Valentine’s Day 2014

Valentine’s Day was full of good food and love for us this year.  My mom gave us a heart-shaped egg cooker, so Friday morning Andrew fried us some heart eggs to go with our banana muffins from earlier in the week:

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I met my good friend Kate for lunch at The Daily (the restaurant where Andrew and I had our awesome date night last week).  Kate and I realized that, for various reasons, we’ve had lunch together on Valentine’s Day for the last three years.  New tradition 🙂  We went to The Daily because I really needed some more of those Brussels sprouts:

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Mmm 🙂

After work I went for a 30-minute run–the first in my new running shoes that I bought last week!  I’m not usually a pink girl, but these are the best shoes for me, and this is the current color.  It’s tough sometimes, but I never pick running shoes based on the look!  It was festive for a Valentine’s Day run, anyway.

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Friday was a beautiful day here–I’m pretty sure the temperature was in the upper 50’s when I ran, but not all the snow had melted yet.  It feels a little funny to run in shorts with snow on the ground, but I’m not complaining!

After my run I took a quick shower and was getting ready for our Valentine’s date when Andrew arrived home with these goodies:

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Beautiful flowers and all-natural chocolate:  he knows the way to my heart 🙂

We turned to the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora and began prepping dinner.  While cooking, we enjoyed some festive pink cocktails that were quite delicious: cranberry-pomegranate juice, passion fruit rum, and lime (plus tonic water for Andrew).  Amazing.

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We tag-teamed the cooking and ended up with this very tasty dinner: steak, garlic green beans, and baked sweet potatoes.

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(I only ate about half of that giant steak :)) 

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After taking our time and really enjoying dinner and good conversation, we started watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Netflix.  Neither of us had seen it, and it was so good!  Midway through the movie, once our food had digested some, we brought dessert to the living room:

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Dark chocolate fondue with strawberries, marshmallows, bananas, and rice crispie treats

We made the fondue in our Crock-pot “Little Dipper”– chocolate chips + almond milk + vanilla.  We plugged it in while we were making dinner, and it was ready to go by the dessert course!

Overall it was a fantastic Valentine’s Day.  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the day before V-day we did fulfill #4 on this list:

IMG_4104We built a very lovely snow woman in our neighbors’ driveway. 😀

Have a great Monday!

-How did you spend Valentine’s Day?
-What was the highlight of your weekend?

-When buying running shoes, how much does appearance affect your choice?

Snowmageddon Chicken Stew and Other Snow Adventures

We have another snow day here in Richmond!  In anticipation of the snow, which started yesterday around 4 PM, I felt compelled to cook a lot of food.  (If that sounds familiar, yes, I did the same thing a few weeks ago.  It must be a primal survival instinct.)

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For dinner–and what will be dinner for at least two more days–I made a big pot of Snowmageddon Chicken & Rice Stew.  What makes it Snowmageddon stew rather than regular chicken stew?  The chicken is only from drumsticks because when I went to the grocery store in all the storm preparation craziness yesterday, there was no chicken remaining except drumsticks.  I am not exaggerating.  The poultry case was empty except for a few packages of chicken legs.  Chicken legs it is. 🙂

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Snowmageddon Chicken & Rice Stew
10 drumsticks (~3 lb)
8 whole carrots
4 large celery sticks
8 oz green beans
8 oz mushrooms
5 large kale leaves
2 cloves garlic
1.5 c brown rice
2 qts chicken broth
Salt, pepper, thyme, smoked paprika, rosemary, onion powder
Olive oil

1.  Chop all veggies into bite-sized pieces.  2. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and brown; add garlic and saute for about a minute.  3.  Add all remaining ingredients, including whole, raw chicken legs.  Stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer.  4. Check chicken in about 15 minutes.  When it’s cooked through, take all drumsticks out of pot.  Remove chicken from each leg (yes, this is very tedious), discarding the bones and putting meat back in the pot.  5.  Continue to let simmer, partially covered, until rice is cooked through (or longer).

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Best if eaten while sitting under blankets on the couch 🙂

The legs definitely give the stew more flavor than we would have gotten using breasts, so that’s a plus!

While the stew was simmering, Andrew and I tag-teamed a batch of banana muffins.  We used a recipe from a gluten-free, dairy-free cookbook we have, and they turned out pretty great:

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We added a cinnamon-brown sugar crumble on top…not the prettiest, but they taste wonderful!

After dinner and dessert, we suited-up and played in the still-falling snow.  We took our sleds and found the best sledding hills in the neighborhood, threw a few snowballs, and give our inner-children free reign for an hour or so. 😀

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Eating snow + Snyoga

We warmed up and capped the night with two mugs of green chai tea:

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Andrew and I are both home from work today and have one snow adventure planned so far: making an igloo.  🙂  Have a great snow day, everyone!  Stay safe and warm!

-Do you have a snow day today?
-When was the last time you went sledding?
Do you cook way more food than you actually need when it’s about to snow?

Double Bean Brunswick Stew {Stewsday & Less Meat Monday}

Last Tuesday I cooked my first whole chicken, and it provided dinner for Andrew and me on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  We saved the bones, and on Saturday I used them to make chicken stock.  With the stock and about half of a breast that was left, we decided to make Brunswick stew for dinner that night.  I turned to the internet to find a basic recipe and quickly discovered that there are hundreds of variations with very little consistency.  So we improvised.

This recipe is great for Less Meat Monday or Stewsday!

Double Bean Brunswick Stew

1 qt chicken stock/broth
3 oz chicken, cooked and shredded
1 15-oz can black beans
1 15-oz can white beans
frozen carrots (1 bag)
frozen corn (1 bag)
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes 
4 oz tomato paste
3-4 c fresh spinach
1 pat of butter
Worcestershire sauce (generous splash)
White wine vinegar (splash)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste 

The complicated steps:  Put everything except spinach in a large pot; stir and heat.  A few minutes before serving, add spinach and stir.

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As is the case with most stews, the longer you let it simmer, the better it will taste.  We used frozen and canned veggies because we were short on time, but you can certainly use fresh produce if you have more time to let it cook!  You can also add more water if it’s too thick for your taste buds.  Andrew really doesn’t like Lima beans–something I consider a staple in Brunswick stew–so we used other varieties.  You can leave out the chicken entirely if you’d like, or you can add more!  It’s a very adaptable recipe.

All in all this was a very good, easy, quick stew.  I love soups and stews because they are a great way to squeeze in veggies and swap beans for meat without really noticing the difference.  Speaking of foods with lots of fiber, if you’re looking for a more filling, tasty alternative to those popular detox cleanses, this may be your ticket.  It, uh, keeps things moving the way they are supposed to.  😉

I am trying to be less wasteful when it comes to food, so I am very pleased with the fact that we are using every bit of that chicken!  In addition to the three nights we ate the meat, the stew fed us Saturday, Monday, and there’s enough remaining for one more meal.  Heck, yes!

Happy Stewsday to all!

-Have you ever made Brunswick stew?  What do you consider to be the key ingredients?

Snow Day Cookin’

Greetings on this beautiful, snowy morning!  Is anyone snowed-in, legitimately or otherwise?  Richmond is notorious for shutting down at the first suggestion of flurries.  I was thrilled this morning to see that my office is closed today; sure, we only have about two inches of snow, but I gladly rolled over and fell back asleep!

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Yesterday was my day off, and I don’t know if it was the cold temperatures, anticipation of the snow, or procrastination of the cleaning projects I’d planned to do, but all I wanted to do was cook delicious food!  And cook delicious food, I did. 🙂

First up was a batch of Raspberry Orange Muffins:

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I started with this basic muffin recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, but used gluten-free flour rather than whole wheat.  I used a cup of chopped, previously-frozen raspberries and mango-orange juice in place of the regular OJ.  Delicious.  They aren’t super sweet, but they are healthier than your average muffin.  Each one of these guys contains roughly:

-150 calories
-5g fat
-3g protein
-2g fiber
-5.5g sugar

Not bad!

Next up was dinner, and I was feeling ambitious.  For the first time in my life, I cooked a whole chicken.  You culinary pros are probably thinking, Yeah, so?, and my vegetarian friends probably just closed out this window (sorry, guys :)), but this was a big deal!  As someone who regularly reevaluates her stance on eating meat (you can expect a post about that in the near future), this was huge.  Aaand it was delicious.  I mean, seriously… how beautiful is this? :

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I basically used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  Inside the chicken I put a lemon (quartered) and about four cloves of garlic (crushed).  After looking at a few other recipes I decided to cook it at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 degrees.  I took the chicken out of the oven after it had been on 400 for an hour just to check it, thinking it would need more time, and the internal temperature was slightly above where it was supposed to be, so I just let it rest!

With the chicken we had roasted beets, carrots, and red potatoes with rosemary

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When Andrew came home from work, the chicken was in the oven, and I was prepping the veggies.  He peeked in the oven, and was clearly surprised/impressed.  Because we still had about an hour to go until everything would be ready, Andrew decided to go to the gym for a quick workout.  When he walked back in the door, he was holding these:

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Me:  Flowers?? And wine??  What are these for?

Andrew: You made such a fancy dinner, and I wanted you to know that I appreciate it.

Me: I don’t know if it’s that fancy; I just felt like cooking!

Andrew:YOU COOKED A WHOLE CHICKEN!  That’s FANCY!

Love that guy. 🙂

So we ate our fancy chicken and roasted vegetables, and we drank our fancy wine, and we watched our fancy show, The Biggest Loser.  (Okay, I may be overreaching with my use of “fancy” ;-)).

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Andrew’s taste-test of the chicken went something like this:  “That’s good.  Whoa.  That’s like really good.”  I must say, I was not at all disappointed by how it turned out either!

Now that we have enough food to last us a few days, I’m afraid I actually have to use this snow day to do some house-cleaning…after I go to the gym, perhaps. 🙂

-Any snow outside your window today?
Have you ever cooked a whole chicken?

Vegetable Lentil Soup {with Bacon}

I don’t always cook with bacon, but when I do… it’s delicious.  😉  Yesterday we had about 1/2 lb of bacon that we needed to use (leftover from a Thanksgiving dish), and we’d picked up some green lentils at the grocery store this weekend, so I decided to create a new recipe.  The result was fanstastic.  I don’t want to oversell it, but this was a real winner for us. 

Vegetable Lentil Soup {with Bacon}
1 1/2 c green lentils
4 carrots
3 celery ribs
4 Roma tomatoes
2 c spinach
2-3 garlic cloves
6 slices bacon*
6 c chicken broth
Salt, pepper, & red pepper to taste

(*I used a natural, nitrite-free bacon.  When I sliced it, the last 1/2-1 inch was pure fat (as opposed to the other pieces that were half fat, half meat), and I couldn’t justify using it, so I tossed it out.  This recipe is actually 6 slices of bacon minus 1/2-1 inch of fat from each slice. :))

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1.  Chop carrots, celery, tomatoes, and garlic (minced).  Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces.  2.  In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until cooked through.  3. Add carrots, celery, and tomato, and saute for 3-4 minutes.  4.  Add garlic (move other veggies and make room on the bottom of the pot so it can actually cook), and saute for about 1 minute.  5. Add chicken broth, lentils, and seasoning; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer with lid tilted for 25-30 minutes (until lentils are soft).  6.  In the last 5 minutes add spinach. 

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Again, at the risk of overselling it, this was a fist-pump-because-I’m-so-happy-I-made-something-so-tasty meal.  The bacon just gives it so much good flavor!  It worked well for us because there was enough meat that Andrew didn’t feel deprived, but a sufficiently small amount of meat that I wasn’t picking around anything in my bowl (which sometimes happens; chicken is very hit-or-miss for me).  Most of the protein (13g per serving) came from the lentils, which I love.

When we bought the lentils, Andrew noticed the very high fiber content–15g per 1/4 c dry serving.  After we’d tasted and determined how good this soup was, as we were ladeling it into bowls, I had to remind Andrew that eating multiple large servings might have some undesired effects.  😉  He appreciated the reminder and held himself back a bit.

If you don’t have a Stewsday meal planned for tonight, give this recipe a try, and let me know what you think!

How often do you cook with bacon?

The Halloween Post

The doorbell rang.  Then the doorbell rang four more times in a row.  As we hurried down the front hall with a bowl of candy, we saw the door slowly open and a young boy with Down Syndrome peek around the corner, grinning as he took in the sights.  From outside his dad laughed and said, “No, you have to wait for them to open it!”  It was adorable. 🙂

The other trick-or-treating highlight from last night was when Andrew opened the door, and a boy looked up at him and said, “Whoa, you’re tall.  Like really tall.”

Halloween in the suburbs is great.  😀

While we didn’t dress up in costumes, we did celebrate the holiday in other festive ways:

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Just in case there’s any confusion, Andrew carved the scary face, and I carved the owl.  Ambitious?  Maybe.  Awesome?  I think so.

I also perused Pinterest for some Halloween dinner ideas, knowing that while Andrew wouldn’t necessarily appreciate a themed dinner, he would humor me.  Now, I thought I did well with what I made, until I looked back at the original ideas.  Let’s just say, the website Pinterest Fail exists for a reason.

The inspiration:

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The reality:

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Not the most handsome mummy meatloaf I’ve ever seen, but he actually turned out closer to the original than these mashed potato ghosts:

The inspiration:

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The reality:

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Bahahaha… I can’t stop laughing at this.  Oh man.  Hey there, lumpy ghosts!

Andrew got pretty into the themed dinner by the time we were ready to eat; he was actually disappointed that I didn’t have anything cool planned for the broccoli, so he gave his ghosts hats:

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He also doused them with ketchup/blood, but we didn’t get a decent photo of that.

For the meatloaf we found a basic recipe and used gluten-free bread and almond milk in place of the gluten/dairy ingredients.  We made the mashed potatoes with Earth Balance buttery spread, almond milk, and Silk coffee creamer instead of butter and cream.  Both dishes tasted great–the ingredient swaps were undetectable as far as I could tell!

I hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Did you make any Halloween-themed food?  Did it turn out as wonderfully as ours? 😉
Did you wear a costume??

Thai-Style Chicken Pumpkin Soup

True story:  This morning I told Andrew I thought our refrigerator was broken because when I opened the door, I didn’t feel the usual rush of cool air.  I quickly realized that the fridge is working fine, but the temperature in our house had dipped into the 50’s, so the difference in temperatures wasn’t that great.  In related news, we turned on our heat this morning.  I’m hoping to be able to remove either the blanket or fleece jacket I am wearing by the time I finish breakfast and this post.  😉

What goes hand-in-hand with the coolness of fall?  Pumpkin everything, apparently.  I like pumpkin-flavored things just fine, but I don’t get crazy about the stuff like many of you do.  Pumpkin seems to be working its way into a lot of food items this season (Exhibit A), but  I’d pick banana bread over pumpkin bread any day, and I’ve never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

However, as one who loves most things containing the word “soup”, I was intrigued when Andrew found a recipe for a Crock-Pot Thai-Style Chicken Pumpkin Soup.

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The recipe came from the Slow Cooker Bible, and because I’m feeling a tad lazy, I’m including a picture of the recipe page rather than typing it out myself. 😉

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In place of the heavy cream we used Silk coffee creamer (original, not flavored), and we left out the onion completely (Andrew put the green onions on his at the end).  We also added sliced mushrooms because we had some on hand that needed to be used.

The soup was incredibly flavorful, and as is the case with most things pumpkin, I liked it, but I was not crazy about it.  I think anyone who really enjoys pumpkin would love it though!    It made for a warm, hearty meal over the last two cool nights (and there are still leftovers).  If you are a pumpkin-lover, give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Well, you may be pleased to know that the thermostat in our house now reads 61 degrees; I have removed the blanket and am beginning to thaw. 😉

Stay warm, everyone!

Pumpkin-flavored items: Love them or hate them?
What’s the weirdest pumpkin-flavored food you’ve seen in stores or tried?

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free)

The cooler weather this week gives me a feeling of pure delight.  I love fall and all that’s associated with it, and the meals are no exception.  At the end of the workday yesterday, as I sat in my office, cozy in my cardigan sweater (which may have been overkill;  I think the temperature reached 80 yesterday, but that’s no matter ;-)), I brainstormed dinner and decided what sounded best was a soul-warming chicken casserole.

I’ve heard rave reviews about casseroles using just chicken, rice, vegetables, and a can of cream of mushroom soup.  Unfortunately, we can’t do dairy, so I had to get creative.  I came up with a pretty excellent dairy-free, gluten-free (and probably healthier) alternative to the classic casserole.  If you don’t want to make it DF and GF, but don’t want to use condensed soup, you could easily make this using milk and regular flour!

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

1 1/4 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
12 oz mushrooms, sliced
4 c broccoli (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 c brown rice
2 c soy milk
1/4 c DF butter substitute
1/4 c GF flour
salt
pepper
garlic powder
paprika
2 c water

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  2.  Heat 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat; add mushrooms, and cook until browned.  3.  Add remaining butter to skillet, then milk, spices, and flour, and whisk to combine.  4. Stir regularly until the mixture thickens. 5.  In a large glass baking dish, combine chicken, rice, broccoli, skillet mixture, and water.  6. Stir well, cover with aluminum foil, and place in oven for 45 min-1 hour.

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I took it out of the oven and stirred a few times during the cooking process because I love to stir things and couldn’t help myself to prevent it from burning on the walls of the dish.  For some reason the rice took a lot longer to cook than I anticipated, despite using the quick-cook variety.  Also, as usual, I eyeballed the spices.  You can always add more at the end if it needs more flavor!

The end result was de-licious, and I doubt anyone would know it’s dairy-free!  We made it even better by eating it with baked apples straight out of the oven. 😀

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The apples were a late addition to the meal–they came to mind while the rice was taking forever to cook, so I knew I had time to get them in the oven.  All I did was: slice two apples, put them in a small glass baking dish with a little butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon;  cover with foil, put in oven for 5 minutes, remove foil, stir, and put back in oven for another 10 minutes or so (stirring periodically, again, because I can’t help myself. :-D)

It was an awesome, feel-good, fall meal.

And I even let Andrew eat some after he said, “What, are you my grandma?” when I told him I was making casserole.  Punk.  😉

What are you favorite cooler weather meals?

Any tips for taking good food photos, especially as it’s getting darker earlier?  I know my pictures are not good, but I have no skills!

Milkshakes, Vineyard Tour, and Youth Group (Weekend Recap)

Happy Monday to all!

We had a full, yet relaxing weekend here at the Storey house.  Friday we had one of those night that made me think, “27 and married is so, so different than 22 and single.”   It started when we decided to go out to eat, and I said, “I need a few minutes to get ready,” which meant brushing my hair and reapplying eyeliner.  Same clothes I’d been wearing all day?  Why not?  😉  We went to a restaurant called the Silver Diner, which is a small chain in Virginia and Maryland.  Although it’s a chain, each restaurant works with local farmers and creates seasonal menus with lots of gluten-free, vegetarian, and heart-healthy options.  It’s pretty great.

While browsing the menu, Andrew noticed the dairy-free milkshake option and suggested we split one at the end of our meal.  When the waitress asked us if we needed anything else, however, Andrew simply asked for the check.  After she walked away I said, “Did you not want to get a milkshake?”  He replied, with a little bit of crazy in his eyes, “Let’s go to Kroger and buy the ingredients, and then we can make LOTS of milkshakes!”  Done and done.

After acquiring the necessary ingredients, driving home, and blending, we parked ourselves on the couch with our milkshakes and watched a few episodes of Once Upon A Time on Netflix.  (Does anyone else watch this?  We are hooked. [Pun intended, for those of you who are watching season 2.]  Season 2 came out on Netflix about a week ago, and we finished it Friday.  Oops…)

So that was Friday: dinner at a diner, homemade milkshakes, and Netflix on the couch.  Yeah–27 definitely beats 22. 😀

I wrote about Saturday morning here, but the gist of it is: slept in, ran 6 miles, and ate brunch.  After that we worked in the garden–we planted more kale, lettuce, and spinach–and watched most of the VT football game.

Later in the afternoon we made a trip to the New Kent Winery for a tour and wine tasting.  Oddly enough this was Andrew’s idea, and I had to convince him to watch some of the football game (“I don’t need to watch every single game.  Do you want to go wine-tasting?”  Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?)  It was my first time at a vineyard, and it was so cool!

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As an engineer, Andrew always loves tours like this and learning how things are made.  The wine we tasted was pretty good too 🙂  After one particular wine I said to Andrew, “Wow, this is unique.  I’ve never had wine that tastes like this.”  Andrew replied, “It’s not unique;  we just don’t buy $25 wine.”  Hah!  True.

We sat on the porch for a while, then walked around the grounds and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.

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The highlight of Sunday was having our first youth group of the school year!  Like last weekend at our kickoff picnic, we had quite a crowd, and it was so much fun (at least I thought so… but I planned the whole thing, so maybe my opinion is skewed ;-)).  It was a great end to a great weekend.

And now… Monday.

What was the highlight of your weekend?
Have you ever been wine-tasting?

The Sandwich-Hater’s Lunch: Black Bean Salad

As you likely know by now, I am a sandwich-hater down to my bones.  I hadn’t posted on the topic or shared a sandwich-less lunch recipe in a while, but my my sister’s excellent guest post last week inspired me.  After a week on vacation eating a lot of heavy foods (hello, bacon every morning), I have been craving fresh, raw, whole foods.  Beans, rather than meat, have sounded like the most delicious foods in the world this week!  I made a big batch of this super easy black bean salad on Sunday night, and I’ve been working my way through it for lunches:

Black Bean Salad
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tomatoes, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
1 c corn (I used frozen)
Italian dressing to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Done.

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Friends, it’s really delicious.  Also, has anyone had Popcorners (pictured above)?  We buy some whenever we go to our wholesale club, and it’s a miracle if the 18-serving bag lasts a week.  I like to tell myself that Andrew is eating more than his share, but in reality I think I am the culprit.  Last Sunday we took a risk and bought two bags and agreed that no matter when we finished the first, we could not open the second until a week had passed since purchase.  This will prevent us from the entirely possible scenario of eating 36 servings of popcorn chips in one week.  Hah!

Have a great Thursday!

What’s been in your lunch box this week?
Have you tried Popcorners??