Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yo-Yo Ma with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

As I mentioned before, Bryan and I had tickets for this concert since last October! We bought them for our anniversary/birthdays/Bryan's-almost-done-with-3rd-year/because-we-just-had-to. We splurged, and it was so incredibly worth it!

I had never seen Yo-Yo Ma before, so I was super pumped! He played the Schumann Cello Concerto, which is probably my favorite cello concerto, or at least tied for favorite with Dvorak. Even back in October, this concert was almost sold out, but our seats ended up being pretty awesome. We were 5th row back on the left side of the floor and could see him perfectly. It was really great!


Last night, Bryan and I had an awesome date night that we’d been waiting for since October. We had tickets to see Yo-Yo Ma play the Schumann Cello Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! I had never seen him live before, so I was pretty excited!

I wanted our dinner location to be nearby symphony center so that we’d be able to quickly walk over afterwards and not have to be pressed for time. After a quick Google search, I found Henri, a French restaurant just two blocks north of symphony center. The reviews were amazing and after checking out their website, I knew that it would be an awesome dinner spot!

This place was awesome! We both started out with a cocktail and split a  stone oven pissaldiere (it was like a fancy little pizza) with house-cured bacon, caramelized onion, creme fraiche and leek. It was so incredibly delicious! Four our main courses, I had house-made pappardelle with roasted woodland mushrooms, watercress, Madiera cream, and Grana Padano and Bryan had the game of the day which was venison that was prepared sous vide and then braised with port infused au jus served with roasted morels and watercress. Both dishes were absolutely amazing! We didn’t split our dishes completely, but we both had multiple bites of each other’s dishes because they were both so good! I paired my dish with a Malbec and Bryan had a Bordeaux and they both went perfectly. For dessert, I didn’t think I could fit another ounce in my stomach, but we ended up sharing a chocolate tart that was to die for. We also both had a cappuccino to end with.

If you are ever looking for a nice place to go on Michigan Ave, definitely give this place a try. It was amazing!!!

After dinner, we were on our way to the symphony!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mozzarella-Stuffed Bruschetta Turkey Burgers with Balsamic Glaze

If you haven’t heard of the blog Iowa Girl Eats, I suggest you check it out. I really like this blog for the quick, easy and healthy recipes, new workout ideas and the interesting stores that come along with!
When I saw this recipe by Iowa Girl Eats, featured as a quest post on another blog, Peanut Butter Fingers, I fell in love with the idea right away and couldn’t wait to make it.
A few days later, I did just that! We had most of the ingredients already, so it was really easy to put together. Bryan mixed up the meat and put the burgers together (ie: stuffed them) while I made the bruschetta and pretty soon we were sipping on our wine waiting for our dinner to be done on the grill! We already had a bunch of asparagus, and I had already planned on grilling that throughout the week, so it worked nice as a side dish!
This meal is super easy to put together and does not require a lot of cooking time, which is nice for hot summer days. Well, it wasn’t summer when we made these, but it was SUPER hot! This was the perfect light dinner for us, and I suggest you give it a try!!!
Mozzarella-Stuffed Bruschetta Turkey Burgers with Balsamic Glace
adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Serves 4.
1 lb 99% lean ground turkey breast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup balsamic vinegar
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned
Salt & pepper, to taste
1. In a large bowl combine turkey, salt, pepper, basil and parmesan cheese. Divide mixture into 8 portions.
2. Line a peanut butter jar lid with foil, then plastic wrap and press 1 portion of the turkey mixture into the lid. Heap 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese into the middle, then top with another portion of turkey. Press down to seal, then invert the patty onto a plate. (We actually didn’t use this method due to our lack of a suitable size peanut butter jar lid, so Bryan did it by hand and it worked just as well). Continue until you have 4 burger patties.
3. Grill burgers for 4 minutes a side over medium-high heat.
4. For bruschetta: combine all ingredients, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.
5. For balsamic blaze: heat balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Let simmer, and stir frequently, until the vinegar has reached the consistency of thin maple syrup.
6. Top grilled burgers with bruschetta and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

Rock n’ Roll Registration

It’s official – I signed up for the Rock n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon!!! I’m super pumped for this race! I completed this race as my first half marathon last year and hand a blast!
Last year, the route was pretty cool, and I think it’s supposed to be the same, or very similar. It starts downtown in Grant Park and weaves through the Loop a bit before heading south and then back north along the lake shore.
This race will come at a perfect time for my full marathon training for the Twin Cities Marathon, which is in October!
The past two weeks have been pretty low key for me, running wise. I’ve really been trying to pay attention to my sore leg muscle and make sure that it can heal before intense training starts in June. I’ve been running every couple of days, and stretching like no other. Finally, I don’t feel any pain in my leg during or after my workouts, so I think I’m in the clear! I’m building up to where I used to be cautiously so that it doesn’t get strained again.
Attention to all my Chicago friends…. Anyone want to run this race with me?! It will be super fun!!!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mini Pies!

For my birthday, I got a mini pie maker from Bryan's parents! Yes, my birthday was in January, but this little contraption has been on back order since then and I just got it a couple weeks ago!! I wasn't able to use it right away, because our schedules got a bit crazy, but we finally put it to use this weekend! It was definitely worth the wait! I'll show you the step by step way we made our little pies! This is the coolest thing ever!

We decided that for it's first use, we wanted to make some savory egg pies. As with most recipes, I took a look at it, and decided to put my own twist on it. It's a simple egg bake type of recipe, but I added more vegetables to the mix.

The first step is to preheat the mini pie maker.

Lay out your pie dough so that it gets to room temperature.

Then, saute the vegetables (add diced ham, sausage or bacon if you like). We chopped up and sauteed green onions, baby bellas, red onion, garlic and spinach. Try not to use too many vegetables. Only 1/3 cup gets placed into each mini pie.

While they are heating up, in a medium sized bowl mix 2 eggs with 1/3 cup whole milk (we used half and half because we had some around), 2 tsp dijon mustard and sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are done, add them to the egg mixture. I also added some crumbled feta cheese to the mixture.

Cut the pie dough into rounds for the mini pie maker (the device comes with a cutter). Place the rounds into the mini pie maker and press into each depression.

Fill each pie with the egg and vegetable mixture. Top with shredded cheese (we used mozzarella).

Cook in the mini pie maker for 8-10 minutes, checking periodically, and voila, you have mini pies to enjoy!!!

It's such a beautiful day in Chicago that we were able to eat ours on our balcony!

Dimitri wanted a bite too. This pie is from the first batch that got a little too done due to our lack of checking on them.

These mini pies were SO DELICIOUS!! We typically have egg dishes with various vegetables sauteed in the mix, but the addition of the mustard and the crust gives this dish a completely new spin! I can't wait to try out the many recipes that are in the mini pie recipe book that came with the pie maker! THANK YOU to my awesome in-laws for this wonderful gift!

Haymarket Pub & Brewery

Yesterday, Bryan and I decided to try out a new pub near our place Haymarket Pub & Brewery. It's been pretty packed recently, and we finally had a free evening to give it a try! This place was a really great neighborhood pub with a good vibe. We split a flight of 6 of their independently brewed beers and enjoyed the majority of them! We ordered a sausage sampler to split, which was totally awesome! It had three different types of sausage: smoky, sweet and spicy and a couple sauces to dip them in. So good! We both ordered fish and chips for our meal and were blown away at how good they were! The batter around was so thin but it provided a great flavor and a light crunch on the tilapia. It was great to taste so much of the fish and not feel like I was going to have a heart attack! We ordered one with sweet potato tots - which are to die for! The food and drinks were delicious and it was a great experience. Can't wait to go back soon!

Taco Salad

Did everyone have a good Cinco de Mayo? We had a pretty chill day around here. Bryan was working nights at the ER, so he would sleep during the day and wake up in the evening.

With the weird week’s schedule and the fact that we were already in our sweatpants (hey, it was my day off!), we didn’t feel like going anywhere for dinner to celebrate the holiday. We felt like eating something light, so we decided to make our first batch of taco salad of the year! It’s a great dish that Bryan grew up with, and we’ve tweaked it a little bit. It’s really easy to throw together, and you can throw in some extra veggies you have laying around if you like to add more nutrients and crunch!

We combined a head of romaine, 2 tomatoes (cubed), 1 avocado (cubed), 1 can black beans, shredded cheese, and browned ground beef and taco seasoning sautéed with about a quarter of a chopped red onion. Then, I combined the sauce: mayo, ketchup, and hot sauce! This is totally a guessing game, and I usually mix to taste, but it’s super easy and I like to make it spicy. Then, mix it all together so that everything gets some sauce on it. You can either break up tortilla chips and mix them right on in if you’re planning on eating the whole batch, or if you’re planning on having leftovers (like we usually do), then I prefer to serve it on top of a plate of crushed tortilla chips so that the chips don’t get soggy. We use multigrain chips, and they are delicious!


It's time for some blog updating!

We celebrated the end of Bryan’s birthday month last week by going out to brunch at Frontera! We’ve been trying to get reservations off and on for roughly the past two years, and they’re always booked for dinner months and months in advance. When Bryan got a gift certificate to Frontera for his birthday from his brother and sister-in-law, we knew it was time to make it happen. Since we don’t know our schedule months in advance, we decided to take some advice from friends and go for brunch. I was appalled at how short our wait was, about 20 minutes!

We ordered some margaritas to start the afternoon out right! We also got some of their amazing guacamole! Bryan ordered the enchiladas de mole poblano and I ordered huevos fronterizos. We split our dishes down the middle of the plate and passed plates when we were half way done. We’ve been doing halfsies a lot more lately, but this time it was literally to try as much food as possible! Both dishes were incredibly delicious!

I think the whole experience of going to Frontera (or any one of Rick Bayless’ three restaurants) is something anyone should do at some point if you live in Chicago or even if you are visiting. However, I do think that is over-hyped a bit and definitely overpriced. The dinner menu is more pricey than the brunch menu, so I’m glad we went for brunch (and with a gift card!) so that our bill with tip was only around $25.

I’ve been to his newest restaurant Xoco quite a few times and almost prefer that because it seems like you are getting the same food for a better price and a more fun atmosphere! But, I do have to admit, Rick Bayless, you are awesome!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower

You're probably thinking - yuck. And so was I because the last time I ate cauliflower (not in a vegetable platter) was when I was about 8 years old. Recently though, I've seen roasted cauliflower on multiple blogs and especially after reading The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, where cauliflower is highly regarded, I decided that maybe it was time to give it another try. I looked at a few blog recipes for cauliflower I decided that I would just season with some salt, pepper and garlic powder and roast at 425 for about 8 minutes on each side. Easy peasy.

My motivation? Well, I've really been trying to increase the nutritional aspects of my diet lately and Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, had much to say about cauliflower. It is practically one of the healthiest vegetables that is white. Cauliflower is high is glucosinolates which have anti-cancer activity and has a natural detoxifying quality. You can even make fake mashed potatoes out of mashed cauliflower!

The results of my experiment were delicious!! I tried it on a night this week when Bryan was working late at the ER, because he was opposed to the idea for similar reasons as I was. But, I'm happy to report that he LIKED it!! Last night, we had an incredibly delicious dinner of grilled filet mignon, sweet potato fries with garlic mayo dipping sauce, and of course, a side of roasted cauliflower and it was AMAZING!!!!!!! Enjoyed, of course, with a delicious red granache.