It’s almost Mother’s Day and the Chicago Cubs are actually exciting to watch. A bunch of scrappy guys like Tony Campana and Bryan LaHair who are surprising everyone by playing some pretty good ball, during this chilly spring in the Friendly Confines.
Last’s night’s game, which was reminiscent of the 1988 “fog bowl” game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, was quite entertaining albeit really, really cold. And just like in 1988, when the Bears won, the Chicago Cubs prevailed 5-1 over the beast of the NL east Atlanta Braves Jeff Samardzija picked up his 4th win of the young season and pitched a heck of game—allowing five hits, two walks, one run and striking out seven. Bryan LaHair and Ian Stewart hit back to back home runs in the fourth. Geovany Soto put the exclamation point on the game with a 2-run homer in the 8th after Carlos Marmol survived a rough inning. Marmol came out and walked two batters while the crowd booed and implored Dale Sveum to bring in someone else—anyone else—to get the Cubs out of the jam. Marmol prevailed and got out of the inning none the worse for wear. The Cubs held in the top of the 9th with some great obstructed view pitching by James Russell…remember the fog? After a Chipper Jones double, the Braves had life. With no outs and Jones on 2nd, Jason Heyward struck out. I don’t know how Campana saw the long fly by Tyler Pastornicky let alone caught it as he raced toward the ivy. The spotters in the box thought Matt Diaz struck out to end the game—but it was a foul tip—so the “Cubs Win” sign flashed a little prematurely. Two pitches later he really did strike out and the Cubs won to take the first in a three game home stand and moved out of sole possession of last place.
On the way out, I heard two comments through my tightly tied hooded sweatshirt: “Boy, it’s really cold!” and “Man, this team is really fun to watch!”
Let’s hope the cold spring night games at Wrigley and the Cell are coming to a close. Tonight’s game looks to be a little warmer. We can also hope the “fun to watch” continues into October. In case the winter-like evenings aren’t quite over, here’s a quick and easy recipe for a soup to heat up when you get home:
Easy Beef Vegetable Soup
Brown 1 pound of stew meat and one chopped onion in canola oil
Add one large bottle of vegetable juice (I use Spicy V-8)
Add one bag of frozen mixed vegetables
Cook about 30 minutes until vegetables are hot and flavors begin to meld
The other sporting event happening tonight is over at the United Center. Game 5: the Bulls vs. the Sixers tips off at 8:30p.m. If you asked anyone who would win this series a week ago, even without Derrick Rose, the answer was the Bulls. With Joakim Noah also likely out for tonight’s game, plans of Playoff BBQs and watch parties are going the way of the Blackhawks…to next season. If you’re planning a get together to cheer the Bulls on toward Game 6, how about an easy spinach and (don’t choke) artichoke dip to start?
Spinach & Artichoke Dip
1 8 oz package of frozen chopped spinach defrosted
1 15 oz can artichoke hearts cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup mayo (can be low-fat)
1 cup mozzarella cheese (can be part-skim)
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 clove of garlic or 1 tspn garlic powder
Pinch of salt
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
Mix salt in with defrosted spinach. Add artichoke hearts, mayo, cheeses and garlic. Add a dash of hot sauce if desired. Spread into a “Pam” sprayed deep pie pan or quiche dish. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips or mini-rye breads. Recipe can be easily doubled, but allow for additional cooking time. If you are in a hurry, start it in the microwave, but finish in the oven so the edges get crispy.
Or, because of the late tip, you prefer a little dessert with your playoff basketball, how about an easy brownie recipe to serve to your friends and family.
Graham Cracker Brownies
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
Mix all three ingredients together in a bowl. Spray an 8×8 pan with non-stick cooking spray and pour the mixture into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t over bake. Cool a few minutes, cut and serve.
In honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday, I’ll share one more recipe that isn’t really steeped in sporting tradition, but it’s pretty good and relatively easy to make—but you need to think ahead and do your prep work on Saturday! It’s easy enough that dad and the kids can make it to pamper mom a little bit on Sunday morning. Enjoy!
French Toast Casserole
Cube day-old challah (egg twist bread) set aside
Beat 6 large eggs
1 cup evaporated skim milk
2 tspns cinnamon
1 tspn vanilla
¼ tspn nutmeg
In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. Mix until ingredients are well blended. Add challah cubes to wet mixture. Mix until bread is well coated. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Cover lightly and refrigerate overnight.
Topping (put on “the next morning”)
1/2 cup melted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
In the morning, melt the butter and brown sugar. Toss in the nuts. Mix until the nuts are covered. Pour over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Serve with a variety of syrups.