Spiced Chocolate Syrup

spiced chocolate syrup

Spiced chocolate syrup flavored with coffee, anise and cinnamon.

The hot fudge sundae is to me, perfection in a bowl. Were I to have the option to choose my last meal (in the non-prison scenario), it would be a feature.  My requirements are simple:  vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, salted nuts, whip. No cherry or sprinkles for me, just two spoons, the faster to shovel it into my wide open mouth.

But sometimes, sometimes, fudge is too much and syrup is better suited. Maybe not for the ultimate sundae, but maybe for the ultimate cup ‘o joe, or for the tall glass of chocolate milk. Have you ever tried to make those things with fudge? Disaster. Or at least, it’s not an ideal scenario.  Alternatively, when a drizzle, not a dollop of something extra is needed, syrup is the go-to man.

spiced chocolate syrupspiced chocolate syrup

If you’re like me, you grew up with Hershey’s syrup. Yes, even in my everything homemade always household, we occasionally had some Hershey’s in the cupboard. But have you ever tried to make your own? It’s dreadfully, sinfully easy and when homemade comes with a license to improvise.  A license which I almost always take.

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Chai-Spiced Almond Meal Breakfast Bowl

Almond meal breakfast bowl

This chai-spieced almond meal breakfast bowl combines almond meal and flax seeds with ginger, cardamon, cinnamon and cloves and served with plain Greek yogurt and topped with pistachios, nectarine and a bit of chocolate

I talk to my friends and family and they’re always in constant awe that I manage to eat such exciting foods on a regular basis and assume that routine and boring never enter my kitchen.  Well, that would be an erroneous assumption.  Most of the time the things you see here I make once, no matter how much I may love them the first time I make them.  Not because I didn’t love them, but just because there are too many other dishes out there waiting to be loved too.

The truth is that a lot of what I eat is standardized:  Yogurt bowl for breakfast, salad for lunch and then whatever interesting concoction I cook up for the week for dinner.  It’s a lot of boring, but admittedly a lot less than it was four years ago. I can’t remember the last time I made myself an omelet for dinner and given my diet pre-blog that, my friends, is progress.

Almond meal breakfast bowlAlmond meal breakfast bowl

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Sunday Somethings

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Hello, Sunday.

After 9 years, the skyline just doesn’t get old here in Chitown.

How are you all?  Doing your part to properly weekend?

Mine has been everything I wanted to be.  After all the hulabaloo the past few weeks pre- and post- celebrating the big 3-5, I was happy this week to kick back a little and recharge, staying inside away from the sweatiness, prepping myself for the busy-ness of next weekend, and subsequent travel weeks to come all too soon (and still not soon enough).

Side note: My fantasy football draft is next weekend, and I have done zero research. Who has advice? Comment below. 

The internet! Though I’ve somehow managed to keep myself off of the newsreel this week, I did walk away with some nuggets.  Here we go:

I’m not really sure how I found this gem, but reading it brought tears to my eyes.  The Pan Am flight out of Saigon that changed lives forever.

The price of an Olympic medal is more than just endless dedication and determination.

Related:  This breaks my heart because it hits pretty close to home in some ways.  The humiliating journey to Rio for two incredible athletes.

This seems obvious to me, but science now backs that traveling makes us far happier than that which can be bought.  

There are no words, only sadness.

My recent binge of Murdoch Mysteries makes me, in a way, long for the days of ceremony and civility, but also reminds me that with those niceties comes a time where women had no voice, no vote, no career and bloody awful corsets. We have come a long way and have women like Jeanette Rankin to thank.  But to be honest, how much has actually changed in the last 100 years?

Related:  If male athletes were described the same way as women…

I’ve only made like 3 of these things. Apparently I have failed summer, and I have work to do.

Remember that it’s still ice cream season, so you should make this and this soon.

That’s all I’ve got. What caught your eye this week?

Have a happy week! It’s gonna be a good one.

Written after chocolate syrup making.  Stay tuned.

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Roasted Beet and Paneer Salad

Roasted Beet and Paneer Salad

Roasted beets and hazelnuts are tossed with fried panner and dressed with a creamy horseradish-dill dressing.

We’ve made it through the week. Huzzah!

Today’s recipe is from The Indian Family Kitchen, this month’s cookbook club selection.    To be honest, I wasn’t very excited about the book. The recipes didn’t seem all that interesting, and overall it was a pretty tame take on Indian cuisine, borrowing some flavor, textures and ingredients from the traditional, but boasting few similarities to the food that my family friends make, the recipes I have in my own Indian cookbooks, or the selections found on Devon Avenue here in Chicago.  But, once again, the potluck dinner that we had comprised of the book’s dishes hit all the notes and flavors and ended up a light and delicious summer meal.  Perfect, if I’ll admit it.

I chose to make the Roasted Beet and Paneer Salad, mostly because it jives with salad season, partly because it touted roasted beets and a little bit because I’d never before cooked paneer.  Here we go.

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Elote Dip

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Elote dip: roasted corn, mixed with yogurt, cheese, lime, cilantro and spices.

I’m not sure about your neck of the woods but here in Chicago, summer street fest are all in full swing.  For us that means closed streets, more traffic, crowds, heat, cover bands (such as my fave, Rod Tuffcurls!) and street food.  Some of these “novelties” I can take or leave but street food. Well, that’s just God’s gift to us for suffering through the rest.

One very popular menu item sure to be present at almost every other fest is elote.  Elote is grilled corn, slathered in a mayo/cheese/lime/cilantro mixture.  Easy to transport and a joy to eat, it’s a favorite.

Unknownelote dip

Unless you’re like me, and have and have major issues eating anything that I have to eat Henry the VIII style, surely getting food not only all over my face, but my shirt, arms, hair and shoes as well. I’m a mess. Also, I don’t particularly like getting my hands dirty when I eat, and I blame a still-undiscovered childhood trauma for that phobia.

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Sunday Somethings

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When you can bake a better cupcake that you can buy, you must resign yourself to the task. Because on, one’s birthday, no one should eat a subpar cupcake.

Hello, Sunday. Hello, 35.

That’s right. Thirty five years ago on what I hear was a very hot August day in Buffalo, New York, I emerged kicking and screaming and a nice jaundice-y yellow. My color has since normalized, though I’ve been known to still kick and scream on occasion.

It’s not that I’m necessarily looking forward to adding another candle to the cake (or entering a new age bracket on those survey things), but I’m looking forward with hope to what 35 may bring.

I’m going to admit that 34 wasn’t the best year.  Nothing bad happened, but nothing particularly extraordinary either.  It was just sort of there, and in hindsight it seems that the only worthwhile accomplishment that I had was adopting Crawley (which in its own small way, is taking on a sort of responsibility I’ve shirked thus far).  I’ve felt stuck and have been without much luck, trying to figure out how to be unstuck and, in speaking to many of my like-aged friends, it’s a feeling in which I’m not alone.   For the first time since I moved here over 9 years ago, I’ve seriously considered life outside the 606, however scary and radical that change would be.

In the end I decided to stay put, not quite done with what Chicago has to offer, possibilities peeking through of late that suggest some sort of something might be on the horizon, and I figured I’d stick around and see.  

And finally, long ago I gave up the notion of plans and timelines because history shows that those plans were at most best-laid, and the timelines never met. So as I look ahead and the next 364 I strive:

To be more kind, to others and more importantly myself.

To be more open (along the same lines as my word-of-the-year, welcome).

To be more spontaneous.

To never stop learning.

To be more grateful, for my friends and fortunes.

And with that, I ask you for any life advice to carry with me as I enter #Halfwayto70, so that I may learn from your experience as I start to forge my own.

And with that, off to the Renaissance Fair!

#Thisis35

Written after a birthday sweat

P.S. Mom pointed out that my hands are huge. I pointed out that I got them from someone…

 

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Treasure Island Ice Cream Cake

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Different flavored ice cream is layered together with crushed cookies, nuts and candy bars, and frozen solid into this Monster Treasure Island  Ice Cream Cake. 

How ‘bout them Olympics, yah?  Good stuff! Needless to say, my attention has been grabbed.

But on to today’s delight.

To me, a birthday wouldn’t be a birthday unless some version of an ice cream cake is involved. Growing up in the hot hot hot of Florida, four times a year, once for each of our birthdays, a Carvel ice cream cake made an appearance in our house (at least four, special occasions added a few more).  In an ideal world we’d have one for each season, but in our household we had two summer babies and two winter ones, so our ice cream cakes were concentrated when its sweet relief was needed most, and least.

Once we moved out of Florida, we had trouble tracking a Carvel down and dissatisfied with other options, Mom started making her own ice cream cakes, flavor dependent on the recipient.  And whatever Mom does, Mom does well.

This version of the ice cream cake is her most recent incarnation.  I like to call it Mom’s Monster Tresure Island Ice Cream Cake, and when you see the ingredients, you’ll understand why.

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The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich

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The ultimate breakfast sandwich with smashed avocado, maple-smoked bacon, eggs, cheese all on freshly toasted sourdough.

Is there anything I love more than a sandwich?

Maybe my friends, family, pets and ice cream, but the thing with a sandwich is that it truly can be everything I want it to be (and even include ice cream).  If made well, there is nothing better. If made poorly well, there is no greater disappointment.

In reflecting on my favorite foods for the birthday week, it was a bit hard since I feel like I’ve hit them all in years past.  BUT, I dug deep and though breakfast, and the breakfast sandwich was the obvious choice.  I mean, when I fly, one of the greatest joys of early morning air travel for me is the pre-flight Egg McMuffin.  Perhaps not the highest quality or most impressive sandwich, but who doesn’t love an Egg McMuffin?  

I had just so happened been emailing with Biscuit about food (what else?  Well, maybe The Single Life and Netflix binges) and she was describing her perfect dinner of late- the BLT. I decided to expand on this with what I’m calling THB’s Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich.

I thought hard about it- there really are endless possibilities.  The cheese needed to be strong enough to cut through the other flavors, because there is nothing worse than half-melted cheese on a sandwich that adds nothing significant other than calories. And then, what of the other accouterments?  French-style with caramelized onions and Gruyere?  Tex-Mex with pepper jack and cholula?  Italian with fresh tomato, mozzarella and pesto?   But after ample consideration, what eventually landed on my plate comprised the following:

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Sunday Somethings

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Hello, Sunday.

As I sit over breakfast this morning, I can’t even remember what happened this week; perhaps a sign of aging, or preoccupation, but I do know the Olympics are under way and that’s all I need to know.  I love the Olympics, summer far more than winter, and I can’t wait to watch the best of the best for the next three weeks. The games and its athletes have always captured my awe and respect and I think in this world of participation trophies and false praises, they truly deserve all the hoopla aimed at them.

So let’s go, Team USA!

I’ve also found myself a new series to binge on:  Murdoch Mysteries. Think Bones ala Victorian age Toronto.  I can’t stop watching.

Finally, it’s birthday week and as I look down the tunnel with 35 at the end of it, I’m looking forward to sharing a few favorites over the week.  Biscuit and I were in deep discussion about the first, and Mom gets all the credit for making the second.

Let’s see if my somethings can help fill some holes into this week’s events: 

THIS is why the Olympics are great. Cue the tears.

Related: The US swim team is at it again. After being my favorites back in London with Call Me Maybe, they now show us how to Party in the USA (FF to the end).

Related, too:  Swimming for her life.  Can any of us even fathom doing anything close to this?

Let’s make an effort to stop dressing like crap, shall we?  I’m sure no where else in the world does athletic wear constitute an appropriate non-gym outfit.

I think we can all afford $30 a year for paid parental leave. Don’t you?

This makes some sense, because all my single ladies are quite happy!

Chicago for barbecue?  I can vouch that it’s pretty damn good here in the middle.

Environmentalism was a central point of the opening ceremony, and rightly so. Here’s how Mexico City is doing its part.

Let’s eat all the fried things!

And finally, man’s best friend. If you can find anyone or anything that will run 150 miles with you, you don’t let that friend go.

That’s all folks. Have a good week!

Written over coffee, coffee, coffee!

 

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Thai-Style Pulled Pork

Thai-Style Pulled Pork

 
Thai-style pulled pork cooked in the slow cooker and topped with a fresh cilantro-lime salad

Hello (again) August!

It’s birthday month, and if you’ve been with me through this journey you know that every August here on THB take you all through my favorites; from tacos to barbecue to allthecakeandicecream, it really is the most delicious few weeks of the year (for me).

It’s sometimes hard to justify eating my faves at the time of the year when the sun is at its hottest and humidist, meaning often times I’m at my crankiest.  I suffer through it for the sake of the veal paprikash and ease the temps with ice cream cake (more on that next week!).  And when turning on the oven is only done for the necessity of cake, I find other ways to get my favorites in and for that, I thank the slow cooker.

A few years ago I mastered (IMO) the art of pulled pork with the righteous pulled pork tacos with apple cider barbecue sauce and apple slaw, and with that knew that I’d never eat a try, tough pork again.  Flash forward to now and I’ve done it again, this time with the help of Food & Wine and in the style of Thailand; pulled pork seasoned with all the good things Thai, slow cooked and leaving lots of the good stuff juices to make a very delicious coconut curry sauce.

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