Knock-off Salad

Friday never looked better. Things have been crazy over here this week, as we’re adjusting to new work/life schedules only to be totally spoiled over the weekend and having to adjust again come Tuesday morning. It’s a vicious circle, I know. This little face definitely makes the long days worthwhile.
twin
Earlier this week I had a craving for pizza. Lucky for me, hubs picked us up some frozen Lou Malnati’s pizza when he was in Chicago last and we still had one left in our freezer (which I completely forgot about-always the best).
Besides a big glass of red wine, the sweet taste of the Malnati salad always pairs well our pizza. Since we didn’t have a salad from Lou’s, I attempted to re-create it from memory and cross my fingers. The kitchen gods were watching over me because it was right on point. Larry even said he couldn’t taste a difference between mine and the restaurant’s.
IMG_3558The only thing that I could’ve done better was maybe look up the actually ingredients on their website ;-) I used blue cheese instead of gorgonzola and bacon instead of salami. I could pick out the blue cheese mistake right away, but I had no idea they used salami, I always thought it was bacon.
IMG_3552
Ingredients for the salad:
Romaine lettuce
Tomatoes
Olives
Fresh Mushrooms
Salami (pan fried)
Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
Since the dressing is heavy with sugar (it’s a sweet vinaigrette), I substituted coconut sugar for regular white table sugar. Some of the health benefits of coconut sugar are lower glycemic rate (doesn’t raise blood sugar levels quickly), lower amounts of fructose, and contains some traces of vitamins.
-1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil
-6 tbsp. white wine vinegar
-4 tbsp. sugar
-2 tsp Italian seasoning
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 salt
Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and pour over each individual serving of salad. There’s nothing worse than making a salad soggy and throwing it away.
IMG_3566
One thing I will never attempt to re-create? Chicago-style pizza…it’s in a category all its own.
What’s your favorite restaurant salad? Any success making it at home?
Enjoy your Friday & your weekend! I know I will!
What’s your favorite restaurant salad? Any success making it at home?
Enjoy your Friday & your weekend!

My First Blue Apron Experience

Every now and again, we fall into the same old dinner routine. Because our time is so pressed during the week, I usually stick to something quick and easy. Rotations usually include salmon, chicken, spaghetti squash or zoodles with marinara and meat. Always served along a side of vegetables. I try to avoid eating out during the week. The 21 day sugar detox helped mix things up a bit and even added some new “go-to” items to our weekly menu.

When I first heard about Blue Apron, I was intrigued. I had read about it on a few other blogs and decided to give it a try when one of my favorite bloggers had a coupon code available. I loved the idea of having fresh ingredients delivered to my house ready to cook up for a delicious meal. A while back, I tried out Pairdd, a local company that had the same concept except all there meals were gluten-free. They’ve since gone out of business :-/

The box was delivered on Wednesday. My sister was actually at my house watching Madelyn while it was delivered and she sent me text asking if she should put it in the refrigerator. I told her no, I’d take care of it when I got home. Everything came pre-packed over dry ice and was still ice cold when I got to it.

I was sent two meals for a family of 4 for $49.94. If you break it down, it comes out to about $6.24 per meal. Not too bad. I’m glad we opted for the family of 4 instead of two because we had more than enough food left over to take for lunch the next day.

The first meal that I made was Coconut Fish Curry.

IMG_3295

It was delicious. Everything came portioned out, so there was no measuring. I just had to do some prep work and chopping and the recipe was very simple to follow.

IMG_3297

I like how the recipe cards are printed out on large pieces of card stock so they’re very sturdy for the kitchen. On one side, there’s a picture of the meal and what it should look like. On the other side, there’s step by step instructions along with pictures. I loved this! It made it easier to follow along and made me feel better that I was following the directions correctly.

IMG_3298

Overall, the meal took a little less than an hour to make with all the prep work involved and it being my first time. Not too bad for something that tasted so delicious. I was a little hesitant about making this meal because I’ve been kind of sick of fish lately (mostly salmon), but the coconut curry put a different spin on things.

IMG_3300

I would definitely use Blue Apron again. I do wish they had dietary restriction options (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, etc) but the meals overall appear to be fresh and healthy. I like that everything came pre-packaged and no food went to waste. A lot of times I’ll buy something and only use a little bit of it before it goes bad. Blue Apron does seem to cost a bit more than say going to Trader Joe’s, but the ingredients are really fresh and it saves me from having to put any thought into what we’re making for dinner when weeks get really hectic.

Have you ever used any food delivery service like Blue Apron? What was your experience like? Another meal planning service I really liked was CookSmarts. This generated weekly meals for you based on dietary restrictions. It provides you with recipes and grocery lists-you just have to do the shopping!

Caramelized Sweet Onion Dip with Bacon

Tomorrow is the BIG GAME! And while I’m still sad that my beloved Green Bay Packers blew their chance to be a Superbowl team, I will still be tuning in to tomorrow’s game if not for the game, the commercials and half-time entertainment.

One thing I love about football Sundays is relaxing with my family and consuming yummy food. Although I enjoy eating wings, chips with guacamole, and all things delicious, I try to make a conscious effort to make sure that the food is somewhat “healthy”. To me that means as wholesome and void of any added “junk”.

I was THRILLED when the people at Chobani reached out to me and asked if I’d be interesting in creating a healthy game day recipe using Chobani as the main ingredient. I said, “Yes!” of course because not only do I love Chobani yogurt, I love using it as a substitute for cooking on a regular basis. My favorite thing to use it for is sour cream. Instead of using sour cream for tacos or chili, I substitute it with Chobani Greek yogurt. You can hardly taste the difference and it’s so much better for you.

IMG_3224

So for the big game tomorrow, I bring to you a Caramelized Onion Dip with Bacon. I used a sweet onion and added balsamic vinegar for an original taste. I’m a huge fan of onion dip with potato chips and well, who doesn’t love bacon?

Caramelized Sweet Onion Dip with Bacon 

Ingredients:
1 Sweet Onion Large-Chopped
2 tsp Ghee
1 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup chobani greek yogurt
1/4tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
3 strips of cooked bacon chopped

Directions
1. Chop the onion
2. Heat ghee or butter on a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until they turn translucent and start to brown. Roughly about 8 minutes. If at any point the cooked onions start to stick to the skillet, add a tsp of water to help loosen them up and continue to stir.
3. After 10 minutes, stir in the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, pepper, sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and worcestershire sauce.
4. Lower heat and and gently cook for another 15 minutes or until the onions are caramelized.
5. Remove the onions from the heat and let cool. In a separate bowl, mix together the Chobani greek yogurt, mayonnaise. Stir in the caramelized onions. Add in 3 strips of cooked bacon and stir all the way through. Serve with chips and enjoy!



IMG_3236What is your favorite game day appetizer?  I’m also a big fan of taco dip :-)

21 Day Sugar Detox Recap

Happy Monday friends! Where have I been you ask? It’s been a very eventful few weeks over here at our house, but mostly I’ve been busy whipping up some fantastic food in the kitchen! I love cooking and it’s nothing new to me, but making my own jerky, almond milk, ghee, and bone broth is totally uncharted territory. Those are staple items I usually buy, but since embarking on the 21 Day Sugar Detox (#21DSD), I’ve been getting a little bit more crafty in the kitchen. I never realized how much sugar they put in EVERYTHING! I could not find one single pasta sauce at Target that did not have added sugar. Cuh-razy!

So what is the 21DSD? It’s a program designed by nutritionist and New York Times best-selling author Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC. It is, in her own words: “A clear-cut, effective, whole-foods-based nutrition action plan that will reset your body and your habits!” She starts the book off telling about her story and her relationship with sugar, then moves into why sugar is a problem (the refined, nutrient-poor carbs that cary calories but are totally void of nutrition) and how it effects a person’s body. I felt like I was reading an A&P book that actually made sense to me without having to really think about it. The program offers 3 different levels with modifications for athletes, pregnant/nursing moms, pescetarians, and people with autoimmune conditions. Based off of the results from the quiz that I took, I was best suited for level 3 with an energy modification. This meant no grains whatsoever and no dairy.

21dsdbook

What in the Why?!? Why would I ever think to do a sugar detox? Overall, I’m a fairly healthy eater. I try to eat as clean and whole-foods-based as possible and feed my family the same way. I ventured into the world of Paleo eating at the beginning of the summer and it worked out great for me. My skin cleared up without the help of topical solution, I had more energy, I leaned out, and I felt better overall. I kept it up pretty well, until I started logging very long marathon training miles and I thought I needed to “carb load” to keep me going. Initially, it started out only eating grains the night before long runs. I ran my marathon in October, celebrated with a deep dish pizza and beer, and since then I’ve gained back about 5 to 7 solid pounds. My mind knew that I couldn’t keep eating as much as I did while I was training, but my appetite was still in marathon mode. Then the holidays came around and I was consuming cocktails and cookies like nobody’s business.

cookies!HASHTAG, EatAllTheSugar.

The Prep. The key to a successful detox. After reading the guide and looking at the yes/no foods list, I got busy ridding our kitchen of any of the “NO” foods on the list.

yes:no

I kept Madelyn’s snacks but threw out anything that we weren’t supposed to eat. I ended up tossing a lot but it felt great to purge all the food that needed to go. I looked through the 21DSD guide and the cookbook and got busy planning meals for the week. For the first and second week I planned out every single meal. Normally, I plan out what we’re going to eat for dinner each week and that’s it. It’s normally fend for yourself for breakfast & lunch, but I knew that if I was going to keep this up and be successful I had to prep some other breakfast items besides just hardboiled eggs.

21dsdchalkboard

On the first Saturday before starting the detox, I cooked up a storm and prepped all breakfast items for the week. The egg muffins are so easy to make a freeze. Pop them into the microwave when you’re ready to eat. I made broth, beef jerky, almond milk, and buffalo chicken egg muffins.

21dsdprepI went through the cookbook and picked out the easiest/quickest meals to make for the week and saved the more time consuming recipes for the weekend. Who knew my oven could even make dinner on Friday nights? I also purchased some beef jerky from Steve’s Paleo Goods and can’t wait to buy some more paleo treats from them. The jerky was delicious and part of the proceeds go toward a wonderful cause. You can read about it here. I love supporting businesses with this kind of mission.

Another thing I did was purchase in bulk. In our first week, we went through so many nuts! The second week we went to Costco and purchased them in bulk and they have lasted us past the detox. So definitely get to a Sam’s or Costco and stock up! It will save you a lot of money and random trips to the grocery store.

I always had a snack with me at work so that when temptation hit, especially the first week coming back from the holidays, I was able to stick with the plan.

The Food. The food was nothing short of amazing. There was ONE recipe that sticks out in my mind that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but I think it may have been user error. I purchased The 21 Day Sugar Detox Guide along with cookbook. The cookbook wasn’t necessary to complete the program but I’m glad I purchased it because it came with recipes like this:

IMG_3213SUNBUTTER BROWNIES for the WIN! 

I only made two desserts in the whole 21 days and both were delicious. I’m looking forward to trying more, especially the macaroons. If you want to see more foodie pics, you can head over to my Instagram feed, I took a lot of them.

Eating Out. I ate out three times in the past three weeks. All three times have been for dinner and I planned out what I was going to eat ahead of time. The first Friday, my in-laws came in from out of town and wanted to go to a German restaurant called, Cafe Bavaria. I asked for the gluten-free menu and ordered from there. I had a bunless burger with all the toppings and asked for a side of sautéed asparagus instead of the salad. Luckily, hubs had to work that night, so he couldn’t have a beer even if he wanted one. The second time we ate out was the following Friday. I ordered my standard chicken salad with all the guac, no rice and no beans.

chipotle

My final meal out was our girls night dinner on Saturday. Just 1 day left before the detox ended, and I wanted a cocktail very badly with my friends. I ended up drinking club soda with muddled mint which was actually very refreshing and ordering a scallops entree and asking for a garlic butter sauce instead of the wine sauce that they originally had come with. I found that at all the restaurants, the waitstaff were very accommodating and really friendly about any questions or requests I had. Don’t be scared to eat out on the detox! Just look at the menu, plan ahead and stick to it. If you’re going to a place that has a bread basket, think of how you’re going to avoid it or better yet, just ask whoever you’re with if it’s okay that they don’t bring it. My in-laws ordered a giant pretzel when we were out and neither of us were even tempted to have any.

The Support. Everyday, I received an e-mail from Diane Sanfilippo with advice, motivation and a recipe to make if you weren’t following the book plan to a T. The 21DSD also offers online support for an additional purchase. I may look into next time around. There is also a Facebook group that goes along with every detox group. I was in the January 2015 group and the people in there were awesome. Anytime I had a question about something, I resorted to the group if I couldn’t find the answer in the book and someone there had it. I was one of the lucky ones who also had her husband along for the ride. I felt bad for so many women who had such unsupportive spouses and families. My mom and my sister also participated and we motivated each other along the way. They were ultra supportive when times got stressful and all I wanted to do was sit on my couch with a  glass of wine and my feet up. Madelyn ended up having to do an impromptu overnight stay at Children’s hospital and my lovely sister brought me all sorts of 21DSD snacks and meals I could eat while I was there. She’s pretty amazing.

Would I do it again?  ABSOLUTELY! And I would recommend it to anyone looking to eat better and feel better overall. Diane goes through a list of short term and long term side effects of sugar in her book and it’s astounding (memory loss, fatigue, mood swings, PCOS, infertility!). Today was 1 day post detox and I ate pretty much like I would have if I were still doing the detox. I did have a handful of animal crackers while I was giving Madelyn her snack today. Not a ton of sugar in the serving, but my stomach hated me afterward anyway. I’m guessing it was the gluten. I had some ginger tea and I felt a little better. Definitely not worth it, especially for animal crackers.

The detox is NOT A WEIGHT-LOSS plan!! It’s clearly meant to reset your body, habits and taste-buds. With that being said, I was hoping that I’d lose some weight along with inches, especially with how much I work out. I lost 8lbs and an inch and a half off my waist. Hubs lost 7 pounds. But overall, I feel great. For the first time in forever, I haven’t had to snooze my alarm clock which is huge for me! I used to be that girl that would have to set her alarm early just so I could get out of bed on time. I still set it for the same time, now I just have more time to get myself together in the morning instead of feeling rushed. I’ve decided to get back to a more paleo way of eating with the exception of my few glasses of wine per week. I feel great eating real food and it’s the first eating plan where I lost weight naturally. I love it and I feel great! I high recommend doing the 21DSD, it will change your body and the way you think about food.

Goals for 2015

Happy Monday guys! I’m finally settled in from our NYC trip and have some time to sit down and write a blog post.

We had a blast in NYC and I can’t wait to tell you all about it, including the details of how we spent our NYE :-) But first, I’d like to chat about my goals for 2015.

doit2015

I’m about goals vs. resolutions in the new year. Each year (really DAY) is another chance to get it right and do what you’ve been wanting to do. So here are a few goals I have for 2015:

1. Focus on one thing at a time. Last year, I got in over my head with some things and ended up not doing what I wanted to do. I learned that instead of working on a bunch of things all at once, it’s okay to say no to something while working on something else. You can have it all, just maybe not all at once. I feel like as women, moms especially, we’re made to multi-task but sometimes we can get in over our heads. This year, I have a list, and I’m crossing things off as I go.

2. Read one book a month. I love to read and I’ve acquired some really great books over the past year that I have yet to read. I hate using the excuse that I don’t have the time to read because that’s not true. The hour before I go to bed has now been reserved for reading books as opposed to catching up on social media–which keeps me up way later than my bed time…which brings me to my next goal.

bookclub

3. Get more SLEEP!!! I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never get 8 hours of sleep during the week. In order for that to happen, I would have to be in bed at 8:30pm. My new goal is to be in bed no later than 9:30 on “school” nights.

4. Take a photography class. I set this up as a goal last year, but never succeeded. I really want to learn to use my camera properly and all the lenses that came with it.

5. Set a new PR in my half marathon. Last year, I ran a 2:03 half, making it my fastest one yet. Maybe a sub 2 this year? We shall see! I can confidently say that I don’t believe that I have another marathon in me again this year. Chicago 2014 burnt me out. I want to focus on getting faster, learning to fuel with REAL FOOD, and enjoying every mile because I like to run.

time

6. Stay passionate about cooking, nutrition and fitness. I’ve been wanting to make my own almond milk and bone broth for a very long time but was never motivated to do so, until I decided to do the 21 Day Sugar Detox. I can confidently say, I will always make my own almond milk from here on out. Amazingly delicious. 21dsdprep

7.Successfully complete the 21 Day Sugar Detox. 21 days of whole, unprocessed foods. No dairy. No gluten. No wine. Wish me luck, day 1 starts today!

8. Complete 1 race or try out a new to me workout class each month. I love trying out new things, so this gives me the opportunity to seek out new races and classes in my local area.

9. Take a cooking class with hubs. This has been on my list for YEARS now. YEARS!! Time to cross it off.

10. Stay more organized (with my Erin Condren Planner!) in my day & spend more quality time with Madelyn. I can’t believe she’s almost 2 1/2. Time goes by so fast it’s not even funny. It almost makes me want to cry.

ecplanner2015

What goals do you for 2015? I have lots of little house projects I’d like to complete (a photo wall in our living room and finish decorating our office/guest room just to name a few).

Christmas Brunch Casserole

Every now and then, there comes along a recipe that is so absolutely delicious you can’t stop thinking about it. I made this said recipe on Christmas Day.

For the past few years, I’ve been hosting a very low-key Christmas Day brunch with my mom and my sister. The only requirement is that you must wear pajamas and be prepared to lounge and eat the day away.

Last year I stumbled across a recipe for Cinnamon Roll french toast bake and I had to make it. Of course, it was a success. I decided to make it again this year, but substituted some ingredients to make it as dairy-free as possible. It was 10 times better than last year’s-which was already tough to beat.

I thought I’d share the recipe with you, just incase you’re looking for a delicious brunch item to make, maybe for New Years Day.

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Roll French Toast Bake

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of Ghee melted
  • 2 12.4 ounce cans of Cinnamon Rolls (I used Immaculate Baking)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Cream
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C chopped pecans
  • 1 C pure maple syrup

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take the melted ghee, and use it to oil up the 13×9 glass baking dish. Separate the cans of dough and place the cinnamon rolls on a cutting board. There should be 16 rolls total. Set aside the frosting. Cut EACH roll into 8 pieces and place on the baking dish, on top of the ghee.

IMG_3050

2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Once you’ve done that, add in the coconut cream, cinnamon, and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Pour over all the pieces. Add the cup of maple syrup on top of that.

IMG_3052

3. Bake for 28 minutes or until golden brown. Once it’s done cooking and making your house smell amazing, take it out of the oven and cool for about 15 minutes. Take the icing packs that came with the cinnamon rolls and drizzle over the top. I actually had some icing leftover, they give you a lot!

IMG_3055

4. Cut up into desired size pieces and enjoy! You can serve it up with more maple syrup and powdered sugar if you so desire :-) I thought it tasted wonderful all on its own and I’m thrilled that there are still a few pieces in my freezer to enjoy for another day.

What are your Christmas Day traditions? Since Christmas Eve can be such a rush for us (I worked before all the festivities kicked off), it’s always so nice to enjoy some R&R with the family the next day. Before there was a husband and small child in the picture, we used to go see movies on Christmas day.

Extremely Easy Slow Cooker Chicken

Do I have an easy slow cooker recipe for you guys. If you even want to call it that. I stumbled upon this inspiration from Lina’s blog and it has been added to our monthly rotation of week night dinners. Lina is the Chief Training Officer of The Barre Code and writes an awesome blog focused on fitness, health and wellness.

Step one-buy a whole chicken. Cut up some of your favorite vegetables that will hold up nicely in the slow cooker (carrots, parsnips, onions, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, celery).

IMG_2881Lay the vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker. Season the chicken to taste. I used sea salt, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, and sage. Place the chicken on top of the veggies. Placing the chicken on top of the veggies will help keep the chicken from falling apart too much. Turn the slow cooker onto low and cook for about 8 hours.

IMG_2882You want the internal temperature of the leg to be 160 degrees. The cooking time will vary based on the weight of your chicken. No need to add water or broth to this. It will not burn, the vegetables and the chicken will make its own lovely broth.

When it’s done, scoop out some veggies and cut the chicken off the bone. Dish up and eat! It’s that easy.

IMG_2886I’ve made this now twice and both times it was delicious and satisfying. My ONLY complaint is not having crispy skin. I usually pick the skin off anyway, but I think next time I will place the chicken in the broiler for a few minutes after it’s done slow cooking. I’ll make sure to report back :-)

It’s Friday! Hallelujah!!!! It’s been an extra long work week and I’ve been looking forward to my wine date tonight with my friend, Jen, all week. The rest of my weekend will be filled with Christmas cookie baking, birthday celebrating, and maybe some Christmas shopping (I only have 1 thing purchased!). I’m really looking forward to baking cookies this year, it will be Madelyn’s first year participating! She’s the best kind of kitchen helper :-)

madelynpancakes