Roasted Eggplant with Spinach, Quinoa, and Feta

I’ve been cooking for myself for 4 months now!!!!!!!!!!! I’m sorry, but that deserves an abundance of exclamation points. On the surface, one may think to oneself upon reading this blog, “hey, she writes about restaurants and recipes and bakes like nobody’s business, cooking must come so easily to her!” Ha. My first conquest of the semester was the perfect egg white scramble. That was the jumping off point for experimentation with other essential college concoctions like quesadillas, stir-fry, roasted vegetables, and even broiled fish!

My first meal cooked at school...egg whites scrambled with hot sauce. I can safely say I've made some progress since then.

My first meal cooked at school…egg whites scrambled with hot sauce. I can safely say I’ve made some progress since then.

Now that I have almost a complete semester of kitchen trials and tribulations under my belt, I feel like I embody a “college girl in a foodie world” even more than when I first began this blog after my sophomore year. My tips to fellow college girls (or boys) in this foodie world are as such:

1. In keeping with the theme of this post, big batches are key. When a recipe says “serves 4,” don’t cut all the ingredients so that you’re only cooking one serving. You’ll be so glad when you open your fridge after a long day of class and have dinner ready to go for the rest of the week!

2. Be strategic with your grocery shopping. Only buy so much produce as you know you will realistically use in a week. Spend money on products where it matters rather than on pantry items like chips, crackers, and snacks. Let yourself splurge on a little treat or two so that you’re not tempted to buy a snack every time you go to a new coffee shop on campus.

I bought this sweet potato to cook on a night where I expected I had a lot of time to wait for it to bake!

I bought this sweet potato to cook on a night where I expected I had a lot of time to wait for it to bake!

3. Freeze your protein! I’m never ready to cook a chicken breast the day I buy it. I buy a package of a few chicken breasts or a few tilapia filets, separate the individual pieces into Ziploc bags, and freeze until I’m ready to use.

Parmesan crusted tilapia was a great, simple way to utilize fish I had in the freezer!

Parmesan crusted tilapia was a great, simple way to utilize fish I had in the freezer!

4. Establish foundations, than build on to those basics. Like I said, some of the first things I taught myself to cook were egg scrambles and stir-fry chicken and vegetables. Now that I’ve gained enough practice with the methods involved in those recipes, I add in different veggies, sauces, and combinations.

5. Roast what’s about to go bad! Take that broccoli and cauliflower out of the depths of your refrigerator drawer, toss it in some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake on a baking sheet for about the length of half an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

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Stir fry can be so versatile!

 

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Soba noodles are an interesting substitution for rice in a stir fry!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now onto a recipe involving A surprisingly inexpensive, surprisingly easy, and super versatile superfood I’ve found myself cooking almost weekly: quinoa. Made in big batches, I’ve thrown in everything from goat cheese to walnuts, chicken to onions and mushrooms. One big, fairly quickly cooking pot will last me 3 dinners over the course of the week!

On my “easy” Pinterest board (much of which I add to during my extremely dry Comm 122 Lecture), I had been eyeing a quinoa recipe with winter-y, hearty roasted eggplant, salty feta, and sauteed spinach. I had never roasted eggplant before, but I figured my practice with roasting broccoli and and cauliflower could prepare me properly.

This quinoa was as easy as tossing cubed eggplant with olive oil, salt and pepper, roasting it for 20-25 mins, and preparing some sauteed spinach with garlic as the eggplant roasted. Once the roasting was complete, all the recipe elements, including the cooked quinoa, were combined in one big pan. I make big batches of quinoa all the time, yet I pleasantly surprise myself every time I take in my work and consider how long I’m about to have leftovers for.

I scooped mounds of the quinoa mixture into a deep bowl and dug in. Garlicky, filling, multi-textured perfection. And the most exciting news? I can stay longer at the library tomorrow night cause I don’t have to rush home to prepare dinner afterwards! Click HERE for this yummy recipe!

Enough quinoa to feed a family of four...or me, for four days! :)

Enough quinoa to feed a family of four…or me, for four days! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A College Foodie’s Summer Bucket List

As a college foodie, one of my favorite parts of coming home to Chicago for the summer is the wide variety of culinary opportunities available to those with a serious appetite. I WILL accomplish everything on my culinary bucket list for Summer 2014, including:

1. A Ravinia picnic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ambiance and live music don’t hurt, but a Ravinia staple, and the aspect that requires the most preparation, is the picnic spread festival-goers tote to the concert. There’s not much better than  a perfect summer night filled with snacks ranging from a variety of Foodstuffs cheeses to a Tomato, Nectarine, and Mozzarella Salad , or from fresh Sea Ranch sushi to a box of homemade Seven Layer Bar Cookies. The Ravinia Festival is held at 418 Sheridan Rd, Highland Park, IL 60035.

2. One last stop at Hot Doug’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Doug’s, a shop that has served up a gourmet twists on a Chicago classic for over half of my lifetime, closes its doors this October. The last time I visited, I was #blessed enough to indulge in the “Dave Kingman,” now renamed the “George Mitterwald,” a zesty Santa-Fe style chicken sausage unlike any chicken sausage you’ve tried before. Because my palate has matured a bit since I was 14, and since I know the next time I visit will (sadly)  be the last time, I hope to take on their famous Foie Gras Hot Dog (shown above) and Duck Fat Fries. Hot Doug’s is located at 3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618.

3. Hold an Eataly Chicago v. Eataly NYC Face-Off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m hoping that the offerings from my hometown Eataly can light a candle next to the creamy, rich polenta experience I was lucky to enough to have at Eataly NYC last summer. Having already tried the vegetarian mini-concept, Le Verdure,  I’m looking to indulge in the fresh fish at Il Pesce and finish things off with a Nutella crepe at the Nutella bar upon my next visit. Eataly Chicago: 43 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611.

4. Leghorn Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m accustomed to my family’s annual Popeye’s Fried Chicken Banquet, Leghorn Chicken in Ukranian Village may win as the coolest fried chicken spot in existence. Way more than just deep-fryers and grease, Leghorn utilizes a type of chicken long considered useless, and transforms it into a crispy, juicy pickle brined or spicy treat. Best of all, they live up to their motto, “Make Pickles, Not War,” by remaining a socially and politically conscious space. Leghorn Chicken: 959 N Western Ave, Chicago IL.

5. Food Truck Face Off at Techweek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a full day of tech, the Food Truck Face Off held just outside of the Merchandise Mart serves as a sunny and delicious respite from computer-talk. For under $5 per item, you can browse offerings from local trucks and learn about how technology inspires their food. If the pasties, hearty puff pastries with a variety of inventive fillings, and sausage trucks that showed up last year make a return appearance, you’re in luck. For more info, check out http://bit.ly/1jkIcXz.

6. Ramen-San

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus far, I haven’t met a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant concept I haven’t liked. I am loyal to Joe’s for great steak, RPM Italian for a trendy scene and rich homemade pastas, and Hub 51 as a standby for entertaining friends from out of town. So obviously, now that the people behind Lettuce restaurants have opened a cozy, cool spot for Ramen, I’m excited about the prospect of adding it to my list of Lettuce favorites. I can’t wait to try the Smoked Salmon Nigiri with Wasabi Caviar and the Shoyu Ramen with chicken broth, molten egg, and mushrooms, yum. Ramen-San is located at 59 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654.

7. Can Boltwood seamlessly replace Evanston neighborhood favorite Lulu’s?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I first saw the above picture, I was shocked.  The warm colors and cluttered layout I had grown to love from Lulu’s, a pan-Asian restaurant staple my family had visited since I was a little girl, has been transformed into a modern, rich wood-lined restaurant serving farm-to-table food. Looking back on my eating experiences at Lulu’s, I don’t think I enjoyed the food as much as the familiarity. I’m going to keep an open mind upon my first visit to Boltwood, Lulu’s replacement from the chef of The Publican. Boltwood, 804 Davis St., Evanston, IL.

8.  Long Grove Strawberry Fest-June 20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lengthy drive to Long Grove becomes worth it once you sink your teeth into a sweet, refreshing strawberry ice cream bar on a stick dipped in dark chocolate or a savory strawberry ceviche. Some of the strawberry offerings sound wacky at first, but everything you taste is surprisingly enjoyable as you stroll around the charming town. For info: http://www.visitlonggrove.com/event/long-grove-strawberry-festival-2014/.

9. Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches and a Movie at the Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chicago Park District shows free movies, from A League of Their Own to Anna Karenina, at parks throughout the city over the course of the summer. What better accompaniment to a beautiful summer night and one of your favorite movies than the newly introduced (and much hyped) waffle ice cream sandwich? South Loop brunch spot Waffles serves up sandwiches ranging from Bananas Foster to a sweet potato waffle with chocolate, cinnamon-swirled ice cream, and chocolate sauce that you can pick up and munch on while movie-viewing. I’d say that beats the standby popcorn or Buncha Crunch!

 

 

 

 

Celebrations

Since coming home from college for the summer, I’ve had a lot to celebrate. For one, being home is in and of itself a celebration; but getting to take a break from doing my own laundry (thanks mom!), enjoying my mom’s healthy cooked dinners, and getting to take my dog on runs outside have been great perks as well.

The celebrations began with the annual Schuman Family Popeye’s banquet. Because my Grandpa is from Memphis, he likes to get all of the cousins together once a year to stuff our faces at Popeyes. Although he admitted this year that he ate more BBQ than fried chicken back in the day, and even though we were missing one of the cousins, Jaime, who was still at school, the night was still crazy and fun. Our table was filled with two massive boxes of fried chicken (one spicy for Grandpa, of course, and one mild), piles of sauces ranging from honey to hot sauce, onion rings, fries, rice and beans, and my favorite, biscuits. I filled my boat-Popeye’s uses “boats” instead of plates-classic-with the extra crispy spicy chicken wings, biscuits, and a few fries. The evening was filled with greasy fingers and Grandpa’s Navy stories. Even more reason to celebrate, 6/7 cousins were there-from Berlin to London, LA to Michigan, we all made it out for a night of fried food.

This week arrived with many things to celebrate. In my opinion, occasions like a big Shabbat dinner and my friend Lena’s birthday can only be rightly celebrated in one way-with Salted Caramel Brownies.

For a while, I’ve strayed from recipes that involve melting chocolate or other ingredients over a saucepan of boiling water. It seemed a little daunting. However, with the help of a “Real Simple” cookbook and mom’s homemade guacamole as fuel, I put on my big girl pants and used this scary method to melt some chocolate and butter for the Salted Caramel Brownies. These brownies are an Ina Garten recipe, and in Ina I trust. I began to heat the water in my pan, set the bowl of finely chopped chocolate and butter on top, and stirred, praying to Ina that it would work. It did! I have a reason to celebrate-a whole new class of recipes is made available to me now that I’ve adapted to this tool. This method of melting gave my brownies a great, melt in your mouth consistency and a richness that could have never been achieved in the microwave. The salty-sweet combo was a hit amongst family and friends. Thanks, Ina, for instilling melting faith in me!

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The little celebrations cannot be overlooked. In honor of Mother’s Day- I made a simple little cookie recipe for my mom-the ultimate popcorn lover. Buttered popcorn cookies, a simple recipe with unique results. By simply popping popcorn, mixing it with a classic cookie dough, and baking it for just a little bit, you end up with a chewy, crunchy, salty sweet texture that isn’t found in most desserts. I knew I made my mom’s day when I saw the little warm cookie I left out for her to taste post-baking disappear within minutes. Like I said, the little things count.

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Buttered Popcorn Cookies

There’s so much to celebrate this summer, especially when those celebrations involve sweets and sharing foodie memories with family and friends. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the summer!

LA LA Land

I am seriously in my happy place. On Friday, me, Cara and Emily (both East-coasters) finally escaped Ann Arbor’s cold, snowy wrath for a turbulent flight to Los Angeles. All I have to say, and I think Cara would agree with me on this one, is thank god for Delta’s seat-back TVs with movies like Sex and the City and Dreamgirls that we have seen close to 15 times each to distract us from the nausea resulting from the roller-coaster like flight.

The trip thus far has felt like it has been catered to please a foodie like me; somewhat unintentionally, our days have revolved around the ridiculously delicious meals we’ve enjoyed. Because of the time change, by the time we landed, it was dinnertime in California but 11:30 at night in Michigan and we were STARVING. Lucky for us, Amina and Roni were our knight in shining armors to whisk us away to the magical land of Umami Burger. This cool spot offered Asian spins on American burger and fry classics. We started with tempura fried onion rings, sweet potato fries coated in sugary goodness, and BOMB truffle fries. My burger, topped with homemade ketchup and a parmesan tuille, was obvi great, but those truffle fries, coated in a rich truffle glaze, topped any measly-truffle dusted fries of my past. Try not to drool on your computer keys as you stare at the photo below:

The next day, after a beautiful morning run along the beach and a little shopping, we headed to Venice for brunch at Gjelina, a trendy brunch spot on Abbot Kinney. The wait was a little long, so inevitably we had to grab a few short rib tacos from Koji, a Korean-Mexican fusion food truck that Roni and Amina insisted we were #blessed to stumble upon.

Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any celebs Gjelina (last time Amina was there, so was Dennis Quaid!), but the food absolutely made up for it. It was so fun to be out with a group of girls that seriously appreciate food. We started with a Gruyere, Fromage Blanc, Caramellized Onion, and Arugula Pizza that we obviously had to top with a Sunny-Side up egg. The egg was perfectly cooked and runny, and the salty cheeses complemented the sweet onions. We were all obsessed after one bite. For my main, I followed my new love of duck and ordered the duck confit potato hash with a sunny duck egg. Imagine a corned beef hash with crispy potatoes and replace that average beef flavor with the elevated flavor of duck fat, and you get a dish unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before.

DUCK CONFIT HASH that egg tho....

I’ll leave you with that image of pure beauty…more (FOOD) to come soon!! Deuces from LA!!

The Holy Land of FOOD

Let’s look back at one of the best times of my life, why don’t we? For 9 straight days I was able to indulge in freshly ground, quality olive-oil soaked authentic hummus. During my time in Israel this past Christmas, I managed to eat hummus with almost every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Much of it was stuffed into straight out-of-the oven pita bread and accompanied tender shawarma or crispy, wonderful falafel. Some of it was eaten alongside hard-boiled eggs, eggplant and chocolate pudding for breakfast (yes, Israelis LOVE chocolate pudding for breakfast. I’m now a believer). But the best hummus of all could be found in a tiny stand in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. 

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I mean…….

This place didn’t have a door. Seriously. If you were too busy strolling the market searching for the perfect candlesticks or falafel maker, you probably would miss it. But luckily, our guide Hagai knew about this special spot. No menus, no prices, no kitchen. Just the hummus king doing his thing in a small booth right outside of the restaurant. I would post a photo of him, but he was a little camera shy (AKA he nearly looked like he would smash my camera in half if I even considered taking a photo). When this plate of heavenly goodness arrived in front of me, I was soothed by the briny smell of the olive-y oil and the warmth of the fresh pita. I’m sorry, but this pita blew Pita Inn out of the water. Considering our meal consisted solely of this heaping plate of hummus, we needed this bread to soak up all of the goodness.

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I want to reach through my computer screen and rip off a piece of this…

If I were to write about every amazing food experience my family and I encountered in Israel, it would probably be a novel. And unless you’re as food obsessed as me, you probably would not want to read all of that. In the meantime, here’s some photos from our time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Galilee to drool over. If you want some more details about the sticky, sweet rugelach, caramelly beef carpaccio, or the fresh (and I mean fresh) goat cheese you see here, I’m your girl.

Until next time, Shalom! 

-The College Girl in an (International!) Foodie World

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Beef carpaccio with caramel sauce, parmesan, and crispy sweet potatoes from mahaneyehuda….SO much better than it sounds

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SHAWARMA from Moshiko. We may or may not have eaten it 3 times over a 9 day period…

 

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Candy on candy on candy at the Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem

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The best “Grilled Cheese” from a Yemenite food stand in Safed

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Back-road goat cheese tasting

 

frosting shots!

Yesterday afternoon, at around 7:03 PM, I made a discovery that would change my life forever.

Frosting shots.

Yes, you read what I said.

For years my friend Lauren has talked about frosting shots she’s enjoyed at cupcake shops all over the country. Now was her chance to introduce me to the delicacy she had been preaching about for so long.

After a long day of shopping and Ghirardelli chocolate sampling, Lauren and I “stumbled” upon a Sprinkles cupcake shop. (In actuality, I knew there was a Sprinkles in the Rush street area we were shopping in and was hoping to end our night with a yummy treat).

Looking in the shop window, we only saw rows and rows of beautifully frosted cupcakes of flavors such as salty caramel and chocolate peanut butter. But after a minute, Lauren spotted a woman scooping up creamy bites of frosting from a little cup normally used for ice cream or yogurt flavor sampling. Jackpot. She walked over to confirm that the treat was, indeed, a frosting shot, and next thing I knew we were waiting in line to order.

I was expecting a few choices of flavors for my frosting shot: a chocolate or vanilla buttercream, maybe a cream cheese frosting thrown in. Oh no. No no no. At Sprinkles, the frosting shots flavors range from salty caramel cream cheese to strawberry buttercream. Still, Lauren went with a classic chocolate buttercream covered in sprinkles while I chose my favorite, cream cheese.

Less then 30 seconds later, I had a surprisingly heavy, dense little cup filled past the brim with rich frosting. As I took my first bite with one of the adorable wooden Sprinkles spoons, a familiar rich, creamy sweetness settled on my tongue. It was delicious and the best part was, the frosting lasted 3 minutes longer than I expected. When I was done, I was left with that sugary tingling that is oh so satisfying.

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enjoying our frosting shots in front of the cupcake atm!

Next time I head to a cupcake shop, I will make sure to get a frosting shot, and maybe an actual cupcake too!

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At only 77 cents, these frosting shots are a piece of cake to enjoy for any college foodie with a sweet tooth! 😉

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happy girls with frosting shots in hand