Top 10 Places to Nosh in 2010

2010 was a big year for me discovering new restaurants. When I got my car in May it allowed me to travel beyond Westwood and check out many of the awesome and eclectic restaurants that Los Angeles has to offer. These are all restaurants I discovered in 2010 so while I could eat at Flour everyday for the rest of my life it sadly isn’t going to make the cut.

1. Tavern – Tavern is my happiest place on earth. Between the restaurant, sandwiches, and treats at the Larder Tavern has become my favorite LA spot.

2. Father’s Office – Back in the early days of the blog I went to Father’s Office. Personally, this is my favorite burger spot in LA. They have a delicious traditional burger, great wine and beer selection and the best sweet potato fries I’ve had in LA.

3. Umami – The other best burger joint in LA. Interesting flavors, cheesy tots and more options than Father’s Office. Its second in my mind but a close second.

4. Clementine – Where can I even start with Clementine? I’m there all the time. They have great local, seasonal, fresh eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That doesn’t even account for the delicious treats they have there. Of all the things I had at Clementine the one item that stands out in my mind is the Best BLT.

5. Mozza – They didn’t want me to blog it (the only restaurant that told me to put my camera away) but I did anyways! Mozza is some of the best pizza in LA, even Michelle Obama has eaten there!

6. Real Food Daily – I first went to RFD for a blogger meet up. All my veggie friends we’re telling me how awesome it is and I have to say, they’re right! A great Santa Monica spot with some of the freshest fare in the city. Oh, and the fake bacon? As good as real bacon. There. I said it.

7. Coral Tree Cafe – Coral Tree is a great spot in Brentwood for breakfast, lunch (omg caprese sandwich), and take away. Their curry chicken salad is one of my favorite take away prepared foods.

8. Primitivo – My friend Kelly joined me for several restaurant outing this year (including Umami), this was one of my favorites. Who doesn’t like sangria Sunday? The highlights of this meal were bacon wrapped dates, sliders, and shrimp.Oh and that weird glittery tiger painting.

9. Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada – I went the “best fish tacos” over the summer when I was working nearby. Simple fish tacos with plenty of toppings. Lightly fried, cheap and delicious, these are the best tacos I’ve had in LA thus far.

10.  Green Street Tavern – One of my more recent eats was with my Mom in Pasadena. We loved the atmosphere at Green Street and the food was delicious too! I still can’t replicate the goat cheese orzo but you better believe I’m trying. The appetizers were equally delicious and the pumpkin doughnuts we had for dessert? Unforgettable.

I’m not a big New Years Eve person (to be honest, staying up late, drinking a lot and sleeping the day away isn’t really my scene) but I am making Barefoots Grown Up Mac and Cheese. So much for detox! Whoops! Well, it is a holiday!

I’ll be back tomorrow with my resolutions!

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all hail kale

The detox day 2 started with Vans toaster waffles and a wonderful 4 mile run. I felt super speedy! The treadmill running I did last week paid off. There were a lot of branches down and my legs got a little bit scratched up but nothing too bad. It felt great to get back into outside running after nearly two weeks “on the inside”. Outside > treadmill but I can see how the treadmill has its benefits.

I’ve been on vacation for two weeks now and I’m having a strong desire to spend time in my kitchen. Just you wait. I have so so so many cooking plans brewing for the next week. It’s so nice having nothing else to do other than putter around my kitchen cooking. No readings to worry about and no deadlines. Today in the spirit of my post holiday detox I puttered around and made Skinny Bitch Kale and Sweet Potato Pizza!

Because I’m a lazy bitch I used Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat crust. I checked, and it is vegan! Then I gathered and chopped my ingredients and preheated the oven.

I give you a heart of kale. Am I the only one who thinks Kale is glorious? Not to mention it was only $2 a bunch at the FM!

I chopped kale, sweet potato, onion, and garlic. The recipe called for leeks but I didn’t have any so I omitted them.

I cooked down the onion and then added the kale, sweet potato and some seasoning!

A little bit of cumin makes all the difference in taste! Love me some cumin.

I let all the ingredients heat up and cook together. I love how green kale gets.

I added in the garlic and let the kale mixture cool. While it cooled I rolled out the pizza dough.

One thing I really liked about the Skinny Bitch recipe was that she recommends coating the pan in grape seed oil instead of flour. This made the crust extra crispy and I liked it a lot better then simply cooking the pizza on flour. I didn’t have grape seed oil so I just brushed canola oil on the pan.

I have canola that I rarely use because I’m so devoted to EVO. it was nice to use it up a little.

Time to construct the pizza!

And let it bake.

Plus two traditional add ons to top it off…

Ta Da!

This pizza was delicious! The pizza made 8 slices at 210 calories a slice. It was completely vegan. The kale made the pizza hearty but the sweet potato added so much flavor and played well off the kale. This is definitely going to become a staple of my kitchen. If you read this blog while I was training for my half marathon you know that homemade pizza is my favorite recovery meal! This pizza was nourishing and left my system feeling clean. I also had left overs to munch on all week which is good because I have an aversion to making lunch.

I have some kale left and I think I’m going to make kale chips. Before today I hadn’t really done too much on my own with kale but I will be using it more from now on. It’s good and good for you! 

Do you cook with Kale? If so, what do you like to do with it?

brown spaghetti with asparagus puree

Since the theme of the week is detox I decided to start my dinners off right last night with brown spaghetti with asparagus puree out of my new cookbook Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. My friend Brenna gave it to me for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to cook out of it! It has lots of great recipes with whole ingredients. Perfect for the freshness I’ve been craving.

This is the first time I cooked with my new camera so please bear with me while I figure out setting etc. I decided to make the asparagus puree. The recipe calls for fettuccine but I didn’t have any so I subbed in brown spaghetti. The asparagus puree is a take off of a classic pesto and I really liked the twist. It was also pretty simple to make.

I shopped yesterday but I had a lot of the ingredients around the house. Note that the asparagus is from Trader Joes. Not my first choice (farmer’s markets are always my first choice for produce) but I couldn’t find it at my usual vendor. Thus, I settled for TJ’s.

For the sake of time and dishes I cooked the pasta while preparing my other ingredients. The recipe calls for the pasta and the asparagus to be cooked separately but I added the asparagus to the pasta water for the last three mins of cooking to save time. Potentially you could also cook the asparagus, drain it, and then cook the pasta in the same pot. Basically, the moral of the story is that I hate doing dishes. I also made two servings because I love leftovers!

While 2 servings of pasta (as dictated by the pasta bag) cooked I prepped 1 clove of garlic, cut 1/4 of a lemon, and cut a handful of asparagus into thirds.

When the pasta and the asparagus were done I drained them in a pasta strainer and transferred the asparagus to my food processor. In addition to the asparagus I added one hand full of fresh spinach, a 1/4 cup of pine nuts, a 1/4 of grated Parmesan cheese, and while mixing I drizzled in EVO as needed.

I mixed it up until it resembled a thicker pesto and combined it with the lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Then I combined the sauce with a small amount of EVO, pine nuts, parm, and the pasta.

Viola!

I played around with flash, detail settings, set ups and zoom. Still getting the hang of it. I do a lot of cooking at night and thus there is no natural light. My tiny kitchen makes it hard to take a picture without having my sink or my stove in the shot. I think I need to make a light box.

Hum. Odd shadow.

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas edition?

I chased my pasta with this:

I’m beginning to like this more than cocktails. I know that sounds insane coming from me but its true! I am so glad I committed to eating whole foods this week. My system already feels so much better! The stomach pain is gone and I am feeling refreshed and cleansed. Three cheers for limited consumption of preservatives!

Now I’m watching football. My Mom’s side of the family always does a Bowl Pool for the BCS games, affectionately called the Razz Bowl. I am doing pretty terribly this year with only 2 out of 6 right so far. Your welcome fellow participants. Regardless of my poor choices, its been pretty fun so far this year. We had a family rivalry for Missouri vs Iowa and it ended up being a pretty exciting and very close game. Now I’m watching the Music City Bowl which isn’t part of the pool but its really close in the final mins. It just went to overtime after a disputed call in the last second of the game. January first my favorite team (sorry to the UCLAN) is playing. I didn’t vote for Northwestern but for sake of my Brother and Father’s happiness I hope they win.

Who are you rooting for this year? Do you follow the Bowl Series?

Welcome to the Detox

Hello blog world! Greeting from California! Yes, I am home in LA and minus the rain we had today I am happy to be here.

**Disclaimer: this post is about weight loss**

The theme of the week is detox.I also haven’t posted about my weight in a while (uh, since May?) so I thought this would be a nice little update on both.

If you read the blog you know that finals, finals ending, and the holidays are a major time of indulgence for me. I don’t really limit myself in what I eat when it comes to the holidays. I eat my normal meals when there isn’t a special event, and I ran 12 miles last week. Business as usual with special extras. Bottom line: my Mom makes really good cookies and if I eat 6 cookies and some ice cream one then so be it is my general attitude. The world won’t end. It’s just a cookie and I live an active lifestyle.

With that attitude in mind I ate cookies, ice cream, potatoes, bacon, soup, ham, cheese (lots and lots of cheese), popcorn, sushi, pizza, beer, wine, prosecco and cocktails. I have always been a black belt eater meaning I always can make room in my stomach for a little more food. In the past it has taken a large portion of food to make me feel full. This is no longer the case. As of Monday night my stomach was screaming surrender and I had sharp shooting pains. I was eating what everyone else was eating and I was the only one with a stomach ache so it wasn’t food poisoning. It was my stomach saying the party is over.

Its been almost one year since I started running, eating healthy, and building my active lifestyle (I started January 1st 2010). 2010 was the year of the detox for me. The changes I’ve made in the past year have resulted in a change in my system. Despite the fact that I didn’t eat crazy portions, I cannot eat like I used to and whats more, I don’t want to. I always heard people say “when you eat healthy you will start to crave the healthy food” and I thought it was the biggest sham but it’s actually true for me. Of course I want cookies, cheese, bacon and cocktails but I cannot actually eat massive portions like I used to. In addition, going for three days without running felt like a million years. One morning I woke up hung over and felt totally icky. I thought back to the feeling I had the day before stepping off the treadmill after my 5 mile run and I wished I felt that way again. The feeling I have post run trumps every unhealthy overindulgence. I love my new lifestyle and there isn’t anything I would trade it for.

Oh and also, I threw out my scale. This happened in August, when I hit the 20 lbs lost point. Every time I stepped on the scale it read the same weight down to the decimal- clearly this couldn’t be accurate. In August I bought a pair of size 28 jeans. I wear a size 4 skirt and as long as those fit I don’t care what the scale says. I am giving all my “pre active lifestyle” clothing that don’t fit anymore away because that isn’t my lifestyle anymore. Remember the post I did about wanting to be under 140? Arbitrary number and arbitrary goal. Feeling good is the goal. Striving for a number didn’t make me happy. Weighing myself didn’t make me happy.  Looking at the scale everyday in my bathroom, even when I wasn’t weighing myself was stressful and it didn’t make me happy. Thus, the scale went out the window. My lifestyle makes me feel fantastic. I don’t want anything in my life that doesn’t make me feel fantastic.

In the spirit of detox, this week I am cooking almost exclusively out of the Super Natural Food Cookbook and the Skinny Bitch Cookbook. Yep, the theme of the week is detox and feeling and living well. Sipping on Kombucha and starting 2011 off right! My stomach feels better just thinking about it 🙂

153 Akira in Wilmette

I am about to make a bold statement, but it is 100% appropriate: Akira is the best sushi I have ever had. And this is coming from a girl who has had a ton of sushi in her day. I love sushi and I could have it everyday it if was practical and I could afford it. Akira opened a couple of years ago in my hometown. It is in the space that the Buttery was in and only operated at night (the Buttery still operated in the day time). Akira was so popular that they shut the Buttery down. It is even listed as one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago.

Akira has the best specialty rolls that I have ever tasted bar none. They not only look beautiful but the fish is super fresh and the flavors melt in your mouth.I went there for dinner once during break but David and I decided that we wanted to go back for lunch. It took approximately no convincing.

David and I both got miso to start the meal off. David announced that it was “really good” and I have to concur. It was the best miso I have had in a long time. Incredibly flavorful.

I ordered two rolls: the Boston roll and the turtle roll. The Boston roll is a classic roll and the turtle roll is a specialty roll.

The Boston roll had salmon, lettuce, Japanese mayo, avocado, cucumber, and flying fish roe. All the ingredients were so fresh and delicious. The lettuce was especially crisp.

The turtle roll was next. It is my long standing favorite.

See how it looks like a turtle?!

Another glamor shot:

The turtle roll has fresh water eel and tempura crunch rolled outside with cooked shrimp topped with wasabi toblko, and finished with a creamy wasabi sauce. This is hands down, the perfect sushi roll. Between eel, shrimp, a little crunch and the creamy wasabi sauce this roll is literal perfection. Nothing will ever top this roll for me.

David ordered the Dragon roll which was a pretty sensational presentation.

Yep that’s right, the roll had a tail.

The dragon rolls is a California roll with unagi and avocado on top. David said that it was very pleasing.

Beyond the excellent sushi and presentation, Akira also has fantastic service. My parents are regulars and Kelly, the owner, always remember me (no small accomplishment since I probably only get to go to Akira once or twice a year).  She always greets us at the door with a smile on her face. As David and I were leaving she handed us a special treat.

David and I enjoyed this while we walked over to the Wilmette Theater.

Isn’t my hometown charming? You know what is even more charming? The fact that the movie ticket was only $6.25! Yes, you heard me. I love the Arclight but this was more than 50% less than the Arclight. I will take it! Also, on Monday’s they have free popcorn. So I got popcorn, soda, and a movie for $8. Can’t beat that deal.

David and I saw Black Swan and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I am not one for intense movies but I really liked this one. It wasn’t too scary and I thought both Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman did  a great job. I really liked the plot line and it kept me guessing. David and I were still talking about it the next day.

I’ve been on a bit of a movie spree. While I was home, in addition to Black Swan, I saw The Fighter, The Kings Speech, and The Social Network. I am a bit of an award season junkie so I had to gear up with holiday movies. All the movies were good but Colin Firths performance in the Kings Speech, Jesse Eisenberg in the Social Network, and Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in The Fighter were especially good. I will say that every time Wahlberg spoke in the Fighter I couldn’t help but think of the “Mark Wahlberg talks to animals” sketch on SNL. Am I the only one? Also I thought the sisters in The Fighter were very entertaining.

Have you seen any movies over the holiday? What did you see and how did you like it? I still have a couple I want to see but am always looking for a good rec!

Hecky’s BBQ

I grew up going to Northwestern events. My Dad is an alum, not to mention that I worked at Northwestern for two summers. Needless to say, our family has many connections to the school. He’s been a football and basketball season ticket holder longer than I’ve been alive. We even travel with the football team on occasion. On the 23rd I went with my Dad to a men’s basketball game. I haven’t been in a long time and it was great to go (plus, we trounced Mount St. Mary’s).

Growing up my favorite part of going to Northwestern games was the treats. I ran before this game and didn’t have time to eat lunch so by half time I was pretty hungry. Luckily the snacks have only gotten better since the last time I went to a game. Hecky’s is a restaurant in Evanston that has been around forever! They started vending at games a few years ago and I got right in line for a pulled pork sandwich with BBQ sauce.

So freaking good! I wish I had my camera when I took this picture because this really isn’t doing the awesomeness of this sandwich justice. The sandwich was WARM and the bun was soft. You can’t go wrong with Hecky’s at the ball game!

David’s Famous Breakfast Potatoes

I’ve said it before, but by far my favorite part of being home is hanging out with my little brother. This year he moved into an apartment and started to cook for himself. And not just like mac and cheese from a box cooking. I’ve called him while he’s been making homemade fried rice and jambalaya. I was so impressed that I asked him to make me one of his specialties while we’re home: breakfast potatos and bacon.

Just call him the "Lake Coast Count"

This recipe is super simple but very delicious.

You start by chopping potato.

Then you fry up your bacon…

While the bacon is cooking you chop up a pepper and an onion.

When the bacon is done, remove it from the pan. You can remove some of the grease, but who are we kidding, it’s vacation… go big or go home. Place the chopped potatoes in the grease with the pepper and the onion.

Then you have to spice it up! This is where you can get creative. I believe David used a combination of red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, and sea salt (at my suggestion). We had a lot of options to choose from.

The number 1 reason I love being home. This is the spice drawer, never mind the entire cabinet shelf that houses the rest of the spices.

After spicing it up you let it cook until the potatoes are tender.

I’m not sure how long they cooked for and we didn’t the bacon because we noshed on it while the potatoes were cooking (whoops). I can say that the potatoes were very delicious.They had a bit of charring but I love a little bit of burn so it was perfect for me!

I could get used to this other people cooking for me thing 🙂

Christmas 2010

It was a white Christmas in Chicago!

Last night we did Prairie Grass and church. Today we woke up and did presents, coffee, and breakfast. Did I mention everything I know I learned from my Mother? The food she made today was EPIC.

David really wanted to get on the blog.

But before presents… there was breakfast! Barefoot Contessa challah French toast with bacon.
Then there were presents. Santa was good to everyone this year. The best part of presents is that Wally thinks every present is for him so he likes to get right in front of you. Sometimes the presents are actually for him.

He even got a pet snuggie, because he loves to be cozy.

Funny story. I misread one of the cards and gave a present to my Dad. He opened it up and said “why would I like a camera?” Then I realized that I gave my Dad one of MY presents! I shouted “I’M GETTING A CAMERA?!” It was all very exciting.

For those who don’t know, my camera has been out of commission since September. It died the week before THIS Project Food Blog challenge. One melt down later I started either borrowing cameras or using my camera phone. Taking my pictures on my Andriod made me feel like a total illegitimate food blogger. It was so rinky dink. Needless to say, the camera is pretty much the best present I could have asked for.

Doesn't Wally look handsome in his Christmas collar?

 

 

Molly's famous Brie was a big hit! I can take responsibility for making this

 

Christmas crackers are a family tradition

 

David demonstrates the content of the cracker

a favorite wine

 

 

Dinner was ham, biscuits, soup, and salad- I made the balsamic!

 

Potato, bacon, cheddar, corn soup from the Barefoot Contessa

And then it was time for dessert….

Grandma's cookies!

 

 

Dark and Stormies, Mrs. Turner's cookies, and bark

 

fruit cake cookies, spice cookies, and Enstrums

We also had a selection of small batch ice creams.

I had salted caramel and sweet potato with torched marshmallow (!) Ah-Ma-Zing. A very foodie Christmas for sure. I am rocking a massive food baby (in the words of Carolyn, “cookie Christ”) and an elastic waist band. Its been a good day.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!