Williams-Sonoma’s Spiced Apple Muffins

It seems like we’re in a Williams-Sonoma store once a week these days – returning or exchanging registry gifts that we received for our wedding. Every time I’m in the store, I wander around seeing if anything new sparks my attention. This past weekend, I discovered their gluten-free spiced apple quick bread mix and my eyes lit up.

Instead of following the instructions and making one single loaf of bread, we divided the mix into muffin tins and created individual bread muffins. Besides from that, we didn’t deviate from the instructions and they turned out to be so yummy AND made our apartment smell like Bath and Body Works’ Cider Lane candle (bonus!):

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Melt one stick butter
  • Blend butter, 2 eggs, quick bread mix, and 1 cup of water in a big bowl
  • Divide into pre-buttered/greased muffin tins
  • Cook for 55 minutes or until nice and browned
  • Sit for 10 minutes – or if you’re like me, let them sit for maybe 2 minutes, bite into one, and immediately regret it because it’s too hot and you should have listened and waited 10 minutes.

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For all of my Celiac or gluten-sensitive friends, I definitely recommend this mix come holiday time. They’re the perfect little treat with the best flavoring and are so easy to bake. 10/10.

September and October 2019

After taking a month away from ATGchi to get hitched and travel to Greece (stay tuned for some pretty sweet itineraries), I’m back and have a special treat for you! Since I didn’t make a playlist for September (except an awesome 6.5+ hour playlist of your dreams called “Wedding Day Beats” that can be found on my Spotify profile), I’m giving you a DOUBLE playlist! That’s right – two months’ worth of tunes for your eardrums.

I’m currently jamming to this playlist as I’m staring out the window at the gloomiest of gloomy days and can honestly say that these tunes are getting me through. Check out the perfect blend of mmst-mmst and mmm below:

  • All The Time – Zara Larsson
  • Keep You Mine – NOTD & Shy Martin
  • Kill The Lights (w/ Nile Rodgers) [Audien Remix] – Alex Newell, Jess Glynne & DJ Cassidy
  • Love On Me – Galantis & Hook N Sling
  • Young, Wild & Free – Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa
  • Right Back (feat. A Boogie wit da Hoodie) – Khalid
  • All Around the World (feat. Bryn Christopher) – Matoma
  • What Am I – Why Don’t We
  • RAIN – Ben Platt
  • Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince – Taylor Swift [Anyone else say the Half-Blood Prince? Just me? Cool.]
  • Paper Rings – Taylor Swift [We cut our wedding cake to this song!]
  • London Boy – Taylor Swift
  • Daylight – Taylor Swift
  • Rollercoaster – Jonas Brothers
  • Slow Dance (feat. Ava Max) – AJ Mitchell
  • The Git Up – Blanco Brown [The most addicting song ever]
  • Dance Monkey – Tones and I
  • Thing For You – David Guetta & Martin Solveig
  • Back & Forth – MK, Jonas Blue & Becky Hill
  • Walking On a Dream – Empire of the Sun [Flashbacks to MSU tailgates, anyone?]
  • Proud – Marshmello
  • Don’t Give Up On Me – Andy Grammer
  • if we never met – JOHN.k
  • Torn – Ava Max
  • Motivation – Normani [a JAM]
  • In Your Arms – Illenium & X Ambassadors
  • Dreams (feat. Dakota & T-Pain) – Alex Ross [Reminds me of a song that’d play in A&F circa 2007]
  • Call If You Need Me – Galantis
  • Peanut Butter Jelly – Galantis
  • I’m Not Alright – Loud Luxury & Bryce Vine [Slowly getting okay with this country & dance hybrid thing]
  • Wish You Well – Sigala & Becky Hill
  • Champion (feat. Tia Ray) – Jason Derulo
  • We Were Young (feat. JP Cooper) – Petit Biscuit & DROELOE
  • Look Away – Stephen Puth
  • Sax – Fleur East [If you’re in a bad mood, listen to this.]
  • Wanted – OneRepublic
  • Let It Be Me – Steve Aoki & Backstreet Boys [Backstreet’s back, alright?!]
  • OMG – Gryffin & Carly Rae Jepsen [Carly is having a MOMENT and I’m 100% here for it]
  • Lonely – Diplo & Jonas Brothers
  • Good Thing – Zedd & Kehlani
  • Heartless (feat. Morgan Wallen) – Diplo
  • Imperfections – Celine Dion [Celine!!!!!!!!]
  • Slide Away – Miley Cyrus
  • I Wish – Hayley Kiyoko
  • Love Me Less (feat. Kim Petras) – MAX & Kim Petras
  • Legends – Now United
  • Feelings – Lauv
  • Could Have Been You – Jake Miller
  • Holy Water – Galantis [Galantis can do no wrong, IMO]
  • Me Quedare Contigo (feat. Lenier & El Micha) – Pitbull & Ne-Yo
  • The Power – Duke Dumont & Zak Abel
  • This Is Real – Jax Jones & Ella Henderson [Great combo!]
  • Somebody To Love – OneRepublic
  • Lady – Blake Rose
  • Young And In Love – Ingrid Michaelson
  • Carry Me Away – John Mayer
  • Circles – Post Malone
  • Rooting For You – Alessia Cara
  • Shotgun – George Ezra

Reminder that you can find this playlist, and all others, by searching “baconama” on Spotify. This month’s playlist is titled “Against The Grain_Sept and Oct 2019“. For my Apple Music followers, search “baconama” and you’ll find the “September 2019” and “October 2019” playlists ready to go!

 

a HERo podcast

When my besties do amazing things, I LOVE LOVE LOVE hyping them up and telling the world how awesome and ridiculously cool they are. Today’s one of those days. Friend of 11 (!!!!) years, author of this post from back in February 2018, token ginger friend (thank goodness there’s finally an emoji for them), co-maid of honor, and lawyer extraordinaire, Kristie has added another achievement to her already long list of really cool things. She and her wicked smart lawyer friend, Meagan, launched a PODCAST!

a HERo podcast, accurately named since they chat about all things HER, touches on subjects like social media, abortion, self care, the ever-evolving (and IMO, toxic) diet culture, and my favorite one yet: how.to.be.a.good.wedding.guest. This one hits home since we’re less than 25 days out from our big day (!!!!!!!!!!!!). More on that in a bit.

First, let’s chat about Meagan and Kristie.

  • Meagan is a lawyer by trade and has a passion for good conversation and learning. She got the idea to start their podcast when she realized that she has a lot to say about issues that affect women (who doesn’t these days?!) and wanted to have fun along the way. Kristie agreed to be her co-host and they got to work! When she’s not at work or working on the podcast, she likes to play golf, travel the globe and hang out with her fur babies.
  • Kristie’s the other half of a HERo podcast. She’s also a lawyer, but most importantly, she loves podcasts and is a major public radio nerd.  She’s super thankful for the opportunities podcasting has provided her and feels so lucky to share the HERo journey with their listeners.  Other things she likes include running, exploring the city of Detroit and spending time with her family and friends.

Now, back to their wedding podcast episode. After a brief intro conversation, the ladies dive deeply into the topic of wedding rules and etiquette. Wedding rules that they chat about that I 100% relate to:

  • Check your invite – is it addressed to just YOU? Welp, that means just YOU and not a random human being you just met last month are invited. We decided to have our RSVPs be submitted via The Knot, which thankfully doesn’t allow guests to enter in names of non-invited humans. This saves us that awkward conversation of having to say “No, I don’t know this girl you met yesterday, she’s actually not invited but thank you for asking.”
  • RSVP! Our invites are due on Saturday and I’m already dreading having to follow up with people, so this is a good call out – RSVP and do it on time (please).
  • Dress appropriately! One of my favorite call outs in their conversation is to not.wear.white! Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen women wearing white at weddings and while it’s obvious they’re not the bride, it’s still weird. Of all colors, of all days? Just don’t do it and save yourself the judgment from everyone else, because sadly, it’ll happen.
  • Do NOT bring colored drinks onto the dance floor – I repeat – do NOT bring red wine onto the dance floor.
  • To the brides – communicate expectations with your bridesmaids far enough in advance. As a bride, I’ve been trying to keep my maids updated (but not too updated?! ahh!), and remind them that certain things aren’t mandatory because I realize that everyone has lives and can’t do everything. It’s tough!

It sounds like the ladies are going to touch on even more wedding related festivities in future podcast episodes, so stay tuned for even more coming your way. The two of them provide a refreshingly honest take on all things women and the world, which makes a HERo podcast so easy to listen to – whether it’s during your morning commute, mid-day workout, or while whipping up dinner in the evening.

Like what you saw above and want to check out a HERo podcast? Head to wherever you listen to podcasts: Spotify, Apple Music, Stitcher, etc. Give them a listen, subscribe, follow them on insta @aheropodcast, and let them know how much you love them!

My Go-To Weeknight Meal: Taco Bowls

Cooking is hard – especially when you’re cooking for two and one of you has Celiac. It gets even harder when you’re tired after a long day of work and all you want to do is plop in bed and never move again.

Anyone who knows me knows that I could live off of tacos – We’re having a taco truck at our wedding, so CLEARLY I love them a lot. I’d say we have some form of taco (bowl, salad, or tortilla-formed) at least once a week. Sometimes, we get lazy and order in from UberEats or Postmates, but we do like to whip something up every now and again and it’s usually taco bowls since they’re so easy to make.

Everyone has those few things that are always in their fridge, freezer, and cabinets. For us, it’s ground turkey, taco seasoning (GF, of course), and Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice. Most of the time we’ll have sour cream, shredded cheese, and tomatillo salsa on hand, so fixing up taco bowl can take 10 minutes or less.

 

 

Here’s what we use:

  • Trader Joe’s lean ground turkey
  • Gluten-free taco seasoning
  • Trader Joe’s microwavable brown rice
  • Shredded cheese
  • Tomatillo salsa
  • Guacamole (I really like Trader Joe’s yogurt-based guac, but had Whole Foods’ guac in our fridge the other day)
  • Sour cream (mixed with lime juice, a splash of water, and a dash of salt & pepper)

I don’t even think I need to go through the creation steps with you because it’s as simple as brown the turkey, add the seasoning and some water; microwave the rice; mix your crema (sour cream, water, lime juice, salt, & pepper); then compile everything in a bowl and EAT. So quick, so good, so easy.

Bon appétit! 

What’s your go-to weeknight meal? Comment below or on instagram (againstthegrainchi) and maybe we can share one of your recipes in the future! 

 

August 2019

It’s time for the clichéd question: “HoW iS iT aLrEaDy AuGuSt?!” I’ve asked it. You’ve asked it. Heck, you probably used it as an icebreaker this morning when you found yourself alone at the coffee machine with Karen from accounting (Sorry to all the Karens out there, but it just fits, you know?)

In my mind, we still have plenty of summer left. Maybe it’s the realist in me *cough global-warming-is-real-and-imminent-and-we-need-to-do-something-now cough*, but I know we’ll still be able to go to the North Ave beach way into September – I’m not stressing about Chiberian temperatures just yet. Plenty of summer left means plenty of time to enjoy some #summertimechi tunes, so here you go!

  • Chasing Colours (Plastic Plates Remix) – All the Lights
  • Don’t Let Them – Young Bombs
  • I Love You Always Forever – Betty Who [Such a good cover of the Donna Lewis bop]
  • Get What You Give – Felix Cartal
  • Cruise – Clément Leroux
  • Post Malone (feat. RANI) – Sam Feldt
  • Takeaway (feat. Lennon Stella) – The Chainsmokers & Illenium [Yes, this is the girl from the TV show, Nashville!]
  • Lying (feat. Lil Tjay) – PRETTYMUCH
  • MOOD 4 EVA (feat. Oumou Sangaré) – Beyonce, Jay-Z & Childish Gambino
  • The Archer – Taylor Swift
  • Moments Passed – Dermot Kennedy
  • How Do You Sleep? – Sam Smith [Loving the new and proud Sam!]
  • Chasing Fire – Lauv [so catchy]
  • Riva (Restart the Game) (feat. Broken Back) [Radio Edit] – Klingande
  • Jubel – Klingande
  • Perm – Bruno Mars [throwback!]
  • Love Never Felt So Good – Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake
  • Say My Name – Destiny’s Child [Can you tell I was into throwbacks at the time?]
  • Better Luck Next Time – Kelsea Ballerini [From the show Songland]
  • BLOW – Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars [LOVING Ed’s newest album!!]
  • Cross Me (feat. Chance the Rapper) – Ed Sheeran
  • I Don’t Care – Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber (Have requested this song several times at the past couple of weddings/events we’ve been at)
  • Great One – Jessie Reyez
  • Karaoke (feat. Lizzo) – Big Freedia [LIZZOOO!]
  • Electricity (feat. Diplo & Mark Ronson) – Silk City, Dua Lipa
  • OCEAN AWAY – Jake Miller
  • We Were Young (feat. JP Cooper) – Petit Biscuit & DROELOE
  • Champion (feat. Tia Ray) – Jason Derulo
  • Wish You Well – Sigala & Becky Hill [Haven’t heard a Sigala song I haven’t loved]
  • I’m Not Alright – Loud Luxury & Bryce Vine

 

Alrighty, that’s it folks! Another playlist made just for YOU! Reminder that you can find this playlist, and all others, by searching “baconama” on Spotify. This month’s playlist is titled “Against The Grain_August 2019“. For my Apple Music followers (shout out to my brother and SIL), search “baconama” and you’ll find the “August 2019” playlist ready to go!

Paris

As I mentioned in my Iceland post, I LOVE planning trips. Last May, Josh and I went on a 13-day trip to Iceland, Paris, and Nice. 

After 6 days in cold, wet, and windy Iceland, we were MORE than ready to get into sunny and warm France. Plus – anyone who knows me knows I’m OBSESSED with Paris and that it’s probably my favorite city in the entire world. Needless to say, I was beaming the second we got off the plane at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. 

I’ve been to Paris quite a few times now, so check out my tips and tricks, by Parisian arrondissement, below. Heads up: it’s another lengthy one so brace yourself.

 

Best places to stay:

  • We stayed all the way out at the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile and it wasn’t a problem at all. We would walk toward l’Arc de Triomphe and hop on the metro from there. If you don’t do the hop on-hop off red bus tours, you’ll use the metro a lot.
  • Anywhere near l’Eglise de la Madeleine is going to be really nice and pretty expensive.
  • Stick near la Seine. I’d say 8, 7, 2, 5 ish would be your best bet to be near the most attractions and museums if you’re a first time visitor.

Must-see things to do:

  • 1st ARR:
    • The Louvre (La Louvre) – no need to go in and walk around because it would take you weeks (seriously) to see everything good. Take a peek with the pyramid out front and call it a day. Louvre
    • Musee d’Orsay – In my opinion, if you’re going to actually walk around a museum, this is the one to go to. It’s filled with Degas ballet dancers and other famous Frenchie artists. I remember really liking this one but haven’t been since I studied abroad in college.
  • 2nd ARR:
    • Les Halles – I’m pretty sure this is a mall? I’ve never been. Not important enough IMO.
  • 3rd ARR:
    • Skip this area or see it on the hop on-hop off tour
  • 4th ARR:
    • Ile de la Cite & Ile Saint-Louis
      • Ile de la Cite has Notre Dame and Pont Neuf. Really cool to see via boat tour, but definitely worth seeing up close. IF you have time and if you feel like throwing down at least 20 euros a piece, go to the top of the Notre Dame – great view of the city, if not the best. IMG_0159
    • 5th ARR [aka le Quartier Latin]
      • Trendy home of la Sorbonne (bougie college) and has lots of good cafes and shops. Good for people watching too.
    • 6th ARR:
      • Le Jardin du Luxembourg. Lots of walking but lots of benches, too. Ponds, fountains, flowers, etc. Grab yourself a jambon et fromage sandwich and post up on a bench for the afternoon to soak it all in.
      • Le Palais du Luxembourg. I think you have to pay, but it’s pretty cool. If you don’t take a day trip to see the castles, this is your next best thing.
    • 7th ARR:
      • Les Invalides. Pretty sure you drive past this on the hop on hop off. Nothing that you need to get off to see up close.
      • Musee Rodin. I went here but I can’t remember much about it. Apparently The Thinker is here…?
    • 8th ARR:
      • L’arc de Triomphe. Take the time to actually walk under the street to pop up under the arch because the walls have pretty cool pictures engraved in them. Plus, this is the beginning of the Champs Elysee and at the other end of the street (la rue) you can see La Place de la Concorde, which is this tall obelisk thing in the Jardins du Tuileries et Jardin des Champs Elysee. If you feel like walking a lot, you can walk the entire Champs Elysee all the way to the Louvre. I don’t recommend doing it because it’s farther than it looks and most of the paths are gravely. Under Arc de Triomphe
    • 9th/18th (Not sure which one they’re in technically):
      • Take the metro or hop on-hop off up here because it’s far.
      • Moulin Rouge isn’t in the best area and is actually on a street well known for having a bunch of X-rated shops, but it’s cool to see. Go, take a pic of it, then walk north toward the cutesy area of Montmatre.Moulin Rouge
      • Walk around the pedestrian area of Montmatre. Lots of touristy type shops to get some souvenirs. Fun fact: this is where Josh bought me the umbrella before he proposed because he knew I’d be upset if I had wet hair in the proposal pics… He wasn’t wrong.
      • Sacre-Coeur Basilica. My favorite favorite favorite place in Paris and you’ll see why. Breathe before taking the stairs because there are a lot of them. Go all the way up, turn around, and then take it in.  Awesome view of the city and the church is seriously stunning.
        • If you’ve gotten this far, 1) nice work, 2) thank you! and 3) it’s story time. On our second day in Paris (day 7 overall), we woke up to what I was assuming was going to be a normal day. Looking back, there were quite a few things that should have tipped me off, but I hadn’t had coffee yet so cut me some slack. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #1: Josh was the one telling ME to hurry up. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #2: He said he’d help pick out my outfit while I was doing my hair and strategically chose my white Madewell dress. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #3: He kept checking his phone and texting someone, although I just assumed he was texting his friends since he made sure he had cell service while we were abroad. Anywho, I knew we were going to le Sacre Coeur and Montmartre because we had talked about it the night before. After we had gotten to the top of the mountain of stairs, I turned and started left to go toward the entrance of the church. Josh pulled me to the right, toward the other side of the church. I turned and pointed left toward the entrance and by the time I turned back around to check on Josh, he was down on one knee saying, “Yes, this is happening” before asking me to marry him. So, that’s how it happened. Thanks for listening to story time. Back to the rest of Paris…Proposal_Sacre CoeurIMG_0028
    • 10th ARR:
      • Your hop on-hop off bus should take you past la Gare du Nord (North train station) and la Gare de l’Est (train station of the East). They’re right next to each other which is super weird, but your tour guide will tell you all about it.
    • 16th ARR:
      • La Tour Eiffel (basically the only notable thing to see in the 16th)
        • No need to go to the top. First of all, you have to climb stairs to get to the halfway point, which is exhausting. Then, you have to pay an additional fee to take the elevator up to the top. If you’re pressed for time, don’t climb the stairs. If you have more than a couple of days in the city, do it. You’ll have great panoramic views.
        • For an awesome picture of la Tour Eiffel, get dropped off at les Jardins du Trocadero – perfect unobstructed view of the tower from across la Seine.
        • The Champs de Mars is a good place to plop and rest your feet. Also, it’s a good place to sit and watch the tower twinkle at night – it lights up every hour, on the hour starting at sunset.

 

Places to eat:                                                               

  • Le Hide. 2 blocks away from l’arc de Triomphe. It’s super small and you NEED a reservation. They speak English so you can call and make a rez. Can’t recommend more, you guys. The stew is to die for and you MUST get it… I mean look at this and try not to drool.
  • La Duree for macarons because #obviously
  • Brasseries are basically cafes/sandwiches/cheese plates/wine. Stop at these, grab a charcuterie board and a glass of rose and then sit outside facing the streets to people watch.

Where to shop:

  • Galleries Lafayette is basically their Nordstrom on steroids. Printemps is another good one.
  • Naf Naf is kind of a Forever 21.
  • Carrefour is their Wal-Mart and is one of the largest retailers in Europe. I believe there are some city Carrefours if you need something in a pinch.
  • FNACs are like Best Buys sort of? Lots of techie things.
  • Check out the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysee. You may have to wait in line to get inside, but it’s part of the experience.

Doable day trip options:

  • Versailles – Pretty sure this is a 45 min (if that) TGV ride from one of the gares in Paris. Big old castle that’s pretty neat. UNESCO World Heritage site. Castle and gardens.
  • Loire Valley. Home of Chambord, Chenonceau, and Amboise castles. This is where I studied abroad. All of these castles are really cool, but my fave was Chenonceau because I’m pretty sure we rented row boats and got to go under the castle’s arches. Also, it has a cool garden.
    • I THINK there are tours where you can hop from castle to castle, but this would take up a solid day of your trip. They’re cool to see, but I wouldn’t make this first priority. This would be a good 2nd trip to Paris option.

Words and phrases to know and their pronunciations:

  • Gare: train station
    • Pronounce like car with a hard G
  • Excusez-moi, mais ou sont les toilets?: Excuse me, where are the toilets?
    • Ex-sku-say-mwah, may ooo sohn lez twa-lets
  • Pont: bridge
    • Poh
  • S’il vous plait: please
    • Sea voo play
  • Bonjour: hello
    • Bohn-zjohr
  • Oui: yes
    • We
  • Non: no
    • Noh
  • Parlez-vous anglais?: Do you speak English?
    • Par-lay voo ah-glay
  • L’addition, s’il vous plait: The check, please
    • La dees-y-ohn sea voo play
  • Merci beaucoup: Thank you very much
    • Mare-see boo-coo
  • Je ne peux pas manger les cacahuetes: I can’t eat peanuts
    • Zje nuh puh pah mah-zjay lay cah-cah-hoo-ettes
    • This one was for my bestie, who traveled to Paris for her babymoon!

 

I know this is a lot, but I hope you find it helpful if and WHEN you visit Paris. If you have any favorite spots, please let me know so I can check them out the next time I’m there. Also, if you’re going to visit Paris soon, let me know!! I’d love to chit chat and tell you more about the best places to go in and around the city. Either way, I want to hear from you! 

July 2019

JULY:  A patriotic month filled with hotter than heck days, bonfire-smelling hair, and some of the best new music of the year. As you’re nomming on your s’mores or trying to consume your bombpops before they melt all over your arm, relax and enjoy this month’s playlist – made especially for you.

Here are your hits for July:

  • Don’t You Worry (feat. Jenny Mayhem) – ayokay
  • Only Human – Jonas Brothers
  • Just Us (feat. SZA) – DJ Khaled
  • Ritual – Tiesto, Jonas Blue & Rita Ora
  • Stay (Don’t Go Away) (feat. Raye) – David Guetta
  • Catch & Release (Deepend Remix) – Matt Simons
  • A Brand New Day – BTS & Zara Larsson
  • Heaven – Avicii
  • Right Where I Belong – Ashley O [AKA Miley Cyrus]
  • Another Place – Bastille
  • Bruised Not Broken (feat. MNEK & Kiana Lede) – Matoma
  • With You – Kaskade & Meghan Trainor [I usually don’t like MT songs, but this one’s good!]
  • Hold The Line (feat. A R I Z O N A) – Avicii
  • Heart Upon My Sleeve – Avicii & Imagine Dragons
  • Senorita – Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello
  • One Thing Right – Marshmello & Kane Brown
  • Higher (feat. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend) – DJ Khaled
  • bad guy – Billie Eilish
  • Beautiful People (feat. Khalid) – Ed Sheeran
  • Higher Love – Kygo & Whitney Houston [probably the best version of this song, IMO]
  • Room to Fall (feat. Elohim) – Marshmello & Flux Pavilion
  • Stacy – Quinn XCII
  • Shoulda Known Better – MKTO
  • Flying On My Own – Celine Dion [CELINEEEEEEEEEE – need I say more?!]

Another playlist in the books! As always, search “baconama” on Spotify and search for the “Against The Grain_July 2019” playlist. For my Apple Music people, search “baconama” and you’ll find a “July 2019” playlist ready for you to enjoy!

Stella Barra Pizzeria

Ever since I was diagnosed with Celiac, I’ve been on the hunt for the best gluten free pizza out there. I began my search in Detroit, home of some of the biggest pizza companies in the nation, and am now in search of the perfect GF pizza pie in the windy city.

Before I officially kicked off my carb-filled journey into pizza-food-baby-happiness (or sadness in some cases?!), I decided that I should jot down some notes and share my findings with the interwebs. For the sake of consistency, I chose to rate each pizza (1-10, 10 being the best) on several attributes to help me determine Chicago’s best gluten free pizza:

  • Visual appearance
    • Is it burnt?
    • Does it look store bought/mass produced?
  • Texture
    • Is it too dry?
    • Does it fall apart? Conversely, can it stay together when you fold it?
    • Does it hold up well with the sauce and toppings?
  • Flavor (I can still vaguely remember what a true gluten-filled pizza dough tastes like, so I try to compare to that.)
    • Are there any off flavors?
    • If it’s made with alternative ingredients (like cauliflower, quinoa, or zucchini), are they too pronounced? Do the flavors blend well with the sauces and flavors of the toppings?
  • Re-heatability (I don’t do cold pizza)
    • How well does it hold up on day 2 once it’s put in the oven or toaster oven?

My quest began at Lincoln Park’s very own Stella Barra Pizzeria, where they’re known for their artisanal handcrafted pies. After many minutes of intense deliberation, I decided to order the “Quattro Formaggi” with proscuitto on their potato and rice flour dough. The “Quattro Formaggi” is topped with parmesan cream, mozzarella, gruyere, and taleggio cheeses. For those wondering, yes, I popped a Lactaid prior to eating. I also took a Glutenease because I knew there’d be some potential for cross-contamination.

GF 2

“So how did it go?!” you’re probably asking. Here’s how they performed:

  • Visual appearance: 7
    • Lost points due to some burning along the edges
    • Gained points because it’s clearly hand tossed with irregularities in shape
  • Texture: 10
    • Crispy, but also let me fold it without that typical gluten-free break, which is the worst – right, GF friends?!
  • Flavor: 9
    • I couldn’t even tell I wasn’t eating gluten-filled dough. In my opinion, potato and rice flours tend to yield better results than other gluten alternative products.
    • I know it was most likely due to all of the cheeses, but I felt like the crust portion tasted just like a Chez-It, so I was into that.
  • Re-heatability: 8
    • Does any pizza hold up as well the next day?? Brownie points for getting crispy again in the toaster oven, but just wasn’t the same as day-of.
  • TOTAL SCORE: 34/40, 85%, B
    • Honestly, I think we started off on a pretty high note. I’m super interested to see how the others compete with this one.

 

For a better understanding of what Stella Barra’s GF pizza looks like compared to a non-GF ‘za, here’s mine next to Steph’s (hers has an egg and is on the left):

 

 

Have you had some GREAT gluten free pizza lately? Let’s hear about it! Comment below with your favorite GF pizza and if you found it in Chicago, I’ll check it out.

June 2019

Ah… June. The kick off of summer, the beginning of wedding season, my birthday month (hi, fellow Geminis!), Pride month, and most importantly: pool and beach season. So many artists have dropped new hits just in time for your annual “summer jamzzz” playlist, so I’m sure you’re probably wondering how you’ll ever be able to generate the perfect playlist in time for your weekend BBQ. Fret no more friends! Your June ATG Playlist is here to grace your Bose speakers, AirPods, or iPhone in a red solo cup.

Let’s get right to it, shall we? Here are the tunes for the month of June:

  • Tough Love (feat. Agnes & Vargas & Lagola) – Avicii
  • I Don’t Care – Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber [Ed’s new sound is top notch]
  • Wish I Knew You – The Revivalists [shout out to Josh for this rec!]
  • Find Someone – A R I Z O N A
  • Rescue Me – OneRepublic
  • Good Things Fall Apart – Illenium & Jon Bellion
  • Sugar, We’re Goin Down – Kap Slap
  • Me! (Acoustic) – Tyler Ward & Karis
  • Truth Hurts – Lizzo [I live in a house divided on Lizzo and clearly I’m on the right side…]
  • Juice – Lizzo
  • Like A Girl – Lizzo [An ANTHEM.]
  • Cross Me (feat. Chance the Rapper) – Ed Sheeran
  • Mother’s Daughter – Miley Cyrus [lots more of her to come!]
  • Never Really Over – Katy Perry [was surprised I liked this since I haven’t been into her recent singles]
  • We Were Young – Petit Biscuit & JP Cooper
  • Sad Forever – Lauv
  • Hold You Down – X Ambassadors
  • Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi
  • Talk – Khalid [he could sing an accounting book to me and I’d put that on the next playlist]
  • Drugs & The Internet – Lauv
  • If I Can’t Have You – Shawn Mendes
  • Easier – 5 Seconds of Summer
  • Love Me Less (feat. Quinn XCII) – MAX & Quinn XCII
  • Unholy – Miley Cyrus
  • Dear Society – Madison Beer
  • On My Way – Alan Walker, Sabrina Carpenter & Farruko
  • Never Go Back – Dennis Lloyd
  • Gone 2 Long – PRETTYMUCH [anyone else think of your AIM screenname when you see a number in a song title? lylas]
  • Mood – Zack Martino & Dyson
  • Alligator – Of Monsters and Men

There it is! An hour and a half of sonic goodness formulated just for you, readers. Search “baconama” on Spotify and search for the “Against The Grain_June 2019” playlist, sit back, and enjoy! For my Apple Music people, search “baconama” and you’ll find a “June 2019” playlist waiting for you.

Happy listening. Until next time.

Iceland in May

Heads up: this is a pretty long post – enjoy! 

Let me start off this new addition to the blog with an important fact about me: I am not a very organized person except for when it comes to work and planning events. Outside of my 8-5, I leave a trail of chaos in my wake – piles of clothes (I separate clean from dirty, I’m not a savage), and have no idea how to effectively load a dishwasher. Don’t get me wrong, I can clean up my mess every once in a while, but I’m definitely not the type of person who needs to have my home sparkling clean at all times. Glad we got that out of the way.

Now, back to when I am organized: planning events – more specifically, planning trips and creating itineraries. I don’t need my trips planned down to the minute because I think that takes the fun out of your trip, but I do love the process of booking travel and finding fun and meaningful things to do while abroad to make the most out of my journey. I get this fun little trait from my dad.

Almost a year ago to the day, Josh and I took the trip of a lifetime to Iceland, Paris, and Nice. We were gone for 13 days, but it felt like so much longer. We (read: I) planned for so long, meticulously researched what to pack for “springtime” (read: cold and rainy AF season) in Iceland, and pored over Lonely Island’s Iceland Travel Guide for months, so when we were finally on our way to DTW, it felt surreal.

Here’s what we did:

  • Day 1
    • Flew WOW Airlines (RIP) into Keflavik International Airport. Pretty sure the airline that was the next closest in price was IcelandAir, but it probably depends on what time of the year you go.
    • Rented a car (this is a must if you plan on going anywhere outside of Reykjavik) – Get insurance and be prepared to spend quite a bit on gas.
    • Drove 3 hours to Vik and stayed at Guesthouse Carina, which was set on a hill overlooking the village of Vik and the sea.
      • *Note: The only place you’ll actually find a true hotel is in Reykjavik. If you’re venturing outside of the city, expect to stay in guesthouses with shared bathrooms.
    • We explored Seljalandfoss waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall, Reyniksfjara (the black sand beach), Myrdalsjokull Glacier, and the Vik church.
      • *Note: “foss” means waterfall, so anytime you see that on a map, you’re bound to see something awesome.
    • Places to eat:
      • Halldorskaffi

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Day 1 Iceland

  • Day 2
    • Before we drove 2 hours to Hof, we doubled back by a half hour and went to see the crashed DC-3 plane on Sólheimasandur. This was something I was dying to see because all of pictures I had seen were out of this world. The sand on the beach is too soft for vehicles, so you have to park on the side of the road (there’s a small parking lot) and walk the distance to see the plane. The walk was surprisingly long (I think close to 2 or 3 miles) and in true Iceland fashion, we walked through a rain storm, a bit of sunshine, and then more rain. Finally, when we got to the plane, the sky cleared and we were able to enjoy the sight.
    • After we saw the plane, we hiked about a mile to see Svartifoss, a pretty waterfall tucked back into the national park. The view of the snow-covered mountains was amazing from here.
    • On the way to Hof, we also checked out the Svinafellsjokull Glacier, Dverghamrar (translated to ‘The Dwarf Cliffs’), and Foss a Sidu.
    • In Hof, we stayed in the main building at the Hof 1 Hotel, another shared-bathroom guesthouse.
    • Places to eat:
      • Fosshotel Glacier

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Day 2 Iceland

  • Day 3
    • Drove an hour and a half from Hof to Hofn (confusing, I know) and stayed at House on the Hill.
    • En route to Hofn, we stopped to see the famous Glacier Lagoon, held mini icebergs on the Diamond Beach, and saw some remarkable glacier formations at Skaftafell National Park.
    • Places to eat:
      • Hotel Hofn
      • Pakkhus
      • Kaffi Hornio

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Day 3 Iceland

  • Day 4
    • This day was a doozy. We drove almost 6 hours (back west) to Gullfoss, where we stayed at Hotel Gullfoss. Complimentary breakfast was clutch.
    • The nice thing about it being light for so long is that we were still able to make it to see the huge Gullfoss waterfall. Hands down one of the coolest things I’ve seen. There’s also a really nice welcome center that has food and [very expensive] souvenirs.
    • We also went to check out the Geysir (pronounced gay-zeer) hot springs area, which was really neat. Geysir was actually inactive while we were there, but we were able to witness a smaller neighbor geyser, Strokkur, erupt.
    • Places to eat:
      • Efstidalur II – Kaffihús/ísbúð – Literally farm to table. If you eat upstairs, get a seat by the windows and look down at your new cow friends. Really great ice cream, too.

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Day 4 Iceland

  • Days 5 & 6
    • This is when I tell you that if you choose to visit the same towns that we did, you only need 5 days. I repeat: you do not need 6 days. Days 5 and 6 were spent in Reykjavik, where we were able to fully explore the city in a couple of hours and found ourselves wondering what to do next. We were so tired from traveling the previous days that we actually went back to our hotel (gasp!) and caught up on season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, which had just came out. At this point, we were also so ready for normal food (I was mostly living off of RxBars #notsponsored) and actually wound up eating at Joe and the Juice twice because they were 1) cheap compared to other places and 2) had gluten free bread for mmm… turkey & pesto paninis.
    • While in Reykjavik, we explored the Hallgrimskirkja church, wandered around the famous Harpa concert hall, and checked out the Sun Voyager sculpture.
    • The last thing we did while in Iceland was visit the Blue Lagoon. Honestly, the lagoon was my favorite part of the Iceland portion of our trip. We chose the comfort-level package, which gave us a towel, one free drink of our choice, and a silica mud mask. Once you enter the lagoon, you’re able to stay for as long as you like. We wandered around the lagoon, which is massive BTW, in search of hot spots since the majority of the water is like a slightly cooled down bath temperature.
      • Fun fact: the lagoon contains 9 million liters of geothermal seawater and it renews itself every 40 hours.
      • Pro tip: Like we did, make the lagoon the last thing you do on your trip. Our scheduled time slot was around 9pm and it was the perfect way to wind down after a travel-packed adventure before we jetted off to Paris.
    • We stayed at Reykjavik Treasure B&B and it was great. The mother & daughter duo are so nice and really go out of their way to make your stay the best. We had left our camera there (technically we left it in our rental car that was locked in a parking garage, but that’s a story for another time) and they shipped it all the way back to us – no questions asked. Breakfast included (obviously, since it’s a bed and breakfast) that was top notch.

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A few tips and tricks:

  • Busy season for Iceland tourism is “summer”, which is June through early September. Booking in shoulder season (May and end of September/early October) will yield slightly lower rates.
  • Book everything VERY far in advance! Can’t stress this one enough. Since there aren’t mainstream hotels outside of Reykjavik, guesthouses book up quickly. I started researching around October/November for our May trip and was surprised to see that only a few rooms were left at some of the guesthouses.
  • Basically everywhere took credit card, which was great – no need to bring cash or deal with the exchange booth at the airport.
  • When renting a car, get an SUV (the only truly paved road is the Ring Road) and make sure you get insurance. Some friends of mine had their car door ripped off from high winds and didn’t have insurance – not good. Also, go in with the mentality that you’ll be spending quite a bit on gas. I’m pretty sure that we spent around $500 over the course of 6 days.
  • When driving, check the signs and tune into the local radio stations to listen out for closed roads. The Ring Road almost never closes, but the smaller roads tend to shut down suddenly due to high winds or wet conditions. Keep a map with you at all times and be prepared to change course.
  • Unless you’re eating lamb or beef, everything is imported and as a result, expensive. The airlines get you there for less so they can promote tourism, but the Icelandic businesses obviously need to charge a healthy chunk of change to be profitable. No joke, I paid around $25 for a “Caesar salad” that I’m pretty sure was iceberg lettuce with ranch.
  • Speaking of food… Their gas stations had some of the best food. The highest rated restaurants on Yelp were ones that had fuel tanks out front.
  • Icelandic horses have better hair than Fabio. Pull over on the side of the road to snag a pic with them – you won’t regret it.

IMG_0877

What I packed:

  • Rain pants! I wore these a lot and was so thankful that I bought them because it rained basically every day and the combination of cold, rain, and wind made it pretty rough some days.
  • My LLBean boots – the perfect mix of waterproof boot and “hiking” boot. We didn’t go on any extreme hikes, so these were perfect for me. Honestly, these were the only shoes I wore while we were in Iceland.
    • Pro tip: Wear them on the plane so you don’t have the extra lbs. in your luggage.
  • Patagonia Snap-T Pullover – I wish I packed 5 of these.
  • Turtlenecks – My favorites are the tissue turtlenecks from J.Crew since they’re relatively lightweight and make a great base layer.
  • Sweaters!
  • LLBean boot socks
  • A bathing suit that I didn’t mind getting dirty – We planned on going to one of the hot springs in the side of the mountain, but didn’t wind up making it. We did; however, get to enjoy the Blue Lagoon and wound up needing our suits for that.
  • RxBars and Lara Bars for quick GF fixes during the road trips

 

Overall, we had such a good time in Iceland. Would I go back tomorrow? Nah. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely – it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

Have you been to Iceland? Was your experience similar to ours? I’d love to hear from you!