Tasting Tuesday: Pesto

I am back-to-school this week and my body is trying to adjust to new rhythms and routines and deadlines and sleep schedules. Although I will greatly miss my beautiful (short) summer break, I am reminding myself that the start of school brings progression towards my goals, adds challenges to my brain, and welcomes the beginning of FALL! Yay, fall! And with fall comes harvest and in the city, harvest means bounty from your neighbor’s urban garden.

Last week’s bounty? Basil. Lots and lots of basil.

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So, I made a lifetime’s supply of pesto (16 cups, to be exact). It wasn’t that hard, actually, and honestly, the longest part involved washing and separating the leaves. My neighbor came over to help and we talked for hours as we pulled basil leaves off their branches and food-processed the crap out of my kitchen.

Not gonna lie, I’m a little tired of pesto now, but I shared some with friends and stored the rest in my freezer for a colder day when my pesto cravings might return.

Here’s what you do: (Recipe courtesy of The Barefoot Contessa. I played it safe for my first attempt.)

Gather

1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Proceed
Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

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Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

More Notes: Use a BIG food processor. 5 cups of packed leaves is a lot! I have an 8 cup processor and it was crammed. Also, I will say, our flavor has a very “earthy” tone to it, which I’m guessing is dependent on the basil.

Anyone else have a favorite pesto recipe?

Lindsay Sig

Foodie Friday: Empyrean Cafe

I’ll admit right off the bat: I love Empyrean Events and Catering, an upscale event planning company at the top of the town in Fort Wayne, IN. They bring a much needed creative touch to my hometown and their social media feed fills my heart with much delight because I love to look at pretty things and get ideas for all my imaginary parties. Empyrean hosted my glamorous rehearsal dinner and another beautiful function that I attended last week, so I have mad love and admiration for pretty much everything they do.

You can imagine my delight then, when I learned they were opening Empyrean Cafe in the Foellinger Freimann Botanical Conservatory boasting a “modern and upscale cafe experience” downtown Fort Wayne. SO FUN! Of course, I had to go. Right away.

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Atmosphere is adorable. Minimalistic with enough dressy accents like fruit-infused water on the counter and calligraphy menus hanging on the wall. You can get your lunch to-go or enjoy in the conservatory’s atrium or patio. The menu is pretty standard cafe fare with sandwiches, salads, flatbreads, and sides such as orzo pasta or house-made chips. I ordered at the counter and the food was brought to our table. Items were surprisingly affordable. Did I mention they serve their food with adorable recycled wood silverware? Because they do and it’s awesome. Pretty much my favorite part because the food was a little bit of a letdown.

I ordered the roast beef sandwich with orzo pasta. My mom ordered the Caesar salad with salmon and we shared a mini turtle cheesecake. And this is where the story gets sad. Too much bread on my sandwich and it was tough to chew. Caesar salad was incredibly basic with the smallest piece of salmon I’ve ever seen. Cheesecake was refrigerated way too much and we had to hack at it a while to get through. I think most of the flavor was lost in the over-chilling…or the hacking.

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So, overall? Great concept. Fun ideas. Awesome environment. Convenient lunch spot. But this is the Empyrean and I’ve learned to have high expectations because I know they can deliver. I think they have a little room to grow to continue to impress me, so I’ll keep soaking up their social media and maybe give them another chance.

Lindsay Sig

Tasting Tuesday: Skewers

When I hosted my church’s Vision Team for a cookout last year, I served several dishes in little jars and they were so popular that I wanted a fresh idea for this year. I drummed around on Pinterest and decided this was the year for skewers! Or kabobs, as they were called in the 90’s. So, I served everything on a stick. Like the fair. And poked my fingers a million times. And it was fun.

The nicest thing about skewers is they are so simple and don’t require complicated recipes. You can pretty much follow along the picture for a cooking guide.

For appetizers, I served Rainbow Fruit Skewers dipped in vanilla yogurt along with Antipasto Tomato Skewers.

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For the main course, I grilled and served Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce along with marinated vegetables. My guests added various side dishes.

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For dessert: Strawberry Shortcake on a stick!

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All tasty good fun, but I will say that last year’s jars seemed to be a bit more popular. Overall, though, skewers made for a fun summer dinner that kept me away from the stove and present in the company of my guests.

Anyone else have fun skewer recipes?

Lindsay Sig

Friday Foodie: Peace Water Winery

Since we’ve already reviewed my love for a good glass of wine (Reminder: Indianapolis Wine Festival is soon! Enter to win tickets on my Instagram!), we can skip right to the fact that I visited Peace Water Winery in Carmel, IN a couple weeks ago.

And this is what it was like:

First of all, cute backstory. Adorable family with eight children decided to buy/open/borrow? a winery from California, create a private label, and open a tasting room in Indiana. They now run around delivering wine orders in a vintage VW van and giving away the majority of their profits to a variety of charities (after you purchase a bottle, you can pick where you want to the money to go). So, that’s cool.

Inside the tasting room? Very warm. Modern, clean, and uncluttered. We went on a Saturday and it was pretty quiet. You can buy wine by the glass and sit inside by a fireplace or outside on the patio. Or you can host parties there. That’s cool too.

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So, my sister and I had a tasting. And here’s where the weird part comes: our server presented the wines starting with sweet/bubbly and moving to dark/red ON PURPOSE! I told her that I had never seen that before because you always go from red to white, from dark to light, and from sour to sweet, but she said “NO!” and provided some weird explanation. This seemed incredibly odd to me. I’ve gone to many tastings, visited many wine festivals, and even traveled to Napa, and I have NEVER heard of this. So, either she is way confused or starting a new trend, but it threw me for a loop.

So, the wines? Very dry. And more expensive than my favorite wine store. I didn’t really have a favorite and I left without buying a bottle. I get that profits go to charity, but I might prefer a $15 bottle instead of $35 so I can make my own personal donation. I know, I know, I am not a wine snob yet.

Verdict? Cute afternoon spot for a one-time visit or date night, but I don’t really see myself returning.

Anyone else checked it out?

Lindsay Sig

That One Political Post

The following are my first (and probably only) statements about the upcoming United States presidential election. I have learned from past experience that interesting discussions with Husband are about the only positive outcomes of expressing my opinions, so I prefer to stick to sharing brownie recipes and party ideas. If you, like the overwhelming majority, are way too exhausted to have another election thought, please skip this post and redirect to some guided relaxation here or check out “100 Best Cat Photos” here. I’ll be back with foodie goodness on Friday.

If you’re still here…

I’ve heard the one word that describes how millennials feel about this year’s presidential election is “disappointing” and I have to agree. But I’m disappointed in a lot of things: disappointed in my role models for choosing power over principle, disappointed in the media for the nonstop circus, disappointed in myself for continuing to soak up the nonstop circus, and disappointed in the polarizing culture of politics that has lost all room for middle ground and moderation. I think everyone has a role in the present extremism nature of election decisions and I hope many people are taking time for self-reflection and insight to think about the role they can play in creating teamwork, functionality, productivity, and peace among our nation’s leaders because change begins with us, not the voting booth.

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Photo by Enhlin, Creative Commons

I’m not a Republican by any means, but since I do live in Indiana, I have found them pretty impossible to escape, especially since I’m related to most of them. Since frustration usually blocks my ability to clearly share my thoughts, I have been leaning on others to provide clarity to all the ideas running around in my head. I really appreciated this article for going deeper into some of the issues that revolve around choosing a candidate based on being “pro-life” (looking at this topic holistically is very important to me). I also enjoyed this “just the facts” perspective about choosing a candidate based on Supreme Court nominations found here and here. But I mostly appreciated the words from my college mentor’s son that I came across on Facebook and I leave you with them now.

“When it comes to this election, some Christians are acting like atheists. I’ve heard a great many people advocate voting for Trump despite his total lack of moral character, and often the argument centers around the idea that the country is in trouble and the future of America or conservative ideals hangs in the balance. This is pure utilitarianism, the idea that the consequences of an action make it right or wrong, no matter what the action itself may be. If it is likely to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people, then we should do it. This ethical stance can be used to justify any number of things that most moral people would reject. We could torture terrorists if it might get us information that could save lives. We could justify slavery if the economic benefit to many outweighed the economic oppression of few. The list goes on.

This thinking is thoroughly and forcefully rejected by the Bible. The Gospel doesn’t need our political pragmatism to change the world. The Good News radically reshaped the culture into which it was given, and that was in a world of kings and emperors. The Gospel didn’t need power politics and moral compromises to bring down kingdoms, raise up leaders, or change society. The Gospel only needed men and women passionately committed to living out the Truth and the Love without compromise, without excuse, and without pride.

Was Jericho conquered by spies, backstabbing, and the exploitation of moral grey areas? Did Gideon triumph with conventional military wisdom? Did the Apostles rush to install each other in the highest political posts with shady deals, lies, and demeaning language? But some Christians have decided that this time it’s different. This time it’s up to us to determine what happens to this country and what happens to the world. God won’t honor those who do what is right. God won’t intervene in human affairs. God needs our help to make this a moral nation again, and we have to do it by compromising the very morals we claim to protect.

People say that it doesn’t matter if Trump has bad morals because we’re electing him to be a political leader, not a pastor. What makes you think that someone with such poor character will lead a country with truth and justice? How can a man who doesn’t have character enough to respect others in conversation ever hope to pass fair and moral laws?

People say that the only chance the Republican Party has is if conservatives band together. Well then let it die. The Republican Party needs to learn that it has for too long tolerated irresponsible political rhetoric from its members and has for too long appealed to the baser instincts of its constituents. If this is the kind of candidate that we are to receive, then it is high time that the Republican party either admit that it is NOT the party of morality and values OR it is time for the Republican party to change how it talks and how it does politics.

People say the consequences of not voting for Trump are too great. Health care, the economy, judicial nominations, military–whatever the issue is that scares you the most–in these things we must trust in Trump….or we are doomed. It is Trump or nothing. God, apparently, does not enter the picture. If people are inclined to be pragmatic, they should ask themselves whether the long term consequences of voting FOR Trump might be too terrible to justify voting for him. Have they weighed the dangers of incompetence? Have they considered the risks of voting for a Head of State that no international leader takes seriously? Have they thought of the long-term damage to both the conservative political movement and the Christian message of having so many Christians openly align themselves with the most vulgar, demeaning major presidential candidate in recent memory?

Those God has chosen for leadership have always been of sterling moral character. Yes, God can use flawed people, as we all are flawed. But God does not desire the help or aid of someone who, like Trump, unapologetically revels in his flaws.

People say that if you don’t vote for Trump then it’s a vote for Clinton. While it might result in a Republican loss in this election, a huge defeat of Trump may teach the GOP that we will not tolerate candidates who are so antithetical to what we believe. We have to teach the party that they cannot count on our vote when it contradicts our principles and when they cater to our worst impulses. For the sake of our nation, we must vote against Trump and find or write in a moral candidate. 

I have heard it said, though I can’t remember where: ‘Vote as though the only thing that your vote determined was the content of your own character.'”

–Cole Bender

While I understand this election makes many of my conservative friends feel they are without options, I encourage you to still make choices that are consistent with your character. They exist.

Lindsay Sig

P.S. I will not be responding to arguments to this post. Reflections only.🙂

Weekend Wander: Goose Island Migration Week

Not gonna lie, beer is not my thing. Actually, I pretty much hate it. But, I realize this places me in the minority of pretty much everyone, including many of my friends and readers, so what!? what!? I’m writing about it today!! Well, more specifically, I’m writing about Goose Island Brewing Company’s Famous Migration Week! Whew! A mouthful!

So, migration week is this awesome event where brewers, educators, and fans get together in cities across the country to learn about beer, try new beers, and basically, just celebrate beer all together. It’s a festive time full of fun and excitement from our neighbor brewers from Chicago and since I like to include different aspects of the wonderful Indianapolis experience on my blog, I thought I would share the schedule with you so you know how to get in on the awesomeness (and yes, I’m even checking out the fun myself, so maybe I’ll come back a beer fan. Who knows?)

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Tuesday, August 9

  • Event: Happy Hour with a Brewer
  • Time: 4:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Location: Fat Dan’s Deli: 5410 N. College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220
  • Description: Goose Island brewer Reed Schwenger is in town with the whole Migration Week crew from Chicago, and he would love to share some beers with you. Swing by on your way home from work to sample some rare beers, and kick off the Indianapolis Migration Week the right way.

Wednesday, August 10

  • Event: Beer & Coffee Experience             
  • Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • Location: The Gallery Pastry Shop: 1101 E. 54th St., Suite G, Indianapolis, IN 46220
  • Description: John Hall started the Goose Island brewery in Chicago back in 1988. Therefore, we have seen, drank, and lived our way through the craft beer world for almost 30 years. Turns out we actually learned a lot (despite all the beer drinking) and we want to pass that knowledge on to you folks.
  • RSVP Here: http://gooseislandcoffeeandbeer.eventbrite.com

Thursday, August 11

  • Event: Goose Island Urban Camping Experience
  • Time: 8/115 p.m., 8/12: 10 a.m.
  • Location: Central State Mansion (backyard), 202 Steeples Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46222
  • Description: Join the Goose Island Migration Week team as we create an urban camping experience for those living in Indianapolis. Can’t find time to make it out to that quiet state park miles from the city? No problem. We have partnered up with Big Car to give you a camping experience right in your backyard. The evening will be complete with a bonfire, music, Bourbon County Stout s’mores, lawn games, food, and of course, some Goose Island beer. All proceeds will go towards the Big Car organization, and to support the preservations of Indiana parks. Additional details below.
  • Tickets: https://urbancamping.eventbrite.com
 Anyone checked out Migration Week in your city?

Lindsay Sig

Friday Foodie: Tilly’s Tea Room

For reasons still unclear to me, my family LOVES tea parties. Like we have a high tea for our 14th birthdays, we throw tea parties for Mother’s Day and bridal showers, and we bake scones on a very regular basis. Come to think of it, everyone should love tea parties! What’s not to like?? But anyway, whenever I catch wind of a new tea room, I must notify my mom ASAP because it has now become #1 life priority to visit.

I’ve followed Tilly’s Tea Room on social media for a while, but knew their Fishers location had closed. I was very excited to learn that they were re-opening on the 3rd floor of Saks Fifth Avenue at The Fashion Mall at Keystone. I contacted my mom at once and we scheduled a visit.

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Let’s start with the atmosphere: instead of “warm” and “cozy”, the new Tilly’s is bright and wide open. It’s more “chic”, “modern”, and “colorful.” There is a mix of table sizes and a variety of chairs. Quiet pop music plays in the background.

Now, the logistics: Tilly’s closes on weekdays at 4pm, so the last seating for afternoon tea is at 3pm, which is a bit of a struggle because right around 4pm is prime tea time for me, because at 3pm, I’m still full from lunch, but we carried on anyway. Also, we stayed for over an hour and were the only people there the entire time, so this new location may be on the slow side to be discovered.

And the food: well, since we went there for tea, I was excited for tea. And the menu selections looked promising! But the tea is really just one boxed teabag in a plain mini white pot. No loose-leaf, no steeping instructions, no beautiful teapot, and no cream and sugar that one expects when frequenting tea rooms as much as I do. Our server added more hot water to our poor diluted tea bag after a while, but it was not intended to last for 4 cups of tea, so our second round was mostly hot water with a tiny lingering of flavor. Scones were good, but nothing much more than that. The remainder of menu items were pretty basic with nothing sticking out in a way that would cause me to return for more watery tea.

Saks is supposed to upscale. An escape. Full of things to be desired. The current version of Tilly’s seems to be an odd fit because it is not like that, but there is definitely room for improvement, so I’ll be interested to see if the restaurant elevates the guest experience or closes yet another location.

Anyone else have a recommendation for a good tea room?

Lindsay Sig