housewarming

Last night, Danielle and I hosted our housewarming party/ bbq. Since I work Saturdays and Fridays, and we both wanted something pretty low key, we thought a Sunday afternoon gathering would be nice and relaxing. We decided to provide some snacks and drinks, and asked people to supplement with their own. Danielle left the menu planning up to me, and I was stumped at first… and then I wasn’t. We decided to make samosas and gin and tonics.

I suppose you could try and find the ingredients for Indian cooking at Dominick’s, or pay too much for them at Whole Foods, but me being me, I decided to ride my bike up to Devon Street to get some authentic Indian ingredients for a reasonable price. On Saturday morning, I went on quite the bike ride, including the other errands in my neighborhood, calculations show that I rode at least 17 miles on my bike in the span of about 3 hours. I woke up early on Saturday, and I ended up going to Patel Brothers, because it was open. Patel Brothers has a lot of great stuff, but it can feel a little corporate, ala Trader Joe’s. Most things appear to be store brand, which allows for great quality control, but feels like… Trader Joe’s, not an awesome Indian grocery. Online, I’ve found that they have quite the network of groceries all over the country. The house brand name is “Swad…. The Best Taste In Town” which is a quaint tag line. I wonder if it sounds quaint on purpose, because if they’re being serious, maybe they should say the “Swad…. The Best Taste in North America.” Anyway, I digress. I picked up tons if Indian treats, for a quarter of what they would cost at Whole Paycheck. After trudging home on my bike, I went to pick up some gin and tonic for the party.

The problem with cheap gin is that it tastes like cheap gin. Most people have an aversion to this kind of gin, and I am cheap. What to do? We were making samosas, so I was intent on having gin and tonics, because they were invented in India by the British East India Company. I decided to buy cheap gin, and infuse it with cucumber. I only did this overnight, and it made a significant difference in the taste. I’m curious to see what happens if I let it sit for a week. To make infused gin:

Ingredients:
1 handle Seagrams or other inexpensive gin
2 large English cucumbers, peeled and chopped
3 drops rosewater
A small handful of fresh mint leavea (if you are infusing this over a longer period of time than a day, I would omit the mint.

Directions:
1.Chop up the peeled cucumbers
2. Put in a pitcher
3. Drip in the rosewater
4. Throw in the mint
5. Muddle it up
6. Cover with gin
7. Let sit covered in a dark place for at least 24 hours

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While the gin was infusing, Danielle and I made a lot of samosas. Samosas, despite what you might have been told, are not hard to make, however they are extremely labor intensive. I was struck with how Samosa Kohl (dough) is very similar to Pâte Brisée but MUCH easier to make. Some other day, when I decide to eat wheat again, I will try to make a quiche using Samosa Kohl. I used this recipe, and found it to work extremely well.
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We made 3 different fillings: potato carrot, potato pea paneer, and chickpea spinach paneer.
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They fried up quite nicely and were a hit at the party.
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We had quite the spread of chutneys and tasty snacks. I guarentee that Indian food has the best options in the world for snacking. Here’s a picture before the guests arrive
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Some people also brought cool food to share.

Laryssa brought a pineapple boat
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Ena brought a salad from her garden
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Mary brought deviled eggs
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This delicious syrup used with the infused gin, but I am still working on perfecting my recipe for a drink I’d like to call the Rose Garden…. Stay tuned.
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Here’s me and D, in socks, so our dirty feet don’t mess up the floor that our main men cleaned for us.
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mexican fried rice

Last night, my friend Natalie came over for a quick bite, cut short by a terrible headache on my part. We had a basic meal of rice and bean tacos while catching up a bit. She got some very good news while we were eating… congratulations all around! I was disappointed that I wasn’t more fun to be around, but after a nights’ sleep I am feeling a lot better.

One “problem” I always seem to have is leftovers. I only needed enough rice to fill 4 tacos, but I ended up with a whole container… enough to fill about 20 tacos. I decided last night that I would make fried rice today, and I was excited about the prospects. Currently, however, my pantry is lacking in typical Chinese ingredients. I could make you Italian, Mexican, Indian, or American food… but I believe no sesame or peanut oil is to be had. Instead of walking to the grocery store to buy more stuff, I just used what I had on hand, and came up with a palatable alternative to regular fried rice, Mexican Fried Rice.

We’ve been trying to buy brown rice, because it is an easy way to get more vitamins and nutrients in your diet. Danielle and I both eat a lot of rice, and it hasn’t been a hard adjustment. Yesterday evening, I made some salsa (again with what was around) using sriracha, onions, a variety of cherry tomatoes, salt, and fresh garlic. I let it sit overnight and added some carrots and candied ginger
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I fried the rice in olive. After it had been frying for about 5 minutes, I added the “salsa”
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I let that cook for a few, then added black beans and some eggs to the mix.
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After the eggs were cooked, I grabbed put lunch in a bowl, sliced up some avocados, added some goat cheese and a little salsa verde.
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Not bad for not going to the store.

homemade granola

A few years ago, while Division Street was flipping, a small restaurant opened named Milk and Honey. A harbinger of the changes to come, a lot of people have mixed feelings about the place. No matter your feelings, the food they make is low-key and tasty. Milk and Honey is probably best known for its granola, which it sells at tons of retail outlets in the city and beyond. There’s something special about M&H’s granola, and the price reflects it…. so I got to thinking. Oats, nuts, honey, raisins, and an oven… how hard can it be to make my own?

Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, oats are considered ok for most people with a gluten intolerance to ingest/digest.

To make my granola I used:

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat your oven to 350.

2. I roasted the almonds on the stove top, and combined them with the oats.

3. I melted the butter and added the vanilla bean (split with the seeds removed), honey, brown sugar, maple syrup.

4. I poured the mixture over the oats and almonds, making sure that everything was evenly coated.

5. Then, I baked it in the oven for about a half hour, stirring it every 5-10 minutes.

6. I let the mixture cool, added the dried fruit, and am storing it in an airtight container.
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Good on yogurt, by itself, or with a little milk.

PS. Thanks to the book Breakfast, Lunch and Tea for the inspiration.
PPS. I don’t usually have vanilla beans just laying around, this was special. Next time, I think I will add a little salt to the mix and use regular vanilla extract to cut down on cost!

sunday dinner

Mary and I have been friends since we were six years old and hiding in the bushes from bullies at our grade school. A few weeks ago, I helped her and her boyfriend, Justin move into their new (hugely awesome) apartment, which feels like a treehouse. They had us over for dinner as a thank you.

There is something really wonderful about being invited to a friends’ house when she is freshly moved in, and things aren’t settled, but you can see the shape that it is taking. Mary and Justin’s house feels calm and well thought out, kind of like the two of them.

They remembered my favorite cider, I picked up a bottle of wine, and the other guests made dessert. Sometimes, when you’re eating dinner, I feel it’s more important to relax and have fun than to snap pictures, so I only got a photo of the delicious vegan sushi that Mary made. She and Justin went to the Chicago Food Corp for the ingredients. If you haven’t been there, I’d highly recommend it.

The sushi was made with tempura sweet potato, English cucumber, inoki mushroom, avocado, rice, and a veganaisse/ chili garlic sauce. It was beautiful and tasty.
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Mary just got a cypress rice bowl for cooling the sushi rice. I haven’t ever made sushi, but Mary’s skill made me want to try. It’s also something deliciously gluten free, which is really important at the moment!

pink rice

For someone who has extremely mixed feelings about the Loop (beautiful on a weekend night, sans other people) I sure have spent a lot of time there in the past 24 hours. Yesterday, lunch with Lisa to Oasis… a wonderfully bizarre Middle Eastern cafe in the back of a jewelery warehouse on Wabash… and today lunch in the park with my mom.

There are several nice things about the Loop; you realize you’re in a large city, you get to see a wider variety of people that usual, you get to go to Farmers’ Markets by just stepping outside of your office, there’s a Walgreens on every corner… Yesterday I bought some items at the Daley Center farmers’ market.

Flowers were a bunch for a dollar.
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I also bought some green beans and yellow tomatoes, which I put to good use when I made Greek Rice Salad, inspired by Gemma. Rice salad is an easy, inexpensive, delicious, and filling dish. I used brown rice, green beans, yellow tomatoes, spinach, kalamata olives, beets, garbanzo beans, feta cheese, oregano, dill, garlic, and some salt. It also works perfectly if you can’t eat pizza, even if you want to… The beets made the rice pink, which was pretty great!

First you prepare your rice, however you like. Next you make your veggies. Then you put the two together, and presto… a tasty lunch.

Here are the green beans cooking with some onions and garlic
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Here are some lovely yellow cherry tomatoes
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Here are all the ingredients combined… kind of like Captain Planet.
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Here is my mom enjoying her pink rice:
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And for dessert, some strawberries in REALLY good balsamic vinegar that Mr. Barreto gave me as a present.
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once you pop you can’t stop

Back with a vengence, Die Hard XXXIV, the food edition.

Over the past few months, it’s become abundantly clear that I need to stay away from wheat. I have avoided this fact, and realized that I really can’t. Once in awhile I can indulge in some pizza or a regular cookie, but for the most part, I need to be wheat free. My mom has Celiac Disease, and while right now I only have an intolerance, my doctor has assured me that eventually it will grow into a full blown allergy. I remembered this in the past week, when I was feeling tired, but getting enough sleep, pretty much the whole summer. It’s day 3 of Project No Wheat, Duece (I did this once time from 2006-2007 already)

The only problem is… what to eat?! Everything has wheat in it! Luckily, Im not that fond of pasta… But nothing beats a hot crusty bread… Or a delicious piece of pizza. Or toast in the morning with Nutella on it… Or a muffin. Or a scone. Or even, Cheez-Its. So what do we do? We pretend we don’t want it! Bring on the yogurt and fruut, AND I’ll do yoga in the morning to give wheat the double kibosh on it (fyi, pronounced with a long and a short i)

Breakfast of Champions
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Yogurt, Strawberries, Bananas… OJ and Cold Brewed Coffee (get it while it’s cold….)
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Yum.
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cold brewed coffee

Want to know how your favorite cafe makes such delicious iced coffee?

Most likely, they probably cold brew it. Last summer, the NY Times had an article containing recipes for cold brewed coffee as well as reasons why it tastes better.

Cold brewed coffee is a refreshing summer treat. The absence of hot water keeps the acidity out of the coffee. You’ll be surprised to notice caramel and chocolate. The best part? It is cheap and easy to make cold brewed coffee at home.

Supplies:
Freshly ground coffee; 1 ounce of grounds for every 8 ounces of water
Water
Large Jar
12-24 hours brewing time.

1. Put the coffee in the large jar. Cover with cold water. Let sit for either 12 or 24 hours, depending on which you like better. Honestly, sometimes I like the 12 hour method, and sometimes I like the 24 hour method… It depends on my mood.
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(a rather ominous looking jar, eh? full of caffeinated goodness for your/ my pleasure)

2. After whatever amount of time you’ve decided works best for you, strain the coffee into a pitcher. Pour into a cup.
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3. Serve over ice and enjoy. I like to add a little soy creamer.
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You can keep it in your fridge for a few days, but I’d recommend keeping it covered, because it really absorbs EVERY scent in its general vicinity if left to its own devices.

and we’re back.

Don’t worry. I went to Target, dropped a few Hamiltons, and now my blog is back in business.

It’s ok, Summer 2008 has been kind a grind at times, with a few amazing highlights. I do believe I got my new photo-uploader thing just in the nick of time to capture what is sure to be an eventful and delicious end of summer and fall.

To begin, I am catering a wedding of two friends in late September. Colin and Terisa are planning what is sure to be a fun and eventful evening for them and all of their friends and family. They decided to go with a Mediterranean restaurant to do the “basics” and are letting me plan the highlights of their culinary nuptials. Last week, they came over for a tasting. I prepared a variety of salads, soups, and “purses” for them. Favorites included: roasted tomato yogurt bisque (which, is also quite healthy), Greek salad with oregano/dill dressing and chickpeas, and beet/feta and mushroom/feta purses.

Here is the mushroom feta filling
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So far, the best part about gearing up for this happy event, has been inventing the recipes. I was feeling really stressed out last week about a variety of things, and as soon as I started chopping, I started to feel better.

in other news

If you are reading this, thanks! I moved, and I need to get a new photo-uploader thing. In the mean time, bear with me. Also, my computer crashed, but thanks to Apple’s fantastic warranty program I have a new hard drive with 20 more gigs of memory and Leopard all for FREE DOLLARS. I was high and dry for a bit, but now I am swimming again (ahhhhh, metaphors…)

Please tell me about good music. All of my music went bye-bye with my old hard drive. I know, I should have had it backed up… but not all of it was.

We went to dinner at Sepia the other night for a celebratory evening, and it was well worth it. One of the most fun dining experiences I have ever had.

I’ve read a few books this summer: Blindness, Dance Dance Dance, Veganomicon, The Sound and The Fury (again).

I’ve watched some movies. I forgot how cute “Amelie” is, and am glad I waited until I was 25 to watch “The Opposite of Sex.”

This summer has also involved a Buffy Marathon, not dissimilar to last summer’s (ahem Ms. Gallagher) However, it hit home more because my computer was broken and my cell phone has been on the fritz (for the past year, I know). 1999 felt like a natural place to be. If only I could find my chunky heels.

I quit my office job and am enjoying the pace of my new pursuits.

More soon.