So I told you yesterday that I was meeting my Momma for lunch to celebrate her birthday yesterday.  What I didn’t tell you was that I happily dragged my SIL as my partner in crime to surprise my Mom and went to her church service.  She was so surprised!  And the surprise was on us because she also had a duet during the special music section of the service.  You did great Momma!

So originally our plan was to hit up Wildfire in Schaumburg.  We both love their burgers.  But since we were now in the Oak Park/Forest Park area, we had to switch gears.  We met back at my Mom’s house and decided to go to Aripo’s, which is on Marion Street in the heart of the Oak Park mall.  None of us had had Latin American/Venezuelan food before so we decided to throw the dice.

We decided to get three of their signature dishes, and then just share.

First up was the Bistec encebollado – thin cut sirloin steak with carmelized onions and white rice.  Um, the two nuts I were with LOVE carmelized onions so I was out voted 2 to 1 – the steak was delicious after I scraped off the nasty onions.  Nice and tender and super flavorful.

Then was the Pabellon Criollo – shredded beef, white rice, black beans, fried plantains and crumbled white cheese.  The beef was a tad dry, but still very good.

Then we had Cachapas – Venezuelan corn panckes with De Mano cheese and shredded chicken – I think this dish was our favorite and I am definitely going to try to recreate the corn pancake – perfect combination of salty and sweet.

I actually expected the dishes to have some spice to them, but while flavorful, were not spicy at all.  Luckily two of my best friends decided to join me.

I asked my Mom if she wanted dessert and when I mentioned “flan” she said yes immediately.  Although this one was different, it was thick and almost tapiocaish (yep, I am counting that as a word!) with a delicious carmel sauce on the bottom.  I had a couple bites and enjoyed a Venezuelan latte on the side.

We then went to Trader Joe’s because my SIL had never been to one.  Picked up a roast chicken, some edammame (sp?) and some fruit.  I think I am going to try to recreate my meals this week with just what we have – I will have to be very creative, but I think I can do it. 😀

Then we went to Penzye’s spices, and while I normally think their prices are rediculous, I did buy a 2 ounce jar of seasoning called Italian sausage to make your own sausage – how cool is that?  And I picked up a bumper sticker that screams me.  Shhh. Don’t tell Tony I already put it on the car!

We also hit up Ten Thousand Villages, which is a fair trade retailer.  OMG, so much stuff to look at you could literally spend a couple hours in there.  I bought something simple that caught my eye – I bought one for me and for my SIL.

This will be my mantra this week – strength to stay on plan, get my exercise goals in, drink my water, etc.  I haven’t decided where I am going to put it to remind me – any suggestions?

Have any of you made any Latin American food at home before – please share any recipes in the comments section!

How was your weekend?  Make it a great day!!