Archive for July 2011

29 July 2011

Street Food Friday: 5411 Empanadas

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Chicago, Food

Okay, I’ll admit it, I get empanadas and tamales confused. The only way I remember is the connotation of empanadas to Hot Pockets. No kidding.

Anyhow, I’m finally back with a Street Food Friday post (just before I hit the road again) and this time, we’re covering empanadas, the hot little pockets of deliciousness making their way around Chicago in the 5411 Empanada truck.

Let’s take a closer look!

Name: 5411 Empanadas

Twitter handle: @5411empanadas


What is it: Gourmet empanadas, baked, not fried and just perfect little pockets of deliciousness. Founded by three Argentine friends, the empanadas bring this dish’s Buenos Aires’ popularity to Chicago (via catering and truck) with bites that can be served for lunch or at a party.

Love the color of this truck :)

What I ate: I’ve tried all of the empanadas on the truck and definitely have my favorites. Usually 2-3 fill you up (I once bought 4 and had a wicked stomach ache from deliciousness) so I rotate between the spinach and cheese, ham and cheese and caramelized onion. There recent addition of a Nutella and banana empanada will now work its way in to rotation too!

Cute little ham and cheese!

Mr. Beef

What else is on the menu: The truck also has beef (which is tasty), barbecue chicken (which is okay) and sweet corn (which is also good but a little bland). Really, you cannot go wrong with anything.

Verdict: Clearly by my language in this post, I’m a fan. And this is the ONLY truck I’ve seen yet in Chicago with a standing line about 20 people long waiting for the truck before it shows up. Sure, the trucks in Chicago still get a crowd but this one, you have to get out there early. I’ve learned the hard way.

Check out the other recent Street Food Friday posts on Doni, Gretchen and Lacey’s blogs. You can learn more about Portland’s 5th and Stark, New York’s Big D’s Grub Truck and Austin’s Torchy Tacos.

Are you a big empanada fan? Or do you have anything fun planned this weekend? TGIF!

27 July 2011

Opening up the dating pool

By: Jessica B.

That’s right, no more kiddie pool, time to head to the deep end. Kidding, sort of.

During my weekend pedicure, the Millionaire Matchmaker was on TV (could not avoid it) and Patti made a comment that made me think. If you make love a priority, love will come to you. I don’t totally believe that but it’s not a secret that in the battle of dating vs. work in my life, work seems to win pretty consistently. So maybe there is some truth to that.

Her comment made me think about putting love and dating a little more at the forefront, which means, I have to be open to dating guys that might not be my…type.

Being in my early 30s, there comes a new reality of dating. I may date men who are divorced, men who have kids and men who are still in their 20s. And dating men in their 20s when you are not 20-something anymore feels…weird.

Now that I’m in a new decade, I’m trying to be more open minded and not let the (potential) age difference feel like a barrier. Friends (including guys) tell me that age isn’t a big deal, but they’re still in their 20s, I’m not. So is that easier said than done?

I’ve also had one (or more) friends say that I have a checklist of qualities I want in a guy. This isn’t a bad thing (e.g. no criminals) but in order to open up the dating pool, I need to be a little more flexible.

But in the spirit of being more open I still need to be logical. Recently, I completely misread a situation with a guy and interpreted conversations as flirting and interest, instead it was friendship. DAMN YOU FRIEND CARD. That realization was a bummer, but, it was that spark (or my interpreted spark) that got me thinking about this again. So that’s not a total loss.

What about you? Did you date outside of your “type?” If so, how did you know where to be flexible?

26 July 2011

Kitchen adventures: Chickpea salad

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Food

Actually, I should call this “Lazy Wannabe Greek Chickpea Salad” because I intended to make that recipe (minus the “lazy” and “wannabe”) and failed due to me being overzealous and going to the store without the full recipe.

So in reality, it is a lazy salad and the only Greek ingredient is the Feta. #semirecipefail. Here’s a peek.

I got the original recipe from my super recipe goddess friend Liz, who I shamelessly ask for recipes because she always makes good stuff. Yeah, I’m giving my usual recipe sites a rest this week, and my oven because it’s hot enough already here.

So here is the recipe Liz gave me, which sounds delish. I’ve noted in italics where I substituted or added items.

Greek Chickpea Salad

  • 1/2 small red onion sliced (No onion for me but I think this would be a really tasty addition)
  • 2 TBL spoons lemon juice
  • 2 TBL spoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices ( I used sugar snap peas)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup feta
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped (Did not include this)
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh parsley (Did not use, still mourning the loss of my Basil plant)
  • Added 1/3 cup couscous (makes 1 cup cooked)

In a large bowl, combine onion, lemon juice & olive oil, season w salt and pepper.  Toss well and let sit 5 minutes.  Add cucumber, tomatoes, feta, chickpeas, & parsley, and season w salt and pepper. Toss to combine.


SO GOOD. I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not a big bean fan but since I like hummus, I figured chickpeas were safe and now, I’m a fan. The combo of lemon juice, EVOO and Feta worked really well together and it tasted light and refreshing, which was exactly what I wanted. The chickpeas were tender too, and a friend said that steaming them is another great prep tip, I’ll try that next time. I do wish I would have added the onion but the sugar snap peas were really tasty and added a nice sweetness to the dish too. I will absolutely make this again and try to a) follow the original recipe and b) experiment with some other ingredients and beans too!

What are your favorite recipes to make when it’s hot out?

24 July 2011

Weekend recap: Things I did versus should have done

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random

Happy Sunday everyone! We’re still in a semi-heat wave in Chicago (suck!) so I decided to balance out last week and weekend’s craziness by “tossing out” my to do list and just relaxing. But I still had a few things I wanted to get done, let’s see if I made it.

Planned to…get my nails done (I was “free nailing it” for too long)

Actually did…GET MY NAILS DONE! WOO! I feel like a new person

Planned to…catch up on magazines while sitting around my apartment

Actually did…read a little but there is still a stack of magazines. This is a work in progress

Planned to…see a movie

Actually did…see a movie! I love free AC, what can I say?

Planned to…go to my local fro yo place 2-3 times

Actually did…only go once (not dedicated)

Planned to…drink beer outside

Actually did…drink beer outside while in Wicker Park with Liz. Beer was accompanied by white cheddar truffle mac and cheese and fried green tomatoes. I really love Southern food

Planned to…not shower Sunday (it’s my favorite part of that day)

Actually did…shower, sigh, had to, but for good reason

Planned to…clean my bathroom

Actually did…sit around and watch Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is smoking hot in that movie. Rawr

Overall, I’m happy with what I did and didn’t get done this weekend. It was relaxing, hydrated and tasty. No complaints.

And one last thing I hoped to do to close the weekend was have a glass of champagne with a good friend.

As you can see, that did happen too :)

How was your weekend? Did you get things done that you wanted to?

22 July 2011

Mid-July malaise

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random

I am in a funk. And it seems like I fall in to this funk every year around this time. I have a dramatic case of mid-July malaise.

And it makes some sense and no sense why at the same time.

July is like the middle movie in a trilogy, it drags a little bit. I equate July with feeling hot and sweaty on a bus with the itchy fabric chafing your legs and being sandwiched between two portly people whose sweaty skin is on yours, making you warmer and want to scream “NO TOUCHING” out loud after 45 minutes of this torture. Delicious.

July is also post May and June’s initial spring/summer excitement when my energetic “WOO!” becomes “woo, wtf is up with this weather?”

July is also the month before my birthday where the questions start of “what are we doing to celebrate?” “so? what are your plans, seriously,” and the general realization that OMFG another year has gone by and I’ll be one more year older soon.

It’s about that time that I get a burst of reality saying, yes, I will finally knit that sweater or go sky diving or accomplish anything else I’ve found excuses for over the last year. I will do it and do it before my birthday because I have to have it done by then to feel like the last year wasn’t a waste. Yes, I also have an overactive imagination. And no, I don’t feel that the last year was a waste.

Either way, the heat, building birthday dread and personal feelings of “why haven’t you accomplished this by your age” are weighing heavily on me lately. Oh and I’m hormonal so for now it’s a small pity party…with fro yo served to me and my guests.

Do you get in a mid-summer funk? Any big weekend plans? I’m just going to try and stay cool!