Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Four

Last Saturday, we were really hoping the rain would miss us, because we had lots of outdoor plans for the day…and for the most part, it did!

We started at Brookfield Zoo, a place we visited in January. We wanted to see what it was like in the springtime, and we wanted to see the Brick Safari LEGO exhibit (more details on that in the future)!

After a quick stop at the hotel, we headed to Giordano’s for a dinner of appetizers (calamari, a sampler platter, a wings flight, and fried cheese curds), plus a very delicious dessert (Nutella cannoli bites):

And then we made the short trip to Northwestern Medicine Field to see the Kane County Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, take on the Beloit Snappers:

We didn’t stay for the whole game…at 9 pm, after two-and-a-half hours of play, they were still in the sixth inning, and the Cougars were winning 8-1 (the final score was 10-1), so feeling confident in the Cougars imminent victory, we headed back to the hotel for a little more Combo Breaker fun:

Next up: The final day of Combo Breaker!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Four

Originally, we had planned to drive up to Milwaukee on the fourth day of our trip, but that ended up not happening. That was ok, though, because we got to spend extra time at Combo Breaker! In addition to watching more of the tournament(s), we also spent some time in the (free!) arcade, playing games like Crazy Taxi, bubble hockey, and pinball. It was crowded and loud and a lot of fun!

We did venture out for a bit in the unusually-hot-for-May temperatures to visit Kline Creek Farm, an 1890s living history farm. The animals seemed to enjoy the heat about as much as we did, but we did get to pet a sheep and some chickens. The horses, cows, and pigs were too busy trying to stay cool for us to get close to them.

Have I mentioned the fantastic view from our 15th floor room at Pheasant Run?!? On a clear day (and there were many) you can see the Sears (Willis, whatever) Tower dominating the Chicago skyline in the distance, over 30 miles away. And on a really clear day, you can see about three other unidentified skyscrapers, too!

We didn’t have money for a full meal at Giordano’s, but I had to stop and get an order of their limited-time fried artichoke hearts. They were delicious, and I managed to convince all of the children to try at least one…and most of them liked it!

We went back to Combo Breaker to see the cosplay fashion show, and afterward, Samus was kind enough to pose for a picture for us:

A moonlight swim at Pheasant Run’s outdoor pool was high on our priority list, and it was a great night for it. The moon was almost full, and you could even see a few stars (which is an accomplishment in Chicagoland!).

Back in our room, we enjoyed the view, and more Food Network shows before bed.

Up next: The final day of Combo Breaker, and the penultimate day of our trip north.

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Two

Day two of our weekend getaway was probably the most intense. The children and I hopped on a Metra train bright and early in the morning and headed to downtown Chicago. We walked for miles, and saw everything I wanted them to see…the Chicago River, the Tribune Tower, the Marshall Field’s building on State Street, The Bean sculpture, Buckingham fountain, the “corn on the cob” buildings, and Lake Shore Drive. The children couldn’t stop looking up! They were also interested in seeing the double-decker buses, the “el” trains, the articulated buses, and all the different boats on the river. We crossed the river four times in several different places, but sadly, we never saw any of the bridges open. We even spent some time in the Art Institute…not enough for Bunny, but enough to see the Impressionists, some of the religious art, and the Chagall windows. The weather looked like it was going to be a big problem, but the only rain we encountered while we were out was during our walk from the Art Institute to the Marshall Field’s building, and fortunately, it wasn’t too heavy!

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Once we got back to St. Charles, we headed to Giordano’s for dinner (we had to have Chicago-style pizza!), then visited the floor at Combo Breaker. Unfortunately, the storms had picked up, so there was no swimming for us that night, but we did enjoy watching some Food Network in our hotel room!

Tasty Tuesday–Chicago Style Pizza

One of the things Ryan and I missed most about living in the Chicago area was Chicago Style Pizza. We like it so much that we had our rehearsal dinner at Giordano’s, (our favorite version of Chicago Style Pizza), the night before our wedding. So, a few years ago, I bought a Chicago Style Pizza pan, and decided that I would learn how to make it at home, so that we could have it whenever we wanted, without having to a). Go to Chicago; 2). Buy a frozen pizza, (gross!); or c). Go to Uno’s, (not a horrible option, but expensive).

I have to say, the recipe I found replicates the Giordano’s pizza fairly well, down to the pizza-sized sausage patty that goes over the cheese layer. I suppose it’s possible that it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten what a “real” Chicago Style Pizza tastes like, and the bar is pretty low on a good homemade one, but Ryan likes it, too, so it must be a decent¬†facsimile!

The Dough

  • 1 Package Active Dry Yeast
  • 3/4 cup Warm Water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup Corn Oil
  • 2 1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Olive Oil

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast with the water and sugar. Add the corn oil and blend. Add the flour and salt and mix thoroughly. If using a stand mixer with dough hook, mix for four minutes at medium speed until the dough is smooth and pliable. (If kneading by hand, knead for seven to eight minutes.) Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand for an additional two minutes. Add olive oil to a deep bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl and turn it twice to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for two hours. Do not punch it down. Spread and push the dough ball across the bottom and up the sides of a Chicago Style Pizza pan.

The Chicago Classic

  • One Dough Ball (Pressed across the bottom and up the sides of a Chicago Style Pizza pan)
  • 1 lb. Ground Pork
  • 1 Tbsp. Fennel Seed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. Grated Romano Cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Crushed Tomatoes, Drained (from a 28 oz. can)
  • 1 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Dried Basil
  • 12 oz. Slice Low-moisture Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2 tsp. Grated Romano Cheese

1. Mix the ground pork, fennel seed, salt, pepper, and 2 tsp. Romano cheese in a bowl and set aside.

2. Mix the crushed tomatoes, oregano, and basil in a bowl and set aside.

3. Lay the slices of mozzarella over the dough to cover.

4. Press the seasoned pork sausage into a patty that is less than 1/8 of an inch thick, (this can be done by placing the sausage between two oiled sheets of foil and rolling it out with a rolling-pin). Place the sausage patty over the cheese.

6. Spread the seasoned tomatoes over the sausage.

7. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tsp. Romano cheese over the tomatoes.

8. Bake on the middle rack of a 475 oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

9. All the pizza to rest for 3-4 minutes before cutting.

So, there it is. If you’re craving Chicago Style Pizza, but are in a place where Chicago Style Pizza is nowhere to be found, this is a fairly simple way to replicate it at home. Serving it with a Chicago “accent” is, of course, optional!