Jams of the Month | Ed. 8

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset Rest. As a 28-year old in Chicago, it doesn't really seem like that word exists in my vocabulary. 40+ hour work weeks. Drinks with friends. Dates. Writing two blogs. Attempting to get into the habit of working out. Other writing projects outside of the blogs. Networking. Searching for a new apartment. Reading literature other than blogs and cookbooks. Where in God's green earth am I supposed to fit in time to rest in that mess?

Here's the thing. Rest may look differently person to person. The gut reaction response is that rest means sleeping. Or not allowing yourself to be busy. Sure, that could be a form of rest. But what about that extreme extrovert who hates being alone? Couldn't his or her rest look like spending time with friends? Or the athlete training for a marathon. Is it acceptable to consider their runs alone a form of rest? To you or me that may sound horribly exhausting, but if they are able to find rest, mental or physical, in that activity there is not much to be said against it.

Me personally? I love spending time with people. As much as I doubt it at times, I am a very social person. But if you ask me where I find true rest, both mental and physical, it wouldn't be out at the bars. A quiet afternoon spent with a cup of coffee, a little bit of music, and a pen and paper is exactly what I need to recharge.


| Jams of the Month | Ed. 8 |

Summer in the City.

It may not have felt like summer for the past few days. In fact, it's felt quite the opposite. Winds paired with cold temperatures and rain. Sounds like the perfect start to summer, no? No matter how badly we Chicagoans want summer to come, Mother Nature always has a way to toying with our emotions and making us hold out, even if only for a while longer.


Growing up, while in grade school, even high school and college for that matter, summers were an expectation. School was over. No more class. No more quizzes, papers or presentations. Summer was the time for us to let loose and enjoy the warm weather. Some of us were forced to take summer classes by our parents while others played at the park or pool with friends. But no matter what the summers entailed, we enjoyed that. Now that I am going on 28 (2 months away...wow), I still wish that I had my summers off. After all, it's a God-given right! Why shouldn't we have the summer months off? It's just cruel to make people work during the most wonderful time of the year. However, life goes on and we grow up and become adults. We are faced with responsibilities - jobs, bills, rent, doctors payments and groceries. Three months off in the middle of the year is simply a luxury that most cannot afford.

That doesn't mean we can't enjoy our summer in the city. So, as I've ridden the train home the past few evenings in the cool gloomy Chicago weather, I've had my fair share of time to think of what I want to do this year. Tommy Engstrom is not going to sit idly and let summer drift by. Instead, I have come up with a Summer 2015 Bucket List. Some of these items of small and trivial, others are a little more strenuous or daring. So, without further adieu, Tommy's Summer Bucket List:

  1. Read 1 book a month.
  2. Find Chicago's best margarita.
  3. Make new friends.
  4. Go to Big Star (embarrassed to admit that I have never been).
  5. Skydive.
  6. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour every day to devote to writing something other than content for Smak.
  7. Hang out with friends at the beach at least every other weekend.
  8. Catch up with high school friends that I never see, even though we live within miles of each other.
  9. Start every Sunday morning with a walk around my neighborhood.
  10. Go to the farmers market every weekend, even if just to walk around and enjoy the company of friends and loved ones.

That's it for me. What about you all? What is on the docket for your summer? If you live in Chicago and want to help me tackle any of these Bucket List items, reach out to me. Happy Hump Day!


pasta with pesto cream sauce

well this is awkward...i feel as though SMAK is some girl i went on a date with and never called back...

my excuse? um.... i lost track of time. i had to go to the doctor. i took a sabbatical. i lost my computer. i moved to a foreign country and was without internet service. i forgot how to cook?

4 months. i have gone 4 months without putting a single picture, recipe, post, not even a whimper onto SMAK. what in the world happened? i don't know what to say. i could try to come up with excuses. clearly i have tried, but all seem pathetic and contrived. so instead of coming up with some reason for my 4-month absence, i will own up. i didn't call back. i didn't even send a text message! all i can ask is to let me back into your inboxes and kitchens. let me make your mouths water with intense anticipation.

let me be your SMAK!


this past weekend i flew out to pittsburgh, pa to visit my best friend of 20 years. crap. 20 years? thinking about knowing someone for that long, outside of your own flesh and blood, seems absurd. but none-the-less, shizz happens - megan and i first met and the bright young age of 5, our mothers called each other to make sure that it was appropriate for us to have play dates, and we've been making creepy crawlers and drinking wine ever since!

pasta with pesto cream sauce

megan took me to pittsburgh's strip district, a neighborhood teaming with markets and shops. italian groceries. jewish groceries. stores fronts with tchotchke knick knacks and steelers memorabilia. everywhere. i have never in my life seen so many people wearing sports gear. hats. shirts. jerseys. shorts. tattoos. a little overboard for my taste.

meg & tom

we had planned on spending the evening in without the slightest idea of meal choices. megan and i will quite frequently text each other asking what to make for dinner. so clearly decisiveness may not be our strong suit. while meandering through an italian market, meg picked up a bag of cavatappi. "i bet this would be great with some kind of cream sauce." a few seconds later i was sifting through recipes on my iphone and discovered this easy recipe for pasta with pesto cream sauce.

this meal, along with a bottle of red wine, or two...three, was the perfect way to spend a saturday night with my best friend!

so grab your best friend and try this out yourself and until next time...happy eating!

pasta with pesto cream sauce servings: 8

ingredients: 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese 3 tablespoons pine nuts 2 cloves garlic, peeled salt and pepper, to taste 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons butter 1/4 cup grated parmesan (additional) 12 ounces pasta 2 whole tomatoes, diced


  1. cook pasta until al dente.
  2. add basil leaves, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and salt and pepper to a food processor. turn on and drizzle in olive oil while ingredients mix. continue blending until combined, adding additional olive oil if needed. set aside.
  3. heat cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. add pesto and stir.
  4. drain pasta and place in a serving bowl. pour pesto cream over the top. toss to combine. add diced tomatoes and toss quickly. top with parmesan cheese. serve immediately.