My First Foodie Pen Pal!

I have been patiently waiting to post this for about 2 weeks now!  I have been beyond excited the entire time I have participated in my first foodie pen pal exchange.  The rule was to get your box out by the 15th..well I probably had mine out by like the 8th!  I had a great time exchanging e-mails with the person I had, and the person who had me.  This is most definitely not meant just to be greedy and waiting for your gift like a kid on Christmas, the connecting part was also very precious to me too!  For those of you not aware of the Foodie Pen Pal Program, please read more after my post!

My Foodie Pen Pal this month was Shannon Williams from Confessions of a Fat Momma.  I was happy to see that her blog was about getting healthy.  My blog is far from that!  However, I had just started (continuing again..) my weight loss journey.  I was paranoid that my first box would be filled with awful things that I will feel guilty about, but I was so pleased that I could nosh on the treats in my box and not feel bad!

I was so excited when I saw the package waiting for me on my staircase.  I had one of those days and was feeling a bit bummed, but who cannot be absolutely thrilled when they receive a package?!  I had made a joke to the boyfriend that ‘It feels like Christmas! But like getting a gift from Grandma, you don’t know which way this can go!’.   Of course by that I mean no disrespect, you just get a bit nervous getting a ‘gift’ from someone you’ve only known a matter of 2-3 weeks!  I was excited to see the spread of healthy yet delicious snacks.  Working in catering I never know when I can sit down to eat a real lunch and sometimes you just have to eat snacks while driving around on deliveries.  I’ve been so happy to have healthy snacks to reach for while at work.  The highlight of the box I have to admit is the Dancing with the Stars DVD.  I am one of those people that everyone hates to shop with.  I go down the same aisles 16 times..put things in my cart..take them back out…wander around the entire store at least 4 times.. I have to LOVE something to actually purchase it.  I have been having the biggest struggle finding a workout DVD (dance in specific) that I deemed worthy of purchasing.  I love that she took away that guess work and got me something I have been wanting for a while, and I didn’t even tell her that! She’s just a mind reader I suppose..Thank you to Confessions of a Fat Momma for the thoughtful box and to the Lean Green Bean for making this program a success!


The Lean Green Bean

Here’s a detailed explanation of the program:

-On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treatsThe spending limit is $15The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
– Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

Fancy Pants and White Sox

Nothing is a better wrap up to the summertime as attending a baseball game, in style.  My favorite team is the Chicago White Sox.  My boyfriend works for US Cellular, which is excellent considering the White Sox play at U.S Cellular Field (It will forever be Comiskey in my heart though..).  He won tickets to sit in the Executive Suite.  I was absolutely thrilled.  I had been in the executive suite once before and it was an amazing experience.  Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting in the little tiny folding seats uncomfortably close to the greasy man next to me sucking down pepsi and munching on a hot dog, but the executive suite sure makes a gal feel superly fancy!

The executive suite at US Cellular Field is far more appealing than most hotels I have stayed at.  I would feel terribly out of place if everyone around me wasn’t also decked out in jeans and team t-shirts.  How do they know I am not some super important business lady?  I’m munching on cheese and crackers and sipping wine just like the other lady, ha!  At first I didn’t have a game plan for the buffet.  I saw assorted wings, hot dogs and tamales.  I will admit, I was wondering where the good stuff was! Last time we were invited we enjoyed some top sirloin meatloaf and other fancy treats.  I made myself a tasty hot dog and loaded my plate with chips and dips and cheeses and sat to watch the game.  Just as I finish my food I see a chef, decked out in chef coat, pants, tall hat..and I wonder to myself; he seems quite fancy to be replacing hot dogs.  Then I see his cart of magical wonders.  He was holding out on me.  I was wasting my appetite with hot dogs and chips and he has a beef carving station!  I had to take a few deep breaths in, take some sips of pepsi to aide digestion, and head up for round two.  I loaded my plate with homemade mashed potatoes (no boxed crap here), creamed spinach and artichokes with bacon, and some tasty sliced beef with horseradish cream.  What an amazing dinner!  Do you still sitting at a baseball game!

I decided to make this multi course meal and enjoyed a cheese course with my wine

Then ya know, the dessert cart had to come by…

The White Sox lost horribly, but it was a very delicious loss!

I still love my Sweet Home Chicago!

Potlucks – My Culinary Weakness Part 2

Ah…Church pinics.

A Chuch picnic isnt a real church picnic without a…*drumroll* PIE CONTEST!

See, there was a sign, it was very official.

I did not have the privilege to be part of the pie making contest, so I was there to root on my boyfriend’s mom, Sue.  Plus I wanted to let Sue have her time in the spotlight, I didn’t want any family animosity if I had to beat her..(I sure hope youre finding humor in this Sue, or Thanksgiving dinner may be awkward..) Anyhoo there was some stiff competition this year and of course whispers at the pie table, glaring eyes, revenge plots, you know, the usual church competition.

The Pie Contest Table

Sue’s Pie – Cherry Raspberry Lattice

After stuffing our faces with everything within our reach, the judges announced we were allowed to sample pies and await award announcements.  I darted to try me some pie!  There were some delicious choices, however, Sue’s stood out.  I even tried candy bar pie, thinking, what could possibly be wrong here!  It was tasty no doubt, but the combination of cherries and raspberries in a buttery flaky crust was very refreshing on the crisp summer afternoon!  The judges agreed.  Sue won! Hooray!

I was able to get some tid bits from Sue on her prized pie!


What made you pick this recipe?   I love cherry pie and thought the raspberry would add something different.

Was this the first recipe you picked or was there some trial and error?  I had found this recipe last year, but went with peach blueberry because my dad liked peach better – only won second place last year – still VERY respectable, but, of course wanted 1st.  Anyway, this year I just knew that I would make the cherry.  I have tried a different crust every year – not really thrilled with any of them.  This year I got this recipe from a girlfriend’s mother.  I just knew that this one was the very best!!! I know thatI won the contest because of the crust!!

Were you confident it’d be a winner? I knew that it was a good pie and the crust was exceptional, but there is one man that I have been competing against and I am always afraid of his pies!   🙂  They are beautiful and very tasty.
Were you happy with the results?  I was happy.  I do wish that I could make a pie that is prettier.  I am still working on a lattice and Danielle has already said that she would help me with it.  Now I am on the look out for a new pie to try.   I will stick with my crust, tho – no changes there!!


Any suggestions for making the perfect pie? (Crust, filling, etc) The crust is the big thing, but I always try to fill the shell more that what the recipe calls for.  I made 1 1/2 times the filling for the pie that won.
There ya have it folks, its all in the crust!
Congrats again on your win!


Potlucks – My Culinary Weakness Part 1

As my comeback into the blog world, I have decided to make this week “Summer Wrap Up Week”.  I picked 5 posts for the week that summed up my summer and felt it would be a great kick off to my blog for the Fall.  I have missed you all and I am so glad to be back!

For my first blog of the Summer Wrap Up I decided to post about my weakness – potlucks!  I cannot resist them!  My boyfriends mom had asked me to attend her church’s potluck and I knew no matter what I had to do to be able to go, it HAD to happen.  I would normally say potlucks are great for socializing with family and friends all in one convenient spot.  However, this potluck proved that I don’t even need to know anybody to have this insane urge to go.  I knew his mom and his grandparents, that’s it!  I think the appeal of potlucks is seeing everyone’s personality through the dish they bring.  Sure there tends to be the cliche potluck dishes..however there tend to also be amazing dishes that stand out and shine and make you wonder, why didn’t I think to do that?

Potlucks = Family. Friends. Inspiration. Delicious!

I know I mentioned there tends to be the cliche potluck dishes, this is not the case for myself.  My intentions for potlucks is not for me to show off, or one up anybody, I simply try to one up myself.  I try to make a dish that is sort of a play on a more commonly prepared dish.  After days of contemplation I decided what I would be bringing.  I wanted to make a Waldorf chicken salad served in a sweet cranberry muffin.  Of course, being the person I am, I forgot the cranberries at home.  GAME CHANGE! I had to settle for Waldorf chicken salad served in an apple walnut mini muffin.  I topped each muffin with a grape quarter for garnish.

Chicken Salad Recipe:






1 lb chicken breast, fully cooked, diced very small
1 onion pulsed very fine in a food processor
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 Granny Smith Apples, diced small
Mayo, About 1 cup, enough to blend all together
1/2 cup cream (for extra flavor)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grapes – Quartered for Garnish

Apple Walnut Muffin

Recipe adapted from Blog – Joy the Baker






1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup medium or fine ground cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 green apple, diced small

Combine all ingredients, add to a  well greased mini muffin pan and bake at 350º until a toothpick comes out clean (about 8-12 minutes)

Top each muffin with chicken salad, and garnish with a quartered grape.

Here are some other photos from this delicious day…

There was also a pie contest this day….

Results of that coming tomorrow…DUN DUN DUN!!!!

In the mean time, whats your favorite pot luck dish?



Vacations are too short!

Well, i’m back from vacation!   I would ask if you all missed me but from what I’ve heard foodbuzz was having some technical difficulties so I suppose there wasn’t the opportunity to even miss me! Oh well..

I had an absolutely amazing time up at Lake Geneva, WI with my family from Pennsylvania.  We only meet up about once a year, and usually at this same camp ground every time.  I had full intentions of having tons of blogging material during this trip.  Unfortunately, I somehow lost nearly all food pics I took during this trip.  My camera decided to lose most of my pictures.  I did cook breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.  The only proof I have is this picture of potatoes :

It’s pretty rock star, I know!

I had the opportunity to borrow an incredible table-top gas grill from work.  Oh the joys of working for a BBQ company.   We had amazing dishes, definitely not your crispy wieners toasted over a camp-fire type food.  This is how neurotic I was about camping . . . .

Yes, I took a traveling spice kit camping.  You never know when you need Chinese Five Spice.

My boyfriend was nice enough to stop at World Market for me to pick this up.  I had seen it before but never had a purpose for it.  Yay! I finally got to use it..and it was so useful.  I believe I used up about 8 of those little guys.  I used up the Italian Spice for making Chicago Style Beef Sammiches (complete with slow roasted peppers and onions and au jus) paired with my Pesto Pasta Salad from a previous post.  I was able to use the kosher salt and pepper for most dishes without having to lug up big shakers.  The BBQ spice was used up the day I made pulled pork and ribs.  I slow smoked them at home and wrapped them up for the evening where my entire family was up to enjoy the day with us.  I will admit, I did have a blonde moment.  I wondered to myself – “What do I do when these are empty?”  Hmm…Maybe refill them with the hundreds of spices I have at home. *Face palm*

Anyhoo, if you are traveling I definitely suggest picking up the traveling spice kit from World Market, it was very useful and made me feel fancy.  Since I failed at keeping my foodie photos safe from this trip, here’s a picture show from my trip:


Pffft…im not a proud aunt at all…..

I must say, the ice cream ball works quite well rolling at rapid speeds down hills.  (Kid not attached of course) My lovely Aunt Sandy and adorable cousin Connor.

Well, that was my trip! Sorry for the lack of food…I’ll take care of my pictures better next time!

Product Review: Ice Cream Ball – It works folks!

It’s summer time.  It’s hot.  I have a niece and nephew I see every Monday, and No AC. This means I need to be creative on projects for them to do to keep them occupied and cooled off.  I had remembered seeing a ball that you play with that contains an ice cream base mixture surrounded by rock salt and ice, and all you do is play with it non stop for 30 minutes.  It sounded like an incredibly fun project to do with my niece, and then enjoy a delicious refreshing treat after playing, cooking, who knows what to call it?  It became my mission to find this ball.

I had checked countless stores and had given up for about 2-3 weeks.  I finally decided again to look it up.  I found that L.L Bean had sold it.  Only thing that was unfortunate was it was a 30 minute drive, just to get an ice cream ball, that I was praying would even work.  It was 36$ for the mega ball which makes 1 quart.  I felt the 1 pint would just be too small.  I am going camping this weekend and I thought this would be a lot of fun for our group to do, but not fun if we had to do it 3 times for everyone to eat it.  I got home with my magic ice cream ball and looked up recipes for ice cream base.  I found a few I liked but none that I loved.  I finally decided to see whats the worst that could happen if I adapted my own.  My favorite one was Alton Browns Vanilla Ice Cream, so I started with that.  I had strawberries, so I used his recipe as the vanilla base but I also added fresh strawberries and preserves.  Then since I am a chocoholic I figured why not add chocolate chips?  This is what I came up with.

Strawberry Ice Cream With Chocolate Chips

  • 3 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 8 Egg Yolks
  • 9 oz White Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Raspberry Extract (I ran out of vanilla, I didn’t want almond, and mint didn’t seem right)
  • 1 Cup Strawberry Preserves
  • 1 Cup Fresh Strawberries, Chopped
  • Red Food Coloring, optional for pink coloring

And making her second appearance on the Piggy Tummy blog, my niece and Mini Sous Chef, Kaileigh!

First Mix together Whole Milk and Heavy Cream

Heat the mixture up on a stove, watching carefully to not scorch or bubble over.  In a separate bowl combine egg yolks and sugar and beat until it lightens in color.  When the milk mixture comes to a simmer, temper in eggs.  This is done by adding a small amount of the hot liquid, to the egg yolks and beat rapidly to allow them to mix together without scrambling the eggs.  Once you allow the eggs to become friends with the hot milk mixture, then you can add the eggs in a steady stream into the pot of hot milk.  Whisk rapidly the entire time until they are fully mixed together.  Continue to let this cook until the mixture coats the back of the spoon, continuously whisk.

Once the mixture is able to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat.  Add raspberry extract, strawberry preserves, and strawberries, mix well.  Let this mixture come to room temperature.  Once it cools off, put in the fridge to chill, at least 1 hour.  Now its time for the magic.  In the ice cream ball of wonders, add ice and rock salt to the area surrounding the metal canister, and screw on cap tightly.  Next add ice cream mixture to the metal canister in the middle, and screw on cap tightly.  Now – PLAY TIME!

We kicked it.

We bounced it.

We threw it.

We rolled it.

We sat on it.

We jumped on the bed around it.

It fell off the bed.

It survived.

We shook it.

We stirred it.

We repeated.

In 30-40 minutes time of playing with this ball, we had ice cream!

This ball is definitely worth the money.  We had ton of fun, a lot of laughs and some delicious ice cream.  Only down side of this ball is that when it’s full it does weigh around 10 lbs.  I found that playing with the ball on the bed made it significantly easier for her to maneuver.  I’m sure older kids would get a lot of use out of this ball (adults included!)

Brio Tuscan Grille

Today was my Mom’s birthday, and to celebrate I picked a delicious Tuscan restaurant located in Downers Grove.  It is a chain, but for a chain they definitely put out a menu that would make you think it’s a unique family restaurant.  I had been here before to celebrate a friend of mines birthday a few months ago, and I have been craving it ever since!

What amazed me is that this restaurant is located near a mall, which means its surrounded by more than a dozen restaurants, some even comparable in menu and price range and it was still buzzing with business on a Wednesday night.  The place was absolutely packed!  Even so, we were seated quickly.  The ambiance is very cozy and welcoming.  White table cloths, dim lights and only the sound of chatter from surrounding tables.  No loud music, no clutter of chotchkies hanging from the walls – just warm colors and some plants for a pop of color.

We started off with a spinach and artichoke dip.  My mom absolutely loves this starter and anytime it’s on a menu she needs to get it.  This was served on fresh flat bread triangles dusted with herbs and cheese.  We also had warm sourdough bread, which I liked it better with.  Who can turn down sourdough, especially when its toasty and warm!  The dip was very tasty, the only problem was the portion was a bit small for how much it was and how much flatbrad it came with.  I know I may have been generous on the amount I put on my flat bread, but not so generous that we had half of the flatbread left over.

I skipped soup and salad since I knew how amazing their desserts were and I needed the space for that!  For the entree I decided to get the same thing I got last time.  I couldn’t help myself, I loved it that much!  I went with the Sweet Potato and Grilled Chicken Risotto.  The risotto is cooked to perfection, a perfect bite to it.  I hate when it is either over cooked and its all gummy, or the opposite, having my rice be crunchy.  It was a  creamy concoction mixed with cubes of sweet potato that have been caramelized, crunchy spears of asparagus, and an amazing aroma of sage and rosemary.  I of course also couldn’t say no to the waiter offering freshly shaved Parmesan to go on top.  The whole meal they assure you get restocked with fresh warm sourdough bread, my weakness *shame*

One of the things I love about Brio is dessert service.  Rather than tossing  menu in front of you full of pictures of desserts that never look that way when it comes out – the waiter brings  tray of all the desserts they are serving.  They explain all the delicious details and show you a real version of what your dessert will look like.  It may make the decision harder to make, but its a small gesture that really makes the service great.  Even though I do not love cheesecake, I went with the Raspberry Marscapone Cheesecake.  If it was just Raspberry Cheesecake, I may not have been sold, but they had me at Marscapone.

This was hands down the BEST cheesecake I have ever had.  Very possibly one of the best desserts I’ve ever had (the strawberry shortcake from Gold Class Cinema is up there too).  The cheesecake was so creamy and melt-in-your-mouth texture.  It wasn’t dense and thick like some other cheesecakes are.  It almost has a mousse-like texture.  There were very warm spices that I couldn’t pin point exactly which they were, but I just knew I was in love with it.  It was definitely a treat on such a dreary rainy Chicago evening.

I highly recommend checking out the website and seeing if there is one near you.  The service is friendly, the restaurant is cozy, food is delicious, and prices are very reasonable.

Oh, can’t forget! – Happy Birthday Mom!