Babymoon in Chicago and a Trip to the Iconic Chicago Diner

Last week, I reached the halfway mark of my pregnancy, which coincided perfectly with H’s and my trip to Chicago for our babymoon!
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For those who don’t know, a babymoon is basically a final trip you take with your partner where it’s just the two of you before baby arrives, and it’s a great chance to connect and get excited about the upcoming changes in your lives and relationship. Yeah, it’s kind of trendy, but H and I do love to travel and so we embraced it!

We stayed in the beautiful Swissotel overlooking the Chicago River (thanks, Hotwire!). Our room had a view of Lake Michigan (and some other buildings, obviously). It was amazing!
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I had never been to Chicago before and I have to say, I was blown away by what an incredible city it is.
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We packed a lot into three days, while still managing to build in plenty of time to relax in our lovely hotel. Here are some of the highlights:

We took a boat tour along the Chicago River with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (which I HIGHLY recommend).
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We walked through Millenium Park and stopped to take pictures by the famous Cloud Gate.
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We also stopped by the outdoor Goose Island shack for some refreshments and cornhole. I was happy to discover that they make their own (caffeine-free!) root beer and it was delicious!
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We visited Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.
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It’s a really interesting stadium. It originally opened in 1924 and underwent major renovations in 1978 and 2003. During the most recent renovations, the stadium was totally modernized, but they were required for historical preservation reasons to keep parts of the old structure intact. The result is a venue that, according to H, “looks like a UFO crashed into the Greek parthenon.”
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The really cool part is that you can walk around the entire outside colonnade area, even when the stadium itself is closed.
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We also visited Wrigley Field, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and went to a Cubs game!
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The Cubs lost, but I’m told that’s kinda what they do.

The biggest thrill of the trip (for me anyway) was our pilgrimage to the Chicago Diner, one of the oldest and most famous vegetarian restaurants in the U.S.
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This place exceeded all of my expectations. It was flawless.

I started with the soup of the day, a curried cauliflower soup (YUM):
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H and I also split the peanut butter cookie dough shake:
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This was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

And for the main event, I had no choice but to sink my teeth into the storied Radical Reuben:
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Oh my God. I devoured every last messy, succulent bite. The mac n’ Teese was pretty good too! It was my first time trying Teese and I give it a thumbs up.
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After we left, I actually started to cry a little because I was so happy that I finally got to go to the Chicago Diner, and sad because I don’t know when I’ll get to go back (that one I’ll blame on the hormones).

Our babymoon was everything I hoped it would be. Chicago is an incredible city and an absolute blast! It’s definitely a place I know I’ll be visiting again in the future.

Dessert for Breakfast: “Reese’s” Oatmeal

Whew–it’s been a tad chilly at night over the past few weeks!  For the majority of them, I haven’t even needed to turn the fan on.  H and I don’t have AC in our house, and while we normally just power through the summer heat, I was worried that my expanding belly and I would be a bit uncomfortable on particularly hot nights this summer.  So the cool temps have actually been a total blessing.

The mornings have also been pleasantly cool following the chilly nights, which means oatmeal has actually been an attractive breakfast option!  I am newly obsessed with this particular formulation, which I call “Reese’s” Oatmeal (because what else do you call a PB and chocolate concoction?).
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Ingredients
1/2 cup rolled oats, prepared with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond-coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk of choice)
1 tbsp. natural PB
1 tbsp. hemp hearts
2 tbsp. vegan semisweet chocolate chips

Directions
Easy as can be! Prepare oatmeal with water and non-dairy milk (you can use all water or all non-dairy milk too if you prefer). Then stir in the remaining ingredients until well-combined, and chow down!

Though it tastes like a dessert, this filling and delicious oatmeal is actually quite healthy and contains a satiating mix of carbs, fat, fiber, and protein, making it a perfect breakfast option.  Of course, nothing is stopping you from actually enjoying it as a virtuous dessert!

Nutrition:*
Calories: 394
Carbs: 41g
Fat: 22g
Protein: 13g
Fiber: 8g
Iron: 24%
Calcium: 24%
Vit. E: 25%

*Nutrition calculation is approximate and is based on the RDAs for a 2,000 calorie diet.

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P.S. – Happy 27th birthday to my baby brother J!

A Mini Cook in the Making

Okay so after only posting 16 total times in the last three months, as well as dropping off precipitously from reading and commenting on other blogs, I am finally ready to provide an explanation for my whereabouts.
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H and I are having a baby!!!

Baby H is due January 6, 2015. We will not know the sex until then so you’ll have to stay tuned for that :)

I am 18 weeks and 1 day today, so well into the second trimester by this point.  I’ve been feeling great the past couple of weeks, although it was quite a bit rougher before that.  While I luckily didn’t have violent morning sickness, I was pretty much constantly queasy for about ten or eleven weeks there, and TIRED beyond all belief:
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I miss you, Marty <3
[Note: this picture was actually taken the night before we realized anything was up with me!]

Needless to say, it was sometimes necessary to stay away from reading some of my favorite blogs, because even the most beautiful recipes had the tendency to inspire bad feelings in my tummy (sorry!).
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Thank the LORD for no coffee aversion!

As for eating, well…let’s just say I haven’t exactly been a paragon of vegan eating recently.  I’ve tried hard to walk the straight and narrow but there were times when it was almost impossible to think of anything that sounded good to eat.  My meals have ranged from very healthy:
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Biggest salad of all time, constructed from the greens in my fridge + goodies from the WF salad bar

To decidedly un-:
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Grilled Daiya (Swiss slices used) with tomato and tater tots…call it a craving?

Same with snacks. Thumbs up:
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To thumbs…sideways:
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^These are magical for nausea, however.

In general I’ve just been trying to get lots of rest and a moderate amount of exercise in between my regular work schedule and planning for baby.
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Work has begun on the nursery!  Step one: painting, is complete.

In the past few weeks we’ve “come out” to everyone we see on a regular basis, which is fortunate because it’s becoming tough to hide!
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Resting with my boys

Anyway, I hope you can all forgive my absence (from here and from your blogs) as well as my delay in announcing this news–this is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us and I wanted to make sure I could do it some justice!

Before I sign off, let me just say that by no means is my blog going to be all about pregnancy for the next few months.  However, hopefully now some of the weirder crap I’m eating can be put into context :) photo BeyondMeat006_zpsbc7fbb76.jpg

Happy Hump Bump Day!

Wyman’s Frozen Wild Blueberries

Disclaimer: I received a coupon for a free product sample of frozen wild blueberries from Wyman’s of MaineI was not compensated in any other way for this review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Well, the summer is rapidly dwindling, and with it, the supply of fresh produce.  Here in Massachusetts, an exceptionally brutal winter has been followed by an unusually cool summer.  I can’t be alone in noticing the impact this has had on this years produce.  It definitely seems less sweet and succulent than usual.

Our blueberries in particular were pretty tart this year even while in season, and now that season is all but over.  Fortunately, I have a great stash of frozen blues to see me through!

You may have noticed Wyman’s frozen wild blueberries in your store’s freezer section before (they come in a dark blue packet-style bag).  If you’ve never tried them, I can tell you they are distinctly different from your everyday frozen blueberries.

For one, they are much smaller. Check them out in proportion to the other ingredients of this smoothie-to-be:
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They also pack a lot of berry flavor into that little shape!  I frequently use blueberries as a smoothie ingredient but often find that, once blended, the only indication that they were even there is the purple hue of the finished product.  Not so with Wyman’s wild blueberries.  You can definitely taste as well as see them in the end result.
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In addition to smoothies, they are fantastic stirred into oatmeal:
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Added to pancakes:
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Or baked into muffins:
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I used Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Mini Muffins and simply subbed tiny Wyman’s blueberries for the mini chocolate chips :)

Overall, I love these little berries and they’ve been a huge help in getting me through this summer’s mediocre harvest.  If you spot these in your grocery store, be sure to snatch them up!

Berry Lemonade Smoothie

Thirsty?  This ultra-refreshing, sweet, summery smoothie is just what the doctor ordered.

In honor of the 5th Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck, I present one of my new favorites: a Berry Lemonade Smoothie.

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Serves 1

Ingredients
1 cup lemonade (I used Newman’s Own diet lemonade)
Generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries (can also use frozen)
5 fresh mint leaves
Agave nectar or other natural sweetener to taste

Directions
Blend first 5 ingredients together until smooth.  Taste and add sweetener if necessary (it may be tart depending on the lemonade you use and the sweetness of your fruit).

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Drink up and enjoy!!!

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Neat Fiesta Rollups

If you follow me on social media, you may already know that I took a brief hiatus from blogging over the past week and a half following the sudden passing of our beloved cat, Marty.  I wouldn’t say that things are back to “normal,” but they are certainly getting better.  Most importantly, Stewie seems to be doing remarkably well in his adjustment to life as a single cat.   Thanks to those who have offered support and condolences during this difficult time.

I’m back today for the fourth installment of the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck with some delicious Fiesta Rollups made with Neat.

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Neat is a meat substitute made from pecans, garbanzo beans, cornmeal, and spices.  Its texture goes perfectly in these pinwheels but if you don’t have any, you can simply leave it out.

Neat Fiesta Rollups
Serves 3-4 as an appetizer

Ingredients
1 lavash (I used Arnold’s brand)
3/4 cup vegetarian refried beans, warmed
3/4 cup prepared Neat (I used the Mexican Mix variety)
1/2 cup salsa (I used Tostitos medium chunky)
1/4 of a fresh avocado, finely sliced
1/4 of a fresh red bell pepper (about 1/2 cup), chopped and lightly sauteed

Directions
Prepare all of your ingredients ahead of time.

The assembly for these is akin to your basic pinwheel: Lay the lavash out on a flat surface.  Spread the refried beans evenly over the entire lavash.  Then, start to roll and layer.  You do this by starting at one end of the lavash and adding a line of a given ingredient, then rolling it again, adding another ingredient, and so forth until your entire lavash is rolled.

Mine went: Neat, avocado, salsa, bell pepper, avocado, Neat.

Then, slice the lavash roll crosswise to make your pinwheels!  Super-easy, and super-adaptable–use whatever ingredients you have on hand.

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P.S. – My omnivore husband loved these too!  And he is not into the meat “substitutes,” believe me.

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Summer Strawberry Arugula Salad with Maple Lime Vinaigrette

Hey there!  Hope everyone is having a great week–it’s already more than halfway over!

For the second installment of the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck, I’m sharing yet another fabulous and simple way to enjoy summer produce.  Feel free to substitute whatever greens and fruit are abundant and tasty right now where you live–the sweet, tangy dressing goes with pretty much everything!
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Ingredients
For the dressing
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. maple syrup
3/4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
dash of salt and pepper

For the salad
6-10 strawberries depending on size, sliced (about 3/4 cup) (or blueberries or other delicious seasonal fruit)
3 cups arugula (or spinach or other green)
5-6 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (use more if you love fresh basil like I do!)
1/2 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts (walnuts or almonds would also be great)

Directions
Whisk together all dressing ingredients until well combined.  Combine salad ingredients, tossing until well combined, then add dressing and chow down!

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Unfortunately I am still having issues with WordPress, so my posting has continued to be limited.  I’ve learned that it may have something to do with computer system updates (??), which unfortunately are out of my control, but I’m hopeful for a resolution at some point in the near future.

In the meantime I’ve been *trying* to be more active on Twitter, Instagram, etc., just so that you all know I’m still alive!

Enjoy the rest of your week!

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