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Thursday
May092013

{style} Make your SWIMSUIT last LONGER

source

This season's swimsuits are super cute (I love that Robin Piccone mesh suit), but don't mistake your bikini or bandeau for any piece of casual wear — bathing suits require special TLC! There's something about the summer that makes me a little lazy about following a clothing manufacturer's instructions, but this year, I vow to follow these tips:

 

First, a Vinegar Soak

Before wear your new suit for the very first time, do a vinegar soak. Mix one tablespoon vinegar to one quart of water and soak for 30 minutes. The vinegar will set the color and prevent off fading due to sunlight and chlorine.

 

Rinse Before and After Your Dip

Before you dive into the pool/lake/ocean, do a cool water rinse to keep fabric from absorbing excess chlorine or salt. Post-dip, rinse again in cool water (always cool — hot water can weaken the fabric) to get rid any lingering nastiness.

 

Don't Ball it up in your Beach Bag!

I know, it's the end of the day and you're sunburned, tired, and feeling that third margarita. But DON'T leave your damp suit in your bag! That enviornment is a breeding ground for mildew and mold. If you can't wash it right away, lay it flat until you're ready to head home. When you're ready to wash...

 

Hand Washing is Best

Ok, so you splurged for a quality swimsuit, now protect its fibers from breaking down too quickly. The heat and agitation from washing machines and dryers will harm your suit, so a gentle hand wash is best. And what to wash it with?...

 

Choose an Eco-friendly Soap

I will admit — I'm more of the "lounge about the deck/beach" type as opposed to the "swimming laps" sort. Still, just as chlorine and salt can negatively affect your suit's fabric, so can body oils and sunscreen. So even if you're a deck bunny like me, take care to follow all the steps above, finishing with a wash in a vegetable-based dish liquid or a castile soap. Synthetic fragrances and petroleum-based chemicals can attach to the fabric, which can in turn irritate the skin.

 

More Adorable Suits!

I'm definitely a one-piece fan, preferably with a big floppy hat and earrings (as I said, so not the swimming laps sort). And if anyone knows of some good maternity suits, let me know!

Tuesday
Apr022013

Spring menu featuring AVOCADO SORBET (and giveaway)

When you think of avocados, what comes to mind? Guacamole? Slices on a sandwich? Kitchens from the 1970s?

I'll bet "dessert" isn't on the top of your list, but when Amazing Avocados asked me to come up with a unique twist on one of my favorite foods, I immediately thought of Avocado Sorbet.

I know, we usually file avocados in the savory category, but their creamy texture perfectly lends themselves to dessert. This would be a great addition to your spring entertaining menu, especially as the weather starts to warm up. (Soon? I hope?)

 

1) To make four servings, slice two avocados in half. Discarding the seeds, scoop out the meat into a mixing bowl, and reserve the shells.

 

2) Mash the avocados well (I like to leave a few chunks). Mix in chopped cilantro, mint, simple syrup, and lime juice.

 

3) Spoon the mixture back into the shells. With the back of a teaspoon form a little well in the mixture. Freeze for one hour.

 

4) You could eat the sorbet now, but those wells are begging to be filled!

Option 1: Roll a ball of chocolate ganache in cocoa powder, and pop it in the center of the sorbet. Doesn't it look like an avocado seed? This option makes for a surprising dessert — chocolate and avocado are an unexpected but delicious pairing.

 

Option 2: Fill the well with a shot of tequila and serve with a slice of salted lime. I used an añejo ("aged") tequila. The tequila will melt the sorbet a little bit, lending a slightly slushy texture as you swirl the contents of your shell around with a spoon. Salud!

You really can't go wrong either way. The chocolate option is fun if you're still in an April Fool's mood, but my mind is on the warm weeks to soon come, and the outdoor parties to follow. Serve this sorbet with grilled salmon and mango salsa, an orzo-asparagus salad, and a crisp Reisling for a lovely spring meal.

 

Avocado Sorbet

You will need:
2 avocados
4 TBS chopped cilantro
2 TBS chopped mint
4 TBS simple syrup
Juice from 2 limes

Optional:
chocolate ganache (I used King's Cupboard) and cocoa powder
or
tequila, coarse salt, slice of lime

1) Slice avocados in half. Discarding the seeds, scoop out the meat into a mixing bowl, and reserve the shells.

2) Mash the avocados, leaving a few chunks. Add cilantro, mint, simple syrup, lime juice, and mix well.

3) Spoon the mixture back into the shells. With the back of a teaspoon form a little well in the mixture. Freeze for one hour.

4) Optional: Fill the wells with a ball of chocolate ganache rolled in cocoa powder, or a serving of tequila (añejo style recommended) with a salted lime slice.

Serves four

 

Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to reader Alicia for winning!

Leave a comment below telling me your favorite use for avocados. A randomly selected reader will win a prize pack including:

  • a copy of Chef Roberto Santibañez’ cookbook, Truly Mexican
  • an “I <3 Avocado” t-shirt
  • an avocado slicer
  • a $10 gift card to a retailer where Avocados from Mexico are sold

The giveaway ends on Friday, April 5th at noon CDT. Open to US residents 18 years of age and older.

Gracias to One2One Network and Avocados from Mexico for sponsoring this post and giveaway.

Thursday
Feb072013

Raising the bar at DRUMBAR

Drumbar made quite a splash on the scene this summer, with a fabulous rooftop overlooking its posh Streeterville address...but what's a Chicago bar to do in winter?

Enter Craig Schoettler, formerly of The Aviary. Craig came on several months ago and quickly got to work developing an adventerous cocktail menu to enchant both business travelers and "been there, drank that" locals. Balanced tastes and clever presentation combine to make Drumbar a permanent fixture on the city's mixology trail. If you've been to Aviary, some of these tricks might look familiar, but they're no less enjoyable (in fact, more so, what with Drumbar's brighter lighting and less intimidating doormen).

 

Rooibos: Gin and gingerbread rooibos tea percolate in a vacuum pot, and are then stirred with a cinnamon stick to create an aromatic blend that's an ideal nightcap.

 

Smoke: First, a white oak "coaster" is gently charred. Next, the smoke is trapped by a glass, into which a cocktail of Laird's Apple Brandy and sarsaparilla is poured. Don't let this one sit around — it's more enjoyable while the hint of smoke still lingers.

 

Less flashy in presentation are the Lavender (ice cold tequila and lavender in a glass flask) and Sour (bourbon and passionfruit espuma...resist the temptation to eat the espuma on its own). Both strike me as being ideal for warm weather sipping.

Drumbar's Progressive Cocktail Menu is available on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings only.
201 E Delaware Place, atop the Raffaello Hotel

Sunday
Feb032013

Last-Minute SUPER BOWL Party Ideas

Hosting a Super Bowl party in a few hours? Don't fret! This morning I shared some tips on CBS Chicago's morning show for a Last-Minute Super Bowl Party.

 

Dine

You don't have to serve "bar food" if you don't want to. Take inspiration from the cuisines of New Orleans (Gumbo), Maryland (Crab Cakes) or San Francisco (sourdough bread, California wine). The choices are limitless, which is good when you're in a time crunch.

 

Drink

For a nod to Nawlins, serve Hurricanes. But for something more interesting, take inspiration from San Francisco's trendy bar scene and serve a Fernet Branca & Ginger Lime. Don't worry, Fernet Branca is very readily available at liquor stores like Binnys.

Fernet Branca & Ginger Lime
Into a pint glass, pour
1.5 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz Ginger-Lime Syrup*
Fill a glass with ice
Fill with club soda*
Stir gently and serve

*Can substitute with ginger beer and squirt of lime

 

Do

If you're not into the game, I highly recommend a rousing game of Commercial Bingo. May the best advertising agency win!

 

Decor

For this party, the decor is last and least! The game is the main event, so there really is no need to stress about decorating your space. But if you really want to, use what you already have. Just remember it doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy.
• Since the game is in New Orleans, you can use Mardi Gras decorations
• Turn tissue paper into football-shaped tissue poms
• A green cloth can be turned into a football field. Create stripes with white tape, chalk, paint, etc.
• Even real footballs can be used as decor (just wipe them off first!)

Sunday
Dec302012

Host an Orange Bowl party!

This post originally appeared in December of 2009, but I absolutely had to revise it for the 2013 Orange Bowl...

When I was a student at Northern Illinois University, our football team had the distinction of being the very worst among Division I schools. To give you an idea of how bad we were, the students rushed the field and tore down the goal posts when we won a game. Not Homecoming. Not against a rival. Just a regular game that snapped our 80 million game losing streak. The next Monday, the gameday results were featured in a two page wraparound of the student newspaper.

Back in the day, gametime = sequin time!The team steadily improved, but even after I graduated, my friends and I could casually roll up to Huskie Stadium on Homecoming morning and easily grab a primo tailgating spot just a few yards from the stadium. And then, things changed. We started winning more games, sometimes even against "good" teams like Alabama and Maryland. Sportscasters began to take notice. Alumni donated money. New buildings popped up around campus. And the tailgating area next to the stadium turned into a top-tier donor lot.

This brings me to January 1st, 2013. NIU is playing in the Orange Bowl. I don't care what the angry tangerine-hued man on ESPN says. I am beyond excited, and I know my fellow alumni are, too.

If you're not going to the Orange Bowl itself (which, le sniff, I am not), or a sponsored watch party, the next best thing is hosting an Orange Bowl party at home. Take inspiration from the Cuban cuisine of Miami, along with some tropical touches.  Some ideas to get you started:

DISH: Serve Mini Cubano Sandwiches, Cuban Shortbread Cookies, and Citrus fruit salad

DRINK: Orange basil mojitos by Recipegirl.com (photo from Fine Living)

DECOR: Spruce up your space with oranges and cloves in addition to a general football motif and team colors. Also stock up on these Cayman 7" plates from CB2. And remember...

 

GO HUSKIES!
(Hello to my 'Nole friends. My love for you will return on January 2nd.) 

 

More football watching merriment:
Rose Bowl
Sugar Bowl
Fiesta Bowl
plus general football party tips

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