Monday, April 14, 2014

Shrimp and Caper Salad with Farro

I recently started swimming laps again. Back in high school, I was on the swim team and kept in shape by doing endless laps in the pool, morning weights practices, and dry land practices. My high school days are long gone and as an adult, I have tried to find various forms of exercise that work for me. This hasn't always been easy or consistent, but I am loving being back in the pool. I kind of forgot that swimming brings on a monstrous appetite. Some say it's the body's reaction to being cool, but I like to think it is because of the immense calorie burn of the exercise. Either way, I am stocking up my kitchen with healthy prepared foods so that when I get home late at night, I don't turn to take out or junk food. A little bit of prep for this salad, left me with a week's worth of this hearty, yet light salad, that made a great post-workout meal.

Shrimp and Caper Salad with Farro
(Adapted from Cat Cora)

Makes 4 servings

For the Salad:
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails cut off
1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 scallion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
30 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup farro, cooked and cooled to room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste

For the dressing:
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and then add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, 2-4 minutes. Drain the shrimp and set aside.

In a large boil, combine the grated garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt. Add the hot shrimp and stir to coat completely. Let the shrimp marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Add the scallion, red onion, capers, celery, tomatoes, and farro to the shrimp mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and then add to the shrimp mixture. Toss well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve at room temperature or cold.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smoked Salmon Sandwich

Spring is in the air! Well...sort of. Technically it's spring, but the last few days (and months, really) have me wishing for warmer times. That's why I decided to share this sandwich I made last summer. It's based on my favorite sandwich from local chain, Hannah's Bretzel. I try to limit my trips there because it can be pricey which is why I set out to make this sandwich on my own. It comes together quickly. I try to slice up extra toppings so I can have this sandwich more than once if the mood strikes. The lightness of this sandwich reminds me of summer days, rooftop hangs, and festivals. I know the time will speed by and summer will be here before we know it!

Smoked Salmon Sandwich
(By Esi)

Makes 1 sandwich

For the Chive Cream Cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
4 tablespoons cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sandwich
1 pretzel roll
2 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
Thinly sliced cucumber
Thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced tomato

Make the cream cheese:
Mix the chives with the cream cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the sandwich:
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the chive cream cheese on both sides of the roll (save the rest for more sandwiches). Layer the rest of the toppings on the cream cheese and serve immediately.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Greek Chicken Bake

In the last few weeks, I have been getting reacquainted with my kitchen. Most of the recipes, I make these days are old favorites or roasted broccoli...too boring to post on here. However, with the intense cold we have been experiencing, the kitchen has once again become my favorite place in my also happens to be the warmest place in my apartment. I recently decided to branch out and try a quick recipe that has been blowing up on Pinterest. This takes about three minutes to assemble and is so great for a weeknight meal. While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare a simple salad and warm some pita so you are ready to go when it comes out of the oven. Store-bought tzatziki makes it even easier, though if I had more time, I would make this homemade recipe that rocks my world. For crispier skin, try pan-frying the chicken thighs before putting them in the oven to finish cooking.

One year ago: Kale, Lentil, and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Two years ago: Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice
Three years ago: 8oz Burger Bar (closed)
Four years ago: Superbowl Ideas
Five years ago:  Greek Turkey Burgers

Greek Chicken Bake
(Adapted from Simply Delicious)

Makes 4 servings

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of garlic, cut in half
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon

For serving
Extra lemon wedges
Warm pita

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and place skin side up in a large baking dish. Arrange the garlic halves, red onion wedges, and kalamata olives around the chicken. Sprinkle the pan with the oregano and drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the chicken, onion, garlic, and olives. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 and the juices run clear.

Serve with tzatziki, lemon wedges, and warm pita.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014


In the last few weeks, I have gone from sunning myself on a beach in Africa, to bundling up in a polar vortex. I've been to Ghana five times, but the last time I was there was eight years ago. I expected to see a lot of change, but "TIA" (This Is Africa), and not much was new. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed doing a lot of nothing and eating copious amounts of fish and joloff.

Our first few days were pretty mellow which was good, since it took my luggage a few extra days to arrive. We spent some time at the Art Center, and quite a bit of time in traffic (one of the new developments is that there are a ton more cars on the roads). One of the first experiences we had was dining at La Tante. It's a restaurant near the airport that is inside of an old DC-10 plane.

I went with my usual of joloff, but guinea fowl as my protein. It was standard, but not in a bad way.

We spent Christmas afternoon away from the bustle of Accra at the Volta Hotel. The beautiful view, was unfortunately masked by some haze.

After Christmas, we drove to the village for a few days to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. It was a great time to be with my family and the entire village came to celebrate. Getting to the village was a bit harrowing since our car broke down three times, but we were able to get there and back in one piece, even though it was a little shaky. Here is my grandmother showing everyone she's still got some moves.

This is a cocoa pod. The white part around the seeds is edible and tastes a bit like cheremoya. Don't make the same mistake I did and start chomping on the seeds.

Then we were back in the city for a few days filled with parties, mosquito bites, and visits to Makola Market and Nkrumah Park. On new years day, we jetted off to the Coconut Grove Beach Resort in Elmina for a few more days of blissful relaxation (and overeating).

The bustle of Makola Market

Nkrumah Park

Sunset on the beach in Elmina

Lizard friends

Sleeping crocodiles

Drummers and dancers

It was a great time and nice to escape the cold Chicago weather. I had a blast with family and friends, read a ton, danced a little, and I'm looking forward to the next trip.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread

Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread

Let's end the year on a sweet note. In an effort to keep my apartment warm during this early onslaught of winter, I have actually been baking a bit more. Unfortunately, you readers haven't gotten to see the fruits of my labor, because editing photos is taxing and I've discovered I like to relax on weekends. Perhaps 2014 will bring more blogging motivation, especially since I have a few more things to share. This bread is incredibly simple and makes your home smell exactly like it should at this time of year. Warm, inviting, and incredibly cinnamon-y. It's a great treat to have on a Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch with a mug of tea and a favorite movie or to share with friends at a holiday party or with your coworkers. My point is, make this bread. Make it now and thank me later.

Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread

I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. I'm looking forward to what is to come in the new year!

One year ago: Holiday Gift Guide
Two years ago: Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Three years ago: Little Ethiopia
Four years ago: Kale Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
Five years ago: Parmesan Thyme Crackers

Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread
(Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)

Makes 1 9x5-inch loaf

For the cinnamon-swirl:
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar
For the bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 large egg at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.

Make the cinnamon-swirl by mixing the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside.

To make the bread:
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Add the chocolate chips and stir until well-combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.

Slow pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the batter with 3/4 of the cinnamon sugar in an even layer. Top the cinnamon sugar with the remaining batter. Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon sugar evenly over the top of the batter.

Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool completely in the pan set on a rack before cutting.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Normally the cakes I post on my birthday are for the party I usually have, but this cake was actually made for one of my dear friend's birthday last week. You really just can't go wrong with that delectable combination of chocolate and peanut butter (last year's cake was certainly an indication) and the coffee in the cake batter makes the chocolate flavor stand out even more. This is super simple to make and thanks to help from my friend, Lawrence, it was easy to decorate. After frosting the outside of the cake with chocolate frosting, we surrounded the outside with leftover peanut butter frosting from the middle and topped it with mini peanut butter cups. Delicious. I'm celebrating my own birthday today with wonderful friends in Los Angeles. It is sure to be a super fun day and I feel so lucky to have such great friends near and far.

One year ago: Tin Roof Ice Cream Cake
Two years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Filling
Three years ago: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
Four years ago: Root Beer Cupcakes
Five years ago: Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
(Adapted from Tastes of Lizzy T's)

For the chocolate cake:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coffee at room temperature

For the peanut butter frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons whole milk

For the chocolate frosting:
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3 tablespoons whole milk

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Stir to make sure they are fully combined.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla together until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Add the coffee and mix until everything is combined. The batter will be thin.

Pour the batter into the two prepared pans. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the peanut butter frosting:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the peanut butter, butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer turned down to low, add the powdered sugar. Add milk a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

To make the chocolate frosting:
In a large bowl sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. With the mixer turned down to low, slowly add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder mixture. Add the salt and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Add the milk a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Shrimp Puttanesca and Arrogant Frog Wine

Arrogrant Frog Wine

It may seem strange to talk about an Italian dish with French wine and Bastille Day, but when I was tasked to come up with a recipe to pair with this French Chardonnay, this was the first thing that came to mind. Arrogant Frog wine is an excellent deal. It retails for about $8 a bottle and is a great addition to any simple dinner. The chardonnay boasts nice tropical fruit and floral flavors. It's not terribly oaky like some chardonnays can be and it is very drinkable. This dish is light and perfect for summer with bold flavors from in-season tomatoes and olives. All you really need is a hunk of bread, but pasta would be a great accompaniment as well.

Shrimp Puttanesca

A light dish for summer that only needs a cold glass of wine and a few pieces of bread. You really can't go wrong with that.

Shrimp Puttanesca

*Disclaimer: I received these wines for free, opinions are my own. 

One year ago: Favorite Summer No Cook Recipes
Two years ago: Grilled Peaches with Ice Cream and Blueberry Fudge
Three years ago: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Four years ago: Cantaloupe Sorbet
Five years ago:Blood Orangeade

 Shrimp Puttanesca
(Adapted from TasteFood)

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy fillets, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus 1/2 teaspoon
2 cups of cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Arrogant Frog chardonnay)
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt to taste
Parsley for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, anchovies, and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes and saute for a minute or until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, olives, wine, and capers and cook, stirring until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

In a separate skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of chili flakes. Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer and season with salt. Cook until the shrimp is just cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Serve garnished with parsley if desired and with a baguette to sop up the wonderful juices.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Cookies

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Cookies

Sometimes I see a recipe and rather than wait for it to gather dust on my Pinterest, I need to make it right away. Such was the case with these awesome cookies I discovered on Food Porn Daily a week ago. The next day, I was loading my cart at Whole Foods with peanut butter and chocolate chips so I could make these. The dough is simple and comes together quickly in a stand mixer, but it would be just as simple by hand. As promised, these cookies are giant, chewy, sweet, and salty. Creamy peanut butter is the perfect compliment to the dark chocolate chips and pretzels add saltiness and crunch. With the size of these, one is more than enough per person and the perfect thing to share at an impromptu barbeque/movie night with friends.

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Cookies

I followed this recipe as posted on the website Keep It Sweet Desserts. The only slight changes I made were using large eggs instead of extra large and a scant 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

One year ago: Bacon, Tomato, and Cheddar Breakfast Bake with Eggs
Two years ago: Blueberry Pomegranate Doughnuts
Three years ago: Apple Soju Cocktail
Four years ago: Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
Five years ago: Greek Orzo with Shrimp and Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Parson's Chicken and Fish

It's been a while since I've been to a restaurant and felt the need to post about it immediately...or as immediately as I can with my packed schedule. When H.C. told me he was going to be in Chicago for a few days and we should get together, the first place that came to mind was Parson's Chicken & Fish. After all, it was our first visit to Longman & Eagle last year that solidified my love for Chicago as a major dining destination. I knew a restaurant by the same owners had to be just as good. Boy, was I right.

Parson's Chicken & Fish

Parson's Chicken & Fish

Parson's Chicken & Fish

Located just a hop away from Longman & Eagle in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, Parson's is destined to become a rival for best patio this summer. As of a few days ago, they still aren't serving food outside, but bar service is alive and well. Pull up a seat, play some ping pong and indulge in a Negroni slushy (or two, $8 each). These slushies are perfect on a hot and humid day. Equally enjoyable is the Red Hook ($8) which is Parson's take on a Manhattan, or if you're feeling especially bold, a shot of Malort.

Negroni Slushy

Red Hook

You better enjoy communal sitting when you visit Parson's because that is all they offer. Inside, are small booths so you get up close and personal with strangers. Hopefully you are seated next to people who are pleasant which was not the case with our first dining companions, but the second group ended up being much more calm. However we were attracted to the menu which distracted from the brashness of our neighbors. We started with a little light fish action in the form of Hirame ($10) which is marinated in ginger and mint and served with an avocado lime emulsion and radishes. The taste of the fish gets a little lost in the marinade, but I appreciated the bright and fresh flavors especially knowing what was in store for us with the rest of the dishes we chose.


Two pieces of fried chicken ($6) are one of the best investments you can ever make. The chicken is juicy and the flavor goes all the way through from the breading to the bone. Whatever formula they use on the (delicious) fried chicken from the chicken and waffles at L&E has gained major flavor points. It's the kind of chicken you want to keep eating when you get down to the bone.

Fried Chicken

Equally as flavorful is the beer battered fish. Three pieces ($8) are great to split between two people. Just try not to hog all of the tartar sauce.

Fried Fish

The clam roll ($10) was a little less successful in my opinion. Red onions and pickled peppers perk up the fried clams, but the cornmeal breading could have been better seasoned.

Clam Roll

H.C. insisted that as an alternative to all of the fried foods, we have the restaurant's grilled chicken ($6 for 2 pieces) as well. I was a little doubtful until the citrus and habenero marinated bird came to the table. This is basically the best grilled chicken you will ever have where once again the flavor goes all the way to the bone.

Grilled Chicken

Stuffed as I was, we had to get dessert. Initially, I thought the last thing I would want after a fried dinner, was a fried dessert, but of course Parson's gets it right with their ridiculous funnel cake ($6). The funnel cake is served on top of a browned butter pastry cream and topped with a balsamic caramel and peppercorn brittle. The tartness of the caramel and spiciness of the brittle balance the crispy and sweet dough and sweet cream.

Funnel Cake

The best thing about Parson's is that even though you indulge in what is essentially a fried dinner, you don't leave feeling overly full and gluttonous. They have perfected whatever it is that makes fried food taste light and delicious and with excellent, exceptional service and a fun atmosphere it is easy to see why there are already lines of people crowding their doors every day.

Parson's Chicken & Fish
2952 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 384-3333

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Magic Cake and My 5th Blogiversary!

"Magic" Custard Cake

It's my blog's 5th birthday, so I thought I would celebrate and also by posting more than once in a month. Blogging sure has changed since this first post, but I do still enjoy capturing delicious recipes and sharing restaurant finds. I can't say I'll ever get back to a regular posting schedule, but I do hope that those readers who have stuck around continue to do so, because there is still so much tastiness to share. I've had some incredible experiences and made wonderful friends through my tiny space on the internet, and I'll treasure that forever. Stay tuned, because I really do plan on posting more than once this month. I'll have a wonderful giveaway or two soon and I will share some more restaurant deliciousness. In case you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook (and really, what is your excuse?), I am also writing for My Daily Find Chicago. So once again, thanks for sticking around for these five fun years and cheers to more fun.

This cake was first introduced to me via White on Rice Couple, but it has been making the rounds on the internet. You can find the recipe I followed, here.

"Magic" Custard Cake

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