Asparagus and Poached Eggs

If anyone is guilty of splurging too much lately it is me! So after all my crazy-calorie-blasted meals, I decided to take it easy and eat as healthy as I could this week. I enjoyed baked chicken, roasted brussel sprouts, oatmeal with banana slices and lots of broccoli! Yesterday after a long walk home from work, I decided to make asparagus with poached eggs. I’ve never had this before but it sounded appealing so I decided to go for it! It ended up being really satisfying and delicious. While this is typically a standard Italian breakfast, it can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner too!

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Asparagus and Poached Eggs

Ingredients:

6 stalks of asparagus, woody ends cut off

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

2 eggs

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Removed woody ends from asapargus and place on a greased cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Roast, turning once for 25 minutes.

Poaching the eggs can be tricky. I always make sure to crack each egg in a separate bowl and allow to sit in a tablespoon of vinegar each for five minutes. Placing them in a bowl is key as this allows for an easy “slide-in” when placing into simmering water. Another key is the whirlwind method is stirring the water in the same direction until it creates a little water tornado. You then slip the egg in the center of the whirlwind, one at a time. It comes out perfect for me every time. For additional instructions I think that Smitten Kitchen demonstrates it best.

Once asparagus is roasted and eggs are poached, place asparagus on plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Top with the poached eggs and finish with salt and pepper. ENJOY!

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Little Goat

An hour wait? No problem! As long as I get to try Stephanie Izard’s new restaurant Little Goat. Located across the street from her now famous Girl and the Goat, this place is set up diner style, but with Izard’s own flair planted on the design and menu items. All traditional foods you’d find at any average diner come with a spin at this place. Think pork and toffee milkshake or sloppy joes with goat meat. Everything we ended up ordering was a-maz-ing, I just wish we had the stomach space to try more!

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“The Little Goat” Coffee was rich and creamy and made with steamed goat’s milk.

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The spiced apple pancake with cream cheese butter and oatmeal crumble was just….decadent!

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Gluten free sourdough pancakes for my gluten free friend!

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“Los Drowned” with braised beef, avocado, buttercase cheese, pickle and spicy mayo on a hoagie. This came with a delish au jus type dipping sauce.

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Of course had to get the side of mac and cheese with breadcrumbs for the table! No complaints, no complaints at all.

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And last but not least was my order: Chicken Cordon Bleu with breaded chicken, ham, brie cheese sauce, kraut, and pickled peppers on a homemade potato bun. Even though this was probably the messiest sandwich I’ve ever had, so messy a fork and knife were definitely necessary, every bite was so well balanced and tasty that the mess stopped mattering. I loved it all.

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You can really tell that Stephanie puts her heart and soul and creating each and every dish. This is a place where you can really taste the passion!

Balena

So glad I finally got to try Balena in Lincoln Park! I have been meaning to try this place for a while, so 5 friends and I went to check it out last week. Chris Padel, the restaurant’s head chef, was in the running for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant; that’s some serious stuff! Balena was also nominated for Best New Restaurant in the Chicago Foodie’s Bible- Time Out Chicago. I always trust the food writer’s opinions in that magazine and that was the big reason I was so tempted by this restaurant’s tantalizing menu.Image

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Balena means “whale” in Italian, and after feasting on these delicious menu items, I think we all felt pretty whale-like…(but well worth it).

We started with two pizzas. The first, and all around favorite of the two, was the Spicy sausage pizza with red onion, tomato and mozzarella. The crust was so fresh and all of the ingredients melded perfectly together for a cheesy, spicy, warm slice.

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The second pizza was the brussel sprout pizza with pancetta, pecorino and red onion. It had a salty/lemony flavor with the crisp leafy texture from the sprouts. Still a really good pizza, but nothing compared to the spicy sausage which was scarfed down by the table within 10 minutes. The brussel sprout pizza had two slicing remaining. The winner was clear.

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Everyone got their own pasta dish for the main course. I like how the pasta dishes weren’t humungous like most Italian eateries. I was happily able to eat every last bite of mine. The most popular dish at the table was the Tagliolini Nero which was an ink pasta with crab, sea urchin and chili. Three people at the table ordered it! This dish reminded me exactly of the pasta I ordered at RPM Italian and I have to say, RPM take the cake on that one. Everyone at the table really enjoyed Balena’s Tagliolini Nero, for me, it was my least favorite.

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I ordered the Orecchiette based off of the waiter’s heartfelt recommendation for it. I was very impressed! This dish came with kale, lemon, chili and toasted breadcrumbs that added some great texture on top of the creamy sauce. I only let one person at the table take a taste and I ate all the rest!

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The last thing I tried was the Rigatoni with pork ragu and porcini mushrooms. Mushrooms are probably the only food I do not enjoy so I poked at the pasta and pork sauce which was really delicious.

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Everyone really enjoyed their dinner at Balena, I hope to go back soon and try some more of their amazing-looking pizzas!

Good Eats of the Winter

Although the dreary March we’ve been having in Chicago doesn’t make me feel like Spring is near, it is indeed approaching! I am so excited for the warm weather to start showing up! Winter isn’t my favorite season, but I did enjoy quite a lot of taste bud pleasing meals and treats. Here are some of my favorite eats of this winter.

Breakfast Pizza at Tavern on Rush. So yummy! I am a huge proponent for runny yolks and this pizza was covered in it after we dug in.

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My roommate and I made this Toffee Bark for our Friendsgiving party. It was a huge hit! check out the recipe here: Chocolate Graham Toffee 

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Bruschetta Platter. I made this for our appetizer on Christmas day! Layer on the olive oil parmesan dip then pile your toast high with the balsamic tomatoes!

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Fried Egg Sandwich from Dunlay’s on Clark. One of my favorite brunch places in the city. They also have a great veggie burger!

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Jalapeno Popper Dip that I made for the Superbowl. I used the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. It turned out spicy and warm and delicious. I will definitely use this recipe again!

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Veggie Quinoa with Goat Cheese. Healthy and satisfying.

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Table-side Gaucamole at Adobo Grill. I love this Mexican restaurant in the Old Town area. This gauc is so fresh and we asked for it extra spicy.

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Homemade Kuma’s Corner Burgers! Arguably the best burgers in the city of Chicago. The first one is The Iron Maiden with avocado, cherry peppers, pepper jack and chipotle mayo. The second one is The Mastadon with cheddar, BBQ sauce, Bacon and fried onions.

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The Breakfast Burrito at The Bongo Room in Wicker Park. This had guacamole, scrambled eggs and a bunch of cheese stuffed inside. YUM!

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Can’t wait to eat my way through Spring now….

Greek Chicken Skewers and Tzatziki Sauce

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When I studied abroad in 2009, my favorite place that I got to visit was Greece. I never thought I’d love any kind of food more than Italian, but the food in Greece really rivaled it! I ate my heart out from everything from the gyros to the fish to the flaming cheese. Now I have a bunch of favorite Greek restaurants that I frequent in Chicago (my favorite is Avli in Winnetka), and love cooking with Mediterranean flavors since its always healthy and flavorful. Here is a really easy dish that’s low in calories but high in deliciousness!

Greek Chicken Skewers and Tzatziki Sauce

For the chicken…

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3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, grainy

1 red onion, cut into 2-inch pieces

Directions: Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, herbs and mustard until well combined. Cut chicken into 2 inch cubes and let marinade in lemon/garlic/herb mixture for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.  Once marinaded, Preheat oven to 350 degrees and  begin to skewer chicken and onions, alternating between one chicken cube to two onion slices. Place in greased baking dish and bake in oven for about 15 minutes and turn to other side. Bake for another 15 minutes or until cooked through.

For the Tzatziki…

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2 cups of fat free Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and minced

2 tablespoons fresh dill

Directions: Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve the meal with warmed pita bread and enjoy!!

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An Italian Wedding Shower

This past weekend, My mom and my aunts put on a beautiful wedding shower for my cousin. Their hard work paid off in everything from the food, to the decorations to the music- it felt like we were in Tuscany! Check out some of the highlights:

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The amazing stuffed shells were made by Aunt Jo! She made them based off of the colors of the Italian flag- Pesto Chicken for the green, Lemon Basil Ricotta for the white and Turkey Sausage and Artichoke with Marinara for the red. She put her own little spins off of the below recipes, like using her own homemade marinara sauce and adding ricotta instead of cream cheese to the pesto shells. Try them out! I have a hard time choosing my favorite because they were all so yummy, but I think I lean towards the awesome pesto shells!

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

Lemon Basil Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Turkey Sausage and Artichoke Stuffed Shells