Is anybody else having trouble wrapping their mind around the idea that Christmas is less than 2 weeks away?! 2 weeks!! December always seems to fly by, but I feel like I was just celebrating my birthday, which was December 1st. How is it already mid-December?
I’m not sure how we managed it, but Philip and I were able to find a free weekend in December to make a trip to Illinois this past weekend to see his parents and grandparents and for me to connect with a friend in the area. We celebrated the start of a new season for him at his job, relaxed in front of the fireplace while the snow fell outside, and played a family favorite game—Rummikub. It was certainly a special weekend and it’s making me even more excited to see more family later this month!
Today I’m excited to bring you a new recipe that is a holiday/winter twist on a traditional Mid-eastern vegetarian dish. Tabbouleh is traditionally a salad composed of the grain bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, green onions, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice. I love bulgur (whole grain for the win!), but this recipe is even easier to whip together because it involves no cooking of the grain. Instead, cauliflower takes its place and my favorite winter vegetable, sweet potato, is added in to give it a little heartiness and sweetness.
If you’re coming into this week with slightly tighter fitting pants, I hope your hearts are at least a little bit fuller as well. This past week Philip and I packed up and headed to Iowa to spend a few quality days with my family; I left feeling thankful and blessed for be a part of such a wonderful, loving family.
Even though we were only there for about three days, we were able to fit in a lot of fun! I may be biased, but my niece (who is turning 5 this week) and my nephew (who’s 2) may be some of the cutest kids ever. They thought of all kinds of games for Uncle Philip and Aunt Kara to play and it was so much fun. From games to books to tea parties to running around, we certainly were not left “bored” for long. :)
For some, the holiday frenzy has already started. For others, it all begins this week. The five-plus weeks of holiday indulgence from holiday parties, family dinners, and the continuous smorgasbord of sweets in the office has officially hit. Stress, social eating, and schedule overload can be the perfect storm for overeating.
Most of us start the season with good intentions, thinking to ourselves that this year will be different. But as we see another plate of those Oreo truffles being passed around, our willpower collapses and the temptation can no longer be resisted. I know, I’ve tried doing that before in the past, too.
The good news is – you don’t have to resist! As a registered dietitian, I give you full permission to have that Oreo truffle, pumpkin pie, or Grandma’s fudge without the guilt or remorse. Finding a balance between restrictions and overeating, such as allowing yourself a treat once in a while, may actually be what you need to keep the weight off this holiday season and throughout the New Year.
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. :)
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).
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.
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. ;)
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.
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. ;)
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!
Can you believe we’re already a few days into the new year?! 2016 — how did that happen?! So far, my new year is off to a fun start. I’ve unofficially declared fun as my word of the year. I think after spending so much time working on our new house for the first half of last year and being injured for the other half, I’m ready to get outside, be adventurous, and just enjoy myself this year…well, as much as I can without completely ignoring the fact that I have a full-time job and am trying to be a responsible adult.
With only four days in, I’d have to say 2016 is looking up! Philip and I had a quiet New Year’s Day that I absolutely loved. It included a little productivity with plenty of relaxation. I was able to join the rest of them at the gym and go for a swim in the morning, clean the house after all the Christmas decorations had come down (while sad to see them go, it’s nice to have all the pine needles gone and things back in order), get groceries, and do laundry all with plenty of daylight left to relax and enjoy the day. That doesn’t happen
very often ever and I can’t tell you how happy it made me feel to start the New Year that way.
With chores checked off our list, Philip and I tested out our new snowshoes on snow covered trails right outside our house and cozied up on the couch to sip on tea and read with the afternoon sun streaming in through the windows. It’s the simple pleasures in the life, right? And yes, this is what I call fun. :)
All of our resting up on Friday prepared us for a fun early-birthday trip to Chicago for Philip on Saturday! I loved taking it all in — the hustle and bustle of people walking up and down the streets with shopping bags in hand, the lights, restaurants, and store fronts.
After all the excitement and anticipation leading up to Christmas, I can’t believe it’s all over now. Our Christmas tree is still up, but yet it doesn’t seem to have the same glow as it did just a few days ago when Philip and I opened up our gifts by its lights.
Philip and I had a wonderful Christmas and spent the entire weekend with all of his immediate family. Having everybody all together is a treat since half of them live in Colorado now and it’s not always as easy to have everyone under the same roof. We ate, played games, ate again, opened gifts, watched movies, ate some more, and shared about our past year and year to come. Always a fun time with the Hoerr family! In good foodie fashion, I brought along the candy that Philip and I had made a few weeks ago, my Holiday Pear-Pomegranate Salsa, and my Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread for my father-in-law (extra raisins, of course). Everything was a huge hit!
You had a few of your own favorites this year, too! Now that Christmas is behind us, it’s always fun to look back on the year that is ending and also look ahead at the year to come. One thing I know for sure is that 2015 had some delicious recipes coming out of this blog (as well as the addition of a new camera! No more iPhone photos!). Without further ado, here are your top 10 favorite recipes from 2015 (I think you chose some good ones!):
Christmas is almost here, folks! After all the anticipation and preparation for the holiday, we are down to the final days. Is your shopping done, lists completed, and gifts wrapped? Ha. Don’t worry, we still have days…plural. (re: we’ve still got time!)
In all seriousness, with all the hustle and bustle, sometimes it’s best to slow down, put aside our to-do lists, and remember to be joyful and content with what we do have. Even though I’m still working the majority of this week, I’m already excited for our young tradition of going together to a Christmas Eve service on Thursday evening followed by sushi at a restaurant in downtown Madison. With bellies full, Philip and I come back home to sit by the fire, sip on hot chocolate, and exchange thoughtful gifts to one another. Out of all the hubbub of the season, this quiet time together is possibly what I look forward to the most.
In keeping with the theme of simplicity and not to add another recipe that will add to your baking or cooking list, I have a simple salad that I know you’re going to love — both for the flavor and ease of making it. Whether you decide to add it to your holiday dinner table this year or opt for having it after the big meals are over when you’re looking for something a little healthier, Pear and Pomegranate Spinach Salad with Pistachios has got you covered.
Philip and I are now entering our third Christmas season together as a married couple and have, as of this weekend, completed our second annual Hoerr Family Confectionary (est. 2013) candy-making extravaganza! We pull out all the stops with labels, candy boxes, and as much candy as we can squeeze into a day. It’s fun to then be able to share that candy throughout the Christmas season with neighbors, family, and friends.
While we may have thrown out more caramel than we actually were able to use and had a couple too many mid-candy-making grocery runs, the rest of the candy was success on the first try. I feel like we are officially stocked until Valentine’s Day. #dietitiansworstnightmare
But you know what was the best part (well, besides taste testing far too much of our final products)?! Fully putting to use our new, updated kitchen! It was our Christmas present to each other this year, and exactly one year after we closed on our first home, we were able to enjoy it to the fullest. Now…what’s on our Year Two list? ;)
I know I hinted at giving you a full glimpse at our kitchen awhile back (sorry, the time has gotten away from me!), but I’m happy to show you the finished result now! (continue reading…)