Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

I don’t know if it’s the changing of the seasons, the leaves, the weather or all of the above that makes me want to bake everything and anything. The past couple weeks I’ve been scrolling through my recipes of seasonal breads and cookies (drooling) and I can’t choose. Do I make the pumpkin snicker-doodles or the pumpkin cinnamon rolls with caramel frosting? But then I make pumpkin-pull-apart every year and I can’t not make that this year! Oh, the decisions! And one thing I am not good at is making decisions. This creates a big problem when it comes to holiday baking. I make all the things! Actually, side note, this past week I was looking through baking notes from last Christmas (I mean, everybody does that, right?) and at the top, I wrote “Cut back next year!” So far, things aren’t looking good for me…

Well, out of all the pumpkin and fall-inspired recipes I have yet to make, I went with a classic stand-by — Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread. I think it’s one of the first bread recipes I ever made — way back in, ohh, 2008. I tell ya, it was years ago.

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26.2 Miles Worth of Thoughts

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What a weekend! As I write this, my legs are elevated with ice packs on them and I’m probably about to go get a snack soon (for about the tenth time today)…does it sound like I just ran a marathon?

Why, yes, you are correct. I completed my first marathon at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon yesterday and what a rush it was! Never have I run a race where there were spectators cheering along the entire course and where runners were surrounding me from start to finish. I guess it’s to be expected when there are 1.7 million spectators (I know!!) and 45 thousand runners. Start out big, I guess. It was also the last race of the season that I was training for — and I’m already thinking about what to do next.

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While I recover and relax (wine in hand), I thought I’d share with you some thoughts of mine…thoughts that I had while running. I don’t listen to music while I run, let alone during a race, so it gives me plenty of time to think. Several people have asked what I think about while I run, so I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my running mind — and, trust me, this is just a small portion of everything going through my head.

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(Crock-Pot) Fall Harvest Chicken & Barley Stew

Crock-Pot Fall Harvest Chicken & Barley Stew

Woah, talk about a weather change! Compared to last weekend, I think we’ve dropped about 40+ degrees in less than five days. Yep, that’s the Midwest for ya. For once, my plans coincided with the weather patterns—all my fall-outdoorsy adventures happened last weekend when it was so nice out and this past weekend I had full intentions of staying indoors, making use of the apples we picked last weekend.

I had this past Friday off from work, so I spent a brief part of my day dumping the ingredients of this Fall Harvest Chicken & Barley Stew into my Crock Pot and used the rest of my day canning homemade applesauce and making our biweekly batches of granola (let’s just say, our home spelled aaa-maaz-ing). In the eyes of a dietitian who loves to be in the kitchen, this was pretty much a perfect day.

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And the best part about finishing up a day in the kitchen? Having time to relax, put up my feet, and enjoy my first mug of something hot for the cold months upon us. It’s the small things in life. (Don’t mind the puzzle in the background of the picture below; a few weeks ago I had the strong desire to put together a puzzle…we’re still working on it—slowly).

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Homemade Rustic Apple Crisp

Homemade Rustic Apple Crisp

Who else loved the gorgeous weekend we just had?! And maybe got a little rosy in the face (and shoulders, and legs, and…) like me? No? Must be my fair skin qualities coming out.

If you’re livin’ in the Midwest, then it was the perfect time to get outside and enjoy some fall activities because it was EIGHTY degrees out! I love fall, but it’s just so unpredictable, isn’t it? I’m glad the weather decided to pretend it was the middle of August, because it was apple orchard time for us this weekend!

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I had Heather, a best friend from high school, come up to visit me for the weekend, which was so much fun! It’s always nice to see an “old” familiar face. Since she loves to bake and cook as much as I do, I knew that making my favorite Homemade Rustic Apple Crisp together would be a delicious way to use up some of our many (er, 20+ pounds) hand picked apples.

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Asian Quinoa Salad + Salads-in-a-Jar

Asian Quinoa Salad

Happy Fall, y’all! Even though the weather has been hinting at fall for a couple weeks now, it is now officially the first day of fall today. This past weekend I finally started seeing a lot more trees changing colors—an absolutely beautiful site in Madison. The changing of colors always bring back memories of my very first trip up to Madison two years ago, which was a perfect fall weekend. All the fall colors and the rolling hills were breathtaking to a girl who grew up in the flat plains of Iowa. I almost didn’t want to leave on that very first weekend…er, maybe that was partly because of something (or someone) else. ;)

Let’s just say, I’m so glad I’m back in Madison—both to see the changing colors and to be with that “somebody else.”

Now let’s cut to the chase because this is a recipe I’m this excited for! Seriously, you guys, I know today’s recipe is a salad (I’m sorry, I know you all love ‘em, but I can’t post desserts all the time) and it uses that “health food” known as quinoa, but this is so good! The flavors, the textures, the colors…gah, I just can’t get over it all.

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Homemade PayDay Bars

Homemade PayDay Bars

Hello again!

I’m going to pretend like we’re just getting through the weekend (and not already starting the second workday of the week) and ask how everybody’s weekend was.

I spent the weekend in Minneapolis, reunited with my two best friends from college and it was just what you’d expect when three close girlfriends get together—an awesome time…with lots of chatting. Since we all live 4+ hours away from each other now, we’re starting somewhat quarterly visits with each other. Our last visit this past spring was in NE Iowa, and this time we headed up North. We talked and laughed so hard I knew I was getting a good, solid ab workout in, we ate amazing food (sorry, no pictures, but just trust me on this one), and even had an afternoon photo shoot to help Sarah and Alex practice their talented and developing photography skills. I enjoyed being the one just standing and smiling…new pictures up on my Facebook page and on my About Kara page!

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Don’t I have such talented friends? Yeah, I thought so, too. :)

This weekend was much needed after the week I had last week. Busy, busy, busy! I barely had time to grocery shop—and for those of you who know me at all, that’s just plain ridiculous. ;)

Even though I felt like my days and evenings were blurring past me all too quickly last week, I wanted to make sure I made something for Philip to take to our church’s 5 year anniversary picnic celebration on Sunday. I knew it had to be fast and simple for me, yet still appealing for the picnic.

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That’s when I thought of Homemade PayDay Bars. Well, and the fact that I had an almost entire bag of leftover marshmallows from our one evening of having s’mores during our anniversary week helped sway my decision in the direction of PayDay Bars. Oh, and because one of Philip’s favorite candy bars is PayDay also helped my decision…but mostly it’s because I could make these bars in under a half hour.

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Buttermilk Whole Wheat Waffles

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Waffles

Who doesn’t like “Breakfast for Dinner”? For some reason, just the name of the title makes it sound like some special event and I get giddy simply writing it on our menu board for the week. Plus, having juice and maple syrup for dinner makes it seem like a treat.

Anyone?

Okay, maybe it’s just me.

I never grew up having “warm breakfasts” very often—except for my mom’s amazing homemade cinnamon rolls warmed up or some fresh-from-the-oven muffins (apparently, we tended to lean more towards the sweeter side of things for breakfast). To be honest, I don’t think I ever really wanted warm breakfasts; I was perfectly content having my cereal. But having a warm breakfast for dinner? Now that was a different story entirely. I never got too thrilled when my mom made scrambled eggs and toast for dinner, but when she pulled out her old waffle iron from the waaay back of a bottom cupboard (these dinners were far and few between), I knew it was going to be a good meal.

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I don’t remember what recipe my mom used or if it was out of the box, but I love pulling out my own waffle maker now (I insisted to Philip that we put that on our wedding registry) and using my own go-to waffle recipe. I seriously haven’t found one any better than my Buttermilk Whole Wheat Waffles that I adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen.

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Homemade Beefaroni

Homemade Beefaroni

Hello again! I hope you all had a great Labor Day and were able to spend time not…laboring? We’ll go with it. :)

Philip and I had a very low key weekend with no set plans, which was so nice! Things got done, relaxation happened, and I still wasn’t ready to go to work this morning. Sigh. Nevertheless, we had a great time spending quality time together and I even got a little bit of baking in, which seems to happen far less than I’d like it to these days.

But now that it’s back to the normal grind of work, it seems like life instantly picks itself right up again and awaaaaay we go! Life is such a ride, isn’t it?

What I mean is, although I plan out my meals on a weekly basis (I still have hopes to write about this in one of my upcoming posts), I always consider and plan in the fact that, more than likely, I have about 30 minutes to prep a meal after coming home from work before I feel the “hangry” side of me taking over. You know, becoming very unpleasant angry because of your hunger. Please tell me I’m not the only one who gets like this.

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Being the foodie that I am, if I could, I would gladly spend hours preparing an elaborate meal that includes several involved steps, one of which would be a half hour alone of chopping and dicing ingredients, and uses every bowl and utensil in the kitchen (as long as Philip is doing dishes). Not to mention, the table would be set with freshly made bread with homemade jam and a salad full of produce, picked just that morning from our garden.

That’s not real life. Sure, I plan out (and look forward to) “more involved” meals when I have the day off or it’s the weekend, but on week nights, meals that are fast yet still nutritious, fresh, and homemade is what’s on my menu plan. Recently, Homemade Beefaroni made it to our midweek menu that fit just that description.

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Protein-Packed Energy Bites

Protein-Packed Energy Bites

Raise your hand if you’re ready for this crazy weather to calm.down. Both hands flailing wildly in the air…ahem.

If you live around the Midwest, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, well, for the past 5+ days it’s been a full blown sauna outside…wet, heavy with humidity, and hot. Walking outside, I instantly feel my hair get 10x bigger and it feels like I’m breathing in a lake. Fortunately, I work in a super air-conditioned building and only have to experience this extreme weather for about 20 minutes each day…but still. #firstworldproblems

Before this extreme weather, I was lingering on to any bit of summer left that I could. I was dodging back-to-school talk as much as possible (which is pretty tough considering my work is talking nothing but back-to-school) and holding on to watermelon, grilling, and lazy summer days as much as possible.

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But now…now I’m ready for fall. I’m accepting the fact that school is here for most people already and everybody’s thoughts are already geared towards apple and pumpkin picking (okay, I admit, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, too), and most of all, I’m accepting the fact hoping that cool weather will be here soon.

One recipe that always makes me think “back-to-school” are Protein-Packed Energy Bites. There are so many variations of this simple creation—all of which are probably delicious—but I’ve been making variations of this one for years.

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What I’ve Learned in a Year + Anniversary Week Celebration

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Wow, thanks for all the well wishes and congratulations last weekend for our one year wedding anniversary! It was a wonderful day and I was so excited to be able to share our special story with you guys! The response was beyond what I was expecting. I have to admit, I’ve been rereading the story I posted last week a couple several times this past week just because I love reliving the moments. It makes me smile every time!

How did we celebrate you ask? Like they say, “go big or go home,” right?! We made it into a whole anniversary week! We both had vacation time, so we chose to spend it just enjoying each other’s company and celebrating the year we’ve had together with a stay-cation (for the most part). It was perfect. Just imagine it as having a lazy Saturday at home for seven. days. straight. Glorious, I tell ya! We were productive, yet still had time to relax and go do fun “outings.” Here’s a recap of our anniversary (week):

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