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!
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.
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!
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!
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!!!
So it’s been almost two full months since we got the call that Moose’s school was moving to distance learning. I figure that’s about the time our period of isolation began, even though it wasn’t fully official until a week or so later. Anyway, I’ve continued to do a lot of cooking, and I’ve continued to try to make some family favorites as well as some new things. Most of what I’ve made so far has been pretty popular (although the pork chops weren’t a huge hit), and we’ve repeated a few meals that were especially enjoyed (cheese and chorizo quesadillas are a new favorite!).
Baking has also been a favorite pastime…we bake cookies almost every Sunday afternoon. I also made a loaf of bread (not really from scratch, because I used frozen bread dough, but there was some effort!), plus a chocoflan for Cinco de Mayo, and a cake for Ladybug’s birthday.
New this month: We were actually able to support a few businesses, as well! We did carryout from two local favorites (The Wine Tap and Beast Craft BBQ), plus mail order from two others (Portillo’s and Eli’s Cheesecake). It was nice to have a small break from cooking on those occasions, because I’ve been going pretty much non-stop for the last two months!
I’m going grocery shopping on Thursday, and I have a whole new lineup of meals that I hope we’ll all enjoy!
It’s the rare Taco Tuesday that falls on Cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, I made beer-battered fish tacos with a spicy sauce from scratch. Now, it might not be the most elegant-looking member of the taco family, but it certainly was delicious!
Ryan and I have visited The Wine Tap on Main Street in downtown Belleville several times, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared the experience (which was lovely every time we went). As is the case for every restaurant in our area, the dining room is currently closed, but last week, they had a carryout special of charcuterie and cheese, so we decided to support a local business and give it a try.
As you can see, I took extra care to plate everything so it looked nice, and almost like we were at a restaurant. The cheese and meat selections were excellent (I love getting to try new things!), and I was amused by the spring-themed tulip and butterfly-shaped crackers. We were also able to get a bottle of wine (Zinfandel) to go with it, which was an extra-special treat.
Obviously, this isn’t something we can afford to do regularly if they keep offering options like this, but it was nice to support a local place in a tough time, and fun to feel fancy at home!
In some ways, our lives during the COVID-19 shutdown haven’t changed a whole lot. For example, we didn’t go out to eat very often before, so that no longer being an option doesn’t have much of an impact. I have, however, been trying to cook more of our favorite meals, because it’s something I can do for my family during a time when it feels like there’s not much any of us can do, and that makes me feel like I’m being somewhat helpful. Throw in a couple of birthdays and holidays, and we’ve actually been eating pretty well for the last month…here’s a look back at some of the highlights:
Of course we’ve been baking, too, both for the aforementioned birthdays and holidays, and because it’s fun, delicious, and keeps us busy!
What have your eating habits been like since life turned upside-down?
I think we can all agree that Easter was weird this year, right? Without our normal church commitments like choir, acolyting, and serving on altar guild, Holy Week and Easter Sunday fell a bit flat. But whether we were at church or not, we still had reason to celebrate, so I tried to make this time at home as special as possible.
On Maundy Thursday, we enjoyed some beautiful weather while we were out for a walk in our neighborhood before we “went” to church, which we watched from the comfort of our living room.
We were a little busier on Good Friday, with some baking (including homemade hot cross buns for the first time!), and another walk, before we once again watched the church service from our living room.
We were especially busy on Holy Saturday. We did some more baking, including these amazing rosemary dinner rolls, one of my favorite new recipes that I’ve tried:
We also made our new Paschal Candle for the year, as we usually do on Holy Saturday…it was disappointing not being able to take it to the Easter Vigil, though!
We had a fairly last-minute change of Easter dinner plans, because Beast Craft BBQ announced that they were going to be selling hams, so Ryan went and picked that up Saturday afternoon. It smelled amazing, and there was great restraint on the part of everyone in the house, because we left it alone until Easter dinner!
I dug out some extra candles so we could really feel like we were participating in the Great Vigil of Easter:
But once again from our living room:
We always get hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home from the service, so I tried to recreate that experience, as well:
We didn’t “need” Pop-Tarts for breakfast this year (do you ever really need Pop-Tarts?),, because we didn’t have to get up as early for the sunrise service, but tradition is tradition!
I was very happy to get to sing my favorite Easter hymn at the first service, which we attended from, you guessed it, our living room!
We always have Easter breakfast at church between services, so I tried to replicate that experience, too. Homemade biscuits and sausage gravy were the star of the meal (both of which I prepared on Saturday), because that’s what they serve at church, plus sausage patties, eggs, orange juice, and mini donuts:
I always take pictures after breakfast, and this year was no different. Yes, we all got dressed up, even though we were at home!
I really missed taking photos of the children by the baptismal font, but at least I got pictures of them on Easter, right?
I already shared the details of my Easter outfit, but here’s one more picture, with Ladybug, because this was her first occasion to wear a dress from Pinup Girl Clothing!
Back inside, and back to the living room for the second service, where we sang another favorite hymn:
The church part of the day was over much quicker than usual, which was sad. I did have plenty of time to prepare our Easter dinner, though, starting with setting the table with our china and spring table linens:
On the menu: ham, mashed potatoes, a trio of green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans with almonds), cherry Jell-O, and rosemary dinner rolls. It was a delicious meal!
For dessert I made the same lemon cheesecake with lemon-rosemary shortbread crust that I made last year:
We’re not done, yet, though! Since Easter is a celebration that keeps on going, and since our dinner plans had changed after I had already bought what was supposed to be the main course of Easter dinner, we had another special meal tonight…rack of lamb with some new sides (roast potatoes and cauliflower), plus some repeats (Brussels sprouts, green beans, Jell-O, and rolls), plus more cheesecake for dessert!
So there you have what was the strangest Easter I have ever experienced. Of course, our reason for celebrating never changes, but just the same, nothing felt quite right, and I truly hope we never have another Easter like it!