A Day Trip to Chicago

One of my favorite parts about Madison is its vicinity to Chicago. As a young girl I always dreamed of one day living in Chicago so I could be near the American Girl store downtown (Now though, there are soooo many more locations than just the Chicago store. Not. Fair.)

But there are many more things to do and explore in the city than just the American Girl store. So my boyfriend Jorge and I packed our bags for the weekend to stay with our friends in Chicago before we make our final move this week to New York.

There’s just something purely blissful about going downtown with no agenda, sunny weather and a full day of nothing-ness. And that’s exactly what we had on Saturday. We took the train down with our friends just in time to catch lunch in the city.

IMG_8725IMG_8726

For those of you (much like me) who had never heard of the restaurant Vapiano, it’s a must. Technically, it’s an international chain. But I’d never heard of it, and we had the most amazing lunch there. I got a ricotta and spinach ravioli and Jorge got a Diavolo pizza with fresh bell pepper. Both were made FRESH right in front of us in a matter of minutes. And for a lunch in downtown Chicago, it was surprisingly (and thankfully) cheap.

IMG_8735
Following lunch, we made a beeline for Millennium park to walk around in the sunshine, see the bean and, of course, make a stop for some Italian ice (watermelon, strawberry and lemon, please!) We finished off the afternoon with a long walk around the lake and up the river on the river walk. I still can’t believe we’re leaving this city behind. But, hey, New York is even better. And it’s only a few days away.

FullSizeRender

7 Days of Lemon Water

I’ve always seen claims that warm lemon water in the morning is one of the best things you can do for your body. And with a simple Pinterest or Google search, you’ll find endless posts that claim that lemon water provides endless health benefits both inside and out. Although I was always drawn to these claims (and, I have to admit, I LOVE citrus), I could never hop on board the lemon water train with all the craziness and instability of a school schedule.

IMG_0829

Following my graduation  a few weeks ago, I decided to start my journey with lemon water. As my boyfriend likes to remind me, it takes 21 days to create a habit, but even after 7 days of my lemon water test, I am here to tell you that I am already reaping the benefits.

Here are some of the claims that Pinterest posts and blogs will try to tell you about the benefits of warm lemon water.

  • Detoxifies the body
  • Alkalizes the body
  • Hydrates lymphatic system
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Fights bad breath
  • Hydrates body
  • Prevents UTIs
  • Improves digestive health
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Balances pH levels
  • Replaces caffeine
  • Creates happier, cleaner skin
  • Boosts immune system
  • Relieves respiratory problems
  • Boosts levels of Vitamin C
  • Reduces heart burn
  • Purifies blood
  • Boosts brain power
  • Improves liver function
  • Boosts mineral absorption

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0816

From my novel experience, these are the benefits I’ve actually experienced:

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.22.03 PM

It’s amazing how much I felt energized after drinking only a cup of warm lemon water. I didn’t feel groggy in the mornings, and even after a few days, I didn’t feel a dependency on coffee.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.23.17 PMWhen I was doing some internet searches on lemon water benefits, there was a lot of research showing that your body naturally dehydrates itself overnight. The lemon water did nothing short of hydrate my body and rejuvenate it right away so I didn’t feel sluggish.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.25.43 PM

There was also a lot of research proving lemon water’s improvements on digestion. Although I’m not a doctor, I can say with certainty that the lemon water helps me feel not as full after meals, particularly breakfast, which always a difficult meal for me because I love it, but it makes my stomach  hurt if I eat it too quickly after waking up.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.27.04 PMAlthough I’ve personally never really struggled too much with my skin, I am guilty of occasionally forgetting to remove my makeup (resulting in problem pimples). Admittedly, one of the days during my week with lemon water, I went to sleep with my makeup on – and somehow the lemon water did magic on my skin and kept its clear nature  despite the built up oil from the leftover makeup. Also helpful: the lemon water seemed to diminish my under-eye  bags.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.28.15 PMRight now during the change from spring to summer is THE WORST for my allergies. Although allergies aren’t the same thing as a common cold, it was almost miraculous how much healthier I felt after a cup of lemon water. My allergies seemed to be momentarily tamed with just one cup.

 

 

Homemade Roasted Chickpeas

The other day, my friend Claire introduced me to roasted chickpeas. We happened to be studying for an exam, and I almost ate the entire bag on my own. So Claire and I decided that we needed to test out making some homemade roasted chickpeas. A Pinterest search later, we landed on two recipes we were excited to try out.

We gathered the ingredients, and decided to try out a spicy chickpea recipe from this blog and a ranch chickpea recipe from this blog.

Following the directions, we baked the chickpeas for around 50 minutes, and then tossed them with our seasonings and olive oil. However, this seemed to make the chickpeas slightly soggy, so we then baked the chickpeas with the seasonings on for an additional 10-15 minutes.

The final product was DELICIOUS. Definitely try these out. They’re unexpectedly yummy hot out of the oven.

 

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder (we used mild)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp sea salt (we probably used more like 1-2 tsp)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Ranch Roasted Chickpeas

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (again, we used more like 1-2 tsp)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon

 

Directions (for both)

  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Remove any excess skins
  2. Lay chickpeas on a paper towel to dry for around 30 minutes (or longer – the longer, the better)
  3. Bake chickpeas for 40-50 minutes
  4. While chickpeas are baking, mix dry ingredients for seasonings
  5. Remove chickpeas from oven and mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients and shake seasoning mixture with chickpeas
  6. Bake longer if needed (10-15 minutes)
  7. Remove and let cool

IMG_8166IMG_8164
IMG_8174IMG_8173
IMG_8167IMG_8177

 

Valeweekend

When Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend, why can’t we call it Valeweekend?! Like seriously, Halloween gets “Halloweekend.” So I’m making it a thing. Valeweekend. And in my opinion, there is no better way to celebrate Valeweekend than with obnoxious amounts of food. So that’s exactly what I did this weekend.

I started off the weekend with my Vday celebration with Jorge. For dinner, we decided to go all out and actually cook everything ourselves. We made a tarragon mushroom steak dinner with salad and little potatoes. For dessert, I taught him how to make macarons (or at least I attempted). We made Cookies And Cream Macarons from my favorite cookbook, Macarons and More. This young grasshopper has a long way to go before he can call himself a pastry chef.

IMG_7847IMG_7815

 

Then, last night I celebrated Galentine’s with two of my best girls: Claire and Hannah. We headed to one of Madison’s newest restaurants, a Spanish-inspired tapas joint called Estrellon. The best part about this restaurant is how the menu is set up: plates size from very small and personal to larger plates. But every single thing on the menu is crafted to be shared and split between 2-4 people. We started out with a pitcher of their seasonal sangria: a cranberry Merlot which was TO DIE FOR. And we followed up with a tomato baguette, deep fried guacamole (yes, guacamole) and a deconstructed PB&J (this dish was unexpectedly amazing). Lastly, we each got a dessert for ourselves. Mine was a special for Valeweekend: chocolate cake covered in decadent chocolate with a side of strawberry ice cream.

FullSizeRender (5)IMG_7832

Finally, on the very last day of Valeweekend, Valentine’s Day, Jorge took me out for a special yummy Sunday brunch. Instead of going to our old standby for breakfast, the Greek food place exactly adjacent to Jorge’s apartment, we decided to try something new. So we researched. And apparently The Great Dane does brunch; who knew?!
I ordered a Quiche Du Jour – this was the best quiche I’ve EVER had. And Jorge treated himself to a chicken and waffles drenched in house-made gravy. Definitely a success: The Great Dane does brunch better than some other specialized brunch joints in the area.

IMG_7839IMG_7833

 

Happy Valeweekend, everyone. Hope you found your special someone. And by someone, I obviously mean food.

The Diner Diary: Black Tap’s Insane Milkshakes

Seeing that I’m stranded in NYC (shout out to my cousin for letting me stay at her place a few extra days), I felt as if I should probably put my extra time to good use and share my latest New York adventure.

Despite the chilly January weather, my fellow HGTV intern Katie and I were determined to try the “insane” “delicious” milkshakes that were making waves on everybody’s newsfeeds.

So we set out at 6 P.M. after work on a Thursday to see what the Milkshake gods had in store for us. Apparently, we didn’t plan very well, and we didn’t know that Black Tap has two locations for their designer milkshakes. Our first stop was their Soho location (the original Black Tap). But after quickly learning that we would have to wait in line for, wait for it, TWO HOURS, we decided to politely retreat and call it a day. That was the plan, until we overheard that Black Tap’s other location had a 45 minute wait and it was MUCH larger.

So we jumped on the subway and headed to the Meatpacking district. This location was HUGE. Take my word for it, milkshake lovers, and go to the location on 14th street. Don’t waist your time waiting in an endless line at Black Tap Soho. A short 15 minute wait later, Katie and I were seated.

As we sat down, our waitress told us that the milkshake wait was an HOUR long. At that point, we were determined to still get our treats so we quickly ordered our milkshakes and an order of fries. Naturally, we didn’t have to wait quite that long to get the shakes, but it was well worth the 20 minutes we did wait.

These milkshakes were very much worthy of the hype. Mine, a cotton candy milkshake, stood almost a foot tall, topped with whipped cream, an entire ball of cotton candy and adorned with a full sized lollipop, two rock candy sticks and an entire rim of malted milk balls. This treat was extraordinary.

Katie’s milkshake, the “Sweet and Salty” was a chocolate shake with assorted chocolate candies, pretzel sticks and M&Ms around the rim. She even dug out an entire Sugar Daddy candy bar that had sunk down below the sugary layer of whipped cream.

These New Yorkers surely do know how to do their sweets. FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (3)FullSizeRender (4)IMG_7702