Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thank you Rick Bayless (have I used that title before)

I will say this again and again, simple food is the best food. You don't have to have a lot of ingredients to have something taste amazing. Well, I have decided that I could basically live off of Mexican food for the rest of my life. Why can't I? Rick Bayless does it. I want to be him. Man, I want to be him. That or just have him invite me over for a meal sometime. Yeah, that ain't happenin anytime soon, so instead, I will just cook all his food at home then I guess.

This weekend I checked out his best book Mexican Everyday. Yeah, we don't own any of his books. Waiting on Santa to come through for us I guess. Just a simple request. So Jason was reading it, like I hoped he would, and said, I found something I want to make tomorrow. Do you mind? Um, would I mind having a full body massage every day? Would I mind eating chocolate cake forever and never getting fat? It was so nice to have all the work done for me and the dishes. Yeah, he does the dishes too. I know how lucky I am, don't worry.

Here is the first thing he made. Slow Cooked Achiote Pork Lovely. It literally fell apart when he accidentally bumped the pork with a fork while moving some peppers and onions off the top. It was so so yummy. I pounded two of them with ease and could have done a third but would have been miserable probably.

He also made the Roasted Fresh Chili Salsa to go with it, which Rick recommends. I have to say, it was good on the taco but I would not eat it alone really. A little too bitter for me. Maybe with one more clove of garlic. You can never have too much garlic I feel.

I also made some pico de gallo which included about 5 diced tomatoes, a quarter of a white onion diced and rinsed, one jalapeno minced and seeded, cilantro, the juice of one lime and some salt. Super simple, super yummy. Then of course I had to make some guacamole. How could I not. I mean, I crave it daily. Plus it was nice that the avocados were on sale 2/$1. Yeah, that's right. Basically free. So I mashed up four of those with about a quarter cup white onions minced and rinsed, one tomato or two diced, cilantro, juice of half a lime, and salt. I guess I could have added a jalapeno. Hmmm. What was I thinking? Simple yet so so amazing.

I hope that someone out there will try these recipes. They are so so easy. Don't be intimidated by something new. Really, it was probably the easiest thing we have ever made and turned out so wonderful with amazing flavor and tenderness. I am so happy we will be eating it for the next two or three days. Yummm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Damn these times

I haven't been cooking much at all these days. Two reasons I suppose. One, I am feeling totally uninspired lately. I think it's the produce this time of year. The other is money. Damn these times. I have been trying to make more sensible dishes that will last us a few days and don't cost so much to make. I have also been going the simpler route. I feel so horrible when I am standing in the kitchen cooking all the time and Lucy is just playing all by herself. I don't want her to have these memories of me neglecting her all the time while I cooked. That makes me sad. I hope to soon have her start helping me cook. Just the other day she made her first mini pizza. We bought English muffins, pizza sauce, black olives and some cheese. She sat up at the table and put it together all by herself. We made more for dinner and she even made one for daddy. I want her to have the same memories I had with my family cooking. If it weren't for my family I don't think I would enjoy food and cooking so much. Thanks!

Two Rachael Ray recipes this week. I haven't had one thing yet that I don't like. I am also really good at picking out recipes too though. I am convinced though that I would like anything she makes.

On Sunday I made Uptown Downhome Chili. There are so many things I love about this chili. It makes a huge batch so it literally feeds you for days. We ate it for four days with no complaints. Yeah, it's that good. It's full of veggies. It's totally forgiving which you know I like. I love to add my own twists and change things up a little. I used one small container of baby bells instead of the big portabells caps because they were on sale and instead of the shiitake I bought regular button mushrooms and used almost all of those too. I used only a pound and a half of beef to save money. I added a can of pinto beans into the mix to thicken it up and make up for the beef I left out. I also used one small red pepper and one small yellow pepper. I like to add as many veggies as possible. I accidentally used the whole can of beef stock because I didn't read the recipe but you know what, it all worked out in the end since I added those beans and had the extra veggies. It was delicious. I love it so so much. We had it one other time at my parents house. It's really an amazing chili. I know I will always keep it in my files for another time.

Yes, the other recipe is a soup too. Chipotle Pumpkin Black Bean Soup What a simple soup and so delicious. Very warming and of course the day I decide to make it, it's the one nice day of fall. Oh well. Maybe it will be cooler tomorrow.

Me and Lucy were looking through Yum-O, yeah so what, another Rachael Ray, and saw some baked apples (My Mom's Baked Apples) in there and decided to give them a whirl. It was totally on a whim, but they turned out really yummy. I didn't have Grape Nuts on hand but did have Quaker Oatmeal Squares (the brown sugar variety) and used those instead. We also used raisins instead of currants. (Dude, who has currants on hand?) I really enjoyed it. Lucy loved it and suprisingly she liked eating the baked apple more thant the filling. It was super easy and a lot of fun.

Last night I created my own chili and I have to say it turned out amazing. So here it is. Please give it a try and let me know how what you think of it.

Liz's Chili

1 large white onion minced
4 garlic cloves minced
2 red bell peppers diced
2 14.5 oz cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 bottle Mexican beer
1.5 lb of ground sirloin (I actually used closer to two pounds because I love it meaty and thick)
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce seeded and minced or 1 T chipotle pepper powder
1 can pinto beans rinsed and drained
1 t cumin
1 heaping tablespoon of Masa (corn meal flour used to thicken and flavor the chili)
salt and pepper

Man what a simple recipe. Saute the onion in a tablespoon or two of canola or vegetable oil. Add the beef and cook until almost done. Remove beef and onion from the pan. Saute the peppers and garlic together until softened. Add the beef back into the pan. Season with the cumin, salt, pepper, chipotle. Stir to combine and cook about 2 minutes. Pour in the beer and cook another two minutes. Dump in the tomatoes undrained and stir. Sprinkle on the Masa and stir until combined. Heat a few minutes and then add the beans. Cook for about 10-20 minutes until it has reached a desired consistency. Enjoy. This is a wonderful, hearty chili recipe sure to get you through winter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Something amazing

Fall is here and with fall brings some wonderful vegetables. I am sad to say goodbye to watermelon I must say. I had one in my fridge every day this summer but nothing lately. I miss it. So now we welcome the squash and pumpkin. In no way is that a bad thing. I love butternut squash. I went through a phase when we were living in Iowa City where I had a closet full of them at all times. It was ridiculous. I love to steam it and just each it with a little salt. So delightful. My latest recipe that I created is going to be my new go to this fall season. All I did was peel and cube my butternut. I made some cracked wheat which is so easy. Rinse it really well, put it in a bowl ( I used a cup or so). Pour boiling water over it until it's a little over the top of it. Cover it in saran wrap and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. Make sure you have enough water because as the wheat soaks up the water it will expand. You can always drain it so it's better to have more. In a pan I sauteed two shallots and two small cloves of garlic in a little canola oil. So that's it. Combine the squash with all of that and there you have it. An amazing side or meal. I love it. I ate it alone, but you could use it as a side, maybe add some slivered almonds to give it some crunch. I added two small green onions. It makes you really realize how simple good food can be. I am looking forward to eating more of it tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Best sloppy joes ever

Tonight I made the most amazing sloppy joes ever. I think I am on a mission to make as many sloppy joe recipes as possible. I have made so many and honestly, I can't think of one that I didn't like. I know I love sloppy joes but tonight made me realize how much I really do love them.

Once again from my favorite food site I try and browse this site daily. I have made so many recipes through this web site. If you haven't checked it out you must. What it is is a web site that shows tons and tons of pictures of food with a small caption and then when you click on that picture it directs you to that person's blog. It's addicting really because then you start to check out their site and see what else they have going on. I love it. So please tell me that you will try this recipe.

I changed it a bunch so this is my version of that recipe which I believe mine is much better. Please enjoy.

1 lb ground turkey
1 can pinto or kidney beans drained and rinsed
1 large red bell pepper diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 large poblano pepper minced
1-2 T oil depending how lean your turkey is the leaner the more you may need
3/4 c ketchup
2-3 T chili pwd depending on how hot you want it (I used 2 since I used a poblano too)
1-1 1/4 c dark ale beer (I used Blue Moon)
2 T worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
one cup diced green onions

Saute the peppers, garlic and turkey until it looks like the turkey is almost cooked. Add the ketchup, one cup of beer, chili pwd, worcestershire, salt and pepper. Cook until reduced and add the beans and green onions. Add more beer to obtain the desired consistency. I don't like mine super runny so I let mine reduce. I think I did end up using 1 1/4 c in the end but I wanted to be sure not to have them too runny. It really does reduce after about 10 minutes or so.

These things are so good and so so rich. I love them. The original recipe called for a pound and a half of meat but since Turkey is usually sold by the pound I didn't want to mess with it and used the beans with it instead. I love beans in my sloppy joes. One of my other favorite sloppy joe recipes uses beans too so I knew it would work. The other recipe also called for canned chilies and I am all about fresh ingredients so I used a fresh poblano. You could also do two jalapenos too if you want, or just be a wuss and do the can. Kidding. But I used a red pepper instead of green which the other recipe called for as well. Once you have a base recipe like sloppy joes you kind of have the freedom to change it up a bit. Maybe that's one reason I love sloppy joes. Please make these and let me know what you think. YUMMMMMM!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Best pie of my life

My parents were up for the weekend and we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and head up to Apple Holler apple orchard. First we dined upon the wonderful buffet of foods. Some of the most memorable dishes being the apple walnut french toast and the apple cinnamon bread pudding. Don't even get me started. That stuff was sitting in my belly until two that afternoon. I was cursing myself for even trying the stuff. Sinfully delicious.

This place is a good time don't get me wrong, but it's a freaking joke when it comes to expense. It cost me $40 to fill a bag full of apples. Keep in mind, I could feed a small army apples for the month, but truly, come on. They are making a killing. We ended up getting only honeycrisp which is the best anyhow, but we didn't even get to pick them from the trees. We picked them from boxes out in the field. All of the others had been picked. I was just happy to get them, but honestly I haven't had much luck there with actually being able to pick anything. All of the pears were gone too which broke my heart.

The reason for my entry is that we purchased what later became known as the best pie I have ever had in my life. I am posting this for all of you who have the chance to get up there and find one for yourself as well and join in my delight. It was an apple cherry pie. It had a layer of crispy crunchy topping on top that was so thick you had to bust through it with a jackhammer. I am telling you this pie freaked my freak. I also have to say that it sat in my tummy like a rock with the rest of my apple food. I have never been sicker, but it was worth it.


We have been waiting so long it seems for this place to open and we finally got to go downtown and eat at the new Rick Bayless restaurant called XOCO (pronounced sho-ko). As we were driving by to find a parking spot we saw Rick Bayless walking up to the restaurants. All of his places are next to each other. XOCO, Topolobompo, and Frontera Grill, all in line like heavens gates.

We got there around 10:45 on saturday and to our surprise there was no line. That was just not what we expected at all. So we went inside and learned that the tortas were not served until 11 but that we could wait in line until then (at that point it was only about 11 more minutes). I can deal with that. So we were the first in line. There were others streaming in.

I had to order the last piece of vanilla coffee cake. It was good. The flavor was good, it just wasn't as moist as it looked to be. It was afterall the last piece so it had probably been sitting out all morn. It tasted sort of like a vanilla wafer. We also got a Mexican chocolate biscochos. It was awesome. I ate it later that night but mad it was awesome. It was sort of like a scone I guess but wasn't dry like a scone. It was light and airy with a slight crumb. It had bits of sugar on top and the Mexican chocolate was oooh so good. I would buy a dozen of those next time. Those and the chocolate hazelnut cookie that I got as well. Man, that thing was one of the best cookies of my life. It was the perfect texture. Soft and chewy with that amazing Mexican chocolate yet once again. That stuff is money.

My parents were in for the weekend. They enjoyed the hype of it all. Rick ended up showing up inside there too. I stood down by the woodfire oven watching him as he tasted everything to make sure it was perfect. It was amazing to see him and to see him doing this. He is so awesome. So each of us ordered a different sandwich which was nice because we got to try everyone elses food. Of course we ordered home made tortilla chips and guacamole. His is the best there is.

My mom had the
Gunthorp Chicken: Wood-roasted red chile chicken, caramelized onion, black beans, avocado, tomatillo salsa. It was delicious. A perfect balance of flavors and always nice to have some avocado in there.

My dad ordered the Choriqueso: Homemade chorizo sausage, roasted poblano, artisan jack cheese, tomatillo salsa. This too was delicious. Not my favorite because I am not a big chorizo person but still very very good.

Jason got the Pepito: Braised Tallgrass shortribs, caramelized onion, artisan Jack cheese, black beans, pickled jalapenos. I have to say other than mine, his was the best.

I ordered the Ahodaga: Golden pork carnitas, black beans, tomato broth, spicy arbol chile sauce, pickled onions. It was so wonderful. And the presentation was beautiful. The broth was such an pleasant addition to the sandwhich. The nice thing about it was that they ask you how you would like the heat level of the broth. I chose medium and it was perfect.

And how could we pass up dessert. We ordered the churros and the chocoflan. The churros were amazing. They were dusted with a coarse sugar and tiny bits of Mexican chocolate. Three for $3. How are you going to just order one? Yeah, that's what I thought. The chocoflan was interesting. It was not what I expected. It looked dense like a cheesecake but was more loose than a cheesecake and had a slight taste of pumpkin to it that was a pleasant surprise. It was good but not my favorite. This dessert is interesting because when it starts out, the pumpkin flan layer is on the bottom and the chocolate on top. During the baking process they reverse themselves somehow. It's magic I guess.

All in all, I loved it. I can't wait to go back. I will have to go two more times at the very least. Once to try out the breakfast and another for the caldos (soups) which are served only after 3. Some interesting facts about XOCO are that they have a window at the front of the restaurant where you can see them making the freshly baked goods. They are making chocolate from raw cocoa beans. What that means my friends is the freshest richest hot chocolate of your life. Please go give this a try, and even if you have to wait in line, it is well worth it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The hiatus is over

It really sucks to be broke when you love to cook so much. So now I am happy again because the cooking is back in full affect. Yesterday was a great day because I made some Rick Bayless pork tacos in the slow cooker. I also baked some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. This time of year rolls around and I crave those kind of flavors of fall so much. The cookies turned out so so good. I am so happy with them. I used two different recipes and kind of made my own twist on them.

This taco recipe is another example of how you don't have to be a good cook to make something amazing. It was so so simple. It was so good. I can't even believe how good it was. Well, I can believe it because it's Rick, but at the same time, for as simple as it was, man it was good. Everyone needs to make this sometime. We are going to be eating it for days now because it made so freaking much. Oh, boo hoo, I am so sad about it. I froze some of it because realistically we just won't be able to eat it all before it goes bad. There is enough in the freezer for at least three more meals of two tacos each. Yeah. One day I will remember it's in there and have a yummy surprise meal all ready to go. I made my usual side dishes too. Sadly neither turned out due to laziness and stupidity. A) I forgot to mash the avocado before I put the other stuff in, so when I mashed it with the onions in there it got a little watery. I wasn't happy with how it turned out. It still tastes good, just not quality like I usually pull off. So the salsa didn't turn out either. I did this one other time too and you wouldn't think it matters but it does. I used a white onion instead of a yellow onion. I had a white onion so I though, eh, I'll roll with it. No, there is something about it. Doesn't taste right. Someone else probably wouldn't notice but I did.

So here is the recipe for the tacos. Please please please make them and tell me how they come out for you.

The cookie recipes goes like this.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c white flour
3/4-1 c sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 c vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla
1 t salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 t cinnamon
a couple shakes of pumpkin pie spice
1 c chocolate chips or more if you want

Mix all the wet and mix all the dry separate (not including sugar of course). Slowly mix in the flour to the wet. Add chocolate chips at the end. Do not overmix. Bake at 375 for ten minutes on prepared baking sheet. Transfer to wire rack immediately to cool. Enjoy. Yummy yummy yummy.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Carol's Cookies

Let me tell you about my favorite cookie in the world. The most amazingly delicious cookie in the world really. I crave it daily. Lucky for me, I live close to someone who sells them. I would be sad knowing that the only time I could have one is when I go to Whole Foods. But luckily Libertyville Sunset Foods has hooked me up. "The Combo" : it marries peanut butter cookie dough with chocolate fudge cookie dough. I can't tell you the love I have for this cookie. It's about 4 inches thick I kid you not. It's the perfect amount of crumble to softness. I am not a crunchy cookie person and this one is just amazingly tender with a little crumb to it. If you ever have the chance to have a Carol's Cookie please do. And if you ever feel like you want to send me a wonderful gift simply head to Carols Cookies online and place your order.

Getting excited for fall

It's interesting how once summer begins, you don't want to even think about fall or winter. All you want to do is get out of the house and enjoy the weather. Once summer is coming to an end and September is creeping up on you, you face the reality of it all and start to look forward to fall. I guess I am speaking for myself. Yeah, I still hate winter. But fall has always been my favorite time of the year. I love the smell of the air, the turning of the leaves, the fall harvest, pumpkins, Halloween, and most of all, the food. I look forward to all of those warming dishes like soups and stews, squash, cinnamon studded desserts, hot tea. They just feel so good, so homey.

This weekend when I was back in Iowa for my little sisters wedding shower, I made my first fall dessert of the year. My other little sister is pregnant and I felt like I needed to hook her up. She loves snickerdoodles and these were an interesting treat that I couldn't resist making. The really really sad part of it all is that I didn't even get to try them and they looked amazing. After I took them out, we had to bolt to the shower and they had to set up for an hour before being cut. So unfortunately I didn't get to try them. I don't mind though, because I will be making them again. They were so easy and made a large batch. Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Bars. I didn't have white chocolate so that didn't make it to the top. It think it would be just fine with the generous sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar that it calls for. I did add an extra tablespoon of sugar and with that one I used dark brown sugar to give it some depth. I apologize for the horrible picture. A picture of a piece of them would have been a lot more apealing. I have been slacking on my food photos and I apologize for that.

A few weeks back I made a really delicious chicken burger. I was very leery about making burgers with ground chicken but I had some breast meat groud up that I needed to use and had no clue what else to do with it. I must say that they turned out really really good and really moist. I did serve them in whole wheat pitas with some mango chutney. They were really really tasty. I ended up sharing them with a friend of mine who loves India food, as these do have a little bit of that Indian flare. Rachael Ray of course. I never thought that I would be cooking so much of her food but I must say, ever since I made the Sloppy Joes for Veg Heads and loved them that I haven't had one bad thing from her. My favorite dip is from her too. I have been making that a lot as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My girl

I love Ellie Krieger. She is wrote my favorite cook book. I make her things all of the time and yet again she pleased me. Her book is called The Food You Crave. I have made many many things out of it and some of them several times. This time was a pasta. Super amazing and super simple. Linguini with shrimp.


I am trying to make things out of what we have and to be honest with you, we have some good things to work with. I have a pablano pepper in the fridge that is calling out to me. I think I am going to make a salad of it with some jicama, mango, red onion, black beans, chipotle, some adobo, cilantro, garlic maybe, red pepper maybe and some lime. Whoa. Sounds amazing. I just came up with that in my mind right now. Yummy. Maybe leave out the black beans. We shall see. I am going to a shin dig this weekend; a family picnic affair and maybe I could take it to that. Yum. It's always good to bring something you really love, that way if there is nothing else you would like, you are home free eatin on your dish.

So I just came up with something and have it in the oven as we speak. It's roasted potatoes. I had some red potatoes and one sweet potato just sitting there and half a red onion. So I cubed up the taters, sliced up the onions, tossed them with two tablespoons of evoo, 1 tsp Adobo seasoning with cumin, and one teaspoon of chipotle pepper. It is going to be really yummy I have a feeling. I can't wait to give it a try. They are roasting away and I will save them for later tonight. I have to try and do more cooking while the little one sleeps, that way I have more time for her when she is awake. I will let you know how it comes out. You know, it's so easy to come up with your own recipes if you cook a lot. Use recipes and then once you learn the flavors that go well together, it makes it easy to come up with your own recipes with what you have on hand.

I am also concocting a recipe in my mind. You don't really see too many cold salad recipes that are Asian. So I think I am going to do one with some brown rice, edamame (soy beans), green onion, mushrooms maybe, cilantro maybe, crushed peanuts maybe, some sesame oil and rice vinegar maybe some ginger. We shall see. I love Asian and I love healthy foods so this salad may be just what I am looking for. I will let you know as soon as I get it perfected.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Something new

Yesterday I had been feeling a major meat overload from eating pork tacos all weekend so I need to have some veggies. I decided to come up with something on my own. This is what I came up with.

1 box of whole wheat cous cous (you can make less if you wish)
1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
3 small shallots minced
3 garlic cloves minced
1 bunch of asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
2 small zucchini cut into 1/2 in cubes
1 yellow pepper chopped
1/2 cup basil chopped
olive oil
two lemons
salt/pepper to taste

Prepare the cous cous according to directions. Place in a large bowl and fluff. Meanwhile heat a large skilled and add 2 tablespoons of evoo. Add the shallots and garlic and cook about a minute, before adding zucchini. After about 5 minutes, or when the zucchini is softened somewhat, remove from the pan and place in the bowl with cous cous. Add the asparagus to the hot pan adding more oil if needed. Cover and cook about 2 minutes or until slightly tender. Don't over cook. Add the cooked asparagus, halved tomatoes, yellow pepper and basil. In a small bowl place the juice of two lemons, zest of one lemon, one clove garlic, salt, pepper, and 2 T evoo. Whisk together and drizzle over the top of the salad. Toss together and enjoy. You can eat if warm, but it will be much better after it's cooled in the fridge. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rick Bayless Obsession

Me and Jason have the most major Rick Bayless obsession. Well, Jason's is a little deeper than mine, but I too love him. He is ranked one of the best chefs in the country and we are so lucky to have him in the great city of Chicago. We have been to his restaurant Frontera Grill two times and his more casual Frontera Fresca in Macy's more than a handful of times. We were so happy to discover that he added tacos to the menu. I have tried the shrimp, chicken, and pork. There are also vegetable and a steak.

Recently Rick was on the Morning Show cooking one pot dishes. After seeing him make this one, I had to try it. We made it the other night and not only was it super simple, but fast and amazing in flavor. This dish is a prime example of two things. One, great food doesn't have to be difficult to put on the table and two, simple ingredients are the best ingredients. This is a dish that anyone and everyone should try to make. I have to say, my beef turned out a little tough. I am going to try making it one time with rotisserie chicken and maybe once with pork. I loved this dish.

I served it up with my new favorite rice and beans recipe. Such a simple recipe, again, yet so so good. I could live off this stuff. And the Adobo seasoning is my new favorite spice mix. I have been putting it on everything. It comes in different varieties. The one I got is with cumin. I love it so much and highly recommend it. It may be found in your Mexican food section of the grocery store.

The recipe is for Spicy Chipotle Beef. It's the first recipe listed and you can also enjoy a video of him cooking it live on the show. Please try this one and enjoy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Urban Belly

My parents were in town and they offered to watch Lucy for us so we could go out. One place came to mind and that was Urban Belly. I had already read so many things about this place that I knew this is the place I wanted to dine. You know, when you only have one chance every so often to get out, it's always scary knowing that it may not end up being that great. This was not the case with Urban Belly. This place was amazing. I have not stopped thinking about it since that night.

Chef Bill Kim is the former chef of Le Lan and the legendary Charlie Trotters. He was born in Korea and graduated from Kendall College here in Chicago. I have to say, this man has got it right. I have read some say that this is his response to David Chang's Momofuku in New York City, which we have also dined at several times. I have to say, this is what made me worried about eating somewhere like this. David Chang is the man. He makes the most incredible food. I must say though, this was just as good, if not better. I hate to say it but it's the truth. Sorry David. Although, you do have it going for you with the pork buns.

We ordered the pork and cilantro dumplings which were out of this world. You know that moment when you taste the first bite of something and you know, well, I knew. I knew that what was about to happen under this roof was going to be memorable and beautiful and tasty. The food was hot, which was nice and the dumplings were packed full of tender pork and cilantro with a very nice dipping sauce that was reminiscent of hoisin sauce. A little sweet and salty with deep Asian flavors. It was perfect.

Because it was communal seating, we ended up sitting next to a younger couple and got talking with them. The guy was cousins with one of the cooks. Jackpot. We ended up talking quite a bit and as the waitress brought out an order of duck and pho spiced dumplings, they kindly offered us a taste. I did the usual, refusal, but after them insisting we try one, I couldn't resist. How could you pass that up? They too, were amazing. I knew that nothing could go wrong here.

Jason really wanted to try the pork and pineapple rice, so we decided to share that and a order of the Urbanbelly Ramen which was full of pork belly, shitake mushrooms and pho broth. I must admit, I am now obsessed with pho broth. It was so robust with the perfect amount of spice. There was a surprising amount of pork belly. I felt like just as I thought it was gone, another piece was discovered lingering at the bottom. The noodles were excellent and there was plenty of them for the both of us.

The rice: heaven. This was the most delicious rice that I can remember ever having. It was loaded with bits of pork belly and sweet tender bits of pineapple in addition to fried egg and cilantro. This rice was phenomenal. I am so happy that we ordered one of each and shared because it was the perfect amount.

I must say that there isn't anything on the menu I wouldn't try. There were some bacon and squash dumplings that I wanted to try. Later seeing other people's food, I would like to try the lamb and brandy dumplings. They were served over a bed of edamame and drizzled with some Asian sauce. Looked really yummy. A rice I would love to try was organic pea shoots with Thai basil. Yummy. I don't know if I could ever get enough of this place. It makes me sad that it's all the way in the city, but you know what, I would drive there anytime, any day to have a taste of that deliciousness.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I feel like I have been missing in action on here. Sorry about that. I have had a wild summer so far and been really busy. It doesn't mean I have stopped cooking and baking. I just need to get my butt in gear and post some stuff.

This weekend I am making a lot of new things. My little sister is having a baby so we are having a party today for her. I had made a couple new things actually and am really excited about it. I think it made them a little nervous but I think they are going to love what I have done.

I chose to make a bean dip from Rachael Ray. It turned out really yummy after trying several devices at my mom's house to try and puree it without a food processor. That was interesting. Leaving the comfort of your own kitchen can sometimes be challenging. All in all though, it turned out great. Here is the link to that recipe. I am just serving it with a veggie tray and pita chips.

The other recipe just happens to be from Rachael Ray as well. What can I say, I like the girl. She has some amazing things, and of course some not so amazing things, but why would I make those. This one is a potato salad with roasted corn and jalapenos. No mayo folks. I try to avoid that stuff at all costs but when I do use mayo I always use Smart Balance Mayonnaise . Here is the link to the recipe.

The the other two recipes are dessert. Well and the chicken salad which I stole from my favorite bakery in Oak Park. The chicken salad is as follows:

1 rotisserie chicken pulled apart and cooled
5 T of Smart Balance Mayonnaise (or whatever you like)
1 T dijon
half of one red onion minced
three apricots diced
3 stalks of celery minced
2-3 dill pickles minced
salt and pepper to taste
Fridge and enjoy. Yummy. I must say this was a tuna salad I had and I turned it into a chicken salad for the party. It's amazing. My sister wants me to make another batch for leftovers.

So for dessert I am making two fruit tarts and smores cupcakes. The smores cupcakes come from Martha Stewart and the fruit tart from another cooking site.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


My parents had stumbled upon this little sandwich shop in Barrington, Illinois on there way to visit us. It's located in the little downtown area in one of the historic Catlow Theater storefronts. They make the hugest sandwiches you could ever order. One of their specialties are the turkey salad and tuna salad. The other sandwich that is popular is the Reubenesque a corned beef
sandwich that is "gigantic". Maybe one day I will be brave enough, or hungry enough to order it.

Here's mine. I went with creating my own. Turkey, onions, tomato, lettuce and mustard. I keep it basic but man, I ate it all too. My belly was busting.

Last time we went we were cracking up at my aunt who just couldn't let it go to waste, so she finished it all. I couldn't believe it. When they first got their turkey salad there was no way they were going to finish it. They could have each eaten half and been full. I have no idea how she did it but in my eyes, she is a champion.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hot Doug's

I have always wanted to include all types of food postings on my blog. One thing I am trying to do is post about the places I eat. I know there haven't been many but I promise when I do go to interesting places I will post them for sure. We don't get out to eat much these days to real hot spots.

This one is Hot Doug's. It's an amazing "sausage superstore" in Chicago. It's a little hot dog joint with specialty sausages and other encased meats. On the weekends they serve duck fat fries. We have been there a handful of times, however never waited two hours like we did this time. It was redonculous. You know how it starts to become a game. Like, ok, I have waited this long, we are not getting out of line now. No way. You have no idea how much longer it's going to be and the game continues. The more and more you wait you just can't leave. Me and Lucy were napping in the car thankfully for most of the wait while Jason held the fort down in line.
So I literally held Lucy for about an hour to an hour and a half while we waited single file next to a brick wall with sprinkles of rain tumbling upon the Yo Gabba Gabba unbrella she held above my head. She was really good I have to say. Most kids would not have allowed that to happen. So the food was amazing of course. Lucy had a corn dog and tater tots.
I got the Dave Klingman which was an italian style chicken sausage with the works. Pickle, tomatoes, relish, sauteed onions, celery salt, mustard and sauer kraut. Heaven. I tell you heaven. Now he is really famous for really having unique sausages and other meats. This is the one Jason chose. I have to say, it was phenominal. Blue cheese, pork sausage with white peach puree, rum-infused dried fruit and roasted almonds. Other specials included antelope sausage, garlic pork sausage, smoked mole chicken sausage, foie gras and sauternes duck sausage, and more. Check out the web site for daily specials. They are only opened until 4 each day and not open sundays. I would highly highly recommend going first thing in the morning if you want to try and avoid the line. There will still probably be one though.

If you have any doubt in your mind about how good this place is check this out.
Need I say more. Thank you.

Lots to share with you

I am bad about getting new recipes on here. I kind of let them store up on my camera and then post them. I have some really really yummy ones to share though. I just made this one for Jason and his last school birthday celebration. It was so so easy and really turned out so well. I can't wait to see how they go over. I found it on my favorite site of course
The recipe came from this blog

I made it with individual monkey breads but am going to make it again this weekend as one big bread. Didn't think the staff members at Woodstock would want to be pulling bread off after everyone else touched it. Jason loved it, Lucy loved it. It can't be bad. Butter, cinnamon, bread. I am trying to think of a way to kick it up a notch. Maybe chocolate chips. Peanut butter chips. Hmmm.
Another great great recipe from foodgawker. This is a quinoa salad. I like to make my own spin on things so I went to the deli counter and have them cut me some all natural turkey into thick slices. I then cubed it and threw it in the salad. I wanted to make it a meal rather than a side. It was so so amazing. I have been dreaming about eating it again and can't wait to today and tomorrow. Joy to leftovers. I also did add a large red pepper and skipped the red pepper flakes. I used regular sun dried tomatoes because that is what I had, rather than oil soaked ones. So I added a tablespoon of olive oil to the salad to give it some more moisture. Mine was a little dry so you could totally add more if you want. You can't go wrong really. That's why I love salads so much. Here is where you can find the recipe.
This one was good the first day and then as cole slaw does, got really soggy the next couple days. It was still good, the texture was just not there. We did end up adding toasted sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. That really took it up a notch I must say. Overall really really yummy and super healthy. Great one to take to a picnic or party.
So these are my favorite sloppy joes ever ever ever. I make them all the time. This time I was trying to use what I had so I used a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce instead of jalapeno. I think I used two or three. Make sure you take the seeds out for sure or it will be really hot. I also used a yellow pepper because that is what I had. It was so so so so yummy. Always is. I highly recommend it. It's nice because there are a couple things in it I never used to have but now that I have them I can make them anytime, like molasses and worshestershire sauce. Huh, how do you spell that? Anyhow. Make these and I promise you will be crying with joy.
This is the first thing I think I have made from bon appetit. It was so so so freaking good. I love it so so much. I am telling you, amazing. Please try it if you love sweet potatoes, love healthy, love good food, love simple. Great dish to take to a party, picnic, grill out.

For some reason I thought I had a picture of these bars but I guess I don't. Oh, well. Super super yummy and so healthy. It's so wrong that they are healthy. I got this recipe from a book about grains called Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way. Great book with really great recipes. If you don't already have a rice cooker I would highly recommend it. Truly. We use ours all the time. This recipe doesn't use one but I am just saying. These bars are called fruit and nut oatmeal bars. So so amazing. Email if you would like the recipe. I will hook you up. Due to copyright laws. I don't believe I can post this. Lots of dried fruit, whole grains, no refined sugars, nuts, orange zest. How can you go wrong.

So I know, I really posted a lot. I feel like there should be more but I guess there isn't. I am making some cupcakes this week for Lucy's second birthday so I will post those after I make them. They come from a recipe from my favorite bakery in the world Sweet Mandy B's in Chicago. Best bakery I have ever been to and I have been to a lot. I have been to them all in New York and this one still takes the cake. No pun intended. Best baked goods I have ever had. Cute shop. I would highly recommend finding it if you are ever in the city. It's sort of tucked away but I am excited to see how the cupcakes come out. Yeah Lucy. You are gonna be two!