Sunday, May 31, 2009

Memorial Day in Michigan.

Seasons are a funny thing around here. I basically spend all year waiting for summer to arrive, holing up in my apartment like a ground squirrel and refusing to come out until there's sun. And then, after months of huddling under scarves and hoods, summer comes sailing and whistling its way into an explosion of a fireworks in the sky. The calendar fills up, I'm too busy to make weekend breakfast, my car becomes caked in bug guts from driving on long stretches of road with the windows down and the music blasting, and finally -- finally! -- I can sit outside and breathe the fresh air and know that life is good, and summer is good, and food is always good.

on the grill
burger and brat night

Memorial Day is a beautiful thing. It's a perfect way to kick off summer activities, and I really don't think anyone can appreciate such a kick-off without suffering a long and miserable winter, first. And we've done that. So it's time to fire up the grill.

stuffed peppers
mexican fiesta night

If possible, it's nice to spend the entire weekend celebrating the arrival of summer. At a lake house in Michigan. With very good people who like to eat very good food. I think you can always tell you're in good company by the food that's served at gatherings. On Saturday, we had burgers and brats on the grill. Sunday was grilled chicken and pulled pork wrapped in tortillas with lots of homemade salsa, along with stuffed peppers and a cheesy bean casserole.

mexican casserole
mexican fiesta night

You can't go wrong when the day starts with this...
breakfast in michigan
breakfast casseroles

...and ends with this:
bigass bonfire

Hello, summer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bloody Mary and I.

Before I get into the three-day feast that was Memorial Day weekend in Michigan, let's have a drink, shall we? Because nothing kicks off a mini-vacation like a Bloody Mary.

my bloody mary reads a book.
Early Saturday afternoon, my Bloody Mary and I decided to go for a walk.

my bloody mary takes in the view.

me and my bloody walk down the stairs

the casa

the dock

me and my bloody mary

spider web

me and my bloody mary
This is what summer is all about, folks.

Joe's Bloody Mary Recipe
Most of the Bloody Marys I drink in Michigan are made by our friend Joe, who appreciates the art of the Bloody Mary more than anyone. He's looking into making his own Bloody Mary mix, so if anyone has any recipes to try, please share!

2-2 1/2 shots of vodka
Your favorite Bloody Mary mix (Joe uses Master of Mixes -- the spicier, the better)
3-4 drops of Worcestershire sauce
Olive juice
1 lemon wedge
Celery salt

Possible garnishes:
My favorite part of Bloody Marys is the snack that comes in the drink. Murdo says I like a salad in my Bloody Marys. He's not too far off. If it fits in the glass, I'm all for it.

Green beans
Green olives
Pickled Brussels sprouts
Pickled mushrooms
Pickled anything, OK?

Fill pint glass with ice cubes. Add vodka, then fill the rest with Bloody Mary mix (keep in mind not to fill it to the brim if you plan on adding a salad to your drink). Add 3-4 drops of Worcestershire sauce and a splash of olive juice, along with the juice of 1 lemon wedge. Stir and top with celery salt. If using a mild mix, add 3-4 drops of hot sauce and cracked black pepper for kick. Garnish with whatever you want. And then, if possible, take your Bloody Mary for a walk and dip your toes in the lake.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Boiled seafood and a happy mess.

Memorial Day is over, and to me, that means summer is really here. Perhaps the season doesn't technically begin until mid-June, and we're still knee-deep in pounds of asparagus, but summer activity has officially begun. It was a long weekend of Bloody Marys, bonfires, and burgers on the grill -- all of which I'll get to...eventually. Not in this post, though. Because as you may already know, with all the weekend activity and changes to get used to, I've fallen a bit behind on blog posts.

So I hope you'll forgive me for taking more than a week to write about the food we had in Louisiana. Oh yes, there were po' boys. And catfish, stuffed with crab. And crab, stuffed with more crab. And crawfish.

3-pound bag o' crawfish.

Boiled seafood is big in Louisiana. While we're up in Chicago, gathering around the grill on summer days for hot dogs and burgers, the folks down south are boiling a big pot of seafood and making a mess of peeled shells and heads. Now of course, grilled burgers will always have a special place in my heart. But I don't think eating a burger could ever be as fun as pulling the head off a crawfish, peeling back its shell, and pinching out the soft, flavorful meat. It just so satisfying, and messy, and good.

plate of southern deliciousness.

It took a few tries for Murdo and I to get the hang of it, but once we could successfully pull out the meat whole, we easily put away pounds of the stuff. Because that's the best way to eat boiled seafood: Buy a few pounds of crawfish, or six, along with shrimp, crab, spicy mushrooms, and corn on the cob, lay out a few empty pans for heads and shells, and get to work. This is best accomplished with a group of friends and family, showing you the best methods and tricks for peeling the shellfish, while chatting about good times, and good food, and how the two just go hand in hand.

peeling crawfish is FUN!
beheaded and peeled.

If the entire six pounds can't be devoured in a matter of a couple of hours, the last pound or two can be stored in the fridge, to be eaten after a night of Hurricanes on Bourbon Street.

boiled crawfish. destroyed.

Just look at that mess. You know how some messes can give a person a headache, like a pile of dirty dishes (not unlike the one stacked behind me in the sink) or an unpacked bag of dirty laundry (perhaps filled with sundresses and swimsuits from a certain Memorial Day vacation in Michigan)? This mess of crawfish heads and salty shells just makes me very, very happy that such a night took place.

Thanks, Briscoes and Bellangers, for the good food and good times!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


pan o' crawfish.

I'm afraid I've done it again. I've waited until the last minute to post this meal, and now it's 11:13, almost my bedtime, and I still have to pack for a Memorial Day weekend in Michigan. Oy. Life is rough.

I'm a slow writer. It'll take me a good two hours to craft a post, one of which is spent staring at the screen blankly, staring at pictures of food, getting distracted by other blogs, maybe getting a snack here and there. I just want my posts to be as good as the food. Or at the very least, almost as good.

That being said, I can't rush this one. I just can't. So I'm giving you a preview -- a little taste, if you will. And when I get back next week, we'll feast.

ready for the eatin'.

I suppose the pressure is on now, eh? Great.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Road trips and fruit tarts.

The drive from Chicago to Louisiana is approximately fifteen hours long. Fifteen hours of singing along to The Who, Wilco, Talking Heads. Fifteen hours of stiff necks and lemonade Vitamin Water and giant bugs fluttering their way toward a violent, bloody, gut-gushing death on my '07 Honda Accord's windshield. Fifteen hours of naps, minor squabbles with the fiance, a rough draft of possible wedding guests, and a run-in with the Arkansas State Police for speeding (just a warning, whew).

driving thru mississippi

And of course, there was the road trip food. Looking back, I'm thinking that maybe I should've taken a few photos of what we ate during those thirty total hours on the road. But then again, maybe I don't want to remember the pork rinds, and the Bugles, and the dill pickle-flavored potato chips, and the Gardetto's garlic rye chips, and the Sonic burger and tater tots, and the McDonald's breakfast, and the Arby's dinner...

driving thru mississippi

On road trips with my family, when we drove to Florida every few summers, my mom would always pack a cooler of fruit, sandwiches, homemade jerky, and other non-crap foods. I considered packing a cooler for this trip, then decided against it. Because it's not really a road trip if you get home and your car isn't littered with empty potato chip bags, Coke bottles, and cold french fries. Right? Right?? OK, now I feel kind of gross.

So instead of reminiscing on all the junk food I just consumed, I'll think about fresh fruit. Perhaps in the form of a delicious tart.

fresh fruit tart

Jenny made this tart for Mother's Day. Sweet, fresh, light, with a crust like a giant cookie. And a recipe courtesy of Paula Deen.

That's right. The same Paula Deen who makes fried butter balls. She also makes a lovely fresh fruit tart.


Pick a fruit, any fruit. Jenny chose strawberries and blueberries. (I played a key role in the tart-making process by slicing the strawberries.) Paula uses a homemade lime glaze, but after skimming through the 129 comments on the recipe, Jenny found that most people advised against the glaze. Instead, she used warmed apricot preserves.

fresh fruit tart
fresh fruit tart

If you're planning a party or cookout for Memorial Day weekend, you might want to make this tart for dessert. I bet it would be a nice, refreshing end to a day of burgers, brats, chips and dip. This one is even red, white, and blue.

If you're going on a road trip this Memorial Day, pack some fruit. Or pork rinds. Whichever you prefer.

Find the recipe for Paula Deen's fresh fruit tart here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Steaks, skillets, and not packing.

I should be packing for my trip to Louisiana. We're driving down tomorrow as soon as I get back from work, and after a short stop in St. Louis, we'll be in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, visiting Murdo's family and hopefully stuffing our faces with po' boys, fried crawfish, gumbo, and the rest.

But instead, I'm writing. Slouching on the couch. Laptop on my lap. Hockey game on in the background (Black Hawks just won. I've never been a hockey fan, but I think a "WOOHOOO! YEAAAH! GO HAWKS!" is currently a requirement for anyone who claims to be a Chicagoan.).

dad's steak

OK, so I may be a wee bit of a procrastinator. I'm no longer the procrastinator I was in third grade, when I waited until the day before my project on the Comanche Indians was due to actually start on it. (It was a hanging mobile, the hangers wrapped with red yarn, and my mom and sister did the entire project for me. BTW, thanks for that, Mom and Jenny. Heh.) But I still certainly put a few things off every now and then. Like packing. And replenishing my I-Pass account. And returning the cast iron grill my dad got me for Christmas in exchange for a cast iron skillet.

pan-frying steak is an art.

A cast iron skillet is one of those cookware items that probably every cook should own. I don't completely understand why (yet), but I'm guessing it's one of those things that you don't realize you could never live without until you actually own one.

And I'll get around to owning one, eventually. But right now, I really have to pack. So I leave you with a few photos of my family's Mother's Day dinner, because if there's one thing I hate to put off, it's showing you what I eat.

mother's day dinner.
(The steak was pan-fried to perfection in a cast iron skillet. Cooked and plated by my dad.)

Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The bento is back.

It's a sad day, really, when the lunch box becomes the brown paper bag. I wonder if mothers take it as a true sign that their babies are growing up. The day that the stickers and cartoon characters are replaced by the plain brown lunch bag, and children succumb to the monotonous conformity that is the sack lunch.

Perhaps I'm being a bit over dramatic. I hate to compare "growing up" to a brown paper bag. But would I have really survived middle school toting around my red Care Bears lunch box? I barely survived the sixth grade as it is. Ugh. Sixth grade. Let's the change subject, shall we?

Let's discuss my bento lunch.

That's right: The bento is back and better than ever because Look! I got a new bento box!

bento box!

And I packed healthy stuff in it, too. Like a cold vegetable medley of sauteed asparagus, green beans, peas, carrots, and radishes. And a hard boiled egg, grapefruit, and slices of Parmesan cheese. There's even a lemon garnish.

the bento is back.

It's adult meets the inner child. It's proof that the fun of childhood is not sucked away by the brown paper bag. That a 25-year-old woman can still get excited over a cute lunch box. And even more excited about the colorful foods inside.

bento lunch.

I can even take pictures of my lunch box before work in the morning, fully aware of the dorkiness of it all, and still not care what anyone thinks. Ahhh. I'm so glad I'm not in sixth grade anymore.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weekend breakfast. And an announcement!

I'm settling into a routine of sorts when it comes to my weekend breakfast.

saturday breakfast.
sunday morning.

Can you tell?

But while habit creeps its way into the little things -- breakfast and daily commutes and even the route I take when I go for runs -- change is in the air.

hey, what's that over there?

It's comforting, really. When life starts to speed up and you find yourself hanging on tightly, trying to soak in as much scenery as you can, it's nice to slow down with the calm familiarity of habit and routine.

And then, once you've finished breakfast, jump right back on.

the ring.
and so the road begins...

But the best part? Holding his hand the entire way.