Penne for your thoughts

Today is #nationalpastaday and if there were ever a food to celebrate, pasta is definitely at the top of the list.

I’ve always been a firm believer that eating is not just about fueling your body to live. It’s about community, conversation and connections. Sharing a meal with someone is an intimate experience. You’re using the act of cooking or eating food to facilitate a relationship.

Pasta, especially, is one of those dishes that really emulates the spirit of community. First of all, it’s typically made in large quantities. And while I can definitely put down more than I should, it’s easily sharable.

My family isn’t a huge pasta family much to my dismay. My boyfriend’s family is. His mother is Italian-American and a Sunday night pasta dinner is practically a rite-of-passage. I remember my eyes widening at the site of her enormous pasta bowl filled with over two pounds of pasta and gravy the first time they had me over for Sunday dinner.

I loved it. I loved how pasta isn’t just a meal to them, it’s a part of their family, a part of their heritage and a part of their traditions. I saw this same culture when I visited Italy last spring. It was overwhelming to see the love and patience that went into a great dish of pasta. I’d even go so far to say that eating pasta in Italy was a cathartic experience.

So there you go, a few thoughts on the wonderful dish that is pasta. I hope you see why it’s so special.

Happy eating!

-Gill

Restaurant Review: Bangkok Thai

In the interest of transparency, I should confess that I’ve been eating at Bangkok Thai for the last three years, and it’s not a secret that I absolutely love it. I thought, however, that it’s high time I made my declaration of love public and permanent by putting it on the internet.

The thing about Bangkok Thai is that its menu is relatively limited, but its quality is unparalleled. No matter what you order, be it a steaming bowl of pho or pad thai, everything will come out in large, piping-hot portions. Each customer is asked to pick a spice level (1-6) and, for me, somehow number 4 gives me the most perfect balance of spicy thai chilies so that I feel heat permeate my insides, but my mouth isn’t on fire.

Bangkok Thai’s inner decor has a huge mural depicting people rice farming. Large pitchers of ice water and styrofoam cups are off to the side for the taking. Customers order at the counter that has a seemingly out-of-place, yet totally fitting, tiki hut roof on it. They pay at the till, then wait for their number to be called.

My favorites at Bangkok Thai are its Beef Pad Siew, Tom Yum Soup and Thai Basil Chicken.

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Beef Pad Siew with extra broccoli

The wide-rice noodles in the Beef Pad Siew are soft and almost melt on the tongue. They’re coated in a spicy sauce and come with an array of vegetables that give the dish a perfect crunch with each bite. I love the meatiness of beef and how it compliments the the savory sauce as they work together to create an explosion of flavor.

 

Champaign, Illinois is known for its freaky weather. In the past week alone, it’s gone from a crisp 55 degrees Fahrenheit to a sweltering 89 degrees Fahrenheit and 94% humidity. On those chillier days, I like to grab a bowl of steaming Tom Yum Soup. The broth is chicken based and practically warms the soul. I like to ask mine to come with rice noodles, so I can joyfully slurp my broth and noods together while nestled in my favorite five-year-old hoodie. The broth is relatively healthy and works miracles if you’re feeling under the weather.

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Thai Basil Chicken with rice

Although I order the Thai  Basil Chicken the least out of these three options, it can seriously hit the spot. I love the tender chicken, saucy vegetables and steamed rice together. It’s filling, but not overwhelming and you don’t need a nap after it! So, basically, it’s a great option if you’re trying to get your thai fix but not carb-overload.

Bangkok Thai is located at 410 E. Green St. Champaign, IL 61820. It is open Monday-Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Cheers!

-Gill

Fall Harvest Bowl

Wow, my first blog post! I’m so excited! This past weekend’s weather was amazing. A crisp 55 degrees Fahrenheit came into the Chambana area and I was HERE for it! I’ve been pining for fall weather for weeks because I’ve been eager to start creating some delicious, comforting and (mostly) healthy meals that’ll  warm your soul.

First up was a Fall Harvest Bowl. There are a lot of takes on these, but mine is simple, easy and healthy. What I love about a harvest bowl is you can completely make it your own by adding in your favorite veggies and protein.

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I decided to use Jennie-O Hot Italian turkey sausage, kale, mushrooms and sweet potatoes. Kale and sweet potatoes are in season right now, and they add a lot of balance to a fall harvest bowl. Kale is a green superfood packed with nutrients, and sweet potatoes are a natural complex carbohydrate.

pan sweet

First up, I preheated my oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit and then I peeled/sliced my sweet potato. Next, I put aluminum foil on a baking sheet, added my potatoes and drizzled them in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I popped those into the oven for 10 minutes, then flipped them and baked for another 10 minutes.

kale

 

While my potatoes cooked, I took the sausage out of its casing and added it in a hot skillet with a little olive oil. Once the meat was browned, I took it out of the pan and set it aside.

I then sautéed chopped red onion. Once the onion was soft, I added in a few bunches of kale and a cup of mushrooms. I cooked all of that together, adding a little salt and pepper, then added my sausage back in.

Finally, I piled the potatoes, meat and veggie mixture into a bowl and enjoyed!

 

Recipe: bowl

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato (peeled and sliced)

1 package Jennie-O Hot Italian turkey sausage

1 cup red onion

1 bunch kale

1/2lb mushrooms (white or brown)

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Peel and slice the sweet potato. Spread sweet potato evenly across baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Put in the oven for 10 minutes on one side, flip, then 10 minutes on the other.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium with a tablespoon of olive oil. Take sausage out of its casing and add to pan, breaking up as you mix it, browning each side. Once browned, remove from pan and set aside. Wipe out pan.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add in 1/2 cup red onion. Wait for the onion to become soft, about 6-8minutes. Add in a few bunches of kale and sauté. Add in mushrooms and brown. Salt and pepper the veggies to taste.

Add the sausage back in and mix together. Divide the mixture and sweet potato evenly into bowls.

Enjoy!