Monday, November 28, 2011

Food Should Taste Good

Yes, this may be a strange name for a company but I love it - Food Should Taste Good. If you're looking for a crispy, healthier chip alternative than you should be looking for the black and white bag with the simple logo on it. With flavors like sweet potato (made with yes, real sweet potatoes), multigrain (with flax and sunflower seeds adding an extra crunch) and cheddar (who can resist a little cheese and some quinoa too) you'll be wondering why you didn't start snacking on these chips sooner.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Entertaining a la Pumpkin

I love pumpkin. I love entertaining. I'm planning on hosting a small (very small) gathering for Thanksgiving at my home this year. Nothing fancy, but I'm looking forward to using some of my nicer table linens, some serving pieces that belonged to my grandmother, and testing out some new recipes. I was really inspired when I watched these three short videos from event planner Debi Lilly.

I hope you're inspired too - they are fantastic ideas!
Here is the link to some of the pumpkin themed treats on the Cheeky Chicago blog.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Running the Good Life in California

After finishing the Chicago Marathon last month I was eager to get another long run in the books so I could have something else to look forward to. With the BF in California, I thought the Santa Barbara half marathon would be the perfect race.

Beautiful finish line of the race looking out on the ocean
I was expecting breathtaking ocean front scenery, but when we arrived Friday night we were greeted with intense darkness and rain. Not ideal, but we made the best of it and opted to order dinner in from California Pasta -it was definitely a good choice! I was really happy with my avocado farfalle (similar to a type of pesto, but with avocado as its base). I'd never heard of an avocado pasta before and have to say I loved it so much I'm on the hunt for a recipe to make my own.
Yeah - got a new 2:13 PR for the half marathon too!

Race day was beautiful and after some jaunts in the mountains and a park area during the first part of the race, I welcomed the sight (and smell) of the ocean for the final miles of the race. After eating a banana and a not so exciting protein bar, my taste buds were ready for something a bit more enticing. My race friends had made some restaurant recommendations along State Street (the restaurants were all packed) so we looked to my trusty friend Yelp for a restaurant recommendation and settled on Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurant. This family-owned gem had a high rating on Yelp and for good reason - the food was excellent (the BF lucked out with a delicious combination plate of yum) as was the service (Freddie the bus boy was soon good the BF joked my brother should move him to Chicago to work at one of his restaurants!)

Beautiful day for a Farmer's Market
Though Santa Barbara was the focus of the weekend, I of course enjoyed my time in LA too with stops at Urth Caffe (I love the salads that come with the breakfast entrees) and Jack N Jills (love the breakfast rice bowls). We also found a fantastically fresh sushi spot - Minori which is also a family-owned business. The rolls were simple but extremely fresh...they even had a container of live crabs sitting atop the sushi bar. Sight (and recommendation) unseen we also stumbled upon a delicious Thai restaurant called Melanee - their chicken with broccoli is a dish I'm still craving 4 days later! Farmer's markets are wrapping up here in Chicago, but in LA they are thriving - alive with avocados, persimmons, grapes and oranges.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happiness in a Warm Bowl

Delicious peanut pumpkin pepper soup
Chicago is still deciding if it wants to be cold this week. We've been blessed with some relatively mild temperatures these past few weeks and I've been making good use of it wearing my favorite fall jacket (probably one of my best shopping buys btw), walking all over the city (I do this regardless of the temperature, but this is the favorite season for my walks) and cooking some fall favorites. Winter brings with it the desire to cook hearty warm food, but fall lets us do that with still seasonal produce - bonus!

Butternut squash risotto
I have been looking for every excuse to be cooking items with pumpkin and squash. I have been making my pumpkin smoothie regularly now that pumpkin's back on the shelves, but it's the warmer dishes that are the stars of the show. I cooked a butternut squash risotto using Martha's recipe for my brother and his GF. I love making risotto and was surprised that this recipe called for absolutely NO heavy cream! I usually finish my risotto off with a bit of cream, but the butternut squash was so sweet itself that I think it took Mr. Cream's place. Fabulous and I can't recommend this recipe enough! Next up was my pumpkin peanut soup (recipe courtesy of Women's Health magazine.) There is some heat from dried chilies, and a bit of a Thai feel with the peanut butter in the soup, but it's the smoky red peppers hidden in the recipe that give the soup its vibrant orangish/redish hue. So warm and fall-like!

Please let me know if you have any can't miss fall recipes you'd like to share. I'm always looking for some more recipes to test out.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cooking Up Hearty Breakfasts & Tasty Desserts at Whole Foods

Fruit dessert (healthy & delicious!)
If you've been reading my blog, you know I have a love affair with all things Whole Foods (I just don't like the price tag that comes with it.)

My dear friend Lara is now a Chicago resident, and recently joined the newly launched Whole Foods Wellness Club at their Lincoln Park mega store (fun trivia fact, this Whole Foods is the 3rd largest in the world behind one in London, and their HQ in Austin, TX where everything is bigger.) The Wellness Club prides itself on educating shoppers to create positive lifestyle choices. Members get 10% off certain healthful food items, as well as access to free yoga and cooking classes. Lucky for me I got to attend not one, but TWO cooking classes with Lara and both times they were virtually private classes -lucky us!

Class #1 focused on hearty breakfast items. I'm an egg kind of girl, but the Wellness Center is a proponent of the Vegan lifestyle so no eggies for me. They also try to limit the amount of oils they use, so no EVOO either! There were all sorts of menu items that I had never thought to make for breakfast. Of course we made steel cut oats (did you know you could make them for the the week and then keep them in the fridge and just heat as needed?), but there was also a delicious breakfast hash with roasted root veggies (personally I would roast them with a little oil for a crisper texture, but steaming them with a spice mixture was nice too.) I LOVED the mashed banana. Really who would think - mashed banana? Take some bananas and whip 'em in the Vitamix with some cinnamon and it's a completely new experience. Add it into those steel cut oats and you've almost got dessert.

Our friendly Wellness Center chef Katie with the chocolate fruit parfait
Speaking of dessert...that was another fun class (class #2)! Old friend Kate joined Lara and I for some sweet cooking. We started off baking apples in the microwave. Pretty unglamorous, huh? But add in cinnamon and some other spices and this was a sweet, healthy treat (I would probably add in some yogurt too.) We also roasted a banana (warm and caramelized goodness)  and enjoyed chopped pear with fresh mint. So simple. There was also a ooey gooey chocolate mixture (real chocolate, not milk added) which we happily layered with fresh fruit to make a decadent parfait.

Kate & Lara look over the recipes
I probably won't be giving up my indulgent eating lifestyle (I love animal by-products, oils, etc. too much), but I have added some more healthy dishes to my foodie repertoire which is always a good thing. Plus, this is yet another excuse for me to visit my dear friend Whole Foods.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Young Coconuts - The Tropical Drink You Can Enjoy Anywhere

Thanks again to Whole Foods. My obsession with the store continues. For the past few days I haven't been feeling 100%. I've felt like I've had a sinus headache and it has kept me from my active daily routine. I went to my friends at Whole Foods and thought maybe I could find a more holistic cure my pain. Oddly enough this didn't come in the form of supplements or sprays, it was in the form of young coconut.

You've seen coconut water is all the rage now. I don't really like it plain, but Vita Coco and Zico make some tasty concoctions that mix in other fruits and flavorings. The water is known for it's high potassium and antioxidant levels. (one of my fave fitness fact websites) says that coconut water's electrolytes can even replace those found in sports drinks.

I bought the recommended coconut (yes, it was a WHOLE coconut with a straw in it) and toted it home (it's a bit heavy to add to the grocery bag). I sat on my couch and it was an instant vacation in my living room - nutty goodness, creamy and delicious. I really enjoyed drinking this coconut water vs. the packed waters which taste slightly off. I'm not sure if it was the coconut or the 9.5 hours of sleep I got that night, but I did feel much better the next day!