why must I feel like that

It has arrived. My first winter cold. Pretty amazing that I've avoided disgusting germs so far this season given that I spend so much time with children and on public transportation. I'm grouchy, lethargic, and have aching muscles, but I'm still hungry. Rather than my usual one or two cups, I'm drinking hot tea throughout the day. Irish Breakfast in the morning, Orange Pekoe/Darjeeling/Cinnamon during the day, and Chamomile at night.

Feed a cold, grandmothers for generations have said. Eating is a remedy for pretty much every malady (excepting the stomach flu) as far as I'm concerned. This week I've fed my cold: fifteen cuts of meat at a Brazilian steakhouse, crepes, two kinds of meatballs, pub cheese, spicy salmon, dozens of holiday cookies, beef bourguignon, turkey three ways, udon, a clementine per day, shrimp linguine, dibs ice cream bites, bacon-wrapped dates, brussel sprouts, a bottle and a half of red wine, chicken skin, spanikopita, Life cereal, mashed potatoes, bok choy, and sushi. The cold is still going strong.

Nostalgic foods that have comforted me in the past usually do the trick when I'm really sick. Orange jello with suspended canned mandarin oranges. Cinnamon toast with a cup of constant comment red label tea on a saucer. Chicken and noodles - those big puffy dumplings - not canned condensed soup. Stuff my mom would bring me in bed. In college, I moved on to ethnic take-out in desperate times of illness far from home. Thai soups and Indian curries were standbys, but my go-to sinus headache cure was the Atomic Salsa from Ted's Cafe Escondido. The wait at any number of Ted's locations in the OKC area can easily top an hour or two, but Oklahomans are willing. They also have take-out, which was always my preferred method. Consistently, Ted's has awesome service. I arrived home once with the wrong take-out order. The manager delivered the correct order to my apartment (within 30 minutes), refunded my credit card charge, let me keep the incorrect order, and gave me a gift certificate. The food is decent, unpretentious, cheesy Tex-Mex. It might not be the best I've ever had, but it definitely gets the job done.

Ted's Cafe Escondido originally uploaded by DanHerron.

But the Atomic Salsa is perfect. Ted's, like any self-respecting Tex-Mex joint, gives you complimentary fresh tortillas, queso, and pickled jalapeno relish (aka escabeche) in addition to chips and salsa. You can also ask for additional salsas like a habanero version that I can't handle. The green Atomic is jalapeno based and has big chunks of avocado to balance the heat. It is the perfect mix of flavor and spice, opening your sinuses without burning your taste buds. I haven't had this salsa for at least five years, but with every cold and sinus headache I long for it.


home is anywhere you hang your head

Do yourself a favor this holiday week: start drinking early.

I love the bloodys at Tweet, a popular brunch spot attached to a gay bar in Uptown (also home of the only decent biscuits and gravy I've had in Chicago - someone please explain why the second city doesn't understand cream gravy!).  A couple of years ago, I broke down and asked the bartender for his secret to spicy and flavorful bloody marys.  He used Absolut Peppar, Sriracha (now a big food trend) and cracked black pepper.  I've tinkered with the recipe because I like mine really strong and spicy, so scale back if you can't stand the heat or hold your liquor.  I'm responsible for turning a recent Sunday brunch amongst friends into quite a few Monday morning hangovers. Combining sources makes for a depth of flavor in addition to just plain heat.  This recipe fits nicely in a pint glass, which is my recommended dosage.

Damn Good Bloody Mary
4 oz. good vodka
4 oz. Clamato
4 oz. Tomato or Vegetable Juice
1 tsp. horseradish (prepared, less if using fresh grated)
1 tsp. sriracha
3-4 dashes cholula (or tabasco)
3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
pinch black pepper
celery salt
celery seed
lime wedges

pickled pepperocini peppers
blue cheese stuffed olives
mortadella slices
blanched asparagus
pepperoni sticks
bell pepper slices
cheese cubes
cucumber spears (or pickles)

Combine a tablespoon of celery salt with a teaspoon of celery seeds on a saucer or small plate.  Rub a lime wedge around the glass' rim and dip it onto the plate of seasonings to coat.  Add some ice to glass, followed by the vodka, horseradish, hot sauce, Worcestershire and pepper.  Then add the tomato and clamato juices and stir to combine.  Garnish with preferred fixings.  Drink.


Happy Xmas

In second grade, after seeing an ad on television for the Mayor's Christmas Tree Fund during Tiny Toon adventures, I gathered up a box of my toys and wrapped them in newsprint to give to needy kids.  Not understanding that they would only accept new toys, I proudly presented them to my Mom to donate.  I also had no idea that the tree in our living room, the gifts under it, and many of our dinners that December had been provided by that very charity.  Though we didn't always have a telephone or electricity, I thought we lived comfortably enough.  It was kind of exotic to do homework by candle light like they did in the olden days.  Though my Mom didn't teach me to cook, she did teach me to shop on a budget, celebrate little things (champagne for Arbor Day!), appreciate the kindness and generosity of others, reciprocate, to write thank you notes, and about the importance of a well-rounded record collection.  We sometimes had to "grocery shop" at the local food pantry, but we also volunteered there regularly. 

Yes, the economy has gone to shit.  I'm not going to let that spoil my gift-giving fun.  Certainly it is a time for scaling back, reassessing America's sad backward values, and avoiding the big box retail hellhole.  It is not a time to ignore the thoughtful act of giving.  People should still party, still celebrate their friendships and forced workplace acquaintances. Donate canned goods.  Make homemade gifts.  Participate in Dirty Santa. Have a potluck.  Shop at a thrift store.  Send a card by post.  Do it your damn self. 

My favorite holiday card was made with scissors, glue, a Sears catalog, a sense of humor and a copy machine.  Some of my best holiday memories revolve around family traditions like fresh delivered homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas Day (from the Walkers!) and sitting on the counter while my Grandma Georgia made batches and batches of fudge and divinity.  Most of my presents this year will be edible, but as an homage to my favorite thrifty mother-daughter pastime - window shopping! - here are a slew of beautiful, silly, practical and covetable food-related items perfect for gifting or if you prefer, just wishing...

Six barware glasses, $39 at Velocity

Momofuku Cookbook, $23.40 at Amazon

Jelly Roll Pans with Cooling Racks, $30 at Sur La Table

Kitchy Coasters, Set of Six $6 at Anne Taintor

vic firth french rolling pin, $13.95 at Amazon

fallen hardwood serving trays, $36 at show

pastry scraper, $8 at William Sonoma

ACME shopping bags, starting at 8.95 at reusablebags

birch covered flowerpot, $3.99 at save on crafts

home sous vide machine, $449 at Sous Vide Supreme

porcelain salt & pepper shakers, $14 at Backgarage's Etsy Store

cocoa powder, 13.99 at Valrhona

slate cheese board, $69 at Viva Terra

Michael Aram Woodgrain Tray, $225 at Waterford

Besides this one, my favorite holiday food round-ups:
Dave Lebovitz lists his favorite cookbooks of the year.
Lottie & Doof celebrate 12 days of cookies with beautiful photos and recipes.
For under $10, The Kitchn's list makes for affordable stocking stuffers.


Marshmallow World

I first tried this recipe out for a camping trip where I envisioned grown up s'mores.  We ate them with graham crackers and dark chocolate while passing a warming bottle of whiskey around the campfire.  Maybe we weren't acting so adult - a Wisconsin forest ranger had to ask us to pipe down since our tipsy voices were bothering some nearby boy scouts.  Roasting the marshmallows on a stick was a bit problematic, because they melt a bit messier than a store-bought jet-puff.  In the morning, we used these as an alternative to cream & sugar in our campfire coffee too.  At home, I like these under the broiler for a crisp top or melted in hot chocolate.  Chai flavored marshmallows would make a perfect holiday gift.  While your mixer is doing the hard work on the marshmallows, I suggest you crank up the holiday mix at the bottom of the page to help pass the time.

Chai Spiced Marshmallows
adapted from Stephen Durfee,
The French Laundry, 2000

3 envelopes of Knox gelatin
1/2 cup cold chai*
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon

First, line a jelly roll pan with plastic wrap, letting excess wrap hang over the edges of pan.  Coat plastic wrap with cooking oil spray.  In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold chai. Soak for 10 minutes. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water* in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. Add vanilla, cardamom, & cinnamon and incorporate into mixture at medium speed until combined. Lightly oil one of your hands or a spatula. Scrape marshmallow into the plastic wrap-lined pan and spread evenly.  After pouring marshmallow mixture into the pan, use another oiled piece of plastic wrap to press mixture into the corners of pan.  Remove the top piece of plastic wrap and let marshmallows sit for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.  Remove from pan, dredge the marshmallow slab with confectioners' sugar and cut into pieces with kitchen shears, a chef's knife, or a decorative cutter (a simple shape like a star or circle works best). Dredge each piece of marshmallow in sifted confectioners' sugar.

*After some experimenting, I prefer Tazo Chai Latte concentrate best.  You can definitely use your favorite chai tea instead - just be sure to chill it before adding to the gelatin.

** For spicier marshmallows, substitute 1/4 cup chai for the water in the sugar and corn syrup mixture.

Winter Holiday Mix

Marshmallow World - Darlene Love
Fox in the Snow - Belle & Sebastian
Mr. Mistletoe - The Magnetic Fields
Christmas in Hollis - Run DMC
Father Christmas - The Kinks
Little Drummer Boy - Johnny Cash 
My Favorite Christmas (in a hundred words or less) - Of Montreal
Santa Claus is Coming to Town - The Jackson 5
Warm Love - Van Morrison
Last Christmas - Wham
Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses
Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt
O Holy Night - Sufjan Stevens
River - Joni Mitchell
Rockin Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
Winterlong - Pixies
Santa's Beard - They Might Be Giants

and my all time favorite:


foux da fafa

Et maintenant le voyage a la supermarche!

Yesterday, the Chicago French Market opened to much fanfare, political and otherwise.  The lovely cheese monger I chatted up at Pastoral said they had to call for five bread deliveries to keep up with demand and by the end of the day, Sweet Miss Giving's pastry case was empty.  Commuters and foodies alike are celebrating the new convenient access to produce, meat, and prepared foods in the West Loop.  I avoided the opening day crowds and sauntered in after the morning rush today.

Much like a restaurant in its opening weeks, reviewing the market on day two seems unfair and premature.  There are still workers hanging signs and plenty of uninhabited booths.  I wanted to meander on my day off rather than rush in for something on my evening commute.  I didn't have a shopping list and purposefully left my credit card at home.  I bumped into a sad little bunch of balloons on the way in, but then a nice construction worker opened doors for me - twice! - and I wasn't even wearing a dress.

I treated myself to a mini-cupcake from Sweet Miss Givings for breakfast.  It was a moist carrot cake - with lots of shredded carrots and raisins topped with cream cheese frosting.  The frosting was perfect, the way I like to make it, with a good amount of buttercream paired with the cream cheese.  All of the vendors were particularly helpful and talkative.  Some of the meat and fish offerings are on par with what you'd find in a regular local grocery chain, but the guys behind the counter offered to place orders for special requests.  There weren't very many good looking cut flowers, but the potted poinsettias cheered the place up a bit.

Because most people were already at work and the crowds had thinned, I got to hang out with some of the purveyors and discuss our first impressions of the market and their new customer base.  I'm slightly disappointed in the amount of locally grown food available - something I heard from a few vendors too.  Giant pyramids of watermelon aren't exactly in season.  Squash, beets, carrots, and potatoes are from Illinois and the Wisconsin Cheese Mart carries sheep, goat, and cow's milk cheeses all produced in Wisconsin.  I'm sure this will improve as the the season's change.  Sources are marked on most produce and a lot of it is organic. This isn't going to be a destination grocer, but it will handle a lot of commuter traffic and probably feed a lot of downtown workers lunch. I look forward to coming back, once all the vendors set up.

My entire lunch came from Pastoral.  I'm a big fan already, but having a small location on the way home from work will be nice.   I decided to eat like a french person today: a baguette with some cheese and olives, & maybe a spread of apple butter.

Total $21
small baguette
Moses Sleeper cheese, VT (camembert-esque)
Taleggio, Italy
French, Greek & Italian mixed olives
jar seedling apple butter

Just about every Chicago food resource has commented on, toured, and reviewed the market already.  The Kitchn has particularly beautiful photos. Time Out Chicago has been all over the coverage for months.  This was stuck in my head while I was perusing...Beouf/Soup du jour/Le Camembert/Jacque Cousteau/Baguette:


got me used to that clean white linen/and that fancy French cologne

After reading Ruth Reichl's defense of her refrigerator's contents, I feel compelled to justify my guilty food pleasures.  Reichl mostly blamed her husband for such pantry embarrassments as hot dogs and Campbell's tomato soup, but I will take responsibility for all the food in our house.  So what if I lose a little foodie street-cred?  Sometimes my ipod on random reveals the Dixie Chicks or Joni Mitchell nestled in amongst the Jenny Lewis and Elvis Costello.  I blush when that happens, but I should admit that I like some things that are tacky or classic or comforting despite the fact that they don't exactly mesh with my current aesthetic.  David Chang admitted on No Reservations that he loves Mcnuggets with sweet and sour sauce and Bourdain himself says he has a weak spot for KFC mac and cheese.  I use good olive oil, farmer eggs, and seasonal vegetables.  I have sriracha, pumpkin butter, and homemade pickles in the fridge door.  But I also crave Taco Bueno and sometimes buy bagged salad.

Hellman's Mayonnaise
I wouldn't eat the stuff on a sandwich.  In fact, I used to close my eyes when I used store-bought mayo in a recipe to pretend it wasn't there (yes, even as an adult).  Once I had the real deal, it was nearly impossible to justify having a jar of this crap in the fridge...but sometimes I'm lazy and want a chicken salad sandwich or deviled eggs and can't be bothered to make it from scratch.

Peanut Butter with hydrogenated oils
I hate stirring the oil at the top of all natural peanut butter.  I also hate that the last bit in the jar is inedible and dry.  I like my peanut butter creamy and terrible for my heart and arteries. 

Kozy Shack Rice Pudding
Besides "natural flavors", I can identify all of the ingredients in this product: rice, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla (er, vanilla flavor)...that means it isn't so bad or bad for me.  Michael Pollan says so.

Trader Joe's canned lentil soup
I have bags of dried lentils at the ready, and usually have mire poix in the crisper drawer, but dinner on the table in 2 minutes is hard to pass up.  I could eat this for lunch every weekday.  Last Winter, I did.

They are an eco-unfriendly indulgence.  Barbara Kingsolver's whole family makes me feel guilty for buying these.  But banana bread is delicious and I have to reconcile this with the fact that bananas will never be in season in Chicago. 

Tacos at Midnight Doritos
I impulsively and inexplicably bought a large bag at the marina during our camping/fishing excursion to Wisconsin.  I don't even really like Doritos.  I tried to act all snobby about the first few bites "wow...you can really taste the cumin" but it really does (as the AV Club pointed out) just taste like chips covered with a taco seasoning packet.  I still hoarded most of the bag for myself.

Melted Fast Food Cheese
My favorite part of any fast-food experience is scraping up the cheese that has melted onto the packaging and eating it with my fingers.  I admit this is gross and apologize to any of you who have been forced to witness this habit.  I find cheese waste to be unforgivable and will stop at nothing to save the last morsel.

I'm certainly not the only food-obsessive with bad food behavior.  Do you crave fast food even though you know better?  What are your guilty food pleasures?  What snacks do you hide in your office drawer?


everyday I write the book

I didn't write any such thing.  But Martha Bayne, of the Hideout's Soup and Bread fame, did.  She launched a kickstarter page and fundraising effort to print cookbooks commemorating the inaugural year's recipes.  If you remember, we were guest chefs...and we have a recipe included in the book.  We're published!  Buy one at the launch party Dec 9 at the Hideout or online here.  All proceeds benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  Mom, guess what you're getting for Christmas?


let's have a ball and a biscuit, sugar

These biscuits are perfect for sopping up turkey gravy.  I suppose they'd do nicely under some breakfast sausage and gravy for a hearty start to Black Friday also.  The original recipe called for 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese which might put these over the top...feel free to add it with the bacon.

Bacon Scallion Biscuits
adapted from Gourmet February 1997

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 scallions, greens included, trimmed and chopped
5 bacon slices, cooked almost crisp and chopped
3/4 cup cold buttermilk (shake it first, duh)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.  Put 10 or so fresh sage leaves in the bowl of a food processor*.  Pulse until well chopped.  Add flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt to food processor, pulse 2-3 times to mix well.  Add cold butter* and pulse until mixture resembles meal.  Add bacon and Scallions, process for 20 seconds. Add buttermilk and process until mixture just forms a dough.  Pour dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Flour your hands, gather dough into a ball,  and knead gently a few times (no more than 5 or so, don't overwork the dough).  Press dough to 1 inch thick round.  Using a 2-inch cutter, cut rounds from dough and arrange 1 inch apart on baking sheet.  Reform scraps of dough into another 1 inch round, working dough as little as possible, and continue cutting. Bake biscuits in middle of oven 10 - 15 minutes until browned.

*If you don't have a food processor, use a bowl and your hands.  Work the butter in quickly, rubbing between your fingers.  Obviously your fingers will not chop the sage - for that I suggest a knife.

**I cut the butter as soon as it comes out of the fridge and then keep the pieces in a bowl in the freezer while I assemble the dry ingredients.


You to Thank

This week I'm cooking a lot.  I'm taking small breaks from the cooking to read about cooking - and more specifically to read about Thanksgiving food: 

Andrew Knowlton, the BA Foodist, recommends some delicious cranberry cocktails

Michael Ruhlman advises cooks to prepare the stock for gravy today or tomorrow to save time and stress for Thursday.   His best tip of the day: using inexpensive handkerchiefs for straining the liquid.  Cheesecloth sucks and I love this alternative. 

Here's a super quick and delicious pumpkin pie recipe from Andrea at Forkable.

Epicurious explains dry brining, but my friend Nikki's adventures with actual brining, per the advice of Pioneer Woman, are more exciting to read about and they ended with a succulent bird - even though it was over 20 lbs.

25 Chicago restaurants open for Thanksgiving...and then 60 more.

A local charcuterie lover stuffs all of his favorite Thanksgiving flavors into one sausage.

I'm currently grossed out by this recipe for White Castle Slider Stuffing.

Do yourself a favor - subscribe to apartment therapy's the kitchn.  I can't pick just one article.  Most of them are interesting or nice to look at or both.

Revisit This American Life's 2008 Poultry Slam.

Don't forget the Green City Market is open indoors - even this Wednesday for last minute Turkey day shopping.  Also, Rob and Allie from Mado are doing chef demonstrations at 10:30 am!


Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?

Cranberries were always present on my family's Thanksgiving table.  If I was celebrating in Kansas City, I usually had some in the form of a can-shaped jellied blob.  On alternate years in Chicago, I'd have them two ways: a cranberry-orange relish and a homemade cranberry sauce.  I loved all three, but now I make my own version with dried fruit, ginger, and grand marnier.

Most people I know buy a can or follow the instructions on the Ocean Spray package.  Either is fine, but if you want to step it up a notch this year, I have some suggestions:

Forget the Water
Water adds the necessary liquid for your recipe, but provides no flavor.  Instead, substitute juices, liqueurs, or a combination.
  • Orange Juice
  • Apple Cider
  • Hard Cider
  • Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
  • Cranberry Juice
Spice it Up
Add a few pinches of one of these spices for flavor.  At the table everyone will be asking you just what is in your (now famous) cranberry sauce.  Many of these will do double-duty for your holiday desserts.  Add any spices in small amounts and taste as you go. 
  • Ginger (dried, fresh, or candied)
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Star Anise
  • Vanilla Bean
More Fruit
Cranberries are tart.  Besides adding sugar to your sauce, other fruits can provide some natural sweetness and more flavor to your dish. 
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Dried: cranberries, apricots & cherries
  • Orange segments
Other Tips

If you're only going to add one thing to your cranberries (besides sugar and water), choose an orange.  Add the zest of one large orange and the juice.

    Rinse your cranberries in a colander under cold water.  The berries should be firm.  Discard any that are mushy or feel thin-skinned like a grape.  Take care to remove stems.  Your fresh cranberries should not look like this:


    The basic recipe for cranberry sauce is 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, & 1 package fresh cranberries.  Knowing this formula can help you estimate your substitutions.  I prefer 1/2 cup juice, 1/2 cup liqueur, 3/4 cup sugar, plus the cranberries and other dried/fresh fruit.

      Cranberry Sauce Mix
      Mr. Grieves - The Pixies
      Underneath the Leaves - John Vanderslice
      Sunday Morning - The Velvet Underground & Nico
      Carbonation - Enon
      Faith - George Michael
      Susanne - Weezer


      This Year's Girl

      Esquire recently published a list of annoying food trends. Included: high-end burgers and pizzas, waiters named Todd, and the phrase "farm to table". Gourmet's artfully designed and witty photo slideshow about food and the web manages to document the frenzy of online foodie movement both critically and lovingly. It's hard to articulate my simultaneous participation in and hatred of food on the interweb. I suppose it involves a bit of self-loathing and hypocrisy.

      I blog about food. I pause to take pictures of my food at restaurants. I menu scout. I plan all my vacations around meals. I concede. I'm a bougie food snob and now that it's hip to be a bougie food snob, I don't entirely welcome the new company. The trends themselves are slightly less obnoxious than the trend stories and chatter. When the newspaper of record announces that it is cool to cut off your eyebrows or flavor trip, I roll my eyes. Rather than care about food because caring about food is cool, I just care about the food dammit! But when Epicurious announced its plan to predict food trends for 2010, I couldn't help but brainstorm my own list. Most trend stories are full of just silly(peruvian is the new thai) or obvious (green, local) bullet points, so this should be easy.

      Food Trend Predictions 2010

      1. Granny Chic moves from the fashion and design world into food. Look for beets on restaurant menus (pickled, roasted, pureed) beyond the steakhouse. Home canning and preservation becomes both a financial security measure and a foodie statement. Comfort food is always popular. Your grandma made everything by hand...I hope you were paying attention at her apron strings.

      2. Hard Cider isn't a pansy drink and some of you are figuring that out. This guy thinks so too. Ask your favorite bartenders if they've been pouring a lot of Magners recently...mine have.

      3. Food and music pairings. Some restaurants here in Chicago are known for playing eccentric and loud music in the dining room. I love to make mixes specific to dinner parties and events I'm catering. In 2010, I hope dj-chefs step it up by pairing courses specifically with songs and artists. I'll get right on that.

      4. Cuban food reaches the masses. Hopefully Obama's diplomatic negotiations with Cuba continue in 2010. Hell, maybe the wrongheaded embargo will be lifted.

      5. People realize fast food can be good food. Street food, mobile food carts, and non-corporate quick service restaurants offer delicious alternatives to McDonald's. Rick Bayless is doing it. Paul Kahan is getting in on the action.

      6. Less is more. A culinary student acquaintance who had a short stage at Tru bragged that he spent 4 hours preparing a sauce with almost fifty ingredients. My favorite chile negro sauce has three ingredients plus salt.

      7. The green movement will become less of a happening and more of a norm. I'm frustrated maneuvering the farmer's market when it is filled with waif-like women sinking their towering fashionable shoes into the muddy aisles. Maybe if we had a decent year round market, people would go there to get food rather than be seen. I have many doubts about the new French Market, but here's hoping.

      8. Charcuterie, good cheese, cured olives, craft beer, crusty bread, buckets of mussels. I think big communal platters of rustic foods can slow the small plate craze. Tapas are great, but this is what I want when I go to the pub for a pint.

      9. Spice trend: cardamom. Keep an eye out for cardamom in ice cream, dusted on doughnuts, and in coffee drinks. I personally love chai-spiced cardamom marshmallows and a friend puts garam masala on his popcorn (genius!). It is used in foods in India, Scandinavia, the Middle East and will soon be in everything.

      10. America needs to shut the hell up about bacon. This coming from a lady with 8 cups of rendered pork fat and 3 lbs of bacon in the fridge. It isn't the bacon I'm tired of, it is the talking about bacon. The endless websites devoted to gross and grosser uses of bacon. I'm bored of reading stories devoted to a trend that could be succinctly explored with a Seinfeldesque "What is the deal with all this bacon?" Awesome bacon recipes, a bacon festival, reviews of bacon products, and bacon of the month clubs are definitely still allowed. I love bacon, just not some of the people who love bacon.


      Hard to Handle

      48. 102. 59. 37. 70. I wash my hands quite a bit - sometimes a hundred times per day. Last week I averaged 63. I don't have OCD, but I do spend most of my time caring for children or in the kitchen which puts me in contact with a lot of germs, messes, and bacteria. I use two products daily to avoid the chapping, cracking, and bleeding that can occur when washing so often strips your skin of moisture. They are inexpensive (less than $10 for both), small enough to fit into a purse or satchel, work nicely on sensitive skin, and I strongly recommend both.

      Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme

      I use this when I wake up in the morning and before bed every night. I concentrate on my cuticles, but also rub it all over my hands. If you cringe at the idea of those scary cuticle trimmers at the salon or at the price of a manicure, try this stuff. At $6 for a small tin that lasts a couple of months, it is well worth the investment.

      Neutrogena Hand Cream: Norwegian Formula
      I use this multiple times per day. It soaks in quickly and doesn't leave hands greasy like other lotions designed for very dry skin. You can buy a 2 ounces for about $4 at most drugstores. I keep one at work, one by bedside table, one in my backpack, and one in the kitchen.


      Cooking with Spirits

      When I was 15, my family moved into a house full of ghosts. Many of my Stepfather's family members had died in the house over the years, but sharing the space with their past never really spooked me. I liked exploring the stacks of musty books and clothes, the decades-old magazines and 8-tracks. One particularly good find was a weird little cookbook in the basement amongst the National Geographics and motorcycle parts. Cooking With Spirits has traveled with me to 14 different apartments and homes over the years, but I've never once opened it. It sits on a shelf in the kitchen, providing me with enough inspiration just from the title.

      My earliest cooking memory is of my mom basting a whole chicken tipsy with white wine and dancing it around the kitchen to the Go Gos. For deglazing pans and making sauces, wine is an obvious choice. I put Grand Marnier in my cranberries at Thanksgiving and good beer in my chili. Last week, I made a peppercorn infused vodka to go in tomato soup. I like to drink while I cook, and cook with whatever I'm drinking...which is usually hard cider. This (paired with a rather frugal period during college) led me to experiment by adding cider to my Thanksgiving cranberries instead of the usual liqueur. Pear cider + orange juice and zest worked out just fine.

      Ace is my favorite, but I also enjoy a Magners or a Strongbow. Hornsby's or Woodchuck will do in a pinch. I've used cider for everything from butternut squash soup to salad dressing. When I needed to make an apple-based accompaniment for a pork loin last weekend, cider was on the counter, so it ended up in the chutney.

      Apple Shallot Chutney

      3/4 cup pickled shallots or onions*, small dice
      2 apples, small dice
      3/4 bottle hard cider
      1/2 cup pickling liquid or red wine vinegar
      1 teaspoon cinnamon
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      pinch of cayenne pepper
      1/2 cup sugar

      Add diced apples and onions to medium saucepan along with the hard cider, pickling liquid and spices. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir in sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 to 30 minutes. The liquid should reduce and form a light syrup - this may require adding more sugar or cooking for a longer period of time. Can be served warm, cold, or room temperature.

      *If you don't already have a jar of pickled shallots or onions in the door of your fridge, you have options. Make a quick pickle (I like Molly Wizenberg's with a teaspoon of pickling spices added) or just cook some onions in equal parts sugar and vinegar with a teaball infuser/sachet filled with a teaspoon of pickling spices (this will prevent chunks of cloves and bay leaves from invading your otherwise smooth chutney).


      Fun with Pasta

      This weekend I got to try my hand at homemade pasta for the first time in quite a while. Allison and I cooked for a client that bought a four course dinner for six that we had donated for a charity auction last July. I decided that I would be in charge of the pasta course, mostly because I found my pasta machine after moving recently. I have been working in a restaurant where we make pasta quite a bit differently than the last restaurant I worked at, and I was eager to try my hand at the old egg pasta recipe I used to know so well. The recipe is very similar to the one listed in The French Laundry Cookbook, so you might want to try both and see which one you like more. I think the best thing about making this recipe at home was that I had enough time to knead the dough for a full half hour by hand rather than cutting it down to fifteen minutes like I used to have to do at the restaurant. I know, a half hour seems like a long time, but if you don't have a prep list a mile long, the rhythm of moving and pressing the dough becomes quite meditative after a while. You can knead this dough for a full ten minutes and get good results, but its easier to roll out the more you knead it. Pasta dough has few ingredients, but the technique takes a bit of practice. Don't get frustrated if the dough doesn't turn out perfectly the first time. Remember, you can always add more flour as you knead the dough, and the longer you knead it the better your results will be.

      Egg Pasta dough

      1 lb AP Flour
      10 eggs
      1 whole egg
      1/2 tsp salt
      3 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

      You will need:
      a pasta rolling machine
      a rolling pin
      a spray bottle full of clean water
      a pasta cutter, a rolling one that has decorative edges is nice, but you can use a pastry cutter.

      Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl whisk the eggs together with a fork. Make a well in the flour and add the salt and the olive oil. Pour the eggs into the well. While turning the bowl counterclockwise, whisk the eggs with a fork clockwise to incorporate the flour a bit at a time into the eggs. There should be leftover flour in the bowl once the eggs are incorporated. If the dough is sticky or too wet to turn out onto a floured surface and knead, add more flour. Eggs are often different sizes so the dough can be a little too wet sometimes. Don't worry, just add more flour and you will get the feel for it. Once the dough has enough flour, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it is a smooth ball, roughly for 10-30 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap once it is kneaded, and let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. To roll it out, let it sit out of the fridge for a half and hour. Knead it a couple of times and then let it rest 10 minutes. Roll out the dough according to the instructions on your pasta roller.

      I made ravioli this weekend, and for the filling I made a white bean puree but you can use sausage or ricotta cheese or whatever as long as it is firm enough to stand in a little blob, but soft enough so it doesn't tear the pasta. So, for ravioli, take a sheet of pasta, and place little blobs of filling about an inch and a half apart. Take a spray bottle of water and spray the the dough. Carefully lay another sheet of pasta over the first one, starting at one end and slowly laying the top layer over the filling. If you start at one end, you can press the layers of dough as you go so you don't get any air pockets in the ravioli. Once the two sheets are put together, cut squares around the filling with your pastry cutter or pasta cutter. Cook the pasta for about two minutes in boiling salted water. Toss in your favorite pasta sauce!


      too legit

      Excuses, Excuses. We've been absent this Summer. Not absent from cooking and eating, just absent from writing about it. Andrea's been getting chef's bags delivered straight from the farm to Mado, the amazing restaurant where she cooks and helps with butchering. I've been pilfering those bags and doing less marketing myself. We've both moved into new places and are trying to organize our kitchen cabinets and lives. We are beginning the process of making our catering business legitimate - which entails permits and safety certifications and fees to the city, county, and state... so we're both working overtime trying to pay for it.

      We're focusing our business on intimate food gatherings. That doesn't mean we can't handle big crowds, but we don't want to compromise our culinary integrity to do it. Menu planning, endless trips to restaurant depot, standing in long lines at government offices, and sitting down with an accountant are in our very near future. Stay tuned.


      I miss your soup and I miss your bread

      It is Spring. Officially it was a few weeks ago, but the late season snow and windy weather made April come in like a lion too - or at least a lioness. Food-wise, the end of the season was marked by the Hideout's last Soup and Bread yesterday. It is all ramps and fava beans from here on out. Last week though, Andrea and I whipped up some Khao Tom, a favorite Thai soup usually cobbled together of leftovers and eaten for breakfast. By 6:00 PM our chicken soup was decimated by hungry bar patrons, so none of our friends who made it out got a bowl. But we swear it was delicious.

      Khao Tom – Thai Chicken and Rice Soup
      2 quarts homemade chicken stock, plus 1 cup for rice
      Leg and Breast meat of one 3-4 lb roasted chicken
      1 bunch of scallions sliced
      1/4 cup picked cilantro leaves
      7 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
      2 Tbsp olive oil
      2 Tbsp fish sauce
      3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar, divided
      4 Tbsp soy sauce
      1 tsp chili flakes in a teaball infuser (or tied up in cheesecloth)
      2 cups cooked basmati or jasmine rice
      1 stalk of lemon grass, peeled to center, bottom only
      Salt and pepper to taste

      Roasted Chicken
      3-4 lb roaster chicken
      3 cloves garlic
      ¼ onion, thickly sliced
      1 lime, halved (lemon, or orange will substitute)
      4 slices bacon
      Kosher Salt and pepper
      Kitchen twine

      Wonton Garnish

      Wonton wrappers
      Canola/Vegetable oil
      Kosher salt
      Juice of 1 lime

      The chicken:
      Preheat oven to 375° F. Remove the giblets. Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Sprinkle outside of chicken and cavity liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff cavity with garlic, onion and lime. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Wrap bacon over the chicken breast and roast on a rack, breast side up, until a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165° F. Let the chickens rest and cool for at least a half an hour. Remove the thighs and breasts from the chicken. Remove the meat from the bones, discarding the skin. Cut the cooked breast and leg meat into 1/2 inch squares.

      The wontons:

      Heat 1 ½ inches of oil in a deep, heavy, pot over moderately high heat until a thermometer registers 360° F. Slice wonton wrappers into strips about 3 in. x ½ in.
      Gently lay 10 strips on oil and fry, turning over once, until golden, 15 to 30 seconds total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Fry the remaining wonton strips 10-15 at a time. Sprinkle with lime juice (do not soak, wontons will become soggy) and season with salt.

      The rest:
      Cook the rice according to the package’s instructions using chicken stock in place of water (if using water, add 1 tsp salt). Add 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar when the rice is cooked. Set aside.

      Heat olive oil in a small sauce-pan over medium low heat. Add sliced garlic and saute slowly, stirring often, until garlic lightly browns but does not burn. Remove the garlic from the oil and set aside. (Save the garlic infused oil for another use!)

      Heat up the chicken stock, slowly to 165 degrees F. While heating, add the lemon grass stalks, whole, and the teaball of chili flakes. Once the stock is hot, add the fish sauce, soy sauce, and remaining vinegar, and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the lemon grass stalk and teaball. Add the cooked chicken and sliced garlic.

      To serve, put a 1/2 cup of the rice into each soup bowl. Ladle the hot soup on top of the rice and garnish liberally with the scallions, cilantro, and wonton crisps.


      Am I Home Yet?

      I realize it has been weeks since my last guest blog, but to make up for it, I think I feel a bit more like a Chicagoan now, having secured employment and a sense of humor about the weather and the CTA. A little more than a month ago, while still searching for a job, any job, I ran across two unexpected things, things I feel, if I may be such a bold newcomer, perhaps only Chicago can offer.

      The first of these surprises came in the form of a job offer. Oh finally, someone wanted to hire me! I had an interview, which in my industry they call stages. Essentially, these eight hour working interviews are a way for chefs to evaluate whether a person is an idiot or not through observation. I am not sure why all industries to do not practice this custom, because it seems like a much better way of assessing a worker than talking to them for an hour. But, here's the thing, I didn't want the job. Me, worrier extraordinaire, moving to a cold-ass city in a recession, in the hospitality industry in January, didn't want the cooking job I had been trained for and that would look great on my resume. Arrogance, was that it? (If you are thinking stupidity, please keep that to yourself.) If so, Andrea the Arrogant, Andrea the I Want Something Better, was the surprise that Kansas City, home, could not offer, had never offered.

      The second surprise, something perhaps a bit more interesting, was the discovery of the Issacson and Stein Fish Market just off Halsted near downtown. In order to get said job I ended up turning down, I felt like I needed to hone my fish butchering skills, as I was applying for the fish cook position. I asked resident food expert Allison where I could get great quality whole fish retail (expecting a "you know you're in the Midwest, even if it is Chicago"), and was directed unblinkingly toward the best fish purveyor I have ever seen, be it wholesale or retail. Retail quality fish for cheap in the Midwest?-huge surprise. Housed in an unassuming warehouse was a veritable ocean explosion of clear-eyed, clean-gilled sea bass, red snapper, live eels, sardines, anchovies, arctic char, rainbow trout, pompano and grouper, not to mention, like, nine kinds of oysters. I would say sixty percent of the fish they had were wild caught. You walk in, you grab gloves and a bag, and walk around overwhelmed. I wanted a mix of small and larger fish for practicing on, so I picked out one red snapper, two wild mullet, and two rainbow trout. My total? $15.65. Most of the fish I looked at were between $3.00 and $4.00 per pound. Oh, yes, you Whole Foods shoppers, look at that one more time. Though I did not request these services, the fish monger offers to clean your fish at no extra charge. I immediately went home, and while drinking a bottle of Gewurztraminer, cleaned, cut up, cooked, and ate all of the the fish I bought. This was, by far, the best part of the interview. Little by little, this big city is beginning to feel like a better version of home.

      Issacson and Stein Fish Company

      800 W. Fulton Market,

      Chicago, Il

      Ph: 312.421.2444


      Black and Tan Corned Beef

      March 2009 includes four house guests, marathon planning for three big April events (to feed more than 400 people!), a fashion show, an impromptu Whole Foods photo shoot, and way too many late night dinner meetings. How I long for the simplicity of March 2008. I had two house guests that month, but also the foresight and fridge space to tackle a cooking project I'd put off for far too long: making my own corned beef. These instructions are adapted from March 2008's Bon Appetit. I purchased both the brisket and the sodium nitrate (sometimes called pink salt or instacure #1) at the Paulina Meat Market. This March, I've tried to substitute the deli and salt-lick store-bought versions, but Nothing Compares 2 U, homemade corned beef.


      5 cups water
      3 12oz. bottles Harp Lager
      1 1/2 cups coarse kosher salt
      1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
      1 1/2 tablespoons sodium nitrate
      1/4 cup pickling spices
      1 6- to 8-pound flat-cut beef brisket, trimmed, with some fat remaining

      Corned Beef and Veg

      2 12oz. bottles of Guinness Stout
      6 large cloves garlic, crushed
      4 bay leaves
      1 tablespoon coriander seeds
      2 whole allspice
      3 cinnamon sticks
      1 dried chile de árbol, broken in half (or sub 1 tsp. red pepper flakes)
      Large Tea Infuser Ball or Cheesecloth and kitchen twine
      16 unpeeled medium red-skinned potatoes
      6 medium carrots, peeled
      4 small onions, peeled, halved through root ends
      1 2-pound head of cabbage, quartered

      The Brining

      Add water and beer to large deep roasting pan. Add coarse salt; stir until dissolved. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. Stir in sodium nitrate. Mix in pickling spices. Pierce brisket all over with tip of small sharp knife. Submerge brisket in liquid adding more water (or beer) to cover if necessary, then top with heavy platter to weigh down. Cover and refrigerate 4 days.

      Remove brisket from brine. Stir brine to blend. Return brisket to brine; top with heavy platter. Cover; refrigerate 4 days.

      Remove brisket from brine. Rinse with cold water.

      The Cooking

      Place corned beef in very large wide pot. Add stout and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Break bay leaves and add with coriander, allspice, and chile to tea infuser ball (or wrap all in cheesecloth - securing with kitchen twine). Add garlic, cinnamon sticks and ball (or spice bag) to pot with beef. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until beef is tender, about 2 1/4 hours. Transfer beef to large baking sheet.

      Add vegetables to liquid in pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until all vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to baking sheet with beef. Return beef to pot and rewarm 5 minutes. Cut beef against grain into 1/4-inch thick slices.


      Save the Date: 3.25 Soup and Bread

      The Hideout should be your favorite bar in Chicago (or at least on any reputable short list). You will never just happen across it, tucked in between some warehouses and empty lots down a sidewalk-less street. If you usually go just to see a band or sweat at the dance party (or gasp! haven't been at all), here's a reason to stop by:

      The Hideout doesn't usually serve food, but this year one hungry bartender/writer hatched a brilliant plan to offer a comforting respite from Chicago's harsh winter. Wednesdays, from 5 - 8 pm, soup and bread is available for free. Come early, fill up, then make a donation to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

      Andrea and I are guest soup chefs on March 25th! Hope to see you there.


      it's restaurant week, bitches

      Hundreds of Chicago restaurants offer 3-course prix-fixe lunches for $22 and dinners for $32 this week (February 20 - 27). Many places have their specific restaurant week menus available for perusing online. Make your reservations at opentable. I did.


      Shop Here: Middle East Bakery

      I try to always have olives, feta cheese, hummus, and pita on hand so I'm thankful to have the Middle East Bakery mere blocks from my apartment. The name, sign outside, and window displays surely don't draw in passersby - this is a place that relies on word of mouth. But an in-the-know friend told me this is THE place to get the best tasting and best priced feta around and I've been stopping in once a week since.


      The spinach pies and falafel are on par with Sultan's Market and are priced to sell. Andrea pieced together an entire meal of a dozen falafel, two meat pies, hummus, spicy babaganoush, and a bag of pitas for barely $11 - making two huge meals and a couple of snacks. Everything we had was perfectly seasoned and kept well for re-heating.

      Stressed out over hosting my Christmas party, I stopped in for a tray of delicious baklava when I realized at the last minute I neglected to bake any cookies. This is the perfect place to:

      -pick up a food gift for a host/ess
      -grab dinner on the way home from work
      -get appetizers for game day or a cocktail party
      -snack while shopping in Andersonville


      Various exotic spices and imported goodies can be found in the grocery sections of the Middle East Bakery. The dried fruits, nuts, grains, and spices are fresh and inexpensive. You will pay a lot less and find more variety than can possibly be crammed into the three feet dedicated to Mediterranean on the international aisle of a major grocery chain. You'll find all sorts of yuppie, of-the-moment, foods touted at places like Whole Foods (think organic quinoa) minus the yuppie customers. Here's a snapshot:

      -Israeli couscous
      -green coffee beans
      -red lentils
      -gogi berries
      -cardamom, sumac, and zaatar(of recent Top Chef fame)
      -yogurt covered almonds

      It is a small neighborhood gem, but being on Foster between Ashland and Clark it is easily accessible. Don't forget to reciprocate - I'm always looking for ethnic markets and small neighborhood grocers!


      Guest Blog: Andrea's Winter Market Breakfast

      I am finally here, happy and curious, even if a bit chilly. Last weekend Allison highlighted our trip to the indoor market in Evanston where I proceeded to gleefully spend money as though I were not unemployed. Two of the purchases that I loved the most were the beautiful farm eggs and the Jane Addams Day plum jam. I love foods that are best when prepared simply, and these two did not disappoint. The morning after our suburban sojourn, instead of venturing out into the freezing Chicago air to search for jobs, I decided to do what professional people do when looking for employment, I posted my resume online then stayed in my pajamas and made breakfast with our farmers' market booty. The eggs I fried in a little butter, with a minimal amount of salt and a moderate amount of pepper, over easy. The yolks were incredibly yellow with a texture that seemed creamier than regular store bought eggs. We had a log of Vermont Butter and Cheese Company goat cheese left over from a party, which I spread on a toasted english muffin and topped with the plum jam. The jam I have to say was quite runny for jam, but its flavor perfect, plummy and not too sweet. Both the eggs and the jam represented what I love about great food; it should taste as much of what it is as it possibly can. Eggs should taste like eggs and plum jam should taste like plums. I know, sort of an obvious concept, but in a time where people can buy liquid egg substitute and high fructose corn syrup flavored jelly, it is nice to know you can find real food in a local market even in the dead of a Chicago winter.


      à la card

      It may be old news to people who regularly read Time Out Chicago, Thrillist, The Chicagoist, or The Reader, but I am seriously excited about the à la card Chicago. I happened across the booth at Saturday's indoor market - drawn in by the list of restaurants on the sign.

      I'd probably be too wordy, so here's how the website describes the concept:
      "A deck of 52 cards... each card describes a unique chef-driven/owner-operated restaurant in the city of varied price-points, cuisines/genres, and neighborhoods. Additionally, each card is a $10 gift certificate to the restaurant it describes."

      Since I went to more than ten of these restaurants last year (and a few of them more than once), it would be silly for me not to buy the darn thing. If I go to three this year, the purchase will pay for itself. You can and should buy them online or at other various Chicago locations.


      Winter Marketing

      My new partner in food crime, Andrea, has arrived in Chicago at last. She accompanied me on an expedition to a church in the suburbs to check out Markets and Meals for Hope. The organization boasts four central ideals: Earth Stewardship, Community, Spirituality, and Justice. Three out of four ain't bad. Being a heathen, I worried about the location. The event wasn't churchy exactly, but the markets are held in parish halls and have lots of booths that involve signing up for causes. We skipped those and headed straight for the food stuffs where Andrea's iphone saved the day since I forgot my camera.

      We bought some eggs from a nun and sampled many things that shouldn't really be eaten in succession: various vinegars, honey, cheese curds, many kinds of salsa, dried fruit. Andrea said - of the Bron's Bee Cake - that the Heritage Prairie Kitchen must have, "...injected buttery moistness in there somehow." She explained away her purchase, "Even after learning it was $10, I couldn’t say no." The tiny cake - about three and a half inches in diameter is slathered in icing and weighs a ton (ok, about 6 oz.). I may give her $2 for a bite.

      Some of the vendors were familiar faces from the fair weather market scene like seedling and River Valley. There was a nice man from Scotch Hill Farm offering up a cookbook, some potatoes, and a reasonable CSA program that delivers to the Chicago area from Wisconsin. It was worth the roadtrip.

      I lost track of how much we spent and can therefore guarantee it was too much.

      a dozen eggs
      1 lb. oyster mushrooms
      1 bag whole wheat flour
      2 bags Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds
      1 container dried Seedling cherries
      1 bee cake
      1 jar plum jam

      The indoor winter farmers market is an interesting proposition. It was 7 degrees when we crunched through the ice toward the church gymnasium. The growing season is dormant here, but you can buy dry, preserved, or stored food along with food products like pickled mushrooms or baked danishes. You can still mingle with the growers (or sometimes their kids or interns) and like-minded food buyers. Something is kind of sad about the bad overhead lighting and lack of dirt. I love getting all muddy during a rainy market day and just seeing all of the green. I also didn't like having to sift through hippie soaps and knitting products to find the edibles. The Nature Museum is housing the Green City Market's new indoor market, so maybe that will cheer me up.


      Freezer? I Barely Know Her.

      The Tribune is keeping tabs on how long Chicagoans have been suffering through sub-zero temperatures and "Continued Bitterly Cold" is the forecast for the foreseeable future. I am wearing enough items of clothing to guarantee a win in any mean game of strip poker, though I wish I had a pair of these gloves. The inside of my freezer is actually warmer than it is outside, so I figure now is as good a time as any to discuss frozen food tips.

      In college, the only things in my freezer were vodka and 99 cent "pizzas". I'm trying harder to use all the parts of the food I buy, save leftovers, and plan for inevitable evenings when I lack time for cooking proper meals.

      What's in my freezer now?
      1 gallon bag of blueberries
      1 bag edamame
      2 bunches overripe bananas
      1 bag white wine cubes
      1 bottle stoli orange
      1 box veggie burgers
      1 bag frozen mangoes
      1 bag frozen pineapple
      1 gallon bag celery stalks/leaves, carrot ends
      1 bag leftover ham bones
      some whole wheat flour

      What's in my ideal freezer?
      2 containers each chicken stock, veal stock, veggie stock
      1 bag red wine cubes
      1 bag white wine cubes
      half a lamb
      2 containers pesto
      2 containers tomato sauce
      endless supply of Ben and Jerry's Americone Dream
      1 bottle Hendrick's Gin
      1 bottle Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka

      Some freezer tips:

      -Make cubes of leftover liquids to use in future sauces and gravy. I like to do this with wine, small quantities of stock, and fruit juice. Remember to wash the ice cube tray well between uses and label your baggies so you can identify your cubes.
      -Keep your fridge away from heat sources to maintain consistent temperatures(not like my dumbass landlords who put it right next to the oven).
      -Freeze fruits and vegetables individually first and then combine them in a bag and remove as much air as possible.
      -Put the ends of your loaves of bread and crusts (especially helpful if you have a picky child) in a freezer bag to make into homemade bread crumbs or croutons when you've amassed enough.
      -Poultry carcasses and bones freeze well for making future stocks.
      -Once bananas are overripe, freeze them whole in their peels. These defrost quickly and will always be available when you have a hankering for banana bread.
      -Freeze items when they are in season and on sale. Butter the week of Christmas and Thanksgiving is always less expensive - I found some butter for 60% off during the holidays.
      -Remember that liquid will expand when it freezes, so when packing stocks, soups and sauces: leave some room at the top so the lids of your containers stay tight.

      Happy thawing!


      new year

      Last year I decided what I want to do with my life. This year, I have to really start doing it. The markets shut down for winter and my blogging trailed off. I didn't quit buying, eating or preparing food; I just kept it to myself. Sorry about that.

      In the beginning, I envisioned this as solely a way to document my foray into purchasing food outside of the structure of the grocery store last summer. I expanded it to recipes and lists and music. Why stop there? Eating well sustainably and seasonally in a city blanketed by record snowfall has proven to be a challenge. But I've spent the past few months being resourceful and have decided to share my adventures again without as many parameters. This year I'm planning to write about ethnic and neighborhood markets, foodie books, kitchen gadgetry, restaurants and my adventures starting a business during an economic crisis.