Philz Coffee I ❤️ You

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Philz Coffee, I ❤️ you so much more than I ever thought possible. Starting out the 3 day weekend with a morning walk with Mom, I noticed people through the window of Pasadena’s new Philz Coffee location. Could it have opened without me noticing? With a few 70+ work weeks under my belt at the hospital, it seemed quite possible. Telling Mom she had to try the coffee I’d previously flown out of town for, we walked through the door to find ourselves not in a newly opened store but in the middle of the Philz executive board meeting planning the store’s opening! Mortified, we apologized and started to back away but before the words “I’m so sorry!” could exit my lips, the CEO himself had welcome us in and Daniel, one of the leadership team beckoned us to the counter and began making us perfect cups of Tesoro. I was so impressed and touched I sat myself right down outside and wrote this post while drinking my perfectly crafted cup of coffee. Philz, you’ve won a fan for life. Friends, please check out this location when they officially launch on June 2nd. You can register for their soft opening at PhilzPasadena.Eventbrite.com.

 

 

Latkes on latkes

IMG_4312Frying up latkes, a tradition that my mother taught me, and her mother taught her, marks the official start to my holiday season. There’s something magical about the sound of sizzling, golden potatoes in a hot cast iron skillet. Making latkes side by side with my Mom makes it a truly special experience.

Tonight, inspired by a Huffington Post article extolling the virtues of Julia Child’s potato galette, a French latke, of sorts, we tried out a new technique: pre-steaming our potatoes. Keeping the rest of my recipe the same, the addition of a pre-steaming step was a huge success.

In case you’re considering whipping up a batch of latkes yourself, you’ll need:

  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp of salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup of Panko bread crumbs or finely crushed matzo crackers
  • approximately 1 cup of olive oil

STEP ONE:

Scrub potatoes clean. Steam until potatoes are firm, but you can easily insert a knife (anywhere from 15-20 minutes, depending on your potatoes) . Special thanks to Food52 for showing me how to steam without a steamer.

STEP TWO:

Once the potatoes are steamed. Remove from your steamer (or makeshift steamer) and place on a plate. Let them thoroughly cool. I started mine out on the counter top for about 2 hours and then popped them in the fridge to speed up the cooling process (I simply couldn’t wait for my latkes  any longer).

 

STEP THREE:

Peel your cooled, steamed potatoes. The potato skin should slide right off without difficulty with the aid of a knife. Next, grate your potatoes on the large side of your cheese grater (too fine and you’ll lose the crispy, crunch latke edges I love so much).

STEP FOUR:

Crack and beat three eggs. Stir in salt, black & cayenne pepper. Combine the egg mixture with your grated potatoes and bread crumbs.

IMG_4287

STEP FIVE:

Heat approximately 1/4 inch of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. While the oil is heating, you can start shaping your potatoes latke mixture into pancakes. I make each pancake with about 3 Tbsp of mixture, keeping the the pancake to 1/2″ or less in thickness. They fry up best this way.

 

STEP SIX:

Once the oil is hot, fry one pancake until brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Once cool, taste to ensure that you’re happy with your salt & pepper ratio. If not, now’s your chance to add a bit more spice. Once you’re happy, form pancakes one at a time and place into the hot oil, making sure not to crowd the pan. This recipe should yield 25 potato latkes.

STEP SEVEN:

You can either serve latkes immediately, or keep them in the oven until they’re all fried and ready to serve. Sour cream, apple sauce and a side of Israeli salad are my accompaniments of choice, but potatoes go well with just about everything. Enjoy!

 

IMG_4309

 

Falafel Pitas with Tahini Sauce

homemade falafelI LOVE a good falafel sandwich. Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of discovering some of the best falafel around: Falafel’s Drive In in NorCal and Amsterdam Falafelshop in DC. Today, I just couldn’t get falafel off of my brain. Short of buying a last minute ticket to San Jose, CA, I figured the best thing I could do was set out to make my own. To my elation, the results were successful. Here’s a recap of tonight’s falafel adventure.

Falafel sandwiches were the goal. I already had a fresh pack of whole wheat pita on hand. My tomato garden is in full swing and with the cucumber in my fridge, I knew I could generate a generous amount of Israeli salad. The falafel was the intimidating part. Fortunately, I came across an approachable recipe on epicurious.

FALAFEL INGREDIENTS

3 cups of drained canned chickpeas

1/2 sweet onion (or white onion if that’s what you have on hand)

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 Tablespoons all purpose flour

Grapeseed oil for frying

Step One:

Rinse and drain the canned garbanzo beans. If you can, spin them in a salad spinner to remove any excess liquid before adding them into your food processor. Rinse and spin dry your cilantro and parsley before adding into the food processor with the garbanzos. Roughly chop the 1/2 onion and 4 cloves garlic and add them in as well. Measure out and add your salt, red pepper and cumin and add to the food processor.

Food Processor

Layered ingredients in the food processor

Step Two: 

Pulse the beans, herbs and spices until they form a coarse sandy texture.

Before the flour

Before adding the flour

Now add in the baking powder and flour. You’ll see the dough smooth out as the flour mixes in.

After adding the flour.

After adding the flour.

Remove the falafel dough from the food processor, place in a container with a lid and refrigerate, preferably for a few hours. If you’re impatient like me and can’t wait, pop it in the freezer while you continue your prep of the tahini sauce and salad.

Step Three:

Remove dough from the fridge and use a cookie scoop (or tablespoon if you don’t have a scoop) to form walnut sized balls of falafel dough. Roll them in your hands gently to form round spheres. You should get about 20-30 falafel balls.

Step Four: 

Heat your grapeseed oil in a deep heavy pot (I used my Le Creuset). The recommended frying temperature is 375 F. I didn’t have a thermometer, so I eyeballed my oil and placed a test falafel ball in the oil once I thought it was hot enough. Fortunately, I got lucky on the first try.

Step Five:

Your test falafel ball will tell you if your dough is the right consistency. It should stay together in a nice sphere as it fries to a rich brown. If it crumbles or falls apart, you likely need another tablespoon of flour. Keep an eye on you falafel. They fry quickly! Once they’re fried all around, remove them from the oil and set them on a paper towel lined plate to dry.

SESAME TAHINI SAUCE INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup tahini sauce

4 Tablespoons lemon juice (about one large fresh lemon)

1 clove pressed garlic

4 Tablespoons water

Pinch of salt

Step One (the only step!):

Press the garlic into 1/4 cup of tahini sauce. Add in the lemon juice. You’ll see the tahini stiffen and almost become gritty. Don’t worry. Add the water and you’ll see it smooth out into a creamy smooth consistency again. Add a dash of salt to taste and boom! You’re done.

ASSEMBLING YOUR PITA

Falafel platter

Falafel platter

I like a loaded falafel sandwich. In addition to the tahini sauce, I add in Israeli salad (cucumber, tomato, red pepper and lemon juice), pickled turnips, hot sauce and a slice of avocado (not exactly traditional, but it works). If you’re eating with a group, consider serving these condiments on a platter and encouraging each guest to assemble their own pita. It’s fun, and you’re sure to get exactly what you want the way you want it. Bon appetit!

bon appétit!

bon appétit!

Sriracha BBQ Tofu with Spicy Stir Fried Cabbage

I had a random head of cabbage and carton of extra firm tofu on hand in the refrigerator today. You may or may not have found yourself in a similar predicament at some point. Even if not, I think you’ll enjoy hearing what I did with this ingredient odd couple.

On its own, cabbage is a far from exciting vegetable. Asparagus, broccolini, brussels sprouts, even cauliflower are all vegetables with some spunk. Cabbage? Not so much…The plus side of being so bland, is that cabbage makes for an excellent spice vehicle and can absorb just about any flavor you’d like. The flavor of the day, as it so often is in my house, was Sriracha. Not just any Sriracha, though, Sriracha barbecue. Trader Joe’s demoed their new take on BBQ sauce in the store last week and I couldn’t help but bring it home. Today’s cabbage stir fry seemed like a good opportunity to try it out.

Ingredients:

  • Medium sized head of cabbage (if you’re feeling lazy, you could get away with 2 bags of pre-shredded cabbage)
  • 1.5 teaspoons of grapeseed oil (if you don’t have grapeseed, olive oil or canola will do)
  • Carton of tofu (roughly 19 oz)
  • 1 bowl of hot salt water
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha BBQ Sauce (I used Trader Joe’s version, but if you can’t find it or aren’t near one, you can use 1/4 cup BBQ sauce with 1-2 tablespoons of Sriracha)
  • 3 tablespoons of Bragg’s liquid amino acids (soy sauce or Tamari is an acceptable alternative but both are saltier, so I’d cut down to 2 Tbsp)
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Step 1: Pre-treat your tofu

I recently learned that pre-treating my tofu with hot salt water makes for a crispier, firmer consistency. After draining your tofu and cubing it into 1 inch sections, place it in a bowel of hot salted water for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are up, drain the tofu and pat it dry.

Step 2: Prep your cabbage

Shred your head of cabbage. I quartered my cabbage and then chopped each section into 1/2 inch strips. Of course, if you’re starting with pre-shredded cabbage, you can skip this step.

Step 3: Stir frying the cabbage

Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of grapeseed oil into your skillet on medium high heat and gradually add in your cabbage (I added mine in 3 portions, waiting for the heat to wilt each portion to make room for the next). After adding each third of the cabbage, drizzle in a teaspoon of Bragg’s amino acids. The Bragg’s helps the cabbage to soften. Once all the cabbage is in the pan, you can add in your cayenne to taste. Keep an eye on the skillet and continue to cook on medium heat until the cabbage is soft, but still has a bite, or about 10 minutes.

Step 4: Fry the tofu

You’ll need 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil in a hot skillet, preferably cast iron. Place your tofu into the skillet and cook until browned, approximately 5 minutes. Next, pour in the spicy barbecue sauce and toss to coat.

Step 5: Assemble and eat

Lay a bed of spicy cabbage in your bowl and top with your barbecued tofu. That’s it! All in all, I was done within 30 minutes and the flavor was worth every second.

sriracha tofu

Breakfast Lavash Wraps

 

Breakfast Lavash Wraps

Have I mentioned that breakfast is my favorite meal? At the start of the day, full of possibilities, and eggs and cheese and hot sauce, of course, breakfast always puts a smile on my face.

This morning, breakfast was quick and easy to prepare and exceptionally tasty, so I thought I’d share.

I’m a big fan of breakfast wraps. Having had a spinach and feta wrap at Starbucks yesterday, I set out this morning to make a spicier version of my own. This is how it went:

You’ll need:

Lavash wraps (I use California Lavash. At 140 calories they’re just the right size and not too heavy)

Cheddar cheese – 1/2 to 1 oz per wrap

Spinach – 1/4 cup per wrap (about a handful)

Diced fresh red bell pepper – 1 Tbsp per wrap

Egg whites – 3 egg whites per wrap

Sriracha (I used Sosu barrel aged Sriracha for its smooth, spicy kick)

Oil (I like grape seed for its higher smoke point)

Step One:

With a bit of grape seed oil (or olive oil if you prefer) in your pan, sautée bell pepper and spinach together. You can add a pinch of garlic powder to taste at this point, if you like. Once the vegetables are tender, pour in the egg whites. Let them cook on low heat. Once they start to opacify, drizzle on your Sriracha.

Step Two:

Now that the egg whites are semisolid you can layer on your cheddar cheese. Once topped with cheese, place the whole pan into the broiler. This is going to allow your cheese to melt and develop that bubbly crisp that makes cheesy eggs so delicious.

I also add more Sriracha here, because I like the extra kick, but I’ll leave that up to you.

 

Step Three:

You’re now ready to assemble your lavash wraps. Place your cheesy eggs into the wrap and roll. For an extra special finish, place the rolled wrap back into the skillet to let the wrap brown and crisp. This is also a great way to keep the wrap warm as you assemble more for friends and family.

Enjoy!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightened Up Sriracha Mac with Sosu’s Barrel Aged Sriracha

“Healthified” Sriracha Mac – featuring Sosu’s Barrel Aged Sriracha

 
I’ve lusted for months over Sosu’s Barrel Aged Sriracha. From the moment I saw their Kickstarter campaign and realized I’d missed the deadline to participate, I’ve been searching for ways to get my hands on the stuff. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I scoured the city for a jar, but came up empty handed. Everyone was sold out! Finally, it turned up on Food52’s store and about a week later, I was opening my very own bottle. 
 
 
 
I immediately drizzled some onto my omelet for breakfast and loved the the warm rounded flavor and heat the kicked in at the end. Included in the box was a recipe for the Sriracha Mac at Homeroom. In the midst of training for a marathon, I’m trying to be extra good about what I eat. Determined to make this recipe work for me, I set out to create a lower calorie version of the recipe with a little more fiber and protein. Here’s what I did:
 

Ingredients

Bechamel Sauce:

3 Cups FairLife Nonfat Milk
3 Tablespoons Smart Balance Margarine
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
 

Mac:

2 Tbsp Grated Fresh Ginger
1 Tbsp Smart Balance Margarine
8 oz. Creamy Havarti
8 oz. Light Havarti
2 scallions 
4 Tbsp Sosu Sriracha
 
 
Now, first, a little about my modifications:
 
I chose to use FairLife Nonfat Milk instead of whole milk. This was my first time trying FairLife and I’m pleased with the results. The milk is ultra filtered to keep protein and calcium while cutting down on fat. What’s not to like about that?
 

Nonfat milk and high fiber, high protein pasta


Secondly, I used Barilla Plus for my pasta. I’ve used this pasta for many a mac and cheese dish and love how it’s higher protein and higher fiber, keeping me full and satisfied. It holds up well and never gets that starchy glutinous texture I dislike about white pasta.
 
I cut used a vegan margarine instead of butter (and much less of it), substituted half of my havarti with a light version and used King Arthur‘s Whole Wheat Flour, instead of white flour.
 

King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour

And now, a step by step guide:
 
 

PREP WORK: Start out by investing a little time in your prep and save yourself stress during those critical moments later on!

1. Grate your Havarti
2. Grate your ginger and mash it into 1 Tbsp Margarine
3. Chop the 2 scallion tops
 

Prep work : havarti, ginger, scallions

 
 
 

STEP ONE: Making the bechamel sauce 

 
Gently heat your 3 cups nonfat milk in a heavy pot. Whisk occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick!

Heating the milk gently and stirring frequently

 

Melt the 3 Tbsp margarine in a heavy metal or ceramic pot. Add in the flour and stir vigorously for about 3-5 minutes until the flour is toasty. If it looks too thick, you can add a tablespoon of olive oil, or in my case, avocado oil.

 

Browning the flour (clockwise)

  

Now, you’re ready to gradually add the heated milk into the flour. Once you do, you’re going to have to stir and whisk like the life of this dish depends upon it….because it does. The last thing you want is a lumpy bechamel!
 

Poor gently and whisk til you can’t whisk anymore

Slowly, the sauce will thicken. Keep stirring and stirring for about 5 minutes. This is a nonfat milk so there’s a good bit of water that needs to cook off. Don’t lose faith, and keep a close eye on it, because when you think it’s not gonna happen, the sauce quickly thickens and you’re in business!
 
Test your sauce by dipping your spoon into it and making sure it’s forming a thick coating like you see here:
 

To the left, almost. To the right, alright!

STEP TWO: Mac and Cheese Magic

Now for the super fun part, adding in the cheese and everything else!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Throw in the havarti and stir

 
Next goes the scallions and pasta:
 

Mac and scallions

Now for that glorious Sriracha for color and kick:
 

Mmmm sriracha

Stir it all together and poor into a Pyrex baking dish. About 13×9″ will do it. Top with your Panko crumbs and pop it into the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. I stuck mine under the broiler for about a minute at the very end to brown the bread crumbs.
 

Sprinkle with Panko

 When it comes out in all its bubbly, cheesy, spicy goodness, top liberally with Sriracha and eat it up. Logging the ingredients in myfitnesspal, I got 9 servings for 550 calories each with over 30g of protein per serving. Not exactly a diet food, but not too shabby, if you ask me. 
 
 
 

Mmmm….

 I served mine with garlic Parmesan green beans and Gardein fried “fish,” but there are so many possibilities. Try it out and let me know what you think!
 

Gardein, garlic greenbeans and Sriracha mac

 

Eat your vegetables….for dessert

Eat your vegetables…for dessert

 
My family loves baked goods. Seeing how appreciative they are whenever I make desserts, I’m tempted to make them all the time. If it weren’t for my pesky nutrition based conscience, I’m certain that I would! Fortunately, I’ve started to collect some healthier dessert recipes that I can feel good about making (and EATing!) regularly. The most adventurous of these healthy desserts? Chocolate….wait for it….zucchini muffins!
 
I can’t take all of the credit for this recipe. I was inspired by, and modified, a recipe I discovered on the Spark People forums here: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1170609
 

Zucchini Chocolate Muffins

  • 2 c shredded zucchini
  • 1.5 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c cocoa
  • 3/4 c Splenda baking sugar substitute
  • 1.25 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 c fat free vanilla yogurt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla + a splash more (I love vanilla so I always add a tad more than called for)
  • 2/3 c mini chocolate chips

Step 1

 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While it’s warming up, you can grate your Zucchini. Two medium sized squash will yield the 2 cups that you need for this recipe.

grate zucchini using a cheese grater

Step 2

 
Combine all of your dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, Splenda baking, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg (if you like it, like I do. You could also try a pinch of allspice if you prefer).
 

Step 3 

If a little vanilla is good, a little more must be better, right?

Combine your wet ingredients: yogurt, egg whites, vanilla 
 

Step 4

 
Add your grated zucchini to your wet ingredients. This is where you’ll really start to wonder if any of this will amount to anything. Hang in there! 
 

Step 5

 
Add the zucchini mix into your dry ingredients. Stir until the all the dry ingredients have incorporated into a moist, but stiff, batter.
 

Yup, that’s really zucchini and cocoa powder. You can do this. It’s gonna work!

Step 6

 
Add 1/3 cup of chocolate chips to your batter. You’ll start to feel hopeful again, because anything with chocolate chips is good. Even zucchini! 
 
 

Chocolate chips = magic

Step 7

 
Spoon your batter into your lined muffin tin. Sprinkle the rest of your chocolate chips on top of each little muffin in the making. 

Ready to bake

Step 8

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick placed into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
 

See? It all worked 🙂

Step 9

 
This is the most important step of all. Do NOT eat them right away. Seriously! Why? When these muffins first come out of the oven, they taste a little, well, green. Like zucchini. But if you have patience, as the dough cools, something really unexplainable happens. Every bit of zucchini essence disappears and you’re left with a delightfully chocolatey, spicy, sweet muffin. Serve with a little cool whip and you’ll be quite pleased with yourself. I know I was 🙂
 
I think this recipe allows itself a lot of variations. I’m sure with a little effort, I can figure out a way to make it vegan (banana as an egg substitute, perhaps?) and possibly gluten free (oat flour should work just fine). If you happen to try a variation on the theme before I do, I’d love to hear about it. 
 

Roasting – Fast & Slow

Roasting – Fast & Slow

Roasted vegetables are delicious. The inherent sweetness brought out by the high temperature of the oven combined with that smokey blackened char on the vegetables’ edges makes for an irresistible combination. 

Roasting in the summer can be a little too hot, at least in California, so I tend to roast the most in the winter like I am now. Still, I wondered if I might be able to find a way to roast more quickly and efficiently to avoid keeping my oven on high for so long. With this goal in mind, I set out to do a head to head roasting trial using my traditional slower method and a sped up stovetop assisted version.

First, I set out to roast Brussels sprouts, the fast way. To make this dish you’ll need:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil (the regular kind, not extra virgin)
  • 1-2 tsp kosher salt 
  • 1-2 tsp ground black pepper 
 
 
First you’ll want to preheat your oven to 450 degrees. This can take a while and once you see how good these vegetables look, you won’t want to wait any longer than absolutely necessary, I’m sure of it.

Slicing Sprouts – halves & quarters

 
Start out by running your sprouts under cold water and peeling away any damaged leaves. This shouldn’t be too many, maybe 1-2 leaves per sprout.
 
I slice off a bit of the browned bottoms of the sprouts, too.
 
Next step is to slice them into bite sized pieces – halves for small sprouts and quarters for the larger ones.
 

 

Salt & pepper your sprouts

 

When you’re all done chopping your sprouts, toss them into your skillet. I prefer to use a cast iron skillet.

 
They generate high heat in an even distribution and can be placed directly into the oven. Just make sure your skillet is pre-seasoned otherwise they take a while to properly cure. 

 
Next you’re ready to season your sprouts directly on the stovetop. Drizzle your olive oil over them and toss. Next add your salt and ground black pepper to taste (1-2 tsp of each). 

 

See how nicely they’ve browned in the skillet?

Next you’ll cook your sprouts in the skillet on the stovetop until the pale green surfaces start to brown. 

This happens pretty quickly, so keep an eye on them and toss with a metal spatula every few minutes to make sure they’re not burning. 

You should be done in about 5 minutes.

This step is your shortcut. You’ve developed that tasty crisped edge that takes so much longer in the oven in just 5 minutes!

Now you can place them in the oven and roast them the rest of the way in just 10 minutes.

 

All done and ready to eat!

After about 10 minutes, your sprouts will be perfectly browned and ready to serve.

 

Next up, roasted cauliflower!

 

 Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Jalapeño  

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt 
  • 1 lemon (half sliced, the other half for juicing)
  • 1-2 Tbsp minced pickled jalapeño 
 
 

Fortunately, the sprouts and the cauliflower both roast at 450 degrees F so your oven should already be set and ready to go if you started with the sprouts.

Now, this may be too elementary for you, but just to make sure we cover our bases, I thought I’d share how I approach a head of cauliflower. It’s a somewhat unwieldy vegetable, after all.

First, I remove the large stem with a sturdy and sharp knife. The stem is tough and you don’t want to slip. I happen to use a J.A. Henckels 8 inch knife.

Removing the cauliflower stem

 Next, you’ll flip the cauliflower over and start paring the florets from the stalk. 

Separating the florets

Once your florets are all separated, you can chop them into smaller bite sized pieces. 

Cauliflower pieces

 Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we’re ready to season and roast them.

Drizzle the cauliflower with your olive oil in a large bowl. Toss and then add in your minced jalapeño and sprinkle with salt. 

Add olive oil, jalapeño and salt

After tossing to combine, spread your seasoned florets onto a parchment lined baking sheet. I sliced half a lemon and added the sliced to the pan to infuse some lemon oil during the roasting process.

Ready for the oven

 

Roast for 20 minutes, toss with a spatula and then continue to roast for 15 minutes more. Squeeze your remaining half of your lemon over the cauliflower just before serving.

Ready to eat!

 

So which roasting method won? For me, it’s a draw. The quick method with the stovetop head start steamed the sprouts so they were a little softer than with the longer oven only method. That said, they had a delightful sweetness that I think was brought out by that stovetop heat. The time savings were great, too! The oven only method yielded a nice firmness to the cauliflower but took a good bit more time. All in all, you can’t go wrong. Any roasted vegetable, fast or slow, is a winner in my book. Hopefully you’ll feel the same way after trying these recipes out. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago is for Foodies

Chicago is for Foodies 

Spending last week in Chicago for a conference meant: frigid cold weather (as an Angeleno, anything sub freezing counts as frigid, even if the low 30’s “aren’t that bad” in Chicago), navigating the behemoth building that is McCormick Place and FOOD.

Having struggled to get into the restaurants on my “to do” list last year, I came prepared this time around. My OpenTable reservations were set months in advance. I was taking no chances. In hindsight, as excited as I was to eat my way through the city, I really should’ve taken more photographs of all the Chicagoan eats, but I suppose I was just too busy eating them! Fortunately I was able to snap a few dishes before scarfing them down.

Monday night, just after flying in, we headed to RPM Italian, aka Bill and Giuliana Rancic (of the Apprentice and E! Entertainment fame)’s restaurant. Our group of six started with the truffled garlic bread, zucchini fritti and big eye tuna bruschetta. Never before had I considered truffles on garlic bread. What a delicious discovery! So delicious, that our table had devoured them before I thought to snap a pic! The fried zucchini, sliced thin like potato chips was light and paired well with the aioli dipping sauce. As a vegetarian, I didn’t try the big eyed tuna, but my companions seemed much more interested in the veggie friendly appetizers anyhow. Splitting dishes with a fellow vegetarian allowed me to try both Mama dePandi’s Bucatini with pomodoro and the eggplant parmesan. Both were delicious, the Bucatini rich with garlic and the eggplant smothered in perfectly bubbly melted mozzarella. Only the Bucatini survived long enough for a picture, though.

Mama DePandi’s Bucatini

 

Our waitress at RPM surprised us after dinner with a complementary assortment of mini gelato scoops in equally mini sized cones. From coffee, to pistachio, lemon, strawberry and coconut, we had something for everyone. Too busy taking a pic, I ended up with strawberry being chosen for me and was relieved to not have to choose and that it was just the right amount of sweet after a filling meal. 

 

Mini Gelato Cones

The next morning was an early start with a 6:30 AM 5K to kick off the day. At 23 degrees, this was definitely the coldest weather I’ve ever run in. An international race, there were runners from all over the globe, with those from colder climates better prepared in thermal tights and headgear. I bundled up the best I could in my Nike Thermafit hoodie and hoped for the best. Running in Grant Park along Lake Michigan was beautiful, the sunrise reflecting off the icy cold water. It was also freezing cold. All I could think was that the faster I ran, the sooner I could get back inside and have a hot breakfast (my reservations, of course, made far in advance as my reward). As I finally crossed the finish line 3.1mi later I sped towards my roommate, ready to head for a taxi ASAP. Before I could reach her, though, I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard “Miss! Miss! Your medal!” Frozen beyond my ability to reason it all felt like a hallucination from the cold (does that even happen? Or am I just being LA dramatic in not so dramatic weather?) but sure enough, a race organizer was handing me a bronze medal.

 

 Somehow, despite feeling like a Popsicle the whole way, I’d managed to run fast enough to place third in the women’s division! Before I knew it, I was standing next to the Gold Medalist from Finland and the Silver Medalist from Colorado, doing my best to smile with my frozen face (ok, this I’m not even exaggerating in the least about as the pictured confirm the left side of my face couldn’t meet the right to form a proper smile. I looked like I had a palsy!)

5K in Grant Park on my trusty Nike+

 

After taking photos and hailing a taxi, we were finally on our way to my breakfast reward at Little Goat. The Spanish Omelet with cheddar, pickled peppers, masa chips and sour cream with some of their homemade habanero sauce warmed me right back up!

Little Goat’s Spanish Omelet

Rounding out the trip was our much awaited return to Eataly, Mario Batali’s “food amusement park” we’d wanted to revisit since first discovering it last year. This place is really a wonder. From fresh produce to baked goods, pizza and pasta restaurants and a section devoted strictly to FRIED FOOD, you can find everything you want here. We ended up starting with the fried mushrooms – perfectly salty, spicy and fried to a crisp! 
 
 
 

This picture doesn’t do these mushrooms justice!

Next was the Quadrati con Ricotta e Spinaci, a delicious fresh made spinach ravioli with lemon butter sauce and crushed pistachios. This was pretty much all of my favorite things wrapped into freshly made pillows of al dente pasta. I’m surprised I was able to pause long enough to photograph them!
 
 
 

Eataly’s Quadrati con Ricotta e Spinaci

 We could’ve probably stopped there, but with a gelato shop and Nutella bar, that would’ve just been crazy. So we got Nutella crepes like sensible people would do. 
 

Nutella Banana Crepe at Eataly

 
I wish I’d taken more photos. Chicago was such a delicious city to visit. Here’s hoping the rumors of an Eataly coming to LA really are true! 
 
 

Pressed Juicery

Giving (just a little bit) into the Juicing Craze at Pressed Juicery’s Grand Opening

 
“greens 3” and “coconut cinnamon”

 

Pressed Juicery opened a new location in the Americana at Brand in Glendale today. Not yet caught up in the juicing craze that seems to have taken over Los Angeles, I have had limited juicing experiences but figured this grand opening was a good time to check it all out. To celebrate the Americana storefront’s debut, Pressed Juicery gave away free full sized bottles of pressed juice and even more exciting, free juice freezes.

I tried the “greens” freeze while my Mom chose the “roots” freeze. Both were refreshing and surprisingly smooth despite their dairy free ingredients. The “greens” freeze had just the right amount of citrus (it’s not entirely clear to me which of the 5 green juices were frozen to make this treat but several versions contain lemon so that’s probably it) to kick up the flavor from being too, well, green. As a kid I really liked green juices that contained pineapple (how my parents got me to try green juice and actually like it, as a toddler, I’m not sure I understand, but it’s a flavor profile that’s stuck with me). The “roots” freeze was slightly sweeter and had a kick of ginger to liven things up. Alone, I’d probably stick with the “greens” but if I had my druthers I’d pair the two side by side as they played off of each other nicely.

For our juices, we chose the “greens 3” with: kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon & ginger, or what I suspect I had in frozen form and the “coconut cinnamon” with: coconut meat, coconut water and cinnamon which tasted like a healthy horchata (another childhood favorite, come to think of it).

Making just about anything FREE makes it at least 100% more exciting but I can honestly say I plan to go back and try Pressed Juicery again for a standard purchase. Will I be handing over $199 for a 3 day juice cleanse? Probably not. I fear I’d be too cranky without solid food (as it is I’m eating popcorn while writing this post, less than an hour after my freeze)! As an admitted frozen yogurt addict, though, I can definitely see substituting the freezes for froyo and feeling great about having a more natural dessert. Looking at the menu, there are a bunch more flavors like vanilla and chocolate that I’d love to try. Pressed Juicery is certainly worth a try. I’ll be curious to know what you think.

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Pressed Juicery at the Americana at Brand

  

“greens” freeze