A Visit to the Windy City, Part 2: Eating Our Way Across Chicago

Noelle takes us on a food tour of Chicago City. I’ve put on two pounds just by reading her post. There is some wonderful mouth-watering foods on offer. Come and take a look…maybe just before your next meal.


Since retiring, my husband and I have been eating more lightly. Traveling with my daughter and son-in-law reminded us of what it was like when we were young and could eat without the subsequent explosion on our scale. Chicago has so many good restaurants, a visitor could eat at a different one – a good one – every day for ten years!

Giordano's pizza Giordano’s pizza

We began our gustatory adventure our first night, at my favorite pizza place in the whole world, Giordano’s. The fact it was about 5 min from our hotel meant I thought about returning before we left. Their stuffed pizza is sheer heaven, and I had my usual stuffed super veggie choice — mushrooms, green peppers, onions, broccoli, black olives, artichokes and spinach. We got a large and did half and half, with the guys getting the meat and more meat stuffing.

The next morning we hit…

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Food, glorious Laos food

Food, glorious Laos food

Check out this wonderful post by Jill, about food and meals in Laos. Wonderfully written, and some great photography of the mouth-water delights she encountered.

Jill's Scene

There’s a small, unassuming restaurant along Kounxoau Road in Luang Prabang that’s my favourite place to eat in Laos. We discovered it one cold, wet evening after a day out and about in the rain. John had been biking. Ben and I’d been less adventorous, some might say soft by comparison. We sheltered in the Guest House until the rain eased to showers before venturing out, even so coats and brollies were required.

Rain on the Mekong, at Luang Prabang Rain on the Mekong

We all wanted something warming and homely for dinner that night and this small family run restaurant met the bill. Sadly, I don’t know it’s name. There was no sign. That large white sign to the right in the photo is for real-estate. I hope this restaurant isn’t for sale because for us it represents everything good about Lao food.

Our favourite restaurant in Luang Prabang and all of Laos. My favourite restaurant in Luang Prabang and all of Laos

The service here…

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Romancing the Kebab

Having a bit of fun with the origin of the faithful kebab.

Originally posted on janeyinmersin:


Saturday night.  You’ve been out clubbing until late and you’re hungry.  What do you want?  A kebab!  You race to the nearest kebab shop (and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world there is always a kebab shop) and you order your kebab “with the works”.

Within minutes you are holding your kebab, smothered in chilli sauce (or God forbid BBQ sauce) and you find your mouth filling with saliva in anticipation.  You’re excited.  You know it is going to be the best kebab you have ever had – and it is.

Fast forward to Turkey.  You have arrived in Istanbul, ready for adventure.  There are historical sites, amazing beaches, gorgeous people – and kebabs.  Yes Turkish kebabs.  The real thing.  You make your way to the first lokanta you come across ready to order your first genuine kebab.  With confidence you place your order.  They speak English!  A bonus.  Your table is laden with a basket of bread, a plate of lemon and pickled chilli and a small salad.  Am I going to have to pay for all this stuff?  Um?

Within minutes a plate is placed before you with a smile.  You look at it.  What is it?  It is not a kebab.  It is not what you were expecting.  You try to get the waiter’s attention but he is too busy with customers.

What just happened here?

Heads up folks.  There are a variety of kebabs available to you in Turkey and each one is unique.

sis kebab

You’ve got the Şiş kebab.  This was what I received the first time I ordered a kebab in Turkey.  Large cubes of meat threaded onto a skewer and grilled over charcoal.  Usually served with grilled domates and biber.  Just a warning for you though, keep your wits about you when ordering.  If you are not sure check because instead of siğir eti (beef) or piliç (chicken) you may just end up with offal as your meat of choice and nobody wants that to happen.

iskander kebab

Then there is the iskander kebab.  It’s got the shredded meat (beef or chicken) but the bread is also shredded.  What?  You might get a side dish of rice and a fresh salad but there will also be yogurt involved and a smothering of butter.  Delicious but again … what?

adana kebab

My absolute favourite is an Adana kebab.  I love this kebab because it is hellishly hot.  Minced meat on a skewer and with some crazy hot spices it is also grilled over the charcoal.  Definitely served with pita bread, salad and I suggest a cold glass of ayran to help you digest or you will be a puddle of sweat by the end of the dish.

But we are still trying to find that elusive kebab.  You know the one that you have after a night out at home.

“Help me Janey,” you cry fearful of your next meal.

“Fear not gentle traveller.  Go forth and get yourself a doner kebab.”


Usually beef, lamb or chicken the doner kebab is slow roasted on a vertical rolling spit.  The Turkish doner kebab was invented in Bursa by a cook named Haci in the 19th century.  The man was quite obviously a genius but not so much of a genius that he put a copyright on his invention.  Nope.  He probably died a pauper.

Your doner kebab will consist of shredded pieces of meat wrapped in flat bread.  You will no doubt also find tomato, onion with sumac and a pickled chilli or two.

Just don’t ask them for BBQ sauce.


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Just Sharing: My Blog’s Glossary

Hello! One of the pages that I recommend for you to add on your blogs is a personalized glossary. Meredith requested for me to post mine here. This is how it looks like right now but entries will be added as I continue on blogging… You check the page here.



Hey, guys! I’m a Filipino and there are words that I’d rather say in Tagalog or have no translation in English. There are also places and popular people in the Philippines that I want to describe to you. Here are some of those I mentioned in my posts with my very own definition and description (plus a little help from the internet).

  • Halo-halo – “halo” means mix or mixture so basically, this dessert is a mixture of  fruits, jelly, tapioca pearls and sweetened boiled beans with crushed ice and evaporated milk. Please search it on Google Images to get a better grasp. However, what we were selling was a little downgraded version of that! Haha. Our customers were only our neighbors so we had to make it a little cheaper. It’s still delicious, though. 🙂
  • Jennylyn Mercado – She’s an actress in the Philippines and we almost have the same age. I’m not a big fan of her but I think she became prettier and sexier after she had her child.
  • kilig – a feeling triggered by the idea of love or when something romantic happens; blushing; butterflies in your stomach >>>Examples: 1.) I’m so kilig! My boyfriend surprised me with flowers! 2.) This Korean drama is nakaka-kilig. (making me kilig) 3.) I get so kilig everytime Channing Tatum dances.
  • lola – grandmother; grandpa is lolo.
  • Mamang – See Papang.
  • Master Teacher – I am not sure if this is only in the Philippines but a Master Teacher is a position in public schools where this teacher is promoted through the number of years in service, education, etc. You can view the requirements here. They are usually the oldest in service and they have the highest salary.
  • masungit – cranky or snob
  • merienda – snacks that can either be in the morning or in the afternoon.
  • Papang – This is what I call my father. It’s not really common in the Philippines. The common ones are Daddy, Papa or Tatay. I call my mother mamang.
  • Saging con Yelo – “saging” is banana, “yelo” is ice. It’s kinda similar to halo-halo but it’s only banana (specifically plantains) in sugar syrup, crushed ice and evaporated milk. 🙂 Again, Google Images.
  • SM (Supermalls) — a chain of shopping malls in the Philippines. Having an SM in your city means your city is civilized. 🙂 Haha. I’m exaggerating.
  • tricycle – one of the public modes of transportation. This is how it looks like:


    Photo via pbase.com

>>>This page will be updated as I continue on blogging.



Southern Black Eyed Peas

black eyed peas with ham hock

In the south it’s tradition to serve black eyed peas for New Year’s dinner along with greens and cornbread. It’s said the peas bring good luck. Some cooks add a silver dollar to the pot after cooking. The diner who gets the coin in their serving gets an extra measure of good luck. The greens represent money. Now I can tell you by experience this is a big hairy fib. But, oh my, they are so delicious served with crispy corn bread and some sweet onion.

In the south black-eyed peas, crowder peas and field peas are warm-weather annuals that you can harvest is 60 to 90 days. If you have them in your garden, you can use them in this recipe; if not the grocer offers dried peas.

1 ham hock – procure from a butcher, I find the ones in the grocery to be scrawny
1 (16-ounce) package dried black-eyed peas, washed
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste


I use our crock pot to soak and cook my peas. Add water at least 2 inches over peas and soak overnight. The next morning drain and wash the peas again. Return to the crock pot and add water to cover along with the ham hock. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste after the peas are soft.

Black eyed peas make a good cold salad as well as served piping hot. Don’t wait until New Year’s day to make this recipe, enjoy it today.

½ cup of dry beans counts as 1 ounce in the MyPlate.gov Protein Foods Group or as ½ cup in the Vegetable Group. For a 2,000-calorie diet, the daily recommendation is about 5 ½ ounces.
• ½ cup of black-eyed peas are low in fat, cholesterol-free and provide more than 20% of the daily recommended amount of fiber. (http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/HHFS_PEAS_BLKEYED_DRY_100374aug2012.pdf)

hsa ba – burmese recipes from miki

as a bit of a fussy eater, i’ve always been wary of weird foreign foods, even burmese ones. as a burmese kid myself, it’s slightly embarrassing to be eating mashed potato in burma, because i can’t bring myself to eat something new. i do try, honest, but sometimes i just can’t. however, there are some burmese food i absolutely love, and this chicken curry  is very similar to one my mother makes, and it’s absolutely delicious! the book and website this recipe is from, hsa ba (which means ‘please eat’ in burmese) by tin cho chaw, is chock full of authentic burmese recipes that i would love to learn to make myself, and of course eat :3

here’s the recipe itself! it serves 4-6 and takes about an hour to cook.

for the spice mixture

3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons chilli powder*

for the ground paste

8-10 shallots or around 250g
3 garlic cloves
3 dried chillies, soaked in hot water
15g fresh turmeric root
15g shrimp paste, roasted**

100ml peanut oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 sprigs of curry leaves
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces or use 8 thighs
8 new potatoes, peeled and halved
1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
250ml water
270ml coconut milk
1 teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
salt to taste

To make the spice mixture, dry roast each spice separately (except chilli powder) in a saucepan over moderate heat, until fragrant or just beginning to smoke. Roasting spices individually means you are less likely to burn one that takes less time to roast.

Leave to cool before finely blending in a coffee or spice grinder then mix in chilli powder. I usually triple the quantity above and store leftover spice mixture in an air-tight container until the next time I cook this curry.

Using a pestle and mortar, pound the shallots, garlic, dried chillies and turmeric to a fine paste. Best to do this in small quantities so it is more manageable, then add in roasted shrimp paste. Alternatively blitz small quantities of the ground paste in a food processor.

Heat the oil in a saucepan or wok and throw in cinnamon stick, star anise and curry leaves. Stir until fragrant then add the ground paste and spice mixture. Reduce the heat and cook the paste for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Don’t skimp on the oil as the mixture will burn and become bitter.

When the oil has separated from the paste, it is time to add the chicken, potatoes and lemongrass. Stir through before adding water. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through.

Add the coconut milk and simmer a further 20 minutes. Finally add the sugar and season with salt.

*look for Kashmir chilli powder, as the intense red will give the curry a great colour
**wrap shrimp paste in foil and roast in oven at 180C/350F/Gas4 for 15 mins

Picking Time

black ber

Blackberry time is early summer in the south. Requirements to go picking are insect repellant, a bucket, long sleeves, long pants and socks and shoes. I know from experience when I go picking to thoroughly apply repellant over my body, especially around my ankles, wrist and waist. The delightful chigger is my enemy.
His “kiss” can make me itch and scratch till I bleed. Ah, but friend the berries are worth it.

bl bu

In Tennessee when I was younger we went to the woods to pick. On Brindley Mt., Alabama I grew cultivated blackberries on a fence. I prefer the cultivated, fewer seeds and much larger fruit. While I lived with my son in California we had a local farmer’s market that sold beautiful blackberries. It was here that I experimented with adding them to my Southern style biscuits.

1 c flour
1/4 c butter or shortening
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
1 c blackberries
3 -4 Tbsp. milk

Preheat oven 400*.
Cut shortening into flour mixture with a pastry blender or food processor, coarse mix.
Place blended dough in a bowl and toss in blackberries. Very gently stir in milk a tbsp. at a time. The dough will be wet. Turn on to a floured board. Sprinkle hands and board with flour, turn dough gently 4 – 5 times. Pat out and cut into the size biscuit you like. Place on a greased cookie sheet, leaving space between each biscuit. Bake in preheated oven 15- 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately. If there are any left, biscuits are best reheated in the oven.

Almost as good as blackberry cobbler!

Healthy Version of Southern Fried Chicken with Peaches and Biscuits

Forget Colonel Sanders, no one could fry chicken like my mom. When I had a family of 3 boy’s with man-size appetites, they claimed the same about my fried chicken. You know southerners fry everything, even dill pickles. Now I look for healthier versions of my favorite recipes, along with ease to make, serve and clean up.

½ cup of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 ½ -3 pounds of chicken

Mix flour and spices together in a paper bag. Drop chicken in 2 pieces at a time and shake until well coated.

Heat oven to 425°F. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a 15 x 10 x 1 pan. Place the coated chicken skin side down in the pan. Bake 35 minutes.

While chicken is baking prepare biscuits. You can find my grandma’s biscuit recipe here along with a family traditional breakfast treat, chocolate gravy.

Turn chicken, pushing pieces to one side of pan. Drop dough by 8 (1/4-cup) spoonful’s into pan in single layer next to chicken. Carefully place 1 can of peaches in and around the biscuits (you can use fresh or frozen peaches as well.) Bake about 15 minutes longer or until biscuits are light golden brown and juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is pierced.