Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

On this busy Thanksgiving day, I'd like to keep this post short and sweet so that you can read it and return to your loved ones.

I have so much to be thankful for today (and everyday) and am feeling especially grateful this year: That my sister will be joining us for the holiday weekend again like she has for the past few years-- I love our time together. That my husband's family will be joining us from Texas this year-- he doesn't get to spend nearly as much time with them as he'd like. That we'll be celebrating the holiday around a big dining table in the new home we have saved and planned for through the last few Thanksgivings.


Mostly, I'm thankful for the two guys in my life: our sweet puppy Clery and my wonderful husband Alex who has turned out to be one heck of a puppy dad. Love you both.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and take a moment to be grateful today!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Wollensky's Grill

On this Thanksgiving Wednesday, I know none of you are thinking beyond the recipes that you're planning for tomorrow or the leftovers that you'll be eating for days afterward, so I am taking a different direction today. No dinner recipe today. We're talking about restaurants today instead-- so someone else can take care of making dinner for you. And since you're probably sick of hearing about turkey too, let's talk about beef-- and there's no one that knows beef better than the new Wollensky's Grill. I recently had the opportunity to preview the menu at Wollensky's Grill and even as a foodie who prefers her meat white and lean, I really enjoyed the beef-centric menu here.

You likely know of Smith & Wollensky, an upscale steakhouse with locations in a handful of major US cities. They are famous for serving up high quality steaks with traditional steakhouse sides in elegant classically American dining rooms. Well, the downstairs level of Chicago's Smith & Wollensky just got a lot more fun with the opening of Wollensky's Grill, the steakhouse's new gastropub concept. The menu has a focus on beef (what else) and is still made with top notch ingredients, but the plates are made for sharing and the atmosphere is a bit more laidback than its sister restaurant upstairs, though it still has that steakhouse feel and also an amazing location right on the Chicago River.

Before we talk food, let's cover the drink menu. Wollensky's has a great drink catalogue filled with signature "Smithology" cocktails and I was able to sample a few. At the top of my list: the Perfect Lady Royale (pictured above), made with Ketel One Citroen, Crème de Pêche, Fresh Lemon Juice
& Oils, Mint, and Bocelli Prosecco. With fresh lemon juice and Prosecco-- two of my favorite cocktail ingredients-- I knew this one would be a winner and it was definitely a good one with just the right amount of sweet and tart.

The "L" Car

I also tried the "L" Car, a cocktail made up of Ginger-Infused Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Solerno Blood Orange, Fresh Sour Mix, Cinnamon-Sugar Rim. This cocktail was a bit on the sweeter side with a touch of sour and I absolutely loved the cinnamon-sugar rim.

Photo courtesy of The Food Channel.com and Cory Dewald for Jeff Schear Visuals.

On to the food, Wollensky's menu offers a playful take on steakhouse fare with many of the items plated for sharing. Their bread, butter & pickles plate, for example, is anything but typical. Pretzel bread sticks are served alongside a deliciously savory mustard butter. The housemade pickle selection includes thick sliced cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots, and red peppers and it is perfect for snacking.

Photo courtesy of The Food Channel.com and Cory Dewald for Jeff Schear Visuals.

One of my favorite items of the night was a complete surprise to me: The prime beef meatballs. I'm not typically a huge meatball fan-- and certainly not one to order them when I see them on an appetizer menu-- but these were really delicious. Good quality beef was served with sweet onion marmalade and a bleu cheese fondue sauce. The flavors were intense, but worked together so well and the meatballs were moist and perfectly cooked. I made sure to grab one of these little spoons every time that tray came my way!

Photo courtesy of The Food Channel.com and Cory Dewald for Jeff Schear Visuals.

Another sharable snack that topped my list at Wollensky's was the BBQ Beef Spring Roll. Wollensky's slow smoked prime beef and delicious BBQ sauce is wrapped up in a little spring roll wrapper, cooked until crispy, and served with a delicious slightly spicy green chile queso sauce. THe beef was fall apart tender and the sauces were seasoned really nicely. These are the perfect little bite for snacking on-- and a small bite that packs big flavor.


Some other can't miss bites of the night were the lobster corndogs, which everyone was really excited to try. Whole chunks of lobster are encased in a fluffy fried corn breading and topped with a super savory cognac mustard. Also of note: a gelato made from Smith & Wollensky's house red wine. Unbelievably tasty!

Photo courtesy ohttps://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6144537172716721800#editor/target=post;postID=2060306944422789879;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=1;src=linkf The Food Channel.com and Cory Dewald for Jeff Schear Visuals.

And I saved the best for last here: Beef bacon. This is one of the signature items on the Wollensy's Grill menu and one that the executive chef told us took him months to perfect. The Cop 'O Bacon includes a mason jar filled with crispy salty beef bacon smoked in house and paired with a rich bleu cheese dip. This bacon was leaner than pork bacon, but still had that great savory smoky flavor you crave from traditional bacon. Another great snack for sharing.

To sum it all up: I like to think you'd take your clients for a meal at Smith & Wollensky and then grab your coworkers and head to Wollensky's Grill for happy hour food and drinks. Either way, you're definitely in for a great meal!


Editor's Note: My meal at Wollensky's was complimentary, however the opinions expressed in this post are my own.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

3 Years of A Squared: Top 10 Most Popular Recipes

It's hard to believe, but Saturday marked A Squared's third birthday. And what started as a little blog to keep me busy in my downtime has certainly turned into more than I ever could have imagined. This little blog went from being a side project to fill my free time to being what has basically become a second job... but it's a job that I love and one that has afforded me some amazing opportunities: I have attended some unforgettable events (the grand opening of Eataly, Wine Riot, and a lobster boil/beer launch boat cruise, to name a few), met a few celebrity chefs (shout outs to Rick Bayless, Marc Murphy, and Georgia Pellegrini), made some great new blogger and foodie friends (hey ladies!), stretched my creative cooking muscles, learned how to take better food photos, and most importantly, connected with all you food lovers out there for the past three years. In the past year though, even though life has gotten busier and I've scaled back on my posting I think that this blog has really come into its own. And I hope you agree.


So, to commemorate A Squared's third birthday, today I am sharing a special Top 10 list with you. This is a list of the top 10 most popular recipes on A Squared. It's a collection of 10 great recipes that happen to be your favorites. And for me, it's a fun walk down memory lane...

1. Hungarian Kiffles - One of the first holiday baking recipes that I ever posted. The photos left a bit to be desired, but these pastries were a delicious nod to my Hungarian heritage and my love of the holiday season.


2. Chicken, Asiago & Sun-dried Tomato Quesadillas with Greek Yogurt Dip - A tasty recipe born from leftovers, I never imagined it would get so much traction. But the proof is in the taste-- from the cheesy quesadillas right down to the tangy dipping sauce.


3. Roasted Butternut Squash with a Rosemary Pecan Parmesan Crust -This recipe was just posted this month, but has already blown up on social media. It's super delicious and simple and I'll be making a new version of it for Thanksgiving this week too.


4. Zucchini, Caramelized Onion & Ricotta Flatbread - I love a good pizza, but you guys really seem to love a veggie pizza-- and this one in particular. This white pizza is sweet, savory, and very satisfying.


5. Baked Rosemary, Thyme & Parmesan Potato Chips - One of my favorite new ways to prepare potatoes and one of the most popular posts of the past few months.


6. Warm Quinoa, Spinach & Sweet Potato Salad - This healthy recipe is full of great fall flavor and the perfect lunchtime salad. I don't often post quinoa recipes, but you all really loved this one.


7. Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes - A vegetable side dish that has become a staple on our Thanksgiving table. I love the combination of flavors and textures in this side dish-- it tastes like fall!


8. Spicy Black Bean Tomato Soup - This meatless recipe became hugely popular with all of you vegetarian and vegan readers out there. It's filling, spicy, and full of flavor... basically, the perfect winter soup.


9. Beach Bar Tomato Soup - Many of you have found your way to A Squared by Googling "Beach Bar Tomato Soup" or "Beach Bar Tomato Soup Clark Lake" because you've had this infamous soup at its namesake Michigan restaurant. Because this was one of my earlier recipes, the photos are atrocious but that didn't stop many of you from pinning the recipe-- you know a good soup when you see/taste one!


10. Caprese Spaghetti Squash Bake -You all love a meatless recipe! I wasn't even planning on posting this one when I first came up with it-- it was intended to be a quick and easy meatless Monday dinner to use up some leftover ingredients in my fridge. Instead, you all fell in love with it.


Thank you all for the comments, follows, recipe recreations, and support. Cheers to the past 3 years of A Squared and many more to come!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Cranberry Apple Crisp

My mom's apple crisp recipe is my go to for anytime that I need a dessert that's easy to put together and delicious enough to please any crowd!


My mom has been making this apple crisp since I was a kid and decades later, I still can't get enough of it. It's a recipe that she always goes back to and it's easy to understand why: It's delicious, it's really easy to make, and it can be easily doubled or tripled to feed a crowd. It's also versatile enough that while really tasty when made with apples, it can be prepared with a variety of different fruits. A buttery crumbly topping is layered over sweet thinly sliced apples and baked until golden. It's simple dessert perfection.


Recently my friend Kit invited Alex and me over for a little pre-holiday Friendsgiving dinner and I volunteered to bring a dessert. I knew that I wanted to bring this apple crisp along and since Kit was serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal, I decided to put a little festive spin on it. Cranberries are so festive and they're such a quintessential part of holiday meals here in the US that I thought they'd be a perfect addition to this crisp.


The cranberries work really nicely in this crisp. The apples are sweet and the cranberries add a nice punch of tart flavor to the crisp-- plus when cooked, the give the fruit a beautiful vibrant pink coloring. I also added a little fresh orange juice to the fruit, which helps it to soften and cook evenly under the crispy topping. Sweet citrusy orange is a classic complement to tart cranberries, so in addition to the juice I squeezed over the fruit I also grated a little fresh orange zest into the crumbly topping for an extra hint of orange flavor. And to punch up that festive flavor a little further I like to add some pumpkin pie spice into the crumb topping too.


I would never suggest that you eliminate the pumpkin pie from your Thanksgiving spread. However, when you're serving a crowd I think it is really smart to serve an alternative dessert since-- though it is hard to believe-- not everyone loves pumpkin. This is the perfect dessert to serve up next to your pie. It's a cinch to put together and can be made a day or two ahead of time. And the flavors are seasonal and festive enough that it will fit right in on your dessert spread.


Serve the crisp warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and enjoy!


Ingredients:

  • 3 large apples *I prefer Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
  • 1 cup whole fresh cranberries
  • Juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbs. orange zest

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Carefully peel and core each apple. Cut into 1/4-inch slices and layer evenly in a square baking dish. Sprinkle cranberries over the top and drizzle with orange juice.

In a medium bowl combine butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, and zest until combined and crumbly. Sprinkle over the top of the apple and cranberry mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


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