Friday, October 18, 2013

Two Surprises!

As some of you may have seen via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.. on Sat, Sept 28th, I got ENGAGED!

While I was very surprised (and am still in shock every day when I look down at my hand), that's not the surprise I want to focus on today. Don't worry friends, will get to that another day. I promise. Today's post is about a "surprise" I thought I was playing on my guy for the same week we got engaged. As it turns out he definitely ended up outdoing what I thought was a sweet little something to show my affection.

A few weeks back I was contacted by Uncommon Goods to select a person to secretly give a gift (or gifts in this case) to. Along with the gift itself, they offered to include a personal note to the recipient. If you have visited their site before, believe me when I tell you it's the perfect place for unique gifts. With the holidays coming up, I am sure there is something you can find for those friends and family in your lives who you think "have everything", at any and all price points

Of course choosing who I was going to gift was easy. I love doing small things for my special someone. After searching around Uncommon Goods, I knew I wanted to do something with a traveling theme, since we have been talking about taking a trip just the two of us for quite some time. Believe it or not in our almost 4 years of dating, we have never taken a trip that was just about us. We are always visiting friends and family, or heading off to watch people we care about get married. Thank goodness now we'll have a honeymoon as our first of what I hope will be many trips together that are just about "us".

My personal message (that was included) read: "These gifts are to represent where our true love began (in a city you love), and where our love will take us together in our future." Again, I thought I was being the sweet one this week. 

While browsing these gifts under $50, here's what I come up with as the gift to represent where our love began in the city of Chicago. 

These Neighborwoods coasters are great, and make for a one-of-a-kind gift. They also come in a variety of cities which makes them perfect for anyone who loves their city as much as my guy does. For the "where our love will take us in the future", I selected this awesome scratch-off map. 
For a while now we had been talking about documenting our travels together on something we could hang up in our house. This is a really cool way to keep track of where we have been, and a reminder of where we still want to go. 

I really can't say enough good things about working with Uncommon Goods. Give them a try for your next gifting occasion, whether it be a birthday (here), the holidays (here), or just because (as I did) - you and your gift recipient won't be disappointed. 

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods, though the opinions expressed above are that of my own.   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Broiled Salmon with Red Pepper Salsa

Today's recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare fish. If you haven't tried broiling your fish in the oven before, you have been missing out. It is one of the quickest ways to cook fish, and it may just be one of the tastiest. This salmon dish is jam packed with flavor and comes together in minutes (literally about 15 to 20 with prep time). 

Broiled Salmon with Red Pepper Salsa
(serves 2, adapted from here)

For the Fish:
2 salmon filets
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Cooking spray

For the Red Pepper Salsa:
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 roma tomato, chopped
- 1/3 red onion, chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- Dash of salt 

1. Place the broiler of your oven on high. 
2. Spray the bottom of a baking sheet with cooking spray. 
3. Season the salmon - brush with olive oil, squeeze the lime juice over top both filets, and sprinkle with salt & pepper (to your liking). 
4. Place the salmon on the baking sheet and broil for 5 to 10 minutes (until fully cooked and crispy). I usually check at the 5 minute mark and set the timer accordingly. 
5. While the salmon is cooking, combine all of the ingredients for your salsa in a medium mixing bowl. 
6. Remove the salmon from the oven once cooked and top with a few spoonfuls of salsa. 

For a nice little addition to the meal, I like to bake some corn tortillas in the oven (sprayed with a little cooking spray on each side) for 5 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees until they are nice and crispy. It's my version of healthy tortilla "chips" and it is the perfect pairing with this dish. Make this meal for dinner tonight, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Creamy Polenta with Shrimp, Tomatoes, & Basil

Shrimp, tomatoes, basil.. do I really have to say anything more? Today's recipe is full of these fresh and healthy ingredients. Not only are the flavors in this dish fantastic, but these ingredients are guaranteed to leave your house smelling heavenly. Always a win in my book.  

Creamy Polenta with Shrimp, Tomatoes, and Basil
(adapted from here, serves 4)

For the Tomatoes:
- 2 cups of grape tomatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt & pepper, to taste

For the Polenta:
- 1 cup instant polenta
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups of skim milk (depending on how creamy you want them)
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded Mozarella cheese
- 1/4 cup of chopped basil + additional for topping
- Black pepper, to taste

For the Shrimp:
- 1 lb of uncooked shrimp
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Salt & pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
2. Line a baking sheet with the tomatoes and garlic cloves. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and salt and pepper. 
3. Bake the tomatoes at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
4. While the tomatoes are roasting, begin the polenta. Following the instructions according to the package.
5. Add the butter, milk, Parmesan, Mozzarella, and basil to the polenta. Mix well. Season with black pepper, and place on low heat until the shrimp and tomatoes are finished.
6. When there are just a few minutes left on the tomatoes, place the olive oil and garlic in a frying pan for the shrimp.
7. Once the garlic is fragrant, add the shrimp (season with salt & pepper), and cook for 2 to 3 minutes (or until fully cooked on both sides).
8. Serve up the polenta in individual bowls. Top with the shrimp, tomatoes, and a pinch of fresh basil. 

This dish is great for any day of the week. It's quick, easy, and delicious. The addition of the shrimp was great here, but feel free to eliminate the protein for a completely meatless meal. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Corn and Black Bean Salad

Hello friends! I hope you had a nice long weekend. I know I've been missing for the last few months, but I am really trying to get back into my blogging routine. At least a few posts a week. I've really missed my creative outlet, and of course having a place to interact with all of you while bookmarking my recipes and restaurant experiences (instead of just having a million photos saved on my phone). I hope you'll stick around and continue reading. While my posts may not be as often, I promise they'll be worth it. I have a ton saved up that I have been too busy to share, starting with today's recipe. 

A few years back I had tried a deliciously refreshing corn salad (by the owners of what is now Antique Taco) at the Randolph Street market, and had been dreaming of recreating it ever since. I think I have finally mastered it, or at least come pretty close. Believe me when I tell you, you want to make this in the very near future. The pictures I took just don't do it justice, but I hope if I haven't convinced you already, the ingredient list will.

Corn & Black Bean Salad 

- 3 ears of corn, cooked (or grilled), kernels removed
- 1 can black beans
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1/2 red pepper, diced
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 2 tbsp light mayo
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 to 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper
- optional: 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped, for topping

Method: Mix all ingredients together in a medium to large mixing bowl together and top with fresh cilantro (if you so choose). Serve and enjoy!

This salad is great by itself, or serve it up alongside a delicious protein of your choice (as I did). 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cool Down

With the temperatures continuing to rise in Chicago, there's nothing like a chilled glass of wine on a hot summer day. I've found a new favorite (and refreshing) white wine from Trader Joe's and just had to share. 

Don't let the name confuse you, Vouvray is the Loire Valley, France way of classifying a Chenin Blanc. While this wine may have a different name, it still has the same sweet, smooth taste as any Chenin blanc. At $6.99 a bottle, this is definitely a steal. Pick up a few bottles to enjoy on a warm Summer day or night. You won't be disappointed. 

Want to take it up a notch? Pair this wine with any of the following dishes, and you're sure to have a winning dinner party on your hands.

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