Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to Peel an Avocado

Avocados for the beginner:

How do you peel an avocado? I've seen many people try to peel an avocado like an apple. This will work, but if you apply my simple three step method, you can save yourself some time and energy.

Step 1: Cut avocados in half

Be aware of the pit when you are cutting. Slice in far enough to feel the knife hit the pit and then slide the knife around in a circle until the avocado is sliced in half. Pull two halves apart.

Step 2: Remove the pits

Strike the knife into the pit.

Twist the knife and the avocado in different directions. The Pit should stay attached to knife and loosen from the fruit. As you pull the knife away, the pit should come with.

Step 3: Scoop out the avocado meat.

Use a spoon. Scoop out the meat. Put it in the bowl.

Done your Avocados are peeled!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Party of Dips

Our party for Alee was a success even though I was totally unmotivated on Saturday. I finally got out of the house and rode my bike to Cermak Produce, one of my local neighborhood stores. It was already 3 p.m. by the time I got home with all my necessary groceries. Because I didn't have much time, I stayed with tried and true recipes which I know I could make quickly. I went for simple flavors instead of fancy alternatives to save time and money.

The food included (pictured from bottom clockwise) good ol' guacamole, spinach artichoke dip, curry apple chutney dip for vegetable tray (olives are pictured in place of the dip which was not out yet), mushroom walnut pate spread, a basket of bread and crackers, a bowl of grapes, black bean dip, hummus, Shrimp Dip, chocolate covered strawberries, and a 7 layer taco dip which you can only see the edge of in the above picture.

I did have some help. Shayna showed up with her first ever pie in tow, an amazing strawberry and rhubarb she grew in her own garden

It looked as good as it tasted!

Although I was able to get everything done on time, I did have to resort to asking the guest of honor for a bit of help. Thanks Alee!

Please excuse my messy room! Cleaning in here was one thing which fell through the cracks.

But that is Alee in a nutshell. She's so great, I am not going to be the only one to miss her!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Party time again!

Tonight, we're having our third going away party of the summer. This summer it seems as though many of our friends are moving on and gettin the hell out of Dodge. So, I've got another party to throw. Ira was out of town, and our dog Gertie was sick all week. So, I've been busy all week with no time to work on planning anything. Right now, I've got 6 hours to go shopping and get all my stuff together.

I've decided to do a Dip party. They won't be a big deal to get together and I can just cut up some vegetables, bread and put out some crackers and chips. Although I don't have much time, I still have my reputation to uphold. “One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything, except a good reputation.” Can I get it all together? I don't know, but its 1 already and I have to go shopping. Alright, lets do this.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shop local, Buy Local

Before we were talking about shoping at your local stores as a way to support your community and cut down on the gas usage. Another method is to buy local.

Buying local produce means for less food miles or ground for the food to be shipped over before reaching the store. As gas prices continue to rise, it will cease to be as economical to ship all our produce from Peru or California. Plus, local produce doesn't need to be picked as far in advance, so the vegetables are fresher and taste better!

Not everyone has experience in growing a vegetable garden, so many people don't know whats grown in their local climate and when it is in season. Epicurious has an awesome interactive map which shows you what produce is in season for your area. It also gives you ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips for each item listed.

You can also visit your local farmers markets. Here in Chicago, we have various markets all over the city. Click here for a list of all the markets around the city.

We also have the Green City Market, a fully organic not-for-profit farmers market.

Located at the south end of Lincoln Park, the market is open almost every Wednesday and Saturday from 7am - 1:30 pm. Here is a calendar of their events. Sign up for the Green city mailing list here!

So go get shoppin!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Play With Your Food

If you enjoyed the fanciful food created by Saxton Freymann in my last post, check out this informative New York Times article which gives more information on knife cutting techniques.

Golden beet butterflies sit on an intricate watermelon flower by San Francisco Chef and "Produce Artist" Jimmy Zhang

Here is a slide show of more amazing pics!

Monday, July 21, 2008

How are you Peeling?

No matter what kind of a day I am having,

if I am happy,

or even when things go wrong,

and I am mad,

whenever I see the art work of Saxton Freymann

I am won over by the overload of cute!

I can't help but chuckle and chortle!

With his partner, Joost Elffers, Freymann has authored such wonderful children's books as:








Wait, don't forget about

His work speaks for itself!

In response to my despondent sister:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lets go for a walk!

At every turn, we are confronted with the topic of the ever increasing cost of crude oil which has risen 30% over the past year. Rising gas prices are affecting more then just the average commuter costs.

Even though I don't have a car, I am affected by food costs, which experts say have risen at an inflation rate of over three times the annual average.

Contemplating global situations which are seemly so much larger then me, my control freak nature feels paralyzed and overwhelmed at the thought of what my small person can do to make a difference.

although I am somewhere in this pic, I am too small to be visible

On a large scale I know I can't change our cultural addiction to oil and if I think about it in such huge terms, I'll go insane! So I try not to.

Instead, I focus on small battles. One thing we can all look into is shopping locally .

Wouldn't you like to shop here??

Walking to a corners store and supporting our neighborhood shops instead driving the distance to a larger chain grocer can save gas and strengthen our local communities.

These models display how you will feel.

Of course, you rebut, the selection at your local corner store may be limited. If your store doesn't have something you want, don't be afraid to ask. The store owner may be receptive to ordering it for you in the future.

Check out this great instructable for tips on increasing produce at your local store.

You may also think your neighborhood isn't very walkable . This may be a fact for those who live in non-urban environments. However you may have more resources at your disposal then you think. To check the walkability of your neighborhood, visit which rates neighborhoods in terms of the amenities available within walking distance. It also gives you lists of stores in your neighborhood. So quit your excuses and get walking!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grill & Chill: Part 2

Part 2: Sunday Dinner
My family loves it when Ira and I come to visit for the weekend. Of course, since we were all together, we have to celebrate with food!

Lots of food!

Sunday always calls for a big afternoon dinner. My Dad couldn't decide between BBQ ribs or Rotisserie Chicken, so he decided not to decide and make both. Good choice!

My parents skewered the two chickens on the rotisserie spit to get them on the grill. My Mom prepped the chickens by seasoning the cavities with salt and pepper and stuffing some thyme and basil under the skin.

Once on the grill, my Dad finished with more salt and cracked pepper and allowed the chickens to spin for a little over 2 hours.

Dad is very proud of his Seasonings box, an antique Velveeta box belonging to my Grandfather. You'd think we really liked Velveeta in my house.

Don't the finished chickens look delicious!

Although ribs are best when they are smoked over a low heat for a long time (150 degrees for 8 - 10 hours) My family likes things done a little faster.

So as a quick shortcut on the ribs, we bake them covered in the oven at 300 for about 2 hours before putting them on the grill. My Dad loves to do an "East meets West" with a dry curry rub before coating with his homemade BBQ sauce.

The ribs are first put on the grill face down to sear the meat and hold in the juices.

Then they are flipped face up.

My Dad applies his homemade BBQ sauce which is started with my Mom's Chili base and amped up with their homemade horseradish, mustard, spices and as my Dad says "plenty of the Beam!".

Ribs are done!

Of course, it was also necessary to take a trip out to the garden and get some fresh produce!

Gertie came too!

My Aunt Dottie and my Mom thinned the beet rows to use the young beets for a grilled beet salad.

We cut fresh greens for a salad.

We needed something else for the salad...what should we pick?

The raspberries aren't ready yet.

The currents are!

We got the food ready to plate. We had curry BBQ baby back ribs, rotisserie chicken, Greek pasta salad, fresh green salad with currants and walnut oil vinaigrette, grilled beet salad, corn pudding, German potato salad and fruit salad to choose from.

Oooh. Look at my plate!

Ira and I never go back to Chicago hungry.