Weekly Winner: Antidote  for Chicago’s Return to Winter

We did it.  We had survived Chicago’s winter!  We made it!  The light was visible at the end of the cold, snowy tunnel.  Temps kept creeping up, inch by inch…degree by degree.  The parka was exchanged for the wool coat, and then an even lighter jacket.  This past weekend, no jacket was required!  We hit 70 on Monday!  And then came Tuesday.

Tuesday blew in with crazy winds and a 40+ degree drop.  It was winter again, or rather still.  We had come so close and got a cruel taste of warmth and then this!  We needed comfort.  We needed warmth.  We needed dairy and carbs!! (And bacon, but then again, when don’t we need bacon?).

The answer was Baked Potato Soup.  This is another recipe that I thought for sure I had written about.  We have made it forever and it is one of our all time favorites.  But apparently not.  So here it is now, in all its rich, hearty comforting glory.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light, and in the interest of full disclosure, I did not use reduced fat cheddar cheese – life is simply too short.  I use the good stuff.



Baked Potato Soup

Serves 8 (or so they say….more like 4 in my house!)


4 baking potatoes (about 2-1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups 2% milk

1 cup (4 oz) reduced-fat shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

3/4 cup chopped green onions

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400 for one hour or until tender.  Cool.  Peel potatoes; coarsely mash.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup, and level with a knife.  Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, whisking, until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes).  Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions.  Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with remaining cheese, black pepper and onions.  Garnish amply with bacon.

Weekly Winner: Cozy-ing Up With a Comfy Korma

My apologies for the delay but once again I’ve been traveling.  And as usual, upon my return to reality I feel a bit heavy and, well, stuffed.  Good eating (especially on vacation) is a life-long love of mine but once back home I always decide it is time to lighten up and eat right.

This would be much easier if it actually felt like Spring here in Chicago, but alas, the Polar Vortex still seems to have a firm grip on Chicagoland and the winter-that-just-won’t-quit … well, apparently it just won’t quit!!  Therefore I am torn between my continued craving for comfort food and my new-found yearning for lighter, healthier food.  What is a girl to do??

turkey spinach kormaThis girl turned to one of my new favorites – Spinach Turkey Korma on brown rice.  It is a bowl of food you can really tuck into and it just warms you up and satisfies.  But it’s healthy!!  And light!!  Bonus!

The recipe comes from Food Network Magazine and if you have the slightest inclination to try a healthy Indian bowl of yumminess — try this.  Your soul and your waistline will thank you.

A quick note on the picture and the recipe itself.  My picture just didn’t do the dish justice, so this one is from the magazine’s website.  And anyone who had read more than two of my recipes knows I detest cilantro.  Therefore I replaced cilantro with parsley.  You do what you feel is right.  I won’t judge, but might just wrinkle my nose at you a bit.

Spinach-Turkey Korma

Serves 4


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 2 -inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 10 -ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for topping
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice, for serving


Puree half of the onion, 2 tablespoons water, the ginger, garlic, curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until almost smooth; set aside. Mix the yogurt with 1/4 cup water in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the remaining onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Add the onion-spice mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until dry, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the spinach and the yogurt mixture. Cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve over rice with more yogurt and topped with parsley.

Weekly Winner: Treading Ever So Cautiously Into Spring

Broccoli Grape Pasta SaladWalking outside, you’d never know that it is officially Spring here in Chicago.  The heat is still on and the snow still occasionally falls.  However regardless of what the weatherman predicts, my body and my tastes always seem ready for the change in seasons long before it actually happens.

During the winter, I almost always have soup for lunch, and although it certainly is still chilly enough to warrant a nice bowl of soup, my cravings have been for salads.  Problem is, the produce available is certainly not salad-worthy.  That’s why I love this week’s Weekly Winner.  It’s technically a salad, but hearty enough for chilly days.  And it has pasta ….. and bacon, so you know… there you go!  Need I say more?

The recipe comes from Southern Living Magazine and I did make one very important change (for me, at least).  The original recipe calls for pecans as the nut of choice.  Since I abhor them (and no, that is not too strong of a word here), I’ve changed it to pistachios because I had them on hand.  It could have been walnuts, cashews… really anything but pecans.  I know, I’d never make it as a Southern girl.

Broccoli, Grape and Pasta Salad

Serves 6-8


1 cup chopped pistachios

8 oz farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

1 pound fresh broccoli

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup diced red onion

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups seedless red grapes, halved

8 cooked bacon slices, crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake nuts in a single layer in a shallow pan 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
  2. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, cut broccoli florets from stems, and separate florets into small pieces using tip of a paring knife. Peel away tough outer layer of stems, and finely chop stems.
  4. Whisk together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; add broccoli, hot cooked pasta, and grapes, and stir to coat. Cover and chill 3 hours. Stir bacon and nuts into salad just before serving.


Why I love Chicago … Reason #47

Enough said.  We are not a subtle bunch.

A Stranger in My Own Land

This weekend I had lunch in a strange land — four miles from my house!  Friends of ours contacted us earlier in the week to see if we would be interested in picking up their CSA box at a local farmer’s market on Sunday as they would be out of town.  Free veggies??  Sure!  Who wouldn’t be up for that?  For those not familiar with CSA, it stands for  Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically you buy a “share” of a local farm’s produce and each week you pick up a box filled with whatever is ripe for the picking that week.  This particular farmer’s market was in Logan Square.  Oddly enough, a place that neither me nor my husband remember ever stepping foot in or driving through… even though it is only four miles from the house.

So off we went on our little veggie-gathering adventure.  We took familiar streets but stayed on them longer than we normally do.  What we came across was this absolutely charming and very foreign-feeling neighborhood.  Big wide boulevards led to an adorable center square complete with monument.  It was on the square that the farmer’s market was set up.  After collecting our vegetable box we decided to take a look around this strange land.  We found a great Italian place with outdoor seating for lunch and while sitting there watching the “locals” walk by, we both agreed that it felt like we were on vacation in some foreign city.   We passed a Hispanic 7th Day Adventist Church and a Norwegian Lutheran Church within a block of each other.  We heard many different languages being spoken as we sipped our wine and ate our pizza.  But my favorite oddity of the day: a woman walking down the street with a friend, smoking a cigarette.  On the hand holding the cigarette she wore a rubber glove.  The other hand did not.  What do you think that was about?  Gotta love Chicago!

So next time you need to get away from it all and feel like a vacation — try taking an everyday street just a bit further than you normally do.  You’ll never know what you’ll find!


Another reason to love Chicago

Yesterday I head down to the lakefront to do an easy 2.5 mile jog/walk combo workout.  I’m feeling pretty good as I’m finishing up and decide to pick up the pace a bit.  I approach a group of four Chicago Parks and Recreation workers doing some repair work on a harbor parking lot.

One of the guys is slowly moving their truck backwards towards the running path.  Obviously, I slow down to let him through.  All four guys stop working, the guy in the truck leans out the window and says….”You go ahead hon … you’re working MUCH harder than we are!”

Thanks!…. I think.

Shiny, Happy People… or something like that

Ten years ago, I moved to Chicago from Southern California.  Although excited about the move, I was a little apprehensive.  I thought I was leaving the laid-back, friendly Southern California lifestyle for life in the big, impersonal city.  I could not have been more wrong!  Everyday life in Chicago has a much more friendly, neighborhoody, invested feel than I ever experienced on the West Coast.  Case it point:  my last 24 hours (condensed, obviously!):

Yesterday was Wednesday, and as any loyal reader knows (yes, all 4 of you!), that means my weekly trip to the Green City Market.  I get there by walking (something, I might point out, one never did in Southern California).  On my way there, I passed neighbors watering their plants, shopkeepers opening up their stores and sweeping off their entrances.  Everyone had a wave or a “good morning” to share.  I’m especially amazed by the owner of a neighborhood tavern by us called Tavish.  My husband and I go there, but certainly not regularly and we probably haven’t been in several months.  But you know what?  He knows us.  He knows we live in the neighborhood, so therefore he always waves and asks how I’m doing.

As I continued my journey to the market, I walked by the Lincoln Park Zoo.  Along the outskirts of the zoo is the enclosure for the wolves.  They are a timid bunch, and are rarely seen unless you take the time to really search them out in the underbrush or in their rock caves.  Yesterday morning, two of them were sitting on the rocks sniffing the morning air.  They glanced my way… and although I realize it is sheer coincidence… one nodded.  I know better, but I’d like to think he was acknowledging me with his own symbolic tip of the hat.  At least it fits this blog post, so work with me!

After purchasing my fruits and veggies at the market I made a beeline to my favorite baker for my Wednesday morning ritual (see previous post) of a brioche roll.  This time, I didn’t have to order!  The baker looked at me and asked “The usual?”  Very cool.

Fast forward to today.  I took a trip to my regular butcher shop, Paulina Meat Market.  Words cannot express how much I adore this place.  I have basically given up buying meat anywhere else.  It is totally old school and fantastic.  I walked in and as I approached the counter one of the butchers looks up, smiles and says “Hiya Hon…how were those ribs for the 4th?”  Again, very cool… and by the way… they were amazing.

Finally, although this last item doesn’t really fit this post, it certainly fits the overall theme of this blog and serves for my daily QuickQi.  I returned home from the butcher shop and took a minute to water the plants in the front of our house.  Three doors down there was a landscaping company working on replanting my neighbor’s front and balcony.  One of the gardeners walked over, said hello and then asked me “Who did your balcony?”.  With a wide smile I replied: “I did”!  Thank you very much!

One Little Reason I Love Chicago

I have lived in this house, in this neighborhood, for 10 years now.  Hubby and I love anything having to do with food… cooking, restaurants…but in particular… we like the eating!  I’d like to think I know all of the hip places, the great hole-in-the-wall spots, and the local gems around here.  After all… we take our hobbies seriously.  I scour magazines for recipes, I collect cookbooks and I read up on every restaurant opening, chef change, and menu tweak happening throughout Chicago.

So how in the world did I NOT know about Las Tablas on Lincoln Avenue??  Apparently it has been in existence almost as long as we’ve lived here!

It all began many months ago with my morning Groupon email.  In it was an offering at Las Tablas Columbian Steakhouse.  Well, we like steak!  My Godfather is Columbian… what’s not to like?  Of course I’ll buy the Groupon.

Fast-forward to this week.  In going through all of my Groupons (99% of them being for restaurants) I see that this one will expire at the end of the month.  Sounds like a mid-week date night to me!!  So off we go.

Another shocker — this place is easy walking distance from our house….seriously, like a half mile!!  We have never seen it before.  We walk into the cute family run restaurant and notice that, while the restaurant itself is filling up quickly.  The bar is blissfully empty.  And what’s this?  The Cubs game is on??  Say no more!  We sit down and start to peruse the menu.  Oh my… skirt steak, ribeye, chicken, chorizo…. so many choices how will we ever decide?  Our wonderfully charming bartender Mario suggests the Picada Colombiana — the sampler platter for two.

The rest… as they say…. is history. Everything was incredibly good, but the skirt steak was sensational!  A wonderful evening with a fabulous date, enjoying a complete and total meat-stravaganza!  Gotta love Chicago!  And yes… I’m still full!

It’s Official!

Spring has finally sprung here in Chicago and along with it comes the return of one of my all-time favorite events — the outdoor Green City Market in Lincoln Park.  This also marks the return of one of my beloved rituals.

First some info on my obsession with rituals.  The make me very happy.  They give order and pleasure to my life and make me take a moment….stop…think…enjoy.  Now, I’m not talking about big events or superstitions.  I’m talking about taking the time to do things correctly because you’re worth it.  For example, tea.  I will always use a teakettle to bring water to the boil.  I will never simply put a mug in the microwave.  It’s not right.  It’s not the way things should be done.  The same thing with microwave popcorn… please!!  Not gonna do it… wouldn’t be prudent.  Take the time to use a pot, real oil, real popcorn… and most importantly… real butter.

But I digress… today’s ritual.  Every Wednesday morning while the Green City Market is outdoors in Lincoln Park, I jog/walk the 2.5 miles from home to the market and to reward myself for the midweek morning exercise, I buy a brioche roll from a local bakery.  I casually nibble on the roll while I buy my week’s veggies, fruits, cheeses and other breads.  And so it began this morning.

As for my Quick Qi – I was wandering around the market observing the flowers that are finally starting to bloom and the trees bursting with buds when I noticed a new vendor selling pizzas and breads.  He had a warming tray and was handing out handmade mini doughnut holes dusted with cinnamon and sugar.  As I approached, he handed me one and said: “Please take one and enjoy…. congratulate yourself for surviving another Chicago winter.”  Don’t mind if I do!