Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I'll be out of town in New Orleans for work until next Wednesday.

Try not to miss me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wants for Sale

Now if only I could paint a convincing Honda Fit.

This idea is genius.

Mary, the Contrary One

Because of the beautiful weather yesterday, we spent almost all day outside.

We started off having breakfast out on the balcony/deck (beck? delcony?) with our plants so they could bask with us in the bright, morning sun. Overall, our plants are doing incredibly well. Check out these tomatoes!

Now whether we'll actually be able to get any real tomatoes from the plants once they go in the ground will be the real test of our farmer skills. We went ahead and seeded the garden with our other veggies yesterday, too, so in a couple weeks, we'll be able to realize success vs. failure more accurately.

We did some pretty planting over the weekend, too. Les fleurs.

Spring is most definitely my favorite season. (Sorry autumn, you were a close second, but my ragweed allergy pulled you down.)

This is one view from the delcony (yes? no? How are we feeling on the delcony concept?) looking Northeast. If you turn to the Southeast, you can see the top of the Sears tower, so I consider it a city skyline view... naturally.

I started experimenting with my camera's color accent feature at this point. It's probably my favorite thing to show off about my sweet camera. All I have to do is focus the camera on any color, set it, and it only shows that color in the photos with everything else in black and white. Here's green.

Then yellow.

And Indigo.

And green again out on Milo's second loooong walk of the day. (This one's my favorite.)

Look! Milo's even cute in grayscale!

After the walk we went back home, made hot and sour soup (possible future recipe post), and had dinner out on the beck.

We haven't grilled out yet, but I think that might be on the agenda this evening. Anyone else do fun stuff this weekend?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Secret Ingredient

While making the raspberry-topped, red velvet cupcakes in the photo below for the lovely Cesar's (also pictured) 2nd birthday party...

Me (washing out the mixing bowl): It looks like blood.

Andy: Is that the secret ingredient?

Me: No.

Andy: *waits for it*

Me: The secret ingredient is MURDER! *cackling*

Me: MURDER! *more crazy cackling*

Andy: (walks away)

This is pretty much the normal dynamic of our household.

Happy number 2, Cesar!

Friday, May 23, 2008

You Tube's Greatest Hits

I might be sort of in love with this new Weezer video.

If you don't know who all these cameos are, you need to spend more time on You Tube.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mail-Order Chef

I got How to Cook Everything in the mail yesterday!

And yes. I now know how to cook absolutely everything!

I know that these days, cook books are really becoming obsolete. I, myself, have found some of my loveliest recipes from the internet. May I take this moment to recommend and Smitten (Um, which I commonly refer to as Smitten Kitten, but you should not since that website is NOT AT ALL about cooking... I hope.)

Anyway, back to Mark Bittman's book...

I still love looking through cookbooks for ideas and while some have started to gather dust on my shelf (um... Rachael Ray? You and your 4,000 hamburger recipes can suck it.), I think I've found a winner with this one. I've only gotten through the first 100 pages or so, but from what I can tell, it's a great and completely approachable guide to cooking. I've often heard it referred to as the Joy of Cooking for my generation.

Hopefully in the future I'll post about some of my favorites from the book. Stay tuned for my own version of food blogging (complete with sub-par photography!) in the months to come.

Sidenote: I'm on my 7th Blow Pop in the last 3 hours. I am no longer allowed to go to the CVS candy aisle on my lunch break.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rules were made to be FOLLOWED

I wonder what it says about me that I was super excited to find this.

I suffered through many arguments in high school trying to explain that calling shotgun really was something that required rules. I stuck to the basic, outside and line of sight rules, but love how complex this article gets. I especially enjoy "The Balk" rule.

This rule is applied when you have called Shotgun and are waiting for the doors to be unlocked. If you lift the handle while the doors are being unlocked and therefore cause the Shotgun door to remain locked, then you are "voided" for that ride. At this time Shotgun is available for all of the other passengers to call.

I won't be buying the handbook, but I admire the author's attention to detail.

Day at the Races

Took a trip to Arlington Park last weekend to bet on some local races and on the Preakness.

I was a little wary of the trip since the last race track I visited was River Downs, and it was a pretty sad sight. Lots of old men with cigars and oxygen tanks making bets and studying other races all alone. The horses at River Downs kinda resembled these guys... very old, starved and sad. It was pretty depressing even before I lost every bet I made.

I'm happy to report that Arlington Park is nothing like that at all.

I even finally understood the betting!

One of the things that intimidates me about gambling in general is my complete lack of savvy. I don't enjoy parting with my money unless it's for a definite need or a super cute pair of flats, so putting $10 on one hand of cards or a spinning marble makes me fairly anxious from the get go. Add to it a completely foreign world of rules, symbols, words and gestures? Um, no thanks. I'd rather be over in the corner admiring the crowd's couture.

Arlington Park had these great little automated betting machines that were completely Kristin-friendly. No more practicing saying my bet over and over in my head while sweating in line for the scraggly old man at the betting window to sigh impatiently with rolled eyes while I struggle to get out, "Um, Race 5, Horse number 6 to win?"

I was betting exactas and trifectas and finally understanding what it actually meant. As an added bonus, the grounds, stables and horses were very beautiful.

I named this guy Zorro.

Doesn't he look precious with his little mask? Speaking of cute. Check out the jockey in the background. They're just like people, but half-size!

This photo pretty much sums up how the betting went for the day. Andy won. A lot. Brian? Not so much with the winning.

I didn't win either, but had fun cheering the horses on.

Here's Andy and I enjoying the track.

Perhaps the losing didn't affect me as much cause I knew I had Mr. Moneybags on the left there to bankroll me. (And give me his shirt when it got windy. Aww...)

Overall it was a great trip and I can't wait to go back. With Andy. So he can win me some more cash.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The perfect food?

I discovered something interesting while eating chocolate today. This chocolate to be exact. (Thanks, Andy!)

What I discovered was that this is the ultimate chocolate bar and I now have to bow down in worship to Katrina Markoff.

If you ever need my ultimate forgiveness, a huge favor or just to butter me up real good. Feel free to send me a decadent assortment from Vosges and you can guarantee I'll agree to just about anything while stuffing my face with crazy bacon chocolate.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who needs an alarm?

This is what I wake up to every morning.

Best. Wake-up call. Ever.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The REAL reason I go home?

I've had coneys (conies?) and goetta both in the last week. Awesome.

Thanks, Mom!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Deserted Island

You remember the deserted island game, right? Well I think I found my three things I need to keep myself entertained:

1. Milo
2. Camera
3. Do I really need a third?

If you read the comments on my posts, you may know that earlier this week I locked myself and Milo out of the apartment for a couple hours. Let's not get into how it happened, but let me assure you that there were reasons. Good ones. One of which may or may not include a frantic puppy jumping and FREAKING OUT all around you and squirming in your arms enough to incite a very real fear of accidental suicide down three flights of apartment stairs, and while this is all happening it is quite easy to forget that maybe you didn't put your keys back in your pocket after opening the door to said flying furball of energy.

Um, so yeah, I locked us out (in a perfectly understandable and accidental way). Normally when this happens (alright YES, it's happened before) I only have to wait the extra 10-15 minutes until Andy comes home and rescues us from the great outdoors. Unfortunately, I had gotten home early for the first time in months on that particular day and now had 2 hours to kill before I could expect to see Andy.

So I walked Milo. A lot. Then it started to rain a bit, so we spent some quality time in the entrance hall of our building with my camera.

Here he is looking suspicious at the fact that I have not opened the second door so he can tear up the three flights of stairs and wait for me at the top with a wagging tail that mocks my panting and heaving with an understated subtlety.

After a few minutes he didn't bother to hide his boredom.

It stopped raining for awhile, so we went back outside for more walking. Milo LOVES his walks, so when I noticed he was seeming less and less excited to be out. I got a little worried. Maybe this would turn him off to walks forever. Would he fear he'd have to spend this much time with me every time I took out the leash? He tried buttering me up with pleading looks first.

But quickly progressed to ticked off.

To try and avoid the wrath of Milo, I took him back into the small mail area of our building where he alternated stares at the door.

And disapproving looks at me. (Can't you just see the eye roll implied in that look?)

Milo was definitely not interested in any group shots, either.

Luckily, Andy the hero came home and saved Milo from having to spend any more time in my makeshift photo studio. Although I'm sure Milo disagrees, I was having a pretty good time, and am proud to say I haven't gotten locked out even ONCE since then. (3 days and counting!)

Sorry for all the photos, but I haven't posted puppy pictures in awhile and I try to give my audience what they want (which I would assume is all Milo, all the time, right?).

I drink your milkshake

Some feuds just don't die.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Greening the city one garden at a time

Who's got TWO THUMBS the color of money, lettuce and my face after riding the tilt-a-whirl or any ride that spins?

THIS GIRL, right here!

This is our basil which is quickly becoming our Best In Show of the dining room window set.

The tomatoes aren't doing half bad either, though.

These photos were only taken two days ago and already they don't do our growing skillz justice cause our plants are really flourishing in the highly volatile Chicago apartment atmosphere.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monster Cake

Put on your aprons and smear your face with flour, cause it's time to go to baking school, kids.

I am not a baker. Let me correct that. I was not a baker.

I just couldn't get excited about a cooking technique that required precise measurements, lots of dirty bowls and utensils, long prep and cooking times and a need to read the whole recipe multiple times to ensure the addition of X ingredient at the exact appropriate time so you don't screw up your whole exhausting effort.

I fear the oven NO MORE, my friends. After deciding to bake Andy a cake from scratch for his birthday, I found a recipe on epicurious and devoted my weekend to the construction of his Peanut Butter Chocolate cake with Cream Cheese icing.

Realizing that something so incredibly delicious could be produced from this "baking", has completely changed my thinking.

The only thing that had me worried once I started to assemble the cake was the size and weight.

Um... is 6 inches tall and approximately 25 lbs normal cake size? It was bigger than Andy's head which is my official measure of "huge". As opposed to bigger than anyone else's head in my family which qualifies as "enormous". (Sorry y'all, but you know I speak the truth.)

So I had a huge cake. So what? At least it was pretty.

Pretty freakin' awesomely delicious!

It took us all week to work through that bad boy, but I'm pretty sure it was the best week of my life.

The recipe is below if you dare attempt it.

2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup old-fashioned (natural) chunky peanut butter

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup old-fashioned (natural) chunky peanut butter
1 pound golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

For filling:
Bring cream and sugar to simmer in saucepan, whisking to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in peanut butter. Chill uncovered overnight.

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottoms with parchment paper. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl until blended. Beat in sugar. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. At low speed, beat in flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions.

Divide batter among pans and spread evenly. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes 5 minutes. Turn out onto racks; peel off parchment. Cool cakes completely.

For Frosting:
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Place 1 cake layer, bottom side up. Spread with half of filling. Place another layer, bottom side up, on work surface. Spread with remaining filling; place atop first layer. Top with remaining cake layer, bottom side up.

Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before continuing.) Crumble Butterfinger candy and press into top of cake.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eating Extravaganza Part II

So we went to Arun's Thai last Saturday and had dinner at the "Best Thai Restaurant in the Country".

There's no menu. They ask you about any food allergies, spice preferences, etc. and then proceed to bring you 12 courses (in our case, 13, but I'll get to that) of delicious.

This was our menu:


Spicy crab cake set over tossed watercress salad, dressed with avocado mayonnaise; and, topped with a golden fried taro pouch.

This might have been my favorite course. What a way to start! I feel like I finally know what the judges on Iron Chef America get to experience. I found myself spouting nonsense about complex spices and "layers of flavor". It was damn tasty.

Traditional Thai spring roll filled with seasoned pork, Chinese sausage, morsels of dungeness crabmeat and bean sprouts, drizzled with sweet & sour tamarind sauce and accentuated with dab of hot mustard.

This one was really freakin' good, too. All the plating was incredible. (Tomato rose? Carrot butterfly? I'm lookin' at you.) The hot mustard was out of this world with just the right amount of sinus-clearing action.

Delicate rice dumpling filled with chicken, shrimp and Jicama; served on the bed of sweet & sour chili vinaigrette.

Yeah, so out of the 12, this was my least favorite. I'm guessing it just wasn't my cup of tea because I heard the woman at the next table saying it was her favorite dish. I just couldn't get past the gummy texture of the rice dumpling part. Still good, but compared to the rest of the meal... meh.

Golden fried jumbo prawn, served with soy-vinaigrette, and accompanied by stuffed sweet pepper (filled with mixture of tofu and kabocha squash), grilled Thai zucchini and cherry tomato.

Isn't this one beautiful? It looks so sculpted and pretty. I didn't want to eat it, but I got over that and dug right in. The soy-vinaigrette was amazing with the shrimp and the sweet pepper was tender and yummy.

Fried spare rib set over pineapple mayonnaise, topped with pineapple chip, and accompanied by sauté spinach and soy bean sprouts.

I almost licked the plate with this sucker. The spinach was, no joke, the best I've ever tasted, we even kept bugging the staff to find out how it was cooked. I don't remember much but it involved soy. The rib was also so flavorful and went perfectly with the citrusy flavors. (See? There I go getting all foodie-crazy again.)

Thai rice pasta ladled with spicy broth of minced pork, tomato, shredded pickled cabbage, bean sprouts, chopped scallion and fried shallot.

So I have a confession. This one looked really pretty when they brought it out, but in my excitement, I mixed it all up and took a few bites before I remembered to even glance at my camera. It looked so much like Tom Yum from LuLu's though, that I almost squealed when I saw it. It wasn't Tom Yum exactly, but it was similar, so I was happy.

These were served family-style and all came out at once. I almost passed out when I saw how much food there was in front of us, but somehow managed to soldier on.

Mussaman beef in a rich coconut-curried sauce, featuring tantalizing spices and refreshing Thai herbs.

My mouth is watering just thinking about this one. I thought I knew a good thai curry. I was wrong. This was so light and rich at the same time. The beef was fork tender and still had a great, strong flavor that wasn't covered up by the curry, just amplified or something. Basically, yum. *Full Disclosure: I actually had Andy tip the bowl up so I could scoop out every last bit of the curry. I doubt they get much of that kind of behavior at a 4 star restaurant, but I was under some sort of curry hypnosis, I think.

Alaskan King crab, succulent lobster and delicate sea scallop, accompanied by a raft of white asparagus and French beans, smothered in a spicy and hot creamy Shoo-Shee sauce, featuring fragrant Thai herbs: chilies, kaffir, lemon grass and Galangal (Thai ginger).

It's on a little asparagus boat! Did ya see that? Ha! Anyway, this one was lovely as well. That shoo-shee sauce should be sold cause I would buy it by the gallon. Tasty.

Lightly fried striped bass filet graced with three-flavored chili sauce: spicy, sweet and sour; garnished with an exquisitely carved carrot fish.

I found Nemo! I wasn't even blinking at the plating at this point, I was so intent on the food, but isn't that amazing? That fish had eyes, fins and scales! This was good, as anything fried is, and I loved the chili sauce, though I've had something like it before. I was getting pretty full at this point, so my enthusiasm was turning into something more akin to determination.

Stir-fried minced chicken with crushed garlic, Thai chilies and holy basil leaves.

I'm not sure what was holy about those basil leaves, but they sure were tasty! This one was pretty spicy, so I liked it for that reason, but it couldn't hold my attention for long with that beef curry still on the table.

DESSERTS (2 normally, but 3 for us, yea!)

Thin crepe lightly pasted with Sankhaya pandanus cream custard and red beans, accompanied by poached strawberry, and drizzled with strawberry coulis.

I really, really enjoyed this dessert, even though I know it wasn't really Andy's thing. The creamy custard with the beans and the strawberry and mint made for a really interesting and surprisingly light combo. Another plate-licker for me.

A mixed sorbet of Okra blossom and lychee, accompanied by poached baby pear and dotted with sweet tangerine coulis.

This was light and nice to finish the meal, but I wasn't as wowed by the flavors. The sorbet was good, but the okra blossom made me feel like I was eating a perfumed, but tasty sno-cone. The sesame cookie and poached pear were also good, but I was worried about stomach rupturing at this point, so I nibbled more than devoured.

AND then, while we were waiting for our check and hoping to slip into sleepy food comas in the car, they brought out ANOTHER dessert since it was Andy's birthday.

It was a chocolate cake of some sort and while I'd love to tell you how it tasted, we just sort of mashed it up to make it look like we'd eaten it and tried to stand up with our 12-course-heavier bellies.

It was a good eating day all around, though I'd caution anyone against trying that more than once in a lifetime because that amount of food is serious business. Don't try this at home! (Mostly because can you imagine all the dishes you'd have to do?)