Bloggers BBQ

I have been spending so much time recently checking out blogs and collecting recipes that I was excited to make some new foods for today’s Memorial Day BBQ.  The BOY was in charge of the meat and I was in charge of everything else.   He did a great job manning the grill (as you can see from the pictures below).  The weather was sunny and WARM!  Everyone enjoyed themselves, and all of the food turned out fabulous!  Here was our menu…


Beverages (plus the usual beer and wine)

Iced Tea (A WF favorite of mine)



Sunny White Sangira (from Angela at Oh She Glows)

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus



Bean Dip (actually an original recipe)

1 can black beans

1 can yellow or white corn

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 red onion (finely chopped)

Juice from 1 lime

1 tsp cumin (add more to taste)


Rinse and drain canned ingredients.  Combine with red onion, lime juice, and cumin.  Stir, refrigerate and serve.  Can make 1-2 days ahead of time.  Add lime juice before serving.





Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars (from Kath of Kath Eats Real Food)

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (from Meredith at What Merry Makes)


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After two busy days in the kitchen, I was finally ready for some food and a cold glass of Sangria! 

Let the fun begin…



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Happy Memorial Day!!!

Early Morning Rise

I woke up early this morning over an hour before my alarm.  The fact that I fell asleep at 9:30 last night may be to blame.  Surprisingly, I was not as sore as I thought I’d be.  Considering yesterday was my longest ride of the year (and I took a tumble), I wasn’t sure how I would feel today.  My bottom hurts a bit (as can be expected after a long bike ride) but the rest of my body feels great…good enough to start my day with a Hot Yoga class.  Luckily, there were three classes this morning and I planned to go to the 8:00 class with a new instructor named Joy.

I made some tea and an open-faced egg sandwich on WF Seeduction bread and headed off to the yoga studio excited to put my new yoga towel to good use!  There was no traffic and the typically full studio was surprisingly empty when I arrived.  I even got one of the coveted front row spots near the mirror.  People filled in, but the class was not as crowded as usual.  I’m guessing most people used their day off to sleep in and weren’t up and at ’em before the sun like me.

I set up my new towel and used this beginning down time to stretch out my leg muscles.  I was hoping to get a lot of shoulder and hip openers along with a good core workout.  AND…I got them all!  Especially the core strength.  Joy taught a beautiful class working deep into the poses, especially in the hips.  She corrected for form and even told me that since I was deep into the pose she was going to challenge me.  I loved it!  As always the core work was brutal, but my new towel did it’s job.  My usual face towel was soaking wet, but my yoga towel stayed dry and continued to absorb the sweat dripping down from every pore of my body…even during Shavasana.  We finished Shavasana with a musical version of “Wear Sunscreen” (Click HERE for the full poem).  The verse that stuck out with me this morning was…

“Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”


Are you familiar with this poem?  What verse resonates with you?


After a quick run to WF, I was home and ready to do some cleaning and cooking for this afternoon’s BBQ.  I made a fruity version of the Green Monster using spinach, almond milk, 1 over-ripe banana, almond butter, and frozen blueberries and mangos.  It was refreshing and perfect to keep my hands out of  the snacks I was preparing for this afternoon.

What a funky colored smoothie?!

Bike the Drive 2011

I have one word to describe this year’s Bike the Drive…Brrrrrrr!  That’s a long word and to be honest, I’m not even sure if it would count in a game of scrabble, but when you combine cold/ wet weather with a bike ride=Brrrrrrr!!!

I spent last night with my parents enjoying delicious salmon and veggies (and of course some red wine).  My mom and I woke up at 4:45 today to a cool and foggy morning. 

No  rain, so we packed up our clothes, made some tea and grabbed Almond Butter and Banana sandwiches for breakfast on the go.

For the second year in a row, we loaded the bikes onto the car and headed into the city for Chicago’s Bike the Drive. 

We randevued in Lakeview, picking up my brother and rode off in the mist to Lake Shore Drive.  With a little chill, I was optimistic that the fog would burn off into the 73 degree promised by

We rode south towards Grant Park and ~4 miles in, I pulled off to the side with my brother, forgetting about my clipless pedals and took my first tumble straight onto the pavement.  Ouch!!! 

I bruised up my knee and hip and rode off with a gash on my knee.  The wet weather didn’t help things as blood dripped down my leg.  Luckily, I had some wipes to clean off my knee and continued to ride south to the Museum of Science and Industry campus.

We rode the whole 30 mile loop with food and stretch breaks along the way, stocking up on bananas and mini-sized Cliff bars.  Unfortunately, the fog never cleared and all my pictures look like this…

Fortunately, I have some amazing pictures from Bike the Drive 2010, so I figured (since I wasn’t blogging at that time)  I could share them with you today.

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As time went on, the bikers thinned out and we finished in Grant Park with everyone else.  Since Lake Shore was opening back up to cars, we rode the Lake Shore path right along the water back to Lakeview. The path was packed with bikers and runners and it was so foggy and chilly that we could barely see the lake.  I think I even lost feeling in my fingers for some of the ride home.  At this point, I considered renaming today’s ride ‘Bike the Artic’.

In the end, we rode 42 miles and although it was a freezing finish, it was a fun and active morning.  After a warm shower, I went to Starbucks to pick up victory lattes.  The rain started pouring and continued for most of the afternoon (it’s 6PM and I am seeing sunshine for the first time all day).  The BOY and my dad came into the city, and we all went to a wonderful breakfast place in my brother’s neighborhood called Bakin’ and Eggs.  Sadly, I forgot my camera, but we enjoyed a bacon flight, egg frittatas, pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches.  Everything looked and tasted amazing and was well worth the long wait.  After a wet walk and ride back to suburbia, it was off to the grocery store to pick up the fixin’s for tomorrow’s Memorial Day BBQ the BOY and I are hosting.  Can you believe they’re calling for 90 degree weather…that’s almost 30 degrees warmer than today.  Gotta LOVE Chicago!!!

Spring…Where have you gone?

It’s cold and it’s rainy.  I’m drinking hot tea instead of iced tea and I’d love a bowl of soup!  My calendar tells me it’s May, but I’m not sure I believe it.  I went to Run Club this morning in long pants and long sleeves.  I even packed my hat and gloves although I didn’t end up needing them.  This morning was an endurance run (6 miles in about 52 minutes).  It’s always motivating to go running with other people! 

The only sign of spring I’ve seen all day is the Organic Market that popped up at my local outdoor mall.  Last summer, there was a small market at the mall a few miles down the road.  I was there almost every week and they knew me by name.  I was sad to see that they weren’t returning this year, but thrilled when I saw that the Green Grocer was opening a secondary location way out in suburbia!  Thanks Guys!

I met my mom for an impromptu shopping spree and then we headed over to the food stand.  Since it’s the beginning of the season, there wasn’t a huge selection, but the produce was BEAUTIFUL!  Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me (and ya’ll know I don’t have a smart phone yet).  We started chatting with the owners and their staff who were all so kind and fun. 

Between the two of us, my mom and I bought tomatoes, mushrooms, peaches and kale.  The kale looked so good, I had to grab it.  My mom scrunched up her nose..even when I suggested Kale Chips.  The owner promised she had a recipe that would change my mom’s mind using olive oil, garlic, and chili powder.  I quickly gave her my email address and promised not to stalk her if she sent me the recipe.  I am super excited to make Kale Chips this week!

Running into the house, I dropped my bags and headed to the bathroom.  When I came out, I found Emmy nibbling on my kale.  She jumped when she heard me (because she knew she was in trouble).  Obviously, she has a different opinion of the kale than my mom.  I hid my gorgeous kale in the fridge (where the cat can’t get it) and used my fresh tomatoes on a salad.  Man, I LOVE farmer’s market season.  Even if the sun’s not shining yet!

Quick and Easy Dinner

If you are like me, you don’t have a lot of time to make a healthy dinner during the week.  And, I get a little tired of veggie burgers (although I do love those Dr. Praegers California Burgers…yum!).  I found this simple recipe in a fitness magazine.  It was listed in a meal plan and perfect for those evenings where you want something homemade, but quick…like a cold spring Friday.


Mediterranean Turkey Meat Loaf

1 1b lean ground turkey

2 eggs (I used 1 egg and 1 egg white which was more than enough)

2 oz reduced fat feta

3/4 cup chopped baby spinach (I used closer to 1 cup)

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup whole-grain breadcrumbs (or panko)

1 chopped garlic clove

1/2 tsp each of ground coriander, cumin, and black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Form into a loaf.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes (until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees).

Yup…it’s that simple!!!  I ate mine with a sweet potato and veggies. The BOY really enjoyed the dish and even ate leftovers!  I think this would make a tasty turkey burger as well.  It reminded me of the Spinach and Feta Turkey Burgers that I love during grill season.

Have a great 3 day weekend!!!

Getting Back into the Groove

I’m sure you noticed that I have been spending a lot of time on breakfast recently.  Now that I have added some variety to my breakfasts, I am moving back to my goal of spicing up lunch.  I feel like after my vacation, it took me some time to get back into my healthy eating and exercise groove.  But now that I am in full-on training mode, I am also back in the kitchen preparing my weekly meals. 

I made a new friend on my way home from Florida a few weeks ago.  And no it is not my typical style to pick up friends on airplanes.  But as chance has it, we have a lot in common.  She shared with me this fabulous recipe and so I made it for lunch this week.

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad

Recipe by my new friend LS

I made a few minor adjustments in measurements written in next to the original recipe.


1 cup dry quinoa*

1 medium size sweet potato*

1 tangerine or ½ orange

¼ cup craisins

¼ cup sliced green or red onion

¼ cup sliced almonds (I omitted these)

*use vegetable or chicken stock for boiling, if desired


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (I used half as much=2 Tbsp)

3 T. orange juice (I used 1/4 cup)

2 t. lemon juice

¼ t. crushed fresh garlic

½ t. fresh mint, sliced fine (I didn’t have any)

1 ½ t. fresh basil, sliced fine (I used dried because I didn’t have fresh)

1 T. Dijon mustard

Sprinkle salt and fresh ground pepper


  1. Boil sweet potato in stock or water until fork tender, approximately 20 minutes.
  2. Prepare quinoa according package directions using either water or stock.  If using water, add a little salt to the water.  Turn off heat, cover, and set aside when completed.
  3.  Make salad dressing.  Combine all Dressing ingredients in small bowl and mix with hand-held blender on low at first, then increase to medium, until well blended and thick/creamy in appearance, approximately 1 min.  Set aside.
  4. Check sweet potato.  When done boiling, let cool for a minute, then dice and place potato cubes in the salad dressing.  Set aside. 
  5. Peel tangerine/orange, removing any seeds if necessary, and separate the slices.  Cut slices in half to make them bite size. 
  6. Add all remaining ingredients – tangerine/orange slices, craisins, onion, and almond slices – in the quinoa pot.  Pour salad dressing and potato mixture into quinoa.  Stir to combine and coat everything with the dressing.  Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, if necessary.

May be eaten hot or cold, so serve immediately or refrigerate for later!

Initially, I rinsed and drained the quinoa that I bought from the bulk bin at Whole Foods.  I have heard mixed feedback on whether or not this is a necessary step.  So I’m asking you…DO YOU RINSE YOUR QUINOA?  I prepared my quinoa per Terry Walters instructions in her book Clean Food

So check out my new kitchen toy!!!  It is a citrus juicer and I love it.  I can get so much more juice out of my lemon and limes and it is easy to wash.

I baked my sweet potato in the oven and then diced and added to the dressing.

I cut up an orange and combined it with green onions and dried cranberries.  I omitted the almonds this time around (I didn’t feel like chopping them).

Add the cooked quinoa and dressing with sweet potato.  Stir to coat and ENJOY!

This salad is AMAZING!  It looks and tastes just like something you’d find at the Whole Foods salad bar (only better)!  Maybe I should make a habit of picking up new friends at the airport!

Clean and Healthy Banana Bread

My mom gave me some old bananas this morning with a request for a healthy banana bread.  If you are like me (and my mom) then you buy your bananas at Costco.  I always have some extra over-ripe ones for freezing or banana bread.  I found this recipe when I was searching for a clean banana bread.  Clean quick breads are hard to find, so I am excited to try this one and I am happy to share it with ya’ll!

Healthy Banana Bread Makeover

I followed this recipe by the book except for the baking time, which was shortened to 35 minutes.  (Click title for recipe)

As always, the first step is mashing your bananas.

If you aren’t measuring your flour, I highly recommend it.  Not only is it more accurate, it is super easy clean up.

Combine the wet ingredients and then add the dry mixture to the wet.

Your dough will be lumpy.

Bake 35 minutes; then cool ~10 minutes before removing from pan.

Although I learned a new healthy tip this week…only bake goods that come out in one piece (to avoid mindless taste-testing and extra calories).  I broke the rule to enjoy a slice of the bread (sorry mom!).  It is a beautiful looking and smelling bread that tastes as good as it smells.  I enjoy breads with whole wheat flour and you won’t even miss the sugar!

If you are looking for other clean bread recipes, try my (I use that term lightly) Butternut Squash Bread!  It’s one of my favorites!

Challah-Making 101

I am lucky enough to have wonderful friends in my life that are more like family.  And I had the opportunity to spend the day with theses ‘ladies’ or ‘ya-ya’s’ as we call them learning how to make Challah bread.  Our day began at 8:30 AM (one must rise early to begin making bread) and the 6 of us were all set with a days worth of treats, magazines and knitting.

I have had this date on my calendar for months.  In the fall, we were so impressed with the homemade challah at the holidays that we knew we needed a private lesson in baking it.  Luckily, we have an experienced baker amongst us who is also a great teacher.  She prepared some of the measurements ahead of time and kept us on track throughout the day. 

Our first step was combing active-dry yeast with warm water and then adding flour (regular not bread flour) and sugar.  This mixture is then  covered with a paper towel and placed in a warm oven to rise.  I learned to use a warm oven that has been shortly preheated and then turned off.  I didn’t get any pictures of this step because I was busy chatting and eating, but don’t worry, there are plenty of pictures to come.

Meanwhile, add sliced margarine to a mixture of flour, sugar and salt.  We learned an interesting technique using two knives to slice the margarine and then using a cutting pattern to blend in the margarine until there are no visible lumps.  You have 30 minutes to do this while the yeast mixture rises.

After 30 minutes, beat eggs in a separate bowl.  Add the egg mixture to the yeast mixture (pulled from the warm oven).

Then add your margarine mixture and stir.

Knead well on a floured surface (we used a table) adding more flour (no more than 2 cups) if sticky.  We also added pre-soaked golden raisins (but this is optional).

Then place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a paper towel.  Place back in the warm oven for 2 hours (or until dough has doubled in size).

What to do for 2 hours?  When you’ve got a room full of ladies (and LIT’s or ladies in training), the time goes by quickly!

Again, lightly knead the dough for a minute or two on a floured surface.  Then divide into sections depending on how many loaves you want to make.  We did 4 loaves and divided the bread by twisting it into sections.

Braid the loaves and then place in an oiled pan.

Again, cover the loaves with a paper towel and place back in the oven.  Each time, quickly heat the oven and then turn it off before placing the bread inside.  This time, the bread is left in for as long as you can (up to 4-5 hours).  The longer it sits, the lighter the loaves will be.  I know it’s tough, but use the oven light to check your bread…don’t peek!

What is one to do for 4 hours?  Well, lunch and shopping of course!!!  Plus, some discussion of cooking and baking.  We even got an impromptu lesson in cupcake dipping in a ganache glaze (and a sample of the frosting).  AND we began discussing a date for our next kitchen adventure.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early to pick up our Bike the Drive  packets for next weekend.  Luckily, my friend (also the Sugar Coated Chef) took some final pictures for me.  Brush the top of the bread with beaten egg, vanilla and sugar.  Add sesame or poppy seeds if desired.  Finally, bake the bread at 350 for 20 minutes.

It is hard to share how special this day was to me in just pictures of bread.  Having a full day to spend with some fun and inspirational women is something I will always remember!!!  Especially when I attempt baking Challah again.  Thank you!

NOW…to taste test my bread!

I enjoyed my bread for lunch today with cranberry tuna. I will share some with the BOY tonight when he gets home from work and then freeze the rest for the weeks to come.  I will definitely try making some homemade Challah French Toast too!  Yum!

Getting Creative with the AM Oats

I have been enjoying my Dough Boy Smoothies so much that I decided to try some new flavors.  While exploring, I discovered that what I have been making is slightly different from the original.  I only use 1/2 cup of raw oats as opposed to 1 cup of oats.  I still use 1 cup of Almond milk and have been forgetting about the cinnamon some nights.  That being said, the texture may be slightly different although just as fabulous!  With inspiration from Kath at Kath Eats Real Food, I tried a strawberry banana version this morning.

I began last night with…

 3/4 cup Almond milk

1/2 cup raw oats

1/2 banana

2 Tbsp Chia seeds

4 strawberries

1 tsp vanilla

I stirred and then stuck the mixture  in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, I added 1/4 cup Almond milk and a dash of cinnamon…then blended.  The smoothie was a little more runny than usual. I think next time,  I could do without the extra milk in the morning.  However, the strawberries were fresh and satisfying addition.

Enjoy your breakfast out of a fun bowl or mug and top with fresh berries and banana.  It makes the first meal of the day much more exciting!!!

Breakfast of Champions

I meant to have this post up a few days ago, but my computer has been feeling sluggish (can’t we all relate?), so I am now just getting pictures and text together to share. 

I stole this title from the WW meeting this week in which we discussed healthy and filling meals to start our day.  And I found this recipe on Kath’s website (See HERE).  Ya’ll know that I have been slightly OBSESSED with the overnight oats recently.  I’ve been telling everyone about them (including my new vegan friends).  So when I found out there was an Overnight Oats Smoothie, I had to try it.  And since my blender was already out, it was perfect timing!

Dough Boy Smoothie

Gather ingredients

Into the blender

Into the fridge

Where it sits until morning…

Then, wake up, blend, and pour into your cereal bowl.  Add delicious toppings (ex: Hazelnut Butter).

I absolutely LOVE these dough boy smoothies.  As with everything in the blog community, I am sure there are many flavors and I can’t wait to try them all.  This breakfast tastes amazing and kept me full through a busy morning at work.  It uses real food and with toppings like peanut butter makes the perfect ‘breakfast of champions’.  For you WW members out there, this satisfying smoothie is only 6 points plus (without toppings).  I was so excited about my new breakfast that I cleared some space on my counter for the blender (next to my other favorite…the crock pot)!