A couple of weeks ago, Mike and I took a trip to Chicago. We've been there before for our first anniversary and we loved the city atmosphere. This time, we went for our "babymoon"--we know that once our baby arrives in July, we won't be traveling much for a while, so this seemed like a good chance to get away. We live about 3 hours away from Chicago, so we drove about halfway and then took the train the rest of the way. We love to travel by train, and then we didn't have to worry about driving or parking in the city!
Our hotel was right on the Magnificent Mile, so after checking in, we headed out for lunch. I had told Mike that I absolutely wanted to go to Chick-fil-a for lunch one day. I got lucky and we headed there for lunch on Friday. It was our first time eating there (the closest Chick-fil-a is 80 miles from our house) and it was everything we anticipated. We both had a chicken sandwich (Mike's was spicy) and fries--I loved their fries! I also really liked the addition of pickles on their chicken sandwich!
For dinner we headed to another restaurant neither of us had been to before, Rainforest Cafe. Mike's co-worker is from Chicago and recommended that we eat at Rainforest Cafe for the experience. Mike and I were both awestruck when we entered the restaurant. We were greeted by a large snake, misting waterfalls, and enormous fish tanks. We were seated next to the waterfall and ate our dinner alongside a parrot and family of gorillas. I ordered one of their specialty items--the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger. I loved the onion ring that was served on the burger (though I did eat it separately to make the burger size a little more manageable). Mike ordered their Flying Dragon Pepperoni Pizza, the crust was thin and the amount of toppings was perfect. Plus, it tasted good cold a few hours later!
Saturday morning, we headed out to the restaurant voted number one for breakfast in Chicago, Yolk. Being the breakfast lover that I am, I knew we had to pick a great place to eat breakfast. I ordered the Peach Cobbler Crepes. They were delicious, and the portion size was huge, but by time I finished I was sick of the orange flavor from the Grand Marnier. Mike had the Countryside Skillet, which he really enjoyed.
After our enormous breakfast, we really were not hungry for lunch. We did some shopping and walked down to the Navy Pier. By this time it was about 3pm and we still hadn't eaten. We ended up stopping in the food court and Mike got McDonald's and I ordered a Chicken Gyro from Greek Delight. It was delicious! As you can imagine, we were not hungry for dinner. We thought about just getting ice-cream from Ghiradelli's, however the cost and lack of seating deterred us from that plan. We ended up heading back to our hotel and enjoying a couple drinks and appetizers at the M Avenue Lounge. It was the perfect amount of food to satisfy us for the night.
Sunday morning was Mother's Day, and we hadn't thought about that in advance, so the restaurant we wanted to go to was booked. I had seen a restaurant as we were walking around that intrigued me, so we headed to e.leaven for breakfast. This restaurant was more casual than we had anticipated, and we ordered at the front counter and our food was brought out to our table. I ordered the Banana Bread French Toast--thick slices of banana bread topped with bananas. It was delicious and so filling! Mike wanted something smaller than the day before, so he went with a breakfast bagel. He really enjoyed his breakfast as well.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I wanted the snacks to look like fireworks, but also incorporate the patriotic colors of red, white, and blue. If you don't have red and blue sprinkles for the marshmallow treats, don't worry about it, there is plenty of red and blue from the fruits!
This is a snack that I think would be fun for children to assemble. Parents, just cut up the strawberries and marshmallow treats and let your kids have fun! Not only will they enjoy putting these snacks together, you'll feel good about the fruit they're consuming when they get to eat their creations later.
1 pan of marshmallow treats (recipe below)
1 quart of strawberries, washed and hulled
1 pint of blueberries
6" wooden skewers (if necessary, cut longer skewers in half)
1. Cut marshmallow treats into star shapes using a cookie cutter. Set aside.
2. Cut strawberries in half, width-wise.
3. Thread the strawberries and blueberries onto the skewer, alternating strawberry half, 2 blueberries, strawberry half, 2 blueberries.
4. Top the skewer with a marshmallow star.
These are best served the day they are made, otherwise the fruit and marshmallow treats become soggy.
3 Tablespoons butter or coconut oil
1 (10 ounce) package marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
red and blue sprinkles
1. In a microwave safe bowl, heat butter (or coconut oil) and marshmallows on high for 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds.
2. Stir until smooth, returning to microwave in 30 second intervals if necessary.
3. Add cereal to marshmallow mixture and stir until well coated.
4. Press into a greased 9x13" pan. Top with sprinkles.
Allow the marshmallow treats to cool before cutting.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Can you believe that we are already half-way through May? I certainly can't! It seems this year has just flown by and I know the next few months are going to go even faster!
It's nearly June and that means that it is time to start thinking about Father's Day. I already ordered my Dad his gift, I'm just (impatiently) waiting for it to arrive. If you haven't bought your gifts yet, this is the perfect giveaway for you! I've teamed up with a great group of bloggers to help promote the new blogging book "The Blogger's Survival Guide" and bring you this great giveaway.
Not just one, but three people will win a cash prize. Keep the money, give it to your dad, or use it to buy your Father's Day gift. What you do with the money is your choice--just remember the more entries you make, the better your chances! Good luck!
Monday, May 20, 2013
Secret Recipe Club. As I browsed through Jess's list of recipes at Life's Simple Measures, I was immediately drawn to her recipe for Cosmic Brownies. She has a plethora of delicious looking baked goods, but like I said once I saw this recipe, there was no turning back.
You see, one of the staples in Mike's lunch is a package of Cosmic Brownies. He's been eating a package nearly every day since high school. Really healthy, I know! Actually, he hasn't had nearly as many since we've been married since I don't buy them for him all the time. But when I saw a recipe so I could make them at home, I was sold!
Makes 1 9x13" pan of brownies
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tablespoons milk
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped M&M candies (or topping of your choice)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, melted butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla.
2. Add in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and stir until just combined.
3. Pour the batter into a greased 9x13" pan.
4. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie comes out mostly clean. Allow the brownies to cool.
5. While the brownies are cooling, make the ganache topping: Pour heavy cream into a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup and microwave the heavy cream for 1 minute, until hot.
6. Add chocolate chips to the hot heavy cream and allow it to sit for about 3 minutes. Stir the chocolate chips into the cream until the mixture is smooth.
7. Pour the ganache over the cooled brownies and sprinkle with chopped M&Ms.
8. Refrigerate the brownies until you're ready to cut and serve. Store brownies, covered, in the fridge.
Source: Life's Simple Measures
Friday, May 17, 2013
Mike and I recently became part of a couple's small group at our church. We've started meeting together every other week, and we take turns hosting. The hosts provide the main dish and the other two couples bring a side or dessert. Last time, I offered to bring a dessert. I had a specific dessert in mind that I wanted to make, but of course, I didn't have one of the key ingredients--Nutter Butter Cookies. (And that's a hard thing to substitute!) So I went to plan B, only to go to the basement pantry and discover that I was out of yet another key ingredient! Fail.
S'mores Bars a while back and I'm so glad that I finally got around to making them. They were the perfect combination of crunchy, sweet, and gooey! Our small group loved these bars and I see them making their appearance at many events this summer!
Makes 16 bars
3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup mini marshmallows, divided
1 regular sized Hershey chocolate bar
1. Line an 8x8" pan with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Place in the bottom of the prepared pan and press down to form a crust.
3. In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and sugars until fluffy.
4. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix.
5. Add flour, baking soda, and salt to the wet mixture and mix until combined.
6. Fold in chocolate chips and marshmallows until evenly distributed.
7. Spoon the cookie dough on top of the graham cracker crust as evenly as possible. (I found it was easier to use my fingers to flatten it out.
8. Bake at 350 for 20-23 minutes, until the bars are set.
9. About 5 minutes before the bars are done baking, sprinkle the marshmallows on top and return the bars to the oven to finish baking.
10. Break the chocolate bar into pieces and place on top of the baked bars. Let the bars cool completely before cutting.
Source: Chocolate, Chocolate, and More