Friday, July 3, 2015

East End Cooler (strawberry cocktail)

It's starting to feel like summer in Chicago! Finally!!!

Let's celebrate the 4th by putting some fruit in our cocktails. It's also crimson, so it knocks out one of the 3 food groups everyone will be serving this weekend (you know: white food, red food, and blue food).

This cocktail was a combination of 2 of my favorite liquors (Hendricks gin and St Germain) with super fresh strawberries. It looks a bit like a girly drink, but don't let it's beautiful hue frighten you away. This 'aint no strawberry daiquiri, and has just a touch of sweetness. It's simply a bright, fresh berry flavor to compliment the delicious liquors.

So grab your muddler and shake up a refreshing and crisp cocktail this weekend!

Buen Provecho,

East End Cooler, from St. Germain Cocktails website

2 oz gin (I love Hendricks or Deaths Door)
1.5 oz fresh lemon juice
1.5 oz St-Germain
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 strawberry (or 2 smaller ones if you want to pump up the flavor)

  1. In your shaker, muddle your strawberry
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, fill with ice, and shake shake shake (do this until your shaker gets ice cold, almost painful to the touch, around 15-20 seconds!)
  3. Strain into a coupe glass or highball glass with ice
  4. Garnish with a small strawberry or mint (or both)


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Key Lime Pie

I'm pretty much obsessed with citrus-based desserts. Though you guys already know that, after what I've been posting over the past 5+ years on the blog (case in point: lemon crisps, langues de chats cookies, lemon shortbread, lemon bars [two recipes!], candied citron, orange galette, citrus almond cake, brown butter orange marmalade cake, and tangerine cake.)

But what about lime?

So far, the only lime treats I've written about have been of the alcoholic variety (basil gimlet or cucumber cooler anyone?) Well, it's about time I fixed this glaring oversight! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the ultimate lime dessert...

Key lime pie! (with real key limes!!!)

I'm warning you, I went a little trigger-happy with my camera and took a ton of photos. But whipped cream is such a perfect model.

So scroll down if you're just here for the recipe...

...but keep looking at these photos if you want to droooooooooool.

Perfect slices!

This pie cuts like a dream.

I mean just LOOK at it!

Wanna bite??

Oh, and did I mention it's just a few ingredients and one of the simplest pies you'll ever make??

So go make it! Especially while limes are super duper cheap right now.

(Key) Lime Pie, from Cooks Illustrated

I did use key limes for this pie, but not sure they were really worth it (see my picture below). I only got the bag for a few bucks, but they took well over 30 minutes to zest/juice the ~20 limes needed to get the half cup of juice! So just use fresh limes and your pie will be as glorious as this!


Lime Filling
4 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice from 3 to 4 limes
4 large egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Graham Cracker Crust
11 graham crackers, processed to fine crumbs (1 1/4 cups)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Whipped Cream Topping
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 lime, sliced paper thin and dipped in sugar (optional)

  1. For the Filling: Whisk zest and yolks in medium bowl until tinted light green, about 2 minutes. Beat in milk, then juice; set aside at room temperature to thicken. 
  2. For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Add butter; stir with fork until well blended. Pour mixture into 9-inch pie pan; press crumbs over bottom and up sides of pan to form even crust (use a measuring cup to help you press the crumbs evenly in the pie pan). Bake until lightly browned and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. 
  3. Pour lime filling into crust; bake until center is set, yet wiggly when jiggled, 15 to 17 minutes. Return pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours. (Can be covered with lightly oiled or oil-sprayed plastic wrap laid directly on filling and refrigerated up to 1 day.) 
  4. For the Whipped Cream: Up to 2 hours before serving, whip cream in medium bowl to very soft peaks. Adding confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, continue whipping to just-stiff peaks. Decoratively pipe whipped cream over filling or spread evenly with rubber spatula. Garnish with optional sugared lime slices (or lime zest, as I did) and serve. 
So many teeny tiny limes!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pork tenderloin with porcini broth and chilled beet soup

After the New Year (when everyone is in a frenzy to eat healthy) I came across Bon Appetit's Food Lovers Cleanse. In theory it's a perfect way to jump start your year. Two weeks of healthy and delicious meals planned out along with a complete grocery list for each week sounds like a great way to simplify your life... until you start looking at the massive amounts of cooking and fancy/exotic foods required. I'm not still not sure how anyone with a job (or children) would have the time or money to prepare their breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes every single day for 2 weeks.

So while it didn't take me long to figure out that it was a completely unreasonable plan to follow, individually a lot of the recipes sounded excellent and totally approachable. I ended up making/being inspired by multiple recipes, including this roasted beet soup and pork tenderloin with porcini broth. Both were super simple, incredibly approachable, and had a ton of great flavor.

The soup, other than being stunning, tasted like what it says: roasted beets. The flavor gets mellowed out a bit with the buttermilk, and has a great texture after pureeing/chilling the soup.

I loved the bright pink color of this beet soup!
The pork dish was equally simple yet bursting with flavor. It was a unique way for me to serve my pork tenderloin, which I usually just sear and roast. And the umami of the mushrooms worked really well with the lean pork.

Buen Provecho,

Roasted Beet Soup, adapted from Bon Appetit's 2015 Food Lovers Cleanse

The original recipe called for a full tablespoon of caraway seeds, which was just a bit too potent for me (as I'm not a huge fan). I still liked the soup as is, but next time I'd cut the full tablespoon down a bit. That suggestion is included below. 

1 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp to 1 TBSP caraway seeds, to taste
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds of beets, roasted and chopped
1 cup buttermilk, divided, plus more for serving
Fresh dill sprigs, cracked pepper (for serving)

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add caraway seeds and cook, stirring, until they start to pop and dance around in the pan, about 1 minute. 
  2. Quickly add onion, leek, and a splash of water to keep seeds from burning; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, 5–7 minutes. 
  3. Add beets and 2½ cups water to pan; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors come together, 15–20 minutes. 
  4. Let mixture cool slightly, then purée in a blender in 2 batches, adding ½ cup buttermilk to each batch (or use an immersion blender directly in your pot). 
  5. If serving warm: gently heat soup, adding water to adjust consistency if needed. Serve drizzled with buttermilk and topped with dill sprigs and cracked pepper. If serving cold: refrigerate soup until ready to serve. Serve drizzled with buttermilk or topped with yogurt/crème fraîche
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Porcini Broth, adapted from Bon Appetit's 2015 Food Lovers Cleanse

½ oz. dried porcini mushrooms (about ¾ cup)
1 1¼-lb. pork tenderloin
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small shallot, finely chopped
4 oz. wild or cultivated mushrooms (a combination of black trumpet, maitake, chanterelle, beech, oyster, and/or shiitake), trimmed, halved if large
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 cup homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Place porcinis in a heatproof bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water. Set aside until porcinis are tender, about 20 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid and mushrooms. Finely chop mushrooms.
  3. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat 1 TBSP oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until browned on all sides, 6–8 minutes. 
  4. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 140°F, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing ½” thick (about 15 slices). 
  5. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 TBSP oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, mushrooms, and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and cook 1 minute. Add porcini broth, chopped porcinis, and chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. 
  6. Divide pork among shallow bowls and ladle broth and vegetables over top.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Lemon chicken

Why is it that I'm more inclined to share recipes here that sound super sexy, but aren't necessarily ones that you (or I) would make on a regular basis?!? I'm sure I'm unconsciously plagued by the whole "let's-make-our-lives-look-a-little-better-online-than-they-are-in-real-life" problem we're all facing now.

So let's get away from that, OK?

To start, here's a "normal person" lemon chicken dish taken with a "normal person" camera (aka cell phone).

It's a handful of simple ingredients that when baked together create something magical. I'm convinced that lemon combined with white wine and briny flavors brings out some of the best in chicken.

Other than the awesome lemony liquid that you could practically drink with the spoon, one of the best parts of this recipe is that that you can use whatever veggies you have on hand to complete this dish.

Oh, did I also mention it's a single-pot meal?!

Yours in going back to the basics, especially now that the weather is warming up and I don't want to stay indoors all day long cooking up a storm,

Lemon chicken with white wine, adapted from The Noshery
The original recipe called for 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts (which at the time were way overpriced) and 2 large parsnips (which I don't like). So I just eliminated those, doubled the potatoes, and added large green olives and capers instead, since I love the combination of lemon with briny flavors. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you like or have on hand!


chicken marinade
8 chicken thighs, excess skin trimmed
¾ cup white wine or dry vermouth
juice of 2 large lemons
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

1 - 2 lb petite gold potatoes, halved
½ cup diced roasted red peppers
handful large green olives
1 - 2 TBSP capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lemon, sliced

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Combine all "chicken marinade" ingredients in a large resealable bag. Make sure the chicken is evenly coated with marinade and refrigerate for 30 - 45 minutes.
  3. In your baking dish, toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper until evenly coated. Spread out into a nice even layer and top with the lemon slices (see picture below). Arrange chicken, skin side up, on top of the lemon and vegetables, and pour marinade over chicken.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil, raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees, and bake another 20 minutes, or longer, until the chicken is done (aka juices run clear, or the chicken thighs register 170-180 degrees F). 
  5. If the chicken skin isn't golden and crispy enough, place under the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking until the skin begins to darken.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Homemade granola bars

A while back I was on a major homemade granola bar kick.

It all started with this recipe. I loved the texture of the bars (soft, chewy) but they were super sweet. I'm shocked at just how much sugar people think tastes good, and I found them difficult to eat. Honestly they surpassed the level of sweetness I like in my desserts, let alone what I want to eat first thing in the morning. But I loved how soft and chewy they were!

So I tried cutting down the sugar in my next iteration. But I think I cut down the honey a bit too much because they were too crumbly this time. Good taste, but not the best texture.

Round 3 was next, and I have to say they were pretty close to perfect for me. Just enough honey for the bars to be a bit pliable, but not so much that you can't finish a bar. And I ended up using almost half the amount of sugar from the original recipe. HALF! (Full disclosure: they're not quite as soft as the original recipe. But seeing I could actually eat these I felt that it was a fair compromise.)

I also had the opportunity to use my brand new baking dish to make the bars (even though they're technically not baked in the dish)! Back in February my best friend surprised me by sending me this gorgeous ceramic dish from Anthropologie for my birthday. It makes me so happy just looking at it!!!

Favorite baking pan + favorite vase (from favorite store) = happy Jackie

A single batch in a 9" or 8" square baking dish makes 12 bars, which are perfect for a grab and go breakfast or snacks when taking a road trip.

Yours in putting the fast in breakfast,

Chewy granola bars, generally adapted from Love and Olive Oil
Yield: 12 bars

My favorite part of making the different iterations were all the flavor combinations I tried. To keep this recipe flexible I'm going to give you the "template" recipe below, and you can mix/match the ingredients as you see fit. Here are some suggestions to get you going!

My favorite combo was pecans + tart cherries + cocao nibs 
The boy's favorite combo was nuts + dried blueberries + chopped chocolate

Nuts: almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts
Dried fruit: tart cherries, dates, blueberries, apricots, figs


2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 to 2/3 cup nuts, slivered or chopped (see above for ideas)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, optional
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes (or coconut oil!)
2 TBSP light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1/4 cup cocao nibs or chopped chocolate
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped (see above for ideas)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted, optional, for drizzling (I didn't do this, as I felt the bars were sweet enough. But if you wanted to add a bit of chocolate to the bars this would be a good way to do it!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a small overhang on two sides. 
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, nuts, and coconut until evenly distributed. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once part way through baking, until oats are toasted and fragrant and coconut is lightly browned. (Note: This is the only time the bars are going to be baked, so if you really want to get your oats really toasted I'd recommend baking them for ~5 minutes before adding the coconut, then continuing to cook for another 8 - 10 minutes. This will keep the coconut from burning, as I found the coconut toasted faster than the oats.) Cool the mixture slightly.
  3. While the oats are baking, combine honey, butter, and brown sugar in the same bowl. Microwave until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the almost extract if using. (Note: If you don't have a microwave simply do this step in a small saucepan.)
  4. Once the oats are slightly cooled, add to the bowl with the butter/sugar mixture and stir until evenly coated. Stir in the cocao/chocolate and dried fruit. (Note: if you're using chopped chocolate and your oats are still warm the chocolate will melt a bit. This is not a problem! :) This "accidentally" happened to 1 of my batches and the result was a slightly chocolately granola, which was delicious! But if you don't want that make sure the oats are completely cooled.)
  5. Press granola mixture into the prepared pan, firmly pressing into place. (Note: This step is essential, so make sure you really press the granola into the pan. If you don't then your bars may not stay together.)
  6. Chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 2 hours. (Note: Again, this step is essential for your bars to stay together. Allow the bars to completely cool before cutting.)
  7. Remove from pan using parchment paper to lift it out of the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut in half crosswise, then into 12 rectangular bars. 
  8. Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired. Granola bars will keep, layered between parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to one week.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cranberry orange crunch muffins

Don't you wish you could go back in time and remember the first time you ate a flavor combination that blew your mind?

No... just me...?

I can't remember the first time I had orange and cranberry together, but I do remember when I was working in a lab at Northwestern over 10 years ago being in love with Dunkin' Donuts cranberry orange muffins. It was my "splurge" breakfast many a times, and I still get sad about the fact that they don't make them anymore. There's just something that makes my mouth happy when you combine tart cranberries with fragrant oranges.

These muffins not only hit the flavor combo spot, they were super light and fluffy with a great crunchy topping.

Though a tad too sweet for me for breakfast (I'm weird like that), I found that they make a great day-time snack when I want just a touch of sugar to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Buen Provecho,

Cranberry-Orange Crunch Muffins, adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yield: 12 muffins

Though I haven't tried it, I think these muffins could benefit from a lot more cranberries. Not sure if it would compromise the structure of the muffins, but next time I make these I'd like to add at least another 1/2 cup of cranberries. I think you could also use more grated orange peel, or use both peel and oil. (Can you tell I like my citrus and cranberry combo?!) 

Also, I was not a fan of the cinnamon in the muffin topping, because I felt it "muddied" the fresh flavors of the orange and cranberry and turned them into more fall-inspired flavors. The boy was a fan though, so I think it's personal preference. Feel free to reduce or cut it out completely.


2 cups (8 7/8 ounces) flour
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder (I like the aluminum free kind)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
3/4 cup (6 ounces) milk
1/4 cup (2 ounces) orange juice
1/8 teaspoon orange oil OR 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, or more to taste

1/4 cup (7/8 ounce) finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) brown sugar, dark or light, firmly packed
up to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional

  1. Batter: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then toss the cranberries in the mix and stir to coat. 
  2. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the egg, oil, milk, orange juice, and orange oil or peel. 
  3. Gently and thoroughly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. 
  4. Using a muffin or cookie scoop, or a 1/4-cup measure, pour the batter into 12 lightly greased muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full. 
  5. Topping: Combine all of the topping ingredients. Sprinkle a scant 1 tablespoon of topping over the batter in each muffin cup (see picture below)
  6. Bake the muffins in a preheated 400°F oven for 20 minutes, or until they're nicely domed and a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. 
  7. Remove the muffins from the oven, and run a knife around the edge of each one to separate it from the pan. Carefully tilt each muffin in its cup so steam doesn't collect underneath as they cool. After about 5 minutes, transfer them to a rack to cool completely. 
AFTER (yum yum)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chicago-inspired hummus

I've written about hummus (hummos?) before, and how it's usually non Middle Eastern people who take really creative spins on the dish because it's almost too sacrilegious for us to stray far from our traditional recipes.

Well, today this Middle Easterner is going to share with you a really insane twist on the classic, which is inspired by Chicago and Greek flavors. Full disclosure: I didn't come up with this combination. (I told you, we just can't mess with our hummos!) But after trying it at a work party I was absolutely blown away by it. So much so that it's now become my go-to dish to bring to gatherings.

The "recipe" itself is incredibly simple and has only 3 main components: hummus, feta cheese, oil-packed giardiniera (which apparently only exists in Illinois and a handful of Midwestern states).

First spread a layer of hummus on a dish or platter (I used a 9" pie plate here). Then cover with a few spoonfuls of giardiniera (drained), and top with crumbed feta cheese (hand-crumble the fresh kind instead of using prepacked crumbled feta; you'll not only save a few $ but the feta won't be quite as dry)

If you want to throw this dish together in record time just go ahead and use some pre-made hummus (my favorites are Trader Joes Mediterranean hummus and Sabra). But if you have a few extra minutes to spare I'd recommend making the hummus yourself to elevates this appetizer to a whole 'nother level!

I've shared my recipe for hummus using canned chickpeas, which is extra creamy if you take the time to remove the annoying skins on each individual pea. But today I'll share my recipe for hummus using dried chick peas, which is naturally super silky smooth!

Yours in breaking out of her people's comfort zone,

Basic hummus, adapted from the Jerusalem cookbook

Warning: this recipe requires you to soak the chickpeas the night before. So don't forget to start this the evening before! :)

As I've said before, hummus is a recipe that needs to be tailored to personal tastes. Use the cooking method I'm describing below, but feel free to modify the amounts of lemon juice, tahini, and garlic based upon what you like. Personally, I love lemon and I'm not a big fan of sesame in general. So I bumped up the citrus by 2 TBSP and reduced the tahini by half from the original recipe. I also cut the garlic by half, because I find that raw garlic can easily overpower hummus (especially after you let the dish sit in the fridge for a while; the flavors become much more pronounced). But if you're a garlic- and tahini-loving fiend, then by all means just keep adding until you're happy with the finished product!

1 1/4 cups (250 g) dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
6 1/2 cups (1.5 L) water
1/2 cup tahini paste
6 TBSP fresh lemon juice
2 small/medium cloves of garlic
1.5 tsp salt
up to 6 1/2 TBSP (100 mL) ice-cold water

  1. The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with at least twice their volume in cold water. Leave to soak overnight on the counter.
  2. The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. 
  3. Cook the chickpeas for 20 - 40 minutes (or longer; the cooking time will depend on the type and freshness of your pea). Once done they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your fingers but not super mushy. Drain the chickpeas when they're finished cooking.
  4. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. With the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. If your hummus needs to be thinned out a bit more, add some or all of the ice-cold water and process for about 5 minutes, until your hummus is smooth and creamy.
  5. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.