Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homemade Amaretto

I love the idea of giving something homemade and edible for Christmas gifts. Last year I made white chocolate with crushed candy canes that turned out delicious and were really simple to make. If I decide to up the ante this year, this recipe for Homemade Amaretto sounds incredible! I am picturing some amazing hot chocolate right now...

Monday, November 1, 2010


pimp myspace

I was looking through old photos and found these of Kyle dancing in his apartment in Columbus. :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stuffed Swiss Chard with Simple Tomato Sauce

I had the day off yesterday and was able to borrow a car to make a huge grocery run. This recipe came from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics. Her recipes are all great, however this turned out to be pretty labor intensive/time consuming. The recipes don't have preparation times and if you make homemade bread crumbs, fresh tomato sauce, steam rice, toast the nuts, and all that, it ends up taking a while. So anyway, this was a good thing to work on in little steps throughout the day while doing other things. I slightly changed the recipes proportions because the book says it serves 4 to 6 and I didn't want to make that much. Also, if you wanted to "veganize" the recipe, you could sub out the cheese for soft tofu.

Stuffed Swiss Chard
3 large bunches Swiss chard
Coarse salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small leeks, white and pale-green parts only, trimmed, finely chopped, and well washed
6 medium scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (I used coarsely chopped almonds)
3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice
1 3/4 cups finely grated aged provolone (I used parmigiano-reggiano)
6 tablespoons fresh ricotta cheese
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Fresh Tomato Sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Choose 12 large chard leaves (each should be about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide); set aside. Coarsely chop enough of the remaining leaves to make 4 1/2 cups. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add and pinch of salt. Blanch whole leaves, 1 at a time, until tender and bright green, about 5 seconds. Lay flat on a baking sheet lined with paper towel to drain. (I used several baking sheets because I wanted the leaves to and not continue cooking in a big pile)

2. Melt butter with oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, scallions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add chopped chard, and cook, stirring occasionally, until chard has wilted, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a medium bowl, add nuts; let stand until cool. Stir in rice, cheeses, and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Place a blanched leaf facedown on a work surface. Cut out the thickest part o the stalk, about one-third of the way up leaf; slightly overlap the cut ends. Spoon 1 cup (I didn't measure this but probably used closer to 1/2- 3/4 cup filling) filling about one-third of the way up leaf. Fold bottom of leaf over completely, creating a 3 x 2 inch bundle (Like a little burrito!). Repeat with remaining leaves and filling.

4. Transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish (I lightly oiled mine). Tent with foil. Bake until heated through, about 15 minutes. Spoon warm sauce onto plates (Bonus for using warm plates!); serve 2-3 bundles per plate.

Fresh Tomato Sauce
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced (I used 2)
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used a 28 oz can of plum tomatoes)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes (and the juices from the can), salt, and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft, about 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Pass the the medium disk of a food mill (I just put about 3/4 of the sauce in the blender). The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat before serving.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lula Cafe

My favorite restaurant in Chicago is transforming for Halloween. Kuma's Corner meets indie-rock. Such a funny concept, but I know it will be delicious!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Renegade Craft Fair

Free photobooth!

Bought some beautiful hand-dyed napkins from Love, Daniella.

My favorite necklace broke a couple weeks ago and I was
able to track down Laura Lombardi to fix it for me.

Here are some other artists work that was beautiful and whose names I want to remember...
Bladon Conner : sustainably designed furniture
Verameat : jewelry that is simultaneously edgy and hilarious
Winter Session : classic and well crafted bags, aprons, etc. I really wanted a buy a bag, so perfect!
Shapes & Colors : hand printed textiles. If I wasn't under a "no more pillows" ban (boyfriends!) I could have definitely picked up some of these!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

'90s Wendy's Training Videos

I can't seem to get these videos to fit in the window right, but they are worth watching.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Snack Revolution!

Oven Roasted Chickpeas! They are so good! I have come across this idea at Apartment Therapy several times and hadn't tried it until now. Kyle has been at work really late for several nights and I was trying to think of a treat for him to come home to. He likes savory over sweet, so I think he will love these. The only problem is I can't stop eating them. Hopefully, he will make it home before I devour all of these crunchy little beans.

picture via Apartment Therapy

I rinsed canned chickpeas, tossed them in olive oil, salt, garlic powder, adobo seasoning, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Because it is so hot outside, I decided to use my toaster oven and it worked out really well. Bake the chickpeas at 400 degrees, stirring frequently, until they are brown and crispy, about 30-40 minutes.

"What Is It About 20-Somethings?"

Virtually everyone I know who falls into the "20-somethings" category feels unsatisfied with where they are currently, especially when it comes to their job. Having recently graduated from college it is hard to figure out how to best use everything I spent 20 years working on. Also, looms the big question: what do I want to be when I grow up? We all want a bigger purpose than pouring someone a cup of coffee. But why can't I just take pride in what I do? I swear I have this dialog internally, with a friend, or co-worker daily.

The New York Times Magazine had this great article a couple weeks ago that addresses a lot of my personal concerns and explains so much about "my generation". Usually writing about our generation are very accusatory, however this article lays out research that simply explains why so many of us feel the way we do. What Is It About 20-Somethings?

"[Jefferey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor, views] the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “emerging adulthood.” Among the cultural changes he points to that have led to “emerging adulthood” are the need for more education to survive in an information-based economy; fewer entry-level jobs even after all that schooling; young people feeling less rush to marry because of the general acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation and birth control; and young women feeling less rush to have babies given their wide range of career options and their access to assisted reproductive technology if they delay pregnancy beyond their most fertile years. "

"Just as adolescence has its particular psychological profile, Arnett says, so does emerging adulthood: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities.” A few of these, especially identity exploration, are part of adolescence too, but they take on new depth and urgency in the 20s. The stakes are higher when people are approaching the age when options tend to close off and lifelong commitments must be made. Arnett calls it "the age 30 deadline.” "

"Does that mean it’s a good thing to let 20-somethings meander — or even to encourage them to meander — before they settle down? That’s the question that plagues so many of their parents. It’s easy to see the advantages to the delay. There is time enough for adulthood and its attendant obligations; maybe if kids take longer to choose their mates and their careers, they’ll make fewer mistakes and live happier lives. But it’s just as easy to see the drawbacks. As the settling-down sputters along for the “emerging adults,” things can get precarious for the rest of us. Parents are helping pay bills they never counted on paying, and social institutions are missing out on young people contributing to productivity and growth. Of course, the recession complicates things, and even if every 20-something were ready to skip the “emerging” moratorium and act like a grown-up, there wouldn’t necessarily be jobs for them all. So we’re caught in a weird moment, unsure whether to allow young people to keep exploring and questioning or to cut them off and tell them just to find something, anything, to put food on the table and get on with their lives."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Santa Barbara, California

A couple weeks ago Kyle and I went to Santa Barbara for my cousin's wedding. After spending several days with my family at the beach and at the wedding we drove north up Highway 1. We stopped in San Luis Obispo, Big Sur, Carmel, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco.

The Santa Barbara Airport is tiny, mostly open-air, and beautiful.

La Super Rica. Delicious and authentic tacos, horchata, tortillas, etc.
The whole place is tiny with a tented teal patio for dining.

Santa Barbara Beach

Downtown Santa Barbara

Family at the Groom's Dinner

Flight of local beer

Farmer's market

Megan and Matt's Wedding

Monday, July 12, 2010

Watermelon Margarita Slices

We had a cookout on our patio for the 4th of July and I knew I wanted to keep it pretty classic with burgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, ruffles and chip dip, and watermelon. Somewhere online I had read about poking a funnel into a watermelon and pouring in vodka. This sounded so incredible. However, I found an ever better recipe via my favorite lady, Martha Stewart. You basically turn a slice of watermelon into a margarita. And they were so good! Totally going to be my new summer party staple. I sort of followed her recipe...I never really measure anything so I guess I just used it as a guide line. Also, I would make the simple syrup the day before and let it cool, then mix the liquor with it later. It doesn't make sense to heat it all up on the stove like the recipe calls for. Put the slices in gallon sized plastic freezer bags while everything is marinating. After you take the fruit out, pour off all the delicious, boozy juice to drink later. Mmm...this will probably revolutionize your summer.

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's been awhile

I totally abandoned my Wednesday baking ritual as you could probably tell. I still have been cooking and baking but I took a little break from the internet. It is fun to photo-document what I make and put the recipes online because if anything, I know where to look everything up in the future. So, hopefully, I can get in the swing of updating this thing again. Also, I have been extremely busy with work and now that it is summer, I have a lot of pool time I have to get in!

My birthday was a couple months ago and I got some great cookbooks from my mom...

Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

The great thing about vegan cookie dough is that you can eat as much as you want! Also, I was carrying a plate of just baked gingersnaps over to my friend's house for a cookout and the cookies caught the eye of a man out walking with his friends--He said he had to have one and then gave me a dollar. Hah! My first official sale!

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City
I devoured this book. It was amazing. David Lebovitz has a great sense of humor and I love his observations about Paris, it's people, and food. Between chapters are recipes for things like Cinnamon Meringue with Espresso Caramel Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, and Candied Almonds. And, yes, that is one recipe. I love this man.

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

I have to admit I haven't actually made anything from the cookbook yet, but once I do it's going to be great! So many vegetarian cookbooks are just full of side dish recipes for vegetables and this one has really great complete meal recipes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tea Time Cupcakes

One of my favorite things is sipping tea while snacking on some juicy strawberries. Earl grey tea seems to be making it's way into a lot of popular dessert recipes and I wanted to get in on the action. I decided I would make strawberry cupcakes and top them with a creamy earl grey frosting. Surprisingly, it was really hard to find a recipe for strawberry cupcakes. I found a lot of recipes using box cake mix and jello mix, which is kind of gross and not what I was looking for. The other recipes where just vanilla cupcakes with strawberry frosting. After searching around some more, I decided to use a vanilla cupcake recipe and alter it.

Alright, so how did they turn out? Just okay. The cupcakes don't taste like earl grey tea at all. They are very faintly strawberry, not what I had planned. I didn't write this into the recipe because it didn't end up making a difference; I thought if I "juiced" some of the strawberries through a fine mesh sieve, it would make the batter pink and taste more like strawberry. I think I would have had to add a lot of juice to make this actually work and I don't know how that would affect the liquid ratios in the recipe. The cupcakes do taste really good, but just not as flavorful as I wanted them to be. The texture turned out well, the tops are kind of crunchy and the insides are fluffy and moist.

Okay, on to my next "fail": The frosting. I don't really like butter cream. Why did I decide to make it today? I think I was feeling kind of lazy and butter cream seemed to be the answer. My mixer isn't working properly, so the classic 7 Minute frosting was out because I knew my arm would fall off if I tried to whip it to perfection by hand. Anyway, I made the frosting with butter, a little whole milk, powdered sugar, a very small pinch of salt, vanilla, and some pink gel food coloring. It looked awesome, super smooth and creamy. It was kind of too sweet for my taste though. So then I added some earl grey tea and some finely chopped strawberries. I folded them in and something terrible happened. I don't know exactly what though. The frosting kind of...broke. I don't know if it started separating because I over whipped it, or if I should have whipped it more after adding the strawberries, or even if the liquid from the strawberries didn't incorporate. After mixing and tasting and adding and tasting, I feel totally sick. I over did it. And now I have 22 cupcakes and a ton of gross looking butter cream. Ugh.

a nice close up of my gross looking frosting

Tea Time Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup finely diced strawberries
1/2 tablespoon finely ground earl grey tea (I used one teabag)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tin with paper liners.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and tea together in a medium bowl.

3. In a separate, larger bowl, cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Fold in strawberries.

5. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla.

6. To the butter mixture, add about one quarter of the flour mixture and mix well. Add about one quarter of the milk mixture and mix well. Continue alternating the flour mixture and milk mixture, beating after each addition until smooth.

7. Pour the batter into the cupcake tins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched.

8. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cupcakes out of the tins and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I was just checking Design*Sponge and reading a photographer's recipe for sangria. There was a link to his blog and I just saw these pictures of a couple who has been married for 60 years. They are too much. I don't usually get all soft on the internet, but look at how sweet these are! AHH!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vegan Banana Quinoa Muffins

Yesterday I made muffins. This recipe for quinoa muffins looked interesting but a little boring. I added the use of whole wheat flour and made them vegan with a few changes. The muffins came out really moist and dense. The quinoa made them kind of nutty, which is awesome with the banana.

This photo is from the original recipe, with rasins and all purpose flour.
This gives you a good idea of the texture.

image from MSLO

This recipe made a lot of muffins, so after scooping the batter into muffin liners, I froze some of the un-cooked muffins. Every time I make something and tell Kyle it is in the freezer, we both have to laugh a little bit, because I am serious, it is an obsession. It is so easy to bake off a few goodies at a time, they just need a few minutes longer in the oven. Wrap the frozen muffins tightly and bake within a month or two so they don't get freezer burnt.

Also, I made the quinoa the night before, so it was cool when I mixed the ingredients together. This seemed easier and made more sense to me. I made a little extra and made awesome veggie burgers. Instead of making a yogurt sauce, I crumbed some feta into the mixture.

Something about baking vegan has been really fun, like a science experiment. So far, all of my recipe "improvements" have turned out great. It's also nice to know that I can share all of these treats with all my friends no matter what their eating habits.

Sorry, no photos...I was too concentrated on the muffins.

Vegan Banana Quinoa Muffins
makes 18 muffins

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, line muffins tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, pecans, pumpkin pie spice, and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, soy milk, mashed banana, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 5 days.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The bike is back!

Today's to-do list: bake biscuits, do a couple loads of laundry, and get an Illinois driver's license. However, it was supposed to get up to 80 degrees and I realized it would be insane to go sit at the DMV all day. So I took a much needed adventure around Chicago.

After a little bike maintenance (I hadn't ridden since November!) I met Kyle and some of his friends from work for lunch in the West Loop.

Then, I rode to Oz Park, where I sat on a hill in the sun and watched a high school baseball game--the lions won! There is a Lush store near by so I went there and bought some soap that smells exactly like the Sticky Lemon Rolls I just made. After a little bit more wandering in and out of stores, passively looking for a pair of Toms, I started my ride home. The Map Room is really close to my house and for some reason, I hardly ever go in. Riding past, I realized I should treat myself to a beer. I asked the bartender for something citrusy and un-filtered. She poured me the Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse and it was perfect!

I rode 8.6 miles today. It felt awesome. I kind of forgot how obsessed with my bike I am. This morning I was trying to set up my camera on a trash can to take a photo of me and my bike, luckily my landlord was walking by and helped me out; he thought it was pretty funny I wanted to take a picture in the alley.

When I got home, I opened a few more windows in our apartment. Thurston and Lucy couldn't be happier.

In a little while Kyle and I are meeting some friends for dinner at Costa Rican restaurant with a huge patio. Ahh, what a great start to spring.