finding my cooking mojo in chicago

My weekend search for my cooking mojo took me all the way to Chicago. We also missed the biggest snow storm Minneapolis has seen in a long time. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad about that – I think being snowed in sounds kind of fun!

I’m happy to report that my mojo is on its way back – our trip started with an amazing afternoon meal at Surdyk’s Flights. I always (repeat, always) go to French Meadow Cafe, but I just had to try it out. It was everything I dreamed it would be. A flight of Spanish wine, some marinated chevre and a frisee salad with crispy pancetta and a poached egg later, I was ready for the weekend and I was ready to start thinking about food again. Just as the Surdyk’s Cheese Shop has those interesting little gems that I just have to get, the airport location has the same. Charcoal crackers and aged goat cheese to go? Oh yes.

Friday we spent as tourists – on the list for the weekend was the ChristKindlMarket to celebrate heritage (complete with potato latkes and hot mulled wine), a walk through Millennium Park, and a delicious pork belly reuben and my first Scotch Egg at The Gage.

Saturday morning started with a hot fusion yoga class – delightful and sweaty. Just how I like it. Then we started hearing about the 15 inches of snow that Minneapolis was getting and the thought of a cancelled flight crossed our minds, but not for long. We had shopping to get to and a show to see! Bright and early Sunday morning I received an email, and our 2 day trip to Chicago turned into a 3 day one. So a leisurely brunch (amazing), bloody mary and packer game ended the weekend on a relaxing note.

It was the perfect weekend, and really what I needed: relaxation and sleep, good food, tall buildings and a touch of yoga – all surrounded by new family!

I’m ready to get back in the kitchen – and I’ve got a lot of recipes waiting for me.

leaving haiti

Thank you for all of the lovely comments on my Haiti posts. :) Haiti obviously holds a very special place in my heart and I’m so glad I can share a little bit of my trip with you. In case you missed any of them:

Faces of Haiti

Haiti: Farm to Mug Coffee

Haiti: Day of Meals

Leaving Haiti is always a little odd. Part of you is ready to go home, ready for clean water and familiar faces of loved ones but part of you isn’t ready to leave. Ready to go back to your busy life full of emails, phone calls and the general craziness of life. As much as I hate being disconnected, it is oddly refreshing to be without the things I can’t live without at home. (ahem, iphone) I did look forward to yoga and cooking when I returned home, but I already miss the delicious meals that were shared with a wonderful team and most of all, the amazing people that I met along the way.

During our stay in Port-Au-Prince I heard something that I’ve been thinking about ever since, “If everyone would just help one other person.” How true. We can’t all save Haiti, or any other country in desperation, but we can all do our best to help one person, whether it be our neighbor, a friend or a complete stranger on the otherside of the world. And I’ll take that lesson with me for the rest of my life.

haiti: day of meals

I showed you some of the customary Haitian food last year, but I wanted to show you what a typical day of food looks like. Now this is more than what most Haitians eat on a daily basis, but still much less than most Americans. They feed us very, very well and the food is amazing, I absolutely love it! They’ve even got red wine!

Before my first trip, I asked my Mom how I would possibly be able to eat, when there are hungry people so close.  She responded with a wise and realistic answer: we are there to work in the clinic, and we aren’t going to do any good if we can’t perform at our best. This makes sense, but is still something I think of often while I’m there.

The portions are moderate and going back for seconds doesn’t typically seem right. Our leftovers are someone else’s meal, so I always really ask myself if I really need more food. I will admit to having seconds of popcorn though. A few times. :) As you can see, the meals are comprised mainly of starches, with some meat and vegetables sprinkled in. We also always bring a few loaves of bread and mamba (peanut butter) to eat throughout the week as well, which can help supplement small meals.

A number of times throughout the trip, I thought about how Haiti is not the place to be a picky eater, a “certain kind” of eater, counting carbs, etc. I’m so glad that I can eat white pasta and peanut butter with added sugar and some hydrogenated oils without going crazy. I know I don’t eat that way all the time, or at home, but when I’m in Haiti, I’ll eat just about anything.

Breakfast: spaghetti with deli ham

Lunch: soup with carrots, potato, green beans and a side of yucca root

Dinner: rigatoni with peas and bits of ham (leftover from breakfast), rice & beans with onion sauce, yams and a carrot, squash and beef (goat?) dish that was delicious. With a side of popcorn. Any cuisine that serves popcorn as part of the meal is one that I’ll enjoy ;)

You didn’t think I’d do a post without a cute kid picture, did you? I just can’t help myself!

haiti: farm to mug coffee

Much of the food in Haiti is farm to table. We see goats at the market on Tuesday morning, and goat shows up at dinner that night. Almost all of the food is fresh and grown near by and with limited refrigeration, some not having any at all, it is completely necessary. Everything tastes better when fresh and the coffee in Haiti is no exception. It is dark, strong and thick with no bitterness. And the days they serve it with hot milk (sweetened condensed milk watered down)? Amazing.

This year, we picked up some fresh coffee from the market (twigs, dirt and all) and the women at the rectory dried, roasted and ground the beans for us. I wish you could see how finely ground this coffee is – finer than anything I have ever seen! And all done by hand. No fancy coffee grinders here – just a heavy hand and lots of love.

Beans by the scoop

Outside drying

Freshly ground coffee beans – as fragrant as you can imagine

2 days and 2,196 miles later I’ve got fresh Haitian coffee – at home. I’m just missing one thing: