Oh dear. I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. Here August has come and gone and not a peep from me… nadda one. I certainly had plenty to talk about, like the time I traveled home for my niece’s 4th birthday where I made these itty bitty cinnamon buns for breakfast:

[hi dad!]

And the fateful day we went to an ice cream shop I had been dying to try, Jeni’s in Chagrin Falls. I’m going to level with you all, it’s hard to go wrong as far as ice cream is concerned but when you throw nutty ingredients like cayenne pepper into the mix things could theoretically go either way. Right? Right! Well Jeni’s was… utterly fantastic. It surpassed all of my expectations. My mom’s favorite? Salty caramel & she even bought a pint to take home. I feel bad but I ate nearly the entire thing… I didn’t know ice cream could be that velvety smooth. What does Jeni put in there?! I need help.

I got {1} scoop of sweet corn & black raspberries and {1} scoop of goat cheese with red cherries. Life changing. In every way. At that moment I decided to be a better person, pay my electric bill on time and be nice to my grumpy doorman who I believe has a moral objection to smiling. It was that good.

You’ve got to love Jeni’s creative twist on ice cream flavors: burbon buttered pecan, queen city cayenne, wildberry lavender, the milkiest chocolate in the world:

So I hope you’ll let this one slide. We’ll be back soon with some new exciting finds from Wednesday’s Green City Market. ‘Til then if you’re eager to get your hands on some of Jeni’s ice cream she sells pints at several local grocers in Chicago including The Southport Grocery & Cafe and The Goddess & Grocer. Get some for dessert tonight.. or breakfast.. lunch… anytime you have a spoon nearby, really.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t let your eyes trick you, that says ‘heath’ up there, not ‘health’. While I do consider these brownies healthy for your soul and peace of mind, in the traditional sense… not so much. I chose to make this recipe for three reasons:

1] it required me to clean one dish {two if you include the baking pan}

2] it did not require the use of an electric mixer

*these two reasons are paramount when the baker at hand lives in a small city apartment with limited counter space and a noticeably absent [and sorely missed] dishwasher

**although an easy cleanup, take heed: hand-mixing leads directly to higher cake batter transferal from bowl to mouth during the baking process.

3] I had to see what gooey cookies & cream heath brownies tasted like!

My friend from college, Lyndi, texted me the other day asking that I post another easy dessert recipe. She is pregnant right now [the cutest pregnant girl ever, it's not even fair] and she is also perfecting her baking skills [she's a pro at making these nutella pillows]. Lyndi could eat 38 double fudge chocolate chip cookies and still look like a darn bikini model. So Lyndi these are for you [and baby O.]!

I found this recipe on one of my daily reads, Picky Palate, and decided to slightly alter it. It is a breeze to make and if you like soft, gooey freshly baked cookies, you will absolutely love these.

Gooey Cookies’n Cream Heath Brownies

  • 1 butter recipe fudge box of cake mix
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 14 oreo cookies, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bag of heath bar bits [found in the baking aisle by the chocolate chips]

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 9×13 inch baking pan with tin foil, spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Place cake mix, butter and egg [must be room temperature] into a large bowl, mixing with your hands to combine. Attempt to demonstrate self-control and resist the urge to eat the whole bowl o’dough then & there. Press into prepared baking pan and top with broken pieces of oreo.

3. Pour sweetened condensed milk over cookies and top with heath bits. Bake for 23-25 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool.

4. After 5 minutes of cooling, run a knife around edges to loosen. If the knife gets stuck, run it under cold water. Let cool completely, remove foil from pan, then cut into squares. Makes 12 brownies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m not one to gripe about the heat [the blizzard of 2011 is all too fresh on my mind] but when I saw a news anchor cook a steak to medium-well on the dashboard of his car yesterday, I knew it would be okay to admit that this thick summer heat is getting a little out of hand.

While we’re on the subject of suffocating heat, you’ve heard of bikram yoga, the class where people voluntarily coop themselves up in a room cranked to 110 degrees to do yoga for 90+ minutes. To add insult to injury it isn’t cheap to endure this type of medieval torture. Yoga studios charge an arm and a leg for these classes [although they will be toned arms and legs, no doubt].

So if you’re a bikram devotee, first of all, my hats off to you, but secondly I vote to skip the heated room for a night and downward dog it outside [for free] on the rooftop of one of the finest grocery stores in Chicago.

[photo courtesy of whole foods]

Whole Foods Lincoln Park at 1550 N. Kingsbury [as previously blogged about here] is bringing back their popular rooftop yoga class tomorrow [Thursday] at 6:30 p.m. and best of all it’s 100% complimentary. Just bring your mat and a big bottle of water because it’s going to be Toasty with a capital T. They’re also providing light refreshments and a special giveaway for all participants.  If you live in Chicago, this one is a no-brainer. I have to take a rain check because I’m picking up my sister and niece from the airport [they're visiting me for the weekend, yea!] but you can bet I’ll be at the next class.

 

{breath. stretch. namaste.}


 

 

 

 

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Summer 2011 has been jam packed over here at navy + cream and it’s going by in one big hot blur. I’ve tried to squeeze in as many outdoor concerts, iced coffees, meals on patios and walks along the humid city streets as I possibly can … in a few words, summer suits me. Now if only I could get it to pump the breaks just a tad…

[my new go-to: iced non-fat coffee with one shot of coconut syrup.]

This weekend a handful of my favorite musicians [ray lamontagne, kid cudi, david gray, gomez] came to town to play the Chicago leg of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan. With the picture perfect blue sky as a backdrop it was just the right setting to take in some amazing live music with a cold beer in hand.

[me & vinnie caravaning]

[vince + his brother john, as also seen here]

[drive-by fanny pack at the drive-by truckers]

[flip-flops + frozen drinks]

{happy summer!}

What are some of your favorite ways to take summer by the reins?

 

 

 

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[#1 dad]

I often wonder… for as much as our parents love us and for all they do for us, how can we possibly thank them for giving us… everything?

I wish I knew.

Until I think of something really really good all I can say is… Dad, thank you for being my biggest fan, my rock, my constant. Thank you for filling my childhood with the best of memories. Thank you for driving me to school each morning [and passing your love of the beatles onto me... lovely rita, meter maid..], for taking me down to the kitchen to fix me a midnight snack when I couldn’t sleep [orange slices sprinkled with sugar], for telling me a bedtime story each night [he created them on the fly every single night], for being strong, imaginative, kind and unfailingly dependable.

I love you more than you know. Happy Father’s Day.

And now some pictures from our weekend on the homestead…

Happy Father’s Day dad! :)

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{pictures from a saturday stroll on halsted street in lincoln park}

 

 

 

 

 

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My mom got me these adorable mini bundt cupcake pans from Target [these ones are similar but mine are pastel] and they came with a tasty looking recipe right on the package. A quick scan revealed that I had nearly* all of the ingredients on hand, always an exciting moment. Vince was getting over a nasty bout with the flu so I decided to bake them as a hooray-you’re-able-to-keep-food-down treat.

* I thought I had all the ingredients except the recipe calls for two sticks of butter and I only had one. Not to be deterred I halved the recipe which led me to my first experience attempting to halve an egg… not sure I was entirely successful. I also underestimated the amount of batter poured into each cup, hence the half-eaten appearances of the freshly-baked cakes above.

Despite my shortcomings [wink] these little two-bite cakes were really fun to make and they’re just so darn cute.

Itsy Bitsy Strawberry Shortcakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • strawberry jam
  • dash of pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour pan. In large mixing bowl, mix butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and egg until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture; mix well. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each prepared cup. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan, cool completely on rack. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the strawberry jam in center of each cake. Lightly dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Yields 12 cakes.

 

 

 

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Last week I had the pleasure of meeting one of my ‘bloggie heroes’, as I like to call him, Tim of Lottie + Doof. Tim’s site, along with The Fashion Face [owned by my uber-talented friend Erika] and Cupcakes and Cashmere were the three blogs that inspired me to start up my own. I remember upon discovering Lottie + Doof, I was so excited to jot down several of Tim’s recipes. To date I’ve made his caramel cake and pumpkin whoopie pies [yum!]. Still on my to-dos? Blood orange bars, garlic dressing, and gooey butter cake. In short, getting to meet Tim was extremely special and gratifying for me.

I have to say after meeting Tim he is exactly as I imagined; humble, gracious, and sharp as a tack with a wry sense of humor that keeps you on your toes. He’s the type to cook a four-course meal …for 40+ peoplefrom scratch… with original recipes all while donning a grin and a casual “oh, this old thing?” cool-as-a-cucumber charisma. The opposite of stuffy and pretentious [although he has every right to be]; I’d like to think Tim’s personality is the equivalent to a bowl of chicken noodle soup [must everything relate to food? uhh, yea.] ~ inviting, warm, and genuine.

Side note, kudos to Tim for his feature in ReadyMade [among other appearances in Saveur, Apartment Therapy, design*sponge, and Time Out Chicago for starters], but unlike the rest of his fanfare, this time Tim and his fiancé Bryan are getting props not for food but for their beautiful home. Congrats!

So where were we. Ah yes, like a mad science experiment that formerly existed only in my dreams, last Wednesday Tim teamed up with Sandra Holl [the prodigal mind and petite powerhouse behind Floriole], to create a scrumptious [I never use that word but it's apropos here] four-course meal with the theme of … drum roll please… springtime! Since spring decided to skip us this year it’s only fair we get to experience it on a plate.

[ wildflowers picked on a trip home]

The dynamic duo of Tim and Sandra artfully wrangled up the light, airy, fresh, earthy components of spring to create a decadent meal that left me clamoring for more. It certainly helped that I was seated [in my humble opinion] at the best table in the house, where I met several more gems: Karin, Karin’s mom [I wish.. alas, she was there only in spirit], Jaclyn, and Melissa – the unrivaled reigning queen of handcrafted syrup and the owner of Jo Snow Syrups [as swooned over here]!

Before I go into the menu, take another swig of your coffee and allow me to digress for I must sing Melissa’s praises. Melissa left behind the comforts of a full-time job to start this fun [and highly successful] venture. The day of Tim’s dinner I was tweeting with Melissa describing my excitement to meet her. To my delight, not only was I seated at her table but she also thoughtfully brought me a bottle of syrup to take home as a gift. Seriously, how sweet is she? Such a generous act of kindness and one I won’t forget. In fact, I’m putting together a post on the many different ways I’m using my prized bottle of cardamom rose water syrup… stay tuned on that.

Back to the menu:

[the snacks] a perfectly salty trio of popcorn, peanuts, and olives to compliment jo snow’s rhubarb & basil syrup beer cocktail.

[lemon ricotta ravioli with spicy asparagus] this pillow of heaven had a tangy, creamy filling with a welcome crunchy kick from the asparagus.

[sorrel soup with poached eggs] eggs + soup, why have i never tried this combo before? also my first experience with sorrel, it had a pleasantly sharp bite that contrasted nicely with the velvety texture of the egg.

[dessert] i think this was my number one but i don’t like to play favorites. let’s just say tim + sandra’s homemade cheesecake = religious experience.

So there you have it. Although I had my camera in tow, I was enjoying the company at my table too much to take photos. I did manage one of dessert:

 

[like buttah]

The team at Floriole, including Sandra and Rachel Post [Floriole's head bread baker], will be holding another dinner this summer – a pizza party to top all pizza parties! Tim let me know he’ll be on our end this time enjoying the ‘za.  We’re all looking forward to it, thanks again everyone for a stellar night. It was a real treat.

 

 

 

 

 

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My niece Catherine might be the only baby in the history of the world who didn’t go bananas on her first birthday smash cake. Not even close. She gave it a couple jabs and a few sidelong glances before deeming it perfectly uninteresting. It might as well have been a plate of brussel sprouts [actually, she'd probably enjoy that more].

[officially could not care less.]

The point is that the gal is selective – she knows what she wants. In turn, I knew I had to get her something extra special for her first of all birthdays, but what? I searched high and low until I came across this handmade jewelryon Etsy. The artist behind Jeneri Jewelry is based right here in Chicago – and whattya know – she’s originally from Cleveland too.

It was tough to narrow it down but I got Catherine the Near Your Heart necklace engraved with “M&C” and Madeline [my other niece and Catherine's sister] one with “C&M”, both in sterling silver. They turned out beautifully. Jen of Jeneri Jewelry is a tremendously talented artist who does it all. I truly love her pieces as they are each one-of-a-kind.

[my jeneri necklace i had made with my parents initials]

Jen was kind enough to take a break from her hectic schedule to answer a few questions I had about her designs, background and inspiration. Read on for an exclusive coupon code for navy + cream readers, and to hear more about what makes Jen tick…

[1] Jen, your jewelry is so beautiful and meaningful. What gave you the idea to start your business?

I’ve always loved jewelry. We moved from Cleveland to Chicago four years ago and I became a full-time stay-at-home mom to our son. I had always worked since the time I was 16, and found myself going a little crazy after two weeks. I was within walking distance [dangerous!] to a bead shop and decided to give it a whirl. I never wore any of my jewelry because I wasn’t really a “bead person”. A few months later I took an “introduction to soldering class”, and then the real fun began.

[2] What inspires you?

Simple items. I like meaningful pieces that can be worn everyday with a t-shirt and jeans, but special enough that you’d wear it to a nice dinner.

[3] We agree. What is one of the most unique requests you’ve received for a design?

A woman had me design a “tug” necklace for her boyfriend. She wanted a heavy choker with 3 circles integrated into the chain. She explained that it needed to be durable enough for “strong tugging”. I was too embarrassed to ask if it lived up to their expectations.

[4]  On the flip side, what’s the most popular item in your store?

Anything gold! I’ve seen a substantial increase in gold sales over the last six months. The “Near Your Heart Personalized Choker” has been especially popular.

[5] Can we find your pieces at any boutiques in Chicago?

Nope! The boutiques that carry my jewelry have all found me through my Etsy website – but none in Chicago yet! I can be found in Nantucket, Tennessee, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, and LA.

[6] Hopefully we’ll see you in stores here soon. So you have roots in Ohio and Chicago, like myself! What brought you to Chicago?

My husband’s job. I came kicking and screaming, but fell in love with Chicagoland and never want to leave!

[7] What do you enjoy most about your business?

The ability to create meaningful keepsakes, and the freedom of my own schedule. Professionally, I was an Audiologist [hearing & balance] for seven years before moving to Chicago. I enjoyed it, but didn’t have a passion for it. I truly have a passion for jewelry.

[8] Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Take a few business classes! All of my higher education was in health and sciences, and I desperately wish I’d taken some accounting/finance. Other than that, have passion for what you’re doing and always be open to trying something new.

[9] What jewelry do you wear on a daily basis?

1. Wedding Rings

2. Rosary Ring [I’ve worn this since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 yrs ago]

3. Max necklace

[10] What’s your idea of the perfect day?

Sleeping in. Eating anything I want without heartburn or gaining an ounce. Visiting with family and friends. Hearing my son laugh. Kissing my love goodnight.

~

Jen has generously offered the readers of navy + cream a discount code for her Etsy shop. Enter the code NAVYANDCREAM at the checkout to receive 10% off her entire shop. Jen’s jewelry is ideal for a birthday gift, an engaged pal, a new mom, an anniversary present… the sky’s the limit.  Thanks again to Jen, happy first birthday to my niece, and happy shopping everyone!

 

 

 

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[peeps shmeeps]

Just wanted to pop in and say how awesome my mom is. She is one of those extremely rare people who always put others before themselves. She would fly across the world for her kids – and she has. One summer when I was studying abroad in Italy she flew out to see me for the weekend. All that traveling just to spend two days with me, I’m still in awe when I think about it. I hope I can be one-tenth of the mom she is one day.

So mom sent me some grown-up Easter treats this year from my favorite chocolate store [besides Malley's of course] that put those little pastel marshmallow chicks to shame:

And what was inside? If only you could taste it…

Chocolate covered vanilla marshmallows with a layer of creamy caramel on the bottom [as previously swooned over here] and that’s not all…

A sweet milk chocolate bonnet that tastes like heaven.

Happy Belated Easter! I hope the Easter bunny was good to you this year.

 

 

 

 

 

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