Throw Shade at Food Allergies with Sun Cups

Ah the pleasures of being Aunties!  You get to see your nephews, hug them, play games with them and give them back.  Both of us have outgoing nephews under 3 who love to snack.  Sadly, both of them have food allergies.  Nut, dairy, shellfish, gluten and more can all lead to unhappiness for many people.  This is precisely how the fabulously chocolatey dessert, Sun Cups, came about.  In 2008, Seth Ellis Chocolates opened their door to find a determined dude with chocolate and sunflower seed butter in hand who wanted a comparable Peanut Butter Cup substitute for his nut allergic son.  Challenge accepted and thus Sun Cups were birthed from a chocolate womb…or maybe created in the store.

Sun Cups are not only nut free (and pack with sunflower butter goodness) but also gluten, egg, shellfish, soy and fish free.  If that wasn’t enough wholesomeness to sunny your disposition, Sun Cups are non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Kosher, and they help the environment by using Rainforest Alliance Certified farms for their chocolate.

We were given illuminating Sun Cups to sample and brought them to a park picnic to share with our peeps.

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Milk Chocolate Sun Cups

Dark Chocolate Sun Cups

The dark chocolate cups had a nice balance of sunflower butter filling and a firm semi sweet dark chocolate shell.  There are 2 in a pack and we refused to share.  Dark chocolate is a great choice for getting your healthy flavonoids while treating yo’self.

Caramel Sun Cups

Our male comrades are caramel hounds and gobbled these up before we could even breathe on them.  One tester commented: “The caramel tastes like buttery melty toffee”.  We are happy it made his soul shine but jealous too.

Mint Sun Cups

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Mint and sunflower seed? Uhh let’s see how this works.

Sun Cups also sell milk and dark chocolate bars for the simplistic types.  C’mon who doesn’t like a good cup!? You can find Sun Cups online or at health food locations nationwide.

Spring Tea Time Treats

We’ve jumped from winter to winter to oh my, is that spring we see?  There was that one blissful 60s weekend and the tulips have somehow managed to peek out of the ground and stretch their leafy arms.  What’s best way to enjoy the promise of such weather? With a break, of course.  A very classy wafel break. We Americans have been doing our break all wrong, you see.  We’ve been missing the stroopwafel, a cookie made of  two thin Dutch waffle-like wafers with gooey caramel in-between.  When we first received a sample box from Rip van Wafels, we screamed in delight.  The presentation of the monthly coffee/tea & stroopwafels was cuter than a bucket of bunnies cuddling puppies. Vanwafels Numi Breakfast Blend tea, the featured beverage, was packed in a handle mason jar with two legions of  individually wrapped wafels on each side.  Numi is a perfect partner for Rip Van Wafels with it’s focus on fair trade and organic products. First things first, we didn’t follow the suggested directions of placing the stroopwafel over a steamy beverage to warm the ooey-gooey caramel loveliness inside.  After about 4 days of mindless wafel munching (Kate received and commandeered the wafels at her house), Monica closely examined the packaging and realized the delicacies of this Dutch tradition, koffietijd, or a mid morning coffee and wafel break.

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Heating our wafels up with Numi Tea

Subscribers to Rip van Wafels will get a new coffee or tea in each box as well as sturdy traditional stroopwafels or their fanciful cousin, the cocoa filled wafel.  We are curious to know how the cocoa filled wafel would stand up to our Chicago micro-roasting coffee companies.  Yumm, delicious collaboration could be on the horizon!

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Picture courtesy of Rip van Wafels

So what say you America, shall we start a mindful revolution of stroopwafeling and mid morning time outs? We say let’s import the Dutch tradition and while we’re at it, let’s bring back the old school kindergarten nap time to the adult work world too!

Ay Chica WoW WoW, we heart sexy tacos!

Our constant gratitude attitude must be working this holiday season.  We got a karmic invite recently from Rockit PR goddess, Kara Callera, to chow-wow down at Billy Dec’s most recent restaurant installment, ¡AY CHIWOWA! (throwing out a couple more thanks, universe!).

Highlight Reel:  AY CHIWOWA is at the tip of River North on Orleans and Chicago (worth noting as there is secret free parking in the area if you are willing to stretch those Chicago winter legs for a block or two).  Perfect spot for: After work drinks and apps with coworkers (lots of specials for those of us on a “paying back college loans” budget), partying on the weekend with your lady friends (VIP service and private room space in the back of the spot) or an upbeat date with someone who likes it loud.  AY CHIWOWA is also known for their immense selection of tequilas and creative cocktails, such as the spicy Acai Jalapeno Margarita, so call an Uber or a pink mustached Lyft in honor of Movember if you wanna get down.

As cold as it was outside the night of our visit, we received a warm welcome from staff and like a T.I. rap song, we were invited to have whatever we liiiiiked.  The music was bumping with throw back jams like “Snoop Doggy Dog” and an ugly sweater train of patrons danced past us as we settled ourselves at our cozy table.  As Jill, our bubbly and attentive server, brought out a bevy of items, the dudes next to us probably thought we were trying to add some extra padding for the long winter.

 

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Here’s the good, the amazing and the meh OK of AY CHIWOWA battling it out for best thing in our bellies.

Starters: 

Fresh chunky mango guacamole and roasted salsa paired with hot salted tortilla chips

VS.

Queso fundido (aka big old bowl of melty mexicheese) with sauteed peppers, onions and garlic

Ay Chiwowa

¡AY CHIWOWA!

Winner?  Tie.  If we were on a deserted island and only had one food to live on, we would be praying some avocados would be drop from the sky.  The queso fundido, however, was a surprise plus with its flavorful veggie additions.

Veggie Entrees Throwdown:

Veggie Quesadilla

VS.

Veggie Tacos

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¡AY CHIWOWA!

Winner: Somehow queso fundido jumped in the cage match and beat up both veggie quesadilla and veggie tacos.  All three featured the similar sauteed peppers and onions leaving the veggie variety a little lacking.  Maybe throw some black bean tacos on the menu to entice the veg/vegan crowd?

Meaty Martial Arts Taco Match:

Slow cooked brisket-like Barbacoa

VS.

Adobe Veracruz style Chicken

VS.

Pork Belly with pickled radish

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¡AY CHIWOWA!

Winner: Barbacoa!!!  The short rib meat was so juicy and tasty that no toppings were actually needed.  The bright watercress salad on top of the taco zeroed in on the melt in your mouth texture of the taco.  The chicken came in second with a solid Adobo spice and pleasing texture.

Our coup d’etat and game changers, though, were two sugar dusted churros, with a perfect balance of soft fluffy insides and crunchy outsides, accompanied by an addictive hot cajeta sauce.  When we think of churros, usually its those stale carnival ones, not very thrilling to cupcake connoisseurs, but “someone” enjoyed them so much a bite of churro “mysteriously” ended up in her mouth…and then the stare down began.

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¡AY CHIWOWA!  Thanks again for hosting us!!

Looking for more of what’s hot in Chicago?  Follow Billy Dec’s blog http://www.achicagothing.com and twitter https://twitter.com/billydec

Lincoln Park for Thrifty Types

Although Lincoln Park has that uppercrusty feel, there a hidden diamonds for anyone, including those with empty pockets, to enjoy.  Soooo come and check out some of the LP hood spots for fitness, food, and good times.

Where to tone

Lululemon on Halsted: Join the Lulu staff for a free one hour yoga class every Sunday at 10am at their Sunday Salutations series. Different instructors from various LP studios are featured each month.  All levels are welcome and they share their mats.

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Flirty Girl Fitness: The most recent addition to the Flirty Girl family is still just as pink and flirty. Even if you aren’t the pink purse dog carrying type, Flirty Girl offers not only pole dancing but hardcore strength workouts, Zumba and stretch classes.

i.d. gym: We desperately want to go back and try Fly Yoga with Brent Holten again.  The freeing feeling of being wrapped in a stretchy hammock while you practice your asanas a few feet above the ground can’t be replicated anywhere else.

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Where to taste

Peeled: Take a short jaunt down the sunny streets of LP after your downward facing dogs and try a freshly pressed juice or smoothie.  Try a seasonal smoothie flavor, like Girl and the Fig, while you can. Our recent rave was raw organic truffles! We keep dreaming about the smooth cocoa dusted flavors.

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Dawali Kitchen: is Kate’s go to for fresh creamy hummus (Mon is sadly allergic to the chickpea) and crispy falafels.  Their falafels are one of the best in Chicago area!  Non chickpea offerings include shwarma, spinach and feta pies, and other middle eastern inspired dishes.

All that working out makes us hungry anddd you probably noticed we like sweets (in moderation, of course).

Molly’s Cupcakes: lies in a people watching and shopping strip on Clark street.  Molly’s distinguishes itself with filled cupcakes (how about a Chocolate Lava Cupcake with a dark rich pudding center), aptly named cupcakes (Ron Bennington anyone?) and whimsical swings at the front counter.

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Molly’s Cupcakes Peanut Butter Nutella and Mixed Berry

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Where to explore

With the Lakefront as LP’s backyard, you couldn’t ask for a better location.  A bevy of fitness enthusiasts head to the lakefront path daily for biking, running, skating and relaxed meandering.  Bike rental options abound with a Divvy station right by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Bike and Roll at North Ave Beach and Lakeshore bikes further north on the path.  For your more animal nature, walk through Lincoln Park Zoo for free and stop by their nature path to the south for a gorgeous Chi skyline view.

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Lincoln Park Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool