Monday, May 26, 2008

No, those aren't what you think!

No, you are not looking at green boobs. And, not those are not upside down green nut cups either. Those are a tool that we have been using to make breakfast for weeks now. They are "poach pods."

After working on trying to perfect a free form poached egg, I gave up and purchased these two handy pods. You boil your water, float the pod, and break your egg in the pod. And wallaa, you have a perfectly poached egg every time. The best part is that for someone with limited storage space at their house, you don't have to purchase an egg poacher. You can utilize the tools that you already have. So, this morning, day three of the great weekend, A made me breakfast with these. Orange coffee, with poached egg and raisin toast! On the deck!

And yes, I am catching up on posts today. I will have more after we finish the cupcakes!

Planting and other randomness

So, today we planted our flowers for the season! As usual, we purchased more flowers than we need, so we will have to find an extra place to put the basil and mint. We planted flowers, tomatoes of two varieties, basil and mint. We had decided to forego planting hanging baskets that rest on our railings and use the pots that we already had. That was, until I spotted one of our neighbors gorgeous hanging baskets on their deck. I am jealous and I am a flower whore. So, I'm going to "think" about getting hanging baskets and if I still feel the urge to add to our mini garden in a few weeks, well then, I just might have to. Here's a good idea of what some of our pots look like. We have 5 in total, without planting the basil and mint yet.

In other random events around our household, this is the first time in I seriously don't remember how long that I have not had to work on the weekend. Which, in and of itself is a huge cause for celebration. Nevermind that I worked late enough on Friday night for it to be considered working on the weekend! But alas, not only did I get TWO whole days to do as I please, I actually got THREE! Yes, a whole three days! And two and a half glorious days it has been. It's been great. Saturday we started the weekend with a trip to the farmers market. Our favorite market on Armitage street. With coffee in tow, we strolled the market and picked up some rhubarb and asparagus. We didn't see all of the vendors that were there last year and are hoping that the smaller turn out is due to it still being early in the season! Since we didn't spend as much time at the market as we thought, we decided to take a walk around the surrounding neighborhood. The neighborhood is the only place that I have heard my A say "If I could live anywhere in Chicago it would be here." Unfortunately for him, neither of us make that kind of money! But we can dream. Anyhow, our morning was followed up by flower shopping in the afternoon, a stop at our favorite fruit store, where we scored a case of strawberries for $2. Yes, that is right, $2 for more strawberries than two people can dream to eat. And we ventured back to our old neighborhood to one of its classics, the Paulina Meat Market. There we purchased some baby back ribs to bbq in celebration of Memorial Day! Saturday was chore day for us so we also stopped at Costco. We completed Saturday with some shrimp on the grill!

Sunday morning came and we could finally brew some coffee in our french press. The press has been on the mend for over a week as the glass cylinder broke while being washed. As a part of our chores on Saturday, we picked up a new beaker and some orange coffee to boot!! Sunday morning A treated me to fresh orange coffee and we discussed what we were going to do with our strawberry loot from the day before. A immediately indicated that we must make more cupcakes. And, we all know how I can't resist a cupcake, so check that one on the list. We also decided to eat some strawberries fresh, combine some with the rhubarb into a compote, and freeze some to enjoy at a later date. So, to accompany the compote, I decided to try to make panna cotta. For this creme brulee loving girl, panna cotta was the right answer to enjoy the fresh garden tastes of the weekend. It serves as the perfect base. I researched strawberry cupcake recipes and we decided on two. Then we were off to shop. For those of you who are from Chicago, you can hit us over the head right now because where did we go? That's right, to Michigan Ave. And, yes, it was packed. Packed on the sidewalk but the stores were like ghost towns. We made our rounds on Michigan and headed to State St. as I am in desperate need of a purse, but having a hard time finding something that I want to spend my hard earned dollars on. Plus, I need some shoes to go with the dress that I am wearing (and recycling) to a party this Friday. I weighed my options for purses and A's comments consisted of "Can I buy you a motorcycle to go with that one?" or "Do you have to get black? That is boring." I scouted out a purse my sister and I had in mind for my Mom and his response was "It looks like a picnic basket" I didn't disagree so sorry Mom, but we left that one on the shelf this time. Anyhow, moral of the shopping story is that we came home empty handed. A did return the shirts that he mysteriously ordered in a quadruple extra large, that even he would swim in, but other than that our trip was unfruitful. On the way home, we stopped at the local store for any additional items we needed for the recipes that we researched. What grocery store does not carry cupcake papers? The one three blocks from my house. Clearly, the store manager doesn't know that I have moved into the neighborhood. We will have to change that.

So, that is the recap of our day. We spent the evening drinking wine and enjoying our ribs that had marinated all day!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day! Unfortunately, I couldn't be with my Mom or my Grandma's today but I still chose to celebrate. Despite the dreary weather in the Chicago area today, I was inspired to create something new and full of cheer! Here is the result....These are chocolate cupcakes filled with strawberry chocolate ganache, topped with a thin layer of ganache and frosted with vanilla buttercream. They are scrumptious and I can't wait to share them. My husband tried one and then proceeded to attempt to convince me that I needed to allow him to take more into work than he has co-workers. I think he secretly wants to eat them. He even suggested that we eat all of them tonight until we get sick because they are SOOOO tasty. In his defense, he did help me construct and bake them today. And of course, he cleaned up after me because according to him, I am the messiest baker ever. I disagree but that is a whole seperate post. I'll break down the steps of making them.
First, you mix your dry ingredients and your wet ingredients, that's right, no cake mix boxes here.

After mixing the batter and putting the cakes in the oven, lick your heart out...

And here is the tricky part, using the "cone" method, cut the tops off of the cakes, and fill with the strawberry ganache. Note for next time, more strawberries. And, the final product.
A tribute to my wonderful mother who taught me everything I know about how to cook and bake. She continuously inspires me to learn more in the kitchen so that someday, my children will appreciate my creativity and delicious meals as much as what I have always looked forward to and enjoyed the time I've spent with my Mom in the kitchen, both eating and learning. I cannot thank her enough.
Happy Mother's Day!

Black and Blue vs. Cider Blue = Belted Curtains

Nope, I haven't gotten into an accident and now have some grotesque wound to show off. Quite the contrary, actually.

I introduce you to the liquid version of black and blue. Guinness meets Blue Moon. Yummy! This is actually my husband's favorite. I like to sip something a little lighter and often opt for a mix of Woodchuck Cider and Blue Moon. It kinda reminds me of my traveling days when I was a student in London and often sipped a Snakebite or a Shandy, depending on the pub. Double yum. You should try it.
So, after imbibing in a few cider blues, I decided that the curtains needed to be tied back so that the wind would quit whipping them around. Hmm, what to use, well, that is my belt. Yep, it works like a charm and actually I kind of like it.