Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't love pumpkin this time of year? I've already baked up pancakes, muffins, and cookies to showcase one of my favorite seasonal flavors. These cookies are a recipe we make a least once or twice each fall, and then Joe ends up talking about them for the other 9 months of the year when I don't use much pumpkin! I brought some to our condo board meeting last night, and when I suggested people take another cookie at the end of the meeting, just about everyone did! That's a sign these are a popular treat, right?

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
from an unknown online source (aka scrawled down years ago and stuck in my recipe book)

1 cup pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

In a separate bowl, combine:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

In a small bowl, dissolve:
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp milk

Mix all parts, then add:
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until light brown and firm.

Now that it's almost October, and getting chilly outside, I figured it was
time to pull out some cute fall decorations for around the house.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Single Lady!

This weekend I was living single, while Joe went to some car races in Wisconsin with his dad and brother. Single lady, weekend in the big city... recipe for excitement, right?  Or, if you know me at all... recipe for a relaxing, restorative weekend, with some girlfriend time, a little babysitting, and of course some shopping!

Speaking of shopping, would you like to see a blurry picture of some fun stuff I got in the mail last week?

That's right, I got some Missoni! My mom is a lifesaver, and when I realized the website was down and my local store had a line out front, I called her for help with this fashion emergency. There are some advantages of having parents who live in an exciting place like South Dakota! I got an infinity scarf and a cardigan, and I love them both. I can see each piece getting heavy rotation this fall, and hopefully for years to come.

Ok, focusing again... back to this weekend. I spent Saturday morning lounging around the house, and met my friend Christie for brunch and shopping in Lakeview. I was bummed I couldn't hang out with her Saturday night, during her fiance's bachelor party, but I'd already committed to babysit that night. The upside of babysitting? Well, besides getting to hang out with two very cute little boys, I also got some extra cash which funded my Sunday afternoon shopping trip. The highlight of that trip was the boots you see below (in another crappy picture), which I've been wanting for far too long!

They're 9 West knee high boots,
somewhere between motorcycle and riding boots in their style.

Other highlights of Sunday's shopping expedition included Wow Bow for lunch, a sighting of the soon to open Magnolia Bakery, and some great finds and Old Navy and H&M. I planned to head up to Michigan to visit Top Shop, but ended up buying too much on State Street and having to force myself to go home!

I came home with enough time to make a nice dinner, and Joe made it back earlier than expected. We caught up on our favorite show (Project Runway, obviously!), enjoyed a little red wine, and caught up on our exciting weekend apart. I love soaking up a little "me time" this weekend... but am always happier when my guy is back!  I better wrap this up quickly, so I have time to snuggle with him a little before bedtime :)

Acorn Squash stuffed with couscous, swiss shard, and white beans.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend too! Maybe even a more exciting weekend than mine? It wouldn't be hard to beat!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Salad Inspiration!

This week I finally bought myself a simple kitchen tool that I've been admiring from afar for years. Let me introduce you to my new salad spinner!

A lot of times we'll make salad from a bag mix, and I hate how fast those bags are used up. I like the idea of making big, interesting salads for dinner, like you'd get when eating out, but I think I would use almost a whole bag of lettuce for a single salad. I hesitated to buy a salad spinner due to space... if you remember, my kitchen is a bit cosy and pretty full already! But this week I snapped, and picked this baby up at TJ Maxx for $20 (the similar one at Target was almost $40! How dumb is that?!). In an effort to continue getting more fresh veggies into our diet, I plan to use this spinner to make tasty salads a lot more often. Here are a few ideas I found online:

26 Main Dish Salads from Sunset Magazine

Vegetarian Main Course Salad Recipes from Martha Stewart

Huge List of Vegetarian Main Dish Salads from BBC Good Food

I'll probably try this Asian Chicken Salad first, because it's always one of my favorites to order at a restaurant. Doesn't this look good?


Any favorite salad recipes you want to share?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My perfect weekend

This Sunday was one of those glorious weekend days where we really had nothing specific to do. I was supposed to go running with a friend, but she ended up postponing the run when she was feeling under the weather (and I still went, and motivated myself to do 3 miles!). We did a little errand running, a little cooking and cleaning, and some necessary relaxing. Wonderful!  I am trying to soak up moments like this, because one of these days we'll have a kid, and things will get a little CrAzY. It will be the best time of our lives, but also sooooo different from where we are at now. We've been married for close to five years now, and it's been amazing to just soak up being a young married couple for this time! But as we get older I think about kids more*, and it makes me appreciate the freedom we have right now. Here's a few snapshots from my perfect Sunday...

The BEST pumpkin pancakes

I like my coffee best in this Paris mug. The more coffee, the better.

Guitar practice... husband with rolled eyes optional.

San Marzano tomatoes from the farmer's market turned into a quick marinara
sauce to top some spaghetti squash. Perfect lunch.

Next cooking project: Thai curry for dinner! I found some Thai eggplant
at the market, and a beautiful orange pepper. Add some curry paste, tempeh,
 and coconut milk... mix in some sweet potato... then add kale right at the end.

The finished curry, served over rice. It turned out great!

P is for pumpkin!
We bottled our pumpkin beer this weekend, and I think it's going to be amazing.

What's your idea of a perfect weekend?

*Mom/sister-- I am drinking wine as I type this, so don't get any ideas. I am still not 100% sure I can get behind this "No booze/caffeine for 9 months".

Thursday, September 15, 2011

End of Summer Highlights

Since I don't ever have my act together to do "weekend review" type posts... I'll give you a mid-month, what we've been up to post instead!  We've had some really fun late summer weekends, which I've been soaking up after a couple years of working almost every weekend. We've been mostly sticking around town, just enjoying the fun stuff our big city has to offer. Some recent highlights...

Community Service!

Last weekend we helped build a community garden in Austin,
a lower-income neighborhood on the west side of  Chicago.
It was a service project in remembrance of the lives lost on 9/11,
and it was really nice to have the chance to get out and make a difference. 

I worked with one other girl to build this compost bin. We literally took
apart a wooden pallet that Home Depot donated, and hammered it
 back together to look like this! I was pretty proud!

Joe did a TON of weed pulling, mulching, and cleaning up of the overgrown plants.

Wine tasting!

A slight contrast to community service, huh?
Also, don't you like Joe's new hat?

The Windy City Wine Festival wasn't the greatest thing I've ever been to
(the lines were sooooo long!),
 but the tickets were free for us!
It was a beautiful evening, and Grant Park is always a nice setting. 

No big surprise, the beer area was our favorite part!

Concert time!

The Get Up Kids, one of my favorite bands from my college years, played a
free show at a festival in Old Town. It ROCKED, and I sang and danced like
 I was 18 again. It's good to explore new music, but I also really love
reconnecting with the bands I've loved for years.

Bike Riding!
Yes, we're still obsessed with our bikes. We rode to the Bucktown Art Fest
 a few weeks back, and then did a 15 mile ride on our trail near our house
 this past weekend. I'm thinking we'll get a rack for the car pretty soon,
because I'm pretty hooked on these long bike rides!

Soaking up the last of summer also includes:
Drinks at great beer bars
Running and dinner with some great ladies
Another 5k coming up in a few weeks
Dinner outside, best when cooked by friends
Walking to restaurants in our neighborhood

We're both ready for the cooler temperatures and the slower pace that comes with the beginning of fall, so I'm not too upset that summer is about over. It's been a good one, for sure! Anything else you're trying to squeeze out of the last days of warmer weather?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fall is in the Air!

I was reluctant to get overly excited about fall while it was still warm outside... I am seriously a lover of summer! I think being born in California made me that way, no matter where else i have lived. And summer in Chicago is SO FUN, which makes me want to savor every minute of it.

The past few days have been different, though, and have reminded me that fall isn't too bad a time of year. My plants have been sending me a strong message for the last couple days, as they react to the sudden change of temperature.


These plants were lush and so alive just a couple weeks ago! I actually got a decent number of tomatoes and peppers from my "garden", plus lots of herbs. The hanging plants were great this year, too. Instead of being sad they're dying, I'm going to look ahead to what I can attempt to grow indoors during the colder months :)

Other signs of fall...

Brewing pumpkin ale a couple weeks ago.
It's happily fermenting now, and we'll be enjoying it in a few more weeks!

Pumpkin beer in the fridge, canned pumpkin in the pantry. Can't fight it.

Chili for dinner. It was this spicy vegetarian recipe... healthy and delish!

This weekend we're headed to a wine tasting event down at Buckingham Fountain, and to the Wells Street Fall Festival. It's supposed to warm up a bit, too, so we can enjoy some more time outside. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Your Typical Missouri Weekend...

The title of this post is quite sarcastic. I lived in Missouri for a total of six years, and most of the events of the past weekend were things I had never done before. The difference is this was a country weekend in Missouri, as we headed to a small town in the middle of the state for Joe's high school reunion. While it sure was different than our usual Chicago weekend, it wasn't any less fun!

What's that you say? You'd like some pictures? How about this:

This is me, shooting a real gun. It was weird. Kind of fun, but weird. I shot two types... this was a 22, which is a "girlie" gun, then also a 9mm, which is a handgun like what police officer's normally carry. I doubt I'd do this again, but it was something different to cross off my life to-do list :)

Yes, Joe got to play, too. He's a country boy at heart!

These guys have been friends since elementary school!

The weekend was filled with highlights of small town living. Some were comical, others just relaxing and enjoyable. We looked at the stars, ate down home cooking, and paid a visit to Walmart (where we bought craft beer and nothing else). It was great to reconnect with old friends, and to enjoy a little time away from the big city!

I hope this isn't their only fire truck!

Enjoying some Boone's Farm "Fuzzy Navel" in the parking lot.
Classy, huh?
Not just any parking lot, either. It was the 4H parking lot.
Surrounded by corn on all sides.

Serious small town breakfast.

In case you were wondering where all the crazy Tea Party folks are,
the answer is small towns in Illinois. Yikes.

I got to reconnect with my good friend Michelle. I miss this girl!

We squeezed in a visit to Flat Branch,
a favorite watering hole during our college days in Columbia.

It was a great weekend away from the city, catching up with good friends over a cold beer (or five). Thanks to everyone who made it such a fun visit!