Candied Yams - Thanksgiving Side Dish

>> Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last month the girls and I had a Southern themed supper club. Having spent a majority of my adolescence south of the Mason-Dixon line I felt a ping of pressure to produce an amazing side dish. I called my friend Elizabeth and ask her for one of her favorite recipes. She told me about their family's (actually someone their family has known for a very long time) candied yams recipe. Once she read off the 5 ingredient list and her mom emailed me the recipe, I knew this was a) going to be utterly delicious and b) I would have to share this with all my lovely foodie readers (I think there are five of you still out there...).

I am going to apologize now for the sugar/butter content of this recipe - just trust me, it's worth it!

Ingredients


  • 1-2 yams (you can use sweet potatoes, and yes, I know they are not the same) sliced 3/4 - 1 inch thick 
  • 3/4 cup white corn syrup (Karo brand works great)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Get a large pot of water going on the stove. Once the water has started to bubble add in your sliced yams/sweet potatoes. Cook until you can barely pierce a fork through them. We want them BARELY cooked. About 3-4 minutes. Drain the potatoes. 

Assemble slices in one layer in a pyrex baking dish. Try to avoid overlap and focus on one layer (use another baking dish if you have to).  

Evenly sprinkle sugar over potatoes. Then drizzle with corn syrup (I already apologized for all the sugar right?). 

Top with dots of butter and finish off with a drizzle of vanilla (you could also use nutmeg for a different flavor profile). 

Place dish on the middle rack in the oven and cook until bubbling, about 30 minutes or so. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Try not to eat all the candied yams. 

Bam! You are done! You now have a delicious side dish to bring to Thanksgiving that will add to the indulgence of the day :)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and their families! 

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Simple Spice Rub

>> Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I often get asked - "what should I make for dinner tonight?" and in conjunction with my new task (still taking advice on names "taking advice from the top"?) I have decided to really try and make recipes that can be used multiple ways.

So tonight when I was trying to figure out what I would make for Dory and I tonight, I thought why not try my favorite spice rub on pork.

Basically this is the greatest rub of all time. I've tried it on chicken, steak and recently I found out it works on pork too!!

Ingredients

  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Paprika 
Directions

Mix equal parts chili powder and cumin, then just a hint of paprika

Rub it all over whatever protein that you like and cook the way your normally would. It's smoky, spicy without over powering the protein. It's a great rub for every meal!

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Sweet Leaf Tea

>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I received an email a while back from my new friend Monica, at Sweet Leaf Teas about sending me some samples for their Citrus and Lemon Iced Teas. While I am not a huge iced tea fan, I did live a majority of my life in the South and understand what constitutes a good iced tea :) Upon receiving her email I immediately went to their website to do a little background research on the brand...

Wow! Being in the digital industry, websites are a huge deal for me and I was really impressed with theirs. Playful, yet clear navigation, led me throughout all the sections of the site and I learned all about their tea flavors and history. Yes, I'm a complete dork. I'll summarize the history very quickly: in 1998 Clayton decided that he wanted to make a tea like his Granny's (hence the bottle design) and by 2002 they had sold 10,000 at Austin City Limits (ironically this year at Lollapalooza was my first taste of Sweet Leaf). 

Anywayssss, my teas arrived and I was excited to dive in. I let the 100% organic citrus tea cool off in the fridge and then took my first sip. What I immediately notice was how incredibly refreshing it was AND there was zero aftertaste. A while back I tried the Lipton citrus teas and all I could think about was that horrific aftertaste like something died in the bottle. Ugh. Anyways, my point is this citrus tea had none of that. It was crisp, cool and refreshing! The Lemon tea was equally as refreshing, however if I had my pick I would definitely choose the citrus. 

If you see Sweet Leaf definitely give it a try, they have a ton of different flavors, less calories and more flavor  than soda. Best part is that they only use natural ingredients (none of this aspartame junk). If your aren't sure your store has Sweet Leaf use this handy dandy drink finder.  


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Gapers Block

>> Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Well dear followers as you may have noticed I have dropped off blogging for a bit. Recently, I have started blogging for a Chicago food blog - Drive Thru. Drive Thru is the dedicated food section of the larger Gapers Block site, a  phenomenal resource for all of Chicagoland.  I am completely thrilled and honored to be apart of their team! It's a lot of work trying to balance both (which I am learning as I go), but I am so lucky to have this opportunity. So bare with me as I embark on this journey and check out Drive Thru! There's great stories, pictures, recipes everything you would want to know about Chicago and food :)

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The Southern

>> Wednesday, October 13, 2010


To start last week off right, my cousin, co-worker and I headed over to Wicker Park to check out the unveiling of The Southern's new fall cocktails and free appetizers.

Being that it was a lovely fall night, I knew that several drinks were in order. Upon first glance at the menu I became very nervous. Here's a fun fact: I don't drink whiskey/bourbon. Haven't since 2005 and for good reason. The dark demon makes me mean and, oh, very drunk. Needless to say I try to avoid at all costs. However, there was something about this night that made me want to throw caution to the wind and say hi to my nemesis.

I figured if I am going to do this, I might as well start off with the most intimidating of all the whiskey drinks: The Souther Apple Pie. Sure the name is cute, but it's an oxymoron. This house infused apple pie bourbon is served neat in a snifter glass. Generally when a cocktail is presented, I drink it rather quickly. This would not be wise with the Southern Apple Pie. Definitely meant to be sipped on and enjoyed leisurely, the SAP was sweet and very fragrant. I am shocked to say this, but I really liked it! Despite the fact that I ordered it first, this is definitely an after-dinner drink. One that I will be  having again...

Beef Skewers
While I was sipping on my bourbon, the manager Evan, was passing by with a tray of appetizers. The first pass consisted of a beef skewer with a djion aioli. The meat was cooked perfectly and you can't go wrong with a slightly spicy mustard and combining it will a fatty mayo. You just can't. We only got one skewer and this was lucky as I definitely could have eaten them all.

Sassy Sasparilla
Next, we ordered the Sasparilla. Described as a "spicy root beer" this drink did not disappoint in the sass department. While I personally wouldn't describe the galliano, kahlua, cola, soda water, lime and rhubarb bitter drink as "spicy," it definitely had a lot of kick and flavor, begging me to question: where's the alcohol? Drinks like this are deliciously dangerous. Kind of like a classier long island ice tea, but much, much better.

And like clockwork, the second round of appetizers passed us by at the same time. Chef Cary Taylor apparently has some strong feelings about chicken wings and doesn't like their lack of meat. So he took the idea of a chicken wing and apply it to a drumstick. A drumstrick-wing if I may. I grabbed the largest drumstick they had and went to town. While I can appreciate dark meat, I am more of a white meat gal and found the drumstick slightly overwhelming. After one I swear I was kind of full (which is shocking). The flavor was great, but for someone like me who likes to nibble on a lot of different things it was just a tad too much. With all that being said: this is the perfect appetizers for the gents. Fact: guys love wings. Fact: guys will love these "wings."

Texas Mocha
By now we've been drinking and eating for a little over two hours and it's time to move on to another cocktail. To round out the evening we went with the Mississippi Milk and the Texas Mocha, both slightly more decadent drinks. The Mississippi Milk is a combination of house infused pecan vodka and oh-so-delicious cream. The pecan flavor came through along with the unmistakable slight burn of vodka. Again, this is a drink meant to be sipped. The cream was a lovely balance to the sharp vodka taste and the pecan flavor reminded me of my Texas days (the Pecan is the state tree!). Additionally, we also tried the Texas Mocha, a concoction of coffee, tequila, kahila mocha, grand marnier, and whipped cream. Tequila is another one of those liquors that has done me wrong in the past that I am not sure I can get over, but the combination of tequila with the  coffee and whipped cream was just delightful. I would happily end or start my day with this drink :)

Being southern and going to The Southern was a wonderful experience. The staff is incredibly patient and helpful. What I appreciated the most was the time and energy put into each drink and entrĂ©e. There is so much thought behind each drink and dish that you can taste the love put into it.

If you are over in Wicker Park definitely take the time to stop by and grab a drink and little bit to eat. Southern or not, everyone can appreciate good food.

The Southern
1840 West North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

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Tallulah's

>> Friday, September 17, 2010

It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday and I am with my Dad, uncle, and two couples of family friends nestled in a quaint wine shop sipping on Spanish wine while we wait for our table to open up next door at a bustling bistro. My family knows me, and they know me well. If there is one thing I like to do when I go to visit them it's eat and drink. While I have nothing against the friendly chain restaurant (and really, I don't), I do enjoy trying out new places and seeing where the locals dine. Having lived in New York and now Chicago, oh, and writing a food blog, a lot people think I'm a food snob. I'm not going to deny it - I am just a little bit. However, I am never rude about trying new places, especially when someone else is picking up the tab (thanks Dad!). So when my uncle suggested Tallulah's Wine Bar and Bistro in Birmingham, Michigan, I won't lie I was a little apprehensive. 


Ah, yes, sipping on wine. After waiting 30 minutes in Tallulah too, the wine store next door, we were seated at a long table tucked behind the door, with a perfect view of the whole restaurant. The whole restaurant being the other 20 tables there. This was not a large place. Exclusivity. I love it. 

Starving we ordered the fresh cheese plate, caesar salad and several other items immediately. While we wait, I had a chance to really dissect the menu. I was so please when I read that Tallulah supports its local Michigan farmers in every opportunity it can. From the vegetables to the meats, cheese etc. The rating just keeps on rising in my book. 

The cheese plate arrives and it's madness. Bread is flying, cheese is spread. The cheese was so creamy and light it kept reminding me of a alloute cheese. I kept tearing and spread. Tear, spread. I then moved on was able to taste a little of the caesar salad. The fresh parmesan and white anchovies were a knock out. So salty and delicious. 


For our entrees, my dad and I ended up splitting the whole trout with crispy pancetta, watercress, fennel and grapefruit. What I love most about ordering fresh trout is being able to enjoy the whole fish, especially the cheeks. Cheeks are one of those things that you constantly hear people talk about as being one of the best parts of the fish and now I understand why. They're so fatty and succulent. Trout as a whole is a rather light fish, but the cheeks have the consistently of something like salmon. Being several glasses of wine deep - this is what I remember. 


After two hours of dining, the restaurant clears and we all sit back and sigh, looking at the devastation we've left on the table. Every plate was clean and everyone was happy. 


Thanks to my Dad and Uncle Steve for a great night! If you are in the Birmingham, Michigan area Tallulah is definitely a place worth stopping by!


Tallulah's 
155 South Bates Street
Birmingham, MI 48009   

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Naked Nuggets

>> Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not too long ago I was approached by someone who represents Naked Nuggets, an all white meat grilled chicken nugget. Completely intrigued by the name and the idea, I wanted to find out more about their product. Naked Nuggets is the brainchild of New York Chefs, Eric and Bruce Bromberg of Blue Ribbon (a restaurant that changed my perception on food after tasting a sweet bread for the first time). As a father to three children, Eric realized that the "nuggets" of yore just weren't cutting in terms of nutrition and, um, they're disgusting...what part of a chicken does a nugget come from? Oh right, there is no "nugget" meat, its everything left over on a chicken, breaded, then fried. If you really want to be grossed out - check out this clip from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution where he makes chicken nuggets and the kids STILL EAT IT. Totally gross.


Anyways, after reviewing their website and reading more about their story I was sold. However, there still was the whole matter of how it tastes...I asked my friend Gabrielle to send me some samples so I could make an educated comment on this product. I have to admit - I was excited. These are really the kind of brands that I like to get behind. Honest people trying to make a change to better their children's lives.

A few days later my nuggets arrive. I opened the packet and examined the first nugget. I was impressed to see the real grill marks on the nugget. I mean it looks like it actually hit a grill. On the back, the directions say you can either heat in the microwave or sautee in a pan. I decided to do both.

I microwaved a couple of nuggets for about a minute or so. I pulled them out of the microwave and dove right in. I can still remember taking that first bite and thinking this is really moist, I'm shocked! Seasoned with white pepper, garlic powder, basil, marjoram salt and pepper the nuggets could stand on their own. They don't need to added sugar from ketchup or bbq sauce. I, however, am hot sauce freak and tossed them with that and it was out of this world. The skillet nuggets were great as well. Took a little longer, and didn't really impact the flavor. Whenever I am in a rush I just microwave them.

With only 110 calories and 2 grams of fat for SEVEN nuggets, you can get a meal full of 20 grams of protein. And the best part: this really isn't just for kids. I live alone, I have no children, and I find myself tossing the Naked Nuggets in with stir frys and pasta for a little added protein. It's quick, it's easy and I swear - they really are good!

My friends at Naked Nuggets want to extend an offer to all of you dear Foodies, for a bag of Naked Nuggets. The person who best comments on how you would incorporate into your food routine will win!

I know this sounds like they put me up to writing this, but I swear everything written here is a reflection of my own opinion. I truly admire these chefs for not waiting for someone else to figure out a way for children to eat healthy (and ok, me too).

Check out their Twitter and Facebook pages or go to their website for more information

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Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders

>> Friday, August 13, 2010


Chicago is known for pizza. We have deep dish, New York has thin slice. This is nothing new, right? What I am going to tell you may blow your mind - there is something new. Something so new I didn't understand how or what to make of it. Pizza pot pie...

Before you start to jump to conclusions, let me explain. Tucked away on Clark street near Dickens, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders has taken the tradition deep dish and turned it upside down - literally. I'm not sure how this concept of a pizza pot pie came to be and to be honest - I don't care, all I know is that ever since I have moved here I have wanted to try it. So when my friend Sara called and invited me to dinner with her lovely family, I agreed without hesitation.

Walking into a pseudo-beerhall with exposed wood on the walls and beams, you feel like you've just been transported to somewhere in a small Italian village. The hostess greets you and ask how many are in your party, you tell him and he tells you a time and you're done. There's no pen, no paper, no way to peek to see how many people are in front of you, this guy just knows. You are not to question, just simply sit there and wait.

Seated at the bar, we survey every dish that passes us. Huge salads, bread so big it spills over the plate, and bowls of dough covering something delicious. That has to be it - that has to be the pot pie!

Mediterranean Bread
After about 30 minutes were seated. Sara and her boyfriend Patrick are on it - we'll have the Mediterranean bread, and the small Country French salad, oh and a couple more glasses of wine and beers. Our server returns with a circle of bread that would make a large pizza look like a personal pan. This bread is HUGE, flat and covered in Italian seasonings. Hands start flying, bread is torn, we are happy. The outside of the bread is deceptive. You take a bite and think - yeah, I mean, this is good. As you start tearing away and making your way towards then center, you realize you've been a fool - this is the gold mine. Soft, full of butter, and seasonings - this is the jackpot. When I return, my strategy will be to go straight for the middle and save the outside for the gargantuan salad...

Speaking of which, the small Country French salad could seriously feed six people. Really. Six. This thing was the biggest salad I have ever see. It's a small salad on steroids. Packed with onions, peppers, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, and topped with fresh Farmer's cheese this salad is pretty hard to beat. Our server suggested combining the sour cream garlic, sweet and sour poppyseed, and Italian dressing together. Is this place a food laboratory or a restaurant?! While I looked him like, you're obviously drinking in the back, I complied. There is something to be said for taking advice. Out of this world. Really, really good salad. I took some of the bread and sopped up the dressing and honestly I was in heaven. Everything was SO GOOD and we hadn't even come to the main event yet!
The "small" salad
Luckily, our server returned shortly with the pizza pot pies or else he would have seen me face first licking the bottom of the salad plate. We ordered two, one pound pies and as he approached our table I could smell, the tomatoes, sausage, cheese and mushrooms. They were begging to be devoured. He takes the dough bowl covering the "insides" and in some magical hand motions, flips the insides so that you are left with a hot bowl of pizza pot pie. I would love to be able to go into more detail as to how he did this, but I was so intoxication by the smell of the meat I missed it.

Small pizza - taken from their
website because I was
inhaling my food
Biting in, I died. I kept waiting for someone to tell me this wasn't real and to find my totem (side note: mine would be a knife that wouldn't cut food...). Cheese, meat, bread, sauce, mushrooms. I don't know what else to say. Everything came together and were in perfect harmony together. It's truly an experience.

I ate my 1/3 lb of pizza and sighed. It's over. I came, I saw, I devoured.

Bravo Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders. Sure Chicago deep dish is a great tradition, but the next time I have friends coming in town and want something "Chicago" I am undoubtedly taking them here instead.

Oh by the way, the oven grinders are sandwiches, but let's be honest, after what you just read are you going to order a sandwich? I don't think so...

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders
2121 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614

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Vote for Stephanie Izard and Common Threads

>> Thursday, August 12, 2010


Everyone take a moment and visit Mezzetta's Celebrity Chef Sandwich Charity Challenge and vote for Chicago's own Stephanie Izard (and winner of Top Chef) to benefit my buddy Art Smith's charity Common Threads. Common Threads educates low income children to prepare wholesome and healthy food - this is a GREAT organization!

There are seven chefs and sandwich recipes, all of which look amazing. What a great contest! Go vote NOW! 

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Slow’s Bar BQ

>> Monday, August 2, 2010


Chic. Barbeque. Detroit. No these are not all antonyms, but words used to describe my dining experience this past weekend while in Michigan for my brother's show and family reunion. I try and keep up with the happenings of Detroit, not only because a majority of my family still lives there, but because I was born there and it breaks my heart to come back to visit and witness the devastation that city is suffering…I read an article not too long ago about a man named Phil Cooley, who started this barbeque restaurant in downtown Detroit. Always one to support local initiatives, when the subject of dinner was discussed with me and 8 other boys/men, Slow's Bar BQ seemed perfect.



Brisket Enchiladas (photo credit: Slow's)
We loaded up the band, my dad and uncle then headed downtown to Detroit's Corktown neighborhood. Situated on a corner facing the old Detroit train depot, Slow's is a beacon of light in an otherwise desolate part of the neighborhood. It reminds me of how the Meatpacking District must have looked after the first time someone decided to create a trendy restaurant among the abandon warehouses…


The first thing you will notice is the massive door (made from the timber of the old place) and the smell of slow roasted meat. Just thinking about it makes me hungry. Walking in were told an 90 minute wait, however seeing all the happy faces and a plethora of local craft beers, we decided to wait it out. A full 90 minutes and 3 beers later (Oberon's for me!), we're sat right outside of the patio. Extremely hungry, we told the waitress "one of every appetizer…now please!" Within 10 minutes our food came out:




  • BBQ Wings
  • Fried Catfish
  • Brisket Enchiladas 
  • Split pea and okra fritters

Like wolves that had just made their first big kill, we attacked this food. Despite being rock stars and famished, the boys were nice enough to share with me. Far and away the enchiladas were the winners for me. The corn tortilla, despite being covered in sauce, still retained some of it's crunchy texture, and the flavor of the brisket came through nicely. This is how enchiladas were meant to be. The wings had a great smoke, the catfish was a great snack and perfect for sharing, the split pea and orka fritters were tasty too, but at the end of that round of food I was longing for more enchiladas.



Carolina Pulled Pork (photo credit: Slow's)
Next came the entrees. I ordered the Carolina pulled pork, my brother order the St. Louis Sparerib, and my dad the Jambalaya with sides of mac and cheese, cornbread and sweet potato mash. I tell ya – I was 2 for 2 this dinner. My pork was so tender and had a nice "bark" on the outside. You could still taste the smoke and see the pink smoke rings. Armed with 5 different styles of bbq sauce, I was all over this dish. As you know dear foodies, I love Carolina BBQ, and this sauce at Slow's was pretty darn good for being so far north. It was not as vinegar-y as I like it, but still great. The apple bbq sauce was OUTSTANDING. I am notorious for having a sweet tooth and this definitely fulfilled my needs. The spicy, was semi-spicy, and good on it's own, but when you combined it with the apple bbq sauce. Shut up. Just shut up. It was SO good. Highly recommend! The ribs were great – tender, but not falling off the bone. They were dry and definitely needed some sauce, but I enjoyed them. The Jambalaya was…ok…it's wasn't bad, but when everything else is so good it just left me (and my dad) wanting more. The mac and cheese, sweet potato mash, fries, cornbread and all the other sides were delicious! Mac and cheese was definitely the star though.



St. Louis Spareribs (photo credit: Slow's)
I can say without a doubt, that this will be my go-to place when I visit Detroit again, and I will make a reservation – don't want to wait that long again. Aside from the delicious food (and probably the best bbq you will get out of the South), I love Phil's initiative to make Detroit better, not only through his efforts to clean up parks, but through food. It's amazing what he's already done and if you are in Detroit I would encourage you to stop by Slow's and enjoy some good BBQ.




Slow's Bar BQ
2138 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48216-1305
(313) 962-9828

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Flirty Cupcakes

>> Monday, July 12, 2010


I want to tell everyone a story. It's filled with adventure, love and of course, a hero. Our story begins like so many others; one day I was glancing at my Twitter feed when I noticed a re-tweet about a "flirty cupcake." Intrigued, I clicked on the link and was taken to a Facebook page where there are different times and locations scheduled around Chicago. I'm no genius, but I quickly ascertained that we were dealing with some sort of traveling cupcake machine...SOLD.

Street food is nothing new to me, but in Chicago, Mayor Daley would prefer that we not have street vendors so it's been a while since I've had the pleasure of stumbling along say, a Mr. Softee...so you can understand my compulsiveness checking out the list of times and locations and the disappointment in realizing none are near me for a couple of days. Tragedy of all tragedies.

For several days I stalk the Facebook and Twitter sites for any indication that Flirty Cupcakes and their trusted van, Big Blue will be headed my way. Nothing. Nothing in a 5 block radius. I am beginning to think that maybe the Flirty Cupcake and I just aren't meant to be.

Then one hot summer day, my co-worker Emily tells me the good news - Big Blue will be by our office around 3pm! Alarms set, bags packed and 2 hours to go! I will finally have my cupcake! Then as if the universe is really trying to tell me to stick to my diet, we see the update that Big Blue is out of cupcakes and they will return first thing tomorrow. Hope, sorrow, extreme feelings of loss. I can't describe the pain of that moment.

So we waited...and at 10:55am the next day, we head out the door. It's time.

As we walk up the stairs onto Illinois street, I am taken back at what can only be described as a batman mobile for cupcakes. Well actually, what a batman mobile would be like if all it did was eat cupcakes, either way this thing was awesome. Big Blue is in fact blue with pink accents everywhere. There's a large contraption at the top which I assume cools the van down so the cupcakes can maintain a constant temperature.

They have quite a variety of choices, but eyes go straight for my favorite - red velvet with cream cheese icing. This will be the ultimate test, because after spending a decent amount of time down South, I learned what a proper red velvet cake and cream cheese icing should taste like (not to mention it's my best friends favorite and I need to do right by my Elizabeth). With cute names like "Devil in Disguise," "McDreamy," and "The Curious George" etc. it definitely takes a minute to register all the deliciousness that could be had.

Headed back with my "Devil in Disguise" I am ready to indulge (before lunch nonetheless). I sit down at my desk and bask in the glory that is the cupcake. First thing I notice - strong proportions of frosting to cake. It seems like cupcake shops clobber on frosting like they never want to see me in a bathing suit. Next I notice that the wrapper is almost translucent; no complaints from me - this just means the cake is moist. I take my first bite. White noise. This is good. This is really good. 

The cake is so moist its almost hard to believe, the icing is a little hot from our trek back the office, but it is the RIGHT proportion of cream cheese to butter and sugar and not so sugary that you can feel the sugar crystals (you know what I am talking about - where the icing is almost crunchy/gritty). In general the proportions are just right, cupcakes now seem like they could be enough for three people, I can happily say that this cupcake was perfect for little ole me. And, yes, the cupcake is the hero in this story :)

So if you are in Chicago, follow Flirty Cupcakes on Twitter and Facebook - their dedicated team updates constantly throughout the day letting you know their positions. You won't be disappointed!!


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Berry Yogurt Bars

>> Tuesday, July 6, 2010


What is this delicious thing you are looking at? Well considering it was over 100 degrees yesterday in Chicago it was a little piece of heaven, but on all other days it's merely a double berry frozen yogurt bar. Refreshing, healthy, and easy to make!! I am telling you - this month's Everyday Food was rocking! This recipe was straight forward and definitely delivered on flavor. I deviated a bit, but hey, that's what recipes are for :)

Ingredients (for 6 molds)

  • 1 cup of strawberries
  • 1 cup of blueberries (or really any berry - I used black raspberries that I bought from Farmer's Market)
  • 1 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 lemon or lime (optional)
  • Popsicle molds (I bought mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond)
Directions

Prepare yourself: this is going to be easy and fairly painless. If you can puree and pour you are going to be good to go. 

First add your cup of strawberries and 1 tablespoon of sugar to a food processor and blend until smooth (about a minute). Pour into bowl.

Next add your blueberries to the food processor, with a tablespoon of sugar and a little lemon or lime juice and zest. This is optional, but I really think it adds a little kick. Blend until smooth and pour into separate bowl.

In a separate bowl (I know lots of bowls going on) add a tablespoon of sugar to your 1 and 1/4 cup of yogurt. 

Next pour your mixtures into the popsicle molds, alternating between berries and yogurt. You want to get anywhere between 3 and 5 layers. 

Once all the layers have been added, take a skewer or knife and swirl and mix the layers. 

Place in freezer for several hours until frozen.

I made this recipe and a whim and can honestly say it's the perfect summer treat to escape the heat and all things considered incredibly healthier than ice cream and has the same effect. The Everyday Food recipe estimates that each of these bars has a measly 56 calories and about 2 grams of fat. When you compare that to a cup of ice cream, the numbers can be as high from 400 calories and 16 grams of fat. 

The frozen yogurt has such a nice cooling effect and the hint of sugar to the berries gives me all the sweet I need (and trust me I have a SWEET tooth). 

I hope you enjoy these as much as I have!!  

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Soba Noodle Stir Fry

>> Friday, July 2, 2010




I live alone, and I like living alone and because I live alone, I often talk to myself or make comments on how awesome I am. This is actually probably why I live alone, but that doesn't matter. The night I made this meal, you would have thought that Food Network was there filming me. I was describing textures, flavors, complexity all to myself, but you know what? I really don't care - this meal was just that awesome. 

I've been out of my kitchen for a while now and am slowly starting to get back in it. After a night of yoga in the park, I knew that I needed something hearty. Luckily I went on a random shopping trip earlier in the week and bought a bunch of Asian ingredients. I knew they would come together but I didn't know how...

After a brief search on my Whole Foods app it appeared that a stir fry would be the way to go. 

Ingredients (this should make enough for two!)
  • Soba noodles
  • 1 carrot
  • mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp scallions
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1-2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1/4 c. Hoisin sauce 
  • 1tbsp Soy sauce
  • vegetable oil 
  • any other veggies you would like to include

Directions


First off let's get our pans ready to go - fill a sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Also add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a large skillet or wok and apply medium heat.

Next chop up the ginger and garlic into a fine chop and slice the scallions into 1/8 pieces. Julienne the carrot and thinly slice mushrooms and onions.

Add the ginger, garlic and scallions to the skillet. Cook until fragrant (and trust me you will know - we're working with some seriously good smelling stuff). Once the ginger, garlic and scallions are smelling good (about a minute or two) add the mushrooms and onions.

Hopefully by now your water is boiling - add enough Soba noodles for two. I generally take a pretty good handful and drop them in. Remember we are going to add to our stir fry so only cook the noodles for about five minutes (set a timer! overcooked noodles will taste like mush).

So just to recap: we have our noodles in the pot, and the skillet is full of onions, mushrooms, garlic, ginger and scallions.

Once the mushrooms and onions have cooked for about 5 minutes, then add the carrots. I found that by adding the carrots too early, they lose all their crunch.

Hopefully by now you have removed your noodles from the water and rinsed with cold water to stop the cooking. In a medium skillet add a touch of oil and set on medium high heat. Once the oil is able to easily slide from side to side, add the Soba noodles. We are just going to cook until they are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Once the noodles are browned, add the larger stir fry mixture.

In a small sauce bowl, combine the Hoisin and soy sauce. By now your noodles and veggies should be in one skillet, add the sauce to this mixture.

Stir constantly on medium low heat.

Plate and serve!!!

There you go! Veggie stir fry! I've made this many times and whats great is you can really use whatever vegetables you have on hand, anything can go in this. This night I paired with a the honey-soy glaze that I love and it was just AMAZING. Healthy, fresh and light - I couldn't ask for much more :)

Happy Eating!

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Garlic Scapes

>> Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Ahhh, garlic scapes. This ingredient is one of the main reasons I love coming to the Green City Market; they have such a delight assortment of vegetables, fruits, and cheeses that I have never seen or heard of before. Naturally when my eyes set on what appeared to be a very large scallion, I had to inquire, what is that thing? A sign and a polite - it's a garlic scape - from the farmer led me to the obvious conclusion, oh, a garlic scape.

I often feel pressure at the farmers market to buy things, especially when I show a hint of interest. Not because the farmers themselves are pressuring me, but because I feel like I should be trying new foods all the time. That morning was no different. After noticing the "scapes" for weeks I decided to bite the bullet and buy them. Despite my purchase I still didn't have any clue how to use them or what they were...

After a brief bit of research (and help from my friend Megan) I found that the garlic scapes are actually the green things that grow out of the bulb of garlic. They are often cut so that the growth can focus on the bulb below. The green stalks eventually produce a flower and is why garlic is known as the "stinking rose."

Ok so now we know what the scapes are - still what do we do with them? Luckily Megan sent me this Serious Eats recipe for garlic scapes pesto which is copied verbatim below:



Ingredients
4 to 5 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
Large handful basil leaves
1/4 cup almonds, toasted in a dry skillet until slightly browned
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound linguine or other pasta

Procedure
1. Combine the garlic scapes, basil, and half the oil in a small food processor or blender. Process or blend until the leaves and scapes are finely chopped, then add the nuts and remaining oil. Process or blend until nicely pureed.
2. Remove to a bowl and stir in the cheese. If necessary, add more olive oil to create a loose paste. Season with more salt if needed.
3. In the meantime, bring a large pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and toss with the pesto. If necessary, add some of the pasta water to create a creamy texture. Serve with more grated Parmesan cheese.

It's not a far cry from this pesto recipe involving walnuts. It was so creamy, and the garlic is much milder than regular cloves. Whenever I see garlic stalks I will definitely make the the purchase again! 

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Skinny Cow Cups

>> Sunday, June 13, 2010

This past weekend I signed up to attend The Perfect Cup free event with my friend Sara sponsored by Skinny Cow. I didn't know much about the event, but I knew that there would be the following:
1) Free Booze
2) Free Ice Cream
3) Bra fittings (perfect cup - get it?) 

Regardless of why we were really there I was obviously more focused on #1 and #2.  

I have to be honest, I was mostly excited about the cocktail when we first walked in. I have had Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches in the past and while tasty they never really did that much for me. Signature cocktails and I have a  lot more in common and this was a great one; lavender infused lemonade with sparkling wine. Don't mind if I do...Needless to say I briskly made my way through both my drink tickets. Next step: ice cream bar!

Walking up there was a display showcasing the five flavors of skinny cow's "perfect cups." Each of these cups have less than 150 calories and 4g or less of fat. Not too shabby if you ask me! They offered the following flavors:

  • Chocolate Fudge Brownie
  • Dulce de Leche
  • Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Carmel Cone
  • Cookies 'N Cream
Nothing too left field, but some big hitters in there. I went for Strawberry Cheesecake and Sara opted for Dulce de Leche. I have to say, I was kind of impressed! The ice cream was very creamy and the strawberry preserves were tasty and not overboard sweet. I didn't get to try Sara's but she said she enjoyed it although it was a little rich.
 
Would I buy these again? Yes, especially because they are sold individually. I wouldn't eat too many though considering the only ingredient I really recognized was skim milk, but hey, for 150 calories I may just put all of that aside and enjoy the delicious ice cream.

As if this event wasn't wonderful enough. The beautiful super model Veronica Webb was a guest MC! I actually got to meet and talk with her and she caught me googling her...model fail. 

I love Chicago. 

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Top Chef Masters with A Top Chef Master

>> Thursday, June 10, 2010

I can't believe that I am about to write this post; everything from tonight seems so surreal. Tonight I watched Top Chef Masters with Chef Marcus Sammuelsson (of Aquavit in NYC) one of the five chefs chosen to compete in tonights episode, at the rooftop bar of the fabulous Affinia Hotel in Chicago

I heard about this event courtesy of one of Chicago's best food blogs 312 Dining Diva. Immediately I knew I had to invite my cousin and fellow foodie, Dory, to come along. Naturally, she was in, along with her foodie friend Amy. So tonight we met up with very little expectations; at the most we were hoping to get Chef Marcus to sign a cookbook...ah, naivety you keep me young...

We arrive at the Affinia hotel and take the elevator straight to the top to C-view, the sky bar for the Marcus Sammuelsson restaurant downstairs in the hotel, C-house. We head outside to the beautiful patio and sit a long table that stetches nearly half the porch. Looking around I can't believe I am here. The view is unreal, the weather is perfect (70 with a soft breeze) and I know the food is going to be amazing. 

We start off cautiously with couple of cocktails (I got the Yes Chef!) and a plate of three cured meats, a special running on Top Chef nights for $10. To start we had:

- Salmon - "pastarmi" style
- Guanciale - cured pork jowel
- Jamon Serrano - dry-cured Spanish ham 

This was served with grainy mustard and grilled french bread. Out of all three, I think my favorite would have to be the Guanciale. There was such a nice blend of fat and meat that it made each bite melt in my mouth. Before I knew it I had consumed about half the portion and had to be put in cured meat time-out. The salmon was in a close a second. So light and delicate, I easily could have eaten half. the Jamon Serrano was delicious as well, but compared to the other two, this one was my least favorite. While a nice blend of fat and meat, I felt like I had the flavors before. I loved them, but again, the other two were just amazing. 

For dinner we ordered:

- Mini Yellowfin Tacos
- Lobster Club
- Bacon and onion jam flatbread

Thinking about these make my mouth water. The tacos were in fact mini, I dare say even bit size! I didn't order them but was completely happy with the one I sampled. Light, fresh and clean are all the adjectives that come to mind. This would be a great dish to share among a group. The lobster club was about as decadent as they come. Lobster, bacon, mayonnaise - what's not to like? And that's exactly the sentiment I had. It was so delicious and creamy I easily could have eaten the whole thing, but alas it was not my main meal; I ordered the flatbread. When it arrived in front of me I instantly smelled the bacon. Ah, sweet, sweet, bacon. Cheese, bacon, pears, and onions are never a bad combo and this was no different. The flatbread itself was a great balance between crispy and chewy. 


So you would think the food and atmosphere would be enough right? You would be wrong. To top this evening off, we watched the episode in which Marcus is featured with him all night. It was truly an amazing experience to watch someone on TV while they are standing (and yes, he was standing right next to me) during the show.

Chef Marcus was so kind, fielding our questions, signing our cookbooks and in general, just hanging out. He was completely unpretentious and inviting (much like the food at C-view) and created a memorable night for me. I wrote on a napkin my blog, so Marcus if you are reading - thanks for making my night!

It's going to be hard to top this one, but I have a lot of big foodie events coming up so stay tuned!!

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She and Him - Millennium Park

Mr. Charles Shaw (some of you may know him as $2 Chuck), pretzel roll, brie, sausage and my good friend Sara (she has a blog and it's awesome) made for an absolutely amazing Monday night in Chicago.




















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DMK Burger Bar

>> Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Truffle parmesan fries, blue cheese/onion straw burger, olive tapenade/tzaziki lamb burger. Heaven? Close enough (well to me at least). These delectable items can be found at one of Chicago's new burger joints - DMK Burger Bar.

What started as the love child between David Morton and Michael Kornick (DMK - get it?) has turned into Lakeview's premiere gastropub/burger joint. Boasting 14 different burgers (eight meat and six "others"), this place has been on my radar for quite some time. The timing was perfect when my dad was recently in town and we wanted to check out someplace to new eat. Normally I have an ongoing list of places where we should go, but this time around I got a little busy and didn't plan. We started walking around my neighborhood when I remembered - DMK...

As luck we have it we were about a block away when the idea stuck me and so we went. Always hungry and ready for a good meal, we dove right into the menu and started with the caesar and wedge salads. The presentation of these were great; the caesar had fresh anchovies strewn across the top of the crisp romaine (pictured) and the wedge, large crumbles of blue. If I know I am going to be indulging in something as decadent as a burger, I like to get a salad to start in hopes of filling up my tummy a little bit before diving into the deep end of meat and cheese. These salads did their best to curve my hunger - I didn't even finish mine! Had we known the sheer mass of both salads we could have easily gone with one.

On to the next round: burgers. DMK Burgers offers only grass fed beef, which is great because cattle are suppose to eat grass. Seems simple enough yet a lot of grocery stores, restaurants (even high end ones) still use corn fed beef. Cows are designed to eat grass - not corn. Got it? Good. I could go on forever about my position on industrial farming, but thats for a separate post. ANYWAYS, burgers. We ordered:

1) The roasted hatch green chile, fried farm egg, sonoma jack, fresh bacon turkey burger (also known as #4)
2) Sheep's milk feta, olive tapenade, greek salad, tzaziki grass feed lamb burger (aka #11)
3) Chili rubbed onion strings, blue cheese, spicy chipotle burger (aka #2)

Coupled with our three orders of fries, sweet potato with lemon tabasco aioli, parmesan truffle cream, and amish blue and smoked bacon, this meal was a total knock out. The first burger was a great mixture of salt, sweet and spice from the bacon, egg and chiles. The lamb burger actually felt very light; the cucumbers from the greek salad and the brininess of the olive tapenade was a great background for the lamb. Then there was the onion strings/blue cheese burger. My burger. I have to be honest I normally don't go for the blue cheese burgers because I often feel that the cheese overwhelms the flavor of the beef, however this burger balanced all the flavors very well. The spice from the ketchup and the chili in the onion strings played right into the tang and pungent flavors of the blue cheese. All three burgers were dynamite and packed with great flavors - cooked perfectly too!

Not only was the food great, but the bar offers a unique selection of beers and homemade sodas. Being that it was a Monday I got the blood orange soda and I couldn't have been happier. Refreshing, sweet and unique this soda definitely hit the spot for me. I can definitely see craft sodas becoming a trend in the culinary world. When I go back (and I will go back) I want to try the Allagash, white wheat ale. Several people were drinking it and it looked mighty tasty.

For about $8 a burger, $2-$5 for fries and $5-$14 for beer you can get a gourmet burger in a great atmosphere. I am just looking for someone who wants to indulge with me again!

DMK Burger Bar
2954 N. Sheffield
Chicago, IL 60657

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Two Year Anniversary :)

>> Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Well Dear Foodies, if you can believe it today marks my two year anniversary of when I decided to start this little ole food blog. Blogging has allowed me to meet some incredible people/culinary icons including Art Smith, Marcus Sammuelsson and recently Dean Fearing. It's also lead me to some of the greatest meals (Prune, The Bristol, Extra VirginCraft) of my life with some of my best friends in the entire world. I wouldn't take back all the calories, spell or grammatical errors in the world for it (despite the fact it physically pains my mother - sorry Mom!) :) 

I want to thank my five dedicated followers for putting up with my harassment over reading the latest post, or blasting it all over you facebook and gmail statuses. I probably don't say it enough but it means the world to me!  

The only way I really know to celebrate is to head to the first outdoor Green City Market in Lincoln Park and take lots of pictures. 

Thank you all so much for reading and happy eating!

Much Love,
Renee 

Also special birthday shout out to Baby Beth who turns 25 today!!!!! WAHOO!!

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Stone Ridge Creamery

>> Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I'm in love. One of those loves where you can just find no faults, everything is perfect and when your together all is right in the world. That's how I feel every time I eat a bowl of Double Berry Cheesecake from Stone Ridge Creamery. 

The ice cream has a bit of marscapone in it which creates the most rich, yet light texture (honestly more so like cheesecake than ice cream), inter-weaved with blackberry and strawberry preserves. To top it off, throughout this wonderful creamy paradise are little tiny bits of graham cracker. 

If you see this in your grocery store take my advice and BUY IT NOW!!

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Beer Margaritas




So this recipe is from an Websuite party from the good ole college days and recently from a now infamous Dos de Mayo party. I think everyone can agree - they are amazing.

I normally do not do margaritas, but these are so light and the beer really cuts into the tequila so I don't instantly get a headache...

Ingredients

  • 1 (12oz.) can frozen limeade concentrate
  • Tequila
  • Sprite/Soda Water 
  • Beer (preferable a Corona, Tecate etc.)
  • Ice
  • Lime slices (for garnish)

Directions

In a pitcher empty limeade. Using the can as a guide fill with tequila, then empty into pitcher. Add the bottle of beer and stir till the limeade till dissolved. Pour over ice, top off with soda water or sprite and garnish with a lime.

If you don't like margaritas, I promise these will change your mind.

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts

>> Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I know what you are thinking: she's finally lost it, brussel sprouts? Brussel sprouts...but look at that picture. They don't look that bad do they?

Well I'd like to think that I haven't lost it all, but rather I've taken an ingredient that gets a bad rep and turned it into something I think is pretty darn good (and not to mention incredibly easy!) So come on, let's all get crazy and make brussel sprouts!

Ingredients:

- Brussel sprouts (Trader Joe's has a great selection)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Butter
- Salt

Directions (Cook time - 20 minutes):


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Clean your brussel sprouts then halve down the middle. Add the brussel sprouts to a shallow roasting pan and dizzle with EVOO, then season with salt. Place brussel sprouts face down and put the dish in the oven.

After 10 minutes of cooking lightly toss (at this point your brussel sprouts should be browned on the bottom). Return to the oven and cook for 5 more minutes, then add 1/2 tablespoon of broken up butter and spread over the brussel sprouts. Cook for 5 more minutes and remove from oven.

Trust me, this recipe is a keeper. I have cooked this multiple times in the past week and can't seem to get enough of these little guys!

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Simple Salmon Recipe

>> Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This is one of my go to recipes. It's simple, healthy and only requires three ingredients!

Ingredients (serves two)

  • 2 6-8oz salmon filets (with the skin on, you don't have to but I think it adds a lot of flavor)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup djion mustard
Directions
First, set your oven to broil and heat a skillet to medium and lightly coat the pan in a little extra virgin olive oil.
In a bowl mixture together orange juice and djion mustard.
Salt and pepper salmon filets. Place the filets in the skillet skin side down. After about two minutes flip, then remove after two minutes. We are not fully cooking the salmon here, just trying to get the skin crispy and some nice color.
Remove salmon and start brushing on the orange juice/mustard mixture.
Once coated (I like to get the sides and everything) place in the oven for about 5-7 minutes.
Salmon is easy to over cook, so make sure you are watching. Once done the salmon should have a nice crust from the mustard on top and a flaky tenderness.
Serve with your favorite vegetable (green beans are great!) and you have a healthy dinner that is ready to go in about 20 minutes!

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Help Me Win The Moleskine Passed Down Contest!

>> Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dear Foodies, 

I recently submitted my Sweet Potato Soup recipe inspired by my mother's love for soups, and my love for sweet potatoes, to the Moleskine Passed Down Recipe contest. If you like this recipe, it would be GREAT if you could go here and write a nice comment for yours truly. The announce a winner soon so the more comments, ratings the better. 

 Much love,
The Frugal Foodies 

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Happy St. Patrick's Day

>> Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Ah, St. Patrick's day. For some it means the celebration of St. Patrick, for other it means debauchery, and for my Mother it means her favorite day has arrived. She has been sending me email updates about this day since March 18th, 2009. 

In honor of my dear mother Auddie, here are some great traditional Irish recipes taken from Irelandseye.com:

Potato Soup - The basis of a good soup - especially a simple soup such as this - is a good stock.
Apple Jelly - This well-flavoured jelly is very easy to make and will keep -if given a chance.
Beef in Guinness - The Guinness in this recipe has the same function as the wine in Coq Au Vin.
Boxty - Boxty is a traditional potato dish, celebrated in the rhyme. 

Whether it's with Guiness or a potato I am wishing everyone a very safe and happy St. Patrick's day. 

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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