Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Springtime out West {A Trip to South Dakota}

It's that time of year again... time to visit my parents out west! Joe and I hadn't been back to South Dakota since August, so we were well overdue for a trip.  We coordinated with my sister and her husband to drive up together, and Joe and I flew in to Denver instead of Rapid City, since it's about twice the price to fly direct to little R.C.  We had a great long weekend, full of eating, drinking, talking about cooking, laughing, cooking, and then drinking some more!  Plus a little gambling, some outdoor exploring, and a little more eating. It was such a relaxing trip, and wonderful to spend some time recharging with some of my favorite people.

Quick lunch with my brother on our way through Fort Collins!

We had to take a quick sibling picture. I'm sad I didn't get to spend
more time with my bro, but glad we at least got to have lunch.
Brendan, we'll just have to see you in California next month!

Wyoming was flat but pretty, up until it started snowing a bunch! 

We had to visit the Independent Ale House, my dad's favorite bar. They have a great selection of craft beer on tap, and a lot of it is more local to that area. It's a pretty friendly place, and way more our style than a lot of the other places around Rapid City.

Toasting the fact that they married in to an awesome family!

No trip to Rapid City is complete without a trip "downtown"...

Far too excited about making crepes!

Doughnuts are an important part of vacation.

I love letting my mom cook for me. She's got mad skills.

When we managed to leave the kitchen, it was time to head up to Deadwood. We've been there before, and love the wild west vibe combined with some classic gambling. The highlight of this trip was playing live blackjack at one of the tables, but apparently you're not allowed to take pictures! I was proud that I was able to entertain myself for hours while only spending $5.00. Cheap date, right?

It's hard to take good pictures in a casino,
but I thought the dark picture was kind of fitting.

I was far too excited by all that gambling!
And back to my parents for a little more eating and drinking. I wish we lived closer to my whole family, but at least we get to really enjoy our time together a couple times a year. I'll keep trying to convince them all to move to Chicago, as unlikely as it might be!

It was real, South Dakota. 
I'm pretty sure my parents won't call you home forever, but we've had some good times. 
Thanks for giving us city slickers a taste of the great outdoors!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Taste of Spring

I love the idea of eating with the seasons, and Spring marks the beginning of the best food time of year. The more the weather warms up, the more local produce starts to pop up. Living in Chicago in early April, typical Spring produce is still being shipped in from the warmer states, but it still offers me hope of the warmer weather that's just ahead. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and know sunnier days and fresh local produce is just around the corner!

This was a super simple dinner I threw together one night last week, and it was seriously Spring in a bowl. It was light and fresh tasting; full of green vegetables and bright flavors. The farro and vegetables paired well with salmon, and it would also make a great side dish with shrimp, chicken, or another protein.

Key flavors: lemon zest, dill, and poached salmon.

Sauteed asparagus tossed with chopped fresh baby spinach.

The combination of lemon zest and dill is what makes this dish.
Pairing with asparagus and salmon is a perfect taste of Spring!

I really hate writing out recipes, since I tend to improve while I'm cooking. Sometimes I use a recipe to guide my cooking, but other times I just get an idea and run with it. This was one such meal-- I knew I wanted salmon and asparagus, and I went from there. I'll give you a quick rundown, though, in case you want to attempt to recreate...

  • Cook farro according to package directions. I bought quick cook farro from Trader Joe's, and it ended up way too mushy. Just plan a little more time, and cook your farro from scratch. 
  • Chop asparagus into 2 inch pieces (and get rid of the last couple inches at the bottom-- it's woody/stringy/gross). Saute in a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. 
  • Rough chop baby spinach, place in a bowl, and add the cooked (and still warm) asparagus on top. Add the cooked farro, and stir. The warm asparagus and farro will help wilt the spinach. Add dill and lemon zest, and stir. Taste the mix, and add salt, pepper, lemon juice, or white wine vinegar to taste. 
  • Portion out the farro salad into bowls, and top with poached salmon that was seasoned with salt and pepper.  I left it at that point, but also think a dollop of creme fraiche on top would be fantastic!
  • Drink with some crisp white wine, and think warm weather thoughts!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Snapshots from a weekday at home

Working at a grocery store leads to a random schedule, which at times makes me crazy. But for every Saturday I'm working, there's a Tuesday that I'm home enjoying the simple things. In a perfect world, I think I'd work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and be off all weekend, but that's not really an option at this point in my life. A girl can dream, huh?  I do love my weekdays off from work, and the opportunity to soak up a quiet weekday at home. I have some standards for a weekday off-- some kind of workout, a least a couple errands, and a bit of sleeping in. But lounging around the house is also a necessary part of the day off. As I was soaking up my lazy day off yesterday, I grabbed my camera. A bonus part of the day off-- natural light!  Here are a few shots from a typical mid-week day off.

Fresh baked bread! This is not typical, but I was really pleased with the results.
I let the finished loaves cool, and then sliced into regular sandwich thickness.
I then wrapped and froze the loaves, so I would have fresh slices of bread on demand.
Perfect for sandwiches or toast.

It's still chilly out there, so I'll just bring Spring inside.

Planning for our trip.

Pasta with Lentils and Kale.
From one of my favorite cookbooks.
Easy and healthy dinner for the night.

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Kale and Sausage.
Inspired by one of my recent Pinterest pins.
In the fridge for tomorrow's dinner.
(Do these 3 liners feel like Haiku?)

Want to try the recipes? Here are the links:

Pasta with French Lentils and Kale (Through I would recommend anyone who enjoys eating vegetarian just buy the Moosewood Cooking for Health cookbook)

Inspiration for Baked Spaghetti Squash

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy Easter!

Easter has become one of my favorite holidays in recent years. For one thing, it's one of the only holidays that I can actually request off at work. It's an important holiday for my faith, but also a quick enough holiday that we can't really make a big deal out of it. It's not really a holiday for traveling, and as my only day off for the week I can't make too much of a fuss about it. And since we don't travel to see family, the traditions of Easter are defined by Joe and I, without influence from previous family traditions. That's not to say I don't love spending other holidays with our families, but it's really special to start your own traditions as a married couple. 

We celebrated Easter service at our new church, which we've been attending since this past summer. After years of feeling frustrated but comfortable with the faith that I'd been raised in, it has been really exciting to choose a church that really fits. I love the community at this church, and celebrating Easter service in this setting made me really feel at peace with where I am in life right now. During the sermon, the priest said something that really stuck with me-- You can't know Easter without Good Friday. That really spoke to me, since I feel like we've really experienced darkness like "Good Friday" within the past year. But we experience Easter in our loving families, supportive friends, and beautiful life we've been blessed with. And I know there will be more heartbreak and pain in our lives, but through keeping faith and carrying on, we will also truly experience Easter. 

After a beautiful and contemplative service, we came home to do what we do best-- a whole lot of eating! Joe and I have brunch every year after Easter service, and we make it a point to be indulgent. Some years we've gone out to a nice restaurant, but we also really enjoy feasting at home. A tasty spread and multiple mimosas filled us up, as we sat near the sunny windows and enjoyed signs of spring coming to Chicago. 

I hope your Easter was spent with your loved ones, 
enjoying each others company and the promising signs of Spring!