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.

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!

 

Friday Favorites

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

First of many beach days

Our first official beach day over the long weekend was a tremendous success. FINALLY, we understand why people actually live here.

Eggrolls

 We found yet another great local Asian restaurant: Koco Table. This one specializes in Korean food, and Dan-the-kimchi-conniosseur gives it two chopsticks up.

Fuchsia

 The fuchsia flowering plant is one of my favorites for spring. Until now, I’ve only found them as hanging plants. But our grocery store had the topiary version, and I couldn’t resist getting one for our balcony.

Lyfe Kitchen

 Our effort to eat more fruits and vegetables (especially before 6:00 p.m.) gets a boost from a new restaurant called Lyfe Kitchen, which specializes in healthy foods, including tons of vegan and gluten-free options. We give them four (meat-loving-and-missing) thumbs up.

Condo drama

We had a little excitement (for lack of a better word) at the condo this week, when the building-wide fire alarms went off, notifying us that a fire had been detected and we needed to evacuate the building. It was a small grease fire in our neighbor’s kitchen. Thank goodness that the fire was quickly contained and our neighbor is fine, other than a few burns on her hand. And thanks to the Evanston fire department for responding so quickly with multiple trucks and firefighters. The experience is also a good reminder to everyone to keep a fire extinguisher readily available in the kitchen.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed the last couple of weeks:

Girl & the Goat

Thanks to a gifted reservation and friends who appreciate food as much as we do, we finally got to eat at a restaurant where we’ve wanted to go for years, Girl and the Goat. Everything was so good that we have trouble singling out a favorite, but if we were forced to choose, it would probably be the goat liver mousse.

Tiptoe through

 Unfiltered photo of gorgeous tulips in a sidewalk planter during our walk to dinner one evening.

Sepia

We took the train into the city to meet friends for dinner at a great restaurant called Sepia. We originally thought our friend picked the place because it’s close to the train station and he knows we are new to finding our way around downtown, but it turns out that he picked a Michelin star winning restaurant with amazing food where we enjoyed a lovely dinner.

Farmer's market

 The local farmer’s market is officially open! You’ll find us there pretty much every Saturday morning.

Ready for summer

With new window shades and a couple of ceiling fans (expertly installed by Dan himself!), our condo is ready for summer. Which we hear should arrive any day now. Even though it snowed last Friday morning.

Jasper's

 We left snowy Chicago for a much-needed weekend in Dallas reconnecting with old friends and dining out on various patios around town, including Jasper’s.

Chuy's

For us, no trip to Dallas is complete without a stop at Chuy’s for the best chips & salsa, Tex-Mex and margaritas around.

Tatanka

While in Dallas, we took a quick side trip to Choctaw Casino in Oklahoma for a nice dinner and gambling with dear friends, as one does.

 

Friday Favorites

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

!Quatro de Mayo cumpleanos!

 Rare find in our area, and perfect for my birthday lunch — surprisingly decent Tex-Mex!

CheeEEEeese!

 Our favorite Evanston restaurant offers an excellent “Selection of Local & European Cheeses & Meats.”

Terrace garden

 We planted a balcony herb garden: basil, dill, oregano and thyme. Plus 2 tiny tomato plants.

Nacho lunch. MY lunch!

 Our sister-in-law cooked this amazing slow-cooker buffalo chicken for us when we recently visited our Brooklyn family. My attempt to re-create it tasted a little more like pulled BBQ chicken with a hint of buffalo sauce, but it was still delicious and the leftovers were perfect for nachos a couple of days later.

Toast of the town

Who knew how much better our favorite breakfast of avocado toast could be with the simple addition of sliced tomatoes and leftover crispy bacon?

Friday Favorites

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

Ceiling fan shopping sammie break

Our favorite lighting store is right next door to a lovely spot for lunch, complete with a “sun-soaked conservatory,” which is basically a glass-walled dining area where you can get the al fresco dining experience while still being protected from the wind and weather. The food is pretty darn good too.

Pretty bird

One of the few things we miss about having a backyard is a big tree where we can hang a bird feeder. Our sweet Amesbury family anticipated this need before we even realized what we were missing, and at Christmas gifted us with a feeder perfectly suited for the partition that goes around our terrace. We set it up last weekend and the birds are loving it, as are we.

Veal chop

Dan’s friend and colleague recently introduced him to a new local butcher shop that will pre-grind meat for making sausage. I’m all for homemade sausage that does not include the grinding at home step (and subsequent clean-up). Jerry’s Quality Meats also sells — you guessed it — quality meat, including these beautiful veal chops.

#nofilter

We’ve had a few overcast days here this week, so when the sun poked through the clouds one evening, we couldn’t resist a photo of the view from our living room terrace. The local Best Western never looked so pretty than when bathed in the golden glow of sunset.

 

Friday Favorites

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

Easter Vigil

Last Saturday we joined long-time friends of ours for an Easter Vigil service and the baptism of their three wonderful children. It was a special experience, and we were honored to have been part of it.

Easter breakfast

Growing up, the traditional Easter breakfast in my family included hard boiled eggs, strawberries and pineapple. Dan and I put our own twist on the tradition this year by making deviled eggs, mascerating the strawberries and pineapple with a little sugar and adding our favorite chicken sausage to the mix.

Seagull photo bomb

It’s still a bit chilly here in Chicagoland, but last weekend it warmed up enough one day for our first barefoot beach walk of the season, and it was glorious.

Peckish Me

We have a new favorite local restaurant called Peckish Pig. We love everything about the place — from the food, to the atmosphere, to the service — not to mention the adorable name and logo. Our only issue is figuring out how to try everything we want on their menu (basically the entire menu), while still ordering what we’ve already decided will be our go-to items (kimchi potato cakes and duck confit mac & cheese w/ sunny-side up egg). Not a bad problem to have.

Condo wildlife

A pair of geese stopped by the condo for a visit last week. The outdoor landing where they were hanging out is not accessible by us (no worries about goose droppings in the backyard, since it’s not a backyard), but we were able to toss a few crackers to them through a window. They reminded us fondly of the ducks that occasionally visited our pool in the springtime when we lived in Dallas.

Friday Favorites

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

Beach

My parents came to see our new place (can we still call it “new” after being here for 5 months?) last weekend. We had a nice visit and enjoyed showing them our sites, including the lake. It was too windy to linger long, but the water was a gorgeous shade of turquoise blue that day. Much different than the previous time we were there, when it was white ice as far as the eye could see.

Orange chicken

Trader Joe’s “Mandarin Orange Chicken” (from the freezer section) comes highly recommended by gourmand friends of my parents. We tried it this week and also loved it. Not only does it taste as good as what you would get from a Chinese restaurant (possibly better, depending on the restaurant), but it’s also ridiculously easy to prepare. Just bake the chicken in the oven (or fry it in oil if you’d rather), heat the sauce, toss them together and serve over cooked rice. Because the sauce was a little sweeter than we like (and we can never leave well enough alone), we added a bit of soy, sriracha and sesame oil to make it perfect.

New toy

Dan got a new phone last week (it’s suspiciously coincidental the way a phone tends to wear out in terms of battery and function, riiiiight around the time a brand new model of the same phone comes out, isn’t it), and Sprint threw in this little Samsung tablet for free with his phone purchase. Since Dan already has his beloved iPad, this latest technology treat is all mine. It’s a fun device, handy for times when I want easy Internet access and a screen bigger than the one on my phone but don’t feel like hauling around my laptop.

Mediterranean lunch

We have a new favorite local “fast food” restaurant: Olive Mediterranean Grill. The food is fast because it’s pre-made, but it’s also crazy fresh, delicious and healthy. Our go-to lunch is the “OMG Plate” with hummus, tabbouli, Mediterranean salad and spicy chicken kabob. They also make their own pitas onsite. So good.

Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week (more pictures than words, since my parents are currently visiting and we are enjoying our time with them):

Uncle and nephew contemplate art.

 Great time in Brooklyn last weekend visiting our adorable, sweet nephews and their awesome parents.

Oyster snack

 Oyster snack break at the genius, amazing food situation that is Smorgasburg.

Patio is open!

We’ve wiped down the chairs and swept off the patio — spring is here! (We’re ignoring the weather forecast of light snow predicted for next week.)

Mmmmm mussels

 We’re big fans of the mussels in white wine cream sauce with sundried tomatoes at this place.