April 29, 2011

Sunday Pizza: 04.24.2011

*Happy happy birthday to my beautiful sister, Becky (aka the Queen) and my wonderful brother-in-law, Ed (aka Eddie Pat).  Happy 21st Anniversary to my Aunt Susan and Uncle Rick!  Finally, Happy 72nd Anniversary to my Great Aunt Marna and Great Uncle Herb!  (You read right 72, like The Fridge)

Friends.  We have new friends and it is very exciting!  Above is a happy Z with his new buddy, Jake.  I'm flaking but I believe Jake is close to 6.  Jake and his two year old brother Ty live right across the street and happen to have super fun and nice parents!  We love our new home and having awesome neighbors is a major bonus!

April 27, 2011

Pizza Pot Pie!

 Almost anytime I am eating out somewhere and love whatever I'm eating I think about how I could try and make it at home.  Don't get me wrong, I think about it alright but that's usually as far as I get.  After twelve years of going to Oven Grinders it never once occurred to me to try and make a pizza pot pie at home.  Crazy!

April 25, 2011

Sunday Pizza: 04.17.2011

I was so excited about all the Chicago trip posts that I didn't post last week's Sunday Pizza! DUH!  The Queen and Kickball Ken came over with the girls, Kate and Lily.  It was a super time as always.

Z and Lily get along so well and were excited to see each other and play.  Lily was an awesome pizza making supervisor for Z.  As you see above she is instructing him to add, "More Cheese!"

Earlier in the day Lily made Easter Eggs for my mom and Z.  Z's egg was even wearing a cowboy hat.  Pretty cool.  Kate is such a good baby, she's just snoozing happily as her dad shows off Lily's eggs.

Eventually, Lily took over topping the pizza when Z decided it was more fun to eat the cheese instead of add pepperoni.  They both loved the pizza and later played a ton in the backyard.  Ah... good times.

April 21, 2011

Chicago Trip: Henrys and Train Toy Store

"Hey Papa where's my dog?"  One of the days in Chicago we took Z-man for his first Chicago dog.  Sadly, I'm not sure if it counts since he had it with ketchup only.  A TRUE Chicago dog has everything (everything but ketchup that is).  It has mustard, onion, neon green relish, hot pepper, celery salt, often a pickle spear, often tomato.  Also, it must be an all beef dog.

This hot dog stand, Henry's, is on the historic Rt 66 (or Ogden Ave in Cicero to Chicago locals).  Papa Choo Choo thinks it is one of Chicago's oldest stands.  Am I interested in if this is in fact one of the oldest stands?  Yes.  But... time is money and I'm letting it go.

The dogs finally arrived and they were tasty.  Was it the best dog in the universe?  Nope, but still yummy and worth checking out.  It happened to be on the way to the Berwyn Toy Train store!

This is one of those stores where hobbyists go to get their lionel trains, model cars, model airplanes etc.  They probably see just as many adult toy enthusiasts as kids.  The back wall was all train cars probably priced higher than my first car.  They had some matchbox cars never taken out of the box and well over $20!

All of a sudden Thomas stuff looked real good and way less pricey!  We got Z a couple replicas train cars of Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Metra.  He loves them and even brings them to sleep with him now.

Finally, they had Breyer replica horses.  I had never heard of this brand, much to the store owners dismay.  We also saw them at a flea market earlier in the week and many sellers of said horses were equally stunned at my ignorance.  Pardon me.  So you don't look as silly as me Breyer takes actual show horses and makes plastic models of them.  Hopefully, you won't be laughed off next time Breyer comes up in conversation at a dinner party.

Z got a little neigh neigh that he also sleeps with.  It was a great time and we can't wait to go back.

April 19, 2011

Chicago Trip: Portillos I Beef

Portillos.  To some this picture might not be all too appetizing but to others this, right here, is a picture of heaven on earth.  This is Italian Beef (or I Beef).  If you have never been to Chicago or are not friends with a Chicago local or crazy former local then you probably have never heard of an Italian Beef.  Rest assured, you do now!

I Beef is available at hot dog joints all over Chicagoland.  Portillos is a local chain famous for them and with good reason.  Believe me, it is still worth trying the mom and pop stops though.

An I Beef is beef slow roasted with garlic and italian seasonings and shaved ridiculously thin, piled high on a hoagie roll, topped with sweet or hot peppers or even cheese, then it is often dipped in the gravy (or beef juice).  This time I got a side of gravy which worked perfect so the bread didn't get too mushy.

It is every bit as messy to eat as it looks up there.  You'll have juice dripping down your arm and all over your face.  Where you find Italian Beef you'll only ever find the world's tinyest napkins.  You know, the kind where you try to get one out of the napkin dispenser and it rips so you're left holding one tiny corner of an already tiny napkin.  This is not the place for a first date.

C was out to impress and ordered a combo.  A combo was most likely designed by a dude for a dude.  It is an I Beef and Italian sausage with peppers in one bun.  Heart attack city!  Really, we were good though, we shared a large fries and ordered Diet Coke.  :)

Forgot to mention, my aunt and uncle had us all over for a party a couple days after these photos were taken.  Guess what they served?  That's right Portillos Italian Beef!  They cater!!!  Heaven, twice in one week.

April 17, 2011

Chicago Trip: Train to Children's Museum

*Special note* - Happy 100th blog post to me!

Most people take the train to Chicago, commuters.  One morning we took it the other way to Naperville.  It is a far west burb and has a Children's Museum a block away from the train station.  A train ride to a children's museum!  Does life get better for a two year old boy?

Off we went and Z had a blast!  Which meant we did too.  It was a sunny, windy morning.  He loved getting on the train, having his own spot to look out the window, and watching the world roll by.  Z's favorite part of the train was going through tunnels.  Train rides are so much cooler through a child's eyes.

The Children's Museum was pretty cool too.  It was surprisingly crowded for a weekday morning.  Lots of schools were on field trip.  There was an awesome art exhibit featuring always popular Chagall.  It was extremely interactive and encouraged kids to create their own art.

Among the rooms was a water room, a tool room, an air room (C better named it a fluid dynamics room), a math room (sadly, we didn't get to due to hunger and time constraints).  A big thanks to the people that dream up these places for kids to run, explore, and learn.

We grabbed lunch at Potbellys.  YUM!  We all chowed down and happily chatted with Z about his adventures.  Then we were off to catch the train back for naptime.  Once at Grandma's house he picked a couple trains to bring to bed and fell asleep playing with and talking to them.  Lovely day.

Chicago Trip: Oven Grinders

The other day I filled my car with gas and Z kept saying, "Z car!"  After forking over $50 for gas I said to him hopefully by the time he's old enough to drive there are cars or some other form of transportation not reliant on fossil fuels.   Fingers crossed.

In Chicago we stayed with my in-laws.  They live a couple blocks from the train line.  Nearly daily we walked to the tracks around 4:30pm to watch all the rush hour trains pass.  Z loved it!

One of the days Z stayed with C's parents and we took the train into Chicago for dinner and an overnight!  Woo Hoo!  Thanks Bubbe and Papa Choo Choo!  We went to our old favorite: Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder.

It is a favorite since we first started dating 12 years ago.  We went there on one of our first dates and then the night C proposed.  Awe.  The only catch it they don't take checks or credit cards and usually there's a super long wait.  The host asks how many and gives you a wait time.  He doesn't take your name and he certainly doesn't write it down.  I doubt he even looks to see if you're waiting outside or in the bar.  Almost every time we're there someone is waiting and agitated about this procedure.  Clearly, a newbie.  Incredibly, usually within the time quoted we have a table.

It is on Clark St across from the now closed Clark Bar.  There's a story with Oven Grinders dealing with the St Valentine's Day Massacre.  I read about it most times we dine there and promptly forget it.  C is telling me now that it was a lookout.  Thanks C.

We have tried nearly the whole menu, not that there's much to it.  We now always get Mediterranean bread and a half-pounder each.  Mediterranean bread is an app that overflows the plate.  It is super thin and chewy and covered with seasoning, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.  No plates, no silverware.  Rip and devour with your fingers.  Food of love.

As you can see in the picture below a half-punder is a pizza pot pie!  Inside is oozy cheese, button mushrooms (optional), sausage (optional), and their sweet/tangy heavenly sauce.  The server brings it out in a bowl filled with the toppings and covered with the dough, upside down.  Using an oven mitt and spoon the server flips the pizza pot pie onto a plate and removes the bowl to let all the topping slide into the dough.  From there it is one big wonderful mess of a meal.  It doesn't get any better!

April 12, 2011

Chicago trip: April 2011

We just returned from a trip back to Chicago.  It was super relaxing and I have tons to share in the coming posts.  All family and Z related.  I'll try to sneak in a recipe or two while I'm at it.

Here's one of my favorites from the trip.  It is Z with his papas at the Brookfield Zoo.  It just so happens to be where C and I married nearly six years ago.  I was totally sentimental the whole day.