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Friday, December 28, 2007

Another Good Thing

From Trader Joe's.

It's become a tradition in our small family on Christmas morning.  Upon waking up, Scott makes a roaring fire, I whip up some hot chocolate with Ghiradelli cocoa and marshmallows and we eat chocolate croissants, flakey and fresh out of the oven, while reading the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2.  

The first year we did this, I spent WAY too much money ordering them from here.  Granted, we only ate two and I was able to bake the other 13 of them for a Mother's Day brunch, but still.  So, when I saw that Trader Joe's had their own version, four croissants for $3.99, sitting in the freezer section, I had to snap them up.

And guess what.  They were delicious.  Hauntingly familiar.  Want to know why?  The same guy who makes them for Williams-Sonoma, creates them for Trader Joe's.  And guess what, for $40 less, counting shipping and tax.  Crazy.

Buy a box, allow them to sit out on a cookie sheet overnight to rise, and bake them first thing the next morning.  A perfect special occasion treat.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Not to toot my own horn or anything...


...but look what I made!!  Those of you who know me understand what an enormous accomplishment this is, considering the fact that I am entirely missing the "crafty" gene.  This coming from the girl who can't even french braid.

Anyways, it was one of the best parties I've ever been too, a dear friend who I've known since kindergarden had a lovely birthday supper followed by the BEST birthday cake I've ever had. Each of us had a little kit to assemble a gingerbread house out of graham crackers and every guest brought bags of candy.  

Happy Birthday Katie!  It was a great night.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Very Merry Christmas


And to all, a Good Night.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sigh.

Everyone told me how fast it would go.  The days when Sam was just a little nugget, snuggled up in the crook of my arm, all swaddled up in a hospital blanket.  

Now he is a 20 pound heap of drooly smiles and paunchy stomach.  Will time continue to fly by?  Will he be a huge, hairy teenager with stinky feet before I know it?  These sweet baby days are so precious and dear to me.  

I wish there was a way to bottle them up and take them out on a rainy day, 15 years in the future. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mini Cheese Quiches-A killer party recipe

These little Cocktail Quiches are full of cheesy deliciousness, freeze perfectly and are great warm, cold or at room temp.

Yields: 4-5 dozen
3 eggs
1 lb. small curd cottage cheese
3 TB sour cream
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
4 TB. melted butter
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Blend just until mixed.  Spray mini muffin tins liberally with Pam.  Fill each cup 7/8ths full.  If desired, sprinkle crisp bacon pieces, minced red pepper, minced onion, or whatever into the filled cup to add flavor.  Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Cool in pans for 5 minutes before removing.

May be frozen.  Reheat in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving.

Thanks for the snow suit Sara...

I think it fits pretty well...
Ha.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This has changed my life.

Have you ever tried La Brea bread sold in the bakery section at Jewel?  At least I believe Jewel is the only place around here that carries this delicious line of artisan breads.  It's a California bakery that was started in 1988 and now delivers partially baked loaves of specialty bread all over the country.

I've found it to be the best bread outside of the city and will make a special trip to Jewel to pick a loaf or two right before company comes.  It always was slightly annoying to have to run out to the store in the middle of cooking/baking/grilling etc...UNTIL.

UNTIL a bakery lady at Jewel to whom I will remain eternally grateful, shared a nugget of gold with me.  Pay it forward baby.  Here you go:

Rummaging through the offerings of bread out on the shelf, Jenni gently prods and pokes, attempting to find the freshest baguette amidst the small pile.  Nothing is to her liking though, it's obvious this bread was baked early in the morning and has sat out all day.  So, she decides to ask if there's any bread in the oven.

"Excuse me ma'am, do you have any of the La Brea baguettes in the oven?  I'm looking for a really fresh one for dinner tonight."

A kind, pleasantly round woman beams out at her from behind the counter and says, "You know, we're done baking for the day, but would you like me to get you a frozen one?  You can bake them at home you know."

This news strikes Jenni as an epiphany.  WHAT?!  What what what??  

"Wait, you mean I can do the same baking that you do in my own oven?  Do I need to do anything special, like put a pan of water in the bottom?  Will the crust be the same?  Really?"

At this point she is almost foaming at the mouth, struggling against the urge to immediately buy 14 loaves of bread and stock her freezer with the likes of Rosemary Olive Oil, Fruit and Nut, Roasted Garlic and of course the simple baguette.  She has issues with hoarding, you remember.

"I promise that it will taste exactly the same," the nice woman assures her, "Just defrost the large round loaves and bake them for about 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.  The baguettes you can just leave frozen, pop them right in on the oven shelf and bake for 15 minutes."

Jenni thanks her profusely, attempts to not tinkle in her pants out of excitement and heads home with two baguettes, to be baked right before her guests arrive.

Later that evening the house is filled with the smell of baking bread and there is joy and merriment in all the land.

The Remnants

I meant to post this closer to Thanksgiving...here are the final results of the 19 lb bird that graced our home for a short period of time.  Homemade turkey pot pie.  Ohhh so good.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Sums it up well

There Is No Rose

"There is no rose of such virtue as is the rose that bore Jesu.  Alleluia.
For in this rose contained was Heaven and earth in little space.  Resmiranda.
By that rose we may well see there be one God in Persons three.  Pares forma.
The angels sungen the shepherds to: 'Gloria in excelsis Deo!'  Gaudeamus.
Leave we all this worldly mirth, and follow we this joyful birth."  Transeamus.

-Anonymous 14th Century English Poem, set to music by Benjamin Britten

For whatever reason, the last line of this poem resonated within me as I listened our church's choir sing through this magnificent piece last night at a concert in the city.  

It is such a struggle to maintain focus, isn't it?  Amidst all the bustle and buying and baking and all the "I have to..."s of life, I am attempting to remember what it's all about.

"Leave we all this worldly mirth, and follow we this joyful birth."  




I've been lame

Sorry for the lack of posting, I can't believe I haven't checked in since November!  It's already December 10th, where do the days go.  We have been busy getting the house decorated, shopping, practicing for the INSANE amount of rehearsals required for a Christmas concert I'm playing piano for, and other odds and ends.

I've had posts building up in my mind though, so watch out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Cozy Thanksgiving Morning

video

This is pretty boring really, I'm posting it for the friends who live far away.  

Here's what we did while the turkey was roasting, after a trip to Starbucks for a bracing carmel macchiato.  Snowmen sleepers are the BEST, I wish they made them in adult sizes.

Weird

Sam had his six month appointment yesterday for shots and a check up.  Come to find out, he weighs 18. 6 lbs...that's only one pound less then our turkey.  

Why am I still thinking about turkey?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Apple

I'm on hold with 1-800-APL-CARE right now.  I've been holding for two hours now.  Why does the nice man on the recording continue to say "thank you for holding, all product specialists are busy.  The wait time is 15 minutes or more." 

Ah HA.  Ha ha ha haha.  It's the "or more" loophole.  They must not have a recording that says "Thank you for holding, we'll be with you in 29 hours and 18 minutes."  

Too bad my stupid questions will probably take all of 90 seconds to fix.  

Sigh.  Still love the new iMac, I just wish I knew how to use it.

A Three Page Turkey Recipe-The Details

For those interested in all the grimy details of what went into this turkey and gravy, I typed it all up so I could remember for next year...this is a collection of tips and ideas from six different sources.

The Best Turkey I’ve Ever Had


The Day before:


Prepare the Brine of 2 1/2 gallons of apple cider

                                 1 1/2 cups kosher salt

                                 1/2 cup table salt

                                 2/3 cup honey

                                 1/2 cup brown sugar

                                 1/2 cup sugar


Heat apple cider/juice on the stove until all salt and sugar dissolves.  Cool outside or in the fridge.  Add the washed and dried turkey (don’t forget to remove and discard the giblets and neck inside the cavity) to the brine so that it can soak 12 hours.


Prepare a Compound Butter of 8 TB. softened butter

                                                freshly ground pepper

                                                4 TB. chopped fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage,

                                                parsley 


Make the Apple Syrup Reduction

-Bring 4 cups of fresh apple cider and 1/3 cup brown sugar to a boil.  Simmer gently until reduced by half, about 40 minutes.


Make Apple Cider Gravy

-Melt 8 TB. butter in a medium saucepan.  Add 8 TB. of flour and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 3 minutes.

-Add 2 cups of the apple syrup reduction and 3 cups of chicken or turkey stock (homemade is best) to butter and flour mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

-Add salt and pepper to taste, and 1/2 tsp of finely chopped fresh rosemary to finish it



The Day of:


Preheat a clean oven to 500 degrees.  It will take a while, so leave plenty of time for this.


Pull a long piece of heavy duty tin foil off and fold it into a triangle.  Oil the inside of the foil well. 


Take the turkey out of the brine and rinse it off in cold water.  Pat dry.  Press the tin foil triangle onto the breast of the turkey, shaping it into a “shield” of sorts.  Remove foil shield and set aside.


Rub the turkey all over with half of an orange or two.  Sprinkle the cavity with kosher salt and pepper.  Rub the softened herb butter underneath the skin and on the outside, all over the bird.  Sprinkle outside of the bird with plenty of pepper, kosher salt and Old Bay seasoning, if you wish.


Stuff the turkey with: onion halves, orange halves, chunks of carrots, celery, fresh sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary and anything else that sounds good.  Allow turkey to sit out at room temp for about an hour, no longer then that.


Place turkey in bottom third of the oven, and roast for 30 min at 500 degrees.  


After 30 min, take the bird out, turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and place the tin foil shield over the breast.  Put a remote thermometer into the breast, being careful not to touch the bone with the tip, and set the thermometer at 161 degrees.


A 19 & 1/2 lb., thoroughly thawed bird will take about 3 or 3 1/2 hours of total roasting time to reach 161 degrees.


Remove cooked turkey from oven, leave the thermometer in the breast and cover tightly with tin foil.  Allow the bird to rest at least 20 minutes, or as long as you want.  We left it about 45 minutes and it was still plenty hot and wonderfully juicy.  Make sure the final temperature of the breast is at least 165 degrees, it will continue to cook as it sits.


Carve the bird according to the video on the NY Times website, a butcher from one of NYC’s markets gives a great demonstration.


Put the pan drippings into a gravy separator and pour the dark drippings into your previously prepared apple cider gravy.  Adjust seasonings in gravy if needed.

Let's Talk Turkey

Ok, it's been a busy few days with the holiday come and gone, but I thought I'd pass along an update:
Is it conceited if I say it was the BEST turkey I've ever had?  No offense to the decades of delicious turkeys I've been eating under my grand
mother's, aunt's, and mother's helm...  SO worth the research, hassle, time and effort.  It helped to have two other wonderful cooks providing all of the sides and homemade pies so that I was able to concentrate on the turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries.  

Here are some action shots for your enjoyment:
The bird before cooking, wiped down in orange halves and slathered with herb butter.
The table, set with our china and sterling for the first time.
SOooo juicy and delicious, I've got to say that the brine really does make a difference.  

It felt somewhat momentous, following in the footsteps of generations of women on my mother's side.  All in all, a wonderful day from start to finish.  

I want to move to Vancouver


Take a look at the size of these berries!  Thanks to Grace for the taste of summer in the middle of November.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving

So I've decided our menu for Thanksgiving, at least my portion of it.  We're hosting for the first time EVER at our humble abode, which means that I'm responsible for the bird, stuffing, gravy, bread, and cranberries.

Here's what I've decided after much research and shopping around:

-A frozen Jennie-O turkey, from Jewel, purchased with the $10 coupon in today's junk mail, defrosted slowly in mom's extra fridge. 

-We will be brining this lucky, lucky bird for 12 hours in a luxurious bath of apple cider, kosher salt, honey, brown sugar and white sugar.

-Stuffing will be an old family recipe with apples, onions and fresh herbs, tweaked a bit...don't tell Grandpa but I'm going to leave out the prunes...Baked outside the bird with homemade turkey broth added for flavor.

-Gravy will be made with the aforementioned homemade turkey broth, pan drippings and an apple cider syrup reduction.

-Two types of cranberries, one with traditional cooked fresh berries, apples, sugar, orange and lemon zest and the other, a cranberry "dipping" sauce from Alton Brown.  It sounds totally delectable, with ginger ale and maple syrup.  Unfortunately it calls for an immersion blender...Mom can I borrow yours?  Perhaps a blender will do fine.  Here's the recipe if this sounds good to you:

Cranberry Dipping Sauce from Alton Brown
1 lb. frozen cranberries
2 cups orange juice
3 cups ginger ale
2 TB maple syrup
2 TB light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 orange, zested

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 min or until liquid is reduced by half.  Carefully puree with an immersion blender or upright blender until smooth.  Check for seasoning and serve in individual small ramekins so people can dip their own turkey.

-Parkerhouse Rolls, recipe courtesy of Anna, will be prepared and shaped the day before and baked off Thanksgiving Day 

Sound good?  I'm having so much fun.  You should see all the lists going in the back of my yellow steno book, slightly out of control.


Laughter is the Best Medicine

video

Happy Hump Day.

Mark my words...

Has anyone else received the most recent Williams-Sonoma catalogue?  The Thanksgiving 2007 edition?  

I drooled and slathered my way through it today at lunch (while inhaling a bowl of Trader Joe's Gorgonzola Gnocchi.  A whole bag.  By myself.  Granted, it was a small bag.) and decided that someday, mark my words, I will work there, and then throw the most fabulous parties involving things like truffled mushroom risotto phyllo purses and garlic parmesan white bean croustades, with bacon chestnut bundles on the side.  Ohhh the artisan cheese plates I would create, and would perhaps leave a plate of petit fours placed by the door, the steps leading out lit with their white lantern candles, for guests to grab on their way out. 

Can you imagine me and a 20% discount in this store and catalogue?  I highly doubt our household would break even.  Oh well, a girl can dream.

On a side note, if you are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, as I am, the little "A Well Planned Thanksgiving" book they are giving away for free in the stores was very helpful.  I think I'll try my hand at their parmesan rosemary cracker recipe.  The lists in the back hit a sweet spot in my heart. 

Halloween



Is he humiliated?  Or just adorable?  I can't tell.  I haven't laughed this hard in a long time.

Back Again

Sorry for the lack of posting this week, you probably thought we had all been eaten and digested by ladybugs.  I don't blame you.

Anyways, we haven't succumb to the onslaught, at least not yet, but instead, after tearing our hair out dealing with our five year old Dell, have bought a new computer.  After two traumatic days of not being connected to email or the internet I have now fallen totally, utterly in love with our new iMac.  If it was person, I'd run away with it. 

I named her Eve, get it?  Like Eve...and the apple?  Is that weird?  Nevermind, forget I asked.  

Macs are awesome.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Oops

As it turns out, according to Wikipedia, it is bad luck to kill a ladybug.

Whoops, I'm in trouble.

The 11th Plague

The past 6 days I have been fighting a silent battle, a war really, against the ladybug.

Does anyone else have this problem? Ever since the weather started getting cooler, a host of them continue to swarm around the south side of our house. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out HOW they continue to get inside the house.

At first, I was sentimental:
"Ohhh, a cute little ladybug. My Grandma En loves these, I'll just cup it in my hand, open the screen door and release it back into the wild so it can play with it's ladybug friends."

Yes, I was that stupid. Too chicken to kill them.

Not anymore. Just this afternoon I crunched 19 of them in my bare hand, making their way across our windows, floors and ceilings. They continue to plague our house and home, with their incessant crawling and buzzing and flying and making of that stinky green ladybug puddle on my hand when I go to move it or squish it.

What have we done to deserve this? Shall I expect a plague of frogs and flies next? As far as I know we're not employing any slaves in our household, like the Egyptians from Exodus.

Sigh. I don't know what to do except turn to poetry to help deal with the stress. I believe this short but eloquent poem expresses it well: I shall call it Lady Bug.

Lady Bug, Lady Bug,
Why have you come out to play?
Lady Bug, Lady Bug,
Please go away.

The End.

Apple Cake-A Very Good Thing

Happy November! This month makes me joyful...Thanksgiving, our anniversary (5 years already!), Starbucks egg nog lattes, time for neighbors to put away the six foot hairy black spider that clings to the front of their house...ahh, good memories.

Ahem, anyways. Do you find yourself overwhelmed by a wave of apples that you don't know what to do with? Perhaps you inadvertently bought a bushel at the Farmers Market, not knowing that your fruit drawer was ALREADY full of Honey Crisps and Galas? Not that I can relate, but if this is YOU, you need to try this apple cake. It is the quintessential fall dessert, deliciously moist and warm with cinnamon spice, and with only a 1/2 cup of oil, it's not that bad for you.

Apple Cake

1 & 2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 & 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
5 cups chopped, peeled apples (Golden Delicious, Galas, Fuji, MacIntosh all work well)

In a large bowl beat sugar and eggs. Add oil and vanilla. Mix well. In medium bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add to sugar mixture. Blend well gently, being careful not to overbeat the batter. Stir in apples. Pour into greased 9X13 baking dish. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes. Check for doneness at around 45 minutes.

If the 1 & 2/3 cups of sugar in the cake aren't enough for you, then feel free to FROST the cake with the following:

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 & 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a small bowl. Beat until well blended. Gradually add confectioners sugar until mixture reaches spreading consistency.

This cake is a great company dessert served unfrosted with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ahhh

I just woke up from a two hour Sunday nap and can't get over how much LESS crabby I feel. Amazing what sleep will do for you. Too bad I have to now go play piano for an evening church service with fuzzy nap hair, funky nap breath, and sweaty nap wrinkles on my face. At least the people sit far enough away to probably not notice.

On another note, FOUR more days until the Red Cup arrives! When it does, I declare that Christmas music may be played to full effect. I can already taste that egg nog latte.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Guess where we were last night

He may be 58 years old and slightly jowly, but Bruce is still The Boss. Hilarious to look around the United Center and see a multitude of balding, moderately overweight men and their nipped and tucked wives jumping, dancing and rocking out with all their might.

Scott and I lucked out with two free box tickets from a friend, what a way to spend a rainy Monday night.

video

Monday, October 22, 2007

Coziness is...

-a fire in the fireplace and a mug of spiced apple cider in your hand

-flannel sheets and down comforters back on the beds

-Ugg slippers

-sleeping in on a chilly grey morning, all zipped up in your sleep sack

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Is it wrong...

1) That I am listening to Christmas music already?

2) That the heavy gray clouds and blustery wind made me happy yesterday? Who wants 80 degree sunny days in October? Not me.

3) That I've already made my grocery list for Thanksgiving? This scares me...it's our first year to host a big holiday and the pressure is beginning to mount. Do I get a free range bird? Fresh or Frozen? Do I brine or just go Butterball? Will we be able reproduce the old family stuffing recipe? The questions are endless.

4) That ever since I received a few Starbucks cards for my birthday I can't stop going four times a week for a $4.37 white mocha...one of the worst drinks for you but it TASTES ohhhhhhhhh so good. Especially with a little whip cream. It's supposed to be my "special occasion" drink but somehow has become a more regular part of my life. That needs to change and soon.

5) That our house has blown through eight pounds of butter (thank goodness for Costco!) in the last month? Hmmm, two recipes of Anna's Parkerhouse rolls, apricot cream cheese bread, snickerdoodles, and I can't even remember what else. My arteries feel hard.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hmmm

You know you've had too much dental work when you start having dreams involving your dentist, his hygienist and the two ladies who work behind the desk.

I just woke up from the most vivid dream...won't bore you with the details but suffice to say it involved large crowds of people following him around the office, (like Grey's Anatomy) my teeth falling out, and an organ. Yes, like a pipe organ.

Don't ask.

The first thing I did upon waking up this morning was run my tongue along the front of my mouth to make sure all those puppies were in place. Phew.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bitter

I am bitter that it is October 8th and I am sitting here, still, STILL wearing shorts and a tank top. It was 88 degrees yesterday with a spongy humidity that made a you want to immediately shower again after walking the dog. Or the baby, whatever.

OCTOBER should not BE like THIS. It should be nippy, chilly, crisp, cool, and FALL-LIKE.

Fall is my favorite season of the year and I feel like I'm being gypped.

I want a do-over.

We're better now

Thanks for asking. No more mindnumbingly poopy diapers or sour baby throw up all over the house. It only took us two and a half weeks to get entirely over that nasty bug.

Unfortunately, I didn't know that buddy was still contagious...until AFTER he went to the nursery at our church in the city. The next morning, my friend the ER doc called and asked in a funny tone of voice what Sam's symptoms were.

Her 6 month old started throwing up Monday morning. It was little Jude's first ever week in nursery. Doh. So SO sorry Rachel. And Katie. And anyone else we passed this along to...just look at the bright side, we're building up their immune systems, right?

Right? right? Ehhh.

Lucky Me



...To have a mom who still throws me a birthday party. Look at that gorgeous homemade chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. It was a special evening with my precious family, what a great way to ring in a new decade.

I'm 30 now. It's weird, when I was 17 I could not fathom being this old. OLD. This was such an unimaginable age to my teenage brain, and now, here we are.

I still feel like I'm 17 inside though. Will that ever change?

Monday, October 01, 2007

8:09 am

By 8:09 am this morning I had already changed four poopy diapers. Yep, each time involving an outfit change, full wipedown, air dry and then Desitin all over.

Four.

And the little guy gets up about 7:00 am too, so that's like changing a stinky diaper every 17.25 minutes.

But then I look into this little face and realize there's nothing more important that I should be doing with my life right now. It is a privilege to be home with him and to be the one who changes him when he needs it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

sick

Now I understand what they meant in our parenting classes by "projectile vomit."

Poor Baby Sam. It's been a rough week or so, as we've fought a nasty stomach flu that seems to be circulating around. He started throwing up his meals three feet or so across the room Saturday night, then, amazingly for a 15 lb. body, proceeded to create the most rancid smelling blow outs the consistency of wet cement....up to his neck. I should have just taken the diaper off, for all the good IT did. Let's just say I've learned to take apart the carseat down to the styrofoam, wash it all, AND put it back together again. Not bad for a college degree.

It's been bleak survival mode in our house, I cannot even tell you how many loads of laundry I've done, or about my passionate love affair with OxyClean. Sam would need an entirely new wardrobe if it weren't for it's stain fighting powers. Sigh.

Then on Monday night, I got it. And wanted to die. Couldn't even carry the baby up the stairs and didn't know how I'd make it through that day.

But we survived and are picking up the pieces at our house.

Scott is renting a carpet steamer tonight to clean all the upstairs carpeting. Yup, it was THAT bad.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

An Oreo Sandwich

This is the last video of the baby for a while, I promise. My grandparents get a kick out of watching them, plus the file is too big to email. So the rest of you just have to suffer through them. Happy Thursday.

video

Sam's First Meal

video

And so it's begun, the adventure into the world of rice cereal, sweet potatoes, bite sized finger foods and stinky diapers. Sam took to it like a pro, but seemed more interested in eating his bib at moments then what was on the spoon. I apologize again for the high pitched baby-talk babbling, I forget how little I like hearing my voice on recordings. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The End Result



What you see here is the end result of my friend's long labors. In order, starting at the top center and going clockwise: a shortbread scone with cranberry orange marmalade; a homemade breakfast bar with cherries; dark chocolate cupcake with bittersweet frosting; pumpkin cupcake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting; a pineapple carrot cake cupcake with maple cream cheese frosting and in the middle, a decadent coconut cupcake with almond cream cheese frosting.

Each and every bite was amazing, even 2 days after they had been made. Way to go A!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Cupcake Tasting


It's happening. One of my very best friends is pursuing her dream to become a professional in the restaurant world.

I got an exclusive invitation the other night...to a cupcake tasting party, a CHOCOLATE cupcake tasting party, to be exact. Oh the joys of that evening, the succulent, moist cakes and creamy frostings we tried and tested! I don't know how this amazing mother of three has the energy to pull together 9 different types of cupcakes and frostings at 8:30pm on a weeknight, but she bakes like a woman inspired.


Keep reading for more details, my buddy A is on the brink of something wonderful and it was fun to be present as history was being made.

I would have paid good money for this dessert here... like at least $10. So delicious.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

One of my first attempts at a home movie

video

Sam decides to finally laugh on camera.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fall Menu Ideas for our House

1) White Cheddar Potato Corn Chowder
Crunchy French Baguette with butter

2) Mexican Chicken Soup
Jalapeno Cornbread
Pineapple Margaritas
Chocolate Orange Fondue
(Who wants to come over to dinner for this menu?
We need company for this meal. :)

3) Beef Bourguignon
Lemon Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan
Fox and Obel Bread with butter
Peanut Butter Pie with Oreo Cookie Crust or
Lemon Cheesecake...I haven't decided yet.

4) Grilled Hanger Steak with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Steamed Broccoli with Lemon

5) Apricot and Cheddar Chicken Melt
Apple Celery Salad

6) Smooth Butternut Squash Soup
Buttered Cinnamon Sugar Croutons

7) Grilled Filet Mignon
Smashed Potatoes
Sweet and Sticky Roasted Green Beans

Monday, September 03, 2007

We're all ready for winter...




...here at our house....

...even if the snowsuit is a little big.

Done

I am done.

Done watering plants and the lawn.
Done weeding the yard.
Done dead-heading the geraniums.
Done with tank tops and shorts.
Done with flip flops. (I know!)
Done with spider webs EVERYWHERE.
Done with mosquito and spider bites.
Done sweating and feeling overheated.

Bring it ON-- jeans and fleeces, down comforters, beef bourguignon, fires in the fireplace, frosted window panes, pumpkins everywhere, feeling chilly while out for an evening walk, apple crisp, corn stalks, homemade hot chocolate and spiced cider, cozy socks, slippers and flannel jammies.

I'm ready.

Friday, August 31, 2007

nosh

In a small nook of a converted warehouse, off a parking lot in downtown Geneva, lies Nosh, a modern and cozy spot to eat brunch or a lovely lunch. There's a covered area for outdoor seating, and the menu leaves your mouth watering...here are some highlights:

Nosh's French Toast-challah bread soaked in a vanilla-orange zest infused batter, served with a puddle of lemon creme anglaise sauce

Huntington Beach Turkey Club-sliced roast turkey, bacon, melted cheddar, cucumber, tomato and avocado aioli on ciabatta


Mango BBQ Chicken Flat Bread-chopped chicken and bacon over a mango bbq sauce topped pita with cheddar cheese and shaved red onion

Banana's Foster Pancakes-three pancakes topped with sauteed bananas, candied pecans, dried cherries and caramel sauce

Hot Chocolate French Toast-chocolate-chunk chocolate bread stuffed with marshmallow fluff, served with chocolate ganache, topped with whipped cream and chocolate chips (bonus points if you can fit the word "chocolate" into this item two more times)



With a host of freshly squeezed juices and creative lemonades (black current or mango), Intelligentsia coffee and Mighty Leaf iced tea, there's really no need to eat anywhere else, ever.

Just kidding. The only downer to this place are the prices, pretty much everything on the menu is $8.99 and the portions aren't huge. In their defense, they do offer "tasting" portions of the breakfast items for $4.50 or so, but again, the portions aren't very large so consider it to be a true "taste" size.

My friend and I split the Nosh french toast, Mango Chicken BBQ pizza and each had the mango lemonade. The french toast was utterly delicious, mainly due to the lemon "frosting" that was so brightly tangy and refreshing that I wish they would bottle it. The flatbread pizza was just ok, we both liked the flavor but voted that it was too dry and needed more bbq sauce.




And for dessert....a tasting portion of the hot chocolate french toast. Oh baby. This was sinfully rich and, I can't believe I'm saying this, almost TOO much. Can't recommend it as a breakfast item, but it was a creative dessert. Don't think I'd get it again though.


Overall, a delightful spot that I'll be glad to visit again when I'm in the mood for a special treat. They serve breakfast all day and are open Monday-Thursday 7:30 am-2:30 pm; Friday-Sunday 7:30 am-3:30 pm.
My fellow food critics, Sam and K :)









nosh
211 James Street
Geneva, IL 60134
630.845.1570

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mmmm.

As a recent new mom, I find myself dragging in the afternoons sometimes, hankering for a little caffeine and sugar to help me through the remainder of the day. Can anyone else relate?


At $4 a pop, my favorite Starbucks foofy drink (currently a grande, non-fat, no water Chai Latte, got to stay seasonal, folks!) is not a daily or even tri-weekly option.


Meet my new afternoon friend, named Godiva.

I can highly recommend this delicious chocolate coffee drink, SO much better then the bottled Starbucks Frappichinos. Milk Chocolate, not shown here, is my favorite flavor...but they are all great. And addictive. Be warned.

$1.50 a piece at the Ultra Foods by Target in Wheaton, not bad.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Worth the trip






Take Roosevelt Rd (Rt 38) west FOREVER until you run into Rt 47. Make a left and head south for 2 miles and now you're in Elburn, the little known suburb which is also home to one of our state's hidden jewels: Ream's Elburn Meat Market.


Best known for their award-winning, house made sausages (Everything from cheddar stuffed beef hot dogs to knockwurst to amazing brats), the fabulous steaks, succulent pork and stuffed chicken breasts that await you there are at prices lower then Whole Foods and of superior quality.
A few weeks ago I loaded up a cooler with porterhouse steaks, rib eyes and filet's for S's birthday weekend up at the lakehouse. The general opinion was that these were the best steaks anyone had ever had...a pretty big complement when you think about the places we've each eaten steak at: Gibson's, the Chophouse, Joe's, and even Morton's. Of course the way they were seasoned and grilled had much to do with it, if only I could replicate my two uncle's grill secrets.


Here was our method:

An hour before grilling/searing, pull steaks out to sit until they are room temperature. Sprinkle liberally with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Slice up a garlic clove width-wise into thin pieces. Take a small paring knife and cut small holes into the thicker cuts of meat, insert garlic pieces.


Grill over medium hot flame, flipping every five minutes until the steak reaches your desired doneness. A charcoal fire is far superior to gas as far as taste goes, and throw in some hickory chips if you have them.


Allow the steaks to rest, covered in tin foil, for about 10 minutes after removing them from the grill.


Fill up the gas tank and bring a cooler so you can stop at the Premium Outlets off Farnsworth and I-88 on your way home. :) Life is good.

The Wonders of Basil

It's that time of year again, time to break out the Cuisinart, olive oil and parmesan and get cranking!

Time to make and freeze multiple batches of PESTO! It's such a delight in mid-January to reach into the freezer and grab a bag of this emerald jewel to marinate chicken breasts in, put over pasta or just smear on toasted bread. Here's one of my favorite recipes:

Pesto alla Genovese
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon minced garlic (or you can just throw the whole cloves in)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I like Olio Santo for this recipe, or use a good Italian one)
the juice of half a lemon, more to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, salt, and pepper and process for a few seconds until the basil is chopped. Add the cheese, pine nuts, and garlic and, while the processor is running, add the oil in a thin, steady stream until a mostly smooth sauce is formed. Transfer pesto to a bowl and set aside. (Note: Pesto may be made 1 day in advance and kept, refrigerated, in an airtight container, until ready to use. If making in advance, be sure to cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent the pesto from darkening. Pesto may also be frozen in the same manner in small quantities for use at a later date.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Priceless


The moment of discovering that, you, in fact, have hands.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Last One


I can hardly describe the utter delight that this year's Red Haven peaches have been. Sticky sweet, juice running down my chin, the pure taste of summer, bite by bite.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Highlights from the Family Vacation




1) Yes folks, that IS in fact, a bat. A nasty, furry, wriggly, clawed, bat. One afternoon a family of them decided to come visit the back of our borrowed house. They hung from the screen door, flew so low around our heads the girls screamed out of fear for our hair, landed on the umbrella, and crawled all over it like the ugliest flying gerbils you've ever seen. Ask me how I sat still in a chair underneath them to get this picture, just ask me.

2) Eating the first sno-cone I've had in years by the light of the setting sun one night, it tasted SO good. Almost as fun as watching my niece polish off the rest of it. Too cute.




3) Watching Baby S interacting with his eight cousins who love him so much!


4) Eating salt water taffy until my teeth ached: key lime pie, carmel apple, blackberry, chocolate mint, marshmallow and more.


5) Finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow's.


6) Getting to buy a panini maker with my share of the vacation "fun" money. S played golf twice with his share. Grilled cheese here I come!


7) Wearing jeans in late July because it was going to be 52 degrees that night. I love fall and can't wait for cooler weather!

8) Baby S's first family vacation, he did great.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Irony


Today was our weekly coffee date at Starbucks.


I had been looking forward to this time with S all week, sitting down across the table with him, breathing in the aroma from my now $4.25 decaf, grande, non-fat Carmel macciato and fighting over halves of their delicious old fashioned donut. We've been doing this for a couple years now, usually Thursday mornings are our special day. We'd show up when they opened, at 5:20 am back when I was commuting into the city, and sit there until the sun came up. Nowadays, I'll wait until Baby S wakes up and pray that he can contain himself while we sip our coffee.


Anyways, this morning I fed the baby, clothed the baby, wiped curdled spit up from off: myself, the bedspread, the changing pad, Baby S's outfit #1, Baby S's outfit #2, and then at last we were on our way. I decided to walk over because it was a beautiful morning, with the hope that I'd pre-burn off some donut calories.


We finally arrive at the local Starbucks, S comes walking up at long last and says to me, "Did you bring money?"


Hmm. Did I bring money. NO, I did NOT bring money, I'm married to a BANKER who wears a suit every day and works at the money tree where money comes from. It's not my job to think about those things, right? I worry about wiping spit up off of various surfaces. As it turns out, his wallet was back at the house.


Sigh. He shuffled his shiny banker-shoes back to the bank and returned with a $20 bill. That's my buddy.


Monday, July 23, 2007

The French Market

You MUST come if you've never been.

Downtown Wheaton, Saturday's from 8:00 am-2:00 pm, just south of the train tracks on Main Street. People come from all over to partake of the Great Harvest Breads, to smell Ari's beautiful flowers, to buy jewlery and knock off purses, and my personal favorite, Suzette's Creperie stand. They have lemon blueberry bread pudding, croque monsieur sandwiches, hot and fresh pomme frites with habenero lime dipping sauce and every kind of freshly made crepe.

The beauty of the summer fruits and vegetables overwhelmed me this weekend, it's impossible NOT to be inspired by the cherries, lusciously ripe peaches and sweet corn from just down the road.

Make sure you go early enough to buy one of Hahn's Bakery's double fist-sized, mixed berry scones. They're gone by 9:30 am. Really.