We're back from a fantastic trip to Chicago. My gosh, I love that city! Each visit makes it more and more clear that we need to spend some time as Chicago residents before settling down! Looks like I might've found the best graduate program for me as well after graduating from WMCL :)
In any event, we're also back to reality and I'm excited to get back to the kitchen. I love vacationing but I always find that I eventually get sick of eating at restaurants. Don't get me wrong, we had some amazing dining experiences. It's not the food that bothers me. It's the fact that I don't know how the food is being prepared. I have so many food allergies/issues that it's hard to plan a day when you don't know if you're going to break out in hives or not! However, this was probably one of the best Chicago food experiences I've ever had. We kept it consistently on a budget too (no Charlie Trotter's here!) so we didn't look at our bank accounts after the trip and cry.
My birthday weekend began by a side trip to the Bleeding Heart Bakery. I have pretty much been obsessed with visiting this bakery since I saw the owners, Michelle and Vinny, featured on a few of the cake challenges on the Food Network. They are seriously awesome and I managed to slightly freak out when I saw Michelle at the Roscoe Village bakery on Sunday. I think she knew I was stalking her. I smiled at her, she smiled back and I let her continue on her path without interrupting her busy day. Their bakery is amazing and their goodies are so delicious! I picked up one of the infamous 'Take a Hike' scones. Oh my, this baby was amazing and lasted the duration of our trip! I couldn't eat the whole thing in one sitting. Ron had a s'mores cupcake and I had a raspberry cupcake w/ chocolate frosting. Seriously, amazing. If you are in Chicago, make a detour and go to this bakery!!
Later on that night, we had my birthday dinner at the Atwood Cafe for the final evening of Chicago's restaurant week. On my birthday, we had breakfast at the Corner Bakery and Cafe, lunch at Hannah's Bretzels and a late dinner at Harry Caray's. We stopped in for some amazing Cuban coffee at a fantastic little shop in the heart of the city. The next day, we had brunch at the Bongo Room and dinner at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. Amazing, amazing, AMAZING dining in Chi-town! We spent a lot of time just walking around the city, running on the lakefront path, browsing the museums and walking through Lincoln Park (where we decided we would live!) and checking out cool bars. This trip made us both realize how un-suburban we are at this point in our lives. We need the city, we need those unique coffee shops and fun little restaurants. I've known this for a long time. My favorite place in Pittsburgh was this tiny little organic coffee shop on N. Craig Street. I was happiest when I was sitting in that shop, sippin' on some joe and watching people. I don't have anything remotely close to that in our new apartment. I miss that. I need that.
Ok, enough gabbing. Although I managed to eat healthy while in Chicago (Ron didn't; he ate pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce for breakfast, hehe) I still feel like a giant load. So, I knew we needed something healthy for dinner. This dish was inspired by a picture hanging in the elevator of our hotel. I wanted it so bad but the dish no longer appeared on the restaurant menu. Plus, the restaurant was not in our food schedule while in town. So, I took a photo and attempted to recreate it because I couldn't get the image out of my head! How did I do?
I took a lot of shortcuts with this recipe (used precooked items). This was in part because I did my grocery shopping late at night and could not get raw shrimp. Also, the damn store was out of orzo and I wanted orzo! Plus, we were eating at 9:30 at night. I did not want to eat cereal but I wanted vegetables. So, here we go. Quick and easy in about 10 minutes total. However, the recipe turned out very good. I also cooked up some asparagus to eat on the side, but you can also serve with some bread and butter.
Feta Shrimp w/ Brown Rice and Asparagus
created by Me but inspired from a picture (above) hanging in Hotel Allegro's elevator (featuring the 312 restaurant)
Yield: 3 servings
- 1 lb shrimp, cooked, peeled, deveined and tail-off, drained and pat dry
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- kosher salt
- red pepper flakes
- 3 cups pre-cooked brown rice blend (I used a brown rice and quinoa blend)
- 1/4 c pine nuts
- 1/2 c green onion
- 1/4 c fresh dill
- 1/4 c fresh parsley
- 1/2 c chopped roasted red pepper
- 1/2 c feta cheese
- Spinach leaves
- For Shrimp: Heat pan over medium high heat. Once heated, add oil. Add shrimp, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Saute until shrimp have shrunk and soaked in flavors, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Place hot cooked rice in a large bowl.
- Mix in pine nuts, green onion, dill, parsley and roasted red pepper.
- Spread some spinach leaves across plate.
- Add about 2/3-1 c rice mixture to plate.
- Add as much shrimp as desired.
- Sprinkle w/ feta cheese and more pine nuts.