This weekend I'm taking my boys down to Urbana-Champaign for their first Illini homecoming game. So for the last week or so tailgating recipes and images of the Illinois defense crushing Northwestern QB Dan Persa have been running through my mind.
Yep, I'm a proud Illini, but not too proud to give a shout out to the NU alumni who just published "Willie's Wildcat Cookbook."
The book, a weighty paperback, contains more than 600 recipes from NU coaches and former coaches, former athletes, players' parents and athletic boosters and others who have a connection to the Evanston school. You'll find tailgate-friendly fare like Brian Kardos' Game Time Chili (Kardos played on the 1996 Rose Bowl team) and dinner-party pleasers like Coffee-Rubbed Filet Mignon with Ancho Mushroom Sauce from celebrity chef Bobby Flay, whose wife Stephanie March hails from the class of 1996.
The cookbook is the brainchild of Joann and Don Skiba of Wheeling, who got the ball rolling a year ago. The couple not only co-chaired the cookbook project for the CatBackers, a women's support group for athletics at the university, but contributed several recipes to the collection.
The book costs $25 with proceeds going to the Wildcat Fund, which supports all 19 varsity sports at Northwestern. Order "Willie's Wildcat Cookbook" at NUSports.com or look for it at the Let's Tailgate kiosks around Ryan Field on game days.
The book also will be available at Let's Tailgate, Evanston, The Bookstall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, The Backyard Barbecue, Wilmette, the Northwestern University Bookstore in Norris Center and Beck's Bookstore in Evanston.
Tailgate must-have: Grill. Check. Cooler. Check. Drink N' Plate. Check. You might be thinking "drink-a-what?" right now, but after I tell you about this product you'll want one for your next football party.
Drink N' Plate is a reusable, dishwasher-safe combo plate and drink holder that's perfect for tailgating and any other event where you find yourself trying to juggle a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other.
The plate portion can be used as the plate or as a platform for a larger plate and the cup holder nestles plastic cups, cans or bottles. Held with one hand, the Drink N' Plate allows you to conveniently load your plate and then carry it to your table. Heck, you can even stand and eat if you have to and not wonder where you set your drink down.
These aren't available in store yet, so head to drinkandplate.com if I've piqued your interest. They come in white and can be customized with company logos or family pictures (a picture of the happy couple for an anniversary party, perhaps?) A pack of six costs $20 (plus $5 shipping) while a party pack of 24 costs $60 (free shipping).
Muchas chorizo: I admit I drooled when reading the chorizo recipes submitted for the Cook of the Week Challenge. My husband has a weakness for the fresh Mexican sausage, so I'm always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate it at the table. And I'm also always looking for new brands of chorizo.
Until this contest, I didn't know that the Millrose Country Store carries fresh-made bulk chorizo (55 S. Barrington Road, South Barrington). The chorizo I see most often at major grocery stores is sold in packages of two cased links and I have to fuss with getting the meat out of the casing when it's time to cook.
I was intrigued, to say the least, when a box of packaged bulk chorizo came across my desk. Dos Mamacitas Chorizo Authentico from Strauss Brands comes in 1-pound shrink-wrapped packages. No messy casings!
The sausage is made north of the border in Franklin, Wis. from humanely raised veal, not pork, The use of veal allows people whose dietary restrictions forbid pork to enjoy this uniquely spiced sausage.
I particularly like the texture of the cooked sausage; it wasn't so finely ground like some other brands I've had. Pick some up at area Caputo's stores (about $2.79 per pack). Try it with scrambled eggs, stir it into melted goat cheese for a wonderful dip or cook up Mary Beth Riley's chorizo ravioli.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at email@example.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at facebook.com/debpankeydailyherald or follow her on Twitter @PankeysPlate.