Italian

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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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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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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Garlic & Herb Spaghetti Squash with Toasted Pine Nuts

Garlic & Herb Spaghetti Squash with Toasted Pine Nuts

How was everybody’s Halloween weekend?! Besides the rain and dreary weather (which is only fitting for Halloween, I guess, right?), it was a great weekend for us here in Madison.

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Since I had Friday off from work, Philip and I made a whole day of it. What a treat! Normally my days off consist of chores and errands — certainly not casual coffee dates chatting about life, hiking through the leaves and bluffs in Wisconsin, or capping off the day with sushi and ice cream.

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Our hiking trip was at same place we went a month ago, but this time the crowds had drastically declined and the weather was slightly chillier. It was peaceful, beautiful seeing the trails covered in leaves (and the off trails…we I may have lost the trail for a bit…), and just plain fun to explore nature.

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On Halloween, I could sense the excitement in the air while at work. I was excited as well since Philip had given me an early birthday gift for us to go see Wicked, the musical about how the Wicked Witch of the West became wicked from the Wizard of Oz. Absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it. It was my third time seeing it and it never gets old.

From work to passing out candy to all our cute trick-or-treaters to the musical, time was short with little of it left for preparing dinner. This Garlic & Herb Spaghetti Squash with Pine Nuts was the perfect solution. Besides being able to use up the last of the spaghetti squash from our garden, it was so simple it was almost ridiculous. It was a delicious vegetable side to pair with other leftovers we already had in the fridge.

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Spaghetti alla Melanzane

Spaghetti alla Melanzane

The fall spirit is still going strong around here! The weather, once again, was gorgeous this weekend, so I hightailed it out of work on Saturday and made it just in time to spend the late afternoon apple picking at one of the many orchards in the Madison area.

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We walked away with far more apples than we probably needed, but we couldn’t not fill up the whole bag! Yesterday we spent time in the kitchen together making and canning enough applesauce to last us a year…no, I’m serious, it’ll most likely last us until next summer.

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We also picked up some pumpkins this weekend and glanced at all the gourds and winter squash at the apple orchard. Thanks to our garden this summer, we bypassed the winter squash. While our community garden plot was a little highly neglected this summer, we were still able to come away with a bunch of delicious produce, including a few spaghetti squash. Yay!

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While I have nothing against pasta (whole grain is what I usually choose), spaghetti squash is so fun and is a great way to get some added vegetables onto your plate without even really realizing it. If you’re not familiar with spaghetti squash, it’s a winter squash that looks like spaghetti noodles when it’s cooked. Just running a fork through it creates lots of tiny spaghetti-like strands. Not only is it loaded with fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants, it’s also extremely low in calories (40 calories for a cup!). Spaghetti squash for the win!

Since I had small little spaghetti squash from our garden sitting on our kitchen counter, I decided to make a twist on spaghetti — Spaghetti alla Melanzane in a spaghetti squash boat. Isn’t it adorable?

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Smoked Sausage & Kale Alfredo

Smoked Sausage & Kale Alfredo

I’m starting to embrace fall and everything it has to offer. I have decided I’m fully ready to put away my shorts and summer tops and bring out the cozy sweaters (let’s be real, my sweats are what’re really calling my name). Of course, it helps that the weather has been gorgeous, the sun shining, and I’m not yet hustling to and from my car due to the sharp chill in the air. Nevertheless, fall is at its finest here in the Midwest.

In fact, on my day off this week, for some reason I woke up with this great need and desire to make my life surrounded with all things fall. So, our house has been switched for the seasons with fall colors, pinecones, and fall leaves positioned decoratively throughout…never mind the trees with green leaves still prospering and doing well outside…

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Naturally, no fall is complete without the smell of pumpkin in the air, so to top it all off, I made up a few mini loaves of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread from Erin at Well Plated (amazing!) to send off to our new neighbors. If I enjoyed PSLs, I’m sure one of those would be in my hand as well.

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The one thing I really love about the change of seasons, though? The change in food! Fall, to me, is when comfort food starts coming out, pots of hearty soup are simmering on the stove again, and all things pumpkin and apple abound. This Smoked Sausage & Kale Alfredo is right up there with the best comfort food. It’s creamy, rich, and warms you right up — both from its warmth and the little bit of kick it has.

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Greek Pizza with Mint & Feta

Greek Pizza with Mint & Feta

Hello, again! The work week sure does come around with consistent regularity, doesn’t it? But it sure helps knowing a week from now I will be on VACATION! Ahem, sorry. A full eleven days away from work…woah. I don’t know if I can handle it…wait, yes I can.

Enough daydreaming, there’s still lots to do between now and then. While I’m looking forward to some R&R (obviously), this past weekend was a good glimpse into what I’m envisioning my vacation to be like. In just two days (just think what I could do with eleven!) I enjoyed dinner with friends, a fire and s’mores while admiring the starry night with my main squeeze, a classic date night consisting of dinner (sushi) and a movie (Inside Out), and a chance to do some baking (a future post on that to come!). And if I could, I would probably re-watch Inside Out a couple more times during my vacation. Seriously, how does Pixar know so well how to pull at your heart strings? What I love more than laughing and tearing up during a movie is seeing my husband next to me doing the same thing. We both loved it!

You know what we also both love? Well, besides each other, this Greek Pizza with Mint & Feta! So good, my friends! Yes, I know it seems a little out there, but trust me, this flavor combination is incredible. Plus, it gives you a chance to break away from your typical pizza night with your typical toppings like pepperoni and sausage. Change is good, remember?! :)

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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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Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta Pizza

Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta Pizza

Whew, what a weekend! The weather, the excitement of the Super Bowl…

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…and the completion of another weekend project!

First of all, was I out of the loop or did this snow come from no where? I knew it was supposed to snow this weekend, but I didn’t know it was going to snow all day yesterday! There was no hope for leaving, so I had a productive day checking one thing off my list after another. Don’t you love it when that happens?!

Since I don’t care all that much about the Super Bowl, I’ll jump to what I’m most excited about: our completed dining room!

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After last week’s big debate on colors, I finally made a choice and we got it up on the walls on Saturday. Although initially it looked a bit bright (because, let’s face it, it is), with the furniture and things back on the walls, it looked a lot more inviting. While I’m not a huge fan of vertical blinds, we changed the vanes to a gray color and it made all the difference. I’m realizing my last minute choices seem to be the most successful ones.

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And you know what else I’m excited about? This pizza — Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta Pizza.

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