I love discovering tasty, new-to-me places in my (or a close by) neighborhood. Hippo in Highland Park had been on my radar for a while now- multiple friends had raved about it, and I couldn’t help but drool over their Instagram. So when we had good friends in town staying with us recently, I knew just the spot for dinner. Nestled off the busy street, just behind Triple Beam Pizza (another fave!), Hippo’s rustic, Italian-American vibes make it seem very New York to me. Perhaps that’s why I liked it so much from the moment we walked in, but once we tasted the food, it truly won me over. The bread basket of housemade focaccia was perfectly crusty and chewy, and I strongly suggest you start with the burrata di bufala (imported from Lazio-Italy!), served with even more delicious, carby goodness. I was a huge fan of the veggie starters- from the cool haricot verts with serrano chili toasted hazelnuts & Frenchie vinaigrette, to the griddled cauliflower with cauliflower “tahini” & walnut raisin caper relish, the flavors were truly unique. Of course, several housemade pastas are on the menu (and worth an order!), including the semolina spaghetti with guanciale, tomato & spicy pickled peppers, as well as the winter squash cappellacci with browned butter, sage & amaretti! Carefully handmade pasta, perfectly cooked to al dente, truly makes all the difference. Be sure to check out the rest of our meal in the slideshow above- there were honestly so many noteworthy dishes! We actually already had plans for ice cream after dinner, so I didn’t get a chance to try Hippo’s desserts- but there’s always next time! Post-baby, I’d like to go back for “Hippo Hour”, their version of happy hour, for some tasty small plates and a cool cocktail as well!

black rice & winter vegetable salad

I know the majority of recipes I post here are sweets, but I promise I do actually eat healthy things too! A lot of them, to be honest! While my husband is obviously the better chef in the family, I love to cook as well, just on a much simpler scale. My go-to savory dishes are easy and nutritious, and I typically prepare a lot of the components ahead of time, and make extra, so that I can just throw everything into a bowl and dig in! These bowls usually involve seasonal vegetables (roasted, shaved, etc.), whole grains of some sort (homemade bread or quinoa), a protein (likely chicken or legumes), and a good dressing (tahini or avocado-based). Various textural components, like nuts or sees, add a nice crunch as well. This one was being served as a side dish to meat and other dishes, so I kept this vegan and gluten free! There are a million ways to mix it up, so feel free to use whatever tastes good and is available to you!

Black Rice & Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad:

  • 2 cups black rice, rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 4 sprigs thyme, separated
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 3 cups Brussels Sprouts, rooted & halved
  • 1 celery root, peeled & cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1 blood orange, segmented


  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • 1 tsp honey (or agave syrup)
  • 1 tsp blood orange zest
  • salt & pepper, to taste


  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 1 blood orange, segmented
  • 2 tbsp chives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup micro-greens

Preheat oven to 450 F. Cook rice according to package instructions, seasoning the cooking liquid with salt, pepper, bay leaves and 2 sprigs thyme, until just al dente. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems. Spread out on sheet tray to cool completely, topping with chives and seasoning with salt & pepper to taste.

Drizzle sweet potatoes, 2 cups of Brussels sprouts (reserving one cup), and celery root with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Shave remaining cup of Brussels sprouts on a mandolin, and add to the rice. Add bell pepper, pumpkin seeds, blood orange segments, and the cooled roasted veggies to the rice mixture.

Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Add to rice mixture, and stir to combine. Top with extra pumpkin seeds, blood orange segments, chives, and micro-greens. Enjoy!