A Squared: April 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Happy Wedding Day, Liz!

This post is coming to you live from Erie, Pennsylvania!

Alex and I area here the weekend to celebrate my old friend/roommate/partner in crime Liz's wedding today.  I'm so looking forward to celebrating with her big day with her-- and to spending some quality time with another old friend/roommate/partner in crime who happens to be named Liz.

Liz, me, and Liz (the bride-to-be) circa 2006
The 3 of us at my wedding in 2011.

Hope you are having a great weekend!  Weekend trip/wedding updates to follow next week.

Congratulations Liz & Austin!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Finds: Basil Grilled Chicken Breasts

As a nod to my recent trip down south, this edition of Friday Finds features a recipe from A Taste of Glynn: Signature Servings from Chefs, Caterers, and Cooks of Georgia's Golden Isles.  I found this book at a cute home store in St. Simon's Island and it features recipes from chefs and restaurants from around Glynn County.  Part of the proceeds from the sale of these books goes to the Glynn Community Crisis Center, which provides support to victims of domestic violence.  Apparently there is also an annual Taste of Glynn fundraising event too... I think I would like to attend!

One of the reasons that I bought the book was for all of the great seafood and classic southern recipes in it.  However, we have been busy this week coming off one trip and departing for another so I was looking for something quick and simple. This chicken recipe could not have been easier-- only a few ingredients and very limited prep time and it had really great flavor.  Since it was cold and rainy when we made this dinner I cooked the chicken in a grill pan. I imagine it will be even better on the outdoor grill this summer!

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise *I used light mayo
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

To flatten chicken breasts, place between 2 heavy plastic cutting boards or plastic wrap, using a large rubber mallet, until about 1/4-inch thick. Combine mayonnaise, basil, garlic, and vinegar in a small dish. Brush on to chicken breasts; put coated side down on a non-stick tray. Brush tops. Grill one side about 2 minutes. Turn, season with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through, about 2 minutes more.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Oven Baked Fries

My husband has simple taste. He likes his burgers and he likes his french fries. I like him to be thin and diabetes-free. Enter the bison burger and oven baked french fries.

These faux french fries are one of my favorite sides to serve with burgers and sandwiches. They are crispy and flavorful, but are not deep fried-- or fried at all, actually.  Another tip to make them even healthier for you: Swap in sweet potatoes for regular potatoes. In my opinion, the sweet potato fries even taste better!

  • 1 large or 2 small baking potatoes
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Wash and dry the potato(es) and slice into "fries."  I like to leave the skins on and then cut them to be about 1/2 inch around.  Add potato strips to a large bowl and drizzle in the olive oil. Add garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper.  Stir well to combine and make sure all fries are evenly coated.

Spread out fries on a large baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until fork tender.  Turn on the broiler and broil the fries for an additional 4-5 minutes or until they become golden and crispy on the outside.

Serve warm with the dipping sauce of your choice.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mini-Vacation: St. Simon's Island

I'm back in Chicago after a very quick mini-vacation with the family last weekend.  There were some very big/tragic stories on the news last week, so you may not have heard that we had some serious storms here in the Chicago area on Thursday when I was scheduled to leave.  After a canceled flight, some rearranging, and several hours at O'Hare I did manage to escape cold flooded Chicagoland by the end of that day to enjoy a couple days of relaxation down south.

My family has spent almost every spring break since I was in high school on St. Simon's Island.  Since I still have sisters in high school, I occasionally get to partake in their spring break trips. Lucky me! 

Megan, me, Mom, Libby, & Emma

St. Simon's Island is a little island off the coast of southern Georgia in what they call the Golden Isles.  It is full of pretty beaches, quaint shops, good food, and southern charm.  Mostly, it's very laidback and a great place to relax and I am sure that's why my family returns year after year. 

This year my parents rented a "cottage," which is larger than their home, but large enough to comfortably fit our whole family.  It was walking distance from the beach and an adorable community pool. My dad loved it so much that I am pretty sure he's already got it in the books for next year.

As you know, I am a food lover.  One of the things that I love about St. Simon's Island is the fresh seafood.  I never remember how much I miss the seafood here in Chicago until I am on the east coast and it is readily available.

On my first night in town (not long after I deplaned!) we had dinner at a great Italian place called Tramici.  My dad and I both ordered the pan seared flounder (one of my favorites) special-- it was served with risotto and a roasted red pepper sauce.  I also tried the coconut gelato. Delicious!

We had another more casual dinner at Brogen's, a bar and grill right in the downtown area of St. Simon's Island.  My sister Emma and I decided to introduce the rest of the family to fried pickles... they had no idea what they were missing! And then I tried the blackened tilapia sandwich, which was tasty and enormous. It was also great to order tilapia since I can't fix it at home anymore for my poor allergic husband.

My sisters Megan and Libby (above) went into town everyday to wander around and cause trouble. That's when they discovered Yobe and the magic that is a serve yourself frozen yogurt shop. They made sure to bring us in after dinner at Brogen's and showed my dad the frozen yogurt ropes.

And on the last night we ordered takeout from Sal's, my dad's favorite pizza place on the island. That's him (the last man standing) with my sisters at dinner at the cottage.

The trip was brief, but just what I needed-- a little time in the sun (which led to a surprisingly severe sunburn), a few good night's sleep, and some quality time with my family. Here's hoping we can do it again next year-- and that the Chicago weather behaves enough for me to get there on time!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Finds: Summer Vegetable Gratin

This is the final post in my (very drawn out) series of post-Easter dinner posts.  It's the second Friday Finds in a row that I am featuring a recipe from chef Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.  Chef Keller didn't let me down this time either.  That roasted onion recipe was delicious and this summer vegetable gratin is a simple yet impressive side dish. I know it's a little premature to make a "summer" vegetable dish in April (especially since we saw snowflakes this past weekend-- yikes!), but I'm sure it would be even better in the summer with fresh summer vegetables.  I will definitely keep this recipe in mind when we're shopping at Green City Market this summer.


  • 2-3 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow squash
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 small eggplant
  • Canola oil
  • 2 1/2 cups onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp., plus 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet. 

Slice the vegetables to end up with slices as close in size as possible. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices (discard the end slices). Trim the yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices: if necessary, cut them on a slight diagonal so the slices are about the same size as the tomato slices.
Heat some canola oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, add onions and garlic, season with salt.  Cook without browning, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 20 minutes.  Stir in 1 Tbs. thyme.

Combine the yellow squash, zucchini and eggplant in a large bowl and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, and season with salt.  
Drizzle the tomato slices with olive oil and season with salt.

Combine the parmesan, breadcrumbs, and remaining 1 tsp. thyme in a small bowl.

Spread the  onion mixture in the bottom of a 13.5x9.5 baking dish (or 13-inch round baking dish).  Layer the vegetables in the dish, working on the diagonal.  Arrange a layer of overlapping slices of one-third of the zucchini around the outside edge of the dish. Sprinkle 2-3 Tbs. of the cheese mixture over the top. Make a row of overlapping slices of yellow squash slightly overlapping the zucchini, and sprinkle 2-3 Tbs. of the cheese mixture over the top. Make a third row with overlapping slices of tomatoes, slightly overlapping the zucchini, and sprinkle with the cheese mixture. Make a fourth row with overlapping slices of eggplant, slightly overlapping the tomatoes, and sprinkle the cheese mixture over the top. Continue making overlapping rows of the remaining vegetables, and sprinkle the top with any remaining cheese mixture and a light sprinkle of salt.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the vegetables are completely tender and offer no resistance when pierced with a knife.  Remove from oven and allow the gratin to rest for 10 minutes.  Turn on the broiler and place the gratin under the broiler to brown the top just before serving.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Southern Comfort

Hey readers!

Just stopping in to wish you all a happy weekend a little bit early.  I'm on my way to St. Simon's Island, Georgia for a much needed mini-vacation with the family-- or most of the family.

Beautiful St. Simon's Island-- stole this photo from my Mom. Thanks, Mom!

I'll be spending some quality time at the beach and enjoying some southern hospitality with my parents and sisters.  My hard working husband is staying behind and I will miss him tons, but am definitely looking forward to a break from our (so far) chilly Chicago spring.

My travel mates-- minus my husband. Boo.

Enjoy your weekends and tomorrow's Friday Finds post. It's a good one!

I'll be back next week with some photos and updates from the trip.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What's for Dinner Wednesday: Greek Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers are a pretty impressive looking meal that can actually be very easy to make.  They are also incredibly versatile and can be stuffed with a variety of combinations of meats, cheeses, grains, and vegetables. I prefer mine meatless and served this Greek-inspired version for dinner recently.  I love the combo of salty kalamata olives and feta cheese with the sweet red peppers.  One pepper makes a surprisingly simple and satisfying dinner. You could serve a slice of garlic bread or a simple green salad on the side, but these are actually perfectly portioned little meals-- and the leftovers make an excellent lunch to take to the office!

  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked orzo
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped and seeded
  • 2 small zucchini, grated
  • 2 Tbs. fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, fine chopped
  • 3.5 oz. low fat feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the tops off of each pepper and set aside.  Remove the seeds and ribs from the inside of the peppers. If the peppers are not sturdy when set on their bases, make a very thin slice across the base to flatten and balance the peppers.

Roughly chop the reserved pepper tops and add to a large mixing bowl.  To the bowl, add orzo and next 8 ingredients (through garlic).  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Carefully spoon the orzo mixture into each pepper until filled and the filling forms a slight mound on top.* Place the filled peppers into a small baking dish where they fit snugly. Pour broth into the dish around the peppers until it is about 1 inch deep (you may not use all of the broth, depending on the size of your baking dish). Cover the dish with foil and and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove the foil, sprinkle the top of each pepper with grated Romano and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.  Remove from oven and serve.

*You will likely have leftover orzo mixture. I added mine to a small baking dish, sprinkled extra Pecorino Romano over the top and baked for about 30 minutes.

Inspired by Orzo-Stuffed Peppers recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston, You're My Home

What a sad sad day yesterday was.

As a former Bostonian, my heart is especially heavy today trying to make sense of yesterday's completely nonsensical events. I used to live about 3 blocks away from the site of the explosion and walked past that spot almost every day. I'm also married to a Marathoner. It's all very surreal.

I'm happy to say that, although shaken, my Boston friends are safe. It still doesn't make what happened any less sad, scary, or senseless though. Especially knowing that others lost their lives or their loved ones for no reason at all. What a tragedy.

Boston is a wonderful city and its residents have a ton of spirit and heart. The Marathon/Patriot's Day is a local holiday-- a day to celebrate the accomplishments of dedicated athletes and fundraisers and a day for the city to come together. The one thing I can say about this city is that it will bounce back. And be better than ever.

So, no recipe, shopping, or restaurant posts today.  Instead, I wanted to share this list with you (courtesy of BuzzFeed) of 29 Reasons to Love Boston. This city will always hold a special place in my heart and these are just 29 of many reasons.

And also what to do if you or your loved ones are in Boston...
  • Find your loved ones or register yourself at Red Cross Safe & Well
  • You can also register yourself to be located or locate loved ones via Google Person Finder.
  • Contact the Boston mayor's hotline for families & victims: 617-635-4500
  • If you have information or tips on the bombing call the Boston police: 800-494-8477

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Finds: Honey-Glazed Cipollini Onions

Today's Friday Finds recipe is for the first of two vegetable side dishes that I served with a roasted chicken for a late Easter dinner.  A few Christmases ago, Alex gave me a signed copy of chef Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home cookbook. He knows me too well!  Thomas Keller is the acclaimed chef behind the famous The French Laundry in Napa (a visit is totally on my bucket list), so I was intimidated- to say the least- by the idea of trying one of his recipes in my own kitchen.  However, I was shocked by the simplicity of so many of the comfort food recipes in this book.

I ended up making not one, but two vegetable dishes featured in the book. I'll be sharing the other with you next week, but wanted to focus on this delicious onion recipe this week. I am a huge fan of cipollini onions. They are small and sweet and when roasted or caramelized they take on an amazing soft consistency.  This recipe is actually very hands off and and easy to prepare and I can imagine these onions would make a great side dish for a variety of meats-- like with a grilled steak or some broiled fish.  I will definitely be making these again!

  • 1-1/4 1b. cipollini onions (about 14), about 2-inches in diameter
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed, skin left on
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground block pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the onions. Cut off the top of each onion to create a flat surface for browning. Trim the root ends. If any of the onions are noticeably larger than the rest, peel off an outer layer so that they are closer to in size.

Heat an oven proof frying pan large enough to hold the onions in a single layer over medium heat. Add the canola oil and heat until warm.

Add the onions cut-side down and cook until browned, swirling the pan from time to time for even browning, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook to lightly brown the second side, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and honey to the pan. The honey will bubble up; once it stops, add the chicken stock and swirl the pan to incorporate. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring just to a boil.

Transfer to the oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until the onions are tender and the liquid has reduced to a thick glaze. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the onions to a serving dish and spoon the glaze over the top.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Using Up Leftovers: Roasted Chicken Parm Pasta Bake

Nothing makes me feel worse in the kitchen than throwing away food. I grew up hearing "waste not, want not" in my house and it's definitely a saying that has stayed with me. It resonates even more now that I pay for my own food. Do you ever have that feeling that you're throwing cash into the garbage can when you're dumping old food?

That said, I really hate eating leftovers. Chicken always tastes rubbery when you microwave it and there are other things like soft vegetables, eggs, or fish that really just don't keep or reheat well at all so I try to be really conscious about portioning those items out when I cook them and also to plan our weekly meals out ahead of time to avoid overbuying fresh foods in the first place.

Sometimes having a lot of leftover food is unavoidable though-- like when you're roasting a whole chicken for two people. Keeping this in mind when planning our weekly menu though, I came up with a totally different way to use up that leftover chicken in a way that didn't feel boring, played out, or microwaved rubbery. I put a spin on a traditional chicken parmesan and created a one dish pasta bake incorporating the chicken and also some spinach to up the health factor. My husband and I both loved it-- it was a great cold night comfort dinner and actually pretty quick and easy since the chicken was pre-cooked. And knowing that I used that chicken instead of throwing it away made it taste even better!

  • 1 1/4 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 cups short cut pasta, cooked and drained *I used Barilla White Fiber Mini Shells
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted chicken, chopped *I used the leftover white meat from the sun-dried tomato roasted chicken
  • 5-6 oz. baby spinach leaves (depending on how much you like), stems removed and chopped
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup low part skim mozzarella, shredded and divided
  • 3 Tbs. panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9x9-in. baking dish.

Combine remaining marinara sauce, pasta, chicken, spinach, basil, parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the mozzarella in a large bowl.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling.  Broil for an additional 5 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow the dish to set for a few minutes before serving.

Makes about 4 servings.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Sun-Dried Tomato & Herb Roasted Chicken

As you may recall, my Easter Sunday this year was thoroughly disappointing. Instead of making a holiday dinner like I love to do, I spent the day drinking tea and napping on my couch in a cold & flu medicine haze. Alex took the liberty of putting my whole chicken back in the freezer and ordering some Italian takeout for our last minute Easter dinner and I vowed to make it up to him when I was feeling better.

I'm happy to report that this past weekend I was finally feeling like my old self again. This Sunday evening I decided to make our belated Easter dinner (or Beleaster, as Alex referred to it). The first recipe I'd like to share with you is for the main course: a moist and flavorful roasted chicken seasoned with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs. This chicken smelled so great while it was roasting-- reminiscent of pizza, which made my husband happy.

A whole bird obviously produces WAY more chicken than the two of us can eat so I will be repurposing some of the leftovers in another dinner this week. If it's tasty, I will be sharing that recipe with you too. I will also be sharing the recipes for our "Easter" side dishes later this week in Friday Finds.

It may look bruised or burned, but that's the sun-dried tomato paste that was rubbed under the chicken skin for extra flavor


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 7 cloves garlic, divided
  • 8.5-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided 
  • 1 lemon, quartered 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 cup dry white wine *I used Pinot Grigio
  • 2-3 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Cooking spray 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, remove the insides of the chicken, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Season the inside of the chicken cavity with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and set aside.

Peel 4 of the garlic cloves and add to the bowl of a food processor or mini chopper. Add sun-dried tomatoes, all of the oil in the jar, butter, 1/4 cup parsley leaves, basil, rosemary, 3/4 tsp. black pepper, 3/4 tsp. salt to the garlic. Run the machine until ingredients are well blended and have formed a thick paste resembling a pesto.  Loosen the chicken skin with your fingers and generously rub about half of the paste evenly under the skin.  Rub the remaining paste all over the outside of the chicken.

Stuff 2 onion quarters and 2 lemon quarters inside the chicken cavity.  Cut 3 of the remaining garlic cloves in half and add those to the cavity of chicken.  Tie the chicken's legs together with kitchen string, tuck the wings underneath the bird, and place on a roasting rack lightly coated with cooking spray.  Pour the white wine and 2 cups of chicken broth (reserving the additional cup) into the bottom of the roasting pan.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup parsley, 2 lemon quarters, and 2 onion quarters to the liquid in the bottom of the pan. 

Roast for 25 minutes at 450 degrees.  After 25 minutes turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees.  Bake until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165 degrees (or roast for approximately 20 minutes per every pound of chicken).

Every 15-20 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and baste the chicken with the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Keep an eye on the pan and make sure to add the additional chicken broth if the liquid in the bottom of the pan starts to evaporate.

Once the chicken is fully cooked remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  Then carve and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits: Part 3

It's time for another installment of Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits-- a recap of where and what we have been eating in the Windy City lately. We have been to a few of our old favorites recently and have tried some new spots too. I'm excited to share some new and old favorites with you!

Bistrot Margot
Old Town

I mentioned last time how I have been into French food lately, so Alexis and I met up for a girls dinner one night at Bistrot Margot in Old Town. I love the neighborhood feel of this area and the restaurant is such a cute little place. It transports you right to Europe inside. The food is also delicious: simple and rich. Very French. We split the tarte au brie (left: brie in puffed pastry with asparagus) and then I ordered a pan roasted chicken breast with vegetables and potatoes in a dijon beurre blanc sauce (center). I love dijon mustard and it really made this dish special. We ended the meal with profiteroles (right) and they were REALLY good.
Bistrot Margot on Urbanspoon
Smith & Wollensky
River North

I dined at Smith & Wollensky recently for a work lunch, which is always an interesting way to visit a steakhouse. While I would have loved to have ordered a filet I probably would have needed a nap back at the office. Instead, I ordered their zesty mixed greens salad (with kalamata olives, fennel, and capers) with one of my favorites: lump crab meat. It was a delicious salad, but one of my favorite parts of the meal (which I didn't get to photograph) was the side of truffled mac and cheese. If you end up at Smith & Wollensky for dinner or lunch order this mac and cheese. It's amazing.
Smith & Wollensky on Urbanspoon

Hannah's Bretzel
The Loop

Hannah's is by no means a fancy restaurant, but as far as sandwich shops go it is about as good as they come. Alex and I love to come here on weekends for lunch. It's a German-inspired sandwich cafe and their specialty is the bretzel, or pretzel bread. I like to try something different every time (like the Hannah's Club at left), but Alex orders the Sergio-- a spicy ham sandwich-- every time. Everything here is good-- the sandwiches, their interesting soups (like golden beet, not chicken noodle), and their baked goods. And save room for chocolate. They have an amazing selection of European and gourmet chocolate bars for sale here too.
Hannah's Bretzel on Urbanspoon

Au Cheval
West Loop

I let Alex decide where we'd go to eat for his birthday dinner expecting him to choose one of our favorite BBQ or pizza restaurants. He is a creature of habit, after all. Much to my surprise (and excitement), he said he wanted to try Au Cheval. It's a newish upscale European-style diner (a mouthful!) on Randolph Street, Chicago's "restaurant row." This place doesn't accept reservations and is notorious for a long wait, so we figured that Alex's actual birthday being on a Tuesday may work in our favor. Well, Au Cheval is small and even at 6:30 on a Tuesday we were told it would be an hour wait. Luckily, the bar is first come first served and we found two stools after about 20 minutes. Success!

Here's the thing-- the food here is absolutely worth the wait. Alex loved the burger (it's supposed to be one of Chicago's best) and we both loved the Crispy Fries: fries served with mornay sauce, garlic aioli, and a fried egg. It was SO delicious! Some other not to be missed menu items: the side of bacon and also the bread and butter pickles. Random, I know, but so good. One of the best and most surprising things about Au Cheval though is the price-- shockingly reasonable for trendy Randolph Street.
Au Cheval on Urbanspoon

Fulton River District

Carnivale is a great spot for Latin food in the West Loop. The restaurant is huge, the decor is bright and fun, and the food is consistently good. I try to change up my order when we go, although I am partial to the fish tacos (left). They serve them for lunch and as an appetizer during dinner service. The guacamole and sangria or mojitos are always a must order and some of our other favorites here are the Ropa Vieja appetizer (braised beef on plantain chips) and Alex loves the Arrechera, a grilled skirt steak served with chimichurri. Also, since the restaurant is so big this would be a great place to host an event-- big or small. They even do weddings!
Carnivale on Urbanspoon

Greek Islands

Confession: Until this past week I have never dined in Chicago's Greektown neighborhood. This is sad A. because I love food, B. because I love Greek food, and C. because I live within walking distance of this area. When we decided to meet up for a girls night at Greek Islands I could not have been more excited. Greek Islands is another huge restaurant with shockingly affordable prices and a casual, fun atmosphere. It's one of those places where everyone yells "Opa!" when they flambe your saganaki at the table. My girlfriends all went the gyro route at dinner, but not being such a huge lamb/red meat fan I went rogue and ordered Shrimp Tourkolimano (above left), shrimp baked in tomato sauce and feta and served with rice. It was so good! I'm considering trying to deconstruct the dish at home and then feature the recipe here on the blog. And don't skip dessert! We shared a chocolate mousse cake (above middle), which was good. But the real star of dessert (for me, at least) was the Karidopita (above right). It's a spice cake with cinnamon and walnuts served warm with ice cream. Yet another recipe I'd like to duplicate. I can't wait to dine here again!
Greek Islands on Urbanspoon

Las Palmas
Wicker Park

We went to Las Palmas last weekend for Meredith's birthday party. I've never been before, but am always looking for good new places to try in Wicker Park since we live relatively close and I love going out up there. Las Palmas is an intimate little Mexican place with some less traditional and more creative menu offerings. I'm apparently in a shrimp phase as I ordered here too-- it was served with saffron risotto and spring vegetables in a creamy chipotle sauce. So good! They also have an incredible selection of margaritas and mojitos-- I was drinking pomegranate margaritas while my girlfriends ordered mango or vanilla pineapple. They also had a great guitarist who serenaded Mere with a birthday song.
Las Palmas on Urbanspoon

New Line Tavern
Fulton River District/West Loop

New Line is not a fine dining establishment, but it is our favorite neighborhood bar with great service, a decent selection of craft beers, and food that is consistently good and a step above your typical bar food. We eat here a few times a month and are rarely disappointed. I have tried a number of items here (after eating here a few times a month for 3 years you become awfully familiar with a menu!) and some of my favorites are the Hotel California (a vegetarian sandwich with avocado, sprouts, mozzarella, and cilantro pesto), the New Line Salad (with roasted chicken, avocado, and dried cranberries), and the Black Bean Burger (top left) served with BBQ sauce, cheddar,and grilled onions on a pretzel roll. I also always order it with their sweet potato fries. Alex always orders one of two things: steak tacos or the hamburger with a fried egg.

Something of note to mention here: All appetizers are 50% off all aday Sundays. It's one of our favorite Sunday afternoon lunch options. We love their New Line Fries, guacamole, jerk chicken skewers, and a new offering: falafel bites (left)! Skip the fried pickle spears and the Buffalo chicken dip though.
New Line Tavern on Urbanspoon
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