Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chicago Pizza Tour

Visiting Chicago soon? Here's your guide to a weekend Deep Dish Pizza Tour!

If there is one thing in the world I know about, it's pizza. If there is another thing in this world I know about, it's eating pizza. Generally speaking, I really don't discriminate one type of pizza against any other - my go-to is just plain ol', plain ol' cheese pizza. Nothing fancy and nothing extra. That being said, there is one fancy type of pizza that others just simply can't stack up to: Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. (Have I said pizza enough yet?)

On our most recent stint in Chicago, Sarah and I had the pleasure of sampling 4 different pizza places in just 2.5 days. Our original plan was to make it to 6 places, but the sheer volume of pizza you get in a deep dish pie is completely bonkers, so with leftovers factored in, we made it to 4. We hope you enjoy a little recap of our Chicago Pizza Tour!

Visiting Chicago soon? Here's your guide to a weekend Deep Dish Pizza Tour!

First up was the ever-famous Giordano's. This pizza was completely insane. The amount of cheese on here is one thing, but the crust?! Woah. It was directly because of this crust that we had leftovers. Less like a pizza crust and more like a thick, fluffy, chewy biscuit, it really wasn't my favorite. I don't like anything to stand in the way of me eating more pizza, and the heaviness of this crust definitely stood in my way. However, with the amount of cheese on this pizza, they could have served it on a saltine crust and I would have been happy. All in all, this was my second favorite pizza of the trip.

Gino's East
Despite the fact that we arrived at Gino's at 7:30 on a Saturday night, and had to wait 2 hours for a table, THIS was my favorite pizza of the weekend. The crust here was much more like what I would expect on a deep dish pizza, and the sauce was slightly sweet and delicious. Still with tons of cheese, (though not as much as Giordano's) this pizza was fantastic. And on top of that, I saw Elijah Wood eating there at the same time. Any pizza that's good enough for Frodo is good enough for me.

Visiting Chicago soon? Here's your guide to a weekend Deep Dish Pizza Tour!

Blaze Pizza
What we learned about Blaze Pizza: it's a chain, it's not Chicago-based, it's not deep dish, it's cheap, and it's delicious. We stopped at a Blaze Pizza very near our hotel for a late night snack, picked up a cheese pizza, retired back to our hotel room, and commenced watching 'Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.' Blaze Pizza is kind of like the Chipotle of pizza. You pick your crust and all your ingredients, they throw it in a hot oven, and within 5 minutes you're out the door with a pie. This was a perfect late night snack. My only regret is that we didn't each order our own! They're sooo thin that half of a small pie just isn't enough!

Visiting Chicago soon? Here's your guide to a weekend Deep Dish Pizza Tour!

Lou Malnati's
This pizza place was perhaps recommended the most to us by friends and strangers. On our way to catch the train to the airport, we stopped off for one more small pizza to share. Luckily, at this place (unlike the other places) when they say "serves two," they really mean it. I very much liked the crust on this pizza, but admittedly, that was about all I liked. There was virtually no sauce at all. The tastes I got that had a bit of sauce on it were much better, but this was the first pizza of the weekend I felt the need to add parmesan and red pepper flakes to.

And that was it! By no means do I consider myself an expert on Chicago, or even the beautiful art of the deep dish pizza, but I think this was a pretty good start! I know there are MANY more places to explore and pizzas to be eaten. Trust me when I say I intend to do just that!

Visiting Chicago soon? Here's your guide to a weekend Deep Dish Pizza Tour!

Until next time, what are your favorite pizza places? Chicago or otherwise?

Sarah & Nick

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hand Stamped Tea Towels

Some of our favorite DIY projects involve taking something plain, adding a little paint, and turning it into something pretty, like our shower curtain, watercolor pillows, and cloth napkins. Paint is so inexpensive, versatile, and a fun way to add color to your home! This past weekend we stamped some fun tea towels to help brighten up our kitchen.

Hand stamping can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be (I think we opted for somewhere in between.) Stamps can be made using things you already have in your home (like sponges, potatoes, celery, pencil erasers, etc.) or designed from supplies like foam, rubber, or cardboard. We made our stamps by cutting shapes out of foam sheets and gluing them to a foam board base. We're really happy with the results! Want to make your own?

Here's what you need!
- Foam sheets
- Cardboard or foam poster board
- Scissors
- Acrylic paint
- Paintbrush
- Plain cotton tea towels
- Iron

Here's what you do!
- Cut out your stamp design from your foam sheets. Repeat to make at least two copies of your design. Glue the foam sheets on top of each other and then glue to your cardboard base. Allow the glue to dry completely.
- On a drop cloth or protective surface, lay out your plain tea towels (iron first to remove as many wrinkles as possible.) Map out your design with your dry stamp to figure out your placement and spacing.
- In a small dish or palette, squeeze out your paint color(s) of choice and use a paintbrush to apply the paint to your stamp. Carefully but firmly stamp your desired pattern onto your tea towel. Repeat until completed.
- Carefully move your tea towel to a safe place to dry for 24 hours. After the paint has completely dried, heat set the paint with your iron. On medium to high heat, iron your towels on the unpainted side. Be sure to constantly move the iron to avoid scorching the fabric. For future care, wash in cold water and tumble dry low.

Aren't these the cutest? We can't wait to start using them. This DIY follows almost the exact same technique that we used for the cloth napkins that we made two years ago, which by the way have held up incredibly well. We use them every single day and haven't had any paint come off (they're just a liiiittle food stained from regular use.)

Are hand stamped tea towels a project you think you'd try? Which of our stamps do you like best? I'm pretty partial to the kitties... I am a crazy cat lady, after all.

Sarah & Nick

Friday, January 22, 2016

Chicago, IL

Nick and I visited Chicago for the first time about three years ago. We loved the city so much that we actually considered moving there for a little bit, but ultimately we packed up and moved to Pittsburgh (and haven't regretted our decision once!) Chicago is such a great city to visit when we have the chance. This time, the opportunity came in the form of a three day weekend and really cheap plane tickets.

If you're visiting Chicago soon, we hope our 3-day weekend travel guide will help you plan your trip! Here's our Windy City recap (and for more photos, don't forget to follow on Instagram!)

Where We Stayed
We wanted to pick a location that would be within walking distance of most places we wanted to visit, so we spent two nights at the Doubletree Hotel on the Magnificent Mile. The cost per night was surprisingly low for the location and the hotel's rating. We spend very little time in a hotel/Airbnb when we travel, so in terms of meeting our very basic needs, it was perfect! Also, the hotel had an Einstein Bros. Bagels on site, which was great for those -5° mornings.

The Magnificent Mile is basically Chicago's shopping district. There's a TON of stores, plus it's close to many attractions like the John Hancock Center, Millennium Park (home of The Bean), and Navy Pier. There are also great bars and restaurants close by, which was nice for the late nights when we walked home after dinner.

What We Ate
... Pizza, obviously! But you'll get to read all about that in a separate post (did someone say 'Pizza Tour'?) On Saturday morning we arrived pretty early, so our first stop (after coffee) was brunch at The Bongo Room in the South Loop.

Nick and I both ordered the breakfast burrito (spinach flour tortilla filled with guacamole and scrambled eggs, topped with melted jack cheese and ancho chile sour cream, salsa on the side, served with house potatoes... a mouthful, literally.) I think we both agreed that it was good, but not great. The ancho chile sour cream was delicious, but the rest of the meal was a little lacking on flavor. The description just sounded so good that we couldn't help but be a tad disappointed.

Later that evening we met up with a friend for drinks at Enolo Wine Cafe. We picked this spot at random after our first choice (Three Dots and a Dash) had a line to enter. The drinks were a little expensive, but we really enjoyed the calm atmosphere - it was great for catching up with friends and relaxing after a long day. We split a plate of truffle fries and they did not disappoint!

Sunday afternoon we took the train out to Logan Square to meet up with another friend for lunch at Chicago Diner. This vegetarian/vegan restaurant had a mouthwatering menu that made it so hard for me to order that I literally just picked a meal at random. All of our dishes were excellent (I ordered the breakfast combo while Nick and Jordan each ordered the Monte Cristo.) I can't turn down poutine when I see it on a menu, so we shared an order of their vegan poutine plate (waffle fries, Teese creamy cheddar, gravy, and green onions) - sooo good.

For drinks that day we stopped by Revolution Brewing for a beer (their brewpub is next door to Chicago Diner) and then hopped on a bus to Durkin's Bar in Lakeview to watch the Steelers game. Though the Steelers lost (:::sad face for days:::) it was awesome to watch the game at the official Steelers Nation bar of Chicago. EVERYONE had on their black and gold gear, and with IC Light bottle specials, it felt just like watching a game in the Burgh. So fun!

What We Did
Our big "event" of the trip was to visit the 360 Chicago Observatory (formerly the John Hancock Observatory) in the John Hancock tower. The observatory is on the 94th floor (1000 feet high!) and offers 360 views of the city. You're right on Lake Michigan and in the heart of downtown, so the views are truly breathtaking. We purchased "Sun and Stars" tickets so that we could visit once during the day and once at night. I'm not sure I could pick which time of day was better - I loved it all.

On our last visit we went to Skydeck Chicago in the Willis Tower and stood on "The Ledge," so we wanted to try something different this time. At the time, the Willis Tower was the tallest building in the western hemisphere, so you can imagine the crowd that draws in. The 360 Chicago Observatory in the Hancock tower was a lot more mellow and easy to enjoy. We didn't at all feel rushed or pressured to let other people in. We could have sat there all day! (They also have a bar in the observatory so we actually could have sat there all day.)

We also visited Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) in Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Public Library, and tracked down some colorful street art from Studio DIY's Chicago Wall Crawl (as seen in our last post.)

On our last day in town we saw Room at the theater next to our hotel because it was SO cold outside (the movie is incredible, by the way.) Then we enjoyed a few last minute slices of deep dish pizza and hopped on the train to Midway to catch our flight back to the Burgh!

We hope you enjoyed this recap of our trip! Please let us know if you have any questions (about food, things to do, transportation, anything!) and we'll answer them as best as we can. Can't wait to share our Pizza Tour with you next week!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Avocado Hummus Taquitos

I'm super excited about this post. Not only do we have an awesomely delicious recipe for you today, but we also have our very first video recipe! Getting our new camera toward the end of last year with video capabilities has really instilled an itch in me to try shooting more video. These fast-motion, quick and easy recipes videos are literally EVERYWHERE on the internet right now, so I figured this would be the perfect platform to try out our new camera!

I really hope you enjoy it. If you are anti-lazy and prefer to read a detailed step-by-step recipe and ingredient list rather than watch a simple video, you can find it below. (But hey, I won't judge if you just decide to watch the video and not read the recipe, I've never even read it... and I typed this.)

Here's what you need (recipe adapted from The Wholesome Dish):
- Flour tortillas
- 2 fresh avocados
- Plain hummus
- Chunky Salsa
- Kosher salt

Here's what you do:
- Cut your avocados and scoop into a medium bowl.
- Lightly mash with a fork.
- Add kosher salt to taste.
- Continue mashing until avocado is smooth with a few chunks remaining.
- On a flour tortilla, spread a thin layer of plain hummus, then the mashed avocado, then some chunky salsa.
- Roll up into your taquito form.
- In a 9x13" casserole dish covered in non-stick spray, lay 8-10 of your taquitos, and lightly coat with olive oil.
- Bake at 400° for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy around the edges.
- Let cool a bit and enjoy! 

We enjoyed our taquitos dipped in some more salsa - sooo good. If you enjoyed the video, by all means, share it and be sure to let us know what you think! We'd love to hear your feedback!

Sarah & Nick