lentil stew with kale and potatoes

Right. So here I am. I have been busy with many things: settling in to my new apartment and roommates, getting my wisdom teeth out, Christmas gift making and travels. Cooking, and taking pictures of what little I do cook, has been smack dab at the bottom of my to-do list.

But the upcoming new year, the self-reflection that goes with it, as well as the incredible gorging I accomplished over Christmas (seriously, I deserve a medal) has made me crave meals made from things that have never seen a box. And so I give you this recipe. It called for spinach, but I used kale in an effort to shove more vitamins into me. Also, my new market didn't have mint so I left it out and that was fine. What they DID have was crazy cheap feta at the deli counter. I got 0.8 lb for something like $2.38. Take that, Jewel-Osco.

lentil stew with kale and potatoes
adapted from this recipe from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth (I ended up adding more at the end)
1 cup lentils, rinsed, picked over
8 ounces red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1-2 medium carrots, chopped
1 lemon
6 ounces torn fresh kale leaves (about 8 cups)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and stir until become translucent (about 5 minutes), add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add vegetable broth and lentils; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add potatoes; cook uncovered until potatoes and lentils are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. 

Meanwhile, grate 1/2 teaspoon peel from lemon; squeeze enough juice from lemon to measure 2 tablespoons. Add lemon peel, lemon juice, kale and cayenne to stew. Cover and simmer stew until kale wilts and is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Mix in mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.) 

Spoon stew into large soup bowls. Sprinkle feta cheese over, if desired.



I have things I could probably talk about and show you, but really all I want to do is eat steel-cut oatmeal all day long while sitting under the two quilts that are now on my bed.  You may win this round, winter, but you play real dirty.


moving is the dumbest thing ever

There, I said it. I hate moving. It's maybe my least favorite thing. I have been in the process of a very last-minute, high stress move this mid-month, so posting (and the rest of my life) has been put off. I do have things to share with you, pictures even! But just give me a bit to catch my breath with this new place. For about a month my meals have looked like the above pictures- a can of beans, or a pb&j sandwich, or old faithful cereal, nestled among all the stresses and to-do lists surrounding me right now.

Just about everything, including the way I look, is now different than it was pre-August freak-out. I'm trying my best to just roll with it, and it can be kind of great. Hard at times, but maybe just what I needed. Cue the Cars song....


Moroccan Carrot Soup

After all that fun my body decided it was payback time, so I spent most of this week sick with some sort of flu- stomach cramps, body aches, a chest rash (?!). Soup was in order. But not just any soup- it had to be Halloween themed. I may be sick, but I still have my holiday dignity. After some searching I found this recipe. It called to me because I only had to buy yogurt and a lemon for it, two things I knew I could carry home without having to take a whimper break. I wish I'd read the comments on Epicurious first. Many of them suggest adding pumpkin to it, which sounds great. So if anyone does that, please let me know how it turns out.

I like this soup because it wasn't too carrot-y; it had a surprising balance of flavors for how little time and work it took. I highly recommend it. Also, I just used bought ground cumin and it tasted great so feel free to skip that step if you want.

Moroccan Carrot Soup 

Bon Appétit  | April 2010 

2 tablespoons butter 
1 cup chopped white onion
1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 2/3 cups)
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen

 Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.
Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.


breakfast burrito

Busy busy busy! I have been so busy lately. How busy, you ask? In the past three weeks I have been to two weddings, Des Moines twice, Iowa City once, and had two (very lovely and awesome and pleasecomebacksoon!) house guests in the weekend between. There have been many meals eaten. Some meals have pictures that go with them. There is a lot of back-log going on here, but we have to start somewhere so let's have a delicious beginning, shall we?

For over a year now I have heard my sister Sarah talk about her boyfriend John's breakfast burritos. Now I have finally tasted them and can vouch that they are, in fact, awesome. On the Sunday of their visit Sarah and I walked to get coffee while John made us burritos. So I really don't have any recipe to give you for this, I mostly just wanted to brag that I got a delicious breakfast and it was in my own kitchen. Sarah's face in the above picture pretty much sums up how you feel while you're eating one of these doozies. Oh, and that salsa? Yeah, that's homemade. You're so jealous.


dijon mac and cheese

I like the part about learning to cook where you start to be able to make up your own recipes. It makes last-minute clean-out-the-fridge meals so much more enjoyable.

Take this meal for example. A year ago it would have fallen into the "no meal" category. I had gotten home around 10 one night, realized I hadn't eaten supper, and so looked in my bare cupboards for things to scrape together.

With shells, milk, cheddar cheese, some flour, red pepper flakes and a dash of dijon mustard at the end I stumbled upon a dish I've actually made again. On purpose. When other ingredients were available. That's what I call a MEAL!

Hooray for progress.



This may be my least cleverly titled blog post, but let's move on. It was a big weekend, leaving me with a lot of sleep to catch up on... eventually. Hopefully.

Popcorn is really delicious. Not the microwave kind so much, but the old fashioned, heated in a heavy pot kind. I've been making it a lot lately and experimenting with seasoning. My favorite so far is with oil and salt (of course), black pepper, dried thyme, and Parmesan. Super yummy.

And yeah, I do love Australia.

Plain Popcorn

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels

Heat oil with 3 popcorn kernels in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, covered, until 1 or 2 kernels pop. Quickly add remaining popcorn, then cook, covered, shaking pan frequently, until kernels stop popping, about 3 minutes.


potato and green chile tacos

El Cid has been with me every step of my Chicago way. It was one of the first restaurants I ever went to here. When I got back from the post-college month in Europe, getting on the el from O'Hare, I went straight to the restaurant for a burrito. Birthdays have been celebrated, break ups mourned- their strong margaritas are good for both.

For the past couple of years I've fallen into a delicious rut with El Cid. My order is one avocado taco and one potato taco. Now, the avocado one is a no-brainer to make, but I was always curious about the potato.

Recently I came across Rick Bayless' recipe for potato and green chile taco filling. I gave it a shot and completely loved it. I'm not giving up El Cid yet, but since I no longer live around the corner from them, this will keep me happy in the winter months. You know, until their patio reopens.

Soft Taco Filling: Potatoes and Green Chiles

2 small (about 6 ounces total) boiling potatoes like the red-skinned ones, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
3 medium, fresh chiles poblanos, roasted and peeled
Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like mild domestic goat or farmer's cheese *I've never added the cheese and it's still really good*

1.   The potatoes.   Simmer the potatoes in salted water to cover until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool under running water, peel and cut into 1/4-inch dice.

2.    Fry the mixture.   Heat the lard or oil in a heavy medium-size skillet over medium. Add the onion and potato, and fry, stirring regularly to ensure that nothing sticks to the pan, until the mixture is nicely browned, 10 to 15 minutes.
While the potatoes are browning, seed the chiles and slice them into 1/8-inch strips. Stir them into the potato mixture, season with salt, remove from the fire and stir in the cheese. Scrape into a small dish and cool before using.


wilted greens with garlic and anchovies

Hey, look who's eating a varied diet again! Yes that's right, I'm back on the big girl foods. Because I'm now 29, and dammit it's time to man up and get my shit together. So I did some research, found a recipe to finally use that tin of anchovies that felt unloved in my cupboard for so long and gave the double bird to anemia.
The thing about side dishes is that just eating triple portions does not magically turn it into a main meal. Maybe some day I'll really learn that. Until then, take it from me- you do NOT want to eat an entire bunch of turnip greens. Woooooo.

Wilted Greens with Garlic and Anchovies

Epicurious  | October 2007
Mario Batali
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil  
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed  
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced  
1 head escarole or 1 head or bunch other sturdy leafy green, such as dandelions or turnip greens, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons, washed and spun dry  
Salt and freshly ground black pepper  
1/2 lemon
Heat a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil, anchovies, and garlic and cook just until the garlic is light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add the greens and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze the lemon juice over, and serve.



Hi. I am alive. A breakup sparked something of a domino effect of freaking out/reassessing a lot of things in my life. Which actually turned out to be a very good thing, but it took a lot of adjusting for me to see that. It's kind of like when you get underwear for Christmas. It's a bummer, but then you realize you needed them and they're actually really comfortable and wonder why you didn't just buy them for yourself a while ago and you're almost embarrassed that you'd put up with those holey ones for that long. So yeah, rocking the new undies of life. Lots of changes, which I'm not the best with, but I'm working on it and learning a lot in the process, so it's going to be ok.

If you read this blog a lot (which you probably do, since you're most likely related to me), you know that my appetite is the first thing to go in times of change. Not much cooking going on lately. If anything it's cereal or avocado toast, which I think I've covered enough. But I wanted to check in and tell you thanks for being awesome.


made up stir fry

I made this for myself last Friday loosely using the Oriental Chicken recipe I mentioned before. I served it over brown rice. It was so good I said to myself, "This taste like a meal in a Chi-nese restaurant!" Then I laughed at the funny voice I used. That doesn't translate well onto the internet, but it was funny. Wooo living alone!

made up stir fry
1 block extra-firm tofu
1 bunch of broccoli
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. grated ginger
1 t red pepper flakes
1/4 c. canola oil
1 T rice vinegar
1 T oyster sause
1 T soy sauce
1 T water
1 t corn starch

Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and set on a paper towel-lined plate. Place double layer of paper towels and another plate on top of the tofu. Weigh down with heavy can or pot. Chop your vegetables.
Next, heat oil in large skillet. When very hot, add tofu and cook for about five minutes. Add onions and cook until lightly brown, about five minutes, making sure to turn the tofu so it sets seared on all edges. Next add broccoli, cook over medium heat for a few minutes then add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for about a minute more.
Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, oyster and soy sauce, water and corn starch. When broccoli is tender, stir the sauce into the skillet with the vegetables and tofu. Cook altogether for a few minutes until sauce thickens and vegetables are coated.


farmers' market

A couple of Sundays ago was my first 2010 trip to the farmers' market! Well, the Chicago one. I went to a very cold, but still incredibly awesome Des Moines market in early May that puts the putzy Wicker Park one to shame. But on with the story! Usually I like to reserve Sundays for sleeping in and lazing about well into early afternoon when the market closes, but somehow I managed to mosey myself down there with a $20 bill in my wallet and a song in my heart. I came out with five ears of corn, a half pound of fresh picked cremini mushrooms, two pints of heirloom cherry tomatoes, two apples, and a head of broccoli. Not bad!

Then I walked to Whole Foods to pick up some (free-range, organic) chicken to make this Oriental Chicken recipe I had found and groggily stared at for maybe an hour during a bout of insomnia earlier in the week. If that doesn't sound like fate I don't know what is, so I felt I had to make it. I replaced the red pepper with the mushrooms and broccoli I'd bought earlier, tripled the sauce, and served it over brown rice. It was amazing! So good I couldn't stop to get a picture. It was maybe my first time cooking chicken or any sort of meat, so I was pretty nervous, but I would definitely say it was a success. And this is despite finding eight green worms popping out of my fresh broccoli at different stages of the cooking.

Even after the meal was gone, I was able to enjoy fresh produce in most of meals that week. For example, in one day I had sliced tomatoes with a dollop of sour cream and some salt and pepper for breakfast, and then a make-shift tuna salad with fresh corn mixed in. Totally worth leaving my house before noon on a weekend. Now if I could just do it again...


a better pickle sandwich

Last time I was at Costco I got a giant (2.5 qt) jar of pickles. I had been a little worried about that big of a pickle purchase, but felt I was up to the challenge. While eating my way through the jar- yeah, it's already long gone- I found the most amazing sandwich. It was my lunch, dinner, and snack more often than I'm going to admit. Take one piece of bread, spread on some mayo and dijon mustard, then put a pickle in and wrap the bread around it. It's like a hot dog but crunchy and awesome and not as easy to cut into shapes. Now who wants to take me to the store for more pickles?


cucumber + avocado soup with tomato + basil salad

I was on something of a vacation detox diet last week. All I wanted was fruits and vegetables and fresh tasting meals after my (absolutely wonderful) all-you-can-eat Virginia tour. So I found this recipe from Bon Appetit, and it fit the bill- super fresh, no cooking required, not to mention it pairs two of my favorite things in the world, cucumber and avocado. The thing was made for me. How could I not make it?

Cucumber and Avocado Soup with Tomato and Basil Salad 
adapted from Bon Appétit  | August 2000 

1 large English hothouse cucumber,  peeled, diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 1/2 cups low-fat (1%) buttermilk
2 avocados, quartered, pitted,      peeled
1/2 medium red onion, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large seeded chopped tomato
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt

Combine cucumber and buttermilk in blender. Chop 1/2 of one avocado; set aside for salad. Cut remaining avocado into chunks. Add avocado to blender; then add 2 tablespoons red onion and 1 tablespoon basil. Blend until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Mix reserved avocado, remaining 2 tablespoons onion and 1 tablespoon basil, tomato and lime juice in small bowl. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover soup and tomato salad separately and refrigerate.) Ladle cucumber soup into 4 bowls. Dollop each with 1 tablespoon yogurt; top with tomato salad and serve.



Last week I went to Virginia for the first time! Matt's brother was getting married outside of Charlottesville, so we stayed there a few nights and then headed to their family's lake house near Montross. On the way we stopped at Lowery's Restaurant, which is apparently a family favorite and I can see why! We started with 1/2 dozen fresh oysters (only $5!!), then I ordered the lobster tail special with tomato slices and corn on the cob. It was amazing. I finished it all and could not stop smiling the whole time.

Here is a before and after shot of the meal. You're so jealous right now.


phony pho

Last weekend Matt and I on an adventure to Vietnam. Not really at all, but we did go up to Argyle Street, which is sort of the same thing? It's like if the country had a tiny baby and then the baby lived in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. The entire time I was there I pretended I was vacationing in Hanoi. And it was pretty great. We ate pho, shopped in the grocery stores for cheap noodles and exotic tea, and then bought a LOT of baked goods. Do we know how to travel or what?

We took the red line up to Pho 888, sat down and each ordered a bowl of vegetarian pho.  I had never had this mystical meal before, but I had heard Matt sing its praises for months. And now I see why. It was so great. First of all it came in a huge bowl along with a plate of lime wedges, anise leaves, bean sprouts (maybe?), and chili peppers. There was tofu and broccoli and noodles all floating in a yummy broth. Delicious.

On Monday I was already craving it again so I decided to try my hand at it using only things I already had. Basically it was a lazy version, but it turned out pretty yummy. I used some of the soba noodles I'd gotten, and then put them in chicken broth with some basil, red pepper flakes and some Thai chili sauce. It was no pho, but it was alright.


miranda's spicy lemon pasta

It's funny who all reads your blog and you have no idea. It throws me off to hear someone bring it up because I am not really sure how I feel about the whole thing. To be honest, if it weren't for my sisters' nagging encouragement I would not still be doing it. I cannot imagine my life or what I eat to be that interesting to anyone but myself, and I'm afraid I come off as really self-centered. Or maybe I'm just afraid that I really am that self-centered and this blog highlights it.  See- I just turned this paragraph into myself. It was supposed to be about getting an email from Miranda.

So let's get back to it. I received an email from my friend Miranda last week in response to my post about the disappointing spaghetti with lemon, chile, and creamy spinach. I worked with her in college and we hadn't been in touch for several months. It went like this:
try your lemon, spinach pasta with some [sriracha] instead.
we've actually been making angel hair with a splash of lemon and this and various veggies... like mushrooms and spinach lightly sauteed.

i couldn't respond on your blog.
yes i've been cyber-stalking you.... :)
And then a follow-up one saying this:
so not to get too bossy, but i usually make the pasta and toss it with some olive oil, sauce and lemon juice then toss the sauteed veggies on top. i've noticed that if you cook the sauce it loses it's punch.
 Well! What a wonderful surprise all that was! Not just the email, but also the meal she suggested. I made it the next day with some spinach (yes, I bought another 2 1/2 lb bag), mushrooms, and  whole wheat spaghetti because that's what I had. It was so good that I've been making variations of it for lunch about three times a week.

Miranda's spicy lemon pasta
via Miranda Meyer
*I have never actually measured this out, so all of these are guesses

1/2 lb. angel hair or spaghetti
1 T (more or less) sriracha 
6-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
8 oz spinach
2 T olive oil

Heat a salted pot of water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile, heat 1 T olive oil in large skillet over med heat. Add mushrooms and saute until they release their water and it is almost all evaporated. Add spinach to skillet in batches, stirring until all is wilted. 
Mix together juice of one lemon, desired amount of sriracha and remaining tablespoon of oil. Pour over pasta and toss. Add sauteed vegetables and enjoy!


parmesan cream crackers

One of the great things about working from home is that you can have this train of thought: 'Man, I'm hungry. Do I have any crackers? No.... Hey! I should make some during my lunch break." And then you do and they're great. Mine were a little thick, so they didn't get too crispy. Also, I used whole milk instead of cream because that's what I had on hand. I minced some garlic for the top, as well as sprinkled them with some coarse sea salt. Pretty nice.

via The New York Times, Published: February 2, 2009
Time: About 20 minutes

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed
Coarse salt, pepper, sesame or poppy seeds, minced garlic or whatever you like for sprinkling (optional).

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit; continue to add liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky.
2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/2-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. Transfer sheet of dough to prepared baking sheet (drape it over rolling pin to make it easier). Score lightly with a sharp knife, pizza cutter or a pastry wheel if you want to break crackers into squares or rectangles later on. Sprinkle with salt or other topping if you like.
3. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store in a tin for a few days.
Yield: About 4 servings.


hot dog octopus train wreck

When people I don't know ask me if I'm a vegetarian I usually say yes. This is a lie, but it saves so much time. I prefer to avoid going into the whole, "I eat some meat, but I have to know where it comes from, blahblahblah." Because it's very hard to come out of that explanation without sounding pretentious. And I'm not, I swear. I just watched a horrifying PETA video about factory farms my freshman year of college and realized I couldn't support something so unnatural. To me, eating meat is very natural. However I believe that you have a responsibility to the life you're eating, because it is a life and it should be allowed to have one up until it is killed.

And now here's the part where I throw all that out the window for a hot dog in a novelty shape. My boyfriend and I were at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, trying to quickly pick up things for supper before the Blackhawks game. He had a craving for hot dogs, and once he told me I did too. Have you ever bought veggie hot dogs? They're ridiculously more expensive than meat ones. We're both very poor. It just made sense to get the beef ones that were two for $5.

So we got them and he cooked and cut them into octopi for an appetizer while I made an actual meal for us. Let me just set the scene for you- we were eating hot dogs, drinking beer out of cozies, while I cooked and Matt was on the couch watching a sporting event. I have never felt so normal in my life.

This is a long post, so I'll just cut to the next morning. I went the the gym, was on the treadmill when BAM crazy stomach cramp. My gym is two blocks from my apartment, yet walking home in that time I resigned myself to pooping my pants. I didn't.  But I wasn't going to judge if I did. Two days later I ate another hot dog, though. They're really good!


cold sesame noodles

This is probably my new favorite meal. I had it bookmarked to try for months and on Friday I ended up finally making it. Also, I made it again on Saturday. Also, I think I'll make it for lunch today. It's just so easy and good and cheap. Plus you can pretty much put anything in there, so it's a great way to finish up vegetables. Like say you buy a giant bag of spinach, you can just put some in the strainer, then poor the hot pasta water over it to lilt it a little and throw it in the sauce. Easy as pie. My favorite combo so far is with spinach, tofu, and scallions.

Cold Sesame Noodles via Gourmet  
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar or granulated sugar, or to taste
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon Oriental sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 pound linguine or lo mein noodles
chopped scallion and cucumber strips for garnish

In a saucepan combine the soy sauce, the vinegar, the red pepper flakes, the brown sugar, the peanut butter, the oil, the ginger, and the broth, simmer the mixture, stirring, until it is thickened and smooth, and let it cool slightly. In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the noodles until they are al dente, drain them in a colander, and rinse them under cold water. Drain the noodles well, transfer them to a bowl, and toss them with the sauce. Serve the noodles at room temperature and garnish them with the scallion and the cucumber.

spinach meal #3

I finished the spinach! One of the ways I would eat it was as a salad with creamy dill dressing. It made for an excellent lunch on work days.


Spaghetti with Lemon, Chile and Creamy Spinach

I made this for lunch today. I stumbled across the recipe on Sunday and thought it sounded so good. Well, turns out it's not. I couldn't find a red Thai chile so I just went with a red jalapeno, but I doubt that's what threw it off. It was fine and I'll eat the leftovers, but I will not make it again. They can't all be gems, people!

While at Stanley's buying ingredients for this I found a 2.5 lb bag of baby spinach for $2.25/lb. After pacing in front of it for a while, I finally just held my breath and grabbed it. It was such a good deal! I had to! So now I have a crisper drawer full of spinach. Got any good recipes for it? Send them my way! Don't like spinach? Maybe don't check back here for a week or so.


no meal

Just in case you thought it was all birthday cakes and banana smoothies around here, this is generally my lunch and often my dinner as well. I made a vow last night that when I'm rich I will never eat another tortilla. Unless I'm feeling nostalgic for my poor days, in which case punch me in the mouth.


banana yumyumyum

Well this is maybe the most awesome thing. It's so great I'm having trouble finding what to say about it. Let's start at the beginning?

My sister Sarah called me up last weekend and told me she had something I needed to try. She does this every once in a while and history has taught me to blindly follow her. If I didn't I would never have tried delicious things like this, and let's not forget about this. Also, she's my big sister and therefore what she says still goes. So I tried it and oh wow! It's great! Like take a bite and (if you're me) pump your fist in the air at its magnificence great. It's like ice cream but with no dairy, so it doesn't make my stomach explode and it's actually good for you.

Here's what you do-
Take two ripe bananas, peel them, cut them up and then put them in a bowl in the freezer. When they're frozen solid, transfer the pieces to a food processor and process until they are completely blended. Once this happens it becomes the creamy consistency of ice cream. Also, it's super delicious. I've been adding a tablespoon or so of almond butter to mine.


birthday cake!!

Last Monday was Matt's birthday. We both took the day off, went for a ride on the Tall Ship Windy in Lake Michigan, sat in Millennium Park for the free Ponys show, drank vodka tonics and went out for Thai food. All in all it was pretty great.

Somewhere in there I made a cake. Because you just can't let someone have a birthday without cake! Not even if, say, you're a really awful baker with no electric mixer. Or if the birthday boy works in a delicious bakery, making it a little intimidating. Or even if last year the two of you ended up taking the flat, awful, wreck of a cake you tried to make for him and throwing it out the window at parked cars.

So I sucked it up, did a lot of research, and used a Smitten Kitchen recipe since I know those always turn out awesome. And it worked!  The sour cream frosting was a little... sour. But after we put it in the fridge and it hardened into more of a fudgey texture I really enjoyed it.

Best Yellow Layer Cake
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from The Dessert Bible

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.

Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.


beans and rice

I'm pretty sure everyone has that go-to meal- where you know you need to eat, but don't want/can't afford to go to the grocery store so you suck it up and make whatever you have. For me, it is beans and rice. I always seem to have the ingredients, it's super cheap, and it's a complete protein. Also, I never seem to mind eating it. I don't enjoy it, but I don't mind it either. Add some peas, tomatoes and sour cream and it's almost yummy. Almost.

So what's yours? I'd love some new ideas.


spinach and chickpeas

Yesterday was one of those days where you wake up and just hate everything. Pretty much the only thing accomplished was a lot of pouting.The relaxing weekend I was planning on (and needed) had not happened. Instead it involved very little sleep and a lot of work for no pay, which pretty much equals meltdown in my book. I yelled. I threw a cat. I stormed out on my boyfriend. Meltdown.

A day of sulking was in order. This included a banana pecan muffin from Lovely, getting into pj's right after work, going to sleep at 9:30pm, and (of course) appetizers for dinner. I made spinach and chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen, bought a multigrain baguette from La Farine and the whole meal only cost me around $6. Try being mad after that.

Spinach & Chickpeas
From Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Moro: The Cookbook and Lobstersquad

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound spinach, washed
A hefty 1-inch slice from a country loaf or about 2 slices from sandwich loaf bread, crusts removed and cut inset small cubes (I used 4- 1" slices from my baguette)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown.

Transfer to a food processor along with the vinegar, and mash to a paste. Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.

If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning and serve with paprika on top, or on fried bread toasts (as the Spanish do).


wish list

I think  probably need this cookbook. Oh and by the way, my birthday is September 14th. Or whatever.


enchiladas especiales tacuba style

On Friday night I went to the Windy City Soul Club's dance party. It was lots and lots of fun, but also really tiring (when did I get old?). My productive Saturday was pretty shot, leaving me eating poached eggs on the couch and watching a marathon of Rick Bayless' show Mexico- One Plate At A Time on public television.

In my weakened state Rick convinced me I had  to make these enchiladas that night. My brain was pretty mushy, so I agreed without question. I should have known he wouldn't steer me wrong. You see, he and I have a special relationship- I once grabbed his leg at a Time Out Chicago restaurant awards ceremony while he was going up to accept his trophy and my chair was in his path. That was the day I learned celebrity sightings and open bars are a bad combination for me.

His enchiladas had chicken in them, so I made a mix of black beans and chopped mushrooms. Next time I will add onion and some jalapeno to the filling and pulse it all in the food processor first. And I will definitely be making these again. Possibly some time this week.

enchiladas especiales tacuba style
Serves 4 to 6
 This recipe is from Season 7 Mexico - One Plate at a Time
2 fresh poblano chiles
1 cup (lightly packed) roughly chopped spinach leaves
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter—or you can use vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups (about) chopped mushrooms
12 corn tortillas
A little vegetable oil for brushing or spraying
About 1 cup Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
A little chopped cilantro for garnish

 In large skillet, saute the mushroom pieces with a little olive oil until cooked. Mix in medium bowl with the rinsed black beans and set aside.

Make the sauce- Roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly, until the skins have blistered and blackened on all side, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes under the broiler. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and, when handleable, rub off the blackened skin, tear open and pull out the seed pod and stem. Quickly rinse to remove any stray seeds or bits of skin. Roughly chop and put in a blender jar.  Add the spinach.

In a medium (3-quart) saucepan, combine the milk and broth, set over medium-low heat to warm.

In a large (4-quart) saucepan, melt the butter (or heat the oil) over medium.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute to release its aroma, then add the flour and stir the mixture for a minute.  Raise the heat to medium-high.  Pour in the warm broth mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce boils.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Pour half the hot sauce into the blender with the chiles and spinach.  Cover loosely (I remove the center part of the lid, secure the lid, then drape a cloth over the whole thing) and blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining sauce.  Taste and season with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons. 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Smear about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the bottom of each of four to six 9-inch individual ovenproof baking/serving dishes or smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish.  Stir 1 cup of the sauce into the mushroom/black bean mix
Lay half of the tortillas out on a baking sheet and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil; top each tortilla with another one and brush or spray those with oil.  Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes.  Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.  

Working quickly so that the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the filling up in each tortilla, then line them all up in the baking dish(es).  Douse evenly with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 20 minutes.  Garnish with the cilantro and serve without hesitation.


barley casserole

My sisters and I have a daydream about one day opening up a bakery/diner in Des Moines. We'd serve muffins and delicious breads in the morning and for lunch we would have a Casserole of the Day. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be capitalized or not, but in my head it is because it's just that great of an idea.

Since both Sarah and Kathleen have the delicious treats down on lock, I figure I should try to make my name in the savory department. That's really where I do most of my shopping anyway. So sometimes I like to pretend I'm testing out recipes and that I need to make casseroles, you know, because I'm a team player. This is how I came upon the Barley Casserole recipe. It floated onto my monitor while searching Epicurious for how to use up some mushrooms without having to go to the grocery store. It had me at casserole.

At the bakery I am going to suggest we serve it with a dallop of thyme sour cream. No charge. Because that's just the sweet kind of place we pretend run.

adapted from House & Garden | January 1965
by James A. Beard

serves 6 as a side dish, fed me twice as a main course. don't judge me.

1/2 pound mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped very fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley
Salt, pepper
Cayenne pepper
2-3 cups chicken broth

Slice the mushroom caps and chop the stems. Heat the butter in a skillet and add the chopped onion. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes and add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook another 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, heat the broth to boiling. Add the barley to the skillet and brown it lightly, mixing it well with the onions and mushrooms. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a buttered 8x8 casserole. Add enough boiling broth to cover the mixture and come 1/2" above it. Cover the casserole tightly and bake in a 350°F. oven for 35 minutes. Taste the barley for doneness. Add more broth, if necessary, and continue cooking until the liquid is absorbed and the barley tender.

I have been grating a layer of Parmesan cheese on top of the casserole when I take it out of the oven so it has a gooey top layer. Next time I think I'm going to try incorporating asparagus spears as well.


no meal slaw

Right ok. Here is a post about what I've been eating. I have been insanely busy, have had no time to cook, and therefore have nothing to post lately.  I sound angry right now, but I'm not. Promise.

Here's the deal. I work a full-time job as a designer at a dying wedding studio. Then on nights and weekends I work with my business partner Heather on the baby Cakewalk Studio. Oh, the circle of life.  So basically I sit at a desk all day, then meet with H. to freak out and brainstorm about how to, oh I don't know, turn our little career hopes and dreams into something that may hopefully someday (fingers crossed, please God soon!) turn a profit. That mixed with shooting Small Chicago and trying to see friends leaves a girl on the run quite a bit.

And so I've been eating a lot of this kind of stuff. You start to feel really frazzled and weak, realize you haven't eaten a meal yet that day, then poke your head in the fridge and see what you got. Mix it all up and hope it doesn't taste like a butt. Today it was this slaw, and it actually was pretty enjoyable to eat. Which leads me to....

Slaw From Stuff in The Fridge
via Desperation + Poverty
package of chopped cabbage & carrots
dollop of mayo
squirt of sriracha 
splash of soy sauce
some apple cider vinegar
a few sesame seeds


old flames, new twists

They say you never forget your first love. I think I agree. Long before I ever knew about avocados I loooooved cucumbers. They were my absolute favorite.  Picking a warm, small cucumber from my parents' garden, taking it in to the kitchen and having my mom peel and cut it up for me... just thinking about it makes my heart swell. So perfect.

Back then I liked them plain or in fire and ice, but lately I've found a new way to enjoy them. It stemmed from my recent obsession with Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes. I'd been making it about once a week, and finally realized the thing I loved about it was the cucumer raita. Yogurt, cucumbers, scallions and salt are such a delicious combination.

So here you go. What avocados and cherry tomatoes were to 2009, cucumber, yogurt and scallions are to 2010. Get with the times.


other people's food

What is it about food made by other people that makes it taste so tasty?

I went home for Easter this past weekend and raked it in. A freezer full of delicious homemade bread, bagels, and buns from my sister Sarah; multiple jars of soup from my mom; a Le Creuset (!!!) dutch oven and small frying pan that had been a wedding gift to my parents; a gorgeous quilt made of old suit fabric; old, hand tatted pillowcases made by long-ago relatives. Seriously. Is it fall? Because I did some heavy RAKING!

So yeah, here is a picture of me eating some Mom curried pumpkin soup, heated up in my new dutch oven (just because I wanted to use it), and served with some Sarah bread for dipping.


Pickle Sandwich

I just ate a pickle sandwich. I know it's kind of gross and I shouldn't be bragging about it, but MAN!

I bought pickles and mayo on an 'I wish I was at a barbecue' whim last night. When I got home there was actually a moment at the kitchen counter where I stopped and asked myself if I was going to eat the entire jar right then or not. And not in a judging 'entire jar??' way. In an actual 'do I feel like eating all of them' way. But then I remembered the pickle barfing incident back when I was seven. Since I'd already been down that road, I decided to stop and save some of them for another day.

And that day was today. Mayo, pickles, and mustard. Does it get any more delicious? Ok, with cheese it probably could. Next time!


Red Kidney Bean Curry

Mother Nature is such a freaking tease. And I fall for it every year.

Me on Monday: 'Oh hey! It's all sunny out! I'm going to be super happy and eat a bunch of cereal!'.
Me on Wednesday: 'I don't even remember what the sun is. Give me the warmest, most hearty comfort food you got so that I may cry into it.'

And that's what this is. It's easy, cheap, and will do its damnedest to warm your soul.

Red Kidney Bean Curry [Rajmah]
Via Smitten Kitchen/Adapted from an Arora spice blend

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 plum tomato, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large green chili, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
8 ounce can of tomato sauce

3 cups boiled red kidney beans or 30 ounces canned red kidney beans, undrained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 

Heat oil in a deep sauce pan over medium heat for one minute. Add ginger, garlic, onion, green chili, and let sizzle for one minute. Add the tomato sauce, salt and remaining spices and cook for an additional five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the kidney beans with water or canned red kidney beans (undrained) plus one additional cup of water, and tomatoes. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and let cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Garnish with cilantro.


44-clove garlic soup

This is one of those recipes I don't think I would ever have tried if someone didn't recommend it first. I mean, I love garlic. LOVE it.  But 44 cloves? That just sounded excessive. However, after receiving a voicemail from my sister Sarah last week saying I needed to make this, I decided to give it a shot. Sarah is not one to let you down, and this was no exception. This soup is delicious. Not overwhelming at all, just a wonderful, smooth, flavor. I made it on Saturday night with Matt, and it was so good I had to make it again so I could take pictures of it and post. Because, you know, Captain Eater does not believe in leftovers.

I ended up only needing about two and a half bulbs of garlic for the 44 cloves.

44-Clove Garlic Soup with Parmesan Cheese
From Smitten Kitchen/Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 1999
 Serves 4

26 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 1/4 cups sliced onions
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
18 garlic cloves, peeled
3 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
4 lemon wedges 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add chicken stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; add cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. 

Divide grated cheese among 4 bowls and ladle soup over. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.

spring intestinal cleaning

For a blog that has maybe one avid reader and a couple other family members stopping by every once in a while, I get a lot of slack when I'm not posting. So here you go, Sarah. This is what my meals have been for the past few weeks. Lots and lots of cereal. Because the seasons are changing. Either that or I've been making dinner when Matt is around and that boy does not leave any left-overs to photograph the next day.


black bean burrito bake

I was making this for lunch today and realized I have never posted about it. This is weird, because I eat it a lot. Mostly because I can make it two times with the groceries from it, making it a major budget plus. Also it's just really yummy.

I seem to make things every couple of weeks that require one chipotle chili in adobo sauce and the cans include about five or six. It feels wasteful to throw the rest out and buy more each time, so instead I do this- line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then spoon out each chili with about a teaspoon of sauce a couple inches away from each other. Then put it in the freezer to harden, and ultimately put them in a baggie in the freezer to use whenever you need. This is probably just common sense to most people, but it was pretty huge for me.

Black Bean Burrito Bake
from Cooking Light
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
Cooking spray
1 cup bottled salsa
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.
Remove one chile from can. Chop chile. Reserve remaining adobo sauce and chiles for another use. Combine sour cream and chile in a medium bowl; let stand 10 minutes.
Place half of beans in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add chopped beans, remaining beans, and corn to sour cream mixture.
Spoon 1/2 cup bean mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up tortillas; place, seam side down, in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread salsa over tortillas; sprinkle with cheese. Cover and bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.


from grass to cheese

My good friend Todd has been making, or trying to make, this documentary for a while now. I posted a short clip on here before, but here is a longer one. They are in the middle of a fund-raising  effort to get money to make a full-length, more in depth version. I think it's such a beautiful, strong story and he has done an amazing job with it. Take a look and tell me it shouldn't get made. If you would like to show your support, go here tinyurl.com/grasstocheese

From Grass to Cheese: The Nolan Family Farm from Milk Products on Vimeo.


new favorite snack

Matt and I went to this new coffee shop on Saturday called The Knockbox Cafe. It was excellent- only a few people there, plenty of board games, and good coffee. But my favorite part was the meal. Duh. I got the egg and cheese panini and it was awesome. Only $3.75 AND it came with this delicious side of fruit made up of granny smith apples, orange bits, and sprinkled with cinnamon and maybe some sugar?

I liked it so much I tried it at home, and boy am I loving it.  After some experimenting I have learned a few things- do put a little bit of sugar in it, and do NOT try it with maple syrup. It's gross.


barley and lentil soup with swiss chard

Eating nothing but chocolate chip banana pancakes and donuts (bought to eat while cooking the pancakes, naturally) for an entire day can make a person feel a little gross. Do not get me wrong! I have no regrets! But however pleased my past child self was with my awesome use of adulthood privileges, my rapidly aging, dare I say crotchety, stomach was anything but thrilled by Monday morning. So yesterday was a little bit of a sugar detox... well, right after eating that giant rice crispy bar left at my house... and that leftover donut.

But you get my point- my body was craving vegetables and lots of them. So I went for a long walk (also needed) to the library to return Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters (RIP Salinger) and then over to  Stanley's Fruits & Vegetables. There I picked up a large load of fruits and veggies and trudged them back home to make a hearty stew to sooth my bitchy sensitive stomach.

Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard  
Bon Appétit | February 2005
Yield: Makes 10 first-course or 6 main-course servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled carrots
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
10 cups (or more) low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 cup pearl barley
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
2/3 cup dried lentils

4 cups (packed) coarsely chopped Swiss chard (about 1/2 large bunch)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Heat oil in heavy large nonreactive pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots; sauté until onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Mix in cumin; stir 30 seconds. Add 10 cups broth and barley; bring to boil. Reduce heat; partially cover and simmer 25 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice and lentils; cover and simmer until barley and lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Add chard to soup; cover and simmer until chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in dill. Season soup with salt and pepper. Thin with more broth, if desired.