Lotta Empanadas

“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”   – Frida Kahlo

Café Tola

tola

How can you not spot this gem on Southport?  It is literally sparkling as the lights flash around the name, Cafe Tola.  I love the Frida Kahlo/Rosie the Riveter combination – girl power to the max.  The pintos empanada was seriously a treat, and I wanted to try the spicy mocha, but they were out of the spicy chocolate that day.  More reason to go back!

tola4

Here are some pictures of the interior:

tola3

tola2

Eat happy,

Chelsea

MORE CUPCAKES

I’m dedicated to sharing all of my favorites, so here’s a little treasure I found on 1 E Delaware Pl…

more cupcakes

Need more cupcakes from MORE Cupcakery and very soon.  These were the best cupcakes I’ve had in Chicago!  I’ve still got nothing but love for Sprinkles although I have to admit that these take the cake (punny).  Bottom left was called chocolate valrhona with a little gold leaf, top left was chocolate champagne, top right chocolate hazelnut, and bottom right, my favorite, salted caramel.  MORE is known for it’s spectacular maple bacon cupcake, but curse my luck they were sold out.  Salted caramel was satisfactory though.

salted caramel

Eat happy,

Chelsea

Food For Thought

IMG_4824 

Food For Thought

Basic rules from one developing foodie to another.

1) Just add cheese.

2) Be adventurous.  The other night I tried skate for the first time, and it tasted like the best thing I’ve ever eaten.  For those of you who don’t know, and I didn’t, but luckily I had a very educated bartender, who explained skate as similar to a sting ray, but with a texture similar to scallops.  I loooove scallops, so I was all in, and it was served with this delicious sea urchin sauce, veggies, and salmon roe to top it off.  Every bite was great.  By the way, I had no idea that another wing of skate was hidden under all those beautiful veggies…such a delicious surprise to have more of it.  I hate to sound cheesy, but it was really like an orchestra of flavors accenting each other.  The salmon roe was the icing on the cake, and isn’t that portion impressive for a $24 dollar meal?  Color me very impressed.  And well fed.  Thanks to Owen and Engine, and much thanks to the bartender who suggested it.

skate wing

Also, take chances in the kitchen.  It’s fun to try new recipes, even if they flop.  And it’s fun just to follow your instincts and throw ingredients together.  Last night I walked through the organic goods aisle in my grocery store and came across this bag of dark chocolate covered pretzel thins, for $5.99.  I picked it up off the shelf.  I examined the bag, checked the calories and the amount of servings in the bag…3. I thought, “If I go home and eat this six dollar bag of pretzel thins I will not be happy with myself.  And I guarantee I’ll still be hungry.”  So I moseyed over to the baking aisle and picked up a bag of dark chocolate chips, and snagged a bag of pretzels from the snack aisle.  I went home and winged it, to end up with this amazing salted caramel, dark chocolate pretzel bark.  It’s messy and imperfect, but damn it tastes good.  And I have enough to feed all of my coworkers! Seriously, I made enough for like 1o people, and it cost less than six bucks.  I got creative with the crust – it’s pretzels, crushed walnuts, graham cracker crumbs, and chia seeds covered in caramel, dark and semisweet chocolate, and topped with pink Himalayan sea salt.  Yum!  You get the point.

IMG_4887

3) Try it more than once.  I read something once about how your taste buds change as you get older, and it must be true because I’m living proof.  Growing up my diet consisted of chicken fingers, mac ‘n cheese, and Reese’s.  There was no debating about it, and I would cry and gag at the thought of eating vegetables.  Gasp! I know.  Anyone who knows me now knows how excited I get about trying new foods (cue my rant about skate above).  Even with things I still have a distaste for, like avocados weirdly, I still keep trying to eat them in different dishes to learn to acquire a liking for them.  It works, I promise.  The more you try something the more you like it.  Or you just hate it and there’s no fixing that.  But generally it works.

4) Treat yo’ self.  Go out and try fancy places and order nice, maybe pricey dishes that you want to try.  Justify it in the budget as necessary culinary experience.  It tastes so good.  Food sustains your life and provides you with energy and happiness.  You deserve the best.  Repeat mantra.

5) Share it with others.  This is my favorite thing to do!! Finding the best food, or making it, and sharing it with people so they can experience the same amazing flavor feels so good.  I love watching a smile and wide eyes spread across someone’s face who appreciates my baking.  And it’s so fun to go to cool, new restaurants with friends and try things together.  Cue a consensus of phones taking foodie pics before devouring.

On that note, check out my instagram @sunnysdelight for my recommended restaurants and recipes (#alliteration).

Eat happy,

Chelsea

IMG_4854

Bacon Bit Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bacon makes everything better, right?  The more bacon the better!  However, at first I wasn’t convinced that mixing bacon bits into chocolate chip cookies would make a delicious dessert.  I found an easy recipe on Pinterest and I decided to put it to the test.  The results were these mouthwatering, chewy, sweet and savory cookies that were snatched up and gobbled in an instant.  And so dubbed a successful baking experiment and a recipe to keep stored for the future.  I’m posting the link to the original recipe by Girl Who Ate Everything below because it was so easy to follow and it made wonderful cookies.  Caramelizing the bacon in brown sugar first is what I think makes the cookies so rich and sweet.  A few notes and photos from me, but for the most part the kudos goes to the original recipe’s creator.  Thank you Girl Who Ate Everything for sharing this yummy recipe!

IMG_4432

Bacon Bit and Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I cooked the bacon as the recipe called for, but when I flipped it over, about 10 minutes into cooking, I topped all of the bacon with more brown sugar and I recommend doing this.  I also used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and I added a 3 oz bacon infused chocolate bar (broken into chip size) to add flavor.  I bought this Mo’s Dark Bar at Whole Foods for $7.99 for the right occasion and it was worth every cent.  Those melted triangle chunks of chocolate you can see in my cookies are pieces of this rich, dark, bacon infused chocolate.

The recipe says to bake for 13-15 minutes; I think 12-13 is good, I say pull them out as they start to look golden because softer is better for these cookies with their chewy texture, you don’t want them to overbake and taste crunchy or dry and hard.  Also, smaller balls of dough are better; my first tray of cookies baked into each other because I made them too big.  Let’s be honest, bite-size is better anyways…the more to share!

chococookies

IMG_4430

Bon appetite,

Chelsea

Cupcake Cones

Yes, these are cupcakes…in ice cream cones…cupcake cones, I call them.  They’re cupcakes that wannabe ice cream.

Cupcake Cone Recipe

cupcakes

Easiest recipe ever and these cupcake cones make a delightful crowd pleasing dessert.  Plus it’s fun to watch people try to eat them, icing inevitably goes up the nose.

Ingredients:

12-24 flat-bottom ice cream cones (I used 12 jumbo sized cones and had enough leftover batter for 4 mini cones)

1 box white cake mix (follow recipe on the box for making the cake batter)

3 eggs (it says use only egg whites but I don’t waste the yolks, I use the whole eggs)

Vegetable oil

Water

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 drops of almond extract

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven according to the box of cake mix and follow the cake batter recipe mixing in the ingredients as specified.  Stir the vanilla and almond extract into the batter, and then stir in the white chocolate chips.

Stand the jumbo ice cream cones in a muffin tin and spoon the batter into them, almost filling them to the top, but leaving about a quarter of an inch.  When baking, they should rise to fill the cones evenly, or rise slightly above.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes and let cool completely before frosting.

icing batter

Amaretto Frosting Recipe

Time: 10 minutes

Makes about 2 cups (*you can substitute vanilla for almond to make vanilla frosting*)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon almond extract

pinch of salt

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Stir together the heavy cream, almond, and salt in a small bowl until the salt is dissolved.

Beat the butter with an electric mixer using the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about a minute.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar, beating until the mixture is smooth 4-5 minutes.  Beat in the cream mixture and increase the speed to medium-high, beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 6-8 minutes.

Fill your piping tool with the frosting and ice the cooled cupcake cones.  Decorate with sprinkles, because why not?

cakes

 

As far as frosting these cupcakes, I didn’t use any fancy kind of baking tool.  My method, as usual, was to cut the tip off of the bottom of a ziplock sandwich bag and then make a second tiny slit perpendicular to my first cut, so that when the icing squeezes out of the hole I’ve cut, it has four corners.

icing bag

To fill the bag with icing, put your fist in the bag to open it up and stand it in a tall standing cup or glass with the top of the bag folded over the edge of the glass.  This is the easiest way to fill the bag with icing and then seal it closed without air so it’s completely mess free!  Then, I hold the icing bag (ziplock) and start with the tip on the outside edge of the cupcake cone and continually swirl clockwise into the center of the cupcake making the rosette shape with frosting.  It may sound complicated, but it’s way easier that it seems, and it takes a few tries to get them looking good, so don’t get discouraged.

True confessions of a baker…these cupcakes are difficult to cover up and preserve over night.  I tried lightly covering them with plastic wrap and transporting them into the fridge, however, I had one fallen soldier (and a few got a little smashed, I got icing all over myself). Even the cupcake that hit the floor was absolutely delicious.  I have to admit that I ate it off the ground, it was too good to waste.  I scraped the icing off and topped it with new icing…As a matter of fact, I had to add a spoonful of frosting to each bite of my cupcake cone.  The more frosting the better!  As my friend likes to hastag, #dontwasteitletmetasteit.

cupcake

Sweet tooth to sweet tooth,

Chelsea

 

Cayenne Cocoa Cookies

Say that three times fast, “Cayenne cocoa cookies, cayenne cocoa cookies, cayenne cocoa cookies..” ok stop, shove these treats in your face and say no more.  Mmmmmm is what you’ll be saying.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and adapted it a little bit, but these cookies are most definitely a new favorite in my cookbook.

Note: Your generic grocery store may not carry pastry flour or spicy baking chocolate, but Whole Foods does.  I found whole wheat pastry flour which worked excellently and Vosges Haut-Chocolat Red Fire Bar for $7.99 (pictured beneath the recipe) at Whole Foods.  The Red Fire Bar has Mexican ancho and chipotle chilies, Ceylon cinnamon, and dark chocolate.  I did some research, thinking, “What is Ceylon cinnamon?” and I discovered there are two types of cinnamon – Ceylon cinnamon, and cassia cinnamon.  Cassia cinnamon is most commonly used and abused, and is even found to cause liver damage when over-consumed.  It’s grown in China and Indonesia, in contrast to Ceylon cinnamon which is grown in Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Seychelles and known as “true cinnamon” comparatively.  As a result, Ceylon cinnamon is more expensive and harder to find.  But if you use a lot of cinnamon in your daily life, you should make a conscious effort to switch to Ceylon cinnamon for health reasons.  This article taught me all about cinnamon if you want to know more.

Cayenne Cocoa Cookie Recipe

IMG_4414

Time: 45 min – 1 hour  Serves: about 35 cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups pastry flour
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt (or any flaky sea salt)
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 heaping tsp ground cayenne red pepper
1 cup packed brown sugar (I had about 1/2 cup so I used 1/2 cup also of turbinado raw cane sugar, regular granulated sugar can also be substituted with a bit of molasses)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
5 oz dark chocolate chips (about 3/4-1 cup)
3 oz spicy, dark chocolate chopped into about chip size
 
Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° and grease baking sheets

1) Whisk the first six ingredients together in a bowl (pastry flour, cocoa, cayenne, baking powder, baking soda, salt).
2) Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream butter until pale and fluffy. Scraping down bowl as needed, beat in sugars until smooth and fluffy again.
3) On low speed beat in vanilla and add in one egg at a time, scraping as needed until fully incorporated.
4) Add in half the flour mixture on low and mix to incorporate before adding the other half. Mix until just incorporated and then stir in the chocolate with a wooden spoon. “It’s a mighty batter, quite thick. So use your muscles.”
5) Finally dollop the dough onto your baking pans (taste some of the batter and be in awe of its pure chocolatey goodness), I made my cookies about a heaping tablespoon each, shaped to be about the size of a golf ball, as directed by the original recipe.
6) Bake for about 12-16 minutes (mine took 14, and I think they’re better soft).
Bon appetite!
 
FullSizeRender
Here’s the baking chocolate I found at Whole Foods, I’m thinking about using the bacon infused chocolate and the red fire caramel chocolate for other recipes in the near future…

chocolate spicy bars
From my chocoholic heart to your stomach,
Chelsea

Original recipe found at Local Milk

Chicken Quinoa Chili

.IMG_3780

Chicken Quinoa Chili Recipe

Time: 1 hour 25 min        Serves: 8-10 people

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

olive oil

1 large sweet onion

5 cloves of garlic

1 red bell pepper, 2 jalapeño peppers

2 stalks of celery

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons of chili powder

1 teaspoon of cumin

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of garlic powder or garlic salt

2  12 oz cans of crushed tomatoes

1  14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes

1  15 oz can of northern white beans and 1  15 oz can of red kidney beans

1 bag of tricolor quinoa (or any other quinoa variation)

2 cups of chicken broth

Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped scallions, chopped bacon bits, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

1)  Prepare raw chicken breasts by patting dry with paper towels and placing them on a baking sheet in olive oil with a little salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Turn the chicken breasts over when there’s about 5 minutes remaining.  Once the chicken is finished cooking, shred with a fork into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.

2)  While the chicken is cooking, prepare the chili pot.  Start by finely dicing the onion and sautéing it on medium heat in a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and stir it occasionally for about 8 minutes.  Dice the red bell pepper, jalapeños, and celery, chop the scallions, and lay the bacon out on a foil-lined pan in preparation.

3)  Mince the garlic and stir it into the onion, cooking for about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add olive oil to the pan if it starts to look dry at any point so the onion and garlic don’t burn.  Stir in the chopped red pepper, jalapeños, and celery and sauté for about another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4)  Add the spices: 3 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin,  a pinch of cinnamon, and a sprinkling of salt, garlic salt, and black pepper.

5)  Add the chicken and stir to evenly mix the spices, and then move to a stock pot.  Add the crushed and diced tomatoes and both cans of beans.  Stir the chili and watch for it to start to bubble and boil.  Turn the stove down to low heat, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer for 30 minutes.

6)  In the meantime, put the bacon in the oven at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Flip it when there’s 2 minutes left.  When the bacon is crispy, pull it out of the oven and pat with paper towels to absorb the excess grease, and then chop into bacon bits for garnishing.

Rinse 1 cup of tricolor quinoa in a strainer and then add it to a small pot with 2 cups of chicken broth.  Put the pot on high heat and when it boils, cover it with a lid and turn the heat down to low.  Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes and then remove from heat to cool for 5 minutes before fluffing it with a fork.

After the chili has simmered and everything else is prepared, the dish is ready to be served.  Spoon out a serving of quinoa, smother it with  the chicken chili, and finally, add cheddar cheese, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, the chopped scallions and bacon, and enjoy!

IMG_3778

I was inspired by the delicious chicken quinoa chili that I’m addicted to at Protein Bar, so I decided to try and mimic their recipe.  I found a Chicken Chili Recipe online and adapted it to make it my own.  The meal is so warm and satisfying – and healthy, with the quinoa – on a cold winter’s night, it’s absolutely perfect.  It’s great to make for friends, and it makes such a big pot of chili – leftovers for DAYS.  I plan to eat it all week long.

Stay warm and eat chili!

Chelsea

Find a Silver Lining

I love many, many things in this world.  I love ice cream, I love romcoms, I love Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (I mean, who doesn’t?), and I love Ernest Hemingway.  That last one may not seem to fit with the rest, but I came across this hilarious scene in the movie “Silver Linings Playbook” with Bradley Cooper that had me laughing out loud the other day.  So I want to share it.  If you have two minutes free and want a good laugh at the expense of Ernest Hemingway, enjoy.

He gives a great little synopsis of A Farewell to Arms, but he’s obviously very upset about the tragic ending.

“I will apologize on behalf of Ernest Hemingway because that’s who’s to blame here.”  He’s angry it doesn’t have a happy ending because he says it’s hard enough in the world.  How cute is his mom’s reaction?  And to top off the scene, his father is Robert De Niro.  What’s not to love here?

Real talk:  He’s mad at the book because he’s trying so hard to find a silver lining in everything.  I love the positive mindset he’s working towards with his “excelsior” mantra that he mentions in the beginning of the clip.  I completely agree and I find it so peaceful and useful to be able to take anything negative and turn it into a positive.  Optimism is a lens you can choose to view things through…or you can complain and bitch and feel unhappy.  But your attitude and your experience is what you make it.  I think when I figured this out it became a fun game for me to try to make my own fun out of any little negative daily annoyance.  Try it out sometime when you’re stuck in a long line, or when a coworker’s bugging you, or you get caught walking in the rain.  Choose to be happy and spread it!

“You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna take all this negativity and I’m gonna use it as fuel and I’m gonna find a silver lining, that’s what I’m gonna do.  And that’s no bullshit, that’s no bullshit.  That takes work, and that’s the truth.”

Choosing to be happy in any situation is hard work and it takes a lot of practice.  A nice reminder for me are these emails I get once a day called The Daily Motivator.  My uncle subscribed me to this awesome motivational service that sends encouraging emails out every day.  Gotta love a little positive reinforcement!  It was created by Ralph Marston in 1995 and “the site has become one of the most popular and enduring destinations for daily positivity.”  Check it out, and if you’ve never seen the movie “Silver Linings Playbook,” I highly recommend you pull it up on Netflix. Fun fact: the word “excelsior,” as J Law points out in the movie, is the motto of New York and it means “ever upward.”

“Whatever happens, decide that good will come of it. Decide that good will come of it, and you’re well on your way to making that goodness a reality.” — Ralph Marston
Chelsea

Fudgin’ Fantastic

Fudgin’ Fantastic Brownie Recipe

brownie batter

Pardon my French, but these brownies are so fudge-tastically sweet AND they are super easy to bake.  I found the recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook.  I adapted it to make it more my own, while maintaining the chocolate, fudgy texture, so the recipe is a mix of directions from the book and from me.  I don’t have a 9-inch square baking pan, so as you can see, I improvised with a smaller glass pan and a heart shaped pan.  You can make almost anything work in the kitchen if you know how to improvise and work with what you’ve got.  Because of the two pans, my brownies were thinner than I would have normally made them, but they were so delicious, I couldn’t stop eating them.  I’d have to go back and cut just a little more…and a little bit more.  I actually froze the heart pan, and the frozen brownie makes a good late night snack, although I planned to let it thaw and bring it to a friend’s house.  I think it would also be great chopped into small brownie bites and mixed in with ice cream to be served, maybe even with hot fudge.  So many options!!

Preheat oven to 325° and prepare a 9 inch baking pan (or two smaller pans) with butter or non-stick baking spray

Ingredients:

1 and 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

a pinch of salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter cut into pieces (about tablespoon size pieces, or a little smaller)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream (I only had 1/2 a cup so I substituted with 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt, and I added a heaping tablespoon of coconut oil – I could taste the addition of coconut oil and I loved it)

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For the topping:

an additional 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup white chocolate or peanut butter chips (or butterscotch, or dark chocolate…take your pick!)

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Directions:

1) Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer on slow (I found out that hand-held beaters do NOT work as well because there’s not a low enough speed, so if you’re lacking a mixer, like me, just mix by hand, the good ol’ fashioned baking way).

2) Add the butter pieces and continue to mix until the butter reduces to the size of peas, for about 2 minutes.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as you mix, combining any loose flour.

3) Mix in the egg and vanilla until combined (the batter will still look very dry).

4) Mix in sour cream and coconut oil until the batter is evenly combined and no longer a dry consistency.

brownie batters

5) Lastly, stir in the 2 cups chocolate chips and spread into your prepared pan.  Stop and lick the spoon.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.  My brownies cooked in 35-40 minutes because they were thinner.  Let them cool completely before adding the topping

baked brownies

For the topping: Melt the semisweet chocolate chips in the microwave with a couple drops of vegetable oil until smooth, and drizzle over the brownies with a fork.  Repeat the process with peanut butter chips or white chocolate chips.  I chose peanut butter chips, and it made the brownies taste like amazing Reese’s fudge.  On my heart brownie, I spread melted semisweet chips only, for the any nut allergy friends I might want to share it with.

brownie pan heart pan

Enjoy the sweet eats and share with your chocoholic friends!

Chelsea

Source: Klivans, Elinor.  “Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownies With Dark and White Drizzle.”  The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook.  San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008.  Print.