Five for Friday XXVIII

1.  It was wonderful having a nice long weekend after Thanksgiving to catch up on sleep, family time, household stuff, and studying.  Imagine my surprise when I picked up a bug of sorts and bee lined home at lunch on Tuesday with an upset stomach.  Boo!  Thankfully, I had a loving nurse to nap with me.

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2. Good thing, I was feeing better by Thursday night to go to the BEARS game!  Although the Bears played…well, like the Bears.  I still had a great time with my brother.

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3. It was all fun and games until I couldn’t find a taxi after the game and had to SPRINT like I was running the Chicago Marathon to the train station.  I would have missed the train, but it was running late.  I arrived in a heap of sweatiness but was so happy I didn’t have to wait another two hours until the 12:40am train!  Perhaps I shouldn’t have stopped to take this selfie : )

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4.  On the way downtown, I tail gated with tea and a turkey sandwich while I finished the book I’ve been reading (and loving) called What Alice Forgot.  It is about a woman who wakes up missing 10 years of memories and in a completely different place in her life than she expected.  It is well written and definitely gets you thinking.

 

5.  To wrap up the week, the BOY and I had Friday night date night of Thai food and Prosecco.  Happy Friday to All!

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Tell me about your week…what’s new and fabulous?

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Autumn Chopped Salad

It was an interesting week here as we moved from 80 degree summer weather straight to talks of snow.  Ugh!  I was home sick on Thursday with a stomach bug and spent much of the day like this…

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Except for when I was drinking ginger ale and eating soup. Cooper didn’t seem to mind and was more than happy to soak up the extra love and attention.  Friday it was back to work and then straight home for Friday night services.  The BOY and I spent Saturday together with his family celebrating the end of the high holidays.  I slept a good 10 hours Friday night and the BOY and I took a 90 minute nap on Saturday.  The extra sleep helped and I felt better each day.  I woke up this morning ready for Sunday Funday with our friends.

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One thing is for sure, autumn is in the air!  When I offered to bring a salad to our friends house, I searched Pinterest for some fall salad inspiration.  I came across a few simple recipes, which always remind me how easy it is to throw together a unique and tasty salad.  I decided on one and since I was going to the grocery store, I had my entire week long meal plan and grocery list figured out before 9am.

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When I returned from the store, I got to chopping…

All of the fruits for this gorgeous salad and veggies for Buffalo Turkey Chili.  Which went into the crockpot for tonight’s dinner!

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The Bear’s game ended in a bad last minute loss, but our lunch complete with this salad was fantastic!  I shared the leftovers with my friend for her lunch tomorrow and I have plenty of ingredients left to make another salad later in the week.  It was a super Sunday Funday catching up with our friends, talking wedding and reading stories to their adorable 1 year old daughter.  Better luck next week Bears…

What is your favorite fall salad?

Autumn Chopped Salad

Adapted Slightly From Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 pear, chopped
1 apple, chopped
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup Poppy Seed Salad Dressing (or more or less)
2 Tablespoons (fig) balsamic vinegar (or more or less)

Directions

Add romaine lettuce, pear, apple, almonds, dried cranberries, and feta cheese into a very large bowl, then add salad dressing and balsamic vinegar to taste. Toss well then serve immediately.

Bye Bye Bears and Brownies

It was a sad Sunday watching the Giant’s and Bears win their games, being forced to cheer for Green Bay, and then the Bear’s didn’t make it to the playoffs.  The saddest part, no more Sunday Funday.  I mean, yes there is still football on Sundays but with my #1 and #2 teams out, I’m not as interested.

 

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Good thing we have Indiana Basketball to keep us busy : )  I recently found this picture and thought it was really funny (and not only because of this awesome sweatband)!  It was taken in NY and I’m rocking my first Bear’s gear!

 

From Football –> To Brownies

 

I’m sure you noticed these mouth watering brownies on my December 31st postWhen I was in Florida, my aunt and I sat down to read through some of hers and my grandmother’s old recipes. 

 

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It was so special to spend this time with my aunt browsing through the huge pile of cookies, cakes, casseroles, noodle puddings, and cheesecakes and learning more about her (and my Dad’s) mother.  One thing I learned…my Grandma LOVED her chocolate!   When my Mom and I did our holiday baking in my kitchen, we filled the day kitchen tales from her mother too. 

 

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One of the recipes my grandma used to make that my aunt often makes now is brownies.  So when the BOY requested brownies for our NYE dessert, I was excited to make this recipe for the first time.

 

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The recipe calls for a 13×9 pan, but I knew that many brownies would be dangerous, so I halved the recipe and used a smaller pan.  This is still too many brownies for 2 people, but we are always happy to share!

 

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Per the BOY’s request, I didn’t add any nuts or chips, so these brownies are super fudgy with a nice, smooth texture.  And, they pack plenty of rich, chocolaty taste.

 

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But I just couldn’t resist a little flair…I’m sure you’re not surprised : )

 

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So I drizzled some white chocolate across the top of the cooled brownies. 

 

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It took some serious willpower not to dig right in and try these brownies immediately.  But we had the most amazing dinner ahead of us, so we were able to wait.

 

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Grandma’s Brownies

Adapted from BAKER’S One Bowl Brownies

 

Ingredients

 

4 oz. BAKER’S Unsweetened Chocolate

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

Optional: 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts, chocolate chips, etc

 

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

Spray a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Blend sugar with the eggs and vanilla. Stir into chocolate mixture.  Add flour and nuts (if using); mix well. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool completely before cutting to serve.

Note: If you like a thicker brownie, I would recommend following the recipe as written but using a smaller (9×9 or 8×8) pan.  If you want a less fudgy brownie (I’m not sure why you would), use only 3 eggs.

 

 

Aunt T…Did I miss anything???

Forth Annual Bear’s Chili Party

Bears vs Green Bay = Big Game

Throw in a Hanukkah Party…it’s an even bigger deal

And make it our 4th Annual Bears Chili Potluck…Now, you’ve got yourself one fun Sunday Afternoon!

 

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2011 Bears Chili Potluck

Old Picture…Same Great Crowd!

 

I was in charge of dessert, and I knew exactly what I wanted to make!

 

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This recipe was given to me by a close friend, who at the time didn’t know I was a blogger, but did know that this would be right up my alley.  It was right around the time I was living on Cake Batter Fudge, and I have been looking for an excuse to make it.  This years Annual Chili Party sounded like the perfect event.

 

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Every year, we have more than enough food and fun to go around.  It’s amazing I even had room for anything this afternoon after all of my taste tests : )

 

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We had an amazing spread of appetizers, cornbread, salad, chili, and mac and cheese (and that was just during the first quarter).

 

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Rumor has it…when the Bear’s are losing, calories don’t count.

 

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I sure hope so!

 

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As the game continued into the forth quarter looking ever more bleak, everyone made their way to the dessert table to sweeten up the afternoon.  So sad to think just 6 weeks ago, the Bears were looking SO good!

 

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At least all of our desserts were SO good!

 

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I was also in charge of bringing an appetizer.  After much thought, I decided to on some simple and healthy hummus.  I made one batch of Garlic Hummus, and planned to serve them with the Trader Joe’s Falafel Chips and some cut up veggies.  Except, that I forgot the chips.  Bummer!

 

 

Mint Chocolate Dessert Ball

Recipe adapted from Taste and Tell 

Idea given by my friend

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

2 cups triple chocolate cake mix, dry

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1 cup Andes Crème de Menthe Baking Chips

Assorted cookies and crackers

 

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in the cake mix, the brown sugar and the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap up into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Put the mint baking chips on a plate. Remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator and unwrap. Roll in the mint chips. Place on a serving plate and surround with cookies, animal, or graham crackers.

 

*Note: You can make the cheese ball a day ahead and then roll in mint chips and refrigerate before serving.

Cheating on Chili and I Owe You a Plank

So I owe you all a plank!  I didn’t forget about the plank challenge but I was so tired after Saturday’s race that I wanted to rest a day in order to give this 4 minute plank a fighting chance. 

 

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My longest plank to date was 3:45 and it was brutally tough…everything hurt.  I knew there was no way I’d make it to 4 minutes with a tired body.  I wasn’t even sure if I could do it with a totally fresh body, but knew I needed to try.  So after dropping by aunt off at the airport this morning (so sad to see her go, but super excited to see her again in 3 weeks!), I came home for my last plank trial.

 

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And…success!  Somehow, I just did a 4 minute plank. I think that day off of really helped!  And now I can call that my exercise for the day as I am off to get my full body massage and don’t plan on moving much after that : )

 

Yesterday, I tried to convince the BOY to go to the grocery store with me.  He was having none of it, and didn’t have much to add to this week’s meal planning.  When he headed off to the library, I took some time to flip through cookbooks, blogs, and my recipe binder to come up with some new ideas.  It’s no surprise that we make chili, like every fall weekend.  I was thinking it would be fun to try something different but just as warm and comforting.  I decided on Chicken Tortilla Soup, which is so thick and hearty it is a meal on its own.  This recipe had so many amazing spices that I knew it had to be awesome!

 

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I have been having some chicken issues lately.  I spoiled myself all summer by buying my chicken at Costco.  I spent a little more than at the grocery, but the quality was well worth it.  Recently, I haven’t been making it to Costco as often.  I picked up chicken at a local grocery store last week for my Chicken Parmesan and the BOY and I both noticed a difference.  For today’s soup, I purchased an organic brand at a different supermarket.  I liked it, but it just doesn’t compare to Costco.  Does this happen to anyone else?

 

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Luckily, the vegetables in this soup are so fresh and delicious that the chicken is just a compliment.  Another easy compliment is home made tortilla strips.  You can buy corn tortillas for about 30 cents, and they are the perfect final touch to your meal.

 

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I had some issues with lighting last night, so I’m not sure that the photos will do this soup any justice.

 

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The BOY made a 3 layer bowl, complete with cheese, sour cream, scallions, and topped with tortilla strips.  He was moving so quickly, it was tough to get a clean shot!

 

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I poured myself a huge bowl for dinner to settle in and watch the Bear’s game.  In case you are concerned with my timing, we DVRed the noon game so the BOY could go to the library and watched it Sunday night.

 

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It was a super exciting game, but nothing compared to this incredible soup!

 

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I really enjoyed this recipe and wouldn’t change a thing EXCEPT, I might attempt to make it in the crockpot.  It would have been a little easier to shred up the chicken and taken less time in the kitchen.  I’m definitely adding Chicken Tortilla Soup into our weekend chili rotation.  This recipe earned a spot on the team!  Can you tell I’m in a good sporty mood after the Bear’s victory?!

 

Last week was so short (I worked a day and a half) so this week feels really long.  Here is a tentative plan for the week’s meals (although I stress the word tentative because I thin it’s already changed 3 times…ha ha!)

 

Sunday Night: Chicken Tortilla Soup (see recipe below)

For a similar vegetarian soup, I recommend this Taco Soup.

 

Monday Night: Coconut Shrimp

 

Tuesday Night: Leftovers

 

Wednesday Night: Chicken Marsala

 

Thursday Night: Pork Tenderloin

 

Friday Night: Surprise!  Which basically means it’s a game time decision : )

 

 

So I almost didn’t have room for last night’s dinner of Chicken Tortilla Soup because I totally chowed down on Maple Banana Bread.  This might be one of the tastiest versions of banana bread that I have made in awhile.  The maple syrup adds the perfect amount of sweetness and flavor and the texture is divine.  I highly recommend trying this recipe.  It will make for wonderful holiday gifts!  And this morning, I turned it into French toast.  All I can say is…Yum!

 

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

From Bake Your Day

 

Ingredients

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. paprika

1 Tbs. olive oil, divided

1 large red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1 lime, juiced and zested

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (10-ounce) can green chiles

1 (14.5) ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup fresh corn

1Tbs. tomato paste

32 ounces low-sodium chicken stock

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, kosher salt, oregano and paprika. Brush both sides of each chicken breast with a light coating of olive oil. Sprinkle a small amount of the spice mixture onto both sides of each chicken breast and transfer to a non-stick baking sheet. Roast the chicken in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through. Allow the chicken to cool for about 10 minutes, and then shred.

While the chicken cooks, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic, along with a pinch of salt, and saute for 3-4 minutes until the onions are very fragrant and they begin to soften. Add the bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, lime juice and cilantro and stir well. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until the peppers begin to soften. Add the remaining spice mixture, black beans, green chiles, diced tomatoes and the corn and stir well. Cook for about 6 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.

Slowly stir in the chicken stock and add the cooked & shredded chicken and bring the soup to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Another 11 Hours

Somehow I actually slept another 11 hours last night.  I couldn’t tell you the last time that I slept 22 hours in 2 nights (not including the almost 2 hour nap I took yesterday)!  I guess my body knows what it needs and the answer is SLEEP!  I wish it were an 11 mile pace run, but sadly, NO : (

 

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Since I woke up at 9:30, there was no way I was making it to 10am yoga and the thought of downdog had my sinuses aching.  I had leftovers for breakfast and a few hours before the start of BEARS game.  Although spending one’s weekend in a medicated haze (I love you Musinex cough syrup), isn’t ideal, I decided to use it my advantage, getting things done in the house that I have been wanting to and needing to do, ie laundry, blogging, and paying bills, all from the comfort of my couch (dressed in my BEARS shirt, of course).

 

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I also had this huge bag of apples that I have been meaning to introduce to my crockpot and haven’t had the time.

 

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make applesauce or apple butter, but decided on this recipe for Naked Apple Butter from Oh She Glows!

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I was thrilled to find out that I could leave the skin on the apples (who wants to peal that many apples?) and even happier to hear that it added nutrients.  So, I washed my hands REALLY good and got to work on chopping apples.

 

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Thank goodness for this apple slicer and the awesome new cutting board from my Mom.

 

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I didn’t weigh the apples, but there were enough to almost fill the crockpot.  You can add some apple juice or cider to prevent sticking, but I just sprayed the pot with cooking spray really well.

 

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I set the crockpot on high for 4 hours and stirred every hour.  I needed the break from the BEARS game after watching Cutler hit the ground for the 400th time, so the stirring was a welcome interruption.

 

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The most wonderful thing about this recipe is the baked apple smell circulating throughout our house!  It’s even better than a fall candle!

 

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Around half time, lunch (Chinese food) was delivered.  I ordered soup, which definitely hit the spot!

 

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Another disappointing BEARS quarter later and my apples were soft and fragrant.  Perfect to mash up into applesauce with a wooden spoon.

 

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I have never had homemade applesauce before, so I couldn’t proceed without sampling a small bowl.  OMG!!!  It was incredible!  I’m not sure how I have never made crockpot applesauce before! 

 

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I loved the plain apples with just a sprinkle of cinnamon, but I see endless possibilities for a fruit cobbler or Thanksgiving Day side! 

 

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While the apple mixture cooled, the BEARS came back creating an exciting and nail biting 4th quarter…ending in A WIN!!!  I can’t believe they pulled that off…WOW! 

 

I debated using my hand mixture to smooth out the applesauce, but in the end went with my food processor. 

 

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I processed the apples for a few minutes…

 

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And had a magnificent applesauce.

 

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So it was another few minutes in the processor until I had a thicker butter like sauce.

 

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Which went right back into the crockpot for another hour.

 

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During this time, I got myself outside for a stroll.  The fresh air felt great!  It was a gorgeous fall day and would have been perfect for an end season bike ride!  I walked in the door just in time to add some apple pie spice to my apple butter.

 

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I used a little more than 1 tsp in my entire batch.  These apples (I think they were Gala) were sweet enough that I didn’t need any extra sweeteners.

 

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I love cherry, pumpkin, apple, fig and sweet potato butters, and my first batch of homemade apple butter was a HUGE success!

 

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It’s a good thing I hang on to all my old jelly/jam jars!  I plan on giving a few of these out as fun fall gifts.

 

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I think that I am better today than yesterday and because I don’t like to be sick, I am planning on being EVEN better tomorrow. Thanks everyone for your kind get well wishes! Feeling crumby is a bummer! The only good thing about being sick was spending 48 straight hours with the BOY and catching up on DVRed shows and magazines! 

 

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And of course making this amazing sugar-free apple butter!  I can’t wait to smother it all over my oatmeal!

 

 

Slow Cooker Naked Apple Butter

From Oh She Glows!


Ingredients
(varies)

Apples, an equal mixture of sweet and tart apples (I used Gala, I think)

Ground cinnamon or other spices like nutmeg, ground cloves, etc, to taste

tiny bit of fresh lemon juice, to taste (helps to preserve), optional (I didn’t use)

 

Instructions

1. Slice apples. There is no need to peel the apples. In fact, your apple butter is much healthier with the peel left on. Tip: If you have an apple slicer, now is the time to use it. I love my OXO apple slicer. Add apple slices to slow cooker.

2. Set slow cooker on HIGH for 4 hours, covered with lid. During those 4 hours, give it a few stirs as the apples tend to stick to the bottom a bit. You can add some apple juice or cider to prevent sticking. If you’d rather cook it longer on a lower heat, you can do that too.

3. Mash apples and turn off heat. After 4 hours, most of the apples are soft enough to mash up with a wooden spoon or potato masher. After mashing, we now have applesauce (with the peel of course)!

4. Cool slightly and scoop into high-speed blender. With a big ladle, scoop the apple mixture into a blender. If you have a small blender you may have to do this in a few batches. Make sure lid is secured tightly.

5. Blend the mixture. Start on a low setting and go faster until you reach max speed. You may need to let some steam escape through the top hole if there is one. Puree mixture until super smooth and buttery. If it’s still chunky, keep blending.

6. Pour the apple butter back into the slow cooker. Turn heat on HIGH and cook down, uncovered, for another 45-90 minutes until it’s as thick as you desire. After 45 mins, I was left with 5 cups and the consistency was very similar to my pumpkin butter. Keep in mind it will thicken slightly once chilled overnight. (I kept mine in for about an hour).

7. When ready, add cinnamon to taste (or other spices if desired) and a very small amount of lemon juice if desired.

8. Cool completely and store in an air-tight jar for up to 1 month in the fridge. Or you can try canning as well.

Monday Night Football

Insert theme song here…

(if I were more tech savvy then I would have actually inserted the Monday Night Football theme song HERE)

 

Sadly, it took me this long to have some time to share my Monday Night Football pictures, but I’m happy that ya’ll enjoyed seeing the pictures of the Highwood Pumpkin Fest.

 

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Driving into the city during rush hour, which I swear begins earlier and earlier each year, typically isn’t fun.  But when you are rocking out to the new PINK CD, which BTW is awesome even though I’m not a huge PINK fan…check out her folky duet (number 4) and surrounded BEARS fans (yes this was a bus of them although you can’t see their jerseys in the picture) it is much more tolerable.  I made it to my brother’s house where we had a fantastic homemade dinner before hopping on the red line.  We walked about a mile to the stadium surrounded by fellow fans cloaked in blue and orange, most of which were also admiring this stunning BEARS inspired skyline.

 

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The weather was unseasonably warm (like 70 degrees!) and luckily we missed the majority of the rain.  The stadium’s energy was radiating, and I was SO EXCITED to be there!

 

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We made our way to our seats, which are covered (great for a rainy night) and have an amazing view of the field!

 

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I convinced some Lions fans to snap a photo of my brother and I before the game while they were still friendly : )

 

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The stadium was packed and the crowd was on its feet to cheer the BEARS onto the field!

 

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The BEARS put on an impressive showing, which is always exciting for us fans here in Chicago.

 

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You know I love watching the BEARS game from my house, but it was even better getting to cheer on these guys in person.

Thanks Dad!!!

 

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It was a late night, but totally worth it.  Especially because I got to wear my new BEARS hat.  So much different than my last experience at Soldier Field…ha ha!

 

 

Are you a college or NFL football fan?

Do you like to go to the games?

 

I made it to 2 games last year and fingers crossed, I’ll get to go again this season!