Minnesota on 12/27
Logan Square, Chicago, after a freak warm spell/rainstorm on 12/31
One of the highlights of my trip (besides a painfully good NYE dinner at Ras Dashen Ethiopian restaurant) was that my friends Celeste and John, who I was staying with in Chicago, suggested that we host a New Years Day brunch at their place. I am very doubtful that there is a better way to spend the first day of the best year yet than eating good food with dear friends.
We adapted the spelt biscuits from a recipe in Veganomicon for a cassoulet with biscuits.. unlike in the recipe, we just dropped them on a greased baking sheet and baked them at 425 for about 10-12 minutes. They were very tender--apparently that's a characteristic of spelt flour, that it stays very wet and soft; I had to add quite a bit of extra flour to get a workable dough .
These were great with Celeste's recipe for Mushroom Celery Gravy, originally from Vegan Yum Yum. I have to say, I'm still partial to this mushroom gravy, which is a bit less starchy, but the celery was a nice addition, and the cooking method for this recipe made it easier to avoid getting clumpy gravy than in the earlier recipe.
Celeste's muffins (sadly, I have no photo) were a variation on the spelt blueberry muffins from the Babycakes cookbook (reason #1094760 that all these Chicago folks should come visit me in LA, btw). She used cranberries and walnuts, and some wholemeal spelt flour, and sprinkled maple sugar over the top. They were fantastic.
We also made roasted fingerling potatoes (with olive oil, rosemary, gomasio, garlic, and pepper) and fried collards (with garlic, onion, tamari, lemon, and sesame oil).
And, we made the Oats and Rice Sausage that I've blogged about before.
Here's my plate. :)
Oh, and here's one of John's unbelievably complicated bloody marys. Due to the worcestershire sauce, they weren't vegan, and I don't much like bloody marys (or drinking in the morning) anyway. But word on the street was, these were pretty bomb, as far as bloody marys go. It is a constant source of puzzlement to me why the only socially acceptable types of morning drank are the bloody mary and the mimosa (please, hold the tomato juice and the sugar and just give me a beer...). But no matter.
And... speaking of hair of the dog, our brunch was graced by the most adorable three-legged dog in the universe!
The last time I visited Chicago was two years ago, exactly six months after I'd moved away. That was a rough visit, in part because it was impossible to ignore how quickly things had changed in Chicago without me, how much starting grad school had changed me, and also how impoverished some of my relationships had been even when I was living in Chicago. This time, two more years later, I was struck instead by how many things are--and will be--the same: the weather, the experience of daily life in Chicago, and the friendships that really matter. I am so thankful for these people and those places.
Sunrise over downtown, seen from the L station, en route to the airport