crushing on…

1. S’mores, s’mores, s’mores. Like this s’mores pie (AND this one!). Or this s’more dip. Or this s’more ice cream cake. I’m so upset that I can’t have a bonfire in the middle of my studio apartment that I just need to try one of these no-open-flame-necessary recipes RIGHT NOW.

2. Chinatown. Tanner and I took a food tour of the Chinatown area on the South side of Chicago, and it was FANTASTIC. I could not recommend the tour or our wonderful tour guide, Ploy, enough.

3. Taro puffs. This is an extension of my last point, but I just can’t get over them. Who would have thought that a little root could taste SO delicious.

4. Green tea with peach at Ten Ren. Okay, okay, I’ll stop talking about Chinatown things after this one. This had to be the most refreshing, deliciously sweet drink I have ever imbibed. Usually I don’t like to drink my calories (and have thus fallen captive to the Diet Coke Gods), but man was this worth it. I wish I had crept behind the counter to see how the barista made it.

4. Brunch. This weekend we finally went to Yolk, which is right by our apartment and always has a huge line out the door. Brunch is by far my favorite meal, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I could have my savory AND sweet by ordering a Countryside Skillet with a side of Blueberry-Banana Crunch Pancakes. While I still want to head over to Nightwood and Longman & Eagle for brunch one day, I’ll curb my appetite with some s’more muffins from Dominick’s (ode to #1) or these lil donuts and this frittata.

5. This waste bin that expands when you put more crap in it, getting cuter and pudgier as the surrounding area gets smellier and smellier.

6. Food challenges. And I’m not talking about those hot dog-eating contests. I’m talking about really challenging recipes that even Julia Childs took awhile to perfect (probably…maybe). I plan on trying my hand at croissants or brie.

7. This. Yup. Yep. Yep. Mmmm-hmmm.

Studio Apartment Cooking (AKA how to eat pork for a month)

The first weekend here Tanner and I went grocery shopping. We got bread, cheese, eggs….and 25 pounds of pork. Yes, this seems excessive, but it is also very economical to buy and absurd amount of meat, chop it up, freeze it, and then eat nothing but it for a month or more. This also has the potential to get very boring. Even though Tanner and I consider ourselves Pro Chefs, three consecutive days of pulled pork eventually got a little old.

So, in case you find yourself stuck eating pig for over four weeks, here’s some tips on how still like the stuff a month later.

Tips:

1. Go meatless. Even though this is frowned upon in most ‘MERican homes, we went without any meat whenever we made spaghetti, complete with LaRosa’s sauce. If you really can’t go a meal without an animal in it, get some dang meatballs.

2. Change your sides. Sometimes we would eat mashed potatoes, sometimes we wouldn’t eat any sides at all. Eventually I even put forth the effort to make my FAVORITE food of all time, POTATO SALAD. I guess I could recommend vegetables, but who really needs those when there’s ketchup?

3. Change your flavors. Tanner attempted to change up the flavors of the three times we had pulled pork, using chili powder, paprika instead of chili powder, and hot suace. Most likely you’ll find a flavor you like best, but it’s always fun to experiment!

4. Mooch off Mom and Dad. I came home for 48 hours this weekend and my parents gave me some delicious PRIME RIB STEAKS from LANGEN’s. It only could have gotten better if mustard potato salad was included. So call up the ‘rents and tell them you miss them. Most likely you can get a free meal out of it.

5. If all else fails, have a backup. Keep TWO kinds of main meat in the house or keep a record of take-out places nearby if you just CAN’T eat pork again tonight. We also sometimes used deli meats in our meals if we were just having grilled cheeses or calzones.

If you wanna know what we did with all that pork, here is one of our stand-bys, Pork Fried Rice:

FRIED RICE

Pork Fried Rice

This is pretty simple. All you need is:

1 1/2 cups rice

2 cups water

pork shoulder (enough for 2 people)

soy sauce

1 cup frozen veggies (we use corn and peas)

2 eggs

Directions:

1. Put rice and water in pot and bring to boil on stove. Lower heat and cook 20 minutes. Stir often.

2. Cut up pork into bite-size pieces and cook in frying pan with soy sauce until brown.

3. Warm veggies in pot or pan with water until not frozen.

4. Once the rice is cooked, dump in the pan with pork and mix well with plenty of soy sauce. Add veggies next.

5. Make room to crack two eggs in the pan. You can mix the yolk in the rice or scramble the egg to make chunks of egg. Either way, distribute the egg throughout your rice. Done!

THINGS I’VE MADE

As if dinner at Girl and the Goat wasn’t enough, I made a lot of yummy meals with Tanner this week too.

Like these calzones.IMG_0541

And these grilled cheeses!

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Both were made with the mozzarella cheese Tanner made and some other delicious ingredients we bought. Like normal people do.

To spread the love, here’s the recipe for that yummy grilled cheese above, out version of Grilled Cheese Social’s Beesting Remix. I could literally eat this sandwich every day. For every meal. Ever. Spicy crushed red pepper flakes, savory sausage, gooey mozzarella, and sweet basil honey?!?!?! Gah, I’m in heaven, and I bet you are too now. Or you will be once you try this.

adapted from The Grilled Cheese Social‘s Beesting Remix

Beesting Remix (remix)

Ingredients:

ciabatta bread (as many slices as you need for your sammiches)

butter + crushed red pepper flakes (mix these two together! add more flakes if you want more kick. we use a general 3:1 ratio of butter : flakes)

basil infused honey (mix 4 tbsp honey with a few dashes of basil. it would be better if it was fresh, and it would EVEN better if you did this part way before =hand so the flavors can mix. like the night or 8 hours prior to sandwich making)

3 thin slices of sorpressata hard sausage (or as much as you can fit on your bread)

slices of mozzarella (enough to layer twice!)

Directions:

1. Warm up skillet to about medium/medium-high. Have all your ingredients ready!

2. Start with one slice of bread. Coat one side in the crushed red pepper flake butter and then drizzle the basil infused honey onto the other side. You can just plop your buttered side onto the skillet and then honey up your other side, but I like making this part difficult so I have an excuse to lick my fingers.

3. Any way you do Step 2, put your bread butter side down on the skillet and add a layer of mozzarella. Then the sorpressata. Then more mozz. Mozz mozz mozz.

4. Coat your second piece of bread with the butter on one side and honey on the other, then place the honey side down on your last layer of mozz. Smush as you feel necessary.

5. Grill each side carefully, maybe about 3 minutes each. You have to be careful to not burn the red pepper flakes because they taste bitter if you scorch ’em. But honestly, I did that a little and it wasn’t so bad. You DO NOT want to undercook these babies because the gooey, chewy mozzarella part is arguably the best part.

6. Once your sweet and savory grilled cheeses are cooked to perfection, slap ’em on a plate and devour.

GIRL AND THE GOAT

I’m still dreaming about this meal. 

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And mourning the future of my bank account.

But it was all so worth it.

As soon as I found out I would be working in Chicago this summer, I immediately made a reservation for Girl and the Goat. Like, seriously, I didn’t make a packing list or even find an apartment, I made a reservation for dinner. I wasn’t even sure what Girl and the Goat offered (although goat items was a guess). I wasn’t sure if I could afford to eat there (which is still in question). All I knew is that that is where everyone told me to wine and dine. But mostly dine.

So when the day arrived (yesterday), I could hardly believe I was finally going to the place I made a reservation at THREE MONTHS AGO. You plan things like vacations and class schedules that far ahead, not one night’s dinner. All the hype and anticipation only. The girl, the goat, and Maddie. Two girls and a goat. I like  made me more excited for my dinner with The Girl and the Goat. The girl, the goat, and Maddie. Two girls and a goat. I like it.

But in actuality it was just me and Tanner. And some goat.

I had had a pretty rough day by the time I got there, but suddenly the hours of AutoCAD and the sandstorm/sideways rain I had just endured were now unimportant. BECAUSE I WAS AT GIRL AND THE GOAT. The waitstaff were the most polite and attentive waitstaff to have ever waited on me, and I desperately wanted to be friends with our waitress, Danielle (is it creepy that I remember her name?). She was very upbeat and gave us great recommendations and explanations, even if she warned us that three plates each might be a little heavy. Haha, Danielle. You do not know the depths of my stomach.

And so, here it is, our feast line-up:

Blood and Goats. Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Leopold Tart Cherry , Savannah Madeira, Orange.

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Kona Kampachi Crudo. Crisp pork belly, chili aioli, caperberries.

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Goat Empanadas. Romesco, radish-endive slaw.

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Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face. Sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine-maple, potato sticks.

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Peek a boo!

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Chickpea Fritters. Royal trumpet mushrooms, okra-tomato relish, mushroom aioli, prairie fruits chevre.

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Duck Tongues. Tuna & black bean poke, crispy wontons, piri pir.

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Crisp Braised Pork Shank. Grilled spring onion kimchee, buttermilk dressing, naan.

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Everything was delicious–especially the pork shank. Danielle informed us was a take on the chicken wing with a crispy outer skin and fall-off-the bone meat, complete with a ranch-like sauce and buffalo sauce.

If that wasn’t enough, we also got dessert. And I wanted two.

However, Danielle, being the sweetheart that she is, took note when we said that we were celebrating our three-year anniversary and brought us a third dessert as well!

Strawberry Parfait. Buttermilk custard, shortcake crumble, salted pistachio.

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Miso-Butterscotch Budino. Bacon toffee, glazed pineapple, candied cashews.

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Goat cheese bavaroise. Sweet corn nougat, blueberries.

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Since I measure my nights in laughs had, calories consumed, and money spent, I’d say it was a night well spent. 

ALL YOU CAN EAT

Chicago has changed me. Suddenly, I’m content with a meal made up entirely off of rice, raw meat, and seaweed (aka sushi). I’ve come to actually LIKE this kind of food. So much, in fact, that I agreed to indulge in an all-you can eat sushi place for my anniversary dinner with Tanner last night.

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After not eating much all day, I was able to scarf down four rolls, thus causing me to fear for my health and mercury content. A list of the maki rolls Tanner and I shared were: Dragon, Godzilla, San Francisco, Crazy Chicago, North Carolina, Spider, Mango Tango, and Himawari (sunflower). I liked the Crazy Chicago least and my favorites were the Himawari and San Francisco.

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If you’re wondering what kind of place allows this kind of gluttonous, wonderful indulgence, it’s Wasabi Cafe on Lincoln Avenue. The $20 all you can eat deal also includes an appetizer and drinks, and you can BYOB too.

So go there. Now.

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We wanted to try some of the Guinness Ice Cream from Irish Bistro that we tried to sample at the Ribsfest last weekend also. Lucky for us, the restaurent was located right across the street. We waddled our full stomachs over there and shared a single scoop at the bar. It was malty and rich, even though I expected it to taste like milky beer. I’m glad it did not.