In case you haven't heard me complaining, spring has come late to Chicago.  Very late.  I'm ready to dust off the patio furniture and get outside, but swirling snow and freezing winds have prevented us.

My son, Leo, turned one in late March, and he's walking and stumbling everywhere.  We threw him a first fiesta, complete with cerveza, homemade grapefruit margaritas and Rick Bayless' pork tinga tacos for the adults.  Leo licked buttercream icing off of his fingers from my favorite "first birthday cake."  He was swarmed by his cousins and buddies as he opened gift after gift.

I really can't believe he is one.  He's a bubbly, smiley and loving little man.

Now that spring has sprung, we are out tooling around the neighborhood in our Radio Flyer wagon and running around the nearby parks.  In lieu of sunshine and open windows, I've started cooking with spring greens to get us in the mood.

First up is a homemade pesto adapted from my current foodie crush, Nigel Slater.  Recently, Martin bought a UK TV Everywhere box.  Yep, it allows you to watch British telly LIVE.  That means we're back up to speed on Coronation Street, EastEnders and my favorite, Saturday Kitchen.  Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers comes up straight after a glorious morning of James Martin.

Nigel's new garden kitchen is also a current obsession.  I love the rustic, modern touches, the big picture windows, and the glass doors that lead directly into his beautiful garden.  With rain teeming down on most episodes, Nigel is hopping around his kitchen cooking up amazingly simple suppers with unlikely and new combinations.

I love his easy handmade pesto using only a pestle and mortar.  Toss it with linguine and some fresh arugula and it's a perfect weeknight supper.

This next recipe is seriously scrummy and got rave reviews at my impromptu Masters party.  It's a sort of deconstructed pizza and could not be easier to throw together.  This one is from his Simple Cooking series.  It's called  Mozarella with Basil Crust and is a must try.  There is a delightful basil oil that's drizzled over buffalo mozzarella and that is little slices of Italian Salami peeking out in between the tomatoes.  The crunchy ciabatta topping is unreal.

Last, but most certainly not least is this gem of a spring green pizza.  I happily paid a "brag ticket" at work for this one last week.  My colleagues and I throw a quarter in a box with a ticket if....okay, when...we brag.  My brags are really in two categories:

  1. Leo did something amazingly cute.
  2. I cooked something amazingly tasty.
I was inspired to make this pizza after seeing a picture of a similar Triple Garlic Pizza on Pinterest.  It caught my eye, screamed spring, and I made it a couple of days later.  I absolutely love fresh, wild garlic, and the garlic confit looked amazing.  Try Food52's version or you can do the working Mom, weeknight version that I pulled off spectacularly, if I do say so myself.  

If I make a recipe, I rarely measure, so you'll see a lot of "handfuls" below.  Eyeball it.  You'll be fine.

Spring Green Pizza with Chives, Garlic and Truffle Oil

Ready made pizza dough (Trader Joe's sells a great whole wheat version- this is Wildfire's Frozen dough)
Handful of fresh asparagus
Handful of spring onions kept whole
2 cloves of garlic, skins on
Handful of grated fontina cheese
Handful of bocconcini mozzarella (small mozzarella balls)
salt and pepper
black truffle oil
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400F.  Snap the rough stems off the bottom of the asparagus spears and peel any wilted leaves off of your spring onions.  In a grill pan, roast your asparagus, garlic cloves in their skins and spring onions whole with some salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Roast until just tender and there are some nice grill marks on the vegetables and garlic skins.  Slice the asparagus on the angle but keep the spring onions whole.  Put aside and save until you're ready to make the pizza.   Let the garlic sit in their skins if you're doing it a bit beforehand.  This will allow them to continue to steam and become soft and sweet.  When you're ready, peel the cloves and finely slice, don't chop, each clove.

Roll out your pizza dough to a thin layer with some flour on a clean surface.  I like to throw a handful of cornmeal on my baking sheet before laying the pizza dough out.  It makes it a touch crispier, which I appreciate.

This is the fun part.  Start your layering with the grated fontina.  Add the asparagus spears and the garlic slices.  Break open each bocconcini with your fingers so they're almost halved, but like an open book.  Place in between the asparagus spears.   Lay the spring onions on top and drizzle generously with the truffle oil.  I like to do another drizzle on the crust with a little extra virgin oil.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until it's looking crispy and golden.

Top with some chopped chives and dig in.


Get cozy

Get cozy.  Make a cup of tea.  Make a fire.  If you live at my house, you have to remove the plexi-glass that is covering your fireplace.  It completes the baby-proofed look of our living room.  Even with baby-proofing vigilance, Leo still manages to find anything that could potentially endanger him or my beloved cocktail glass collection.

Okay, the mood is set.

Now all you need is your slow cooker.  Back in London, I did a great deal of slow cooking.  I bought a great Cuisinart cooker that lasted me until we moved to the US and it became one of many appliances I couldn't plug into the new sockets.  A tragedy.

I couldn't afford to go out and buy all new appliances, especially since many of them were wedding gifts to begin with.  It pained me to see the useless thing sitting in front of me.  It hurt even more to pay for a new one.  I have a true obsession with a few appliances.  The ones that combine beautiful design with consistent results are my treasures.

Priority number one was  the toaster.  It's a basic, every day item, and I've seen many toasters fall into pitiful failure.  Burnt toast is unacceptable.  A waste of time.  Simplicity is key when it comes to toast, and Dualit is the king of all toasters, in my opinion.  My Dad replaced my UK version with a shiny new two-slicer with a pleasing American plug.  Voila.  Toasted bliss.

My ruby red Kitchen-Aid mixer is another story.  My wedding present from my Mother.  I remember opening the box in London.  I knew it was special.  It still is, and I can't get rid of it.  I've baked and stirred and suffered without it.  I need a replacement but haven't been able to bring myself to replace it.

And so brings me to the slow cooker.  It took me about 5 years to replace it.  All those ridiculously cold, frigid, below-freezing Chicago winters and no slow cooker to warm us up.  I did my research and found many top-name brands with terrible reviews.  So I enlisted the help of my Cousin, Becky Hays, Managing Editor of Cook's Illustrated who promptly sent me her recommendation.  The Crock Pot  not only was America's Test Kitchen approved, but was less expensive than the rest.  Done.

The idea of popping a few ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning and coming home to find the house filled with the aromas of dinner waiting for you is unmistakably inviting.  Especially if you are the person who cooks every night and there is never dinner waiting for you as you enter the door.

If you want a ton of old-school recipes for the crock-pot, you can't go wrong with Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook.

Two of my favorite slow-cooker recipes are from Kelsey Nixon's Kelsey's Essentials.  This Turkey Roast Dip with Melted Gruyere is amazing.  I also adore her Shredded Pork and Pineapple Tacos.

Most recently, my friend Holly Lignelli brought over the ingredients for her Beef Burgundy and we cooked up a feast this past weekend.  After a day at the Children's Museum, we couldn't have pulled this together without the help of the crock-pot.

Together with noodles and creamed spinach spiked with cayenne, it was truly a winter's treat.  With plans to spend the day at the children's museum with two small children and naps to navigate, the slow cooker is  your best friend.  She will deliver dinner without breaking a sweat.

I finished the meal with the coziest dessert ever made: Jamie Oliver's apple crumble.  No matter what you attempt in your slow cooker, I think a crumble, such as this one, deserves to follow.  I added a few sliced almonds to the crumble mixture and topped it with some almond gelato.



It's been a while.  A very long while.

Instead of blaming outside forces such as...
  • a new baby boy
  • sleepless nights
  • more sleepless nights
  • returning to be a full-time working parent
  • a slow computer
I'll just own up to the fact that HungerHabit took a back seat in my new world of motherhood.  So here's what you missed:

Photo Courtesy of Helen Killeen

Leo Thomas Killeen was born on March 19th, 2012, which makes him almost 10 months old now.  I can't even believe I'm saying that.  It feels like yesterday.  He's the cutest, sweetest, funniest little person I have ever laid my eyes on.  I'm clearly biased, but he's pretty damn amazing.  He's also developed curls.  Quite a few, in fact.

I stumbled through the first few months, trying to find my rhythm in a completely different world.  This world is filled with joy.  It's also filled with poop.  Lots of poop.  

I rarely cooked, I rarely ate, and I definitely didn't feel like blogging about my lack of food inspiration.

I went back to work.  I tried to get my brain working again.  It took a while, but after lots of love and support from my husband, family and friends, things started to resemble normality.  A new normal.  

Today, I am definitely back in the kitchen, cooking for us, cooking for Leo and cooking for family and friends.  It feels good.  It feels like home.

I've been doing my best to start Leo on the path to foodie stardom- testing his palate with homemade, organic goodness, many times with epic failure.  His scrunched up nose leads to the offensive new dish ending up in the bottom of his bib.  Hunger always wins out, though.  It doesn't hurt that he has a man-sized appetite.  His thighs are evidence alone of a tiny HungerHabit in the making.

It's January.  A time for resolutions.  Get fit, get healthy, stop drinking so much.  At first I thought my resolution would be to start blogging again.  The more I thought about it, it's really just a resolution to get back to what I enjoy and what makes me happy.  Cooking makes me happy.  Now I just have one more mouth to feed.

Here we go.

Happy 2013, everyone...HungerHabit's back.