Warning–H.O.T. (no, not the name of the new weezy song)

Today I had some time on my hands after being incredibly over-served on Friday night.  I had the mental capacity of luggage today.  Samsonite.  So obviously I spent the day wasting time on useless websites (I’m talking to you, passiveagressivenotes.com) and thinking about food.  It seems I couldn’t pass through a cooking blog without reading a recipe for adobo-chipotle-marinade-from-peppers-in-a-can-burn-your-lips chicken.  After the 14th recipe called for the addition of honey, I was sold.  (I’ve been meaning to pick up honey to sooth my overly dry face.  I made a brown sugar, pumpkin and honey face mask and had it on my face for snacking…err….moisturizing while I grilled the chicken).  

In retrospect, I should have listened to my gut and known the marinade was too spicy.  I like to THINK I like a ton of heat, but really I don’t.  It burns my lips.  So while the marinade added a ton of flavor to the meaty chicken, it could have been a bit more balanced.  The honey and garlic added delicious flavor – maybe it would have been better to roast the garlic first?  Next time. 

Here’s a picture of my cooking wine.  I call it cooking wine because you drink it while cooking.  Duh.  Come on – explaining everything is exhausting.  Wine consumed while cooking doesn’t count.  I left it in the freezer for too long and was trying to capture the tiny snowflake like icicles that developed.

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Here’s a picture of the marinade splat on my cooktop that came from a meaty drumstick sliding off during the Transfer Process.  Transfer Process:  the shifting of drumsticks from the marinating dish to the hot grill pan.  The Transfer Process involves scooping a single drumstick onto the one remaining clean fork and trusting it’s slippery self to balance on the 1.5 foot trip from dish to pan.  I chose not to use a reinforcement for drumstick balance because it meant dirtying another utensil and it was slim pickings.  I also chose not to stab the chicken to secure it so that I wouldn’t pierce the meat and loose essential juice.  It’s really almost hard to believe the Transfer Process wasn’t flawless.   

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Anyway, the chicken burns my tongue but it’s good.  Delicious, really.  It helps that I grated lime zest and chopped cilantro into sour cream and used a hand blender to whip it together.  It created an amazing mouth cooler that tasted like it required entirely more effort than it did.

Twist on Cork.

Tonight I decided to pick up a project I’ve been meaning to start for a few days now.  And the term project is pretty liberal considering I had no idea what I was planning to do with my random cork.  I was buying wine the other day and found a four-pack of plain corkboard.  I thought a modern bulletin board would be the perfect addition to a lonely kitchen wall and saw my opening.  I covered two pieces with a neutral contact paper and and bound the pieces of cork together with metal wire for an industrial flair.  I added a few wooden embellishments that I painted with a pewter paint for a little something extra!  I used it to display tickets from my favorite cubs game this year, a thoughtful thank you note and a post card from our recent New Orleans trip.

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Roadtrip Retro!

This past weekend our family packed bags, loaded up the snacks and piled into the car.  It was our granddad’s 80th birthday and a roadtrip was required.  Trekking from Illinois to Ohio, you spend a good deal of time in Indiana.  While we’ll spare your eyes of the outfits at McDonalds (where, I should add, they somehow RUINED an egg mcmuffin.  I mean, think about it.  Have you ever had a bad egg mcmuffin?  They’re one of the few reliable things in my life.  Similar to how you can always rely on a rainy day to ruin a good hairstyle, or an apartment neighbor to cook a curry when you’re hungover, I expect an egg mcmuffin to taste like an egg mcmuffin!  Is that so much to ask?  AND I know it wasn’t a mistake because we EACH ORDERED TWO.  Maybe I shouldn’t have put our gluttony in caps, but honestly.  That’s 8 bad egg mcmuffins.  A decent sample size.  But I digress.) yes, I will spare you the XXL overalls in line for breakfast and raggedy ann dolls hanging from gas station walls (wha??) and move directly to the good parts of the weekend. 

Once we arrived we were so fortunate to spend quality time with our Grammy and Grandad.  We had the expected – and feared – grandfather/grandaughter talk, we had grammy pepper us with questions about boyfriends and we of course, had many good laughs.  On Saturday night, after the grandparents had tuckered themselves out we snuck down to the basement and raided the liquor cabinet.  As non-Bourbon drinkers, I don’t think we were prepared for the treasure trove we found.  The combination of drinks and pool, retro furniture and juke box tunes turned the night quite memorable! 

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Delicious Dill

Sometimes a craving can only be satisfied by the real thing.  And I mean the real. thing.  Momma’s lasagna.  Coffee ice cream.  Dill pickles.   Sunday afternoon I had an urge for the latter – a crunchy delicious dill pickle.  Since I was frankly too embarrassed to go to the neighborhood grocery store and buy a sole jar of pickles, I chose to make my own.  Obviously this was much more cumbersome (and pricy) than simply sucking it up and purchasing a jar, but absolutely worth it in the end.  A few ingredients, a few days worth of patience and a heaping handful of fresh, peppery dill makes this recipe one for the books.

  • Two quarts of water
  • 3 tablespoons of coarse, white, kosher salt
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled but whole.
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 large bunch of dill
  • pickling salt (recipe follows, or can buy premixed)
    • 1 teaspoon of whole, mustard seeds
    • 1 teaspoon of multi-colored peppercorns
    • half teaspoon of crushed red pepper (less or more depending on taste)
    • 1 teaspoon crushed coriander
  • 1 quart of white vinegar
  • 4 large cucumbers chopped into spears (smaller whole cucumbers can be used but will take longer to marinate.  Your choice!)
  • 2 mason jars with airtight lids.

Peel rough outer layers of garlic and chop ends of cloves.  Wash and scrub cucumbers, chop ends off of cucumbers and slice into spears.  If the cucumbers are too long for the height of your jar, chop them in half lengthwise.  Layer dry ingredients in the bottom of the jar: garlic, peppercorns, coriander, bay leaves, mustard seeds, salt and about half of the dill.  Pour 1 quart of water and a half quart of vinegar into the jars.  stack sliced cucumbers tightly in the jar on end.  Pour remaining liquid into the jars until just under full.  Seal jars tightly and shake gently but thoroughly to mix dry ingredients with the liquid.  Store jars in the refrigerator for 3-6 days (the longer they store, the tangier they’ll be).  Enjoy!

The best things…

Maybe it’s the Monday blahs, but I’ve been feeling very homesick tonight.  I’m fortunate that my parents live nearby and that a visit is only an hour away.  Last week I had a random Wednesday evening trip home thanks to a work jaunt that brought me to the neighborhood.    These pictures are from some of my favorite moments at home…

Eggplant napolean with balsamic onion

So I’ve decided that low-carb is the way to go.  The sour patch kids I ate in the car didn’t count – it was an interstate road and everyone knows that candy consumed on a highway doesn’t count as diet .  The BLT I ate this morning on the other hand…

Either way – low to no carb is the way of my future.  Still I doubt I’ll have enough control to do it in a completely healthy manner.  This evening the goal was to replicate the homey warmth of lasagna without the pasta using fresh veggies.  I picked up an eggplant, a zucchini, some fresh tomatoes, a few onions and some fresh cheese.

Sliced thin, I tossed the veggies in olive oil and roasted them in the oven for about 20 minutes.  I made a light, flavorful tomato sauce for a base and slow cooked a red onion with balsamic vinegar for an added layer of flavor.  Spread the tomato sauce and slow cooked balsamic onions on a plate and layer the roasted eggplant and zucchini with fresh mozzarella slices and add fresh basil to taste.  If you’re as cheese obsessed as I am, add a parmesan frico as an added cheesy bonus and enjoy!

 
 

All things tomato…

Though the weather has been gloriously warm this week, autumn has indeed made it’s appearance in Chicago.  Fall has a way of bringing with it a feeling of nostalgia; whether it’s the golden light or the bright color of , I always find myself searching for those good old comfort items.  While summer may be about sushi al fresco, breezy fabrics and shortened hemlines, fall most certainly welcomes soft leather boots, warm sweaters and homemade soups.

Take this autumn classic: creamy tomato basil soup, sadly absent from our childhood as our mother has a rather selective aversion to the tomato.  She viewed tomatoes (much like our first boyfriends) as a fickle foe: acceptable in certain forms, but not others, with confusing overlaps and questionable lapses in consistency.  From a young age she tried to impress upon us the rules of the red fruit: tomatoes were acceptable in all foods deemed “sauce” but not those deemed “ketchup.”  Homemade, chunky spaghetti sauce both smothered spicy italian sausages and sealed unruly cracks in lasagna.  Spaghetti sauce was decidedly better than ketchup, we noted.  Unless, for example, that ketchup was on a hot dog.  Apparently ketchup was acceptable as a hotdog pairing, but it was never good enough for a bratwurst.  Bratwurst was in a category of encased meats too good to be defiled by the tomato.  “Okay,” we nodded, our young impressionable minds forming horribly misguided ideas about tomatoes.  We tried to keep up.  And while ketchup was occasionally relegated to the “sauce” category, it other times found itself sequestered in the “too chunky” category which was decidedly worse….I could go on.  Needless to say, tomato soup with it’s various textures and styles was way to much for our good/bad tomato spectrum – we’ll need to revisit with a 3D version.

While we may not be able to change momma’s mind about tomatoes, I can promise that this recipe will be a hit and is as easy as un..deux…trois! 

Serve with a crusty grilled cheese or crisp apple slices and as always, an oversized glass of wine.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup:

  • 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes – no salt added
  • 29 oz. can of tomato sauce – no salt added
  • 3-4 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 small to medium shallots – minced
  • 1 tsp raw garlic – minced
  • 1 bunch fresh basil – chiffonade – make sure to use a sharp knife or you’ll bruise the leaves
  • From the Pantry – a pinch or to taste
    • butter
    • olive oil
    • fresh ground pepper
    • dried oregano

TO COOK

  1. In a large pot, heat two tablespoons of butter and one teaspoon of olive oil.  Add the shallots and cook until soft.
  2. Add fresh garlic, and cook for no longer than 2 minutes.  Don’t burn the garlic!
  3. Add tomatoes, a pinch of pepper and oregano.
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce to very low heat. 
  5. Allow soup to simmer on low for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently to avoid burning and with the lid on to avoid too much thickening.  If soup becomes thick, add a bit of vegetable stock or water until the consistency returns to your liking.
  6. Depending on cooking time, begin to add basil about halfway through cook-time.  Add the basil bit by bit so it infuses the soup with flavor, but still has that fresh taste.
  7. 3-5 minutes before soup is finished, add the heavy cream slowly, stirring the soup as you pour.  The amount of cream you add is up to you!
  8. Enjoy :)
 
 

Words of Wisdom

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life,

and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you

believe is great work.

And the only way to do great work is to love what you do,”

Steve Jobs told Stanford grads in 2005.

“If you haven’t found it yet,

keep looking.

Don’t settle.

As with all matters of the heart,

you’ll know when you find it.

And, like any great relationship,

it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”