Friday, April 18, 2014

Honey Mustard Roasted Potatoes & Carrots

Need an easy and flavorful side dish to serve with your Easter lamb? These roasted potatoes are carrots are a perfect side for the Orange Balsamic Glazed Lamb Chops I shared with you on Wednesday!


Honey, Dijon mustard, and olive oil are a few of my staple ingredients when it comes to adding flavor to simple vegetables. They make a great base for a simple salad vinaigrette or also a great way to add deep flavor to roasted vegetables. I love the spicy sweetness of this honey mustard combo along with some hearty root vegetables (which only get better with long roasting) and fresh herbs. Fresh sage and rosemary really round this dish out nicely.


I love the springy quality of this side dish: fresh carrots and herbs and a lots of bright colors. It complemented the grilled lamb chops very well, but is so simple that it would also be a great side dish for a number of different proteins too.


Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbs. butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped 
  • 1 tsp. fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 lb. tricolor fingerling potatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch dice
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped into 1/2-inch dice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together Dijon and next 5 ingredients through garlic until fully combined. Add remaining ingredients and stir to coat.

Spread the mixture out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and roast for another 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are browned on the outside and fork tender.


Looking for more great vegetable side dishes? Try Thyme-Roasted Tomatoes or Roasted Spicy Lemon Broccoli.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Discover Chicago with Sosh


sosh.com/?ref=blog_asquared One of the most wonderful things about living in a city like Chicago is that there is always something to do: a cool show to see, a fun street festival to attend, or a fabulous new restaurant opening on any given day in any given neighborhood. This, however, can also be one of the most overwhelming things about big city life. How do you choose?

There are tons of apps and websites out there that will tell you what's going on in your city, but it can be tricky to wade through all of those items that don't interest you. Wouldn't it be great if someone could filter out the boring things and just tell you what's happening that might interest you? Enter Sosh.

Sosh is a fun new lifestyle app that pulls together all of the coolest things to do in your city-- and it launched in Chicago this week! The app customizes its suggestions based on your experiences and your preferences. Once you download and launch the app it will prompt you to select your favorite neighborhoods: West Loop? Check. Wicker Park? Check. And then your favorite things to do: Craft Beer? Check. Fit for Foodies? Check. Dancing? No thanks. And just like that, Sosh will start curating a list of events, restaurants, and venues especially for you.

sosh.com/?ref=blog_asquared

You can bookmark suggestions that you'd like to try out and you can also view how many other Sosh users have bookmarked it as well. If you've already done something, you can check it off your list or let Sosh know that you did it or that you loved it-- and you can leave tips for other users too. When you do that, the app will start tailoring its future suggestions for you based on things that you have already done and enjoyed. Pretty cool, right?

I have had the chance to give the app a test drive over the past week and I have been having so much fun with it! Over the weekend, for example, Alex and I were checking out some open houses in the Bucktown and Wicker Park areas and suddenly it was 2 PM and we were starving for lunch. I pulled up my Sosh app, did a quick search for "lunch wicker park," and poof! A variety of options selected especially for me (and located within blocks of where we were standing) were lined up for me to pick from. I scrolled through, found Lillie's Q (bookmarked by several other Sosh users too) and we headed over for an amazing barbecue lunch.

sosh.com/?ref=blog_asquaredsosh.com/?ref=blog_asquared

As I mentioned, Sosh launched in Chicago this week so be sure to check it out! You can sign up on the web here or download the free app here. And don't forget to follow me on Sosh! I'm constantly updating my profile with my favorite places and events and I would love to share them with you!


Editor's Note: This is a sponsored post, but as always, all opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Orange Balsamic Glazed Lamb Chops

With Easter only a few days away, I wanted to share a modern, but still festive and Easter-appropriate dinner recipe with you today. As I mentioned on Monday, Alex and I are on our own (together) for Easter so we aren't doing anything over the top. I still like to do something special though, so we headed to Chop Shop in Wicker Park and picked up some beautiful lamb lollipops to serve for dinner. Lamb chops are a perfect way to serve a traditional Easter dinner for just two people instead of the leg of lamb of entire ham that you're probably accustomed to enjoying at the Easter table.


Truthfully, this was my first attempt at preparing lamb. I have never really been much of a lamb fan, but recently I have had it at restaurants (here and here) and really enjoyed it so I figured I would give it a go. Since lamb has a stronger flavor, I decided to go with a sweet marinade/glaze combo and then to have Alex prepare them on the grill. I love when a sweet glaze or sauce gets that delicious charred quality on the grill. It's perfect!


The lamb chops turned out tender and flavorful. And the glaze is perfect. I combined sweet Valencia orange juice and honey, savory Worcestershire sauce, tangy balsamic vinegar, and woody fresh rosemary to create a complex sauce for the lamb. After marinating the lamb chops in it, the mixture gets cooked down into a syrupy almost barbecue-like glaze that is brushed onto the chops throughout the grilling process.

These lamb chops are actually very easy to prepare and you could make them for a holiday, for entertaining, or just for a casual dinner on the grill. I think that the lollipop effect gives them a super fancy feel without a ton of work. So enjoy these lamb chops on your Eater table or any other warm summer night with a glass of good Cab al fresco!

Ingredients:

  • 4 lamb rib chops (a.k.a. lollipops), 1-inch thick 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

 Place lamb chops in a large zip sealing bag or in a shallow glass dish. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together orange juice, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and rosemary until combined. Pour over lamb chops and marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium.

Using tongs, remove lamb chops from the marinade and transfer to a plate. Allow them to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes before grilling.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining marinade into a small saucepan and simmer over medium high heat for about15 minutes until thickened. Allow the glaze to cool slightly and set aside.

Grill the lamb chops over medium high heat for 10-12 minutes, brushing the glaze on both sides throughout the grilling process. Discard the leftover glaze and serve warm.

Inspired by original recipe by Recipe.com.


Looking for more special Easter dinner recipes? Try Deviled Eggs, Sun-Dried Tomato & Herb Roasted Chicken, or Individual Easter Ricotta Pies!


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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Tastemaker Top 10 with Monica of Caravan of Style

The Tastemaker Top 10 is a collection of 10 questions asked by me and answered by some of my favorite bloggers. Here they will tell you a little bit about themselves, their blogs, and of course, their favorite foods and restaurants. Today we're talking to Monica, a fellow Windy City Blogger who writes the fabulous lifestyle blog Caravan of Style. Check it out:


Name: Monica Modzelewski

Blog: Caravan of Style

Location: Chicago, IL

In a few sentences, tell us a little bit about your blog.
I’m a twenty-something lifestyle blogger focusing on fashion and food in the city of Chicago.


Now, tell us about your...

1. Favorite meal, food, or cuisine:
My favorite meal is a bit strange, but I could eat chicken noodle soup every day of my life.

2. Least favorite meal, food, or cuisine:
I’m actually not a fan of Indian cuisine.

3. Favorite restaurant in your city:
I love Southport Grocer & Cafe - especially their bread pudding pancakes. Delicious!

4. Favorite restaurant outside of your city:
I spent a few weeks in San Sebastian, Spain and I loved this small tapas place called Astelena.
 
5. Favorite food memory. I come from a large Polish family and throughout my lifetime my parents and grandma have always made super delicious meals. I always wanted to help out in the kitchen so I was in charge of making a cucumber salad for dinner - my cucumber slices were always to thick but it was delicious anyway. I’m still in charge of making that dish every time I’m home.

6. Favorite guilty pleasure food:  I love mini M&M blizzards from DQ - I used to eat one everyday in the summer.

7. Favorite ingredient (something you love to cook with, or something you see on a menu and know you have to order): BBQ sauce - all kinds. I can honestly put it on anything and always order food with bbq sauce on it.

8. Favorite kitchen tool, utensil, product, etc.:  I love rubber spatulas and prefer to use it in all my cooking - I own like 25 rubber spatulas.

9. Favorite recipe: I make these Rocky Road Chocolate Chip cookies during the holidays - they are worth every single bite!

10. Favorite thing about blogging: Having a creative outlet is the best part of blogging and I love the friendships that have come from meeting other bloggers. 

BONUS! Monica answered 11 questions for you...
11. Five favorite blogs/blogs that A Squared readers should know about:
- The Garden Apt. 

Thanks so much for your thoughts, Monica!


Do you have a blogger that you'd recommend to be featured on the Tastemaker Top 10? Or are you a blogger that would like to participate? Email me at aasquaredblog@gmail.com and let me know!


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Monday, April 14, 2014

A Grown Up Easter Celebration with Uproot Wine

Easter is an interesting holiday in this house. We're far away from family, so it isn't one where we get together for a big Sunday dinner with extended family members. And we don't have kids, so awaiting the Easter Bunny's arrival and hunting for hidden Easter eggs aren't really on our agenda for the weekend. That said though, I do still like to do a few things to make the holiday special.


Sometimes my sister Emma comes to visit for the weekend and sometimes it's just Alex and me, but regardless, we always have Easter baskets filled with goodies. It's not toys or stuffed animals usually, but there is always chocolate. This year's Easter basket was filled with a few of Alex's and my favorites: Cadbury Creme Eggs and dark chocolate mini eggs for me; jelly beans and a Reese's peanut butter filled bunny for my husband. Along with all of that: a bottle of Uproot Wines 2011 Cabernet. Uproot Wines is a new kind of wine company for the modern day wine drinker. They understand that we never really outgrow candy, especially during Easter. So should you find yourself with a basket full of goodies, Uproot suggests that you enjoy them like an adult, in a sophisticated manner with a fun wine and candy pairing. That sounds good to me!



In our Easter baskets, I decided to go with a tried and true flavor pairing: Chocolate & Cabernet. Uproot highly recommended this pairing because the rich chocolate notes of their 2011 Cabernet bring out the richness of milk chocolate and the boldness of both flavors works together perfectly.


Uproot offers a really fresh and modern take on the super traditional arts of wine making and drinking, which is immediately evident in their labels. I'm a visual person and while I enjoy a pretty vintage label, I love what Uproot has created with theirs: a graphic cheat sheet (or the Flavor Pallette, as they call it) to the flavor notes that you can find in each of the wine varieties. On my Cab label, for instance, you can immediately see that you get some big bold berry flavors with background notes of dark chocolate, cherry, and Cuban cigar. It's such a fun way to decipher what can often be a super complicated part of selecting, drinking, and pairing wine. So cool, right?


This Cab has a great bold, but fruity flavor which works perfectly with the chocolate in your Easter basket, of course. However, I think it also works equally well with a classic Easter lamb dinner too! Since it's just Alex and me, I won't be serving a large leg of lamb but I still wanted to do something a little traditional. I've got a great grilled lamb chop recipe to share with you that's perfect for a grown up and modern Easter dinner celebration. Come back on Wednesday to check it out!


Editor's note: The wine was provided to me at no cost by Uproot, but the opinions expressed here are my own.


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits: Downtown Lunch

I have told you this before and I will say it again: Lunch is probably my least favorite-- or certainly my most overlooked-- meal. During the week I find myself rushing through it while trying to get work done and on the weekends I'm making fun plans for girls brunches and dinner dates, but lunch is rarely on my radar. Lately though, I've ventured out for a few memorable lunches that I want to tell you about. Check these out the next time you're looking for lunch downtown!


Publican Quality Meats
West Loop

Just like it was a shame that lived in neighborhood and waited 3+ years to try The Publican for the first time, it was just as much a shame that we waited until recently to try its sister restaurant Publican Quality Meats. PQM is part butcher shop, part gourmet grocery, and part cafe/casual restaurant. It has the same unpretentious vibe and quality ingredients that you'll find at the Publican, but in an even more laidback setting. A few communal tables are tucked in the back of PQM while the front is used primarily for ordering meats and takeout sandwiches from the butcher's counter. We stopped in on a Sunday afternoon for lunch and there was a bit of a wait, but it was worth it!

I was totally overwhelmed by the menu-- PQM has tons of really great and different combinations to offer, so I ended up making a gametime decision and went with something I rarely, if ever, order: a roast beef sandwich. The Cosmo Stole The Beef is two slices of thick country bread generously layered with slices Slagel Farms roast beef (lean and flavorful, not fatty), butter lettuce, and the two ingredients that truly attracted me to this sandwich: smoked onions and blue cheese aioli. For having some pretty hearty ingredients, this sandwich was filling, but still surprisingly light-- in a good way. The tangy blue cheese aioli (so good!) and the smoky onions were perfectly paired with the simple roast beef. And the sandwich came with a side of what is probably the best kale I have ever tasted. It was slightly wilted and tossed in a tangy vinaigrette dressing with a little bit of heat and some shaved cheese. My sandwich was great, but I could have ordered a big bowl of this and would have been satisfied. The flavors were perfect.

Alex went with the Parm #2, PQM's take on a chicken parm sandwich. A breaded chicken cutlet was layered with a sweet tomato basil sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fried sage leaves (yum!) all on a sandwich roll from local favorite Franks 'N Dawgs, which was then buttered and pressed for a panini effect. He polished it off really quickly (read: that means it was really good) while I stole several bites of the potato salad that was served on the side. It was a mustard-based potato salad, but not the bright yellow picnic kind that you pick up at the grocery store. This one was made with fresh chives and onions and had that great spicy deep flavor of Dijon mustard.

This is the perfect spot for a quick lunch, casual dinner, or if you're looking for the quality food of The Publican without the heftier price tag.
Publican Quality Meats on Urbanspoon

The Loop

I have mentioned before that finding a great place to eat in the Loop can be a difficult task, but I'm happy to report that I have one more gem that you can add to your list: The Gage. I've been here for drinks and appetizers before and had a great time. I love the look and feel of the space-- it's got a cool vintage European tavern vibe. So I was excited to return with some colleagues recently to check out the lunch menu.

The Gage has a great menu with a variety of options. There was something for everyone at our table of eclectic eaters. I saw beets on the menu and immediately knew what I was ordering. A combination of roasted golden and chioggia (those pretty red and white) beets, thinly sliced apples, fennel, crisp green beans, and frisee. It was topped with a little bit of goat cheese, a sprinkle of pecans, and tossed in a sweet vinaigrette. It was a delicious and refreshing salad on a chilly winter day.

And while I didn't get to try it, I did have to snap a photo: check out this cauliflower that my boss ordered (hey Steph!). I love this trendy cauliflower "steak;" it is such a cool way to prepare cauliflower. It was grilled until brown and crispy and arranged over a bed of cauliflower puree. They topped it with toasted pepitas, pickled raisins, and lightly dressed greens. It was a pretty impressive portion and presentation for a side dish and I would totally try it next time.

The Gage is a great place for a business lunch, for drinks and a bite after work, and also for poutine. Try the poutine and let me know what you think!
The Gage on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sampling the Food & Wine of Piemonte at Eataly

Something really cool happened to me recently.

Have you seen those commercials where Mastercard sends Justin Timberlake to the home of one of his biggest fans to surprise her? It's part of their #PricelessSurprises campaign where they gift random surprises to cardholders... and I got one! Now, I didn't get to meet JT but Mastercard knows how much I love food, so my Priceless Surprise was a pair of tickets to a class at Eataly... amazing!


I grabbed my friend Alexis and we headed over to Eataly to attend Chef's Kitchen: The Cooking of Piemonte with Chief Alex Pilas. Chef Pilas is the executive chef for Eataly North America, so it was a real treat to sit in this small classroom watching him cook and listening to him speak about the food and history of Piemonte. And to eat his food, of course!


Piemonte (or Piedmont) is the most northwestern region of Italy, it is the home of Eataly's founder, and it is known for its red wine and its beef so as you might have imagined, this four course meal was super hearty and delicious.


Our first course was a simple Carne Cruda alla Piemontese, which is essentially the Italian version of beef tartare. While the French serve their raw beef with a raw egg and capers and other accoutrements, this version was a simple fresh chopped beef seasoned with sea salt, olive oil, and lemon juice served with simple olive oiled toasts. I am not such a huge fan of raw meat usually, but since it was prepared by chef Pilas and its a signature dish at Eataly's Carne restaurant, I gave it a go and actually enjoyed it. This course was paired with a Dolcetto, a fruity red wine variety unique to the Piemonte region.


Our second course was by far my favorite. It was pasta, of course. Handcrafted Tajarin pasta (like a cross between angel hair and linguine) tossed in burro di tartufo, or truffle butter. Need I say more? The pasta was super tender, the butter super rich, and it was just kind of amazing.



This course (and the next) was paired with my favorite wine of the evening, a Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo is also a traditional Piemonte red wine that's acidic and complex and pairs well with rich dishes like this pasta and our meat main course.


Speaking of our main course, how hearty and amazing does this look? This Brasato al Barolo con Polenta is the perfect dinner for a cold winter's night... and frankly, we have had a few of those recently even though it's April. Beef shortribs were braised in Barolo wine for several hours until they were soft enough to pull apart with a fork-- my favorite way to enjoy beef! The sauce was a pureed combination of the braising liquids, tomato paste, and slow cooked veggies poured over the shortribs and served on a bed of creamy polenta.


And no meal is complete without dessert! I don't think we were even hungry at this point, but when they placed this Bunet in front of me there was no way I was passing it up. This chocolate amaretto pudding had such great flavor: rich chocolate, spicy Amaretti cookies, and hints of rum, coffee, and Marsala all baked into a perfect little portion. I hate a gelatinous flan, but the consistency of this bunet was more rich and creamy like a creme brulee. Dessert was served with a really fun wine, Brachetto d/Acqui Spumante. It is a sparkling wine with a beautiful hot pink color and a light sweet flavor. Perfect for dessert!

Thanks to Eataly and Mastercard for a wonderful evening-- and a priceless surprise!


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