Cheers!

With Thanksgiving, the holiday for all lovers of food, family, and friends just a few weeks away (I was apparently in denial when I wrote this–it’s next week), I wanted to talk about community for a second.

If you know me well, you know I’m generally happy, and quite good at, being the observer, the analyzer, the reporter. It takes me a while to warm up to people, being outgoing does not come naturally to me (there’s some irony that I’ve found myself writing in such a public way here and in my day job). Yes, I was that kid who sat at the lunch table at a new school with her nose buried in a book for a year listening to the conversations around me before figuring out where I fit. Thankfully I’ve gotten better at balancing my introvert/extrovert tendencies since then, but it’s still something that requires a conscious effort.

Attentive

That said, the best thing this blog has given me is a topic that I can’t help but want to talk about. It’s become a built-in conversation starter to meet and talk with fellow writers, cooks, bakers, photographers, and just people who love to eat and talk about food. Lately, between the Chicago Food Swap and Chicago Food Bloggers, I’ve been to some great events and met amazing new people equally passionate about food. It’s been beyond fun.

So festive!

Earlier this month, I got to attend my second Chicago Food Swap and found myself starting conversations about the beautiful food other folks brought, being greeted by name by more than a few people, making new friends, and just generally being excited about being in the same room with so many like-minded people. Plus I got some awesome treats!

My stash

(If you’ve never been to a swap, it’s kind of organized chaos with food–you bring a bunch of homemade goodies, spend the first hour checking out what everyone else brought and the second hour swapping. I brought about 8 containers each of muhammara, cranberry conserve, pickled cranberries, and “autumn in a jar” conserve, and came home with more than I even remember. I wish I had thought to ask for recipes for everything! And yes, I’m sharing the wealth. Yes, I’m getting back to exercising…soon. And next time I’m limiting myself to two sweets.)

Chicago Food Swap

This is what I came home with:

  • Ginger honey
  • Lingonberry donut holes (there was a real name for these but I forgot it)
  • Pecan maple butter
  • Kimchi
  • Bulgogi kimbap (Korean version of sushi with marinated and cooked beef)
  • Pork dumplings
  • Corn salsa
  • Apple jelly
  • Apple cranberry ginger chutney
  • Honey pickles
  • Curried apple chutney
  • Green tomato relish
  • Pumpkin caramel
  • Peanut butter chocolate fudge
  • Kombucha starter
  • Cookies
  • Two kinds of pumpkin cheesecake
  • Cranberry almond quickbread
  • Pumpkin chocolate quickbread
  • Hot chocolate mix (and a mug!)
  • Meringues
  • Orecchiette
  • Toffee
  • Fresh arugula
  • Wheatberry salad
  • Pumpkin spice syrup
  • Foccacia
  • Dried herbs

The same sentiment applies to the Chicago Food Bloggers meetup back in September. I mentioned it briefly, but there’s something special about a community of people who love food, love to talk about food, love to make food gathered together to learn, cook, eat. There too I found myself welcomed by name with open arms (though it always helps when you bring food to a foodie event) and nearly talking myself hoarse, wishing the event lasted longer. I can’t wait for the next one!

Chicago Food Bloggers

So cheers, a toast! A festive little drink in thanks for the people I’ve met, friends I’ve made, and the community I’ve found!

Cranberry gin cocktail

Thanks to Mike Kostyo for the pictures from the Chicago Food Bloggers event!

Cranberry Gin Cocktail Continue reading

New inspiration, and chili season

This post will be quick, but I had two tidbits I just had to share.

First, this time of year is the perfect time for chili what with football and changing leaves and the chill in the air after the sun sets. Coincidentally, the key ingredients of my favorite chili–tomatoes, corn, peppers, and zucchini–have just a week or so left in season at the market. I’ve shared the recipe for this chili here once before but it’s worth sharing again. Plus I recently entered it in a cooking contest that ends Tuesday, and you can vote for it by just clicking like!

Peak summer chili

Second, I have to quickly rave about the fantastic event I went to yesterday, the  first Chicago Food Bloggers get-together. I’ve mentioned the group before, and I’m sure I’ll talk about the event in more detail soon, but it was a perfect opportunity to put faces to names (and URLs), meet some new like-minded folks, and learn about their great blogs and other projects. I absolutely adore cooking for and feeding my supremely appreciative and patient friends and family (this blog wouldn’t exist without them!), but when I start blabbering about the finer points of pie crust testing, spice shopping, my latest recipe trials, or cry about daylight waning before I can take my pictures, I know it’s only a matter of time before their eyes start glazing over.

Yesterday it was exciting and inspiring to be able to talk about all this and more for 2+ hours with a community of people who are or have been or will be going through the same things. One of the best connections I made is with Kerry, the owner of the beautiful blog Milk Glass Kitchen. If you know me, you know anything vintage gets my vote! (But shhh, turns out we’re both competing in that chili cook-off I just mentioned!).

That’s all for now, but I can’t wait to learn and share more with you soon!

2013-09-29 12.39.50

Best Veggie Chili Continue reading

Rhubarb pie to celebrate

A year ago today I claimed this little corner of the Internet as my own. I wasn’t sure what to expect, not sure what to write, very little idea of how to take a decent picture, or even who would read what I had to say. And yet here we are, a year and 62 posts later, and I couldn’t be more thankful for everything. So here, have a slice of some birthday pie. Sorry, I forgot the candles, but I do have ice cream.

Rhubarb pie

This recipe embodies everything I hoped this blog would lead to. Last year was my first encounter with rhubarb and I shared it with you; this year, I couldn’t wait for it to show up so I could really explore what I’ve been missing.

ChoppedSugared and floured

Last year, making pie crust involved muttered swears and prayers over bowls and rolling pins, with no discernible rhyme or reason to success or failure. Through some crazy experiments, including learning to render my own lard, I’ve had three pie crust successes in a row–hardly mastery, but as least my confidence has grown leaps and bounds (…I’ve just jinxed myself, haven’t I?).

I love this pie crust

As much as I’ve learned about cooking over the past year, though, the best part by far has been sharing with you and reading your comments; those connections mean everything to me, so thank you.

When it comes to this pie, it seems a crying shame to wait until strawberries appear to enjoy rhubarb. Since their seasons overlap for just a few short weeks around here, half of rhubarb season is already gone by the time summer’s opening act takes stage. Why not enjoy spring’s sweetest offering on its own merits? I think it’s earned its moment in the spotlight.

Ready to mixLook like frosted sugar candiesPie in the makingReady to rollFilled with rhubarb

If you’re a rhubarb newbie like me, this pie is a great place to start. Rather than muddling flavors with strawberries, rhubarb stands on its own here. Its tartness is tamed with just enough sugar to make this a for-real dessert, juices are thickened simply with flour into the prettiest mauve-y pink oozy filling, cinnamon adds just enough to bring out the full range of rhubarb’s flavors.

Rhubarb pieNothing better

Cheers to year two everyone–thanks for sticking around. There’s pie on the counter and ice cream in the freezer, please help yourself.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with friends and family, lots of good gifts, plenty of tasty food.

I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions, but in the name of accountability, I wanted to gather up a few of my cooking- and home-related goals for the year and share them here. Any resolutions for you?

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Blogging lessons, and a snack

Two blogging lessons learned over the past two weeks:

  1. Don’t plan to write two blog posts about your vacation right after you return from said vacation. You will be too busy getting back into the swing of things and and it will take much longer than anticipated, especially when…
  2. WordPress decides to eat the draft of your post that you just spent a day revising (will write in Word from now on).

That said, I will have two posts about my vacation soon, but in the meantime, here is one of the most delicious and simplest snacks/lunches/light dinners of my summer. IMG_0009There isn’t even a “recipe” as such, it just relies on getting the best ingredients you can find: excellent bread (Chicago folks, I recommend picking up a loaf of Bennison’s Sweet City bread, but a good whole grain or rye are great too), the freshest possible butter, thinly sliced radishes, flaky sea salt, and some roughly chopped parsley. The flavor and texture combinations are absolutely perfect and so complementary of each other: bitter, sweet, salty; crunchy, chewy, buttery.

And to keep myself on track, I hope to share another “art for non-artists” project, my favorite chili recipe (which also takes full advantage of summer produce, and happens to be vegetarian), and a sweet treat or two in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!