'/> Sharing My Joy: November 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Skincare Essentials

My Skincare Essentials

 I've tried a lot of skincare products in my time, from drugstore to department store to dermatologist precriptions - and not all have stood the test of time. I think it's taken me this long to find ones that are tried and true for my combination skin type. Here are my top essential skincare items that I swear by!

Philosophy Hope in a Jar Moisturizer - The best moisturizer I've found in the last 10 years! It's lightweight, soaks right in without making your skin feel greasy, and I swear it has helped to clear up my skin.
Philosophy Purity Face Wash - Does a great job at taking makeup off, yet gentle and not over drying.
Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant  - This powder-to-paste scrub does an amazing job at exfoliating and leaving skin super smooth.
Clarisonic Mia 2 - Definitely worth the money! It really does a deep clean to help remove makeup and leave a clean surface to let products soak in.
GlamGlow Thirstymud - Great when you need a little something extra during the winter, this mask leaves skin super hydrated.
Josie Maran Argan Oil Light - The thought of putting oil on my skin scared me but this truly goes on super light, absorbs quickly and doesn't leave skin shiny at all. Fantastic as a winter moisturizer!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Recipe: Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Goat Cheese

Need a last-minute side recipe for Thanksgiving? I've got the perfect one - plus it's quick, healthy and delicious!  There are plenty of ways to prepare Brussels sprouts - I particularly like roasting and this way - sautéing.  A quick way to speed up cook time is to buy them pre-shredded (or slice them up yourself). Trader Joe's and most grocery stores now sell them pre-shredded in the bag - such a time saver! The addition of lemon and goat cheese is a great combo!

1 package shredded Brussels sprouts
2 Tb olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 Tb pine nuts
2 Tb crumbled goat cheese
salt and pepper, for seasoning

1. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in large saute pan. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
2. Add in pine nuts for the last 3-4 minutes to toast in with the sprouts.
2. Remove from heat and transfer to bowl. Cover with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with goat cheese.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I Tried It: Pure Barre


I've been dying to try one of the barre classes for several years now but haven't gotten around to it. I did many years of pilates so I thought it would be a pretty easy transition. I tried the Pure Barre studio (there is also Bar Method, Barre Code and Dailey Method in Chicago) recently for the first time. I've heard that it was a great toning and strength workout and I was looking forward to feeling the burn. The studio was nice and clean and the instructor was awesome - helping me get set up knowing it was my first time. We went through a series of exercises for arms, legs, and core using different equipment including resistance bands, small hand weights and a small inflatable ball.  We used the barre as we did a series of leg work/squats.  There were some moves that were definitely tough, but overall I didn't feel very challenged in the class. I've heard it takes at least 8 classes to really grasp the concept, and that might have been the case with me. I might have been missing something or not doing some moves right. Don't get me wrong - I definitely enjoyed the class and left feeling good, it just wasn't as challenging as I thought it was, nor was I sore the next day. I would gladly go again or try a different studio to change things up. Overall I like the barre workout concept, but I think I enjoy the active, sweaty ones better!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Recipe: Cacio e Pepe

I recently tried this classic Italian pasta dish for the first time at Eataly, and was blown away that something so simple could be so delicious.  Literally translating into "cheese and pepper", this 4 ingredient dish takes less than 20 minutes start to finish.  While pepper (and salt) are normally a last minute addition, instead it is the the star of this dish, while the quality freshly grated cheese adds the perfect creaminess. Less can be more!

12 oz dried spaghetti pasta
4 Tb butter (or olive oil)
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add spaghetti and cook until al dente (about 8-10 minutes)
2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet with butter. Add the cracked pepper and gently stir for a couple of minutes, until pepper is toasted.
3. With tongs, remove the boiled pasta and place right into the skillet (do not drain the pasta water). 
4. Swirl to coat with the butter and pepper. Add the cheese and continue swirling the pasta to coat with the cheese  Add about 1/4 cup of the hot pasta water and stir until creamy, about 2 minutes.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Favorite Chicago Pizza Spots

TGIF! I thought I'd round up some of my favorite spots for pizza in Chicago since there are so many great ones! Obviously Chicago is known for their deep dish, which I love, but there are other great non-Chicago style pizza places here that are awesome. I'm not necessarily a traditionalist when it comes to pizza (give me Hawaiian or BBQ chicken all day!), and I definitely don't discriminate... there's just so much to love! I do really love a good stuffed or deep dish with alllthecheeese, but I also really love the thin crust Neopolitan style with fresh mozzarella. What is your favorite place for pizza? Which places need to be added to my list to try?

Lou Mal's

Best Chicago Style

Giordano's - Yes, it's a chain now but still my total favorite deep dish. So much cheese!
Lou Malnati's - Another favorite deep dish. Love the buttery crust! They also will ship a frozen pizza anywhere in the country!
Baldinelli's - My family's favorite place to order from in the suburbs - thin crust, sweet sauce, square slices!
Bricks - Another great thin crust pizza, in a dark, hole-in-the-wall place.
Pequod's - I don't love it as much as some people do, but the caramelized crust makes it worth it. Like I said, I won't hate on any pizza :)

Best Wood Fired/Italian Style

Spacca Napoli - Arguably the best pizza in Chicago, the oven was made in Naples and they make sure to stay authentic to that style. The buffalo mozzarella pizza is insane!
Sono - Awesome wood fired pizza. Try the burrata and pesto!
La Madia - A modern take on the traditional Italian style. The pepperoni with truffle oil and the tallegio with roasted grape were both great!
Coalfire - Chicago's first "coal fire" oven. The pepperoni with whipped ricotta, enough said.
Eataly - This massive Italian marketplace makes some of the best pizza...ever.


Best East Coast style:

Piece - Technically "New Haven Style", they have some really interesting topping choices. They also make their own beer.
Armitage Pizzeria - Takeout or delivery only, the guy who owns this place definitely knows what he's doing.

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder

Special mentions:

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company - A Chicago institution, famous for the "pizza pot pie"!
Homeslice - A trendy newbie in town, the pizza does not disappoint.
Aurelio's -  Another local suburban favorite of my family's with Chicago-style thin crust.
Gino's - Famous, just really not my fave.

Still to try:

Pizza Rustica
Vito & Nick's
The Art of Pizza
Stella Barra
Boiler Room
My Pie
Pizzeria da Nella
Antica Pizzeria
Pizzeria Serio
Pizza Parlor
Chicago Pizza Boss food truck
The Chicago Pizza Tour! <--talk about HEAVEN!!

Tell me... what's on your list!?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I Tried It: Shred415


There are a ton of great fitness studios in Chicago - pilates, yoga, barre, etc., and I've been enjoying the chance to try a bunch of new workouts.  I've heard great things about Shred415, which started in Chicago and now has several studios around the city. The concept is an hour class, broken up into 4 15-minute intervals (switching between treadmill and weight training), then further broken up into smaller 30 second or minute intervals. The instructor led the class through different walk/run/sprint intervals and then different weight training exercises (squats, step ups, lunges, core work). The class went by super fast because of intervals -- nothing seems too intimidating when there is an end in sight. Changing it up like that was challenging but a great way to stay motivated. You have your choice of weights and speed on the treadmill, and the instructor does a good job of pushing you to go your max (which may be different for each person in the class). I really enjoyed it and was sore for the next couple of days. There is an introductory price for the first class and then there are class packages and unlimited memberships. I definitely recommend checking it out for a great workout!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Currently Listening To: Serial Podcast

Serial Podcast

I've really gotten into podcasts this year, since I spend a lot of time in the car with my commute. They keep me much more entertained than music or morning radio shows. My favorites are Freakonomics, which raises really interesting questions that make you think twice, and Stuff You Should Know, which covers topics on everything from how black holes work to how beer works. They're very easy to listen to, now especially with the iTunes Podcast app. A new podcast, Serial, from the produces of This American Life popped up to the top of charts this month so I checked it out. It's a season long podcast where journalist Sarah Koenig reinvestigates a real-life murder from 1999. There has been speculation that the man that was sentenced was actually wrongly convicted. She dives into different aspects of the murder, doing interviews with some of the people connected to the murder. I totally binged and listened to all 6 episodes in 3 days and now I can't wait for the rest of the season! (I think there are going to be 12 in total). It sounds like the listeners will start to figure out what happened along with her.  The show has gone completely viral - there's an account on Reddit that has a huge discussion board. It sounds like they might be doing another season too. It's a new concept to have a season long podcast which is cool, and apparently lots of people are enjoying. Check it out, it's so addicting!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Recipe: Oreo Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie treats have got to be one of my all-time favorite desserts. I also happen to love all things cookies 'n' cream/Oreo, so I decided to combine the best of both worlds here with these. They were super easy and a great variation on the traditional - and were a big hit!


10 cups Rice Krispies cereal
8 cups miniature marshmallows
20 Double Stuff Oreo Cookies, chopped with a sharp knife
1/2 cup unsalted butter

1. Grease/spray 13 x 9 pan
2. Combine cereal and chopped cookies in large bowl
3. Melt butter in large saucepan on medium/low
4. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted
5. Pour over cereal mixture and stir until completely mixed
6. Pour into pan and press into an even layer
7. Let cool, cut into squares and serve

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recipe: Stuffed Acorn Squash

I love roasting all the fall veggies - butternut squash, sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash. This was my first time trying acorn squash and it was really good! You can do this with any type of fall squash and any type of filling (wild rice, sausage, apples etc.) but this combo was really good :) I liked how the feta complemented the sweetness of the squash and cranberries. Great fall meal! It was very simple, just takes a while to roast the squash...bonus, your house will smell amazing!

1 acorn squash, cut in half
1/2 cup quinoa, dry
2 Tb dried cranberries (or cherries would be good)
2 Tb feta cheese
2 Tb pistachios
olive oil
salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425. Cut acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds. Brush with olive oil (or coconut oil or butter-your choice). Sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon and/or a little bit of brown sugar and place in oven open cut side up for 45 minutes.
2. While squash is roasting, prepare filling. Cook quinoa according to package directions (2:1 water:quinoa, bring to boil and simmer for about 15 minutes). Mix in about 1 tsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix in cheese, cranberries and nuts.
3. When squash is done, take out of the oven, fill with quinoa mix and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or so.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sweater Weather

Sweater Weather

Sweater Weather by Carly Klein

525 America Stitch Sweater  / Old Navy Striped Sweater Zara Side Split Sweater / BB Dakota Brendi Cardigan Coat  Free People Turtleneck Sweater / American Eagle Outfitters Drape Sweater 

It's definitely been getting chillier here in Chicago, and there is not much I love more than wrapping up in a cozy sweater when it gets cold. Lately I'm loving chunky pullover sweaters with skinny pants, which has pretty much been what I want to wear every day :) I bought the 525 America sweater with the pockets and it has quickly become my favorite on chilly days. Have you gotten a great sweater recently?