I love a countdown.
I don’t love sweating.
Tonight’s class at Equinox was called “Stacked!” I’m usually critical of anything that utilizes an exclamation mark. The description outlined a “high density” class that uses sandbells, plyometrics and building sequences.
I don’t recall much from biology, but I’m nearly certain “density” is not an accurate adjective to describe a fitness class. The bigger issue was figuring out what a sandbell was. Is this a music class? Will my lifelong dream of playing in a bells-only ensemble finally come to fruition?
Any class that uses a weight I’ve never heard of promises to be worthwhile. And the class did not disappoint, aside from not including bells of sand and subsequently leaving my dream unrealized.
I followed the throng of people into the studio and grabbed a sandbell. If you were curious, sandbells are neoprene sacks filled with sand. Like kettlebells, they come in several different weights. I hid in the back row so I could watch the instructor and others get their stack on.
Finding a new gym is like finding a new girlfriend.
When my office finalized the move downtown a few weeks ago I had to end my two year relationship with my gym. We never fought. Some weeks we’d see each other 3-4 times a week. Others not at all. And that was the beauty of our relationship. I didn’t feel obligated to go every day. A few times I splurged on massages, but other than one Pilates class, I saw her for all the basic reasons: cardio and weights.
We shared some special moments. About halfway into our courtship, I achieved something I never had or thought I would: 12 unassisted chin-ups in a row. She was non-plussed. Instead she challenged me to do more. The same thing happened when I bench pressed 77% of my weight. “Do more,” she said.
For $20 a month I could bring a friend and take classes, think of it as the Mormon clause. In the two years I was a member I did this less than 3 times. Apparently no one ever has their workout gear with them.
Bachelor tip: always have your gym gear in your car or stashed in your desk.
I ended our relationship in writing. I tried to do it in person, but was told via letter was best. The last Thursday in the suburban office ended not with raising of beers, but with raising of dumbbells.
Despite our open relationship, I never caught anything from her and I risked it in the showers. No flip flops for this rebel with anti-fungal creams. Continue reading
Going to experience a tasting menu at a restaurant is a food-lover’s dream, especially if your idea of fine dining is ordering guacamole at Chipotle. What’s an even more unique experience is dining with fellow food lovers. No longer are you the weird one who is photographing your food before consumption.
Adamus (10 S. Wabash) is in Chicago’s loop and is housed inside the Silversmith Hotel. They invited Chicago Food Bloggers to sample their fall offerings. Joining area food bloggers was akin to being one of the judges on Top Chef.
Arugula and goat cheese? You have my attention.
The restaurant features a round bar near the street and several booths along the rectangular dining space. The lines were clean and the booths looked inviting for those looking to enjoy not being in their hotel room. Our long table dissected the space in between the booths on the perimeter.
We’ve all done it. No shame. We’ve eaten leftover pizza for breakfast. While this dish takes a bit more work than foraging in your fridge, you’ll be rewarded with a sensational and fresh breakfast.
Cast Iron Creation
Turn on your oven to 350 degrees.
To start, I made my own hash browns after frying up some bacon. You could also use frozen hash browns to cut down the prep time. To make your own, shred 3 potatoes. I recently purchased a KitchenAid Mandoline. That helps speed up the job. I found it tough to use the mandoline with the potatoes. It worked great on softer veggies, but struggled against firm potatoes.
Once the hash browns were cooked–about 15 minutes–I removed them from the pan and added onions and green pepper. Saute those for a few minutes and remove to a bowl. Then I whipped 4 eggs with a touch of water.
Return the taters to the skillet and add the eggs.
Return the veggies and bacon. Add tomatoes. Sprinkle in your favorite cheese. I had sliced american that I put on top.
Put the skillet in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Slice it up and enjoy.
So you want to throw a dinner party…
I had been wanting to gather friends for dinner parties for a few years. You can only post recipes and pictures of your creations for so long before a hangry mob requests samples. Tackling the Mealsharing dinner party with Leann taught several lessons. It also prepped me for the eventual showdown on Food Network. You may think it’s easy to just scale your recipes for more people. That works for some dishes. Others require increased planning and maybe even writing things down–something I have an extreme aversion to. For larger dinners it’s imperative to make checklists and think out the approach.
Clockwise from top: Tuna with sauteed onion, olive spread, heirloom bruschetta, roasted eggplant and garlic
Make anything that can be made in advance. This time around we had an electric knife to slice the bread evenly. We also had time to prep the bread and rub each slice with a clove of garlic before guests arrived. While I sliced the bread, my sous chef to the stars prepped the four different toppings. (I found the grilled eggplant superior to its oven-roasted counterpart). All the recipes for the toppings came from my grandma’s cousin in Sicily.
Having appetizers ready to go when people arrive buys you time to chat with your friends.
The Main Event
In the span of a few months I have gone from never making carbonara to making it on a weekly basis. It’s a simple and crowd-pleasing dish, especially for carb lovers. To offset the decadence of the dish, we had a salad to put something that won’t add 50 points to your LDL. In a rare moment I failed to photograph the salad.
While it is very fast to make carbonara, the downside is you can’t make it ahead. You can prep the cheese and eggs (best ratio for one pound of pasta is 3 egg yolks & 1 whole egg to 1/2 pound shredded parm), but that’s about all you can make ahead of time. You’ll need 10 minutes to devote to properly marry the piping hot pasta with the creamy egg/cheese/pepper combo.
During those 10 minutes you have to focus. It’s a simple process–drain the noodles, add to egg/cheese/pepper, toss–but you need to do it immediately after draining the pasta to use the heat to cook the raw eggs. After that it’s go time.
After buttons were undone and sighs of surrender, we had some limoncello and moved to more accommodating seating to stretch out. If anyone is still awake, feed them this closer to make sure they get home safely. Leann took charge of dessert and crushed it again with her homemade tiramisu.
- Make a list and attack it.
- Make anything ahead that can be.
- Share the responsibilities. Ask friends to bring wine, salad or a dessert.
- Wine and limoncello make everything better.
- Find a helper. I lucked out with my sous chef.
- Don’t forget to play some music.
- Keep it simple and have fun. The dinner party is more about spending time with friends than perfectly executed dishes.
Here’s a super simple recipe for a quick dinner. Five ingredients and it’ll be ready in less than 20 minutes.
This should serve four. I ate it all. I have a problem saying no to delicious pasta.
What you need:
1 pound of your favorite pasta
4-6 slices of bacon, chopped
2 Handfuls of cherry tomatoes
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 Handful of fresh basil
Start a big pot of water to boil. Should take about 10 minutes to boil. Add salt to the boiling water. Then add noodles.
Cut bacon and add to a separate frying pan over medium heat.
After 5 minutes, add tomatoes to bacon. Once the bacon looks finished, add two cloves of finely chopped garlic.
Pasta should be done after 10 minutes. Drain and add pasta to bacon with ripped leaves of fresh pasta.
Add some freshly ground pepper and a dash of crushed red pepper for a little extra zip.
It’s that easy! The bacon fat and exploded tomatoes make their own sauce that clings to the noodles.
It isn’t every day your food is featured in Thrillist for Best Bacon dishes.
I have a love/hate relationship with cooking competitions. I swear them off, but not long after I get the invite, I am signed up and scouring recipes for inspiration.
The latest was the fifth annual bacon takedown. I eat bacon once or twice a year, so I’m by no means a connoisseur. Cycling through dishes I’ve perfected that include bacon, I considered stuffin muffins and carbonara. The first is ingredient and labor intensive. The latter has poor reheat value. After vetoing these dishes I started questioning why I signed up.
Then I got my idea: Mexican corn.
I started it as a chowder soup. Serving soup samples is tedious. Know what isn’t? Making it a dip.
Of course you made something with tortilla chips.
The addictive element of competitions is you get instant feedback from people who aren’t your family or friends. They have no obligation to say your food is good. And they definitely don’t have to come back four times for another taste.
The good news: everyone seemed to love the dip.
The bad news: I didn’t win. Always a bridesmaid…
It may not be an award-winner in Chicago, but it’ll be a fan favorite in your house. My loss is your victory. Here’s how you can make a phenomenal sopa de elote for your next football game or cold day that needs some spice.
ALL THE BACON!
After sauteing 5 minutes.
Prior to simmering the day away.
DIY pepper flakes for added heat
Not the most visually appealing.
I put my hand up on your dip…
- 1 pound bacon, diced
- 3 ears corn
- 2 poblano peppers
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 Tablespoons ground chile de arbol peppers
- 2 cloves of garlic, diced
- 4 Tablespoons of flour
- 4 cups milk
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1/4 to 1/2 pound Monterey Jack
- 3-4 Tablespoons of sour cream
- lime juice
- Roast ears of corn and poblanos. I roasted mine in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Turning after 20 minutes.
- Saute bacon.
- Remove bacon and place on paper towel.
- Add onion, roasted poblano peppers and roasted corn.
- Saute for 4-5 minutes.
- Add garlic.
- Dust with chile de arbol powder. Stir. Don’t inhale. The chile powder may make you sneezy.
- Add flour. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add milk. Stir for 4-5 minutes.
- Add vegetable stock. Stir.
- Cook over low-medium heat for 45 minutes.
- Add cheese and sour cream at the end.
- Garnish with fresh lime juice and cilantro.