Week 51 – Chicagobound

#353 Kahlua

18 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Celebratory mood, anyone?

My second-to-last cooking challenge item for the year was none other than a batch of homemade kahlua. It turns out that this treat is way easier to make than it appears- just don’t skimp on the vodka because that’ll do most of the work.

I’m really glad I made this batch. Not just cause it was fun, but also cause I drink kahlua so rarely that the amount I made could stretch five years.

#354 Rack of Lamb & Garlic Mashed Potatoes

19 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

At the very end of 2015, I decided that my cooking skills could use some improvement. I liked to cook, and to eat of course, but there was so much I hadn’t made before. I wanted to know the exact impact an adjusted ratio would have on bread, what one more minute at whatever temperature would do to meat, and all that.

After Christmas I made a list of 52 different things to cook over the next year. Most were chosen so I could learn specific skills. I picked some just cause of the time of the year, or cause I really wanted to try making them.

Last week, I got to end the year off with a bang, making a rack of lamb using Julia Child’s marinade and topping it off with a wine reduction. I was thrilled when I cut into the center to find the exact shade of pinkish-red I wanted.

Here’s to challenging yourself and getting it done. Now to figure out something for 2017 in these next few days.

#355 Christmas Carons

20 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Hey family, spoiler alert. Stop reading here and erase the image you just saw from your mind.

(Psh, I know some of ya didn’t 😏)

Man… I keep posting about my low budget lifestyle lately, but that is our truth. When your family is large on both sides but your Christmas budget is small… homemade gifts are a lifesaver.

Thankfully I taught myself how to make macarons earlier this year. They go for about $1.50 a piece at our patisserie, so a single 5 piece box would be worth $7.50. If I was more motivated, this could turn quite a profit. The knowledge paid off this Christmas though. Less than $50 for ingredients gives me gifts for 25ish people… and even more if I didn’t screw up a batch or two.

This was also my first time making macaron flavors other than dulce de leche and chocolate. I improvised and experimented with coffee ganache, red wine and chocolate, and mango… and I surprised myself with how well they turned out.

#356 Chicagobound

21 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Yesterday was quite the day of transit for us.

We got up before five so we could drop Beignet off at the sitter. Then we took off to Portland early enough for some errands. We got to get lunch with @jessedmorris and @sunshinebucket at this adorable place, Mothers, in downtown Portland. Then it was off to PDX.

I tried to stay knocked out for as much of the first flight as possible to SFO so I could stay up for the second flight and get some writing done. We arrived in Chicago at 1:30 for a very chatty Uber driver to take us to our hotel.

At around 2:30 AM, we arrived, but realized we’d only had one meal all day. I ran out onto Michigan Ave. in hunt of a grocery store open 24 hours. Half an hour later we were splitting a 3 AM hoagie surprised that it was just that morning we dropped off Beignet.

#357 White City

22 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Some of my favorite times are when it’s the two of us, doing some exploring. Sometimes it’s a new city. Sometimes it’s a familiar place. Sometimes it’s somewhere that’s familiar to one of us, new to the other one, and every landmark is also a personal landmark full of stories from before we knew each other. Some of these landmarks are buildings and statues, and others are sandwich shops and relatives houses.

Then we love meeting up with friends wherever we go. We’re cursed to always be far away from the majority of our friends, but blessed to be near a few friends wherever we wind up.

In other words, the past few weeks have been amazing.

#358 University of Chicago

23 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

In high school, I always thought I would end up in Chicago. I was in constant contact with Northwestern and University of Chicago and took a trip out my sophomore year to visit both those schools. I even had this elaborate fantasy image of leaving some cool Chicago coffee shop and looking back to see all my cool Chicago friends in the window.

Then when senior year came around, I just didn’t apply. For whatever reason. It’s like I forgot the school existed during the six months that mattered.

But, I ended up going to school in Santa Barbara and having the time of my life over there. And I even made some cool friends in coffee shops, including my wife.

We wandered around the University of Chicago’s Hogwarts-esque campus for a while, amused at the idea of how it was like staring into an alternate reality of the past.

#359 Christmas Eve 16

24 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Took it nice and slow this morning getting out of Aurora. Loaded up the car and set off for an extremely easy two hour drive.

Got to the Quad Cities early enough to hang out and eat the whole rest of the day.

Also, Codewords is a real fun game. Would recommend.