Chicago Part 1: Millennium Park

chitown

For our first big trip with toddler, we decided to head to the Windy City! The flight seemed a tolerable length (4 hours) and it has great public transit (we didn’t want to bring a carseat with us), not to mention the deep dish! We also have some friends from Chicago who were more than willing to make a list of all the must-sees and must-eats, making it less daunting to try and plan.

We stayed in Chicago for 4 days and 3 nights so it was important to us to stay somewhere central to many of the city’s attractions, but also close to public transit in case we wanted to stray to a different area for a day.  We also needed to have a suite with a proper door that separates the bedroom from the living area so that we could stay awake after putting Ro to bed.  These are essential for us, though she ended up in our bed after 2 am each night anyway.  One of the best bargains is the Embassy Suites.  Not only do they have completely separate living areas, they also provide a crib (for free!), offer nightly guest reception aka happy hour (Ro ate their alfredo pasta for dinner one night and loved it!), free wifi for Honors members, and a great AAA discount.  We stayed at this one:

Our first full day we decided to hit up none other than Chicago’s Millennium Park.  It was so much fun! First of all, it had the most epic splash pad I’ve ever seen.  Not only was the walk on water part huge! But the water falls were gigantic, and of course the city skyline and tree top backdrop was so picturesque.

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See that wall–with the face? That’s Crown Fountain (btw that face changes to different faces of the people of Chicago and is a work of public art) every once in a while the mouth with spew water and the top of the wall would be an enormous waterfall.  That’s what all the kids were waiting for.  After Ro was thoroughly drenched, we headed to the Bean.

The Bean is more formally known as Cloud Gate, and is basically a great way to spend forever taking pictures.  All the kids seemed to love finding their reflections and looking at their distorted selves.

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On our way back, we stumbled upon Maggie Daley Park. Which was THE most amazing park for kids.  If you ever find yourself in Chicago with a kid, definitely spend an afternoon here.  If we had known about it, we would have spent more time here, but by the time we made it Ro was a tired mess.  There were so many imaginative spaces and splash pads for the little ones.   It made me wonder why a great city like LA doesn’t have a park that compares to this one for littles.

That was basically our first day in Chicago, of course we ate pizza for dinner, but that post demands it’s own title.  More to come…

National Ice Cream Day

Some genius decided to give every junk food its own day of the year, and people bought it.  Give anyone an excuse to buy a donut or an ice cream cone, and every glutton out there is all over it–including me!

Sunday was National Ice Cream Day and while I prefer a snow cone (when is that getting it’s own day?) I played along for the sake of my husband and daughter.  I know this sounds bad, but I kind of love giving my daughter sweets.  We avoided them for so long, and now that she’s almost two, I feel a treat every once in a while is not so bad.  The joy that a lick of ice cream gives her is so simple and contagious.  Maybe I’m setting her up to be a diabetic, but I can’t stop!  This face:

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It was her first strawberry ice cream, and I dare say she liked it as much as chocolate and vanilla.  Disclaimer: We did not let her eat that entire “kid” sized scoop.  Mama ate most of it, though it was tricky getting her to share.

I look forward to the next National Junk Food eating day, and if anyone knows when snow cones get the recognition they deserve, please let me know.

Backyard Bowls – LA style

Acai bowls are so LA, am I right?  I see fit people in Lululemons shoveling that stuff into their mouths all day so I figured, must be good for you.  Not only that, but it seems that all the Instagram accounts I follow are putting their acai bowls into coconuts and tossing some flowers on top making it look like acai is some kind of tropical vacation you can go on for breakfast.  Keeping in line with my hate to love and love to hate relationship I have with social media trends, I had to try it!

Minutes after walking into the West Hollywood location I realized I’d had Backyard Bowls years ago, in Santa Barbara.  I remember getting a delicious breakfast bowl, and it kept me satiated for a while.  This time I decided to go for the Island Bowl and it was delicious! Granted, I was hungry 3 hours later, but it WAS delicious.  I also came to the realization that an acai bowl is basically a deconstructed smoothie, so that explains a lot about my immediate hunger.
There were a few differences between the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles location, though.  And they mainly had to do with the ambience and maybe the whole 3 years ago thing.  The SB spot was so laid back and of course beachy and casual.  The LA spot was very streamlined in design with a full on windowed room for the guys making acai.  I’m guessing it echoes the noise of the Vitamix, because the workers had to wear protective headphones.  Looks like DJ Acai is making my bowl from ‘scratch.’  Hardy har har!


I’m not sure I’ll go back for an acai bowl anytime soon, but I’ll probably pick up a breakfast bowl if I’m in the mood for ditching the pancake and egg style weekend brunch.

Backyard Bowls

8303 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048

When You Realize You’re a Crummy Chef

Lately I’ve been trying to master my homemaking skills.  This includes baking and cooking.  I learned that cooking tasty food means taking extra time to let flavors meld and really soak into the food.  I thought I had done pretty well, especially for someone who used to subsist on microwavable everything.  I made lasagna from scratch using my mom’s recipe.  I roasted my own vegetables.  I never give my child microwaved food.  I thought, “yes, I am killing this homemaking business!”

Then I went to my friend’s house for dinner.  She made something I often make, meat sauce with noodles, only it was delicious and Ro ate two helpings.  TWO! I can hardly get her to eat any of the sauce when I cook it.  That’s when I realized I am in reality a crummy chef.  It’s as if some people have the magic touch in the kitchen and some just don’t (ME).  Much like a green thumb, I lack this magic touch.  No matter how hard I try, my lentil soup is bland and my meat sauce is lackluster.  I’m thinking I need some one on one tutoring.

Maybe this is an unrealistic goal, but I want to be the mom who makes delicious food that her children remember fondly and come home for as adults.  But, so far it looks like I’ll be the mom my child invites out to eat.  Wondering if I can turn this around, or if after 15 years of cooking for myself I should just let it go.

A Toddler’s Mezze Lunch

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Mezze- A collection of small dishes served to accompany alcoholic drinks as a course or as appetizers before the main dish in Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Near East and the Balkans. In Levantine, Caucasian and Balkan cuisines mezze is served at the beginning of all large-scale meals.

Subtract the alcoholic drinks and large-scale meal and you have the eating patterns of a toddler. Reminds me of this song:

Replace the word “shots” with “snacks” and  change any name of liquor to a cracker, bread, cookie, or fruit, and it’s our theme song all day everyday.

Cereal bars, pouches, blackberries, blueberries, tortilla, crackers, avocado, pasta…

 

Eating Out: Joe’s Falafel

The Husband has a running list on his phone of all the restaurants and spots he wants to try (pretty impressive for a non-planner).  Depending on what neighborhood we’re in he can refer to the list and find us something to eat or drink that’s likely to be delicious.  Joe’s Falafel was on that list.  We were actually on our way to Silverlake to get lunch on a Saturday when we mapped traffic.  A travel time of 45 minutes was NOT going to work with a hungry toddler in tow.  So we looked for something new in a neighborhood a bit closer and found ourselves at Joe’s.

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Whenever we eat Mediterranean I have to have a veggie platter.  I absolutely love falafel, baba ghanoush, and dolmas.  I was not disappointed with Joe’s Vegetarian Combo Plate.  It had all my favorites plus the most delicious cabbage I’ve ever had. (Did I tell you I’m a huge fan of cabbage?)  I shared my plate with Ro but it was VERY hard.  I know she felt the same way because she ate a full falafel, a bunch of red cabbage, hummus, and pita.  I was shocked! Especially since the falafel was pretty spicy (which I appreciated). I can only presume the extra kick comes from a ton of fresh garlic.

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The Hubs wasn’t as impressed with his Beef Lafa, but I’m pretty sure this place is master of falafel.  I mean, just look at that deep fried perfection.  Even Ro approved, and she’s a picky critic.  Any place that is toddler approved has got to be doing something right.  I think we’ll be heading back to Joe’s very, very soon!

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Joe’s Falafel

Neighborhood: Studio City

3535 Cahuenga Blvd W
Ste 105
Los Angeles, CA90068

 

Recipe Tin: Carrot Cake Bars (GF)

Before Ro was born I imagined myself making all her food from scratch, using only the best quality ingredients, and never EVER adding sugar or sweeteners.  Because as every enlightened mommy knows–sugar is EVIL.  These are the ridiculous dreams of a naive first time mom.

Once I came to terms with the fact that my baby has her own tastes and opinions and I couldn’t give her bland foods forever, I made these Carrot Cake Protein Bars.  I altered the recipe a little since giving a baby protein powder is ill advised. Here’s the recipe from 86 Lemons, and I’ve added the substitutes  I made to make it baby friendly in red.

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CARROT CAKE PROTEIN BARS (VEGAN, GF)

Author: Leanne @ http://www.healthfulpursuit.com
Recipe type: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten-Free, American
Serves: 8 bars
INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer * 4 eggs
½ cup warm water *NO WATER
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
¼ cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp non-dairy milk *Whole Milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup unflavored, vegan, gluten-free protein powder *almond flour
¼ cup ground or milled flaxseed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp gluten-free baking soda
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp sea salt
pinch of ground cloves
¾ cup shredded carrots
¼ cup raisins (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
Mix egg replacer and warm water together thoroughly (until it starts to get kind of foamy). Combine “egg” mixture, mashed bananas, maple syrup, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract in a large bowl with a hand or stand mixer.
Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl. Once incorporated, add to the wet mixture and mix until smooth.
Add shredded carrots and raisins and mix until just incorporated. Allow mixture to sit for 1-2 minutes to thicken up.
Using about ⅓ cup of mixture per bar, form it into a ball, then roll it between your palms so it begins to lengthen a bit. Press the form onto prepared pan and shape into a bar, about ¼” to ½” thick.
Bake bars for 22-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The bottoms of the bars should be golden and the tops should be cracking slightly.


I bake about 8 of these and freeze half.  We tote them as a healthy portable snack when we are out and about.  Inevitably we end up eating them around our little friends and they all gobble them up too.  I’ve shared this recipe with at least 4 other moms and now I’m sharing with you.  Enjoy!

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