Chicago, IL

What a great city! The first time I got to enjoy the city was back in 2017, got to explore and find some really awesome bars and restaurants. In the past I had only been here for work…blah…and on long layovers and didn’t get a chance to do much of anything.  For starters, and most importantly, we came to visit my favorite brother. Also, my husband and I celebrated our 5th anniversary (a little early) during our visit. We went to a very special Japanese steakhouse, Roka Akor, which was an incredible experience!! I highly recommend if you’re looking for a special treat. We really went all out and ordered the chef’s choice of a multi course dinner. Sushi, sashimi, salad, small bites, noodles, steam boxes, mains, dessert and so so so much more. I really do wish I can find the pictures from this trip to show you.

For our anniversary celebration, we first stopped into Public House. It was busy and energetic with a lot of craft beers. We stayed for one and ventured to the next thing. We walked into Rick Bayless’s Topolobampo. It was just too crowded and couldn’t get a drink at the bar. It was neat to see and had a funky atmosphere.

After dinner we stopped in Rossi’s bar, which was a cash only dive bar. Right up our alley! Funky, relaxed place to have an after dinner drink. Finally, the bodaga…we found the prize…a goose island special edition bourbon county beer along with three floyds zombie dust gumball head and yum yum.

Now for our more recent visit. The highlight was going to The Second City. So much fun and hilarious. The improv is the best, although the whole skit was awesome and spot on with the current political climate. You can purchase a snack to eat and they have a full bar, which adds to the atmosphere. Totally cool. 3B71BE04-BAF0-49B1-9612-67A1ED96B5D8_1_201_a

There were some great breweries we visited including Revolutions Brewing and DryHop (definitely order the Poutine Fries). Totally solid places in cool neighborhoods.

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Although I was visiting my brother yet again this second time around, I stayed in the Renaissance Hotel downtown. It was gorgeous with super comfy beds. They have a convenient little pick up shop where I was able to grab a quick yogurt, granola and berries before a spa appointment one morning. If you have the time, check out The Spa at The Wit Hotel across the street from the Renaissance. It was beautiful, relaxing and just what I needed. Maria gave me an 80 minute signature massage and I came out of it feeling like a noodle. I then got a manicure with a newish style nail polish that was long lasting, not gel, with no UV required. Right up my alley. They said it would last two weeks but I got about 10 good days of it. That’s way better than regular polish.

You must visit the largest Starbucks in the country!!! It’s on the Magnificent Mile located at 646 N Michigan Ave…5 floors worth of coffee and food. Just be aware, your wallet will take a hit.

One tip I learned is, if you’re going to Chicago to party, don’t stay downtown though. It’s mostly a business district and places close early. Check out the north side area for that.

I hope you enjoy your stay as much as I did!

One more pic. Me and my bro 🙂

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Noodle Bowl with Seasoned Egg & Pan Fried Tofu

Have I said I’m obsessed with “Bowls”!?!?! Well I am…for the last year or so. My newest creation wasn’t ramen…or soup…or with rice. This had a creamy peanut sauce covering the noodles, topped with pan fried crispy tofu, roasted baby bok choy, fresh carrot sticks, chopped cilantro, green onions and pickled ginger. Oooohhhhhh the pickled ginger I absolutely love! It’s a must have on any Asian inspired bowl I make.

Some details in case you would like to make your own:

  • I cheated and bought the peanut sauce. It was a quality one but there are tons of recipes on Pinterest if you’d like to make your own. Use it to coat the noodles and marinate the tofu before pan frying.
  • Roast the baby bok choy with olive oil and salt and pepper until they’re soft. That’s all you need here!
  • Cut all you fresh veggies while you fry the tofu and cook the noodles.
  • Put all your toppings on the noodles and enjoy – and I added a little sesame seeds at the last minute â˜ș
  • Italian Breakfast Quiche

    So I woke up in the morning, starving, and hadn’t gone to the grocery store in almost a week. There wasn’t much to put together in the fridge but I pulled it off! I’m definitely going to make this quiche again but I would add a bit more parmesan cheese (because I ran out) and add some mozzarella (which of course I didn’t have at all). All in all, this is a keeper!

    Full disclosure: I did not make the crust, it was store bought and left over from something else I made earlier in the week. There are some good quality pre-made crusts out there so if you don’t have the time, like a lot of people I know, save yourself some hassle and just buy one.

    What you’ll need:

    • 1 pie crust
    • 14 eggs, divided
    • 1 red pepper, chopped
    • 2 cups baby kale
    • Small handful parsley, chopped
    • Small handful basil, sliced thin
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • Spray olive oil
    • S & P
  • What to do:
    1. Preheat the oven to 375, prep you vegetables and spray your pie dish on he bottom and sides.
      In a sauté pan on medium heat, spray the pan and add the red pepper and cook for 2 minutes.
      Next add the parsley and basil, then the kale and S & P. Cook another 2 minutes or until the kale is wilted. Set aside.
      Put the pie crust in your baking pan and layer the bottom with cheese.
      Whisk 8 eggs with S & P and garlic powder. Fold in the sautéed veggie mixture.
      Add the eggs to the dish.
      Gently crack the remaining eggs into the dish scattered throughout it.
      Add a little more salt to the top and place it in the oven to bake.
      I didn’t pay attention to how log this baked but it was at least 20 minutes. Make sure the middle of the dish is cooked and not loose. Also, the tips of the crust will be golden brown.
      Enjoy!
  • Coconut Curry Cod and Vegetable Noodle Bowl (Dairy and Gluten Free!)

    It’s been far too long since I last posted! I shouldn’t make a habit of that.

    So I have an obsession…bowls! Ramen, udon, rice noodle, curry, you name it; I want to make them or try them all. This whole thing started when I found Terakawa in Philadelphia and it’s been bowls galore since then. I honestly can’t get enough of them! I even got my mom hooked so she’s testing out her own skills with these as well lol. Keep it up TJ! You’re doing great and we’re learning from each other!

    What you’ll need:

      8oz large rice noodles
      2 Tbls coconut oil
      1/2 red onion, chopped
      2 carrots, chopped small
      4 cloves garlic, minced
      6oz baby Bella mushrooms, chopped
      1 squash (green, yellow or patty pan your choice)
      10 leaves kale, chopped
      4 leaves bok choy, chopped
      3 eats corn, boiled and cut off the cob (or one small can drained)
      1 lb cod filets, no skin and deboned
      2 tbls better than bouillon chicken base
      2 tsp red curry paste
      2 tsp turmeric
      2 tsp ground ginger
      12 oz evaporated coconut milk
      8 cups water
      Fresh ground pepper
      Himalayan people no sea salt
      Fresh cilantro, optional

    Here’s what to do:

    1. Heat the oil over medium heat until melted

    2. Sauté the onions and carrots with a couple dashes of salt for 2-3 minutes

    3. Add the mushrooms and squash with a couple more dashes of salt for another 2-3 minutes

    4. Add the garlic, curry paste, turmeric, ginger and chicken base and sautĂ© for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn

    5. Add the water, corn and cod with a couple more dashes of salt and turn the heat up to medium high

    6. Bring the pot to a bubbling simmer until the fish is completely cooked and flaky

    7. While it is heating up, cook the rice noodles according to their package. Set aside.

    8. Add the bok choy and kale and stir to combine while breaking up the fish into pieces if it didn’t already do that on its own. Turn off the heat.

    9. Serve in a bowl with chop sticks (or fork) and a spoon. Add the soup in first, then the noodles off to one side and garnish with a rough, small handful of fresh cilantro.

    Enjoy!

    P.S. My awesome husband got me special ramen bowls for my birthday because I made it so much these days 😊

    Chicken and Bean Burritos with Spanish Rice

    What you’ll need:

    • 7 chicken breasts
    • 7 burrito shells
    • 1/2 cup dried black beans, hydrated
    • 2 avocados
    • 1/4 cup vegan cheese, shredded
    • 2 green onions, chopped small
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 tsp coriander
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • Salsa of choice 
    • Salt

    Spanish rice:

    • 2 cups rice of choice
    • 4 cups chicken broth 
    • 8 oz tomato sauce
    • 4 tbls garlic powder
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 2 tsp coriander
    • 1/4 cup of olive oil
    • 1 tsp salt
    • Cilantro, chopped

    What to do:

    1. If you’re using dried beans, start the night before and soak the beans in water and refrigerate overnight. Follow the directions on the bag. 
    2. Start the rice. Heat oil in a sauce pan and add the rice. SautĂ©e until golden brown. 
    3. Add the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and cook on low until the rice is soft and liquid is absorbed. 
    4. In the mean time, season the chicken with cumin, coriander, garlic and salt. Grill and slice into thin pieces. 
    5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
    6. Lay out burrito shells and layer all burrito ingredients including the chicken, beans, avocados, “cheese”, and onions. 
    7. Wrap the burritos as tightly as you can and place on a sheet tray sprayed with oil. 
    8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the shells are lightly golden. 
    9. Serve with your favorite salsa and top the rice with fresh cilantro. 

    Earthy, Vegetarian Breakfast Wrap

    What makes this earthy? The “sprouted lentils” is certainly it. I accidentally stumbled upon sprouted lentils when I realized I hydrated too many dried lentils for another recipe. I left them in the fridge and next thing I knew there were sprouts! They’ve lasted a couple weeks now. To keep them sprouted, I spray a bit of water and toss them a bit. 

    Sprouted Lentils

    Since I have no idea what to do with all these I’ve been using them in a variety of recipes as a test. I’ve read that, once sprouted, they are easier to digest because the complex sugars break down. 

    As for the breakfast wrap, it was pretty good. You be the judge. 

    What you’ll need:

    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 small soft taco shell
    • 1 Tbls hummus
    • A sprinkle of sprouted lentils
    • Black beans
    • Spinach
    • Hot sauce, optional

    What to do:


    Turkey and 3 Bean Chili

    This was a perfect meal for the weekend considering it was damp and “chilly” outside. Even if you don’t like my jokes I guarantee you’ll like my recipe. I always say to feel free and make it your own how you choose! 

    My goal is to stop eating canned goods. So, I use dried beans and a mix of fresh and jarred tomatoes for this recipe. 


    The only thing missing from the pic is my husbands homemade crusty bread. Yum…


    My very special spicy sauce is the white sauce you see here. It’s Greek yogurt based but feel free to use what you like i.e. Sour cream. The red is a Mexican hot chili sauce…wowza its spicy! I can’t even tell you how to make it; it’s my momma’s. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • 2 1/2 cups dry black beans
    • 2 cups dry kidney beans
    • 1 1/2 cups dry great northern beans
    • 1/2 cup dry green lentils
    • 2 lbs ground turkey
    • 2 tbls olive oil
    • 2 1/2 sweet bell peppers, coarsley chopped
    • 1 red onion, chopped, plus more for topping
    • 1 carrot, chopped
    • 8-10 garlic cloves, minced
    • 24 oz Campari tomatoes, quartered
    • 24 oz strained tomatoes 
    • 4 tbls nutritional yeast 
    • 4 tbls cumin
    • 4 tbls coriander
    • 5 tbls chili powder
    • 4 dashes of franks hot sauce
    • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, reserve some for topping
    • S & P

    Here’s what to do:

    1. Hydrate the beans and lentils according to their instructions. If you’re not using dried, canned are fine too just skip this step and rinse them all clean. 
    2. Heat the Dutch oven on medium heat with some olive oil and, once hot, brown the turkey. Season it with S & P and some cumin. 
    3. Set aside and add some more oil to the Dutch oven. 
    4. Add the onions and sautĂ©e for 2 minutes. Add the peppers and carrots, more S & P and sautĂ©e another 5 minutes stirring occasionally until soft. 
    5. Add the garlic and stir continuously for 1 minute. Add the Campari tomatoes and stir to combine. 
    6. Add the strained toms plus a little water that I used to rinse out the jar. 
    7. Add all the spices, nutritional yeast, cilantro, S &P and stir to combine. 
    8. Let the pot reduce a bit and then add in the browned turkey and beans. 
    9. Summer on low for an hour stirring occasionally. 
    10. Top with fresh cilantro, red onion, and/or any of your favorite toppings. 

    Enjoy!!

    Coconut Curry Chicken

    If you’re not sure if you like curry or if you’ve tried it and on the fence, this is a good dish to start experimenting on. It’s lightly flavored with curry but combined with other Indian and Asian spices that blend nicely. Give it a try!!

    First prep the chicken and season it with salt, pepper and brown rice flower. If you don’t have brown rice flour, feel free to use whatever kind you have in your pantry. Sear the things skin side down in coconut oil until they become brown and crispy in a Dutch oven. Flip and repeat on the other side. 

    Prep the veggies and sautee them in the same pot as the chicken. I used a whole white onion, red bell pepper and king oyster mushrooms. Again, feel free to use what you like if you don’t want these exact ingredients. Half way through add two stalls of lemongrass, fresh ginger and fresh garlic. 


    Add coconut milk, curry paste, sambal oelek (or any chili garlic sauce), a good amount of curry powder, ground turmeric and S & P. Bring to a simmer. 

    Nestle the chicken breasts back in and bake in the ove with the lid on at 275 for 2 hours. 

    Yum!! 

    What you’ll need:

    • 4 bone in chicken thighs
    • 8 oz king oyster mushrooms, chopped
    • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
    • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
    • 2 stalks lemongrass
    • 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
    • 3 cloves garlic, diced small
    • 2 Tbls brown rice flour
    • 2 Tbls Coconut oil
    • 1 can coconut milk
    • 2 Tbls Curry powder
    • 2 Tbls turmeric 
    • 1 Tbl Curry paste
    • 1 Tbls Sambal oelek and more for topping (optional)
    • 2 cups dry jasmine rice
    • Cilantro, chopped for topping (optional)
    • Green onion, chopped for topping (optional)

    Put everything over some rice, I prefer jasmine rice, and top with fresh cilantro, green onions and/or chili garlic sauce for an extra kick. 
    Enjoy!!

    Breakfast Soft Taco

    I have to be honest, this was a throw together meal at the drop of a hat but it was awesome! Breakfast is so versatile and I wish I had more time to put into it some mornings. 

    Here is what you’ll need:

    • 3 large eggs
    • cheddar or jack cheese, shredded (I used organic Monterey Jack)
    • Splash of milk
    • garlic powder
    • cumin
    • coriander, ground
    • S & P
    • butter
    • 4 taco shells

    For topping:

    • salsa verde
    • avocado
    • scallions

    Here’s what to do:

    1. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cheese, garlic powder, cumin, coriander and S & P. 
    2. lightly coat a small sautĂ©e pan with butter on medium heat. 
    3. add the egg mixture and stir continuously until eggs are cooked through completely.
    4. Heat the taco shells for 10 seconds in the microwave. 
    5. Add the eggs to the taco shells. 
    6. Top with the salsa, avocado and scallions. You can also use whatever other toppings you like to make it your own!

    Makes 4 tacos

    Enjoy!

      

      Spaghetti Squash “pasta” with sausage, onions, peppers, mushrooms and spinach

      Spaghetti squash is one of the easiest vegetables to make. It’s also versatile and can be used as the star of the meal, as a side by itself or mixed into any kind of dish. This dish is simple and easy but does take a bit of time. Well worth it though!

      A tip if you want to do it this way, prep the squash ahead of time and store it in the fridge until your ready to make the dish.

      What you’ll need:

      • 1 spaghetti squash
      • 1 medium onion, sliced
      • 2 sweet bell peppers, sliced
      • mushrooms, chopped
      • fresh spinach, about 2 generous handfuls
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1 lb ground sausage
      • 1 cup beef broth
      • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
      • S & P
      • Olive oil
      • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional
      • Green or yellow squash, optional

      What to do:

      1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
      2. Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Season with salt and pepper and lightly brush it with olive oil.
      3. Roast the squash for 1 hour until soft.
      4. Take the squash out of the oven, shred it with a fork out of the shell and set aside. It should look like spaghetti.
      5. While the squash is in the oven, in a cast iron skillet (or your choice of sauté pan), brown the sausage and set aside.  
      6. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and heat on medium.
      7. Add the onions and peppers and sauté for 5 minutes.  
      8. Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté another 2-3 minutes.
      9. Add the broth and red wine vinegar and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  
      10. Add the squash and sausage and simmer another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
      11. Add the spinach, stir to incorporate and simmer until spinach wilts.  
      12. Serve on a plate or a bowl topped with Parmesan cheese.

      Enjoy!!