And finally, it’s fall.

Autumn is the kind of season that needs to be savored. I feel like I should apologize to anyone who doesn't live somewhere with a pronounced seasonal change, who doesn't get to watch the greens turn to yellows and crimsons, doesn't feel the crisp October air. It's probably one my favorite things about the world. And every year, I think how much shorter fall has become, how quickly it's flown by. So every year after that, I try to make it last longer, try to enjoy every bit of it to the fullest. How do I do that? Partially, it's talking: telling everyone who will listen that fall is the most beautiful season and---Did you know when leaves turn colors, they're just shedding their outer layer and revealing what was underneath all along? (It's true!) Partially, it's slowing down: walking outside, breathing in the fresh air, opening the windows. And partially, maybe mostly, it's eating: pumpkin-flavored desserts, rich stews, hot apple cider. You can eat these things any time of year, of … [Read more...]

Red Mango, downtown Naperville

When you go to Red Mango in downtown Naperville, by all means sample the Green Tea frozen yogurt. It's one of two kinds available (the other being Original) and sounds absolutely refreshing, especially on a hot day like it was on the afternoon of the Riverwalk Art Fair. Just walking down the street had me sweating, so our group of four walked into this new frozen yogurt place, hoping to cool down. The short lines, available seating and air-conditioning (OK, mostly the air-conditioning) made up for the flavor of the Green Tea yogurt I tried, which I could best liken to a smooth, cold version of cottage cheese. One spoonful was enough to turn me off, but I did hear from at least one reliable source that it grows on you, so, really, give it a shot. The allure of Red Mango is simple, beyond its being a cool place to escape the heat: all the yogurt is 100% natural, as in, no unhealthy additives, all-natural ingredients, certified Kosher and gluten-free. In fact, it might actually be a … [Read more...]

Ginger Cookies, Big & Soft Style

When I started this site almost two months ago, I made a couple rules for myself: 1) No posting on weekends, 2) Post at least two or three times a week and 3) Recipes, restaurant reviews and stories---that's it. Now, it seems we've settled into a rhythm, you and I, with my rules holding things in tact. I'm having fun. I hope you are, too. I have yet to break my weekends, and, for the most part, I've kept up my weekly schedule. Of course there was the cookbook review two days ago (bonus, I say!), but otherwise content is also as planned for. So here's the only problem, as I see it: without knowing it, I mean, without ever setting things this way in my mind and definitely not out loud to anyone, I seem to have added another rule: 4) Write about a weekly cookie. Have you seen this happening? It started innocently enough with the peach cookies that taste like little cobblers and then, obviously, I had to tell you about biscotti. But then things started happening so fast: the … [Read more...]

Go Casserole Crazy!

Well. That was something, wasn’t it? Thanks to a repaired line (which had been flooded and severed, the latter they think by a mouse), I’m now back, linked with the Internet world again and, short of any other rodents or rainstorms getting in my way, back on my regular posting schedule. And, since downpours followed by hot sunshine followed by rain followed by hot sunshine followed by no Internet followed by two trips shopping without buying anything are the kind of things to make a girl want some comfort, that’s what I’m bringing today. Comfort casseroles, in fact. I like casseroles. They go in one dish, which means less to clean up and less to carry to a dinner party or potluck (which they're perfect for!). They are warm and comforting, served piping hot out of the oven and filled with ooey-gooey cheese or a wonderful hash of rich flavors. And they are straight out of a 1940s photograph, my grandma in her classic vintage apron, standing over her white oven, preparing … [Read more...]

Sending Warm Thoughts, and This

Rainy Days

Seattle or London would be nice places to live, I’ve thought many rainy days, what with the foggy, wet weather most of the year, the green, green grass and trees. When we have rainy weather here in Chicago, and this year we have had it a lot, I am the type to tell you, over and over again, how much I love rain and dark skies and the way everything looks like it’s getting cleaned off. I’ll draw in deep breaths of the air, sighing about how fresh everything smells, how just like spring, or fall, depending on the time of year. And when we stand near a window, watching a mighty thunderstorm, the continual dripping of water like music on the roof, I’ll clap my hands together like a child, as happy as I ever was. This last weekend, Chicago received a record-setting rainfall. And the byproducts of this downpour, beyond my eager face against the window, were closed-off streets, cancelled plans, all kinds of flooding. I spent Saturday morning mopping up damage in the dining room, a bedroom, … [Read more...]

to slow down

I like the kitchen best when I'm alone, usually at night, when the house is quiet and the phones aren't ringing and I can take as long as I want to chop, stir, clean up. It's comforting, this opportunity to organize, create, make something delicious and satisfying from a mix of individual ingredients. And it's relaxing, as I can just go at my own pace and enjoy the process. It's like the way some people feel about knitting. Or running. Or maybe, I don't know, bird-watching. Cooking is repetitive---the gathering of ingredients, the combining things together, the putting into the oven and waiting; and it's reliable---a cookie recipe will, most likely, give you cookies, at least if the recipe's any good at all; yet it's also surprising, almost magical, that such wonderful results come out of such a little bit of time and energy. I'd imagine that's kind of what a bird-watcher could say, too: that he likes sitting, sitting, waiting, waiting---these predictable actions become familiar. … [Read more...]

Trust & Cooking

One of the fringe benefits of starting a food blog, I'm finding, is that people start to think you can cook. Even my mom, herself Chef Extraordinaire, asked if she could e-mail me recipes from time to time. (This is high praise, indeed.) She told me the other day that she never expected this, me to enjoy food. My brother was the born chef; I used to hate the kitchen. She said it with pride in her voice, like she, finally, knew I was indeed her child, having inherited not just her stubbornness but her skill. She asked me to bake a cake for her friend, she sent me the recipe for a marinade. And then, one Saturday afternoon, while I was standing next to her in the kitchen, she told me to flip her burgers while she went outside. You'd have to know her to understand, but this was a Very Big Deal. Mom doesn't entrust cooking duties to anyone. This was, essentially, the equivalent of Here are the Keys to The Mustang or Take the Pin Number to my ATM. This was trust. Just between … [Read more...]