Friday, January 23, 2009

Home Brewed Cold Remedy

I got this remedy from an Assyrian family that I work with. There is a little bit of a language barrier. so it took a couple of minutes to get to "turnip" but we got there!

1. Peel turnip
2. Cut into quarters
3. Cover with water and boil until soft
4. Drink the turnip water and eat the turnip

I haven't tried it but it sounds better than Advil Cold & Flu! It sounds like it works best for chest colds. I am really hoping not to get sick this winter (knock on wood) but if I do, I'm going to try it and will let you know what happens!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hot and Sour Soup

I have recently become enamored with Thai food. I always considered thai food a less appealing version of Chinese food. This was erroneous thinking on my part. As I continue to expand my experiences and my palate, I have grown to love the flavors of Thai cooking, and see that it is nothing at all like Chinese food!

My new favorite Thai restaurant is Spoon Thai on N. Western Ave. I first went there for a friend's birthday at least a year ago. Late this fall Jason and I were craving some Thai food and decided to stop in for some carry out. Now, we're addicted!

My favorite dish so far on their menu is their Tom Yum Soup. I could eat this every day. I don't know how they do it, but it is one of the best soups I have ever tried.

And so, I tried to recreate it at home. I had been intending to make some sort of asian style soup, more in choice of vegetables than in flavor, although I intended to perhaps throw some miso in. I hit Stanley's first for the veggies and then on to Whole Foods. Walking through the aisles in Whole Foods, I stumbled upon the thai section and inspiration was born.

- 2 32-oz containers of organic, low-sodium vegetable stock (I used Imagine brand, I only had
a cup or two of homemade in my freezer)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 stalks lemongrass, sliced
- a few slices of fresh ginger
- 1 tsp (give or take) of chili paste
- shiitake mushrooms
- baby corn
- bamboo shoots
- bok choy

Now granted, this is a very loose interpretation of Tom Yum, although from the few recipes I had browsed the lemongrass, fish sauce, ginger portion was right on. I had purchased the bok choy before I realized this would be an actual Tom Yum, I would not add it in the future. And Tom Yum would normally have straw mushrooms instead of shiitake.

All in all, not a bad first attempt. I need to do some more research. The soup approximated the taste of Tom Yum I've had in the past, but didn't quite hit the mark.

Interesting observation, as I was about to pour the Fish Sauce in, I realized I had never actually tasted it on its own. Strangely enough, it tastes exactly how stinky french cheese smells.

I also have amassed quite a collection of asian condiments in the last 2 months. Hoisin, oyster sauce, garlic black bean and now fish sauce (on top of the normal rice vinegars, sesame oils, tamari etc.). J has accused me of going a little crazy with the chili paste recently. I like the heat in the winter!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Treetini - A Socially Conscious Buzz

J and I went to Rustik last night. I love the location, love the interior of the place, but am usually disappointed by my meal. Last night was no exception, I would not recommend the duck tacos.

However, I had a fabulous and socially conscious drink, the Treetini.

The treetini seems to vary, depending on where it is served, but based on VeeV acai spirit. In this case it was served like a mojito with VeeV acai spirit, lemon, soda water and basil. Delicious and refreshing! A definite must for the summer.

However, there is a bigger picture. The Treetini project is sponsored by Live It Green, LLC, an Illinois based company focusing on helping individuals and corporations go green. For every drink you purchase, they plant a tree. I ordered it because I figured it might not be quite as strong as my usual dirty ketel one, and it sounded delicious. I was happy to see (once I read the post script at the bottom of the menu) that I would be making a difference as well.

It is being served in several locations in Chicago, Uncommon Ground, Rustik, Blue Water Grill, Intercontinental Hotel and Bar Louie.

So go have a drink! It's your environmental duty!

Schroeder's Beethoven

I really enjoyed reading this article from the New York Times Art & Design section.

I did not make a formal list of new year's resolutions, but in the back of my mind, I know I need to bring my music back into my life. In the house have a piano I currently never play, multiple guitars I never learn to play, even a set of bongos. I especially have not been listening to my classical music. That was one of my greatest pleasures during my single life and one that I semi abandoned once I got the serious live-in boyfriend (now husband).

To keep up with the times, and allow myself to be able to listen to music in the dining room and anywhere I go, I really need an iPod!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fresh Start in the Kitchen

I enjoyed this article from the Minimalist in the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times. A list of items to do away with in your kitchen, and easier, better tasting alternatives.

You know that I love my homemade stock, I've mentioned it here before, and I can't remember the last time I have ever purchased a premade salad dressing.

Here are a couple of other ideas I have for Outs and Ins in the Kitchen, 2009

1. OUT - Yellow Mustard
IN - A good dijon. Yellow mustard is fine to keep around (especially if you have kids)
but a great dijon makes everything taste better and combined with good olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice, makes a great salad dressing

2. OUT - Throwing away mushroom stems
IN - Saving the stems, freezing them and using them later in stock. They add a nice
earthiness to both vegetable and chicken stocks

3. OUT - Throwing away the rinds of parmesan. Real parmesan.
IN - Saving the rinds, you can freeze them, and throwing them in soups. Delicious!

4. OUT - Mashed potatoes
IN - Mashed potatoes and root vegetables. Take those boring potatoes, and add in some celery root or parsnips. Just cook them all together.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008, A Retrospective

As usual, I am staggering into the new year. I have a lot of good intentions, but getting re-organized after the holidays is taking longer than expected. I'm having some major post-holiday let down. And I've been beating myself up over it. However, after talking to a few people and reflecting upon the last year, all of the changes which have taken place and the prospects for 2009, I think things are looking up! And I think I have had some major changes in my life this year, so feeling a little hangover from the entire year might be justified.

2008 was a big year. In short...
1. Wedding planning, say no more

2. Going raw and losing a good amount of weight

3. Jason starting a brand new job in the midst of all of this

4. Wedding! The pressures of a wedding are a lot, add in the added pressures of dragging 35 people across the ocean for said event, and you can see why I might still be recovering. Luckily, it was the most amazing couple of weeks of my life!

5. Return to reality

6. Quitting smoking. After 16 long years I quit smoking. It has all been documented here, I am not going to go into it much further other than to say I still feel good about my decision, despite occasionally feeling like a cigarette.

7. Trip to Denver. A fabulous weekend with my family in Denver to celebrate my cousin's baby shower and my other cousins' daughter's first birthday. Inspired me to want to move to Highlands Ranch! A fabulous shower followed by the biggest, baddest 2 year old birthday party I've ever seen. Lots of good times with the many Shirleys and lots of Colorado friends. And Tae-Bo at a mile above sea level post smoking! Talk about a head rush!

8. 20 year Junoir High Reunion. Loved it.

9. Becoming landlords. Although we had been living together for all intents and purposes for quite some time, we finally put Jason's place on the market a couple of months before the wedding. After an entire summer and most of a fall with zero activity, we found a renter. So far so good, although we still haven't received this month's rent...

10. Finalize the moving in. We found a renter, who wanted to move in the day he saw the place. And we still had a bed, a futon, kitchen cabinets and 2 closets full of stuff in the place. Thank god our friend Matt came to the rescue, because the thought of carrying any of that stuff down the rickety fire excape still gives me nightmares. After the moving was over there was still the problem of where in the hell to put all of the stuff. We're barely controlling that situation now. Not to mention the boxes of china and other wedding gifts we have finally been moving in from my parents'. And we had a tiny wedding, it's not like we got tons of gifts!

11. Dad's health. A period of the fall where this was not so good. He is doing well, but recovery is a long process

12. First 5k. Hand in hand with the quitting smoking I decided to start running. I did well, and ran my first 5k on the new runway extension at O'Hare.

13. Gained 15 pounds. Not happy about this one. Despite the running, the dreaded post quitting smoking weight gain kept creeping up. I finally got pissed off and decided to stop exercising and eat and drink whatever the hell I wanted until the new year.

14. Trip to New York. Fabulous time visiting Kristie, Aitor and Mikel and Mike, Andi, Luke & Amy in Brooklyn. Decided I needed to move to Brooklyn. Funny how 3 of the 4 people who stood up in our wedding all live in Brooklyn.

15. First (hopefully annual) Holiday Open House. 45 people, lots of appetizers, 1 ham and a dance party. And all done 3 days before hosting Christmas Eve. Love it!!!

16. 3rd annual Christmas Eve dinner. Braised chicken with almond paste ala the "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" woman with the spiky blonde hair on food network. Throw in roasted garbanzos and garlic with chard and some mashed potatoes and celery root and there's a meal!

17. First annual (hopefully!) house rental for New Years Eve. What a way to spend the New Year. Drunky-monkey with friends followed up with a few days of lounging, reading, eating and relaxing, topped off with a fabulous bonfire and a trip to the outlet mall.

Not to mention, a couple of weddings and more births than I can count (Lillian, Alena, Jack, Ane and Liam - am I forgetting any?) I'm sure I have left a few other major events off ot this list. It's late and I'm getting tired.

2009 is off to a rip-roaring start. I have started my foray into home cheese making (not a success, but not an utter failure) and am starting grad school (unless I freak out and withdraw again) in a couple of weeks. At least 3 books under my belt for 2009 seems like a good start.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reading in the new year

I am at my most voracious in regards to reading at the beginning of the new year. The parties are over, the food eaten, the wine drunk and the dishes are finally done! And all I want to do every evening is curl up with a good book.
I've managed a few so far this year:
I finished off "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral", Barbara Kingsolver's book on her and her family's year of living locally and off the land of their farm in Kentucky. I took me a couple of chapters to get into it, but once I did I was hooked. It is part novel, part resource guide and wholly inspirational. It is the life I would love to lead.

Next on the list was "Sarah's Key", by Tatiana de Rosnay, which Jason gave me for Christmas. I had spotted it in the bookstore months before and indicated my interest. The writing was so-so and the side plots and little Danielle Steele romance novel-y for me.
But at the heart of the novel is the story of the 1942 roundups in which thousands of Jews were arrested, deported from Paris to the Velodrome d'Hiver and then sent to Auschwitz and the young girl, Sarah Starzynski, who is the only member of her family to survive the atrocity. Her story is told through the eyes of a present day American woman who has lived in Paris for 25 years, married a french man whose family's history overlapped with that of the Starzynski family years before.
Essentially, the problem of this book is too little of the holocaust and too much modern day marital drama. But the book does bring to light an episode in French history that most people have been all to happy to forget.

Finally, I read finished off the book I gave to Jason for Christmas, "The Monster of Florence" by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi. True crime novel about a serial killer who stalked the tuscany countryside in the 70s, 80s and 90s, killing young couples as they made love in cars on deserted country lanes. This was part of my "Tuscan Themed" Christmas presents I wanted to give Jason. What can I say, he said he wanted to read it. I don't even feel bad about reading it before he did! I used to devour true crime novels but have gotten away from the genre. I loved the book, the artwork on the cover is my favorite statue in the Loggia in the Piazza della Signoria, and the best treat was seeing our friend, Count Niccolo Capponi in the book! Don't worry, he was not a suspect ;-)
And my next book is the most interesting yet. However, that will be for another day...

Ringing in the New Year & Girls Gone Mild

Well here it is, 2009! Welcome! I see that my last few posts were semi-angry and ranting. I hope to curb that in the new year!

New Years Eve and the subsequent days were a blast. Instead of trying to figure out what to do, paying money to be in some bar (which I haven't done in years) having a bunch of people over or trudging to someone else's house, figuring out who is available, looking for babysitters (not me!) the seven of us "girls" and significant others rented a house from 12/31 - 1/2.

What a great idea! Unfortunately, one couple had to back out last minute due to sickness which was the only bummer of the trip.

The house was beautiful, which you never really can count on when randomly renting something off of the internet, even with pictures. 6 bedrooms, great living spaces and a beautiful kitchen which looked out on a deck and pool, and yard with a fire pit and grape vines!

It was the best of communal living. Good food, good drinks, and good friends. New Years Eve got pretty crazy. It is all a bit fuzzy except for bits of the dance party and the phone call from my sister-in-law announcing her engagement. While shopping for liquor Jason and I came across a magnum of Chandon that we simply had to buy. I fear I made quite a dent in it. I also blame Cathy for her Buffalo Vodka.

New Years Day was slow. People got up, ate, napped, read, played games and generally stayed in our pajamas all day. 4 of us were dubbed "Girls Gone Mild" as we sat in our corners in the couches, fleece head to toe, reading our books and not speaking a word. Now that is a New Years Day!