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You were all so nice to me about this new menu idea.  I’m glad you’re as excited about it as I am.  For the second menu, I gravitated toward breakfast, probably because I love it so much.  I’d go as far as to say it’s in my top three favorite meals of the day.  (Ba-dum-DUM.)  Pulling together this menu has got me thinking about my ideal morning.

There are the weekday mornings that start at a mind-numbing hour and involve tearing myself out of bed and prying my eyelids open.  But lately, they also involve a scoop of yogurt, topped with grapefruit segments and a walnut-and-dried cherry-laced granola—and that’s nothing to sniff at.  There’s aslo a delicious comfort to the routine and a stillness to the dark quiet of our building, our street, our neighborhood, our city at that hour.

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Small Victories

January 20, 2009

 
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I think we’ve come to the point in the winter where you have to grasp at the small bright spots—pin pricks of light on what seems like an inky dark horizon.  Take yesterday:  Kevin and I took a walk through the neighborhood and marveled at how downright pleasant it was.  Sure, we had to pick our way over snow drifts and patches of ice—but the sun was shining and the temperature was in the double-digits.  Small victories, but victories, nonetheless.

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There are other bright spots to January: the day light slowly but surely lengthens; there are so many good movies out that you could contemplate moving into a theatre near you, subsisting on pocorn alone; it’s a new year, which, this year, comes with a new president.  Better than all of these things, though, (except maybe the new president part!) is citrus.  Like the friend who knows you better than anyone, it arrives in your darkest hour (or, say, month), just when you need a pick-me-up.

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Leave it to My Mom

December 27, 2008

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Well, friends, this is a little awkward, isn’t it? Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t so much as utter a ho-ho-ho here on this site. For that, I’m sorry. And I have excuses, too. Our flight was canceled on Tuesday night, leading (1) me to have a complete temper tantrum (one really more fit for a three-year-old who has just learned that Christmas might be stolen from her); (2) Kevin to vow to drive us to Minnesota (with hopes of mollifying said temper-tantruming wife); (3) me to shove at least three more outfits, two additional pairs of shoes, and an extra container of frozen Christmas cookies into a suitcase (last I checked our Subaru doesn’t charge per bag checked!); and (4) us to crawl along 94 up out of Illinois, through Wisconsin and into Minnesota. So the holiday was a little hectic and I hope you’ll understand the silence. In the end, we got here, safe and sound and entirely over winter.

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Before all of this, though, on Monday night, my mom and I made a phone date to plan the menus for the weekend. We concocted some doozies—some of which you’ve seen before and others that will grace this page before the year is out. But if there was one dish about which I was unsure, it was this cranberry spice bundt cake, nominated by my mom for Christmas morning brunch.

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One Decision Down

December 14, 2008

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If your December is anything like mine is right now, you’re drowning in decisions. Should we drive or fly? Does he want a sweater or a necktie (or, more likely, neither)? Can we make it to all three of these holiday parties on the exact same Saturday night? Should I or should I not eat that thirteenth cookie of the day? Sometimes it makes me want to curl up under the boughs of a big Christmas tree and hide from it all.

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Alas, I’m a little allergic to Christmas trees and I’m sure it would be terribly uncomfortable under there, what with all the prickly needles. Kind of like spooning with a porcupine, no? So, instead, I’m trying to stay calm, not take on too much and check off one decision at a time.

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It Led Me On

November 18, 2008

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a disappointing recipe, and this one was a real heart breaker. It’s not that there haven’t been less-than-stellar results in my kitchen lately. Oh, no, there have been more of those than I care to share. There have even been good recipes gone bad (just ask my friend Gena about my fairly disastrous take on this recipe which ended in one u.g.l.y. birthday cake). And there have been bad recipes that I can’t fix. I’m not sure which camp this recipe, for cranberry coffeecake, falls into, but I can tell you that it takes the cake (pun intended).

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You see, this recipe led me on. I had been looking for a good holiday breakfast recipe (I don’t know why; I can bet my bottom dollar that my parents’ pantry will be bursting with an astonishing array of Woulette’s delectable pastries when I’m home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas) and this one had so much promise. It enticed me with visions of a holiday morning, mug of coffee in one hand and a thick slice of this garnet-swirled cake in the other, fat snow flakes drifting down outside. And, well, I fell for it.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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On Cast Iron and Strata

November 16, 2008

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I’m bone tired right now, but in the best possible way. It was a jam-packed weekend that included about 18 hours in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and also a very, very busy day back here in Chicago today. But this is the kind of exhausted that I love: I had people to see, things to do—and see and do I did. And, of course, I cooked too.

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Our visit to Ann Arbor was tightly edited (we were visiting Kevin’s sister, who’s a surgery resident, and we wedged our stay between her shifts): in less than a day, we caught the football game, which is truly the show in town (but, sorry Ms. Arbor: Go Cats!); sampled beers at two breweries; ate a great dinner; took a spin around campus; talked politics and celebrity gossip and music and wine and food; and skipped down memory lane. Oh, and I managed to ferret out the best kitchen store in town.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Maple Nut-Apple Scones

October 30, 2008

As if it weren’t already painfully obvious: we have officially arrived at the “Seeeee, I told you fall was my favorite season” portion of the program. I know it’s been a full-on assault around here of apples, pumpkin, squash, potatoes and braises. But I simply can’t help myself. And today is no different: apples (again!), maple and toasty nuts. Yup, breakfast doesn’t get much more fall than these scones.

Fall, as a season, feels to me a little like lightning in a bottle. As the steamy summer winds down and the dog days have me at my wit’s end, I find myself trying to hurry fall along. But all too soon, it’s the end of October and I am holding on white-knuckled to the last days of this fleeting season. When it boils down to it, you really only get a few flawless fall days: sunshiney skies, warm golden light, tree limbs feathered with leaves that were once green and will soon be gone altogether, the scarf wrapped around your neck fluttering in the breeze.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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