Summer Nights at Three Embers at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort

There are some meals that are so good they stick with you for a long time. Every single dish is memorable and your mouth salivates thinking about it. Unfortunately for me, the meal on my mind lately is almost a two hour drive away but worth every minute there and back. It’s the new summer menu from Three Embers at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort and if it’s not on your summer bucket list, it should be. Located in Chicago’s North Shore area, Three Embers, the resort’s signature restaurant, celebrates Midwest cuisine with simple, locally grown and sourced, farm-fresh ingredients, while integrating influential flavors from various regions throughout southern Europe. My cousin and I had the pleasure to dine with other influencers at a special event to preview the new summer menu at Three Embers. It was a gorgeous night that was miraculously not suffocating given our current summer record and the company was fantastic.

**I was invited out to Three Embers for a special event with all food and drink provided complimentary. All opinions expressed belong to Lattes, Life & Luggage.***

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We started with cocktails and appetizers on the brand new Lakeside Plaza at Three Embers overlooking the resort lake. The Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort recently went through a $25 million transformation which includes the Lakeside Plaza featuring a dramatic wood-burning grill, plenty of outdoor seating and gorgeous views all around. The fountain in the center of the lake provides a peaceful ambiance and a great backdrop for photos! We were greeted with a Blueberry Coconut Lemonade (malibu, blueberry-coconut lemoncello, fresh squeezed lemonade), a drink that was made for me. It went down way too easy and I’m a picky cocktail sipper so that says a lot. Passed appetizers included the Lamb Croquettes with mint pesto, black mission figs and a goat cheese mousse and the Burrata with heirloom tomato, balsamic, basil and EVOO. Everything was tasty which should have prepared us for the five-course meal that came later but believe me when I say we were all blown away.

 The Lamb Croquettes

The Lamb Croquettes

 The Blueberry Coconut Lemonade

The Blueberry Coconut Lemonade

The pre-fixe menu began with the Honey Badger Glazed Pork Belly with miso sabayon, pickled blueberries, and bitter greens. It’s probably not a great idea to lead with the best dish but since we’re going in order of courses, that’s how it works today! The glazed pork belly was by far my favorite dish of the night. And that is not to say I hated the others. I loved everything but if I picked favorites, and I am, the pork belly wins. The meat was so tender it melted in your mouth. The flavors were out of this world. Sweet met savory in the best possible way. The meat had this beautiful caramelized crust that I will forever be trying to replicate at home. I should also take this time to mention the bread and butter. Three Embers has a pastry chef that makes all of their baked goods and pastries in house. The bread was so good, I should write a paragraph dedicated to it but I'll control myself. The butter was also a delight because it had honey and a little salt. Two things I will never complain about.

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The pork belly was followed by the light and delicate Grilled Farm Vegetables with tomato jus, shrimp, and basil. The presentation was stunning - summer on a plate! This a perfect dish for dining on the patio during a warm summer night. Next we dug our forks into the Alaskan Halibut with risotto, charred leek, and preserved lemon. Risotto is a fickle friend and if you think about it, so is fish. If you cook it too little, you’re in trouble. If you cook it too much, you’re in more trouble. Both the halibut and the risotto were cooked to perfection. The halibut was flaky and light, not a morsel was dried out. The risotto was creamy and comforting, just how I like it. The charred leek and preserved lemon add a nice balance of flavors to an otherwise light dish. Don’t let risotto fool you. Even though it’s comforting doesn’t mean it will overwhelm the stomach in the heat of summer. Cooked well and with the right flavors, it’s an all-season side dish.

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The last main course was the Veal Tenderloin with milk poached, ricotta dumpling and mushroom. This might have been the most tender piece of meat (other than the pork belly) that I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy. I’m trying to think of words to describe this dish but all I can think about is my stomach growling even though I just had a very satisfying smoothie. Where do I even begin?! The veal tenderloin was cooked perfect. It had a crisp, caramelized crust and tender, juicy inside. The dumplings were gummy and delightful but 10x more irresistible dipped in the jus that covered the veal which was so flavorful every single taste bud was tantalized. This is about as hearty as you should get for a summer dish and Three Embers did not disappoint for a second.

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Finally, we were treated to the Dessert Duo of Chocolate Pave with raspberry sorbet, rhubarb, and chocolate crumble and a Honey Creme Brulee with blood orange, pistachios, and white chocolate. It was interesting to go around the table and see which was everyone’s favorite. Not having a crazy sweet tooth myself, I was satisfied within a few bites but I still had the opportunity to appreciate the delicate quality of each dish. The Chocolate Pave was my personal favorite. The rich chocolate balanced beautiful with the tart raspberry sorbet. The Honey Creme Brulee was the kind of dessert that got better with each bite. It was very sweet but the blood orange and pistachios helped with the balance.

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It was an incredible night with great company and outstanding service and food. The staff at Three Embers and the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort were very welcoming and it was a treat to be able to get away mid-week. Another reason I love Three Embers is because of their passion for locally sourced and farm-fresh ingredients. The resort has an on-site farm, greenhouse and apiary where they source much of their fresh fruits and vegetables as well as their very own honey! They’re making a wonderful contribution to the environment and anything they cannot source themselves, they try to source local from produce, livestock and dairy farms. It’s one thing to enjoy a great meal but another altogether to enjoy a great meal from a restaurant doing its part to impact the environment and support local businesses.

Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Compote | Lighter Recipes For Summer

Who doesn’t love to entertain in the summertime? Each season has its own unique perks to inviting people over and hosting them for dinner or brunch. Winter is all about comforting, hearty dishes that are sometimes indulgent but always delightful. Fall has that wonderful crisp air, the smells are intoxicating (who can resist pumpkin and all those spiced baked goods), and the seasonal produce is arguably the best all year. Spring is a light in the dark after a long, cold winter. The days get longer and warmer, there’s sunshine, everything becomes green again and all the seasonal produce is fresh and light. Summer is bountiful with an overabundance of produce from summer squash to tomatoes to berries to greens. There’s an excess of everything and the sun is shining late into the evening. The one downside (and all seasons have one), is that summer can get hot which is not ideal for heating up a kitchen. That’s why I love these Turkey Sliders.

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Since we’re lazy and haven’t restocked the propane tank for our grill, I’ve been forced to do all the “grilling” inside. Normally, I like to use my grill pan as it’s become my favorite stovetop tool but for this recipe I used my cast iron skillet instead. Cast iron skillets are useful for many reasons. You can use them on the stove, in the oven and even on the grill, and they distribute heat the best out of any cooking tool. The trick is to heat them up before getting started. By preheating the skillet, it ensures an even cooking temperature for all your sliders so that they cook perfect every time. The grill is the ideal cooking method for summertime though. So if you’re taking these outside to cook up, use the same instructions but apply them to your grill instead! It’s so easy and you’ll have less clean up than I did.

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Now for the sliders, I actually filmed the cooking process on Instagram stories a few weeks back if you want to check it out! The videos are saved to my highlights in the “Cooking at Home” category. First, get the blueberry compote started. A compote is like a syrupy jam. Fruit cooks over a low heat with sugar until you get a gooey, syrupy consistency. It’s looser than jam but chunky so not a full-fledged syrup. It’s a great way to use up fruit that might be on its last life instead of throwing it out. Once the compote is finished, move on to the turkey burgers. Mix the meat and create golf ball-sized meatballs before squashing them into patties. Cook these over a medium-high heat. You want to cook turkey hot and fast so that it doesn’t get dried out. Because these are little baby burgers and not full-sized, they’ll cook through quick over the high heat. Once the burgers are done, I like to toast the buns. It adds an extra depth of flavor and shows your guests that you’re willing to go the extra mile. Plus, it tastes fantastic.

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These sliders are perfect for summer entertaining because you can prepare them fast, you can prepare them in advance, they’re light but still super flavorful, they can be cooked outside to avoid heating the house, and they cook up in numbers! Double or triple the batch if you need to feed a crowd and serve them as a heavy appetizers along other summery bites like watermelon, pasta salad, Mexican corn and more! Another perk...sliders are finger food so no forks required. Perfect for that upcoming late summer graduation party you’re hosting soon.

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Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Compote
For the Compote:
1 cup Blueberries
1 tbsp. Sugar
Juice of ½ Lemon

For the Burgers:
1 lb. Ground Turkey
2 Scallions, chopped
1 large Garlic Clove, minced
1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
½ tsp. Lemon Zest
4 Slices Gouda Cheese (each cut into four squares)
4 tbsp. Butter
Slider Buns

Directions:
1 - Prepare the compote. In a small saucepan, mix together the berries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a light simmer over medium-low heat and cook until it becomes a gooey, jam-like mixture, about 8-10 minutes. If necessary, use a potato masher to break down the berries a little more if it’s too chunky. Take off the heat and let cool.

2 - Mix the burger meat. In a large bowl, mix together the turkey, scallions, garlic, panko bread crumbs, parsley and lemon zest until well incorporated. Form into golf ball sized meatballs and smash flat to form a patty.

3 - Preheat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Place the patties on the grill (you might need to work in batches) and cook 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through. About halfway through the cook time on the second side, add two gouda slices so the cheese melts over the patty. Once the turkey burgers are all cooked, spread butter onto the inside of each slider bun and toast on the same grill pan or skillet over low heat for a minute or so.

4 - Build the sliders. Place the slider on top of the bottom half of the bun. Spoon a tablespoon or so of the compote on top of the of the slider and place the top half of the bun over it. Serve!

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5 Recipes to Celebrate National Pineapple Day

Happy Wednesday! You know what that means? We’re halfway through the week which means the weekend is almost here. And it’s even better because next week is a holiday week which means...short week!!! To say I’m excited is an understatement. Did you also know that today is National Pineapple Day? It’s also International Pineapple Day but the point is, it’s a day for celebrating pineapple, one of my favorite fruits! I love the versatility of it. It’s great fresh, on its own or grilled on top of a burger. I’ve come to enjoy it so much, that it’s even been sneaking it’s way into quite a few recipes lately. Keep scrolling to grab a few.

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I’ve always known Hawaii to be the land of the pineapple but did you know that they’re actually native to South America? The Spanish brought the fruit to Hawaii where they ended up commercializing it. For a while, pineapples became a sign of wealth among European aristocrats since it was so expensive to either import them or grow them through early versions of greenhouses. I find this fascinating! And now, Hawaii barely produces any of the world’s pineapple contributions. Imagine my surprise considering I visited Hawaii back in 2006 and we had plenty of pineapple and even visited a plantation. But now that I realize it was 12 years ago, I guess it shouldn't be so surprising.

I could go on all day about pineapple but I’m sure you’d rather check out a few recipes. My favorite use of pineapple lately has been grilled and on top of burgers. Something about the combination of savory, juicy meat and the tangy sweetness of pineapple gets to me. It’s a flavor combo that can’t be beat and it’s an easy way to add a little pizzazz to your dinner table or impress guests. Where else (other than a restaurant) will you get a burger with a pineapple on top? People are generally too apprehensive to go out of their comfort zone with food when they’re hosting guests. Me? I like to challenge people’s comfort zones so don’t come to dinner at my house if you’re not ready to see something non-traditional on the dinner table. I love the classics but boy, do I love a twist!

BBQ Chicken Burgers with Grilled Pineapple
This recipe is one of my favorites. Ground chicken is used instead of beef for lighter burgers that are packed with flavor. Keep the patty from disintegrating on the grill by using a full cup of breadcrumbs in the meat mixture. I used regular breadcrumbs but panko will work as well and might even give the burgers a light, airy quality.

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BBQ Hawaiian Chicken Bowls
This is a great weeknight dish. Everything (except the rice) is grilled, or cooked on grill pan over the stove. Start with the chicken breasts and while they rest, grill up the pineapple and peppers. Serve over rice with my homemade barbecue sauce and this is a winner.

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Frozen Mango-Pineapple Daiquiri
Fresh or frozen pineapple will work for this delightful cocktail. I call it sunshine in a glass because you can’t help but be happy while drinking it and it looks so sunny! White rum, my preferred choice of liquor, has a mellow flavor so I will warn you - it goes down a little too easy. This would be a great cocktail to whip up for a few friends on a casual night in but I wouldn’t recommend making it in larger batches since the slushy quality really makes it special.

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Grilled Pineapple Burgers
Inspired by one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, this recipe was my first try at putting a pineapple on my own burger. Modeled after a burger I had while visiting Denver, it has a lot of flavor packed into the meat patty so that the pineapple doesn’t take over. Provolone cheese adds a mellow touch to all the strong flavors and provides a nice balance.

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Mango Pineapple Salsa
Probably my favorite salsa recipe...ever. Nothing mixes better with pineapple than other tropical flavors. This salsa, while very yellow in presentation, is addictive. So addictive that in the original post I wrote a disclaimer releasing me from any responsibility of future salsa addictions. It’s so easy to make and is 100% worth making in triple or even quadruple batches. It will go fast. Believe me!

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Guide to Summer in Chicago

It’s officially the first day of summer! Because winters are long and brutal, Chicagoans go all out from squeezing in patios wherever there’s space to extra long beach days. Even if it’s 100 degrees and humid, you’ll see patios and rooftops packed. And while you’ll find me hibernating for a better part of the warm season, it’s fun to get into a summer dress and enjoy an ice cold glass of rose. Whether you’re a local or visiting for a few days these next few months, we’ve got your guide to summer in Chicago from where to eat to how to escape the heat when it becomes too much. Grab your sandals and let’s start the celebration!

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WHERE TO EAT
Breakfast at the Allis

Start the day in style at the Allis in Soho House. One of my favorite places in Chicago, the Allis has a unique, welcoming environment with design elements that scream to be shared on Instagram. Choose from house made baked goods, cold pressed juices, and delightful egg selections. The French Toast with berries and vanilla creme anglaise are delightful. The Baked Eggs in arrabbiata sauce are a unique choice with tons of flavor or build your own omelet. I’ve had almost the entire breakfast menu at the Allis and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

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Lunch at City Winery on the Riverwalk
The riverwalk has recently gone through a makeover in the last couple of years. Previously a place that locals and visitors avoided, the City of Chicago has put a lot of money into cleaning it up and making it a place for people to enjoy. There are plenty of areas to sit back and relax, landscaping has been added and there are a sprinkling of restaurants and grab-and-go food joints. One of the restaurants in particular that I love to enjoy after a long day is City Winery on the Riverwalk. City Winery is a pretty popular establishment with a few locations scattered across the country. They’re known for wine, of course, and also live music performances. City Winery at the Riverwalk is a casual spot with a fantastic wine selection and delicious shared plates. They’re a great option for lunch because it tends to get crowded later in the day and the shared plates make munching easier when it’s warm outside. If you happen to be coming in the cooler months, they have heated domes so you can still enjoy the gorgeous views even if it’s below freezing.

Afternoon Tea at LondonHouse
Get out of the heat with afternoon tea at Bridges in LondonHouse. Their menu features sweet and savory bites, a variety of teas, and lovely wine selection for those looking to embrace the “rose all day” mentality. For a complete experience, order the LondonHouse Tea for a $50 flat fee per person. It comes with all their sweet and savory treats in a beautiful tiered presentation and your choice of tea. Sip a cup of Earl Grey or glass of Whispering Angel while enjoying unbeatable views of the Chicago River in a comfortable, sophisticated environment. It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

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Dinner at Shore Club
Possibly the hottest new spot to hit the scene this year, Shore Club takes beach casual and merges it with sophistication. Located on North Avenue Beach, Shore Club has gorgeous views of the lake and a variety of seating and dining options. Enjoy a romantic dinner for two in the restaurant or get the night started with the girls in one of the cabanas. Their menu is inspired by Mediterranean cuisine and has something for everyone. This is the #1 spot on my summer bucket list and I hope to see you there as well!

Dessert at Smallcakes Cupcakery & Creamery
The hottest dessert craze in Chicago at the moment, Smallcakes offers homemade cupcakes and ice cream to anyone with a sweet tooth. Their Limited Edition Mason Jars with Smallcakes SMASH has taken over social media and for good reason too. Cupcake meets ice cream in a mason jar filled over the brim with all kinds of goodness. You choose a cupcake and two scoops of ice cream. They stuff a mason jar. Try one of their regular cupcake flavors like the Chocoholic or Cookies n Cream. They also feature monthly flavors with a different one for each day of the week. It’s the ultimate summer treat.

WHERE TO GET OUT OF THE HEAT
Browse Impressionist Art at the Art Institute of Chicago

Illinois residents, save a buck at the Art Institute of Chicago on Thursday nights after 5pm with free entry! Browse the well-renowned modern wing, see ancient artifacts, or walk through the 2nd largest collection of Impressionist art in the world. Outside of the D’Orsay in Paris, a museum strictly for Impressionism, the Art Institute has the largest collection with pieces from Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and more. I can get lost in the paintings from this era. Make sure to check out upcoming events at the Art Institute as well. They have them regularly and might provide a nice activity for your visit.

Experience TV History at SNL: The Experience
Last fall, the Museum of Broadcast Communications launched SNL: The Experience, something Chicago is very proud of. Second City has given Chicago a name in the world of comedy. Many of the comedians that have performed and worked at Second City have also made a name for themselves on SNL like Tina Fey, John Belushi, Steve Carell, Bill Murray, and Stephen Colbert. The exhibit takes you through the entire SNL experience from the first meetings of the week to what happens after the show. They also have recreations of famous sets like Wayne’s World and Weekend Update, plus a replica of Studio 8H.

See Chicago From 94 Floors Up
360 Chicago
has one of the best, if not the best, views of Chicago. With a 360 degree view of the city 1000 feet up, there’s nothing quite as ethereal like seeing the lake extend out for miles during sunset. Lucky for you summertime visitors, the 360 Chi Series is all summer long and features special events and activities throughout the week. Enjoy yoga in the mornings on Saturdays, Sunday Funday for families or my favorite, happy hour on Thursdays! If you have the guts you can also try Tilt which has you leaning over the city. It’s the craziest thrill seeking adventure that I’ll ever do.

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THINGS TO DO
Hit the Beach!

From the South Side to North Shore, Chicago is full of beaches along the lake. It isn’t summer in Chicago if you don’t visit at least one of them. My personal favorite is Oak Street Beach tucked away near Navy Pier. It’s smaller and not as well known so it doesn’t get as crowded as the likes of North Avenue Beach. Of course, North Avenue is one of the places to be if you’re heading to the lake and I encourage the experience at least once. Montrose Beach is another great option farther north of the city close to the Uptown neighborhood. And if you’re willing to go even further, Rogers Park (the last neighborhood in Chicago before hitting Evanston) has beautiful parks along with the beaches up there. The beaches on the south side have unbeatable views of the skyline, FYI. For a complete guide to beaches in Chicago, I suggest checking out this recent article from Thrillist.

Enjoy one of the MANY Festivals.
With summer being such a short season in Chicago, we’ve learned how to pack in all the good stuff and that is including festivals. From May through September, it’s a safe bet to expect several festivals every single weekend throughout the city. Windy City Smokeout coming up in a few short weeks is one of my personal favorites. Barbecue joints from around the country come and serve their favorite dishes like BBQ Pulled Pork, Ribs, Fried Chicken and more. And what’s barbecue without a little country music?! A few bands and artists I’ve seen perform at Smokeout include Maren Morris, Dan + Shay, Chris Young, Big & Rich, Billy Currington, and Kacey Musgraves. A few other festivals I’d recommend are Logan Square Food Truck Social (because, food trucks, duh!), Northalsted Market Days, and Chicago Gourmet. RedEye Chicago has a complete guide to Chicago festivals and Choose Chicago breaks down the biggest ones by month in case you need help shuffling through the mess.

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Take a Ride on the Water.
The best part about Chicago being located on a lake is that the lake tours are one-of-a-kind and spectacular. Shoreline Sightseeing has really affordable boat tours. Take an architectural tour that goes along the Chicago river and into Lake Michigan or just take a Classic Lake Tour. While it doesn’t have all the history of the architectural tour, it does share a few facts and you’ll be on the lake the entire time instead of the river. They’re also shorter which is nice if you have kids or a short attention span. Tour times are available all day long but if you’d love a great sight, Chicago at sunset from Lake Michigan is unbeatable. Check your weather app and get in line early to make sure you grab a spot.

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Watch a Movie in Millennium Park
Tuesdays through August, see a free movie in Millennium Park. Get there early to grab one of the seats in front or take a picnic basket filled with snacks and a blanket to kick back on the green. It’s a local favorite. You’ll find lots of couples enjoying a date night and groups of friends having wine and a dinner they pulled together on their way over from the office. If you’re visiting Chicago on your own, there are plenty of people who enjoy the free movies in the park on their own as well so you’ll be in good company. A few of the movies playing this summer are WALL-E, Coco, Slumdog Millionaire, and Get Out.

Simple Blueberry Pancakes | Brunch Recipes

Nothing makes me happier than a hearty breakfast or brunch on the weekend. Breakfast food is my favorite, especially when I’m eating out at a restaurant. You can get great breakfast food at home though too. I might not have cracked the trick to delightful, thick and fluffy French Toast but I feel like I have figured out the trick to delicious pancakes. Take these Simple Blueberry Pancakes, for example. They’re fluffy, tasty, and don’t take too long to whip up either which is always a plus. They also freeze nicely for breakfast during the week if you’re so inclined.

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Pancakes are a pretty standard breakfast and brunch item. It seems that a classic Blueberry Pancake is often overlooked because of how standard it is. Do people even make them at home anymore? They’re so simple and a refreshing alternative to classic pancakes. It’s an easy way to mix up a standard breakfast on the weekends. The trick to great pancakes is butter...lots and lots of butter. Butter in the batter and butter on the griddle. The batter should also be somewhat clumpy. The ingredients need to be mixed but if you have a completely smooth batter, the pancakes won’t get as thick and fluffy. My final tip, a touch of vanilla goes a long way for flavor. It elevates the pancakes and adds an extra pop of flavor.

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For a richer pancake, buttermilk is also a good addition. You could substitute one cup of the regular milk with buttermilk but you don’t want to substitute all the regular milk out because you’ll get dry pancakes. And speaking of milk...you’ll notice a very specific measurement. One and three quarters of a cup of milk plus two tablespoons. This is no joke. I added more milk into the batter gradually until it reached the perfect consistency. The batter should be thick but not gloppy. It’s a very thin line you’re working when it comes to the batter consistency but I swear this measurement is on point. If you feel like the batter is too thin or too thick, feel free to add a little extra flour or milk but only a little at a time, I'd say no more than a tablespoon. Sometimes the environment can have an effect on the consistency of the batter so it can vary. Or, maybe you just have a different pancake preference which is perfectly fine too.

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I'm having brunch at a restaurant this weekend with an old friend of mine. It'll be the perfect way to kick off my birthday and the restaurant came to me as a recommendation. The menu looks fantastic and the restaurant has a rooftop so I'm kind of hoping for cooler weather so we can enjoy it. It tends to cool off for my birthday even if we're mid-heat wave. I think it's the universe's way of giving me a break, even if just for a day.

So tell me, do you make blueberry pancakes at home? Any pancake making trips up your sleeve to share?

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Simple Blueberry Pancakes
Ingredients:
2 cups Flour
¼ cup Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. Salt
¼ cup Butter, melted + 1 tbsp for the griddle
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 Egg
1 ¾ cups Milk + 2 tbsp.
1 cup Fresh Blueberries

Directions:
1 - In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add in the milk, butter, vanilla, and egg. Mix until everything is incorporated. The batter will be smooth for the most part with some clumps. Clumps are good because they’ll keep the pancakes fluffy. Fold in the blueberries.

2 - Heat a griddle over medium-high heat and add the reserved tablespoon of butter. Once melted, use a spatula or pastry brush to spread it over the entire surface of the griddle.

3 - To make the pancakes, ladle about ⅓ cup of the batter onto the griddle. Leave an inch or so between the pancakes so it’s easy to flip them and move them around. Once the batter is on the griddle, wait for it to bubble up and flip. Gently press the pancake down after a few minutes. If it springs back up quickly, you’re good to go. If there’s still an impression, let it cook a minute or so more.

4 - Continue the process until all the batter is gone. Serve!

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5 Productivity Tips For When You Travel: #WorldProductivityDay

In honor of World Productivity Day, I thought it would be a fantastic time to share a few tips to stay productive while traveling. One of the reasons I have the fortune to travel often is because I can work anywhere as long as there’s an internet hook up. When you’re not bound by a corporate office structure, it affords a lot more flexibility to live your life rather than your job live life for you. With that said, while traveling is a perk of working from home, you still need to make time to meet deadlines while away. It’s not always easy and sometimes you might have to spend more time in the hotel room or coffee shop than you would have preferred, but it is doable. These are some of the tricks I’ve learned in the last few years.

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#1 - Set Office Hours. This was the most important lesson I learned and I learned the hard way too. It’s great to plan and work while traveling but it doesn’t work well unless you set aside specific times dedicated to it. I schedule a few hours early in the morning from 7-9am (if not earlier), venture out until lunchtime and then get a few more hours in during the afternoon. Usually around 1-4pm. There are two reasons for this. One, not much is open before 9am so there’s not a ton to miss out on and the afternoon is a high tourist time, perfect to avoid crowds. The second reason is because I tend to get the most action on email in the afternoon so if there’s a time of day I need to be present, that’s it. If necessary, I’ll set aside an hour or two at night as well. The point is, that time is specifically set for working. Whether I grab my portable office and head to a coffee shop or make a spot for myself in the hotel lobby, that computer is open and I am focused. When you don’t set that time aside, it’s hard to gage how much time you need to get all your tasks done and the lack of organization could end up causing you to spend more hours at the computer than you’d prefer.

#2 - Make the most of the time you set. Along with setting the time to work, making the most of it should be just as important. Don’t waste the three hours you’ve set aside in the morning checking on your Facebook feed. Unless your tasks have to do with social media, sign off all your accounts and mute your phone. Avoid any and all distractions so that you are solely focused on getting work done and getting out to explore. But don’t forget, just because you’re working doesn’t mean you have to be holed up in a hotel room. I haven’t been to one town or city without a local coffee shop or bakery that offers internet. Take your computer out of the hotel and sit in a cafe like a local. It might give you a little extra motivation to get your to-do list done.

#3 - Batch Tasks. One of the most efficient ways to work is by batching similar tasks together. My day typically blocks out by writing assignments, pitching assignments, and miscellaneous tasks. Schedule the hardest tasks or the ones that will take the longest amount of time at the beginning of your set work time. Getting them out of the way will help keep up momentum so you don’t get discouraged by the time you’ve reached your final to do. Getting discouraged could cause you to spend more time on it then necessary. The strategy of batching tasks is helpful because it forces you to concentrate on the same type of work rather than constantly shift your focus and mindset. It’s a more productive way to get things accomplished.

#4 - Prepare in advance. This is a big one and it will have a great impact on how much you’ll be on the computer while traveling. Regardless of your job, there are tasks that can be done in advance so that they’re off your plate at a later date. For me, these tasks might be writing and scheduling social media content or getting follow-ups out for a pitch that I sent recently. Two weeks before leaving, make a to-do list of all your regular tasks, all your deadlines and anything that you can think of that might come up during your time away. Figure out what can realistically be completed before you leave and execute them. By taking care of things that can be done in advance, you’re freeing up time to enjoy the destination rather than work on those tasks. It will also relieve some stress when you return.

#5 - Let your team know you’re traveling. Unless you want it to be a secret, be honest with your colleagues and your clients. Let them know you’re going to be traveling for a certain amount of time and that you won’t be as available as usual. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be there to handle emergencies if they come up or stay on top of your regular tasks. It lets them know that you might not be as quick to answer and that if there’s something that can wait to be addressed when you return, you’ll file it for later. This is helpful because it will keep clients and colleagues from piling on new responsibilities that aren’t urgent and they’ll most likely back off a bit on communications as well. And that’s great because you won’t be constantly digging out of emails. The bottom line - you’ll be returning soon and if you have a good relationship with the people you work with, they should be understanding and flexible to allow you to still handle things but keep it light

Southwestern Chicken Pita Pockets | Lighter Recipes For Summer

Boy is it hot out there people. We’ve been in scorching 90 degree temperatures again (hello, personal hell) which means I’ve been doing everything possible to avoid heating the house. No one wants to cook over a hot stove when it’s unbearably warm outside and more important, no one wants to eat heavy meals. Today’s recipe is (almost) no-cook and is light enough for even the hottest of days. These Southwestern Chicken Pita Pockets whip up in about twenty minutes or so (there is prep time involved) and the only cooking required is to heat up the pita bread. Even that’s optional too. Keep reading and you’ll see…

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Let’s start with the chicken. This is essentially a beefed up chicken salad. I bought a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store that contributed the main protein for this meal and another recipe I’ll be sharing soon. You only need about two cups of cooked chicken chopped or shredded and an average rotisserie chicken will give you around four. It’s a great way to save a few bucks since four chicken breasts at the butcher will average around the same price as a whole rotisserie chicken. The chicken gets tossed with corn, you can use frozen, canned or fresh corn cut off the cob. If you use frozen, let it thaw and drain first. I used the canned variety. Toss the chicken with the corn, black beans, romaine lettuce, buttermilk ranch dressing, olives, tomatoes and cheese. I prefer the flavor of buttermilk ranch but if you like a bit more tang to your dressing, regular ranch will work fine as well. Let that sit while you prepare the pitas.

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Pita pockets are pita bread with slits in the center to create little pocket holes. They’re a great sandwich alternative and can be found in the bread aisle. There’s not much of a difference than regular bread nutrition-wise but it’s somehow lighter to me. Warming the pitas up for a few seconds over a grill pan will make them more pliable and wake the flavor up a bit but if you want to skip heat altogether, it’s not necessary. Grab a pita pocket, stuff it with the chicken salad, and voila! You have a quick, tasty dinner that won’t feel like a brick has sunk to your stomach. Great for summertime, right?! Hopefully these scorchers will only be occasional occurrences but if the weather since May is any indication, we’ll be having one hot summer. With that said, be ready for more easy peasy recipes that are low to no heat. It’s going to be a light summer when it comes to food.

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Southwestern Chicken Pita Pockets
Ingredients:
2 cups cooked Chicken, shredded or diced
1 cup Corn
14 oz. Black Beans, drained and rinsed well
2 cups Romaine Lettuce, chopped
½ cup Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
6oz. sliced Black Olives
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
4 Pita Pockets

Directions:
1 - In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, corn, black beans, romaine lettuce, black olives, cherry tomatoes, buttermilk ranch and cheese.

2 - Warm each pita pocket by heating 2-3 minutes per side on a grill pan. Fill each pocket with the chicken mixture and serve.

June Spotlight

Oh, June...the kick-off to summer, graduation parties, birthdays and backyard barbecues. The month where we should all be thinking about fitting into less clothing but end up eating far more than we need. It’s also the month to gather and see friends and family you might not have seen for a while. It’s a great time to catch up, check-in with the people who we might have lost touch with since Christmas. Hopefully it’s the month or leading up to a month with lots of travel planned. Nothing screams summer vacation like actually heading somewhere other than home. And for those of us who’d prefer to get away from the scorching temperatures, it’s a time to escape the heat. Regardless of what June holds for you, I hope you enjoy it and that you have something to look forward to this summer. We all deserve a little summer vacation whether we’re 5 or 50.

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Moulin Rouge is premiering on Broadway in Boston next month and I’m really trying to figure out how to get there to see Aaron Tveit as Christian

I recently looked into hotel prices for Paris on a whim and it looks like a trip might be on the horizon so I’m slowly doing research to get back sooner than anticipated (imagine a thousand exclamation points here)...

Crazy work days have been calling for regular recharging. Loving some of these oils right now…

A few personal reasons have kept me from traveling this year but the bug is very much alive and kicking. I’m trying to decide what type of trip I want to focus on for the rest of 2018…

When you’re in the process of redecorating and can’t stop looking at French country style inspiration…

Beach reads that offer you more than just entertainment...

Ready for all the food festivals this summer...

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Blackberry Jam
Garlic Butter Tilapia with Lemon Panko Gremolata
Herb Roasted Chicken with Baby Potatoes
Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon Maple Butter

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WHAT I’M UP TO
It’s been a bit uneventful lately. My day job consumed practically the entire month of May and the first week of June. That’s actually why it was pretty quiet around here. Sometimes one part of life takes over and everything else needs to take a backseat. The weekend was a nice reprieve from the insanity and I’m looking forward to another. I have a lot of fun events and plans the next few weeks that will be great to share on Instagram. Next week, I’ll be previewing a new restaurant in the Sears Tower (Willis Tower for you non-Chicagoans), having dinner at a restaurant in the north suburbs and staying overnight as well, plus my girlfriends and I have happy hour next Friday! My brain is exploding with all the Instagram opportunities and since I finally got my story highlights set up, I’m more motivated to use them.

Content for June is all about summer. We’ve got recipes to avoid heating up the house and recipes that are lighter so you don’t feel gross after dinner. There are also a few more brunch recipes I’ll be sharing and these two are just as good as the first one. The Farmer’s Market series is also starting this month which is something I’m particularly excited about. I mentioned it in last month’s spotlight as well but to recap, I’m creating a challenge for myself to use locally grown, seasonal produce more often. Each week, I’ve set a budget for the farmers market and I have to write a recipe using the ingredients that I’ve bought. The first few recipes are a bit sparing since we’re just starting to get our crops in but they’re pretty darn tasty if I may say so.

We’re in the thick of bedroom redesigns! We’ve got the main color throughout my walls and there are just a few finishing touches left. I’m really excited now that you can start to see the transformation. I still haven’t figured out what new bedspread or blinds I want though! It’s such a hard decision. I think I might just have to go to a few stores and check them out in person. I’m in the thick of Paris Ever After by K.S. Burns. I haven’t been the best reader since the last monthly spotlight but I am about 60% of the way through so I call that a success. I like it so far but the main character’s “husband” makes me crazy mad and her current inability to see how awful he is, is even more infuriating. More on that when I finally finish though. Hot Mess by Emily Belden is up next and I am really excited to read that one. I’m still hoping to see Moulin Rouge in Boston but I haven’t been able to pin down dates to make tahe trip. Lea Michele and Darren Criss are bringing the LMDC tour to The Chicago Theater later this month and I am DYING to see them as well. There are honestly so many great concerts coming up this summer, it’s hard to choose which ones to go to!

WISH LIST
Currently in love with the Gillian and Maladee sandals from Sole Society…

*NSYNC celebrated their anniversary and now gems like this vintage tee-shirt are popping up regularly. You can even buy their albums on vinyl

I’m still obsessed with everything Magnolia by Joanna Gaines. I’ve also decided I need to start adding more serving platters and fun cutting boards to my kitchen collection...