Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Home Cookin' on a Weekday Night

It's been unseasonably cool recently as we near the end of August here in Chicago. I was in the mood for some comfort food this week. The Barefoot Contessa's turkey meatloaf is comforting without being too decadent (and we all know what a bad girl Ina can be...) I made it Sunday night, halving the recipe, and it kept well in the fridge before I baked it Monday after work. And maybe it was the white wine talking, but I really love me a good meatloaf pan. Trust me - I'm not a huge gadget person (I'm serious - my favorite kitchen item is my $5 jelly roll pan from Northwestern Cutlery, the best place in Chicago to sharpen your knives by the way, but I digress) - but I really love this pan. Gets rid of the fat without drying out the meatloaf.

I'm currently auditioning Rosh Hashanah side dishes and was really pleased with Sunny Anderson's honey glazed carrots recipe - the secret ingredient is freshly squeezed lemon juice. Gosh, they were sooo much better than the cooked carrots I remember from the past. The plate had to be rounded out with some carbs, so I went Thanksgiving on my family with a traditional favorite: stuffing and spinach balls. However I have a shocking admission: I, an Italian girl, married a man who DOES NOT EAT CHEESE. This will be the stuff of many a post down the road, but for now, I will let you know I held the Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Top 10 Fried Things in Chicago

Jeremy and I are catching up on our Tivo-ed shows tonight (isn't that what everyone does on a Saturday night?). We are watching Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate...fried food edition.

It got us talking; here are our favorite fried goodies in Chicago:

10. Buffalo wings at Goose Island Brewery. (Jeremy's addition.)
9. Empanadas at Tango Sur. (Tango Sur is in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood and is a dining experience you need to have. Trust me. Unless you're a vegetarian.)
8. Sopes at Mixteco Grill.
7. Shrimp po'boy sandwich at Heaven on Seven.
6. Calamari at Francesca's on Taylor. (I love this calamari and I will tell you why: They serve it with marinara sauce rather than cocktail sauce. )
5. Shrimp, crab and vegetable-filled wontons at Lulu's. (I'm glad Lulu is not a real woman - Jeremy may very well leave me for her otherwise.)
4. The onion frites served with the roasted chicken at Bistro Campagne. (Hands' down - my favorite restaurant in Chicago - I love the (mostly organic) food, service and atmosphere...if I was ever on Check Please!, this would be my recommendation.)
3. The Coffee & Doughnuts Dessert at Japonais.
2. Fried chicken at Chalkboard. (If you have not been to Chalkboard, GO THERE NOW. It is fabulous and utilizes lots of organic ingredients.)
1. Two-fer: Tilipia sandwich and pommes frites at Hopleaf. (Promise me you'll visit the Hopleaf this winter - it is super-cozy with super-comfort food.)

What are your favorites?

Mommyhood vs. work

Yes, I'm going to solve that eternal question in this post, gentle reader. Okay, just a few observations. Jack and I accompanied Jeremy to Northwestern University's campus today. Jeremy and I met there during college and we both graduated from the journalism program. Jeremy sat in a graduate class today, helping the students with their final presentation, as a favor to their professor and our friend. Our friend asked me if I would also like to participate. Jack obliged for a bit, sitting quietly in my lap as the presentation began, but he soon got restless, so out the door we went. Before leaving, I whispered one piece of feedback to Jeremy to pass along the students. Jack and I spent the next 1.5 hours walking around campus, finding every button we could push and admiring the construction work.

Maybe it's because Jack is a toddler, but this was a very tedious exercise for me. Most of me wanted to be back in that darkened classroom, listening to the students. But I was here with my little guy. I have these grand plans of someday staying home with my babies but today truly gave me pause. I love Jack with all of my self, but sometimes - okay most of the time - I feel like I'm a better mom because I work outside of the home. Grass is always greener, eh?


I live in Chicago, so traversing to Evanston back to my old college stompin' grounds is not a big deal. But I hadn't really brought Jack there and it was pretty weird/poignant to bring him around campus. There's the place your daddy and I almost broke up...there's the building where I had my very first class as a's the path I walked nightly home from the yearbook office (yes, I was that cool).

(Editor's note: I'm now using real names...those cutesy nicknames for my husband and son are just not me.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Lub ewe"

Little Man was up at 5:45 a.m. and proceeded to be Mr. Grump for most of the morning. Nothing would please him - not even a trip to the local children's museum. The gray weather matched his dour mood. After a ho-hum lunch, we put him down for a nap. "Love you," his daddy told him. "Lub ewe," Little Man replied and suddenly all was forgiven because that's what we do as parents.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Finding our personal joys

We went on a beach excursion yesterday. With beach buckets, sippy cups and towels in hand, we took Little Man and his cousin A to savor the salty air and sand between their toes. In reality, it wasn't as poetic, but it was still fun. Both boys were skeptical of the water but as the afternoon wore on, Little Man had his toes in the itty-bitty waves that lapped the shore and was yelling "wah-tur!" out into the great blue sea.

A day before we were in East Hampton, parking along the street to attend a free fair for the local library. We just happened to park by Ina Garten's house (how do I know where she lives, you ask...she was listed in the phonebook in 2002 when I first discovered her coconut cupcakes...right before her show began airing on Food Network). My heart raced as we stood outside her hedges. What would I say if I saw her? Thank you for giving me blueberry crumb cake, grilled lemon chicken and the best guacamole recipe ever? Thank you for helping me feed family and friends for all of my married life and then some? Thank you for butter? All I could whisper was "turkey meatloaf" before turning away.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My people

I haven't blogged in awhile even though every day presents a few blog ideas. I'm still finding my voice in all of this. Work has been extremely character-bulding lately, and we've been hosting overnight guests and preparing for a week's vacation.

Which is where I am now.

We're at my in-laws' second home on Long Island. It's been a really great trip so far. The transition with Little Man has been relatively painless, and my sister and her little family are visiting for the first few days while we're here.

Tonight my mom called in with her movie review of "Julie & Julia." She laughed so hard she cried at some parts because she understood their predicaments in the kitchen. I love that because I think I will understand it as well, and I'm glad I come from such people who know their kitchens and understand the joys and challenges. I do love coming from people who cook. My cousins even started a group on Facebook where we can exchange recipes, which I love.

I think I've had a bit too much wine tonight; we'll see if this post makes sense in the morning.