About Me

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Lansing, Michigan, United States
I am a Lansing townie, lawyer, and restaurant reviewer for the City Pulse. I love traveling, reading, yoga, and baking, but my favorite hobby is stuffing my face.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tacos El Cunado, Grand Rapids

Last week I was in Grand Rapids for my wonderful new job. It got even better when my boss suggested that we head to the Downtown Market for lunch. We walked in and my jaw dropped. There were cupcakes. There was fresh fish. There was whiskey barrel-aged maple syrup, which I snapped up for my syrup-loving Valentine.
I did several laps before deciding what I was going to eat for lunch. When I saw Tacos El Cunado, I was sold. I ordered a chorizo quesadilla, which was $6.50 or something else inexpensive (the charge hasn't posted to my debit card yet.) I went to the salsa bar where I loaded up with pico de gallo and some spicy pickled onions. I found my colleague and dug in.
This ain't no Taco Bell quesadilla- don't pick it up to eat it unless you're willing to have a "taco hand" all afternoon. I had one. I felt like a wild animal.

The chorizo was spicy but it didn't hurt. I took this entire thing down in record time and I've been thinking about it ever since. The two owners are an attorney and a restauranteur, and I dig that. It looks like the place is popular with locals too (and great photos on that site!), and of course Grand Rapidians know from Mexican food.

If you're in GR and hungry, you'll find something fantastic at the market. There are cooking and yoga classes there too? I might pitch a tent.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tiramisu, Conquered

Remember that 2014 food goal of mine, to learn to make tiramisu? I did it.
I used the recipe from the Silver Spoon Cookbook and pulled the dessert together early on a Sunday for that evening's birthday dinner. The ladyfingers (I used crunchy ones) had the whole afternoon to soak up the mascarpone cream and coffee.

By dinnertime, it was perfect. It didn't hold its shape particularly well, but all of the eaters gobbled it up and told me to pack up a container for them to take the leftovers home.

The boyfriend and I ate leftover mascarpone cream for the rest of the week. It is a decadent stand-alone pudding.

Tiramisu
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 eggs whites
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 7 ounces ladyfingers
  • 3/4 cup freshly brewed extra strong coffee, cooled
  • 7 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated (this is a TON of chocolate. I only used about 4 ounces because my dish was overflowing.)
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
INSTRUCTIONS
Stiffly whisk the egg whites in a grease-free bowl. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in another bowl until pale and fluffy. Gently fold in the mascarpone, then the egg whites. Make a layer of ladyfingers on the base of a deep, rectangular serving dish and brush them evenly with coffee. Cover with a layer of the mascarpone cream and sprinkle with a little grated chocolate. Continue making layers until all the ingredients are used, ending with a layer of mascarpone cream. Dust with cocoa and chill in the refrigerator for about 3 hours.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Shrimp, enchiladas, and cheesecake

Just call me Ahnold, because going to the gym is kind of an obsession of mine. When I was a little eater I watched Dad go to the gym or go outside for a run 4 or 5 days a week. Dad made all of us kiddos YMCA members when we were about 5 years old (seriously, my brother's first Y membership card is adorable- all ringlets and grins) and I haven't stopped going since.

Ok, maybe I stopped going when I was in college. I've been atoning for those years ever since.

In the last couple of months I've started to step it up. I want to eat everything, so most days I week I strap on my heart rate monitor, throw on a disgusting old tshirt, and park it on a treadmill until I burn 1000 calories. I like to watch episodes of Law and Order on my phone while I run. I liked to watch Nashville, but ABC Mobile has implemented some stupid login system that really frosts my cookies.

Since I run my legs off most days and the boyfriend sacrifices his body in a surprisingly intense office basketball game three times a week, I try to sometimes implement a dinner that is carb-heavy. Considering that, last week I made Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Skillets from one of my very favorite blogs. This was dead easy and penne pasta is one of my favorites. I even yanked the shrimp tails off right after I dumped them into the cast iron, because that's how considerate I am.
A few days later, I burned 1200 calories on the elliptical and decided to replace them all at dinnertime. I made "Lightened Up" beef enchiladas, although I can't tell you what is light about these. It doesn't matter. They were indulgent, cheesy, tangy- perfect. After the Pioneer Woman's chicken version left me bitterly disappointed and exhausted from the afternoon spent preparing them, the beef version was a relief and a breeze to make. We were sitting down to eat and watch the Olympic opening ceremonies in under an hour.
We also had dessert that night. I told you I wanted to replace all calories burned. Since our recent cheesecake discovery at Guerrazzi's, I've had more cheesecake on my mind. I called and asked them what flavors they had that night and the varieties made my head swim. We hopped in the car and drooled over the dessert counter before choosing Key Lime,cinnamon roll, and peanut butter chocolate.


There were three of us eating dinner that night, so I cut the cheesecake up so we could each have our own sampler plate. My favorite was the peanut butter chocolate, because of course it was, but the cinnamon roll was nothing to scoff at. The cheesecake has actual pieces of cinnamon roll on top. Have mercy.

Wait until I tell you about the dark chocolate waffles we made the next morning.

Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Skillet
serves 2-4
1 pound raw peeled and deveined shrimp (I used cooked shrimp. It was fine.)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (I used mozzarella.)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups uncooked whole wheat penne

In a bowl, whisk olive oil, parmesan, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes together. Add shrimp to a large ziplock bag, pour marinade over top, then seal bag and shake to coat. Place in the fridge to marinate overnight.

When ready to eat, bring water to boil in a large pot and cook penne according to directions. While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and marinade (just dump the entire contents of the bag into the skillet), then cook shrimp until pink – about 2 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook! As soon as shrimp is finished, add penne into the skillet and toss to coat completely. Top with additional parmesan cheese and sliced green onions, then serve.





Lightened Up Beef Enchiladas with 10 Minute Enchilada Sauce


Yield: serves 4 (or 3, if 2 of you are big ol' men.)
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles (in the world foods aisle at Meijer.)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 ounces white cheddar cheese, freshly grated
10 whole wheat tortillas
for serving: green onions, cilantro, sour cream, avocado

enchilada sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
15 ounces tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add in the olive oil along with the peppers, onions and garlic. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the green chiles then add the beef. Break the beef apart with a spoon and add the cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook until the beef is browned, stirring well. Turn off heat.
Add 1/3 cup of the enchilada sauce and 2 ounces of the cheese to the skillet. Add another 1/3 cup of the sauce to the bottom of the baking dish and spread it out with a spoon. Add the beef filling to the center of each tortilla and rolls them tightly, placing them next to each other in the dish. When finished, cover the tortillas with the remaining sauce and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and melted on top. *I then stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes to get the cheese to bubble.

enchilada sauce
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Whisk in the flour and cook until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together, bringing the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 more minutes before using.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Chicken and Dumplings, Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens

I've been killing it in my "cook one recipe from Bon Appetit each month" goal, one of my 2014 food goals. February's issue is all about modern comfort food and features soups and stews, which you really need if you're in Michigan in February.

Last week I made the cover recipe, chicken and dumplings with mushrooms. I left the mushrooms out, because the boyfriend doesn't like them.
It was underwhelming. Because there is bacon in the stew, the broth takes on a brown hue. That's not how we have done chicken and dumplings in my mom's kitchen and it threw me. Nevertheless, now I know how to make dumplings!

I also made the spicy beans with wilted greens stew.
I loved this, so I've posted the recipe below. I used Great Northern beans and threw in an entire bunch of torn kale, a bag of spinach, and two bunches of watercress. I have a slight preoccupation with making sure I get my leafy greens.

I made the stew again last night to freeze. I used navy beans and mustard greens this time, and put in a lot more salt than last time. If you're looking for an uber healthy vegetarian meal, you should bookmark this one. Yes, use the anchovies, and the resulting aroma will make you want to actually get into your soup pot.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained (optional)
  • 4 chiles de ├írbol or 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary (I used 3, and fished the stems out after the stew simmered for 3 hours)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Parmesan rind (optional), plus shaved Parmesan for serving (I skipped this)
  • 1 pound dried white beans or chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained
  • 1 bunch kale or mustard greens, ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch large flat-leaf spinach, trimmed, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups trimmed arugula or watercress, divided
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Nutritional Information

Calories (kcal) 1030 Fat (g) 76 Saturated Fat (g) 11 Cholesterol (mg) 15 Carbohydrates (g) 85 Dietary Fiber (g) 24 Total Sugars (g) 11 Protein (g) 26 Sodium (mg) 1730

PREPARATION

  • Heat ¼ cup oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook anchovies, if using, chiles, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until garlic is soft and anchovies are dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add onion, celery, and rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and golden brown, 8–10 minutes.
  • Add Parmesan rind, if using, beans, and 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed, until beans are beginning to fall apart, 3–4 hours.
  • Lightly crush some beans to give stew a creamy consistency. Mix in kale, spinach, and half of arugula; season with salt and pepper. Cook until greens are wilted, 5–8 minutes.
  • Toss remaining arugula with lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. oil; season with salt and pepper. Divide stew among bowls; top with arugula, shaved Parmesan, and a drizzle of oil.

 

Friday, February 7, 2014

State Room birthday

A few weeks ago, my beautiful bestie turned 35. I always love her mid-January birthday, since it gives us all a perfect reason to come together after our Christmas trees are packed away and our lives have settled back down.
Her husband invited a dozen of her nearest and dearest to have dinner at the State Room, a beautiful restaurant on the campus of Michigan State University and one of my favorites from last year. I said in the article that the servers were professional, courteous, and well-trained, and they outdid themselves during our dinner.

We were sat in a gorgeous private room and greeted with an amuse bouche.
We made our way through a selection of appetizers (the grilled shrimp was the unanimous favorite) and gabbed about all of our friends and frenemies, as we are wont to do. We eventually had to stop talking if we wanted to keep eating.

I had the braised beef short rib.
I love carrots sliced vertically. I'm crazy, I know.
Since my friends know just how hungry I am, everyone offered me bites of their food. The walnut dusted Great Lakes walleye was the best dish on the table.The ribeye, not usually my preferred cut of meat, was a close second. The steak was laid atop roasted garlic, which was almost reason enough to order the dish.

When it was cake time (when is it not cake time?) and after the birthday girl blew out her candles, the servers sliced the cake and presented us each with a little ice cream.
I made the cake. Yes, I will make you one too.
Our service was perfect. There wasn't a complaint heard round the table, and believe me, that's remarkable. The State Room is quickly shooting to the top of my list of favorites, although the prices of some of the entrees might relegate it to a "special occasion" restaurant only.

Luckily, I have a special occasion to celebrate, and on Monday I will start my new job with a firm just down the street. I'm very excited, and I'm happy to give everyone the opportunity to celebrate at your convenience. I'll meet you at the State Room.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Guerrazzi's, and an Earth-shattering discovery

A few weeks ago the boyfriend and I met one of his high school friends for dinner. For months bf has been wanting to try Guerrazzi's, an Italian restaurant on Old 27 just a few miles from his place. Neither of us had ever been there, but the parking lot is perpetually full of cars and that intrigued us.

This was a Thursday night, so in the interest of preserving our delineation between weekday and weekend food, he told me that I could tell him what to order. To make matters worse, we have both started using My Fitness Pal in an attempt to take off some of our Christmas cookie weight. I mean, we have to. I ate all of these.
I ordered the whole wheat spaghetti and meatballs. The server and I had a discussion about whether I would be able to handle the level of heat in the spicy pasta sauce, and when he told me that he could tell them to tune it down a touch, I ordered it.

I don't know if we crossed wires or if the default sauce is inferno hot, but the reduced-spice sauce almost blew my head off. My nose was running and I was sweating as I ate it. My whole wheat noodles were watery and overcooked, and the meatballs were bland.
But hey, a little sprinkle of something green does go a long way to punch up a plate of pasta, doesn't it?

The boyfriend's entree was head and shoulders better than mine. He had penne pasta tossed with chunks of sausage and a light, creamy sauce. No, we can't remember what these dishes were called, because I didn't take a photo of the menu and Guerrazzi's doesn't have a full website, just a Facebook page (which is fine with me.)

The meal was satisfactory, but didn't knock my socks off. We were happy but probably wouldn't have come back until I asked the server what they had for dessert. Everything I said about us watching our diets and trying to not eat all the baked goods in the world? We had good intentions. But they had chocolate cheesecake.
We got one piece for the three of us to share, but I lost my mind and scarfed the majority of it. The filling was incredible- tangy, sweet, unmistakably chocolatey.
It's a rare thing in our city to find from scratch cheesecake. Considering the deliciousness of my slice, as well as the cherry cheesecake and cinnamon rolls varieties also offered that night, this discovery should be celebrated.

Last weekend during another torrent of snow I suggested to the boyfriend that we could go quickly to Guerrazzi's and pick up a slice of cheesecake. I was half joking. Ok, I was not joking at all and I would have braved the elements. This might prove dangerous, the supply being so close to his apartment. I thought if I shared it with all of you, the chances of me eating more than my fair share of slices is diminished. Please do your part.



Saturday, February 1, 2014

Roma Cafe, Detroit

Last Friday, we went to the auto show. I found my next car- a Buick Regal, and I saw a lot of ladies, dressed to impress, massaging the cars. When we needed a snack, the boyfriend and I shared these.
After we looked at cars, cars, and more cars, we braved the frigid temperatures to do some more things in Detroit. We went to the Shinola store, where I lusted after every single one of those $600 watches. They are beautiful, sleek, and made in Detroit.

We eventually made our way to Roma Cafe near Eastern Market. A girlfriend of mine has been singing the praises of this little place for years, but you know how I feel about ordering pasta while dining out. In short, I don't do it very often. To paraphrase Shania Twain, it don't impress me much.

We plopped down for an early dinner, nestled into a back room with a few other tables of early birds. The servers, wearing tuxedos, were having a snack in preparation of what turned out to be an absolute crush of diners. If we hadn't gotten there at 5pm, we wouldn't have been eating anytime soon.

We sat in the cozy room like sardines. . . or like the anchovies that were presented to one of our neighbors atop his Caesar salad. Yum. I made a Caesar last week- egg yolks, anchovies, and all- and wondered why I hadn't done it sooner.
Having had our fill of Caesars that week, the boyfriend and I chose Antipasta salads. Lord amercy.
I just couldn't stop with this salad. It was full of pepperocinis, garbanzo beans, crisp romaine lettuce, spicy salami, cracked black pepper, hunks of cheese, ham, tomatoes, a deliciously oily dressing. . . I ate the entire thing in record time. I loved it. I put myself through the paces of eating salads several times a week, and this was one of the best ones in recent history.

To counteract any health benefits, we were each presented with a plate covered with bubbling cheese.
There was lasagna under there. My mother was not a lasagna mother, and I'm not an experienced lasagna-eater. I'm trying to learn, since brother has requested that I learn how to make it this year.

At first bite, I wasn't blown away by this. I ate about a third of the big old portion, but since I was so stuffed with salad much of this was packed up to take home.

The next day I dug in for lunch and started to taste things I hadn't the night before. I tasted the quality of the cheese. I noticed the slight bite to the noodles and the zip of garlic in the tomato sauce. Before I knew it, I had devoured the rest of my lasagna and wanted more.

We skipped dessert at Roma and headed to Ann Arbor to see a bunch of the boyfriend's colleagues play in a hockey game. We had a little time to burn, so we hunted down dessert with an Instagram recommendation from Meg Goes Nom Nom, who pointed us toward Iorio's. Sound familiar? They used to have a place in the Lansing City Market, where I used to binge eat.

Yes, the weather was horribly cold. We are Michiganders, so I beg of you to give me a break. I had a combination of gingerbread, turkish coffee, and dark chocolate with mint.
This guy went fruit-flavored with acai berry and tropical.
I bought the gelato, so I think it's reasonable that I ask him to buy me this in exchange.