Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summertime treat

It's Father's Day, and I think Jeremy's had a good weekend. A nice dinner Friday night, and a visit to Green City Market with Jack and me Saturday morning; time with a good friend Saturday afternoon and a backyard BBQ with good friends in the evening. I brought a store-bought blueberry pie (full disclosure: I still haven't conquered homemade pie crusts) and made a lemon sorbet to accompany it for our visit. Here is my own recipe, cobbled together from a few ideas I found on the Internet:

Lemonade Sorbet
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T. grated lemon zest

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat and cool in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

After squeezing lemons, strain the juice through a fine mesh sieve. Combine with the syrup and lemon zest. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions for 25-30 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container. Cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve.

Serves 8.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Adorable, seasonal and kid-friendly

Friday night, Jeremy and I had a very nice dinner at Chalkboard in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood. This is one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, and it's not just because of the fried chicken!

Adorable: The restaurant has a French bistro feel with pale-green-colored walls and fresh white brick. The staff is adorable as well - thoroughly charming and helpful. When we order the fried chicken and mac and cheese, the server proclaimed that this was his "favorite combination in the world."

Seasonal: The menu is ever-changing and is written on a large chalkboard on one wall (hence the name), and they feature the season's best ingredients.

Kid-friendly: The owners are a married couple, and their son is often at the restaurant during the early dining hours. They have a kids' New Year's Eve bash that has a countdown around 6 p.m. with sparkling apple cider.

Chalkboard also features a very delightful, reasonably priced afternoon tea service on Saturdays and Sundays, which I recently enjoyed with two good friends.

4343 N. Lincoln, Chicago
(773) 477-7144
Open: Dinner, Monday, Wednesday-Sunday, 5-10 p.m.
Afternoon Tea Service, Saturday-Sunday, 2-4 p.m.
Sunday Brunch, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I have already learned to pick my battles

Even though we had a very early wake-up time this morning (5 a.m.), Jack has had a great morning. He used his potty, he ate a nice breakfast and only watched one episode of Curious George (a triumphant in my book). So when it was time to put on our shoes, I didn't argue with Jack's decision:

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Easiest weeknight dinner ever

Seriously, I'm almost embarrassed to post this super-simple recipe from The Barefoot Contessa. But I have to - it's healthy and super-fast. I roasted the chicken breasts yesterday afternoon, so they were all ready to go when I got home tonight. This soup was ready in 20 minutes, people:

Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole (2 split) chicken breast, bone in, skin on
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts homemade Chicken Stock
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups wide egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breast on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred or dice the chicken meat. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the celery, carrots, and noodles. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the noodles are cooked. Add the cooked chicken meat and parsley and heat through. Season to taste and serve.

Serves 4.

This dinner and clean-up were so fast that Jack and I had time to go to the playground.  On our way home, we waved to the kayakers on the Chicago River and we saw a Fonzie impersonator (complete with comb - I'm not making this up) walking down the street. Quite the evening!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What we did with our rainy morning

Chicago parents - if you're looking for a cheap fun activity this summer on a rainy day, check out Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds exhibit on display at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which can be accessed right off of the L's Green Line. Jack had a ball running through this interactive exhibit. (And when I say "interactive," I mean giggling uncontrollably, barreling through the silvery balloons.) Props to Jeremy for dressing him in orange today so we could actually keep track of him. If you have time afterwards, take a stroll around IIT's campus to admire the modern architecture.

Jeremy took Jack and I for lunch at Lou Mitchell's in the West Loop; in business since 1923, this establishment's one of many claims to fame is it marks the start of Route 66.

Now this is a great place to bring kids (and my brother-in-law Peter, for that matter). As you wait for a table, they offer their signature donut holes. Once seated, this diner's menu seems endless. We stuck to breakfast - fluffy French toast, rich coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and a great children's menu.  The place was loud - which we appreciated, as parents of a tot. As Jack began to serenade me at the top of his lungs, I had nary a worry nor care. And just when my little guy started the "I'm done" dance, a voice whispered in my ear, "How about some complimentary soft-serve?" The server smiled as she returned with a round of small cups of vanilla ice cream. I hear they also give Milk Duds on the way out, but not today. Lou's, we'll be back.

Just one note: They only accept cash, but they do have an ATM machine in their entryway.

Lou Mitchell's, 565 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago
Open: Monday-Saturday, 5:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The only trouble I've found with my edible garden

Thanks to a very thoughtful gift from my mom (Is using "thoughtful" and "my mom" in the same sentence an oxymoron? I mean, really, who knows you better than your mom?), my planter boxes on my 4th floor porch are filled with herbs.

Saturday night was Italian night at our house. I tore off a basil leaf for Jack to sample from the "garden." He didn't bat an eye as he bit into the leaf.  

Next day, as we were walking around the city streets, Jack on Daddy's shoulders, Jack grabs a leaf from a tree and promptly takes a bite. Not so delicious!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Light summer eats

Summer is here...this weekend was great. It was supposed to rain all weekend, but the sun complied at all of the right game Friday night; farmer's market Saturday morning; and a great birthday party outside Sunday. 

As we ready for the week ahead, I made this salad in the late afternoon. It's perfect summer food - clean, crisp taste with lots of seasonal vegetables. It will be great for our lunches this week but would also be perfect for a light dinner or served at a picnic. Many thanks to my mom for finding this winner:
Greek Chicken and Barley Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light
2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 cups cubed seeded cucumber
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cubed yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1. To prepare salad, sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Add 1 cup broth; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until done. Cool; shred chicken. Discard broth.
2. Bring 3 cups broth to a boil in a large saucepan; add barley. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Cool. Combine chicken, barley, cucumber, and next 4 ingredients (through olives) in a large bowl.
3. To prepare dressing, combine 3 tablespoons oil, rind, and remaining ingredients; stir well. Add to barley mixture; toss well. Cover and chill.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We've got spirit; yes, we do

After spending the long holiday weekend with my son, I have diagnosed him as "spirited." Which my brother-in-law has pointed out is an euphemism for "pain in the butt." And no, he didn't say "butt."

I should have known something was up when on two different occasions, our condo neighbors would see Jack and I head to the elevator and would take a step back to allow him to push the elevator call button (yes, I admit, he does holler a little when someone else pushes it). Or maybe it was at the birthday party we attended this past weekend, where while the other children were playing, my son alternated between spraying the garden hose and trying to escape through the back gate.

Being a word person, I am comforted by defining my situation with a term. It doesn't let me off of the hook, but it does give me something to research, work on and ponder.

And don't get me wrong - Jack is still my sweet boy. He will say "I love ewe, Mommy" unprompted, throwing his skinny little chicken arms around my neck, and he just requested the "rainbow song" at bedtime tonight.

Jack, here's the deal, buddy: I promise you can keep your willfulness and your stubbornness. Your headstrong personality will serve you well in your adulthood. Frankly, Mommy wishes she had half of your chutzpah. But it's my job right now to set boundaries for you. Simply put, I'm here to ensure you act like a human being in public. Add that to my "to do" list!