<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Food and Drink, Nightlife, Bars, and Restaurants]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/the-scene/food-drink http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Wed, 22 Oct 2014 02:15:22 -0500 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 02:15:22 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Why Are Honeycrisps So Expensive?]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 11:50:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/PHOTO150542271169958454477main.jpg 10/10/14: They're ripe this time of year and they're delicious, but why are they so pricey?]]> <![CDATA[Fans Line Up for Final Hot Doug's Taste]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 10:44:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hot-dougs-line.jpg 10/03/14: NBC Chicago's Regina Waldroup was outside Hot Doug's Friday morning talking to hot dog and sausage lovers hoping to get in on the last of the action.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Sweet And Savory Apple Recipes]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 01:10:49 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/wayne-johnson-apple-recipe.jpg

Fall is the best time of year for making both sweet and savory dishes with apples.  Because it’s harvest season, the largest variety of apples is available in grocery stores and farmers markets right now at very low prices.  The recipes below include a very traditional apple pie with my mom’s special cream cheese pie crust, a new apple custard pie and a new braided bread stuffed with apples, chicken and sage.  I hope you’ll try them all. 

Braided Bread Stuffed with Chicken, Apples and Provolone


bread dough (makes two loaves)

1 pkg Active Dry Yeast
1 1/3 cu Warm Water, about 110 degrees
1 tbl Brown Sugar
4 cu All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Olive Oil, plus additional oil to coat dough while proofing


3/4 lb Chicken Breast, very thinly sliced
2 med to small Firm Apples, like Granny Smith, peeled cored, thinly sliced and chopped
1 sm Onion, thinly sliced
1 tbl Fresh Sage, finely chopped
1 tbl Butter
1 tbl Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
4 oz Sliced Provolone, 6 thin slices
1 lg Egg, beaten
2 tsp Poppy Seeds


Mix yeast with the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Add 1/3 cup of the warm water. Stir to combine. Add olive oil and let rest for 10 minutes. Separately, mix remaining flour and salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and remaining water and combine into a dough. If dough is dry and not coming together, add water, about 1/2 teaspoon at a time until its fully combined.  Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured board.

Pour an additional 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large bowl for proofing. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat all surfaces. Cover with a towel and let the dough rise for 1 hour until doubled in bulk. Punch down, divide in half and then use one half in this recipe.  (You can make a second stuffed braided loaf with the remaining dough, or shape it into a simple loaf.  If you make a simple loaf, place it in a bread pan, brush it with 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds on top.  Let it rest for 30 minutes, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump it).

While dough is rising, heat butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add chicken and toss for 1 minute or until opaque on all sides.  Add onions and toss again for an additional minute.  Add apples and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and sage and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove mixture from heat let it cool. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured board to roughly a 12” square.  Cut 1” strips 3 1/2” long down opposing sides of the dough.  Lay three slices of provolone down the center of the dough.  Once cooled, pile chicken and apple mixture on top of the cheese using a slotted spoon to leave most of the liquid in the pan.  Top with remaining three slices of provolone.

Starting at one end, pull the strips up and over the filling, alternating form one side to the other so that strips looked weaved.  Tuck the ends of the final strips under the loaf.  Transfer the loaf to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a baking pad.  Brush the entire surface of the loaf with the beaten egg and sprinkle poppy seeds on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the surface is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let loaf rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Apple Custard Pie


1 Pie Crust (recipe below)
4 lg Firm Apples, like Granny Smith
1 tbl Butter
3/4 cu Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cu Granulated sugar
1/2 cu Brown Sugar
3 lg Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out pie crust and transfer it to a standard (or slightly deeper) 9” pie pan. Crimp edges of crust using your fingers. Place plan on a baking sheet and set aside.

Peel, core and roughly chop the apples.  Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add Apples and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Sauté until apples are tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of cinnamon over apples, stir and remove from heat.  Allow apples to cool slightly and then puree in a food processor or blender until apples are as smooth as possible.   Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool fully.

Once apples have cooled, add granulated sugar and brown sugar and stir to combine.  Add evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla, nutmeg and remaining cinnamon and blend well.  Pour mixture into crust.  Loosely tent the pie with aluminum foil that is domed high enough so that the filling won't come in contact with it during the cooking process.

Place pie into oven and bake for 50 minutes.  Carefully remove the aluminum bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until crust is golden brown and pie is set.  Remove pie from oven and allow to cool.  Pie will flatted out as it cools.  Serve at room temperature.  Also, try it with warm caramel sauce.

Mom's Pie Crust
(makes two crusts)

2 1/2 cu All Purpose Flour
3/4 cu Cold Margarine or Butter (12 tablespoons), diced
6 oz Cream Cheese, torn into small pieces

Cut margarine and cream cheese into the flour and mix together with your hands, breaking margarine and cream cheese down into smaller bits.  Continue blending until the flour has been incorporated and dough holds together.  Divide the dough into two equal parts.   Roll each into a ball and flatten slightly.   Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.  (Alternatively, you can put all ingredients in a large food processor and blend until they come together and form a ball).

Apple Pie


2 Pie Crusts (recipe above)
6 med Apples
2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 cu Granulated Sugar
1/4 cu Brown Sugar
2 tbl All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Lemon Zest
1 tbl Butter or Margarine
2 tbl Milk

Additional granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to sprinkle on top crust


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel, core, and thinly sliced apples. Mix with lemon juice. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix sugars, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Place one pie crust in a pie pan and allow edges to extend over the sides. Layer half of the sliced apples on crust. Top with half of the sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining apples and sugar. Dot the top with pieces of the butter.

Roll out second crust. Cut four to five teardrop shapes (about 1 1/2 inches long) around the center to vent pie as it cooks. Place crust over apple and sugar mixture allowing edges to extend over lower crust. Crimp two crust edges together using your fingers.

Brush the top with milk and lightly sprinkle sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon on top. Loosely tent pie with aluminum foil that is domed high enough so that the crust won't come in contact with it during the cooking process and place it on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove aluminum and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Pumpkin Recipes]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 12:27:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*160/WWPumpkins.jpg

I love when pumpkin season rolls around because pumpkin is one of those ingredients that works well in both sweet and savory dishes.  The cheesecake, pie and soup recipes are ones I've shared in the past.  But, today I’m adding two new ones, pumpkin pasta and pumpkin fig bars.  Both require a little extra work but the tasty results are well worth it.

Pumpkin Pasta with Brown Butter and Sage



2 cu All-Purpose Flour
2 tbl Semolina Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
2 lg Eggs, room temperature
1/3 cu Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Water
Additional Semolina Flour, for your work surface


6 tbl Butter
8-12 Sage Leaves
2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/8 tsp Sugar

Additional Equipment

Pasta machine with noodle attachment
Pasta drying rack, optional


Combine flours, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.  Mix 1 egg with the pumpkin puree and water in a small bowl and set aside.  Stir remaining egg into flour mixture until ingredients are just moistened and then add the pumpkin mixture.  Work mixture into a dough and knead it for about 5 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic and set it aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. 

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and work each portion separately.  Using the pasta machine, run the dough through multiple times continually reducing the thickness until you reach a medium setting (#5 on my pasta machine).  Then, run the dough through the noodle attachment.  Lay the noodles onto a semolina floured surface.  Dust with a bit more semolina flour so that noodles doesn’t stick to each other and then place on a drying rack.  You can also place a paper towel over a chair and put the noodles over that if you don’t have a drying rack.  Let noodles dry for about an hour or two and then place them in a plastic bag until ready to use.  Pasta can be refrigerated at this point if you like.

To cook pasta, simply drop it into lightly salted boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain and add to your sauce.

To make the sauce, start by slicing the sage.  Stack all but 3 or 4 leaves on top of each other.   Roll them up tightly and then thinly slice the roll to form thin strips.  Set the whole leaves aside.  Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add sage strips and stir until butter starts to turn a golden brown.  Add the whole sage leaves, lemon juice and sugar, and stir for about a minute.  Add pasta and toss to coat.  Transfer to serving bowls and serve hot.

Pumpkin Fig Bars


Cookie Dough

3 1/2 cu All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
3/4 cu Butter
1/2 cu Sugar
3 lg Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla


3/4 lb Dried Golden California Figs
1 cu Water
1/4 lb Golden Raisins
1/2 cu Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 cu Dark Rum
1 cu Pumpkin Puree


Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add vanilla.  Add in 1/3 of the flour and 1 egg and mix well.  Repeat until all ingredients are fully incorporated.  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least two hours.

Meanwhile, place all filling ingredients, except the pumpkin, in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until most of the liquid cooks off.  Stir in pumpkin and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes until mixture is rather dry.  Remove from heat and allow to cool. 

Place ingredients in a food processor and blend until smoother.  Transfer filling to a bowl and set aside.

Split chilled dough into two portions and work them separately, keeping the unused portion in the refrigerator.  Roll out dough to just over a 9” x 12” size.  Using a sharp knife, cut the dough to exactly 9” x 12”.  Cut this larger rectangle into three 3” x 12” strips.  Place 1/2 of the filling into a disposable plastic bag and cut about 1/2” off one corner.  Squeeze a line of filing down the center of each strip.  Use all of the filling.  If dough has become soft, place everything in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  With each rectangle, gently bring up the sides and pinch them together over the filling.  Place the log onto a baking sheet, pinched side down, and flatten it a bit.  Repeat with remaining portions.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until logs are are just starting to lightly brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Slice bars into 1 1/2” pieces with a very sharp knife and then let bars cool completely.

Pumpkin Pie With Optional Pastry Leaf Topping

Pie Crust
makes two pie crusts


2 1/2 cu Flour

3/4 cu Cold Butter

6 oz Cream Cheese


Cut margarine into small cubes. Cut or pull cream cheese into small pieces.  Combine all three ingredients. Using your fingers, mix to form a dough (you can also put ingredients in a large food processor and process until dough forms a ball). Knead for about 30 seconds.  Split dough into two equal parts and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. 

Pumpkin Pie


1 Pie Crust (1/2 of crust recipe above
2 1/2 cu Pumpkin
1 cu Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 cu Granulated sugar

1/2 cu Brown Sugar
3 lg Eggs

1 tsp Vanilla

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Pastry Leaf Topping (optional)

Fall Leaf Pastry Cutters
1 Pie Crust (1/2 of crust recipe above)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Roll out one pie crust and transfer it to a pie pan. Crimp edges of crust using your fingers. Place plan on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin with granulated sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Add milk, eggs, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Pour mixture into crust.  Loosely tent the pie with aluminum foil that is domed high enough so that the filling won't come in contact with it during the cooking process.

Place pie into oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 50-60 minutes or until filling is set. Carefully remove the aluminum for the last 20 minutes of the baking process so crust can brown. Remove pie from oven and allow to cool.

If you want to include the leaves for your pie, roll out the second pie crust to the same thickness as the first crust.  Using pastry cutters, cut out as many leaves (or whatever cutter pattern you choose) as you can.  Take the scraps and roll them out again to cut additional leaves.  Place the leaves on a baking sheet and place them in the oven along with the pie once you've lowered the temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for 15-20 or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool while pie is baking.  Once you remove the pie from the oven, carefully arrange the leaves on the pie, slightly pressing them into the slowly settling pie surface.

Pumpkin Cheesecake



2/3 of a 14.4oz box of Graham Crackers (basically 2 of the 3 packages in the box)
10 tbl Butter


2/3 cu Pumpkin
3/4 cu Granulated Sugar
20 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
8 oz Mascarpone Cheese, room temperature
3 lg Eggs, resting at room temperature for 30 minutes
1 tbl Bourbon, like Maker's Mark
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Salt


8 oz Sour Cream
1 tsp Bourbon
1/4 cu Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Lemon Juice
Red and Yellow Food Coloring, about 10 drops each

9" Springform Pan
Parchment Paper (optional) to line the bottom and sides of the pan


I sometimes line the bottom of my springform pan so that it's easy to remove the cheesecake and place it on a serving platter.  This is an optional step.  But, if you'd like to do it, cut a parchment paper circle the same size as the base of your spring form pan and place it in the pan.  I usually spray the bottom of the pan with a baking spray so that the parchment paper sticks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Finely grind graham crackers in a food processor and then transfer them to a bowl.  Melt butter in a small pan or in the microwave and pour over graham crackers.  Mix thoroughly and pour all but about 1/4 of cup into your springform pan.  Press the graham crackers about halfway up the side and on the bottom of the pan as uniformly as possible.  Bake the crust in the oven for 12 minutes.  Remove and set on a wire rack to fully cool, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, with either a stand mixer or electric mixer, cream together the sugar, cream cheese and mascarpone cheese.  Mix thoroughly for about 5 minutes at medium high speed.  Add eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix.  Add bourbon, vanilla, lemon juice and salt.  Mix for an additional 3 minutes.  Pour mixture into your cooled springform pan.  Place pan on a baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes.  The outside edges of the cheesecake will be stiff but the center will still be soft and jiggle a bit.  Remove the cheesecake from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.  Let the cheesecake cool for 30 minutes.  The cake will settle a bit. 

Mix together sour cream, bourbon, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice.  Once cheesecake has cooled, gently spoon the topping over the cake and spread it evenly.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the cheesecake rest at room temperature four about 45 minutes.  Then, place the cheesecake in your refrigerator for 4 hours or longer until it is fully set and chilled.  Just before serving, crumble the remaining graham crackers and form a circular ring about half the diameter of the springform pan.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup With Roasted Pine Nuts
courtesy of Anna Avalos


1/2 cu Butter
1 lg Onion, finely chopped
2 Jalapeños, seeded and finely minced
3 cu Pure Pumpkin Puree
2 cloves Garlic, minced
6 cu Chicken Stock
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
1/4 cu Heavy Cream (optional)
3 tbl All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cu Toasted Pine Nuts
Garlic Croutons, for garnish


Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and jalapeños and sauté until soft. Add garlic and cook for about two more minutes.  Add pumpkin, chicken stock, salt, and bouillon cubes. Bring soup to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree in a blender in batches.  Be very carful as you start the blender because contents can sometimes fly out (be sure to do it in small batches).  Return to a medium heat.  Add cream here if you choose, making sure not to boil soup.  Take out 1 cup of liquid and blend it with the flour in a small bowl, stirring until all lumps are gone. Add mixture back to soup.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes until flour mixture is fully heated and incorporated. Season soup to taste. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and garlic croutons -- homemade are the best. Enjoy!

A variation to this dish:  Rather than using croutons, try toasting thin slices of french bread.  Set those aside and then roast shrimp that has been seasoned with a little salt, pepper and chili powder.  Place a shrimp or two on a crostini and float it on the soup.  Top with pine nuts and serve.

This dish is also great served in a pumpkin soup bowl.  Simple cut the top off of a medium sized pumpkin (reserve the top).  Scoop out the seeds and rinse the inside of the pumpkin.  Turn upside down to drain.  Just before ready to serve, place the pumpkin in an oven that has been preheated to 250 degrees.  Warm for about 10 minutes then place on a nicely folded napkin inside of a regular bowl.  Ladle the soup into the bowl and place the top back on the pumpkin and serve.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Dessert Mashups]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:58:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/wayne-dumplings.jpg

Creating mashups by combining food concepts from different cultures into surprising new dishes is a fun way to surprise and entertain your guests.  This week, I’m making desserts inspired by asian dumplings and the all American PB&J.  Both of these new dishes share a tasty and tangy strawberry dipping sauce that is really easy to prepare.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Dumplings
Makes 8 dumplings


2 Cinnamon Flavored Graham Crackers
2 tbl Nutella
1 tbl Powdered Sugar
2 oz Cream Cheese
20 drops of Red Food Coloring
8 Dumpling Wrappers, standard 3 1/2” size, often available frozen at regular grocery stores or asian markets
Granulated Sugar, for garnish
Orange peel curls (optional) for garnish, made by simply using a potato peeler on the outer skin
Mint Leaves (optional) for garnish
Strawberry Sauce (recipe follows)


if dumpling wrappers are frozen, allow a day for them to thaw in your refrigerator before making this recipe.

Place graham crackers in a sealable plastic bag and crush them using a small pan or food can.  Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together Nutella, powdered sugar, cream cheese and food coloring.  Transfer to a quart sized sealable bag.  Squeeze out all of the air and push the filling to one corner of the bag.  Cut a small hole in that corner so you can pipe filling onto the dumpling wrapper.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Fill a small bowl with water and place it near your work surface.  Keep wrappers covered until ready to use.  Place a wrapper in your hand.  Dip your finger in the water and moisten the edge of the wrapper halfway around.  Place about 1/2 teaspoon of graham cracker crumbs in the center of the wrapper and squeeze about 1 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella filing over the crumbs.  Fold the dry edge of the wrapper over the wet edge and seal to form a half moon shape.  Make little pleats across the seal by making little folds next to each other all across the edge.  Set completed dumpling aside and repeat with remaining wrappers. 

To cook, gently drop the dumplings into the boiling water.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes.  Remove dumplings with a mesh strainer or slotted spoon and transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with just a bit of sugar.  Decorate the plate with orange curls and mint.  Allow dumplings to cool slightly and serve with strawberry sauce.  Give your guests chop sticks and mini dipping bowls for the strawberry sauce.  For an alternative sauce, add a bit of balsamic to the strawberry sauce in a separate bowl.

Simple Strawberry Sauce


1 bag Frozen All Natural Strawberries, 20 oz size
1/3 cu Granulated Sugar
1 tbl Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 cu water


Place strawberries in the refrigerator for a day to fully thaw (you can also place the contents in a class bowl and microwave on low until just defrosted, but sill slightly frozen in parts).  Transfer berries to a blender or food processor.  Add water and blend until ingredients are smooth.  Add sugar and lemon juice and blend again until sugar has dissolved.  Place sauce in the refrigerator until ready to use.

PB&J Dessert “French Fries”
makes 2-4 servings


2 Refrigerated Ready Made Pie Crusts
2 tbl Granulated Sugar
1 Egg, beaten
1/2 tbl All Purpose Flour
2/3 cu Creamy Peanut Butter
Strawberry Sauce (same recipe above)


Baking Sheet
Parchment Paper
Crimping tool, like a small pizza cutter with a fluted edge (or a regular pizza cutter)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out one of the pie crusts onto a work surface.  Roll out the second pie crust and center it on top of the first.  Brush the beaten egg on the top surface and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the whole surface.  Turn both crusts over and repeat the process.

Using the crimping tool, split the crust “pancake” into four equal quadrants.  Working with each quadrant, cut strips about 1/2” wide.  Because of the egg wash, parchment paper will keep the strips from sticking so roll out a piece to fit your baking sheet.  Gently transfer the pairs onto the parchment paper and keep them from touching each other.  Bake for 18-20 minutes until light golden grown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. 

Place the peanut butter in a sealable bag.  Squeeze out the air and push the filling to a corner.  Cut a very small hole in the corner so you can pipe the peanut butter. 

Working with cooled strips, one at time, gently separate the pairs (if you have trouble, use a small paring knife to slide between the layers).  Pipe a line of peanut butter down the center of bottom pair and cover with the top.  Repeat with all strips.  Stack strips randomly, like french fries, on serving plates and serve with strawberry sauce.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Tailgating With Pepperoni Pizza Pretzels]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:41:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WW-pizza-pretzels.jpg

It’s tailgating season again and this year I wanted to combine two of my favorite foods into an easy to eat pre-game treat.  I took the flavors from my favorite pizza, pepperoni and cheese, and combine it with a soft pretzel.  And, I made a marinara dipping sauce to bring all the flavors together.  This is a great make ahead dish that can be wrapped in aluminum and reheated on a grill for the pre-game party.

Pepperoni Pizza Pretzels with Marinara Sauce

perfect for tailgating


1 pkg Active Dry Yeast (or about 2 1/2 tsp)
2 tbl Light Brown Sugar
4 1/2 - 5 cu All Purpose Flour
1 3/4 cu Warm Water (at about 110 degrees F)
5 tbl Butter
1/2 tbl Kosher Salt
1 tbl Dry Mustard
5 quarts Water
1/2 cu Baking Soda
1 lg Egg, beaten
3 1/2 oz Pepperoni
1 1/4 cu Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Marinara Sauce (recipe below)

extra equipment

Wire Rack
Pastry Brush
Parchment Paper
2 Baking Sheets


Mix yeast, brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium sized bowl.  Gradually stir in 3/4 cup of warm water.  Combine thoroughly and let set for 10 minutes as yeast activates.  

Finely chop the pepperoni and chop the shredded mozzarella into smaller pieces and set them both aside.

Separately, mix 4 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and the 1 tablespoons of dry mustard in a large bowl (or mixing bowl of a stand mixer).  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and add to the mixture along with the remaining 1 cup of warm water.  Stir to moisten ingredients.  Add the yeast mixture and work the mixture to form a dough.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes on a work surface (or, if using a stand mixer, use the dough hook at medium low speed for 5 minutes) working in additional dough if necessary (up to 1/2 cup) until it’s elastic but no longer sticky.  Work about 3/4 of the pepperoni and 3/4 of the mozzarella into the dough until fully incorporated.  You’ll use the remainder to top the pretzels.

Rub the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter on the bottom and sides of a large bowl.  Turn the dough into the bowl butter all sides.  Cover with a towel and let rise for about an hour.

Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot.  Slowly add the 1/2 cup of baking soda in very small amounts (the water will bubble up with each addition so be careful).  

Flatten dough slightly and divide into 10 equal portions.  Cover portions not being used.  With each portion, roll into a 2' long rope.  Holding both ends, form a long "U" shape on your work surface.  Overlap the ends two times and then lift the ends up and onto the top of the "U" to form a pretzel shape.  Work the shape a bit until it has a uniform look to it.  Put a dab of water under the ends of the pretzels where they tough the top of the "U" to help them stay in place.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Using a large slotted spoon, gently place one pretzel into the boiling water.  Within 30 seconds it should be floating on top.  Remove from the water after about 45 seconds total and place on the wire rack.  Repeat with remaining pretzels and be sure to stir the water occasionally so that baking soda is fully blended.  

Brush each pretzel with a liberal amount of beaten egg.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese and pepperoni on top.  Gently transfer pretzels to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon baking pad.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until deep golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  

Serve pretzels with marinara sauce.  For tailgating, place pretzels in a large aluminum container and cover with aluminum foil.  The entire container can be place on a grill away from the heat source to warm up the pretzels.

Marinara Sauce
courtesy of Giovanni Lugli


2 tbl Minced Shallots
1 tbl Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, peeled, smashed and finely minced
1 tbl Fresh Oregano, roughly chopped
24oz Good Quality Tomato Sauce, Italian if you can find it
1/2 tsp Salt


Put olive oil and shallots in a medium saucepan over medium low heat.  Sauté, stirring often for about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and stir for another 2 minutes.  Add oregano, tomato sauce and salt and stir to combine.  Increase heat to medium high and sauté for an additional 10 minutes allowing sauce to reduce and thicken a bit.  Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.  For tailgating, prepare ahead and transfer to a disposable aluminum pan and cover with aluminum foil.  Simple reheat the container on a grill before serving.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Upscale Meatloaf]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:13:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWGourmetMeatloaf.JPG

I’m often asked to give a new take on a traditional dish.  Upscaling something as basic as meatloaf is a fun challenge and I took it on with my mom’s assistance.  Together, she and I put together this rolled meatloaf stuffed with parmesan cheese, spinach and prosciutto, and covered with a braided latticework of bacon.  The finishing touch is a portobello mushroom sauce made with red wine, beef stock and juices from the meatloaf.  It’s definitely a new look for an old favorite.

Rolled Meatloaf with Spinach and Prosciutto
serves 8



1 lb Ground Sirloin
1 lb Ground Pork
1 sm Onion, finely chopped
1 red Pepper, finely chopped
1 Celery Stalk, finely chopped
2 coves Garlic, peeled smashed and finely minced
2 tsp Fresh Oregano, chopped
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
5 oz container Shredded Parmesan Cheese, about 2 cups
1/3 lb Prosciutto, sliced paper thin
10 oz Fresh Spinach
1/4 cu Water
13-14 slices of Bacon
Parchment or Butcher Paper
1/2 tbl Olive Oil
Aluminum Foil


2 slices Bacon, finely chopped (this bacon can some from the scraps of that used to cover the loaf)
2 tbl Shallots, finely minced
4oz Baby Portobello Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cu Red Wine (cabernet, merlot or shiraz)
1/2 cu Pan Drippings from Cooked Meatloaf
2 tbl All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cu Beef Stock


Heat a large saucepan over high heat.  Add 1/4 cup of water and the spinach and stir until spinach fully breaks down.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Once cool, squeeze out as much water as possible and then roughly chop on a cutting board.  Place chopped spinach in a paper towel and squeeze again to remove most of the remaining liquid.  Separate from paper towel and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine ground beef, ground pork, onion, red pepper, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano.  Mix well.  Roll out a sheet of parchment or butcher paper on a work surface.  Spread olive oil over the surface.  Transfer the ground meat mixture to the paper and spread it out to form a 9” x 12” rectangle.

Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the rectangle covering it as evenly as possible.  Top the cheese with the spinach.  then layer the prosciutto over the spinach, leaving about a 1” strip exposed along both 9” sides.  Starting at one of those exposed sides, roll the rectangle onto itself using the butcher paper to assist to create a rolled loaf.  Place the loaf seam side down and shape it a bit so that it’s a uniform size.  Layer strips of bacon side by side across the top at an angle.  Starting at one corner, lay a piece of bacon at the opposite angle over the first set of strips, but lift of every other piece of bacon to start a weaving pattern.  Continue laying additional strips interlacing them with the first layer until you’ve covered the loaf in a weaved pattern of bacon.  Cut excess bacon at the bottom and tuck small portions under the loaf.  Set aside the scraps to use in the sauce.  Press the loaf again to shape it into a nice uniform size.

Line a 9”x13” baking pan with aluminum and carefully place the meatloaf in the center.   Insert a meat thermometer in the center of the loaf and place it in the oven.  Roast until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F.  Remove from oven and carefully pour drippings in to a container.  Place a piece of aluminum over the meatloaf and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.

Make the sauce.  Stir flour into 1/2 cup of beef broth until fully dissolved and set aside.  Heat bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until it starts to render its fat.  Add mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms become tender, about 4 minutes.  Add wine and increase heat to medium high.  Sauté until most of the wine has been reduced.  Add flour mixture and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add meatloaf pan juices and beef stock and boil, stirring often, until mixture reduces and thickens.  about 6-8 minutes. 

To serve, slice meatloaf and place on serving plates.  Ladle sauce on top.  This dish is also great served over mashed potatoes flavored with a bit of sour cream and horseradish.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Giving Leftovers A Makeover]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:01:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWSmokedPorkTenderloin.JPG

Buying in bulk is a smart way to get a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you’re meal planning for a family.  But, with buying in bulk comes the challenge of portioning out the food that you buy so that nothing goes to waste.  So, under the category of “creative use of leftovers” I created this segment to suggest ways of repurpose dishes from one meal to another. 

The centerpiece of this segment is a whole pork loin, which I purchased from my local warehouse store.  The cut was about 8 pounds, enough for 24 to 30 servings, depending on recipes and appetites, and very inexpensive.  The great thing about buying the loin whole is that it can be cut it into multiple pieces and frozen for a number of different meals.  From boneless chops to roasts, it’s quite a versatile cut of meat. 

What I initially did was cut off a 4 pound roast to use for dinner but with the intention of having leftovers to use in additional recipes.  I made a simple preparation using my grilling spice mix and roasting it in my smoker.  The actual method is described below along with my spice mix recipe and serving suggestions. Then, with the leftover portion, I’ve provided a number of options. 

These recipes are in small, 1 to 2 serving sizes, but you can easily expand them if you’re just focusing on one idea or have more leftovers with which to work.

Basic Smoked Pork Loin


4lb Pork Loin
2 tbl Wayne’s Dry Rub Mix for Pork (recipe below)


Rinse and pat dry the pork loin and trim away any excess fat.  Generously rub the spice mix all over the loin and place it in a sealable bag.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking so that the roast reaches room temperature.  With a smoker, regulate the temperature at about 275 degrees F and roast the loin until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.  If you are using a grill, use the indirect method and try to regulate the temperature at a similar level.  With my smoker, the cooking time was 90 minutes.

Once loin has reached desire temperature, remove from heat and cover with aluminum for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestions: sliced, this pork loin pairs well with a mushroom and asparagus risotto (http://www.nbcchicago.com/entertainment/the-scene/Waynes-Weekend-Summer-Risotto-206722711.html)  and a simple green salad with a vinaigrette dressing.


Wayne’s Pork Grilling Spice Mix


5 1/2 tsp Paprika

3 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

1 1/2 tsp Cumin

1 1/2 tsp Oregano

1 tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 tsp Onion Powder

1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

2 1/2 tsp Brown Sugar

Mix ingredients together and either grind in spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle.  Store in an airtight container.

Pork Tenderloin Hash
makes 2 servings


3 lg slices of Cooked Pork Tenderloin, each about 1/2" thick
1 sm Onion, peeled
1 Red Pepper, seeded
1 Yellow Pepper, seeded
1 lg Potato, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 green onion, mostly white part, sliced
1/2 tsp Fresh Oregano, chopped
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/2 tbl Olive Oil
1 tbl Butter
4 Eggs


Slice tenderloin, red pepper, yellow pepper, onion and potato to a uniform medium dice.  Heat olive oil over a medium heat and add onions.  Sauté for about 2-3 minutes and add potatoes, peppers, and garlic.  Increase the heat to medium high.  Season with salt, pepper and oregano, and sauté until vegetables are evenly cooked, about 10 minutes.  Add tenderloin and toss for an additional 2 minutes until heated through.  Meanwhile, cook eggs, sunny side up (or however you prefer) in a separate pan with 1 tablespoon of butter. 

Transfer hash to individual serving plates and top each with two eggs.

Pork Loin with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Pasta
for about 2 servings

1 1/3 cu cubed Smoked Pork Tenderloin
1/2 lb Fresh Roma Tomatoes
2 tbl Fresh Basil
1 clove Garlic, peeled, smashed and finely minced
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 tbl Olive Oil
1/3 lb Pasta, your choice
Parmesan Cheese, optional, finely grated


Chop the tomatoes into a small dice and transfer them to a large bowl.  Add garlic.  Layer the basil leaves on a cutting board and then roll them up tightly.  Using a sharp knife, thinly slice leaves into little ribbons (a chiffonade) and add to the tomatoes.  Add olive oil, pork, salt and pepper and toss ingredients to combine.  Cover mixture with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for an hour or so.  

Just before ready to serve, prepare pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl.  Sample tomato mixture and adjust the taste with additional salt and/or pepper, if necessary.  Add tomatoes to pasta, toss to combine, and serve with parmesan cheese.

Pork Loin Sandwich
makes 1 sandwich


1 Artisan Sandwich Roll, like a pretzel roll or mini baguette
2-3 thin slices Smoked Pork Loin
Dijon Mustard
2 slices Provolone Cheese
Tomato slices
Green Leaf Lettuce

Slice bread.  Spread dijon on both sides and layer on the ingredients.  Wrap in plastic if it’s for a take away lunch or simply enjoy.  For a lunch, the sandwich would be great with some ready to eat baby carrots, chips and an apple.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Tomato Tart And Tomato Appetizers]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:35:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWDeconstructedGuac.JPG

It’s harvest season for tomatoes and you can find a huge variety of shapes and sizes in your local grocery store and farmers market.  Tomatoes are incredibly versatile because they can be prepared in so many ways.  Here are two of my favorite recipes.  The first makes a great appetizer and the second can be served as a first course, main dish or a side.

Deconstructed Guacamole
makes 30 cherry tomato appetizers


30 Cherry Tomatoes
1 Avocado
Juice of 1/2 of a Lime
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
2 tbl Finely Minced Shallots
1 sm Jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
2 tbl chopped Cilantro


With each tomato, slice off the top.  Then, slice a very tiny portion off the bottom so that it won’t roll around on a platter. Be careful not to cut into the center of the tomato.  Using a sharp knife slice into the membrane along the inner wall of the tomato to release the insides.  Be careful not to cut through the wall of the tomato.  Using a small spoon (I actually use a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon), scoop out meat of the tomato.  Turn it upside down on a paper towel to drain.  Repeat with remaining tomatoes.

Seed and peel the avocado.  Smash the avocado with the salt and cumin and mix with a fork until smooth.  Transfer ingredients to a disposable bag and cut a small portion out of one corner.

Arrange tomatoes on a serving platter.  Place about 1/4 teaspoon of shallots in the bottom of each tomato.  Squeeze avocado into each tomato filling it up and above the top.  Sprinkle chili powder on top, followed by jalapeño and cilantro.  Serve at room temperature.

Heirloom Tomato Tart
makes 6-8 servings



1 1/4 cu All Purpose Flour
6 tbl Cold Butter, diced
3 oz Cream Cheese, cut or torn into small pieces


2 lb Heirloom Tomatoes
2 oz Spreadable (whipped) Cream Cheese
1/2 tsp Fresh Rosemary, finely minced
3/4 cu Shredded Mozzarella
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh Oregano, finely minced
1 tbl Fresh Basil, chiffonade
2 tbl Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 lg Egg, whisked in a small bowl


Prepare Crust: Place flour, butter and cream cheese in a food pressor and blend until mixture comes together.  Remove dough and any small pieces combine into a ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour.

Meanwhile, cut tomatoes into thing slices and place on paper towels to remove excess moisture.  Add a layer of paper towel on top.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Once dough has chilled, place it on a lightly floured board.  Roll it out to about a 13” circle.  Transfer dough to a floured piece of parchment or wax paper.  Spread cream cheese to form a 8” circle in the center of the dough.  Top with rosemary and half of the mozzarella cheese.  Arrange half of the tomatoes on top of the cheese, overlapping slices and mixing colors.  Add a pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon), half of the basil, all of the oregano and the remaining mozzarella cheese.  Arrange the remaining tomatoes on top and add another pinch of salt.  Cover tomatoes with remaining basil and the parmesan cheese.

Gently bring up the excess dough to contain the filling, overlapping it onto itself to create the complete tart.  Slide the parchment onto a baking sheet (lined with a baking pad or silpat if you have it).  Use a pasty brush to bush the egg mixture on all exposed dough surfaces. 

Bake tart for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let tart rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Diners Must Sign Waiver Before Eating Burger]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:15:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/kpnx-ghost-burger.jpg 08/11/14: Hopdoddy Burger Bar in Scottsdale, Arizona claims they're home to the world's spiciest hamburger. Reporter Gia Vang from NBC station KPNX reports.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Movie Night Picnic In The Park]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:11:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/225*120/WWCaprese2.jpg

I recently enjoyed “movie night” in Chicago’s Millennium Park with a group of friends.  The entire evening was a lot of fun and, as always, there was plenty of food.  We sort of had a pot luck with everyone bringing a little something to share.  The wonderful spread, including my friend Leland Couchman’s avocado and white balsamic seafood dipping sauce, inspired me to share a few ideas for your next picnic in the park.  Many of these ideas either began with prepared items to which I added a few things, or are very simple recipes that require minimal preparation. The focus of an evening like this should be relaxing and enjoying a casual night in the park with friends as opposed to spending a lot of time doing prep work in the kitchen.  Also, because it’s an outdoor event away from home, I’ve used plasticware, disposable containers, paper plates and individual mason jars for added convenience and easy clean up.

Shrimp and Salmon with Capers and Dipping Sauces
based on an idea from Leland Couchman


3/4 lb Cooked Shrimp, from the deli counter
3/4 lb Poached Salmon, from the deli counter
1 jar Capers
1 Ripe Avocado, peeled, pitted and roughly chopped
Juice of 2 Limes
2 tsp Dijon (Leland recommends using aioli garlic dijon for an even bigger flavor)
3 tsp White Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 cu BBQ Sauce, your favorite brand
1 tsp Louisiana Hot Sauce
2 tsp Finely Minced Shallots
1 Lemon, cut into wedges


Place shrimp and salmon on a serving platter and wrap with plastic wrap and keep chilled until ready to serve.  Pour capers into either a small disposable container or 4 ounce Mason Jar and set aside.  Make the avocado dipping sauce by placing the avocado, lime juice, dijon and balsamic in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  If you are using a large avocado or it isn't overly ripe, you might need to add a bit of water to get a smooth creamy consistency.  Transfer to the same type of container as the capers.  To make the second sauce, combine the barbecue sauce, hot sauce and minced shallots. Squeeze the juice from one of the lemon wedges into the mix and transfer to another small container.  Put the remaining lemon wedges into a fourth container.  When ready to serve, simple unwrap the seafood and open all four containers and allow guests to serve themselves.

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates with Brie
makes 20 wraps


10 All Natural Dates, pitted and sliced in half
2 1/2 tsp Brie Cheese
1/4 lb Prosciutto, thinly sliced then cut into strips about 3" x 1 1/2"
20 Toothpicks (or wooden skewers)


Place about 1/4 tsp of brie cheese on the cut surface of a date half.  Wrap with a slice of prosciutto and secure it with a toothpick.  Place in a sealable container until ready to serve.

Caprese Skewers
makes 20 skewers


20 Cherry Sized Mozzarella Balls
20 Grape Tomatoes
20 medium to small Fresh Basil Leaves (or large leaves split lengthwise)
20 Wooden Skewers


Skewer a tomato and slide it about 3” down.  Fold a basil leaf in half and slide it onto the skewer up against the tomato.  Add a mozzarella ball and slide it up against the basil leaf.   Place skewers in a sealable container until ready to serve.

Chicken Salad with Carrots and Grapes in Lettuce Cups
makes about 4-6 appetizer servings


1 lb Prepared Chicken Salad, from the deli counter
1/2 cu Shredded Carrots
1 cu Seedless Grapes, sliced in half
1 head of Iceberg Lettuce


Mix together chicken salad, carrots and grapes and place in a sealable bowl.  Gently remove 6-8 (or more) leaves from the lettuce.  Rinse them and let them dry.  Place the leaves in a sealable plastic container and keep chilled until ready to serve.  To serve, allow guests to simply spoon a portion of chicken salad into a “lettuce cup” and wrap it around the filling.

Strawberries in Mason Jars
fills two 12 ounce mason jars


4 oz Mascarpone Cheese
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tsp Heavy Cream
2 tsp Powdered Sugar
1/8 tsp Cinnamon
1 lb Fresh Strawberries
Fresh Mint (optional), 2-3 medium sized leaves, chiffonade


Mix together mascarpone, vanilla, heavy cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
Remove the stems from the strawberries.  Stand the strawberry upright and slice it vertically, creating 3-4 slices.  Fill about 1/3 of each mason jar with strawberries. Top the strawberries with about 1/4 of the mascarpone mixture.  Add more strawberries to reach the 2/3 mark in the jars and then top with another 1/4 of the mascarpone mixture.  Fill the jars with the remaining strawberries and top with fresh mint and seal.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.  To serve, simply open the jars and eat with a spoon.  Each jar can be shared or enjoyed by one person.

Thanks again to Leland Couchman for his contribution to this segment.  If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Carne Asada Street Tacos]]> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:15:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWStreetTacos.jpg

I recently spent two weeks in San Francisco and had the pleasure of sampling quite a variety of flavorful dishes, from high end restaurants to casual take out kitchens.  One of my favorite meals was from a simple restaurant called Street Tacos in the Haight Asbury section of the city.  Here’s my interpretation of the carne asada tacos that I enjoyed so much.  The homemade tortillas are really easy to make and the marinade for the skirt steak will really give the tacos a little extra kick.  I hope you enjoy them.

Carne Asada Street Tacos
makes 12-14 tacos


meat and marinade

2 lb Skirt Steak
1 cu Water
1/4 cu Salt
3 tbl Brown Sugar
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled smashed and minced
2 Limes
1/3 cu Tequila
1/2 cu Triple Sec
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/4 cu Extra Virgin Olive Oil

tortillas, salsa fresca and garnish

2 lg Tomatoes, chopped
1 med White Onion, chopped
1 sm Jalapeño, seeded and chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cu Cilantro, roughly chopped
2 Limes, cut into wedges
12-14 Corn Tortillas (recipe below)


Lay skirt steak on a flat surface.  If the steak still has a thin membrane on one side (called the silver skin), peel it off the steak using a sharp knife and discard.  That extra skin will make the meat tough and chewy.  Using a meat tenderizer, flatten the steak a bit on both sides and then transfer it to a large disposable bag.

Meanwhile, pour water, salt and brown sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir until ingredients are fully dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  Then, add the garlic, the zest of one of the limes and the juice of both, tequila, triple sec, black pepper, chili powder, and cumin.  Whisk in the olive oil and pour marinade over steak.  Remove as much air as possible from the bag and seal it.  Refrigerate for for 4-24 hours. 

To cook the steak, remove it from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels.  Season with a bit of pepper.  Heat a sauce pan over high heat.  Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the steak.  Cook the steak for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side for medium rare, or loner for your desired doneness.  Remove from heat and place on a cutting board and let it rest for about 2-3 minutes.

Separately, make the salsa fresca by mixing together tomatoes, onions, jalapeño and cilantro in a large bowl.  Season with salt and set aside. 

Slice and chop skirt steak into 1/4” cubes.  Place tortillas on serving plates.  Top with steak and salsa fresca.  Squeeze a bit of lime over the filling and serve.

Corn Tortillas
makes 12-14


2 cu Corn Masa
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Adobo Seasoning
1 3/4 - 2 cu Water
1 tortilla press, available at most housewares stores
Tortilla Warmer (also available at many housewares stores) or clean towel and casserole dish


Mix together corn masa, salt and adobo seasoning.  Add 1 3/4 cup water, plus 2 tablespoons, and blend.  The dough should not be too moist.  You should be able to press it into a ball, but it shouldn’t be sticky.  Open the tortilla press and place plastic wrap on both surfaces.  Roll some of the dough into about the size of a golf ball.  Place on press and smash down a bit.  Close press fully to flatten tortilla.  Open press and peel tortilla from the plastic.  If the tortilla comes off in one piece without sticking to the plastic, then the moisture ratio is good.  If it does stick, place the tortilla back in the batch and add about 2 tablespoons or so of masa.  Mix and try again.  If the mix works well, then divide the remaining dough into 11-13 equal portions.  Preheat a flat skillet over hight heat.  Place the first flattened tortilla into the skillet.  Cook on one side for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Flip and cook on the second for about 1 1/2 minutes.  The tortilla might puff up a bit, but that’s fine.  Place tortillas in a tortilla warmer or wrap in a tea towel and place inside of a covered casserole dish until ready to use.  Repeat with remaining dough.

If you’re not eating them immediately, store tortillas in an airtight disposable bag, squeezing out as much air as possible before sealing, and refrigerate.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Giant Family-Sized Burger]]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 20:46:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/161*120/AvacadoBurger.JPG

It’s a big holiday weekend and I thought a fun way to celebrate would be with a big family sized burger large enough to serve four.  The homemade poppy seed bun is also oversized and big enough to hold the 1 1/2 pound patty and a anything else you want to pile on top.  I built my big burger with a number of tasty toppings , but feel free to customize yours any way you like.  Because of the burger’s size, a vegetable grilling basket is an efficient way to get the patty to the grill and flip it without worrying about it falling apart.

serves 4-6


1 1/2 lb Ground Sirloin, about 90% lean
1 cu Finely Minced Onion
3 tbl Finely Minced Jalapeño Pepper
1 1/2 tbl Wayne’s Beef Grilling Spice Mix (recipe below)
1 Large Burger Bun (recipe below)
Optional Equipment: 8” Cake Pan, Wax Paper, Flat Rectangular Vegetable Grilling Basket, Instant Read Thermometer

Condiments and Toppings (all optional)

Green Leaf Lettuce
1 lg Tomato, sliced
Dill Pickle Slices
5 slices Mild Cheddar Cheese
Fresh Basil Leaves
1 Avocado, peeled, pitted and mashed


Prepare your grill and spray the grilling basked with cooking spray.  Combine ground sirloin, onion, jalapeño and grilling spice mix in a large bowl and mix well.  Place a sheet of wax paper into the cake pan.  Transfer ground sirloin into pan.  Spread mixture out to a uniform size but create a “donut hole” in the center, about 1 1/2” in diameter (to help patty cook more evenly and quickly).   Lay one side of the grilling basket over the pan and carefully flip both over.  Remove pan and wax paper.  Close vegetable basket and place on the grill.  Grill on one side for about 5-7 minutes and then flip the basket.  Grill the second side for an additional 5-7 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F (as recommended by the USDA).  An instant read thermometer is very useful in determining internal temperature of grilled food.

Remove patty from grill and add cheese.  Let patty rest for about 5 minutes.  To assemble burger, slice large bun in half and place the bottom on a serving platter.  Spread mustard on bottom.  Arrange lettuce on the bun and top with ketchup.  Add meat patty, followed basil, tomato slices and avocado.  Cover with the top of the bun.  Serve by slicing the burger into wedges.

makes 1 bun about 8” in diameter

Yeast Starter

2 1/4 tsp Yeast
1 tbl Brown Sugar
2 tbl All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cu Warm Water - about 105-110 degrees F
1 tbl Olive Oil

Bread Mix

2 cu All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cu Wheat Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 lg Egg, room temperature, whisked
2/3 cup Warm Water - about 105 degrees F
2 tsp Olive Oil


1 tbl Butter, melted
1/2 tsp Poppy seeds


Mix yeast with the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour in small bowl.  Add 1/3 cup of the warm water and stir to combine.  Let the mixture activate for 10 minutes and then stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Separately, mix remaining all-purpose flour, wheat flour and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in egg, water and yeast mixture.  Mix thoroughly and transfer to a lightly floured board.  Knead for 10 minutes, working a little more flour into the dough, if necessary, until it is elastic and no longer sticky. Pour the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat all surfaces. Cover to rise for 1 1/2 hours until doubled in bulk.  Punch down and roll into a ball.  Place dough in a lightly floured 8” cake pan.  Let it rise for an additional 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Brush the exposed surface of the dough with the butter and sprinkle poppy seeds on top. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until light golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump it.  Cool completely before slicing and using for your big burger.


Beef Grilling Spice Mix


2 tsp Paprika

2 tsp Black Pepper

1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

2 tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Onion Powder

1 1/2 tsp Brown Sugar

2 tsp Sage

1 tsp Celery Seed

1 1/2 tsp Chili Powder

2 tsp Rosemary

1 1/2  tsp Tarragon
2 tsp Parsley


Mix ingredients together and either grind in spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle.  Store in an airtight container.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[How to Make Korean BBQ]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:29:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000007733132_1200x675_288002115631.jpg Award-winning Chef Bill Kim joins NBC Chicago's LeeAnn Trotter for a quick example of how to make your summer bbq new and sizzling.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Mango Carrot Coconut Soup]]> Thu, 29 May 2014 14:35:14 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/MangoCarrotCoconutSoup.JPG

Now that warm weather has arrived, we are finally firing up our grills and smokers and loading them up with ribs, chicken, brisket, fish and burgers.  To help you with your next meal, I’ve created a set of four grilling spices and a barbecue sauce that’ll add a little extra kick to whatever’s on your menu.  You’ll find the link to the recipes below.  I usually double or triple the recipes so I have enough to last a good part of the season and to portion out in smaller bottles for friends.  They make great gifts. 

Because these recipes add quite a bit of spicy flavor to anything you’re grilling, this mango carrot coconut soup is the perfect first course.  The sweet tartness is a nice contrast to the smokey grilled flavors of your main course.  It ’s also a perky palate cleanser if you’ve had appetizers before starting your meal.  Also, because the soup can be made early in the day or the day before, it’s worry free once your guests arrive.

Mango Coconut Carrot Soup
makes 6 cups


1 1/2 tbl Ginger, finely minced
3 lg Carrots, shredded, yielding about 1 1/2 cups packed
4 lg Mangos, peeled sliced and chopped, seed discarded, about 2 1/2 - 3 lbs
1 cu Fresh Orange Juice
1 cu Coconut Milk
1/2 tsp Tumeric
Juice of 2 Limes
1 cu Shredded Coconut


Place ginger in a heat proof bowl and set aside.  Place carrots in a small pot.  Add 3 cups of water just to cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and carefully pour 1/2 cup of the hot liquid over ginger.  Strain carrots and discard remaining liquid.  Allow carrots and ginger water to cool. 

Take about 1/2 of one mango and make a small dice. Toss in 1/4 of the lime juice and set aside.  Put remaining mango in a blender.  Add cooled carrots, ginger and water, orange juice, coconut milk, cumin and remaining lime juice.  Puree ingredients until fully blended, about 1-2 minutes.  Remove from blender and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Meanwhile, place shredded coconut in a dry saucepan over medium high heat.  Constantly stir with a wooden spoon until coconut begins to brown.  Watch carefully.  Coconut will burn very soon after browning.  As soon as coconut lightly toasted, remove form heat and transfer to wax paper or a paper towel to cool. 

To serve, pour soup in chilled bowls or glasses and top with a bit of diced mango and coconut.

Additional Resources

Wayne’s Grilling Spices & BBQ Sauce Recipes

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Family Friendly Summer Drinks]]> Thu, 15 May 2014 13:26:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWGlasswareAndContainers.jpg

A great start to outdoor entertaining as warmer weather returns is a cool refreshing drink.  Since many summer parties include both children and adults, I thought I share some family friendly non-alcoholic ideas that everyone can enjoy.  All three of these drinks use lots of fresh fruit and two start off with a batch of homemade infused simple syrups.  They’re all easy to prepare and will be a welcome refresher this summer season.

The NBC5 Smoothie
8 servings


3 Nectarines
2 Bananas
1 cu Coconut Milk
2 Naval Oranges
1 cu Water
3 cu Ice


Fill a blender with 3 cups of ice.  Slice the nectarines and discard the seeds.  Add the slices to the blender.  Peel and slice the bananas and add to the blender.  Slice the top and bottom off of one of the oranges.  Set the orange upright and slice the sides off the orange.  Cut the oranges segments away from the pith and add to blender.  Add coconut milk and water.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into tall glasses.  Slice second orange and garnish glasses.

Ginger Strawberry Splash
8 Servings


1 1/2 cu Ginger Simple Syrup (1 1/2 cu water, 1 1/2 cu sugar, 2 tbl fresh ginger, peeled and chopped)
1 1/2 cu Strawberries, chopped
4 cu Orange Juice
2 cu Limeade
24oz Ginger Beer
Additional Strawberries for garnish


To make the simple syrup, place water, sugar and ginger in a pot.  Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar.  Once water reaches a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.  Refrigerate until cold.  Strain ginger from simple syrup before using.

Place 1 1/2 cups of chilled simple syrup and strawberries in a blender and blend thoroughly.  Strain and pour liquid into a pitcher.  Add orange juice and limeade.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  To serve, pour mixture over ice in a tall glass, top with about 2 ounces of ginger beer and stir.  Garnish with a strawberry wedged onto the rim of the glass.

Non Alcoholic White Sangria
8 servings


2 cu Light Lemon Simple Syrup (1 1/2 cu water, 1 cu sugar, juice and zest of one lemon)
4 cu White Grape Juice
2 cu Apple Juice
1 lg Naval Orange, thinly sliced
1 lg Lemon, thinly sliced
2 lg Limes, thinly sliced
1 Pear, chopped
1 Granny Smith Apple, chopped
1 cu Green Grapes, sliced
8-12 Pitted Cherries with stems
12-18oz Chilled Diet Ginger Ale


To make the simple syrup, place water, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a pot.  Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar.  Once water reaches a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.  Refrigerate until cold.  Strain zest from simple syrup before using.

Pour 2 cups of chilled simple syrup, grape juice and apple juice into a large pitcher.  Set aside 4 orange, 4 lemon and 4 lime slices.  Add remaining slices to thie pitcher.  Add pear, apple and half of the grapes. Stir and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Slice remaining orange, lemon and lime slices in half for garnish.  To serve, place one of each half slice, a few grapes and cherry into individual glasses with ice.  Add ginger ale to pitcher.  Stir and pour over glasses.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Appetizer Trio For Outdoor Entertaining]]> Wed, 07 May 2014 13:42:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWBaconCheddarJalapenoBiscuits.jpg

The best way to start an evening of entertaining with family or friend is with great drinks and an assortment of tasty "nibbly bits", simple appetizers that are full of flavor but easy to make. With outdoor entertaining just about here, this trio is a nice combination of flavors and perfect on platters for your balcony or patio. Elements for each of these recipes can be made in advance so you're not scrambling around the kitchen when your guests arrive.

Mini Jalapeño, Bacon and Cheese Bites


9 oz Bacon, cooked through but not too crispy, then drained on paper towels
2 cu All Purpose Flour
1/2 cu Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
3 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
3 tbl Cold Butter, grated through a box grater, then kept chilled in the refrigerator
1 lg Jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
3/4 cu Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 1/2 cu Buttermilk
1 cu Panko Bread Crumbs, in a bowl
3 tbl Additional Butter, melted in a small container


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Finely chop bacon and set aside.  Mix together flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Add chilled butter and quickly mix with your hands until butter is incorporated and mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add bacon, jalapeño and cheese.  Add buttermilk and mix until everything is just combined.  Scoop out 1 tablespoon sized portions onto a work surface.  Shape each into a ball and then roll in the bread crumbs to coat.  Set coated ball on a baking sheet and space it about 2” away from other balls. You’ll need two baking sheets.  Once you’ve formed and coated all of the balls, pour a tiny bit of butter on top of each.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until lightly golden.  Remove from oven and pour a bit more of remaining butter on top of each ball.  Cool a bit before serving.



1 Baguette
2 large Garlic Cloves, peeled and cut in half
1/4 cu Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 lb  Plum Tomatoes, about 6 medium
5-6 Fresh Basil Leaves, chiffonade
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar


Preheat broiler or a grill.  Slice baguette at an extreme angle to create as much surface area as possible. Place slices on a baking sheet (or directly on your grill rack).  Broil or grill until first surface is golden brown.  Flip slices and brown the other side.  Remove from heat and rub one surface with garlic.  Lightly brush the same surface with olive oil.  Set aside.  

Separately, cut off the stem end of tomatoes and then slice in half.  With a spoon or your fingers, remove and discard the seeds.  Chop tomatoes into a small dice and place in a large bowl.  Add remaining olive oil, basil leaves, salt and balsamic vinegar.  Toss to combine, taste for seasoning and adjust to your preference.  Cover with plastic until ready to use.

Arrange bruschetta slices on a serving platter and spoon tomatoes mixture on top using a slotted spoon.

Smoked Turkey Deviled Eggs

1 dozen lg Eggs
3 oz Smoked Turkey
2 tbl Minced Shallots
1/4 cu Light Mayonnaise
2 tbl Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbl Fresly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tbl Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
1 tsp Chili Powder


Place eggs in a large pot.  Fill with room temperature water to cover eggs by about an inch.  Place pot over high heat and bring water to a boil.  As soon as water starts to boil, remove from heat and cover pot.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Remove top and rinse eggs in tap water to cool.  Once fully cool, peel eggs.  Slice eggs in half and place yolks in a bowl.  Place egg halves in a container and cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Separately, place smoked turkey and shallots in a food processor.  Process until smoothed into a paste.  Stop food processor and add yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Process until fully blended and smooth.  Add a bit more mayonnaise if you’d like a smoother consistency.  Transfer mixture to a sealable plastic bag and remove as much air as possible.  

Arrange egg halves on a serving platter.  Make a small cut into one of the corners of the sealable bag.  Squeeze mixture into egg halves.  Sprinkle parsley, parmesan cheese and chili powder on top of each egg and serve.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Chicken And Dumplings]]> Thu, 01 May 2014 14:01:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWChickenDumplings.JPG

One of my favorite dishes growing up was my mom’s chicken and dumplings.  This very southern dish is usually a one pot meal that is somewhere between a chicken soup and a chicken stew with large flour based dumplings floating on top.  I decided to take my mom’s recipe and give it a new look.  This version has virtually the same ingredients but it’s presented more as a layered dish and is assembled just before serving.  It is rich, tasty, and still makes me think of mom every time I make it.

Chicken and Dumplings
serves 6-8


Chicken and Stock

1 lg Onion, roughly chopped
2 Celery Stalks, roughly chopped
2 lg Carrots, roughly chopped
4 cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
3-4 Rosemary Stalks
2 Bay Leaves
3-4 Oregano Stems
1 whole chicken, cut up, about 4 lbs
2 Bouillon Cubes
14 cu Water


2 cu All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tso Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tbl cold butter
1 cu buttermilk
1/4 cu Chicken Stock
2 tbl Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped


1 cu All Purpose Flour
1/4 cu Cold Butter, cut into small pieces
6 cu Chicken Stock
1/4 tsp Pepper


4-6 lg Carrots, sliced
1 tbl Butter

Garnish (optional)

Additional Chopped Parsley
Black Pepper


Place all of the chicken and stock ingredients into a large stockpot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.  Remove chicken pieces and return stock to a high simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes to reduce by about 1/4.  Remove from heat, allow to cool, then strain and reserve the stock.  You should have at least 8 cups of stock.  Discard stock vegetables and herbs.  Once chicken has cooled, remove and discard the skin.  Pull chicken from the bones with a fork or your hands, tearing large pieces into smaller ones.  Place in a large casserole, cover with aluminum and set aside.

To make the dumplings, pour about 2 cups of stock into the bottom of a pot large enough for a steamer basket.  Bring to a low simmer.  Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut butter into flour and mix with your hands until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add buttermilk, chicken stock and parsley and mix thoroughly.  Using two large spoons, shape dough into 12 oval shaped dumplings by scooping out dough with one spoon and using the other to shape and scoop it onto a lightly oiled steamer tray.  Steam the dumplings in two or three batches by placing a few dumplings in a single or double tiered steamer basket.  Insert the basket into the pot, cover and steam for 15 minutes.  Remove and place the steamed dumplings in the casserole with the chicken and cover until ready to use.  Repeat with remaining dough.

To make the gravy, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and stir together for about 4 minutes.  Whisk in Chicken stock.  Simmer and stir until gravy thickens, about 10 minutes.  Season with pepper.  If grave is too thick, thin with additional chicken stock.

Meanwhile, sauté carrots in butter in a saucepan over medium heat for about 7-10 minutes.

To assemble individual servings, place one or two dumplings in a bowl, top with portion of chicken and carrots.  Spoon gravy over the top and garnish with a bit of parsley and a pinch of pepper.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Baconfest 2014 Features All Things Swine]]> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 06:38:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Baconfest_2012_46.jpg

Ladies and gentlemen, start your salivary glands.

The 2014 edition of Baconfest kicks off Friday at the UIC Form on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

More than 160 chefs will be available through Sunday for the sixth annual event that offers fest-goers the opportunity to dine on succulent swine.

An estimated 8,000 pounds of bacon will get cooked up for the sold-out event.

Tickets for the 2012 fest sold out in three hours. The 2013 edition sold out in just 41 minutes.

A donation of all the proceeds from ticket sales, raffles and donations goes to local food charities. Since 2009, Baconfest has raised more than $85,000, organizers said.


Photo Credit: Marcus Riley ]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: A Trio Of Salsas]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:06:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWSalsaTrio.JPG

As temperatures slowly start to rise, it’s time to start thinking about outdoor entertaining.  I recently spent an unusually warm afternoon at my friend Joey Chiappetta’s and we sat on the deck and enjoyed a casual nosh of chips and salsas.  Two of the salsas Joey made were a charred tomatillo and a black bean chipotle.  He was happy to share the recipes, so I decided to add one to the mix that contrasted the spiciness of his.  Mine, which is a tomato tequila version, includes a bit of brown sugar for some sweetness.  All three compliment each other and should be served with a few different types chips to add to the variety. 

Tomato Tequila Salsa

3 lb Roma Tomatoes       
1 med White Onion, diced
1 lg Jalapeño, stem removed, split and seeded
4 cloves Garlic, smashed peeled and diced
1 tbl Brown Sugar
2 tbl Tequila
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Salt        
3 tbl Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped


Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Score an “X” on the bottom end of each tomato.  Place tomatoes in the boiling water, a few at a time, for 30-40 seconds.  Remove and allow to cool.  Peel the skin off of the tomatoes.  Discard skin.  Finely chop 1-2 of the tomatoes to yield 1 cup.  Set aside.  Roughly chop the remaining tomatoes and place in a food processor.  Reserve about 1/2 cup of the diced onions and place the remainder in the food processor along with the jalapeño and garlic.  Pulse the processor until ingredients are well blended but still a bit chunky.  Transfer to a large pot and add sugar, tequila, cumin, chili powder, pepper and salt.  Bring to a boil then immediately turn down to a low simmer.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and cool completely.  Add reserved tomatoes, onions, lime juice and cilantro.  Chill, check for seasoning and serving with tortilla chips.

Charred Tomatillo Salsa
courtesy of Joey Chiappetta


2lb Tomatillos, husks discarded, then washed and dry tomatillos
1 med White Onion, large dice
2 cloves Garlic, peeled, left whole
1 Jalapeño Pepper, stem removed
1/2 Serrano Pepper, stem removed
1tbl Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Finishing Items:
1 tbl fresh Lime Juice
1/4 cu White Onion, small dice
1/4 cu Cilantro, chopped


Preheat broiler on high heat.  Place rack in the top 1/3 position of the oven.  Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapeño & serrano on a sheet tray.  Drizzle with oil and mix together to coat all ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place under the broiler and let the ingredients char, about 5 minutes.  Flip the ingredients and char on the other side, about another 4-5 minutes.  You don't want the ingredients completely blackened, but you do want some decent color on them.  After broiling, split pepper and remove seeds if you don’t want the extra heat.  Then, puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Place in a bowl to cool.

Once cooled, add fresh lime juice, onion & cilantro to the mixture.  If the salsa is too thick, it's okay to add some water to get it to a proper consistency.  Chill, check for seasoning and serve with tortilla chips.

Chipotle Black Bean Dip
courtesy of Joey Chiappetta


1 med White Onion, medium dice
2 cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 can Tomato Paste, 6oz size
2 cans Black Beans, 14oz size, rinsed and drained
2 Dried Chipotle Peppers
1/4 cu White Vinegar
1tbl Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper


Cut off the stems of the chipotle peppers and break them open.  Remove the seeds if you want to reduce the heat of this salsa.  Place the peppers in a small bowl and cover with water for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sweat the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil for 5-8 minutes over medium heat.  Add tomato paste and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add black beans, vinegar, salt and peppers.  Add chipotle peppers and their soaking water.  Fill the pot with enough additional water to just cover the beans.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Puree in blender or food processor.  Chill, check for seasoning and serve with tortilla chips.

Thanks again to Joey Chiappetta for sharing his recipes.  They are great.  If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Dining Out For Life On April 24, 2014]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:33:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/187*120/DiningOutForLifeCardsAll.jpg

Next Thursday, April 24, 2014, over 3,000 restaurants nationwide will be donating a portion of their proceeds to HIV/AIDS related organizations.  It’s called Dining Out For Life and, since 1991, millions of dollars have been raised to support men, women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS.  Last year over 300,000 individuals supported Dining Out For Life simply by having a meal at a participating restaurant.  This year, there are over 55 restaurants participating and proceeds will be going to Edge Alliance, an organization dedicated to providing a healthy and stable environment for the individuals and communities impacted by HIV/AIDS.  You’ll find more information on their website at EdgeAlliance.org.  Below is a list of participating restaurants in Chicagoland.  You can get additional information about Dining Out For Life and these restaurants at DiningOutForLife.com.

  • 312 Chicago
  • Acre
  • Ann Sather Restaurant
  • Anna Maria Pasteria
  • Anteprima
  • Atwood Cafe
  • Avenue Tavern
  • Azzurra
  • The Bagel Restaurant and Deli
  • Bar Pastoral
  • Big Jones
  • Bistro Campagne
  • Bistronomic
  • Bite Cafe
  • Bluegrass
  • Bountiful Eatery
  • Broadway Cellars
  • Browntrout
  • Carnivale
  • The Chicago Diner - Lakeview
  • The Chicago Diner - Logan Square
  • Club Lucky
  • Crew Bar & Grill
  • Cucina Paradiso
  • Francesca's Bryn Mawr
  • Giordano's - Belmont
  • Giordano's - Jackson
  • Halsted's Bar & Grill
  • Hamburger Mary's
  • HB Home Bistro
  • Jack's on Halsted
  • Lady Gregory's
  • Las Mananitas
  • Longman & Eagle
  • Mia Francesca
  • Nookies Edgewater
  • Ombra
  • Pasteur Restaurant
  • Sable Kitchen & Bar
  • Salpicon
  • The Signature Room At the 95th
  • Silver Cloud
  • Sola
  • Southwater Kitchen
  • Spacca Napoli
  • Spritz Burger
  • Swirlz Cupcakes
  • Table Fifty-Two
  • Taverna 750
  • Uncommon Ground
  • Vivere
  • Wilde Bar & Restaurant
  • Wishbone Restaurant
  • Wood

Special thanks to Signature Room at the 95th, Club Lucky, Anteprima, Big Jones and Spacca Napoli for sending a few tasty samples from their menus to NBC Chicago for this segment.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Zagat Names Chicago's "30 Under 30" Culinary "Superstars"]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:45:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/fork+generic.jpg

Zagat has released its third annual "Chicago 30 Under 30" list of the city’s top "up-and-coming culinary industry superstars" under the age of 30.

This year's list of honorees includes a cheesemonger, chicken expert, brewer and a sausage maker.

"This year, we ventured further," Zagat writes in its blog, "to find honorees who are not only preparing incredible food and drinks in some of the city’s top restaurants and bars, but are also growing the produce and crafting the spirits that make eating out possible in the first place."

The list is below. For a map of the restaurants, click here.

  • Sieger Bayer, 27, Chef de Cuisine at Leghorn Fried Chicken
  • Bryan Bland, 29, Head Cheesemonger at Bar Pastoral
  • Lisa Bonjour, 29, Pastry Chef at mk The Restaurant
  • Joe and Mac Boumaroun, 29 and 27, Owners at 25 Degrees Restaurant
  • Brendan Blume and Matthew Ritchey, 26 and 29, Co-Owner and Co-Owner/Head Brewer at Begyle Brewing, Co.
  • Simon Davies, 24, Chef de Cuisine at Alinea
  • Zaida Mikayla Dedolph, 26, Retail Manager at Intelligentsia Coffee Old Town
  • Elana Green, 27, Director of Operations at Land & Sea Dept
  • Tim Havidic, 24, Executive Chef at iNG
  • Adam Hebert, 26, Owner and Managing Partner at The Radler
  • Kelly Helgesen, 28, Pastry Chef at Lula Cafe
  • Courtney Joseph, 27, Pastry Chef at Takashi and Slurping Turtle
  • Gregory Laketek, 28, Owner and Salumiere at West Loop Salumi
  • Jacqlyn Lancaster and Jeremy Leven, 28 and 29, Managing Partner and Chef/Partner at Tuesday Night Dinner and Border Oak
  • Wade Hall McElroy, 28, Managing Partner at Sportsman's Club
  • Kevin McMullen, 27, Executive Chef at The Brixton
  • Micah Melton, 28, Chef de Cuisine (Cocktails) at The Aviary
  • Dave and Megan Miller, 29 and 25, Co-Owner and Co-Owner/Pastry Chef at Bang Bang Pie Shop
  • Kate Purvis, 28, Market & Sales Manager and Volunteer Coordinator at Plant Chicago NFP and Entrepreneur at The Salty Prawn
  • Alex Renshaw, 29, Beverage Director at DrumBar and Menin Hospitality
  • Dan Salls, 26, Owner and Chef at The Salsa Truck & The Garage
  • Anna Shovers, 28, Pastry Chef at The Publican and Publican Quality Meats
  • Jenny Solberg, 26, Co-Owner and Operator at Rhine Hall Distillery
  • Erin Stanley, 27, Sausage Maker at The Butcher & Larder
  • Edward Sura, 29, Chef de Cuisine at Perennial Virant
  • Christopher Teixeira, 26, Executive Pastry Chef at Homestead on the Roof, Berkshire Room and West Town Bakery
  • Jennifer Tietz, 29, Wine Director at Tru Restaurant
  • Aaryn Thompson, 29, Bartender at Big Star
  • Michael Trow, 29, Assistant General Manager, Beverage Director and Spiritual Advisor at River Roast
  • Greg Wade, 25, Head Baker at Little Goat

<![CDATA[Company Makes Coffee With A Purpose]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 23:42:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Aspire+CoffeeWorks.png Aspire, a non-profit that helps children and adults with developmental disabilities, has partnered with Metropolis Coffee Company to make coffee that Makes a Difference. Aspire CoffeeWorks can be bought online, at Whole Foods and select coffee shops. Art Norman reports.]]> <![CDATA[Yelp Unveils Top 100 Places To Eat in United States]]> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 14:38:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ALINEA_722x406_2225179709.jpg

Yelp this week unveiled a list of the top 100 places to eat in the United States based on data from reviews across the site.

Among the "must-try spots," Illinois snagged three positions on the list with offerings ranging from a high-end hotspot to a buzz-worthy hot dog stand to a chain steakhouse in the suburbs.

Grant Achatz's award-winning Alinea ranked seventh, followed by Hot Doug's at No. 27 and the Downers Grove location of Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse at No. 37.

The rest of the list was just diverse. How did Yelp compile it?

"We dug in to our wealth of rich data to see what the numbers told us about which places Yelpers really love," the team explains on Yelp's blog. "Engineers on Yelp’s data mining team used a technique based on the Wilson Score to compile a list of highly rated places to eat. This method takes into account both star rating and number of reviews to reveal which spots not only have top notch ratings, but also which are most popular in the Yelp community."
Here's a look at the top 25:

1. Da Poke Shack, Kailua-Kona, HI
2. Paseo, Seattle, WA
3. Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue, Kansas City, KS
4. The Cinnamon Snail, New York, NY
5. Porto's Bakery, Burbank, CA
6. Dametra Cafe, Carmel by the Sea, CA
7. Alinea, Chicago, IL
8. Franklin Barbecue, Austin, TX
9. Gary Danko, San Francisco, CA
10. Joe’s Falafel, Los Angeles, CA
11. Sushi Izakaya Gaku, Honolulu, HI
12. Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs, Denver, CO
13. Oscar’s Mexican Seafood, San Diego, CA
14. Coop’s West Texas Barbeque, Lemon Grove, CA
15. Tacos El Gordo, Chula Vista, CA
16. Cheese Board Pizza, Berkeley, CA
17. Ricky’s Fish Tacos, Los Angeles, CA
18. Ono Seafood, Honolulu, HI
19. Bogart’s Smoke House, Saint Louis, MO
20. Bakery Nouveau, Seattle, WA
21. Baguette Cafe, Las Vegas, NV
22. Eleven Madison Park, New York, NY
23. T-Deli, San Diego, CA
24. Built to Grill, Portland, OR
25. Alforon, San Diego, CA

For the full list, click here.

<![CDATA["World's Largest" Ketchup Home Eyes Brat Record]]> Thu, 23 Jan 2014 12:20:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Bratwurst.jpg

Belleville doesn't expect to be hotdogging it when the southwestern Illinois community celebrates its bicentennial. That's because this 200th birthday blowout is all about the brat.

In a region already sporting what's billed as the "World's Largest Ketchup Bottle," the Belleville News-Democrat reports Belleville hopes to set a Guinness world record for the longest grilled bratwurst.

Organizers say volunteers will cook a 200-foot brat during Oktoberfest weekend in September in the city's downtown.

Teresa Hessel of the celebration's organizing committee says the brat can't break if it's to set a record, and talks are in the works about building a grill big enough to cook the giant sausage.

Organizers are awaiting word about whether any such record exists or if Belleville will go for one in a new category.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Plans Third Drive-Thru Window]]> Fri, 15 Nov 2013 14:39:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds+sex+assault+arrest.jpg

McDonald's Corp. will add a third drive-thru window to some of its restaurants in an effort to increase speed and efficiency for customers, and minimize complaints about slow service.

The new addition will serve as a second pick-up window, The Chicago Tribune reported via Bloomberg. Currently, drivers order their food at the first window and drive to the second for pick up. Often, however, the order isn't ready in time and drivers are asked to pull into a parking space or designated waiting area. 

McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb said the proposed new window allows customers to pull forward if their order isn't immediately ready. In turn, McComb said they will be able to serve more customers quickly.

The new window is a welcome addition for disgruntled customers, according to the Tribune. Many believe a larger menu makes orders more difficult to put together while slowing down the restaurant's overall service.

McDonald's completes drive-thru orders in 189 seconds on average. This is slower than restaurants like Taco Bell and Wendy's, which take 158 seconds and 134 seconds, respectively.

<![CDATA[7 Chicago Pizzas Make List of Best 101 Pies]]> Tue, 22 Oct 2013 15:57:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Lou+Malnati%27s+Deep+Dish.jpg

In a new list of the 101 best pizzas in America, seven Chicago spots got its slice of the pie.

Not bad, considering TripAdvisor reviewers snubbed Windy City 'za altogether this summer.

Editors at food-and-drink website The Daily Meal asked 46 panelists to narrow down the best pizzas from a list of more than 400 from across the country. Thirty came from New York state and 12 from California.

Chicago's highest honor went to Spacca Napoli's Bufalina at No. 23 thanks to its "unique take on Neapolitan-style pizza." Lou Malnati's Chicago Classic pizza snagged the city's second showing on the list at a rather low No. 37.

"Does it say something that the first Chicago deep-dish pizzeria on this list of the 101 best pizzas in America ranks number 37?" the site points out. "Sounds like a question a New Yorker would ask. Maybe because deep-dish pizza isn’t actually pizza, but a casserole?"

Hmm ...

Gino’s East ranks No. 40 thanks to its cheese deep-dish 'za, Pizzeria Uno comes in at No. 51 and Falco's Pizza & Pasta's thin-crust sausage hangs in there at No. 61.

The Daily Meal tips its hat to "stuffed pizza" with a No. 78 ranking for Giordano's Pizza.

"Whether or not you believe anything this thick is served in Italy and claimed there to be Italian, there are now some 40 locations in Chicago (and three in Florida) serving this version of stuffed pizza."

Last but not least, Vito & Nick’s sausage pie ranks at No. 79.

As for No. 1? That honor went to Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, Conn.

Photo Credit: Lou Malnati's ]]>
<![CDATA[Fox & Obel Declares Bankruptcy]]> Fri, 20 Sep 2013 10:59:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/fox-and-obel.jpg

Chicago grocery institution Fox & Obel filed for bankruptcy on Thursday. Reportedly, the company owes the IRS around $382,000, food supplier Sysco $345,000 and is also in debt to its management company for $257,000.

The store, at 401 E. Illinois St., has had its share of troubles stretching far, far back — and its glory days of 2005, when Oprah named its oatmeal cookie dough as one of her “favorite things,” are obviously quite a distant memory.

The debt to various companies is one issue altogether, but the fact of the matter is that the culture and upscale grocery landscape has changed tremendously since F&O first opened its doors in summer 2001. The novelty of organic foods, extensive wine selections, and in-store cafés in a supermarket are much more commonplace today in 2013. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are but two examples of a bigger trend happening nationwide. There’s Mariano’s, which proudly advertises in its aisles the sheer variety of produce it stocks and also has a pianist setting the tone when people walk in. And an oyster bar.

As those other stores were gaining traction, Fox & Obel became known for having prices on par with Whole Foods, but not much else to distinguish it. Which, I suppose, is a long way of saying that just because you were once popular doesn’t mean you always will be. And, although people are bemoaning how lousy the economy is or was, one trend running concurrently with it is how people are not skimping on luxury indulgences. Maybe it’s a form of denial happening in the population, who knows, but it’s a fact. And what better way to indulge and luxuriate than with a $9 pink lady apple?

Well, the better way seems to be do so at places that indulge that mentality further themselves.

Here’s hoping Fox & Obel can turn things around, though. Like Groupon to the tech scene, it’s no stretch to say Fox & Obel helped prime Chicago for bigger things in its sector.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as IFC’s comedy, film, and TV blogger, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

Photo Credit: elstopfoodhunt.wordpress.com ]]>
<![CDATA[Serving Up A Tradition of Quality]]> Wed, 18 Sep 2013 11:18:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000004150358_722x406_48491587915.jpg The Turano Baking Company has been making bread in Chicago since 1962. This year they will have the honor of being the official bread supplier for hottest foodie fest in the city-Chicago Gourmet. Art Norman visits the bakery to find out their receipe for success.]]> <![CDATA[Top 10 List Snubs Chicago-Style Pizza]]> Wed, 07 Aug 2013 13:48:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/163*120/Chicago+Style+Pizza.png

Chicago takes a certain amount of pride in its pizza, and though "best of" lists should be taken with a grain of salt, we're used to seeing ourselves among top 'za competition.

Frankly, that's where we should be -- right?

Apparently the reviewers of TripAdvisor don't agree.

The travel site on Wednesday announced the top 10 pizza cities in the country, according to travelers who use the site, and Chicago wasn't on the list.

The city's stuffed pizza was beaten by San Diego, deemed No. 1 for its "authentic tastes of Italy just miles from the Mexican border."

One traveler commented San Diego's pizza is "as good as being home in New York.”

Unfortunately, though, New York came in No. 4, after Las Vegas and Boston.

The other towns that beat out Chicago? Seattle, Austin, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

According to TripAdvisor, Phoenix dwellers can enjoy "scrumptious slices of airy, bubbling crust and savory cheese, paired with the perfect amount of fresh tomato sauce."

Perhaps the reviewer is in need of a trip to Chicago.

Full list:

1. San Diego, California
2. Las Vegas, Nevada
3. Boston, Massachusetts
4. New York City, New York
5. Seattle, Washington
6. Austin, Texas
7. San Francisco, California
8. Indianapolis, Indiana
9. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
10. Phoenix, Arizona

<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Showstopper 7-Layer Salad]]> Thu, 18 Jul 2013 13:40:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWMasonJar.jpg Wayne shows you how to make a individual salads worth showing off at your next picnic.]]> <![CDATA[2013 Taste of Chicago]]> Mon, 15 Jul 2013 08:57:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tasteofchicago22.jpg Chicago's famous Taste of Chicago Festival begins for the 33rd year. ]]> <![CDATA[Taste of Chicago: What To Expect]]> Wed, 10 Jul 2013 08:13:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000003641779_722x406_36684355650.jpg NBC 5's Lauren Petty talks with Sam Toia, the president of the Illinois Restaurant Association. He shares with us a selection of foods and tells Lauren what to expect at this year's festival - including food trucks and three course meals by some of Chicago's most famous chefs.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Make a Patriotic Dessert]]> Fri, 05 Jul 2013 10:00:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWStrawberryShortcake.jpg Wayne shows you how to make a dessert representing the red, white and blue of Old Glory.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Patriotic Strawberry Shortcake]]> Fri, 05 Jul 2013 10:05:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWStrawberryShortcake.jpg

I always enjoy creating a colorful red, white and blue dessert for patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day and Independence day.  This year I thought I'd bring some additional color to a traditional strawberry shortcake.  Adding blueberries to the strawberries and whipped cream not only completes the patriotic color scheme, it also adds a new burst of flavor to an already tasty dessert.  I make sweet buttermilk biscuits in my recipe and I was given the idea of shredding the butter from one of my Facebook friends.  This idea is a great way to keep the butter cold and makes it easier to blend it into the flour mixture.

Patriotic Strawberry Shortcake
serves 6-8 and is a great dessert for backyard picnics


Strawberry Sauce

1lb Fresh Strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1/2 cu Sugar
1 tbl Lemon Juice
1/2 cu Water


1/2 cu Cold Unsalted Butter
2 cu All-Purpose Flour
2 tbl Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 lg Egg
3/4 Cold Buttermilk Milk
Additional flour for rolling the biscuits

Whipped Cream

2 cu Cold Whipping Cream
1/2 cu Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Berries and Mint

1 lb Strawberries, washed and sliced
1 cu Blueberries, washed
Fresh Mint Leaves, optional, for garnish


Early in the day, make the sauce by putting the chopped strawberries and water into a blender.  Blend until smooth and transfer to a medium saucepan.  Add sugar and bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat.  Boil for 5 minutes and then reduce the heat to a simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes until mixture thickens a bit.  Remove from heat and strain though a fine mesh strainer.  Add lemon juice and refrigerate until cold.

To make the biscuits, use a box grater to grate the butter into a bowl.  Place the grated butter in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Add chilled butter and cut it into the flour with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  If you don't have a pasty cutter, use your hands to blend butter into the flour mixture.  But, work as quickly as possible so that you're not warming the butter too much with your hands. 

Whisk egg into the buttermilk until fully blended.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour egg mixture into it.  Fold and stir with a spatula until ingredients are just combined.  Don't over mix the dough.  Transfer onto a floured board and gently shape the dough into a circle about 1" thick.  Add a bit of flour if it's too wet, but don't overwork it.  Using a 3" cutter, cut rounds from the dough and place them on a lined baking (lined with either a silicon baking pad or parchment paper).  Reshape any extra dough and cut more rounds.  This should yield 6-8 biscuits.  Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Separately, whip cream until soft peaks form.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Transfer cream to a pasty bag or a large disposable bag with a small slit cut into one of the corners.

To serve, slice a biscuit in half.  Spoon a bit of strawberry sauce on the bottom half.  Pipe a bit of cream over the sauce and top with slices of strawberries.  Pipe a bit more cream over the strawberries and place the top of the biscuit over it.  Pipe a bit of cream on the top and add some blueberries and mint.  Drizzle a bit of sauce over the whole dessert and serve.

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Make a Refreshing Summer Drink]]> Thu, 27 Jun 2013 12:49:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWSummerDrinksPimms.jpg Wayne shows you how to make a drink able to please family-friendly or adult-only crowds.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Last-Minute Dinner Party Ideas]]> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 13:14:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWLastMinute.jpg Wayne shows you how to whip up a meal for guests who just stop by out of the blue.]]> <![CDATA[City Announces Taste of Chicago Food Trucks]]> Wed, 19 Jun 2013 06:54:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/the+salsa+truck.jpg

Ahead of the 33rd annual Taste of Chicago, running July 10 to July 14 in Grant Park, the city announced the 14 food trucks participating in the food fest.

“Taste of Chicago was created to showcase the city’s culinary scene and food trucks are now a vibrant part of that scene,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “It’s only natural that the trucks join in on the premier food event of summer. We are excited that Taste continues to evolve.”

Before and during evening concerts at the Petrillo Music Shell, attendees can purchase food from trucks parked just east of the lawn at the pavilion. The mayor's office said food trucks will start serving an hour before each concert and serve for the duration of the show.

Trucks will serve three or four regular-size portions and two "taste" portions and will accept the same food and beverage tickets as other Taste booths.

Here's a list of food trucks and corresponding concerts:

July 10, fun.
Bombay Wraps
Taquero Fusion
The Fat Shallot
The Jerk
Royal Cupcakes and Bakes
Beavers Coffee and Donuts

July 11, Robin Thicke
Taquero Fusion
Pork Chop
The Fat Shallot
Royal Cupcakes and Bakes
Beavers Coffee and Donuts

July 12, Robert Plant presents the Sensational Space Shifters
Bombay Wraps
The Salsa Truck
JB Alberto Pizza
Pork Chop
The Jerk
Chicago Cupcake
Ice Cubed

July 13, Jill Scott

Bombay Wraps
The Salsa Truck
JB Alberto Pizza
Pork Chop
Chicago Cupcake
Ice Cubed

July 14, Neon Trees

Taquero Fusion
JB Alberto Pizza
The Fat Shallot
The Jerk
Chicago Cupcake
Ice Cubed

The city said concert tickets for Robin Thicke and Neon Trees are still available for $25 at tasteofchicago.us. Lawn seating is free.

<![CDATA[2013 Taste of Chicago Restaurants, Food Trucks]]> Mon, 08 Jul 2013 09:51:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Taste-couple-2012.jpg

Ahead of the 33rd annual Taste of Chicago, running July 10 to July 14 in Grant Park, the city announced the 35 restaurants and 14 food trucks participating in the food fest.

“Taste of Chicago is a great long-standing tradition of summer in the city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “As our culinary reputation has grown on the national stage, this event continues to reflect the vibrant and diverse restaurant community of Chicago with old favorites and new, exciting worldwide cuisines."

Strips of 12 food and beverage tickets will be available for $8. Each restaurant will offer signature items as well as "taste" portions costing $2.50 or less.

Before and during evening concerts at the Petrillo Music Shell, attendees can purchase food from trucks parked just east of the lawn at the pavilion. The mayor's office said food trucks will start serving an hour before each concert and serve for the duration of the show.

Trucks will serve three or four regular-size portions and two "taste" portions and will accept the same food and beverage tickets as other Taste booths.

Here's the list of restaurants:

Abbey Pub & Restaurant
3420 W. Grace St.

Bacino’s of Lincoln Park
2204 N. Lincoln Ave.

Beat Kitchen
2100 W. Belmont Ave.

Billy Goat Inn
1535 W. Madison St.

BJ’s Market & Bakery
8734 S. Stony Island Ave.

Bobak Sausage Co.
5725 S. Archer Ave.

Bombay Spice Grill & Wine
450 N. Clark St.

Caffe Gelato
2034 W. Division St.

Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill
300 W. 26th St.

Churro Factory
3755 W. Armitage St.

Connie’s Pizza
2371 S. Archer Ave.

Cubby Bear Lounge, Ltd.
1059 W. Addison St.

Chicagoland Locations

Eli’s Cheesecake
6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr.

Flip Crepes
131 N. Clinton. St., Suite 12

Franco’s Ristorante
300 W. 31st St.

The Fudge Pot
1532 N. Wells St.

Gold Coast Dogs
225 S. Canal St.

4623 N. Broadway St.

Kasia’s Deli
2101 W. Chicago Ave.

Lao Ma La Chinese Restaurant
2017 S. Wells St.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
805 S. State St.

The Noodle Vietnamese
2336 S. Wentworth Ave.

Oak Street Beach Café
5700 S. Cicero Ave.

O’Briens Restaurant
1528 N. Wells St.

Original Rainbow Cone
9233 S. Western Ave.

Pazzo’s Cucina Italiana
23 E. Jackson St.

Ricobene’s on 26th St.
252 W. 26th St.

Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs
201 N. Clark St.

The Smoke Daddy
1804 W. Division St.

Star of Siam
11 E. Illinois St.

1014 W. Taylor St.

Tutto Italiano
501 S. Wells St.

Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant
6232 N. Broadway St.

Wishbone Restaurant
1001 W. Washington Blvd.

Here's a list of food trucks and corresponding concerts:

July 10, fun.
Bombay Wraps
Taquero Fusion
The Fat Shallot
The Jerk
Royal Cupcakes and Bakes
Beavers Coffee and Donuts

July 11, Robin Thicke
Taquero Fusion
Pork Chop
The Fat Shallot
Royal Cupcakes and Bakes
Beavers Coffee and Donuts

July 12, Robert Plant presents the Sensational Space Shifters
Bombay Wraps
The Salsa Truck
JB Alberto Pizza
Pork Chop
The Jerk
Chicago Cupcake
Ice Cubed

July 13, Jill Scott

Bombay Wraps
The Salsa Truck
JB Alberto Pizza
Pork Chop
Chicago Cupcake
Ice Cubed

July 14, Neon Trees

Taquero Fusion
JB Alberto Pizza
The Fat Shallot
The Jerk
Chicago Cupcake
Ice Cubed

<![CDATA[Why Prices for Roses, Vegetables, and Fish Could Go Up]]> Thu, 30 May 2013 13:30:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000003372569_722x406_31823939761.jpg Ecuador's ambassador is in Chicago to promote trade with her country. If the U.S. lets the trade agreement expire, we could pay more for everyday items.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Get Ready for Movies in the Park]]> Thu, 30 May 2013 12:44:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWMoviesInThePark.JPG Wayne shows you how to get ready to go and watch a movie outdoors.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Movies In The Park]]> Thu, 30 May 2013 12:46:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWMoviesInThePark.JPG

Now that summer is here, it's time for Movies In The Park.  More and more organizations are sponsoring outdoor movie nights and the evenings are a fun and inexpensive way to spend time under the stars with family and friends.  To make the experience as enjoyable as possible, I've put together a little checklist of ideas, tips and suggestions.  With a little advanced planning, you can be comfortable, well fed and even dry if mother nature decides to rain on your feature film.

The Basics

This is my list of the basics to have on hand.  You want to be comfortable in the park and these items are all easy and portable.  Some of the unique items, like lawn drink holders, can be found at housewares or specialty stores and I've listed where I purchased them at the end of this article.

  • Quilt or Blanket - The grass might be damp or dry areas might be dusty
  • Plastic Ground Cover - A painter's plastic drop cloth under your quilt keeps it clean
  • Umbrella - If you're bringing an umbrella, set up near the side of the crowd so you don't block anyone's view, but it's useful if there's a light mist and you want to stay and enjoy the movie
  • Plastic Trash Bags - Clean up after yourselves
  • Ravinia Table - Totally portable, disassembles and fits in a tote bag
  • Flashlight - For finding things you've dropped on the ground after the movie's over
  • Tote Bag - Oversized tote bags will just make it easy to get everything there easily
  • Folding Chairs or Beach Chairs - portable, easy to pack and carry
  • Lawn Drink Holders - These have spikes on the bottom so they hold your drink with no fear of tipping over
  • Butane Burner - great for making S'mores
  • Plastic Cups, Platters and Bowls - Avoid bringing glass to the park
  • Food Net - Keep food away from the bugs
  • Bug Repellant - Because bugs seem to like Movies In The Park, too
  • Paper Towels - Rather than napkins, just have a roll of paper towels
  • Moist Towelettes - Kids and adults are messy

The Food

Here are some easy food suggestions. This isn't a night out at Ravinia where you might get a little fancy.  It's a casual night in the park and, for the most part, it's fun to have the type of snacks that you might enjoy at a movie theater.

  • Ice Chest - For ice and beverages.  If you can get one with wheels it makes the trip to the park easier
  • Bottled Water - For both drinking and easy clean up
  • Battery Powered Blender - Nice little extra for making smoothies, but be sure not to use it during the movie because of the sound
  • Popcorn - A movie staple, pop a few bags and keep them in airtight containers to maintain freshness
  • Theater Style Candy - Nice way to recreate create the true movie experience
  • Thermos For Hot Dogs - Boil your hotdogs at home and then put fresh hot water and the dogs in a wide mouth thermos.
  • Hotdog Buns and Condiments
  • S'mores - Chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers (if you bring along the butane burner)
  • Fresh Fruit - An easy snack: apples, grapes, bananas, etc. 
  • Chips/Salsa - Another easy snack to enjoy


  • Plastic Drop Cloth - can be purchased in any home center paint department
  • Beach Chairs - beach chairs fold down and fit in a tote bag and are available at home center stores, drug stores and sporting good stores
  • Lawn Drink Holders and Ravinia Table - purchased at Crate & Barrel
  • Battery Powered Blender - The Margaritaville Frozen Drink Machine - available online
  • Butane Burner - Northwestern Cutlery
  • Plastic Bowls and Serving Plates - Walgreens

If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Wayne Johnson]]>
<![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Make Red, White & Blue Drinks]]> Thu, 23 May 2013 12:49:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWPatrioticDrinks.jpg Wayne shows you how to celebrate Memorial Day with patriotic drinks.]]> <![CDATA[Green, Organic Foods Prominent at Resto Show]]> Tue, 21 May 2013 17:28:20 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000003311890_722x406_30987843980.jpg The 2013 National Restaurant Association Show is bigger than in years past, with 60,000 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors. LeeAnn Trotter reports.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Make an Easy Summer Party Spread]]> Fri, 17 May 2013 09:56:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWSmokedBeefSliders.jpg Wayne shows you how to make tasty sandwiches sure to impress your guests.]]> <![CDATA[Master Butcher's Grilling Guide]]> Sun, 12 May 2013 08:39:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/grillingsat0511_11140410_722x406_29945411875.jpg Before you fire up that grill, check out these grilling tips from Master Butcher and owner of Zier's Prime Meats and Poultry, Dave Zier.]]> <![CDATA[Wayne's Weekend: Try Fresh Risotto Recipe]]> Thu, 09 May 2013 13:34:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/WWRissotoHero.jpg Wayne shows you how to make a summer risotto using mushrooms, asparagus, saffron and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.]]> <![CDATA[Popular Empanadas Food Truck Owners Expand Business]]> Thu, 09 May 2013 10:00:17 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/5411+empanadas.JPG

What does 5411 Empanadas stand for, besides tasty stuffed pockets served from a popular, 2-year-old Chicago food truck? 

"It's the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, Argentina," owner Nicolas Ibarzabal said. "That is where I am from, and that is where the empanada style we make [originates]. We make them the Argentinian way."

That means baked, not fried with a dough that is just a little bit thinner than others.

"I like the baked option rather than the fried," Ibarzabal said. "It is a little healthier and it is tastier."

Like many trucks in the city, 5411's offerings are made at a brick-and-mortar kitchen. Until last July, food trucks could not cook on board and only a few trucks recently were given permits to do so.

"We have our stand-alone store," manager Ricardo “Ric” Perez said. "We bake fresh daily, from oven at the store to this hotbox directly to the customer."

A tour of Chicago's food trucks wouldn't be complete without a stop for empanadas at 5411, but be prepared to wait in line. The truck did so well last summer that the owners opened a restaurant on Clark Street to get through the winter. Now sales are warming up with the temperature.

"We maybe have been doing it the longest," Ibarzabal said. "I think we have a unique product that you cannot find very easy, so I think that is our edge."

Their edge has become more widespread. A second storefront is in the works, and the owners started an empanadas delivery and catering company.

Ibarzabal credits their success to fans, Twitter followers and a growing food truck community.

"The best thing is every day, as soon as we stop, there are people already waiting for us," he said. "When we are leaving the shop, we tweet, 'Hey, we are on our way, we will be there 15 minutes.' It's impressive."

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Couple Meets, Marries, Opens Chicago Food Truck]]> Wed, 08 May 2013 11:32:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/kye+food+truck+fat+shallot.JPG

For one Chicago couple, first came love, then came marriage, then came grilling pulled pork on a food truck.

The Fat Shallot is one of the city's newest mobile eateries, and the duo behind the food truck has a whole lotta love for each other and good eating.

Sam Barron and Sarah Weitz went to the same high school and same college, but it wasn't until they bonded over butter that things really started heating up.

"We discussed the importance of butter," Barron said, "and thought, 'Oh, this could really be something.'"

Weitz is a dietician and Barron brings the culinary chops to the relationship thanks to stints in kitchens in New Orleans and at Chicago's Everest and the revamped Pump Room.

"The idea to be able to work together and be together versus him coming home from his job at 2 in the morning, this way we could be together," Weitz said. "Sam could be creative and cook whatever he wants to and we work for ourselves."

They were married in June and now they're in business, and their gourmet sandwich truck just got the OK from the city to hit the road. Their menu includes pulled pork, salami and grilled cheese sandwiches, as well as sides such as tarragon slaw and roasted potato salad.

"Our whole concept is big hearty sandwiches," Barron said.

"I always get upset with a sandwich if I am still hungry later even if it tasted good," he said.

The truck's name is a play on one of Chicago's nicknames, The Big Onion, and though the shallot has a more subtle taste and vibe, there is nothing subtle about some of the homemade remoulades served off the truck.