I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The rest of the meal.

I couldn't resist making gnocchi again. The recipe is down a little lower in the blog. I got a little better picture of it this time:

The vegetable we had doesn't really sound Italian, but it goes perfectly. My favorite vegetable is rutabegas, and that is what we had. I make mine by cutting them into chunks and boiling for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are soft. I drain them and I put a tablespoon or two of butter in the pot along with a dash of garlic salt and fresh ground pepper.

For the main course I was looking for something that we could have leftovers from. I decided on sausage and peppers. You can make sausage and peppers into sandwiches, pastas, lasagnas etc.

Sausage and Peppers
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound regular Italian Sausage
2 onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
olive oil

Brown the sausages in olive oil until well cooked. Remove the sausages, slice and put into a bowl. Saute the onions and peppers in the oil. Combine the vegies with the meat and serve.

New Book

I got a new book for Christmas. Its great because all of the books that I got were ones on my short list. One of the books I got is The Bread Bible. I decided to bake the bread that is on the cover. It goes well with the other food that we had last night. I have been on a huge Italian kick lately.


This bread takes a while to make. You need to start it early in the morning if you want it for dinner.

Starter dough -
1/2 cup flour (75 grams)
1/2 package rapid rise yeast
1/4 cup water

Combine ingredients and let rise, covered at least 6 hours.

The real dough -

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour (71 grams)
1/2 cup durum flour (71 grams)
1/2 package instant yeast
3/4 t salt
1/2 cup water
starter dough from above

Combine ingredients for real dough and kneed in the mixer until it looks good. There are some very specific instructions in the book now that I followed but I am not sure they made a difference. I will leave them out. Instead, let the dough rise 2 hours, covered or until double in size. Shape it into a ball and put it into a collander or banneton. Cover and let rise until double in size. Preheat oven to 500. Bake according to the directions I gave for baguettes.

You might wonder how I got that nice circular pattern in the flour on top of the loaf. I have a special dough proofing bowl that I got from King Arthur Flour. I think they are having a sale right now, and if you bake a lot of bread, it might be worth it to get one of them. You can head over to King Arthur Flour and search for item number 4399 - Dough rising basket, round.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Meatloaf Revisited

I didn't make anything too special for Christmas Day because it was just the two of us. I decided to make one of my all time favorite meals - meat loaf, baked potato and German Red Cabbage. My favorite recipe for meatloaf is my mother's recipe but we just had it like a month ago. You can find the recipe on this site if you dig. I decided to try the meatloaf from Cuisine At Home Magazine. That is the only cooking magazine I get, and I don't think I will ever subscribe to another one. They present excellent recipes for classic dishes and also some unusual ones. Everything I have tried out of the magazine is perfect and they seem to have my tastes down perfectly in what they choose to include in the magazine. You can learn a lot by reading a couple years worth. The major innovation in their recipe for meatloaf is the way they bake it.

As you can see in the picture, they use disposable loaf pans with holes poked in the bottom so the grease drains. Then you just put it on a cooling rack and put that on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil. Not only do you not have to mess with draining grease from the pans, but you also have a no mess cleanup.

Cuisine At Home's Meatloaf
Makes a HUGE batch, so cut in half.

Combine 3 slices bread, 1 cup milk and 3 well beaten eggs and let sit for 1/2 hour.

Meanwhile saute 1 1/2 cups minced onions, 1 cup pureed tomatoes, 1/2 c minced celery and 1 T garlic for a few minutes. Let it cool about 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 c minced fresh parsley, 2 T Worcestershire sauce, 1 T salt and 2 t black pepper to the pot, and dump everything into the bread mixture.

Next use two forks to mix 2 lb ground beef and 3/4 pound ground pork, being careful not to pack the meat. You want it nice and loose. Load the meat into the pans without packing it down.

They had a special topping to put on. I made it but I can't say that it added anything so I won't include the recipe. They also had a recipe for tomato gravy which was OK but not great.

Here is my recipe for German Red Cabbage:

German Red Cabbage
Brown 2 strips of bacon in the bottom of a deep enough sauce pan. Remove bacon, crumble and return to pan. Add 1 cup red wine, 1 cup vinegar, 2 T brown sugar and 1 head red cabbage, sliced. Boil/cook uncovered for like an hour, adding more liquid as needed. At the end you want the wine/vinegar to be reduced.

After dinner we opened presents. We even had a few for our dog Daisy. As you can see she has already destroyed the Super Fluffy Squirrel 2000 that she opened like 2 minutes before.

All that activity wore her out.

Christmas Eve Chili

I have quite a bit of catching up to do. When I was a kid, we usually had oyster stew and chili for Christmas Eve dinner. I detest oyster stew so we decided to have chili.

I have tons of different recipes for chili, but since it was Christmas Eve I decided to make a very standard chili. It is a recipe that is probably in every school cookbook in America. One thing our school system did well was pair standard chili with cinnamon rolls.

Standard Public School Style Chili

Brown 1 pound of ground beef and drain grease
1 diced onion
28 oz can tomato sauce
14 oz can stewed tomatoes
14 oz can pinto beans, drained
1 T chili powder or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Cook over lower heat until it looks right - usually a couple hours.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Turkish Spread

I'm a little behind. This meal was from last weekend. I have to say that of all the meals on this blog, this one was my absolute favorite so far. My wife agrees, this is the best food we have eaten in years.

Chicken Shish Kebab

Take boneless skinless chicken and cut it into pieces for kebabs. Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours in the following mixture:

1 cup plain yogury
1/3 c olive oil
2 T lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1 t paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper

Put onto kebab skewers and grill.

Fried Eggplant and green peppers with 2 sauces

Take 1 eggplant and peel it lengthwise, leaving a few strips of skin to create a striped effect. Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Soak eggplant pieces in salted water for 20 minutes, then pat dry. Fry in oil and place on paper towels to drain.

For the peppers, I used banana peppers that I grilled on the grill with the chicken.

For the yogurt garlic sauce, take 1 cup yogurt and add 2 cloves garlic, pressed. Add a little salt and refrigerate to combine the flavors.

For the tomato sauce, take 2 tomatos and peel them by dropping them into boiling water for 30 seconds and then plunge them into cold water. Heat 1 T olive oil. Add the tomatoes and 2 cloves garlic, pressed. Use a potato masher to mash up the tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes soften.

In this picture you can see some pitas on the left side of the plate, the chicken in the center, and the grilled eggplants with sauces on the right.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

White Bean Salad

One of my favorite salads/appetizers is from Turkey. It is a white bean salad. It is very easy to make and super tasty.

White Bean Salad

1 can cannellini beans with juice
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 onion, diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T white vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1 T sesame oil
2 T chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
1 t chopped fresh mint
a few dashes of dill weed
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 tomato, diced
2 hard boiled eggs
fresh ground black pepper

Dump everything together and refrigerate.

More Food for a Sultan

Over the weekend we made Turkish food. If I could only choose a handful of cuisines to make for the rest of my life based on what I know now, Turkish cuisine would be one of the five. The Turkish recipes I am made are from the book Sultan's Kitchen. It is really excellent because of all of the superb pictures. The recipes are easy and well explained with ingredients that you can mostly find at the store. If you have any interest in making and eating delicious food, I highly recommend you get this book.

I like to make my own homemade breads, so I made homemade pita bread.

Pita Bread

This recipe makes a huge amount of pita breads, so you might want to cut it in half. I have simplified the recipe from Sultan's Kitchen. I hope he doesn't get pissed at me. I bought the book and I encourage you to as well.

1 package yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1 t sugar

4 cups flour
2 t salt

Combine yeast and water and sugar and let the yeast start bubbling to make sure it is active. Add the flour and salt and beat with your mixer for 10 minutes or so. Let rise until double in size.

3 egg yolks
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 T sesame seeds
1 T black caraway seeds

Mix the eggs and the milk together to make the glaze. Take the dough and divide it and make it into balls. Roll out into 8 inch round pieces, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Glaze each piece of dough with the glaze and sprinkle with the seeds. Hopefully you have preheated your oven to 450 and you have a baking stone in there heating up nice. Drop the dough rounds one at a time onto the stone. The pitas will be lightly golden on top when they are done.

Of course whenever you serve pita bread you should also serve hummus.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

An Awesome Italian Meal

Today I got a big package in the mail containing Rao's Cookbook. I'll give a little story about Rao's sometime. I haven't been there and I will never be able to go there, but it would be a great place to go. Instead, I do what I always do when I want food that I can't have. I made it at home. I leafed through the cookbook and found two recipes that looked tasty. One dish that Rao's is famous for is their Lemon Chicken. I made that. Another dish in the book that had a great and delicious looking picture is their gnocchi. If you don't know what gnocchi are an easy way to describe them would be to call them biscuits made with semolina pasta flour. Rao's serves them with melted cheese on top and smothered in marinara. Rao's makes their marinara pretty much the same way I do, so you can find the recipe on this blog. Just look for one that uses either fresh or canned plumb tomatoes. I grow a strain in my garden called Super San Marzano that I can up whole so I just used some of those. I also added some sausage and baby portobello mushrooms.

You serve gnocchi like you would pasta, so you probably wouldn't want to have gnocchi and a pasta but I suppose stranger things have been done.


Makes enough for 3 people with 2 gnocchi each.

2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound semolina flour
1 t salt
2 T salted butter

Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon for quite a while, up to 30 minutes, until dough turns into a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Stir in 2 egg yolks and stir for a few minutes until back to the same state. Remove from pan and spread out on a cookie sheet to cool. Cool and then use a biscuit cutter to cut into round pieces. Place pieces into a buttered dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Before serving cut a slice of mozzarella for each gnocchi using the biscuit cutter. A few minutes before serving put the gnocchi topped with cheese under the broiler.

Lemon Chicken

Take a whole chicken, cut it in half and broil it for 30 minutes, flipping once. The skin should blacken up in spots and the juice should run clear. Meantime make up the lemon sauce:

1 cup lemon juice
1/2 c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t salt
fresh ground black pepper

When chicken is done cut it into pieces and place in a baking dish. Pour over the sauce. Return under broiler and broil for 3 minutes on 1 side and 1 minute on the other. Put chicken pieces on a plate. Pour juice into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add about 1/4 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped and stir, cooking for 1 minute. Pour over the chicken pieces. To serve grate some Romano cheese over the top.


I have been making some great food in the last couple days. I need to recycle an old post for the burritos, but I included a picture at the end.

This is my mom's recipe for burritos. She got it from this lady that we used to know that lived on a farm. My mom made them all the time after she got the recipe. I used to stay overnight at that farm occasionally when I was a kid and this lady made them one time. I remember the meal because I also got a Welch's grape pop. At the time I wasn't in to the whole red bean sauce, but I sure am now. I remember that when she made them it was the first time that I liked the burritos, and from then on I always looked forward to them. What I liked was that the tortilla was crispy on the outside and a little gooey on the inside. I also liked that the diced onions tasted a little sweet, because they carmelized when they baked. I was like any kid though, and I only ate the parts that I liked.

Why are these Iowa Farm Burritos? Because you can make them on an Iowa farm with no problems, and this lady lived on a farm. You will have no trouble getting the ingredients for these burritos. I was just in a small town with <500 people in it in northern Iowa. Its out in the middle of nowhere and they have an old time general store/grocery store there. I found all of the ingredients needed to make these burritos.

Another thing to mention is that the red bean sauce is what really makes the dish. You can make it as mild or as hot as you like, but I usually make it blisteringly hot so that I sweat when I eat these. I can't do that tonight because my wife is pregnant and she will kill my ass. I will have to add some fire to my own plate. Thats OK because I grew these carrabean red hot peppers in my garden this year. I have been drying them out in the food dehyrdrator. Then I grind them up real fine to make a supercharged version of cayenne pepper. The teeniest little pinch of this powder is enough to make an entire pot of soup spicy. Last year I made the mistake of pickling the red hots. They are far too hot even for me to eat more than every once in a while. I tricked my friend (who ate up all my Turkish leftovers) last year into eating one and he rolled around on the ground hiccuping for a half hour. I felt sorry for him so I ate one too and did the same thing. Don't worry, this sort of thing goes back and forth. He pulls tricks on me constantly.

Anyway these burritos are awesome. I like to serve up my burrito and then pour red bean sauce over. I like to let it sit for a couple minutes so that the red bean sauce has a little chance to soak into the tortilla. They smell SO awesome when they are cooking. I would highly recommend serving these with grape pop.

Iowa Farm Burritos

1 pound ground beef
1 package flour tortillas, burrito size
1 onion, finely diced
grated yellow cheese of some sort. I like cheddar but if you like colby use it instead. The original lady made it with longhorn colby. I remember that specifically because she gave me a piece of it and I walked around mooing like a cow for 10 minutes in celebration.
Refried beans in a can.

Brown hamburger in a pan. Add onions and cook until the onions start to soften. To make the burritos take a tortilla and spread a little refired beans on using a butter knife. Then fill with hamburger, onion mix. Line them all up on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 until the tortillas start to get a little crisp. Then ends will just start to turn a little brown. Then sprinkle cheese over the top and bake until melted. Serve with red bean sauce poured over.

Red Bean Sauce

1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can old el paso enchilada sauce. For old ladies use mild. For me use hot or at least medium.
about 1/4 to 1/2 cup pace picante sauce.
Chopped green onions if desired.

Dump everything but the green onions into a sauce pan. Heat until boiling then reduce heat so that it just stays warm on the burner. Taste it and add salt if it needs it. About 2 minutes before you are going to serve it add the green onions and stir it up. You want these just to soften a teeny bit. YOu don't want the green onions to be overcooked and look like you added cheap spinach or something.

My friend has the world record for number of these eaten in one sitting. Can you believe he ate 7 of these things? I don't know how he did it but I remember the car being particularly fragrant the next day.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

My BBQ Sauce

I have a ton of different BBQ sauces that I make, but I recently made up a bottle of the sauce I call DS. I am not telling what the initials stand for. I like this BBQ sauce a pretty well. I make others that I like better. People seem to be crazy about this one though, so if I host a bar-B-que I usually have to have some of it out or people get pissed. One guys is so crazy about it that he puts it on everything. I have even seen him put it on macaroni and cheese! He is the guy that named the sauce. Anyway here it is, and by the way this is copyrighted to me, so if you steal it and don't give me credit, or if you intend to make money on it, just send me the checks in advance.

DS BBQ Sauce

Makes a squeeze bottle worth or about 2 cups.

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey
2 T molasses
1/3 c vinegar
1 t paprika
2 dashes cayenne pepper
1 t black pepper
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t celery salt
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t MSG
5 T sugar or more or less to taste

Mix everything up in a bowl. The sauce tastes better as it ages, so make it up a day or two in advance. It should keep as long in the fridge as ketchup would.

Maid Rites

I guess it is a Midwest thing, but loose meat sandwiches are great. I particularly like the ones made at Maid Rite. There aren't any Maid Rites where I live. This situation - loving a food and not being able to get it - is the main reason I learned to cook. My mother was a great cook, but when I moved away I never got any of that great food any more, and I missed it so much that I learned to cook. Since then there have been other great foods that I have moved away from, or feared moving away from. Gino's East is a prime example. I didn't have to do near as much work on the Maid Rite recipe to get it right. In fact, I didn't have to do any at all. I got the recipe from a friend DEEP in the Maid Right corporation and just adapted it to home use. Since we already had hamburger buns the next logical simple meal was Maid Rites.

Maid Rites

1 pound hamburger
6 oz coca-cola
salt and pepper

Put the meat in a pan and add the coke. Maid Rite was first made using coca-cola syrup but later they changed it to a proprietary syrup. I don't want to mess with finding the syrup although it is available. Instead I just use half a can of coke. Cook the meat and mash it into very fine particles. Season with salt and pepper. Let some of the liquid cook off. Drain the meat through a strainer and let sit for a few minutes before serving. I like mine with mustard, onion and dill pickle.

Chili Cheese Tater Tots

As a simple side, I like chili cheese tater tots. These are very easy to make. Just bake some tater tots in the oven according to the directions. Dump a can of Hormel beanless chili over and return to the oven until chili is heated and bubbling. Sprinkle a little shredded cheese over the top and return to the oven until it melts.

The Perfect Hamburger

My wife got hungry for hamburgers so this is the perfect time to give my thoughts on the hamburger. A lot of people don't like to make hamburgers at home because they don't seem to taste as good as the ones they get in restaurants. Everyone remembers when their mom would tell them that they were going to have hamburgers for supper. Everyone got all excited the first time. Typically what you got was a big thick ball of bland tasting meat smushed between 2 slices of white bread and a glass of milk. That is not a burger it is torture. That is a common mistake that mothers make - no bun.

Rule #1) Its not a hamburger if you don't have a bun. A package of buns costs $0.49!

The other thing that mothers tend to do to ruin home made burgers is when you ask for a cheeseburger they put a huge thick slice of moldy cheese from the fridge that doesn't melt.

Rule #2) If you are making cheeseburgers, use thin slices (preferably of velveta or some other cheap, easy melting cheese) and make sure they melt.

When you are making burgers at home you should get the right meat. If you are a crazy health nut you shouldn't be eating burgers anyway, and buying 98% lean hamburger isn't going to make it any healthier. What you will end up doing with your compromise is eating a not so tasty burger that falls apart when you are cooking it. Do yourself a favor and just eat the carrot sticks and tofu.

Rule #3) Use 80% ground chuck.

Now we come to one old problem and a new problem that is not so obvious. Here is the solution to both. The first problem that mothers have is that they either make the patties too thin and you end up with White-Castle mini wafers that are all dry and nasty. The other problem that they have is that the burgers are not really burgers, they are meatballs. To fix this problem we come to the next rule.

Rule #4) Make your patties nice and thick, about 1/2 inch and create a little hollow in the center so that the edges are thicker than the center.

The hollow will allow you to make nice thick burgers. The center will still swell but it will swell up to make a uniformly sized burger. To make a more interesting texture in the burger we come to the next rule.

Rule #5) Don't pack the burger. Shape it as gently as possible so that you don't lose all of the ground texture.

Here is a picture of a properly made patty.

This next point harkens back to what I was saying about Thanksgiving dinner. You may be the world's most fabulous chef, but if you whip out sushi for Thanksgiving, people are going to be pissed. People come to expect certain things from certain meals. Nothing makes people angrier than biting into a cherished food, the hamburger, and finding something as ridiculous as green peppers and onions. Don't do it, period. Don't get all fancy adding curry or some other crazy spices.

Rule #6) You are only allowed salt and pepper as additions to your patty.

Now we come to the cooking part. You should use a cast iron skillet. They cost $7 for Chrissake. Why don't you have one? They aren't that hard to take care of, just a little drop of oil after you wash them. After a while they become perfectly non stick. They heat things evenly and you can use real spatulas on them. No need for the foo foo $300 pan that you have to use plastic spatulas on. Who wants to taste melted plastic?

Rule #7) Use a cast iron skillet.

Heat your cast iron skillet up to about medium heat. Add a little cooking oil or 1 T butter. Drop in your patties and let them cook for a while on one side. You are allowed one flip so make sure you cook it long enough on the one side. Flip it and finish the other side.

Rule #8) You get one flip and no pressing the burger to squeeze out all the juice.

Now we come to the cheese part. This is easy. Slap your slice of velveta on the top of the patty and put a lid over the pan for 30 seconds. Viola - melted cheese and everything.

You should have a little spread of toppings out for people to choose from. Some don't like any, others like a lot. Just let them choose.

And here it is the perfect hamburger:

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Honey Chili Chicken

My sister has a recipe that is really great. She calls it honey chili chicken. She makes hers a little bit different than I make mine, but mine is just a modification of her recipe. I have been really enjoying the way baked chicken tastes lately so I modified the recipe to include baking.

Honey Chili Chicken

Place 2 chicken breasts (raw) in a cast iron skillet.

In a bowl mix up:
1 can rotel tomatoes
1 T minced garlic
1 6 oz can tomato paste
16 oz tomato sauce
juice of 1 lemon
1 T chili powder
fresh ground black pepper
3/4 c Pace picante sauce
1/2 c honey

Pour over the chicken and bake at 375 uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

I served mine over Cuban yellow rice.

Cuban Yellow Rice

1 12 oz can beer
3/4 cup rice
2 t chicken broth granules
a few dashes of Cuban yellow poweder

Throw all of the above into a rice steamer and cook away.

I also had steamed cauliflower. I got the idea to steam it with mustard seeds from my friend's food blog. You can find a link to it on the left.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Vedie's Buttermilk Pancakes

There was some buttermilk in my fridge this weekend so I made my Great Grandmother's recipe for buttermilk pancakes. This is the recipe I make when I make pancakes. I don't really see any reason to make anything else. These are perfect for my tastes.

Vedie's Buttermilk Pancakes

3 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
2 T sugar
2 t baking soda
1 pinch salt

Mix everything up. A few lumps is OK and even preferred by some. These are best made with a light coating of bacon grease on the frying pan or griddle. Not too much though, you want pancakes not pan-fried fritters.

Chicago Trip Part 2

This is the corner of Michigan and Oak. It is either the start or the end of the miracle mile, depending on how you look at it.

This is the apartment building that my cousin lives in up in Lincoln Park. Its a pretty swanky place.

Back to the Frontera Grill. It has an excellent bar so if you go there and there is a wait be sure to visit the bar. Even if you don't drink you can get a bowl of their spiced peanuts for free.

If you do drink, you simply have to try the standard house margarita.

I got the recipe for those margaritas from his cookbook Authentic Mexican. It is an outstanding cookbook and a great place to start if you want to learn to cook Mexican food.

Frontera’s Gold Margaritas

1 2/3 c. Cuervo Especial Gold tequila
¼ c. plus 1 tsp. Gran Torres orange liqueur or ¼ c. Gran Marnier
½ c. plus 1 T fresh lime juice (about 2 fresh limes)
finely grated zest of 1 ½ limes (about 1 tsp.)
5 T sugar
lime wedges
coarse salt

Steeping the mixture:
Mix the tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, lime zest, sugar and 1 c. water in a glass or plastic pitcher until the sugar dissolves. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours but no more than 24 hours. Strain into another pitcher.

Rub the rims of glasses with lime wedges and apply coarse salt. Serve straight up or on the rocks.

Another thing you will get for free at the bar is a little dish of 2 salsas. One is green and the other is redish brown. They are both delicious and go well with just about all of the dishes you are likely to get at Frontera. They might also give you some chips.

When we got into the seating area the first thing I did was order us some appetizers. I was going to do it up RIGHT. It had been 4 years since I last ate there and I wasn't going to miss the opportunity. The first thing we got was guacamole. He has the recipe in pretty much all of his cookbooks but I won't post it here. I like my wife's recipe a little better, and you can find it elsewhere on this blog.

The next thing we got was a lamb tamale. A LAMB TAMALE!! Wow. It was the most tasty tamale I have ever eaten, and I will definately add lamb to my tamale filling arsenal. It was covered with a very nice mole. It was the specialty appetizer of the night.

For the entre, they offer about 10 different dishes and the menu changes every couple weeks. To be honest I can't quite remember what the special of the house was that particular night, but it sounded pretty tasty. It also sounded similar to what my cousin was ordering so I didn't get the special. I got a roasted chicken with charro beans and a salad.

The chicken was marinated in some craziness that I can't remember and grilled. I have a recipe for charro beans somewhere on this blog, and I like my recipe just as well. Mr. Bayless includes his recipe in many of his cookbooks. The salad was tasty. It had some sort of a crazy balsamic vinegrette on it and crumbled Mexican Cheese. His other big thing is to grill some green onions and put them on the plate. Super tasty to say the least.

My cousin got the grilled mahi mahi with some sort of crazy sauce and rice. It too was delicious. I don't eat fish unless I caught it and fix it right on the shore or if I am in a city known for fish. Let me tell you, this mahi mahi was heavenly. I liked how he molded his rice in a pyramid.

Another great thing about Frontera Grill is that they serve the best ever tortillas with every meal. When I was last in Chicago there was one lady who made the tortillas. She was like 70 years old and she had been making tortillas since she was 6 years old. There was a story about her in the Chicago Tribune. I am not sure if she still makes all of them by hand but they are the same as they ever were - Delicious. You can make tacos out of pretty much anything and I took the liberty to sample my cousin's dish and make a fish taco.

After we ate at Frontera we went to Michigan Ave to see the lights. Here is the Water Tower at night.

There are a lot of things I would like to have eaten in Chicago, but I ran out of time. The final thing I ate was in the airport. I got a Chicago Style Hot Dog.

To make one of these you need a sesame seed bun, a Vienna Beef hot dog, 2 tomato wedges, sport peppers(hot peppers), diced onions, a pickle slice, a cucumber slice, green relish, celery salt, and mustard. I don't think I am forgeting anything.

Chicago Trip Part 1

As I was saying earlier I took a trip to Chicago last weekend. Chicago is a food maniac's paradise. I visited my cousin up there and went for an interview at the University of Chicago.

I flew in to Chicago and I took the train into the city. I always try to use the public transit system in Chicago. It works so well and is so much cheaper than just about any other form of mechanized transit in the city. The only difference is that the fares used to be 1.50. Now they are 1.75. Not a huge deal considering a cab ride from O'Hare to downtown easily runs $50 and even more with traffic. A cab ride down to the U of Chicago area might cost $100. I know you think I am exaggerating but just trust me. If you go to the city take the trains and buses.

The University of Chicago campus is gorgeous. The architecture is very nifty if you are in to that sort of thing.

During the interview I was too nervous to eat anything, but that is OK because I made up for it later. They had a nice little spread of fresh fruit and bagels.

At the end of the interview we were scheduled to go to a swanky Chicago restaurant but it was not to be. Someone had an emergency case. Instead we went to the Au Bon Pain in the hospital. After lunch I headed back up to my cousin's apartment in Lincoln Park to change.

From there I went down to the Gold Coast and visited my old stomping grounds. In the basement of this building (Morton) I learned anatomy.

I swung by Northwestern Memorial Hospital which was where I did most of my clerkships.

Within a stone throw of NMH is a famous Chicago landmark, one of the only things that didn't burn in the fire.

I rode the 151 back up to Lincoln park but I stopped along Lake Shore Drive.

In this area is a famous surgery landmark - The International Museum and College of Surgery.

For dinner I took my cousin to one of my favorite Chicago restaurants - The Frontera Grill.

The chef here is Rick Bayless. You may have heard of him. The Frontera Grill and its sister, Topolabompo are considered by many to be the premier Mexican restaurants in the US. The great thing is that its not very expensive if compared to other great restaurants. In my next post I will post some pictures of what we got, along with links to his books. If you like cooking Mexican food at home you need to get at least one of his books. Also if you are in Chicago you simply must stop at the Frontera Grill. If you don't believe me that the food is superb then just go for lunch. They have a lunch menu that is cheaper but with smaller portions. Also I wouldn't bother with Topolabompo. Its the same food, just more expensive and smaller portions.

From there we headed over to Michigan Ave to check out the lights. If you have never seen it, the lights during the Holiday season are beautiful.

My last stop during the Chicago interview was a great bar at State and Division called PJ Clark's.

The atmosphere inside was just electric. The music was great and it was totally packed on a Thursday night.

When I was in Chicago for medical school people dressed a lot more uniformly. The blue shirt black pants black vest look was huge. I called it the Amish look. Everyone was dressing like that Harrison Ford movie Witness. Inside PJ Clark's I finally found one piece of the Chicago dress code. Every woman in the bar, and I mean EVERY SINGLE ONE was wearing jeans and really pointy toed high heels.

Here is exhibit A your honor:

The next morning I got on the plane back home. It was a much more adventurous flight than the one to Chicago. Apparently someone sitting close to me in cattle class decided that it was prudent to eat several cans of refried beans the night before. After all, why not make it smell like a cattle car as well? I suppose the whole covering the nose thing worked out well though, because at least 6 people had SARS and were open mouth coughing all over the place.