Thursday, December 27, 2012

Four Weeks of Cookies: Peanut Butter & Espresso Truffle Blossoms

For the second installation of Four Weeks of Cookies, I am thrilled to introduce you to my new favorite confection and one of the best cookies I've had in a long, long time. Picture a soft, chewy peanut butter cookie topped with a decadent dark chocolate and coffee truffle. Now square the deliciousness factor, and, voila! you have a peanut butter & espresso truffle blossom. Everything about these cookies is just perfect—texture, flavor, appearance.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites

'Tis the season for celebrating and that means you're probably in need of some easy appetizer recipes. Well, party people, look no farther than these fancy pants cheese and crackers. Part sweet, part savory and all parts festive and delicious, these are the perfect app to bring along to any holiday gathering.

When bringing treats along to a party, you want something that is relatively quick, easy and portable. Appetizers are great in this regard— you don't have to be a genius in the kitchen to create something that is tasty and impressive. Limited time or space? Not a problem. These little bites require minimal effort and will impress the pants off of your fellow party goers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Four Weeks of Cookies: Lemon Sugar Cookies

And so my holiday baking begins, with the first installment of Four Weeks of Cookies. During the month of December, I vow to remain in a constant sugar coma in order to bring you the creme de la creme of holiday cookies. First up, we have a twist on a classic: lemon sugar cookies with a lemon drizzle.

A healthy dose of lemon zest gives these sugar cookies a little zing and the frosting, a simple mixture of fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar, is a beautiful marriage of sweet and sour. One tiny, tangy cookie will leave you thinking, "Well... maybe just one more."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lemony Chickpea & Quinoa Salad

It's that time of year again, folks... You know what I'm talking about. That one month of the year your life becomes a haze of holiday parties and family gatherings. And your diet? Well, let's just say it's more indulgent than it is nutritious. Eventually, your body craves something fresh and healthy to offset the oodles of treats and booze you've been consuming. Here it is my friends, the perfect weekday lunch or dinner to reset your system and remind your body what a vegetables tastes like.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Super Green Smoothie

If you've never tried a green smoothie before, uncrinkle your nose and keep reading. If you have, you may already be a convert, but I'm going to preach anyway.

Green smoothies are the bomb. Apart from being quick and easy, they are nutritional powerhouses, packed with tons of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They're also a great way to get your daily intake of veggies without realizing it. Most people enjoy the taste of fruit, but vegetables, eh... Many have trouble getting their daily intake of veggies, and green smoothies provide a healthy dose of leafy vegetables, while masking the taste with the flavor of fruit and nut butter.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Truffles

It's October, which means I've been whipping up pumpkin goodies nonstop. Muffins, cake, and most recently, these deliciously decadent pumpkin truffles. Pumpkin puree, gingersnap cookies and a healthy dose of spices come together to create a strong flavor that is not totally pumpkin, not totally gingerbread, making them the perfect treat for October all the way through the holiday season.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bacon, Egg & Kale Breakfast Sandwich

Eggs are arguably the world's most versatile ingredient and also one of the most difficult to master. Almost anyone can make edible scrambled eggs, but flawless scrambled eggs? Not so much. The key is to cook them slowly over low heat to keep them soft. It takes finesse to produce the creamy texture that is the hallmark of perfect scrambled eggs. And that's just one preparation.

Hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, sunny-side up, omelet, frittata, each preparation has its own method and techniques to be perfected. So I've made it my goal to become master of the egg one preparation at a time, an egg jedi, if you will. First up...the fried egg.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blueberry Crumb Cake

I wrote a letter this week. It goes a little something like this:

Dear Crumb Cake,
Where have you been all my life? I love you. Never leave me again.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dining Out in Chicago: Balena

The moment I signed up to run a half marathon this spring, I started thinking about my pre-race carb fest. If I was going to commit to running farther than I had ever run in my life, I was going to make darn sure I adequately prepared (read: rewarded) myself with a feast of bread and pasta the night before. I spent weeks leading up to the race deliberating over a restaurant, and eventually settled on Balena, a new pan-Italian spot in Lincoln Park.

As I walked into the restaurant on the eve of my half marathon, visions of carbohydrates danced in my head. It was warm night in June and a light breeze ushered us in through the open double doors into the lofty space abuzz with conversation. Immediately I felt at home.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tequila-Lime Tilapia Tacos

Picture this: You’re sipping on a Corona with lime, munching on some chips and salsa while 311’s “Amber” plays in the background. You’re about to dig in to your plate of fish tacos- charred flaky white fish, topped with lime crema, avocado and a zesty cabbage slaw, all wrapped in warm flour tortillas. 

This is not you relaxing beach-side in Southern California. This is you eating dinner in the comfort of your living room on a Tuesday night... or at least it could be. Let me introduce the dish that's going to make it happen- presenting, tequila lime tilapia tacos.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Peach and Raspberry Crisp

BBQs. Flip flops. Beach volleyball. Everybody has that something, that one thing that, for them, epitomizes summer. It's what we dream about in the dead of winter when the warmth of summer seems like a distant memory. Summer isn't truly summer without that special something.

For me, that something is fruit desserts. Beach days are great, and I love sundresses and ice cold lemonade as much as the next girl, but it's not officially summer until I make my favorite dessert, peach and raspberry crisp. It's a dish that will always hold a special place in my heart, in part because it was one of the first recipes I learned to make on my own. And, along with Martha Stewart's Mac & Cheese 101, it's probably the recipe I've made most often over the course of my time in the kitchen. It's seen the countless milestones and celebrations, which inevitably fill up my calendar summer after summer— birthdays, graduations, Father's Days, Memorial Days, Labor Days, lakehouse weekends and beach trips. It's grown up with me over the past 10 years, and I've introduced it to all of the important people in my life. Summer after summer, things change and those people come and go, but I always come back to this dessert.

It know it's sappy to wax poetic about a simple mixture of fruit and sugar, but consider this my ode to summer. Try making it and maybe you'll understand what I mean.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dining Out in Chicago: Acadia

"This is where you're eating?" asked my cab driver, somewhat puzzled, as we pulled over at the corner of quiet and nondescript in the South Loop one chilly night in March. I responded with a nod and cheerful affirmation; I had been looking forward to this night for weeks. The larger part of my 20-minute cab ride had been spent chatting about my destination- an exciting new restaurant that had recently received high praise from the food critic at the Trib. After all my hype, it's no surprise he seemed a bit confused- from the outside, Acadia is just another storefront on a quiet block, no eye-catching sign or entrance, no crowds or passersby. Nothing about its exterior suggests the experience that awaits just behind the frosted glass. 

From the small unassuming sign at the entrance to the muted color palate and sparse decor, Acadia is the epitome of understated sophistication. Refined without being pretentious, it welcomes long, intimate conversations, and the caliber of both the food and the service guarantees a meal to remember.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chicken Salad with Roasted Red Peppers

This is one of my favorite go-to recipes for workweek lunches. It's a lighter take on chicken salad that is dressed with Dijon vinaigrette instead of the traditional mayo-based dressing. The chicken is mixed with crispy crunchy celery and flavorful roasted red peppers, and topped with chives to create a refreshing salad that makes for the perfect summer lunch. It can be served with bread, as a sandwich or with salad greens and a little olive oil. I like to make it into a sandwich with a handful of spinach or arugula and some extra dressing. Brown bag it with some yogurt and grapes for a light, but filling midday meal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Baking with Julia: Lemon Loaf Cake

I had high hopes going into this week's edition of Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia. The assignment was a lemon loaf cake, just in time for my family's annual Easter extravaganza. I love citrus, and while it doesn't hold a candle to chocolate, I've found that a nice light lemon flavor can be a refreshing departure from my decadent default. Also, Dorie described the cake as having the texture of a traditional pound cake, which I also love, but don't make often enough.

Sadly, the results failed to live up to my expectations. While the cake could not have been easier to make, I found it to be overly dense and dry. The lemon flavor was subtle and delicious, but was obscured by the cake's density and lack of moisture. I was expecting tangy and refreshing, but after a few bites all I wanted was a glass of water.

Monday, April 16, 2012

World Peace Cookies

Dorie Greenspan once said that she thought these cookies were as important a culinary breakthrough as Toll House cookies, and I can't say that I disagree. They are unlike any other cookie I've tasted and definitely vie for the top spot on my list of cookie recipes (yes, I have a cookie list, and if you don't already, you should probably make one...).

As a member of the sable* family, this cookie is melt-in-your-mouth rich and buttery with a wonderful sandy texture. But a chocolaty twist separates it from the traditional sable. It's made with cocoa powder and chunks of dark chocolate, and it is a chocolate lover's dream come true (I would know). The recipe also includes a healthy dash of salt. The end result is a cookie that's salty, decadent and deeply darkly delicious.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cherry Tomato Salad

This is one of my all-time favorite summer salads. It's simple, healthy and incredibly flavorful. I'm constantly resisting the temptation to make it throughout the year when tomatoes aren't in season, and this weekend, I finally gave in. But don't follow my bad example. Wait until you can get pints of perfect juicy cherry or grape tomatoes from the farmers' market. The end product is well worth the wait, I promise.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Salmon & Asparagus Frittata

This is one of those rare posts that provides insight into the kind of food that I eat on a daily basis (contrary to what you may believe if you read D*lish regularly, I don't eat chocolate, cookies and cupcakes 3 meals a day). I am a pretty healthy eater, but I don't blog about my day-to-day recipes as often, because let's face it, you'd rather gawk at photos of peanut butter cup bars, than say, photos of roasted chicken or quinoa and vegetables. However, this recipe had to make an appearance. It's super tasty and colorful, and with tons of protein, omega-3 fats, and essential vitamins and minerals, it also happens to be really good for you.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Honey Pecan Sticky Buns

These sticky buns will change your life. Seriously. They are just....the bomb. Yes, I just said that, because they're that good. The pictures don't do them justice. Trust me on this one. The dough— slightly sweet and deliciously buttery—is filled with butter and cinnamon sugar and topped with a honey and brown sugar glaze and pecan halves. Sounds good, right?

This is about the fifth or sixth recipe I've made from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, which my mom gave me recently (thanks, Mom!), and it's official, she is my new favorite. Every one of her recipes I've tried has been phenomenal. They are super easy to follow and I really enjoy her style of writing (her instructions on how to spot when the buns are done: 'they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily').

I will say, as much as I am a fan of these sticky buns, they are definitely a labor of love. They take a lot of time and effort. The brioche dough has to be tended to for several hours while it rises and then needs to chill overnight in the fridge. On day two, there's the time that goes into making the glaze and filling (not too bad), assembly time (a little worse), rising time (the worst), and actual baking time. So if you're not an avid baker, I wouldn't attempt these. It's just not worth it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baking with Julia: Irish Soda Bread

It's Tuesday, which means time for another installment of Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia. This week's assignment was Irish soda bread, in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I made my bread on Sunday, so not quite in time to enjoy for the holiday, but all those carbs certainly helped with my hangover, and for that, I am thankful.

I was crazy busy during the third installment of Baking with Julia and was unable to make the rugelach recipe, so I had to participate in this week's challenge, which I had planned on skipping. Beforehand, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of making Irish soda bread—it didn't appeal to my inherent love of all things chocolate; however, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the texture of the bread and its crispy exterior. The flavor was solid, but it definitely could have used some dried fruit (cherries would be my first choice), nuts or even cheese thrown in (I sprinkled some trail mix over the top to pretty it up a little). On its own it was a little plain for my taste, but I imagine it would be great topped with some butter or jam and paired with a cup of tea.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spinach Cigars with Tzaziki

Last weekend my sister was in town for a visit, aka a 3-day food fest. She loves food nearly as much as I do, so I relish any chance I get to show her the amazing dining Chicago has to offer. But after two days of eating around the city (reviews to come), we were ready for a night in, and ended up preparing an array of appetizers for some friends. Enter spinach cigars with tzaziki.

A spinach and feta cheese filling is wrapped in phyllo dough, brushed with butter and baked to make the spinach 'cigars,' which are then topped with a cool Greek yogurt sauce. The result is a yummy dish bursting with clean and refreshing flavors.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dining Out in Chicago: Mercat a la Planxa

The past week and a half marked a special time of the year in Chicago—Restaurant Week. During these magical 10 days, Chicagoans get the opportunity to take advantage of some of the best dining the city has to offer at a fraction of the usual cost. Participating restaurants offer 3-course prix fixe menus that run from $22 at lunch to $33 or $44 at dinner. I had the pleasure of dining at both South Loop's Mercat a la Planxa and Boka in Lincoln Park. The former was an experience that exemplified the essence of what is great about Restaurant Week—excellent food at a stellar price. The latter, however, was a lesson in where restaurant week falls short. But that's a story for another review.

I am a huge Iron Chef fan, so I was excited to check out Jose Garces's tapas hot spot. Upon entering, I was struck by the Gaudi-esque decor. The space is covered in geometric patterns and bright colors and exudes hip modern sophistication. The dining room's deep blue ceiling and hanging light fixtures create the illusion of a starry night sky. While the main dining area is a little cluttered, overall, the space is great and the decor is lovely. In terms of ambiance, the vibe is trendy and the place was buzzing all night.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes: 3 Ways

Valentine's Day is not one of my favorite holidays, but it's not without its redeeming qualities. First, it's an excuse to stuff my face with chocolate, and second, it presents an opportunity to make themed treats. So, imagine my excitement when I received a Valentine's Day package from my mom filled with 1. chocolate, 2. supplies to make themed treats, and 3. a new cookbook filled with recipes for said treats.

These adorable cupcake decorations (paper liners, toppers and sprinkles), along with my newest cookbook, Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, inspired me to make three plays on Dorie's recipe for chocolate cupcakes with chocolate glaze.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baking with Julia: Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

It's time for Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia! Today our baking adventure continues with chocolate truffle tartlets. I was really looking forward to making this week's selection, since it's my absolute favorite type of dessert- uber chocolaty and deeply decadent. I can safely say that the end result did not disappoint. It was a chocolate lover's dream- a buttery chocolate pastry shell with just the right amount of salt, a rich melt-in-your-mouth chocolate filling and chunks of milk and white chocolate and crunchy biscotti all mixed in.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Simple Tomato Sauce

Source: The Kitchn

This week's selection deviates slightly from the norm as far as my recipes go. If you read D*lish often, you know that I tend to gravitate towards recipes that involve a lot of ingredients or complex preparation. And that I somehow manage to take simple recipes and complicate them until they're barely recognizable. I'm not what you'd call a minimalist. That's for sure. However, I do acknowledge that simple is sometimes best and I understand it's important for every cook to have a handful of basic recipes in his or her repertoire.

When I stumbled upon Marcella Hazan's 4-ingredient tomato sauce on the Kitchn, I had yet to try a really great simple marinara recipe. It could not have sounded more simple, so I figured I would give it a try. The recipe was featured as part of an article titled "12 Recipes to Know by Heart" and after trying it, I understand why it was #1 on the list. It's smooth and silky and utterly delicious. And requires less than 5 minutes of hands-on time.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Baking with Julia: White Loaves

It's finally here! Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia has begun!

About a month ago, I signed up to be a part of Tuesdays with Dorie, a virtual baking club attempting to tackle Dorie Greenspan's 450+ page Baking with Julia. Twice a month, along with my fellow Tuesdays with Dorie bakers, I will be posting a recipe from BwJ selected by the group. Most weeks, I will simply share my pictures and thoughts, not the actual recipe itself. That right is reserved for the host(s) of the week. I could not be more thrilled to be part of such a great group. Let the adventure begin!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Breadcrumbs

Let me just say, brussels sprouts are my favorite vegetable, but I feel bad for them. The proverbial last kid picked for dodgeball, they're unfairly saddled with a bad rap. They're the vegetable that kids love to hate. But for all you haters out there, read on, because I'm going to make you love brussels sprouts.

It's my theory that about 90% of people who hate brussels sprouts have never had them prepared properly. It's crucial to cook them to just the right point of doneness, because underdone they are tough and unpleasantly crunchy, and overdone, they're worse. When cooked past their peak, sprouts are mushy and emit sulfur, which gives them a bitter taste and an awful smell. A lot of complaints about brussels sprouts stem from those who have only experienced the bitter mush that results when sprouts are cooked to death. But I guarantee this recipe will convert even the most avowed brussels sprout haters.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

It's the new year, which means that everyone could probably use some detoxing to reset and recover from the holidays, which have inevitably wreaked havoc on our bodies. I'm in Week 2 of my DIY Clean Program cleanse, so I have been stocking up on great recipes for whole, healthy eating, such as this one, and will be posting a collection soon for anyone in need of some detox recipe inspiration. But, for now, let me rave about one of my favorite recipe finds so far— a leafy green salad topped with roasted almonds, Parmesan and a tangy vinaigrette.

Whether you're cleansing, dieting or simply making an effort to eat healthier, this recipe provides a tasty way to stay on track. Packed with vitamins, antioxidants and fiber and low in cholesterol, fat and sodium, it's a veritable nutritional powerhouse.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Caramel Corn with Smoked Almonds & Fleur de Sel

Happy 2012, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. Mine busy, but filled with lots of friends, family, and of course, delicious food, so I can't complain. I have quite a few posts coming that I'm really excited about. Some may be completely new to D*lish (hint, hint: crafts) and some will most likely be out of order, so bear with me. Anyway, on to the recipe at hand, caramel corn!

I'm not usually a huge fan of popcorn and all it's variations, but when I saw this recipe for caramel corn as part of Graham Elliot's tree-trimming menu for Epicurious, I knew I had to give it a try. I think Graham Elliot is a genius (if you're out there, I love you!) and upon dining at his restaurant several months ago, I was a popcorn convert. Instead of bread and butter, Elliot serves dangerously addictive truffle popcorn with Parmesan and chives. I was stuffed before the 10-course meal even began!

My friend, Emily, hosted a New Year's Eve party at her apartment this past weekend and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to test out this gourmet take on a carnival classic. Let me say, it did not disappoint. It was whimsical and delicious with a lovely crunch. After the first bite, I was hooked.