Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekend Food Extravaganza

I'm writing this lying down on the couch. Partially because I took a Core and More class a couple days ago and it hurts to move. And partially because we've had the biggest Chicago "eating" weekend we've had in a while. 

Friday night, we finally got a reservation at Girl & the Goat. Somehow I must have clicked on OpenTable right when someone else made a cancellation. We ended up with a same-day 8:30 reservation on a Friday night. That's insane. The next closest reservation was at 4:30 p.m.... in March. 

The food, of course, was delicious. John ordered the pig face, which is one of their signature dishes. I'm not much of a meat eater... let alone a face eater, so I stuck with fish and veggie plates - all amazing. I also recommend the Girl & the Goat Petit Verdot blend (especially if you are like me and love Washington wines.) It's from Walla Walla and delicious. I can't wait to try the Little Goat Diner. Specifically the brunch. Specifically the Fat Elvis Waffles. 

Saturday morning we tried out Glazed and Infused's new location in Lincoln Park. We've been passing this place at least once a week during all stages of construction and it finally opened last weekend. I am not typically a donut person, but EVERYTHING they had looked amazing. Plus the ladies behind the counter were so upbeat and friendly. 

Naturally, after the donut shop, we decided to drive to the Bang Bang pie shop to further indulge our sweet tooths (teeth?). (OK, so we got a pie to take to a dinner party -- but I did get to try a slice and it was everything I'd hoped and more.) Oh Chicago and all your food temptations.

My tropical glaze and coconut donut. Yum.

If only I'd gotten a picture of the inside. This is the Superbowl pie. Chocolate pie with pretzels, salted caramel glaze, and marshmallow infused with Revolution beer.

And now we're napping.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekend Wishlist: Prepping for Spring

Maybe it's the lack of snow in Chicago this year, or the end of the holiday season, but I'm already excited for springtime! I was thrilled when one of my girlfriends suggested a girls trip to Costa Rica at the end of February. Throughout the past few years, weddings, bridal showers and bachelorette parties have ensured we've been able to catch up at least once every few months. However, with no new weddings on the horizon and other responsibilities taking up most of our spare time, we're making a conscious effort not too miss out on too much girl time!

A trip to the tropics has got me thinking about spring and browsing for swimsuits and shorts. For some reason I'm drawn toward pastels and vintage-inspired maillots this year (doesn't the term "maillot" make a one-piece sound fancy?)


Collective Concepts tank dress



Chino shorts

Shashi jewelry

Joie Nice

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Homemade Granola

This morning we went to the dog beach (the BEACH in the middle of a Chicago January!) This weather is crazy, so we took advantage of it. I have to admit, the wind by Lake Michigan was actually quite chilly, so afterward I was in the mood to do something cozy. Like baking.

I'm also trying to stay away an overabundance of sweets following the holidays. As a result, I'm officially jumping on the homemade granola bandwagon. This was an easy afternoon project and I love that it is highly customizable based on taste.

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
The rest is really up to you depending on your taste and preference. Add in about 1/4 cup nuts and 1/3 cup dried fruit, plus your spices/flavoring.

Here is what I used:

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/8 cup flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup (heaping) raisins/dried cranberries


1. Mix your oats and nuts together in a large bowl.
2. Add in the olive oil and honey.
3. Mix together until the dry mix is covered in the oil/honey.
4. Mix in vanilla, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
5. Spread the granola on a baking sheet.
6. Bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees.
7. Add in the dried fruit, stir, and bake for about 10 more minutes (make sure to put the dried fruit in at the end so it doesn't burn.)
Note: The more you store the granola during the baking process, the fewer clumps you will have.

We went to Costco this afternoon and I bought 4 pounds of organic raisins for $7, so my batch is rather raisin-heavy. (What else am I going to do with that many raisins?) I think a version with coconut and mini chocolate chips or bananas, or dried apples and extra cinnamon would also be delicious. 

I'm storing my granola in mason jars that I bought for a soon-to-come DIY project.

The granola should keep for about a week or two (I plan to refrigerate mine.) I'm excited to top Greek yogurt with granola and honey for the next week!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Thousand Words is Worth a Picture

How fun is this socially-conscious wall art from Litographs? An ENTIRE book is printed on each poster. I would love to have a wall of these in an office or library (sigh, someday.) The Peter Rabbit and Aesop's Fables would also be perfect (and educational) accents in a kid's room. New prints are released twice a week and the company, committed to promoting literacy, donates a book to charity for each poster sold.
Aesop's Fables

The Prince

Ulysses (This might be my personal favorite.)
...I would also love to see someone pull out a magnifying glass and unfold one of these on the morning commute.

Images via

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Homemade Pizza Crust

I have a really hard time keeping track of recipes. I tend to go 'off book' when I cook or bake (half a result of what is available in my pantry, half on account of lack of patience or an attempt to 'eyeball it') and end up having difficulty recreating things I particularly like. So a big portion of this blog is a selfish attempt for me to have my "recipe cards" in one place.:)

Last night in the midst of a pizza craving and the optimistic hope of making it somewhat healthy, I went in search of a whole wheat pizza crust at our local grocery. John and I always joke that it's a game trying to find what you need there. (I spent 15 minutes one evening trying to find cornmeal - turns out it's located in what we affectionately call the "meal" aisle, with the boxed oatmeal. But of course.)

After wandering around looking for a premade Boboli crust and having no luck (I later learned it's located by the fresh cut flowers, in the check out aisle), I picked up a box of Jiffy crust ($.79 and you only add water). However the ingredient label kind of grossed me out (I'd just read this blog post, which I think is a very admirable way to eat) and decided I would just make my own. So what follows is my first homemade pizza crust... which was actually really tasty and super simple, not to mention crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.


  • 1 pack of active yeast
  • Salt
  • Whole wheat flour (I used organic to make myself feel a little better about eating pizza.)
  • Honey
  • Hot water
  • Cornmeal

1. Mix the yeast with 3/4 cup hot water. Add in about 2 tsp. honey and let it sit for 5 minutes or until it starts to bubble a bit.
2. Add in 2 cups of flour and a pinch of salt and mix until it becomes doughy.
3. Knead the dough for about 6 minutes until it is elasticy (this is a workout for your hands... and also great for relieving the day's stress.)
4. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray, place the dough in the bowl and cover it with Saran Wrap. Let it sit until it doesn't bounce back when you press it with your fingers (20-30 minutes). I let mine sit on top of the preheated oven to expedite this process. It will grow during this time.
5. Using a bit of extra flour so it doesn't stick, roll the dough out into a circle about 12" in diameter.
6. Make a rim around the edge of the crust.
7. Place the crust on a baking sheet covered in a bit of cornmeal.
8. Add your pizza sauce, toppings and cheese.
9. Back at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is cooked through.

Dough recipe adapted from Cooking Light.

We don't know where they keep the pizza sauce either, and it would be too easy to ask, so I made my own with canned tomato sauce, garlic, fennel and oregano.

I've always thought homemade pizza crust was pretty intimidating, however this was simple to make (even on a weeknight) and a lot more natural than store bought crust.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My First Hoppin' John

For years I've wanted to make a traditional New Year's Day dinner. Whether it's been travel, pre-existing dinner plans, or no desire to cook, my intentions have never come to fruition.

This year, we managed to travel back to Chicago in time for me to do a bit of research, grocery shopping, and cooking. It turns out, a traditional hoppin' john is pretty easy to make. One of my favorite things about it is that you are encouraged to 'throw in whatever you have' and more or less customize your recipe. In Southern tradition, the beans symbolize coins and prosperity (they grow when cooked) and greens symbolize folded money. Eating this simple meal on the first day of the year is supposed to bring you wealth throughout the rest of the year. Here are a few more traditional New Year's meals from various parts of the world.

There are definitely more sophisticated and traditional versions of this meal. And yes, you could spend all day cooking your beans. However, my version is a quick and simple (vegetarian) option that takes about an hour to prep.


  • Broth (chicken or veggie) (the amount is relational to how much rice you are cooking - use it as a replacement for water and the rice has a much richer flavor. I used 2 cups.)
  • Rice (A traditional hoppin' john calls for white rice. I used Uncle Ben's Wild Rice without the seasoning packet.)
  • Black eyed peas (I used a 15 oz can)
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Hot sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Anything else you would like to add (I added cabbage since greens are another traditional Southern New Year's food.)
  1. Cook your rice according to the instructions on the package, substituting the amount of water called for with broth. Throw in garlic.
  2. In a large pan with a bit of oil, heat your onion and any additional vegetables (like cabbage) until tender.
  3. Clean and heat your beans. Sprinkle them with salt, sugar and pepper to taste. (surprisingly, the addition of sugar mixed with the salt and pepper gives them a really unique and delicious taste!)
  4. Mix everything together and either add in hot sauce to taste (If you ask me, I say add a lot!) or serve with hot sauce and let everyone add their own. 

I served mine with corn bread, which symbolizes gold. While I'm not a superstitious person, I enjoy the tradition and idea behind this meal (not to mention its tastiness!)

One other tradition I'd like to incorporate next year is eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve. It's a Spanish tradition and each grape represents one month. For instance, a sour grape foreshadows a sour month and so on. (Better cushion my odds and spend extra time at the store picking out the best bag of grapes!)

What are your favorite New Year's traditions?

Friday, January 4, 2013


I really love tablescaping. (I'm pretty sure that's the technical term!:)) Thanks to the Tag Outlet, OneKingsLane, and major holiday sales at Macy's, I've been able to collect a few fun items to jazz up my table. Since we live in a city condo, I don't exactly have a ton of storage space (I have a 5' ladder learning against my desk dining room table right now - no joke), so versatility is key.

During the holidays I was lucky enough to host a few sit down dinners and a family brunch and play around a bit. Our actual table is a Crate and Barrel Outlet find (with a few deep character scratches) so it deserves some dressing up!
An early Christmas brunch: placemat - Pottery Barn, napkin holder - Mariposa

Peppermint sticks and paper straws - Walgreens:), monogrammed mint julep cups - gift

sugar candy napkin rings - Tag Outletglass plates -, gold chargers - super sale at Macy'scloth napkins - Crate and Barrel outlet

An early Christmas dinner: Wine garland - DIY here, runner - Tag Outlet, napkin rings - Mariposa, china - Wedgewood

Gold and white napkins - Marimekko

Dinner party with a few fun couples: too small table cloth:) - Anthropologie

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Happy New Year! (give or take a few days)

I hope everyone had an amazing time celebrating the turn of the year. I spent the evening with a few of my best friends and our husbands (plus the two newest members of our group - a six month old and a nine month old, however they didn't quite make it past 7 p.m.) I feel fortunate to still be close with my best friends from college and to be able to share in all their major life moments. Those babies sure have a lot of 'aunts!':)

On our drive back to Chicago, my husband and I wrote down our New Year's goals (I prefer strategic goals over resolutions, they set you up for success whereas resolutions tend to set you up for failure.) I won't spell mine out, but they include being a more active and engaged member of the community (our neighborhood association, philanthropic organizations I believe in, our church, volunteer positions, professional organizations and alumni associations) and living a more balance life full of meaningful work, more sleep, better conversations, and more timely correspondence.

I think 2013 will bring great things.

Since it's a three and a half hour car ride, we also had time to recount everything that made 2012 so much fun.
  • Instead of traveling the country/world, my husband is now working locally - woohoo! 
  • Graduated with my master's degree
  • Conquered the 'puppy stage' with Spud
  • Appeased my travel bug a little bit: Mendoza, Buenos Aires, San Antonio, Austin, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Louisville, Washington D.C., Michigan and Nashville, among a few smaller road trips. 
  • Read a few good books. Favorites: Gone Girl, Middlesex, The Marriage Plot and The Glass Castle
  • Spent a ton of time outside enjoying Chicago and our neighborhood (one of my 2012 goals)
  • Took a few classes outside of grad school: photography, cooking, blogging
I really enjoy lists, so that was for my own fun - thanks for still reading:) On with a few of my favorite moments of the past year. 
Wishing Spud a happy first birthday
(Why yes, that's homemade dog cake.)

Waking up to this. Even if it was just one morning.

Leaning back to do this... and living to write about it

Enjoying many happy hours on our patio

Spending time at the dog beach with my two guys

Eating the best BBQ ever with the fam outside of Austin

Wandering around Chicago

Welcoming fall in Michigan

Celebrating a family wedding
Freezing at the Zoo Lights

Laughing when coming home to this

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