Thursday, September 4, 2014

InstaEats August 2014

August was another busy month. Now that I live in Chicago, I try to squeeze as much productivity (fun) out of my summer as possible! I didn't dine out as much, but the meals I had were just fantastic.

I kicked off the month with a night with one of my friends in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. This area is booming with new restaurants and it's a part of town I don't get to nearly enough. We started off the evening with some drinks and food at The Radler. I started with a grapefruit radler (a mix of beer and German-style lemonade) and my friend got the blood orange. Both were equally refreshing on the warm night.

There was a lot to drool over on the menu, but we kept things simple with the German onion pie with bacon, garlic puree, and marinated tomatoes and the grilled knockwurst with rice, bread and butter pickles, and herbs. Though both sounded rich, it was the perfect combination for a light summer meal.
We couldn't resist leaving without dessert (and another drink) so we got the chocolate mousse and I had an Americano (campari, vermouth, and soda)
We then trekked over to Parson's Chicken and Fish for negroni slushies. Read my rave here.
And finished the evening with old fashioneds and boozy grapefruit sodas at Billy Sunday.
I mentioned in my last post that I have lost some weight recently. Clearly, I'm not dieting, especially as evidenced by my frequent lunch favorite Hannah's Bretzel. I'm actually on an all-carb diet.
A few weeks ago, I finally made my first trip to the Ravinia festival to see ABBA! It was such a fun night of music, dancing, and food. I made peanut butter and jelly blondies to share with my friends and our spread was really fantastic, complete with Swedish fish and Swedish meatballs.
A couple of months ago, I made a reservation at The Girl and the Goat. It is still one of the most popular reservations in Chicago so I made a promise to myself to keep it. It was definitely worth the wait. Highlights for me were the grilled octopus salad with guanciale, fava beans, and pistachios, the best of three cocktail with Pimm's, cucumber, and vodka, and the bittersweet chocolate cake with thai basil gelato.

We finished the night with a few negroni sorbets at Lone Wolf...can you tell I love negronis?
Last week, I traveled to NY again for work. We had a couple of great meals out, but the first night at The Wayfarer was my favorite. The lobster roll is so great and worthy of recognition, as was the maple braised bacon.
 I'm excited about what is to come in September!

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Monday, July 28, 2014

InstaEats July 2014

It's been another delicious month and especially so since I got to celebrate my birthday last week. I had a great time celebrating with friends and my mom and the tiny top hat party was a great success.

I mentioned last month that I love when friends come to visit. My friend Kris dragged me to Hot Doug's to wait for two hours in line for hot dogs. The store is closing in a few months so everyone is trying to get their last visit in before it's too late. This time I got the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and fleur de sel. It was a delight, but nothing is worth a two hour wait.

A few days later, more friends were in town. We kicked off the evening with a delicious spin on southern food at Carriage House, followed it up with some flaming drinks at Three Dots and a Dash, and completed the evening with chilaquiles and the amazing burger from Au Cheval. (Read my rave about my first meal at Au Cheval here)

The following week, I made a quick trip to NYC. Though I was there for work, I managed to sneak in some pretty great eats in just a few days. First up was dinner at Shake Shack. I'm excited they're coming to Chicago later this year!

Momofuku Milk Bar is dangerously close to my office. I love their weird, sometimes complicated recipes (Crack Pie, Compost Cookie). This time I got to try the blueberry and cream cookie and the cornflake marshmallow cookie. I actually saved these for later because I had more pressing desserts on my mind.

I hoofed it from midtown to Chelsea so I could stop by the Doughnut Plant. There was still a good selection that evening so I narrowed my choices to the creme brulee doughseed, the coconut lime doughseed, and the strawberry vanilla jam filled doughnut. The dough on all of these was a bit chewy, but I loved the coconut lime filling and strawberry vanilla jam. I would have picked up some jam to go if I wasn't traveling light.

After all that doughnut indulgence, I decided to burn some calories walking through the High Line and Chelsea Market. A couple of the restaurants I had bookmarked were totally full so I ended up at Bocca di Bacco for an extremely satisfying dinner of meatballs and caprese salad followed by a negroni nightcap at The Meatball Shop.

Back in Chicago, I went out for brunch at Waffles again and got to try their birthday cake wonut (waffle donut).

Last, my sweet friend took my mom and I out for my birthday at Ceres' Table. A feast of quattro formaggi pizza, porchetta, and salted caramel budino was a great way to celebrate the day.

Looking back at all these pictures, it's hard to believe I've been able to lose twenty pounds in the last few months. I'm looking forward to the next month of tastiness.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Middle


If you've been following this blog for a while (or know me in person), you know how old I'm turning today. I try not to freak about getting older by preparing myself and telling people I'm older at least two months in advance of my birthday. For some reason, that little trick isn't working as well this year, but I am trying to remain calm. This is my first time celebrating my birthday in Chicago (I've been in LA for the occasion the last two years) and my friends and I had a joint Tiny Top Hat party. Check my Instagram to see my super fabulous hat. As much as I like baking big fancy cakes on my birthday (see below), I also think the day can be celebrated with a simple sweet treat. These rice krispie treats take about two seconds to put together...ok, maybe a little longer, but you get the idea. They are large, but easily cut into small squares so you can share with a group and ideal for summer since no oven is required. I'm finding pleasure in the simple things and that makes getting older a little less terrible to bear.

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

Salted, Malted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

Makes 9 large squares

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
40 jumbo-size marshmallows
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt plus extra for sprinkling on top
6 cups Rice Krispies ceral
1 cup roughly chopped pretzel M&Ms, plus extra for sprinkling on top

In a very large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. As soon as the butter starts to brown, turn the heat to low and add the marshmallows. Stir until the marshmallows are melted and combined with the butter. Stir in the malted milk powder and salt and combine well.  Add the Rice Krispies to the marshmallow mixture and stir vigorously to combine. Add one cup of the M&Ms and mix well.

Press the mixture into a 9x9 pan. Press the remaining M&Ms into the top of the treats and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Put the pan in the refrigerator to set the treats, about half an hour. Cut into squares before serving.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

InstaEats May-June 2014

I'm a little late to the game, but I finally joined the fascinating, eye-catching world of Instagram earlier this year. I am a visual person and it is amazing to see the ways people capture the world on this social media tool. Instagram is where I am spending most of my social media time these days, but I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the stuff I share on there, particularly the meals out that don't make it on to the blog when I don't have my big, fancy camera on me. Here are some of the things I have shared and if you are so inclined, follow me on Instagram.

I traveled to California at the beginning of May and it was a week long of working out, eating out, and green juicing.

Lunch with my mom at In-N-Out Burger. I had the cheeseburger animal-style and well done fries. I miss this place all the time.

We had a pretty epic meal at BOA Steakhouse. We ended the meal with a selection of cronuts and now I finally understand the cronut craze.

Dinner at POT at the Line Hotel. Get thee there immediately.
An amazing brunch at Sqirl. The Malva pudding cake is pure sugar heaven and a good way to balance the perceived healthiness of the crispy brown rice bowl with egg.
Back in Chicago, I have had a steady social calendar the last few months. Waffles Cafe is the home of the wonut, but they also make a mean chicken and bacon waffles dish.
This recipe for Green Shakshuka from The Kitchn is to die for. Make it immediately and then make it again.
My take on Joy the Baker's strawberry chopped salad.
I love when friends come to visit, because I can try new places on my extremely long list of restaurants to try. H.C. and I visited Three Dots and a Dash for some tiki cocktails and followed it up with spicy miso ramen at Ramen-San.
The next night more friends were in town. We got the evening started right with cocktails and appetizers at Maude's Liquor Bar and RM Champagne Salon.
We chased those cocktails with incredible ramen from High Five Ramen. Get there early to avoid a long wait since there are only fifteen seats in the whole restaurant.
Work colleagues in town meant an extravagant dinner at Sunda. Definitely order the brussels sprouts salad if you go.
Breakfast mac and cheese with bacon and a fried egg from Taverna 750, one of my favorite brunch deals in Chicago.
After all the decadence, black bean and tomato quinoa salad will help right the ship. This time I doubled the black beans and lime zest, but reduced the oil to 1 1/2 teaspoons, the juice to 1/2 lime,  and left out the sugar.
Life is certainly pretty tasty right now, and I am enjoying all of it.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Strawberry Shortcakes with Lemon-Thyme Buttermilk Biscuits

A few years ago, I discovered how wonderful strawberries, lemon, and thyme are together. I've thought about that dessert often, but also other ways I can incorporate those flavors into a different dessert. Lemon and thyme buttermilk biscuits seemed like a nice pairing for balsamic and sugar sweetened strawberries. These biscuits are easy to make and the strawberries come together for a quick dessert on a summer evening.

*Disclaimer: I was compensated for ingredients by Driscoll's Berries and Whole Foods Market. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Strawberry Shortcakes with Lemon-Thyme Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes 4 Servings

For the biscuits (Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 1998):
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold buttermilk
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 teaspoon raw sugar for sprinkling

For the strawberry filling:
1 cup sliced strawberries
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

To make the biscuits:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, lemon zest, thyme, baking powder, and salt. Use two forks, your finger tips, or a dough cutter to add the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.

Gradually stir the buttermilk into the dough with a fork until large clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball and divide into four pieces. Roll each piece into a 3-inch round and place on the baking sheet. Brush the top of each biscuit with egg wash and sprinkle with a bit of the sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center of each biscuit comes out clean. Transfer the biscuits to a rack to cool.

To make the strawberries:
In a small bowl, mix the strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Strawberries can be prepared up to two hours ahead of serving. Refrigerate the berries if you are not serving them right away. Serve the berries with the slightly cooled biscuits.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Strawberry-Rosé Spritzer and Six Years of Blogging

Each year that my blog's birthday comes and goes, I think to myself, I can't believe I've made it another year. This site certainly isn't what it used to be, and I doubt it ever will be again, but it's nice to have this piece of the Interweb in which I get to share delicious food and drink and ramble a bit. My blog birthday treats seem to mostly be centered around strawberries and Nutella because...why not? This year, I decided to celebrate in cocktail form with strawberry-soaked rose wine and a hint of bitterness from my favorite aperitif, Aperol. It brought a hint of spring to my Chicago kitchen, even when it snowed two days later. Luckily, I am now enjoying a nice week in California to warm my soul. Anyway, thanks as always for continuing to let me share on here and cheers to another year!

One year ago: Magic Cake
Two years ago: Nutella Pop Tarts
Three years ago: Strawberry Crisp
Four years ago: Nutella Sandwich Cookies
Five years ago: Perfect Party Cake
Six years ago (my first post...don't judge!):The Return of The Glamorous Life

Strawberry-Rose Spritzer
(Adapted from Bon Appetit)

Makes 8 servings 

2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and chopped
1 750-ml bottle rose wine
2 cups soda water
1/3 cup Aperol
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a large pitcher, combine the strawberries and rose and let the strawberries steep for at least three hours or overnight.

Strain the rose from the strawberries and reserve the strawberries for garnish. Pour the wine back into the pitcher and mix in the soda water, Aperol, and lemon juice. Fill each glass with ice cubes and a few strawberries and pour the drink over the ice. Serve immediately.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Shrimp and Caper Salad with Farro

I recently started swimming laps again. Back in high school, I was on the swim team and kept in shape by doing endless laps in the pool, morning weights practices, and dry land practices. My high school days are long gone and as an adult, I have tried to find various forms of exercise that work for me. This hasn't always been easy or consistent, but I am loving being back in the pool. I kind of forgot that swimming brings on a monstrous appetite. Some say it's the body's reaction to being cool, but I like to think it is because of the immense calorie burn of the exercise. Either way, I am stocking up my kitchen with healthy prepared foods so that when I get home late at night, I don't turn to take out or junk food. A little bit of prep for this salad, left me with a week's worth of this hearty, yet light salad, that made a great post-workout meal.

Shrimp and Caper Salad with Farro
(Adapted from Cat Cora)

Makes 4 servings

For the Salad:
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails cut off
1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 scallion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
30 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup farro, cooked and cooled to room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste

For the dressing:
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and then add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, 2-4 minutes. Drain the shrimp and set aside.

In a large boil, combine the grated garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt. Add the hot shrimp and stir to coat completely. Let the shrimp marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Add the scallion, red onion, capers, celery, tomatoes, and farro to the shrimp mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and then add to the shrimp mixture. Toss well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve at room temperature or cold.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smoked Salmon Sandwich

Spring is in the air! Well...sort of. Technically it's spring, but the last few days (and months, really) have me wishing for warmer times. That's why I decided to share this sandwich I made last summer. It's based on my favorite sandwich from local chain, Hannah's Bretzel. I try to limit my trips there because it can be pricey which is why I set out to make this sandwich on my own. It comes together quickly. I try to slice up extra toppings so I can have this sandwich more than once if the mood strikes. The lightness of this sandwich reminds me of summer days, rooftop hangs, and festivals. I know the time will speed by and summer will be here before we know it!

Smoked Salmon Sandwich
(By Esi)

Makes 1 sandwich

For the Chive Cream Cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
4 tablespoons cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sandwich
1 pretzel roll
2 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
Thinly sliced cucumber
Thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced tomato

Make the cream cheese:
Mix the chives with the cream cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the sandwich:
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the chive cream cheese on both sides of the roll (save the rest for more sandwiches). Layer the rest of the toppings on the cream cheese and serve immediately.

Printable Recipe

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Greek Chicken Bake

In the last few weeks, I have been getting reacquainted with my kitchen. Most of the recipes, I make these days are old favorites or roasted broccoli...too boring to post on here. However, with the intense cold we have been experiencing, the kitchen has once again become my favorite place in my also happens to be the warmest place in my apartment. I recently decided to branch out and try a quick recipe that has been blowing up on Pinterest. This takes about three minutes to assemble and is so great for a weeknight meal. While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare a simple salad and warm some pita so you are ready to go when it comes out of the oven. Store-bought tzatziki makes it even easier, though if I had more time, I would make this homemade recipe that rocks my world. For crispier skin, try pan-frying the chicken thighs before putting them in the oven to finish cooking.

One year ago: Kale, Lentil, and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Two years ago: Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice
Three years ago: 8oz Burger Bar (closed)
Four years ago: Superbowl Ideas
Five years ago:  Greek Turkey Burgers

Greek Chicken Bake
(Adapted from Simply Delicious)

Makes 4 servings

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of garlic, cut in half
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon

For serving
Extra lemon wedges
Warm pita

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and place skin side up in a large baking dish. Arrange the garlic halves, red onion wedges, and kalamata olives around the chicken. Sprinkle the pan with the oregano and drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the chicken, onion, garlic, and olives. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 and the juices run clear.

Serve with tzatziki, lemon wedges, and warm pita.

Printable Recipe

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014


In the last few weeks, I have gone from sunning myself on a beach in Africa, to bundling up in a polar vortex. I've been to Ghana five times, but the last time I was there was eight years ago. I expected to see a lot of change, but "TIA" (This Is Africa), and not much was new. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed doing a lot of nothing and eating copious amounts of fish and joloff.

Our first few days were pretty mellow which was good, since it took my luggage a few extra days to arrive. We spent some time at the Art Center, and quite a bit of time in traffic (one of the new developments is that there are a ton more cars on the roads). One of the first experiences we had was dining at La Tante. It's a restaurant near the airport that is inside of an old DC-10 plane.

I went with my usual of jollof, but guinea fowl as my protein. It was standard, but not in a bad way.

We spent Christmas afternoon away from the bustle of Accra at the Volta Hotel. The beautiful view, was unfortunately masked by some haze.

After Christmas, we drove to the village for a few days to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. It was a great time to be with my family and the entire village came to celebrate. Getting to the village was a bit harrowing since our car broke down three times, but we were able to get there and back in one piece, even though it was a little shaky. Here is my grandmother showing everyone she's still got some moves.

This is a cocoa pod. The white part around the seeds is edible and tastes a bit like cheremoya. Don't make the same mistake I did and start chomping on the seeds.

Then we were back in the city for a few days filled with parties, mosquito bites, and visits to Makola Market and Nkrumah Park. On new years day, we jetted off to the Coconut Grove Beach Resort in Elmina for a few more days of blissful relaxation (and overeating).

The bustle of Makola Market

Nkrumah Park

Sunset on the beach in Elmina

Lizard friends

Sleeping crocodiles

Drummers and dancers

It was a great time and nice to escape the cold Chicago weather. I had a blast with family and friends, read a ton, danced a little, and I'm looking forward to the next trip.

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