Chicken Shawarma Quinoa Bowls

Last summer when I was in Vietnam I had an experience we now call the “Mue Ne brie cheese incident” and it changed my diet drastically. Before our travels I was somewhat of a cheese addict, I added it to EVERYTHING, even when the dish probably didn’t need a cheesy addition. But in Asia, cheese or any dairy for that matter are rarely incorporated into dishes, so by the time we reached French-influenced Vietnam I couldn’t wait to chow down on my old friend again. Alas, I should have known by then that cheese really isn’t Asia’s strong suit, and in my opinion, one really shouldn’t consume cheese in 105-degree heat. I did both…and it didn’t end well.

In the end, it was probably for the best. When I returned home I decided to cut out cheese from our weekday meals. Now, I only eat it occasionally and only when the type of meal actually warrants it, like some Mexican meals and of course, pizza. And you know what, I feel better! Now, 90% of the time the meals I make are either Mediterranean or Asian inspired and I’ve been forced to get more creative in the kitchen and build flavor in my meals without the help of cheese.

One of our favorite carry-out meals is chicken shawarma with rice topped with cucumber tomato salad and hummus from Sultan’s Market, so I decided to create a healthier version at home. In the old days, I might have been tempted to add some feta cheese to this recipe, but instead I added some tang with the help of a homemade tzatziki sauce with non-fat Greek yogurt, fresh cucumber, lemon and chopped garlic. The recipe serves two, but is easy to double for a family!

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CourseHorse Cooking Class Review

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday is to create something from scratch, an item that I just don’t have time for on a normal week night. I’ve made homemade soups, pizza dough, bread, pasta and more; I love that I have the time to prep properly and enjoy the whole process. It’s like running my own personal restaurant for the day. I must say though, there are some things on my Sunday cook-list I’ve been too intimidated to make on my own just by following a recipe. This is where cooking classes can come in handy and I recently discovered an amazing discovery and booking tool for local classes, called CourseHorse that has a wide variety of cooking classes in Chicago.

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Butcher Box Review and Recipes

Meal planning seems to be all the rage these days. It doesn’t matter if you do it all yourself on Sunday evenings or if you do it nightly with the help of a meal subscription service like Blue Apron or Meez Meals, there is no doubt that people are looking to make their mealtimes easier. Other options such as joining a local food co-op or signing up for a protein subscription box are also becoming more and more popular. Recently I was introduced to a company called Butcher Box, a service that partners with a collective of small farms to bring you 100% grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and all-natural pork each month.

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Sponsored Video: A Kellogg’s Breakfast Cereal Creation

sweet grits with special K cereal

Kellogg’s® recently challenged 50 different culinary influencers to think outside the (cereal) box and create a new unique breakfast recipe using a Kellogg® cereal.

Recipes like Frosted Mini-Wheats® with matcha powder and skim milk, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes® chilaquiles, Mediterranean style Rice Krispies® and more were some of the star recipes chefs and foodies created.

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Vegetarian Stir Fry

I’ve been a huge fan of boil in bag rice for years now so I was absolutely thrilled that Success Rice reached out to me to partner with them on a recipe post! I use boil in bag rice for a ton of recipes; I’m a notoriously bad rice-cooker if I don’t have a little bit of help. Success Rice has perfected a seamless method for well-cooked rice every time. One of my favorite recipes with rice is a classic stir fry and I’ve created a new vegetarian version that anyone will love!

Since Taste Tester #1 and I have kicked it into full wedding-mode, I’ve been focusing on making healthier versions of our favorite recipes that are still just as filling. Instead of using meat, I substituted tofu in my stir fry recipe and added some extra veggies as well to make sure we are full. I’m newly obsessed with bok choy, a Chinese cabbage-like vegetable that is wonderfully crunchy and adds a unique and tasty flavor to soups, stir fries and salads.

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Avocado Toast with Schmacon

One of my favorite things about writing my food blog is getting to share recipes with the world. Since I do eat out a lot, I find myself posting a lot of healthier recipes like this acorn squash recipe to balance out the frequent restaurant visits. BUT, there are definitely times I like to experiment with more indulgent foods, especially bacon!

I recently discovered the amazingness that is Schmacon. Schmacon is smoked, uniquely seasoned and sweet, crispy beef product that tastes like a combination of your favorite pastrami from the deli with the crispiness of bacon. Schmacon is made with whole-muscle beef and has less calories, fat and sodium than regular bacon.

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Easy Weeknight Quiche

Fromagerie Guilloteau a French specialty cheese producer, recently announced the re-design and new label for its top-selling cheese line Fromager d’Affinois and were kind enough to send me three of their brie-centric cheeses: Saint Angel, Fromager d’Affinois Bleu and Fromager d’Affinois. Every cheese was ultra-creamy and had an almost butter-like texture which made them each perfect for spreading on bread or crackers and easily melted into any recipe.

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Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

I’d say that on average I likely cook dinner four solid nights a week with the weekend consisting of a relaxing mix of carry-out and restaurants. During those stay home evenings it’s either go with an old standby that may be delicious, but we’ve had just a bit too often lately, or use my creative juices to come up with something new.

I don’t know about you, but there is always at least one night a week (usually more) that I come home tired from a long day at work and even more exhausted from a grueling class at the gym. The slow cooker is perfect for these occasions and so is this recipe for lazy chicken enchiladas. With just a few ingredients and mostly a lot of mixing of sauces and cheeses, even the most skillet-shy can master this recipe!

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Coconut Shrimp Salad Wontons

Are there ever times when you are craving three different things at one time? This happened to me the other night and I decided to create a recipe that combined three of my favorite things: coconut shrimp, lobster rolls, and wontons!

I had a bunch of leftover wonton wrappers in my fridge from a recipe I had made over the weekend and wanted to find a way to utilize them while also satisfying my craving for coconut shrimp and a lobster roll. Thus, the coconut shrimp salad wonton was born! This tasty treat combines the creaminess of a lobster roll with the sweet crunch of toasted coconut. Taster Tester #1 and I each ate five for a meal, but you can also utilize these for appetizers as well.

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Acorn Squash with Kale and Chicken Sausage

The first blog post of 2015 has arrived! Last year I had a personal goal of trying to post an average of once a week and in the end I was pretty darn close with 42 blog posts published in 2014. 2015 is going to be even bigger and better, as you’ll continue to find my take on great Chicago spots, recipes, and culinary products. Thanks for your continued readership and get excited for 2015!

Over my version of “winter break” (oh for the days of 3 week long winter breaks!) Taste Tester #1 and I traveled to Los Angeles for a few days and got into the great habit of eating fresh, healthy So-Cal food. This included lots of produce such as kale and we wanted to incorporate more of it into our diet at home. I found this kale-heavy recipe from epicurious and adapted it with the foods that I already had in my cupboard. Adapting a recipe’s ingredients to incorporate what is already in your pantry is a great way to create a unique recipe and also save money. Feel free to substitute similar ingredients with what you have in your own home!

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