Thursday, August 30, 2012

Storytelling: When I Take Out the Trash

I get to chat with this man. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Times, they are a'changin

As someone who rushes through life, I savor these moments when the world says, "Whoa there. Slow down. Taste and see that the Lord is GOOD."

With Love,
kristen mrdjanov

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Banana Rum Cream Frosting

I have a tenuous relationship with pumpkin.

Growing up, we lived one town over from 'The Pumpkin Capital of the World".  Morton, IL celebrates the 'Pumpkin Festival' every September via 'punkin chunkin', a pumpkin pancake eating contest, pumpkin chili, doughnuts, shakes, ice cream etc...all merrily prepared and consumed by the kiloton.  Every fall, people in central Illinois go gaga for pumpkin.

Pumpkin ice cream aside, I haven't been sold. I've been duped by the promises of pumpkin too many times. Bland. Muddy. Gummy...gross. I really wanted to love pumpkin, I did. But I always felt like the spices overwhelmed whatever warm, happy flavor pumpkin brought to the dish. Still, I keep trying. Because when pumpkin is right, it's so right. Unfortunately, last year, my shaky relationship with Pumpkin was calculabley derailed by a pumpkin pie I made that, unfortunately, Rachel was present to taste.

There has been one can (yes, can) of pumpkin staring me down in my pantry ever since. Some rum, bananas and caramel were also languishing. After referring to Bon Appetit, I decided that these willing participants could likely make a Pumpkin Party that even I would want to attend. And guess what? Party we did. This cake is just the right amount of bright, boozy, smoky, tangy goodness. Why aren't banana and pumpkin paired often? The mellow nutty flavors blend so well.

Don't take my word for it.

Homemade Aioli

The word 'mayo' strikes fear in the hearts of many men.

For me, it strikes chords at two ends of the spectrum: fake mayonnaise (eek!), and DMK's heavenly aioli (DMK....droooooool). For some reason, people are more ok with aioli. But guess what, people? Aioli is just fancy mayonnaise. Maybe not even fancy mayonnaise. It sounds better, though, doesn't it? Nothing to be afraid of there.

However, I've had issues with making mayonnaise. Sorry. I've had issues with making aioli. Emulsification is a tricky, tricky game. Do it right, and you have heavenly homemade spread. You pour the oil in even a TINY bit too fast, and the whole thing breaks into an oily, gross mess. Or, you just have thin goop. Not my cup o' mayo.

This recipe is pretty fool-proof. The food processor takes the guess-work out of it, and you have two hands free to control the flow of oil. I was concerned at didn't seem to be emulsifying properly, but then...magic! The trick is to pour s...l...o...w...l...y, and to let the food processor crank away with all its mechanical strength. At first, it will be thin. You may think you are doing it wrong. Do not think. Do. Trust the food processor, you will. And remember: pour slow.

Now you have aioli. Or mayonnaise. Or aiolinnaise.

Dip those fries, Baby. Dip 'em. Or sammich it. Or serve with bread. or fish. or chicken. or sushi it. or put it in a salad. or in salad dressing. maybe make some Alabama White Barbecue Sauce with it. maybe serve it with some crab cakes.. Ok. Now I'm beginning to feel a bit like Bubba.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Happiest of Birthdays

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
                                                              -Marcel Proust

I wanted to post this picture because she's so dang cute, and because it was this little lady's birthday recently.

Rach is one of the kindest, most sincere people I know. I have long considered her a 'charming gardener', and doubt there is a soul in the world who would think otherwise. In my short 25 years, I have never met anyone like her: sweet, cheerful, warm, kind, thoughtful, and constant.

I'm so thankful you are in my life, Rachel Morris! You are special in so many ways.


Life, Mystery, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Yesterday, I received a text from a friend that said, “Friends please pray for me today. My job is sucking the life out of me, and I’m looking for other jobs, but today I’m just really discouraged.” After work I met another friend, who loves her job, makes lots of money, but whose source of angst was the house they could not get, and the money they do not have.  On the train ride home, there was a man who asked, “won’t you please spare something, it’s hard to breathe, see, and I just … and then … and you just don’t know.” He wore an oxygen mask that was attached to nothing.  And ever since, this thing, it has grabbed me, and it won’t let me go.

In all the ways I don’t know,
yes I do. I do know. We are all hungry for something.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Sun Also Sets: A Dedication

I've had this on repeat for the last two weeks, and I realized this evening that it's not because of the lyrics. I can barely understand what he's singing. But I do understand what he's singing about. I bet you do, too.

Washed Out "A Dedication" from Yoonha Park on Vimeo

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eavesdropping "With A View!" - Lakeview East / Boystown

This is how my Saturday evening began:

Boystown Where Rainbows GrowBut on a Saturday night, "Al Fresco" seating isn't exactly conducive to casual reading. I'm not the first to comment on the unique qualities of Chicago's neighborhoods (see to right). But Lakeview East, colloquially known as "Boystown," is quite the melting pot of personalities. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chicken Basil Goat Cheese Rolls with White Wine Sauce

I don't like hammering meat. I get what it's supposed to do, but the whole idea of hammering something that's already dead just doesn't make sense to me. Couple that with the tip from our chef friend that the more you overwork hamburger meat, the worse the burger is... and I just quietly step away from overworking meat altogether (plus, I kind of really get into things. I envision raw chicken flying everywhere if I were to start hammering...).

Still, sometimes you want to get all fancy in the kitchen. Sometimes you want stuffed chicken breasts. And sometimes Bon Appetit wants you to hammer your chicken breasts.

Guess what? I didn't hammer my breasts, and the chicken rolls turned out amazing. Sometimes Bon Appetit is wrong. But not very often. Instead of hammering, I spiral cut the chicken breasts. You could butterfly if your pretty little heart desires. But the important thing here is: these rolls took less then 15 minutes to prepare, and nary a hammer was used.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Roasted Vegetable and Sausage Lasagna


Well, the bread was a hit. David came home last night while I was cooking.  I turned around to see him gnawing (gnawing!) at the end of the loaf. We're
real civilized around these here parts. That bread? Was HIS. Which, I'm cool with, because we have a TON of bread.  Unlike lasagna, I could eat zucchini bread until the cows come home.

You see, we like lasagna the way we like pizza. I can do pizza once in a while, but if I have to eat it too many times in a week:
non va bene. It'll be months before I can even think about a slice. But, here's the problem: people rarely make a small lasagna. No, everyone expects that they'll make Texan-sized lasagna, which everyone will eat until their hearts and stomachs are full, and the pan is gone. Then, they'll sit around the fire and talk about the lasagna they wish they were still eating.

This never happens.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Look what David found while he was working today. A newborn bunny!

Zucchini Blueberry Bread

We have many many cups of zucchini. If I look away, the dang stuff multiplies.

I'm working an insane schedule, as is David. We also have a teeny kitchen sink, and two dishwashers located at the ends of my arms. I've recently discovered that while the Borrowers like to eat chocolate zucchini cake...they don't like to do chocolate zucchini dishes. Or any other dishes for that matter. Neither do I.

SO, in an attempt to minimize dishes AND cups of zucchini, I made a double recipe of Zucchini Blueberry Bread. And a few other zucchini-related dishes. Somehow, I think my fridge still has 16 cups chilling out. I know my freezer has three much more photogenic loaves of Zucchini Blueberry Bread waiting in its belly. Leave it to me to pick the ugliest of the litter to wrap last.

Maybe I can bribe the Borrowers to do the dishes if I make some more Zucchini Cake.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

We have parents who garden. Their garden bounty puts our potted city plants to shame. 

This weekend we went home, and David's dad gave us three (mutant) zucchini. Though not as big as the one our Chinese landlord grew last summer, they were pretty close. What do I do with 18+ cups of zucchini?

Consort Bon Appetit, that's what.

And of course, Bon Appetit delivered...the most delicious, moist, wonderful chocolate cake you've ever eaten on this side of the Mississippi. I pulled a definite kitchen no-no with this one and left my cake unattended while we went to Simone's for a snicky-snack (I know! Horrors!). Growing up without any sense of fear or common sense, my dad used to tell me to imagine everything that could go wrong and assume that it would. I imagined a burned cake, and felt I could live with that. Instead, I rode my bike back in time to pull out the worlds fastest, easiest, most wonderful chocolate zucchini cake to grace the planet with it's presence. Did I learn my lesson? Most definitely. Zucchini cake likes me to go to Simone's.

The cake came out at 9:30pm. Half the pan was gone when I woke up at 6:30. I think we have some very greedy 'Borrowers'.

Pasta with Spinach, Grapes and Nuts

My husband works hard. Sometimes, when he comes home, I think he's a little delirious from doing construction all day. Two nights ago, as he was eating dinner, friends came over and he offered them some pasta.
"It's good. It has chicken..."
"No chicken." I interject.
"It's got fish..." he tried again.
"No fish."
"Well, what is the meat then?"
"No meat."
"Whaaaat?" (Inspects bowl of pasta incredulously, looking for signs of meat).

Your family might notice the absence of meat, but David didn't. I think the toasty nuts, butter, and Parmesan signaled "Protein! Protein!" to his brain.  The original recipe asks for raisins soaked in hot water for a few minutes, but I had some grapes I needed to use up. Some people think sweet and salty dishes are a mixed metaphor. I am not one of them.

That being said, this is good, but it's not my favorite pasta dish. Just want to be honest here. On another note...
I'm wondering if I should be concerned that my husband can't taste the difference between chicken and fish?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Relative love.

Here's a little love from my brother, Michael. His verse is all melty goodness.

Goodnight room.
Goodnight moon.
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.
Goodnight light and the red balloon....
and now that I have grown up so soon,
a few more things to say goodnight to.

goodnight to fear of failure, I lay you in the tomb.
goodnight to rejection of the many and only favor to a few.
goodnight to heart break, heart ache though I'm probably not done with you.
goodnight to my foe,
quiet desperation, because I have been renewed.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Narrow Gate

My first year in Chicago, I used to regularly pass this house on Schubert. It was always exciting because it sits amongst a slew of tremendous homes in Lincoln Park - new homes. Condos that have been built in the past five years. They're big and beautiful. Sturdy and grand (and pricey!). But they have not weathered like this one. You know, when you walk by, that this one has got some life in it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Happy Accidents

I was late coming home from work yesterday.  Murphy's law prevailed, and the one day I didn't ride my bicycle in, I came home in a delirious state. I totally spaced out and missed my stop.

I was so mad at myself until I climbed the stairs to get over to the right platform and I saw THIS. The wind was blowing so softly. The air was perfect. The light was making the buildings burn.

These are happy accidents. I was supposed to be here right now, to see this

(and yes, I know it's super wide. I think it looks better than the next size down, which is tiny).

Happy Thoughts,
Kristen Mrdjanov

Dr. Phil helps Sunshine and Gladys

Guys. You will not believe. Among all our VHS and DVD's, my mom found something we all wrote off as 'lost'... the Dr. Phil video my friends Kelli, Crystal and I made in High School.



It ends abruptly because we finished with an in-class segment (which I wish against all wishes that we had taped) with a 'rehabilitated' Sunshine and her mother. I believe
Kelli even wore a Sunday dress.

Seriously. I died a 1000 wonderful deaths watching this. Blow it up huge (arrow in the corner).

Happy Thoughts!

Here is the youtube link:

kristen mrdjanov
Ps. Kelli is an awesome artist over at: Go check it out. Stat.
Crystal is just livin' la vida loca down in Flo-rida.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Costco, Aldi, Target and Walmart Price Comparisons

Some people like spending money on name-brand groceries, and think it's tacky to worry too much about what you're spending. That's nice. I don't.  I'd rather spend money on other things.

This project started very simply. I was at the Costco, and couldn't decide if the nuts were a decent price (they are). I decided to compare them to Aldi, Target and Walmart.  And, well, if you give a mouse a cookie... she's going to just want the whole list.

I know. It's total boring adult stuff. It's also I'm-tired-of-wondering-how-we-spent-so-much-on-food stuff. But maybe (to you) it's I-could-use-this stuff. To me its wow-this-took-forever stuff.

Some people think it's unrefined to talk about, think about, and post about money, but I'm beginning to realize that if we hope to save any considerable amount of money, it's going to require patience, thought, and planning. Besides, I'm not really the refined sort. I don't really care if other people think this post is totally tacky. For everyone else, here you go.

While it doesn't have everything it's pretty close to everything you'll need. Like 430 everythings.

Here is what the first page looks like:

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