Meatless Monday-Speedy Weeknight Dinner/SIDI

I had the hardest time getting out of bed today.  My weekend couldn’t have been any more fabulous and I absolutely hated to see it come to an end.  My long lost sister and my mom stayed with us the whole holiday weekend.  We celebrated Thanksgiving at my in laws.  This was my first gluten-free Thanksgiving and I’d say that it went pretty well.  My mom & I made the cornbread stuffing, apple crisp and pumpkin pie.  It was all so tasty.  We made two pans of stuffing because I wasn’t sure of how many people would be there.  We ended up bringing one one and needless to say, it was gone by the end of the weekend.  I love that stuff.

Our weekend was filled with lots of food, laughs, Breaking Dawn, and Zoo lights at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Me, my mom & sister having brunch at Chicago Firehouse Restaurant. Highly recommended!

Because I was tired from the weekend & still wanted to do a test run on cookies for The Great Food Blogger cookie swap, dinner had to be effortless, yet delicious (and somewhat nutritious).  I resorted to an old college staple: grilled cheese & creamy tomato soup. 

The soup was a gluten-free kind from Whole Foods.  It was a pretty tasty tomato soup.  I threw away the box before I wrote down the brand name.   My grilled cheese contained a slice of American, provolone, a tomato slice, and pesto all melted together on Udi’s gluten free bread.  That’s what I’d like to call a “grown-up” grilled cheese sandwich.  I easily could’ve had another one, but I refrained.  Udi’s is the only gluten-free sandwich bread I’ve ever tried.  I almost grabbed another brand today, just to shake things up a bit, but it’s so good and I’m scared to try another brand only to be disappointed.  I can’t wait until we live closer to a gluten-free bakery so that I can buy fresh baked sandwich bread…  :-)

For this week’s Say it Do it, I’m going to attempt to follow the TurboFire schedule.  I bought the set from beachbody last spring, right before I fell and sprained my ankle, so I haven’t had a chance to do it straight through.  The TurboFire schedule is a 20 week program where you workout 6 days a week.  The workout times vary from 15 HIIT to 55 ez cardio.  It’s a lot like Tae Bo/kickboxing.  So far, I’ve had a lot of fun doing the DVDs.

Monday: Fire 30 / Stretch 10
Tuesday: Bar Method & HIIT 15 / Stretch 10
Wednesday: Zumba/rest
Thursday: Fire 30 / Stretch 10/Bar Method
Friday:  Fire 55 EZ/Bar Method
Saturday: Fire 30 / Stretch 10
Sunday: Core 20 / Stretch 40

While I think it’s kind of unrealistic (for me anyway) to lose a considerable amount of weight over the holidays (I just love cookies too much!), I would like maintain what I am now or lose a few lbs/tone up. As of right now, my only goal is to maintain. 

And I leave you with this video.  I took this while we were at Zoo lights this weekend.  Dancing light trees coordinated with Christmas music.  My favorite display at Lincoln Park Zoo!  The holiday season is here :-)

Thankful

I have many things to be thankful for this year.  I have my health.  I married the man of my dreams & had a beautiful wedding.  My friends are amazingly wonderful.  My family is unbelievable.  But this year, I’m especially thankful for… 

1. Holidays with my husband. I am beyond thankful that God has allowed us to be together this year, sans deployments.  Last year, hubs was deployed over Thanksgiving & Christmas.  This year, I was asked if I wanted to be deployed in Sept/Oct. or Nov/Dec.  I made the obvious choice, even though I had to miss a friend’s wedding, but holidays without LC just isn’t the same.  It’s kind of depressing actually.  So, I’m VERY thankful to have him here.      


 2. My sister.  My sister & I are first generation military.  A few days after our wedding, she was shipped off to Texas for tech school training for a new job in the Air National Guard.  I haven’t seen her since our gift opening, making it about 5 months.  I’m very thankful that she was able to find a reasonable flight to Chicago and spend Thanksgiving weekend with my mom & me.  It’s been a very long time since the three of us have been together.  Our weekend plans include brunch, bloody marys & Breaking Dawn :-)

3. Gluten-Free Bloggers.  A few months ago, my doctor diagnosed me with having a sensitivy to gluten.  Luckily, the week that I found out I had to head up to Wisconsin for military stuff and stayed at my parents house.  My mom, who also has to be GF, made the transition very easy for me.  With her help, and along with a few of my other favorite gluten-free bloggers (here, here & here), I’m able to substitute old favorites with new gluten-free options.  And a special thanks to Swirlz in Chicago for making THE BEST gluten-free cupcakes I’ve ever tasted!

Meatless Monday-An Oldie but Goodie

Today, I’m thankful that it’s a short week. The week following drill weekend is always an exhausting one, so I’m looking forward to relaxing, spending time with family and eating my little heart out.

Because of all the cooking that will be taking place this week, I wanted tonight’s dinner to be pretty easy and low key.  So the black bean & sweet potato chili made an appearance again.  Always so good and the perfect fall, meatless meal! And I made enough for leftovers.

Last week I stayed pretty on top of my workouts.  With the exception of running, I did pretty much everything including random zumba dances in my living room.  It doesn’t even feel like a workout to me because I have so much fun doing it.  So here’s this week’s SIDI.

Monday: 20 minute elliptical interval + upper body
Tuesday: Bar Method + 3 mile run
Wednesday: Bar Method & mom comes to town! Lots of cooking :-)
Thursday: My own 5k turkey trot
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Bar Method
Sunday: Yoga 

I’m off to drink some wine & catch up on mindless TV (aka-Gossip Girl).  Short blog post, but I’m exhausted!

  

So this is what Heaven Tastes like

Pumpkin.  An autumn cooking staple in my kitchen and in many kitchens across America.  Goat cheese.  Always a favorite of mine and first choice for cheese.  Parmesan shavings.  The next best thing to goat cheese crumbles.

I love macaroni & cheese.  I love it from the box with cut up hot dogs & ketchup.  And I love it even more homemade with a bread crumb topping. 
The first time I ever had macaroni with goat cheese and rosemary was at Cafe Hollander in Milwaukee, WI.  It was love at first bite.  This was in my former life where worries of gluten allergies and cross contamination were the furthest thing from my mind.  When we went to Paris Club for my birthday a few weeks ago, I was looking at their menu options before we went.  They serve macaroni & cheese that I hear is really, really good BUT sadly does not come in a gluten-free option.  Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about macaroni & cheese.  Tonight, I made my first ever homemade mac & cheese just the way I like it.  I came across this recipe from a PBS food blog and decided to give it a try.  One of the best dishes I’ve ever created in my kitchen.     

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with goat/parmesean and rosemary
Ingredients
  • 16 oz gluten-free macaroni style pasta (Trader Joe’s Brown rice pasta)
  • 3 tbsp butter (I used earth balance)
  • 3 tbsp gluten-free all purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 4 cups milk separated (Almond milk original non sweet)
  • 16 oz grated cheese (8 oz. goat cheese/8oz. Parmesan) 
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1.5 tsp fresh minced rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cayenne
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook pasta in boiling water.  Rinse with cold water & set aside.  In a saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk together and cook for thirty seconds. Add 2 cups milk and minced rosemary and whisk until smooth. Add another cup of the milk (reserving one cup) and continue to whisk. Cook for four minutes while whisking. The mixture will get very thick!  Add 12 ounces of the grated mixed cheese (reserving about a handful of grated cheese) and stir well so that the cheese melts. Add the salt, pepper and cayenne followed by the additional cup of milk and the pumpkin puree.  Once everything is smooth, add the cooked macaroni and toss well. Pour into a 9″13″ casserole pan and top with the remaining grated cheese and the breadcrumbs.  Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.  Let it cool & don’t try to eat it out of the oven…you will burn your mouth. 

The HRM Always Wins

One of the benefits of working for a big corporation, is that sometimes they offer some pretty awesome benefits like a health & wellness reimbursement.  In the past, I’ve used the alloted money for race entry fees, Bar Method classes, gym memberships & fitness DVDs. 
When I returned to work last week I realized that I still had about $130 left to use.  NICE!  So I set out and bought myself a Polar FT4 heart rate monitor.  I’ve been interested in purchasing one that I could use for non-running activities (I have my Garmin for that) so that I can monitor how hard I really work vs. how I hard I feel I’m working.  Let me just say, I love this little gadget.  It lets me know when I’m in the zone & when I need to work harder or slow down.

I decided to try it on the elliptical machine we have in our cardio room.  The machine that I usually workout on also keeps track of your heart rate and the calories burned, so I thought it would be fun to do some comparing between the HRM and the elliptical machine.

I was surprised at how on point the elliptical machine was when it came to monitoring your heart rate.  To get the most accurate reading, you have to keep your hands on the sensors the whole time which is something that I never do.  I like to get my arms moving and sometimes I’ll add weights and do upper body tonig at the same time.  Enter in the heart rate monitor.
While the heart rates were pretty much on target, the calories? Not so much.  A HUGE deficit of 114.8 calories.  I was on the elliptical for 31 minutes and did intervals of high resistance sprints & low resistance recovery.  2 minutes each.  There was a point when I felt like heart was going to pound out of my chest where I thought, maybe I could’ve burned 438 calories but, overall, the heart rate monitor calories burned makes much more sense to me.  So why the trickery elliptical machine?  Is it to make us feel better about ourselves?  I tried to do a google search to find a legitmate article about this, but I came up empty handed and found myself on message boards that said to pretty much ignore the machine & go with the HRM.  I honestly, had no idea that the elliptical would be so off.  Before I start my workouts, I always enter in my weight & age into the system so I thought the information would be accurate.  Turns out I was wrong and I’ve been fooled for over 10 years! 
All in all, I really like my HRM.  It’s nothing super fancy and it’s relatively easy to use which is what I was looking for.  It’s also small & sleek, not like my Garmin 305 (which I love for running outdoors).  Now I finally know about how many calories I’m burning during a Bar Method session!            

Meatless Monday: Restaurant Edition

After a weekend of cooking, my first Monday back to work & reading *this* blog post, I decided that making dinner tonight was not going to happen.  I wanted some Thai food and bad.   I texted LC and asked him if he wanted to do a date night tonight since we didn’t do one last week.  He was definitely down for this.

What I craved was some authentic, green curry.  Authentic Thai food.  One problem? The “gluten-thing”.  I didn’t really give it much thought when I initially decided I wanted Thai cuisine for dinner.  I totally forgot about my new dietary restrictions.  But surely I’d find something.  After “googling” and looking at different restaurants & menus around Chicago, I found that my safest bet would be Big Bowl.  Big Bowl is another Lettuce Entertain You gem.  They’re the owners of Paris Club & Cafe Ba Ba Reeba.  They specialize in fresh Chinese & Thai Cuisine.

The space is a very trendy restaurant, but relaxed at the same time.  I came from work so I had business casual clothes & hubs rolled in there with a hooded sweatshirt and jeans.

Much to our surprise, on Mondays they have 1/2 price wine bottles.  So, we started off our night with a bottle of my favorite red, Melbec. 

Very much needed after the day I had at work.
For our appetizer, we shared some vegetarian summer rolls. (Random question, does anyone know the difference-if any-between a spring roll & a summer roll?)  They were made of a rice paper wrapper with rice noodles, seasonal veggies & dipping sauce.  These were really good.  I tasted a hint of cilantro and other crisp vegetables.  I like when the summer rolls & spring rolls have some crunch to them.  They taste much more fresh that way.    
And for our main courses, we both rolled with Pad Thai.  Hubs had the shrimp pad Thai and I stuck with the vegetarian Pad Thai with tofu (even though the orange chicken was calling my name!). The dish was served with rice noodles, a ton of sprouts, basil, eggs peanuts, and a sprinkling of lime. Oh. So. Good.  This was probably one of the best Pad Thai dishes I’ve ever had.  I was so hungry and it was so, that I ate the whole thing.  Definitely not necessary. 
Overall, it was a wonderful first gluten-free Thai experience and I’d definitely be back again.  They had quite a few gluten-free options to choose from.  I forgot that I’ve actually been here before.  A few years ago, my family & I came here when we were in Chicago visiting during Christmas time.  This place is pretty close to the Magnificent Mile, so during the weekend and especially the holiday season, you should probably be prepared to wait.

SIDI-Getting back on Track

It’s been awhile since I’ve done of these posts.  Basically, the whole gist of Say it Do it is to plan your week of workouts and post them on your blog, to help hold yourself accountable.  I think this is a fabulous idea and it definitely helps me stay on track, which I will need with these winter months creeping up.  This week is my first full week back to work.  It will be a long one, BUT it will be nice to have some routine back in my life.

Monday: Elliptical & upper body/core
Tuesday: Bar Method and Zumba
Wednesday: Bar Method
Thursday: bundle up and run outside/core workout
Friday: Bar Method
Saturday: back to Milwaukee for drill/spontaneous short hotel workout
Sunday: Drill weekend/rest!

Waffles for Breakfast

Today I woke up and did something totally out of character for a Sunday morning: I took the L to an 8:15 Bar Method class in Lakeview.  After I caught myself doing random heel lifts yesterday, I knew it had been too long since my last class and I missed it.  I also wanted to test out my new heart rate monitor.  Turns out, an hour of Bar Method burns almost 350 calories for me.  Nice! 

When I got home, my mom, LC & I went to Waffles for breakfast.  It’s this new restaurant that opened up in the South Loop and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.  They serve up traditional as well as non-traditional waffles like red velvet, green tea, eggs benedict waffle, and one with cheddar and chicken.  They also have other breakfast options as well.  All of their waffles can be made gluten-free BUT they do not have a dedicated waffle iron.  I left uncontaminated :-)

For my waffle, I decided to go with the gluten-free green tea waffle.  It was served with lemon ginger chantilly cream and topped with ground pistachio & powdered sugar.  No maple syrup needed for this one. It was amazing on its own.  This was my first ever gluten-free waffle and I couldn’t taste the difference between this one or a regular waffle.  The waffle was cooked to crispy perfection.      

  
LC had a very unusual looking waffle:

 The red velvet.  It was a red velvet waffle served with strawberry (normally served with cherry) compote and whipped cream cheese.  I didn’t get to try his because it was gluten-filled, but he said it was very good. 

We will definitely be back to this place.  The service was great & the wait wasn’t nearly as long as we were told (40 minutes).  The only gripe I had is that they sit you with other people at the table (some of their tables are like this, not all of them).  I just don’t like sitting so close to strangers that they can hear our conversation or vice versa.  Also, be warned…they charge $1.95 for cream with your coffee.

Friday night, Soup Night

Look who came to dinner!  My mom’s here visiting for the weekend so I decided to make a nicer than usual Friday night dinner. 
Instead of our usual Friday night pizza night, I decide to make it a creamy onion soup with chicken night.  Along side our soup, we had warm gluten-free french bread from Molly’s.  Deliciousness. (see soup recipe below)
After dinner, there was of course dessert.  One of my favorite bloggers, Gina over at Fitnessista, posted a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake.  I’ve been stalking the internet for a good pumpkin cheesecake dessert.  Cheesecake is probably one of my favorite desserts to eat & I haven’t had it yet since having to be GF.  So when I saw this recipe on my computer screen, I knew that it had to be made the very next day.  The only thing that I did differently was that I used the whole container of goat cream cheese from TJ’s & I added 1/4 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice.  I also accidentally forgot to add the flour, but the texture still held up to a cheesecake like consistency.  

After dinner & dessert, we sat and watched Bridesmaids.  It was my first time seeing it & I thought it was hilarious! Wedding planning can definitely bring out a whole new side of people! I’m off to enjoy the rest of my weekend :-)

Creamy Onion & Chicken Soup
Serves: 8
Note: I made this in the slow cooker, so that’s how I will post the recipe, but it can easily be made on the stove.

Ingredients:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 pounds onions; cut into 1/2 in dice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups gluten-free vegetable broth or chicken broth (I used veggie)
  • 1 lb boiling potatoes (like golden) peeled and shredded
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1/4 ground black pepper
  • 3/4 dried dill weed
  • 1/4 t dried thyme
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup low-fat milk (I went with almond milk)
  • 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut up into bite size pieces

Instructions:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute until lightly browned (about 5 minutes).  Make sure to stir often so they don’t brown & cook evenly.  Add the wine and boil for about 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring the broth of your choice to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the potatoes and return to a boil.  Transfer the broth & potato mixture and the cooked onion to a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker.  Next, cook the chicken in the same skillet you cooked the onions in.  Make sure to cook until lightly brown on the outside.  Add into the slow cooker.  Stir in the salt, pepper, dill, and thyme.  Cover and cook for about 3-4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low.  At the last 15 minutes before the soup is done cooking, whisk together the cream cheese and 1/4 cup of milk in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup milk until the mixture is smooth.  Stir into the soup and heat through on low for about 15 minutes.  Enjoy!  I added a little bit more dill at the end to taste.   

Take me to Paris

Paris Club that is.  On Saturday, LC took me Paris Club in Chicago to celebrate my birthday.  It’s a trendy, high-energy, French inspired restaurant (specializing in small plates) located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.  Because this is a new Chicago hot spot, known for celebrity sightings, we made reservations about a month in advance (They do accept walk-ins and there are high top tables in the bar that is first come/first serve).

Our reservations were for 8 p.m. and we arrived there right at 8 and were given a buzzer.  We didn’t mind waiting.  LC asked me if I had wanted a drink from the bar & I said no, let’s just wait until we get to our table.  About 10-15 minutes pass by and he can tell I’m getting antsy.  I wanted a drink from the bar, but I didn’t want to get a drink only to get sat at our table.  So he went to go ask the hostess how much longer it would be.  She said it would be about another 10 to 15 minutes, so we headed to the bar.  I ordered a Limonade (Absolut & lavender soda).  My cousin recommended I order this and it was very good.  It was unique and the perfect amount of sweetness.  Just as we were finished with our drinks, our buzzer went off and we were sat at our table.  I asked the hostess right away for a gluten-free menu so that our server wouldn’t have to go back & get one for me.

Once we were sat at our table, one of the managers came over & apologized profusely to us for having to wait.  We were totally fine with it.  We made reservations a month ago so we expected having to wait a little bit.  He asked if we had any other food allergies besides the gluten and to show his apologies, he sent over two plates of tuna tartare francaise  & a small pot of mussels du jour on the house. 

I’m a huge fan of seafood so I loved both of these small plates.  The mussels came in a creamy/buttery sauce & the tuna was served with avocado.  Because I can’t make a decision to save my life and couldn’t decide on what to order next, we opted for the Charcuterie Board for two.  The board was an assortment of homeade pates, terrines & saucissons.  We sampled foie gras and short rib presse, country pate, pork rillettes, duck roulade, along with an assortment of fruits & cheeses. 

It was a first for me to try a lot of these things.  The pork rillettes was probably one of my favorites, along with the foie gras (surprisingly) & short rib presse.  This is something I would definitely recommend to everyone who dines here because you get to try a few different things all at once.  That’s the thing that I love about small plate restaurants.

I shut off my flash, it was a bit obnoxious

Last but not least, we ordered our “main meal”.  Hubs ordered a steak encrusted in bleu cheese & I ordered the sea scallops.  I can honestly say they were the best scallops I’ve ever had at a restaurant.  The texture was perfect and the sauce was very flavorful.  Hubs enjoyed his steak very much, he offered me some but because of the bleu cheese, I couldn’t eat it :-/ After he realized that, he tried to downplay how good it was…haha!

I cannot say enough good things about the service & the quality of the food.  We will definitely be back again.  The ONLY gripe I have with Paris Club is Studio Paris, their upstairs club.  In order to get in, you have to order bottle service or be with a party who has bottle service.  It would’ve been nice to go upstairs and grab a drink after dinner, but instead we headed to Pops for Champagne.