4 Years of Marriage & A Trip to Chicago

Urban, hip, trendy, cool. These all describe the lifestyle of Chicago. And I am decidedly…not. Haha.

Philip and I recently celebrated our four year (four years?!) anniversary on August 10th and, to celebrate, made the short trip down to Chicago for a mini two-day getaway. We attempted to fit in with the “hip” 20’s- and 30’s-somethings young professionals—and I’d like to say we succeeded—with a $15 drink in hand and all. ;) It’s always fun to pretend sometimes, right? But safe to say, downtown Chicago is not going to be a place we call home anytime soon. But to visit? Oh yes, we’ll be back. Today I’m filling you in on the highlights. I would highly recommend all the places we went and stayed at!

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of our anniversary, if you’re interested or like sappy things like wedding stories, you can read here about how we met, or here about our one year anniversary (ironically enough, also included a trip to the Chicago area) and what we learned in that one year of marriage, or here and here about our two year anniversary. Guess I missed our 3 year! ;)

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When Eating Homemade isn’t Possible

Talk about a gorgeous weekend, right?! I think this past weekend may have made it into the top 5 nicest weekends all summer. Sunny, no humidity, and warm temps made it the perfect weekend to get outside.

We’ve had family visiting/moving into town and a friend in town, so we’ve hit up all the favorite spots like Concerts on the Square, the Memorial Union Terrace for the famous Babcock ice cream, and our annual trip to the American Players Theatre. Between all of that, I managed to soak in even more of the sun with a run around the lake on Saturday morning. You just can’t beat these views!

Sunday was low-key, but I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon stationed out on our porch, searching for cooking classes for our upcoming trip to Italy. I’m pretty much giddy with excitement now just thinking about the one I eventually discovered and booked. Seriously, if only that could be my kitchen and dining room in real life… Our trip is so close I can almost taste the olive oil and wine now! ;)

With all these outdoor activities this past weekend, we’ve been loving our summer picnic meals that we’ve taken along to the events. Our latest CSA box gave us pretty much a whole plant of basil. Which immediately got made into a whole bunch of pesto! It’s come in handy on these picnics—fresh bakery bread topped with pesto, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella has been so, so good. (Think we’re ready for Italy or what?!)

On this blog, I showcase all the tasty meals and food I make at home, including the pesto I just made. Inadvertently, it may portray the false impression that I make everything “from scratch.” With a busy life, I’d love to spend my days in the kitchen making homemade bread and everything in between, but in reality, work and my other hobbies (ahem, running around the lake takes some time… ;)), keep me from doing that. I’m sharing with you today my perspective on how to find a balance in the busy lives we all lead. Enjoy!  (continue reading…)

My Current Thoughts and Ponderings…

I don’t know about you, but I feel like summer is whizzing by. But I also feel like this summer has been living up to all of its potential. You know when you have those summers when you do almost zero of the fun, little things you had planned or wanted to do that makes summer, well, summer? (My hand is up and waving high on that one!)

We all have the “big ticket” items like going on a vacation or two, but why do the small things tend to get so easily pushed aside? Things like going to a farmer’s market, star gazing, or having friends over for a barbecue.

But this summer—the summer of 2017—has been full of the “small ticket” items for Philip and me! Or maybe I’ve just finally accepted that I’m not going to get to every little thing in one summer, but am instead appreciating all the things that we have been able to do. Whatever the reason, I’ve been loving the star gazing (or in the case from Saturday night, watching the distant lightning), the fire pits and s’mores, and the evening walks around the neighborhood.

Of course, there’s so much more than just those things going on in our summer, so I thought I’d bring back another post of my current thoughts and ponderings. :)

Right now I’m…

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Three Weekends of Work Only Leads to More Work: Landscaping Project 2017

I woke up on Saturday morning and mumbled to Philip, “I’m glad we could sleep in this morning.” It was 6:30 a.m.

Even though we were road tripping across Iowa this past weekend, dancing the night away at a friend’s wedding, reminiscing about childhood memories in my hometown (I hadn’t been back since we got married four years ago!), and touring around Okoboji—one of the biggest tourist towns in Iowa—if you can believe it, it was a much more relaxing weekend than we’ve had the previous three weeks.

That’s because for most of the weekends in June, we took on—what seems like—our annual landscaping project. Every summer since we’ve moved into our house, we’ve taken on some level of landscaping project to slowly transform our yard into something we enjoy spending time in. I think we’re almost there!

I’ll give you a recap: (continue reading…)

Grilled Blackberry BBQ Pork Chops

Hello again! Summer is well underway and I’ve been trying to soak up as many summer moments as I can. Philip and I have an ongoing “wish list” of some summer activities we’d love to be able to do right here in Madison, including nights on the terrace, the farmers’ market, Concerts on the Square, and sitting under the stars with a fire pit and s’mores (in our driveway, but we’ll ignore that part ;)) just to name a few.

While we haven’t gotten to those things yet, we definitely have been staying busy: From our weekly Sunday morning bike rides (they’ve kind of become “our thing” and I’m so excited we started doing them at the beginning of the summer rather than the end, which is so often the case when you stumble across a good thing) to picking strawberries at a local strawberry farm and doing plenty of updates to our landscape (more of that to come!).

It’s been a good mix of fun and work and all things outside. With so much going on and my desire to be outside more than inside these days, when I’m making dinner for us in the summer months, I want it to be quick to make and preferably one we can cook outside. Double bonus if it includes produce that’s in season and bursting with fresh flavor. These Grilled Blackberry BBQ Pork Chops cover all of the requirements!

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Family Time from Colorado to Iowa

Phew! It’s been a whirlwind the past two weeks! Somehow May has come and went, Memorial Day was celebrated, and now we’re already well into June. Hello, Summer!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that Philip and I have been doing some traveling lately. Besides our Grand Canyon trip (which seems like months ago already, unfortunately), we got back on a plane just a few weeks after that to head to Denver, Colorado, for Memorial Day weekend and to see Philip’s siblings. We arrived home from Colorado last Tuesday and by Friday we were already hitting the road again to head to Iowa to spend time with my side of the family. It’s been an awesome way to start off the summer, to say the least!

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Marinated Grilled Chicken with Asian Slaw

Whether the weather agrees or not, I’m declaring it officially grilling season! While this weekend has been less than stellar for any outdoor activities, last weekend when I was in Iowa visiting one of my best friends from college and her new little baby, the weather was absolutely perfect (I’d have to say this little guy was also just as perfect ;))!

Which also meant that we were grilling burgers. My mouth is watering just thinking about the burgers my friend whipped up on the fly. My gosh, were they good! It was a probably a combination of the beef coming from their own cows, my friend being awesome at making burgers, and me getting my first taste of a grilled burger of the season. There’s nothing like it!

While I don’t have my friend’s burger “recipe” to share with you (yet), I do have another delicious recipe that is just as easy to make and get on the table: Marinated Grilled Chicken with Asian Slaw. I just love this food season; everything is simple, fresh, and quick to prepare, so you don’t waste more time in the kitchen than you need to. It’s funny, people always ask if we “eat healthy” at home. Well, yeah, I guess? But I think what they really mean is if we eat boring and tasteless healthy food. I’m telling you, that is definitely not what we eat at our house. This recipe is case in point. So much flavor wrapped up in this meal!

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My Current Thoughts & Ponderings: Grand Canyon Edition

Philip and I haven’t even been back from our vacation to the Grand Canyon a week yet and I’m already wishing we could go back. Heck, I wanted to go back as soon as we stepped on the plane to come home. Guys, it was seriously that amazing and that much fun!

I didn’t even realize hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon was on my bucket list until Philip mentioned 6-ish months ago that he kind of wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. After looking into it more, I realized if we were going to do the Grand Canyon, we were going to do the Grand Canyon. If there’s an adventure and challenge to be had, you better believe I’m signing up for it.

So, that’s what led us to signing up for a packaged trip through Arizona Outback Adventures and it was the best decision we could have made. If you decide to go on any trip in the Arizona area, I highly recommend using their services. I’m not getting paid to tell you this, we just truly had an awesome experience with them. Our two guides were fun and gave us just the right mix of freedom and guidance we needed. All the planning was pretty much taken care of and even though we were hiking, I swear they had everything and anything we could possibly need – from tape for preventing blisters to nail clippers to ear plugs. This definitely wasn’t their first rodeo!

I could go on and on about our trip, but I thought I’d do another episode of “My Current Thoughts and Ponderings,” all things related to our trip.

During our trip, I was… (continue reading…)

Redefining Healthy

When I first started my journey to become a registered dietitian, I had no idea I was getting into a field that would change and evolve as much as it does. Sure, my biochemistry and human metabolism notes are probably still relevant, but it seems like every other recommendation and guideline has been turned upside down.

Let’s take, for example, the low-fat craze of the 90’s. Remember those popular 100-calorie packs of refined grains advertising their low-fat contents (and the obvious fact that they only had 100 calories)? It doesn’t take long to start making a list of all the foods that started popping up on the shelves (and possibly in your home) that boasted being “low-fat,” “reduced-fat,” or even “fat-free.” You name it, it was probably out there: Fat-free salad dressings, cheese, frozen yogurt, candy. But does that make these foods “healthy?” According to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) definition of the food claim “healthy,” it does. Or at least did.

Twenty years ago, fat had become a villain and consumers wanted nothing to do with it. While the dietary guidelines emphasized saturated fat as the main culprit, most consumers assumed if one fat was bad, all fats were bad and should be avoided. Therefore, fat was replaced with carbohydrates. Instead of focusing on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (which are all good carb options!), the public deemed refined grains as good replacements, too.

Pretzels were good, but nuts were considered bad. Today this almost sounds absurd, but 20 year ago it was a different story. In order to use the claim “healthy” on the front of a package, the food had to meet the FDA’s criteria of being low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium with at least 10% of the daily value of one or more of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, or fiber.

Up until September of last year, that was still the definition of the “healthy” food claim. The foods we now would consider “healthy,” like nuts and avocados, couldn’t be marketed as such due to their high fat content (albeit “healthy” fat). Yet, other foods were still able to use the claim that hardly seemed appropriate with the evolving evidence and new dietary guidelines in place.

With the possible change of the Nutrition Facts Label and a push back from the popular Kind bars who used the phrase “healthy and tasty” for one of their nut-based granola bars, the FDA is now declaring it’s time to redefine what “healthy” means.

Rather than focusing on the amount of fat, a new guidance has been released – until a permanent change in the definition can be made – that focuses on the type of fat in the product. Manufacturers may now use “healthy” on labels if the item meets any of the following criteria in addition to the other criteria for the claim: 1) it is not low in total fat, but has a fat profile made up of mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats or 2) contains at least 10% of the daily value of potassium or vitamin D.

In the meantime, the FDA is asking for public input until April 26th on what “healthy” should mean and how consumers understand the “healthy” food label claim before they make a definite change to the claim. For some, this may mean looking past the nutrients. Perhaps it means looking at what the food doesn’t contain instead, such as artificial ingredients or sugar.

Whatever is decided, it may take years until a new definition of the “healthy” claim is released. In the meantime, it’s important not to judge a food on its label alone. What may be “healthy” for one person, may not be for another person depending on his dietary needs. Rather than focusing on the marketing claims or captions on the front of the package, look at the ingredient list and Nutrition Facts Label to make an informed decision for yourself on whether that item can fit into a balanced, healthy diet that’s right for you and your family.

Orange-Sesame Salmon with Quinoa

Is it just me, or is this aaaamazing weather we’ve been having putting everyone in a better mood? I’m finally feeling like spring really is here and may just be staying around for a while now. It felt great to open up the windows and actually get some fresh air in the house. About time! Also, I think our neighbor’s kids were stationed on their trampoline in their backyard all day on Sunday. I’m not kidding, it was a really long time!

This fresh new season has me wanting fresh food! Orange-Sesame Salmon with Quinoa is that, plus it couldn’t be easier or faster to put together. I also love that it’s a recipe for a full meal — main and sides are all included. Even the vegetable is cooked right along side the salmon. I do a pretty good job of planning out meals each week for Philip and me, but to be honest, the sides are usually an afterthought for me. I love that this recipe is an all-in-one. :)

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