What’s cookin’, good lookin’?

IMG_0006

Lately, a lot of my weekend time has been spent in the kitchen.  For some, that may seem like a chore and the opposite of how one would want to spend their weekend hours, but for me it is bliss.  Not to mention, on certain weekends I have the most wonderful sous chef/boyfriend/handsome devil who helps with clean up and small tasks AND he works for free!  Ok, he usually requires a kiss or two.  And he gets to eat whatever I am whipping up, but I’ll do almost anything for someone willing to clean dirty dishes for me (and I like some eye candy in the kitchen, for reals guys).

This past weekend it finally felt like Fall outside.  I also accidentally played a Christmas cd in the car and I refuse to apologize for it.  Christmas: it’s coming.  To celebrate the change of season, I made my first real pie.  I say “real” because I have made some crostadas and tarts in the past, but this was my first mandatory pie dish/double crust/cross your fingers it doesn’t turn to a liquidy mess REAL pie.  Guess what?  It looked fancy and it tasted even fancier.  Obviously, I instagrammed it.  I mean, who do you think I am?

IMG_0005

Well, I’ll tell you who I am…a professional pie baker.  Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration and I may be setting myself up for serious failure in all my future pies, but I did something right with this one.  Boyfriendsouschefman had the first slice with me and thought it was the bomb.  It was the first time I’ve used a combination of butter and shortening in my pastry dough and I think that may have been the key to my success.  Additionally, the recipe I used (from Smitten Kitchen) required that I warm a baking sheet in an extremely hot oven prior to baking the pie.  This allowed the bottom crust to bake evenly when I placed it on top of the already hot baking sheet.  Note that the recipe is altered slightly in the bottom review in order to balance the spices better.  I will probably eliminate the lemon zest entirely when I try the recipe again because I’d rather taste the cinnamon than the zing from the lemon.

IMG_0001

The resulting pie is buttery, flaky and delicious.  I had some extra dough leftover after trimming the sides, so I rolled it out and cut out cute heart shapes to decorate the top.  Adorbs.  I got some amazing and HUGE honeycrisp apples from the farmer’s market and used those instead of the McIntosh apples called for in the recipe.  Here’s the link to the amazing blog, Smitten Kitchen, and the recipe that I used:

http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2006/11/cinnamon-sigh/

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Little Goat Diner

Sometimes the best brunches are the ones you make at home…and then sometimes they are the ones that require no work at all.  Going out for brunch makes me happy.  In fact, I can’t recall having a terrible brunch experience maybe ever.  I think it’s because brunch chose the best time of day to exist.  The morning.  If you are a morning person, then you already love this.  If you despise the morning and would rather bury yourself under the covers and pretend you are invisible, you at least get rewarded with delicious and hearty food to start your day with.  Everyone wins.

This past summer, my main girl squeeze and I went to the Little Goat Diner in Chicago.  I have been trying to get a reservation at the Girl and the Goat for maybe one hundred years, so this was an excellent compromise since it is owned by the same wonderful chef.  The food certainly did not disappoint and I am dying to go back to try their lunch and dinner options.

IMG_1121

This is Britton.  She was hiding behind her menu because we could not decide between a million yummy things to eat.

IMG_1123

It didn’t take very long to realize we eat least needed a cinnamon roll in front of us to help us decide.

IMG_1125

Ooey AND gooey.

IMG_1131

We settled on shrimp and grits.  So amazing.

IMG_1130

These were the Elvis waffles?  All I know is that there was bacon AND peanut butter AND syrup AND bananas on my waffles.  The world is a good place.

I HIGHLY recommend checking out this restaurant.  We went on a Wednesday morning and were seated immediately.  Once is got closer to lunch time it was packed.  I would imagine that it is packed on a weekend, but I wouldn’t mind waiting for this place.

Little Goat Diner

820 W Randolph St. Chicago, IL

Grateful

A lot of things have come together in my life recently.  Although I worked hard for some of it, as in all situations, there is some inexplicably good karma that helped me too.  I credit a higher power with this and give sincere thanks to who/whatever was in charge.

Something that has been apparent to me over the last few weeks is that much of what I am grateful for has been here the whole time.  It just became overshadowed by worry and frustration.  Realizing this has provided me with some much needed clarity.  We always have something to be grateful for.  During our darkest moments, there is always something.  Maybe it’s a warm bed to come home to after a long day.  Maybe it’s just knowing that your mom is a phone call away ready to listen.  Maybe it’s a large glass of wine. There is always something.

There is always something.

These things don’t always take away the pain, but they can certainly ease it when it hurts the most.  So, let your best friend come over and watch HGTV and eat chips and laugh and then wake up the next morning and work hard toward your goals.  It’s going to come together.  It may just take a couple hundred bags of sour cream and cheddar ruffles before it does.  Don’t try to pretend you don’t know what I mean.  Those chips are everything.

Also, remember to take time to appreciate those who you lean on when things aren’t the greatest.  Have you ever been a pain in the ass to someone who is doing nothing except trying to cheer you up?  I have been the biggest crabby head plenty of times to people who just wanted what was best for me.  Thank those people and love them.  You can be exhausting and they probably don’t like you in those moments and yet they hear you out and give you a hug anyways.

Just be grateful.  There is always something.

 

 

 

Brunch

I find brunch to be a most magical occasion.  There are an endless amount of possibilities for menus and justifications for serving almost anything for the first meal of the day.  Breakfast burgers? Sure.  Breakfast pizza? Why not?  Pastries and casseroles and cocktails and bacon.  Always bacon.

Brunch is the most glamorous of all the meals.  I believe this wholeheartedly.

Last weekend, I co-hosted a brunch with my boyfriend for some of our dear friends.  Ever since we had decided to arrange this get together, I had been daydreaming and nightdreaming and nightmaring about what I should make.  You see, I’m a bit of a planner.  Combine that quality with my food obsession and you get an explosion of research on food blogs, pinterest, and my sacred collection of cookbooks.  Twas all in good fun.  I finally settled on two savory dishes and two sweet pastries.

Our only requirement of our guests was for them to bring themselves and a cocktail to share.  We were delighted with the selection of beverages that arrived:  Beermosas, mimosas, and a sweet tea cocktail with rum.  YUM!

Below are some pictures from the brunch along with links to the recipes that I used.  I didn’t take any pictures of people because my friends are ugly and I am embarrassed of them.

ACTUALLY– I am just a fool and the thought to take pictures of the BEAUTIFUL, amazing people in my life whom I love dearly, never crossed my mind.  I’m the worst.  I assure you that people attended and that fun was had.  (Although my boyfriend and I are not above making a feast of this nature just for the two of us)

afterlight-2

afterlight-3

afterlight-5

afterlight-6

Recipes from top to bottom:

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Quiche (I added bacon to the recipe linked here)- http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/caramelized_onion_quiche/

Chorizo and Roasted Red Pepper Strata (I switched up the flavors, but used this recipe for inspiration)-http://www.marthastewart.com/339874/strata-with-sausage-and-sun-dried-tomato

Pains au chocolathttp://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Petits-Pains-au-Chocolat-109374

Lemon Poppyseed Shortcakes- http://www.takeamegabite.com/lemon-poppy-seed-shortcakes/

I built something…

photo-16

So, this one time, I thought it would be cool to mention how much I’ve always wanted to build something.  I made the mistake of saying this out loud to my boyfriend who actually DOES build things.  Cut to him finding projects and various tutorials for us to make over the summer.  Um… I can barely figure out what a Philip’s head screwdriver is in a crisis.  Needless to say, I was nervous.  Anyways, we settled on a really reasonable first project:

Building a bed.

You know, those things you sleep on every night and rely on for rest and comfort and is a necessity to your life.

Yeah, we built one.  With our hands.

photo-14

Day one:  We woke up early and went to Home Depot.  Now, I’m not too much of a girly girl to claim that I’ve never been inside a Home Depot before, but apparently I never noticed the THOUSANDS of square feet devoted to different types of wood that you can purchase to build things.  In case you didn’t know:  THEY HAVE WOOD THERE FOR BUILDING STUFF.  Color me surprised.

photo-12 photo-13

This is me using a tool.

photo-11 photo-4

After we stained the frame, I got really jazzed about this whole “building” thing.  It finally started to look like something awesome.

IMG_1076

This is the handsome fool who got us into this mess.

IMG_1079 IMG_1080

IMG_0027

LOOK! It is a real bed!  We slept on it and nothing collapsed!! To be completely honest, I am extremely proud of this project.  It was incredibly rewarding to start with some 4x4s and end up with a beautiful piece of furniture that we will use for years to come.  Special shout out to my man’s papa for allowing us to use his shop and tools.  We would not have been able to complete this without your help!!  A final shout out to my main squeeze for pushing us to do this.  Although your main motivation was probably to hear me squeal while using a staple gun, I thank you and love you for it.

Parson’s Chicken and Fish

photo-25

A few weeks ago, my best gals and I went to try a new restaurant in the city (Chicago).  Parson’s Chicken and  Fish is its name…can you guess what their specialty is?  You did it!  Fried Chicken and fried fish.  Now, I must warn you that it is certainly a hipster hotspot at the moment and guarantees a long wait to get in.  To put things in perspective, we were told it would be a 45 minute wait to be seated and ended up waiting over an hour for a table and an additional hour before we saw any food.  Needless to say, we were crabby, hungry, and more than a little bit drunk before any greasy goodness touched our lips.  Not the best way to start a meal at a new place.  Luckily, the food rocked our socks off and (along with the booze consumption) cleared up any ill feelings we were having at that point.  Here’s what we ate:

photo-30

Baccala Cakes (Salted cod) and Shaved vegetable salad

photo-28

Their famous fried chicken with Texas Toast and coleslaw

photo-29

Funnel cake with sweet brittle topping and vanilla cream

Parson’s is located at 2952 W. Armitage Chicago, IL 60647.

photo-24

Crab Cakes

photo-7

Ah, the crab cake.  Arguably my favorite kind of cake.  You know, until last week, I considered the crab cake to be a “restaurant food”.  Restaurant food: The kind of thing you always see on a menu and always order, but never considered making at home.  Well, I just opened Pandora’s Box because I made them at home and they were easy and freakin’ delicious.  They were not, however, easy on my pocketbook.  I guess I need to live on the East Coast and be a seafood glutton.

photo-6

My boyfriend and I justified our purchase by telling ourselves the following:

We are hungry.  Hungry for crab cakes.  Also, we deserve these crab cakes.  Why? Well, quite frankly we were really good the last time we went to JCrew and resisted buying a lot of things that looked freakin’ amazing on us.

If that’s not a reason, I don’t know what is.  YOU also deserve these crab cakes.  You would love them.  I just know it.  These babies are also versatile as they are equally as delicious in between a whole wheat bun as they are on their own.  I went the low carb route (this is literally SHOCKING news) and ate mine on its own with a side salad.  Now that I’ve provided you with enough temptation… go make these bad boys.  I promise you’ll take them out of the “restaurant food” category and put them straight into your regular meal rotation.

Here’s the recipe I used:

http://www.projectfoodie.com/spotlights/cookbooks/real-cajun.html

Enjoy!

photo-5

Vanilla Panna Cotta

photo-1

Sometimes you need to spend the entire day in the kitchen with your best friend.  A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of doing just that with my friend Amy.  We both have an appreciation (and appetite!) for food and had a blast listening to music and preparing a nice dinner.  For dessert, she requested panna cotta.  Neither one of us had ever made it before, but the minimal ingredients and light, delicious final product sounded perfect to me.  We used this recipe from Michael Symon:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-symon/vanilla-panna-cotta-recipe/index.html

The resulting dessert was light and fresh with a hint of sweetness.  The addition of Greek yogurt added a slight tang to the panna cotta that I really enjoyed.  This dessert is sure to be an amazing ending to any summer meal.

Choose a Positive Thought

photo-18

I came across this phrase painted on a building in Milwaukee a week ago.  Although my initial reaction was, “Oh, how cute,” it quickly was replaced with, “Oh, how important!”

So often we get in a rut where it’s easy to feel negatively about ones job, friendships, relationships, finances, and other major life components.  I do it.  all. the. time.  Pretty soon, these negative thoughts become the norm.  Our minds become clouded with worries and concerns frequently over things that aren’t in our control.  How awesome would it be if we made the choice to think positively about the blessings in  our life?

The powerful word on that building is CHOICE.  We might not be able to change our circumstances, or even make big changes overnight.  We CAN choose to replace the negativity with positivity, hope, and gratitude towards what we do have.  Because it’s a lot.  Let’s start today.

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

photo

Tomatoes. Ya know what I mean?  I still consider them a vegetable even though I’ve been taught otherwise.  I think it’s because I always pair them with savory flavors.  It doesn’t matter though, because I will take them any way I can get them.  My dad has an awesome garden that he tends to each summer which usually (depending on the year) produces an excellent crop of tomatoes for us to use in different ways.  My favorite way to eat tomatoes is in a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad.  Is this revolutionary?  Did your head just explode?  Probably not.  I still stand by this recipe because it is one of the most satisfying summer meals and so gosh darn EASY.

photo-3

Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Salad

Serves 2-3

3 Heirloom tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup basil
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Slice tomatoes and arrange on a plate.  Tear mozzarella into bite sized pieces and put desired amount on each plate (try not to eat all of the mozzarella before it reaches the plate).  Gently tear basil into bite sized pieces and sprinkle over tomatoes and mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.