Female. Lives in United States/Illinois/Chicago, speaks English. My interests are Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking/Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.
This is my blogchalk:
United States, Illinois, Chicago, English, Female, Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking, Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Taste of Chicago

I took Lima to The Taste of Chicago this week. This is a very popular outdoor festival held each summer in Chicago featuring food, live music, rides and other amusements. It's held in beautiful Grant Park in downtown Chicago and admission is free. This year's Taste runs until July 4, so if you are in Chicago you have a few more days to check it out.

This was my first year at the Taste. I think it's one of those festivals that everyone who lives in Chicago has been to at least once. Last year (our first in Chicago), Lima was too young to go so I decided we'd make a day of it this time around. By my count, the Taste features food from roughly 65 Chicago restaurants and vendors. Prior to the Taste kickoff, the Chicago newspapers usually run some suggestions for which restaurants are the most exciting to hit. After doing a little preliminary investigation, I had my eye on some mustard-fried catfish from B.J.'s Market and Bakery and the cheesecake from Eli's Cheesecake. Much of the food at the Taste is your typical "fair food"...pretzels, pizza, hot dogs, funnel cake...but some of it stands out as unique. Both the catfish and the cheesecake were delicious and got the Lima seal of approval as well.

In addition to sampling the food, we had the pleasure of walking around Grant Park, admiring Buckingham Fountain, and riding on the merry-go-round. This was Lima's first merry-go-round experience. At first she loved it and then a minute or so into the ride she decided that she most definitely did not. Crying ensued. Then lots of older kids started pointing and yelling "That baby's crying!" That didn't help the situation. She made a quick recovery when we exited the ride though. And just in time---the Chicago Fire Department was giving out Junior Firefighter hats and she was very, very happy to get hers.

So I was glad to have checked out the Taste of Chicago. While not filled with gourmet delights, the festival is packed with summertime treats and classic Chicago fare. A fun afternoon out, even with the merry-go-round trauma.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Some Backstory and The Flying Noodle

Before I get too much further along in this blog, it probably makes sense to explain a little more about us. We're a family of 3 living in Chicago. Win is my husband and we have a 14-month old daughter we call Lima Bean. (Lima's been her nickname ever since her first sonogram showed her looking like a tiny little Lima Bean) We love Chicago and fortunately for us it's an excellent restaurant town.

I have been thinking about starting a blog for some time because I enjoy reading others' and because I thought some of our culinary pursuits might make for good stories. We've lived in several different cities and have always enjoyed checking out the restaurants and food scene in all our travels. I had very high hopes for how the blog would flow, the elaborate descriptions I'd write of the food we ate, and the gorgeous photos I'd include to underscore each entry. Now that I've given this a try for a few days, I'm seeing that it's harder than I thought to keep up with the blogging and all of the rest that has to be done with a busy toddler in the house. Case in point: I've been trying to write this entry for the past 2 hours, but Lima keeps crying for some reason and wanting to get up. She's usually pretty good about observing a regular bedtime, so this is slightly unusual but not unprecedented. Anyway, I can already tell that my dreams of developing an elaborate food blog (such as my favorites Chocolate and Zucchini and Saute Wednesday) are probably a bit unrealistic. But I'm still up for giving it a try and sharing our food stories. Hope to hear some of yours too.

Tonight we had a great dinner thanks to our subscription to The Flying Noodle. As one of my Christmas presents this year, W got me a 6-month subscription to a pasta of the month club. It's called The Flying Noodle and they send you 2 types of pasta and 2 sauces every month of your subscription, along with recipes. Everything we have received has been excellent so far and each month brings a different assortment. Their recipes are easy, yet they provide just enough added interest and flavor to make the meal seem quite special and well beyond just pasta and jarred sauce. Tonight we had bucatini with vodka sauce, roasted red peppers, and grilled chicken. I love to roast red peppers on our stove and it was fun to incorporate them into the recipe. We've probably had about 4 or 5 Flying Noodle selections at this point and all of them have been delicious. Tonight's was no exception and eating outside on our deck in gorgeous weather made it all the better. If you're looking for a food gift for someone, Flying Noodle might be worth checking out. It's always fun when FedEx drives up with the box each month.

OK, kitchen's clean and Lima is (hopefully?) asleep. Time to go hang with Win.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Wish I Had This Much Energy All The Time

I don't know why, but I got a huge burst of energy tonight and have been doing loads of practical chores around the house. Not the most fun way to spend a Saturday night, but Lima's asleep and my husband is out with friends. Tonight's his turn; we trade off and take turns going out with friends here and there so we both get some free nights out. In the past couple hours, I've done a major scrubdown of our bathroom, put in two loads of laundry and now am in the process of baking blueberry muffins. I just bought some blueberries and decided that it would be nice to wake up to muffins on a Sunday morning. I don't think Lima has had blueberry muffins yet, so I'm eager for her to try them too. She's a great eater, so my bet is on her loving them. But we'll see tomorrow...

The oven's warm so off to bake...

Friday, June 25, 2004

Trader Joe's Haul

Made a quick trip to Trader Joe's today. I'm a big fan of their stuff and took home a couple things worth mentioning. First, a bag of frozen Hass avocado halves. These are excellent and so convenient if you're someone who likes to use avocados frequently but perhaps forgets to grab them at the store on your weekly visit. A one pound bag is $2.99 (cheaper than most fresh avocados I've seen in the store lately). Great taste and good value. I had never noticed them at Trader Joe's until recently and thought they were worth a mention.

Second, they're now featuring a new Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza. I scooped one up but have yet to try it. Looks good; I'll let you know in a future post. Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Put Those Tomatoes to Work

The minute Summer hits, I usually get the urge to make some gazpacho. So cool and flavorful, it's the perfect soup for the warm months. So last night I dove in. I have tried a number of gazpacho recipes but I always end up coming back to an incredibly easy and basic one. It's from the Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen cookbook by Kevin and Nancy Mills. I got this cookbook as a wedding present from my sister-in-law and her husband 5 years ago. (Completely unrelated sidenote: My sister-in-law is my husband's sister. Is her husband my brother-in-law? I always refer to him as such, but some people seem confused by that. What's the standard here? Anyway...) At the time, we were living in the Back Bay section of Boston. Great part of town, but small apartments with even smaller kitchens. We just had a galley kitchen back then and very little in the way of cooking equipment. This cookbook is perfect for people in that situation---new grads, singles, new couples in small spaces, anyone just getting their feet wet with cooking, etc. The recipes are easy, they don't require a lot of space or cookware, and most importantly they taste good.

I use a bit less onion than the authors suggest and a lot more hot sauce. Here's how I whipped up my batch, based on the original recipe found in Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen."

5-6 large tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 small onion (or even 3/4 onion if you're like me)
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
24 splashes hot pepper sauce
2-3 dashes black pepper (to your taste)

Remove the tomato skins by dropping the tomatoes into a large pot of boiling water. Let them soak for about 30 seconds or until the skins start to pucker. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and core them. Remove their skin. The skin should peel away very easily using just your hands or a small knife. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and set aside.

Slice cucumber in half and remove the seeds. Chop up your onion.

You can use either a blender or a food processor for the final step. I used my blender. Since I was doing this at night after the Lima Bean went to bed, I actually carried the blender into a bathroom far away from her room so that my blending wouldn't risk waking her. Those of you with kids know...you don't dare risk waking a sleeping baby. So yes, I blended the soup in my bathroom. I know, I know...I'm like one step above Kramer in that Seinfeld episode where he makes salad in his shower. But trust me, this was a very clean and quick process. I held the blender the whole time and it never touched anything bathroom related; I just needed the electric outlet in there.

Back to business: Put all ingredients into the blender or food processor and blend at high speed for about 20 seconds or until the mixture is just slightly crunchy. If the mixture is having any trouble blending, add 1/4 cup water and blend again. Also, if your blender or food processor is too small to hold it all at once, just divide the ingredients up into 2 batches.

Pour the mixture into a large bowl, cover and refrigerate at least a couple hours before serving. I like to let it sit in the fridge about 24 hours to let the flavors merge a bit more before serving. Makes 4 generous portions.

So that's the story of my first gazpacho of the season. Lima and I shared a bowl of it today for lunch. It was her first gazpacho ever and she seemed to like it. But then again, what's not to like?