Lotta Empanadas

“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”   – Frida Kahlo

Café Tola

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How can you not spot this gem on Southport?  It is literally sparkling as the lights flash around the name, Cafe Tola.  I love the Frida Kahlo/Rosie the Riveter combination – girl power to the max.  The pintos empanada was seriously a treat, and I wanted to try the spicy mocha, but they were out of the spicy chocolate that day.  More reason to go back!

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Here are some pictures of the interior:

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Eat happy,

Chelsea

MORE CUPCAKES

I’m dedicated to sharing all of my favorites, so here’s a little treasure I found on 1 E Delaware Pl…

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Need more cupcakes from MORE Cupcakery and very soon.  These were the best cupcakes I’ve had in Chicago!  I’ve still got nothing but love for Sprinkles although I have to admit that these take the cake (punny).  Bottom left was called chocolate valrhona with a little gold leaf, top left was chocolate champagne, top right chocolate hazelnut, and bottom right, my favorite, salted caramel.  MORE is known for it’s spectacular maple bacon cupcake, but curse my luck they were sold out.  Salted caramel was satisfactory though.

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Eat happy,

Chelsea

Food For Thought

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Food For Thought

Basic rules from one developing foodie to another.

1) Just add cheese.

2) Be adventurous.  The other night I tried skate for the first time, and it tasted like the best thing I’ve ever eaten.  For those of you who don’t know, and I didn’t, but luckily I had a very educated bartender, who explained skate as similar to a sting ray, but with a texture similar to scallops.  I loooove scallops, so I was all in, and it was served with this delicious sea urchin sauce, veggies, and salmon roe to top it off.  Every bite was great.  By the way, I had no idea that another wing of skate was hidden under all those beautiful veggies…such a delicious surprise to have more of it.  I hate to sound cheesy, but it was really like an orchestra of flavors accenting each other.  The salmon roe was the icing on the cake, and isn’t that portion impressive for a $24 dollar meal?  Color me very impressed.  And well fed.  Thanks to Owen and Engine, and much thanks to the bartender who suggested it.

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Also, take chances in the kitchen.  It’s fun to try new recipes, even if they flop.  And it’s fun just to follow your instincts and throw ingredients together.  Last night I walked through the organic goods aisle in my grocery store and came across this bag of dark chocolate covered pretzel thins, for $5.99.  I picked it up off the shelf.  I examined the bag, checked the calories and the amount of servings in the bag…3. I thought, “If I go home and eat this six dollar bag of pretzel thins I will not be happy with myself.  And I guarantee I’ll still be hungry.”  So I moseyed over to the baking aisle and picked up a bag of dark chocolate chips, and snagged a bag of pretzels from the snack aisle.  I went home and winged it, to end up with this amazing salted caramel, dark chocolate pretzel bark.  It’s messy and imperfect, but damn it tastes good.  And I have enough to feed all of my coworkers! Seriously, I made enough for like 1o people, and it cost less than six bucks.  I got creative with the crust – it’s pretzels, crushed walnuts, graham cracker crumbs, and chia seeds covered in caramel, dark and semisweet chocolate, and topped with pink Himalayan sea salt.  Yum!  You get the point.

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3) Try it more than once.  I read something once about how your taste buds change as you get older, and it must be true because I’m living proof.  Growing up my diet consisted of chicken fingers, mac ‘n cheese, and Reese’s.  There was no debating about it, and I would cry and gag at the thought of eating vegetables.  Gasp! I know.  Anyone who knows me now knows how excited I get about trying new foods (cue my rant about skate above).  Even with things I still have a distaste for, like avocados weirdly, I still keep trying to eat them in different dishes to learn to acquire a liking for them.  It works, I promise.  The more you try something the more you like it.  Or you just hate it and there’s no fixing that.  But generally it works.

4) Treat yo’ self.  Go out and try fancy places and order nice, maybe pricey dishes that you want to try.  Justify it in the budget as necessary culinary experience.  It tastes so good.  Food sustains your life and provides you with energy and happiness.  You deserve the best.  Repeat mantra.

5) Share it with others.  This is my favorite thing to do!! Finding the best food, or making it, and sharing it with people so they can experience the same amazing flavor feels so good.  I love watching a smile and wide eyes spread across someone’s face who appreciates my baking.  And it’s so fun to go to cool, new restaurants with friends and try things together.  Cue a consensus of phones taking foodie pics before devouring.

On that note, check out my instagram @sunnysdelight for my recommended restaurants and recipes (#alliteration).

Eat happy,

Chelsea

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Raising the Bar

A Review of Protein Bar

     I recently stumbled across a place called Protein Bar and it caught my eye, thanks to the bright, orange color scheme.  The windows advertised shakes, bowls, and burritos, oops I mean BAR-ritos.  I love all three of those things, so I had to check it out.  I read about it online and discovered that they make all of their menu items super healthy.  The bowls and bar-ritos are made with quinoa instead of rice, all natural and organic proteins, whole wheat wraps instead of flour tortillas, and home made sauces with all organic ingredients.

“Our mission is to change the way people eat on the go. This means our menu, service, stores, and work are all focused on healthy food that can be served in a quick, engaging way for active, on-the-go customers.” From The Protein Bar

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I tried a protein shake my first time at the Protein Bar, and it was named Wrigley Peeled – how cute is that?  And since I just moved to Chicago I think I found particular joy in it, but the shake was delicious in itself.  I had to choose a protein – whey, soy,  egg, or vegan – and then choose a milk – 2%, skim, almond, or coconut – and you can add optional boosts.  Boosts include Aloe, Energy Blend, Fat Burner Blend, Fiber Blend, Flax Oil, Flu Fighter Blend, Hangover Blend, and Multi-Vitamin Blend.  Some are self explanatory, like Energy and Far Burner, others I really don’t know the benefits of, like Aloe or Flax Oil.  I don’t know what good they would do for my body or when might be the right time to add them in my shakes, so I have a little research project on my hands.

The Wrigley Peeled shake was amazing – it was made with my choice of whey protein, almond milk, organic peanut butter, banana, and organic agave nectar at about 290 calories (530 for the larger size) for $4.39 plus tax.  Gotta love the chocolate, peanut butter, and banana combo.

Today, my order was the Millennium Perk milkshake with the BBQ chicken Bar-rito – the sticker on my bar-rito says “We do healthy…healthier.”  Both were seriously scrumptious, so I am yet to be disappointed by this place.

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The Millennium Perk shake which was made with chocolate protein, espresso protein, my choice of almond milk, and house-made cocoa malt at about 150 calories (again for the small size/ the large is 250).

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Here was my BBQ Bar-rito, made with all-natural chicken, organic quinoa blend, cheddar, house-made agave BBQ sauce, and Protein Bar’s “Super 6 Salad Mix” wrapped in a whole-wheat flax tortilla and then grilled, at about 570 calories and cost $7.29 plus tax.  The organic quinoa blend consists of red quinoa, golden quinoa, white millet, amaranth, and flax seeds.

Both the shake and the wrap are recipes I want to try to duplicate in my own kitchen very soon, so check back with me!  Some other things on the Protein Bar’s menu include breakfast items like Greek Yogurt bowls, scrambled egg bowls, and Breakfast Bar-ritos; they also have chicken chili and vegetarian chili, Signature Salads, some high protein snacks and sides, and a kids menu.  They have a Protein Bar app that you can record your credit or debit card number onto and scan your payment using your phone if you are a regular customer as a rewards program…when you sign up you get $2 off and for every $88 you spend you get an $8 credit.  I signed up right away.  There are thirteen locations in Chicago and other Protein Bars in Colorado and Washington, DC.  If you live near one, I suggest you give it a try!

My rating for the Protein Bar is 4.2 stars.  My only criticisms are that price is a little high for food on the go, and that although the wrap was delicious, it wasn’t extremely flavorful.  Also, I ordered the 12 oz shakes and they seemed to disappear way too quickly.  But at almost $5 for a small shake, I’m not willing to spring for the larger portion.  Altogether, the quality of the food trumps the little extra spent on it.  I love Protein Bar!

Happy eating,

Chelsea 

 

Did You Say Cupcake ATM?

Yes, I did!! On my first day exploring downtown Chicago, I walked past a big store-front of pink plywood that had signs informing me it was the spot of the Cupcake ATM, but that it was under construction and would return soon.  I looked around wondering, “Well how am I supposed to get a cupcake now?” And then I noticed people trailing past it into the entrance of a store, and I followed.  The line was just out the door, and once I got inside the first thing that hit me was this magnificently sweet aroma.  It smelled like icing, and I could see all of these pretty and delicious cupcakes lined up in the glass case, waiting to be purchased and devoured.  I scanned the menu of all the different kinds of cupcakes and smiled when I noticed you could buy a “shot” of icing in addition to your cupcake.  They had mini cupcakes, and cupcakes for your dog, and cookies, and ice cream…it was splendid.  Of course I had to document it, so I shrugged to the ladies behind me in line and said, “Please don’t judge me for taking a selfie.”

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At the time, yes, I was in heaven, but I was ignorant to the sheer fabulousness of Sprinkles.  Sprinkles is deemed the very creation of cupcake bakeries, called “the world’s first cupcake bakery” by the Food Network.  They import their chocolate sprinkles from France!  They’ll make a cupcake tower for your party or wedding, they have 18 locations across the United States, 6 of which have Cupcake ATMs, and the founder of Sprinkles, Candace Nelson, is a judge on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.”  The logo of the brand is their “modern dot” which tops many of their cupcakes.  Here is the flavor menu for this week, and you can see they use the dots to mark that they have the cupcakes in stock.  Cupcakes are $3.75 apiece, and after finishing my yummy peanut butter chip cupcake, I regretted not buying more.  You can order your cupcakes for pickup or delivery from Sprinkles and if you call in advance, they will bring your sweets out to the curb for you.

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What’s better than the ability to get a cupcake day or night, 24 hours a day?  A stunning and beautiful Cupcake ATM which provides that cupcake.  Here’s the ATM in Las Vegas.

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And if that’s not amazing enough, check out the Las Vegas storefront, adorned with dots and attracting a crowd.

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To get more information or to find a Sprinkles cupcakery near you, go to their website at Sprinkles.com

Happy to be spreading the sweet love of cupcakes,

Chelsea

 

Matthew’s Kitchen

Restaurant Review of Matthew’s Kitchen

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A few months ago I took my Gigi (grandma) out to lunch at Matthew’s Kitchen since it’s near her apartment, and ever since, it has become our favorite lunch spot.  The food is deemed “comfort food with a twist” and the atmosphere in the restaurant is equally comfortable and modern.  This was my lunch, the ultimate grilled cheese, which consists of swiss, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses (the parmesan is deliciously baked into the bread, as you can see), tomatoes, and applewood smoked bacon on sour dough bread.  The sandwich was so good I ate the whole thing without setting it back down on my plate.  It comes with a heaping pile of seriously amazing homemade chips as well as your choice of any of their soups or salads to start.  All for $9!! Gigi got the philly cheese steak sandwich which consisted of ribeye, poblano peppers and onions, and provel cheese on a hoagie.  She started with a cup of tomato soup that was thick and hearty, while I chose the spinach salad with strawberries, feta, red onions, and balsamic dressing.  Everything was scrumptious and I give Matthew’s a rave review.  Another menu item I tried last time I was there was the original “not pizza” flatbread.  It was an interesting combination of flavors with tons of caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, feta, and balsamic drizzle, and we enjoyed it, although I don’t plan to order it again.  I have only gone to Matthew’s for lunch, but the restaurant has variety of entrées on their dinner menu that sound great.  They offer their signature pig wings which I’d love to try as well.  It’s located at 5265 Hampton Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 62109 and they’re open Tuesday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-11pm, and Sunday 10am-8pm.  Check out their website to read about their upcoming specials and for more information.

Happy eating!

Chelsea