Sunday, December 30, 2012

Favorite Restaurant Dishes of 2012

This has certainly been a delicious year! Before I left Los Angeles, I tried to visit as many restaurants, both new and old, as possible. Chicago has proved to be an equally amazing food town (though I haven't been documenting my eating adventures here as often). These are just a small sample of my favorite restaurant dishes from the year.

Kick Ass Margaritas at Marix. The food at Marix is good, and I think they make the best margaritas in Los Angeles, but what I love most about it is the atmosphere and all of the fun memories we created there. It is probably the restaurant I visited most in my ten years in Los Angeles.

Kick Ass Margarita

Wood-Roasted English peas at Tar and Roses. Almost everything we had at this meal was great, but these simple roasted peas were one of the highlights for me.

Wood Roasted English Peas

The Original Baco from Baco Mercat.It is easy to see why Bon Appetit recently named Baco Mercat one of the best new restaurants of the year.

The Original Baco

The chicken sandwich from Son of a Gun is a monster of a sandwich that is just delicious and best shared with friends.

Chicken Sandwich at Son of a Gun

I've now brunched at Longman & Eagle twice and it looks like I may squeeze in a third visit just as the year is coming to a close. Their chicken and waffles is an excellent way to get your day started.

Fried Chicken, Waffles, Sweet Potato & Pork Belly Hash, Maple Syrup

The Purple Pig is another favorite Chicago restaurant. The pork fried almonds are a must at every meal there. 

Pork Fried Almonds with Rosemary & Garlic

I had one crazy weekend in LA during the summer for a press trip and out of the many delicious things we ate that weekend, the Paiche from Mo-Chica was at the top of the list.


As I mentioned, I haven't been documenting my Chicago dining adventures as much, but I feel that the oysters at GT Fish and Oyster, the burger at Au Cheval, the foie gras terrine from Au Cheval, and the Tagliolini Nero with Crab, Sea Urchin, and Chili from Balena should all get shout outs. I am looking forward to many more meals in the next year and I can't wait to share them. Have a happy and safe New Year!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Favorite Recipes of 2012

I say this every year, but I cannot believe how fast this year has gone by. It was a big year for me which included me packing up and moving from Los Angeles to Chicago. It was a great decision and I am having the time of my life meeting new people and exploring an amazing city. Even though I don't cook quite as often as I used to, there have been some delicious things that have come out of my tiny kitchen in the last year. Here are a few of my favorites.

Serious Eats' take on Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice is packed with flavor and a great way to have street food at home.

Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice

Cookies and Cream Brownies were such a hit at my friend's Super Bowl party that I made them again a few weeks later for the super cute couple that I cooked for for Valentine's day.

Cookies and Cream Brownies

One of the last things I cooked in LA was this insanely addictive Chipotle-Garlic Edamame.

Chipotle-Garlic Edamame

Greek Nachos quickly became my favorite summer meal.

Greek Nachos

Funfetti Cake was a fun way to celebrate my sister's 30th birthday.

Funfetti Cake

The holidays were definitely merrier with cranberry mojitos.

Cranberry Mojito

I really can't stop thinking about these peppermint slutty brownies. I may have to make them again for New Year's Eve.

Peppermint Slutty Brownies

I'm in California for the week visiting with my mom (!) and sister and relaxing. I hope that however you spend the holidays, you are having a great time with people you love.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide and a Giveaway!

Holiday Gift Guide

I thought I would do something a little different this year and make a little holiday gift guide of things that I am loving and/or coveting this season. It's not too late to pick up some last minute things for people on your list! To sweeten the post, I am hosting a giveaway to win one of these fabulous gifts! Scroll down for details.

1. Several cookbooks are on my "to-buy" list including The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen, and at the very top of the list is Jerusalem, A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, $19.85 on Amazon

2. I love rustic kitchens with a modern edge and this sign fits in to that aesthetic. It would be so cute over my little stove. "Eat" sign made with recycled farm steel by The Steel Fork on Etsy, $40

3. For leftover wine, these stoppers make an excellent stocking stuffer. vinostop "Peace" bottle stoppers on Spin Bucket, $9.95

4. I am feeling much love for my new home town. These necklaces are the perfect expression of pride for whatever city you live in.  City pride necklace on Brevity, $75-$95

5. If you're traveling during the holidays or just listen to a lot of a music, these headphones are a must. The sound quality is amazing, they have a microphone so you can use them on calls, and they are so sturdy, that I feel completely comfortable throwing them in a carry on and not worrying about them.  SOL Republic Tracks HD On-Ear Headphones, $129.99

6. Most of the time I take pictures with a 50mm lens, but it can be difficult in trying to get wide-angled shots of my city's skyline that I love so much. This 35mm lens allows for wider shots, while still being able to get great depth on tighter images. Canon EF 35mm f/2 Wide-Angle Lens, $309 on Amazon

7. To know me is to know I love, love my nail polish. I've changed nail colors three times in the past week alone. I am a huge fan of the brand Essie and totally crazy about their Winter 2012 collection. I have already added Leading Lady, Beyond Cozy, and Where's My Chauffer to my ever-expanding collection of colors. These colors are perfect for holiday parties and will make great stocking stuffers for the polish fanatics in your life. Essie nail polish in Leading Lady, $8

8. Winter is almost here! I'm super excited for the snow, but having already experienced the wind chill, I know I need to be prepared. This scarf/shawl combo is great for those super blustery days.  The Chunky Cowl Scarf Shawl Hood by CT Handmade on Etsy, $34.95

9. Who doesn't love a thoughtful, homemade gift? Give the baker in your life something like homemade vanilla extract and they will think of you every time they make a delicious treat. Homemade Vanilla Extract Recipe on Saveur

Now for the giveaway! One (1) lucky reader will have a chance to win the SOL Republic Tracks HD Headphones in the color gray, as seen above. Since these are great for listening to music, the rules of the giveaway will be simple: Tell me your favorite holiday song (name of the song and artist). For additional entries, follow me on Twitter @dishingdelights and tweet me  your favorite holiday song or follow my Facebook page and leave a post with your favorite holiday song. Once you have done that, leave another comment to let me know you have done so. This contest is open to US residents only and you have until midnight CST on 12/29/12 to enter. This will be a nice post-holiday gift if you didn't get everything on your list. Good luck!

*Disclosure: I received a pair of SOL Republic headphones to review and another to give away. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peppermint Slutty Brownies

Peppermint Slutty Brownies

We've all seen them. I believe they originated on Kevin and Amanda under the name Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n' Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar (say that ten times fast). The Londoner coined them "Slutty Brownies" and they have been popping up around the web ever since. I got my first taste of these earlier this year at the Food Blogger Bake Sale and I have been waiting for a reason to make them. I try to stay away from box mixes so I wanted to do this version from scratch. For my holiday party with friends this past weekend,  it made sense to kick these up with some mint. These are a delight. The mint creams get a little melted in the cookie layer, but they definitely enhance the flavor of the candy cane Joe Joes. The gooey brownie layer is the perfect counterpart to the mint. I would like to think these were the hit of the party. These brownies are definitely rich so one pan will go a long way at a party.

Peppermint Slutty Brownies

One year ago: Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
Two years ago: Little Ethiopia
Three years ago: Pumpkin Bread with a Cinnamon Cheesecake Layer
Four years ago: Almond Brittle

Peppermint "Slutty" Brownies
(Adapted from What's Gaby Cooking)

For the brownie layer:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 package candy cane Joe Joes (or other chocolate-mint sandwich cookie)

For the cookie dough layer:
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
Scant 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup of chopped peppermint cream candies (it is easier to cut them while they are cold)

To make the brownie layer:
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Turn off the heat. Whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder. Remove the pan from the burner and whisk in the eggs and vanilla until well-combined. Add the flour and whisk until it is fully incorporated. Set the brownie batter aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 pan with foil and leave an overhang so it is easy to lift the brownies out of the pan. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

To make the cookie layer:
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the egg and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix until well combined. Fold in the mint creams.

Press the cookie mixture into the prepared pan into an even layer. Top the cookie dough with the candy cane Joe Joes in a single layer. Top the cookies with the brownie batter and use a spatula to spread the mixture evenly.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until a knife inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Let the cookies cool on a rack for 10 minutes before lifting out of the pan to cut and serve.

Printable Recipe

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars

Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Bars

I've had a cheesecake craving for about three months, so a few weeks ago, I decided to give in and finally make some. I can be picky about cheesecake, but I was intrigued by fusing it with the flavors of a beloved cookie. One or two of these bars definitely satisfied my craving and I was able to give the rest to my insatiable friends at a post-Thanksgiving get together. The warm smell of cinnamon baking is a great way to get in the holiday mood. If that doesn't work, just have a mojito or two. It's not too late to add these to your menu of holiday baking and I guarantee your friends will love these bars just as much as mine did.

I made this recipe as found on the Tasty Kitchen blog here. Next time, I would reduce the cookie layer by half and also line the pan with foil to make for easier removal.

One year ago: Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Two years ago: Braised Short Ribs with Autumn Root Vegetable Puree
Three years ago: Garlic Soup with Shrimp
Four years ago: Shrimp with Chive Butter

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Cranberry Mojitos

Cranberry Mojito

I spent the better part of the summer of 2002 perfecting my mojito making methods. In 2005 I graduated to rum and diet cokes during my nights out on the town, and then eventually cut rum out of my life except for the occasional mixed cocktail. I was recently sent a couple bottles of Shellback Rum so I decided to make something festive to try and get myself in the holiday spirit (see what I did there?). These mojitos are a little sweet, a little tart, and a lot of fun. The Shellback rum was surprisingly smooth which was nice with this particular cocktail. I found this recipe on We Are Not Martha. I reduced the amount of sugar in the simple syrup to 3/4 cup, but otherwise followed it exactly. You can find the original recipe here.

One year ago: Roasted Beet Salad with Wilted Greens, Herbed Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts
Two years ago: Crostini with Poached Pears, Gorgonzola, and Honey
Three years ago: Kale Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
Four years ago: Penne with Pesto, Mascarpone, and Bacon

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