June 2012 | chicago foodie girl


Recipe: Watermelon Mint Mojito

It is so bloody hot, humid, and just plain nasty in Chicago today. Seriously, this is ridiculous... the Midwest has no business whatsoever hanging out in the triple digit range. Ugh!

If there was ever a day for a refreshing summer cocktail, today would be it. As I mentioned in the past, I am all about the slushy, fruity drinks. However, I also have a major love for minty drinks, which is why my absolute favorite summer cocktail is the Watermelon Mint Mojito. Not only does it strike the perfect balance between fruity and minty, but it's also super refreshing. 

My mouth is watering just thinking about this awesome drink... really, is there anything better than the combination of watermelon and vodka on a hot summer day? I think not. I can't wait to get home and pour myself one of these bad boys! :-)

Watermelon Mint Mojito

3 oz watermelon vodka (recipe below)
6-8 fresh mint leaves, muddled
1 lime wedge, muddled
Simple syrup with mint  (recipe below)
Club soda to taste
A wedge of watermelon & mint sprig for garnish

Basic simple syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Bring to a boil and let reduce by a third. Take off heat, add in 6-8 mint leaves, and let steep for at least 1/2 hour. Refrigerate up to 1 week.

For infused vodka:
1-liter plain vodka
2 cups watermelon, diced
Mix together and allow the flavors to blend for 24 hours or up to 3 weeks.

1. Shake together all of the ingredients for the mojito and pour over ice.

2. Top with club soda, or lemon-lime soda. Garnish with a wedge of watermelon and sprig of mint.



Tuesday LTP: Hummus

Welcome back to the Tuesday Lunchtime Poll! I took brief hiatus from posting polls because I was feeling a little burnt out, but now I have some new topics and I'm ready to get this thing going again. Woo-hoo! :-)

Let's talk about hummus. I am one of those people who looooves hummus. It is the food of the gods... it pairs perfectly with pita, crackers, carrots, red peppers, grape leaves & feta, avocados & turkey, Kalamata olives... the list goes on and on. This Hummus Crusted Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon recipe? Oh, holy amazing.

While I prefer my homemade hummus (extra tahini & garlic with roasted red peppers and/or artichoke hearts), I pretty much always have a tub or two of store-bought hummus on hand. I've spent years trying various brands and while there aren't any that I really hate, there are a few brands that I'm not overly fond of (namely Athenos). Of course, there are also those that I really love: Sabra's Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, the Greek Olive hummus, and the Basil & Pesto hummus are my absolute favorites; Tribe's Zesty Spice & Garlic hummus isn't far behind. I also love the Roasted Lemon & Thyme hummus from The Love & Hummus Co., but unfortunately, it's only sold in California. Occasionally, I'll buy either the edamame hummus or the guacamole hummus from Trader Joe's (but I still think the avocado hummus I make is better).

Today's LTP: How do you feel about hummus - are you a hummus fiend like me? Do you have a preference for homemade versus store-bought? What's your favorite brand and/or flavor?



Recipe: Korean BBQ Seitan Salad

I was already over a year into my five year stint as a vegetarian the first time I had seitan. Up until then, the only faux meat I had encountered was in the form of Boca Burgers or the nasty water chestnut veggie patties that were served in my college's cafeteria. I was amazed not only by the texture of that funny little wheat gluten (I could have sworn it was meat!) but also by the taste. The professor who made me that dish was a whiz at cooking with seitan - he opened my eyes and palate to a whole new world of vegetarian cooking.

While I do eat meat these days, I still love my seitan. Today's Meatless Monday dish, Korean BBQ Seitan Salad, is my version of that awesome dish my professor made me all those years ago. This is a simple way to cook with seitan and it's an extremely versatile dish - it can be served on its own as a hearty salad, or can be used for a sandwich/wrap filling.

Korean BBQ Seitan Salad
Makes 2 servings

1 package of seitan strips - approximately 1 lb (this is my favorite brand - you can also make your own)
1/2 jar Korean BBQ sauce (I use CJ Bibigo Korean BBQ Sauce)
2 thinly sliced roasted red peppers (jarred or freshly roasted)
Toasted sesame seeds
Mixed greens - approximately 10 oz.
1 tsp olive oil

1. Remove seitan from liquid and marinate in half of the BBQ sauce (approximately 1/4 of the jar) for 30-60 minutes. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the BBQ flavor!

2. Coat pan with olive oil and sauté seitan over medium-low heat until it's golden brown (3-5 minutes). Make sure you watch it carefully because it is *very* easy to burn.

3. Reduce heat, add remaining BBQ sauce (1/4 of the jar), and top with peppers. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until sauce has cooked down.

4. Spoon seitan over salad greens and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.



Recipe: Avocado Hummus & Tomato Sandwich

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. I had a very packed & fun one that included brunch with a friend at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, another brunch where I encountered the biggest Bellini I've ever seen (it was served in a pint glass, which made me very, very happy), a showing of Prometheus, and most importantly, my favorite six-year-old's birthday party. :-)

Besides being a busy weekend, it was also an unbearably hot one. It has been in the 90s with some ridiculous humidity for the last few days and the nasty streak will continue for most of this week. Seeing as we live in a small apartment with no AC, I'm not interested in cooking anything when the weather gets like this. I made the mistake of turning on the oven during some ungodly weather last summer... let's just say that I created a hellish salmon-infused inferno that lasted for days. Lesson learned.

As I am currently on a mini-cooking hiatus, I've had to bust out all of my favorite no-cook (or microwave only) recipes. Today's Meatless Monday dish is a simple recipe that highlights some of the best flavors of the season: tomatoes and avocados. It's not only one of my favorite sandwiches ever, but it's also full of healthy fats and is super easy to make (only two steps!). Most importantly, it doesn't require turning on the oven. :-)

Avocado Hummus & Tomato Sandwich
Makes 2 servings

1 avocado
1/2 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed
1 lemon, juiced (approximately 3 Tbsp)
Sea salt & pepper, to taste (I use truffle salt - it is amazing on both avocados & tomatoes!)
4 slices whole grain sprouted bread (I like Ezekiel)
2 cups arugula (or substitute with fresh spinach)
2 plum tomatoes

1. Make the hummus: mash together the avocado, beans, lemon, and salt/pepper.

2. Assemble the sandwich: layer the avocado hummus, arugula, and tomato on the bread (I like mine toasted).

*recipe via Dawn Jackson Blatner at The Chopping Block


Recipe: O Crunch Bars

I was a latecomer to the delicious world of Rice Krispie Treats. As a child, there were always plenty of homemade desserts to be found in our kitchen (my mom was a cookie genius), but Rice Krispie Treats never made it into the rotation. I actually don't remember encountering that childhood staple until I was almost a teenager. I remember the experience well because not only was I bowled over by the amazing treat I had missed out on for so many years, but also because I had actually made them myself. That first time was in my 6th grade Home Economics class, where we were partnered up for our first day of cooking lessons and given a detailed set of instructions, along with a stern lecture about stove safety. My partner just so happened to be my 6th-grade crush... let's just say that Mike lost a little of his luster that day when he burned the butter (which was his only task!) and ruined our project. I ended up remaking the Rice Krispie Treats by myself because not only did I want to actually taste them, but I was also a Grade Nazi and refused to get anything less than an A on the assignment. :-)

While I still have a serious love for RKT, these days I tend to refrain from making them because otherwise, I will go crazy and gorge myself until I'm sick (they're so addictive!). Rather than heading down the shameful road of unhealthy RKT madness, I satisfy my cravings with a much healthier version that is sans butter and marshmallows, but just as delicious. O Crunch Bars are sweet, chewy, crunchy, and as a bonus, even easier to make than Rice Krispie Treats.

If only my Home Ec teacher had known about these, then maybe poor butter-burning Mike wouldn't have lost some of his cool that fateful day...

O Crunch Bars
Makes 12 servings

3 cups "O" cereal, such as Multigrain, Dulce de Leche, or Chocolate Cheerios
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup almond butter (or peanut butter if you prefer)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Cooking spray

1. Pour cereal in a large bowl.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir brown rice syrup and almond butter until melted.

3. Pour mixture over cereal and stir.

4. Mist 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray and press cereal mixture into dish.

5. Top with chocolate chips and press them lightly into the cereal.

6. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, until set. Cut into 12 bars.

*recipe via Dawn Jackson Blatner at The Chopping Block



Travel Guide: Girls Weekend in Madison, Wisconsin

As I mentioned last week, I spent most of my free time during my senior year of college (oh so many years ago) exploring everything that Madison had to offer. I went to a very small school about an hour outside of the city and while I got a fantastic education and really loved so many things about the environment, it wasn't exactly the epicenter of culture. To me, Madison was bright and shiny - it was diverse and had yummy restaurants & a funky vibe that was lacking at my school. I fell in love with that city and considered it to be one of my top choices to live once I was finished with school.


Meatless Monday: Double Sesame Kale

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. My friend, Barb, had a training to attend on Saturday in Madison and she invited me to head up there with her and make it a girls weekend. I made a last minute decision to clear my calendar and join her, which I'm so glad I did! There was a time in my life in which I spent practically every weekend roaming the streets of that city (back when I was a senior in college/a lifetime ago!), but I hadn't been back in eight-ish years. I spent the time she was in her training wandering around the huge farmers market and visiting all of my old favorite stores and cafés. It was a lovely weekend, but I have to say that it was a bit weird being back there, as everything was so familiar, but I'm no longer the same person who fell in love with that city all those years ago. The 30-something-year-old version of myself definitely has quite a different perspective than the 19-year-old version did (I'm also far less awkward & have much better style, thank goodness!).

After a weekend of 
rum punch and amazing gelato (more on this next week!), it's time for me to do another mini-detox. I don't ever do anything weird or harsh - I just focus on eating a mostly fruit & veggie-based diet and up my Shakeology servings from one to two per day. My detoxes give me the perfect excuse to pull out my recipe files and revisit some of those long-neglected, but delicious meatless dishes, including today's Double Sesame Kale. While I usually find raw kale to be far too bitter, the honey in this dish cuts down the bitterness factor; the addition of the sesame and Bragg's Liquid Aminos leads to the perfect sweet/salty/savory combination. Yum!!

Double Sesame Kale
Makes 4 servings (1 cup each)

1-2 bunches of kale (enough to make 8 cups chopped)
3 Tbs brown rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs dark sesame oil
1 Tbs sesame seeds
Bragg's Liquid Aminos, to taste (you can substitute with low sodium soy sauce)

1. Remove kale leaves from stems. Discard stems and finely chop kale leaves.

2. Put chopped kale in large bowl and pour on remaining ingredients.

3. Massage the ingredients into the kale for 5 minutes (with your hands) until the 8 cups of kale shrink down to about 4 cups.

*recipe via Dawn Jackson Blatner at The Chopping Block

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