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?

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2014 Goals + New Year’s Day Cuisine

Happy 2014 (a few days late)!

I know some people are vehemently against New Year’s resolutions, and I don’t totally understand that.  The first of January provides a great, if only symbolic chance to start fresh and dream about what life might look like in the coming year.  It’s as good a time as any to make a change, so why not?  Why wait for the sake of rebelling against the tradition?

At the beginning of January I like to set goals rather than make standard resolutions–they might be functionally the same, but goals seem more attainable and specific than resolutions, which I tend to think of as more vague concepts (“Put 20% of my paycheck into savings” rather than, “Save money.”)

Here are some of my goals for 2014:

1. Run 750 miles. I’ve never tallied my mileage over the course of an entire year, but at roughly two miles per day, this seems attainable.

2. Run a marathon.  This was on my list of 2013 goals, and it just didn’t happen (I did, however, run three races last year, which was another goal :)).  If I succeed at this, running 750 miles during the year should be no problem!

3. Perform one random act of kindness every week.  Preferably anonymously.

4. Write three highlights of every day.  I purchased a small planner that has room to write something for each day, and I plan to journal at least three high points daily.  I am already really looking forward to having the completed journal at the end of the year and being able to reflect on all the good times.

5. Cook dinner for other people once a month.  I love cooking.  I love sharing food with others.  Friends–come over for dinner, and let us love you by cooking you (hopefully) delicious food.  😀

So far I am off to a good start:  On New Year’s Day Andrew and I ran 3.5 miles (this was a big deal as Andrew does not enjoy running; half a mile in he said, “Are you ready for me to start complaining yet?” ;-)), I’ve written in my journal/planner each day, and Wednesday night our friends Amanda and Diron came over for a New Year’s Day dinner!  We made a rosemary-garlic pork tenderloin, baked apples, black-eyed peas, and collard greens & kale.  (I don’t think of myself as a typical Southern girl, but my family definitely has some Southern traditions when it comes to food.  We also eat oyster stew on Christmas morning.  Anyone else? :))  I forgot to take any pictures on NYD, but thankfully we had most of the leftovers for dinner last night, minus the pork which Andrew finished for lunch.  Here’s the modified leftovers meal:

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Collard greens & kale, baked apples with butter and brown sugar, black-eyed peas with tomatoes, and lemon-thyme chicken

Not a bad start to the year. 🙂

-What are your goals or resolutions for 2014?
-Does your family have any interesting food traditions around the holidays?

Current Fitness Routine + The Funniest Running Photo I’ve Ever Accidentally Taken

During the month of November, between the leftover Halloween candy and Thanksgiving treats, I hit the sweets pretty hard, was a little slack on my workouts, and by the end of the month felt pretty blah.  At the beginning of December I recommitted to working out most days of the week and treating sweets as treats rather than something to be eaten whenever I feel like it.  Already I’m feeling better!

In terms of working out, I have been on a roll this month.  Despite the cold, I have been hitting the pavement running like a champ–yes, I am feeling quite proud of myself. 🙂

 

running1Frosty grass calls for fleece-lined spandex.

Here’s what the last week looked like for me in terms of fitness:

Saturday:  Kickboxing video
Sunday:  Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred
Monday:  Run-40 minutes, easy
Tuesday:  30-Day Shred
Wednesday:  Run-30 minutes, intervals + walk- 60 minutes
Thursday: 30-Day Shred + walk- 15 minutes
Friday:  Run- 45 minutes

Jillian’s 30-Day Shred is tough–for those who don’t know, it’s a circuit-style exercise DVD that combines strength with cardio–but it’s not kicking my butt like the last two times I did it.  I take that as a sign that I am more in shape these days! 🙂

jillian2I do love being able to workout in my living room with the blinds closed 😀

On Wednesday morning I took a really funny photo by accident.  Running friends, you may understand what I am about to explain.  Or perhaps I will just sound vain or weird. 😉 Sometimes when I am running in the morning, when the sun is low, and I pass a solid fence, I think, “Wow, my shadow looks cool.  I wish I had a photo of that!”  On Wednesday this happened, and I decided to pull out my phone and try to get the shot.  However, by the time I took off my gloves and opened the camera, the terrain had changed a little bit, so there was a small hill leading up to the fence.  Here’s the result:

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Bahahaha.  My bottom half is on the hill in the foreground, and my upper half is on the fence, making it look like I have the tiniest waist and the biggest booty ever.  And with the tree, I look like I’m holding a gun.  I was really amused. 😀

And finally, because I like food and like posting pictures of food, here’s what we had for dinner last night:

rosemarychickenRosemary balsamic chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, and quinoa.  Yum. 🙂

Have a great Friday, everyone!

-What does your weekly workout schedule look like currently?
-Have you ever taken a photo of your shadow while running (or wanted to)?

Less Meat Monday: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos {with Chicken}

“Less Meat Monday” admittedly doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Meatless Monday“, but it’s a huge step for some members of this household (read: Andrew :)).  Last week he acknowledged that he should probably be eating a little less meat and a little more fiber for his overall health, and he gave me the green light to try some new dinner recipes in which meat is not the star.

Naturally, I was thrilled—as Andrew puts it, I always have one foot firmly in the vegetarian camp.  Now, we are not going vegetarian, but I am planning to make Mondays “Less Meat Mondays”, and try new recipes in which I can cut the amount of meat significantly with beans, lentils, or some other form of plant protein.

Here’s what was on the table last night:

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos {with Chicken}

2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb chicken, cooked and shredded*
2 medium sweet potatoes
½-1 c salsa
olive oil
chili powder
cumin
salt & pepper
mixed greens
lime
cilantro
goat cheese
corn tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 400°.  Chop sweet potatoes into ½-inch cubes.  Put in bowl, and toss with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.  2. Spread sweet potatoes on a pan, and place in oven for 30 minutes, stirring/flipping halfway through.  3.  While the potatoes are cooking, combine beans, chicken, and salsa in a pot, and heat on low.  4.  When potatoes are done and beans are hot, place in tortillas with greens, cilantro, lime juice, goat cheese, and/or whatever sounds good :).

(*I actually cooked the chicken in a skillet as soon as I put the potatoes in the oven;  there’s plenty of time to do this and heat the beans, but if you have leftover chicken you want to use, this is a great way to do it!)

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The tacos were a hit!  Andrew said he did not miss the extra meat—typically we use 1- 1 1/2lb of meat for any given dinner, which will last us two nights, so only using 1/2lb of chicken was a significant drop for us.  You can also leave out the chicken entirely, and I doubt you’d miss it.

Happy eating to all! 🙂

-Do you observe Meatless Monday?
-Any recommendations for high-protein, meatless (or less-meat) dinners that I could try in the coming weeks??

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?

Thanksgiving and the Beginning of Christmas

Hello, friends.  I took a little blogging break over the last week and a half–not intentionally and not for any real reason.  I simply didn’t feel like blogging.  Anybody else ever have a period like that?  I am back now, and here’s what we’ve been up to over the last couple of weeks:

Thanksgivings
Andrew and I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving with his mom’s side of the family in Northern Virginia.  Andrew was in Heaven because, due to lots of food allergies in the family, everything on the table was gluten-free dairy-free (or had a GF DF equivalent), so he could eat anything and everything! 

We made a Pin-spired vegetable turkey with the cousins:

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 And went for a tractor/wagon ride between dinner and dessert:

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And because blogging was so far out of my mind, those are the only photos I took. :-/  It was so great to visit with family, eat good food, and relax!

We spent Thanksgiving day with my family at my mom’s house and, as is customary on Thanksgiving, ate too much. 🙂  I love my family, and  it’s always so good to spend time with them and laugh–usually at something one of the nieces said. 

For example, while we were all sitting around the table, sweet little Lauren (4) looked at me, then Andrew, and said, “Umm, you guys were supposed to get a baby when you got married.” 😀  I couldn’t tell if her tone was suggesting that we were cheated or that she was cheated (out of a cousin), but it was very funny.  Thanks, kiddo. 😉 

Once again, I took very few photos :-/  Here’s the sweet potato casserole that we made and a plate of the leftovers I had for lunch Friday:

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Yum 🙂  My absolute favorite Thanksgiving food is my mom’s broccoli casserole.  So cheesy.  So delicious. 

Christmas Tree Farm
Yesterday Andrew and I ate brunch and went Christmas tree shopping with our good friends Amanda and Diron. 

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As it turns out, we were way too picky, and neither couple found a suitable tree, but we had an awesome time walking around, taking a hay ride, and drinking hot cider. 😀

It’s going to be tough to go back to work today after the long, relaxing weekend!  Have a great Monday!

Question for WordPress users: A couple of weeks ago my computer decided to stop letting me use Google Chrome to write blog posts (in the visual mode), and I have since been confined to using Internet Explorer (which randomly deletes paragraphs, resizes photos, reformats the post, etc.  It’s pretty awesome.)  Has this happend to anyone else with Chrome?  Is there any way I can fix it??

Thursday Thoughts: Denver-Bound

Some random thoughts from the week on this cold Thursday morning:

1. It’s currently 4:53 AM.  Andrew and I are flying to Denver early today to visit his sister, Jenny!  You can follow our adventures on Instagram: #storeytime.  😀

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2. Last weekend the cold weather finally killed our pepper plants–they held out far longer than we expected.  We harvested the peppers that were still growing, and this was our haul:

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Isn’t that crazy??  We’ve already eaten some, given away a few, and stored the rest in the freezer for the winter.  Heck.  Yes.

3. Speaking of things that are at least a little bit granola, I had the strange opportunity to wear this to work one day this week:

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The pants were my mom’s in the 60’s/70’s–aren’t they awesome?  I sent my mom this picture and said, “What do you think: was I born in the wrong decade?”  and she said, “Oh, I am sure of it!”  😀

4. We made this meal this week:  jerk pork with mango salsa, garlic-sauteed green beans, and the most delicious oven-roasted potatoes.  Yum, yum, yum.

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5. This sandwich-hater has been attempting sandwiches this week, and I think I found one I can handle:

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 Dark chocolate peanut butter and banana on Ezekiel whole grain bread.  I’m still not sure about the whole bread thing, but overall this sandwich is pretty tasty. 🙂

Well, those are my random 5 AMish thoughts for today.  Have a great Thursday!

Fellow sandwich haters: are there any sandwiches that you actually do like?
Have you ever seen so many beautiful peppers in your life? 😉