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.

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Super Sonic Health Tonic: Tonica Kombucha

If you haven’t been reading our blog since the good ol’ days, you may not know we are Krazy for Kombucha.  Kombucha, a fermented tea, provides a boost of B vitamins, probiotics to help your tummy, and is rumored to have detoxing and immunity boosting powers.  We tend to go for kombucha when when we have have the digestive downers and are known as kombucha pushers on our friends with colds.

Now that has been cleared up, we have to tell you about a new Kombucha we are loving, Tonica Kombucha.  Tonica comes from our neighbor to the north, Oh Canada.  You may know Canada as the land of yummy things like poutine, ketchup fries, and Makintosh toffee.  Now you can also equate it to something healthy!

Tonica Kombucha was started by Zoey Shamai who, in our opinion, is sort of an Emma Stone doppelganger as well as (more notably) a traveling yoga teacher and home kombucha brewer.  Once she started sharing her home brew, her Canadian crew went crazy too so she expanded into a business.  Her Toronto based Kombrewery pumps out 8 different fuzzy flavors of Kombucha: Ginger Rapture, Green Tea Revival, Nude Brew, Peach Resolution, Mango Passion, Coffee, Vibrant Blueberry and Jasmine Tea.

We were given samples of Jasmine Tea, Coffee and Peach Resolution to try and review.

Coffee:

We were a quite curious to see how this kombucha would taste.  The coffee kombucha had a bubbly texture and light coffee flavor.  It also provided a decent boost of energy that could replace a moderated coffee drinker’s caffeine needs. It had a balance of sweet without being overpowering.

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Jasmine Tea: 

Most of us know that tea is a go to health drink as it has super anti-oxidants and Jasmine tea happens to be a star in the tea world.  The Tonica Jasmine tea has a fresh floral flavor along with the fizz and a sweet fragrant balance.  Jasmine tea also has caffeine (surprise) so you can sub it in for a detoxifying morning jolt!

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Peach Resolution:

If you have a resolution to lose weight or kick a sugary drink habit, try this inspired flavor. Peach resolution has only 30 calories, 4g of sugar and a mix of fermented organic green and black tea, rooibos, which are great for metabolism boosting and halting hunger. It surprises your palate with blackberry leaves, ginger pieces, calendula petals and organic peach extract as well.

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Tonica is only 45 calories for 1 bottle with natural carbonation.  It’s 100% raw and certified organic.  It’s also full of healthy bouncing baby bacteria, the kinds you need to keep a balanced body PH.  Tonica can be purchased in ‘Merica at Whole Foods.

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FINAL FIZZ THOUGHTS:

One kind tip for 1st time kombucha drinkers: Tonica, like most kombuchas, is a fizzy party.  Unless you want to shower in kombucha, DO NOT shake the bottle and for extra precaution, open over a sink so all your delicious kombucha doesn’t escape.  Ready to taste Tonica?  6 flavors are available at our Chicago area Whole Foods or you can check to Tonica locator here!

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.

Relishing the Pro Chef Life: Fresh Meal Delivery Service from Relished Foods

UPDATE: 8.21.14 Relished has expanded and rebranded to become Home Chef.  They now offer vegan and veg friendly menus as well…all the more reason to stay home and be lazy instead of grocery shopping!

Ooo we are so sick of winter in Chiberia and we’ve had too many days of stir crazy all day pajama pants wearing.  This weather sure hasn’t made it easy to get out to grocery shop, let alone put on any real semblance of clothes.  Enter Relished Foods to conquer any reason to brave the cold white landscape we now call home.

Relished, is a fledgling Chicago area company that delivers fresh ingredients with clear visual instructions to cook healthy delicious meals like a pro.  Each order includes three meals for one week.  Recipes rotate weekly.

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Now to the good food stuff!

We received 3 recipes:

  • Farfalle Pasta with Shrimp
  • Arugula and Fennel Salad with Chicken
  • Naan Pizza

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We were hesitant about the Farfalle Pasta recipe which seemed too simple and possibly bland but once we noticed the fresh prepped ingredients and easy instructions our curiosity got us….  Farfalle Pasta sans Shrimp recipe included fresh baby spinach, basil, plump juicy cherry tomatoes, garlic and asiago cheese.  This is how manageable the recipes are.  We washed the vegetables, sliced the cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic.  Lastly, we added EVOO, sea salt and grounded whole black pepper…so taxing (wink)!

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Once we took a bite of this dish, we were pleasantly surprised by the flavors.  Although simple, the dish was satisfying and complex.

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With the arugula, we got to experience some ingredients we don’t usually utilize like fennel, and even champagne vinegar (you fancy, huh).  The chicken was lean and still juicy.  Relished packaging made it manageable to have one vegetarian and one omnivore eating the same meals as the meats were packaged separately from the veggies.

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The naan pizza made us giggle in delight because we love artichokes, roasted red peppers and onions.  All you had to do was plop the toppings on and bake.  The recipe made two 8 inch pizzas.

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What we learned about getting Relished pro chef meals sent to our house:

  1. All meals take 30 minutes or less and require minimal cooking skills.
  2. Recipe cards were visually stimulating, well articulated and can be used again!
  3. Food came in a space aged cooler box and ingredients stayed fresh until we were ready to cook.
  4. Meals cost around $10 a serving.

We really appreciated that all meals were veggie heavy, creative and delicious.  Relished is only about 6 months in and they have also indicated that they are exploring only veggie/vegan meal options to expand their dietary offerings.  Now if only they would send us some hot cocoa to warm things up for us, we be all about staying in for another week or so.

Thanks to Relished for inviting us to try such yummy and vegetastic meals!!