Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wedding Wednesday: March Update

How is it almost April already?! This month just flew by and it's crazy to think we'll be getting married in just over 4 months. Four months?! Needless to say, there always seems to be some kind of wedding related task and this month was no exception. If anything, any wedding planning tasks left to do are mainly small details. I'm thankful all the big tasks have been completed early on. So after all the things crossed off in January and February, here's what's been happening this month...

Save the dates

Last night I finally received my much awaited package of Save the Date invitations. I wanted something special, interactive and that captured our quirky personalities with a touch of casual sophistication. That's when I came across these invites from SweetSights on Etsy. I loved how cute and simply stated it was... and the actual tied knot that happens when guests open it up was the perfect touch! I plan on printing out mailing labels this weekend and mailing them off next week!

Bridal Showers

Now that my Save the Dates are on their way to mailboxes, my mother in law, Marnee, and maid of honor, Melissa, are anxious to start planning the bridal showers they have graciously offered to host. I'm excited about the showers since I never had one before and it will be great to get together with my dear friends and family. I'm especially happy that Marnee has scheduled the shower she is hosting when my mom will be visiting. Melissa is being super secretive about her shower plans... and she knows how hard it is for me to not jump into the whole party planning because I love planning parties to begin with. Regardless, I know these amazing women will throw a memorable experience for me and cannot wait!

Bridal Registries

Initially we didn't plan on registering for gifts and opted to have a honeymoon registry instead. But since we have showers planned, my hostesses suggested that it might be a good idea to have a bridal registry available. We pretty much have everything we need, but we managed to build a registry with items we wouldn't mind replacing or upgrading to. That said, it was fun to work on our registry together. So we're pretty much done with our registries!

Wedding Reception Flowers

Since our wedding is taking on a tropical theme to bring Hawaii to the Midwest, I attended the annual Orchid Show at the Chicago Botanic Garden earlier this month to get some ideas.  There were so many gorgeous orchids and I loved the colorful varieties we got to see. After the show, I'm leaning towards getting either potted orchid plants or having tropical orchid arrangements in vases as centerpieces for our tables. One thing is for sure - there will be lots of tropical florals at our wedding and fresh Hawaiian leis made with Dendrobium orchids for each of our guests! At this point, I have already purchased vases and I'm thinking about getting these arrangements for our reception tables, which will be set on white linen lined tables, topped with a burlap runner and placed on fresh banana leaves:

Well that's it for this month's wedding tasks. Not too terribly busy - which is great! - but it boggles my mind how quickly our wedding day is approaching. Stay tuned for next month's update on how our wedding planning and preparations are coming along!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken

Life has been especially busy this month that I haven't really had a chance to share some dinner recipes made during the week. But I found some spare time into the wee hours of the night (while my boys were sleeping) to share a recent household favorite. This Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken captures the sweet and savory flavors in crispy un-fried chicken. In an effort to be a bit healthier, this dish was popular and there was no fuss with frying or making an oily mess in the kitchen! Honey, mustard, cornflakes and toasted pecans lend their flavors to a wonderful chicken coating that bakes up beautifully in the oven...

Friday, March 20, 2015

National Ravioli Day: Rana Ravioli Challenge!

Did you know that today, March 20th, is National Ravioli Day?! To celebrate, friends and I recently gathered in the kitchen for a fun night making ravioli. We made the pasta from scratch and prepared a seafood ravioli made with a lump crabmeat stuffing, paired with a roasted red pepper cream sauce [recipe post to share coming soon!] It was such a great night full of laughs, stories and well, lots of delicious food we all prepared together...

Friends and I also feasted on a buffet of pasta, highlighting ravioli,generously provided by my friends at Giovanni Rana. Giovanni Rana has been making pasta for over 50 years. His philosophy is simple: be true to yourself and the things that make you happy. He learned that as a boy in the family kitchen in Veronella and he still believes that today. For him, perfect pasta comes from a passion for food and the joy of sharing that passion with the people you love.

We enjoyed a few kinds of ravioli along with Giovanni Rana sauces, making it such a quick and easy meal to prepare. Our pasta buffet included three sauces - bolognese, marinara and a pesto alfredo, in which I combined Giovanni Rana fresh basil pesto sauce with their alfredo sauce. To accompany our pastas and sauces, I also served up Italian sausage, Italian meatballs and Italian roasted chicken. There was certainly something for everyone to enjoy with our amazing spread...

If you haven't heard of Giovanni Rana pastas and sauces, I highly recommend you scope them out at your local grocery store. They have a complete product line of several fresh pastas and sauces, making dinner easy, quick and delicious to put together. With so many offerings, you'll want to try them all!

Ravioli and Sauces to Choose from:
Ravioli Cheese "Forte": A vibrant cheese blend, including Parmigiano Reggiano D.O.P wrapped in thin pasta
Ravioli Spinaci e Ricotta: Fresh baby spinach and ricotta cheese wrapped in thin pasta
Ravioli Chicken Rosemary: All white meat chicken breast and rosemary wrapped in thin pasta
Ravioli Artichoke: A hearty blend of artichoke hearts wrapped in thin, golden pasta
Ravioli Mushroom: Portobello and Porcini mushrooms and creamy cheese wrapped in thin pasta
Ravioli Caprese Duet: Ravioli with two different colors and fillings, tomato mozzarella and basil pesto

Basil Pesto: Made with 100% Genovese basil
Bolognese: Made with a hearty helping of beef, pork, and tomatoes
Alfredo: Made with Parmigiano Reggiano D.O.P. 
Marinara: This sauce is both light and fresh, made with a zesty blend of spices and cherry tomato halves

Giovanni Rana, synonymous with authentic, Italian pasta, is also partnering with my local food bank to fight against hunger and encourage spending time with family and friends during the Rana Ravioli Challenge

What is the Rana Ravioli Challenge?
We're encourage you to take photos of your experience cooking Giovanni Rana ravioli, sharing the moment with your friends and family on National Ravioli Day. Share a photo on a social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or others with the hash tag - #RanaRavioliChallenge. Each time the hashtag used by a different account on National Ravioli Day (today only), Giovanni Rana will donate 1 pound of pasta to the Northern Illinois Food Bank!

How will  your post count towards the Rana Ravioli Challenge?
You may post up to three times on National Ravioli Day (March 20) on the same or different social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or others) to increase the amount of pasta donated.

Are you up for the challenge?! If so, grabs yourself some Giovanni Ranna Ravioli & start posting your meals with the hash tag #RanaRavioliChallenge to fight against hunger!

Northern Illinois Food Bank
Northern Illinois Food Bank leads the northern Illinois community in solving hunger by providing nutritious meals to those in need through innovative  programs and partnerships. Since 1983, food manufacturers, local grocers, corporations, foundations, and individuals have come together to donate food and funds, and evaluate and repack food for distribution to 800 community food pantries and feeding programs serving more than 71,000 hungry neighbors each week across 13 counties. That commitment provided 50 million meals to those in need in FY14.  Find out how you can Volunteer, Donate and Get Involved at or follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Northern Illinois Food Bank is a member of Feeding America.

Giovanni Rana
Giovanni Rana has been a renowned pasta maker in Italy for over 50 years. In 2012, the Rana family launched its first state-of-the-art factory in the US (just outside of Chicago in Bartlett, IL), which produces the retail line of pasta and sauces now distributed all over the country. The factory is home to proprietary machinery designed by Giovanni that mimics the movements used to hand-roll dough to produce an exceptionally thin pasta with a delicate bite. The fillings are created from artisanal ingredients including D.O.P. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese imported by the wheel and D.O.P. Genovese basil.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

International Home & Housewares Show 2015 Recap


Last weekend, celebrity chefs, style experts, and the leading names in home and kitchen products took the stage at the 2015 International Home + Housewares Show. I had a great time meeting up with some brands and clients on upcoming projects I'm working on. I even got a chance to hang out with some celeb chefs I've worked with before!

Chef Spike Mendelsohn for Black & Decker

Chef Rick Bayless

Each year, the product innovations unveiled at this show set the tone for the newest home and kitchen trends and predict consumer demands. I had a chance to check out quite a few things and I'm excited about the way the industry is moving. Below is a snapshot of select trends and themes displayed at this year’s show (and there were a lot to see!):
  • Pressure Cookers: pressure cookers are making a comeback and brands are capitalizing on this trend by rolling out versions in both stove-top and electric 
  • Air Quality Appliances: as we learn more about the dangerous pollutants in our homes, consumers are turning to humidifiers and air purifiers to breathe easy
  • Shying Away from Pod Machines: electric kettles and filtered coffee makers gain popularity as consumers become more eco-conscious 
  • Continuation of Colors: speckled, color splattered, copper accents, pastels and bright hues
  • Electrics: whether brands were launching in the electrics space for the first time or expanding their existing lines, the electrics showcased focused on convenience and practicality, with a concentration on multi-cookers 
  • Innovation In Healthy Living and Eating: Convenient products that make healthy living easier are on the rise. Products that align with this trend include kitchen tools that combine technology and functionality and help consumers prepare fruits and vegetables.
  • Evolution of Technology In The Kitchen: Smart kitchen products appeal to consumers because they offer convenience and control. High-tech in the kitchen has advanced rapidly, and quickly, with products that make cooking easier. 
  • Multi-Tasking Products That Do More: Consumers, intrigued by the idea of saving money and cabinet space, are becoming more interested in buying one product that serves multiple functions in the kitchen. 
With so many brands represented, I have a few favorites and here's an inside peek at some of the most on-trend 2015 launch products from worldwide brand leaders including: All Clad, KRUPS, T-fal, Lagostina, Rowenta, IMUSA, Cookina, Excalibur and Omega...

KRUPS: worldwide leader in kitchen applianceswith a passion for the best brew

  • NEW! KRUPS Savoy Collection –Essentially, the much anticipated KRUPS Savoy line is a product line that has been designed using extensive consumer research, and thus delivers on what KRUPS has learned and now knows the customer wants:  a coffeemaker that embodies the perfect marriage of form meeting function. The EC311 Classic ($49.99) and the EC314 Stainless Steel ($79.99) offer the latest advances in technological settings, which provide consumers a more unique and customized brewing experience. LAUNCHING SEPT 2015
  • KRUPS 1-liter Personal Tea Kettle F702 is a beautifully functional twist on the traditional kettle. Featuring a mesh brewing basket, a self-locking removable lid and an angled spout, this tea kettle offers optimal water temperature for a perfect flavor. You’ll want to enjoy a hot cup more often with this tea kettle ($49.99)


T-fal: Inventor of non-stick & America’s
favorite home & housewares brand

  • 7-in-1 Deep Fryer & Multicooker: Features 7 versatile cooking functions, allowing the user to fry, braise, sauté, simmer, brown, boil / pasta, and keep food warm. The 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker & Fryer comes with a handy removable timer, allowing you to leave the kitchen without fear of not hearing the timer go off. LAUNCHING SEPTEMBER 2015 - $99.99
  • 10-in-1 Rice & Multicooker: Includes 10 cooking programs: rice, risotto, reheat, oatmeal, slow cook, steam/soup, yogurt, baking browning and keep warm. The Rice & Multi-Cooker also has the ability to preset up to 24 hours in advance and includes “Fuzzy Logic” technology that auto-adjusts settings during cooking for a perfect meal every time. LAUNCHING SEPTEMBER 2015 - $99.99
  • T-fal Excite Cookware: Features T-fal's patented Thermospot technology that indicates when the pan is perfectly preheated to seal in flavor and prevent burning. The set is dishwasher safe and guarantees durable non-stick performance during heavy use while still allowing for fast, easy clean-up. Available in Stainless Steel and Aluminum, in Cherry,TangerineGrapeTurquoiseKiwi and Liquorice. NEW COLOR LAUNCHING SPRING 2015: Berry ($69.99)
  • T-fal Red 1.7L Kettle: This Electric Kettle guarantees a hot, delicious brew without the hassle of monitoring the stovetop every minute. Featuring a unique automatic shut-off function, the T-fal 1.7L Electric Kettle will only brew as long as needed, as the water level indicators allow users to measure preferred serving size ($39.99)

Rowenta: the leading manufacturer of high-performance garment care and small home appliances

  • Intense Pure Air ($299, $399) – The Intense Pure Air is the only air purifier on the market that filters 99.97% of pollution and captures and destroys formaldehyde. Offered in two sizes, the “Bedroom” purifies up to 115 square feet and the “XL Room” purifies up to 262 square feet. The purifier’s smart pollution sensors provide automatic filtration regulation. LAUNCHING AUGUST 2015
  • Perfect Steam Station ($345) – The Perfect Steam Steam Station can iron for more than one and a half hours with its 47 oz. removable tank and outputs steam at 120 g/min. This steam station produces three times more steam than a traditional iron. LAUNCHING AUGUST 2015
  • Compact Steam Station ($269) – The Compact Steam Station heats up in just two minutes and offers 1800 watts of power and 80 g/min steam output. This model has a 40.5 oz tank and is easy to store with its compact base and easy to transport with its lock system and steam cord storage. LAUNCHING AUGUST 2015
  • Access Steam Irons ($49.99, $59.99) – This line of irons offer three settings for an easier ironing experience without compromising the brand’s powerful 1600 watt steam performance. LAUNCHING AUGUST 2015
  • X-CEL Steam Hand Steamer ($64.99, $69.99) – This hand steamer offers up to 10 minutes of uninterrupted 1500 watt steaming with its 6.76 oz. removable tank. The X-CEL Steam Hand Steamer will smooth garments with constant steam or steam burst options. LAUNCHING SEPTEMBER 2015

All-Clad: the undisputed choice of
restaurant chefs and serious home cooks

  • PC8-PRECISION Stovetop Pressure Cooker ($299) – The All-Clad PC8-PRECISION takes the guess work out of pressure cooking results. The 8.4 quart stovetop pressure cooker provides easy to use technology and features four specific cooking programs specially pre-programmed to ensure success for all recipes, as well as a two-part cooking process which optimizes flavors and texture. The easy to set “smart timer” automatically notifies you when pressure has been achieved and released, along with audible sounds when each step is complete, including when the meal is finished. 
  • Hard Anodized Grill/Griddle ($99.99) – This grill/griddle’s ridged surface adds grill marks while draining away excess fat and low sides make the entire surface accessible to simplify turning of foods. It has a   grease trough in center separates any excess oils from either side of the vessel.  
  • 16” Covered Oval Roaster ($199.99) – Ideal for roasting large cuts of meats or making large meals when entertaining, this roaster is made from heavy gauge polished stainless steel and has large loop handles for maneuverability. LAUNCHING SEPTEMBER 2015
  • KS22 Kitchen Scale ($99.99) – The KS22 Kitchen Scale provides precise unit measurements in both imperial (oz., fl. oz. and lb.) and metric (g., ml. and kg.). Its TARE function accounts for the weight of an additional bowl, cup or plate. The removable 9” stainless steel plate is also magnetic and dishwasher safe, which is convenient for both professional and at-home chefs. LAUNCHING AUGUST 2015New and improved 10-pc. Nonstick Stainless Steel Set ($799.99) – Set includes a 8” & 10” Fry, 2 & 3 Qt. Saucepan, 3 Qt. Sauté, 8 Qt. Stock Pot. The set is dishwasher and oven safe. Made in the USA.

Lagostina: Italy’s preferred premium cookware brand

  • Axia Tri-Ply Stainless Collection ($399.99) – The ultimate combination of performance, design, and comfort for inspired cooking every day. Lagostina’s signature polish shines on the satin finish 18 / 10 stainless steel interior, the brushed stainless exterior and elegant stainless steel lids. Premium three-layer construction combines stainless steel inside and outside with a thick heat-radiating aluminum core for optimal heat distribution throughout the entire pan.  
  • Axia Tri-Ply Stainless Ceramic Collection ($399.99) – The ultimate combination of performance, design, and comfort for inspired cooking every day. Premium tri-ply stainless technology combines stainless steel exterior and Meteorite® Grey Ceramic Interior inside with a thick heat-radiating aluminum core for optimal heat distribution throughout the entire pan. Riveted cast stainless steel handles stay cool on the stove and are built for comfort, strength and stability over a lifetime of use. LAUNCHING AUGUST 2015
  • Linea Patrimonio (Heritage) Specialty Range ($179.99-$299.99) – Hand crafted in Italy, the Heritage range is a collection of items dedicated to classic, universally renowned Italian dishes. Each piece is specially designed for a particular dish, an invitation to explore the many and varied flavors of the country’s regional cuisine. The Domina Vitamin Pressure Cooker and Saltapasta will launch in Fall 2015.
  • Martellata Hammered Collection (in both Copper ($599) and Stainless ($499)) - Premium tri-ply technology combines stainless steel inside and outside with a thick heat-radiating aluminum core for optimal heat distribution throughout the entire pan. The Stainless collection’s magnetic exterior is designed to work with all cook-top ranges, including induction. Riveted handles stay cool on the stove and are built for comfort, strength and stability over a lifetime of use. LAUNCHING AUGUST 2015

 IMUSA: Leader in ethnic and international cookware

  • Speckled Induction-Safe Cookware – Made with induction technology, IMUSA’s debut line of induction cookware is safe to use with all stove topes (gas, electric, induction, ceramic, etc.). Featuring various pieces including sauté pans, comals and calderos, available in bluebeige and grey-speckled finishes. 
  • Specialty Electrics – Beautifully crafted with a sleek designs, IMUSA’s new line of SDAs includes a 5-cup rice cookers, 10-cup rice cooker with steam stray, slow cooker, 4-cup gourmet espresso maker, electric wok, electric tortilla maker and electric single and double burners.

COOKINA: Pushing the envelope on innovation

COOKINA launched their NEW and improved COOKINA Reusable Grilling Sheet, COOKINA Cuisine Reusable Cooking Sheet and COOKINA Gard Oven Protector. COOKINA sheets are non-stick, heat-resistant and the only sheets on the market certified for use at 550°and PFOA free. COOKINA allows users to cook food to perfection without using oils or sprays to grease the surface –for a tastier and healthier cooking experience. (Available at for $12.99)
  • NEW COOKINA Reusable Grilling Sheet: Summer time and the livin’s easy … until you are full body scrubbing your grill after the last BBQ you threw. Never fear, place this product on your grill, get the smoky grill marks you want, and never have a mess to clean again.
  • COOKINA Reusable Cooking Sheet: Stop buying parchment paper and aluminum foil to line your bakeware. This reusable sheet is a favorite, and non-stick so no need to line with butter or oil!
  • COOKINA Oven Gard Protector: Never clean the bottom of your oven again. Catch all the gooey messes with ease and simply wipe the non-stick surface with a paper towel for clean-up.

EXCALIBUR: Changing the way people all over the world prepare & preserve food

Responding to the rapidly growing dehydrator category, Excalibur unveiled dehydrators perfect for the rapidly growing consumer base. Offering options that support categorical growth, while still catering to current customers, Excalibur’s new dehydrators featured varying price points, designs and digital capabilities. 
  • NEW Excalibur STL and STS 6-Tray Food Dehydrators: Combining advanced technology with superior drying techniques, the Excalibur STL and STS dehydrators deliver unsurpassed dehydration technology. Featuring a digital controller and interface for ease of use, combined with a 48 hour timer and adjustable thermostat, the STS includes a micro-processor controlled heat sensor that offers improved temperature precision. At a competitive price point, the STS is great for preserving and retaining the nutrients in fresh produce, herbs, meats, and more. Perfect for at-home gardeners, health enthusiasts, hunters, pet owners and more.
  • NEW Excalibur ECB50B Food Dehydrator: Equipped with innovative technology for low temperature food drying, helping to retain the nutrients in fresh produce, herbs, meats, and more.  This is a more efficient preservation technique compared to canning or sun-drying. The ECB50B is BPA-Free and equipped with an adjustable thermostat (95F-165F) to provide various temperature options for drying all types of food at a fraction of the cost of store-bought dried snacks. The ECB50B offered at a price point attractive to both novice and seasoned at-home food preservers.
  • NEW Excalibur SVSNEW 3-in-1 Food Slicer: Create healthy and appetizing salads such as potato curls, cucumber spirals, vegetable spaghetti and so much more! Easy to use, the Excalibur 3-in-1 Food Slicer comes with a base and three blades that slice product evenly and consistently, cutting prep time in half. Blades include a flat edge blade for slicing, a fine cut blade for shredding and a coarse cut blade for curling. With easy-to-change blades and disassembly for quick, effortless cleaning, the Excalibur 3-in-1 Food Slicer is the perfect tool for effortless food prep.

OMEGA: Leader in developing the
most efficient & reliable juicers

Since 1985, Omega is the only company to offer centrifuge, masticating, pulp ejection and traditional citrus style juicers. Omega will demo its latest juicing innovations including its self-storing compact “masticating-style” JUICE CUBE - a industry design disrupter with the superior performance synonymous with Omega’s family of high-efficiency and reliable juicers.
  • NEW Omega Juice Cube- CUBE550S: Omega’s Juice Cube is a self-storing compact “masticating-style” juice extractor and more! Make juice, smoothies, all-natural nut butters, baby food, soy milk, almond milk and a variety of healthy snacks. A masticating juicer juices at low speeds of 80 RPM minimizing heat build-up and oxidation. The auger system forces produce into a tight chamber, grinding and pressing the food to squeeze out the juice from items as fine as wheatgrass and leafy vegetables.
  • NEW Omega Twin Gear Juice- TWN30S:  Omega’s new Twin Gear juicer crushes, mixes AND squeezes produce to get the highest extraction possible from your produce.  With an outlet adjusting knob with spring tension, pressure is created in the machine to squeeze out all the juice from the pulp, which means more juice from your produce! Reduced heat build-up in the juicing process allows the juice to be stored for up to 72 hours with minimal nutrient degradation for a healthier, more nutrient packed juice. Plus, less pre-cutting of produce is required as the gears chop of fibers to save consumers more time. Includes two juice screens which allow for the adjustment of pulp levels. Great for juicing fruits, vegetables, wheatgrass, herbs, nuts for nut milks and more.
  • NEW Omega Stainless Steel Nutrition Center: Beyond transforming fruit and vegetables (including fine items like wheatgrass) into delicious, nutrition packed juices, the Omega Stainless Steel juicer can make smoothies, sorbets and all-natural nut butters, extrude pasta, make soy milk, almond milk and more! This “masticating-style” juicer has an auger system that forces produce into a tight chamber, grinding and pressing the food to squeeze out the juice, ensuring you get the most value from your produce. The stainless steel exterior lends a touch of class to any kitchen.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Baconfest Chicago is Coming!

April is Bacon Month, Declares Baconfest Chicago
City-wide Event Programming Brings Together Local Businesses and Bacon-Crazed Foodies

Move over Easter and Passover, there is a new April holiday in town. April in Chicago has been declared "Bacon Month", a 30-day celebration of America's obsession with bacon. Baconfest Chicago has partnered with ACME Hotel Company, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and other local businesses for a month of event programming centered around the tasty pork product. Foodies and bacon-geeks alike can revel in all things bacon from tasting events and interactive chef demonstrations to weekly Kevin Bacon movie nights throughout the month. Many of Chicago's top chefs are also getting in on the Bacon Month action by adding bacon-centric items to their monthly menus, including Bacon Bison Bites at Woodhaven Bar & Kitchen, Sweet Whiskey Bacon & Grits with a Jalapeno Bacon Martini at Viand Bar & Kitchen, and a whole Bacon Thursdaymenu at Benny's Chophouse, among others.

The crown jewel of Bacon Month is the 7th annual Baconfest Chicago on April 17 & 18th at the UIC Forum (tickets available at

The official Bacon Month Kickoff Party is hosted by ACME Hotel Company at The Berkshire Room  (15 E. Ohio) on March 31st at 7PM. The exclusive pork party offers a sneak preview of the bacon paradise that is Baconfest Chicago, filled with bacon-inspired cocktails created by four of Chicago's top mixologists as well as sweet and savory bacon bites prepared by The Berkshire Room's James Beard Award nominated chefs. Each $30 party ticket includes four cocktails, a frosty can of Labatt Blue, as well as food. Tickets are available now at

Upcoming events for Bacon Month:
  •  Bacon Month Volunteer Day, March 28th, Greater Chicago Food Depository (info & signup)
  •  2nd Annual Bacon Month Kickoff PartyMarch 31st, ACME Hotel Company (tickets)
  • Whole Foods Market Bacon Master Classes featuring Lagunitas beer pairings
  • Whole Foods Market Free Bacon Sampling EventsApril 11 noon - 3pm at all 9 Chicago Whole Foods Market stores
  • Berkshire Room Bacon TastingsApril 8th and April 15th at The Berkshire Room
  • Bacon Themed Arts n Spirits Painting Class featuring Revolution BreweryApril 16 at ACME Hotel Company (tickets)
  • Kevin Bacon Movie Nights, every Tuesday in April starting April 7 at ACME Hotel Company
For a full calendar,  ticket information for Bacon Month events, and additional bacon specials from participating Baconfest Chicago restaurants, visit

Founded in 2009, Baconfest Chicago is one of the most anticipated foodie events in Chicago, attracting a sold-out crowd of nearly 5,000 people over two days.  The fest features over 170 restaurants and award-winning chefs, each serving a creative bacon dish.  Luxury brands, artisan bacon-makers, and bacontrepreneurs display, sample, and sell a multitude of bacon products. Mixologists and brewers sample bacon-inspired cocktails, beer and wine. To celebrate special achievement in the bacon arts, Baconfest created the Golden Rasher Awards ("the Oscars® of the bacon world"). In addition to hosting a food drive and raffle at the event, Baconfest Chicago donates a portion of proceeds from ticket sales to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  Since 2009, Baconfest has donated more than $200,000 to Chicago's food bank, which translates into more than 650,000 meals for hungry people in the area.  Additional info at:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring Into the Kitchen with Kids!

It's almost springtime and I'm loving the warmer temps we're {finally} experiencing! I've been busy in the kitchen working on a lot of projects and Joel has been increasingly curious about all the things I'm cooking, baking and developing. That said, he's been helping me out more and more, all the while having fun playing "sous chef" on his kitchen step stool. Do you have kids join you in the kitchen?
Having Joel expressing genuine interest in cooking and baking makes me happy. We've incorporated a lot of great learning opportunities such as numbers, colors, textures, tastes, sounds, etc. I have him help me by measuring the ingredients, talking about why they are included in the recipe, how they taste, stirring, mixing, scooping, pouring, etc. I've also found that the more I include him in our cooking and baking projects, the more he's excited to try new foods. Aside from feeding him and my family the right foods, I also care about teaching Joel more about what he eats and why they need certain nutrients. How do you incorporate kids into meal preparations?

Because I've adapted a mainly gluten free diet (with the occasional supplement), it's been easy to teach him about gluten free living. I prepare quite a few gluten free meals for all of us to enjoy and these days, it's become easier for those with a gluten free lifestyle to indulge in pretty much anything. A favorite in our house is macaroni and cheese. I recently came across Horizon Gluten Free Macaroni & White Cheddar Cheese. Joel and I prepared it together and not only did he love the cheesy taste, I enjoyed it was gluten free - definitely a win win for all!

If you're a macaroni & cheese fan, even moreso on a gluten free lifestyle too, be sure to check out Horizon on social media!

Twitter/Instagram Hashtag: #MealtimeSolutions
Twitter Handle: @Horizon_Organic
Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook Handle: @HorizonOrganic
Pinterest Board: Horizon Mealtime Solutions
Facebook: Horizon Organic

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organics. The opinions and text are all mine.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wedding Wednesday: February Update!

February has been busy as usual and I'm surprised at how quickly it's flown by! In terms of the wedding planning, a lot was completed last month but there was still a bit to work through and do this month. Since my last update, here's what we've completed recently!

My Wedding Dress
I picked up my dress early in the month and I'm so in love with it. I've only shown a picture of it to my sister and a few girlfriends, but only my maid of honor, Melissa, has seen it in person. To provide some more detail without giving away a picture, it's an Oleg Cassini dress in ivory, which has cap sleeves, an illusion neckline, beaded lace appliques.and is going to be altered to hit just at the knee or even slightly below. There is no train and it has a vintage sophistication about it. My dress is currently hanging in our closet inside a garment bag, tucked away in a back corner. Even though I have my dress, I have not yet tried it on since I brought it home. The next time I will be trying it on will be in June, when I have my first fitting/alteration session. So until then, I'm not going to even look at it.... out of sight, out of mind lol. What I can say is that it's perfect and captures my style to a tee. I cannot wait!

Pre-Wedding Picnic
We are making a whole weekend of our wedding celebration and to kick things off, we're throwing a casual picnic the day before our wedding. It's going to be a fun time where we will actually have a chance to really connect, catch up, mingle and really spend quality time with family and friends. One of the first trips we took all together with Patrick's family was to Savannah, GA and Hilton Head, NC last year. We had such a wonderful time and it was fun to experience the south for the first time with them. That said, our wedding picnic will be a Southern theme as a nod to our first family trip together.

Pre-Wedding Picnic Invitations
I had picnic invitations created through an Etsy shop, Simply Smitten Designs. They did a beautiful job designing and printing the invites, which I've already received in the mail. Once I get a small venue map printed and attached to the back, they'll be ready to be included with our wedding invitations and mailed out in a couple of months.

Southern Picnic Menu
For the picnic, we're planning on having a casual spread of fried chicken, bbq ribs and a slew of classic southern inspired side dishes. I plan on preparing some of the picnic side dishes but a majority of the feast will be catered by a few vendors. My parents, who are currently overseas, will be flying in for the wedding. Knowing them, I'm pretty sure they will insist on catering our picnic themselves, but I'd rather have them sit back and enjoy the festivities of the moment.

Picnic Pie Buffet
It's not unusual for Patrick's family to celebrate birthdays with a pie instead of a cake, so we're highlighting pie as our main dessert for the picnic too. For dessert, we're going to set up a pie buffet (something we are both super excited about!). We started thinking about where to get our pies since I'm definitely not going to be making them myself. There were a few places we considered getting the pies from, but ultimately decided to get a good variety from Baker's Square. Aside from it being close to home and our picnic venue, I especially have fond childhood memories going to Baker's Square with my dad and siblings as a special Friday night treat. Right now, I'm scoping out second hand stores for cake or pedestal stands of all sizes, colors and heights. I think a collection of the stands would be a perfect way to display the pies. {Not to mention, finding more stands would only add to own personal collection of cake stands at home lol.}

Karaoke DJ
So with a venue and menu decided upon for the picnic, I knew I had to incorporate some fun entertainment. Among my friends, karaoke is a favorite pastime and we had to incorporate karaoke somehow in our wedding festivities. The best opportunity is going to be at our picnic since it's casual, fun and a time for folks to really belt out their favorite song. We've hired a karaoke DJ to come out and liven up the mood with some songs and a few microphones for friends and family to sing their hearts out. I personally can't wait to hear my friends sing and liven up the party!

To capture all the wedding weekend festivities, we've hired a few photographers to catch the special moments that we may not see amidst everything going on. Our engagement and pre-wedding picnic photographer will be my cousin of BJ Aguado Photography. He's an amazingly talented photographer and I'm super excited he is building his business in photography. Sadly, he is not available on our wedding day, but he's recommended another great colleague, Roland Gozun Photography. Come to find out, Roland's extended family have been friends of my parents for decades! It's great that he is going to be part of our special day and from his impressive portfolio, I know he will do an amazing job. We've also asked Roland to provide a photo booth for our guests to take part in and get some fun pictures during our luau celebration. But of course, having one photographer limits us from seeing different perspectives of all the festivities. As a result, we also have our very good friend, John, as a second shooter for both the picnic and wedding. John is also growing his photography business and is already friends with my cousin, so pairing them together would be easy. I'm excited to bring all three of these talented photogs together and really capture various perspectives of the weekend.

Excellence Playa Mujeres Honeymoon
We also booked and paid our honeymoon in full... but in doing so, we ended up changing the resort we'll be staying at. Originally we wanted to stay at the Excellence Riviera Maya, but decided to stay at the newer resort of Excellence Playa Mujeres. We also upgraded our stay to an 'Excellence Club' level which gives us some additional perks on top of the usual all-inclusive experience provided. We are really excited to get away and get a taste of the tropics... even more so in this frigid Chicago cold weather we've been having lately!

Wedding Bands
We also went to the jeweler together to check out some wedding bands. Both of us want simple bands and we're considering getting them engraved with the title of our wedding song and wedding date. We haven't purchased them yet but will probably do so in the next couple of months as we get closer. At least we've decided on which ones we wanted!

Wedding Song
Even though it's a second wedding for both of us, our first weddings were not that big nor did we really experience the wedding planning excitement with our significant other at the time. This time it's completely different. We often joke that our first marriages were really practice marriages because without them, we may not have truly realized who we are, our wants, our needs, our strengths and our weaknesses. We've both gone through our own set of challenges and despite everything, one thing is certain - we have chosen each other to spend the rest of our lives with because we've fallen in love with the person who grew from past experiences. Those experiences essentially made us better people - to ourselves and to each other. Sara Bareilles's song and lyrics of "I Choose You", really touched me... and Patrick could relate to it as well. That said, it was only fitting that this be our wedding song. Every time I hear this song on the radio, I can't help but tear up... so I'm going to have to find a way to hold back the tears for the wedding lol...

"I Choose You"

Let the bough break, let it come down crashing
Let the sun fade out to a dark sky
I can't say I'd even notice it was absent
Cause I could live by the light in your eyes

I'll unfold before you
What I've strung together
The very first words
Of a lifelong love letter

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you

There was a time when I would have believed them
If they told me you could not come true
Just love's illusion
But then you found me and everything changed
And I believe in something again

My whole heart
Will be yours forever
This is a beautiful start
To a lifelong love letter

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you

We are not perfect
We'll learn from our mistakes
And as long as it takes
I will prove my love to you

I am not scared of the elements
I am under-prepared, but I am willing
And even better
I get to be the other half of you

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
I choose you

That's all the updates for this month... stay tuned for next month's update on how our wedding planning and preparations are coming along!
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