Sunday, December 23, 2012

Almost Christmas!

Where does the time go?!?! I finished Christmas shopping today. I always wait until the last minute because then I'm under pressure to buy stuff. Otherwise, I'm so indecisive about what to get everyone! So last minute shopping is okay with me. 

When I was at Marshall's (my favorite store everrrrr) I saw this awesome parody cookbook. I didn't read 50 Shades of Gray, but this would probably be a much better read in my opinion! The pictures inside were pretty funny. 

The girls in my book club had a cookie exchange last weekend. I was so excited, I've never done one! I made simple Biscoff and Pretzel Rice Crispies. All the other cookies were so good, and it was fun to exchange them (and eat them all the next day).

I saw that there's something called the Great Cookie Swap, or something like that, and you mail your cookies to 3 other food bloggers anywhere in the U.S. How cool is that?? I think I want to do it next year. I'll have to start thinking of what to make!

We went to the Chicago Brauhaus in our neighborhood a few weeks ago, and this restaurant is SO awesome. Look at that huge boot of beer! There are so many legit older folks that love to polka dance, slow dance, and other dances I don't even know how to do. It was so much fun!

During lunch one day at work, I walked over to try the new waffle sandwich restaurant, Bel 50. It was pretty crazy in there, and I had to wait an hour for my food (to go!). Plus they were out of the sandwich I ordered! But the manager gave me a free sandwich coupon for next time, so I'll go back once they've gotten up to speed. This was a S'mores waffle, which was really good. Although, I could make this at home if I wanted. Still tasty though!

I get to see my family tomorrow! I'm so excited to take a break and just visit with family and friends all week. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Persimmon Cookies and Thanksgiving!

Persimmons are so weird, and not many people have even heard of them when I tell them these are Persimmon Cookies. I made persimmon pudding a few years ago, and it brought back memories of when my mom used to make it. She also used to make these cookies, so I was pumped when she gave me some persimmon pulp to bring home with me! 

I still have 1/2 of the pulp left, so I think I'm gonna make more persimmon pudding. Or maybe I'll make these cookies for our Christmas cookie exchange book club in a few weeks!

It's starting to get busy at work since it's the holidays, and I know Christmas is going to be here before I know it! I put up our tiny lil' tree today, so that helped it seem even more like Christmas. Oh so I decided to venture out to Ikea and the Woodfield mall on Black Friday.... Ikea wasn't bad at all, but the mall was redic! It was 4pm, but it was still so crowded. But I have to say you do get some good deals if you shop on Black Friday. Of course I just got some black pants and a sweater for myself, but they were super super cheap. 

One of my first favorite restaurants when I moved to Chicago was Hamburger Mary's, and I still love going there! It's quirky, very LGBT friendly, comfortable, and something you wouldn't find in Indiana, so it's fun to bring out of town guests there. Plus, their burgers are pretty good. I always go for the Big Kahuna burger, which has a pineapple, teriyaki, and thousand island. I usually can't only eat half, and I ALWAYS want to get dessert, but there's never room in my belly :( We also got the Britney Fried Spears for an app. Pretty tasty. 

I love to buy Groupons for restaurants that I've been wanting to try, so I got one for Superdawg and we drove up there (a little outside of the city) last weekend. It's fast food, and you pull your car into a space and press the button to order. Fun! It's like being back in the 50's and 60's. 

We both got a burger and fries, and a chocolate milkshake to share. It was actually really good! I was surprised. I know it's been on the Food Network or something, so it had to be decent. Next time, I'll get the hot dog. 

So B always has to work on Black Friday, so we usually stay in Chicago for Thanksgiving. I was just planning on seeing a movie and going out to eat at one of the restaurants open (which is a good selection here!), but my old roomie Amy invited us to come over and eat w/ her and a few friends. So I made stuffing, mac and cheese, cranberry pear sauce, and deviled eggs. Her and her bf made everything else, and it was all really delish! It's been so nice to relax and just hang this weekend. I don't want it to end! 

We also went to the Chicago Brauhaus this weekend with B's family who came to visit, and it was SO fun! There are some serious older polka dancers there, and I felt intimidated by them on the dance floor! It's an awesome place for birthdays or celebrations. We even drank out of a ginormous boot! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bang Bang Pie Shop

It's Halloween! And we didn't dress up or go to any parties at all this year. But I'm okay with that. It's fun every other year or if you have a good party to go to, but if you're just going out to a bar, then I'd rather save my money. 

So I have fallen in love with Bang Bang Pie Shop in Logan Square. Specifically the biscuits with butter and jam. These things are so fluffy, but yet dense. They have a nice crispy top, and when you add some  peach butter or blackberry jam, it's like heaven in your mouth. Also add a cup of their delicious coffee and you can just melt into a puddle of happiness. I always want to try a sample of everything, so I got the salted butter, black pepper butter, peach butter, cherry jam, blackberry jam, and lavender honey. They are all so fresh, I love it. 

I originally went to try the pie. They offer 3 different kinds that rotate about each month. A chocolate, a fruit, and a cream pie. I got the Banana Walnut Toffee pie with caramel sauce, and the Oreo pie. The banana was awesome, and the Oreo was just okay. The white mousse part was a little too sweet for me.

I went back last weekend and got the Pumpkin Pie with streusel, and the Apple Crumble pie. Both were yummy, and I plan on coming back to try the others when they switch them out.

Bang Bang Pie is a cute little shop with only about 6 tables inside, but on warm days they have a side yard area with picnic tables that makes you feel like you're in somebody's backyard in the country, and there should be clothes hanging out on a line to dry. I just hope that in the winter, there are enough seats inside because it's been packed the 2 times I've been! 

I also just found out that they are taking orders for whole pies and pans of biscuits for Thanksgiving!! I really want to get a pan of biscuits, but I'm afraid they won't be as good as when they're fresh and warm. Plus, I like to add all the butters and jams when I'm there, and I'm not sure if they would give you this stuff at home. I'll have to find out....

Lots of other stuff has been going on this month. I got to visit the fam and take my niece shoe shopping while I was there. She is such a diva. Luckily, she went for the slip-on checkered Vans so she's still cool. 

I also went to Harvest Homecoming, which is my hometown's big fall festival. There's all kinds of good food, crafts, rides, and crazy people. It really does bring out the strangest people. But I got to eat some pumpkin ice cream, rolled oysters, chicken and dumplings, and homemade donuts. 

I'm getting excited for the holidays! The book club I'm in is having a cookie exchange, and I've never done one so I am super pumped! 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Favorite Things and Pie Contest

Boy do I love pretzel buns. I really love anything pretzel-like. Flat pretzel crisps, soft pretzels from Auntie Annies, and pretzel buns are my favorites. I started seeing pretzel buns on burgers in lots of Chicago restaurants, and I think it's slowly but surely spreading outside the city and into grocery stores, too. I bought these mini pretzel buns at Whole Foods, and they made our buffalo chicken sandwiches 100 times better! If somewhere offers a pretzel bun, I usually get it. Keep 'em coming!

Not a good picture, but Oatmeal Squares is one of my new favorite cereals. My mom actually started buying it a while ago, and so I have her to thank, because I probably wouldn't have just bought them to try on my own. They are kind of plain, but have a good oat-y taste that I really like.

Larabar is a really good healthy snack bar, made usually of dates and other nuts or dried fruits. Most of the bars are standard, like peanut butter or cherry, but I was SO excited when I saw this Banana Foster one, and it did not disappoint, let me tell you. It was awesome. It probably had a ton of sugar in it, but it still was on the healthy side, so I scarfed it down. 

Hilary's Cookies is a little cookie shop near my house, but I got this cookie at Whole Foods. They are vegan! I really couldn't tell, so that makes it an awesome cookie. It was really soft and crumbly, and I think I tasted some coconut flakes or something like that, which was different. Good stuff. 

This one is NOT one of my favorite things, but I had to show you because it looks amazing doesn't it? It tasted too healthy for me. Ha! It had that protein powder taste that most of these energy bars have. I was hoping it was going to be really good, but nope. Didn't really taste smores-y at all. 

I was in a pie contest! It was put on by Pastry Chicago. This is my pie. I made a nectarine-blueberry crumble pie. I've never really made a pie with fruit, so I was pretty nervous to make this pie and serve it to the judges without tasting it myself. But it ended up tasting just fine, so I'm just proud of myself for doing it! 

My pal Emily won 5th place with her Spumoni pie! (on the left) I'm so proud of her! I'm so glad that she told me about these contests, and I plan on entering as many more as I can. The next one is Haunted Cupcakes, and I was going to enter, but I'm going to be out of town that weekend :( But I will definitely enter the next one! 

They just turned on the radiator heat in my apartment building since it's pretty chilly out tonight, and it is so loud and it's making the air so dry in here!! I hate that we can't control it. We might have to open our windows tonight so we don't suffocate from the heaters!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A little bit of September

Sometimes I'll be watching Hoarders on A&E, and then there's an Intervention episode on after that I get sucked into watching! Does that happen to you?

Where does the time go? Since last time, I've driven to Indiana twice, gotten a cold and even stayed home from work (that never happens), and had a birthday! My friend Amy made me an awesome funfetti cake, and my friend Sharyn from work made me these totally cute raspberry pie cookies. Aren't they just like itty bitty pies?

I also got to sit on the front row of a Sox game, and I felt like I was playing in the game it was so close! Now I'm not the biggest sports fan, but it was still so cool to be that close, and I even caught a ball! Well, one of the players just tossed it to me gently. But I still got to keep it!

Here's a sad picture for the day. A poor little butterfly was stuck in a puddle of gas :( I just stared at it while I pumped. 

We ate at my favorite restaurant, Cracker Barrel, with B's grandma and great-grandma. I got pancakes with the real maple syrup, and they were sooooo good. Probably because they are grilled in lots of butter, and have crispy buttery edges. 

Brunch last Sunday was at Ann Sather's. They give you 2 huge cinnamon rolls as a SIDE with your brunch entree. And then you still get another one! So I got a side of fruit to balance it out. My artichoke, aspargus, mushroom and tomato omelette was pretty good, too. 

B got me a Kindle for my birthday, and it is the best invention ever. I never have to wait for books to be available from the library any more! And I can hold it while standing on the train with one hand, and even "turn" the page!

I went to The Grind coffeehouse Saturday before going to Apple Fest in Lincoln Square to have some coffee and read a little. I ended up also getting an open-faced croissant with tomato and cheddar, which is something I should just start making at home. Yumm. That lighter was on the table when I sat down, so don't worry I'm not trying to catch stuff on fire.

The square was filled with strollers, kids, music, and people this weekend, but it's always so pretty! I'm glad I live so close to such a cute neighborhood.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Amy's Candy Bar, Food Truck Social, Cafe Selmarie

I keep a list of places I want to eat at, and I've been trying to keep up with it, but most of them I forget to take a picture of the food I'm eating. I need to get better about that, because pictures are so much better than just describing something.

It also seems like my list is never going to end. I keep adding more and more places, which is probably making me more and more stressed for no reason. But, I love to try new food!! Such a conundrum. And while we live in Chicago, I want to take advantage of all the choices we have. When (and if) we move back to Indiana in a few years, the only choices I'll have is fast food, chain restaurants, and very few locally owned places. So I'm enjoying it while I can!

Every Thursday night, there is a Farmer's Market in Lincoln Square, and on my walk home from the train, I walk right through it (which is a bad thing when I'm hungry!) There's a few different fruit/veggie farmer booths, a cheese/butter farm booth, meat (Big Fork Sausages), and then 2 or 3 bakeries.

Lately, Amy's Candy Bar has had a booth selling some of her candy, breads, brownies, and ice cream sandwiches. I'd been to her store on Damen before and got some gummy bears, and they were good, but were a little pricey for the amount in the bag. But, I know it's hard to have your own store/bakery and things will always be a little more expensive. Anyway, I got this carmel brownie the other day, and it was awesome! So rich and chocolatey, and the salty carmel on top gave it a kick. I really liked it.

Last weekend, my friends Emily and Emily and I went to the Food Truck Social, where 10 or so food trucks were set up in a parking lot, and we tried a few things from different ones. I got this Bread Pudding with Chocolate Sauce and the Ruben Egg Roll with 1000 Island sauce from the Bergstein's NY Deli truck, and they were both really good.

I also wanted to try the Haute Sausage food truck, because I've seen that truck around before and heard it was good. I got the Duck Foie Gras, and it was super spicy, but very flavorful.

It was a rainy day, so we got our food and just sat under the tent and ate it. I think if it wasn't so rainy, we would've tried a few more things, but I got full from what I ate, so no complaints.

Sometimes I got over to the Water Tower Foodease market and get lunch. It's awesome because they have a full salad bar with hot items, too, and lots of locally made goodies. I got some Lemon Raspberry Goat Cheese sorbet made by Salted Carmel, and I was so excited to eat this. I just don't think I like savory things in my desserts though.... I'll stick with goat cheese in my salad and on crackers. 

This Beer and Pretzel Marshmallow was really good! I wasn't sure how good it would be, but it was a good after lunch snack. 

This is a peach blueberry mini pie from Cafe Selmarie, my favorite neighborhood bakery. I love me some Intellegensia coffee and almond coffee cake from there on a weekend morning. The pie was good, but needed a little more juiciness. 

Breakfast! Steel-Cut Oats with brown sugar and blueberries, 1 cinnamon sugar toast, 1 raspberry jam toast, grapes, and coffee. Yummy. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mango Mango's

I'm just now getting caught up since our vacation in St. Augustine Beach, Florida. We stayed with B's grandma in her cute house by the beach, saw some alligators, went on an Boat Eco-tour, and played in the ocean and sand. It was marvelous!

When I take a whole entire week off of work, I kind of get into a much more fuzzy-brained and mellow mood. It's so nice..... Anyway, so the weekend after we got back, I did a 22 mile Urban Bike Race with my friend Sharyn, where you have to check in at 7 locations around the city. I probably should've trained a bit more beforehand, since I don't ride my bike all that much, but it was fun and exhausting! My legs were so so sore the next few days.

This weekend I finally did our 6 loads of laundry, cleaned the apartment, and I can pack my lunch for work tomorrow since I went to the grocery finally.

That big ol' piece of cake up top is the Monster Chocolate cake at Mango Mango's Beachside Bar and Grill in St. Augustine. It actually was a cappuccino ice cream cake, with Oreo crust, and it was deeeelicious.

The restaurant itself was right next to the beach, and looked cute on the outside, so I wanted to try out their dinner. The menu was mostly Caribbean food, which I LOVE, so I wanted everything on the menu.

I decided to get the standard Cuban sandwich, with Yucca fries, and a side of fried plantains (I couldn't resist!) The sandwich itself was okay, kind of dry, but it worked. I'd never even heard of Yucca until I got there, and they were like big fat fries, only 10 million times better. There was a sweet sauce to dip them in, which gave them a great flavor. I guess if you eat yucca not in a fried form, it's not very good, so I'm glad I got to try them the best way.

The side of fried plantains also did not disappoint. I didn't snap a picture of them, but they were like big chunks of crispy sweetness. Mmm I wish I knew how to make them at home.

We took a night walk on the beach. We didn't have a flashlight, it was pitch black, and we were walking in the water without our sandals on. Then we started thinking how there were tons of crabs probably walking all over the place, and we might step on one! So we got out our phones to see if we could see any, and found this guy. Luckily we didn't step on him barefooted!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Tasting Room and Barrelhouse Flat

We had our book club at The Tasting Room last week, and of course this is the only picture I remembered to take of our lovely cheese and meat board. But it was all really yummy, especially paired with the wine! I can't remember exactly what the cheeses were because we just had our server pick her favorites, but I know the meats were sopressata and pate. We also ordered the Shepherds Pie with short ribs and blue cheese, and a margherita pizza. Both were equally tasty.

We got to sit on big comfy couches back in a quiet area, which I really liked. That way we didn't have to yell over music or other people talking.

For dessert, Emily brought us all candies that she had slaved away in French Pastry School making all day. They were all so good! I've never had freshly homemade candy before, it was so soft and flavorful. My favorites were the chocolate carmels, which is crazy because I hate tootsie rolls!

A month or so ago, the girls and I went out for Thai food at Penny's Noodle Shop, and then went to Barrelhouse Flat and had drinks. We were NOT impressed by Penny's. My chicken pad thai was just weird. The sauce wasn't very good, and the chicken was really dark. But hey, at least we know not to order from there again!

We walked to Barrelhouse Flat, which is a neat little bar that serves some food as well. It was we had been transported to the South in the 30s, with tons of whiskey, brandy, gin, and rum cocktails that I'd never heard of, and cute decorations with dim lighting (almost too dim, we couldn't read the menus!)

We all ordered a cocktail that sounded good, and of course all passed them around so we could all try them. WOWZA were they strong. I'm just not used to drinking the dark liquors, so it took me a while to finish, even though mind was probably the lightest in flavor.

We also got a few things to nibble on, the 3 cheese spreads and the crazy spicy popcorn.

Gotta go start the next book for Book Club! The last one we read was really good, but pretty crazy. Hopefully this one is more positive!