DIY: 5 Breakfast and Snack Toasts

It all started with the avocado toast. This simple creation has become a staple in my diet and many diets as I understand it. Some call it #basic, while others call it healthy fats. I call it: delicious, versatile and easy. Avocado toast is basically a healthy almost blank slate, ready for you to express yourself and/or treat-yo-self. But the toast game is so much stronger than avocado toast. I have recently (I know late to the game) expanded my toast horizons, because you can basically put whatever you want on toast. Here are a few ideas all in one place to help you get your fancy toast on.

Avocado Toast:

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, toasted
  2. 1/3-1/2 of a ripe avocado, I like to cut into the avocado in the peel and then mush it on the toast with a spoon, but you do you
  3.  enjoy

Avo-toast With a Little Kick -this is my go-to. It is a little more interesting, but still not too much work. The chia seeds give you a little mineral-fiber-protein boost and the red pepper flakes give it a little zing.

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, toasted
  2. 1/3-1/2 of a ripe avocado, I like to cut into the avocado in the peel and then mush it on the toast with a spoon, but you do you
  3. shake on some red pepper flakes to taste
  4. sprinkle on about 1 tsp of chia seeds, divided onto each

Goat Cheese and Avocado Toast -I came across this one when I needed something to do with my extra goat cheese from a very indulgent, very hungry post-workout to Whole Foods. Let me tell you, if this ever happens to you, you do not need as much goat cheese as you think you do. Unless you really like this next one…

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, toasted
  2. 1/3-1/2 of a ripe avocado, I like to cut into the avocado in the peel and then mush it on the toast with a spoon, but you do you
  3. crumble goat cheese on top to taste
  4. shake on some red pepper flakes to taste
  5. if you are feeling fancy, drizzle the whole thing with some extra virgin olive oil

Pecan and Cheese Toast -This one feels fancy, but it probably the easiest one. I was feeling inspired by a super simple toast I would eat in the morning after sleeping over at my childhood best friend’s house. It was cinnamon swirl toast with cream cheese and it was delicious.

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, I would actually suggest cinnamon swirl for this one, toasted
  2. 1-2 tbsp of cream cheese or goat cheese divided between the slices
  3. 4-6 pecans (I prefer caramelized for this one) per slice
  4. that’s it, so easy
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Dressed Up Peanut Butter and Banana Toast

Dressed Up Peanut Butter and Banana Toast -One of my roommates first year of medical school ate a simpler version of this every day for breakfast. She is about to be an ophthalmologist. Not that they are related…but maybe…

  1. two slices of whole wheat/sprouted grain/whatever you want bread, toasted
  2. one tbsp peanut butter (creamy, chunky, salted, unsalted) per slice
  3. 1/2 banana, sliced and divided onto each slice
  4. 4-6 pecans (candied or regular, I prefer candied) per slice
  5. sprinkle on about 1 tsp of chia seeds divided onto each, or don’t, that’s cool too
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Or skip the chia seeds

Those are my starter toasts for you! They all take less than 5 minutes, are pretty well balanced and go well with a cup of coffee or tea. Whether you need something super quick in the morning, or a simple snack during the day these have got you covered. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Let me know what you come up with!

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Pump Room

Guys, I’m moving to San Diego! Pretty soon, I am going to be one of those people that pulls out a hat and gloves instead of shorts when my weather app says 60 degrees. I’ve been making fun of those people (Californians, Floridians, etc.) since I met them in college, but really I’ve just been jealous all along. Even though I love love LOVE Chicago, it is time to try something new and reach outside my geographic comfort zone. That being said, there is a LOT of Chicago eating to do in the next couple months and a whole new food beginning waiting for me on the west coast (best coast?…too soon?).

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Who can resist a California sunset?

I started with this place. A place I have only ventured to for some fancy cocktails. But matching (into a residency program so I can be a real doctor) seemed like a good enough reason for fancy brunch. Also, side note, I am technically about to finish 20th grade…that’s over 75% of my life spent in school. The thought makes me want a cocktail from this place right now…

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Sunny Side Up Frittata

The Place: Pump Room; The Neighborhood: Gold Coast

The food is on the fancy side, with things like lobster scramble and a sunny side up frittata, but all of it was yummy. The brioche french toast with caramelized pears and smoked bacon with definitely my favorite. They soak the bread for 24 hours and it is crispy on the outside and so gooey on the inside. The organic egg sandwich was a table favorite as well with smoked jalapeño jack cheese and housemade pork or chicken sausage.

The coffee was good and even though we had done a lot of celebrating the night before, everyone was peer-pressured into cocktails. The Bloody Mary was simple, but on point and just the right amount of spicy. We did not indulge in other non-brunch cocktails, but this is an excellent place for cocktails. The people watching is awesome, because this is definitely a place to bring someone you are trying to impress…if you know what I mean.

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Future doctors of California and Wisconsin; Photo by Tina

Furious Spoon

I was late to the ramen game. I never did the microwave noodle thing in college. But now that ramen is like the coolest, steamiest Chicago winter pick-me-up, I am glad my last roommate helped me see the light. My old apartment’s proximity to Ramen San made this food a staple in my diet. Bad day? Night before an exam? Sick? This food can do it all. It is the hipster foodie’s chicken noodle soup. Even though living close to Ramen San made it my default, I have tried lots of ramen in Chicago and this one is one of my favorites.

The Place: Furious Spoon The Neighborhood: Wicker Park, but they also have a Logan Square Location and Pilson is coming soon

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Furious Ramen

I went for the first time on a cold rainy night a couple weeks ago. The kind of night that is just barely too warm for snow and you really should get delivery and stay home. But the journey (AKA 20 minutes on the the 56) to Furious Spoon was totally worth it. It is a casual spot where you order at the front and get a number so they can bring it to your table. The whole restaurant is 3 communal tables, which adds to the casual, friendly feel, but might make it challenging to eat with more than 3 other people. I went on a weekday around 8:30pm and it was not too busy, but I walked past it last Friday night around 7:30pm and it was packed!

They have quite a few ramen options, some more traditional than others. I was feeling a little sick and wanted something spicy to soothe my stuffy nose (ew gross I know) so I went with the Furious Ramen. This is a hearty one with homemade noodles, tonkotsu broth and flavored with a miso tare. I had the standard toppings which are:  chashu (pork belly), white pepper chicken, marinated mushrooms, scallions, fury sauce, garlic relish, sesame seeds and a poached egg. That’s basically enough protein for a body builder. The fury sauce made it spicy enough to soothe, but not so spicy I couldn’t taste anything else. Which was good, because you want to be able to taste how well all the flavors work…and they work. Also shout out to one of the best poached eggs in all of my ramen experiences. The yolk had the perfect cheese sauce consistency.

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Chicken Citrus Shio Ramen

The person I went with had the Chicken Citrus Shio Ramen which was on the lighter side. I have never had citrus ramen before. It was a little more reminiscent of chicken noodle soup if you need starter ramen for your ramen newbie friends. Most of the other ramens on the menu start pretty basic, which is nice because you can add what you want to them. They have a whole host of options from corn to cabbage to pork belly.

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Takoyaki (octopus)

The Wicker Park location has a good selection of hipster canned beers and sake to help wash down your ramen.

Happy Slurping!

 

DIY: Steak Dinner

Since I have a blog that is all about how much I like to eat, people sometimes ask me if I also like to cook. The answer is YES, ABSOLUTELY. I tend not to blog about it because I try to cook healthier (within limits), which is much less sexy to photograph than burgers topped with bacon and dripping in melted cheese a la the Au Cheval burger or brunch with a side of chocolate soup as in Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. But trying new things is important…blah blah personal growth…something about a new year, new me. So I decided to try out a DIY post with something everyone can get behind.

The meal: New York Strip Steak with Roasted Brussels Spouts and Rosemary Garlic Baby Potatoes and Brownie Sundaes for dessert

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I made this meal with 2 of my oldest friends from grade school! We usually get together for dinner once a month and it seems that whenever we get together for an early dinner, we end up doing happy hour, then drinks, then dinner, then sometimes more drinks and dessert. There really is something extra special about those friends you have had forever. However, since I have been traveling a lot lately, I have become a temporary homebody and wanted to make dinner at my apartment. That’s the other thing about good friends, they are down for a change when you just need to chill.

We got New York strip steak because the plan was to cook it on a stove grill top and it was on sale at Whole Foods. Two of us are going to be students forever so we were trying to be economically fancy. We got two 10-12oz steaks to share. Before we did any cooking we opened a bottle of wine (it may or may not have been the first of four). Priorities were in order.

To cook the steak:

  1. Generously season each side of the steak with salt and pepper
  2. Use a grill pan on a hot stove
  3. 4 minutes each side for medium rare, my friend had the genius tip of doing a quick sear on all the edges of the steak too -she’s a smarty pants, but totally worth the extra step
  4. let rest 10ish mins (if you have that kind of self control)
  5. enjoy and feel so fancy

Next the sides. They are both so easy! You can make them at the same time in the oven. You can also assign this task to the friend that is maybe really messy and wants to help, but you are nervous about them helping. I’m not saying this was one of my friends, but if you happen to have one helping you, this might be the contribution for him or her. The brussels sprouts:

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. wash and halve a bag of brussels sprouts
  3. line a baking sheet with foil (less cleanup is always better)
  4. coat brussels sprouts in EVOO and toss in some salt and pepper in the baking sheet
  5. stick them in the oven for 30 mins, you may want to check them halfway through and stir them around

Don’t forget the potatoes. We bought purple, red, and yellow fingerling potatoes, mostly because they look prettier. And I’m not sure if I mentioned, but we were trying to make a fancy dinner. To make the potatoes:

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. wash and halve potatoes (the long way AKA hotdog not hamburger)
  3. throw them in a foil lined baking dish
  4. slice half of a yellow onion, toss that into the dish too
  5. smash and chop 2-3 cloves of garlic, throw that in
  6. add 3 sprigs of rosemary
  7. drizzle olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste and toss (we used our hands, it’s easier)
  8. stick it in the oven with the brussels sprouts, if they aren’t done when you take out the sprouts, turn the oven up to 375 F for another 10-15 mins (at least that is what we did and it was fine)

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We also had some crusty french bread that was supposed to be for the meal and one of my friends even made a suggestion for what I should do with the leftover bread. Obviously there was no leftover bread! That sucker barely made it to the actual meal. We devoured it with our wine as we cooked. But still a great addition.

We made brownies from a box and splurged on Jenni’s Burnt Caramel ice cream to top it. Jenni’s ice cream is such a game changer! All in all it was basically the usual. We met at Whole Foods at 6pm on Thursday and they were calling ubers from my apartment around midnight. Maybe this means I am getting old, but there is something so nice about cooking with old friends and being able to lay around on the couch after chatting, facebook stalking old flings and polishing off some wine.

Also to note, if you have leftover sides, store them together and use it as a base for a hash. And by hash I just mean microwave them at breakfast and throw a sunny side egg on top!

Briciola

I’ve been doing a lot of solo dining on the interview trail lately. And I have adopted the mentality that if I am traveling alone, I will have to eat alone anyway. So, why shouldn’t I have good food in a restaurant instead of grubhub in my Airbnb? I’ve gotten really good at saying, ‘table for one please’ with enough confidence that they forget to think it’s weird that I didn’t ask if there is a bar with open seating. And stay tuned, I think I will do a post with restaurant highlights across America from the interview trail. However, this post is from a recent break in Chicago where I didn’t have to use my new table-for-one skills.

The Place: Briciola The Neighborhood: West Town/Ukrainian Village

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I generally feel like I can make pasta, why do I need to eat it at a restaurant? But Briciola taught me why. The name literally means bread crumbs, probably to warn you that you will want to lick all the crumbs off of your plate. The menu is full of Italian classics with a nod to the historical integrity of the dishes, but enough imagination that you have not had these dishes done this way before. The Calamari in Guazzetto is in a spicy tomato sauce that my taste buds wanted to swim in. They had to settle for me using the calamari and garlic crustini as sauce receptacles. Next, the pasta. I had the Tagliatelle Alla Veneziana, which was not tagliatelle at all. It was black linguini in a creamy saffron brandy sauce with shrimp and bay scallops. It was delicious. The kind of delicious that comes from fresh pasta.  My dinner companion had lamb shank with polenta cakes, which was also awesome (but not as good as mine)! oI was too full for dessert, but looked at the menu anyway -mostly as a formality because I LOVE tiramisu. Also as some encouragement for my brain to send my stomach good vibes to make room. I gotta put that mind body connection to good use. The tiramisu was perfection -fluffy, creamy and not soggy.

The last thing to know about Briciola is that it is BYOB! What is better than that? Make sure you make a rezzy! It is super cute (kinda date-y), but does not seat too many tables. I also hear they have an awesome patio. Looks like someone will have to go back with me when the weather warms up!

Nosh and Booze

I like to think I am a cool Chicago foodie but a swipe through Instagram makes me feel like everyone with a cell phone can call themselves a foodie these days. This pop up is my claim to fame as being a real foodie and not just someone who has been taking pictures of her food since before it was cool/socially acceptable…whatever a real foodie is…

The Place: Nosh And Booze; The Neighborhood: West Loop

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Country ham sandwich with gravy

Nestled in the remnants of Vivo (RIP) on Randolph St. this is by the same people as AMK in Logan Square. (Logan Square is a neighborhood the real foodies -like me -eat in too.) It’s snacks and drinks, sharable dinner and the most important meal of the week: brunch. I did all three in a week and a half. This place is actually that good.

Let me take a break from trying to convince you I am cool and talk about the food. It is so good! The snacks include spiced duck fat popcorn and cheese curds. It would be quite an accomplishment to make fried cheese bad so I’ll just say that even though spiced popcorn sounds boring they manage to make it sweet, salty and spicy all at the same time. Both times I got it, I could not stop eating it. Also shout out to the oxtail poutine and pimento burger. They make their own pimento cheese in house. It’s a good burger and not quite the food coma commitment Au Cheval is.

Next brunch. The fried chicken benedict is my jam. It is on top of a scallion and white cheddar biscuit which they also use for their biscuits and gravy. And everyone needs some fried chicken to go with their fried cheese curds. Go big or go home, right? These biscuits star in the country ham sandwich as well.

You could also just go here for the drinks and a snack while you wait out your intended popular West Loop dinner spot. The Violet Daisy and the IPA Jackass(MULE) are two of my favorites.

Anyway, even though Nosh and Booze will only be sticking around through December, it is a placeholder and taste of what is to come as AMK is promising a more permanent version later in 2017. And even though I’ve been sitting on this post almost a month now while I eat in airports and other cities, I will definitely be back at least one more time before it comes to a close in December!

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Let’s talk about brunch. There is nothing better than Sunday brunch. It means you made it through the week, are not working the weekend (or at least not Sunday) and have every excuse to hang out with your brunch companions for an extended period of time. There is a reason no one does business brunch. No one rushes you out of brunch. But my real favorite part of brunch is that the sweet-savory debacle is easily solved by table pancakes. This place has awesome options for table pancakes.

The Place: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate  The Neighborhood: Wicker Park

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Sugar Puffs and Hot Chocolate

I usually start with the food, but given the name this is the place to start with the drinks. The hot chocolate is why you come here. It is basically creamy chocolate soup and totally acceptable to eat it with a spoon. Although, full disclosure, I might be saying that because that is what I do before my hot chocolate is cool enough to drink like a grown up. There are hot chocolate options for everyone: white, milk, dark, caffeinated and boozy. But no matter your choice, they are all topped with a homemade marshmallow or two. My favorite is the half and half which is half dark chocolate and half espresso. It is all kinds of delicious!

Onto the food. With a rotating menu there is no such thing as ‘I’ll try something new, because I have already had that before.’ It’s all new and all SO good. Lucky for me, my brunch companions today were all about the lets get stuff and share mentality. For the savory dishes, we had duck hash with sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts and a veggie omelet. This was one of my friend’s first time having brussels sprouts and she loved them! The omelet came with roasted potatoes that were so on point they could have been their own thing. Both dishes came with grilled bread, a small touch that is not to be underestimated. All bread is good with hot chocolate.

To satisfy our sweet tooth, we had the french toast of the day with chocolate cream and macerated figs. It was one of those foods where you put in your mouth and just float off to a magical place. My brunch companions and I are usually very chatty when we hang out, but once our food arrived we basically ate in the silence of brunch bliss. We also had the sugar puffs. These are soft, fluffy doughnuts and today came with raspberry preserves.

All in all, this Wicker Park staple was perfect for a rainy Chicago October Sunday.

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Half and Half