the not quite chef

it's a messy kitchen

The windy city

At last, pictures from my trip to Chicago! Where I learned that it’s not called the “windy city” because of the wind, but rather the politics. Yeah, perhaps I’m a little behind the times, but better late than never, right?

The boy and I had a wonderful time. We spent three nights and four days in Chicago, which we both felt was plenty of time. We stayed in a gorgeous B&B in the Bucktown neighborhood, an up-and-coming area just a 20-minute “L” ride outside of downtown. I was surprised by how many upscale boutiques there were lining the streets, but there was lots of great shopping – and restaurants.

We were able to get dinner with one of my friends who recently moved to Chicago, and the boy tried a bacon Manhattan (I tried a sip – it was as horrible as it sounds). We went to the aquarium, had deep dish pizza (honestly, it was just ok), went to the Art Institute, visited the zoo (it was free! and amazing), saw the bean… we managed to get a LOT done, but at the same time, the entire trip was relaxed and casual. It was super easy to get around, thanks to Chicago’s easy bus system and our unlimited CTA passes. The city itself was gorgeous, and reminded me so much of New York – just a lot cleaner, and with seemingly a lot less people.

Two of my favorite spots from the trip? (Yes, of course they involve food). We ate dinner at Japonais, a Japanese restaurant courtesy of a Rue La La voucher I bought for the boy’s birthday. It was incredible – we shared four or five small appetizers, each had an entree, and each had a dessert. The atmosphere was intimate and even a little romantic, and I loved everything about it.

Dinner at Japonais

Then, there was the Signature Lounge, on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower. We shared a few cocktails and appetizers while enjoying the view of the city lit up at night. If any of you ever make it to Chicago – those two are tops.

View from the Signature Lounge

Of course, there’s still a lot we never got to, so we’ll just have to add it to our list the next time we visit! 🙂 Where are your favorite spots in Chicago?


October 24, 2011 Posted by | Dining Out, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back from Chicago!

Well folks, I’m back from my little vacation. The boy and I were in Grand Rapids for one night for his friend’s wedding, then we decided to head to Chicago for three nights to make a vacation out of it. We had an absolute blast – here’s one photo for now, but the rest will be coming later!

Before we left, however, I was reminded of some packing tips that make traveling 100 times easier and thought would be good to share.

Make a list.
This might sound like an obvious first step, but if you’re like my boyfriend, you might neglect this and then cause yourself a last-minute panic over what you need to pack and whether you have everything. A list will remind you what things you still need to purchase (mini bottles of shampoo and the like) while putting your mind at ease, knowing that once things are checked off, they’re packed and you won’t forget them.

Make sure your luggage is distinguishable.
I’m not saying you need to choose purple luggage (like I did), but a simple ribbon or tag will make it easy for you to spot your luggage when it comes off the baggage claim. However, I wouldn’t recommend filling out your name and address on a very visible luggage tag – you never know who could find it and take your information down…

…so store your information inside.
Checking baggage? Put your name, number, and address on an index card and stick it inside your suitcase. It won’t be visible from the outside, won’t get ruined or destroyed, but should your luggage get lost, it’s easy to find and will help you get your bag back.

Stick to one color scheme.
If you don’t have a lot of room in your suitcase (we only brought carry-ons), plan all your outfits according to one neutral color, say either brown or black. It eliminates the need for multiple sweaters, pairs of shoes, and even the concern over whether or not everything will match!

Roll your clothes to save space (and keep them wrinkle-free).
Sure, you can fold all your clothes and they’ll fit just fine, but will they stay wrinkle-free? If you roll everything (and you can roll two shirts into one, if you choose) your clothing will be less likely to wrinkle.

Dress ready for airport security.
Dress comfortably for a flight (layers are key in case the plane is hot or cold) and wear things you can remove easily – slip-on boots, sneakers you can slide off, and try to wear minimal jewelry or watches so you don’t have to take as much time removing your stuff before you get through security.

Less is more. Seriously.
When I went to Spain to study abroad for a semester, I brought one suitcase. No, I’m really not kidding. And yes, I survived and had plenty of clothes and things to wear all semester. You will hear time and time again (most likely if you’re about to go abroad) that everyone regrets bringing more than one suitcase. I promise that you will not want to be lugging around a 50lb. suitcase, plus a 20lb. carry-on, a backpack, purse, etc. while trying to navigate the local bus system. Learn to layer your clothing, wear it repeatedly (I swear no one is paying attention), and take just one bag. You’ll thank me later.

On that note – it’s time to return to my Criminal Minds marathon. Photos and a recap of my Chicago trip next!

October 20, 2011 Posted by | Tips + How-Tos, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Quick fix dinner

I’m no chef. Although this year I’m trying (making enough dinner on Sunday for leftovers all week), I’m still not the best at it. This is primarily because, well, I’m lazy.

I tend to work late, and the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is make a big meal. Bring in my boyfriend, on the other hand, who is the chef in our relationship – he pulls out all the stops when it comes to making his lunch and dinner for the week, and he’s pretty damn good at it.

For me, when I do cook (and I swear it’s more often now!), I tend to rely on recipes that take a half hour or less, as I don’t have the patience – or the time – to cook something during the week that takes any longer. This past week, my boyfriend and I decided to make dinner, and so we went for something that we knew would be super easy to put together: fish.

We’re both big seafood eaters, and fish is one of those really great foods that takes 20 minutes to cook and is packed with all kinds of good-for-you nutrients. We picked up some fish at the store, and even decided to make our own breadcrumbs, which only took five minutes! That, plus a side of microwave veggies and potatoes (hey, we had to cheat somewhere) and voila – dinner in 25 minutes.

Homemade Breadcrumbs
This may sound like a totally obvious recipe, but it took just minutes and was better than out of the can!

1 sleeve Ritz crackers
Grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of garlic powder

Put a sleeve of Ritz crackers in a Ziploc bag and smash them into breadcrumb size (make sure the bag is completely shut!). Add the spices and parmesan cheese to taste; for our version, we used more oregano than anything else. Shake the bag with everything in it, and the breadcrumbs are ready.

We used cod for the fish (although haddock would do just as well), dipping each filet in milk then sprinkling the breadcrumbs on top, with some pats of butter for flavor. We baked it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, and dinner was served. Easy.

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Recipes, Tips + How-Tos | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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