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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Southern Living in the Midwest

Slowly but surely we are all turning into our mothers.

When you have a spouse and your spouse spends time with your mother he is realizing what you will soon become. 

Luckily for me Adam likes my mom. Which is good because in about 25 years that is what he's going to get but probably with a few extra pounds and a dash of Gianeskis sarcasm.
My mom makes a mean Pimento and Cheese Dip (among many other things!) and Adam can't get enough of it. After trying to recreate it here in Chicago I realized that this must really be a southern thing because I had to search high and low for some of the ingredients, but it was worth it. 

Anna's Pimento + Cheese

What you will need:

8 oz brick of cream cheese

3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar

1/2 cup mayo

5 oz jar Kraft Pimento & Cheese spread

4 oz diced pimentos, drained

1/4 t each S & P

1/4 t Chipotle Chili Powder

1/4 t Garlic Powder

What you will do:

First microwave cream cheese in a bowl for about a minute until melted and smooth. Stir. Add in the pimentos.

Stir in everything else but the cheddar. 

Stir in the cheddar cheese. Serve immediately OR chill for 4 hours in the refrigerator. 
Perfect with crackers, chips, on toast or as a grilled cheese sandwich.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

For the newlyweds

Short on time and inspiration I had decided not to blog anymore


Over Christmas vacation I was chatting with my newlywed sister about our abandoned blogs and I started thinking that even though I am no longer just starting out as a home cook or as a wife it still might be worth giving it another go. I have learned a few of things about making meals and managing my kitchen and perhaps I might have a thing or two to share. So here I type. Ready to crank out a few more posts for my sister in hopes that I might inspire her to feed her new husband well and to give her hope that great meals can come from a little planning and a short time in the kitchen.

Tonight I made a very quick and easy dinner (and did I mention it was pretty budget-friendly, too?).
I have been flipping through some of my cookbooks and came across this little gem and of course I added a few of my own touches, too.

with peas + prosciutto
Basic idea borrowed from Cook This, Not That

What you'll need:

Butter, 2 Tb
Asparagus, about 10 spears chopped into 1 inch pieces
Frozen Peas, 1 cup
Prosciutto, 1/4 lb sliced into strips
Chicken stock, 1 cup
S & P
Package of Gnocchi
Half & Half

Hermana, I always use real butter. It just tastes better. And Paula Dean told me to. 
Asparagus is expensive right now, but it was worth it!
Prosciutto is usually in the deli case and they slice it really thin for you, but if you can't find it there sometimes it is prepackaged with lunch meat in the case. The deli slices are preferred.
You can make your own stock and it's practically free! 
We'll get to all these things eventually.

What you'll do:

Boil the water for your gnocchi (just follow the package directions).
Get out a medium to large skillet and melt 1 Tb of the butter (medium heat).
Saute the asparagus for a few minutes (2-3).
Add the peas, prosciutto, and stock and let those hang out for a minute (3-4).

About this time your gnocchi water should be boiling so stop to throw those little guys in. NO NEED TO SALT YOUR WATER for this recipe. The prosciutto is going to salt everything for you.

 It was about this time that I started thinking that this dish was going to need a little richness so I added 1/4 cup of half and half.

Crank your heat up to high for a minute to get it bubbling, then turn it down to low and just let it all mingle and reduce.

Are your gnocchi floating? If so, scoop them out gently and let them drain for a minute.
Pepper and salt if you must the veggie mixture. Add the gnocchi to the rest of it and serve with shaved parmesan (should make 4 helpings).

This was very tasty and with the exception of the prosciutto and the asparagus I already had everything on hand. This could very easily be gluten free if you just substitute the gnocchi for GF gnocchi. 
Approx 300 cals per serving.

Also, Bella says Hi!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Back to Blogging

It's been a while since my last post, about 3 months. And since that last post lots of things have changed around the Young household. Some things have not. I'm still cooking & baking lots! We still love food!

Goat Cheese in Paprika & Dill Appetizer

Charcuterie Plate 
First of all, we live in our new condo now and LOVE it. It was slow to get everything put away and start functioning normally.
Moving day was rainy and cold for September, but the movers were super nice and helpful. Nothing was damaged or lost, so my inventory was not needed for that. My box numbering system did come in quite handy with those miscellaneous boxes.
Copycat Chick-fil-A nuggets
For instance, Adam would ask me something like, "where is my red cardinals hat" and I would remember that it was in the office on the day before moving so it must be in boxes 48-56 and at least it was partially narrowed down :)

In October, we went down to Kansas City for the wedding of our lovely friends, Audrey & Glenn.
They had a beautiful wedding & we were really taken with KC, especially the barbeque & the Boulevard.

In November, we celebrated our one year anniversary. So I guess this blog should be titled just Living Youngs... or something. We went to Madison where we enjoyed the symphony and then on to Milwaukee where we enjoyed great food and a little gambling at the casino.

At the Madison Symphony Orchestra

Later in November, we adopted two new additions: Bella & Daisy. They are a supposed mother-daughter pair of cocker spaniels we rescued from PAWS. It went a little like this: 
[Beth sees Bella & Daisy]
Adam: No. We absolutely are not getting two dogs. And especially not a puppy.
Beth: Okay. [Burst into tears and Greek Woman wailing]. Can't we just meet them?
Adam: Okay. We can just meet them.
[About 2 hours later, we were loading them into our car.]

Bella, Daisy & Jasmine napping the first week they lived with us (Pre-haircuts)

Dad enjoying time with his new grand-dogs. They of course loved him!

For Thanksgiving we had a host of company and it was a great time! My dad, mom, brother, sister, & soon-to-be brother-in-law came up from GA. There was feasting, parading, and an engagement. What a weekend!

For Christmas we went down to Springfield and spent the weekend with Adam's family. There were plenty of games & good food.

For New Years we enjoyed a tasty dinner with good friends at our special restaurant, El Nuevo Mexicano. Since we went there on our first date and for our engagement, it is Adam's go-to restaurant for any special occasion.

And here we are in January. The busiest January I can remember. So I wanted to blog about how we're keeping up with this busy schedule and how I'm staying organized. That will have to wait until tomorrow. The pups are barking & dinner is warming, gotta run!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So long, Argyle St. Kitchen!

Here it is. My long awaited LAST blog post from the Argyle St. Kitchen.
I can't wait to leave this ugly stove & cramped quarters. Next time you hear from me it will be from my beautiful sparkly new Eastwood Ave. kitchen. Oh, I just can't even wait!

Amidst the boxes and cleaning, I made time to make these blueberry muffins per request of my better half.
Most of the other kitchen supplies are boxed away but I left out the muffin tins and the measuring cups.
For my farewell to Argyle tribute, I share with you

Blueberry Muffins
with two topping options!

I have been o b s e s s e d with a little site called lately. Heard of it? It's to die for! Pages and pages of inspiration and a great place to keep track of the ones that catch your eye... or your stomach.

The recipe came from another blogger. She is blogging her way through the year making food for people she loves. Check it out
Her instructions are great and easy to follow. And by that I mean, I'm not writing the instructions here :)

Here is what you need (I doubled this and made a full batch with each kind of topping):

2 cups blueberries

1 1/8 cups sugar, plus another teaspoon
1 T water
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 large eggs
4 T melted butter
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 t vanilla extract

Lemon Sugar Topping:
1/3 c sugar
1 1/2 t freshly grated lemon zest

Streusel Topping:
3 T white sugar
3 T brown sugar
1/3 c flour
5 T softened butter

 These were really delish!

Stay tuned for How to Move Like a Pro Part 2 & a lot more food!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Move Like a Pro (Part One)

When I move it is my goal to be really living in the new place asap. It is also my goal to be my movers' favorite job of the week. I live for them to say "you're our favorite! most organized move we've had in weeks!". Plus, this saves me money. They charge by the hour after all. Here are some tips and strategies that I've developed:

1. Make your bed. Seriously, every day keep making your bed. It will make you feel sane. This is really just a tip to say don't give up on keeping house just because you are moving. You will be much better off if you keep up with your every day chores.
Doesn't have to be perfect. Just do it.

2. Dedicate areas for boxes and for packing. A table or floor space for constructing boxes and packing is key.
3. Dedicate areas for NO moving related things.
A place that still feels like you live there.
A place where you do not have to see chaos.
For me, this is my bedroom. There will not be any boxes in there until moving day. At which time I will bring in wardrobe boxes for closet transfer. Otherwise the only things I pack from there come OUT of that room for packing and don't go back in.
4. Buy/collect supplies. You will need:

  • More boxes than you think. Plan for 50-75 boxes per person in your house. This is a safe estimate. (I beg, borrow and steal boxes from work, my Starbucks, etc. EXCEPT for fragile items. Splurge on the dish barrel boxes at UHAUL. Oh, and wardrobe boxes. They are the best.) 
  • Tape. More tape than you think. You don't want poorly constructed boxes. Probably 1 big roll per 20-25 boxes.
  • Labels & Sharpies. Biggish labels are best, all colors of sharpies are needed.
  • Packing Paper. Newsprint without print. It's your best friend.

5. Start early, pack often. Begin with little used items and do a little bit every day. This will make it much easier on moving day (and the all-nighter the night before will hopefully be eliminated). 
6. Label your boxes clearly with the room they are destined for. This will save you heartache in the new place.

7. Keep an inventory of what is in which box by number. This has many benefits, but most importantly it lets you know what might be lost or misplaced.
8. If you are using a moving company, make sure to have your name on the boxes. This is a great way to use up old return address labels. It doesn't tell someone where to send your box if it is lost, but it does at least identify which client the box belonged to. 

9. One week to 3 days before your move finish all the laundry you can. Put it away or pack it while it is clean. Then dedicate a hamper/box/laundry bag to dirty clothes. This should be one that can be closed up and transported as is. You are not doing any more laundry until the move is over. Trust me.
10. From day one of knowing to one week before, GET RID OF STUFF. Lots of it. You don't need it. And you certainly don't want to pay someone to carry your garbage to a new house. And if your friends are helping you they don't want to carry your garbage. I promise. They will love you if you get rid of stuff. You will love yourself if you save time and money. You will get to buy new stuff if you throw away the garbage. There is no reason NOT to get rid of stuff. 
11. Keep valuables in your move-free stuff zone. This means jewelry, important documents, really valuable and easy to steal electronics. Make an "I will move myself pile" and be sure to transport all these items yourself. 
12. Animals: TRY to keep their life the same. Don't move their things until you absolutely have to and then quickly re-establish their space at the new home. This is a stressful time for animals. Be nice to them. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I like chips.
I like cheetos, salt & vinegar chips, the cheddar & sour cream ruffles, tortilla chips, nacho chips, doritos...
And before I fully digress into a Bubba Gump style list of ways I like to eat chips I will segue into the purpose of this post.
A good way to eat more chips and still not become a social outcast is to eat chips with varying dips and salsas.
For instance, if you are going to a party and you know you will probably eat more chips than anyone else bring a really great dip with you and then pretend it wasn't yours.
You can then say things like "I don't know who made this dip but it is out of this world. I just can't stop eating it!"
At this point you are complimenting a mystery chef and not just eating an extremely large quantity of chips. WIN! WIN!
I recently made pico de gallo twice in one weekend and although I did not deny making it or compliment any imaginary chefs I did eat a LOT of this pico and consequently a LOT of chips.

This recipe is quite similar to one I made a few months back but with some slight variations and I think it was pretty tasty.

 You need these vegetables, a lime for its juice, & salt.

Quarter the veggies and throw them in the chopper or actually dice them yourself. Batch one I left all jalapeno seeds in (hott schmott). Batch two I left 50% of the seeds in (perf!).

Add salt & lime to taste.

 Add cilantro.
 Game on. Where's the chips???

Monday, August 29, 2011

In loving memory of my fur-baby

I think this post is much more for me than for any of you.
I need to spend a little blog-space on my little one.

One month ago I said good-bye to Buddy. And I know lots of you loved him and didn't get the chance to say good-bye to him so I wanted to make a place to do that out here in cyber space.
To those of you that have expressed your sympathy to our family, thank you. It means so very much. For anyone who is not up to speed I'll catch you up.

One fall day several years back after carefully looking for months my mom found a stinky dog with a sweet face at Kay's Animal Shelter in Arlington Heights, IL. [Plug for this great no kill shelter!]
After some TLC he started smelling and looking a little better and the G family fell madly in love with Buddy. Well, most of the G family. He & dad always had their differences and I was skeptical at first. I was a too cool for school college kid that didn't feel connected to him since I wasn't living at home.
Fast forward to mom and dad's move to Georgia and you will catch a glimpse of a very worried Buddy in the front seat of the big moving truck headed out with dad for the long drive to the south.
A few weeks later we all rendezvoused at the new house in Guyton & Buddy was really starting to love his new digs. A big yard, some friendly neighbor dogs, a few cats to chase and warm weather. Drew sneaking him table scraps. Piano kids coming in and out every afternoon and naps under the piano bench while mom taught many children to play "Scarborough Fair." Life was good.
Now remember those differences between Buddy & dad? Well, the differences were growing or the tolerances were shrinking or maybe it was a little of both. It was decided that this was just not quite working out.
At the same time in the Windy City, I was living in a spacious but dungeon-y apartment with Ashley and talk of missing our family dogs was a regular topic. But we lived in a no dog type of dungeon-y apartment so we hadn't fallen victim to any Petsmart adoption days just yet.
But it would be nice to have one for cuddling with and to protect us from invaders. And hey, maybe I'd actually exercise.
[Insert light bulb idea here]
I'm pretty good at figuring out a way to get things I want. So, I asked our landlord and we came up with an agreement that would give me a chance at having a dog if I met certain conditions.
Everyone in the G family agreed that this was an ideal situation. Buddy would still be in the family, but dad would actually be able to watch Wheel of Fortune without getting barked at incessantly. This might just work out.
And work out it did. Just splendidly. Buddy was a HIT in the big city. He thrived at the park, being friendly to all he encountered on long walks and beach days. One of the conditions of the landlord agreement was that I couldn't leave him alone all day, either have a dog walker or do doggy day care or something. My then friend, now husband, Adam was a student with free time on his hands and needed some extra cash so Buddy & Adam & Jasmine got acquainted long before we became a blended family. Adam's favorite memories of these days are when Buddy would just sit down in the middle of the street on a walk and refuse to cross. Stubborn he was. Maybe that's why we got along so well.
Buddy even got accustomed to a soft-sided carrier and we started going everywhere together. He came to work with me every day for years. We flew all over the country escaping the pet travel fee and airline regulations with my sneakiness and his perfectly still and quiet traveling.
Buddy went home with me on Thanksgiving and spent his holidays at mom and dad's house until we would jet back to the city in time to ring in the New Year.
Eventually, I moved into a new apartment and Buddy was my only roomie. We decorated together (he laid in the middle of my projects), we did laundry together (he laid in the middle of my clean clothes), we  went to Starbucks together (he just wanted water), we watched lots of Seinfeld on DVD when we didn't have cable (he sometimes turned the tv off when he laid on the remote), we cooked together (he laid on my feet while I made dinner). You get the idea.
He spent a long time at mom and dad's house over the wedding time and I'm so glad they got that time with him. When he came back to the city we had two new roommates and he shared his pad with Jasmine & gave up his side of the bed for Adam. Life changed a little, but it was so good.
Buddy was not without health problems at any time. He was HIGH maintenance. There were the expected things like ear infections and getting sick from eating garbage or sidewalk food (not like from a vendor, the kind that was dropped on the sidewalk days ago). And then there were the surprises, food allergies, the lip fold infection, the calcified disc in his neck, and the many unexplained. I jumped through many a hoop for his health and happiness. I cooked for him, bought prescription food, cleaned ears and lips and paws. We were regulars in the vets office. But he always sprung back to his care-free self until this last spell.
I really believe that God gave us dogs to keep us company, to give us physical comfort, and to bring us joy. Buddy did all that and more. I also believe that Buddy wanted to please me and he hid his pain and discomfort until he could stand it no longer. I think Buddy knew on some level that it was okay to leave me. I was safe and protected, I was comforted and cared for, and I was living in the joyful bliss of my new marriage.
You see, dogs aren't meant to be our lifelong companions. They only live a fraction of our lives. But that doesn't make it easy to let them go. It's a lesson is selflessness and compassion to let them go. It prepares you for other hard choices that will inevitably be down the road. It helps you love your real lifelong companion a little deeper. It made me wonder if I could ever love another animal the same way I loved Buddy, but my wonderful husband assures me that he doesn't think I have a love capacity and that I will love animals, and future babies, and strangers, and friends and family.
But mostly, I miss the sound of Buddy's bark when I watch Law & Order and they do the doink-doink, or the warmth of his face on my feet when I make a pie, and the way he scratched the side of the bed in the middle of the night until I scooted over enough for him to jump up. And sometimes how I would get somewhere and realize I had a little slobber on my sleeve. And so many more things about that sweet dog.
I could go on and on. And if you are a person I see regularly I probably will.
Thanks for loving Buddy and thanks for loving me. So many people have been so kind and understanding through this process and I am so grateful.

Although he hated the camera I managed to snap quite a few pics of his grouchy mug.
In loving memory of my Buddy.