We’re First Time Homeowners! + Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings

Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings

How was everybody’s weekend? Nothing too special here except, ohh you know…

We bought a house!!

I know. I’ve been impatiently waiting to share this exciting news with you once we finally closed on the house and we had the keys in our hands to make it official. Well, it finally happened this past Friday after putting an offer in back in October. Whew, it’s quite the process!

We couldn’t be any happier with our very first home as homeowners (well, besides the fact that our hands are raw with all the cleaning we’re doing). Why do we love it? Well, for one, the kitchen is pretty great (that was high on the “must have” list in our house search). It’s close (as in I can see it from our driveway close) to the running trail I run on almost everyday during the summer. It’s in a great neighborhood (which has awesome Christmas lights, by the way! I was so impressed. I didn’t think people decorated like this anymore. Turns out my drive home from work is not where all the great lights are). And most of all, we love this house because it’s ours. Nuff said.

Friday night we celebrated our new ownership by relaxing in front of the fire, eating pizza, and making a list of short-term and long-term projects and purchases. It’s always fun to dream.

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But Saturday is when the real fun started… We’re knee deep in boxes, cleaning has ensued in full force, and a trip to Menards with a long list in hand has already happened.

Since we’re still in between apartment and house for the week, I quick made Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings on Saturday before we packed up everything in the kitchen that evening. It’ll last us for most of the week and that means no need for the kitchen amongst all of the craziness! Great planning, huh? :)

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How Meal Planning Works for Me

How Meal Planning Works for Me_Paprika

Well, I think the holiday season is officially here. I’ve started my holiday baking, attended our first Christmas party of the season, aaaand I’ve come down with a nasty head cold. Just in time for all the holiday cheer. Yesterday all I could bring myself to do was sit on the couch and continue to stare at our fall decorations that are. still. up. Ugh. So, according to Facebook and Instagram, everywhere is looking more like Christmas except for our apartment right now. Because, right now it’s just cluttered with used Kleenexes.

That said, I’m cutting right to the chase today. Last week I talked about how to make meal planning work for you and today I’m going to fill you in on how meal planning works for me. I know you guys were all just dying in suspense as to what I was going to be sharing about today after the cliff hanger I gave last week…right? Humor me a little…I’m not feeling well.

There’s no right or wrong way to go about meal planning, but I’ve found that Paprika, a recipe manager app, works the best for me by far. I’ve been using it well over a year now and I still can’t get over how handy and helpful it is. If you don’t get anything out of this post, I hope I can get across to you how much I love this app! And just to throw this out there — no, I’m not getting any compensation for promoting Paprika and I wasn’t asked to talk about it. I am truly just that excited about it.

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How to Make Meal Planning Work for You + A Fun Way to Show off your Weekly Menu

How to Make Meal Planning Work for You

Welcome to another week, friends! How was everybody’s Thanksgiving? Filled with family, food, and friends, I hope. Like I mentioned last week, I had an extended visit at the in-laws and, boy, did we pack a lot in! All four siblings were home, so we made it into a Thanksmas holiday.

We had your typical (yet delicious) Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and followed it with the traditional Hoerr family Christmas on Friday, which always includes a candlelit fondue dinner and the opening of presents (the kiddos barely made it through the day with their eager anticipation). To cap off the night, in keeping with the fondue theme, there’s always chocolate fondue for dessert and we all sat around the fire, sharing highlights from the current year and how we can be praying for each other in the upcoming year.

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Aaannnd (as if that weren’t enough celebrations for one weekend), to top it all off, we had an early celebration for yours truly’s birthday with pizza and cupcakes on Saturday — nice and simple after a couple days of extravagant eating.

I don’t know about you, but after the holidays where food is everywhere — as much as I love the food — it feels so nice to get back to a normal week of eating and routine. My body definitely appreciates it.

One way that helps me stay on track and continuously form a routine with meals is forming a meal plan every week. Seriously, guys. This works. Meal planning/not having time to make meals/not knowing what to make at night/resorting to fast food is one of the biggest concerns I get from clients. Sound familiar? Believe me, you’re not alone. And if you’re already doing some form of meal planning, give yourself a pat on the back because you’re one step ahead of most people!

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Five Tips for a Tasty and Guilt-Free Holiday Season

Five Tips for a Tasty and Guilt-Free Holiday Season

Can you believe it?! Thanksgiving is this week, you guys! Woohoo! That means a short week at work and an extra long weekend with the in-laws. No really, I’m super excited! Speaking of giving thanks, I’m so thankful for the family I married into. I don’t think I could have asked for any better in-laws and I’m probably just as excited to spend four days with them as I would if I were seeing my own family for Thanksgiving.

But let’s not forget about the food we’ll all be enjoying this week. I mean, who doesn’t love having a table full of great, indulgent food? So much food, you don’t even know what dish to shovel your spoon into first. Thanksgiving is pretty much the start to a month of rich eating from creamy dips and comforting meals to decadent desserts — which is both a good and bad thing, depending on how you look at it and how you handle it.

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Cheesy Sausage Quiche

Cheesy Sausage Quiche  rdinthemidwest.com

How was everybody’s weekend?! Mine was great. You know why? Because I had no plans! Gasp! I can’t even remember the last time that has happened. Since I work on the weekends on a regular basis, it leaves fewer free weekends — meaning those free weekends fill up quickly with trips and events. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all super fun things, but once in awhile it’s nice to just be free (maybe a little too dramatic?).

Not only was it a free weekend, but it was a free weekend with Philip. It had been a few weekends too many since it was just us…with no agenda but to stay warm. Because I was so giddy about this weekend, I even made a last minute decision on Saturday to call and cancel my eye appointment. It was a big deal for me (Philip can attest to this). I don’t just cancel an appointment for no reason other than I want to have a day with no interruptions. I felt like such a rebel. Yes, I realize that’s pretty pathetic.

But you know what? It was the best decision I could have made. Philip and I had such a fun Saturday and we didn’t look at the clock once all afternoon. To make our day even sweeter (pun intended), we hit up some pretty, darn good chocolate shops in the area that I had been wanting to try out. We had lunch at Chocolaterian Cafe (you know a cafe is good when there’s chocolate in the name) and enjoyed some very rich and wonderful hot chocolate.

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Kara’s Favorite Soft Sugar Cookies

Soft Sugar Cookies

I get that it’s past Halloween, but it’s still technically fall, right? Right?! I mean, Thanksgiving is the epitome of fall, so therefore, minus the orange and black combo and the carved pumpkins, all fall colors and treats are still allowed for a few more weeks. That’s how my mind justified making my all-time favorite Soft Sugar Cookies this past weekend. Sure, all the colored leaves that were here just a couple weeks ago are completely gone and there may have been people hanging Christmas lights yesterday while Philip and I were out walking, but IT’S STILL FALL! Ahem.

Anyway, if you think it’s time to pull out the garland and Christmas lights, these Soft Sugar Cookies are just as tasty shaped into trees and bells as they are shaped like leaves and acorns. And believe me, I know, because these cookies have been made into everything from pumpkins and hearts to Easter eggs and bells over the years. As far back as I can remember, for every possible holiday, my mom was always making a batch of these cookies for me to decorate with her.

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Smoked Gouda & Roasted Red Pepper Tomato-Basil Bisque {Crock-Pot Recipe}

Smoked Gouda & Roasted Red Pepper Tomato-Basil Bisque

Umm, can we just talk for a minute about how gorgeous the weather was this weekend?! Sun shining, warm weather with a cool fall breeze, and all the fall colors to match. All. Weekend. Long. I wanted to be out enjoying it as much as I could. Unfortunately, I spent the day on Saturday at work, helping around 300 kids in costume make trail mix. Hmph. Oh well, at least I saw a lot of variations of Elsa from Frozen. :)

And, since Sunday was just as beautiful, Philip and I could enjoy the day outside for a bit instead. I’ve totally embraced that summer is over and am loving all the fall colors. I just can’t get enough! Madison is by far the prettiest place in the fall that I’ve lived (granted, this is only the fourth city I’ve lived in, but still, it’s the prettiest!).

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Well, no matter what the weather, to me, fall means soup. Even if it is almost 70 degrees out. That’s because I know that no matter how warm it is, it will most likely be soup weather again in two to three short days (at least that’s how things roll in the Midwest). I figure I might as well be prepared for when it’s “soup weather” by everybody else’s standards. So today, I bring you Smoked Gouda and Roasted Red Pepper Tomato-Basil Bisque. Whew, that’s a long one!  Don’t worry, the title itself lists about all the main ingredients in the soup; you don’t have too many more ingredients to add.

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I actually made this soup way back in May by my friend Alex’s request (she said it was the best ever — she was right). But you know, May and “soup weather” aren’t usually said in the same sentence…even for me. It was cool(er) temps when I made it (although, it’s highly likely I only convinced myself of this when I made it) and the temperatures rose so quickly, I knew it was too late for me to post it on here. Basically, long story short, I’m tired of waiting and I’m just going to share this super tasty and comforting soup with you today, gosh darn-it!

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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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