Is Christmas Really Over?

Hey friends! I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Christmas week! Although Christmas has again come and gone, I am really enjoying celebrating the season in any way that I can. In addition to celebrating with my family all week, my celebrations  included a Christmas get-together with several high school friends of mine. I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I attended an all-girl high school, and it was one of the best experiences of all my life. I’m still very close with almost all of my high school friends (several are in my wedding party!)  and a  couple of weeks ago, we all realized we would all be in town and available on the same night (a rare occasion). Obviously, we decided to have a little Christmas party and gift exchange! We all brought appetizers and drinks, gifts for a gift exchange, and hungry stomachs! photo 2 (16)

For the party, I prepared a couple of appetizers: one was a no-cook appetizer, featuring gorgonzola cheese and a fig jam Derek picked up for me at a farmer’s stand in Alabama a couple of weeks back. The easy no-cook appetizer came together like this:


24 pieces of crostini (I bought mine from Publix Bakery)

1/2 cup of fig jam

6 oz.  gorgonzola cheese


Spread fig jam on each crostino. Next, spread gorgonzola (or just top with gorgonzola if using crumbled cheese) on top of fig jam. Serve at room temperature.

Easy enough, right?

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Because the get-together was being held at Derek’s house, I wanted to make use of the oven and prepare something a little heartier than crackers and cheese for all of my friends. I found the following recipe on Food Network and prepared my flatbread with  the homemade dough we use for pizza, instead of store purchased.

On a floured surface, roll out 1 pound refrigerated pizza dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle; press into an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary and/or oregano, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and a big pinch of sea salt. Brush half of the herb oil over the dough, then set aside until puffy, about 1 hour. Make dimples in the dough with your fingers and top with thin onion slices and shaved parmesan. Bake at 400 until golden, about 20 minutes. Brush with the remaining herb oil.

Read more at:

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I couldn’t get enough of any of the dishes that the girls brought, including my fair share of cheese and jam, artichoke dip, stuffed mushrooms, and a delicious rosemary + fruit Sangria!
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After we ate at the house and exchanged gifts, the only appropriate thing to do next was go get the best dessert in town. We ended our night with chocolate and drinks at Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern’s Steakhouse. If you are ever in Tampa, you have to check this place out. The Dessert Room is on the 2nd floor of the steakhouse, and guests are seated at tables in massive redwood wine barrels. It sounds weird, but it’s perfect. photo 3 (16)

This holiday break has also given me plenty of time to attend some group fitness classes (ahem, Bodypump) go on long runs with Derek, and just veg around the house. Some of my favorite things to do!

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And I really hope to be able to spend some more time in the kitchen while life is a little more slow-paced than usual!


Photo Share 12/9

Hi party people! Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. I’m so excited to share that I finished my first half marathon this weekend! Derek and I ran in the OUC Orlando Half Marathon, and decided it definitely won’t be our last. I’ll go into a more detailed re-cap of the race in another post, but for now,as tradition calls for, I’ll share the last few days in photos with you all!

I spent Thursday evening with my parents and nephew Parker, drinking almond milk hot chocolate and watching Christmas specials on TV.  This is one of my favorite things to do during the holiday season, and I’m loving the many SNL Christmas Special re-runs that have been airing!

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We started the carb-loading off early in the week ( Monday is appropriate for a Saturday race, right?), so my dad was sweet enough to prepare us some tasty pasta with homemade tomato sauce and fresh basil on Thursday night.

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After work on Friday, Derek and I drove out to Orlando to check into the hotel we stayed at the night before our half-marathon. We made reservations at 310 Lakeside after verifying that they had some serious opportunities for carb consumption! We shared a zucchini flatbread and both had the Chicken Piccata Pasta and it was all delicious!

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We had an early wake-up call Saturday morning, and made sure to snap a pic at the hotel before our race began!

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We ran the race in 1:59:22, and headed back home to Tampa to watch our two teams play in their championship games!

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I’m literally in shock  (but still proud) that Auburn ended up being the team who will face FSU in the National Championship game in January. I’ll be sad to cheer against Auburn, but am glad both of my teams are the top 2 in the country!

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics from my firm’s holiday party which took place Saturday evening, but it was held at the beautiful Tampa Bay History Center, and catered by one of my favorite Tampa restaurants, the Columbia.

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And we passed Sunday morning in typical Sunday fashion, with church, a trip to the gym for a CX Worx class, and some relaxation, before having dinner with my family to celebrate my Nano’s birthday!


I plan to get some easy runs in this week, and I’ve set a goal for myself to continue to drink as much water as I did last week as I was gearing up for my half-marathon.

Do you all have any health or fitness goals for this week or month?!

Happy Monday, keep smiling!

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.


Dinner was DEEELISH as usual, and I spent the rest of the night cuddling on Sam…

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)!


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.

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.

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 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.


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.


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.

gr1Hope y’all enjoy this recipe if you give it a try! Have a happy and healthy Wednesday! Keep Smiling!

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!





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’.


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


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??



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!

po boys

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!


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!


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.




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?



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 🙂

I Made Friends + Light Cajun Chicken Pasta

Hi, friends ! How goes it? I hope everyone is recovering from the Monday blues! My Monday was an easy one, and for that I am thankful! My day of training got out unexpectedly early, and I was able to head to the gym for a nice sweat sesh after work. My original plan for the week was to take Monday off after my 8 mile run on Sunday, but how could I pass up working out after finishing my day at 4:30 p.m.? I just couldn’t.

I completed the following interval run and weight session before calling it quits.

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(Repeat 3 times)

After the gym, some new work friends from North Carolina and Tennessee invited me to dinner and to hang for the night. One of my favorite parts about training is meeting people from all over the U.S., and staying in contact throughout our careers. We had a great night at Ormsby’s in Atlanta – a tavern with delicious food and drinks. I had a killer cup of sweet chili, along with an arugula salad loaded with beets.


I loaded up on sleep and am ready to rock and roll today, but not until I share this new recipe with you all!

Last week after a trip to the farmer’s market, I returned with arms full of fresh peppers, onions, and scallions (all for under $5 – benefits of eliminating the middle man aka Publix). I wanted to incorporate all the veggies, as well as some chicken breasts I had on hand, into a filling and nutrient-rich meal. I haven’t incorporated pasta into my meals lately, and I thought this meal would be a good time to do it. I came up with a healthy spicy Cajun chicken pasta recipe, that came together like this.


Ingredients: (Serves 4-6)

  • 1 box uncooked whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 3 tbsp light cream cheese
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • Cooking Spray


Cook pasta  in a very deep pot according to package instructions, strain and set aside.

In a large sauté pan prepared with cooking spray, cook chicken breasts for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine onion, bell pepper strips, garlic clove, Cajun seasoning, pepper and olive oil in a large bowl. Coat vegetables completely.  Saute onions and peppers over high heat on stove for 8-10 minutes, until vegetables have softened.


Reduce heat to low, and add in tomatoes, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/3 cup almond milk, and 3 tbsp light cream cheese. Cook for 2 minutes more.

Add chicken strips and pepper and onion mixture to the pot of pasta, and stir to combine. Top with chopped scallions and serve immediately.


Like always, keep smiling and enjoy this recipe if you try it!