[r + r]

This weekend while the rest of Chicago was getting saucy & celebrating St. Pat’s, Vince and I roadtripped to Cleveland for my mom’s birthday. Although we missed the bulk of the St. Patty’s festivities, it was one of those weekends that hit the spot; relaxing and good for the soul. We caught up on lots of sleep + quality fam time, had brunch with some of my high school pals, and topped it off with a birthday lunch celebrating my mom.

[trust.]

[team effort]

 

[party dress fit for a twirl]

 

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[lenten lunch]

Ladies + gents, the season of Lent is upon us, which you probably know means no meat on Fridays for the next 40 days. Typically I’ll forget about this until halfway through something extra meaty of course [like a cheeseburger], rationalize it by saying God wouldn’t want me to waste it, then proceed to polish it off and vow to remember for next Friday. This year I’m cracking down, baby. No meat on Fridays, period, and I’m making sure my butt is in a pew each and every Sunday. Although these are both things a good Catholic should already be doing, this former altar girl is trying to get back on track.

No meat, no problem. Here is a quick and healthy recipe for a tuna melt.

TGIF Tuna Melt

  • 1 can chunk light tuna, drained
  • 1 tsp low-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp deli mustard
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp feta cheese
  • dash of kosher salt + black pepper
  • 2 ‘veggie slices’, cheddar flavor [see explanation w/photo below]
  • 2 slices good quality whole-grain bread

Mix first six ingredients together in a bowl, place mixture on top of bread and finish off with the veggie slices. Pop under a broiler in your toaster oven for 1-2 minutes, voila.

[in case you were wondering what the violently orange stuff is in the picture up top, i have to admit it's a cheese imposter. i saw these in the organic produce section at jewel and wanted to give them a try. they're pretty good and taste surprisingly like cheddar cheese - plus are much, much better for you. the orange color comes a natural food coloring, carotenal, which is derived from skins of oranges and tangerines. they're mostly soy and pack three grams of protein per slice. try these out!]

[i love LaBrea's whole grain bread. it's got a thick, crunchy crust and the inside is soft and chewy even days later. the bakery is based in california but they ship everywhere - i got this loaf at jewel]

 

 

 

 

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I give people a lot of credit when they take a gamble, stick themselves in what could be an uncomfortable situation, and thrive. After all, that’s how great things happen. You take a risk and as my dad says, “you make your own luck”. Still, it’s no easy task [or so I think] to get up in front of a crowd of people and perform, but maybe that’s why they’re up and I’m down here.

This weekend I saw Vince’s brother John and their family friend Brian perform in their brand new band, “Two Micks and a Mike” [yep, try not to crack a smile]. Every year the Irish-American Alliance [a Chicago-based organization started by Vince and John's dad] holds a St. Patrick’s Day party at the South Side standby Cork & Kerry. It was at this very party that “Two Micks and a Mike” made their big time debut.

[photo credit: chicago bar project]

I so appreciate when someone is passionate about something -be it food, ping-pong, fashion, scrabble, whatever it is- and given that both John and Brian grew up in Irish homes, music is in their blood. They know the stories behind each song they sing and they’re eager to share them [especially after a few pints of smithwick's].

The music, the night [which lasted until the wee hours of the morning... those micks sure know how to party], and the entire scene made me even more excited for St. Patrick’s Day.  You can bet I’ve got my green [yes, green] hot cocoa and Baileys ready. Only nine more days to go!

PS: You can get into the St. Paddy’s spirit and check out Two Micks and a Mike for yourself. Their next gig is on St. Patrick’s Day at Marlin’s, roughly 15 minutes south of the city [7236 39th Street, Lyons, IL 60534]. Marlin’s is a great local watering hole with all sorts of beer on tap. A word to the wise – stay away [far, far away] from the Pinot Grigio. Indeed, it sounded good to me at the time and I instantly became that girl. Stick to the basics here, trust me.

 

 

 

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One of my favorite things to do is go out to a relaxed dinner, unrushed, unhurried, savoring every bite and enjoying each plate the talented chef concocts. Last night I had the pleasure of trying out one of Chicago’s newest up-and-coming restaurants, the distinctive Argentinian~Italian fusion restaurant, Caminito. Located in Lincoln Park, across from Steppenwolf, this gem is mere months old, but somehow [he never reveals his ways] my thoughtful boyfriend found out about it and, knowing how much I love eclectic, unique cuisine, made plans for us to try it out.

[winnie + kev, quintessential sweethearts]

We both love gnocchi [pasta + potatoes, basically sums up the two of us] and he’d heard Caminito had the best gnocchi in the city ~ which, news to me, is a common dish in Argentina. After dousing some of our freshly baked bread in housemade chimichurri [our server clued us in that it's a blend of oregano, red pepper, fresh parsley, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar] we both ordered the Gnocchi al Fruto del Mar [homemade potato dumplings sauteed with fresh seafood on a semi-spicy tomato sauce]. As we sipped our champagne and sopped up the addicting chimichurri with the hot crusty bread, diners slowly started trickling in, and before we knew it the place was packed. Oh, and how could I leave this part out, it’s a BYOB! Genius right?

[some bubbly for date night]

Our gnocchi came, a prettily arranged plate piled with calamari, crab, mussels, and the famed dumplings. In went the first forkful. Heaven, I tell you. Each bite of the gnocchi was pillowy soft and creamy, matched by the hearty chunks of fresh seafood. We both chewed in silent admiration, this gnocchi was legit. In the midst of all this a person approached our table, professional-looking camera in tow. “Mind if I take your picture?” He was a photographer from Metromix/RedEye and they were featuring Caminito in their Friday edition. We were going to be famous! Okay, not really, but it was pretty cool and a first for both of us. Snap, snap, snap. “Can you cheers with your champagne glass?” Sure! Snap, snap, snap. A very memorable end to an already wonderful evening.

ps: apologies for the shoddy photos, the dim light works like a charm for romantic ambiance, not as well for snapping non-flash iPhone pics.

[let the stomach growling commence]

[every bit as good as it looks]

[+ dessert: almendrado con dulce de leche]


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[photo from a trip home that i might have staged.]

[and my valentine's roses make an encore from monday]

[hot, creamy coffee to start the morning]

[dried bouquet from the 'rents... they sent them 'just because'. love them. :]

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[special delivery from my valentine]

{I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.}

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

{Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.}

Michael Leunig

Wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

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[my mom just sent me this plate in a care package {thanks mom!}. it came with black ribbon but she gave me extra red so i could switch it out for v-day]

[ravioli ..holy cannoli.. my mom made this for my dad last night as an early valentine's day dinner. dad snapped me this pic before he dove in.]

[a pic I sneaked of my sis hard at work during our girls pizzelle night]

[flowers vince sent my mama]


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Love is in the air and, given the barrage of red and pink that’s taken over your local drug store, it’s no secret that Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Some people take the jaded route and scoff at the day, writing it off as a cunning Hallmark scheme, but I’ve always had an unabashed love for the holiday. I love it for the obvious reasons: a sweet card [not always from Hallmark], beautiful flowers, and a romantic dinner with my main squeeze ~ but it doesn’t stop there. My parents always showered us with love on Valentine’s Day and gave us a little something to make the day special [usually a book and candy]. They taught us that it was a day to show your appreciation for the ones you love, be it your family, friends, or significant other. To me it’s a day to be happy and celebrate all the different kinds of love you have in your life.

These are some pretty things that have Valentine’s Day written all over them.

1. Steve Madden Partyy Pump in Fuchsia [$89.95] *helloo date night

2. Ark & Co Elegant Pearl Cocktail Dress [$58] *the pearl details and peak-a-boo back are exquisite

3. Lancôme Juicy Tubes Lip Gloss Set [$29.50] *the original lip gloss

4. Deborah Lippmann Nail Color in Ruby Red Slippers [$18] *va~voom!

5. Michael Kors Watch in Rose Gold [$250] *exudes a strong + feminine air

6. Halston Heritage Deep V Cocktail Dress [$325] *effortless style

7. Schwartz Marshmallow Heart ~ Vanilla with Caramel Bottom [$67.50] *my cousin who lives in New York bought these once for my mom and dad – oh.my.gosh… although the price tag seems steep these are the most delicious, mouth-watering treats + are perfect for a special occasion. my mom got me a box last year for valentine’s day and i about died when i opened the box. {yummmm}

8. Prada Satin Wristlet [$360] *prada is pretty in pink

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[nutella pillows]

You may have noticed navy + cream was out of commission the past week, and I’m pointing my finger at you, Snowmageddon 2011. Below, one of many eerie photos circulating the web that captured the mayhem.

[Lake Shore Drive, a highway that runs through Chicago, as it appeared the morning of February 2nd.]

Although the blizzard threw everyone out of whack, I secretly loved it. We spent the two blustery days holed up at Vince’s sister and husbands house lazing around in our pajamas playing board games, eating junk food and watching movies. The third morning Vince and I felt the twangs of cabin fever and we finally surfaced from their home, only to discover that Vince’s poor car was buried under a miniature Mount Everest. Two hours, a piece of cardboard, a borrowed shovel, and two good samaritans later, we managed to free his car from the snowdrift. That was about the time I started to simultaneously loath the snow and praise the Lord for my heated garage spot.

Blizzard business aside, this past week I discovered a new favorite holiday: World Nutella Day. Music to my ears. On February 5th, chocolate lovers like myself celebrate all of the goodness that is this delicious, sweet, and creamy Italian spread. I came across this yummy-sounding yet simple recipe on Picky Palate and thought it would be the perfect way to ring in Nutella Day.

Nutella Pillows

  • 1 package puff pastry, 2 pastry sheets thawed [you can find it in your freezer aisle]
  • 1 cup Nutella [available at most grocery stores, at Jewel it's located by the peanut butter and jelly]
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp water for egg wash
  • sprinkling of sugar
  • sprinkling of powdered sugar [optional]

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Cut each square of pastry into 4 equal size pieces.  Spread a couple tablespoons of Nutella spread onto the center of each pastry leaving 1/2 inch border around edges.  Top each with about 12-15 mini marshmallows and fold over to form a little triangle.  Crimp edges firmly with the tines of a fork.  Brush with egg white wash then sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until pastry just turns golden.  Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, sprinkle with powdered sugar then dig in! Yields 8 pillows.

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Switching gears from the healthier, straight-laced grapefruit, I have to share how much I love these sweet potato “frites” from Trader Joe’s. Not quite as innocent as their raw siblings, they’re sweet + salty and pretty darn delicious. Plus, this post title is a bit of a misnomer as I bake my guilt-free frites, rather than fry them.

Piping hot out of the oven with a dash of kosher salt, I’m {almost} convinced I have a large fry in my hands from MickyD’s. *sigh.. my arteries will thank me later.

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