Pesto & Chicken Sandwich Melt with Homemade Basil Pesto

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Hello again, everyone! I’m coming into the work week with a little extra summer glow (re: burn) on my face, a very satisfied stomach, and the feeling that I have officially experienced summer. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have seen that this weekend Philip and I made a trip to Iowa to experience the Iowa State Fair. It was a picture perfect day for the fair—mid 80s, sun shining, slight breeze, and absolutely no humidity. It was like we were meant to be at the fair that day. It was warm enough to want the delicious nitro ice cream there (think extra smooth ice cream that’s frozen quickly with nitrogen), but not so hot where our appetites left us…we definitely had our appetites! :)

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The Good, Bad & Ugly About GMOs

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been a popular topic of debate in the news for several years now, but just this year, it’s seen more attention in the media and has been gaining momentum.

First it started with Vermont, who was the first state to pass a law requiring all products containing GMOs to be labeled, beginning in July of 2016.

But then, just last week, President Obama signed a bill that requires all states to have a label of some kind on foods that have been genetically modified, overturning the Vermont’s law, in a way to prevent each state from have a piece-meal of different labeling laws.

Of course, this was a bill of heated debate. While some argue this unnecessarily creates a fear in the consumer and will increase food costs, others believe consumers have the right to know what’s in their food.

I think it’s safe to say nobody knows the answer. Like anything debatable, there are pros and cons. But it’s also safe to say that it’s a term few actually understand. Consumers have gained a vague fear of GMOs without even knowing why, simply because of what they’ve heard through the media and opinionated sources.

We do have a right to know what’s in our food, but it’s also important to have a good understanding of what that label means in order to form our own opinions.

Genetic modification is a process of taking genes from plants, animals, insects, or bacterium and transferring them into another species for a desired outcome. Rather than breeding plants or animals the traditional way, which took years, the discovery of genetically modifying organisms made it much faster to get the desired result.

GMOs made their first appearance in the mid-1990s as a way to do good – when researchers found a way to genetically modify rice to resist the floods in Eastern India. Rather than losing acres of crops, the modified rice survived the harsh conditions and was able to provide food for millions.

Several more possibilities have been developed since, such as Gold Rice, which produces a precursor to vitamin A to help prevent blindness in developing countries.

Since becoming commercially available in 1996, GMOs have taken over much of our food supply with about 90 percent of the corn and soybeans produced in the U.S. being genetically modified. Over half of the sugar produced in the U.S. is genetically modified and 80 percent of processed foods have ingredients made from GMOs. However, very few of the whole foods we eat are genetically modified.

There are as many studies stating that engineered foods are safe to consume as there are studies that say they’re not.

Most of the GM crops in the United States either have been modified to resist herbicides (meaning farmers can spray fields without killing their crop) or have been modified to resist plant-hungry insects by naturally producing an insecticide.

On the plus side, the resistance to herbicides has helped farmers skip the need for tilling their soil, which prevents erosion and helps maintain the nutrients in the soil. With naturally occurring insecticide, crops have less dependency on the sprayed pesticides, which can be toxic to us.

All good things don’t come without their cons, though. Due to the herbicide-resistant crops, more herbicide is being applied, most of which is glyphosate, the main ingredient found in Roundup. Glyphosate, an antibiotic, can hinder our healthy microbiome in our gut and may be a carcinogen for humans.

On top of that, with 20 years of herbicide use and insect-resistance plants, we’re now dealing with herbicide resistant weeds and insects resistant to the GM crops, meaning stronger herbicides and pesticides are being applied to crops.

The struggle is real, and it lies mostly in the gray area. How can we help the most poverty-stricken people – who most need this technology in order to prevent blindness or to stay in business – while on the other hand, realize that the direct benefit to the consumer isn’t as well defined when most of the crops in the U.S. are genetically modified corn and soybeans.

Genetically modified organisms, while developed over 20 years ago, are still in their infancy in research standards. Long-term studies still need to be conducted and more knowledge needs to be gained. For now, the debate continues…

The New & Improved Nutrition Facts Label

It seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new discovery being made in the field of nutrition, new research being conducted, or a new dietary recommendation out that needs to be followed.

I love that I’m in a field that’s constantly evolving, growing, and changing. But there’s one area that hasn’t changed for over 20 years and has been, not surprisingly, falling behind – the Nutrition Facts Label. Of the many nutrition-related questions I get asked, the Nutrition Facts Label is at the top.

It’s the label that adorns every packaged food item, informing you of everything from the serving size and calories to the percentage of vitamin A found in your bag of potato chips. It can be a confusing label to try to follow with all the numbers and percentages filling up such a small space.

Yet, with all the information you can gather from the label, it still seems to be missing some valuable information.

It’s been a long time coming for the Nutrition Facts label to get a major overhaul. This may be the reason why professionals in the nutrition field gave cheers of delight – myself included – when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in late May that a new look was going to be coming for the label in as little as two years.

Better yet, the changes are ones I completely agree with and believe will help consumers make easier, more nutritious decisions when comparing foods.

So, what changes will be being to see on the label? Here are the major changes and how they’ll affect you and me.

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On the left, is the current Nutrition Facts Label. What the revised label will look like is on the right. Source: http://www.fda.gov

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Garlic-Parmesan Hasselback Zucchini + Adventures from Wisconsin to Colorado

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How is it already over half way through July?! I feel like a broken record saying this, but summer is seriously flying by. I feel like I need to catch you up a bit on what we’ve been doing the past few weeks as it’s been awhile since I posted. Where to start…we’ve been doing a lot, hence the lack of posts coming your way lately.

Over the 4th of July weekend, we took our main summer vacation to Colorado to spend time with Philip’s family. We crammed in as much as we could during that short, extended weekend! And boy, did we live up our #yearoffun on that trip! So many good memories were made.

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Grilled Chicken with Blueberry-Lime Salsa

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Does anybody else feel like we were just celebrating Memorial Day weekend and now it’s almost the 4th of July?! How did this happen? Growing up, I loved looking forward to the 4th of July, knowing it was another summer holiday. But then after the 4th, “Back-to-School” items started flooding into the stores again and I had that dreaded sense that summer was going to quickly end.

That’s not necessarily the case anymore, but I still hate to see the summer go by so quickly. Thankfully, we have a lot more fun things planned for the summer! One of those things was this past weekend when I completed my first triathlon of the summer. It was a calm day, albeit hot, so it was the perfect morning to go for a swim, bike around the hilly Wisconsin countryside (and when I say hilly, I mean hilly!), and run a few loops around the town close to where we live.

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I ran this same race two summers ago, so I knew a little bit more of what to expect this time and felt more prepared going into it…although I had somehow forgotten just how hilly that bike course was. ;)

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After the triathlon, it was a lazy day around here, including naps and getting the grill out for another meal on the grill. I wasn’t kidding when I told you we’ve been grilling non-stop around these parts! We had one of our favorite meals last night, Beef Fajitas, but another one that has quickly become our favorite is Grilled Chicken with Blueberry-Lime Salsa, which I’m sharing with you today!

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Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peanut-Lime Sauce

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Whew! I don’t know about you, but we’ve had a few hot days around here. I’m really not complaining, though, since I’ve been able to make the most of the hot weather and actually enjoy it. Last weekend my two best friends from college and I got together again and decided to spend the afternoon going river tubing outside of Minneapolis. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a hot day! Floating down the river with drinks in hand…sign me up!

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This past weekend, while it was indeed warm outside, Philip and I had a fun time biking around Madison and enjoyed a cold ice cream after the hot ride. Every bike ride should end with ice cream, imo. :)

Another way I’m handling the hot weather is by grilling as much as possible! I don’t even know the last time I turned on the oven, which has definitely helped keep our house a little cooler. When I do my weekly meal planning, I try to have at least one or two recipes for that week that involves grilling. Not only does grilling help me stay a little cooler while prepping in the kitchen, grilling makes it so easy to get supper on the table quickly without sacrificing flavor. In the summer, like I mentioned in my last post, I’m eager to get outside and soak in as much evening sun as I can, so the last thing I want to be doing is spending time preparing dinner.

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One of our most recent favorites is this Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peanut-Lime Sauce. Oh my. I know I told you the peanut sauce from the Spring Pad Tai was almost drinkable and could be used on anything, but I may have another new favorite. This peanut-lime sauce has so much flavor. It’s bright and citrusy from the lime and orange, has a tinge of heat from the red pepper flakes, and yet still has depth to it with the peanut-base. It totally made the meal.

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Currently…

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Hello, hello!! Don’t worry, I’m still here! Sorry for the crickets you’ve been hearing lately from me over here in my corner of the blogging world. Two words: It’s summer! I have no excuse other than the fact that, well, summer is here, the weather has been gorgeous, and I just want to be outside!

For those of you who live in the Midwest, you know that we have to take the nice days while we can get them! I’m still not to the point where I’m willing to take these nice days for granted.

In all honesty, life has just been busy! For some reason, I always think that with summer should come back laid back evenings sitting out on the porch and free weekends to enjoy downtown Madison or long bike rides with my hubby. While we have been able to do all of those things (for which I’m very grateful), I feel like their occurrences are few and far between and our days definitely haven’t slowed down any! Plus, what’s with all this #adulting that gets in the way of these fun activities? Shouldn’t that just kind of come to a halt during the summer, too? If only that were the case…

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That said, it’s still another gorgeous day today, so I’m only popping in to say hello and to tell you that I will be back! I’m still cooking up some delicious meals (I’ll be sharing some of them soon!), Philip isn’t starving, and I’m not abandoning my loyal readers. Unlike the past two summers, though, (how have I been doing this blog for more than two years already?!) this summer I’m freeing myself of the guilt if I happen to not post in a week — or, gasp, even two weeks. And you know what? I’m absolutely loving it.

Since I work full time during the week (and on Saturdays a couple times a month), Sundays are my “blogging day.” While this usually works, it makes it hard/stressful when we have had a busy weekend or the weather is nice and Philip and I are itching to get out for a long bike ride (we’re doing the Door County Century Ride in September, so we need to really kick it into gear. Eek!) or any other activity that sounds fun on a Sunday afternoon. Basically, I’ve decided I have too many hobbies. What a problem to have, right? So this summer, I’m living up my Word of the YearFun — and taking it outside to join the rest of Madison.

Let me fill you in on what’s currently been filling up our time…The month of May, in particular, seemed to go by especially fast (as I feel is always the case for people). Two weekends ago Philip and I took the opportunity to go on a marriage retreat, which was wonderful. The retreat was in Madison, so for a date night, we headed to State Street and ate at Fresco, a rooftop restaurant and lounge that serves excellent, fresh and contemporary fare. If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend making a reservation and checking it out! The ambiance is great, the food and drink flavorful, and the views are incredible.

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After our meal, we walked along State Street to the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union to enjoy an evening on the Terrace with cups of ice cream from Babcock Ice Cream Shop. Everybody else seemed to have the same idea and the 20 minute wait for the ice cream was totally worth it. This is also a must-try if you find yourself in the Madison area!

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Memorial Day weekend was also a great one — my parents were in town! Our house we moved into a year and a half ago, while it has a spacious backyard, had no trees of any kind in it (it used to be a field like almost every other newer development in our area) and the previous owners never bothered to plant any, so we took it upon ourselves to create some shade and privacy…with my parents’ help. :) Parents are the best aren’t they? A week later, the Autumn Blaze Maple and the two pines we planted are still standing and looking green, so we have our hopes up. ;)

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This is my dad. Isn’t he the cutest?

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Red Rover, Red Rover? We’re capturing what our trees look like now…let’s hope we can see a difference in a couple years from now. :)

Besides the planting, we visited Wollersheim Winery and enjoyed the great weather with my parents, met up with friends, and biked to (and through) the UW Arboretum and enjoyed a simple picnic on our extra day off on Monday. And it was all lovely. I wish every weekend was a three day weekend!

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Whew, and that was just the weekend! The weeks and weekends ahead look just as busy and fun and I absolutely can’t wait. I’ll keep checking in, giving you updates on my #yearoffun, and sharing some of our favorite summer recipes! Thanks for reading (I truly appreciate it, whether you loyally read every post or are just stopping by for the first time). What are your summer plans and adventures ahead? I’d love to hear!

Apple Carrot Cinnamon Muffins

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Welcome to another work week, friends! I hope you had a lovely weekend! Even with the chillier temps, Philip and I had a fun weekend away in Illinois. We drove down on Friday to spend time with his parents. It was so nice to have no agenda and to just be able to connect and enjoy each other’s company. And yes, I absolutely love my in-laws. In fact, I’m pretty sure this trip was instigated by yours truly. :)

Since I lived in Peoria for a year during my dietetic internship, there’s always a good chance I’ll be able to connect with a friend or two. This time, I felt like I hit jackpot; I spent the morning chatting away with a friend at a coffee shop and in the afternoon headed over to another friend’s house to meet up with another couple of friends while their kiddos played together. Lots of reconnecting and catching up was happening on this trip! I absolutely loved it. Laughter and time with friends is so good for the soul, isn’t it? And I’m a horrible blogger because no pictures were taken during the entire trip. *sigh*

For lack of a better transition, let’s just jump right in and talk about today’s recipe that I’m this excited for! Apple Carrot Cinnamon Muffins — while it sounds slightly too “healthy” to be good, these are, perhaps surprisingly, delicious and flavorful. When I made them a couple weeks ago, they were just as perfect as a dessert after dinner as they were for an afternoon snack or breakfast-on-the-go. So versatile!

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Spring Green Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce

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If your weekend weather was anything like what we were having, I hope you were able to get out and enjoy it! Talk about beautiful weather. In fact, as I type this, I’m sitting outside on our deck, enjoying a La Croix on ice (because that’s about as fancy as I get), and taking in as much fresh air as I can before rain moves in this week. This weekend has been full of fun activities from bike riding with Philip on Sunday afternoon to playing Red Light, Green Light with the littlest members in our small group from church Saturday evening. Gosh, it’d been a few years since the last time I’d played that! :)

While the weather has been consistently nice more frequently lately, it still has its moments of 70s one day to rainy and 50s the next day — the very definition of spring, right?! Even with the swings in temps, I absolutely love spring and all the vibrant color it brings with it. After a dull winter, the lush grass and budding trees is always a welcome sight for sore eyes.

This Spring Green Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce is the perfect resemblance of spring — fresh, vibrant, and full of all shades of green. Not to mention, a good helping of all those spring vegetables in season right now. :) If you even just sort of think you like pad thai or stir fry, then I know you’re going to love this recipe!

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A Marathon to Remember

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Welcome to another work week, everyone! It’s the start of our second week back from vacation and I’m happy to say I’m feeling a little more prepared for this Monday than I was last week. Whew, coming back from vacation is tough! 

In all honesty, it felt good to be back to a routine and our normal schedule, back into our own surroundings and comforts of home. Coming from an extremely small town (we’re talking school class size of 60 people, folks), I never thought I’d think of Madison, Wisconsin, as being calm or small. But after a week of being in downtown Boston and D.C., it definitely felt a little closer to home for me. All the people, hustle and bustle, and the activity was fun and exciting (for a week), but it made me that much more appreciative of my five minute commute to work and relatively easy-to-find parking in all areas of the city.

Let’s talk about our trip, shall we? Our first leg of the trip was to Boston so I could run the Boston Marathon (yippee!). What an amazing experience! It’s one I’ll never forget. The day before the race you could literally feel the excitement within the city. People were gathering from all over the world to run this race and it was so much fun to be a part of it all. Everyone I talked to said it’s the best race they’ve ever run and they always want to come back for it if they can. I had to almost pinch myself just to remind myself I was running the Boston Marathon, because in a way, it kind of felt like any other race in a large city. But the overall excitement from the city alone with store fronts and billboards decked out for the race helped me to remember it was so much more than just any race.

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After checking out the large Expo and getting my official Boston Marathon jacket on Sunday, we were able to do some sightseeing with my cousin and his daughter. We logged a total of about 9 miles of walking on Sunday…perhaps not the best choice for the day before a marathon, but it was fun to explore the city and soak it all in. I had good intentions of seeing more sights after the race on Monday, but sitting and relaxing felt a lot more enjoyable post-race than I initially thought. :)

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Monday was finally race day! After seven months of waiting, it was finally here! It was an absolutely gorgeous day. While slightly warmer than I would have liked (the warmest I had trained in was 40 degree weather, so the sunny, 65 degrees felt downright hot), it made for a relatively enjoyable day that brought tons of crowds out for it.

The journey out to Hopkinton, the small town we start in, was a ride that took, what felt like, an eternity. We loaded onto one of the many school buses and since I don’t run with my phone, I had nothing to do but sit and look out the window…and realize I was going to have to run this whole distance back. May I suggest never to drive the course you’re going to be running. Because you then realize just how crazy you are for thinking running 26 miles is a good idea. And just how far that distance actually is.

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