

Flavored Liqueurs: Grand Marnier, Godiva
Mixers: Gin, Vermouth, Vodka, Rose’s lime juice

Accompaniments: Limes, lemons & maraschino cherries
Olives: Garlic stuffed & Blue cheese stuffed

Rimmers:
salt, Lemon Drop, Pomegrante, Chocolate

To pair with our fabulous martinis, we had a feast of appetizers and bite sized eats. Here’s what we noshed on while we sipped our martinis:

Camille’s Smoked Salmon Cracker Rounds
topped w/Creme Fraiche & Dill

Linda’s Shrimp Canapes

Linda’s Cucumber Cream Canapes

Betsy’s Cucumber w/Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade

Howard’s Phyllo Quiche Cups

Nelson’s Salame & Marinated Mushroom Plate

Yumi’s Onion Veggie Dip w/Crackers

Joelen’s Chicken Gyoza

Ruby’s Tabbouleh

Joelen’s Spinach & Ricotta Rolls & Crab Rangoon Rolls

Naveen’s Chicken Kabobs

Tricia’s Pate & Water Crackers
Carrie’s Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Susan’s Toffee Bars

Harvey’s Nutella Ravioli

To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted their favorite martini drinks and appetizer recipes! As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Cara of Cara’s Cravings! Cara has won a wine markers and a martini recipe book. Congratulations Cara and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…

Stina of Eat Something

from Tennessee
The Disco Duck & Pecan Bars
Stina joins us to share two fab things – The Disco Duck martini and Pecan Bars using pecan liqueur. You must check out Stina’s blog for details and the recipes… who knew orange juice could taste so good and pecan liqueur existed?!
Becke of Columbus Foodie
from Ohio
Roasted Chioggia Beets with Feta
Are you a fan of beets? If so, great! If not, this recipe for Roasted Chioggia Beets with Feta that Becke shares with us just might make you change your mind. Aside from the rich color, this dish is sure to be a hit… especially with a nice martini to wash it down. Check out Becke’s blog for the recipe!
Courtney of Cook Like a Champion
from Florida
Roasted Chicken Purses
Courtney joins us for her first blogging adventure and she chose an awesome recipe to share! Her Roasted Chicken Purses had a bit of Florida flair by using Mojo seasoned chicken. To check out how she did it and for the recipe, click on her blog link and give them a try!
Jen of Beantown Baker
from Massachusetts
Bacon Wrapped & Goat Cheese/Almond Stuffed Dates
Isn’t it true that bacon makes everything better?! Jen proves my point with her Bacon Wrapped & Goat Cheese/Almond Stuffed Dates. I’m seriously craving them and the combo of goat cheese & almond sounds so amazing. Check out her blog for the recipe and the step by step guide to prepare!
Karen of Loves to Eat Weblog
from Florida
Grapefruit Martini
Karen joins us with a fabulous martini – the Grapefruit Martini! She has quite the advantage by having some fresh grapefruit to use, coming from the Sunshine State. Check out how she learned about the Grapefruit Martini and the recipe in her blog!
Jess of Cooking Up Memories
from Wisconsin
The Gambler-Tini
Jess’s husband gets into the action by concocting this martini with both their favorite liqueurs, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Dr. McGuillicuddy’s Cherry SChnapps. Check out Jess’s blog for the recipe and serve this up at your next get together!
Cara of Cara’s Cravings
from Massachusetts
Nutty Pumpkin Pie Martini
Cara is an inspiring person and friend of mine for many reasons… and on top of that, she is quite a fan of pumpkin. I’m so glad she’s participated in this event by sharing her Nutty Pumpkin Pie Martini. It’s a perfect martini to enjoy in the fall, especially during the Halloween and Thanksgiving seasons. To serve this up at your next fall party, check out Cara’s blog for the recipe!