Summer Baking

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Over the weekend, Jordan and I spent time in Lincoln Park and visited the Green City Market. Our camera battery was left at home on accident, so we weren’t able to capture all of the wonderful goodies, but oh did I want it all! Organic meat, eggs, honey, and veggies, etc. While walking through the market, the products had me thinking about one of my favorite aspects of summer; fresh berries!

When the seasons change, the recipes I use follow suit. I immediately wanted to dust off my summer baking favorites. Smitten Kitchen’s Raspberry Buttermilk Cake came to mind first. This recipe was discovered during the great Summer Baking Extravaganza of 2009. That was the period right after I graduated college but before I began working full time. I spent the extra time I had baking everything from bagels to pita bread. It was glorious.

This recipe is simple and delicious. It is also the perfect cake size for my little family or a small dinner party.

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Versailles

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Marie Antoinette: This is ridiculous.

Comtesse De Noailles: This, Madame, is Versaille.

Marie Antoinette, 2006. 

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Yes, Marie Antoinette, Versailles is a little ridiculous but oh is it mesmerizing. Prior to leaving on vacation, Jordan and I created a list of places that we would like to see and places that we must see in London and Paris. My must see in Paris was the Palace of Versailles (despite being located slightly outside of the city!). I am drawn to royalty and couldn’t deny the pull to see first hand where the demise of the French monarchy took place.

We really need to thank the people of France. During the French Revolution someone had the wherewithal to know that the Palace shouldn’t burn down! Most of the furniture and paintings were sold (and subsequently many have been re-bought) but the structure was kept intact during all the upheaval.

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We spent the whole day exploring the three structures (the Palace, Grand Trianon & the Petite Trianon) and the gardens. My favorite was Marie Antoinette’s estate, which includes the Petite Trianon as well as a working farm, styled like a British village.

Versailles is one tourist site that is completely worth the admission price.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Coconut Oil

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I have a sweet tooth, especially if the dessert involves dark chocolate. In fact, for almost every holiday/birthday I receive chocolate from either my mom or mother in law. This love of sweets led me to bake a lot growing up with my mother. Now if I feel a craving coming, instead of buying packaged cookies I simply bake them. Sadly, cookies aren’t a dark leafy green so moderation and quality of ingredients do become important. Over the last few months, as my staples have dwindled, I’ve been replacing them with their healthier or organic equilvalent, ie. whole wheat pasta instead of white. On my last trip to Whole Foods I decided to buy coconut oil. It’s mentioned as a potential healthier alternative oil, but I wasn’t exactly sure if I would use it more for cooking or as a beauty product.

A favorite combination of mine is chocolate and coconut. I was having a chocolate craving and remembered a jar of coconut oil in my kitchen and thought, why not make chocolate chip cookies with coconut oil! I found this recipe and adapted it slightly.

  • 2 cups white whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup virgin coconut oil, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) chocolate chip cookies

I  used one cup all purpose flour and one cup white whole wheat (I didn’t want to over kill the health factor the first time I made this recipe).

For the sugar, I didn’t fill the measuring cups fully, a little space below the rim was fine.

Jordan enjoys chocolate but not as much as me, so I never use the full amount of chocolate chips. 2/3 of a cup was closer to what I put into the dough. After mixing began, I decided to add actual coconut flakes to enhance the oil.

They turned out great! The white whole wheat added a nice nutty flavor and using less sugar didn’t affect it. The only thing I would have done differently was to buy unrefined coconut oil instead of refined. I didn’t realize there were two options and one has more of a coconut flavor than the other, ie. use the refined with vegetables but the unrefined with baking for a lingering coconut flavor. Sadly, there wasn’t the full coconut flavor I was hoping for, but they still were a decent chocolate chip cookie. I’m looking forward to trying this again with the unrefined oil.

If you try this recipe or have favorite ways to use coconut oil, please let me know!

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Westminster

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Living near a city like Chicago, I have experienced large scale buildings. Chicago is known for its skyline filled with an abundance of architecturally impressive skyscrapers. In London, Jordan and I spent a day in Westminster exploring all that it offered. Walking a long the River Thames towards Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey was a must. I was completely blown away. These structures aren’t nearly the size of a Chicago skyscraper, but the intricate detail built into each inch leaves a lasting impression. When I think of all the secrets that the Abbey’s watchful gargoyles must hold, I get kinda excited.

After walking for a few hours we were ready for a good meal. We happened to discover a pub that was from the late 1700s. Jordan convinced me to try fish & chips for the first time and I wasn’t disappointed!

The day we took these pictures was quite cold and windy! Thankfully, I remembered to wear my grandmother’s pink leather gloves. My dad’s mother was quite fashionable and loved accessories. I thought it fitting to use them on this trip to London considering she liked to call me her little Welsh girl.

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Pretty in Pink

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Jordan was in charge of the camera when we traveled through London and Paris last month. His backpack carried the camera carefully from town to town. This made it natural for him to take most of the pictures. He has an eye for what is important to capture. As soon as I saw these colorful houses (especially the pink one), I immediately requested he snap a picture.

We stumbled upon this street after traveling through Kensington Gardens. These houses are located in Brompton, which is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. If there was a way for me to have that pink home and add a porch swing, perfection would be made.

Pink House in Kensington London

Marie Antoinette and Magnolias

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Ever since Jordan and I visited Versailles this year, I’ve wanted to learn more about Marie Antoinette. Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette was inspired by the book, Marie Antoinette: The Journey. My library only had the audio version but I enjoy listening to audio books anyway. Marie was the first name of all the girls in the family and she actually went by Antoinette. That was a surprise to me! Also, if not for an outbreak of smallpoxs that took a sister and left another unfit for marriage (lookswise) it’s possible that she wouldn’t have been married off so young. She originally wouldn’t have been the next in line!

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Magnolia trees are my favorite. This particular tree was where I read many books during the warm months. I’m so glad that despite the up and down weather we’ve had this spring, the buds weren’t ruined! They are a very delicate tree and many years a late frost has taken the flowers too quickly.

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Obsession

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I had many obsessions growing up. If I saw a new movie or tv show I would research it to death until I knew the origin and every actors home town. The internet felt very new and unused. Often the research would lead me to the original source material, a book or older film. When I was about 15 the Tudors and Henry VIII 6 wives were the most intriguing. I used them as the topic of many school papers/presentations. Earlier this month Jordan and I visited the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn was beheaded! My 15 year old self was very excited.

The summer before my freshman year of high school I saw preview for a new TV show that I was certain my mom wouldn’t want me to watch. I would record the show on VHS and watch them in secret. That is until my mother walked in during an early episode and surprisingly loved it! Starting then I would watch each episode with my parents. As I graduated high school and left for college my parents turned into roommates and even my husband. Gilmore Girls ran for  7 seasons and a lot happened in that time frame. Watching the show now is such a joy because it reminds me of a wonderful simple time in my life.

You can see Lauren Graham on Parenthood.

She also has a novel which comes out this month.

Five

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I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. When Harry Met Sally 

We were young, naive and in love. Truthfully, we’re even more in love now. Thanks for a wonderful beginning to this journey called marriage. Excited for all the years to come.

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Spring Anticipation

Spring Anticipation

Spring may finally be present in Chicago. The sun is shining and the air is crisp with anticipation. Anticipation of warmer days. In a handful of days Jordan and I will board a plane to enjoy a much needed vacation. We will also celebrate five years as husband and wife during those two weeks.

How is that even possible?! Life moves quickly and I’m so blessed to share my life with Jordan.