Drinks

A Few of My Favorite Things and a Recipe Too

by Jennifer Wieland

With Mother’s Day next week I thought I would share some of my favorite things with you in case any of you are looking for some different ideas for Mother’s Day gifts for the moms in your life. I have come up with a list that I think covers lots of varying tastes.

Maybe if I am really lucky my husband will also read this. You see my husband is someone who always needs help with buying me gifts. I usually end up having to email him a list of things I want and he picks one and tells me to order it. I like the surprise of a present though so if I am ordering it there is no surprise. He also likes to spend a lot and I am a simple girl (think daisies over roses). Unless I want a new appliance of some sort (yes I have asked for appliances as gifts) I am a really cheap date.

So now on to the gift ideas…

Food Gifts

Gabriella Chocolates & Confections Shop

This Florida based chocolate shop makes these amazing toffee and dessert truffles! They are so unique and so addictive. The best way to describe them is a cake pop meets truffle. They are huge! (12 truffles is 1.8 lbs.)  You can definitely cut them in half or quarters and share with friends. I have tried numerous flavors but my favorite is the Cinnamon Swirl Streusel Cake Truffles.  Some of the other flavors are Mocha, Coconut, Red Velvet, Dark Chocolate and Lemon Citrus. Right now through May 10th enter coupon code CHOCOLATE to save 15% and orders over $50 ship free.

Photo from Gabriella Chocolates & Confections Shop

Photo from Gabriella Chocolates & Confections Shop

Sweet Addiction

My husband and I love toffee! It is something that we always try if it is available and we have tried a TON! Last year when I was at the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show there were a lot of toffee makers there. As a true connoisseur I did my duty and sampled them all. Sweet Addiction’s toffee really stood out from the rest for me. The name really does a perfect job to describe it because it is so addicting. This is made by hand from a family in Chicago and it’s from an old family recipe. The toffee comes packaged in silver tins with ribbons and can be ordered by the pound. They also make small favor sized orders too.

Photo from Sweet Addiction

Photo from Sweet Addiction

Pitaya Plus

I know from reading this blog that many of you probably think that I am just a sugar junkie. I’m not going to lie… I am. I do though have enough sense though to balance the sugar out with healthy foods. I have been on a smoothie kick lately. Trying different ingredients to make a really healthy smoothie as part of my breakfast. I found out about Pitaya Plus because they had a Living Social deal. Pitaya (aka dragonfruit) is really good for you. It is a low sugar/low carb fruit, it has antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and omega-3’s. In other words it is one of those super fruits. Pitaya Plus is also certified organic. I have bought the smoothie packs from them (you get 30 for $99.99) and they are really good. They suggest using the smoothie packs in smoothies, bowls or cocktails. You do get recipes to try with your order.

Photo from Pitaya Plus

Photo from Pitaya Plus

I do have a smoothie recipe to share with you using the Pitaya Plus. Isn’t the color pretty?

Strawberry Dragonfruit Smoothie

1/3 c. vanilla almond milk
1/3 c. Dole Peach Mango Orange juice
1 scoop frozen strawberry kefir
5-6 frozen strawberries
1 pitaya plus smoothie pack

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until combined.

Strawberry Dragonfruit Smoothie

Jewelry Gifts

Pearls by Laurel

Let’s be honest. At this time of year everyone is selling mother’s rings and necklaces. They all are very similar in my opinion and I have never been a huge fan of them because everyone seems to have one that is a mom. I like things that are different or unique. That is why when I saw Pearls by Laurel’s mother’s bracelet I immediately wanted one. It is a Swarovski pearl and crystal bracelet. You can customize up to six colored pearls for $29.95 and the bracelet comes in five sizes so it will be perfect for the mom in your life. (You can have up to 12 but pearls 7-12 are an extra $4 each.)

Photo from Pearls by Laurel's website

Photo from Pearls by Laurel’s website

Bradford Exchange “My Hero” Autism Awareness Personalized Pendant Necklace

For all of the moms out there with children on the Autism Spectrum here is a lovely gift for them and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Autism Society. The heart pendant looks like puzzle pieces and an autism awareness ribbon hangs from it. On the back, it is engraved with I wear this ribbon for my hero, (name).

Photo from The Bradford Exchange

Photo from The Bradford Exchange


St. Patrick’s Day

by Jennifer Wieland

St. Patrick’s Day is a major holiday in Chicago. People here gear up for it and there are weeks of festivities leading up to it. There are numerous parades and pub crawls heading into March 17th. Heck, we even dye the Chicago River green to celebrate it! Now that just screams commitment to a holiday.

Most people celebrate the holiday with Guinness, Jameson Whiskey, Bailey’s Irish Cream and corned beef and cabbage. Since i have a house full of little ones though my pub crawl days are long since gone. So instead I have done some quick and easy St. Patrick’s Day recipes using a classic Chicago favorite as the base.

If you are from Chicago, have lived here or maybe even visited then you are familiar with Green River Soda. It is a green, lime soda that came into existence at the start of prohibition. During the days of soda fountains in the Midwest it was second only to Coca-Cola. Today, I have made a slush drink and cupcakes with it.

Green River Soda

Green River Soda

I made a Green River slush for the kids. Complete of course, with mustache straws. This can also be made into an adult drink my adding a shot of alcohol.

Green River Slush

Green River Slush

Green River Slush

1 c. ice
2 scoops lime sherbert
1 scoop pineapple sherbert
3/4 c. – 1 c. Green River Soda

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until slushy.  Serve in a glass/cup with a straw.

Now onto the cupcakes. Although it is hard to tell the frosting does have a light green color to it. You can always add food coloring if you would like a stronger color.

Green River Cupcakes

Green River Cupcakes

Green River Cupcakes

1 box of yellow cake mix
3 large eggs
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 c. Green River Soda
Green food coloring

Preheat oven to 350° and line two cupcake pans with liners.

Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix on low until combined. Increase speed to medium and mix for two minutes. This will be a very fluffy batter.

Fill liners 2/3 of the way full and bake for 18-22 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Green River Lime Buttercream

1/2 c. Green River Soda reduced down to 1/4 c.
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. half & half
zest from 1 lime, may use half to reduce flavor

In a small saucepan pour the 1/2 c. Green River Soda and bring to a low boil. Continue the low boil until it has been reduced to 1/4 c. of liquid and the carbonation is gone. This will take about 15 minutes. Pour into a heat safe bowl and place in freezer to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Stir in half of the powdered sugar until combined. Add in the rest of the powdered sugar and stir until combined. With the mixer on low pour in the reduced Green River Soda. Beat for 30 seconds on medium speed. Add in the half & half and beat on medium-high for a minutes. At this point the frosting will have a very mild citrus flavor to it. You can leave it as is or add the lime zest in pinches and mix until you reach the desired lime strength.

Use to frost cupcakes.


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