Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fifty People, One Question: Whats Your Favorite Memory?

As if I need another item on my to-do list (I do)....write down some of my favorite memories. Perfect timing as I head home to Illinois for some quality family time. Maybe we should all periodically ask ourselves -- does this (activity of which I am about to partake) have favorite-memory-making potential? If not, perhaps a re-evaluation is in order. Enjoy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Generosity Experiment

Go forth and be generous.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Telling Stories

I love TED talks for probably the same reason as most TED followers: story telling will never get old. People have been telling stories since the beginning of time - gathered around a fire, sharing stories with each other (a college professor told us that's why we're always drawn to the TV - we're hard-wired to its glow and its stories). This story is about how a white South African vineyard owner honored the history of the black South African workers on his farm and arranged for shared ownership of the vineyard.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Have a Nice Day

This is why New York City is awesome...pretty sure this would not work in DC:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Tune for Tuesday: Rave On Buddy Holly

The hubs put Rave On Buddy Holly on my ipod, and after a few weeks, I finally got around to listening to it. And I am loving the s*$% out of it.  The Florence and the Machine track is, by far, my favorite -- thanks to Mary for opening my eyes to how awesome she is.  Enjoy...

Not Fade Away | Florence + The Machine from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

Friday, June 24, 2011

TGIFF: Words to Live By

Busy week but I still plan to do a recap of The Epic Surprise Party and maybe a few garden updates, recipes, and photos from my quick work trip to Maine. 

Also, I've recently joined Pinterest which is an (addictive) online space filled to the brim with photographic or design-related visual inspiration. I'm still trying to figure out how it works, but for now I'll just share a few that spoke to me.

And I will leave you with....

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Weekend, Father's Day

Happy weekend to all, and happy father's day to those who hold the "Father" title!  I'm starting my weekend a day early. We're fortunate to be hosting my parents this weekend (its amazing -- they take out our dog, they clean up after meals, and they always bring lotion and other random items that you didn't realize you needed).  The weekend agenda is open but will involve the obligatory margaritas at Lauriol Plaza, the U.S. Open (brother, father), and hopefully a Drag Queen Brunch for sister, mom and me.  Not a bad weekend.

I stumbled across this photo via Pinterest via Apartment Therapy via some other site, and it brightened my day which, by that point, had filled to the brim with work stress. The photo reminded me of how, as kids, we used to slide down our stairs in a plastic laundry basket.  We felt each and every one of those steps, but the exhilaration of the ride was totally worth the bumps. 

So, cheers to fathers, cheers to child-like exhilaration, and cheers to indoor slides, which I now believe should be a staple of every home and workplace.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Birthday Surprises

Happy Flag Day, y'all. It is Tuesday, but I'm bringing back the TGIFF Musical Selection in honor of my sister's birthday.  It's a special song that I think Ali will appreciate - and anyone, really - unless they work at Arbys.  So, happy birthday to one bad b*tch:

I also have a few posts coming up about the Flag Day-inspired, surprise birthday party we threw for Alison this past weekend. It was epic.  See Exhibit A:

Exhibit A

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Leeks, Lemons, Linguine

Much like peanut butter and jelly, champagne and orange juice, Ice-T and Coco -- leeks and lemons are simply a God-given pairing.  They just work. The other day I wanted to make a caramelized leek and lemony ricotta flatbread, and I had all the ingredients except for ricotta and pizza dough (so I guess thats more like half the ingredients).  But I was hungry and I did have mascarpone and linguine, so I adapted the concept for a pasta dish.  The end result, as you might expect, was delicious.

Lemony Leek Linguine 

2 leeks
2 juicy lemons
1 container mascarpone cheese
extra virgin olive oil
linguine for 2 people
bread crumbs

Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the leeks, and put the rounds in a bowl of water. Push out all the little rings - the dirt will settle at the bottom.

Drain the leeks. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan, and add the leeks. Saute until browned.

While leeks are browning, cook linguine according to directions on package, but reserve some of the salted cooking water. Since none of that is too hands-on, you can also zest and juice the lemons. Multi-tasking!

Put some of the zest aside to sprinkle on top of the pasta. Combine the remaining zest, lemon juice, salted cooking water (which should be hot), and mascarpone (yeah, all of it. don't think, just do it) - whisk together into a sauce. Once combined, pour the sauce into the pan with the browned leeks - scrape up all the browned bits into the sauce, stirring. Add salt/pepper to taste.

Pour the lemon-leek sauce over the linguine, toss to combine. Separate the linguine into servings, sprinkle with bread crumbs and a little lemon zest. Enjoy.

2011 Garden Status: Strawberry Fields (for a Season)

They were first to the garden party and first to leave. Last year's small plant spread out its runners and took over the entire container garden:

And it gave me lots of beautiful, red strawberries over the past two months.  Is it weird to call them beautiful?   The texture and deep red color of homegrown strawberries are beautiful, I declare.

My strawberries are now abiding in my freezer until I can make a strawberry granita (maybe with basil simple syrup and vodka? maybe?).  I cut back all the new strawberry plants and may try to relocate them for next year.  If anyone's looking to add some strawberries to their garden next year, holler.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Wild Onion Experiment

Earlier this spring, when I was spending hours clearing our overgrown backyard by hand (Daniel's beloved weedwhacker was refusing to weedwhack), I came across these tall weeds that resembled green onions.  

So I decided to take a few inside and do some Googling. Google had the answer to my question (OF COURSE) and much more.  I found this page about wild onions which said: "Wild onion (A. validum or A. canadense) is a bulbous herb of the Amaryllis family and is a close relative of cultivated onion (Allium cepa L.). It has a distinct onion odor. It has slender grass-like leaves and reaches about 2 feet in height when flowers appear in late summer. Leaves are narrow, long, and with parallel edges arising from the small underground bulb."

Bulbous? Check.
Distinct onion odor? Check.
Slender grass-like leaves about 2 feet in height? Check.

Then the site went on to suggest that Chicago derived its name from wild onions: "Indians, mainly Potawatomi, who were the most powerful tribe around the south end of Lake Michigan, hunted, traded furs, and occasionally camped in the area they called "Checagou," evidently referring to the garlic wild onion smell which permeated the air." Some Illinois trivia, brought to you by my backyard.

I verified that these wild onions were edible (though very pungent), and I decided to make a wild onion pesto. First I had to pick all the remaining wild onions I could find - of which there were many:

Then I had to clean them...which took way too long. 

Then came the pesto making.  I chopped up the green onions, and processed them with 1 clove garlic (which was totally unnecessary because those onions had more than enough allium punch themselves), pine nuts, parmesan, olive oil, salt/pepper, and lots and lots of lemon juice to cut the pungency of the wild onions. 

I divided up the pesto into four portions and froze them.  I used one for a pesto pasta salad last month, and it definitely tastes like a "wild" onion pesto. Perhaps I should've used less of the bulb? Either way, it was a fun discovery and (day-long) experimental project. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Sunday You Wish You Spent With Me.

My day today so far:

9:45AM - Wake up
10:30AM - Yoga class
12:30PM - Make granola, sing along to Solomon Burke's greatest hits, fill the house with freshly-baked granola aroma
1:30PM - Vodka infusion time! Fill house with aroma of burnt espresso simple syrup
3:00PM - Bake banana bread, cover up burnt espresso smell with fresh-out-of-the-oven banana bread aroma.
4:00PM - Clean up the sticky, gooey espresso syrup from all over the stovetop.
5:00PM - Read Food&Wine magazine, type blog post, google "How to build breakfast nook bench".

Some things I have NOT done today: clean and work on my school project (which were, of course, my goals for the weekend).  I actually had a To Do list with those two items on it. Instead of completing those tasks and checking them off the list, I simply added 3 new items - Make granola, Infuse vodka, Bake banana bread - to the list and promptly checked them off.  So, 3 out of 5 isn't bad.

Granola (adapted from Candle Cafe cookbook)

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. steel cut oats
1 c. nuts (I used a combo of sliced almonds & unsalted cashews)
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 c. safflower oil
1/3 c. maple syrup
dash of salt
dash of vanilla extract
1/2 c. dried fruit (I use cranberries usually)
1/4 c. shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together all ingredients except the dried fruit/coconut.  Spread evenly onto greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  But - here's the important part - you need to spread around the granola every 5 minutes.  So stay close to the kitchen and keep an eye on the clock or you're gonna have burnt granola instead of perfectly and evenly toasted granola.  Let the granola cool a few minutes, then add the dried fruit and coconut. SO GOOD. And it'll keep in an air-tight container for several weeks.

Espresso Vanilla Bean Liqueur
(from great food blog, The Dinner Files)

3 c. sugar
3/4 c. instant espresso
2 vanilla beans
3 c. vodka (we used triple distilled

Bring sugar & 2 c water to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add espresso powder, reduce heat, simmer, stir to dissolve espresso.  Note: somewhere in between the addition of the espresso powder and the stirring and simmering, I guess I forgot to reduce the heat and KABLAM the stuff bubbled up and over the edges of my pot...so, uh, don't do what I did.  But look how gorgeous it is (evidence of my mess visible to the right):

Once the espresso is dissolved, you want to remove it from heat - transfer it to the glass infusion jar to cool.  While its cooling, use a knife to split the vanilla beans open and scrape out the teeny seeds inside (which look like a black paste). Add the seeds and the pods to the syrup, and then pour in the vodka.  Seal the jar and set it aside for 4-6 weeks - skim out the seeds/pods before serving.

Cinnamon Infused Vodka

I didn't really follow any recipe for this.  I poured a handle of vodka (plus remainder of another bottle of vodka I had) into a glass jar.  And I added lots of cinnamon sticks (about two .75-oz jars' worth). I will let this infuse for about a week, and taste it next weekend.

It is my hope that these two infusions turn out beautifully. I want to bottle the cinnamon vodka and gift it for the holidays (along with a recipe for spiked Mexican Hot Cocoa, which I'll be experimenting with in coming weekends), and we'll keep the espresso-vanilla liqueur for our own holiday entertaining.

Banana Bread (my mom's recipe)

1/2 c. butter
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 bananas
1 tbs milk
dash cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter & eggs, add sugar. Combine flour, cinnamon, soda, salt in separate bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones.  In another bowl, mash bananas with milk, and then fold that into the mix. Bake for 1 hr.

Now, I will turn my attention to dinner and schoolwork. But - who am I kidding - once I have a glass of wine and Daniel gets the firepit going, its s'more time not school time!