The final chapter in my #Living Well 2013 weekend in Chicago – and my favorite part of the whole weekend.  We ended our whirlwind tour at The Chopping Block, which is a cooking school in the Merchandise Mart. 

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What a beautiful cooking space!

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We met Jennifer Marx, who is a food and still life photographer in Chicago.  Food styling is one of my biggest challengers.  I can’t tell you how many times I get photos rejected from Tastespotting and Foodgawker for “poor composition.”  Um, Jennifer’s work is a bit amazing!


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The next part was the Cooking Activity.  We were put in groups and given either ground beef or sirloin steak, and then given a dish to then recreate and put a spin on it.  My group was given ground beef and breakfast casserole.  We could only use six other ingredients besides the beef.

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Those knives were amazing.  So sharp!  They offered 15% discount in their retail store, but that knife started at $150!   So of course, the first ingredient the other three people want to use is onion.  I kept saying, how about cheese?!   We ended up making a southwestern frittata.

I started browning the ground beef when Eila poured in the diced purple onions.  The worst onion of them all.

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We ended up using corn on the cob that we grilled on the stove, canned black beans, and red peppers.

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We also had to use a whole grain, so we ended up frying a whole wheat tortilla in strips for some texture on top.

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Some of the other reinvented dishes:  nachos became Thai nachos:

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Jalapeno poppers became steak over jalapeno popper sauce with salsa:

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Cobb Salad became beef kabobs with ranch dipping sauce:

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Another team was given lasagna, so they made lasagna meatball subs:

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And I have to give credit to the team that came up with this one.  They had beef wellington, but were given ground beef!  They ended up par-baking a meatloaf, then wrapping it in crescent rolls – instead of using liver pate, they made a mixture of mushrooms and blue cheese over the top, then baked it – gorgeous!

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Jennifer the photographer took professional photos, at some point we will have access to and I’ll post them.  Here she is in action!

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Here we are at the end – Heather, Me, Amy and Eila.

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I texted this picture to Tony:

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He said “you look so happy!”  And I was.  I was in my element, in the kitchen.  I don’t know what it is about cooking, but it just calms me and is my happy place. Open-mouthed smile

It was a wonderful weekend, and someday when I save up some money, I’d love to go back to the Chopping Block and take some classes.  They even have full week boot camps – they only start at $1750!

So I met several women that I thought I could continue having a friendship with after the event.  I reached out to them Sunday, left messages on their blogs/facebook pages saying how nice it was to meet them.

Only ONE has replied back – and that’s Heather.

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We are friends on facebook, we comment on Instagram – thanks for being my new friend Heather!

Alright, if you’ve made it down this far, thanks for reading this week about my weekend!  Now its on to my eats and then I have to get my shit together for work.

Breakfast:  More breakfast tacos.  I had to laugh because I made the tacos – two corn tortillas, 1.5 ounces taco meat, 1/4 cup of black beans, fried them in 1/2 a teaspoon of coconut oil and realized when they were done that I forgot to add the egg!  So I cooked egg beaters, and when I got to work I tucked the eggs in when I put them in the toaster oven.  I added tomatillo sauce and hot sauce – nom nom!  This whole plate is only 377 calories!

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Lunch workout – an easy mile run (I walked the first minute) and then it was chest and triceps.

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I had to laugh because the shirt I brought to work out in had stains on it.  I thought about how much effort Shelley puts into her workout clothes – matching headbands and socks – um, that’s not me!  It looks like I set a glass down on my shirt – ha!

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Lunch was leftover beef and barley chili – I baked up some tortilla chips in my office toaster oven – 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

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I had sloppy joes on the menu since its Football Thursday.  Even though the Bears won, they played the worst team, so that’s not saying much.  These are the simplest sloppy joes ever!

Super Simple Sloppy Joes

  • 4 servings, 4 ounces each: 281 calories, 16 fat, 5.2 carbs, .2 fiber and 26 protein


  • 16 ounces ground sirloin
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons bbq sauce (I used my copycat Rudy’s)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • that’s it

Brown the beef, drain any fat, add remaining ingredients and let simmer 10 minutes. 

I ended up having mine open face, with oven fries on the side.  I may have added a touch of mustard and pickled jalapeno slices on mine.

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Holy yum, so good!  But when I was doing my Insanity an hour later, this was kind of like a piece of lead in my tummy, and not surprisingly, the only exhaling I did through the workout was farting.

Huge blog reader shout out here!  Kym sent me the CUTEST thing in the mail yesterday.  A HALLOWEEN SNOWMAN!  Skippy, keep your paws off of this one!  I love it!!

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I love that face!!  Thank Kym!  She thought Tony would be okay with this snowman being out because its “season appropriate.”  Um, pretty sure its year round appropriate!

Stats for the Day:

  • 1543 calories, 139 carbs, 98 protein, 63 fat and 18 fiber
  • 36% of calories from fat, 25% from protein and 36% from carbs
  • B- grade from calorie count (not enough carbs, too high sodium)
  • 45 minute mile run/chest and triceps strength
  • 40 minute Insanity after dinner

Happy Friday!  I am so happy that my Healthy for the Holidays Group on Facebook is 113 members strong!  Such wonderful encouragement, ideas, and success shared on that page – if you want to join, friend request me at Beth Hills Velatini.

Make it a great day!