Did you know Tootsie Rolls are made in Chicago?

4808E90E-6DE6-4429-A5C0-6D35C99382C0This week I got the biggest surprise. My daughter and I were entering the freeway when she yelled, “Mama, LOOK, it’s the Tootsie Roll truck.” As I was driving I couldn’t take a look, so I said, “Quick, take a picture, my blogging friends will enjoy seeing this.”

As you can see, she was quite the photographer, she got a GREAT shot of the truck. Then one night she was “behind” the Tootsie Roll truck and got a picture of the Owl and the famous saying of “How many licks in a tootsie roll pop?”

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Why the smiles and excitement? With our changing world, it is nice to know there are a few things from our childhood grade school days that still exists — AND — that is the Tootsie Roll, which has been produced in the United States since 1907.

Oh, and Leo Hirshfield (an Austrian immigrant) created this candy for his five year old daughter whose nickname was “Tootsie,” and there you have the name “Tootsie Roll.”

American soldiers ate tootsie rolls as field rations during WWII, because of the hardiness of the candy in different environmental conditions.

So, if you are ever in Chicago, keep your eye out for the Tootsie Roll truck. When you see it go buy, you’ll have to smile and THINK, “How many licks ARE THERE in a tootsie roll pop?”

German Oktoberfest is here! Time to go to Munich.

Oktober fest collageI almost forgot it was Oktoberfest! I was at Cost Plus / World Market the other day and they had a German section of food for Oktoberfest celebrations. The usual variety of sausages, mustards, beers, spaetzle, pretzels, chocolates and more.

Lederhosen group of men

Have you ever been to Munich for Oktoberfest? It’s really beautiful to see the men in their lederhosen and the women in their dirndles. I think this is the only place in the world where you will see grown men wearing leather shorts with bright colored shirts and as you see in the photo, you have to have the right shoes and socks too!

schnitzel

They really celebrate with fabulous music, singing and good food. Who can resist some schnitzel?! It’s a special tradition they have. My in/laws are German, so we always celebrated with their German friends, it was fun! They would sing all the German songs together, locking arms together swinging back and forth. Singing from their hearts.

My favorite is the Chicken Dance, here is a Youtube video (Wurstfest – How to Chicken Dance) that explains the steps for the chicken dance. In Germany, (EVERYONE) old and young get up to dance this dance. Enjoy this German tradition!

Pizza in a cast iron skillet?

cast iron pizzaFourth of July holiday is coming up, which means a lot of barbecuing. BUT, what if you prefer pizza.

I have exciting news for you. If you own a cast iron skillet you can make your own gourmet crunchy crusted pizza in 15 minutes. Make life easy on yourself, buy the pizza dough already prepared.

Here’s what you do:

Roll out the pizza dough. Warm up your cast iron skillet on medium/high on your stove top, dust the pan with a little bit of flour, no oil needed. Put your dough in the pan. While your dough is warming up, sprinkle some olive oil on it, pizza sauce and add your chosen pizza toppings (i.e. mushrooms, pepperoni, whatever you like) and then pop your pan into the oven at 425 degrees. Your pizza should be ready in 12-15 minutes.

I had no idea!

Now, I just need to find a good deal on a cast iron skillet and I’ll be a Chef in no time!

Bon Appétit!

Baci – Want some KISSES anyone?

55DBB27E-DAB9-4901-806A-435CE3CD096AIf you are in Italy and someone asks you if you want a “Baci,” at first you might think they are being fresh! That is until you see they are starting to hand you a chocolate. For those of you who don’t know Italian, the word “baci,” means “kisses.”

If you like chocolate and you like hazelnuts, you’ll fall in love with Baci chocolates. As you see in the photo, each chocolate has a full size hazelnut inside. It’s a treat to eat one, they are delicious. Now, they are a bit expensive, so receiving one as a gift means the person wanted to surprise you with a decadent gift. Oh, and they are similar to fortune cookies, in that they ALWAYS have a love note inside written in four different languages (Italian, English, German, Spanish, French, or Chinese).

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Baci’s are made by Perugina (1907), an Italian chocolate company, located in Umbria, the town of Perugia. Nestlé company purchased Perugina in 1988. This past trip I did not have a chance to visit Perugia, but that is for next time.

On the Perugina website, they offer chocolate cooking classes. The classes are 3-4 hours long, which would allow for site seeing in Perugia. I know, some of you might be thinking… I cannot make it to Italy, how will I ever take their master chocolate class. Well, if you are in or traveling to America, you have the option of going to New York or Chicago for master chocolate classes.

While I am not an expert cook or baker in any way, I do find the idea of being surrounded by Italian chocolate exciting! Something to add to the “Bucket List.”

When I was staying with the relatives in Florence, I gave them Baci’s right after dinner, because I wanted it to be a surprise. It’s amazing how one box of chocolate created such excitement! Baci’s can do that!

Happy Chinese / Lunar New Year! Chinese Food Recipes…

Chinese New Year DumplingsHappy Chinese / Lunar New Year!

If you are celebrating and want to try some new Chinese recipes, I have just the website for you.

I came across Elaine’s “China Sichuan Food” last year. She has a variety of great authentic recipes.

As I follow her Blog when she has a new recipe I receive an email. Yesterday she sent an email with a nice story about how her family celebrates Chinese New Year and the types of foods they normally cook at this time.

If you are celebrating Lunar New Year or enjoy Chinese food, you’ll find her website a real delight. Elaine’s recipes look easy and delicious to make. You’ll see she walks you through the recipes with detailed photos, so it’s hard to get it wrong.

There are so many recipes I want to try (i.e. Kung Pao Cauliflower)… I’ve got to get started!

Chicago: Goodbye Crate & Barrel… Welcome biggest Starbucks in the world

Crate and Barrel 2Change is good, I know, but Crate & Barrel, the flag ship store, 3 stories high with all glass windows has been on Michigan Ave for 28 years. I still remember the excitement when the store first opened. All the “oohs and aahs.” Just a few years ago, we learned that Macy’s was buying Marshall Field & Co., now Crate & Barrel is gone. Please, allow me a few sniffles.

This picture will go down in the retail history books. I wanted to get the last photo of Crate & Barrel with their signage. Chuckling though, because somehow, the way I took this picture it looks like the second “leaning tower of Pisa!”

As most of you know, the papers say retail is dying, not 100%, but enough to have different store closings. This is sad, but we have to go with the times. When I look at this photo, I can absolutely see a Starbucks there. It’s a beautiful store with it’s open windows, elegant escalators and the location on Michigan Ave can’t be beat. This is prime real estate. The biggest Starbucks in the world. WOW – in Chicago!

I didn’t realize this, but Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks, said that 30 years ago Chicago was where they opened their “first” Starbucks outside of Seattle. This is sentimental, of course. So, 30 years later, Schultz is going “really big” with Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which will be a four story, 43,000 sq ft interactive coffee shop. They will roast, brew and package coffee there.

Is Amazon next? Chicago is still on Amazon’s top 20 list for a second headquarters. So, maybe, just maybe, we will have TWO heavy hitters from Seattle moving into Chicago!

Stay tuned, book your flights is all I can say! Tourists will be coming!

Sprinkles – A cupcake for January birthdays! Use the ATM…

Sprinkles ATM cupcakeMy daughter and I were out celebrating her birthday recently., which was fun. A birthday celebration does not seem complete without a birthday cake. While we didn’t need a BIG cake, we wanted a slice of cake, something decadent… where to go? Aha, we decided on “Sprinkles.” She loves the coconut cupcakes and so do I, so off we went.

Sprinkles storeAs she was placing her order, I happened to see that they had an ATM cupcake vending machine outside. You can see photo, that’s how the machine looks in the early evening, all lit up. I remember hearing about the ATM cupcake machines a few years ago, and thought it was a fad that would die out, but it’s still going – 24 hour service. That means if we have a late night craving for a cupcake, a decadent one, we can fulfill our sweet tooth’s desire.

Sprinkles has strategic locations throughout the U.S. (San Francisco Bay Area, Beverly Hills, New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, Nashville, Dallas to name a few). The cupcakes are very big, a bit expensive, but remember you are treating yourself.

In January they are serving “Breakfast Cupcakes,” now that will give you a sugar high. If you live near a Sprinkles, I would suggest joining their reward program, you’ll get a FREE cupcake on your birthday!

So – HAPPY BIRTHDAY to January birthdays!

Treat yourself! Start the year off right with a Sprinkles cupcake!