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The past two mornings, I have actually been grateful for the mirrored elevators that usher me up 43 floors to my office everyday.  Usually, I find these mirrored elevators to be a real conundrum.  How do I abide by the socially-acceptable (totally SNL-skit-ish) custom of staring straight at the closed elevator doors, carefully avoiding all eye contact with my fellow elevator passengers when doing so leaves me staring directly at, well, myself? It’s weird.  But the last two mornings, as I said, have been different.  I have stepped onto the elevators, heard the recorded elevator lady saying “Going Up” in her ambiguous, international accented English, felt the doors slide quickly closed and said a silent thank you as I looked directly into the mirrored walls.  Because doing so allowed me to confirm that no, my face had not actually frozen off during my brief walk from the gym to the office.

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It’s been that cold.

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Homespun Edge

December 11, 2008

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Okay, people, let’s hear it: how are you holding up?  Is cookie fatigue setting in?  I mean in your own kitchens, though I suppose you could catch a slight case of cookie fatigue just from hanging around here this week.  First it was pistachio-dried cherry cookies and then it was chocolate-espresso snowcaps.  And now it’s these peanut butter pinwheels, which—let me tell you—nearly gave me cookie fatigue and them some.  In fact, it had me ready to throw in the spatula.

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Thankfully, I recovered and the confections will continue to emerge from the oven.  But for a short time on Sunday, when I made these stripey cookies, it was dicey.   You see, I committed the cardinal sin of cooking/baking: I didn’t read the recipe through before baking the cookies.  There, I said it.

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So, I’ve had a lot to say about Thanksgiving dinner: the pies, the cranberries, the whole darn line-up.  But would you believe that there was another meal last weekend that had me even more excited?  On Friday night, my sister, Kevin and I had a family dinner—just like all those we shared in Chicago during the year my sister lived here, before moving back to Minnesota a couple months ago.

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This one was in Minnesota (at my sister’s beautiful new apartment) and we had some extra generations of the family around the table, but it was a family dinner nonetheless.  My sister thought soup would be a good bet—something light to ease the inevitable day-after-Thanksgiving guilt.

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This Show on the Road

November 12, 2008

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Friends, we’re taking this show on the road. Or, more accurately, I already took it on the road. To work, to be exact, on Monday. I took the photo up there just before I slurped down that cup of soup—a chipotle chicken chowder—for lunch yesterday. And all I can say is that it’s a good thing my office has a door, or I suspect I would have gotten some strange looks from passersby for photographing the lunch I’d just microwaved. Oh, and also that I’m glad I just bought a ridiculously large gym bag that has more than enough room for my rather bulky camera (not to mention an unwieldy tupperware of chowder).

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Somewhere between tucking my camera back in my bag and unsheathing my plastic spoon, my phone rang, so by the time I got around to my first bite of this chowder, it had cooled a bit. But it was still delicious. I knew it would be, because this was the third batch I’ve made. In less than a month. It’s that good. But because, these days, the sun starts to set at 4 PM (I really, really wish I were kidding), I made the first two batches in the dark of night. And since I try not to take photos after dark, we spooned up the first two big pots of this chowder with not even one photo to prove it.

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

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Swept Off My Feet

November 2, 2008

Celeriac (or celery root, if that name is more to your liking) has been courting me for some time. At first, it threw come-hither looks my way from its perch in the produce section at Whole Foods, tucked among the rough-and-tumble root vegetables, many of which sport long, floppy, leafy mohawks and all of which are spotted with clumps of earth. It was round, but not perfectly so, with a mottled pale flesh brushed with light strokes of lime green. It was an unlikely suitor, but, still, I was intrigued.


Next, it caught my eye at the farmers’ market, where it sat in a heap next to bundles of the tiniest celery I’d ever seen. There were even a couple bulbous rounds of celeriac with the celery still attached, which led to quite an aha! moment (sort of like studying one of those illustrated diagrams of a cow, showing where each cut of meat comes from). You could say we made eyes at each other, that celeriac and me. But, something about it made me shy (how does one prepare it? what would it taste like?) and I ended up going home alone.

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

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My Mom’s Soup Files

October 15, 2008

I’ve told you about my food magazine addiction before and I think I even mentioned the cause of it: it’s a trait I inherited from my parents. This feature of the gene pool was on vivid display during my parents’ visit last weekend, while we sat around the living room lazily sipping coffee and each flipping through the magazines that normally litter my coffee table. My mom had somehow missed the January 2008 issue of Gourmet and I was delighted to call her attention to must-read essays and must-make recipes.

We do the same thing back at their house in Minnesota, only the back issues there hark back to the mid-90s. And the stacks of old magazines are supplemented by shelves full of cookbooks, ranging from spiral-bound recipe booklets published by Lutheran churches to slip-covered, glossy-photoed tomes from the world’s hottest chefs.

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

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Midway through making this soup, I thought about giving up: throwing in the towel and tipping the entire pot into the trash.  Let me explain.  First, I’m not crazy about black bean soup to begin with.  I always get the feeling I’m spooning something that is meant to be scooped up with a salty tortilla chip.  Something made for dunking, not slurping.  But I found a recipe that looked hopeful (because (a) it included chipotle chili powder, which I happen to adore, and (b) it included canned tomatoes, which promised to remove the soup from the chips-n-dip category, and (c) called for bacon, which is all I will say about that) and took a chance.

And, then, halfway through, the pot looked like chili.  Identical, in fact, to the chili I made while we were in Canada.  And while that chili was very good, if I’d wanted chili, I would’ve made chili.  And I got to thinking that a ruined dinner, or even just a so-so dinner, was no way to start a week—which is always how I feel about Sunday night: on the verge of a brand new week, with no idea how exactly it will unfold.

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

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