Sunday, February 27, 2011

If at first you don't succeed...

I love the recipe I recently posted for the chocolate cream cheese cupcakes so much so that I decided to experiment. Sometimes with baking and/or cooking, things don't always turn out the way you plan. And that's what happened with this experiment.

I wanted to make a similar recipe but I wanted the cream cheese part to be raspberry cream cheese. I love chocolate and raspberry together. Such a good combination of flavors! I bought raspberries yesterday. To my disgust, I opened them today and the bottom layer of raspberries were covered in black mold. Yack! Of course I was in the middle of baking so it wasn't feasible to run up to the store and take them back. Luckily I had some frozen strawberries in the fridge that I could use as a substitution.

The chocolate part of the cupcake turned out terrific. The strawberry cream cheese part unfortunately did not. It oozed and flattened out:

They kind of look like cookies in that picture. Luckily they taste good regardless of the fact that the cream cheese part oozed. I guess I'll have to keep experimenting until they are perfect. It's a tough job to taste-test but somebody has to do it. Ha! Once I get it perfected I'll post the recipe.

Also, I'm very excited about my new blog look. I designed a new banner and gave my blog a little Spring face-lift. Spring is right around the corner and I can't wait!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blueberry Pie

I love pies. There’s something comforting about having a pie baking in the oven on a cold winter day. The smell that fills the house is incredible. I decided that I needed to (finally) use up the blueberries I picked last summer. This pie used up all but one cup of my frozen blueberries. I will have to make something special with the last of them and I will definitely have to go blueberry picking again this year.

Printable Recipe


1 pre-made pie crust
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

2/3 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/4 cup butter softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour


1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Roll the pre-made pie crust onto a 9 inch pie pan. If there is any dough hanging over the sides of the pan, fold it inward so the dough is level with the pie pan. Put all 4 cups of the blueberries in the pie pan.

2. In a medium-sized bowl combine the granulated sugar, corn starch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the lemon juice, pomegranate juice and the vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour the mixture evenly over the blueberries in the pie pan.

3. To make the topping, mix together the butter, brown sugar and flour. Mix well until the consistency is crumb-like. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the pie.

4. Bake for 1 hour. The pie should be bubbling. If not, bake another 10 minutes. Allow to cool about 1-2 hours before serving.

Eat and enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Butterflies and screaming children…oh my.

Rob and I visited Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum this past weekend. It was a sunny but chilly day so we thought it was a good time to check out a museum we haven’t been to. Really, this museum is not for the faint of heart. It is crawling…with children! I like kids, really I do but when there are hundreds of them screaming and yelling and throwing their milk carton thingies at me I tend to lose patience (and some of my hearing). A lot of the museum is geared towards children but there were a couple things Rob and I wanted to see. There is an interesting exhibition of lost panoramas that documented the reversal of the Chicago River back in the late 1800’s. A seemingly impossible feat! It was an interesting exhibition but rather small. I wish there would have been more panoramas.

The most fascinating exhibition was the Butterfly Haven. You’re in a jungle-like room (a very hot room) with butterflies flying all around you. It’s amazing seeing so many in one place. And they are beautiful. I was able to snap a few up-close pictures:

Pssst....these two were mating. I gave them privacy after I took this....

As we were looking around we spotted this really pretty bird right above our heads. I have no idea what kind of bird it was but I'm glad it stayed still long enough for me to snap a picture.

 chirp chirp

I also loved this sculpture outside the museum. It's called Steelroots.

So aside from the screaming kids it was a fun museum trip. I got some great pictures and had a lovely afternoon with Rob so I'd say it was a pretty successful outing. All the bright colors of the butterflies inspired me. I think I should bake something colorful. :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Healthy Blueberry Loaf


This recipe is a work in progress. I still have frozen blueberries from my blueberry picking last summer and I’ve been itching to use them up. Since the holidays are long gone it’s time to start baking a little bit healthier. I decided to do some experimenting. I found a base recipe for a blueberry loaf and changed things to my liking in order to make it healthier. To my surprise it turned out really well. It’s a delicious 100% whole wheat blueberry loaf that you don’t have to feel guilty about. This is the recipe as it stands now. Go out and get the ingredients and give it a try!

Printable Recipe


1/4 cup blanched almonds finely chopped
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup non-fat blueberry yogurt
1 cup frozen blueberries

Cooking spray


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8 1/2” x 4” loaf pan or use my parchment paper trick shown here. In a small bowl mix together the chopped almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder and salt. Mix well and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla and yogurt and continue mixing on low for another 2 minutes. Scrape the sides as you mix so everything is well combined. Fold in the frozen blueberries until they are evenly distributed in the batter.

4. Spread the batter in the greased or parchment covered loaf pan. The batter will be very thick. Spread evenly and smoothly. Sprinkle almond topping evenly over the batter.

5. Bake on the middle rack for 60-70 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean with no raw batter. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

You can store this in an air tight container for up to 4 days.

Yum, yum, yum.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love, love, love

Happy Valentine's Day! The tomato heart is courtesy of Rob. We were making tacos the other day and I guess he was inspired by love to create a tomato masterpiece. Brilliant I say! I'm looking forward to our Valentine's dinner at one of our favorite restaurants....oh, and these. Yum.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Summer Sunshine

On my way into work today the sun was beaming through the train windows. I sat in a seat where the sun was hitting my face. It was so bright and it hurt my eyes but it felt good. It was warm and rejuvenating. I could almost imagine that it was summertime. When it gets to this point in the winter I get really restless. I have aches and pains and I just want warm fresh air and sunshine. I guess it's the mid-winter blues. I long for the days of heat and sun and beaches and flowers and green grass and ice cream cones and hot cement and sweat and shorts and flip flops and Saugatuck and farmer's markets and thunderstorms and the smell of suntan lotion and mojitos on the back porch and outdoor concerts and casual strolls through the neighborhood and....SUNSHINE. Soon, very soon. :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wine Time (oh Yeah)

So many wines so little time, right? Well I sure think so. I picked up some new wines to try the other day. I totally hate to admit this but I am drawn to the way a wine bottle looks and sometimes it influences my purchasing decision. Yes it's true! But admitting this is my first step to recovery. I really should ignore the pretty labels and look into the whole wine rating thing-a-ma-jig. Yes, I will do this. I can do this!

I picked the above bottles because they were on serious sale. Yes I buy wines because they are on sale too! Ugh.

The Coppola 2009 Pinot Noir retails for about $20 but I got it for $10. It's a good wine, not real fruity but smooth. I would definitely pay $20 for it if I had to.

The Head Snapper (I really liked the way this bottle looked...shhhh) retails for about the same as the Coppola but I also got it for $10. I haven't tried this one yet but when I do I will update.

And then there's the Flip Flop Cabernet Sauvignon. It retails for $14 and was a lot cheaper when I picked it up. It's really not too bad for an inexpensive wine.

Nothing beats my favorite wine Beso de Vino. Love that wine. It's a delicious blend of 85% Syrah and 15% Garnacha and it's also not expensive, only about $12 per bottle. The Wine Advocate gave it a 90 point rating which I've learned  means it's an "outstanding" wine. I must agree.

All this talk about wine makes me thirsty. Is it 5 o'clock yet?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Snow, I don't like you right now.

Yeah yeah, I know the massive Chicago blizzard of 2011 is old news but this blog is my therapy. I need this moment to complain and carry on about how fed up I am about this white stuff. (Insert 500 exclamation marks here.) I also know that there are a thousand other places that get more snow than Chicago does. I know this because I've been told many times this week but still...I must vent! So here is my moment...

The issues I have with this particular snow storm have a lot to do with the fact that I walk everywhere and take public transportation and have to walk through dirty slush and snow every day. There are numerous people that seem disinterested in shoveling their sidewalks so we all have to walk on their bumpy, uneven snow-piled sidewalks and try not to fall or break our ankles. Now I know there are worse things in the world and tragic things happening all over, but this little venting I'm doing makes me feel better and puts things in perspective. I'm lucky to have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, foods in my belly and many good people in my life. I know these are the important things. So I guess I'll deal with staring at this massive snow mound in front if my house until June when it melts completely...

6-foot tall me, in front of the big snow mound. 

So all my venting aside, I wanted to share some photos I took during and after the storm. The snow can be peaceful and beautiful during and after a storm. I think if I lived in a remote part of the country I would really enjoy seeing the snow. I actually would love to have a house someplace remote. Someplace where my neighbors are a mile away and not two feet away. I can imagine myself sipping tea and staring out my kitchen window watching the snow fall over my ten acres of land while my cookies bake in the oven. Ahhh I shall dream for now.

Unfortunately snow doesn't stay pretty and pristine in a busy city. It gets mixed with salt and dirt and oil and turns a disgusting grey color. I wish it could stay pretty. I love pretty snow... I'm getting sidetracked, so back to my snow photos. Here is a picture looking out my living room window at about 10 PM the night of the storm:

Prior to taking the above photo, Rob and I decided to venture out into the blizzard. Unheard of, I know! We figured that we'd stay close to home but explore just a little. We bundled up and headed out. It was incredibly windy and chaotic. We passed a few other blizzard curious people as we explored the neighborhood but for the most part the city was shutdown. After we headed back home the thundersnow started. Then it really started snowing. So Rob and I sipped some wine and enjoyed the windy chaos outside. Then we went to bed. We woke up to almost two feet of snow and massive snow drifts.

9 am, the day after the blizzard

Here are some 5-foot snow drifts against the garage in our back yard:

Later in the afternoon we decided to walk around the neighborhood a bit to see the damage. Here is a pic of our Green Alley next to our place:

We walked down our street to find numerous cars completely covered with snow. Imagine having to dig your car out of this. I'm glad we park our car in a garage and we don't have to access it until this melts.

Here is my favorite picture from the blizzard. It's the view from our back porch. Normally this building is covered in vines, but after the storm it was covered in snow. I love how it just stuck to the building.

Hopefully this will be the last big snowstorm this year. Spring is right around the corner and I can almost smell the spring flowers. Until then, I'll be happy for the things I have and deal with this snow (and maybe quietly curse it under my breath).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mom’s Coffee Cake and the BLIZZARD OF THE CENTURY!

Doesn't this coffee cake look delicious?! It's my Mom's recipe so I'm not going to share...sorry! I made it the other day for the first time and it reminds me of all the times she used to make it. It brought back a lot of good memories. It's super moist and filled with a lot of cinnamon. Mmmmmm. This should get me through what the weather forecasters are calling the Blizzard of the Century. Dramatic? Well maybe, maybe not. We are expected to get up to two feet of snow:

Photo courtesy of the
I'm glad I baked cupcakes and cake and I'm even happier I stocked up on wine. I hope lasts... 

To be continued....