Chilean Completos

Completos_Chile13Holy guacamole, it’s been awhile. In an attempt to forget about this brutal winter, let’s reminisce about that time I went to Chile with two of my besties Julie and Bevin. We soaked up as much sun as we could (it’s summer there). We biked, rafted, beached, climbed a volcano, rode horses, …relaxed in thermal spas…it was great. One afternoon we took a paddle boat out onto the Villarrica lake. I sat in the front, ate cookies, and took pictures while they peddled in the back. That’s what friends are for, right?

IMG_2770The food in Chile was surprisingly bland. Don’t get me wrong, we ate some delicious food. (I’m still dreaming about the choripan we ate on our last night.) Before we went, Bevin told us we’d be eating a lot of hot dogs. That seemed so strange and unthinkable but by the end of the trip we were eating dogs all the time (and loving it!). Here’s a fun picture of part of the hot dog selection at a grocery store:

IMG_2799There are variations of completos but the basic one we had was a hot dog, topped with a generous amount of avocado, chopped tomatoes, and mayo.

The ingredients are so simple that I had to attempt to recreate them when I got back to the States. I added chopped onions, ketchup and cholula hot sauce to mine. In Chile they have this rockin’ chili sauce that I didn’t attempt to recreate…so cholula!

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 vienna beef hot dogs
1/2 an avocado, mashed
1/2 tomato, chopped
mayonnaise
hot dog buns
ketchup (optional)
hot sauce (optional)

Instructions
Cook the vienna hot dogs on the stove according to the package instructions. I boiled a pan of water, turned off the heat, added the hot dogs let them sit for 5-7 minutes.

Mash the avocado in a small bowl. Dice the onion and tomato, set aside. Lightly toast the buns.

Assemble the dog: Place the hot dog in the bun, top with mashed avocado, onion, tomato, mayo, ketchup, and hot sauce. IMG_2718Bonus picture of the volcano in Pucon!

Nutella-Peanut Butter Cookies

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You can’t really tell from the photo but these cookies are supposed to be two-toned. Oops. There’s a lot going on in these cookies. Oats, rice krispies, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and nutella, oh my. I’ve never put rice krispies in my cookies before but I kind of like it. I’m all about the crunch and they add a nice twist to each bite. I must warn you, if you’re not big on peanut butter cookies, go easy on the peanut butter. I didn’t divide my batter in half, more 40/60 because I find peanut butter to be a bit overwhelming in cookie form. But if that’s your thing, go for it!

My cookies got messy when I tried to cut the dough log into small rounds. Chunks of my dough kept randomly breaking off. I ended up just smashing the pieces back together. It all worked out in the end because your taste buds don’t care how pretty the cookie looks.

Also, happy college football season opener – Go Blue!!

Ingredients (makes 2 dozen)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup crisp rice cereal
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips (60% cacao bittersweet chocolate)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup Nutella

Instructions
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat cookie sheets with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together butter and brown sugar until creamy – about 1 minute. Beat in egg, baking soda, salt and vanilla until combined. Beat in cereal, oats and chocolate chips until combined. Beat in flour until just combined.

Divide half of the dough into an additional large bowl. Beat peanut butter into one bowl of dough until combined. Beat Nutella into other bowl of dough until combined.

Line up doughs, side-by-side, on plastic wrap. Wrap in plastic wrap and roll into an even log. Chill the dough to make it easier to cut later. Unwrap plastic wrap and slice dough into rounds, 1/2-inch thick. Place dough slices on cookie sheets, spacing about an inch apart. Bake 11-12 minutes or until firm and slightly crisp. Cool 2 minutes before trasferring cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Recipe from SugarPlum.

French Onion Soup

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Years ago I never thought I’d be craving French onion soup. I didn’t like onions, at all. None of them. I don’t remember when it happened, but one day I realized onions weren’t so bad. Sometimes I can’t get enough of them. You know that feeling, when you’re eating something and you think to yourself, omg this needs more onions! No? Just me?

This soup is de-lic-ious. Like, seriously. So good. My nose was in heaven when the onions were simmering in melted butter. It took a lot of willpower to not devour the soup before it was done. An important thing to note, this does take about 4 hours to make, but it’s totally worth it!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)
2 1/2 large sweet onions
1 stick unsalted butter
3/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp paprika
~10 shakes of oregano leaves
32 ounces beef broth, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
french baguette
gruyere cheese, to taste

Instructions
Peel onions and slice 1/8-inch thick. In a large pot (I used a dutch oven), melt the butter. Add the onions and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the black pepper, paprika, and oregano leaves; saute over low heat for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in 24 ounces of beef broth. Increase heat and bring to a boil.

In a small bowl, dissolve the flour in the remaining 8 ounces of broth. Stir into the boiling soup.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Season with salt. Pour into small ramekins, top with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of grated gruyere. Heat under the broiler until the cheese melts.

Refrigerate overnight. Leftover soup can be frozen. Heat soup in microwave or on stovetop.

Recipe adapted from Food.com.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

I’ve been on a real spicy peanut kick these past couple of weeks. My go to place for it near work is Wow Bao. Work the combo option and get some spicy peanut noodles and a couple of baos, you’re more than good to go. I decided to try my hand at the noodles because they’re pretty simple. The sliced cucumber is essential. It adds a nice cool freshness to the pasta and makes it feel lighter. And if you like it spicy, go crazy with the cayenne pepper. I had to add more shakes of it later because my sauce didn’t quite have the kick I wanted.

On another food related note, last week I went to dinner at Next for their vegan tasting menu. Yu-um. A friend I hadn’t seen in forever emailed me the morning of asking if I was free that night. Hells yeah. Plus, when would I ever get a chance to eat there? (Probably never.) There were lots of tasty, interesting bites and drinks/cocktails (some pictured above), plus it was so great to catch up with my friend!

Ingredients (serves 6)
12 ounces of linguine (or other type of pasta)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup water
4 sliced scallions
4 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sugar
cayenne pepper, to taste
1 cucumber, thinly sliced for garnish

Instructions
Cook pasta according to package directions. In a small pot, boil the water and whisk in the peanut butter until smooth. Stir in the scallions, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and cayenne pepper.Toss the peanut sauce with the hot pasta. Garnish with cucumber and serve hot or at room temperature.Recipe adapted from Eating Well.

Salmon Cakes with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Life has been busy since my trip to California. My buddy Sharon came to Chicago to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon with me…except he didn’t so much run it with me as speed right past me. A couple photos from the weekend:

Sharon and me being ballers after the race:

In my never-ending attempt to cook more, I invited my friends Jacque and Shay over for dinner last week. These salmon cakes came together quite nicely and weren’t too much work. Big thanks to my sous chef Jacque for making the vinaigrette and to Shay for bringing his smile. :P

Ingredients (serves 4; 2 patties per serving)
1 lb salmon, skin removed
1 cup water
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
1 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
1 small shallot, chopped fine
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp whole fennel seeds, chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large egg, loosely beaten
2 tbsp dijon mustard
olive oil, for the pan
mixed greens

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp honey, to taste
1-2 tbsp dijon mustard, to taste
1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
Poach the salmon – In a small skillet, bring the water and lemon juice to a boil. Once boiling, add the salmon and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the salmon is opaque and flaky all the way through. Check doneness by flaking the salmon with a fork. Remove the salmon from the skillet and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, flour, bell pepper, shallot, parsley, chopped fennel seeds, lemon zest, salt, and cayenne pepper.

Add the salmon to the bowl and break it apart with a fork. Add the dijon mustard and egg; stir to combine.

Form the salmon mixture into patties. Scoop 1/2 a cup of the mixture into your hand and squeeze into a ball, then shape into a disc. The patty should just barely hold together.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil. Seer the patties for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes.

For the vinaigrette – Whisk together the vinegars, honey, and mustard. Whisk in the olive oil. Stir or shake before serving.

Serve with mixed greens and a drizzle of the honey mustard vinaigrette. 

Recipe adapted from Will Cook for Friends.

Baked Caprese Pasta

Last month I had a cooking date with my friend Jacque and it was fabulous. I rarely cook with other people so it was nice to mix it up. Picking food to share with her can be tricky because she’s allergic to a number of things. She can’t have dairy or fresh cheese but if it’s cooked, it’s all good (whew). We agreed on this simple, tasty caprese pasta bake. Allergy approved!A few weeks ago I went on a trip to California with my bestie Julie and her boy Doug. It was amazing. We met up in San Francisco and hung out with her sister Jenny for a few days, drove down the coast along highway 1, then stayed with friends in Los Angeles for a few days over the 4th of July. Soo scenic! The trip worked out quite nicely considering all we had really planned was that we were going to rent a car and drive down the coast. Yay for friends! Here are a few snapshots of the trip…

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1 lb whole wheat rigate
1 cup pasta sauce (of your choosing)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan + more for garnish
4-8 oz mozzarella, cut into cubes
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 bunch basil leaves, chiffonade

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F. Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta cooks, heat the pasta sauce over low heat in a large saucepan. Once warm, stir in the heavy cream and grated parmesan. When the pasta is done, drain and dump into the sauce. Mix to coat the pasta and turn off the heat. Fold in the mozzarella cubes and grape tomatoes. Chop 3-4 basil leaves and add them to the pan. Once combined, spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray and pour the pasta mixture into the dish. Top with fresh mozzarella cubes.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden. Top with additional fresh basil and grated parmesan.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is.

Three Cheese Stuffed Shells with Spicy Meat Sauce

Holy shells! A couple weekends ago I took a trip to Boston to visit my BFF Bevin just because. I didn’t get the memo that it was going to be 1000 degrees F out and almost melted into the sidewalk. It was full-on summer in Boston. I was sooo happy my mom re-installed her a/c unit for me before she went out of town. Sweet, sweet air conditioning.

Any weekend with best friends is a blast. This is us having margaritas:

Us roasting at the beach:

Leaving was a bummer because who ever wants the party to end? And it was 50 degrees outside when I landed in Chicago…still waiting for summer to arrive…

In the meantime, let’s talk shells. Or rather, the awesome pasta sauce in this recipe. It’s so simple and so spicily delicious. You’ll have one of those moments where you do a taste test and you’re immediately like ohmahgawdthisisamazingwhyamIjustnowdiscoveringthis?! I ended up making more shells than could fit in my baking dish so I bagged them up and put them in the freezer for later. I find it’s best to make more shells than needed because sometimes a few shells get destroyed when you cook them. As with any stuffed shell recipe, it’s a little time consuming but well worth the effort.

Also be sure to check out my other stuffed shell recipes: Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells + Mexican Stuffed Shells!

Ingredients
15-20 jumbo pasta shells
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4-1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
 2 links spicy chicken sausage, sliced and quartered (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)
1/4-1/2 cup red wine
14-oz can diced tomatoes
14-oz can tomato sauce
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated romano cheese
1/2 whisked egg
6 basil leaves, chiffonade
1 tbsp minced parsley
salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions 
Cook pasta shells for half the cooking time. Drain and rinse in cool water. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; saute for a couple minutes. Add the spicy sausage and brown. Pour in the red wine and let it cook for a couple minutes. Stir in the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar and salt. Season with red pepper flakes for added heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, depending on how thick you want your sauce.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, romano, egg, salt and pepper, basil, and parsley.

To assemble: Coat the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish with the tomato-sausage sauce. Fill each shell with a spoonful of the ricotta mixture. Place the stuffed shells face down on the sauce. Top the shells with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle extra parmesan cheese on top.

Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve with a side of toasted Italian bread. 

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Cilantro-Lime Jalapeno Chicken Salad

Four months ago I signed up for the Soldier Field 10 Miler (Sat, May 25). I ran it last year and thought I’d try to beat my time this year. Then I got sick for a month-ish, stopped running for 3 months, and suddenly it was May (shoot!). I got a few runs in earlier this month and they were not pretty. This past week I was pretty sure I was going to collapse on the side of the race route. Waiting in the corral to start was the worst. The longer I stood there, the more time I had to think about what a terrible idea this was.


I’d like to thank a big burly man who was easily 4 times my size for getting me through the race. During races I like to pick 1-2 people who look like they’re about my pace and then tail them or run right next to them (I have no shame). If they get too far ahead of me, I know I need to kick it into gear. Added motivation if they’re way older than me (something just doesn’t seem right about a 60 y/o leaving me in the dust) or in this case, 4 times my size.

Next up: the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon! I’m running on the Snow City Arts team again this year. Snow City Arts is a nonprofit that provides arts education to hospitalized children. I’m raising money for them so if you’d like to donate (tax deductible!) to their awesome mission, click HERE. You’ll get major brownie points.

I made this chicken salad a couple weeks ago because it makes for great leftovers and takes care of lunch for a couple of days. I also just love chicken salads. I’m a big red onion fan, so I went heavy on the onions…same with the cilantro. I might even add a little more cumin to this while you’re at it.

You should also check out this curried chicken salad recipe!

Ingredients*
20-oz can chunk chicken, drained
1/3 cup mayo
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp cumin
1 lime, juiced
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 – 1/4 red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, roughly minced
2-4 tbsp cilantro, coarsely chopped
sourdough bread (or your preferred bread)

Instructions
Empty the chicken into a small bowl. With a fork, break up the chicken chunks. Stir in the mayo, dijon mustard, cumin, lime, salt, and pepper. Add more mayo and lime as needed. Stir in the jalapeno, onion, and cilantro. Serve on a slice of sourdough toast for an open-faced sandwich.

*I don’t remember how much this serves, but I’d say about 6.

Recipe adapted from Daily Crave

Nutella Banana Bread

My roommate went out of town last week and left me with a bundle of ripe bananas that she didn’t want to waste. My initial reaction was to make banana bread. I mean, what else are you going to do with all those bananas? Make a smoothie? Or ice cream?! (I just searched my own blog for “banana” and realized I actually have a number of banana posts… Who knew?!) I hastily looked up a recipe at work and found this Nutella one. I went with it and the rest is history.

Ingredients (1 9-inch loaf)
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe banana
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Nutella
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat together the mashed banana, butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy and well combined (about 2 minutes). Beat in the eggs until combined (another 2 minutes). Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture until just combined.

Divide the batter in half into another bowl. Stir in the Nutella until combined.

Lightly grease a 9″ loaf pan. Alternate spoonfuls of the two batters into the loaf pan. Swirl the batter gently. Bake for 1 hour or until well risen and a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out with moist crumbs attached. 

Original recipe from Sugarplum

San Diego-Style Fish Tacos

These fish tacos are crazy delicious. Like, oh my gosh why am I just now discovering these delicious. The sauce is seriously where it’s at. It’s so good you’ll be going back for more. It’s got a nice smokiness with a little kick. So so good. The tilapia is also killer. You really can’t go wrong with any of it.

I have to give my friend Sharon a shout-out for passing along this recipe. Thanks, man! I messaged him earlier this week for a recipe idea because I was actually in the mood to cook (gasp) and let’s face it, I needed to post something on this blog. So ta-da!

Here’s a quick snapshot of what I’ve been filling my life with instead of cooking: biking, art, birthday fun times, delicious restaurant eats, random trip to Iowa/Minneapolis, more art, warm weather, more biking, and lots of caramel apples. (Roommate introduced me to coconut pecan caramel apples from Mariano’s and we’re obsessed. We might have a problem… but an apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?)

Ingredients (serves 2-3)
2-3 tilapia fillets
1 small head red cabbage
queso fresco
6″ corn tortillas
Marinade:
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tbsp adobo pepper sauce
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp honey
1 1/2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp chili powder
salt & ground black pepper, to taste
Sauce:
2 oz light sour cream
1 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp adobo sauce
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
1/16 tsp cumin
1/16 tsp chili powder
salt & ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
Marinade:
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Place the tilapia in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the fish. Cover and refrigerate for 1-8 hours. 
Sauce:
In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, mayo and adobo sauce. Stir in the lime juice, honey, cumin, chili powder, cilantro, and garlic. Season with salt and ground black pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Tilapia:
Lightly grease a medium size skillet over medium heat. Remove the tilapia from the marinade, discard the remaining marinade, and place the tilapia in the skillet. Cook each side for about 2-3 minutes until it easily flakes with a fork and is opaque. 
Build your taco! On 2 warm corn tortillas, add a layer of red cabbage, tilapia, cilantro, sauce, and crumbled queso fresco. Top with a splash of fresh lime juice.
Original recipe from I Don’t Cook But My Boyfriend Does