Monday, December 9, 2013

Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread

Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread

Let's end the year on a sweet note. In an effort to keep my apartment warm during this early onslaught of winter, I have actually been baking a bit more. Unfortunately, you readers haven't gotten to see the fruits of my labor, because editing photos is taxing and I've discovered I like to relax on weekends. Perhaps 2014 will bring more blogging motivation, especially since I have a few more things to share. This bread is incredibly simple and makes your home smell exactly like it should at this time of year. Warm, inviting, and incredibly cinnamon-y. It's a great treat to have on a Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch with a mug of tea and a favorite movie or to share with friends at a holiday party or with your coworkers. My point is, make this bread. Make it now and thank me later.

Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread

I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. I'm looking forward to what is to come in the new year!

One year ago: Holiday Gift Guide
Two years ago: Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Three years ago: Little Ethiopia
Four years ago: Kale Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
Five years ago: Parmesan Thyme Crackers

Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread
(Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)

Makes 1 9x5-inch loaf

For the cinnamon-swirl:
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar
For the bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 large egg at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.

Make the cinnamon-swirl by mixing the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside.

To make the bread:
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Add the chocolate chips and stir until well-combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.

Slow pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the batter with 3/4 of the cinnamon sugar in an even layer. Top the cinnamon sugar with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon sugar evenly over the top of the batter.

Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool completely in the pan set on a rack before cutting.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Normally the cakes I post on my birthday are for the party I usually have, but this cake was actually made for one of my dear friend's birthday last week. You really just can't go wrong with that delectable combination of chocolate and peanut butter (last year's cake was certainly an indication) and the coffee in the cake batter makes the chocolate flavor stand out even more. This is super simple to make and thanks to help from my friend, Lawrence, it was easy to decorate. After frosting the outside of the cake with chocolate frosting, we surrounded the outside with leftover peanut butter frosting from the middle and topped it with mini peanut butter cups. Delicious. I'm celebrating my own birthday today with wonderful friends in Los Angeles. It is sure to be a super fun day and I feel so lucky to have such great friends near and far.

One year ago: Tin Roof Ice Cream Cake
Two years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Filling
Three years ago: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
Four years ago: Root Beer Cupcakes
Five years ago: Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
(Adapted from Tastes of Lizzy T's)

For the chocolate cake:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coffee at room temperature

For the peanut butter frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons whole milk

For the chocolate frosting:
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3 tablespoons whole milk

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Stir to make sure they are fully combined.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla together until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Add the coffee and mix until everything is combined. The batter will be thin.

Pour the batter into the two prepared pans. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the peanut butter frosting:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the peanut butter, butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer turned down to low, add the powdered sugar. Add milk a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

To make the chocolate frosting:
In a large bowl sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. With the mixer turned down to low, slowly add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder mixture. Add the salt and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Add the milk a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Shrimp Puttanesca and Arrogant Frog Wine

Arrogrant Frog Wine

It may seem strange to talk about an Italian dish with French wine and Bastille Day, but when I was tasked to come up with a recipe to pair with this French Chardonnay, this was the first thing that came to mind. Arrogant Frog wine is an excellent deal. It retails for about $8 a bottle and is a great addition to any simple dinner. The chardonnay boasts nice tropical fruit and floral flavors. It's not terribly oaky like some chardonnays can be and it is very drinkable. This dish is light and perfect for summer with bold flavors from in-season tomatoes and olives. All you really need is a hunk of bread, but pasta would be a great accompaniment as well.

Shrimp Puttanesca

A light dish for summer that only needs a cold glass of wine and a few pieces of bread. You really can't go wrong with that.

Shrimp Puttanesca

*Disclaimer: I received these wines for free, opinions are my own. 

One year ago: Favorite Summer No Cook Recipes
Two years ago: Grilled Peaches with Ice Cream and Blueberry Fudge
Three years ago: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Four years ago: Cantaloupe Sorbet
Five years ago:Blood Orangeade

 Shrimp Puttanesca
(Adapted from TasteFood)

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy fillets, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus 1/2 teaspoon
2 cups of cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Arrogant Frog chardonnay)
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt to taste
Parsley for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, anchovies, and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes and saute for a minute or until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, olives, wine, and capers and cook, stirring until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

In a separate skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of chili flakes. Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer and season with salt. Cook until the shrimp is just cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Serve garnished with parsley if desired and with a baguette to sop up the wonderful juices.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Cookies

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Cookies

Sometimes I see a recipe and rather than wait for it to gather dust on my Pinterest, I need to make it right away. Such was the case with these awesome cookies I discovered on Food Porn Daily a week ago. The next day, I was loading my cart at Whole Foods with peanut butter and chocolate chips so I could make these. The dough is simple and comes together quickly in a stand mixer, but it would be just as simple by hand. As promised, these cookies are giant, chewy, sweet, and salty. Creamy peanut butter is the perfect compliment to the dark chocolate chips and pretzels add saltiness and crunch. With the size of these, one is more than enough per person and the perfect thing to share at an impromptu barbeque/movie night with friends.

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Cookies

I followed this recipe as posted on the website Keep It Sweet Desserts. The only slight changes I made were using large eggs instead of extra large and a scant 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

One year ago: Bacon, Tomato, and Cheddar Breakfast Bake with Eggs
Two years ago: Blueberry Pomegranate Doughnuts
Three years ago: Apple Soju Cocktail
Four years ago: Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
Five years ago: Greek Orzo with Shrimp and Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Parson's Chicken and Fish

It's been a while since I've been to a restaurant and felt the need to post about it immediately...or as immediately as I can with my packed schedule. When H.C. told me he was going to be in Chicago for a few days and we should get together, the first place that came to mind was Parson's Chicken & Fish. After all, it was our first visit to Longman & Eagle last year that solidified my love for Chicago as a major dining destination. I knew a restaurant by the same owners had to be just as good. Boy, was I right.

Parson's Chicken & Fish

Parson's Chicken & Fish

Parson's Chicken & Fish

Located just a hop away from Longman & Eagle in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, Parson's is destined to become a rival for best patio this summer. As of a few days ago, they still aren't serving food outside, but bar service is alive and well. Pull up a seat, play some ping pong and indulge in a Negroni slushy (or two, $8 each). These slushies are perfect on a hot and humid day. Equally enjoyable is the Red Hook ($8) which is Parson's take on a Manhattan, or if you're feeling especially bold, a shot of Malort.

Negroni Slushy

Red Hook

You better enjoy communal sitting when you visit Parson's because that is all they offer. Inside, are small booths so you get up close and personal with strangers. Hopefully you are seated next to people who are pleasant which was not the case with our first dining companions, but the second group ended up being much more calm. However we were attracted to the menu which distracted from the brashness of our neighbors. We started with a little light fish action in the form of Hirame ($10) which is marinated in ginger and mint and served with an avocado lime emulsion and radishes. The taste of the fish gets a little lost in the marinade, but I appreciated the bright and fresh flavors especially knowing what was in store for us with the rest of the dishes we chose.


Two pieces of fried chicken ($6) are one of the best investments you can ever make. The chicken is juicy and the flavor goes all the way through from the breading to the bone. Whatever formula they use on the (delicious) fried chicken from the chicken and waffles at L&E has gained major flavor points. It's the kind of chicken you want to keep eating when you get down to the bone.

Fried Chicken

Equally as flavorful is the beer battered fish. Three pieces ($8) are great to split between two people. Just try not to hog all of the tartar sauce.

Fried Fish

The clam roll ($10) was a little less successful in my opinion. Red onions and pickled peppers perk up the fried clams, but the cornmeal breading could have been better seasoned.

Clam Roll

H.C. insisted that as an alternative to all of the fried foods, we have the restaurant's grilled chicken ($6 for 2 pieces) as well. I was a little doubtful until the citrus and habenero marinated bird came to the table. This is basically the best grilled chicken you will ever have where once again the flavor goes all the way to the bone.

Grilled Chicken

Stuffed as I was, we had to get dessert. Initially, I thought the last thing I would want after a fried dinner, was a fried dessert, but of course Parson's gets it right with their ridiculous funnel cake ($6). The funnel cake is served on top of a browned butter pastry cream and topped with a balsamic caramel and peppercorn brittle. The tartness of the caramel and spiciness of the brittle balance the crispy and sweet dough and sweet cream.

Funnel Cake

The best thing about Parson's is that even though you indulge in what is essentially a fried dinner, you don't leave feeling overly full and gluttonous. They have perfected whatever it is that makes fried food taste light and delicious and with excellent, exceptional service and a fun atmosphere it is easy to see why there are already lines of people crowding their doors every day.

Parson's Chicken & Fish
2952 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 384-3333

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Magic Cake and My 5th Blogiversary!

"Magic" Custard Cake

It's my blog's 5th birthday, so I thought I would celebrate and also by posting more than once in a month. Blogging sure has changed since this first post, but I do still enjoy capturing delicious recipes and sharing restaurant finds. I can't say I'll ever get back to a regular posting schedule, but I do hope that those readers who have stuck around continue to do so, because there is still so much tastiness to share. I've had some incredible experiences and made wonderful friends through my tiny space on the internet, and I'll treasure that forever. Stay tuned, because I really do plan on posting more than once this month. I'll have a wonderful giveaway or two soon and I will share some more restaurant deliciousness. In case you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook (and really, what is your excuse?), I am also writing for My Daily Find Chicago. So once again, thanks for sticking around for these five fun years and cheers to more fun.

This cake was first introduced to me via White on Rice Couple, but it has been making the rounds on the internet. You can find the recipe I followed, here.

"Magic" Custard Cake

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Butternut Squash and Tomato Soup

Butternut Squash and Tomato Soup

This year, I have been making a very concentrated effort to get at (at least) five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I start each morning with a green smoothie full of blueberries, bananas, kale, and orange juice. At lunch, I mostly keep low carb with lots of greens and a little meat and at dinner I have...popcorn. It's all about balance and this is just what is working for me right now. The healthy lunches and breakfasts keep me powered through my recently insane work schedule so when I get home at night, I don't feel completely guilty reaching for the first thing on the pantry shelf. To avoid going completely off the rails, I try to keep something somewhat healthy on hand to heat up in my microwave-free kitchen when I get home at night. This soup is relatively simple to prepare and full of flavor to keep me from getting bored with an evening meal. Even though it is vegan, it's full of heartiness and I don't feel deprived after slupring a bowl full of this bright goodness.

One year ago: Brunch at Longman & Eagle
Two years ago: Thin Mint Brownies
Three years ago: Double Chocolate Butterscotch Muffins
Four years ago: Bacon and Tomato Tart

Butternut Squash and Tomato Soup
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2013)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium (1.5 pounds) butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons ground ginger or 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 28-ounce can low-sodium, whole, peeled tomatoes, drained
1 1/2-2 cups of vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with tin foil. Brush the baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place the squash halves, cut side down on the sheet. Tuck the garlic cloves into the the hollow of each squash half. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until the squash is fork tender. When the squash has cooled, peel it from the skin and reserve the flesh as well as the roasted garlic.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved garlic, squash, ginger, salt, tumeric, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot, and cook, allowing the flavors to meld, about 20 minutes.

Use a handheld blender to puree the soup until smooth. Alternately, puree the soup in a blender in batches until it is smooth. Return to the Dutch oven over medium heat. Season again as needed and ladle the soup into serving bowls. Top each bowl with a little bit of freshly ground black pepper.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Recipe Ideas

It's been some time since my last post, but with Easter around the corner, I thought this would be the perfect moment to dig through the archives and share some of my favorite recipes that would go well with any spring feast. Spring hasn't quite sprung yet here in Chicago (though the upcoming weekend weather forecast has me more optimistic), but here are some recipes to get you in the mood for the season.

Hot Cross Buns are a traditional Easter treat.

Hot Cross Buns

Sticky Meyer Lemon Rolls are addictive, and best shared with a group at brunch.

Sticky Meyer Lemon Rolls

Consider this light and relatively healthy savory spinach bread pudding.

Spinach Bread Pudding with Lemon and Feta

I'm definitely missing California berries. Try using some in these awesome strawberry cheesecake muffins.

Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins

Asparagus is just coming into season and this simple asparagus mimosa is a great, fresh way to use them.

Asparagus Mimosa

This strawberry and lemon curd tart is one of my favorite ways to bridge the gap with winter citrus and spring berries. Even though temperatures are still a bit chilly in Chicago, this reminds me that warmer days are around the corner.

Strawberry Galette Slice

As always, I hope you enjoy the holiday with family and friends that you love.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kale, Lentil, and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Kale, Lentil, and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Usually, when I don't blog for a while, it's just because I need a break from the blogging race. Trying to keep up with the trends and seasons can be so exhausting, that I just need some time to have a life again and decompress. Unfortunately, this recent break was not for those reasons. I've been dealing with the loss of a friend. A loss that was so unexpected and unimaginable, that I have found it hard to put fingers to the keyboard for purposes other than writing in my own private journals. In terms of dealing with death, I have been sort of lucky in life. I haven't lost too many people that I have been close to. As my sweet friend was laid to rest this weekend, I thought about how to deal with the loss of a loved one. Writing my thoughts down in journals has helped. Long walks, yoga, and Pilates have helped to alleviate some of the stress. Spending time with those that are close to me has been number one. I am also taking some comfort in cooking. Surprisingly, I haven't been craving sugary sweets or fattening "comfort" foods. Rather, I have been craving nourishing, vibrant food that helps me feel energized. That's not to say that some stress-relief baking hasn't been taking place, but above all of the cookies, I would rather have a salad much like this one. It is food's way of reminding me that even in the coldest times of my life, both literally and figuratively, there is brightness at the end of the tunnel.

Kale, Lentil, and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Kale, Lentil, and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
(Inspired by Familystyle Food)

*Notes: This salad is great warm or at room temperature. Massaging the kale takes some of the bite out of it, but it is not a necessary step.

Makes 2+ servings

For the roasted sweet potatoes and apples:
1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potatoes
1 medium Fuji apple, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
4 cups roughly chopped kale
3/4 cup cooked French lentils, warm or at room temperature
2 tablespoons roughly chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the sweet potatoes, apple, and shallot with the olive oil, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Roast in an oven-safe dish or pan for 30 minutes or until fork-tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, mix together the ingredients for the dressing. Pour the dressing over the kale and massage the kale with your hands for five minutes. Toss the lentils with the kale.

Divide the kale and lentil mixture between two bowls or plates. Top each plate with the sweet potatoes and apples and then with chopped walnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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