Getting Cheesy: National Cheese Lover’s Day Party

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love cheese? It is one of my favorite things to eat and create some really fun dishes with. Since cheese is always such a hit, I decided to throw a cheese party for my friends (and for my son because it’s his absolute favorite). And why not a MAC N’ CHEESE BAR?! I have a few vegetarian friends and this would be perfect. Everyone can customize their own mac n’ cheese bowls and we can celebrate National¬†Cheese Lover’s Day!

Setup

Since the holidays, I have been kind of entertained out. Over doing the dishes, the clean up, etc. I also have a toddler running around, so something fast and easy is preferred. I decided to minimize the dishes and use Solo Cup Products to make my clean up easy and less complicated. They are completely disposable, recyclable and really durable. I knew this would be the best option, but still keeping my party looking right.

IMG_1262

They have write on cups¬†that are perfect to label all the toppings. It looks clean and organized in your setup. Everyone can make their own mac n’ cheese¬†bowls with lids Whatever they don’t finish, the bowls serve as to-go plates. Lastly, the¬†paper plates¬†serve for meat and cheese platters. It’s perfect and fuss-free.

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

Mac n’ Cheese Bar

And for the best part: the MAC N’ CHEESE. Honestly, you could make it from scratch or get a pre-made box. Whatever makes your life easier. From scratch, I like recipes like¬†this.¬†But you can grab a box and totally add in your own ingredients. I took a box of mac n’ cheese, added mild cheddar cheese, bread crumbs and baked it at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. It turned out DELICIOUS!

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

Toppings

Cheese is so versatile. It can be paired with so much. Here are the toppings I used:

  • hot dogs
  • salumi
  • bacon bits
  • cheeze its
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • jalapenos
  • green onion
  • cubed cheese

National cheese lover's day party using solo products

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

Extras

The more cheese the better right? For an appetizer, I made a meat and cheese plate with salami, cheddar and pepper jack cheese with pita crackers. Really, anything would work; spinach artichoke dip, cheese dip, etc.

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

For the drinks, the best wine to pair with macaroni and cheese all depends on how fancy and cheesy your mac and cheese is. With a regular, old-fashioned recipe, you might just want a simple glass of white wine. An unoaked Chardonnay might be your best bet for an original recipe or even a dry Riesling. If you got a little fancy and added truffles to your recipe, champagne pairs perfectly. No wine drinkers? Cider pairs well with cheese too.

A party that will please everyone with an easy clean up? To go cups already set!

IMG_1296

Doesn’t get better than that!

Until next time,

Christine

This post was sponsored by SOLO cup however all opinions and experiences are my own!

Advertisements

My January Reboot

Like everyone else, I completely overindulged in December. Being a food blogger in Chicago, there is food everywhere! It is kind of hard not to try different foods and restaurants. But this January, I have decided to do a complete “reboot” of my life. My mind, body, home, and LIFE. It isn’t just about losing weight and setting unrealistic goals, but hitting the refresh button in all areas of my life.

Me in 2015. I was focused on working out and eating healthy

This was me 2015. I was focused on working out and eating healthy. My goal is make this a priority again.

I want to start the year strong by developing really great habits and so far, I have been really proud. I am taking it day by day, but not without any help. Below are some of the tools I am using. Whether it is at home workouts, barre classes, or recipes, they are all helping reboot my life in January.

Workouts

  1. The Barre Code– This gym offers cardio, strength and restoration classes. Right now, they are having a special for two weeks for $60 at any of their 10 studios in Illinois and beyond.
  2. I started these online workout classes when I couldn’t make it to a class or the gym. It’s perfect when Noah is asleep and he has even joined me sometimes. They range from 15-35 minutes, which is perfect for a busy day.

3. Just get out! Even though it may not seem like enough, you would be surprised how many steps I get in walking around Target ūüôā

Mind

This is one that is often forgotten, but so important to have your mind clear and stress free when trying accomplish anything. For me, my workouts are TERRIBLE when I don’t have a clear mind. Below are some things I have done.¬†I know I don’t do this enough and it is a real goal for me this year.

  1. Chill Chicago– This is a completely designated space to just CHILL. I made an CHILL Chicago is a place to meditate and relaxappointment for myself this Saturday and CANNOT WAIT to meditate and relax. The¬†classes range from 30 ‚Äď 60 min with a focus on breath, insight, rest or yoga and meditation.
  2. Meditation App (FREE)– This is a FREE download on Amazon. This is great to help settle the mind before sleep if you are having one of those day.
  3. Count to 10- Don’t underestimate the power of taking a moment for yourself. I know when Noah is amidst a toddler moment, I am learning to breath and step back (although very difficult). I find creating space for myself can be very beneficial.

Recipes

I have mapped out the recipes I will be making this month. I list 14 recipes of my own and other favorites from Tasty to Delish to Cooking Light.

1. Recipe: Easy Beef and Broccoli Easy recipes: Beef and broccoli meal

2. Spiced turkey meatballs butternut tomato stew- http://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/spiced-meatball-butternut-tomato-stew

3. Chickpea tacos- https://tasty.co/recipe/chipotle-chickpea-tacos

4. Spicy turkey tacos- http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a50920/spicy-turkey-tacos-recipe/

5. Lettuce wraps- https://damndelicious.net/2014/05/30/pf-changs-chicken-lettuce-wraps/

6. Warm Brown Rice and Chickpea salad- http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/brown-rice-chickpea-salad

FacetuneMy video here.

7. Turkey squash bowls- https://www.skinnytaste.com/turkey-taco-spaghetti-squash-boats/

8. Quinoa Soup- https://cookieandkate.com/2017/mexican-quinoa-stew-recipe/

9. Recipe: Egg Muffins with Turkey Bacon and Kale

easy egg recipes

10. Crockpot turkey chili- http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a55200/easy-turkey-slow-cooker-chili-recipe/

11. Crockpot chicken noodle soup- http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a55661/easy-crockpot-chicken-noodle-soup-recipe/

12. Chicken stir fry- http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a8866/chicken-vegetable-stir-fry-recipe-campbells-1109/

13. Panko crumb chicken fingers- https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/oven-fried-chicken-tenders/46a69e4d-4c31-485b-9d43-67d40b353f2e

14. Recipe: Skinny Pumpkin Bars

skinny pumpkin bar recipe

If you one of man that are counting calories this month (sigh, yes I am), this Calorie Counter is an affordable, reliable option. I wouldn’t say it is like an Apple Watch (we can only dream right?!), but it gives you somewhat of a range.

I hope some of this will help you this new year! Every day is a fresh start and it will never be perfect, but all we can do it try.

Until next time,

xoxo

Christine

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Egg Muffins with Turkey Bacon and Kale

This simple breakfast is easy, will save you time and toddler approved. Noah didn’t even taste the kale. You can freeze them in an air tight bag and you will have breakfast for the week. Enjoy!

easy egg recipes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 12
Ingredients:
  • 10¬†large eggs
  • 1/3¬†c. milk
  • 1¬†c. reduced fat cheddar or Mexican cheese
  • handful of chopped kale
  • 6¬†oz.¬†cooked turkey bacon
  • 1/4¬†tsp.¬†salt
  • 1/4¬†tsp.¬†pepper
  • Optional: chives

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large glass mixing bowl, combine eggs and milk and whisk well.
  3. Stir in 3/4 c. cheese, cooked turkey bacon, kale, salt, and pepper.
  4. Divide mixture evenly among 12 greased muffin cups. Fill in 1/2-3/4 way.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until centers are set and muffins are beginning to brown.
  6. Enjoy!

Recipe: Acorn Squash Bowls

Recipe: Acorn Squash Bowls

acorn squash with chicken sausage and kale recipe

Acorn squash is in season right now and I found them for $0.69 cents at the store, why not take advantage. Since the holidays, I have been trying to eat lighter and this dish is perfect for a weekday meal. I find that acorn squash isn’t too sweet and it takes on whatever flavor you combine it with, which makes it very versatile! For a vegetarian version, I think soy chorizo would be great in these.

Although the acorn takes 30-35 minutes to cook, the rest of the dish takes minutes to prepare. It could be a good idea to cook the squash the night before and just prepare everything the following day. Check out my Instagram page for more photos here.

Prep time: 40-45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time:  50 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients: 

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved down the middle, seeds removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 sausage links
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • Optional- red pepper flakes
    1. Heat oven to 375¬į. Cut a thin slice off round side of each squash half to create a stable base. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; coat with cooking spray.
    2. Place squash flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil; bake until golden and tender, 30-35 minutes.
    3. Remove from oven and set aside.
    4. Heat broiler.
    5. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Add sausage, onion, garlic and chicken stock. Cook 5-7 minutes.
    6. Fill squash bowls with sausage and kale mixture. Sprinkle panko and parmesan
    7. Broil until panko is golden, 2- minutes.
    8. Enjoy!

Top 5 Kid-Friendly Brunch Spots

(See collaborating post here with Fab Food Chicago)

One of my favorite weekend activities to do in Chicago is to try different brunch spots around town. But after I had my son, my brunch requirements changed. I didn’t want to stop going, but needed to find accommodating places. A children’s menu with lots options (or at least something kid friendly on the menu), good service and a welcoming atmosphere are all qualities I look for now. With so many brunch places in Chicago, I have narrowed it down to the top 5 kid friendly brunches in the city.

Stella Barra

Located in Lincoln Park, Stella Barra is connected to Summer House and serves an All You Can Eat Chef Inspired Brunch for $19.95 for adults and kids under 12 eat free. There are so many options for the adults and children. They have pancakes, French Toast (my son’s personal favorite), house made cinnamon buns, biscuits and gravy, chilaquiles (this is a must) yogurt parfaits and so on. Mimosas and Bellini’s are $5 dollars as well. The service has always been great; giving children crayons, coloring menus and very accommodating on seating. There is also stroller parking in front and lots of dining space. Great food and service really make this place kid friendly. They also take reservations.

Stella AYCE brunch- kid friendly brunch

AYCE Brunch-Photo @StellaBarra

TIP: They have an outdoor patio in the back with lots of seating for large groups.

Location: Lincoln Park || 1954 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 634-4101

Cornerstone Café

With two locations, Lincoln Park and Logan Square, this diner is the first brunch we ever brought our son to. This casual café is an easy diner to bring children of all ages for breakfast or an early lunch. It is a great value, friendly service and have breakfast and lunch served daily. 

Friendly brunch spots at Cornerstone Cafe

Brunch-Photo @tjs_grams

They open at 7am and you can find lots of children and families there. They are very accommodating with seating and strollers and will make you feel right at home. They have plenty of sweet and savory options, with delicious pancakes and French toast for children and a variety of omelette options for the adults, all large portion sizes. Their corned beef hash and sweet potato fries are great options for brunch too. Service is fast, friendly and the food is all worth checking out. They do not take reservations, so I recommend going early.

TIP: The Logan Square location is BYOB.

Location: 

Logan Square || 2753 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 235-1155

Lincoln Park || 2200 N. Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 270- 4343

Knife and Tine

Knife and Tine was a place I was initially hesitant to bring my son. It is small and rather intimate, but I cannot say enough about their service and willingness to work with you and your children. And of course, the food. I have been several times with my son for happy hour, dinner and brunch, and each time, the food and service go beyond expectations. I have even dined by myself with my son and they have been extremely helpful. They will help you with the stroller, seating accommodations, and even give your little ones a box of Legos, stickers and crayons with coloring sheets. For the adults, the shrimp and grits with scrambled eggs is amazing. It is made with white cheddar and apple smoked bacon. For the children, they have banana pancakes, French toast, grilled cheese and other fun dishes. The food is incredible, service is very good every time. They also take reservations.

Pumpkin spice French toast#knifeandtine #breakfastlover #frenchtoast #foodlife #pumpkinspice

Pumpkin Spice French Toast-Photo by @tymtrouble

TIP: They have delicious coffee cocktails.

Location: Lincoln Park ||1417 N. Fullerton, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 697- 8311

Wishbone

This Lakeview and West Loop Southern comfort restaurant is great for any meal, but the perfect place to bring your family for brunch. The crab cake benedict, red eggs and their biscuits are delicious. Definitely don’t skip the biscuits, they are some of the best I have ever had. You can also ask for a side of honey.

For children, my son loved the strawberry pancakes. He devoured them. There are other options like eggs, grits and mac and cheese for children. All the portions are large and easily could be shared.

The service is friendly, fast and accommodating. There is lots of dining space for you and your family. They do take reservations, but only for parties of 6 or more on the weekends.

om nom nom nom ūüôĆūüŹĺ Belgium waffles are my favorite, halleloo lordt.

Belgium Waffles-Photo by @mochiibear

TIP: One Free entree from the Kids menu for every regular adult breakfast (must be ordered by 9 am)

Location: 

Lakeview ||3300 N Lincoln Ave||, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 549-2663

West Loop ||1001 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL || P: (312) 850-2663  

Kingsbury Street Cafe

This Near North Side upscale diner has extremely good food, innovative dishes and fast service. The menu has items like lemon pancakes, shrimp egg white frittata, and salmon hash. One of their most well known dishes is the Piggy Moo Cluck Sandwich, which is eggs, ham, bacon and cheese served on ciabatta bread. It’s amazing and not your average brunch sandwich. They serve some really delicious coffee and brunch cocktails to accompany the food.

Friendly brunch spots with my son at Kingsbury Cafe

Lemon Pancakes-Photo by @TopChicagoEats

For the children’s menu, it isn‚Äôt extensive, but they have typical items like pancakes and chicken fingers. However, many of the items on the adult menu could be shared with children, even for the pickiest eaters. My son and I shared the lemon pancakes and we both loved them.

This cafe is great weekend brunch with a fun, lively vibe with a little something for the entire family. It does get very busy on the weekends. I would highly recommend reservations.

TIP: They sell pastries to go.

Location: Near North Side||1523 N Kingsbury St||, Chicago, IL || P: (312) 280-1718

Until next time,

Christine

7 Last Minute Family Friendly Holiday Activities

The holidays are pretty much here. The season goes by so fast with parties, events, shopping, etc. It’s hard to experience it together as a family. But it’s not too late to get out there and enjoy some festive activities throughout the city as a family. I rounded out some events that are still happening and some of our own personal favs. Enjoy!

1. NutcrackerРThe Joffrey Ballet is running Nutcracker from now until December 30th. Tickets run from $35 to $100 dollars. You can also find them on Stub Hub here.

2. Chicago Trolley & Double Decker- Holiday Lights Tour- Experience the magic of the holidays with Chicago’s most spectacular light displays at the city’s most popular destinations.

holiday lights tour on Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Tour. Makes a great holiday gift for Chicago Families

Photo Courtesy Chicago Trolley

This tour is great for even Chicagoans that want to enjoy the holiday lights as a family out of the cold. As a bonus, A FREE holiday cupcake from Sprinkles is given to all riders. Tours are running now until December 23rd, 2017. Adult tickets are $29 dollars and Kid’s tickets are $18 dollars (ages 5-15). Reservations are highly recommended due to the popularity of the tour. You can make reservations here.

3. Holiday Market- Randolph Street MarketРThe market is a unique shopping experience for the whole family. There are unique gifts from thrifty to extravaganza. It is December 16-17 from 10am-5pm. This is an indoor market with free parking onsite. They have a $30 dollar family package that includes 2 adults/drinks (wine, beer, champagne) and up to 4 kids plus a kids snack (online special only) You would definitely find a gift for even the pickiest shopper on your list.

Image result for randolph holiday market

Photo Courtesy Randolph Street Market

4.¬†Caroling at the Cloud Gate-¬† Get ready to sing¬†some holiday classics during Caroling at Cloud Gate. This festive series is part concert, part sing-along at¬†Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean” on Fridays, through December 15 from 6-7pm. Weather permitting.

5. White Christmas at Music Box TheaterРIn its 34th year, this annual tradition brings the family together at the Music Box theater to see Santa Claus, sing along and watch a holiday classic. Santa welcomes the audience and, accompanied by Music Box organist Dennis Scott, leads them in the sing along to the most cherished Christmas carols. The lyrics are projected onto the theater’s screen so no one misses a chance to sing their hearts out. Then, the audience gets to enjoy a Christmas movie classic.

6.¬†Christkindlmarket- Park at Wrigley –¬†We have enjoyed many family friendly activities at the Park at Wrigley since it opened this year like movies, Green City Market, and live music for children. But now it is turned into a winter wonderland perfect for any age. I found this to be a little easier to navigate with little ones compared to the Daley Plaza Market, especially if you have a stroller or with several children. ¬†There is ice skating and rentals are available, lots of food options and unique shopping. Santa does make an appearance on Saturdays (and it is inside!) It runs now until December 31st, with ice skating until February 2018.

Sweet treats at the Park at Wrigley. Makes a great activity to do with the family

Photo Courtesy of Alex @sassyconfetti

7.¬†Santa Suite at Swissotel–¬† One of the best things we did as a family this holiday season was our first Santa visit at the Swissotel. On the 41st floor, in a 5 room Presidential Suite, it is completely transformed into a winter wonderland experience. The space is decorated with twelve Christmas trees, a table set for Santa, and even a station to write letters to the North Pole.

Santa Suite at the Swissotel is a great way to spend the holidays with the family

Writing Letters to the North Pole

They also have different pop up shops, including floral crowns from Crowning Event.

Christine

A Gift Guide for the Wine Lover

Copy of Red Illustrated Gift Guides Blog Graphic (8).png

Luxury Combed Cotton "Bring Me Some Wine" Novelty Socks - Perfect Hostess or Housewarming Gift Idea for Women, Funny Secret Santa, or Unisex White Elephant Gift Idea for a Wine Lover1. These socks are not only perfect for the wine lover, but they make a great hostess or friends grab bag gift. They are under $15 and you can find them here.

2. Do you have that one friend who loves to bring their wine in the tub or shower? It sounds crazy, but these people exist and I know several. Find it here.wine holder makes a great gift this holiday for the tub or bath

3. Wine labels make the perfect hostess gift. I bought some for Thanksgiving and the host loved it. Buy the wine, stick a label on it and your gift is done!

 

 

 

option 1

wine labels make the perfect holiday gift

option 2

3. These durable, shatterproof wine glasses are cute, but a practical gift for those wine lovers that bring their drinks to go. Great for movies in the park or those long stroller walks around the neighborhood. It also comes with a bag to easily transport your wine and glasses. Click here.

 

These are shatterproof wine glasses and make a great gift this holiday season

4. Who doesn’t love a good pun and wine? These wine glasses are great for those on your list with a little sense of humor. Dishwasher safe with a chip resistant edge, they make a great gift. Click¬†here.¬†

wine glasses that make a great gift this holiday season. They are funny and dishwasher safe

5. I am being a little selfish here because I just ordered this for myself. It makes the perfect housewarming gift for any wine lover. It holds the wine bottles, glasses AND the corks. It is available in “WINE” or “HOME”. Click¬†here.

wine holder that holds bottles, glasses, and corks. Makes the perfect housewarming gift