Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Trying my Hand at Pickling September 1, 2015

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 6:14 pm
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So I could spend some time in this post apologizing for my long absence, or I could just get on with my post.  I don’t want to make excuses so I’ll choose option two!

Along with my theme of being behind, I realized one of my Christmas gifts from Dave has gone unused.  He got me a box of spices from Urban Accents.  I was really excited about it when I got it, but I stowed it away and you know what they say about out of sight out of mind…I opened the box up and one item in there really caught my eye: a Sweet & Tangy Pickling Spice.  I have never made my own pickles before and I thought I’d give it a shot.

box of spices

My town has a Farmer’s Market every Thursday morning.  The problem is I usually remember it as I drive past it on my way to work.  Last week I remembered on Tuesday and I made sure I was up in enough time on Thursday to go on a walk, stop by the Farmer’s Market and pick up some farm fresh cucumbers!  The packet in my spice box only called for 1lb of cucumbers, but the deal was $7.50 for a plastic grocery bag full.  I had $8 cash on me so it seemed perfect.  Fast forward to this past Sunday when I started this recipe and I realized 1lb is only 3 cucumbers!  Needless to say I need to come up with something to do with all the rest of the cucumbers I have now.

The recipe doesn’t require much:


1 lb cucumbers, 1 cup white vinegar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water1 packet pickling spice


  1.  In a medium pan, pour the water and vinegar in and bring to a boil.
  2. Open the spice packet and add it to the boiling mixture along with the sugar.


3.  Make sure the sugar is dissolved and then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

4.  While the mixture is simmering, wash and cut the cucumbers into spears.

5.  Place the spears in a heatproof dish and pour the hot mixture over the spears.

6.  Let these sit for 1 hour at room temperature.


As you can see in this photo, I first poured the mixture into a bowl.  I immediatly realized the mixture wouldn’t cover the cucumbers so I moved the spears and mixture to a shallow dish.  This still didn’t cover them completely so every once and awhile I’d turn the spears making sure they call got a fair time to soak.


 After the hour was up, I tried a pickle and it was delightful.  The only thing that was lacking was the temperature. I like pickles cold.  The package told me to serve the pickles immediately or refrigerate.  I decided to refridgerate so I could get the cool crunchy pickle I craved!  I fit all the spears into a tall glass jar (I knew I kept these for a reason!) and proceeded to pour the mixture into the jar.  Well that filled up about ¾ of the way.  I knew they needed to be covered completely so I ended up adding some water.  I screwed on the top and then turned the jar upside down a few times to make sure the mixture was fully combined.  I was pretty pleased with how easy it was to do this and how accomplished I felt.  Do you have a special recipe you use for pickling?  I’d love to hear about it!


Portabella Mushroom Cap Pizza May 14, 2013

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 8:57 pm
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I don’t know what it is with me this month, but I’ve been trying lots of new recipes.  Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s finally warm around here and the Farmer’s Markets are opening.  There are always so many vegetables I would never buy at the grocery store that seem much more appealing at the market.   The latest recipe I tried was pizza on a portabella mushroom.  Gasp! No crust!  Believe me you won’t miss it.  Mushrooms are very hardy and more than make up for the missing bread.  Below are all the steps I took along with photos of most every step- I’m a visual learner myself so I always try to take pictures along the way.


Portabella mushrooms
Pizza sauce
Toppings of your choice {I used Tomatoes, green onion, kielbasa sausage}
Cheese of your choice- sliced or shredded { I used provolone cheese slices}
Oven set to 375°F

First things first.  You need to remove the stem and gills from the mushrooms.  Gills are the thin papery like pieces on the underside of the mushroom.  You can leave them there, but they get mushy when you cook them.   I would recommend using a large spoon and scrap the gills off the mushroom while holding it above a garbage can.  It can get a bit messy.  Also be gentle because you can break the mushroom itself if you are too rough and then it will be harder to use for the pizza.


Now place the degilled {yes I made that word up} mushrooms on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.  You can now add however much sauce you’d like to the top.

photo (1)

Once the sauce is in place, go to town adding all the toppings you’d like to your pizza.  I did tomatoes:

photo (2)

Green Onions:

photo (3)

And Kielbasa sausage {not a traditional topping, but it’s what was in my fridge.  It turned out pretty good!}:

photo (4)

Then I added a slice of provolone cheese.  I find slices give much more coverage and are less messy than shredded cheese.  Plus they work perfectly for a mushroom because they are both round.  You can use whatever you like best.

photo (5)

Sorry its so blurry, its the only cheese picture I took

Throw these in the oven for 20-25 minutes and your dinner is ready!

photo (6)


Making Blueberry Pancakes July 26, 2011

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 11:22 pm
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Karla and I went to the Farmer’s Market this weekend.  If you haven’t noticed, this has become a norm for me now.  The truth is I’m having a hard time buying produce from the grocery store now that I know what I know {read about my new found food influences here} and I can’t even try to compare a tomato from a local farm to one from Dominick’s or Jewel(s). That ‘S’ is for my Nana.  She always says Jewel, Jewels.  Anyhow, back to the original story:

We came back from the market with some blueberries, green beans, and of course tomatoes.  Once we got back to the apartment, I really wanted to use the blueberries.  Right away!  Both of us had already eaten somewhat of a breakfast, but once Blueberry Pancakes popped into my mind I couldn’t resist.  Even when Karla said she’d pass I still decided I wanted them that bad.

The perfectionist in me thought about looking up a recipe so that I could make the pancakes from scratch, but in the end I decided I would probably give up if I took the time to look through recipes.  So I grabbed the Bisquick box and got to work cutting their recommendations in half.  I wanted to cut it into a ¼, but I ask you, how do you use ½ an egg?  I don’t know either.

As I was mixing it all up I had a little jolt of nostalgia and I just had to share it.  When I was young {and even to this day} my dad’s side of the family went up to Michigan to hang out together for a long weekend.  I remember waking up in the morning and going upstairs to find my mom in the kitchen making Blueberry Pancakes.  This was such a treat because not only was she making pancakes for us, but her and my Papa went to pick the blueberries fresh that morning!  Even though I didn’t care for blueberries that much as a 10 year old, I appreciated the specialness of that gesture.  It is a really fond memory for me and just by making the pancakes myself, I felt connected to my mom.  She passed away when I was 13 years old and I think about her one way or another every day.  It’s a little harder for me to feel connected with so much time and distance between us, but little memories like this are what keeps her in my heart.


Herbage. July 13, 2011

I know that’s not a real word, but it describes what I’ve been projecting lately.  On Sunday, Jonathan and I decided to explore the Pearl Street Farmers Market to see what it had to offer.  Let me just say, we will certainly be returning, since the variety and cutesy-ness of it all was almost too much to handle.  We started at the far end of the market for a quick brunch at the Pajama Baking Company, where the brunch was not only delectable, but surprisingly affordable {always a plus for me}. 

Inside Pajama Baking Company, a repurposed garage


We browsed the market, finding everything from handmade soaps and shampoos to your typical home-grown produce to homemade pestos and sauces.  One of the most unique things we saw at the market was the ‘truck garden,’ there to promote growing your own herbs, fruits, and veggies…even if you don’t have a backyard!  That got Jonathan and I thinking, we should start growing some herbs to use while cooking.  We have really deep windowsills in our apartment, and the bedrooms get an unreal amount of sunlight, so we knew we could make it work. 

We started by picking up some herbs we knew we wanted to grow…basil, garlic chives, and rosemary.  We thought we would want to add dill later {they didn’t have it at the market}, but I later found from my neighborhood greenhouse owner that most of Colorado doesn’t even try to grow {much less sell} dill because it’s too ‘delicate’ and herb to survive the lack of oxygen and water that most parts of Colorado experience.  So instead, a unique ‘hot and spicy oregano’ joined the mix. 

Our entire collection of goodies from the day

Then we got a plain wooden expandable planter {I was pulling for this particular planter to be our winner, since I knew it would be easily customizable to our space}, and took everything home.  I painted the planter a simple beige, adding some spice with white polka dots…we went with neutrals so we can move the planter when we feel it’s necessary so our herbs can get all the right sunlight,  but it won’t clash with the decor in any room.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Once we had purchased our final addition, the oregano plant, I went to getting my hands dirty and putting our little herb babies in the planter together.  I hope they grow, and I can’t wait to use them in many recipes!

Our complete mini herb garden!


4th of July Festivities July 5, 2011

This weekend was full of so much fun I can hardly concentrate on one thing to write about.  First off, some of my friends invited me to try out the Green City Market in Lincoln Park and {minus the early wake up} we had fun exploring.  Here is my haul:

 One cool thing about this market is each vendor has a sign on their stall which tells a bit about their operation and tells you how many miles away it is located.  I was fascinated by this and was happy to see MI, WI, and of course IL Farmers represented:

  All in all it was a nice market and it was fun to explore a new one, but it was a bit of a trek and didn’t carry much that our local one doesn’t already have.  We ran over to Whole Foods after that and I was amazed at how ginormous this place is.  There is even a 3-4 story parking garage attached…pretty snazzy!  Once inside, I was struck by how their produce department is set up to look like a Farmer’s Market…check out their layout and a sign about their support of local produce:

  • I hung out with Dave’s family and played Bocce Ball for the first time.  I wasn’t too bad…at least the team I was on won.
  • I spent a lot of time at the pool which really means reading in the sun {don’t worry I was wearing my SPFs} and jumping in the pool once or twice.
  • Sunday I needed to get to work on the dessert I promised to bring to my cousin’s 4th of July BBQ.  I decided to make a flag out of mini cheesecakes!  I know it’s a bit late to make a flag now, but you could make the mini cakes for any occasion and just switch up the décor.  Here is what you’ll need:

By the way I got this recipe from Ms. Bakerella and you can find it here.  I loved making this because it was ridiculously easy.  This coming from a practical non-baker {I swear}.  Here are the things I changed up: the size of the cupcake holders {I couldn’t find 2 inch cups ANYWHERE- not in the 6 stores I tried!}, I used strawberries and blueberries instead of cherry pie filling, and I put the cupcake holders into a muffin tin when baking instead of standing them on a cookie sheet {I tried the cookie sheet but the cups kept spreading out and threatening to spill in the oven}.

All you do is mix the ingredients together, place vanilla wafers in the bottoms of the cupcake holders and then pour the mixture on top.  Bake for 20 minutes and wala!  I waited until the day of the party to add the fruit so it wouldn’t run and here is how they look:

PS- Go Cubbies!


Potatoes and Pie June 21, 2011

This past week was full of cooking for me.  First my sister and I attended a cooking class at Hinsdale’s Second Floor {a lovely store above the town’s hardware store}.  It was a beautiful kitchen and we learned how to take ‘Chicken from Drab to Fab.’  We had an awesome chef named Paul {and awesome assistant Caesar} who taught us all we would need to know and I even got to help out a bit!

I mentioned that a potato salad recipe by Smitten Kitchen inspired me to take a trip to the Farmer’s market last week and finally got around to making it for myself this weekend.  The best part about this recipe is you don’t have to make it all at once.  Since there are quite a few steps I split it up a bit.  I made the potatoes first, set them aside to cool and then pickled the green onions.

I took a break and went out with some friends to a concert in the nearby park and enjoyed some pie in a jar!  {Holy Cow So Good!}

I had seen something like it on the Unique Sweets show on the Food Network and that’s where this friend of mine got his idea.  And in case you were wondering the crust recipe is Martha.  After the concert I came home and cooked the asparagus and green beans {I used these instead of snap peas} and then gave them a nice ice bath.

I combined the vegetables, covered them and put them in the fridge along with the pickling green onions.  Last but not least I whisked the dressing together and also threw that in the fridge.  Yesterday Dave came over and combined them all together for the final product:

Oh and here is an update on my basil plants:

Note to self- Don’t leave the tray in the self made greenhouse {Ziplock bag} for too long or mold WILL grow!  I think they are doing okay despite that little hiccup and I can’t wait to use it in a dish!


It’s a Miracle…Local Food! June 15, 2011

When we were visiting my friend Lei in Eastern Land this past spring I was looking at her bookshelf and a book by Barbara

Kingsolver caught my eye.  Many {6} years ago when I was traveling Europe I read her book called The Poisonwood Bible.  I had really enjoyed the way Barbara wrote and since my friend liked this newer book I ended up taking it home with me.  By the way it’s called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle~ A Year of Food Life.

It has taken me a little while to get into it, but I started to love it the moment Barbara tells the story about her little girl Lily and her chicken/egg business {chapter 6}.  I love not only Barbara, but her whole family and their discussions into heavier topics {such as big box food industry and its negative impact on small farmers} and simple stories about their personal journey to try and eat everything locally and in season for a whole year.  I’ve never really thought about how spoiled I am to eat a tomato out of season.  But Barbara made me think about what it takes to get that tomato to my kitchen in the middle of February.  Their creativity amazes me and it reminds me that human’s are extremely resourceful when they set out to be.  It also gave me more awareness that I have a choice when it comes to what food I eat every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.

In fact it inspired me to hit up my local farmers market this past weekend.  If you’ve never been to a farmer’s market you are missing out on a lot.  The first thing I noticed when I arrived is how excited everyone was to be there.  The crowd seemed to be buzzing.  There’s also the feeling of community and the fact that buying from these vendors means I am supporting a family directly.  Not to mention a large array of  fresh items to choose from:

I didn’t get a ton of pictures, but in the end I bought purple potatoes {$5- 2 lbs}, asparagus {$3- 1lb}, radishes {$3-1 bunch}, and leeks {$2-3 bunches} for a potato salad I found here at Smitten Kitchen that I’d like to try and make.  I also bought a dozen eggs{$5}.  One thing to be aware of is that farmer’s markets are usually a bit pricier than what you’d find at your local Dominicks or Jewel.  I have to remind myself that the quality is much higher because everything is fresh and is being sold by a smaller farmer who doesn’t have the clout to sell in bulk to a big box store.  I like that I am contributing directly to a family rather than a big corporation.  I like the simplicity of it because I don’t know about you, but worrying about hormones and chemicals on my food is starting to bother me.  Something my boyfriend says often is, ‘It’s better to pay your grocer {in this case farmer} than your doctor.’  I think that sums it up perfectly.

Saturday was my farmer’s market adventure and then Sunday a few of the girls were out for brunch at a place called Uncommon Ground.  It’s located on Clark in Chicago.  I loved the atmosphere there and it fit perfectly with my theme of eating locally.  They have a large selection of drinks: organic coffee, teas, and even mocha’s that take up a whole bowl!  The menu caught us up because everything looked so good, but in the end I opted for the chilaquiles.  Scrambled eggs, housemade chorizo, jalapeno, tortillas, chihuahua cheese, salsa verde, and sour cream.  It was delicious!  If you have a chance, check it out!


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