Fourth of July Joojeh Kabob :)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Brian and I had hoped to go to Iran this year together (with fingers crossed that getting a visa for him would go smoothly this time around since we're now married), but given the political state of both countries and their relationship with each other, we decided it's not a good time to try. I was devastated. I really want Brian to see the Iran I know from my dozens of trips, and each year it feels like a little more changes, and each year there's something out of our control holding us back. 

So, to bring a little bit of Iran to us, we made traditional Persian joojeh kabobs (chicken kabobs) on Fourth of July using the wooden skewers my 85-year-old grandpa in Iran made for us last year. He actually made us so many, and they mean too much to me for us to give them out, but everyone is always so impressed when they hear he made them. 

The chicken was good (not as good as my parents', not even close to my grandparents') but I'm excited to incorporate more traditional meals and summer memories like this into our lives in Chicago. I have so many vivid memories of eating joojeh kabob in Iran. One that sticks out is a time when my great grandmother was still alive and in her late 90s. She was my grandpa's mom, lived with my grandparents, and I was kind of nervous around her (I found her false teeth in the bathroom once, it was game over from there). She called me to her room and asked me if it was time to pray. I stood back (way back) and thought she asked if it was time to eat lunch. I went to my grandma (her daughter-in-law) and told her great grandma was wondering if it's time to eat lunch. It was 10am, and my grandma was busy, but since my great grandma wasn't well and hardly ate, my grandma jumped at the opportunity and made her joojeh kabob instantly. When she called my great grandma to eat, great grandma asked why she'd eat chicken at 10am, and, will someone please just tell her, is it time to pray? I remember eating the joojeh so it wouldn't go to waste, and I'd do anything for the opportunity to be around the table with those ladies again (eating joojeh kabobs, of course). 

But, alas! Here's what we used for joojeh attempt #1 (since no one in my family has a real recipe...), which we'd definitely recommend. Also, I don't understand why, but in Iran you fan your kabobs while they're cooking (with this type of fan), and we tried to imitate that with a paper plate but that was a fail. 

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
⅛ tsp ground saffron powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

Trim all of the fat from the chicken breasts, cut them into equal pieces (1½ - 2 inches) and place them in a medium glass container. Add the sliced onions, saffron, salt, black pepper and lemon juice to the chicken and toss until the chicken pieces are uniformly coated with saffron and yellow. Add the olive oil to the dish and stir to combine.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24-48 hours. Leave the marinated chicken out at room temperature for about 45 minutes before grilling.Use narrow metal skewers to skewer the kabobs.

Prepare the outdoor grill for high heat. If using coals, they should be burned until they are covered with a white ash before grilling. The grill grates should be 4-5 inches above the heat source.

Place two metal bars at top and bottom of the grill grate, and rest the tip and handle of the skewers on the bars so the chicken and vegetables don't touch the grates.

Grill the kabobs over high heat. Keep turning the skewers until golden brown on all sides and no longer pink inside. Check one piece of the kabob by cutting through it with a knife, if it is white and juicy it is ready. Remove the kabobs that are ready from fire, keep them warm under aluminum foil and serve as soon as all are done grilling.

Enjoy the chicken kabobs and grilled vegetables over sangak (Persian flat bread) or Persian rice. If you are serving the chicken kabobs with white rice, add a dab of softened butter on top and toss gently with a fork to coat the warm rice, and sprinkle it with sumac for the traditional style. Serve the kabobs with extra lemon/lime wedges with a few wedges of fresh white or red onions.

Bits and Pieces

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The last few months have been a bit bonkers. We just got back from a trip to Lake Tahoe, and before we left we were working around the clock — Brian chasing a work deadline and me cranking out freelance work in the early and late hours (typically not my productive times of the day, or times I'd recommend being around me). I've also been pulled a few directions on things that are brewing that I can't wait to share soon. And I want to say I'm training for a half marathon, but I haven't run more than three miles in the training plan, and I haven't signed up for one. So, take that for what it's worth. Point is, things aren't slow around here, but they're exciting, and sunny, and I'll take this over slow February any day.

Below are some iPhone pics from recent moments if you care to see. Hope you're having a great summer :)

Portland, Maine!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sometime in January, when the winter blues were especially strong, Brian suggested we plan a trip to Maine for the summer. I (always dreaming of summer, never one to turn down a vacation) happily obliged even though I knew we'd be going on out of town a month prior, too (had to keep up the surprise act, you know?). So, last week, we headed to the East Coast for five days to fill up on fresh seafood and long hikes, two of my favorite things.

If you've read a travel post on here before, you know that Brian and I are always good for a snafu (losing hundreds of dollars in France, all of our documents in Italy, only form of identification in Puerto Rico, the one document you need to leave Mexico in Mexico... do you need more examples?), but we're getting better (I bought B this funny pouch for our two-year cotton anniversary). And the one on this trip was mostly just funny. We arrived to our hotel in Boston after midnight. We parked the car, grabbed our suitcases and walked in. The man at the front desk couldn't find our reservation ... I assumed Brian had meant to but forgotten to book the hotel. He said he was certain he had. I stood back while he searched his phone and found the confirmation. "Gotcha!" we thought. Turns out we were at the wrong hotel... ha! 

We flew into Boston on Wednesday night and drove to Portland on Thursday morning. The first thing we did, before checking into our Airbnb, was get a lobster roll from Portland Lobster Company. We didn't do any research for this trip and went solely off recommendations from friends, and this one, rightfully so, appeared on many lists.


We rented a cute little Airbnb in the East End, and it was the perfect location for long afternoon walks. The peninsula is just three miles long, so walking end to end is easy.

On our first night we grabbed a bottle of wine and drove to Cape Elizabeth to watch the sunset from Kettle Cove. We ate dinner at The Good Table, asked for dessert to go and sat by the water drinking our wine, eating strawberry pie. I mentioned a few weeks ago that things have been especially busy for us lately, and this moment is exactly what we needed.

The next morning we woke up early and went to The Holy Donut for some of the most delicious donuts we've ever had. They're potato-based (so, good for you?) and so, so delicious. We hit the road to Acadia National Park after that. We were initially on the fence about going (it's a six hour drive round-trip, felt like too much for one day), but so glad we did. Definitely a highlight from the trip.

A certified scaredy cat, I'm always nervous before we start hikes but feel accomplished after. Our favorite at Acadia was The Beehive Loop Trail, which wasn't as steep or scary as the Internet made it out to be.

To reward ourselves after a long day of hikes we got food and drinks at Beal's Lobster Pier in Bar Harbor. We were starving and exhausted.  I was mesmerized by all the menu options. And, I felt bad, we plopped our sweaty selves down right next to a wedding reception. 

Still hungry after, we loaded up on ice cream at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream because their blueberry ice cream was on too many lists to pass up. 

The most delicious lobster we ate was at this food truck at Fort Williams Park. I'm glad Brian wore his lobster shirt for this one because it was definitely the most deserving. 

It rained hard one afternoon, so we tucked into Urban Farm Fermentory, where I had a kombucha and cider flight (have to be honest, the seaweed cider was one of the worst things I've ever tasted. Oof. But the rose kombucha one of the best). We played games for a few hours, including Would You Rather? which is funny because I had just mentioned in my anniversary post how playing this game with B used to be a stressor for me. 

Whoopie pies allegedly started in Maine, so I knew I had to get one and grabbed one at Two Fat Cats. It was warm, and perfect, and I could have had a dozen more. 

That night we ate dinner at Duck Fat, which was remarkable.

I wasn't feeling great, and there was a long wait. When our name was called around 8:45, we were given a table outside, and it was dark and chilly. Brian insisted we wait for the next indoor table because I'd be cold, but I was already starving (hangry, you could say). I was bummed that a highly praised restaurant was going to be a dud for us, but it ended up being perfect. We ordered drinks and the duck poutine fries, savored them slowly before ordering our main courses. Somewhere in there a couple that was feuding sat next to us, and I took it upon myself to sit embarrassingly close to them and help fix their relationship. We were there until closing and laughed so hard on the way home about the whole interaction and the thoughts we'd each had when interacting with them. The food was amazing, and the night was one to remember. The next day we ran into that same couple (still feuding) at a brewery! This time I kept my distance. I don't think their problems can be fixed. Not by us, at least. 

A delicious breakfast at Dutch's and then flights at Allagash before visiting Portland Head Light.

On our last night, we had a low-key dinner at a vegetarian Thai restaurant down the street from our Airbnb. We were contemplating dessert there or somewhere else when Brian suggested we try to squeeze in Fore Street. I'm so glad we did, and we might be back to Portland just to eat there again. There's a reason why it's award-winning and been around for 20 years. Sitting at the bar is a true joy, and their seasonal menu (changes daily) felt so fresh.

Before heading back to Boston we had to squeeze in one last round of donuts :)

We're super into Cheers and have been watching it from the beginning on Netflix — it's so funny (not Friends funny, though ;). We originally wanted to finish all 275 episodes before this trip, but we're not even close... still, a highlight (and bucket-list item) was going to the very touristy Cheers restaurant in Boston. It was unbelievably kitschy, and we didn't think the set bar was very accurate, but it was still a dream come true.

We had such an incredible, relaxing trip and can't wait to go back to Portland (and Boston!) one day.

Have you been to Portland (or do you live there)? What else would you add? Lots of love and thanks so much for reading. xoxo

Summer Berry Crisp

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Next week is Fourth of July (slow down, summer!!!), and we're planning on totally kicking back. Growing up, we spent most of our summers abroad, so I was rarely home for the holiday (which led to grudges with my parents I swore I'd never let go — you're robbing me from an American childhood — the list of things I have to apologize for isn't short) and since working, we've often gone on vacation that week to take advantage of the day we already have away from the office. But, here we are. Independence Day 2018. No plans. I asked Brian what he wanted to do on our way home from the airport Monday, and he glared at me. Got it, no plans. Maybe we'll ride bikes. Maybe we'll invite some of our friends from around the world to celebrate America on our little patio. Maybe we'll watch Stepbrothers for the tenth time this week. What we will do is eat this perfect berry crisp out of the perfect red Kate Spade pie dish while drinking something equally fruity or bubbly and getting ginormous mosquito bites that will keep us up for nights. That we will do.

This berry crisp has become a household staple, and I'm  proud of that. First, because it's good for you (other than a bit of maple syrup, which, is that even bad for you, it's all the healthy stuff). While Brian and I are both fueled by excessive sugar, we surprisingly crave this. Second, we always have the ingredients on hand, so it can be whipped up at any time, and because of that has become what we always seem to take to impromptu dinners with friends (proof). Last, I can make it with my eyes closed. And that's real adulting type stuff to me. I've never seen my mom follow a recipe, so there's a long road ahead, but I aspire to make things that taste good off the top of my head, and this berry crisp checks that box (on the other hand, we eat the same weekday meals again and again, and I look them up again and again).

So, this is delicious. And it'll be the center of our very chill Fourth of July. But, with patriotic berries, napkins and pie dish, it'll be festive, relaxing, and not everything my middle-school self dreamed of but everything my nearly-30 self does.

4 cups berries
1 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup pecans (or walnuts)
½ cup almond meal (or ¼ cup almond meal and ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes)
¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup olive oil (or coconut oil)

Pour the berries into a baking dish.

In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients with a fork, and then pour it over the berries.

Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes, or until just a little brown. If you’re waiting for a deep rich brown, you’ll be waiting forever, so just pull it out when the fruit is bubbling and there’s a little golden color on the crisp.

(This post was sponsored by Wayfair. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Grand Rapids, Michigan!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

For some reason, although I feel summertime should mean easy times, it's always the most chaotic time of the year at our house (and also the time I put on some extra pounds, never winter, which is also strange). And the past few weeks (although it's technically not even summer yet) have been especially busy. Brian has been swamped at work, back to eating dinner at his cube, and I've taken on some exciting freelance clients and blog collaborations outside of my day job that are keeping me on my toes. On top of work, we'll be out of town a few times the next few weeks, so with all the things on our to-do lists, its been a little nutty. All of this to say, a relaxing weekend in Michigan with my girls and their boys is exactly what I needed, and after last weekend's R&R I'm feeling energized again.

We're all turning 30 this summer (which means we've been friends for almost 19 years!), so the first thing we did on Friday night was eat some Smallcakes to commemorate the occasion. Friends that embrace frosting as fondly as you are very important to have.

On Saturday we hit up the farmer's market to get supplies for dinner and Skyped with our friend Christel, who's living in Germany with her husband and little girl. My brother's in his last summer before college right now, and I feel he's embracing it so much more than we did at his age. I miss the days when we were all a bike ride away from each other. Brian says I obsess over my high school girls and our high school life, but there's just so much love there.

Later we hit up a couple of breweries (Our Brewing Company, Founder's) before heading home to make dinner. I've never been a kid person, but between my old age and my best friends having the squishiest babies, I'm finding myself drawn to their cuteness and the peaceful aura around them.

This guy, on the other hand, has always been a kid person.

We laughed so hard that night, I was still laughing about things that came up days later. I'm as thankful for my relationship with these ladies as their relationship with their men, mine with their men and how well our whole group gets along. I can't wait to see where these friendships go. Like, are we going to have "50" candles in cream cheese brownies in 20 years? :) 

Baby Will did a photoshoot for us before we had brunch and went our separate ways :) What a fun weekend! We've already got the 2019 day in the books, and I'm already counting down the days. Love these friends of mine! 

And tomorrow we're off to Maine! We booked this trip because Brian didn't know we were going to Europe (and I'll never pass up a vacation), but now it kind of creeped up on us! Would love any recommendations on places to see and eat. We're staying in Portland :)

Have a great rest of your week xoxo