First Timers

The BOY and I hosted our first Thanksgiving this year!

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It was my idea and the BOY immediately got on board researching turkey recipes and reserving two birds for the big day.  Last weekend as I had about 2 hours to prep for the day, I had a moment of freak out.  But then, I realized…we had distributed the work load to the experts (ie our families) and even if the turkey didn’t turn out, it’d be a great story about the time we tried to host Thanksgiving.  Plus, we’d all be together and that was the most important part of the holiday.  As we got closer, it occurred to me that I probably should have taken Wednesday off.  But I thought further and realized that we really didn’t want to set the standard too high on our meal because then there would be no place to but up and all we really needed to do was pull it off (being newbie first timers and all…ha ha!)

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The brining began at 2 in the morning (don’t  ask!) and the turkeys were prepared and ready for their day.  I started my Thanksgiving with a pre food coma strength training workout with my trainer.  He didn’t go easy on me and I appreciated that!

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Everyone arrived around 11:30am for the Bears game and appetizers.

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The Bears disappointed as expected but nobody was too upset because there was plenty of delicious food and great conversation.  I was in charge of stuffing and not surprisingly, I went to my trusty crockpot with this recipe for Cranberry Pecan Stuffing.  It turned out AMAZING and has actually changed my opinion on stuffing (I used to not be a fan and today I dug right into leftovers).

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The BOY made two turkeys, one on the grill and one in the oven.  He went back and forth basting, and I attempted to figure how to time all of the gorgeous sides our guests made in one oven.

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At 4:30pm, everyone chipped in to change over the living room to a dining room set with my grandma’s china for 11.  The BOY cut and plated his stunning birds and everyone gathered for dinner.

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Cooper came down just as we were being seated (he must have smelled turkey) and the BOY and I said a few words thanking our families for all that they have done for us and cheersing to the exciting year ahead!

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And then everyone dug right in!

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All of the food was AMAZING and the BOY was praised for his excellent turkeys!  After dinner, everyone found comfortable places to sit back and relax and continue their conversations.  Even Cooper met a new friend…

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Despite full tummies, we all found room for dessert.

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Before leaving, everyone collected their leftovers and made their way home.  We did a quick pick up before collapsing on the couch.  The most exhausted out of all of us…Cooper!

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The BOY and I also had a deep night’s sleep waking up refreshed.  I began my day at the yoga studio with a glorious practice dedicated to our families who shared this special holiday with us creating a new holiday tradition.   And of course, we feasted on leftovers for dinner tonight!

Share your Thanksgiving Traditions!

 

Tips For Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

(just a few things I learned along the way)

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1.Have fun

2. Ask for help-everyone is always happy to make or bring something

3. Know your space-and use it wisely

4. Keep it simple-put time into what needs time and don’t sweat the small stuff

5. Stay true to yourself-get creative and make the holiday your own

6. Remember what’s important-being together is the MOST important part of the holiday!  Everything else is just gravy : )

Winter Workouts

Hello Friends!

I have not forgotten you!  In fact, I started this post over a week ago and life has been so crazy that I never had the time to finish it and share it.  Today looked like it was going to be another day of madness.  Mondays are usually a tough day for me to get to work but even worse after a busy weekend.  I worked Saturday morning and taught two kids yoga classes.  This group is so sweet and so much fun! 

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Then we immediately jetted into the city to celebrate my younger brother’s 30th birthday.  We spent Saturday watching Illinois take a football victory and then drinking tons of prosecco into the night.  On Sunday, we met my family for brunch and pizza.

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Needless to say I was wiped when I got home and confused and depressed when my alarm went off early this morning.  But since I didn’t want to work Friday, I decided to work today.  It looked like it was going to be a rough start when I got stopped by not one, but TWO trains on my way to work.  But some icy snow and parent teacher conferences led to a bunch of last minute cancels, allowing me to be home by 6:30pm to eat dinner and watch Indiana Basketball with the BOY.

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So what have I been up to these past few weeks???

Lots of working and working out.  And in between?  Sleeping, reading, letting the BOY make dinner, and obviously not blogging : )

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Homemade pizza night (from Chef BOY)

When you live in a city like Chicago, your workouts change with the weather.  For the past few years, I’ve fallen into a cycle of spending the summers outdoors as a cardio queen, biking and running, and trying to get to a weekly hot yoga class.  Once the weather turns colder and the sun rises later, my outdoor morning runs turn into spin or strength classes at the gym.  My weekends consist of shorter (due to the cold weather) runs as able and strenuous hot yoga classes.  My motivation wanes a bit and it takes some extra incentive to get me out of the house and into the cold.

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Which is where friends come into the picture!  I met a friend last weekend at a forest preserve path in between our houses for a run through the snowy woods.  An hour of catching up on life is always a HUGE motivator for me.  In the mornings, I am back to speed workouts at the indoor track.

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Most recently, I gave this workout a go and was a big fan…

10 minute warm up

30 second sprint/90 second recovery x8

10 minute cool down

On top of running, I have been attending a weekly hot yoga class and a weekly strength class.  It’s early in the morning but I really like the people and every workout is unique and challenging.  Some morning I come home and some mornings its breakfast and a shower at the gym.

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The early morning wake ups (think pre 6am) are always an adjustment to all of us.  Even Cooper gets a bit out of whack.

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But despite the exhaustion, lack of sunshine, sore legs, and limited free time for fun stuff (like reading and writing blogs), I always feel really good when I am more active and building strength.  This week ahead is an exciting one, so I will hopefully have some new Thanksgiving recipes, fun family stories, and of course Cooper shenanigans to share when I return.  It won’t be so long this time, I promise!

 

Do your workouts change for winter?  What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

Lately I’ve Been (VI)…

Waking up early to go to the gym

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Watching the Bears finally win!

Drinking Napa wine

Buying new makeup

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Making Buffalo Chicken Chili for our annual chili party

Planning for Thanksgiving

Running in the snow

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Laughing at the Big Bang Theory

Studying for a professional test

Reading books in my kids yoga class

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Taking the BOY to Bonefish for his birthday dinner

Reading a great new book!

Meal planning

Taking Cooper selfies

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What have you been doing lately?

Taste > Perfection

Whoopie pies are a labor of love!

But when the BOY requested them for his birthday dessert this weekend, of course I said YES!

However…I cheated a little bit.  Instead of going to my favorite Whoopie Pie book, I went to the baking aisle and bought a cake mix.  A girl only has so many hours in a day and mine have been busy studying, cooking, and cuddling with my cat.  So I figured a few short cuts would be just fine.  The BOY wanted a chocolate peanut butter combo and thanks to Pinterest, I was able to find plenty of options.

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I chose a triple chocolate cake recipe.  In my haste, I totally overfilled my adorable little whoopie pie pans, but they tasted just the same.  Don’t worry, I checked!

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My next problem came when I tried to pipe the peanut butter frosting onto the cookies.  Unfortunately, I cut my bag all wrong allowing frosting to ooze out from all angles.  This led to a messier situation than I expected, and I was so covered with frosting that I couldn’t get any shots.

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There may have been more frosting on my counter than made it into my sandwiches.

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But despite my lack of precision, the pies turned out GREAT!  I put a few aside for the BOY to enjoy on his birthday (he ate 4 the first day) and froze the rest for future consumption.  Except that I did slice off just one tiny bite from the freezer section and discovered that they taste exactly like a peanut butter chocolate ice cream sandwich! 

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No joke!  They are addicting!

Consider yourself warned!

Do you make special desserts for birthdays?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

From The Pink Flour

Makes 16 sandwiches

For the Cake Cookies

1 chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 degrees for convection).

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat together the cake mix, eggs, water & vegetable for 2-3 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat (or invest in a whoopie pie pan). Scoop the batter on the baking sheet using a small ice cream scoop, approximately 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter.

Bake for 8 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute and then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

For the Filling

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (crunchy would work too!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar

In a stand mixer (or using hand mixer), beat together the cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth.

Add vanilla and powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) and beat until light a fluffy.

Fill pastry bag (or plastic bag) with frosting and snip end of the bag. Turn one cookie upside down and pipe frosting on to the cookie and then top with another cookie.

Store in airtight container or freeze!

Getting into the Pumpkin Spirit

I love pumpkin just as much as the next blogger and even though I’m a little late to the pumpkin game, I dove right into the spirit with a few orange recipes this week.

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To start, I made a pumpkin chili in the crockpot.  With talk of the first PV (polar vortex) of the season on the horizon, I knew that I would want some chili this week.  Last year, I made an awesome Pumpkin Quinoa Chili, so I was willing to give the combo another try.

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After I got everything in the crockpot, I busted out my food processor (I swear my kitchen does not have enough counter space or outlets to support all my toys).  I have been wanting to make some raw energy balls to bring into the office for an afternoon pick me up.

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Of course I went with the pumpkin ones.  Although my texture was a little off, the flavor of these balls was great!  I will have to try them again…

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You can check out this website for the full Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites Recipe.  If they turn out a little gooey, then I suggest freezing them. It worked like a charm!  Back to the chili…my pumpkin chili turned out thick and spicy!  I happen to love it, but it has a mushy texture.  So if you don’t like that kind of thing in your chili, then add in some extra beans or lentils.

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And although they look pretty funny, check out the Whoopie Pies I made for the BOY’s 33rd Birthday today!  He ate 4 of them!

Recipe to come…

 

Meal Planning 11/11/14

Monday: Chinese Leftovers

Tuesday: Crockpot Pork

Wednesday: Turkey Tacos

Thursday: Leftovers

 

What was the first pumpkin recipe you made this fall?

Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Adapted Slightly From Garnish with Lemon

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground turkey (lean)

2 – 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (drained lightly)

2 – 15 oz cans pumpkin puree

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

4 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons cumin

2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, chopped

Directions

In a large fry pan, cook onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add turkey and cook until meat is no longer pink.

Spray the bottom of a crockpot and add the turkey mixture.  Layer on the tomatoes, sauce, pumpkin, spices, and chipotle peppers.  Stir and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Serve with avocado, cheese, sour cream, chips or corn bread.

Five For Friday XXVII

1. I got a few new books this week that I have already started paging through.  I am having so much fun teaching the kids yoga classes and am always eager to learn new ideas, strategies, and poses.  Especially for the middle school kids where boosting self esteem and promoting independence is so important.

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2. Yesterday was a super exciting day as the BOY got sworn into the Illinois State Bar Association!  I took the day off work with my mom and his mom.  We were beyond proud to support him as he took his oath.

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3.  Afterwards, we all went out for Ramen.  The timing couldn’t have been better as I woke up with early signs of a cold and Miso is known for its health benefits.  Because the bowl is HUGE, I was thrilled to indulge in leftovers again today.

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4.  Then…we swung by the Buddy Foundation (which was Cooper’s home before we adopted him last year).  Each week, the BOY and I put spare change and money into a donation bucket and we decided that we wanted to donate this year’s money to this no kill animal shelter.  It is such a positive place and Cooper has become a huge part of our family.  The four of us played with kittens and despite their adorable smiles and sweet purrs, we managed to walk away without one.  We were, of course, more than thrilled to come home to our favorite feline : )

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5.  Wednesday night’s dinner was easy, tasty, and healthy so it is definitely worth sharing. You can find the full recipe HERE, but I created an even simpler version.  On a baking sheet, I placed the chicken, covered it with seasoning and cheese, baked it for 10 minutes.  Then, I added the lettuce, drizzled it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, baked it for 5 minutes and then sprinkled everything with a bit of sea salt.  Although it might have been a little better on the grill, it will be a close second when the grill gets closed up for the winter.

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What was the highlight of your week?  What’s on the agenda for this weekend?