Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Newport Folk Festival

Though I claim I'm not a hippie, Jesse and I have one seriously crunchy tradition - every year, we go to the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island.  We started a few years ago, at the suggestion of a friend, and we've been going ever since.

The festival has been going on since 1959 (fun fact: my dad used to go, back in the day) and takes place at Fort Adams which is this sweet old fort right on the water.  I am not that into live music but I am into water views and sea breezes.  And festival food.  If you are into live music, however, some of the acts we got to see were Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Dawes, Jackson Browne, The Head & The Heart, Tom Morello, Trampled By Turtles, and Blitzen Trapper.

Here's the fort and the main stage.  These next few pictures are from Friday night, which was just about the only time all weekend there was a blue sky...

...and the view if I turned around and shot the water behind the concert...

A 360 view of the festival that my friend Ben took...

...and, of course, all sorts of tasty festival eats:

A lot of folk-loving boaters park right next to the concert and take in the music from there.  Every year, I say to Jesse, "Next year, we're getting a boat".  Though this clearly hasn't come to fruition yet, I think it would be an awesome way to enjoy the show:

If you are in New England next summer, I highly recommend checking out at least a day of the Newport Folk Festival.  It's usually the last weekend in July and tickets often sell out.  If you are interested, NPR has broadcasts from this year's show here.  Enjoy and stay hippie!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Special Request for Our Readers

Our dear friend Josh and his wife Mary are going through a very challenging time right now.  On July 23rd, Mary suffed both lung and heart failure and has been bravely battling for her life since.  You can read her full story here.  Please keep both Josh and Mary in your thoughts and prayers.  Community, faith, and prayer are very powerful things.  Thank you to our Hardly Houswives community for your support! 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Taste of River North

Taste of River North, or TORN (as Charlie likes to call it) was last weekend.  Chicago has some fantastic restaurants so it's always fun to check out the summer block parties that basically happen every weekend until the deep freeze takes over.   Here is a run down of some of the more yummy things we tried. 

The first booth we hit up was the English and Hubbard Inn booth.  Here is the English Crisp, Lobster Roll Club (lobster with finely chopped onion, bacon, and celery), and Bacon Wrapped Dates.  Deeeeelish. 


Here's a close up of the English Crisp because you know I love you.  Waffle fries topped with pulled pork, pickled cabbage, jalapenos, and melted cheese.  OKAY. 

Here is the paella and Cajun rubbed chicken from Moe's Cantina... 

Fleming's brought it with their Filet Slider with Caramelized Onion and Short Rib Slider with Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce.  Both of them were served with a side of chipotle mac n' cheese.  

Doesn't this look fun?  

We hit up Motel Bar for an awesome burger...

Wanna know the best thing we ate?  A simple steak quesadilla from Taco Joint.   

Cheesy beefy goodness.  Stay hungry!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

An Outdoor "Flower Wall"

My parents' house has a really wonderful garden.  It's a mix of flowers and greenery (mostly perennials) that my dad has been adding to over the years.  On our back porch, where my family eats all summer dinners (& has since we moved in when I was in 10th grade), my father has been cultivating a wall of Rose of Sharon using a casual interpretation of the espalier technique.  It sounds tricky, but lucky he offered to help me understand it so I can give it a try in my backyard.

Espalier is basically controlling the growth of a plant or tree so that it grows into a shape of your choosing.  That is really simplifying it (so feel free to pipe in, all of you espalier experts), but the basics are covered in my father's Rose of Sharon flower wall (seen in the pictures). 

He started with regular, young Rose of Sharon.  These usually grow like a small-ish, round tree (here are a few pictures of what they generally look like).  He planted them at the base of our porch and began tying branches of the Rose of Sharon to the posts of the porch until the branches were flat against the posts.  As the plant grew, he again tied the new growth to higher porch posts, so that the Rose of Sharon was now growing tall and flat, like the side of the porch, instead of round & bushy.  Here it is from the back.  You can see how the branches are tied flat against the porch posts:

Now, a few years later, the Rose of Sharon acts as outdoor wallpaper on the porch.  It's a beautiful backdrop to our family dinners and is growing taller every year.  My dad trims it back occasionally and ties branches that are growing out of place back to the porch.

Here's a shot from the third floor of our house (is it weird that I still call it "our house" even though I moved out 10 years ago?):

I spy my cement planter...
 So there you go... an intro lesson in fancy-pants gardening, courtesy of my dear dad.  Thanks, Dad... stay homey! 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Homemade Pesto Pizza

We aren't a big vegetarian household. In fact, it takes quite a bit of effort for me to think outside of the carnivorousness box.  For my Mom, however, it's as easy as 1, 2...CHEESE.  

My homey girl Caitlin was visiting while we were in Maine and my Mom made some of her famous pesto pizza complete with pine nuts and amazingness.

This is what you'll need:

Fresh Pizza Dough 
Garlic Powder
Mozzarella Cheese 
Toasted Pine Nuts 

You'll have forgive these photos.  My mother cooks at the speed of lightening.

Ok. Anyway.  Let the dough set on the counter top until it begins to puff up (about 30-45 minutes).   It will be much, much easier to manipulate.  Once you've been able to stretch it out a bit, drop the dough in the middle of the pan and stretch it out gently to the sides.  The dough will adhere to the pan, so use this to your advantage.

I don't have a picture for this because I blinked a couple of times, but to ensure the dough doesn't stick to the pan, my Mom sprays cooking spray UNDER the dough at this point.  So basically she lifts the dough, sprays, and places it back down.  You could also use cornmeal as well.

Next, sprinkle the dough with garlic powder.  Try to get at least some of it on the dough...

Next, spread a healthy serving of pesto on the dough...

Oh snap...

Once the dough is properly loved with pesto, add your shredded mozz.

I could eat it like this.  TRUST ME.  I'm a weirdo and have a thing for raw pizza dough.

Place it in a hot, 475 degree oven on the top rack until the dough begins to puff up and the cheese begins to melt.  Then, move it to a lower rack so the crust can get nice and crispy on the bottom. 

Yum to the tum....did someone say rum?

We toasted some pine nuts on the stove and then sprinkled them on top of the pizza once it came out of the oven.  Doesn't this look amazing?  I think so too.  Stay hungry! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Trifle Delicious

I hope you'll forgive me for overstepping my homey bounds and posting so many recipes, but I am cooking more than usual right now.  So much beautiful fresh produce to enjoy.  This morning I am sharing details on how I made a non-fussy trifle last weekend when hosting my family.

When neurotically reviewing the weekend's menu with my mom beforehand for the 10th time, I mentioned that I'd make a trifle for dessert on Friday night because I wanted something "light".  She kindly reminded me that a trifle isn't exactly light and, it's true, it had been a while since I had eaten one.  I looked up a bunch of recipes online, picked out the bits and pieces that I liked, purchased my ingredients, and tracked down a makeshift trifle bowl (actually a wide glass vase).

Since ingredient amounts will vary based on how big your trifle bowl is, I will give you a rough idea of what I used.  Trifles are so versatile that you can throw in what you like and it's pretty much guaranteed to taste delicious.  Except Jimmy Dean Sausage.  Sorry, Jaisa.

I used:

strawberries, sliced
cream cheese
heavy cream
pound cake, cut into squares
(& a last minute addition, a slice of chocolate cake)

I whipped up one packet of cream cheese with a half-pint of heavy cream and three tablespoons of sugar in my KitchenAid.  It got fluffy and beyond delicious.  I set it aside before I could eat the whole thing and started layering the ingredients into my dish.

 I alternated layers of fruit with the pound cake and the cream.  I didn't want it to be too tall (harder to get out pieces), so I piled the trifle to be about the height of a tall layer cake and then let it sit in the fridge until we were ready to eat it.

This sure isn't the prettiest trifle out there (I haven't searched Pinterest for the sake of my sanity and self-esteem), but it was simple, delicious, & summery.

What other summer desserts are you making right now?  Fruit tarts?  S'mores?  Let us know and stay hungry!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guacamole Salad

Horrifying funny story.  I was in Toronto last week for a conference.  I was catching up with some old colleagues of mine (read:  drinking and shouting at volumes unknown to man) until the wee hours of the night.  Me, being the genius that I am, decided I wanted a burger and poutine (a Canadian specialty of french fries slathered in gravy, cheese curds, and ham...yes, that actually exists).  I spotted a place called Hero Burger across the street, but there was a problem.  The street was completely under construction and totally blocked off.  Something get between me and a late night burger...NEVER!  So I scaled the fence and ripped my brand new Ann Taylor skirt... basically in half.  

Moral of the story?  Eat. More. Salad.

Someone got a little loco with avocados this week so I've been putting them into everything.  I make some RANDOM stuff sometimes but this turned out amazing.  You'll find several ingredients in this salad that you'd find in traditional guacamole...so voila!  Guacamole salad bizznotches.

1/2 Head of Radicchio 
1 Head of Romaine 
1/2 Cup of Yellow Cherry Tomatoes 
1 Ripe Avocado, Cut into Chunks
2-3 Tbs of Chopped Cilantro
Juice and zest from 1/2 a lime 
1/2 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder*
1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1 Teaspoon of Honey
Couple Pinches of Kosher or Sea Salt 

*You'll notice in the pic below that I used a sea salt, roasted garlic, rosemary seasoning.  It's delicious.  So...that's what I used.  However, regular garlic powder, fresh garlic, shallots, or even some chopped white onions would work too. 

Start by making your dressing.  Add the lime zest and juice, garlic powder, olive oil, honey and cilantro.  Now would be a good time to add your salt as well.  Taste and adjust.  If it's a little too tart, just add a bit more olive oil...and vice versa. 

The rest is very easy.  Chop up your lettuce and radicchio, add the tomatoes, the chunks of avocado, and then gently toss all of the ingredients with the dressing.  You want the chunks of avocado to stay whole.  

We willll we willl rock you.  

I will eat healthy any day as long as healthy tastes and looks like this.  Absolutely delicious.

You guys better try this and report back.  You'll be so happy you did.  Stay hungry!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bruschetta on the Grill

Jesse & I got a grill as a wedding present but just set it up at the beginning of the summer.  As a vegetarian, the grill isn't traditionally my cooking method of choice.  When we have barbecues, I usually just eat the sides or occasionally cook up a Gardenburger on the "vegetarian corner" I've mandated for our grill.

I've decided to embrace vegetarian grilling.  I made grilled corn on the cob recently and I've made a few rounds of this grilled tomato bruschetta.  This is a tasty, summery, & quick appetizer that allows you to combine rich grill flavor with fresh garden ingredients.  Looks like Jaisa and I are both into grilling bread these days, because this has a similar foundation to her Grilled Bread with Avocado recipe.

I used:

fresh tomatoes
basil from my herb garden
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar
bread (I used a baguette)
olive oil (for brushing)

First, I sliced up my baguette and brushed both sides of each piece with olive oil.  Grilling bruschetta was a suggestion from my acupuncturist and, when we discussed it yesterday, said that she slices the bread at a diagnoal for the greatest tomato to bread area.  SO smart.  I will be trying it that way next time but this time around it's just little slices...

Then I chopped up my tomatoes, julienned my basil, and sliced up my garlic.  I tossed together and added a splash of balsamic vinegar, plus salt & pepper.

Here's where I decided to use the grill as much as possible (here in New England, while it feels like summer will last forever, it'll be full-on fall before we know it).  I took a sheet of tin foil, rolled up the edges to fashion a makeshift cookie sheet (but thinner, so the tomatoes would grill better), and put the tomato mixture on top:

I left it on the grill for about 20 minutes at medium heat.  It smelled UNREAL when I took it out:

While the tomatoes cooled, I carefully grilled my bread pieces.  Checking periodically to make sure they didn't burn (too much), I flipped with tongs when they had grill marks:

I could have eaten these alone (when I saw Jaisa in Maine earlier this month, she said to her dad, "Caitlin is obsessed with bread") but knew there was the tasty tomato mixture waiting to top these crusty treats.

You could add cheese, but I didn't.  Weird, I know.  Maybe next time.  These are perfect without cheese, but could be a bit more substantial with a slice of fresh mozzarella underneath the tomatoes.  

I served these to my family when they were visiting and they went very quickly.  So quickly, in fact, that despite waiting patiently, Fred didn't even get a piece.  Enjoy grilling season and stay hungry!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

DIY Decorated Dishtowels (& More Spoons!)

My sister turned 23 last weekend and she chose to come up from DC and celebrate with us!  I was so excited!  She graduated last year and is living in her first apartment with her old college roommate.  I'm getting a little nostalgic for my early 20s, so let's move on.  I wanted to make her some cheery accessories to use in her kitchen and she mentioned a while back that she's going with a yellow color scheme.

I made some dishtowels for my father a while back and wanted to do something similar with cute yellow fabric.  The problem was, I couldn't find any yellow fabric I loved.  I went to a local independent fabric store that usually has a great assortment, but their yellow selection was severely lacking.  Time to switch up the plan a bit.  I grabbed some yellow rick-rack and a quarter yard of a yellow & blue striped fabric.

Both dishtowels were very simple.  First, I cut my rick-rack so that it would run the length of the towel. Then I folded over one side and put in a bunch of stitches so it wouldn't fray.

Then I flipped it over and sewed a straight line through the rick-rack right across the length of the towel.  Then I folded over the rick-rack and stitched through it on the other side (again, to stop fraying).

With the rick-rack towel done, I cut my length of fabric in half and folded so it covered one end of my second towel on both sides.  I ironed the whole thing in place (including the hem, folded under the fabric)...

...and then started to sew the fabric on.

Once the fabric was on, I sewed another line of stitches towards the top of the fabric to help it keep its shape.

I wrapped up the dishtowels and paired them with three bright yellow spoons (similar to these and these).  Fun & homemade gift for a loved one!  Happy birthday, Jules... stay homey!