Pretzel granola bars

Granola Bar 4

As you know, we’re roughing it this weekend in Wisconsin with some friends – and yes, by roughing it I mean sleeping in beds in a multi-bedroom cabin in the woods with running water, electricity and wifi.  Sue us – we like nice things!  True also, we have plans to tube down rivers, jetski in lakes and swim our little hearts out, so I figured we might need a snack.

These pretzel granola bars seemed perfect: fortified with flaxseed and wheat flour and sweetened with chocolate and peanut butter, I hoped they would be a total crowd pleaser.  And they’re portable – enough said!  I found this recipe on howsweeteats.com and knew it was the one for me.  Money-saving tip: buy whole flaxseed kernels – not only can you use them in a number of other dishes, but it tends to be cheaper to buy them whole and grind ‘em up in your trusty (if not dirty!) coffee grinder.

Pretzel Granola Bars (www.howsweeteats.com)

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup puffed rice cereal

1 cup crushed salted pretzels

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon honey (agave should work too)

2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, combine oats, flour, puffed cereal, pretzels, brown sugar, peanuts, and flaxseed, and stir to combine. Add in peanut butter, and mix with a spoon to break it up and create a “dough,” mixing it in as much as you can for at least 5 minutes. Mix melted butter with vanilla extract and add to dough, then mix. Add in honey and stir to moisten completely. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with non-stick spray and press the dough into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove and let cool completely before cutting – there may be minimal crumbling but they should hold together completely. If you find they are crumbling, stick them in the fridge to chill for a few minutes and try again.

Granola Bar 5

Granola Bar 3

Granola Bar 2

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Chicago’s Food Truck Frenzy

 

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Chicago has an amazing food and restaurant scene – we are undoubtedly a world-class city in terms of our culinary offerings for residents and visitors. However, Chicago does make a habit of passing some baffling legislation in this area. Remember the foie gras ban? (Apparently California is going through this now. Sorry, guys!)

When I went to Austin last year to visit a good friend, I realized how much was missing from my life: food trucks! I ate breakfast tacos, kebabs, brisket tacos, cake pops, shrimp tacos… and then I went back for the genius culinary creation that is FRIED AVOCADO tacos. Chicago has long had standing ordinances making it pretty much impossible for food trucks to exist. In recent years, savvy entrepreneurs have gotten around some of this by preparing the food off-site and selling it from the trucks. Some seriously awesome eats have come from these wheels – Southern Mac & Cheese, Haute Sausage and Flirty Cupcakes are all staples in my book.

Wednesday, however, was a huge leap forward in terms of getting us up to par – though still pretty heavily regulated, Chicago passed an ordinance that allows food trucks to prepare on board. This means taco trucks are just around the corner, guys! Fried avocado tacos! You have no idea. I’ve been jipped all these years and I am hell bent on making up for it as soon as humanly possible.

Though they’ve won the battle, the food trucks have yet to win the war. Being able to cook on board is a huge coup, but there’s a few frustrating provisions that came along with this, most notably that a truck can’t be parked within 200 feet of an operating restaurant. There are provisions for dedicated truck stands in some key neighborhoods: Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Near North, Near West, West Town and the Loop.  But outside of that, if you’re hoping to get your paws on some late night grub, that’s going to mean walking a bit in areas heavily populated with restaurants. The restaurants argue that they’re paying taxes, so they shouldn’t have food trucks leeching off of their foot traffic. But duh, it’s a totally different experience. If I’m dressed up to go out to dinner on Hubbard Street and there’s a falafel truck hanging out outside, I’m not about to ditch my plans for a nice evening complete with an air conditioning, seating, service and bathrooms for a quick pita. It’s a totally different experience, and its disappointing that Chicago restaurants aren’t more supportive of the community as a whole.

Alderman John Arena helpfully threw out arguably the best metaphor of all time on this topic, stating, “The brick and mortar restaurant lobby got ahold of (the plan) and it was stuffed with protectionism and baked in the oven of paranoia.”

Stuffed and baked as the plan may be, I’m personally pretty excited for this step towards righteousness… bring on the tacos.

The Velvet Mani

About 90% of the time, I have nude fingernails, and red toesies. There’s a big change up once a year: in spring and summer, my pedicure is an orange-y red and fall and winter means a more classic red. Watch out, world!

Boring, I know. But while I may stick with the classics, I find all of these crazy manicures lately so interesting. Remember the magnetic mani? The shatter? The caviar?

Now, we welcome the Velvet Mani. The British nail polishier (totally not a word) Ciate created small kits so that you too can have velvet-like nails. Available for $19 at Sephora, apparently its a fairly easy process. Just polish, sprinkle crushed velvet powder over each nail, then brush off the excess – et voila! Fuzzy nails.

Someone please do this so I can see this in real life and my boring nails and I can pet your nails.

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Emily Maynard Fashion – Part Deux!

I know there have been a lot of differing opinions on the outcome of the season, but I love Emily and one-F Jef together. I think I really turned a corner in my opinion on one-F Jef after that whole puppet thing – while I know that expressing feelings via dolls on strings sounds like a total creepshow, they just looked like they had so much fun together!

“I really like your nail polish.” “Oh, thanks. I’m never going to change it.”

Anyway. I’m going to miss seeing what she wears every week, that’s for sure.  Whatever your feelings may be on her final decision, she did not disappoint (me, at least!)  in the fashion department. Between the dates, the rose ceremonies and her media appearances – I am seriously coveting her entire wardrobe. Here were some of my favorites:

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Honey Chipotle BBQ Chicken Tacos

 

BBQ chicken tacos_1

Has anyone ever heard of Ms. P’s Electric Cock?  Hysterical and controversial name aside, I watched her cook the most delicious looking fried chicken on the Cooking Channel the other day, and have been craving chicken since.  Since I don’t think my frying skills could quite match hers, and since I hadn’t perfected her “fry that chicken!” chant, I decided to go the bbq route.  Barbeque is such a quintessential summer flavor and these tacos – with a bit of spicy chipotle heat, the creaminess of the avocado and the bite of the lime – could be the quintessential way to enjoy the classic sauce.

Honey Chipotle Barbeque Sauce

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 1 pinch ground pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  This sauce requires no cooking – just refrigerate until ready to use!

I used a slow cooker to slowly stew a few boneless skinless chicken thighs and breasts in the sauce and shredded the cooled chicken.  I mixed a light coleslaw of chopped cabbage and poppyseed salad dressing and chopped a bit of lime and avocado.  I toasted corn tortillas in a lightly oiled pan for a few minutes until they were warm, chewy and absolutely delicious.  My only regret was a slight grocery shopping mishap that haunted me every bite – no cilantro for topping!

BBQ chicken tacos_2

BBQ chicken tacos_3

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boho rhapsody

Don’t me wrong, I usually make fun of hippies as a rule, but this summer I’m finding myself faily obsessed with the classic boho style.  I suppose that phrase almost contradicts itself – possibly the most interesting aspect of boho style is the sheer variety of accessories, stylings and pairings.  A bit of inspiration from pinterest below…

Black and white tatoo idea airplane

Black and White girl in bandana

Black and White rocker

Follow that dream parkway

Black and White sunglasses

fishtail braid

Hippy Van picture

images via pinterest

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Friday

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There are all different kinds of blogs, and we intend this blog to provide a quick distraction from everyday life with pretty pictures, recipes, or stories. But it seems wrong to ignore what a heartbreaking day today is after so many people lost their lives trying to get their own little moment of escape.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families in Colorado.

If you read one thing today, A Life to Bragg About reblogged a really touching entry by a military wife and mom describing her husband’s third deployment. Especially on days like today, its impossible to imagine sending your loved ones away to protect the lives we live and the country that allows it, but so many women and men do just that.

What a crazy world. Be safe,

Spiced Lamb with Moroccan Couscous

Our mama made the most amazing grilled lamb this weekend at home, and while we’re a family of healthy appetites, the entire wheel of brie consumed before dinner stopped us cold from getting anywhere near finishing it off. Not an entirely awful problem to have.

I ended up bringing the rest of the lamb home with me, and my mom said, “I hope you do something fun with it for the blog – make lamb and couscous or something fun!”

So I did. I’ve been running around all week and it felt so nice to come home, blast some music, have a glass of wine and actually make myself a good – really good! – dinner.

Spiced Lamb with Moroccan Couscous

  • 1.5 C dry whole wheat couscous
  • 1.5 C and 1/2 C low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 C chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 green onions, ends and tips removed, chopped
  • 1 C shredded carrot
  • 1/4 C black mission figs
  • Dried or fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 C cooked lamb, cut into 1″ pieces*
  • 1 T Chinese 5 spice
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 T coriander
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  1. Bring 1.5 C chicken broth to a boil, add couscous and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Saute chopped onion and garlic in 1 T olive oil until translucent and aromatic.
  3. Pour remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth into pan with onions and garlic, add shredded carrots and green onions. Stir and cover for 5 minutes, leaving a small crack for steam to escape.
  4. Season meat with cumin, Chinese 5-spice powder and coriander. Saute lamb in olive oil until heated through. Remove from heat and let rest.
  5. Mix couscous with vegetable mixture and stir in chopped figs.
  6. Serve lamb atop bed of couscous, topped with Greek Yogurt.

*I lucked out with the lamb already grilled to perfection, but if I were to start from scratch, I’d chop the lamb and marinate in olive oil and the spices for a few hours before skewering and grilling to medium.