Cherry-Apple Strudel with Cider Glaze

Cherry-Apple Strudel with Cider Glaze

Welcome to another work week, friends! After a restful two days off from work, I’m feeling pretty good about today! It may also have helped that I had this Cherry-Apple Strudel with Cider Glaze to wake up to this morning. Mmm…So. good. I’ll get to it in a second (because there is seriously so much to rave about with this wonderful, little breakfast treat), but first let me fill you in on my weekend adventures…


The weather has been too nice around here lately not to take advantage of it — mostly because I know what’s coming and I’m not looking forward to it. So, Philip and I made last minute plans to visit Devil’s Lake State Park outside of Baraboo, Wisconsin. It’s a popular place for camping, hiking, picnics, and more. Several people had the same idea as we did, because it was a happening place!


Even though the leaves hadn’t completely changed colors yet, it was still beautiful to see all the foliage and to witness the start of the changing seasons. Gosh, I love fall.


After a busy few weeks for the both of us with work, it was so nice to spend the entire day hiking, taking pictures, enjoying a packed lunch by the lake, and just enjoying being with each other. All in all, it was a great day. I’m so glad I finally was able to see this place I hear about all the time! I’m already looking forward to when I can go back.


Sunday was a much more low-key day, but a very delicious day because it involved making this bakery-worthy strudel. I originally planned on sharing a different recipe with you today, but one bite of this cherry-apple strudel with the cider glaze and I knew I couldn’t wait to share it with you. I was practically giddy with how well it turned out. Last night Philip even asked if he could have another piece. While I was flattered he wanted more, I was slightly concerned he felt the need to ask me permission. Problems of a dietitian’s husband, I guess…


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Spaghetti alla Melanzane

Spaghetti alla Melanzane

The fall spirit is still going strong around here! The weather, once again, was gorgeous this weekend, so I hightailed it out of work on Saturday and made it just in time to spend the late afternoon apple picking at one of the many orchards in the Madison area.


We walked away with far more apples than we probably needed, but we couldn’t not fill up the whole bag! Yesterday we spent time in the kitchen together making and canning enough applesauce to last us a year…no, I’m serious, it’ll most likely last us until next summer.


We also picked up some pumpkins this weekend and glanced at all the gourds and winter squash at the apple orchard. Thanks to our garden this summer, we bypassed the winter squash. While our community garden plot was a little highly neglected this summer, we were still able to come away with a bunch of delicious produce, including a few spaghetti squash. Yay!


While I have nothing against pasta (whole grain is what I usually choose), spaghetti squash is so fun and is a great way to get some added vegetables onto your plate without even really realizing it. If you’re not familiar with spaghetti squash, it’s a winter squash that looks like spaghetti noodles when it’s cooked. Just running a fork through it creates lots of tiny spaghetti-like strands. Not only is it loaded with fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants, it’s also extremely low in calories (40 calories for a cup!). Spaghetti squash for the win!

Since I had small little spaghetti squash from our garden sitting on our kitchen counter, I decided to make a twist on spaghetti — Spaghetti alla Melanzane in a spaghetti squash boat. Isn’t it adorable?


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Smoked Sausage & Kale Alfredo

Smoked Sausage & Kale Alfredo

I’m starting to embrace fall and everything it has to offer. I have decided I’m fully ready to put away my shorts and summer tops and bring out the cozy sweaters (let’s be real, my sweats are what’re really calling my name). Of course, it helps that the weather has been gorgeous, the sun shining, and I’m not yet hustling to and from my car due to the sharp chill in the air. Nevertheless, fall is at its finest here in the Midwest.

In fact, on my day off this week, for some reason I woke up with this great need and desire to make my life surrounded with all things fall. So, our house has been switched for the seasons with fall colors, pinecones, and fall leaves positioned decoratively throughout…never mind the trees with green leaves still prospering and doing well outside…

Fall Decor

Naturally, no fall is complete without the smell of pumpkin in the air, so to top it all off, I made up a few mini loaves of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread from Erin at Well Plated (amazing!) to send off to our new neighbors. If I enjoyed PSLs, I’m sure one of those would be in my hand as well.


The one thing I really love about the change of seasons, though? The change in food! Fall, to me, is when comfort food starts coming out, pots of hearty soup are simmering on the stove again, and all things pumpkin and apple abound. This Smoked Sausage & Kale Alfredo is right up there with the best comfort food. It’s creamy, rich, and warms you right up — both from its warmth and the little bit of kick it has.


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The Value of Family Meals: It’s More than Just Nutrition

Family Meals It's More Than Just Nutrition

Happy Labor Day, everyone! I hope you’ve been able to relax, stay cool, and enjoy this long weekend! I’m doing my best to stay inside due to the fact that every time I step outside, it makes me feel like an extra 10 pounds is weighing on me. The Midwest is great, but its humidity is not my friend. At least this weather is making me that much more eager for the leaves to start changing and for sweatshirts to begin making an appearance.

The unpredictable Midwest weather aside, my long weekend has been full of family, friends, and relaxation. Just what I needed! Philip and I headed down to Peoria, Illinois, to see family and friends. We snuck away for a little bit to relive when we first met three years ago. A little bit of me feels like three years isn’t that long at all, while another part of me is screaming, how has it been THREE years?!? I just met this man that happens to also be my husband. :)


Three years ago, Philip made the trip down from Madison to Peoria to meet me on Labor Day for a picnic (picnic basket and all) on Grandview Drive, a beautiful and scenic drive overlooking the Illinois River. Our picnic turned into us talking for about 6 hours until we realized the sun was starting to set and we had better call it a day. Little did we know that that was only the beginning… :)

We made a trip back to Grandview Drive this past Saturday to enjoy another picnic together. While the picnic didn’t last 6 hours like the last one (re: it was really hot out), it was still just as special and fun to try to remember what exactly we talked about during our first picnic together.


Back in Madison, I’m soaking in the last hours of my long weekend, as I’m sure most of you are. With school just having started this past week, I’m guessing parents are taking a deep breath this weekend before the real craziness of fall activities begin. Recently, I wrote an article for a local paper and thought it’d be worth sharing part of it on my blog for all the families (big or small) who are already wondering how they’re going to get everything done this school year…including family meals. Enjoy!

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Landscaping Project + Sprouted Whole Grain & Oatmeal Bread

Sprouted Whole Grain & Oatmeal Bread

With so many things going on the past couple weeks, what with our vacation and anniversary, I haven’t been able to share with you another exciting thing that took place at the start of my vacation — our home landscaping project for 2015 (yes, there will most likely be a landscaping project every year for the next couple years at least)!


But this year was the inaugural year, so we were fortunate enough to have the experts come in to help us, er, Philip’s parents. They’ve had far, far more experience with landscaping than either Philip or I have combined, so they shared their knowledge this time around in order to equip us for the many years of landscaping projects ahead of us. Thank you, Mom & Dad! :)


So, what did we do, you’re asking? Um, well, let’s just say we were ambitious. I felt like we did it all.


If you’re new here, we bought our house in December and while Philip has done an amazing job making our grass look nice and green this summer, spending hours on it each week, we still weren’t happy with the rocks or the plants surrounding the house. I don’t necessarily mind living in a suburban, cookie cutter neighborhood, but our yard is the one area where we can make it a little more unique — a little more us, if you will — rather than having the contractor’s typical shrubs and bushes in place.


All that to say, we started out by removing all the rock in the front and sides of the house. Easier said than done. We ended up with a big pile of free rock for our neighbors to fight over (okay, no fights actually ensued) and another big pile of mulch to replace the said rock.


With the rock and old bushes taken out, the fun part of deciding where to put the new flowers and grasses began. Philip’s parents have a keen eye for plants and landscaping, so they took care of the hard part of deciding what plants to buy and brought them all up from the family business, Hoerr Nursery & Garden Center, in Peoria, Illinois.

Demo collage

Knowledge was passed down from father to son when Philip learned how to lay mortar and brick for the new edging. He’s all set for the rest of the house we still have left to do! ;)


Our pile of mulch was eventually spread out over the finished space and plenty of water was given to hydrate our new plants. Project completed! Of course, that was a highly abbreviated version of a full 2-day project, but we’re so happy with how it all turned out. It gave our house a totally new and fresh look. Just what we were looking for!

Before & After

Landscaping is no cake-walk, that’s for sure. Everybody worked up an appetite and that’s one area I had covered. :) To keep our energy from waning, I had energy bites and cookies at the ready and this Sprouted Whole Grain & Oatmeal Bread to give us the energy we needed for the day.


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Anniversary Week Recap + Asian Mango Chicken Slaw with Lime Vinaigrette

Asian Mango Chicken Slaw

I’m baaa-aaack! From an awesome vacation that is. Philip and I turned our second anniversary into an anniversary week celebration. I’ve never been one to celebrate my birthday week, but I am definitely loving this tradition we’re forming of celebrating our anniversary for a week. I’m going to run with this tradition as long as I can!


While our actual anniversary day was pretty low-key (although still made very special: We admired the sunset over Lake Mendota in Madison on a blanket while listening to our wedding ceremony — another tradition that always makes us smile), the rest of the week just kept getting better and better.

On Wednesday of our anniversary week, we toured one of the oldest and finest wineries in Wisconsin — Wollersheim Winery. It’s located on a beautiful hillside outside Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, dating back to 1840.


The tour satisfied our interest in all things history and we even saw a glimpse of the owner and winemaker, Philippe Coquard, who does a fantastic job keeping up a well maintained winery…and not to mention, developing excellent wine! My new realization of the art and science behind wine-making made me appreciate our wine that much more. :)


After the tour, we took advantage of the beautiful day and sipped on wine overlooking the winery. Talk about relaxing!


The following day, we sought out more relaxation time (and beautiful weather) to finish out our anniversary week by flying to Coronado, the island off of San Diego and home to the Hotel Del Coronado (a beautiful Victorian resort built in 1887 — one of the oldest wooden structures in the U.S.) and the Naval Base Coronado. Talk about beautiful! Sunny and mid-70’s temperature the whole time we were there. I could’ve gotten used to that. *sigh*


Coronado is a city full of activity with runners, bikers, and surfers around you all day long. We were fortunate enough to stay right next to the ocean with a gorgeous view of the San Diego Bay from our windows…again, I could have gotten used to that. :)


Fun shops and delicious restaurants with fresh caught seafood were within walking distance…it made enjoying good food way too easy. :)


Our days were pretty consistent: Pool-side lounging in the morning and beach front relaxation with magazines and books in hand in the afternoon. While most of our time was spent lounging, we did do some active kayaking in the bay, and surprisingly my favorite thing of the trip  — riding the ocean waves on boogie boards. I seriously couldn’t get enough!

Alas, we had to leave the boogie boards and the sand in California and head back to Wisconsin…where we were greeted with rain. Go figure. All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better vacation or anniversary week!

Somehow between the short time we left Wisconsin and came back, fall decided to try to slip in. The mornings are chillier and there’s the sense that fall is right around the corner in the air. But I’m holding onto fresh, summer food as long as I can…especially California-style! California was a whole ‘nother world for this Midwestern girl! Hip and cool goes for the clothing style as well as the food.

To take me back to the brightness and freshness of California, I whipped up chopped up this Asian Mango Chicken Slaw with Lime Vinaigrette. I had to share this fresh masterpiece before fall officially arrives and our minds turn to all things apples, stews, and pumpkin.


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Things I’ve Learned in 2 Years of Marriage


Two years to the day I was walking down the aisle, meeting my husband at the alter, cutting our cake hand in hand, and dancing our first dance. In other words, two years ago today I was a bride marrying my groom, the man of my dreams, and embarking on a whole new, unknown journey.

I can’t believe two years have already gone by. It feels like just yesterday we were that young, newly married couple (in my eyes, we still are, sort of). This journey called marriage still seems very much unknown even after two years (I think I’ll be saying that 10 years from now, too), but we’ve covered a lot of ground in our couple short years of marriage, discovered and learned new things about each other along the way, and are excited to see what journey awaits us in our upcoming years ahead.


Last year I wrote about our story on how we met (I just reread it and it made me smile all over again to relive the exciting memories that you have when you first meet your future spouse. Definitely a high in my life!) and the things I’ve learned during our first year of marriage (also just reread that post and, yep, everything still applies today :)).

Things that I’ve learned from Year 1 and Year 2 tend to start to blur together…I mean, did I learn about Philip’s love for country music in our first year or second? But there are some things I know we’ve gotten better with in our second year of marriage. While I’m certainly no expert or feel like I’ve learned it all within 2 short years (does that ever really happen?), I thought I’d add a little bit more to my lessons learned from Year 1.

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Greek Pizza with Mint & Feta

Greek Pizza with Mint & Feta

Hello, again! The work week sure does come around with consistent regularity, doesn’t it? But it sure helps knowing a week from now I will be on VACATION! Ahem, sorry. A full eleven days away from work…woah. I don’t know if I can handle it…wait, yes I can.

Enough daydreaming, there’s still lots to do between now and then. While I’m looking forward to some R&R (obviously), this past weekend was a good glimpse into what I’m envisioning my vacation to be like. In just two days (just think what I could do with eleven!) I enjoyed dinner with friends, a fire and s’mores while admiring the starry night with my main squeeze, a classic date night consisting of dinner (sushi) and a movie (Inside Out), and a chance to do some baking (a future post on that to come!). And if I could, I would probably re-watch Inside Out a couple more times during my vacation. Seriously, how does Pixar know so well how to pull at your heart strings? What I love more than laughing and tearing up during a movie is seeing my husband next to me doing the same thing. We both loved it!

You know what we also both love? Well, besides each other, this Greek Pizza with Mint & Feta! So good, my friends! Yes, I know it seems a little out there, but trust me, this flavor combination is incredible. Plus, it gives you a chance to break away from your typical pizza night with your typical toppings like pepperoni and sausage. Change is good, remember?! :)


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Mango-Curry Chicken Salad

Mango-Curry Chicken Salad

Hi, friends! Umm, can anybody tell me how it became the last week of July?! Where has this summer gone? With family visiting and trips being made, our weeks have flown by! It was nice to slow things down a little bit this weekend and not have anywhere we needed to be besides home. Whew! It had been a hot minute since we had time to sit out on our deck, put our feet up, and watch the sun set in the horizon. Life really is good.


While today I feel caught up for the week (thanks to our catch-up weekend), last Monday was a completely different story. Trips always throw you off your schedule, don’t they? It was well worth it, but come Monday after being gone all weekend, I knew I had an empty fridge that needed to be filled and a meal to throw together after said fridge was filled up. By the time I came home from work and getting groceries, I was huuuung-ry. Going out to eat is usually not a default option for us, especially not when we’d been eating out at various places all weekend long.


To wrap that all up: I needed something light & healthy (after a crazy weekend with lots of food) and fast & simple (because I needed to eat 5 minutes ago). My solution? This flavorful, slightly-sweet Mango-Curry Chicken Salad.

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Freekeh & Grape Salad with Mint & Feta + Colorado Adventures Recap

Freekeh & Grape Salad with Mint & Feta

Welcome to another work week, friends! Whew, what a fun weekend I had, though! Have you ever looked forward to and waited seemingly forever for an event to arrive and then before you know it, it’s over and you wish you could go back and experience it all over again?


That was my weekend and I’m slightly disappointed that all the anticipation and excitement of the weekend is over. Thankfully, Philip and I have a few more exciting and fun trips planned for the summer and fall…don’t you just love it when one adventure ends, you automatically have another one to look forward to?


So what was I so excited for this weekend? One of my closest friends from college got married this weekend in Colorado (the one I had a bachelorette party for a few weekends ago)! For one, it was a nice mini-vacation from work, but mostly, it was just a joy to be able to celebrate such a special and fun day with her.


The wedding was absolutely beautiful, the bride was radiant, and the location couldn’t have been better. I mean, Colorado…in the mountains. Yes, please.


While Thursday and Friday were busy days preparing for the wedding and dancing the night away, the fun just kept going into Saturday (see why I was so excited for this trip?!). Some of Philip’s family lives in Denver, so we spent the day hiking and enjoying the beauty that Colorado has to offer, with the great company — as well as the help and expertise — of Philip’s brother and his soon-to-be-wife. :)


If a sign of a fun, jam-packed weekend is complete exhaustion, then this trip was definitely a good one. Despite all the fun, it was nice to finally make it home yesterday (although, with the instant realization that humidity is in full force right now in Madison, I miss Colorado’s no humidity weather).

While the trip was a great one, my body was in dire need of returning to some sort of normalcy in the area of food (and sleep, but mostly food). A perfect “recovery-from-vacation” meal in the summer is this Freekeh & Grape Salad with Mint & Feta with grilled chicken. This meal is fresh, light, full of whole grains, and is something that will get you me right on track again after having one too many Scotcheroos this weekend.


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