I don’t eat pizza as much as I used to. Mainly because it’s mostly made with a crust, and usually those crusts are made with wheat, and since I eat out more with my gluten-intolerant wife than anyone else, I don’t eat pizza as much as I used to.

When I did eat pizza with frequency, I loved it, especially stuffed and deep dish.  My favorites among the local chains were, in order, Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East and Giordano’s. Except when I was in the mood for a spinach deep dish, then Giordano’s managed the best version, except maybe for Edwardo’s.

Once Cathy and I started dating, I made a concerted effort to find pizza places with gluten-free crusts. Our visits are still infrequent, but the first we discovered was at the Chicago Dough Company in New Lenox. When it impacted them personally, the operating family committed to offering a wide range of options. That made for some great date nights until I moved from the area.

Lou’s and Giordano’s now offer gf crusts. We haven’t tried the latter, but we went to the former today, where we were able to enjoy a rare pizza lunch. Their crust is acceptable, as gf goes, but Lou’s still tops it superbly, so it satisfies the craving.

Of the national chains, Domino’s is the only one with a gf crust we’ve tried so far. With all their efforts to improve their recipes, it was a pleasant surprise. The thin crust was light and crackery, not as dense as has been typical in the past with gf crusts.

No one’s managed a gf deep dish or hand tossed style yet. I can’t wait for that to happen. Until then, a nice thin crust hits most of the spots. Enjoy!

Courses? Of course!

Last night, I decided to take the homemade meal a step further. I decided to course it.

The appetizer was chips and homemade guacamole. Cathy and I caught up a bit, and started into our bottle of red wine for the night, a Malbec/Petite Verdot blend from Cooper’s Hawk. This gave her time to unwind and settle down.

Then I served the warmed arugula salad. This was my big gamble. Taking inspiration from the idea of a warm spinach salad, I made a hot dressing to toss in the arugula. The liquid part was a balsamic reduction with honey and coarse ground dijon mustard. It could have used just a bit more honey, but I didn’t use measurements, so I’ll have to experiment in the future. I threw in sauteed onions, garlic and diced mortadella and sprinkled in some fresh cilantro. In spite of the need for just a smidge more sweet, it was delicious!

Entree course was a baked chicken breast with bacon, smothered in bbq sauce. That was straight from a simple recipe, so I saved it for last, confident the meal would end on a high note.

I’m getting better at winging it all the time. I’m also getting better at portioning for two, which means there were no leftovers last night. Now that I’ve proven to myself and Cathy that I can craft a multi-piece meal and not just single-skillet concoctions, it’s getting to be pretty exciting to have the opportunity to cook at home. Enjoy!

Double Golden

Today, Cathy and I hosted a few couples at our place to celebrate my Double Golden Birthday.

What’s that, you say? Well, I was born on the 21st, so my golden birthday would have been 21. My double golden is this year, my 42nd.

But that’s not a thing, you say? I know. I invented it. Except I didn’t. However, this, and this were the few entries I found in a quick search, after I landed on the idea on my own. It’s a very similar sentiment for what I was going for. For many, the golden birthday is magical and wonderful. For others, either it wasn’t all they’d hoped for, or they were too young or too immature to appreciate or enjoy it fully. I submit to you that the double golden birthday provides, for many, the opportunity to enjoy a special birthday as much or more than their golden, and it can also provide a bonus milestone birthday, when one gets impatient waiting for 30, 40, 50, and so on.

So, Cathy went with a golden theme, making gluten free yellow cupcakes with lemon icing, polenta, and three kinds of deviled eggs (one of my favorite hors d’oeuvres of all time), and serving cheese and crackers, with everything on yellow plates and in yellow dishes where possible. It was a sweet and lovely gesture that will not be forgotten. The yellow cupcakes were the biggest hit of the night, even moreso than the chocolate and peanut butter ones I’d requested.

So I submit to you my latest near-creation, the Double Golden Birthday. It’s totally going to be a thing. Enjoy!

Challenge accepted!


After a recent single skillet dinner I whipped up for the two of us, my wife asked if I could whip up a more traditional meal of entree and sides. Only happy to oblige, I put together a lovely meal as shown.

I started with pork cutlets, pounded out and rubbed with Galena Street spice mix from Penzy. After those were cooked, I topped them with a balsamic reduction. Sides were savory seasoned green beans with a drizzle of the reduction and cilantro lime rice. I consulted a recipe for the reduction ingredients, but the rest was off the top of my head.

The only mistake I made was failing to keep the pork warm while I made the sauce. Another lesson for next time. That’s what I love about cooking. There’s always going to be a need for food, so there’s always going to be a need for a next time. Enjoy!

This Father’s Day…

As this is the first Father’s Day since I started my blog, I’d like to reminisce on my dad’s impact on my relationship with food.

My dad didn’t cook much. Not because he couldn’t manage his way around the kitchen, but more because it was never his passion. He and mom largely followed traditional family roles, and his passion was his family and taking care of them. He helped eagerly whenever asked. He was quick with a kitchen knife, and during the two years my family went vegetarian, he became indispensable to my mom with his talent for chopping veggies.

To this day, I’m a sucker for a well-chopped salad. There’s nothing more frustrating than paying for half a cucumber, tomato wedges and big leaves of lettuce dropped on a plate and passed off as salad. If the ingredients are in the salad, they should be in every bite, otherwise, I’m paying someone to let me do all the work. But I digress.

I’m not sure when it happened, but my dad became obsessed with hot stuff. My mom used to make him a special homemade salsa with twice the peppers she used in the family jar. He once told me he drank a bottle of tabasco sauce on a dare. I barely managed a shot. These days, it’s quite challenging to serve up something too hot for him. I almost succeeded with my messed up posole.

My dad was never a drinker. Well, not that I can remember. There may have been a little something in the house in the early years, but I can’t remember ever seeing anything in the house by the time I was ten. There have been hints over the years at a rough patch in his teen years, and he served in Vietnam, so I can’t imagine there wasn’t at least a drink or two on leaves. Yet it seems he’s recently begun exploring wine again. Of course, I had to be respectful when he dropped a couple ice cubes in his merlot when I took him to Cooper’s Hawk for his birthday. As passionate as I’ve become about wine, I’ll take whatever shared experiences I can get.

This year, my dad is at home caring for my mom so my brother and his family can travel. So Cathy and I are bringing down the dinner special from work for him to enjoy, while we spend time with him. After all he’s given me over the years, it’s the least I can do to show my appreciation to the man who gave my life such flavor. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I raise my glass to you, now and always. Enjoy!

Mahalo, indeed.

I stopped in at Tom & Eddie’s today. I checked them out about 1.5 years ago, but a few things have changed. I didn’t notice any slider combos anymore. So I went with the Mahalo Burger, paired with sweet potato fries and Boylan Creamy Red Birch Beer. The very tasty burger was made with  ground pork, topped with grilled pineapple, a slice of ham, and asian bbq sauce. The fries were well seasoned, but not overdone, and it was nice to have a cane sugar option, since I’m getting away from HFCS. They actually have a half dozen Boylan choices on tap.

Every time I eat a ground pork burger, it takes me back to the first time I had one. It was the late eighties, and I was hanging out with a buddy, Brent, from youth group. He grabbed a portable grill and all the fixings, along with some ground pork, and we headed out to a local model airfield. We grilled burgers while we watched the enthusiasts fly their planes. My memory of the burgers may be fuzzy, but I can still see them pale and sizzling on the grill. I have no idea what we had on them, but I remember them fondly. Enjoy!

Inspiration on the Menu

Last night, when I told my wife I would be home to cook dinner this evening, she made a simple request. “I’d be really happy with just a salad.” So the wheels began turning.

At first, I thought about what I had at home, and started making a list of all my usual, favored salad fixings. Then I headed off to work. Chatting with a coworker led me to an idea. I reviewed the salads we offer at work, to see if any inspired me, based on the ingredients I wanted to use.

As a result, I made a delightful mixed green chicken salad with avocado, almonds, dried cherries, grape tomatoes and crumbled blue cheese, topped with a honey mustard dressing.  It turned out great, and we were both very happy with the results! From now on, I’m going to pay more attention to what’s on the menu at my favorite restaurants, since it just might inspire what’s on the menu at home. Enjoy!

One last hoorah!

Bidding a fond farewell today to the Cooper’s Hawk Brunch. It was an experiment that lasted about a year. The offerings were delicious yet too few to bring in the crowds. It sometimes felt like the whole thing was built around the idea of the mimosa. Yet it gave me the opportunity to enjoy some of the best Steak and Eggs I’ve ever had.

As with many of my past food experiences, it will be nothing more than a fond memory, but it reaffirms the one constant in the restaurant business — change. I can’t wait to see what’s next, for Cooper’s Hawk and for myself. Enjoy!