Hanging Out with Ingrid Hoffman, Food Network, and JCPenney at Ravinia #EatDrinkRock

I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my day, but never have I had more fun (and ate more FOOD) than at a recent concert at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL.  A few weeks ago, the Food Network hosted a fabulous event at Ravinia, the oldest outdoor music festival in the U.S., dubbed Food Network in Concert, sponsored by JCPenney.

Ravinia Gates

I ate, drank, and jammed throughout the day – and had a blast!

JCPenney had an amazing lounge area at the event, featuring lots of their products and furniture.  Did you know that JCPenney sold furniture?  Yeah, me either.  Mind. Blown.

Ravinia JCPenny

Totally gorgeous, right?  Just about everything you see below can be purchased at JCPenney.com.

Ravinia JCPenny Lounge

I was lucky to be able to tour the Greatest Hits section where 50 chefs and 100+ wineries served up their greatest hits – including Columbian-born Ingrid Hoffman!  So amazing and gracious was Ingrid that she agreed to meet me and autograph a copy of her new book, Latin D’Lite!

Ingrid Hoffman and Me

Fun fact: Ingrid’s first book, Simply Delicioso, was the first cookbook I purchased in 2009 when I started dating my Puerto Rican husband.  I has hopeless in the kitchen, and wanted to learn how to make some Latin dishes.  I’m pretty sure my first attempt at empanadas started with Ingrid Hoffman.

I was so inspired by my encounter with Ingrid Hoffman, that I made one of her delicious soups from her book, Latin D’Lite, for my family this weekend.  Soup, just about any kind, is my go-to meal to cook on a chilly weekend, and this weekend certainly delivered that.  Ingrid’s book promises delicious Latin recipes with a healthy twist.  There are so many yummy soups in Ingrid’s book that are perfect for a chilly day – 18 to be exact! – that it was so hard to choose just one, but we settled on the Mexican Corn Soup – with the healthier option, of course.

Ingrid Hoffman_Mexican Corn Soup

This corn and tomato-based soup is “Simplemente Delicioso” topped with some cilantro, queso fresco, tortilla chips, and crumbled bacon (because, c’mon, what isn’t good topped with BACON?!?!)  So easy to make, done in about 30 minutes, and my family raved about this soup.  It’s already on request for next week!

You must check out Ingrid Hoffman’s line, Simplemente Delicioso at JCPenney!

simplemente delicioso

Who doesn’t want to add a little color to their kitchen?!?!


Enjoying Lunchtime and Toddler Chats

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media® and Lifeway Kefir, but all my opinions are my own. #weavemade http://my-disclosur.es/RgFrEH

It’s always so interesting to see how my 3-year-old views the world.  We like to sit and chat during lunch to talk about…well, whatever.  Lunchtime is basically the only time where it would be just him and I alone.  I take full advantage of the alone time together and make sure all electronics are shut off (he would leave the tablet on 24/7 if he could!) and we can enjoy some quiet time.

Duck Face Selfie

Lots of times he asks for Daddy.  You’d be surprised by how many times it’s as if he’s surprised that Daddy isn’t home.

“Is Daddy going to eat with us?”  “Mommy, don’t forget about Daddy – he likes cheese tacos (quesadillas) too!”

But other times it’s just him and I, and I get to chat with him about all kinds of things.  Everything from what was his favorite part of the day, to which dinosaur is his favorite at the time and – my personal favorite – how much he loves everyone in the family.

“You are all my family and I love you every one!” (Sounding very It’s a Wonderful Life –cheery.)

He even gets all gushy about our dog.

“No Mommy, don’t put Ty in a time out (in the crate).  Cuz I love him.  He’ll be a good boy now.”

Toddler with Dogs

Gosh I love that kid – and my heart swells every time I think of him and his sensitive little heart*.

*Note to the girl that breaks it:  You do not want to meet Mama Bear.  Just sayin’.

As a full-time working mom, I know that every time I get to eat lunch with my boy is a privilege.  And I’m so grateful to learn more about him and the way he sees things during our little chats.  I’m just hoping he’ll continue to want to share with mom in the years to come.

Almost as important as the time spent with our kids, are the foods we put in their bodies.  I used to be more lax about the things I’d feed him for lunch ( a chicken nugget Happy Meal, anyone?), but not anymore.  Feeding him healthy, nutritious foods are so important to me now, and I get super-picky about what he can and can not eat.

Lifeway Kefir with Toddler

One of the items definitely on the approved list: Lifeway Lowfat Kefir Probiotic Cultured Milk Smoothie.  With seven to ten billion CFU’s of 10 strains of bacteria,  Lifeway Lowfat Kefir balances the body’s ecosystem and supports digestive health and immunity – that’s 12 live and active cultures per cup!  Plus, it’s an excellent source of calcium, protein and it’s 99% lactose free.  Lifeway Kefir is a creamy and delicious yogurt-like smoothie my whole family enjoys.  Whether we drink it on it’s own, or add it to a smoothie mix, one thing’s for certain – I don’t have to worry that my son isn’t eating right. Lifeway Lowfat Kefir is so good – and so good for you too!

Lifeway Lowfat Kefir with Probiotics

Connect with Lifeway Kefir:

Facebook ~ Twitter


Family Eats: Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria in St. Charles

This weekend we celebrated my husband’s birthday.  It kinda stinks to have a birthday in the first month of the year – the month where you really try to adhere to your New Year’s resolutions.  You try to save money, cut costs, eat better, blah, blah, blah.  Well for the hubby’s b-day this year, we decided to abandon all of our resolutions and headed out for family pizza night! Charlie Fox's Pizzeria Logo_St Charles_IL It’s hard for us to find a spot we all love – well, with a picky toddler and all – and pizza is usually a safe bet.  I wanted to try a new spot and saw that Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria has been voted “Best Pizza in Kane County”  for like, years and years running.  How had I never heard of this place?!?!

Charlie Fox's Pizzeria_St Charles_IL

We started off with a Charlie Fox specialty, Charlie Chips. Kettle chips covered with bacon and mozzarella cheese and served with ranch dressing and jalapeños on the side.  I had never had anything like that before.  Tons of cheese over crispy chips.  Very heavy…and very good!

Charlie Fox's Pizza_Charlie Chips_St Charles_IL

The birthday boy also got his pick with the Carnivore specialty pizza.  It seemed like there were pounds and pounds worth of sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, ham & bacon on a single pie.  Way too much meat for my taste, but it was my hubby’s pick and he loved it.  The crust was fantastic though!  I’m a Chicago girl, through and through, and I know my pizza.  And I’m picky about it too.  Charlie Fox’s thin crust was nice and crispy and perfectly delicious.

Charlie Fox's Carnivore Pizza_St Charles_IL

A nice touch to entertain families while they wait?  Trivial Pursuit cards!  I loved this game growing up and it was fun to take turns testing the family’s (mostly useless) knowledge with these cards.

Charlie Fox's Pizza_Trivial Pursuit Cards_St Charles_IL

The one thing I would change about my visit though, was the service.  I hate to knock a good place, but we weren’t greeted when we walked in and waited around for a few minutes (after reading the “Please wait to be seated” sign).  There were two employees at the registers checking out a single take-out customer, and we had to approach them to ask if we would be seated.  And it didn’t get better as the evening went on, unfortunately.  Lots of little things. While I was disappointed with the service at Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria, they weren’t voted Best Pizza in Fox Valley for nothing.  It’s a great spot for the whole family, and the food doesn’t disappoint! Bon appetit! signature

Dole Fruit Squish’ems: The Perfect On-The-Go Snack!

Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Dole Packaged Foods, LLC. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

With multiple road trips and countless weekend activities planned for this summer, it’s incredible how we tend to reach for not-so-healthy snacks while on the go (McDonald’s, anyone?).  It’s important to me to provide yummy and nutritious foods to my toddler…and being on the road shouldn’t change that.

Dole Fruit Squish'emsFB

DOLE Fruit Squish’ems are the perfect on-the-go treat for my family.  At only 60 calories a pouch and BPA, GMO, and Gluten free – I feel good giving these to my son for a snack or a treat.  And trust me – he loves them too!  He always asks me to squeeze out every last drop before he’s done.


I love how the DOLE Fruit Squish’ems are so portable too.  I always keep these quick and convenient pouches in my purse or diaper bag to whip out when my son starts getting hungry or cranky.  He has yet to turn them down.  We recently packed them in our “toddler bag” for a road trip and they were such a quick and easy option to whip out when he started getting hungry. And, truth be told, it kept him from continually asking if we were “there yet?”.

Is there any doubt that this kid loves DOLE Fruit Squish’ems?

DOLE Fruit Squish'ems

So the next time the kids are ready for a snack, you can pass the chips and cookies and give them Dole Fruit Squish’ems instead!

The new DOLE Fruit Squish’ems are available in three yummy flavors, including: Apple, Apple Mixed Berry, and Apple Strawberry.  These delicious, new snacks are available at retailers nationwide for an SRP of $2.99 per package.  So go out and try some DOLE Fruit Squish’ems today – your kids will love ‘em!

To learn more about DOLE Fruit Squish’ems, you can visit their website, like them on Facebook, or follow along on Twitter.

Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored campaign with Latina Mom Bloggers and Dole Packaged Foods, LLC. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

Chicagoland Eats: Cheeseburger in Paradise

Venue: Cheeseburger in Paradise

Website: http://www.cheeseburgerinparadise.com/

Location: 1608 South Randall Road, Algonquin, IL.  Located in the Algonquin Commons Shopping Center, north of I-90.

Hours: Mon-Thu: 11:00am-12:00am; Fri-Sat: 11:00am-1:00am; Sun 11:00am-11:00pm (Friday Night Karaoke! 8:30pm-12:30am)

Parking: Plentiful, but there are a lot of other restaurants/bars in the Algonquin Commons shopping center, so you may have to walk a little.

My Experience: When I first drove up to Cheeseburger in Paradise, I immediately noticed the tropical, beachy vibe with what looked like a giant lighthouse as the building façade. Very cool.  The interior is all decked out with tiki bars, surfboards, and other beach décor, too.

Cheeseburger in Paradise Algonquin

Keeping with the tropical theme, the hostess greets guests from behind a tiki bar.  (Sorry – this pic is a bit blurry.)

Cheeseburger in Paradise Tiki Bar

One thing you should know before heading to Cheeseburger in Paradise is that their menu is huge!  I highly suggest checking their menu online before you head out…otherwise it’ll be awhile before figuring out what you want.

Cheeseburger in Paradise Menu

I visited Cheeseburger in Paradise on a Friday night with a group of girlfriends so, of course, one of the first things on our minds was DRINKS!  They really make a pretty drink at Cheeseburger in Paradise.  Check out a few that we ordered:

Cheeseburger in Paradise Euphoria

This was my drink of the night: Euphoria.  It’s Frozen Sangria, Margarita and Strawberry Daiquiri layers, garnished with Lizard Lips.  It was soooooo good!  I had to be careful not to drink a ton of them.

Cheeseburger in Paradise Lizard Lips

Here’s a close-up of my Lizard Lips…isn’t he a cute ‘lil guy? LOL

Cheeseburger in Paradise Coronita Rita

This one was probably my favorite, though.  It’s a new drink offered by Cheeseburger in Paradise called a Coronita Rita!  It’s a margarita topped with an overturned 7 oz. Corona bottle.  The beer slowly drains into the margarita for a truly unique taste.  Just as delicious, of course, as it is unique.

Oh yeah, we did eat while we were there too. Winking smile  And I know “cheeseburger” is in the restaurant name, but I was in the mood for something a little different.  Since moving to the suburbs a few years ago, it’s been really hard to find Latin food – or, good Latin food I should say.  I’ve been craving Cuban food for months now and was glad to see the El Cubano on the menu.  It’s a Cuban sandwich with ham, salami, pork, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard and pickles, pressed until golden-brown.  But could they make it as good as the Cuban sandwiches I remember?

Cheeseburger in Paradise El Cubano

Let me be the first to tell you – that it was Damn Good!  I love the way the flavors of the meat, cheese and pickles taste together.  A very savory meal, indeed!

So the next time you find yourself in the vicinity of a Cheeseburger in Paradise, stop in!  The food is really great and you’ll be sure to find a Cheeseburger in Paradise nearby – they’re located in 14 states!  Check out their locations to find the one nearest you.

And, of course, there’s always the alcohol! Open-mouthed smile

Cheeseburger in Paradise Drinks

Chicagoland Eats: Burnt Toast Restaurant

Venue: Burnt Toast Restaurant (Elgin)

Website: http://www.btrestaurant.com/

Location: 2942 N. Randall Road, Elgin, IL  On Randall Road, just north of I-90.

Hours: Mon–Sat: 6:30am – 2:30pm; Sun: 7:00am – 2:30pm (just open for breakfast & lunch)

Parking: Normally I wouldn’t mention parking for a restaurant, but it’s important to note that if you head here on a weekend, parking could be hard to find.  The lot (used by both Burnt Toast and an adjacent restaurant) was almost full and cars park haphazardly throughout the lot.  I arrived at 1:00pm on a Sunday (close to closing time) and it was hard for me to find a spot.  Be prepared to drive around for a while looking for parking.

My Experience: What initially drew me in to try Burnt Toast Restaurant in Elgin was the building.  The restaurant exterior reminds me of a quaint family home in the mountains.  Like something I would see on an episode of House Hunters on HGTV.  The outside intrigued me enough to check it out.

Burnt Toast Elgin

The waiting area was full, of course, but thankfully most were large parties and I was just having lunch with a friend.  Within 10 minutes our table was ready…not bad for such a packed house!

When walking into the main dining area, my first impression was “Whoa – this place is HUGE!”. By the looks of the building on the outside, I had no idea that the restaurant was so spacious!  This photo shows only half of the dining area.

Burnt Toast Elgin Inside

The menu at Burnt Toast definitely caters more to the breakfast crowd with a wide variety of pancakes, eggs, waffles, crepes, skillets, and such, but they also offer a moderate selection of lunch items like salads, sandwiches, burgers, and the like.

While perusing our menus. I happily sipped on my giant cup of coffee.  Loved the cup size, but one drawback for me was that they don’t offer any flavored creamers. Sad smile  I love my coffee, but I love it a lot more when it tastes like French Vanilla.  Winking smile

Burnt Toast Elgin Coffee

What happened next, though, was probably the biggest letdown of my experience.  While still trying to decide what to order, we all heard a load BOOM*CRASH and the entire restaurant went silent.  A waitress dropped a plate of food as she was delivering to a table just a few tables over from us.  The dropping of the plate is not what bothered me – mistakes happen, I get that – but the waitress’ attitude about the whole thing was really disgusting.  Instead of quietly turning to the couple (whose plate of food now lay on the floor) to profusely apologize, she instead bent down to pick up the mess from the floor, rolling her eyes the entire time!  She looked as though she were trying to call attention to herself, rather than try to diffuse the situation.  Even though my plate wasn’t the one all over the floor, I felt really bad for the couple as they sat in their seats, dumbfounded.

Anyhow, our waitress was attentive enough and quickly took our order.  I decided on the Cobb Salad, while my friend ordered the potato pancakes.  (The same girl that dropped the plate a few minutes earlier delivered our food, but this time – THANKFULLY – without incident.)

Burnt Toast Elgin Cobb Salad

Notice how much bacon is on my Cobb Salad?!?!  I think there must’ve been 10 slices of bacon crumbled on top!  The salad came with lots of meat and lots of cheese with a side of warm cornbread.  I liked the salad well enough, however, the yolks of my eggs were a little soft in the center.  (No worries, I still ate it. Smile)

Overall, my experience at Burnt Toast Elgin was decent.  Nothing bad enough happened that would deter me from visiting again – although next time I’ll likely opt for a breakfast item.

Have you ever visited Burnt Toast in Elgin?  I’m curious to know what you thought.

Wordless Wednesday 6/6/12

wordless wednesday

Now this is the perfect Puerto Rican meal!  A jibarito sandwich, a relleno do papa, and some arroz con gandules.  Doesn’t get better than this, folks!  I love Puerto Rican food. Do you have a favorite Latin dish?

puerto rican food

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...