Local day out – Werk Force Brewing Co.

If you know me at all, you probably know that I rarely drink (I am also one of the biggest lightweights you will ever meet, but that’s a story for another time). But, Werk Force Brewing Co. in Plainfield, IL is a super hip, laid-back spot to grab a few unique brews that won’t break the bank, so when the opportunity to check out their new taproom presented itself, I took advantage.

Their menu is ever-changing with new varieties available as they come about. My boyfriend and I were sucked in from their Facebook post about a s’mores-infused brew (how could we not be?). So, we went in to try it and ended up staying for almost three hours.

The s’mores stout was called “Stupid Sticky Fingers” and it was every bit as magical as it sounds. Unfortunately, I think this one is now all tapped out.

As for the others, they are all worth a try with different seasonal flavors popping up throughout the year. It’s only $2.50 for a 5 oz. taster which allows you to figure out which ones you really enjoy before grabbing a full glass (or if you’re like us, just continue to buy the tasters so you can try a bunch of different ones).

The taproom is a mix of rustic and modern, with a few colorful pops to make the space bright and unique.

They host a bunch of different food truck events every week. So, make it a date with food and drinks.

Overall, the staff is super kind and helpful if you have any questions. You will probably run into at least one dog when you visit (bonus points). The beer is so delicious, perfectly chilled and there is definitely something for everyone (even that one friend who just HATES IPA). Definitely a local gem and worth checking out.


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5 Places You Must Eat Your First Time In Chicago

Chicago is an absolutely amazing city. I’m going to be bias and go as far as saying it’s the best city ever. But, really, if you’ve never been.. put it on your priority travel list. Try to go sometime between May and October or you will be wishing you were anywhere else (unless you love wind and snow).

Here are some things you put on you MUST-EAT list for the next time, or first time, you’re in the 312. These are mostly some cheaper options. They are in the Loop and accessible from any hotel:


  1. Pizza (TOO BROAD TO PICK ONE)

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Even though I’m not a big pizza person (go ahead and boo me, I don’t care) I still have my favorite pizza place in Chicago. It’s pretty much a part of the culture at this point. If you come and don’t try any, I feel bad for you.

There are some major debates as to which place is best, and I don’t think the whole city will ever agree on which one actually is..

Some places often called “the best” in Chicago: Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and Pizano’s.

Personally. Pizano’s is my favorite.

If you’re not into deep dish, don’t fear… most of these places have amazing thin crust too.

2. Portillo’s

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As if you weren’t already full of pizza, right?

Portillo’s is a Chicago favorite that will make you question any burgers, hot dogs, italian beefs or chicken sandwiches you’ve ever had. Be sure to grab some cheese fries (ahhhmazing) or onion rings with your food too. Absolutely do not forget to grab dessert: their famous chocolate cake.. or the chocolate cake shake.

Basically, you can expect to walk out with around 2,000 calories in your stomach.. but, It is so worth it.

Here’s the best part.. if you fall in love with their Italian beef, they ship it everywhere.

3. Yolk 

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A hidden little gem of breakfast perfection, Yolk has a few locations throughout the city. If you are in need of some quick, delicious breakfast food (with gigantic portions) then this is your place. I’ve never been disappointed.

4. Hannah’s Bretzel

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I randomly fell into this place a few years ago and had no idea what it was. It has an almost futuristic appeal outside that can confuse the average passerby. But, this place is a Chicago gem. They offer a highly-organic menu selection of sandwiches, salads and more. Although it’s a tad pricey for a lunch, $10-12 dollars per sandwich, it’s a huge step up from your average Subway.

Menu suggestion: Free range chicken + avocado. LIFE CHANGING.

Also, don’t expect to find Coke products here. It’s only organic pop’s. They’re good, though!

5. Cafecito

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Cuban. Sandwiches. That’s all I need to say. This place is so delicious. It’s not badly priced at all, most sandwiches are between $5-7 dollars.. and they will fill you up. This is a great spot to stop for lunch, and they even offer a full range of Cuban coffees to fill your caffeine craving.

Menu Suggestion: Pavo sandwich. Soooooo good.

FALL TRADER JOE’S HAUL

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We are in september now which means it is fully fall and what better place to celebrate the changing of seasons other than Trader Joe’s. This store is awesome in general, even more so if you’re vegan or have allergies.. they have a wide selection (neither apply to me), and they have so many yummy fall goodies. If you haven’t ever been here.. you need to go.

The cool thing about Trader Joe’s is that most of the store is “Trader Joe’s” brand. It’s like shopping at a ma-and-pa place with super cool employees who pretend to be your best friend.

So, Tom and Me decided to do yet another fall-related review. This time we chose some new food items the store put out for AUTUMN. Let’s begin:

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#1: THIS PUMPKIN WALKS INTO A BAR

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First of all, that packaging is adorable. These cereal bars are super delicious and Trader Joe’s has them in different flavors all year long (apple, blueberry, fig), but now they are here IN PUMPKIN.

REVIEW: Tastes like actual pumpkin pie without the cool-whip. It might say low-fat, but that does not in any way effect the flavor. The spices are perfect and we wanted to eat the whole box, but we settled on splitting one. They are soft, chewy and absolutely perfect for fall. You. Need. Them.

RATING: 8.5/10


#2: PUMPKIN PANCAKE & WAFFLE MIX

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Check out those perfect pancake making skills

How can you not want a pancake or waffle when the temperature is dropping. I want them all year, but I am a special breakfast-loving human. When I saw these in the store, I instantly fell in love without even tasting.

REVIEW: All the pancake texture with a subtle pumpkin flavor. If you are looking for a slap-you-in-the-face type of pumpkin taste, you probably won’t get it eating these, but they are pretty delicious. It’s everything you need to get your hot, buttery pumpkin fix. (PRO TIP: Add some homemade cinnamon butter on top)

RATING: 8/10


#3: McINTOSH APPLE JUICE

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I’m always in the mood for apple juice. I saw this one today while shopping and just had to get it. Okay, actually Tom saw it.

REVIEW: Honestly, the most crisp, refreshing apple juice we’ve ever had. It tastes like it’s fresh out of the orchard. It’s an amazing fall drink. BUY A FEW GALLONS. (PRO TIP: It would be an amazing apple juice to use to make a hot drink w/ caramel)

RATING: 9.5/10


#4: FIG BITES

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HOLY MOLY. I don’t know about you guys, but this tickled my fancy just with it’s name. It was an automatic throw-it-in-the-bag.

REVIEW: Are figs even fall related? I’m not 100% sure. But, I made them fall related, so here we are. If you are a fan of Fig Newtons, you need to get these amped up, more delicious FIG BITES. We were actually blown away and ate a ton. They are so light and fruity.

RATING: 9/10


#5: TRADER JOE’S PEANUT BUTTER (Creamy + Unsalted)

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If you’ve never heard anything about this peanut butter, then you better get in your car as soon as possible and go get some and try it.. now.

I mean unless you’re allergic, then please do not. **DO NOT CONDONE**

REVIEW: Technically not a fall item.. I know. But, when is PB ever a bad option? I love this peanut butter because the only ingredient is.. peanuts. How natural and refreshing. The taste is a classic, clean flavor that makes you feel good about eating it. I wanted to bathe in it, but Tom is scared of peanut butter. I would definitely suggest trying this.

RATING: 10/10 DUH.


I hope you guys get the chance to try some of these out!

End of Summer Recipe — Pineapple-Mango Green Smoothie

I have been on a crazy smoothie kick lately after taking a break (I was SMOOTHIED OUT). It helped having my wisdom teeth pop through my gums and make solid foods really hard to eat.

This smoothie is a perfect taste of those last few weeks of Summer. It is tropical, fruity and all kinds of refreshing (and HEALTHY). I prefer to drink my fruits and vegetables and this drink has really helped me do so. Don’t think it’s just limited to summer either, you can drink this whenever you are craving a taste of the tropics. (Don’t worry, Fall Lovers, I’ve got you covered with a smoothie recipe soon).

GUYS, this is so good.

Recipe:

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  • 5 Full Cubes O’ Ice
  • 3/4 Cup Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Mango
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Pineapple Chunks
  • 1/4 Cup Frozen Strawberries
  • 1/2 banana
  • 3/4 Cup Non-Pulp Orange Juice
  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • OPTIONAL: Chia Seeds, Honey and Granola

Directions (VERY EASY):

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  1. Prepare all of your ingredients. I have a specific order of adding things in (this works well if you have a Nutribullet, If you don’t.. I’m not totally sure it matters). This is the order: ice, spinach, mangos, pineapples, strawberries, banana, liquids. Throw them all into the blender.
  2. BLENNNNNNNNND. I usually let it go a solid 2 minutes to make sure all the ingredients have fully blended for a perfectly smooth smoothie. If you notice it’s struggling or too thick, add a little bit more orange juice or water.
  3. Pour into a glass, or into a bowl to top with granola, chia seeds, bonus fruit and nuts (smoothie bowl!)

FINISHED PRODUCT:

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You will have ALOT to drink. This is about 1 & 1/2 Smoothies. I always drink it all, but if you can’t.. save the rest in the fridge!

I hope you guys enjoy this recipe and try it out

-Emily

Fall Tea Haul: Tasting + Review

I am a huge tea lover. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I can’t talk about it enough. Since I’ve had to give up coffee, I had to replace it with something.. and that something is warm, scrumptious flavored teas.

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Fall is the best time for pretty much everything (opinion), and tea is no exception. There is something so cozy about a hot cup tea on a crisp, cool fall night.

My boyfriend Tom and I have teamed up to give you a thorough review of 6 Fall teas from DAVIDsTEA. We made sure to only select ones that we would want to drink during the cold-weather months. We are both pretty skilled in tea tasting (according to us). We had a wonderful help from the super kind employees in picking out some flavors.

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There is a new Fall collection that they offered us to taste in store and they were all pretty great, but we decided to take home a few that we didn’t have the chance to try.

The six teas we decided to review are: Pumpkin Chai, Cranberry Orange Muffin, Honeycrisp Apple, Forever Nuts, Oh Canada! and Peanut Butter Cup.

So, we filled our mugs up and here we go:


Pumpkin Chai 

Tea Type: Chai (obviously)

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Smell: Like a fresh baked batch of pumpkin squares. Super strong scent that you can smell across the room.

Taste: A warm, cinnamon pumpkin flavor. This is super nice for Fall. It made us so warm and giggly. We laughed for about 20 minutes. This is Tom’s favorite Chai he’s had (that’s saying something). I’m a big fan of Chai tea, and this one certainly tickled my fancy. I’d suggest giving it a go.

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EMILY: 7/10

TOM: 6/10


Cranberry Orange Muffin

Tea Type: Herbal 

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Smell: Subtle cranberry, certainly more muffin. Calming.

Taste: You get an orangey taste all over the buds at first sip, but it then mellows out into a final cranberry taste. The smell was misleading with the strength of the muffin; we only got a slight muffin taste at the very end. Very good tea, we agreed this is one of the best. It’s good for pretty much all the time because of how mellow it is. Muffins you can always have (can’t say no to that!).

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EMILY: 7.5/10

TOM: 8.5/10


Honeycrisp Apple

Tea Type: Green

Fall Collection (limited)

Smell: Fruity and strong apple smell. Fresh outta the orchard.

Taste: If you love apple juice or cider, this is FOR YOU. I am a huge apple fan, so please note that this may be a little bias, and I could drink this all day everyday. It has a sweet, crisp deliciousness. Tom, however, was not a huge fan (he’s not big on apples). So, if you’re into those fall-time fruits, go grab yourself a cup of this.

**The only tea listed that contains caffeine

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EMILY: 8.5/10

TOM: 5/10


Forever Nuts

Tea Type: Herbal

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Smell: Straight up Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Taste: We were right, it tastes like liquified Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The balance of flavors is literally perfect. The cinnamon isn’t overpowering at all. This is probably the best one of the bunch. It is PERFECT for cooler weather. Super impressed. TRY IT.

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EMILY: 8.5/10

TOM: 8.5/10


Oh Canada!

Tea Type: Rooibos 

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Smell: Aunt Jemima syrup… mixed with butter.

Taste: Saves you a trip across the border, aye? Subtle, delicious maple syrup flavor. This is pretty grade A. It’s an interesting flavor explosion, but we decided that this wouldn’t be an everyday tea. It would be nice to have for once in a while, like when you’re sitting next to a fire.. or going to a pancake convention.

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EMILY: 7/10

TOM: 6.5/10


Peanut Butter Cup

Tea Type: Herbal

Fall Collection (limited)

Smell: Melted peanut butter…. nothing is better than that

Taste: Hugely disappointed by this one, especially with us both being pretty big Reese’s PB Cup fans. The entire taste is basically peanut.. virtually no ‘cup’ (aka chocolate) can be detected. If you are a peanut fanatic, definitely give it a try. It’s a little overpowering and rough.

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EMILY: 4/10

TOM: 4/10

OVERALL:

Super impressed with DAVIDsTEA. Every flavor was pretty good, and they have a super wide variety. Would definitely go back and try out more.

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Thanks so much for reading!

I hope you guys grab some tea to try for the upcoming season.

xoxo Emily + Tom

I LOVE ANIMALS (Plus: Experience Being A Vegan)

I am obsessed with animals. My main love is dogs, but I am completely in awe of almost every animal I see. I’ve been this way since I was little, constantly begging my parents to let me have another animal to add to my gang (they would then tell me I could get a stuffed version of whatever I had asked for). I’ll never forget the day, after months of online searching and begging, that we got my first dog Tiger, a very small Shih-Tzu. He unfortunately didn’t have a very long life due to health problems from being inbred (I know, sad).

Then, shortly after, we got my best friend: My beloved Shih-Tzu named Oliver Twist. He came to us sassy, un-cuddly and sort of distant. He has a very big ego still to this day. I think that’s what has always made me love and adore him.. He’s the dog version of me (minus the big ego).

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Oliver (right) and Peanut, my brothers dog (left) on Halloween

I also had a brief stint with a hamster named Charlie. I thought he was the coolest thing ever (turns out HE was a SHE) until I tried to pick him up and he bit me. After that, I was a little distant from Charlie. I’d occasionally put him in his hamster ball and show him some love, but I was too afraid to pick him up again. One night, Charlie escaped from his hamster home and ran across my room. I jumped onto my bed, too scared that if I got down, he would bite me.  I was terrified of a miniature, dwarf hamster. He was found and returned to his cage. To my surprise, my Mom decided to give Charlie away one day to a family friend. I cried my eyes out, but later learned that this was a better decision.

I was soon okay.. because we still had my Shnubby-Wubby (Oliver).

In Spring 2014, I was living in Chicago for school. I had been quite bored during the day in-between classes and had started watching some Netflix documentaries about animal-free diets. I had been kind of big on eating healthy for a good year-and-a-half before that so I figured it was something I could easily do. I had heard of several students around campus who followed this diet and they seemed healthy and fine.  But, this time I wasn’t just doing it to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I was doing it for the animals; my fluffy little friends.

So, that was it. I made my decision. My roommate Taylor decided to join me in this journey. We cold-turkey (hehe) gave up meat and animal products in exchange for veggies, fruits, beans, whole grains and nuts. It’s basically totally amped-up vegetarianism. I shopped at Trader Joes for everything (I 10/10 recommend Trader Joes even if you’re not vegan) since it keeps things pretty natural and cheap. Below is some food I ate while vegan:

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I lasted total about 1 month. I must say, it’s a lot harder to do then it sounds. I have a lot of respect for those who choose this a life-long thing because it’s awesome. If I wasn’t so weak, I would still be doing it, but I am a huge foodie who loves chicken.

If you’re curious how Taylor and I broke the vegan-life, she was taken over by the cheese fry demons, and I (soon after) was taken over by the cupcake demons. We just weren’t meant to be, BUT WE DID TRY VERY HARD.

Some great things that came out of being vegan: my hair was super shiny, my face was clear and smooth, I felt great about myself and I ate at home more.

Chicago is home to some pretty delicious vegan places to eat (even if you aren’t vegan normally, still amazing to give it a try) like The Chicago Diner and Native Foods Cafe. Chicago Diner is if you’re looking for some (normally) unhealthy meals like burgers and shakes. Native Foods has slightly healthier foods like wraps, sandwiches and amazing sweet potato fries.

In my opinion, just because you don’t totally follow a vegan lifestyle, doesn’t mean you can’t try out the foods or try to eat this way a few days a week.