Saturday, October 30, 2010


I made falafels from scratch for the first time! We had our neighbors over for dinner, and one of them is a vegetarian and loves falafels. Talk about pressure! Okay okay, I did it to myself my suggesting the idea anyway. But, I was very excited to give it a try. It turns out, these suckers are actually pretty easy if you have a food processor! One of the reviews I read said to use half chickpeas and half fava beans, and that the canned stuff was crap. I disagree. I used canned chickpeas, and they were delicious! Another reviewer said to try to leave the mixture a little chunky for some texture in the falafel. However, I found this very hard to do. Once you get all the ingredients processed, you have to add flour bit by bit until the mixture stops sticking to your fingers. In order to do this, you have to keep mixing it in the processor. I doubled the recipe for the 4 of us, and we ended up with leftovers (which is fine by me!). The recipe also says to make the falafels into walnut sized balls. However, all the falafels I’ve had have been about golf ball sized, so that’s what I had Bryan do. Thanks to Bryan for frying these suckers up to perfection! We used peanut oil for the fryin'. We served them with pita, diced tomatoes, onions and green bell peppers, tzatziki sauce and tahini sauce with a side of cous cous topped with parsley, basil, and mint. I’d also like to make a shout out to Kristy for making the baked kale and edamame! Here's the recipe for the falafels. They were a HUGE success!! Try them yourself!

Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage

It's hard to make a picture of soup look good! I can tell you, though, that this soup tastes great! I usually add my own melody of spices like Italian seasoning, savory seasoning, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, basil and oregano. Forecasters warned this past week that Chicago was going to have hurricane-like winds, and we did! It was nuts. On these cold windy days, there was nothing like coming home to have a wonderful warm bowl of hearty goodness. This soup is quite healthy too with all those lentils, spinach and other veggies. It also makes a lot of leftovers!! See the recipe here!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicago History Museum, Navy Pier, and Hancock Building

Another busy weekend in Chicago! We had more friends come to visit us, Rob and Sarah!

Saturday was a busy day. After a lazy morning, we started the afternoon off at the Chicago History Museum. It was interesting to learn just how big the Great Chicago Fire really was back in 1871 and how the city re-built itself. After working up quite an appetite, we decided that some Chicago-style hot dogs were in order. We headed on over to Navy Pier so satisfy our craving and take a ride on the Ferris Wheel!

Our late afternoon plans were to enjoy the sunset at the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock building. It's one of our favorite places to take out-of-towners! For the price of a cocktail, you get a spectacular view!

To finish the evening off, we had a great dinner planned: Grilled steak, garlic mashed potatoes, and grilled asparagus. YUMM!

Thanks for coming to visit us! Come back again soon!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kielbasa Stew

This dish is a Judy Hinck classic! I requested this recipe from my mother-in-law after enjoying it at Bryan’s childhood home on a couple of occasions. It’s one of those comforting dishes that you never want to stop eating, and it works great for a chilly fall day! This soup/stew is so good, easy, not too time consuming, and quite healthy too!

The last time I made this soup, I used frozen collard greens. This time, I practically ended up doubling the recipe. We had some leftover fresh kale from the grouse meal, so I used both kale and collard greens, and it ended up being more than 10 ounces total (probably about 16 ounces). We also wanted to add more carrots. Since we had to cover all the veggies in the pot, we needed to add more water (about 3 cups). Since there was extra water, I threw in about ¼ cup more rice. To compensate for flavor, I added an extra cube of beef bouillon (I only had one of the chicken). All of this adding and tweaking actually worked out really well. And now we have leftovers! I love having leftovers for lunch the next day! In the future, I might add a little extra seasoning, but the soup really doesn’t need much. It is very good on its own!

Kielbasa Stew
1 pound kielbasa, cut into slices (I make them thin, so that there are more meat pieces)
1 white onion, chopped
1 pound sliced carrots (or more if you like)
10 ounces chopped kale or collard greens
4 cups water
½ cup rice
1 tablespoon (approximately) olive oil
1 teaspoon or 1 cube chicken boullion
Ground pepper

In a large soup pot, cook kielbasa and onion in heated oil, about 5 minutes. Stir in all other ingredients. Add pepper to taste. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 18 minutes. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Millenium Park Bean, Pops for Champagne, and Braised Short Ribs

On Sunday, it was Harriet and Calhoun’s one year wedding anniversary! Can you believe we were so lucky to spend such a special weekend with them?! To help celebrate, we wanted to make something special for them. My husband wanted to take charge, and came up with this great recipe for braised short ribs. While the beef was marinating, we had time to do a little city exploring. We walked over to Millennium Park to take some photos by the bean, which happens to be the top image on my blog and my favorite item in the park. This sculpture is actually named the Cloud Gate. It was inspired by mercury and the artist wanted to engage the Chicago skyline with it. You can take some seriously artistic photos using the mirrored curvature of the enormous sculpture! If only I was so artistic.

After taking fun photos at the bean, my husband and I surprised our guests with a stop at a champagne bar, Pops for Champagne, to celebrate their anniversary (thank you Groupon)! It was a great experience to try some amazing champange!

Once back at home, we were able to continue the cooking process of the short ribs which consisted of a couple hours of baking and broiling. It was worth the wait! The beef was incredibly moist and tender and the flavor was incredible. My husband chose to serve it with Cajun sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus. It was a delicious meal to end an awesome weekend with friends. Love you guys!

Lincoln Park Zoo and Grouse

We had wonderful friends come visit us in Chicago this weekend, Harriet and Calhoun (Mostly Minnesotan). On Saturday, we had a lazy morning followed by a delicious pumpkin pancake brunch. Mmm! Those pancakes are never going to get boring – they are so delicious! That afternoon, we explored the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free! It was a gorgeous fall day, and we all enjoyed wandering around the zoo and getting a little people watching in as well. After working up an appetite, we were excited for the evening’s dinner plans. This is also when we got to take full advantage of Calhoun’s (and Sogn!) hunting skills. They had so graciously brought some fresh grouse all the way from Minnesota! I can’t claim to know the entire recipe, since Harriett and I enjoyed wine while the men prepared the food. The grouse was seasoned, breaded, and baked perfectly and was served with a garlic butter reduction alongside braised kale and a thick whole wheat loaf of bread. I’d never eaten grouse before, and it was so delicious! It looks and tastes a bit like chicken, but more gamey. MMM! Oh, and I cannot forget the chocolate mousse dessert that lasted us all weekend! Thanks so much, Harriet and Calhoun, for providing and preparing a wonderful meal!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies

Yesterday, I just wanted pumpkin cookies. These cookies satisfied my craving instantly. They are incredible little rounds of cakey pumpkiney goodness. The batter is actually pretty cake-like. The recipe calls for using a pastry bag with a plain tip to get the batter onto the cookie sheet properly. Honestly, I used a large zip lock bag and cut off the tip and it worked perfectly. Also, the frosting proved to be a little tricky. I didn't mess the recipe up, but mine definitely turned out thinner than the picture I was going by. But it tasted great and I sort of like the look when the frosting drips down the side of the cookie.

Afternoon well spent.

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
from Martha Stewart

For the cookies:
2 /34 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the icing:
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp evaporated milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Make cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, until tops spring back, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.

Make icing: Put confectioners' sugar in a large bowl; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Immediately add butter to confectioners' sugar. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; stir until smooth. Spread about 1 teaspoon icing onto each cookie. If icing stiffens, stir in more evaporated milk, a little at a time.

Training for a 15K

That's right! When I ran the Rock and Roll half marathon, I realized that I now love running. But, I didn't want to conquer another half marathon right away. Luckily enough, some friends mentioned they were going to run a 15K, which is 9.3 miles. That distance sounded just perfect to me. Not only that, but the race is called the Hot Chocolate! Perfect for a fall run! At the end of the race, there is going to be a huge tent with chocolate everything inside!

Last weekend, I was out on one of my long distance runs, and saw the cutest thing. There was a mom with her two daughters, and they were all pushing strollers. I thought, how cute, their girls want to be like their mom and have a stroller with a baby too! Nope, once I passed them I noticed gigantic pumpkins in all three strollers! How cute! In Chicago, you use whatever you can to get your produce home!

I think that is when my pumpkin obsession started this fall.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

It's officially fall! That means I want to make pumpkin spice everything. When I saw this recipe, I knew that I had to make them right away. These pumpkin pancakes are seriously amazing. They're thick, moist, chewy and a little sweet. I served them with whipped cream and maple syrup, both were excellent toppings. They are so good that I shouldn't say much more and spoil them for you. Just make them.

If you are coming to visit Chicago anytime soon, you are lucky because I will be making these for you :)

Pumpkin Pancakes
adapted from Greens and Chocolate

3/4 cup whole wheat flour*
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
dash of ground ginger*
dash of ground cloves*
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter

*I was so excited about making these, that I didn't have time to get to the store for the few missing ingredients. It doesn't matter! I didn't have whole wheat flour, so I just used regular flour. I also didn't have ginger or cloves on hand, but I used a general pumpkin spice mixture instead and they turned out very well.


In large bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin, egg, and oil/butter. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until just combined (it may be still lumpy).

Cook pancakes as usual on a preheated skillet. Keep pancakes warm in microwave or preheated oven until ready to serve. Serve with cinnamon sugar, whipped cream, or maple syrup.