February 27, 2013

Easy Peasy Caramel Sauce + Caramel Cake Brownies!

I was online the other day searching and searching for the best way to melt store-bought caramels, but had trouble finding consistent or clear directions.  You see, I had about half a bag of individually wrapped caramel candies leftover from some caramel chunk cookies I made not too long ago.  I knew I wanted to attempt some sort of caramel swirl brownie concoction, but had never melted down caramels like this.  I'd made caramel sauce from scratch before, but had yet to venture down the store-bought road.  

The method I decided to try was easy and only required the caramel candies & one other ingredient - cream - soy creamer, to be exact.  You could actually use cream, milk or a soy version of either, which is helpful in a pinch when you don't have time to make a store run.  I melted down the candies using the makeshift double-boiler technique, as you'll see below.  The amount of caramel sauce this recipe made gave me far more than I needed, but that just turned what I thought would be caramel swirl brownies into a dominantly caramel cake brownie concoction.  Unexpected?  Yes - but my friends & I ate every last bite with a side of vanilla ice cream to boot - it was a most excellent & delicious derailment of a recipe.

Caramel sauce and caramel cake brownie recipe both below!

February 23, 2013

Holed Up...

#thewormholecoffee #workingonadream #backtothefuture 
#coffeeshoplove #wickerpark

The Wormhole

February 22, 2013

Mediterranean Kale + Quinoa Power Salad with Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ok people - this Mediterranean Power Salad is going to make you very happy. Not only is this incredibly tasty, energy-boosting beauty loaded with protein-rich ingredients & good-for-you veggies, but - combined with a light & zesty lemon balsamic vinaigrette - this bad boy will keep you feeling the perfect amount of full for hours.

Still not convinced this salad will make your day?  Here's a little breakdown by the numbers:

- 36+ grams of protein (main sources: lemon pepper grilled chicken, chickpeas, quinoa & feta)
- 18+ grams of fiber to keep you feeling full in a healthy way (main sources: chickpeas, quinoa, kale & pepperoncinis)
- 200%+ Vitamin A (main sources: kale & tomato)
- 200%+ Vitamin C (main source: kale, tomato)
- 70% Calcium (main source: feta)
~ lemon juice has antibacterial, antiviral & immune-boosting powers; it also aids in digestion and is a natural liver cleanser
~ balsamic vinegar contains antioxidants & pepsin (in the vinegar), which breaks down protein so it's more easily absorbed by the body; pepsin also boosts metabolism
~ all ingredients in the salad are low in calories and fat
~ chickpeas have the highest calorie count but still come in under 200 calories per salad (the recipe makes 2 servings)

For those of you who may be nervous about using/eating kale - DO NOT BE AFRAID!  I used to be just like you...then I realized how easy it is to work with.  I was also clued into the amazing health benefits & multiple ways to prepare this little wonder green & I've been having fun experimenting with it ever since.  For those of you who just don't care for it, simply substitute baby spinach or any other favorite green without really altering the taste or powerful benefits of the salad. 

Have I convinced you yet?!?  Check out the photos & recipe below!

February 19, 2013

Dear Des Moines...

I think I have a crush on you. I know we haven't had the chance to be around each other all that much, but there's something that keeps drawing me to you. I spent the weekend getting to know you a bit better and, just as I suspected you would, you've left me wanting more. You're exciting yet mellow, brimming with wonderful people and a blossoming culture. You seem full of promise and you've got that endearing Midwestern charm about you. Of love and happiness people often say, when you stop searching, that's when it'll find you. Well I wasn't looking when I noticed you, and now I'm starting to think that some day down the road, you could be just what I need. Nothing is certain at this point, and only time will tell. I don't want to get ahead of myself because you never know what life may bring your way, but the prospect of you is certainly intriguing, a little scary, yet somehow comforting all at the same time.  

You're an Iowan, as am I, which means by default you already have a piece of my heart, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with you to see if the sparks still fly. Show me more of what you got, Des Moines - I'll be coming your way again in the spring and I can't wait to see all of your colors in bloom.


Des Moines | Sunset

Amore | Kitchen Collage

Shout out to my grandma Betty | Exile Brewing

The Continental | East Village

Hill Vintage & Knits | East Village

Hill Vintage & Knits | East Village

Baby Norah & I | #DSMadventures #honoraryauntie

February 13, 2013

The Grass Isn't Always Greener: Grass Fed Review

This year's Restaurant Week led me to a couple new places - one of which was Grass Fed.  Having read about this offbeat little steakhouse & seen photos of its adorable interior, I couldn't wait to try it out - plus, their restaurant week menu looked simply delightful!  However, my excitement started to fade not long after walking in the front door...

Front of the house in Grass Fed

February 12, 2013

BOMB Maple Bacon Cornbread!

I'm not going to say much about this cornbread, other than you're a fool if you don't try it out!  I'd made cornbread a couple times before this, but never this way - maple bacon style!  We actually had a lovely dinner at Chicago Q the night before I made this dish - alongside their delicious BBQ they serve large slices of cornbread.  The same group of people at Chicago Q with us Friday night was the same group of people at our dinner party the next night, where we had gumbo & my maple bacon cornbread - which was the BOMB!  Not to toot my own horn, but the feedback was unanimous - this cornbread blew Chicago Q's out of the water, soooo....beep, beep!

Maple & bacon compliment each other so well it should be illegal, and the addition of vanilla to this recipe gives the bread a little something extra.  I used lower-sodium bacon & lite maple syrup, but the maple, butter & brown sugar glaze applied after baking truly seals the deal.

Photos & recipe below - enjoy!

Finished product | Get in my belly

February 8, 2013

Go-To Guac!

One of my favorite types of food is Mexican food.  Whenever I think about it I get a craving that I just can't kick until I whip up some tacos, enchiladas, or my favorite - fresh guacamole!  I've spent a long time tweaking my guac recipe to get it to where it is today - and it was a big hit on Super Bowl Sunday.  The key to creating excellent guacamole is in the ingredients - just right, perfectly ripened avocados, lots of fresh lime juice & a hit of freshly minced jalapeno.  There are a few other ingredients in my recipe but nothing too complicated - you can whip up a bowl of this dip in 15 mins and people will devour it.  Serve it traditional style with chips or on enchiladas, tacos or as a topping for eggs in the morning. Recipe below - enjoy!


February 6, 2013


Remembering my grandfather today, lovingly known as "Papa" - he passed four whole years ago...still hard to imagine. Papa was a loving husband, son, brother, father, grandfather & great-grandfather; a kind & gentle soul with a heart bigger than any ocean; a wise man & extremely talented landscape architect; a dashingly handsome, polite & chivalrous man; a man who built frames with his own hands to frame the artwork of his children & grand children, and who couldn't wait to see what we drew or painted next; a man who inspired love & creativity in all who were lucky enough to know him, especially those of us lucky enough to call him family; a man who's touched countless lives & whose memory will live on forever & ever...

Arnest "Arnie" Richard Kluber | 9/21/24 - 2/6/09

February 5, 2013

Memorable Monday

Mondays.  Whether you love them - or love to loathe them - sometimes they're great, sometimes they're bad & other times they're just ho-hum.  I myself am historically not a fan of Mondays, but lately I've been making a conscious attempt to be more positive in general about every day of the week - why discriminate?  Each new day is a new opportunity.  You have to take the good with the not so good & be thankful that you have another day to love, change, laugh, celebrate, recover, smile, move on, learn & have fun.  Yesterday - February 4th - was a particularly special & memorable Monday for me - here's why...

}  Monday, February 4th, 2013  {

} Marked what would've been the 62nd wedding anniversary of my amazing grandparents, Betty & Arnie Kluber {
Papa passed away on February 6th, 2009 just after their 58th wedding anniversary.  His kindness,
his love & his devotion to my grandmother & his family never ceased to amaze anyone. 

Arnie & Betty c. 1950  |  Des Moines, Iowa

Marked my 5 year anniversary at my marketing job in Chicago {
My how time flies...

 | These beauties sure do brighten up my office | 

Marked the first of many occasions celebrating one of my best friends getting engaged { 
Liz & I lived together for over three years not long after I moved to Chicago, and we have a special bond that will withstand the test of time.  I couldn't be happier or more excited for her & her new fiance!
Congrats on your engagement, Liz & Shane!!!  Cheers!

top: newly engaged Shane & Liz | left: Me & Liz as roomies c. 2008 | right: Liz & I on her birthday in January

} Monday.....you weren't so bad, afterall {