Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quite Possibly My Favorite Breakfast

I love breakfast. It could quite possibly be my favorite meal of the day. Of course I REALLY enjoy treating myself to brunch (see my earlier post about two of my favorite spots Bongo Room and David Burke Primehouse) but when I'm just cooking for myself at home I try to keep things a little more simple.
Welcome the breakfast rice bowl. You might think this sounds kind of gross when you first hear about it...eggs and rice? Seriously though you can't know it because it is unbelievably good!

I was inspired by Wow Bao. One of my favorite on-the-way-to-work-faster food options. They make a killer bacon cheddar rice bowl. It's a little greasy and ridiculously addictive. It also tops 400 calories so it's not the healthiest way to start the morning so I got a little creative.

Robyn's rice bowl...though my pink
background doesn't do it justice
Welcome Robyn's rice bowl! Below is my easy to make version of this breakfast treat. It's healthy, it's easy to make and it actually keeps decently well for leftovers.

Robyn's Rice Bowl

1 cup of brown rice or quinoa (I love Trader Joe's frozen bags of brown rice. I make the bag and then keep half to use for lunch/dinner the next day)
2 eggs scrambled
1 tbsp milk
2-3 tbsp of light cheddar cheese
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 oz pancetta cubed (this part is not healthy so feel free to omit if you're a vegetarian or looking for a healthier option)

1 - Microwave or prepare rice or quinoa as directed and set aside

2 - Add milk, cheese, salt and pepper to eggs

3 - Heat non-stick skillet with olive oil and add spinach. Add frozen peas or other veggies once the spinach and cooked some. If you're opting for the oh so tasty pancetta than you won't need the oil at all. Toss the meat in the pan and let it's juices pave the way for some spinach wilting.

4 - Once your veggies have cooked a bit add in your scrambled eggs.

5 - Toss in the rice/grain with the cooking eggs and coat.

6 - Pour mixture into a bowl and enjoy.

This recipe is the perfect meal for 1 person.

As an aside, I recently fell and fractured my radius. Sounds bad right? Well, it's OK and only hurts if I should move it in a way that I shouldn't be moving it, but it sucks. I can't cook and washing dishes by hand is really tough. This little recipe is easy enough that I can make it all with one hand. Sure I have to clean the pan but really? It's just one pan so I'm OK. Thanks to everyone that has sent me soup, chocolate and flowers. I'm very appreciative of all the love I'm getting and will hopefully be back in the kitchen cooking up a storm again in 6-8 weeks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cooking with Class

Every once in a while a girl needs to take a class. Specifically a cooking class. It's a fun excuse to get together with friends, learn some new techniques, cook something that might be a little outside your comfort zone and of course get to eat the tasty treats you made. I'm a big fan of Chicago's Chopping Block.  The cooking mecca has two locations in the city, both offer hands-on and demonstration classes, but each has their own personality. The Lincoln Square location is more neighborhoody and warm. Classes here always feel intimate. The Merchandise Mart location is beautifully new and has the state of the art cooking equipment. Of course its fabulous and a bit closer to me, but I still prefer its North-side sibling.

I've made a habit now of taking a class there every few months. Demonstrations classes are $40 a person and last about 2.5 hours. You get to relax with a glass of wine and let a professional chef do all the work. You walk away with all the recipes and are encouraged to take notes during the class. The hands-on classes are $75-85 depending on the class. These are also about 2.5 hours in length but it seems longer because you're doing all the cooking. All of the ingredients are ready for you to cook with and you don't have to do any of the cleanup so the classes are always a nicer treat than cooking at home. Plus you get top of the line Viking ranges and Le Creuset baking utensils so it REALLy is better than cooking at home :)

Most recently I took a Thanksgiving prep hands-on class. It was just like the big holiday meal and was great practice for me. We made the turkey with a butter herb rub, gravy, green beans with almonds and cherries, bacon corn souffle, cardamon cranberries, pumpkin pie and garlic mashed potatoes. It was quite the treat the eat everything AND we took home leftovers! It was a treat indeed and I got to catch up with two friends while we cooked. Good times indeed!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Examining Food on a Sunday Morning

I'm a big fan of CBS Sunday Morning. I record it on my DVR every week, so even if I sleep in a wee bit later I can still wake up and enjoy Charles Osgood. A few weeks ago (pre-Thanksgiving) they had a fabulous episode dedicated entirely to food. I usually feel like I've learned something after watching the program, but on this particular show I was overwhelmed. I should have just kept the recording and watched it again, but I thought I'd share links to some of my favorite pieces here.

Pretzels and Beer - going behind the scenes on the makings of two American favorites

Wholesome Breakfast or Decadent Brunch - Mo Rocca examines the difference between the two meals

The Timeless Traditions of Tea - I'm a tea fiend so this was also very enjoyable

Delis: Timeless Temples of "Jewish Soul Food" - just looking at those beautiful corned beef sandwiches is a Hanukkah treat!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Feasting on Food Films

I was overjoyed to learn about the 1st Annual Chicago Food Film Festival. Doesn't it just sound fantastic? For a food fiend and someone who really enjoys movies this seemed like a dream come true. See short food-based independent films and then sample some of the foods featured in those films. Why didn't someone bring this concept to Chicago sooner?

I was so excited for this event that I bought tickets for both nights, why not right? Get into the festival early, enjoy a wide variety of food and then settle in for the next few hours to watch some wonderful food and beverage related films.

Enjoying some fried food with my guest Erin
Friday night brought fried food delights like corn dogs, fried pickles and cheese curds in honor of a short "Eat Your Fill" about one crazy guy's mission to eat everything at the state fair that's on a stick or fried. Great idea. I should have made that movie myself (see blog posting from last summer when I almost did!) Other dishes from the first night included oysters, pie from my favorite Hoosier Mama Pie, pumpkin ice cream, deep fried oreos and some locally made sodas. There were 7 films all of which were very entertaining. They were short enough that they kept my attention which was good. I loved two of the protagonists - Mr. Okra (a New Orleans man who sells fresh produce from his truck) and John Nese (soda pop enthusiast and owner of LA's Galco's Soda Pop Store)....both were lovable and passionate about their chosen line of work. 

The Festival was held at the MCA Warehouse
Saturday was more focused. Beer and burgers. I was stuffed after just two delicious, juicy mini DMK burgers. I was sad to only see 15 minutes of "Hamburger America" but inspired that yes, there were a lot of places across this great nation that I still have yet to visit....and er, eat my way to. "Beer Wars" was fascinating. After watching the 90 minute documentary I had a new outlook on microbrews versus the behemoths (it is appalling just how much market share Anheuser Busch dominates so aggressively that they will push smaller breweries that are no competition to them out of the way).

All in all this was an educational and enjoyable two-day festival. It happened to coincide with the Chicago Gourmet Food Festival. In the future it would be wonderful to create a food-centric Chicago weekend. Attendees could visit Chicago Gourmet during the day and then relax a bit before heading to the Food Film Festival. Here is a trailer of some of the movies shown at the festival. Looking forward to seeing many more next year!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Food Adventures on Two Wheels

There are few things I enjoy more than good food (obviously), exploring new neighborhoods (Chicago has over 200) and biking (I'm not a hardcore, spandex wearing biker - when I say biking I'm referring to me tooling around on my mint green Gary Fisher).

When the three activities are combined I'm a very happy camper and a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to explore new foodie destinations by bike courtesy of Fork and the Road.

My good friend Erin joined me for the "Sweet Home Chicago" tour. At just over 20 miles of riding we rode all over the city and by the end I have to say our legs were a little sore but our bellies were happy and full. We visited Chicago's French Market for authentic French macarons (see my last posting), traditional coconut macaroons, handmade chocolates and Belgian frites (because you can't have too much sweet without a little salty, right?) If you haven't visited the French Market, located at Ogilvie Station, I highly recommend it for gourmet prepared items and specialty food items too. Next up we learned about the gelato making process at Black Dog Gelato from adorable owner Jessica Olorosa. Sure she makes some of the more traditional flavors, but I was delighted to sample the smooth fig sesame chocolate and goat cheese caramel cashew. Exotic, but the ingredients blend so well to create a highly comforting's like they were made to be eaten together. Next we headed to a Middle Eastern bakery in Albany Park which warranted a longer bike ride up Milwaukee and then Kedzie. We passed a host of restaurants that I've read about and now I have an even longer list of "places I need to visit".

Eating your way around the city by bike is a fantastic experience. I told my friend Erin that I want to plan our own dine around with friends because I was so inspired by the tour. There are so many wonderful cultural and ethnic neighborhoods in the city and so many that I still need to discover!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Macarons...the new cupcake?

French macarons seem to be everywhere these days. They have been heating up the food scene in Chicago and around the US, though up until a few months ago it was pretty hard to find them here in the states. No, no I'm not talking about the coconut macaroon cookies but the petite little hamburger-like cookies in bright pastel colors that are made with almond flour. These divine Parisian treats have blown up in popularity recently yet this little cookie can trace its roots back to a convent in central France in 791. It was popularized for modern delights by macaron powerhouse Ladurée. When I visited Paris I had the opportunity to take a fabulous pastry tour there and got to taste several of these sugar gems when I visited Pierre Herme.

I love macarons and my good friend Lesley does too. We have baking and cooking dates and one day a few months ago decided to tackle the macaron. Though they tasted great, our cookies lacked some finesse. We told our friends at the Elysian Hotel about our baking debacle and pastry chef, Alissa Wallers, graciously offered to help demonstrate the fine points of creating macarons herself. Alissa learned from French-cooking great Francois Payard himself and let us in on a few of the macaron cooking "secrets" if you will.

I don't know that I'll be attempting to make these myself again (or without my trusty pastry friend Lesley - she's the one with the steady hand and the pastry bag) but it was a truly memorable experience and the macarons were melt in your mouth delicious!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Coffee Break

My friend Janna and I are both studying for big exams (she is studying for the GRE and I am studying for the GMAT), so it was serendipitous that we took a break together to go on a coffee tour. I LOVE Intelligentsia coffee. I even created a list of my favorite places to drink Intelligentsia on my Yelp profile. I love the incredibly strong roast and its intense ability to give me a little extra boost even on those days when I don't think anything will help. There is some magical quality to the coffee for me whether I am brewing a cup for myself at home or heading to the Green City Market for a $1 cup of their organic brew. Frankly folks I love the stuff.

Imagine my excitement when several months back I was searching the Intelligentsia website and saw they offered tours of the roasting plant for $10. Great deal AND you get a half pound of fresh roasted coffee? Yes please! Of course I waited too long to buy tickets and missed out on the January tour date (it is only offered the first Saturday of the month) but luckily made the February cut. Who knew so many people would go ga ga for a coffee tour? Well, as luck would have it I purchased the tickets before the price went up to $15 a pop AND before it was featured in Time Out Chicago.

The main Intelligentsia plant is not as big as you might think. Yes, they supply coffee around the city to many of our favorite restaurants (see my Yelp profile for that lovely list again) and sell it at a variety of locations, but it is down right small even! The plant is located in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor (home to other such faves as Goose Island Brewery, Ashland Addison florist, and Diana's Bananas) and the sign on the door is so small my friends dropping me off there drove past it several times. Of course there were tastings of different types of coffees I think there were 6+ different brews for the participants enjoyment. The downside of this tour? Too many people! There were something like 40 over-caffeinated coffee crazed fiends.

Despite the crowds, I felt like I did learn a lot about coffee (as I'm no expert) from the beans growing, to the selection of beans from Rwanda to Peru (Intelligentsia is no longer fair trade because they feel like it was more beneficial for them to be involved in direct trade), to the roasting, to the blends and tasting. It is quite the process all to get a great cup of joe. Impressive.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Study Break for Food Girl

I need a study break. You read that right...this little lady is going back to school. Well OK I certainly hope I'll be heading back to school some time in the near future. Right now I am concentrating on studying for the GMAT and frankly there is only so much I can take before I need a little break. I trick myself into studying longer with mental promises of little treats and you know what? It works. I convinced myself I could study just a wee bit longer for 2 squares of a Vosges Barcelona bar.

Why am I going back to school? Good question. Someday (ideally in the next few years) I'd like to have my own doughnut shop. I'm not giving away too much information here because things are really in the initial stages but let's just say its sort of a Hot Doug's meets Voodoo Doughnuts. I also don't want to share all my fabulous ideas and then be left high and dry. Needless to say the idea is fun. It's sassy and of course there will be tasty treats.

Speaking of tasty treats, I have been meaning to write about my holiday visit to Cleveland's beloved West Side Market. I hadn't been there since I was in grade school, and being the Chow Hound that I am (technically I am not a foodie as there are many delicious items I will enjoy, not just haute, Michelin star cuisine) I have been wanting to make a pilgrimage there again.

I got the chance to do so over my Winter Break and I was not let down! There is only so many fruits and veggies a girl can buy on a short trip to visit the parents but it was a true site for anyone who enjoys food. My friends in Cleveland I urge you to visit the Market at least once before preparing a good meal and I assure you that you won't be disappointed! If you're looking for a good (and cheap) meal to boot check out the West Side Market Cafe. I had a really fresh fish sandwich with a Great Lakes Brewery beer.