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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3Ms and Mexican Five Layer Dip

Hola, amigos! I hope you are all having a fantastic hump day and ready for the 4th of July tomorrow. I had such a fun day on Tuesday night with my forever friends MK and Michelle, and all of our lovely moms. MK lives in Dallas and is in town for the week, and the rest of us live here in Tampa, but we haven’t gotten together as a group in at least 7 years. I’ve known them both since 1st grade, and we were best friends all the way throughout highschool (we referred to ourselves as the 3MS – as you might guess, this won us A LOT of friends). We spent several hours catching up over wine and great Italian food at Bella’s in Tampa. At the end of our evening, our mom’s wanted to take pictures of us all together. With 6 ladies, I’m sure you can imagine how many re-takes we did. Our waitress literally thought we were all insane.

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Obviously we’re freaks of nature.

Rewind to Tuesday morning – I ran my mile just to continue the running streak, and followed it up with a Jillian Michaels work out video from her 30-day shred series.

This video was a bit longer than the core video I shared yesterday, and it made me a bit more sore this morning so I liked it better! Today my toe is feeling better so far, so I hope to run a longer distance today. After my work out, I had a smoothie that looked like death but tasted delicious photo-69

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Last week I told you guys about a Five-Layer dip I made for TJ and Fawn’s rehearsal dinner party. The recipe I used is an Ellie Krieger recipe from Food Network. I followed it almost exactly, only leaving out jalapeños y chiles in adobo because I didn’t want to make the dish too spicy for the guests. Here’s how the dip came together:

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Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn kernels (10-ounce box frozen corn)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 ripe avocados
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion
3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar (reduced fat)

Directions

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until they soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.

Put half of the onion mixture into a food processor with the black beans, chipotle pepper, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, cumin, water and salt. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

Add the corn to the skillet with the remaining onion mixture and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro leaves.

In a small bowl mash the avocado with the remaining lime juice. In a medium bowl toss together the tomatoes, scallion and jalapeno, if using. Season tomato mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.

Spread the black bean dip into the bottom of an 8 by 8 glass baking or serving dish. Top with the corn mixture, spreading it out to form a single layer over the beans, repeat with the avocado, then the tomatoes. Top with cheese.

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And with that, you are ready for a fiesta! Happy hump day, everyone!

Happy July!

Hey there, friends. HAPPY JULY! I love a new month 🙂  I hope everyone had a great weekend and is ready to start this new week! My weekend was filled with wedding festivities – Derek’s high school receivers coach married his beautiful wife Fawn, and we had a great time celebrating all weekend long. Friday began with a quick 3.5 mile run followed by a serious study sesh. The hard work didn’t feel too daunting, as I knew I had wedding cake tasting in store in the afternoon. Derek and I loved our meeting with Elise from Elise’s Pieces – her cake tastes fantastic and looks just as lovely as it tastes. photo-64

Although we were stuffed to the brim from cake tasting, it didn’t stop us from enjoying the delicious food at TJ and Fawn’s rehearsal dinner. Derek’s parents hosted the dinner at their house, so everyone lucked out because Derek’s mom is a fantastic cook 🙂 I contributed a Mexican 5 layer dip to the party via a recipe I found on Food Network’s website 

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I think out of all of the delicious eats, the lemon bars were my favorite!

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We woke up on Saturday and knew the only way we’d get a run or work out in was if we did it bright and early. So we laced up and headed out for a 5 mile Bayshore run. The weather had different plans for us – after mile 2 the downpour began, along with what felt like 40mph winds. We ran back to the car and drove ourselves to the gym, where I finished the 5 miler.

Wedding festivities continued, but this time it related to our wedding. My mom, Megan and I drove to St. Pete for wedding gown shopping #2. We had a lot of fun, especially because this boutique had bridesmaid and mother of the bride dresses. Fun for all! My mom, Derek and I wrapped up the afternoon with some wedding registering at a local Tampa boutique.

The most fun of the weekend was had on Saturday evening at TJ and Fawn’s wedding. It was such a special and unique ceremony and reception, and really displayed just how wonderful they are and will be together. image-114

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The reception was nothing short of a blast – especially for the 3 guys pictured above. I know our wedding will be just as fun considering they are part of our wedding party.

On Sunday I visited with my friend MK who is in town for the week (yay!) and cooked Pretzel Chicken for dinner. I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it for my parents and I a few months ago. Derek requested it Sunday, and I was happy to make it again, as it’s one of the easiest dinners to make.

Pretzel Crusted Baked Chicken

Ingredients

1/2 cup crushed pretzels

4 chicken breasts

1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Pour egg into a bowl large enough to fit chicken in. One at a time, dip chicken breasts into beaten egg, coating on all sides. Next, dip chicken into crushed pretzels, also coating all over. Bake for 45 minutes.

I served the chicken with homemade Honey Mustard, steamed vegetables, and a quinoa/brown rice mixture.

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I planned to run on Sunday, but only had time for 1 mile. I had to get it in, as the running streak ends on 4th of July. However, bad news ensued about half way through the run. I’ve been having light pain in the joint of my big toe for a few days now, but it became severe on Sunday. I’ve iced several times, but it doesn’t seem to help. Google is not my friend when it comes to injuries or illnesses – I’m now convinced I have hallux rigidus, an arthritic condition common in runners. I’m hoping this isn’t the case, and that it’s just a case of turf toe or tendinitis. I hate being side-lined from running, so I’m pretty bummed about the whole thing.

Any athletes out there ever have similar pain? I’d love any information!