drying summer flowers

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Not only do I enjoy my summer garden while it is in bloom, but I usually try to save some of the flowers of the season.  I simply use my garage greenhouse and old sheet pans.  I put out flowers from summer floral arrangements and also from my garden throughout the season. I allow them to dry on their own without using any products.

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I seem to have better success with certain types of flowers, but even those that don’t seem to look as good as the others, still have significance to me.  I use them in my fall arrangements on wreaths or outdoors in baskets on my porch or deck. Every year I have a new supply and don’t worry about keeping them longer than that.  Such fun for me to have flowers of the summer throughout the Fall and sometimes for Spring arrangements too.

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French crepes

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Over the years I have experimented with crepes and found that using a crepe pan had the best results for me.  I have used one crepe recipe for years and found it to work perfectly.  I do chill the batter in the refrigerator and allow it to rest some before preparing each crepe. Crepes do store well, so they can be made in advance and just assembled with fruit or other ingredients just prior to serving.  I keep them covered in a warming oven until ready to use for a breakfast.

Here is my crepe recipe and a couple of photos from a crepe restaurant I visited recently where I totally enjoyed my crepe.  I loved the ideas for other savory and sweet crepes on their menu.

Assemble these ingredients— 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 cups milk, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon sugar.

Combine all ingredients with an electric mixer in a bowl. Heat a lightly greased crepe pan. Use about 5 tablespoons batter per crepe.  Tilt to cover the pan.  Heat one side, then flip to the other side.  Add ingredients and serve. Finish with powdered sugar or syrup if a sweet crepe, or finish with parsley if a savory crepe.  This recipe will make 7 crepes.

 

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Sugarfina: gourmet candy

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Now expanding their range of stores and sales locations, Sugarfina is easier to come by these days.  Sold now at many Nordstrom stores, the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels among many other boutiques, their stand-alone stores are not the only place to find this delicious sugar candy.  Imported from France, Germany, Holland, and Greece with many flavors made in the USA as well, these treats are super tasty.  The packaging is also upscale and really perfect for gifts.  The wall of candy we found in Chicago was so beautiful and perfectly displayed. Advertised as candy for adults, some of their flavors have alcohol based treats with cocktails as a sub-category of selection. They also have licorice, chocolate, gummys and marshmallows.

Sugarfina has been in the public eye for at least four years, but it was the first time I had been to a shop where there was more than a few boxes.  The Chicago Nordstrom’s has a large lower level space devoted to the shop with the ability of choosing almost every flavor of the brand.

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With flavors of champagne bubbles, baby champagne bears, and peach Bellini, the store has been more than successful. Some flavors are wait-listed and others are so popular, it is difficult to keep them in stock.  We found that many types of candy and chocolate were celebrated in Chicago with a variety of stand alone shops filled with customers every day we visited. I will feature some others in the coming days on this blog.

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This brand by far was my favorite. And, one that I recommend to try when you see it.

RPM Italian-Chicago

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As someone who loves to enjoy a quiet delicious meal at a lovely restaurant, I highly recommend RPM Italian.  We made reservations weeks in advance as nightly the dinner hours are jammed with guests. Located in River North, the upscale atmosphere is decorated in black, white and grey, with wood and leather accents. The menu is billed as contemporary Italian with fresh pastas and Italian classics.  Within the dining areas, the feeling is romantic and chic. We arrived at the start of the evening and within 15 minutes every table was seated.

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We dined for two hours with a comfortably slow pace to our six course meal. The servings were plated very attractively with our waiter explaining the menu and the various options.

We started with hot antipasti and then the bread course.  We shared a green salad and the pasta course, where we selected the carbonara. Giuliana’s salad was crisp and tasty.  The pasta was prepared tableside and was a petite portion perfect for tasting.

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I chose the slow cooked crispy roasted chicken with broccolini for my entrée, while my husband thoroughly enjoyed the Italian classic spaghetti and meatball with pomodoro basil sauce.

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For dessert, we were treated to a gelato and sorbetto assortment. We sampled coconut, pistachio, and salted caramel gelato along with raspberry sorbetto.

RPM Italian was a top choice on my restaurant review list of places to visit, and it certainly met my expectations of fine dining and pleasurable evenings on the town.

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Love my Le Creuset

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Probably the best part of visiting a big city is the realization that entire stores are devoted to products that I love for cooking and food preparation.  The selection in these stores always impresses me, along with the ability to see everything in such a neat and spectacular display. On our recent trip to Chicago, I was once again amazed by the beautiful presentation of Le Creuset in a shop right next to Eataly.

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Within walking distance from our hotel, I loved my visit to this store and totally took my time looking at all of the products on display.  I have collected Le Creuset for more than 20 years and have a number of cast iron pots, ceramic bakeware, tools, trivets, enamel tea kettles, and other kitchen accessories that I use weekly in my home.  The long-lasting qualities of this brand and the enduring appeal to home cooks has kept me attracted for years.

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This shop was stunning with new products and the ability to really see and appreciate the qualities, colors and offerings from the company.  It was a real treat to spend some time in this store.  If in Chicago, don’t miss it.

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Chicago Popcorn

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So a visit to Chicago must include a visit to Garrett’s Popcorn shops. This popcorn has been a tradition since 1949. With ten locations all over the city and two booths at O’Hare Airport, it has become a very popular stop for residents as well as visitors to the city.

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We made it to three locations during our visit and totally appreciate the air popped quality of the large kernels of freshly popped corn.  The signature recipe that gives the ultimate high quality taste and flavor to the corn makes this the best popcorn I have ever tasted.

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For real foodies, this is a must stop on the list when visiting the area.  Flavors offered included:  buttery, cheese corn, caramel crisp, cashew caramel crisp, pecan caramel crisp, almond caramel crisp, macadamia caramel crisp, and then seasonal flavors of mild and dark chocolate caramel crisp, pumpkin spice caramel crisp, and mixes of these flavors. They even featured strawberry popcorn for this summer.

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The secret family recipe includes blending the flavors in old-fashioned copper kettles fresh and warm all day for sale to the customers.  Every bag is packed fresh while you wait. We purchased the buttery and the cheese corn flavors and enjoyed them for our entire trip.

Garrett’s have also opened shops in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta and even now in Novi, Michigan. With their hashtag of #LoveIsMessy, remember to have a napkin with you as you enjoy your bag.

 

Chicago’s French Market

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We ventured over to the West Loop of Chicago to visit Chicago’s French Market one morning a few weeks ago.  The market earned a Zagat spot for markets to visit; along with the Melrose Market in Seattle, the St. Roch Market in New Orleans, and the Krog Street Market in Atlanta–so, it deserved a look see.  As a true foodie, I wanted to investigate what this European market could offer the shopper.

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We found a diverse selection of fresh food to order from 30 booths, along with fresh flowers, classic chocolates, cheese, pastries, macaroons, and grocery items. I would say that late morning to lunch would be the best time to visit, as many of the offerings were best taken at lunch or late afternoon for dinner.

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There was an ample selection of items, including something for everyone. We sampled some breakfast beignets at the table space in the front of the market.  There is additional seating within the market which has a Parisian design, as well as seating within the lobby area of the building.  The striking yellow umbrellas and red awning over the main door can’t be missed. When in town, do visit if in the neighborhood.

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