Friday, May 20, 2011

Chili Spaghetti

This hearty recipe was given to me by Wendell Peoples

2 pounds ground beef
1 can red kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
2 medium green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil

Sauté the ground beef for about 15 minutes over medium heat. When the meat is browned, drain off any water or grease. Add chopped onions, green peppers, beans, diced tomato including the juice. Stir and simmer for about 10 minutes. Next add the tomato sauce and the spices. Let this mixture simmer over a low flame and thicken for at least an hour. Stir pot every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

This combination requires a thick, hearty chili because you have to eat it the spaghetti with a fork. Soupy, loose spoon chili just won’t work here. You have to let it simmer until it’s really thick.

When the chili is thickened, you can boil a large pot of water for the spaghetti. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water. When water is boiling, add the spaghetti and stir it a few times to make sure it doesn’t stick together. The spaghetti should be done in about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain into a colander and rinse the spaghetti then transfer it to a large bowl. Toss the cooked spaghetti with a little oil to keep it from sticking while you wait for the chili.

Serve the chili over the cooked spaghetti. You can dress it up with shredded cheddar cheese and as always bring the bottle of hot sauce to the table.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fireside Kitchen Open Late

5739 N. Ravenswood Ave
Chicago, IL 60660

Where do you go when the last set is over, you're hungry and it's after midnight?

Usually you have to settle for fast food if you are out late at night. Fireside has one of the few four o’clock licenses left in the city and they keep the kitchen open late (3 a.m.).
There is plenty of parking on the street and at night and weekends you can park in the lot next door.3. DELIVERY
FIRESIDE provides speedy delivery seven days a week for lunch, dinner and late night pizza. If you really are not up for any human contact, you can place your order online at the FIRESIDE website
Many locals have made Fireside their home away from home. It truly is a public house. It’s like a second living room or a big enclosed front porch where your friends and neighbors stop by. You can just stop by knowing that someone will be there to share stories and trade gossip and maybe share a meal, snack or just friendly drink or two.
The patio is open year round. It is large and comfortable in any weather because it is covered and heated. It can be back yard comfortable or dressed up for a special occasion like a wedding or a private party
There is truly something for everyone here. There is an extensive menu for everything and they keep updating the choices . If all the menus were bound together in one book it would weigh in like the yellow pages
• Beer - ever changing line up of craft beers as well as all the standard favorites in bottles and on tap
• Wine List - varied selection of domestic and imported wines
• Kids - inexpensive menu with all the things kids eat
• Brunch - 150 ingredient “Build Your Own” Bloody Mary bar
• Lunch – hot and cold sandwiches, salads, weekly hot plate specials, homemade soups
• Dinner - starters, pastas, ribs, sandwiches, ribs, seafood
• Pizza - thin crust with lots of options and specialty pizzas
• Appetizers - standards and varied weekly choices
• Weekly Specials - lunch, appetizers and dinner
• Desserts - homemade apple pie, chocolate pie and changing special desserts
• Catering Events are hosted on site or they can deliver
Yes, there is a real, wood burning fireplace in the serene and cozy dining room
The bar bustles and the bartenders are “small town” friendly. There are darts, TVs and a great juke box. You can come here to watch a game or just read the newspaper or check your email with the free Wi Fi
• Half priced bottles of wine on Tuesdays
• Half priced appetizers on Wednesdays
• Complimentary appetizer buffet on Friday after work from about 4 to 7pm
• “Build Your Own” Bloody Mary Bar and Weekend Brunch
• Specials and promotions for every imaginable season and event
10. EVERYBODY BELONGS TO THIS FAMILY. I’m not sure about Hoosiers and Michiganders; but so far, I have not come across any native Chicagoans who have not had some contact with the FIRESIDE.
It’s probably because they have been open for such a long time and they do a bit of everything. I’ve talked to people who have been to FIRESIDE for:
• funeral luncheons
• late night food while in college
• weddings
• baby showers
• pizza and a game
• company Christmas party
• birthday celebration
Fireside on Urbanspoon
It seems like at one time or another, for one reason or another EVERYONE has been to FIRESIDE . It is not unusual for entire families (3 or 4 generations) to meet at Fireside for lunch, dinner or brunch.

While waiting to meet a friend on “Half Priced Wine Tuesday” I got into a conversation with Joe. Joe is a retired gentleman, wine lover and a regular fixture at the bar. At first, I thought he was the owner because of the way he greets new comers and tells them the history of the place and the neighborhood.

Opened in 1904 as the Fireside Inn, they used to rent the upstairs rooms to families who came on the train to bury their loved ones at Rosehill Cemetery. It was also a roadhouse to local farmers and merchants traveling between the farms and the markets in the city.

Joe brags about the large portions of delicious food as if his wife was in the kitchen; but no, he’s just one of the faithful regulars who are proud to feel at home here.

FIRESIDE is a Chicago institution that makes you happy and proud to be a Chicagoan


Click here to view menu
Fireside on Urbanspoon
Call toll free: (877) 878-7433
Local Numbers: (773) 561-SIDE or (773) 561-7433
Email :
Monday - Friday 11am-4am
Saturday 11am-5am
Sunday 10am-4am

Dining Room and All Weather Outdoor Patio
Kitchen open 11 am until 3 am everyday
Sunday Brunch 10 am until 3 pm

Delivery hours
Friday 4 pm - 3 am
Saturday 4 pm - 3 am
Sunday Noon - Midnight
Monday - Thursday 4 pm - Midnight

1. The Fireside loyalty program "Friends and Family" is not a priority with the staff or the customers. It has a long list of qualifications and rules.

2. All the breads are uninspired. The house made bread is pasty tasting and the quality of buns and breads for the sandwiches is poor.

3. Bottle beer cooler doesn’t keep the Heineken very cold.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Homemade Pizza-Chicago Style

Actually, I am the last person who should write about pizza. It’s not that I don’t have specialized knowledge, passion or experience. I have made pizza, thin and thick, by hand and by machine. I have taught pizza making classes. I’ve owned and operated a pizza delivery business. The reason that I shouldn’t write about pizza is because I’ve never found a pizza that I didn’t love. My life is a pizza version of “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with.”

I love the thin pizza of Vito and Nick’s. I love the thick pizza at UNO and DUE. I love Lou Malnati’s, Marie’s, Lucky Vito’s, and Giordano’s. I love the greasy Connie’s pizza. I love Home Run Inn, Jack’s pizza and Tombstone pizza (all frozen). I love the slices at Costco just as much as the slices at Bacci or Damenzo are on Taylor Street. I love pizza bagels, pizza on pita, pizza on tortillas, French bread pizza, tomato bread, and focaccia. I love all combinations of tomatoes, oil and cheese. I love bruschetta. I love pizza puffs.

You see, I’m hopeless. I can’t really pick a favorite kind; I’m getting slap happy thinking about all the pizza I have enjoyed. The best pizza is the one that I have in front of me. A big part of the problem is that I live in Chicago. We Chicagoans are blessed to the point of confusion. Every neighborhood has a gem of a place and they are all a little different and they are all really good.

This is the recipe that I use at home when I am not eating frozen pizza, or delivery pizza.

It makes one thin crispy pizza the size of a cookie sheet or a flat baking pan. It can also make a thick pizza in a round cake pan. And, of course, they are equally good, fresh from the oven.

Basic Pizza Dough

1 packet dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup olive oil

2 ½ cups flour


Pre heat your oven to 450 degrees. Oil your pan or baking sheet.

You must understand yeast to make any kind of dough. Treat your yeast as if you were making a bottle for a baby. Warm and sweet is good for a baby. If the water is too hot, the yeast will die. Too much salt will retard the growth of the yeast. Dissolve the yeast packet in the warm water and sugar. Let the mixture sit in the warm bowl for a few minutes until it starts to bubble and grow. Then add in the oil and salt. Stir until mixed and then add in flour. Knead flour until it is a smooth ball. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm place away from any breeze. You’ve got to keep the baby warm. If it cools off it won’t rise.

When the dough doubles in size, punch it down, knead it a little and roll it out on a floured board until it is the thickness and shape that you desire. You can’t over handle yeast dough. If it doesn’t turn out right the first time, let it rise again (in a warm place) and start over. Just like the baby it loves attention.

I could write on and on for the rest of my life about the kinds of sauce and toppings that you might put on your pizza. However, I will trust your judgment and creativity. The only words of caution that I have are “Not too much sauce on a thin pizza. If you love lots of sauce, make a thick crust pizza.

I can’t tell you exactly how long to cook your pizza because I don’t know if it’s thin or thick, or what toppings you put on it. I would put the pizza on the lowest shelf so that the crust gets to cook before the cheese gets too brown. Generally, a thin, lightly sauced pizza will take 12-15 minutes in a 450 degree oven. If you are making a thick pizza, turn the oven down to 375 and let it cook about 25 minutes.

Buon appetito!!

Chicago's Best Pizza Sauce

This is simply the easiest, most delicious sauce for your homemade pizza. I have spent whole afternoons simmering tomato sauces but this recipe beats them all in taste and convenience. It can be made in the same time span as making fresh pizza dough. It can be made from fresh or canned tomatoes with little difference in the final product.

8 to 10 medium sized ripe tomatoes or two cans diced tomatoes
8 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano

Roughly chop the fresh tomatoes or drain the juice from canned tomatoes
Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and toss until the tomatoes are completely covered with oil and spices

Scrape tomato mixture onto baking sheet and spread into a single thin layer.
Bake in low oven, approximately 275 until just before the tomatoes start to turn color
You don’t want them to get too brown, just a little at the edge. It may take an hour and a half. That’s it. You’re done.

While you are roasting the tomato sauce, you can make your dough and let it sit on the warm oven to rise.

If you are making a deep dish pizza in a pan, first cover the crust with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Then you can just spoon this thick, chunky sauce directly onto the cheese covered crust, add your ingredients, spices, more cheese and bake. If you are making a thin, crispy pizza you may want to throw the tomato sauce into a blender and give it a whirl so you can spread it evenly. In either case, it is simply the best pizza sauce.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chicago's Back Porch

The back porch is where we store the evidence of the dirty side of life.

It’s where you sit next to the wet mop, crack open a can of beer and wait for the floor to dry. It’s where you shake out that dirty rug or smoke a cigarette.

The Westside is Chicago’s back porch. The Westside is home to the working poor. It’s the part of the city that you leave, if you can afford to go somewhere else. You go to places with grocery stores and big box retailers. The Irish came and went to the suburbs. Blacks migrated from the south and moved on up to the Southside. Guys lucky enough to get into a union moved their families to suburbs with better schools. The Westside is where taxi drivers, musicians, drug dealers, and housekeepers live.

You don't see much in the news about the Westside, unless there’s a murder or a fire. Just like no one talks about the back porch and the wet mop and that old chair that you just leave out there because you don’t care if anyone steals it.

Prostitution and open air drug markets flourish on this side of town. If we were Amsterdam, these activities would be on Michigan Avenue. However, we Chicagoans store the evidence of the dirty side of life on the back porch, the Westside.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Late Night and Healthy?

Late Night and Healthy?

It’s hard to eat healthy if you get off work after midnight. Most places that are open all night offer low quality, high sodium, high fat foods.

Skewerz (located near the corner of north, Milwaukee and Damen) is the exception. They are open during the week until 2 am and until 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The food is fresh, healthy and delicious and affordable.

As the name implies most of the menu selections are served on a stick. Choices include Mango Pineapple BBQ Chicken, Lemongrass Tuna, Passion Fruit Glazed Salmon and Filet Mignon, Vegetable or Tofu. Skewers can be order individually or as a dinner with rice and special house made condiments.

Skewerz has a limited selection of domestic and imported beer in bottles and island inspired cocktails and a full bar.
Skewerz on Urbanspoon
1560 N Damen
Chicago, IL 60622

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Big Legged Mama's Hot Sauce


1. 2 fire roasted red peppers
2. 2 tablespoons habenero pepper mash
3. 1/2 cup tomato juice
4. 1 tablespoon garlic powder
5. 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
6. 1 tablespoon cayenne powder
7. ¼ teaspoon salt
8. 1/2 cup white vinegar

Roast the red peppers directly over open flame on stove top or on the BBQ grill

When the skin on the peppers is black, remove from flame and put in a paper bag for
ten to fifteen minutes.

Remove peppers from bag and scrape off the black skin and remove the veins and seeds

Next, put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree.

Simmer puree in small sauce pan for about five minutes.

Boy, that was easy. Put your sauce in the bottle sauce. This recipe makes enough for one small bottle of hot sauce.

You can eat it right away but it will get better in a few days. Store in refrigerator.