Author: Kara Hoerr

An RD, runner, and wife living the Midwest life.

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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Crock-Pot Hearty Italian Quinoa & Vegetable Soup

Am I too late?! Is soup season officially over? Have you had one too many soup variations this winter and are already dreaming of grilling anything that can possibly be cooked over a flame? Even if you thought you were over soup (don’t worry, I hear ya!), I have full confidence this soup will persuade you to give soup one last chance before you officially declare yourself done with soup for the season.

I think it was around late February when I thought I was over soup. It seemed like I was making soup on a weekly basis. My problem is that I have so many favorite soups I want (need?) to cram into a short season. Plus, the ease of making soup can’t be beat, especially when everything goes right in the Crock-Pot. Still, I was thisclose to scratching off all soups from our weekly menu planning. After weeks on end of one soup or another, it’s easy to call it quits.

Except, of course, when you spot a recipe that has Italian in the title (because, you know, anything Italian catches my eye these days), it’s a dreary spring day (ahem, like this entire past weekend), and the ease of a Crock-Pot soup after a busy day is too good to pass up, Crock-Pot Hearty Italian Quinoa & Vegetable Soup will have you making soup at least one last time no matter how many soups you’ve devoured this season…and it likely will win you over. It definitely did for me.

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My Current Thoughts and Ponderings…

Hey there! Welcome to another work week…with (more) snow! What?! I had no idea we were in for more snow until yesterday at church when a friend mentioned about the upcoming snow storm. I looked at my weather app (if you don’t have Dark Sky, you should!) and yep, sure enough, snow was in the forecast.

So here I am, like a typical Midwesterner, talking about the weather (sorry, it’s just what we do, I guess!). I don’t have any new recipes for you today since lately we’ve been enjoying some old favorites (last night we had one of my most popular recipes on here: Smoked Gouda and Roasted Red Pepper Tomato-Basil Bisque. Gosh, it does not disappoint! Philip said it was like we were eating at a restaurant. If you haven’t had it, I’m telling you, you must give it a try this week. It’s so simple to put together, too.

Anyway, instead of a typical blog post with a recipe, I thought I’d just share with you some of my current thoughts, wonderings, ponderings…should be interesting, huh? :)

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Chocolate-Dipped Gingersnaps

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Well, that nice weather we had a week ago was nice while it lasted but as soon as it left, the cold weather brought me a nasty cold of my own. I have a Kleenex box on my right and a pile of used Kleenex’s on my left. This weekend has been spent either working or just trying to survive and get better before another work week rolls around all too quickly. We can’t win them all, right?

But you know what I do have that has been making this bout of sickness a little bit better? My husband, yes, who has graciously been stocking me up with more Kleenex’s and helping out however he can (bless him), but also these amazing Chocolate-Dipped Gingersnaps!

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Green Edamame Avocado Hummus

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Welcome to another week, friends! I hope you had a fun weekend and that your week ahead is looking like a good one. Philip and I had an easy weekend with no real plans in the books, so we enjoyed our time together and did planning, instead, for future trips.

We’re blessed to be able to travel near and far, going on a few “big” trips each year. Well, this year we’re going on an even “bigger” trip (for us anyway…it’s all relative, isn’t it?) and we’re planning a 2–week long trip to Italy and Greece later this year. Wheee! After our little planning sesh Saturday afternoon at a coffee shop, I am even more excited. There’s still a lot to think through and plan, especially since neither one of us has been before, but the bare bones of our trip are there. Now the fun part of filling it all in can start next. :)

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