Summer in Chicago: Randolph Street Market

One of my favorite things about summer in Chicago is the nonstop parade of street festivals, art shows, vintage markets and concerts open to the public. Entry is usually free or a $5-10 suggested donation, and there are always local makers on hand to share their stories and crafts. I seem to stumble into street festivals more than I make plans to attend–last weekend, I got off the train to walk to brunch with a friend and wandered right into the Green Music Fest in Wicker Park.

Summer in Chicago: Randolph Street Market

Recently I had the chance to check out Randolph Street Market‘s summer kickoff and attend a media breakfast–the first event I’ve attended as a blogger, four years into the game. Before I talk about the market, can I just say how much fun it was to get to know Giedrė, Lisa and other bloggers? I didn’t feel like a weirdo for whipping out my camera or pausing to make sure I got the angle of a picture just right, and I had a lot of fun hearing about different approaches to blogging and freelance writing.

We also received swag bags, which is a pretty great concept to begin with, made even better by the fact that one was a cooler bag full of Pre Beef grassfed steaks. If you’re ever looking to give me a present, take note: a bunch of delicious food for the grill is always appreciated. So thanks, Pre and Mariano’s, for your generosity!

Vintage Sign

Now that I’m done nerding out, I can tell you a little about the actual market: Randolph Street hosts a variety of antiques, vintage, arts and furniture dealers, covering everything from hand-sewn bowties to antique glassware to tables made of salvaged wood. It was a beautiful day when we stopped by, so we started with a stroll through dozens of outdoor booths and then made our way through three floors of antiques and collectibles inside.

While I loved some of the larger pieces available, like a wine rack made out of wood from the old Chrysler factory in Kenosha, I’m saving my apartment furnishing budget for when I have a bit more space. At the market, it was the little things that caught my attention: hand-carved wooden spoons with mustaches and smiles instead of slots, dinosaur planters, a beautiful collection of vintage dresses, and silkscreened clutches.

Wooden Spoons with Faces-copy T-Rex planter-copy

Vintage Dresses Pouches-copy

The market also had music going all weekend long, from bluegrass to pop, and tunes drifting through the air made it easy to spend a few hours idly perusing all of the booths. If you’re in the city, it’s worth a stroll through Randolph Street Market to enjoy the atmosphere and find some treasures of your own. The market will be open this coming weekend, June 27 and 28, and throughout the summer–check the website for future dates and more information.

Are there any special summer festivals where you live? If you’re in Chicago, are there any can’t-miss events you’re looking forward to this summer?

Better Homemade: Butternut Squash Pizza

Here’s the tl;dr* version of this post: if you’ve never made pizza at home, it’s super easy and so, so worth it. Let me present for your consideration this ridiculous, gouda-topped butternut squash pizza. There’s no excuse not to enjoy this much deliciousness in your own kitchen, so read on for the recipe.

Butternut Squash Pizza Recipe Inspired by Reno Chicago| Jaybird Blog

When friends come over to eat, one of my favorite dishes to make is pizza. Homemade dough doesn’t take much effort–or any experience baking bread–and creating customized pizzas gets everyone to pitch in and make something they are sure to enjoy. This recipe is inspired by the Butternut Pizza at Reno Chicago, my go-to restaurant for thin crust pizza, savory bread pudding and a ridiculously delicious kale salad (don’t knock it til you’ve tried the dressing).

Before making pizza dough for the first time, I was convinced that it would take forever and probably turn out half as good as what I could eat in a restaurant. One bite and I knew I’d been totally wrong. It takes a few minutes to mix the dough, then most of your time is spent waiting for it to rise. Being able to recreate restaurant favorites at home, or try new things like dusting the crust with parmesan cheese, makes the homemade experience well worth it.

Sage Browned Butter for a Butternut Squash Pizza | Jaybird Blog

This butternut squash pizza is unique in that it’s not a traditional white pizza, but doesn’t use red sauce either. The base is a sage browned butter, herbal and nutty, covered with creamy gouda cheese. Chunks of roasted butternut squash add a burst of sweetness on top, and toasted pine nuts complement the other earthy flavors. The pizza in this picture may or may not have been eaten by two people alone…who promptly made it again two days later.

Butternut Squash Pizza with Gouda Cheese and Sage Browned Butter | Jaybird Blog

My go-to pizza dough recipe is one I found on the blog Annie’s Eats (get the recipe here). It’s seen me through many dinner parties, dates and nights with friends. If you’re curious about baking yeast bread, rolls, or quick breads like banana or zucchini, my top recommendations are her blog and The Frugal Girl–who just shared four beginner bread recipes and has more in her archives.

If I haven’t convinced you to try making pizza dough at home, there are plenty of premade doughs you can buy at the grocery store. If you have the time, go for uncooked dough and take a few extra minutes to shape it yourself. It’s lots of fun to goof around and throw the dough, and it’s a forgiving substance. You can easily patch holes or cover lumpy areas with extra cheese. Win-win, right?

Butternut Squash Pizza with Gouda Cheese and Sage Browned Butter | Jaybird Blog

If you’ve actually had the Reno version of this dish, know that homemade dough baked in your oven won’t take on the same smoky, crispy edges as a thin-crust pizza baked in their wood-fired oven…but the slices will slide onto your plate, fresh and piping hot, covered with the exact toppings you want. I’ll keep going back to enjoy the original, but this pizza’s worth trying at home too.

Better Homemade: Butternut Squash Pizza

Better Homemade: Butternut Squash Pizza

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. unsalted butter
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 batch basic pizza dough (recipe at Annie's Eats or up to you)
  • small handful of cornmeal
  • 6-8 oz. gouda cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup chopped and roasted butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts

Preparation

Place a medium sautee pan over medium-high heat and melt butter. It will foam, then bubble and pop--if you have a spatter guard, use it! As the butter started to brown, stir frequently and watch carefully. The smell will change from cream to hazelnut as it continues to brown. Once the butter is evenly browned, add the sage leaves and remove from heat. Allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone or overturned baking sheet inside.

Shape the pizza dough and place on parchment paper dusted with cornmeal. Trim the edges of the paper.

Brush the pizza with sage browned butter, then top with cheese, butternut squash and pine nuts.

Slide the pizza onto the baking sheet and bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until crust has browned and cheese is bubbling. Allow to cool for a few minutes, but enjoy while still hot.

http://jaybirdblog.com/recipe-butternut-squash-pizza/

Recipe: Butternut Squash Pizza with Gouda Cheese and Sage Browned Butter | Jaybird Blog

Have you ever made pizza at home? What are your favorite toppings?

*tl;dr stands for “too long, didn’t read.” It’s an acronym people use online to indicate a quick summary of a longer piece of writing.

One Small Way to Make Grocery Shopping Faster, Easier & More Awesome

When Courtney and I started talking about ideas for a One Small Thing post, I was tickled to realize that we follow the same grocery shopping process. This life hack is a serious time saver–I’m usually in and out with a week’s worth of groceries in 15 minutes or less, left to chastise my roommate for taking his sweet time at the deli counter. Check out this easy way to improve your shopping experience and let us know if you give it a shot! 

Make Grocery Shopping Faster, Easier & More Awesome | One Small Thing Series

I’m a huge fan of life hacks, those small things that can make your day more awesome. I’m a teacher by day and overachiever by night, so I don’t have a lot of extra time to spend on mundane chores like running errands. But I also try to prioritize buying fresh, whole foods at the grocery store as often as possible.  Thus I’m super excited to share one small thing I do to make grocery shopping more efficient (and therefore more awesome).

Here’s what you do:

First, plan what you want to buy at the store. For me, this means picking out recipes from my endless Pinterest board, and figuring out what ingredients I will need. As a person who lives alone, I usually plan for four meals a week, plus snacks.

Then (and this is the best part)–write down the foods you will buy in the order you find them at the grocery store. For example, at my store, the produce section is the first area I walk into, so all the fruits and vegetables go on my list first. Dairy is the next area, so cheese and yogurt go on my list next. The last place I walk through is the freezer section, so frozen goods go on my list last.

It seems like the way you organize your grocery list isn’t that big of a deal–but let me tell you, I can get everything I need in 20 minutes flat, without having to backtrack through the store, or getting home and realizing I forgot the avocados. It’s just one small thing that definitely makes my day more awesome.

Courtney blogs at Teach Run Eat, where she combines a few of my favorite things: teaching ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a healthier life. She spends her days as a teacher, runner, and avid eater of hippie food. Check out her blog and connect with her on Facebook.

The One Small Thing Series is full of simple actions, ideas, and gadgets that can improve your life–in one really specific way. Have an idea you want to share? Drop me a note at alicia (at) jaybirdblog (dot) com.