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blogher 13 recap: the conferece

BlogHer 13 Recap: The Good Bits

Please note that as part of BlogHer, I attended sponsored events and received gifts from companies. Those items have no bearing on the content of this post. Besides, I have a swag giveaway at the end of this post.

Boy, oh boy. If you were following Erica and I on twitter & Facebook this weekend, you saw there were more than a few moments of pure awfulness. I was so frustrated that I might have nearly snapped and been rude a couple of times. (But hilariously rude, I assure you.) Aside from being handed death on a plate more than once, there were a few highlights to my weekend.

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glutenfree lemon ginger blondies by frannycakes

The curious incident of music in the summertime

What do you do when life hands you a whole bag of lemons? (Really, this is not some thinly veiled metaphor for bad days, horrible dates or other woes, it is truly about an excess of lemons). You bake.

When it hands you the metaphorical sort, you stop, gather up some friends and look towards your center.

gluten-free lemon blondies

The second city is my center. My happy refuge. Home.

You see, Chicago is a magic sort of place. The air here is always humming with energy to a bluesy tune. Moving forward at a pace just this side of hectic.

Summer in this city is special. I fill my weekends with neighborhood festivals and nights just a little too late on a friend’s patio. And it is the time of year when you can gather up some friends and head to the park for a concert.

You have to make sure that you come armed with wine, plastic cups and munchies (like the blondies at the bottom of this post – they travel well). And maybe some SPF 80 to keep your pale skin safe from the setting sun.

You’ve gotta roll with the rhythm of the season.

music in millenium park

Chicago has quite the rhythm.

I gathered up some new friends (the metaphorical lemonade from last year’s life-lemons), and dragged them out to play on a school night. We listened while my friend Pete and his band played music that hung on the breeze. We giggled while catching up on the unending exploits from lives that fall somewhere on the spectrum of bonkers and ridiculous.

There was talk of boys and work. New beginnings and broken hearts. And most importantly, shoes.

If I can give you some life advice, it would be to talk about shoes with the girls you don’t know when at a spy-themed birthday party for the guy you are sort of seeing and don’t know any of his friends. While it will probably never work with you and that dude (he will dump you over a pair of shoes), you might just find someone you can talk into splitting a bottle of wine with while soaking up a concert in the park.

That is some excellent metaphorical lemonade.

Now back to that bag of actual lemons. Since you have leftovers hanging out from the bag of lemons you bought to make gluten-free lemon raspberry cupcakes, you need to make something that is equal parts lemon and summer delight.

Enter some chewy lemon bars dotted with crystallized ginger. Oh yes, I think that you will win the next party you bring these to (and yes, there is such a thing as winning a party and these will help you do exactly that)


glutenfree lemon ginger blondies by frannycakes

The curious incident of music in the summertime

Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 35 mins
Serves: 18
These lemon bars are chewy, tart and have a kick of spice from the ginger.
  • 210 grams (1 1/2 cups) gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 1/4 tsp xantham gum**
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick (4oz / 113g) butter, softened300 g (1 1/2 cups) sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh (60 mL) lemon juice
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp lemon zest
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) ginger chips (chopped crystalized ginger)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius).
  2. Grease & flour a 9×13″ pan.
  3. Whisk together the gluten-free flour, xantham gum (if using), salt and baking powder.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  5. Scrape down the sides and add the lemon juice and one egg. Beat until combined. Scrape down the sides and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and eggs until you have incorporated all of it.
  6. Scrape down the sides and stir in the lemon zest and ginger chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
*I tested this recipe using Cup4Cup gluten-free all purpose flour. Other brands that I am confident would work well are Jules Nearly Normal and Better Batter. Baking mixes such as Pamela’s will not. **If you are using a blend that includes xantham gum, there is no need to add it again.


Chicago is my kind of town. (and gluten-free tiramisu)

I have seen a lot of cities. In fact, more than once I have threatened a move to Munich or Nice or Paris. (But never in a million years could you pay me to move to New York City).

I might love the look of medieval buildings mixed in with twentieth (and twenty first) century life and architecture.

I might imagine my life to be as romantic and full as Amelie Poulin.

But, really, nothing beats my city. The one whose humming energy greets me every morning when I get off the train. The city where the baseball team you cheer for could make or break a friendship.

The city with a strange taste in public art (Cow Parade or Color Jam anyone?).

The city that has State Street, that great street and the Magnificent Mile.

The city that was home to the first Ferris Wheel and the birthplace of the brownie.

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;” -Carl Sandburg, Chicago

This weekend reminded me even more how much I love this place.

This place where you have to pause a conversation as an El train passes overhead.

The energy and the pace here are intoxicating. Fast but not frantic. Busy, but not overwhelming.

Sit next to a stranger on the train and they are liable to tell you their life story. And they’ll want to know yours.

This weekend I got to do some very Chicago things.

I started the weekend with some leftover tiramisu and a gluten-free beer. I went to Gluten-Free Awareness Night at Comiskey Park US Cellular Field. I had gluten-free pizza from a place on Taylor Street. I had a cocktail in the Signature Lounge at the Hancock Building.  I bought my mom orange pants for Monday Night Football. All in all, it was a very Chicago weekend.

Good times.

Now for some good food.

If any gentlemen happen to read this blog, know this: tiramisu is a romantic, impress the ladies kind of dessert.

And this version is oh-so-easy.

20 minutes start to finish plus an hour to chill. I cheat (a little) with some store-bought gluten-free lady fingers, but that is what makes this dish so easy. You could substitute the purchased cookies for a home-made genoise if you prefer.

Gluten-Free Tiramisu
#ratingval# from #reviews# reviews
Recipe Type: Dessert
Prep time: 20 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 8
Adapted from the New Basics Cookbook & Mammacake’s notes
  • 1 1/4 cups strong espresso or coffee, room temperature
  • 3/8 cup triple sec
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup marsala
  • 16oz marscapone, room temperature
  • 30 gluten-free lady fingers (2 boxes of [url href=”http://www.schar.com/us/gluten-free-products/ladyfingers/’]Schar gluten-free lady fingers[/url] are perfect here)
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate
  1. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the espresso and the triple sec, set aside.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and powdered sugar until light buttery yellow and they have thickened, about 3 minutes with a hand mixer. Slowly add in the marsala and beat until combined.
  3. Add the marscapone 1/3 at a time, making sure that it is completely incorporated before adding more. If your marscapone is cold, you could end up splashing a lot (and messes are no fun).
  4. Soak the lady fingers 3-4 at a time in the coffee until they have started to soften (but not disintegrate), and turn over. It is about 45 seconds a side.
  5. Line the bottom of a trifle bowl or 11×7 glass baking dish with 10 espresso-soaked lady fingers. Top with 1/3 of the marscapone mixture. Grate chocolate over the layer with a microplane (or grind it in a food processor and sprinkle 1/3 of it now). Repeat twice more, resulting in 3 layers each of lady fingers, marscapone and chocolate.
  6. Make sure the top has a little extra chocolate.
  7. Let sit, covered, in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 48 hours.

This post is linked to: Gluten-Free Mondays




GFAF Expo Recap

Everyone loved my frannycakes tshirts! Although, everyone thought that I owned a bakery. Maybe someday, once I have become internet famous and have written a cookbook with my mom. I founnd so many new treats to eat, some new flour blends to try and loads of new brands to keep my eye on. I got to meet the editor of Living Without magazine, “The Pamela” of Pamela’s Products and a woman who is starting up a gluten-free deal site (similar to Groupon). I have to say that even though I was only able to be there for a few hours Saturday morning, I had a blast and learned a lot.

Allergy-friendly eating is a big deal in our family. Dad, the food allergy king, is allergic to wheat, oats, teff, pork, beans, peanuts and cashews. Mom can’t have gluten or teff. My sister is hugely allergic to nuts. I have wheat and shellfish allergies for sure and have an allergist appointment coming up to find out the true extent of mine. My poor boyfriend recently found out that he is lactose intolerant and has IBS. Needless to say, we easily get stuck in ruts because we eat what we know.

Saturday I brought my parents to the Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo put on by Jen Cafferty. I went last year with my boyfriend (from here on out, he will be refered to as Blondie – the name my girlfriends gave him when we first started dating). Blondie and I went on the Sunday afternoon last year and were completely overwhelmed by the shear awesomeness of the event. Naturally, as soon as the date for this year’s expo was released, I made plans with my cooking partner in crime (my mom) to go. We donned franncakes tshirts and brought along the boys for a ride.

My entourage and I spent 3 hours eating and shopping my way through the event. There were new products from some of our favorite brands and lots of new brands that I had never heard of before. We all had different missions for the event. My mission was to scope out gluten free flours and talk to companies about how they got their start in the Gluten Free market place. My mom’s mission was to wear a frannycakes shirt (it was her idea to order them) and try as many different foods as possible. Blondie’s mission was to taste everything and make sure it tasted good to a normal palate. My dad’s mission was the most specific: find gluten free soft pretzels.

Pretzels are one of those things that are not too difficult to make at home, but it is just my mom and dad now, so making a batch homemade isn’t always the most practical option. Needless to say, dad did not wait long to accomplish his mission. The father son team at Allerenergy had him with one of their pretzel bites. Our group’s first purchase was at the third table in the door and it couldn’t have been from better people.

We passed a few more tables and there were chicken nuggets. Immediately  after that were gluten free doughnuts (and gluten free sandwich cookies. We were drinking Woodchuck and Magner’s Irish Cider before noon. We found a perfect substitute for Ho-Hos. I found out that Costco sells a fantastic gluten free cracker. My favorite gluten free baguette manufacturer now has ready-made frozen pizzas. I FINALLY got to try Rudi’s gluten free bread. I got sour gummy bears (made with pectin) for my vegetarian cousin. I saw a couple of iphone/ ipad apps that look promising.

I will review individual products over the next couple of weeks, but for now, here are links to the companies that impressed me at this year’s expo and what product it was that caught my attention.