Oh my goodness. I would just like to say a quick apology for our month of absence on Frances Retigan. Time has flown by with very little cooking or baking for me, as I now have an all you can eat cafeteria at my disposal three times a day.
Despite the hectic craziness of college life, I have collected many good food memories over the past month. While none of them include homemade recipes (save a care package or two that I have received), they are worth imparting to you none the less.
I will begin with a quick review of the breakfast my mom and I shared together before her flight back home. It was a bittersweet hour or so as we savored our last moments face to face with one another for several months.
We sauntered over to the highly recommended Egg Harbor Cafe in Wheaton, Il and seated promptly. I began with a good ole cup of coffee. If you are someone that likes flavored coffees, they offer specials each day. I got a veggie egg white omlette and pomegranate orange juice, and Mom ordered pumpkin pancakes. Needless to say, our plates were empty a short while later. I consumed about half of the pumpkin pancakes in addition to my order. Whether this was due in part to my stomach consenting to the convoluted emotions I was feeling about my mommy leaving me or not, I do not know. All I can say reflecting back on that moment was that the meal comforted both of us and was a good way to end the orientation weekend.
Several weeks later I ventured onto an entirely different pancake escapade. My cross country team was staying in a grand old red barn in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin for a Labor Day weekend retreat.
We ventured off Sunday morning to find a Boy Scouts pancake breakfast that had been advertised in the local paper. Well, apparently local papers in dinky towns in Wisconsin aren’t very reliable, because we showed up to a nonexistent pancake breakfast. Next stop was the closest Dennys and $4 all-you-can-eat pancakes. While the quality may have suffered a bit, I certainly wasn’t lacking in quantity. And I returned to a beautiful view of fields that stretched out for miles. It was quite a relaxing getaway.
A week after that, my newly made friends and I learned to our great dismay that SAGA (Soviet Attempt to Gag America), our ironically delicious cafeteria, is not open on Sunday evenings. We ordered from Evviva Pizza and took it out to share on the front lawn.
As we sat there with cheese and tomato sauce dribbling down our chins, we gazed across the quad to find a sign entitled: FREE PIZZA. And in front of the sign were stacks of pizzas on a few tables, and a long line of hungry freshmen and sophomores waiting for their (free) pizza. Well, thats’ lovely that they all received (free) pizza, but I just decided to convince myself that my pizza was so gourmet and delicious that it was worth every penny paid for it. Ah well. You win some, you lose some. Moral of the story: Evviva’s is good, but free pizza may be better.
A few days later, my first care package arrived, containing scrumptious chocolate chip cookies (check out Not Without Salt’s chocolate chip cookie recipe…the best ever).
Thank you mommy. You saved my poor college account (already dented from the pizza) from having to sacrifice to satisfy my sweet tooth, and you brought to me a little piece of home.
The following weekend was my first of many consecutive Saturday mornings at the French Market in downtown Wheaton (read yelp reviews here). Let me just say, it is a good thing that the vendors do not accept credit cards. Built in restraint.
A few highlights in my adventures so far include the cocoa and honey mixture from a local bee farm, the croissants from Hahn’s Bakery, the hot cinnamon and sugar dusted donuts, and honeycrisp apples from any one of the numerous produce farmers in the local area. This past weekend my friend and I splurged on a block of brie cheese layered with apricot spread and almonds along with a pretzel bread baguette from Hahn’s.
Some of life’s most precious moments occur while stuffing your face with bread and cheese after a morning run alongside the railroad tracks sitting on a curb. Hopefully I painted a vivid portrait of that morning in your mind.
As far as my own cooking adventures go, they mainly consist of Trader Joes’ mixes. This, I have learned, is not necessarily a bad thing. After learning that I was obliged to bring a dessert to a team dinner, I combined butter, an egg, and a box of blondie bar mix in a bowl, poured it into a pan, and baked it in our dorm’s communal kitchen in the basement.
The blondies were quite a hit. Next time I may buy two boxes, one to eat as dough and the other to serve as the finished product.
After this discovery, my friend and I picked up a box of Pumpkin Pancake mix at the following weekly outing to Trader Joes and made those quite easily as well.
We topped them with greek yogurt, organic pumpkin, and honey. They will most likely become a weekly baking endeavor in between running, doing homework, and sleeping (pretty much my entire life at the moment).
While I do like to make things homemade, I would definitely recommend both of these mixes to those who are in a time crunch or to poor college students who have neither the time, money, or space to purchase large bags of flour and sugar.
As a fan of small, independent coffee shops, I visited La Spiaza in downtown Wheaton the other evening. I ordered their gingerbread chai, a perfect choice for a cool fall evening. I will definitely be back to try other beverages.
Ghiradelli ice cream and chocolate are absolutely divine. This was my lunch, and while it was a bit overpriced, it was truly good quality.
In addition to the beautiful orchards, Kuipers has a barn full of free food samples (always a draw), apple cider, and donuts! You can eat as many apples as you like while picking; hence I have a bit of a stomach ache while writing this.
Well, I suppose that is all for now. I will give you another update once anything else extremely exciting happens in my food world. And in the meantime, I will try to get my mom to write up one of her many recipes. I am missing home cooked meals immensely!