Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Caramel Apple Cake

Today is my last day of school this week!!! Plus, it's a test day!  I know...I'm a little evil.  I'm a math teacher and I'm excited about giving a test.  Actually, I'm really excited about this test because my students are going to do amazing on it and that is pretty awesome.

I'm also pumped because after school I am leaving for NYC with my family!  We are DRIVING there.  So, if we don't kill each other, by Wednesday night, we will be in NYC to meet up with my little brother and the University of Illinois Marching Band.  My brother is a proud member of this band and they are performing in the Macy's Day Parade on Thanksgiving!! How cool is that?

I'm excited to go to New York, see my New York family and see the Macy's Day Parade in person for the first time.  It is going to be so fun.

To celebrate, I'm sharing a cake!  This Caramel Apple Cake was inspired by the Brown Eyed Baker.  I made it for the ladies of my book club and they thought it was one of the best cakes they had ever had.  I made my cake with two layers of apple spice cake and then spread some "to die for" cinnamon, caramel cream cheese frosting over the whole thing.  Finally, I topped it off with some fresh slices of a granny smith apple.  YUM!  This dessert is super tasty and it is a great option for a Thanksgiving dessert that celebrates fall flavors.

Caramel Apple Cake

4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 cups unsweetened, plain applesauce
12 oz light cream cheese
1 cup unsalted butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp caramel sauce
1-2 tsp heavy cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line two 9 inch circular cake pans with parchment paper.  Grease generously.
2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar for a few minutes.  Beat until it is light and fluffy.  Beat in both eggs until well combined.
4. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the applesauce mixture to the butter and sugar.  Start and end with the flour. Divide the batter into the two prepared pans. Bake for 55-60 minutes.  Let cool completely.
5. To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together until well combined.  Add in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until you have a desired taste and consistency.  Add in the cinnamon and caramel sauce and beat well.  Add in the cream if needed.
6. Once your cake is totally cooled, you can spread a layer of frosting over the top of one layer and the place the other layer on top.  Frosting completely and top with some apple slices.

Enjoy :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Marathon Training Mondays: Turkey Trot 10K

Yesterday I ran my fastest 10K! It was super exciting and I think it is because of my confidence from completing my second marathon and from all my boot camp conditioning classes I have been going to.  I felt great and I was able to maintain a 8:45 pace.  I usually run at about a 10:00 pace so this is way faster! I shaved more than 6 minutes off my last 10K time!

I ran with Jana which was super fun because it brought back all those marathon training memories.  And, guess what?  We are both going to be doing winter marathon training because we are both running the Nashville Marathon in April!  I can't wait!  Winter training starts January 2nd.  It is going to be super cold.  Yesterday was super cold as well and it went great so that gave me confidence that running in the cold will be totally doable.

I did have the issue yesterday of not having any winter running gear! I work leggings and a longsleeve shirt with a jacket over it.  It was a pretty lame running outfit.  I'll have to look for some actual running clothes so that I am ready for winter training!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Smokey Chicken Avocado Roll-Ups

I have one excellent lunch today.  I hosted book club this past weekend and I decided to make these cute chicken roll-ups for the ladies.  I also made a dip and a Caramel Apple Cake, but you will just have to wait on those recipes.

The Chicken Roll-Ups were super tasty, a huge hit, and I secretly made way too many with the plan of keeping some hidden away in the fridge for myself.  Now, I have an awesome school lunch!

Last night we had cheer practice and I just have to talk about it here.  It was an amazing practice.  The team members who were at practice did a phenomenal job learning three new cheers.  Plus, we reviewed a fairly complicated dance that I taught them and they looked great!  This team is getting better every day and it is so incredibly exciting to see and be a part of.  I am super proud of them.  With basketball season just getting started, I can't wait to see what these girl's can do and where they end up.  We're also working on planning bonding activities, team fundraisers, and a cheer clinic.  I just love how into it the team is and it is so much fun.  I was nervous about becoming a coach because it is so time consuming, but I know I made a good choice because it is so fun and I just love all the girls!

Smokey Chicken Avocado Roll-Ups

4 Flat-Out wraps
1/2 lb smoked chicken breast, sliced thin
1 avocado
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp siracha
salt and pepper, to taste
1 container roasted red pepper pesto
8-12 slices light, sharp cheddar

1. Place avocado pieces, lime juice, siracha, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until you have a smooth paste.
2. Start with one Flat-Out wrap and spread some avocado spread over the first 2/3 of the wrap.  Use 2-3 pieces of cheese and lay them over the avocado.  You may have to break up slices to get a nice layer.
3. Lay slices of chicken over the cheese.
4. Drizzle the roasted red pepper pesto over the chicken.  Then, start with the end of the wrap that is not empty and roll tightly towards the other end until the wrap is completely rolled.  Cut into about 6 slices. Repeat this process with the other wraps.

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wedding Planning Wednesday's

I am just exhausted.  I don't know what is up.  I think it's probably the weather and how dreary and dark it always is.  But then again, maybe I am just coming down with something.  I don't know.  I just feel like no matter how early I get to bed, I am still super, crazy tired.  Today I am grateful that we have a short day of school (students leave at 2 instead of 4) and then we have teacher meetings until 4.  After that, I have cheer practice until 5:30.  I know this sounds like a long day, but compared to Monday and Tuesday where I stayed at school until after 7, today is gloriously short.  

A week ago, I went in for a hair cut at Seta's Salon in Deerfield.  I have been going there for ages and Courtney does my highlights and cuts my hair.  She is awesome.  This past week when I was there, she also did a sample wedding style for me and I ADORED it.  I mean look:

It's beautiful! I love it!  I am totally going to go with her for my wedding.  Courtney and Seta are going to come downtown to our hotel, do my hair, my mom's hair and any of my bridesmaids that want their hair done.  I can't wait!  Now, I need to start working on finding a makeup person for the big day.  If you have any ideas for Chicago makeup artists please let me know!  I am looking for someone super reasonable as I know that no one in my wedding party wants to spend a ton on makeup.  I feel like I'd much rather spend on the hair and save on the makeup.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mommy's Granola Bars

It's a quiz day in math class!  I'm feeling a little down since I just graded a bunch of the quizzes and students who have been working on graphing quadratics for THREE weeks are still struggling with it.  I'm gonna have to look for some new strategies.  Any suggestions?  

Last night was also the first cheer performance for a basketball game!  It was really exciting and the girl's did a nice job.  They are a brand new cheer squad and they have already learned a bunch of cheers as well as a few dances.  The captains did a good job calling the cheers, but as a group we are going to have to work on staying sharp and smiling.  We are also continuing to work on our stunts and learning new routines.  I'm exciting for next month when we have a cheer clinic scheduled with a college cheerleader who has volunteered to come help us out!  How cool is that?  

Coaching and math teaching has been going really well at my new school and overall I just love it!  

I made my mommy's granola bar recipe recently when I knew that I was going to be at school for a long time and needed some sort of snack.  My average day starts at 5:45 when I go to the gym to work out.  Then, I get to school between 7:15 and 7:45 and hold office hours or work on lesson plans.  School goes from 8:30 to 4:00 and then I usually have cheer practice or office hours or some sort of school activity until at least 5:30.  Some nights I am here until 7!  On those crazy long days, I need some sort of pick-me-up and these granola bars totally do the trick.  I can't wait to make these again and maybe try mixing up the ingredients.  For this recipe I used dried fruit, but you could totally mix it up by putting in some chocolate chips, almonds, peanut butter chips, caramel...whatever!  This recipe can also easily be gluten free! 

Mommy's Granola Bars

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup rice puff cereal (I used the Kashi 7 Grain one)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp flaxseed
2 tbsp wheat germ
1/4 cup dried cherries
2 tbsp dried blueberries
2 tbsp raisins
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla 
pinch of salt

1. Lightly grease a 8 by 8 pan.
2. In a bowl, mix the oats, puff cereal, flax. wheat germ, and dried fruit.
3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the almond butter, brown sugar, honey, and salt.  Stir until the mixture starts to bubble.  Remove from heat and pour over the dry ingredients.
4. Stir the mixture to coat all the dry ingredients.  Then pour the mixture into your prepared pan and press evenly into the pan.  Place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to chill.  Once chilled, cut into bars.

Enjoy :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Salmon Burgers

I had a bit of a crazy weekend.  Friday night was nice since I got to hang with my co-workers at a bowling alley after school and then I went to Half Acre with some friends.  Then, Saturday morning I went for a lovely 8.5 mile run.  I got home, showered and then Bri and I packed our laundry into my car and headed out to do our laundry at my parent's house (I know we are so not adults).  Anyways, while we were on the highway, we were cut off by another driver who was changing into our lane.  His car clipped mine and we lost control.  The car spun and hit the median.  By some miracle, we were totally fine and my car was still drivable.  The other guy was also uninjured, but his car was totaled.  He was blamed for the accident so I thankfully don't have to pay for the repairs on my car.  Overall, I am incredibly grateful to be alive, healthy, and able to back to school tomorrow.  

I think the weirdest thing about our weekend was how normal everything else was.  Laundry, book club, cooking, and so on.  It was just a very simple weekend aside from our crazy car crash.  I made these Salmon Burgers recently and they are super tasty.  I'm going to celebrate being alive and normal by eating them :) Oh, and I made a crazy tasty Siracha Greek Yogurt Spread to put on my salmon burgers! 

Salmon Burgers

1 lb salmon
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 shallot, chopped
2 tbsp chopped Seafood Blend Herbs
1/4 cup non-fat, plain greek yogurt
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 egg

1. Cook the salmon: Place the salmon on a piece of tinfoil and preheat oven to 400.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the salmon and sprinkle salt and pepper on it.  Drizzle with a tsp or two of lemon juice.  Then, wrap in the foil and place on a baking tray.  Cook for 20-25 minutes or until salmon is cooked through.  Let cool.
2. Once salmon is cooled, use a fork to flake pieces of the salmon into a bowl.  Add in the breadcrumbs, herbs, greek yogurt, and mustard.  Stir to combine.  Then, add in the egg and stir to combine.
3. Lightly grease a pan and form a salmon patty.  I made 6 patties with this mixture.  Place in pan and cook over medium for about 4-5 minutes.  Then, flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes.  
4. Serve with a bun or over a bed of greens and if you want, spread some Siracha Greek Yogurt Spread on top! 

Enjoy :)

For the Siracha Greek Yogurt Spread: Use 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1-2 tsp of siracha, 1 tsp lemon juice, and 1 clove garlic (minced).  Stir everything together and you are good to go! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Uncommon Goods

I'm so excited for a bunch of reasons.

1. Today is my last day for this week!
2. I'm hosting book club this weekend.
3. Uncommon Goods reached out to me and offered to send me some of their products!

They are the coolest.  Seriously.  I can't even decide on what I want from their site since there are so many amazing products.  I'm obviously a big fan of food and math so I was considering this adorable pie dish.

So here is their story: Uncommon Goods is all about creating amazing handmade, recycled and organic products.  They are invested in creating a positive workplace that gives back.  And, they are constantly promoting environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices.  Basically, they rock.  Their employees love to work there and they are pretty much totally internet based so that they can cut down on paper products such as catalogs.  Plus, their products are super freaking cute!


I can't believe how many amazing products have caught my eye.  With the holidays right around the corner I think that some great pages to check out are: Kitchen and Bar, Home and Office, and Gifts for Family.  In addition to all of this, they also have some amazing art pieces that are totally affordable.  This site is going to be a great place to get a jump start on my holiday shopping.  Plus, I have been trying to spruce up our apartment lately and I have already found a bunch of options that I think will be great for our place!  So, whether you are a fellow chef, wine lover, or have an online shopping addiction, you need to know about this site!  Head on over and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wedding Planning Wednesdays

We booked our honeymoon flights!!!! We're officially going to Hawaii!  We are going to Maui and Kauai and we couldn't be more excited! Now we have to work on finding places to stay and I am pretty sure we are going to look into a VRBO.  Any suggestions?

Also, now that we know where we are going, it would be great to hear any ideas of things to do/places to eat/sights to see.

We have never been to Hawaii and I can't wait! August is going to be one extraordinary month this year!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sweet Potato Black Bean Veggie Burgers with BBQ Caramelized Onions

I have a pretty sweet week at school right now.  I survived Monday.  We reviewed graphing quadratics and I had cheer practice after school.  And now I have Tuesday, which I am already all planned for!  Wednesday is Veterans Day and so we do not have school and then Friday is a Teacher Institute Day.  So, I only have two more days of teaching this week!  Crazy!

Today I went to my boot camp class in the morning.  It was super tough since I was still sore from my work out on Saturday.  This past weekend I was hanging out in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin with my bestie, Tamara.  She took me with her to her work out on Saturday morning.  Slow motion push-ups are officially my least favorite exercise.  They are weirdly easy at first, but then you feel like your arms might just fall off for the next three days...Then today we did SLOW MOTION PUSH UPS!  I couldn't believe it.  I'm half way through my boot camp class when the instructor told us that we were going to do them.  We have never done slow motion push ups before, but of course we did today.  Now, I can barely lift my arms above my head.  Ouch.  I guess the good news is that if I keep doing them I'll have awesome looking arms for my wedding dress :)

Sweet Potato Black Bean Veggie Burgers

1 sweet potato
3 scallions
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp of cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 red pepper, chopped
3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 egg
8 whole wheat buns
cheese if you want (we used colby jack)
BBQ Caramelized Onions:
1 red onion, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
BBQ sauce, to taste

1. Peel the sweet potato and use your food processor with a grate attachment to grate the sweet potato.  If you don't have this, you can use a cheese grater with the largest holes.  Place sweet potato pieces in a large bowl.
2. Put the black beans in the food processor and pulse a few times to mash the beans.  Add these to the bowl with the sweet potato.
3. Mix in the scallions, cilantro, cumin, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, salt, red pepper pieces, and oats.  Stir well.
4. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Mix the egg in with the other ingredients and place the mixture in the fridge to chill until the oven is ready.
6. Once ready, form 8 balls with the mixture and press into burger shaped rounds.  Place on baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes and then flip and bake for another 15 minutes.
7. For the caramelized onions, add onion slices, olive oil and bbq sauce to a pan.  Heat over medium until onion becomes translucent and soft.  Serve on top of burgers and feel free to add any other toppings!

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wedding Planning Wednesdays

We want to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon.  Ideas? Suggestions? Help!

In other news, the Save the Dates went out, my friend Alyson is going to be designing our invitations (which is the coolest thing ever!) and my bridesmaids are working on getting their measurements taken so we can start ordering dresses!

Things are really coming together.  In fact, I figured planning the honeymoon would be a great thing to do now since we are kinda in a lull in every other area!  Please give me whatever advice you can on planning for a trip like this! We'd love to go to Maui and Kauai and spend about 3 nights in each place. Thanks!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mini Dark Chocolate M&M Skillet Brownies

I know that this is exactly what we don't need right after Halloween, but look at how amazing these brownie skillets look!!!! Plus, you can throw in any candy pieces that you have lying around from trick-or-treating.  My mom gave me and Bri a "Halloween Goody Bag."  So, now I have Justin's Peanut Butter Cups, Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms, Halloween Oreos, Halloween Gummies, and more.  It's a little crazy.  I'm trying to eat healthy and here I have a giant bag full of deliciousness.  I just need to make sure not to eat it all at once...

Halloween was super fun.  I was Lois Lane and Bri was Clark Kent.  It was pretty adorable.  We went to a couple halloween parties hosted by friends and overall had a super nice weekend.  

Now, it is back to school time!  

Mini Dark Chocolate M&M Skillet Brownies
(makes two mini skillets)

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup dark chocolate M&Ms

1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease your mini skillets.
1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat and stir in chopped bittersweet chocolate until smooth and combined.  Turn off heat and stir in the sugar until well combined.  Next, stir in the eggs until well combined.  Add in the vanilla and salt.  
2. Sprinkle the flour and cocoa powder over your brownie mixture and then stir until just combined.  Stir in the M&Ms.
3.  Divide the batter into your two mini skillets.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  

Enjoy :)