Chicago Date Night: The Chopping Block Cooking Class

Valentine’s Day is coming up, Chicago friends! And I’m here to share a unique and lovely date night idea: a cooking class from The Chopping Block!

The Chopping BlogThere are two locations of The Chopping Block, and I was fortunate enough to attend a complimentary cooking demonstration in the Lincoln Square location.  (I have also tried out a Know Your Gnocchi cooking class at the Merchandise Mart location and it was fabulous!) This morning demonstration was titled: Sugar Buzz, Homemade Confections, and it followed Chef Erin as she expertly demonstrated how to make several sweet dishes just in time for Valentine’s Day!

IMG_0081The first thing I noticed when I walked into The Chopping Block was the unbelievable staff! Everyone makes you feel so welcome and excited to learn about all things food. There’s all sorts of trinkets, dishes, and kitchen tools available for sale, and a gorgeous set up for demonstrations and hands-on cooking classes, which run anywhere from $80-120.

Homemade marshmallows, chocolate truffles, and hazlenut dragees!
Homemade marshmallows, chocolate truffles, and hazlenut dragees!

The chefs are professional, knowledgable, and a lot of fun! They answer any and every question you have, and I learned so much about how to make truffles, homemade marshmallows, and candied nuts. Yum yum yum!

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I HIGHLY recommend The Chopping Block for a date night, birthday present, or Valentine’s Day activity. There was even a group of 5 ladies celebrating a bachelorette party in our $40 demonstration class! What a unique way to learn something new, experience cooking, and eat tasty food all at once. :)

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Sign up for classes here!

Merchandise Mart Store & Kitchens
The Merchandise Mart Plaza,
Suite 107, Chicago IL. 60654
312.644.6360 | 312-644-6367 fax
Lincoln Square Store & Kitchens
4747 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60625
773.472.6700 | 773.472.6779 fax

A Luxurious and Elegant Brunch in 3 Arts Club Cafe

3 Arts CafeBoy, Chicagoans, have I got a place for YOU to visit! You will sit in the lap of luxury while wining and dining on delicious food and drinks while enjoying a spectacular and serene atmosphere filled with greenery, natural light, and chandeliers. Intrigued yet?

IMG_7846Restoration Hardware is a 70,000-square-foot space that is more than just your average furniture store. Visitors travel through the six floors to gain inspiration and simply ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the marvelous gallery pieces and sip wine while doing so.

IMG_0028I’m not really in the market for a ridiculously expensive new couch, however, so instead, I met my friend for Sunday brunch at the gallery’s notorious restaurant: 3 Arts Club Cafe. The line already started gathering outside (30-degree weather, might I remind you?) 40 minutes before the cafe even opened, so I snagged a spot and was seated as soon as the [fabulous] doors opened.

IMG_0014The views are breathtaking. All natural light, delicious food (I had grilled cheese, fresh green juice, and homemade chocolate chip cookies), and a peaceful water fountain really set the mood for a calming, fabulous Sunday. I will definitely be back in the evening to catch the cafe lit up, and enjoy their extensive wine list and dinner options!

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Restoration Hardware
1300 North Dearborn St
Chicago, IL 60610

Black and White and Rented All Over

Oh my affinity for Rent the Runway. My love only grows stronger with each rental, and this time, they didn’t disappoint!

IMG_0810Rent the Runway

Thought it was my second choice, this Lunai Black & White Dress by Elizabeth and James fit my body like a dream and was exceptionally comfortable for a night on the town. It was classy and elegant, with just the right sized cut-out on the side that gave it a touch of fun and glamour.

Black and White Dress

Black and white dresses are ultra chic because you can pair them with any accessory, regardless of color or style. Check out the celebrities below and how they spiced up their black and white looks to make them sparkle!Black and White Celebrity DressesI ultimately wore a classic, nude strappy sandal, but if I rented again, I’d certainly wear some emerald earrings or neon heels to kick the look up a notch on the unique meter.

Have you tried Rent the Runway yet?? Use my referral code and we each get 20 bucks! :) http://refer.renttherunway.com/x/WFLy82

Check out my other Rent the Runway looks!

Black & White Piano Dress

Blue Ocean Herve Leger

Florida Crop Top Fashion

Blue Sparkle Mini Dress

Make Mine Millet, Please! Time to try this gluten-free, inexpensive grain

Have you ever heard of millet? Probably not, but you’re not alone. Quinoa has been getting a lot of press lately, but allow me to introduce you to my other favorite high-protein grain… Millet!

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Millet is a mild yet nutty grain that is starting to pop up in more grocery stores. The protein structure is kind of like a regular wheat but with one big difference: it’s gluten-free. A lot of it is harvested right in the U.S of A and has the lowest water requirement of any grain crop, so it’s a nice alternative for the environment as well. Doctors recommend to eat millet in moderation, so once in a while, I substitute any breakfast or dinner grain with 1/2 quinoa 1/2 millet, and I’m sure to benefit from the antioxidants and other good stuff in this wonderful lil’ grain!

I’ve found millet for about $2 a pound, which is incredible, compared to $7.99 for quinoa. It’s an excellent addition to your meal, and to get you started, I gathered my four favorite millet recipes from fellow bloggers that I’ve actually tried! Now get out there and make yours millet. :)

Favorite Millet Recipes

1) Springtime Stir-Fry Millet ~ Cookie and Kate

2) Coconut Millet ~ What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today

3) Rainbow Millet Salad ~ Delish Knowledge

4) Blueberry Millet Muffins ~ Beard and Bonnet

Big JLO Hair with Irresistible Me

There are a lot of ladies with BIG ole’ hair out there, and most of them, are fake as a snake. Celebrities, singers, and everyday women are wearing long extensions to make their hair grow instantly, and I wanna play, too! I was so excited when Irresistible Me reached out and offered me a complimentary box of lonngggggg extensions to try out, so let’s play and review them, shall we??

Ponytail

Ok, first things first, these extensions are LONNGGG, baby. Real long. I could have had them cut but I thought, eh, what the heck, I’m only wearing them for a few, special & fun occasions, let’s leave ’em down to my waist. They do weigh pretty heavy in my hair, so I bobby pinned for extra support. They sent me Silky Touch in Chocolate Brown, and they run about 20″. The colored match nicely, so I tested them out right away! (Side note: how fun is my new camera flash? So Terry Richardson-esque.)

Before-and-After-PictureI tried to mimic the Ariana Grande/JLO half-up extension style. I mean, obviously these chicks are wearing pounds upon pounds of fake hair to make this style work, so I figured I’d be able to pull it off as well! I used the tutorial below:

Turns out, Irresistible Me worked beautifully and the copycat ‘do couldn’t have looked more perfect! You can curl, heat, straighten, and style the hair just like you would your own, and they looked super fabulous, and dare I say, natural?! Ok, probably not natural, anyone who knows me will immediately identify that I have tons of extensions on my head, but who cares, it’s fun and bouncy and full af for a wonderful night out on the town. 😛

The chick in the middle ain't a celebrity, but that doesn't mean she can't have their hairstyle!
The chick in the middle ain’t a celebrity, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have their hairstyle!

They’ve got tons of colors to choose from, and their customer service is phenomenal. Check out the site today and change up your look for fun, ladies!

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Order Irresistible Me human hair extensions for under $100 here! It’s an unbelievable bargain, and if you use coupon code GET20OFF you’ll get 20% off your oder! :) 

I made the perfect Pepperminting HIIT playlist (based on BPM!)

If you’re not on Spotify, I highly recommend downloading the app now. It’s my favorite way to listen to music and get hyped during a great workout – particularly HIIT workouts: High Intensity Interval Training. Basically, fast, heart-pumping exercise moves that burn calories and build muscle at the same time.The Perfect HIIT PlaylistThe key to a good HIIT playlist is a combination of beat-worthy songs and tunes that get you pumped up based on BPM – beats per minute. Interval training can be exhausting, and research has proven that songs that correlate with the movement of your body can up your effort, motivation and results.

7 Reasons You Should Listen to Music When You Work Out

All of the songs I included in my Spotify playlist are tested and approved by yours truly (and a few friends) to elevate your mood and improves your HIIT experience. The ideal BPM of a HIIT workout song is 85. When you’re doing the faster moves, switch to the 125 BPM songs. I used this handy little online tool to figure out the beats per minute of each song, and made sure that they are around that number. So my playlist combines fast and slow songs to enhance your workout, so you just have to follow the beat of the song.

Here are some examples from my Pepperminting HIIT Workout playlist:

Beyonce – Upgrade U (85)
Lorde – Royals (85)
JLO – I’m Real (85)
Maroon 5 – Moves Like Jagger (125)
Lilly Wood – Prayer in C (125)
Madonna – Living for Love (125)
Icona Pop – I Love It (125)
Avicii – Levels (125)
Charli XCX – Break the Rules (125)
Kendrick Lamar – i (125)
Morgan Page – The Longest Road (125)

SISTER TIP: If you’re doing a speedy move, like jumping jacks or fast jump rope, just use the 85 BPM songs at double the pace or switch to a 125 song.

So download Spotify, search up Pepperminting HIIT Workout and follow that baby. The perfect combination of hip hop, rock, and pop songs. If you’re looking for a great HIIT workout for beginners, try out one of these three!

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What are your favorite HIIT songs??

Florida Fashion

Can you believe Christmas break is over?? Whaaaa! That went way too fast!

After two cancelled flights out of Chicago O’Hare during the worst ice storm I’ve ever seen, I finally made it down to Florida for a few days of R&R… &F (rest, relaxation, and fashion, of course). Here are a few of my favorite looks from 80-degree days last week!

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Dress // Nicole Miller Powernet Sheath // $75

Heels // Kohl’s Journee Collection // $54.99

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Crop Separates // Badgley Mischka Baroque Skirt // $75

Pink Skirt

Hot pink maxi skirt // Windsor // $32.90

Cropped tee // ASOS the ultimate crop 2-pack // $32.95

What were your vacation looks??

New Year’s Resolution Energy Balls (Vegan & Paleo Friendly)

Happy New Year, friends! I’m sure you all made your lovely New Year’s resolutions about health and fitness and love and travel, but how easy is it to actually keep them?? I have an easy peezy recipe that’s only 3 ingredients AND no bake, and will keep you full and energized between meals! (And no, they’re not meatballs… even though they totally look like it.)

Energy Balls

These energy balls are not only great tasting, but they’re incredibly good FOR your health. If you want good things to happen to your body, you have to put good things into your body, and popping 1-2 of these a day will do just that. Combine ingredients in a food processor, roll ’em up, refrigerate, and store in an airtight container for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Health benefits of:

Dates: Fiber-rich – keeps you regular, prevents heart problems and intestinal disorders.

Walnuts: High omega-3 fatty acid content – antioxidants, reduce breast cancer, supports brain health.

Almonds: High quality protein – prevents heart disease.

SISTER TIP: This recipe is extremely versatile. Substitute any nut (cashews would be tasty!), add fruit or raisins, or roll in coconut flakes. The possibilities are endless. :)
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New Year’s Resolution Energy Balls

New Year’s Resolution Energy Balls

Whatcha Need

  • 1 cup of nuts (I use 1/2 cup almonds, 1/2 cup walnuts)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted

Whatcha Do

  1. Place nuts and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are roughly ground.
  2. Add the Medjool dates, tightly packed. Process until you can squeeze some of the mixture in your hand and it sticks.
  3. Roll the mixture into balls 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll in coconut flakes if desired!
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http://www.pepperminting.com/2016/01/03/new-years-resolution-energy-balls-vegan-paleo-friendly/

10 Ways to Be Less Wasteful This Holiday Season

I am a nutjob when it comes to recycling, in case you didn’t already know. I’m the crazy bag lady who’s going through the trash in a park to separate water bottles and other recyclables, and rarely use plastic bags at grocery stores if I can help it. So, I recently spoke with a representative from the local collection/disposal company in my community to get some questions answered about recycling; particularly around the holidays. Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s – wrapping paper everywhere, bags, ribbons, boxes, plastic packages, one-time use paper plates and cups at parties. That’s over one million extra TONS of trash per week! GAA! It’s all so overwhelming!

But the good news it, I learned a LOT of information on how to reduce waste during the holiday season, and now I’m here to pass it on to you!

Less Wasteful

10) Skip the straws at your holiday party

Ok, so this is one of the biggest “WHATS?!” I learned from our local recycling rep. She said straws are collectively ruining our planet. Ok, not really, but they kinda are! Are they recyclable? NO. Will they sit in the earth for millions of years? Yes. Are they necessary to use all the time? Probably not. Try buying these reusable BPA-free straws if you’ve got kiddos that need them to drink!

9) Try not to use tissue paper when wrapping

Tissue paper isn’t recyclable, and is it totally needed in every single gift? You can also reuse tissue paper pretty easily – especially when you get them in a box from an online purchase or in your bag at Victoria’s Secret.

8) Use real silverware instead of plastic

I was shocked to hear that one-time use plastic utensils are not, in fact, recyclable. So that plastic fork you just used for 30 seconds to eat that piece of pie? Yup, in a landfill pretty much forever. Plus, real silverware is much easier to eat with, let’s be honest. Why not make these pretty gold-painted silverware jars from Craft River to hold your reusable and environment-friendly utensils??

Gold-Painted-Silverware-Mason-Jars

7) Buy recyclable wrapping paper

Really, the only wrapping paper you shouldn’t try to recycle is the paper with foil or a plastic coating. Also, use less ribbons and bows – those suckers cannot go in the recycling bin. Check the label before buying!

6) Better yet, be more creative about your wrapping paper

I changed my mind, don’t buy wrapping paper at all! Instead, try out unique wrapping techniques. A coworker shared that she wraps her niece’s gifts in the shiny foil inside of a clean potato chip bag! You can also wrap in newspaper, Trader Joe’s bags, or check out this list for other creative wrapping paper ideas.

5) Gives gift of the “heart”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of heartfelt gifts, obviously! But think about instead of buying more stuff, giving gifts that don’t create more waste and may not be used. Offer to babysit a friend’s kid, do house chores, make a “trash to treasure” gift, give baked goodies, or my favorite, make a charitable donation in a loved one’s name.

SISTER TIP: My favorite charity to give to during the holidays is Heifer International, which works to end world hunger and poverty through sustainable income. They provide a beautiful card and certificate for you to gift to another!

4) Give waste-less gifts

If you’re looking for a little more pizzazz with your gift but want to be more resourceful, consider buying “waste-less gifts”, such as tickets to a concert, a day at the museum, tickets to a basketball game, a massage, or a night out at a trendy new restaurants.

3) Think twice about greeting cards

Post offices report that up to 20 percent of all mail is incorrectly addressed or undeliverable. What! Save time, money and resources by making sure to update your address book or maybe send an e-mail wish instead?! If you are sending Christmas cards, purchase those that are recycled paper and avoid foil-lined envelopes, they can’t be recycled.

2) Turn your heat down during get-togethers

This tip is so simple and will also save the bucks on your electric bill! Guests will warm the room naturally, so tick the heat down a few degrees when having a party. :)

1) Share information with neighbors and friends

One of the biggest takeaways from the presentation was that the general public doesn’t truly understand about reducing waste, especially during the holiday season. I, for one, was blown away by many of the facts provided about how detrimental wastefulness can be for our environment. So share these tips with others during the holidays, and have fun with your kids and loved ones on how to creatively reduce waste and be more mindful about the amount of trash you may produce this next week. You’d be surprised how much of a difference small changes can make! Happy reducing!!! :)

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Let’s Cliq, Chicago!

I absolutely love the social scene in Chicago. It’s got big city vibes coupled with friendly midwestern bars, restaurants, and people. But even the same go-to places can start to feel repetitive after a while, and that’s where Cliq comes in to play!

Cliq Picture

CLIQ is a Chicago app that wants to expand your social circle. It’s a way for you and your friends to experience your own city through fresh eyes; opening yourself up to new experiences and perspectives. Through the iOS/Android app, users can create “Cliqs” by adding their own friends, browse through other members, and invite groups you may want to meet up with.

If your invite is accepted, the app will recommend a cool social scene to checkout with your new group. The idea is to get like-minded people to connect at cool places throughout the city. And who knows, maybe you’ll make a new friend along the way! Let’s be clear, this is not another dating app. It’s a unique way to explore the city with fresh eyes and new friends, and you might even snag a perk – free cover to a club, free drinks, or even free concert tickets!

Cliq Picture

My lovely Chicago bloggers Sam & Peggy and I were introduced to CLIQ and are so excited to be a part of it during the amazing holiday season in Chicago! Here are some of our favorite seasonal favorites to try out in the city with your new cliq!

CHICAGO DECEMBER ACTIVITIES:
1. Christkindlemarket at Daley Plaza
2. ZooLights & BrewLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
3. Ice Skating at Millennium Park
4. The Nutcracker at The Joffrey Ballet
5. The Polar Express Train Ride at Union Station
6. Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
7. Christmas Decorations & Dinner at Club Lucky
8. A Christmas Carol at The Goodman Theater
9. Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science & Industry
10. Sauced Night Market in Logan Square

Interested in trying CLIQ out? Right now when you sign up here you will be entered in a giveaway to win a $50 gift card to Club Lucky. Make sure to comment below to let me know that you have entered. So what are you waiting for? Let’s CLIQ Chicago!