photo friday: just kidding

7 Mar

Remember the amaryllis plant I wrote about last week?

Yeah.

Turns out it was just propped up against the window, and has been dead for a couple of weeks now.

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Whoops.

As Swede pointed out, though, we may not be able to keep plants alive, but so far we haven’t killed the cats.

Well done, us.

I think.

photo friday: reaching

28 Feb

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I have no idea where this amaryllis plant came from. There is a 95 percent chance that Swede’s mom gave it to us, but all I’m really certain of is that I came home one day and it was sitting on our kitchen counter.

Amaryllis, when in bloom, are quite gorgeous. And I’m rather happy over the fact that we’ve been able to keep this plant alive for quite some time now, unlike previous attempts at cultivating plants. And I’m even more cheered by the new bud on the plant, striving and reaching for the sun.

Don’t worry, little plant. Spring will be here soon.*  I promise.

 

*Soon being a relative term. 

csb february: lemon velvet squares, or, i made this cake a long time ago and forgot to take notes and now i can’t remember a damn thing

26 Feb

Let the record show that I made this cake right away. Like, immediately after it was announced. Like, the SECOND it was announced.

Okay, maybe it was a few days after that. Or a week. Or it was Super Bowl Sunday. Whatever, the point is, I made this cake a long time ago, and was so busy patting myself on the back for a job well done and getting another cake made on time that I A) forgot to take notes while I did this cake write up—though I most likely said to myself, “Oh, I’ll just make mental notes! Mental notes are fiiiiine! I’ll totally remember this experience!” and 2) I never actually wrote the post.

And here we are.

GAH.

Needless to say, the Super Bowl was many several weeks ago, and since then I’ve been very busy with, errrm, hmm. Well, I’m sure whatever it was I’ve been busy with it was terribly important. (House of Cards.) (And cheese popcorn.) And as such, I have been picking through my brain to remember my thoughts on these lemon velvet squares, and here’s what I can recall:

I added extra lemon juice to the batter because I was worried that the orange juice also in the batter would overpower and dilute the lemon flavor. And these are supposed to be lemon velvet squares, yes? Yes. And good thing I added that extra juice, because I was right—I definitely was getting more orange flavor than lemon. That was kind of disappointing, I’m not going to lie. Historically I was never a big fan of lemon, but in the past couple of years I’ve really turned a corner and want to shout lemon’s name from the rooftops. So when I’m eating something that has lemon in the title, I want to taste the lemon. Not orange. (I love orange, don’t get me wrong, but calling something lemon and then tasting orange is just screwing with my brain and tastebuds.)

The cake was pretty good, but it was not what I had pictured in my head. You say lemon squares, I think of those gooey on top, powdered sugar-coated squares/bars, you know what I mean? And this is definitely a cake, not a bar. That’s not a bad thing! But the simple topping of powdered sugar on top did kind of get lost on it, so were I to make this again I’d A) up the lemon juice quotient and decrease the amount of orange juice and 2) top it with the suggested lemon glaze.

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I’m not sure what is supposed to be velvety about this cake. The crumb? The crumb was good—not too dry, not too sticky—but soft, luxurious, and velvet-like I would say not. It was certainly better than some of the other cakes we’ve baked so far from this book, so maybe that’s a point in its favor? We’ll go with a point in its favor. But next time: More lemon! Less orange!

Bake on, bakers.

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photo friday: people that you meet

7 Feb

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A few weeks back, the church two blocks from us held its monthly pancake breakfast. Not being ones to pass up pancakes and sausage, and being a bit nosy to boot, Swede and I ponied up the $10 for the two of us to eat breakfast in the church hall.

We also got to meet the pastor of the church, who let us take a look around the church itself, and gave us a bit of history about the place. Which is when I realized that this was not just a building I walked past on my way to the bus stop every morning, it was a piece of Chicago history.

Back in the day, this was the church of the Fields, the Pullmans, and other high society families of the city. The windows are stained Tiffany glass, and each costs, we learned, $300,000 to repair. The current congregation is small, not at all what it used to be, and the building is now an historic landmark.

Looking around the church it is stunning. Not at all what I’d pictured when I stared at the building from the outside, waiting for the bus.

how to survive a chicago winter

6 Feb

Right about now is when I get very sick of people bitching about the weather.

Yes, I know it’s cold.

Yes, I realize there is snow on the ground.

Yes, I understand that it’s still cold, and more snow is (probably) on the way.

You do realize this is Chicago, right? And that happens here? Winter happens here? It does. It happens every year. Some years are worse than others. But no matter how you shovel it, Winter Happens In Chicago. This is not new and it is not news.

Therefore, you have two options: 1) Shut up about the weather and how much you hate it, or 2) Move to Florida or another warm weather-centric state.

I realize that option #2 may not be possible. Maybe you have a job here that you love. Or your kids are in the middle of a school year. Or you’re incarcerated. In that case, I offer you three tips on how to survive a Chicago winter for yet another year.

One: Don’t walk east-west between Wabash and Michigan. After much experimenting, I have found this stretch, no matter what street you’re on, is like walking through a wind tunnel. The air off the lake comes barreling down this short block, pushing you and pulling you, and generally bullying you around. Don’t take that shit. If you want to survive this winter, avoid the blocks that run east-west between Wabash and Michigan. You know what, if you can help it, only walk on north-south streets. Or maybe one of the angle streets. Sure, you may end up walking in circles and never quite reach your destination, but at least you won’t be bullied by air.

Two: Stop wearing so many clothes. I know everyone says the key to winter is layers. And layers are fabulous. And layers have all the answers. And layers make the world go ‘round. But you know what? All those layers are going to make you miserable once you get out of the cold and onto the stuffy bus on your commute to work, and you will find yourself stripping off those g-d layers one by sweat-soaked one, panting like a dog with perspiration rolling down your temples because you walked half of a block in all those layers. So take my advice, and yes, wear your down parka or your heavy wool coat, a scarf, a hat, boots, and mittens (because no one likes chapped hands). But underneath, just put on your bathing suit and call it a day.

Three: Look up and stop dragging your feet. Listen, I know you’re staring at the ground when you walk because you’re afraid of hitting a patch of ice and going ass over tea kettle. I get that. But if you want to survive this winter, stop looking solely at the ground, and look up at the people around you, otherwise you’re going to run straight into someone, knocking either him/her or yourself down into the watery slushy and hence ruining your winter coat (and possibly the bathing suit you should have on underneath). And no one wants a ruined coat, because without the coat you’re just in a bathing suit, and that would be bad when it’s -8. So look up, and look where you’re going.

And furthermore, once you’ve mastered the art of looking where you’re going, make it a compound movement by also picking your feet fully up off the ground when you walk. I get it, I do—snow boots are a lot heavier than regular shoes, and it’s somewhat akin to walking around with weights on your feet, and thus you’re inclined to drag your heels and clomp-shhhhffff-clomp-shhhhhfff down the sidewalk like an emo teen. But by dragging your feet you’re only wearing out the heels of your snow boots faster, which means that halfway through winter your feet are going to start to freeze because of thin heels, and it will make winter feel like it’s lasting that much longer because there is nothing better at slowing time down than freezing puds. By dragging your feet in those boots, you are making winter drag on longer. I’m not saying you have to march around town like a marine, but yes, actually that is what I’m saying.

Hup, two, people. You can make it. I know you can.

photo friday: the sweet life

31 Jan

Chocolat

Sometimes you have a Swede who makes terrific discoveries on his morning walkabout, and then he takes you there on a Saturday afternoon because you both need to get out of the house because the Interwebs are out and you’re about to go stir crazy.

Noooo! Not life without Interwebs!

And sometimes you don’t even need that reason to get out and buy yourself some truffles. Sometimes you get out and buy them just because. Because you’re worth it. Because why not? Because black salt caramel truffles are out of this world. Because it’s good to support local businesses. Because it’s a day that ends in “y.” Because because because because beCAUUUUUUUSE……

Just because.

csb january 2014: a pound in

26 Jan

Truth: I have, in my possession, a pound cake recipe that will knock your socks off.

Truth #2: This month’s Cake Slice recipe is not that recipe.

It’s not that the Old Fashioned Pound Cake that was the January 2013 recipe was bad, per se. It just wasn’t…spectacular.

And the recipe I have, given to me long ago by one of my best college girlfriends, is spectacular. It uses mounds of butter and has a sugary, chewy, crackly top that makes you want to snarfle it down as fast as you can, and land a left uppercut on anyone who tries to get in your way.

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This recipe? It’s nice. I wouldn’t punch someone in the face for it, but I might give him a strong hug.

I will note, however, that this pound cake is better warm than it is at room temperature. So either serve it fresh out of the oven, or throw it in the microwave for about 45 seconds before eating. If you happen to slather it with homemade apple pie jam that your sister made for you, all the better. If it’s not -45 degrees outside and you have access to a grill, I might also recommend grilling the pound cake, along with some pineapple slices. Not that I’ve tried the latter with this specific pound cake, but I’ve done that with other pound cakes to delicious results.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s start at the very beginning. As Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp sang, it’s a very good place to start.

And it starts with lining a loaf pan with parchment paper.

And Lo! In surveying my cabinets, I found I actually! had! parchment paper! No idea when I purchased it. But there it was, happy as a clam, hanging out in my cabinet. Glorious. I quickly tore off a piece I approximated would fit in the pan, and set about trying to then, you know, get it in the pan.

Voila!

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It’s not perfect, but that’s cool. Neither am I. I wasn’t about to judge the parchment paper for its lack of rigidity.

I turned to the mixer, silently rolling my eyes as I read over the directions about mixing times (ridiculous, as per usual, and dropping in the sugar one grain at a time (double eye roll). To be quite honest, at this point I’ve given up following Walton’s directions about the mixing and the this and the that. I turned back to grab a spoon off the counter next to the loaf pan, only to find this:

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I tried again to shove it down and make the paper stay in place, but it wanted to stay put about as much as my control-top opaque tights want to stay in place and not bunch and twist awkwardly around my hips. Which is to say, not much. So instead of struggling with the paper and the pan (and my tights for that matter), I said fuck it, chucked the paper in the garbage and sprayed the hell out of the pan with non-stick spray.

(As for my tights, I had a serious talk with myself about why the shit I was wearing tights anyway. Everyone knows that when you walk in the front door of your home you should immediately strip off whatever clothes you are wearing and put on your pajammies.)

Except for the clouds of flour dust that poofed up when I dumped in the cake flour and made my eyes water slightly, this cake came together pretty easily. I went for the straight version, though the book gives variations for “spirited” and “nutty” and “chocolate chip” pound cakes. I know, you’re probably very surprised that I didn’t fall for the “spirited” pound cake, and frankly, so am I. I suspect it may have made this cake that much better, and given it the oomph it needed to compete with the spectacular recipe that my gal pal gave me many moons ago.

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Alright, Ms. Walton, it’s time to step up to the plate and impress me. Of the three recipes I’ve baked from this book, I’ve only really liked one of them. Not good odds in your favor, but I have high hopes that next month fall on the right side of the tasty line.

Bake on, friends.

Poundcake 2

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