Taste of Chicago has totally inspired me to get out of my yogurt-for-lunch, salad-for-dinner rut. Going to try making some killer tacos after tasting some mind-blowingly good tequila lime cilantro chicken tacos in a double-layer of corn shell goodness.

Also tried/tasted/smelled:
Celtic corn on the cob (aka a really good piece of corn dunked in real butter!)
Rabbit corn dog (who knew a corn dog sans ketchup could be acceptable?)
Salted peanut butter gelato with brownie chunks from Caffe Gelato’s stand.

Chicago is truly a student-budget-foodie’s dream. So much of the food here is great but simple and rarely sacrifices taste for innovation. I love how this city loves its traditional indulgences (deep dish pizza, Portillo’s cake, hot dogs) but also embraces fresher, healthier foods too and makes room for everyone’s cravings.

I’m learning how to make macarons! Since I can’t remember a lot of my French, maybe I can bribe the people of France with their favorite almondy morsels.

Up first: simple vanilla and chocolate. Photos and recipes to come soon if nothing explodes.

My back porch is the most sacred of summer spaces for me. And this is summer on the table in my back porch. I used to eat baby food off of this table at my aunt’s house! This is not baby food. But an adorable jar is involved.
Homemade strawberry rhubarb jam meets farmers market bread. They’re in it for life.
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Fresh squeezed lime juice, sparkling water, honey & mint from the garden. And lots of ice because room temperature sparkling water is right next to upper lip sweat on the list of things that will totally ruin everything. Also, unglazed cake donuts should be on that list, too. UNGLAZED? Who are these people who do these things?

My back porch is the most sacred of summer spaces for me. And this is summer on the table in my back porch. I used to eat baby food off of this table at my aunt’s house! This is not baby food. But an adorable jar is involved.

Homemade strawberry rhubarb jam meets farmers market bread. They’re in it for life.

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Fresh squeezed lime juice, sparkling water, honey & mint from the garden. And lots of ice because room temperature sparkling water is right next to upper lip sweat on the list of things that will totally ruin everything. Also, unglazed cake donuts should be on that list, too. UNGLAZED? Who are these people who do these things?

Good things come to those who wait. (Pretend like this was in a fortune cookie. Then play the “in bed” game. Then get it together… because this is better than a fortune cookie).
Normal salad. I see you.
Enter: Buttery, homemade, crispy croutons. BOOM!
Crazy good salad. I see you now.
Buttery Croutons aka the Trophy Wife of Summer Salads:
Put butter in a pan. Fry your bread. Come on… this is not rocket science. But it is butter science. And that is something we all understand. Cut into croutons.
These would also make an amazing topper to summer soups and curries.

Good things come to those who wait. (Pretend like this was in a fortune cookie. Then play the “in bed” game. Then get it together… because this is better than a fortune cookie).

Normal salad. I see you.

Enter: Buttery, homemade, crispy croutons. BOOM!

Crazy good salad. I see you now.

Buttery Croutons aka the Trophy Wife of Summer Salads:

Put butter in a pan. Fry your bread. Come on… this is not rocket science. But it is butter science. And that is something we all understand. Cut into croutons.

These would also make an amazing topper to summer soups and curries.

This past holiday weekend, I spent a few days with my head almost in the clouds picking cherries. A few loaded buckets later, I was pitting nearly fifteen pounds of tart Michigan cherries. I learned a few life lessons, including, “Don’t put a 25-foot ladder on an uneven surface because it will fall sideways and knock out a branch of your neighbors’ beloved cherry tree.” Luckily, I had hopped off the ladder before it tumbled to the ground! I also learned that you never set a full bucket of cherries on a ladder step, since this bucket will defy all laws of physics and fall head first onto the sandy, debris-covered soil of your mother’s garden, and you will only manage to pick up about 83% of the fallen cherries. The other 17% you hope do not grow into tiny cherry tree weeds that you mother must fight later on.

Also, cherry jam is like sweet scarlet gold and cherry crisps should always include less cherry and more crisp. More crisp, more better.

Over the Treetop Cherry Jam (makes 6 half pints)

2.5 pounds pitted tart cherries
4.75 cups sugar
1 package fruit pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter (<—- automatically wonderful jam!)
lots of love, to taste

Bring the cherries, pectin, and butter to a rolling boil. Add the sugar and bring to a full boil then boil for 1 minute. Add jam to hot, sterilized jars and process the jars in a hot water canner for 5 minutes. Feel incredibly accomplished before 2:00pm! I wouldn’t trade my life for an Amish one (except maybe I would), but I admire their rigorous year-round canning traditions.

(also, hello again friends! I’ve got a lot of free time this summer and hope to use this space to share something I’ve always relied on to keep my spirits up: cooking and baking and, most importantly, making yummy memories with the ones I love)

Sour Cherry Pie with a Golden, Buttery, Flaky Crust

Today started off marvelously.  My mama and I rode bikes down to the farmers market to pick up four pints of fresh strawberries (she heard from someone who heard from her farmer friend that it’s the last weekend for good strawberries in Holland.  Yeah, it’s like that in Holland.)  The new profile picture is a testament to the little red treasures we managed to snatch up despite the crowd of similarly-minded strawberry hunters.

Anyways, that’s for another day.

I made a cherry pie.  From scratch.  

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This morning, I woke up extra early (aka 9ish a.m.) to bake a small batch of oatmeal banana bread, courtesy of (yes yes, I know, I know) Joy the Baker.  

The occasion?  My best friend, Sophie, is currently on a plane to Africa (well, technically Amsterdam, but after five brief hours in the real Holland, she’ll be reboarding a plane bound for Kenya).  This recipe was the perfect breakfastyish, healthyish, car-ride-to-Detroitish snack.

Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread (My Modified version)

Makes 1 loaf or a dozen muffins

-1 cup whole wheat flour

-1/4 cup all-purpose flour

-1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

-1/2 tsp salt

-1/2 tsp baking soda

-1/4 tsp baking powder

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

-dash of nutmeg

-1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats

-3 Tbsp Greek yogurt

-2 large eggs, beaten

-3 large bananas, super ripe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.

In a smaller bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or fork.  Add yogurt and eggs.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.  Batter will be fairly thick.  A splash of milk can be added.

Pour/scoop batter into pan and bake until the top is firm to the touch (45-50 minutes for a loaf of 15-20 minutes for muffins).  Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Flip out and cool on a wire rack for at least another 10 minutes.  Nom and enjoy!

Hot and fresh and oh so nomnom.

I know what you’re thinking - “Didn’t that girl get eaten by her final paper?” “Are you actually going to post things, or just say you are, like when you used to tell your mom you’d empty the dishwasher but continued to play Sims and wait for her to ask your sister?” “Are you going to make up your own recipes or just continue to mimic Joy the Baker’s every delicious move?”

1) No, I did not.  Though I did consume an entire packet of gum in one night.  That could have been just as fatal.

2) I promise the posts are going to be happenin’! Why? It’s the summer. My best friend is going to be leaving me/this continent for a month.  Food is just a wonderful thing.  Okay? I’m being totes forrealsies this time.

3) Errr… here’s the dealio: Joy the Baker is a food goddess.  And though I’m anticipating a lot of original-recipe-testing and oldies-but-goodies-making, I just know that I can always count on something perfect coming out of the oven/off the stove whenever I turn to Joy.  Also, I don’t have the money for too many disappointing food experiments.  That one time I made something up with buttery, flakey dough, which I stuffed it into mini-muffin tins and dolloped jam into and called the surprisingly edible result jam cups was a long time ago (12 years, to be exact).  The Omnomnom Fairy is rarely with me during these dark days of too-bitter-homemade-dressings and guacamole-gone-bad (both of which may or may not have happened yesterday).

Luckily, it’s summer and sunny and the kitchen is my second favorite place to be in the summer (the first = sitting in either my or Sophie’s basement, watching a) The Parent Trap or b) Titanic, and consuming youdon’tevenwannaknow amounts of sunflower seeds).  So, look for those pictures that make you feel hungry even though you just ate 3 fudgesicles and half of your body weight in delivered pizza (sure signs of summer) - I’ll be posting them :)

I made bubble tea!

It was good.

It was cheap.

It was easy.

(TWSS).

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One trip to the Asian grocery store I never knew existed and $1.99 later, I was filling up a pot with water to boil.  Here’s how I made this delicious iced coffee bubble tea, step by step:

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Serves 4

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Tapioca Bubbles:

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In a medium saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a rolling boil.  Pour in 1/2 cup of tapioca pearls and stir softly for a couple of minutes (until the powdery coating has gone and the pearls have plumped up).  Then, turn the heat down to medium, cover the saucepan, and let the pearls cook for 4 minutes.  Immediately drain and rinse with a gentle stream of warm water.  Set aside.

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I decided to make a chocolate-y iced coffee - something like a mocha Frappuccino.  Bubbles can be added to any drink: a fruity tea, iced tea, orange juice, lemonade, milk tea… the possibubbleteas are endless!

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  • 1 1/2 cups strong coffee
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar (if you use an artificial sweetener or Truvia, use 2-3 tablespoons as they are usually more sweet than natural sugar).
  • 2 tablespoons hot fudge sauce or 4 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 12 ice cubes

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Blend everything but the ice, then add the ice and finish blending until it’s liquid smooth.

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Scoop your preferred amount of bubble into a clear glass and pour in the coffee.  Grab a spoon and drink/eat away!

Have you visited Joy the Baker?  She’s kind of the greatest thing to happen to food since schools started selling raw cookie dough.  Anyhooverville, I decided to make her Spicy Chickpea Salad today because the gorgeous collage she put up was too reminiscent of Anna Maria Island - my favorite spring break destination.  After picking up a few ingredients that we didn’t have on hand, I got to work.

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Except, there’s really not that much work involved in this salad.  Technically, you could make this with a knife and fork.  I used a few tools - like a mortar and pestle, microplane, and juicer - only because I had them on hand and, indeed, because they made the job a tad bit easier.  But you’re talking to someone whose dorm made a key lime pie by hand.  You really can skip those handy helpers if you must.

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A few modifications - I skipped out on the jalepeño pepper because, quite franky, they’re too expensive ($2 per tiny pepper!).  According to my mom, we had some frozen (if you haven’t already learned, the freezer is my mom’s best friend), but I didn’t want mushy jalepeño ruining an otherwise delicious salad, so I omitted the fiery fiend.  I went with cashews instead of almonds and honey instead of agave - not really because of personal preference, but because we didn’t have the other options on hand.  However, I did buy the whole grain mustard.  It’s was only $1.50 and worth it - the mustard is a key flavor to the dressing and too much of a good thing would be the result of putting in pungent yellow mustard.

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Make it! Just do it! Stop walking towards that industrial-style shelving unit in your room to grab an Easy Mac.  If my dining hall is pretty typical, you could “steal” the following from yours: garbanzo beans, red onion, olive oil, spinach leaves (all from the salad bar), honey (from the tea station) and maybe even the lemon (just fill a cup up with those pieces they put by the water).  Your salad bar might even have a red wine dressing that you could substitute for the red wine vinegar.  If you really want, you could hit up Whole Foods, but only if you’re willing to dish out at least $15.  One of the greatest things you’ll learn at college: the value of Tupperware.  Use it, y’alls.