Meal Prep Monday: Grilled Balsamic Skirt Steak & Grilled Marinated Vegetables

“Meal prep can still be done when short on time, just have the marinade do the work for you.”

I’ve been running short on time lately, and sometimes I don’t have all the time to get my meals ready for the week.  When I have days like that, I turn to marinades, because they do the work for me.

I find that either skirt steak or rib eye can work with this recipe.

After gathering all the ingredients, place in the zip-top plastic bag.  Add the steak and turn the steak(s) within the bag to ensure that the marinade completely coats the meat.

Depending on the thickness of the steak, I have left it in the marinade overnight in the refrigerator.  After having it in the refrigerator, be sure to leave it out for at least 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.

Time to grill!  This can be done with your outdoor grill, or indoors using a grill pan. Just 2 to 3 minutes on each side (or until preferred temperature will do!)

When done, tent with foil and let stand for 5 minutes.  Slice steak into strips.

For the vegetables, I turned to Trader Joe’s and got this:

According to the directions, they can be defrosted in either the refrigerator or in the microwave.  When done, pair with steak in container.

My mouth is already watering over this!  I hope you have a chance to make this for yourselves!  Have a great week!

-Maeven

Recipe: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/grilled-balsamic-skirt-steak

Special Feature: CreamBar (Schaumburg IL)

We’ve been pretty busy the past week.  We’ve visited some amazing places around California and eaten at so many different restaurants in the Chicagoland area!  In case you missed them, make sure to stop by our IG page @eatplaychicagola

This week we thought to try something special though. Amongst the roundup, we’ll talk about one specific stop along the way that stood out the most.  So today, I want to focus on a new kid in town (Chicago):

Cream Bar

The Streets of Woodfield – 601 N. Martingale Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173

CreamBar officially opened on Thursday, September 15.  I have to admit, as soon as a co-worker told me about it, I knew I wanted to be one of the first customers.  And, so I was!  I even beat my coworker to it – he went 3 hours later.  Now, because I pretty much just wanted to get a decent sample of what they had to offer, Maeven and I ordered 3 sandwiches amongst ourselves.  Don’t judge – we don’t regret a thing.

L-R:Chocolate Chip cookies w/ cookies and cream & sprinkles, Brownie w/ mint chip, Snickerdoodle w/ blueberry muffin & fruity pebbles

 

Let’s focus on my personal favorite first: that blueberry muffin ice cream.  According to Brett, the owner, the ice cream they serve is actually made with blueberry muffin TOPS – the BEST part of the muffin (or at least, in my world it has always been).  No wonder it tasted exactly like a blueberry muffin!  I decided on using a snickerdoodle because I went with a breakfast “theme” – the snickerdoodle cookie became a makeshift pancake for me, and the fruity pebbles are obviously the cereal portion of the morning routine. 

 

There is actually a decent variety of “buns” that are available – and you could even get them on their own instead of making a sandwich (they make some pretty awesome brownies if you ask me. Which, you kind of are asking me since you’re checking out my review of the place).  They even have an option for those that are gluten-sensitive or gluten-intolerant!  The fruity pebbles used to garnish my sweet-not-savory breakfast sandwich are also used along with some marshmallows to make a colorful version of a rice crispy treat!  I considered using their Superman ice cream for a color explosion, but the salted caramel was just calling my name:

I have kids, but I’m also a kid at heart.  Trust me, I can probably pass (not ACE, but pass) any Disney quiz you throw at me, and I can probably play make believe with just about any toddler that begs me to have a tea party.  Stopping in at Cream Bar makes me feel like a kid.  I can use my imagination and be as creative as I want to be with the cookie, ice cream, and topping combinations.

I have always said, that no matter what diet I am on, no matter how much I’ve actually EATEN for lunch/dinner, no matter how cold it is outside – there is always room and a time for dessert. And my favorite dessert is, HANDS DOWN, ice cream.  And this place has been a blessing and a curse for me because it is so close to home & work.  I’m definitely going to be a regular so if you ever find yourself walking in, I MIGHT just be there.  Feel free to judge me and ask me how many times I’ve gone in at that point 😆

❤ Justine

*Disclaimer: Eat Play Chicago LA did not receive compensation for this post.  All opinions are solely ours (well, mine anyway) and is not in any form biased.

​Supper Club Saturday:  90 Miles Cuban Café (Lincolnwood)

Local restaurant instantly transports you to the island of Cuba through food, drink and sound.

This week I had some drama with my phone where the only solution I had to fix it was to do a factory reset.  I thought that if I had to do that, I might as well get a new phone.  Well, across the way from the store where I was at, there was 90 Miles Cuban Café.  They have Flamenco and Paella night every Thursday night there.  I had gotten there in the late afternoon, and by the time I was done, it was dinner time (since when did it take SO long to switch phones?) Needless to say, I followed the sounds of the music, and my nose to the wonderful smell coming from 90 Miles Cuban Café. 

Let me just say that a bar that includes cats (well, pictures anyway) is a bar that I am an instant fan of.

Usually I get a mojito, but since it was a work night, I opted for a glass of red sangria.  Besides, didn’t someone say that a glass of red wine with dinner was good for your health?  

Sure, Flamenco and Paella are more Spanish in origin, and this is a Cuban Café, but it doesn’t mean we have to be exclusive.  One of the styles of music that I love to listen to is Flamenco, and I was very excited to see the dancers too.  There were some children in the audience, and the dancers invited them up for a lesson in Flamenco as well.  

I had ordered the Tuna Ceviche and Masas de Puerco appetizers, followed by the Churrasco.

For appetizers, the ceviche and pork medallions were of pretty good size.  

I barely had room for the Churrasco!

Needless to say I had taken home leftovers (or as I like to call it, my lunch for tomorrow!)

If you are ever curious about their desserts, one of their items, the Trés Leches Cake is enough to share with two to three people. However, it is so devine that you may want to keep it for yourself!

Overall, I did like the interior and the layout.  The food was fresh and pretty tasty.  I would definitely recommend this place.

-Maeven 

Web: http://www.90milescubancafe.com/

Facebook: 90MilesCubanCafe

Twitter: @90MilesChicago

Instagram: official90milescubancafe

Meal Prep Monday: Smoked Salmon Wraps and White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes

“This week I ended up with a LOT more tomatoes than I usually get. I wanted to find a dish that would allow me to utilize them…”

This week I ended up with a LOT more tomatoes than I usually get.  I wanted to find a dish that would allow me to utilize them and not have them go to waste.  I substituted them for the canned diced tomatoes in the recipe (link below).

First I cleaned and prepped my ingredients.  I am a big fan of “Worst Cooks of America” on Food Network.  Not only does it bring up my self-esteem when compared to the contestants during the first week or so of the show, but the chefs show them some techniques to slicing, dicing and mise en place.

First, I wilted the chard in a saucepan.  Once that was done, I drained the water, squeezing as much of it out of the leaves.

Then, in another saucepan, I heated up the oil.  Once it was warmed, I added the garlic, red pepper, and sautéed them until the garlic was browned.  Next, I added my tomatoes, followed by the beans.  After letting the mixture stew for several minutes, I put in the cooked chard and mixed them together. Season to taste.

Next, I started on the wraps.  Of course, I got my ingredients ready.

I forgot about the cucumbers for the recipe, but I did get my hands on some pea shoots, so I used those instead.  Start with the tortilla and smear it with cream cheese.  Next, add the smoked salmon.  For the herbs, I used sliced shallots and dill.  Lastly, I added the pea shoots.

It reminds me of a pizza!

Roll it up and slice it into fourths.

I packaged them separately as I plan to reheat the stew, and the wrap is intended to stay cold.  

Enjoy!

-Maeven

Smoked Salmon Wraps: http://ohmydish.com/recipe/smoked-salmon-wraps/

White Bean Stew: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/quick-white-bean-stew-swiss-chard-and-tomatoes

Supper Club Saturday: Gabutto Burger

“I think I found my new favorite burger place…”

​Gabutto Burger – Burgers with Japanese Twists

1410 Golf Road, Rolling Meadows, IL 

Gabutto Burger is no stranger to this area, as it used to reside in the food court within the Mitsuwa Marketplace down the street on Algonquin Road.  It had gathered a following while they were there, and there were many tears shed when it had to close up shop.  Well, here’s a box of Kleenex. Dry up your tears and rejoice, for they have returned.

Their official grand-opening was this past Tuesday, September 6th, but from what I understand, they had a soft opening beforehand. When you walk-in, the music that they play on the overhead sounds like a hybrid of heavy-metal and techno (found out later it was a song by Babymetal – which I may, or may not be listening to as I draft this article). It really brings you back to the DRR-at your-local-arcade days. 

Their signs for the condiments, sodas and spices all have their own anime-type “mascot”. Everything is so kawaii I can hardly contain myself while waiting for my food.  At the counter, before I had a chance to peruse their menu, I noticed that they had their very own t-shirts, buttons and coasters.

On the menu, they mostly feature burgers made from a mix of ground beef and pork (you can get an all-beef burger if you ask).  Each sandwich was fresh and made to order. They also have tofu burgers, chicken wings, the option to make your burger a lettuce wrap, but hey, let’s have the menu do all the talking for us instead…

We ordered the BBQ Pork Rice Burger, Shrimp Burger, Teriyaki Wasabi Burger and the Crabby Burger (not just for crabby people, or so the sign said!) Oh yeah, and a large order of frittes (read: fries) to split amongst us.

The BBQ Pork Rice Burger has BBQ pork, cabbage slaw, and, instead of bread bun, it is a rice bun (basically the BBQ Pork rice bowl as a sandwich). 

The Shrimp Burger was a shrimp patty (almost like a crab cake, but made with shrimp), special mayo and slaw. 

The Teriyaki Wasabi Burger had their original patty (half beef and half pork), wasabi mayo, tomato, lettuce, and tomato.

Finally, the Crabby Burger had a soft shell crab that was tempura battered and fried before sandwiched in a bun with slaw and vinaigrette.   

In other establishments, the condiment that is usually available for fries is ketchup.  Gabutto Burger brought that up a notch and provides, not just one, not just two, but EIGHT different seasonings and spices to dust your frites with.  

In addition, (why, yes, there is more) there are three different type of sauces to either dip or douse your frittes in.  In addition to ketchup, there is spicy mayo and wasabi mayo available.  

No matter which one we took a bite out of the reaction was the same:  Taste bud explosion!  Each sandwich had a good flavor and was not bland.  The sweetness of the teriyaki complemented the heat of the wasabi, and the amount of the wasabi was not too much to overpower the flavor of the entire burger.  The Crabby Burger reminded me of  a Spider Roll.

The frittes seasonings brought up the “umami” factor, especially when combined with their special sauces.  

I wish I had more room in my stomach to try their other offerings, but alas, I must wait another day (maybe then I can try some of their desserts, too!)

At the moment, everything is a la carte, and their burgers start at either $6 or $6.50.  I know, this is more than what any other fast food place offers, but again, they make their sandwiches fresh, not frozen, with every order.  The flavor is also there, even without all their extra condiments.  The atmosphere is great and the people there are very nice.  

We even recommend visiting the bathrooms (even if you don’t have to “go!”)

(From Gabutto Burger, Facebook page)

With me, I don’t mind paying extra money for food, especially if it is delicious and of high quality.  Gabutto Burger meets (and exceeds) these qualifications.  

Therefore, Gabutto Burger – shut up and….

Seriously, though, I think I found my new favorite burger place!

-Maeven (partial photo credit:  Justine)

Gabutto Burger on Facebook & Twitter: (@GabuttoBurger)

Online:  www.GabuttoBurger.com

Meal Prep Monday: Moussaka-Inspired Pasta

Welcome to my inaugural post for Monday’s weekly meal prep!

Welcome to my inaugural post for Monday’s weekly meal prep!  Full disclosure:  I’m not a trained chef or nutritionist.  However, I do like meals that are not only healthy, but aesthetically pleasing (read: pretty) as well.  (I also like meals that are not-so-healthy, but at least I am attempting to eat healthier!)  I do borrow recipes from books, online and word-of-mouth, and I will source my references.

Truthfully, I have not always meal-prepped for the week.  There will be weeks where I pack a lunch for work and other weeks I will just buy from wherever we end up at.  However, eating the same thing can be boring after a while, and eating out can get quite expensive.  Not to mention, different places may season their food differently than how you may like it.  I wanted to find a “happy medium” where I can have the food that I like each week and (1) not get tired of it; (2) it’s fairly affordable; and (3) it doesn’t take a lot of time.

I hope that, in reading/following this, you will also be inspired to come up with creative meals of your own (and there is nothing wrong with copying what I do either!) Do not be discouraged about cooking – it took me a while to get comfortable with it myself.  Luckily, with resources like Food Network, PBS, and You Tube, anyone would be able harness their “culinary skills.”

So thank you for reading this far, and let’s get started with our weekly meal prep!

When I was with Weight Watchers some years ago, there was a recipe that I liked called “Easy Moussaka” that used ground lamb in tomato sauce and paired with linguine.  I remember liking the recipe and I wanted to re-create it.  It may have been a recipe I got off the member portal for Weight Watchers, because I cannot find it anywhere in my recipe files or in my book collection. The recipe was more of a meat sauce on pasta rather than a casserole.  The closest I could find to the recipe that I remember is this: http://www.skinnykitchen.com/recipes/skinnyfabulous-moussaka-casserole/ but I left out the potatoes (because we have pasta), Alfredo sauce and feta cheese (though, I may experiment with that another time!)  Since I’m putting my spin on this recipe, I will go through it step-by-step.

I had rounded up and prepped all the ingredients as listed under “Ingredients under Moussaka,” minus potatoes.

Such a beautiful eggplant.  Too bad I have to slice it up!

It’s all about the mise en place.

I boiled water in a pot for the pasta.  You can use salt or olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking.

My coworker had mentioned that red lentil pasta had a lot of protein and tasted like actual spaghetti.  I’m a person who likes to try everything, at least, once.

Can you believe that this has 18 g of protein per serving?! Sign-me up!

While the water is heating up, I warmed the olive oil in a large, non-stick pan.  I added the onion and the garlic, and stirred them for a few minutes until golden.

Add the ground beef (lamb, or turkey, whichever you choose).  Cook until browned, for about 5 minutes.  Then drain fat, if needed.  Add the eggplant, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper, then simmer.

Confession: I forgot to get the can of diced tomatoes (*gasp*).  I remember at some point, one of the many cooking shows had given alternatives, such as tomato paste.  So if you were wondering why I had tomato paste included in my mise en place that would be why.
See, I can be flexible!

Add the tomatoes (or tomato paste, in my case) and red wine (or you can use chicken stock, too).  Cook, uncovered, until liquid reduces for about a minute.

Getting back to the pasta…
Once the water comes to a boil, cook according to package directions (about 8 to 10 minutes).  Drain.

Divide pasta between the containers for the week.  Next to the pasta, I placed some steamed greens as my vegetable.  Top the pasta with the eggplant and meat sauce.  Pro tip: garnish with shaved parmesan.

There you have it.  I’m sorry we had to make a lot of substitutions from the original recipe.  Sometimes, with cooking, one has to be flexible and improvise.  I will try to find a recipe that we can stick to next time.  Thanks for reading and see you next week!
-Maeven

Supper Club Saturday

“If you thought Izakaya is just part of a swanky name for just another one of the swanky restaurants in Bucktown, you are wrong.”

September 3, 2016

In this segment, Supper Club Saturday, one of us will give a review of a restaurant that we had been to.  Living in cities that offer a plethora of cuisines at our disposal, we just couldn’t help but to share our experiences with all of you!

Izakaya Mita

1960 North Damen

Bucktown, Chicago

If you thought Izakaya is just part of a swanky name for just another one of the swanky restaurants in Bucktown, you are wrong.  As one who has traipsed around Japan and visited its various izakayas, Izakaya Mita instantly brought me back to that place and time, to that first-, second-, or was it fifth sake in Tokyo…? (Ha!)

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I started with a sake flight (because I was pretty indecisive to commit to only one).  The servers are pretty knowledgeable about the sake and what pairs best with your dish selection.  I had started with Takoyaki and Chasu Marinated Pork Belly.

 

Takoyaki – it had a perfect balance of crunch and flavor, without making the insides rubbery.

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Chasu Marinated Pork Belly – so tender and juicy with just the right amount of fat.

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Next was the Okonomiyaki, which was described to me as a savory pancake with cabbage, tempura, eggs, flour and pork belly (read: MAGIC!)

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Followed by their Toshi’s Kyushu-Style Yaki Ramen with pork…

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Can you tell that a way to this girl’s heart is pork?

Tying up the bow on this delectable gift of a meal, was banana tempura with mocha ice cream.

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Over all, Izakaya Mita was not just delicious, but also a taste of how life is in the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

Verdict:

The sake is flowing aplenty + the food is comforting without being too heavy + great service = highly recommended by yours truly, Maeven!

Website: http://www.izakayamita.com