Beer-Braised Cabbage, Take Two

This time, I prepared my beer-braised cabbage with a little twist. Cayenne. It really made this dish pop. Add some cubes of baked crispy tofu and you have a hearty and spicy meal great for any winter night.

To make the crispy tofu, slice an extra-firm block of tofu into strips, coat with olive oil, salt & pepper and bake for 30-45 minutes at around 375, or until crispy and golden brown. Yum! This Tofu is happy.

Cayenne Beer-Braised Cabbage
1 head of green cabbage, chopped into strips
One large bottle of Fat Tire Amber Ale, enough to cover the cabbage in a saucepan
Parmesan cheese
3-4 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
Olive Oil

1. Splash saucepan with olive oil
2. Add cabbage to pan, saute for a bit, then add beer to cover the cabbage.
3. Boil until the cabbage is soft and most of the liquid has evaporated
4. Add as much Parmesan cheese as you like, 3-4 teaspoons of cayenne, and salt
5. Add to bowl, top with crispy tofu and feel the burn.


Wrapping Bacon in tofu...seems wrong

All photos by Carmen Hernandez.

Still vegetarian.

Nope. Not any more.

Dates filled with Goat Cheese, also to be wrapped with bacon.

Pretty pretty.

Food As Celebration

Dinners at Steve's parents house are always scrumptious. Rich. Divine. Amazing. Ok I'll stop now but seriously, Steve's mom and sister are both professional-level cooks and every now and then, they combine their powers, Power Rangers® style, to create meals to remember. This one was for Steve's dad birthday and it was a doozy. Sometimes all you need to create an amazing birthday celebration, is a meal made with love.

Braised Short Ribs, Cheddar-Dill Cornbread, Potato Casserole, Roasted Turnips & Carrots, and Green Beans with Shallots

A full plate. A full belly.

And of course dessert - homemade profiteroles, filled with ice cream and chocolate fudge sauce (also homemade!)

A Warm House Makes a Warm Heart

That's what my grandma always said. Or maybe it was a clean house? Oh well. Regardless, Kate hosted an amazing house warming party on Saturday at her brand new condo.

Prosciutto roll ups and in the back there, a Mexican Cheesecake. The Mexican Cheesecake is my mom's secret recipe - and is basically a savory cheesecake that you use as a dip for chips and pita. It's heavenly if I do say so myself, and if you'd like the recipe, let me know. But I'll have to kill ya.

Look at that spread - olives, baked feta, and hummus, oh my!

Jello shots came in small and large.

I don't remember who gave Kate the Sham-Wow for a house warming present, but whoever it was obviously loves German engineering.

Pleased party people!

Thanks Kate - please have lots more parties soon.


Carmen's Morsels

Age: 26
Occupation: Photographer, architectural expert
Resides in: Andersonville, Chicago

1. Favorite band with some sort of food in its name:
Hmm...this one is hard. Gravy Train?

2. Give us your favorite vegetable and how you like it prepared:
Are mushrooms veggies? After further investigation..they are not. I guess it can be anything, deep fried and topped with hot sauce.

3. If you could only eat 1 flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Not really into sweet food of any kind. Eh...strawberry? But only Breyers.

4. Favorite food show:
Lydia's Kitchen on PBS. She loves to use tons of salt.

5. Please describe your ideal 2 am drunken feast:
Pretty much anything with melted cheese or anything deep fried. A good example would be makeshift nachos...just grab whatever crunchy thing you have, slather it with cheese and pop it in the microwave. Topped with hot sauce.

6. Favorite steak-house side dish:
The mushrooms served with chimichurri sauce from Ole Ole.

7. If you live in Chicago, give us your favorite restaurant here in
Chi-town. If not, share with us the number one spot in your city
Thats a loaded question. Right now...Lincoln Tavern. Damn good pierogis.

8. How do you take your coffee?
Loaded with cream and sugar. I hate it when its too bitter.

9. Top 3 condiments:
•Fair Oaks Farms habanero sauce
•Wisconsin Hot Sauce
•Hooters Hot Sauce

10. How do you like d'em apples?
Picked right off the tree.


The California Clipper

Saturday night, after heading to see Kate's new place (much success!), we walked over to the California Clipper on Augusta and California. The retro-themed bar has walls lined with booths (my fav) and deep red lighting throughout. The drinks themselves are old fashioned - Tom Collins, Brandy Alexanders, Singapore Slings. They even have a Grasshopper, which I hadn't seen on a menu since I was a waitress at an old timer's restaurant on Long Island - but that's another story. We all decided to try the champagne cocktail, which consisted of your own personal mini bottle of champagne, with bitters, a brown sugar cube and lemon twist. It felt decedent in these hard economic times. And at $6, we couldn't afford not not to order it! I'll be returning soon to sample the California Egg Cream. You should too.


Nuevo Leon - Again!

I'm addicted to the refried beans at Nuevo Leon. I can't stay away.

And just take a look at Steve's dish - Carne Asada ala Tampinquiena.

Emma B's Morsels

I'm a day late (and a dolla' short) with this one...enjoy the morsels of my dear lady, Emily.

Age: 28
Occupation: Party Thrower, Fun-monger, Pocket Kitty Protector
Resides in: sunny Los Angeles, CA

1. Favorite band with some sort of food in its name:

2. Give us your favorite vegetable and how you like it prepared:
It's hard to pick, but beets maybe. In a salad, pickled, or just with some butter. Mmmmmmm.

3. If you could only eat 1 flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Whatever that kind is with the teeny peanut butter cups in it. Elephant or moose tracks? Something.

4. Favorite food show:
Top Chef and No Reservations are a tie.

5. Please describe your ideal 2 am drunken feast:
Hmm. Bean and cheese burrito from the taco truck near the Echo. With the exception of taco truck goodness and bacon wrapped hotdogs (yes, that's right, and they are a close second) you would be shocked at how few late night food options there are in LA.

6. Favorite steak-house side dish:
Sauteed mushrooms and onions.

7. If you live in Chicago, give us your favorite restaurant here in
Chi-town. If not, share with us the number one spot in your city
Elf. Best little vegetarian comfort food kind of place with a great atmosphere in Echo Park.

8. How do you take your coffee?
Black. Espresso or Americano. The stronger the better.

9. Top 3 condiments:
•Peanut Sauce
•BBQ Sauce

10. How do you like d'em apples?
With a side of Matt Damon.

Da Bulls (and nachos, and hot dogs, and popcorn, and pretzels, and beer...)

Steve, Peen, Cindy, and I traipsed to the Bulls-Cleveland game last Thursday, on one of the coldest Chicago nights in recent history. And man, what a game. The Bulls (one of the worst teams in basketball) beat Cleveland (one of the best teams in basketball) in overtime. People were screaming, yelling, jumping up and down and most importantly, eating. That's right - arena food was the real star of the game!


A Chicago-style dog. This is how it's done folks!

Best Friends + Neko Case

Neko Case is one of my favorite artists. Her voice is like a scotch on the rocks - smoky and secuctive. But I had no idea she also advocated for shelter animals! This makes her waaaay cooler.

Her new single, “People Got A Lotta Nerve,” is availble for download on ANTI's web site - and for every blog that posts the song and iLike user who adds it to their profile, Neko Case and Anti- will make a donation benefiting Best Friends Animal Society. Click HERE to hear the song.

Five dollars will be donated for every blog post and one dollar for every user of iLike that adds the song to his/her profile.

So cool. If you're reading this and you have a blog, post it! Best Friends is one of the largest and most important animal sanctuaries in the United States. How do I know this? I get their magazine! Yes, call me a dork, but I love it. One time I saw someone reading Best Friends Magazine on the Subway and wanted to run over to them and share my love of Best Friends with that person. (I did not...)

Anyway, here is some more info on Best Friends:
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009, Best Friends Animal Society is one of America’s foremost animal rescue organizations. Founded in 1984, Best Friends advances nationwide animal welfare initiatives by working with shelter and rescue groups around the country. On any given day Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the nation's largest facility for abused, abandoned and special needs companion animals located in southwestern Utah, is home to approximately 2,000 dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and other animals. The society also publishes Best Friends magazine, the nation’s largest general interest, pet-related magazine with approximately 300,000 subscribers. For more information, visit www.bestfriends.org.

A pic of my very own shelter dog. (yes, he is wearing a Slayer bandana!)

Wherefore art thou, Rufus?

Does anyone want to buy me a ticket to THIS? Thanks!


Blog Art

Smitty made this for me using posts from my blog. The larger the words, the more I've used them here. Thanks Smitts!

The Super Salad with Balsamic Braised Green and Yellow Beans

I'm officially calling 2009 the Year of The Salad! Yes! Rock! The salad pictured above was Sunday's meal and included my recipe for balsamic braised beans. Come on, jump on the salad trend - everyone's doing it!

Balsamic Braised Green and Yellow Beans
• Fresh Green and yellow beans
• Balsamic vinegar
• Vegetable broth
• 1 large white onion
• 1 shallot
• Olive oil
• Salt and peppa'

1. Cut the ends off the beans, slice in half or bite size pieces and add to a pan of hot olive oil
2. Add chopped onion and shallot
3. Saute for 5 minutes or so
4. Add balsamic vinegar and vegetable broth, enough to cover the beans and onions
5. Boil until the beans are soft, the liquid is reduced and the sauce is thickened - about 20 minutes
6. Salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy! I find these are actually even better cold.

Pretty, pretty beans



Health Soup

I am officially sick. I've tried to deny it for the last few days but my bright red nose, achy neck and stuffy nose have locked it in. Last night was particularly uncomfortable, and all I wanted to eat was a big steaming bowl of soup. So I made a vegetable soup full of nutrient rich ingredients to assist my immune system. This recipe is good for the sick, the tired, or the plain lazy (it's so easy!).

Health Soup
Yukon Gold Potatoes
One big yellow onion, diced
One head of Napa cabbage
A few leaves of kale
Vegetable broth
Salt and Pepper
Vegetable Broth
Sambal Hot Sauce

Boil everything together in the broth, season to taste and eat until full and un-stuffy!

Cabbage and Kale! Take that cold!


Oddly enough, Smash loves greens. Here, I am dangling some kale in front of him. Such a tease.

Dan's (short and sweet) Morsels

Dan W.
Age: Top Secret
Occupation: Music lawyer, Mötley Crüe freak
Resides in: Gramercy, New York City

1. Favorite band with some sort of food in its name:
The Lemonheads or Korn...Eminem is pretty good too. Anything but the Cranberries.

2. Give us your favorite vegetable and how you like it prepared:
Is asparagus a vegetable? If so, grilled. If not, fried.

3. If you could only eat 1 flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The original...Chocolate.

4. Favorite food show:
Anything with Rachel Ray.

5. Please describe your ideal 2 am drunken feast:
Kenndey Fried Chicken, artichoke pizza and some soapy rice...usually finished with some nutella.

6. Favorite steak-house side dish:
Mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.

7. If you live in Chicago, give us your favorite restaurant here in
Chi-town. If not, share with us the number one spot in your city
Casimir...Ave B in NYC.

8. How do you take your coffee?
Any way I can get it.

9. Top 3 condiments:
Mayonaise, mustard and nutella.

10. How do you like d'em apples?
In a pie.


Twisted Spoke Sundays

I don't know when it started but over the years, I've grown very fond of that classic brunch-time drink, the Bloody Mary. The savory concoction of nutrient-rich tomato juice, and hair-on-the-chest vodka, cools me in the summer, and warms me up in the dead of winter. It's my go-to drink. And because of this, I've become somewhat of a connoisseur. I pick my brunch spots and bars based on the strength of their bloody marys. Some may say I'm a bloody mary snob.

This, my friends, is the reason that most Sundays, you can find me at Twisted Spoke. The "family biker bar" in West Town, serves their ultimate blood mary with olives, cocktail onions, pepperocinis, salami, parmesan cheese, & a beer chaser...and is one of the best I've had. They even sell their mix for the super fans and I've been known to pick up a bottle every now and then for the homemade version. On top of the bloodies, the food is solid, with breakfast tacos and various fried foods taking the top spots on the menu.

A T-Bone and Eggs

So I'll leave you with the ingredients to my TOP SECRET Bloody Mary recipe (as influenced by Lindsay and Twisted Spoke):
•Tabasco Brand or Twisted Spoke Spicy Bloody Mary Mix
•Creamy Horseradish
•Lime and Lemon Juice
•Celery Salt
•A Splash of Guinness
•A Smidgen of Onion Powder
•Fresh Ground Pepper
•Pickles, cocktail onions, pickled green beans, and celery for garnish

Mix to taste and enjoy on your next lazy Sunday.

Moules Avec Frites with Marge

Mussels with White Wine Sauce, Fries with Gorgonzola Dipping Sauce, and Harpoon IPA at Marge's Still. Marge's comes highly recommended by The City Veggie for casual bar food in Old Town.


Political Pause

THIS is going to be so cool. Check out the Chicago Speaker Series 2009 line-up. All events will be held at The Chicago Theatre.

March 11 - Bill Maher and Ann Coulter (yes!)
April 1 - Al Gore
April 22 - Chris Matthews interviewing Tucker Carlson, Arianna Huffington and Paul Begala
May 28 - Charlie Rose interviewing James Carville and Karl Rove

Tickets go on sale tomorow morning at 10AM here. See you there!


Nuevo Leon

The rapping Mexican herself, Alex Peen, introduced me to Nuevo Leon right around the time I moved back to Chicago, about a year ago. I had been living in NYC, where finding good Mexican food takes a trek to the outer boroughs. Heck, good Tex-Mex can be hard to find there. So when we walked into Nuevo Leon, in Pilsen, on that fateful day, I was really itching for some delicious, authentic Mexican food. And the restaurant did not disappoint.

The menu is extensive - ranging from Chicharrones Con Huevos En Salsa (Pork rinds covered in salsa) to Pastel De Tres Leches (Butter cake in a crispy shell, soaked in 3 milks). The meal always starts out with a complimentary cup of homemade chicken and vegetable soup, which usually includes an entire boiled chicken wing, as well as a serving of spicy pickled carrots, onions, and jalapenos - and freshly fried tortilla chips with homemade (spicy) salsa.

From here, it's up to you. A few of my recommendations...

Queso Panela - on the appetizer menu, this could serve as a meal for most. That's right - a meal of JUST cheese. To be more specific, you get five pieces of grilled panela cheese topped with a blend of grilled diced tomatoes, onion, and jalapenos. The panela cheese, which I had never had or even heard of, reminded me of a salty mozzarella. The dish arrived decorated with nice brown grill marks on both sides and was quite delicious.

Refried Beans with an order of Flour Tortillas - what can I say about this combination which is the simplest and for me, one of the most satisfying meals one can eat. Their flour tortillas are freshly made, thick and chewy.

Camaron Al Mojo De Ajo - This is a huge platter of shrimp, which is heavily seasoned and covered in a red pimento sauce, placed on a bed of lettuce, red rice, tomatoes and decorated with a light crumbling of queso fresco. One of the best dishes I've had at a restaurant in months. And I couldn't finish it, which is saying a lot about the portion size.

So I say to you dear reader, run, take a train(pink line), a bus(ashland bus), a car(your lincoln mercury) or a helicopter(you can rent one). Just get there, to Nuevo Leon, this weekend. You can thank me on Monday!

(Also, they randomly have a coloring game on their web site that's really fun! HERE)


Remember the cherry and blue raspberry ICEE, a frosty sugary drink with a polar bear as a mascot? (who was so cool, that he has to wear a sweater?) They used to be the highlight of a trip to the movies when I was just a lil young'un. I'd come out of the movie properly sugared up, proudly displaying a bright blue tongue. Take a look a the adult version of this experience, courtesy of Mother Nature. A beer ICEE! As seen as Soldier Field the night the Bears played the Packers. You know, when it was -14 degrees. Brrrr!

Beer ICEE's new mascot, CMILLZ


Snowy Downtown Chicago

As a possible snowstorm looms for Chicago this week, I found these 2 photos I took the evening of December 9th, after my company's enjoyable holiday dinner at McCormick and Schmick's. The poor service during dinner was only worth it because the company was good and we all ran around downtown afterwards, in a snowcovered-cityscape.

Lunch Today

This starts my week of eating more greens - and trying to save some money by bringing my lunch to work. Check out day one. I call it the Salad with a Bunch of Stuff In It.

Yes, that is soy bacon crumbled (kinda?) on top, along with black olives, an egg, chickpeas, goat cheese, tomatoes, baked tofu strips, hearts of palm, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, baked pepitas, and truffle salt. Duh!

Jay's Morsels

Age: 27
Occupation: Rock promoter, man-about-town
Resides in: LES, New York City

1. Favorite band with some sort of food in its name:
Right now it would have to be Passion Pit - though I'm not a huge fan of passion fruit, I do enjoy their pretty pop music. If you asked me this question in 1996 the answer would have been an emphatic Reel Big Fish.

2. Give us your favorite vegetable and how you like it prepared:
I really dig on some oven roasted zucchini, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it is my mom's broccoli casserole. I can't divulge what goes into the dish as it is a family secret, but if you'd like to taste it throw a pot luck and invite me.

3. If you could only eat 1 flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Its tough to imagine life without a vanilla or old school black and white milkshake so it would have to be that wonderful bean.

4. Favorite food show:
Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network with Guy Fieri. He has a dream job and any show that often features gravy is a winner in my book. After watching six straight episodes last week, Yaps said it best, "I like anyone who wears their sunglasses like that." Oh, but let's be clear - his Fridays' commercials are annoying as hell.

5. Please describe your ideal 2 am drunken feast:
Though I've always been a huge fan of pepperoni and mushroom slices along with the late night diner run that must involve mozzarella sticks and onion rings, my pallet has recently matured. Actually that is bullshit. I've got the taste buds of a child, but I recently had a late night dinner at Freemans in the Lower East Side. It's tucked away at the end of - you guessed it - the dead-end Freeman's Alley and has magical dishes. I consider this a 2 am drunken fest because that is probably the only time you can get a seat. Be sure to get the Mac n Cheese and the Devils on Horseback - don't ask, just order it.

6. Favorite steak-house side dish:
More steak or perhaps a lobster tail. Actually, it would probably be creamed spinach or the prosciutto bread pudding at NYC's Dylan Prime.

7. If you live in Chicago, give us your favorite restaurant here in
Chi-town. If not, share with us the number one spot in your city
Well, if you want a steak, I'd say hit Dylan Prime. My most frequented spot is called Zucco: The French Diner which is on Orchard Street. It is a hole in the wall spot with 3 tables and a bar. They have a great assortment of delicious French cuisine along with a great selection of sandwiches for lunch meetings. Try the mussels! [Ed. note: What, no New Jersey Chili's?!?]

8. How do you take your coffee?
Skim milk/No Sugar

9. Top 3 condiments:
Spicy Mustard, Ranch Dressing and Old Bay. If Old Bay counts as a spice then I'd have to throw in a hot sauce - preferably Red Devil.

10. How do you like d'em apples?
Grilled on a bed of spinach with some walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese.


Digital Dish - 1.4.09

Another installment of my friend Chris' digital dish can be found HERE.

As usual, I highly recommend it. Track listings follows.

01 knocked up (rodeo mash up) - kings of leon vs. lykke li
02 we share our mother's health (ratatat remix) - the knife
03 glide for me (ft. redd hott) - slim
04 bring it on home (mexicans with guns remix) - diego bernal
05 without u (ft. colin munroe) - black milk
06 can't shake it - kate miller-heidke
07 great dj - the ting tings
08 dusk till dawn - ladyhawke
09 roxxanne - the knux
10 kids (soulwax remix) - mgmt
11 tie me up with jackets - fight like apes
12 young folks (klumpfisk remix) - peter bjorn and john


A New Year

When I was in college, my friends Brian and Mando, got me into Chicago indie band The Sea and Cake. They played a New Year's Eve show last night at Schuba's, which is akin to my very own Cheers. So it was a no brainer to attend the show. Prior to heading over to Schuba's, Steve and I had some people over, cooked some party food and enjoyed a few drinks at our place.

Baked Goat Cheese with Marinara and Olive Oil. Super simple and delicious! Seriously. Just put a log of goat cheese in a terrine, cover with marinara, and if you're really fancy, sprinkle with white truffle salt. Bake until bubbly!

Sopes, which are a traditional Mexican creation - essentially ground corn cakes - covered with pinto beans, salsa rojo, olive oil, lime juice and queso fresco. I baked these until the outside was crispy. Delicious but next time, we need to add some sour creama!

And a few NYE portraits....

Cabbin' it over.

A distinguished Mando.

These 2 are in love.

Artistic! Things were getting a little blurry at this point.

Tim did a great job working the door.

These 2 are in love too.

More here.

So as I sit here watching an Iron Chef America marathon (Rick Bayless vs. Bobby Flay right now - Battle Bison), I'm thinking about my goals for the new year. I have many...to be a good person, to try and help others when I can, to cook healthy and delicious food and taste many new foods, to travel, to help animals, to have fun adventures, and finally, to always keep learning. What about you?