March 28, 2013

Feel the Beet

Last Easter I made my first beet salad - but this little ol' blog wasn't quite in existence yet, so I wasn't able to post the recipe.  This year, I'll be all over it.  Check out the beautiful beets I picked up at Whole Foods in Lincoln Park tonight - they had red and golden beets so naturally I got both!  I also picked up some FarmedHere windy city arugula for the salad - I happen to know just how good this stuff is having left the Good Food Festival the other weekend with a package in my tote :)  

Having had only a small amount of admiration for beets when I was younger, I have grown into a full-fledged beet-loving adult.  I enjoy really any variation of a beet salad, especially when it's made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.  For this salad I'm going to pair the arugula & beets (which will be roasted) with some fresh, creamy chèvre, pistachios and a light homemade vinaigrette for Easter brunch on Saturday.  

The recipe will be up next week and trust me, you'll want to try it out.  You may even get those beet haters to convert when you prepare them in a salad like this.  Several members of my family thought they didn't like beets (particularly the younger folk) until they tried this salad, and most of them ended up going back for seconds, not leaving a trace of leftovers.  Yes - beets are most excellent.

These beets are total babes

March 26, 2013

Good Food Festival Chicago Delivers a Hearty Dose of Innovation & Inspiration

The Good Food Festival Chicago - founded by Jim Slama of Family Farmed - was brimming with passionate & knowledgeable folks sharing their products and ideas, and I can honestly say after participating in the Festival my life has been forever changed for the better. I can also confirm that after speaking with many other people throughout the course of the weekend, I’m not the only one who feels that way. The Festival - held March 14-16 at the UIC Forum - created the most incredible sense of community. From the moment you walked in you immediately felt at home. Even first-time conversations with perfect strangers had you feeling like you were at a family gathering or neighborhood block party. The buzz of artisans, brewers, farmers, crafters & chefs all coming together to share and connect was simply infectious.

photo courtesy of

I was lucky enough to partake in the Fest as a member of the Tiny But Mighty (TBM) Popcorn team. Going into the Festival I felt I had a pretty good sense of how far this popcorn had spread; still, I wasn't completely aware of just how big of an impact it's had on so many lives up to this point - and the good word (and taste!) continue to spread. Hundreds of people stopped by our booth throughout the weekend - some who were brand new to our popcorn - and many who were repeat customers. 

clockwise starting top left:
Me & my uncle, Farmer Gene | TBM Festival exhibition table | TBM crew at the Festival | TBM's COO, Kevin
Sabo and his wife Laura

March 19, 2013

Cloud 99

Forget cloud nine - I'm on cloud 99 after spending the weekend at the Good Food Festival Chicago. My time was spent tasting to-die-for food from talented local chefs, sampling inventive craft brews & bold wines, and meeting awe-inspiring folks with inventive products & ideas. My proudest & most memorable moments, however, all stem from being part of the Tiny But Mighty Popcorn team. Knowing what an incredible product we have and hearing my uncle - Farmer Gene - speak about his journey of cultivating this amazing product when so many people told him he would fail. Well, he did just the opposite - he's soaring on his passions for this honest-to-good, healthy product that we all get to enjoy. Lucky us.

I will be writing a major post on our unforgettable experience at the festival, some of the amazing vendors and the incredible products to know about now. I'll be writing it from a lounge chair on the beach next to the ocean - I know, I'm sorry - but stay tuned! :)

taken by me, shortly after take-off from o'hare

March 14, 2013

Good Food Festival - Chicago

It's almost St. Patrick's Day - we celebrate big time here in Chicago the Saturday before - and usually I'm up at 9:00 am throwing back green beers with them best of them, but this year is a little different.  This year my priorities revolve around my continuously growing passion for all things food: locally sourced products & ingredients, sustainability, quality produce, organic food & farming, chefs, artisans and Tiny But Mighty Popcorn - my Uncle Gene & Aunt Lynn's heirloom popcorn farmed & produced in my home state of Iowa.  This year I get to be part of the Tiny But Mighty team at the Chicago Good Food Festival - March 14-16 at UIC.  Buy tickets here & stop by our booth on Saturday to say hello - we love meeting new folks & introducing them to this über tasty treat!

If you haven't yet tried Tiny But Mighty you are missing out!  I've posted about it before, but I will continue to sing its praises and not just because I'm related to the farmer :)  I truly believe in the product and what it stands for.  The quality of the crop and the taste of the popcorn are like nothing else - trust me.  You can buy bags of kernels (all you'll need is canola oil & a bit of sea salt!) or buy it already popped in White Cheddar or Sea Salt flavors - sold online here or at any Whole Foods in the Midwest & Eastern regions of the US!

And don't worry - I'll find time to throw back some cold (and possibly green) ones post-fest :)

Farmer Gene, Aunt Lynn & I at Chipotle Cultivate Festival 2012

Me, Farmer Gene & my sis at the Chipotle Cultivate Festival 2011

My adorable & hardworking Aunt & Uncle at the TBM booth!

March 13, 2013

Blackberry Green Tea Banana Bread - Uh Huh, Uh Huh

What does one do when the last bananas of the bunch have been forgotten?  Instead of pouting about a browned & bruised bundle, I get excited as I start to think up different twists on the classic banana bread.  On this edition of "When Life Leaves You with Over-Ripened Bananas - Make Banana Bread!" we're venturing into a world filled with juicy blackberries & oh-so-good-for-you green tea.  Not green tea in the form of matcha powder - who realistically has that just lying around the house? If you do, then kudos to you - I plan on adding it to my culinary repertoire someday - but for now I'm sticking with a concentrated brew of green tea in bag form, something that most of you will hopefully have in your pantries already.

Feel free to switch up the fruit in this recipe with any type of berry - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries - or leave them out if you're not feeling it (but who doesn't love a good berry?!).  Banana bread is a pretty forgiving baked good so you can experiment & almost always get the results you hoped for.  I actually didn't find a single recipe online that used brewed green tea in the bread without also calling for cream cheese, or some other ingredient I didn't have on hand.  So, engaging my baking prowess, I adjusted the basics to make room for the 1/2 cup of green tea.  I slightly increased the amount of flour (also replacing all-purpose with whole wheat flour), brewed a small amount of extra-concentrated green tea, added a touch of canola oil - and the rest is history.  To my delight the banana bread turned out moist & flavorful - just how banana bread should be.  Photos & recipe below!

Uh huh, Uh huh

March 12, 2013

Your Next Weeknight Supper: Mediterranean Shrimp & Quinoa Bowl with Cucumber Dill Sauce

This dish is definitely one of my weekly go-to suppers - does the word supper sound strange to you?  If you happen to be from Iowa (♥) or other parts of the Midwest, you probably grew up hearing that word.  If you didn't, well then go ahead and add it to your vocab.  For me it's a sentimental way to refer to dinnertime.  It evokes the memory of sitting down to a meal with my parents and all four of my siblings - each of us at "our" place at the dinner table.  We were fortunate enough to have these family suppers take place nearly every night of our adolescence - yes, we were lucky little ducks.

Back to the food!  I love this particular meal because it's quick, easy, healthy and filling - oh, and it's mighty tasty as well. If you're not a shrimp fan, use chicken or tofu in its place.  I also added red pepper flakes as I sauteed the shrimp which gives the dish quite a kick.  Omit them if you're not a spicy food fan, but it is a good way to up your tolerance...

Photos & recipe below - enjoy!

Healthy Mediterranean Shrimp & Quinoa Bowl with Cucumber Dill Sauce
(Makes 2 servings)


- 3/4 cup dry quinoa (plus 1 1/2 cup water to boil)
- About 30 baby shrimp, thawed & tails removed (plus 1 tblsp water to steam shrimp)
- 1 tblsp olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 1/2 med-large cucumber, diced (skin on is fine; can peel if prefer skin off)
- 1/2 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp fresh (or dried) dill


Soak quinoa for about 5 mins in room temp water, drain and cook according to package directions (detailed info on cooking quinoa can be found here).  

While quinoa cooks, dice red bell pepper.  Heat 1 tblsp water in a skillet on the stove over medium heat.  Add thawed shrimp and let steam for about 2 minutes, stirring often.  Add 1 tblsp olive oil to skillet and add diced bell pepper to skillet with shrimp.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes (stirring often).  Add the red pepper flakes and cook for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Check quinoa and set aside once cooked.

Dice cucumber and transfer to a medium bowl.  Add the yogurt, lemon juice and dill and stir to combine.  Adjust lemon juice dill according to taste.

In a serving bowl add the quinoa, layer with the shrimp/peppers mixture & top with a hearty dollop of cucumber sauce - serve immediately!

March 7, 2013

Ahoy, Savoy! Your Next Seafood Escape...

From the moment the tagline "Absinthe & Oysters" first tickled my ears, I was enticed.  I knew it wouldn't be long before I dined at The Savoy - and what better occasion than my 29th birthday?!  A cozy little seafood spot tucked neatly away on Milwaukee Ave in Wicker Park, The Savoy offers a number of sultry seafood dishes, craft cocktails & various absinthe-laced concoctions for you to enjoy in an eclectic, voyage-at-sea-like setting.  From the thick, vertically hanging twine ropes dividing dining sections, the exposed brick, Edison bulbs, white washed walls and nautical touches of the interior, to the delicious & eye-catching preparations of seafood and the sweet & smoky libations, we were more than smitten with our experience at The Savoy.

The Savoy

We had a larger party (eight total) and we were almost 15 minutes late for our 7:00 pm reservation - "Not a problem, we're happy to hold the table" replied the hostess to my sister after she called to let them know we'd be arriving closer to 7:15.  As we walked into the door we were immediately seated at a perfectly-sized rustic high top table in the middle section of the restaurant with views of the bar & both ends of the operation.

The Savoy | Interior

Our {cute} server made helpful suggestions to my father (not a big drinker, ever) for beers similar to Bud Light since they didn't carry the brand, as the rest of us surveyed the extensive drink menu.  We each ended up with something different - I with the Sweet (sweet) Jane - a saucy and slightly smoky mix of La Penca Mezcal, Maurin Quina, Jasmine, Absinthe Rinse & lemon.  Jane proved herself to be such a satisfying compliment to the seafood that I ordered her a second time. Simply delicious.

Sweet (sweet) Jane

I was initially a bit worried about the menu offerings - now don't get me wrong, everything looked amazing to me & to the majority of people I was with - but there were a few inexperienced, heavily traditional diners with us that night.  As we searched for some generally familiar items my dad took note of the seared scallops and lobster mac and cheese. Unbeknownst to me he was also an oyster guy, so we ordered a half dozen of each featured oyster that evening - one described as creamy, the other as salty - both tasty.  The scallops only came with 4 per dish so we ordered two, then two more after we all saw the look on my father's face - sheer flavor happiness.  The lobster mac was also a huge hit with the table.

Our entrées fell into both traditional and somewhat adventurous categories - there was the applewood smoked Amish chicken, cooked perfectly & so juicy, served with a crispy polenta cake and shaved brussel sprouts with lemon vinaigrette - and then there was the special of the evening, a form of sea bass prepared like nothing I had ever seen before.  "Is that thing still breathing?" my sister gasped only half joking.  The way the sea bass was presented looked as if it belonged mounted on a wall in someone's cedar den - but I knew immediately it belonged in my belly.  The flaky, perfectly seasoned fish blended harmoniously with the Romesco sauce for total melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

Amish chicken | Brussel sprouts | Crispy polenta

Sea Bass | Green beans | Olives | Romesco

The night was capped off with a slice of pie & my family singing me happy birthday.  It was extra sweet to hear that this particular treat was the peanut butter pie recipe of the head chef's grandmother.  You go grandma - that was one heck of a pie!  An excellent way to end dinner and the perfect amount of sweet before we headed to Bar Deville to toss back some more hardcore cocktails & dance ourselves silly.

Make a wish | Chef's grandmother's peanut butter pie

March 1, 2013

Feelin' the Love

It's not even my birthday yet, but I'm already feelin' the love.  I turn 29 tomorrow...a little hard to how time flies.  I'm a firm believer, however, that age is just a number and that every year we are given is another year to celebrate.  Each new year brings with it endless opportunities to meet new people, have new experiences, start new projects, go on new adventures & find new inspiration.  

Lately I've felt more inspired than I have in a very long time.  Not since my days in school - when I felt like anything was possible in my future - have I felt this optimistic.  My creativity has been reawakened & the juices are flowing.  I'm remembering why I chose to study art & design in undergrad and why I love to write.  I remember that I've absolutely loved to cook & bake since I was a little girl, and then I remember why I went for that Entrepreneurship Certificate in addition to my BFA.  I remember why I love making things for people & seeing the joy it brings them, followed by the feeling of contentment that rushes over me when I see the smiles on their faces.  

The inspiration that's flooded my life lately can largely be attributed to the many amazing, creative & damn good people I've met, spent time with or discovered over this past year. Some have been a part of my life since before I was born and others have joined me along the way.  Some only recently came into my life & there are those I admire from afar.  I am lucky to know some amazing souls & I will keep seeking out others. 

The other face of this inspiration is the feeling of finally getting to know myself.  Never before in my life have I ever felt more like the person I am supposed to be, and the feeling just keeps getting stronger.  It's the people & experiences I've allowed myself to be exposed to that have made me feel like me.  I don't know what the future holds but I feel it in my bones that I'm finally starting to head in the direction I was meant for. 

I'm telling you this but I'm also going to keep telling myself everyday: work hard, find yourself, find other people who inspire you, spend time with genuine souls, stop caring so much about conventionality, take risks and do a lot of things so you can find which ones make you the happiest, then work harder to make them part of your everyday life.  

Birthdays may not always bring you your favorite numbers, but they can make you feel loved and can even fill you with hope if you let them. 

29 - Let's do this.  I'm going to rock the shit out of you.

photo cred: