February 24th, 2015

Now and then, I settle on a recipe that I feel needs no improvement. This one is joining that privileged club.

It was thanks to an unexpected snow day this winter that we discovered this chocolate cream cheese cupcake recipe. I have long been a fan of baked good with cream cheese and crafted these brownies a few years back but had never found the cupcake version that I felt was perfect. Until now.

When I say that this is a “perfect” recipe, I mean that it is perfect for me. Each of us has a unique palate and preferences. My favorite desserts are a little less sweet and usually include cream cheese, sour cream or buttermilk. Though I love butter in cookies, many of my favorite cake recipes call for oil. And, as a red velvet cake lover, a touch of vinegar in chocolate cake is often a good sign.

CATEGORIES: Cakes, Desserts & Sweets | Link to this post

January 29th, 2015

How is everyone doing with their refresh?  Don’t let the momentum of January resolutions fade!


A few weeks ago, I accepted a challenge from Plum Vida™ to refresh part of my life. I chose my snacking routine, which was in need of a healthy makeover. To avoid low blood sugar downers, I had dry snack bars tucked in every pocket and pouch. The new organic Plum Vida™ pouches seemed like the ideal opportunity for keeping accessible, healthy snacks with me at all times.

If you read the last post, you saw that I tucked the convenient pouches in my work bag, gym bag, pockets and glove compartment. Since I last wrote, I have eaten all those and many more. A few of my stash were sampled by my girls, who also LOVE them. So, did my refresh work? Have I succesfully altered my snack routine? Just this morning, one of my officemates stopped me to tell me I was looking really good and more slender… so SOMETHING is working! 

CATEGORIES: Uncategorized | Link to this post
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January 15th, 2015

I’m attempting a healthy snacking revolution. Anyone want to join me?

Caroline-pure-vidas refresh

Confession #1: I’m a snack hoarder.
Confession #2: I am pretty messy.

Together, these two traits have worked together resulting in a number of unforgotten snacks-turned-science-experiments stashed in the bottom of purses and bags. I can’t believe I am admitting this but when I was selling an old diaper bag at our garage sale last fall, I found a petrified black mass at the bottom of one of the pockets that was later identified as a 3-year-old banana. It turns out there is a shrunken, rock solid, odorless stage after the stinky, mushy stage. (Read on for giveaway details…)

CATEGORIES: Discussions & Ideas | Link to this post

January 11th, 2015

I am SO late to the Green Smoothie party but thrilled to finally be enlightened.

At a doctor’s appointment a month ago, my daughter was advised to up her intake of fiber and eat 3 servings of vegetables a day to improve her digestive health. I’d been saying it like a broken record but it took the authority of the woman in the white coat for Mini Whipped to get serious about eating her veggies. Initial determination sparked happier dinners as she tried new specimens and worked hard to get all her broccoli down the hatch. After a week or so, we returned to sour faces, gagging reflexes and deflated whimpering (from both of us).

CATEGORIES: Drinks & Appetizers, Sides & Snacks, Vegetarian | Link to this post

January 4th, 2015

Ever heard of baker’s ammonia? Or perhaps you know it by ammonium carbonate, Hartshorn, hjorthornssalt or  sal volatile? It’s an old ingredient, new to my kitchen.


I’ve been completely off the radar because we had guests for 20 days over the holidays. My in-laws visited from Greece and we were lucky enough to have my sister-in-law and her boyfriend for half of the time as well. It gave me an excuse to do quite a bit of cooking! Hosting Christmas brunch and dinner  was a treat. I wish I’d had the time to blog about it along the way.

My mom visited Chicago a few days before Christmas and brought an enormous bag full of food to help me feed the crowd… chips, dips, crackers, cheeses and hiding at the bottom, a tin of cookies. Inside were these crunchy, light little sugar cookies that she had labeled “Drommar – Swedish Dream Cookies.”  My mom and I talk often and I was surprised she hadn’t mentioned the cookies as she doesn’t bake regularly so it was unexpected to find a homemade tin of cookies hiding at the bottom of all the booty.

CATEGORIES: Cookies, Desserts & Sweets | Link to this post
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December 14th, 2014

If you haven’t finished your shopping, consider these foodie gift picks. 

There is something special about leafing through the pages of a book in your lap. No browsing on the Internet, or pressing a button, or swiping your finger across glass to progress to the next page. Everything today seems to be electronic, it has almost become decadent to slow down, crack open a book, and enjoy the feeling of pages in your fingers.

With the holidays in full swing there are only a handful of moments that can come anywhere close to resembling “easy and slow,” but this year I have decided to make gift giving just a little easier by sending cookbooks to many of those on my nice list.


CATEGORIES: Book Reviews | Link to this post

December 8th, 2014

So thankful for this delectable drop off from one of the best kept secrets in Chicago!

It’s one of my greatest pleasures to have the fortune to work with food companies. Connecting my passion with my job — What could be better?

Through my adventures with food over the years I have stumbled across some amazing talent in the kitchen. One of my newer comrades is Amanda Terbush. I met her in the kitchen of Vosges Haut-Chocolat where she used to treat us to her own tarts and cakes for co-workers birthdays. She has since gone out on her own, putting her French pastries skills to use.

A week or so ago, Amanda treated me to an unexpected surprise. I had just received some difficult news and was in a bad state. My office buzzer rang and there at the door was Amanda with a bakery box. Inside was a Tarte Tatin (pictured above.) The pastry was as delicious as it was beautiful and boosted my spirits right out of the gutter. (It may not be entirely healthy, but sweets do have the power to boost my mood!)


CATEGORIES: Chicago Finds & Favorites | Link to this post

November 17th, 2014

Mini Whipped and I trekked to Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook to review the musical Camelot. It was an afternoon we will likely both remember forever.

One of the great joys of raising children is the ability to rediscover the world through their fresh eyes. There is only one “first” for everything and a child’s world is filled with them. The wonder and excitement of new things are contagious. Watching my daughters’ eyes light up and their breath quicken as they try new foods and enjoy new experiences conjures memories that carry me on their wave of discovery.

Some months ago, I was offered tickets to see Camelot, the musical currently playing at Drury Lane Theatre. Mini Whipped is 6-years-old, loves music and is full of drama so I thought it might be the ideal opportunity to introduce her to musicals. I still remember watching The Sound of Music at our civic theatre and feeling overcome by the music and dance, which sparked dreams of performing throughout my childhood. (I cast myself as Annie but sadly only had the hair, not the voice.)

CATEGORIES: Chicago Finds & Favorites, Discussions & Ideas | Link to this post

October 24th, 2014

Anyone else love oatmeal as much as I do?


Steal cut, old-fashioned, Scottish-style, quick cooking…. give me an oat in any form and I’ll be happy. In the cooler months of the year, oatmeal is my blank breakfast canvas and plays well with nuts, seeds, chocolate, coconut, spices and syrup. I’ve also taken to blending old-fashioned oats into flour and adding them to baked goods for that nutty taste they bring.

When I saw the email offering a copy of OATrageous Oatmeals for review, I didn’t think twice. I wondered just how much further I could expand my oatmeal repertoire. Not only does the author offer new hot and cold breakfast options but she uses oats in a number of savory stews and other main dishes.

CATEGORIES: Book Reviews | Link to this post

October 20th, 2014

I’ve got your Saturday morning all figured out for you.


There are recipes to keep on hand for when you notice brown specs on your bananas and don’t want to waste them. And, there is a different category of recipes for which you plan ahead, buy bananas, and put them in a paper bag to ripen in order to satisfy your ingredient requirements. These pancakes were invented for the first category and have graduated immediately to the second. BUY BANANAS now so you can eat these banana bread pancakes on Saturday morning.

Almost always, my over ripe bananas are used to make this banana bread recipe. I go for this whole wheat version when I am planning to use them for school lunches or feel the need to be a bit healthier. Most of the time when I veer from my standby recipe, I am sorry. It is so easy and so foolproof, I’ve found that it can’t be trumped.

CATEGORIES: Breads & Breakfast | Link to this post

October 6th, 2014

Two cans, a little chop, a touch of zest, a drizzle and a sprinkle. That’s all it takes to create a healthy, easy lunch.

For those of us with kids, we are well into the school routine, which for us includes packing two kid-friendlly lunches each morning. It took us awhile to get that juggling act down and to even consider packing healthy adult lunches too.

I’m constantly on a mission to eat healthier foods (mostly as a counterbalance to my passion for baked goods.) Years ago, I remember that one of the most surprisingly popular posts on the blog Orangette was a simple doctoring up of a can of chick peas. I often remembered that when I haven’t been shopping and find a lonely can of legumes in my pantry.

CATEGORIES: Main Dish, Salads, Sides & Snacks, Vegetarian | Link to this post

September 15th, 2014

A little slab of bacon on hand = a whole lot of flavor waiting to be unleashed in new places.


I bought this little piece of uncut bacon the other day. I had no plans for it but it seemed like a good thing to have in my refrigerator as the weather cools and comfort foods start calling. We all tend to fall into food and cooking habits. As someone who loves cooking and experimenting, the daily grind requires some no-brainers. Many of us probably buy over half of the same groceries ever week. I try new recipes and buy the required ingredients but rarely do pantry staples and my go-to weekly meals change.

CATEGORIES: Discussions & Ideas, New Ingredients | Link to this post

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