Avo-Mac Attack

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I love an excuse to eat comfort food, even in the summer. With these rainy, chillier nights that keep popping up unexpectedly, you may find yourself craving something warm and hearty, but with a summery kick.

This avocado-lime mac n’ cheese is the perfect blend of rich, cheesy goodness and light, summery flavors from the fresh cilantro, lime, and avocado. It’s perfect after a long day at the beach or on a simple, cozy night in. Plus, it’s ridiculously easy to make and doesn’t break the bank, either.

Serve it up with a side salad or leave it on it’s own — this mac will keep you full and satisfied all summer long!


*Recipe adapted from the awesome blog, “Two Peas and their Pod”

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz dry elbow macaroni (I used Banza chickpea elbow macaroni — really good and filling)!
  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 wedges of Laughing Cow swiss cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish (optional)!

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions

2. Combine avocados, lime juice, cilantro, cheese and seasonings in a food processor or blender until it has a sauce-like texture.

3. Pour sauce over cooked mac and stir until combined — get it while it’s hot!

C&K Readers: Share your favorite kind of mac and cheese! Do you like it extra cheesy? With bacon and tons of add-ons? Or how about totally vegan? 

Detroit Discoveries

Happy Fathers’ Day to the C&K fan-dads out there! I hope you are enjoying this glorious Michigan morning and have some fun food adventures planned for the day — there’s no such thing as Father’s Day without good eats, right?

I wanted to share some killer restaurant discoveries that I’ve stumbled upon recently that I think you C&K readers will love (can’t beat the prices, either)! I like to think of these spots as some of metro Detroit’s best kept secrets, so share wisely…

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1. The Zenith, located in the Fisher Building, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit

Can you say, funky-licious? The Zenith is a one-of-a-kind establishment, filled with

Made my own burrito with a side of chipotle sweet potatoes

Made my own burrito with a side of chipotle sweet potatoes

eccentric artwork and statues scattered throughout the place. It feels almost like you’re sitting in a wacky antique shop filled with odds and ends, but with the added bonus of amazing food! The Zenith has a definite Mexican flair, serving up tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and the like for carnivores and vegetarians/vegans. You can customize your own “Lightning Fast” meal or pick one of their standard creations. Cocktails are tasty, too!

2. Michigan By the Bottle29932 Woodward Ave, Royal Oak OR 45645 Hayes Rd, Shelby Charter Township

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Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just looking to discover some new Michigan wines, Michigan By the Bottle is a must-try. It’s casual, non-pretentious, and perfect for a fun night out with friends or a new spin on date night. I went to the Royal Oak location, right off of Woodward and 12 mile road, and had a tasty flight of 5 2 oz. pours, which come with “flight bites” (a dainty plate of cheese and chocolate)! If you’re extra hungry, try their cheese and charcuterie board, which features delectable samplings from local farms and restaurants. The waitstaff will walk you through the various wine options and will gladly help you make selections based on your preferences. Yay, Michigan!

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What are some of your favorite Detroit Discoveries? Share with me in a comment, Facebook post, Tweet, or Instagram shot @coneysandkale!

I Found A Pot of Gold Cash Gold!

Let’s be real — who goes to pawn shops anymore? I know the last time I did, it was to see if some thief had traded my precious 5th grade band clarinet for a hefty load of cash. My mission was very unsuccessful.

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Burrata and pesto

However, I learned recently that pawn shops can serve a real purpose. And that is to be renovated into restaurants that serve up amazing eats. If you haven’t tried Gold Cash Gold in Corktown yet, then you’re missing out on a true Detroit jackpot.

After a long week, this is the the ideal spot to grab some friends and sit around one of the many wooden tables. My three girlfriends started off the night with some fun, refreshing cocktails. GCG also has a great selection of wine and beer, so I opted for a glass of crisp Pinot Noir for myself.

Next, we swooned over their funky menu, adamant about finding an app to please everyone’s palettes. While I was turned down for my vote on the chicken liver mousse (our waiter highly recommended it), we settled on a seasonal dish of Burrata and ramp pesto, served with warm, sliced bread. This was a melt-in-your-mouth, heavenly delight.

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Pickle brine fried chickie

Before we knew it, our entrees arrived. Again, I was the odd one out, but I got to sample some of my friends’ pickle brine fried chicken (all three of them ordered it)! This  was some mighty fine, crispy, crunchy chicken with so much flavor my mouth could barely handle it. This was a huge portion, and came with some stellar gravy and cornbread. My Cioppino (a tomato-based stew with seafood and chicken sausage), was a perfect size for a gal like me. I pretty much devoured it all, and reluctantly shared a shrimp or two.

As an added indulgence, we ordered some piping hot, thick-cut french fries. It was obviously necessary. I do wish I could say we had room for dessert, but that will have to wait. Next time, I’m heading to Gold Cash Gold for brunch! Chicken and waffles, anyone?

Final words of wisdom on GCG: Be bold, be prepared to wait, and just enjoy!


Price range: $10-20

Location: 2100 Michigan Ave, Detroit, 48216

Hours: Closed Mon., Tues. – Th. 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. – 11 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. – 12 a.m., Sat. 10 a.m. – 3:00p.m., 5 p.m. – 12 a.m., Sun. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Phone: (313) 242-0770

Click here to view their fabulous website for more info!

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Cioppino

Better than “B Dubs” Chicken Wings

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For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you’ll notice the number of weekly posts has dwindled, in addition to there being a lack of recipe posts. I’ll admit, my life has gotten busier over the past couple of months. I know this isn’t a great excuse, but it is true nonetheless. I also have been slacking on my recipe experimentation, typically throwing together sandwiches and salads for lunch and scrounging for leftovers for dinner.

Thankfully, I am fortunate to have a few people in my life that do cook for me sometimes. Who doesn’t just love when someone says, “I’ll make dinner tonight! You just relax.” I know I can’t refuse an offer like that. Ever.

So, when I was told the other day that I’d be served chicken wings for dinner, I was thrilled knowing they would be homemade. Homemade = Healthier, perfectly sauced wings. Sorry guys — Buffalo Wild Wings is just not my thing.

As I watched the preparation of the homemade wings, I was overly-excited to give them the ultimate taste test. I could barely wait until the wings were cool enough to eat. Finally, I was permitted to take my first bite of a drumstick, and I was amazed that oven-baked wings could be so perfectly golden-brown and crispy! They had a tangy and spicy outer layer, coated with a garlic and ginger-based sauce. The meat itself was deliciously tender. Napkins or wet wipes are definitely a must.

Ideal for a tasty dinner or snack, and even for Mother’s Day if you’re momma loves wings, this recipe will satisfy every time. Even if you’re stuck making them on your own, the preparation is pretty easy, and the oven does most of the work. While I credit the chef who made these for me, I also have to give ample applause to Chef John, creator of the blog FoodWishes.com, for the recipe. If you haven’t checked out his blog yet, that should be your next stop after reading mine!


Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds chicken wings
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp veg oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup flour

For the glaze:

  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp Sambal chili sauce (or 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Cover two half-sheet pans with aluminum foil and coat with oil/cooking spray

3. Season chicken with salt and pepper

4. Pour a few tbsp of Frank’s hot sauce over chicken.

5. Drizzle the vegetable oil over chicken.

6. Now, here’s the fun part: Using a plastic garbage bag, dredge chicken in flour and shake to coat.  AKA “Shake and bake!”

7. Add wings to pan. Spray an extra layer of cooking spray onto wings for added crispiness.

8. Cook wings for 30 minutes and then turn over, then bake for another 30 minutes.

9. While the wings are getting nice and golden, you can start on your sauce. In a small pot, add some crushed garlic, Sambal or hot pepper flakes, brown sugar, ginger, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, and bring to a boil.

10. As soon as the sauce is boiling, stir and remove from heat. Make sure it tastes just right (feel free to add more hot sauce if it’s not spicy enough, etc.)

11. When the wings are done, pour half of the sauce onto wings. Let wings cool for several minutes (this is the hard part) before digging in!

Welcome to the “D,” JP!

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Fondly nicknamed by some as “JP,” the highly anticipated Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Detroit location opened its doors on April 11th, and has been attracting customers from far and wide ever since. While many are familiar with the Traverse City and Ann Arbor locations, Detroit’s “JP” has a style of its own that perfectly suits the Midtown scene.

Now that spring has finally decided to show, customers can sit comfortably outside in the quaint patio area and enjoy the weather and endless people watching. For those who opt for indoor seating, Jolly Pumpkin’s interior is spacious, with plenty of wood and funky art on the walls.

Chicken and Kale Pizza

Chicken and Kale Pizza

Unlike its sister locations, you place your food and drink order at the back counter. While you’re food is brought to your table, you’ll grab your drinks at a second counter after you place your order. Jolly Pumpkin brews its own French and Belgian style beers in addition to serving North Peak and Grizzly Peak brews.

Depending on the type of food you’re craving, Jolly Pumpkin offers a well-crafted menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and my personal favorite, pizzas. My favorite pizza to date is the “Mushroom,” which is loaded with creamed shiitakes, goat cheese, delicate mozzarella, and arugula, with a generous drizzle of truffle oil. If you’re looking for a more meaty ‘za, try the “Korean Shortrib” or “Chicken and Kale.” The dough is soft and chewy, with a crunchy outer edge, and the combination of toppings are mind-blowing.

If you’re looking for something extra decadent to top off your meal, don’t think twice about ordering the truffle fries, which you can get as a side. They are thin cut with just the right amount of salt, and are served with a side of creamy rosemary aioli. Your dinner-mates and stomach will thank you.

Truffle fries

Truffle fries

By the end of the evening, you might be thinking about what you’re going to order next time due to their appetizing menu. Plus, each location has their own signature menu items, so you can get a good variety no matter which spot you choose.

I think “JP in the D’s” vibe is perfect for Midtown — it’s far from pretentious and snooty, with delicious food, brews, and the friendliest staff. So, if you’re looking for a new place to go for a fun night out or for some much-needed drinks after work, head over to Jolly Pumpkin for a laid back, yet classy time.


Price range: Entrees in the $10-20 range, Beers $5-7, Cocktails $9

Location: 441 W. Canfield, Detroit 48201

Hours: Mon-Wed. 11:30 am – 11:00 pm, Thurs.-Sat. 11:30 am – 1:00 am, Sun. 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Phone: (313) 262-6115 *No reservations

Click here to view the website/menu! You can also find Jolly Pumpkin on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more scoop on food, drinks, and upcoming events!

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My #1 Stop for BBQ: The Union Woodshop

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Detroit may be famous for coney dogs, Faygo pop, and Better Made potato chips, but in recent years, this city has proven that it can serve up more than just your standard American fare. Down-home BBQ is one of many cuisines that has taken off in metro Detroit, proving that we are a city with talents that exceed sports and car manufacturing.

Most Detroiters know about Slow’s in Corktown, which has become one of the fastest-growing BBQ spots in the area. People flock from far and wide to get a taste of their pulled pork sandwiches, mac and cheese, and juicy, fall-off-the-bone ribs. While Slow’s shouldn’t be too worried, they do have some competition out there. To name a few, we have Red Smoke in Detroit, Lockhart’s in Royal Oak, Zeke’s Rock and Roll BBQ in Ferndale, and my most recent BBQ discovery, The Union Woodshop in Clarkston.

The Union Woodshop is a one-of-a-kind gem of a place in downtown Clarkston. While it

Fried pickles

Fried pickles

may be a hike for some, this spot is well worth the trip. It’s family friendly, with a spacious, wooden interior. The main level has plenty of seating and a more relaxed atmosphere. The upstairs is where the fun begins. You can hang out a the bar, peruse around their store where they sell knick-knacks and books, or play some foosball and bowling. While waiting for a table usually is a yawn-worthy experience, the Union Woodshop provides plenty of entertainment for guests.

By the time you get seated, hopefully you’ll be very, very hungry. The portions are generous here, so make sure your appetite is in check. The Union Woodshop’s menu has everything from your standard BBQ fare to wood-fired pizzas and as-big-as-your-head burritos, with tempting appetizers like the “burnt ends” and fried pickles. You just can’t go wrong with fried pickles.

While just about everything on the menu appealed to me, I opted for a traditional BBQ meal, which was out-of-this-world. The baby back ribs were so tender and delicious, with just the right amount of seasoning and not a whole lot of sauce. I would go as far as to say that they have addictive properties.

Brownie Pot Pie

Brownie Pot Pie

Along with the ribs, I opted for a side of mac and cheese, which had a beautiful golden-brown topping with creamy, cheesy penne noodles underneath. I don’t think mac and cheese can get much better than this. The coleslaw was the only aspect of the meal that didn’t “wow” me. I liked the use of purple cabbage, but the flavor and creaminess was a little over-the-top for my taste. However, the added bonus of jalapeno cornbread that came with my meal definitely made up for it.

Somehow, miraculously, I was able to save a bit of room for dessert, and I am so glad that I did. The “Brownie Pot Pie” went above and beyond my dessert expectations. I don’t think I have ever had anything THIS good. It makes you feel like you’re doing something extremely naughty, yet it’s just so satisfying.

My experience at the Union Woodshop was unforgettable, and I couldn’t stop raving about it after (and I still am to this day). BBQ is definitely not my favorite cuisine of all time, but this place made me want to drive back the next week for more!


Price range: $11-30

Location: 18 S Main St., Clarkston, MI 48346

Hours: Mon. – Thurs. 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Fri. 4 p.m. – 11 p.m., Sat. 12 p.m. -11 p.m., Sun. 12 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Phone: (248) 625-5660 *No reservations

Click here to view the Union Woodshop’s cool website and menu!

Springtime = Sprinkletime

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I think just about everyone in Michigan is excited about this warmer weather. Even though it’s not quite as balmy as we’d like, I think winter has received the message that it’s time to leave the building for awhile. Or at least I’m trying to think positive.

Needless to say, spring is officially here as of Friday, and I know my mind is not only focused on sunshine, but also on spring-themed food. And Easter candy. Those darn Reeses eggs…

Anyways, lets get back on topic. If you checked out my black bean brownie post, you can probably guess that I tried a different rendition this time. I felt adventurous again, so I made brownies with Greek yogurt instead of butter and eggs. Not a bad way to keep these bad boys slightly less guilty than the norm, right? Plus, yogurt creates an airy, fudgy texture, which I prefer. No judgment if you like ’em cakey (that’s just not my style).

So, if you’re feeling as celebratory as I am about spring, or if you’re just looking to create a killer Easter menu, my springtime brownies are sure to be the best dessert at the party. With mint green frosting and excessive amounts of sprinkles on top of dense, chocolaty goodness, you can’t help but smile as you take a bite.

Share your thoughts with a comment, or send me a Tweet, share a post on Facebook, or tag a photo on Instagram @coneysandkale!


Brownie recipe adapted from “Cinnamon-Spice & Everything Nice”

Serves: About 12-15

For the brownies:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 + 1/3 cups plain Greek yogurt (I used fat-free)

For the frosting:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1-2 tsp peppermint extract
  • A few drops of green food coloring (optional)
  • Sprinkles to add on top of the frosting layer!

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Grease an 8x8x2 baking dish or line with parchment paper.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour and baking powder, and set aside.

4. In another bowl, melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips in microwave in 20 second increments, stirring as you go until smooth. Then, stir in the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, and yogurt.

5. Fold in the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Add in the rest of the chocolate chips (and feel free to add more if you desire)!

6. Pour batter into the ban and bake for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

7. While the brownies are baking, use a hand or standing mixer to beat the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and milk, and then beat for an additional 2 minutes on medium. Add mint and food coloring, and beat on low for another minute until everything is combined.

8. When the brownies are done, remove from oven and let cool. Frost the brownies, add lots of sprinkles, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.