4.14.2014

Stuffed Flank Steak Pinwheels

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. The weather in Chicago was gorgeous - for the first time this year, it actually felt like spring. Windows were opened and coats were left behind as the entire city rushed outside to enjoy the sunshine (and grill!).

In honor of the end of the depressingly long winter (and in hopes of moving out of my cooking slump), I decided it was time to bust out my gigantic collection of recipes and try something new. While I typically tend to lean toward seafood, chicken, or veggie dishes, there was something about these Stuffed Flank Stank Pinwheels that just called out to me. Considering I can count the number of times on one hand that I've cooked red meat in the last year combined with the fact that my biggest weakness in the kitchen is definitely my knife skills, I was a little nervous about having to butterfly the flank steak. However, I found my awesome new super-sharp knife really made a world of difference - it sliced through those steaks like butter and left two perfect halves (even if one end was slightly jagged). ;-)

The hardest part of this dish was the prep (and realistically, it wasn't that hard at all). The results yielded perfectly cooked pinwheel steaks that required nothing more than a simple side of peas to create a complete and delicious dinner. I can't wait to make these again and play around with some of the various stuffing options. Highly recommended!

Stuffed Flank Steak Pinwheels















INGREDIENTS
1 lb flank steak
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced
Truffle salt (I used this)
Pepper (I used this)

DIRECTIONS
1. Butterfly steak: slice it in half with the grain, but don't detach the halves - it should be hinged on the end. Use a mallet to pound it flat (stretch into a rectangular shape).

2. Lay the steak lengthwise (so that the grain runs toward you). Layer steak with butter, garlic, and spinach.

3. Roll the steak away from you to form a tight log (jelly-roll style).

4. Place the steak seam-side down and tie with butcher's twine at 1-2 inch intervals, depending on desired thickness for individual servings. Slice steak roll between strings and sprinkle each serving with truffle salt and pepper.

5. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Broil 4-6 inches from the heat for 5-8 minutes on each side or until meat reaches desired doneness.

3.24.2014

Monday Foodie Porn: Public House

Hellooooo, Monday... I am so glad to see you! I know, I know. It's the exact opposite of how I usually feel about Mondays, but this Monday is special. This Monday officially signals the start of SPRING BREAK! Woo-hoo! For those of you who don't work in academia, let me assure you that professors get just as excited about spring break as the students do (except rather than sunning ourselves on some sparkly beach, we usually end up using the week to catch up on mounds of grading). Along with tackling my imposing grading pile, I'm also spending a few days with some awesome students who decided to participate in our school's alternative spring break trip, meeting up with a few friends for some much needed girl time, and catching up on a few of my recent foodie adventures (finally!).

As has been well-documented on this blog, I am slightly obsessed with brunch. Okay, really, I'm more than slightly obsessed... I live for a good weekend brunch! Not only is it the perfect weekend indulgence (and a nice break from my normal on the go protein shake breakfast), but also I love the laid back pace of the meal. Plus, there's the day drinking - really, who *doesn't* love a meal in which day drinking is not only acceptable, but also highly encouraged?!

Public House invited a group of Chicago Food Bloggers to stop by and check out their recently revamped sweet & savory brunch menu. Of course, as a bona fide bunch fiend, I jumped at the opportunity to sample some of their goods. To be quite honest, Public House was not previously on my brunch radar - I had been to the popular gastropub before for burgers, beer and cheese curds, but somehow didn't realize that they also serve my favorite meal of the day. I can officially say that I am now a believer. Public House has everything every brunch lover would want - a relaxed atmosphere, a variety of both traditional and creative dishes, and of course, plenty of liquor. ;-)

 Breakfast Sandwich: toasted sourdough boule with scrambled eggs, pork sausage, American cheese, arugula, tomato, and shaved red onion. This was some of the best sausage I've had in a long time (fresh, flavorful & the perfect amount of heat); I was also impressed to learn that all of their meats are made in-house.

 Crab Cake Benedict: jumbo lump crab cakes, garlic spinach, poached eggs, and hollandaise. This was definitely a standout dish for me - the crab cakes were crispy on the outside/buttery smooth on the inside and had a wonderful bite (again, the ideal amount of heat and spices). Plus, they served them in the most adorable personal cast iron skillets (and as we all know, miniaturized versions = extra cuteness).

 Chicken and Waffles: southern fried chicken, caramelized waffles, hot sauce, and maple syrup. As I've mentioned before, I don't get chicken and waffles concept. I like chicken and I like waffles, but there's something about the combination that just doesn't make sense to me. Despite my confusion/anti-c&w stance, even I can admit that this was a delicious dish, thanks to the crispy & juicy chicken, sweet waffles, and robust hot sauce.

Doughnut Fried French Toast with a cream cheese glaze, seasonal market jam, and fresh fruit. Is there really anything more that needs to be said about this? ;-) 

Sticky Cinnamon Bun with toasted pecans and vanilla butter cream. This was the second standout dish for me - it was equal parts gooey, crunchy, sweet, and melt in your mouth delicious! While I wouldn't order this as my main entrée, it is the perfect center of the table/share with a friend indulgence. 

Sticky Cinnamon Bun, Doughnut Fried French Toast & Maple Bacon: the trifecta of brunch awesomeness! 

Parfait Pint: granola (made in-house), vanilla Greek yogurt, and fresh berries. As someone who's usually not a huge fan of Greek yogurt (it's a big too tart for me), I was surprised by how much I loved this parfait. The granola was satisfyingly crunchy, the yogurt was smooth & not overly tart, and the berries added a nice touch of sweetness. 

2.06.2014

Fogo de Chão Contest & Giveaway!

I don't know about you, but I am SO over this winter! As a born and raised Midwestern girl (who still lives here by choice), I typically enjoy the colder temperatures and a little snow, but there's just something about this year's installment that really has me on edge. When I'm not trudging through the massive snow drifts (this morning I had to jump through one that came up over my knees just to get to my car), fighting to stay upright as I slip and slide my way across the ice-entombed sidewalks, or just plain freezing my ass off in these subarctic temperatures, I'm dreaming of getting away. How lovely would it be right about now to take off and visit somewhere warm with gorgeous beaches, delicious food, and sparkly drinks... maybe somewhere like Brazil?


Thanks to the Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chão, my Chiberia-induced fantasy could become a reality for very one lucky winner. In short, they will be sending a fan on an expedition into the heart of Brazil, where Fogo de Chão originated. The winner is chosen based on whoever has the most exciting submission describing why they are perfect to win this journey. How cool is that?!

In honor of this awesome (and perfectly timed!) contest, Fogo de Chão provided me with a gift card to give away to one of my lucky readers. The gift card is good for a dinner for two at any Fogo de Chão location in the United States. Enter via Rafflecopter below... and don't forget to enter for your chance to win a trip to Brazil, courtesy of Fogo de Chão!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1.21.2014

When A Brisket Meets A Ninja

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana

Hello fellow foodies!  Long time no see! Happy belated New Year and all of that other fun stuff. I hope the holidays were happy and healthy for everyone.

Let's get down to some cooking business, but before I do that I first have to be begin by thanking the lovely folks at Euro Pro, makers of the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System for the lovely gift bestowed upon me well over a year ago (oops!).




If you're unfamiliar with the Ninja, it's a slow cooker on a whole new level. It's a slow cooker, stovetop and oven all in one, and I just absolutely love it! You can sear and slow cook your meat all in the same pot. It bakes, too! Click here for some great demo videos.

I've made stews, soups and pot roasts in the Ninja, but this past weekend I made an ah-mazing brisket that I just can't seem to stop talking about! It took ten hours to cook and it was well worth the wait. I actually woke up at 4am on a Sunday to throw it all together so we'd have in time for lunch later that day. Talk about dedication!

Here's the recipe, scroll past for details and pics!


Easy Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Brisket Recipe

INGREDIENTS

For the barbecue sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the brisket:

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1 (5-pound) beef brisket
INSTRUCTIONS
1. Place all of the barbecue sauce ingredients in a 3-quart or larger slow cooker and stir to combine.

2. Place all of the measured brisket ingredients except the brisket in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

3. Place the brisket on a cutting board and cut it in half widthwise. Evenly coat it with the spice rub and place the 2 brisket pieces in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until fork-tender, about 10 hours.

4. Transfer the brisket to a clean cutting board. Pour the barbecue sauce from the slow cooker into a medium heatproof bowl and set it aside.

5. Remove the excess fat from the brisket and discard it. Slice the meat against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick pieces and return it to the slow cooker. (Alternatively, you can shred the meat with 2 forks.)

6. Use a spoon to skim and discard the fat from the surface of the barbecue sauce. Return the sauce to the slow cooker and stir gently to combine it with the meat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
If you know me, I'm always doctoring up recipes, but I refused to this time around. The only thing I omitted was the cayenne pepper (I'm a spice wimp) and adjusted the salt for the rub, since I didn't have kosher salt. I had fine sea salt, so I cut it down to about a teaspoon, perhaps a little bit more, and it worked out perfectly. I also planned to ask the butcher to cut most of the fat layer from the brisket, but Whole Foods had them already trimmed up in the display case, which was a big plus.

Here's some eye candy:

This was around hour five, brisket pieces playing nice in the pool. I also flipped the pieces over every couple of hours so it would cook all the way around in the sauce.

Smells = DELICIOUS!
Ten hours later, brisket is done.  I pulled the pieces out of the Ninja and into a dish to cool so I could completely remove the fat layer and move on to the next step:
After waiting about thirty minutes I shredded the brisket with a couple of forks and it came apart easily. Another option is to slice it against the grain, but I was all about the pulled brisket.
Oh and by the way: Taste = DELICIOUS! I had to leave the kitchen otherwise I would have eaten the whole thing. Oh my!
After the sauce cooled in the pan I skimmed off the fat from the top, then threw the kids back into the pool. I used the "stovetop" setting on the Ninja to reheat everything thoroughly. 
Ninja's multiple settings = FEWER DISHES TO WASH! Whoo hoo!
And now, the final product, the BBQ pulled brisket sandwich! I added a thin slice of sharp cheddar cheese but it really didn't need it. We served them on crusty sourdough rolls, but cut them in half and dipped the sandwiches in the BBQ sauce that's on the plate.
This is probably one of the best brisket recipes I've ever come across. The meat was juicy, tender and flavorful, thanks to the slow and low cook time and the combination of rub spices and the BBQ sauce. By the way, the BBQ sauce is very thin, almost like a gravy, and I really enjoyed that (great for dipping, like an au jus!). If you want to, I think you could cook down the sauce to make it thicker, but to be honest, I just couldn't wait any longer!
Thanks for reading and I hope you have an opportunity to try out this recipe. If you do, please share your thoughts in the comments section.  :-)

1.08.2014

A New Year

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a fabulous Chrismahanukwanzakah (I'm a firm advocate of celebrating everything, as more holidays = more friends, food, and fun drinks!) and a fabulous start to 2014. As per usual, I spent the first two weeks of my winter break pretending as though I don't actually have any responsibilities (it was all parties, middle of the day drinks, baking, and DVR catch-up sessions); however, the time has come to put the finishing touches on my syllabi and to officially start stressing about getting up at 5AM in the frigid weather (uggggh).

Here's a bit of what happened during the last few weeks...

Food Blogger Events



































I kicked off my break with the perfect event: a lovely brunch at Nellcôte, hosted by Chicago Food Bloggers. The food was fantastic (oh, the delicious lobster hash *swoon*), the drinks were plentiful, and the conversation flowed (punctuated by numerous foodie photo breaks, of course). :-)





















Foodiechats holiday party at Chi-Town Eatery (yes, I won a $50 gift certificate in the drawing! huzzah!)





















Media opening of Blaze Pizza's newest location (build-your-own thin crust pizza FTW!)

Exploring Eataly






























If you live in Chicago and haven't yet visited the newest Eataly location, you need to get on it immediately! Eataly is FOOD HEAVEN! Seriously, the fresh pasta will blow you away, the cheese section is to die for, and the Nutella bar... well, what's there not to love about a Nutella bar?!

Movies

So far we've seen The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (where I rocked my special District 12 Victor shirt), Thor: The Dark World (OMG, Loki!), Saving Mr. Banks, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I also spent some quality time on the couch with a few on demand movies: Don Jon, The Five Year Engagement, and A Night at the Roxbury (yes, it was my first time - as I mentioned on Twitter, unfortunately, I think I was far too sober and about 10 years too old to fully appreciate its charms).

Project 365

One of my 2013 Life List Goals was to take a photo every day for the year; I'm proud to say that I stuck with it and completed my first round of Project 365! As I mentioned in my Life List Goals post, the point of participating in the project was to record the big and small moments of the year; additionally, I wanted to improve my photography skills. While I still need to work on the technical aspects, my ability to see what would make a good photo has vastly improved - once I trained myself to look for interesting subjects throughout the day, there were more days than not in which I had a collection of solid photos from which to choose. I toyed with the idea of completing the project again this year (as I have a fab new camera), but I decided to focus more on my writing (blogging and other creative nonfiction pieces) instead. However, I am planing to complete a modified version of the project during my summer break.

If you're not friends with me on Facebook (or don't have a FB account), you can follow this link to view my entire Project 365 album.

Christmas & New Year's Day Fun 











































-----------------------------------

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions (mostly because I don't care for the negative connotations), but as you know, I am one of those task-oriented, goal-driven, list-making people. While I don't feel the need to shame myself into making promises that I'll most likely never follow through with, I do love the idea of taking stock of where I am with my Life List and moving forward into the new year with a positive attitude. I'm still working on much of what I identified for last year and plan to continue down the same path this year.

I'm grateful for all of your support and look forward to another year filled with fabulous foodie adventures! Happy 2014! :-)

12.19.2013

Thirsty Thursday: Absolut Chicago Moscow Mule

Welcome back to Thirsty Thursday! Considering I've already been to three holiday gatherings and a restaurant opening this week, the last thing I probably need is to indulge in Thirsty Thursday, but hey... 'tis the season, right?!

Not too long ago, Diana and I were lucky enough to be invited to a fantastic event hosted by Absolut Vodka at the Hubbard Inn. Not only did they serve us a wonderful brunch, but they also plowed us with all sorts of fabulous cocktails and sent us all home with beautiful bottles of the new Absolut Chicago (which we had both been coveting since Chicago Gourmet).

It was during this brunch that I discovered one of my newest favorite cocktails, all thanks to the Hubbard Inn's totally adorable bartender, Travis. The Absolut Chicago Moscow Mule is a fun play on the traditional cocktail and would make the perfect addition to any holiday gathering (or a Mad Men themed party!). If you haven't already, you can pick up at bottle of the limited edition Absolut Chicago from Binny's or select Target locations (I recently found a few bottles at the Uptown Target)... it would also make a fantastic gift for your favorite Chicagoan (hint, hint!). ;-)

Absolut Chicago Moscow Mule

INGREDIENTS
1.5 oz Absolut Chicago
1/2 oz lime juice (raw)
1/2 oz lemon juice (raw)
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 sprig rosemary
Ginger beer

DIRECTIONS
1. In a drink shaker, combine vodka, lime juice, lemon juice, and syrup with ice and shake vigorously.

2. Strain into highball glass filled with ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with rosemary sprig.

12.11.2013

Cranberry Pistachio Pudding Cookies

As my wise friend once said, it is officially Eating Season (she swears it should should have some sort of national holiday designation). Thanks to such a late Thanksgiving, I do kind of feel like I've been eating almost nonstop ever since then. There was our awesome Thanksgiving spread (here was my contribution), then there were all of the delicious leftovers... as soon as we finished up with the leftovers, it was time to shift into holiday cookie baking (and sampling!) mode. My first order of (cookie) business? The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

TGFBCS is the brain child of two lovely bloggers. The concept is simple: they match you up with three other food bloggers, you bake & send a dozen cookies to each of your matches, and your matches do the same for you. Not only is there all sorts of cookie awesomeness, but also, the event supports a great cause (read more about it here). 

Chocolate Dipped Double Coconut Macaroons from Mary Beth at A Carrot and a Cupcake
Gingerbread Trees with Lemon Icing from Carol at Cafe Carol

Thick & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies with Gingerbread Oreo Bits from Becky at The Cereal Baker

I came across these Cranberry Pistachio Pudding Cookies on Pinterest a few weeks ago and immediately knew I had to give them a try. Unfortunately, once I went back to the original pin and clicked through, I found they were made with a boxed sugar cookie mix (boo!). However, I loved the idea of them much that I just had to recreate them with my own spin - I ditched the cookie mix, cut down on the amount of salt & pistachios, and added in a healthy dose of my favorite vanilla bean paste. Holy deliciousness! While last year's White Chocolate Peppermint M&M Cookies are still my favorite, these are definitely a very close second.

Cranberry Pistachio Pudding Cookies

Yield: 3 dozen cookies






















INGREDIENTS
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 package instant pistachio pudding mix (I used this)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (this is my favorite brand)
1 cup dried cranberries (I used these)
1/2 cup dry-roasted salted pistachios
Optional: green food coloring (if you want an extra-green cookie)

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper and set aside.

2. Using a mixer, first cream butter and sugar together until combined. Then add eggs, vanilla & pistachio pudding mix and beat until smooth.

3. Sift together flour, salt & baking soda. Add dry ingredients to wet mix.

4. Using a wide spatula, stir in cranberries and pistachios.

5. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough on prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely.