August Spotlight + Giveaway

Happy Wednesday! For those of you enjoying the peace and quiet with the kids back to school, I hope you’re having a very productive (or relaxing) day. For anyone personally going back to school, maybe it’s your final undergrad year or you’re heading off to get a phD, I wish you the best of luck and a million wonderful memories. For those of us who are aware that it’s back to school but it doesn’t necessarily affect us, here’s to another Wednesday! Crack open a bottle of wine tonight because you made it halfway through the week! Today, I’m particularly excited for this monthly spotlight because we have a giveaway! It’s been a while since I’ve ran one of these on the blog and I’m super excited because these are products I have been personally using for months. Giveaways are great but they’re even better when you have someone’s stamp of approval on the product you’re about to win. I got a little personal in my update this month because there are a few things I felt I needed to explain so bear with me and next month, I promise it will be all about what’s coming up the rest of the year!

**This post may include affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.**

August Spotlight Header.png

FROM AROUND THE WEB
With fall around the corner, heartier salads are looking really delightful like this Steak Salad with New Potatoes

Wishing I had an Instant Pot just so I could make this

Life gone crazy? Loving these easy ideas to bring some structure and control back into life to make it less stressful…

I’ve always wanted to make homemade treats for my pups and this recipe looks like a great place to start…

Cedarwood is one of the more inexpensive essential oils and it’s so versatile. These are great ideas to use it more often…

Get the most out of your trip by taking exceptional photos. Great tips from a fellow Chicago blogger…

I can’t stop thinking about France so I’m living vicariously through other travel bloggers right now…

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Chicken Milanese with Simple Spaghetti
Chicken Parmesan Sliders
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Compote

August Spotlight - Top Recipes.png
AUGUST SPOTLIGHT - Favorite Travel Posts.png

WHAT I’M UP TO
Has it already been a month since the last update? This year is flying by and while I’m counting down the days until fall and cooler weather, it feels like 2018 has gotten away from me. This year has been a whirlwind of one thing after the next. The first few months of this year, I split my time between the city and the suburbs which got out of control really quick. During these months, we found out that a very close family member of mine (I won’t say who for privacy reasons, maybe one day in the future) has terminal cancer. It was a difficult blow but we’ve been surviving and I’ve served as chemo buddy through this process. From February through July, every other week we’d tackle appointments and this particular commitment required me to put travel on hold. While I have plenty of travel content to share that’s built up over the last few years, my first trip for 2018 will most likely be later in fall. Some days I feel like a failure as a travel blogger but I wouldn’t take back the time I’ve been able to spend with my loved one for anything. Life sometimes hands us cards that we don’t want to play but all we can do is make the best of them.

Moving on to earlier this summer, the first week of July I had a bit of a accident and injured my face pretty bad. It required a total of five stitches and several weeks for me to lick my wounds and get my confidence back. I’ve injured myself dozens of times in my mere 27 years but not once have I done something to severely affect my appearance. I’ve healed up really well but the scars will be pretty obvious (at least to me) for a while. During the whole debacle, washing my face was a bit of a challenge. I had to use super sensitive products and had to be careful not to get any moisturizer near the wounds. Well, I’m about to give Aveeno another shout-out. Before leaving the hospital from getting stitches, the nurse ran through the dos and dont’s of caring for stitched wounds. One of them was to use a mild cleanser at which point I asked if my Aveeno gel cleanser for sensitive skin was ok. The answer? That’s perfect! During a time when it felt like everything was spinning out of control, it was a relief to not have to change at least one part of my regular routine. It’s in times of emergency that make you appreciate the small things. Earlier this year, Aveeno sent me a very large goodie box for mentioning them in one of my monthly spotlight posts and it’s been a nice little stash to supply the cabinet for a while.

With that said, I have goodies for you too! My Aveeno routine consists of the Ultra-Calming Gel Cleanser in the morning followed by the Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF. At night I use the Ultra-Calming Nourishing Night Cream after exfoliating in the shower. This particular line has become an essential part of my skincare routine and since randomly picking up the night cream at the store during the winter, I’ve noticed a HUGE difference. I can’t wait to share these products and my experience with one of you! Scroll all the way to the bottom to enter to win a care package of Aveeno Ultra-Calming Goodies.

Aveeno Giveaway (1.0).jpg

WISH LIST
Thinking about investing in this scalp scrub from Goop to give my hair a post-summer cleanse…

I finally made the jump to it Cosmetics’ CC Cream and I’ve been missing out. This is a three-in-one cream, sunscreen, and moisturizer and gives plenty of coverage. A little goes a long way too…

I never got those new sandals for summer but I’ve still got my eye set on these gladiators…

100% ready for sweater season but still in love with summer dresses. This fit-and-flare maxi dress has a floral print I’m obsessed with…

***GIVEAWAY***
The prize includes:
- 1 bottle Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser
- 1 bottle Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30
- 1 package Aveeno Ultra-Calming Makeup Removing Wipes

Terms:
For our full terms and conditions, click here. For our full privacy policy, please click here.
- Must be 18+ years of age
- Winner’s mailing address must be in one of the 48 continental states (we will not ship the prize to Hawaii or Alaska)
- Giveaway ENDS Thursday, August 23rd at 12AM CST

ENTER USING THE RAFFLECOPTER BELOW:

Chunky Chicken Salad Sandwiches | Easy Weeknight Recipes

Back to school is starting this week and will continue all month long for many people. Whether that means bringing your baby to pre-school for the first time or heading back to a college campus, chances are time is not something to be wasteful with anymore. Gone are the long days of summer where dinner can be dragged out over a few hours. Weeknight cookouts (if you’re lucky enough to have those) will become a distant memory and budgets get a little tighter. Everyone loves a meal they can prep in under 20 minutes and it’s even better if it saves you a buck. That’s what’s so great about this Chunky Chicken Salad.

Chunky Chicken Salad Sandwiches.png

Two words: Rotisserie Chicken. I wasn’t a huge fan of these for a long time because breaking them down isn’t fun. One week this summer, I managed to make one $7 Rotisserie Chicken act as the protein for two different dinners plus there was enough left over from both meals to feed two adults for lunch for 5 days. $7 essentially provided 14 servings at least. That’s impressive. One meal was the Southwestern Chicken Pita Pockets that I shared a few weeks ago. The second was this delightful Chunky Chicken Salad. Both recipes need about two cups of cooked chicken which is about what one Rotisserie Chicken will yield. The remaining ingredients are pretty inexpensive and can be used in many other different ways as well.

Another perk of this Chunky Chicken Salad is that it’s no-cook! All of the ingredients get mixed up and spooned onto bread. Simple, easy, quick! Dice up carrots, celery and cucumbers. You don’t have to get crazy because this is a chunky salad but you want them to be small enough so that the sandwich isn't a challenge to eat. Adding cucumbers to the classic carrot-celery combo adds a refreshing touch. I always like to include grapes in my chicken salads if they look good ad the store. Their sweetness takes the chicken salad to another level and gives it a more dynamic flavor profile. Instead of just tossing the ingredients with mayo, add in a touch of relish for a tiny zing. It’s a small extra step that makes all the difference. These sandwiches are quite tasty, and pack well for lunches. The only time you’ll spend on this dish is how long it takes you to prep the ingredients and mix everything together. I used an Artisanal Bread from the farmers market but any kind you prefer will work. Try toasting the bread before hand if it’s not too sturdy so it can handle the salad well.

Chunky Chicken Salad Sandwiches 1.0.jpg

Chunky Chicken Salad
Ingredients:
2 cups cooked Chicken, chopped or shredded
1 small Carrot, diced
1 Celery Stalk, diced
½ Cucumber, diced
1 cup Grapes, halved
½ cup Mayo
1 tsp. Relish
8 slices Artisan Bread

1 - In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the chicken, carrot, celery, cucumber, grapes, mayo and relish. Spoon onto the bread and serve.

Chunky Chicken Salad Sandwiches 2.0.jpg
Chunky Chicken Salad Sandwiches 4.0.jpg

Grilled Portobello Burgers with Simple Green Salad | Farmers Market Series

Earlier this summer as the produce was slowly growing in, picking up ingredients to challenge myself for this series was limited. We had a late start to spring and once it came, it was more like dog days of summer weather. If I’m being honest, those dog days never left. It’s been one 80-100 degree day to the next with small breaks here and there. With that said, our produce season went from bare to bountiful what seemed like overnight. I took trip after trip and stopped going because we were tiring of asparagus. After taking a month or so off from my Sunday morning market adventures, I returned to see that there was produce but still not a ton. Most of the vendors who would typically sell produce were selling plants and flowers for early planting. Before turning around feeling once again defeated, I decided to head to this one vendor all the way in the far corner of the market.

Grilled Portobello Burgers with Simple Green Salad.png

This particular vendor is my favorite during summer and fall seasons. They have the most produce out of anyone and it’s always fantastic. From farther away, it still looked like they were only selling plants, flowers and herbs for planing. But as I got closer I could see the far table full of produce. Finally! What I had been waiting for since March was finally here! All kinds of leafy greens, radishes, spring onions, root veggies and more. There were barely two long folding tables full of veggies but it was more than I had seen since the previous fall and I was ready to dive in. It was these veggies that inspired a simple green salad. Fresh green leaf lettuce gets tossed together with bright cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, spicy radishes, and scallions. To keep the dressing from overpowering the veggies, mix together a simple vinaigrette with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I wanted to pair the salad with something hearty but still light enough for those hot summer days. Another vendor close to this one sells all kinds of great mushrooms. The portobello caps were a fantastic deal and looked amazing so I decided to grab a few for Grilled Portobello Burgers. They marinate with balsamic vinegar before grilling up pretty quick on the stove or outdoor grill. We never actually filled our propane tank this summer so I’ve been going crazy using my grill pan. It works just as well, the only difference is you don’t get a smoky, charred flavor like on the grill. The cook time varies depending on the size of the portobello caps. The result you’re looking for is grill marks on both sides of the mushroom and for it to be slightly softened. It needs to be sturdy to act as the main meat of the burger and mushy mushrooms aren’t appetizing anyway. For the condiment, whip up the simple garlicky mayo. A clove of garlic minced or grated mixes into about a quarter cup of mayo. You can also use Veganaise to keep things 100% veggie-based.

Grilled Portobello Burgers with Garden Salad 3.0.jpg

Grilled Portobello Burgers with Simple Green Salad
Burger Ingredients:
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
2 Portobello Caps
1 Garlic Clove, minced
¼ cup Mayonnaise or Veganaise
2 Hamburger Buns
2 Lettuce Leaves
2 Tomato Slices

Salad Ingredients:
1 head Green Leaf Lettuce, roughly torn or chopped
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
½ Cucumber, halved and sliced
1 bunch Radishes, sliced (or appx. 10 radishes)
3 Scallions, chopped
4 tbsp. Olive Oil
4 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
Shredded Parmesan Cheese, for garnish

Directions:
1 - Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Pour into a plastic sealable bag or a bowl with the portobello caps. Let marinate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the mayonnaise or veganaise and the garlic in a small bowl to create a garlic mayo.

2 - Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Take the portobello caps out of the bag or bowl and place cap down. There’s no need to pat dry. The balsamic vinegar will caramelize slightly for a nice, rich flavor. Let the mushrooms cook about 6-10 minutes per side* until softened and grill marks have formed. Once the mushrooms have finished cooking, spread a little garlic mayo on the bottom half of each bun. Place the Portobello over the mayo and top with lettuce and tomato. Serve!

3 - While the portobello burgers are cooking. Prep the salad. In a medium to large bowl, toss together the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes and scallions. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the salad. Top with Parmesan Cheese for garnish and serve alongside the burgers.

*NOTE: For the mushroom’s cook time, it varies depending on the size of the portobello cap. Larger caps will take longer time to soften. Smaller ones will cook quickly so be vigilant and don’t be afraid to peek and see if grill marks have formed occasionally.

Grilled Portobello Burgers with Garden Salad 1.0.jpg

8 Chicago Patios to Send Off Summer

Summertime in Chicago is fleeting which is why locals make the most of it. Now that it’s August, it’s time to soak in the remaining weeks of patio season. While most patios will stay open through September and maybe even October, this is more than likely the last full month of summer weather. Chicagoans will gather their tribe and head to their favorite spots to enjoy the hot sunny rays while sipping a cold cocktail or glass of wine. They’ll talk about any late summer trips they’ve planned and reminisce on all the shenanigans that have happened the last few months from festival memories to bad blind dates. As much as I really don’t enjoy the heat, it’s my favorite part of summer because you have this renewed energy to take advantage of things like patios and outdoor concerts. You want to wear all those cute summer dresses you’ve been accumulating before it’s time to break out the chunky, oversized sweaters. The entire city of Chicago has an energized spirit that is hard to ignore. Whether you’re a local looking for a new spot or a visitor in town for a few days, I’ve put together a list of 8 restaurants with patios to take advantage of in these final days of summer.

8 Chicago Patios To Send Off Summer.png

Bar Siena/Bombobar | 832 West Randolph Street - West Loop
For great Italian, head to Bar Siena. Chef Fabio Viviani created a dynamic space inside and out with this restaurant. Located on Randolph Street along Restaurant Row, the menu is inspired by Italian street food like pizzas and shared plates. It’s strongly recommended (by yours truly) to share because you get to try a little bit of everything and believe me, you’ll want to. Bar Siena is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner but most important, they serve dessert from Bombobar. Bombobar is a walk-up window on the side of the restaurant serving delightful bombolini, my kryptonite. Bombolini are Italian doughnuts, or more simply put, fried dough dredged in sugar. Stuff them with Nutella, seasonal jams, s’more flavors and more.

As far as dinner is concerned, try the Burrata to start or the Taleggio Focaccia followed by a pizza and a pasta. The Sausage and Brussels Sprout Pizza is a nice change from tradition but the Fireball Pepperoni is like a grown-up version of your childhood favorite. The Short Rib Lasagna is out of this world and the Sweet Corn Ravioli is summer on a plate. You see why it’s important that you share plates now? The staff is very familiar with the drink menu and is able to provide great pairings for your dinner, even if your dinner is all over the place with flavor profiles.

Bar Siena - Bombobar ed .jpg

Caffe Streets | 1750 West Division Street - Wicker Park
This Wicker Park coffee shop has one of the largest patios I’ve seen for a coffee shop. Caffe Streets is a great spot to enjoy a patio while you need to get work done. The coffee shop offers free wi-fi, bomb espresso and a welcoming environment. It’s an independently run business serving brews from Metric Coffee Co., another local Chicago business. The patio is out front along Division Street and bordered by rustic wood railings with planters for a touch of homeyness. Even though Division is a busy street for the area, it’s not as loud and distracting as you’d think. I will say, this is a popular spot among locals so if you want to grab a seat, make sure to get there early. They don’t have a huge menu but they do have a variety of sweet and savory bakery items.

Caffe Streets 2.0.jpg

Cindy’s Rooftop | 12 South Michigan Avenue - Loop
Since opening not too long ago, Cindy’s Rooftop has established itself as a staple for Chicago bucket lists. Locals love it and out of towners have to visit if only to see the amazing views. Located in the Chicago Athletic Hotel, Cindy’s has a rooftop terrace with some of the best views of the city. Overlooking Millennium Park, get sweeping views of Lake Michigan, Michigan Avenue and more. It’s a spot that I take family from out of town and also meet friends for a drink. The outdoor terrace has fire pits to keep warm when the nights are cool and as fall creeps in. The doors to the terrace open wide to bring the outside in on a beautiful, sunny day.

Cindy’s is known for having an innovative craft cocktail menu and iconic brunch. Part of the reason you visit Cindy’s is to take a picture of your gorgeous cocktail with the view of the city in the background. If you head to Cindy’s for brunch, the Spiced Cinnamon Roll is worth getting sticky fingers for and the Avocado Toast is an elevated version of the popular dish. I’d get into the cocktails and drinks but there are so many options for every palate that we’d be here for days. If you’re like me and read a wine list better than a cocktail list, don’t be afraid to ask your server or the bartender for a recommendation. The whole point of craft cocktails is to provide a unique experience that you enjoy. Tell them what you like, what you don’t like and they’ll point you in the right direction.

 Photo Credit: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

Photo Credit: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

City Winery on the Riverwalk | 11 West Riverwalk South - Chicago Riverwalk
For an ultimate patio experience, walk down the riverwalk and there is no shortage of spots to grab a seat. The riverwalk location is an extension of the larger City Winery on Randolph Street in the West Loop. The riverwalk is a newer development in the downtown area of Chicago. It used to be a place to avoid but now has a beautiful path on the south side of the river featuring restaurants, vendors, and activities like boat cruises and kayaking. City Winery offers wine on tap and by the bottle. The menu features shared plates, tours, charcuterie and cheese boards, paninis and more. On a hot day, I love to share the Schmear Plate with a friend or the Artisanal Cheese “Tour.” The Grilled Cheese is a stand-out sandwich for something more hearty featuring house-made apple butter and sun-dried tomato. Just trust me on this one.

Riverwalk.jpg

Ema | 74 West Illinois Street - River North
Walking into Ema, it feels like you’ve entered Los Angeles. I’ve never been to the California mecca but I imagine that Ema is what LA restaurants feel like. It makes sense considering Chef CJ Jacobson is an Orange County native. He’s brought a taste of home to Chicago with Mediterranean-style cuisine using a California twist. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, Ema serves food that tastes great and makes you feel even better. Even though Ema is in a busier part of River North, the patio offers a little seclusion and separation from the rush of traffic. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a late summer day and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Plates are meant to be shared but that’s always ok with me as long as I get to try a number of dishes. Start off with one of their many spreads served with house made bread. The Garlic Hummus is a dream and the Avocado & Sweet Pea is a treat using the best ingredients of the season. A few other recommendations are the Sweet Corn Risotto, Grilled Pork Belly and Green Falafel. Enjoy plates both cold and warm, vegetarian and meaty. There’s seafood, kebabs, grains, and their famous Rotisserie Chicken that’s also available at the quick counter to-go.

 Photo Credit: Anjali Pinto - c/o Ema

Photo Credit: Anjali Pinto - c/o Ema

Summer House Santa Monica | 1954 North Halsted Street - Lincoln Park
Another California-inspired restaurant, Summer House Santa Monica, won me over as soon as I experienced the clear ceiling that opens on dry days and lets all the sunshine in. This is another California-inspired menu with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients...my favorite! It’s an Instagram dream with all the natural lighting and bright, neutral colors. The food is amazing as well. From sushi to pasta to grilled proteins, even the pickiest of eaters will find something to eat at SHSM. The Ahi Tuna and Watermelon Tostada is fresh and flavorful while the Beyond Bolognese is a “meaty,” plant-based version of my favorite pasta. The restaurant is also known for a fantastic brunch which I have yet to experience but it remains on my bucket list! Don’t leave without dessert! Summer House Santa Monica shares a bakery with neighbor restaurant Stella Barra featuring fresh-baked cookies, pastries and more. Finish the night with something sweet and a little espresso. It sounds like heaven to me.

The Dawson | 730 West Grand Avenue - West Town
The Dawson has been a particular favorite of mine since it opened back in 2013. I’ve come here on many occasions for everything from dinner with friends to dinner for business. It’s a sophisticated dining experience with an elevated menu and gorgeous space. One of the best parts of The Dawson is the enclosed outdoor patio. It feels exactly how a backyard should but more grown-up. Pergolas, light landscaping, and string lights provide an ambiance that’s suitable for dinner with friends or an intimate dinner for two.

The Dawson’s menu doesn’t have to be shared but I always welcome any opportunity to try more than one dish. The Chorizo Fondue brings two of my favorite things together: cheese and chorizo. I’m not one to order fish but the Halibut with Zucchini and Harissa-Roasted Carrots is a dynamic summer dish. The House-Made Cavatelli with Pork Ragu is also sensational. One of The Dawson’s unique offerings is a selection of meals prepared over a wood-fired grill. It’s a traditional method of cooking and uses seasonal ingredients. The flavors are out of this world and the proteins cooked perfect. Final note for a side dish...order the Brussels Sprouts. You’ll never have them this good anywhere else.

 Photo Credit: Gage Hospitality Group

Photo Credit: Gage Hospitality Group

Three Embers | 10 Marriott Drive - Lincolnshire, IL
If you’re willing to make a trip out to the suburbs, plan a visit to Three Embers at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort. I recently shared a full review of the restaurant but it deserves a place on this list as well. Serving up Midwest cuisine with locally grown and sourced, farm-fresh ingredients...the main reason Three Embers belongs on this list is the stunning Lakeside Plaza. More than a patio, this plaza has gorgeous views of the resort’s grounds including a small lake and fountain. With plenty of outdoor seating, gorgeous views, and live acoustic music, it’s one of the best patio experiences. I’d love to revisit in the fall because something tells me the changing colors in the trees will be even more breathtaking than they are now. If you have a chance to visit while they’re still serving the summer menu, I recommend going for the Honey Badger Glazed Pork Belly alone. The Blueberry Coconut Lemonade isn’t so bad either 😉.

Three Embers - Lincolnshire 22.0.jpg

Club Sandwiches with Cucumber-Tomato Salad | Lighter Recipes For Summer

We are officially in the dog days of summer. August is traditionally the hottest and most unbearable of the summer months, not just for Chicago, but all over it seems. The big scary bugs are out like crazy and you feel like you need a shower for being outside five minutes. There’s also things like back to school which means back to sports and after school activities. While I don’t have kids of my own, living with two teenagers gives me a unique perspective of organizing dinner times around busy schedules and the importance of quick dinners. I also can appreciate a meal that doesn’t heat up the kitchen on a hot day. Who wants to sweat even more at the end of summertime? Bring on fall already!

Turkey Club Sandwiches with Cucumber-Tomato Salad.png

I’m always impressed by the triple decker sandwiches from diners and casual restaurants. They’re satisfying without weighing too heavy in your stomach. They’re also much less intimidating to create than you’d think. They do take a minute to assemble but that’s ok because it allows enough time for the cucumber tomato salad to marinate. By the time the sandwiches are together, dinner is ready to go. The only reason the kitchen might get heated up is if you’re cooking the bacon that same day. I did and it only added a few extra minutes to the prep time. I actually had the bacon going as I was preparing the vegetables for the salad. The cucumber-tomato salad is a simple version of a classic. Soaking the onion in water (you can add a splash of vinegar too) will keep them from overpowering the other ingredients. I love onion flavor but I don’t like when the onions are strong. Red wine vinegar and olive oil mix together for a simple dressing, everything marinades for about 15-20 minutes and you’re set!

Cucumber Tomato Salad 1.0.jpg

As much as I love triple decker sandwiches, I don't love that they can be so huge my mouth can't fit around them. It’s a joke in my family and with my friends, also my dentist, at how small my mouth is. Not kidding, he uses the kid-sized tools during my visit. It’s embarrassing. If you're ever out to eat with me and I accidentally take too large of a bite, be prepared to fill the conversation for the next five minutes. The great thing about these club sandwiches is that they pack in a lot of ingredients but they’re not towering so high that it’s an Olympic sport to fit in your mouth. A little cheese, a decent amount of meat and just enough veg to keep things fresh. And of course, you can’t forget the mayo!

Turkey Club Sandwiches with Cucumber Tomato Salad 4.0.jpg

Turkey Club Sandwiches with Cucumber-Tomato Salad
Ingredients for the Sandwiches:
12 slices Multigrain Bread (or your favorite sandwich bread), toasted
½ cup Mayo or Veganaise
8 slices Turkey Deli Meat (your choice)
8 strips Bacon, cooked and broken in half
4 slices of Tomato (or 8 slices if the tomato is small in size)
4 slices Muenster Cheese
4 Lettuce Leaves

Ingredients for the Salad:
½ small Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cucumber, halved and sliced
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
¼ cup Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Prep the Salad. Soak the onion slices in water for 20-30 minutes. You can also add a dash of vinegar too. This will help mute the flavor so the onion isn’t as strong. In a medium-sized serving bowl, mix together the cucumber, tomato, and onions. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle over the salad and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2 - Prep the sandwiches. Place two slices of bread facedown. On each side of the bread that’s face up, spread a little bit of the mayo. On one piece of bread, layer a slice of turkey, two bacon halves, and tomato. On the other piece of bread, layer a slice of cheese, two more bacon halves, a slice of turkey and lettuce. Spread a little mayo on both sides of the third piece of bread and place on one of sandwich halves. Carefully, flip the other half over to make a triple decker sandwich. Secure with two toothpicks to keep in place and slice in half. Serve.

Makes 4 Sandwiches

Turkey Club Sandwiches with Cucumber Tomato Salad 3.0.jpg

Prosciutto, Spinach & Tomato Frittata | Brunch Recipe

Who doesn’t love a great brunch dish? Brunch is America’s favorite weekend meal and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the perfect blend of breakfast and lunch often times mixing sweet and savory flavors. Add a few mimosas and you’ve got yourself a pretty great afternoon! While we all love to go out for brunch on the weekends, sometimes it’s nice to have friends or family over instead. It’s much more casual and cuts travel time out of the equation. If you happen to be hosting brunch soon, this Prosciutto, Spinach & Tomato Frittata is sure to wow guests. Serve it right out of the skillet alongside a green salad with some bread and fruit, maybe even a few pastries, and you’re set!

Brunch - Prosciutto, Spinach & Tomato Frittata.png

Frittatas are in the same realm as the quiche but more eggy and less of a custard. The eggs are whipped really well to create a lighter egg whereas a quiche is much more dense. A frittata can be as simple as eggs and cheese or it can be filled with lots of fun stuff like veggies, meat, and cheese. Some frittatas are cooked over the stove, some start on the stove and finish in the oven, and others cook only in the oven. This recipe, uses the oven-only method. For one, it gives you at least twenty minutes to finish preparing the rest of the meal plus another ten to welcome guests. It also is, to me, the easiest method. Cooking a frittata in the oven envelops the skillet in heat so that the eggs cook even. The risk of human error is reduced because you don’t touch it at all during the cooking process. If it’s the first time you’re attempting a frittata, I think that baking it is the easiest method to start.

 Frittata Ready to Bake!

Frittata Ready to Bake!

 Fresh Out of the Oven

Fresh Out of the Oven

Everyone loves ham and eggs. It’s another American favorite but for this recipe, I wanted to give it a little Italian twist. Prosciutto is an Italian dry-cured ham similar to bacon. It’s salty and has a strong flavor so a little goes a long way. Pair it with some basil, a little mozzarella and beautiful cherry tomatoes...you’ve got yourself one heck of a brunch dish. The prosciutto almost melts into the frittata becoming a part of the eggs. Add that to the sweetness of the tomatoes, the fresh, herby quality of the basil and the creaminess from the cheese and you’ve hit plenty of flavor profiles. This can serve as the main dish accompanied by some bread and a light salad or serve it in smaller portions as a side to a large brunch feast. The choice is yours!

Prosciutto & Tomato Fritatta 5.0.jpg

Prosciutto, Spinach & Tomato Frittata
Ingredients:
15 Eggs
⅓ cup Milk
2 cups Spinach
1 cup Mozzarella, shredded
1 cup Basil
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
8 slices Prosciutto
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter a non-stick, oven-proof skillet.

2 - Season and whisk the eggs. Generously salt and pepper the eggs and whisk. Add in the milk and continue to whisk until smooth. Mix in the spinach, mozzarella and basil. Pour into the skillet.

3 - Scatter the tomato halves throughout the egg mixture. Take the prosciutto slices and lay them throughout the frittata where there’s empty space. Carefully place the skillet in the oven to bake.

4 - Bake the frittata for twenty minutes. If the egg is still wet or a little more jiggly than you think it should be, place it back in the oven and check every five minutes or so until it’s done. The center will be firm to the touch. The total time will depend on your oven. Let the frittata sit 10-15 minutes before cutting into it.

Prosciutto & Tomato Fritatta 6.0.jpg

Triple Berry Kale Smoothie | Lighter Recipes For Summer

Back in the day when I was commuting to my first job out of college, I stopped for a smoothie on the way. I lived in the East Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago and had to take the “L” all the way to the last neighborhood bordering Evanston. In other words, it was a pretty decent hike. For some reason, I also dealt with nausea every single morning and a smoothie was the only thing that would help. No, I wasn’t pregnant but it sure felt like morning sickness had somehow infiltrated my body. Since then, smoothies are my go-to whenever I’m not feeling like eating or when it’s too hot. They’re not overwhelming like a plate of eggs and toast can be and generally the lightest meal with the most fuel.

Triple Berry Kale Smoothie.png

As an adult, my smoothie game has improved from regular stops at Jamba Juice to whipping them up at home. My wallet is thankful too, that’s for sure. Especially in the summer months, it’s not rare for me to swap a meal for a smoothie. Normally I’ll trade breakfast but some days I’ll trade lunch instead. Another way my smoothie game has improved is through ingredients. I don’t use any extra sweeteners including flavored yogurt. All you’ll find in my smoothies are fruit, veggies, plain greek yogurt and milk. Occasionally, I’ll add a nut butter - almost always peanut butter - and sometimes cocoa powder but that’s it. Fruit is naturally sweet enough. It’s not necessary to add sugar or syrups or even vanilla yogurt. If you want a dessert smoothie, make a dessert smoothie but the kind that I’m talking about are meant to fill you and avoid a sugar crash.

Triple Berry Kale Smoothie 4.0.jpg

For those of you who reject the idea of adding greens to smoothies, give it a shot. I wasn’t keen on the idea either when I started making them at home but it’s nowhere as bad as you think it will be. The kale may as well not even exist! If the fruit included is lighter in color, the smoothie might turn out green but with berries as the star ingredient, you get a pinkish-purple hue that’s so pretty. Even if the smoothie does turn out green, the kale flavor simply isn’t there. And if you disagree? Add more fruit! By creating a wider gap in the fruit to green ratio, you’re also diluting the flavor of the kale. I usually like to stick around 1.5 fruit to 1 veggie. Here’s the bottom line: it’s an easy way to get a serving of veggies in and kale is packed with fiber, vitamins and iron.

Triple Berry Kale Smoothie 1.JPG
Triple Berry Kale Smoothie 5.0.jpg

Here's another tip. Freeze greek yogurt in ice trays and store them for quick smoothies. It makes portioning out the yogurt super easy and mess-free and it makes the smoothie extra thick. The yogurt will last long frozen versus refrigerated and you can store in bulk. You could also freeze the greens if you want to buy them in bulk and store them without spoiling. Everything is getting blended so it's alright if the greens get a little crumbly. Fresh fruit is certainly a great idea but I use frozen because it stores easy, it's year-round instead of seasonal and it keeps the smoothie thick. Do you have a favorite smoothie ingredient combo?

Triple Berry Kale Smoothie 3.0.jpg

Triple Berry Kale Smoothie
Ingredients:
1 cup Milk (of your choice, I used lactose-free)
1 cup Kale (or if you prefer, spinach)
¼ cup (or 2 frozen cubes) plain Greek Yogurt
½ cup each frozen Blueberries, Raspberries & Blackberries (you can also use the frozen mixed berries from the freezer section, just make sure to use a total of 1.5 cups)

Directions:
Pour all of your ingredients into a blender in this order: milk, kale, yogurt, berries. Blend until smooth. You may need to pause a few times to scrape down the sides and loosen the ingredients at the bottom. If the mixture is too thick, add a splash of milk at a time to loosen. Serve once blended.

Triple Berry Kale Smoothie 7.0.jpg

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus | Farmers Market Series

The farmers market season is arguably the best time of year (other than Christmas, of course). Everything is fresh and in perfect cooking condition. All the flavors of the season are at their best. You’ll never get asparagus in the winter that’s as good as in the summer. Sames goes for berries, summer squash and watermelon. It’s the perfect time to indulge in all the colorful options because the season never seems to last long enough. Too bad because I wouldn’t mind having summer fresh berries year round! One of my personal favorites that’s available all the way at the beginning of spring into summer and fall is asparagus.

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus.png

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that you never would have touched as a kid and then wonder what your problem was when you become an adult. It’s one of the quintessential spring and summer veggies. It adds a bright green color to the plate and it cooks up SUPER quick. Blanch it in water for a minute or so or pop it on the grill for as much time. It’s the perfect hot weather veggie because you really don’t want to cook it long, just enough to remove the rawness and soften the bite. What makes asparagus even better? Butter and cheese! That makes everything better though so no surprise there.

This recipe for Parmesan Roasted Asparagus is affordable, it’s quick and it’s super tasty. Serve it alongside a frittata for brunch or with a nice steak for dinner. That’s actually how I served it. The weekend I wrote this recipe was my first weekend at the farmers market. It was still spring, and for us the beginning of spring because winter stuck around through April. There were very few options, literally two: asparagus and rhubarb. Never having cooked with rhubarb before and not wanting to botch my first farmer’s market challenge, I went with asparagus. But how do you make asparagus interesting? You slather it in butter and melt a bunch of cheese on top, that’s how! Pair it with a simple grilled steak finished with a small tab of butter at the end and you’re good to go. It’s a hearty yet lighter dinner perfect for the warmer months.

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus 2.0.jpg
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus 4.0.jpg
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus 7.0.jpg

So now that I’ve gone on about asparagus and lightly mentioned this farmer’s market challenge, let me refresh your memory. Earlier in spring, I decided I wanted to challenge myself to cook seasonally and support local businesses while I was at it. We have a great farmers market in my town and I always felt that markets had the best the season has to offer. Since I love giving myself challenges when my to-do list is already a thousand miles long, I decided that every week (or almost every week), I would go to the market and write a recipe inspired by the ingredients I bought. Because most of May only had asparagus and rhubarb, those plans were derailed a bit and I haven’t written as many recipes as I would have liked. That’s why this series started so late in the season. Well, that and the few curveballs life has thrown my way lately. Better late than never though, right? So until the farmer’s market closes later this fall, I’ll continue to stop by the local market whenever I can and write recipes completely inspired by the ingredients I pick up. The next one I share is a double doozy to make up for the lack of market recipes. There are two recipes involved because I was able to grab a lot more ingredients since it was from a visit in June.

Do you visit your local farmer’s market every week or are you a strict grocery store shopper? I completely understand both so there’s no judgement for your answer, tell me in the comments below. Also, let me know if you have any ingredient requests! I love a good challenge so if you’d like to see me use a specific ingredient that can be found at the farmers market, tell me in the comments and if I can find it, I’ll grab it and give it a shot.

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus 10.0.jpg

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Ingredients:
1 bunch Asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Butter, cut into four pieces
½ cup Shaved Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prep a baking sheet with tin foil.

2 - Place the asparagus on the baking sheet in one even layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper. Place the four tabs of butter randomly over the asparagus. I did a zig zag pattern so that the butter didn’t pool on one side.

3 - Bake the asparagus for 5-6 minutes until the butter is melted. Sprinkle the cheese over the asparagus. Bake another 2-3 minutes  until melted. Serve!