Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Sixth Month

Time for the sixth installment of cooking through a pandemic…can you believe it’s been a half a year?!?

Cooking for the last month or so has been a little more challenging for me now that we’re back to school. I did have a little help though…the night before school started, we had Portillo’s via mail order, the first day of school was frozen pizzas for the first in I don’t know how long, we ordered Pizza Hut one night when I just couldn’t anymore, and just yesterday, we tried out the newest concept by Beast Craft BBQ, Wing Runner STL. We also tried quite a few new recipes in the last month, some of which were huge hits!

We’ve kept up with baking cookies every Sunday after church, and we even added a new chocolate twist. We also baked brownies, a few cakes, and made baklava over Labor Day weekend since we couldn’t go to the St. Louis Greek Festival.

Maybe I’ll do this again next month, maybe I won’t…only time will tell!

Tasty Tuesday–Marinara Sauce

I have a confession to make. I’ve bought canned/jarred spaghetti sauce for years, but I don’t really like it. It doesn’t matter which kind we tried, I always thought it was too sweet, and didn’t have enough flavor. So I decided to try making my own. I already make excellent bolognese sauce (which takes all day to cook, so it’s not a an everyday occurrence)…how hard could it be? After tinkering with recipes a bit, I came up something I (and everyone else in the house) really like! Oh, and did I mention that the recipe is super easy? I call that a culinary victory!

  • 29 oz. stewed tomatoes
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh parsley (or 4 tsp. dried)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • One large white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup red wine

In a blender or food processor, combine the first eight ingredients and blend until smooth.

In a large skillet, sauté onion with salt in olive oil until soft. Deglaze the pan with wine. Add tomato sauce and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve on your favorite pasta.

Tasty Tuesday–Our Favorite Cookies, with a Twist

I’ve shared our favorite cookie recipe before…now it’s time to take a look at our new twist on it!

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 cups of your favorite baking chips
  • sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, eggs, and egg yolks until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the baking chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets (cookies should be about 3 inches apart). Sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven.. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Fifth Month

Another month or so has passed, so it’s time to look at back at what I’ve been cooking:

And baking:

Since school will not be returning as planned (Moose’s school district has joined the others in the area in beginning the school year remotely), I think I’ll continue this for at least one more month, or until life is “back to normal” (whatever that means) around here. At any rate, it’s kind of fun to have a record of the things we’ve been cooking and baking, and helps me plan meals for the future!

Opening Day in the Time of COVID-19

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that we would be celebrating baseball’s Opening Day at the end of July, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here we are. Like so many other things this year, our Opening Day dinner was a bit scaled back, but we still enjoyed some favorites like nachos, Chicago-style hot dogs, and brats, and Chickadee is, as always, ready to cheer on the Cardinals!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Fourth Month

I decided to keep my “Cooking Through a Pandemic” series going through the rest of the summer. While it seems like much of the country is back to business as usual, we definitely aren’t there yet, and won’t be until school begins again. So I’ll have at least one more of these posts to finish things out in August, assuming school does return as planned.

In the past month, we’ve had another birthday (mine), plus Father’s Day and the Fourth of July, so we’ve had some special meals. We’ve also enjoyed some family favorites, including one of our summer staples, homemade tomato soup.

We’ve kept up with our “quarantine cookies” every Sunday, and made a few other things, as well, including a birthday cake made by my girls, zucchini bread, pies for Father’s Day, and strawberry shortcake for Independence Day:

We have another birthday coming up in the next month, plus a few other special family days planned…it’s always nice to have something to look forward to!

Tasty Tuesday–Rosemary Lime Chicken

Time for a new recipe! I made this a few weeks ago, and it was an even bigger hit than chicken piccata, which everybody here loves, so it’s definitely going in the permanent collection!

  • 2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin medallions
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • 4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 2 limes, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp. capers

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge in flour. Heat large skillet over medium and melt 2 Tbsp. butter with 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Pan fry chicken until brown and cooked through, about three to four minutes per side, and keep warm. Replace butter and olive oil about halfway through, and finish cooking chicken.

After all the chicken is cooked, deglaze pan with wine. Add lime juice, lime slices, rosemary, capers, and salt and pepper, and simmer for several minutes. Pour over chicken and serve with rice.

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Third Month

Here we are, almost three months after everything started shutting down due to COVID-19. At this point, some places are starting to open back up, but not like they used to be, so things definitely aren’t back to normal. I’m especially feeling that lack of normal, as I’m still only going grocery shopping once every two weeks, and pretty much no where else, and that’s hard. But cooking is fun, and something normal I can do, so I’ve continued to do a lot of it. Here’s a look back at some of the meals we’ve been enjoying in the third month of lockdown life (including one amazing dinner from Beast Craft BBQ!):

We’ve kept up with our baking, too. Sunday afternoon “quarantine cookies” are definitely a thing! We’ve had fun trying all sorts of different combinations of baking chips, but the base recipe is always the same. I’ve also made some other things, including blueberry muffins, and even quite a few cakes…a carrot cake for our 19th wedding anniversary, a red ale strawberry cake for Pentecost, and a red velvet cake for Trinity Sunday.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two other special treats we’ve enjoyed in the last month, too. Eli’s Cheesecake kindly sent us an original favorites cheesecake sampler, which was a huge hit with everybody here, and I was blown away by the lovely gesture! We also indulged in another Chicago favorite, Frango mints…since we couldn’t go to Chicago, I had an extra little bit of Chicago sent to us!

I can’t say I care much for shopping every two weeks, and having to plan our meals so far ahead and in such great detail, but I do have a routine, so there is that. My refrigerator Tetris and pantry Jenga games have also reached a whole new level of expertise, so that’s fun. And we all enjoy having some extra-special meals to look forward to!

I don’t know if I’ll have another “Cooking Through a Pandemic” post next month…things will maybe be closer to our old normal by then, but who really knows? And even if they are, I think some things have changed for us permanently!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ at Home

We’re “back home” from our virtual vacation, and I don’t feel like cooking…so let’s take a look at Beast Craft BBQ’s family take home packs!

To be honest, more often than not, we would get Beast to go, even before COVID-19 shut everything down. I was still excited when they debuted their new family take home packs (they have offered up to three varieties, to feed two, four, or four to six), though, because it’s so much simpler than taking orders from seven people, and trying to sort it all out once we get it home!

So here’s the deal. A family take home pack for four comes with two pounds of the main course (pork, brisket, turkey, hot links, or smoked cauliflower), one pint of slaw, two sides (one quart each, and you can choose from pit beans, potato salad, bacon mac, cauliflower, and my favorite, sprouts with belly), a half pint of pickle slices, and eight tortillas. We have done this twice, and each time ordered two of the packs (turkey, bacon mac, and sprouts, plus an extra side of beans), to feed our family of seven.

Seriously, have you ever seen a more delicious looking plate of BBQ?!?

Now, even though this meal, as ordered, in theory feeds eight, we have managed to make it last for two dinners both times we ordered, and believe me, no one went hungry at any of the meals. The only thing we ran out of the first night each time was the tortillas, which makes perfect sense, and even though Beast has the most amazing tortillas, let’s face it, they’re not the star of the meal!

I really love that Beast has added this option for this weird time of carry-out/delivery only, and I wouldn’t complain if it stuck around once the dining room opens again, because it’s the perfect option for our family!

Tasty Tuesday–Portillo’s at Home

Continuing “virtual vacation” week with a special Tasty Tuesday…Portillo’s at home!

It’s not news that I love Portillo’s and a big part of any trip we take to Chicago includes stopping at Portillo’s on the way home. I already shared my special Mother’s Day dinner of the Portillo’s Italian beef and sausage combo, but let’s take a closer look, while I dream about visiting Chicago from the comfort of my home.

Their shipping via UPS was excellent and speedy (and is included in the price, which I think is beyond reasonable!), and when I received my order the ice packs were still frozen solid. The dinner for eight kit includes two containers of beef gravy, two packages of Portillo’s amazing Italian beef, an eight-pack of Italian sausages, a jar of hot giardiniera, a bag of roasted sweet peppers, and eight Turano French bread rolls. There are also detailed reheating instructions, and a PAPER HAT!

The reheating process was pretty easy, and didn’t take long at all, and when it was all said and done, I had a Portillo’s Italian beef (dipped, of course), that tasted almost like being in the restaurant. Sorry there’s no picture of the Italian sausage, or even better, the full combo…I’m really just here for the beef, but I heard from many reputable sources in my house that the sausage was good!

I would definitely do this again, especially if the time before we get to go back to Chicago stretches out too long. There was way more meat than we could put in eight sandwiches, so we were able to stretch the leftovers out for a whole other dinner. The only downside was that we didn’t have enough of the amazing rolls left for everybody to have one the second time around. That’s a minor detail, though, and I think the value of what we received for the price we paid ($99.95 plus tax shipped) was exceptional! I’m glad we could have a little taste of Chicago at home!!!