Crowd Pleasin’ Cheesy Bruschetta

Around the holiday season, I find that short-notice entertaining of friends happens more often than the rest of the year. And trust me when I tell you, I have absolutely no complaints. There truly are few things I love more than preparing food and feeding people. But when I’m in a time crunch, Bruschetta is one of my go-to appetizers.

I’ve already shared with you all how to turn the bold flavors of basil, garlic, and tomato into a main dish by pouring it over chicken. But how could I forget to talk about the simple appetizer version of these favorite ingredients of mine?

Ingredients

3 large, ripe tomatoes

1 clove garlic, chopped

4 fresh basil leaves, chopped or shredded

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2  tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Pepper to taste

1 long baguette

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Chop tomatoes, and place them in a large bowl with garlic, balsamic vinegar, pepper and basil leaves. Set aside for at least 30 minutes. Cut baguette into circular rounds, about 1-inch in thickness. Drizzle rounds with olive oil. Top rounds with tomato mixture and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and return to oven for 2 minutes. Serve hot 🙂

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I love serving dishes that seem fancier and more difficult to prepare than they actually were. This bruschetta dish fits that description! These ingredients serve 3-6 people as an appetizer, so make sure to double it if you have a bigger crowd to feed.

If you give this recipe a try, enjoy!

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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!

Lemony Shrimp Scampi

Fresh shrimp, a little bit of lemon juice, and some powerful garlic. Does it get any better? Today I’ve got an easy and healthy seafood recipe for ya!

Lemony Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients

1 cup white wine or white cooking wine

1 lb. peeled + deveined shrimp

juice from 2 lemons

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp oregano

salt + pepper to taste

1 tomato, diced

2 basil leaves, shredded

Directions

Heat a large skillet to high heat and pour white wine, lemon juice and garlic in the skillet. Heat until the sauce reduces to half its original content. After 5 minutes, add in tomatoes and shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Spoon shrimp and sauce onto plates, top with shredded basil and serve immediately.

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imageI served our shrimp scampi with fresh bruschetta and a Mediterranean couscous salad. Boun appetito!

What Half Marathon Should I Run? + Spaghetti Squash Recipe

Happy Friday, everyone! The weekend is finally upon us! I’m so excited for this holiday weekend, because I’m sitting my favorite pups, and I have family coming in town! Doesn’t get better than that. But before I get ahead of myself and talk about the weekend, I have to tell you all about my day yesterday, because I know you’re dying to know 😉

My morning started off with a 5+ mile run. I didn’t really want to run intervals or put a lot of effort into tracking my pace, so I just made sure to run each mile a bit faster than the last. My first mile was around 9:30, second 8:50, 3rd 8:35, 4th 8:28, 5th 8:25. I finished with a 5 minute walking cool down.

It’s been at least a week since I’ve run 5 miles, so it felt like the right time to get this run in. I’m starting half-marathon training for a race in November. I haven’t yet decided which one – there is a race the weekend before Thanksgiving here in the Tampa Bay Area, but it’s a Women’s Race, and Derek wanted to run too. So we’re working on finding one!

After my run, I was off to the dreaded dentist. It wasn’t nearly as dreaded as I imagined – they gave me headphones and let me listen to Justin Timberlake Pandora as they drilled away. All I got through was “Suit and Tie” and half of “Stronger” by Kanye West, and they were done! I was kind of bummed because I wanted more JT.

They also gave me a blanket.. Pretty sweet, eh?

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I made the mistake of not eating before the appointment, and had quite the laugh at myself when I tried to eat almonds an hour after leaving the dentist. The novocaine was in full force, and I couldn’t feel and/or swallow the almond. So I fulfilled a 3rd grade longing that I never had, and had an applesauce to go

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Next it was time to treat myself. My mom gave me several gift cards for my birthday (back in February), and I have yet to use several of them. One of the cards I still had was a gift card for a massage. I’d been waiting until I didn’t have a CPA exam in my way to use it, because I knew I’d be laying on the table thinking about studying otherwise.

So yesterday afternoon I finally used my gift card for a 1 hour relaxation/deep tissue massage and it was glorious. At least I think it was, I was in and out of consciousness, so who knows?

Dinner Time!

It’s been over a year since I’ve made spaghetti squash, and almost 24 years since Derek has eaten it. Last weekend at the farmer’s market, a spaghetti squash was amongst the goodies I returned home with, and last night was the time to make it. Here is how our dinner came together:

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes

1 Large spaghetti squash

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cups grape tomatoes

1 tbsp oregano

1/2 tbsp garlic powder

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut spaghetti squash length-wise and remove seeds from inside. Drizzle 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper on both inner halves of squash, and place face down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. photo

In a separate bowl, toss grape tomatoes with 1/2 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

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Set oven timer for 40 minutes, and place spaghetti squash in oven. After 20 minutes have passed, add tomatoes to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes.

Remove squash and tomatoes from oven. With a fork, remove the noodle-like insides of the squash and put on dinner plates. Top with roasted tomatoes and cheese.

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We topped ours with some simple baked chicken (seasoned with salt and pepper and baked at 350 for 25 minutes), and a basil pesto I made earlier this week.

I love that spaghetti squash has the consistency of spaghetti noodles, but a fraction of the carbs and calories. It also has a bit of a veggie taste to it, so it feels like I’m eating nutritiously!

If anyone has tips for good half-marathons to run, I’d love to hear them!

Easiest Salsa Chicken Fajitas

Yesterday was tough on the brain front. It always seems like 2 days before a CPA exam is my freak-out time. Even though I know plenty of anxiety-reducing activities and behaviors I should employ, I never seem to take my own advice. I didn’t do as well as I’d like on a practice test I took in the morning, and by the time I got to work, my face told the story of my morning. It was one of those days where I wore my emotions, and couldn’t pep up to save my life – the stress took me over! My boss noticed my worry, and let me go home early to finish preparing. I was so grateful and was able to take another practice test to ease some of my fear. I couldn’t let his good nature go unrewarded, so I plan to smother him in baked goods from Publix today.

My easy 30 minute run and 30 minutes of stretching also helped to calm me down – I love it when that happens! I hope to keep my nerves in check today because I know that getting worked up isn’t going to help me perform better tomorrow. This guy makes me feel so much better

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Outfit of the Day

Don’t ya love cheap finds? I love mixing higher end items with more economical pieces!photo-66

Dress AND Chambray shirt: Target; Shoes: Steve Madden; Bag: Louis Vuitton

Dinner

I know this isn’t the first time I’m saying “this was the easiest dinner ever!”, but I REALLY mean it with this dish! Literally, a baby could make this. I tossed a few chicken breasts in the crock pot,  and called it a day. Ok, ok, not that simple. But this is how it went:

Ingredients

3 large chicken breasts

 1 jar of medium salsa

1 cup of low sodium chicken broth

1 tbsp oregano and pepper

Directions

Trim fat off of chicken. Place chicken, salsa, chicken broth, and spices in a crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours (or low for 6-8 hours). When chicken is cooked, reduce heat to “keep warm”. Shred with a fork and knife, and serve with fajita toppings and tortillas.

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image-233This recipe had my mom saying “This is my favorite recipe so far!” for the 3rd time this week. They all seem to be her favorite 🙂 What a way to boost my confidence!

I hope you all have a happy and healthy day!

Homemade Basil Pesto

I just wanted to pop on in to share with you an integral recipe-within-a-recipe from a dish I posted last week!

Last week I shared with you all a recipe for a basil pesto and mozzarella chicken dish that I adapted from Skinny Taste. The recipe required homemade basil pesto sauce ( a skinny version, of course ) and I was so excited to make my own basil pesto for the first time! The Skinny Taste recipe was almost identical to a traditional basil pesto (only thing it lacked was pine nuts). I was so surprised at how easy it was to make, and was knocked off my feet by the way it tasted. Here is how it went down:

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cup basil
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 5 tbsp olive oil

Add basil, garlic, grated parmesan, salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse. After about 30 seconds of pulsing, begin to slowly add the olive oil. Continue to pulse until everything is incorporated. Scoop out of food processor, and serve over your meal or store in air tight container (it’s freezable)!

Makes a little over 1/2 cup of basil pesto.

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photo-99I served this basil pesto sauce atop a chicken dish last week and the basil pesto seriously stole the show!

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You have to make this or you won’t truly experience all the joys that life can bring you. I swear.

How to Like Running and The Return of the Twinkie and a Healthy Shrimp Bake

I was browsing Fitsugar this morning and found the following article I wanted to share with you all:

Running, while an easy exercise to pick up, isn’t for everyone; one person’s meditative mile is another’s boredom-inducing march. But if you’re an erstwhile enthusiastic new runner who can’t quite seem to get into the sport, make sure you read these tips before you write off your new hobby for good.

How to Become a Runner (Who Actually Likes to Run!)

  1. Don’t go overboard: You may be ready to pound the pavement with the best of them (at least in your mind), but enthusiasm and skill don’t always match up — which can lead to discouragement and injuries that can set you back. Don’t push yourself too far or fast when you first start running; just focus on learning the right form and how to breathe while you run rather than your pace when you first start. Once you’re comfortable with how running feels, try following a plan designed to make you a faster, better runner, like this beginner’s 5K training plan.
  2. Go at the right time: When you run when you have the most energy, you’ll be more likely to actually like your new hobby. Try out different times to run to see when you feel your best. You may find that running those three miles in the morning is a breeze compared to mustering up enough energy to hit the treadmill after work.
  3. Fuel right: You need energy for your run, but slipping on your sneakers right after a big meal is a recipe for disaster. Stop the stomach aches by planning out your meals with your running times. You should wait at least two to three hours after a main meal before you go for a run. If it’s been longer, have a small, easily digestible pre-workout snack at least 30 minutes before you go.

More tips for learning to like running after the break.

  1. Warm up: Every runner has been there — the feeling of lead-filled legs that just make running that much more of a chore. While there are many reasons why you can be feeling low energy before a run, one sure way to start off on the wrong foot is to not ease into your run. Take a few minutes to jog slowly to warm up your body before you ramp up your speed.
  2. Entertain yourself: While running itself can be an endorphin-boosting, stress-relieving hobby, let’s face it — it’s incredibly repetitive. If you’re bored out of your mind running, switch up your route, get off the treadmill and on the trail, and make sure you load up your phone with enough adrenaline-inducing workout-playlists to take you through your workouts.
    by: Leta Shy

I thought this touched perfectly on the idea that there can be a fine line between loving and hating running. While I’ve grown to love the activity on most days, sometimes it does feel like a repetitive chore for me, and it’s important to keep things interesting by employing the right tactics and techniques during every run.

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In other news, this was back at Publix yesterday and made me very happy: photo-96

I don’t even eat Twinkies (it was never something my mom packed in my lunch for me), but it makes me feel good to know that I can if I want to! Plus I think the slogan on the box is great – “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever”. Touche, Twinkies, Touche.

 

and FINALLY….. For dinner last night I threw together a quick shrimpy-pasta-y-tomato-y and onion-y dish! It came together like so…

Healthy Shrimp Bake

Ingredients

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp

1 T olive oil

16 oz. diced tomato

1/2 diced white onion

1 garlic clove, chopped

handful of spinach leaves

1/2 box of tri-color vegetable pasta

1 T oregano

1 t crushed red pepper

1/2 cup reduced fat crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 °. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and stir in shrimp, oregano, garlic, and red pepper. Cook, stirring, until pink. Add in onion and diced tomato and turn heat to medium-low, until pasta is ready. Strain pasta and pour pasta and shrimp-tomato-onion mixture into a large baking dish. Drop in spinach, and mix until everything is incorporated. Top with feta and bake in the oven for about 4-6 minutes, until feta begins to melt. Serve hot!

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