summer

Weekend Happenings: there’s a carrot in my taco

Happy Memorial Day, folks! I hope you’re starting your day with some exercise, followed by a big ol’ cookout and time spent with friends and family.

I’m grateful to live in a country where people have fought for my freedom. I was just watching Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” and on this particular episode they went to Myanmar. It’s unbelievable the restrictions and censorship that still exist well into the 21st century. I definitely take liberty for granted sometimes, so it’s good to stop, pause, and remember those who cared so much about defending freedom that they died.

The weekend started early with our Girls On The Run Community Impact Project. The girls decided to raise money for PAWS by hosting a bake sale during their lunch periods. I went to the school early Friday morning to drop off cookies and help set up

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Impressively enough, the girls raised $430! I’m thinking there were some overly-generous parents, otherwise there may be some new cases of diabetes at that school. However it happened, it was exciting to see how into it the girls got. We’re hoping to go to PAWS this week to drop off the check and really show the girls how to impact their community from start to finish.

Friday night was low-key because I had to be up early Saturday morning and lead run club for the store. My alarm went off at 6am Saturday morning and I immediately started thinking of all the excuses I could come up with to skip the run. Alas, I was feeling to mature and responsible so I was out the door in ten minutes and on the path.

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Even though it was early in the day, it was hot as hades. Within the first mile I was sweating like a chicken on a rotisserie. My running partner had some sage advice for me that I’ll definitely remember next time: “If you’re not cold when you leave the house for an morning run, you’re going to be too hot.” Preach, Tommy, preach. I felt like an Amish woman covered from head to toe, and was not pleased.

The only solution was to 90s-it-up and tie my jacket around my waist. High-fashion rolling, that’s for sure.

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I’m so happy that I womaned up and completed the run. The best part about running groups is they keep you going, that’s for sure. I know I would have walked a portion of the 7 miles due to the heat but, being the competitive spirit I am, I didn’t want to in front of the other runners. Success.

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The views always keep me going too. Chicago comes alive in the summer.

I took the whole weekend off of work and made the most of it. After some stretching and icing, I made breakfast and then Megan and I sat outside on our porch in the sunshine.

unnamed (5)Scrambled eggs, strawberries, and a Kodiak cake.

Later we walked to the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival to enjoy that classic festival vibe: free music, expensive beer, cheap clothes and jewelry, and fried food.

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We enjoyed some cinnamon-sugar mini donuts, 312s, and live music. Even though it was a No Doubt cover band (I do NOT like Gwen Stefani) it felt like the official start of summer. And that felt great.

Dinner was out in the Wicker Park neighborhood where I met up with some of my coworkers. Big Star is known for its margaritas and summer patio scene, so when you venture out there, you can expect at least a two hour wait.

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We waited about an hour and a half for our table and then immediately ordered a pitcher of margaritas and some snacks.
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The guacamole and margaritas are my favorite things at Big Star, but since it was a long day and I was hungry, I tried a few of their tacos. I’d had the fish and pork shoulder taco before, but this time I tried some newbies:

  • Taco de panza: crispy, braised pork belly, tomato guajillo sauce, queso fresco, onion, cilantro
  • Taco de pollo pibil: chicken thighs steamed in banana leaves, achiote and citrus marinade, pickled red onion, cilantro
  • Taco de zanahorias: mole spiced carrots, chipotle date yogurt, pumpkin and sesame seeds, almond, cilantro

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I loved the chicken and pork, but the carrot one (on the far right) as extremely underwhelming. The waitress said it was her favorite…further proving that I will I never be a vegetarian. Nothing can compete with meat.

After a busy weekend, I made a last-minute decision to go home and spend some time with my family. I tried to stay away for awhile but I just like those people way too much. So I had a lazy Sunday, capped off with a movie I’ve been wanting to see.

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I feel like everyone can relate to this movie somehow. It definitely struck a chord in my heart.

Questions:

  • What’s the longest you’ll wait for a table at a restaurant?
  • How are you celebrating Memorial Day weekend?
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Summer Lovin’ (tell me more, tell me more)

I’ve been spending every free minute outside. Between the warm air, the cool breeze, and the sunshine inching later and later into the evening, I feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of July. No complaints here!

I said yes to a last minute invitation to the White Sox game Wednesday night. I hadn’t been since it was Comiskey Park (sup 1996) so venturing to the South Side felt like an adventure in and of itself.

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I had zero expectations of a White Sox game since I am a Cubs fan (only because of the Americana aspect, not because I actually have any interest in or intelligence of baseball), but it was fun! It was fairly crowded for a Wednesday night and I joined my roommate Colleen and two of her friends for what turned out to be an exciting game. Granted, I didn’t watch much, but the conversation and food were killer.

U.S. Cellular Field definitely has its food priorities in order. So. Many. Options. From Wao Bao to Hooters, tamales to pirogi, the options were overwhelming. In an attempt to stay on track with my healthy eating, I ordered a turkey sandwich. When you see the following picture, remember the ingredients are healthy. Please ignore the fact that my sandwich could feed a family of four.

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Hell yeah! This turkey club was the Buckingham Palace of turkey clubs. There was APRICOT JAM on it. AND guacamole. And other stuff. Too much other stuff. No wait…no such thing.

#noregrets

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You know how as soon as you eat something salty you just have to have something sweet? Insert soft serve cone here.

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And because apparently we weren’t spoiled enough on Wednesday with nice weather, Mother Nature decided to grace us with the best day in the past 365 days (I’ll go head-to-head with anyone who challenges that) yesterday. Thank goodness because I had a track workout scheduled and I was not about to deal with Tuesday’s fog again.

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This is what I love about Chicago. In the shadows of buildings as tall as the sky, you can always find hidden parks, and it suddenly feels like your own little haven. Not to mention I always run into someone I know — Erin came to the workout! I was so happy to see her, especially after getting smoked on Tuesday during the tempo run. It felt good to see a familiar face! Or should I say, familiar feet.

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We started out with a half-mile shakeout followed by dynamic stretching and an explanation of the workout. The track workout consisted of 5x400s (400m=one lap) and a timed mile run. The 400m were broken up into 200m at 5K pace (uncomfortable, challenging) plus a 200m recovery jog to get our heart rates back down. Practicing that pace took so much out of me–I was exhausted! However, I had no choice but to recover for five minutes and then pushed it for a timed mile, something I haven’t done in years. To put that in perspective, the last time I was timed for a mile, George W. Bush was President. Let that sink in. I ran in 8:16, which, while isn’t Olympic by a longshot, is an exciting place to start. Dave, the running coach and marathoner extraordinaire (remember when he ran 100 miles in 24 hours??) is going to take my time and develop a pace chart for me to use during training. That way, I’ll be on top of improvements and will be able to continue to push myself.

Group shot!

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As I lay my head on my pillow last night, I realized I have barely been in my apartment in the past 72 hours. I never used to be an outdoor person, but now that I live on my own and am 100% in charge of how I spend my time, you can bet I’ll be using my apartment as a homebase to cook and sleep, but that’s about it for the next few months. HELLO SUMMER!

It’s almost time: time for street festivals, free concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion, movies in the park overlooking Lake Michigan, the Lakeshore Path so jam-packed with people that you almost want to get mad (but you can’t because you’re too excited to share the joy with them), strolling the Green City Farmer’s Market at 9am scoping out the best breakfast taco to eat, maneuvering Divvy bikes down busy city streets because the thought of getting on the stuffy CTA is unbearable, parking yourself on a patio and drinking a fizzy cocktail for hours until the sun goes down, walking to the beach at 10am and staking your claim on a patch of sand until someone asks you to join their volleyball game, grilling out on makeshift patios…….

Can you tell I love the possibility this summer holds?

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I’m headed to Madison with my family for Mother’s Day Weekend tomorrow! Get ready to see pictures from the most beautiful farmers market in the world.

Questions:

  • If you had to pick ONE activity to do every day this summer, what would it be? Just one! Run, drink sangria, pet a koala…go!

is there anything better than a summer barbeque?

I’m feeling a little under the weather today, so let’s look back to happier times, shall we? This past weekend I was home in the suburbs for a friend’s birthday and some family time, and thanks to some perfect Sunday weather my family put together a fun bbq. Take notes, because this was my perfect meal.

IMG_7929IMG_7931IMG_7933IMG_7937IMG_7940IMG_7941Veggie burger, oven fries, and grilled asparagus. Why can’t it be summer all year? Everything’s better on the grill.

I also used the weekend home in the burbs to get in two runs and a long walk, because I happen to think I live in the cutest, quaintest town in America (I’m not biased at all).

IMG_7944Perfect perfect perfect.

And now it’s cloudy, rainy and cold in Chicago so I’m just sitting here on June 11th confused out of my mind. What is HAPPENING, weather?!

Sorry for the lack of writing this week but between moving, some news (I’ll share tomorrow!), work and Zain’s mom visiting, I’ve been in a total time-warp this week. Don’t think that means I haven’t been checking your blogs out though – it’s what keeps me sane 🙂

Have a great Wednesday!

Question:

  • What’s your favorite bbq food?

 

Caprese Salad Salad (recipe)

Why the double salad, you ask? Because I was worried that people would read the title and expect your typical caprese salad, made up primarily of huge chunks of mozzarella on top of sliced tomato and slathered in balsamic. This is not that salad – but it is so much more.

The foundation is arugula, which, up until this point I hadn’t seen a need for. But I can’t stress enough how important arugula is to keep the integrity of this salad. It has a bite, taking this green meal to the next level when combined with the flavors of balsamic glaze, herbs, fresh mozzarella and tomato. It’s everything you’d ever want in a summer salad and more. Plus you just need to make one shopping trip to Trader Joe’s – they have all the ingredients and make it super simple to throw together.IMG_7875 Caprese Salad Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 package cherry tomatoes
  • 1 package arugula (mine was 7 oz)
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s mozzarella balls packed in olive oil and herbs
  • 1 bottle Trader Joe’s balsamic glaze

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients except the glaze and oil from the mozzarella. After your salad is assembled, whisk equal parts oil from the mozzarella container and balsamic glaze and drizzle over the salad.

It’s as simple as that – Enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you like arugula?
  • What’s your favorite product from Trader Joe’s? 

scenes from the weekend

Hi folks! I can’t wait to read about all your weekends. Mine was filled with tons of activity, sunshine, furniture shopping and, of course food. Is anyone else blown away that it’s June? March, April and May flew by but I’m hoping that June will slow its roll so we can enjoy the nice weather that we all deserve so much.

As you saw yesterday, Zain and I started out the weekend by biking to the farmers market early Saturday morning. We didn’t buy anything but it was just nice to walk around and see the options for the future. Next time I’ll be sure to go around lunch time – there were tons of awesome food options! Tacos, fancy grilled cheese, crepes…I was pretty mad I had just eaten breakfast haha. I never like to miss out on food like that.

Breakfast before the market was peanut butter and bananas on a sandwich thin + coffee

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Zain finally learned what it takes to date a blogger so he likes to take “spontaneous” pictures of our adventures.IMG_7804

I also noticed that everyone at the farmers market was in athletic gear. These are my people.IMG_7856

After the market I met up my friend Megan for a bootcamp class. It was the last class in my two week pass at Yoga Loft and I really can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss it. Once I have to stop paying all those beginning fees and additional costs of moving I’ll for sure get a 10-pass there to use over the span of a few weeks. That place kicked my butt and I loved every second of it.

IMG_7850The rest of the day was spent furniture shopping. Zain is all about the deals so we ended up biking + walking about five miles or so to a furniture outlet in the middle of nowhere. We felt like we were on a pilgrimage across the Sahara (it was 95 on Saturday) so when we saw 7-Eleven and were sure it wasn’t a mirage, we picked up some Slurpees.

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Saturday night I hung out on Megan’s roof watching the sunset and drinking wine, so it was basically the perfect day.

Sunday was spent church-going, grocery shopping and Blackhawks-watching. The weekend was full and fabulous – but don’t think I’d leave you without showing you all the food I ate!

For some random reason I was all about the salads this weekend:

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Mixed greens with hard boiled egg, tomato, blue cheese, avocado and balsamic vinaigrette.

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Arugula with mozzarella and baby tomatoes (dressed with the oil that the mozzarella was soaking in plus TJ’s balsamic glaze)

But don’t think I just ate salads all weekend – that would just be nonsense.

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Mahi mahi with herbes de provence and lemon, breadcrumb and herbes de provence-stuffed tomatoes and roasted brussel sprouts

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Spinach-egg white breakfast wrap from Starbucks (plus it looks like the barista was cursing me out haha)

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Veggie burger topped with cheddar, bbq sauce and onion straws

It was a blast of a weekend – I even started off Monday right with a 6:00am 4 mile run. Now that summer is here morning runs are going to be a lot more common. Everything is on the up and up!

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Happy Monday!

Questions:

  • What was the best thing you ate this weekend?
  • What’s your favorite homemade salad combo? I need some new inspiration!
  • Did you try anything new this weekend?

a weekend of firsts

First time trying squid ink pasta

Twas spicy. And different. Good in a unique way. Zman and I had date night at RPM Italian (owned by Giuliana and Bill Rancic) and after hearing rave reviews, I decided to try this squid ink pasta topped with crab which tasted great and made me feel fancy. I’ll definitely be back to try another dish because everything looked incredible, but I wasn’t blown away by the place – especially by the service. As a former server I know the little tricks of the trade when you’re trying to rush a table and our server was definitely rushing us. She brought out our appetizer WITH our entrees and asked if we’d like to see a dessert menu while we were still eating. Not impressed. But hey, now I can say I tried it!

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First time making French Toast

It took an hour, way too much butter, and I wanted to go back to bed afterwards. The effort was worth it though, especially for leftovers, because this was killer. So delicious (and this is coming from a girl who’s never loved french toast in the past).

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First time doing a squat-a-thon

Because it’s T-minus 2 weeks until I need to squeeze myself into a bikini and I’d rather squat til I drop than do something crazy like give up pizza.

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First lazy “summer” weekend in Chicago

A beautiful run, a two hour adventure walk and $5 worth of frozen yogurt.

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And last but certainly not least, first time signing a lease! (No, college doesn’t count)

Zman and I are officially moving in together in Lincoln Park! We came, we saw, we conquered. In other words, we toured an apartment, fell in love, and signed all within six hours. We didn’t ask nearly enough questions but it’s next door to a Starbucks so I don’t really see what could go wrong.

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Big things happening here! So tell me…did you have any “firsts” this weekend? If not, what was the best thing you did all weekend?

Have a great Monday!

Citrus Butter Shrimp (recipe)

Since summer is coming, I thought now would be the perfect time to share one of my all-time favorite recipes for citrus butter shrimp. It’s the perfect summer dish because it allows shrimp to bask in its pure glory while also drowning in melted butter, lemon and red pepper flakes. Ok maybe not perfect for summer…you have to put up with the oven, heating up the whole house—but thou shalt sacrifice for delicious food, n’est-ce pas?

Regardless…

As warm weather peeks its head out I start to crave simpler foods. This dish covers all the bases, and I hope you’re inspired to make it as well!

**Also Chelsea just informed me that today is National Shrimp Day! Am I psychic or what??

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Citrus Butter Shrimp

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 pound raw shrimp (16 oz bag)
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Optional: oregano, thyme, garlic salt, etc.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Thaw, clean and take the tails off your shrimp according to package directions (I used TJ’s organic raw frozen shrimp)
  • Melt butter in a pan (I used a 9 inch circular pan) by placing it in the oven for a minute or two. Then take the pan back out of the oven.
  • Slice the lemon and layer the pieces on top of the butter
  • Arrange the shrimp on top of the lemon/butter mixture. Stir around so all the shrimp is getting some butter action.
  • Sprinkle the shrimp with red pepper flakes (I used just 3-4 shakes, or a tablespoon)
  • Place in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through
  • Take out of the oven and ENJOY!

If the amount of butter scares you off, never fear! Much of it is leftover in the pan. It’s just a wonderful cooking agent that really brings out the beauty and simplicity in shrimp. Plus, if butter scares you, you have bigger fish to fry (no pun intended).

No panko, no frying, no bread, nada. Just simple, beautiful citrus butter shrimp. I squeeze a little extra lemon over my final serving, but do whatever floats your boat.

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Questions:

  • Are you a shrimp lover? What’s your favorite recipe?
  • What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this weekend?

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND and don’t forget to grab your mom some beautiful tulips for Mother’s Day!

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