Saturday, April 18, 2015

Homemade Baked Onion Rings with Spicy Siracha Mayo

It's Saturday night in Chicago!  I love the weekends because Bri and I get to spend time together and try new restaurants/events around this awesome city.  This weekend we went to a new place near us called Gideon Welles.  It was pretty awesome!  They have a HUGE drink selection and their menu has a ton of diverse and yummy options.  We went with our friend Max and everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meal.  Bri said that he had the "best" mac and cheese of his life! (That is really saying something since he is a vegetarian and typically ends up with mac and cheese or something similar for his dinner option).  I loved my mediterranean wrap and Max had a great brisket sandwich.  We will definitely be heading back soon!

Today, I had to go to Springfield for a class that I am taking and present on a lesson that I will teach.  Springfield is about 3.5 hours away and this class lasted 3 hours.  So, this means I traveled for 7 hours just for a 3 hour class...This is not exactly how I would plan spending my Saturday.  However, Bri was a total trooper.  He decided to go with me because there is a sandwich shop in Springfield that he likes.  Yep, he drove 7 hours for a sandwich!  I had never been to this place, but I figured it must be excellent if he is willing to this out of his way for it.  The place is called Head West Sub Stop and instead of normal bread, they make all their subs on sweet bread.  If you're ever traveling through the great capitol of Illinois, you should def make this a stop! 

Along with all of our fun restaurant traveling, we have been cooking a lot as well.  Between Wisconsin going to the NCAA championship, baseball coming back, and the Blackhawks in the playoffs, we have been watching a lot of sports.  This means, that I have been craving a lot of sport related foods.  And, that is how these Baked Onion Rings with Spicy Siracha Mayo came about.  

Baked Onion Rings with Spicy Siracha Mayo

1 onion, cut in half to pull the rings apart
2 cups low fat buttermilk
2 egg whites
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or regular)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
Siracha Mayo (stir siracha into mayo)

1. Place onion rings into a dish with edges.  Pour buttermilk over the rings and sprinkle the cayenne over the top.  Cover with saran wrap and let rest.  I was advised to let this sit for a long time, but I didn't have the time and they came out pretty good.  The longer you let the onions sit the better.  
2. Beat egg whites in a medium bowl.  
3. Mix the flour, cornmeal, and breadcrumbs in a separate bowl with the salt, pepper, and paprika.
4. Heat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  
5. Take the buttermilk soaked onion rings and dip them into the egg whites and then the breadcrumb mixture.  Place on baking sheet.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes before flipping the rings and baking for another 15 minutes.  
7.  Stir siracha into mayo for your dip.  Add more siracha for a spicier dip.

Enjoy :)

Monster Cookie Layer Bars

We just had parent-teacher conferences this past week and I can't believe that this means there are only 6 weeks until finals!!! My second year of teaching has just flown by!  Along with that, I have been having a great year with my co-teacher in Geometry and my Algebra Advance students are pretty awesome.  I can't believe they started off as freshmen and now they are like "grown up" sophomores!  This year has been so much smoother than my first one and I have been working hard to incorporate new lessons that are more investigative and model based.  I love that I feel confident enough to try new things and evaluate if they are successful.  I even brought in a GIANT gummy bear to show my students and talk about similarity ratios between the little gummy bears and the big guy.  Today, I am even presenting one of these lessons to a group of teachers!

Along with school ending, I am also getting ready for camp to begin! This is crazy!  I am so excited that summer is right around the corner.

To celebrate this excitement, I am going to share with you all a recipe for one yummy treat.  I love the idea of Monster Cookies because it means you can basically throw whatever you are craving into a cookie.  This recipe, which I adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything, takes that idea to a whole new level.  Instead of all that work to drop cookies onto a cookie sheet, lets just dump it all into a pan and go with layers! I love combining salty with sweet so I went with some chocolatey things and pretzels and peanut butter.  You can use whatever toppings your little heart desires!

Monster Cookie Layer Bars

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk (I used light)
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups of the toppings you want

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9 by 13 inch pan with foil or parchment paper.  Spray the foil of parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter.  Mix the butter and graham cracker crumbs together and press evenly into the bottom of your pan.
3. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the graham cracker crust and then sprinkle the oats and your toppings over the top.  Gently press this down into the sweetened condensed milk layer.
4. Bake for 20 minutes.  Let cool for 20 minutes and then use the foil to take the layers out of the pan to cool completely.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Guest Blogger: Thirsty Thursdays by Zack

Today, I have a very special guest blogger!  I am pretty pumped about this.  It's my little brother!  When our spring breaks lined up this year, we spent some time hanging out.  I told him about how I really wanted to get my blog going again and he told me about how he wanted to be a bar tender.  I was like, can we combine both of these fun/fantastic ideas?  And here we are: Thirsty Thursdays by Zack!  The little bro is going to share with me drink ideas that he has and I am going to share them here! 

Z shared this recipe with me along with some cute photos.  He took this recipe from Cookin Bug, and jazzed it up into his own frozen version.  I give you: The Frozen Pineapple Almond Upside Down Cake! 

Frozen Pineapple Almond Upside Down Cake

1 1/2 oz Cake Vodka
1 1/2 oz Amaretto
3 oz Pineapple Juice
1 Pineapple Slice
splash Grenadine
Strawberry Vodka Whipped Cream
1 Maraschino cherry

1. Blend with ice: Cake Vodka, Amaretto, Pineapple Juice and Pineapple slice
2. Pour into glass
3. Add splash of grenadine
4. Stir gently to gradually combine grenadine with frozen drink
5. Top with whipped cream and a cherry

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wedding Planning Wednesdays Part 1

So, remember a while back when I had "big news"?  Well, Bri and I are so excited to be engaged and at the time it felt like we had forever to plan our wedding.  I know we still have tons of time, but we are slowing checking things off our wedding planning list in the hopes that we can be somewhat stress free about all of this and just have so much fun!

Today, I wanted to tell you about choosing a venue.  We live in Chicago so we basically have approximately a billion places to decide between.  Our ceremony and reception will take place at the same location and we set the date for August of 2016!  This means we have to go with a Sunday wedding because Jewish weddings can't take place until after sundown on a Saturday, which is pretty late for a starting time during August.  After our date was picked out, we got to work looking at venues.
Ceremony Room at Ravenswood Event Center
We traveled to six very different locations: The Women's Club of Evanston, The Metropolitan Club, The Ravenswood Event Center, The Renaissance Hotel, Salvage One, and The Bridgeport Art Center.  All of the venues were pretty amazing, but it became clear that we liked the places that were a little less traditional.  Women's Club had an amazing ballroom space with beautiful windows, but the only men's bathroom was in the basement.  The Metropolitan Club, in the Willis (it is still Sears to me) Tower, had phenomenal views, but parking was pretty pricy.  The Ravenswood Events Center had three really cool spaces on each floor with a gorgeous space for a ceremony, but they warned us it could get pretty warm in there during August.  The Renaissance Hotel had a huge ballroom and great deals on rooms, but was a little out of our budget.  Salvage One was the most funky as it is also an antiques store and we were unsure if it was too funky.   And finally, the Bridgeport Art Center had an amazing space with a great view of the Chicago Skyline.  Of these 6, Ravenswood Events Center, Salvage One, and Bridgeport became our top three.  And, after careful consideration, we decided on the Skyline Loft at the Bridgeport Art Center!

Skyline Loft - Our Venue! 
All of this venue shopping took place over two days.  This means I felt a little overwhelmed.  However, it was nice to compare such different spaces.  For example, I realized that I liked rooms with tall ceilings and windows.  This helped narrow down choices and start to figure out my wedding style.  Does anyone have any other suggestions for wedding planning in/around Chicago?