Monday, April 30, 2012

Charlie's Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Did you guys know that April is National Grilled Cheese Month?  Yeah, me neither.

I was wondering why grilled cheese sandwiches were popping up everywhere I looked.  In my food magazines, on food blogs, even on the special menus at some of my favorite restaurants in Chicago.  I was feeling festive and decided I'd come up with an original grilled cheese in honor of my husband.  Enter the Sriracha Pepper Jack Chicken Finger Grilled Cheese.  Yes.  I know.  Drool face up in here. 

Start off with two good slices of white bread...

Then, mix equal parts of Sriracha hot sauce and Hellman's Mayo and brush it on the outside layers of the bread, like this:

On a griddle pan or saute pan, put the sauce side down and layer on two slices of pepper jack cheese:

Slice up a chicken finger (I just picked up a couple of chick fings from the hot foods section of my grocery store) and layer that on top of the cheese.

Now, it starts to get real ugly.  Add TWO MORE slices of pepper jack cheese on top of the chicken finger.

Add the other slice of bread on top, sauce side out, then flip.  The sun was glaring through the skylight this morning, sorry about the over exposure, but you get the idea.

Now, flip.  Golden, crunchy, delicious.  
 Ohhhh boy.  I'm not messing around here.  This was just RIDIC. 

Putting mayo on the outside of the bread, instead of butter, is actually a trick I learned from my mom. Think about all of the possibilities.  Garlic mayo, ranch mayo, dill mayo...I could go on and on.  Mayo is basically made from oil, eggs, and vinegar - perfect ingredients to give the outside of the bread some crunch and extra flavor.
Almost every Sunday, Charlie makes a pepper jack cheese and chicken finger sub.  He might have even gotten that idea from his brother...I'm not sure.  But it's been a weekend special in our house for a couple of years now.  This new guy is going to give his sub a run for its money. 

Don't you just love the golden red color the Sriracha gives the outside of the crust?  YUMMMM.
What's your favorite twist on a grilled cheese?  Stay hungry! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hip, On the House: TexturedINK

This giveaway is now closed!  Congrats to Anne!  Please reach out to us about claiming your prize! 

Ooooo I love today's giveaway. I actually love all of our giveaways, but this one is super funkalicious and hungry inspired. 

I believe the kitchen is the heart of any home, so why not spruce up your space was some modern kitchen art? 

Check out these SUPER sweet prints by TexturedINK.  We can thank our pal Ankita, the shop owner, for offering our readers the chance to win a kitchen print of their choice. Thanks Ankita!!  We'll have to beg and plead to do another giveaway in the near future because there are SO many cool items (none kitchen) related in the store.  LOVE us some TexturedINK

I love chevron and I love color.  I think the spatula with the teal background is my favorite here...

Kitchen Art Prints - Chevron Kitchen Set of 6- 8X10 Inches, Choose colors and custom sizes

This one is ADORABLE and one I could totally see in Caitlin's kitchen...

Kitchen Art Print- Checkered Background, 8X10 Inches, Choose your print, Other sizes

I also love this...what a perfect gift for a newlywed couple...

Kitchen Print Artwork - Couples Kitchen- 11X14 Inches, Other sizes

Cool, right?

Ok guys and gals, check out these four ways to win:

1) First, go look through the TexturedINK shop on Etsy and leave a comment below with your favorite item from their shop... 

2) If you want another chance to win, be sure to "like" Hardly Housewives on Facebook here and leave another comment letting us know that you did (or if you already have)

3) Join the Hardly Housewives follower community - publicly follow Hardly Housewives via Google Friend Connect

4)... and for a last chance, add TexturedINK to your "Favorites" on Etsy. 

Good luck to all our Hardly Housewives readers and as always, stay hip! 

Hip, on the House: LLFarm

This giveaway is now closed!  Thank you to everyone who participated.  The lucky winner is...

Lucky number 34!   Danunepthys, please email us at to claim your prize! For those that didn't win, we have another AWESOME giveaway we will be posting later today. 

You guys remember me freaking out over Julie Mom's lavender scones I had while visiting Midland, MI? 

Yeah. So good. 

Get excited because Karyn is sending me lavender buds so I can make the recipe for you guys. 

Yeah. So excited. 

I was buzzing through Etsy for lavender buds and came across the most amazing store ever:  Lizzy Lane Farm.  Even though I was only looking for lavender buds, I found so much more!  Organic herbs, and soaps, and salves...oh my! I contacted Karyn, the shop owner, and she put something extra, extra special together just for you guys.    

This weeks giveaway will be a lavender GIFT BASKET complete with Lavender Salve, Lavender Soap, Lavender Bath Salt, and of course Lavender Buds.  SCORE.

I love Karyn's Lizzy Lane Farm Blog.  It's so inspiring and envy inducing.  She lives on this amazing farm in New Hampshire.   Be still my Mainer heart.  

Check out Karyn's famous Lizzy Lane Farm House Lavender Lemonade recipe.  I'm SO making this and you can too :)

1 tray crushed ice cubes
1/4 cup dried lavender
2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup organic sugar
8 organic lemons
5 cups cold water

Place ice cubes into a 2 quart pitcher. Place the lavender into a bowl, and pour boiling water over it. Allow to steep for about 10 minutes, then strain out the lavender and discard in the compost bin.  Mix the organic sugar into the hot lavender water, then pour into the pitcher with the ice.  Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the pitcher, getting as much juice as you can. I use my Grandmothers old glass juicer. Top off the pitcher with cold water, and stir. Taste, and adjust lemon juice or sugar if desired. Pour into tall glasses, pull up a bale of hay and watch the chickens run around the yard, and relax!

Can I move in Karyn?  I can almost smell this soap from here...mmmmm...

I could use some of this salve and I bet you could too.  I have incredibly dry, sensitive skin.  I'm always rubbing chap stick everywhere so this would be a more appropriate, and appealing way to remedy my dry skin situation. 

 Gotta musta needta have this giveaway?

Yeah.  I thought so.

Check out these four ways to win:

1) First, go look through the LLFarm's Shop on Etsy and leave a comment below with your favorite item from her shop... 

2) If you want another chance to win, be sure to "like" Hardly Housewives on Facebook here and leave another comment letting us know that you did (or if you already have)

3) Join the Hardly Housewives follower community - publicly follow Hardly Housewives via Google Friend Connect

4)... and for a last chance, add LLFarm to your "Favorites" on Etsy. 

Good luck to all our Hardly Housewives readers and as always, stay hip! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 Herb Garden

It's tempting to get caught up in Pinterest herb gardens.  There are pictures of all kinds of hanging herb gardens, herbs in a wreath, herbs in jars, and herbs in, of all things, a shoe hanger.  I love seeing other people's projects and these would be perfect for me if I still lived in an apartment or had a teeny tiny plot of land. 

A shortage of land, however, is not my problem:

(Usually it's not this dreary looking but seriously, would a little sunshine kill anybody?)

So, casting aside the ideas of the cute (& photogenic) herb gardens mentioned above, I got out one of those mini shovels (for those of you as new to gardening as I am, it's called a trowel) and dug some holes by our front entryway.  There was no reason not to put herbs right in the ground.  I wanted easy access from the kitchen so I can grab herbs while I'm cooking dinner.

I planted sage, oregano, basil, parsley, dill, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, & (shock of shocks) catnip...

I also decided to upcycle some cracked terra cotta planters that we had around the house as herb markers.  Each piece of pottery tells me which herb is which and serves to keep them a bit separated.  My dad does this in his garden and I love the way it looks.

Our local flower shop has a huge selection of herbs, but Home Depots do too.  Finding herbs should be no problem this time of year.

We'll have to task Jaisa with cooking up some tasty dishes that star all different kinds of herbs this summer.  Are you planting an herb garden?  Let us know and stay hungry!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Publican Quality Meats

So for Valentine's Day this year, my husband bought me a gift certificate to a butcher shop.  

I just love that man.  He knows me so well.  And it wasn't just any butcher shop.  One of my all time favorite restaurants in Chicago, Publican, has opened up a butcher/sandwich shop across the street called Publican Quality Meats.  I go to Publican for brunch more than any human should go to anything.  But it's so good. 

I love the weekends.  Weekends mean we can be lazy, spend time together, and discover the delicious new food Chicago has to offer.  I LIVE FOR THE WEEKENDS. 
We arrived at 10am and they weren't serving sandwiches until 11am, so we stood around staring and drooling at everything the store had to offer. I mean...just look at this...

Their cheese section was ridic.  And a bit overwhelming.  No problem though - there is an incredibly passionate and helpful guy behind the counter named Lady Chris that will help you with everything you could ever need.  He even let us try a little.  We ended up going home with a block of the cheddar he let us try - good salesman. 

Their selection of bread?  GORGEOUS.  We honestly couldn't decide which one to get.  

I'm also obsessed with the mini market they have.  I was tempted to buy everything and anything but Charlie wouldn't let me.  Wah wah...

I mean...check out these two condiments.  Purple Condiment with Grapemust (I mean what is that?? Doesn't it sound SO interesting??) and White Watermelon Mustard.  Yum. 

So Lady Chris is engaging, helpful, and makes the most ridiculous pimento cheese.  Pimento cheese is cheddar, mayo, garlic, and chopped pimentos.  Lady Chris puts some Lady Crack into his. 

 This bread looks so delicious and interesting.  

So I was totally content standing around the store for an hour, reading every little condiment and cheese label around, but Charlie was hungry...and so was I.  So we settled on a baguette and some meats and cheeses.  This reminded me of our time in Italy.  Sigh.  Here is the sliced porchetta, which is basically pork belly that's been rolled up and cooked with lots of herbs and spices and then cooled and sliced thin.  DAMN. 

Here's the rest of our spread.  We got this ridic cheddar, Tuscano Salami, Genoa Salami, Mortadella, and Chorizo Sausage.  Be still my heart.  You can see Charlie's hand waiting for the SECOND for me to stop taking pictures so he can dive in. 

Here is the pimento cheese.  Straight up delish. 
 Here's the first of four snacks I made myself...baguette with porchetta, mayo, a cracked black pepper.  Hells to the yes Lady Chris. 
If you're anywhere near Chicago, heck - if you live in the United States, book a trip to Chicago and try this place.  Holla.  Stay hungry! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lavender Bath Salts

I used to be totally grossed out by the idea of taking baths, mostly because I was living in rental apartments that had seen approximately 800 renters in the last 30 years.  No matter how much I scrubbed, the idea of strangers' feet in my bathtub was enough to gross me out every time I took a shower.  Forget about a bath.

In our new home, however, the master bathroom came with a huge soaking tub and I know every person on the very, very limited list of people who have ever used it before.  In short, it was go-time for baths.  On Sunday nights, I find myself exhausted from the weekend and overwhelmed at the thought of Monday morning (my friend Holly calls these the "Sunday Scaries") and I've found that a bath-salt soak spent reading that week's New Yorker is enough to relax me enough to sleep afterwards.  I've been experimenting with various scents & salts and here's my favorite DIY lavender bath salt recipe.

You'll need...

1 teaspoon lavender essential oil
2 cups epsom salts
1 tablespoon lavender buds

(you can also add some baking soda to the mix or use sea salts instead of [or in addition to] the epsom salts)

Mix the salts with the lavender buds & oil, spreading the lavender evenly throughout the salts.  Since you don't want your salts clumping once you've packaged them, spread the salt mixture out onto a flat surface (I used a baking pan) and allow to dry for a few hours, mixing periodically...

Once the oil has been absorbed by the salts, give it one more mix and put your salts into a container of your choice.  I have a bunch of glass tubs from Ikea that I use, but you could also use glass jars or plastic containers.  Come to think of it, plastic makes more sense around a bathtub, safety-wise, so try to go that route.

This is great timing for this recipe because it makes a perfect DIY Mother's Day present.  Wrap them up with a pretty ribbon and they make a great, homemade gift...

Stay relaxed and stay homey!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sesame Chicken

Mmmm Chinese food.  


So you would have thought that I had enough pork after Baconfest Chicago.  But no, not this girl.  I was really looking for chicken thighs (the trick to delicious Chinese chicken dishes) but they didn't have them, so I settled on...that's right...pork spareribs.  Please don't judge me.  The voices in my head and the elastic band on my sweatpants have that covered. 

I woke up on Sunday morning and Tyler Florence was making Sesame Chicken from scratch.  He made it look relatively easy (it was actually a minor pain in the rear) so I headed to the store and was on my culinary way.  Here are the ingredients cut and pasted from Food Network

3 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds total) - I used Pork

For the marinade/batter:

6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili paste (I will triple this the next time I make it)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Peanut oil, for deep-frying
Salt (I will skip the salt next time) 
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions, for garnish
5 to 6 cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Pork is sorta like chicken, there is lighter meat and darker meat.  The darker meat is suuuuper tender and flavorful so I went with boneless ribs so it'd be easy for me to chop:

See?  Easy. 

Throw all of the marinade/batter ingredients into a large bowl...

...stir it all up and set aside. 

Next, stir all of the sauce ingredients together (except ginger and garlic) and whisk until everything is smooth. 

Chop the garlic and ginger and add it to the sesame oil.  This...smells...ridic. 

In another large pot, get your oil heating up over medium heat.  I usually do a test fry to make sure the oil is hot enough.  Mine was TOO hot because I burnt the bajeebus out of the first few.  Just lower the heat and try again.  

Fry fry bubble bubble fry fry bubble bubble.  I should be a song writer.  Or a poet.  No?  Ok. 

Ok so this is where it gets fun.  Once the ginger and garlic soften and become fragrant, add the sauce slurry into the pot.  As soon as it hits the heat, it'll start to thicken from the corn starch. 

Test a couple.  Cut it open and make sure they're cooked.  Mine were done just right, but just in case yours are a tad under cooked, you can throw them into an oven for a few minutes at 400 degrees so they keep the crisp and continue to cook.  Or, you can put them back in the fryer.  It's up to you.  

So I forgot to take a picture of the sauce once it thickened up because I'm a bad, impatient, hungry little blogger, but you can see the proper consistency of the sauce below.  Just let it simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until it comes together and begins to thicken.  

Ohhhh yes.  I just spooned some over some white rice and ran for shelter.  

Charlie kept creeping around the kitchen waiting for the magical moment to arrive...

...and when it did...he DEVOURED it.  


How bad do you want this right now?
It wasn't the easiest recipe, but it was worth the time.  It was delicious.  Plus, you can make this at home without having to deal with the shame of the delivery guy bringing you Chinese food with 15 plates and chopsticks because he just assumes you are having a giant party with all the food you just ordered...for two. Stay hungry!