The Chopping Block

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!


32 thoughts on “The Chopping Block

  1. A cooking class is so high on the bucket list, it’s ridiculous. Not just any cooking class, though, but butchering, pastry, etc. Glad you found a new friend out of the weekend; maybe the others just haven’t had a chance to respond yet? 🙂

  2. I wept for you when I saw the onions made it into your fritata 😦 You are correct about the red onions they are the powerhouse onion. Your weekend looks amazing. What a cute tiny bottle of hot sauce it should say BIz sauce. I too find a happy place when I am cooking. I can loose all track of time when I am cooking or doing something creative. I would love to go to a week long cooking retreat. So happy “snowboo” made it to you safely.

  3. So jealous but very happy for you!

  4. That is not my favorite onion either! Looks like a fabulous time for you. Happy for you!

  5. I can’t imagine cooking without onions, but you probably like anchovies and I detest them. So, to each, his own. 🙂

    You do look happy in these pictures. I’m glad it was a good experience.

  6. Omg, were you dying over those onions??! lolol. Too funny. But so much fun!!
    I don’t match my workout clothes either. If I do, it’s by total coincidence, nothing more. 🙂

    • At least I didn’t have to chop them up! 😀 Sadly, most of my workout clothes have stains on them – oh well – that’s what Goodwill is for – get cheap new ones!

  7. I know you missed your true calling as a chef! I could see you on one of those cooking shows to have your own show on TV. You might have to clean up the f-bombs for the network but you would win!

  8. Hey Biz! Back from vacay and just catching up on your blog! You guys made some beautiful food at your class. One thing I learned in my knife skills class is that you don’t have to have an expensive chef’s knife. While they are nice, it’s the technique that matters more!

    At first, I laughed about the onions. Of course, onions give food flavor! Then I thought about if someone wanted to toss that much broccoli in a pan. There is NO WAY I would eat it. So I stopped laughing and felt your pain, fear and cringed instead. 😉

  9. Tony is right – you look adorably happy in that picture! I loved reading about your awesome weekend in the city – great recaps!!

  10. I’ve really enjoyed all the post from your Chicago weekend but the The Chopping Block cooking school would have been my favorite! Cooking is my happy place too, if only my two ticky turds (Hubby & Daughter -lol) would let me healthify (is that a word? lol) our meals instead of wanting everything fried & swimming in gravy. I’m a good ole country girl from the South and that’s how my Granny taught me to cook. But….good ole country cooking has got me where I am today – in Weight Watchers!! LOL So, you keep on cooking those delicious looking healthy meals & I’ll try to convert those two at my house! 😀
    Oh – and I ♥ purple onions! lol

    • I will forgive you for liking the purple onions Sherry! My parents were born and raised in Virginia, and it wasn’t uncommon that my grandma had a tin of bacon fat on the stove at all times – made the best scrambled eggs!

  11. Aw poor Biz. I bet you didn’t even get to taste what you made b/c of the onions. 😦 But you’re such a good sport! Your open faced sloppy joe looks sooo good!

  12. I hope that you get to go to cooking school one day – I can tell that you are in your element. I loved reading all about your weekend – sounds like an amazing time – and hooray for Heather responding (those others are missing out!!).

  13. You look like you had so much fun. I would love to go to cooking school or even a cooking class. My best friend and I have talked about it so many times. Its something we both want to do.

  14. Here I sit in my purple matching ensemble, waiting to leave for running club… 😉

  15. How fun! I would really love doing something like this (who wouldn’t?!). Your frittata looks fantastic. I think it was the best there, and I’m sure it tasted the best too. Glad you made a good friend (and the other three are just missing out I’m sure!).

  16. oohh that ground beef wellington looks delish!

  17. Aweee! Thanks for the shout out, lady!! I’m so excited we connected and have stayed in touch since last weekend, too 😀

  18. The Chopping Block looks amazing and you did look so happy there 🙂 Maybe someday we can all meet in a cooking class! Glad you had fun despite the onions. My knife guy sold me Victorinox knives and they’re great! Same maker as Swiss Army knives. I keep them sharp and honed and I love them. I think the Chef’s knife was around $30.00 – a bargain for the home cook!

  19. Wow. What an amazing spread of food you guys made. Everything looks awesome!

  20. […] if everything was okay.   Granted, I’d only been to this place once last month at the Beef Counsel event I was invited to.  So the fact that they were more than welcome to give us the space for free […]

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