Cucumbers - Oh Yah, There's a Big, Big Dif.


If you've never enjoyed the bliss that is a Persian cucumber, then please just hop on over to your local farmer's market and swoop up a sackful.  Then, pop on home and rinse 'em off.  Whilst they are drying off, I beg of you to grab a little Greek yogurt and dress it with a swish of dill and a tiny sprinkle of vibrant sumac.

Top all with a squirt of lime and what you have is equal to a sinking moan upon first mouthful.  I mean, true, true happiness all year round.  Regular cukes are just simply useless compared to these little bullets.

Pasta and Farmers Market Finds = The Perfect Meal

Img_1504I've been eating out WAY too much lately.  Well, always, I guess.  But, somehow this week, I managed to whip together the most delicious meals using a bunch of madness that I had in my fridge...and I was so happy after every meal, especially this little ditty of gluten-free pasta, olive oil, halloumi cheese, green beans, sweet Italian peppers, butter and a hit of fresh thyme. It's time to start cooking again, that's for sure.  I used up my farmers market goodies, added in thyme which I never really do in pasta (I'm a basil girl) and it was stone-cold awesome. I assume though, you could sling in anything and it would still be delish.  That's the crazy  thing--when I really, really think about cooking, I am totally intimidated.  And, if I just toss a bunch of stuff  around the kitchen, I end up with perfection.  Go figure.  Here's the recipe~


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Banana Pancakes and Rock of Love = Nighttime Bliss

Img_1429_5Arrowhead Mills makes this gluten-free pancake mix that is utterly delicious.  You've not really tasted life until you've inhaled some caramelized banana topped, half-a-stick of butter slathered, warm honey doused pancakes for dinner.  This was the easiest little creation to make and I devoured the entire plate in less than five minutes.  Just after this bundle of joy, my pal Lisa rang in and told me that "Rock of Love" with Brett Michaels was on the telly, and demanded that I tune into this straight-up trainwreck of a reality show immediately.  Thank God I did.  Never, EVER, have I seen such delightful smut on television.  These women are all vying for Brett Michaels attention and the lengths they'll go to--whilst wasted beyond belief--is tuly astounding and fascinating.  I season passed it in TIVO quicker than lightening and Lis and I buzzed each other all during the commericals commenting on each of the beautiful/hideous moments.  As we watched the show together on the phone, Lisa softly murmered, "I think this show has changed my life" and I breathily whispered, "I've never been so happy."  Man, if you haven't had the sheer pleasure of tuning in, please do so stat.  And, get some of that pancake mix.  The two together are what dreams are made of~

Do You Know What This Is a Picture Of? Just a Farm.

Why_local_1I have a  favorite place to get my organic fruits and vegetables these days.  It's a new CSA called Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks and they actually deliver.  The deal is simple--Basically, every week, they drop off (yep, they deliver to your house for $3.50!) a big box of organic produce at my door step in a ice packed container.  Not only do they deliver fruit, veggies, and eggs...they also have a good selection of dairy, meat and fish.  The prices is $25 for a single portion and each container usually contains 9-11 different varieties of locally grown, totally organic yummy things to eat.  The past few weeks, I have seen giant handfuls of fresh basil, dill and mint, baby potatoes, juicy heirloom tomatoes, piles of lettuce, squash, melons, fuzzy peaches, baby bok choy, kale, carrots, onions, crazy ripe blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, as well as wild watercress.  I love getting my box every Thursday and also like the fact that they include a print out with storage and recipe tips.  You can do all your ordering online and I cannot stress this enough, EVERYTHING they have tastes the way food is supposed to taste.  You will never go back to the rock hard ball Jewel calls a tomato once you 've tasted their heirlooms. It's enough good stuff to make me wanna chuck it all and head back to the farm (which, again, is where real food comes from).
Check them out at

Refrigerator Pickles Made Simple

Dscf0732_1This week, I've gone from raving about the lush, exotic landscape of Bali to the wild blue Caribbean waters off the coast of Mexico.  And, now I have to take a step back to my Southern roots and talk about something I good friend, refrigerator pickles.  My beautiful grandparents used to keep a couple of jars in the fridge at all times, ready to whip out at first opportunity and I recently took a stab at making them myself. I turned out the most delicious batch ever.  These pickles are perfectly crisp, achingly sweet and tinged with just a hit of spring onion.  They couldn't have been simpler to make and for those of you who adore these tasty treats, here is the easy-as-pie recipe:


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Pasta alla Checca--Just Slung Together...

Dscf4228Every time I go home to Tennessee, it's as if I can magically cook again.  No recipes, no timetables, just slinging together whatever ingredients are in the house and coming up with something awesome.  There's something about Chicago that almost forces me to eat out all the time (just sooo many places to eat) and when I go home, I never even leave the mountain, much less eat out.  I made this yummy dish last time I was home and it's a total rip off my friend Chezne's most famous dish--which is a rip off of the famous Italian dish--Penne alla Checca.  I just made mine while grain pasta and tossed in some mozzarella right at the end.  Just crazy delicious.
Here's the recipe:

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Gingerbread Cinnamon Cake with Whipped Cream~

Dscf3148_1Every time I come home to Tennessee, me and my mom whip out the big, fat, fire engine red Kitchen Aid mixer and blast out a recipe or two.  Last night, I was flipping through a Country Home magazine and happened across a super easy recipe for Gingerbread Cinnamon Cake with Whipped Cream and we decided to dive in.  I am always in utter shock that my mom has all of the ingredients for any given baking recipe in stock the pantry.  My pantry is so desolate and random, I'm amazed when I call out the ingredient list and she's like, "Yep, we have ginger.  Yep, we have shortening.  Yep, we have nutmeg."  Jesus, it's like a normal kitchen, with ingredients and supplies.  Anyway, we quickly made this lovely little cake and though I almost burned it and I think the shortening was possibly purchased back in '73, it turned out to be a nice little snack.  When I cut the first piece, I totally ignored all of the edges and sliced out the very easy equivalent of four normal pieces.  It was just plain good stuff.  Next time, though, I'm gonna have to monitor the dates on the turned out to be pretty crumbly, but still good, mind you.  It did inspire me, though, to race back home to Chicago and flip out on my pantry.  I guess there are just some necessities that are needed to continue forward into winter.  Stay tuned~
Oh, and I will admit, that I get a little slap happy with the ingredients in baking...meaning that I rarely measure, I just sling in the various ingredients and hope it all turns out good.  Maybe that's why it was a little crumbly.  But, I still blame the shortening.

Straight-from-the-Pantry Pasta with Artichokes, Black Olives & Capers~

Dscf3093_6I'm always stunned at the meals I'm able to create with absolutely nothing in the house (this is a wonderful gift I have inherited from my mom).  Just when I think I'm gonna have to resort to a gigantic bowl of oatmeal with cups of brown sugar and gobs of butter or my old standby, an American cheese omelet (I'm real big on breakfast for dinner), I manage to whip up a glorious dish straight out of my pantry.  This only reinforces for me that I can indeed still cook and it won't always be that I'm eating out 3x per day  (that's really a fine tuned choice, though).
Sunday was one of those days when my long dormant cooking skills showed face in full glory.  I was starving (oh really?) and convinced that I had nothing at all to eat in the house, so I starting wildly pulling out every ingredient I could get my hands on; Moroccan oil cured olives, big salty capers, cans of artichoke hearts, you see where I'm headed here.  Let me just say one thing; this little doozy of a dish is the one that I'm always on the hunt for when I drop $20 at a charming little neighborhood trattoria, but never seem to get the meal I'm craving.  Except this time, my made-up meal was so simple, so cheap, and so delicious...just right on the money and exactly what my belly is constantly hankering for~I'm now officially back on my home cooking spree (see ya at Victory Banner in the a.m.)!!!
Recipe follows:

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My Favorite Meal Right Now? Greek Fries & More Greek Fries

Dscf2965_2I've developed a raging addiction to Greek fries as of late and there is simply no getting over the fact that I can slam down four or five full-blown potatoes in one sitting...and still be craving more (my mom and dad we're just as stunned as I was to realize this feat)!  If you've never made them, it couldn't be simpler:  You just heat up a pan full of good olive oil, toss in the thinly cut potatoes and let 'em cook til crispy.  I like it when they're crispy on both sides, but soft on the inside.  Then, you douse them with fresh lemon, oregano, salt and pepper.  Seriously, they are a meal unto themselves.  I'm also digging sauteed green beans right now with a bit of garlic salt.  It's crazy, I can go drop $30 bucks on a meal at a restaurant and not be as satisfied as I am with this simple concoction...I guess there is something about the Greeks that keep me coming back.  Who knew~

Tortilla Soup Straight from Yelapa, Mexico

Dscf2811_21A few years ago, I filmed a foodie/adventure TV show in a tiny village in Mexico.  Me and my crew infiltrated a lovely little fishing village (Yelapa) and basically took over.  Not only did we consume hundreds upon hundreds of margaritas (it seemed), I learned how to make the local version of tortilla soup.  It is one of the easiest, best recipes I've learned to make and I don't know why I don't prepare it more often.  Alas, last week, I was home in TN and finally made it for my mom and dad.  It was totally delicious and they we're delighted to taste something that I haven't shut-up about since I've been back from Mex.
I'm going to keep it super-simple and rock out the recipe right here (Try it! You won't be disappointed):

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