I hope you all had wonderful holidays! I thought the new year would be a perfect time to catch you up on all we’ve been doing this holiday season. It’s been quite the whirlwind!
The season started in New Jersey where we spent Thanksgiving with Jason’s family. My in-laws are great cooks so all the food was amazing!
I think it was great for Jason to get to spend the holiday back home with his family. Just look at that face!
When we got back I started preparing for my most favorite time of year! We decked out the house (including a real live Christmas tree for the first time in my life!) and I decided to host Christmas Eve dinner at our place. Jason’s family usually does a seafood dinner that night, so I decided it would be fun to do the full feast of seven fishes. It’s a traditional Italian/Italian-American meal and it’s a really special way to celebrate the holiday. The feast takes quite a bit of preparation and so it was nice to have some snacks beforehand when all our guests (my family) were at our house and hungry! Almonds to the rescue!
These almonds go great with cheese and olives as an appetizer! They aren’t as salted as other varieties so they’re perfect with sharp cheeses like aged cheddar or aged provolone. After our appetizer course we were ready to continue the feast! Jason made linguine and clams for the pasta course:
And then after a little breather we continued on with dishes like filet of sole, fried shrimp, broccoli rabe, roasted cauliflower, potato croquettes, and even oysters!
It was quite a lovely evening with my family. There’s nothing better (really, can’t think of anything) than sharing a meal with people you love.
We’ve been back in Atlanta for a couple years now, but it’s still so crazy to me that we can just call up my family and they’re only minutes away!
But the holiday fun did not end there! No no! My beautiful friend Katherine came to town to celebrate New Year’s Eve and just generally have an awesome time. We ate a ton, talked a ton, laughed a ton, and danced a ton. Just how it should be!
Cheers to a fabulous 2016 full of more delicious food and merriment.
Thanks for reading!
This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. All opinions are my own. Check out Blue Diamond on their website or on Facebook!
Well if there was ever a good reason to come out of an unintentional hiatus from your food blog, roasted cauliflower is it.
When I realized that it was November (don’t ask me how that happened), I decided that I needed to get my act together and share some awesome plant-based recipes for Thanksgiving! Things may be busy, but I’m never too busy for the best food holiday of the year. If you haven’t tried roasted cauliflower before, you will NOT be disappointed by this. Steamed cauliflower can be very mediocre, but when it’s roasted it suddenly becomes irresistible.
Roasted garlic takes everything to the next level. It takes a little bit of extra time to make, but it is so worth it for the flavor you get in return. It’s garlic at its finest. Don’t skip the roasted garlic!
This recipe uses an entire head of roasted garlic, but I recommend you go ahead and roast a few heads while you’re at it to use for other things in the kitchen (think pasta sauce, mashed potatoes, or even your eggs in the morning). The garlic gets blended together with lemon juice and olive oil to create a thick sauce that gets tossed into the cauliflower right at the end of its roasting. Honestly I think the same thing could be done to almost any vegetable and it would be just as amazing!
If you’ve never experienced a hoecake before, you’re missing out on one of life’s finer pleasures. A cross between cornbread and a pancake, these time-tested beauties are so versatile and SO darn good. Usually hoecakes are eaten with savory dishes, but they are just as amazing with sweet accompaniments. So when I was contacted about trying Fleischmann’s new Simply Homemade® Cornbread Mix, I knew the perfect way to put it to the test!
I LOVED this mix. I’ve tried several cornbread mixes in my day, but this is the first one I’ve tried that stacks up to homemade. I kid you not. It has the texture and flavor (and hint of sweetness, just the way I like it) of cornbread made from scratch but takes about 30 seconds to mix together. And forget relegating cornbread as a side dish, this dish is a centerpiece!
You could serve these hoecakes a couple different ways. They would be awesome for brunch with some sorghum or raw honey drizzled on top. But dusted with a little powdered sugar they make a crowd-pleasing dessert for a summer barbecue!
Brace yourself for the easiest (and probably fastest) recipe I have ever posted.
1 package Simply Homemade Cornbread Mix, batter made according to package directions
½ t. vanilla extract
1 c. mixed summer berries (I used strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries)
¼ c. powdered sugar
Stir the vanilla extract into the cornbread batter. Set aside.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add enough oil or butter (I used a vegan butter spread) to coat the bottom of the pan.
Pour ⅓ c. batter at a time into circles in the hot pan. Cook until the edges of the hoecakes appear cooked through and the bottom side is golden brown (about 3 minutes), then flip and cook until it browns on the opposite side.
Remove from heat, top with fresh berries, and dust with powdered sugar as desired.
That pretty yellow color you see in the hoecakes comes from real corn! I would highly recommend this mix for when you want the deliciousness of fresh cornbread (or fresh hoecakes )without any extra fuss. I look forward to trying it as bread alongside a bowl of chili when fall rolls around. But for now, while the summer berries are at their peak, this is perfection.
I wrote this post for Simply Homemade as a part of their Cornbread Grilling Challenge. I was given the product free to try and was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.
I promised another summer salad and here it is! I’ve been testing out all different fruit combinations in my salads this season. Conclusion: salad and fruit belong together.
I have my mother-in-law to thank for introducing me to fresh figs a couple years ago. When you get them at the perfect phase of ripeness, they are soooo divine. In this salad they add a sweet and slightly earthy flavor that goes SO well with the crumbled goat cheese. And then…the dressing.
The dressing is made with whole, fresh blackberries and came out even BETTER than I expected! You’ll need a food processor or really good blender to make it, but other than that the ingredients are very simple. The balsamic vinegar is such a nice complement to the berries! The result is tangy, rich, sweet, thick deliciousness. You really don’t need a lot of ingredients to make an awesome salad dressing!
Fig and Goat Cheese Salad with Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
6 oz. mixed greens (I like those plastic containers of pre-washed greens for salad)
8 fresh figs
crumbled goat cheese (to taste, I used about 3 T. for the whole salad)
In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the blackberries and ½ c. of the balsamic vinegar until the blackberries have broken down completely (about 15 minutes). Stir often and use the back of your spoon to mash the berries as they cook down. Set aside to cool.
Pour the blackberry mixture, remaining balsamic vinegar, mustard, and honey into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the ingredients form a smooth, thick puree.
Drizzle in the olive oil as the food processor is running. Add oil until the dressing reaches your desired consistency.
Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.
Chill dressing in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
To assemble salad cut figs in half and place them over greens along with crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy!
You’ll have dressing left over. Trust me, that’s a good thing!
It’s been a little challenging to juggle work and fitness coaching and blogging, but I’m starting to find my balance. Slowly but surely I am finding my new normal. I’m so appreciative of all you that have hung on for the ride.
Many of you know that I’m nuts about nuts (genius pun, I know) which is why I LOVE getting to be a Blue Diamond Tastemaker! When you already love a brand and all their products, it’s pretty much a dream come true to be able to work with them. When I got an email recently about testing out and sharing Blue Diamond’s Artisan Nut Thins, I jumped at the chance! Jason will confirm that I’ve devoured many boxes of these since they were first released.
These seriously make for an fantastic snack. Firstly (and most importantly), they are delicious and have a very satisfying crunchy texture. Secondly, these guys are actually nutritious and made with awesome ingredients.
I’ll be honest, I almost always eat these plain! They’re quite addictive on their own! BUT I can think of a lot of awesome things that you can pair them with, like hummus or cheese or fresh fruit. Or some of this deliciousness:
After all those chats we had during training I forgot to ever tell you about the REAL DEAL! I did in fact survive on race day and officially have my first half marathon under my belt. On that weekend (which happened to be right after I started my job), Jason and I drove up to Durham on Friday night. We stayed with one of my besties Katherine (my race buddy) and her sweet parents up there. The next morning we had a little breakfast then headed out to the race expo!
I’ve seen a ton of bloggers talk about race expos, but I’ve never actually been to one before! It was a fun way to start getting pumped up for the race and to buy any last minute things. I got one of those annoying 26.2 bumper stickers for my car (had to do it, #sorrynotsorry) and some running gels for race day. We also took advantage of some pretty sweet photo ops.
At the expo we met up with Katherine’s boyfriend (also a race buddy!) and together we all went for a stroll at the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market. For some reason our Georgia farmers markets are so tiny (with the exception of a giant indoor one, but it’s an international market not a local food one) so I always LOVE seeing markets in other cities. This one was amazing–tons of vendors and beautiful local goodies.
We got some stuff for dinner and cooked some simple pasta back at Katherine’s parents house before heading to bed. We had an early wakeup call for race day–they had told us at the expo to be there by 5:30am! I could hardly sleep that night anyway…combination of excitement and nerves.
3:45- My alarm went off…not like I was asleep anyways! I made myself a cup of coffee and a piece of almond butter toast and did a lot of jumping up and down because I was excited.
4:30- I took a quick shower and got into my race gear, a tank and capris and my new favorite Brooks shoes!
5:00-Did a little check to make sure I had everything I needed: race bib, timing chip, iPhone and armband, hydration belt, my ID, Kind bar, an espresso gel (got it at the expo, it has extra caffeine in it which seemed like a good idea), and some Clif shot blox!
And then we were off!
The three of us running together were all in different corals because we have different running paces (as you might remember from the last race I ran with her, Katherine is a speedy gonzalez) but once we walked to the start line there were so many thousands of people and we just decided to start off together sort of in the middle. There’s nothing like that feeling when you’re waiting behind the start line!
It was pretty chilly (I think in the low 50’s) but I decided to just go without my jacket because I didn’t want to have to deal with it later in the race when I got hot. While we waited I opened up that espresso gel that I had bought at the expo, which tasted super nasty and promptly got thrown away. So much for an extra caffeine boost! But at the time I didn’t care, I had enough nervous energy to keep me going.
Before I tell you about the race, I should tell you about my training. I started off strong and did pretty well with my long runs, but all that went out the window when I started working full-time in April. With trying to adjust myself to the working day schedule I just could not find the time to run! Not to mention we were also smack-dab in the middle of moving out of our apartment, and that was taking up any free time I would normally have. SO training went out the window. Before race day the longest distance I had ever run was I think 8.5 miles. A half marathon is 13.1. Oops. But I tried to forget about all that and just clear my mind so that I could stay excited and get through it! I had adjusted my method to Galloway (I posted about that here) so I knew I would be taking walking breaks every 3 minutes.
(Can you spot me in that picture above? HA!)
So here (to the best of my recollection months after the fact) is how it went:
Mile 1: WOHOO! SO much excitement and energy, but I know from previous races that I need to start slowly. After about 1 minute I let Katherine and Adrien pass me by and slow it down a little because I know that their pace is like minutes faster per mile than mine. The sun had barely come out so it was nice and cool and breezy.
Mile 2-3: CRAP. I already feel exhausted–how is that possible?? I’ve run much farther in training but I already feel totally drained. I hope I can do this thing.
Mile 4-5: This part of the race is quiet and went through a lot of residential type areas. I realize that I’m running right in front of a ‘pacer’, a runner who holds up a sign for the pace that they’re keeping as a guide for other runners. The pacer behind me is the 2 hour 15 minute one! This has me pumped because I’m estimating a finish time of 3 hours at this point. Also I see Jason cheering me on at one of the checkpoints which definitely lifts my spirits.
Mile 6-7: S.O.S. Slowing down! Slowing down big time. The pacer passes me and I don’t have much energy to care. Lots of walking going on. I’ve been slowly eating my Clif shot blox for the past hour but they don’t seem to be doing much.
Mile 8: Right before the mile 8 marker is a water stop (there have been a few along the course already but I ignored them because I was carrying water on my hydration belt), but this time they’re passing out gels. I figure I might as well take one, so I grab a berry flavor and pretty much devour it in a minute or two.
Mile 9: I’M ON TOP OF THE WORLD! That gel gave me LIFE. I feel so energized and motivated and amazing. I KNOW I can do this.
Mile 10-12: Still feeling really good! There’s an awesome breeze that is rocking my world and I cannot wait to see that finish line. People around me are really starting to slow down and I use that as motivation to try and pass them one at a time.
Mile 13: The life that gel gave me is GONE. The only thing keeping me moving is willpower. I have never run this far before. I turn a corner and can see the finish line. “A Beautiful Day” starts playing on my playlist (not kidding, can’t even make this stuff up) and when the chorus comes I take a deep breath, gather everything I have, and SPRINT SPRINT SPRINT.
AND I MADE IT!!!!
You’ll forgive me for repeating myself….I MADE IT!!!!! I made it.
Even now, months after the fact, I feel so happy thinking about that moment. My time ended up being 2 hours and 48 minutes. That’s slow but it’s actually under what I expected and frankly the time did NOT matter to me! All that ever mattered to me was finishing, and I did that. Pretty much as soon as I was done I wanted to sign up for a full marathon.
I’ll keep you posted on that. 😉
If you’re never run a race before I REALLY encourage you to do it! Don’t give me all that “ugh, but I hate running” stuff. No one likes it at first. At least no one that I’ve ever met. It’s hard. You sweat and pant and hurt and it’s hard. And that’s why the accomplishment feels SO good. You get stronger. You still sweat but you pant less. Distances that once seemed impossible become no big deal. And once you cross a finish line you will understand why so many people love to race. Go find a 5K in your area and DO IT! Go now!
Three cheers for summer!!! For sweet corn and bright tomatoes and juicy berries and cold beer and crunchy SALAD. Salad’s are good all year round of course, but to me it’s summertime when they really hit the spot.
This one is nutrition packed and simple to make. The base is a mixture of cabbage, romaine, and Brussels sprouts sliced super duper thin (use a mandolin if you have one, otherwise just slice as thinly as you can). Then it’s topped with a variety of sweet and crunchy goodness and drizzled with an addictive peanut dressing.
My recipe for the dressing is kind of “loosey goosey”, and that’s because I’ve found that with peanut dressing it’s best to just feel it out as you go. Depending on the type of peanut butter you’re using, how strong your sesame oil is, how warm it is, etc. it’s going to change things. So use the magic ingredients. but other than that just go with the flow and adjust until it tastes perfect to you.
I’m not exactly sure how to begin! Since I started this blog back in 2011, I never took more than a week or so off from blogging. And now here I am, dusting off the keyboard after two months away. Stuff has happened! It’s been so long I probably forgot some of the stuff! I started my first job out of law school (which is the last thing I posted about back in March), Jason and I moved out of our apartment and in with my parents (yes, you read that right), and I even ran that half marathon that I was updating you on earlier this year! We have lots to catch up on and I will definitely fill you guys in on everything, but I figure today I’ll start small. We had a great Memorial Day and I would love to share it with you.
I wanted to do something together as a family, and I’ve had it in my head for a while that I wanted to try indoor rock climbing. So I grabbed my dad, sister, and hubster and we went for it!
I wanted to be able to climb without needing help from employees, so we went with the lesson option where they show you how to climb and belay properly. The class was tough! But once we got all the info we needed we were free to climb anywhere in the facility for the rest of the day. The place we went is HUGE–there were so many walls to choose from!
In the lesson they taught us commands to use with each other, and I’m a big fan of “Climb on!”
Once we got going we all had a lot of fun! And it’s a great workout, it’s kind of like a more interesting version of a pull-up machine! Now that we know how to do things on our own I definitely want to go back just to climb on another day.
When we got home I got started on the grill! I got options for everyone and tried to have some healthier alternatives to traditional grilling food. On the menu was my Grilled Corn and Vidalia Onion Salad:
Twice Baked Potatoes (experimenting with Cabot’s Tomato Basil Cheddar–YUM):
Sausages and hot dogs from a local butcher for the carnivores (The Spotted Trotter if my ATLiens want to know):
And veggie burgers for David and me:
I hope you all had a wonderful and peaceful weekend too! I’ll be back soon (really. no, really.) with a recap of my first half marathon!!!
This past weekend I tried something a little different that I’ve heard for years is an awesome habit to start. I planned our meals for the week, went grocery shopping (those are both things I’ve always done weekly), and then I fully PREPPED every meal that we’re going to eat this week! You might be wondering why I decided to try this now. And that reason is because I just started a new job! That’s right! I thought some of you long-time followers might appreciate sharing in the happy news with me. Now that I’m a working lady I need to be much more intentional about how I use my time and how I plan things out. Last week (my first week) we ate quite a bit of takeout, and that’s not a habit that I want to let sink in. So food prep it is!
Dinners: Shrimp and Tomato Pasta (for Jason)/Roasted Vegetable Pasta (for me), Chicken Jambalaya (for Jason)/Vegetable Tamales (for me), Eggpant Parmesan served with brown rice spaghetti and salad, Beef Tacos (for Jason)/Black Bean Tacos (for me)
Some things I made to completion so that all they’ll need during the week is a quick reheat. For other things I just chopped up all the ingredients to eliminate prep time later on. Here’s the work I actually did yesterday:
made lentil soup
made eggplant parmesan (up until baking step)
baked banana muffins
made overnight oats
chopped veggies and meat for jambalaya
marinated and grilled chicken for cesar salads
washed and cut lettuce for salads
washed and cut up fruit for lunch or snacks
make filling for spring rolls
cut up vegetables for pasta
It took a good chunk of my Sunday but I’m SO glad that I did it and I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing. It’ll keep us eating better and keep our spending from getting out of control. Just because I’m working now doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on home cooking! Far from it.
Some of these recipes I’m testing and tweaking for my next Facebook challenge group! Email me or shoot me a message on social media if you’re interested in joining, I still have a few spots left!
For some reason I’ve been like at oat vacuum lately. Cooked oats, raw oats, overnight oats, just GIMME OATS. Last week I started specifically craving granola and the one I bought from the store just wasn’t cutting it! I think you know where this is headed.
Goji berries are really popular in America right now, but they’ve been popular in other areas of the world for a long time. The berry is native to China and is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a number of ailments. They are very nutritionally dense and have the highest concentration of protein of any fruit!
When combined with the healthy fats and nutrients in the coconut (this recipe makes use of coconut oil, coconut chips, and coconut sugar), you can definitely award this a superfood granola. If you’re into that.
Stir together the oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
If the coconut oil is solid, melt it in the microwave until it liquifies. Then pour the honey, coconut oil, and vanilla over the oat mixture. Stir well util the ingredients are evenly distributed and every oat is coated.
Spread in a thin even layer on a cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Stir the oats with a spatula and then even out again and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool undisturbed for 30 minutes to harden.
Toss the goji berries and coconut chips into the granola, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
I didn’t just choose the goji berries for nutrition though, they are extremely tasty. To me they taste like a cross between a raisin and a cranberry with a little touch of matcha. Yeah ok that sounds weird. It’s hard to describe but I find them to be delicious! They add a little sweetness and tang to this granola while the coconut adds awesome crunch and a tropical flavor. Add a little coconut milk and you’ve got heaven.