Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nothing really

A conversation I had at a dinner with friends last night made me think a little bit about my blog.

There were two comments made: First, by blogging, I am, apparently, inviting creepy stalkers to take a peek at my life. Second, my blog is about nothing. You would think the latter would protect me from the former. I mean, what kind of creepy stalker gets turned on by nothing anyway?!?!

Anyway, I've been thinking about the first statement. I write a blog about nothing. It's true, I guess. My posts don't have a central theme. They are really just musings about the life of a girl fully immersed in a boy's world at work who tries to tip the scale the other direction outside of the office. Since I don't like to write about work here, my posts skew a little girly.

I focus on what I see and what I do when I leave work, because I still appreciate every moment I have outside my office building. I used to be an investment banker. I used to work over 100 hours a week. I relish my personal time. I like to spend my time in the outside world like a tourist, fascinated by the city that surrounds me, trying new things, taking pictures and telling my friends all about it.

Sure, not all of my time outside of the office is like a vacation. There are dinners to make (though I haven't done that in a while because I've been working late), dishes to clean (which don't really exist when you don't make dinner), laundry to wash (actually, Alex doesn't let me do the laundry, and I'm fine with that), brothers/basement dwellers to pick up after (except Chris has been working late too and he sticks to a strict disposable dinnerware policy, so there's not too much to do there)... Hmmm. Well, normally all that stuff (except the laundry) occupies some of my time away from work.

My point is, I do my best to view my personal time, my evenings, my Saturdays and my Sundays (my fun days, when-I-don't-have-to-run days) with appreciation. And I want to tell you about it. In case you want to know what's going on in my world, maybe even what recipes I've tried and liked and where you should eat the next time you're in Chicago. So there's no central theme, and maybe that could be construed as nothing, but I'm ok with it. I'll write about cookies and photos and vacations and my favorite places in Chicago. And sometimes, I'll spice it up with random Karl Rove related musings. I feel like I was upfront from the start.

That's just the way I am.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Olympics ate my blog

The Olympics are fascinating to me. The sports I never otherwise watch! The stories! All those athletic kids who make me feel pretty lazy and out of shape!


Scratch that last one.

Anyway, I've been virtually cemented to my sofa since 8/8/08 watching the Olympics. I watch in awe as the women sprinters run a lap around the track in less than half the time it would take me. I'm amazed as I watch very strong, very top heavy looking men hoist themselves up as though their bodies are weightless. And I cheer very loudly when I see one of my former classmates win an Olympic gold!
Go Dominic!

But sometimes during the commercial breaks, I feel the pull of my computer, calling me near, because I still have so much to tell you!

I mean, I have a whole bunch of these that I need to go through, crop, edit, emphasize the cuteness of (not that they need any help):

Aren't Katey and baby Maia the cutest?

And I didn't even tell you about the Red Sox/White Sox game I went to:

Isn't injured David Ortiz cute too? Watching his friends play. Peeking through the fence. And look! They are chewing DUBBLE BUBBLE! How funny is that?

The Olympics are over soon. And I'll be back. :)
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Did you miss me?

It's been a heck of a week. Work and related events have kept me out of the house most days from 7am to 11pm and I was out of town last weekend, so we have so much to catch up on!

First we went to Tracy and Adam's wedding in Seattle (and those pictures from Thursday was of the
Experience Music Project). It was at a lavender farm, and the ceremony and the first dance were beautiful.

But wow, the rest of it was wet! :) To all the Seattle-ites who have told me it doesn't rain there in July and August, I say bah humbug!

But Tracy was too happy to be bothered by the weather.

The rest of us were wimps by comparison.

But we had fun, and Tracy was happy, and that is what matters.

More on the rest of my adventures later...
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm too sexy for this blog


Not really, I just liked that as a title. But man-oh-man, have I been busy! I'll be back tomorrow. Promise.

In the meantime, you can guess which bit of
Frank Gehry architecture I saw while I was away:

Nothing else this time, sorry! Click here to read more!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cubbie break?

I often step away from my desk for a few minutes to run down to the Starbucks in my building. Everyone needs a coffee break every now and then, right? Today, I took a slightly longer, extremely cooler break. I was able to sneak away from my office for a few hours this afternoon and see 5.5 innings of baseball within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. I couldn't stay too long, because I actually had work to complete this afternoon, but I had a great time all the same.

Ryan Theriot has the coolest last name. Built-in, amazing, ready to go, easy to grasp, totally rad nickname: The Riot.

Anyway, it was a lovely day and everything really started out wonderfully. The Cubs put a run on the board in the bottom of the second - great start. The euphoria didn't last long, though. In the top of the third inning, the Astros (boooo!) scored four runs (booooooooo!). When the third out finally came to end the Astros' at bat, my colleague turned to me and said, "well, that was a terrible inning." And he was right, I mean, look at the scoreboard:

In the bottom left it shows that the Cubs are losing 4 to 1. You may just have to trust me on this one.

But I was feeling optimistic. In a rare showing of prescience, I turned to him and said, "the inning is not over my friend."

And I was right. DeRosa hit a grand slam with 2 outs. That was followed by a Fukudome double, an intentional walk of Soto, an RBI double hit by none other than Marquis (the pitcher!!) and a three-run homer hit by Soriano was the cherry on top.

The aforementioned cherry.

The Cubs scored 8 runs in the bottom of the third.
There, that's much better. (9 to 4)

Unfortunately, I had to leave during the top of the sixth. Fortunately, nothing really happened after the top of the seventh (other than the seventh inning stretch, alas).

Great afternoon. :) Everyone needs a Cubbie break every now and then, right?
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Monday, August 4, 2008

The verdict

OK, so if you read last night's post, you might be wondering how the ice cream turned out. WAY too rich. It's back to the drawing board, I guess.

If you're looking for a really rich ice cream recipe to serve tiny quenelles of next to a tart or flourless chocolate cake or something else, please find the recipe below. If you value your heart, cholesterol level, weight, dress size, etc., I'd stay away.

Makes about 1 quart
From Williams-Sonoma Frozen Desserts (as modified by me)


6 large eggs
1 large, soft vanilla bean
1.5 c whole milk
1.5 c heavy cream, divided
0.75 c granulated sugar

1. Separate the eggs. Keep the yolks in a medium-sized heatproof bowl (the one I used was 1.5 quarts). Discard the whites or save them for another use. (Pavlova anyone?)
2. Split the vanilla bean. Scrape the seeds into a saucepan and add the pod to the saucepan as well.
3. Add the milk, 1 c cream and sugar to the saucepan with the vanilla. Add the remaining 0.5c cream to the egg yolks. Using a whisk, mix the yolks and cream together vigorously until they are blended and a pale, buttery yellow, 2-3 minutes.
4. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until bubbles form around the edges, the liquid just begins to ripple in the center, and the sugar is dissolved, 4-5 minutes. Do not allow to come to a boil.
5. Remove saucepan from heat. Begin whisking the egg yolk mixture with one hand while slowly pouring one-fourth of the hot milk mixture into the yolks with the other. When one-fourth of the hot milk mixture has been blended into the yolks, pour the warmed yolk mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly until well blended.
6. Place the saucepan with the milk-and-yolk mixture over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 4-5 minutes. Make sure you reach all areas of the saucepan to ensure that the custard does not scorch or curdle. The custard should come to a bare simmer, with steam rising from the surface and the surface rippling, but it should not reach a boil. It is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, and if you draw your finger along the spoon, it leaves a trail that does not fill in immediately. Remove from the heat.
7. Set a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. Pour the hot custard through the sieve, pressing the liquid through with the back of the spoon and leaving any grainy solids in the sieve along with the vanilla bean pod. Discard the pod.
8. Fill a large mixing bowl halfway with ice cubes and enough water just to cover the ice cubes. Place the bowl with the custard into the larger bowl, nestling the medium bowl into the ice cubes. Let the custard cool, stirring occasionally, until it reaches room temperature, 30-45 minutes. Once the custard has cooled to room temperature, remove the medium bowl from the ice-water bath.
9. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard, which will prevent a skin from forming. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the custard is well chilled, at least three hours or up to 24 hours.
10. Pour the base into a ice cream maker, churn.

11. Store in the freezer. Ice cream is best served 6-12 hours after being transferred to the freezer.

And yes, I survived my recreational jogging tonight. So yes, I ate some ice cream and a cookie. Maybe two cookies.
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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lazy Sunday... and Saturday... and Friday

Over the past few weeks, I've been green with envy. Alex had "too many" vacation days. And with the end of his company's fiscal year fast approaching, he has been "forced to" take a few days off here and there. Friday was one of those days he "needed to" take off.

Last week was a little slow for me at work, so when Friday came around, I flirted with the idea of taking it off as well. A few trades in my portfolio and some odds and ends prevented me from taking the whole day, but I was able to leave work at lunch time, which was amazing.

Alex and I went to see Dark Knight (great, but a little dark), and then I headed out for a girls night with some fr
iends at Cafe Iberico. And that was pretty much the high point for weekend activity for me.

On Saturday, I woke up not feeling great. I spent much of the day relaxing on the couch (which isn't a terrible way to spend a day off, just not a terribly productive way to spend it), before Alex and I met some friends for dinner at Club Lucky.

On Sunday, I woke up ready to run and redeem myself for my Saturday immobility. Only, I left my running shoes at work. So I channeled my energy into the kitchen.

And to prove that I use more recipe sources than Cook's Illustrated and Smitten Kitchen,
I bring you a few new members of my cookbook/recipe source collection: Ellie Krieger, Joy the Baker/Alton Brown and Chuck Williams (and the people who actually write his cookbooks).

First was dinner. After big meals on Friday and Saturday, we decided to eat healthy tonight. We often turn to Ellie Krieger when we want to repent for gastronomical sins (like Club Lucky's 8 Finger Cavatelli). Ellie is the host of Healthy Appetite on the Food Network. She's a nutritionist who does her best to make comfort food healthy. We found her book, The Food You Crave at Costco, our favorite big box retailer, and her oven-baked Crispy Chicken Fingers sounded perfect. Turns out they're an excellent source of folate, iron, niacin, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and zinc. And I've been feeling a little low on riboflavin these days, so we set to making them. ;)

Conveniently, I found the recipe here. I've been too busy cooking to write up all these recipes!

The rest of my efforts were dedicated to desserts. Tracy introduced me to Joy the Baker, whose blog I really enjoy. I was fascinated by her four posts (here, here, here and here) on chocolate chip cookies and intrigued by her endorsement of Alton Brown's recipe.

Alton Brow
n is the host of Iron Chef America and the star of the Food Network's Good Eats, a fascinating show about food, its science and its history and great fun to watch for a nerdy cook like myself. Either of Alton's recipe or Joy's endorsement would entice me to bake something, but the combination meant that I had to bake them immediately. Tonight. Chilling be damned. No time. Must. Have. Cookies. Now.

The recipe is here.

Alex was deeply disappointed that I only baked 4 cookies tonight. See?:
But rationing into small baked batches is the only way I can prevent tummy aches resulting from cookie over-consumption in our house. There are rules. This isn't Vietnam, after all.

But chicken fingers and cookies weren't enough. I had one more item on my list of things I've been meaning to make for a while: vanilla ice cream. I've been looking for a good vanilla ice cream recipe for a while. After making a number of ice cream batches since I picked up my ice cream machine, I've learned that many ice cream recipes (and most of the ones I've tried) are made from some combination of milk, cream, sugar and fillings.

A combination of milk, cream, sugar and fillings is very tasty when it's first frozen, but it freezes to an inedibly hard block after a few hours in the freezer. So I started reading ice cream ingredient labels, like those little kids in the Breyer's commercials. (I don't keep supplies of carrageenan in house, so I read only the straightforward ones.) The difference between haagen dazs and my ice cream? Eggs. Yolks, specifically. So I was on the hunt for a ice cream recipe that started with a custard base and used real vanilla beans. (I had just purchased some at my favorite big box retailer, and I was eager to use them.)

Then, of all places, I found myself in line at TJ Maxx. And I found a misplaced copy of Williams Sonoma Frozen Desserts among the perfume bottles by the registers. And I flipped through and found what I was looking for. So I dropped the $4.99 necessary to purchase the book and am giving it a try tonight. Results tomorrow, if I have time after I make up for not running today...
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