Orange Tapioca Jell-O Salad

Orange Tapioca Jell-O Salad

Happy Monday, everyone! After a fun trip to Illinois to see family this past weekend, it’s back to the normal workweek grind in Madison for me today.

But this past weekend was anything but a normal weekend. And it was definitely anything but boring. My sister-in-law’s three kids were turning 5, 3 and 1 (over the course of 3 months) and this weekend she threw a big circus-themed joint birthday party for all of them — bounce house and all. Let’s just say, my sister-in-law knows how to throw a party! She single-handedly made our wedding look 10x better than if it had been solely up to me. I think it’s safe to say her motto is “Go big or go home.”

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Although the rain put a damper on things, it was still a glowing success and gave Philip and I a chance to connect with family and for me to see his old stomping grounds again — including some of his favorite restaurants he grew up going to as a kid. Every time we go back home, it’s safe to say we’ll either be having “Gondolas” (a ham and salami sub sandwich) from Avanti’s Restaurant or pizza from Monical’s, a family-favorite pizza place in town. I love seeing how food can bring so much joy to people and bring back fond memories; especially for Philip since he gets so excited when he knows a childhood favorite is coming, like the grilled steak dinner I made for him last weekend.

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Another childhood favorite of his that happens to also be a favorite in my family as well is a Midwest classic: Orange Tapioca Jell-O Salad. Only in the Midwest can something containing Jell-O and Cool Whip be considered a “salad.” By no means am I promoting this as a healthy alternative to a green-tossed salad, but in light of recognizing the joy food can bring and the memories certain foods can hold, this is one that I keep in my back pocket for nostalgic purposes (oh, and okay, because it tastes so gosh darn good).

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The Perfect Grill-Out Steak & Vegetable Marinade

Steak & Vegetable Marinade

I’ve come to realize more and more over the past 2 years how blessed I am to have the husband that I have. Not only does he willingly do all the dishes that I regularly dirty up while cooking, help with laundry and house chores, and cross things off the honey-do list with no complaining (although he’s jokingly warned me not to ask for a 20+ frame collage on the wall), he also is pretty easy to please in terms of meals.

He willingly accepts almost anything I make him – no matter how “healthy” it is or how foreign it is from his childhood “meat and potatoes” meals. In the past 2 years, I can count on one hand the number of dishes he hasn’t been a big fan of…and he still ate the meal and the leftovers anyway.

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Although I wouldn’t mind if he did, he also doesn’t have a long list of meals he grew up with that he requests me to replicate – he lets me freely experiment with new recipes and make my old favorites how I wish. Plus, talk about pressure to bring back a childhood favorite! Nothing ever tastes the same when somebody else is trying to copy it.

Howeeeeever, there is that one recipe. The one I hear about every summer: Grilled steak and vegetables that have been soaked in a saucy marinade accompanied by grilled Texas toast (because there has to be Texas toast to complete the meal, according to Philip).  It was the only recipe card he had when we got married, stashed away in one of his cookbooks his only cookbook.

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Detox Your Body: How it can fit into a healthy diet

 Whew, what a weekend! I need another weekend just to recover from my weekend. It was a great one though — fun, productive, relaxing, and celebratory! Here’s what we fit into a single weekend:

I ran my first race of the season on Saturday morning. I couldn’t have asked for a better race to start the season off; it was perfect weather, a great course around Lake Monona (one of the two lakes in Madison if you’re unfamiliar with the area), and (most importantly) the food at the end was a full on smorgasbord.

Lake Monona 20K

The rest of Saturday afternoon was spent cleaning out our garage (this is the productive part of the weekend). It was the final “room” that needed to be cleaned out since we moved into our house in December. What a great feeling to have everything finally all cleaned and its place!

A date night of sushi and ice cream (we’re keeping it classy) followed our productive day and the fun just kept on going into Sunday with a wedding for two of our close friends from Madison. Couldn’t be any happier for the couple!

It certainly felt like summer was here — or at least just around the corner — this past weekend! With all this spring cleaning and donation trips to Goodwill going on, it got me thinking about the importance of spring cleaning our bodies, too. Instead of a normal recipe post today, I thought I’d share a little bit about my dietitian thoughts on detoxing…

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Cajun Chicken Pasta

Cajun Chicken Pasta

Do you think it’s safe to say the weather has finally come around to this idea of it being spring…finally?! I feel like yesterday our moods were lifted and neighbors were out and about once again after being dormant for the past week with all the cold, windy, and rainy weather we’ve been having. But now…now the weather is warmer, the sun is shining, and I sense cool evenings on our porch, sipping on wine and socializing with our neighbors, are in our near future. Watch, next week is back to 40 degree weather…

Whichever way the temperature wants to go, whether it be cold or hot, life has gotten busy! Well, it always has been busy, I suppose, but for some reason our busyness has been kicked up a notch over the past few weeks.

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m passionate about meal planning (find out more here and here). It’s definitely not always easy and straight forward, especially when you work late at least one night during the week, have small group another night, and still want to fit in some swimming in the evenings before your triathlon that’s coming up in a month (Eek! I should probably get that bike down from the garage, huh?).

Meal planning has become almost like a puzzle (and to be honest, I kind of like it in some bizarre way). If we want to eat grilled chicken and Cherry-Almond Farro Salad on Wednesday, I need to have the time to prep the salad on Tuesday night. If we have an event to go to on Friday with no time for meal prep, whatever I make on Thursday needs to make enough leftovers for Friday…and this is just the start of my weekly dilemmas. I honestly understand why people don’t meal plan and resort to going out to eat.

Although prepping meals the night before or counting on leftovers are very useful, sometimes it’s nice to have a healthy, balanced meal that comes together in just a half hour with only a couple of pans to clean up — no advanced, in-depth planning needed. Cajun Chicken Pasta is just that and is light enough to enjoy on a (hopefully) warm spring or summer evening.

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Soft Sweetened Condensed Milk Cookies with Vanilla Glaze

Soft Sweetened Condensed Milk Cookies with Vanilla Glaze

Hello again, everyone! You may have noticed that I’ve been MIA over the past week, but boy, has it been busy around these parts! I’m proud to say that during that time, we’ve now become official owners of a grill and a lawnmower. Does that not make us homeowners or what?

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We had my parents and aunt & uncle visiting us for the first time in our new home last weekend and we were able to break in the new grill with them. We received some helpful grilling tips from my dad and uncle and savored every bite of our perfectly grilled salmon and steaks for dinner. Nothing beats the smell of grilled food…except maybe freshly cut grass if you’re my husband. He said he had to pause a few times while mowing this weekend to inhale breathe in the smell. It’s the small things in life, right?

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You know what else is just as simple and refreshing? Having the windows and patio door open with a slight breeze blowing in, hearing birds chirping away while you whip up a batch of Soft Sweetened Condensed Milk Cookies with Vanilla Glaze on your day off. It’s the simple things, I tell ya!

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Sweet Cheddar & Apple Turkey Melt

Sweet Cheddar & Apple Turkey Melt Sandwich

Hello again, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful and blessed Easter weekend! Philip and I kept it pretty simple around here, got a few things done around the house, and just enjoyed the sunshine together.

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We like keeping things simple around here. A movie night with just the two of us munching on some popcorn suits us pretty well. I’ve decided I’m just a simple kind of girl. I mean, one of my favorite hobbies consists of just running…pretty simple. My house is anything but cluttered, I’m happy in just a plain, white t-shirt and jeans (which is good because this happens to be what I was wearing the first time I met Philip and it’s his favorite, too), and I could eat peanut butter & jelly for the rest of my life. Which I probably will do.

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But I’m still classy — not boring simple. I like to get dressed up every once in awhile and I’ll occasionally swap out my peanut butter & jelly for something a little more sophisticated, like this simple — yet classy — Sweet Cheddar & Apple Turkey Melt.

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Copycat LaraBar Chocolate Brownie Granola Bar

Copycat LaraBar Chocolate Brownie

The question is, are these a dessert or a healthy snack? Don’t you love it when you have that problem?

Do I eat this as a morning snack at…umm..9:00 a.m. (I eat my breakfast early, okay?) when I know it’s impossible for me to make it another three hours until lunch? Or do I count this as an after-dinner dessert, because, let’s face it, anything with chocolate in the name could and should be considered a dessert.

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Well, I’ve got some great news, because no decision making is needed for this one — it works as both healthy snack and healthy scrumptious dessert! Yippee!

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Scotcheroos

Scotcheroos

Howdy, everyone! I hope your weekend was a good one and that your Monday is off to a good start.

Philip and I packed our bags this weekend and left behind our paint brushes, cleaning supplies, and rags at home for a relaxing weekend with my family in Iowa this weekend (yes, we’re still working on finishing up projects and deep cleaning our house from when we bought it last December. *Sigh* Will it ever get done?). It was a much needed break and it was so nice to not only be with family that we hadn’t seen in awhile, but also to be “forced” not to do any touch ups on our house all weekend. Yep, when we’re at home, I’ve come to realize that it’s inevitable that we’re going to be doing something on our house.

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So, this weekend, instead of scrubbing floors or painting walls, I stamped and colored (bringing back my creative side of yester years), read books and sang songs, decorated sugar cookies just like I did with my mom when I was little, and was a patient in the “doctor’s office” getting my check-up…over and over and over again. Thankfully, my three-year old niece is a gentle doctor and my shots never hurt.

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And let’s not forget this little, cute dude! What a hunk, right?! He was all smiles (and drool) almost the entire time we were there.

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My mom pulled out all of our favorites on the trip, too (she never lets us down) with her famous cinnamon rolls, her homemade banana bread, and a few other classic favorites. One of those being Scotcheroos — the most signature, Midwest dessert there is. I mean, just the name alone, sounds like something the Midwest would create.

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Spicy Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry

Spicy Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry

Welcome to another week, friends!

My weekend included a good balance of work and relaxation and enjoying the gorgeous weather we’re continuing to have! The only downside is I came down with a nasty cold over the weekend (due to my inability to slow down), leaving me sniffling and watching the clock for the next time I can take some DayQuil.

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I should’ve known I was maybe a little feverish when I was at the grocery store on Friday, embarrassing myself at the seafood counter. There to pick up some salmon that was on sale, I commented on the fresh salmon that was arranged into a “W”. I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out what it may mean, totally not thinking that I live in Wisconsin, in the same city as the University of Wisconsin, or the fact that the UW Men’s Basketball team was playing in the championships that day. What’d I come up with? “Wild Caught” for wild caught salmon (because everybody would come to that conclusion, too, right?). I quietly took my salmon and walked away…

In my defense, the salmon were wild caught.

Anyway, moving on… Since spring weather has been staying around for awhile, it has me in the mood for some light and refreshing meals that are loaded with fresh vegetables.

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This Spicy Pineapple Stir Fry is just that. It’s light, not heavy like some sauce-ladened stir fries can be. It’s fresh, with the lime juice and pineapple chunks along with the peppers, carrots, onion, and snow peas. And it has a touch of heat that compliments the sweetness from the pineapple perfectly. Plus, the vegetables stay slightly crisp, giving this stir fry a great texture.

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Lemon Cupcakes with Blackberry Frosting + Decorating for an Adventure-Themed Shower

Lemon Cupcakes with Blackberry Frosting

Is it too early to say that we’ve made a turning point (for good) in the weather…finally?! It was so refreshing to not have to wear at least 3 layers of clothing when going outside (or inside, if we’re going to be honest), to not have my shoulders hunched all the time to keep warm, and to be able to walk outside and actually enjoy it!

The sun was shining all weekend, the birds were chirping, and it was the perfect weekend to host a bridal shower! Which is exactly what I did. A dear friend of mine is getting married this spring and it was such a joy to be able to bless her with a shower.

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Back in the day, I loved crafting and scrapbooking, and I always got way too excited about school projects. Somehow, that hobby slowly slipped away (I blame college) and when I finally emerged from all the homework and studying, I started up a new hobby — cooking and baking (I also blame credit my schooling of dietetics on that switch). Long story short, it was so much fun to be able to combine both of those hobbies together for this shower!

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My friend’s wedding theme is “adventure”, so I matched the theme and set out to make the decorations with anything involving maps, stamps, and planes with the help of another close friend. I think it was a success!

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The decorations were fun to make, but I still felt “in my element” in the kitchen, whipping up one of the desserts for the shower — Lemon Cupcakes with Blackberry Frosting. The perfect flavor combination for a warm, almost-spring day.

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