A Squared: April 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekend Highlights & Sunday Roast Chicken

What a great weekend we had.  It was really just the Mr. and me all weekend, but sometimes those are the best ones.  Here's a few snippets of our weekend together:

We went to see The Five Year Engagement on Friday night... I love a good movie date night!

On Saturday we had a belated birthday celebration for Alex-- his gift back in March was two tickets to see the White Sox (his team) play the Red Sox (my team) here in Chicago.  The forecast looked ominous, but the evening turned out to be near perfect (albeit a little chilly).  Also-- much to my surprise-- I apparently purchased "really awesome" seats.  Wife points for me.  Happy belated birthday, Alex-- and go Red Sox!

P.S.  The Red Sox won.  :)

We finished the weekend with a lazier Sunday-- I ran some errands, Alex had his first soccer game of the season, and we finished off the weekend with a Sunday dinner of Roasted Chicken.  I don't usually get fancy for Sunday evenings, but we had a chicken in the freezer (they were BOGO when I picked up our Easter chicken), so it was actually a pretty cheap and delicious dinner.  I've included my recipe below.

Sunday Roast Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 lemons
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. butter (at room temperature)
  • 3 Tbs. fresh herbs, finely chopped and divided *I used rosemary, sage, parsley, and thyme
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, remove the insides of the chicken, rinse and pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.

Wash and zest one of the lemons.  Mince 3 garlic cloves.  In a small bowl combine lemon zest, minced garlic, butter, 2 Tbs. herbs, 3/4 tsp. black pepper, 3/4 tsp. salt to form a paste.  Loosen the chicken skin with your fingers and rub about half of the paste evenly under the skin.  Rub the remaining paste all over the outside of the chicken.

Cut both lemons into quarters and stuff 6 of the quarters inside the chicken cavity, reserving two.  Cut 3 of the remaining garlic cloves in half and add those to the cavity of chicken.  Tie the chickens legs together with kitchen string, tuck the wings underneath the bird, and place on a roasting rack lightly coated with cooking spray.  Pour 1 1/4 cups white wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.  Keep an eye on the pan and make sure to add additional wine (or chicken broth if you have it on hand) if the liquid in the bottom of the pan starts to evaporate.
Roast for 25 minutes at 425 degrees.  After 25 minutes turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.  Bake until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165 degrees (a good rule of thumb to follow is that this will take approximately 20 minutes per every pound of chicken).

While the chicken begins to roast, combine the juice of the remaining 2 lemon quarters, 1/4 white wine, and olive oil.  Add to that mixture the remaining 1 Tbs. herbs, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 tsp. salt, and garlic clove (minced).  Use this mixture to baste the chicken every 15-20 minutes.

Once the chicken is fully cooked remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  Then carve and enjoy.  I served ours with green beans and roasted potatoes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Buttered Onion Tomato Pasta

It's Wednesday again already!  Not that I am complaining.  I'm getting an early start on What's For Dinner Wednesday as Alex and I have plans tonight.  I am happy to say that both my brother and our good friend Joe (G.I. Joe, as my little sisters named him after meeting him at our wedding) have both returned home to the US safely from their tours in Afghanistan.  Joe is back in the Chicago area for now, so we are getting together with him for dinner tonight-- welcome home, Joe!

I found this week's recipe on Gilt Taste, which is SUCH a fun website.  They offer discounted prices on gourmet foods, wines, and gadgets for the kitchen-- some of my favorite things!  The results of this recipe were delicious, however I was surprised that for a recipe with so few ingredients the actual cooking and prep process was very involved!  Ultimately though, the pasta was great.  Alex wasn't such a fan of the onion salad component, but he's not such a fan of raw onions in general.  On that note though, one thing that the recipe neglects to tell you is that you should remove the halved onions from the sauce when you mix the pasta in with it.  After that you're done with the onions, but Alex actually ate those on the side and really enjoyed them... so, all was not lost.

Enjoy-- and don't fault me for the corny writing in the recipe below.  I copied it verbatim. 

Buttered Onion Tomato Pasta
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, cut in half along the equator
  • 1 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice (there are hardly any ingredients in this sauce, so show off your good tomatoes!)
  • 1 pound dried pasta
For the accompanying “salad”
  • ¼ medium red onion
  • 1 fistful soft herbs – parsley, basil, mint, cilantro *I used parsley, basil, chives, oregano
  • Mild vinegar, to taste *I used red wine vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat and add the onion halves, cut-side down.
2. Crush the tomatoes by hand in a mixing bowl, and don’t squirt them all over yourself. If the tomatoes are really firm and not really coming apart, chop them up or puree them. (Or puree them after the sauce is cooked if necessary, which I prefer because it also re-emulsifies the butter.) Listen to the onion start to sizzle and breathe deep, thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s what that smells like.” Scatter the crushed tomatoes around the onion, and when they’re all in there, pour in the tomato juice.
3. Turn the heat up, bringing the liquid up to simmer, then turn it down so that it cooks slowly, uncovered, with very gentle but persistent bubbles. Season lightly with salt and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. While the sauce is cooking, slice the red onion as thin as you can, season it with a pinch of salt and a splash of vinegar, just enough to moisten it. Roughly chop the herbs, but don’t combine them with the onion. Look in the saucepan. As the sauce cooks, the butter will emulsify in, turning the red into more of a deep pink. After 45 minutes, the sauce should have reduced by about half, the butter will be threatening to break back out and float back to the top. The flavor will round out and deepen; and it should be sweet, tart, and buttery in equal measure.
5. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and cook the pasta ‘til al dente. As it cooks, season the sauce with salt (and maybe a pinch of sugar) to taste. Combine the chopped herbs with the red onion. Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce and serve, with a small pinch of onion salad on top or on the side. Go light on the onion salad, since you want to be able to have bites that are just pasta and sauce to revel in its loveliness.

Recipe courtesy of Francis Lam via GiltTaste.com

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2 Brunches, 3 City Walks, and 6 Months of Marriage

Syracuse ladies... circa 2005?
I ate a lot of brunch this weekend.  The ironic thing is that I ate brunch at the same restaurant both Saturday and Sunday and the place is conveniently named Brunch.  Easy to remember.  Love it.

On Saturday I met up with my college roommate Liz for brunch-- that's us at right (with our counterparts Liz L. and Maggie) in our younger drunker days.  Liz and I fell out of touch for a few years after college when she was in Japan and then I was in Boston, so it's been so great to see more of her over the past couple of years since we've both returned to our Midwestern roots.  I love getting together with her when she makes it down to Chicago every couple of months.  Thanks for brunching with me, Liz!

Breakfast on a pretzel roll.  Yum.
Alex's Red Velvet Pancakes.
After brunch at Brunch #2 on Sunday with our friends Mike and Colleen I needed a little physical activity otherwise I was likely going to go home and take a long food-induced nap.  It was a beautiful [chilly] day so we decided to break out the City Walks again and go explore our city.  I let Alex pick this time and he got adventurous and chose 3 concurrent City Walks along the downtown lakefront.  It was a lot of walking, but a great way to spend a Sunday.  Did I mention that it is also our 6-month anniversary?  Happy Anniversary, Alex-- thanks for a wonderful (and always eventful) first 6 months of marriage.  Looking forward to spending the next 6 with you too.

City Walk #1: Millennium Park

We started this walk right at #1 in Millennium Park.  I've been here a handful of times since it's a place that our friends and family always want to see when they come to visit so it was interesting to see the Park this way and to find out how much of it I have actually never seen before.

1. Wrigley Square Monument.
2. Cloud Gate
The Walk started at the Wrigley Square Monument (at right) and then moved on to one of the tourist attractions that we most frequently visit with our out of town guests: Cloud Gate a.k.a. "The Bean."  We took our 1,274th self portrait in its reflection today too.

3. Crown Fountain
Our next stop was the Crown Fountain and I have to be honest about it: I find the face fountain to be really creepy.

The next stop was Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion, which we have both been to before since we are both architecture nerds, but never to see an actual performance.  I think that seeing a concert there will be on our Summer 2012 bucket list.  Doesn't a free outdoor concert with a picnic and a bottle of wine sound great?

4. Pritzker Pavilion
At the Pavilion we also encountered a lovely tourist couple who offered to take our picture if we took theirs.  Thanks, folks!
5. Lurie Gardens

After that we went to the Lurie Gardens.  I've never been here and it was actually really beautiful.  Apparently the different sections of the gardens are intended to represent different aspects of Chicago's history...  I think we needed a guided tour to figure that out because it was in no way evident just walking through.  Lovely tulips and a great view of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute though. 
6. BP Bridge

This walk ended at BP Bridge, also designed by Mr. Frank Gehry to connect Millennium and Grant Parks over Columbus Drive.  When I first moved to Chicago I lived blocks from this bridge and never set foot on it until today.  I love these walks!

1. Cancer Survivor's Garden
City Walk #2: Grant Park

Walk #2 starts right where #1 leaves off, so we figured we might as well continue and enjoy the day.  The first stop was the Cancer Survivor's Garden-- again, a place that I did not know even existed until today.  The park is flanked by planters (made from the columns of Chicago's old Federal building) and plaques with facts and sayings about cancer and life.  I particularly liked this one: "Have plans for pleasant things to do and goals to accomplish."  We should all live by those words.
2. Buckingham Fountain

Our short second walk ended at Chicago's famous Buckingham Fountain.  Unfortunately, since it was still a smidge chilly, the fountain was not running today.  It did bring back some memories of the TV show Married With Children though.

1. Shedd Aquarium
City Walk #3: Museum Campus

Ah finally, the third and final City Walk along the Museum Campus.  Are you exhausted yet?  I am tired just telling you about it so imagine the actual walk.  It was a long afternoon.  Here is a confession for you:  I've never actually been in ANY of the museums that we saw on this walk.  I'm a bad Chicagoan and I am adding actually going in and viewing the exhibits to the  2012 Chicago Bucket List too.
2. Adler Planetarium

The first stop was the Shedd Aquarium where there was HUGE line of people waiting to enter when we walked by... good thing we weren't planning to go in today.  There's my husband being goofy in front and there is also a hilarious sign that we saw outside of it that warned us to watch our heads around the protective nesting blackbirds.

After that we walked along the lake to get to the Adler Planetarium and it was super windy and FREEZING.  I've included photographic proof of that.  Needless to say, after that refreshing breeze we were ready to get on with this tour so we made a third stop at America's Courtyard right on the water next to the Planetarium.  Again, didn't know that this was here.  It sort of reminded me of a combo of Stonehenge, a sundial, and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.  It was really beautiful and kind of peaceful since it was situated all the way at the end of the Museum Campus peninsula.
3. America's Courtyard

After that we headed back toward the Field Museum of Natural History, our final stop of the day.  So, after 3 hours, 6.5 miles of walking, and 12 "must see" Chicago locations we were done being tourists and ready to head home.
4. Field Museum

That was a super long blog post and I promise that the rest will not be this involved.  Thanks for reading though and an even bigger thank you to Alex for being such a good sport for the long chilly walk-- and for 6 great months of marriage.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Favorite Things: Loafer Love

Nothing says preppy, classic, and timeless like a good pair of loafers.  Recently I have really become a huge fan of the loafer and have found that a few pairs have suddenly appeared in my closet and on my feet.  They're classier than a flipflop and way more comfortable and supportive than a ballet flat.  They also always remind me of these photos of my parents back in their early 1980's preppy Greek life days.  All that's missing are some argyle sweater vests, Lacoste polos, and knee socks.  

I recently treated myself to a fabulous pair of gold Tory Burch driving moccasins.  Not a huge splurge as I did have a giftcard.  Luckily.  I wore them so much that I was afraid I was going to wear them out, so I went on a hunt for some better everyday loafers and found not one, but two pairs of Sperry Topsiders for a great price at Nordstrom Rack.  Nothing makes me happier than a shopping trip like that!  And thank goodness I have younger sisters who have informed me that Topsiders are now cool.  Until recently I have always associated them with the little boys I went to Catholic elementary school with and how none of them ever tied the laces-- they just made those little barrel knots on each side and slipped them on and off.  Does anyone else remember this?

As an homage to the ever preppy loafer, I did some digging on Polyvore and created my loafer/moccasin wishlist.  See below, do some online shopping, and enjoy!

Loafer Love

Frye loafer
$148 - nordstrom.com

Sperry Top Sider loafer
$125 - piperlime.gap.com

Sperry Top Sider loafer
$90 - piperlime.gap.com

Tory Burch loafer
$275 - bloomingdales.com

Carshoe loafer
€298 - veryeickhoff.com

Cole Haan shoes
$131 - zappos.com

MICHAEL Michael Kors loafer
$110 - cusp.com

Madewell loafer
$75 - madewell.com

Balenciaga loafer
$420 - bluefly.com

$79 - bloomingdales.com

Tod s loafer
$445 - mytheresa.com

Calvin Klein Collection loafer
$134 - theoutnet.com

French Connection loafer
$118 - asos.com

Giambattista Valli flat
$595 - barneys.com

Polo Ralph Lauren Lars Navy Shoes
$216 - coggles.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Prosciutto & Asparagus Flatbread

As you can see from most of the recipes I post I am fairly conscious of being a healthy cook and using fresh and light ingredients.  I've been even more serious about that over the past few months since my office has been running a Biggest Loser weight loss contest. The contest is a week away from ending and it is pretty safe to say that I was for sure a Loser, just not the Biggest one.  Even with it coming to an end, health will always be a big focus in what I cook for the two of us but our meal planning focus is shifting a little... it's time to think about our budget. 

Fun stuff. 

Lately we are starting to feel like we are outgrowing our little 1-bedroom loft (and it's only the two of us) and although we have talked about it for the last few years, we have decided that it's time to get serious about buying a house.  If you've bought a house or thought about it in the last few years you have an idea of how much cash you need to save in order to even consider doing that.  It's pretty daunting and we have a long way to go!  So, we are going to get serious about our savings and I am going to start with my fridge.  I have to admit that I love to cook, but I am terrible about eating and using leftovers.  Not anymore, people.  It's time to get frugal. 

I came up with this recipe by surveying the contents of my refrigerator and then getting a little creative.  I have found that this execrise can yield some really delicious and different meal ideas.  We had a few slices of prosciutto leftover from a salad we made one night last week and a huge chunk of gruyere leftover from that brocolli gratin that we had at Easter dinner.  I've always got onions, fresh garlic, and herbs on hand, so I picked up a package of Naan and a bunch of asparagus (and grilled the rest of it as a side dish) and voila!  Dinner.  It was delicious and even provided the two of us with lunch the next day.  Talk about stretching a buck.

Looking forward to getting cheap and creative with our upcoming dinners-- and sharing those recipes with you too!


  • 2 Naan flatbreads *in my grocery store bakery section they are sold in packages of two
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup gruyere, shredded and divided
  • 2/3 cup asparagus, shaved or very thinly sliced *I used a mandolin to thinly slice mine
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, roughly chopped
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange Naan flatbreads on the sheet.

Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and a pinch of salt to the skillet and cook until soft (about 6-8 minutes), stirring frequently.  Once onions are softened, add garlic and thyme to the onions and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until nicely caramelized.  Divide the onion mixture and spread evenly on top of the two flatbreads. Top each flatbread with asparagus and then do the same with the shredded gruyere.

After you have removed the onions from the skillet, add chopped prosciutto to the pan.  Cook over medium heat until prosciutto becomes crispy, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and transfer to a paper towel to drain.  Top each flatbread evenly with the crispy prosciutto and bake until cheese is brown and bubbly, about 12-15 minutes.  Let the flatbread cool for 3-4 minutes and then divide each into quarters and serve.  Serves 4 people with 2 slices each.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lazy Weekend Love

Don't you just love a lazy weekend?  After a few busy weekends in a row (and a few equally busy workweeks), it was nice for Alex and me to have a weekend with basically nothing planned.  Our warm weather is back, but so are some serious thunderstorms so we did a lot of staying in this weekend and I was pretty okay with that.  Here's a sampling of our weekend in photos...

I've been on a bit of a spring cleaning/organizing/redecorating spree lately and we just got this rug for our bedroom, which I am pretty much in love with. Here's a sneak preview-- I'll have further details later as the redecorating continues.

In conjunction with buying a new rug we also decided we need to be spending less money by not going out to eat for every single meal of the weekend. That makes no sense, I know. So we stayed in for dinner and a movie on Friday night (although we did run down to the French Market for some straciatella and frutti di bosco gelato) and on Saturday morning I made brunch. Check out my cinnamon pear french toast below:

Cinnamon Pear French Toast

  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • dash of salt
  • 2 Bartlett pears, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • cooking spray
  • 6 slices of wheat bread (I used the really good kind from our grocery store bakery)
  • powdered sugar, to taste
Melt butter on medium heat in a skillet. Add pears and dash of salt to the pan and saute until the pears have softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the pears and stir to combine. Let the mixture cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until pears have cooked down and the sauce has thickened.

In a medium shallow bowl (I like to use a glass pie plate) add the remaining 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, egg, milk, honey, vanilla and whisk to combine. Add sliced bread to the egg mixture making sure to coat both sides. I like to let the bread sit in the egg mixture for 2-3 minutes to make sure it has been thoroughly soaked. Meanwhile, heat another skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add bread to the pan and cook until the bottom of the slice is golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Flip each slice and continue to cook until the other side is golden as well. Repeat with remaining slices. Arrange the french toast on plates and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar. Serve with the cinnamon pears and enjoy.

On Saturday night we met up with our friends Nick and Tara in Wicker Park for a late dinner. Wicker Park is a neighborhood that Alex and I haven't spent too much time in, but this is our third visit in the past month-- not a bad start to our goal of seeing more of the city! We decided to finally try The Southern, known for their southern comfort food and mac and cheese which was pretty amazing. I also had a fab cocktail that I am dying to recreate this summer-- it's called the Dixie Cup (cute!): Gin, St. Germain, muddled strawberries, lemon juice, topped with champagne. Yum!

Sunday was possibly the laziest day of all. I did drag my marathon runner husband out to help me buy new running shoes, which made us feel moderately productive. However, I also had to bribe him with lunch. We ended up trying a new place called Barcito, which is basically the bar connected to Tavernita, a new Spanish-style restaurant in River North. Barcito is all open to the outside so we did get to enjoy some tapas and the good weather before the rain rolled in.

 Hope you all had a fun and restful weekend as well!

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