Kelly the Culinarian: October 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. THIS was my birthday dinner. Aged steak (half a filet, half a ribeye) from Artizone, roasted broccoli and potatoes, burst tomatoes in garlic oil, caramelized onions and slow-cooked mushrooms. With a 2014 Goose Island Bourbon County. Yep. I'm a very luck girl.

2. Next week, I'll be spending time at the ALDI test kitchens in Batavia. Life goal = achieved. I've wanted to participate in this program for years, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how it's all done.

3. Napoleon is not having a good week. He's spent much time with Marvel, and taken to hiding within the barstools in the kitchen. I don't know why he feels this is a magic forcefield, but apparently it makes him feel better.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This is 31

Ah, another year older, another year wiser. Probably not, but I shall try. The past year has been breathtakingly amazing to me, so I can't wait to see what 31 holds. Birthdays aren't nearly as exciting as they used to be, but they are a great way to see how far I've come in the intervening year. I celebrated with breakfast in bed and presents:
For the record, she got me a chain mail pot scrubber, PB2 and a pie plate. So that's kind of random.

A much-needed new briefcase.

An express steak delivery from Artizone, which they not only moved up earlier in the day because it was my birthday, but also stocked with additional goodies because why not.
A delicious adventure that ended in sampling Goose Island's limited release of Big Train (it is amazing. Get it - if you can):
And Froyo. With a color-change spoon. Because that is mandatory people.

It was quieter birthday that made me chuckle in contrast to my 21st birthday bash a decade ago. This was also my first birthday in years I haven't been traveling for work, so it was wonderful just to be home with the ones I love. Life changes so fast, and I'm lucky in that I know the next year will only be better than the last. Here's to the early 30s!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Farm to Table Community Dinner

It's amazing how food brings people together. About a year ago, I started hosting a Sunday dinner at my house. I can't always make it happen every week because of travel or races, but I make and effort. I didn't want to be alone. I wanted to forge a new family as I pieced my life back together.

That's a bit of the idea behind Paul Sippil's Farm to Table Wellness Community. He sought to bring together influential, interesting people to share a meal and conversation, to elevate eating from a mechanical process all animals require to a cultural experience. He started this endeavor as an answer to a years-long battle with insomnia, which I can relate to all too well. He spent the sleepless hours researching, networking and planning, learning more about the farm to table movement and how industries are engaging with it. He also invited me to one of the dinners at Local Foods Chicago, a beautiful facility in a former warehouse that provides space and resources for a variety of vendors. The meal was enlightening to say the least.

Dinner was prepared by the chefs behind Handcut Foods, a school lunch vendor offering alternative menus featuring local produce and healthier options. What was unique about this particular engagement was that all the food, from the nonalcoholic drinks to the dessert and table decorations, everything we ate was foraged or unwanted food, often referred to as "seconds." It's perfectly acceptable food that is either cosmetically damaged or close enough to the expiration date that consumers would likely pass it over for other offerings.

The featured speaker augmented the theme: Zero Percent is an app that connects restaurants with food banks and charities that can accept food that would otherwise be discarded. By Thanksgiving, the app will have prevented 1 million pounds of food from entering landfills and instead, used it to feed those in need.

The food was incredible - we started with a broth that was rich and satisfying, moving on to perhaps the best salad I've ever had. It featured foraged hen of the woods mushrooms and a bread made of spent grain from Begyle (I usually use my leftovers from brewing for spent grain dog treats).

The main course featured kalettes (tiny little kale flowers), a delicious spent grain porridge and brined ham sirloin from LePryor Farm. It also had a carrot green pesto and pawpaw puree, rounding out an entree of foods I normally wouldn't encounter.

And the highlight of the meal (or any in my opinion), was the dessert. I'm a chocolate girl through and through, so this is an entree I wouldn't normally order. It was delightful. We had a Hewn Bread pudding with homemade raisins and candied citrus peel. It was absolutely amazing. The formerly stale bread melted in your mouth and the crunchiness of the citrus peel highlighted the creamy custard of the pudding. Basically a party in my mouth.

Beyond getting a great meal, I met so many interesting people brought together by a passion for food. Julia Child had it right: Food people are the best people.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I went to an awesome fall menu preview at Jellyfish Chicago this week that was quite interesting. The decor at this place was incredible. I felt not nearly cool enough being there, but I faked my way through. While noshing on sushi, we tried their new line of specialty cocktails. If you're in the Gold Coast, try the One Night Stand. It's Don Julio Blanco, Cointreau, lime juice, simple syrup and cranberry. Not too sweet but definitely delicious.

2. Fun fact: I've been stung by a Portuguese Man o' War Jellyfish and survived to tell the tale. It made consuming this jellyfish at Jellyfish even more satisfying.

3. I've been kind of obsessed with Tasty videos lately. I realize they just make cooking look easy by animating food porn, but it's mesmerizing nonetheless. I recently made the acorn-stuffed squash, subbing wild rice instead of breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and it was amazing. Buzzfeed for the win, again!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cooking with Kelly: Fall #QuicheFeast Recipe

Fall is in the air, so quiche is in my oven. The fine folks of Cabot Creamery partnered with King Arthur Flour to come up with #QuicheFeast, a competition to crown the best culinary creation on crust (I like alliteration and I will not scale back on it). I wanted to make something simple with ingredients I had on-hand, but that was seasonally inspired. What I came up with was roasted butternut squashed with slow-cooked portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions coupled with fluffy eggs. The flaky crust that I speckled with extra-sharp cheddar really made the dish. My secret? Chill the dough before rolling, then again once it's in the pan. I also precooked the crust for 10 minutes at 425 degrees before adding the filling to keep it crispy.

I served this up with a nice side salad, but you could easily go brunch with a quiche by serving it alongside a fruit salad or yogurt parfait. Seems like a pretty classy offering with mimosas, too.

Be forewarned, this is a labor of love. I started the crust the night before, and roasted the veggies while I was making dinner. The crust turns out better, in my opinion, if it has time to rest and absorb the water to create the gluten. Like anything else, if you cut it into smaller steps, it's not all that daunting.

Quiche Crust Recipe
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup grated Extra Sharp Cabot Cheese
5 Tablespoons cold butter, cubed
4 Tablespoons ice water

Whisk together the flour and salt, then work in the shortening. Add the cheese and butter, and cut in until the mixture is somewhat combined. It will be an uneven mess, but stick with it. Add the water and start to mix in - it will barely hold together, so dump it all out on a silicone mat or parchment paper. Start kneading and add additional water as needed to form a cohesive dough. Roll it out into a circle and an inch thick, then refrigerate for at least a half hour to let the butter get to working.

Next, remove from the fridge and place in between two sheets of plastic wrap. Roll it out into about a 12-inch circle. Place in the pie pan, trim the edges and return to the fridge or freezer for another 10 minutes. Prebake it for 10 minutes a 425 degrees, then fill with the quiche and move on.

Fall Flavors Quiche Recipe
1/4 onion, sliced
4 ounces portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 butternut squash, cubed
1 cup chopped spinach
5 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
1 cup Cabot herb and garlic cheese, shredded

To start, I tossed the onions and mushrooms in half the oil and cooked them in a pan on low heat for 20 minutes, or until the onions were caramelized thoroughly. I added the garlic in the last 5 minutes to prevent burning. The butternut squash also got the olive oil treatment, with the addition of salt and pepper. I roasted those on a baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees for a half hour, turning once, or until they were browned and crisp.

To assemble, whisk the eggs thoroughly with milk. This is key so that the filling floats within the eggs instead of sinking to the bottom. Fold in cheese and spinach, then add the remaining ingredients.

Pour into the pie shell and bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 375, or until the middle is set and the top shows signs of browning. Allow to cool and continue setting for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Monday, October 19, 2015

#Whalez Beer Tasting

Social media is good for a lot of things. Networking. Researching products. Wasting a lot of time. Or in my favorite instance, finding people who share your passion for craft beer and have the time and money to hunt down treasured bottles. Last night, I had the rare opportunity to attend a Whalez tasting in which each bottle was valued at more than $100 and would be difficult to come by at your corner liquor store.

It was a dream come true.

Over the course of five hours, we tasted samples of the bottles, conversing about the notes, smells and viscosity of each. I felt only slightly snooty in the pursuit, too. In the end, my favorite bottle was perhaps the most expensive and exclusive on the table (just like ... ), Mornin' Delight by Toppling Goliath. It smells like coffee, is thicker than your average stout and finishes with a distinctive maple syrup flavor that's only slightly smokey. As it warmed up, you could taste the chocolate notes and the bitterness of the coffee bean dissipated. It combines all my favorite flavors: syrup, chocolate and coffee, all while obscuring it's a 12 percent ABV beverage.

I am beer spoiled and quite blessed.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I got a new shipment from Cabot and King Arthur Flour! It's quiche season and as such, we've been challenged to craft our best savory pie creation. I already have a recipe in mind and look forward to taking to the kitchen this weekend. My happy place :)

2. I may have found the perfect burrito. My lifelong question could be concluded. I had this burrio al carbon at La Placita this week and it changed my life. It was actually a touch salty (blasphemy, right?), but the flavors were spot on. The meat was charred, the bean were the appropriate consistency and the cheese/sour cream combo was the perfect about of silkiness to compliment the crunchy fillings. My heart went a pitter patter.

3. Halloween is in full effect at my house, but I think I need a little more for my front porch. A spooky welcome mat might be in order to pull it all together. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Race Regrets

Ever have the reverse of buyer's remorse on race day? I do. When I spectated at Ironman Wisconsin, I got that familiar tingle of race day jitters, followed by pangs of regret that I wasn't racing. The fact is, I might have made it to the finish line, but I was in no condition to race.

I felt the same way watching the start of the Chicago Marathon. I don't think I could've run a marathon right now. The furthest I've run since Pigman was 13 miles and while it went well, that does not a marathon training cycle make. I think the longest run I've completed this summer was 14 miles.

But still.

There's something at races you just can't replicate alone. It's the collective adrenaline and nerves and joy. I don't usually listen to music when I run because I like to hear the sounds of hundreds (sometime thousands) of pairs of sneakers hitting the pavement. It's electric.

Here are the stories that give me serious FOMO:

Although, I will say this. The Chicago Marathon medal looks like a manatee.

From Bethany - Read her recap
Still, I would love to have it hanging on the wall.

Next year ....

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. To my own amazement, I won a contest from Artizone for $150 in store credit. In addition to hand-delivering my gift cards, last night a friendly delivery guy came by with a giant bag of fresh produce to boot. I got one pound of strawberries, pears, apples, kiwis, broccoli and golden beets. Not sure what to do with the beets, but I'm super impressed by the hospitality.

2. Katie, one of the runners that I met when I ran my marathon PR in Vermont with #CabotFit, just launched an amazing cookbook featuring all things maple syrup. Maple is beautiful and features both sweet and savory iterations highlighting all the glories that is maple. I'm so impressed and can't wait to get cooking. I want to be Katie when I grow up.

3. It's true - Poley is a senior citizen. He had his first senior wellness check up Monday and passed, with clean teeth, strong lungs and happy joints. Basically, he's a rock star dog that will live to chase another squirrel for at least another decade, I hope.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Win it Wednesday: $50 at Vin Chicago

Remember my super awesome experience at Vin Chicago this weekend? It seemed selfish to keep this experience to myself, so I'm sharing it with one lucky reader who will net a $50 gift card to check out any location themselves. I'd highly recommend signing up for Vin Chicago's newsletter so you can preview what you'll see in stores, and definitely go on a Saturday to enjoy the tastings. Also, if you're not sure what to buy or what pairs well, just ask the staff. They'll be happy to recommend a wine for tacos or scallops or spaghetti or chocolate. And if you're buying for a party or friend, the tasting notes they'll send you via e-mail will ensure you can pass along the cool stories you hear in the store with expert care.

Ready to win(e)? This giveaway is limited to readers living within Illinois, which is where Vin Chicago can deliver. The gift card is valid online, or at any of their retail locations. Enter below and Rafflecopter will randomly select a winner on Oct. 15.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Sip with a Story at Vin Chicago

I had a super exciting weekend! It started with a wine tasting at Vin Chicago in Naperville. It's such a cool place and concept that I spent more than two hours there, and could have stayed longer. What I learned is that Vin Chicago makes it easy to be the life of a party by bringing a cool wine with an interesting story. Instead of picking up some random $15 bottle of wine at Costco while also securing a pallet of peanut butter, wipes and Tide, Vin Chicago's staff will get you in and out with a story and a unique bottle that's competitively priced.

Every single person who works there has a passion for wine. What's more, Vin Chicago is at its core a value-based retailer. The staff collects interesting wines with exceptional tasting notes, but only if the price point rings true. The wine buyer said that there are some great wines they taste, but if the price point isn't compelling, they don't make it onto the shelves at Vin Chicago. And they're not interested in the stuff you can get at Target. They want new, novel, exciting and unique.

The story of Vin itself is pretty interesting. It was the first seller to get a license after prohibition, and started as Wine Discount Center in quite an interesting area of Chicago. Even now, the Elston store is the only retailer in an industrial area featuring tanners and welding shops. The initial concept was the retailer would buy incredible wines and sell them very cheaply, skipping over the banner discount brands to something that's worth talking about.

In addition to advice, Vin Chicago has samples. Every Saturday each location offers quite an expansive array of sampling, which changes seasonally and based upon what the staff is geeked out about. But if you can't make it into the store, they've got an option for you - a newsletter shares the expansive and rotating menu of wines that are coming in or particularly special that week.

The final step that ensured Vin Chicago secured a very special place in my heart is that they'll e-mail you all the notes for the wines you purchase, which means you can actually recall all the stories and buzzwords that will make you sound smarter at parties. I also found their website to be useful for party planning, especially the section with 90 point wines for less than $10. The holidays are right around the corner, and I like having a few bottles of wine on hand for gatherings or hostess gifts that won't break the bank but I know are solid choices.

Want to visit and learn for yourself? Stay tuned, I MIGHT be able to help you out with that ...

Friday, October 2, 2015

What I'm Reading (and Watching) Now

I've fallen in love with my treadmill again, mostly because it's damn easy to hammer out a few miles before work or during lunch or after dinner when it's just too dark or crappy outside. This also means I'm logging more time with my SmartTV. I don't have cable, and haven't for more than a year. I do have AmazonPrime, NetFlix and HBOGo, as well as a digital antenna on my main television.

The Martian - I just finished listening to this book on tape via Audible and I can't wait to see the movie this weekend at the drive in. My sister said it was the best book she's read this year and quite possibly her favorite, which I must agree with. A great tale with multiple narrators and so much nerdy I can barely contain myself.

Ask a Manager - Rachael turned me onto this blog and it is endlessly amusing. It's hilarious to think there are so many bad employees and employers out there, and how truly atrocious working can be. My recent favorite is an employee who was asked to change his name. Wut?

SVU - My favorite of the Law and Order iterations, SVU is back on Netflix and I just can't get enough. I love that Mariska Hargitay has taken a more central role in recent seasons. Fun fact: In college, we would stop working on Tuesday nights at the school newspaper to watch the new episodes. It was quiet time in the office.

Extant - Ah, season two. I'm conflicted. The sophomore effort took the show in a different direction, and leaves the third season veering even further away. I'm starting to feel about this the way I felt about Fringe; awesome first few episodes, then things got weird(er).

Creepy Catalog - A subforum of Thought Catalog, I really enjoy the fiction writing and nuances. It's free, it's creative and it's a bit inspiring during a dull part of my day.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. Welcome to my favorite month! It's October, which has so many highlights for me - my birthday, seven years in my house, Halloween, the return of cool-weather running and apple/pumpkin season. Not to mention the triumphant return of boots, scarves, tights and long sweaters. This is my time.

2. Another exciting October development - I'm getting a new deck! The whole development is getting composite decking and 50-year guaranteed trim. They also came around and painted the trim everywhere, so I guess the house is getting a bit of a facelift. My Halloween decor is going to look superb against the updates.

3. It took Napoleon a month, but he finally de-squeaked one of those indestructible puppy toys. It's nice to know that at age 7, he's still destroying things with the gusto and efficiency of a puppy. May that always be the case.