A Squared: April 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Greek Yogurt & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breasts

It's the week after vacation and I am dragging. After overindulging on vacation I was really craving something on the lighter side that also didn't require too much time or prepwork. This Greek yogurt chicken is perfect.

These simple chicken breasts are marinated in a combination of yogurt, lemon juice, and spices, which helps to impart tons of flavor and also keeps the meat moist throughout the cooking process. After marinating, they're coated in a breadcrumb mixture and cooked until crispy. It's a really easy recipe to assemble, is packed with flavor, and can be paired with a variety of sides. I love that kind of versatility!

You could totally change up the flavors in this recipe to transform the chicken next time too! Sub in lime juice, cumin, and chili powder for a Mexican take or dry Italian seasoning and a little grated Parmesan for an Italian twist. Enjoy!


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dry oregano
  • 2 tsp. dry parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Place chicken breasts in a large zip-locking plastic bag. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, parsley, and cayenne. In another bowl, combine Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and half of the dry spice mixture. Mix well and then pour into the bag with the chicken. Seal the bag, pushing out any excess air, and mash the mixture around a bit so that the chicken breasts are well coated. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add olive oil to a cast iron or other oven-safe skillet and heat over medium high heat.

In a shallow dish combine lemon zest, breadcrumbs, and the remaining half of the dry spice mixture. Remove chicken breasts from the bag and dip in the breadcrumb mixture, coating evenly on all sides. Add chicken breasts to the prepared skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until each side is golden brown too.

Add skillet to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until chicken breasts are fully cooked inside and the juices run clear.

Inspired by an original recipe by Voskos Greek yogurt.

Looking for more easy and flavorful chicken breast recipes? Try this Lemon Grilled Chicken or Sauteed Honey Dijon Chicken Breasts.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Tastemaker Top 10 with Kit of The Kittchen

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 a blogger who is very familiar to A Squared readers: my friend in blog life and real life, Kit from food blog The Kittchen. Not only does she write of both the Windy City Blogger Collective and Cinq: A Chicago Food, Wine, & Social Club. She also wrote and published her own cookbook entitled The Gourmet Grilled Cheese. To say that she is busy is an understatement!

Name: Kit Graham

Blog: The Kittchen and Windy City Blogger Collective

Location: Chicago, IL

In a few sentences, tell us a little bit about your blog.

The Kittchen is filled with original recipes, Chicago restaurant reviews, and a little bit of travel. I love to create recipes that are practical for people with a busy life. My recipes tend to be easy and relatively healthy.

The Windy City Blogger Collective is a website and community for Chicago bloggers. We write content to help bloggers learn more about blogging, lead educational talks, and host networking events. The WCBC was founded by a group of 5 Chicago bloggers, including myself. 

Now, tell us about your...

1. Favorite meal, food, or cuisine:
Italian food. Anne - you know that I love this just as much as you! My mom is half Italian so I grew up eating lots of Italian food. Then I studied abroad in Florence and learned the joy of fresh pasta.

2. Least favorite meal, food, or cuisine:
Seafood. And I am from Maine. Go figure.

3. Favorite restaurant in your city:
Chicago has some seriously amazing restaurants. I am going to say Eataly because they have the best of everything: thin crust pizza, fresh pasta, a wonderful wine selection, cheeses, appetizers, you name it! Eataly is a fun experience and I am so glad they came to Chicago.

4. Favorite restaurant outside of your city:
Artichoke Pizza New York City, I have been known to bring it back to Chicago with me.
5. Favorite food memory. The bakery next to the school I went to in Florence. I remember going to an early morning class a few times a week, and the city was mostly sleeping still. As I approached my school, the smell of the bakery next door would take over. In the afternoon I would treat myself to my favorite chocolate tart.

6. Favorite guilty pleasure food: Cadbury Mini Eggs. Every Spring I buy 1 bag, and slowly (or not so slowly...) eat the entire bag. Then I am done until the next year.

7. Favorite ingredient (something you love to cook with, or something you see on a menu and know you have to order): Lemon! A hint of lemon adds that little someone every dish benefits from.

8. Favorite kitchen tool, utensil, product, etc.: Tongs! I just got them and can't believe how often I use them. I think I am burning myself less now too!

9. Favorite recipe: My mom and I are both loving this Balsamic Chicken and Sweet Potato Salad. We live 1400 miles apart but we have both been eating it lots recently.

10. Favorite thing about blogging: The people! The Chicago blogging community is nothing short of amazing, which inspired the creation of the Windy City Blogger Collective. It is the friendliest most inspiring group of people.

BONUS! She answered an 11th question for you...
11. Favorite blogs/blogs that A Squared readers should know about:
Up Close and Tasty, Regan's Photography is stunning and her recipes are so well written.
An Epicurean in the Windy City - the writer shares an insider's look at the restaurant industry
Thanks so much for your thoughts, Kit!

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 28, 2014

Vacation Hangover

Happy Monday, all!

I'm just back from a fabulous week away and am having some trouble catching up... I'm taking today off to get my real life back in order, but will be back tomorrow with another Tastemaker Top 10 post for you. In the meantime, let's all have a look at the weather I left behind in Charleston and the weather I was greeted with in Chicago this morning:

What a way to start the week!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Chicken & Peppers in a Tomato Balsamic Broth

Continuing with my theme of the week, today's dinner recipe utilizes a few of the same ingredients that I used in this week's What's For Dinner Wednesday recipe post. With the prospect of moving into a new place on the horizon (more on that later), I have been on a mission to use up the ingredients in my kitchen so that I can avoid tossing them on moving day. This recipe for Chicken & Peppers in a Tomato Balsamic Broth is the perfect way to do that!

While Wednesday's recipe was light, fresh, and summery, today's recipe is it's heartier sister dinner. Balsamic vinegar and chicken broth are used to create a base for a delicious sauce for simple sauteed chicken breasts. I also stirred in some canned crushed tomatoes and added big slices of onions and sweet red peppers cooked until tender to round out the dish. It's similar to a cacciatore, but simpler and sans the mushrooms or green peppers that you might normally find in that dish-- because I am not a huge fan of either!

This could be a hearty meal in and of itself. Don't you love recipes like that? We like some carbs in this house though, so I served mine over a brown rice pilaf. It would be great over pasta, farro, or quinoa too though. And I love how those starches and grains soak up this pan sauce. It's really good!


  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3/4 cup low sodium fat free chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dry parsley flakes

Heat oil and butter in a medium saute pan over medium high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Saute until browned on both sides and the center of the chicken breasts is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add onions and peppers to the pan and saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until softened. Stir in garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add oregano and pour in broth, crushed tomatoes, and vinegar. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until sauce has reduced. Stir in parsley flakes.

After sauce has reduced and thickened slightly, add chicken back to the pan and simmer in the sauce for another 5 minutes. Serve warm over rice or pasta.

Looking for more easy saucy chicken recipes? How about Chicken in Spicy Tomato White Wine Sauce or Chicken in Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce?

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Julie's Picks for Dining in Charleston

Hey readers! As you may recall, I'm in the lovely and charming southeastern United States this week spending a little time with my family at the beach in Georgia. Today I am heading up to Charleston to reunite with my hubby and some long lost friends for our dear friend Julie's wedding.

Julie's been living in Charleston for about as long as I've been in Chicago and this will be our first trip there to visit her. She is also super sweet and even though she's been knee deep in wedding planning, sent me a huge list of restaurant recommendations for our visit! I love a girl who can appreciate my love of food.

Hopefully I will be able to share my own reviews of some of these places with you later. In the meantime, here's Julie's amazing list-- bookmark this post for your next visit to Charleston!

Where the Chefs Eat 
  • Butcher & Bee - Great for lunch or late night food
  • 26 Divine - Lunch only. Husband is chef, wife is pastry chef. She carries their baby around while she serves tables. Adorable and so so good! They're making my wedding cake!
  • 2 Burroughs Larder 

Other Non Touristy Places
  • Poes - Awesome spot (also great burgers) on Sullivan's Island
  • Moes Crosstown - Best burgers in town.
  • Hominy - Go here for Southern food.
  • Rue de Jean - Our favorite restaurants. If you go here, you must get the Curry mussels! This restaurant is also great for a group because they have literally everything on the menu and it's a big place, so reservations are usually not hard to come by. 
  • Fat Hen
  • Gaulart @ Maliclet (Fast & French) 
  • Home Team BBQ - There's one in Sullivan's not far from where y'all's crew is staying. If Alex wants wings, they have awesome dry rub style wings. Editor's note: How cute is Julie's "y'all's?"
  • Xiao Bao Biscuit
  • Wild Olive
  • EVO
  • The Tattoed Moose - Get the duck club - best sandwich I've ever had in my life. Featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives.

  • Kaminsky's
  • Sugar

Popular Spots
  • Macintosh
  • FIG - a little older but some people say it's the best restaurant in town.
  • The Ordinary
  • Husk - Voted best restaurant in America. Everything is locally sourced.
  • McCradys
  • Jestine's Kitchen - Another southern food option.

New Spots - Haven't been to any of these yet, but they're the newest spots in town!
  • Edmund's Oast
  • Lee Lee's Hot Kitchen 
  • Brasserie Gigi

Thanks, Julie!!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Tomato Basil Chicken

On Monday I shared a great meatless recipe for a cheesey baked spaghetti squash with tomatoes and basil. Since I'm on vacation this week, I thought it would be great to keep the recipes easy breezy for you this week. Today's recipe is another quick and easy dinner recipe that incorporates some of the same ingredients-- a perfect way to stretch your groceries a little further over the course of the week.

This tomato basil chicken is a dinner filled with some of my favorite healthy ingredients. Chicken is a blank slate for flavorful elements like tomatoes, basil, and balsamic vinegar: a tried and true flavor combination. The sweet and savory tomato basil pan sauce dresses up a simple chicken breast nicely without tons of fat, calories, or carbs. And that makes me happy.

I really like serving this chicken over creamy polenta. It would also be delicious served with pasta or orzo, or even over some simple steamed rice.

  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat. Melt butter and olive oil in the pan and swirl to coat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides and saute in the pan until cooked through and juices run clear. Transfer to a plate.

Add shallots to the pan and saute, stirring frequently so that they soften, but don't brown. Cook for 3 minutes and then add garlic, cooking and stirring constantly for another 2 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken slightly. Add grape tomatoes to the pan and cook for another 8 minutes. The tomatoes should be softened, but not disintegrating.

Add chicken breasts back to the pan and cook in the sauce for 3 more minutes. Plate chicken breasts over pasta, rice, or polenta, and ladle the tomato mixture over the top. Sprinkle chopped basil on top and serve.

Looking for more easy chicken recipes? Try Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken or Lemon Grilled Chicken!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Tastemaker Top 10 with Regan of Up Close & Tasty

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 a fellow Chicago food blogger: Regan from Up Close & Tasty. Regan not only features delicious recipes on her blog, but she also takes amazing food photos! They are seriously beautiful, so be sure to stop by her blog and check them out.

Name: Regan Baroni

Blog: Up Close & Tasty

Location: Chicago, IL

In a few sentences, tell us a little bit about your blog. 
Up Close & Tasty is a food photography blog dedicated to making your stomach grumble! I started taking pictures of food with my iPhone and eventually grew into my first "real" (DSLR) camera. My husband, Mike, is a really great cook and I've learned a lot about cooking from him - we cook the meals and I shoot the pictures and that's how Up Close & Tasty came to be. My hope is to connect food & art through my photography and, of course, share delicious recipes at the same time.

Now, tell us about your...

1. Favorite meal, food, or cuisine:
Seafood! I think it's the pisces in me.

2. Least favorite meal, food, or cuisine:
 I have never been able to appreciate the awful flavor of grapefruit.

3. Favorite restaurant in your city:
Oh man...how do I pick just one?
One of my many favorites is Bite Cafe in Ukrainian Village. The menu is delicious, they have daily specials that are made-to-impress, it's byob and it was two blocks away from where Mike & I used to live...needless to say, we went there a lot.
4. Favorite restaurant outside of your city:
I have two (from travel)--

Hartwood in Tulum, Mexico
They don't use any electrical equipment. They just use an open fire and whatever is caught fresh that day...and lots of candles. It's totally intimate & unique. I had the octopus.

Nin's Bin, on the side of the road near Kaikoura, New Zealand

5. Favorite food memory. In 2008, my husband Mike and I traveled to New Zealand with his family. We were driving down the coast of the South Island toward the town of Kaikoura when we stumbled upon a crayfish stand on the side of the road, right on the beach; Nin's Bin. We pulled over and ordered several crayfish (New Zealand-speak for Lobster) that were pulled fresh from the Pacific earlier that morning. This place was literally a shack, so you couldn't sit down anywhere except on an old picnic table with an in-your-face view of the ocean. The crayfish was melt-in-your-mouth delicious... and so fresh you could taste the sea. I had never experienced that kind of fresh seafood before. We all felt like we had found one of those secret spots that hadn't been 'discovered' yet.

6. Favorite guilty pleasure food: Sushi. I order it a lot. It's really bad for my bank account. Spaghetti & Meatballs is a close second.

7. Favorite ingredient (something you love to cook with, or something you see on a menu and know you have to order): If oysters are on the menu, I will order them.
Favorite ingredient?
There are many... but off the top of my head, it's lemons.
See my Lemon Ricotta Pancake recipe. 

8. Favorite kitchen tool, utensil, product, etc.: I have a thing for old, wooden cutting boards, a good chef's knife and cute aprons. 

9. Favorite recipe: My Mom's salsa. It's a secret recipe, but I will tell you it's a two-day process, she cans the salsa herself at her home in Minnesota and she always gets her tomatoes from her favorite farmers market in Des Moines, IA. I am planning a shoot on it, featuring my Mom, this summer - but I can't promise that she'll reveal the recipe.

And another favorite recipe: Mike's grilled oysters

10. Favorite thing about blogging: One of my favorite quotes by Julia Child is, "I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate."

I love it because you can find your passion at any age. It doesn't have to be something you have always known about yourself. I have always love 'all things food' but food photography took me by surprise in my 30's. The thing I love most about blogging is that it's something I do for myself. It's driven by my love to plan shoots every week...and take pictures every weekend...and cook with my husband... The blog lets me share all of this "out loud." It has also opened the doors for me to meet other talented bloggers who I may never have met otherwise...and as more people take an interest, it makes me feel like I'm doing something right with all of this...it's a really, really good feeling.

BONUS! She answered an 11th question for you...
11. Five favorite blogs/blogs that A Squared readers should know about:
Sprouted Kitchen
What Katie Ate
Cannelle Et Vanille
Not Without Salt

Thanks so much for your thoughts, Regan!

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 21, 2014

Meatless Monday: Caprese Spaghetti Squash Bake

I don't know how or why it took me so long to discover spaghetti squash, but in the past year or two it has really become a go to ingredient for meals that are inexpensive, low carb, and/or meatless-- three qualities I am always looking to have a little more of in my weeknight dinners! Because of its noodle-like quality, I love to prepare spaghetti squash in ways that I would normally make pasta. I think it lends itself really nicely to recipes like that.

This time around, I made a caprese spaghetti squash bake. It's super flavorful, and crispy on the top, but soft and cheesy on the inside. The ingredients here are pretty simple and aside from the time involved in pre-roasting the squash, this is a super easy recipe too! Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil give this bake its signature caprese flavor. I also love the addition of some nutty Parmesan cheese (which helps to bind it together) and spicy pepper flakes and sweet roasted red peppers, which add another nice flavor dimension. Topped with a crunchy herb, panko, and Parmesan crust, this is the perfect vegetarian casserole.

This recipe makes several servings-- we had enough for Alex and me to enjoy as a main course for dinner and then for me to eat for lunch several more times that week. I ate this casserole as my main course and it was a great and filling meatless dinner. My husband prefers a little meat with his dinner, so I served his with some leftover meatballs. This would also be a really nice side dish for a simple marinated and grilled chicken breast too. And if you wanted to bump up the protein in this dish (without the addition of meat), you could certainly add a beaten egg to the squash mixture (which would help to bind the casserole together too) or I think that chopped pine nuts would be a great addition to the topping as well.


  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. dry Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Carefully slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop membranes and seeds out of the center of each half. Drizzle the flesh with 1 Tbs. olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place flesh side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes and then carefully turn each half over and roast for an additional 10-25 minutes (depending on the size of the squash) until fork tender. Remove from oven and let the squash rest until cool enough to handle.

Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash away from the skin. It should created separated spaghetti-like strands. Transfer the flesh of the squash to a large bowl and discard skins. You may want to take a dishtowel and gently squeeze the squash flesh at this point-- it will pull some of the moisture out of it.

To the bowl of squash, add 1 Tbs. olive oil, tomatoes, mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, red peppers, bails, pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.

Using 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil, lightly coat a 2-qt. baking dish. I used a round one, but next time would go with a rectangular 9" x 13" instead as the edges will crisp up better. Pour the squash mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, panko, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Sprinkle over the top of the squash mixture and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden.

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.


  • 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.


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.


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!


  • 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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