WIAW

Currently: Top Five Food Buys

Instead of listing a day’s worth of eats, let’s talk about the products I’ve been eating a lot of lately. I’ve been loving the following for a variety of reasons — whether it be for my health, because my taste buds jump for joy when I eat them, or because they are the lesser of other evils that could be lurking in my pantry. Regardless, these guys have become staples in the IHABL household.

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Quaker Steel Cut Oats

In what can only be described as the weirdest turn of events, I’ve started craving oatmeal now that the temps are climbing. Didn’t have a single bowl all winter, no, but these days it’s a different story. I’m pretty high-maintenance about my oatmeal, however. I can make an easy single-serving bowl with quick oats, but for the most part, I don’t really like steel cut oats. I haven’t had any luck with them. I typically make my oatmeal in the microwave, and that doesn’t cut it for the steel cut type. At the beginning of the week I decided to give them one last shot and threw them in the slow cooker. What a WORLD of a difference. It tasted like that oatmeal you get from the hotel buffet because god knows what’s actually in those “egg patties.” I made a big batch of it to have on hand all week and I’ve been loving it — I cooked them in water with chia seeds, millet, cinnamon, and some sea salt, so that each day I have a blank canvas to add whatever toppings I feel like having. Today was brown sugar and banana, and I’m not sure if I’ll be switching it up. Why mess with perfection?

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Coconut La Croix

Let me tell you a little story about my water intake — it’s virtually non-existant. I ran seven miles last night before dinner just to walk in the door and realize that I hadn’t had a single drop of water all day. How I manage to run on those fumes is beyond me. So, while I know that pure H2O is what’s best, at the end of the day I rely on La Croix and my good friend Crystal Light to keep me from my inevitable death by dehydration. And none of that phony fruit-flavored stuff. Coconut is where it’s at.

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Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Chicken Burgers

They’re thin, they cook in under ten minutes, and they’re just 150 calories with 19 grams of protein. Paired with a whole wheat burger bun, some classic burger fixins’ (including the high fructose corn syrup-laden Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce — sorry there just isn’t any competition there), and a side of veggies that I pull out of my freezer last minute, this has been my go-to healthy dinner option as of late. And I’m not stopping anytime soon.

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Chobani Greek Yogurt

I usually only eat plain greek yogurt — but while I know that that’s the better choice for 90% of my snacks, sometimes, at the end of the day, you want something more dessert-like. That’s where these guys come in. The vanilla isn’t even my favorite…it’s, you guessed it, coconut, but I don’t have any left right now. Mixed with some slivered almonds or chocolate chips, sweetened yogurt is a perfectly pre-portioned dessert.

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Kodiak Cakes

These hearty little guys are like breakfast gold. They make you feel like you’re indulging in a giant pancake breakfast, when really you’re making a pretty decent choice, as they’re 100% whole grain. The best part is that they’re so easy to make and taste great! I’ve even gotten my family turned on to them, and they usually scoff at my healthy purchases (in their defense, though, I go through phases — so one healthy product can be 75% used up but then the remaining 25% will be left in our pantry for the better half of a decade….) I always add lots of mixins to my pancake batter, usually bananas, cinnamon, millet, nuts, or chia seeds (or all of it!) My brother has made them quite a few times with chocolate chips and I never refuse those either. You really can’t mess this one up: one cup batter, one cup water, mix, cook, done. And they actually keep me full for more than an hour, unlike most pancakes.

Questions:

  • What’s been your favorite food buy lately?
  • Do you go through food phases, or do you have a few stand-bys that you’ve loved forever?

WIAW: Chipotle, please

Poor Jenn has taken a week off from the WIAW hosting duties. It’s sad that she started something so cool but people have taken advantage of it — using the platform as a way to share their own personal recipes or agenda. And while I stand in solidarity with Jenn and hope she comes back to the party soon, I couldn’t resist sharing my eats from yesterday, because I had Chipotle. And if you get Chipotle and don’t share it with the world, did it even happen?WIAW

I woke up bright and early yesterday for a staff meeting so breakfast was pretty sweet. Don’t you love it when other people feed you?

unnamed (25)I had a cinnamon raisin bagel with a little cream cheese (not the biggest plain cream cheese fan but I went with it). The staff meeting was bittersweet because we were saying goodbye to our store manager who is moving to Minnesota next week. The lucky gal gets to work in the Mall of America, aka ride rollercoasters on her break.

unnamed (31)Half of us look like we’re on our deathbed because we attended a 6am bootcamp before the meeting. Did I mention that? There’s nothing like taking an Uber at 5:30 in the morning. It’s hilarious because I think the driver expects you to be hammered and on your way home, when in reality I just rolled out of bed and needed a warm moving vehicle to get me to my workout or I never would have gone.

Here’s what yesterday’s tabata workout looked like:

Tabata w/ 8 Rounds of :20/:10 Work/Rest/Movement w/ 1min Rest Between of:

  • MAX Row Effort
  • Body Bar Front Rack Reverse Lunges
  • Pull Ups
  • Horseshoes from the box
  • Med Ball Ground to Overheads
  • MAX Sprint Runs
  • One Arm KB Thrusters (Alternating Hands/Round)

10945487_327944444072268_410451340000312876_nI’m in the waaay back doing ring rows. This girl is NOT ready for pull ups just yet. No way no how.

After the staff meeting I came home and did some writing before I had to head back to work for the night. Lunch included leftover pizza from Sunday night. I really want to stop eating it, but hey I spent the time and money on it and it keeps me from having to go grocery shopping for one more day.

unnamed (26)Side of broccoli to make myself feel better.

I volunteered to stay late at work which brought my total to eight hours in the store yesterday. I know, I know…eight hours is the normal amount that most full-time people work every day. But have you ever worked eight hours in RETAIL? You’re ON for eight hours, no breaks, on your feet. The minute I walked out of the store there was nothing else I could do except, you guessed it, CHIPOTLE.

unnamed (30)Taco salad with a brown rice, black beans, salsa, corn fajita veggies, hot sauce and guacamole on the side. I ate this in bed and immediately fell asleep. It was a great.

Not the most interesting day, but sometimes you live a semi-normal life and don’t think about how it will reflect on the blog 😉

Questions:

  • What’s your Chipotle order?
  • Are you a bagel eater? When I used to diet, I steered clear of bagels. Now, I love them!

WIAW: yep, ANOTHER birthday

If it seems like I’ve said the word “birthday” a lot lately, you’re not crazy. I have a four person family, and our birthdays are all within 40 days of each other (and Christmas). It’s like a birthday bonanza. Let’s just say the wrapping paper comes out once a year and then *sayonara* until next December.WIAW

Yesterday was my beautiful mom’s birthday, so my WIAW is birthday/I’m-home-so-I’m-going-to-raid-my-parents’-fridge-themed. Glorious.

I started the day at Sweat on State for Tabata Tuesday. We did eight 20-second rounds of each exercise which included sprints, kettlebell deadlifts, mountain climbers on a medicine ball, push-ups, weighted lunges, and sit-ups. We had a staff meeting at the store just down the street so a few of us got our sweat on bright and early at 7am, thanks to some great coaching by Erin.

After the staff meeting I was a ravenous monster on my way to the train, so I stopped at my favorite bagel shop for breakfast. I wish I wasn’t so repetitive but yeah, I got another egg sandwich. This one is truly my favorite in the city, though. The Big Z — because nothing is yummier than an everything bagel stuffed with eggs, veggies, and melty cheddar. Get at me!

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I got home around noon and spent the afternoon working on Community Development for the store. I’ve basically pressed “Snooze” on my responsibilities and initiative on that front after the crazy holiday season, but it’s time to get back to business. I’m excited to see the cool fitness leaders we’ll be getting in the store for demonstrations this upcoming year. While I worked I snacked on “lunch”, or two homemade bran muffins and a sliced banana. Raisins always belong in muffins. Always.

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See that blank calendar? I have to fill it with community events in our store. As you can see it’s going swimmingly.

The real highlight of the day was dinner. We went to a little Italian restaurant in my hometown that my parents are in love with, and now I see why. Like most dining gems, this place was unassuming at best, hidden between a liquor store and a tattoo parlor in a strip mall. Yeah. But THE FOOD. Never have I ever had vodka sauce so decadent and flavorful.

Chianti + Bruschetta

Chianti + Bruschetta

Rigatoni a la Vodka. I added grilled chicken and spinach. And yes, I ate the whole thing.

Rigatoni a la Vodka. I added grilled chicken and spinach. And yes, I ate the whole thing.

The fam :)

The fam + a UFO in the background

We got home and did cake and cards, a ritual that was made even more fun thanks to some Chianti-inspired laughs. unnamed (23)Happy Birthday Maja! Thank you for being the quarterback of our family 🙂 At the end of the day I know I can always count on you for anything. Thank you for being so supportive and kind to me this past year when I was going through tough times. You rallied me through it all! You made our childhood feel like a Disney movie, always playing songs and letting us dance around the house all day, using our imaginations and just being goofy kids. We’re all so lucky to have you.

unnamed (29)Questions:

  • Are your family members’ birthdays close together or far apart?
  • What do you order at Italian restaurants? I used to be an eggplant parmesan fanatic!

WIAW: Photo Dump Cuz I Said So

Today is going to be a post of few words, and more pictures. You know what they say, “Open your mouth only if what you’re about to say is more beautiful than silence.” I’m not sure if “they” say it, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t come up with words more beautiful than photos of food, amiright?

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So today I’m settling for a photo dump of all my eats recently. I’m trying so, so, so hard to turn down dinner invitations and happy hours (but you’ll also notice I’m making no qualms about going out to lunch. Shut up about it). That’s not to say I’m not going out at all but my wallet wasn’t too happy with the amount I was going out to eat and drink during the week as of late. But hey, my workout game has been on point so I’m not crying about it.

Easily digestable lunch before a rough sculpt class

Easily digestable lunch before a rough sculpt class. Product 19 with honey and sliced bananas (went back for another half a bowl so the leftover milk wouldn’t go to waste — I am a steward of the earth)

Greek yogurt and fruit gets me so full!

Protein-packed snacks getting me through to my next meal

I took myself on a lunch date and ate this croque monsieur alone at my favorite french cafe. It was a fun date full of pleasant conversation. Just kidding.

I took myself on a lunch date and ate this croque monsieur at my favorite french cafe. It was a fun date full of pleasant conversation. Just kidding.

Turkey chili and a fresh mini baguette from Plum Market

Turkey chili and a fresh mini baguette from Plum Market

Another gross-looking but amazing dinner: Morningstar black bean patty mixed with an avocado and salsa

Another gross-looking but amazing dinner: Morningstar black bean patty mixed with an avocado and salsa

When it's too cold to go get ice cream, you make some adjustments

When it’s too cold to go get ice cream, you make some adjustments

Potbelly tuna with alllll the veggies, extra mustard. Because toasted sandwiches immediately after a chilly Chicago run are always welcome.

Potbelly tuna with alllll the veggies, extra mustard. Because toasted sandwiches immediately after a chilly Chicago run are always welcome.

Late night ugly oatmeal -- but so, so good. Oats with almond milk, stevia, chocolate chips and peanut butter.

Late night ugly oatmeal — but so, so good. Oats with almond milk, banana, stevia, chocolate chips and peanut butter.

BBQ salmon, roasted butternut squash with stevia and cinnamon, roasted potatoes

BBQ salmon, roasted butternut squash with stevia and cinnamon, roasted potatoes

Taking midnight snacks to a whole other level

Taking midnight snacks to a whole other level

The heater was out at work so the company treated us to complimentary coffee. I had a tall soy salted caramel hot chocolate

The heater was out at work so the company treated us to complimentary coffee. I had a tall soy salted caramel hot chocolate and it was perfect. Gone in 3 minutes.

Best thing I ate all week: Trader Joe's bbq chicken pizza, extra bbq sauce on the side

Best thing I ate all week: Trader Joe’s bbq chicken pizza, extra bbq sauce on the side

Recently tried out Susie's sweet potato nachos and it is seriously in the Top 5 best things I've ever made in my kitchen -- make these!

Recently tried out Suz’s sweet potato nachos and it is seriously in the Top 5 best things I’ve ever made in my kitchen — make these!

Jeni's Buckeye Ice Cream...because, again, life is too short

Jeni’s Buckeye Ice Cream (pb with chocolate flakes)…because life is too short

Questions:

  • Do you ever go out to eat by yourself?
  • What’s your favorite Trader Joe’s meal?
  • Favorite ice cream flavor?

What I Ate Wednesday: back in business

The past two days have been “stock up on food and quit spending money at restaurants” central.

Haha good joke — I’ll keep spending money at restaurants but a girl can dream of a world where her kitchen is better than a restaurant, right?

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Highlights included:

  • Vegetables: peppers, onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, avocado
  • Fruit: kiwi, apples, bananas, grapes
  • Frozen: spinach, Morningstar veggie sausage, shrimp, whole wheat bread and English muffins (I keep them in the freezer because I don’t go through them very fast)
  • Fridge: eggs, coffee creamer, minced garlic, salsa, Chobani 4% plain yogurt, Chobani key lime and coconut yogurt, raspberry jam, turkey deli meat
  • Pantry: peanut butter, black beans, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, Parma Rosa sauce mix, whole grain tortilla chips
  • Spices: cinnamon, bay leaves, paprika, tabasco sauce

Is my grocery haul usually this big? Nope. But by some grace of God I ran out of staples like peanut butter, jelly, creamer, eggs, etc. all at the same time. So it was quite the loot! But my eats recently have benefited from all the effort I gave at the grocery store.

And with that, my first WIAW in…..what, four months? Not cool! So let’s walk through my Tuesday eats.

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I woke up and had half a cup of coffee with half and half and stevia. My body and brain just can’t handle a full cup of coffee anymore!

Breakfast

After seeing what Kathie Lee and Hoda were up to and answering some emails/working on blog stuff, I started on breakfast.

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Egg sandwich: 1 egg, a few egg whites, onion powder, red pepper flakes, spinach and Parmesan cheese, plus a piece of veggie sausage and raspberry jam. SO GOOD.

I headed to work early to do a little shopping and add to my rapidly expanding lululemon collection. Hey, when you work there, it not only becomes justifiable, but necessary. I put together my lunch and snacks before I left because I knew I wouldn’t be home until around 10pm — food prep is so helpful to not only stay on track, but also to keep myself from eating out.

My break came at around 4pm, so a little later than usual. I snacked on some unpictured almonds while I worked and then finally it was “lunch” time (when I work the closing shift my day is pushed back a lot, so my breakfast usually is around 10 or 11, snack around 2 and then lunch around 4).

Lunch was what I like to call a “snack pack”:

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4% plain Chobani with grapes and stevia, a mini Luna bar, some carrots and sugar snap peas and a kiwi. I also packed some Skoop protein + almond milk but completely forgot about it.

As soon as work was over I scrambled to take a Hot Power Fusion yoga class at Corepower Yoga with my roommate, Colleen. I didn’t get a picture of the before, during or after (which, to be honest, is probably best, seeing as we were both sloppy messes by the time the class was over), but I’ll share a few photos from my Monday workout instead. I woke up bright and early to attend Sweat on State, where we got our sprints, ball slams, and triceps push-ups on. KILL ME NOW. My triceps still hate me from that workout.unnamed (52)

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The instructor was able to catch me mid-triceps push-up. I wish you could see my face here because it was pure agony.

I finished in just under 25 minutes. Normally I would never think 25 minutes is enough. But I literally lay on the floor after that workout in so much pain and I couldn’t wait to get back home and crawl into bed. Sometimes, 25 minutes of pushing yourself to the max is enough. I love Sweat on State more and more each time I go — I’m starting to build a great fitness family there and really appreciate not only the intensity and variety of the workouts, but the sense of community that exists there.

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Flashforward to yesterday’s workout — Colleen and I ended up getting home around 10pm, and just as I imagined, I was famished. I made the quickest, most appealing dinner I could think of:

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Whole wheat toast with tonnnnns of peanut butter, sliced banana and cinnamon

Now it’s late and this Cinderella needs to get to sleep before the clock strikes 12. I’m about to grab a few handfuls of chocolate chips, some carrots and a cheese stick (because I’m always hungry), and head to bed. It was quite the full day and I’m ready for some zzzzs.

Questions:

  • What was the best thing you ate yesterday?
  • What was the laziest meal you’ve made lately?

What I’m Eating Lately: Home Cooking Edition

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I’ve gotten into an unfortunate habit of eating out. A lot. Not 5-course meals or anything, but $5, $15 there, thanks to the usual suspects: a quick spinach-feta wrap from Starbucks, a last-minute happy hour, you know the drill.

And since I’m neither A) Daddy Warbucks nor B) the next Hilton heiress, it’s time for me to reign that habit in – even just a little. I’ll never apologize for my love of eating out. It’s not just about the food – even though nine times out of ten the food is superb and I think food is something in life that’s justified spending money on. I love going out to eat because it usually means I’m catching up with an old friend, meeting up a group I haven’t seen in awhile, or developing relationships with a new community of people. Restaurants are my happy place! You never go out to eat and then spend the whole time frowning or complaining. You go out and celebrate the present, laugh while you reminisce about the past, or muse about future possibilities. I love the whole idea of it. To me, giving up going out to eat would be sacrificing more than just food – it would be sacrificing time with people I love. And I’m not one to sacrifice that.

That being said, I definitely can wake up 20 minutes earlier and pack a lunch for the day or spend an hour roasting potatoes and veggies to go with a piece of fish. It’s not that hard. So that’s where I want to make a few changes. So for today’s WIAW, it’s more about What I’m Eating Lately: Home Cooking Edition. Otherwise known as “Saving Dough Edition.”

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Roasted sweet potato + my South of the Border Frittata

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Chicken baked in TJ’s garlic simmering sauce, roated green beans a faux-“fried” crispy potatoes

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Veggie sandwich: white bean basil hummus, lettuce/onion/tomato, and a slice of swiss cheese on Ezekiel bread.

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Pumpkin oatmeal with chia seeds and topped with crunchy pb

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Hickory baked salmon, roasted fingerling potatoes and green beans

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Chicken noodle soup (amazing on 18 degree days like today!)

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Leftover Lou Malnati’s veggie pizza (parents’ leftovers so it doesn’t count 😉 )

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Homemade tuna melt – the worst picture in the history of the world but so, so soooo good

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Frozen Grapes

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Egg sandwich (deconstructed)

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Veggie burger with, you guessed it, roasted potatoes

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Hot chocolate with a side of bad TV

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PB/banana Skoop protein smoothie

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Oriental Chicken – you can find the recipe in my Food section

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Pasta with parma rosa sauce, Parmesan cheese, chopped tomato and spinach. Pinot grigio on the side.

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Aaaaaand a Reese’s peanut butter cup for good measure 🙂

I think my roasted potato love has hit Arman levels. But hey – they’re one of those foods that tastes oh so bad for you but aren’t at all. It’s like fries, but without the greasy fingers afterwards 🙂

So as you can see, it’s all about a little extra effort/time for me. I really can’t wait until I’m in my own apartment (two weeeeeks!) and I can meal plan again just for myself.

Questions:

  • How often do you eat at a sit-down restaurant?
  • How many days a week do you find yourself grabbing something quick? i.e. a latte from your local coffee house or a cookie from Potbelly.

WIAW: back on that Portillos grind

If I had a dollar for all the times I turned to nachos for meals in the past five weeks I’d have a down payment on a Prius.

But it’s a new week and with my new goals in mind, I’ve started making meals (and, thankfully, worshiping vegetables again).

So without further ado, a day of my (recent) eats:

Breakfast

I’ve downsized my usual breakfast sandwich into an English muffin – it fills me up just the same as a bagel (thanks, protein!) but makes me feel less guilty about the half and half I need (yes, need) in my coffee.

1 egg, 2 tablespoons egg whites, bell peppers, onions, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and onion powder on an English muffin. It ain’t pretty but it sits in my stomach like a cheesy, delicious rock, so I go with it.

IMG_8159Lunch

I had a day off yesterday before I started my new job, so lunch was spent at home. My mom and I split a pizza from Trader Joe’s: spinach, feta and mozzarella with greens on the side. Dressing is easy as pie: TJ’s balsamic glaze + olive oil.

IMG_8161In the afternoon I went to my first hot yoga class. Spoiler alert: hot yoga is hard.

IMG_8173Between the heat and my general distaste for water/addiction to coffee, this was no picnic. I had to take a few breaks just to wipe my mat down and guzzle water. Now, let’s call a spade a spade: this was no typical ashtanga session. It was a Sahara bootcamp. 100 degrees of slippery mats and sumo squats. Needless to say I was lightheaded and gasping for air like a fish out of water, but about twenty minutes after I left the building my body was overcome by the inevitable high that can only come from exercise and I basically floated home. Beautiful session, beautiful afternoon.

Snacks

An unpictured Larabar. Exciting stuff, I know.

Dinner

Once I was back in the burbs I was about ready to eat my hand. I knew I wanted veggies, as many as I could possibly shovel into my mouth, so I drove straight for the motherland: Portillos.

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Good things come to those who wait (and yes, the line is always this long). This is, by far, the biggest thing non-Chicagoans are missing out on. Italian beef, Chicago hot dogs, cheese fries (ooooh the cheese fries), chocolate cake shakes, and the chopped salad. If you locked me in a Portillos for 30 years I wouldn’t even be mad.

IMG_8184Oh my goodness – the closeup is what really does this salad justice. And just so you don’t think I’m too healthy, they serve their salads with a huge chunk of bread which I quickly slathered with butter and demolished. It was all gone in less than 20 minutes and I spent the next thirty lying on the couch in a glorious food coma. Hot yoga makes you hungry, apparently. Or any activity besides Netflix, I guess.

Dessert

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Be still my heart.

Question:

  • If you’ve ever visited, did you try Portillos? Have you ever heard of it?
  • What have you been craving this week? Let’s talk food! It’s been too long 🙂