Things to do in Chicago: Chicago Pizza Tour – try 4 different city pizzas in one afternoon!

Things to do in Chicago: Chicago Pizza Tour – try 4 different city pizzas in one afternoon!

I love blogging about unique activities to try out, and how could I call myself a true Chicago chick if I didn’t work to try every amazing pizza place in the city?! Trying out new pizza places is tough for a few reasons. a) Although ironic, pizza can actually be pretty pricey in the city. Especially deep dish, which will run you on average 30 bucks. That’s a lot to “dish” out when there’s over 2200 pizza places in the Chicago area (yup, that’s true, I learned it on my tour!) b) Pizza can take 45 minutes to an hour to bake, so if you decide to try out a new place, it’s a pretty big time commitment. That’s where Chicago Pizza Tours comes into play.Flo & Santos

Chicago Pizza Tours offers various tours de pizza all over Chicago as a cool daytime or nighttime 3-hour tour via pizzabus!  So in the time span you would normally visit one pizza shop, you get to try 4-5 different slices, all while gaining some Chicago and pizza trivia from your knowledgable tour guide.

Pequod's pan pizza
Pequod’s pan pizzaIMG_0080

The tour costs $60, but again, offers a great value for the amount of pizza you get, coupled with a unique experience. You can even do a pizza and cocktails tour for $80, which sounds completely awesome. Who doesn’t love a beer with their slice?

Coalfire Pizza
Coalfire white pizza
Coalfire honey salami pizza
Coalfire honey salami pizza

The stops the tour makes differ depending on the time and day. During our tour, we visited: Pizano’s, Coalfire, Pequod’s, and Flo & Santos. Every piece was so uniquely delicious, I can’t pick a favorite. But I will say, Coalfire’s thin-crust high-temp cooked pizza was baked to absolute perfection. I can’t wait to go back!

Flo & Santos Smores Pizza
Flo & Santos Smores Pizza

Chicago Pizza Tours
27 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606
http://www.chicagopizzatours.com/

Unique Chicago Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Unique Chicago Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Although I’d like to think I eat healthy 90% of the time, there’s always room for dessert, and Chicago is a fantastic city to help you satisfy your sweet tooth! This summer, I’ve chowed down on some of the most unique and delicious post-meal sweets and now I’m here to share them with you. If you’re visiting the city or live here long-term, save up your cheat calories and try out these tasty Chicago treats!

5) Amorino Flower Gelato

Flower gelator at Amorino
Flower gelato cone at Amorino

Chicago recently acquired two new Amorino gelato stores and their signature flower cone makes you feel so elegant… before you devour it in two bites because this stuff melts crazy fast! You can add an adorable and tasty macaron in the middle to class it up even more.

Amorino Chicago
838 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610

4) Goddess & Grocer Rainbow Cake

Goddess and Grocer Rainbow Cake
Goddess and Grocer Rainbow Cake

My rainbow cake Instagram picture has been re-grammed a dozen times because it just looks so darn beautiful! This cake is truly a masterpiece, and you can grab a slice at any of their locations. Mmmm taste the rainbow.

Goddess and Grocer
1649 N. Damen Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60647

3) SteakBar De-Constructed Banana Split

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SteakBar deconstructed banana split

Oh MAN was this sundae a joy to eat! It comes on an enormous platter: ice cream, banana slices, toppings, caramel sauce… you name it, you get it. Oh, and there’s a sparkler on top in case you already feel like this dessert isn’t a party.

SteakBar
1500 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610

2) Firecakes Ice Cream Donut Sandwich (and vanilla glazed)

Ok, Firecakes Donuts gets two pictures because I couldn’t decide which I enjoyed more! The ice cream donut sandwich is literally a donut cut in half stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with fudge. Why haven’t we thought of this sooner?? The second place at Firecakes goes to their vanilla glazed donut. Oh my goodness is this thing delicious. Not too sweet, but perfect enough to wake you up in the morning!Ice cream sandwich IMG_0085Firecakes Donuts
2453 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614

1) Hugo’s Frog Bar Chocolate Mousse Pie

Hugo's Frog Bar chocolate mousse pie
Hugo’s Frog Bar chocolate mousse pie

My favorite unique Chicago dessert I tried this summer was the chocolate mousse pie at Hugo’s Frog Bar in the Gold Coast. GOODNESS was this thing worth the double workout the next day, or what?! The piece was as big as my head, and it was so unbelievably delectable and chocolate-y.. I could have eaten the whole thin if I wasn’t there with some fabulous friend, I’m just sayin’. Hugo's Frog Bar

Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House
024 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

What unique desserts have you tried in the Windy City??

Baked Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

Baked Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

If you need a new “after school” snack or the perfect side dish to complement any summer meal, I have the perfect option for you! AND it’s pretty darn healthy!

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Health benefits of zucchini

I frequently wonder how to use zucchinis in my everyday kitchen life. They’re incredibly inexpensive and have great health benefits – an outstanding source of manganese and vitamin C, with high amounts of fiber to keep your body in check. Turns out, zucchinis are very versatile and can be used in many recipes – from bread, to cake, to casseroles, and of course, crispy fries!

Zucchini Fries

Usually, sticks like this have been cooked in a deep fryer, which means lots of heart trouble and calories for you. Luckily, these zucchini sticks are oven-baked and they taste AMAZING! Adults and kids alike will love these delicious alternative to fatty fries, adapted from EatingWell.

Oven-Fried Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Oven-Fried Zucchini Fries with Spicy Ranch

Ingredients

  • Zucchini Fries:
  • Canola or olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium zucchinis cut into french fry size sticks
  • 2 large eggs whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups whole wheat Panko or bread crumbs
  • Spicy Ranch:
  • 1/2 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • (Combine all ingredients and mix well)

Instructions

  1. Zucchini Fries:
  2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  3. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  4. Stir together the whole wheat panko with salt and pepper and place in a large Ziploc bag.
  5. Dip zucchini sticks in the flour, followed by the egg white, then shake in the bag to coat and arrange on the baking sheet, not touching.
  6. Coat all exposed sides with cooking spray.
  7. Bake on the center rack for 7-10 minutes. Turn the zucchini and continue to bake until golden, about 5 minutes more.
  8. Serve hot with spicy ranch or marinara sauce!
http://www.pepperminting.com/baked-zucchini-fries-with-spicy-ranch/

Creamy Ricotta and Spinach Fettuccine

Creamy Ricotta and Spinach Fettuccine

Creamy Ricotta and Spinach FettuccineYou know I’m always down for easy, meatless dinner options, and this recipe is definitely one of them! Ricotta is one of my favorite cheese to cook with. It’s creamy, sweet, and fresh, and perfect for a spring pasta dish – I’ve adapted it from my favorite Budget Bytes blog. The mild ricotta creaminess mixed with al dente fettuccine and mineral-packed spinach, and you’ve got yourself a delicious, easy dinner for tonight! **Bonus points if you use this recipe and make your OWN ricottaIMG_3418

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Creamy Ricotta and Spinach Fettuccine

Creamy Ricotta and Spinach Fettuccine

Ingredients

  • 12 oz uncooked fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
  • 6 oz frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
  • Salt and pepper for taste
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta in salted water following directions on box. Boil until al dente. Save 1/2 cup water before draining pasta.
  2. Prepare the ricotta sauce in a large skillet. Cook minced garlic in olive oil 1-2 minutes. Add ricotta, milk. Allow sauce to come to a low simmer for 4-5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Squeeze excess water out of thawed spinach and stir into sauce. Add in pasta water as desired to thin. Toss in pasta and serve warm!
  4. *Optional: add sliced strips of grilled chicken or shrimp
http://www.pepperminting.com/creamy-ricotta-and-spinach-fettuccine/

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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!
http://www.pepperminting.com/new-years-resolution-energy-balls-vegan-paleo-friendly/

3-Ingredient Yummy Waffles

I certainly didn’t invent this recipe, but I thought I’d pass it along to you because I absolutely love making them and they’re perfect for the busy mom or individual who doesn’t have time to make a healthy, filling breakfast every morning! The best part? You probably have all three ingredients in your kitchen right now to make these today!

3 Ingredient Waffles

3-Ingredient Yummy Waffles

3-Ingredient Yummy Waffles

Ingredients

  • 1 egg & 1 egg white
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup oats

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender (Vitamix works beautifully!) Add oats if wet, add a splash of almond milk if dry.
  2. Pour batter over hot waffle iron.
  3. Cook 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Serve warm with berries, syrup, almond butter or bananas!
http://www.pepperminting.com/3-ingredient-yummy-waffles/

SISTER TIP: Note to readers – these waffles don’t get super crispy, but I’ve found that if you let them cool a bit, then toss them in the toaster (cut in half first), you can get a bit of crunch you might be looking for! They’re great for on-the-go breakfasts or snacks, too!

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Where to Eat in Chicago: Bar Siena

You know my love affair with West Loop in Chicago, so when I found out Bar Siena was opening this past July on W Randoph St, I knew I had to stop by immediately!

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Bar Siena has a beautiful atmosphere and unique decor. The outside patio is small but quaint and full of flowers and shaded tables, and the inside is lit up, rustic, and really cool, complete with a huge bar and TVs to watch your favorite sporting events.

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I ordered the Wild Mushroom Pizza, Kale and Granny Smith Apple salad, and of course, an Oberon beer with an orange slice. My ideal meal! The service was great and so was the food. You can tell that they prepare fresh, real dishes, and I was very pleased with both plates (which soon were very, very clean). Check out Bar Siena’s dinner menu here!

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The restaurant has unique dishes, including sweet corn ravioli and duck mac and cheese to name a couple, and the food I ordered was fantastic, along with the drinks. The prices are a bit steep for the portion sizes, but I’ve learned to expect that from a trendy West Loop restaurant, and the ambiance alone is worth it!

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SISTER TIP: Bar Siena started serving brunch last week! Although I didn’t order breakfast, the dishes looked amazing on other tables, so add that to your list of awesome restaurants for Sunday morning. 🙂

Will you stop by Bar Siena??

BAR SIENA
832 W RANDOLPH STREET, CHICAGO IL 60607

Where to Eat in Chicago: Big Star

I love to go out to eat in the city, especially during the summertime when the weather is beautiful and Chicago is alive! I was craving a great ambiance with some tasty food, so I took my friend to the Tex-Mex Wicker Park favorite – Big Star.

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Big Star is on 1531 N Damen, and offers awesome tacos and margaritas on a fantastic outdoor patio. You’ll know the restaurant from a distance because of its charming bright yellow umbrellas, and doi, the big star, posted up outside. The place is always packed, especially on summer nights, but it’s worth the wait! The tacos are diverse, creative, and filled to the brim with goodness – they run you $3-4, so 2-3 should fill you right up.

Big Star Chicago

We split a chipotle and verde chips and salsa (not complimentary, unfortunately), and each had:

  • Taco de Panza: braised pork belly, tomato guajillo sauce, queso fresco, onion and cilantro
  • Taco de Pescado: beer battered tilapia fillet, chipotle mayo, cabbage, red onion, lime, and of course cilantro.

They were. Phenom. We finished both and felt totally satisfied. With our draft beers, the check total was under 30 bucks, and we had a lovely lunch, if I do say so myself!

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If you have an out-of-town friend, or just want to grab an awesome Tex Mex lunch outside (or inside, in their super cool and chic bar), stop by Big Star in Wicker Park!

SISTER TIP: Big Star is a cash-only restaurant so make sure to grab some mula before you dine!

Big Star 1531 N Damen
Chicago, IL 60622
773.235.4039

Grilled Corn & Mango Avocado Salad

Grilled corn and mango avocado saladGrilled corn is one of my favorite summer staples. It’s such a great side dish and super inexpensive to buy at farmer’s markets on the weekends! You can boil it, grill it, or even microwave it, and it pretty much goes with everything.

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A unique dish to make with grilled corn is this mango avocado salad I read about from Trader Joe’s recipes. It’s so easy to make and you can munch on it as an appetizer with a side of chips, or serve it on top of chicken or fish to add flavor and color!

SISTER TIP: Here’s an infographic I made to show how to cut a mango! Chop off the two “cheeks” on the side of the pit, the slice into cubes and scoop out with a spoon. Couldn’t be easier. 🙂

How to cut a mango

Grilled Corn & Mango Avocado Salad

Grilled Corn & Mango Avocado Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 ears fresh corn
  • 1 ripe avocados, cubed
  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup green onion, diced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Drizzle cobs of corn with olive oil and grill for 10-12 minutes, turning every few minutes. Slice off kernels with a knife into a medium bowl.
  2. Add mango, olive oil, red pepper, cilantro, cumin, and salt and pepper.
  3. Refrigerate and let sit for an hour.
  4. Add avocado and lime juice. Sprinkle with green onion. Serve with chips or on top of a meat dish!
http://www.pepperminting.com/grilled-corn-mango-avocado-salad/

How I Start All of My Workouts: Pilates 100

The Pilates Hundred is a classic Pilates exercise, and even the days I don’t do Pilates, I begin every workout with this move! It increases circulation, focuses on breathing, and gets your tummy flat in no time. It’s called “The 100” because you inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts until you reach 100 – simple enough!

The thing I love about this exercise is that there are so many different variations you can do based on your ability. For a beginner modification, keep your feet flat on the floor or move them to table top position and pump the arms lower to the ground. For an advanced modification, stretch your legs out eye-level – it’s a huge challenge!

The Pilates Hundred

How to do the Pilates Hundred:

Lift your head and shoulders off the mat, bring your knees into the chest, stretch your legs up to a 45 degree angle (point your feet in a “v” shape). Reach your finger tips and pump your arms up and down as you breathe. Squeeze your inner thighs and butt for an added challenge! Make sure you have energy in your arms and body and pull the belly button to your spine.

Watch the video below from my favorite Pilates instructor – Mari Winsor!

Check out my fun yoga pants from TJ Maxx!
Check out my fun yoga pants from TJ Maxx!