Friday, September 16, 2011

Working Girl, Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes and Camping Fun

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

Been a little busy lately and had to shelf the blog so I could actually get some sleep at night.  

About 6 months ago, right around the time of my last post, I decided to do a big job change.  Usually a job change along with the already hectic lifestyle of a single Mom is enough to cause some anxiety.  I decided to take that anxiety and add a little jet fuel.  You see, this job change also entailed quite a bit of travel and in the midst of the job ramp up work and the travel, I also decided to move back to Oak Park.  Hooray for that but holy stress attack.  Not only did I have to shelf my blog and cooking but my running and spinning also went on hiatus.  

Despite the craziness, I am absolutely thrilled with the new job and I love being back in Oak Park.  This is a wonderful neighborhood where I can walk my son to and from school every morning and afternoon down gorgeous tree lined streets.  Along those lines, my son did start Kindergarten a few weeks ago and I have been enjoying the experience of yet another chapter in this great adventure of raising a child.  
Tyler - First Day of Kindergarten

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baked Figs

Baked Figs

I was in middle school when I first learned about Georgia O'Keefe.

My Mom took me to a lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago and I remember looking at the paintings and thinking, am I seeing what I think I am seeing?  According to the lecturer, the answer was yes and I was hooked.  Painting in that fashion in the 1920's was brazen and progressive for that time.  Challenging societal norms is something that I don't think people plan to do but that happens because they were never very good at fitting their square peg mind sets into societal round peg holes.

Although Georgia's work is fascinating, it is how she lived her life that has been an inspiration to me.  She married a peer, Alfred Sieglitz, who was older and somewhat of a mentor to her.  He helped her grow and gain traction in the art world and then they ended up living much of their lives apart, him in New York, her in New Mexico.  She practiced yoga, traveled and had a reportedly "prickly" personality.   She was from the Midwest, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, became discouraged with her craft and then found her way back to what she loved and where her passion and talent resided.  I look at Georgia and think, it's ok to take a path that not everyone understands but that works for you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate Almond Biscotti from David Lebovitz

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

I am in a very blissful place.  I am experiencing a magic time between leaving a job and having another one lined up.    Even when I take vacations when I am working, the work is always in the back of my mind.  This is different.  It is euphoric.  It is void of stress.  Highly recommended.  

So, I bring you homemade biscotti.  This is in lieu of the coffee shop variety that I occasionally pick up with my coffee on my way to work.  Since I have a week off, I thought the sensible thing to do was to make biscotti rather than partake in the coffee shop, plastic wrapped, disappointingly dry version.  The key taste that you get with homemade that they cannot replicate in mass quantities is the soft middle.  That and it tastes better.  A bit of crunch on the outside, soft inside and a deep chocolate punch.

I found this recipe here.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Orange Liqueur Cream

How can it be so bad for you when it tastes so good?  That just might be my life motto.

I remember seeing and tasting whoopie pies for the first time in a convenience store in Ohio when I was in college.  Yes, college was when I first saw and tasted a whoopie pie.  Sheltered life?  Perhaps.  The whoopie pie I tasted though, was anything but good.  A whoopie pie out of a cellophane package from a convenience store does not a gourmet snack make.  Fast-forward some, ahem, years and homemade and gourmet whoopie pies are somewhat of a rage or were the rage last year.

I found this recipe in The Boozy Baker by Lucy Baker and this, along with every other alcohol laced concoction in the book, was fantastic.  This was also much better than the cellophane wrapped piece of cardboard I tasted in college.

Enjoy!  xo, AJ

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stuck in Mexico

Well, ordinarily, being stuck in Mexico would be something to celebrate.  However, with a pile of work back home, this forced holiday is more stress than fun.  I am sure everyone has heard of the massive blizzard that hit the Midwest to welcome in the first few days of February.  Getting back to Chicago has become mission impossible.  So, to calm my nerves and my control issues that I clearly need help with, I am going to have a few more Margaritas and sizzle a bit under the Mexican sun.  Here are some pictures of this beautiful country with perfect weather, at least at this time of the year.

 Horses on the beach. A typical sight on the Mexican Riviera.

A typical street in San Pancho.  Cobbled, steep and quaint. 

 Beautiful flowers that dot the Mexican landscape.

 Not afraid of color in Sayulita.

 Steps to an art gallery in Sayulita.  The galleries line the streets of this cool little town.  Feeling right at home with the tattooed 20/30/40 somethings walking around with their bare footed kids, covered in sand and dreads in their hair.    
 Margaritas before dinner with friends.

A gorgeous pink table setting for our dinner! So cool!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Praise Mark Bittman

Some women have a crush on Brad Pitt or George Clooney.  Call me odd or completely out of touch with the psyche of a normal woman but for me, Bittman is just dreamy.

Ahh, sigh.

I dream of a day when Mark will swoop in and cook in my tiny little kitchen while I gaze admiringly at the fabulous dish he prepares.  I love his simplicity and ease, moving from one task to the next looking like he is relaxing on the beach.  He makes cooking great fun and muses when he makes a mistake like a shell of an egg going into a cake with, "Oh well, just a little crunch, not the end of the world."  I love that attitude rather than, "Nothing is worse than a shell in your food." I won't name who said that but anyone who watches a lot of Food Network might recognize the "Nothing is worse than (insert earth-shattering mistake)."  

So, what inspires the accolades on this Sunday morning?  Pancakes, that's what.  I found this commentary and several recipes for pancakes, sweet and savory, in his Minimalist column in the New York Times and I was reminded of why he holds a special place in my heart.  For taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary in a simple no frills way.  Cardamom scented oatmeal pancakes, embedded pine nuts in cornmeal with vanilla, bulgur ricotta; pinch me.

No, I have not had a chance to try these recipes because I am reading his column at 3:15 am on Sunday morning and I do not want to get out of bed to start cooking.  I thought it would be more productive to gush on my blog.  I will be trying at least two of these recipes though.  Stay tuned.

xo - AJ