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Category: What I Love This Week

#GivingTuesday2016

A little while back, I wrote a post about the frivolity of this blog given the fact that so many people in the world are facing such great adversity that they will never be able to ponder things like “who makes the best donut in Chicago?” This #GivingTuesday, I am supporting organizations that are helping improve lives so that more people can have the time and security to enjoy life’s pleasures. See below for a list of all the organizations I’m giving to this Tuesday and how you can help support them as well. And, remember, time can be given, too.

Chicago Youth Centers
Chicago, IL

Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) serves children of all ages in Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, providing academic enrichment and access to resources students otherwise would not have so to help fill the gaps in Chicago’s present education system. For example, some of their 6 centers now feature Maker Labs, which further encourage STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and social learning that is the cornerstone of CYC’s efforts. Donate now at chicagoyouthcenters.org/donate/. Or, if you’re interested in volunteering or joining the Auxilliary Board or a local board for one of the centers, shoot me an email at threetimesperday@gmail.com.

CYC-maker-lab-chicago-youth-centers-STEAM

Slow Food USA
Nationwide

“Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.” This is a line from Slow Food USA’s manifesto. Slow Food supports programs such as school gardens to help cultivate the next generation of healthy eaters. Too few Americans are educated on what healthy, wholesome eating really is, and while there are of course socio-economic barriers that must also be tackled, Slow Food is working to spread the message, support farmers, and preserve food as a staple of culture. Become a member at slowfoodusa.org.

Mimi Edelman

Greater Chicago Food Depository
Chicago, IL

What do you think of when you think of the holiday season? While for many of those reading this blog imagine massive feasts surrounded by family or friends in a warm, cozy home, for so many people in Chicago not only is a large meal far from given, a meal at all may be. The Greater Chicago Food Depository, or Chicago Food Bank, is helping ensure children, families, and those in need have access to food year-round and are working to make hunger a thing of the past. Find out how to donate or get involved at www.chicagofoodbank.com. Or, if you’re not from Chicago and wish to donate to your local food pantry, find a list of pantries nationwide by visiting www.feedingamerica.com.

annual-report

Passion Works Studios
Athens, Ohio

Passion Works is a collaborative effort between disabled and non-disabled artists in a community that used to be home to a massive mental hospital that used lobotomies for treatment. Passion Works is a non-profit helping to dismantle the stigma about learning disabilities by providing a place where those with disabilities are able to create gorgeous art. Order a flower, painting, or even a wedding bouquet now at passionworks.org and get free shipping until December 31st!

Official Passion Flower

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How To Cut A Cake The Scientifically Correct Way

This morning, PIF told me he was going to bake a cake with his little cousin. Needless to say, I’ve now had cake on my mind all. damn. day. Because Google and Facebook can read minds, I stumbled upon this today and just had to share:

 

 

For the article in Nature (one of the most prestigious scientific magazines, if not the most prestigious scientific magazine): click here

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What I Love This Week: Schwa (Part I)

The last few weeks of work have been hard. Back-to-back deadlines have meant I’ve had to do late nights and weekends, which means cancelling on friends, missing social events, and moving plans. This, coupled with my propensity for anxiety, has meant the past few weeks were straight up brutal.

I’ve always been an anxious person. About three years ago, a particularly blunt and honest friend told me — just a few weeks into our friendship — that I probably had an anxiety problem. In many ways, it serves me well. I have never missed an assignment, am able to get passionate about almost anything I’m working on, and learn very quickly. However, it also causes me to get nervous and snippy when, say, my brother is running late to brunch and the server won’t seat our massive party until everyone is present. (Hypothetically speaking…) It also can lead me to be short-tempered or impatient, and this behavior is what I have been specifically trying to nip in the bud. However, when things seem to be piling up, or my life feels off-balance, I can start to feel overwhelmed and deeply unhappy. This, I’m sure, tends to happen to everyone. But non-anxious people seem to be better at letting something fall by the wayside and avoid feeling crushed by the pressure to perform.

So, anyway, that gives you a bit of insight into my mental health on the third week of seemingly non-stop deadlines and late nights amid the crushing backdrop of the realization that what I currently do for work is likely not what I want to make my career. Before you sigh “Millennial,” hear me out. I love working. I imagine myself always working a lot. However, I imagine myself doing it in a profession I love so dearly, that it is not my job, but rather an extension of my life. I’m still figuring out what that profession is, and in the meantime, I love the job I have right now, which is, all things considered, an amazing gig: I’m compensated nicely, I am empowered to take on a meaningful role, I get to freely communicate with my “superiors” and benefit from their experience, advice, and leadership styles, and I have an office full of peers who are constantly making me a better person through constructive criticism or by good example. However — here comes the anxiety again — every so often I find myself lamenting my youth that feels like it is slipping away and the experiences that I am missing all for a career I don’t want. Obviously, this is terribly dramatic. But, that’s how I felt towards the beginning of last week.

Amid this crazy work schedule, PIF scheduled a surprise birthday dinner for me, and, after being pushed a week due to deadline chaos, was rescheduled for Tuesday, July 26th. Somehow, despite a report due that Friday, the stars aligned (actually, shout out to Alexis who made those stars align), and I was skipping towards the 22 bus by 6 PM, meaning I had more than 2 hours to get ready for dinner.

And when I say ready, I mean mentally and emotionally ready, because although PIF had tried to keep a secret (he never can), I knew where we were going that evening.

We were going to Schwa.

My knowledge of Schwa was that shit could very well go down. The chef, Michael Carlson, was unpredictable, prone to cancelling the night of a reservation, and that the whole staff often got drunk throughout service. (Like the enablers we are, we still planned to bring some bourbon for the kitchen.) However, up until this point PIF had had enough conversation with Carlson that made it clear cancellation was unlikely and that the restaurant was a little more predictable these days, though you still get a reservation by calling the restaurant during the week and hoping you get through. PIF never gives me enough detail when he retells interactions, but I imagine these conversations went like this:

Early July

PIF: *ring ring ring*
Carlson: Hello, Burger King, may I take your order?
PIF: Uh, I’m looking for Schwa?
Carlson: This is Burger King, do you want a burger or what?
PIF: Uh, no, uh, I’m looking for Schwa…
Carlson: Yeah, dude, this is Schwa.
PIF: Oh, *nervous laugh* great! Do you have anything in a few weeks?
Carlson: Sure, how about Tuesday July 19th?
PIF: Oooh, perfect, cause Anthony Bourdain says Tuesday are the best days to eat at restaurants.
Carlson: My restaurant is good every day.
PIF: *Laughs*

They discuss wine and he tells PIF to bring champagne, a non-oaky Pinot Noir, or a white Burgundy.

After my deadline is shifted

PIF: *ring ring ring*
Carlson: Hello?
PIF: Hi, uh, I have a reservation for July 19th, but something came up…could I move it a week?
Carlson: Your girlfriend is making you change it, isn’t she?
PIF: Yep.
Carlson: Sure, come the following Tuesday, 8:30 PM.

Afternoon of July 26th

PIF: Phone rings and he sees it’s Schwa.
PIF, thinking it’s Carlson cancelling: Hello?
Carlson: Hey, man, you still coming tonight? (Oh, the irony that I am now so flaky that the most flaky chef needs to make sure we aren’t flaking.)
PIF: Yep!
Carlson: Cool, see you then.
PIF, remembering that I told him we may need to bring wine glasses since I read they don’t carry it: Oh, also, should we bring stemware?
Carlson: Nah, man, we got you.
PIF: Okay, cool, ’cause we read online…
Carlson: Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Though PIF and Carlson were BFFs by now, little old anxious me was having heart palpitations as I got dressed. I wanted to look cool, but not snooty. How was I going to act? I’m obviously a food geek, and this wasn’t Alinea where you have to fake it til you make it even though you can’t afford the wine pairing and you’re trying to convince them you’re still as high society as the foreign dignitaries sitting two tables over and getting a special menu. How do I exude coolness without seeming like a total douchebag, anyway? I eventually opted to just put on a comfy dress that covers any tummy bulge and flat sandals, cause nothing would be worse than tripping in heels in a tightly packed 800-something square foot restaurant.

PIF arrived at my apartment with two bottles specially picked by Melissa at WineHouse — a real champagne, of which only a few bottles are made each year, and a light Pinot Noir — as well as 750 mLs of Buffalo Trace (his fave affordable bourbon) for the chefs. And after a quick costume change on my end, we were out the door.

To be continued…

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What I Love This Week: Spiralizers!

I love eating a home cooked meal, but sometimes I’m just exhausted at the end of the day and not interested in chopping and assembling 10 moving pieces. So far, I’ve found nothing easier than spiralized zucchini. Healthy, versatile, and fast, zucchini noodles — i.e., zucchini noodles — are fun to whip up and easy to cook. Just shove the zucchini in there, twist it into the grater, and zoodles will fall out the side. I sauté them in a bit of olive oil with some carrots and onions and then dress them in pesto and pair with a protein.

I use this spiralizer, which only costs $6 and works like a charm.

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What I Love This Week: Tespo

Not to succumb to America’s consumer culture, but every so often I make a rather significant purchase that brings a little light into my life (similar to the effect of good food,  but to a lesser extent). I’m still building my list of “What To Not Skimp On” — food, running shoes, bed sheets — and health and fitness are some of the highest items on the list.

As someone who is not the *most* eager exerciser or the quickest to reach for an apple over a cupcake, I believe any investment that encourages me to take care of myself is worthwhile.

I went pescatarian about six years ago in an effort to improve my health. It worked really well for me and had a hugely positive effect on my cholesterol levels. However, at the time I was a competitive swimmer and noticed a distinct drop in energy levels. To help with this, I was told to take a daily multi-vitamin to keep my iron levels nice and perky. Okay, easy enough.

Except it wasn’t. I was constantly forgetting to take my vitamins and, as a result, often felt sluggish (I also was constantly turned away from blood drives due to low hemoglobin…). So when I came across was targeted by an advertisement for Tespo via Instagram, I was immediately enticed. Tespo is a fancy contraption that blends your vitamins for you in liquid form, removing fillers (which are the things that often make people’s tummies hurt) and making the vitamins more readily available for the body. After a few back and forths over whether it was worth it or not, I decided it was and bought a machine & monthly vitamin pack (they have women’s, men’s, children’s, energy, focus, and sleep) for about $120 with a discount I found online. It came in the mail on Thursday, and I ooed and awed and then set it up. The next morning, I inserted the vitamin cartridge, plugged it in, and clicked the on button. It then whirled the little shot glass around before coming to a stop. It was filled about a forth of the way, if that, with orange liquid with visible particles. I looked at it skeptically and called out to PIF, who was in another room, “well, about to take my vitamin shot…” “Tell me how it is!” he yelled back, as if genuinely interested. I definitely prepared myself for the worst. I imagined the chalky taste of crushed up Women’s One-A-Day’s in water. Then I thought, “I paid over 100 bucks for this thing. I better choke it down.” I took a deep breath and I knocked it back.

“It’s GOOD!” I yelled to PIF, but mostly for my own benefit. In fact, it WAS good. It was slightly sweet and citrus-y, but not particularly strong in any particularly flavor, and almost a bit like watered down Tang. I filled the little cup with a bit more water, swirled, and took the next sip to make sure I got all the nutrition outta there.

Cut to today (day 3 of taking Tespo vitamins). I have way more energy than I usually do and fewer cravings. Obviously, Tespo will have to pass the test of time, but I’m okay with that. Honestly, even if it’s a placebo that makes me feel better but has zero pharmacological effect, I’ll be okay with that. The Tespo vitamin system definitely takes up counter space, cost a pretty penny, and requires more scientific evidence, but the potential for improved compliance, increased energy, and daily happiness my new toy gives me offset the costs for me.

And hey, it is better for my health than $120 worth of Magnolia Bakery banana pudding (hint, hint: foreshadowing)…




To get your own Tespo, visit Amazon or www.tespo.com. And don’t forget to also purchase your monthly delivery of vitamins as well!

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What I Love This Week: Ritual

You know what they say, time is money.

Well, time is not money — it’s invaluable. And whereas the time I spend commuting can sometimes be put to better uses, like reading the newspaper, the time I spend waiting in line I often just spend small talking and anxiously counting the people in front of me. Considering the amount of time I’m willing to wait (and how often I do wait) for good food, this is a bit of an issue. Luckily, I recently discovered Ritual, an app that essentially let’s you cut the line by planning ahead. And you won’t even get the stink eye.

Simply download the app, fill out your profile, and order! The app will tell you when to leave your location to pick up your food or beverage and when you get there, simply walk right up to the counter, grab, and go. It’s that simple, and you’ll save minutes every order. Which adds to hours…which adds to days.

What’s more is you can even save money through Ritual discounts and promotions. Even get started with $5 off by using promo code RACHAEL2190 or going to http://invite.ritual.co/RACHAEL2190.

And, as always, let me know your thoughts!

Disclaimer: I do get a kickback when you use my personal promo code. However, I only vouch for products I truly love. Regardless of whether or not you use my code, Ritual is a great way to save time and money at your normal spots.

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What I Love This Week: The Doodle at Doodle’s Doughnuts

3X Doodle

Per the suggestion of a (female) coworker, I’ve recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Sandberg, she is the current COO of Facebook and the previous Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. As such, Ms. Sandberg is one of the few female executives of a Fortune 500 company and has made it her mission to speak out about what needs to change in the business world in order to better accommodate female leaders, as well as what women can do to be successful within the current system.

As soon as I began reading Lean In I began to notice my own failures to lean in. Meanwhile, my male peers appeared to have no issues leaning in hard.

The first realization that I had conformed – at least in part – to gender norms was a slap in the face. During our weekly meeting, a managing director with whom I work rather closely announced that he had a new case but was very busy and was looking for an analyst to take the lead on it. Obviously, it was a great opportunity. I immediately began thinking of excuses for why I shouldn’t volunteer: he would have just asked me if he wanted me to do it, I have a lot of work on my plate, I don’t have the quantitative skills. While I was hesitating, a less experienced male analyst who had never worked with the managing director before walked right up and said he’d love to help.

Shit, I immediately thought. This is exactly what Sheryl was talking about. 

Before that point, part of me had thought while reading that I don’t exhibit the typical behaviors of the working woman. After all, I’m highly confident and work in a female-heavy office, which makes it easier to speak up and be involved. And yet, here I was, sitting like a lame duck while my male counterpart walked right up and grabbed the metaphorical trophy. At that moment, Lean In became my manifesto.

I immediately began thinking of excuses for why I shouldn’t volunteer.

Despite critic feedback to the contrary, I don’t think Ms. Sandberg’s advice is limited to a single type of woman, namely the working woman. I don’t even think it’s even solely directed to women. As the daughter of a kickass stay-at-home mom who touts the importance of finding a partner as opposed to a rich/handsome/cool husband, I appreciated Ms. Sandberg’s commentary on how men and husbands can support women and wives, and, perhaps more importantly, how women can support other women. All too often, I’ve witnessed or experieIMG_9430nced women failing to support – or worse – deliberately trying to sabotage other women. This can happen within the workplace, but it also happens when stay-at-home moms throw shade on career moms and vice versa. Or when women who choose not to have children are criticized for their decision. Women are much more powerful as a whole than as individuals or subgroups and we should all be supporting each other as we make it increasingly possible for more women to pursue whatever will be most fulfilling for that individual and encouraging each other to do so. Men have been doing this all this time. When one woman sacrifices her gender for her own individual gain, she sets the entirety of the group back and therefore injures her own success. It’s a vicious cycle that I believe we are now in a position to break.

So to get the ball rolling, I wanted to use this week’s What I Love This Week to give props to a woman who pursued her dream and started a business that is doing something totally unique while simultaneously serving a demographic that has, perhaps inadvertently, been shut out of the market. Dana Lanier, a long-time doughnut maker in her own home, founded Doodle’s Doughnuts to help spread the love her IMG_9442home state of California has for Mom and Pop doughnut shops. Unlike all the other doughnut shops in Chicago, Doodle’s does not mimic Harry Potter’s bedroom-under-the-stairs aesthetic. Instead, it’s in a large two-floor space with lots of light, seating, and colors that make it easier to navigate strollers and hold play-dates. It’s also the only doughnut shop located in Old Town (sorry, Dunkin’, you don’t count).

Doodle’s signature doughnut, The Doodle, is a Bismark doughnut that’s filled with your choice of vanilla or chocolate cream and covered with pure white icing. Each Doodle comes with a mini piping bag of icing in your choice of color, with the option to purchase more colors if you’re really feeling like Picasso. Besides being fun to decorate, The Doodle (I had chocolate-filled and can’t speak on the vanilla-filled) was beautifully moist with a perfect filling-to-dough ratio.

Doodle’s sells a variety of donuts in addition to Doodle, including the Samoa doughnut, which I would not recommend over either The Doodle or the maple bacon doughnut. Want them to hold the doughnut? Not a problem — Doodle’s also sells strips of honey Sriracha, candied, or standard bacon.

However, the combination of being unique, fun, and delicious makes The Doodle my must-try for the week. And, as with all doughnuts, make sure to get it nice and early so you get them a peak freshness.

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What I Love This Week: Kale, Date, and Avocado Salad

I loooooove salads. I think they are a really wonderful platform to test the intermingling of flavor profiles. They can be light and refreshing, or rich and filling. They allow you to mix together every segment on the food pyramid in one go.

They can also be really boring and cost you $15 on your lunch break only to leave you hungry an hour later.

Not the case for this glorious salad.

On Saturday evening, PIF and I planned to cook some fish and since I’m the Salad Queen, I was in charge of whipping something up in that department. I had a ton of kale, avocados, and dates in my fridge (you know, all the necessities), so I searched the internet for an interesting combination of the three. I found this salad, which took maybe 10 minutes to make and was so delicious I brought it in for lunch today at work. Therefore, I’m including here both the original recipe and my method for packing it for lunch that will waste next to none of your time in the morning.

Kale, Date, and Avocado Salad
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Total Cook Time: 10 mins
Serves 2

4 handfuls of kale, preferably Tuscan, roughly cut into ribbons*
1/8 cup pine nuts, lightly roasted**
1 avocado
1.5 T lemon juice, preferably from a fresh lemon
3 T olive oil
4 dates, chopped into little chunks
1 ounce shaved Parmesan***
Salt
Pepper

1. In a large bowl, toss together kale, pine nuts, oil, and lemon juice.
2. Add avocados, cheese, and dates, and toss gently
3. Season generously with salt and pepper
4. Serve

* To do this, fold a piece of kale in half hot dog-style, cut vertically along the spine, and then cut approximately inch strips horizontally.
** To do this, heat a skillet for 2 minutes over medium-high heat, add pine nuts, and toss around til they’re roasted to a light brown on each side.
*** I highly recommend shelling out for a nice hunk of Parmesan and then grating yourself. I haven’t yet discussed this much, but pre-shredded cheese freaks me out, Parmesan especially. Why? Read more here.

Seriously, it’s that easy.

Okay, now you’re addicted and looking at how you can eat this every day for lunch at work. You could make it before, but salad can sometimes get droopy (though Tuscan kale holds up pretty well, avocado not so much.)

Here’s how I did it. I put the kale & pine nuts together in a rather large container. A gallon plastic bag works too. I then put the grated cheese, chopped dates, and olive oil in separate little containers. Then I brought an avocado along. I also toted along my salt & pepper shakers cause I am emotionally attached to them. Note: Half the recipe if you’re making it for yourself. Unless you’re super hungry. Then more power to ya!

Once it’s lunch time, just add all the ingredients to the kale-and-pine-nuts container and shake it up. If you’re only using half the avocado, cut it around the pit, leaving the pit in the half you’re not using. That’ll help it last much, much longer. Then store the half with the pit for tomorrow.

Note: Half the recipe if you’re making it for yourself. Unless you’re super hungry. Then more power to ya!

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What I Love This Week: Sepia

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This What I Love is a bit overdue. However, I assure you that finals and the nice weather — rather than a lack of enthusiasm about this restaurant — have distracted me from just sitting down and typing this up.

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The cheese plate

As I may have mentioned previously, I work in the Loop five days a week. That means five days a week I’m eating lunch (and occasionally dinner) in the Loop. Because of this, I spend a significant amount of time researching the best places to grab a bite during my lunch break.

The other day, PIF suggested we try Sepia. We’d passed it a million times before, but we’d never made it in. It happened to be a light work day for us both so we decided to meet there for lunch at 12:30.

After a few back and forths, we found the door and headed in. The space — a refurbished 1890s print shop — is both beautiful and cool. Every last detail has been planned to a T, including the bread “plates” that are wood planks with a carved out space for the butter knife.

We sat in the front bar space. Since it was a sunny day, I wanted to soak up the sunlight through the window. However, the back room is so gorgeous, I highly suggest visitors choose to sit back there if you can. The server brought us bread which was warm and shaped like a bare tree branch. We gobbled it up and ordered the cheese plate, sunchoke soup, pumpkin cappelletti, and potato gnocchi. All were amazing, but the sunchoke soup with charred sweet onions and apples was truly a standout.

sunchoke
A sunchoke.
(Source: www.theproduceguide.com)

The gnocchi was absolutely perfectly pillowy and the short rib ragu that accompanied it was deliciously rich and salty. The pumpkin cappalletti, which were more sweet and delicate, paired perfectly with its heavier counterpart. All of the cheeses were unique and interesting, but it was the one dish we could have done without had I not been craving cheese so badly. We finished our meal by sharing their cookies, which are made fresh every morning. I’m not even a peanut butter fan, and yet my favorite one was their peanut butter and jelly-esque bar.

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PIF and I both agreed it was one of the best lunches we have ever had. In fact, PIF ended up going back later that week for their Happy Hour, which he reported was amazing as well. Amid the repetitive and half-assed lunches that litter the Loop, Sepia is fresh, thoughtful, and delicious.

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Sepia
West Loop, Chicago

Best for: Business lunch, lunch with parents, when you can take a longer lunch break, Happy Hour, dinner dates*
Price:
 $$ to $$$, depending. For lunch, you can get away with appetizers.

*Based on our intuition and to be tested soon

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What I Love This Week: A Brand New Series by Three Times Per Day

This is not a review site. If you’re looking for that, you are more than welcome to go peruse my Yelp page, which I have neglected since starting this blog/getting a life.* That being said, I do want to utilize this space to give credit where credit is due. Enter What I Love This Week (please help me come up with a better name), a weekly series where I can share, well, what I loved during the past week, be it a restaurant, a dish, an event, or a recipe. The only content of these posts will be the best of the best, so if you’re looking for somewhere to go, you can shoot right to these headings and know you are getting a recommendation that is Three Times approved.

Stay tuned for the first edition of What I Loved This Week coming later this week and feel free to share suggestions of places to try (and new name ideas!) in the comments below.

 

 

*Kidding, I’m still very much an avid Yelp user despite the times it has mislead me (*cough* Home Bistro *cough* Over Easy Cafe *cough* New Rebozo.

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