Nov 302015
 

Hi there! I hope all my American friends enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving! Mine was so much fun and was filled with lots (and lots!) of turkey and family time. Here’s a recap!

Thursday

I spent Thursday morning cleaning up the apartment and preparing to host my own Thanksgiving on Friday morning. I spent the morning chopping onions, celery, bread, etc. while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade. It was a little different from last year when we got to see it in-person, but it was still nice!

Fabio picked up his dad from the train station around 10:30 am, and then we all headed over to my dad’s house around noon for Thanksgiving number one.

My dad was watching my grandparents’ dog for the weekend, which meant that with Jack there were three black labs there. With the addition of Fabio’s dad’s dog, and three dogs that my cousins brought, there were seven dogs at this Thanksgiving! Phew! Clearly we love our K9s in this family.

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There were also twenty people there, mostly from my stepmom’s side of the family. This is what a table set for twenty people looks like, FYI. Crazy, right??

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I filled up my plate with all the usuals: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing, and gravy. Plus a roll on the side. Everything was delicious!

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As soon as we were done eating, Fabio, his dad, and I drove over to Baltimore for Thanksgiving number two with Fabio’s brother-in-law’s family (Alex – he’s the one who got married to Fabio’s sister in Jamaica in June).

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They had so, so much delicious food, but unfortunately we were all still really full at this point. I still tried to eat some, but I couldn’t fit much more in my belly. Sigh.

Oh well, it was still fun to spend time with everyone!

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Me and my handsome guy!

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Alex’s family was so incredibly welcoming, and I’m so thankful to have them all in my life. We hadn’t seen a lot of them since the wedding in Jamaica, so it was really nice to get reacquainted!

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Friday

Friday was hosting day for me! Luckily I had set the table and prepped everything in advance, so the day wasn’t too crazy for me.

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My mom loaned me a ton of serving ware for the occasion, and I was so thankful to have it! The table just wouldn’t have looked as nice with my cheap plates.

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In addition to the table, I had a little drinks station set up for cider rum punch, wine, and water.

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Soon enough, everyone arrived! In addition to Fabio and his dad (who was staying with us), Fabio’s sister Diane and her husband Alex came over, as did my mom and stepdad. It was so nice to have everyone together!

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Diane helped me put together a few appetizers for the gang to munch on.

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Of course we used our favorite cheese plate (thanks, Megan!!) with a silhouette of Jack on it. Jeez, you’d think we like black dogs or something. 😉

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The “kids.” 🙂

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Me and my mom. She helped me so much with getting everything ready, and I couldn’t have done it without her. Thanks, mom!!

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Ahh, how cute are they??

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At around 4:00, the turkey was ready!

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Considering it was the first turkey I ever cooked, I thought it turned out really well! It wasn’t dry at all (in my opinion, anyway…).

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Thanks to a YouTube video and help from my stepdad, Fabio was able to carve up the turkey nicely.

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Meanwhile, the rest of us gathered around the side dishes, which is obviously the best part of a Thanksgiving meal. 🙂

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Dinner is served!

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My plate! I had a little bit of everything.

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The rest of the evening was spent cleaning up the kitchen, packing up leftovers, and hanging out with family. It was such a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, and I felt so thankful to have such an amazing group of people in my life. I especially have to thank Diane and my mom who were both a HUGE help in getting everything together!

Hosting Thanksgiving was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work! I wouldn’t mind doing it again next year – in fact it could be a nice, new tradition – but I sure am glad it’s a whole year away! 😉

Saturday & Sunday

The rest of the weekend was fairly relaxing, and we got some cleaning and chores done around the apartment. The two biggest achievements were 1) that we got a storage unit to put away all of Fabio’s baseball boxes that were cluttering up the living room (Hallelujah!!)…

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And 2) we set up our Christmas decorations! This year we got a live tree from Costco for $33 which at first I hated (I really like chopping them down myself…) but once we opened it up I had to admit it looked pretty great and you couldn’t beat the price.

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We also took pictures of Jack in front of the tree for our annual Christmas card, and let’s just say it was a process. Here’s a sneak peak of how it went…

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Haha!! I’ll share the final picture on Christmas Day like usual. 🙂

And now we’re all caught up!

Question of the day: What’s your favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving?

 Posted by on November 30, 2015
Nov 252015
 

Hi friends! Today I’m back with the second (and final) recap of my vacation in San Diego with my good friend, Catrina. If you missed part 1 you can find that here!

Catrina and I both had the day off from work on Monday, so we decided to sleep in a bit (ha! Neither of us are good at sleeping in late) before hitting the pavement for a run! As I mentioned in my last post, Catrina lives in Pacific Beach which is an adorable beach town outside of San Diego. Her typical three mile route includes a run along the beach and the bay, which is just insane. Can you imagine running with views like this in perfect 70+ degree weather every day? I swear, this place is not real.

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After running along the beach, we turned off onto a side street that would take us over to the bay. The side streets were so adorable, and I felt like I was in Fire Island or some other quaint beach town. All the bungalows were so charming!

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We wound up running three miles and then walking about half a mile to cool down. Not a bad way to start the day!

After showering up at Catrina’s, we headed out for acai bowls for breakfast. I had never heard of an acai bowl, but here’s how Huffington Post describes it:

An acai bowl is basically a really thick smoothie that’s been topped with oatmeal, fruit or peanut butter, and then you wolf it down with a spoon. For breakfast. After eating a bowl, you will not only feel happily full (for hours) and have satisfied a sweet craving (no need to cave for a donut), you’ll have also done something that was good for you. Win win.

Sounds amazing! Acai bowls are everywhere in Southern California, but Catrina took us to her favorite spot: Cafe 976. Check out how cute the patio is! I love how all the restaurants in San Diego are so open and/or have outdoor seating; I guess that’s what happens when the weather is always perfect.

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Catrina and I both started off with delicious coffees (if I’m remembering correctly, I ordered something like a Milky Way, which was chocolatey and delicious) and then it was time for the acai bowl!

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If possible, it was even better than I was expecting. Underneath all the fresh fruit was a cold acai smoothie-like texture, and it was delicious! I definitely need to find a place that sells these on the east coast.

After breakfast, we headed off to our main destination of the day: the San Diego Zoo!

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Haha! We are nerds. 🙂

Catrina knows I’m obsessed with animals, so she figured I would love the famous San Diego Zoo. Well, she was right! Although I am still partial to the National Zoo here in DC (it helps that it’s free…), I was very impressed with San Diego’s zoo and loved how close we were able to get to the animals!

We spent the day bopping around from animal to animal, and especially loved watching all the monkeys. They had so many different kinds!
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The elephants were pretty amazing too. 🙂

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After walking around for a while, we discovered a “Zoo Brew” and we each got ourselves a beer to sip on. Sunshine, animals, a best friend, and beer? Welcome to my happy place.

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Soon enough we came upon the panda enclosure, which was so amazing! In DC the pandas are always really far away and you can barely see them, if they are even out (sometimes they are sleeping inside). That was not the case in San Diego at all!

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I don’t know if it’s just the time we were visiting or what, but these pandas were very close to the edge of their enclosure so we could see them perfectly! One of them was even sitting back and watching us while he rested his bamboo on his tummy. #MySpiritAnimal

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After we were done visiting the pandas, it was time for the tigers! At first we couldn’t see them anywhere, but then we discovered they were over by a watering hole playing with one another.

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This was by far my favorite part of the day – we got an up-close look at the two tigers playing in the water! Please note these pictures were all taken with my cell phone and, although they aren’t great quality, it shows you how close we were to them.
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This one isn’t even zoomed in!

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Amazing, right? Overall I had such a fun time at the zoo, and I’m so thankful that Catrina thought to bring me there. She actually wound up having a really fun time too, which I don’t think she was expecting. 🙂

After the zoo, we walked around in downtown San Diego for a bit, before going back to Catrina’s to relax. We wound up ordering Thai food, drinking wine, and watching the latest Hunger Games movie, which was the perfect way to end the evening in my opinion.
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Tuesday

Catrina and I both needed to work on Tuesday, so we wound up next to each other on the couch with our laptops open and Food Network on TV. Not a bad way to work at all!

At lunchtime we headed down to a Greek place in her neighborhood for salads, stuffed grape leaves, and about a hundred pieces of pita. Yum!

When we were done working, we headed down to the beach!

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I really wanted to stick my toes in the Pacific Ocean – just to say I did it – so that’s exactly what I did! It was pretty cold, but beautiful. Catrina watched from afar; you can tell she lives in California now because she said it was too cold for her. 😉

After that, we headed to a CrossFit class! Catrina goes to CrossFit a lot during the week, and I loved being able to see where she works out.

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Our workout was a tough one and at the end we wound up practicing all kinds of push-ups. Phew! It’s going to be a long time before I can do ring push-ups, that’s for sure. They’re so hard!

After showering up, we met up with Catrina’s friend Eden in Ocean Beach for Taco Tuesday, which is a big deal in Southern California. I really wanted to try a shark taco (!!) but sadly the restaurant ran out. Boo. Luckily the mahi-mahi and regular fish tacos were still delicious!

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After dinner we stopped for some fro-yo, before Catrina dropped me off at the airport for my lovely red eye flight back east.

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As if you couldn’t tell from these two posts, I had an absolutely amazing time in San Diego visiting Catrina, and I’m already looking forward to when I’ll be able to go back (slash move there? That weather!!). Thanks for having me, Treen!

Question of the day: Have you ever considered moving yourself to a totally different location?

 Posted by on November 25, 2015
Nov 242015
 

Hi friends! I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve chatted about my life lately – you know, the boring Monday through Friday stuff – so I thought we should get back to that today with some talk about my eats and workouts lately.

Let’s start with eats.

For Fabio’s birthday back in October, my Aunt CC and Uncle Steve gave him a gift card to The Red Hen, a restaurant in our neighborhood we’ve been dying to try. When I got back from California, we went out to dinner (on a random Wednesday night) to celebrate Fabio’s birthday, my meeting being over, and our seven year anniversary. (I know, seven years! We are getting so old. It’s crazy when I think back to the crazy college kids we were when we met each other.)

Anyway, our evening was really fun and I realized I never told you all about it!

We started off with a couple of cocktails – Fabio ordered a negroni and I got something similar that was a little sweeter. I can’t remember the name, but it was tasty!

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For our appetizer, we went with whipped ricotta crostinis with truffle honey. The chunks of truffle were to die for!

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For my entree I ordered the duck leg ragu, and it was delicious!! The pasta was perfectly chewy and fresh, and I gobbled up every bite!

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What a fun night celebrating with my guy. 🙂 Thanks, CC and Steve for the gift card!!

Other meals lately haven’t been quite as exciting, but I guess no one would want to eat like that every day.

For the most part, I’ve been trying to use up produce from the Washington Green Grocer produce deliveries I’ve been getting every other week. As a reminder, my awesome friends got me this subscription for my birthday, and it’s been great to have so much fresh produce!

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Here’s what I’ve gotten in my recent boxes:

  • Green cabbage
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Watermelon radish (what the heck will I do with these??)
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Pink lady apples
  • Yellow chard (so beautiful!)
  • Sourdough bread
  • Butternut squash
  • Broccoli
  • Scarlet turnips
  • Red Beets
  • Spinach

So much produce, right?? It’s admittedly been a bit difficult to use it all up, but with the help of our juicer we at least haven’t had to throw anything away. I’ve definitely had to get a bit creative with meal planning though!

One night I made baked, breaded chicken with honey mustard sauce and broccoli fritters. <– Super old post warning! We hadn’t had these in forever, and I forgot how delicious they are. Yum!

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On another night, I turned to an old Blue Apron recipe for butternut squash and goat cheese pizza with fennel.

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I sauteed one of the portobello mushrooms with the fennel and the onions, and added some chickpeas for protein, and it turned out great. Yum!

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I also made this kielbasa and cabbage soup and thought it turned out great, but unfortunately Fabio wasn’t a fan. Boo. He’s pretty against anything made with cabbage, so he disliked this meal even before he tried it. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Anyway, that’s a look at what I’ve been eating during the week lately! Lots of new-to-me produce!

As for my workouts, they’ve been pretty good too!

I’ve been trying to take Jack for more morning runs now that the clocks have switched and it’s a little lighter in the morning (for now, anyway). We’re still not going very far or fast (just about 3 miles and under) but I think it’s good to keep some running in my life, even when I’m not training for anything.

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I’ve also been taking lots of spin classes! Plus I even got someone to take it with me…

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Yep! This guy!

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Fabio was able to take a couple of free spin classes at FlyWheel (which you know is a favorite of mine!) since his work is celebrating MOVEmber and encouraging employees to move more. It was a lot of fun having him there with me, and I’m hoping I can convince him to take a few more classes with me even when his free trial is up. We shall see!

I also joined my friend Anne for another fun metabolic resistance class at Definitions!

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This was our third class at the studio (I think…) and they are just so fantastic every time. I also really enjoy the motivational quotes they write on their walls. 🙂

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Such a great studio! I’m so glad we found it thanks to ClassPass. 🙂

We’ve also been back to our favorite Urban Athletic Club, where we are loving the new instructor Teisha, even though she kicks our butt.

And that’s it for my eats and workouts lately!

Question of the day: What was the last meal you ate? What was the last workout you did?

 Posted by on November 24, 2015
Nov 232015
 

Hey friends! Did everyone have a good weekend? I spent mine up in Otis – a town in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts – at my aunt CC and uncle Steve’s mountain house. It’s so beautiful there, and we always have so much fun when we go.

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It’s actually Sunday night as I type this up, and after spending most of the day in the car driving home I’m feeling pretty exhausted. I’m going to keep this recap fairly short and let the pictures do most of the talking. Here are some scenes from my weekend!

In the mornings, my mom, stepdad, uncle David, Steve, CC, Fabio, and I would all sit around this table drinking coffee and catching up. CC also made a fantastic pound cake and pumpkin muffins for us to snack on.

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Then my uncle David and stepdad would cook (a second) breakfast for the group. They are some seriously awesome chefs. Look at these perfectly poached eggs!

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On Saturday morning, I headed out for a hike with CC and my mom.

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It was a beautiful day, and we were all happy to get moving.

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Although my mom loves being outside, she’s not exactly what you’d call outdoorsy. She wears dresses and heels every day, and her idea of a hiking outfit included a blazer, dress pants, and open-toe wedges. Plus her fancy red coat with mink trim. Yes, seriously. I can’t even explain to you how ridiculous it was to see her hiking in wedges. She did it though, and didn’t complain a bit! What a trooper.

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Our hike was about three miles and took us up to the beautiful Upper Spectacle pond.

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CC said this area was absolutely gorgeous a few weeks ago when the leaves were changing colors. I can only imagine.

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The best part of our hike was definitely the girl talk. The three of us don’t get to see each other as often as we would like, and I know we all cherished this time together.

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When we got back to the house, we sat around the table for a while chatting, snacking, and just being together as a family.

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CC put up her Christmas decorations early this year so we’d get to enjoy them during our stay. How beautiful is her tree?

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The rest of the house is also super cozy, especially the giant leather couch with the knitted throws. That couch is so dangerous – I can never sit on it or I won’t get back up!

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As for snacks, we had homemade pumpkin hummus, veggies, and CC’s horseradish cranberry sauce, which was absolutely amazing. I definitely ate way too much of this.

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There was also a fizzy cider drink made with ginger beer, which I loved.

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We also played with the cats, Addison and Clarence. Hi, Addy!

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Later in the evening, we all got ready for dinner. CC made butternut squash lasagna with homemade lasagna noodles. It tasted as good as it sounds. Actually, better.

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While she cooked, I munched on plenty of cheese. I <3 cheese.

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Soon enough it was time to eat! Look how beautiful the table was.

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Instead of napkin holders, each of our plates was decorated with a special ornament that CC picked out for us. My ornament was in the shape of a camera (which was perfect since I played around with my camera a bit this weekend) and Fabio got an ornament shaped like golf clubs. Typical. (He and Steve played golf while we were hiking.)

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CC also got us an ornament in the shape of Jack, which was so thoughtful. 🙂

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I was too busy laughing, talking and eating during dinner to take pictures of my food, but I had a perfectly cooked steak, butternut squash lasagna, and a salad. Plus wine. 🙂

After dinner we all sat around drinking and being silly.

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Mom or Ygritte?

Later in the night we pulled out Cards Against Humanity, which caused my mom to blush a lot and made me Google a couple of new-to-me words. There was a LOT of laughing during the game, and it was such a fun night with my family.

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Sadly on Sunday morning we had to head home, but overall it was such a great weekend with my family, and I’m so thankful I got to spend this time with them. Thanks for having us, CC and Steve!

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Question of the day: What does your family do when you get together?

Cards Against Humanity was a first for us, and it was so fun!

Pssst – planning for Thanksgiving later this week? Check out this site for TONS of delicious stuffing recipes, and watch this video showing that using blue plates and displaying food buffet-style can save lots of calories. 

 Posted by on November 23, 2015
Nov 192015
 

While I was in California last week, I got a call from Fabio asking if we could host his family for Thanksgiving this year. In our one bedroom apartment.

Suuuure honey, because we just have so much room. 😉

Our Thanksgiving guests this year, plus or minus a few

In all honesty, our apartment is really not a bad place to host a big meal, despite its small size overall. We have plenty of kitchen and living room space and an island-type counter area that is perfect for laying out food, so I can see why he suggested our apartment. I’m sure the fact that I’m an OCD cooking/cleaning/planning maniac didn’t hurt either, because he knew I would probably be able to pull off a big event like this and might even enjoy doing it. At least one of us is in confident in my hosting abilities…

The biggest problem for us is going to be the seating (there’s going to be 10 of us!), but we have a folding table and a bunch of mis-matched chairs so I’m hoping it will all work out. We will see how it goes!

Anyway, once I agreed to host his family I immediately dove into planning mode. Like I said, I’m incredibly OCD when it comes to stuff like this, so I’ve already done my research, come up with a plan, and organized everything to a tee. Phew!

In case you’re in the same boat as I am, here’s an outline of how I came up with my Thanksgiving plan!

1. Research first. The very first thing I did while trying to figure out my Thanksgiving game plan was head over to Pinterest and type in “Thanksgiving.” From there I quickly glanced over recipes, but I was really looking for tips and articles on how to host a successful Thanksgiving. From there I found an article from BuzzFeed on 27 things you can do to make Thanksgiving easier and one from Bon Appetit on how to assemble a Thanksgiving buffet (which is how we are planning to set up our food).

Both of these articles had some really great tips! Here are the ones that really stuck out to me:

  • Get mashed potato prep done the day before; you can peel, cut, and soak potatoes overnight in the fridge.
  • Wash, trim, and chop your veggies the day before then store in plastic baggies in the fridge.
  • You can sauté your stuffing ingredients ahead of time. Let them cool, put them in a plastic bag, and put in the fridge. Then on Thanksgiving you can heat them back up quickly and finish making your stuffing without all the pesky herb picking and chopping.
  • Designate your serving plates and utensils; put labels in them the night before Thanksgiving.
  • Set the table the night before.

I also found a bunch of helpful images and infographics!

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[Source]

thanksgivingturkeythermometer

[Source]

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[Source]

So helpful, right? These graphics are perfect for a newb like me who’s only ever cooked a whole chicken once and has never been near a turkey. Yikes.

2. Choose your recipes. Once I felt like I understood the Thanksgiving basics, I started picking out recipes! For me, this is the fun part. 🙂 I turned to Google, Pinterest, Food Network and blogs to find recipes for our Thanksgiving meal. Of course there are some things I know how to make without a recipe (mashed potatoes) but for others (cranberry sauce?) I definitely needed some help.

I also made sure to not to bite off more than I could chew (Thanksgiving pun!), so I asked my mom (who is also coming to our meal with my stepdad) and Fabio’s two sisters to help out. They were all more than willing to bring a dish, so it worked out great.

Here’s a peek at what we’re having:

Not too bad right? I think I can totally handle those items!

3. Make a game plan. Ok – here’s where my OCD tendencies really kicked in. As if finding all these recipes more than a week in advance wasn’t enough, I’ve already copied and pasted each recipe onto a separate page in a Word document, and then created a shopping list and timeline to make sure I can get everything done with as little stress as possible. Oh, and my grocery list is also separated by category, because I’m telling you, I’m as Type A as it gets. Here’s a look at my grocery list and timeline.

Grocery List (Note: we already have a lot of items on hand, so this is just extra stuff we need to pick up)
Produce
Celery
Garlic (1 head)
Sage
1 pound fresh cranberries
2 oranges
1 lemon
3 1/2 lb sweet potatoes

Meat
1 (14 to 16-pound) turkey
1 pound loose pork sausage

Dairy
Butter

Spices
Bay leaves
Cinnamon sticks
Ground allspice
Red pepper flakes
Pumpkin pie spice

Bread
Sourdough bread
French bread

Other
1 large piece cheesecloth
Chicken stock (7 cups)
Dijon mustard
Apple cider (8 cups)
Mini marshmallows

Alcohol
Dry marsala, or sherry
1 (750 ml.) bottle of dry hard cider (such as Farnum Hill’s Dooryard)
3 (12-oz.) bottles of ginger beer (such as Reed’s)
Whiskey (such as Jameson)
Orange bitters

Timeline (Note: we are eating this meal on Friday instead of Thursday to accommodate other family get-togethers)

Day Task
Wednesday, 11/18 Buy turkey, store in fridge (we are going out of town this weekend, so this had to happen pretty early)
Monday, 11/23 Go grocery shopping
Tuesday, 11/24 Cut celery

Cube bread

Peel & halve onions

Chop sage

Prepare serving wear, tablecloth, etc.

Wednesday, 11/25 Make cranberry sauce

Cut sweet potatoes

Thursday, 11/26 Clean bathroom

Windex & dust

Vacuum

Set up table, chairs, serving ware

Make spinach artichoke bread

Friday, 11/27 10:00 am – Prep turkey & preheat oven

11:00 am – Start cooking turkey, stuffing and gravy

12:00 pm – Start cooking sweet potatoes

1:00 pm – Fabio makes drinks

2:00 pm – Cook spinach artichoke bread, set out veggies or cheese

4:00 pm – Eat!

So what do you guys think? Will I be able to pull this all off? Do I need to make anything else? Maybe these fun turkey cupcakes that I made last year?

They actually tasted like crap, even though they were pretty cute. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Questions of the day: What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Are you making anything? What do you think of my plan? Any recipe suggestions?

 Posted by on November 19, 2015
Nov 172015
 

After a very busy and stressful week in Los Angeles for work, on Saturday morning (Nov. 7) I hopped on the train to San Diego for a few days of fun! As you probably know, my good friend Catrina moved from New York to San Diego a little more than a year ago, and I’ve been dying to visit her ever since. I figured this trip out west was the perfect opportunity!

I had heard from some friends that Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train from LA to San Diego was the best way to get down the coast, and boy were they right! The train only cost about $40 and I was treated to some seriously gorgeous views of the ocean along the way. I also saw lots of surfers tearing it up!

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I’m also not sure if this is just a west coast thing or what, but the train’s conductor was really silly and would sing all the stops aloud over the microphone. He also sang about how much he loves California, and everyone would clap and cheer when he was done. People were also pretty rowdy on the train – they would talk and laugh with one another with abandon – and it totally added to the fun train atmosphere. It was definitely a great way to travel!

Catrina was waiting for me at the train station when we pulled in around 11:30 am, and after quickly dropping off my bags in her apartment we headed down to the pool! It was sunny, 82 degrees, and glorious.

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Please note we are definitely not naked in this picture, just both wearing strapless bikini tops. 😉 I also want to apologize for the plethora of snap chat screenshots that I’m using in this post – when you’re having so much fun it’s hard to remember to take a real picture!

After the pool, we walked over to the Fish Shop right by Catrina’s apartment in Pacific Beach. We each got a mahi-mahi taco complete with mago salsa, and we also shared an order of mahi-mahi/shrimp ceviche.

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Everything was delicious and so fresh! I loved seeing the fresh fish at the counter where you order; it made me feel really good about the quality of fish I was about to eat.

After lunch, we drove over to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for a hike! After parking our car, we walked across the beach to get to get to the start of the hike.

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From there we followed a winding path and some gradual steps to hike our way up the cliffs. It wasn’t too challenging of a hike – the incline was pretty gradual – but it was still a fairly good workout and it made for some breathtaking views of the Pacific!

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I especially liked checking out some of the cool geological features, like this crumbling mountainside and the striped rocks in the next photo.

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Can you see the stripes?

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I honestly have no idea how much ground we covered, but we were out hiking for a couple of hours. It was such a gorgeous day, and Catrina and I had so much fun catching up along the way. What a perfect afternoon!

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After our hike, Catrina took me down to the beach near her apartment to watch the sunset.

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It was a beautiful, clear evening, and I was definitely in my happy place. California is so pretty!!

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After showering up and relaxing for a bit (with wine!), we headed to dinner at Isabel’s Cantina, a Mexican-Asian fusion restaurant. I really wanted to try a tamale (I’d never had one before but had always wanted one) so I ordered a green chile chicken bowl with a sweet corn tamale.

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It was delicious! The tamale definitely lived up to my expectations! 🙂

After dinner, Catrina and I headed over to a bar called Backyard where we met up with a couple of her friends.

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After Backyard we headed to a bar called The Local and then finished up our night at another bar called Open Bar (I think – hopefully I’m getting all these names right). All of the bars were so much fun and they had some great music for dancing! The last bar played Killing me Softly at the very end of the night, and we all had a blast singing the words out loud in the crowded bar.

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It was such a fun night of bar hopping and dancing, and we had an absolute blast. 🙂

Sunday

Catrina and I both took off from work on Monday, which left us plenty of time for a Sunday Funday! We started off at a restaurant called Tavern for breakfast, and upon arriving I hit up the bloody mary bar for a spicy bloody mary with bacon. 🙂 Yum!

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For breakfast, Catrina recommended the breakfast bun which is a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich with garlic aoli on a pretzel bun.

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It was absolutely fantastic, and I didn’t mind the extra calories since this was a vacation and all. 🙂

After my bloody mary I ordered a Moscow mule – one of my new favorite drinks – and was once again in my happy place. There were no windows in the restaurant, and the sunshine and good company had me feeling great.

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After brunch, Catrina and I met up with a few more of her friends (this time from CrossFit), and we spent the day watching football and hanging out in some more beautiful Pacific Beach bars.

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My absolute favorite bar of the day had to be Shore Club, a spot right on the beach with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Seriously!! That’s the ocean!

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Later in the day a group of us headed back over to Local, where we watched the sunset from a roof deck. San Diego is just too pretty.

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It was another super fun day of bar hopping in Pacific Beach, and luckily we savored our drinks fairly slowly so things didn’t get too out of hand. 😉 We finished up the evening with dinner at Duck Dive and ice cream sandwiches from the Baked Bear (true story) before calling it a night.

I promise part 2 of my San Diego recap is a lot less boozy and a lot more healthy, but hey – it’s vacation!

Question of the day: Have you ever seen someone surfing in real life? I hadn’t until the train ride – it was incredible!

 Posted by on November 17, 2015
Nov 162015
 

Hey there! How was your weekend? Mine was filled with so much fun with friends and family, and I’m already feeling sad that it’s over. Boo!

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Friday

On Friday night, I joined a bunch of my old coworkers for a potluck!

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Our friends Claire and Kevin rented out the large kitchen area in their apartment building, and everyone brought a tasty treat to share. I wound up bringing this spinach artichoke stuffed garlic bread and it was phenomenal. While it wasn’t healthy (at all) I cut it into pretty small slices so at least it was portion controlled. It was a big hit! I will definitely be saving this recipe for future get-togethers. Other treats included baked brie, cheese, crackers, veggies and dip, fruit, and homemade cookies! Claire and Kevin also had fimosas – fall mimosas made from champagne and apple cider – so we had a lot of fun chatting, listening to music, sipping fimosas and enjoying the good food. What a fun night!

Saturday

On Saturday I completed some chores around the house before Fabio dropped me off in Silver Spring for my friend Jess’ bridal shower!

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She was in town from Amsterdam just for the weekend (insane) and it was so great to see her.

How beautiful is her tulle skirt by the way?? She made it herself, and we were all super impressed.

We had a fun afternoon catching up with good friends and watching Jess open her presents. Of course a bridal shower wouldn’t be complete without a ribbon veil and bouquet!

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She’s going to be such a beautiful bride. 🙂

Later in the evening, the Megans (there are two) came back with me to DC for a sleepover.

IMG_4010 We had a lot of fun drinking wine, eating cheese, and talking about silly things like how this Megan needs a hair cut.

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Luckily bartender Fabio didn’t mind all the girl talk and he made us gin and tonics which we sipped on the couch in our PJs. While snuggling with Jack, obviously.

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We wound up staying up way too late but it was so much fun and it made me realize (for the millionth time) how much I miss living in the same house as these two. Take me back to college!

Sunday

The Megans headed home on Sunday morning after a breakfast pit stop at Union Market, and then Fabio and I headed over to my dad’s house for some family time. Fabio and my dad immediately headed out for a game of golf, while I took my sister and the dogs out for a long walk!

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We wound up taking them on about a two mile hike, which included a stop to let them swim in the creek.

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We also attempted to let them hike off-leash, but at one point Jack spotted a huge deer complete with antlers, and he took off running into the woods. That was the end of the off-leash business. Anyway, it was such a beautiful day and I had so much fun hiking with my sister! Sometimes you just need sister time. 🙂

The rest of the afternoon included a game of Clue, football watching (the Redskins actually won!), and a delicious steak dinner complete with broccoli, green beans, 1/2 a baked potato, bread, and butternut squash. Yum! #Allthecarbs

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Overall it was the perfect weekend with friends and family!

Question of the day: If you hike with your dog, do you use a leash or not?

P.S. My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Paris today. May we soon find peace. 

 Posted by on November 16, 2015
Nov 122015
 

I’m baaaaack! After 12 days of running around beautiful California, I was more than ready to sleep in my own bed last night. I have a lot to share with you guys about my trip, so I decided to break it up into two posts: one about my time in LA and one recapping my fun in San Diego.

Ready? Here we go!

On Halloween morning, I hopped on the plane to LAX (with a dream and my cardigan – welcome to the land of fame excess, am I gonna fit in…sorry I couldn’t help myself). The flight itself was pretty uneventful, and after working on a PowerPoint presentation on my laptop for a while I was able to get some sleep. When the pilot announced we were beginning our decent I started getting excited – check out those mountains!

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Yep, definitely not on the east coast anymore!

After we landed and picked up our luggage, a few of my coworkers and I took a cab to downtown LA where we’d be spending the next week. My work meeting was held in the Los Angeles Convention Center right next to the Staples Center and the LA Live hub, which is in the heart of downtown. (Or at least that was my impression…)

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During my stay I resided in the Luxe hotel, which was nice enough and had plenty of fluffy bathrobes and slippers. #Priorities

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My favorite part of the Luxe hotel though was the outdoor patio on the second floor. It was beautiful!

I didn’t have to be at the convention center until Sunday, so on Saturday afternoon I enjoyed the sunshine while getting some work done on my laptop. The weather was 80 degrees and absolutely perfect. Even though I was busy working, I was in my happy place.

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The rest of my week was spent cooped up inside the freezing cold convention center. I can’t tell you how sad it was to walk past windows with blue skies and palm trees only to be stuck in a dark concrete air conditioned building. Bleh. Luckily the meeting itself went really well, and everyone was really happy with my work. Yay!

Even though I had lots of work to do and some days I had to be at the convention center at 7:00 am and didn’t stop working until 9:30 at night, I was still able to squeeze some fun into my time in LA.

First, let me tell you about my workouts! On Sunday morning, I ran a speedy two miles (average pace was 7:53 – not sure how that happened!). I was planning to run farther, but I had one glass of wine too many with my coworkers the night before, and didn’t leave myself as much time in the morning as I would have liked. Plus my head was seriously pounding with every step. Oops. Oh well, two speedy miles is better than none!

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On Monday morning, I joined my coworker Kelly for a quick gym session! There weren’t a ton of machines in the hotel gym – just one treadmill, a bike, and an elliptical – but we made it work. After spending 10 minutes on the elliptical with a steep incline and high resistance, I completed the following countdown workout that I had saved from Pinterest.

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It was a good one, and it was perfect for the hotel gym since it didn’t require any equipment. After that, I ran about .3 miles on the treadmill before getting distracted in the realization that I could see the Hollywood sign out the window. Obviously I hopped off the treadmill to take a picture (which came out horrible – I’ll spare you) at which point Kelly and I decided we were done working out for the day. Good enough!

On another morning (they all started to blur together toward the middle of the week…) I used my ClassPass flex city option to take a spin class at YAS. YAS stands for Yoga and Spinning and offers a variety of yoga and spinning combo classes. I only had time to take a 30 minute spin class (and even that had to be at 5:30 am for me to have time for it) but I would have loved to continue with the 30 minutes of yoga that followed. What a cool concept!

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The class itself was fast-paced and challenging with a good assortment of music. I can’t say I liked it as much as my favorite DC studios (FlyWheel and Biker Barre at the moment) but it was still good! If I ever make it back to YAS I definitely want to try the yoga too.

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Other highlights from the week include outings with my coworkers! Running a meeting is hard work, so we made sure to celebrate appropriately.

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On Thursday night, our meeting hosted a big party at the Belasco theater. We had the whole venue to ourselves along with an open bar and live band. Here’s my coworker Trimmer showing off his dancing skills with an older lady. What a trooper.

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The dance floor was quite the scene and we had a great time observing all the (older, mostly white/not-rhythmic) doctors and researchers tearing up the dance floor and pumping their fists to Katy Perry. Honestly it was some of the best people watching ever, and combined with the free drinks, my coworkers and I had a great time. 😉

After the party, a smaller group of us headed up to the rooftop of the Standard hotel and a bar called Perch. It was a beautiful evening and – although I prefer the DC and NYC skylines to LA’s – I had to admit LA was pretty fantastic. So much fun!

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For my last night in LA, a group of us took a cab into Hollywood to check out the Walk of Fame.

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We spent about an hour walking up and down the streets looking for famous names. There were so many, I took a bunch of pictures of my favorites.

We also found the Zoltar machine from the movie Big, which I must have watched 100 times as a kid.

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Zoltar

[Source]

#90skid

Overall it was a great week, even though the work part got pretty stressful at times. Everyone seemed really happy with how the conference turned out, and I got to have some fun while we were out there too!

On Saturday morning, I took an uber to the train station that would take me down to sunny San Diego. Recap to come!

Question of the day: Have you ever been to LA? What did you think? What about Hollywood?

I actually didn’t love LA in general (it was so spread out and I didn’t like that you couldn’t walk everywhere) but that weather?! Man, that’s enough to make me move west in itself.

 Posted by on November 12, 2015
Nov 092015
 

Hi there! Well, I made it through my conference and I am now soaking up the sun in beautiful San Diego with one of my best friends, Catrina! I’ll be back in DC on Wednesday (though after taking the red-eye in from Cali we’ll see if I can get a post together…) but for now I’ll leave you with this delicious recipe for sweet potato and acorn squash soup!

With all the comforting flavors of fall and all the goodness of Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber – plus protein from the Greek yogurt – this soup will have you feeling great!

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Here’s how this soup comes together.

First, chop up about two cups of sweet potatoes. This wound up being about two sweet potatoes for me.

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Then, boil or steam the sweet potatoes until a fork easily pierces through them. Meanwhile, cut one acorn squash in half and cook it flesh-side down in the microwave. You can also do this in the oven, but the microwave is just so easy! I cooked mine for about 8 minutes, in two four minute intervals.

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When the flesh scrapes away easily with a fork, it’s ready.

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While the squash and potatoes cook, heat a pot to medium-high heat and drizzle it with olive oil. Then add one diced onion and one clove of garlic. Add a pinch of salt and pepper for seasoning.

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Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the cooked sweet potatoes and then the acorn squash to the pot.

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Mix everything around so it’s evenly distributed, and cook for two to three minutes. Add a heavy pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp. of ginger, 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon. Mix it all around, then pour in three cups of chicken broth. Bring the soup to a boil and then let it simmer for five minutes. Next pour the soup into a blender, or use an immersion blender and blend until smooth. Then stir in 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt. 

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Stir to combine. Taste (careful – it’s hot!) and adjust for seasoning. Mine needed more salt.

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Serve with whatever toppings you like! I wanted some crunch to go with the creamy soup, so I served this with chopped pecans, parsley, and crispy bread. Plus more Greek yogurt, of course!

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Yum! This dish is perfect for fall, full of good-for-you ingredients, and tastes great!

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This recipe made a ton of leftovers which I popped into the freezer.

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I hope you enjoy this soup as much as we did!

Sweet Potato and Acorn Squash Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
This soup is perfect for fall and full of good-for-you ingredients!
Ingredients
  • About 2 cups sweet potatoes
  • The flesh of 1 acorn squash
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup fat free Greek yogury
  • Toppings (chopped pecans, parsley, additional Greek yogurt, crispy bread)
Instructions
  1. Cut the sweet potatoes into large chunks. Boil or steam until tender.
  2. Cut the acorn squash in half and cook on high in the microwave for four minute intervals (will likely take about 8 minutes, depending on the size of your squash)
  3. Heat a pot to medium-high and drizzle with olive oil. Add onion garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Add the cooked sweet potatoes and flesh of the acorn squash to the pot. Cook for two to three minutes.
  5. Add spices, and stir to combine.
  6. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Use a blender or immersion blender and blend until the soup is smooth.
  8. Add in Greek yogurt and stir to combine.
  9. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  10. Serve with chopped pecans, parsley, and additional Greek yogurt, if desired.

Question of the day: What’s your favorite fall meal?

 Posted by on November 9, 2015
Nov 052015
 

Hey friends! How’s life? This week I’m slaving away at my annual meeting in Los Angeles, and although my schedule is super busy, I’m having a great time! I think most of you know I work for a health and wellness nonprofit organization, and I’ve learned so much this week about exercise, healthy eating, and weight loss. It’s all a lot of work, but so interesting!

I’m planning to write a couple of recaps when I get back later next week, but for now I just wanted to stop by to say “hey” and leave you with a few animated gifs to entertain you. Here’s a look at how I’m feeling this week…enjoy!

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…and when things get really crazy…
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Caio! See you next week!

Question of the day: Tell me one thing about your week.

 Posted by on November 5, 2015