Sweet Scarletts Grapefruit Giveaway

Saying “so long” to sweet summer strawberry season can be saddening but as berries make their way out, sunny peak seasoned citrus can fill your fruit fancies.  Maybe grapefruit, however, isn’t normally your top citrus treat. Grapefruit can bring memories … Continue reading

Hakka Bakka Kati Rolls Giveaway

It’s not often that you learn the origins of a specialty food when you’re checking out a new restaurant but Kati Rolls, although newer to Chicago, have a true history.  Conceptualized originally in Kolkata, India, the kati (meaning stick) roll … Continue reading

Cooked: Your Best Veggie Pre-Cooked Meal Delivery Service

We have ambitions of getting in touch with our inner culinary geniuses every week when we head to the grocery store…and then we end up passed out on the couch with a half eaten Morning Star Burger falling out of our hands after work.  Like it or not (who really likes it), American culture is one of the most overworked cultures in the world.  We need a break!  Don’t you often muse about have your own personal chef?  Chicagoans, rejoice!  There is a pretty fantastic option for you to get your personal chef wishes fulfilled, even without a genie!

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We were so excited when Erin Winston Silva, the co-founder of Cooked, reached out to us to sample their pre-cooked meal delivery options.  Cooked promises “Nourishing Meals for Busy Folks” and we are 2 very busy ladies so we jumped on the opportunity.  We were particularly intrigued as Cooked seemed to have more veggie options than many delivery services that we’ve seen.  We also love the values of the organization.  Chef Jona Silva’s own health journey inspired him to create local and nutritionally rich (not calorie rich) foods to promote wellness in others.  One can tell from menu offers, which change weekly, as well as Silva’s transparency in where ingredients come from.  The focus is local partnerships and he is also sensitive to food allergies like gluten or dietary preferences like vegan, vegetarian and T-Rexian. Ok, enough blabbing, we know you wanna know what you get to eat!

For $76 (tax and delivery included) dollars, we got ALL the foods below!!  Delivery was timely and Erin was available throughout to deal with a multitude of blogger questions like: “What about Monica’s chickpea allergy” and “Can you change our delivery date?  We forgot, we won’t be home!”.

Freshly Pressed Juice: Pineapple Cooler

Loved it!  It was refreshing and green-licious with kale, romaine, spinach, coconut water and a sweet touch of pineapple.

Lunch Bowl #2: Organic POWER grains with black beans and salsa ranchera

We split this, yet there was enough for a full lunch for both of us.  This puppy is only $5 and is rich in superfoods like quinoa, amaranth and other ancient grains with mysterious origins.  The salsa added a nice kick to the mix.

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Lunch: Kale, Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad

Again, the portion was plentiful.  We enjoyed the sweet touch of cranberry and the kale and rice mix was tender and garlicky with a rich balsamic dressing.

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Dinners:

Soup: Kabocha Squash and Apple Soup

Admittedly, we had to google what the heck a kabocha was.  Turns out it’s an Asian winter squash!  Last week’s weather was considerably still miserable so this warm rich soup hit the spot.  It reminded us of a sweet potato bisque with light creamy touches of spices and cinnamon.

Sesame Crusted Tofu

The 2 tofu cutlets came with zuccini noodles and vibrant red and yellow peppers, dressed with a light a soy sauce.

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Cauliflower Tacos with Roasted Poblano Salsa

Cauliflower is a vegetarian delight as it has a chunky texture.  The taco mix also included cilantro, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds with a side of fresh salsa.

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Walnut loaf with Roasted Squash and Broccolini

The squash and broccolini looked ultra fresh and colorful with bright orange and green hues and they were both cooked to perfection.  The walnut loaf was a gray meat like color and was hearty for those of you who are familiar with the texture of meatloaf.  We really liked the dressing that was provided and it seemed like it had a tahini base.

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The meals are supposed to stay fresh for 3 days but we stretched them out until Thursday and basically had enough deliciousness to stave off any grocery shopping for 2 people for the work week.  It was like a cooking vacay!  We highly recommend Cooked.  Meals change weekly to provide variety.  This week features a tantalizing coconut dal (aka lentils) and chickpea zuccini fritters.  Ready to order?  All Chi Organic Girl readers can get 10% off their first order with the promo code: chiorganicgirls so skip the shopping this week and eat cooked!

*We were not compensated for our opinions but were provided with a gift card to try Cooked meals.

Relishing the Pro Chef Life: Fresh Meal Delivery Service from Relished Foods

UPDATE: 8.21.14 Relished has expanded and rebranded to become Home Chef.  They now offer vegan and veg friendly menus as well…all the more reason to stay home and be lazy instead of grocery shopping!

Ooo we are so sick of winter in Chiberia and we’ve had too many days of stir crazy all day pajama pants wearing.  This weather sure hasn’t made it easy to get out to grocery shop, let alone put on any real semblance of clothes.  Enter Relished Foods to conquer any reason to brave the cold white landscape we now call home.

Relished, is a fledgling Chicago area company that delivers fresh ingredients with clear visual instructions to cook healthy delicious meals like a pro.  Each order includes three meals for one week.  Recipes rotate weekly.

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Now to the good food stuff!

We received 3 recipes:

  • Farfalle Pasta with Shrimp
  • Arugula and Fennel Salad with Chicken
  • Naan Pizza

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We were hesitant about the Farfalle Pasta recipe which seemed too simple and possibly bland but once we noticed the fresh prepped ingredients and easy instructions our curiosity got us….  Farfalle Pasta sans Shrimp recipe included fresh baby spinach, basil, plump juicy cherry tomatoes, garlic and asiago cheese.  This is how manageable the recipes are.  We washed the vegetables, sliced the cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic.  Lastly, we added EVOO, sea salt and grounded whole black pepper…so taxing (wink)!

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Once we took a bite of this dish, we were pleasantly surprised by the flavors.  Although simple, the dish was satisfying and complex.

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With the arugula, we got to experience some ingredients we don’t usually utilize like fennel, and even champagne vinegar (you fancy, huh).  The chicken was lean and still juicy.  Relished packaging made it manageable to have one vegetarian and one omnivore eating the same meals as the meats were packaged separately from the veggies.

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The naan pizza made us giggle in delight because we love artichokes, roasted red peppers and onions.  All you had to do was plop the toppings on and bake.  The recipe made two 8 inch pizzas.

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What we learned about getting Relished pro chef meals sent to our house:

  1. All meals take 30 minutes or less and require minimal cooking skills.
  2. Recipe cards were visually stimulating, well articulated and can be used again!
  3. Food came in a space aged cooler box and ingredients stayed fresh until we were ready to cook.
  4. Meals cost around $10 a serving.

We really appreciated that all meals were veggie heavy, creative and delicious.  Relished is only about 6 months in and they have also indicated that they are exploring only veggie/vegan meal options to expand their dietary offerings.  Now if only they would send us some hot cocoa to warm things up for us, we be all about staying in for another week or so.

Thanks to Relished for inviting us to try such yummy and vegetastic meals!!

 

 

Chicago Thin Crust? A Pizza Must!

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Blaze Pizza

Oh Twitter,  how we love thee.  Recently, the Chicago Food Scene held a Twitter poetry competition for free Blaze pizzas.  We dug deep back to our middle school Haiku writing days  and typed a clever pizza ditty….and won!!   Once our coupons came, we gleefully braved the snow to try the “new to Chicago” casual pizza chain, Blaze Pizza, situated in Boystown right near the El stop.  We weren’t really sure what to expect when we entered but the staff hollered out a welcome and invited us to come closer.

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As we shyly peeked around, they detailed the Blaze pizza process for us.  The fine art of pizza creation is set up in an assembly line format.  Patrons can pick their own pie toppings and sauce or choose a signature ‘za and watch while it is made.  Pizzas are 11 inches of thin crust glory and take only 3 minutes to cook.  We were intrigued by the gigantic oven and learned that 12 pizza could fit inside which brings to mind sitcom hijinx of craaazy pizza cooking.  The oven man assured me that he avoided that magnitude of pizza multitasking.  The oven does, however, cook pizzas at a blazing (get it?!!!?) hot 800 degrees.

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There were a ton of signature veggie pizza options available to us as well as gluten free and vegan substitutions.  We decided on the Red Vine, with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil and chunky red sauce, and the Green Stripe, with pesto sauce, arugula, and garlic minus the chicken.

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Blaze Pizza – “Red Vine” with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil and chunky red sauce

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Blaze Pizza – “Green Stripe” with pesto sauce, arugula, and garlic minus the chicken

Pizza Highlights: Blaze Pizza is a real departure from Chicago style pizza and a real good one at that.  The crust was light, crispy and a titch garlicky. Our wallets were happy because their pizzas only cost 8 bucks and we each walked out with leftover slices.  We also tried the S’mores pie, a chewy marshmallow with melted chocolate in between 2 British biscuits.  It had appropriately crumbly texture but we decided it could have used a quick pop in the oven.

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Status: Liked, retweeted and plused, we loved Blaze Pizza and will be back to make our own creation.  Thanks to Blaze Pizza and Chicago Food Scene for choosing us as the creative poetresses that we are and giving us pizzas instead of an award.

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A Very Veg Thanksgiving: Baked French Onion Soup and Mushroom Gravy

Here’s Part 2 of delicious side dishes from my cooking adventure, French Onion Soup and Mushroom Gravy taught at Whole Foods Market Cooking School in Lincoln Park.  Thanks to Google+ Local Chicago for hosting this culinary experience!

When you see the food pics below, you’ll know why the whole class was clamoring to get a close view of the finished product.

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French Onion Soup

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 4 large sweet onions, thinly sliced with the grain
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, recommend cabernet sauvignon
  • 2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1 small baguette
  • 1/2 pound Swiss, Gruyere, or Emmenthaler cheese, shredded
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Emmenthaler Swiss Cheese

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees
  • Dry heat a large soup pot or dutch oven for 2 minutes.  Add to hot pot the sliced onions.  Sprinkle salt and drizzle olive oil over onions.  With a large spoon or tongs, constantly turn the onions so they do not stick to the bottom.  Continue stirring and flipping for 5-10 minutes.  The onions will start to shrink and caramelized beautifully.  Add the thyme and stir once more.  Place a lid on the pot and continue this 30 minutes, stirring every so often.  This is where the base of the flavor comes from.  The longer you caramelize, the deeper the flavor.
  • Slice baguette to fit your bowls, either on a diagonal or in circles.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, until bread is completely dried out.
  • Add red wine and balsamic vinegar.  This will help deglaze the pan and pick up more flavor.  Let cook another 10 minutes with no lid.  This will concentrate the liquid a bit to help deepen the flavor.  Add bay leaves and water and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to simmer, place lid on pot and allow to cook another 15-30 minutes.

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  • Ladle into bowls, place bread over soup and sprinkle on cheese.  Place under broiler for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes.  Be aware of the time as the broiler can burn food very quickly.  Enjoy!

Vegan Thanksgiving Cooking Class

 

Mushroom Gravy

Whole Foods Market recipe adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or almond flour for gluten free
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2tsp thyme
  • salt and peper to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Directions

  • In a large bowl, mix 2 cups vegetable broth with flour.  Whisk until there are no lumps.  Add remaining 2 cups of vegetable broth and set aside.
  • Heat a large sauce pan.  Add oil and shallots.  Saute about 5 minutes until shallots are limp.
  • Add garlic, mushrooms, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper.  Stir until well combined.  Saute about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked.

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  • Add wine and bring to a boil for 3 minutes, letting the liquid reduce.  Stir often.
  • Add broth mixture and nutritional yeast to the pot.  Let cook 10-15 minutes until gravy thickens.

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So this is my first experience with mushroom gravy as a born vegetarian!  Use on whatever dish you want….cover your greens, your mashed potatoes or slather it on the Whole Foods “meat” loaf recipe from part 1.

Craving more variety for your veggie-giving?  Check out the following veg/vegan recipes as a Thanksgiving side dish or fall treat and have a healthy happy holiday tomorrow!

Super Moist Pumpkin Bread by Post Punk Kitchen 

Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger and Vanilla by Post Punk Kitchen

Candied Yams by Earth Balance Made Just Right

Buttery Apple Cider Carrots by Earth Balance Made Just Right

Vegan Pumpkin Pie by Whole Foods Market

Ay Chica WoW WoW, we heart sexy tacos!

Our constant gratitude attitude must be working this holiday season.  We got a karmic invite recently from Rockit PR goddess, Kara Callera, to chow-wow down at Billy Dec’s most recent restaurant installment, ¡AY CHIWOWA! (throwing out a couple more thanks, universe!).

Highlight Reel:  AY CHIWOWA is at the tip of River North on Orleans and Chicago (worth noting as there is secret free parking in the area if you are willing to stretch those Chicago winter legs for a block or two).  Perfect spot for: After work drinks and apps with coworkers (lots of specials for those of us on a “paying back college loans” budget), partying on the weekend with your lady friends (VIP service and private room space in the back of the spot) or an upbeat date with someone who likes it loud.  AY CHIWOWA is also known for their immense selection of tequilas and creative cocktails, such as the spicy Acai Jalapeno Margarita, so call an Uber or a pink mustached Lyft in honor of Movember if you wanna get down.

As cold as it was outside the night of our visit, we received a warm welcome from staff and like a T.I. rap song, we were invited to have whatever we liiiiiked.  The music was bumping with throw back jams like “Snoop Doggy Dog” and an ugly sweater train of patrons danced past us as we settled ourselves at our cozy table.  As Jill, our bubbly and attentive server, brought out a bevy of items, the dudes next to us probably thought we were trying to add some extra padding for the long winter.

 

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Here’s the good, the amazing and the meh OK of AY CHIWOWA battling it out for best thing in our bellies.

Starters: 

Fresh chunky mango guacamole and roasted salsa paired with hot salted tortilla chips

VS.

Queso fundido (aka big old bowl of melty mexicheese) with sauteed peppers, onions and garlic

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¡AY CHIWOWA!

Winner?  Tie.  If we were on a deserted island and only had one food to live on, we would be praying some avocados would be drop from the sky.  The queso fundido, however, was a surprise plus with its flavorful veggie additions.

Veggie Entrees Throwdown:

Veggie Quesadilla

VS.

Veggie Tacos

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¡AY CHIWOWA!

Winner: Somehow queso fundido jumped in the cage match and beat up both veggie quesadilla and veggie tacos.  All three featured the similar sauteed peppers and onions leaving the veggie variety a little lacking.  Maybe throw some black bean tacos on the menu to entice the veg/vegan crowd?

Meaty Martial Arts Taco Match:

Slow cooked brisket-like Barbacoa

VS.

Adobe Veracruz style Chicken

VS.

Pork Belly with pickled radish

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¡AY CHIWOWA!

Winner: Barbacoa!!!  The short rib meat was so juicy and tasty that no toppings were actually needed.  The bright watercress salad on top of the taco zeroed in on the melt in your mouth texture of the taco.  The chicken came in second with a solid Adobo spice and pleasing texture.

Our coup d’etat and game changers, though, were two sugar dusted churros, with a perfect balance of soft fluffy insides and crunchy outsides, accompanied by an addictive hot cajeta sauce.  When we think of churros, usually its those stale carnival ones, not very thrilling to cupcake connoisseurs, but “someone” enjoyed them so much a bite of churro “mysteriously” ended up in her mouth…and then the stare down began.

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¡AY CHIWOWA!  Thanks again for hosting us!!

Looking for more of what’s hot in Chicago?  Follow Billy Dec’s blog http://www.achicagothing.com and twitter https://twitter.com/billydec