Something I recently discovered is how fun making on-the-spot pasta recipes can be. There are so many different variables, such as the type of noodle, toppings, sauces, and spices. There are virtually millions of combinations, and there are very few "wrong answers."
If you look to different chefs or recipe books, each has their own take on pasta and what they think will work for them and others. However, many of the recipes seem to "play it safe," and don't explore the unusual flavor combinations that may turn out to be unexpectedly delicious in the end.
The other night I was experimenting with what would make a fun, more daring, yet still universally likable pasta recipe. I ended up with a mixture of shredded carrot, zucchini and squash "coins" (cut into small circles, about .5 inch diameter), mushrooms, and tomato sauce with sesame seeds, a bit of basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper on top, all over quinoa shell noodles.
Hold on- why did I choose noodles made of quinoa? Well, although it may at some times not seem like it, part of the purpose of this blog was to provide healthy suggestions to incorporate into your everyday life. Actually, quinoa pasta (I used the Banza brand specifically which I highly recommend) is pretty good and not as dry as you might think (although of course having other ingredients to enhance it helps mask the little dryness there), and is high in fiber and very nutritious. Also, for this dish specifically I wanted a bit chewier noodle to contrast the crunchiness of most of the vegetables to achieve some texture variety.
How to replicate this dish: fairly simple!
1. Boil the amount of water specified on the box.
2. While the water heats, put the shredded carrots and cut zucchini and squash "coins" in a pan and cook on low-medium heat. Add the mushrooms a few minutes later.
3. Add the pasta into the boiled water.
4. Heat up the tomato sauce.
5. Put it all on a plate, then sprinkle on some salt, pepper, basil, and sesame seeds, or whatever spices or add-ons you'd like to make it your own.
(I'm fairly certain this version is vegan, so those who are not vegan and want to "up" the protein a little more should add some parmesan, shrimp, and/or chicken, which are the best with this dish.)
Hold on- what are "artisan" popsicles, and how are they different from "regular" popsicles?
The Oxford dictionary defines the word artisan used as an adjective as, "(of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients." And this perfectly describes how an artisan popsicle is superior to a normal one.
Used with fresh, natural ingredients, artisan popsicles are packed with more flavor, yet have less sugar. Also, these desserts don't consist of mystery, most likely artificial fruits. Many of the stores that sell them claim that their fruits are natural, yet these popsicles do not solely consist of fruit. There is more variety in ingredients than normal popsicles, since some can be classified as spices or dessert-like.
Cielito, which translates from Spanish into "little heaven," is also the name of Miami, Florida's first artisan popsicle store, attempting to bring this dessert trend from where it became first popular, New York. I decided to check it out in order to better understand exactly what makes an artisan popsicle so unique, and my high expectations were surpassed.
These popsicles were very high-end (and expensive, but it was ultimately worth it), and there were many different options, including a version especially made for dogs! From strawberry kiwi with a whole kiwi slice embedded in it, dulce de leche with brownie inside, carrot ginger pineapple, banana with a dulce de leche filling, and pineapple dusted with pepper with jalapeños stuffed inside, the flavors are certainly deliciously unique. However, to insure the highest quality flavoring they change as ingredients become in or out of season.
After you choose your flavor, you have the option of adding a coat of dark or white chocolate to your artisan popsicle. Then, you are able to choose up to three toppings to top it with.
Whether you like a richer dessert or one that is more refreshing, the overwhelming variety of artisan popsicles is something for everyone to enjoy. Although more expensive, the high quality and cool satisfaction of this treat is something that is definitely worth a try. Without a doubt, most people who sample one of these trendy, high-end popsicles will become as hooked on their deliciousness and surprising healthiness* as I have become.
It seems that the Chicago suburbs are following a trend in genuine cuisine, since another new authentic restaurant was recently introduced: Jimmy Thai. Finding “real” Thai food in this area is unique, and the flavorful nature of this specific type of food is something that many current restaurants in the suburbs are lacking. Therefore, I think the introduction of a genuine Thai restaurant will bring variety to the palate of the area, and people should definitely check it out.
When I first walked into Jimmy Thai, I was greeted by one of the most friendly restaurant owners I have ever met, and was impressed by the bright colors and liveliness of the interior. There was a perfect noise level, energetic music, and the atmosphere was calmer than most other restaurants. The wait staff was helpful and efficient as well, making dining at Jimmy Thai an excellent experience.
The restaurant’s owner, Jim Seriruk, was one of the original owners of Thai Thai, which was open from 2008 to 2016. When it lost its lease he remodeled the space and then opened Jimmy Thai with his wife in early 2017. Ever since a critic at the Chicago Tribune sampled his food not long after the restaurant’s opening, and published an article praising the dishes, Jimmy Thai has taken off.
According to Jim, “Jimmy Thai started because of our passion for Thai food and sharing the traditional Thai cooking art … Our vision is to be the ‘go to’ place for authentic Thai and Ramen in the area for its food, family-like atmosphere and friendly, caring service.”
In my opinion, he has achieved his goal, since my experience at Jimmy Thai was a highly positive one. A large part of this was the quality of the food. From the flavor variety of the Thai fried rice and custom ramen, to the richness of the golden noodles, to the perfect balance of sweetness in the mango and sticky rice, I thoroughly enjoyed eating at Jimmy Thai.
First, I sampled the Thai fried rice, which according to the owner is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. It certainly lived up to its reputation; the rice, carrots, egg, onions, tofu, broccoli, green pepper, peapods, and bok choy creation was cooked perfectly. In past experiences, I’ve found some fried rice dishes include dry rice and tofu of a weird spongy consistency, but this was not the case with the Thai fried rice at all. Next, I ordered custom ramen off of the make-your-own ramen menu. However, this was not similar to a typical ramen noodle soup, it had a variety of ingredients mixed in such as shrimp tempura, half of an egg, bok choy, peapods, and onion. Not only was there a variety of different flavors, but also a variety of textures between the soft noodles, the crunchy shrimp tempura, and the vegetables somewhere in between. Then, I ate golden noodles, which is made up of egg noodles, carrots, peapods, egg, mushrooms, broccoli, green pepper, and tofu. The noodles were extremely rich, tender, and light, and the vegetables were cooked nicely. However, this plate would be even better with a little salt, as it was a little too rich sometimes. To end this excellent meal, for dessert I sampled the mango and sticky rice. This dish was incredibly interesting, as there was a sugary sauce poured over a huge portion of rice, with mango on the side to cut and eat with it. Although not quite yet in season, I thought the mango was the perfect refreshing counter to the incredibly sweet flavor of the rice.
Jimmy Thai’s hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and Sundays 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (but Ramen Time is closed). They are located at 475 Lake Cook Road in Deerfield. I strongly urge those who live in or travel to the Chicago suburbs to eat at this restaurant, you will be pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the staff, high quality of the food, and overall authentic Thai dining experience.
A high schooler with a love of food. See the My Story page to find out more.