Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Recipes For People Who Can't Cook: Turkey Chili

This recipe is my jam.  It is far and away the most-requested meal in our household-- in fact, I made it just last night.  It was such a perfect way to combat the imminent Chicago winter that I knew I had to share.  Plus, it is the first recipe I mastered so I am positive that even the most inept cook can handle it.  

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1/4 cup ground chili
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes in juice
3 cups beef broth
8 oz. can tomato sauce
3 15 oz. cans chickpeas

1. Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute until tender and nearly translucent, about 5 mins.  Add cumin and oregano, stir for 1 min.
2.  Increase the heat to medium high and add the turkey.  Cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink.  Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon.
3. Add tomatoes with juice, beef broth, and tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 mins., stirring occasionally.  Add beans, and simmer for about 10 mins.  Discard bay leaves.

Notes: I like to replace at least one can of chickpeas with butter beans, just for variety-- and any white bean will work.  No need to wait an hour to put in the beans.  I find that it makes no difference to put them in from the get-go.  Also, I try to cook this longer than the hour advised.  Like all chili recipes, it just keeps getting better.  I love this topped with avocado slices or even feta cheese (then again, I think feta goes on everything).  

Added bonus: while I generally don't pay attention to the calorie counts of food I cook at home (I am a firm believer in Michael Pollan's rule #39: you can eat anything you want as long as you cook it at home), I was pretty excited to find out that this is only 208 calories a serving.

On the other hand, I consider this a "snack size," so maybe I shouldn't be patting myself on the back for my healthy habits just yet.  Not to mention, I usually wash it down with a Southern Tier 2x IPA.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scrooge Approved

I am going to say something shocking now. Are you ready?

I don't really like Christmas.  

I mean, I don't dislike it, exactly... but the sight of a Starbucks red holiday cup just does not fill me with the same joy that it does 95% of the population.  I haven't had a tree for the past 5 years and haven't regretted for one second.  I do not gleefully throw on a Christmas album the second Thanksgiving dinner is over.  When it comes to Christmas, I could take it (the presents, specifically), or leave it (the forced merriment, the traveling, the endless office parties).

  But even I am considering getting into the holiday spirit with this wonderful Joy to the World map (as seen on my idol Emily Henderson's Christmas Special).  I love that it conveys the spirit of the season without hitting you in the face with cutesieness, glitter, or baby Jesus.   I am still more Grinch than Cindy Lou Who, but this may just make its way into my photo wall.   

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Despite receiving no less than 50 (!!!) emails from various retailers offering Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a whole host of other discounts, I completely abstained from shopping this weekend.  I was tempted by some nice James Perse and T by Alexander Wang basics, but frankly nothing was exciting enough to get me to pull out my credit card. 

True to form, I have instead fallen in love with something full price and with approximately zero use in my daily life, the Jeffrey Campbell Back Buckle Ankle Boot, available exclusively at Free People.  I am not particularly fond of either of those companies (Jeffrey Campbell's Lita boot is an assault on the eyeballs I shall not soon forget) but even I have to admit that they killed it with this one.  Please ignore those abominable lace-scrunchy leggings and imagine how many ways you could wear these boots.  They would look adorable with t-shirt dresses in the summer, could work with tights in the winter, and obviously are made for a pair of skinnies.  And while I do not normally advocate for the boots and cutoffs look, it would work with these babies.  Alas, in the only scenario I actually need them for-- tromping through snow and sleet-- they would be utterly worthless.  Even so, with my newfound sense of virtuousness from resisting the Thanksgiving sales and some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, my resolve is quickly crumbling...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hannah, the Hostess with the Mostess

My younger sister Hannah, a grad student in Austin, TX, is hosting her first ever Thanksgiving for 15 of her friends. No pressure or anything, Hannah. She requested an outfit idea and as she is probably already overwhelmed with turkey de-gizzarding and gravy sieving, I was happy to oblige.
After whipping up a fantastic Thanksgiving feast, I'd imagine that you will just want to enjoy your mashed potatoes from the comfort of a nice pair of sweatpants.  But sorry, no can do!  You've got guests arriving any minute.  This combo looks pulled together but will allow you to focus on what is really important...shoveling food into your mouth.

I love this marbleized necklace for you, and something about tone-on-tone says just screams "fancy." A cozy, neutral sweater, because, duh- gravy stains!  Skinny black jeans are somehow dressier than regular, I am not sure why but look it up, it's a fact.  And these adorable pony hair flats will tie the whole look together.

Obviously, you don't own these specific items and hardly have time to run out and get them.  You can sub in any chunky knit for the sweater, any large statement piece of jewelry will do, and your cut out Belle by Sigerson Morrison flats will look great.  If you happen to go out afterward, my leather jacket (ahem!) will be perfect.

BCBG Camille Sweater, on sale for $99 but I will most likely be buying this for $53.10 on Ebay
Belle by Sigerson Morrison Pony Flats, $188 with Madewell's 20% off purchases over $150 promo

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday Supper

I am not one to gush about my personal life on the internet but if you will indulge a little gushing just this once, I promise it won't happen again. My birthday falls at the end of November and over the past few years holiday travel and final exam schedules have conspired to keep me from having a real celebration. I am not a huge birthday person so this has never particularly bothered me, although I will admit to feeling just a tinge sorry for myself on occasion. Anticipating this, my boyfriend Matt arranged a semi-surprise early birthday party for me yesterday at Nana in Bridgeport.* After going to brunch there with my friend Amanda a couple months ago, I had mentioned to him that I was dying to try their weekly fried chicken supper. A fried chicken supper is not exactly the first thing comes to mind when planning a surprise party, but it is exactly what I wanted. The fact that Matt knew that and that my friends were nice enough to make it happen has me feeling downright mooshy inside.

Okay. Yuck. Enough with that! Let's get to the important stuff, namely, the menu:

Deviled Eggs with Maple-Glazed Bacon
Pepper Basil
Buttermilk Biscuits with Duck Fat Gravy
Gunthorp Farms Fried Chicken
Jalapeno Slaw
Creamy Mac and Cheese
Seasonal Vegetable (this week was Purple Cauliflower)
Choice of Dessert (Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallows or Carrot Cake Doughnuts with Cream Cheese Frosting or Cranberry Scone)

Needless to say, everything was amazing.

I mean, the cream cheese frosting was IN the doughnut holes!

So, in conclusion, if you find yourself hungry on a Sunday afternoon, get thee to Nana for the best meal $22 can buy.

*I say "semi" because he wound up confessing the day of!
**In writing this post I realized that in fact, I celebrated the majority of my birthdays growing up eating fried chicken at the Indianapolis institution Hollyhock Hill. I mean, I knew I liked fried chicken- who doesn't- but clearly this goes beyond a normal level of appreciation.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


This was on my Etsy recommended items page.

I just....I mean....I can't.

Information Machines

Hands down, my favorite way to spend a Saturday is browsing the Randolph Street Market.  If you live in Chicago you should be familiar with this event, but if not, it is a monthly market at the Plumber's Hall at 1430 W. Washington.  I grew up attending hoity-toity antique shows where I was afraid to even look at some of the merchandise, but I also don't have the patience to pick through mountains of thrift store wares to find that one hidden treasure for 30 cents.  The Randolph Market is the perfect antique-thrift hybrid, with amazing finds at reasonable prices.  This weekend is the 5th annual Holiday Market and since it is the last market of the year, you know I wasn't going to miss it.

Normally the market is focused on furniture and housewares, but the Holiday Market primarily features vintage clothing, jewelry, and gifts.  Not in the market for clothes or jewelry, there was a little less for me to peruse this time, although I tried on a truly amazing 60's Ferragamo cape that I will be thinking about for years to come.  It really was that gorgeous.  However, I struck gold when I found this print at the bottom of a stack of $5 college-style photography (think lots of artistic reflections in puddles and lonely figures walking across the quad).
The print shows an audience at IBM's presentation at the 1964 New York World's Fair.
Check out those Mad Men hairstyles and sunglasses!
I did a little homework and found out that IBM's pavilion was designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen (perhaps you've heard of them?) and rested on top of a "garden" made of steel trees.  The audience walked through the garden and into the 12-tiered grandstand People Wall, which was then hydraulically lifted up into the egg structure known as the Information Machine.  There they saw a movie projected across 16 screens that explained how “both the human brain and the computer obtained sensory information, fed it to the brain (central processor), and through a program interpreted it to make some decision of what to do.”  You can see an early version of the movie here.  This was the first contact most visitors had with computers, and I don't think we can even conceive of how surreal and foreign the whole experience was.  I absolutely love that this photograph captures such a momentous event in their lives.  
Big thanks to Scout Modern for the information and ad above.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You probably don't need me to tell you that Schoolhouse Electric came out with a new furniture and housewares line (the internet has been abuzz) and that it's amazing (duh)...

but wouldn't this topographical map be perfect on my photo wall?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Worthy Contender

As you may have gathered, I am on the hunt for a winter coat, preferably of the shearling-trimmed variety. Could this be the one?

Sessun July and Candy Parka

It would be a done deal except somebody just HAD to get this adorable Dunderdon jacket for his birthday (okay okay, I picked it out and bought it for him)

I mean, we can't actually run around town in matching jackets, can we? 


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recipes For People Who Can't Cook: Steak Picadillo Soft Tacos

Another Bon Appetit staple.   Never let it be said that I don't practice what I preach here at Sarge in Charge, because we had this last night this alongside my beloved chickpea salad.  Now, the flavors of these two dishes don't really complement each other per se, but deliciousness always goes well with deliciousness, am I right? 

Do not be put off by the strange ingredients here!  When I first saw this recipe, I was certain some copy editor was going to lose their job.  I mean, it had to be a mistake-- raisins... in tacos? But trust me, it is fantastic and seriously the easiest thing ever.  

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil  
1 12-ounce strip of skirt steak  
1/2 cup 1/4-inch squares green bell pepper  
3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes with green chiles  
1/3 cup halved drained pimiento-stuffed green olives plus brine from jar 
1/4 cup raisins  
1 tbsp tomato paste  
1 tsp ground cumin  
1/2 tsp ground allspice  
corn tortillas (the small kind)  
chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)

Notes:  Do not hesitate to get a nicer cut of meat if you are so inclined, as the skirt steak can be tough.  The olive flavor is crucial here, so don't be chintzy with the brine!  For the tortillas, I say you can just heat up a cast iron skillet and throw them on for about 30 seconds a side to warm them a bit.  
  1. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper. Add to skillet; sauté 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to plate. 
  2. Add bell pepper to skillet. Sauté 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with green chiles, olives, raisins, tomato paste, cumin, and allspice. Simmer until sauce is thick, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and olive brine.  
  3. Cut steak on the diagonal into 1/3 inch pieces (I prefer slightly smaller).
  4. Char tortillas over gas flame or in broiler until blackened in spots, 15 to 20 seconds per side.
  5. Divide filling among tortillas. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spoonflower (or, Get Out of My Head, Holli Zollinger!)

Not sure what rock I've been hiding under but I am just now finding out about Spoonflower.  If you are equally clueless, it is a marketplace where you can design, print, and sell fabrics.  Please do not go there unless you are prepared to lose your entire morning.  

I discovered Holli Zollinger's shop when I was looking for fabric to reupholster some Danish modern chairs I got for free at a convent (true story- nuns are hip to Craigslist!).  I was thrilled but also a little scared because she somehow makes the exact prints I picture in my head but have never actually seen anywhere.  Not sure how you're doing that, Holli, but I am glad you are!

These are a few of my favorites- pretty sure the "Plus One" linen at the top is destined for those Craigslist chairs.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aaaah, Project!

As you may recall, I declared decorating victory over one shelf out of my entire house.  Although it is hardly perfect, I believe my latest project represents an even greater triumph-- specifically, over extreme inertia.  In the year and a half we've lived in this apartment, I have accumulated several maps and prints with the intention of creating some sort of photo wall.  When my parents moved to Boston, I took nearly a dozen framed pieces up to Chicago with me.  The whole kit and kaboodle has sat against the wall in the artistic formation you see below for at least 3 months now.  I had Friday off of work and after lounging around the house all morning, I could take it no longer!  Those pictures were going on the wall, by god. 
The project required a quick trip to the suburbs to get two frames and some silver spray paint (illegal in the city of Chicago!) intended for the brassy frame you see on the left. Using the newspaper template technique seen here, the actual arranging and hanging took all of 45 minutes.  In fact, it was so easy that I am even more embarrassed that it has taken over a year to accomplish.  But let's not dwell on my appalling display of laziness.  The point is, it's done!  And I love it! 
The subject matter is not totally cohesive (although we've got a bit of a map theme going on, especially with the pulldown map over the couch, not pictured), but I think the blues and khakis in silver frames go together quite nicely. The spacing worked out well and leaves room for expansion on either side.  It is eclectic, but not sloppy. 

Now, don't bother looking in the bottom left of these photos.  Nope, nothing to see there.  Definitely not a mini-fridge...probably just some dark shadows or something. 
Up next: some pillows to tie the dark brown of the couch in with the khaki and blue going on in the rest of the room and perhaps a throw blanket that does not so closely resemble a swamp creature.   

Oh, and getting rid of that horrid thing in the corner.  Let's just say I may have won this battle but I haven't won the war... yet.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Deal Alert

Lands End Canvas Linen T-Shirt Dress- $26.25 with code FAMILYSAVE25
free shipping with pin 1142

Visualize it without the belt: very Steven Alan, no? 

On the other hand, it could look like a striped gunnysack.  But for $26.24, I am willing to find out.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

South Haven

In order to avoid thinking about the cold, long Chicago winter descending upon us, I am choosing to take a nice trip back to South Haven, MI in my mind.  My former book club (we have dropped any pretense of literary discussion) rented a gorgeous house and it was just about as perfect a fall weekend as you can imagine.
 We had Mariah Carey dance parties with our pancakes
 I (barely) resisted the temptation to steal this Bertoia chair
 We watched late 90s "classics"
 We headed out to explore
We nearly broke the school swingset
We walked down to the pier
 to watch the sunset
We had a serious photo sesh
 Some of us were more successful than others
 And then we hit the town to enjoy the finest fried food South Haven had to offer.

Needless to say, this will be an annual thing.

Credit to Kathleen for photos 2, 4, and 11

Deal Alert

This is the kind of basic you don't get excited about buying but find yourself reaching for constantly. 

Now, will you be setting the world on fire with your avant garde fashion sense?  No.  But you will feel put together, comfortable, and most of all smug in the knowledge that you spent $39.99 for a wrap that some chump bought for $126.00.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I would like to live in this room
 (except with this pillow)

I would swoop in wearing this poncho
(but not that smirk)

(or that hat)

Oh and I'd be with this lady
(she knows a thing or two about swooping)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recipes for People Who Can't Cook: Chickpea Salad

Let's get this out in the open. Remember how I said I didn't even own a spatula? Well, now I do. I don't want you guys to think I am suddenly becoming one of these "real adults" who spends their time making fondant icing or Meyer Lemon reductions. I can assure you that there is no chance of that whatsoever (particularly because I do not know what either of those things are). But, the $19.99 I spent on this cheapo utensil set has gone a long way towards making me feel like a legitimate and competent adult human who can occasionally prepare decent meals for herself and maybe even others. 

Because-- and I can admit this now-- grill tools do not really cut it when it comes to making scrambled eggs. Or anything else that is not cooked over charcoal.

Just so you are sure I haven't deluded myself into thinking I am the Iron Chef now that I have a few tools of the trade, here is the most basic recipe in my repertoire. In fact, I hesitate to even call it a recipe because it is so simple. But since this combo has saved me so many times when my cabinets were bare and I had absolutely zero motivation to cook (true of me 99% of the time), I had to share.

1 15- to 15 1/2-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1/3 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse kosher salt

Notes: As Bon Appetit says, you can sub out the herbs and the cheese with reckless abandon. Either basil or parsley will do. Or forget both and use cilantro. The parmesan most certainly doesn't have to be fresh grated, and feta would be just as good! The only non-negotiables are chickpeas, lemon juice, and olive oil.

1. Combine rinsed and drained chickpeas, chopped fresh basil, chopped Italian parsley, fresh lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and pressed garlic clove in medium bowl.

2. Add grated Parmesan cheese and toss gently to blend all ingredients thoroughly. Season chickpea salad to taste with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3. Cover and refrigerate. Eat by itself for lunch or as a side.

How can I be expected to go to work tomorrow?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Boring But Necessary

Not being independently wealthy (yet!), I spend the majority of my waking hours in an office. Instead throwing my hard earned dollars away on weekend wear like pink leopard print A.P.C. dresses (I know) or yet another pair of ankle boots, I have been trying to amass a respectable professional wardrobe. To hear Nina Garcia and every other fashion expert tell it, all you need is a crisp white shirt, and you are set! But why is it so hard to find one that is:

1. Reasonably professional
2. Not a boring plain button down
3. Not covered in ruffles, and
4. Not one million dollars

Here are a few contenders:

Clockwise from top left

Aritzia Finley Blouse- $115.00 (nearly a million dollars but Aritzia always has great sales)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Campaign on the Brain

Can someone in the Chicagoland area please buy this campaign furniture so I can stop torturing myself? My resistance is crumbling but my boyfriend will definitely break up with me if one more piece of unnecessary furniture crosses our threshold.

You could gloss 'em up a la Little Green Notebook.

Or you could let their burl wood shine like in Bryan's Navy & Camel room.

Seriously, someone! Snap up these deals!

Recipes For People Who Can't Cook: Chicken Noodle Soup

The second I feel the sniffles coming on, I start craving this chicken noodle soup. Trust me-- it is incredibly good, ridiculously easy, and in the words of my Dad, "it'll cure what ails ya."

Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 6-8

Chicken (3 breasts or, you could get a roasted chicken from the store)
Chicken broth (2 large cans and 2 small cans)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package frozen corn - only use half
1 package Reames frozen egg noodles
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 carrot or 2-3 baby carrots, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. black pepper

Notes: The tbsp. of black pepper may seem like a lot, but is essential, particularly if you are sick. If you truly dislike heat, you could just season to taste-- but if you are anything like me, the pepper is your favorite part. The Reames frozen egg noodles are also also a must. Your average flimsy egg noodle just will not do! After a couple of days, the noodles will have absorbed a decent amount of liquid, and you will need to add a small can of chicken broth and bring to a boil again.

1. Boil chicken breasts (10 to 15 minutes if frozen) You may have to skim off fat. Chop into small pieces or pull meat off of the roasted chicken.
2. Add 2 tbsp of cooking oil to large soup pan. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent or kind of yellowy.
3. Add 2 large cans of broth and bring to a boil.
4. Add pepper, chicken, noodles, corn, carrots and celery and bring back to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to medium and allow to gently boil for about 20 minutes. Then simmer until you are ready to eat.