Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Best of Fall

Summer used to be my favorite season, but as I have gotten older and my interests have changed I've started to love Fall more and more.

I love being able to run outside with that crisp breeze cooling me down along the way. I love our trip to the beach for Halloween (so excited to be able to go again this year). I love football and pumpkin spice lattes not having to think about bikinis! The list goes on and on.

Here is a look back at some of my favorite posts from last Fall, I can't wait to see what I can come up with this season.

1. Pumpkin Pizza

2. Candy Corn Jello Shots

3. Pumpkin Cheese Plate

4. Apple Cider Float

5. Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

6. Caramel Apple Jello Shots

Monday, September 24, 2012

Crockpot Chili (with Two Secret Ingredients)

I've been waiting for the temperature outside to drop so that I could try out this chili recipe in our crockpot.

My co-worker Jackie shared it with me and you will never guess what two ingredients make this chili so good. Ready?

Grape jelly and chocolate chips....

Sounds crazy I know but it's amazing. When you think about it, it make sense. Have you ever made those delicious crockpot cocktail meatballs with chili-sauce and grape jelly? My husband LOVES those.

This is the same type of flavor but with classic chili ingredient instead of meatballs. Also, there are hints of chocolate in Mexican mole sauces that are sometimes similar to chili so the chocolate chips really aren't that off.

It's just a handful and the flavor isn't 100% decipherable but it's there. I am going to go as far as saying this is the best chili I've ever made.

We ran a 5k yesterday morning, it was sunny and cool outside in that perfect fall weather way. This chili with a scoop of greek yogurt on top and some green onions and some football on TV really made it feel like the first weekend of Fall.

Crockpot Chili

1 lb ground beef or turkey
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (I like the olive oil and garlic seasoned)
1 packet of McCormick Chili Seasoning
1 14.5 oz can red kidney beans
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 white onion chopped
1/2 cup grape jelly
1 handful chocolate chips
Greek yogurt and green onions for topping (optional)

1. Brown ground beef or turkey in large skillet on medium-high heat. Drain fat.

2. Place cooked beef or turkey, Seasoning Mix, tomatoes, beans, onions and broth in slow cooker. Stir until well mixed. Cover.

3. Cook 2 hours on HIGH. Add grape jelly and handful of chocolate chips and stir. Cook another 2 hours. Serve with a dollop of  0% Greek yogurt and green onions.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Marinated Kale Salad with Apples and Gouda

My co-worker and very good friend Ericka has been such a good influence on me in terms of what I eat and how I exercise. I've picked up many of my healthy habits from her. So when I noticed she eats a kale salad with chicken just about everyday for lunch, I was really curious. 

Are kale salads good? What do they taste like? I only ever bake kale in the oven for "chips."

When I saw this recipe in Southern Living, I thought it was the perfect one to try out.

I used green apples instead of pink lady. I also got this amazing block of Gouda from Trader Joes that had hints of butterscotch and caramel in it.

While kale certainly is tougher than a regular lettuce, the lemon juice it marinates in overnight softens it up, and well of course the cheese helps.

Overall, this is a good salad, but I don't know if I could do it everyday. ;)

Marinated Kale Salad with Apples and Gouda (recipe from Southern Living)
1 Granny Smith Apple
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 bag or 2 bunches Lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped (about 8 oz.)
1/4 cup shaved aged Gouda cheese of choice

1. Chop apple into medium, bite sized pieces.

2. Whisk together lemon juice and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add kale and apples; toss to coat. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours. Add Gouda cheese, and toss just before serving.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Team Blondie Cake Pops

My apologies for the delay in posts. As some of you know, I work full time in the media and without getting into politics, let's just say things have been busy. We also had some family and friends in town.

Now on to these cake pops ...

As if things weren't crazy enough ... I also started participating in the DC Chapter of Blondes vs. Brunettes a national charity that plays a powder-puff football game every year to raise money for Alzheimer's Disease.

I signed up as a "Cheerleader" for Team Blonde. It's less of a time commitment but I still get to be a part of the awesomeness.

I brought the girls these cake pops after practice this week and let me just tell you... they are the nicest girls ever! As for their football skills, they aren't messing around. I was really proud to be a part of it!

If you want to participate, you still have time, game day isn't until Nov. 12th. There is also an awesome fundraising event coming up called "A Purple Tie Affair" (break out those purple dresses ladies). Hubby and I will be there, it's open bar, with live music, a step and repeat and a few more surprises. Come out and meet us this weekend!

If youre not in DC, no worries. Look for a local chapter in your city and see how you can participate.

Team Blondie Cake Pops (make about 24 pops, instructions are adapted from the cake pop queen Bakerella)

1 box yellow cake mix
3 large eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup water

1 bag yellow candy melts (they carry them at Michaels craft stores)
1 container rainbow sprinkles
1 bag lolly pop sticks (you can also purchase these at Michaels)
Styrofoam board (optional, but helps the cake pop candy coating dry smoothly without sticking to a plate)

***Watch this Bakerella video first to get a good idea of how this goes down***

1. After cake is cooked (according to directions on the box) and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.

2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)

3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. They should be about the size of mini meatballs.

4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)

5. Melt the yellow candy melts in microwave per directions on package. Do EXACTLY what they say or your candy will seize up and be unusable.

6. Here comes the hard part ... Dip your lolly pop sticks into the meted candy melts and then into the cake balls. Place back in the fridge. (See this step by step)

After about 10 minutes, make sure your candy melts are still warm and use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra. (The problem is my candy melts never melt to the consistency they should. I really have to carefully spoon it on and then roll the cake pop while on the spoon to get the smoothest texture I can.)

Quickly shake on your sprinkles and then stick into your styrofoam board and let the candy harden. 

Good luck! It's an art to master, and it takes patience like learning to make french macarons!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mu Shu Pork Lettuce Wraps

We lost power due to a storm on Saturday afternoon. I had just gotten home from Trader Joes with all my goods for these Mu Shu Pork Wraps when the power went out.

I figured I had about 24 hours before things needed to be put in coolers and brought over to the in-laws. We lit candles and played scrabble once it got dark and crossed our fingers that the power would be back on when we woke up Sunday morning.

We literally did a family group hug (Honey too) when it came back on around 12 noon. I was able to make lunch/blog and the husband got to watch the big NFL Sunday kick off.

I have a hard time without power for more than 24 hours. I can only imagine what it would have been like if we had kids in the house.

These Mu Shu Pork wraps were -- no joke -- better than any Chinese food I've ordered in a long time.

So. Good. You have to make them... really.  The recipe is from this months Cooking Light. The only changes I made were subbing out the canola oil for coconut oil and I  used lettuce wraps instead of cabbage because Trader Joes only had shredded cabbage not a whole head.

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Mu Shu Pork Lettuce Wraps
(from Cooking Light, makes about 8 lettuce wraps)
1 small head lettuce, for the wraps
1 small bag shredded cabbage
2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 (8-ounce) boneless pork loin, trimmed
1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
4 mushroom caps, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1. Reserve 8 lettuce leaves, 2 cups shredded cabbage, 1/2 cup carrots, sliced mushrooms, green onions and minced garlic. All in separate prep dishes. 

2. In a medium sized bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin, and cornstarch. Whisk.

3. Cut pork crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack several slices vertically; slice pork into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Repeat procedure with remaining pork. Add pork, carrots, and mushrooms to soy sauce mixture; toss.

4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Add 1/4 cup green onions; sauté 30 seconds. Add shredded cabbage and water; sauté 2 minutes. Remove cabbage mixture from pan.

5. Add remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Add remaining 1/2 cup onions and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add pork mixture; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Add cabbage mixture; toss. Place about 1/3 cup pork mixture into each of 8 reserved cabbage leaves.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Asparagus Salad with Lemon and Goat Cheese

I've been really into cutting processed foods out of my diet lately.

That of course doesn't mean I've actually done it ...  but I really love the idea that my body might feel better overall if I did.

Recipes like this one make me want to do it even more.

It's amazing the flavors that you can conjure up with simple and organic ingredients.

Grilled asparagus with some sea salt and olive oil (the char gives it amazing flavor) mixed with lemon juice and zest ... so simple yet so perfect.

I added the baby reds for more substance (I wanted to make a hearty meal out of it) but it's delish with or without the potatoes.

Meh... I wish I still had someone of this left over for lunch. My turkey sandwich isn't half as good as this was.


Wine-a-Ritas are next on the blog post agenda... not as healthy as asparagus salad ... but a girl has got to live a little.

Asparagus Salad with Lemon and Goat Cheese
1 bunch of large asparagus
1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 baby red potatoes
salt and pepper
goat cheese crumbles

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Chop up your potatoes and toss them in half of your 1/4 cup of olive oil. Salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes or until tender. You should be able to easily skewer them with a fork.

2. Fire up your grill and toss your asparagus in the remaining olive oil and some salt in a large bowl (reserve the bowl with excess oil). Grill for about 5-10 minutes or until the asparagus are tender with a nice char.

3. In the bowl that has the left over olive oil, zest your lemon and then cut in half and squeeze in the juice of one half.

4. Cut your asparagus into smaller pieces and toss in your bowl with your lemon juice etc. Add potatoes and toss again.

5. Serve warm or cold with crumbles of goat cheese on top.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Holiday at Sunset Hills Vineyard

One of my very best friends, Jamie, came to visit from Connecticut for the long weekend. Most of the weekend was spent catching up in our pajamas, watching movies and eating Twizzlers, but we did venture out of the house yesterday so I could take her to one of Northern Virginia's prettiest wineries.

This was lunch ...

Fresh baked warm bread with warm brie cheese drizzled with honey and "Wine-a-Ritas." (I'm going to attempt a "do it at home" wine-a-rita recipe post soon)

I heart best friends visiting ... and brie cheese. 

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