Chicago Coffee Shop Series | South Loop

A few weeks ago, we introduced our coffee series taking you around Chicago sharing great finds. We started in the Loop and now we’re heading South. These three coffee shops each have their own personality. Bridgeport is a cozy spot in the middle of a residential and retail area serving up tasty cappuccinos. Overflow is in a prime South Loop location giving back to the community by donating proceeds to charity. Finally, Sip & Savor is a unique spot serving espresso in the morning and cocktails at night.

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Bridgeport Coffee Roasters | 150 West Roosevelt Road
Located in a apartment and retail complex, this gem is home to tasty coffee and pastries. Bridgeport has several locations, the one we visited was off of Roosevelt Road in the South Loop. The staff is friendly, there is free wi-fi but it’s not the best and there is plenty to do around it. It’s located in a small, bungalow-ish property but there’s a decent amount of seating for the size. It’s a great spot to grab a coffee before work, spend a few hours in the afternoon and prepare before a meeting.

Wi-Fi: ✓ → free but not dependable
Good for working: ✓ → for short periods of time
Food Selection: snacks and pastries
Service: Friendly and Efficient
Noise Level: Low
Seating Space: Decent
Outlets: N/A
Music: Contemporary/Radio

Overflow Coffee Bar | 1550 South State Street
Also located in the South Loop, Overflow is owned by a couple very involved in the community. Proceeds from the shop benefit a variety of charities. It’s also on the Columbia College campus which they must have kept in mind because there is a ton of seating. Outlets are available all over the cafe as well. The space is pretty open so you don’t feel cramped and there’s outdoor seating as well for those extra nice Chicago days. The staff is incredibly friendly. They offer a variety of snacks and pastries as well as a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. We tried the seasonal Pumpkin Mocha Latte which was quite tasty if you’re looking for a sweet treat.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Snacks, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Service: Friendly and Efficient
Noise Level: Low to Moderate
Seating Space: Ample
Outlets: Well-Stocked
Music: Contemporary

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Sip & Savor | 2239 South Michigan Avenue
There are a handful of locations where you can visit Sip & Savor. The one we stopped by is their brand new location on Michigan Avenue. This particular location also happens to be home to a recording studio where local artists make their records. So if you’re a supporter of the arts and music scene, this coffee shop is definitely for you. In case you need something stronger to get through the afternoon, they open a bar at noon selling drinks a bit stronger than your regular cup o’ joe if you get what I’m staying. They host music clients to perform regularly. The wi-fi is strong but there’s limited seating so grab a spot while you can.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for working: If you grab a seat
Food Selection: N/A
Service: Friendly and Efficient
Noise Level: Moderate
Seating Space: Limited
Outlets: Well-Stocked
Music: Live performances

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French Cooking: Pork Cheek Raviolis & Chocolate Meringue Swirls

We’re going for a double whammy this week with our French Cooking series. Two comforting dishes and a decadent dessert are coming for your Saturday. Maybe it will share a little inspiration for a weekend family dinner. French cooking, like Italian cooking, is food for the soul. It’s food that is scrumptious but also beautiful and seasonal. These dishes are no different. From a hearty soup to elegant raviolis to a pillowy, rich dessert, today’s menu will not disappoint.

STARTER: Harvest Soup
Harvest Soup is what I like to call an “everything but the kitchen sink” soup. It’s a simple meat and veggie soup that simmers all day for a tender, flavorful dish later. It’s so simple to prepare as well. Place a beef roast in a pot and cover it with water. Bring it to a boil and add the vegetables and let it simmer low for a few hours. Once the beef is cooked and tender, remove it for a few minutes to pull the meat apart and add back into the soup. It’s a simple, comforting dish anyone will enjoy.

MAIN: Pork Cheek Ravioli with Cepes
These raviolis are a lot of work but they are worth every second. If there’s one piece of advice I can offer after making these, it’s to have patience. The ravioli dough needs precision and patience. Too much flour and it will be too tough. Not enough flour and it will end up too sticky. It’s a fine line to manage. The pork cheek filling isn’t particularly difficult to make but it has a few steps that take time. The end result is this decadent and rich ravioli that will blow your mind. The filling is packed with flavor and has an almost creamy consistency. The red wine gravy is beautiful in color, so different from any traditional ravioli.

Cepes are mushrooms found seasonally in Europe. I have never seen a cepe in the midwest before so I look for whatever wild mushroom the store has in stock. If wild mushrooms are still tricky to find, a meaty portobello mushroom will work or shiitake. Pork cheeks are supposedly super affordable. At least from what I’ve read online. Even though my butcher mentioned someone else had recently asked for pork cheeks, they didn’t have any to sell. So improvisation led me to purchasing thin cut pork chops which cooked for a few hours before getting blended together with the wild mushrooms for the ravioli filling. It is divine. I cannot say enough good things about the filling for these raviolis. The flavor is off the wall and the red wine sauce that gets spooned over the top tastes like something that is served in a Michelin rated restaurant.

DESSERT: Chocolate Meringue Swirls with Chocolate Sauce
These meringues are the epitome of light decadence. They’re little mounds of pure heaven. Light enough to make you feel good about yourself but rich enough to feel like an indulgence. The chocolate sauce on top is an added treat with the Chantilly Cream. I was hesitant to tackle this recipe at first but I am so thankful I did. Mimi doesn’t have the exact recipe for these on her website but she does have one close to it. Click the link above to try them for yourself.

Catch up on our French Cooking Series HERE. In case you’re new or haven’t had a chance to read about our journey cooking through A Kitchen In France by Mimi Thorrisson, read our very first post HERE.

French Cooking Friday: Croquant Ratatouille & Double The Desserts!

When dinner fits into a large bowl, you know it’s a good one. Today’s main dish from A Kitchen In France boasts a meaty and veggie filled meal perfect for chilly spring days. Slow Cooked Lamb with Croquant Ratatouille is one of those recipes that make the entire house smell incredible all day. It even lingers into the next day making everyone who enters your home hungry and jealous of your professional cooking abilities. The other two dishes we have for you today are desserts. One, a simple fruit and wine combination that is pure culinary sophistication. The other, simple and elegant yet delicious. Take a look and dig in!

MAIN: Slow Cooked Lamb with Croquant Ratatouille
The slow cooked lamb starts on the stove and finishes for a few hours in the oven. It bakes low and slow all day in a broth that has onions, garlic, carrots, herbs and celery. Instead of lamb, I used a pork roast because it was already in the freezer. It turns out a little milder in flavor and less gamey but still delicious. The pork roast (depending on its size) doesn’t need as much time to cook so as you’re checking on it every two hours, be careful not to let it over cook. You’ll end up with a dry, stringy piece of meat.

The Croquant Ratatouille is a delicious mixture of vegetables sauteed on the stove. The vegetables cook in two batches before coming together so everything cooks even. It takes hardly any time to bring this together. The chopping gets a little tedious since the vegetables need to be diced rather than chopped but it’s well worth it. Instead of plating this as a side, I used the Croquant Ratatouille as a bed for the slow cooked pork and spooned some of the liquid from the roast all over the top. It’s such a comforting dish and the leftovers are equally delicious.

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DESSERT #1: Pears a la Medocaine
If you’re not a baker and prefer desserts that are almost impossible to mess up, this one is for you. Start by making the red wine syrup. A few ingredients come together on the stove to a boil. The pears soak for a few minutes before everything gets transferred to a bowl. The pears refrigerate for about 24 hours and your dessert is ready. No cooking, no baking. Just a little boiling and stirring before calling it a day. I used red pears for this treat. I find them a little sweeter than green pears which works well with the dry red wine. A few things to note: make sure the pear is still slightly firm otherwise it will be hard to manage and start to disintegrate in the wine syrup. Second, choose a wine that you’d enjoy drinking. If you don’t like the wine itself, you won’t enjoy the dessert.

DESSERT #2: Apple Tart with Orange Flower Water
For those of you like me who are not particularly confident in their baking abilities, I introduce you to the apple tart. Tart dough is not as temperamental as pie dough making it much easier to throw together. The filling is also simple. Homemade apple sauce and sliced apples layer together for the simplest fruit dessert you’ll ever make. It’s also such an elegant presentation. It’s a great option to bring to parties or serve guests when you don’t want to go overboard.

Catch up on our French Cooking Series HERE. In case you’re new or haven’t had a chance to read about our journey cooking through A Kitchen In France by Mimi Thorrisson, read our very first post HERE

10 Women We Love To Wrap Up Women's History Month

To wrap up our celebration of women for Women’s History Month, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite ladies in society who have made a difference. This list could go on for days but to keep it short(er), we’ve narrowed it down to our top ten. Not all of these incredible women are with us today but they left a legacy behind that is hard to ignore. From UN ambassadors to women’s rights activists, these are women worthy of acknowledgement.

Alicia Keys
An extraordinary talent, Alicia has only become more influential with time. Alicia has always been outspoken about issues and topics she’s passionate about: Black Lives Matter, Equality for Women, Supporting Children’s Rights, etc. She is outspoken about the arts needing to be a larger part of society and education. She makes beautiful music and spreads love as much as she can but she won’t back down from what is important. Her most recent action in resistance is embodying the no-makeup movement to encourage women to love themselves as they are. Alicia does everything she can to empower women whether it’s through her music or activist work. Songs like “Girl on Fire” and “Superwoman” have become anthems for women around the world.

“We’re all going to change. Otherwise, it’s boring. Who wants to stay the damn same all their life?”

Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn is my personal idol. The epitome of class, Audrey was well-respected by anyone who knew her. From the grueling work she put in to dance alongside Fred Astaire in Funny Face to her insistence on keeping her private life private, she was a force of nature. She was a huge children’s advocate and worked with UNICEF as a volunteer, ambassador and vital member of their organization. I’ve read several biographies about Audrey Hepburn, including one from her son, and many people don’t know that during one of her last trips to Africa, she was suffering from colon cancer. Audrey was the kind of human being who always put others before herself. She is someone I look up to everyday to emulate her grace, charisma, respect and kindness.

“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible!’”

Ellen DeGeneres
She will forever be known to me as the woman who makes the world smile. Watching her show, you can’t help but laugh till it hurts every single time. She brings so much joy and happiness to so many people. Her philanthropy work knows no bounds. From giveaways on her show to working with organizations like St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Ellen has given more back to the community than any one person should feel the need to. When the world is in dark times, she begins her show with uplifting words of encouragement. There is a reason why President Obama honored her with the Media of Freedom, she is a light for everyone even when everything else in the world seems dark. Her activism for LGBTQ rights and animal rights is inspiring and her efforts to aid in relief during natural disasters is unparalleled.

“Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.”

Emma Watson
A self-proclaimed feminist, this brilliant woman has been fighting for women and children since her Harry Potter days. While many teenage and early-twenties are figuring out their lives, pushing boundaries for alcohol consumption and living up the last years of non-adulthood, Emma Watson was speaking to England’s parliament and the United States Congress. She was visiting children in underdeveloped countries and advocating for women around the world who aren’t able to have a voice of their own. She’s studied at Oxford, campaigned for issues and policies and done more in her 26 years than most of us will even think of doing in a lifetime. She has become a true role model for women and children at any age. While I had belly-baring superstars to look up to, my little cousins have the intelligent, unstoppable Emma Watson, otherwise known as Hermoine Granger. If she is the voice and the image of our future, there is so much to look forward to.

“Feminism is not here to dictate to you. It’s not prescriptive. It’s not dogmatic. All we are here to do is give you a choice. If you want to run for Prime Minister, you can. If you don’t, that’s wonderful too. Shave your armpits, don’t shave them. Wear flats one day, heels the next.”

JK Rowling
I confess. I have never read a Harry Potter book, nor have I seen any of the movies in their entirety. However, I have mad respect for JK Rowling. This creative genius accomplished her dreams by writing on pages of loose paper that she kept in a shoebox. Her story is incredible. A single mother on relief in England, she made a name for herself and used her celebrity to do good. She donated so much money she was “downgraded” to a millionaire from a billionaire in 2016. She’s also politically active on social media, calling out public figures when she disagrees with them and standing up for issues she believes in. She is an inspiration to women everywhere and proof that if you don’t give up on your dreams, the success will find you when you least expect it.

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.”

Katharine Hepburn
Ahead of her time and the ultimate feminist icon, Katharine Hepburn should make any list celebrating women. She was bold, fierce and unstoppable. She stood up to an industry that for several years was intent on bringing her down. She faced obstinacy and stereotypes in the face and refused to back down. Many of her films are now considered classics. She worked with only the best from Spencer Tracey to Cary Grant. Her talent was obvious and her passion unconquerable. She has been considered many times over as the woman who paved the way for all future women in Hollywood and included in lists of women who changed the world and changed history. She will forever be remembered for her fiery personality and independent lifestyle that broke the mold.

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”

Controversial. Bold. Risque. Honest. If there are words to describe Madonna, these four fit the bill. While many might disagree where Madonna is concerned, I urge you to reconsider. Madonna’s career spans almost forty years. In those decades, she has grown and developed into a strong, unfiltered voice for women and marginalized people. She is an advocate for women, victims of sexual abuse, the LGBTQ community and more. Her philanthropy work is limitless having visited war-torn countries and underdeveloped communities. While her methods of resistance might not be agreeable to some people, she has a talent for demonstrating her beliefs in artistic and creative ways that are attention getting. She is willing to be bold and do whatever she needs to in order to incite change. To bring on a “revolution of love.” Whether or not you like her music, whether or not you agree with her risque methods, whether or not you agree with her controversial nature, she is a woman to be reckoned with.

“I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.”

Michelle Obama
The former first lady made it her personal mission to better the lives of children, not just in the US but around the world. A few of her contributions while in the White House included founding nutrition and exercise programs like the Let’s Move! Program. Schools removed soda and unhealthy food options and replaced them with water, fruits and vegetables. She was passionate about lowering the child obesity rate. She was also an advocate on women’s rights and providing equal education to women around the world. We take for granted the access to education women have in the US compared to countries that do not value women and their rights. There have been many iconic first ladies from Abigail Adams to Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. Michelle Obama joins their ranks.

“Every girl, no matter where she lives, deserves the opportunity to develop the promise inside of her.” - Michelle Obama
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Shakira might not be the first celebrity that comes to mind when it comes to philanthropy but she is very much involved in issues that are close to her. She focuses her efforts on universal education and early childhood development. She’s worked as a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and was appointed by President Obama at one point to be on a commission that worked to improve education success for Hispanic students. One of the many things he has done include hosting a baby shower for UNICEF. Instead of asking for gifts during her second pregnancy, she asked people around the world to buy life saving gifts for vulnerable children around the world.

“I know what it’s like to feel that fear and the need of affirmation and appreciation. To build confidence in yourself is the toughest thing.” - Shakira

Sophia Bush
All you One Tree Hill fans are probably with me when it comes to Sophia. We all fell in love with her as Brooke Davis but what we didn’t know was that she is a passionate, fearless woman who fights for what is right. As someone who is steadfast in the women’s rights movement, equal rights movement, animal rights movement and even more, you’d think she has no time leftover for herself. She uses her celebrity status to promote issues that are important to her whether her followers agree or not. She’s ballsy and she’s brilliant.

“I live by two mottoes: “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and “Make no small plans.” - Sophia Bush

Other women we admire include Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Ashley Judd, Debra Messing, Harper Lee, Gertrude Stein, Gloria Steinem, Janelle Monae, Jessica Alba, Lady Gaga, Lucille Ball, Nikki Reed, Nina Simone, P!NK, Reese Witherspoon, Selena Gomez, Shailene Woodley and Viola Davis. Make sure to check out our Fearless Women To Know series as well. We interviewed five incredible women doing extraordinary things to keep an eye on.

5 National Parks For Your Bucket List

2017 is the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service! That means free entrance days scattered throughout the year, and a National Parks Week from April 15 to 23. For me, National Parks are one of those places I’ll always say I’m going to visit, but then never get around to. But now that there are free-admission days, it’s a great opportunity to get out to the most famous (and most expensive) national parks! Here are the top 5 on my personal bucket list.

Denali National Park | Alaska
Alaska is actually my dream vacation. I would never go in the winter, but in the summer months, the sun shines and the mountains are beautiful. Denali National Park is home to Mount McKinley, North America’s largest peak, and you may even get the chance to see grizzly bears, caribou and other wild animals (from a distance, of course).

Photo via Pixabay User skeeze (link)

Photo via Pixabay User skeeze (link)

Acadia National Park | Maine
Acadia National Park also tops my bucket list, and I think visiting here in autumn would be especially amazing because of Maine’s beautiful fall foliage. There’s also just something so charming about New England towns, with their lighthouses, boardwalks and luscious pine trees. Acadia is known for its granite rock climbing, and you may even be able to spot whales if you reach a high enough peak.

Photo via Pixabay User skeeze (link)

Photo via Pixabay User skeeze (link)

Glacier National Park | Montana
Nicknamed the Crown of the Continent, Montana’s Glacier National Park features  the headwaters for streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and to Hudson's Bay, which means a lot of water for a lot of boating surrounded by beautiful mountains. The mountains also mean fantastic skiing in the winter.

Photo via Pixabay User skeeze (link)

Photo via Pixabay User skeeze (link)

Grand Teton National Park | Wyoming
If you would prefer a more relaxed National Park trip than bear-sighting and rock climbing, Grand Teton in Wyoming is known for calm waters and fishing. The Snake River is like a nature-made lazy river, and this August, a solar eclipse will happen right over the park, so you may want to cross this one off the bucket list then.

Photo via Pixabay User kasabubu (link)

Photo via Pixabay User kasabubu (link)

Carlsbad Caverns | New Mexico
Last but certainly not least, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is a really unique national park because it’s technically underground. A ranger takes you down a lantern-led tour through the dark caves, in which there are waterfalls, streams, and cave formations like the one above that are constantly changing and growing.

Photo via Pixabay User Life-Of-Pix (link)

Photo via Pixabay User Life-Of-Pix (link)

Of course, any National Park is worth visiting, and these are only 5 of 59 national parks in the United States. With two entire weekend-long free entrance days coming up in April, now is finally the time to start crossing National Parks off the bucket list. Which one are you excited to see first?

Fearless Women To Know - Katie Carrico

Our final Fearless Woman to Know for Women’s History Month is the incredible, Katie Carrico of Chicagogrammers and Dining at My Desk. I’ve known Katie for a few years thanks to the Chicago blogging community and I was pumped when she co-founded Chicagogrammers. It’s a fun community for Instagram influencers in the Chicago area that grows your Instagram skills while providing fun events to get to know local businesses and other members.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and Chicagogrammers.
First of all, hello readers! If you’re reading this, you obviously have good taste, and thanks to Christine for letting me chime in! I’m Katie Carrico, Founder of Chicagogrammers. We’re a member-based organization for local Chicago Instagram users! Chicagogrammers organizes events and promotions with local bars, restaurants, businesses and brands to help them create a buzz on Instagram, which is far and away the BEST social platform for getting the word out there for businesses. The best part is that it’s free (and always will be) for members! We currently have 400 members, our hashtag #chicagogrammers has been used 37,000+ times, and we have 5,700+ followers on Instagram. We’re growing everyday, and we love new members! Our Instagram account is a regram account, and each day of the week we pick a different theme, and those themes rotate monthly. It’s just a fun account to follow, because you’re always going to get a good idea of what’s going on in this great city we live in, and some great Instagrammers to follow. A big goal of ours is to always remain member-centric, so we try to find fun ways to highlight our members as much as we can.

What made you decide to organize Chicagogrammers?
Ah, the story of Chicagogrammers...well, it really started as a whim this past July, because as a blogger for the past seven years (Dining at my Desk), I’ve seen MANY of these blogging groups form throughout the years on Facebook. You know the ones that ask you to click to read everyone else’s blog post, or follow each other, or any other number of blogging boost requests? The idea behind these groups isn’t bad, but the real issue is that the group might have 10,000 followers, and all of a sudden, now you have to read 1,000 blog posts? Or maybe you just have to read 5 or 10 posts, but in a sea of 1,000 comments, is anyone REALLY going to find your post? I thought starting something LOCAL that takes the best part of blogging - that’s Instagram, of course - and making it a group where people could meet each other and hang out in real life sounded interesting. I flung an email out to a few blogging buds to see if they would be interested in helping me with this endeavor, and I was lucky enough to have Chrissy Barua of the wonderful blog, The Hungary Buddha Eats the World, partner with me. Since meeting at a blogging event a few years ago, we’ve kind of been inseparable, and we comment all the time how we’re the perfect business partners - the stuff I suck at, she does remarkably well, and vice versa. We started Chicagogrammers randomly via email on a weekday afternoon, and actually didn’t even think to see if the Instagram was available - we were much more concerned with the Facebook Group! Luckily, all the social media handles were available, and here we are!

Do you have any Instagram tips to share?
I do!! My personal favorite find of all-time is the app VSCO Cam, which I use to manually edit every single image I put on my own Instagram account. The app is  a little tricky to maneuver at first, so look up an online tutorial, but it seriously makes your photos SO MUCH BETTER. My other big tip is make sure you’re using hashtags in every photo, preferably just one or two in your main caption, then up to 30 in your first comment. Might I recommend the #chicagogrammers tag?

Photo c/o Chicagogrammers

Photo c/o Chicagogrammers

What are your favorite spots in Chicago to visit for photos and Instagram posts?
Well, I’m a foodie, and I do tend to get invited to a lot of great events in that realm. I’d say my absolute favorite event of all time was a blogger event where we partnered with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and had a foodie crawl. Basically anything that I can eat as much as I want (that’s always a lot) and explore this city is always right up my alley. I’ve never met a food I didn’t want to photograph.

If someone is interested in Chicagogrammers, how can they sign up for more information and is there anything you can share that Chicagogrammers has in the queue?
Yes, we LOVE new members. To join, visit our Facebook Group, and then we’ll have you sign up for our weekly newsletter, which is filled with fun and free (always Instagrammable) events for members to attend. We do an official Chicagogrammers monthly happy hour each month, which members can sign up for from the newsletter. Our newsletter comes out around noon on Wednesdays, and you want to get to your inbox quickly, because our events fill up fast! As far as events in the queue, we have quite a few things up our sleeve, including some awesome collaborations, but can’t tell you about them just yet. Stay tuned!

Thank you for being one of our fearless women to celebrate for Women’s History Month! Leave us with a little inspiration for the other fearless women who are reading.
First of all, it’s inspiring to see so many women in entrepreneurial roles within the blogging community. The ladies are killing it out there! My best advice is to follow your intuition. If you have an idea and it seems like a good one to you, no matter how small it is, you can make it happen! Make friends who are interested in the same things as you are, and before you know it, you’ll have the network you need to help turn an idea into something amazing. Thanks for having me!

Follow Katie on Instagram and Chicagogrammers on Instagram as well! Make sure to check out all of our other Fearless Women to Know in celebration of Women’s History Month as well!

Fearless Women To Know - Dannie Moore

Women’s History Month is coming to an end in a few days but before it’s over, we have to lovely ladies for you to get to know. Dannie from Stile.Foto.Cibo. is a style and lifestyle blogger who has become a quick friend of mine in the last year. She’s passionate, intelligent and kind-hearted. We share a love for our rescue babies and French macarons. Keep reading to meet Dannie and make sure to check out her blog!

Photo Credit: Carra Cockrum of Badd Pictures

Photo Credit: Carra Cockrum of Badd Pictures

Tell us a little bit about yourself and
I’m Dannie, a 20-something style and lifestyle blogger. Stile.Foto.Cibo is Italian for style, photo, and food. When I started the blog, it was exactly that. A place for me to share my style journey as well as all the awesome food I was making and photography I was doing. Since then, Stile.Foto.Cibo has evolved into a space for me to share my style as well as give face and voice to the femme lesbian community.

Congratulations on your recent wedding! The photos from your special day and honeymoon were amazing. How have you been able to balance these momentous life events, blogging and work?
Full disclosure, I’ve been having an incredibly difficult time balancing my day job, blog, and life. I have to keep the blog separate from work and I have to have times where I just power down and enjoy time with my wife and dogs. But finding the time can be incredibly difficult. It’s actually in my 5-year-plan [yes, I have a 5-year-plan] to move away from Chicago to the West Coast and just blog full time. I think it would be much better for my overall work/life balance and a change of scenery would be quite fun. In the meantime, assume I need coffee, a nap, and a puppy cuddle.

Photo Credit: Johnny Knight

Photo Credit: Johnny Knight

What’s your favorite part about being a blogger? What keeps you inspired and motivated?
I honestly love the community. I feed off of excitement and community and sharing and supporting other girl bosses. Working with and around other amazing women is what keeps me motivated and going. I love reading other blogs to get inspiration, help build my own style, and simply see what people are up to. The community can be so uplifting and empowering. It’s really what keeps me hustling every single day.

You are a huge supporter of rescue animals. Tell us a little bit about your furbabies and why you’re so passionate about this cause and these animals. We’re a family of rescues as well and they hold a special place for us.
Do I have a maximum word count? Because I can go on endlessly about dogs and the rescue community.

Zoe is my first dog. She’s a Boston Terrier/Jack Russell mix who is the laziest little nugget ever. She loves chewing on bones, licking the peanut butter jar clean, and running around at the dog beach. She’s my first dog love and the reason I started working with rescues. When she was rescued, she weighed 10 pounds, was severely emaciated, had a UTI, worms, and ear mites, and was scared of her own shadow. Now, after 2 months in a foster home and two years with us, she weighs 18 pounds and is so confident and playful that she will try to play with the vacuum cleaner.

I began volunteering at PAWS last summer because I had the time and love to give to many dogs but the space to only have one. So I went and volunteered to share my love and help dogs like Zoe find homes. Zoe has a very rough beginning and I needed to help other pups with difficult backgrounds find amazing homes so they could become as wonderful of dogs as she is.

Tonks is our second child. I found her kind of by accident while volunteering at PAWS. We’d recently moved somewhere that allowed two dogs and I thought “nah, I can wait.” I lasted 3 days. We moved on July 31 and we brought Tonks home on August 3rd. She has been a whole different kind of challenge to Zoe’s shy/fearful personality. Tonks has a lot to say, needs constant attention and stimulation, and exhibits signs of barrier aggression, meaning it’s really difficult for her to meet other dogs if she’s on leash. She’s still my sweet baby and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. I just wish she would shut up sometimes! Hah!

Overall, the work I do with dogs is about giving back to a community that welcomed me so openly and helped me find my Zoe. Everyone has at least one Heart Dog in their lifetime, the dog that they connect with on a deeper level than all others, and she is mine. I didn’t think it was possible [pawsible?] to love a dog so much but she astounds me every single day with how powerful our bond is. I work with rescues to help other people find their own Heart Dog.

You have a series coming up on your blog celebrating women in the LGBTQ community. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Fashionably Femme launched on International Women’s Day as a way to celebrate the femme in a community where we’re often erased. I don’t know how many times I’ve surprised people by being gay (“but you don’t look gay!”) or been told “you’re too pretty to be gay.” These are, quite possibly, the most idiotic and uneducated reactions I could possibly receive. As a femme-identifying lesbian, I love dressing up and being girly. But the general stereotype of a lesbian is the butch. And while I come with more power tools than the average dude, I also come with a LOT of lipstick. Fashionably Femme aims to give fellow femmes a chance to have a space to share their style and speak their peace. That being said, if any of your readers identify as femme, please reach out! I’d love to feature you!

Photo Credit: Carra Cockrum of Badd Pictures

Photo Credit: Carra Cockrum of Badd Pictures

Thank you for being one of our fearless women to celebrate for Women’s History Month! Leave us with a little inspiration for the other fearless women who are reading.
Remember that no matter what, you are wonderful. You are important, you matter, and you are loved. No matter what anyone says to you, you are important and you have a reason for being here with the rest of us. You may not have found it yet but I am confident that you will. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don’t give it to them. Keep on rocking.

Be sure to follow Dannie on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter and check out our other Fearless Women to Know for Women’s History Month.

Short Rib Gravy - Slow Cooker Recipes

Pasta night is taking a meaty turn today. On those damp, cold days, a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dinner is not only necessary but essential. Pasta was always a regular weeknight dinner in my home growing up. I always knew when we were having pasta for dinner because I’d come home to the smell of gravy on the stove. It’s one of the scents that brings me instant joy. My Noni would let me taste it by dipping a piece of bread into the simmering mixture. It was the best after school treat you could ask for.

Now all grown up I like to experiment with gravy, adding new ingredients here and there. The tomato base is generally the same but there are so many ways you can make each pot unique. When the weather is bone-chilling and damp, I prefer a heartier gravy like this short rib number. Traditionally, we use ground beef for a simple meat marinara but if you want a more ragu-like consistency, you need a sturdier meat. Short ribs lend a lot of flavor and when cooked low and slow get so tender they melt like butter in your mouth.

First thing you want to do is sear the short ribs. You can use boneless or bone-in - I go with whichever looks meatier because it’s more bang for your buck. Season the meat with salt and pepper and lightly coat in flour. This will give the meat a bit of a crust when it browns which will add an extra depth of flavor to the gravy. Remove the ribs to the slow cooker when they’re browned on all sides. To the still hot skillet, add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook a few minutes until fragrant and starting to soften. Finally, add the wine and deglaze the pan. This allows the alcohol to cook out of the wine a bit and release the flavors from the browned bits in the pan. It also adds another layer of richness to your gravy. Add the contents in the pan to your slow cooker with the remaining ingredients and you’re ready to go. Let it cook all day before removing the ribs to shred. I turn the slow cooker to warm after I add the shredded meat back in and give it about 15 minutes to soak up some of the liquid. Serve over your choice of pasta, polenta or other grain. The gravy is the star here so almost anything will work.

Short Rib Gravy
6-8 Beef Short Ribs
2 tbsp. Flour
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Carrot, finely chopped
1 Celery Stalk, finely chopped
1 Yellow Onion, diced
4 large Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
½ cup Red Wine (a nice bold red like a Cabernet or Pinot Noir)
14 ounces Italian Diced Tomatoes
28 ounces Crushed Tomatoes
6 ounces Tomato Paste
1 cup Beef Stock
2 Bay Leaves
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
1 bunch Fresh Basil, chopped
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme (or ½ tsp. dried)
1 sprig Rosemary
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and coat lightly in the flour. Brown on all sides and add to the slow cooker.

2. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes until fragrant and starting to soften. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, cooking for about 2 more minutes. Add to the slow cooker.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Mix together well. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6 hours. Remove the short ribs from the gravy and shred the meat. Add back to the gravy and mix together. Serve over pasta, I used Mezze Maniche Rigate which is basically just a fatter, shorter Rigatoni cut.

How do you like your gravy? Meaty or meatless?