3 Fall Recipes using Philadelphia Cream Cheese

It’s no secret that I have a love affair with cream cheese. I share it often on my Instagram. One cream cheese brand I like is Philadelphia Cream Cheese because of its creaminess and how many different options there are. Since we are mid fall, there are so many recipes you can use that capture all the fall vibes. They have a pumpkin spread that I have been meaning to try! Over the past month, I have used them to create a breakfast toast, a snack and even pasta. That’s pretty much all the best things right?

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Recipe: Rice, Asparagus, and Chickpea Skillet

This is one of those recipes I have just thrown together a few times. How did it come about? Honestly, from throwing things together from my fridge and trying to get Noah to eat more veggies. He is in the prime toddler years and veggies are not his favorite (you can read more about that here). It’s also a vegetarian meal, but you could always add a protein like chicken or shrimp.

It’s really fast and a great weekday meal when you need to put dinner together in a rush. Just ready in 15 minutes! Let me know what you guys think…

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A Stroll down Southport Corridor (adults only)

The Southport Corridor may be known for strollers, moms and boutiques, but recently, there has been a surge in places for adults to play. So ditch those strollers, grab a glass of wine, and take a peek into some adult friendly places popping up on the Southport Corridor.

Coda Di Volpe-  Boasting Southern Italian fare like pizza, steak and seafood, they are most known for their Neapolitan pizza that comes with a side scissors to cut your own slices. Chef Thompson brings his own flair with a seasonal menu, house-cured meats, along with a contemporary vibe that all creates a great spot on Southport.

Coda has a great wine list (award winning in fact) and a creative cocktail menu.  As for starters, my absolute favorite appetizer is the goat cheese with beets appetizer (I am not sure this is on the menu anymore, sigh…) and the pork & prosciutto Meatballs.

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Goat Cheese and Beets Appetizer

Next, pizza! The Funghi and Diavolo pizza are both delicious, but really, they all look fantastic.  Thompson crafts traditional VPN-certified Neapolitan pizzas served with authentic pizza shears that adds an element of fun to the dining experience.

Next up, pasta. All the pastas are made in-house and available gluten free upon request. A stand out dish is the Trombette Trapanese made with Coda’s fennel sausage, tomato, almond, garlic, and basil. It’s also just beautiful to look at.

They are also now serve brunch on the weekend. It’s perfect for date night or a night out with the ladies.

Ella Elli- The newest addition to the 4 star restaurant group, is the wine bar, Ella Elli. This sexy, romantic spot is so swanky, I felt like I had been transported downtown to a fancy hotel in River North. The over sized lanterns, fireplace and couches, make for THE perfect date night spot.

 The wine list is extensive, but Pinot Noir Rose by Willamette Valley really paired nicely with our cheese board.  We also tried the creamy mushroom toast with creme faiche and thyme, this would make me come back. Everything is presented beautifully and our server paired everything really well with our wine.

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Ella Elli

They have pizza great for sharing, pasta and burgers. The burger is supposed to be outstanding, as well as their brunch menu  When I visited, we shared the charcuterie  and toasts, which really can be a meal in itself. Next time, the burger is on my list.

If you need a date night, Ella Elli should absolutely be on your list.

Tied House– Just opening in February 2018, this is brand new on Southport. The reviews are rolling in and everything about Tied House has been outstanding.

Schubas Tavern has been around for three decades, and now there is a new addition  with the opening of Tied House, the owners’ new restaurant next door. The modern architecture and the courtyard that separates the restaurant from Schubas with a giant outdoor fireplace just dazzles from the inside and out.

Schubas will continue to have the same menu, Tied House’s chef, Debbie Gold (who happens to be  James Beard Award-winning chef) to create her own menu, including short rib, crudo, porridge with beets and house made ice cream.

Tied House will be perfect for pre and post concerts and is a great addition to the area looking for more “adult” friendly dining.

With so many options now on Southport, there is really something for everyone.

Until next time.

Christine

 

My Favorite BYO Spots in the City

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BYO (bring your own booze, beer or wine) is one of those great restaurant qualities that  I look for when dining out. It’s cheaper (usually), much more casual and a great place to dine with groups. Chicago has an abundance of BYO options ranging from casual to upscale dining, so I have rounded up a list of my favorite spots throughout the city. If you have any favorites I should try, send suggestions my way!

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Valentine’s Day: The Family Way

Before having our son, my husband and I rarely went out on Valentine’s Day. It’s so much more fun to stay in and cook a big meal of all our favorites (and also a lot cheaper!). Now with a toddler, we still celebrate with a home cooked meal, but it’s slightly different. If you are staying in with your family, I put together an easy meal for you with a fast cleanup that you and your family to enjoy together this Valentine’s Day.

Drink- Shirley Temples

One of my favorite drinks to order as a child was a Shirley Temple. I always felt so grown up. To be honest, I occasionally still order them. This makes the perfect Valentine’s Day drink because kids love it, it’s festive and adults even make it more “adult” like if they’d like 🙂  I prefer using tall plastic SOLO cups because really, kids and glassware just don’t mix.

IMG_1512.JPGIngredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle Grenadine
  • Ice
  • 1 (2 Liter) bottle lemon-lime soda
  • Maraschino cherries for garnish

Instructions

  1. Pour 1 ounce Grenadine over ice in a glass.
  2. Top with 8 ounces lemon-lime soda.
  3. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Shirley Temple Recipe using SOLO cups for Valentine's Day

Shirley Temple Recipe using SOLO cups for Valentine's Day

Main Dish- Pizza with Heart Shaped Pepperoni

Heart shaped pizza is such a fun Valentine’s Day dinner, but to save time on making it, why not just buy your favorite pizza and make heart shaped pepperoni? It’s easy and you can do it together.

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

You can use a cookie cutter, but I just used scissors and cut the pepperoni into heart shapes.

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Heat it up and serve on SOLO plates. These can later serve as crafts for your kids to color and make their own hearts!

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Dessert- Cake “Fondue”

Now, for the best part, dessert. Instead of the traditional cheese fondue, replace the cheese with frosting. This cake “fondue” is so fun to dip your mini cake pops into different icings and everyone customize their own Valentine’s Day treat.

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Ingredients

  • 1 box Funfetti cake and cupcake mix
  • Sprinkles of your choice
  • Cookie sticks (quantity depends on how many you want to make)
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Fruit of your choice (I like pineapple with cream cheese frosting!)
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Pink, purple, red and white gel food colors
  • Mini cupcake liners
  • SOLO bowls with lids
  • SOLO plates

Instructions

  1. Bake the mini cupcakes according to the instructions on the box
  2. While baking, make your frosting colors in the SOLO bowls.
  3. Let the cupcakes cool for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Place the mini cupcakes on the cookie sticks
  5. Dip away!

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

For the leftover frosting, stick a lid on the bowl and place in the fridge.

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day meal with your loved one!

Until next time,

Christine

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

Back to the Basics: Grassroots Eatery

There are several places to eat on Southport Corridor in Chicago. But there isn’t one that can truly claim they are farm-to-table. And to be honest, that terms gets thrown around so much now. But what does it actually mean? At Grassroots Eatery at 3747 N Southport Ave, they are a neighborhood eatery serving American contemporary farm-to-table dishes. Everything is sourced from local and Southwest Michigan Farms. All the produce and protein is hand selected by the owner at places like Kaminski Farm in Three Oaks, Michigan and produce from Frank Farms in Berrien, Michigan. Additionally, they grow their own herbs, tomatoes, and kale. There is nothing more farm-to-table than that.

Some stand out dishes on the dinner menu is the pork chop. It is a 10 oz organic, Iowa raised pork chop served with roasted sweet potatoes and pickled Red Haven peaches.

Or the cheeseburger from Kaminki Farm that is 14 day dry aged house ground beef with a tomato jam and apple smoked bacon. One of my personal favorites is the buffalo cauliflower and house-made mac & cheese with an option to add mushrooms, bacon or lobster. Absolutely fantastic.

Mac & Cheese at Grassroots Eatery on Southport

Mac & Cheese

Buffalo Caullflower from Grassroots Eatery on Southport in Chicago

Buffalo Cauliflower

They also serve several local beer, spirits and wine. The Pinot Noir from Dablon Winery (learn more about this winery here.) is delicious and the Smoke & Spice cocktail with mescal and jalapeno was perfect.

Smoke & Spice Cocktail from Grassroots Eatery on Southport

Smoke & Spice Cocktail

What I also like about Grassroots is the kids menu. Too many times have we dined with Noah and the only options are either cheese pizza or chicken nuggets. Not nutritious for him at all. What’s unique is they are offer the same organic and free range food like the regular menu. Even the cheeseburger on the kids menu is a 14 day aged ground beef patty. Best part, all kids meals are $6 dollars.

They serve weekend brunch that includes $15 dollar bottomless mimosas and $5 dollar bloody mary’s. Other specials during the week are 1/2 price bottles on wine on Wednesdays and a daily 3 course pre-fix menu for $27 dollars.

Avocado Toast- Brunch Menu at Grassroots eatery

Avocado Toast- Brunch Menu

Chicken and Waffles- Brunch Menu at Grassroots Eatery on Southport

Chicken and Waffles- Brunch Menu

It is definitely a place you can take your family, head to brunch with friends or out on a date night (a great location because it is attached to Mercury Theater and next to the Music Box). Try getting back to the basics and enjoy a true farm-to-table meal at the approachable Grassroots Eatery.

Let me know what you think.

Until next time,

Christine

5 things to take your Turkey Day to the next level

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, there are a lot of things we need to do. Whether it is cooking, creating the right place setting or finding the perfect hostess gift, Thanksgiving can be overwhelming. I have rounded out some great recipes and fun gift ideas to make your Turkey Day a little more enjoyable with your family and friends.

Beet Bruschetta with Lavender- Vanilla Honey Drizzle

IMG_0156 (1)I don’t know what says more than Thanksgiving than beets. It’s like a must right? So why not take those beets and turn them into something fun that everyone would like?! This recipe is from the Ryanne, the blogger at Pineappple Expression. Her stuff is always amazing and under 40 minutes, it is sure to be a serious crowd pleaser.

Prep and Assembly time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes Prep
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 French baguette loaf of bread
  • 1 (5.02 oz) small package of Boursin Cheese (garlic and herbs flavor is best)
  • 1 medium sized red beet
  • 1 package of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lavender
  • 1/2 of a vanilla bean
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • kosher salt

Directions:

  1. First, preheat the oven to 375F.  Peel and slice the beet into 1/4 slices.  Place the slices on a roasting pan and toss with a light drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of thyme.  Roast the beets for 30 minutes, but flip after 15 for a more even cook.  When the beets are done, pull from the oven and let them cool.
  2. While the beets cool, slice the bread as you would for bruschetta.  Coat lightly with olive oil and place in the oven under the broiler for a maximum of 5 minutes.  The slices should still be soft, but have a nice golden color to the tops.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the honey, lavender and vanilla bean (scrape the insides out to produce the black flecks) along with the apple cider vinegar.   I love this combo!!
  4. After the beets have cooled, chop into cubes as evenly as you can.  1/4 inch on each side.  First cut into strips, then rotate the knife as you move through.
  5. To assemble the toasts, use a butter knife to spread a layer of Boursin cheese onto each slice of bread.   Next, crumble on a small mountain of the roasted beets.  Using a spoon, drizzle a little bit of the honey mixture over the tops of each toast.  Sprinkle with some coarse kosher salt or flaky sea salt on top.   For more pizzazz, use the sprigs of thyme to garnish the plate.
  6. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Wine Bottle Labels

Whether you are bringing wine or serving it, these Thanksgiving themed labels would get a good laugh from all your guests at the table. A set of 4 is $8.89 and available on Prime. Perfect for all wine lovers. Find them here.

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Skinny Pumpkin Bars

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Whether a pre-dinner snack or a dessert, these pumpkin bars are delicious.  They are not overly pumpkin and the chocolate chips are a great addition. My son devoured three in one day (he’s 20 months) and I am not going to even tell you how many I ate…..

Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 50 mins
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened (I tried margarine. It doesn’t taste the same)
  • 2 eggs and 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 (15oz) can All Natural mashed pumpkin (I like Trader Joes and Aldi)
  • ¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

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 Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt; set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugars; mix until creamy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time; beating and scraping bowl with each addition.
  6. Add egg whites; mix until fluffy.
  7. Add applesauce and pumpkin; mix until all blended together
  8. Add dry ingredients all at once and mix until thick consistency.
  9. Add in mini chocolate chips.
  10. Evenly spread into prepared cookie sheet.
  11. Bake 23-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  12. Cool and enjoy 🙂

Thanksgiving T-shirt- Turkey, Wine and Feeling Fine

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Ok, I know this technically doesn’t go on the table, but how cute is this t-shirt? And pretty accurate right? Thanksgiving is about turkey, wine and RELAXING. It is available for men and women.

It is $17.99 and available on Prime. You can find it here.

Thanksgiving Party Boxes

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I really like these party boxes for either your adult guests or a nice addition to your kids table. It can be filled with candy from a candy bar, leftovers or desserts to go, it is a cute way for your guests to leave with something special from the day.  For a set of 12, it is $11.04 and available on Prime. You can find them here.

However you are celebrating, I hope you have a blessed day with friends and family, because in the end, that’s all that matters.

Until next time,

Christine

Chicago Gourmet Recap: 5 products I discovered

Chicago Gourmet is one of those events I had been wanting to attend for a long time. I finally had the opportunity and was thrilled to be among the best chefs, restaurants and brands in the world. Lucky for me, it was extra special because Chicago Gourmet was celebrating their 10th anniversary.

The week long event is thrown by the Illinois Restaurant Association along with the title sponsor Bon Appetit magazine every year in Millennium Park. It brings together renowned chefs, restaurants and wine and spirits. There are tastings, book signings, cooking demos, and wine and cocktail seminars throughout the event. It is truly a “foodie” experience.

This was my first year attending and it will not be my last. I sampled everything from Thai food, types of honey, wine, sliders, charcuterie, truffle mac & cheese and so on. I left discovering so many products I fell in love with. Even a few from brands I have never heard of. Read more at Restaurants & Recipes

Old is New Again: The Berghoff

My parents grew up going to The Berghoff in downtown Chicago. Most Chicagoan’s probably have. I used to go as a kid, but the last time I was there, I was in high school. In fact, I thought for the longest time it was closed. Recently, I had the opportunity to dine and tour the restaurant and was so impressed. Not only because of the history, but the revival of the menu.  The Berghoff is known for their German food like Weiner Schnitzel’s, bratwursts and giant Bavarian pretzels. Of course, those dishes are legendary, but there are new additions to the menu that are more modern and appealing to a younger generation. More contemporary dishes that even include certified gluten-free options. But first, let me tell you about the history and how it all began. 

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The Berghoff has been around since 1898, and is rich in Chicago history.  Herman Berghoff posted right outside the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893, similar to a pop-up cafe. His success from that, is how he made enough money to bring his family to Chicago and open his cafe.  

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End of Prohibition- 1935 (Photo Courtesy of The Berghoff)

During the prohibition, the bar remained opened by selling a “Near Beer” which contained less than 0.5% alcohol. This made it possible for Herman to sell and stay open. After prohibition ended, The Berghoff was issued Chicago’s first Liquor License. Chicago has honored this every year and they will always receive the first license.

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The Berghoff had a separate men’s only bar until 1969, when Gloria Steinem demanded service and this ended the male-only streak.

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Now for the food. We sampled a lot of everything, some classic dishes and contemporary ones. I also had the opportunity to meet Chef Matt and Chef Javier. Their love for not only the food, but their passion for working at the restaurant shined through. They have been at the restaurant for years and are dedicated to making great food. Chef Matt went into detail on how everything is made in house. With a bakery and 4 kitchens in the 50,000 square feet space, everything is made on site. That is something unique and many Chicago restaurants can’t claim. To take a closer look at the behind the scenes in the bakery, look here.

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With all that being said, my top 3 dishes are:

3. Red Velvet Cake- I am not usually one for dessert or sweets in general, but this red velvet cake is fluffy with the right amount of sweetness. Served with a side of vanilla ice cream, this dessert will make anyone go out of their way to dine here.

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2. Braised Short Ribs- This is fantastic. Melts in your mouth good. Served with a side of mashed potatoes and topped with fried onions. The textures are just right. Perfect comfort food during the cooler months.

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1.Butternut Squash Lasagna- Layered with diced butternut squash and Manchego, then topped with grilled asparagus and glazed walnuts, it is outstanding. The combination of the sweetness from the squash with the cheese is perfect. It is light enough to eat year-round and vegetarians should go crazy over it. Definitely a stand out dish.

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The Berghoff is also known for Oktoberfest. This runs from September 7th- October 7th. With live music and food specials, it will put you in the mood for the fall festivities ahead.

Whether you are from Chicago or here to visit, The Berghoff is a must stop for great food and some Chicago history.

Until next time…

Christine