A Squared

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lakeview Guide: 5411 Empanadas

It's been a while since I added a new post to the Lakeview Neighborhood Guide series, but I'm back today with one that was well worth the wait. 5411 Empanadas is a true neighborhood gem and one that I'm ashamed took me so long to try... Because now that I have, it's become one of my favorite places for a quick weekend lunch.

5411 is the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, a city whose food-- and particularly its empanadas-- were the inspiration behind this restaurant's cuisine. 5411's Lakeview restaurant is their first brick and mortar restaurant, but their empanada empire has quickly expanded to encompass a food truck that sells out before the end of the lunch hour (where it all began), 2 stores in Wicker Park, a downtown Loop location, and even one in Coral Gables, Florida.

Alex and I stopped into 5411 Empanadas on Clark St. on a recent Sunday afternoon for a quick lunch date while we were out running errands. The shop is cozy, but modern with a huge old fashioned espresso machine for a variety of handcrafted coffee beverages and a huge chalkboard showcasing their menu of empanadas.

Empanadas are South America's answer to the Polish pierogi, the Italian ravioli, and the Chinese dumpling. They're made of tender pastry dough stuffed with a variety of fillings and at 5411, they're baked and not fried. At 5411 they're available with a huge variety of fillings from the traditional to the creative and from meaty to vegetarian. With so many available, Alex and I decided to order 8 different empanadas so that we could sample as many varieties as possible.

At 5411 Empanadas, each empanada is shaped differently depending on its filling. Not only do they look extra pretty this way, but it's a quick and easy way to identify what you're eating before biting into it. Each table at the restaurant comes with a sheet cheat-- and there's one on every takeout box too!

Between the two of us, we sampled the Beef, BBQ Chicken, Bacon Date & Goat Cheese, Chorizo & Patatas Bravas, Cheddar Bacon & Egg, Sweet Corn, Caramelized Onion & Parmesan, and Banana & Nutella. We sampled them all along with their spicy red hot pepper dipping sauce and their traditional chimichurri, an herbaceous and garlicky sauce that's just perfect for dipping. While we enjoyed all of the empanadas we tried, there were definitely a few standout favorites among the bunch:

The Cheddar Bacon & Egg variety was a really fun twist on a classic empanada. These were great as a part of our lunch experience, but would be so perfect for breakfast on the go! They were stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs, chopped smoky bacon, and melty cheddar cheese. And they were perfect dipped in 5411's spicy 'red hot' sauce.

My hands down favorite is the Sweet Corn empanada. The filling is super creamy and a little sweet and a little savory, stuffed with big chunks of corn. It's also vegetarian-friendly!

We also loved the sweet dessert-inspired Banana & Nutella filled empanada too. Alex loves anything Nutella-flavored and the fact that it was warm and melty and accompanied by ripe chunks of banana made it extra delicious. It's also a perfect little something sweet to cap off a very savory meal.

5411 Empanadas is a great option for a quick and flavorful meal when you're out and about in Lakeview. They're also BYOB if you'd like to make it a casual date night! And for a date night in, 5411 also offers takeout and delivery options too. And speaking of, it's been about 2 weeks since my last empanada fix... thinking it's time to stop back in again!

Editor's Note: Our meal at 5411 Empanadas was complimentary, however all opinions expressed herein are my own.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My 10 Favorite Baby Gifts from Uncommon Goods

I'm approaching the end of my second trimester and my sister and best friend have been busy planning my baby shower, which means I've been busy learning everything there is to know about strollers, high chairs, and car seats... I'm a little overwhelmed! But in addition to all those necessities, I've also been having a lot of fun shopping for baby gifts of the fun, creative, and adorable varieties too. And one of the best places I've found to shop for cool baby gifts is Uncommon Goods.

Uncommon Goods is a great place to shop for unique gifts for anyone on your list, but if you're looking for something different for the parents-to-be or for something special for a new baby in your life, this is the place to get it. Not only does Uncommon Goods sell gifts that are cool and clever, but they're often made by independent artists and smaller manufacturers. Additionally, Uncommon Goods features a number of products that are made in a socially and environmentally responsible manner-- many are made of organic or recycled materials and never including fur or leather-- so you can really feel good about giving these gifts!

While it was a tough task, I checked out the Uncommon Goods Baby Gifts section and curated a list of my ten favorite gifts. So whether you're looking for a keepsake, something practical, or something that's just plain adorable, these are perfect unique gifts to bring to your next baby shower-- or to welcome a new little one to the world!

1. Wooden Pizza Slice Teether ($12.00) - If you're looking for a unique gift for a foodie baby (or a baby with foodie parents), this wooden pizza slice teether is the cutest! Made of solid maple with little "pepperoni" holes perfect for a baby's hand to grip, this gift couldn't be cuter. And it's made right here in Illinois!

2. Organic Cotton Teethers Veggie Crate ($28.00) - This is another super cute baby gift for the foodie family in your life. Each happy little vegetable is crafted out of organic Egyptian cotton. They're perfect for little ones to chew on and can grow with a child for fun pretend play when they're older.

3. Portachair Harness ($49.50) - As a mom-to-be who loves dining out, but who also lives in the city and is short on storage space, this gift checks all my 'must have' boxes for a baby gift! This harness rolls up and fits perfectly in a diaper bag and then fits securely onto the backs of numerous different chairs. So no matter where your travels or your hunger take you, baby always has a seat at your table too!

4. Lucy's Socks - Set of 6 ($26.00) - I immediately fell in love with these ladylike little socks by Trumpette and knew baby girl Colvin needed a set of her own! Each sock looks like a little jewel-toned ballet slipper and is adorned with a coordinating satin bow. It's a perfect gift for any stylish baby girl.

5. 2016 Birth Year Box ($48.00) - A contemporary spin on a classic baby keepsake gift. This trinket box is illustrated with an adorable little monkey, the Chinese animal symbol for babies born in 2016. Babies born in the Year of Monkey will be witty, curious, and clever. Sounds like Baby C. will keep us on our toes!

6. Lowercase Alphabet Blocks ($32.95) - Every kid needs a set of alphabet blocks. I love the look of these locally made (in Michigan!) blocks-- from the lowercase font to the baby animals displayed on each, this contemporary update on a classic educational toy is a wonderful addition to any modern baby's toybox.

7. Birth Announcement Pillows ($100.00) - I love the personalized aspect of these pillows. What a thoughtful gift for a new baby's arrival? Something like this would look perfect on the glider in our modern baby nursery!

8. Ice Cream Rattles - Set of 3 ($35.00) - How much do you love all of the food-themed baby gifts at Uncommon Goods? These sweet crocheted ice cream cone rattles are handmade from 100% bamboo yarn. They're a great gift alone, but would be so cute atop a wrapped gift or a diaper cake at a shower too!

9. Cheerful Elephant Baby Memory Book ($56.00) - Every mommy-to-be needs a baby book to save special memories in. It's hard to find a really cute one though, and this book fits the bill. I love its whimsical look and the organza bow on the cover.

10. Baby Fortune Cookie Booties ($29.00) - Uncommon Goods has all kinds of adorable foodie booties for babies (like strawberries and tacos!), but I loved how cozy these looked-- and the fact that they come with an actual fortune inside, all tucked into this adorable takeout box!

Editor's Note: This post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods, however all opinions expressed here are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support A Squared!

Monday, February 1, 2016

10 Small Tips for a Healthier You in the New Year

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TryALittleGoodness #CollectiveBias

Starting the new year off as a pregnant lady, my health and fitness goals have evolved from previous years. I rang in the New Year on the verge of my third trimester knowing that this is not the time to make any drastic changes to my fitness regimen or diet. It's important to take small steps to keep myself and my baby in shape as we approach the end of pregnancy-- especially after a few months of holiday indulgence! And with that in mind, I've partnered with goodnessknows® snack squares to bring you a list of small things we can do to stay healthy and active that aren't totally crazy... and you may not be pregnant, but I think they'll work for you too!

goodnessknows® snack squares are a great reminder that doing a little good for yourself can go a long way. These snack squares are available in 3 tasty varieties filled with delicious and good-for-you ingredients: goodnessknows® Cranberry, Almond, Dark Chocolate, goodnessknows® Apple, Almond & Peanut, Dark Chocolate, and goodnessknows® Peach & Cherry, Almond, Dark Chocolate. They're not made with high fructose corn starch or artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors. So, it's a sweet snack that will fill you up and that you can feel good about eating. And even sweeter? You can enter the goodnessknows® sweepstakes for a chance to win one of two $500 gift cards by sharing what brings you goodness! Check out the sweepstakes widget below for more info on how to enter:

2016 #TryALittleGoodness Sweepstakes

Here's some more good news: You can find goodnessknows® snack squares at your local Walmart store! They're either conveniently located near the registers (so you're no longer tempted to reach for a candy bar when hunger hits you in the checkout line) or in the pharmacy department near the other energy and nutrition snacks.

10 Small Tips for a Healthier You in the New Year

1. Keep nourishing snacks readily available. This is crucial. If I don't have good food available to me and hunger hits, I'm reaching for the first piece of junk food I can find. And that is not a good idea! I was traveling for work last week and between rushing to and from airports and meetings it was hard to find time for a decent meal. Thankfully, I had some goodnessknows® snack squares in my carry-on to tide me over! As they say, "goodness is greatness!"
2. Have water on hand at all times. Staying hydrated is the key to feeling full (and avoiding overeating), good skin, and fighting fatigue. So, pack a bottle of water in your bag whenever you're heading out of the house and need some extra hydration!
3. Get off the train or bus one stop earlier. Even if it means you're only adding four blocks to your walk home or to the office, it's still four more than you normally walk. And those steps add up. It's also a great way to clear your head before or after a busy workday.
4. Stretch for a few minutes every morning-- and before bed too. Stretching is an excellent way to wake your body up in the morning or to calm down in the evening for a good night's sleep.
5. When your body needs sleep, go to bed. Being too tired can lead to a ripple effect of bad food and fitness decisions. So when you feel yourself crashing, do your body a favor, put your phone down, and hit the sheets!
6. Even if you're not going out to eat, get out and walk during you lunch break. I got into this habit years ago when I was working out in a suburban office park. One of my coworkers was adamant about walking around the property on her lunch breaks, so I joined her and loved how energized I felt for the rest of the day. Now that I work in the city (and since I'm pregnant and need to move around more often), I try to make sure I escape at some point around lunchtime-- even just for 10-15 minutes-- to walk by the river or run an errand in the fresh air.

7. Meal plan. Planning your meals ahead of time is the best way to prevent yourself from coming home, surveying your fridge, and then ordering takeout a few times a week. When you've got the makings of a healthy meal in front of you, it is much harder to ignore.
8. Add whole (and super foods!) into your diet. It's easy to fill up on empty calories, but if you're conscious about what you're putting into your body you'll feel better-- and fuller for longer! I always try to make sure that my meals and snacks are made up of good-for-me superfood ingredients (that also taste delicious and indulgent) like the nuts, apples, cranberries, cherries, and dark chocolate you find in goodnessknows® snack squares.

9. Don't be afraid to say 'no.' It's easier said than done, but this is something I've gained a new appreciation for during my pregnancy. It also harkens back to tip #5: When you're crashing and you need to relax, it's okay to turn down an event invitation every once in a while in favor of a little R&R. Your body will thank you.
10. Everything in moderation. This is my favorite tip for living a healthy balanced life-- and one that I always try to live by, pregnant or otherwise. You don't have to overhaul your whole life and routine to live and feel better. Small changes and the occasional indulgence can add up to a big difference in the way that you look and feel!

Do you have any easy tips for living healthier? The folks at goodnessknows®  and I would love to hear them! 

Friday, January 29, 2016

10 Recipes to Make for Super Bowl Sunday!

Super Bowl Sunday is quickly approaching and although I don't have a team to root for this year, I will definitely be tuning in-- for Coldplay, Beyonce, the commercials, and of course, for the food! Food is hands down my favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday and really, for any sporting event. We'll probably enjoy a little low key game watching at home this year, since hanging out at a sports bar is pretty low on this pregnant lady's list of things I'd like to do these days. But if you're entertaining-- whether for a large group or just a few friends-- here are a few of my favorite recipes perfect for game day eating:

1. Cheesy Chipotle Chicken Dip - Spicy, cheesy, creamy... it's everything you want in a big game dip! Just add tortilla chips for dipping.

2. Pepperoni Pizza with Whipped Ricotta - Pizza is classic game watching food. And this pepperoni pizza is a classic, elevated with creamy whipped ricotta.

3. French Onion Cheeseburgers - These burgers sound fancy, but they're really just super flavorful-- and actually, very easy to make!

4. Spicy Two Bean Bison Chili - It doesn't get easier than the slow cooker on Super Bowl Sunday! This chili is so hearty that you don't need to serve much else with it-- besides the fixings!

5. Baked Chinese Five Spice Fries with Sriracha Ketchup - I made these fries with gorgeous purple potatoes, but any kind will work. And don't forget the spicy sriracha ketchup for dipping!

6. Cheesy Pizza Pull Apart Bread - This is one of my favorite party foods because it's just so fun and a combination of everything delicious: pizza, bread bowls, cheesy dip... it's just so good.

7. Jerk Pulled Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa - This is another great slow cooker recipe. The jerk pulled pork is super flavorful and the addition of the fresh sweet salsa just really completes these tacos.

8. Mom's Artichoke Dip - This is my go to dip... and I learned this recipe from my mom! It's only a few ingredients, but tastes super indulgent. Serve it with crackers, chips, or toasty bread.

9. Spicy PBLTs - These sandwiches are a spicy twist on a classic BLT. And because all of the ingredients can be prepped ahead of time, all you have to do is assemble them for your guests-- or let them do it themselves!

10. Cookie Butter Apple Crisp - And you can't eat all those football snacks without a little something sweet! Apple crisp is one of my favorite easy desserts for feeding a crowd-- and this version with cookie butter is extra decadent.
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