Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup 2014

My third year hosting Thanksgiving went off without a hitch and I am finally recovered from my turkey coma. I’m definitely getting the hang of this whole making a big feast for 9 or more people and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

This year I stuck with some old tried & true recipes but snuck in a few new ones along with some modifications to some previous items.

What stayed the same? Well the Williams-Sonoma Turkey Brine. You can never go wrong with the Apple & Spices Turkey Brine. I’ve been brining my turkey for three years now and there’s not a thing I would do different. The turkey never dries out and it tastes delicious.

IMG_2836-My mom’s gluten-free cornbread stuffing. I don’t know what she puts in it, but it’s amazing and I’m always so sad when the leftovers are gone. I know she makes it with Pamela’s gluten-free cornbread and sausage. It’s pretty much the best thing ever.

-Dutch Apple Pie. I’m not normally one for a freezer to oven pie, but I purchased one last year from one of my co-worker’s kid who was having a fundraiser at school. It was one of the best apple pies I have ever tasted {My guests even agreed}. The parents hand pick the apples and make the pies all from scratch! They were so good, I ordered two this year. I’m not really sure why, but I felt like it was necessary 🙂

This year I {nervously} made modifications to my famous sweet potato casserole. For the past three years, I have received rave reviews on this dish. My sister, who despises sweet potatoes (how are we even related?!) said this dish is the only sweet potato dish she will eat. They’re that good, so why would I want to change them, right? Well, for starters I replaced to the two cups of sugar with two cups of coconut sugar (a healthy alternative to regular sugar you can read about here). 1 cup of all purpose flour got switched to coconut flour (making it completely grain free), the brown sugar got cut in half, and 12 Tbsp of dairy free butter got replaced with 6 tbsp of ghee.  It tasted even better this year than it did last year.

-Mashed potatoes. While I was at Williams-Sonoma picking up my turkey brine, I came across this little taste of heaven:

heaveninatinI texted my mom a picture that stated: “I know that I’m not in charge of making the mashed potatoes, but you have to add this.” Done and Done. Everyone loved them and the smell of the truffles filled up my kitchen as they were heating up in the oven. So good, I want to go back and get more to add to a cauli-flower mash.

Something new. For the past two years, I’ve kept it pretty basic when it came to the green beans. I’d pretty much sautee them in butter, shallots and garlic and call it a day. Well I didn’t want to have to cook anything while I was trying to get the turkey prepared and ready to serve, so I decided to try out the Detoxinista’s Clean Green Bean Casserole. I wanted something that was dairy-free and that was made with REAL ingredients. It was very good and no one even knew it was vegan. The only person I told before serving it was my husband. The sauce that goes along with this dish is so delicious, it’s hard to believe it’s not cream based. I’m glad I had some left over. I’m thinking it would be a good partner in crime with fried eggs.

Here’s some pics from our Thanksgiving feast!

IMG_2838 IMG_2839 IMG_2841  Everything was so delicious! The crumbly topping on my sweet potatoes got brown very quickly, but they were still good 🙂

Of course we enough leftovers to last us a couple of days, and we finished off the turkey with some delicious soup filled with onions, garlic, parsnips and carrots.  I’m already looking forward to cooking next year’s feast.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving Day Food? Mine would have to be a heaping serving of my mom’s cornbread stuffing with a little dab of cranberry sauce for that sweet and savory taste!

 

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Catch Up

I’m alive! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. In the little spare time I have, I’ve had my nose in the books, studying for a promotion test that I have to take for work. Good news is that I passed! Bad news? It’s a two-parter, so I’ll be back at it studying for the second part within a week or two. My brain needs a little break right now. I’ll be happy when it’s behind me.
So, what have I been up to since my last post?
Running
Slowly getting back into the swing of things. I ran 4 miles yesterday at a 9:14 pace, longest run post marathon. I headed down to the lakefront after work and it was completely dead compared to the last time I ran down there. I started by the lakefront but ended up running more in neighborhoods. I ran without music and it was very therapeutic. I had a lot of thoughts to last me 4 miles 🙂 Now that the marathon is behind me, I want to start training with a purpose. During my last two marathons, my goal was just to finish and to beat my previous time (2nd time around). Now, I’d like to focus on getting faster, add in more speed work, and educate myself more on marathon racing/nutrition. Next up on the race list? I am signed up for a Thanksgiving day run…running stroller category! I’ll be doing my first ever 5k while pushing Madelyn in the jogger. That should be interesting. Fingers crossed for good weather.
strollerunCooking
I’ve been dabbling with a little bit of everything the past few weeks: {partly} paleo, vegetarian substitutions, and vegan cooking. I recently purchased this cookbook and made Eat Your Greens Detox Soup. Oh She Glows has been a long time favorite blog of mine, so I was thrilled when I got it in the mail. I’m hoping to make some more meals very soon out of it.
detoxsoup
The soup was delicious, and perfect for a cold, autumn night. It freezes well too. I also changed it up with the old spaghetti squash creations. A few weeks ago, Danielle Walker from Against all Grain put up a picture with a link to a delicious looking casserole type dish: Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash. Once the spaghetti squash was cooked and shredded (thanks hubs!) this was incredibly easy to put together. Just how I like it! We also had leftovers of this that I froze and ate for lunch throughout the week. I really want Danielle’s next cookbook, Against All Grain-Meals Made Simple. I think I’ll add it to my Christmas list.
Celebrating
This past weekend, I celebrated my 30th birthday! It was the perfect weekend filled with all of my favorite things to do with all of my favorite people. I started the weekend off with a class at The Barre Code with my mom and sister, taught by one of my faves 🙂 Then we headed over to Polished for manicures and mimosas. After that, I went home and took a NAP! (My in-laws had Madelyn). When I woke up, I got dressed and ready to go celebrate with my husband. What I thought was going to just be dinner and drinks somewhere turned out to be a surprise party! I knew Larry had something up his sleeve, I just didn’t know what and to what extent. When we arrived at Camp Bar and he suggested we go “walk around to check it out” as I was trying to Instagram my Old Fashioned (they have THE BEST!),  I was onto him. It was so great to see all of my friends and family there to celebrate. It’s really hard to get surprises past me, so I give them props. If I know something’s going on, I usually bug the person until they just tell me (Larry is usually the only one who caves) and then I get mad at him for telling me. I’m the worst. The biggest surprise of the night? A Michael Kors handbag. And inside the handbag was a wrapped book clueing me in to a New York City trip! I didn’t know when we were going until I opened up the book and saw that we’ll be ringing in 2015 in NYC!!! I’m thrilled! Larry knows that I’ve always wanted to visit NYC during the holidays. Well played husband, well played.
bestbirthdayeverThere’s a story behind the book. It’s a kids series called Larry gets lost in…(Fill in the city). My mom got Madelyn her first one when she went to San Francisco and every time we’re in a city where they sell the book, we buy it. When I surprised Larry with his trip to Boston, I had the book gift-wrapped with baseball tickets inside. She has San Fran, Chicago, Boston & NYC.
The next morning, I started my day off with a run and then we enjoyed a peaceful, childless brunch before picking up Madelyn at our meeting spot. My mom cooked a delicious meal from Against All Grain. And of course birthday cake. She bought me tickets to a Broadway show in NYC. I was super excited to be spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square-something on the bucket list-until I read all of these horrible reviews basically giving advice not to do it. I went back and forth on it for a couple of days and then decided that it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s the reason Larry bought the tickets for the dates he did, and the older I get, the less appealing it will probably be. So, we’ve decided to brave the craziness and do it!
Other things on my NYC to do list so far: Run through Central Park, Frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, Walk the Brooklyn Bridge, Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, visit Babycakes Bakery NYC, The 9/11 memorial museum, and a Carriage Ride through Central Park. I told my husband we will need a vacation after this trip 🙂
It’s been a great month so far and I have lots to look forward to. The next few months are going to fly!
What are some other must see/eat/do things in NYC? What’s your favorite way to ring in the New Year? I’m a bum, I prefer staying in, making dinner and fancy drinks at home over getting dressed up to go out. This year will be a nice change of pace!

Last Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

I’m not really sure how, but Mother’s Day really snuck up on me this year!  This is a very special Mother’s day for me since it will be my first one (physically) with Madelyn.  Last year, I was deployed and my sister did an awesome job making up for the fact that I was spending my first mother’s day away from my little peanut.

tdy1We don’t have any set plans yet this year.  Probably hanging out at my mom’s, doing the brunch thing.  But no matter what, I will be with my girl and that’s all that matters.

So what does one get that special lady in their life?  I’ve come up with some last minute gift ideas, if you’re like me and waited until the last minute 😉 Sorry mom…your gift will be wonderful I promise!

Mothers Day Gift Guide-Cooking

For Moms who Like to Cook

  1. Cook Smarts Subscription.  I’ve been using Cook Smarts now on and off for over a month now.  {Full review is coming!}  What I love most about this meal planning service, is that you have the option to make all (or some) of your meals paleo, gluten-free, and vegetarian. Along with the recipes, you get your shopping list for the week-a bonus time saver 🙂
  2. Spiralizer.  I’m against buying kitchen gadgets for someone unless it’s asked for, but our spiralizer gets used WEEKLY!!  I use it to make zucchini pasta and sweet potato fries.  It’s a fun little toy and it’s a good way to get the kiddos to eat their veggies.
  3. A gift certificate to a local cooking class.
  4. Subscription to a cooking magazine.  Every year my grandma gifts with a renewal to Taste of Home.  I love it because it’s not something I’d normally do for myself.

new mamas gift guideGifts for the New Mama or Mama to Be

  1. A personalized necklace. I love this one from Etsy because you can add to it as your family expands.  You probably won’t get it in time for Mother’s Day, but it is a very nice gesture 🙂
  2. Cute flats.  For the mom who thinks she has to give up wearing cute shoes during pregnancy.
  3. Your time.  Giving a new mom, or mom to be (especially with another little one at home) the gift of time is wonderful.  Offer to babysit so that she can get out of the house and do whatever her heart desires or if she just wants to go in her room and take a nap uninterrupted.  It will be the most thoughtful gift you can give 🙂 

spa and beauty mothers day gift guideSomething for the Mama who Likes to Primp

  1. A subscription to Birchbox.  For the moms who enjoy product samples and trying new beauty products.  I’ve been subscribing to Birchbox for about 3 months now and I’ve been really happy with all my samples so far.  I’ve tried a lot of new products and have bought a few full-size products.
  2. Nail Polish.  I typically like to make themed gifts and would add the nail polish in with some nail files or a clear coat polish or two.  
  3. A gift certificate for a Mani/Pedi.  You can never go wrong with this as a gift…no matter who your mother is 🙂

For Mos who Like to Sweat

 

  1. Subscription to a fitness magazine.  You can find a magazine for just about any sport.  From running, to biking and yoga.
  2. A gift card to a fitness apparel store.  Shopping at higher end athletic stores, like Lululemon and Athleta are always a special treat and one that’s appreciated by mom’s who like to workout.
  3. A class pack or gift card to their favorite workout studio.
  4. An activity tracker.  If I could go back in time, (I would’ve never lost my fitbit!) I would’ve chosen a Garmin Vivo.  It has everything I could ever ask for in an activity tracker, including the option to track your heart rate during exercise activities.

Any plans for Mother’s Day?  What are you gifting your mom with this year? 

 

Goals for 2014

It’s that time of year again: to think about 2014 and what I hope to accomplish.  2013 was a year of big events and accomplishments and I think 2014 will be a year of improvement.  Starting with a big one.
2014goals

1. Marriage.  I’m not going to lie and say it was all rainbows and smiles over here…2013 was a tough year for us.  I can say that it was our most challenging year and it tested us immensely.  I was so focused on being a good mother to Madelyn while trying to maintain my own self-identity that I completely neglected my marriage and my husband.  We hit a turning point in our marriage in the middle of this year and realized that things needed to change in order for this to work.  So, my goal is to make more time for “us”, have fun, get back to where we were and try to let the little things go.  The last part is definitely not my personality, but I’m a work in progress 😉

308853_10100227533543018_204625537_n2. Mother/Daughter dates.  Madelyn is the coolest little girl I know.  She’s so smart, it amazes me every single day.  She’s growing up WAY TOO FAST.  I wish life had a pause button sometimes.  Now that she’s a bit older and mobile, I want to make more time to do stuff with her besides shopping and grocery store trips.  I have 3 day weekends and I need to start taking more advantage of them.  I also need to get her into some kind of swim class or other sport to burn off some of her energy.  She is constantly on the go!

3. Run my fastest 1/2 marathon.  This year I earned a half-marathon PR without even trying.  Next year, I’d like to focus on getting faster and at try to run it a little bit faster.  I have a time goal in mind, but I’m keeping that to myself 😉

4. Complete my first mud run.  When hubs did tough mudder a few years ago, I said there was absolutely no way that I would ever do one with him.  Now, I’m changing my tune 🙂 They look like a of fun so I’m hoping to either do Tough Mudder or another muddy obstacle course race.

5. Keep better track of what I’m eating.  I love to eat.  When I was marathon training, I didn’t track calories, but I made a more conscious effort to eat well because I noticed a difference in my running the next day if I ate crappy food the day prior.  After the marathon, that kind of fell off so I’m working at it again.  I don’t plan on counting calories, but just writing down what I eat just to make myself more aware.  There might even be a Paleo Diet challenge in the future.

6. Get Strong. Tone up. Get to my happy weight.  During marathon training, I lost 10 pounds.  I’ve since gained some of it back but I’m okay with that.  I’m still about 10 pounds lighter than when I got pregnant with Madelyn.  I’m not so much focused on the number of the scale as much as I am focused on feeling and looking my best.  This year, I want to tone up and get stronger.

7. Take a camera class and learn how to use my camera.  When I found out I was pregnant with Madelyn, we bought a fancy SLR camera.  I know how to point and shoot.  That is it.  Because I know that camera is capable of so much more, I’m planning on taking a camera class this year to learn how to use it to its full potential.

8.  Travel more.  Every year Larry and I travel somewhere for our anniversary.  We do this instead of buying presents.  Our first year was to Door County and last year was to Michigan for wine tasting.  I’d like to get out of the Midwest this next year.  No set plans yet, so we’ll see.  I do know that a trip to Memphis is in the books for my sister in law’s bachelorette party!  Can’t wait for that 🙂

9. NASM personal training certification.  Back in October, I bit the bullet and decided to start studying for my personal training certification.  There are so many out there to choose from but at the end of the day I decided to go with NASM.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet.  I have a few grand ideas floating around in my head.  For now, I’d love to teach a fitness class a couple nights a week, but we’ll see what happens.  I’m taking it one step at a time.

Any fun plans for this evening? Tonight we’re going to an early dinner and then heading over to my sister’s house for a NYE party.  Nothing too crazy 🙂

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!  See you in 2014!

Christmas with the Campbells

IMG_2398Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  I hope you celebrated the holidays surrounded by the people you love and care about most.  I’ve had the past five days off of work and I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone by.  I wish that all companies could shut down between Christmas and New Years.  That would be nice 🙂

Our Christmas started on Sunday with a trip down to Chicago to celebrate with my in-laws.  We were expecting it to just be us, larry’s two sisters and their significant others but when we walked in, we were greeted by 20 other family members.  It was a nice surprise to see all of his cousins, aunts and uncles, since we don’t get to see them too often.

On Tuesday, I started my morning off with a workout at Barre Bee Fit, headed to a doctor’s appointment, did some last minute grocery shopping, came home and got ready for church and Christmas eve at my mom’s house.  Madelyn hung out at daycare until about 1pm.  It just made it easier with the doctor’s appointment and shopping.  I plan on taking off of work New Years’ Eve and spending the day doing something fun with her.  We met my uncle and aunt at my mom’s house, had some drinks and appetizers and headed to church.

After church, we came home, ate dinner and opened up presents.  My mom made a prime rib roast, asparagus, mashed potatoes along side a glass of wine.  Everything was amazing.  Madelyn lucked out in the present department this year, even though she was more interested in playing with her old toys instead of opening her new ones.

IMG_2393

 

She also was a fan of hiding on us and playing peek-a-boo…

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Santa was good to me as well.  I got this bag from lululemon along with some running socks and some other odds and ends 🙂

We celebrated Christmas Day by opening gifts with Madelyn.  While we were trying to get her to open her duplo blocks, she was more interested in the pen that was on the table 🙂 We still had fun with her this year, but I’m looking forward to when she gets to be a little bit older and gets really excited for Christmas.  While I cooked up brunch for my family, Larry got to work assembling toys and putting batteries in where they needed to go.

I made an egg bake with mushrooms, onions, spinach, garlic, bacon, goat gouda and goat cheddar.  I seasoned it with Thyme, Rosemary, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder and added in 1 cup of soy milk and 3 tbsp on flour.  It turned out really good.  So good in fact that I forgot to snap any food pictures today because I was more concerned about eating 🙂 I served that along side some polish sausage, fruit, Kringles and cinnamon roll french toast bake—AMAZING!  This french toast bake was super easy and was incredibly delicious.  This definitely goes into a Sunday brunch rotation 🙂

Now that Christmas is over, it’s time to focus on getting back on track with healthy eating and setting goals for 2014!  Last year, I posted my 2013 goals.  While I accomplished most of them, there are still a few that are a work in progress 🙂

I’ll be back this week to talk about 2013 highlights, goals and other fun stuff!

I hope Santa was good to you all as well 😉 

 

2011-A year in Review

Here we are, the last day of 2011.  Looking back on this year, it fills my heart to know how blessed we were.  To be surrounded by amazing family and awesome friends. 

It was a year filled with lots of hugs & reunions…

The year that I married my best friend and truly had one of the best days of my life…

The year that we honeymooned & drank our way through Napa Valley…

And it was a year spent with lots of family & friends.  In 2011 I had 3 of my very good friends get married and I got to spend Christmas with my grandparents which is something that hasn’t happened in about 15 years.  For that, I am truly blessed and thankful.

As much as I hate to see this year end, I’m looking forward to what 2012 has in store for us…I know it will be BIG and just as exciting if not more.  LC and I are looking forward to starting a completely new chapter in our lives 😉

To ring in 2012 we’re keeping it pretty low key over here.  No bar hopping or bottle service for us, we didn’t see the point in spending the money this year.  We’re going out to dinner, enjoying each other’s company, and watching all the NYE stuff on TV…exciting stuff I know! I hope everyone has a safe & happy New Year! Don’t drink & drive!!!