Dinner has always been a special occasion in my family. It’s almost always served at the dining room table with records being played in the background. It helps us unwind from our day, and we’re always cooking something from scratch.

The biggest challenge in cooking for us, as well as many families, is time. I leave the house at 6:45 and  don’t get home until after 5:30. Then it’s a hustle to think of what to cook, make it, serve it, clean it up and then the next thing you know it’s 8pm and I’m haven’t had a chance to sit (other than shoveling food in my face). I’ve found some time savings with delivered meals like Home Chef, but that’s a luxury we can’t always rely on.

With the onset of fall, I want something warm, delicious and ready to eat when I come home. This way, I can enjoy family time outside of the kitchen. Slow cookers are a great solution for people with schedules like mine. The only reason why I didn’t rely on a slower cooker more often was because mine was 30+ years old. While it worked like a charm, I would be out of house longer than the 4-6 or 6-8 hours most recipes called for.  Then I found Hamilton Beach’s Set & Forget It 6 quart slow cooker, with its programmable timer and meat thermometer that put me in slow cooker heaven!

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Slow Cooker Grocery GalMy favorite type of food is Indian, and I’ve had a Indian slow-cooker cookbook for years that was just collecting dust on my shelf. Why? Every recipe needed only 4-6 hours which wasn’t going to work with my schedule. Yeah, I could’ve bought a timer… and at one point I did, but I couldn’t figure out how to work it! I didn’t want to arrive from work one day to see my home burned to the ground, so the cookbook remained on the shelf.

The first recipe I tried with my Set & Forget slow cooker (mind you, I’ve used this three times in 10 days – that’s how much I love it!), was a traditional yellow dal recipe. I put all the items in the cooker, used the locking mechanism to keep the heat in and cover in place. I’m not one to read the instruction manual, but I easily figured out how to program the slow cooker. In addition to the timer, this slow cooker offered low, medium and high settings, which was a nice change from my low/high settings. Five hours later and wa-la! Perfect dal for dinner. I now have a bunch of Indian slow cooker recipes earmarked to make over the next few weeks.

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Slow Cooker Grocery GalThe locking mechanism on the Set & Forget (best name ever) slow cooker helps keep the heat in, so the food inside seem to self-baste. If your recipe calls for water or broth, I’d recommend using half of  what they recommend; you’ll have a much thicker soup/gravy/sauce/what-have-you.

Two days later, I satisfied my carnitas tooth (yes, I do have one), with Rick Bayless’ Garlickly Carnitas Slow Cook Sauce and some pork shoulder. Married to a vegetarian, I whipped up some tofu taco meat for him, and we were ready for dinner in about 20 minutes. Perfect after a long day. I loved the smell of the carnitas cooking when I came home, but my husband, said vegetarian, wasn’t a fan of the pork goodness wafting throughout the house.

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Slow CookerTonight’s meal (counting down the hours till I get to try it), uses rump roast I had in the freezer. I didn’t know how to cook it, so I went to the trusty interweb for some ideas. The website PaleOMG had a great recipe which featured mushrooms, onions and garlic. I prepared everything in about 15 minutes before I got into the shower.

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Slow CookerAs I mentioned, my husband doesn’t eat meat, so I “Set & Forgot” about it on our back porch this morning to minimize the meat smells. I wanted to use the meat probe to gauge when to turn the slow cooker off, but I didn’t know what temperature I needed the meat to be. Maybe if I had read the instruction manual I could’ve found the answer (!), but I needed to get into the shower! Instead, I set it for 7 hours on low and am confident there will be a delicious dinner waiting for me at home.

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Slow CookerWith school starting, daylight fading and the temperatures dropping, I cannot think of a better way to be inspired to cook a delicious, healthy meal for my family than with Hamilton Beach’s Set & Forget Slow Cooker. The 6 quart size is big enough for any large family and perfect for my small family of three. I love this product so much, I’ll be giving one Hamilton Beach Set & Forget slow cooker to one lucky Grocery Gal reader! To enter, leave a comment saying what you would want to make with your Hamilton Beach slow cooker. Get two entries if you attach a recipe/link to recipe! Contest is open until October 15, 2014. One entry per email.

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker with Spoon/Lid. MSRP $59.99

#SlowCookerMeals

 


I share my Grocery Gal posts on social media sites like Facebook, Reddit and LinkedIn. After sharing my article on either Caputo’s Cheese Market or the Swiss Colony, I received comments telling me I needed to check out the cheese selection at Woodman’s Market in Wisconsin.

I knew of the place right when I read it. It was a huge store off of Route 50 in Kenosha, right off 94. It was on the opposite side of the highway from the legendary BratstopI’ll admit it, I never went in because I didn’t like their logo. Plain & simple. However, I had to make a stop for provisions on my way to camp at Plymouth Rock, so I thought Grocery Gal should put away her design-snobbery and check out what it had to offer.

I liked how Woodman’s is employee owned, and proud of it. When you walk in, they make it known that they don’t accept credit cards, similar to Aldi.  I liked that philosophy, and it probably keep their prices down. The place was huge – I usually don’t like shopping in such large places (though I love Costco), but I had to see what they had to offer.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

Summer Sausage at Woodman’s

Walking in, there was a fairly large produce section with a good amount of organic produce and vegetarian food. I was on a mission for cheese and on a tight schedule, so I went past all the healthy stuff. There’s a large meat section and I saw something that seems to be only in Wisconsin: summer sausage. I’m not a fan of it; the consistency and flavors are too American (moist) for me. I favor the dry European style sausages from Montrose Deli and Amish Farmers. However, if you love summer sausages, Woodman’s offers a variety from what seem to be small, local sausage makers in a variety of flavors.

What I do like is beef jerky! I got suckered into both the locally made and gluten free tags on Wayne’s Jerky and bought it. Even though real beef jerky should always be gluten free, it made me wonder if how many wheat fillers were in that Jack Link’s brand next to it. I was also reminded that it had been a while since I made my own beef jerky, and I needed to put that on my to-do list.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market Wayne's Jerky

Some of the freshest packaged jerky I’ve had.

Meats were covered, now where was the cheese? I came across a small refrigerated case that had some locally made cheese in it. Really? That’s it? Wow, this is pathetic. I was really disappointed. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Until I turned the corner and came across probably 40 feet of refrigerated cheeses.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

People from Illinois love Wisconsin cheese curds

grocery gal wisconsin cheese woodman's market

The retro cheese section, including checkerboard flavor and cheese food with “process salami” in it.

The cheese section was overwhelming. Every brand I found, except one, was not a mass produced brand, and all from Wisconsin. The cheese staples were pretty basic. I was hoping to find something a little more exotic, but I had to wait for that later on at Bobby Nelson’s Cheese Shop.

Beef jerky, cheese curds, what else did I need while I was in Wisconsin? Oh yeah, beer. Their liquor department was in a separate area. Department is the wrong word to use. Emporium seems more appropriate. This place was larger than any liquor store I’ve been to in Chicago, minus the Binny’s location at Goose Island. And, wow, they gave you free stuff when you bought beer!

Grocery Gal Woodman Markets

Free stuff when you buy beer? Only in Wisconsin!

I could down a PBR as good as anyone before, and who wouldn’t love some sweet corn for free with a 30 pack of Pabst? Unfortunately, now I must restrict gluten from my diet. Honestly, this new chapter in my dietary life really sucks because I love me a hoppy IPA any day of the week! I wanted to see if Woodman’s carried Daura Damm gluten free beer, because it’s the only gluten free beer that tastes like real beer. I like a cider here and there, but it’s just too sweet after a while. What did Woodman’s have in their liquor emporium? More gluten free options than I ever even thought imaginable. My Daura that’s $9.99 in Chicago was a mere $5.29 at Woodman’s! What did I do? I bought four 4 packs.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

The Gluten Free Motherload!

I was happy. Really happy. I knew I needed to pick up some Moon Man for my husband. I’m sure Woodman’s would be carrying some New Glarus beer, right? Well, Woodman’s seemed to have more New Glarus beer than the brewery had! They also had a big stash of Lakefront Brewery’s IPA, so I picked up some for him, too.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

Umm, want some Spotted Cow or Moon Man?

Smoked meats? Check. Cheese curds? Check. Beer? Check. What else is Wisconsin famous for? Bloody Mary’s! When you look at the stash of what Woodman’s has to offer, you understand why they make them so well in this state.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

With accoutrements like this, no wonder the best Bloody Mary’s in the world are from Wisconsin.

I had everything I needed to camp, but I was still thinking about my Grocery Gal readers.

One last thing I’d recommend adding to your Wisconsin gift basket is the famous Lehmann’s Danish Kringle out of Racine. Friends brought us a Kringle before, and while many might think it’s just another coffee cake, it’s not. Go buy one and enjoy it with coffee in the am. Let me know when the gluten-free version becomes available.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

The famous Racine Kringle

Once again, my logo prejudice kept me away from a real gem of a store. Woodman’s had all the fixins to make a great Wisconsin gift basket any Illinoisan would want to bring back home. They have been in Wisconsin since 1919 and have three locations in Illinois. Next time you see a Woodman’s while driving in on the interstate, stop off and stock up on a the Wisconsin experience.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

Ready to go camping!

Woodman’s Markets. 7145 120th Avenue, Kenosha, WI, 53142. 262-857-3801


A few months ago, a Chicago startup contacted me to ask if I would try and review their product. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed Relished, and gushed about their meal service to my Grocery Gal fans. More recently, they rebranded themselves as Home Chef, and I heard meals were available with many more dietary options.

My husband is a pescetarian and for years we’ve eaten vegetarian food for the majority of our meals. Recently, I’ve found I needed to remove gluten and soy from my diet, which had made making dinner together challenging at times, to say the least. So what’s a Grocery Gal to do? Call Home Chef to the rescue!

Home Chef now offers eight unique meals each week. Whereas previously I had to ask them to substitute meat with fish, they now cater to both traditional and specific diets including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. I can set up my account for these restrictions, including general foods I just don’t prefer, like pork. They also offer fully organic meals for $1 more a meal.

Home Chef Grocery Gal

Dietary concerns are easily identified at a glance

Another improvement is including the measurements on the recipe cards. While this is great for spices, beans and starches, I’d still like to see it for the vegetables, too. There can be such a wide variety of sizes when it comes to a head of cauliflower or a red pepper, it would be nice to know how much is too much.

Grocery Gal Home Chef

Recipe cards now include measurements and dietary restrictions.

There’s so much to love about Home Chef.

I love that I don’t have to think. Those who know me know how I get shit done, so it’s nice not to have to worry about dinner for once.  What to cook? Do we have all the ingredients? Oh crap, do I need to stop at the store? It’s all there, ready to go. Why, thank you, Home Chef!

I love that the meals are often prepared in less than 30 minutes. My husband whipped up the Mahi-Mahi en Papillote for him and his son one evening.  They loved the tasty meal, and he loved the easy cleanup.

I also love how they list the ingredients for each meal on their website. I’m a sucker for roasted cauliflower, and wanted to try their Garlic Cauliflower Steak recipe — but it wasn’t listed as gluten free. I saw couscous and breadcrumbs were the culprits, so I ordered the meal and substituted with quinoa when I made it.

Grocery Gal Home Chef

Best of both worlds: I modified Home Chef’s Cauliflower Steaks recipe to make it both vegetarian and gluten free.

I love the value of Home Chef. Most meals are $9.95 a serving, which is still an amazing deal. The week of my delivery, my schedule was a little more hectic than usual. The ground bison in the organic bison tacos meal (my favorite of the delivery) was still frozen when the package arrived, so I put it in the freezer and created the vegetarian version for the entire family that night. Hooray! Another meal where all dietary restrictions were met!

Grocery Gal Home Chef

Bison tacos sans bison. I’ll use the bison next time!

If I’m gushing so much about Home Chef’s meal delivery service, I should be honest about the very few things I’d like to see them improve upon. One is to include the measurements of the vegetables. I think the Garlic Cauliflower Steaks recipe could have been even more delicious had I know how many of the leftover cauliflower florets should’ve been left over. 1/4 cup? 1 cup? I chose the latter and it was the wrong choice. My sauce ended up being  a consistency of red mashed potatoes while the beautiful yellow sauce in the recipe card’s photograph mocked me.  The meal was still yummy, but I know it could’ve been even better if I could make the sauce correctly. I think there also needs to be a better editing process to the recipe cards. I’ve seen errors, omissions and sometimes things don’t make sense. Hey, Home Chef, let me be your editor/test kitchen!

Overall, I love Home Chef; it’s an great value and service for busy people, aspiring cooks and people with dietary restrictions, like me, who don’t want to be using corn tortillas in 85% of their meals because they can’t think of what to cook after a long day of work. Maybe now I’ll be able to bring that percentage down to 50%.

Home Chef. Find them on Facebook, too.

 

 


My first introduction to Coop grocery store was during college with the Neighborhood Co-op, located in Carbondale, Illinois. It was on the north side of town, in one of the more historical buildings, next to Longbranch Coffee House. It was a small shop filled with long-time residents (read: hippies, but in a good way) of Southern Illinois, where I could find vegetarian food and bulk dried goods. I spent a semester documenting the store for one of my photography classes.

After graduating I had gone back to eating meat (well, both my parents were from Europe…), and knew where to find quality food throughout Chicagoland, so my interest in co-ops faded away. Fast forward twenty years, and I came across an article on Chicago Market, a co-op in the organizing and start up phase to be located on the north side of the city. They were having an informative meeting the next day in my old stomping grounds of Sheridan Park.

Grocery Gal Chicago Market Coop Meeting

Saturday morning in Chase Park

Being a Saturday and coming from Jefferson Park, I knew I could get there faster on my bike than my grocery getter. I’m going to a meeting about a co-op, how dare I drive there!  I showed up at the Park District (albeit a little sweaty) to a group of about 15 interested people learning more about the concept of Chicago Market. Do co-ops make you think of granola, hippies, patchoulli and bulk foods? Well, that’s not the image of Chicago Market. Their nice, clean logo, well designed website and collateral material pulled on my graphic heart strings and screamed modern and urban, but by no means hipster.

Grocery Gal Chicago Market Logo

Gotta love good design

The brains behind the co-op, Greg Berlowitz, along with 5 or so members of their Steering Committee, told us more about their vision. They answered some really frank questions: What makes you think you’ll succeed? (My answer: they’re organized and passionate) If you don’t make your goal will we get our money back? (Their answer: Yes, after any startup loans have been paid off). They have addressed the ten most common questions on their website, so I won’t repeat them all here.

These people have their shit together; and while that might read as funny, it’s nothing but accolades. They’re organized, professional and passionate about making Chicago Market successful. They want to build community, small businesses and a sustainable way of life. I envisioned myself taking my stepson (or a bunch of girlfriends) to a cooking class hosted by a Chef Moya. I could see my friends at Molter Family Orchards selling their delicious organic produce at the store. I could share my suggestions on carrying some of the amazing (and affordable) homemade sausages from local stores like Montrose Deli and Amish Farmers, which not only exposes more people to their great products, but also builds these local businesses.

That’s why I signed up that Saturday to be a member (I’m number 206). It wasn’t something I planned to do. I didn’t have a spare $250 just lying around, but I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. Since the meeting, they’ve offered a more palatable payment plan, where you can spread the cost over ten months. Help Chicago Market reach their goal of getting 1000 members in 100 days by joining up now. Even if you’re not ready to commit, sign up for their newsletter and follow them on Facebook to see when their next informative meeting works with your schedule.

Chicago Market – A Community Co-op.


This piece originally posted in March 2014 for the online company Relished. A rebranding has recently taken place and Relished is now known as Home Chef. Relished links have been updated to take users to the correct Home Chef links. Enjoy!

Today is a first for Grocery Gal. A company contacted me to try out their food. Really? Free food? Bring it on! The catch was they wanted me to honestly write about it. I’m fine about being honest. And I thought too bad for them, because this sounds like a concept so NOT Grocery Gal. Why not? It sounded fancy and way too expensive. Well it was fancy, and to my shock and absolutely amazing value. What was it? It’s a new Chicago company called Relished.

I was familiar with the delivery concept with Door-to-Door Organics. The twist here was it’s three complete meals for you to cook at home, with everything (minus salt, pepper, oil and your cookware) in one box. It’s sounded great for my busy schedule. And it sounded expensive.

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery

A box of goodness from Relished Foods

A box was delivered by Fed Ex on a Wednesday. It was like Christmas! I opened a well insulated box filled with lots of veggies, two packages of shrimp and two mahi mahi fillets.

Grocery Gal Chicago Relished Food Delivery

All this delivered for under $60!

You can customize meals for your dietary needs, so I requested the pescatarian option. Recipe cards on thick card stock were well designed (a big plus in my book) with lots of step by step photos for those new to cooking, and the components for three meals, individually bagged. Wine or beer pairing suggestions are also included. I had some stash from Vin Chicago, so we were covered in the wine department. The Grocery Gal cooking show was about to begin!

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery Recipe Card

All the how-to’s including drink pairings

Since the mahi-mahi was still frozen, I chose to cook a shrimp dish the first night. The package was for a 2 person meal, but we had three of us at home, so we got a little creative… which just meant adding extra shrimp and veggies. We chose the creamy fresh pesto pasta recipe with fresh peas and roasted peppers. All I had to do was slice the red peppers and prosciutto; the rest of the prep work is done for you. The meat eaters enjoyed crispy prosciutto with the shrimp.

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken became Shrimp with Crispy Prosciutto

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery

Looks as good as their photos!

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery

The tiny shrimp and yellow squash were added to make it a meal for three

The end result was delicious! The portions were big; while I extended the meal with extra shrimp, yellow squash and pasta, there was still enough leftovers to take for lunch the next day. What I really enjoyed about it was it was something I’d never think of cooking myself. I thought it would’ve been about a zillion calories, but according to the calorie chart on the recipe card, each serving was under 500 calories. I don’t know if I believe that, but I won’t question it now. Day one was pretty impressive.

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery

More prosciutto for me!

Day two’s meal was supposed to be steak with roasted vegetable hash, but we used Mahi Mahi which was delivered to us instead. The rainbow carrots and shallots were already peeled; a great time saver. I only used 1/2 of the cauliflower and squash; I saved the rest for another meal. The recipe said the vegetables only needed 20 minutes in the oven, and I knew that was way to short for the acorn squash to be done.

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery

Roasted vegetables and Mahi Mahi – even though I”m showing shrimp here

I roasted them in the oven for almost an hour – I like my roasted veggies charred – and added some extra brussels sprouts I had to the mix. End result was a much fuller flavor.

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery

I like my veggies charred!

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery

Thursday night’s end result featuring a great wine from Vin Chicago

Friday came and went and we didn’t cook our third meal, which was a spinach salad with shrimp. I ended up cooking it on Saturday for lunch. My only complaint was on Saturday my cherry tomatoes had gone bad, which was really surprising. Being Grocery Gal, though, all was not lost; I had tomatoes in the house. It was one minor mishap on an otherwise great experience.

Grocery Gal Relished Food Delivery Meal

Day three – Spinach and Shrimp Salad

Once I was done cooking the final meal and formed my opinion, I looked into the cost of having a subscription to Relished. I was convinced three substantial meals for two people being delivered to your home in incredible packaging with high quality printed materials was easily $100 a week. Perfect for my well-to-do friends with demanding jobs, downtown homes and no cars, but not for budget-conscious Grocery Gal. I think i literally gasped when I logged on to RelishedFoods.com and saw the price: $9.95 per person/per meal. Three dinners delivered to me for $59.70. The packaging alone seemed to be $20 – how do they do it?

You can have their food delivered to you up to five days a week, and they offer four and six person servings for those with larger families.  Today I just logged on to their site for a delivery for two weeks from now, and there’s 5 options for me to choose from. It’s great, because my husband doesn’t like beets, so I swapped that out for a rainbow chard salad.

Another thing that’s great is they deliver outside of Chicagoland: anywhere east of the Colorado River, except Florida and Maine. Seeing that, I signed up for a delivery to my sister in rural Michigan. Hope I didn’t ruin the surprise, Tanya! There’s no hidden fees I can see, and you can cancel at anytime. I won’t do Relished every week, but I can see myself doing a delivery every other month. You can see their weekly menu online.

HomeChef.com. Also on Facebook.


As I’ve written before, I love to host and cook for friends. We had an impromptu brunch with a friend who was visiting Chicago for the weekend. It was last minute, so I had to come up with whatever I had in the house.

Grocery Gal La Criolla

Spanish tortilla adapted from La Criolla’s recipe

We had enough potatoes and eggs to whip up our go-to brunch recipe: Spanish Tortilla. My husband follows an authentic recipe from friends in Barcelona, and I’ve been adapting mine from a spice-filled recipe from La Criolla’s website. While his thinks it’s tortilla blasphemy to add garlic and spices, I love it. So we created a scenario that was the best of both worlds: my husband’s authentic one, my spice filled one, and our friend could try both. I had gotten some garlic tops from Amish Farmers the previous Friday and I added those to my tortilla. I even cut the potatoes two different ways so there was not questioning which tortilla was which.

Grocery Gal LaCriolla spice

Her and His spanish tortilla components

Along with two types of Spanish tortilla we also had manchego cheese, a staple in the Grocery Gal household. Unfortunately we were out of Cava (my stash from Vin Chicago had been exhausted), so we couldn’t make our standard brunch drink of Cava with apricot nectar. It seemed as good of a time as any to continue our Spanish theme and open up a box of Beso del Sol Sangria. Sangria for brunch? Why not!

Beso del Sol Grocery gal Caputo's

Beso Del Sol Sangria – 3 liters in one handy box

I am usually skeptical of premixed drinks. I found Beso Del Sol at Caputo’s, and after reading that it was imported from Spain, I thought I’d give it a try. My original intentions were to bring the sangria to a barbecue I was going to later that day, but with 3 liters hidden in one handy box, I thought it was ok to test out a few glasses in advance.

We drank the sangria straight, with no fruit. The only reason the drink was sans fruit was I couldn’t  remember what type of fruits to put in the drink. Apples, yes… but I’d have to go downstairs and get some out of the fridge. Oranges, oh yeah! But I didn’t have any in the house. Had they recommended fruits to add on the box, I would’ve bought them when I bought the sangria. Fortunately the sangria was perfect on it’s own – it didn’t need any fruits.

What I loved about it was it wasn’t too sweet. It had a slight sweetness to it, but nothing so sweet that you couldn’t drink more than one glass.

So round one of entertaining with Beso Del Sol’s sangria was a success. How would it be a few hours later at a summer barbecue? I’d have to wait and see.

There were beverages a plenty at the barbecue, but I seemed to be the only one enjoying the sangria. It had cute, bright packaging – but no takers. Was it the boxed wine stigma? Perhaps. Had I transferred it from a box to a pitcher filled with fruits, it might’ve sparked more interest. It wasn’t until the hostess brought the box and some glasses to a table of friends that everyone tried the Beso Del Sol, and subsequently fell in love with it, too. They agreed with me – it wasn’t too sweet and was refreshing on a warm summer day. They couldn’t believe that tiny box held 3 liters of tasty goodness, and was only $19! Fortunately, all my friends have an outpost of Caputo’s near their homes or work, and I’m pretty confident they’ll be picking up a box or two real soon: one for brunch and one for their next barbecue!

Beso Del Sol Sangria. I bought mine at Angelo Caputo’s in Elmwood Park.

 


It’s 6:45am on a Saturday, and I’m driving on the Kennedy heading to Lincoln Park. Why am I doing this? I wake up Monday-Friday at 5:30 and this is the one day I can really sleep in… it’s not even 7 and I’m already in a car driving 60 mph on the expressway?

I’m on my way to Lincoln Park’s Green City Market to meet up with Efren Candelaria and Chef Gabriel Moya, two of the four partners behind Sobremesa Supper Club. The other two, Felipe Cabrera and Mayra Estrella, Efren’s wife, were busy with their own to-do lists for the next night’s dinner. I had strict orders to meet Efren and Chef Moya at 7:15am while they would be shopping for fresh, locally grown, sustainable produce which are the cornerstone of their amazing Sunday dinner events. If you haven’t heard of Sobremesa yet, shame on you! Chef Gabriel Moya has already been identified as one of Chicago’s “finest up-and-coming ‘underground’ chefs” by the Huffington Post. Their mission statement sums it up: they’re a Latin inspired, locally sourced dining experience that looks to foster community through food, relationships, and dialogue. The only thing that’s missing in their mission statement is how incredible the food tastes!

The Green City Market is easily Chicago’s go-to place for locally sourced food. From May to October they’re on Clark Street at Lincoln on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and from November to April in the Peggy Notebart Museum on Saturdays only. Chicago doesn’t offer a seven day traditional free standing market like my favorites La Boqueria Market in Barcelona or the Naschmarkt in Vienna do. The Green City Market started in 1998 and grew to Chicago’s premier Farmer’s Market, with the closest rival being the City of Chicago’s Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market.

Grocery Gal Green City Farmer's Market Chicago

The Quiet before the Storm at (what I think is) Chicago’s largest Farmer’s Market

And because the Green City Market is one of Chicago’s favorite markets, I had to meet bright and early at 7:15am. There are a ton of benefits to arriving early at the market: parking meters didn’t go into effect until 8am, the market was extremely manageable to walk through, the people at this hour were serious about shopping, and I could easily see Efren’s bright yellow Colombia soccer jersey as I walked over to meet them.

Grocery Gal Sobremesa Green City Market

There’s Efren in the middle of the photo

When I caught up with them (on time, too!), Chef Moya reminded me of myself as Grocery Gal: he was focused man on a mission; just let him go shop and stay out of his way while you just step back and take it all in. Shopping is just part of the long process; after you leave, and get to work on the prep. The Sobremesa chef has an idea what he’ll cook for their Sunday night dinners based knowing what produce is in season, but he refines his menu here based on what looks good at the market. It’s really amazing.

Sobremesa Supper Club Grocery Gal Green City Market

Looks like this will be on Chef Moya’s menu tomorrow

Chef Moya Sobremesa Grocery Gal Green City Market

Stocking up on more organic scallions from King’s Hill Farm

I really enjoyed watching Chef Moya purchase produce from a variety of farmers. Sobremesa supports the community of farmers at the market, not just one vendor. It follows Sobremesa’s theme of fostering community through food and relationships. The bulk of the ingredients used in their dishes are sourced from the Green City Market, and many of the vendors know Chef Moya well. What really stuck with me was the chef was the one choosing what he was purchasing; it wasn’t just placing an order and getting something delivered. It gave me a whole new appreciation of the care and thought that goes into each meal they create.

Grocery Gal Chef Moya Sobremesa Nichols Farm

Buying produce and talking World Cup with Nichols Farm

Yes, when it’s that early, you could get the best of what’s there to offer, and the throngs of people who enjoy the market a weekly social event had yet to arrive. But what I enjoyed the most was watching the dialog between the Sobremesa crew and the farmers.

A quick 30 minutes had gone by and both Chef Moya and Efren were saying their goodbyes. There was still a lot of prep work needing to be done for the next night’s dinner. As long as I was at the market and the crowds were still non-existent, I was going to do a little shopping myself. We said goodbyes and I couldn’t wait to see their creations tomorrow on Instagram.

The perimeter of the market focused on produce, while the interior parts were more artisan products including baked goods, jellies and honey, cheeses, meats and such. If you weren’t a cook, there were crepes and wood fired pizzas ready to order and eat there. There were a fair number of Wisconsin artisan food products, and one that caught my eye was Black Garlic North America: fermented black garlic that was super sweet and smelled incredible. I am aware of the many health benefits of eating fermented foods, so I picked up a clove. I headed back to my car by 7:56am, and I still had 4 more minutes before I’d have to feed a meter!

North America Black Garlic Grocery Gal Green City Market

Sweet and savory wrapped up in one: fermented black garlic.

So, the big question still is, what did Sobremesa end up buying, right? I was lucky enough to have them send me a picture of the day’s bounty. The rest of the images I grabbed from their Instagram feed.

Sobremesa Supper Club Chef Moya Grocery gal

Photo courtesy of Sobremesa Supper Club.

Diners at Sobremesa each get a hand written menu of their vegetable-forward meal. I’ve attended two of their events and have saved both menus because it’s just been such a wonderful experience. There’s so much love an passion in what they do it’s inspiring; and with their locally sourced vegetable focus reinforces community and thinking about where food comes from. They’re helping to support small business all while keeping a smaller environmental footprint.  Follow them on Facebook and get into one of their dinners as soon as you can.

Chef Moya Sobremesa Efren Art menu

It’s just perfect. Wish I had been there! Photo courtesy Sobremesa Supper Club

Sobremesa Supper Club Foodie Pilsen

The beautiful (and delicious) end result. Photo courtesy Sobremesa Supper Club.

Sobremesa Supper Club. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to find out about upcoming events.

Green City Market. Clark Street at Lincoln. Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 880-1266

 

 


I have a really old hand mixer. It still functions, but sometimes thick batters slow the motor down. Hamilton Beach offers the Soft Scrape 300 watt hand held mixer, so I thought I’d give that a try. I had recently purchased the Healthy Gluten-Free Life cookbook, stocked up on a ton of different gluten-free flours at Kamdar Plaza, and wanted to find out how a gluten-free banana bread would taste. The recipe was also dairy free, so I thought this might be a thicker batter and as good of a recipe as any to test out that 300 watts of power in the Soft Scrape hand mixer.

Grocery Gal Hamilton Beach 62637 mixer

Starting to mix the wet ingredients with the dry ones

I plugged the mixer in, and it immediately turned on. The thumb switch to the 6 levels of speeds engages rather quickly. I wish there was a type of safety between off and “1.” Fortunately, the ingredients didn’t go flying, but I knew I had to keep that in mind in the future.  I often cook with my stepson, who absolutely loves being in charge of the hand mixer, but with the ease of this mixer turning on we would have to exercise some caution.

Hamilton beach 62637 blender reviewThe ergonomics of the hand mixer were a little off. My thumb kept on hitting the “boost” button, which I didn’t intend to do. The mixer actually doesn’t need the boost button. There’s so much power, I rarely had to go above 3. It definitely is a powerhouse, but it needs a better way to harness it. My four different types of flour, starches, applesauce, coconut oil and other ingredients mixed together in a snap.Hamilton Beach 62637 product reviewThe mixer features a new soft-scrape beater which I tried for another recipe, but I prefer the traditional stainless beaters that comes with it. The single whisk will be a great piece when making whipped cream, too.

One of the things I really liked about the Soft Scrape 6 speed hand mixer was the case that keep everything organized in one place. My current hand mixer is in a pantry while the beaters are in a drawer. This give the mixer and nice flat edge to stand up with all the accessories contained in one place. How did the gluten-free treats taste? Pretty great; I’ll definitely be trying more recipes from the Healthy GF Life!

Hamilton Beach Soft scrape review 62637

End results with my mixer in one nice neat package.

Hamilton Beach Soft Scrape 6 Speed Mixer. MSRP $34.99


I love food. I’m definitely more of a savory person than a sweet one, but who doesn’t love something sweet once in a while? I heard about Nutwhats, an Arizona based company that uses green chile and beer in their sweets and I just had to try it!

They offer two types of products: a traditional Nutwhat Britty which similar to a traditional brittle, but with much more exciting taste combinations like Pecan, Almond, Cinna Walnut Oat and Jalapeno Beer. The Green Chile Beer Britty had the perfect hint of green chile with the peanuts; and the beer made it not too sweet. It was just perfect. You can taste the butter without it being too overwhelming.

Grocery Gal Nutwhats Bitty  Brittle

Just a sampling of the Nutwhats choices

The more sweet confection in their offering is Scribbles. The ingredients in the incredible Cashew Coconut scribble seems simple enough: cashews, coconut, sugar, sweet cream butter, Belgian dark chocolate, sea salt, pure vanilla, but I don’t think I could ever come up with something this tasty on my own. I’m normally not a milk chocolate fan, but the type they’re using in their Peanut Pretzel Scribble super-deluxe enough for my dark-chocolate palate.

Grocery Gal Nutwhats Bitty  Scribble

Their Scribble secret is Belgian chocolate

Nutwhats Britty and Scribbles taste like they were made by hand with a lot of love. I liked having something sweet that was heavily nut-based where I would happily eat each ingredient on its own.

Nutwhats grocery gal bitty brittle scribble

Photo courtesy of Nutwhats

If you’re a Grocery Gal fan living in Arizona, go pick these up at specialty grocery stores. For those of us in Chicagoland, we’re limited to mail order at this time.

Nutwhats. 1.855.688.9428


There’s something super deluxe about French cookware. Is it the colorful enameled cast iron? The cute fluted cruets? Its iconic style? Lids so heavy that you could hospitalize an intruder with? Maybe it’s one or maybe it’s all those reasons. I have a few pieces by two well-known brands I either purchased on sale or were given to me as a gift. I love using them, but they’re so large and heavy that it’s really limited to a big batch of chili, soup or stew.

At the International Home & Housewares show I came across Revol, a French Cookware company, who has taken the traditional French cookware style and turned it on it’s ear. What drew me in were their sleek and modern white Revolution cocottes with bright colored lids. When I mentally prepared myself to hoist up one of those heavy lids, I was surprised at how light its was. How’s that? It’s ceramic!

Grocery Gal Revol French Cookware chicago

Image courtesy of Revol

Revol creates cookware that’s stylish, lightweight and so versatile. My pantry has been filled with CorningWare for years; it’s a powerhouse for baking, serving and freezing, but not for stove top cooking. Nor is modern day CorningWare super stylish. Revol takes that functionality to another level – it can be used on all heating surfaces (including induction!), is easy to clean, and yes, I’ll type it again, super stylish.

Revol Cookware Grocery Gal Chicago

Image courtesy of Revol

One thing I’m guilty of, though, is never reading directions. I had a lovely small Revol la cocotte, so lightweight and the perfect size for my small family. I first time I used it was to make pierogi. I boiled the potatoes, sautéed the onions and finally par-boiled the pierogis before their final sauté. The piece cleaned up after it soaked for a bit. There were some dark spots on the base from my1948 Universal Marlboro gas stove that needed to be scrubbed out with a scrubby pad.

Revol Grocery Gal

Oops -that was a little too hot

For something that was touted as so easy to clean, why did I have to soak it? Well, that’s when I dug out the paperwork that came with la cocotte. It was there, right in front of me (in fact, it was in French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean), that Revol porcelain cookware should not be use with full heat, and should also use the same gradual rise in temperature as my other French cookware. Luckily I had only made that mistake during my first time using it, and now I know how to use it correctly. I just have to be patient while cooking!

Grocery Gal Revol

Fancy French cookware in my 1960 Winnebago trailer

I love Revol’s small size, the stylish look, it’s light weight and attractive price (for the small size). Online you can find my tiny cocotte at Chef’s Catalog, and larger versions there and at Sur La Table. I love being able to bring a meal from the stove to the dining room table in something pleasant to look at without worrying that I might throw out my back.  Bonus points for it not having a large handle sticking out of it, either. It’s perfect for everyday use, and we even took it camping with us – you just need to remember to cook slowly and at a low temperature.

Revol Porcelaine.