WIAW: Spooky Halloween Supper

Trick or Treating in our neighborhood was Tuesday night and although I had an ample supply of candy ready to go out my front door, there weren’t as many kids as expected ringing the doorbell.  In thanks to 30 degree temperatures and strong winds, it’s hard to blame the parents of the little ghosts and goblins.  In the mean time, I guess I will be enjoying the leftover candy I had purchased, including my favorites like Peanut M&Ms, Reese Cups, and to mix up the chocolate and peanut love-fest, Swedish Fish.

For today’s WIAW, I am happy to proclaim that I finally followed the October rule and made a Spooky and Healthy Halloween Treat, which can actually be two dinners in one!

Peas and Crayons

 

Turkey Chili Stuffed ‘Jack O’ Lantern’ Peppers

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There are actually three faces in the above picture… can you spot them?  Hint, one may be lurking from the couch!

Stuffed Pepper Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup frozen yellow corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (for basic quinoa recipe, click here)
  • 4 bell pepper, yellow and/or orange
  • Optional, 1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

 

Chili Ingredients

All of the Stuffed Pepper Ingredients without the quinoa and peppers, and with:

  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (along with the 2 tablespoons already included with the Stuffed Pepper recipe)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Over medium heat, add olive oil and onion to a large saucepan.  Cook 3 minutes then add garlic, continue cooking an additional 3 minutes.  Add turkey to pan and heat until fully cooked through.

Add chili beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chili powder, and water to pan.  Mix ingredients and place lid on pan, bringing to a boil.  Turn heat to low, and heat through 5 minutes.

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At this point you can either choose to continue making a big batch of stuffed peppers, or separate the mixture by placing half the portion in a slow cooker to make Turkey Chili.

In the slow cooker along with half the turkey mixture, add the chicken broth, garlic powder and the additional 1 tablespoon of chili powder.  Stir to combine.

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Place lid on top and either immediately cook on High 4 hours or Low 8 hours, or place pot in refrigerator and cook another night during the week for an easy, ready to-go meal on a busy evening.  Or, I also recommend that if you cook the chili immediately, then freeze the whole batch for a quick dinner option when cooking a full meal just isn’t in the plans!

 

To continue with the Stuffed Peppers, whether it’s a full batch or a half batch, add the quinoa to the turkey mixture and stir to combine.

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In the mean time, cut the top off of the peppers and remove the seeds.  If you are in a festive Halloween mood, carefully carve a spooky Jack O’ Lantern face on the front of the peppers, and/or, cut the peppers in half.  Place peppers on a baking sheet and carefully spoon turkey mixture into peppers.  If wanted, top peppers with cheese, (I did half with cheese, half without).

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Bake peppers for 20 minutes, then broil on high for two minutes.

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There you have it!  If you are looking for a last minute Halloween dinner idea, this meal would be perfect!  It is simple, easy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you already have all of the ingredients on hand. 

Hope you have a fun, safe and memorable Halloween!

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Questions:

  • What are your plans for Halloween?
  • Have you made any Halloween inspired treats or meals?
  • What candy are you passing out to Trick or Treaters this year?

No Tricks, All Treats

I think it’s official now, I can no longer deny it.  That dream fall weather of temperatures in the mid-70’s is in the past as true fall made its appearance this weekend.  As much as I want to pretend, I also know that winter time seems to be just around the corner as well.  With strong winds and cool temperatures in the low 40’s, it makes me want to get out the scarves and gloves from my coat closet, which I actually did for my Sunday morning walk around the neighborhood.  Thankfully for Tebow he had on a fur coat, but I was not so lucky.  Brrr!  However, I think that the view more than made up for the chill.  Absolutely gorgeous!

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This weather also made for the perfect excuse to enjoy a nice fall day at my friend Meghan’s house.  We ate fall-inspired foods, made harvest treats, watched Halloween movies, and stayed warm and cozy on a cool day.

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It was a perfect Sunday afternoon, with the smell of yummy candles burning in the background while goodies baked in the oven.

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This was actually my first candy corn of the season.  If you can believe it, I actually was never ever a fan of candy corn as a kid!

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Apple Cider Sangria!  Meghan and I both actually had this pinned on Pinterest, great minds think alike?!  This little beauty contained club soda, apple cider, pinot grigio, and diced apples and pears.  We left out the ginger brandy, which seemed like a good idea for a Sunday afternoon, and it was still delicious.  I loved eating the apples and pears from the bottom of my glass that had been soaking in the drink.  So so good.

My contribution for a little munching was a big bowl of Katie’s Pumpkin Cookie Dough Dip.  Now let me warn you, her recipes are definitely very unique and you may look at the ingredient list and think it’s a little whacky, I know I was skeptical at first! Trust me though, this dip was amazing and no one will ever know what’s in it, or that it’s healthy, unless you share your little secret!

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I sampled a little on Saturday night with some animal crackers as dippers, you know, just to make sure it was okay.  Served in my little leaf bowl, which was a gift from a great friend who also likes to read the blog, hi Shannon!

I also brought with me the ingredients to make a festive Fall Spiced Granola, yet another Pinterest recipe.  Got to love Pinterest!  Remember how I can spend hours on Pinterest though, unfortunately or fortunately?  Well, I guess it turns out not all of that time is wasted! This granola was not only easy to make, but was also filled with healthy ingredients like oats, pistachios, raisins, chia seeds, ground flax, and cinnamon.  The only thing I might recommend is watching how much salt you add to the batch.  Even though the recipe called for 1 tablespoon, I think 1-2 teaspoons may have been adequate.  I suggest seasoning to taste and not to the exact recipe amount, unless you are sure you want an extra salty snack!

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Toasty and delicious!

For lunch Meghan made a turkey-pumpkin chili recipe in her slow cooker that helped to break-up our consumption of sweets all afternoon.  Plus, to stick with the pumpkin theme of course, she also added healthy pumpkin cupcakes to the mix, and her friend Katherine made a completely delicious chocolate bark layered with pretzels, caramel, and melted white and milk chocolate.  It was heavenly, and dangerous!  Let’s just say that my bag of goodness went directly in the freezer when I got home.  I could definitely see it being hard to keep my hand out of it!  Of course, when the homemade caramel consists of brown sugar and two sticks of melted butter, it’s probably going to turn out pretty rich!

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Yum!  Topped with peanut butter m&m’s and candy corn.

As you can see, my Sunday was full of good friends and a lot of food.  You better believe I had quite the sugar rush yesterday afternoon and I then spent my evening curled up on on the couch, chugging some water, watching some football, and getting ready for the last couple days of October and the first of November.

Thoughts From You:

  • What is your favorite Halloween/Autumn treat?
  • Do you like candy corn?
  • Out of all the recipes mentioned, which would be your favorite to eat: pumpkin cupcakes, chocolate bark, pumpkin cookie dough dip, or fall spiced granola?
  • What did you do this weekend?

Running Returns + Balsamic Bruschetta Chicken Recipe

Fridays to me mean three things:

  1. Casual Friday (I always look forward to wearing jeans, flats, and a cute, yet casual top to work.)
  2. Almost the Weekend (Which means two full days of freedom and spending time with Tim and Teb, family events, cooking and baking, blogging, spending time with friends, and enjoying time at home.)
  3. Another Week is Over.. Already ( No matter how much I look forward to the weekend, it never ceases to amaze me how fast the week days fly and are over in the blink of an eye.  Is it really almost November?)

This weekend I will be doing the typical cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc., possibly a date night Saturday, and going to my friend Meghan’s house Sunday for a fall party filled with good food and fun movies.  As far as exercise goes,I plan on doing a 3-mile run, which is the longest I have done since my half-marathon in May.  I took a break from running and cardio for awhile for health reasons.  Things have been looking up on the health side, so I have started incorporating a little more exercise into my schedule with a small comeback, including a 1.5 to 2 mile run here and there.  The Turkey Trot is coming up on Thanksgiving and I always look forward to it every year, especially because it has truly turned into a family affair.  This is our 4th year running, and each year we seem to add at least one other person.  Year one was just my mom, brother and I, year two was the three of us, my cousin Amanda and Tim, and year three was the five of us and my cousin’s husband, Josh.  This year we are adding in Amanda and Josh’s baby boy to the mix, so it will definitely be a fun time!  The Trot is five miles so Tim and I are going to work our mileage back up the next couple of weeks.  Our goal is two 2-mile runs during the week, and then a ‘long’ 3, 4, or 5- mile run on the weekends.

If you remember from my WIAW post, I left off with a tease for an easy bruschetta chicken recipe.  I love fancy dishes like this without the fuss  Let’s be honest, with ingredients like balsamic vinegar, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil, all you’ve got to do is let the dish speak for itself while you take all of the compliments!

Balsamic Bruschetta Chicken


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Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts, sliced in half OR 4 small chicken breasts, sprinkled with salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 8 oz container of fresh mozzarella balls, cut in half

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, drained

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1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

* Optional: 1 package of button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed

Directions

Heat grill-pan, or large skillet, over medium heat.  Add olive oil to the bottom of the pan and place chicken breasts in pan.  Place lid on top of pan and cook for 8 minutes, then flip chicken to the other side and cook an additional 8 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked through.

In a separate bowl, mix together all ingredients except the mozzarella and mushrooms.

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After chicken is browned on both sides and fully cooked through the middle, add tomato topping on to chicken and place mushrooms in the pan.

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Add mozzarella on top of tomatoes and into the center of the mushrooms.  Place the lid on the pan and turn the heat down to low.  Let sit 5 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted.

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DSCN2426 I served the chicken breast along with frozen ravioli (a Costco purchase) and stuffed mushrooms.  The above is Tim’s plate, and I ate about half the ravioli portion size he did along with the chicken and mushrooms.

Questions:

  • Finish this statement: Friday means….
  • Have you ever taken a break from cardio? What were your thoughts: loved it, hated it, missed it?
  • What is your favorite cheese?  (I love love love fresh mozzarella!)
  • Does anyone else run any fun holiday races, like the Turkey Trot?

WIAW: A Look Back

A couple weekends ago, we took Tebow for a bath at our favorite place, Wash Your Dog.  The store allows for us to give Tebow a bath in one of its tubs, without making a mess in our own bathroom.  The cost may be high considering we could simply give him a bath in our own house, but trust me, after seeing the amount of hair he shed after his oatmeal scrub and his blueberry facial it’s to understand why it’s worth every penny.

If you read my blog in the early days, you may remember that I documented Tebow’s first bath.  Well, I felt an urge to reminisce over his puppy days and decided to share with all of you how much he’s grown!

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October 2012

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October 2012

It is crazy how much my pup has grown!  However, I personally think he is just as cute and just as sweet!  Perhaps I am a little biased though?

Since today is Wednesday after all, I also wanted to share my Tuesday eats on WIAW.  I apologize for not remembering to take a few of my snack pictures, but I think everyone will know what a grapefruit and peanuts look like…

Peas and Crayons

Breakfast:

Before breakfast, Tim, Tebow and I went for a nice family run.  The weather is pretty warm right now, it actually got in the high 70’s today so it felt pretty good outside even at 5 am.  I had a dentist appointment this morning at 8 am, so breakfast was quick and easy. (I apologize ahead of time for the lack of lighting in the following pictures.  It is definitely staying darker a little longer now.  I miss my early morning sunshine!)

IMG_0801 Egg whites on a whole wheat wrap, with a schmear of laughing cow light cheese.  Those little wedge are great for spreading on wraps and sandwiches!

IMG_0802 All wrapped up and ready to eat!

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I have been feeling a little worn down the last couple of weeks thanks to the hot-cold weather and the change in seasons, so I took a shot of Amazing Grass in Chocolate Green SuperFood mixed with water to help boost my immune system.

I had a cup of coffee with my egg wrap and also packed my version of a Cafe Au Lait to go.  In my thermos was coffee and 1/2 cup skim milk, heated up and extra frothy.

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Snack:

I had 1/2 of an extremely ripe, yet incredibly juicy grapefruit with a sprinkle of Stevia.

Lunch:

Leftovers from Monday night helped to make lunch delicious and easy to pack.

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I had a big bowl of mixed greens filled with diced tomatoes, carrots, celery, and light ranch dressing coated the bottom of the bowl.

IMG_0806 All mixed up!

I also had Bruschetta Chicken, which was a chicken breast topped with basil, diced tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.  My Tupperware picture wasn’t very pretty, so instead I am sharing a picture from Monday’s dinner.

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This was so good!  I am a huge fan of fresh mozzarella cheese and it really can make a whole dish rich and memorable.  Look for this recipe to come soon!

Snack:

I forgot to take a picture of snack #2.  It was a couple handfuls of roasted-salted peanuts to tide me over until dinner.

Dinner:

As most of you know, I have been on a tilapia kick lately.  I found this recipe for a seasoning blend on Pinterest and it is amazing!  I have made fish prepared this way twice now and it has truly made its way into my heart as one of my favorite seafood dishes.  I definitely urge you to try it out if you are looking for an easy weeknight dish.

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I served the pan-grilled tilapia filet with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice and roasted Brussels sprouts and onions on the side.

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Nope, it’s not a hazy dream.  Just steamy deliciousness!

Dessert:

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What actually looks like a slice of pumpkin pie was in reality a homemade protein bar.  I don’t remember the exact measurements, but I know it contained ingredients like peanut butter, protein powder, oats, pumpkin, and mashed banana.  I will have to play around with this recipe again soon.  It turned out pretty good and tasted much more like a sweet treat than a serving of protein, whole grains, healthy fats, and fruit.

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Questions:

  • Do you ever make desserts/meals etc. that you love, but can’t remember how you made it when you’re done?
  • What is the best thing you’ve ever ate that you wish you knew how to make?
  • What was a favorite meal you ate this past week?
  • What is your favorite ‘healthified’ dessert?

An Icy Situation

This past weekend was filled with a lot of family activities, including a walk in support of breast cancer research on Saturday morning and a dinner with Tim’s family on Saturday night.  More activities continued into Sunday as we loaded up the car and headed to a baby dedication at a church for my 5-month old cousin.  Coming from a tiny, yet close-nit family, it was important for us to be there for the baby and his mom and dad as they promised to raise him in a positive and encouraging way.  In the midst of the service, one part of the pastor’s message really pulled at my heart and stood out in my mind.  The message was clear as ice.  Literally.

Stay off the Ice.

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Have you ever started going down a slippery path that should be avoided, but before you know it you are skating on the ice anyways?  We are told to avoid the usual suspects like lying, stealing, drugs, etc., but there are other personal pitfalls we each must avoid as well.

For instance, I know that if I go online I need a specified time span I can spend searching the web.  If I do not set a time limit, then hours can quickly pass by before I even stop and look at the clock.  With activities like Pinterest, blogging, Facebook, researching recipe ideas, and catching up on the news, it can be hard to walk away from the computer.  However, if I give myself thirty minutes or one hour to look online then I can usually hit the most important sites I want to check out, and avoid wasting time on those sites I can skip.  I stay off the ice by setting a time limit, but I skate a slippery slope when I log-on as if I have all the time in the world to spare.

Another example for me is if I don’t make a list when I go to the grocery store.  It really helps for me to keep the grocery budget down, while getting all of the ingredients I need for healthy meals if I make a two-week meal plan before I take a trip to the store.  It can be a slippery slope if I go without a plan, because then I buy anything that looks good as opposed to what we need for healthy meals for the week.  It’s a lot easier to justify a bag of chips, a half-gallon of ice cream, or a frozen pizza if you think you might eat it, or want it, during the week.  Having a meal plan helps me to avoid these situations.

Another icy path for me is if I go to stores like Home Goods, Target, or TJ Maxx without a reason, or without my husband.  For some reason, going into these stores alone take me at least an hour, sometimes two, and always end up with me at the cash register with at least one item in my hand.  I love perusing and shopping, but I have a hard time walking away from house wares that catch my eye. Sometimes it seems as if those decorations simply come to life and jump off the shelves into my shopping cart, all by themselves.  If I take my husband with me though, or know what I am going to buy before I walk in, I can usually keep from making those impulse buying decisions so easily.

As you can see, surfing the web, grocery shopping without a list, and perusing house wares stores may seem pretty innocent, but to me they can be actions I end up regretting in the end.  I have definitely felt guilty wasting an afternoon on the web, or wished I hadn’t bought chips, soda, or candy at the grocery, or felt buyers remorse after bringing home another mirror or a vase that we probably don’t need.  These are all ‘slippery slopes’ in my life that I try to avoid.  These struggles though also relate to activities I love, which can make avoiding the pitfalls that much harder.  However, I have found ways to make the path easier by setting the web browsing time limit, making a grocery list, and going to stores with a plan or a partner.

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I realize my pitfalls aren’t as seemingly dangerous as issues like lying, stealing, etc., but they can bring negativity into my life.  There will always be slippery slopes we will try to avoid, but I think the best ways for us to conquer this goal is by being honest with ourselves and our own hearts.  Give it a try.  Make a list and prepare a plan to avoid those areas in life that you know you shouldn’t go down.  No matter what though, remember you aren’t alone with your struggles and no matter what those may be for you, I know others will be able to relate.

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Questions:

  • What are the ‘Slippery Slopes’ in your life?
  • How do you avoid going down a path you know you shouldn’t?
  • Does anyone else struggle with things like wasting time on the internet, buying less than healthy food when there is no plan, or shopping too often at addicting stores like Home Goods or Target?  Or, just me? :)
  • What did you do this weekend?

Daily Routine

There are some days when I have so much to say it is literally hard to get up and physically walk away from the keyboard. I look forward to those times when my creative writing juices start flowing and I can’t wait to have a quiet moment in the evening to see all my thoughts come into fruition in a way of words.

Then, there are those other days at the end of a long work week when my brain is exhausted and lacking that creative ‘spark’ I need to write. 

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It has been a crazy, busy week at work and I am ready for a fun weekend ahead with family and friends.  Unlike my weekend plans that always seem to vary, a typical Monday – Friday in my life looks like this:

  • Wake up, Shower, Get Ready for Work
  • Make Breakfast, Read Devotionals, Blog, Watch the News
  • Leave for Work
  • Leave from Work
  • Get Home, Take Tebow on a Walk or Work Out
  • Make Dinner
  • Eat Dinner with Tim
  • Clean the Kitchen and Wash the Dishes
  • Pick Up Around the House, Catch Up on Celebrity Gossip on E! News while Cleaning, Laundry, etc.
  • Watch Television with my Two Favorite Men while Blogging
  • Bed Time ( I shoot for 10 at the latest)

As you can see, on paper I have quite the routine going.  Even though I find comfort in knowing what’s to come each day, it can also be tiring and monotonous sometimes.  However, if I look at my daily activities as blessings rather than a list of chores and obligations, I can be reminded in less than one second how lucky I actually am.   Although I may be tired and ready for some fun, all it takes is opening my eyes and looking at the same life differently to change the whole view point.

  • Wake up (Thank God I’ve been given another day to live) , Shower (So happy I have hot water) , Get Ready for Work (Thank goodness I have a job, what a blessing)
  • Make Breakfast (I’m thankful I have food to eat) , Read Devotionals (I love this time I can spend with God in prayer) , Blog (I love my blog and I appreciate the opportunity to share my writing), Watch the News (Be thankful for the good in the world, pray for the bad, and be thankful for my own life)
  • Leave for Work (Again, yay for a job!)
  • Leave from Work (Happy I am finished for the day!)
  • Get Home (So thankful to have a home) , Take Tebow on a Walk or Work Out (I love my puppy and I am so blessed to have a body that can move)
  • Make Dinner (So thankful for the food and for my love of cooking)
  • Eat Dinner with Tim (I love my husband and our time together)
  • Clean the Kitchen and Wash the Dishes (I am so happy I have a kitchen to clean and dishes to wash!)
  • Pick Up Around the House (Love my house) , Catch Up on Celebrity Gossip on E! News while Cleaning (I am happy to have entertainment) , Laundry (Thankful for the clothes I have) , etc.
  • Watch Television (Thankful for rest) with my Two Favorite Men (I love my boys) while Blogging (I love to blog!)
  • Bed Time! ( So happy I have a warm and cozy bed to sleep in and feel blessed I was given another day to live)

After looking at my routine for a second time with the inclusion of my blessings, I suddenly don’t feel so worn out, but actually energized. 

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When I see all I have to look forward to each day, it helps the difficult moments to not feel so hard.  Life may be filled with tough times, but it only makes the good ones that much sweeter.

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Sometimes I just need a little reminder!

 

Questions:

  • What does your schedule look like each day?  Similar to mine, or totally different?
  • How do you get through a tough week?
  • Does writing down your thoughts help you to get through hard times?
  • What are the blessings in your life?
  • Any fun plans this weekend?

WIAW: Glass Half-Full

When the middle of the week approaches, I like to try and look at the glass half-full, or so they say.  I could sadly announce that “We only have two work days finished and now it’s only Wednesday….sigh” or I could instead happily cheer “We’ve finished two work days and it’s now Wednesday, half way through the work week already!”

Now, truth be told, I don’t always think positively, even though I wish I did.  This week has been especially crazy at work and it has taken all I have to breathe and keep pushing through.  However, I am trying to remind myself that today is the only October 17th, 2012 I am ever going to get, so I better make it count.  I have my health, my family and friends, what more could I ask for?  Sometimes I just need a reminder!

Peas and Crayons

Today’s WIAW is from this past Sunday, which I was fortunate enough to spend at home with Tim and Tebow.  We were able to get a lot done around the house and outside.  Having the laundry finished, folded and put away, the carpet and floors vacuumed, and the lawn cut and the leaves raked before the week starts definitely makes going back to work Monday easier.

For breakfast I decided to stick with custard oats again, but instead of my Apple-Cinnamon Harvest Oatmeal, I borrowed a recipe from someone else.  I have seen Courtney’s Pumpkin Custard Oats many times on her blog and after my first custard oats success, I wanted to give it a go with my favorite fall ingredient: pumpkin!

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I topped my hot bowl of pumpkin oats with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice and about a tablespoon of walnuts.

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I served the bowl alongside a steaming cup of coffee.

Lunch featured another apple from my anniversary weekend, this time diced up and placed on top of a bed of mixed greens.

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Along with the apple, which added great crunch and sweetness, toppings included:

  • yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 a grilled chicken breast
  • walnuts (Can you tell I am on a walnut kick?)
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Tessemae’s All Natural Italian Dressing (I found this healthy option at Whole Foods and for being oil free, it has a ton of flavor.)

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My snack was a Green Smoothie that included:

  • almond milk
  • vanilla protein powder
  • spinach
  • banana
  • peanut butter

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The smoothie went in the Kenny/Tim Concert cup again!  I think I always pick it because it’s the only cup big enough to hold my massive smoothies!

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I guess after a cold smoothie snack, I was craving something hot and spicy for dinner because I decided to whip up a big batch of piping hot chili.

3-Bean Turkey Chili

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground turkey or ground turkey breast
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 12 oz chicken broth
  • 8 oz water

Directions

In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil to the bottom of the pot.  Saute onions 5 minutes until translucent, then add turkey.  Continue cooking until fully heated through.

 

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DSCN2067 Add black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and tomatoes.  Stir everything together and cook 5 minutes.

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Add chili powder, chicken broth and water.  Bring the chili to a boil, and then simmer on low 10-15 minutes.  (The longer it simmers, the better the flavors)!

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On the side I whipped up a batch of classic Jiffy cornbread.

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I served my chili with a dollop of sour cream and a good sprinkle of parsley, along with a piece of buttered corn bread.

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Today I encourage you to look at the glass as half-full!  Make it a point to make it the best Wednesday that you can.

Questions:

  • Do you look at the glass half-full, or half-empty?
  • How do you encourage yourself when a week is tough and tiring?
  • Who has had pumpkin oats this fall season?  Any favorite recipes?
  • Are you a fan of sweet salad toppings?  What is your favorite additions to a bed of greens?

Apple-Cinnamon Harvest Oatmeal

When it comes to breakfast, I tend to have a hard time mixing things up Monday through Friday.  I am a creature of habit by nature and it can take some encouragement to try something new in the morning.  I usually stick to a quick and easy bowl of cereal, a protein smoothie, or an easy egg sandwich on an English muffin.  These meals always taste delicious, never let me down, and are hard to mess up when I am in a hurry to get out the door.  After my first experience with protein pancakes on a Wednesday, I have some anxiety about trying new recipes during the work week.  However, on the weekends I am much more open to change.

I have been eyeing Courtney and Ashley’s ‘Custard Oats’ recipes lately, and decided to give it a try.  Custard Oats is basically stovetop oats with an egg or egg whites whisked in at the end of the cook time.  It’s an ingenious way to enjoy a hot bowl of oats while getting in a hefty dose of protein that will keep you full for the morning ahead.  After apple picking on my anniversary and eating an apple a day for a week now, I still have at least 10-15 apples left in the bag.  In order to eat all of the fruit before it goes bad, I know I will have to get creative in the kitchen.  This weekend I whipped up my own version of Custard Oats, and added a finely diced apple into the mix.

Apple-Cinnamon Harvest Oatmeal

(Serves 2)

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 apple, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup egg whites

Toppings:

  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • sprinkle of cinnamon

Directions

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add oats, water, salt, flax and cinnamon.

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Whisk together and bring mixture to a boil.  Continue stirring to keep oats from burning on the bottom of the pan, and to keep clumps from forming.

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Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn heat to low and add in apple and whisk in egg whites.

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Continue whisking for about 1 minute and let the apple heat heat through, simmering for another 2 minutes. (Cook an additional 3 minutes if you prefer apples to be less crunchy).

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Place oatmeal in bowls and top with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 tablespoon walnuts on top of each serving.  Add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

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The oatmeal turned out tasting as good as it smelled, and it warmed our stomachs and kept us full for hours.  Serve this on a cool autumn morning to start the day in a healthy, filling and delicious way!

Questions:

  • What are your favorite apple recipes?  Feel free to link-up to the best recipes you love!
  • Have you tried custard oats before?  What are your thoughts?
  • What are your favorite add-ins, or toppings, for your bowl of oatmeal?

Lightened-Up Chicken Marsala

Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant, I always tend to lean toward entrees that have marinara sauce as a base.  I like alfredo and other rich sauces every once in a while, but I tend to drift away from these meals since I don’t like the weighed down feeling that comes with these orders.  Besides, any dinner can taste absolutely delicious when covered in cream and butter.  I think the real winning dishes are those that stand out without the heavy sauce overpowering the ingredients.

One dish that always catches my eye,  but I rarely order, is Chicken Marsala.  I decided to give it a try at home, only a lightened up version.  My recipe is not one of a traditional Chicken Marsala, but don’t let that keep you from giving this easy to make, flavor-packed dish a try!

 

Lightened-Up Chicken Marsala

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin in half OR 6 thin chicken breasts

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  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup red wine (I used Pinot Noir)

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil to pan, and sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Add chicken to pan and cook 5 minutes on each side. 

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Place chicken in an oven-safe bowl and bake in oven 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked through.

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Add mushrooms to pan, cooking for 5 minutes.

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Add butter to pan, then whisk in Marsala, chicken broth, and red wine in pan.

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Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.

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DSCN2300 I served the chicken along with a mix of roasted, mashed cauliflower and potatoes sprinkled with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

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I then added 1/4 cup greek yogurt and 1/4 cup chicken broth, and did my best to mash up the mixture.  Since I roasted the veggies instead of boiling them, it didn’t ‘mash’ as well as I would have hoped.  However, if you are okay with a rustic mash, this may be the side dish for you.

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Questions:

  • Are you a fan of Chicken Marsala?
  • What is your favorite dish to order at an Italian Restaurant?
  • Do you tend to lean toward tomato-based, cream, or butter sauces when ordering an entree?
  • Have you ever tried mashed cauliflower?  (If you haven’t, you should!  It’s delicious!)

WIAW: Anniversary Weekend

Here we are at Wednesday again! I don’t know where the time goes, but it sure does fly. Thank you so much for all of your kind words on Monday’s post about my one year wedding anniversary. I actually read the post to my husband in place of giving him a card and he said he loved it, which obviously made me pretty happy!

We had a great weekend together and each took turns planning a day for one another. I chose Sunday and planned for a family hike at Caesar’s Creek. I knew I wanted to incorporate our dog Tebow into the fun as well in large part because it was also his birthday Monday!

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Tebow turned one year old this past weekend so we obviously had a lot to celebrate! We don’t have kids yet, so our black lab is definitely our child right now. His gifts included a new leash and a Kong Wubba, which already has a nice rip in it a mere 12 hours after the purchase. I don’t think there is anything puppy-proof that boy can’t destroy! Anyhow, he is enjoying it while it lasts! Happy Birthday Tebow, please stay a sweet puppy forever and ever!

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The hike was a little chilly, but was an absolutely beautiful example of a fall day.

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We walked all through the woods along the trail paths, and Tebow sniffed until he couldn’t sniff anymore.

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After the walk, we had a picnic under the shelter and finished just in time to hop in the car before the rain droplets began to fall from the sky.

Backing up a bit, Saturday was actually my husband’s day to plan for me. I thought this would be a perfect day to document for WIAW and walk you through a fun day.

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Saturday morning, I had the option of either going out to breakfast or letting him make a meal for us. I decided I would prefer to stay in since I had a feeling we would be gone all day. Since I love to cook, I offered to help him prepare brunch. I thought making it together would be a fun way to spend the morning. On the menu was a mix of both salty and sweet.

Baked Turkey Bacon Spinach Omelet

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Ingredients

4 eggs and 2 egg whites

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup baby spinach

½ green bell pepper, diced

5 slices turkey bacon, chopped

¼ cup shredded cheese, (we used Colby)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk together eggs, salt and black pepper in the baking dish.

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Sprinkle spinach, green bell pepper, shredded cheese, and turkey bacon on the eggs.

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Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Broil on high 2 minutes at the end for a nice golden top.

Lighter Banana-Walnut Waffles

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Ingredients

Whole wheat flour

Baking soda

Baking powder

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup walnuts

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 mashed banana

2 eggs

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and walnuts. In a separate bowl, mix vanilla, banana and eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently mix until combined.

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Pour into waffle iron.

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After breakfast we cleaned up, lounged on the couch for an hour, and then headed out. Our first stop was to Starbucks where I ordered a grande non-fat, half-pump salted caramel mocha. Fancy drinks can obviously get expensive, but I decided to splurge.

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My first surprise of the day was a trip to an apple orchard! Now some people may not be excited about an orchard, but my husband knows me well and I couldn’t have been more thrilled! We hadn’t been to one since 2009, but nothing gets me in the fall spirit like picking apples and a pumpkin straight from the farm.

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The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and it was a perfect day for fall activities outside! The place was packed, and although there weren’t many apples to pick off the trees, it didn’t stop us from picking out a half a peck to take home with us.

 

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After the farm, we actually headed to another favorite place of mine, the grocery store! Ha, I know I am probably not the most exciting person, but I love what I love! We went to Costco first to walk around and got a lot of chicken, tilapia and produce for the week. After Costco, I was treated with Whole Foods, which I try not to walk into very much for budget reasons.  My mind may like it, but my wallet certainly does not.  One of the finds was a coconut water, which I am a huge fan of now!  Even if you don’t love coconuts, it’s possible to still think this drink is so good.

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Next on the agenda was to head back home for a quick nap, a shower and to get ready to go out to dinner. At this point, I was trying to decide where we might be going, and as we started driving and got closer to the restaurant, I had no doubt in my mind about where we were going.

The Melting Pot is a restaurant very near to our heart. It is where we had our one year dating anniversary in 2005, where we went to celebrate after our engagement, and where we had our rehearsal dinner for the wedding. We love it not only for the delicious food and the sentimental reasons, but also because it is such a fun place to have a date. Dinner can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours, and it allows you to engage with one another in conversation and activity. We love date nights and we especially love those times when we can stretch it out as long as possible. It is a lot of food, but we always go with the Big Night Out so that we can sample a little of everything.

We started with the cheese course and went with the usual Cheddar Cheese Fondue, Aged medium-sharp cheddar and Emmenthaler Swiss cheeses melt beautifully with lager beer, garlic and seasonings. Sometimes I have a hard time straying from what I always get because if I order something else, I tend to always miss the classic. I figure why rock the boat sometimes when the usual just works?  (Sorry, no picture)!

For my salad though, I did decide to mix-it-up a little and ordered the California Salad, Mixed baby greens, Roma tomatoes, candied pecans and rich Gorgonzola cheese with Raspberry Black Walnut Vinaigrette.

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When it was time for the entrée, we had a variety of meats including white shrimp, seasoned choice angus sirloin, herb-crusted all-natural chicken breast, teriyaki marinated sirloin, and pork tenderloin. I definitely dominated the teriyaki sirloin. So, so good! Our ‘Cooking Style’ choice was the Court Bouillon, which is simply Vegetable broth hand-seasoned with herbs and spices.

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Dessert is always my favorite course and this time we split the Cookies ‘n Cream Marshmallow Dream chocolate fondue, Escape in a world of dark chocolate topped with marshmallow cream flambéed and topped with bits of delicious Oreo® cookies.

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The dipper options included fresh strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, Rice Krispie Treats®, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies. The pound cake, strawberries and cheesecake are my absolute favorite dippers, and the chocolate fondue was amazing! Of course, it is also pretty hard to mess up dark chocolate.

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This was such a delicious and fun night that he had planned, and it definitely took me right back to all of our times there before. The weekend was amazing, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was awesome to make more memories with my husband and I couldn’t have been happier to have spent every second of my weekend with him.

Questions:

  • Have you ever been to The Melting Pot? If so, what is your favorite item to order when you’re there?
  • Are you a fan of doing fall activities like hiking, and going to apple orchards and pumpkin patches?
  • What is the best thing you ate this past week?
  • Do you have a restaurant that means a lot to you? If so, what is the memory you have attached to it?
  • What did you do over the weekend?