Restaurant Reviews & Recipes

Recipe Review: Brown Sugar BBQ Chicken from Delish

My husband recently was having a rough day at work and I wanted to prepare a meal for him that I knew would make him feel better. He loves BBQ and Bourbon, so I found Delish’s recipe, Brown Sugar BBQ to make sandwiches. It is made with Bourbon, so I knew this would be the right recipe. You can find it here Recipe Here.

This is a 6 hour slow cooker recipe with just a few ingredients. In fact, I had everything in the fridge, with exception to the coleslaw. In all, it took me around 10 minutes to prep. I LOVE finding recipes that are easy, but still fun and interesting to try.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 c. barbecue sauce, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. bourbon
  • 1/4 c. Italian dressing
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 Slider buns
  • Coleslaw, for serving

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a slow-cooker, add chicken breasts, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, bourbon, Italian dressing, garlic powder and paprika. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Toss until well coated, then cover and cook on high, 6 hours.
  3. Shred chicken and serve on buns with a drizzle of barbecue sauce and a spoonful of coleslaw.

 

I used all the ingredients and followed the directions exactly. As for the ingredients, I would skip out on the salt. Since it is fairly salty enough and it is not necessary. I was also not going to bother heading to the store for the one ingredient I was missing, the coleslaw. But, this is a must! The combination makes the entire sandwich. For the Italian dressing, I used a generic brand, but would use Wishbone next time. Just because I feel like it is the best and it might have made a difference.

For the directions, I followed them, but at 5 hours, I thought it was done and was tempting to stop it. But don’t! That last hour changed the texture of the meat and I am glad I waited. They turned out perfect! The meat melted in your mouth. It was sweet and tangy from the BBQ sauce and smokey from the bourbon.

Definitely one of the best meals I’ve made in a long time. It’s really easy, but not quick meal you can jput together Takes time and Noah might have to wait to give it a try!

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Easy Meals: Frontera Foods

If you have been following me on Instagram, then you know I’m obsessed with Rick Bayless’s Frontera Skillet Sauces. They are so easy, surprisingly don’t have a lot of sodium and DELICIOUS.

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Chicken Mole

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Red Taco Skillet Sauce

Go try it and let me know what you think!

-xoxo-

Christine

Summer Recipes

I am no chef, will never claim to be one. But as soon as I had my son, cooking kind of became part of motherhood, whether I liked it or not. I have learned throughout the past year different recipes that are EASY, FAST and a bonus if it’s kid friendly. Below are some recipes I have been whipping up this summer. Enjoy!

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Pasta Salad 

  • 1 pound tri-colored spiral pasta
  • 6 tablespoons McCormick salad seasoning mix
  • 1 (16 ounce) bottle Italian-style salad dressing- I love Wishbone
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cucumber- chopped
  • 1 (2.25 ounce) can black olives, chopped
  • 6 ounces of Feta Cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Kraft Olive Oil Mayo
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Makes 6 Servings

  1. Boil water in a large pot of salted water, cook pasta until al dente, rinse under cold water and drain. 
  2. Cut cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes and olives (I have to cut real small for my son)
  3. In a salad bowl, combine the pasta, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and olives. Pour dressing over salad and add the Mayo last.
  4. Toss and refrigerate overnight or a few hours (at least 3 hours)

Pico de Gallo

I am not going to lie, this is my husbands recipe. He makes it at every get to together we have and now is requested. It’s super easy and perfect over tacos or as an appetizer. I LOVE it with shrimp tacos, and we add it to Noah’s quesadillas chicken tacos.

Makes 12 servings

  1. Stir the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, lime juice, garlic, garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. This is key to this recipe. The longer is sits, the better!
  2. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips or on tacos.

Grilled Spicy Lime Shrimp

This can be made on skewers or for tacos. We prefer tacos, because everyday is like Taco Tuesday in our house 🙂 Note- Noah has yet to try shellfish, so this isn’t Noah approved just yet. Adapted from The Recipe Critic. 

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  • 1 pound of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Juice of one large lime
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
 Makes 4-6 servings
  1. In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, olive oil, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Pour into a resealable bag and add shrimp. Toss to coat and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Put the shrimp in grilling basket or on skewers and place on the grill. Grill on each side for about two minutes or until no longer pink.
  3. For shrimp tacos, top with pico de gallo (see above) or sliced avocado. Flour tortillas work best.

Sweet Potato Steak Fries

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My son loves anything sweet potato! Mashed, fried, baked, etc. These are a great way to get in a craving, but still keep it lighter (somewhat).

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1×3-inch wedges
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 onion
  • Aluminum Foil

Makes 4 servings

  1. Place sweet potatoes and all ingredients in tin foil. Wrap them up so no edges are shown.
  2. Grill in tin foil for 10 minutes, then place on the grill until a crust forms on the outside. We like ours crunchy, so we leave it on until the crust is almost burnt.

I’d LOVE to hear any feedback!

Until next time..

-xoxo-

Christine

Jinya Ramen

I love a good ramen place, but recently, this city is being overcome by them. I feel like there is one every few blocks, it makes it hard to find one that stands out. So many places skimp out on the noodles and protein and it is just a bowl of salt. So when Fab Food Chicago invited me check out Jinya Ramen Bar at 553 W. Diversey Pkwy in Lakeview, I jumped at the chance to try a new place with hopes of it being great.

Walking in, I was pleasantly surprised how much bigger it was from the outside. They have a small bar and a semi open kitchen. I always love this characteristic in a restaurant. Who doesn’t like to see how their food is being prepared? It has a small, neighborhood vibe with young people and families eating.

Once seated, we got the full description of how the noodles are made. It is much more of a detailed process than I ever realized! They use FUGI water to boil the noodles. Once they are ready, they are aged for three days to maximize the flavor. The broth is simmered for 10 hours with whole pork bones, chickens or vegetables to create a flavorful experience. I was intrigued after this.

To start the meal, we tried their new summer items. We had the Pork Chashu (slow IMG_1210braised pork) & Kimchee and Salmon Tacos,  Takoyako (octupus balls- like a donut with octopus inside), and Poke Bowl. My favorite was the tacos. I loved the flavors and thought they were perfect summer. It was like something I could eat at a festival in the summer heat. The Pork Chashu had a smoky flavor and was cooked perfectly, it melted in my mouth. As the Takoyako, I am not much of an octopus fan, but the other guests LOVED it.

IMG_1215Now, the RAMEN! I was torn between the Cha Cha Cha- for garlic lovers or the Spicy Chicken Ramen and asked for a recommendation. The manager suggested the Spicy Chicken Ramen. It is their most popular dish with the option of getting mild, spicy, or hot. I went with this. It had chicken, spinach, spicy bean sprouts and green onion. It was DELICIOUS. Not too spicy, salty and the noodles were thick and flavorful.
IMG_1240IMG_1233 The chicken and veggies had a lot of spice, but not overpowering. The broth wasn’t too watery, almost a thicker consistency. Needless to say, I devoured the entire bowl.

To top all this, we had a dessert. Blockheads shaved ice cream pops and OH MY GOD. IMG_1242Amazing. I have been googling on where I could find them in the city! So good. If you find, PLEASE let me know!

The entire meal was fantastic and I later learned they are BYOB with a $5 corking fee per person, which makes it even better. Parking might be difficult, but there is lots of public transportation in the area.

Let me know what you think.

Until next time..

-xoxo-

Christine

Quest for the Best *Thin Crust Only

There are a few things that can get me out of the house during winter hibernation or away from my summer Netflix and Chill; pizza,  wine and maybe a manicure. If I’m desperate enough.

There are so many good places in Chicago to eat a good slice, but I can’t stand deep dish. Except, maybe when I’m hungover. Or pregnant. One of those happens more than the other.  But really, I’m a thin crust kind of girl. I have narrowed it down to just three, but there are so many more options in the city.

In the heart of Lincoln Park, Pizzeria da Nella has not only amazing pizza, the outdoor patio for the warmer months is a hidden gem.

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Al fresco dining

It is very family friendly and easy to bring Noah. Their kids menu includes a Mickey Mouse pizza and butter noodles. Their menu is extensive and they have more then just pizza and salad.

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My favorite starter here is the avocado burrata and for pizza, the Diavola is nice and spicy. Their pizza is a true Neapolitan with a burnt, bubbly crust. It’s the right amount of chewiness without the toppings sliding off, because nobody wants that.FullSizeRender(30)

Tip- Margherita Mondays $7 dollars and they are opening a location in Hyde Park.

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Diavola Pizza

With two locations,  Coalfire Pizza pizza is Lakeview and West Town, this pizza is best known for their whipped mountains of ricotta and perfect burnt crust. It’s a thin, cracker like crust, just the way I like it. They have some unique pies like Lasagna, Honey and Salami, Veal Meatball and Pistachio Pesto, a little something for everyone. There are vegan options too. They use all locally sourced ingredients and serve Bang Bang pie dessert. It’s a win, win really. Tip- They also have an al fresco dining option.

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Lasagna Pizza from Coalfire

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Lasagna pizza at Coalfire

Another pizza fav of mine is Sono Wood Fired in Lincoln Park. It is a cozy, ideal date spot with dim lighting, oil candles and friendly service. Their pizza is wood fired and the best seat in the house in by the open kitchen and oven. Pizzas are delicious and the crust is to die for. The Soppressata Divola with wood-fired onions is the right amount of spice. The White Sausage and the Mushroom pizza are also my go-to’s here. I also LOVE their  brushette as well and even have a flight you can choose from. They serve a weekend brunch, which includes a Salmon Pizza. Tip- The specials are fantastic.

SUNDAY: 1/2 off bottles of wine & Industry Night 25% off for our restaurant industry friends
TUESDAY: $10 Pizzas and Pastas
WEDNESDAY: $6 Antipasti & $8 Specialty Cocktails
THURSDAY: Wine Flights $10 & Wine Flights and Bites $20

There are SO MANY amazing options across the Chicagoland area. I would love to hear some of your favorites!

Until next time..

Christine

Margaritas in May

FullSizeRender(19).jpgIf you know anything about me, I enjoy two kinds of drinks: a glass of Cabernet and a mezcal margarita with salt.  But margaritas can be overly sweet, watered down, or just really, really bad. Whether it is Cinco de Mayo or a warm day in Chicago, a margarita is the perfect cocktail to sip on. To help you get your buzz on,  I have rounded up a few of my favorite marg’s around the city.

Big Star– This might be the most obvious choice, but their margaritas are really tasty. Either by the FullSizeRender(22)pitcher or glass, I prefer the Big Star mezcal rather than the Classic. The classic is made with blanco tequila, which doesn’t give the smoky taste. They have an amazing patio and it’s perfect for the warmer Chicago months, and of course, let’s not forget their tacos.

FullSizeRender(21)Masa Azul– This Logan Square Mexican and cocktail bar is a little gem that might have the best margaritas in the city. Seriously. Their margaritas are that good. With almost 20 cocktail options to choose from, all ranging from $6- $12 dollars, lots of tacos (especially vegetarian options), this is my top 5 favorite Mexican places in Chicago. This is a bold statement, considering my husband’s discerning taste. With such a variety of options, there might be a margarita for everyone.

The two margaritas I recommend are the Prickly Pear with mezcal joven and prickly pear and Where there is smoke…. This has mezcal joven with a              SFullSizeRender(20)errano Chile. Smoky with a little spice.  Pair it with their guacamole = perfect summer meal.

Crio Bar and Restaurant– Located in Lincoln park on Clybourn Avenue, this Latin American gastropub has some really flavorful margaritas, yummy food and drink specials throughout the week. On Tuesdays, Margaritas are only $6 dollars.

I have two go-to drinks here. First, the hibiscus marg is a delicious combination of sweet and spicy.  Second, they have a version of a Moscow mule, made with mezcal, which is unique.

Plus, for all you instagrammers, the mural and flower wall make a great photo opportunity.

These are just a few places, but Chicago is full of so many amazing places. Let me know!

Until next time…

~xoxo~

Christine

Top 5 BYO Spots

BYO (bring your own booze, beer or wine) is one of those great restaurant qualities that so many seek out when dining. When I lived in New York City in my twenties, I couldn’t believe that there weren’t any BYO options, especially since everyone I knew was on a tight budget. Chicago has an abundance of BYO options ranging from casual to upscale dining. I have rounded up a list of my favorite spots throughout the city.

Sushi Mon – Located in Lincoln Park, this BYO sushi restaurant has a wide variety of sushi rolls, sushi bowls, pressed sushi and an impressive list of veggie rolls. My personal favorites are the Godzilla, V6 and Sparking rolls. The service is friendly, prices are great and delivery has always been excellent too. Go check it out and tell Bat I sent you 🙂  Sushi Mon FullSizeRender(5)

Ruxbin– For a night out for an upscale dining experience, Ruxbin is the spot. Located in Noble Square, it is small, intimate and a great setting for a date. The cuisine is American with a hint of Asian with dishes ranging from hanger steak (my favorite), octopus, and pork belly (my husbands favorite). They have an interesting menu concept that I really like. Every day they offer 5 dishes, for the table , $85/person. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday they offer 3 dishes, for the table — $55/person. Additional dishes are $12–$15/person. This is set up so you can try a little bit of everything on the menu. Go make reservations and bring a bottle or two (no corkage fee!). Ruxbin

IMG_171190 Miles Cuban Cafe– My family has been coming to 90 Miles for years now for their traditional Cuban cuisine. We have IMG_1709celebrated graduations, anniversaries and birthdays here. It is huge, has an outdoor seating option and the decor all make foCGL Foodr a fun dining atmosphere. The empanadas and ropa vieja are not to be missed, some of the best I have ever had (sorry mother-in-law!). The service is top-notch, especially since there are many large groups at time. They take reservations and it is definitely recommended. In addition to being BYOB, they have a sangria and mojito mix, so bring wine or rum they will make you a killer sangria or mojito. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe,

Home Bistro Chicago– The first time I dined at cozy and quaint Home Bistro, was on a date (with my now husband years ago) when we first started dating. Located in Lakeview, with a constant changing New American menu, along with no corkage fee, this is the ideal date night spot.  They have an option for a prix fix on Wednesdays and Sunday brunch. For parties of 7 of more, they have a family style prix fixed menu at $45/person. They take reservations and are highly recommended. Home Bistro Chicago

Caro Miro- For our very first Valentine’s Day (7 years ago…), we came to the Italian BYO Caro Miro and have gone several times since. Located in Ravenswood, this cozy, neighborhood spot has homemade pastas with huge portions, big enough to share. The pesto filled gnocchi is the best and chicken parmesan is also delicious. There is not a corkage fee, but if you plan on sharing, there is a $4 sharing fee. They recently expanded their dining room and take parties to up to 80 people now. Reservations are taken for parties of 4 or more. Bring your appetite and a bottle or two for some delicious Italian food. Caro Miro

There are plenty of BYO restaurants to choose from in Chicago and a little something for everyone. Get those appetites and bottles poppin’. 🙂

Until next time…

~xoxo~

Christine

 My Favorite Places for a Cocktail or Two

With this beautiful weather Chicago has to offer lately (for February, it’s near short of a miracle), I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite places to grab a glass or wine or cocktail. Not in any order, below are some fun places for any day of the week, date night, solo or with the whole family.

London House (Date night/solo)

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Just there views alone are breath taking. Like seriously, amazing views of downtown Chicago. They have a great cocktail list and an extensive mezcal list, which is my favorite. They also have a 3 course Power Lunch menu for $20 dollars (a legit steal for downtown). It’s a three course meal from their lunch menu. This is great for date night, out of town friends, have a ladies night or solo. I went during the day on a Tuesday and had he rooftop to myself. Either way, the views and cocktails are top notch.

Bar Cocina (Sunday Funday/Friends) Heading up north, this taco spot has a year round patio. Brunch outside or ice skating during the winter, it’s a year round spot for great cocktail with your friends or family. Their Bottomless Brunch for $39.95 with Chef Stations and Drinks is a must. Their biggest selling point is their year round patio, which isn’t too common for a bar/restaurant. With large couches, heat lamps and plenty of space, the day could be spent here sipping away!

Parson’s (Sunday Funday/Family)
Head to Humboldt Park and sit outside (in winter, it is an ice skating rink) with the entire family. The chicken, hush puppies and slushies are my personal favorite. There is so much room for strollers and doggies, that you could spend hours eating and drinking. My kind of place.

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Parson’s

J. Parker (Date Night/Friend/Parties)– With some of the best views in Chicago, this rooftop is located at the Lincoln Hotel in Lincoln Park. They now currently have a year round roof, so enjoy it any time of the year.

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J. Parker

Some of my other favorites are the mocktails at Santa Monica House, Big Star and Dark and Stormy slushies at Chop Shop.

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Chop Shop

Chicago is a place for eating and drinking so there’s so many more. Let me know what you think!

~xoxo~

CGL

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