December 30, 2012

Omelets in a Bag - Say Whaaaaat?!


Omelets in a bag.  Yep...it's totally a thing...and a damn good one at that.  Easy, tasty, quick & foolproof - an ingenious way to make delicious, perfectly-formed omelets, and I had no idea this method existed until I spent some time with my aunts over Christmas break...lucky me :)

My aunt Lori & my aunt Jo are two of the most kind, loving, encouraging & creative people I know.  I am so fortunate to know them, and to be able to call them family.  My aunt Lori & I have been close for a very long time - not only is she my godmother, but she has also become one of my best friends.  She lives life with a zest that is indescribable.  To know her is to love her, and if you're lucky enough to spend some time around her, your quality of life is sure to improve.

Lori & Jo recently celebrated their 2 year marriage anniversary.  Yep, that's right - they got married in Iowa on their 10 year anniversary of being together because gay marriage is legal in Iowa - because love is not prejudice, blind or discriminatory - because love is love - and because IOWA FREAKING ROCKS!!!  (Pretty damn proud native right here).  It was the most amazing day and none of us will ever forget it.  The day brought together everything wonderful about Lori & Jo, their friends and their families - the amount of love present that day was simply sublime.

Jo & Lori on their wedding day | So much love

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!!



Hi all - Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!!!  My wish came true to have a white Christmas - my siblings & I have been at our parents' house in Iowa since Friday night and we've been laughing, eating, cocktailing, snowmobiling, listening to old Christmas music, gathering by the fire, watching Christmas movies, playing games & loving every minute of it.  I've uploaded a few pics of our winter adventures so far - check them out below.  I am so lucky to have such an amazing & fun-loving family!

I hope you all have been able to spend time with the people you love - family, friends, loved ones - safe travels to all who are flying or driving & cheers to a very Happy New Year!!!


My parents have five 30 ft. evergreens in their front yard that my dad puts old fashioned
colored lights on each year - they are especially breathtaking after a fresh fallen snow!

December 23, 2012

Lydia's Holiday Shrimp Dip!


'Tis the season for holiday parties galore - how many have you been to so far?  Whether ugly sweater, formal or just a cozy get-together, the holidays always bring out good people, good times, spirits (both etheral and sippable) and lots of savory & sweet treats.  We do our best to enjoy in moderation but it's not always the easiest thing to do.  If you're tasked to bring something to a holiday party this year I have an easy and not too waistline-offensive recipe that is tasty & easy to throw together.

This shrimp dip is a recipe my mom has been making for holiday & cocktail parties for years - it's always a hit and almost guaranteed not to be repeated by anyone else at the party.  It only takes about 20 mins from start to finish (not counting 30 mins chill time), and you can serve this dip with anything from buttery Ritz crackers to lower-sodium whole wheat crackers to red pepper strips.

Check out the photos & recipe below!  Happy Holidays!


What you need

December 21, 2012

Discover Ada St.┃A Hidden Little Gem

It's not even been a year since Ada St. opened its doors, yet it seems like I had waited much longer to try this place - on a random Monday night last week, it finally happened.  My friend Alex found out the restaurant was screening Home Alone - apparently they often screen movies on Monday nights at this joint - they also include a complimentary bucket of movie popcorn for any patrons in the house.  A super cozy spot, incredibly delicious food, soul-warming cocktails and Home Alone?! Pretty good way to get us into the holiday spirit if you ask me!

I had heard a lot about Ada so I was expecting pretty big things, especially considering this spot comes from the talents who also brought us DMK Burger Bar.  Overall - we were not disappointed.  The interior of Ada is totally my style - exposed brick, lots of candles, stacks of vinyl records, vintage meets Deco, a big dark bar & a cute chef in the kitchen - visible to customers anticipating craft cocktails & delectable dishes.  As we sat down I immediately noticed the closed off open-air patio.  Based on what I've read about this place, we're definitely going to have to come back when patio season begins again.  The patio boasts 50 seats, is covered in AstroTurf and features a fire pit, picnic tables & a ping pong table.  Sounds like a backyard party with a few close friends and 40+ strangers that I could get down with!
(More review & photos below!)

Yes

December 19, 2012

#26Acts...


It's been almost a week since the unimaginable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  As we keep all those precious souls who lost their lives, and all those affected by it, in our thoughts, prayers & hearts - we also must remember kindness.  There was a great article posted on the Today News website connected through the hashtag #26Acts - created to honor the victims of Sandy Hook.  The article gives a list of 26 real life examples of how people across the country are doing random acts of kindness, in hopes to inspire kindness in others.  Check out the article here, and think about what your next random act of kindness will be...spread the holiday spirit.




December 13, 2012

Check It: Healthified Blueberry Banana Bread


The last time I visited my dermatologist and the last time I got a facial I left with some parting words of advice for my particular skin type - lay off the dairy, if possible, and you'll see an improvement in your overall complexion.  Well, a couple months later I now fill my coffee with light soy milk instead of cream or regular milk, I take calcium chews every day & I do my very best to lessen my cheese intake...although, I am telling you now I will never, ever fully give up cheese.  Not only is it one of my favorite foods (all shapes & forms), but it's the basis of so many amazing dishes of which I refuse to deprive myself. The thing to remember?  Moderation.  It's all about moderation.

Given my effort to reduce my daily dairy consumption, I was super excited when I found a recipe for a delicious banana bread that uses natural honey & applesauce instead of milk or butter - also no oil or sugar!  I added some blueberries into the mix to bump up the sweetness & flavor a bit. Another bonus of this recipe was that it already called for whole wheat flour for the bread.  When I bake I usually like to substitute all (or at least half) the amount of all-purpose flour a recipe calls for with whole wheat flour to up the nutritional value.  Done & done.

Check out photos & recipe below!


You know you want some...

December 12, 2012

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Country, But You Can't Take the Country Out of the Girl...


I love that I grew up in Iowa.  Iowa has a huge chunk of my heart, and it always will.  I love that I grew up with two hard working & loving parents, four crazy siblings, dogs, four-wheelers, snowmobiles, ice hockey, rope swings, tree houses, epic games of capture the flag, ice skating, both sides of my extended family in Iowa, paintball, timber runs, lawn mowers, a huge stone fireplace, snow plows, boats, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, gravel & dirt roads, fireworks, muggy summers, massive snow storms/snow drifts, BBQs, bonfires and 80+ acres of land to explore.  I was (and still am) very lucky.

I'm still in the chapter of my life where I've not yet partnered up with anyone for good, so I get to head back to Iowa for any holiday I please - and yes, I'm pretty spoiled in that respect.  I must admit that, although I look forward to building & sharing a life with someone someday, I do somewhat selfishly cling to my independence at times...but I think that's OK to do right now...and down the road, OK in moderation.  It will be a challenge to one day let go of the abundant time with my family, particularly at the holidays, but I'm sure the love I'll get from my other family & my other half (whomever they may be) will surely make up for it.  In the meantime, you'll find me in Iowa for the holidays - outdoors shooting clay pigeons on Thanksgiving, tearing up the ice in hockey skates at Christmas, or inside cooking & baking up a storm!

This year my parents hosted Thanksgiving and I was lucky enough to have my grandma Betty show me how to make her famous stuffing.  Watching, listening & going through the motions with her - those moments to me are priceless.  There are many more of her original recipes I plan on asking her to walk me through for a first go - her famous kolaches, dill gravy & potatoes, and chicken noodle soup to start - recipes I plan to carry with me & keep passing down for generations to come.

If you need a stuffing recipe for any upcoming holiday I've included my grandmother's amazing recipe below, along with some fun photos from Thanksgiving day this year & Christmas day a couple years ago when we had a massively charming white Christmas in Iowa.  Fingers crossed for the same thing this year!  Enjoy :)


Simple ingredients make one amazing stuffing

December 5, 2012

Healthy BBQ, Brown Rice & Turkey Stuffed Peppers!


Stuffed Peppers can be taken in several different directions, and just the other night mine went the BBQ-flavor route.  As I began to prepare the peppers for the dish I realized I didn't have any tomato sauce - a typical key ingredient.  For a few seconds I thought my stuffed pepper recipe was doomed...but then I got to thinking - improvise!  I knew I had some tomatoes in the fridge that only had a couple days left in them before they could no longer be used, a bottle of ketchup & some BBQ sauce.  With these three ingredients I was able to create some delicious, healthy BBQ sauce-flavored stuffed peppers!

As I've said before, improvising & experimenting is a fantastic way to improve your cooking knowledge and skills.  As we cruise into the prime of the holiday season, we should take a step back to think about how lucky we are to have what we do. Food, shelter, clothing, clean water & virtually unlimited use of these things - all of which we too often take for granted. By teaching yourself to be more resourceful in your cooking, you'll save yourself money & probably end up using ingredients you may have otherwise let go to waste.  You can come up with some pretty rad, original recipes too.  Live a bit more modestly when you can & exercise your resourcefulness...attributes that can be applied to many other areas of life well beyond cooking.

Check out the photos & recipe below for my version of stuffed peppers - but don't be shy to change up the recipe a bit to fit your supplies or preferences.  I've also included some substitutions next to the ingredients to get your thoughts rolling!



Preparation


December 4, 2012

Get Into It: Renegade Craft Fair - Holiday Market Edition!


Although the weather in the Midwest may try to convince us otherwise, the holidays are upon us.  There may not be snow on the ground or chill in the air, but you can still get your holiday on at several fun happenings around the city.  There are many markets & holiday-themed happenings in December here in Chicago - all providing the opportunity to continue in the spirit of supporting local artisans & shopping small businesses while bonding with your friends, neighbors & fellow hip strangers.

This past Sunday I went with a couple of my go-to gals to check out the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market that was held at the Pulaski Field Museum in Wicker Park.  A charming maze of indie designs & artisan creations, we toured the Fieldhouse wide-eyed in wonderment.  If you have never been to a craft fair or vintage market you must add it to your immediate to-do list.  Strolling the talent of creative & unique individuals who have worked hard to offer beautiful (or delicious!) products gives such a feeling & sense of community, and it puts me at a level of happiness pretty hard to top.  In fact, I hope to be one of those vendors someday ... correction: I will be one of those vendors someday :)

Check out the photos below from our holiday market adventure - I've also posted some information about a couple of the other fairs/markets that are coming up - hope to see you at one of those bad boys!

Dose Market: Hello, HoliDOSE!
Catch the HoliDose on December 9, 2012, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, at the River East Art Center (435 E. Illinois St.) for the very finest in holiday awesomeness.
$8 advanced tickets sold online
$10 at the door

Randolph Street Holiday Market
Don't miss the sixth annual Randolph Street Holiday Market December 15+16, 2012!
Saturday, December 15, 2012  - 10am to 6pm | Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 10am to 5pm
Plumbers Hall (Indoors Only!) | 1340 W. Washington, Chicago
$8 advanced tickets sold online
$10 at the door

Magic happening here