When the Mountains Call

August 29, 2008

I’ve retooled my granola recipe—and, I must say, I love the results. This twist on my basic recipe plays up one of my favorite flavor combinations: cherry and almond. (Yes, I’m a wee bit taken by almond right now. I was afraid you might notice.) Accordingly, dried cherries provided the dried fruit component, while chopped almonds stood in for the normal assortment of nuts and almond extract replaced the usual vanilla extract for flavor. It’s not a huge deviation from the original recipe, but I think it’s one we’ll return to often.

I’m packing this granola into a container and stashing it in my suitcase later today. That’s right, the bags are packed and it’s time for (another) vacation! Kevin and I are headed to the Canadian Rockies for a week—splitting our time between Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta, and Golden in British Columbia. We’re planning to throw this granola in our day packs, so we can enjoy a handful here and there as we hike through the gorgeous glacial lake-studded mountains.

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

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Move Over Banana Bread?

August 19, 2008

I have to say, I’m kind of happy to have put the whole here-are-my-photos-from-my-vacation thing behind us yesterday. It’s not that I don’t love a good round of show-and-tell. And, after last season’s Mad Men finale, I am totally on board with the whole slideshow nostalgia. It’s just that I’ve been really, really wanting to tell you about this bread—an almond poppy seed quick bread.

Actually, this bread played a minor role in my road trip. I brought along a couple slices for the ride down to Nashville. It’s a good thing, too, because after we narrowly escaped the jaws of a speeding ticket (a warning!) a mere hour into the trip, we were hungry. Turns out that I’m-Sorry-Officer-ing is hard work. That, and the baggie full of tantalizing slices of this bread was staring us down from the console between the two front seats and we barely made it past Gary, Indiana before digging in.

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

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Multi-Tasking

July 28, 2008

I’ve always considered myself quite a multi-tasker. But for the last few weeks of bar exam studies (it’s tomorrow!), I’ve taken it to a whole new level. I’ve been multi-multi-tasking. I can study for the bar exam while doing just about anything. There’s the obvious multi-taskable activities: riding the El, sweating on the elliptical trainer, waiting for the coffee to slowly drip its way into the pot. But everything I actually like doing is not all that multi-taskable. Cooking and grocery shopping, for instance, are decidedly (blissfully) focused and single-minded. You cannot exactly flip through flash cards when you’re wielding sharp knives or hovering over an open flame. And one should not have her nose in a book as she wends her way through a farmers’ market. But! But I have found a way to make blogging multi-taskable. That’s right, today (Bar Exam Eve, if you will) I am not only blogging, I’m also menu planning for the week!

I’m taking a page out of Eggs on Sunday‘s Amy’s book, who has been allowing us a glimpse into her weekly CSA boxes, giving us an idea of how she’s planning to put her pretty pile of produce to use. I’m also kind of boasting about the gorgeous bounty I hauled home from the farmers’ market yesterday morning:

Can you blame me? As you can see, I nabbed some bi-color sweet corn, as close to candy as a vegetable can get; a collection of summer squashes, in various shapes and sizes; a heap of tomatoes, half bite-sized, half as big as apples; and a handful or so of beans, green, yellow and purple.

(Click more for the week’s menus, more photos & a recipe.)

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One of my favorite things about Chicagoans is that they (we) take summer very seriously. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I challenge you to find empty tables in a beer garden, free patches of sand at North Avenue Beach, Lake Michigan’s blue expanse undotted with sails, or ice cream parlors without lines out the door. It just won’t happen, as long as the sun is shining. When winter is so vicious and summer is so fleeting, Chicagoans understand that you really have to get your bang for your buck.

Chicagoans take other things seriously too: baseball, neighborhood pride, and the predictable foods like hot dogs, pizza and Italian beef (a healthy lot, we are). But you might not know that there’s another culinary subject about which Chicagoans, at least in the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, are very serious: breakfast. Every weekend morning, then, is greeted with an enticing set of choices: unfurl cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather, much on Milk Duds while you wait in line at Lou Mitchells, take your omelet with a side of sliced tomatoes at Tempo, wait forever for your famous apple pancake at Walker Bros., or order your breakfast in, shall we say, liquid form (I suppose there are vegetables in bloody marys, right?) at any number of neighborhood bars?

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

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This chocolate-zucchini bread—something I’ve been wanting to try (both baking and, I’m kind of nervous to admit in a place like this, tasting) for quite some time—has a bit of an identity crisis. It’s not sure if it’s a loaf cake or a quick bread, for one. And then there’s the matter of whether it qualifies as breakfast, despite its strong measure of chocolate. But can you really call it dessert, when it’s shot through with tendrils of zucchini? Also, it’s homey and humble looking, but it’s flavor is complex. And, perhaps best of all, it looks and tastes like a decadent indulgence, but the recipe calls for not even one pat of butter.

And you know, this identity crisis just gives me one more reason to love this bread. Because I kind of feel its pain. I’m in a weird gap right now: done with school, but studying (for the bar exam) harder than ever; graduated from law school but months from my start date at the law firm; wishing summer would last forever, but feeling quite sure that July 2008 will be one of the worst months of my life. So, me and this bread are kindred spirits, I suppose.

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

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