Grains

{Instant Pot} Butternut Squash Risotto

It sounds cold and windy outside, there’s snow in the forecast, and I’m currently curled up in a chair next to our freshly decorated Christmas tree, inhaling the intoxicating smell of Frasier Fir. The only thing that’s missing is a bowl of this creamy, melt-in-your-mouth Instant Pot Butternut Squash Risotto sitting on my lap.

(Also, I’m admiring our new fireplace mantel, decked out for the holidays for the 1st time! Whee!! Thanks for letting me share.)

Back to the risotto: I mean, really. How can you look at that bowl of creamy, cheesy, comforting goodness and not want to just jump right into a bowl? No? Just me?

In all seriousness, this is legit easy comfort food taken to the next level. Perfect for these colder winter months when all your body wants is something warm and hearty. This will now be your go-to. Trust me.

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Spicy Peanut & Sweet Potato Soup + Fireplace Makeover + Sourdough Success!

I knew talking about our updated fireplace would get you to come visit. :) And while you’re here, you might as well check out this amazingly delicious and flavorful soup I’m sharing with you, too (sneaky, aren’t I? :)). I know, you’re probably thinking soup season is coming to an end, but you’re talking to the girl who just got a new fireplace…I’m going to enjoy these last few weeks of winter as much as I can!

While I’m certainly excited about this soup (seriously, so good! Philip and I both went for seconds on it), I have to admit, I’m with you guys—I’m probably more excited about this new fireplace makeover right now. We just had the stone go up this past Friday and cleaned up from all the drywall dust and put the room back together on Saturday (seriously, that dust landed in places I didn’t even knew existed!), so you’re seriously getting a first glimpse!  (continue reading…)

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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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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Maple-Dijon Chicken & Quinoa 30-Minute Skillet

Maple-Dijon Chicken & Quinoa Skillet

Can we be completely Midwest for a minute and talk about this weather?! Above freezing? I’ll take it! Above 50 degrees? Heat wave!

Even just last week I was trying to soak in all things winter by going cross country skiing again in the fresh powder that had fallen last weekend. But now. Now I want puddles and warm weather and spring jackets. One taste of spring weather has me wanting all things spring. While a part of me is saddened that the season of winter activities is coming to an end, I am so ready for some warmer weather. Going for a run this weekend without 4+ layers or mittens you would think you’d only need in the arctic tundra felt so freeing!

Alas, if I’m being realistic, it’s still only February. I’m trying not to get my hopes too high. Although, I’ll admit, I haven’t brought myself to look at the forecast this week, because I already know I will most likely be disappointed.

In this in-between weather, it’s hard to know what recipe to go for — do I make a hearty, comforting stew or a light and fresh spring-inspired dish? I found a happy balance with Maple-Dijon Chicken & Quinoa 30-Minute Skillet.

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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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Roasted Butternut Squash & Farro Winter Salad

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash & Farro Winter Salad

Welcome to another work week, friends! I can’t believe we’re less than three weeks away from Thanksgiving and all the festivities that come after that! I don’t think I’ve fully come to terms that it’s November yet either. Is it okay that I still keep thinking it’s September?

I think every weekend from now until, uhhh…February (?!) is filled up with something on my calendar. So it was nice this weekend to just take it easy — no real plans whatsoever.

Philip and I wandered through a bookstore in downtown Madison, picked up Mad Libs and played a few rounds (for some reason, this game was really fun and hilarious when I was ten. I think we gave half-hearted chuckles and moved on…), played Rummikub in front of our fireplace (a family favorite game on both sides of our families and what we bonded over from the very beginning of our relationship), and watched a few several episodes of Downtown Abbey to cap off our evenings. I know, we’re behind the times with the TV show selection. Besides the fact that I can only catch 75% of what they’re saying and I had to keep asking Philip for a synopsis after almost every episode during the first season, I’m totally hooked.

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A completely unproductive weekend, but just what I needed. This lack of productivity may be partly because I was forced out of our kitchen for the weekend. What may have consumed my time normally — like baking or cooking — was not an option due to a slight demo project currently going on. Hopefully by next week my kitchen will be up and open for business again (pictures included)!

In the meantime, I’m sharing my Maple Roasted Butternut Squash and Farro Salad paired with grilled salmon that we had awhile back when we had some unseasonably warm weather in our area. This salad would also be perfect with baked chicken or as a side dish with your Thanksgiving meal! Serve it warm or cold, this will be one of your most versatile dishes. The best part (besides its delicious flavors) is the easy prep. Because it can be served cold, you can make it ahead of time — especially nice if you’re serving it for Turkey Day.

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Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats + Weddings, Colorado, & Family Time

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Whew! What a whirlwind of a week I had last week and we’re already moving into the start of another week. Things need to sloooow down! Yesterday I mistakenly checked out REI (that store gets the best of me every time I walk inside…it all goes back to help my membership dividend, right?) and walked out with a new winter coat and boots. While exciting to purchase when it’s 80 degrees outside, I’m not looking forward to when I actually need to wear them.

This past week seemed like a catch up week after having a blast in Colorado last weekend. Philip’s brother found himself a beautiful girl and got hitched last weekend at a venue nestled in the mountains outside of Boulder. Everything about the wedding was gorgeous and perfectly planned. So happy for the new couple! (photo creds go to Jenna, Philip’s sister)

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Freekeh & Grape Salad with Mint & Feta + Colorado Adventures Recap

Freekeh & Grape Salad with Mint & Feta

Welcome to another work week, friends! Whew, what a fun weekend I had, though! Have you ever looked forward to and waited seemingly forever for an event to arrive and then before you know it, it’s over and you wish you could go back and experience it all over again?

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That was my weekend and I’m slightly disappointed that all the anticipation and excitement of the weekend is over. Thankfully, Philip and I have a few more exciting and fun trips planned for the summer and fall…don’t you just love it when one adventure ends, you automatically have another one to look forward to?

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So what was I so excited for this weekend? One of my closest friends from college got married this weekend in Colorado (the one I had a bachelorette party for a few weekends ago)! For one, it was a nice mini-vacation from work, but mostly, it was just a joy to be able to celebrate such a special and fun day with her.

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The wedding was absolutely beautiful, the bride was radiant, and the location couldn’t have been better. I mean, Colorado…in the mountains. Yes, please.

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While Thursday and Friday were busy days preparing for the wedding and dancing the night away, the fun just kept going into Saturday (see why I was so excited for this trip?!). Some of Philip’s family lives in Denver, so we spent the day hiking and enjoying the beauty that Colorado has to offer, with the great company — as well as the help and expertise — of Philip’s brother and his soon-to-be-wife. :)

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If a sign of a fun, jam-packed weekend is complete exhaustion, then this trip was definitely a good one. Despite all the fun, it was nice to finally make it home yesterday (although, with the instant realization that humidity is in full force right now in Madison, I miss Colorado’s no humidity weather).

While the trip was a great one, my body was in dire need of returning to some sort of normalcy in the area of food (and sleep, but mostly food). A perfect “recovery-from-vacation” meal in the summer is this Freekeh & Grape Salad with Mint & Feta with grilled chicken. This meal is fresh, light, full of whole grains, and is something that will get you me right on track again after having one too many Scotcheroos this weekend.

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Caramelized Onion & Plum with Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread

Caramelized Onion & Plum with Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread

Do you ever have those weekends where you go, go, go and you finally come to a point where you have to take a nap or collapse before you try to do anything else without hurting yourself, getting overly irritated, or crying over spilt milk?

Yep, that was me this weekend. I knew it was going to be one of those weekends when on Friday night I stated how I couldn’t wait to “sleep in” next weekend…hello, what happened to this weekend?! Well, work on Saturday plus a very early triathlon on Sunday morning happened this weekend. Mixed in there were house and garden “chores”, a picnic with friends, and another get together with more friends. Yes, the busy summer schedule is upon us.

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Which means summer food is also upon us. And my Caramelized Onion & Plum with Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread is a great and fresh meal to get us started with warm days and cool evenings that go far past my bedtime.

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