Weekend happenings: The November Project, Shamrock Shuffle 2016, and One Giant Food Tour

I feel like that’s what will be written on my tombstone. “Here lies Lauren, her life was one giant food tour.” You’ve heard me lament here and whine there, wailing that my finances and waistline will catch up to me one day if I continue my eating habits.

But then I walk by a restaurant where they strategically make the kitchen smells come from the sidewalk grate, my friend texts me that she’s craving tacos, or I realize it’s been over 48 hours since a I’ve posted a meal on Instagram and the blood starts crawling more and more slowly through my veins, as if I’ll drop dead if I don’t remedy the situation.

And so the food tour continues.

Thursday it was tacos. The tacos craving struck REAL hard after an hour of yoga, a HIIT workout at Sweat, and then an hour of teaching the following HIIT class.

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It seems a bit odd that we have a fish taco joint in Chicago, but I’m not going to question greatness. Buzz Bait Taqueria does it right. The chips come out piping hot and covered in salt and seasoning every time, and the mahi mahi tacos are tossed with slaw and an addicting peanut sauce.

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Friday morning I was up bright and early, before the sunrise, in fact, to try out The November Project in Chicago. It was my first time and I’m sold! The November Project is a free fitness movement that has found a home in many major cities across the country. It is a community of like-minded people all with the goal to get moving. The Chicago tribe meets at The Bean at 6am on Friday mornings and the energy is booming from the very start. One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is that adults don’t want to let on that they like being part of a community. It feels weird to be jumping up and down in a circle with a group of adults screaming “I AM THE SHIT!” but that’s just what we did during our warmup. And everyone LOVED it. Because let’s be real — deep down we’re all just a bunch of kids dressed in suit coats and donning Michael Kors rose gold watches, and it’s time we all admit it. We need our workouts to be fun, our team to be motivating, and laughter to be at the center of it all. Hence why The November Project has caught on like wildfire in Chicago.

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Because I started the day so early I didn’t have a chance to pack any food for the day, so the great food tour that is my life continued.

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I headed to my favorite midway spot between my two jobs, Goddess and the Grocer, for shrimp gumbo, a mini baguette, and a *magic* bar. So many delicious things in that bar — chocolate, butterscotch, salt, sugar, coconut, all the works. I kept it in my purse throughout the afternoon and it was an immediate sugar rush with every bite I took.

As if I need an excuse for all my eating out, I worked a double at the store this weekend so the last thing I wanted to do on Saturday night when I got home was to cook my own dinner. Not to mention that my neighbor asked me to watch her baby for a few hours that night so I knew that in order to push through even more work, I needed to have my dinner handed to me. So I picked up the healthiest thing I could think of so as to make myself feel better about the whole thing. Thank goodness healthy can be delicious.

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This awesome Vietnamese shop is a hop and a skip away from my place, so I find myself there often. I call it my Vietnamese Panera. They have sandwiches, soup, and salads, except you actually get to branch away from Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice to something a little more exotic.

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Not to mention it’s fast, cheap, and adorable. Spring rolls + chicken soup for the win.

Thank goodness I was properly fueled for my crazy night ahead.

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Not.

Oh well — I was basically paid to babysit cats (the baby slept the whole time) and I got to watch Friends. It was for the best, though, because I wanted to be up bright and early to cheer on some friends who were running the Shamrock Shuffle downtown in the AM.

I headed down to the Loop around 8am Sunday morning to cheer my favorite luluLEMON on (yes he’s wearing a lemon suit).

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Even though it was freezing, it was great to be a part of the unofficial kickoff to running season in Chicago. I can’t wait to hit the pavement again! I don’t see any more marathons in my future, but I’m definitely down to get speedier. That’ll be my 2016 goal.

PS Thanks for sticking with me as I get back in the swing of things. March was a month of visitors and traveling, and that made blogging hit the back burner. But I’m glad we can pick right back up where we left offūüôā

Questions:

  • Is it officially “running season” where you’re from?
  • What’s the best thing you ate all weekend?

Restaurant Review: Beatrix

I’ve been to my fair share of brunch spots in Chicago. It’s often bugged me that I didn’t think of the name “Bitches Who Brunch” first (million dollar idea right there).

I tend to stay in the Chicago neighborhoods for brunch only because both my jobs are downtown so on my days off I like to forgo public transportation and let my feet do the walking. Of course, there are always exceptions to rules, and Beatrix is my exception.

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Photo via Lion and Maven

Beatrix is a pretty unassuming spot. It’s situated on a busy corner in River North, but if you weren’t looking for it you probably wouldn’t even notice it. It’s not until you go inside that you’re transported.

The interior is open, bright, beautifully decorated, and full of fauna. It feels like you’ve stepped into a casual California eatery, no matter what time of year you choose to go.

My favorite thing about Beatrix is that you can go there just about any time of day and be happy. They have a small bar inside where you can grab a quick happy hour drink and not sit down for a whole meal. Next to the bar is a small bakery and coffee area full of crunchy scones, massive cookies, and an ever-changing list of delicious lattes.¬†Their coffee bar is my favorite spot in the place, if we’re being honest. It’s smack dab in the middle of all the tables and comes complete endless coffee creations, showcasing two of my favorite Chicago roasters, Metropolis and Intelligentsia. You can stop by there on a whim any time of day and feel at home. But if you’re set on a more traditional dining routine,¬†you can go old-school and sit at a table in the West-coast-mimincking dining space and order breakfast, lunch, or dinner.I’ve come here three times now — once for breakfast, one time for my birthday brunch, and once at 4pm when I was just in the area and needed a pick-me-up.

My go-to pick me up? Their honey-cinnamon latte — it’s one of my favorite gems in the city. Topped with sweet soy milk (my vice), I’ve gotten it every time I’m there.

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So let’s crack open the food at Beatrix. My most memorable trip was for my birthday brunch this past January, when I was particularly happy to escape the cold winter air and pretend I was in San Diego celebrating the big 2-5.

It started out with a quick appetizer of their famous lemon pancakes, which quite honestly tasted like cake batter (in the most delicious way). It was out of this world, sickeningly sweet (definitely made to share unless your stomach can handle a sugar bomb!)

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Breakfast was a heartier choice, the Spicy Chicken Tinga, with scrambled eggs instead of sunny side up (still can’t do the runny-egg thing). The pulled chicken is cooked with guajilo chili and served over a corn tortilla and avocado. Eggs on top. My favorite part about this dish is just how flavorful it was — you can always tell when a restaurant doesn’t just rely on salt to spice up¬†its dishes, and this was most definitely the case here. Every bite was layered deeply with flavor.

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And because the cake-batter-eque pancakes earlier weren’t enough, the staff at Beatrix brought me a piece of their famous caramel pie on the house, which was so unexpected and sweet as a birthday surprise.

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That caramel pie is what dreams are made of. Thank goodness they offer whole pies to-go too.

Since they got such rave reviews in my book for birthday celebrations, I knew when I was in the area with Brigitte a few weeks ago after a grueling workout we needed to stop by to refuel. Eggs and coffee it was!

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I stayed simple and got scrambled eggs, homemade chicken sausage, toast, and golden hash browns. With a pretty unique menu full of breakfast items like quinoa cakes and poached eggs or pepper and egg white sandwiches, it was nice to stick to the basics on that late Tuesday morning.

I haven’t been back for lunch or dinner but I have my eyes set on the Straight A Salad: Arugula, Avocado, Asian Pears, Asiago, Almonds. I MEAN!ūüôā

Beatrix has spread the love to two locations in Chicago now, so you can visit either one and know you’ll have a great experience.

Beatrix River North:

  • 519 N Clark St
  • Chicago IL 60654
  • (312) 284-1377

Beatrix Streeterville

  • 671 N. St. Clair
  • Chicago IL 60611
  • (312) 642-0001

 

Weekend Happenings: Big & Little’s, Heritage Bicycles, and Oscar Night

Happy Monday, party people!

I had Friday and Saturday off of work so my weekend was a bit shifted. I rarely get two full days off in a row so it felt like a true weekend…very relaxing, full of exploring and wandering around neighborhoods with no time limits or obligations. How often does that happen? (All the mothers reading this are screaming NEVER, LAUREN, IT HAPPENS NEVER!)

Friday afternoon my dad came over to walk me through doing my taxes for the eighth year in a row. I figured 25 is the last acceptable age that I can ask for help from my dad without total embarrassment. Fingers crossed that next year I can do them without going into a full-blown panic (see you in 365 days, H&R Block).

After all the nitty gritty we went out for lunch, and because it’s a Friday during Lent, fish fry was the name of the game. My dad and I share a love for Diners Drive Ins and Dives so when I told him that a place just down the street from my apartment had been featured on the show for their fish and chips, there were no questions.

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Big & little’s ¬†killlllls the¬†fish and chip game. The fry was so light and delicate and the fish basically¬†melted in my mouth. Fresh fish, a squeeze of lemon, homemade tartar sauce…can you think of anything better?

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I spent the rest of Friday horizontal on my couch watching Broad City,¬†drinking Passionfruit La Croix, and texting people fake reasons why I couldn’t go out later. Lazy Friday to say the least.

I woke up early on Saturday ready to enjoy the 50s and sunshine that the weatherman had promised us all week. My roommate and I walked to a nearby coffeeshop/bikeshop to start the day, one of my favorite things to do.

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My favorite part about Heritage is the little fridge that they keep their creamers in. Absolutely the cutest thing.

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I went with a vanilla cold brew and Maria had a homemade biscuit and a chai tea latte. I’m not a chai gal but she said it was the best she’s ever had. We chatted as other neighborhood locals strolled in with their bikes to get a tune-up. I love the feel of the place…such a cool hybrid shop selling some of the best coffee in Chicago.

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The rest of the day we walked around Lakeview peeking into restaurants that we’ve added to our to-dine list. When we finally made it back to our hood we grabbed lunch at Butcher’s Tap (check it out, locals — awesome food) and watched NCAA basketball. Again, an afternoon with no obligations. It was pretty wonderful.

By some grace of God I was able to get a run in later in the afternoon (after 32 oz of beer and a fried chicken sandwich. I do believe in miracles). I’ve been dying to break in my new Nikes and they didn’t disappoint. You forget how amazing new shoes feel on your feet until you get them again. I was basically flying!

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Sidenote to all single men out there: the way to this girl’s heart is NOT to literally¬†run after¬†me in street clothes and tap me¬†on the shoulder after you’ve jumped up next to me¬†at the stoplight. You will automatically go into the “kidnapper” category and not earn my phone number. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

I watched my neighbor’s kids¬†on Saturday night aka another crazy night in the city. Making the most of my 20s ladies and gentlemen.

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Sunday I had to work all day but made it home just in time for Oscar Night! My roommate is a huge¬†Oscars fan so she printed out ballots for us for all the major categories and we ate pizza, drank champagne, and screamed when Leo finally got the win¬†he’s always deserved.

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Cheap champagne is automatically fancy when you add fruit to it.

And now I will leave you with the best¬†GIFs from last night’s big win. It’s 2016 and anything is possible.

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And the funniest one yet:

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  • Do you do anything special for awards shows?
  • Favorite Leonardo DiCaprio movie?
    • I watched Inception twice in theaters in 48 hours. If you’ve seen it, you know what an emotional commitment that is. Whoa.

What I Ate…Whenever

I stepped back from posting WIAW because they can be a bit of a snooze after awhile. The best part is, of course, the photos of food (who doesn’t love those), but I sometimes feel pressure to fib a bit and not share exactly what I ate¬†on Tuesday¬†(I went shopping for alllll the healthy foods yesterday and STILL had butter noodles for dinner because I got home so late and realized my shrimp had gone bad. Woof). So while I didn’t snap a pic of the evidence of my malnutrition, I like to share generally what I eat around these parts. I just want to remain transparent that I make good choices and bad ones, and am a work in progress on the healthy living front, as we all are. Sound good?

So today I’ll share what I’ve been eating recently. Because, as we already established, food photos are king.

GROCERIES

Honestly, I LOVE when people share photos of their loot. It’s better than individual meal photos to me. Maybe it’s the lighting? Maybe it’s food porn overload? Regardless, groceries are gorgeous.

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Thoughts on these groceries:

  • Mangoes are weird. How do you serve them? Why are they never just ripe enough?
  • How many pesticides are really on my potatoes? That article last week said TONS.
  • 0% Greek Yogurt is pointless but I guess it’ll do. I want 4% back.
  • I wonder if my mom is going to call me and scold me for my choice in “bottomfeeder” seafood (thank god I avoided the tilapia).
  • Why did I buy another¬†white onion?
  • Why didn’t I buy any chips? I’m going to end up eating my roommates’ anyway and then have to replace them. But this way I can pretend I’m not going to eat them, I guess.

BREAKFAST

Here is the breakfast to end all breakfasts. Aside from on-the-go meals this has been my first meal of the day since I participated in the 21-day challenge back in November. I’ve loved it ever since. There’s something delightfully simple about serving eggs, potatoes, and avocado on top of a bed of spinach and calling it a day. It’s a perfect blend of fat/carbs/protein and I feel like I’m getting a killer head start on sneaking veggies into my day.

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LUNCH

Lunches have been simple (when they aren’t truffle butter grilled cheese). I’ve tried to steer away from sandwiches because I’ve been subconsciously told over and over that sandwiches are “bad” (annoying as hell now that I’m thinking about it), but at the end of the day, I love sandwiches. I love processed bread with wholesome ingredients stuffed to the brim inside. So sue me.

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Avocado is the real comeback kid of my life story. I eat one a day on average.

DINNERS

Dinner is always an adventure. If I’m not working late, I love coming home around 4 or 5 and getting to work on a delicious meal, not finishing until close to 7:30 and finally sitting down to enjoy. I’ve also had friends over weekly for the past month or so to cook with me which is honestly how I would spend every night if ¬†I could. Good food, good friends, good gossip, good wine.

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Shrimp has been on sale lately, and since I finally learned how to clean them properly they’ve been making many appearances. To keep up the transparency of this post, I’ve spent MONTHS not cleaning them properly — aka shrimp poop has been allll up inside me. WONDERFUL.

My go-to shrimp marinade: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cajun spices, all tossed together in a ziplock bag to soak up the goodness. Then I just throw them on the stove for two minutes or so and voila!

Another treat that I’ve been making almost every night? BRUSSELS SPROUTS. I know 99% of you reading are just as head over heels in love with them as I am so I’ll spare you. But roasted brussels sprouts are how wars are started. It’s that passionate of a love affair.

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DESSERT

Whatever chocolate I can get my hands on. And lots of it.

Questions:

  • Do you often eat the same things for weeks on end like I do?
  • What’s the longest you’ve been obsessed with one meal or snack?
    • I think I ate a chocolate FiberOne bar everyday for a year and then one day I woke up and couldn’t stomach them.

Restaurant Review: 3 Arts Club Cafe

The first time you go to the 3 Arts Club Cafe it’s, in a word, intimidating. The cafe itself is smack dab¬†inside Restoration Hardware, a luxury home furnishings store hidden along the neighborhood streets of Gold Coast. This isn’t unusual for this area — the original Playboy mansion and a men’s-only cigar club are within blocks yet tricky¬†to find in the same way.

RH itself is set up like a museum, with every floor boasting more glamour than the next. Looking for a 1920s Odeon Clear Glass Fringe Collection Chandelier? Look no further. Restoration Hardware can show you an array of options.

Since clearly I’m in no position to buy a $3000 light fixture (“plasma donation” is in my top Google searches), I stick to the food at 3 Arts Club Cafe, the breathtakingly stunning restaurant located on the first floor.

So let’s get back to that intimidation factor, shall we?

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Let’s be frank. I shouldn’t be welcome in¬†a place like this. I’m in Nikes 95% of the time and dressing up in my world is putting on some faux leather leggings and throwing on my Vans. This is the courtyard where Giuliana Rancic and Kristin Cavallari take business meetings and sip on¬†almond milk lattes. I loudly snort when I laugh and like to eat with my legs crossed pretzel-style on the furniture. So I DEFINTELY shouldn’t be welcome in a place like this.

But I’m welcome here.

Both times I’ve gone to 3 Arts Club Cafe I’ve expected to be met with some sort of up-and-down look, examining if I had anything dirty on my hands¬†that might ruin the furniture. But both times I’ve been greeted so beautifully and with such professionalism that it almost feels like I’m coming home to dine¬†in my own courtyard (dream big, Lauren).

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The breakfast here is limited but delicious. You can sample treats from Doughnut Vault, dive into some local yogurt topped with house-made granola, or pick something more savory. I was seated next to the fountain and my companion and I both quickly ordered lattes. I’m a sucker for some latte art and wanted to see if theirs was up to snuff.

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Alright I’ve seen better. But in all fairness we were the first ones there so this was probably the barista’s warm-up round.

The breakfast, on the other hand, was quite impressive. Buttery Texas toast served alongside half an avocado and scrambled eggs prepared with cr√®me fra√ģche. Clean-cut, simple, filling, and delicious.

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Chives on chives on chives.

(Sidenote: is there just a basket full of perfectly ripe avocados sitting in the kitchen? Because this avocado was perfect. And I can’t imagine they were like “You know who should get our best avocado? THAT¬†girl).

I went back yesterday for a late lunch with my Chicago compadres and foodies-in-crime Susie and Erin. Since it was my second time there I walked in with experienced swagger, and was met with the same friendly faces as the first. But this time I’m sure I looked a little less “deer in the headlights” and a little more “yep – I’m here – feed me.”

The lunch menu is much more extensive, with plenty of salads, vegetable plates, cheese boards, and entrees to choose from. We went back and forth for awhile before settling on the grilled cheese, because I’ve heard rumblings that it’s one of the best grilled cheeses in the city.

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Yeah it was unreal. I definitely should have gone with the side salad instead of french fries because the grilled cheese itself was pure decadence. House-made sourdough bread is stuffed with perfectly melty cheddar and infused with aromatic truffle butter that makes savoring the sandwich in small bites an almost impossible task. I couldn’t eat it fast enough. Not to mention that it was served with my very own baby¬†ketchup bottle! Why is everything cuter in mini form?

Erin is on her never-ending quest to find the best chocolate chip cookie in Chicago so I graciously volunteered to help with her research. I also learned that she is that weirdo who thinks the undercooked part of the cookie is the worst part. I’m not sure I like the way she was raised.

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Bloggers taking pictures of bloggers taking pictures of bloggers taking pictures of food.

Blogging is so #meta.

To sum it up, 3 Arts Club Cafe is a treat. It’s the adult version of playing dress-up.¬†I haven’t been this excited about a furniture store since 1998 when my brother and I would jump from bed to bed inside our local Macy’s, amid the glares of employees and our mother. Maybe if they’d handed us truffle butter grilled cheese we would have behaved better. Just saying.

I can only imagine the difficulty of getting a table on a Sunday morning, so I’ll stick to my weekday dates here. But I will be back often.

3 Arts Club Cafe

1300 N Dearborn Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 475-9116

 

No soup for you

Actually, all the soup for you. You can have all of it. Just not mine.

In an attempt to be healthy AF (I’m traveling to Arizona next month and would like to look less like the Michelin man and more like early 2000s Britney) I’ve started eating out less and cooking more. Oh, and saying yes when people invite me to 5:45am workouts (note to self: don’t make this a habit. I was seeing double by the time 4:00pm rolled around and almost took a nap in the bread aisle at Jewel).

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Unfortunately¬†our morning meeting at one of the other manager’s apartments had coffee and donuts waiting so Michelin man won again. Maybe tomorrow.

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Regardless of how many baked goods I am offered I will never stop my ferocious attempts at being domestic in my own kitchen. While making my grocery list today I had a craving for soup and after a quick Pinterest scroll I landed on Jen’s Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Soup.

It is pretty easy to assemble — peel and cube two sweet potatoes, chop up one head of cauliflower and one onion, top with thyme, paprika, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, and then let it simmer in chicken broth and its own goodness for five hours.

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After all the veggies were tender I turned off the crockpot and added two cups of milk and 2 oz of cream cheese, just enough fat to make this a stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup, nothing crazy. Then I worked in batches and putting liquid and veggies in my NutriBullet and blended until the soup still had a bit of texture before sprinkling it with a final touch of salt and then calling it a day.

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I know what I said about wanting the holidays and winter to be over with, but the thought of there being fewer and fewer soup days in the upcoming months actually made me sad today after trying this soup. It’s that good. It’s so, so good. So no soup for you. All for me. Unless you make it yourself. Then…can I come on by?

Questions:

  • What’s the best soup you’ve ever had?
  • What’s one appliance you couldn’t live without?
  • Who is your favorite actress, and why?

Who Says You Can’t Go Home

Another one in the books, friends! Whether you were sharing the romantic weekend with someone special or a crazy group of galentines, I hope it was one to remember.

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I spent my weekend mostly in the suburbs. Every year my high school hosts a fundraiser where they shut down the school and turn it into a living, breathing casino (private schools can shirk the rules, ya know?) so a lot of alum usually go back to the burbs to cause debauchery in the halls of an institution that used to give detentions for untucked shirts (my how things change).

Before leaving for the weekend Colleen and I continued my new tradition of Thursday Night Adventures in the kitchen. Two weeks ago, it was BLTs with avocado and roasted brussels sprouts. This past week we decided to try deep frying for the first time! I busted out my dutch oven, heated up some canola oil, and took a stab at some bomb fish tacos. They turned out so well and we felt like superstars.

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The star of the show was our homemade avocado creama: avocado, greek yogurt, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Try it try it try it!

After work on Friday night I hopped on a train and spent the next 36 hours doing the typical suburban activities: Target trips for no reason and leaving robbed of your money and dignity, drinking wine in someone’s kitchen with a local¬†police officer getting all the latest town gossip, raiding my parents’ pantry for all the “good” food I don’t buy myself (and then realizing that my entire family is on a diet — that put a stop to my plan real fast).

Saturday night rolled around and it was time to hit the halls of my high school. I didn’t snap any pictures inside (unless you follow me on Snapchat!) but did make eye contact with a few of my old teachers when I was two hurricanes and countless Coors Lights deep, so I can cross that off the bucket list. I was also asked on numerous occasions if my shirt was “black and blue or white and gold.” So the jokes of 2015 haven’t died yet.

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Valentine’s Day was spent at work and then making chocolate chip banana muffins stuffed to the brim with butter and sugar. Let’s just say I’m never healthifying any baked goods again. There’s a reason they’re desserts — these were so good!

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Now, at the risk of sounding like an old grouch, thank goodness all the holidays are over. I’m exhausted! Since Thanksgiving I’ve celebrated Christmas, NYE, five birthdays, and Valentine’s Day. Can we all just chill now?

Questions:

  • Holiday season: sad to see it go or over it?
  • Baking: are you always looking for ways to make it healthy or do you just go for it?