Wednesday, September 30, 2009

decor.


at our wedding
i'd like to have mason jars
on the tables
with candles inside
glowing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

light.


the sun shone down
on a patch of lake
for just a moment,
then disappeared.
i can definitely feel the light
but this time
i don't think it's going
anywhere.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Barbecue pork sandwich. And wedding plans.

My wedding day is in less than one year. Three hundred and sixty-two days, for those of you who take the exact countdown a little more seriously. Over the weekend, we met with caterers, discussed ceremony times, considered flowers (do we really need to hire a florist?), and looked at lodging options for guests. Oh yes, it's begun.

But before I get into any more wedding details, there's this.



This meal really has nothing to do with wedding plans, except for the fact that I ate it at a little joint in Michigan right after meeting with the first caterer. It was a barbecue pork sandwich with coleslaw and potatoes, and it was just my kind of meal -- comforting, messy, and served in a quirky little dive restaurant in a small town in Southwest Michigan.

I just love those little gems on the side of the road. They're not much to look at from the outside, but once seated inside and digging into what could easily pass as a home-cooked meal, you get to wondering why there aren't more of these places around. And then you quickly realize that if there were more around, they'd become the same as everywhere else.



That's what Murdo and I were straying away from when we began our search for the perfect wedding location: the same. A traditional banquet hall just wouldn't work for us. We looked at several locations that seemed "different." A hotel on the beach, for example, or a barn in the country, or this one place with a wall of ceiling-to-floor windows that overlooked a lovely lake and garden. Sure, they seemed different. But after meeting with wedding coordinators and looking over menus and rates and linen fees, we discovered that these places were all the same, as well: overpriced, unoriginal, lacking any personal touch, and controlled by people who just wanted to squeeze money out of us.



So we decided to have the wedding in Michigan, at Murdo's family lake house, where we could have control over everything in a setting that is anything but the same. I like to think of our wedding not as some boring, standard meal found on every restaurant's menu, but rather as a comforting plate of homemade barbecue pork and potatoes, served in a quirky little house on a private road by the lake. (Yes, I just compared my wedding to a pork sandwich.)

The big day will be in September, when the weather is still nice enough to have an outdoor ceremony but cool enough to be comfortable in the sun. When the leaves are just starting to change colors and apple trees are in full bloom. If I thought I was falling for September, this past weekend in Michigan confirmed it. I'm officially in love. So in love, I think I'll marry September.

Oh, and this guy, too.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guest post at Food Loves Writing.


I made these gorgeous tomatoes into a creamy bisque. Read my guest post at Food Loves Writing for the recipe!

weekend.



long country roads.
we passed vineyards
and apple orchards
and fruit + veggie stands
and fields and fields
of gold.

Friday, September 25, 2009

nine twenty-five.

it's fun to stare sometimes.
one year from today
this date
will mean so much
more.

tonight, we have a wedding to attend.
this weekend, caterers to meet.

one year
from today

!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A burger for you viewing pleasure.

I don't have a recipe for you today, or a story about the weather, or a new vegetable to fall in love with, or any of that. I really don't have much to offer at all, except for this.

five guys burger.

I hope you'll accept it, and understand that I've just been having one of those weeks. You know, the ones where I'm left surviving on frozen goods and scraps from the fridge because the energy to get to the grocery store and actually cook something just isn't there. And when distractions keep me from writing what I really want to write. Oh, and the original Star Wars trilogy had been keeping me occupied, as well (I watched all three of them for the first time! Without falling asleep!).

That particularly delicious-looking distraction up there is from Five Guys in Naperville. I ordered it one Saturday afternoon after an hour or two of walking around and taking pictures. It was juicy and cheesy and messy. And a little overpriced, but worth trying at least once. If you do ever make it to a Five Guys near you, keep in mind that their regular burgers include two patties. I didn't know this. But I ate the whole thing anyway.

I went grocery shopping today, finally. I'm hoping to cook something up for you very soon. But for now, just have a burger, OK?

waiting.


change is in the air.
i can feel it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

his maybe.


today
he's walking right in
and telling them why he deserves
that job.
doesn't even have an interview.
i admire that
so much.

Monday, September 21, 2009

weekend.


it was a good weekend
with friends and drinks and bumper cars.
i have the bruises to prove it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

why not.


didn't cook last night.
went out for sushi instead.
then, at around 9:30,
we walked to the convenience store
and i bought pork rinds
because why not?
happy friday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Corn chowder. Just like that.

OK, so I know last week I was all, "I like September," and "Let's start wearing boots," and almost embracing autumn right here in front of everyone. And that was nice. I even made soup three times -- one tomato bisque and two rounds of corn chowder -- and started thinking that fall's not so bad and summer? Meh. This is the best weather we've had in months!

Then, browsing through my hard drive, I found these:

lunch of leftovers.



And I started missing summer.

I suppose I'm one to rush into things every so often. It's kind of like when, two months ago, I jumped on the first apartment I found just an hour after seeing it. Or when I found myself with an abundance of non-food-related photos and just like that, started a new photo blog and announced it to whoever would listen. And then, one day when the sky was blue and the air was crisp and I made sweet, summery corn into a warm, creamy chowder, I rushed into fall. Just like that.

corn chowder.

And actually, I'm alright with that. I mean, I love my apartment. And my new blog is quite nice. And that chowder was delicious. So maybe I thought I felt bad about leaving summer behind, but she'll be back eventually. It might take a good half a year to return, but at least there's chowder to hold me over.

Corn Chowder with Bacon

*After the third time making corn chowder in one month, I found the perfect combination of recipes that became my own. Below is the updated version of the original recipe I posted.

Fresh corn stripped from 6 ears
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, diced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 cups chicken broth
4 slices of bacon, diced
Salt and pepper, seasoned salt, dried oregano

Melt butter in a large pot over medium high. Cook the bacon in butter until crisp, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of fat, then add onions, green pepper, and garlic to pot. Cook vegetables until soft, scraping up the leftover bits of bacon from the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Add flour and stir to coat. Add potatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes.

Add chicken broth to onion-potato mixture. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer. Add a touch of seasoned salt and dried oregano. When potatoes are tender, add corn kernels and cook until heated through. Stir in cream and bacon. Serve immediately.

maybe.


today i met with a man
about a thing
that could maybe change my everyday
in a lot of ways.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

walking.



we went to this forest preserve
that surrounds a large research lab
and joked that inside,
they were keeping the island from Lost
or making clones
or something.
"What do you think those numbers mean?"
"Don't ask. Just keep walking."
i took a picture when he wasn't looking.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

sub-Q.


giving tim subcutaneous fluids
is the worst part of our night
because it involves a needle
and a quivering kitty.
but when it's over, he gets treats.
and then he sleeps with me
under the covers.

Monday, September 14, 2009

antiques.

forks and spoons.
these are just precious.
old cameras.
St. Joseph, Michigan
We had ice cream, and explored a quirky drug store,
and stumbled across an antique show on the bluff.
Sometimes wandering around with no real destination
is the best way to spend a Sunday morning.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Noodles will do just fine.

Sometimes, you just have to make do with what you have.

For weeks, months even, I’ve been dreaming of a digital SLR camera, the kind of purchase that takes thought and research and oh, roughly 700 to 1,200 dollars, depending on how snazzy I want to look and feel when shooting photos of vegetables on my porch on a Saturday morning. My current funds have been holding me back, and I’m considering begging for money around the holidays, when family and friends might be generous enough to throw some cash under the tree for me.

my dad's camera.

Until then, I’m making do with what I have: My dad gave me his old automatic Canon 35mm, and Murdo’s dad loaned me his old manual Minolta SR-T. So instead of upgrading from my digital point-and-shoot to a digital SLR, I’ve kind of gone back in time to play around with film. And I kind of really like it.

I even started another blog to share the photos I’ve been taking, photos of stuff other than food –- of my everyday life, and of simple things that make me stop and appreciate the inspiration that can radiate from things that are small, often overlooked, even routine. It’s a way for me to keep up with this new interest in taking pictures, much like I started this blog to start writing again and to cook new foods. We’ll see where it goes, if it goes anywhere, and I’d love for you to visit and tell me what you think.

long beans.

In the meantime, there are these peanut-citrus noodles. The recipe comes from Molly and Brandon of Orangette, and it is perfect for making do with what you have. Molly suggests adding ingredients such as asparagus, bok choy, and carrots, to name a few, but anything rolling around in the fridge will work. I used Chinese long beans from my dad’s garden, and radishes, and a wedge of cabbage that has been hiding out in my veggie drawer for weeks.

peanut-citrus noodles.

The recipe also calls for soba noodles, but soba and I just don’t work well together –- my noodles always end up gummy and ugly –- so I used thin spaghetti. I also didn’t have any soy sauce in my kitchen (which I’m pretty ashamed to admit and I can’t believe I lasted as long as I did without it), so I had to dig in our takeout condiments drawer to find four packets of soy sauce amidst piles of Taco Bell hot sauce. That’s right, I used packets of takeout soy sauce. Don’t judge. I was just making do with what I had.

Bound together with Brandon’s dressing of peanut butter, lime juice, and soy sauce, it has become a dish that I’m sure to make again and again, starting last week, and this week, and yes, probably the week after. It’s just too simple not to love.

For the recipe, visit Molly's lovely blog, Orangette.

hi.



i'm jacqui.
i find myself taking notice in simple things.
like light and kitchens and little flowers.
and the everyday life that surrounds them.
trying on this new space to share and to learn.
we'll see how it fits.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stuffed tomatoes and September.

Fall doesn't officially start until the end of September, and yet with Labor Day over and kids in school and apples at the farmers market, I don't think people quite know what to do with themselves. Even I got a little excited and wore boots and a jean skirt today, because September just calls for it, I think. And can I tell you something that I never would have said last year or any year before that? I kind of like September.

good morning, bus stop.

There's just something about the way it sounds, I suppose. September. Nothing harsh about it, like the sharp quickness of June or August or March. It's just sweet and slow and puts off this warm glow, like a bonfire on a cool night or a pile of orange leaves.

A year ago, I would've refused to say such a thing. "September sucks," I would've said, and left it at that. Because it means summer is over, and winter is coming, and joy in Chicago as we know it is over. OK, so I can be a little extreme with the pessimism when it comes to the weather around here, but hey, I'm working on it. I just said I kind of like September, right? That's huge.

But of course, traces of summer remain: flip-flops at the doorway, the grill collecting dust on the porch, a swim suit in the laundry basket. Oh, and tomatoes.

Do you still have a ton of tomatoes? If you do, you should probably stuff them. No more simple tomato salads or no-cook pasta sauces -- give those tomatoes something warm and September. Black beans and chorizo should do just fine.

Think of it as pulling on a pair of comfy boots to go with the last of summer's bounty. September just calls for it.

stuffed tomatoes

Tomatoes Stuffed with Black Beans and Chorizo
I made this recipe up as I went along, using the standard recipe of stuffed peppers with ground beef and rice as a guide. So just know that this recipe is very, very loose. But whatever you do, be sure to break up the tomato pulp with your bare hands. Because it just feels good.

4-6 large or medium tomatoes (I used 7 smallish ones)
1 medium bell pepper, finely diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 lime
1 (14 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo sausage
Shredded Mexican cheese
Salt and pepper
Tabasco sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut off the tops of the tomatoes and carefully scoop out the insides. I used a small knife to cut a circle in the tomato, then a used a spoon to scoop the pulp. Reserve the pulp, juice, seeds and all in a large bowl, using your hands to break up the chunks. Set tomatoes in a baking dish.

Brown the chorizo in a large pan, crumbling the meat as it cooks. Meanwhile, mix the bell pepper, onion, black beans, lime juice, and jalapeno peppers with the reserved tomato pulp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add Tabasco sauce and more lime juice if needed. Pour mixture into pan with the cooked chorizo. Let cook for a few minutes, then remove from heat and add cheese.

Stuff the tomatoes carefully with the chorizo mixture and top with more cheese. Cover the tomatoes with aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 30 minutes, removing the foil during the last few minutes.

Serve with rice. Feeds two, with plenty of leftovers.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Labor Day escape.

playing with sparklers.
photo taken by Ryan

My soon-to-be mother-in-law said over the weekend, "I just love watching little kids play outside. That's what they're supposed to do. Go play outside."




And we're all a little jealous, of course, of little kids running around the yard without a care in the world. Their biggest worries involve crayons and pencil sharpeners and whether they'll get the good swing at recess that day. The back of their mind isn't cluttered with random thoughts of hellish commutes, the cable bill, making it through the work week sane and alive.

stuffed peppers.
photo taken by Murdo

Enter three-day weekends. Thank the Powers that Be for the invention of three-day weekends. It might be the end of summer as we know it, but for 72 glorious hours, worries are no more. This is especially true when many miles away from dirty dishes, unpaid bills, the fluorescent lights of the office, or even a single bar on a cell phone screen. If you can, I strongly urge you to take every three-day weekend as an opportunity to escape and go play outside.

I did.

chocolate cafe

And let me tell you. Escaping is the best way to recharge and open fresh eyes and really appreciate the simple things once again. Because sometimes they can get clouded by negativity throughout the week, as I've come to realize. But I've learned to look through a new lens over the weekend, and I'm ready for whatever the rest of the week, the month, and everydaylife has to throw at me.

by the fire.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to survive the Ren Faire.



"It's a marathon, not a sprint," I told Jenny during the first hour we were there, and I believe my own advice is what kept me going all day, grubbing along, never getting uncomfortably full and always ready for more.

grubbin'.

The Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wisconsin, has become a bit of a tradition for Murdo and me. This year was our second annual trip, and we came a little wiser and a little hungrier than last year, when we were still so young, so bright-eyed and curious, so naive. I knew to skip the giant turkey leg this year (it's tempting, but not worth it), to never sit for too long after eating (keep the blood flowing and the food digesting!), and to limit drinks to sassafras (essentially, a cup of root beer for only a dollar).

I don't know what it is about food on sticks, or food in cones, or any food that can be eaten while walking to the next mud show, but it's just fun. I think I enjoyed the fact that I was eating fish and chips out of a paper cone better than the actual fish and chips.

the Grub.

And fish and chips were just the beginning. Throughout the day, between all of us, there were Cornish pasties, Spanish fries, vegetable tempura, ribs, chicken, cheese fritters, crepes with fruit and ice cream, butterfly potatoes, garlic mushrooms, pickles on sticks, beef jerky, and a waffle cone.

I'd say we ran a good race. Slow and steady wins it.