WEEKEND READS

What am I looking forward to this week? Brooklyn  will be on my doorstep in TWO DAYS. I told you last week that the book changed my life, and when I heard that they were making a movie….well, I could barely contain myself. Unfortunately, going to see it in theaters proved to be much more difficult than say, if I wanted to see Zoolander 2, so I resigned to wait until it came out on DVD. AND THAT DAY IS FAST APPROACHING. I’ve been re-reading the book in anticipation of comparisons, and literally crossing out the days in my calendar. So stoked.

Here’s what else I’ve been reading this week:

Using food to fight the power? I’m all about it! How Suffragists Used Cookbooks as a Recipe for Subversion

Do you dye Easter eggs? I haven’t done it in agessss, but I might start this year now that I’ve seen these awesome minimalist designs! So rad.

Learning to arrange flowers is on my eternal to-do list. Here’s a fun article about supermarket flower hacks!

Donut + Macaroon= The Macaronut is upon us. Silly? Yes. Delicious? I’m thinking also yes, yes, and yes.

I’m  definitely teetering on the line between ‘too much’ and ‘just enough’ clutter every single day of my life; Strike the Right Balance: Having Just Enough ‘Good Clutter’ .

Have you pre-ordered Sweeter Off the Vine yet?? Yossy Arefi is one of my favorite food photographers/bloggers ever! You HAVE to buy this book. March 22nd, get here faster!!

 

How’s your Sunday going? Mine’s rainy, and I’m feeling very sleepy/content.

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Bronte+Sydney’s Chicago Adventures

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 This is my friend, Bronte. I’ve known her for…nine years. Wait, NINE YEARS!? That can’t be right. (holy moly, it IS right!) The first time I ever met her was when she came for a school visit the year earlier, and I did everything in my power to get her attention. After all, she was English, had an affinity for Tim Burton movies, had a super cool haircut, and, most importantly, she was NEW. I LOVE new kids. Back when I couldn’t bake anything to save my life, I used to use a little self-deprecating humor to get attention. Nowadays, I shove a baked good in their face, and we go from there.

Bronte and I became fast friends. We’re often on the same wave length, and like almost all the same things. It’s hard to find true connections with people in this world, so when you’ve found one, you must hold on to it. Though Bronte has since moved back to England, we’ve never lost contact, and she’s shown up in the Midwest several times since then.

When the stars align and I find myself in Chicago, I usually have a plan. It’s usually a 2+ page list of activities to ensure that I don’t squander even a minute of the opportunity to take a day trip to one of the greatest cities in America. I can also pick up a few harder-to-find baking ingredients whilst I’m in a bigger city, and I generally don’t waste those opportunities either.

But this visit was a little different. There was no plan, really, other than when I was to arrive, and when I was to board the commuter train home. This time we had hours and hours to simply wander around the city, pop into shops and bakeries whenever we pleased, and just enjoy each other’s company.

Bronte Chicago

We walked around, gabbed about old classmates, grabbed cupcakes and cake samples from Magnolia Bakery, went in search of sunglasses (Bronte), and lamented over the sudden disappearance of curls thanks to some powerful Chicago fog (Sydney).

Walking and continuous laughter can make a couple of gal pals awfully peckish. Since it was the middle of the dreaded lunch hour, and seeing as we were right in the heart of many, many businesses full of hungry office-dwellers, we decided that there was no chance we’d get seats in a restaurant. The best thing to do was grab some bangin’ burgers from Good Stuff Eateryand have an impromptu picnic on the steps of the Art Institute. Bronte did a fabulous job of documenting that in the picture above.^^^

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So, OKAY, I fibbed a little. I did have a little bit of a plan: absolutely no matter what else happened, it was essential that Bronte and I find ourselves in the pie garden of Bang Bang Pie Shop. No matter what happens, if my feet are touching the streets of Chicago, those feet must jump on the blue line to Logan Square to get a piece of pie, or else.

And, I will say, I was NOT disappointed. When we arrived, I vowed to get something new; I tend to just venture back to things I like because I know I’ll like them. And as I stared at the giant chalkboard filled with new possibilities, I’d made a decision to pick the first thing that sounded good to me. That is, until I noticed that the French Silk Pie was on the menu for the day. As much as I loved it, I just couldn’t order it again. I HAD to get out of my comfort zone. But then, I noticed something different: that classic French Silk Pie had been given a Mexican twist. That was new enough for me!

Get this: Chocolate mousse and Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur, topped with whipped cream and a little lime zest. PHENOMENAL. Now I’m going to have to figure out how to replicate it at home!

We rode the train home in comfortable silence, quite content with our relaxed day of adventures (and quite sleepy as well).

Thanks for a good day, Chicago. I’m going to live in you one day.

Party Trick: Horseradish-Super Sharp Cheddar Cheese Ball

photo 1 The weekend is here, and I’m sure you’ve got several happening shindigs to grace with your presence. If there is one thing I know for absolute certain, it’s to never, EVER come to a party empty-handed. There’s always something to bring. Your host or hostess will definitely appreciate it, and you’ll totally win extra points. It shows that you appreciate both the invitation, and the people who’ve invited you into their home. And it doesn’t always have to be food. Bring wine, bring flowers, bring napkins, BRING ICE. Bring something useful, and your host will never forget it. There has never been such thing as too many party supplies. Sooner or later, everything gets used. Boy do I love a good party. I don’t go to nearly enough of them, and I hardly get invited to fancy dress get-togethers, so when I do, I try to go all out. But when thinking of the perfect arrival gift to my Nashvillian bestie Hailey’s house, I had a few things that I needed to consider: One, I’d be in my grandparents’ kitchen which meant a limited amount of kitchen tools and appliances, and two, a limited amount of refrigerator real estate. (My Grandmothers are seasoned veterans in the kitchen and there is always something to eat.) Then it hit me: a cheese ball. I’d recently been introduced to the, and best of all, it checked off three very important things on my dish to pass checklist: Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 3.04.24 PM It took me about 45 minutes to make this cheese ball, and most of that time can be shaved down if you have a food processor. I didn’t, so I had to use my trusty pastry blender (a well-deserved Christmas gift to myself. I’ve got happier wrists now). Your cheesy mix must rest for two hours snugly wrapped in cling wrap, having been delicately shaped into a sphere. Six to eight minutes of your resting time should be spent roasting your walnuts and pecans. The rest of the time it takes to make your cocktail party masterpiece can be used to…paint your nails, pick out a killer outfit, or, in my case, bug your grandmother incessantly to break out the family pictures so that you can pretend to reminisce about an era that you took no part in. And once the two hours are up (though I actually left it in the fridge for four hours or so), just give your walnuts and pecans a rough chop, carefully roll your cheese ball around, and wrap it back up in cling film if you plan on transporting it. Et voila! Your totally easy, yet utterly sophisticated party snack is ready for its closeup. And don’t you dare forget the fancy crackers that go along with it! You’re sure to amaze, and make some new friends in the process. Who knew a ball of cheese could be such a conversation starter? I ain’t mad at it.   Horseradish-Sharp Cheddar Cheese Ball 

  • 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 8 oz grated super sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish sauce
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pecans

Blend cream cheese, cheddar, and horseradish using a food processor or pastry blender until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place cheese mixture on a piece of cling wrap, then use cling wrap to shape mixture into a ball. Chill until firm for at least two hours.

While the newly formed ball is chilling,  preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and place your walnuts and pecans on a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. Bake for 6-8 minutes, tossing occasionally. Keep them in the oven until they’ve darkened a bit, and give off a fragrant aroma. Let cool, then give them a rough chop.

Thirty minutes before serving, roll your ball in the roughly chopped walnut and pecan mixture, and enjoy.

Source: Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit

Party on.