Brunch Bunch: Prairie Grass Cafe

You know when you ask people where they live, and they say some far off burb’ and you cancel the possibility of visiting?  Well, change your mind if they live in Northbrook and grab some brunch!

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Prairie Grass Cafe, conveniently located right off the expressway, will make you wanna visit your neighbor to the north.  Chef-Owner Sarah Stegner and Chef-Owner George Bumbaris, both formerly of the fancy pants Ritz Carleton, partnered to created a casual environment with local fresh food.  Stegner is also a 2 time winner of the ultra prestigious James Beard award so just think of the awesomeness of experiencing her cuisine without the abominable months’ wait of similar city joints.  Prairie Grass Cafe hosted us one lazy Sunday afternoon to see what all the fuss was about.

Family Friendly

Prairie Grass Cafe was popping with kiddos during Sunday brunch, illustrating its’ kid friendly appeal.  Stegner is a founding member of the Healthy Fare for Kids initiative which encourages restaurants to ditch the junk for children and provide them with nutritional sound menu items.  The brunch menu for kids was comprehensive and our lil’ guest of honor, Monica’s nephew, scarfed down a cheese, fruit and veggie plate.  Prairie Grass was able to work around his allergies with this dish.

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One small thing for improvement: as there were so many kids, there was no high chair available.  We made due with a booster seat instead thanks to the help of our friendly wait staff but this might not have worked for a littler dude or dudette.

Looking for more than just a meal? Check out “Make Your Own Pizza” Fridays where the toppings come to the table for a more active event for your tots.

Meatless Fare

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

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Pancakes can be a ho-hum or over the top in sugar at brunch.  We flipped, however, over Prairie Grass’ fluffy light Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.  The citrus flavor measured up to our preferences and added a delicate sparkle to the cakes.  Go for the gusto and add the berry flavorful rasberry sauce and creme anglaise for that WOW effect.  We also sampled the french toast and although it was decent, the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes take the taste award.

Chilaquiles

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The Chilaquiles will make any tummy happy with runny soft fried eggs melting over the top of a hearty pile of cheese, crispy beany tortilla chips, guacamole and pico de gallo.

Egg White Omelette

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The Egg White Omelette is chock b’gawk full of farm fresh eggs, seasonal produce and topped with avocado and pico de gallo.  We added a side of perfectly seasoned crispy potatoes to round out the meal.  This omelette is big enough for 2 people so feel free to split.

Dessert-a-thon

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Prairie Grass Cafe is a dessert lovers’ dream with their bountiful selection of fresh homemade treats.  Chef Sarah spoiled us sweetness with the Coconut Cream Pie (seasonal), Double Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with local berries, and Strawberry crepe with grand mariner sauce.

The standouts were the Coconut Cream Pie and Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee.  Luckily, we had a group of 6 to avoid sugar shock. 🙂

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Chicagoans, if there was ever a reason to meet your suburban friends half-way, this is a reason to venture beyond the borders of our city.  Not feelin’ the brunch buzz?  Get up later for lunch or dinner at your wake up whims.

Best of the Good Food Festival 2016

This past weekend we went to the Good Food Festival for the third year in a row.  Click here to read one of our first blog posts about our first Good Food Festival three years ago.  Yesss, we are celebrating the three year … Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas: Organic Body Souffle

Winter is truly encroaching on our soft hands game.  As much as we would loveee to get a mani and pedi every week, our pocket books shiver at the thought.  There are other ways, however, that you can pamper your pretty toes and fingers (men too, don’t be afraid to feel pretty).  Inner Sanctum + Wellness, a local small business in Oak Park, reached out to us to try a sample of their Organic Whipped Body Souffle and give an honest review.

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Regina Thomas Dillard, owner, was inspired to create her natural beauty line due to her holistic upbringing.  Her maternal grandmother and mother collected herbs and roots to heal the body and for topical skin treatments and Regina observed carefully.

After her baby daughter was born with an acute case of eczema, Regina turned to researching her mother and grandmother’s remedies and found curative results.  She later became a teacher at the Oak Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, facilitating workshops like “Cooking with Herbs.”  Regina delved deeper exploring more natural remedies for the skin.

Regina muses about the care she takes in creating her products: “When I select oils, I try at best to find purveyors in the countries where the oils are sourced.  For instance, I currently purchase my lavender oils from a supplier in the Southern region of France and my tea tree oil from a supplier in Auckland, Australia. While oils vary greatly, as many claim to be the best on the market, I’m always on the lookout for essential oils which are high in quality, but cost-effective in order maintain a competitive price point”.

First thoughts:

Monica doesn’t utilize lotion that much and Kate is picky with her scents sooo we got some dry snaky skin over here, no lie.  Body butters can be a turn off too when they are too greasy and you find your skin sticking to your couch.

The Body Butta’ Breakdown

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Our Body Souffle: Ritual

Ingredients:

Vitamin E for healthy skin, almond and avocado oils, with mango butter, swirled with essential oils.

Appearance:

All of Inner Sanctum + Wellness Body Souffles are Whhhhippped (like Stewie Griffin says) to perfection.   Kate kept joking that she was going to take a sample taste (note: don’t do this…it isn’t edible) as it looks like whipped butter or light fluffy whipped cream.

Texture:

Luxurious with a soft and creamy feel.  The body butter was non-greasy and massaged into the skin quite easily.

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Scent:

Monica and Kate’s husband battled over who would keep the body butter because of its woodsy winter scent.  Ritual blends frankincense and myrrh for a delicate aroma that stays lightly on the skin.  Kate is more of fruity person so she snatched the mini lavender eucalyptus scent and breathed in deeply to destress and decongest.

Other Available Products:

Inner Sanctum + Wellness carries bath and body oils, exfoliators, milk baths, and even home products like (YAY) yoga mat sprays.

Final thoughts?

Ready to slather yourself in butter?  Sexy body butter that is…just in time for Valentine’s dayyy (cue the Barry White music).  Inner Sanctum + Wellness products can be found at events around Chicagoland and on Etsy or shop directly at http://www.shop-isw.com/ and signup for updates.

Upcoming Events featuring Inner Sanctum and Wellness:

JANUARY
23 An Evening of Giving Back Event (7pm-1am)
One-Stop Productions, Chicago, IL

FEBRUARY
11 Sweets For the Sweetie Valentine’s Event (6-10pm)
Normandy Banquets, Elmhurst, IL

13 Married Couples Cross-Fit Event (8am-3pm)
Oak Brook Hills Resort, Oak Brook, IL

 

 

Bake 425º Pizza Review

For once the suburbs beat Chicago to something yummy.  New local business, Bake 425°, promises Farm-to-Crust Bake at Home pizza and operates in Highland Park, Hinsdale, Evanston, Glencoe, Winnetka and Lake Forest.  Bake 425° took over the hole left by HomeMade Pizza Kitchen but with a modified format.  Owner, Bill Borneman, decided to keep the ease of the pre-made ready to cook pizza but shift to locally sourced, small batch and organic ingredients.  Specialty diets are honored with gluten free crust and vegetarian pizza options.  For traditionalists, classic cheese, Margherita and “pick your own topping” choices begin the menu.  Adventurous pizza monsters (like us) will be pleased, however, by the unique menu items like Poblano and Chicken Sausage pizza or the Earth Lover pizza with truffle oil, Yukon Potatoes, Portabello mushrooms and Béchamel.

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Bake 425° gave us one pizza, one salad and a cookie to sample and review.  We chose the Go Green vegetarian pizza, Sunshine salad and chocolate chip cookie.

What we liked:

Pizza: The Go Green pizza comes with pistachio pesto sauce, brussel sprouts, quartered cherry tomatoes, garlic oil and mozzarella.  Pesto sauce on pizza is a total thumbs up and the brussel sprouts were (thankfully) roasted and crisp.  Crust is whole grain so some consumers may not be used to the dough’s heartier taste compared to white flour.

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Salad: The Sunshine salad was filled with spicy arugula greens, roasted butternut squash, pine nuts and shaved mozzarella.  Lemon oil dressing complimented the mix with a tart and bright flavor.  The salad did need a little bit of salt and pepper to balance the sour lemon.

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Ease of Cooking: Bake 425° gives you everything you need to cook your ‘za, except an oven of course.  Instructions are clear and you are provided with parchment paper for cooking, eliminating the need for any pans or clean up!

Serving Sizes: We fed three people, which averaged about $10 dollars a person…not bad for a quality take home meal.

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What we would change:

The Chocolate Chip Cookie: Nothing really against the taste of the cookie but after eating a pizza, maybe the gelato that Bake 425° offers would balance out the meal better than ending with more dough.  We were so stuffed from the pizza, we barely touched the chocolatey dude.

Why would you try it?

When you are having one of those “I wanna stay in my blankey and bake on my couch” kind of nights, Bake 425° can simplify your night without compromising your taste buds.

Get crafty and charitable with CrEATeFest: A Day of Arts and Eats

Food truck, arts activities and dancing, oh my!  Foodies, artists and families can all co-mingle ar CrEATeFest on August 9th at the Bridgeport Arts Center to support Changing Worlds.  Changing Worlds is a non profit organization that supports in school … Continue reading

Cooked: Your Best Veggie Pre-Cooked Meal Delivery Service

We have ambitions of getting in touch with our inner culinary geniuses every week when we head to the grocery store…and then we end up passed out on the couch with a half eaten Morning Star Burger falling out of our hands after work.  Like it or not (who really likes it), American culture is one of the most overworked cultures in the world.  We need a break!  Don’t you often muse about have your own personal chef?  Chicagoans, rejoice!  There is a pretty fantastic option for you to get your personal chef wishes fulfilled, even without a genie!

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We were so excited when Erin Winston Silva, the co-founder of Cooked, reached out to us to sample their pre-cooked meal delivery options.  Cooked promises “Nourishing Meals for Busy Folks” and we are 2 very busy ladies so we jumped on the opportunity.  We were particularly intrigued as Cooked seemed to have more veggie options than many delivery services that we’ve seen.  We also love the values of the organization.  Chef Jona Silva’s own health journey inspired him to create local and nutritionally rich (not calorie rich) foods to promote wellness in others.  One can tell from menu offers, which change weekly, as well as Silva’s transparency in where ingredients come from.  The focus is local partnerships and he is also sensitive to food allergies like gluten or dietary preferences like vegan, vegetarian and T-Rexian. Ok, enough blabbing, we know you wanna know what you get to eat!

For $76 (tax and delivery included) dollars, we got ALL the foods below!!  Delivery was timely and Erin was available throughout to deal with a multitude of blogger questions like: “What about Monica’s chickpea allergy” and “Can you change our delivery date?  We forgot, we won’t be home!”.

Freshly Pressed Juice: Pineapple Cooler

Loved it!  It was refreshing and green-licious with kale, romaine, spinach, coconut water and a sweet touch of pineapple.

Lunch Bowl #2: Organic POWER grains with black beans and salsa ranchera

We split this, yet there was enough for a full lunch for both of us.  This puppy is only $5 and is rich in superfoods like quinoa, amaranth and other ancient grains with mysterious origins.  The salsa added a nice kick to the mix.

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Lunch: Kale, Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad

Again, the portion was plentiful.  We enjoyed the sweet touch of cranberry and the kale and rice mix was tender and garlicky with a rich balsamic dressing.

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Dinners:

Soup: Kabocha Squash and Apple Soup

Admittedly, we had to google what the heck a kabocha was.  Turns out it’s an Asian winter squash!  Last week’s weather was considerably still miserable so this warm rich soup hit the spot.  It reminded us of a sweet potato bisque with light creamy touches of spices and cinnamon.

Sesame Crusted Tofu

The 2 tofu cutlets came with zuccini noodles and vibrant red and yellow peppers, dressed with a light a soy sauce.

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Cauliflower Tacos with Roasted Poblano Salsa

Cauliflower is a vegetarian delight as it has a chunky texture.  The taco mix also included cilantro, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds with a side of fresh salsa.

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Walnut loaf with Roasted Squash and Broccolini

The squash and broccolini looked ultra fresh and colorful with bright orange and green hues and they were both cooked to perfection.  The walnut loaf was a gray meat like color and was hearty for those of you who are familiar with the texture of meatloaf.  We really liked the dressing that was provided and it seemed like it had a tahini base.

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The meals are supposed to stay fresh for 3 days but we stretched them out until Thursday and basically had enough deliciousness to stave off any grocery shopping for 2 people for the work week.  It was like a cooking vacay!  We highly recommend Cooked.  Meals change weekly to provide variety.  This week features a tantalizing coconut dal (aka lentils) and chickpea zuccini fritters.  Ready to order?  All Chi Organic Girl readers can get 10% off their first order with the promo code: chiorganicgirls so skip the shopping this week and eat cooked!

*We were not compensated for our opinions but were provided with a gift card to try Cooked meals.

Help Bring the Herb-N-Juice Truck to life in Chicago!

One of the highlights of living in our great city is the bevy of food trucks we have.  What we don’t have, however, is an eco-friendly juice and smoothie truck!  Imagine your summer yoga sesh in Millennium Park and walking out to find a delicious organic juice blend waiting for you in the Chicago heat.  Herb-N-Juice is a startup company created by Joe Wehrli.  Wehrli, originally a Midwesterner, moved to California for a bit and was inspired by the holistic juicing culture.  His focus is on organic, local produce, and homemade vegan protein blends, delivered in a green juice truck (a cool tech-ed up golf cart).  Wehrli intends to expand to a store front eventually and will include healthy bowls, cold pressed juice and smoothies.

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We had the pleasure of trying the goods this past Saturday at a Chicago Food Bloggers Tasting Party alongside Wehrli’s amiable family and friends.  We were treated to 4 different juices, 2 smoothies and 1 bowl.  Here’s all the juicy details!

Juice 1:

Orange, apple, carrot, celery, ginger

The color was a vibrant tangerine with a sweet carrot smell.  Wehrli intends this to be his morning blend to give you a quick jump in the morning as a substitute for your morning caffeine fix.  The taste was a good balance with no overpowering fruit or veggie flavors.  It has a clean finish with a sweet aftertaste.

Juice 2:

Beet, Apple, Pomegranate, Lemon, Cucumber, Carrot

This is the detox heavy hitter of the bunch.  Kate’s not a huge fan of beets and found the juice to be palatable and less earthy (thankfully) compared to other beet blends.  Monica loved the bright rosey color (contributed by the pomegranate) and loved the light texture.

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Juice 3:

Granny smith apple, celery, kale, cucumber, lemon, pineapple, pomegranate

This green blend is surprising with it’s limey color and balanced flavor.  It is neither too tangy nor too sugary.

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Smoothie 1:

Chocolate almond milk, organic peanut butter, banana, homemade vegan protein powder, greek yogurt

We both loved the smoothie which is surprising as Monica detests all things banana.  The protein powder (Wehrli’s own mix of hemp seeds, chia seeds, lucuma, maca and a few other vegan high protein sources from a natural provider, Nuts.com) is mild and doesn’t detract from the flavor of the chocolate and peanut butter.

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Smoothie 2:

Coconut-almond milk, acai puree, banana, mango, strawberry

This tropical blend is delicate and bright.  Both of us enjoyed the frozen purple milk-shakey texture and the coconut touch.

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Wehrli also served up a diabetic friendly juice with green apple, mint, parsley and other greens.  Although it is not as fruit filled, it is pleasant and maybe even preferable for veggie lovers with it’s alkaline nature.

By now, we’re sure you’re begging to find out where the truck is waiting to grab some easy nutrients.  Well, that’s where help is needed.  Wehrli’s truck is still in process as it is electric, has solar panels AND, unlike most food trucks, the juices and smoothies are made on site.  Many food trucks make their product at a stationary location and then bring it out, pre-cooked, into the world.  This emission free concept has run into some financial snags as Wehrli is attempting to be green with every aspect of his business.  Wehrli will also utilize plant made cups that are fully compostable.  So what are you waiting for?!  If you can, help get Herb-N-Juice on the road by donating to their kickstarter campaign.  Depending on your donation, you may get a rad Herb-N-Juice Tshirt or every hipster’s fave (including our own), a mason jar with the cute Herb-N-Juice logo.

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Juice up!  Winter will be over soon and your swimmy suit is waiting in the wings. 🙂