Out and About: Moe’s Cantina


Earlier this week, I had the privilege of sampling new menu items from Moe’s Cantina in River North here in the Chi.  Let me tell you, I’m one lucky girl.

Now I know that some would argue that Mexican food is Mexican food is Mexican food, and to some extent, you’re right- a lot of it is the same.  However it’s how you make the same, different, and what really struck me about this particular menu was that the restaurant really made an effort to highlight the cuisine in Northern Mexico.  Since you know I’m all about the regional cuisine and spent a solid week cooking Northern Mexican food on my own, the menu at Moe’s is certainly worth a shout out.


First, let’s recap the food of Northern Mexico.  Northern Mexico consists of an enormous area spanning dry and semi-arid regions from the Baja area on the Pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico and expanding southwards toward central Mexico.  The climate and conditions in this region lends itself to cattle ranching and dependence on wheat. Therefore, in this area, the food actually is the familiar: flour tortillas, meat and for this dinner, we had a lot of the latter two.

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Be Nice: Jerk Chicken Drummies with Cool Mango Cilantro Dip


This past Saturday and Sunday were two of my favorite days. Not necessarily because of what happened, which was not all that much, but because they were my favorite types of days.  A few errands, a little bit of exercise, quite a bit of cooking and a lot of reading.  Lost in thought, serenaded by Frankie Valli, Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

The best days.

One of the recipes that I churned out was this one:  Jerk chicken drummies with a cool mango cilantro dipping sauce.


Nothing jerky about it.

While the traditional way to cook anything jerkified would be over sort of flame or seasoned planks of wood (so says my Jamaican coworker), an alternative would be to grill them.  Grilling, what a concept.  Have I used my grill at all lately? Not once. I forgot to buy gas in May and then never remembered at the opportune time. As such, no grilling for me so far this summer. #Fail.

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Sunday Somethings


Hello, Sunday.

I’m going to say what everyone is trying to deny: Summer is almost over.  Backpacks are being packed and summer vacations are winding down.  

I’m leaving finally leaving for my late-summer vacation in less than two weeks and despite all the things I think I should be doing to set sail smoothly…I have done none. I’ve been out and about playing in the streets (in the non-prostitute sense) and trying to stay foot-loose and fancy free for as long as possible.

After some patio time Friday night, I did manage to run errands after a very long walk yesterday before a cooking lesson and movie time with Kettle Corn last night. Dance ’till Dawn, perhaps the best made for TV movie of the 80’s was the order of the day. If you can track it down, I implore you to watch it. You’ll love it, and maybe secretly hate yourself for how much you love it.  It’s the original She’s All That.

But really we shouldn’t be inside watching movies. That’s for November.  For now, let’s make the best of every last second of every sunny day and spend them outside on the beach, in the beer gardens, at the street festivals.

Go forth and play.

But first, I found lots at which to gawk this week. Here we go:

Having never taken engagement pictures, I’m not sure how I feel about them, but these couples nailed it.  Lettuce and Yam swear I’m #12.

Do we need more evidence for why we need family leave? Come on, people!

Ashely Madison. A sad state of affairs, no pun intended. Clearly those on it should have realized the humans are too stupid to pull that kind of thing off for long.

I’m sorry to admit that this did prompt discussion amongst me and the girlfriends. Apparently how you clasp your bra says something about your personality.  Lettuce and I are in the minority as back claspers.

I’m over thirty! Say it loud, say it proud.  #BadassWomen #ThisisThirty.

Speaking of #BadassWomen, Heidi Klum, my girl crush, is totally one.

…and so is Kerry Washington.

…and let’s not forget our new Army Rangers.  The most elite of all.

Call me cold-hearted, but I agree that participation trophies should not be a thing. Earn it!

Vacation ideas, for your back pocket.

and finally, Beauty and the Beast.  Life lessons.

Have a good week!

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Kickstarter: Jamaican Coffee


One morning in recent weekends past, I simultaneously made myself breakfast while making my no-churn for the week (mint, in case you were wondering) and it turns out the coffee was done brewing just as I emptied the can of sweetened condensed milk.  Kismet, if you will.  The answer to this situation seemed obvious and my coffee had the oh-so-wonderful hint of the liquid heaven that lingers in the can after it’s been emptied.

A delicious way to start the day.

And with that, this drink also became obvious.


Because coffee is great, can’t we all agree? I think that while it’s so necessary in the morning, sometimes it’s just as necessary at night. It’s these times though that a little sumpin-sumpin extra might be needed.



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Plantain-Crusted Red Snapper with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa


I started today’s dish with a pretty solid plan, and then it turned into something not at all as intended, despite the plan. Better though, says I.

Inspired by the same source that spawned the delicious Shandy Dandy (dandy Shandy? I can never remember…), the plantain-crusted chicken finger with a green seasoning turned into a plantain-crusted red snapper with roasted tomatillo salsa.

Loosely-inspired, more like.

Despite that fact that I’ve sort of accidentally shunned plantains through my Caribbean tastes, they are quite prevalent over in those parts, as well as in Central and Latin America and Africa, largely due to their versatility.  You can bake ‘em, broil ‘em, fry ‘em, sauté ‘em… you get the picture.  According to Wikipedia, they’re a big deal, and the tenth most important staple that feeds the world.

And today, they serve as the breadcrumbs for my gorgeous red snapper.

Though my world travels are extensive, I’ve yet to explore the Caribbean.  While at this point it’s all hearsay, I have it on good authority from my more tropic-minded friends that red snapper is a big thing down in those crystal clear Caribbean waters.  AND it just happened to be on sale this week at the market. So, obviously meant to be on my plate.  Coated in plantains. And topped with salsa.

The salsa came about because I had too many tomatillos from my CSA these past few weeks and they needed to be eaten. There is a more traditional green sauce that accompanies a lot of Caribbean cuisines, so stayed tuned for that later. Until then, a little bit of Mexican overlap for dinner.  Plus, it’s still green, so, like I said before…still loosely-inspired.


Prep for this is pretty straight-forward. Flour, eggs and crushed plantain chips for the coating. Let’s get a little messy.



As a youngin, one of the tasks that often fell to us as we helped mom with dinner was breading things: pork chops, chicken fingers because most kids** like to get their hands messy and it was the perfect way to do so, and to teach us that cooking is fun.  So, call in your youngins!

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Island Flavor: Chicken Pelau


Today, a stew.

Yes.  I know what you’re thinking- that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me since I hate hot weather and here I go making a stew when it’s 90 bazillion degree outside.

In my defense, it’s not really a stew. It’s more like a chicken and rice pot thing, but depending on how much liquid you add, it really could be stew-like.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s definitely got that comfort food feel about it.


Now, before you click away, hear me out.  I know that right now we all prefer to eat things like salads and farm-fresh tomatoes and juicy-juicy mangos and ice cream, and the thought of something rib-sticking is honestly a little horrible.  I thought so, too, until I ate cassoulet for lunch yesterday.

Not wanting to cook during my weekend of sloth/birthday, I resorted to the freezer stores for lunch.  Cassoulet, my fall/winter favorite meal, came forth. And despite the hot weather, I couldn’t get enough. Was sad it was gone. Contemplated making a huge pot when I got home last night.  I think it’s because I go outside as little as possible and spend most of my day in an office slightly chilled thanks to the wonderfulness of air conditioning.  And for those days, rib-sticking is welcome.

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Sunday Somethings


Hello, Sunday.

It was such a nice, relaxing week that culminated in a great weekend with mom, who came to town for my birthday. Though it was slightly warmer that I would have liked, that’s what I get for having been born in August.  Friday we did a little shopping, went to NoMI Garden for some cocktails (#drunkwithmom) and then ended with a dinner of all things rich and delicious at Devon Seafood Grill, notably the lobster mac ‘n cheese which is one of my favorite treats ever (pasta aversion aside).  The day made me realize that I could totally be a lady who lunches.  

Or, at least a lady who must buy a whole new wardrobe from eating too much lobster mac ‘n cheese.

Worn out from all Friday’s excitement, after a long walk, we spent Saturday sitting on opposite couches under matching blue blankets wearing our pajamas each reading a Kathy Reichs’ novel until around 5:30 when we figured we should get something to eat.  Thanks to Whole Foods, our spread included a sushi roll, lemon artichoke soup, three tacos and fried plantains. Followed by three types of ice cream.  Lorelei Gilmore would be proud.

Swanky brunch with the girls capped off a birthday week so fun I can’t wait for 35.

Wait, NO, I didn’t say that.

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Let Me Eat Cake: Chocolate on Vanilla


Today’s my birthday!


Funny how even as one entering her mid-thirties (so says Little Buddha, when in fact, I still round down to 30.  He’ll say the same thing in 11 months), I still feel like my birthday is a special day. Sure, work goes on, the world revolves and cake still equals calories, but for some reason, I feel like I glow just a little extra every August 14th.

Maybe it’s the Leo in me. So would say Tomato.

Last night as I crawled into bed, I felt that little kid glee as I turned off my alarm for the morning, knowing that I wasn’t getting up for work today* (this is the first time I’m taking my birthday off, and I’m thinking it needs to be an every year thing…).  I was already excited for my cake for breakfast and the day- of- the- most- fun with Mom, who would be rolling into town around noon.  Light lunch, pedicures, maybe a little shopping, swanky cocktails on a rooftop followed by a delicious dinner. Ice cream to cap it all off.  



*Of course it’s the day that I don’t have to get up for work I woke up with springs on at 7. Fail.

Rather than New Years, birthdays are when I really tend to go look back on reflect on the past 365.  They fly by so fast that sometimes it’s easy for years to pass without taking an inventory.

Most of this year, from I’d say about August until March, I fought some health problems that seemed to put a big black cloud over everything else. I have PCOS. Did I ever tell you that? Well, I do. It sucks. A lot.  But, finally, after years of trying seemingly every treatment, both conventional and not, known to both Western and Eastern medicine, I finally have it kinda sorta under control.  Once that annoying cloud was lifted, the rest of my life started to come a bit more into focus.  And it hasn’t been too shabby.

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Tagine, Saladified: Moroccan Cobb-Style Salad



During this weekend’s Adventures in Housesitting, I gave Kettle Corn what was I hope one of many cooking lessons. It was fun, and set to the crooning of Michael Buble, I chose Chicken Tagine as our first dish. It’s quick, easy, packs a flavorful punch and never ceases to be a fan favorite. Served with some orzo made the mom way, Kettle Corn couldn’t stop raving about it.


Making it Saturday night made me realize how much I just love that dish, and how often it becomes my go-to lazy meal for all those cold fall and winter nights.  And I realized that there was no reason to stop the love in the summer, and, as such, I decided to salad-ify it.  In doing so, I used all the same components that make it a perfect stew, and turned it into the Moroccan version of a Cobb salad. Plus, SO MANY GREENS from my CSA lately.  And, is summer salad season? Tomato and Lettuce scoff at my designation of it as a summer food since they’re anti-categorizing-food-by-season, but I think most would agree.  Anyway, only a few weeks left, so let’s summer-food it up.

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Sunday Somethings


Hello, Sunday.

After Friday’s feast, I spent much of the rest of the weekend in the ‘burbs, first house sitting with Kettle Corn, then checking out Apple Crisp’s new digs on my way back into the city.  I have to say that it was really nice to escape for some peace and quiet, to a land where the nights are pitch black, and the only sounds that you hear are the chirp of the locusts and the chatter of your own thoughts.  And as I drove down my street, bumper to bumper with cars dodging construction and pot holes, I wished myself back to yesterday.

Funny how the things at which we so vehemently scoff we later come to embrace. One of the ironies of adulthood.

Speaking of adulthood, this week I creep a little bit closer as I gain another year this Friday.  However, age is just a number, and I’m determined squeeze in a little fun this week.  And, speaking of fun, here’s what made me laugh, cry and ponder this week.  But let’s not talk politics; all of that business seems so uncivil:

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