Comfort Food

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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Family Cooking Class + 5 Ingredient Chicken Enchilada-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

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Hey there, everyone! Were you getting worried I wasn’t going to show up in the New Year? ;) Well, whether you were concerned or not, never fear, it just took me a while to get back in the groove of things after an amazing holiday with family. I ended out my #yearoffun with one last trip of the year to Denver to be with my husband’s family. It was so much fun—our days were filled with hikes, a brewery tour, a whiskey tour (while interesting to learn the process of making a good batch of whiskey, I’ve decided whiskey just isn’t for me :)), and lots of good family time to bring in the New Year!

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Smoked Sausage with Kale & Quinoa Skillet

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We’re just a little over a week and a half away from Thanksgiving and I’m this excited about it! My brother and his family are flying in to Iowa for the week (whom we haven’t seen since April (!!)), so we’re making the most out of the trip and having a Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday celebration jammed into a short 3 days while we’re at my parents’ house. I literally can’t wait.

Since we’re doubling the weekend with Thanksgiving and Christmas (Thanksmas?), Philip’s and my annual candy making has commensed so my side of the family doesn’t miss out on some of our favorites. :) This past weekend Philip and I took advantage of our free weekend and broke out our Hoerr Family Confectionary tub to get started for the year. It’s been so much fun making new traditions with each other and this one is definitely one of our tastiest traditions. ;) The day went even more smoothly since we had success making caramels on our first try this year…this for sure put a better mood on the day. :)

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While the desserts are fun to make (and eat!), I also love the food that actually goes on the table for the Thanksgiving meal. Last year Philip and I hosted Thanksgiving and had a great time prepping everything, but this year we just get to enjoy our time with family, help where needed, and bring a side dish (and only because I couldn’t let the holiday slip by without making something).

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I have a few ideas on what to bring as a side, but haven’t narrowed it down completely yet. If you’re in a similar situation and are trying to think of some meal ideas for next week when you need a festive and seasonal, yet quick, meal to pull together when family is around, this Smoked Sausage with Kale & Quinoa Skillet has you covered. This skillet is hearty enough to be a main entrée, but you could even make it into a side dish to accompany the turkey for something a little different.

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Butternut Squash Gnocchi

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Happy Halloween, everyone! How is it already the end of October?! I mean, seriously, how did that happen. Halloween means tomorrow is November (November!), Daylight Saving Time starts soon, and all stores will be decorated for Christmas by tomorrow. While everything seems to be flying by a little too quickly, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for the holiday season that’s upon us.

Philip and I don’t have costumes this year, but we do have our candy ready to hand out to the cute trick-or-treaters. I wrote a post last year about why I hand out candy, but this year I’m also supporting the Teal Pumpkin Project by having a few non-food treats set aside for any kiddo who have food allergies or intolerances and can’t enjoy the candy. I think this is a great way to include everybody in the fun and even Philip admits, my non-food treats are pretty awesome. ;)

While I love handing out candy for Halloween, I do think there should be some limit to how much candy the kids enjoy at one time once they get home. I’m sure most families have a rhythm down for what works for them and their kids, but I loved this idea from Sally, a dietitian and mom who blogs over at Real Mom Nutrition, about the Switch Witch. I’ve heard about this witch a couple times this year now and I think it’s a great and fun way to let kids have the candy they want, but then switch out the rest of the candy for a toy or other prize that the witch leaves overnight. It’s definitely an idea I’m keeping in my back pocket for whenever we get to that stage.

But for now, I stashed away a couple Snickers Peanut Butter Squares for myself (re: all of the Squares that were in the variety pack. :) I knew sampling one was a bad idea…) and made up a batch of this delectable and appropriately fall Butternut Squash Gnocchi to enjoy after the trick-or-treaters have had their fill. Like I always say, it’s about finding the balance. ;)

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Chipotle Turkey-Apple Chili

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Have you ever been so excited to go to a new and different place but, while absolutely loving the excitement of it all for the first bit, after a while you start to realize how much you miss home and all the things you loved about it? That’s kind of how I’m feeling about the change in seasons. While I’m so excited for fall with the cooler temperatures, sweatshirts and leggings all day-everyday, and all the fall foods, a part of me is longing for those long summer days, easy shorts and a t-shirt, and warm weather. I mean, summer was just here! And now…it’s not. :(

Perhaps the dreary weather has me feeling wistful, but one thing that has reminded me again just how wonderful fall can be is this Chipotle Turkey-Apple Chili. Your classic chili can sometimes seem more fitting for a cold, winter evening, whereas this turkey-apple chili could not be more appropriate for fall. I’m coming at you with yet another apple recipe this week! This was another of the many recipes I made using the apples Philip and I picked a couple weeks ago.

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Sweet Potato & Egg Skillet Hash

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Have you ever had foods that you used to hate, wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole and then the next thing you know, you find yourself tolerating them and, gasp, even starting to crave them? It amazes me how our taste buds change over time. I can think of plenty of examples of foods from my past that fit this description: Baked beans (actually, any beans for that matter), nuts, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, avocados…. (Moms of picky eaters, don’t give up hope!)

I overcame my dislike for these foods several years ago, but there’s one food I just have never found myself really being drawn to: Eggs. The incredible, edible egg has never been that incredible to me. It was one of those foods I wanted to love — they’re a great source of protein and nutrients, versatile and easy to prepare, and yet, I think “like” was the best I could do. If I knew eggs were on the menu, I had to build myself up for it and prepare myself, in a way. It’s not that I never made eggs or wouldn’t eat them, but it wasn’t a go-to food for me.

That is until recently. Whatever the reason, I actually started finding myself craving them (no, I’m not pregnant). I made my first avocado toast with a poached egg on top just last week. Delicious! I shocked myself that I was actually eating (and enjoying!) a runny yolk. Scrambled was the best I had done before then. I guess you could say, I’ve added yet another food to my repertoire.

No longer will I quickly skip past a recipe or an item on a menu because it has an egg in it. Which is why this is the first time since I started my blog two years ago that I’m sharing a recipe that has eggs as the star of the show. For all you egg lovers out there, you’re welcome. :)

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And I think it’s safe to say that I’m starting my newly established “egg category” on this blog with a good one: Sweet Potato & Egg Skillet Hash. You guys, this one will make you like eggs if you aren’t a fan like I was. Even if you aren’t willing to give eggs a try, the hash alone is amazing. (But the egg totally pushes it over the top, IMO).

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Chicken Cilantro and Lime Soup

Chicken Cilantro & Lime Soup

I feel like a broken record, but I’m afraid it’s still just as cold this week as it was last week…which means time for more soup! I wasn’t kidding when I told you I’ve been making soup on almost a weekly basis. I’m just getting started with all the soups I’ve been making! ;)

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But first, since I have unofficially declared 2016 as my “year of fun,” I am determined to embrace these cold temperatures and take advantage of what Wisconsin has to offer in the winter months. And that meant finally getting to go cross country skiing this weekend! I have been wanting to go every winter since I moved here (this is the 3rd winter) and it never seemed to work out due to something or another, so I was not letting another winter slip by this year…especially during my year of fun! Philip and I had some free time on Saturday and were able to see how our legs worked with skis on. While it definitely wasn’t pretty at first, we had a great time and are excited to give it another try when there’s fresh snow on the trails!

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It was fun to be outside, but I was ready for something to warm me up afterwards. While it is soup season, sometimes the comfort food gets a little too…well, comforting. I need something fresh and light, something not so stick-to-your-bones that weighs you down for the rest of the evening. (Even though, chances are high I will indeed be lounging on the couch after dinner continuing to go through all the seasons of Downton Abbey, I don’t always want to feel like I’m in a winter food coma.) In those times, I go to Chicken Cilantro and Lime Soup. 

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[Slow Cooker] Hearty Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Slow Cooker Hearty Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Winter decided to show up for a little bit in Wisconsin…in it’s coldest way possible. I know we’ve been pretty fortunate so far this winter (it may be hard to remember with these near negative temps we’re having, but remember those 50 degree days a month ago?!), but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to tolerate these cold days.

Running outside makes my eyelashes freeze and my legs to go numb. Not enough blankets, sweatshirts, or slippers can make me feel warm enough. And it’s so dry that Philip and I got shocked when we gave each other a kiss yesterday. Philip says sparks are flying (insert eye roll emoji), but all I can think about is how I’ll be able to survive embrace another few months of winter in Wisconsin.

One way that is certainly helping with my constant state of being cold is filling up on hearty soups. I think I’ve started adding at least one soup a week to our weekly menu. The first chance I get when the temps start to drop ever so slightly (uhh, is September too soon?), I’m pulling out all my soup recipes to enjoy them to the fullest for yet another Wisconsin winter. #lookingonthebrightside

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One of the easiest and quickest soups in my arsenal of soup recipes is this Hearty Chicken & Wild Rice Soup. I’ve already had it three times within the past two months — it’s that good!

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Landscaping Project + Sprouted Whole Grain & Oatmeal Bread

Sprouted Whole Grain & Oatmeal Bread

With so many things going on the past couple weeks, what with our vacation and anniversary, I haven’t been able to share with you another exciting thing that took place at the start of my vacation — our home landscaping project for 2015 (yes, there will most likely be a landscaping project every year for the next couple years at least)!

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But this year was the inaugural year, so we were fortunate enough to have the experts come in to help us, er, Philip’s parents. They’ve had far, far more experience with landscaping than either Philip or I have combined, so they shared their knowledge this time around in order to equip us for the many years of landscaping projects ahead of us. Thank you, Mom & Dad! :)

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So, what did we do, you’re asking? Um, well, let’s just say we were ambitious. I felt like we did it all.

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If you’re new here, we bought our house in December and while Philip has done an amazing job making our grass look nice and green this summer, spending hours on it each week, we still weren’t happy with the rocks or the plants surrounding the house. I don’t necessarily mind living in a suburban, cookie cutter neighborhood, but our yard is the one area where we can make it a little more unique — a little more us, if you will — rather than having the contractor’s typical shrubs and bushes in place.

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All that to say, we started out by removing all the rock in the front and sides of the house. Easier said than done. We ended up with a big pile of free rock for our neighbors to fight over (okay, no fights actually ensued) and another big pile of mulch to replace the said rock.

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With the rock and old bushes taken out, the fun part of deciding where to put the new flowers and grasses began. Philip’s parents have a keen eye for plants and landscaping, so they took care of the hard part of deciding what plants to buy and brought them all up from the family business, Hoerr Nursery & Garden Center, in Peoria, Illinois.

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Knowledge was passed down from father to son when Philip learned how to lay mortar and brick for the new edging. He’s all set for the rest of the house we still have left to do! ;)

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Our pile of mulch was eventually spread out over the finished space and plenty of water was given to hydrate our new plants. Project completed! Of course, that was a highly abbreviated version of a full 2-day project, but we’re so happy with how it all turned out. It gave our house a totally new and fresh look. Just what we were looking for!

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Landscaping is no cake-walk, that’s for sure. Everybody worked up an appetite and that’s one area I had covered. :) To keep our energy from waning, I had energy bites and cookies at the ready and this Sprouted Whole Grain & Oatmeal Bread to give us the energy we needed for the day.

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Cowboy Burgers

Cowboy Burgers

Maid-rites…Sloppy Joes…Taverns…it’s one classic Midwest favorite that has many names. I feel like the name you’re most familiar with depends on where you grew up (Taverns were something I hadn’t even heard of until about high school or college) and the consistency of the sandwich. While it’s essentially a simple base of ground hamburger with a ketchup sauce mixed in, for a sandwich with many names, there are even more recipes for it out there. How is one to decide?!

To make it easy for you, I’m declaring this version of the beloved Midwest sandwich the one you need from here on out. :) Don’t you love it when somebody makes a hard decision for you? I guarantee you won’t regret it and you’ll no longer be searching for that perfect go-to recipe that needs to be on the table in 30 minutes. (psst! it’s this one!)

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Now, I grew up having maid-rites all the time. My mom’s were simple, no fuss sandwiches with just 2 ingredients — ground beef and ketchup. My friend, Karen’s, mom made maid-rites, too, but were completely different and I absolutely loved those as well…as in, I’d probably have at least 2 sandwiches when I went to visit (which was often). Not to mention, we had baked French fries at Karen’s house to go with the maid-rites, something my mom never made. So, I devoured those, too. I think it’s safe to say I had a big appetite.

But Philip, on the other hand, didn’t have as fond of memories of maid-rites as I did growing up. When I put maid-rites on our menu board, he wasn’t all that thrilled. As always, he gave it a loving try and he instantly knew these were much different than what he remembered as maid-rites (in a good way). With the negative connotation still in his head, I declared them Cowboy Burgers — my version of a maid-rite with a revamped name. Problem solved. The sandwich has so many names anyway, why not add one more to the list?

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