Gia Mia Pizza Bar

One of the things I love most about pizza is how many different variations there are for one simple meal. Whether it’s stuffed, Chicago-style, grilled or fired-up in a brick oven, I’m sure to love it. And well, being from the Chicago-area I consider myself to know a good pizza when I bite into one. 

It should come as no surprise then, I’d been anxiously awaiting the opening of Gia Mia Pizza Bar, a new Italian-style wood-fired pizza place in our town. Apparently, so was everyone else. We attempted to go opening week, but the wait was too long and the restaurant jam-packed. We tried again last Friday and were luckily able to get right in (arriving at a restaurant at 5:15 on a Friday night usually has that effect). 

So was it worth the wait? Absolutely. The decor and ambiance of the restaurant was welcoming, casual and refined. Lots of rustic touches, black and white culinary photos showcasing the pizza-making process and sunlight pouring in through large windows at the front of the building. Our waitress promptly came to our table and was incredibly friendly and enthusiastic about the menu. She even suggested her favorite dishes to us and helped me choose a glass of wine. 

Gia Mia Pizza Bar

Everything at Gia Mia is meant to be shared — sort of an Italian twist on tapas. The menu was extensive and featured much more than just pizza. I was thrilled to see vegetables had their own section on the menu. I love a chef who can appreciate veggies and make them taste delicious! Walking in, we knew we would order a pizza, but were unprepared to have so many other options. I’m pretty sure I would have tried one of everything if I could have managed.

In the end we chose to start off with the Fresh Local Burrata. Cheese handcrafted close to home? I’m sold. The burrata was smooth, flavorful and topped with a delicious pesto. It was served with charred grapes which I thought was incredibly unique and tasty. The grapes were extra sweet, yet retained a grilled flavor. They paired perfectly with the cheese.

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For pizza, we chose The Livia which featured  extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, mozzarella, spicy soppresseta and roasted onion. This pizza was loaded with flavor and had just the right amount of kick to it from the soppresseta. Again, I loved the mozzarella and savored every bite of the pie. 

Gia Mia Pizza Bar

I wish we could have tried more, but we were full after that. I’d love to return to the restaurant with a larger group so we can try even more dishes. Until then, I’ll just be counting down the days until we visit again. On my list are the smashed potatoes, little gem lettuces salad and the wild mushroom pizza. 

Time to go make some breakfast… my stomach is growling just thinking about our meal all over again. 

7 Day Exercise Challenge

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I don’t know what it is about habits that make some so easy to keep (nighttime pre-bed routine) and others so difficult (going to the gym in the morning), but I’m surely trying to crack the code. This includes reading as many articles as I can about habit creation, willpower, etc. I know, real fascinating stuff. Anyway, a few days ago a friend sent me the link to this 7 Day Integrity Challenge and it got me thinking. 

Seven days. One week. How hard could it be to do something for one week? Well I guess I’m about to find out. I’ve challenged myself to exercise/be active for at least 30 minutes each day for seven days. I’m not just counting gym sessions, but time spent outdoors going on walks, riding my bicycle, etc. 

For the last several months I’ve struggled to find a workout routine I love and want to stick to, so I’m hoping this little baby step will be one in the right direction. I’ve also been pushing myself to be more active in nontraditional ways as well. Riding my bike to brunch, walking more at work and taking the stairs whenever possible. While logging time at a gym is certainly important for our health, doing more physical activity all around is important to combat sedentary habits. As an office worker, commuter and student, I spend way more time in a chair than I’d like. 

I’m not expecting monumental changes to occur over the course of a week, but rather I’m hoping it will help me start to think in a different way such as how can I be more active outside of the gym. The brevity of the challenge makes it more realistic and approachable than other challenges, yet still provides enough action to make it a catalyst for other positive changes. Who knows? Maybe next week I’ll challenge myself to something different.

Speak up: What you challenge yourself to do for seven days? What’s your favorite way to be active outside of the gym?

What I Ate Wednesday

You guys! Look at this forecast! Mother Nature has finally figured out it’s spring! (Also, sorry for all the exclamation points.)  I’m pretty excited and currently trying to figure out how I can spend every minute outside.

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 In other news, it’s Tax Day What I Ate Wednesday! Let’s get talking about this week’s eats. I’ve been seriously itching for fresh produce and farmers markets and I’m happy to say they are finally around the corner. Our local market opens this weekend and I already have plans to go. I don’t know what the produce selection will be like (a downside to Midwestern winters), but at least I know the doughnut vendor will be there. #Priorities 

Here’s hoping next week’s eats are full of farmers market goodies. Until then, here’s what I ate yesterday. 

Breakfast

Banana (just one. Don’t let the bunch fool you) and a smoothie to-go. Smoothie was packed with kale, green apple, frozen strawberries, Greek yogurt and almond milk. Does not make for a pretty color. 

Lunch

A cucumber, avocado, black bean salad brought to you by leftovers. I threw these ingredients together last week for a quick snack and liked it so much I decided to make a large batch for lunch. Paired with some cantaloupe and raspberries. 

Dinner

Why oh why are quesadillas so good? These chicken and bell pepper quesadillas rocked my socks off. Made some rice to go on the side. 

Speak up: Is the farmers market by you open? What foods are you looking forward to this spring?

40 Day Vegetarian Challenge Wrap-Up

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I did it! I officially gave up eating meat for 40 whole days (click here to find out why)! While I didn’t chronicle this journey as much as I would have liked on the blog, I did want to offer up some final thoughts on my experience. Overall everything went well and I think I learned quite a bit, so let’s recap FAQ style. 

Did you miss eating meat?

Honestly, not really. There were a few occasions where eating a meal would have been easier if I ate meat, but I can’t say I was too disappointed at any point. Dining out was a bit difficult because a lot of traditional restaurants don’t offer many vegetarian options — even soups and salads had meat.

As far as cooking at home, I didn’t miss meat at all. While I previously ate meat 4-5 times a week at dinner, I found it pretty easy to substitute vegetarian protein options. I’m not a big meat eater for lunch/breakfast, so those meals weren’t a problem for me at all.

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Do you feel any different after the challenge?

I didn’t notice any huge changes, but at times I did feel lighter overall. I’d attribute that to the fresh, veggie-packed dishes I ate. However, there were plenty of times I didn’t feel that way. Not all vegetarian options are healthy, and I think that’s something important for people to note if they are considering eating in that way. 

I never felt unhealthy or sick, but a few times I did feel low on energy and just overall tired. Nothing to be concerned about, but I did wonder if maybe my iron levels were a bit low. I did eat plenty of plant foods with iron in them and take a multivitamin, but our bodies typically absorb iron from animal sources better. If I were to continue eating vegetarian, I might take the time to track my iron levels just to make sure I was getting an adequate amount. 

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What did you eat? 

Lots and lots of plants!! Beans, lentils and nuts made a constant rotation in my meals and I even learned how to bake tofu at home. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it, but it was fun to experiment with some new-to-me foods. Of course I made sure to fill my plate with lots of veggies, fruit and whole grains too. It’s also worth noting I kept seafood in my diet during this challenge, so if we’re being technical, I ate as a pescatarian. 

If you want to see more of what I ate, check out these WIAW posts: one | two 

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Are you back to eating meat again?

Yes, but not as much as I used too. I’ve been trying to plan at least 2-3 meatless dinners a week as well as continuing to eat seafood a few times a week. Last week I made a batch of tofu and tossed it into meals throughout the week. 

Right now, I see meat as more of a special occasion type of food. There are still plenty of meat dishes I enjoy, but I don’t feel the need to eat them on a regular basis. I also read The Flexitarian Diet which talks about a lot of these ideas and it’s a great resource for anyone who’s thinking about cutting back on their meat intake. 

Well that’s about it for now — congrats to you if you made it all the way down to the end of the post. If you have any other questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments. 

What I Ate Wednesday

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It’s been a few weeks since my last What I Ate Wednesday post, so it’s about time to take a look at some eats. This week’s WIAW is looking a bit different than other recent posts for two reasons. 1) My 40-day vegetarian challenge is over — look for a recap soon and 2) my dinner plate is sans veggies! You’ll have to scroll on down to find out why. 

Let’s get to it!

Breakfast

In order to make the most of my day, I’m starting to incorporate morning workouts into my routine. I actually love starting my day with a good workout, so I’m pretty excited about this. Free afternoons are worth waking up a bit earlier. Anyway, I sipped this smoothie in the car from the gym to work and then gobbled up a homemade granola bar when I got there. 

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Snacks

Starting my day with exercise makes me hungry! Anyone else? To counteract this, I make sure to pack extra snacks just in case. I munched on carrots and hummus around 11 am, some Skinny Pop around 3:30 pm and a handful of dark chocolate-covered almonds when I got home from work (not pictured).

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Lunch

Avocado Black Bean Stuffed Pita, string cheese and some grapes. Don’t mind the classy paper plate. 

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Dinner

Here it is. Delicious Easter leftovers without a lick of veggies (might be some onion hiding in that mac n cheese?). Either way, my point is this — don’t forget to stop and really enjoy food every once in awhile. I really do enjoy all the nourishing, whole foods I eat on a regular basis, but sometimes nothing beats a big pile of cheesy pasta and bacon.

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Speak up: What did you eat this week?