After our first visit I was accepted into the University of Chicago Divinity School and we moved in July of 2007! Jared's parents helped us a ton.
We actually got to live in our friend's magical house!! Can you believe it? We lived on the top floor. Our friends sold the house but convinced the new owners to rent out the top floor to us. I don't know what we would have done without their help.
This was the view from our private balcony. The houses were only about 2 feet away from each other, so if your neighbor was hanging out as well, you could have a nice chat.
It was a really tiny place that we shared with a stranger, which was often very awkward. Jared and I had our bedroom, but the bathroom, kitchen and living room were shared. So, I tried really hard to make our bedroom, the only private place we had, really homey and personal. I hung up a lot of pictures, as you can see.
We played a lot of wii that year. Especially Mario Galaxy...oh man what a great game, and watched a lot of Arrested Development and Oceans, that David Attenborough series. 

We installed that ac unit the day after we moved in. Imagine being in a 120+ year old house without any air conditioning in July, on the third floor, with no cross wind and only a tiny window that basically opens up into an alley. It was unbearable! Thank God we found a cheap ac unit so quickly.
I also did A LOT of reading. That cozy chair was my favorite place in the whole apartment. By the way, check out those beautiful original wooden floors. Gah I loved that old house. So beautiful.
This was our dining table. All the furniture actually came with the apartment. Another huge benefit to living here. We didn't bring that much with us from San Antonio. Jared's mom Judy painted that painting. We still have it in our apartment now.
These were all of our dishes that we brought. We got tons more from our recent wedding, but we only moved with our favorites. 
This was the common room. I loved this room, too. I would sit on that couch for hours and practice knitting. And kneel on the couch to stare out the windows at the snow. I was so fascinated by the snow!

Thinking about our first Chicago home is really bittersweet. I loved it there so much, I thought it was beautiful and I could feel the warmth of the history through the floor boards, original radiators, door knobs, fireplaces and mirrors. Thinking about the original owners just blows my mind. The architecture is such a window into their daily lives. There was a (sort of) secret narrow staircase for the servants to use and the master bedroom (our roommate lucked out and got it!) had a water closet with just a sink and mirror so the man of the house could shave and freshen up before anyone saw him outside of the bedroom. He needed to look good even for his kids and the servants!

When we stayed there during our first visit to Chicago, I got lost in the house several times. It was so big! I had never even seen a house of that style before and I was just so enchanted by it. Add to that the awesome experience we had of staying with that family and even being there when Elias was born...it was just about my favorite place on earth. 

But when we moved in, we weren't even allowed in the bottom 2 floors, since a new family lived there. That alone made me sad, I loved the whole house so much! It was hard to live in your dream house but only being able to enjoy a small part of it. Although it looks like a wealthy area, there was quite a bit of crime and poverty in Hyde Park. I would never go out at night by myself. I had several friends who were held up at gun point. Our car was broken into, people would always be going through our trash and asking for money in the alley way behind the house. Bikes were stolen from our back yard. We even caught someone trying to take our license plate off of our car! 

Add to that the tensions with our roommate, the stress of being a new graduate student, newly married and separated from all our friends or family and it was the most difficult year of my life so far! I just felt like I had to say that because looking through all these pictures it's easy for me to think everything was bright and beautiful, when that wasn't the case.

Thank you guys for letting me ramble about my memories. It's really therapeutic for me! I think I'm so afraid of forgetting our time in Chicago that it is important for me to record it somewhere. Thanks for letting me use this space to do so!
 
 

Ok guys, I feel compelled to tell the story of our life in Chicago. So, I'm going to start at the beginning. It's a long story, so brace yourselves. But, hey, it's better than no posts whatsoever, right?
Jared and I first visited Chicago during Spring Break my senior year in college, 2007...or maybe it was my junior year 2006. I can't remember. You know it had to be 2006 because Jared and I weren't engaged yet. We traveled with our friend Nicolette, and stayed in my professor's/friend's house who lived in Hyde Park. His wife was very pregnant, like 9 months pregnant. I fell in love with Chicago on that trip, and I knew I wanted to live there some day. 
This is the house we stayed in on Dorchester. We loved the history of it and had such a magical time with the family who hosted us. 
Yep, my friend's wife gave birth (in her house!) while we were there. No big deal. We got to hold little baby Elias when he was only 12 hours old.
All these photos were taking by Nicolette. I didn't even have a digital camera then! I actually took a few shots during this trip with a disposable camera I kept from my sister's wedding, you know how sometimes they'll put out cameras for people to take pictures? Well, I'm selfish and just took one for my own personal use. Would you believe I still have never gotten those pictures developed? That's something I have to do before we move.
 
 
Big news! We're moving to Austin! We're both really excited to be moving closer to home, but it's been an emotional roller coaster processing that we are really leaving Chicago/'Burbs. We've been here for 5 years! Our entire married life! Not only are we going to miss friends and favorite places, but I really associate being in Texas with my childhood, and it's kind of weird thinking of myself as an adult, married woman in Texas. I didn't really expect that would be so weird to me.

So, I feel this overwhelming urge to look back on the last 5 years and really remember how blessed we've been. Since our time in Chicagoland isn't something we share with the rest of our family, I'm afraid we'll slowly forget it over time and our future kids won't feel any connection to a place that is so dear to our hearts. Expect a lot of old pictures and long musings here in the next few weeks!
 
 
Weird, right? Tomato cobbler? But no joke, this dish is sooooo good! Tart roasted tomatoes with caramelized onions, garlic and thyme topped with savory cheesy whole-wheat biscuits, and all on a bed of fresh spinach! The ingredients are simple, but when they all come together they're divine. Some ingredients were just made to mingle, you know? Alright, let's make it!
First, you caramelize the onions. It's easy; just cook the sliced onions in 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until they are soft and brown. Add some thyme and minced garlic and cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat.
Wash 3 lbs of cherry or grape tomatoes. Aren't they beautiful?
Pour the tomatoes into a 9X13 baking dish and toss with flour. The flour will make the tomato juices into a dreamy sauce! Add some salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Don't forget the thyme-y, garlicy onions like I almost did. That would have been a disaster!
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Now you get to make the biscuits! Stir together 2 cups of flour, baking soda and salt. Cut in a stick of butter (cut into pieces) until the flour forms little crumbs. Stir in 1 cup of shredded gruyere. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of half and half and stir it in with a fork just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Dollop 12 big spoon fulls of batter over the tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle a little more gruyere on the batter. Then bake for about an hour or until the tomatoes are roasted, the  juices are bubbling and the biscuits are browned.
Let cool for about 10 minutes then serve on a bed of fresh spinach. The heat from the tomatoes and juice will wilt the spinach just a bit, it's perfect! Sprinkle with some more gruyere if you like and dig in!

Tomato Cobbler with Gruyere Biscuits
Adapted from: Martha Stewart via Annie's Eats
Serves: 6-8

Filling:
4 tbsp olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
3 lbs cherry or grape tomatoes (I think I used a mixture of both)
3 tbsp whole wheat flour (you could use all-purpose if you want)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
bit of black pepper

Biscuits:
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup grated gruyere cheese, plus some more for serving
1 1/2 cups half and half

One of those 5 oz boxes of spinach for serving.

To make the filling heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Toss in the onions and cook until soft and caramelized, stirring often. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for a minute more. Remove from the heat.

In a 9X13 baking dish, stir the tomatoes, flour, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and the onion mixture together. Set aside and preheat the oven to 375 degrees

To make the biscuits, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add the cheese and stir in the half and half with a fork until the dry ingredients are incorporated and a wet dough forms.

Plop big spoonfuls of the dough on top of the tomato mixture and  sprinkle the dough with a bit of gruyere. Bake for an hour or until the tomato juices are bubbling and the biscuits are browning. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

To serve, spoon a biscuit and plenty of tomatoes over a bed of fresh spinach. If desired, sprinkle with more gruyere, and enjoy!

 
 
Thanks to Homesick Texan, I've finally learned how to make decent fajitas. We love fajitas so much in the Clack house, I can't really express how delighted we were that we've at long last, made delicious fajitas at home. Nothing reminds us of living in Texas like fajitas. Our kitchen still smells like peppers, limes and cumin and it makes us smile every time we walk in the door!

Well let's get to the recipe shall we?

Chicken Fajitas
Source: Homesick Texan
Serves: 6

For marinating the chicken:
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 serrano chiles, stems removed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (if the breasts are quite large, I would recommend cutting them in half and then marinating.  Our chicken was so big it was hard to cook it all the way through without burning the outside.)

For the fixin's:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 bell peppers, seeds and stems removed and sliced.
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
salt to taste
12 flour tortillas
guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese, refried beans, whatever you like on your fajitas!

Mix together the lime juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cumin and serrano chiles in a blender until smooth. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Pour over the chicken and marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

When you're ready to start cooking, set the oven to 200 or 250. Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and place them in the oven. This way they will be warm when it is time to eat! 

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and cook until done, about 5 minutes per side (or until the inside is 160 degrees). Remove the chicken and let it rest while we cook the peppers and onions.

Heat the other tablespoon of vegetable oil in the skillet and saute the onions and peppers over medium heat until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Slice the chicken and serve with the pepper and onions in the warm flour tortillas. Then top with your favorite fixins! As you take your first bite, close your eyes and pretend you are on a beach drinking a margarita. This last step is optional, but I highly recommend it!
 
 
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Roasted Asparagus, Potato, Onion Quiche with Feta and Rosemary
I make quiches a lot. Like, every week. I do this because I'm very picky about my breakfasts, not because I'm a connoisseur, I'm just weird. My first meal of the day must be filling, savory and have various ingredients. I can't just have a fried egg by itself for example. Plus it needs to be prepared in 1 minute or less, I like to sleep in as late as possible, you see. 

A quiche made on the weekend, and reheated every morning is the only food I can think of that fills all these requirements. If you have other ideas, let me know in the comments! Now, you might be thinking "A slice of quiche every morning? Molly, surely you get sick of that!" Usually you would be right, but quiches can be made in so many different ways to help keep your interest. One might also object, "Quiches are so fattening, you shouldn't eat them so often!" And to that I reply, yes, generally that is true, but since there are so many options for quiche ingredients, you can easily make healthier choices. 

Which leads me to the purpose of this post, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Quiche! Just pick one or two ingredients from the categories below, put them together, bake them, and baby you got a quiche! Oh, I almost forgot another reason I love making quiches. Since there are such a variety of ingredient options, it's a great way to use up leftover ingredients.
Picture
Spinach, Bacon, Feta and Cheddar Quiche
1. 9 inch Pie Crust
-You can buy it pre-made.
-You can make it yourself using whatever sort of fat you choose.
-You can make it gluten-free. (There are tons of recipes online)
-You can buy a gluten-free pie crust mix. (Lots of options, just google "gluten-free pie crust mix)
-Or skip the crust altogether! Just make sure to grease the pie pan a lot so the quiche doesn't stick.

2. Eggs
-4 eggs
-8 egg whites (if you do this add more milk to the mix)
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Spinach, Onion and Feta Quiche
3. Milk
-1 cup heavy cream
-1 cup half and half
-1 cup whole, 2%, or skim milk
-1 cup buttermilk
-1 cup goat's milk



4. Vegetables (with appropriate seasonings) Choose as many as you want!
-I'll often use any leftovers from side dishes (That's what I did for the roasted potato and asparagus quiche.)
-Spinach  (defrosting one of those frozen packages is the perfect amount)
-Onions (you can never go wrong with onions, raw or cooked, you'll need about a 1/4 of an onion)
-Steamed Broccoli
-Roasted Red Peppers (great with basil and garlic)
-Sauteed Green Peppers
-Roasted Red Potatoes (soooo good if sliced and roasted in olive oil with onions and rosemary)
-Roasted Asparagus (perfect if roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon)
-Sauteed Mushrooms
-Sauteed Squash or Zucchini
-Top quiche with thinly sliced tomatoes
-Any other vegetable you can think of!
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Roasted Red Pepper, Red Onion, Basil and Goat Cheese Quiche
5. Cheese
-6 oz feta cheese (my personal favorite)
-6 oz goat cheese (gives the quiche a great creamy texture)
-6 oz shredded cheddar, swiss, whatever you want

6. Meat (optional)
-Bacon, this is really your only option if you choose to add meat. I usually use 1/4 of a package.

Ok, now we're ready to make our very own quiche! Make sure your pie crust is ready and that your oven is preheated to 375 degrees. 
1. Prepare the vegetables (and bacon if you're including it). Taste the veggies to make sure they are to your liking. Season as necessary. If they don't taste good now, they won't when they are in the quiche, either!
2. Whisk your eggs.
3. Pour the milk into the eggs.
4. Add the vegetables and cheese.
5. Pour the egg mixture into your pie crust (which has been placed in a pie pan).
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes, or until the quiche doesn't jiggle when shaken. Check during baking to make sure the crust isn't browning too fast. If it is, cover it with aluminum foil. (And be sure to clean up any messes before you take photos for your blog...)
7. Serve immediately, or cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for a delicious breakfast for the rest of the week!

I'd love to hear about any quiches that you make! 
 
 
Doesn't it just make you smile? I love the Japanese parasol fabric and I can't wait to use it for more projects. It was pretty easy to make, too! Let's take a closer look, shall we?
I loooove it! It definitely brightens up a dreary chore. This was another project from the Home Ec course. I'm learning a lot!
 
 
I love potato soup! Isn't it just perfect for a snowed in day? Especially when the soup has a bit extra heat like this one. The roasted jalapenos give this soup quite a kick!
This soup requires a lot of prep, but isn't it nice sometimes to just take your time? It can be so peaceful to chop tons of veggies and think about what a blessing it is to even have food to chop, you know?

First you'll need to roast 1 or 2 jalapenos under the broiler. I used 2 because we like spicy food, but it was really very spicy so 1 might be sufficient. Broil them for 10 minutes, flipping once. While the peppers are roasting, cook 6 slices of chopped bacon and then drain them on a paper towel. Pour 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease into the pot you will use for the soup.

Let the jalapenos and bacon cool as you peel and chop 2 lbs potatoes, 1 celery stalk, 1/2 yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, and cilantro. Now the jalapenos are cool enough to slice. Be sure to discard the seeds, and be careful not to get spiciness in your eyes! I always wear gloves when I handle peppers, I've had way too many bad experiences!
Anyway, now you can warm up the pot with the bacon grease and add the onion and celery. Cook on low until soft. 
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, garlic burns quickly.
Add the potatoes, and some cumin and cayenne pepper, just a few shakes.
Pour in 4 cups of chicken stock (homemade if you're feeling little-house-on-the-prairie-ish!) and bring to a boil.
Then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and let the soup cool for 10 minutes.
Then blend the soup, in batches, until smooth.
Pour in 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup half and half. Mix in the creamy goodness.
Pour in the roasted jalapenos...
and the bacon. Warm up the soup a bit more and add salt if necessary. Then serve with cheddar cheese and cilantro!

Potato Soup with Roasted Jalapenos and Bacon
Adapted from Homesick Texan

1 or 2 jalapeno peppers
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
pinch of cumin
pinch of cayenne
chopped cilantro
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup half and half
salt and black pepper to taste
shredded cheddar for serving

Cook the jalapenos under a broiler for 10 minutes, turning once. Once cooled, remove the stem and seeds and chop.

Cook the bacon on medium heat until crispy. Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel lined plate. Pour 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease into a large pot.

Preheat the pot over low heat. Then add the celery and onion and stir occasionally until they're soft. Then toss in the garlic and cook for only 30 seconds. Add the potatoes, cumin and cayenne and then pour in the chicken stock. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Next turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat and let the soup cool for 10 minutes. Blend the soup until smooth by pouring the soup into a blender in batches. Return to the blended soup to the pot and pour in buttermilk and half and half. Warm over low heat until it's as warm as you want it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with shredded cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!
 
 
I spent my weekend reading Buffy Season 9 comics and snacking on delicious cheese and crackers. Basically, another great weekend! What did you do to relax?
 
 
I made my first batch of chicken stock! I don't know if it's really cheaper than just buying it in a box, but it was fun to make and quite tasty! Plus, you get an added bonus: the satisfaction of using the entire chicken instead of throwing out the bones!
It's easy, too! Just throw in the chicken, the veggies, the seasonings and the water and cook for a really long time, basically. Here's some more detailed instructions!

Chicken Stock
Adapted from Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook
Yields 6+ cups

3 pounds chicken bones (I used the bones from a 4 pound chicken)
10 cups water
1 large yellow onion, unpeeled, chopped coarsely
2 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped coarsely
2 medium carrots, chopped coarsely
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled, smashed
4 teaspoons poultry seasoning (dried thyme, parsley et cetera)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon peppercorns (I used white, but you could use black peppercorns, too)
kosher salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in an 8 quart stockpot. You can add more water if needed to cover the ingredients.

Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim the foam as it begins to form. Let it simmer for another 3 hours.

Strain the stock through a colander into a large bowl. Then pour the stock into another large bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Let cool for a few minutes then refrigerate. Skim off the fat that will form on the top of the stock as it cools. The stock will keep for a week in the fridge, or you can freeze it and it will last for 3 months!

Next time, I'll share a recipe in which you can use your homemade chicken stock!