Friday, March 30, 2012

She's Alive!

Seventy degrees in Chicago in March???  Oh, Spring, you are always welcome to show up early to my party.

Spring can be a cold and yucky season in Chicago, but this year she decided to change things up a bit . . . and, oh my, how the city has finally come back to life.

It would be a lie for me to say I wasn't ready to jump out the window at any given moment during the cold months of January and February.  I don't have access to the car every day, so my little monkeys and I had our moments of stir-craziness in this condo.  Winter was unusually warm for most parts of the country, and I'm pretty sure we only pulled out the sled a couple of times.  At least we could have played outside if there was more snow, but it's kind of hard to play in the cold mud.  Since we went through two pairs of cheap Target snow boots for Mimi last year, we actually bought nicer (ahem, more expensive) ones for this winter.  I think Mack only had to wear his twice.   

But lucky for us, Spring showed up fashionably early, and I have found myself throwing the kids in clothes as soon as they can devour their breakfasts and then getting all of us out of the house so we can, aaaaaahhhhhh, breathe in some fresh air.    

The really awesome zoo in our area is the Brookfield Zoo, but I prefer the smaller (and with better views) Lincoln Park Zoo.  

Yes, they were totally trying to escape.  My children hate it when I say, "Everyone snuggle in and say 'cheese'!"

This was the first time Mack was allowed to run around like a maniac at the zoo -- it came naturally since his sister has set such a great example for him.  

I am kicking myself for taking this with my phone and not my fancy camera.  

Smitten with these two boys.  

I hatched a toddler!

It makes me giggle that Mimi's favorite part of the zoo is the farm.  There's a red barn and cows, chickens, bunnies, and more cows . . . this was basically my backyard as a child.  But now we pay $25 to see it in a zoo.

A couple of weeks ago it was seriously warm -- like 80 degrees warm.  What is up, Global Warming?  I think it was still snowing at the same time last year.  So I finally pulled out the summer clothes from the box under my bed, and Mimi was sooo pumped to see all of her "new clothes" (she totally doesn't remember any of them).  Once we sorted through the things that still fit and are not completely covered in stains, this was her favorite outfit -- a tie-dyed t-shirt and gray leggings.  

It makes me giggle that I spend so much time checking for deals on Zulily and browsing fabric stores and sewing up a storm for my daughter, and she just wants to throw on a t-shirt and wear her hair in braids like Jessie.  And I can't blame her . . . because I dress almost exactly the same way.

But I finally made something she could wear every day -- striped knit ruffle pants.  Yes, I would like a pair for myself, but we can't be that matchy-matchy.

And what's spring without the Easter bunny?  Because he's in at least one store on Roscoe Street every weekend, Mimi's convinced he lives in our neighborhood in the spring.

We finally celebrated St. Patrick's Day in true Chicago style . . .

. . . by putting a puppy in a Leprechaun hat.  That's what everyone else does, right?

If you can't tell by looking at me (and my red-headed brother), I'm Irish.  Clint laughs at me when I say this because I know absolutely nothing about Ireland other than U2 and the Cranberries.  So honestly I'm just a southern redneck with an Irish heritage, but I still felt that I deserved to celebrate this year.  Last year we sat in our den and watched the droves of drunk twenty-somethings dressed in green pants and boas and tutus (I'm not even kidding) stumble down our street, and I told Clint we would be a part of that next year.  So when a college friend told me she was coming to town, you better believe I booked a sitter.  

And the rest of the photos I'll keep to myself :).  If you haven't experienced St. Paddy's in Chicago, then you don't know what you're missing.  Imagine the parade in Jackson, MS, times a thousand.  Yep.  It's that awesome.  And at 80 degrees, this was the warmest St. Patrick's Day in over 100 years . . . fan-tastic.  

I'm playing catch-up right now, so (fingers crossed) there'll be more to come in the next few days.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Props to RP Tracks

I feel like so much has happened in the past two weeks (although nothing life-altering or really all that important), and I am just now finding time to actually sit down and write.  And what is it that I'm going to write about?  Absolutely nothing that's happened over the last couple of weeks.  I'm going to write about what I made for dinner last night because It.  Was.  Awesome.

Okay, I'll tell a quick synopsis of what's been going on at the Darby house.  We were all sick.  Booooooooooo. We've had a house full of tissues and my shoulders have been covered in snot.  Is that what you really want to hear about?  Probably not, so I'll get on to the food.

First of all, here's the background story.  When Clint and I first moved into the bungalow on Prescott and were still DINKS (Dual Income, No Kids), we ate out for dinner, oh, almost every night.  The neighborhood staple for us was a little hole in the wall named RP Tracks.  Only the college kids and really odd professors and possibly those Dungeons and Dragons People who met at Audubon Park on Sundays and a few other locals actually know about it, so I'll keep its location to myself.  It was in walking distance from our home and was the perfect place for us to find a cozy booth, get a good beer (I write this like I actually drink something better than a Coors), grab a Memphis Flyer, and completely unwind.  There was always some kind of crazy sitting at the bar, so the place was never lacking in entertainment.  We even took little Mimi there several times, and I was completely shocked when they waiter brought us a high chair when she was old enough to sit.  Were there really other parents who brought their children to this shady place?

Anyway, one of my favorite meals was the Barbeque Chicken and Gouda Quesadillas.  Oh my, oh my.  And now that it's spring in the south and still winter here, this is the time that I begin reminiscing about what I do miss about Memphis.  So I attempted to make these quesadillas last night, and dare I say they were just as good as the RP Tracks version?  Oh, yes, they definitely were.

So quit drooling and make them for dinner tonight.  Here's your grocery list:

*3 Chicken Breasts (or 5-6 boneless, skinless thighs.  I'm a believer in the thighs now.  If you're vegetarian, just whatever the equivalent is in tofu.  Gross.)
*Four 8 inch Tortillas (Get the whole wheat to balance out the bacon that's coming in a minute.)
*3-4 slices of Bacon (Turkey bacon is fine.  I don't know what you vegetarians do in this case.)
*1 cup of your favorite Barbeque Sauce (I'm a Bullseye fan -- thanks Mark Gilliland.)
*1 Red Pepper chopped
*1/2 Red Onion chopped
*1 Avocado cut in small pieces (I had a huge one and only used half.)
*1/4 cup shredded Smoked Gouda
*1/2 cup shredded Cheddar Jack Cheese
*3 tbsp Butter divided (Please do not substitute with margarine.  Gross.)

Cook and chop the chicken first.  Season with some bbq dry rub, salt, and pepper and then throwing it on the grill would be ideal, but our grill wouldn't stay hot last night because of the tornadic winds.  I ended up baking it, and it was fine.  I guess you can boil it, but boiled chicken just stinks up the house.  After it is cooked and chopped, put it in a bowl and mix in the bbq sauce.

Cook the bacon on medium to medium-high and then tear in small pieces.  In another pan, heat 1 tbsp of butter until it begins to brown and then throw in the chopped peppers and onions until they begin to brown.

Now pick whichever pan is bigger and wipe it clean with a paper towel (because you don't really want to wash yet another pan, do you?).  Melt about 1/2 a tbsp of butter on medium and then add one tortilla.  Cover the tortilla with half the gouda, half the cheddar-jack, and half the avocado.  Let it melt for a couple of minutes (I can't even tell you how happy the thought of melted avocado makes me) and then add half the onion and pepper mixture and half the bbq chicken.  Now cover with the other tortilla and press down just a little so it will stick together.  Using a spatula check the bottom occasionally to make sure it isn't burning.

When the bottom looks a tad brown, this is when you get to flip it.  I tilt the pan and use my spatula to gently slide the tortilla on a plate.  While it is on the plate, melt another 1/2 tbsp of butter in the pan.  Then holding the edges of the tortilla and sides of the plate with both hands I flip the plate and tortilla upside down to get it back on the pan.  If you hold your breath and stick your tongue out just right, then you should have no problem.  Keep checking the bottom and then remove it when it is brown.  Cut it in about 6 slices.

Now just repeat with the leftover ingredients, serve with some black beans (out of a can) and Spanish rice (microwavable Uncle Ben's in a bag -- please don't even think about all the sodium I just asked you to consume with these two sides), and you have a FANTASTIC meal.  One tortilla was actually enough for Clint and me, so we get to eat the other one for dinner tonight!  Yipee!

If you want to make it even better, then dip it in some sour cream, but ours expired on February 10th.

And now you're wondering what to do with the rest of the gouda -- make some Smoked Gouda Shrimp and Grits.  Mmmmmm.  Cook some grits in chicken broth instead of water.  In a large pan, melt butter and cook some chopped green onion then throw in the shrimp and cook until it starts to turn pink.  Add some red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Add the grits when they are ready and then slowly add the shredded gouda. Yummmm and so, so easy.

Okay, so I'll give you just a few cute photos of the monkeys.  Yes, they are in their jommers and watching cartoons in almost all of them.  Don't judge.  They were snotty, remember?

He cannot relax without Woody, his pacifier, and the tag of his blanket.  Oh, and we must have either Winnie the Pooh or Toy Story on the TV or he yells at me.  He became quite spoiled while he was sick.

 After he called about 45 people within five minutes, I have finally locked my phone.

Working with Daddy.

And this is maybe my absolute favorite . . .