Monday, December 27, 2010

driveway moment

after a wonderful Christmas with my family, i made it back to the city last night. there were no delays for my amtrak train and i was looking forward to getting back home at a decent hour.

once i left union station i hailed a cab. my taxi driver was nice and asked me how i was. he was listening to something on wbez which he turned up once i told him my destination. as he pulled away from the curb i expected him to take lower wacker drive so we could quickly get to lake shore drive. when he passed the ramp for lower wacker i thought about speaking up but it was only 9:30pm and i wasn't in a great hurry to get back to my apartment. i let my driver head east on monroe before turning left onto michigan avenue. as we passed millennium park, all lit up with Christmas lights, i began paying attention to the story being told on the radio. something was happening with a hot air balloon and a man named sherwin sleeves.

i smiled when we drove across the river. by now i was grateful this taxi driver decided to take michigan instead of lower wacker drive. i loved how the city was welcoming me back. at a stop light the radio program took a music break. five seconds into the song, i knew i was going to love it. i quickly dug in my bag for a pen and my planner. i wrote down some lyrics. later i found out it was the song "saro" by sam amidon. it put me in a wonderful, melancholy, nostalgic mood.

by now we were zooming down lake shore drive and the story of sherwin sleeves was drawing me in. the closer we got to my apartment the further away i wish it were. i knew i wasn't going to hear the end of the story and that broke my heart a bit. another song break, this time it was radiohead's "exit music," and we were turning onto my street. i so badly wanted to just sit in the taxi with the driver and listen to the end of the story. i wanted to have a driveway moment. when we finally reached my apartment i paid the man, went inside and searched for re: sounds so i could hear the rest of the story.

i'm grateful for little moments like the one i had last night. they seem so random and come from the oddest places. little moments like this make me love chicago more and more.

it's good to be home.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

sometimes i feel like i'm the only person in the world...

...who cannot properly peel an orange.

true story.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

my damn cookie sheets

baking cookies should not be a daunting task. especially when said cookies only have three ingredients.

but it never fails, what should be a quick baking project takes me over 2 hours to complete. this happened to me last night.

i came home around 9:00pm after working late and then stopping by the grocery to get a few things. my old roommate is having people over tonight for holiday cocktails and i want to bring something sweet. i made these insanely good cool whip cookies last weekend for a christmas movie merrython and they were a success. i was determined to get these cookies in the oven as soon as possible. i was in such a hurry when i got home that i was still wearing my coat when i turned on the oven. no time to waste!

your normal cookie recipe makes, what, 24? 30 cookies? is that an ambitious number? we'll say two dozen (not including the cookies i eat off the cooling rack before they make it onto the plate/container/plastic bag).

i know that part of my problem is my baking sheets. i have two dinky 12" x 12" cookie sheets. i don't remember where i got them; most likely big lots. but i can only fit 8 cookies or so onto one sheet. and i can't fit two sheets in the oven side by side. and i don't like to sit them on two different racks.

yes, yes, cue the tiny violins.

baking cookies in small batches this way take a good amount of time. i pulled my final batch out of the oven at 11:15pm.

oh! i forgot to tell you, for this round of cookies i decided to make smaller sized cookies. instead of using my table spoon cookie scooper, i used my teaspoon measuring spoon. so it took even longer.

i also forgot to tell you that i may have been distracted by top chef all stars. and facebook. and my phone.. as you can see, there are many contributing factors to last night's cookie madness.

maybe santa will bring me some big girl cookie sheets this year. or maybe i'll just BE a big girl and get my own damn cookie sheets. one way or another, i will eventually get proper cookies sheets but in the meantime it will take me 2 hours to make cookies.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

let's talk a little bit more about julia della croce, shall we?

i don't feel like that one teeny tiny line in my last post was enough. she deserves much more.

honestly, i had never heard of julia until i saw the sign advertising that she was coming to the chopping block for a book signing with her latest book italian home cooking. she's written 13 books about italian cooking. honestly, you would think a girl who loves italy, food and italian food as much as i do would have already been enlightened. oh well, no time like the present. i plan on making up for lost time.

first off, before we get to the food, can i just say how wonderful julia is, as a person? she is genuine and not intimidating at all. she has one of those personalities where i feel like i already know her. i wish she was my neighbor so i could borrow a cup of sugar and invite her over for coffee. i love how she is so passionate about getting people back in the kitchen.

during the demo she talked about how italians are no longer cooking in the traditional manner. for one, more and more people are working and don't have time to cook or learn how to cook. and those in the professional culinary world are being classically trained in culinary schools instead of by the sides of short, little old ladies shuffling around the kitchen. the authentic italian way of cooking is being left behind. she talked a lot about the italian method of cooking vs. the french method. italian cooking is all about ingredients. french cooking is all about technique. one isn't necessarily better than the other; they're just different. most culinary schools are based off the french technique, hence the loss of tradition.

(yes, my mind automatically says "traditioooon!" sorry, back to the post.)

many italian dishes are simple but like julia said the make or break element is the ingredients. make sure you have the best tomatoes.* make sure your pasta is from italy. make sure you have some damn good olive oil. as the saying goes, good with good makes good.

for her cooking demo, julia made lentil soup with crumbled sausage and ditalini pasta (p. 80). we were also able to sample pissaladella (p. 22) and batter-fried sage leaves (p. 12). everything was, of course, delicious. it made me really excited to try these recipes, especially the lentil soup. julia made us promise we would try to make it at home, within the next two weeks.

so who wants to come over for some special, homemade, authentic italian lentil soup??!

but no, seriously, who wants to come over for some lentil soup..

*news flash: canned tomatoes and tomato paste are not the devil! use them! canned tomatoes have a more concentrated flavor and help give body to your tomato sauces. same goes for tomato paste. just make sure, again, that they are high quality tomatoes.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

on the first snowfall of the season..

i took a little walk..

i only slipped on the ice four times..

i paid tribute to a great man..

i shocked my yoga instructor by actually coming to class on a saturday morning..

i attended a cooking demonstration by julia della croce..

and i ended the day with friends, spiked cider, dancing and, of course, ugly sweaters.

i love this time of year. bring it on, winter.
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