Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Veggie Skillet Pot Pie with Purple Gnocchi

Last week we attended BlogHer'13 in downtown Chicago, while that didn't mean a plane ride for us, we still stayed downtown at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.  Which BTW is absolutely gorgeous!  The staff is fantastic and the food is pretty darn good too.

The only thing we didn't get a lot of over the weekend was fresh fruits and veggies.  When you're attending a conference for three days and also hitting just under twenty parties in the same amount of time, you just eat what's available.  Unfortunately fresh fruits and veggies were in short supply, which was awful for our new flexitarian diet of vegan before dinner.  A lot of the parties had waitstaff circling with finger foods (most of them fried) or buffets of unhealthy choices.  I think I had something fresh at only three events the entire weekend.

That said, I felt kinda icky by the time I got home Sunday afternoon.  That icky feeling didn't just come from a total of 30 hours of sleep in about 4 days, but the icky feeling you get when you eat a lot of things you just don't normally eat.  See at my house, I'm pretty picky about what we eat.  For the most part I don't buy processed foods, this is where being a food blogger comes into play.  I like to make EVERYTHING from scratch.

Yesterday I wanted something comforting but as vegan as I could get it.  (It's hard for me to go entirely vegan as I'm horrifically allergic to soy)  So I've modified one of our fave skillet chicken pot pie recipes to be vegetarian.  If you swap the butter and chicken broth for coconut butter and veggie broth you'll have a delish vegan dish that your family will love.

Veggie Skillet Pot Pie with Purple Gnocchi

8 ounces homemade purple gnocchi
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons minced onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup fresh chopped green beans
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium carrots, grated
1 14.5 ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon cornstarch

You can find the recipe for purple gnocchi here.  I typically make a big batch and freeze them for later use.  This is super convenient as you can toss the frozen gnocchi directly into boiling water to cook.

Bring a medium sized saucepan of water to a full, rolling boil.  Toss in gnocchi and allow to gently boil until the gnocchi begin to float.  This means they are finished cooking, remove from pot with a slotted spoon or drain in a colander.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and saute, until softened.  Add green beans, gnocchi and garlic, stirring until garlic is fragrant about 1 minute.  Add chicken broth, stir then add black beans, carrots and spices.  Cover and bring to a simmer, allow to cook until green beans are still crisp, but tender.  Right before serving, mix cornstarch with a little water.  Stir into skillet and allow mixture to cook until it thickens.  Serve.

This is absolutely delish and so reminds me of chicken pot pie which we love to bits and pieces.  Susie had the leftovers with tortilla chips and said it was fantastic!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hyatt Regency McCormick Place: Awesomest Choice for a Conference or Getaway!

The day before my grandfather passed, Susie and I had the chance to check out the renovations at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel.  We've been dying to write about it, but life got in the way.

We had an alcohol VIP event in the city (that we still have to write about) to attend and were worried about having to drive back and forth that night, so I contacted the Hyatt to see if they'd be interested in giving us a deal to check out their renovations before a certain blogging conference that's happening at McCormick Place July 25th-27th.  I almost feel like it should need no introduction at least to the world of bloggers.

Well the Hyatt was interested in having us come out and stay.  Total score!  We've yet to do anything like that yet on Rosie Discovers, so its a treat for us too.  Let me just say the Hyatt at McCormick place is absolutely gorgeous.  They did an amazing job with the remodel.  The rooms are calm, soothing and extremely well-decorated.

Which is entirely evident in the photos.  The Hyatt hooked us up with one of their executive suites on the 23rd floor facing Lake Michigan. You can't argue with the proof!  The room looks like the ultimate lounge room on one side and a perfect place to rest on the other.   That and the city is pretty much all we saw from our walls of windows.  I almost feel like I need to include a photo gallery in this post, just to do the views from my room justice.

We also shot a short video to show exactly what the executive suite looks like and all the perks it comes with.  I'm thinking the walk-in closet, which is the size of the bathroom, will come in handy during the conference to store anything we pick up.

We also had breakfast at The Shor while at the Hyatt.  Like a dork, I totally forgot to photograph our breakfast.  Which makes no sense, because I'm always photographing food that I eat.  I just don't always share it.  But that will change, smartphones are coming.  Just chalk that down to entirely too much rum the night before.  While I don't tend to pass my limit, I was moving a little slow from being up too late.

Susie absolutely loved her breakfast.  She had two alaskan salmon filets on a toasted english muffin, topped with poached eggs, arugula and a fresh salsa.  She's so looking forward to being back at the Hyatt just to get breakfast.  Salmon is an absolute favorite of hers that we don't have often, cause I don't like it unless its super fresh.

I had pancakes layered with blackberry mascarpone.  While they were delish, I couldn't finish them all.  They also weren't on my vegan before dinner diet.  Shor only had two things I could have eaten on my diet.  One was the prerequisite oatmeal and the other was a large fruit plate.  While I love fruit, I need a little whole grains to go with it in the mornings or I'm starving within an hour or two after breakfast. Basically, each of their breakfast items is an entire meal formed around one star ingredient.  The flavor combinations are mouth-watering and will make you eager to take back what you can't finish to devour later.  Odds are you won't be able to finish these lavish breakfasts in one sitting, but the best part is that at the end of breakfast you are fully fueled for your conference.

All in all we had an amazing stay at the Hyatt and are so looking forward to being back in just about a week.  Even though we'll be busy as heck during the conference, we plan on enjoying a good breakfast each morning and going back to wind down in our amazing room.  We also plan on our spacious room each night to meet and greet more bloggers.

The Hyatt is also having a renovation contest.  You can enter to win a weekend stay in an Executive Suite with dinner for two at the Shor Restaurant!  Just hit up their facebook page to enter.  Plus now through labor day the Hyatt is having a summer rates sale book 2 nights and save 20% or book 3 nights and save 30%.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Remix Pre-Game Cocktails with DJ Pauly D in Round Lake, Illinois

Sunday is typically the day of rest, but instead we went to Round Lake to see DJ Pauly D.  You may be familiar with him as a DJ or from the Jersey Shore.  Basically, he's the kind of person you'd like to hang out with.  Which is exactly why when we walked in the doors we found the crowd.  They were already waiting for him to appear.

The line wove throughout almost the entire store.  The people were giving off high energy before Pauly D was even there.  Everyone was having a good time.  The screaming started long before he got there.  With chants of his name and even a relay of cheering going down the line.

Let's just say, that those people that showed up to WalMart to shop that day were terribly surprised.  The store was packed with fans waiting to meet Pauly D.  Anyone trying to do normal shopping had to navigate through the crowd.  I doubt much else was sold that day besides bottles of Remix.  That appeared to be in most people's hands.  As they waited to have bottles signed by him.

There was an intense surge of energy when the music began to play.  The tension amped up as the crowd realized it wouldn't be long until he arrived.  The screams started to pick up in frequency as they anticipated.  He was on his way and they were ready for him.
Not only was the crowd lined up by the hundreds waiting for their chance to meet Pauly D, but in the front of the store they were waiting.  Fans crowded near the front door waiting to catch a glimpse of him.  There were so many people in line, that they feared it would be their only chance to see him.  We waited and as thought the screaming and chanting couldn't be any louder he appeared.  His police escort walking him inside as the noise level somehow tripled.  The atmosphere at this time nearly like a packed club on a Friday night as they went wild.

We realized that before he arrived, that they had been pre-gaming.  Not with Remix but with their energy.  Psyching themselves up for when he walked in the building.  Truly in the spirit of his new Pre-Game Cocktails as his fans knew that the party had only just begun.  You can check out the rest of our photos in our Google+ album.

As we got home, we wanted to crack open those bottles.  We invited over a friend and started tasting.  They were quite good over ice.  The Yeah Yum Berry and Star Fruit tasting similar to a jello shot.  Smooth and fruity with a slight kick.  We enjoyed the Oye Mojito as well and sent Kathy home with her favorite which was the Star Fruit.  Her birthday was last week and obviously the best gifts are those you can share.  We know that she will be cracking open that bottle with her friends and having her own party.  As she remixes her nights with this new cocktail.  Best served with friends to enjoy the night.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Losing Your Last Grandparent is Hard

I know its been extremely silent here on Rosie Discovers for quite a while now.  On July 26th, my last living grandparent, my grandfather passed away.  I've been debating on whether or not I should write something, Susie didn't really think I should, but I always think its important to share what's going on with our lives.  Let's just say she won't be thrilled when she sees I've written it.

My grandfather, Robert Fred Groen Sr. deeply loved my grandmother and his extended family.  Both of them loved to entertain, have parties and guests.  I can't remember a time when we'd visit them and it would be just us.  There was always a house full of relatives or friends visiting.  There would be huge family trips, parents and grandkids included there are about 30 of us.  They'd also have huge family reunions or parties up at the lake house.  Those were truly something to see.  You've never been in a crowd until you've been in a Groen/Hannigan/Reese/Rouse/Sarver/Stanfield party.  We're talking hundreds of people of all ages!

When I was younger, being a part of that crowd was always a little disconcerting.  Everyone knew me, as I'm the oldest grandchild, but I wouldn't always remember everyone there.  See we rarely lived by family while I was growing up.  We moved back and forth across the country due to my dad's job.  If I haven't said it before, this is the third time I've lived in Chicago.  I've also lived in Portland, Oregon; Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle, Washington.  We lived in Chicago until I was four.  I spent most of my time with both sets of grandparents because my parents both worked downtown.

Back to my grandfather, he'd been diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer over a year before and our family has been watching him waste away since then.  It got really bad this past winter, when he started falling and rapidly losing weight.  Susie and I would see him at least once a month for dinner whenever our Aunt Betsy would be by to visit.  During this time he was still his somewhat grouchy, rascally self.

Things went downhill the end of April, beginning of May.  The aunts actually got him to agree to move out of Friendship Village, pretty much the Rolls Royce of retirement communities, and move in with one of them.  Hospice got involved and we were told he wouldn't last through the end of the year.  After moving, he just seemed to rapidly go downhill.  We were lucky to get to see him the weekend before father's day.

After he passed on the 26th, things have been up in the air.  We were out of town for about 4 days and we've done several family things since then.  We've been sad, teary and exhausted.  But, things are finally getting back to normal around here.

I think that's enough for now.  I'll write more about his life at a later date.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cruising with Seadog: BlogHer Style

Part of the fabulous part of attending the BlogHer conference is getting to have new experiences.  Like this exquisite Seadog Fireworks Cruise!  Because a Seadog cruise isn't enough the parties at BlogHer step it up a notch by adding fireworks!!

How sweet of a deal is that?  It's going to be an amazing night with new friends.  Sadly, our dog doesn't travel well or we could bring her with us!  With Seadog cruises dogs ride for free!  Miss Rosie would love a cruise, but perhaps not the fireworks, so it may be a good thing we're leaving her behind.

The best part about the fireworks cruise is that you get the entire package.  A full cruise around the lake with great views and then a perfect ending with a fireworks show to music!  Sounds like a good night out to me.  A party with a view is right up our alley because even though we live nearby we don't generally go out on the lake on our own.

If you think your dog is like Miss Rosie, then you can do a different cruise, such as their Lakefront Speedboat Tour, Extreme Thrill Ride, or the River and Lake Architectural Tour.  Many choices to cater your sightseeing needs with the bonus of bringing your favorite waggly pal along for the ride!