Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Weight-Watchers-SimpleStart-App

I officially started the Weight Watchers Simple Start program 2 weeks ago. I can’t even tell you how hesitant I was to just eat off a list of Power Foods until I was “satisfied” and expect to lose weight. I’m an old school Points-counter; how could this work? Do the good people of Weight Watchers know how much I can eat?!

I decided to take to Twitter to inform my gazillions of followers (um, please follow me) of my progress. It was humorous journey, obviously best told through embedded tweets. If you want to know if the Simple Start program worked, just read until the end!

 

 

 

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Umami Burger is all the rage in Wicker Park these days, just like hipsters used to be – I think they’re on the way out, yes? I’m not cool enough to know what exactly has replaced all the skinny jeans, beards and PBR, but I’m guessing Umami Burger is a contender for that list, judging on how much hype this place is getting. Yeah, maybe instead of hipsters, WP will now be full of clean shaven dudes drinking cider and eating burgers. #BurgerPark. Weird.

But, Umami Burger! I’d wanted to go a few weeks ago when my #BFF was in town from Nashville, but we opted for Little Goat Diner instead. I got a chance to revisit my wish this past Sunday, when my jet-setting roommate (for reals, she’s a flight attendant) and I took a stroll down the street after reading all the Umami Burger Yelp reviews, and deciding against Antique Taco and Pot Pan.

Umami Burger Chicago

We got there close to 8 p.m. on a Sunday night, and there was a 25-30 minute wait. Not a problem in this neighborhood, kids. Take your pick from all the bars up and down Milwaukee. We opted for one of my favorites standby’s, Nick’s Beer Garden, had a quick drink and were texted by the hostess that our table was ready within the advertised wait time. Read on »

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It’s not exactly a secret that I’m #obsessed with Glazed & Infused Doughnuts. Based off the concept of Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts and NYC’s Doughnut Plant, Glazed & Infused opened its original location in 2012 in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. In the past two years, the franchise has grown to 5 shops, with the Wicker Park location being the one I frequent…frequently. In a stroke of luck or quite possibly disastrous diet misfortune, the Wicker Park location is right. by. my. gym. And despite trying to lose ten pounds, is there a better reward after an hour on the treadmill? I think not. Yeah, I’m the one in line still sweating my ass off, ordering the Old Fashioned.

Glazed & Infused Doughnuts: Wicker Park

As a doughnut stalker, I “Like” Glazed & Infused on Facebook (fine, and Twitter and Instagram, and ha!, as I’m writing this post they just retweeted my tweet!)

and I gotta give a shout out to whoever’s running their social media. They do a great job of making me want doughnuts. I mean, it’s not exactly difficult, but still, kudos. They happened to mention their new fall flavors (Caramel Pumpkin Pecan, Pineapple Coconut, White Chocolate Cranberry, Seedling Apple Cider and Ham & Cheddar…say what?!), and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to try one of these new kids on the block.

Glazed & Infused Fall Flavors

So, there I was after the gym, sweating, waiting behind a group of giggly girls, giving me plenty of time to peruse the goods. After some hemming and hawing, and deciding that I guess I didn’t really need two doughnuts (Ham & Cheddar, you’re up next), I decided to give the Seedling Apple Cider a whirl. Good decision, Katie; you’re a genius.

Glazed & Infused Seedling Apple Cider Doughnut

 

I was pretty pumped when I noticed it looked like an Old Fashioned, because the website makes it look like the Old Fashioned’s less exciting cousin, the cake doughnut. Yes, definitely a twin of the Old Fashioned, the Seedling Apple Cider is my new favorite fall treat. An optimum blend of apple and cinnamon, with the quintessential perfectly crispy edges of an Old Fashioned make this doughnut taste like you’ve been posting pictures of autumn leaves, happy times at the pumpkin patch and your new tall boots/skinny jeans all over your social media accounts. Actually, eating it made me feel like this guy‘s twin sister (if you haven’t read Mr. Autumn Man on The Onion, please, please click over. You’ll laugh, I promise).

Well, there you have it, kids – my newest obsession. I think it’s time Glazed & Infused starts paying for my gym membership.

Eat More Doughnuts - Glazed & Infused

 

 

 

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I have a problem with frugality. I just can’t handle paying more for a good or service of exactly the same quantity/quality that is cheaper elsewhere. For instance, Jewel, I love ya, but if I walked out of your doors with 3 giant bags of produce, it’s going to cost at least $50 and wipe out a huge portion of my grocery budget. Seeing that one of the things I truly excel at is buying produce, letting it sit around until it starts to turn bad and then throwing it all away, I should be buying the cheapest produce I can find. I can’t spend $50 on this process – I need to spend $11.

Stanley's Produce Chicago, IL

$11-$12 is about the average I spend at Stanley’s Fruits and Vegetables, conveniently located at North Avenue and Elston, within walking distance of my apartment. In case you can’t visualize what 3 packages of tomatoes, 2 large packages of raspberries, packaged sliced watermelon, a cantaloupe, a giant pack of grape tomatoes, an avocado and a large bag of grapes looks like for $11, let me show you:

Stanley's Fruits and Vegetables ChicagoSometimes I actually feel bad, like I should be giving them more money. “I mean, are you SURE all of this only costs $11?”

If you’ve never been to Stanley’s, let me tell you a few things. First of all, people LOVE it. Check out the Yelp reviews. Secondly, their products are ripe – this is not the kind of produce you’ll have a lot of time to let sit out on the counter before you throw it away – Stanley’s cuts down on this process by offering the type of produce that needs to be eaten within a very short days of purchase. Also, it’s going to be crowded (remember, people love it)…unless you go at 6 a.m. when they open. I highly recommend going around this time, or prepare yourself for a vulture-esque $#!t show in the parking lot, the good people of Chicago who’ve been whipped into a frenzy by the promise of 10 for $1 pluots and 5 for $1 avocados, eager to cut you off from the parking spot you’ve been eyeing, the same way they’ll cut up the 6 pounds of onions they buy for 10 cents. Seriously, beware, that parking lots gets nuts.

The variety of fruits and veggies is sizable, many items rotating seasonally. Now, if you’re into organic produce, they’ve got that too, also at great prices. The organic portion of the store is located by the deli – yes, they’ve got a deli, too. The staff is really friendly and the cashiers are extremely fast at bagging the cartfuls of produce people buy. Besides produce, they carry eggs, milk, some pastas, rice, salsa, breads and canned goods. The prices are dirt cheap, making Stanley’s one of my absolute Chicago favorites. I’ve even been trying to stretch my $11 further lately by actually washing and cutting everything up as soon as I get home – cutting down on the throwing away process tremendously. After I’ve cut everything up, it’s ready to go for the week, meaning healthy fruits and veggies at my fingertips at work and home:

Stanley's Fruit & Veggies

 

Sigh…the only bad part of healthy fruits and veggies is that on Weight Watchers, all of that would be 0 points. I’m currently counting calories using MyFitnessPal, and I’d have to track it all.

…I think…I might go back to WeightWatchers. After all, even though I haven’t been on program for over a year, I still pay for WW Online. Why is that not surprising?

 

 

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In November 2013, I embarked upon a magical journey to a previously unexplored area of my personal fitness – step tracking. Having witnessed some really positive results from a friend who lost a bunch of weight combining a Fitbit Tracker integrated with MyFitnessPal, I decided that I should get one of these nifty devices. My friend has the Fitbit One, and when he demonstrated that you “grow a flower” when you’re very active, naturally I was sold. I, too, decided the Fitbit One was the way to go, and ordered one for a bargain $80 on Ebay.

Fitbit Display

While there are a few different Fitbit options, the Fitbit One works for me for a lot of different reasons. First, I am not a jewelry person. I can’t even spell it right I wear it so infrequently (thanks, spellchecker!), and when I do wear it, I tend to fidget it with it a bit like an obsessive nutcase.  A wristband would just make me more mental than I already am, so the Force and the Flex were out. The Zip doesn’t track sleep or flights of stairs, so the One was really the best tracker for me. I’ve yet to use the sleep tracking functionality of the Fitbit, as you have to slip the One into a special wristband and wear it to bed, and although we’ve already covered that things like that drive me nuts, allow me to paint you a clearer visual picture: Oh look, it’s me, probably around the ripe young age of 21, coming home from a drunken fraternity/sorority bender, managing a small win by using the toilet correctly, but the whole time plagued that I can’t get the cuff bracelet off my wrist. This situation devolved into me slumped on the floor of the bathroom stall frantically picking at the clasp and mentally freaking out, all thumbs from too many Busch Lights. Luckily my roommate was always very helpful, not only in opening the kitchen with her set of president’s keys for drunken late night mini corn dog and taquito fests, but also in jewelry removal. Seriously, the thought of having to wear a bracelet to bed – first world horror. That being said, I am curious about my sleep patterns.

But back to the Fitbit – ah, this thing rocks! It counts all my steps, and you know what earns you steps? Mmmhmm, yes, walking, BUT also step-tapping and step-kicking while you’re drying your hair in the bathroom! And walking in place like a weirdo while you’re talking to your co-workers! And making up dance moves while in your underwear in the privacy of your bedroom!

Fit Bit One Tracker

Can’t hit 10K steps lounging on the couch watching The Real Housewives

The Fitbit syncs with your computer and your smartphone (unless you’re like me and you’ve got a very old smartphone), and provides you with a sweet dashboard to track your activity. The Fitbit One tracks steps/total distance, total calories burned and flights of stairs climbed. It also knows when you’re very active (i.e. dancing like a crazy person in your undies), or just lightly active (weirding out your coworkers by marching in place). On the dashboard, you can add friends who also have Fitbits and see where you stand in the step race. Fitbit gives you a goal of 10K steps a day (you can change your settings at any time), and as of February 4, 2014, I’ve hit that goal every single day. Hitting that takes some work – 10K steps for me is roughly 4.5 miles, and you can’t really achieve that lounging on the couch all day. You’ve got to get up and bounce around, circle the conference room table a few times every hour at work, walk a mile and half in negative temperatures with frostbitten thighs, do some Leslie Sansone Youtube walking videos, etc… Basically, my new motto is “I’ll do anything for a step”, which is slightly more fitness-ly empowering than “I’ll do anything for a donut.”

Fitbit Dashboard

Fitbit Dashboard

Along with accurately tracking your steps, you can integrate Fitbit data into other apps, which is very helpful. I did a very scary thing when I got the Fitbit – I went off WeightWatchers, a program/lifestyle I’ve been living since 2007. Don’t worry, I still PAY for Weight Watchers Online because I’m an idiot, but I’ve been using the Fitbit to integrate with MyFitnessPal to count calories and shed some lbs. The Fitbit syncs up and tells MyFitnessPal how many extra calories you’ve earned (i.e. how many extra calories you can EAT!), and that has been super exciting and awesome because it’s science and food, my first two loves in life (except that first one). I have to admit, calorie counting is going a little bit slower than Weight Watchers did, but things are moving in the right direction. I’ve lost 6 pounds since the end of January, and am hoping I can up that when meteorological spring finally catches up with the date on the calendar. I’ve actually only had a chance to run with the Fitbit once outdoors since November. You know, cause I basically looked like this everyday of this polar vortex-y winter:

Commuter in Chicago Winter Weather

 

So here’s hoping I can continue to hit my 10K step goal everyday, and I’ll hit you back with another post on the logistics of using My Fitness Pal with Fitbit integration. Uh…someday. But, for right now, I can tell you that I LOVE my Fitbit, and can’t really imagine life without it. It is very motivating for increasing your daily activity, aka – “growing your flower.”

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I really meant to post my take on Lillie’s Q a lot earlier – as in May, after we ate there for my birthday. But, naturally I didn’t – partly because I’m lazy, and partly because I was really trying to forget my friend quite literally drinking the extra ranch dressing that came with the fried pickles. Trying to forget not because I was disgusted; no, trying to forget because I was mad I didn’t think of it first.

That’s right, kids. Lillie’s Q is so delicious it will having you contemplating drinking the extra ranch and slurping up their delicious variety of sauces on the meat of your choice…especially after you’ve had a few of their moonshine cocktails, and have an innate problem with self restraint around bbq (or food in general, booze, etc…)

This particular trip to Lillie’s Q occurred yesterday (I know, I’m as shocked as you are with the timely follow-through) after a particularly grueling 7 mile run. As I told you last time, in between finding new roommates, perfecting my tan and stuffing my face with bbq, I’m training for a 7 mile race. So, on Saturday morning I was up early, trotting down the mean streets of the city, getting passed by everyone, including the very young and the elderly, panting, sweating, praying for an early death, etc…but the important part is that I finished it. And as we all know, there is no better reward for the slowest endurance run ever than a gigantic plate of pulled meat. So I met my friend Trevor at Lillie’s Q to collect my prize.

We started off the meal with a frosty beer. Now, one of the best parts of Lillie’s Q is the feeling of being transported to a quaint southern kitchen (the chef was inspired by old family recipes), with Mason jars as the choice of glass, and flour sack dishtowels for napkins.

Lillie's Q, Chicago, IL

The quaint southern theme is perfectly executed in the small touches and, of course, in the menu choices. Diners can pick their choice of many southern-style appetizers to start, including the fried pickles (drink try the ranch!), hush puppies, boiled peanuts and even the staple of the south: pimento cheese. We didn’t have an appetizer this time, opting to go right for the meat and delicious sides.

Making a decision in the main course is tough – pulled pork, pulled chicken, hot links, ribs, bbq chicken and tri-tip all grace the menu. But if you know nothing else about me, know this – I’m a sucker for pulled pork. I opted for the 1/2 pound of pork, and Trevor chose the southern style pulled pork sandwich (coleslaw on top is what makes it southern). We went back and forth debating which sides to get (no sides are included), but we finally settled on the baked beans and cornbread.

As the lunch hour went on, the busier it got. While we were able to have our pick of tables when we got there, be advised that this place fills up, especially on weekend nights, so be prepared for a wait. They will take your number and call you when your table’s ready, so continue on with your tour of the south and pop on over to The Southern for a drink while you wait.

Besides the Mason jars and napkins, the main courses are served on metal trays covered with brown paper and the sides are served in miniature cast irons. Adorable!

Lillie's Q Pulled Pork

And the very best part:

Lillie's Q BBQ sauces

The sauces! Ivory, Carolina, Carolina Gold, Smoky and Hot Smoky – there’s a sauce for everyone. The first time we ate there, the general consensus was that everyone really was digging the Carolina Gold, which is more of a mustard-based sauce. I think it’s ok, but prefer the mustard-based sauce at Honky Tonk to Lillie’s. I really like the Smoky – it’s a little bit sweet, and despite its name, isn’t overwhelming with smoke flavor.

The sauces really complemented my giant tray of meat (awesome!!):

Lillie's Q Pulled Pork

Trevor’s sandwich looked pretty great, too:

Lillie's Q Pulled Pork Sandwich

And let’s talk about the sides:

Lillie's Q baked beans

That white stuff in the jar – it’s butter. Delicious, delicious honey butter for the cornbread. The cornbread was good – nothing too special, but the giant jar of butter more than made up for it. At one point, I was buttering my meat (which is so good it doesn’t need anything, but try the sauces – not the butter – first). That might be as bad, if not worse, than drinking the ranch dressing…I’m not sure. The baked beans are a must try – trust me.

If you haven’t been to Lillie’s Q yet, put it on your list of restaurants to try soon. The bbq is truly delicious and the ambiance is unique. They have a full bar with many craft beers, but if you’re looking for a mixed drink, try one of the moonshine cocktails.

Lillie’s Q is located in Bucktown/Wicker Park at 1856 W. North Avenue in Chicago, IL.

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