Friday Favorites

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


We took a quick trip to Dallas last weekend — I had a hair appointment and Dan had an appointment with some BBQ.  Pecan Lodge is by far the best barbecue in Dallas, and it’s well worth the return trip to Texas (so are my highlights).  Not surprisingly, BBQ this good is also really popular, and people wait in line for hours to get it.  Our friend Maynard clued us on to an easier way to get our meat fix faster by waiting in a much shorter line for those ordering at least 5 lbs of BBQ.  Behold, “The Trough” — a sampler that includes brisket, pulled pork, sausages and ribs.  Our friend was also kind enough to agree to help us eat the 5+ pounds of meat and brought his son and nephew to assist as well.  Thanks Guys!  One “Trough” would have been plenty, but Dan lives by the philosophy that anything worth doing is worth over-doing, so he ordered extra brisket and sausages too.  A lot of meat was consumed that day — enough to satisfy Dan’s Texas BBQ cravings, at least until I’m due to get my roots touched up again.


No trip to Texas is complete without Tex-Mex, and we found a great place right across from our hotel.  It was even warm enough to sit outside, which was a nice break from the “polar vortex” happening back in Chicago.


We recently discovered a new breakfast food to add to our weekday morning routine — 8 Grain Hot Cereal.  It’s quick and easy to make, and it’s warm and filling on a cold day.  It also makes delicious muffins.  I followed the recipe on the package, but added a couple of overripe bananas, a few drops of vanilla extract and a little lemon zest.  The muffins were light, fluffy and moist — not at all what you would expect from using whole grains.


I finally tackled one of the last remaining unpacking/organizing projects remaining from our move — my jewelry.  I love any and all jewelry, but most especially the cheap inexpensive costume stuff (lucky for Dan), of which I have a LOT.  It was quite a challenge to figure out how to store and display all of it in our new closet space, but it’s (mostly) done and I even have some storage space to spare.  Chicagoland Charming Charlie here I come!  Texas-based  Sam Moon will have to wait for Dan’s next Texas BBQ craving and my next hair appointment (which may or may not already be scheduled).

Friday Favorites

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

NYE lunch

When we lived in Dallas, one of our favorite ways to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon was a late lunch of oysters, shrimp cocktail and other appetizers while sitting at the bar at the McCormick & Schmick’s located in the nice mall near our house, then a stroll through the mall for a visit to the Apple Store for Dan and Anthropologie for me.  We were pretty bummed when the Dallas restaurant closed in 2012.  So we were thrilled to discover that our local mall here in Chicagoland has a McCormick & Schmick’s, and we had an amazing lunch there on New Year’s Eve.  We especially enjoyed a new-to-us menu item (with a delightfully quirky name) — Shrimp Kisses.  Broiled shrimp wrapped in bacon with a little pepper jack cheese in the middle, served over corn relish and topped with fried onion strings.  Yes, yes and yes.

Happy shopper

Although the mall here is open-air (and therefore not quite ideal for strolling when temps are in the single digits), the Anthropologie is just around the corner from McCormick & Schmick’s, and there is a little warming station / seating area along the way.  It was a little too cold that day to linger long, but I see some Dan-time in one of those chairs in the less-frigid future (June perhaps?) while I get my shop on.


Happily, our local mall also has an Apple Store, where we procured one of the greatest inventions for television addicts like us — the Apple TV device.  It basically allows you to put whatever content that is on your iTunes account onto your television.  So, for example, if you happened to be bored with current TV shows and decided to maybe see what all the prior buzz was about regarding the show “Scandal,” you could just order the first episode on iTunes, then watch it on TV.  And, for instance, if you decided you really liked the show Scandal and wanted to watch more episodes, then you could order the entire first season, possibly binge-watch 5 episodes on New Year’s Day, then go ahead and order season 2 to watch at your leisure, slowing down to savor the episodes until season 3 will be available for purchase on iTunes.  But that’s just one example — there’s lots of other things you can do with Apple TV too.

Boots with the fur

If you would have told me 3 months ago that I would be wearing (and loving) faux fur-lined boots, I would have thought you were hilarious.  And if you would have told me that I would be wearing them while living in the Chicago area, I would have thought you were hilarious AND possibly deranged.  Yet here we are, embracing our new adventure, fur and all.

Cheers 2014

Happy New Year to all!  We are excited for all this new year has in store (although we would prefer it not involve any life-altering changes, at least for the first 6 months or so, thankyouverymuch), and we wish you and yours health, prosperity, joy and laughter in 2014.  And warmth.

Friday Favorites

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


We hope everyone’s holiday season has been as happy as ours so far!  One of our favorite parts of Christmas is receiving cards from family and friends with warm wishes and photos showing how their kids have grown over the past year.  We are blessed to have so many loved ones from all parts of the country and time periods of our lives who reach out to us during this very special time of year.

Lunch w/ a view

Dan’s mom honored us as our first house condo guest this Christmas, and we had a wonderful visit.  One of the highlights was our Christmas Eve lunch at the top of the Hancock building downtown.  The views were amazing and the food was equally as good.  Just like that, we have a new tradition for the Christmas seasons when we’re in our new Chicagoland home.

Street decor

Before we ever knew we would end up living here, we used to visit Chicago in the summer and wonder what, if anything, they replaced all the beautiful flowers with in the various planters and flower beds throughout the city during winter.  Turns out that they create lovely and festive arrangements with evergreens all over the streets, in both downtown Chicago and Evanston.  This particular planter is right outside our building, and we enjoy admiring it as we come and go (before it gets covered in a couple feet of snow).

Borrowed fireplace

We were fortunate to have large, gorgeous stone fireplaces in both of our prior homes, so the lack of one here in the condo requires some adjustment.  One of the ways we try to cope with our fireplace-less-ness is to score tables as close to restaurant fireplaces as possible when we can be so lucky.  We sat directly in front of this beautiful fireplace at one of our favorite neighborhood joints this week, and it was glorious.

Friday Favorites

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

Thankful for family fish!

Instead of turkey leftovers for dinner on the Friday after Thanksgiving, we cooked up a beautiful piece of Alaskan halibut, courtesy of my sweet Uncle K.  Even more special – he caught the fish himself during his summertime RV travels with my Aunt S.  Fish this fresh doesn’t need much help, so we opted for a simple preparation of roasting it with a little mayo (helps keep the fish from drying out), olive oil, garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, lemon juice and parsley, similar to this recipe.  My brother and I (neither of us big fans of fish) really liked it, and my mom (who hates any and all fish) even tolerated a bite!  Fish-loving Dan and my dad also really enjoyed it.  Thanks Uncle K!

Winter best friend

My most dear and thoughtful Dallas girlfriends gifted me with a gorgeous scarf for our move to the midwest.  It’s the softest, warmest and most chic scarf a girl could have, and it warms my heart as well as my neck when I wrap it around me to brave the Chicago winter.  Turns out, it’s pretty darn cold here.  Who knew?  (Only everyone we ever told that we were moving here.) Thank you, P and L.  I miss you only a tiny bit less every time I wear my scarf.  Good thing the weather will require me to wear it quite often.

Dixie Kitsch

One of the great things about our new home city is easy, walkable access to lots of really good restaurants (especially when temps are in the 20s and teens.)  Dixie Kitchen is a 3-5 minute (depending on how cold it is!) walk from our condo.  We went there for breakfast on a previous house-hunting trip and loved the food as well as the atmosphere.  Our dinner there the other night also did not disappoint.  Crawfish (or “crayfish,” as they refer to mudbugs around these parts) etouffee is my go-to Cajun dish, and Dixie’s version was excellent.  We also look forward to trying their po’ boys.

City Christmas Lights

About one block from our condo, the view of downtown Evanston’s Christmas lights (with blue & green tree in the distance) is both pretty and festive.  Assuming we ever finish unpacking and organizing, maybe we’ll put up a Christmas tree and some lights of our own in the condo at some point before Valentines Day.


Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed, and are thankful for, this past week:

Box city

Our stash of empty moving boxes in storage has finally grown to outnumber the amount of full boxes in our new condo.  We still have a lot of organizing and decorating to do, but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel (and through the windows, which are no longer covered up by a wall of boxes.)

First snow!

We had our first (little) snowfall last week.  It wasn’t much, but enough to accumulate and stick so it counts!  Pretty sure the novelty will wear off by January or so, but snow is still exciting for us Texas transplants.


We hung our first piece of art in the condo.  This wall in our foyer is one of the few “done” parts of our new home, and it’s nice to have a little clarity amidst the chaos and clutter in the rest of the place.


We hope you and yours had as wonderful a Thanksgiving as we did, filled with delicious food, love and fellowship with family and friends and countless blessings.  Life is good and we are grateful!


Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week (short & sweet moving edition):


All our stuff arrived safely at our new condo.  Although the movers unpacked a lot of the boxes, they (understandably) didn’t put anything away.  We tackled the kitchen first, which required laying everything out on the counters and floor, then trying to figure out where/how to put it all away.  Keep in mind that we went from a huge kitchen with tons of storage and a walk-in pantry to a regular sized kitchen with no pantry.  And that Dan is very fond of acquiring kitchen gadgets…


About 10 hours and 4 boxes of stuff to donate to Goodwill later, we have a beautiful and efficiently stocked new kitchen.  And I may or may not have burst into tears when I found yet another big box of kitchen stuff that had been mislabeled by the movers and will need to be unpacked and stored somewhere.

Kearney wine

We were excited to try the new wine by one of our favorite musicians, Mat Kearney, in collaboration with a Napa Valley winery (coincidentally, Napa is also one of our favorite places in the whole world.)  The red blend was really good and we love Mat’s message that “It’s full of life, love and a little music.  Turn it up and enjoy.”

"If the foundation is good..."

Back at the Dallas house, the foundation work we are having done is well underway.  It’s very strange to see the gameroom where we logged countless hours of TV time, wii games with our niece and nephew and friends’ kids and hanging out with family and friends torn up like a construction site.  But we will be so glad when the work is done, and the room can be an entertaining (and solid) place for some other family to enjoy while making their own memories.

Friday Favorites

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


Anyone who has ever had a cat and an empty box in the same vicinity knows that this is the cat’s preferred method of “helping” to fill said box.  They do it with suitcases too.  My little assistant and I managed to get the bulk of the de-cluttering done, just in time for the movers to arrive and begin packing.  Not to worry, I kept her and her sister in a closed room and out of the movers’ way, lest they “assist” themselves unnoticed into a moving box and onto the truck to be driven to Chicago over the weekend.  Although I suppose that would have been one way to get them there, without the hassle and expense (and sheer terror) of flying with them.  Kidding!  (mostly)

Breakfast sammie

We’ve been splitting time between Dallas and Evanston lately, exploring our new condo neighborhood while preparing to leave our Dallas home.  It’s been a strange, stressful — yet exciting — time to say the least.  Last weekend we discovered a great little sandwich shop just one block from our condo.  We went for breakfast, and plan to go back for many, many more.  Lunches too.  The atmosphere is cozy and eclectic, and the breakfast sandwiches were amazing.  We both had one of the specials — pepperoni, scrambled egg, white cheddar and tomato served on a “bialy.”  If you’re not familiar with them, a bialy is sort of like a flat bagel.  Great bagel taste and texture, without as many empty carbs.  For a small sandwich spot, Delbe’s offers a very impressive variety, and the location could not be better.  Well played, Evanston.

Maiden voyage

Pretty much every time he moves to a new home, Dan decides it’s a good time to get a new grill (thank goodness we haven’t moved very often.)  For this move, a new grill was a necessity, since our old grill would have taken up the entire available space on our tiny balcony off the kitchen and living room.  So, in a fashion typical of us, we down-sized yet upgraded at the same time, reasoning that our new, smaller, but top-of-the-line grill would last a long long time, through this move and any others to come (IT BETTER.) If the first, perfectly cooked filets are any indication, we chose wisely.

Spelling BEAN!

Back in Dallas to supervise the movers while Dan slaved away at work in Chicago, our dear friends treated me to a home-cooked meal this week.  Dinner was delicious (P, write up your meatloaf recipe for me so we can post it!), but one of the very best parts of the evening was the post-dinner “Spelling Bean” with the kids.  Since it was a school night, the kids needed to practice their spelling words for the week.  Their mom came up with the genius idea of making this homework more palatable (quite literally) by offering the reward of a jelly belly for each word spelled correctly.  Hence the name, Spelling “Bean.”  Brilliant!  Both kids are excellent spellers and it was a super fun way to end the meal.

No turning back now!

So.  Nothing quite makes the reality of a move more “real” than seeing the truck loaded with all your belongings drive away.  The good thing is that we’ve spent enough time in Evanston to know that it is a great fit for us and we can see ourselves making a very happy home there.  The bad thing is, that home won’t be nearly close enough to our Dallas friends.  I haven’t quite wrapped my head (or heart) around not being able to meet up for lunches or dinners often and easily anymore, and I can’t begin to think about the “lasts” (last girls lunch, spa day or couples get-together in Dallas) without getting teary.  But these lifelong friends are just that — friends for life.  A little distance won’t alter that fundamental part of our friendships.  And we happen to know that Chicago is a great city to visit, just a quick flight away.  Also, this Texas girl won’t be able to go more than 6 months at a time without authentic Tex-Mex, so we’ll come back often!  All will be well.  (So why am I still crying?)

Friday Favorites

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

Condo camping

We closed on our condo in Evanston!  We are still working on selling our house in Dallas, so the official move will have to wait a bit, but we loaded up one of our cars with as much stuff as we could fit and drove up there last weekend.  We’re all set for condo “camping” at its finest, complete with an aerobed, 2 patio chairs, 2 overturned empty boxes as end tables / nightstands, and a TV sitting on an empty storage bin.  We’ll be back and forth between Dallas and Evanston as we prepare to move, so roughing it at the condo won’t be too bad, and it will all be worth it in the long run.

Celebratory lunch

After working up an appetite signing our lives away at the condo closing, we celebrated with lunch at our favorite Evanston burger joint, Edzo’s.  Although they have the best burgers around, I decided to mix it up a bit and try their Classic Chicago Dog, which was delicious.  Even more delicious — their “Five Onion Fries,” topped with caramelized onion cream, fried leeks and scallions.

Fall view from the condo

The view from the master bedroom of our condo currently includes some golden yellow fall foliage.  (We know, we know — enjoy while it lasts because soon all we will see are sad, barren tree limbs, often covered with snow and ice, during the loooong winter months…)

Coast Sushi

Our new go-to sushi place in Evanston is Coast Sushi.  It’s one of the few favorite restaurants that is not quite walkable from our condo (especially during the winter!) but it’s worth the short drive, and they deliver (sushi delivery is unheard of in Dallas, so that will be a nice perk of Evanston city-living.)  We especially enjoyed the “Dressed Sashimi,” which included 2 pieces of several types of fish (tuna, hamachi, salmon, super white tuna, crab and eel, “dressed” with various sauces and garnishes).  It was a great way to try different bites of sushi prepared in ways to best accentuate the flavors and textures of each type of seafood.


Friday Favorites

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

Ready for its close-up

We’ve been fortunate in our current home to have a huge walk-in closet (it was a small bedroom that was converted into a master closet) and we are going to miss it when we move.  But it also was a bit of a curse, in that having so much space enabled us to fill every inch with stuff.  Several days and numerous donations to Goodwill later, the closet has been purged and is ready for listing photos and showings.  And we are relieved to have less stuff to move with us to Chicago.

Game hen

Dan is working from Dallas this week, while also helping to get the house ready to go on the market.  Which means he’s also around to cook my dinner.  He made a pan-roasted game hen one night that was delicious.  He had previously read about placing bacon on top of the hen while it cooks in the oven and decided to try it.  We’re not sure whether the bacon did much, other than maybe adding flavor to the drippings for the pan gravy, which was by far the best part of the whole dish.  After the game hen was done, he spooned off most of the fat from the pan, added some flour to make a light roux, then added chicken stock and seasoned the gravy with salt and pepper.  So simple, yet so perfect.


Just in time for Halloween, the new season of American Horror Story started this week!  Every season has a different theme and storyline, and this season is “Coven” about — take a wild guess — witches.  AHS is not for everyone — the “horror” part of the name is no joke — but we love it and are super excited for Coven.  The cast is amazing, with several actors from prior seasons (including the impeccable Jessica Lange), as well as impressive additions of Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett.  If the first episode is any indication, it’s going to be our favorite season yet.  (And speaking of favorite shows on TV, “Homeland” is back and better than ever!)


Just in time for us to move away, we found a great, new-to-us taco joint called Chiladas.  It’s a counter-service, fast-food style of restaurant, but all their food is made with farm-fresh ingredients (they don’t even have freezers or microwaves in their kitchens.)  All of the tacos we tried were delicious — carnitas, brisket, shrimp and fish.  Their guacamole was good too, which is always one of our benchmarks for measuring quality Tex-Mex.  We didn’t partake on the day we were there for lunch, but they also have cheap margaritas (especially on their “Margarita Mondays”) made with real tequila (none of that wine-a-rita imitation stuff.)


Friday Favorites

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


Dan had a great first week starting his new job at Kraft Foods.  We flew to Chicago together last weekend so we could tend to some condo business, and I dropped him off at Kraft headquarters on his very first day.  The campus is beautiful and the main entrance features a cheerful macaroni statue with the inscription “You know you love it.”  They also have an awesome statue of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!


Downtown Evanston continues to impress us with excellent food options.  We stopped at Farmhouse for a quick late afternoon snack, and almost went back there for dinner it was so good.  The “tavern-cut” potato chips with fresh dill dip and the mussels (cooked with tomatoes, bacon and shallots in a white wine broth) were both outstanding.  Plus the restaurant has an interesting hip-yet-rustic vibe that we really liked.  We’ll be back.

Lake. Big lake.

No trip to Evanston is complete without a walk over to the lake (especially before it gets too cold for me to leave the condo.)  Each time we visit, we feel so lucky that we will actually get to live there.

Prosciutto arugula lavash

Back at the Dallas homestead, I made my favorite version of lavash pizza thus far.  I used pizza sauce (recipe in this post) thawed from the freezer, topped with a layer of mozzarella cheese and cooked for about 5 minutes until the cheese melted.  Then I added prosciutto (thin slices torn into bite-sized pieces), fresh arugula and a little shaved Parmesan cheese.  So good, and SO easy!