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:

Ingredients

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

1/2 cup of fig jam

6 oz.  gorgonzola cheese

Directions

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.

Directions
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: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/onion-herb-focaccia-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

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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!

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Photo Share 11/4

Hey party people, happy Monday and happy November to you all! I am writing this post 30,000 ft. in the air (does that estimation sound right? I hope I’m not seriously off on that), as I know as soon as this plane lands and I get to my hotel this evening I will be far too tired to turn on this computer of mine and begin typing.

The good news about this week? I’m headed for some more audit training, and will be able to dine out very well the next several days. They feed us like it’s the Last Supper over here. The bad news? I’m out of the kitchen until Saturday, and won’t be able to whip up a darn thing while I’m gone. In addition to that sad fact, I’m also without my treasured running buddy, and will have to settle for hotel gyms for any runs/workouts I have on tap.

Luckily for me, the past several days, which I will OBVIOUSLY detail to you all with a plethora of pictures, included plenty of gym time, running, cooking, and baking. What more could a gal like me ask for?

Halloween was far from frightful in our household – instead, we’ll say it was pretty hoppy. Ben, Derek and I were treated to a fall-inspired beer tasting, planned and prepared by the one and only, Megan! Megan purchased several different fall beers, which included a couple of pumpkin beers, as well as some interesting Oktoberfest brewskis. While I am far from a beer connoisseur (give me a Mich Ultra and I’m all set), I really enjoyed tasting and rating all the beers she served us. I felt like the night was perfectly planned, and right up my alley as a great way to celebrate Halloween with friends!

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I probably should have cooked something pumpkin or winter-squash related on this fall holiday, but instead I prepared a spicy Cajun chicken pasta dish – I promise to share with you guys later this week!

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I woke up Friday morning and headed to the gym for a bright and early barre class. This class was the same I attended last Friday, but much more enjoyable this time around. I feel like the success of group fitness really depends on the energy in the room, and this last class was full of energy. It started my Friday off with a bang, and was a fun way to add some variety to my usual fitness routine.

On Friday evening, Derek and I took my parents to a wine bar we’ve been enjoying lately – Cru Cellars. Cru is a relatively small winery and eatery, and we’re always impressed by the dishes and wine flights we are served whenever we dine at Cru. We all ordered a few plates and shared them all, including a fig and prosciutto flatbread, a smoked whitefish dip, and a burger on a pretzel bun. Derek and I resisted stuffing ourselves to the brim, so that we could hop on over to Yogurtology and get our froyo fix for the night.

On our agenda for Saturday morning was a long training run for our upcoming half marathon, but Mother Nature put her foot down in the form of all-day long thunderstorms. Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow, so I made my way to the gym for a 3 mile treadmill run and a Bodypump class instead. My friend Sara agreed to join me, which made the class 10x better, as it seems I’m always that girl in class with no one to talk to.

AND THEN IT WAS TIME TO CELEBRATE LOUIE! I feel awful admitting this to you all, but I forgot Louie’s “fake” birthday twice this year. We aren’t really sure when his date of birth is, so we designated 10/15 as the day we would celebrate. 10/15 came and went, and we completely forgot about the little guy! So what did we do?  We decided his birthday would be Halloween, because who could forget that birthday? We would never forget his birthday if it was Halloween. Then rolled around November 1st, and we realized we forgot to celebrate his birthday once again. WE. ARE. AWFUL. PEOPLE. That was it, no questions asked, Louie’s birthday would be the very next day, November 2nd. So November 2nd  began with a frosty paw, followed by a trip to Petco where Lou went crazy at the treat bar, and ended with a whole lot of Lou lovin’! And the best part about it all? I don’t even think he was made at me for forgetting his special day!

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Louie was extra excited to spend part of his birthday at his friend Sam’s house, as you can tell.

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Derek’s mom taught me how to bake a delectable Pumpkin Roll, and I spent Saturday afternoon covered in powdered sugar. I can’t wait to share this recipe with you guys!

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We spent Saturday evening with great friends at The Lodge, watching our ‘Noles beat Miami – the celebration may or may not have helped with our 8 mile run that took place Sunday morning.

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But at least the run happened, and we checked another distance off of our list. Our long run mileage gets longer and longer the next few weeks, and we’re enjoying running around new parts of town, as we have lots of ground to cover.

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The rest of my Sunday included a trip to the Hyde Park Fresh market with friends and Louie, and an evening on a jet plane for work travel.

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My goal for this new week is to take advantage of my hotel stay by getting to bed early (less distractions than at home) and getting in at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Any of you have healthy goals planned for this week?

Happy Monday – Keep Smiling!

Banana Walnut Loaf + Happy Birthday Weekend to D Man!

Hey there party people! THE WEEKEND IS UPON US! In a few short hours, the work week will end, and I am thrilled because it is Derek’s birthday weekend, so plenty of celebrations will ensue. For good measure and some funny faces, please refer to the birthday pictures below from the past 4 years.

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Anywho. My week this week has been insanely busy, and I’m grateful that I was able to run 3 out of the last 4 days, as well as take a yoga and bodypump class.

yogaGranted, I’ve been waking up before 6am or getting home after 830pm to do these things, but it’s made my work week a bit more enjoyable. I do have some sad news to report, however, and maybe some of you have experienced this same awful thing before. But I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy. Wednesday night I got into bed around 10 p.m., with my alarm set for a 6 a.m. morning run. I did not sleep one ounce (yes I understand ounce is not the correct measurement, it’s obviously minutes, but humor me) all night long. Around 3 in the morning, after tossing and turning 5 hours, I resolved to stop trying to sleep, and instead read a book. And between 5 and 6 am I was just praying for time to pass by because I was bored out of my mind. Has this ever happened to any of you? An entire sleepless night? I’ve never struggled with insomnia before, so I’m not sure if this is just a typical case of that. Who knows. But I do hope it NEVER happens again.

Now, enough dwelling on the negative! Boy do I have a recipe to share with you, and just in time for the weekend! I made this banana walnut bread (an adaptation of a Food Network Recipe) the same weekend as I made the easiest Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. While the aforementioned muffins were received very well by my pumpkin-loving friends and relatives, it is a sad truth that pumpkin isn’t everyone’s favorite flavor. Bananas, on the other hand, typically are an all around favorite, and this recipe was the winner of the weekend!

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Ingredients

1 1/4 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 egg whites (I use Egg Beaters – 1/2 cup)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar (I used part stevia – conversion here)

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 cup chopped or broken up walnuts

1 stick butter (I use Smart Balance – 1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° and spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, mash bananas with fork.

Pour flour into  a large bowl, and add in baking soda and set aside. In a small bowl bowl, mix together egg whites and vanilla extract. In the bowl of a stand up mixer (or a large bowl and a hand mixer) mix the butter and sugar together. After the butter and sugar are mixed, first add in the egg mixture and then the mashed bananas and mix until wet ingredients are incorporated. Finally, fold in the flour mixture and walnuts and mix by hand.

Pour batter into loaf pan, and bake for 1 hour. To make sure the baking is complete, stick a tooth pick in loaf to check the loaf is baked through.

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If you know what’s good for you, you’ll give this recipe some serious thought! Have a happy weekend, y’all!

Another Early Morning + It’s Pumpkin Time

Well hello folks! How are ya?! I’m currently typing this post over a bowl of pumpkin oatmeal, and I am happy as a clam about it. Now before I go through one of my favorite pumpkin recipes, I’ll share with you the highlights of my Monday!

Monday began with a 6 a.m. alarm that woke me from a deep sleep. Unfortunate as it may be, I usually beat my alarm up and typically lay in bed for a couple minutes, waiting for it to go off. But Monday was a little different, and it took me a while to figure out where I was or what I needed to do. But I quickly remembered, and I laced up with Derek for a 3 mile run to start the week off on the right foot. The beginning part of our morning runs are usually dark and quiet, but by the end of the last mile, the sun  begins to show it’s face and it seems the neighborhood begins to wake up. Perfect timing to start getting ready for work!

My breakfast yesterday included a bowl of cereal, as well as an apple smothered in pumpkin butter. It was divine. (If you watch Modern Family, you know that both Cam and I use the word divine like it’s the word “ok”. Oh well who cares!?)

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Off to work I went, but the day was extra special, because it’s the first time Derek and I were both working in our offices downtown. We met for lunch at a salad place that allows you to build your own salad.

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After work, I finished my day off with a Bodypump class at the gym, and a spicy Mexican stirfry with Derek!

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 I can’t believe I couldn’t think of a more creative post title relaed to my favorite orange food, but I just cannot do it. The creative bug has left the building and there’s nothing I can do about it. But, lucky for all of us, the baking bug has not! Now, I’m not sure if you guys have heard or not, and it’s a pretty low key ingredient these days, but pumpkin is cool to cook with. And to honor the big orange squash, I have prepared the simplest Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins of all time. How simple, do you ask? 3 ingredient simple. Yes, you read correctly, 3.

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Here’s the dealio, pumpkin eaters:

Easier than pie Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree

1 bag of mini chocolate morsels (dark or milk)

1 box of yellow cake mix

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin liners.

Combine 3 ingredients and beat until incorporated.

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Bake for 20-22 minutes. To ensure muffins are cooked through, stick a toothpick in a muffin – if it comes out gooey, bake for a few more minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes. Or eat immediately with vanilla ice cream. Whatever floats your boat!

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Do you have any favorite pumpkin recipes?

Photo Share 10/14

Well hello there, fellow party people! How goes it? I hope everyone had a fun filled weekend and I hope you are all ready for a fantastic week ahead. My weekend was certainly fun, as it was filled with plenty o’ time with the Weatherly clan. D-Man left town this weekend to head to his old stompin’ grounds, Auburn Universtiy, and spend the weekend with his family. And while I missed my partner in crime (especially during my boring 5 mile run on Saturday), it was nice to have 3 days to spend with my family. And in true Monday fashion, I’ll continue with my tradition of re-capping my weekend through photos:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. I made a couple batches of these late Friday evening and they are almost all gone. Don’t be alarmed, I had plenty of help in the consumption of said muffins.pumpkin3

Once I started baking, I just couldnt stop. Banana Walnut Bread was next on tap, and baking this made our house smell so incredibly delicious. I’ll share both recipes with you shortly!

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Bodypump. I try to attend classes at my gym on the weekend as regularly as possible, since my schedule is a little less flexible during the work week. I made it to a Bodypump and Bodyflow class this weekend – thank you Les Mills, you are a genius.

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My parents and I all had serious cravings for sushi on Friday evening, and these rolls hit. the. spot.

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Do not go out of town and come back empty handed. Perhaps Derek learned this the hard way, perhaps not. Pish posh that’s all in the past, and this time he most certainly did not come back empty handed. I can’t wait to use these preserves and butters! Anyone have ideas what I should do with them?

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Not only did I get to hang out with my parents this weekend, but my nephews Andrew and Fuller, and Fuller’s sweet girlfriend Emily came to town. On Saturday night we all got together at our aunt and uncle’s home and grilled out some delicious burgers. Football may or may not have been involved.

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Do I have the sweetest Maid of Honor, or what? My best friend and maid of honor, Megan, left me this sweet surprise that I came home to this weekend. How adorable is that note pad?!

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It has been far too long since I’ve spent a couple hours in a nail salon, inhaling beautiful fumes and having my paws painted. My mom treated me this Saturday, and I chose You Don’t Know Jacques! by OPI, which seems great for fall!

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That’s all, folks! I hope you guys have a marvelous Monday!

Back to Bodypump + Healthier “Bang Bang” Shrimp

Hola, friends! Happy Tuesday and happy October! Does anyone else say “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” right when they wake up on the first day of every month? One of my roommates in college convinced me it was good luck, so I’ve been trying to do it for a couple of years now, usually with no success!

Anyways, please sit back and relax as I walk you through my super exciting day. This is the price you have to pay to receive the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: the recipe to a healthy bang bang shrimp!

I started my morning with a bowl of apple walnut cinnamon oatmeal. We were totally out of all milks: regular, skim, almond.. you name it, we didn’t have it. So I left out the splash of almond milk I usually go with, and started the morning sans coffee as well.

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Louie was sad to see me leave in the morning. At least I’d like to hope he was, because I hate leaving his furry face.

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For lunch at work I had leftovers from dinner the previous night, which included salad and some of the aforementioned bang bang shrimp. There was no picture taking at lunch. I’m trying to make friends at work, what did you expect?!?!

I made it back to my gym after a 2 week hiatus following the work day, and I have to be honest, I really missed it there.. While the gym at my hotel the last couple of weeks was pretty awesome for a hotel fitness center, it definitely doesn’t compare to my gym and all the fitness classes offered there.

My legs were a bit tired from the race on Saturday and our 5 mile run on Sunday morning, so my warm-up on the treadmill was a seriously slow 3 miles of walking and jogging. After gettin’ all my muscles ready to go, I headed to the fitness room for a Bodypump class. Boy did I miss that 55 minutes of toning madness. I plan to get to the gym as much as I can this week, as work will get a bit busier for me in the weeks to come.

Now that you’re all filled in on the details that comprise my little life, here is the recipe I promised you!

A few weeks ago I made shrimp skewers for some guests we had over to watch a football game. I served the skewers with a “bang bang” type spicy sauce, and while the end product was tasty, it didn’t feel as satisfying as an order of Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill.

I couldn’t give up on my efforts to recreate this dish, so I tried it a different way for dinner this weekend. Here is my version of bang bang shrimp, lightened up a bit!

Healthier “Bang Bang” Shrimp

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Ingredients

(Serves 4-5 as an appetizer, or 2 as a main dish)

1 lb. medium pink shrimp, tails removed

3 tbsp thai sweet chili sauce

¼ cup light or fat free mayonnaise

2 tsp sriracha sauce

1 egg white

1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp olive oil or cooking spray

1 tsp crushed red pepper

2 cups romaine lettuce

Directions

Place egg white in a large bowl, and bread crumbs and crushed red pepper in another large bowl. Dip shrimp in egg and then cover in bread crumbs and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, sriracha sauce, and thai sweet chili sauce until fully mixed.

Heat olive oil or cooking spray over high heat in a large sauté pan, and add in coated shrimp once oil is sizzling.

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Cook for a couple minutes (3 minutes for pre-cooked shrimp or 5-6 minutes for uncooked shrimp) until shrimp is pink and breadcrumb coating is toasted. Remove from heat and toss with thai sauce. Serve immediately over romaine lettuce.

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My recipe left out the scallions that typically appear in bang bang shrimp, and I lightened it up with lite mayo and panko bread crumbs, while also eliminating butter. The dish ended up being exactly what I wanted, and tasted pretty darn close to the restaurant version 😉

Are there any restaurant dishes that you love to recreate at home?

Super Nutty Granola

My day on Wednesday, aside from a 2 mile run and a Bodypump class, was pretty relaxed, as I spent the majority of it reading and cooking.  I also stopped at a local culinary shop, The Rolling Pin, to browse through the supplies and sample all the free goodies.

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The Rolling Pin has a huge gourmet kitchen where they offer various cooking courses, and I’ve been dying to try one out. Hopefully I will get around to it one day! image

I know I’ve mentioned before how big of a snacker I am, especially when it comes to nuts, cereals, and other foods that squirrels like. I’ve shared a couple of granola recipes with you before, but I think this is my favorite!

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Super Nutty Granola

Ingredients

4 cups old fashioned oats

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped peanuts

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sugar free syrup

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter ( or any nut butter)

1 tbsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat your oven to 250°. Combine oats, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, coconut, cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix to ensure an even distribution of the ingredients. In a different bowl, combine canola oil, maple syrup,  and honey. Add the syrup mixture to the dry mixture. Finally, add peanut butter (in different spots, preferably), and stir. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes for even color. Remove from oven and enjoy. Of course, you can add raisins and chocolate chips here if you please ( I always do)!

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Granola goes great on top of ice cream 😉

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Happy Thursday, Y’all!