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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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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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Banana Berry Smoothie

  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 4 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 of a 5.3 oz container blueberry yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups ice

Add. Blend. Drink.

[open wide!]

p.s. my baby niece learned how to walk yesterday! yahooooo

 

 

 

 

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I’m sort of embarrassed to admit what I did last week. Because I am a weirdo and enjoy grocery shopping more than a normal person should, I made a night out of it. You can’t blame me though, I live 10 minutes from the wondrous glory that is the Lincoln Park Whole Foods [15150 N. Kingsbury], the third-largest Whole Foods store in the world. This is not your average grocery store. It is the gargantuan mother of all grocery stores. Sure, you can pick up milk and eggs but why stop there when you can hit up…

  • Da’Vine Wine Bar [totally acceptable to sip a glass of wine as you shop]
  • 1550 Bar [complete with nightly specials such as Trivia Night]
  • Mix-and-Match Cookie and Trail Mix Stations
  • Make-your-own Bath Salt Station
  • Make-your-own Peanut/Cashew/Almond Butter Station
  • Seven in-store eateries [fresh sushi, bakery, deli, and more]
  • Rooftop yoga class
  • Nightly cooking classes

+ so much more

…all under one [massive] roof.

This beautiful behemoth is truly something to behold. I’ve taken both my brother and sister to check it out when they visited me and they were blown away too. My sister and I were lucky enough to score seats at the bustling wine bar and enjoyed wine flights and prime people watching. There were couples on dates, guys catching up over a pint, girlfriends with glasses of champagne. All in the middle of a grocery store – who’d a thunk it.

I wanted to share some photos of my shopping trip with you, and, me being the responsible blogger that I am, called ahead to get the OK from Whole Foods to take some photos. With some minor stipulations, they welcomed me with open arms. Without further ado…

[the sheer volume of everything is astounding]

[endless rows of fat, juicy heirloom tomatoes]

[lifetime supply {and then some} of carrot juice]

[fancy soap station]

[bath salt bar]

[pellegrino as far as the eye can see]

[had to do it]

A few things that came home with me…

[my favorite tea]

[freshly ground 100% almonds... it was warm as it came out of the grinder!]

[my new obsession: black truffle oil... a bit of a splurge at $12 for a small bottle but you can use it in everything and a little goes a long way. i've added it to mac + cheese and eaten it just by itself with whole-grain bread]

[icelandic style yogurt is very thick and has a TON of protein]

[farm fresh eggs you literally pluck from a little chicken coop-esque bed of hay]

[i've lived in chicago for 3 years and had never tried the famous oberweis milk - til now!]

 

 

 

 

 

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Continuing the theme of vegetarian meals, I put together this coconut curry tofu that’s chock full of so many veggies you won’t even miss the meat. I’ve always enjoyed curry dishes and although it’s possible to make your own curry paste, it’s pretty time consuming and the packets you can buy at the store taste just as good – plus the unused portion will keep in your fridge for months. My favorite is ‘A Taste of Thai’ red curry paste, it has a great spicy kick to it.

If you’re like Vince and are afraid of tofu, don’t be, it’s delicious and absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce it happens to be simmering in. It’s also a breeze to cook with, you can throw it into pretty much anything without any prep work [unlike chicken... sometimes the sliminess of chicken gets to me]. You can find it in the produce section of  most grocery stores and if my two nieces [c = 11 months, her first birthday is in 2 weeks!, and m = 3 years] love it, you will too.

Coconut Curry Tofu

  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp ‘A Taste of Thai’ red curry paste
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped [pick your favorite color or mix'n match like I did]
  • 1 bunch snow peas [in the pod], halved
  • 10 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 7 oz. extra firm organic tofu [half the package], cut into bite-sized cubes

Bring coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, and curry paste to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Let mixture stand for 2-3 minutes to thicken. Ladle over whole grain brown rice. Serves two plus leftovers.

[the vibrant colors of these veggies practically leap off the cutting board]

[the lineup continued... coconut milk + soy sauce + fish sauce]

[coconut milk + soy sauce make a pretty design in the pan]

 

 

 

 


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Ever since I saw Lindsay Lohan’s character dunk an oreo in a jar of peanut butter in The Parent Trap, I was hooked on the snack. I found this recipe for a no bake bar [my first] and had all the ingredients on hand. Remembering how good peanut butter + oreos are together, I strayed from the recipe and added a touch of peanut butter to the mix. I also didn’t have a full package of oreos so I improvised and added some reduced-fat chips ahoys.

Cookies’n Cream Bars

  • 1 package oreos [I used Trader Joe's Joe-Joes  {like oreos but better} and again, only had half a package so I used some reduced-fat chips ahoys. use any cookies you have.]
  • 2 spoonfuls natural peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 package mini marshmallows

Place cookies in a ziploc bag and crush [doesn't need to be a fine crush]. Place marshmallows, butter, and peanut butter in a large mixing bowl and microwave for 1.5 – 2 minutes or until marshmallows begin to puff. Remove and pour in cookie mixture. Stir to combine then transfer to a foil lined 8×8 baking pan. Let sit for 10 minutes. Remove bars out of pan with edges of foil and cut into squares. Makes 9 large bars. Told you it was easy!

 

 

 

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{When life hands you mushy bananas…}

I had a couple bananas that were turning on me and it was the perfect time to bake a batch of banana bread. In the spirit of St. Pat’s I wanted to add some green flair to my grandma’s recipe but without any green food coloring in the cupboard I wasn’t sure how to pull it off. As my eyes settled on the basil pot on the windowsill it hit me, why not give the savory Italian herb a try? I had a hunch the subtle, slightly minty flavors of the basil would compliment the sugary sweetness of the banana nicely. Although I didn’t get the vibrant green hue I was hoping for, the incidental marrying of flavors was right on.

Basil Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3-4 ripe bananas
  • 1-2 tsp sour cream, if you have it
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 bunch [4-5 large leaves] fresh basil, chopped

Reserve:

  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 3-4 large basil leaves, chopped – for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix butter, sugar, bananas, sour cream, water, chocolate chips, basil and eggs thoroughly in big bowl with electric mixer. Mix remaining dry ingredients and add to wet mixture slowly [otherwise the flour will fly everywhere and make a huge lovely mess...]. When all ingredients are combined, gently fold in reserved chocolate chips with a spatula. Grease one large loaf pan. Bake in oven 35-40 minutes or until butter knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on rack, remove from pan, slice, top with reserved basil. Enjoy a piece for breakfast [wrap in a lightly damp paper towel and steam it the microwave for 15 seconds. Slather a pat of butter on top while still warm], or have a slice as a sweet after dinner treat.

 

 

 

 

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[lenten lunch]

Ladies + gents, the season of Lent is upon us, which you probably know means no meat on Fridays for the next 40 days. Typically I’ll forget about this until halfway through something extra meaty of course [like a cheeseburger], rationalize it by saying God wouldn’t want me to waste it, then proceed to polish it off and vow to remember for next Friday. This year I’m cracking down, baby. No meat on Fridays, period, and I’m making sure my butt is in a pew each and every Sunday. Although these are both things a good Catholic should already be doing, this former altar girl is trying to get back on track.

No meat, no problem. Here is a quick and healthy recipe for a tuna melt.

TGIF Tuna Melt

  • 1 can chunk light tuna, drained
  • 1 tsp low-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp deli mustard
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp feta cheese
  • dash of kosher salt + black pepper
  • 2 ‘veggie slices’, cheddar flavor [see explanation w/photo below]
  • 2 slices good quality whole-grain bread

Mix first six ingredients together in a bowl, place mixture on top of bread and finish off with the veggie slices. Pop under a broiler in your toaster oven for 1-2 minutes, voila.

[in case you were wondering what the violently orange stuff is in the picture up top, i have to admit it's a cheese imposter. i saw these in the organic produce section at jewel and wanted to give them a try. they're pretty good and taste surprisingly like cheddar cheese - plus are much, much better for you. the orange color comes a natural food coloring, carotenal, which is derived from skins of oranges and tangerines. they're mostly soy and pack three grams of protein per slice. try these out!]

[i love LaBrea's whole grain bread. it's got a thick, crunchy crust and the inside is soft and chewy even days later. the bakery is based in california but they ship everywhere - i got this loaf at jewel]

 

 

 

 

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One of my favorite things to do is go out to a relaxed dinner, unrushed, unhurried, savoring every bite and enjoying each plate the talented chef concocts. Last night I had the pleasure of trying out one of Chicago’s newest up-and-coming restaurants, the distinctive Argentinian~Italian fusion restaurant, Caminito. Located in Lincoln Park, across from Steppenwolf, this gem is mere months old, but somehow [he never reveals his ways] my thoughtful boyfriend found out about it and, knowing how much I love eclectic, unique cuisine, made plans for us to try it out.

[winnie + kev, quintessential sweethearts]

We both love gnocchi [pasta + potatoes, basically sums up the two of us] and he’d heard Caminito had the best gnocchi in the city ~ which, news to me, is a common dish in Argentina. After dousing some of our freshly baked bread in housemade chimichurri [our server clued us in that it's a blend of oregano, red pepper, fresh parsley, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar] we both ordered the Gnocchi al Fruto del Mar [homemade potato dumplings sauteed with fresh seafood on a semi-spicy tomato sauce]. As we sipped our champagne and sopped up the addicting chimichurri with the hot crusty bread, diners slowly started trickling in, and before we knew it the place was packed. Oh, and how could I leave this part out, it’s a BYOB! Genius right?

[some bubbly for date night]

Our gnocchi came, a prettily arranged plate piled with calamari, crab, mussels, and the famed dumplings. In went the first forkful. Heaven, I tell you. Each bite of the gnocchi was pillowy soft and creamy, matched by the hearty chunks of fresh seafood. We both chewed in silent admiration, this gnocchi was legit. In the midst of all this a person approached our table, professional-looking camera in tow. “Mind if I take your picture?” He was a photographer from Metromix/RedEye and they were featuring Caminito in their Friday edition. We were going to be famous! Okay, not really, but it was pretty cool and a first for both of us. Snap, snap, snap. “Can you cheers with your champagne glass?” Sure! Snap, snap, snap. A very memorable end to an already wonderful evening.

ps: apologies for the shoddy photos, the dim light works like a charm for romantic ambiance, not as well for snapping non-flash iPhone pics.

[let the stomach growling commence]

[every bit as good as it looks]

[+ dessert: almendrado con dulce de leche]


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[nutella pillows]

You may have noticed navy + cream was out of commission the past week, and I’m pointing my finger at you, Snowmageddon 2011. Below, one of many eerie photos circulating the web that captured the mayhem.

[Lake Shore Drive, a highway that runs through Chicago, as it appeared the morning of February 2nd.]

Although the blizzard threw everyone out of whack, I secretly loved it. We spent the two blustery days holed up at Vince’s sister and husbands house lazing around in our pajamas playing board games, eating junk food and watching movies. The third morning Vince and I felt the twangs of cabin fever and we finally surfaced from their home, only to discover that Vince’s poor car was buried under a miniature Mount Everest. Two hours, a piece of cardboard, a borrowed shovel, and two good samaritans later, we managed to free his car from the snowdrift. That was about the time I started to simultaneously loath the snow and praise the Lord for my heated garage spot.

Blizzard business aside, this past week I discovered a new favorite holiday: World Nutella Day. Music to my ears. On February 5th, chocolate lovers like myself celebrate all of the goodness that is this delicious, sweet, and creamy Italian spread. I came across this yummy-sounding yet simple recipe on Picky Palate and thought it would be the perfect way to ring in Nutella Day.

Nutella Pillows

  • 1 package puff pastry, 2 pastry sheets thawed [you can find it in your freezer aisle]
  • 1 cup Nutella [available at most grocery stores, at Jewel it's located by the peanut butter and jelly]
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp water for egg wash
  • sprinkling of sugar
  • sprinkling of powdered sugar [optional]

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Cut each square of pastry into 4 equal size pieces.  Spread a couple tablespoons of Nutella spread onto the center of each pastry leaving 1/2 inch border around edges.  Top each with about 12-15 mini marshmallows and fold over to form a little triangle.  Crimp edges firmly with the tines of a fork.  Brush with egg white wash then sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until pastry just turns golden.  Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, sprinkle with powdered sugar then dig in! Yields 8 pillows.

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