Little Goat

Thus far, “Piece of Cake” has been dedicated solely to sharing recipes that appeal to college foodies, or any foodies for that matter, seeking affordable, convenient, simple, and delicious eats. It’s time to switch things up a bit. Sometimes college foodies crave a night out. To satisfy that craving, I will be posting reviews of restaurants that are unique and not over-the-top expensive. College foodies everywhere, rejoice!

First stop? Little Goat. This was no hidden treasure or dive. Chicago food magazines have been singing Little Goat’s praises for months. But my friends and I had to wait out an agonizing (ok, a bit of an exaggeration, although we were dying to get there) few months to eat at Little Goat until we were home from school for the summer. I was especially excited, being a huge Top Chef fan and more specifically a huge Stephanie Izard fan. Izard won Top Chef and went on to create The Girl and the Goat and it’s more affordable companion, Little Goat.

My friends and I caravanned down to the city on a mild, gorgeous Thursday night in late July. Parking wasn’t a problem seeing as valet wasn’t ridiculously pricey (especially split amongst the 6 of us). When we walked up to the hostess, she informed us that the current wait time was about an hour (it was around 8:00 PM) and that she would text us when our table was ready. Randolph street provided a fun little area to walk around while we waited. In addition to The Girl and the Goat, other trendy restaurants like g.e.b. and and Nellcote were fun eye candy.

When my phone buzzed about 40 mins. later with a text letting us know our table would be ready in a few minutes, we were ecstatic. We power walked back to the restaurant and back up to the hostess stand, but she informed us that it would be another few minutes. Ok, no big deal, we thought collectively. But after another 15 minutes of a rotating staff of hostesses telling us it would be just another few minutes for the table, we were visibly frustrated. We were finally seated at a comfortable booth next to a window about 20 minutes after we received the text that our table was ready.

With grumbling bellies echoing, my friends and I decided onion rings and fried pickles were needed, ASAP. Our fried plethora arrived hot and plentiful, and no one hesitated to dig in. The onion rings, while nothing special taste-wise, had a perfect crispy texture and were hot, hot, hot, just the way I like them. The fried pickles were above standard pickles because the pickle flavor really shown through even through a thick layer of breading.

We put in our orders with our very perky waitress (when we told her she resembled Emma Stone she got so excited that she looked like she could run right outside the restaurant and run a miles long victory lap) and began to wait it out for our food. The people watching and celeb spotting (my dancer friend pointed out a “very well known” Joeffrey Ballet Dancer) only lasted so long, and soon frustration kicked in. It had been about a half hour with no food or waitress in sight. A very friendly manager came over to apologize and let us know that the kitchen had a pancake-batter malfunction and that they were sending out some hot food to hold us over, all “on them.” With those magic words the grumbling in our bellies seemed to subdue. Free food is never a bad thing for a college foodie.

Soon, bowls of rich, creamy, macaroni and cheese and biscuits topped with more creamy cheese and broccoli filled the table. While it was a very nice thought by the kitchen, these foods meant to hold us over until our food was ready were cheese and cheesier, and we were left craving a little variety.

Finally, our food arrived. My friend Lauren and I both ordered the Chickpea Salad, and were surprised with the volume of food we received. That salad definitely delivers bang for its buck. It was chock full of kale, chopped veggies, a creamy goat-like cheese, hearty falafel, and came with a tsaziki sauce and a light dressing on the side. We were both left with enough salad to make a delicious lunch the next day, which I know we both took advantage of.

My friends Lena and Ellie took advantage of the “breakfast served all day” wonderfulness and ordered the blueberry pancakes. These were no ordinary blueberry pancakes. The pancakes filled a plate with about an 8 inch radius and were stacked about 10 high. A fluffy, rich cream cheese butter with a taste similar to a cream cheese frosting but less frosting-y was perched on top of the pancake tower. And the most unexpectedly best part was the oatmeal crumble generously topping the stack. Why didn’t I think of crumbling oatmeal cookies on top of my blueberry pancakes at home?! Genius. All of us were eating off of Lena and Ellie’s plates.

Fran and Lauren G. (yes, I have two friends named Lauren) ordered less exciting fish tostada and egg dishes, respectively. My advice for ordering at Little Goat? The more outrageous and unique sounding entrees on the menu are often the most surprisingly delicious.

We were stuffed. And after being at the restaurant for over two hours, we were ready to go. But Emma Stone aka our waitress peppily announced that Danny was treating us to dessert. My dad had been in the area and had stopped by the restaurant earlier in the meal. He had somehow sneakily found a way to treat us to dessert.

Soon, we were feasting on sundaes, milkshakes, and mini pies. The cookie pie was a classic skillet cookie dish. The blueberry mini pie, however, was made unique by being topped with goat cheese gelato. YUM. The “Cheet-It” Sundae, which was described on the menu as “peanut butter chocolate. strawberry. yum” was exactly that. I have NO idea what was in it, but it was filled with crunchy and smooth textures and one of the most amazing strawberry ice creams I have ever eaten.

Taste wise, Little Goat lives up to the hype. The menu items are unique, the flavor combinations inventive, and the portions generous. However, for a college foodie short on time and money, the long wait time and pricey foods would make Little Goat more of a special occasion destination.

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peaches ‘n cream bars

Ravinia Festival nights are the best nights. Listening to live music in a gorgeous outdoor setting surrounded by friends and family and an endless picnic-style spread is my idea of heaven.

Last night, 5 of my closest friends and I braved a “cold” Chicago night (realistically, it was just under 60 degrees) to hear OneRepublic play live. The headlining band never goes on till late at Ravinia, which left lots of time for my friends and I to enjoy our smorgasbord of delicacies.

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We began with crudites, spinach and artichoke dips, guacamole and a variety of dippers. From there, we moved on to the main event: chicken satay with a homemade peanut sauce, sesame noodles from A La Carte, and a quinoa salad with cranberries, pecans, and kale.

Before we knew it, the lawn was filled with the unique sounds of one of my newly discovered, and new favorite bands, OneRepublic. We all agreed it was time to break out the Peaches ‘n Cream Bars.

After I baked the bars and tried one (or two, or three) a few days prior, I thought they could use a little more peach flavor, and my mom agreed. But my friends all adored the abundance of oaty, streusel-y flavor from the base and topping. So, it is completely up to you whether to add more peaches to the recipe or not.

Pecans were listed as optional in the recipe, but I decided to add them in to add some crunchy texture. Chopping up the pecans and peaches into small pieces absolutely enhanced the texture of the bar.

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The highlight of these bars were their topping. They tasted like you were biting into your favorite buttery pie crust! Make sure you chop up the butter as the recipe suggests because it enhances the quality and texture of the topping post-baking.

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These bars can be kept refrigerated for up to four days, which is what I did. But in my opinion, these are best enjoyed straight out of the oven when the topping is at its butteriest and the peach filling is at its freshest.

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These bars are great for a college girl in a foodie world. They can be made in advance, so you make them in your free time and enjoy in even your busiest weeks. Most of the ingredients were already in my house, so no grocery run was necessary. And they were a favorite amongst my girlfriends! Make them soon while we can still enjoy these sweet summer peaches!

nutella lava cookie cups

Anything that happens last minute usually makes me super anxious. But last Sunday morning, when I woke to a group text from my friend Lauren asking if all of us would like to join her on her boat docked on Wilmette’s beautiful Gillson Beach, with a beautiful view of the Bahai Temple, I wasn’t the least bit anxious. I was CRAZY excited. What a perfect opportunity to whip up a last minute, yummy treat that my friends would love!

We had a new, unopened jar of Nutella that somehow had not yet been consumed, so I started there. Plus it was SO sweet of Lauren to offer to have us on her boat, and Nutella is one of her all time favorite foods (literally the girl eats it by the jar) so I knew a recipe using this fabulous spread was necessary.

These Nutella lava cookie cups are convenient (besides the Nutella, most of the ingredients needed to make the cookie cup are probably already in your pantry), they are simple (all ya have to do is make cookie dough, press into the bottom of a muffin tin, top with nutella and more cookie dough, and bake), and they are oozy, melty goodness. What a piece of cake! 😉

the cookie dough base is like making your average chocolate chip cookie: mix dry ingredients, mix wet ingredients, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and combine.

Imagethen, my favorite part of any recipe, folding in the chocolate chips. i think my brother is telepathic and can tell when the cookie dough is complete from his man cave in the basement because as soon as the chips were all stirred in he was upstairs in the kitchen ready for a bite.

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check out dat yummy dough!

before i started making anything, i had sprayed my muffin pan with pam so that i wouldn’t have an ooey gooey mess when trying to scoop my cookie cups out of the pan. now it was time to press some of the cookie dough into that prepared pan.

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Now, for the fun part. spooning melty Nutella by the teaspoonful into the established bottoms of my cookie cups. I could have eaten the cookie cup then, without even baking it.

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One more step and then it was into the oven! I took the leftover cookie dough and pressed little bits of it on top of the Nutella and cookie base, being careful not to press too hard or the Nutella would ooze out.

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These babies baked until the edges turned a golden brown and the chocolate chips began to melt. You think they look pretty good straight out of the oven, until you let them cool for a few hours, gently take them out of the pan, and are able to see the layers of hazelnutty, buttery, ooey gooey goodness. Then they appear as a masterpiece.

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This recipe only makes about 10 massive cookie cups, so if you’re looking to feed many friends (and jealous family members who realize there are none left for them), double or triple the recipe.

As soon as you cut into a cookie cup, the golden cookie topping gently breaks apart and gives way to a melty, rich Nutella filling that pours out. YUM.

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As soon as my friends and I finished our salads, we were ready for something sweet. Lauren reached for my tupperware of desserts, lifted the lid, and was faced with a familiar smell. She closed her eyes, took a breath, and asked, hopefully but knowingly, “Do these have Nutella in them?” Her and the rest of my friends went in with the original plan of splitting the cookie cups. But obviously, none of them could resist polishing off the entire thing, some of them even munching on another cookie cup. It’s seemingly impossible to just stop at one!

the finished product!

the finished product!

My parents and brother were so BEYOND jealous they could each only try a little bit of a cookie cup that I am OBLIGATED to make these again this coming weekend. If that isn’t the sign of a successful recipe, I don’t know what is! check it out here!: http://www.tablefortwoblog.com/2013/02/25/nutella-lava-cookie-cups/

tomato, nectarine & mozzarella salad

considering my family and i just finished the monster bars i had baked for the 4th of july potluck celebration with my friends, we were quite ready for something a little bit healthier.

enter the beautiful tomato, nectarine & mozzarella salad. we were craving something healthy, and this hit the spot! juicy tomatoes, creamy and fresh mozzarella, sweet, seasonal nectarines and a hint of basil made a bright, summery combination.

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recipe credit goes to the amazing new cookbook my mom brought home today, Modern Mediterranean!

and the salad could not be simpler to create! to give you a better idea of its simplicity, in about an hour’s time i was able to go for a run, shower, and compose the salad!

the first step? slice the tomatoes. i liked having all of the other ingredients on the cutting board at the same time so i could smell everything as i cooked.

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the tomatoes are so are so juicy this time of year! their bright, gorgeous red color made a brilliant backdrop for the rest of the salad’s ingredients.

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next, i sliced up the nectarines so they were about the same thickness as the tomato slices. my mom was super happy i was making this recipe because it used up some of the multitude of nectarines she bought at trader joe’s last weekend!

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you have no idea how excited i was to unwrap my 1/2 lb. mozzarella ball out of its plastic. mmmmm. not much is better than super fresh mozzarella.

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all of the chopped components of the salad waiting to be arranged!

once i sliced the components of my salad, i arranged them and topped them with a little torn basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. and that was that! my salad was complete and ready to be enjoyed with my mom and dad on my back porch.

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first i laid out the tomatoes

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then came the mozzarella and nectarines..

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and finally, the torn basil, olive oil, and salt and pepper!

the combination of nectarines and tomatoes in the salad was surprisingly delicious, and has become one of my new favorite flavor combinations! it perfectly complemented the rest of the components of our summery dinner.

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it was the first time in a long time that my family and i had cooked dinner together! i made the salad, my mom boiled some summer corn, roasted lemony potatoes and grapes, and marinated tilapia, and my dad grilled the fish. meals are 100x more enjoyable when prepared together and enjoyed on a back porch with perfect 80 degree weather! a perfect night with light foods that were such a piece of cake to create…

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my tomato, nectarine, & mozzarella salad, mom’s potatoes and corn, and dad’s fish..yum

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

Monster Cookie Bars (for the 4th of July!)

Some people aren’t big cake fans. And that’s totally cool. When my friends and I gathered for a 4th of July potluck last night, I wanted to give non-cake-lovers and alternate option. What better than Monster Cookie Bars! Because really, who can say no to a peanut butter, oats, chocolate chip, and m&m combo? (Not me-I had 3 fresh out of the oven!)

One of the first, and most important parts of the recipe to remember, is buttering the pan. When the recipe called for one stick + 1 tablespoon of butter, I thought to myself, “It’d be fine if I just used one stick, right? I don’t want to go to the grocery store and buy that extra tablespoon that I don’t have lying around in the house.” WRONG. Buttering the pan ensures stick free cookie bars that stay together when you peel them from the pan after baking.

The recipe also called for a stand mixer, but I used a standard beater which worked just fine! (Remember, I’m a college girl! i can’t afford a stand mixer, so I find easy and effective replacements).

The batter was so simple to create.

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Once you mix most of the ingredients together, you use some arm strength (all of my hot yoga has been paying off!) to fold in the m&ms and chocolate chips with a spatula. The batter smelled so delicious even pre-baking that my entire family was tempted downstairs to the kitchen to sample some.

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I popped these babies in the oven and cooked them for about 13.5 minutes, in between the suggested cooking time of 13-14 minutes. The bars came out BEAUTIFULLY. Melty yet still intact chocolate chips, golden oats, and sprinkles of m&ms.

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I got excited and made the mistake of taking the bars out of the pan before they were cool enough. I’d give it a good few hours of cooling on a wire rick to make sure the bars come out smoothly and stay in nice squares.

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I decorated my bars with some classic store-bought chocolate fudge frosting and 4th of July sprinkles. The toppings were sweet and decadent but many of my friends and family members commented that the bars would be just as good without frosting!

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The recipe makes around 50 bars (with enough leftovers for my 16 year old brother to have one after every meal, which he does).Image

The bars are rich, delicious, and are a one bowl recipe that’s a “piece of cake” to make! 😉

4th of July Tie Dye Cake

My first ever recipe post…wish me luck.

It’s independence day! Tonight my friends and I are gathering for a pre-fireworks potluck dinner, and I obviously chose to be on dessert duty. After much deliberation in Pinterest pursuit of finding the most delicious 4th of July treat, a cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction caught my attention (http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/06/27/how-to-make-a-tie-dye-cake/)

Sally always knows what’s up, and this time was no different. Her tie dye cake is da BOMB. I know my friends are going to be in awe of the pretty colors when I reveal it tonight.

A “tie dye cake” sounds daunting, but don’t worry, it really was a piece of cake. All you have to do is:

1. make homemade cake batter

2. divide the cake batter into 3 separate bowls and dye each a different color

3. drop batters into springform pans

4. bake cake

5. frost cake

6. eat cake! nom nom

i began with my dry ingredients…

Imagethen i melted butter and whisked it together with white and brown sugars, egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract

Imagei used the greek yogurt my mom always keeps in our fridge and i think it contributed to the cake’s great consistency, but i’m sure any yogurt you had on hand would work equally as well!

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i mixed my dry ingredients with the whisked creation, and voila! a smooth, thick cake batter was formed

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next it was time to divide my batters. i eyeballed 3 equally filled bowls of batter and dropped about 11 drops of food coloring in each. one was red, one was blue, and one needed no food coloring at all! it was super fun to watch a simple cake batter transform into something so patriotic!

i couldn’t find individual tubes of blue and red food coloring at my local Jewel, so I was forced to buy a rainbow Easter themed set! oh well, i guess it will come in handy for some future baking projects.

ImageImageImagenow came the fun part..dropping spoonfuls of batter into my pan! don’t worry about it being perfect; the more imperfect, the cooler tie dye effect.

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i’m sure you thought the cake looked pretty cool before i even put it in the oven. well, check out how it looked after being baked!

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my mom’s jaw dropped when she saw the cake, she thought it must’ve taken hours to create that tie dye effect! little did she know it only took about 45 minutes to prepare the cake.

lastly, i frosted the cake with a homemade vanilla buttercream, recipe also from sally’s baking addiction, and decorated it with some fourth of july sprinkles!

and, drum roll please, the finished product!!!

Imagei didn’t want to cut into the cake and ruin the tie dye surprise for my friends, so picture to come tomorrow after the cake has been cut into!

have a fun, safe, and delicious fourth of july!