Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Meatloaf Wellington

It is a cold and snowy Groundhog Day here in Northern Illinois!  We came thru a blizzard last night (they are calling it the Blizzard of 2011....I don't know how they came up with that name!) that brought 13 inches of snow, 40 mph winds and white out conditions.

The day before the BIG snowstorm, people were standing in loooooonnnnnnng lines at the grocery stores to pick up food and water.  I guess calling this a snowpocalypse wasn't too far fetched for some.  These people were hoarding food......seriously!

Anyway, I made meatloaf during the BIG storm, and as always, I can't make just a small loaf.....I need to make enough for all the families within two miles of the house.  So, with that in mind, I knew when I woke up this morning that there were leftovers just waiting to be "recreated"!

Normally, it would be grilled meatloaf sandwiches, BUT, I wasn't one of the hoarders that ran to the store, so I didn't have any good, crusty bread on hand.  What I did have was the leftover meatloaf, leftover mashed potatoes and gravy, a can of mushrooms and a refrigerated crescent dough sheet (Pillsbury finally realized that people use their crescent dough for more than just rolls and started making it without the seams....BRILLIANT!).

So, I thought.....

and I thought....

and I came up with Meatloaf Wellington!  Meat encased in dough and baked!


So here we go.....

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a baking dish or sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
Drain and rinse canned mushrooms (it's all I had....use 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms if available), finely chopped and saute in butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Season with a pinch of salt and ground black pepper.
Unroll crescent dough sheet and cut into quarters (one cut horizontally, one cut vertically).
Place one slice meatloaf in center of each piece of dough.

Divide mashed potatoes evenly over each slice of meatloaf.

Divide mushrooms evenly over mashed potatoes.

Stretch dough to fit up and over filling, sealing top well.
Brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), if desired. (Gives a better finished looking product)
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove, slice and serve with leftover gravy.

Meatloaf Wellington

1 can (4 ounces) mushrooms, drained, rinsed and finely chopped (or use 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms)
1 tablespoon butter
1 can refrigerated crescent dough sheet
4 slices leftover, cold meatloaf
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
Leftover Gravy

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a baking dish or sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
Drain and rinse canned mushrooms (it's all I had....use 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms if available), finely chopped and saute in butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Season with a pinch of salt and ground black pepper.
Unroll crescent dough sheet and cut into quarters (one cut horizontally, one cut vertically).
Place one slice meatloaf in center of each piece of dough.
Divide mashed potatoes evenly over each slice of meatloaf.
Divide mushrooms evenly over mashed potatoes.
Stretch dough to fit up and over filling, sealing top well.
Brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), if desired. (Gives a better finished looking product)
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove, slice and serve with leftover gravy.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Swedish Pancakes

Swedish Pancakes.....YUM!!!

Americans are more accustomed to the traditional thick,cake like pancake.   But, these thin, almost translucent sheets of batter make for a great canvas for other flavors!

Very similar to the French crepe, Swedish pancakes can be eaten with sweet or savory ingredients!  Around our house, they usually end up on the breakfast table with butter, preserves (lingonberries are the tradition), syrup and powdered sugar!

If you are having them for dinner, wrap them around chicken or veggies or mushrooms and ladle on a cream or cheese sauce!

Do not hesitate to make "Swedes" as they are often referred to!  Contrary to popular belief, they are EASY!!  There is often a mystique placed on making crepes, don't succumb to the fear!  You will thank yourself in the end!

If you are familiar with preparing traditional pancake batter, do not be surprised when you see how thin Swedish pancake batter is!

I hope you try these soon!  They are wonderful, whether you have them for breakfast, brunch or dinner!
This recipe is for a sweet version, but cut back on the sugar and you have easily created a savory "Swede"!

Swedish Pancakes
3 large eggs, well beaten
1 1/3 cups milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, butter and vanilla and beat well.

Add flour, sugar and salt and beat until all lumps have been dissolved.

Let batter sit for a few minutes to remove any air bubbles.

Heat a griddle pan, flat top or large saute pan over medium high heat (you want the pan hot when you pour in the batter).

Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in the pan, add 1/2 cup batter and tilt pan to spread the batter (if necessary).

When top is "dry" (this won't take long), loosen cake with spatula and flip (this may take some practice.  You do not want much color on the cake!

Almost as soon as you flip the cake and reposition it it get out all the creases, fold it once in half and in half once more (to make a quarter circle) and place on a warmed plate.  You can keep this in a warmed oven (175 - 200 degrees) to keep them warm.  Don't forget to cover them so they don't dry out!

Optional:  I often add some cinnamon and nutmeg for more depth of flavor to the batter.  A 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg add a wonderful layer of flavor!

You can find this recipe in my cookbook, Sylvia's Kitchen.  It is available for purchase on my website, Sylvia's Kitchen!

Banana Bread



didn't mean to yell at you, but I really do love banana bread!

Not that dry, barely tastes like banana bread, bread! 


LOVE moist, BANANAEY bread!

LOVE Banana Bread that melts in your mouth!

LOVE Banana Bread that tastes like you just peeled it!

When it comes to GREAT Banana Bread, you have two camps.....the NUTS and theNUTLESS!  Personally, I prefer my Banana Bread nutless, BUT, if you are going to go NUTS, take a little extra time and toast those nuts, PLEASE!

Just that little extra time you take to toast those nuts before you put them in your batter, is like throwing in a little extra pinch of love into every loaf!

Check out my favorite Banana Bread recipe at Sylvia's Kitchen, your family will be glad you did!

If you like this post, please include your email in the subscription box to the right and you will receive an email notifying you of new postings!  I'll keep you updated on new recipes, cooking techniques, ingredients, products and restaurant reviews!

Looking For Food Producers In and Around Rockford, IL

With all the interest lately in locally grown and produced foods, I started thinking about what kinds of food are produced and sold locally and where you can purchase them in Rockford.

During the warm months, the obvious place would be the various Farmer's Markets around the area, but even those may not be so easy to come by in the future.

In and around Rockford, IL, we have Mrs. Fisher's Potato Chips, Maria's Pizza, Muller-Pinehurst and numerous bakeries around the area, but I couldn't find a good listing of all those small producers who create wonderful products and sell them on a small scale!

In fact, I couldn't find a listing AT ALL!

I really want to start supporting more smaller, local food producers!  BUT, how to find them?  I've done some web searches, I've scoured facebook and I've even looked in the phone book (archaic as it may seem)!


So, I need YOUR help and in turn, I will post information about these small business people AND their products on my blog and facebook pages.  The info may not reach a million people, BUT, it will reach thousands and it won't cost any $$$$ (cha-ching) for advertising!

If you are a local producer, or have a family member, or a friend who is a local food producer, please TELL me who they are and what they have created!

You can do that any number of ways!  Drop me an email at, or include the info in the COMMENT section of this blog!


Hiding In Your Shell?

Are you hiding in your shell?

Fear of failure.....the number one reason people give me for not venturing into the kitchen!  They are afraid to fail!
The fear of failure stops you dead in your tracks, and not just in the kitchen (obviously)!

Is fear holding you back from pursuing something you want to try?

Are you allowing fear to paralyze you?

Are you giving fear control of  your life?

It's time to embrace fear, let it be the adrenaline that moves you forward, not the weight that holds you back!

What are you afraid of, REALLY?  Looking stupid?   Feeling inadequate?  Not finishing?

I cook on a live two-hour newscast once a month on the local CBS affiliate (WIFR-23).  My most memorable mishaps include (but are in no way limited to) leaving the eggs out of my

Not mine....Mine was much worse! But there is no photographic evidence of my burned crust!
brownies....they come out of the oven resembling thick chocolate gravy and the time I completely charred the bottom of my grilled pizza (YUM, nothing says BBQ, like the smoky flavor and aroma from a  burnt piece of dough!)!

What are you gonna have to laugh!  Somewhat embarrassing.....BUT, think of the joy I just brought to people!  I made them laugh and smile....and what did it cost me?


If I thought I was the only one who ever made a mistake in the kitchen, I would be fooling myself!
Try something new EVERYDAY!

I am amazed at what I have been able to do, simply by throwing away my fear of failure!  I think you may be amazed, too!

Michael IS Back!

Michael Verace IS back!
Some may argue that Michael has been here all along, and he has.  Over the last few years, we have seen him in several restaurants around town. But, in my humble opinion, we haven't seen "vintage" Michael in his last few venues!

Fortunately, for longtime Rockfordians (and newcomers), Michael has brought his passion, charm and restaurant magic back!  He has put everything on the table this time, and his expert hand definitely shines thru!

When I think of "vintage" Michael, I think BP.....before Perryville.  I attended some wonderful functions at Michael's on Perryville, but some of my fondest dining memories go back to before Perryville to Five Points, an intimate, inviting space, that always seemed warm and welcoming....I feel that same energy at Michael's new place, Michael's On State!

My Friday night dining group threw Michael a curve ball on Friday morning.....we called looking for a reservation for 14 at 7:30.....that's PRIME dining time on a Friday night.  The dining group gets together every Friday night, we don't actually know how many people will be joining us until we assemble at the restaurant (a restaurant's nightmare)!  BUT, getting back to the reservation....the person who answered the phone at Michael's was hesitant.....14 people at the height of Friday night?  Could it be done?


When we get to the restaurant, we assemble in the bar to start our evening.  AND, guess what, there are peanuts on the bar!  Michael had the guts (or foresight) to keep the peanut theme from The Ground Round (the building's original occupant)!  It's a fine line when you think of keeping an iconic piece of the past from a former restaurant, or chucking it all and starting over.  I love that Michael is secure enough to take a small bit of The Ground Round and keep it in the new place!

That isn't all that is old in the New Michael's....Mature (OK, one more time....NOT old) Rockfordians can take a walk back in time and look at the past, as they peruse the photographs of  a younger city....blown up (not exploded....made BIG), so we don't have to squint!  There is other beautiful artwork as well, ask Michael if you are interested!

As I was saying earlier, we assemble in the bar,

and assemble,

and assemble,

and assemble.....

We are never quite sure how many there will be until Friday night.....
there ended up being 20 of us!  OH MY! Great for us!  I love my friends!  BUT, what is Michael going to think?

Michael was calm, cool and collected!  His staff reflected his professionalism and they created the perfect setting of four tables for us to sit!

The waitress was with us quickly, asked for our drink order, told us the specials, disappeared and reappeared with our drinks unbelievably fast!  At our table, we ordered Chicken Marsala, Parmesan Encrusted Tilapia (Chef Raul's feature), New York Strip, Lobster Tail and Salmon.

The meal was served quickly and hot!  It was marvelous!  The entrĂ©es were served properly, the lobster was tender, the strip was prepared perfectly to order, the tilapia was crispy on the top and the fish was flaky and moist and the salmon was moist and flavorful.  The chicken breast was a little dry, but the incredible Marsala sauce made up for it.  I know I'm an oddity, but I would like a few more veggies on my plate.

The one side dish that really stood out was the Garlic Butter Linguini....pasta cooked perfectly, the sauce was buttery and not oily and perfectly flavored with garlic and a hint of lemon!  That might be dinner next time....or maybe scallops or shrimp or a pork chop or a burger or reuben....the menu is diverse!  EVERYONE in your party will find something to like on Michael's menu....some old favorites and Chef Raul's specials make this menu incredible!

I hope you give Michael's on State a try in the very near future, I know you will be happy with your decision!  The restaurant is easy to get to and easy to get in and out on State Street!  Hurry in for lunch or dinner and tell Michael how happy I was with our meal!

Michaels On State, 4002 East State Street, Rockford, IL  61108    815-708-6306

Additional Info:  Michael's prices are realistic!  Appetizers start at $3.00; Sandwiches, Salads and Burgers start at $6.49; EntrĂ©es start at $6.49 at lunch and $8.49 at dinner!

Dining Date:  January 14, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We Dined at The Ding-A-Ling

The Friday Night Dining Club took a road trip into The Land of Cheese last time!

We headed North to Hanover, Wisconsin on Highway H to visit The Ding-A-Ling Supper Club!  The Ding-A-Ling is a mainstay in Southern Wisconsin for good home cooking!  They have been around for years under several different owners.  Current owners, Kyla and Jerrad Wilke are doing a wonderful job at keeping with the tradition of The Ding-A-Ling!

The Ding-A-Ling has been around for many years and when you drive up, you may be a little taken aback, but don't let the the place fool you, step in the front door (which, by the way, has a very large and noisy bell on it, so be prepared!) and you will feel welcome!  The staff is friendly and accommodating, as well as the patrons.  We struck up several conversations with strangers almost as soon as we arrived!

Being a supper club in Wisconsin can only mean one thing on a Friday night....FISH FRY!  The Ding-A-Ling is one of the few restaurants still offering an "All You Can Eat"  Fish Fry, featuring Lightly Battered Cod, Beer Battered Cod and Perch (or a combo of all three)!  In addition to the AYCE Fish Fry, they also offer Broiled Cod, Broiled or Deep Fried Walleye and Blue Gill!

Not open on Mondays, The Ding-A-Ling offers specials every other day of the week, in addition to their regular menu which includes steaks, Prime Rib, Fried Chicken, Pork Chops, Seafood Platter (Broiled or Fried), Burgers and many appetizers.
A couple of notable offerings on their menu include "All You Can Eat" Prime Rib on Saturday nights and Fried Chicken and Homemade Dumplings on Saturday and Sundays!

Your dinner comes complete with rolls, choice of soup, cottage cheese or salad, choice of potato.....let's stop here, along with baked, fries and hash browns, The Ding-A-Ling offers Boston Browns, a cubed potato that is browned on all sides.....crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside!  On Fridays, they also offer Potato Pancakes.

Orders at our table included the All You Can Eat Fish....all varieties, baked Walleye and Smothered Chicken.  The Baked Walleye was perfectly broiled!  It wasn't dry and crusty, it was moist and flaky!  A good choice for those watching the fat grams!

The Fried Fish was battered nicely, and the lightly battered Cod was just that - lightly battered!  Not too much batter on the outside, but lots of crunch!  I would prefer a more seasoned batter, but it let the flavor of the fish shine thru!  The Beer Batter had a little more flavor to it and it was just as crunchy!  The Perch, which can be turn out overcooked very quickly came to the table flaky and moist.  A few minutes into our meal, our waitress brought out an over-flowing plate of extra fish for the All You Can Eaters at our table (and a few extra pieces for those that didn't order the AYCE!).

The Smothered Chicken was a chicken breast, smothered in Swiss Cheese, mushrooms and gravy and served on a bed of wild rice (don't like rice?  No problem here, ask for potatoes instead!)!  There was plenty to take home and have another meal!

In keeping with the Supper Club tradition, we topped off our meal with some ice cream drinks, a Grasshopper, a Pink Squirrel and a Brandy Alexander!

I hope you will give The Ding-A-Ling a try!  It is an easy drive and a destination, if for nothing more than to say you have been to the Ding-A-Ling!  Give them a call at 608-879-9209.

The Ding-A-Ling is open for Dinners only and they are closed on Mondays.  Prices start at $2.99 for appetizers, $5.99 for sandwiches, Steaks from $9.99, Seafood from $9.99 and specials from $8.99.  All You Can Eat Fish on Fridays is $10.99!  There is a kid's menu, too!