March 2012 | chicago foodie girl


Breakfast Find - Refrigerator Oatmeal

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana 

 My boss recently shared a link to this website, which contains recipes for making "Refrigerator Oatmeal." I've never eaten my oatmeal cold, so I was intrigued. Additionally, I was getting bored with my regular oatmeal (which was currently on hiatus), so this had perfect timing.



Tuesday LTP: The Hunger Games!

If you haven't already figured out by my lack of posting (I missed Meatless Monday!), things have been a bit crazy around here. In fact, things have been so crazy that I managed to lock my entire bag, complete with keys, wallet, and lunch, in my car when I got to work this morning (thankfully, I caught Mario before he left for work and he was able to come downtown & rescue me with the spare key). Oy.

On the bright side, the craziness isn't *all* negative - some of it is just the fallout of an extremely packed (and fun!) weekend. If you're my friend on facebook, you already know that I am obsessed with all things The Hunger Games... and I know I'm not the only one (in fact, judging from my Facebook feed, I would say you're in the minority if you're not!).

I'm currently in love with the Cupcakes on Fire from fictional food. Seriously, how awesome are these cupcakes?! I really think I'm going to have to make some for the Catching Fire premier (because I'm just a big nerd like that). Oooh, maybe I should I have HG party with food from the books. Perhaps some Lamb Stew with Dried Plums and Bone-Pickin' Big Game Soup? Thanks to The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, that's definitely a possibility! :-)

Today's poll: Did you see The Hunger Games? If so, did you read the books beforehand and were you pleased/displeased with how it played out on screen? What did you think about the casting (especially Peeta)?

*Needless to say, there will be spoilers in the comments... don't read them if you haven't seen the movie & don't want to know anything! 



When A Mexi-Rican Goes Irish

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana

Yeah, you read that right, this Mexi-Rican went Irish this year. What? I think Diana O'Hernandez has a nice ring to it, no? :)

Anyway, just for fun, Tom and I decided to prepare a lavish-ish Irish feast this weekend. The menu consisted of:

Corned Beef - I bought a semi prepped 5 pounder at Trader Joe's. It came with the seasonings and everything, which made it easy to throw in the crockpot with a can of Guinness (thank you, Sarah, for that tip!) and a bit of water. I cooked it on high for three hours, then on low for another 3. It came out perfect! The flavors of the seasonings coupled with the beer made the flavors come together nicely. Slightly peppery with a hint of tartness, in my opinion.

Braised Cabbage - we used a Tyler Florence recipe that I highly recommend! Anything served with butter and olive is ALWAYS delicious! I just didn't want plain old boiled cabbage, and I think we stumbled upon a great recipe!


Tuesday LTP: Easter Candy

It's almost Easter and everyone knows what that means... it's time for the best holiday candy! Now, while Halloween is my favorite holiday by far, it doesn't warrant much excitement on the candy end - it's all about the pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pancakes & apple cider. The same goes for Christmas - peppermint bark is delicious, but really, there's no candy that compares to the awesomeness of the seasonal cookies and pies. Easter? It's straight up candy heaven.

My top three Easter candy picks:

1) Peeps. Yes, they've now infiltrated other holidays, but they'll always be Easter candy to me. I'm especially fond of the new dark chocolate dipped chicks (although Mario did point out that they look like they're sitting in a pile of their own crap). :-)

2) Cadbury Mini Eggs. Milk chocolate eggs on their own? Eh. I could totally live without them. Take those same eggs and cover them with a hard candy shell? Holy deliciousness. They're crunchy, chocolatey, and totally adorable!

3) Cadbury Creme Eggs. The crème de la crème of Easter candy. I love, love, love Cadbury Creme Eggs... well, it's more like an I have a love/hate relationship with them (I try to resist eating too many, but the Easter candy season is soooo long and they're soooo yummy!). Gooey pure sugar goodness encrusted in sweet chocolate - the perfect combination.

Honorable mention: Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs

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If your favorite is something other than what I listed, please answer the poll in the comments! Also, I'm interested in hearing what everyone thinks of Cadbury Creme Eggs - love 'em or hate 'em? 



Meatless Monday: Collard Green Burritos

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. It was (and still is) unseasonably warm here (as in 70s/80s versus our usual 40s/snow); as much as I'm an autumn and early spring weather girl, I have to say that the brief bit of summer weather we're having is quite nice. How could you not feel good when you're able to walk along the beach in sandals/sans coat in the middle of March? :-)

Although I know it won't last long (the temperature is actually supposed to drop back down to the 60s by the end of the week), this warm weather is making crave some of my favorite summer dishes (lighter meals, mostly comprised of fruits and veggies). Today's Meatless Monday dish is the perfect warm-weather meal - it's packed with flavor, easy to assemble, and as a bonus, both vegan and gluten-free!




One must handle these bachelorette party cookies with special care... otherwise, you might end up like the poor fellow in the upper left-hand corner (aka Mr. Detached Balls).



Guest Post: Introducing Sarah

Hey all! Starr is kind enough to allow me to occasionally invade her foodie blog with my own thoughts, recipes, and food experiences! But first, let me tell you about myself.

I'm a college instructor who teaches public speaking and various communication courses. A common how-to speech? Making some sort of food. (Advice to future students: don't lick your hand during the how-to part and then offer us the food you've been touching with the same hands. Because suddenly I'll claim a food allergy! And some of you? Can't cook or bake. Please just don't.)

I wouldn't call myself, or my husband, a foodie, but we do enjoy good food and wine and we try to be adventurous. We know a lot of food snobs that end up missing out on some great meals because it's not "fancy" enough for them.

My favorite food is probably Indian, though I feel like we're always on the hunt for "the best pizza." We currently live in downstate rural NY (originally from Western NY) and there is no "best Indian," no decent Indian even. :( I love cheese but have some mild lactose intolerance issues, so out of courtesy to those I'm around  I try to limit my dairy intake. We're currently on a tight budget, but even when we're not we like to find restaurants/wines that are a good deal for your money. We don't eat at too many chains and are strong supporters of local stores and wineries. (Looking for a good New York State wine? I've got you covered.)

I hope to share some restaurant reviews in case you're ever traveling in my general area or anywhere else we've traveled and found a gem worth sharing, in addition to some of our favorite recipes. They aren't exactly fancy, but they're easy enough to make, so hopefully, you'll enjoy them.


Tuesday LTP: Favorite Candy Bars

I loved Whatchamacallits when I was a kid but stopped eating them in the late 80s (when I discovered the joys of the vastly superior KitKat). After watching a slew of commercials from the 80s on YouTube a few years ago, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and picked up a Whatchamacallit the next day. Um, gross. I don't know if it's because of the change of ingredients (Hershey stopped using cocoa butter in Whatchamacallits & replaced it with vegetable oil in 2008) or if I just had really bad taste when I was a kid, but that candy bar has nothing good about it. Ick.

These days, I'm really not much of a candy bar eater (I'm more likely to reach for a cupcake or Sour Patch Kids when I want something sweet). When I do indulge in a candy bar, I'm a lot pickier about the quality of the chocolate than I was when I was younger. I admit that I've become a chocolate snob - I would much rather spend my money and calories on something really delicious, rather than wasting either on some cheap chocolate (although I do still have a slight weakness for Snickers & KitKats). I love just about anything from Vosges (especially the Black Salt Caramel Bar and the Red Fire Bar), or anything from Cocolove (Raspberries in Dark Chocolate and Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate are my favorites). Dagoba's Lavender Blueberry Bar and Chai Bar, and Ghiradelli's Dark & Sea Salt Caramel round out my list.

Today's Lunchtime Poll: What are your favorite candy bars - past/present?



Meatless Monday: Shaved Brussels Sprouts Pasta with Warm Walnut Vinaigrette

You voted for it, so here we go... welcome to the first edition of Meatless Monday! 

As with beets and okra, I think the key to Brussels sprouts lies in the preparation - I've had many soggy, bitter, and/or underseasoned dishes, which led me to believe for years that I didn't actually like Brussels sprouts. The recipe that changed my mind came from one of the many cooking classes I've taken with Dawn Jackson Blatner at The Chopping Block.

Dawn focuses on easy-to-make flexitarian dishes that are both healthy and delicious. All of the dishes from her classes are fantastic, but there a few that really stand out for me - this dish is definitely at the top of that list. It's a great side dish or can stand as a meal on its own. Highly, highly, highly recommended (especially if you're on the fence about Brussels sprouts!).

Shaved Brussels Sprouts & Pasta with Warm Walnut Vinaigrette
Makes 4 servings (3 cups each)

6 ounces uncooked whole grain linguine noodles (I use Racconto whole grain)
1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced/shaved - about 8 cups
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Walnut Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
4 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons fresh chives
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper, to taste

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1-2 lemons, juiced
Salt, to taste

1. Cook pasta according to directions.

2. In a food processor, combine vinaigrette ingredients until smooth.

3. In a skillet, sauté Brussels sprouts in olive oil and garlic for 12-15 minutes, until tender and caramelized. Pour in vinaigrette, toss, and take off heat.

4. Combine cooked & drained pasta with Brussels sprout-vinaigrette mixture.

5. Top with toasted walnuts, lemon juice, and salt.


Restaurant Week 2012: Chicago Q

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana

February 17-26, 2012 was Chicago's Restaurant Week. It's an exciting time for a foodie, I tell you!

The Restaurant Week site describes the program perfectly:

"Chicago Restaurant Week is a member-based program designed to promote the restaurant industry and drive traffic to participating establishments during a typically slow time of year. For ten days, diners can enjoy value pricing for lunch and/or dinner at dining establishments throughout the city.

Organized by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, Restaurant Week gives local foodies and visitors an opportunity to enjoy prix fixe menus from more than 200 participating restaurants ($22 lunch, $33/$44 dinner). "

For the fixed price, it's a great deal. You get three courses and they feed the crap out of you. One may think it's a bit much, but I'm a leftovers girl, and if it's a great dining experience, I don't mind leftovers one bit.

Last year, I went to Mercat de la Planxa, which was great. I was disappointed that I wasn't able to try additional restaurants, so I promised myself I'd try several more the following year.



Monday Foodie Porn

Happy March! The highlight of my weekend? Mario's guitar class recital!

I can't believe it's already March. While February is usually intolerably long (and my least favorite month by far), it flew by surprising fast this year. Despite an emotionally rough start to the month and a wicked twisted ankle (which kept me out of the gym for three weeks - ugh!), February actually managed to end on a high note, thanks to some lovely visits to new (to me) restaurants during Chicago Restaurant Week.

I'm determined to continue the happy vibes through the rest of this month, as March can often come in a close second to February in terms of suckiness (the weather in this part of the Midwest is such a dark hole of depression during this time of the year). My ankle has finally healed enough and I'm jumping back into my gym schedule today; I have a meet-up with a friend at Bandera planned for the end of the week; later in the month Diana and I have tickets for a super-awesome event with Jen Lancaster (along with reservations at an amazing Italian place afterward) and The Hunger Games will finally be here (!!!); and by the time we reach the end of the month it will be time for the start of hiking season! :-)



Dining New Orleans Style

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana

In 2008 I had the crazy idea of walking in the New Orleans Marathon. I barely did any training, I was scared out of my mind (to the point where I almost backed out at the last second), but I attempted the 1/2 marathon and made it to 11 miles. Thanks to a giant blister on my right foot I was unable to finish the full 13 miles, but in my mind, it was a huge accomplishment. I got a crazy little (well, not so little) tattoo to celebrate the event and every time I look at it, it gives me a great sense of pride and reminds me that I need to get back out there again and finish the full 1/2 the next time around!

My sister traveled with me and we wrapped a little vacation around it, which was a great time. My sister's soul mate city is New Orleans. She absolutely loves that town and everything that it has to offer. You mention NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) to her, and her eyes light up like a beacon in the night. She looks forward to traveling there as often as possible.

I have to say, going to NOLA with my sister is like taking your own tour guide. She knows practically everything NOLA - neighborhoods, music, shopping, tours, off the beaten path interesting things to do, and my favorite, dining. She lived there for a time, made some wonderful friends and tries to get out there as often as she can. Additionally, she's a fan of New Orleans chefs, such as Emeril and John Besh (and I'm sure many others - maybe she'll comment on this post and tell us about a few more!), and on this trip we made it a point to try a few places we'd never been to before.

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