Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wedding Planning Wednesdays

We got our wedding bands!!!  We are approaching the 7 month mark and we decided that since it was holiday season, we would max out on some holiday deals and buy our wedding bands!

We used Blue Nile, which is also the site where Bri designed my engagement ring.  I love this site as you can customize so much, the prices are better than stores, and the customer service is great.  For example, we ordered our rings and had them the very next day with no cost for shipping!! Plus, they will size the rings as well!


Blue Nile also has a ton of great jewelry for all occasions so check it out!

I can't believe that we are only 7 months away and I couldn't be more excited!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Squash Shakshuka with Baked Eggs

I saw my friend, Tamara, yesterday and I went with her and her family to get her bridesmaids dress and go to dinner.  She looks super amazing.  She always looked super amazing, but that girl has been going to the gym, eating healthy, and she just looked fantastic.  I have been trying to get in that mode, but I have been running into some obstacles: THE HOLIDAYS.  So, starting today, I am going to be working on staying more focused, eating healthy/homecooked meals and winter marathon training just started so I'll be running/working out as well.  

The holidays are really starting to catch up with me.  I feel like all we do is eat!  It has been a ton of fun, but now I am trying to get back into "real life mode."  So, today I'm sharing a recipe with you that I found on The Kitchn.  It is a great recipe for a weeknight and it is sort of like a breakfast for dinner thing, which we love.  It was easy to put together and looked fairly impressive:

Squash Shakshuka with Baked Eggs

2 lbs squash (I used zucchini and yellow squash)
kosher salt
olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 lb tomatoes, chopped
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup basil, chopped
4 large eggs
black pepper

1. Cut off the ends of the squash and grate using a box grater.  Place all the grated squash into a colander with 1 tbsp of kosher salt and let sit.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
3. In an oven-safe skillet, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and add in the shallots, garlic, and paprika.  Cook until fragrant.  
4. Using paper towels, squeeze as much liquid from the squash as you can and then add this to the skillet. Add in the tomatoes as well and stir occasionally until the ingredients are no longer releasing liquid.  Stir in the goat cheese and basil. 
5. Remove from heat and create 4 wells in the mixture.  Place an egg in each of the wells and bake for 10 minutes.  Once done, sprinkle some black pepper over the mixture.

Enjoy :)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Marathon Training Monday: Winter Training

Today is Day 1 of Winter Marathon Training!

I have never trained in the winter before and of course today it is super nasty outside.  However, today was just a 3 mile run to get back into things.  Like a crazy person, I went to bootcamp class at 5:45 in the morning and then afterwards, I ran my 3 miles on a treadmill while watching 30 Rock.  I'm not a big fan of running on a treadmill, but I watching netflix makes it so much better.

I think I am pretty ready.  I have to go pick up my stuff today (I'm training with CARA again so we get stuff) and I already have some nice winter running gear.  I have Nike thermal running tights, Under Armour Cold Gear for a base layer on top, and I got a really cute vest from Athleta for the holidays from my mommy.  I also already have my new pair of running shoes, but I have not started using them yet.

I still have to go get a handheld, insulated water bottle, but other than that I am good to go.

I am training for the Nashville Rock n' Roll Marathon on April 30th and I can't wait!  I also just found out that my bestie, Tamara wants to run her first half marathon and wants me to do it with her.  I, of course, said I would love to!  She wants to run the half in Madison, Wisconsin in May.  I couldn't be more excited about this half marathon as it was my first half marathon!!!  How cute is that?

Anyways, I will keep you posted on all my winter marathon running as I get going.  Here is the mileage for the first week: 3/3/3/6.  I'm planning on getting those three's done, today, Tuesday, and Thursday.  I am also going to continue strength training with bootcamp class on Wednesdays and I will do that until I feel like it is too much.  Here I go!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Beer Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan

Merry Christmas Eve!  I really love brussel sprouts and I figured that they are a pretty common Christmas table staple.  So I am going to share one of the more recent brussel sprout recipes I tried that I just loved.  

Bri is not a huge fan of brussel sprouts.  However, he tried these and said that he actually liked them.  That is how great this recipe is.  

In other news, last night I threw a little party for Bri and his brother's "50th Birthday."  They are twins who just turned 25 so I thought that it was cute to combine those ages and call it a 50th!  It was such a fun night.  A ton of our friends stopped by our place and we just hung out, had some good food, good drinks and it was a blast.  It was one of those nights where I am just so incredibly grateful for how many amazing people we have in our lives.  

Tonight we are headed to my family's Christmas Eve get together and I am excited for yet another evening full of fantastic people.  I hope that everyone out there also has a really lovely holiday season full of friends, family, and of course, good food!

Beer Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan
(adapted from The Homemade Haus)

6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 lbs brussel sprouts, halved
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz beer (we used Revolution's Fist City #Chicago)
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

1. Place oven rack in the middle of the oven and turn the broiler on high.
2. In an oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once melted, add in the brussel sprouts and let cook for about 3 minutes.  Stir them and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
3. Add in the minced garlic and continue to cook for another few minutes.  Then add in the beer and let cook for another few minutes so that the brussel sprouts become tender.  
4. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese starts to melt and the brussel sprouts brown a bit.  This took a few minutes and I always watch to make sure that nothing burns.  

Enjoy :) 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wedding Planning Wednesdays: The Honeymoon

When you are about 8 months away from your wedding date, it is time to start planning the honeymoon.  Some people postpone their honeymoon if they can't go right after their wedding, but we picked our date so that we would be able to go on a honeymoon.  I am super pumped because we are going to Hawaii!!

We are leaving one day after our wedding so that we have some time to recover/pack if we need to. Then, we are spending 9 days and 8 nights in Hawaii.  We are going to be in Maui for 4 nights and then Kauai for 4 nights.  We couldn't be more excited.  We booked our flights and booked our VRBOs (Vacation Rentals By Owner).  We decided to go with VRBOs because we wanted to save a little by avoiding the super expensive resorts and this way we can have a kitchen to cook some meals while we are there (and did you know I like to cook?).  We are also planning on having a rental car while we are there so that we can explore all parts of the islands.

Now here's where you come in.  If you have any recommendations please comment on this.  Anything at all for Maui or Kauai would be appreciated!  Thank you!  We are so excited!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pumpkin Mousse

Is it still pumpkin season? I'm gonna say yes since it's so weirdly warm this winter that it still sorta feels like fall.  I mean, I just went for a run and got way to sweaty for this time of year.  Also, I got really cute cold weather running gear for Hanukkah and I can't even wear it since it's too warm!  I know I shouldn't complain.  I love that there is no snow and that I can still make pumpkin things.  What more could a girl ask for?  

I was playing around with the idea of a pumpkin-like pie but without the pie crust.  I found a recipe for a pumpkin mousse and I just loved that idea!  So, that is what I am sharing with you today!  

Today is also a pretty exciting day for me (besides the pumpkin mousse).  I have a lunch date with Bri's Aunt to talk about a wedding shower and then I have a dinner date with Bri's whole family to celebrate his and his twin's birthdays!  I get to go to Cheesecake Factory and Portillo's...all in one day!  This is why I went for a 5.75 mile run this morning.  Gotta prepare myself for all the delicious eating!  

Pumpkin Mousse
(adapted from Pastry Chef Online)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 15 oz can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cloves
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a saucepan, heat the water and sugar until boiling.  Continue to boil until the sugar has deeply caramelized.  Once this happens, immediately remove it from the stove and pour in 1 cup of the heavy cream and stir to combine.  Pour this mixture into a metal bowl.
2. Add in the pumpkin, honey, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla.  Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
3. Pour the rest of the heavy cream (1 1/2 cups) into a metal bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.  Pour 1/3 of this mixture into your cold pumpkin mixture and beat to combine.  Then pour the the rest and use a spatula to fold in the cream until no white streaks remain.
4. Place back into the fridge to keep cold, or serve!  I served mine with a little whipped cream on top!

Enjoy :)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Autumn Minestrone Soup

Today is the first official day of winter break! I stuck to my typical schedule of going to boot camp class at 5:45 am because I figured it was good for me.  I know I'm a little crazy.  However, it was a nice way to start my day and now I have the whole day ahead of me!  

What is really weirding me out is the fact that it is raining...on December Chicago.  What???

So, I figured it would be lovely to share this soup recipe with you all because it is a soup kinda day.  

I made this soup as part of Bri's and my vegetarian Thanksgiving.  This was just a dinner for the two of us where I went all out and made a ton of delicious vegetarian things.  This Autumn Minestrone was super easy to make and it was amazing!  If anyone else out there is looking out the window and thinking today is going to be one dreary Monday, make this soup!  It will totally brighten your day!

Autumn Minestrone Soup
(adapted from Cooking Classy)

15 baby carrots, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups vegetable broth
2 - 2 1/2 cups 1 inch cubed sweet potato, peeled first
2 - 2 1/2 cups 1 inch cubed butternut squash
1 zucchini, quartered
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cinnamon
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups kale and spinach mix
1 14.5 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
parmesan for topping

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium and add in the carrots and onion.  Cook for about 5 minutes and then add in the garlic and cook for another minute.  
2. Add in the vegetable broth, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, rosemary, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, and bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes can be pierced with a fork.  
3. Add in the kale/spinach and the kidney beans.  Cover and let cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves and serve with parmesan if you want!

Enjoy :)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Birthday Brian: Caprese Avocado Breakfast Sandwiches

Today is Bri's 25th birthday!!!  I want to wish him a very special birthday.  I can't believe that this is the age we will be when we get married in less than 8 months! Bri is so special to me and I love him so much.  I want today to be a great day for him.

I woke up WAY before him this morning and went to my zumba class.  Then, I picked up some stuff that I needed at Mariano's and headed home to make him a little brunch.

I made Caprese Breakfast Sandwiches and he said that it "really hit the spot."  Then, we sat down to watch the Bears game.

I am not a huge fan of watching football, so I started baking some Cookie Dough Frosted Brownies.  This dessert was Bri's request for his birthday treat and I'm pretty excited that it was what he wanted.  These brownies are SO good!

Tonight we are going to Jerry's Sandwiches for dinner with both of our families and it is going to be awesome.  I am always totally overwhelmed by their menu and I never know what to order.  I usually go with a last minute, gut reaction decision.  This means that I have tried a lot of different stuff at Jerry's and all of it has been great!  I can't wait!

Today is already super awesome and it is only going to get better...Happy Birthday Bri!

Caprese Breakfast Sandwiches

For one sandwich:
2 pieces of whole wheat bread (or one for an open face sandwich)
4-5 grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado
1 tbsp lime juice
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of garlic powder
1 tsp balsamic syrup
2-3 slices of fresh mozzarella
2 eggs

1. In a bowl, mash the avocado with the lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Set aside.
2. Toast the bread using a toaster or toaster oven.  Place on a plate.  On one slice, spread some avocado mixture and place the halved tomatoes on top.  On the other slice place the slices of mozzarella.
3. In a lightly greased pan over medium heat, crack the eggs and let cook until egg white parts turn white.  Flip and let cook for another 30 seconds-1 minute.  Place eggs on top of mozzarella side.
4. Drizzle some balsamic syrup over both sides and then put together for your sandwich!

Enjoy :)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dinner Rolls

This weekend was pretty awesome.  

First, one of my best friends got engaged on Friday night and it was super exciting.  I am so happy for them and I can't wait to help her with the wedding planning shenanigans! A bunch of us went in on buying her a wedding planning book and I am just so happy because I know first hand how much fun and how exciting the next year is going to be for her.  

Then, on Saturday, Bri and I got dinner with some friends from high school that we haven't seen in ages.  All of us ended up living pretty near each other and so we decided that we should all get together.  We went to Lady Gregory's in Andersonville.  I love Andersonville.  Everything is just so darn cute!  Dinner was great and then after, we headed to Hopleaf (go there) for some drinks.  It was a really nice night and I can't wait to get together again soon! 

I made these homemade dinner rolls and they were super yummy.  Seriously, they did not look pretty, but they tasted awesome.  I think it is because I used Almond Milk instead of regular milk so I'm going to try this recipe again with regular milk to see if they look different.  However, they were really good so maybe I'll just deal with their ugliness.  

Dinner Rolls
(adapted from Roxanas Home Baking)

Ingredients:4 cups bread flour
1 1/3 cups milk (I used Almond Milk)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast

1. Place the flour in a bowl and create a well in the middle.
2. In a large microwave safe bowl, place the milk, butter, sugar and salt.  Microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until butter is melted.
3. Pour half the milk mixture in the flour well and then start to mix using a dough hook. Add in the rest of the milk mixture until the dough comes together.  Continue to knead for about 5 minutes.  Create 12 rolls and place in a lightly greased round baking dish. Cover with a dish towel and let rest while oven is preheating.
4. Preheat oven to 400.  Bake rolls for about 15-20 minutes.  Brush with butter if you want.

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Roasted Butternut Squash Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip

Who doesn't love dip?  A good dip is just the best!  I made this one for my book club girlfriends and they found it to be delicious.  I think it has a surprising taste, but it really good and you just can't stop eating it.  In fact, I'm thinking about making this dip for a girl's night I have coming up!

My girlfriends organized a secret santa exchange.  I like to call it a secret snowman exchange, but whatever.  How cute are we? My friend Caryn organized it and I am super pumped.  I can't wait to see what I get and I'm pretty excited about the gift I got for my secret person!  Hanukkah is happening right now and I am excited to do some gift giving :)

This week is also actually flying by!  Today all the students are taking a practice ACT exam.  I am excited to see how my students do.  The school was able to get graphing calculators for every student that did not have one (of the 200ish 11th graders, 110 did not have one).  It was really nice and I am excited to see if they perform better today with the extra help and confidence from the graphing calculator!  We spent the last week integrating calculator skill education into our class so they should be totally ready to use them today!

Cheer is also going great! We had a clinic on Saturday and we had a college cheerleader come in to help support our team and teach them some new cheers and jumps.  The team worked so hard and they learned so much.  I was super proud of all of them!  Plus, our uniforms are finally here! So, on Thursday when we perform at the basketball game, we will be in our uniforms and we will have a bunch of new cheers to debut! I can't wait.

Now, back to that dip!

Roasted Butternut Squash Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip

1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp garlic powder
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
10 oz goat cheese
3 tbsp chopped herbs (thyme, parsley, cilantro)

1. Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Toss the cubed squash in a bowl with the olive oil, cinnamon, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, and nutmeg.  Spread out in one layer on your lined baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Once done, remove from oven and lowder the temp to 350 degrees.
2. Place the cooked squash in a food processor and pulse until you have a smooth puree.  Add in the goat cheese and herbs and process until smooth.  Add in the black beans and pulse a few times to combine and smash.
3. Place mixture in a oven-safe dish (I used my adorable mini skillet) and place in oven for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips, veggies, or whatever else you feel like!

Enjoy :)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Marathon Training Monday: Fashion!

Ok, so I know almost nothing about fashion.  Don't get me wrong, I like to look nice/put-together, but my fashion sense is strongly linked to my desire to be totally comfy all the time.  I mean, I am wearing moccasins to school today.  Moccasins are basically glorified slippers.

However, with that being said, I do like to look nice while I am comfy and I have been getting super into looking at fun athletic wear!  I have gotten so into running and I love to treat myself to running clothes that are cute and comfy!

I found out about Fabletics from a friend and I am totally into it.  The clothes are amazing quality and they are so reasonable.  The sports bra that I wore for my marathon was from Fabletics! I love it!  They have the cutest options and if you don't want anything, you just say that and you don't get charged.  It's a great system and I have purchased some amazing things.  So, check it out and have fun looking great the next time you head to the gym or go for a run! You can follow this LINK!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Crunchy Black Bean Burgers

Guys, I am the worst.  I have been meaning to post this for like a week, but I have been too lazy/busy to work on it.  I've been really busy with school/cheer and I've been really lazy when I'm home because I just want to sleep/read.  However, I have a burst of energy because it is Friday and I am done teaching for the week!  Now I am just looking forward to a fun evening at a school social! 

After all the craziness that was Thanksgiving, it's nice to have a simple and delicious meal to come home to.  This veggie burger is that meal.  It's simple to make and it's a great dinner after all that stuffing, turkey, gravy...etc.  

Bri found the recipe for me because he had heard from a colleague that it was "the best" veggie burger recipe.  I don't know if we thought it was "the best" one that we had ever had, but it certainly was yummy and it reheated really well for leftovers!  

Crunchy Black Bean Burgers

Ingredients:2 14.5 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 eggs
2 tbsp flour
4 green onions, chopped
3 tbsp cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp ground coriander
pinch of pepper
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
olive oil
whole wheat hamburger buns
cheese slices, optional

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the flour until you have a paste.  Mix in the green onion, cilantro, garlic, cumin, hot sauce, coriander, salt and pepper.  
2. Place chips in a food processor and pulse until you have a finely ground mixture.  Add in the beans and pulse until beans are broken up.  Transfer this mixture to your other bowl and mix to combine.
3. Cover the mixture and place in the fridge for an hour. 
4. Once the mixture has chilled, heat a few tsp of olive oil over medium heat in a pan on the stove.  Form 6-8 patties using your hands and place in pan to cook.  I left them to cook for about 4 minutes on each side.  Serve with buns, cheese and whatever other toppings you want!

Enjoy :)