Taco STOUP with Brown Rice

With the weather getting colder, I have been in soup and chili mode.  It has been fabulous having my CSA veggies to choose from.  Last week (yes, I am slightly behind with some of my posts), I had a bunch of leftover peppers.  I modified my taco soup to make this delicious ‘STOUP’.  A STOUP is a Rachael Ray-ism..it means the soup is thinner than a stew, yet thicker than a soup.




I had some fresh poblano and red peppers and onions in the fridge.  I started making my basic taco soup with the ingredients I had in the house.  I also had some (almost) overripe grape tomatoes, that I chopped up and added to the soup (instead of canned tomatoes).




As I mentioned, I have been trying to add more grains into the diet, so I figured some brown rice was a good fit with the soupPlus, I had a box of Minute rice in the pantry.




I left the kitchen to let the soup cool.  When I returned, the soup had turned into a nice hearty STOUP.




This STOUP comes together really easily with ingredients you already have in the house.  It has a nice mild taste (I’m sure you could use stronger peppers), and the texture is thick and filling.  I took it for lunch all week, which was perfect with the falling temperatures.  Even the BOY (who rarely eats my soups) tried some for dinner and ate the whole bowl!




Check your pantry for ingredients and make some STOUP this weekend!

Happy New Year!


Taco STOUP with Brown Rice

1 large red pepper, chopped

2 poblano peppers, chopped

1 onion, sliced thinly

1/2 packet (or about 3 Tbsp) taco seasoning, add more or less to taste

2-3 cups grape tomatoes, chopped (or chop up 2-3 larger tomatoes)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 cup Minute brown rice



-Heat Dutch oven over medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray (or use oil).  Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are fragrant.

-Add chopped peppers and stir until softened, about another 5 minutes.

-Add taco seasoning and stir.

-Then add tomatoes, black beans, and chicken broth.  Stir and bring to a boil.

-Let simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Stir in rice and simmer for another 15 minutes.

***A note on salt-I don’t typically add salt to soup while it’s cooking. I have read it is better to add the salt to taste when you are eating it.  That being said, you may want to add a teaspoon of salt before bringing to a boil if you like a saltier soup.

Decisions, Decisions…

When looking at a tray like this,


Where does one begin?

On one hand, there are the old favorite CARAMEL BARS, which after making for the first time, I declared the BEST bars ever.  On the other side of the plate, you have the new comer SMORES BARS.  As I like to say…decisions…decisions…


If you are me, then you were lucky enough to try bites of both before breakfast (and after this morning’s 5 mile run).  And I must say, it is a close tie!

Let me know…which one would you go for???

Recipe for a Celebration

One of the benefits of a rescheduled birthday weekend is that you get to spread out the fun.  I moved lunch with girlfriends to last weekend and rescheduled my massage for after the marathon.  My 30th birthday dinner was rescheduled last night at a phenomenal restaurant in Oak Park, IL called Maya Del Sol.  I had never been to Maya, but I have been wanting to try it for awhile.  An intimate group of family and close friends got together for chips and salsa, mojitos and sangria and unique Latin-inspired entrees.  We sat and chatted for hours enjoying our own private room.  I had so much fun I almost forgot to take pictures!  The evening turned out so well that I thought I’d share the recipe with you.



A recipe for a celebration includes…

A reason to celebrate Ex: 30th Birthday

(fun hats are encouraged!)



Delicious food (the kind worth taking pictures of)









Good company





Gifts (certainly not needed but an added bonus)


…Especially when you have been dreaming about a KitchenAid Mixer for years




Combine with a beautiful fall evening =



Good News

The good news is…


I finally got off of the couch

I ran a fast (for me) 12 miles in 1:39:22

I felt much better than my last 12 mile run which was plagued with heat and negative thinking

The rain held off allowing me to run in perfect running weather

I had time to soak in a hot tub and massage my tired legs

The Bears are playing this afternoon

It is officially soup season

I have fresh peppers (red and poblano) and onions to make Taco Soup

Fall beer is upon us

And, we are going out to Maya Del Sol tonight for my rescheduled birthday dinner celebration!

One last piece of good news for you foodies out there is that I combined a few favorites to make S’mores bars this afternoon.



After a soak in the tub and lunch x 2, I headed out to pick up some groceries.  It is always so funny to go to the Jewel on a Sunday because EVERYONE (even the employees) are decked out in blue and orange.  Even I as sporting my BEARS gear.  A coworker of mine is sadly moving and this is her last week at work.  We are doing a dessert potluck (is there any other kind?) this week.  I had just enough time after shopping and before hopping in the shower to whip up these amazing looking (and smelling) S’mores Bars that I found on Janae’s blog.  BTW, if you haven’t checked out Janae’s site, she is pretty hilarious.






I followed Janae’s suggestions for extra mallows and fewer chocolate chips.  I had a little trouble with cracked graham cracker crust as I tried to spread my dough mixture on top.  I wasn’t too worried about it…with ingredients like these, how could you go wrong?!




The bars look and smell amazing!!! I didn’t have time for taste test before dinner, but my mouth is watering just thinking about them.  What I like about these bars is that they bring in a cookie element.  Unfortunately, the marshmallows swallowed my Hershey’s bars whole, but maybe that is supposed to happen.

Hopefully there will be enough left to take to work on Tuesday!




Marathon Countdown: 2 weeks

Weekly Mileage: 30 miles

Easy and Warm Breakfast Porridge

It is a slow start to Sunday…I took yesterday off from training.  Mostly because I was exhausted after driving home from Galena and secondly because it was just too cold for a bike ride.  This morning, I am off to do a 12 mile run.  Although 12 miles seems ‘little’ compared to some of my long runs, it is no easy task.  And it definitely requires a hearty breakfast! 


I read last night that you can microwave 1/2 cup cooked brown rice, 1 cup milk, and raisins to make a warm breakfast.  I think I was dreaming of breakfast all through the night. I woke up this morning and came up with a new breakfast concoction.  Since I have decided that I am eating enough calories but not enough carbs for training, I have been trying new and different grains.  Instead of oatmeal, I used brown rice (much to the BOY’s confusion).  And because it is officially fall, I am breaking into my pumpkin pile.



Rice and pumpkin may seem like an odd combination, but even the BOY said that our house smelled great this morning.  I had all the ingredients in our house and this breakfast came together quickly.  Perfect for a lazy Sunday morning!



I liked the idea of brown rice, but thought I would try to use the minute rice I keep in the pantry since I didn’t have cooked rice.  If you do have left over rice, this is a great way to turn it into breakfast.  Just adjust your cooking time.  The Minute rice takes 7-8 minutes to create this thick warm rice porridge.



I added some extra Almond milk on the top to cook it down and covered it with raisins and pumpkin pie spice.



I think it would also be good with dried raisins, pecans, walnuts, flax or any other crunchy topping.



This comfort food will warm you up for sure. It is perfect to eat cuddled up on the coach while catching up on a book on a cool Sunday morning.  The hardest part is getting yourself off the couch for a 2 hour run after breakfast!



Pumpkin and Brown Rice Breakfast Porridge


1/2 cup (46 g) Minute brown rice

1 old banana, mashed

1 cup Almond milk, separated

14 g chia seeds

1 tsp vanilla

1-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, more sprinkled on top if desired

1/4 cup pumpkin puree (or use leftover sweet potato or butternut squash)

Toppings (ie raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, seeds)


-Combine all ingredients using 3/4 cup milk in large microwave safe bowl.  Contents will expand, so the higher bowl the better.

-Microwave for 3.5 minutes.  Keep an eye on your bowl. If you have ever had oatmeal explode all over your microwave, you will understand.

-Stir porridge.  Return to microwave for another 3-4 minutes, until rice is cooked and no longer crunchy.

-Top warm porridge with remaining milk and toppings.

-Enjoy in comfy PJ’s with coffee or tea!

Lessons in Marathon Training

The marathon has slightly taken over my life, but I am enjoying the challenge and my training.  I have learned quite a bit about myself and running over this past month and a half.  Here are a few tidbits to share…


Stretching is necessary and important. Make the foam roller your best friend.


Cross train.  I love biking!


Don’t skimp on shoes. 

You will need more than one pair during training after logging all your miles.


Eat to fuel your body. 


Accept help from family and friends. 

A long run is much more fun when there’s good conversation.


You will want to sleep A LOT…like all of the time!

You will start most conversations with, “During yesterday’s run…”


Chaffing is NOT fun!

(no picture needed)

Try out your marathon day food and gear ahead of time.  I have found oatmeal and chia seeds work great for me, but it is different for everyone.


Find a training program and plan ahead.



Drinking beer counts as carb loading.


Although you’ll announce that this will be your only marathon,
secretly you know that this is probably not the case.



Take days off each week.


A fuel pack is a MUST.



Experiment with hydration.  I am a big fan of flavored coconut water.



There will be bumps in the road.  Push through and don’t give up.



Find a cause important to you and use your training to raise money

or awareness to support that cause.

For me, it’s St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital!


This will also inspire you on those cool dark mornings when the last thing you want to do is run 8 miles before work!


Questions of the Day

What lessons in training have you learned?

Any advise for the rookie marathoner 2 weeks before race day?

Enjoying Powerfoods

Clearly, I loved my OIAJ (overnight oats in a jar) from this past weekend…


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It’s been another creative week in the kitchen.  I have been enjoying my Tosca Reno Just Rules book, and I have also been reading this book about Powerfoods.



Each page talks about a healthy food and suggestions of how to use it.  Check out what it says about Chia Seeds!



I have been eating them in smoothies and of course in my oatmeal, and I am convinced that they have helped my stomach through all of this marathon training.  The Powerfoods book motivated me to try some new recipes in the kitchen this week. 

I made a tasty smoothie using my Cacao Powder…


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And I got fancy with my crop share by making this Salmon and Quinoa salad…





I am exhausted (I ran 8 miles yesterday morning and I am hoping to get in another 8 miles tomorrow).  Plus, I am off to a conference in Galena this weekend…once I can get myself packed.



But I wanted to show off some of my successes with Powerfoods this week and share this delicious recipe before I left!


Roasted Vegetable and Salmon Quinoa Salad


1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package instructions.

8 oz skinless salmon fillet

1 lemon sliced

Summer vegetables, chopped into 1 inch cubes

(I used onions, mushrooms, butternut squash, and turnips.  Cauliflower, tomatoes, and peppers would also work well.)

2 tsp mustard

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)


-Cook quinoa according to package directions, fluff with a fork, and let cool.

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roast vegetables on a 9×13 inch baking pan for ~40 minutes, mixing occasionally.

-On separate baking sheet (or in glass baking dish), place salmon.  Cover salmon with sliced lemon and garlic powder.

-Roast in oven for ~15 minutes until fish is cooked through.

-In separate bowl, whisk together mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and pepper.

-Add roasted vegetables to quinoa and cover with dressing, stirring to coat.  Stir in feta if desired.

-Divide into separate bowels (or tuperware for leftovers) and top with salmon.


***Feel free to use your grill to roast the vegetables and/or salmon!

Peanut Butter Dreams



I have followed and enjoyed many of the foodie blogger trends (overnight oats, the green monster smoothie) and so I didn’t see why ‘OIAJ’ also known as Overnight Oats in a Jar would be any different.  I don’t typically buy my nut butters in a jar (or in this case a plastic container), but I had this TJ’s version (which is amazing by the way) left over from some baking.  When I noticed that its contents were looking pretty slim, I figured it was time to turn it into breakfast.



Last night, I followed my usual overnight oats recipe adding all of the ingredients to the jar and stirring.  It fit perfectly, just to the top of the jar.  I put the jar back into the fridge and went to sleep dreaming of a peanut buttery goodness.




This morning, I woke up and went straight to the fridge for a taste.  OIAJ is everything that you love about overnight oats, but with each bit, your spoon scraps the side of the peanut butter jar adding hints of deliciousness.  Even if you are the type who is able keep your peanut butter jar super clean (you know who you are…the scrape the sides for one last taste before you put the jar away type), there is still the surprise chunk of flavor at the bottom.

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What a great excuse to eat peanut butter out of the jar (because let’s be honest, you do it anyways!)



OIAJ (Overnight Oats in a Jar)


1 almost empty jar of nut butter

1/2 banana, mashed or sliced

1/2 cup oats

1 cup almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon


-Place all ingredients in jar and stir.

-Refrigerate overnight

-In the morning, stir again and enjoy!


***This works GREAT if you are looking for a healthy breakfast to go!

Two Ingredient Dinner

Thank goodness I did my 20 mile run yesterday!  Today was gray and rainy, drizzling on and off all day.  It would have been a miserable morning to be out pounding the pavement.  Instead, I found myself waiting outside Cheesecake Factory for brunch with my girlfriends.  I was there so early that I had time to grab a warm tea and take some random pictures while I waited.


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Brunch was so fun! It is always great to catch up with the girls and we could have stayed and chatted for hours.  After brunch, I ran some errands.  I have been thinking a lot about what I learned during the CHEW tour last weekend.  At Karyn’s Raw, Jessica suggested some different superfoods.  I found Cacao powder at Whole Foods today and decided to try it.  I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with it beyond smoothies…and maybe add it to some baked goods!?  Any thoughts???



When I got home, I found the BOY at the computer, working hard on a law school memo.  The girls gave me my birthday present this morning.  A Lululemon gift card…HOORAY!!!  They know me so well!  And the balloon kept Emmy entertained while he worked.





On a chilly day like this, the crockpot is the perfect answer for dinner.  I made a two-ingredient crockpot chicken using only chicken breasts and salsa.  I debated which flavor of salsa to get, but ended up with the tequila lime flavor on sale at the Jewel.  Around 2:00, I poured everything into the crockpot set on high.




The rain continued to pour…

With dinner already started, I put on some comfy clothes and poured myself a festive adult beverage. You’ve gotta love the law books in the background that have taken over my dining room!

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A few hours later, the house smelled great and dinner was ready.  I am a big fan of the double fork method of shredding chicken and the chicken easily fell apart.




The chicken turned out phenomenal.  You will never believe that there are only two ingredients in this recipe!!!  I served my chicken over a delicious salad (with tomato and avocado not pictured) and the BOY made a pulled chicken sandwich with provolone.  He was super impressed with dinner and was grabbing the sandwich away so quickly that I barely got a picture (hence the blur).








With full tummies, we cozied up on the couch for date night watching the DVRed Bear’s Game.


Two-Ingredient Crockpot Chicken


1 pound boneless/skinless chicken breast

1 jar salsa (I would recommend tequila lime or chipotle)


-Spray crockpot with cooking spray

-Place chicken in crockpot and cover with salsa

-Cook per crockpot instructions for desired time (I did the 4 hour/high setting)

-When chicken is cooked, remove in batches and use two forks to shred.  Chicken should easily pull apart.

-Return chicken to crock pot and cook on low for 10-15 more minutes

-Serve over salad, as a sandwich on a toasted bun, or in a quesadilla. 

***You will definitely impress your friends and family with this recipe!


Sunday Questions

What superfoods are you into right now?

How should I use my Cacao powder?