Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nutella Banana French Toast

In the midst of finals season and crazy holiday shopping, there are two things that undeniably offer salvation.


And Bananas.

During an especially stressful weekend, I decided to mix the two together. I've done this before (example: Nutella Banana crepes, Nutella Banana muffins), but this recipe was a play off of a Jamie Oliver original. In his cookbook Jamie's Dinners, which I highly recommend, by the way, he offers up a suggestion for an easy morning meal - turning basic French toast into a sandwich.

I took his suggestion and jumped it up another level.

This sandwich is delicious, comforting, and phenomenally easy. And it starts with these few ingredients:

2 slices good bread
1/2 banana
1 large egg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
pad of butter
as much Nutella as your heart desires

Start by making your egg wash. Blend the egg, sugar, and water together in a shallow bowl (make sure it's big enough to fit your whole sandwich in). Set aside.

Then, place a pad of butter into a pan and heat to medium.

Next, mash up the 1/2 banana and spread it onto one piece of bread. Cover with the other slice and press down to form a solid sandwich.

This part is tricky - pick up your whole sandwich and dunk it into the egg wash, covering it from all sides. Then place your sandwich onto the sizzling skillet and cook until golden brown. Flip the sandwich once, and cook it on the other side until golden brown.

Finally, take whatever sized spoonful of Nutella you deem necessary to get you through the day, and scoop it into a bowl. Heat the Nutella in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, until softened. Drizzle your Nutella over your sandwich until it's covered with the perfect amount of chocolatey goodness.

Admire your creation momentarily before digging in.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


A few weeks ago, I went out with my family to celebrate my birthday at a restaurant downtown called Vinology.

I'd heard about this place for years from various friends who all said it was amazing, but I'd never really worked up the strength to pull myself over to Main Street and try it.

When my birthday rolled around, I decided it was finally time to see what it's all about.

I need a fellow food adventurer with me, so I brought Matt along.

The restaurant was surprisingly a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Only twenty or so tables inside, with an enormous bar and some quaint decorations. It was clear from the beginning that this place is focused on creating a small and intimate dining experience.

Of course, a round of appetizers was necessary to start. We went with a white cheddar cheese plate with crackers and an arugula and strawberry salad.

Perfectly smooth cheese, crispy crackers, and a touch of sweetness from the berries. I tried my best to pile everything together, as you can see, to appreciate the blend of flavors.

When it came time to order entrees, I went with something new and adventurous. The bison steak.

Several slices of rare bison steak on a bed of spicy greens with a side of sweet barbecue sauce. Complimented by a few sticks of fried okra and a blackberry blue cheese tart. 

The flavor mix was phenomenal. The bison tasted fairly similar to steak, and the heat from the sauce underneath the meat was instantly complimented by the sweetness of the barbecue sauce. Never having tried okra before, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the taste. And I don't even like blue cheese, but the tart was creamy, tangy, and delicious.

My dad and Matt got the same dish - salmon on a bed of veggies with fried goat cheese balls.

To be honest, the goat cheese alone would have been enough to draw me into this dish.

My mother went for a classic dish revamped - seared ahi tuna with a bed of stewed cherry tomatoes and veggies.

I may be a bit biased, but I think my choice was definitely the best.

Despite going through that huge plate of food, trying dessert was an absolute necessity (particularly considering the occasion). I glanced at the dessert menu, but my mind was made up as soon as I saw the Nutella bread pudding.

Easily one of the best desserts I've ever tasted. Fluffy, yet creamy, chocolatey yet not too rich, swimming in a pool of caramel sauce and sprinkled with peanuts. If dinner at Vinology seems a bit too adventurous for you, I'd recommend coming in for coffee and a slice of this bad boy.

All-in-all, a great dinner and a great birthday. And the next day I made sure to wear my favorite present....

A new pair of Hunter boots to tackle the rain and snow!
Nevermind that it wasn't raining the day that I wore these....

Follow Me on Pinterest

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pumpkin Butterscotch Scones

Since the leaves are starting to turn and the wind is getting chillier, it's time to unveil the perfect fall recipe.

These delightful beauties are from a joyofbaking.com recipe that I altered to fit the ingredients I had in my kitchen. Needless to say, waking up on a Sunday morning and whipping up a batch of these will sooth your soul with cinnamon and pumpkin (and make your house/apartment smell phenomenal).

To make a batch of 8, you will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light or dark brownsugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup butterscotch baking chips
1/3 - 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (no spices added)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 largeegg
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Start by combining all of your dry ingredients into a large bowl and mixing them together. Add your butter pieces.

Next, work the butter into the dry ingredients by mashing the two together with a fork. The effect will look something like this:

Continue doing this until all of your butter has been mixed in and the powdered mixture looks like crumbled pie crust.

Next, stir in your chips.

In a separate bowl, combine your pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla. 

When it turns into a smooth orange puree, you're ready to add it to your main bowl.

Stir the pumpkin mixture into your other ingredients until the dough just comes together. Transfer to a floured surface and knead it 4-5 times. Carefully pat your dough down into a circle. Next, turn your hand into a sword and slice your dough circle in half. Then, slice each of the halves in half. Finally, slice each of the quarters in half. This should give you 8 relatively uniform triangles.

Lay these out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. In a separate bowl, mix your egg and milk together. Using a pastry brush (or your fingers), cover the tops of your scones with the egg wash.

Heat for 20 minutes and make yourself a nice big mug of coffee. When your timer dings, take these beautiful golden treats out of the oven.

The proper thing to do would be to let them cool for 10-15 minutes before digging in. But let's be real - they look WAY too good to wait.

Pair with your hot mug of coffee, a thick sweater, and falling leaves.

Happy autumn!

Follow Me on Pinterest

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spicy Southwest Quinoa Salad

If you're one of those people who eats a salad for lunch and gets hungry 3 hours later (or 2 hours later if you have my appetite), this recipe is for you.

Not only is it extremely delicious and quick to put together, it's packed with protein from the chicken and quinoa, making this salad a meal that will truly last you through the day.

I was inspired to make this salad after my summer in Chicago. I regularly visited a restaurant called The Protein Bar, which was famous for stocking its entire menu with protein-heavy and quinoa-filled burritos, bowls, and salads. After having their burrito (or Bar-Rito as they call it) several times, I opted for a southwest salad one day, but requested to have buffalo dressing instead of the much spicier Cholula hot sauce doused on top. What emerged was a delicious combination of flavors that come together quickly to make an easy and filling meal. 

After re-creating it myself several times, I feel it's finally ready to be shared with the public.

To make this salad, you will need:

1 chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces
olive oil
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 container Trader Joe's Super 8 Veggie Mix (or bagged salad)
1/2 avocado, cut into chunks
Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce 

Start by making your quinoa. Follow the directions according to the package (I generally boil 1/2 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water until the kernels crack)

Next, heat a glug of olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add your chicken and toss on some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until chicken is browned.

Next comes the layering. You'll start with your veggie mix as the base. I went with Trader Joe's version because it gives you a nice variety of pre-chopped nutritious veggies for only $2.99. (Side note: I've found this veggie mix to be extremely versatile in other dishes as well - I'll add a cup or two into salads, a stir-fry, a noodle dish, etc. I highly recommend it for new veggie recipe experiments.)

Then add on your sprouts - I went with organic pea shoots for this part, but you can choose whatever is most convenient for you.

Next, add your quinoa.

Then your chicken.

Then your avocado.

Now here comes the fun part. Grab your bottle of buffalo sauce and toss on as much or as little as you'd like, depending on your spice preferences. Give the bowl a stir, sample your creation, and add more if you need to. Enjoy your hearty salad with a glass of cold water.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Elephant & Castle

Hi guys.

Alright, I've been a pretty awful blogger this month. I think this is the longest I've ever gone without making a post. But rest assured - this certainly doesn't mean I've given up stuffing my face with delicious things and cooking up a storm in my kitchen. It just means that sometimes your responsibilities overshadow your hobbies (unfortunately).

The good news is, I'm now back at school and ready for another year of kitchen experiments and favorite restaurants. But before I do, I have a few Chicago posts on my hard drive that I'd like to get out here.

One of them is this post about a fantastic gem of a restaurant I found near my place in the city called Elephant & Castle. It's a British/Indian fusion restaurant with everything from traditional fish and chips to butter chicken and naan. It's also a great little place to grab some beers with your friends after work.

My guest started off with some Ale & Onion soup.

For a long time, French onion soup has been one of my favorite foods. If the broth is well-made and the cheese is melty, we're in good shape. This soup (which I've had on several occasions) has a touch of beer in the broth for added flavor, and the bread on top is chopped into little cubes so that you don't have to struggle to cut it into manageable pieces. 

Next came the appetizer of 'mini yorkies.' This is a delightful little bowl of mini yorkshire puddings filled with roast beef and gravy.

I'm not gonna lie - I ate about half of this and dipped some of my fries in the gravy. It was just SO GOOD. If you visit an Elephant & Castle, you HAVE to try this dish.

I went with the classic fish and chips...

One huge piece of haddock, a pile of fries, delicious tartar sauce, fresh lemon, and malt vinegar. An oldie and a goodie - definitely a dish that won't let you down.

Of course, the next time I'm in town I might have to try this little beauty I found on the menu after we ordered....

^This just brings hot dogs to a whole new level. For real.

I highly recommend visiting an Elephant & Castle if you live near one. You can find your city here.

All in all, a delicious dinner, followed by....

The funniest and best musical I've ever seen. This is another thing that I cannot recommend enough. If the show comes to your town GO SEE IT.

Your abs will hurt from laughing, but you won't regret it.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Grand Lux Cafe

If you've been to or live in the US, you've probably heard of The Cheesecake Factory.
Well, as grand and magnificent as The Cheesecake Factory is, I'm a much bigger fan of the franchise's little brother - Grand Lux Cafe.
My friends Courtoon and Sirene (of cosplay fame) first suggested this place to me when I asked them what their favorite restaurant in Chicago is. I had to trust their good taste and made sure to pop in for a visit.

My first impression of Grand Lux Cafe is that this place is BIG. Huge ceilings, huge tables, huge EVERYTHING. It's very impressive and beautifully decorated.
We sat by the waiting area, carefully seated right next to the kitchen, and watched waiters whizzing by with sizzling plates being weighed down by pounds upon pounds of delicious goodies. Needless to say, by the time I sat down, I'd worked up quite an appetite.

Fortunately, minutes after we sat down, an order of Double Stuffed Potato Spring Rolls was plopped down in front of my face.

Let me deconstruct these beauties for you:
A crunchy spring roll wrapping
Filled with creamy and delicious mashed potatoes and green onions
Topped with melted cheddar cheese
Topped with bacon.

.....Are you drooling yet?

Let me just say, this whole plate would have satisfied me for lunch (in true Grand Lux/Cheesecake fashion, all portions are ridiculously large). But of course, there was still a main course coming.....

Including this mammoth of a turkey, apple, and brie sandwich on ciabatta with a side salad.

Trying to be relatively healthy, I got this asian chicken salad, which ended up being about the size of a basketball.

A delicious mix of greens, carrots, lettuce, chicken, crispy rice noodles, all smothered in a tangy Asian dressing. I've had cravings for this salad ever since the day I got it.
If you're in Texas, Florida, New York, or Nevada, I highly recommend checking out Grand Lux Cafe.
Because Cheesecake Factory is so overrated. ;)

Follow Me on Pinterest