Thursday, July 31, 2014

Healthy and Easy Dessert Pizza: A recipe from The Chicago Botanic Garden Executive Chef

Earlier in the week, my mom, my kids and I went to the Chicago Botanic Gardens to attend a media event about their edible gardens. It was a splendid morning, the day was nice and cool, perfect to enjoy time outdoors in probably the most beautiful garden in Chicago!

We started the day with a tour of the Fruit &Vegetable Garden guided by their resident horticulturalist Lisa Hilgenberg. She took us and the kids through all the beds and explained the different varieties of fruit and vegetables they had.

The kids had a lot fun playing at their outdoor kitchen and learning about healthy eating. They sorted common vegetables into baskets according to what their edible parts were: fruits, roots, stems, seeds, flowers, etc. Did you know that a potato is not a root? It is a tuber, which is really an enlarged stem!

Once they were done playing, Chef Michael Kingsley, the garden's executive chef, gave the kids a demonstration on how to make dessert pizzas and we got to try his fabulous Zucchini bread. These were a couple of samples of their Cafe's updated Sprouts Meals menu - they put a healthy twist on kid's favorites.

The kids enjoyed their pizzas, here is how to make them:

Start with a baked pizza dough base, spread some almond butter, cover with as many fresh fruits you have available and sprinkle with grated coconut flakes!! Easy right?

My kids were wondering if we could come up with another alternative to the almond butter. This was the first time they tried it and they were not 100% sure about the taste ( I liked it though). As you know, I like to play with recipes a lot and give them my own twist. So if you have some picky eaters, here are some other options that the kids want me to make for them. I agree with them, I think these are great options too!!

Nut butters: Instead of almond butter, try different nut butter alternatives like peanut butter.
Nutella lovers: Instead of almond butter, put Nutella and use only bananas and strawberries as the fruits.
Cinnamon swirls: Use peanut butter, fruits and sprinkle with cinnamon and icing sugar instead of coconut.

If you do not have ready baked pizza dough, I am sure they will be as delicious on pita bread too.

Let me know if you try them. I am sure you will love them all!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Rose Garden at The Chicago Botanic Gardens: Which one is your favorite?

There is so much to see and enjoy at The Chicago Botanic Garden that it is impossible to write about it in just one post, so I will be sharing with you a series of posts of my favorite spaces within the garden. About a month ago at the end of June I was lucky to visit the gardens for the first time. One of the perks of having a blog is that you get cool invitations to a variety of wonderful places. The team at the gardens, have been exceptionally generous and have invited me and my family to enjoy a couple of events this summer.

Today I was extremely lucky to be able to bring my mother and my kids to the gardens. My mother's favorite flower is the rose. I remember last month when I walked into the Rose Garden, my mother was the first person that came to my mind. I wished she was there. I started photographing every single flower and sending them all the way to Spain so she could enjoy them as much as I was enjoying them. Today, she got to see the roses with her own eyes - it was precious. My wish came true!!

The Rose Garden is a walled garden, almost oval in shape. It has a great fountain (The Rose Petal Fountain) at the back over a big lawn.

A circular path takes you around the area and as you walk you get to enjoy the 150 different varieties of roses they hold. There are roses of all sizes and colors. I took photos of some of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Which one is your favorite? This is mine.

Admission to the garden is free, but you must pay a parking fee of $25 per car if you go by car. (Cook county residents get a discount). However, if you join and become a member, you will enjoy free parking for a whole year, discounts to exhibits, the cafe and many other benefits. If you ask me, it is so worth it!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A magical visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens!

Oh yes!! I have found the most amazing vegetable garden at the Chicago Botanic gardens. I was so lucky to have been invited to the gardens to see the preview of a flower show. On my way in I noticed that the gardens had a vegetable garden, I could not resist to visit it before going home and I was not disappointed.

The Regenstein garden has all the vegetables that you can dream off arranged in such beautiful harmony. A walk through the rows of vegetables and fruit trees reveals lots of great facts and ideas that you can replicate in your own home garden. I am full with projects that I want to do, like a wall garden. I just now need to find the time.

The entry to the gardens is through a nice bridge over the main pond. As soon as you step on the bridge, you can see a couple of designed beds that adorned the entrance. These beds contained cabbages, leeks, corn, basil amongst other things.

Once in the gardens I headed directly to my right where some raised beds were in full show. I love the way they were combined and the wonderful ideas to plant cucumbers. I also loved the many handwritten signs with tips and ideas for the gardeners. Here you have some of the best ones of this section.

 At the end of this section they were some cold frames holding several variety of onions as well as some beds with herbs. Check out the recipe for Herbs de Provence!! awesome signs!

Continuing to my right I found myself in front of a wall garden. I truly liked this idea and would love to make one in my house.

The next session resembled more of a field. They have a nice lot with garlic, tomatoes and at the back some sunflowers.

There were a couple of interesting climbers at the end of the field. Some were Hops, I loved to see that they were a bine not a vine. I did not know about this distinction.
In the middle of the garden there is a open kitchen in where they hold cooking shows. Just outside, there is a typical kitchen garden - similar to what I have outside my house in the front of my house.

The rest of the beds contain perennials and some varieties of asparagus, onions, and some other plants. These beds are rotation beds in where they rotate the crops every 4 years.

The garden also contains some tree crops and some composting ideas as well as some sustainable options for planting different crops together so they can benefit from each other.

The end has a lovely path with grapes and vines all over the place and one of my favorite walks. I hope you get the chance to visit this magical place one day. I certainly want to go again during the season to see how it changes.
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