WEEKEND READS

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Life is beautiful because life currently includes 54 degree weather. I freed my light jacket from its prison (my closet) and willingly ventured outdoors; can you believe it? I saw so many bikers and joggers, and kids riding tricycles, and dogs pulling on their leashes, and neighbors that I haven’t seen in months emerging from their cocoons. It’s been a magical sight t0 behold. But this glorious Spring-like weather is fleeting, so if you’ve missed the teeny-tiny window of non-freezing weather, now’s a great time to catch up on some reading.

Here’s what I’ve been diggin’ this week:

Old Hollywood Glamour + Food = Love. Here’s what they served at the very first Oscar’s.

I’m all about nice-smellin homes. The Kitchn’s got some nice tips!

As Saveur Magazine perfectly put it: “We don’t talk about Midwestern food enough.” I wholeheartedly agree. Sugar Cream Pie anyone?

I’m on a The Office kick as of late, so seeing BJ Novak tweet out his list of never-ending ideas for Michael Scott via The List App, was all kinds of awesome.

Have you heard of the Swedish equivalent to tea time, Fika? This should totally catch on.

Speaking of Tea Time…When Britain Fought Against the Tyranny of Tea Breaks.

We should all be out buying the latest issue of Bon Appetit. Why, you ask? Because it was shot ENTIRELY on iPhones! I can get behind that.

Real talk: all I’ve ever really wanted is Meryl Streep’s kitchen in It’s Complicated; Memorable Kitchens in Cinematic History

 

If you need me, I’ll be becoming one with nature for the next 5 hours.

 

Happy Sunday!

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How to Make Chicken Stock Without a Recipe (But There’s a Recipe!)

Remember that time, just a month ago, when everyone was in awe of the warm weather outside and we thought, “Aw, man. I kind of miss the snow, and that delicious nip of cold in the air…” HOW WRONG WE WERE! I haven’t seen the ground in two weeks, and I have an industrial-sized bottle of lotion by my side practically 24/7. But I suppose it could be worse. It could be 2 degrees F outside. OH WAIT. ALSO HAPPENING. Someone wake me when Spring gets here.

I will say this: when I have nowhere to go, there is nothing prettier or more serene than the wintery wonderland I see out my window. It’s so peaceful, and so beautiful. It makes the cold almost worth. Almost.

But Midwestern winters aren’t all bad; freezing temperatures give me the chance to catch up on all the domestic projects that I keep writing down on my never-ending list. One big one? Making homemade chicken stock!

It’s 2016, people. Let’s start making our own.

I go through a lot of chicken stock at my house. I use it for burrito bowls and soups, mostly, and I definitely get tired of running to the store all the time to pick up multiple containers. It’s so incredibly easy to make at home, PLUS, you’re not wasting a thing! All you need is a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (you can use the meat in sandwiches, salads, on nachos, in soups, etc. etc.) and some of your favorite vegetables and herb seasonings. It’s so simple, so economical, and VERY TASTY.

The fun part about making your own chicken stock is that you get to modify it to your particular tastes. If you like things a little spicier, kick it up a notch with a teensy bit of cayenne (a lot goes a long way). If you hate celery, leave it out! And homemade stock is an especially fun thing to make when you have a ton of leftover veggies and nothing to put them in. Waste not, want not.

Your main ingredients are: a chicken carcass cut into pieces, water, salt, and pepper. After that, it’s up to you! Once you’ve put the ingredients you like into the pot, fill it with water so that everything is covered by about 1-2 inches, bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for three hours. If at any point you start to see the water level get a little low, simply add more! And that’s it. Once your stock is done, skim off any film that’s reached the top with a slotted spoon, strain the stock into a large bowl, and discard all the solids. (Here’s a tip: When I’m using fresh herbs, I like to tie them all together with a little kitchen twine. That way, once it’s time to strain, I can easily fish them out. ) Make sure your stock is completely cool, then separate it evenly into Mason or Weck jars. If you have plans to use it within a week, pop some stock in the fridge. If you’ve got future plans, pop your jars in the freezer. It lasts indefinitely. Just make sure to defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before you use it!

And there you have it. You can totally make homemade stock without a recipe! But if you’re looking for a little guidance, scroll down for what I put in mine.

Everything’s better homemade.

 

HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 chicken carcass, broken into pieces
  • 2 whole onions, quartered
  • 8+ baby carrots, chopped
  • 5 celery sticks, chopped
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4+ sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
  • Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

In the bottom of a pot that is at least 4 quarts, place the broken-up chicken carcass, onions, baby carrots, celery sticks, garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, and salt. Make sure that everything is evenly distributed.

Fill the pot with water until all of the contents are covered by at least 1-2 inches of water.Place the pot over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, then let simmer for 3 hours. The stock will occasionally bubble, and the contents may shift a little bit. If the water starts to reduce, add more. You want to make sure that everything is fully submersed in water at all times.

Using a slotted spoon, collect and discard any foam or film on the top of  the stock, then strain the stock into a large bowl. Throw away all of the solid pieces that have landed in the strainer. Let the stock cool completely before transferring it evenly into Mason or Weck jars. If you’re planning to use the stock within a week, store it in the refrigerator. If not, it will freeze indefinitely. Once you’re ready to use it, simply let the frozen stock defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

Hey, you just made chicken stock. ‘Grats.

 

SOURCE: Adapted from The Kitchn Cookbook

Lunching at The Trade Lounge

We talked about owl bodily functions, we talked about state laws when it comes to deer on the side of the road, we talked about beer, and we talked about Anthony Bourdain. My work chums are simply the best.

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Let me ask you a very, very important question: HAVE you been to the Trade Lounge?

If the answer is “no,” put down what you’re eating, and make reservations THIS INSTANT.

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Go to Trade Lounge.

 

That is all.

 

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You Need to Visit: The Arnold Arboretum!

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The weather is finally cooperating (for the most part) in Boston, so this weekend I got the chance to cross another place off my “To Visit” list: The Arnold Arboretum! And because I like to enjoy the beauty of nature with excellent company, I invited my best friend Anna to join me!

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Here we are enjoying the sun, and also enjoying the feeling of our skin not burning. Thank you, April weather. You’re pleasant at 70 degrees.

photoI could go into lots of details and facts about the Arboretum, but I like to keep it simple: It’s a giant museum for trees and natural wildlife. With almost 300 acres of space, The Arnold Arboretum is massive. It’s hard to catch everything in one day, and if I were you, I’d leave the main path every once and a while and do some hiking. The views from above are breathtaking, and you never know what you’ll find.

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Everywhere we turned there were gorgeous patches of flowers blooming, with such vibrant colors that I was tempted to take some home as a little souvenir. But I wouldn’t. Just like you wouldn’t try to pluck a Monet off the wall of an art museum, you shouldn’t try to take even the tiniest flower from the Arboretum.

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When you see things like giant trees and creeks that run for miles, it makes you forget that you’re technically still in Boston. Just twenty or so minutes from this total serenity is the hustle and bustle of the city, and yet they feel like two totally different worlds. The only reminders are the occasional sewer grates with “The City of Boston” etched on them.

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Something tells me that I won’t be able to live in the city forever. The Midwesterner in me, who grew up in the country, feels the need to be back in the woods. I need the quiet, and I miss seeing animals standing inches away from that aren’t pigeons and park squirrels. The Arboretum is a fantastic escape, and a terrific way to spend a beautiful spring day. The only thing that would make it better? If you were allowed to picnic!

If you’re in Boston, I encourage you to take the short T ride and enjoy another side of Boston. You might just catch me there!

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Book Review: Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook

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I buy a lot of cookbooks. You know this about me already. You know that it’s somewhat of an addiction, but I’m proud to say that I’ve got it somewhat under control. (The bookshelf that I bought to house them all is already looking a bit cramped…)

So, instead of buying more, I decided to take a little breather and dive into the ones I already own. My wallet, which up until now I didn’t think could speak, just loudly whispered “Thank You” from my purse. Don’t get too comfy, wallet, for there will come a time when I will need to fuel my CA (cookbook addiction. It’s a thing) again.

This weekend, my best friend Anna held a cocktail party that was inspired by her recent trip to Peru, and it reminded me of this beyond AWESOME book I found once called Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook. I am obsessed with it, and after this post, you better be too so that we can talk about it together.

It’s one part retro, one part boozy, and one part extra colorful, and it’s the exact read you need when you want to become your own bartender. Ever wondered exactly what goes into that whiskey sour you always order? This little book’s got you covered. (P.S. I’m just curious: when you hear that a cocktail has egg whites in it, what’s your reaction? To me, it’s fine, it adds a little foam and body. For others, it’s all they can talk about.)

There’s a drink for every occasion, every taste, and I’d say every budget. And if you really want to cut a corner or two, there’s always the option of making your own simple syrup!

From Mrs, Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook

Another entry from Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook

I know Christmas is over, but this makes the perfect stocking stuffer. Buy it now, save it, don’t forget about it, and you’re set for next Christmas. You’re welcome.

 

Happy cocktail mixing!

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Writing to My Darlings

DSCN0344Call me old-fashioned (Or Sydney, either works fine), but there is nothing better than a good, handwritten letter. In this era of email, and instant communication, it’s important to take a step back, and appreciate the hard work that goes into a physical letter, and the process that it takes to get from the hands of your loved one, all the way to you.

A friend had a birthday recently, and I had waited until the very last minute. But I made a deal with another friend, who has also waited: you buy the gift, I’ll get the card.

I work in Beacon Hill, which is this crazy beautiful neighborhood of Boston. It’s very old, and very historic. There’s brick everywhere, brick as far as the eye can see, and I love it. On the street over from the office, there are two card shops, almost right next door to each other. One is really popular, and sells cards, along with other novelty books and housewares. The other is more of an old-school, independent card shop. Since I’d been in the popular store several times, and decided that the prices might just be a little too high, and the selection a little too low for my liking, I decided on Shop Number Two. I was in the market for cards and cards only, after all. (Hallmark will get absolutely none of my money if I can help it.)

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It’s called Rugg Road Paper Company, and it is, after just one visit, my new go-to card shop! First of all, it’s absolutely ADORABLE inside. It’s got all the quirks and charms of being a small business, and creative displays with a touch of whimsy. There are Boston-themed post cards with traditional, and also non-traditional images for just $1.00 each, clever greeting cards with puns that have been printed on recycled paper, SUPER CUTE printed wrapping paper (who wouldn’t want anchors on quality wrapping paper?), and the best element of them all:  a friendly and dedicated shop owner who cares about her customers. You can tell that she’s put her special mark on each and every part of the store and it shows. The prices were excellent, the selection was unique, and I just can’t get enough. Plus, it gives me something to do while I wait for my train!

My friends know me well: I am, and always will be a big supporter of small business. Greeting card season is upon us, so you better stock up!! (Another great place to try? Etsy.com!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got greeting cards to address and send. No one knows they’re coming, and that’s always half the fun!

Send someone special in your life a little snail mail. Trust me, it’ll only make your bond stronger!

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