Thursday, December 25, 2014

Copycat Cranberry Bliss Bars

Merry Christmas everyone!

I didn't have a ton of time to talk about Hanukkah this year since I was so busy with school before winter break and then going to Cancun for 5 days, but here is one great Christmas recipe that everyone should know about.  Head over to Recipe Girl for the official recipe, but here is a picture of one of my favorite breakfasts/desserts: Cranberry Bliss Bars!  I made mine with unsalted butter and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, but otherwise I followed to recipe and they were just amazing!

I am wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and I hope that everyone has a wonderful day with friends and family no matter what you celebrate :)

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Winter Squash and Brussel Spout Salad with Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Our trip to Cancun was absolutely amazing.  We didn't do much and it was amazing.  Plus, I actually got some color on my uber-pale arms and I look like I actually traveled somewhere!

Now, it is time to come home from this beautiful place.  After days of laying by the pool, yoga on the beach, countless, delish margaritas, and a trip to Tulum to see some historic ruins, I feel like I am finally ready to return to reality...

Actually, that's a lie.  I love it here and we have had such an amazing time.  I know that you can't do "nothing" forever, but I could probably handle a few more days :).  The real reason I can't wait to come home is; Benny.  Yes, I miss my cat!  I am also pretty excited to see my family for some fun Christmas Eve celebrations.  However, I just notice that it is 81 and party cloudy here and 36 with thundersnow in the forecast there.  Yuck.

Today, I wanted to share one of my favorite salads to make with some typical winter ingredients.  I love roasting some squash and Brussel sprouts and then throwing them on top of a bed of greens for a yummy school, lunch salad.  I could also use a few days of this salad as a detox for all the crazy eating I've done in Cancun...

Winter Squash and Brussel Sprout Salad with Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 cup Brussel sprouts, peeled and cut in half
1 cup Butternut squash, cubed
olive oil
salt and pepper
chili powder
1 bag of baby spinach
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup almonds (or other favorite nut)
1/4 cup feta cheese (or other favorite cheese)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray a baking pan with oil.
2. In a large bowl, place prepared squash and sprouts.  Drizzle with a few tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder, to taste.  Spread out on baking sheet and place in oven for about 30 minutes.  Toss after 15 and 30 and continue to cook longer if you would like softer veggies.  Remove from oven and let cool.
3. For the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and honey.  Season with salt as needed and drizzle in about a tbsp of olive oil while whisking.  Add more olive oil if you want.
4. Place spinach leaves in bowl.  Toss with the cranberries, almonds, feta and veggies.  Use as many ingredients as you want here, its your salad!  Flavor with dressing (again, as much as you want!)

Enjoy :)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Healthy Avocado Dip

Cancun has been amazing so far!  Yesterday, I did a short work out in the fitness room at our resort and then Bri and I had an amazing breakfast.  The breakfast here is a buffet style with options from omelets, waffles, and french toast, to traditional Mexican cuisine.  We tried a little bit of everything and our waiter even brought us mimosas.  I can't wait to try some other foods today and maybe even a smoothie from the guy who blends fresh smoothies right by your table!  This all inclusive thing is pretty great!

After breakfast, we decided to go change into our swim suits and go for a walk along the beach.  Everything is just beautiful here.  After our walk, we lounged by the pool and enjoyed margaritas and mojitos until we decided it was time to wash up for our dinner.

Dinner was at a South American style restaurant on the resort.  Our waiters were absolutely amazing, the food was great and since most of the food was not vegetarian, the waiters made Bri two special entrees (vegetable empanadas and a stuffed pepper) to make sure that he was able to eat.  Plus, since it was Bri's birthday, they brought out a cute dessert for him!  It was so nice.

After dinner, we went to the bar to order some drinks and check out the "club" scene at our resort.  Of course we didn't stay very late because it was past our bedtimes and we were somehow exhausted after a day of doing nothing.  I can't wait for tomorrow!

In the spirit of Cancun, I figured I should share this awesome recipe for an Avocado Dip.  I use this dip for chips, as well as to top things like fajitas or tacos.  Its super delish and healthy too!

Healthy Avocado Dip
(adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
2 avocados
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp cumin
pinch of chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Place everything in your food processor or blender and blend to combine until you have a smooth dip.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

Enjoy :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cancun Day 1 - Happy Birthday Bri!

We have only been here for a few hours since our flight was delayed, but so far everything is fantastic! We are staying at ME Cancun and today is Bri's birthday! I will update you all here on our adventures as we slowly figure out what we are going to do! Right now, I may go back to is winter break after all! 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Big News!

I'm engaged!  I could not be happier and more excited to spend the rest of my life with Bri and I just couldn't wait to share the news!  Can't wait to share all our exciting moments as we start to plan a wedding!

Quick Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

Today I am feeling nostalgic about my marathon training.  I just went for a brisk 9 mile run, and it just wasn't the same without my running buddies in my running group.  About 3 weeks after the marathon, I did the Hot Chocolate 15K with some friends and that was a blast because it got me back into running and it was such a fun race.

Then, I did the Turkey Trot 5K with a friend and that was fun too!  Now, I am trying to stay motivated to go for runs because I love how they make me feel, but I also get sad that I don't have running buddies all the time to chat with.  Last weekend, I decided to run 13 miles just for the hell of it.  Around mile 8 though, I was so bored!  I decided to call my mom to talk to her while I was running.  That helped, but she couldn't talk to me forever!  I am going to have to look for some awesome playlists if I am going to keep myself entertained!  Anyone have any suggestions?  

In honor of my nostalgia, I am sharing a recipe that I made for myself for my post-marathon breakfast.  I woke up the next day looking to eat everything in sight.  I am also a huge sucker for a good cinnamon roll.  They are definitely one of my guilty pleasures.  I found a recipe for a small batch of easy cinnamon rolls and I just had to have them!  Then, I modified the recipe to be a little lighter and whole wheat!  I felt like this made the cinnamon rolls into a healthy breakfast...right?

Quick Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls
(adapted from Dessert for Two)

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp sugar, divided
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
5 tbsp skim milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, melted
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp light cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp skim milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 and spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a bowl, whisk flour, 1 tbsp sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a small bowl, combine milk, vinegar, and 2 tbsp of the melted butter.  Pour this into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and a dough forms.  
4. Roll the dough out so that you have a long and thin rectangle.  Spread the rest of the melted butter on the dough and sprinkle the rest of the sugar and the cinnamon so that it is thoroughly covered.  Take the long edge of the rectangle and roll the dough up.  Cut into 4 pieces and place into your muffin pan.
5. Bake for about 14 minutes.  While baking, stir the ingredients for the glaze together.  When cinnamon rolls are done, frost!

Enjoy :)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! French Silk Pie

I know, I know, I'm a day off.  However, I was too busy celebrating Thanksgiving yesterday, to really sit down and write a post.  So, today, I am taking the opportunity to say what I am thankful for and share with you this amazing French Silk Pie.

I have so much to be thankful for.  I am incredibly thankful for my family, Bri, and Benny.  The amount of love that surrounds me makes me feel grateful and blessed.  Last night, I went to Bri's thanksgiving with his amazing family and then, also my sister's house for thanksgiving with my family.  The fact that we have so many people in our life that are there for us is just amazing.  It was so great to see all the family (plus the food was fantastic!).  This brings me to my next point, I am pretty thankful for food.  I love how food has the power to bring people together and I love making food that can do that.  In addition, I am thankful for my school, the teachers I work with, and my students.  I love everything about my job and I am so happy that I am at this point in my life.  My second year of teaching is going great and makes me so relieved that I am living out the career of my dreams.  And finally, we can't forget about all my crazy, amazing, silly friends that stick by me no matter what.  I love them all.  So yep, I have a ton to be thankful for and I just hope that I can so everyone how special they really are to me.

Last weekend, I went to a "Friendsgiving" and I brought this French Silk Pie.  It was so cool to be part of this evening and see how we can really put together an amazing Thanksgiving dinner.  I had a ton of fun and I hope that this is a new tradition that continues through the years.

French Silk Pie

For the Crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2-3 tbsp ice water
For the Filling:
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 heavy whipping cream
2 tsp powdered sugar
Whipped Cream Frosting:

8 oz light cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups heavy whipping cream
semi-sweet chocolate curls or chips for the topping

1. Make the crust.  In a food processor, place flour, sugar and salt.  Process to mix.  Keep processing and add cubes of butter until you have a mixture that resembles wet sand.  Add in the vinegar and 1 tbsp of water at a time until dough forms into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. 
2. Preheat oven to 450.  Once dough is chilled, lightly flour a surface and roll dough out until you have a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan and, place in pie pan and trim edges.  Cover with foil  Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until dough is lightly browned.  Remove and let cool.
3.  Make the filling.  In a small saucepan, combine eggs and sugar.  Cook over low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and chocolate until chocolate completely melts and is well combined. 
4. In a medium bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in chocolate mixture and beat on high for 5 minutes.  Mixture should be light and fluffy.
5.  In a separate bowl, beat whipping cream with powdered sugar until it forms a stiff peak.  Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture.  Pour into pie crust and let chill while you make the topping.

6.  For the whipped cream topping, in a large bowl, beat sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla until well combined.  Slowly pour in the cream while beating and whip until stiff peaks form.  Frost the chilled pie.  If you are using chocolate curls, heat up a chocolate bar in the microwave on 50% power for about 1 minute.  Use a peeler and gently scrape off edges of the chocolate bar to make your chocolate curls.  Place finished pie back in the fridge to chill and set.

Enjoy :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Oatmeal Cookie Apple Pie

This is my 500th blog post! Can you believe that?  I can't!  I love posting here and although and don't post as frequently as I used to, I still love documenting a little about my life and all the fun food I make!

Last night, I had a great time with some of my teacher buddies.  We ran a 5K and then hung out after for dinner and drinks.  It was so much fun!  Plus, I cam in first in the 5K for my age group!  That was pretty funny and exciting.  We also played Cards Against Humanity which is just hilarious.

In honor of my 500th post and Thanksgiving being right around the corner, I have a yummy recipe for Apple Pie with an Oatmeal Cookie Crust!  I found the recipe on How Sweet It Is and then adapted it a bit to fit what I wanted.  I hope that you enjoy this amazing recipe and (hopefully) another 500 posts to come.

Oatmeal Cookie Apple Pie

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2-3 tbsp ice water
6 large apples peeled and sliced thin (I used Granny Smith)
2 1/2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter

1. Make the crust: place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor.  Let pulse and add in the butter until mixture starts to combine.  Add in the vinegar and then the water, 1 tbsp at a time, until the mixture forms into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill.
2. Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the apple cider, brown sugar, butter and vanilla.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 6-7 minutes or until mixture thickens.
3. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Pour the cider mixture over the top and toss to combine.
4. Once dough has chilled, place on a lightly floured surface and roll out until you have a crust that is about 1/4 inch thick.  Place in a lightly greased pie pan.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
6.  Place apples in the prepared pie pan.
7.  Make the topping: In a large bowl, whisk the oats, flour, cinnamon and salt.  Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut in the butter until you have a streusel like topping.  Sprinkle the topping over the apples and press down to make sure that it stays in place.
8.  Bake pie for 45-50 minutes.

Enjoy :)

no bourbon- 1 cup apple cider

Sunday, October 26, 2014

One Pot Vegetarian Sweet Potato Breakfast Skillet

I had to post this because so many people were asking about the recipe! This "breakfast for dinner" dish was outstanding and one of the more attractive meals I have put together.

This week was the first week after the marathon where I sorta felt like I was all better again.  I started running again, I felt more positive about teaching, and I got back to cooking!  I was in a bit of a post-marathon funk for a while and it felt really good to be back to myself!

Bri and I didn't have any plans this weekend and it has been so nice just relaxing!  Last weekend, I went to a math conference and didn't really feel like I had any weekend time!  However, it was a really cool conference and I already started using a bunch of the ideas I learned from it in my own classroom.  For example, I taught this fun lesson about a Giant Gummy Bear!  The video is really cute and my students did a great job with the lesson.  Besides teaching and running, I made some amazing meals that I am really excited to share here!

One Pot Vegetarian Sweet Potato Breakfast Skillet
(adapted from Cookie Monster Cooking)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes (I left the skins on)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup pepper jack cheese
4 eggs
2 green onions (optional)
1 avocado (optional)
siracha sauce (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add in sweet potatoes, paprika, cumin, salt, and cayenne and toss to combine.  Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour in the veggie broth, stir, and then cover again for about 10 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.  You may need to add more broth so that the potatoes don't stick.  Stir every 2-3 minutes to check.
2. Once potatoes are done, sprinkle the cheese over the tops.  Then, create 4 spaces and crack the eggs into them.  Cover and let the eggs cook for 5-6 minutes or until your eggs are done the way you like.
3.  To serve, cut up the green onion and sprinkle over the top.  Serve with avocado slices and a little siracha.

Enjoy :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes

So yesterday I ran a marathon.  I can't believe I get to say that now!  I completed the Bank of American Chicago Marathon.  My toes really hurt right now, but I am so excited and proud of myself.  My finishing time was 4 hours and 37 minutes and I ran the entire time at about a 10 minute mile pace.  I walked through water stations and stopped for the bathroom, but other than that, I ran the entire freaking thing.  It was so cool.  If you want, check out my thoughts on this whole thing here: My First Marathon.

And here are some of the highlights from yesterday!
Ready to start!

13 miles in!


One refreshing beer...that I had 4 sips of

My running buddy Jana and our metals! 
I was so nervous going into this weekend, that I baked cupcakes for no reason at all.  I just needed something to do.  However, now I am really happy that I did because these Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes are super delicious and a well-deserved treat after the 26.2 miles I ran yesterday.  Make these delicious cupcakes for a yummy fall treat!

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes (I call them Chumpkin Cupcakes)
adapted from (The Kitchn)

Chai Syrup:
1 cup water
6 tbsp sugar
4 chai tea bags
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp canola oil
4 eggs
3 tbsp chai syrup
1 tsp vanilla
15 oz pumpkin puree (plain)
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp chai syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. To make the chai syrup:  Place water, sugar, spices, and tea bags in a medium saucepan.  Stir and bring to a rolling boil.  Lower heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes or until water is reduced and you have a syrup texture.  Remove tea bags and place syrup in a container.  Place in fridge until cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350 and place cupcake liners in your cupcake pan.  I made regular cupcakes and mini cupcakes.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and cloves.  In a large bowl, place brown sugar, sugar, and canola oil.  Beat until well combined.  Beat in eggs, chai syrup, and vanilla.  Slowly add in the flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in the pumpkin puree until combined.
4. Fill cupcake wells about 2/3 full.  For regular cupcakes bake 20-23 and for mini cupcakes bake for 15-18 minutes.  An inserted toothpick should come out clean.  Let cool before frosting.
5. To make the frosting, beat butter until whipped and then beat in the powdered sugar, chai syrup and vanilla.  Beat until well combined and frost!

Enjoy :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My First Marathon

I really can't believe that this day is here.  One year ago, I watched the Chicago Marathon and said, "I'm totally going to do this next year."  When it came time to sign up, six months ago, I still had that frame of mind.  I figured, while I'm young, I should try to do everything that inspires me.

Five years ago, if I told myself I would one day run a marathon, I would have laughed myself to tears.  I was totally not a runner.  I would go to the gym and stand on the elliptical just because everyone else was doing it and then I would get a snack right afterwards.  I wasn't exactly into working out :)  But then, I started jogging with my friend Caryn and this blog and everything changed.  Caryn provided me with the motivation and support to get out there and keep moving.  This blog, taught me to cook.  I know its about food and recipes, but truly it is about me making myself do something good and learn how to eat.  Both of these things helped me to realize that I was always much stronger and disciplined than I had ever realized before.  Both of these things helped me embrace who I am and what I love.

Now that today is here, I could not be more proud of myself for taking on this challenge.  It terrifies me.  I have trained for 18 weeks.  I have run 20 miles.  People keep telling me I am ready and its time to believe in that and have some fun.  I am so excited for today's race even if I feel like I'm going to get sick at any moment right now.  Last night, as I was sitting at dinner with my parents, cousin, Bri, and tons of good friends, I looked around me and realized that I have so much support and love in my life.  This is what is going to carry me through today.  I blog about food because I love how food brings people together.  Last night, we were brought together by two of my loves, food and running and it meant so much to me to have so many people there.

In about 40 minutes, I am going to be picked up by my marathon buddy, Jana, and we will be off to start this crazy adventure.  Wish me luck and thank you to everyone who has supported me in all the crazy endeavors I have taken on!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Marathon Training and a Detox Mango Avocado Smoothie

Here is what you think about when you sign up for a marathon:
1. I'm young, I'll probably be fine.
2. This looks really cool.
3. It's a bucket list thing.

Here is what you think about during training:
1. Geez this is a lot of running.
2. I'm so hungry all the time.
3. My knee hurts.
4. Am I sure I can do this?

And here is where I am at now:
1. I'm totally ready.
2. I'm totally excited.

Last weekend, I ran the Magellan Ready to Run 20 miler.  I was so nervous leading up to the event, but when I finished I was truly amazed.  I ran the whole time at my 10 minute mile pace.  Therefore, I ran 20 miles in 3 hours and 20 minutes.  It was amazing.  I have never felt such relief and excitement at accomplishing anything like this before. I have been training with CARA (Chicago Area Running Association) and it has totally paid off.  If someone told me 5 years ago that I would be running a marathon, I would have thought they were completely insane.  And yet, here I am.  Last year, I went and watched some of the Chicago Marathon and decided that I should do it.  Now, I am two 2 weeks away!!!  I feel totally ready and completely amazed at what I can do.
Today, was the first "taper" run.  After 20, you taper (run less and less) until the race.  Today, I ran 12 miles and it was the first time in 6 weeks that I ran less than a half marathon during the weekend.  How insane is that???

Throughout training, I have tried to focus on my health as well as my running and teaching.  However, all this running really does just make me want to eat everything in sight!  To try and avoid eating a ton of junk, I have discovered various healthy recipes.  Today, I am sharing one.  This is one of a few smoothie recipes that I have tried over the course of my marathon training and it really is delicious as well as nutritious.  I highly recommend it as a great way to get your veggies and feel amazing.  If you are running a ton, you will need more than this, so maybe have some peanut butter with toast in addition to the yummy smoothie.

Detox Mango Avocado Smoothie

1/2 cup chopped fresh mango
1/2 cup sliced avocado
1 cup orange juice (I used Tropicana 50)
2 tbsp lime juice

1. Put everything in blender and blend until smooth.  This makes 2 large smoothies.

Enjoy :)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cookie Dough Frosted Brownies

I can't believe I am a month away from race day! I just finished an "easy" 14 miles.  You may be wondering...easy?  Well, after running 18 last week, today seemed like a breeze.  Plus, the weather was chilly and beautiful.  This made the run a whole lot more pleasant than those others that were in 80 degree heat with crazy humidity!  I feel great right now! I can't believe that next week is the 20 mile run! 20 miles is the longest run before the actual marathon and I am only one week away!

I am running for a charity called Access Living and if you would like to read more about the charity and my running journey, you can find all info here:  Jodie-Team Access Living.

Today I figured we should celebrate!  I am pumped about my running going so well, but I am also grateful for an amazing start to the school year.  So far classes have been great, I love my co-workers, and my students have been a joy so far!  (Let's hope it stays that way!)  I'm also excited about the fact that I have finally finished reading all the current Game of Thrones books.  This was a HUGE project as each book is about 1000 pages, but I finally finished and I can't wait for the next book to be released!  All in all, a celebration is in order and what better way to celebrate than with delicious brownies?  I made my typical Dark Chocolate Brownies, but then I topped them with a layer of cookie dough frosting.  YUM!!!! Bri has already asked that I make these for his birthday this year and thats not for another 3 months!

Cookie Dough Frosted Brownies
Brownie Recipe
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp skim milk
2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp low-fat cream cheese
pinch of salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1. Make brownies according to directions (or make your own favorite recipe). Let cool completely.
2. In a large bowl, beat sugar, brown sugar, and melted butter until well combined and sugar starts to dissolve.  Beat in the milk, vanilla, cream cheese, and salt until well combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Spread the frosting over the brownies.  You will have a very thick layer.
3. Cover in tinfoil and place in fridge for a few hours to ensure that the frosting sets.  Once chilled, cut into squares.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sea Salted Caramel Brown Butter Cookie Cups

I feel like I've been slacking.  I know I don't post as much anymore, but what I really mean is that I've been totally skimping on sharing my amazing Chicago experiences.

I've been living in my apartment in Chicago for over a year now, and I really haven't shared all the amazing times I've had around the city.   I will be at an event thinking, "I should totally post about this," and I'll even take pictures so that I'm ready for the post.  But then, I forget, or get busy, or just get lazy.  So, I have ended up with tons of photos of amazing times that have never ended up here.  

This issue ends today.  I am going to start actually informing you all about how great Chicago is.  Starting with: Breweries.  Bri and I are huge fans of going to various breweries to take tours and sample beer.  Chicago is a fantastic place to do that!  So far, we have hit up two spots: Revolution and Half Acre.  Both breweries have great beer and we even had dinner at Revolution which was also fantastic.  If you are ever in town, try to find a brewery tour to take.  There are so many in Chicago and it is a really fun way to spend an afternoon.  

Today I also have an amazing dessert recipe to share!  I made these, brought them to school, and was told they were the best thing I've ever made.  Now, I get told that a lot, but truly these guys are delicious.  They also go along with the theme of amazing things that I am currently into because I am currently obsessed with carmel and sea salt.  I can't get enough.  I just ordered some dark chocolate sea salt caramels to support the school's band, and I bought the Dove ones from the store to keep in my desk.  I can't get enough! Sweet, salty, and delicious, these Sea Salted Caramel Brown Butter Cookie Cups are just divine!  

Sea Salted Caramel Brown Butter Cookie Cups

3 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 egg white
2 cups mini chocolate chips
24 caramels
sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a mini muffin pan.
2. Place butter in a small sauce pan and melt over medium heat.  Continue to swirl the butter around over medium heat until it browns.  Remove from heat.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  
4. In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, sugar, and browned butter until well combined.  Beat in the egg and egg white until combined and then the vanilla.  Slowly mix in the flour mixture until just combined.  
5.  Fill each muffin well about halfway with cookie dough.  Press a caramel into each well and sprinkle sea salt over the top of each caramel.  Scoop cookie dough on top of each salted caramel and press into the muffin well.  
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookie dough just starts to brown. Let cool and remove from muffin pan.

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

I'm writing a blog post at school! Well, sort of...

Today is a testing day for the students, so I am sitting here, bored out of my mind, watching students take a practice ACT.  I decided that a great use of my time (after I did everything I needed to do for school) would be to write a blog post about some amazing Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups I made.  My only fear is that this post is going to make me drool or that the students will hear my stomach rumbling! I hope you all enjoy this random, mid-week post about one amazing dinner idea!

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

1 box lasagna noodles (the kind you have to boil)
your favorite tomato sauce
16 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained completely
16 oz light ricotta cheese
8 oz, plus a few tbsp light mozzarella cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cook the lasagna noodles according to directions until al dente.  Drain and lay each noodle on a damp paper towel.  Cover the noodles with another damp paper towel.
3. In a bowl, mix the spinach into the ricotta cheese.  Mix in the egg using a fork and then mix in half the mozzarella, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spread a layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan.  Uncover the noodles and, using a spoon, spread a layer of the spinach-ricotta mixture over each noodle.  Then, tightly roll up each noodle and place seam down in the pan. When all noodles are done, spread more tomato sauce over the tops of the rolls and sprinkle with some mozzarella and parmesan.  Place in oven to bake for about 30 minutes.

Enjoy :)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Homemade Baked Cheese Fries

Alright, so I know that I am usually all about being healthy and running and all that jazz.  However, when I let my true colors show, I am a person constantly craves either cheese fries or cinnamon rolls.  Since neither of these really fit into my "eating healthy" plan, I try my very best to avoid both.

Until, I found this recipe for Cheese Sauce from Serious Eats:

Cheese Sauce

8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 tsp cornstarch
2-3 tsp hot sauce

1. Toss shredded cheese with the cornstarch and then add to a medium saucepan.
2.  Add evaporated milk to saucepan and heat over medium until melted and thickened.
3. Add in hot sauce to taste.

Game over! This is too easy! Plus, I can totally use "light" cheddar and "light" evaporated milk.  So that totally makes it healthy...right?

Then, I found a recipe for baked french fries and I was set.

So, go make that cheese sauce and then make these baked fries and you have yourself some "healthy" cheese fries!

Baked French Fries
(adapted from Purple Foodie)

8-9 garlic cloves, minced
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1.5 lbs of potatoes, cut into 1 inch wedges
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. In a bowl, combine the oil with the garlic.  Heat in microwave on 30 second intervals until garlic is fragrant.
3. Take about 4 tbsp of oil from the bowl and spread on the baking pan.
4. Place potato wedges in bowl with garlic and toss.  Cover in plastic wrap and microwave for 4-6 minutes or until potatoes start to look translucent.
5. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne.  Sprinkle over the warm potatoes and toss to coat.
6.  Lay potatotes out separately on the oiled pan.  Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, flipping halfway through baking.  Potatoes should be golden and crisp.
Veggie Burger with Cheese Fries

Enjoy :)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Healthy Falafel with Feta Dip

I started school! I can't believe that summer is truly over now that it is after Labor Day and school is back in session.  Truly, I started last week, but it was only a 3 day week and it was followed by a 3 day weekend.  Now, I am really back to the grind.  I am still teaching Geometry and Algebra Advanced and its great because I have all my stuff from last year.  Being a second year teacher instead of a first year teacher definitely has its perks.  Not only do I know what I'm doing, but I also have past students saying hi to me in the hallways.  I'm still exhausted, but I am having fun.

Being a teacher is exhausting, but being a teacher who is in the peak of marathon training is ridiculous.  Yesterday, after teaching all day, I came home, laced up my running shoes, and went for a "short" 9 mile run.  The worst part, was when I came home I was too tired to make dinner, but I was starving.  So, here is a recipe that I found, loved, and had a ton of leftovers for those nights where you just don't feel like doing anything besides sleeping.

Baked Falafel with Spicy Feta Dip

Check out this blog because it is one of my favorites and this recipe is fantastic!  I made a couple adaptions so here they are:

I used whole wheat flour, light feta cheese, and non-fat, plain Chobani greek yogurt.  I also ended up using 5 garlic cloves because I just love garlic.  Otherwise, I followed the recipe and it came out amazing.  If you want to make this recipe gluten free, just use gluten free flour!  I had this for dinner with a pita and for lunch on its own.  Either way, the falafel is super tasty and that spicy feta dip just sends it over the top!

Enjoy :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Light Cauliflower Cheese Soup

A while ago. while running, some cab driver who was pulled over on the side of the road clapped for me and told me he was proud of me as I ran by.  It was so strange, but also pretty nice to hear.  I guess if you are a cab driver at 5 a.m. you have to entertain yourself somehow!

I think its pretty cool how many people will say "hi" or "looking good" or "keep it up" while running with my group on Saturdays.  It's nice to hear and it motivates me to keep going.  This Saturday, I really needed that.  I completed the 15 mile run (the longest I've ever gone), but it was tough.  The support of my group and the other runners was much needed and it made me grateful to have met such amazing people who are also embarking on this quest of completing a marathon.  Next week, it is a 16 mile run, and while I am nervous, I know that I can do it.  I just gotta keep putting one foot in front of another...right?

Today I wanted to share a yummy soup recipe.  I became pretty into soup this past year because it is so simple to make and its a great way to have a healthy lunch or dinner.  This soup was inspired by Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  I just added some stuff to make it my own and incorporate some flavors that love.

Light Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Ingredients:1 head of cauliflower, cut away the stem and break up into 1 inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup skim milk
6 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
dash of paprika (optional)
dash of hot sauce (optional)

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the onion and garlic and cook until onion starts to become translucent.  Add in the cauliflower and toss to coat in the oil.  Cook until cauliflower starts to brown.  Pour in the vegetable broth, thyme, and rosemary.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour the blended mixture back into the pot and heat over medium.  Stir in the shredded cheese and milk until melted and combined.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Add in the paprika and hot sauce if you are using.

Enjoy :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Zucchini Lasagna

I'm pretty excited about this recipe because I just made it up!  Everyone has been so zucchini crazy lately and Bri wanted to make a lasagna, so I combined the two!  This recipe was so easy and we ended up with tons of delicious left overs.  I used the lasagna noodles that you need to boil first, but you can use the no-boil kind as well.  I just think that the boil ones taste a little better.  This is such an awesome way to use up all that great zucchini that is in season!

Zucchini Lasagna

2 medium zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
12 oz light ricotta
1 egg
8 oz light mozzarella
your favorite tomato sauce
salt and pepper
lasagna noodles
parmesan, grated

1. Cook lasagna noodles according to directions and drain.
2. In a bowl, combine the zucchini, ricotta, egg, and mozzarella cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.
3. In a 9 by 13 inch pan, spread some tomato sauce on the bottom. Lay down a layer of lasagna noodles.  Spread some of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and then spread a layer of tomato sauce.  Repeat this process until you reach the top of your pan.  End with a layer of noodles.  Top with some tomato sauce and sprinkle on some parmesan cheese.
4. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Enjoy :)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nutella Muddy Buddies

Today is my first day off since Memorial Day! It feels so great to finally be on summer vacation and I have filled today with a whole lot of nothing!!!

I slept in, went for a run, attended a yoga class, and went grocery shopping.  Now, this may sound like a lot for a morning of "nothing," but these are all things that I love to do and so I consider them to be basically nothing.  Now, I am attempting to make homemade moose tracks ice cream! It is my favorite flavor and I will certainly be updating you all on how it goes!

In honor of my fun day off, I am going to share a super fun recipe! I love making puppy chow because it is 1. delicious and 2. gluten free.  I have a lot of gluten free friends and this treat is always a winner.  I saw a recipe for Nutella Muddy Buddies and I figured that could only make the traditional treat even better!!!

Nutella Muddy Buddies
(adapted from Tracy's Culinary Adventures)

4 cups Chex cereal
1 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Nutella
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp espresso powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar

1. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, butter, and Nutella.  Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir.  Repeat this process until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir in the espresso powder, salt, and vanilla.
2. Put Chex into a large bowl.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the Chex and toss to coat.
3. Put about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar into a plastic bag.  Scoop some of the Chex into the bag and seal the bag.  Toss to coat the Chex in the powdered sugar.  Repeat this process until all the Chex has been coated.  You may need more or less powdered sugar depending on your preference.  I usually end up using 3/4-1 cup.

Enjoy :)

Note: I think these taste the best when you freeze the batch afterwards.  They become delicious and crunchy!

Friday, August 8, 2014

5 Courses to Celebrate 5 Years

August, 3rd: Bri and I had a really great year.  One year ago, we moved into our apartment and celebrated our 4-year anniversary.  Now, we have been living together for a year and are on year 5 of our relationship!  It has been really great and I am so appreciative for all the amazing times we have experienced together.  To celebrate year 5, I thought it would be cute to cook dinner together and have 5 courses in honor of 5 years.  We shared this amazing meal and watched a movie and it was a quiet and lovely anniversary.

Zucchini Soup

Strawberry Poppyseed Salad

Whole Wheat Gnocchi with Feta and Peas in a Brown Butter Balsamic Sauce

Toasty Parmesan Tomatoes

Creme Brûlée Cupcakes