Monday, April 17, 2017

Favorite Things {April '17}

I love reading about new things on other bloggers "favorite" posts, so I decided to join this trend by starting an occasional Monday favorites post. Monday works well because the weekend is when I tend to discover new things.

This post contains affiliate links.

We had a wonderful Easter weekend - the weather was gorgeous and we celebrated the holiday with my parents' who visited from Iowa. Weekend highlights included teaching baby C about the Easter bunny:

K also planted our raised garden bed and I planted our window boxes and a few potted flowers on the deck. We also admired plenty of spring flowers on walks around the neighborhood:

Scroll below for the rest of my recent favorites!

Favorite Snack

My absolute favorite new snack is a limited edition Banana Chocolate Chip Larabar. I have only seen this flavor for sale at Target. Whenever I find it in the store at least two boxes are purchased. The bars are that good. I want to make these bars at home but I can't figure out how to avoid mushy chunks of banana.

Favorite Caffeine Boost

I finally started drinking matcha green tea. Trader Joe's sells individual matcha green tea packets that taste amazing. I whisk mine with half water and half almond milk, and add a few teaspoons of maple syrup for sweetness. The packets are $1 each, but this is much more reasonable than the $4+ iced green tea lattes from Starbucks that I love to indulge in.

Favorite Outdoor Walk

Two weeks ago Baby C and I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory for an outdoor walk with friends. The Conservatory has 12 acres of outdoor gardens. The first blooms of the season were out, with hundreds of daffodils lining the garden path. I can't wait to go back when summer flowers are blooming.

Favorite Cookbook

Last year before baby C was born, K and I planned a handful of "pre-baby" dates. One of these dates was a dinner at Fat Rice in the Logan Square neighborhood. Fat Rice is described as "comfort food from around the world" though I think it has an Asian flair to its flavors. I bought K the Fat Rice cookbook from Valentine's Day and we have enjoyed several recipes --> The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes fro the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau. If you have the cookbook, my favorite dish so far is Lacassa {Macanese Rice Vermicelli Stir-Fry}. The marinade is extremely good and the dish is paired with beet pickled ginger.

Favorite Baby Product

I have a "baby favorites" post coming soon with my favorite items for baby C's first four months of life. This baby wrap is at the top of the list - the Baby K'tan Original Baby Carrier. This carrier is very easy to use and he falls asleep almost immediately. It's cotton and washes easily too. We received it as a gift but I would definitely purchase it myself.

Favorite Breakfast

Last Sunday morning K and I went on a long walk with baby C and stopped for brunch at Baker Miller in Lincoln Square. I had the prettiest avocado toast on their sunflower seed bread, topped with scrambled eggs and slices of watermelon radishes. Watermelon radishes don't have much flavor but they're lovely and add a nice crunch to any dish.

Favorite Spring Find

Oakley reached out to me a few weeks ago about reviewing a complimentary pair of polarized sunglasses. I have been looking for quality sunglasses for years - in the meantime I keep buying {and breaking} cheap pairs. No longer. I love the Oakley Drop In Polarized sunglasses in tortoise - pictured below on a lakefront walk.

My dad always wore Oakley sunglasses when I was growing up, but this is my first pair. I am a huge fan! They are very lightweight and perfect for spring. Check out more Oakley's women's sunglasses at this link.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

This healthier dessert or snack recipe for Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies is flourless and sweetened naturally with dates. Adding crunchy coconut flakes and almond butter reminds me of a buttery pie crust.

Chicago has experienced a few beautiful spring days so far, with temps in the 60s and 70s last weekend. This has me dreaming about seasonal summer produce, especially berries. Since blueberries won't be on the seasonal list for a few more months, I settled for using dried blueberries in this recipe instead.

My favorite dried berries are Dried Wild Blueberries from Trader Joe's. Dried blueberries are combined with a few of my favorite baking ingredients in this recipe: almond flour, old-fashioned oats, dates, and almond butter.

I created a homemade "date paste" to sweeten the cookies, by combining California dates and almond butter in the food processor. I used the same method in my Meyer Lemon Cookies.

The taste reminds me of blueberry pie - the coconut and almond flavors are similar to pie crust. K and I demolished this batch of cookies in two days. These cookies are particularly delicious microwaved for ~15 seconds and topped with extra almond butter.

Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies
Yields: 18-20 cookies

1 1/4 cups almond flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 egg
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup dried blueberries
10 California dates
1/4 cup almond butter
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Mix dates and almond butter in a food processor, until it forms a paste.
*Add the date paste to a mixer, and combine the wet ingredients - egg, lemon juice, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
*Add the dry ingredients - almond flour, oatmeal, coconut flakes, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined.
*Use a medium cookie scoop to place cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Lightly press each cookie with a fork to flatten.
*Bake for 11-12 minutes.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shamrock Shuffle 8k Race + Potbelly Sandwich Shop

This weekend I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8k race in downtown Chicago and had lunch at Potbelly Sandwich Shop to refuel afterwards. Read below for a brief race recap and details on using the Potbelly app.

How did you spend the first weekend of April? I ran my first race of the year and the first race since baby C was born - the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k. This was my sixth time running the Shamrock Shuffle race. The weather was perfect for a spring run on Sunday - temperatures in the 50s and sun at the finish line.

My friend P and I ran the race together. We started in wave 2 at 9:00 am - the later start time was much appreciated. The Shuffle was P's first road race event and she did an amazing job! I am not back to a consistent running routine yet but I felt good during the race. My legs are still sore today though - second day soreness is no joke when you're not used to running 5 miles.

Many people consider the Shamrock Shuffle the start of racing season in Chicago. More than 20,000 people participated in the race this year. Even though we are a few weeks past St. Patrick's Day most people were decked out in green. P and I missed the green shirt memo. ;)

After the race, I was starving and ready for an early lunch. I was given the opportunity to check out the Potbelly Sandwich Shop app this weekend so K and baby C met me in Lincoln Square at Potbelly.

Potbelly is one of my favorite stops for a quick lunch. The shop has an app where you can pre-order a meal. On my way to Potbelly I placed our order on the app, which is linked to my credit card. The app gives you all of Potbelly's meal options, including sandwiches, salads, sides, desserts, and drinks. Here is what a meal selection looks like:

I think it's great that the Potbelly app includes nutrition information as well as detailed food options. I'm always wondering what days specific soups are available and now I can figure that out easily. If you use the app and order your meal in advance, you can jump the line and head straight to the counter to pick up your order. After I placed an order, the app said our meal would be ready in 10 minutes.

Another benefit of using the Potbelly app is access to Potbelly Perks. For every $2 spent, you earn "smiles" that go towards future perks like free treats.

I frequently eat lunch at Potbelly, especially while working downtown. I appreciate that they use fresh ingredients and have a large menu of options. For lunch this weekend, I had the Classic Tomato soup {my favorite} and Powerhouse Salad. The salad came with grilled chicken, avocado, hummus, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and spinach.

K ordered a toasted chicken salad sandwich with a side of chips. If you're a fan of chicken salad, the Potbelly version is my favorite. While I was pregnant with baby C I had a chicken salad flatbread sandwich from Potbelly several times a week. I think he's made up of at least 30% chicken salad!

Click here to download the Potbelly Sandwich Shop app. Using the app is an easy way to customize your meal order and jump the line to save time. You can also order delivery through the app, which I definitely plan on using in the future.

Check out my Shamrock Shuffle race posts from previous years: