Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:


We tried a new local Italian restaurant this week and were quite impressed.  La Macchina Cafe is a cozy little place decorated with vintage auto and industrial memorabilia (“la macchina” means “the machine” in Italian), and it has a cool neighborhood atmosphere.  The menu is pretty perfect in its simplicity, focusing on authentic Italian classics that are surprisingly reasonably priced, especially considering how good everything was that we tried.  Although we don’t usually order dessert, and we were pretty full from the “taglieri” (breadboard) of meats and cheeses followed by our pasta courses, you really can’t eat at an authentically Italian restaurant without trying the gelato.  It was just as delicious as everything else.  Bravissimo!


We couldn’t let our leftovers from La Macchina go to waste, so we had them for breakfast a couple of days later.  Around our house, if you put a fried egg on something, that transforms it into the morning meal.  The runny yolk acted as a sauce of sorts to tie the two different kinds of pasta together.


New Favorite Soup Alert:  Thai coconut curry — original recipe here, as adapted by this talented lady.  We made it with chicken, but the chicken itself was kind of bland and didn’t add much to the soup.  Next time we’ll make it with shrimp, adding it near the end of the cooking time since shrimp cooks quickly.  A few of the ingredients are a bit unusual (coconut milk, Thai curry paste, lime leaves and lemongrass), but we found all these items at our local Whole Foods.  The Thai curry paste and dried lime leaves (“kaffir”) were in the Asian section, lemongrass was with produce and the coconut milk was in the baking section.  The recipe calls for two cans of coconut milk, so we used one “light” and one regular.  You’ll need at least one can of regular coconut milk because the light milk doesn’t have the cream stuff on top that you use to saute the curry paste and cilantro stems to start the recipe.  It sounds kind of complicated, but this soup is really easy to make and is so good that it makes you want to punch all other soups in the face (Dan’s ringing endorsement.)

Prairie Moon

On the recommendation of one of Dan’s colleagues, we had dinner at Prairie Moon the other night and loved it.  They have a wide variety of “American dining” menu items, including seven different kinds of burgers, and a great selection of “small plates” for the times when we want a taste of several different dishes or can’t decide on a single entree.  And the restaurant gets bonus points for being really close walking distance from our condo (especially during this winter of polar vortexes.)


The ability to play music in several rooms of our home simultaneously is not something we ever thought we particularly needed or wanted, but the Sonos wireless speaker system changed our minds as soon as we set it up.  We certainly don’t *need* music in every room at the same time, and Dan has (thus far) resisted the temptation to purchase speakers for all three bathrooms and our storage space, but having music piped through a few speakers in key spots (living room, kitchen and master bedroom) is a fun luxury.


Food for Thought

When you love food as much as we do, you think about it a lot.  Here’s what’s on our minds lately:

  • We get a lot of inspiration from cooking shows.  We recently saw Giada make sweet potato tots with “dill dust,” and plan to try her recipe.  We like sweet potatoes, but we’ve never successfully cooked them in a really delicious way at home.  (Has anyone else?  If so, please share!)  Sweet potatoes in tot form might be just the ticket.  Giada fries them, which isn’t the most healthy preparation, so maybe we’ll do some research on baking or roasting them instead.

Me so cold

  • In other cooking inspiration from the TV, an episode of the show “Unique Eats” featured brussels sprouts cooked with bacon and a miso glaze.  The recipe looks pretty good, if a bit time-intensive (the miso sauce cooks for 2 hours!), and we’d prefer not to fry the brussels sprouts.  So maybe we’ll adapt it by cooking the sprouts in a skillet with pancetta like this, then finish them with a drizzle of the miso glaze from here.  Thinking about miso reminds me that we need to work out the kinks of our adaptation of this recipe for miso-glazed pork chops and post it here.  Anybody have any other good miso recipes?  Even though a tub of the stuff lasts forever in the fridge, we feel like we won’t ever end up using it all and would like to cook with it more often.
  • Not all our food ideas come from television (surprising, considering how much TV we watch.)  Dan read somewhere once that you can improve the quality of store-bought chicken stock by simmering it with a couple tablespoons of white wine for 15-20 minutes before you use it.  We tried this trick recently with risotto, since the chicken stock had to be heated anyway before adding it to the rice.  Without doing a blind taste test, we couldn’t say for sure that the wine tip made the difference, but it was one of the best risottos we’ve ever made at home.  We’re suckers for easy kitchen secrets that make food and cooking better, and we’d love to hear yours if you’ve got any!

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:


Last weekend we walked over to our local movie theater (it’s that close!) for dinner and a show.  The theater has a great little bar where you can get “real” food (meaning something other than popcorn and candy) and drinks (meaning beverages of the adult variety) before or after your movie.  They also have live music on Friday and Saturday nights.  The atmosphere is cool, with leather couches and chairs or more traditional bar-style tall tables, and a huge wall featuring old movie posters along the 50-foot ceiling side of the room.  The food was good — upscale but un-fussy bar food.  Having the bar adjacent to the theater makes for an entertaining evening, and can make certain movies less depressing even more enjoyable.

Pre-bird breakfast sammie

One of our favorite breakfasts lately is a sandwich made with turkey sausage, pepper jack cheese and a fried egg on a toasted English muffin.  It’s quick, easy and relatively healthy.  We use these turkey sausage patties, which come in a 12-pack.  When we have this breakfast, we usually cook 6 patties (they are small — 2 per sandwich plus a bonus patty on the side), then freeze the other 6 for breakfast another time.  While the sausage cooks, toast the English muffins (we like this brand, found near the eggs at the grocery store), then place a slice of cheese on one half of the muffin to melt.   Spread a little butter on the other half of the muffin if you want.  When the sausage is almost done, cook the egg — we have a tiny non-stick skillet that is the exact circumference of an English muffin, for a perfectly-sandwich-sized fried egg every time — then assemble the sandwich and enjoy.


In unrelated, condo decor news, this small brass cow skull that I recently found at Urban Outfitters sits on an end table in our living room and reminds us fondly of Texas.

Yes, let's

And this new print, also from Urban Outfitters (guess what store happens to be really close to our condo?) hangs on a wall in our home office and reminds us whimsically of a Wes Anderson film.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:


Last weekend we went to the Italian market/food court/wine store/gift shop/etc, etc that is Eataly.  Wow.  The place is huge — two floors packed with all things Italian (and packed with customers/sightseers like us.)  The store (so much more than a “store”) is organized by stations, with everything from pasta (fresh and dried), cheeses (so many cheeses) and cured meats, other meat and seafood, olive oils and vinegars, pantry items, kitchen gadgets, wine and other beverages and chocolate and other sweet treats.  They even have an entire station devoted to nutella.  Plus more stuff that I’m sure I’m forgetting.  It’s apparently always crowded and can be a little overwhelming, but it’s a really fun place to wander around with a glass of wine if you are into food and Italy even just a little bit.  They also have several restaurants, of which we did not partake because the lines were long and we had just had a lovely brunch with friends at this cool place.  But we’ll go back to Eataly for sure, next time with hearty appetites and a researched list of items to purchase.

Cowboy Steak

Dan was super excited to find an excellent local butcher in the next town north of ours.  They have a great selection and whatever they don’t have, they will order for you.  Wide variety notwithstanding, the shop also has a friendly, small-town feel.  Case in point:  while Dan was chatting with the guy behind the counter who was cutting the steak Dan ordered and mentioned that we are new to the area, the guy said if he hadn’t been the only one minding the shop that day, he’d pour them a couple of beers so they could sit and chat more about Chicagoland and meat and stuff.  So neighborly!

New couch

We were both super excited to have the furniture we ordered months ago in Dallas FINALLY get delivered to our condo.  Our favorite piece is probably the new off-white (a walk on the wild side for this clumsy, spill-prone girl!) sofa in our living room.  It’s big (but not too big), fancy yet comfortable, and we think it fits our new space really well.  We like to think of it as “grown-up” furniture (especially compared to the futon “couch” we have been using since we’ve been here.)  We still have a way to go before the condo really feels like home (I’m looking at you, artwork stacked on the floor and still unpacked home office), but we’re slowly and surely getting there.

Slow-Cooker Italian-Style Pot Roast

Pot roast isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when we think Italian food.  (Come to think of it, neither is “slow-cooker.”)  Instead, and perhaps stereotypically, our go-to Italian dishes usually involve some sort of pasta:  lasagne, bolognese, meatballs and vodka sauce, to name just a few of our Italy-inspired comfort food favorites.  Not surprisingly, creating richly complex dishes like those requires a fair amount of effort and time in the kitchen.  We certainly don’t mind spending time in our kitchen, especially when the end result is so worthwhile, and we particularly enjoy how the cooking part of the meal becomes an event on its own when we make these dishes on the weekends.   (It’s no coincidence that two of the recipes include the word “Sunday” in their names.)   But we also appreciate easy weeknight meals that have all of the flavorful, comfort-food goodness, yet less of the work.  So we were intrigued to try this recipe from the book “Slow Cooker Revolution” for pot roast that cooks (without any help from us) all day in the slow-cooker, with Italian flavors from red wine, oregano, tomato, red pepper flakes and dried porcini mushrooms.  The recipe’s “Italian spin” goes right along with our philosophy that everything is better in Italy (or inspired by it.)  If an Italian grandmother had a handed-down-through-generations recipe for pot roast that she lovingly spent hours in the kitchen preparing to serve as the secondi (main) course at a long and festive Sunday lunch gathering of multiple generations of family, we imagine it would taste a little something like this.

Continue reading “Slow-Cooker Italian-Style Pot Roast”

Weekly Menu (Jan. 11)



  • Grilled Cowboy Steak, Creamy Parmesan Polenta, Tomato Cucumber Salad



  • Lavash Pizzas (One w/ Prosciutto, Parmesan & Arugula, One w/ Bresaola, Mozzarella & Arugula)


  • Kimchi Jigae (Kimchi Soup), Jasmine Rice


  • Slow-Cooker Chicken Vesuvio, Roasted Brussels Sprouts


  • Dinner Out


  • Tapas Night (Small Plates:  Sauteed Shrimp, Potato & Onion Omlette, Sauteed Spinach, Marinated Olives, Piquillo Peppers w/ Goat Cheese)

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:


We took a quick trip to Dallas last weekend — I had a hair appointment and Dan had an appointment with some BBQ.  Pecan Lodge is by far the best barbecue in Dallas, and it’s well worth the return trip to Texas (so are my highlights).  Not surprisingly, BBQ this good is also really popular, and people wait in line for hours to get it.  Our friend Maynard clued us on to an easier way to get our meat fix faster by waiting in a much shorter line for those ordering at least 5 lbs of BBQ.  Behold, “The Trough” — a sampler that includes brisket, pulled pork, sausages and ribs.  Our friend was also kind enough to agree to help us eat the 5+ pounds of meat and brought his son and nephew to assist as well.  Thanks Guys!  One “Trough” would have been plenty, but Dan lives by the philosophy that anything worth doing is worth over-doing, so he ordered extra brisket and sausages too.  A lot of meat was consumed that day — enough to satisfy Dan’s Texas BBQ cravings, at least until I’m due to get my roots touched up again.


No trip to Texas is complete without Tex-Mex, and we found a great place right across from our hotel.  It was even warm enough to sit outside, which was a nice break from the “polar vortex” happening back in Chicago.


We recently discovered a new breakfast food to add to our weekday morning routine — 8 Grain Hot Cereal.  It’s quick and easy to make, and it’s warm and filling on a cold day.  It also makes delicious muffins.  I followed the recipe on the package, but added a couple of overripe bananas, a few drops of vanilla extract and a little lemon zest.  The muffins were light, fluffy and moist — not at all what you would expect from using whole grains.


I finally tackled one of the last remaining unpacking/organizing projects remaining from our move — my jewelry.  I love any and all jewelry, but most especially the cheap inexpensive costume stuff (lucky for Dan), of which I have a LOT.  It was quite a challenge to figure out how to store and display all of it in our new closet space, but it’s (mostly) done and I even have some storage space to spare.  Chicagoland Charming Charlie here I come!  Texas-based  Sam Moon will have to wait for Dan’s next Texas BBQ craving and my next hair appointment (which may or may not already be scheduled).

Mediterranean Grilled Lamb Chops

Hello?  Is this thing on?  Anybody out there?  I seem to remember that, a long time ago, this used to be a place where we would write about some of our favorite recipes, including photos, instructions and maybe a little funny or interesting (to us) commentary.  Now nearly two months after uprooting our entire lives starting a new adventure in Chicago, we hope to return this Internet space to all its former glory, and by “glory” I mean maybe one semi-decent recipe post per week, if we happen to get around to it.  Although the current frigid temperatures here and around the country (keep it to yourselves, Hawaii and Southern California) don’t make for the most grill-friendly conditions, this lamb chop recipe is good enough to make us want to bundle up in a parka, clear a path through the snow and fire up the grill.  The simple marinade made with basic ingredients of lemon zest and juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano and pepper yields surprisingly complex flavors when the lamb is grilled.  If you’ve never cooked (or eaten) lamb before, this is a great introductory recipe because it’s so quick and easy, yet so delicious that it tastes like a fancy entree that took hours and hours to prepare.

Continue reading “Mediterranean Grilled Lamb Chops”