Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gastronomy: Dark and Stormy

It’s spooky, it’s creepy, it’s Halloween: How about a Dark and Stormy?

Last weekend, my wonderful, hospitable neighbors had us over for dinner after our local children's Halloween parade. While all of our crazy toddlers were running amuck from an overabundance of Halloween sugared treats, the adults decided to overindulge, too! The Dark and Stormy splendidly weather-proofed us from the noisy deluge of 10 overactive, rapturous children!

Dark and Stormy

2 c spiced rum

4 c light colored ginger beer

Orange sugar
Black gummy bat, spider, or worm

Mix rum and beer gently in an iced pitcher. Distribute evenly into six orange sugar rimmed glasses. Add creepy gummy worms, spiders, or bats and toast to All Hallows Eve!

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Obsession: Orange Chills Cocktail

Since Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, naturally our obsession is cocktails! Accompany your tricks with more than one, spooktacular treat!

Orange Chills Cocktail

1 part gin
1 part Cointreau
1 part orange juice
4 parts lemon-lime soda
Splash of grenadine
Orange slices
Yellow, black, or orange sugar

Coat rim of cocktail glass with orange juice; dip in sugar. Shake first six ingredients in cocktail shaker; pour into glass. Garnish with orange slice! Chilly!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Style: Got All Your Marbles?

Although I'm a pragmatist, carefully counting my indulgent purchases, always traveling lightly, and never drawing too much attention to myself, I'm also a big believer in a bit o' bling to spice up an outfit. When I stumbled upon a piece of jewelry that managed to marry practicality with style, I was sold.

Got All Your Marbles, started by an Arizona husband and wife partnership, offers a line of interchangeable earrings, pendants, and rings. Each purchase is accompanied with a beautiful bag filled with dozens of multi-colored marbles that can be switched-out to coordinate the jewelry with your look. Choose from a number of handmade designs that can be created in either sterling silver or gold—each piece affordable and stunning. Don't be alarmed by the too-busy website, the end-result will prove well worth it! Details:

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Obsession: Beautiful Baubles and Boxes Made from Nature

At a local art fair, I found Sandy James, artesian and “Of Nature” owner. Sandy takes pieces of nature and transforms them into jewelry and sculpture. She utilizes real leaves, acorns, and maple seeds (to name a few), dipping them into a copper patina bath. The end result is a collection of breathtaking earrings, barrettes, necklaces, and containers. Her creations are one-of-a-kind and truly stunning. Details:

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gastronomy: Chicken Potpie, an Ageless Classic

I love to try new recipes and experiment with flavor profiles. There is something incredibly gratifying about creating a new concoction that actually turns out, because, let’s be honest, many times innovation in the kitchen leads to a disastrous meal. Any home cook can relay a long list of first time recipes that turned out very badly. Even so, we keep trying.

In my opinion, however, only one kitchen activity rivals the trials and joys of experimentation: Making a classic dish—the kind of dish that has been tested, full-proof, and passed down through generations. A dish, that time-after-time, satisfies you and your guests. One of my all time favorite classics is Chicken Potpie.

Meat pies mixed with vegetables have been around since the Middle Ages. Potpies were described as a crusted pastry made with poultry or meat and, usually, chopped vegetables. These pies were an affordable meal for modest dwelling families and rural workers—providing comfort and nourishment to get through brutal winters. Sound familiar? That’s because the rules of making a potpie have scarcely changed. The traditional chicken potpie in America has also been around since the late 17th Century and today, over 200 years later, the potpie remains a family staple that brings sustenance and comfort even on the coldest of days.

Chicken Potpie

3 large chicken breasts, boiled and shredded into large chunks
4 large carrots, roughly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Russet potatoes, skinned and cubed
1 c frozen peas
½ stick unsalted butter
¼ c flour

8 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 package frozen puff pastry
1 egg, plus 1 T water to brush over pastry
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take out puff pastry to thaw according to package directions.

In large pot, melt butter in a large sauté pan; add shallot and cook until soft and translucent. Add flour to create roux. Add chicken stock, making sure to deglaze pan. Add carrot and potatoes. Bring to a hard simmer until sauce thickens and vegetables soften. Add peas and chicken; cook another five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place mixture in casserole dish and cool down (about 15 minutes). Cut puff pastry to fit over pot pie and brush with egg wash. Bake for 45 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and the casserole is bubbly. Serve with a robust Chardonnay.

Serves 6

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Obsession: Sunset Magazine's Apple Oven Cake

This month's Sunset Magazine (October 2009) featured a reader's Apple Oven Cake recipe. I've only had this magazine for a little over two weeks and I have already made this beauty three times. It's simple, fresh, delicious, and the perfect way to celebrate autumn's apples! I guarantee that you will be as obsessed as we are once you try it!

Apple Oven Cake

3 T butter
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1/8 t cinnamon
1 sweet apple, peeled and sliced
3 large eggs
1/4 t salt
1/2 c flour
1/2 c milk
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a 12-inch ovenproof frying pan over high heat. Add brown sugar and cinnamon, swirling to combine. Add apple and cook until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, whirl together eggs, salt, flour, and milk. Pour egg mixture into pan and bake until puffed and brown, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and powdered sugar. Enjoy!

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Adventure Wisconsin: My Very Own Frank Lloyd Wright

I’ve become an armchair architecture buff after spending so much time in Chicago. When Mrs. O’Leary’s cow brought the city to her knees, the vacant, ash-singed lots provided the inspiration to rebuild Chicago in a new and glorious fashion. From the First Chicago School architects who perfected the fireproof metal frame of the world’s initial skyscrapers to the Bauhaus influence of the city’s skyline, Chicago manages to seduce anyone who crosses her path. My personal journey, however, didn’t start with Chicago’s beauty or size or influence, but rather with the Prairie School’s most famous pupil, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Chicago and the greater Midwest provide a backdrop for Wright’s work—from his first studio in Oak Park to his Taliesin masterpiece in Spring Green, WI. It seems as though every other town plays host to a Wright beauty. I’ve been on every tour imaginable, attended every lecture possible, and snooped around enough privately-owned Wright houses to receive one-too-many evil eyes. You can study, dream, and covet for only so long before you start longing for more. That’s when I discovered Seth Peterson Cottage, nestled in Wisconsin’s Mirror Lake State Park.

Seth Peterson Cottage was not discovered until the early 1980s, when a lone-boater spotted its ruins from the lake. One of Wright’s last commissions, the cottage has been painstakingly restored and can now be rented out for a memorable wilderness get away. Perched on a wooded bluff overlooking the lake, this 900-square foot cottage manages to highlight Wright’s most important architectural signatures, including a soaring, suspended roof that frames the best views; the play of shadow and light; the use of natural, local resources (and, in this case, the clever use of inexpensive materials); and the illusion of vastness in a surprisingly intimate space. But, most importantly, this landmark can be solely and privately yours. The cottage is so hidden, that we didn’t see another living sole during our entire 48-hour stay. Its remoteness provided the perfect way to enjoy one of Wright’s works as intended: The union of nature and architecture at its best and most beautiful. Details:

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Obsession: My Moments with My Publisher

After writing the Seth Peterson article, I realized that all of our digital photos were stored, unseen and untouched, on our server. Our Frank Lloyd Wright escapades not only included our memorable cottage get-away, but his Oak Park studio, both Taliesins, and Falling Water, just to name a few. Remembering these visits were fun, inspiring, and downright enjoyable, but, better yet, browsing this photographic journey shook me out of my complacency and spurred me to action!

Now, with online publishing, it’s easy and inexpensive to create a handsome, personalized photo album. For less than it would cost to develop your film, you can create a coffee table-style book of your very own. My favorite of the online services is My Publisher. After downloading trouble-free, intuitive software, create your own book starting from $12.00 and receive it at your doorstep a week later or share it with your friends online! My Publisher offers a quick and easy way to store your memories in one gloriously accessible package. Details:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gastronomy: Pancetta, Rosemary Pork Roast

Cooking inspires me in a similar way the ebb and flow of the seasons do. The heartwarming meals that accompany the changing of the leaves and the rapidly dropping temperatures—a reminder that another year is ending in only a few short months. It is an opportunity to change my heart and feed my soul.

There's nothing quite like the first, crisp fall day—the kind of day that indicates it is time to pull out your sweaters, place an extra blanket on your bed, and modify your weekly recipe rotation. Creamy fall chowder replaces fish on the grill, bbq chicken is substituted with heavily buttered chicken pot pie, and oven roasted meats take the place of grilled ones.

The recipe below is an Italian-inspired variation of traditional pork roast. I usually serve it with creamy parmesan polenta and homemade sour applesauce. The smell of this rich, succulent meat cooking in the oven is enough to make you wish that the autumn lasted all year 'round. Serve it with a pumpkin ale or heavy amber to make your stomach rejoice.

Pancetta, Rosemary Pork Roast

5 garlic cloves
1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 T olive oil
4 lbs (two pieces) tied, boneless pork loin roast
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz pancetta, thinly sliced
2 c chicken broth
2 c dry white wine
1 large shallot, roughly chopped

Mince garlic and finely chop rosemary; mix together with olive oil in a small bowl with 1 T salt. Pat roast dry to ensure rub will adhere to the meat. Sprinkle generously with fresh ground pepper. Rub the garlic rosemary mixture over the pork and wrap the pancetta slices around the pork. Place the pork in a roasting pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1 cup of broth and 1 cup of wine into the roasting pan. Add shallots to liquid. While roasting, add more broth and wine to the pan juices; baste several times. Roast the pork until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees F or 1 ½ to 2 hours. Transfer the pork to a cutting board; cover with aluminum foil to rest for 15 minutes. Separate pan juices to pour over the top once the roast is carved.

Serves eight.

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Obsession: It's Pumpkin Ale Time

Another beautiful thing about autumn is that the cold, crispy air provides a perfect occasion to indulge in delicious, hoppy ales and creamy stouts.

One of my favorites is a spicy, slightly fruity Pumpkin Ale by California microbrewery, Buffalo Bill's. They were one of the first brewery’s to boldly enter into America’s microbrew phenomenon over 25 years ago. As one of the nation's oldest brewpubs, they continue to make terrific signature beers including their celebrated creamy Pumpkin Ale. Along with fall, this beer is precious and fleeting so pick it up today! Details:

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Adventure (26) Gastronomy (38) Obsession (39) Style (26)

About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
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