We bought our first home about a year ago and I’m still astounded by it at times. Like, really?! I own a home? Insane. Completely insane. But we really do and we really love it. We were pretty insistent on which neighborhood we wanted to live in so we were forced to make concessions on other things. Like all of the other things. No garage? No problem! One bathroom? Less to clean! Cat piss carpet? A unique home fragrance! Half the drywall ripped off due to water damage? Half as much to take down ourselves! Seriously our only requirement was that it was structurally sound and in our neighborhood. Everything else could be overcome.
Sometimes I belt Taylor Swift at an unreasonable volume while sitting in traffic on 290. Sometimes I opt for vodka over bourbon in a cocktail. Sometimes I choose to shuffle and wobble through my night in high heels (ok, tiny heels). And sometimes I cook vegan food. In truth I actually do the last one quite frequently. As you can see from a few of these posts here, here and here. For about 2 years I was vegan – choosing to focus my energy on cooking satisfying, well-rounded meals composed entirely of plants. To say it was a challenge was an understatement, especially when I first “converted.” It started innocently enough – a few of my coworkers were embarking on a 30 day plant-based cleanse and I was excited to detox my system after a rather indulgent holiday season. After the first 30 days I was feeling so great that I continued eating vegan while also limiting as much gluten as possible. I was forced to shift the way I planned and cooked my meals and it was actually quite refreshing. I feel like I had to focus on creating a tasty dish by making its components really shine rather than relying on the always amazing butter, cheese or bacon. The 30 day cleanse slowly developed into a two year journey.
Spring has definitely sprung around here! In true Chicago fashion, one day it was negative ridiculousness and the next 50 degrees! My block went from an isolated winter wasteland to a children’s utopia bursting with bikes, big wheels and jump ropes. Seriously the amount of kids that live on my block makes it seem like there’s a 5 year old’s birthday party everyday. While the weather has me thinking about grilling and drinking Tecate we still have some time before the local growing season really catches up. Scrolling through my instagram feed I see all of my California peeps enjoying asparagus, strawberries & peas already but we are far from that here in Chicago. I mean they’re calling for snow showers this weekend so yeah, not much is coming in anytime soon.
The key to perfect roast chicken? Don’t over think it. Many things in life can be made easier with this simple mantra. I mean obviously life is complicated and there’s a lot of decisions and worries – Should I buy a home now? Should I go back to school? Am I working towards something meaningful? Do my new glasses make me look like a hipster? Am I wearing too much flannel? (Wait, am I turning into a hipster?!) – you get the idea. I don’t trivialize life’s complexities with this mantra but I find putting in the time, doing the work and then letting go is all you can really do. Being overly in your head isn’t good for anyone but I know getting out of it isn’t necessarily easy. I find focusing on what’s important and recognizing what I can and can’t control gives me clarity and puts my mind at ease.
Don’t over think it – this is not a life changing revelation but if you can get out of your head and start really experiencing, breathing, and letting go you’ll be surprised at how it can change your outlook. Alright….that’s probably enough life coaching for a food blog so back to the task at hand – roasting a chicken. I think sometimes people are intimidated by it but really it’s quite simple. The most important thing is to start with a quality bird from a local farmer. This will make your end result so much better without you really having to do anything. I’m all about getting street cred for an amazing dish when all I did was pick the right ingredients. (more…)
I was caught falling asleep on the couch at 8:30 last night. Now I love sleep and I do get up in the five o’clock hour for my job as a marketing/communications/manager type (you can see we’re not big into titles) for a local organic delivery service but 8:30 is early even for me. I think my body is going into hibernation mode. We’re going through the coldest February on record (well apparently that’s still up for debate) in Chicago and my body seems to be shutting down. I don’t think I’m the only one either. When I’m out it seems most people are scurrying to their destinations, hunched from the cold and completely bundled with just a sliver of eye showing. I find comfort food and a generous amount of alcohol gets me through most weeks. Now I know I’m sick of winter but it pales in comparison to Boston. I mean really Boston? How have you not all given up already? Props to you for being wicked bad asses.
Last weekend I had a fantastic time at a friend’s pot luck. He founded the Meat Revival Society, a local meat co-op focused not only on supporting sustainable farmers but also on educating its members to become better, more confident cooks. The Society emphasizes the importance of using the entire animal which is right up my alley! The point of this particular pot luck was to improve our braising and stewing skills- perfect for the dismal February we’ve had. I was a bit uninspired that week but Sheila had a great idea and we fully embraced the task at hand. We ended up searing and slowly braising short ribs with caramelized onions for 5 hours which filled the house with comforting heat and heavenly aromas. Our short rib meat loaf was a big hit and I’ll definitely be posting it here soon!
It was a small gathering and we found ourselves among welcoming people who became fast friends. It was so refreshing to sit down at the table and have truly meaningful, in-depth conversations over a delicious, home-cooked meal! The night went by too quickly but I am happy to have made new connections with such intelligent, open people.
Being inspired by the pot luck I turned to my favorite braised dish – carnitas! I love this dish because it’s so simple but yields big, tasty results!
Color. I am in desperate need of COLOR. Late winter in Chicago is pretty bleak. The salt white washes everything to a dull gray and even the once white snow is now just a darker shade of slush gray. Whenever the sun comes out you have to drop everything you’re doing and bask in it – exposing any skin you can to soak in the warming rays. I often feel like Powder whenever this happens. A bright blinding white reflecting the sun’s rays so fully you have to avert your eyes or risk losing your sight.
The one saving grace of winter is that even though nothing is growing here the most amazing, delicious & COLORFUL citrus grows heavy on tall branches in warmer climates. Valencias & Navels give way to Minneolas, Satsumas and Cara Caras. I practically squeal once the Blood Oranges arrive! Beyond just eating them hand over fist I love to put them together in a simple salad. There’s nothing game changing about this salad but its simplicity really let’s you focus on the amazing, soul satisfying citrus! (more…)
Welcome to The Solstice Table! This is the first post and it seems fitting that it’s as simple and seasonal as pickled beauty heart radishes. My passion is for local, seasonal produce and a lot of the times these are best enjoyed through simple preparation. Unfortunately winter in the Midwest doesn’t scream fresh and at this time of year we find ourselves relying heavily on the root crops dug in the fall. Beauty heart radishes are typically a bright spot in an otherwise drab world of turnips and rutabagas.
The sad thing is that I’ve never been fond of radishes. I would always greedily grab up any beauty hearts when they were in the take home bin at my work. I just love their deep pink hue! Unfortunately that’s as far as they would go – they’d end up sitting in my crisper drawer until sadly soft and then they’d be compost. (more…)