Lazy Weekends – Instacart Review

Hey there!

This weekend was one of the laziest (and best) weekends in a while.  I’m pretty sure the hubby and I left the house no more than 5 times – and, the majority of them were to go out to eat. :)

Today I took that laziness another level and used the service Instacart.  What is it, you ask?  Well its basically like Peapod or any of those grocery delivery systems.  Except, better.  Here’s why –

(1) You choose your grocery store.  The site lists about 6 different options from where you can get your food.  How nice to have a choice!  I live by a bunch of great ones, and I stuck with Whole Foods for my first order.

(2) You pick your schtuff (technical term ;) ).  I ordered a bunch of fruit, veggies, lunch meat, etc. Once I ordered everything and hit “buy”, it leads you to a screen which shows all of your selected items.  For each item, you get to choose a substitute in the case that your item isn’t available.  Uhh hello – this should have always been around on grocery delivery sites!  When do you ever get everything on your list?!  Answer: never.

(3) You buy it.  And wish you spent it on shoes instead.

(4) Time passes.  A few hours before your order is set to be delivered, you get a call from Whole Foods (grocery store you choose) confirming your items.  If some weren’t available, they try to choose substitutes.

(5) It gets delivered.  AND YOU NEVER LEFT YOUR HOUSE.  From a pure laziness level, this is awesome.

Review: 

- Quality: the fresh fruit and veggies were great.  Nothing was bruised, nothing looked “ehhh”, etc.  I’ve used other delivery services in college (Kroger) and it was FAR from pleasant.  The stuff usually lasted one to two days past delivery.  Instacarts/Whole Foods actually looks like it will last – success!

- Price: surprisingly, it wasn’t all that different from grocery shopping.  AND if you buy more than $35 of groceries (which inadvertently happens every time I grocery shop… even if I’m only planning on picking up one thing)…you get free delivery!  For those of you who aren’t so sure you went to spend $35 right off the bat – no worries.  Your first delivery is free.  Of course, mine was no matter what since I spent over $35 on my first order…

- Substitutions: this is where Instacart gets a lower score.  And I was so excited about the substitution option!!  There are two reasons this gets a lower score (1) I requested 2 green bell peppers.  When he called to confirm my order, he said he only picked up 1 because it was the only one that looked good.  Now while I appreciate his concern over good quality I’m not sure why he didn’t substitute those peppers with yellow bell peppers (my listed substitute).  I mean… why list substitutes if they don’t reference them…?  (2) I requested 1 pound of turkey lunch meat.  They didn’t have it, so I told the guy I was fine with whatever turkey lunch meat they have, within the same price range.  He assured me this was just fine.  Upon delivery, I saw it was the same price – but only 3/4 of a pound.  Disappointing because I know there is lunch meat that WOULD hit the same price point at the same weight.  Again, not the end of the world, but that was enough sandwich for a lunch, so we’re one day short.

Take-away: I would use Instacart again but, if they call me due to substitution questions, I would make sure I ask for a final “double check” call.  Good news is – price & quality are right, just need the quantity!

Alright – that’s enough “work” for tonight – it’s back to laziness!  ;) House of Cards, here I come!

<3 Sarah

Questions for you:

- Do you use grocery delivery services?

- Do you watch House of Cards?

Bill’s Birthday Dinner at the Purple Pig

Hey there!

Last night my family and I went out to the Purple Pig for my “little” brother’s birthday.  Not only is he taller than me, way stronger, etc but he’s now 23.  What an old man! ;)

When my brother and I were younger, we went through the traditional kid phase.  We ate everything.  We then got picky and hated everything.  Then one day we saw bruschetta.  We tried it.  We found out we liked raw garlic – something we were sure we hated.  And, well.  The rest is history.  Now I’ll eat just about anything.  And my brother?  Well, he’ll REALLY eat anything. Beating cobra heart?  Yep, he’s had it.  So when it comes time to comes time to celebrate a birthday over dinner, he doesn’t choose just anywhere.  He chooses Purple Pig.

For those who have yet to go, it’s very similar to The Girl & The Goat.  You know, unusual parts of pig/animal that are fried/cooked uniquely and surprisingly-tasty-if-you-can-get-your-mind-wrapped-around-it?  Yeah. Like that.  It was a super cool atmosphere.  Shared tables, high ceilings, big windows, max capacity of 40-50 people…we ate with the owner of the restaurant….Here’s what we had.  I’ll get to the whole owner part later.

“Spreads”

- Caponata & Whipped Spread: this is an eggplant dish that you spread onto toasted bread.  Except, it’s not just toasted bread.  They have toasted goat cheese.  I’m  not a huge goat cheese girl, so I requested whipped feta instead.  HOLY COW (literally, it’s cow cheese).  This whipped feta was INCREDIBLE.  Seriously.  Try it.  Do it. The caponata was good but – nothing like Quartino’s.  Quartino’s is life changing.

- Bone Marrow: I didn’t partake in this, but the boys (my dad, brother, and husband) loved it.  It comes in two GIANT bones, and you just spread it onto perfectly toasted bread.  Not too shabby!

“Appetizers” 

- Charred Cauliflower: Yes, I ordered this.  I’m always the “weird” one ordering the vegetarian dishes ;).  This was served with toasted breadcrumbs, cornichons (fancy pickles, similar to gherkin) & parsley.  As a big veggie lover, I loved this dish.  It was super rich and delicious.  My brother – the meat and potatoes person – also loved it.  His response was somewhere along the lines of “I don’t like cauliflower but this stuff is pretty good”.  And he had seconds.  And thirds.  Just sayin’ veggie haters, just sayin’.

- Deep fried Deviled Egg: I was a bit busy eating the cauliflower, but this looked pretty killer.

- Pig Brain: yes, you read that right.  Pig brain.  We weren’t sure what this would look like, or how large it would be.  We were getting somewhat full, so jokes of “well, how big is a pig brain..?” surfaced.  The waitress told us it was a small dish, and a mousse.  The fact it was a “mousse” skewed me out big time.  The only thing that should be a mousse is chocolate.  Or a moose.  Anywhere, here’s the pig brain:

pig brain

So, while I didn’t actually partake in the pig brain, it looked pretty good.  My dad said it tasted like liver pate.  I mean, I could do that.  My stomach wasn’t feelin 100% so I passed this time but – if / when I’m back, I’ll definitely partake.

“Entrees”

- Shrimp & sweetbread sausage: yeah….I couldn’t wrap my head around this.  The boys and my mom all took a bite – and the dish was finished – but I couldn’t get myself to do it.  NEXT!

- Ossobucco: also called “the best thing to ever hit my palate”.  The first time I had Ossobucco was in a cute Italian restaurant in Rome.  It was delicious.  Mouthwatering (to this day).  The Ossobucco I had at Purple Pig was right up there.  Served on a GIANT bone, and on top of DELICIOUS polenta…I mean, how could you not fall in love.  I almost feel bad that I ate the majority of this and my family only had a little bit.  But, not really.

Stuffed squid: this looked amazing, and I’d love to try it next time but … Ossobucco was on the brain…

“Dessert”: now, my brother isn’t a big dessert fan (I got all of those genes).  But, it was his birthday.  And we just so happened to be sharing a table with the owner.  Oh yeah, the owner.  As in Jimmy Bannos Sr.  Chef/owner of Heaven on Seven, Purple Pig, etc.  Not too shabby to share a table with him.  And his son (chef) came over to chat with him while he ate.  SO COOL.  And, well, he saw we were celebrating and ordered us two desserts.  Because he’s awesome.  What did the owner order us?

Cheesecake: except, this wasn’t just cheesecake.  This was baklava-inspired cheesecake.  The crust was made out of walnuts and baklava ingredients.  The cake was drizzled with Greek honey.  And on the side?  Walnuts with honey.  YUM-o.

- Coffee/Vanilla/Hazelnut Custard: I’m not sure what this was besides plain delicious.  The bottom of the dessert was similar to a coffee custard.  On top of that was a vanilla custard.  Then, the top layer was roasted hazelnuts.  DELISH.

Recap: What a sweet end to an awesome night.  If you like small plates, adventurous food, and a fun atmosphere, this is your place.  Although Quartino’s is one of my all-time favorite restaurants, this place was much more comfortable/less hectic than Quartino’s.  The food was absolutely incredible.  Bring your appetite, and your big girl/boy taste buds.  And also, make sure you come early.  Because by 5:15PM, this place is packed.  You’ve been warned.

Have you been to The Purple Pig?

Do you like small plates?  Or do you like traditional “full” meals?

Chicago Restaurant Week Recap

Hey there!

As many of you Chicagoans know, Restaurant Week swept the city a few weeks ago.  For those who didn’t partake, Chicago restaurants offer 3-course lunches for $22, and 3-4 course dinners from $33 or $44.  Now I’m not saying $44 dinners/person is cheap – but, considering you’re getting 3-4 courses from fancy schmancy restaurants – it’s a pretty good deal.  At least that’s what I told my husband. ;)

I go out for lunches & dinners frequently for my job (and, well, for fun with the hubs & family), so I was able to soak up all that is Restaurant Week.  The restaurants I went to that offered the “deal” include the following: Tortoise Club, Quartino’s, One North, Francesca’s and Sapori Trattoria.  After looking at the regular menu & the Restaurant Week menu, I decided to go the RW route for the following – Quartino’s, Francesca’s, and Sapori Trattoria.  All were great – but, of course I have to compare/contrast!

Francesca’s – home sweet home.  I’ve gone here for RW the past two years.  I adore Francesca’s – great food and it brings back great memories.  While in high school, my parents, brother and I would go to Francesca’s about every other Friday night.  What a treat.  Francesca’s menu was $33/person (if my memory serves me correctly) for a four course meal.  I went with a caesar salad (not on the RW menu, but I convinced them to let me substitute ;) ), pasta with eggplant and smoked mozzarella, and a pork chop for dinner.  To finish?  Lemon cake with a mascarpone sauce.  Lots of food – and all of it was delicious.  I basically had to waddle away.  Woops…

Sapori Trattoria - delicious, but pricey. There were two choices $33/person for a three course meal (appetizer, pasta, and dessert – plus a drink) or $44/person.  The drink choices were either (a) prosecco or (b) mixed drink of the bartender’s choice.  It was basically a sangria with some harder alcohol mixed in.  I didn’t drink it, but Joe said it was VERY sweet. The salad was good – nothing to write “blog” about (bah dum chhhh).  The pasta was what nailed it for me – linguine with shrimp & broccoli.  So so good.  It felt so fresh and flavorful.  I ate so much pasta that I ended up bringing my tiramisu home.  (So nice of them to let me take it to go!) It was a delicious treat to have the next night.  Joe got the meat lasagna and absolutely loved it.  All in all, it was great food but even with the RW discount, we ended up spending $100 for two people based on my getting the $33 dinner, Joe getting the $44, plus drinks.  Totally fine, but we didn’t expect to spend that much since it was “RW”.

Quartino’s – best bang for your buck.  Their RW menu offered a $33 four-course menu that is meant to be SHARED amongst 2 people.  That’s right – amazing food for roughly $16.50/person.  I went with my parents and brother and boy did we EAT.  Favorite things included – Sicilian Caponata (amazing eggplant spread), Artichokes Campobasso (roasted baby artichokes), Polpette Al Sugo Di Pomodoro (meatballs in traditional red sauce), Penne alla Vodka, and Tuscan Sausage Risotto (total food hug).  We can’t forget about dessert – which I definitely devoured – Zeppole (donuts with a chocolate dipping sauce) and Panino al Gelato Limon (basically lemon gelato sandwiched between two soft donuts).  The zeppole was probably my favorite dessert.  Although fried, they were SO light and airy!  Delish!
Unfortunately, RW week is now over.  I gotta say, my wallet (and waistline) are happy about that, but I can’t wait for next year!

Sarah

Back to Busy-ness

Hey world!

I’m back.  I know, I know, I said the same thing about…a year ago.  But, I’m trying to hold myself to it this time.  This blog’s theme just wasn’t doing it for me.  Things have changed – and it’s time for the blog to change, too!

So, what’s my vision you ask?  Well, this blog will still be about running…..

Chocolate Run

But, it’s going to have a few other things to…namely, “Chicago”.

Chicago

Hellooooo this blog is called RunningChickago.  Clearly I’m in love with running.  And Chicago.  The hubby and I love going out to eat – and we have great choices.  Whether it’s the burger I had for lunch at Au Cheval (which I think should be re-named Au MyGod), falafel, or sushi, we’re always up for something delicious.  This ol’ blog will give some restaurant reviews.  Because as my grandma says (without fail) every time we’re on the phone...”Is it [life] all about food, or is it all about food”?  It’s all about food, Gram.

sushi

Unfortunately, we can’t eat out every night….if only our wallets were as bottomless as our appetite… So, until that happens, this blog will share some recipes, too.

Kale, Sausage & White Bean Soup

Kale, Sausage & White Bean Soup

Like the title of this post says, it’s “back to busy-ness”.  Life is busy, but it’s more fun writing about it.  Leggo.

– Sarah

 

Lazy Sunday Lasagna

Hey there!

So as mentioned the other day…this blog is back my friends, this blog is back.  Some things have changed within the past few months.  Well…a lot of things.  But here are some big ones…

1.  I’m engaged!

NYE 2012

NYE 2012

 

2.  I registered for the Chicago Marathon – thankfully, before the lottery system went into place!  And, Joe registered for it too!  It’ll be his first marathon and I’m super pumped for him.

3.  My knee has started acting up…no bueno.  So running and I are taking a little break until I see a doc and he/she can tell me what’s up.

But wait…does that mean a break from working out?  Uh yeah…yeah right.  In the mean time, I’ve been doing yoga and some elliptical workouts. :)

Oh…and I’ve been doing some cooking and baking.  I mean…I have all this extra time from not running, I might as well eat it away…right? ;)  Well this past Sunday, Joe and I did just that.  I made us a healthy and easy lasagna.  I was a little nervous because (a) it was my first lasagna (b) I’m Italian and I’m cheating by using cottage cheese instead of ricotta (c) I’m cooking it for Joe, and I’m using fake meat (he is kind of a carnivore).  The good news is this lasagna passed both of our expectations with flying colors.  Thanks, Aunt Kath for the recipe!

Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients:
– 1 big box of oven-ready lasagna noodles- 2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce – [fyi: I used about 1.5 jars]
– 2 packages of mozzarella cheese (long ones) – [fyi: I used part skim mozz]
– 2 eggs (beaten)
– 1 carton of reduced fat cottage cheese (drained)
– shredded parmesan cheese
– 1 ten-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
– 1 package of Smart Ground (fake meat) – [*fyi: this was not in my aunt’s original recipe…and is totally and completely a (delicious) optional ingredient

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Cover the bottom with a little spaghetti sauce.
2.  Mix the cottage cheese, spinach, 2 eggs, and 1/4 of shredded parmesan together in a bowl.
3.  Layer the lasagna noodles over the spaghetti sauce, add half of the cottage cheese/spinach mixture, place mozz cheese slices over that.  If you’re using the smart ground meat, but that on top of the cheese.  Then, cover with more spaghetti sauce.  Repeat the layers as many times as you desire.  End by pouring sauce over entire lasagna.  Cover with foil.
4.  Bake at 350F covered for 60 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes after.  FYI: After it has baked for 50 minutes, take the lasagna out, sprinkle some shredded parm cheese over the top and let it continue to bake for the last 10 minutes uncovered.

This lasagna was amazing.  Best part?  It was healthy, vegetarian, and my carnivore fiance liked it.  Even better part?  My Italian future mother-in-law tried leftovers…and loved it.  Then Joe preceded to tell her that it wasn’t ricotta.  She was shocked.  Then he mentioned how it wasn’t real meat.  Again, shock.

My advice?  Make it for your friends whether they’re vegetarians OR carnivores.  Or make it for yourself and eat until your heart is content.  I’m not judging.

I’m baaack!

Hey there!

After taking some time off of blogging to start my full-time job / post-grad life…I may have forgotten my blog password ;) But, I finally was able to e-mail the right people and get everything figured out.

WOOHOO!!

I’m so happy to be back.  Can’t wait to start reading everyone’s blogs and getting back in the swing of things!

<3 Sarah

Tapas Tour (Madrid, part DOS)

Hey everyone!

So I planned on breaking down my Spain trip into 3 sections…but the tapas tour we attended deserves its own section…so there will now be 4  :)

Today was a very fun day!  After my Cross Fit class on Monday, I’ve been dying to get in a good workout.  I was too sore on Tuesday and Wednesday to get in a good run, and unfortunately it was storming big-time here yesterday.  Such a bummer.  I decided to make up for it today though. I woke up early ready to run.

I ran 4.37 miles at 8:41 pace.  It wasn’t my best time, or my farthest run, but I’ll take it.  I’ve missed running after taking 2+ weeks off for vacation, and only running 3 miles at a time before vacation.  I don’t know about you guys, but I definitely prefer my cooler weather runs.  C’mon Mother Nature, throw just one 40-degree morning my way, please?  It can get hot later on, just give me a cool morning ;)

After my hot & humid run (80s and 50%+ humidity at 7AM), I got ready for the day.  My mom and I headed to Oak Brook where they have a beautiful outdoor mall.  They decorate it beautifully with flowers and some fountains – oh, and I guess the beautiful shoes & handbags don’t hurt the landscape, either ;)

We enjoyed our day shopping and talking, which was very similar to our trip to Spain.  Mom and I pretty much shopped every day while in Spain – tough work, but someone’s gotta do it, right?  Although Oak Brook has delicious restaurant options, they don’t quite have the tapas that Madrid does.  But that’s okay, I can live through my pictures tonight.

Before going to Spain, we booked a tour with Adventurous Appetites which had rave reviews on Trip Advisor.  Our tour guide was James, who was great and provided us with helpful tips about tapas, bars in Madrid, and Spain in general.

One tip about ordering tapas?  Always order your drinks first and wait before you order your tapas.  Some bars give you free tapas, but if you order your food when you order your drink, they may skip giving you the free tapas.  Thanks for the tip, James! :)

Without further adieu, here’s the tapas!

Bar 1

(Seriously) Blue Cheese

Cider, Cheese + Ham, and maybe a Tortilla in the back? So much food, so little time…

Sorry the picture above isn’t so hot!  I wasn’t going to include it, but I didn’t want to leave any of the food out!

Delicious Sausage + Potatoes (covered in paprika)

Cheesy Tortilla (get in my belly)

Walking to Bar 2

how cute is this chocolate shop?!

Bar 2

*NOT* Sangria! it’s red wine + soda.

I can’t remember what the above drink is called, but James made sure to tell us that it is not sangria.  It’s something that is less tourist-y than sangria, and what locals drink.

Sausage, Rolls, and Ham

Those little sausages were my favorite in Spain.  SOOO GOOD

Ham (from a pig that ate chestnuts, so the meat is fattier) and Cheese

Walking to Bar 3

Bar 3

mmm pouring Rioja

CHEERS! we had a fun group!

part of the tour group!

Mussels (with green and red peppers) and Toast (with olive oil)

Tripe and Beans

Beans, beans, the magical fruit..

Fried Pedron Peppers

Some are spicy, some are not…you don’t know until you bite in!  So much fun :)

Croquettas (filled with cheese and pieces of ham)

Black Pudding (Blood Sausage)
(Gross stuff that tastes good because it’s seasoned well)

Amazing Mushrooms and yummy meat (can’t remember what it was, exactly.. pork maybe?)

Cold Vegetable Salad topped with Cold Cod
(Mom and my favorite dish!)

Walking to Bar 4

Bar 4

Mushrooms with Garlic Mayo Spread on Toast

I didn’t have the tapas picture shown above, but past tour attendees described it as being so good and like “crack”.

Garlic and Oil Shrimp

Octopus covered in paprika

At this last bar, some drank white wine and others (like me) drank water.

I may have ended the night with some gelato, too.  My sweet tooth was callin’, and I couldn’t ignore it.  Luckily they have smaller portions in Spain (they’re small is a “baby” size in the US), so I could eat it without exploding.

Hope you enjoyed the tapas tour with me!  If you go to Spain, I highly recommend going with Adventurous Appetites like I did.  As you may or may not have noticed, I didn’t include the names of the bars.  This was done at the request of my tour guide, because they change the bars every time.  They try to switch up the bars and keep them unpublicized to help them from becoming tourist-y.  If you are extremely curious about one of the pictures and need to find out where exactly you can get it, let me know and I may be able to help you out.  :) But trust me when I say, you really can’t go wrong.  Especially with a tour guide like James helping you out!

Adios! :)

Questions for you:
Do you usually take tours while on vacation?  My family almost always does!  I love them because you get to ask a local tons of questions- some related to the tour, others just about food and life in that city!
Do you like to branch out and try new foods while vacationing?  I tried blue cheese, tripe, and black pudding during the tapas tour…some things that I’m either not a fan of (blue cheese) or never had (tripe and black pudding).  I’m so glad that I stepped outside my comfort zone to try these!  Even though I probably wouldn’t order them on my own in the future, I’m glad I had a bite! :)