Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Twist on an Old Classic

Hi there!  I can hardly believe we're almost halfway through the week and that the last day of 2014 is tomorrow. Any NYE plans on the agenda?  If so, you may be in luck if your party plans require you to bring dessert. Today, I'm sharing one of my new go to recipes.  Aside from being perfect for last minute bakers, it's no-bake, easy, gluten free and best of all tastes delicious.... the secret ingredient is gluten-free chocolate sandwich creme cookies!


Who didn't love Oreos when they were growing up?  Chocolate cookies with that perfect filling.  This was a recipe born out of desperation. We were in charge of bringing a Christmas dessert and down an oven, so baking was out of the question. I had heard that you could turn sandwich cookies into truffles, but I was skeptical. I did a little research, looked at a few different recipes and voila - this masterpiece was born. 


You probably don't want to bring chocolate sandwich cookies to your next gathering, but you might want to once you class them up into chocolate covered truffles.  That's right, I said truffles.  Rich, dark and oh so sinful, these truffles will be the talk of the dessert table.  


If my kitchen walls could talk: Make sure you allow plenty of time for the refrigerator steps.  Melt your chocolate in two portions as directed, otherwise it may harden before you are able to finish dipping. Feel free to add in your own twist for topping - crushed nuts, coconut, sprinkles, crushed gluten free pretzels or mini chocolate chips would all be fantastic additions. 

Chocolate "Oreo" Truffles

Ingredients

2 packages of gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies
8oz cream cheese
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Using a food processor, crush sandwich cookies until fine crumbs form.  Place crumbs in a medium bowl - remove 1-2 tbsp of cookie crumbs from bowl and set aside for topping in last step.
2. Soften cream cheese in the microwave for ~30 seconds. Add to bowl with crushed cookies, stirring until fully combined and a dough is formed.
3. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Roll the dough into small balls, using about a tablespoon of dough for each one. Repeat until all dough is used. Refrigerate 1-2 hours.
4. Remove cookie balls from refrigerator.  In a small, microwave safe bowl, melt half of the chocolate in 30 second increments until melted.  Dip balls into chocolate, shake off excess.  Once chocolate is used, repeat melting and dipping steps with remaining cookie balls.  Allow to cool on baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbles.

What's your go-to dessert recipe? 

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Day for Reflection

Today, I'm not going to be sharing my usual content but instead a part of myself. It only felt right to share this with my readers, as I never know which one of you may be going through a similar experience with a loved one. Six years ago, my grandpa passed away after a long and hard 3 month battle at the hospital.

My mom and I lived with her parents from the time I was born until the time I left for college. My grandma and grandpa, or papa as I referred to him as, were the most amazing couple in the world. They not only loved each other very deeply, but our little family as well. I was so lucky to be exposed to that love as the years went by. They were best friends. My grandpa was fiesty and my grandma was calm, the perfect ying and yang. They shared everything together. When my grandpa broke his ankle, my grandma broke hers in the same place a few years later. When I was in college, my grandma needed a CABG, in simpler terms, a heart bypass. Her recovery was long and very hard, but somehow my grandpa nursed her back to health. I lived with them that summer and have many memories of him cooking breakfast for us every morning (always oatmeal and fruit!) and arguing with my grandma about how she needed to eat more, to which she would always reply "Oh, Bob!!" and shake her head.

I wish I could say the copying stopped there, but shortly after I had started my dietetic internship, my grandpa had a cardiac arrest at home on September 29th.  His heart stopped beating while he was writing checks.  My grandma called 911 in record time and they were able to revive him.  He was transferred to the hospital and we didn't know if he would make it through the night.  I remember all of those emotions, confusion, pain, grief - hadn't he just helped me move into the house I was sharing with two of my friends two weeks before that?  This would be the first of many lessons I would learn - life can change in an instant.  He made it through the night and we were grateful.  We would later learn that the copying would continue, as my grandpa also needed a CABG.  As ironic as it was, he needed the exact same CABG that my grandma had required.

I remember telling my aunt in the hospital after his surgery that I knew he would have a strong recovery and be back to himself in no time.  How couldn't he?  He was active and own the go and despite being retired, he still managed multiple apartment buildings and a barber shop.  He was the one who took care of the rest of us. Sadly, now I know from my current career, that for every happy ending that you hear there is a sadder story that exists.  There are surgeries that don't save lives.  There are patients that pass away onto the next life during a life saving surgery or after.  There are always miracles, but not always the miracles we are hoping for.

A few days later, my papa was rushed into emergency surgery to remove part of his bowel.  They speculated that it was due to his cardiac arrest at home and the ischemia (loss of blood flow) that followed.  Another major surgery only made him weaker, but he fought until he was strong enough to be transferred to the rehab floor.  More setbacks followed. He developed a gastrointestinal bleed that left him weakened. He went back to the cardiac floor.  He was no longer strong enough for hospital rehab. He coded and was transferred back to the ICU.  On Saturday, December 27th, 2008, I would see him in the hospital after he was extubated. In simpler terms, he had been breathing using a ventilator and was now able to breathe on room air.  I was the first one to make it to the hospital and I will never forget how happy and alive he looked.  He held my hand and said "I never would have made it through this without grandma and you kids. You are my whole life".  I wouldn't know at that time, that it would be the last good day.  Two days later, on Monday, December 29th, 2008, he would pass away from this world and onto the next.  We were with him when we went and to this day, I can still remember holding his right hand.

I would learn an important life lesson that day, one that I would carry with me forever. On the day he left this world, I would learn an important lesson that I had never before understood. Love does not stop with death. Love carries over time, distance and dimension into whatever place we go next. I still feel that love surround me, sometimes when I least expect it.  I count every single second I was given as a blessing. Every story has a miracle, just not the miracle we always want.  Our miracle was all of the days.  You see, my papa could have left the earth that fateful September 29th day but instead he decided to fight until he had no fight left.

It broke my heart to see him fight through all of those days, he fought to stay with us, he fought it all with love. Despite all of the days in the hospital, I won't remember those days.  Instead, what I'll remember is his courage, his strength and his love. I'll remember how he used to scoop iced cream in perfect round spheres.  How in first grade, I pretended to be sick to play with my toys the day after my birthday and how he told me I couldn't ever do that again, so I never did.  I'll remember hiding fake bugs in his shoes. When I got older, I'll remember him teaching me how to drive. I'll remember his temper. How he loved to buy cars. How when it snowed he would be the first neighbor out there shoveling your sidewalk.  I'll remember how he told me when our dog died that we're all going to leave sometime and that we aren't able to pick our time. When I would call the house how he would ask me if I had a nickel when I asked to talk to my grandma, sometimes it was a quarter because of "inflation".  I'll remember how the phone always seemed to pause when he as the one to answer it and how this continued after he died. I'll remember his funny jokes. His lessons on saving. How he loved to buy all of us flowers and donuts.  I'll remember how for every single second of his life on earth, he surrounded me with love.

Today, I am eternally grateful that I was blessed to be loved by him.  I still feel sadness in my heart and that sadness will never go away. The scar will always be there, but instead of being a source of pain it's now a reminder.  I will always remember the love and the importance that he placed on family and will carry that lesson with me wherever I go.  It is and always will be engraved on my heart.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

12/28 Meals for the Week

Happy Sunday!  I'm looking forward to the short work week and getting back into the kitchen. Meal planning has been non-existent in this house for the past week or so.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, we are currently in the process of renovating our kitchen with new appliances, countertops, paint and some good old fashioned TLC.  We decided to sell our appliances for a little extra cash and sold our oven on craigslist quicker than expected, meaning we've been ovenless for 2 weeks.  Our new appliances came on Saturday and I'm so excited.  I'll share a sneak peak and a full before and after once the project is completed.... a little blurry, but awfully shiny!


We ate with wild abandon last week - takeout, chocolate, you name it and we probably ate it.  My jeans are feeling a little tight, so I'm happy to have my kitchen back.  The holiday season continues this week with New Years Eve and the start of 2015!  We're having dinner with three other couples and then, more likely than not, we will be watching the ball drop in our pjs.  My husband and I have a tradition of going to hibachi every year on NYE, so I'm looking forward to continuing the celebration.  I've been doing a lot of reflecting on what I'm hoping to accomplish in 2015... so I can't wait for it to get here!

Now, onto the meals!  You can see that I've stuck with my tradition of using the same meal twice for Thursday and Friday.  I love cooking chicken in the slow cooker and shredding it for use in multiple meals.  Do you have any meals that are double duty?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Sunday: Black bean tortilla soup
Monday: Chicken tacos 
Tuesday: Leftovers!
Wednesday: Wild Ginger Hibachi - NYE celebration!
Thursday: Slow cooker buffalo chicken, brussels sprouts, oven baked sweet potato fries
Friday: Buffalo chicken pizza - using slow cooker buffalo chicken 
Saturday: Nada - my friend Christina's 30th birthday extravaganza!

What are you preparing for the week? 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Hi friends!  Merry Christmas a day late.  I hope that you were able to surround yourself this holiday season with the love of your family and friends.  Our Christmas celebrations were low key and I wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm so grateful for all the love that was all around us this holiday season.  We are very blessed.  Wishing you and your family love and happiness this holiday season!


Love,

Lindsay & Paul

Monday, December 22, 2014

Drab to Fab: Grout Edition

Hi friends!  As you may or may not have guessed, I haven't been in the kitchen as much lately.  I've mentioned before that we are working on remodeling our kitchen, things are in full swing and at this time we don't have a stove and our refrigerator is in the basement!

In preparation for our new appliances and countertops, I did research on what I could do to restore the rest of our kitchen to it's maximum potential.  We are keeping our cabinets and current flooring, leading me to seek out projects for those pieces. The grout looked horrible and despite all the scrubbing in the world, it wasn't getting any cleaner....then I heard about Polyblend Grout Renew.  Basically, you paint it on, wipe it up and magic happens.  I purchased Oyster Grey from Home Depot and got to work.



So, instead of a recipe, I'm sharing this project with you!



Grout from Drab to Fab 

Ingredients

Small craft brush
Rags/Paper towels
Polyblend Grout Renew
Lots of time & patience

1. Make sure your grout has been scrubbed clean and has dried for 24 hours - there's no sense in painting over dirt. I used Krud Cutter for this step.

2. Paint one line of tile at a time using your craft brush.


3. Wipe the excess from the edges using a dry paper towel or cloth. Polyblend dries fairly quickly, but a wet paper towel removes it easily if you run into any issues. 


4. Continue until all tiles are finished.

Have you ever tackled grout?  What was your experience? 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Ah, the holidays.  Snow, Starbucks holiday cups, lights, quality time with your family and gift giving.  Gift giving at the holidays can be extremely stressful - you don't want to give a generic gift and you want to give something personalized and within your budget.  Multiple that by however many people you have to buy for and it can be overwhelming to find that perfect gift.  Plus, to make matters worse, it's down to the wire and Christmas is only 4 days away!

I've rounded up some of the best holiday gifts out there for the people in your life, so you can skip the last minute gift cards and still have thoughtful gifts under your tree.

For the coffee fiend... Keurig 2.0

  • This coffee maker is a serious game changer.  Not only does it use K cups, but you can customize the size of your brew and how strong you want it to be.  The K cup possibilities are endless and the included carafe is perfect for those days that you need a whole pot.  If they love coffee, they will love the Keurig. 


For the beauty junkie... Smashbox Master Class Palette


  • This palette inclues everything, making it perfect for the beauty junkie in your life! It's perfect for traveling and includes a variety of colors :) 

For your hardworking husband...Wurkin Stiffs Power Stays


  • These collar stays are magnetized, meaning no more lost collar stays and no moving around.  They are even husband approved, making them an excellent gift for the hardworking guy in your life.  Throw in a collared shirt and you are all set. 


For the health junkie... Oh She Glows Cookbook


  • Oh She Glows was my gateway blog.  It was the first health blog that I ever read and it opened up a new world for me!  All of Angela's recipes are amazing.  I can't wait to get my hands on this cookbook and the health junkie in your life will feel the same way. 


For the fitness fanatic... Polar Heart Rate Monitor


  • This heart rate monitor has been one of the best gifts I've ever received!  It's an excellent indicator of whether you are pushing yourself too hard... or not enough.  It's helped me increase my endurance and also helps with my motivation.  It's perfect for the fitness focused friend. 



What's your favorite gift to give this holiday season? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12/10: WIAW

OOh hey there!  Happy Wednesday!  This week is flying by... and Christmas is in 15 days?  Can we make the time slow down?  I love the holiday season.  Today, it's time for WIAW.  After all, we're all a little nosy about what everyone else eats and we're also always on the lookout for new meal ideas. So, here we go!



Breakfast: Oatmeal with peanut butter, a little brown sugar and one lone chocolate chip #chocolatefail  Coffee with almond milk = standard.


Lunch:  Slow Cooker Lasagna (recipe soon, I promise!), huge bag of mixed veggies


Snack: Quest bar


Dinner: Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup, Cabbage Salad


What did you eat this Wednesday? 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

12/8: Meals for the Week

Hello again!  I hope your week is off to a fantastic start.... as promised in my Meal Planning 101 post, here are our meals for the week!

I've mentioned before that I like to make meals that do double duty and you can see that I've done that here.  Sunday afternoon, I added chicken and salsa verde to our slow cooker.  I shredded the chicken and used it for tacos on Sunday and again on Monday for the nachos.  It looks like it's accidentally theme week in our home!  I'm looking forward to trying a new recipe on Wednesday, so I'll be sure to post my results during my weekly WIAW post :)  



Sunday: Salsa Verde Chicken Tacos
Monday: Salsa Verde Chicken Nachos
Tuesday: Family Dinner
Wednesday: Chicken Tortilla Soup 
Thursday: Black Bean Quesadillas 
Friday: Mozzarella, Leek Risotto with Grilled Chicken and Balsamic Glaze

What are you preparing for the week? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cake Poppin'

Hey there!  How was your weekend?  It's Monday and the work week is back in full swing, but honestly, I'm all about lazy weekends right now.  Pizza, wine and sleeping in were the start to the perfect weekend.  We threw it back to the early 2000's by playing Mario Party 2 last night and drinking wine that I picked up from a vineyard during my bachelorette party.  It was just what I needed.

We headed to our friend Danielle and Eric's holiday party on Saturday and duh, I told Paul we would obviously bring something sweet to share.  I've been thinking about cake pops for basically forever and decided now was the perfect time to bring that thought to fruition. 



The premise of cake pops is actually pretty simple.  Bake a cake, crumble said cake, mix with icing, roll in melted chocolate, top with toppers.  I found the process to be easy, although very time consuming!

If my kitchen walls could talk:   I would have definitely frozen some of the cake balls for another day - dipping 40 balls of chocolate was hard work!  I highly recommend having a large piece of styrofoam to place the cake pops in while they dry.  I didn't have this and it would have been so helpful.  Feel free to experiment with other flavors of icing and cake mix - let me know your results in the comments. 


Peppermint Cake Balls

Ingredients

1 box gluten-free chocolate cake mix
2/3 cup prepared cream cheese icing
4 boxes baking chocolate
5 candy canes, crushed
Cake pop sticks (optional)

1. Prepare cake mix according to package instructions.  Set aside to cool.  Crumble cake in food processor.  Meanwhile, place unwrapped candy canes in a ziplock bag, use rolling pin to crush into fine pieces.  Set aside. 
2.  Add icing, 1/3 cup at a time, to cake mix.  Stir until incorporated.  Repeat until cake mix is consistency of clay.  Roll into small balls.  Set aside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate for 1 hour until chilled.
3. Melt 1 square of bakers chocolate in microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between sets until melted.  Dip end of cake pop sticks into chocolate, insert into cake balls.  Chill again for 30 minutes.  (Skip this step if you don't want your cake pops on skewers!) 
4.  Melt remaining bakers chocolate, dip balls into chocolate. Swirl end of stick to remove excess chocolate.  Sprinkle lightly with crushed candy canes.  Place in stick in styrofoam, allowing cake pops to dry upright.  Alternatively, if not using sticks, allow to dry on wax or parchment paper.    



What's your favorite dessert? 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Meal Planning 101

Hi friends! I hope you had a great holiday weekend and were able to spend some time with your family and friends.  I was lucky enough to have four days off of work!  I haven't taken any time off since our honeymoon, so the break has been greatly appreciated :)  I packed my time by catching up with family, seeing Mockingjay Part 1 with my husband, adapting a spinach lasagna recipe for use in the slow cooker, brunching at the Green Dog cafe with one of my best friends and decorating our home for the holidays.

Now, that it's December, both the holiday season and work weeks are in full swing.  It can be hard to keep it healthy during the work week, especially when the temperature starts to dip too low.  I have two secrets for how I keep our meals healthy during the week and they are meal planning and meal prepping.  It sounds simple, but can be time consuming and confusing if it's not thought through.

Do you find yourself with the constant situation of not knowing what to make for dinner? 

Do you feel like there's nothing to eat at your home, leading you to hit up the drive through or make other unhealthy choices?  

Have you fallen off the health wagon and aren't sure how to get back on?  

This post series is for you.  Today, I'll be sharing how I meal plan and some easy tips.  Later in the week, I'll be sharing how I meal prep.  Every Sunday, I'll post my scheduled meals and snacks for the work week to help give you new ideas for yours - please share your ideas with me as well!

Whether you are new to meal planning or are a seasoned professional, these tips will help you improve your game....



Map Out Your Meals
  • Fail to plan, plan to fail, or so the saying goes.  First things first, map out your meals.  I tend to pick things that are quick for during the work week.  I recommend selecting simple meals that require minimal cooking or make use of a slow cooker.  
  • Plan for more involved meals on the weekends, when you have more time and energy.
  • Make a Pinterest board for organization - I have Cooked & Loved - for tried and true recipes - and Cooking - for new recipes.  Typically, I only try one new recipe per week and fill the rest of the week with classic favorites.  Pinterest not your thing? Use bookmarks and folders in your web browser.
  • Write down your list.  Consider posting it in a public place, such as a board on your fridge, so the rest of your family knows whats up. 

Make a list
  • Whatever you do, don't go to the grocery store without a list.  Not only does this curb impulse buying, but it helps you from forgetting any of the needed items for your meals. 
  • Divide your list by sections of the grocery store.  This helps to keep your shopping quick and efficient. 
  • If you find yourself purchasing the same items, consider typing a master list with checkboxes. When you need to hit the store, simply checkmark everything you need to purchase. 

Designate a shopping time
  • To save time, I try to do my shopping in the morning when the store is less crowded.  Another time that tends to work well is late in the evening.  Pick the best time that fits your schedule and try to stick with it. 

Stock up the basics
  • Life happens. Sometimes recipes with the best intentions turn out to be horrible.  Maybe your oven was a little too hot or you left the slow cooker on a little too long.  Whatever the situation, keep a few basics on hand to help you out in a pinch.  Frozen chicken breasts, quinoa, veggies, salsa and eggs can be lifesavers.

What's your biggest meal planning tip?


Monday, December 1, 2014

Beating a Breakfast Rut

Hey friends!  How's it going?  I've been working on beating a breakfast rut that I've been stuck in for months.  Literally, months.  Maybe you can relate?  I'm totally in a routine with my morning coffee, my commute, my lunches.  I crave routines.  I just haven't been able to find a breakfast routine.  It's been driving me crazy.

My previous job involved a one hour commute and breakfast at my desk - eight months have gone by.  I packed protein pancakes or egg white sandwiches.  My commute is much shorter and so I choose to eat breakfast before work, but I don't always have the biggest appetite.

My previous breakfast loves have been numerous.  During my dietetic internship and a few years beyond, oatmeal was basically my best breakfast friend. In graduate school, my breakfast love of choice was pancakes or fruit smoothies. Granola and greek yogurt seemed like the ultimate winner, until I made the connection that too much greek yogurt makes me break out.

I don't have time to sit down for a big meal anymore, leading to much frustration to find something quick but also healthy.  I wanted something high in fiber and protein that would keep me full until lunch.  I thought about my former breakfast loves and this recipe was born.

If my kitchen walls could talk: Feel free to jazz up this recipe with whatever mix ins you want to add!  Dried fruit, coconut, peanut butter. The possibilities are endless.  Feel free to swap out sugar for stevia or leave it out all together.


Baked Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients

2 cups oats
1/3 cup brown rice protein powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine oats, protein powder, brown sugar and baking powder in a large bowl, set aside.
2. Combine almond milk, vanilla, egg and applesauce in a small bowl.  Gently add wet ingredients to dry, stir until combined.
3. Spray a square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Add batter, spread chocolate chips on top.
4. Bake for 30 minutes until edges are lightly golden brown.  Cut into 6 rectangles.


What's your best breakfast? 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi there! I hope you're having a wonderful day with family and friends :) I've been so blessed this year, I have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Have a great day and see you again soon!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Drab to Fab: Chapter 1

Hi friends!  Happy *almost* Thanksgiving!  My husband and I are busy working on our home and the next item on our agenda is a re-vamp of our kitchen.  Thanks to the black Friday appliances sales at Home Depot, we were able to purchase all new appliances on Monday.  I can hardly believe that in January, we'll celebrate two years of living together. In the past two years, our home has begun it's transformation from bachelor pad to our home.  When I moved in, the majority of our first floor was green, we had upstairs roommates (love you Dan and Alyse!) and our home needed some major TLC after a few epic parties and who knows what else.

I was recently asked by Compass, a New York City based real estate startup company that helps match clients with the perfect listing (something I would have been dying to use during my single days and all those dreaded apartment search meetings - that's a story in itself!) to share my Starter Story as part of one of their initiatives.  Seeing as home design is on the up and up in this home, I was happy to share my story!  I ultimately decided to share how we're transforming our home from drab to fab and the tips I have from our successes and failures.

Upon looking at our list of projects, we decided the most important was painting the first floor bedrooms.  After that was competed, we selected our bedroom set and focused on the finishings.  We painted the upstairs portion of our home and our downstairs hallways.  Our focus shifted back to our dining room and we learned what happens when you go off the beaten path (see tip #3)

Along the way, I've learned a few tricks to help you transform your space.  Whether you're moving in with a significant other or just purchased your first starter home, use my tips to transform your home from drab to fab.

1. Paint, paint, paint - baseboards too!

Before
After
  • There's nothing like paint to transform a room.  We love Behr paint and always choose eggshell enamel as our base color.  Make sure to buy paint with primer added and save yourself a step! Painting takes patience and attention to detail.  I love edging but hate rolling, so make sure you paint with a friend, family member or significant other who is the ying to your paint yang. 
2. Invest in trendy low cost pieces when you know they might not make it to your next move.



  • We knew we were limited by space for our bedroom furniture and didn't want to select anything that we might not want for our next home, so we chose to purchase from Ikea.  We were able to select a bedroom set that was both cost effective and fit our style. 

2. Know when to bring in the professionals.


  • If you aren't sure about a project, don't hesitate to get a professional opinion.  Our ceiling was cracking, so we stripped the paint ourselves. It was horrible and also led to a brief panic called "wait, is that paint lead?"  Luckily, it wasn't, but despite our best efforts, we ended up having a professional come to fix and finish the ceiling with plaster.  Know when to call someone from the start!

3. Invest in higher quality pieces that you can grow into.


  • We loved the idea of a rustic dining room table, but knew we might have a bigger dining room in our next home.  We looked for inexpensive options, but couldn't find anything that we loved.  We brainstormed and decided to select a style we loved, but decided to pay more to have the option of removable leaf inserts.  That way, our table fits our home now, but can come with us in the future to our forever home. 

4. Sell what you can't use.
  • One man's trash is another man's treasure!  We sold our old furniture on Craigslist and used those earnings towards the purchase of our new items.  

What's your Starter Story?





Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, just happy to participate and share my story.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Recipes All Around

Hi there friends!  Happy Tuesday! All ready for Thanksgiving?  I can hardly believe it's only two short days away.  I'm looking forward to celebrating with my family and also having a few much needed days off of work.  The Thanksgiving festivities actually started last weekend when our friends hosted Friendsgiving!  We had a great time catching up with everyone and enjoying the delicious food.  Did any of you participate in Friendsgiving?  It's one of my favorite traditions, I've been to one every year for the past 5 years. I highly recommend it!  


On the home front, our Thanksgiving will be a little different this year.  My side of the family celebrates at my grandma's home, but this year she's currently in a skilled nursing facility gaining some strength after a hospital stay.  The silver lining is that my great aunt happens to be living there two rooms down!  She used to come to our Thanksgiving every year, but aging has changed a lot of things for everyone, so it will be exciting to have a reunion this year.  Our family will visit her and take food, so in a way, it won't make a difference because all that matters is we're together.

I'll also be throwing together something last minute to take I'm sure.  If you're in the same boat that I am,  check out my guest post on Calio for all the gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes you need. Whether you're in charge of appetizers, a side dish, dessert or the main affair, I've got you covered!

What are you making for Thanksgiving? 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Buffalo Lovin

Hi there! Happy Sunday! Hopefully, it's the start of a short week for you.  Any sales associates out there?  I totally feel your pain if you have to work on Black Friday.  My previous jobs were all in retail and I always remember working those crazy winter holidays.  Anyone going shopping?  It's debatable, but I feel like I'd rather stay at home in the comfort of my own pajamas.

Speaking of pajamas, this is the perfect weeknight recipe when you want to curl up on the couch and break the rules by eating dinner there.  It's healthy and easy.  I blogged about our trip to a nearby restaurant and the buffalo lettuce wraps that we devoured.  Of course, I had to make my own!

If my kitchen walls could talk: These wraps would be delicious with the addition of chopped celery or tomato!  Feel free to add shredded cheese as well, it's a fantastic addition.  Serve straight up or to really take this dish over the top, serve with your favorite homemade ranch or blue cheese for dipping.


Buffalo Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, large
3/4 C Frank's hot sauce
1 tbsp organic butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 cup green onions, chopped
1 bunch living lettuce

1. Cut chicken breasts in strips, place in slow cooker with Frank's hot sauce, minced garlic and butter.  Cook on high for 2 hours, stir, change heat to low and cook for 1-2 more hours until chicken shreds easily. Shred chicken, change heat setting to warm.
2.  Meanwhile, rinse and dry lettuce leaves, cutting from bottom of step.  Place two leaves together to make lettuce cup, making about 8 cups total.
3. Fill cups with shredded chicken and green onions.  Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of reserved sauce.



Do you like using lettuce as a wrap? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

See ya real soon....

Hi there!  I'm blogging from a different spot today.  Check out my guest post on Calio for all the gluten free Thanksgiving tips you'll ever need. Whether your the host or the hostess, I've got you covered! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Finest Comfort Food

Hello again!  On Friday, I promised my new go-to risotto recipe and here it is at last.  What is risotto?  Risotto is a creamy Italian dish made from short grain rice.  While delicious, it is often labor intensive and requires constant stirring to achieve that perfect bite.  Luckily for you, I've identified a secret to making that perfect risotto dish.  A slow cooker.

Arborio rice, chicken broth, sauteed leeks and wine are heated together over the course of three hours.  During the last thirty minutes of cooking, half and half and fresh mozzarella are added.  The risotto comes out perfectly, allowing you the extra time to prepare the rest of your meal.

If my kitchen walls could talk: If you've never cooked with leeks before, the process can seem very daunting.  The key point to remember is that leeks are similar to large versions of green onions.  Just like green onions, they can also be sandy and dirty, something you clearly do not want to end up in your risotto.  Make sure to clean them thoroughly with water prior to making this dish.  Still a little nervous?  Check out this video from Real Simple!


Feeling confident?  Let's start cooking. 

Slow Cooker Mozzarella Leek Risotto

Ingredients

2 cups leeks, chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup chardonnay
1/2 cup water
32 oz chicken broth, low sodium
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup half and half
8 oz fresh mozzarella, diced

1. Spray inside of slow cooker with nonstick spray. Set aside.
2. In large saucepan over medium heat, saute leeks and 2 tbsp grapeseed oil until tender, about five minutes.
3. Add arborio rice, lightly toast, about 2 minutes.  Add wine, stirring until evaporated.  Turn off heat.
4. Add rice mixture, water, chicken broth and salt to the slow cooker. Stir gently to combine.  Heat over high for three hours, lightly stir mixture every hour.
5. Turn slow cooker to low and change time setting to thirty minutes.  Add half and half along with fresh mozzarella, stir until distributed.
6. Once time has passed, turn slow cooker to off, as opposed to warm setting, to prevent further cooking.


Looking for risotto as a main dish?  Top with a protein such as edamame or sliced grilled chicken.  Stir in cooked peas or bacon. 

Wanting to take this side out of the ballpark? Drizzle with truffle oil or balsamic vinegar prior to serving. 




What's your favorite risotto? 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Weekend Recap 11/16/14

Happy Sunday!  I'm here with a recap of my weekend :) It was relaxing and calm, which was just what I needed.  Anyway, here's the run down...

Friday night, I decided to skip the gym and take a rest day.  My husband and I decided to venture out of our house to check out a new sci-fi film that was on our radar. He had mentioned wanting to see Interstellar a few weeks ago and I was totally on board seeing as 2001: A Space Oddessy is one of my favorite movies of all time.  You can watch the trailer below.


Low and behold, imagine my surprise when we found out the movie theater had been renovated to include lounge chairs!!  We picked our seats prior to entering the theater and settled in with our snacks.  The chairs were comfortable and I loved being able to have my feet up for the whole movie without worry about kicking the person in front of me!  The film was fantastic and resulted in much discussion about it's underlying meaning and themes.



Saturday morning was a chilly one!  I was volunteering in the cheer section for Girls on the Run.  GOTR is a youth development program for girls in grades 3-8 that focuses on positivity and team building.  One of the coaches informed our group that they tell the girls during their first session to imagine a negative plug in their head that is feeding them negative messages from society and the media - "you aren't thin enough," "you aren't smart," "you won't ever be anything," "you aren't strong" - and to imagine removing that plug and plugging into GOTR's messages of "you are perfect just the way you are," "you are strong," "you are beautiful," "you matter".  Throughout the 12 week program, the girls train for a 5K which culminates in the run.  It was bitter cold out but an amazing time!  We cheered our hardest and many high fives were given.

After all that, it was time for an actual run at the gym.  My husband and I raced each other side by side, resulting in a higher calorie burn on my heart rate monitor than normal.  Looking to switch up your fitness routine?  I highly recommend racing your workout buddy, if you are into being competitive.  If you couldn't tell, I'm loving our new gym!



After our run, we met Kurt for lunch at Main Bite and enjoyed bacon wrapped goat cheese stuffed dates and buffalo chicken lettuce wraps.  Buffalo chicken in a tender lettuce shell with shredded carrots and cucumbers.  Obviously, I'll be attempting a recreate in the kitchen!  I spent the afternoon visiting my grandma at the skilled nursing facility where she will be doing a few weeks of rehab.  We watched Pretty Woman and discussed the handsomeness of Richard Gere :)  I headed home and decided there was no way I was cooking dinner. My husband and I settled on dinner out where I enjoyed a glass of malbec, blackened salmon, lots of veggies and an early bedtime.  ZzzzZzz.

Sunday is my day for errands, so I made a quick trip to Kroger to stock up on all things grocery related, including holiday Larabars.  I also picked up these beautiful tote bags during my trip out.... perfect for lugging everything around during the work week.  My grandma's caregiver has this bag in purple and after hearing the price and where it was from, I was on a mission.  Clearly, I wanted ALL the colors.


Now, it's time to meal prep my lunches for the week and get ready for my husband's work dinner!  I hope you had a great weekend :)  Can't wait to share more with you this week!

What made your weekend special? 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Favorites 11/14/14: Week 6

TGIF!!!  Happy Friday everyone.  Can you believe it is already halfway through November?  Where did the time go?  The temperature has dropped, there are flurries outside and soon the holidays will be in full swing.  Friday brings the start of the weekend but also Friday Favorites!!!  Here are the things I'm loving this weekend that have made my life easier... and will hopefully do the same for you!

Housewife Glamour



Finds - Stocking up on all things beauty (great holiday gift ideas by the way!)


  • Foundation - Makeup Forever HD Foundation 
    • This used to be my go-to foundation a few years back and our love affair is back on.  It's perfect in pictures and wears well throughout the day.  Head to your local Sephora to get matched with a shade.
  • Rollerball Perfumes - Juicy Couture 
    • Are you in need of a new perfume?  It can be hard to commit to a whole bottle unless you're 100% certain about the scent.  I ordered this rollerball to test out the fragrance and it's a winner!  It was an inexpensive purchase, less than $20, and the rollerball is pretty large.  Already committed to a fragrance?  A rollerball is perfect for traveling.  
  • Makeup Palettes - Smashbox Master Class III Palette 
    • There's nothing I love more than a palette and the retail value of this is $300, it's a total steal at only $65.  Look at all these eyeshadows!  I can't wait to play around with it this weekend.  It also has 3 blushes and 3 other colors for highlighting/contouring.  Perfect for the beauty junkie in your life - no judgement if that's you!
  • Beauty Blenders - Real Techniques Beauty Sponge
    • I'd heard of beauty blenders before and how they were supposed to be a holy grail beauty item, but for $20 it sounded like a racket.  I heard about this inexpensive alternative and I am so happy that I did. This product is amazing - you simply dampen it and then use it to apply your foundation. $5.99 and your face will look airbrushed.
Find - The Light Between Oceans 


  • I loved this novel!!!  The Light Between Oceans is a definite must read.  Disclaimer: this book does get off to a slow start and it took a few chapters for me to truly get engaged. However, it explores so many themes - concepts of loss - specifically the loss of ones self, the motivation for our decisions, what it truly means to be a parent, the ripple effect of our choices. Once I was pulled in, I couldn't stop reading.  Beautifully written and heart wrenching. A must read.  Find it at your local library or download it onto your tablet!

Food - Risotto


  • A recent discovery of mine - I realized I could make my favorite meal in the slow cooker.  All of the delicious flavor with only a few stirs instead of a few hundred.  I'll be posting the recipe soon, so be sure to check back!
Fitness - Realizing when you've outgrown your old gym... and joining a new one!



  • We were feeling frustrated at our old gym.  There were limited amounts of treadmills as in there were 4 and a lot of times the equipment wouldn't work quite right or was noticeably broken.  It just wasn't working anymore.  I shared these frustrations with my husband and we decided to shop around.  We debated between two gyms but ultimately it came down to what our preferences were.  I wanted group fitness classes and he wanted an early opening time.  We found the perfect fit and are even saving $15 a month! Bonus: it's one minute from our house.  Moral of the story: Know when you've outgrown your gym/group fitness class/current workout routine and don't be afraid to make a change! 

Fun - Starbucks Holiday Cups


  • Holiday cups are back..... andddd did you know a grande skinny peppermint latte is 130 calories and 13 grams of protein?  #christmasinaglass

What are you loving this Friday? 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Easy peasy and oh so cheesy

Hi again!  How's your week been so far?  It's about to get colder here in the midwest with a predicted temperature of 36 degrees for tomorrow morning.  For those of you that are lucky enough to celebrate winter, you know the season is coming for warmer coats, furry boots, snow shovels and gloves you can text in.  I can't complain - winter is always so magical and while  I always love that first snowfall of the year, my fingers crossed that it doesn't come tomorrow.

Something about the cold weather makes me want to hibernate with a warm blanket and Netflix.  Maybe you can relate?  After a long day at the office, the last thing you want to do is burn the midnight oil in the kitchen when it's already dark outside.  I mentioned in another post about my love of the snow cooker, I mean slow cooker, and while we're on the topic of winter, now is the perfect time for more slow cooker meals.  Come home from work, throw everything in the slow cooker, run some errands or go to you favorite workout class, come home to dinner waiting for you and your family.  The perfect avenue for making a meal when all you want to do is burrow in a blanket.


I've heard rumors that macaroni and cheese could be made in the slow cooker, but I was extremely skeptical.  Could that really be true?  Can you really make macaroni and cheese in the slow cooker?  After all, macaroni and cheese is comfort food at it's finest.  I played around in the kitchen and tweaked a few recipes I'd found online.  This recipe isn't the healthiest, but the calories have been lowered by using skim milk and low-fat cheese.  That's comfort food at it's finest.

If my kitchen walls could talk: When stirring the macaroni and cheese mixture, make sure to fully scrape the bottom of your slow cooker to avoid burnt spots.  Not a fan of parmesan?  Top with mild cheddar for a more traditional mac and cheese.

Slow Cooker White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese, adapted from A Whisk and a Prayer

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup skim milk
12 oz can fat-free evaporated milk
3 large eggs
16 oz light sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
16 oz brown rice pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded

1. Spray the inside of slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.  Combine skim milk, evaporated milk, eggs, shredded cheese and butter in the bottom of the slow cooker.
2. Add pasta to slow cooker, stir to combine with sauce mixture, top with parmesan cheese.
3. Set slow cooker to cook on low for 4 hours.  Stir mixture after 45 minutes of cooking to ensure all noodles cook evenly making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.  After 3 hours, check mixture as it may be finished at this time depending on the temperature of your slow cooker.  Enjoy!


What's your favorite comfort food? 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Favorites 10/31/14: Week 5


Happy Halloween! Any exciting celebrations planned?  I'm looking forward to passing out candy to trick or treaters, relaxing and gaining an extra hour of sleep with the time change.  Plus, it's time for Friday Favorites!  A collection of my favorite Food, Finds, Fashion, Fitness and Fun.  I've joined the party that Housewife Glamour started, so don't let the fun stop here. I love sharing all my Friday favorites and can't wait to hear some of yours.


Housewife Glamour



Fashion - Urban Decay Vault 
  • This the ultimate beauty jackpot - the Naked Vault.  All of the Naked palettes, matching eyeliners, blush palettes and lip gloss?  I own all three Naked palettes and I'm obsessed.  The eyeshadows all provide beautiful coverage and are warm and velvety.  This collection should move to the top of your beauty wish list!  Don't want to splurge for this set?  I highly recommend picking up a Naked palette during your next Sephora run.  The colors are versatile enough to plan plenty of work appropriate looks and also more glamourous eyes and a night out on the town. 


Food - Slow Cooker Style 

  • My new favorite slow cooker meal. Chicken breasts + Frank's wing sauce + 1 tbsp organic butter + 1 tsp garlic = incredible.  I'm all about easy meals.  I shredded the chicken, added it to a gluten-free pita and topped it with a little cheese.  You could serve this over rice, in taco shells, mix with cream cheese for a dip... the possibilities are endless really.


Fitness - Heart Rate Monitors

  • Looking for a way to take your workout up a notch?  Invest in a heart rate monitor.  I love my Polar FT4!  It's pretty basic, which is fine by me :)  It tracks my heart rate during exercise and gives the calories burned.  It has a few additional features that I don't use (hey, just being honest!) but the best part for me is the heart rate monitor.  By monitoring my heart rate, I'm able to know when I'm physically able to push myself harder but on the flip side, I'm also able to know when I'm pushing my body too hard.  It will help you step up your workouts a notch and help you to notice improvements in your fitness.  Since I started using the Polar last year, I've noticed how much faster my heart rate recovers once I started incorporating interval training.  Heart rate monitors for the win!  Bonus: The cool cake it will show if you workout on your birthday :) 
Finds - Gluten-free Halloween Candy



Fun - Happy Halloween!!



Happy Halloween!! Have a fun and safe night :)