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Love is in the air: Five fabulous weekend getaways to celebrate Valentine's Day

Love is in the air: Five fabulous weekend getaways to celebrate Valentine's Day

We are nearing the day of the year where expectations run high to surprise and spoil the love of your life. And while there’s nothing wrong with flowers or candy or a little bling, an experience of special time spent together away from the daily grind is sure to win you some points. Here are some special places to consider:

American Club, Kohler Wisconsin

The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin offers luxurious accommodations that are oozing of romanticism. The spacious guest rooms in the Tudor-style hotel features elegant Kohler showers or whirlpool baths.

The historic property dates back to 1918 and was built for Walter J. Kohler, Sr. who used the residence as housing for the immigrant laborers who came to work for the Kohler Co., which produced plumbing fixtures and fine furnishings.

Shari Maher of Crown Point recalled a romantic trip there that was a surprise from her husband shortly after the birth of her daughter. The two enjoyed a horse and carriage ride and spent time in their room. It was so romantic that she said they opted to have their meals in the room.

“There were glass hallways, alcoves with lit fireplaces, romantic dinners in the room, chocolate covered strawberries with champagne on the bath side, a moon-lit carriage ride,” she said. “After just having had a new baby and no time alone, the bath tub for two was the most romantic touch of our getaway.”

Visit americanclubresort.com for more information on couples packages and spa packages.

Sybaris

With three suburban locations, as well as sites in Indianapolis and Wisconsin, the Sybaris offers accommodations for couples only with whirlpool tubs and private pools. If you are really looking to impress, there’s the multi-level Chalet Swimming Pool Suite with private garage at the Frankfort, Ill. location. A 22-foot swimming pool is kept at a toasty 90 - 92 degrees. The bedroom loft has a 10-foot water slide, tropical waterfall, fireplace, hot tub and misting steam room.

If you’re not able to get away overnight, there are also afternoon getaways for a four-hour time slot, available seven days a week. Specials can be viewed online at sybaris.com and you can also subscribe via-text to receive additional discounts.

French Lick Resort

The French Lick Resort in southern Indiana is comprised of two historic hotels and scenic grounds that return you to an era of elegance.

“The resort is a wonderful destination for couples from Northwest Indiana looking for a getaway,” said Dyan Duncan, Public Relations Manager at French Lick Resort. “Couples can be as active or relaxed as they want. One of my favorite things is to see couples relaxing under the dome on one of our chaise lounges. It's a great space to just unplug and reconnect.”

Both hotels offer top notch dining and spas, with a casino situated next to the French Lick Hotel. The West Baden Hotel is an architectural marvel that was dubbed the “Eighth wonder of the world” when it opened in 1902, and it has a domed atrium that spans 200 feet. For the best vantage point, reserve a 6th floor balcony room overlooking the atrium.

Plenty of fun activities provide entertainment should you choose to venture outside your room, from a live jazz club to a historic tour to a chocolate festival taking place on Feb. 15.

Check the website, frenchlick.com for Valentine’s packages that are good throughout the month of February.

Drury Lane, Oak Brook

Dinner and a show can be a nice way to lead into a romantic overnight. At Drury Lane in Oakbrook, you can take in a live show (currently the fun production "Young Frankenstein" is scheduled through mid-March), enjoy a dinner on site or visit one of the many trendy and cozy restaurants or wine bars in Oak Brook, including Wildfire, Mon Ami Gabi, Seasons 52, Antico Posto, Gibson’s Steakhouse, Maggiano’s or the Reel Club.

If staying at Drury Lane on a Saturday night, you can enjoy an extravagant brunch buffet on Sunday morning.

Nancy Greenwood of Dyer has stayed at the Hilton at Drury Lane several times and recommended it as a romantic getaway. “It's extremely quiet and next to all the Oak Brook restaurants. It has the most comfy king beds and giant bathrooms,” she said.

Visit drurylaneoakbrook for more information.

Acme Hotel Company, Chicago

This hip boutique hotel and its cool-vibe make it a winner for a unique Valentine’s getaway with your significant other. The hotel is offering a “Racy Romance Package” that includes two tickets to the Feb 14, 11:30 p.m. burlesque show, two custom shooters at The Berkshire Room, a gift assortment with garter, massage lotion, racy romance novel and two jarred cheesecakes from The Berkshire Room. And the best part is there’s no need to rush out in the morning. Sleep in and relax and take advantage of the 3 p.m. late check out. You’re also just a couple blocks from the Magnificent Mile, where great shopping and dining options offer more fun to extend your time in the city.

The package is available Feb. 14 and 15 (show is on Feb. 14 only) and is $245 for a standard king room or $325 for a suite. visit acmehotelcompany.com for more information.

February 09, 2014 10:30 pm Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Six

Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Six

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

Finally, the Super bowl is here and guests are coming over for what should be an all-time great social gathering. Everything is planned. There’s the big championship game, but more importantly the foods are going to be memorable. Your buffet line even has little cards set out where the foods your friends are bringing will be placed to gain the main eye appeal. This day is going to be perfect. Finally, you can relax.

Wait a minute, is that the phone, or a referee’s whistle? Oh no, a friend tells you that she has become victim of NW Indiana weather and is too ill to come. Of course she and her husband’s absence will leave an empty feeling in your gathering. Worse yet, their absence will leave a couple of empty spots on your buffet table. Now things aren’t so perfect, and it’s too late to prepare something else to fill the void, right?

Not to worry. Here are some easy quick ideas that can fill the holes in your buffet table. Best of all, you can make a quick trip to the market and buy these items, put them out and people will eat and enjoy them. And your buffet won’t miss a beat, or “hut” and no one is going to throw a penalty flag.

My first suggestion is Johnsonville® Summer Sausage. We put out slices of this spicy treat at a huge Christmas party buffet that had Turkey, Ham, cakes, cookies, candy, wings and more. It was funny. Everyone ate the sausage first; even the health nuts that were present were seen making numerous trips to the sausage. Later we put a small bowl of FRENCH'S® Spicy Brown Mustard out and the group ate three long rolls of the sausage and a half bottle of the mustard. As cousin Eddie would say, “It was gooood!”

Another gap-filler is a plate of great cheeses. Try sliced Parmesan pieces from a wedge. This cheese, as a snack, has a powerful taste and will have everyone asking, “What kind of cheese is this?”

Lastly, have a silver/pewter bowl of salted Cashews. This gourmet nut will please. Buy two big sacks of these at the bulk food aisle so that you have enough to refill the bowl, many times.

Remember, it’s never too late to fill a void in the buffet line with something the guests will enjoy.

January 31, 2014 12:00 pm Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Five

Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Five

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

Here’s a very easy, tasty, Buffalo wings flavored pulled chicken dip that will be a great centerpiece at your Super bowl party. Serve it in what the French call a “boule” or a round loaf of bread. You can buy these at Fresh Market, Panera Bread or even a supermarket. Avoid sweet bread like a Hawaiian style.

Ingredients

1 large round loaf of bread

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

1 cup ranch dressing

1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

½ cup Frank’s® Buffalo Wing Sauce

1½ lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Make sure the foil sheets are long enough to wrap/cover the bread. Slice off the top of the round bread and take out most all the bread.

In a large skillet cook the chicken breasts in olive oil until mostly done. Remove the chicken and let it cool. Now use the same skillet to mix together the other ingredients. Add the room temperature cream cheese, then the ranch dressing, Frank’s buffalo sauce, and lastly the shredded cheese. Cook on low heat. Take the cooled chicken breasts and pull the meat away with a fork. Now stir in the pulled chicken.

Fill up the boule with the dip to the top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. The dip will reduce a bit while baking so you can fill it to the very top. Since boules come in different sizes you may have a little dip leftover or not enough. If you don’t have enough to fill the boule you can stir in more shredded cheese or cooked chicken if you have it. If you have extra you can cook it in a small covered baking dish to use to replenish the bread bowl as people eat the dip. You can also just eat the dip cold.

Top with sliced green onion if you’d like. Serve the dip with tortilla chips, crackers, veggie sticks, or anything else you like.

January 29, 2014 12:00 pm Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Four

Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Four

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

These days going out to lunch at some upscale $10 lunch spot, means that you’re going to see “sliders” on the menu. And these simple, beefy, oniony burgers can cost as much as $3 each at the most costly of these places, like Ruth’s Chris. The Seattle Times just ran a feature article (1-12-14) ranking the top ten places to buy these burgers on Puget Sound. Don’t you feel relieved that their local “West Coast Yuppies” now will know where to buy sliders? Thank God we Midwesterners know about White Castle and those delicious treats. And we don’t have to pay a fortune to get them.

Since these little burgers are such a national craze, we decided to show you how to make your own sliders, at home, so that a couple of dozen of these treats can grace your snack table for your Super bowl party. Or you can make them at your tailgate parties.

Copy Cat Sliders

Ingredients

1 Lb. Ground Beef 80% lean

12 Buns (Pepperidge Farm or Sara Lee make slider/mini buns)

One large onion (2 cups diced)

Dill pickle chips

Salt and Pepper

Mustard

Preparation

Dice the onions and place them into a bowl. Cover them with water. Let them sit in the bowl until needed.

Using a pencil, and a ruler, line a sheet of parchment paper into a dozen three inch squares. Flatten out the meat as evenly as possible onto the paper. Then place another sheet of parchment on top and then roll the meat flat with a rolling pin. The meat should be ¼ inch thick. Trim the edges each time you roll so that the meat can be put back on top of the pattern as part of these burgers. Cut the meet into squares along the pencil lines with a large knife.

Place the meat, with parchment, onto a cookie sheet and then into the freezer for 25 minutes. Then take the meat out and punch 5 holes in each square with the large end of a chop stich, doll rod, drinking straw etc. Replace the meat, on the cookie sheet with the parchment into the freezer for at least an hour until frozen.

On a griddle or in a frying pan spoon out the water soaked onions and heat them until they become slightly crispy.

Remove the meat from frozen meet from the freezer and the squares will easily break apart. Then place the burger squares on top of the onion and cook five to seven minutes. Salt and pepper the meat slightly. When the burgers begin to be done open the buns and place the bottom half of a bun, face down, onto each burger. Then place the top of the bun face down on top. The onion and water steam will cook the beef so that you can just pick each burger off with a spatula and place them on a serving platter, onion side up

Serve with a dill pickle chip and mustard.

Makes 12 burgers

January 20, 2014 12:00 pm Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Three

Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Three

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

Here’s another recipe for those wings everybody likes. My friends at The Fresh Market tell me that people buy more wings for the Super Bowl than any other time of the year. This time you don’t need to grill or deep fry them. Use the oven, and you’ll still get raves.

Crispy Oven Baked Buffalo Wings

Ingredients

2.5 lbs. chicken wings

I Cup FRANK'S® REDHOT® Buffalo Wings Sauce

2 cups Flour

Salt and Pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash wings and clip off their tips with poultry shears (or knife). Cut wings at the joint into two parts each. Put wings on paper towels to dry.

In a gallon size re-sealable plastic bag put in two cups of all-purpose flour and a tablespoon of kosher salt and teaspoon of black pepper. Place wings in the flour bag and coat them with the mixture. Remove the wings with tongs, shaking off excess flour.

Place wings on a sheet pan rack with the pan below. Place pan into the oven and bake 35 minutes. Remove wings and place them into a bowl of the buffalo wing sauce to coat them slightly. Replace the wings onto the rack and cook them five or 10 minutes more until they crisp slightly.

Remove the wings and let them cool. Then place them in the refrigerator overnight in a zip bag. On game day heat the wings and then re-sauce them and serve. We’ve used a slow cooker to just cover the wings with sauce and keep them warm. That makes them a little wetter if you like that.

Serve with celery and blue cheese or ranch dressing.

4 servings

January 13, 2014 12:00 pm Photos

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National Zoo prepares panda cub for debut in DC

National Zoo prepares panda cub for debut in DC

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bao Bao, the giant panda cub at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, is getting used to seeing fans outside her panda house enclosure as she prepares for her public debut this month.

Bao Bao (bow-bow) had a tryout Monday in front of the media. After waking up in her exhibit around 8 a.m., she spent the morning crawling, climbing, following mother Mei Xiang (may-shong) and poking her head over rocks to a chorus of camera clicks.

For the most part, Bao Bao is oblivious to all the commotion but aware people are around, panda curator Brandie Smith said.

"She's got a great disposition. She doesn't even seem to notice the folks who are watching her, her adoring public," Smith said. "Her focus is mostly on Mom right now."

Bao Bao will make her public debut Jan. 18 and may be visible inside or outside, depending on the weather and her mother's choices for any given day. Zoo members will have an early preview beginning Saturday.

By the time she goes on public display, Bao Bao will be nearly 5 months old. She's still a baby, zookeepers said. She sleeps about half the day and plays while she's awake, rolling and tumbling on her head, gnawing on bamboo and poking at her mother.

That routine will continue when people are allowed to stream through the panda house. Smith said they won't make Bao Bao or her mother do anything they don't want to do. They will bring her out into the enclosure for viewing, conduct some training sessions with her and sometimes weigh her in public view.

"But if the cub chooses to go back into the den, or if mom chooses to take her back into the den, we won't force her to be out on display," Smith said.

If Bao Bao is distressed or hungry, she will make a contact call for her mother, and the cub will huff or honk if the humans take too much of her time, Smith said.

In recent months, Bao Bao has become more active, moving around on her own and exploring the environment. Now she's working on climbing, but some rocks are still too big for her tiny frame.

And Bao Bao has been spending more time in her exhibit area — a good sign for visitors who want a chance to see her.

During a VIP tour of the zoo in December, actor Hugh Jackman was allowed to peek inside the panda house and found Bao Bao in full view. He posted a picture on Instagram.

Bao Bao has turned out to be calm and relaxed, more subdued than older brother Tai Shan (ty-shawn), said biologist Laurie Thompson, who has worked with the pandas for years.

"Tai Shan was a little more vocal when we did things like weigh him, where she seems kind of relaxed about it," she said. "She's like her dad. Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN) is very relaxed and kind of goes with the flow. So I'm thinking she got that from him."

January 13, 2014 9:00 am Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Two

Tailgating 2013: Super Bowl Party Two

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

What’s with all these mac and cheese recipes? Is it the comfort food aspect or maybe the ability to use an old dish as an inspiration to create something special? Here’s another mac and cheese recipe we received, from a reader, that would make a hit for your Super Bowl party, especially if you have anyone under the age of 40 in attendance. This age group developed a love for Buffalo wings in the 90’s. Basically, these spicy wings are chicken in Frank’s Cayenne Pepper Sauce and butter. You too can send us your special recipe by emailing to drozda@tailgatershandbook.com.

Upscale Buffalo-Chicken Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

1 lb. of your favorite neat pasta (doesn’t have to be macaroni)

1 lb. cubed white meat chicken.

2 cups heavy cream (or whipping cream)

8 oz. shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese

8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup of Frank’s Redhot Buffalo Wing Sauce (or Frank’s original Cayenne Pepper Sauce)

¼ cup flour

½ stick of butter

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cook the pasta al dente (not too soft)

Grill two skinless chicken breasts then slice them ¼ to ½ inches thick. Now cube the slices.

In a medium saucepan simmer cream, add salt and pepper then set aside.

In a large sauce pan melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, then above cream and spices. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Add cheeses and Frank’s sauce and mix well.

Place the pasta in a large bowl and then mix in cheese/cream mixture, and chicken. Spray a large casserole dish with Non-Stick cooking spray. Spread pasta mixture into dish. Sprinkle top with grated Parmesan cheese. Cook 30 to 40 minutes until bubbly and the top is crispy.

Serves 8

January 06, 2014 12:00 pm Photos

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Eating Your Way through the Danube River Christmas Markets

Eating Your Way through the Danube River Christmas Markets

If I learned anything about the numerous, colorful Christkindlmarkts (Christmas markets) along the winding Danube River in Austria and Germany, it's that the foods are a powerful draw. A very powerful draw.

Eating your way through the once-a-year extravaganzas that pop up at the beginning of the Advent season between Vienna and Nuremberg seems to be the most popular activity at these month-long food fests.

Millions of people jam large and small village plazas like Passau, Linz, Regensburg—and even tiny Melk, Austria—to imbibe in the alcohol-laced hot Glühwein, chomp down a plate of piping hot potato pancakes, or envelope an oversized, calorie-laden deep-fried jelly-filled donut to top off the evening. And that's just for starters.

At most markets, fully 50 percent or more of the market stalls (it's said there are as many as 2,500 different Christkindlmarkts in Germany) feature some sort of food or drink. The variety of foods seems endless, and the lines of people that form to taste these hearty foods sometimes seems endless as well.

MARKET MANTRA

The market mantra is if it's sweet, it's hot or if it's fried, it will attract a large crowd of hungry customers, who'll likely re-visit the stall more than once during the Advent season. The beverages served at the markets are just as beguiling.

By the river in downtown Nuremberg, and not far from the very famous 160-stall Nuremberger Market, the largest punch bowl in the world helps satisfy the thirst of thousands of young adults who camp out for hours to socialize and sample the hot rum. The copper punch bowl, as large as a small car, symbolizes the extent to which market visitors are enthralled by what goes in their stomachs at these affairs. And it seems to work: Christkindlmarkts are not about to vanish any time soon in the Germanic lands, and they grow in popularity every year.

As one middle-aged Polish woman said in her broken English while gazing over the multi-acre Vienna Rathaus Market, “I moved to Vienna 22 years ago, I've been to each market since, and I am very happy to see it every year.”

I followed the Christmas markets two ways: by boat and by train. I booked a Viking River cruise for five nights between Vienna and Nuremberg, enjoying the comfort—and the first-class foods—of the Viking Aegir, as well as the many guided tours that are part of the ship’s itinerary. This includes the Christmas markets along the legendary Danube, a fascinating, beautiful river landscape that was no less than the “Route of the Emperors and Kings” when Roman emperors and crusaders traveled it, along with King Louis VII of France and Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa with their entourages.

As Europe’s second-longest river, the Danube has been a vital means of transportation for 2,000 years, and today provides a water link between Germany and Austria. The Christmas markets flourish along this stretch of the river.

Following my arrival in Nuremberg and after visiting its market that goes back to the mid-16th century, I backtracked with a Rail Europe Intercity Express (ICE) train to Linz, and then finally back to Vienna to visit two more Viennese markets, to make my market tally 19 markets in eight fun-and-food-filled days.

CHRISTMAS PUNCH

The many beverage stands also offer Christmas punch which can consist of combinations of tea, red wine, rum, fresh lemon and orange juice and spices. You can also ask for it without the rum. Either way, I think I easily consumed five mugs of it on this trip.

“There is a difference in the types of punch served from market to market,” said one man who grew up in Vienna's inner neighborhoods and knows his Glühweins and hot spiced beverages. This advice encourages visitors to try more than one vendor’s beverage stand.

This is Europe, so you won't find milk shakes, hot coffee or soda at the markets, but you will find bags of coffee beans and tea for sale to take home with you.

In medieval Regensburg, you can load up on “Original Regensburger Pumpkin Soup” if it’s cold outside, or you can purchase chocolate tools. Yes, I’m talking hammers, saws, screwdrivers, calipers and door locks—even water faucets—that look like the real thing, but are incredibly edible chocolates.

A MARZIPAN MOMENT

If you have a sweet tooth for marzipan, look no further: the Christmas markets along the Danube are your friend. The sugary taste of marzipan can be purchased in the form of marzipan candy bars, in the shape of small animals or imitation fruits and vegetables, or even in the shape of a large loaf of bread, called Marzipanbrot.

There’s also the Schneeball, which I found in Passau, which is a pastry made of strips of dough rolled into a ball and decorated with icing sugar, hence the name “snowball.” A typical cake found in the Rothenburg ob der Tauber area of Germany, the Schneeball comes with a variety of coatings and is usually about 3 1/2” in diameter. Check with your doctor before inhaling one of these temptations.

Also popular in Nuremberg since the 14th century are their famous 3 1/2-inch-long white sausages called the Queen of Bratwurst; you'll get three of them stuffed on a large bun with sauerkraut and mustard—hold the ketchup.

A BOARING PROPOSITION

How about a wild boar sandwich? At the beautiful Schloss Thurn and Taxis market, held on the sprawling wooded palace grounds with fire pots blazing to warm visitors and bright torches lining the path through the market, the boars are shot in the palace woods, the meat cooked on a roaring fire and served in a quaint wooded hut. For the not-so-adventurous, the booth also offers a bratwurst sandwich.

The food possibilities continue with cured hams and delicate cheeses which come wrapped and labeled from regions not far from the Christmas markets. The Maroni—roasted chestnut— vendors, like to cook large slices of potatoes in accompanying roasting pans and serve the nuts and potatoes as a “meal” to customers. The “roasters” usually sit atop large wooden barrels to attract attention.

Or, you can build your dream waffle or your dream crepe with a large assortment of toppings, from whipped cream to fruits to chocolate sauce.

Along with the large variety of foods, the Christmas markets offer tiny lighted ceramic villages in various colors —houses, churches and half-timbered multi-story structures, all with hipped roofs like those seen in typical German or Austrian villages. Then there are natural wood, hand made Christmas toys and decorations from the Erzgebirge area of Germany carved by craftsmen whose families have been doing this for generations.

Beautiful, large multi-pointed stars, called sterne, are also available in red, yellow, blue, white and other colors to hang in a window or from a ceiling to brighten the holidays. Along these same lines, you can shop for small glass bowels with painted designs of villages, trees or other motifs that when lit with a candle from the inside, glow throughout the room. Shopping, visiting with friends over a tasty Glühwein and devouring warm comfort food is what the colorful Christmas markets are all about. You can always start that new diet later.

Don Heimburger's grandfather came from Ottenheim, Germany, a small village near the Black Forest. Don says he's never been to a Christmas market he didn't like.

For more information: www.germany.travel; www.austria.info

January 06, 2014 8:00 am Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Bowl Game TV Party Foods

Tailgating 2013: Bowl Game TV Party Foods

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

This time of year, most of us are forced to give up outdoor tailgating at high school, college, and professional football games. We do have, however several football TV gatherings. Then there’s also the Super Bowl Party. Ah yes, even though you may not be a person that wants to watch a football game of teams you could care less about, the Super Bowl party is a social event and a chance to dazzle one’s friends and guests.

Here’s a recipe for Mac and Cheese that is not that bland kid’s stuff that your mother served you as a child. The ingredients for this dish are unique “Food Network” type items such as white truffle oil, shitake mushrooms, Adams Reserve cheddar, and Radiatore pasta. Your problem might become one of finding a grocery store that has the ingredients. We use the Fresh Market stores that always seem to have everything!

Up Scale Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

1 lb. Radiatore spiral pasta

6 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup all-purpose Flour

3 cups cream, heated

6 oz. Adams Reserve sharp cheddar cheese, grated

6 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated

4 oz. PREMOO gouda-style whole milk cheese

4 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup of diced fresh Portabella Mushrooms, sautéed

10 slices of lean thick bacon

1 cup sourdough breadcrumbs

1 cup fresh shitake mushrooms, quartered

1/4 teaspoon salt & ground black pepper

2 pieces of grilled chicken, sliced

White Truffle Oil

Preparation: (1 hour)

Night before — Take sourdough bread and create 1 cup bread crumbs, set aside covered in a paper towel.

Day or preparation — Preheat oven to 350 F.

Boil pasta until slightly underdone (8 min.) & drain. It will cook more in the oven.

In a small pan sauté 1/2 cup diced portabella mushrooms, set aside.

In a medium saucepan simmer cream, add salt & pepper then set aside.

In a large sauce pan melt 4 Tbsp. of butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, then cream. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Add Cheddar, Premoo & Jack cheeses mixing well.

In an extra-large bowl place pasta, mix in cheese mixture, add chicken, and sautéed mushrooms.

Fold in Gorgonzola.

Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray, or grease with butter. Spread pasta mixture into dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top.

Melt 1 Tbsp. butter and drip over crumbs.

Bake in oven, uncovered 40 minutes and lightly browned on top.

Cook bacon, drain, pat off excess grease, and crumble. Cook remaining mushrooms in small amount of bacon grease while pasta is cooking, set aside.

Once top of pasta dish is lightly browned and done remove from oven.

Serve in bowls, top each with crumbled bacon and mushrooms. Drizzle white truffle oil around edges of pasta and serve.

Serves: 8

December 27, 2013 12:00 pm Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Packing Up After the Season

Tailgating 2013: Packing Up After the Season

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

With the recent cold snap following another cold spell, it’s probably time to pack up for the season. After all, the high schools finished their football games weeks ago, and except for bowl games, the colleges have too. Bears and Colts fans also need to think about the health of their tailgating guests and “give it up” until next season.

When packing up for the year a tailgater needs to consider several things. They first have to clean all their equipment. Then they have to solve the puzzle of where to store the stuff. If your garage is like both of ours, fitting everything in so you know where to find it, next year, is like solving a crossword puzzle. Some parts need to be figured out from the placement of others. Assuming that you exercise hygienic cleaning and storage, there still may be one more consideration equally as important.

Most of us have a tendency to forget. Some days just finding our keys, cell phones or even the TV remote take all our brain power. So wouldn’t it make sense to make some notes as you pack up the tailgating gear? Here are some helpful thoughts:

• Make a map of where everything is stored.

• Evaluate every piece of gear to determine if it will last another season or it needs to be replaced.

• Make a list of gear you needed, but didn’t have this season.

• Take this list with you as sales appear during the off-season. Buy your equipment before the spring line comes out with its higher pricing.

Most tailgaters watch football on TV, this time of the year, and in doing so they need a great snack that will get them through the game and the food commercials. This is our world famous Chili Con Queso.

December 22, 2013 12:00 pm Photos

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Tailgating 2013: More Christmas Shopping for the Tailgater

Tailgating 2013: More Christmas Shopping for the Tailgater

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

As we said last week, now is a good time to do Christmas shopping for that tailgater on your list because every merchant seems to have a pre-Christmas sale going. Tailgating gadgets, which are basically camping gear, are marked down further because they are out-of-season. If you think about it, probably the only person that thinks camping gear is in season at this time of the year is someone who wants to try out for that Survivor Man series on TV featuring eight days lost in a Norwegian winter.

During the season, we have given you lots of ideas for neat gifts but visit our web site for an up-to-date list of suggestions, with photos, details, and where-to-buy information (TailgatersHandbook.com). And don’t forget that new aspect of tailgating because we now have far too many noon-starting games – breakfast! (Just try to tell your kids that all games used to start at 1 p.m. - they’ll never believe you!)

Noon games mean we need to start tailgating no later than 10 a.m. and that’s a perfect time, as the British say, for a ”proper breakfast.” And that doesn’t mean just a cup of fast food coffee and a muffin with egg and cheese. The tailgate host gets a chance to shine by offering a real, “just-like-Mom-used-to-make” breakfast with good hot coffee, eggs, bacon or sausage (heck – why not both) and hot biscuits or toast. Such a heartwarming meal is easy if one has the right equipment.

You can brew a great pot/carafe of coffee at your tailgate with a Coleman propane coffee maker. It’s just like your coffee maker on the kitchen counter, only powered by propane instead of electricity. Then there’s the Coleman two-burner stove and oven, which also works on propane and easily packs into your car. Its oven holds baking-dish size items on two shelves and the burners are just right for two skillets. Buy your tailgater one of these and you’ll see smiles all around for seasons to come.

For either tailgating or that big shopping day, here’s another bar recipe.

December 13, 2013 12:00 pm Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Christmas Shopping 101 for the Tailgater

Tailgating 2013: Christmas Shopping 101 for the Tailgater

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

Now is the perfect time to think about Christmas gifts for the tailgater. The pre-Christmas sales are in full swing and tailgating gear, a lot of which is camping gear, is out of season and marked down in price for clearance. With plenty of opportunities for good buys, make sure you put some thought into your gift choices.

The important thing to remember, buying tailgating gear for a loved one is like buying a tie - they usually will not like your choice. To minimize that risk, why not have them indicate what they would like? Go online to tailgatershandbook.com and check our Christmas gift suggestions. Ask them to pick out items they want and then you can buy online, or look for these things in local stores. Next week we’ll highlight some specific products. Here’s a general-category, starter list to get the discussion going:

• Coolers

• Tailgating flags and poles

• Folding tables and chairs

• Grills or portable stoves

• Tents or canopies and weights to hold them down in the wind

For that big shopping day you can start things out right with these Cinnamon Bars and a good cup of coffee.

December 09, 2013 12:00 am Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Thanksgiving Week Tailgate Party with Turkey Soup

Tailgating 2013: Thanksgiving Week Tailgate Party with Turkey Soup

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

It’s a few days after Thanksgiving and chances are, you are going to be having a cool—even cold-weather—tailgate. This may be the perfect opportunity for a delicious treat using food you already have on hand. Why not use what’s left of the Thanksgiving turkey as the basic ingredient for a warm and hearty gourmet soup! Starting with the stock, here’s our favorite recipe.

Turkey Soup

Preparing Soup Stock:

1. Remove and set aside all the usable meat from the turkey carcass for adding to the soup later.

2. Breakup the larger bones of the carcass so they don't take as much room in the pot. Put all the bones and skin into a large stockpot and cover with cold water, plus an inch. Add drippings that weren't used to make gravy, and non-liver giblets that haven't been used. Add a yellow onion that has been quartered, some chopped carrots, parsley, thyme, a bay leaf, celery tops and some peppercorns.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to bring the liquid to a bare simmer. Skim off any floaties as they rise to the surface.

4. Add about 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper (this depends on how big your turkey is - you can always add salt/pepper later).

5. Cook for at least 4 hours (uncovered or partially uncovered) so the stock reduces, occasionally skimming off any foam from the surface.

6. Remove the bones and veggies and strain the stock through a very fine mesh strainer.

Soup Preparation:

With the stock made, add chopped carrots, onions, and celery in equal parts. Add some parsley and a couple cloves of garlic; then add seasonings: poultry seasoning, sage, thyme, marjoram and/or a chicken bouillon cube.

Cook at a bare simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Take plenty of the remaining turkey meat you reserved earlier and cube it into bite-sized pieces and add to the soup; then salt and pepper to taste.

Sometimes a dash or two of Frank’s cayenne pepper sauce gives the soup a nice little kick. Cool the soup overnight in the fridge or outside on your porch or deck, assuming the temperature is cold enough.

Game Day:

The morning of the game, you should spoon off any fat from the top of the soup pot before heating. Boil a large bag (16 oz.) of wagon wheel noodles (Aldante). Heat the soup and once it is hot, add the cooked noodles. Pack the soup pot in a cooler surrounded by towels and newspaper. This cooler will keep it warm traveling to the game or, if possible, you can reheat it on your grill or stove in the parking lot. Serve with slices from a French baguette for dipping. For a final touch on what is probably the last tailgate of the season, you can serve slices of your pumpkin or other holiday pies for dessert.

December 02, 2013 12:00 am Photos

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Tailgating 2013: Bar Cookies

Tailgating 2013: Bar Cookies

Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.

The American tailgater’s favorite and most practical dessert is the bar cookie. Unless you are from the Scandinavian “upper Midwest”, then it’s just called a bar. Bar cookies consist of batter or other ingredients that are poured or pressed into a pan (sometimes in multiple layers), and cut into cookie-sized squares. As upper Midwesterners, my co-author Bob and I are fluent in “Minnesotan” and simply refer to them in native slang as “bars”. We should say that most bars require baking before cutting but no-bake varieties are also popular.

Bars have evolved from most any pie or candy imaginable and have been a regular part of our diet from childhood. Who hasn’t eaten, and then dreamed of, brownies or Rice Krispy bars? And remember treats like date nut and pecan bars during Christmas season. So why use bars as a tailgate treat?

Bars are great for tailgating because they are easy to make, easy to preserve, easy to transport, and best of all - easy to eat. You generally don’t need a fork or even a plate to eat bars – just use your hands.

When the first edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook was written, a friend of ours Marie Simmons, offered us her collection of delicious bar recipes from her book "Bar Cookies A to Z". Marie was food editor for Cuisine magazine at the time and has also been a columnist for Bon Appetit magazine and The Los Angeles Times newspaper. Here is an adaptation of one of Marie’s bar recipes — great for tailgating or the upcoming holiday season.

November 26, 2013 12:00 pm Photos

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