Veggie Packed Chicken Soup Because I’m Freezing Cold

Hi friends! How goes life? I am just cruising along this week, working and counting down the minutes until the holiday season officially begins! I’m so ready to begin Thanksgiving day with a Turkey Trot 5K Race with my dad and Derek. We all decided to run together this Thanksgiving, instead of trying to set PRs. None of us have been training for speed lately (Derek and I have been preparing for our upcoming half marathon), so we thought it would be nice to run together this turkey trot!

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I’m so excited that the weather in Tampa will be chilly this Thanksgiving. Who wants 80+ degree weather during the holidays? Not this girl! As you can see from my picture from last year’s turkey trot, I was sufficiently freezing (don’t let my dad’s outfit fool you – it was in the 40s and that’s cold for us down here!).

Speaking of chilly weather…. As the temperature outside starts to get a little cooler ( in the 60s here in Tampa, and that’s cold for us), I always start to crave soup more than any other time of the year. What warms your heart more than a large bowl of homemade soup? Nothing, that’s what.

Last weekend, I was really longing for some homemade soup, and we had tons of veggies and chicken on hand that I put to use to create this vegetable packed chicken soup! Here’s the recipe, I hope you all enjoy!

Veggie +  Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces chicken tenders, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 small zucchini, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 28 oz. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons orzo (or another tiny pasta)
  • 3  cups packed baby spinach

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Directions

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add chicken to pan, and cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. In a large pot, add zucchini, onion, oregano, and salt and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, white wine, and orzo, and cook on high heat until the soup begins to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 more minutes. Add in spinach and chicken and cook for 2 more minutes.

This soup is the perfect meal for freezing and re-heating on chilly nights or as a special lunch treat at work. I enjoyed the soup 3x this past week and it didn’t grow old once!

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Buon Appetito! And enjoy your Turkey Day-Week 🙂

A Hungry Girl’s Favorite Week + Photo Share 11/25

Hi strangers! I have missed you all so much the past few days! How has everyone been? I am SO excited that Thanksgiving is almost here – I can barely control myself! Does it get any better than an entire day filled with food, family, and a little bit of football? The special traditions every family has during the holidays is probably my favorite part of it all. My dad and I always run a Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning, and then go home and watch the Macy’s Day Parade with my mom. It’s one of my favorite mornings of the year, and I’m excited Derek will be spending it with us this year!

This weekend was a wonderful kick-off to the holidays, and I’m grateful to have spent so much time with family and friends the past few days. 

As usual, I’m going to share my weekend with you guys in my favorite fashion – through pictures, of course!

Friday evening after work, Derek and I kicked off the weekend with a short 3 mile run. Derek has been crazy busy working the past few weeks, and our runs have been a great time for us to catch up and have some time to do nothing but talk to each other. One of my favorite parts of running is the time I get to spend with the people I’m running with – whether it is Derek, my dad, or a friend, it’s always great to share that special time with someone!

After our run, when we were having the typical “I don’t care – you pick where we go to dinner” conversations, our indecisive struggle was put to an end when we got a call from Derek’s mom inviting us over for Mexican Soup! I know I’ve said it a million times before, but I love her cooking and could never turn it down. We quickly cleaned up and headed over to spend the evening over there.

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Dinner was DEEELISH as usual, and I spent the rest of the night cuddling on Sam…
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And enjoying way too much Yogurtology. Is that even a thing? Too much Yogurtology? Probably not. aaaa

We also had fun watching Ben watch the Season 2 finale of Homeland (the best show in the history of television). If you’ve never watched Homeland, I cannot recommend that show enough. Please, do yourself a favor, get Showtime, and go watch it!! aaaaaa

After a 30 minute elliptical sesh (I really don’t love that thing), and a CXWorx class, I spent the day with my parents and Louie on Saturday! I helped them decorate the house for Christmas, and they returned the favor by helping me at Derek’s house! I’m feeling super thankful for my parents this week (and every week, for that matter)!
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We spent Saturday evening with Derek’s parents and neighborhood friends at a neighborhood shrimp boil! This was only my second shrimp boil (remember my first?) and it really made me wonder why we don’t do shrimp boils more often. We had such a fun night eating too much shrimp + cornbread muffins and drinking way too much wine.
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Speaking of wine.. I was pretty worried that I shouldn’t have had those few glasses of wine the night before the longest run of my life so far. But, surprisingly, our 12 mile training run on Sunday was my most enjoyable long run yet. I’m amazed at what a real training plan can do for you. Each week my body feels more and more comfortable with longer distances – I never thought I would be someone to run 12 miles and enjoy it, but I’m really glad it’s developed that way! Our half marathon is in 12 days, and I’m so excited for the day to finally get here.
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Don’t worry, Louie only came with me the last 1/2 mile – which probably was the most distracting half mile of my life.

I was so excited on Sunday when I got an invite to come to a “Friendsgiving” at our friends’ Gabby and Maggie’s house. The party was a hit, and it was such a lovely way to get in the mood for Thanksgiving. We all love spending the holidays with family, but I’m so happy the “Friendsgiving” tradition has started, because I love that I get to celebrate being thankful for all my awesome friends!bb

The food. was. so. good. I’m going to need a couple of recovery days for my stomach to shrink back to normal size from all the delicious appetizers, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, mac n cheese, delicious salad and corn casserole we ate. Oh and then came dessert. It was really a hungry girl’s dream come true.food food2

I brought a new-to-me dish to the party – pimento cheese balls rolled in toasted pecans. I can’t wait to share the recipe with you guys! bbbbbbbbb

And one of my favorite parts of the party was the “what I’m thankful for” props to take pictures with. Please note: Will Ferrell, Natty Lite, Jameis Winston, Chick Fil A… Not pictured: DVR, Publix BOGO (THE GREATEST). These girls hit the nail on the head with what I’m grateful for!bbb

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone! I hope you all have a blessed week with your families, eat plenty of food, and take some time to consider all the wonderful things we can all be thankful for this year and every year!freeendz

Happy Hump Day! And… Skinny Pumpkin Granola!

Hi friends! Happy Hump Day!! How are all your weeks going? Mine is shaping up nicely after getting off to a rough start. Remember how I told y’all a while back  how I got no sleep at all one night? Well a repeat of that incident happened Sunday evening, and I got a whopping 2 hours of sleep from 5am-7am. Luckily, the only thing the lack of sleep affected was my plans for power yoga Monday night, which turned out for the best, as I spent a great night with my parents and Louie relaxing at home.

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I don’t know what is going on with my sleep patterns, but I plan to get this mess figured out ASAP! Anywho, I caught up with sleep completely on Monday night, and felt like a new person come Tuesday morning! I made sure things got back to normal on Tuesday and drove straight to the gym after work. While my original plan was to join in on a Mat Pilates class, I opted for a four mile run and a 20 minute stretching session. As our half marathon gets closer and closer (our last long run is this weekend!), I’m getting nervous that I haven’t been putting in enough miles into my preparation . I felt a little better about the situation after a fast 4 miles Tuesday evening, and an easy 3 miles this morning before work!

Another fun part about my week has been the constant availability of pumpkin granola after making a batch this week. As you can tell in my many pumpkin recipes (pumpkin roll, pumpkin muffins), I’m really enjoying the flavor of the season and trying to cook with it as much as I can through the end of November. Here is my recipe for skinny pumpkin granola, which I’ve been enjoying atop yogurt, oatmeal, and by the handful 🙂

Skinny Pumpkin Granola Recipe

4 cups rolled oats

½ cup sugar free maple syrup

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup chopped nuts (I used ½ pecans and ½ almonds)

3 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine oats, nuts, chia seeds and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix together completely. Pour vegetable oil, syrup, and vanilla extract into a measuring cup, and slowly pour over dry oat mixture, stirring to combine. Finally, stir in pumpkin puree and make sure all ingredients are mixed together.

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Prepare 2 baking sheets with cooking spray, and divide and spread mixture between the two baking sheets. Bake for an hour and 20 minutes, removing pans from oven and spreading granola around every 20 minutes, to ensure all pieces are evenly baked.

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Sweet Home Alabama + Photo Share 11/18

Hey guys, happy Monday! It feels nice to wake up in Tampa this morning for the first time in a while! We spent our weekend in Dothan, Alabama, where Derek was a groomsman in one of his best friends’ weddings! Spencer and Derek met on their football recruiting visit to Auburn when they were seniors in highschool, and lived together through Derek’s whole Auburn career.  It was such an honor to be with Spencer and Amanda as they officially started their life together, and we can’t wait to see this beautiful couple again soon!

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As you can tell, the evening was picture perfect and the ideal southern affair. I was taken aback with the décor and all the beautiful little southern touches. But the decorations weren’t nearly as beautiful as the couple of the night!

The food went perfectly with the scene – some good ole’ comfort food that included fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, fried okra and corn bread. It hit the spot and made me wish  all weddings included this kind of eatin’.

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And the cakes were a delicious yellow cake with buttercream icing, staged perfectly on a rustic blue dresser

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Rewinding a little earlier in the day – Derek and I found a running trail surrounding a park in Dothan, and got a good 7.5 miles in before 9 a.m. Although our training plan called for a 10 mile run, we made sure to get that distance in last week since we weren’t sure we’d find a 10 mile route in Dothan. Next week we have a 12 miler in store, and it’s our last long run before our half marathon on December 7th! I can’t pinpoint whether I’m more nervous or more excited – anyone else feel this way for their first half marathon??

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This was my first long run sans iPod and Garmin watch (I noticed both were dead as soon as I got dressed for the run). It was much easier than I thought it would be, and enjoyed running with no gadgets and a clear head!

Still rewinding backwards – on our way up to Dothan Friday night, I was so excited when the dinner hour rolled around about the same time that we were passing through Tallahassee. We hopped off the interstate and grabbed dinner at one of my favorite spots – Po’ Boys – all of our mouths were on fire with the Cajun seasonings that Po’ Boys uses, but we left feeling happy and full!

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Before we hit the road on Friday, I made a little time for a fast paced and quick 25 minute HIIT running session, which included the following treadmill intervals:

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I really loved this interval run because it kept me busy and made the time fly by so quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to hop off and call it a day.

And MOST IMPORTANTLY, I also had a little time to whip up a batch of some pumpkin granola, which I promise to share a recipe shortly!

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I hope you guys have a lovely week ahead! I plan to begin my week with some night time Power Yoga. This will be my first time at the class, and I can’t wait to give it a go!

WHAT A WEEK

You guys. To say this week has been wild would be the understatement of the year for me. As soon as I arrived home from travelling to Atlanta last week, I was informed that Iowa was calling my name and I needed to head out west for business for the week. For those of you who have never been to Iowa, please let me inform you that the weather is very different than we’re used to in good ole Tampa, FL. Upon touchdown in the state, temps were in the teens and snow flurries could be seen. I spent the week bundled up in thermals and coats, and needless to say, kept my few workouts in doors.

It took me a couple of days to warm up, and I didn’t make it to the gym until Wednesday morning around 6 a.m. Once I finally arrived at the quaint little hotel gym, I completed the following run on the treadmill. scrnshot

I was feeling pretty tired at that early hour, so it took me a good 7 minutes to really get moving. The slow warm-up helped jolt me awake! I also did a few arm and ab excercised to round out my gym sesh, and repeated the same routine at the same time Thursday morning.

Obviously, I wasn’t cooking out in Iowa. As the town I was working in was 10 minutes from Omaha, Nebraska, we visited restaurants in both states throughout the week. My favorite location – which really knocked my socks off.. who would have thought downtown Omaha was so unique and aesthetically pleasing?! – was a restaurant called M’s Pub that came recommended by a client.

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Not only was the architecture and design of the interior amazing, the food was out of this world! We began our meal with a vegetarian Armenian Lavosh, and I rounded my dinner out with a grilled shrimp + avocado salad, served with the tastiest black bean cake I’ve ever had!

After such a good experience with the client’s recommendation on Tuesday night, we took her recommendation again on Wednesday night, but dined a bit more casually at Boxer BBQ Company in Council Bluffs, Iowa. I went all out and ordered 1/4 chicken, brisket, baked beans, cole slaw, fried pickles and some corn. Hey, when in Iowa… right?

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My weekend is sure to be just as busy as the past few weeks have been, as I’m off in a few hours to Alabama for a friend’s wedding! I hope to fit in a long run on Saturday morning, since Derek and I have only 2 long training runs left before our half marathon!

Happy Friday, everyone! Be safe and smile 🙂

Where I’ve Been Lately + Holy Guacamole

Hi, friends! I apologize for my absence lately – work life has been keeping me busy (and cold). I had a last minute trip to Iowa fall in my lap, and I am currently trying to keep warm in some 11° weather. My eats have been nothing special, a little bit of Panera bread mixed in with some Longhorn Steakhouse( if you find yourself at Longhorn, the Rainbow Trout is delish). I haven’t had an opportunity to exercise since my 10 mile run on Saturday morning, but hope to make it to the hotel gym before I head back to Florida late this week. In the mean time, I have a tasty party recipe to share with you all!

I don’t know about you guys, but one of my absolute favorite party appetizers is definitely a large bowl of fresh, homemade guacamole. And although I typically prefer to cook with avocado in the summer time, I think it’s fair game to eat guacamole all the way through football season. Avocado, the main ingredient in guacamole, happens to have some serious nutritional value too – packing in 30 grams of heart healthy unsaturated fats, as well as some serious fiber and Vitamin C. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and make this delicious and healthy appetizer!

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Ingredients

3 Haas Avocados, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 red onion, diced

2 roma tomatoes or 1 large tomato, diced

2 tbsp chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

juice from 1 lime

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Directions

In a large bowl, combine lime juice, avocado, salt, cumin, garlic and cayenne and mash together. Add in onion, tomatoes, and cilantro, and fold in until thoroughly combined. Let sit for 30 minutes, and serve with chips, pepper strips, or carrots.

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This recipe is pretty quick and hits the spot every time. In addition to a fun party dish to share, it also goes great with fajitas on Mexican Monday or Taco Tuesday!

As always, I hope you enjoy!

Pumpkin Roll + Hotel Gym Heaven

Exercise while traveling is always a little tough, but I’ve utilized the wonderful gym at my hotel for a few treadmill and weight sessions. Some of my favorite places to find new, fun workouts are from other fitness bloggers that I follow. This morning I took a treadmill workout from PBFingers website, and it definitely got my heart rate up and left me lookin’ like a sweaty mess.

The treadmill run I followed went like this

40-minute-treadmill-workout[1]

If you’re in need of inspiration for cardio, strength, or circuit workouts, I highly recommend PBFingers blog for that!

This lovely spread awaited me after I finished my run and weights workout…

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If you can’t tell, the stuff at the end of the table is a tray of cool cloths with cucumber slices. Am I in heaven?

While I have really enjoyed this week, I’m so excited to go back home and spend the weekend with friends and family.

Now for the good stuff…

A couple of weeks ago I saw a picture of a delicious and impressive looking dessert in a magazine, and mentioned to Derek’s mom how mouth-watering and pretty the dish looked, thinking this recipe was probably way out of my league, ability wise. You can imagine how excited I was when she told me she used to make pumpkin rolls every year, and would be glad to bake one with me one day soon. Since we’ve all been busy the past couple of weeks, we jumped at the opportunity of having a day without many plans on Saturday, and she invited me over to create this delectable treat!

Pumpkin Roll

For the Roll:

Beat 3 eggs on high for 5 minutes.  Add 1 cup of sugar gradually

Stir in 2/3 cups of canned pumpkin, and 1 tsp lemon juice.

Add to the mixture:

¾ cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp salt

Pour pumpkin batter into a 13×20 pan that has been heavily greased and floured. Top with ½ cup of chopped pecans, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

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Prepare a kitchen towel with powdered sugar. Turn the baked sheet of pumpkin upside down onto towel and roll up and cool approximately 15 minutes in the fridge.

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For the Filling: Beat 1 cup powdered sugar, 6 oz. cream cheese, 4 tbsp. butter and ½ tsp. vanilla until smooth and creamy.

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Remove roll from’ fridge. Unroll onto flat surgace, and spread on filling. Re-roll and return to fridge to cool. Prior to serving, remove and slice!

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Not only was this dessert seasonal and mouth-wateringly delicious, I think it presents itself as a pretty impressive looking treat as well.

Happy Friday and happy fall, y’all!