eats + drinks

Cavewoman (Apple) Crisp

If you follow me on insta then you know my fam and I went apple picking in Wisconsin a few weekends ago. It's something I've always wanted to do but apparently it took my sister and bro in law having a pair of rugrats to actually make it happen. Those boys are going to be such a great excuse to indulge my inner kid... I really can't wait until they get a little older!

I digress... so we went to Apple Holler just over the IL/WI border and I highly recommend it whether you pack up your kids or just your fun friends! Apple picking aside, there was a small pumpkin patch and an area with games and farm animals. Can you say the Golden GOAT Bridge and Pig Races?!?! Yep.

While that was all fun, my favorite part was dessert! Isn't is always?!?! I tried the Apple Turnover and Puff (don't know the difference but they were both delish) and I carted home some Apple Cider Donuts. Let's just say that if I lived closer to the Holler, I'd be there on the daily for one of those bad boys. YUM!!!! 

I spent the ride back into the city (after the pit stop at Mars Cheese... oink oink) thinking about what I might make with my 1/2 peck of apples...

Monday morning I picked up a pork loin and cooked that up for dinner with some homemade Paleo Applesauce. That may have to be in the regular rotation because it was probably the best applesauce I've ever had and it was sooooo easy!  

The next day, after checking out a bunch of recipes, I attempted my version of paleo apple crisp or as I'm calling it, Cavewoman Crisp (I like alliteration). It turned out WAY better than I expected...(I'm not a baker)... so good in fact I made another batch the next week to finish off the apples and I may replace my mom's apple pie recipe (gasp) with it for this year's Turkey Day. I like sweet but not too sweet and this was just the right level of sweetness for me as well as mix of apples to topping. If you give it a whirl I would say to experiment based on your own personal preference. 

Here you go... hope you like it as much as I did and let me know what you think!  

 

what you need

6 apples – You’re going to peel and chop these guys up into bite size pieces. I used a mix of apples I got from my apple picking adventure but would say you can use the ones you prefer or like me, a mix. The common school of thought is that granny smith work best for baking as they’re moderate on the sweet and tart scale but again I think it’s personal preference.

1/2 cup + 1 T coconut sugar

1 cup + 1 T blanched almond flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup + 2 T unsalted, grass-fed butter – Ideally this will be room temperature so you can easily cube but if you’re like me and want instant gratification, just throw it in the microwave for 10 – 15 secs until it’s softened enough to cube but NOT melted.  

1/2 lemon – We’re going to make the most of it by using the zest and the juice.

1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp kosher salt

 

how it happens

 Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven is doing its thing, peel the apples and cut into bite size pieces placing them into a medium sized mixing bowl. Next, you want to add the lemon zest and lemon juice to the apples and stir to combine. Now sprinkle ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar over the apples and again stir to combine evenly. Finally, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted grass-fed butter and pour over the spiced apples. Stir to combine.

Once your apples are prepped, use some of your unsalted butter to liberally grease a 9-inch pie pan or similar size baking dish. Pour the apple mixture into the pan.

Now you’re going to make the ‘crisp’. In a food processor, add 1 cup of blanched almond flour, ¼ cup of coconut flour, ½ cup of coconut sugar, ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon of sea salt, and ½ cup of the cubed butter. Pulse until you create a ball of dough in the food processor. The dough will be more ‘doughy’ than crumbly so you’ll want to use your fingers to “crumble” the dough evenly over the spiced apples. Basically you just want to place it down in small pieces so it looks like crumbles. After you’ve covered your apples, sprinkle the top of the crumble with the remaining tablespoon of almond flour and the tablespoon of coconut sugar.

 Bake this deliciousness on the middle rack in the center of the oven for 45-50 minutes. As you know, ovens vary so just keep an eye out around 40 – 45 minutes. You want soft apples (they will be by then) and a nice toasted brown top.

 Treat yo’ self by serving it a la mode and ENJOY! 

meat + greens stir fry

Here in Chicago we had probably one of the nicest summers I can remember and I was fortunate to be able to enjoy a lot of it. As a result, I’ve been in some pretty serious denial that fall was coming but the pool is now officially closed, football is on the tv (sadly my teams are no bueno) and I had to wear long sleeves to take the dog out yesterday morning so I did what anyone would do… I pulled a new pair of kicks out of their J.Crew box, brushed off some old recipes and headed to the grocery store! Yeah, that was probably just me that did that but it’s the little things right?!?!

Don’t get me wrong… I love fall… the dry, cool air that doesn’t frizz my hair… the new clothes (even if they’re just ones I haven’t worn since last season they feel new)… how much better those clothes look when you still have some color on your skin… the colors of the leaves… the football (record skip… maybe not this season)… it’s just that I know fall is the harbinger of winter (how about that word?!?! ;) ) and in Chicago winter can mean months and months and months of parkas and boots…. so… you can see why I’m a little misty at letting go of this summer.

SO back to the grocery store run, or more importantly what I brought home! In the couple of years I’ve been cooking I’ve learned a few things. One of these is that while technically cooking is a science, it doesn’t always have to be as precise a science as say… baking. Once you start getting comfortable with spices, herbs and various cuts of meat, following a recipe word for word becomes less important than your palate preference. I’ve also realized that eating ‘clean’ or ‘paleo’ truly can be an easy, affordable and extremely delicious lifestyle and not just a sentence to be served after overindulging in carbs, sugar and fried foods!

One of the recipes that I’ve made and played with is a beef stir fry situation. I find that when added to some cauliflower rice, it’s a nice, warm, healthy comfort meal that wards off the fall or winter chill. The concept isn’t rocket science… it’s meat, greens and delicious flavor at its core… but it’s a simple enough recipe to allow for meal sizes and variance.   

Meat + Greens Stir Fry

what you need

meat – I would say 8 oz if you’re cooking for one and go up from there. In my house we like to eat and I find that making extra at night checks the lunch box for at least one day. I typically use a flank steak (read - cheap, lean and delish) and I generally find that a pound and a half feeds enough for dinner and a couple of lunches. You can easily sub in chicken, shrimp or even tofu if cows aren’t your thing.

greens – I like using rainbow chard mainly because it’s easier for me to find and I like the pops of color the stems provide. If you haven’t cooked chard before, know that it WILTS so don’t be afraid to use more than you think. I generally use 1 bunch per pound of meat. Again, you can add or subtract depending on your love of greens.

green onions – I’m becoming repetitive but the amount here, again, depends on your preference. As a rule of thumb I would say to use 8 of them per pound of meat. You can always add more in if you need more flavor.

garlic + ginger – Ditto to the above but about 2T minced per pound of meat.

extra light tasting olive oil – I prefer cooking with extra light olive oil. Light in this case doesn’t mean less calories but rather a lighter flavor. While I love evoo when I’m dragging my bread through it at my fave Italian restaurant, the flavor can overwhelm when you’re using it to cook. Sometimes that’s ok but more often than not I like my oil to play a supporting role and not be the leading lady.

juice from 1 lime

salt

 

how it happens

To prep you’re going to slice your meat into pieces that are small enough to eat without a lot of work but not so small that they cook too fast especially if you’re cooking beef and still want a pink or red center. Season the pieces with salt. Next you want to cut up your greens. If you’re using chard, separate the leaves from the stems. Then cut the stems into bite size pieces and roughly chop of the greens. You’ll want to keep the stems and leaves apart as they aren’t cooked together. Finally, mince up your garlic and ginger and slice the scallions.

When the prep work is done it is time to cook. Btw, all of this can be prepped in advance so if you’re feeling motivated you can do it the night before or for you real overachievers, in the morning. Also, my cooking times below are for beef so you'll need to adjust when the meat goes in if you're cooking chicken (likely longer) and shrimp (shorter).

Start by drizzling 1T of olive oil into a skillet over med-high heat. Once it’s heated, toss in the seasoned meat and cook until the outside is a golden brown (about 2 – 3 mins per side – again, a little less if you want your beef on the rarer side).

Add in another T or so of olive oil and add your chard stems, green onions, garlic and ginger. Cook this mixture about 2 – 3 mins and make sure that you’re stirring often. You want those flavors touching everything!

Finally add in another T of olive oil and add the chard leaves cooking until they wilt (again another 2 – 3 mins). Depending on the size of your skillet and how much you’re making, you may need to add the chard leaves in batches (add more when the prior batch starts to wilt). You can also get them started in a separate pan with olive oil and add them to the bigger party when they’ve shrunk down a bit.

Once the chard is wilted, squeeze the lime juice over it all and mix well. If you’re making more than a pound of meat your skillet may be filled to capacity.  In this case just dump it all in a large bowl, squeeze on your lime juice and toss.

This can be a one dish meal or can be paired with a side like cauliflower rice or something similar. I personally like to put some cauliflower rice in a bowl and add a heaping serving spoon or two on top.

30 minutes later…. You’re ready to eat!!!

Again, it’s a pretty simple recipe that you can easily play with to make your own. Let me know what creative adds or tweaks you have… I’m always looking to try out new things!

Enjoy!

baked halibut + roasted broccoli

Here’s the ‘how to’ on last night’s easy, quick and YUMMY dish. I promise you’ll have this one on the table in 30 min’s or less (and it’s way better than Domino’s!)

baked halibut

what you need

1 ½ pounds Halibut

Olive oil

Lemon Juice

Cayenne Pepper, Salt and Pepper

 how it happens

Preheat the oven to 375. While that’s heating up, lay the fish on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle to taste with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Pop the fish in the oven and bake until you can flake the fish with your fork (15 – 25 min’s depending on thickness).

 

bacon herb butter

what you need

4 T of salted butter

2 slices of uncured bacon

Garlic Powder, Dried Parsley, Dried Basil, Salt

how it happens

If the butter has been in the fridge, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to soften. You’ll also want to cook the bacon and chop into small pieces. Once that’s all done, mix the bacon in the butter and then add 2 ½ t parsley, 1 t basil and a dash of garlic powder. Keep mixing until it’s combined and then salt to taste. Put the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to plate the fish.

 

garlic roasted broccoli

what you need

A few bunches of broccoli

5 cloves of garlic

Lemon Juice

Red Pepper Flakes, Salt, Pepper

Coconut Oil

how it happens

Preheat the oven. 400 is ideal but if you’re saving time and cooking with the fish, 375 works. Cut the broccoli into florets and throw into a large bowl. Melt 3T of coconut oil and add to the broccoli. Then mince and toss in the 5 cloves of garlic. Now add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to your taste. Mix it up so the seasonings and oil coat the broccoli and lay the florets out evenly on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast until the broccoli is tender and turning brown. This should take about 15 min’s if your oven is at 400, a little longer if it’s lower. Once you take out the pan, squeeze on some fresh lemon juice and serve!

 

 

 

 

 

paleo mmmmayo....

I have to admit that I LOVE sauces and dips and generally have something on tap for a side whether it's needed or not. As it relates to mayo, while it may be a turn off for some, I believe that if you stuck a pin in me, mayo would likely come out instead of that red stuff! It's for sure my favorite of the condiment family. Having said that, store bought mayo's tend to include some stuff that you don't really need and I would hate to find myself in a position where I (gasp) ran out.

So... I learned to make the goodness on my own. Here's my (for the most part) foolproof take on this classic staple. 

what you need

1 egg

A decent squirt of Dijon mustard

A healthy pinch of kosher salt

Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon (you can try lemon juice from those plastic lemons but I tend to have issues getting the right consistency when I do it)

1 1/4 C of Extra Virgin LIGHT Olive Oil (make sure to get the light unless you don't mind a heavy olive oil taste to your mayo) 

how it happens

Crack the egg (keep the yolk whole) into a jar (I find a mason jar works best and the finished product will already be in its' container!). Then squirt in the mustard, sprinkle in some salt and add the lemon juice. Now pour about 1/2 - 3/4 C of olive oil in and grab your immersion blender. This is where the magic happens. Put your immersion blender in the jar so the yolk is contained in cap of the blender and then press the low blend setting. As you start to see the consistency get thicker start slowly lifting up the blender. After about 15 seconds, pour the rest of the olive oil in as your blending. Again, start lifting the blender up slowly so the whole mixture does it's thing. I then move the blender up and down several times to ensure it's all mixed up and voila! Homemade MAYO!!!! 

So I've been lucky and only ended up with a more dressing than mayo like consistency once or twice... for me it's been when I've used the not as fresh lemon juice or mustard powder instead of the real thing but I've heard it can also vary based on temperature and type of container. Don't be scared to try it but also don't be frustrated if it takes some practice. One reason I save part of the oil to add is just in case it's not coagulating the way it should then I haven't wasted it and can start again. 

Happy emulsifying and let me know how it goes! 

quick + healthy + cheap = monday's salmon lunch

If you're looking for an easy and fast punch of protein for lunch then do I have a great reco for you! 

Salmon Salad

1 - individual serving pouch of salmon

1- dollop of homemade paleo mayo (sub in mustard or your fave condiment if mayo isn't your thing - I'll add a post on how to make this simple, delicious staple that you'll like so much you's say adios to your friends Hellmans and Kraft!)

3 - Wild Wonders tomatoes (again you can sub in whatever tomato or veggie you have or like, i.e., celery, cukes, capers, etc)

Chopped romaine or again, lettuce of your choice

Dash of salt and pepper

Sprinkle of balsamic vinegar

Done and done! Of course you can add or change around but this power lunch packs some great proteins and fats to start the week off right!

Oh and it's great with some Harvest Snaps Wasabi Ranch green pea crips... seems weird right?!? But trust me, they're so good and have become my latest snack obsession!

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cauliflower pizza crust...

what you need

cauliflower (approx. 1 head per pizza)

egg (1 per pizza)

shredded mozzarella cheese (½ - 1 C per pizza)

shredded parmesan cheese (2Tbsp – ¼ C per pizza)

salt

pepper

how it happens

I generally use a pizza stone for cooking the crust but if you don’t have one it’s no biggie, just use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the stone or unlined baking sheet in the oven while it’s pre-heating to 450 degrees. You’ll also want to be sure and spray the stone or parchment paper with non-stick cooking oil (I prefer coconut oil) before you put down your crust.

Start with 2 ½ – 3 cups of grated cauliflower or about 1 average sized head. (word has it that you can buy pre-grated cauliflower at Trader Joe’s … I have yet to investigate but if that’s true it’s a real time saver!). You can either grate or chop the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like snow. Put the grated cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until soft (about 6 – 8 minutes). Remove the cauliflower and let cool for a bit. Once it’s cooled or at least once it stops steaming, dump the cauliflower onto a piece of cheese cloth or a thin dish towel. Squeeze the cauliflower in the towel until you’ve squeezed out the excess liquid. When you think you’ve squeezed enough, squeeze a little more. Be careful - if you’re impatient like me and start to squeeze out the cauliflower before it cools – it is HOT!

Once you have your clump of cauliflower, put in back in the bowl and add in 1 lightly beaten large egg and then between ½ - 1 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese and between 2 tablespoons – ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese. If you go with the lower volume of mozz, go with the higher amount of parm or vice versa. You can also do equal parts mozz and parm, whatever works best for you. Next add in some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Take the mixture and put it on the sprayed pizza stone or parchment paper covered baking sheet and spread it out into a crust. The thinner the crust, the crispier it will be and the more it will hold together like a traditional dough crust. Bake for approx. 20 minutes or until it’s a light golden brown. Once you have that pretty color to your crust, remove from the oven and add any sauce or toppings you desire and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until it’s done to your liking.   

As a point of reference, my people are eaters so I generally plan for 1 head of cauliflower per pizza and 1 pizza per person (i.e., 4 people = 4 heads). You can plan accordingly based on the appetites you’re serving.

Enjoy!

burgers, beer and a little more...

I'm not sure this even needs a description with all of its obvious yumminess but in case you want to give it a try, it's the poutine special at the recently opened Farm Bar in Lakeview or as our bartender called it, "the younger, hipper sister to River North's Farmhouse". The menu was small but everything we ate including this number made me want to come back soon!

so long 2015...

Happy to be spending another NYE in Charleston! I never get tired of exploring the sights of this great city and all of the food and drink it has to offer. Stayed mostly old school this time with drinks at Henry's and oysters at Amen Street but also enjoyed an amazing brunch at Rarebit. Everything I tried there was fantastic but that Patty Melt I will definitely come back for!

#nyeinchucktown #charlestonsc #roomwithaview #francismarionhotel #marionsquare #emanuelafricanmethodistepiscopalchurch #neverforget 

#henrys #favoritename #marketmash #sometimesidrinkcocktails

#macsplace #chicagobarincharleston #siteofthebestsundayfundayever #jcrew #vans #anthropologie

#whyisthissmoking #itcomeswithawarning #nonclassydrinksinaclassybar #marketpavilionhotel #bestbluecheeseolivesever

#oystershooters #whynot #amenstreet #happynewyear

i love meat...

I always forget that finding an open bbq place in South Carolina on a Tuesday is only slightly easier than finding an open Chick-fil-A on a Sunday. Thankfully an old favorite, Little Pigs BBQ, proved to be the needle in the proverbial haystack so on our way out of Myrtle Beach we stopped by for some lunch. I think my pulled pork induced food coma is going to make make me a bad co-pilot for the drive to Charleston! #sorrynotsorry

#littlepigsbarbq #myrtlebeach #southcarolinabbq #ilovemeat 

free advertising...

So not the best ad but I had to share anyway. If you haven't had a Farmer's Fridge salad, breakfast or snack... YOU ARE MISSING OUT! Great price point, quantity and ALWAYS fresh... this is a great and quick option that I take advantage of more than I should admit. Wish I had thought of this concept myself! 

#farmersfridge #600westchicago #mealsonthego #messyoffice 

garbage casserole...

Well not really garbage but if not for this dish the ingredients may have been. Sunday mornings I generally take inventory of what I've used and too often what I haven't of my groceries...more specifically my produce. This little number makes good use of them, gives me a Sunday morning breakfast and 'on the go' breakfast for the next few days. 

Casserole Concept - Bacon or sausage; grilled sweet onions; mushrooms; spinach; broccoli; tomatoes; cheese.... you get the idea. The quantity of the meats and veggies can be left up to you just be mindful of how egg heavy or ingredient heavy you want your casserole. I generally throw the cooked meat(s), grilled onions, cooked or raw other veggies (I hold on the tomatoes) into a baking dish and and then add in 10 eggs that were whisked with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and a dash of paprika. I combine everything and then sprinkle any cheese on top and add the tomatoes. You can of course combine those into the mix but I like how the cheese and tomatoes brown on the top. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until eggs are set in the middle. To get more of the browning you can also throw under the broiler for a minute right before you take it out of the oven. 

#breakfast #sundaymornings #leftovers

easy like sunday morning...

Happy to be back home and enjoying a low key Sunday morning and a little kitchen time. Sometimes a simple egg sammy is all you need to brighten your day. Well that and a little Bailey's in your coffee!

Not Rocket Science Recipe - Thomas' Everything Bagel Thins; Nueske's Applewood Smoked Bacon; 2 Large Organic / Free Range Eggs; Sweet Onion. I use one cast iron pan to make everything. First, I cook the bacon over med high heat after starting the first batch in a cold pan. When the bacon is done I pour out the grease but leave the brown bits and throw in my raw chopped sweet onions. Once those are nice and browned I remove and then it's egg time. I've found my eggs come out best when I whisk in a little almond milk or regular milk if you prefer. I pour the mixture into the pan and wait less than a minute for the edges to look a little cooked and then start to mix adding salt and pepper and any cheese or other seasoning as I go. Generally the eggs take less than a couple of minutes to cook. You want to turn off the heat while they're still a tiny bit runny as they'll continue to cook as you plate them. Then it's time to put it all together with the toasted bagel thins. Hot sauce is always a good add! 

#baconeggandcheese #everythingbagels #bagelflats #mughoarder #starbucks #dreamingofcabo

#baconeggandcheese #everythingbagels #bagelflats #mughoarder #starbucks #dreamingofcabo

brews, beaches, bikes and a jeep...

That cute little ginger was right (Annie...duh)! The sun did come out and we were able to do a lot of exploring. We made the most of the island thanks to Young's Bicycle Shop's bike and jeep rentals. Enjoyed some micro brews at the Cisco Brewery, saw some beautiful homes and landscaping, made our way to six beaches (amazing how different they all are!) and did a little driving in the sand! Shout out to the Nantucket Inn with all it's charm and hospitality for making our visit all the more special. All in all a good couple of days and as we head away on the ferry I'm already missing this cool little island. 

#ciscobrewers #patiodrinking #daydrinkingproblems #sometimesidrinkbeer #whalestale #sharktracker #nantucketweekend2015 #raybans #jcrew

#ciscobrewers #patiodrinking #daydrinkingproblems #sometimesidrinkbeer #whalestale #sharktracker #nantucketweekend2015 #raybans #jcrew

#nantucketbeaches #bikingafterbrews #septembersunshine #youngsbicycleshop #nantucketweekend2015 #raybans #jcrew

#nantucketbeaches #bikingafterbrews #septembersunshine #youngsbicycleshop #nantucketweekend2015 #raybans #jcrew

#offroadin #redragtop #topless #agirlandherjeep #jeep #tomnevers #youngsbicycleshop #nantucketweekend2015

#offroadin #redragtop #topless #agirlandherjeep #jeep #tomnevers #youngsbicycleshop #nantucketweekend2015

#nantucketinn #nantucketweekend2015

#nantucketinn #nantucketweekend2015

rain rain go away...

Kicked off my birthday weekend getaway to Nantucket with a layover in Boston. The forecast for the next few days is looking a little dicey but I'm trying to stay positive and enjoy some of the city's best to eat and drink which of course means oysters, oysters and more oysters! Amazing lunch at Marliave - one of the oldest restaurants in Boston- and dinner at Neptune Oyster which may be my new favorite place...too bad it's so far from home!

#marliave #oystersandcharcuteriekindofday #historicbostoneatery #craftcocktails #jcrew #boston #nantucketweekend2015

#marliave #oystersandcharcuteriekindofday #historicbostoneatery #craftcocktails #jcrew #boston #nantucketweekend2015

#historicchurches #reflect #boston #trinitychurchboston #jcrew #nantucketweekend2015

#historicchurches #reflect #boston #trinitychurchboston #jcrew #nantucketweekend2015

#neptuneoyster #oystersfordays #boston #nantucketweekend2015 #guinness

#neptuneoyster #oystersfordays #boston #nantucketweekend2015 #guinness