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Back in the day, when I was a corporate young’un, I would often meet a friend for lunch at a nearby restaurant where we would commiserate about our horrible clients and general misery. She’d call me from her office with urgency – “11:30. Houston’s.” This was usually around 11:15 so I would run the few blocks over to the restaurant to get a big cozy booth just before the lunch rush. We always ordered the same thing: hot spinach artichoke dip and off-the-menu chicken club salads, easily the two best things on (or off) the menu. Then one day the restaurant closed, replaced with a fancy boutique hotel and it’s corresponding hip restaurant serving $29 burgers. We found other lunch mainstays but none had spinach dip like that. I miss that spinach dip.

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I shut down my little community garden plot this week, in anticipation of winter and the garden closing date. It’s been a strange year for that plot; a terrible season for tomatoes though my herbs did quite well as did the kale and chard. I didn’t harvest much of the kale over the summer, rather, just left them to grow. And grow. And grow. This week I harvested nearly 4 pounds of beautiful Tuscan kale from plants that were the size of small trees. The leaves were gorgeous – big, dusty dark green, crinkled just so. I brought home a gigantic bag and no real plan. There’s soup and pasta dishes and sautéed batches, of course. And there’s salad. Hmmmm. Kale Salad. Yippee.

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About this time every year I have the same problem: apples. Too many damn apples. In the fall I like to go apple picking and well, things happen. I overdo it every time. Just 6 of this kind I tell myself. And just 6 of that one, its not too many. Maybe a few more, so 8 of that one and oh, maybe a few more of this one. Before I know it, I’ve got more apples than I know what to do with and visions of baked goods dance in my head. I’ve googled “recipes that use a lot of apples” so many times it auto-populates my search bar. The funny thing is, a lot of the recipes that come up don’t use a lot of apples … maybe two or three. False advertising! One can only use so much apple butter.

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What’s the difference between a biscuit and a scone? I’ve always thought of scones more on the sweeter side, and a biscuit as more savory but then there’s savory scones and sweet biscuits so what the hell? They have basically the same ingredients – flour, leavening, fat, dairy – but the difference lies in texture. Scones can be a bit heavier and crumbly whereas biscuits tend to be lighter and flaky. But then … not all biscuits are flaky and yes, scones can sometimes be a bit flaky too. Back and forth, back and forth. Ugh. This author has rather strong opinions about it and I must say, I agree.

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I’ve been eating a lot of watermelon and sweet corn of late. A lot. It’s what we do in the Midwest when the corn is unbelievably good and the watermelons are huge and juicy and we need to eat as much as we can before they’re gone. While cutting up the latest watermelon to make yet another delicious Vietnamese inspired salad (have you tried it yet?), I looked guiltly at the growing pile of rind destined for the garbage can. Damn, watermelons have a lot of waste. This has always bothered me so I decided to try something. I’ve long been curious about Pickled Watermelon Rind. It is the product of thrifty genius, turning waste into something delicious. Why not give it a try? I probably had the ingredients on hand and I was definitely looking for a distraction to avoid work for another hour. What was there to lose? A pile of produce scraps that was going in the garbage anyway, some vinegar and spices and an hour of my time? Ever hear of procrasti-baking? This was procrasti-pickling. The conditions were ideal.

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It’s hot. I was in France last week and it was hot. I came back to Chicago, and it was hot. So damn hot. In this kind of weather I don’t have much of an appetite, not that it slowed me down much in France (copious amounts of cold rosé certainly helped) but back home, my dinners have been a bit lackluster. Truth be told, I decided the other day I wasn’t going to eat much else besides fresh sweet corn and cold watermelon for rest of the month.

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I was hungry. It had been a long, chaotic day spent on my feet cooking for other people and the last thing I wanted to do was cook for myself. A drive thru was in order. Driving home, I passed the usual suspects and wasn’t all together thrilled. Burger? Fries? Ugh. I started thinking about healthy fast food and the lack thereof. In general, the options are not great. Back in my advertising days, I worked on my fare share of fast food accounts and time and again, no matter how great the option, healthy fast food never sold. The sad truth – surprisingly (or maybe not), there’s not a high demand for healthy options in fast food restaurants. But there was one thing, quite a while ago, that was pretty good. Back in the late ‘90s Wendy’s had fresh pita sandwiches on the menu and they were delicious. Really good.

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