Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

Special Day

Dan’s mom had a milestone birthday (rhymes with schmeventy) last week, so her family and friends gathered together in central Pennsylvania to celebrate with a pig roast, as one does. It was a great party, and the birthday girl had a happy day indeed.

Some Pig

Of COURSE we took a picture of the pig and posted it here — have you met us?!? It’s rather humbling to see the face of your food before you eat it, and it reminds us to more often think about the origins of what we’re eating.

Tomats!

Speaking of which, some of our food is going to be coming from our very own terrace soon! Our patio tomato plant is doing well, and we have a bunch of little tomatoes that should be ripe in the next couple of weeks. We’re looking forward to making these scalloped tomatoes with our first harvest.

U-S-A!

 Who’s watching World Cup soccer? Quite a few people at Dan’s office, it seems. They put yesterday’s USA vs. Germany game on the big screen in the common area, and people brought their laptops so they could work while cheering for Team USA. Patriotism and productivity, for the win!

Beer flight

A new craft brewery just opened in town, dangerously close to our condo. Smylie Brothers Brewing Company is also a smokehouse where they make their own BBQ. They also have a wood-fired oven for pizza. And they have a hip-yet-rustic, two-story indoor space that includes a big fireplace in the lounge area. They also have a spacious patio where we sat last night and watched the cool, misty fog roll in from the lake as we finished our delicious dinner. It’s good to live in Chicagoland in the summer.

What did YOU do at work today?

Apparently, it’s also good to be working at Kraft Foods, where all the employees were treated to lunch and an acoustic performance by country music star Brad Paisley this afternoon. Tough day at the office!

Slow-Cooker Lentil Soup

When we think lentil soup, we usually think Christmas. Not only because its delicious-ness is a gift, but also because this soup is the perfect way to use up every bit of the Greenberg smoked turkey that Dan’s East Texas colleagues generously sent us for the holidays. My parents make their own holiday version of lentil soup most years too, using a ham bone and ham, which is what I grew up eating for Christmas dinner every year. The smoked turkey version (with homemade turkey stock) will probably always be our favorite, but this recipe from the cookbook “Slow Cooker Revolution” is also really good, takes less time and effort to prepare, and does not require the use of a smoked turkey or a ham bone. So realistically, we can (and will!) make it more often than once per year.  Although the list of ingredients is rather long (onion, garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, dried porcini mushrooms, thyme, chicken and vegetable broths, bacon, carrots, portobello mushroom caps, lentils, bay leaves and Swiss chard), the slow-cooker does most of the work, and the nearly vegetarian result (the bacon is just for flavor) is a lighter, yet still robust and earthy take on our old holiday favorite. Merry Christmas Eating!

Continue reading “Slow-Cooker Lentil Soup”

Friday Favorites

Jalapeños

 Our first harvest from our jalapeño plants!

Bike trail

 Last weekend we found a really nice bike trail that runs parallel to the train tracks.

Trattoria Pizza

 Delicious pizza from a new-to-us Italian place.

Boltwood Potatoes

 Brand new restaurant just around the corner from our condo has amazing crispy potatoes.

Texas Hot Dog

We’re in Dan’s hometown for his mom’s birthday (Happy 70th E!),
which means a quick stop at Texas Hot Dog for a chili dog snack.

Friday Favorites

Picture Perfect

We took a quick trip to visit family in Amesbury last weekend. We had a wonderful time there—as we always do—with fun outings, great food, and most importantly, quality time with some of our favorite people. The weather couldn’t have been better, as evidenced by the un-edited photo above (and the still-pink sunburned backs of Dan’s legs.)

Climbers

 Two of said favorite people are becoming quite skilled at climbing trees.

Pizza night!

Dan and I have a running joke that his brother J can do pretty much anything, and he usually does it better than most other people. (It’s funny because it’s true, and because it makes Dan jealous.) Grilling pizza is no exception to this rule. (But our lovely sister-in-law C deserves all the credit for presentation.)

Kick the beat

Our nephew (second one on the right) is following in his dad’s footsteps of being good at a lot of different things, as he expertly played the steel drums in his ensemble concert on Sunday. It was quite entertaining, and we’re so glad we got to be there.

Favorite vegan lunch

 A sentence I never imagined I would write: We have a new favorite vegan lunch! This brown rice salad takes some time to prepare, but it’s well worth the effort, and it can be made ahead. Start by sauteing some onion and red bell pepper in olive oil until the veggies begin to soften, add a clove or two of garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then add shiitake mushrooms (we also added eggplant, since we had some leftover from a different dish) and cook until the mushrooms release and reabsorb their juices. Season with soy sauce and sriracha to taste. The mushroom mixture provides the “meaty” flavor and texture of the salad, to which you can add whatever raw vegetables you like, in addition to cooked brown rice. We added carrots, radishes, green onions, cucumber and steamed edamame. Bring all the flavors together by tossing the salad with a tiny bit of an Asian style vinaigrette (we used the dressing from this noodle salad recipe.) Serve the salad at room temperature, on its own or as filling for lettuce wraps. If you make the salad ahead of time, store each of the components (cooked mushroom mixture, brown rice, chopped raw veggies, and dressing) in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

Food for Thought

Ready for a rub-down

  • One of our favorite local restaurants has a kale salad on their menu that is hands-down one of the best salads we’ve ever eaten. Kale is amazingly healthy, but it can be pretty strong in both flavor and texture. Our attempts to recreate our favorite kale dish at home weren’t very successful, at least until we discovered the secret to delicious kale salad: massage! Turns out, if you massage the kale leaves (cut them away from the stems first) by rubbing them gently with your hands for a few minutes, the kale’s cellulose structure begins to break down and the texture and flavor will soften. You can add flavor during the massage by using a little olive oil, lemon juice, or even avocado. Relaxed kale is happy kale and makes a much better salad.
  • Because we are a family of two, we often cut recipes in half when they are intended to serve four or more people. Because neither math nor memorization are among my strong skills, I usually need a little help when it comes to converting ingredient amounts. This kitchen conversion guide is extremely handy for a cook like me. For example, measuring spoon sets don’t include a spoon for half a tablespoon. But according to the conversion guide, 1 tablespoon equals 3 teaspoons, therefore 1/2 tablespoon equals 1 1/2 teaspoons. Genius! The guide includes conversions for just about every unit of measure used in cooking (at least all the ones I know of) and links them together for cross-converting (technical term). It’s also a really cool graphic that would look great framed and hung on a wall in the kitchen as useful art.
  • We’re generally not very adventurous when it comes to odd-food-pairing experiments, but this list of unexpected flavor combinations that (supposedly) work really well is interesting. We’ll have to take their word for it on some of them though. Salmon + licorice? No and no. Oysters + watermelon makes a little more sense, as does butternut squash + lime. If you’ve tried any of these or know of any other bizarre food combinations that actually taste good, feel free to share!

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this week:

Not so secret garden

We discovered a wonderful garden center last weekend—one of the largest we’ve ever seen, with a huge selection of every variety of plant you could imagine. We don’t have much outdoor space and bought just a few plants, but it’s a beautiful place to visit and stroll through, even if you don’t buy anything.

Condo garden

We planted flowers and a couple of jalapeño plants in the small bed that runs along the windows to our bedroom. It’s amazing how big a difference even a little bit of colorful nature can make in daily life.

You got a lotta balls coming in here

We are slowly eating our way around our neighborhood, building our catalog of favorite places and dishes. The meatball appetizer at Trattoria Demi has officially earned its spot on our top 10 list so far. Their arancine (crisp, breaded risotto balls) aren’t bad either, especially when dipped in the sauce from the meatballs.

I can keep the first aid kit in my basket!

The traditional gifts to commemorate the ninth year of wedded bliss are pottery and willow, and the modern gift is leather. We decided to go with bicycles because nothing says “happy anniversary!” better than a potential trip to the emergency room. I am neither coordinated nor athletic in the least and can’t even remember the last time I rode a bike, so I was pretty nervous about our first ride. Turns out it’s true what they say: riding a bike is just like riding a bike. Once you’ve learned how, you truly don’t forget. Here’s to us, and many many more rides, and years, together!