Saturday, December 25, 2010

Always start my Christmas by giving to others

April and I hit up Meals on Wheels today to pass out holiday dinners to Detroit's elderly. My grandparents started this Christmas tradition for my family when I was young, and my friends and I carry it on now.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Catering to my inner (imaginary) Puerto Rican side

I am the product of two Black parents…. but I swear there has to be some Latin in my blood, based on the way I obsess over the food. Here in Chicago, we have a number of places that claim to have the best JIBARITOS, and after trying out a few, we’ve found our A+ spot – Papa’s Cache Sobroso in Humboldt Park (with the jibarito originator “Borinquen” pulling a close second for the sandwich, but taking #1 for mofongo in Chicago).

For a while, Bobby and I were making regular trips for their tender, tasty rotisserie chicken dishes (with Spanish rice and tostones) and the wonderful jibarito sandwiches. The prices are what we call EXCELLENT for date night (dinner for 2 can easily come in under $20 and you’ll be full when you leave). This is a pic of our standard meal – a steak jibarito with Spanish rice. The sandwich comes with cheese (“white” or “yellow”), lettuce (which I remove), tomato, and mayo. Instead of bread you get all of this smashed between two perfectly fried garlicky plantains. Here’s a pic from our last trip to Papa’s…


After a few regular trips, it got me to thinking…. can I channel my inner imaginary Puerto Rican and make this dish myself??? Hmmm…..Why not try??? The hardest part was the research on cutting and frying the plantains… oh, and seeing the amount of oil that I had to use. LOL (don’t ask for nutritional content on this sandwich, I have convinced myself it doesn’t exist). In the end, my version came pretty close visually and the flavor was really good!!! I’ll definitely have to add this to my successful recipe list!

Plantains frying in the skilletSandwich openedFinished meal - great presentation :-)

The item of the day, since I’m in a cooking mood, is something I have no room for in my kitchen but sure plan to get one day….. A couple of years ago my cousin found a great recipe a while back for potatoes au gratin that included Jarlsberg and Raclette cheeses (both of which were expensive and difficult to locate among the abundance of cheeses in Whole Foods). This was the BEST side ever. Half of the fun was in making it, and I had the job of potato slicer. In my kitchen this would be dreadful, with my somewhat dull knives and shaky hands. But in her kitchen I learned about a “mandoline” (a.k.a. “slicer”)… talk about amazing!

I don’t recall the brand she had, but it was similar to this one by Oxo, featured on the William Sonoma website:

oxo madeline slicer

Based on my past experiences (and the line on my pinky from the stitches that I got after slicing an avocado the wrong way) I think this may be a good idea to go with my mandoline, whenever I get it… the cut resistant glove from Microplane. Great invention indeed:


If I don’t see you before then…

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!!

Golf is Not Second Nature

My department's Holiday Party included an outing to Top Golf in Itasca, IL. While I own a set of nice clubs and a pair of cute Nike golf shoes, I've never actually used the clubs on a course and the shoes have never been worn. Needless to say, golf is not "my sport".

I must admit, despite the 20 degree weather (as you can see, this involved being outdoors) there were electric heaters all over the place and the hot cocoa was flowing! The food was actually really good (I admit, I wasn't expecting that from a driving range) and the concept of balls with microchips to assign points based on where you land made for a fun, competitive afternoon! I'll definitely be going back, with my own clubs.... Only next time it will be in the spring!

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Wish List 2010

Yes people, its that time again… all the things I want but won’t get this Christmas. You know the drill and if not, you can check years 2006 and 2008. So here goes….

For this years Work Holiday Party, it would be great to show up in something as un-engineer-like as possible… you know, really cater to my inner fashionista. The Sunbird silk-gazar dress by ROKSANDA ILINCIC is something I would never get up the courage to buy, but can easily imagine myself walking into a crowded room draped in it. The fluorescent yellow is very unexpected. I love it.

ROKSANDA ILINCIC sunbird dress

For the vacationing girls’ night out, we usually tend to relive our college days through our attire, and this Jenny stretch-cotton mini dress dress by Preen Line is the perfect balance of the “young me” and the classy grown up me. My girls would love it.

preen line jenny cotton

This year I because a fan of TOUS jewelry, especially the teddy bears pendants. While I like many of the options available, I definitely have to include the black diamond Bubble Bear pendant on my wish list!

tous bubble bear black

After my canopy zip-line experience in Mexico, I’m ready to take it a step further and hit the rainforest in Coast Rica. The Rincon de La Vieja Adventure  is right up my alley… of course, that includes getting to Costa Rica, which is a minor major obstacle.

rincon-de-la-vieja-adventure-costa-rica 1 rincon-de-la-vieja-adventure-costa-rica 2

rio saverge

In one of the recent episodes of Giuliana and Bill (one of my fav reality couples) Bill went to Martin Katz to buy Giuliana a nice band… it was gorgeous and inspired me to check out the website. Turns out they have a huge collection of stackable diamond microbands. I’d love a few of these in various colors…. and maybe a couple in the black diamond to match my TOUS bubble bear!

martin katz micro bands

My current HP laptop is holding out very well, but like any gadget geek, I am always ready to upgrade. The new HP ENVY 15 laptop is right up my alley! The HP store only shows the 14 inch (too small) and the 17 inch (a little on the heavy side) so I’m not even sure if the 15” is still an option… but for the right features (i.e. Beats by Dr Dre limited edition 14” or the 3D enhanced 17") I’d be willing to settle in either direction.

 hp envy 15

For years I’ve said I would love to take cooking classes. Ideally I’d like to take a few months worth of classes in Italy, Spain and/or Mexico!!!!! But until then, the good ol Chicago Metro Area will work just fine. Rest assured, I will still keep my eye open for the specials that occasionally pop up on…. and hopefully I’ll no longer be scared of turkeys (see pic below from Thanksgiving 2008). The Chopping Block

Flav’our Cooking School

Chez Madelaine

Cooking Fools


For about 5 years now I have been obsessed with this gold Roberto Cavalli snake watch. It has seemingly NEVER gone on sale (yes, I check a few times each year) but someday I may have to just go for it. I can already picture it on my wrist….

roberto cavalli snake watch

…and while we’re talking watches, the new Movado Bold watches are a great fun take on the classic style! I love the black and white styles equally!

movado bold chrono watchmovado bold blackmovado bold white

While in Nassau recently, I caught a glimpse of the “Mad Summer” yacht, docked near the cruise ships. I don’t really need a yacht of my own, but I’d love a year, or even a week, on this one – with my family along, of course! See it in all its glory here:


Saving the best wish for last…

…my greatest wish would be the health and safety of all of my loved ones as we go into 2011!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

A break from real life…

This fall I had the chance, TWICE, to get away from the work world for a few days and enjoy some sun, water, warm weather and good food! I will spare you to hundreds of photos and share a few that stand out from each trip. Up first – My stepmom planned a girls’ trip to Nassau… The islands were not ready, heck, neither was I?? See below for my photo headings and pictures… 

Dinner on Night #1 was at Twin Brothers (recommended by a LOT of the locals we talked to) included conch salad (being prepared in the center photo below) along with cracked lobster (MY FAV), cracked shrimp, rice and peas, and plantains.


We found a bar that was having a Karaoke night so my cousin and I did a world class performance of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”.


Me hanging out with the captain of the Booze Cruise… The girls were lining up to take pictures with this guy… and  will say, he was pretty HOT!


Our booze cruise advertised a portion of the day spent on a" “secluded island”… which was actually a small, deserted, dangerous, rocky piece of land. One of the highlights was the starfish in the pic…. I was so fascinated by it. The semi-shelter in the second pic became a prop for a few folks who decided it was a great place for some drunken, not-so-sexy photo shoots… pure comedy!


We stayed at the world class Atlantis resort…. In the center of the pic on the left you can see an archway which contains the “Bridge Suite” also referred to as the “Michael Jackson Suite”. All yours for somewhere between $25,000-$34,000 per night (4 night minimum). We would have stayed there but it wasn’t available the week we were there Winking smile


We had a great time!!!

For the item of the day, I saw this BCBG RUNWAY GEOMETRIC WRAP DRESS in Macy’s the other day. Its not on sale in the store (Orig. $348), but it is discounted at ($208.80). Its absolutely BEAUTIFUL and the flowy silk is extremely soft!!! I love the belt shown in the runway pic below, although it is sold separately.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Three words... My taco heaven

Yummy weekend lunch at La Fonda del Gusto in Bucktown/Wicker Park... Yep, that place again.

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