fall

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…it’s what’s for linner.

It’s that in-between time when the lunch hour has passed but dinner is still far off on the horizon. Welcome to Linnertime. Rather than reaching for those salty’n sweet treats from the vending machine or pantry, have some of these vegetables on hand to fill up your belly ’til the next proper meal.

You can use any vegetables you have in the kitchen – you do have vegetables in your kitchen right? ;) . The trick is the slow roasting and the use of flavorful smoked sea salt. I bought mine at Trader Joe’s for something like $3 [addendum: although this is the umpteenth post in a row I've written about TJ's, I swear it's not the only place I shop! Here's lookin' at you Whole Foods & Jewel]. It’s a huge canister that I’ll probably never finish because a little goes a long way.

If you work in an office or don’t have access to an oven during the day, roast up some veggies the night before and bring them to work with you to snack on the next day. The flavors are just as tasty at room temperature as they are fresh from the oven. You could also serve these as a dinner side, dice them up and serve them with tortilla chips as a roasted salsa or pile them on top of toasted bread for a low-cal sandwich.

 

Smokey Slow Roasted Vegetables

  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 6 mini bell peppers, sliced [or use 1 regular sized bell pepper - your favorite color]
  • 5 mushrooms [any kind], sliced
  • dash of olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

for garnish [optional]:

  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 400F. Slice red onion, bell pepper and mushroom into roughly the same size so they all cook evenly. Toss vegetables in mixing bowl with olive oil, smoked sea salt and pepper. Spray foil-lined pan with butter spray and add vegetables. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes, mixing occasionally. Remove and top with garnish.

[toss toss toss]

[up close and personal]

[before....]

[..after! all pretty & caramelized]

[enjoy!]

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In honor of All Hallows Eve I wanted to share my delicious holiday twist on Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix.

This coffee cake is to die for, I really can’t emphasize enough how GOOD it is. It’s silky and smooth, the perfect bite to go with your morning cuppa joe. Just thinking about it makes me want to peel open the [safely out of sight] tupperware and grab a piece… but I’m staying strong. If you, however, end up eating the whole batch in one sitting I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

I’m sure this cake mix just on it’s own would be delicious but I figured, it’s October, I have a can of pumpkin, what the heck let’s get a little wild. I’ve also read that you can sub in pumpkin puree for butter & oil in boxed cake recipes to cut down on fat but it does give the cake a distinct pumpkinny flavor so unless you’re aiming for that, I’d stick to butter & oil.

If you want to follow the box directions, go for it. You’ll still come up with a yummy cake. If you want to walk on the wild side, read on for an unbelievably moist, creamy [and festively orange colored] cake that will quickly become one of your fall staples.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Silk Coffee Cake

for cake:

  • 1 bag of cake mix from Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix
  • 1 egg, room temperature [same as box recipe]
  • 3 1/2 tbsp butter, melted [a little less than box recipe]
  • 2/3 cup water [box says use water -or- milk, i went with water because the added pumpkin would already thicken it up]
  • 3/4 can of pure pumpkin [note: not pumpkin pie mix]
  • 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup

for crumb topping:

  • 1 bag of crumble mix from TJ’s Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake Mix
  • 3 1/2 tbsp chilled butter, cut into cubes

Grease your favorite pan [I used an 8" square pan] and preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, add all cake ingredients together and whisk for 15 seconds, or until just combined [be careful not to overmix or the cake will be tough]. In a separate bowl, use your hands to mix the cubed butter and crumb mix together until well-incorporated yet still crumbly. Add 1/2 the cake batter into the pan, then add 1/2 the crumb mix. Pour the rest of the cake batter on top, then cover with the remaining crumb mix. Place in oven [on the center rack, if possible] and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Keep a close eye on this cake, if it’s overcooked it will loose some of it’s creaminess. Run a knife around the edges of pan while still warm to loosen bits stuck to the side. Wait for cake to cool completely, then cut and enjoy with a glass of cold milk within reach.

 

[and then there was one.]

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[faking it]

Spaghetti squash. It looks the part and actually tastes like the real thing. Truly.

I had my doubts but I’m 100% converted. Spaghetti squash is a delicious low-carb [and nutrient rich] alternative to pasta. A little nutty, a little sweet, it is a wonderful substitute for pasta in any dish. I tossed mine with some veggies and fresh basil but I bet it would also be good with spicy Italian sausage or in a pesto sauce.

Spaghetti Squash with Portobello Mushrooms, Basil & Tomato

  • 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half
  • dash of sea salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • dash of garlic powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 portabella mushroom cap, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered [i used an orange colored variety. they taste the same but add a cool pop of orange to the dish]
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • parmesan cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil [to coat pan]

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease baking sheet and place sliced spaghetti squash cut side down on baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until sharp knife is inserted with little resistance. Set aside squash until cool enough to handle.

While squash is baking, drizzle olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Season garlic, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes and basil with sea salt, pepper and garlic powder and add to pan. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until tomatoes appear blistered and onions are translucent.

Take one half of the squash and scoop out the inside. Discard seeds [or save them and roast them separately... they taste like pumpkin seeds]. Note the freaky resemblance to spaghetti. Add to bowl and top with parmesan and a dash of salt and pepper. Pour vegetables over top the squash and enjoy [save the other half of your squash for another meal... or double the rest of the ingredients & serve it all at once]!

 

 

 

 

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[the artists' work: a st. laurence high school logo, a nightmare before christmas jack-o-lantern, a chicago bears logo [hehe] and an owl on a branch]

The best kinds of weekends are the ones where you don’t have plans but things sort of unfold as you go. This weekend we did just that, fall style. We carved pumpkins, watched football [or if you were me, napped], drank spiced cider [simmer apple cider with cinnamon sticks, whipped cream vodka & captain morgan - delish] & watched a scary movie. The weather was crisp and picture perfect. I’m craving more fall weekends just like this one.

While we’re on the subject of fall, the other week I baked up these miniature chocolate pumpkin spice cakes with a cider maple glaze for our flag football team. They were super easy to make and a tasty way to celebrate our first win!

[even though they look semi fancy they're simply doctored up cake mix plus doctored up vanilla frosting]

[more cute cakes with my crock pot simmering away in the background]

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cakes with Cider Maple Glaze

for cakes:

  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix
  • eggs, oil & water per box directions
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • dash of pure vanilla extract

for glaze:

  • 1/2 cup of your favorite vanilla frosting
  • 1 dash of apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 dash cinnamon

{optional but yet also sort of a necessity this time of year: bag of candy corn}

Preheat your oven to 350F. Combine pumpkin bread mix with eggs, oil, water, vanilla and chocolate chips. Pour into your favorite [greased] cupcake tin [I used a mini bundt cake pan]. Bake per package directions. While cakes are baking, whisk frosting, cider, maple syrup, and cinnamon together. Let cakes cool completely, then drizzle glaze over top with a fork. Decorate with candy corns and serve.

 

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Last weekend we celebrated the day o’my birth and my sister came in to visit me for the occasion. We had tons of girly fun – mani/pedi’s, boutique shopping, coffee runs & meals at fab restaurants. It was exciting and relaxing, exhilarating and restorative, all in one. Family time is good for the soul.

[the two sisters]

For some time I’ve had my eye on a brand new little brunch spot down the street from my place. The menu was clean and inventive, plus the two guys behind the restaurant hail from the iconic Charlie Trotters. Once I saw this rave review in Daily Candy, I was sold and knew I couldn’t waste anymore time. With my sister in tow, we set out for a Friday mid-morning brunch at Lincoln Park’s newest hot spot, 2Sparrows.

[and that, my friends, would be the general manager making house-made beef jerky right atop the bar]

We ordered the foie gras pop tart with cherry compote [!!] for a little app, then we each ordered the eggs benedict [had to see what the b-y-o hollandaise was all about].

[cappuccino made with intelligentsia coffee to start the day off right]

[the richness of the foie gras offset the sharp tang of the cherry. 'twas all wrapped up in a buttery, flaky crust. mmmmm.]

The eggs benedict was EGGCELLENT [shame on me. couldn't resist]. I’ve had quite a few eggs benedicts in my time and I would go out on a limb [branch?] by saying 2Sparrows has the best eggs benedict I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Where oh where do I begin:

-the ham. I don’t normally like the greasy, fatty canadian bacon that typically comes with eggs benedict, therefore I order mine sans meat. In this case, our [amazing] server informed us that all the ham is made in-house and so I decided to give it a try. Boy am I glad I did. This ham was wonderful. Just the right amount of salty smokiness to round out the dish.

-the toast. Sometimes the richness of eggs benedict can leave you with that nauseously overfull feeling. I blame that feeling, not on my own gluttonous ways, but on the filling bread that most eggs benedicts are perched on. At 2Sparrows the small, almost bite-sized pieces of toast are just the right amount.

-the big green salad. I’d never seen eggs benedict paired with a big green salad before and oh lordy, was it delicious. My sister loved the fennel and the dressing was light and refreshing. The perfect compliment to our eggy & indulgent brunch.

-the b-y-o hollandaise. Whoa. This was another first for me. Our meal came with not one, but two different hollandaise sauces – one was infused with roasted red pepper, the other with scallions. You build your own [b-y-o] and mix it up however you like. Who knew brunch could be so much fun?

The atmosphere was dynamic [even for a Friday afternoon], the service was excellent, the food was right on the money [and for that matter, quite reasonable given the upscale feel of the place]. I can sum it up with this – never before have I been at a meal where my companion and I both completely cleared our plates. We ate every last crumb. 2Sparrows, I will see you [and your eggs benedict... & probably your maple & bacon doughnuts] again soon.

 

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[boo!]

Found this gem on a very cool blog a year ago and wanted to remember to share it with you for this year’s Halloween. The crafty blogger created it in Photoshop and encourages you to print it out and frame it for this year’s Halloween party [you can download the full 8x10 version on her site]. I love when bloggers are generous in this way.

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[pumpkin spice latte {& my sweet chipped polish} in your face. make yours a venti.]

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WHO Nike and AKIN

WHAT WE RUN CHI., a party to kick off the launch of the Chicago LunarGlide+3 & a preview of Nike’s fall collection before the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

WHEN Saturday, October 1 [the day after TOMORROW!], 3-5 p.m.

WHERE AKIN, 2350 N. Clark, Chicago, 60614 [map here]

WHY Well, for starters:

+ Nike specially commissioned local Chicago artist Tara D. to design these one-of-a-kind LunarGlide+3′s.

+ Nike reps will be on hand to give tips on running in the rain, the dark, and in these chilly fall and winter months.

+ There will be complimentary food, drinks and snazzy giveaways [after all, it's Nike we're talking about].

+ You can get a sneak peek at Nike’s new Marathon Collection and fall running line.

Plus …I can hardly contain my excitement because the lovely folks at Nike are kindly gifting me a pair of these limited edition sneaks, yippie! I may not have a million dollars but I will have the coolest kicks in town! ‘Tis the little things in life my friends.

I plan to lace up my new LunarGlide+3′s for trips to the coffee shop, gallivanting around town, and maybe even once in awhile for an actual run. I’m thinking these are just the motivation I need to hit the lakefront trail when the temperature takes a plunge.  I can’t keep these lovelies all to myself!

I love the way Tara D. captured the spirit of the city, from incorporating the flag of Chicago’s color scheme to subtle details like adding CHI to the tongue.

[be still my heart.]

Even though I’m most definitely NOT running the marathon, I will gladly show my support [from the sidelines] by sporting my new sneaks. So Saturday, bring your friends … 2350 N. Clark … 3-5 pm … come run, come all!

 

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If you know me, if you know this blog, you know that fall is my favorite season by far. I’m a fall baby, born in October and I associated the season with so much happiness and excitement. The beginning of a new school year, football, crunchy leaves, bonfire weather, hot apple cider…  Vince and I joke that if there was a place where it was fall year round we would move there in a heartbeat. As we all know such a place doesn’t exist, but perhaps the fleeting nature of fall is part of it’s appeal. We look forward to it, we celebrate it, and although we’re not ready to say goodbye… in the blink of an eye it’s gone. Mid-November creeps in and with it come those pesky winter doldrums. For that slim window of time though, fall was ours.

This is fall to me:

1. Aubin & Wills Calderwood Jumper, $236

2. Tory Burch, Clines Ballet Flat, $235

3. BDG, Plaid Ruana, $42

4. Mulberry, Small Baswater Satchel in Oak, $900

5. Caramel apple shout out!

6. NARS Nails in Sparkling Candy Apple Red, $17

7. J Brand, High Rise Flared Corduroy Jeans in Toffee, $225

8. Burberry Walking Umbrella, $250

9. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, “…signature espresso blended with the unmistakeable spices of fall – cinnamon, nutmeg, clove – smooth with steamed milk and topped with delectably sweetened whipped cream.” love in a cup.

What says fall to you?

 

 

 

 

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[rustic house]

Last night to celebrate Vince’s birthday we went to the [relatively] new kid on the block, Rustic House. I was initially drawn to this Lincoln Park locale because of the fireplace [love] and it’s cozy, intimate interior. Once I did a little digging I fell in love with the menu… the executive chef frequents Green City Market [yeaa!] and they have really interesting dishes like hand-rolled gnocchi with hudson valley foie gras & crispy pork belly, but also feature traditional feel good comfort foods like chicken pot pie and braised lamb.

[the birthday boy & his present, which i stealthily concealed in a missoni for target shoebox. more on that traumatizing shopping experience to come.]

We had the gnocchi to start, it was a modest portion but delicious. For dinner Vince ordered the halibut ["sweet corn & lobster succotash/champagne beurre blanc"] and I got the veal cheek ragout ["pappardelle/pear tomato confit/saved pecorino"]. Vince’s was REALLY good, he got quite a sizable piece of fish and the sweet corn & lobster succotash combo was amazing. I wasn’t as crazy about mine, it was a wee bit salty for my liking, but I’m a sucker for fresh homemade pasta and enjoyed the pappardelle. Oh and we also got a side of roasted garlic mashed potatoes, they were tasty.

[onto dessert. decisions, decisions.]

[worth noting: you can order wine by the glass, carafe, or bottle. the carafe is the equivalent to a glass and a half, the perfect middle ground.]

[we went with the whatchamacallit]

Highlights of the night were the excellent service, great beer recommendations, warm’n cozy ambiance and tantalizing menu. Overall verdict: we loved Rustic House and will be back soon!

 

 

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