Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco Recipe

We like our routines in this family.  We go out to eat every Friday and have family dinner at home on Sunday.  But Sarah, Jess and I reserve Saturday night to do whatever for dinner—eat with friends or just each other!  My parents, however, can be found at home having date night.  My mom usually whips up a special meat dish that often takes a while to cook (making it perfect for a Saturday in the kitchen).

Recently, they’ve had an intruder on their date night and that intruder is me.  Ever since I started eating meat again (about a year ago) I’ve been able to fall in love with some of my mom’s best meat dishes all over again.  I have been known to change my Saturday night plans for one dish in particular: classic Italian braised veal shanks called Osso Buco. Ossobuco means “marrowbone” in Italian (thanks Google Translate) which is a perfect name for this dish because the best part is the marrow found in the veal shank bone.  In restaurants you’ll see this dish served in all sorts of ways, switching up the meat (I’ve seen beef used before), the vegetables and the starch (polenta is the most common).  My parents, being the routine people that they are, like white rice as the starch which is a great way to sop up the amazing sauce.

The other thing that makes Saturday night dinner special is the red wine.  My dad pulls out a nice bottle of red wine for every Saturday night dinner to match up to the amazing dinner.  I know my mom doesn’t mind me crashing the date night, but I think my dad might mind a little because I steal some of the nice wine that he opened for his honey.  But sharing is caring, Ed!  This Saturday we had a Cotes du Rhone.  Not exactly within the Italian theme, but we thought it would go along nicely with the veal.

Cotes du Rhone

I also know that my mom likes to have me around for date night because I help her out with the cooking!  This Saturday, we had Jessica’s help too.  When my mom and Jess were out running errands on Saturday, they got inspired to make pomegranate martinis to sip while we cooked (the recipe for 1 big cocktail is: 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce triple sec, 2 ounce pomegranate juice and 1/2 ounce lime juice.  Mix it all together in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and serve in a chilled martini glass).

Pomegranate Martinis

Not only was Jess inspired to spice up our cocktails, she also thought it was time to christen her new dining room table for the meal! This veal is definitely worthy of this beautiful setting.

This recipe is great for a special occasion or for a special someone on a casual night. See how dirty this page in my mom’s cook book is?

Cook book

You should always look for the dirty pages in a cook book because then you know you have a good one on your hands.

Osso Bucco – Serves 4 (inspired by the recipe found in Recipes: The Cooking of Italy)


  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ TB finely chopped garlic
  • 4 lbs veal shanks – we like to find a shank a person usually (depending on the size)
  • Flour to lightly coat veal shanks
  • ½ tsp of dried basil (we used 4 fresh basil leaves)
  • ½ tsp of dried thyme (we used 4 sprigs of fresh thyme)
  • 6 parsley sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cup beef stock (chicken stock is a good substitute)
  • S + P to taste


In an oven safe casserole dish or Dutch oven, heat 2 TB of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic with some S + P (about 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper).  Coat everything with the fat and let sauté for 10 to 15 minutes.  We turned the heat down to medium low heat after adding the veg because it seemed to be going too quick so keep an eye out to be sure that garlic doesn’t burn.

Osso Bucco - Step 1

As the veg sweats in the pan, check out your veal shanks. My mom usually cuts off any excess fat she finds. It doesn’t hurt to leave it on, but it just means your guests may have to do a bit more doctoring themselves to get to the meat.

Osso Bucco - Step 2

Osso Bucco - Step 3


In a separate skillet or cast iron pan, heat the last 2 TB of olive oil over high heat. Add S + P to both sides (1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper). Coat the shanks lightly in some flour and shake off any excess. Once the olive oil is hot (test with a few sprinkles of excess flour if you aren’t sure), add the veal shanks to get both sides browned. Our shanks took just over 2 minutes a side to get a nice brown color.

Osso Bucco - Step 4

At some point during the browning process, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Once browned, add the veal shanks to the casserole/Dutch oven where your veg is still cooking away.  To the skillet where you browned the veal shanks, add the white wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up those browned yummy bits.  Let the white wine cook by itself for about a minute to let is reduce a bit.  Then add your diced tomatoes and beef stock.  Bring this liquid mixture to a boil then add to the casserole/Dutch oven over the shanks. With that, add the herbs.  Since we used fresh herbs, we tied them all together in a bouquet garni (French for garnished bouquet).

Osso Bucco - Step 5

This trick allows you to put the herbs in whole, stems and all, tied together by a string—this way it is easy to fish out after cooking and no chopping is involved.  My mom usually just has fresh parsley, so she’ll add a few sprigs separately and lovingly fishes them and the bay leaves out one by one before serving.  I think she liked this technique!

Lightly stir everything together.  You may need to add some extra stock or water at this point to get the meat fully covered with liquid (we added another cup of stock).

Osso Bucco - Step 6

Cover with a lid and put in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

As the meat cooks, you’ll have time to cook any starch you fancy. We started our rice 30 minutes before the shanks were set to be done.

At the hour and 15 minutes mark, take out the veal out and give it a fork test to be sure the veal is tender. Fish out your bouquet garni, scoop up some rice, a veal shank per person then generously pour the sauce over the rice and veal.

Osso Bucco - Step 7

In case you haven’t had bone marrow before, don’t be afraid. Stick your fork or knife in there and scoop out the treasure inside. The marrow is fatty and flavorful. I usually like to eat it with the meat to vamp up the meat flavor.

Osso Bucco - Step 8

Though this meal takes some time to make, it is actually quite easy to prep.  If you plan ahead, this dish can be a very impressive addition to your repertoire!


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Chocolate Smoothie

5 Chocolate Smoothie Recipes

Chocolate in your breakfast smoothie?  Sure, why not.  Some people even say chocolate is a superfood.

For sure, a chocolate bar is not a superfood.  A super-tasting food, yes, but not a superfood.  However, cacao beans have a lot of benefits.  But after they get processed in certain ways, and after you add sugar and low quality oils to them, they become not-so-healthy.  So the trick is to get good quality cacao.  Usually, when chocolate is refered to as cacao, it is in a more pure and healthy form.  When it is called ‘cocoa’, that usually means it has been more processed and added to.

So, once you find some cacao powder, you can start adding it to your smoothies, and still call them healthy.  And good cacao powder is quite strong, so you don’t need that much of it to chocolate-ize your smoothies.  Usually about 1 tablespoon is enough for one large smoothie.

Cacao powder is full of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, so don’t feel guilty about using it.  It does contain some caffeine, though, so don’t overdo it.  Also, cacao is a little bitter, so you might need to add a little more banana, apple, pineapple, carrot or beet to your smoothie to sweeten it back up again.  Or, you can experiment with making not-sweet chocolate smoothies, and see how you like it.  Just think of your chocolate smoothie as a variation on your fruit smoothie, and not as a liquid chocolate bar.

A lot of protein powders and smoothie powders come in a chocolate flavor.  They usually taste pretty good, too.  I use Vega protein powders because they are Vegan, they taste great, and they are full a good stuff.  Also, they are available at my local grocery store, so they are easy to pick up.  They have a chocolate protein powder that I really like.  But probably the best and cheapest way to enjoy a chocolate smoothie is to buy a bag of cacao powder from your local healthy food store.

These smoothies all use almond milk, bananas, and strawberries as their base.  The just add the cacao and the extra goodies, and you’re laughing.  If you cannot find cacao, you can use a dark cocoa powder instead.  All of these recipes make one large smoothie, or two small smoothies.

Berry and Chocolate Smoothie

Berry and Chocolate Smoothie

  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • half cup mixed berries
  • half cup strawberries
  • 1.5 tablespoons cacao powder

Chocolate Coconut Smoothie

Chocolate Coconut Smoothie

  • half cup almond milk
  • meat and water from one young Thai coconut
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 cup pineapple
  • half cup strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon cacao

Sweet Chocolate Pineapple Smoothie

Sweet Chocolate Pineapple Smoothie


  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • half cup strawberries
  • 1 cup pineapple slices
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder

Chocolate Acai Berry Smoothie

Chocolate Acai Berry Smoothie

  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • half cup mixed berries
  • half cup strawberries
  • quarter cup acai juice (or frozen acai puree)
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder

Chocolate Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Chocolate Blueberry Banana Smoothie

  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • half cup pineapple
  • half cup frozen blueberries
  • half cup fozen strawberries
  • 1 handful cashews
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder

The cashews in this last recipes are optional.  I sometimes like to hand a handful of cashews, almonds, or other nuts to a smoothie, to add some extra protein and creaminess.  Just make sure to use ‘raw’ almonds or cashews, not the roasted and salted kind.  If you soak them for a few hours, they get a softer texture, too.

If you want to go the cheap and easy way, you can also add peanut butter to your smoothies. A tablespoon of natural peanut butter, combined with the chocolate and banana flavor, is really good.  It is something that kids really enjoy too.

For the coconut recipe, you can use canned coconut milk, but it is healthier and fresher to get an actual coconut.  Get a young coconut, not a brown hairy coconut, because the meat and juice will be softer and more tasty.  You can buy Thai coconuts a lot of local asian markets.

Feel free to add more banana to these recipes, if you want them sweeter.  Or less banana, if you are wanting a low-sugar smoothie.  You can also add more strawberries, if you want them a little more tart or a little more pink.  I find that strawberries and chocolate are always a nice combination.  And you can never eat too many strawberries.

Hemp and chocolate go well together, too.  So pick up some hemp milk, hemp seeds (hemp hearts), or hemp protein powder, if you want to experiment with the hemp and cacao combo.  Those two, together with the strawberries, is something I really enjoy.

Happy smoothie making!

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Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad Recipe

I love cobb salad. The combination of creamy avocados, pungent blue cheese, salty bacon, tender chicken, fresh cherry tomatoes, crunchy nuts and crisp lettuce is fabulous. Cobb salad often get a bad rap from the calorie police. I can’t count the number of times I have heard “don’t order cobb salads because they have as many calories as a cheeseburger does.”

I think that there can be some truth to the above statement if you order a cobb salad out at a restaurant. Especially one that is doused in fat laden dressing and contains more bacon than it does lettuce. However, when you made a cobb salad at home, you get to control the quality and quantity of ingredients. And when made right, cobb salad can be a completely satisfying and healthy entrée.

To elevate the flavors of a normal, hum drum cobb salad, I marinate the chicken in a delicious mayo-mustard sauce, use good quality blue cheese, thick cut bacon and very fresh vegetables. I also like the slight crunch that comes from using pine nuts. They have a much milder flavor and texture than other nuts, and when they are toasted, they are the perfect compliment for the salad. For the lettuce, I opt for a combination of bibb (or Boston) lettuce and arugula. I like the pepperiness of the arugula combined with the the crunchiness and buttery-ness of the bibb lettuce.

I also prefer a simple balsamic vinaigrette on my cobb salad, but feel free to exchange the vinegar for lemon if that is your favorite combination. Tommy and I ate this for dinner alongside a delicious bowl of soup (recipe coming soon) and were completely satisfied. If you go without soup, either increase the portion size of the salad or add a crusty piece of bread to go alongside!

Cobb Salad – Serves 4 as Entrees


  • 3 TB mayo
  • 3 TB dijon mustard, divided
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2 medium sized heads of boston lettuce (about 10 ounces total), trimmed, torn into bite-size pieces, washed and drained well
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 large avocado, cut into large pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup crumbled good quality blue cheese (Roquefort is a good option!)
  • 2/3 cup toasted pine nutes
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the chicken
  • S+P to taste


To make the vinaigrette, combine the balsamic, olive oil, 2 TB of dijon mustard and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until incorporated.

Next up is marinating the chicken. You only need to keep this marinade on for 10 minutes to infuse the chicken with flavor and keep it moist throughout the cooking process. Combine the mayo, 1 TB of dijon and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir to combine.

Slather the chicken with all of the marinade and allow to sit for 10 minutes. While the chicken is marinating, it is time to cook the bacon. Add the bacon slices to a large, dry pan and cook over low heat, turning occasionally, until crisp – about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Once cooled, crumb into large pieces and reserve.

Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to another pan and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes per side to get a good sear on the outside. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the chicken for another 3-4 minutes per side until it is completely cooked through. Allow to cool completely and then cut into large slices.

While the chicken is cooling, you can toast the pine nuts. In a dry small pan, add the pine nuts and toast until slightly browned – about 3 minutes. Watch them carefully because they can burn quickly.

Finally, it is time to put everything together. I think it looks nice to put the lettuce on the bottom of a large salad bowl and then place all the ingredients, in lines, across the top. This makes for a nice presentation. Once all the ingredients are on the salad, pour on the vinaigrette and mix well. Enjoy!

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Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil

Let’s face it. Chicken breast, even on its best day, can be a little boring. Sure it’s can be delicious in some cases – breaded and fried, slow roasted with the bone in and skin on – are a few preparations that come to mind. But on it’s own, chicken breast doesn’t cut it for me. What does cut it for me is a chicken breast that has been stuffed with mozzarella and basil and wrapped in prosciutto.

Not only are mozzarella, basil and prosciutto a fabulous flavor combination, but the fat in the mozzarella and prosciutto also help keep the chicken moist throughout the cooking process.

The end product is far from dry and has the perfect mixture of saltiness from the prosciutto. Stuffing a chicken breast can seem intimidating, but actually, this process was extremely easy. All you do is take a chicken breast, cut it through the middle until it is nearly cut through, and open it up so it lays flat like a pancake (otherwise known as butterflying). If you are anxious about doing this (but don’t be!), you can also have your butcher do this for you. Once the chicken has been butterflied and seasoned with salt and peeper, you add your cheese of choice (blue cheese, brie, manchego and mozzarella are all great choices) and then top with a few leaves of fresh basil.

Once you have stuffed the chicken, you then simply place the cut half back on top of the bottom part of the breast.

Don’t worry if the stuffing is sticking out slightly, as mine is above. The prosciutto will cover it so that you avoid any melting in the pan or grill.

You can count on using about 2 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto to cover each chicken breast completely. When you cook the chicken, the prosciutto will get slightly crisp and is a nice textural contrast to the tender chicken.

I served this chicken with kale chips (what else is new) and a fabulous sweet potato gratin (recipe coming soon) for a well-rounded, healthy weeknight meal!

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil – Serves 4


  • 4 6-8 ounce portions of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • 4 ounces prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • S+P to taste
  • Oil for pan frying


Butterfly chicken breasts and sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on the chicken breast. Follow with a couple of leaves of basil. Make sure you don’t overstuff the chicken, or you won’t be able to roll it back up. Once you have added the mozzarella and basil, place the top half of the breast on top. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Wrap each chicken breast with two slices of prosciutto so that it it is completely covered. Note, I think it is easiest for cooking the chicken if the prosciutto is wrapped in such a way that the ends, or seams, are on the same side of the breast.

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken BreastIn a large, heavy set pan (cast iron or stainless steal is best), heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken with the prosciutto seam side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the prosciutto starts to brown and you can easily loosen it from the pan. Cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continuing cooking the chicken, flipping occasionally, until it is completely cooked through or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and enjoy!

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Little Bucharest Bistro

Restaurant Review – Little Bucharest

My Dad recently found a Groupon for a restaurant that he and my Mom used to dine at over 30 ago called Little Bucharest.

After seeing the Groupon come through his email, he decided to check out the menu and see what had changed in the years since he had been there. For one, he learned that the restaurant moved locations and is now in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood. He also noticed that the menu had been modernized and updated. Specifically, the menu included some Greek and Mediterranean dishes in addition to the classic Romanian ones that the restaurant became known for.

When we got to the restaurant at 6:45, there were only a few diners in the restaurant. A lack of busyness on a Friday night is usually not a good sign for a restaurant, but Little Bucharest proved my preconceived notions wrong. I think one explanation for the limited number of patrons is the fact that Little Bucharest is pretty far north and west in the city. For people who live closer to the loop and may not have cars, it could prove difficult to get to. But if you do have access to a car or can take public transportation, I would suggest you hightail it to this restaurant, because the distance is definitely worth it. Also, I should note that by the time we left around 8:30, there were quite a few more people eating!

Little Bucharest

Generally, the atmosphere is really nice at Little Bucharest (PS – Bucharest is the capital of Romania). It is sort of dark, which is not great for blog picture taking (sorry for the flash!), but is a nice relaxing environment. What makes the ambiance in this restaurant even better is the quality of the staff. The maître ’de, who we think is also the owner, was extremely friendly and welcoming the moment we walked into the restaurant. He continued to come over and check on us throughout the course of dinner making sure everything was up to par. While receiving too much attention can sometimes get annoying during a meal, this guy struck the perfect balance.

Our waiter was also knowledgeable, friendly and beyond gracious. He, like the owner, checked in on us often, provided us with explanations of the Romanian dishes and even offered us recommendations on his favorite dishes. To boot, he insisted that we take an extra bottle of wine home because we were too full to enjoy a dessert that he wanted to give us on the house!

Speaking of the wine, the four of us (my Dad, Mom, Kate and I) enjoyed a Romanian Cabernet Sauvignon. The waiter informed us that this wine wouldn’t be like the big bold ones that you might expect from Napa, but that it was still a good wine. And for the $25 price tag per bottle, I thought it was great.

Romanian Cabernet Sauvignon

As for the food at Little Bucharest, I would say that it is pretty meat dominated. That isn’t to say that a vegetarian couldn’t eat here, because they certainly could, but I think that the most interesting of all the entrees that I saw had meat in them. I don’t eat a ton a meat when I am out because I am often not sure of the source, and prefer to eat stuff that is local, organic and/or raised ethically. However, I did later learn that Little Bucharest does try to source its meat and dairy from local farms that produce their product in sustainable ways.

One of the other reasons I sometimes opt to eat veggie when I dine out is that these dishes can be some of the best options on a menu! While Little Bucharest didn’t have a ton of veggie offerings from an entrée perspective, they did have lots of delicious looking soup and appetizer options that the waiter recommended. One of these dishes was the “Ciorba de Borscht,” or Beet Soup.


While the picture might not be much to look at, don’t let that fool you about this soup. Borscht is popular in many Eastern European counties including Romania, Poland and Russia and every country makes it a slightly different way. My Dad could remember getting a cold Polish version many years ago and being turned off from all beet soup from then on. Well this beet soup turned his opinion around!

It was chock full of beets and cabbage (loved this addition) and was absolutely perfectly seasoned. Little Bucharest also stirred in some sour cream to the soup which offered a nice balance to the tartness of the soup. I also took this opportunity to dip the restaurant’s fresh, homemade bread into the soup.

Homemade bread

In addition to the Borscht, we also got some saganaki, which is not traditionally Romanian, but the owner insisted was so good that he had to put it on the menu. Let me tell you, he is not wrong.


My whole family agreed that this was some of the best saganaki that we had ever had. I am not sure if it was a specific brand of kasseri cheese or if the chef seasoned it just right, but we all loved this dish.

Per the recommendation of our waiter, I ordered the “Vinete” Eggplant Spread for my entrée. This dish is listed as an appetizer on the menu, but it was a generous portion thanks to the plentiful amount of dip, pita slivers and fresh salad that was full of cucumbers, olives, onions, tomatoes and fresh feta cheese.

Eggplant Spread

The eggplant spread was very creamy and had a good balance of flavors thanks to (I think) garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and roasted eggplant. I actually took some of this dip home with me because I got full eating of my parents’ and sister’s dishes.

They all ordered different entrees and we did a rotation around the table, so that we could try a bit of everything. My dad ordered the Bucharest Signature Braised Short Rib Goulash.

Bucharest Signature Braised Short Rib Goulash

The short rib came in a tomatoes stew that included green beans, pearl onions and homemade gnocchi. Traditionally, you might expect goulash to be served over mashed or roasted potatoes or with plain white rice, but I thought that addition of gnocchi was not only delicious, but it was also unexpected and unique. The seasonings in this dish were also completely unique and unlike anything flavor combination I have ever had. There was a subtle sweetness (perhaps from cinnamon or nutmeg) that complemented the tender short rib so nicely. All I could think about when I ate this dish is how much Tommy would LOVE it.

Another person I thought of during this dinner was my brother-in-law Ben. That guy is in love with schnitzel and when I tasted my Mom’s dish, I immediately knew we had to bring Ben back here to get his fix.


My Mom kept exclaiming while eating this pork schnitzel: “this is the best schnitzel I have ever had, we have to bring Ben here.” From what I tasted, I could definitely agree with her. It was lightly fried, had a crispy exterior and was served over a bed of horseradish spatzle(!!!). I absolutely love spatzle, which is a type of egg noodle that is traditionally served in German cuisine, and the fact that this had horseradish in it, put it over the top. It made for flavorful noodles of course, but when you added it to your fork with a bite of the schnitzel, it was the perfect pairing, flavor and texture wise. Finally, the dish was served with arugula (which I think is a great addition because it cuts the heaviness of the fried pork a bit), some bacon and a red pepper coulis sauce.

For the last dish of the night, Kate got the stuffed cabbage. Again, as I am sure is no surprise to you, this dish was over the top.

Stuffed cabbage

The mini stuffed pickled stuffed cabbage leaves were filled with a mixture of pork, ground beef and sautéed rice. They were then stewed in a tomato jus and served alongside some polenta with crème fresh on top. Not only were the seasonings in the meat mixture fabulous, but the pickling of the cabbage was such a great addition because it gave some acidity to the dish. The polenta was also perfectly cooked and tasted fabulous with the tomato jus.

All in all, everything tasted amazing and presented beautifully. We could not believe that this small restaurant put so much effort into coming up with complex flavor combinations, non-traditional pairings and lovely presentation. It is even more impressive if you consider the very small kitchen in the restaurant that has one tiny woman doing all the cooking!


I think that, if possible, the little lady doing all the cooking, made me love this restaurant even more. It was also interesting hearing about how the place has adapted and changed over the past 30 or so years from the time my parents went there (before they had us kids).

Even though its not as easy to get to as some of my favorite neighborhood spots, Little Bucharest is worth the extra effort. I am already scheming to take Tommy here next time he is in town.

Have you ever had Romanian food before? If so, what is your favorite dish on the menu?



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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

I love squash soup.  It’s a wonderful, veggie filled, hearty soup perfect for a cold night (which Chicago has had quite a few of lately . . . ).

This recipe is a little different than the traditional flavors you may have found in squash soup thanks to the addition of curry powder.  The curry powder adds a spicy element and really balances the sweetness of the squash.

Because of the curry flavors, I opted to top the soup with some traditional curry accompaniments including toasted sweetened coconut and scallions.  I also decided to roast up the butternut squash seeds, which made for a crunchy, salty topping on the soup.

The last thing I’ll mention about what makes this soup extra special is that I roasted the veggies (and fruit – there is an apple in this recipe as well!) in the oven for about 45 minutes prior to pureeing them.  The roasting method really extracts extra flavor by allowing the sugars in the veggies to caramelize a bit.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup – Makes 4-6 entrée size portions (inspired by this recipe)

Curried Butternut Squash Soup


  • 4 cups chopped butternut squash (about 4 lbs), chopped into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 a medium sized onion, cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 apple, peeled and cored and cut into one inch pieces (use anything but a tart green apple)
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • S+P
  • 2-4 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 TB heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced on a bias


Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place veggies in a single layer on 1-2 sheet pans.  Drizzle with olive oil to coat veggies and season with salt and pepper. Roast veggies for 40-50 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Place roasted veggies into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Place pureed veggies into a stock pan and add 2-4 cups chicken broth (depending on the consistency you prefer) and the curry powder.  Heat the soup, taste and adjust for seasoning.  Finish with cream and serve with condiments.

For condiments:

To toast the coconut, place in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Cook in a 350 oven for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To make the toasted butternut squash seeds.  Remove them from the squash. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the seeds on the sheet and spray with more cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt.  Cook for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.


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Dill Chicken with Tomato-Dill Relish

Dill Chicken with Tomato-Dill Relish

This recipe came from the September 2009 issue of Gourmet and I made some slight modifications to accommodate my personal tastes. The recipe calls for making a relish; which means mixing some ingredients and serving cold [or room temp]. I preferred to have tomatoes slightly sautéed, so put the relish into a pan and worked it for two minutes to get it warm.

Another variation is I left out the grained mustard, since my wife simply doesn’t like mustard. I would include the mustard to give it just a bit more flavor.

To prepare the chicken you can either use your BBQ or you can use the stove. I used the stove method because I was out of charcoal – of all the things. Nevertheless, the stove method works as well. I have a pan with grill slates on the bottom and I sear on each side for 2 minutes then bake at 500 for 6 minutes. The original recipe called for grilling on the BBQ, however, I will show you the stove method.


  • 4 (6-oz) skinless boneless chicken breasts halves.
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes – quartered


Preheat your oven to 500° F.
Pound the chicken to ¼ inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap with a meat pounder (flat side).
Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides
Whisk together the olive oil, dill, shallot, white-wine vinegar and grainy mustard.
Cut your cherry tomatoes into quarters and place in a bowl. Add ¼ cup the relish to the tomatoes.
With the remainder of the relish, spread over the chicken on both sides.
Cook the chicken in a skillet for 2 minutes per side.
Then place the chicken (in the skillet) into the oven and bake for 6 minutes or until just done.
Meanwhile, if you want to heat your relish like I did, place the relish in a pan and sauté for 2 minutes.
When the chicken is done, place each breast onto a plate and garnish with the relish.

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Chicken Tomato Basil

Chicken Tomato Basil

Here is a quick recipe that will take your boring chicken night to the next level. This recipe comes from Chef Ramsey’s The “F” Word that aired on Wednesday and combines frying the chicken to seal in the flavor then baking to finish it off.

Rather than the sauces you may have seen in prior recipes on this site, this takes some simple ingredients [shallots, garlic, basil, and tomatoes] and tops the chicken during the baking process. The mozzarella cheese tops the whole ordeal to hold it together.

You will notice that the ingredient list does not show exact measurements. Well for one I jotted down this recipe from the show and has not been posted on the site [The “F” Word], and I think we are getting to the point, if you have been following this blog, where we cook by feel more than by measurements. Except for baking! Yep baking takes precise measurements.

So back to the chicken.


  • Skinned, boned chicken breast
  • Flour
  • Egg wash (two eggs beaten)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Shallots chopped
  • Garlic chopped
  • Basil rough chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes quartered
  • Mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat your oven to 450°.
  2. Clean your chicken breasts and butterfly them to make them cook more evenly. Alternatively you can pound the chicken flat.
  3. Run the chicken through the flour and dust off the excess. Coat the chicken in the egg wash. Then run it through the bread crumbs. Salt and pepper.
  4. In a skillet on medium heat, add some olive oil to the pan and place the chicken in the pan. Sear the chicken on both sides, then put on a plate and set a side. The chicken will not be fully cooked through yet.
  5. In a skillet on medium-high heat, add olive oil, garlic and shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes. Then add the basil and tomatoes. Cook down for about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Put the chicken (you set aside) on a baking sheet. Place the tomato basil mixture on top of the chicken. Slice the mozzarella cheese and put on top of the tomato basil mixture. (Your building a creation here).
  7. Bake for 8-9 minutes until the chicken is done. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let rest for 3 minutes.
  8. Plate up.
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