A weekend in Iowa: non-stop home-cooked food

Wow. I have a lot of blogging to do to catch up with all the fun in the kitchen this weekend. I think I’ll give you an overview then come back and put of the recipes over the next few days.

I started my Friday with a long L ride to O’Hare to catch my Air Choice One flight to my parents back yard in Iowa. I hopped on my 8 passenger plane with one other person and took flight for 90 minutes.

I as greeted by 3 of my favorite desserts on the kitchen counter, made by my mom: chocolate no-bake cookies, mint brownies and strawberry pie. Then, there was a trip to the grocery store for items that we’d been emailing about making all week. For an afternoon snack, I made my parents a strawberry, blueberry and banana smoothie. They were impressed by how easy, tasty and healthy it could be.

Friday night for dinner we had homemade mac and cheese, cheddar corn bread with and without jalapeno, broiled mushrooms and roasted veggies. Both my mom and dad were very skeptical about the broiled mushrooms but after tasting them they were wanting to head to the grocery store to pick up more.

Saturday morning I got up and made a crock pot full of BBQ pulled pork. I had a pulled pork salad for lunch topped with diced red pepper, tomato and pickle. Delicious.

My mom went for the more traditional route of a pulled pork sandwich. The afternoon filled the kitchen with the amazing aromas of cinnamon and sugar pull-apart bread. I knew it had to be made after seeing it on Joy the Baker and Annie’s Eats and it’s rave reviews. It did not disappoint.

While it was rising I utilized that time to go through a stack of cooking magazines that had been piling up.

My mom outdid herself at dinner. She made cheesy hash brown potatoes(a family favorite), perfectly steamed broccoli and the most moist turkey I have ever eaten. I took some leftovers to eat on the way back Sunday.

Sunday morning was too short before I had to leave again, but just long enough to have another round of smoothies for breakfast.

Goodbye, Iowa.

Deluxe turkey sandwich

I love sandwiches. I’ve said it a million times before. The endless combinations, the exciting flavors…I  could go on and on.

Sadly, I have been eating less of them. A lot less of them. Since Weight Watchers switched over to the new Points Plus system, carbs have gone through the roof in terms of points, making it much harder to work sandwiches into my day without sacrificing elsewhere. After a 5.5 mile run last night, I decided a sandwich was in order today. Did I go out and order a big sandwich? No, I made it. Why? So I could control everything that went in it and in short, so I could make my sandwich and eat it, too.

I started out by toasting 2 slices of a lower carb white bread. As we all know, toasted sandwiches are best. If you disagree, stop reading right now. Then I put a thin layer of roasted red pepper on each slice of bread. On one half, I put the turkey. Then I piled on lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion and sprouts. Top with other slice of break. Cut at a diagonal, because that is also the best cut for a sandwich. Incase you didn’t know.

I coupled some hummus and cucumber slices I had left over with some mild sweet pepper I bought the other day as a nice side. Now, I’m out to conquer the rest of the day, happy, with a sandwich in my belly.

Tasty Tuesday

I had a very excellent day in regards to food today.

I started off the day with a super green smoothie and a homemade breakfast sandwich.

For lunch I met Brian downtown at XOCO and had my favorite Ahogada.

 On my way home, I stopped in the Starfruit at Block 37 for a little dessert. The new flavor was birthday cake and it was in the same machine as strawberry. They mixed the two and made it taste like strawberry shortcake. Then I had them top it with fresh mixed berries. Wow.

I hope everyone’s day was as delicious as mine.

Chicago Comic and Entertainment Convention

My weekend is usually when I have a opportinuty to cook something new. Not this past weekend. I spend my weekend at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Convention promoting his web comic Hamster Rage. He had a very successful weekend and sold out of his print book.

The weekend did not go by without some food excitement, though. I had my first ever Hi-Chew. It’s Japan’s #1 selling fruit chew. They are amazing. It is like the everlasting gobstopper of Starburts. Super chewy and super delicious. Even better, the proceeds benefitted Japan’s earthquake victims. Find some today and you won’t be sorry…unless you try the mango flavor.

The other exciting food item of the weekend was that one of the venders at the convention was selling a 98% fat-free pulled turkey sandwich. Oh wow. We definitely ate there more than once. I need to figure out how to make it.

Saturday night between the convention and an event we stopped by a Mexican food joint in the south loop. They had really amazing homemade salsa that tasted like it had chipotle peppers and adobo sauce in it. So tasty. Unfortunately, they also had this hanging in their bathroom:

Other highlights of the weekend were that Adam Hughes(super nice guy) drew a Wonder Woman for a donation to Japan for me and signed Brian’s Cover Run book:


Here’s Brian hard at work doing some mini paintings which he sold for $5 each:

He is an old school Superman that he did:

And a Dr. Who:

Overall, it was an awesome weekend, but I’m ready to get back into the kitchen.

Lip therapy


I spotted this at the store and had to give it a try. I’ve used almost every lip product on the market and have to say, this is  the best! It makes your lips really soft without any weird residue. It also lasts a long time, so you don’t have to reapply it every 20 minutes like the waxy tubes. SPF 20? Even better.

Salmon with blackberry sauce

One of Brian’s favorite things that I make is orange salmon. I haven’t made it in a while, so I decided to make a variation of it for dinner last night. Instead of putting it on a salad, I used it as the main course and served glazed carrots on the side. Followed up by black bean brownies with a twist for dessert.

I used a slightly different rub:

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • clementine zest
  • 3  5  salmon filets

Mix rub together and generously coat salmon with rub. Broil for 8 minutes for when salmon easily flakes with fork.

Blackberry sauce:

  • 15 blackberries
  • juice of one clementine
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Mash up black berries. Add juice, honey and soy sauce. Mix well. Put in small sauce pan over med-high heat until it boils. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly thickens. Spoon over salmon filet.

Glazed carrots:

  • 8 oz baby carrots
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Place carrots in boiling water. Boil until fork tender. Drain water. Add butter and brown sugar. Stir until melted and combined.

To mix it up a bit, I added one teaspoon of cinnamon to the black bean brownies. It really made a difference. I was surprised that you could taste it so much. It really enhanced the brownies.

Overall, it was a highly tasty dinner and very easy to make.

Chocolate peanut butter pie

I really wanted to make a pie for Pi Day. The challenge was that between my commitments of the day, I only had an hour and 45 minutes to make a pie and that includes making a trip to the grocery store.

I as going to make the triple berry tart that I had made for Aaron’s dinner party, but thought that it needed to be a pie, not a tart. I decided on a no-bake pie. When I ran across Pioneer Woman’s chocolate peanut butter pie, I knew it was the winner.

Start with:

  • one chocolate Oreo pie crust(she made her own, but remember my time constraint)
  • one 8 oz package of whipped cream cheese
  • one 8 oz tub of Cool Whip, thawed
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • Magic Shell topping, optional

Mix together cream cheese and peanut butter.

Once combined, add in powdered sugar and mix on medium to high until fluffy.

Then, add in container of Cool Whip.

Mix until well combined. Scraping down the sides often.

Spread into crust and top with Magic Shell, if desired.

Chill for at least one hour before serving. This pie is so smooth, creamy and decadent. You wouldn’t guess what it was so simple to make.

Happy Pi Day!

Pi Day


Happy Pi Day everyone.

In honor of this very mathematically nerdtastic day I am going to make a chocolate peanut butter pie. Then I’m going to take it to work so I’m not tempted to eat it.

Pi Day might be only slightly more exciting than Mol Day because I can make a pie and I can’t make a mole, nor do I want to.

Pictures and recipe to come later today.

Immune booster smoothie

Ok, I promise to stop posting about smoothies as soon as I feel better. I’ve had a horrible sore throat for the past 4 days and the only cold things feel good on my throat.

I created this gem yesterday. I mixed not one but two packets of Emergen-C with 6-8 oz of water.

After the foam went down a bit I mixed that with one plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. Add a lot of ice and about one cup of frozen mixed berries.


Enjoy some throat soothing goodness.

Move over shamrock shake. There’s a new kid in town.


I want to write a love letter to this smoothie. After really enjoying my wheat grass smoothies this week, I knew there had to be a better way to get my fix with out blowing $6 on a 12 ounce smoothie. So, I headed to my local Whole Foods to investigate their wheat grass juice selection. I could buy it frozen or powdered. Then, I spotted the super green powder next to the wheat grass powder and it was on an epic sale. I could get twice as much of something that tastes similar but is even more nutritious. Sold!


I headed home and cautiously made this beast. I started out by mixing 1 tablespoon of super green powder in about 6 ounces of water. In a separate glass, I mixed one container of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt with 1/3 cup of skim milk. Except for Chobani nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt, this is my favorite:


 Stir yogurt and milk until smooth. Add super greens to milky yogurt. Pour over ice. If using blender, fill about half full with ice. If using an immersion blender, like me, use a Super Big Gulp from your nearest 7-11. For those of you without 7-11’s, that’s a 44 oz cup. I would also like to clarify at this point that when I started making this smoothie I had no intention of it ending up this large. It is really enough for 3-4 smoothies. It inadvertently ended up being my dinner and I didn’t even drink it all.

Slice up 1 small banana and 1 small orange, add to glass/blender. Squeeze in  juice from half of lemon.


Blend until desired thickness is reached.


This smoothie is far superior to Meli’s and I can make it for about 1/8 the cost. I might add avocado to it in the future. I will be able to use fewer cups in the future now that I know it all mixed easily. 

 If you are afraid of the wheat grass or super greens, you can buy individual packets to try out instead of investing in the big container.

This was a great recovery drink/snack/meal after my run tonight or a perfect St. Patrick’s Day treat for all the healthy leprechaun in your life.