Sunday, July 30, 2017

The DuPage County Fair

 It is no secret, I LOVE a county fair! I like to pick one day each summer all four of us can head out to take in all the sights and sounds at the fair. We pet a few farm animals, take a spin on a couple of whirly-twirly rides and eat several splurge-worthy things! It is always one of my favorite days of the year.  We started things off with a cold beer and a demolition derby.
 We watched Emma and Finn speed around in circles on the Alpine Bobs.
 Leif won me a sprinkle covered unicorn throwing darts. How romantic!
 I rubbed noses with a wooly sheep and loved it!
 We ate fried pickles and funnel cake and corn dogs!

 Finn shot a pink gun and won a stuffed marshmallow!
 Emma won a monkey with a banana.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Superior Road Trip....

Finn and I took went on a road trip to meet with a college soccer coach whom expressed interest in meeting our soccer loving kid. So we took a very loooong drive into the north woods of Wisconsin to meet him.  We were so far north that we stayed in adorable Duluth, Minnesota. We enjoyed the views of Lake Luperior from our little inn and walks around the quaint downtown area. We played a round on miniature golf, took in a showing of Baby Driver and took a campus tour.

 I won't lie...waking up in the morning to see my sleeping baby boy on the a COLLEGE trip was a little emotional. But I am pretty sure he'll be ready to go when the time goes.  These are exciting times in our house and we have more coaches to meet and colleges to check out!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mother-Daughter Portrait...

Ty from Skin Abrasions in Oak Park linked Emma and me with some serious mother/daughter art a while ago, but we couldn't figure out the best way to capture an image of our matching ink. Tonight I snapped a picture and both Emma and I had very little faith it would turn out looking anything other than bizarre, but boy were we wrong. This may be one of my favorite pictures we've ever taken of the two of us.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Dinner: Smoked Chickens...

This evening we were treated to an al fresco style Sunday dinner with dear friends. Our friend Rick really know his way around a smoker and his chickens were the stuff of dreams. Served alongside roasted corn, homemade sausages, simple potatoes and a tossed salad, this chicken dinner was total perfection! Thanks for hosting Rick and Rachel! We are so lucky to have you in our lives.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Finn had another outstanding experience at Strive Sports Challenge Leadership Academy this year. Sports Challenge is designed to develop character-based leaders and applies the same rigor of sports training to the practice of leadership.  Finn cherishes his time at Strive and clearly excelled in Delaware this year as he brought home a most coveted award. He is already talking about returning as a staff member down the road.  We are so proud of him, but we sure are glad to have him 
back at home!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mother and Son...

I snapped this cute photo of Leif and his mom after we spent the afternoon investigating new places for her to live. She loves a good French Bistro so Little Gem Cafe in Oak Park fit the bill perfectly this evening. I think they both look very happy to be together!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Annie's Moqueca...

This week we traveled with Finn to watch him play in the IL-ODP regional combine in Indiana. That meant we were able to stay with my cousin Annie, her husband and their 3 dogs in their sweet Fountain Square home. We had such a nice visit and Annie whipped up a batch a Moqueca for dinner.  The Brazilian dish came as a total surprise to me and it was 100% delicious.  I created my own version for a recent column and really enjoyed making it an eating it!


Shortly after she finished college and prepared to take her place in the professional world, I advised my favorite cousin, Annie,  to keep a bottle of wine, bunch of grapes, and a wedge of fine cheese on hand at all times. She looked at me quizzically after I offered such simplistic advice, but I promised keeping a few grown-up goodies around her first apartment would make her feel better on bad days and ensure she was celebration ready on the good ones. Let’s face it, growing up is hard work and trading in your ramen packets for a wedge of aged gouda is a delicious “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy for feeling like an adult.

An occasional sip of wine and nibble of fresh fruit helped Annie over the years and thanks to her admirable work ethic she’s had more good days than bad ones. As a result, she grew 
into a fiercely successful young woman.

Once she had embraced her own adulthood, I offered up my second piece of advice: Have a signature dish. Annie doesn’t fancy herself a cook, but I helped her see the importance of having at least one dinner party worthy dish in her arsenal. I reminded her horking down hummus and pita for dinner on random Tuesday night is totally fine, but knowing you never need to panic when friends, family or business associates are coming to over for dinner is liberating in the best way.

I’ve always believed a signature dish should be unexpected, but reflective of your own personal narrative. Over the years Annie’s professional path has taken her all over the world and on a serendipitous night while working in Chile she ordered a Brazilian dish called Moqueca; the rest is history. She taught herself how to make Moqueca and churns it out like an absolute pro.

Last week-end we visited Annie and her husband in their first house and she served me her signature dish. Mocqueca, a hearty fish stew, is deceptively complex in flavor and fairly simple to prepare. Tender flakes of white fish and large shrimp gently cook in a savory broth made from tomatoes and coconut milk before being served over a bed of rice. It is a colorful dish filled 
with memorable flavors.

I will always remember eating Annie’s version of Moqueca; she prepared the dish confidently, but nostalgia made the meal even more delicious. As I scraped the bottom of my bowl and savored the crisp white wine she served alongside it, I realized Annie had grown up before my eyes. With hard work, self-love, and the occasional fine cheese binge she managed to create a gorgeous adult life as vibrant as her signature dish.
(makes 6 Servings)

1 pound Cod Fillet, skinned and cut into 6 large chunks
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2 limes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Red pepper, diced small
1 yellow pepper, diced small
1 Yellow onion, diced small
Salt and Pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon chili flakes (more-or-less to taste)
1 large bay leaf
1 large basil sprig
1 green plantain, peeled and diced
1 14-ounce can fire roasted Tomatoes, undrained
1 14 ounce can unsweetened coconut Milk
½ -1 Cup low sodium chicken broth or water
3 scallions, chopped
1 Pound (16-20 count) shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
¼ Cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lime scented rice-recipe follows
Garnishes: Sliced serrano chilies, fresh chopped chives, fresh basil chiffonade, toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, Lime wedges.
About 1 hour before cooking dinner, place the cod portions in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle with the lime zest, lime juice and garlic. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup/stock pot over medium-high heat and add the peppers and onions to the pot and season well with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the vegetables, stirring frequently, until tender, but not brown-about 10 minutes.  Add the paprika, chili flakes, bay leaf, basil sprig, diced plantain, tomatoes and coconut milk to the pan.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Remove the marinated fish from the refrigerator. Add ½ Cup of the chicken broth and scallions  to the pot and mix well. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place the fish (and all accumulated juices) to the simmering broth. Cover and allow the fish to cook for 6 minutes. Don’t boil the fish or it will fall apart.
Add the shrimp to the stew and stir gently.  If the mixture seems a little too thick add up to ½ cup more broth to the pot. Cover and allow the shrimp to simmer in the broth for 6 minutes. Check for doneness: cod should flake easily with a fork and shrimp should be opaque. Remove the moqueca from the heat and gently fold in the cilantro.
Serve the moqueca over lime scented rice in bowls garnished liberally with chilies, chives, basil, toasted coconut and a squeeze of lime.

Lime Scented Rice
1 ½ Cups long grain rice
3 Cups cold water
1 Tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon lime zest

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the rice stand, covered, for about 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving with the moqueca.
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