February Eats

1. Red Blanket Sauce – My New Roots
We both love mole, but the mole options in our neighborhood, while delicious, are definitely not vegan-friendly. This spicy, rich, and warming recipe is a step in the right direction. We had the sauce over Ayocote Negro beans served in a roasted acorn squash (for the adults) or over cubed butternut squash (for the shape-obsessed toddler). The acorn squash was logistically difficult, and the sauce could’ve used more heat, but everything was delicious and will definitely be revisited.

2. Broccoli Falafel – She Likes Food
For my birthday dinner at Dusek’s, I had broccoli three ways – one of which was as falafel. I tried to replicate this at home after consulting a bunch of recipes. It – well, it didn’t work. The falafels dissolved when I dropped them in oil. They dried out in the oven. They crumbled when served with lemon tahini, a simple tomato salad, and arugula. Oh well – they looked pretty.

Broccoli

3. Oat Milk – Oh She Glows
Our Vitamix has opened up a world of possibilities for making our own versions of things at home. We regularly buy non-dairy milk, but making our own almond milk didn’t seem like it would be cost effective. Making our own oat milk, however, totally is. Steel cut oats – even organic ones – are cheap when purchased in bulk, and while most recipes call for additional sweeteners, all you really need is filtered water. This recipe calls for multiple rounds of rinsing and straining, but that isn’t strictly necessary either, particularly if you have a nut bag.

4. Red Velvet Pancakes – Chocolate Covered Katie
We don’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day in our family, but since the toddler had cards and small gifts from other family members, I thought it might be nice to have a special breakfast treat. These pancakes were…OK. I was suspicious going in when both the fat and the sweetener were optional. I get it. She’s trying to make the pancakes “healthy”. I try to do that as well, and agree that often things are sweetened far beyond what’s strictly necessary. However, 2-3 tablespoons of optional ingredients in a baking recipe seems dicey when those ingredients aren’t mix-ins like dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. So I included the fat (sunflower oil) and the sweetener (coconut sugar), because otherwise what’s the point of a special breakfast treat. In the pan, they behaved somewhere between pancakes (bubbling in the middle) and cake (cracking when moved). They came out really thin and really in need of maple syrup. Everyone enjoyed them, but I don’t think I’ll make them again.

5. Eggplant Cannelloni with Sunflower “Meta Feta”
This recipe came from Sarah Britton’s new cookbook, Naturally Nourished, which is lovely but so far not as universally successful as her first book (which I’ve raved about endlessly here and elsewhere). This recipe was equal parts wonderful and – eh. We loved the sauce. We loved the rolled eggplant. We did not love the sunflower “meta feta”.

Seriously, Sarah Britton, what GIVES with the sunflower seed obsession? It’s not rice. It’s not cheese. It’s nothing like rice or cheese. There are plenty of other things that you can use in place of rice and cheese. Stop trying to make sunflower seeds happen.

We’ll make this again, but we’ll either use cheese (for me and the toddler) or crumbled seasoned tofu (for all of us).

Eggplant cannelloni with sunflower

6. Portabella “Pizzas”
Another recipe from Naturally Nourished. We had leftover sauce from the eggplant dish, so we used that instead of the fresh sauce recommended in the recipe. I added a handful of kalamata olives since we had them on hand, and a bit of grated cheese for me and the toddler. These were delicious, albeit a little tricky to eat. We’ll definitely make them again.

The recipe called for six portabella mushroom caps and claimed to serve 4 (or maybe 6) as an entree. 2 caps each left us hungry for the rest of dinner. One cap each would make a wonderful appetizer, not a substantial dinner, even for a toddler.

Portabella

7. Quinoa with Black Beans and Radish Salsa
Another Naturally Nourished recipe, though with no pictures or links, in part because this was made on the screamiest night of screamy toddler screaming that has ever been screamed. It was simple, hearty, and delicious: quinoa tossed with black beans and oven-roasted carrots, topped with a fresh salsa of radishes and shallots. Both recipes were straight forward and easy, though the yield in the salsa was way off – somehow 1.5 cups radishes + other ingredients was supposed to yield 1 cup of salsa. Hmm.

8. Twinkle Twinkle Jeweled Rice
This is such a beautiful, time intensive dish from Naturally Nourished. I halved the recipe and it still made a huge amount of rice. The orange zest overwhelmed the other flavors, including of the fresh herbs, so I’ll use maybe 1/4 of what is recommended the next time. I used currants, cherries, and raisins for the fruit and almonds and pistachios for the nuts.

Twinkle Twinkle Jeweled Rice

9. Golden Curry Coconut Dal
Another no-photo, no link recipe from Naturally Nourished made on a super hungry night with an overtired toddler and overly hungry parents. N was famished and devoured almost the entire recipe. The toddler asked for more – twice! The recipe indicates that this scales up and freezes well, so I imagine this will go into the weekend batch cooking rotation.

Shut Up and Take My Money

Coffee at Ferry Plaza//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I’m not sure how I got on Blue Bottle‘s mailing list, but does it really matter?

Or, rather, is anyone at all surprised that I’m on Blue Bottle’s mailing list, given my inclination to wax poetic about their coffee (about which they already wax well beyond poetic) every time I have the opportunity to have it – in SF, straight from the pour-over bar or in the form of a perfect cappuccino or even from a waxed carton of New Orleans-style iced coffee, or in Brooklyn on a hot day, or at lab after randomly running into the proprietor on the other side of the country while standing in line at, you guessed it, Blue Bottle.

All of this being a preamble to the “well, obviously” moment when I mentioned to N that Blue Bottle had introduced coffee subscriptions that included a free 2 oz trial by mail.

Our wee packet of Bella Donovan beans arrived earlier this week and was tucked away for this morning, the first day of vacation, as perfect a summer day as we’re likely to have in Chicago, where over the last 10 days we’ve slipped from early spring into high summer weather with no regard for the dates on the calendar. The toddler was awake at 5am, our stroller run was middling, our trip to the park culminated in tears and tantrums, and the breakfast I’d looked forward to making all week was a disaster.

But the coffee was solid. I couldn’t tell you whether it was “warm, comforting, [or] familiar” because mine was mostly lukewarm by the time I had wrangled my over-tired child into dreamland, but it did feel awfully luxurious to have really good beans (instead of the $5/pound grocery store variety) in the grinder, and an actual bloom on the grounds when I used the pour-over, and a cup of coffee to look forward to for more than just reasons of survival.

Q1 Resolutions in Review

A new post in a new location! I moved my blog from my own domain to WordPress about a month ago, but this is the first actual post over here. Please update your feed readers, assuming you still use such a thing!

1. More letters.
I’m keeping up with my goal of one letter/week, but they’ve mostly been thank you notes. (I need to write more thank you notes as well.)

2. More books.
1/16 completed. Not great, but not too far behind.

3. More miles.
Running: 161/750 completed. I entered the Chicago marathon lottery in March, and am running the Illinois Half I-Challenge at the end of April. Running is feeling really good. I like my current training program, and my current running routes. I need to be more consistent about long runs, but the combination of winter and sickness has made this difficult.
Biking: 94/2000 completed. I just haven’t felt like riding lately. I’m not sure why that is.

4. More movies.
1/12 watched, but it was a big one! We took the baby to see Star Wars in the theater. He was unphased by the noise or explosions, but he definitely didn’t like the non-human creatures.

5. Less meat.
N is working on perfecting briami and the eggplant sauce from a favorite Italian restaurant. I’m playing with Persian food and crusty rice for bi bim bap. I don’t know that I’m eating less meat, but I am enjoying exploring vegetarian cooking.

6. Less debt.
We have a substantial amount of travel coming up in the next six months, including an extended trip to Belgium, so I don’t think that we’ll pay off all of my debt, but we’re making steady progress, which feels good.

7. Less complaining.
8. Less guilt and regret.
Works in progress, always.

November Around Here

Unseasonably beautiful weather makes for weekend days full of crunching leaves and golden light. I need to soak up as much warmth as my skin can handle in anticipation of the winter to come.

A sudden windfall in a month of austerity means getting out of debt within the year is now feasible. Being responsible sometimes feels very hard, but also very good.

And for the baby, now a toddler: first tentative steps and a confirmed first word: kitty, which is applied specifically to the cat (his one true love) and more generally to all beloved things. We took him to the zoo, where he correctly identified two kitties (the sand cat and the puma) and other kitty-like creatures (red pandas).

So much hurt and sadness and fear in the world. There are days when it’s all too much, and all I can do is crawl into bed and hold the sleeping baby – for then he is still a baby – to me and cry. But so much love and generosity as well.

Reading:
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantell, because the mini series was remarkable.
House of Light – Mary Oliver, because reading poetry to the toddler feels like a good use of our quiet mornings
Bedtime in the Meadow – Stephanie Shaw, because try as he might, the toddler hasn’t been able to destroy it, unlike all of his board books
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson, because she slays me, and her writing about pregnancy and gender and identity feels very relevant
A Thousand Mornings – Mary Oliver
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates, because I have learned more about race and privilege in the last six months than the whole rest of my life to date

Watching:
Fringe

Eating:
Spontaneous Persian food
Pie for days
Pasta with fennel, kale, and lemon
All the pears and apples

Drinking:
A second cup of coffee, as the toddler was up before 6 for a second day in a row

Doing:
139 miles to go to hit 1,500 on the bike for the year
Not enough running, but with good reason
Catching up on all the postcards I didn’t send during this year’s 31 Postcards
Babyproofing all the things

Planning:
A Thanksgiving menu (hint: it contains pie and a Vegducken)
An intranet communication plan
New hats for everyone
Eliminating my debt

August Around Here

The days slip together. Wake up early. Diapers and coffee and a ride to work. Meetings. Writing. Ride home, dinner, a story, nursing to sleep. An hour or two before bed. Repeat.

We traveled a bit this summer – a week in San Francisco, a weekend in Michigan. Lots of good food and long walks and sunshine. Not enough time in the water – ever.

Every week the baby is onto something new. Every week (day, morning) we scramble to move things out of reach. Some days the constant stream of babble seems to have meaning. Other days, it’s just noise.

Past mid-summer. Fall is in the air, almost. A neighborhood festival just about every weekend. The garden is growing. We are growing.

 

Reading:
 A few months ago, I remembered I could read on my phone. Since I don’t have a transit commute, this is the only way reading gets done around here.
The Argonauts
A Ball of Beasts
A Slow Archive
Every single news article about Neo closing.
Bloomberg’s coverage of Warren Buffet’s family’s long-time subsidies for IUD development
Grumpy Cat

Watching:
True Detective
Mr Robot
Wolf Hall

Eating:
Elotes and blueberries to infinity

Drinking:
Basil gimlets

Making: Thinking of making, rather:
Rice pudding
That sweater I intended to knit last year

Planning:
A trip to Belgium next year?

2014 Chicago Bucket List, part 2

I’m so far behind in blogging about my resolutions and other adventures from this year. We’re halfway into December and I have drafts from outings from February. So how about rolling up this very fun resolution into a miniseries?

The second installation in my miniseries about my 2014 Chicago bucket list adventures!

Chicago skyline
View from the Adler

Adler Planetarium: May’s Adler After Dark event was cosponsored by the Oriental Institute – a perfect excuse for us both to make our first visit! We learned about medical astrology and inverse moons and took funny photos of our bellies.

Hot Doug's
Doing Hot Doug’s right

Hot Doug’s: Chicago’s premiere encased meat emporium had been on my to-do list for years prior to the announcement that the owner planned to close up shop in October. My first thought was “I can go on my maternity leave!”. Fortunately, an earlier opportunity presented itself: since I was already missing half a day of work for an ultrasound, we decided to make a day of it and brave the Hot Doug’s line. It felt pretty ridiculous, but was worth it for extremely delicious sausages and fries.

Chicago Bucket List: Cubs game with Nicolas
View from Wrigley

#ChicagoBucketList: Cubs game with N, even though he's cheering for the Mets...
View at Wrigley

Cubs game with Nicolas: Despite living in Lakeview for 6ish years, Nicolas had never been to Wrigley Field or to a Cubs game – in fact, the Sox game in April was his first baseball game, period! We kept talking about how these all-American activities needed to be added to his citizenship dossier. Hot dogs, beer, and baseball on a perfect summer night were an excellent addition.

Drinks at a shitty Wrigleyville bar: After the baseball game, we knocked out a second bucket list item by walking down Clark to grab drinks and food at a random bar before Neo prom. We thankfully skipped the douchiest bars in Chicago.

Dim sum
Dim sum

Dim sum in Chinatown: The bucket list originally called for hot pot, but dim sum was on my mental list. We tried Moon Palace on the recommendation of another Chinatown diner who, after seeing us order pork buns at another restaurant, said we had to try the (off-menu?) steamed spinach buns at Moon Palace. They did not disappoint.

We stopped into Vosges yesterday and left with free truffles.
Truffles from Vosges

Vosges with Nicolas: I’ve been a fan of Vosges chocolate for years, and had been to the Lincoln Park shopfront a few times, but never with Nicolas. We stopped in while walking around Lincoln Park one afternoon and left with free truffles! My enormously pregnant belly probably helped.

Vegan Korean food with Karen! 36/#100daystobaby
Vegan Korean with Karen

Vegan Korean at Dragon Lady Lounge with Karen: Karen and I talked about checking out the monthly Korean buffet at Dragon Lady Lounge for two years before we had the right opportunity – the next-to-last buffet they would offer! We ate all the things, and all of them were delicious.

Untitled
Sailing on Lake Michigan

Untitled
Chicago skyline, golden hour

Sailing on Lake Michigan: We bought a deal for a two hour sailing adventure at the beginning of the summer, and cashed it in as one of our last pre-baby adventures on a lovely September night. We were supposed to share our outing with at least two other people, but they didn’t show up, so we had the boat to ourselves. We were treated to an exceptional sunset as we turned back to the city. It was perfect.

Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company: We made a strategic error in not eating before Nicolas’s naturalization ceremony, expecting to be in and out in an hour or so. Instead, it took three hours, and we emerged as a famished family of American citizens. We headed straight to Hoosier Mama and had pie for lunch. What’s more American than apple pie, after all?

Bolleke en Pintje

We booked our tickets to Belgium on December 11. A little over a month later, I found out I was pregnant. Let’s all observe a moment of silence for all of the amazing beers I didn’t get to drink while in the home of the best beers in the world – and of the best beer bar in the world!

There is absolutely nothing uncontroversial about alcohol and pregnancy, but after a lot of reading and discussion, we agreed that we both felt safe with me having ::a:: drink here and there on our trip. I tried whatever sips of whatever N was drinking, but limited myself to a few local specialties enjoyed after a solid meal over the weeks of our visit. I also developed a taste for good tonic water, and discovered a few places with wonderful mocktails.

De Muze

Sampling a bolleke of De Koninck at De Muze, one of N’s favorite jazz bars. We left before the jazz started, but made a second visit for drinks and music during our second week.

De Muze

De Muze

De Vagant

Trying genever at De Vagant. Not pictured: the GIANT MOUNTAIN of cheese cubes that we ordered thinking we’d have a little snack.

Nine Cocktailbar

Nine Cocktailbar

Nine Cocktailbar

A virgin shrub for me, and an amazing ginger something for N

Nine Cocktailbar

Kulminator

Kulminator

Kulminator

Kulminator Beer List

Now THIS is a beer list – a giant binder organized by style and by brewery, hand annotated in places. Some of the beers on the list weren’t available anywhere else, period.

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7

La Trappe Quercus 2011 Batch 7, literally only available at Kulminator

Kulminator

Oh this? Just several cases of Westy empties.