Raw Corn & Cashew Chowder

Thank you to everyone for all of your kind words after I was robbed in December. I was especially moved that a few of you even offered to contribute to a new camera fund. I'm happy to say that I was finally able to replace my camera on my own, even though I am incredibly grateful for the generous offers.

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A lot has changed over the last few months. I'm happy to be back in my old neighborhood in Chicago after grad school. I love my work and my ever-growing professional network. I met excellent people at the Midwest UX conference in June and the Chicago UX Book Club has continued to be fun and thought-provoking.

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I spent a lovely long weekend in the Bay Area in May and I'm heading on my annual Glacier backpacking trip with my Dad in a few weeks. The summer has been busy with six weddings and various out-of-town guests. But, I've still found the time to slow down with warm evenings on restaurant patios and a picturesque sailboat ride on Lake Michigan

Chowder and Lighthouse

In addition to my new camera, my other large purchase over the last six months was finally acquiring a fancy blender. I'd coveted a Vitamix for half a decade, but after quite a bit of research I decided on a Blendtec blender and I couldn't be happier with my choice. I have kale smoothies every morning and I've recently fallen in love with this raw summer soup.

Raw Sweet Corn, Cashew & Avocado Chowder


4 ears sweet corn
1/2 C raw cashews
1 avocado
1 1/2 garlic cloves
4 Tbl good olive oil
1 1/2 C water
2 tsp kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper


Husk the corn and remove the silk. In a large shallow bowl, stand the corn on an end cut off the kernals with a sharp knife. Set aside half a cup of corn kernals. Combine the remaining kernals and the rest of the ingredients in your blender, and blend until very smooth. (I used the "soup" setting on my Blendtec.) Adjust the seasoning as desired.

Pour the soup into bowls and top with the reserved corn kernals and a bit more black pepper. Serve at room temperature, or chill if preferred.

Mushroom Soup with Zaprashka

The last month has been an exciting one! I finished graduate school and earned my Master's in library and information science at the University of Illinois this month. I feel ready to leave, but Champaign, Illinois grew on me more than I expected. I learned a lot about myself and how I want to use my education, I met great friends and colleagues, and I reveled in the markets, theaters, and restaurants of a charming university town. It was sad to pack up and leave this week.

I'm happy to be back home with my parents for the next week and a half, and I have a great job to look forward to in January. I'll be working as a user experience researcher & designer for a small Chicago company. I will be able to use my librarian side to interact with people and learn about their information needs, use my nerdy side to organize information by developing taxonomies and interaction flows, and use my creative side to incorporate these elements into prototypes and visual designs. The work suits me perfectly.

I also just found out that Pro Bono Baker was voted one of the Top 5 Independent Food Websites/blogs by Chicago's New City Magazine! I'm incredibly flattered.

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The last month has had a few low points to balance all this great news. Just after Thanksgiving I came down with a debilitating tension headache/migraine that left me bed-ridden and full of pain killers and muscle relaxers for the better part of two weeks. The stress of feeling so incapacitated during my last few weeks of school and work didn't help.

Worst of all, Nick and I were mugged by two jerks as we were leaving brunch at the Publican recently. Nick had just treated me to a lovely meal to celebrate my new job. We've spent the last two weeks dealing with the aftermath of police reports, credit checks, and card replacements. They made off with my camera (among other things). So... You might not be seeing too many photos around here for a bit. I'm saving up to replace my Canon 60D body and 50mm f/1.4 lens, but it will be a while. Of course, we are grateful that we weren't really hurt.

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I hope all of you are enjoying some holiday cooking with friends and family. I was recently asked to shoot a photo for Travel + Leisure to include in their slideshow of traditional holiday foods. This Russian soup is one of twelve courses served in early January to celebrate the Holy Supper. The soup is thickened with zaprashka - a roux of oil, flour, and the liquid rendered from sautéing onions. There are a number of different recipes available for this unique soup. It has a strong flavor, thanks to sauerkraut juice, and it is great served with a bit of sour cream and chives or dill.

Mushroom Soup with Zaprashka


1 small onion, diced
5 Tbl vegetable oil (divided)
3 Tbl flour
1 C of mushrooms, cleaned and diced
3/4 C of sauerkraut juice 1 quart of vegetable stock (or water)
1 potato, cubed
salt & pepper


Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large stockpot over medium/high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Add the sauerkraut juice and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the onions in a skillet in 1 tablespoon of oil. Pour off any liquid into a different skillet. Turn off the heat.

After the stock has simmered for 20 minutes add the onions (not the liquid). Begin making the roux by browning the flour in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in the skillet along with the onion liquid. Whisk constantly and be careful not to burn. When it is browned, add one cup of the stock and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the soup.

Simmer for 15 more minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.

Spicy Roasted Garlic & Lentil Stew

I spent this past weekend visiting Kentucky for the first time and running the Bourbon Chase (more on that soon when I finish editing my photos). The autumn color was truly spectacular and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful weekend.

30th Birthday

Even though we are experiencing a bit of warm snap right now, October has me thinking of peppermint tea and hearty soup as I rustle through falling leaves on my walk to school. The first task on my fall cooking list was this lentil stew that I fell in love with last year. I don't think I have ever met a lentil soup I didn't like, but this might be my favorite.

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The cayenne and smoked paprika give this stew some snap, but the earthy flavor of the roasted garlic and vegetables balance the dish. It keeps well and makes an excellent workday lunch. You can make this stew with any type of lentil, but I am fond of French green lentils. They hold their shape after cooking, unlike other varieties that tend to fall apart.

Spicy Roasted Garlic & Lentil Soup

Spicy Roasted Garlic & Lentil Stew Serves 6


1 1/2 lb carrots, peeled
5 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large shallots, sliced thin
6 garlic cloves, quartered
1 C chopped celery
1/2 Tbl fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
dash of red pepper flakes
dash of cinnamon
1 C french green lentils
4 1/2 C vegetable stock


Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange the carrots on a baking sheet and coat with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the carrots and add the shallot and garlic. Roast 15 more minutes. Allow the carrots to cool and chop into half inch pieces.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large stockpot. Add the carrots, shallots, garlic, celery, cayenne, red pepper flakes, paprika, and cinnamon. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the lentils and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occassionally. Season to taste.

Poached Egg Soup

The sky threatened to rain all day yesterday, and around 5 am the storm we were promised finally arrived with a magnificent display of thunder and lightening.

I can be a bit hard on the midwest sometimes. For much the year, it is intensely hot and humid or dangerously cold. But, nothing compares to a midwestern summer storm, the exhilarating feeling of a hot night and heat lightening, or the surprising beauty of a farm field lighting up with lightening bugs at dusk.

Baby Robins

This will be my first summer away from Chicago in several years. While there are many things I will miss -- like the Hoyle Brothers at the Empty Bottle, Veggie Bingo at the Hideout, and the hop-fringed patio at Small Bar -- I suddenly feel quite comfortable here in Champaign. I never thought I would live in a town this small again, and while I am certain it is temporary, it is growing on me.


Last summer's routine of waiting for the Western bus on scorching hot asphalt in exhaust heavy air, to head to a job that slowly crushed my will to work for good in the nonprofit sector, seems long ago now. I feel lucky. While I look forward to the next transition when I graduate, for these last few months, I'm happy.

This dish, while appropriate for any meal, makes a great weekend breakfast for chilly mornings.

Zuppa alla Pavese Adapted from Ciao Italia Serves 2


2 thick slices of rustic bread, toasted and buttered
2 fresh eggs
2 Tbl grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 C hot broth (beef or vegetable)
Black pepper
Fresh thyme leaves, optional


Preheat the oven to 375F. Place each slice of bread in a large oven-safe serving bowl. Crack an egg on top of each slice, carefully ensuring it doesn't slip under the bread. Top the egg with a tablespoon of cheese and carefully pour a cup of broth down the side of each bowl. Place the bowls on a baking sheet and bake for 7 to 10 minutes. The dish is ready when egg whites have set and the bread is golden brown. Serve with freshly ground black pepper and fresh thyme leaves.