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Chicago Cook-in of June 28-30, 2002

Damsel and Crash (Minnesota)

Damsel and Crash

Whew! What a weekend! We started a day early, at the crack of dawn on Thursday. With construction delays, the six-hour trip took us 9 hours. Dinner on Thursday was intentionally low-key. Everyone pretty much fended for themselves, and no one went hungry. My dinner was a can of kipper snacks, some cheese, and a few crackers. Then I went to work, making three kinds of bars for Saturday's feast. We spent a few hours renewing our friendship with Gar, and getting to know Snot and the kids. All very nice people. Crash and the four-year-old little boy hit it off especially well.

Gar got up first thing Friday morning, and broke his toe. Poor guy spent the rest of the weekend painfully limping. I didn't sleep much Thursday night, so I wound up taking a couple naps on Friday, while we waited for people to arrive. Everyone ran late, and I was bursting with anticipation.

[Gar - You were pretty funny. I was glad they were all late cuz I needed every minute to get ready. I was so glad to see you so happy and filled with the anticipation. Seeing the "childlike" anticipation was a side of you I just adored. You're a great person Carol.]

I wanted to finally meet all these people I've been chatting with online for so long. Those naps were rejuvenating, and they helped pass the time while my friends were stuck in traffic all over the eastern half of the country. The weekend has already become enough of a blur that I don't remember who arrived first. Ariane and Erik, or Hag, Stenni, and Mike (Pops). I guess it really doesn't matter, because we were thrilled to finally meet each and every person. Boli and Tim had an especially grueling day on the nation's highways, and didn't show up at Gar's until early Saturday morning.

Friday evening, Gar treated us to dinner. He made enormous Italian beef sandwiches for everyone. A large mound of thinly sliced beef on a bun, with beef juices and a choice of hot or mild gardinera (or however that's spelled). Gar waited for about a half hour, to allow the sandwiches to settle, then moved on to the Chicago hot dogs. There was one whole table devoted to condiments. Mustard (no ketchup!),

[Gar - Ketchup Is WRONG Ketchup Is WRONG Ketchup Is WRONG Ketchup Is WRONG]

relish, relish with mustard, chopped red onions, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sport peppers... I'm probably forgetting something.

[Gar - Celery Salt]

Very good hot dogs, served on poppy seed buns. After we allowed that to settle for awhile, Gar cranked out his famous deep dish pizzas. One sausage, one pepperoni, and one junk pizza - pepperoni, onions, red and green peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, ripe greek olives. I'm probably missing some stuff here, too. As good as the sandwiches had been, the pizzas stole the show. People were moaning with delight. If the pizzas had been made first, no one would have had room for anything else. Magnificent! Gar the Perfectionist wasn't satisfied with the pizzas, though, and (wince) threw the leftovers away! We formed a lynch mob and dispatched him for that one.

[Gar - Ya, but you were all too stuffed to catch me.]

After Friday evening's food orgy, we all knew that something had to give, and we started paring down our lists of foods for Saturday. I had planned on making a breakfast pizza, featuring Barb's peach-raspberry preserves, but we already had so much planned for breakfast that I scrapped that one. We had thinly sliced Smithfield ham (which reminded a couple of us of prosciutto), cheddar cheese biscuits, monkey bread, blueberry muffins, pumpkin bread, and banana bread. Boli had brought some amazing jams and jellies, as well as peanut butter and honey. He mixed the peanut butter and honey together, and served the resulting spread on graham crackers. Very nice flavor.

[Ariane - Yep, forgot to mention that. It tasted like the insides of Reese's cups. <g>]

Now, I should mention that the entire time we were eating dinner on Friday, Hag's dad was busy trimming the 19 slabs of ribs that he'd brought along. During Saturday's breakfast, he was getting the fire started for cooking the ribs. This man is dedicated! His hard work pays off, too. Even though Crash and I aren't usually rib-eaters, we each had some, and they were delicious. Noting our unwillingness to pick up a rib and gnaw on it, Boli had prepared, Yankee BBQ eating accessory kits, for Crash and me. Surgical gloves, for keeping our dainty fingers clean. We howled! Every time he had a chance, Boli demonstrated the proper, Southern, way of eating chicken and ribs. I told him he ate like a coyote.

[Ariane - Coyotes don't get that much barbecue sauce in their fur, I'm sure! Boli was mean to me almost the entire time, and you know it wasn't because he was cranky and underfed.

Mike B. was a man possessed with those ribs...and the careful attention shows. And I didn't get to go on about his homemade sausage--wonderful stuff! I'm not sure which were my favorites, but it's a toss up between the one with the little bits of crushed peppercorn, the experimental one that had cumin and chili powder in it and the beef summer sausage--spicy, flavorful and chewy. We had some last night with bread and butter for dinner, and I was snacking on it some more today. It's difficult to just eat ONE slice. :) ]

Breakfast was no sooner over than it was time to start the appetizer course. I scurried upstairs to work on my wild rice meatball stroganoff, while people laid out tons of great foods. Knowing that we'd planned for WAY too much food, I decided not to make the wild rice salad I'd planned for. When I got downstairs with my meatballs, the party was in full swing.

Gar had set up a couple of propane thingies for turkey cookers, and was trying to quick-start a chimney full of lump charcoal for his smoker, on top of one of the propane heaters. Well, the chimney got too hot, and the rivets gave way. When Gar picked the chimney up, burning charcoal fell all over the cardboard that he'd laid out under the propane thingies. Let's just say, I really regret not thinking faster and grabbing my camera. Boli played fireman and sprayed the fires out with Gar's garden hose.

[Ariane - Hee hee. I'd almost forgotten to mention the Great Chicago Fire of 2002. Flaming bits of charcoal everywhere, lots of cursing and laughing... fun was had by all.]

[Gar - [Sigh] There's a picture of that on the picture link. At least I captured my blunder on film [g] I also burnt my onions while we were putting it out. Good thing I had more.]

There were a lot of Asian dishes served. Potstickers, lumpia, spring rolls, ma po tofu, rice noodle stir-fry, and Thai pineapple appetizers with ground pork, cilantro and firey pepper slivers.

[Ariane - I didn't get any of those Thai appetizers, but I have to make them again. My parents and aunts and uncles would LOVE it, it's a great combination of flavors.]

Lots of nice American foods, too. In addition to the ribs, there was Hag's famous fried chicken, cheese and homemade sausages, smoked meatloaf and smoked salmon.

Side dishes included baked beans, a tomato and olive salad, no-dairy slaw salad, raita to go with the vindaloo (I tried the vindaloo before the raita and rice arrived). Liz brought some beautiful homemade breads with oil for dipping.

Desserts - where do I begin? Tiramisu, raspberry sorbet, cheesecake, key lime pie, glazed orange cookies, and bars: pecan, mixed nut, almond, and 7-layer. I was groaning in pain long before the desserts came out, but managed to try a small sample of most of them.

Hag made Hakata Specials, punch-like alcoholic beverages which featured Midori melon liqueur. We went through three large pitchers of those things. Very refreshing.

There were several other foods, and they'll all be listed on the website I'll be putting up later this week (a massive undertaking).

For breakfast on Sunday morning, we had Taylor Pork Roll, mailed to Gar and Snot by Nancy Young. We were still stuffed from the night before, so we didn't make TPR sandwiches. Just sliced it, slashed the edges, and fried it. The stuff vanished in no time flat. Boli made his grandmother's cornmeal griddle cakes. They were light as feathers, and were delicious with either maple syrup or with the cherry butter that Boli brought.

We'd planned on staying until Monday, but Crash was getting homesick. After seeing Hag and Co. and Ariane and Erik off, we packed up our belongings and a LOT of leftover food. Said good-bye to Gar, Snot, Boli, and Tim, and drove home to four badly-behaved dogs who missed us a lot. Hectic is the operative word.

Gar and Snot were the most fabulous host and hostess. They did a lot of preparation for this party, and it showed. Their kitchen is small, but clean and very well-stocked. The cook-in was held in the alley behind Gar's building. It's hard to believe it's an alley.

[Gar - Gurrrrrrrr [g] ]

They had an enormous canopy (with lights) set up, with three tables underneath. There were flowering plants everywhere. Just a lovely, idyllic setup.

Like Ariane said, "When's the next cook-in?"


Peach Raspberry Preserves (Barb Schaller's)

Salted Nut Rolls


Nut Goodie Bars


Mint Patties


Almond Bars

Almond Bars

I had a helper when I made these. Snot's son, Max. Max is 4 years old, and a complete sweetheart. He was so curious about what I was doing! And so careful and respectful when I let him help me.

I forgot to set the timer when I put these in the oven, so I guestimated, and I guestimated wrong. The center layer of these bars turned out kinda gooey. But, they still tasted good.

Recipe By: Damsel in dis Dress
Serving Size: 24
Categories: bars

First Layer:
2 cups flour
1 cup butter -- softened
4 tablespoons water

Second Layer:
8 ounces cream cheese -- softened
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons almond extract

1/4 cup sliced almonds

First Layer:

Combine all ingredients and pat into a 9x11-inch pan.

Bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.

Second Layer:

Beat cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and almond extract together while first layer is baking.

Spread cream cheese mixture on hot crust later, being sure to cover the crust completely.

Bake at 350°F for an additional 15-20 minutes, until slightly browned on edges.

Cool before frosting.


Beat until creamy, adding more milk if necessary.

Spread on *cooled* bars, and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

I baked these loaves at home. I made one with just pecans. The other included chocolate chips and maraschino cherries, along with the nuts.

Recipe By: Damsel in dis Dress
Categories: quick breads

1 stick butter -- softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups mashed bananas -- (3 large, 4 small)
2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup maraschino cherries -- quartered

Mix ingredients in order given. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-75 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on rack. Wrap in plastic wrap or foil to store.

Notes: Be sure to always use fully ripe bananas. When they're still nice for eating, they haven't developed the rich flavor you want in a bread.

Mixed Nut Bars

Mixed Nut Bars

These turned out well, but would have been better if they'd been served right away. I made them on Thursday night, and they were served on Saturday. The bottom crust got a little damp. You live and you learn.

Recipe By: Damsel in dis Dress
Serving Size: 36
Categories: bars

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick soft butter

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces butterscotch chips

12 ounces salted mixed nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Apply a coating of non-stick vegetable spray to the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Mix brown sugar, flour, salt, and one stick of butter; pat mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Combine 2 tablespoons butter, corn syrup, water, and butterscotch chips in a saucepan. Over low heat, cook until chips are melted, stirring constantly. Pour filling onto baked base, then distribute mixed nuts evenly over the filling.

Bake for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature, and cut into bars with a sharp knife.

Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars

Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars

These turned out just the way they were supposed to. They're very, very sweet, but a lot of people love them.

Recipe By: Eagle Brand
Serving Size: 36
Preparation Time: 0:10
Categories: bars chocolate nuts

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces butterscotch chips
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups coconut flakes
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°, (325° for glass dish). In 13x9-inch baking pan, melt butter in oven.

Sprinkle crumbs over butter; pour Eagle Brand evenly on top of crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients in order listed; press down firmly with fork.

Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store covered at room temperature.

Description: "This Eagle Brand best-loved classic is a favorite of kids and adults for its deliciously unique taste. Eagle Brand is the magic ingredient in this easy cookie bar recipe."

Source: www.eaglebrand.com

Notes: This recipe includes butterscotch chips, which can be substituted with nuts, M&M's, Oreo pieces... you name it!

For perfectly cut cookie bars line entire pan (including sides) with a sheet of aluminum foil first. When bars are baked, cool; lift up edges of foil to remove from pan. Cut into individual squares. Lift off of foil.

Wild Rice Meatball Stroganoff

Meatball Stroganoff

This is actually a melding of two recipes. The meatballs are from a Byerly's (local upscale grocery chain) recipe, and the sauce is from a Betty Crocker recipe. These are our new favorite meatballs. The wild rice makes for a nice chewiness in the meat. In the future, I'll use less ketchup. The sauce had a decidedly orangish cast. I'll also probably go with 2 parts beef and 1 part pork.

Recipe By: Damsel in dis Dress
Serving Size: 100
Categories: appetizers meatballs/loaves

1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
3 pounds lean ground beef
2/3 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
1 1/3 cups sour cream

Combine wild rice, ground beef, onion, garlic, salt and milk; shape into 1" balls. Arrange in 10x15" jelly roll pan. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until lightly browned (about 15 minutes).

Peel and finely chop the garlic. Reserve 1/2 cup of the beef broth. Stir the remaining broth, the ketchup, salt and garlic together. Heat to boiling over high heat. Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat just enough so mixture bubbles gently. Add meatballs. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until meatballs are heated through.

Shake the reserved 1/2 cup beef broth and the flour in a tightly covered jar or container. Gradually stir this mixture into meatball mixture. Heat to boiling over high heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 1 minute, stirring constantly, until thickened. Reduce heat just enough so mixture bubbles gently.

Stir in the sour cream. Cook until hot, but do not heat to boiling or the mixture will curdle. Serve over hot cooked rice or mashed potatoes.

[Ariane - They didn't look too orangey to me... and they were very good! I limited myself to half a dozen, (Hey, they're small!) and was sorry they got all dried out so there weren't any leftovers. I guess I'll be forced to make them myself, they're great party food. :) ]

[Hag - Dams meatballs, a small bite of heaven, home and comfort, a rich creamy stroganoff style gravy w/ that wonderful tang of sour cream, tender meat and bits of chewy wild rice... These were tremendous... destined to become one of my comfort foods...]

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