August 2012 | chicago foodie girl

8.27.2012

Monday Foodie Porn: Food Truck Social

*Tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on? Ahem.

As I mentioned on my facebook page (follow me over there for bonus content!), I didn't mean to disappear. I spent much of the last week and a half walking around in a major state of zombie-ness. My new job is quite lovely and there are a lot of fantastic people, but between getting up an hour earlier than normal, a 1.5 hour commute (each way!) to navigate, a wicked case of insomnia, and a billion new students/classes, I'm was totally out of it. Thankfully, my insomnia broke just in time for the weekend - I slept a glorious nine hours on Thursday night (versus the 2-3 I was sleeping), spent Saturday evening at Ravinia, and braved the pissing rain on Sunday for an afternoon of deliciousness at the Food Truck Social.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before or not, but I am slightly obsessed with food trucks - I have been known to plan an entire outing around a food truck stalking session. :-) While food trucks are common in many other major cities, the trend is a fairly recent phenomenon in Chicago, thanks to some strict legislation that made it difficult for them to operate in the city. After a recent surge in food trucks and a lot of push from the owners, the city finally amended the original food truck ordinance. The new ordinance still has some major limitations (for instance food trucks are not allowed to park within 200 feet of a competing brick-and-mortar restaurant), but it is a step in the right direction (they can finally apply for a license to actually prepare food on board - up until a few months ago, all food had to be pre-prepared/cooked). They city has received almost 50 mobile food preparer license applications over the last two months, which means one really great thing for me... more food trucks with awesome food! Hooray!

Diana and I attended the second annual Food Truck Social yesterday and had a magically delicious time (despite the abysmal weather). The FTS is the perfect opportunity to both learn about new food trucks and to track down some of the seemingly elusive trucks. There were fifteen trucks parked in a giant lot in West Town with a bunch of tables/tents and live music. Not only did we eat so much fantastic food, but also, thanks to the rain, we had the opportunity to talk to many of the food truck owners without hordes of hungry, angry people trying to push us out of the way to get to front. I can't wait until next year's social, which is already rumored to be twice as big!

(please excuse the quality of some of these photos - it's not all that easy to take photos in the rain while balancing various plates of goodies)

Free Almond & Coconut bars from the KIND truck!

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8.23.2012

Don't Ever Go To Anyone's Home Empty Handed

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana

Those are my mother's exact words whenever she or any of us are invited over to someone's home, and she says this to us for a couple of reasons.  First, she's very generous and selfless (ok, REALLY selfless), but the other reason (which makes me laugh every time she brings it up) is that she always wants to leave the host with a good impression of her, because she often worries that she will leave after the party and the host may say, "She didn't bring anything. That's the last time I ever invite that dirty Puerto Rican over." 

Oh, Momma. She's a little delusional about certain things, but she means well. If you know her, you understand this perfectly.

Based on her repetition of that phrase over the years, not going into anyone's home empty handed has found a permanent place in my brain. Depending on the event I'll bring a bottle of wine, loaf of bread, coffee, a dish to pass or a fancy dessert. I usually opt for the latter because everyone loves dessert and I can leave the lasting impression of, "Wow, that dirty Puerto Rican's daughter knows how to buy dessert!"

I'M KIDDING. Honestly, that dirty Puerto Rican thing never gets old at my house. Haha!

Oh and if you have pets, I'll probably bring them a treat, but don't count on me bringing your pet boa constrictor a box of live mice, crickets or whatever they eat. Ick.

As I mentioned, dessert is usually my go to item, and I try to make it as fun and interesting as possible.  Variety is key, especially if you don't know your crowd. Not everyone loves chocolate the way I do. Ha ha!

Whole Foods has helped me out in a big way, as they now carry an assortment of mini cupcakes and mini versions of their larger desserts (fruit tarts, key lime tarts, chocolate raspberry tarts) that are always a hit. Although being my mother's daughter, I have a tendency to over buy and the next thing you know I have two dozen mini desserts to bring to a dinner for four. Oops! But hey, more for me!

And if I'm feeling adventurous, I'll even bake for you! I make a mean oatmeal cookie, where I substitute the raisins for dried cherries. Everyone loves 'em and really, it's just the recipe from the Quaker Oats box, and they come out great every single time!

But cooking sometimes stresses me out, so Whole Foods, I thank you for your bakery. You're a home run every single time!

And honestly, my mom means well and I know it. She's such an interesting and fun person, and she puts so much (maybe too much) love into everything she does, especially when it comes to cooking and feeding people. It's never a dull moment when you're around her. 

She's in NYC visiting relatives for the next couple of weeks and I'm missing her, which I guess is why I'm writing this post about her. She's the greatest. Here we are in Door County, Wisconsin, 2009. This is one of my favorite pictures of us.  :) 



With love,
The Dirty Puerto Rican's Daughter  (hee hee!)

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8.22.2012

Raw Chicken Gives Me The Willies

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana






No really, it does.  I'll get to that in a minute. 

I love to cook, I really do, but time is not always on my side these days. I have a job that eats up A LOT of my time, but I'm one of those weirdos that loves their job, so I don't mind...well, most of the time. My day often does not end at 5pm, and I'm okay with that, but my crazy work habits on top of other things (boyfriend, family, friends, gym, etc) often have me avoiding the kitchen and reaching for easy stuff or even take out, which is okay, but come on. I like to cook, and should I know better.

I recently moved out on my own after living in my parents two flat for 37 years (I'll help you with the math - I'm 41. At age 18 I began sharing the upstairs apartment with my sister.) and thought, "Wow!  I'm going to cook EVERY DAY!" Yeah, not so much. Coming home at 7 or 8pm takes the mojo out of wanting to cook anything in general, plus I live alone, so cooking for one can be difficult. One reason is that I'm hispanic, and I was raised by a lovely little Puerto Rican woman who believed that if you didn't cook for an army, it wasn't dinner, so you can kind of guess what happens when I am inspired to cook.    

But she taught me how to appreciate leftovers, even showing me how to get creative with them!  Although three days of turkey tacos leaves me hoping she buys a smaller thanksgiving turkey next year.  Ha ha!

Before I go on, I have to admit that for being a carnivore, I hate handling raw meat, which sometimes contributes to my cooking reluctance. I don't like to touch or cut into it if I don't have to. If I can get it right into the pan, score! And if the skin is gone, even better!! I don't know what my problem is, because if you cook it up and serve it to me, and I'll eat it. With pleasure. Just don't make me handle it when it's in a raw state. Especially chicken.  

Weird, I know, especially coming from a person who as a child already knew how to cut up a raw chicken ("Diana, cut the bones at the joint!") into eight pieces, cook it into a jerky state (hey, I was learning) and then watch with gleaming pride as my family choked it down, asking "can someone refill the water glasses?" Oops!

Fast forward to today. I was at the store the other day, and there was a special on Purdue's Perfect Portions chicken, buy one get one free! What's cool about this product is that is individually portioned AND marinated! I bought the garlic and white wine flavor, and my freebie was the jerk seasoning flavor.

So I think Mr. Purdue knew of my love of chicken but my all of a sudden squeamishness, and therefore created the Perfect Portions line (ok, maybe not, but thank you thank you thank you!!). The bag contains five pieces, already marinated. They're easy to open, and you pop 'em right into the pan. Easy peasy. And I don't get grossed out in the process.  

I KNOW. I KNOW! WTF is wrong with me???

Last night, I decided to try the garlic and wine flavor, so I invited Tom over for dinner and made a fabulous spread that included the PP chicken, saffron rice (that totally lacked flavor although I cooked it in chicken stock - but we sassed it up with some truffle salt and a tiny drizzle of fruity olive oil and it was a lot better), green beans that you cook right in the bag in the microwave (Tom added a little salt and butter at the end) and a salad that I quickly threw together that consisted of arugula, baby romaine, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, chopped walnuts and cranberries (I'm all about cranberries in my salad these days). I put the entire spread together and had dinner on the table in 35 minutes. Woot!

Everything was healthy (for the most part) and delicious! We even had enough leftovers to pack lunches for Tom and myself, which I just enjoyed as I typed up this post.  I loved the fact that the chicken had just the right amount of marinade and came out tasting just right.  I didn't have to add any seasoning or feel like it may have been over seasoned.  Score!!

I definitely plan on buying more of the PP line. I can still cook chicken and not freak out in the process.  

Please, humor me.  :)

My mother's ears are probably ringing right now for not buying the whole chicken ("Diana, it's cheaper!"), cutting it up (eeek!), removing the skin (double eeek!), making my own marinade and cooking it. 

Sorry Mom!  :)

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8.13.2012

Monday Foodie Porn

Hanging with my friend, Breezy, at her daughter's birthday party

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend. As with many of you, I spent a good chunk of mine glued to the Olympics. I've always been fairly indifferent about the Olympics; while I greatly enjoyed the gymnastics and track portions, I never really paid attention to much else. There was something different about this year - it was as though an Olympics craving switch was suddenly turned on in my brain. I just couldn't get enough! I even watched some basketball, which is one of my most hated sports (only slightly ahead of football). I especially loved the women's super heavyweight lifting - those girls are fierce!

Besides the watching the Olympics, I devoted a fair amount of time lesson planning and getting things ready for the new semester (my new job starts in two days!). Mario and I also spent Friday geeking out at Chicago Comic Con and then partied hard on Saturday at our friend's seven-year-old's birthday party. Fun times! :-)

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8.08.2012

Easy Seared Scallops

I have a love/hate relationship with scallops; while I love eating them, I tend to hate cooking them. Fresh scallops that are cooked properly are sweet, buttery, and will practically melt in your mouth. Fresh scallops that are just slightly overcooked are like little fishy, chewy hockey pucks. Let me just say that once you've experienced them, it's hard to get the fear of cooking scallops and ending up with those chewy pucks out of your mind. Yuck.

I stopped by Fresh Farms International Market the the other day (that place is awesome!) and was enticed by a special deal on some beautiful scallops. I decided it was time to give my scallop cooking skills another try. I used a recipe for seared scallops from Alton Brown (slightly modified) that I saw on a episode of Good Eats years ago and I'm proud to say that I ended up with a really amazing dish. The scallops had a lovely caramel coating on the outside and were tender and buttery on the inside.

If you've never cooked scallops or you just want a simplistic way to prepare them that will really allow for the flavor of the scallops to shine, I highly recommend this easy recipe!

Seared Scallops


INGREDIENTS
1 to 1 1/4 lbs dry sea scallops (approximately 16)
2 tsp unsalted butter
2 tsp olive oil
Truffle salt (the original recipe calls for Kosher salt, but the truffle salt gives it a really lovely flavor)
Freshly ground black pepper

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8.06.2012

Awesome News!


You might have guessed by my string of no cook recipes and festival posts that I haven't done much cooking/baking during the past few weeks. We've had some pretty hot days here in Chicago and honestly, the hotter it is, the less I want to hang out with a blazing oven in my air conditioning-less kitchen. However, that's not the only reason for my lack of posts. The other reason is way more exciting and much higher on the awesomeness scale than the hot, humid weather... I got a new job! Woo-hoo!

For the last five years, I have held both a full-time teaching position at one college and an adjunct position at a second college. My full-time position was one that is often misunderstood and not very highly regarded amongst academics (non tenure-track, but with the responsibilities of someone who is a tenured professor at an equivalent school); unfortunately, it was also one that came with terrible pay. I'm not going to go into too many details because I've already complained about it enough, but basically, it sucks to hold a full-time faculty position and to also have to work a part-time position on the side.

I've been on and off the job market for the last few years. While I really wanted to leave my full-time school (and to stop working two jobs!), I didn't want to make a lateral move or end up at another school that I disliked. I had a long list of wants/needs that I refused to compromise on - because of that list, my job search was quite limited. I will admit that it was frustrating, but I hung in there and at the end of May, I was offered a coveted tenure-track position at one of the few schools in the area that I had targeted. I gave my notice mid-July and finished up with both jobs last week. Hell yes!!

The last three weeks have passed in a blur of paper grading, finals, packing, lunches with coworkers, and goodbyes to all of my favorite students. In addition to the craziness of finishing up at both schools, I've also been preparing for the start of the new school (trainings, syllabi, etc.). Now that I'm officially on break (I don't start at new school until next Wednesday), I have a little time to catch up with everything (yes, I'm actually going to cook something! Yippee!). Also, don't be surprised if I suddenly comment on something you wrote weeks (or possibly months) ago. :-)

Yay me! :-)


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