Sunday, November 25, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

City Bound...

This happy trio excitedly sorted out their train route (including a transfer) into the city today.  While they are comfortable navigating various parts of the city (especially the beaches) on their own, this was the first time all three of them managed the trains without an adult.  How'd it go?  Smooth as silk!  They were feeling pretty proud and I am sure Water Tower Place welcomed them with open arms.


Over the course of my lifetime I have been asked to witness a myriad of  beautiful things.
On that theme, last week a dear friend asked me to play the the role of incognito photographer while he proposed to his girl friend.  It was an honor to be asked to say the least.  

He set the stage at Sepia; I enjoyed a fine meal with my cousin while I waited for them to adjourn to a private dining room.   As the big moment drew near, I was swept away by the profoundly quiet honesty on display as they agreed to share the rest of their lives together.  Their energy was insular; as if they were the only two people in the world and I forced myself not to listen to the words spoken between them.  I decided I wasn't even there.  

He dropped to his knee.
A diamond sparkled.
She cried.
And said yes.
They embraced.
A memorable meeting of the minds.

 The setting was gorgeous, but presented some serious lighting challenges.  Thanks to a steady hand, I was able to capture these images without a disrupting flash. The resulting photo series is both artistic and voyeuristic without being intrusive.
Cheers to love and commitment. 

Leftover Day

 No Elsmo Four Thanksgiving celebration would be complete without enjoying the company of great friends during what has been affectionately referred to for years as "Leftover Day."  The rules are simple: Bring your leftovers, wear your pajamas, snuggle up, and do nothing except watch a minimum of four movies.  Tradition dictates starting our movie fest by viewing the 1960 classic film, Swiss Family Robinson.  We've all seen it so many times by now that our collective banter and humor was at an all time high this year!  From there we ate Amy's amazing stuffing, El's bacon wrapped dates and my turkey with some of the trimmings.  We watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 13 Going on 30, and Brave before turning in well after midnight.  What a delicious and lazy day!

Friday, November 23, 2012

2012 Thanksgiving Dish of the Day:

Ras el Hanout Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Pinenuts
Serves 10-12

Something about this monochromatic dish captured the spirit of our Thanksgiving celebration perfectly!  Give it a try during the upcoming holiday season or serve it alongside white fish or grilled chicken for a memorable week-night meal.

2 Heads of cauliflower, cut into 3/4" thick steaks
Olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons of Ras el Hanout*
Salt and Pepper
1 Cup of pitted Medjool Dates, coarsely chopped
1/2 Cup of pinenuts, toasted
3 Garlic cloves, mined
8 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange the cauliflower on two parchment lines rimmed baking sheets and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with Ras el Hanout and season evenly with salt and pepper.  Roast the cauliflower for 20 minutes (flipping after 10) or until it is slightly caramelized and for tender.  Allow roasted cauliflower to come to room temperature before arranging on a serving platter.

When ready to serve, place the dates, pinenuts, garlic and butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook until butter melts.  Mix well, add the 3/4 of the thyme leaves and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Pour the date-nut butter over the cauliflower, garnish the dish with remaining thyme leaves and serve at once.

*Ras el Hanout is a North African spice blend that can contain a mix of more than 50 spices.  Coriander, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper are featured prominently in any variation.  Look for the blend in finer grocery stores or spice markets.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks.

We set the stage...

 I baked the Parker House rolls from scratch...
 while they peeled potatoes and mixed the stuffing.

 The turkey got happy...very very happy...on the grill.
  Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Oranges, Cilantro and Hazelnuts 
 Ras el Hanout Roasted Cauliflower with Medjool Dates, Pinesnuts, Butter and Thyme

Cousins cuddled up.

 And a bountiful buffet took shape.
The Thanksgiving Menu:
Wild Mushroom Pate by Mom
Papa's Olive Appetizers
Harvest Popcorn
Salt and Pepper Hickory Grilled Turkey and Giblet Gravy
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Balsamic Roasted Pearl Onion Medly
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Ravioli
Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Pinenuts
Lemon Rosemary Green Beans
Beets with Hazelnuts, Orange, and Honey Goat Cheese
Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage, Apples and Cranberries
Parker House Rolls with Plugra Butter
Amy's Salted Turtle Caramels
Mini Pumpkin, Pecan and Apple Pies
Give thanks for LOVE and TURKEY.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Elsmo Four!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving....setting the stage.

 In addition to hanging my favorite paper garland (a leftover from my last Staff Appreciation lunch), this Thanksgiving I chose to put my favorite mason jars to good use and filled them with barley, pinto beans, rice and split peas.  The colorful fillings served as the perfect anchors to hold bunches of dried wheat.  Five vases arranged snugly made a perfect holiday hedge to bring focus to our holiday table.  Spiky green fruits, quail eggs and loose beans finished the look.

 Simple mugs full of mums and assorted pine-cones interspersed between platters on the buffet enhanced the holiday feel in the dining room, but my favorite decorative touch came in the unexpected combination of plates.  
 The gold rimmed floral plates belonged to Leif's maternal grandmother, Grace.

 The white Hunt Club dishes belonged to my maternal grandmother, Dorothy.
I love bringing a mix of traditions to my holiday tables and this year I particularly loved the result.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Super lovely.
Gratitude and global recognition is something all conscientiousness and caring parents should feel.

Monday, November 19, 2012

365 Days Later...

She had her shoulder surgery one year ago today; all of us are marveling at how an all consuming injury can feel like nothing more than a faint and distant memory.  By the looks of things today you would never even know she had come so far during the past year.  Credit certainly goes to her surgeon for his impeccable work, but most especially to the AMAZING Emma Grace for her notable determination and her admirable fortitude!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Pie and A la Mode...

...all in one!
I am not a big dessert lover, but pumpkin pie is one of my all time favorite holiday treats!  My grandma R made the best pumpkin pie I've ever tasted because of her perfectly flaky crust, but my best pumpkin pie treat came in ice cream form.  While vacationing in Door County, Wisconsin as a kid we visited a local ice cream parlor and, much to my delight, I discovered pumpkin pie flavored ice cream.  Even as a child I was intrigued by the savory-sweet heavily spiced ice cream and could not have been happier to unearth large chunks of flaky pie crust with every lick!  I've often wondered if I over remember that ice cream cone, but after whipping up my own batch of pumpkin pie ice cream yesterday, I can say without reservation that I do not.  This simple treat is utterly divine and would serve as a perfect way to preserve your leftover Thanksgiving pumpkin pie!  Go on, give it a try!

Pumpkin Pie and a la Mode All in One Ice Cream

1 quart Breyers All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream
1 9" Pumpkin Pie
Crushed Gingersnaps, Mint Sprigs, and/or Chocolate Sauce (optional)

Allow the ice cream to soften at  room temperature until very soft, but not fully melted.  Scrape the pumpkin filling from the crust and fold it into the softened ice cream.  Roughly chop  the crust and fold it into the ice cream mixture (reserve some for garnish if desired).  Refreeze.

When ready to serve scoop the ice cream into serving dishes and garish with reserved crust, crushed ginger snaps, mint springs and chocolate sauce if desired.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I love my bamboo steamer, but I find I have to replace mine more frequently than I'd like.  The last time I purchased one in Chinatown my friends at Woks n' Things told me to submerge the steamer in a sink full of cool water at least once a month.  After a good 20 minute soak the soft bamboo comes back to life and I know my sensitive kitchen friend will be around a little longer as a result.  If you've never owned one be sure to pick one up the next time you are in an Asian market.  Steaming dumplings, fish and veggies is as simple as can be when you have a bamboo steamer; just be sure to line the baskets with parchment rounds or lettuce leaves to prevent sticking.


Look at the lovely orchid some special folks brought to me this week-end!  I think the colors are just extraordinary and I am going to do everything in my power to keep it alive.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Week-End Work

 double duty dinner
Full Tables-Back to Back
only mildly inconvenient
new friends and old friends
compliments and applause
passion driven fare
at a duo of joyful affairs

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four More.

I am thrilled to death that the election is finally over and I admit that I am delighted by the result.  Listening to President Obama speak last night was so inspirational that I went back through some some of our memories from the 2008 election.  I always forget about this photo of Leif and the First Lady taken on the campaign trail in the early days of the general election.  The photo was taken and given to me by Scout Tufankjian and I have always loved it!  Be sure to check out her website; she is quite talented!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

One of the Wilis

 Spirits of jilted brides known as wilis give the second act of Giselle a powerfully dark side.  
Don't let the sweet little wings fool you; wilis may look placid, but they are cold and calculated little creatures.  It was a joy watching Emma perform as part of this challenging corps de ballet this weekend and I think this piece may be the prettiest thing I've seen in a while.

Two more MOMENTA shows remain.
Saturday November 10th at 8pm
Sunday November 11th at 7pm
The Academy of Movement and Music
605 Lake Street
Oak Park
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