Hearts at all costs

On our final full day in Chicago, the boys and I went for a Valentine’s brunch at The Chicago Diner, a vegetarian restaurant in the Boystown neighborhood:

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The place was appropriately decked out for the “holiday”:

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At my urging, Erik ordered an apple carrot beet ginger juice.

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I ordered a chocolate soy milk Mexican hot chocolate with soy whipped topping:

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Erik and I split the two best meals of the entire trip. A seitan and Swiss reuben with sauteed veggies on the side …

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… and a sweet potato quesadilla with black beans, soy cheese, and guacamole:

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Mmmmmmmmm, the filling:

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When we were home at Peder’s place that night, I started to feel bad that we hadn’t actually celebrated Valentine’s Day. Peder gave me free rein in his bare-bones bachelor kitchen, and I was able to turn up quick oats, peanut butter, Hershey’s syrup, cinnamon, ground flax (I know?! Of all things he could have had?!). I mixed my ingredients (in unknown quantities) together, shaped them into hearts, and baked them for 15 minutes at 375:

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They survived the oven beautifully intact and crunchy! I made icing out of plain yogurt and chocolate syrup:

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I brought my creation to the boys, and we all enjoyed 30 seconds of official Valentine’s Day deliciousness.

And just for the sake of thoroughness, Erik got us this slice of strawberry cake at the airport Monday afternoon:

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I got to eat the rose 😀

Do you have a weakness for heart-shaped frosted cookies?

(P.S. Starbucks is giving out free Peeled fruit snacks today, fyi. You know how I love my samples!)

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Deep dish boot-scootin’

Our second day in Chicago was not yet Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t care. I wanted this cookie:

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Mmmmm, I am such a sucker for pretty frosting!

Anyway, Erik and I started Saturday with caramelized banana oatmeal, a brisk jog including a couple laps around the University of Chicago ballfields (conveniently located blocks away from his brother’s apartment), and a lunch of roasted cinnamon-cayenne acorn squash. After getting those morning preliminaries out of the way, we set off on our official mission to Millennium Park …

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(Although giant art appreciation was not part of our agenda, how could we not stop to appreciate the skyscraper faces and magic silver bean?)

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… for free Honky Tonk dance lessons!!!

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I found this activity when I googled “things to do in Chicago,” and it was the best stroke of luck ever!

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We learned to dance on the actual Pritzker Pavilion stage, comfortably shielded from the elements by temporary floor-to-ceiling glass windows that disappear in summer:

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I dressed appropriately in flannel …

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… and cowboyish boots:

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If you’re going to go boot-scootin, you have to do it in style, of course.

On the way out after our three hours of dancing (1 hour of lesson plus 2 hours free-dancing to the live bluegrass band), we asked an older local couple where we could find some authentic Chicago pizza. They pointed us in this direction:

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In reality, when the woman suggested Pizzeria Uno, I burst out laughing because, ummmm, you can get Pizzeria Uno anywhere in this franchise-riddled country. She patiently explained, however, that she was not joking and that the Chicago Pizzeria Uno was different from the rest because it was the first-ever location, was begun pre-franchise, and was the actual originator of deep-dish pizza.

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OK, OK, you don’t have to twist my arm!!

We went to put our names in and found out that the waiting list was 90 minutes minimum! We decided to stick it out, though. We had time! Plus, they took our order when we gave our names. That way, they could be cooking our pizza the whole time we were waiting so that it arrived 15-20 minutes after we sat down. BRILLIANT!

We were obviously famished after our 90+ minute wait, so we had a salad delivered to the table within 30 seconds of sitting. Grabby fingers:

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And … finally … the masterpiece arrived!

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We ordered a medium Spinoccoli with half sausage. The lady up front warned us the medium was too big for two people, but we patiently explained that we are the two people with the biggest appetites in the world 😛

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Mmmmmmm, topped with parm and red pepper:

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I’ve had many a spinoccoli in my life, and I must say, this was by far the best. The crust was SO much fresher and crunchier than any Uno’s crust I’ve had in the past. Despite the deliciousness, however, I will always be a New York thin crust girl at heart ❤

OK, so we talk a good game but, to be honest, our stomachs apparently do have bottoms. We could not finish everything, though we made a valiant effort by eating all the filling:

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OHHHH, the expansion!

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I accepted defeat and politely asked our server to wrap up the crusts for a future snack 🙂 Oven-toasted crusty bits with homemade guacamole the next night perhaps??

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Nothing gives me more satisfaction than successfully repurposing food. (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration. But only a slight one!)

Have you ever eaten at the original location of a franchise? How was the experience?

Where are we?

Can you name this city?

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How about now?

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Now?

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That’s right — it’s Chicago!! Erik and I decided sort of last minute to go out to Chicago for the long Presidents Day weekend to visit his brother, and of course, do some sightseeing.

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I had never been to Chicago before, so first stop was the Observatory at the top of the Hancock Building.

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One of my favorite things to do in any new city is to find the most touristy destination possible with the highest altitude possible. I LOVE the Empire State Building Observatory, and I’ve lived in NYC for 10 years!

Anyway, the Hancock was brilliant! Admission came with an interactive audio tour, so I learned (and promptly forgot) all about the city as I admired the view from every angle:

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I spent some time contemplating the meaning of life:

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And washing windows on the 94th floor:

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Then, lucky us, the sun began its descent!

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And we decided to partake in a completely unnecessary delight:

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Pistachio gelato topped with toasted candied almonds and fresh whipped cream!

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And a dazzling espresso creation with wayyyy too many ingredients to remember:

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Is this not the most beautiful sight ever??

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The sun fully set while we were nibbling …

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… and provided us with some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen!

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After passing a couple blissful hours in the observatory, we took a stroll through downtown.

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Seriously, who knew Chicago was so gorgeous?!! More to come soon …

What is your favorite US city?

The wonders of quinoa

IMG_8014.JPGA couple weeks ago, I brought some sort of quinoa + the kitchen sink lunch to work, and my coworker Beryl got very excited about it because she liked how it tasted and had only had bad experiences with quinoa in the past. The next day, I arrived to find this box on my desk, courtesy of Ms. Beryl herself!

Of course, this box contained quinoa flakes (probably the reason that Beryl thought she had texture complaints with quinoa) and was potentially purchased pre-millennium, but I decided nevertheless to see what I could do with it.

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My first venture was to use the qunioa flakes as instructed: in hot cereal form.

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I cooked it with apples, milk, and cinnamon and topped it with yogurt …

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… and I could see why Beryl hadn’t been a fan! Do yourself a favor and do not decide you need to try quinoa flakes ASAP.

Obviously, despite the breakfast cereal failure, I was not about to throw good nutrition away! I broke out some other inedible and/or undesirable items I’d been saving for a rainy day: stale apple cinnamon cookies, 1/2 dozen corn muffins from a donation my office received, honey that has never tasted quite right to me …

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… caramel nut brownie mini-luna bars …

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… Omega-3 peanut butter that tastes like fish oil (ewwwwwww) …

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… and blended it all in a bowl with eggs, ground flax, a ton of shredded carrots, a bag of shredded sweetened coconut, and voila!

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I made 12 mini muffins that Erik devoured in approximately 30 seconds, six regular-sized muffins …

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… and one loaf that I brought to work on my assigned “bring breakfast to the meeting” day:

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It was the perfect, hearty, filling, comforting breakfast for a conveniently chilly winter morning!

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Guest Post: Erik’s food discoveries

Hi everyone! Sarah is currently in an undisclosed location in preparation for an as yet unknown event (or maybe she’s just doing homework), so for this post I will be taking over the blog narrative. My name is Erik and you may recognize me from previous posts with food in my mouth…and not much is going to change here either. At some point during the previous week, the inspiration came to embark on making a Shepherd’s Pie. Here we loosely followed this recipe for Turkey Shepherd’s Pie with Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

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I have no idea where the idea to make Shepherd’s Pie came from, but I was glad it came to fruition and even more delighted with the end result.

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In it were peas, corn, ground turkey, carrots and to top it all off, sweet potatoes! I have never really had sweet potatoes outside of Thanksgiving, but it is a flexible food that complements well. I have no idea how to write about food, but nevertheless I cannot recommend sweet potatoes enough! Perfect for a Shepherd’s Pie. Just look at it!!

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So good it made me smile …

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… do the mouth strut …

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… exhibit unrestrained bliss just thinking about the next bite …

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… and just take some good hearty bites:

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Later that week, Sarah and I decided it would be nice to get out and enjoy some sushi. Actually, I suggested it because I never eat sushi. We found a place called Migita in downtown Brooklyn that totally impressed me. This place absolutely changed my outlook on sushi! First we had to enjoy some green tea …

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… followed by the Chirashi platter:

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It included shrimp, tuna, caviar, salmon, yellowtail among other palate pleasers. It was heaped on a pile of delicious brown rice, apparently a rarity out in sushiland.

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Then came the delicious Dragonroll!! Eel and avocado also served with brown rice:

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Mmmmmm…

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Here is the whole meal for your viewing pleasure:

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And on to dessert!

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I’ve never heard of red bean ice cream before, but those were some good iced red beans! If they even are beans. Who cares! The ice cream was great and came with fried bananas. Nothing can beat fried bananas! (except, perhaps, for sweet potatoes).

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This is proof that we couldn’t get enough:

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Thanks for letting me visit! I’ll “see” you around 🙂