Kelly the Culinarian

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sneak Peek at First Look for Charity Bites and Bevs

It's the most wonderful time of the year! It's almost time for the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity on Feb. 10, which is a highly anticipated event in my household. It's a great event for an even better cause. Annually, the Chicago Auto Show opens its doors to a black-tie clad crowd, all in the name of 18 local charities. It's a great way to get close to some beautiful cars with beautiful people without the crowds.

This will be my third year attending the event and I can't say enough nice things about it. It's well-run and a fun event. #FLFC17 is also a way to try a bunch of offerings from local eateries and connect with the minds behind the dishes. I enjoy the food as much as the cars, but I like beating the crowds best of all.
So without further delay, I present some of my favorite samples of what to expect Feb. 10 from the preview event at McGrath Acura last week:

Cake bites and blistered tomato skewers.

Poke bowls, lobster bisque bites and bruschetta.

Mac and cheese topped with pulled pork and barbecue sauce.

Barbecue sliders? Yes, please!

My mom always said to leave room for dessert, and I make room when banana pudding is available.

Will you be joining me for the #FLFC17? I'm wearing red and looking forward to being a bombshell. Watch for me :)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. We lost power during the weekend and were very grateful for our gas fireplace. It actually wasn't that bad - the kids did crafts and made smores and raced around the basement on their scooters with glow sticks. But man, it was a good reminder that we need candles, flashlights and matches.

2. It's January and I'm still running outside. I got this puffy vest at Costco for $9 and it's really making a difference in keeping me toasty outside. The catch? I found it in the little girl's section. So now we know I can wear a girl's size 12 if need be.

3. Today is the smallest one's birthday, and his school doesn't allow us to bring candy or treats to celebrate. I was at a loss, so we went with the one thing all kids love - glow sticks. A visit to the dollar store and some crafting over cocktails and here we have it. I hope the kiddos enjoy it.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pizza Brunch at Robert's

There are few foods in life I enjoy more than pizza, and brunch is my favorite meal of any weekend. The fact that these two things have not found their way into my life together previously seems like an oversight. I was recently invited to dine at Robert's Pizza Company and it was a lovely experience. We showed up on a Sunday morning as soon as they opened. It was a snowy, blustery morning and we were greeted by Robert himself, who explained that the restaurant's artisanal pies are of his own design, and borne out of the frustration of trying to find a suitable Chicago alternative to New York pizza. After decades of perfecting his craft, he opened his namesake shop, which has a small menu of handcrafted creations using the finest ingredients. The restaurant bursts with personality, from the fully-stocked bar to the mounted (but operational) motorcycle Robert fixed up himself.

After getting seated and starting to thaw out, we decided on starting cocktails of mimosas and the brunch money, which was a very-welcome warm cocktail of hot coffee, Patron XO Cafe and heavy cream. Both did the trick in warming us up while we waited for the ZaDough cinnamon buns, a trio of rolls made with the eatery's pizza dough and topped with all the sticky sweet goodness one would expect from a dessert appetizer. The mint on top was a refreshing surprise.

As for the main event, we decided to try and tackle two of the restaurant's most enticing pies. We began with the huevos rancheros pizza, which is available all day long. It's a pie topped with black beans, chorizo, queso fresco, scallions, cilantro and salsa verde, along with four eggs baked right in. I am a sucker for runny eggs on top of almost anything and this did not disappoint. It was the perfect level of spice, and the egg brought the whole slice together.

We restrained ourselves from going too crazy because another signature offering was on its way. The LoxZA is everything a bagel and lox should be, except in pizza form. It features a generous portion of smoked salmon, along with double cream cheese, chives, red onion, chopped egg, dill and capers. It was as delicious as it was beautiful, We washed this course down with the citronge lime cooler. It cut through the heaviness of the entree with Patron Citronge lime, prosecco, sparking water and fresh lime juice.

In all, this was a pleasant, leisurely brunch in a very sleek and welcoming location with easy access to street and garage parking. I will be back, and I will be destroying a lox pizza. Special thanks to Robert's for the invitation and great service!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. I'm super excited that I've been invited to the Chicago Auto Show First Look for Charity again this year. I've already got a dress picked out and I can't wait to preview all the tasty bites we'll enjoy on the big day. Stay tuned ... 

2. Another month, another DeGustaBox delivery! I'm wondering what I should make this month. There's pumpkin pancake mix and a curry sauce that looks quite enticing.

3. My mother told me about this life hack - add Christmas lights to any kids' fort to make it downright magical. Napoleon agrees. He's pretty sure the kids built this hideaway for him. He sat patiently while the older kiddo read him a story.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What's in store for 2017?

I'm kind of over resolutions. Like what difference does it make when you start, as long as you start? Plus I'm happy with who and where I am in life, so I don't want to get all ambitious that I'm going to have a bikini competition body and spotless home any time this year.

Last year, I did a lot of grown up things - buying a house, selling a house, getting married, becoming a stepmom, donating bone marrow. It was exhausting.

One view of our house
So less of that stuff this year. Less life changes, more life enjoyment.

The biggest tangible New Year's resolution-type thing I want to do with my life this year is absolutely crush Ironman Wisconsin. I've done it twice, and both times I didn't go all out for various reasons. The first time, I had a ton of mechanical issues and was under trained. The second year, it was more important to me to finish together than test what was possible.

So in 2017, I want to find out what I'm capable of, if everything aligns on race day. I know I can take more time off of my finish, but I'm not sure how much. Instead, I will try my best to finish as speedy as I can.

Other than that, my only goal is to enjoy the life we've built. Cheers to another year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Buh Bye, 2016

I really wish I was organized enough this year to do my annual "best of post," but let's be honest, 2016 was a dumpster fire we're all relieved to have made it through (please, Betty White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stay in tonight).

And seriously, who has time? This year, I/we have:

Went to the First Look for Charity Auto Show
Donated bone marrow/cured cancer
Ran a marathon (less than a month post donation)
Got engaged
Got married/Became a stepmom
Sold a house/bought a house
Completed the Ironman

We also went to Disney and vacationed in Texas for a week. By my account, I went to Texas three times this year and at least as many times to Madison for Ironman training. I also traveled to Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Jamaica, as well as a number of outings to Michigan to see family.
I'm looking forward to a less exciting 2017. One in which we enjoy being newlyweds in our new home, training for another marathon and Ironman and traveling whenever and wherever we can. So much happened in 2016 that I haven't even had a chance to put pen to paper on much of it - how we sold our house for list in two weeks, the recap of our wedding, brunch at Robert's Pizza downtown, what my crash landing into parenting has taught me, what I'm doing in the offseason to rock my Ironman swim .... one day I'll find the time.

What do you want me to write more about in the coming year?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Cooking with Kelly: Party Popper Cake Mix Cookie Recipe

Happy almost Christmas! 'Tis the season for cookie exchanges, office parties and kid get togethers. We've had our fair share here, and in addition to Girl Scouts meetings and school parties, there's Santa to consider too. I hear he prefers dark chocolate and barrel-aged stouts, but the small ones insisted cookies are more his speed.

Luckily, I had a box of Pillsbury Purely Simple White Cake Mix from my December DeGustaBox, so it was basically a short cut to homemade cookies for all the festivities. It was so easy, my 7-year-old stepdaughter did most of it solo.

I used three different types of sprinkles, which made the final cookie reminiscent of the inside of the party poppers you see around New Year's. I would suggest using sprinkles instead of something like sanding sugar, which would just blend in with the cookie. I went with multiple colors, but you could easily coordinate these with holiday colors or a party theme.

Another bonus of these cookies is that the dough doesn't need to be chilled before baking. Start to finish, these take 20 minutes and rely on pantry staples.

Party Popper Cake Mix Cookie Recipe

1 box white cake mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the cake mix and baking powder. Mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, the stir to combine. Once you've formed a dough, fold in the sprinkles gently to avoid color bleeding.

Form the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for nine minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another three minutes. Remove when the cookies are set and slightly toasted, but not brown.

Cool on the baking sheets for five minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.