Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Independence Day Inspiration

I'm probably guilty of saying this about all holidays.. but Fourth of July is one of my favorites! (Doesn't beat Halloween though - nothing beats Halloween). This year Andy has to work (whomp, whomp) BUT he gets off early in the afternoon and we have plans with our friends to hang out and watch the fireworks downtown - they're amazing!

And like when every other holiday is approaching, I have begun to go crazy on Pinterest looking for fun ways to celebrate and good food to whip up this weekend. Below are some of my inspiration pins that I'm going to attempt this year!


Sweets for breakfast = my downfall. This berry monkey-bread recipe gives me alllll the heart eyes. Thinking of making this early Monday morning as a surprise before Andy heads off to work (I hope you're not reading this, Andy)



Wishing I would have made this a little earlier, so I might not be able to get it done for this year. But next year when I look back on my blog - maybe I can find this pin and actually do it! It's so cute!



Watermelon and blueberry fruit salad - yum! 



We have a little left over alcohol from our parties so it might be used in these patriotic jello shots



Now here comes the part I'm torn about - to make berry pie or apple pie? Apple pie is an American staple BUT I feel like it is such a fall dessert - Andy disagrees. He loves his pie though so I'm thinking we might be able to compromise with this more summery flavor



I'm thinking a traditional meal of BBQ pulled pork, coleslaw, corn on the cob, and baked beans sounds just about perfect for a Fourth of July meal. I have a to-die-for recipe for pulled pork so I'm going to have to break out the recipe cards (just realized how much of a grandma that made me sound)



Now lets see how much of this stuff I get done :)


Monday, June 27, 2016

Weekend Review

A weekend of good friends, good food, and good weather = THUMBS UP!

Friday we packed up and headed back to my hometown for the night where they were having their annual summer carnival/festival. We met up with our friends Chelsea and Michael for the concert they had for the night. WOW! Probably my most favorite night of the summer yet! The band was incredible (like always) and played a great variety of music. Plus the weather was beautiful which is always a plus :)










Finally got a non-laughing one - and those were actually candid, not posed!!






Saturday we had breakfast with my parents before we headed back to the city for the day. It was a HOT one and neither of us felt up to being outside all day. So we headed to the outlets, did some shopping, hydrated with some Starbucks, and ran some errands. We checked out a new grocery store - Fresh Thyme - that is a cross between a whole foods and a farmer's market (with the farmer's marker prices!). We also found some adorable townhouses in the area that we have our eye on for next year ;)

We made a yummy dinner of garlic burgers with blue cheese and homemade guac (Andy dubbed them Cali-Fresca burgers - so creative ;) ) and we settled in for the night with two movies.


Sunday we got up to attend the Food Truck Festival in uptown where we were supposed to meet our friends, but traffic wasn't working in anyone's favor and once Andy and I did get there - it was just too crowded, too long of lines, and too hot. So we walked to the lake and got taco's at a restaurant over there instead - worked in our favor :) I then treated Andy to his first experience at Trader Joe's (you know what they say about not going to the grocery store on an empty stomach? Well don't go on a full stomach either!). Sunday night = left overs for dinner and parking ourselves in front of the TV for the rest of the night.


Tacos on Lake Calhoun.. mmm!!


Another successful summer weekend!




Friday, June 24, 2016

Five on Friday

Happy Friday!

So true.. maybe it's because Friday means I treat myself to either Starbucks or gas station coffee?


Time for another round of Five on Friday. As usual, I will be linking up with AprilChristina, & Natasha.


- ONE -

I've really been slacking on the blogging this week. It was the last week of my current class before I start my next one and that means I had to write a big paper. So I never got to do a weekend recap on Monday.. also meals this week were uninteresting (except for one - see recipe below). Doesn't make much for intriguing blog posts...

But....

I wanted to give a belated shout-out to my hardworking, golden-hearted, and patient DAD for Father's Day! My parents spent the weekend camping with friends, so when they came back on Sunday we celebrated with dinner out and some ice cream :) It was great




- TWO -

While my parents were away, my grandma taught me an important skill - how to make homemade jam! Growing up, we always had homemade jams in the fridge for our toast and sandwiches. It really does taste much better than store bought. Together, my grandma and I made a big batch of Strawberry Rhubarb. Delicious :)




- THREE -

Andy and I had plans to go to the baseball game on Wednesday evening with our friends Megan and Hunter, but unfortunately it started raining! Not ideal weather to sit and watch a game. So we improvised and went to one of the bars downtown (it had cornhole. and swings. genius!). It actually turned out to be way more fun than the game anyway. We stayed out pretty late for a work night but it was worth the sleepiness at work on Thursday! :)







- FOUR -

I was looking for some toning spritz to use after my workouts and when I just need an overall freshen up. I picked up the Botanic Rosewater Toning Spritz from Target last weekend and I have fallen in love with it. It has such a feminine and light smell to it, and makes my face feel cooled.

After your workout, spray this on your face, twist your hair up into a top knot, and you're good to go! I also use it at night before bed as it removes that little bit of lasting makeup before your head hits the pillow. Also, you can't beat the price!



- FIVE - 

I'll leave you with a delicious low-carb recipe that you should definitely try! Andy made this pulled chicken on Tuesday and we devoured it - I think with only mumbling the words "mmm" "wow" & "yum" to each other the whole time we ate! I didn't get a picture - I was hungry, okay??? But trust me on this one. We ate it alone (without a bun or sauce - didn't need it!) with steamed broccoli and a side salad. It was so yummy and now I'm already craving it at 10am.

Pulled Chicken

Ingredients:

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 stick butter (feel free to cut down on this)
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 packet gravy mix
Pepperoncinis

Instructions:

Place chicken in crock pot. Sprinkle ranch and gravy mixes over the top. Slice butter into four to five pieces and place on top of the chicken. Distribute pepperoncinis on top. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Shred chicken in juices and serve.


-------------


6 hours until the I can transfer from work mode to weekend mode. Dance party in car will follow shortly after.

Have a good one!





Friday, June 17, 2016

Five on Friday

Happy Friday lovelies!




As usual, I'm linking up with AprilChristina, & Natasha to share Five on Friday!


- ONE -




Okay, I'll say it loud and proud - I'm an Orange is the New Black FANATIC! and today Season 4 comes out on Netflix! I've only been waiting the last 12 months for this.. so without a doubt there will be plenty of splurging this weekend while I help my grandma dog sit (no, I can promise you I won't be watching this show with my 90 year old grandma in the room).

I mayyyyy have already watched an episode and a half this morning.. and that mayyyy be the reason why this Five on Friday post is coming at you a little later than normal..

- TWO -

Our limited carb meals are going well.. here's a few pics to highlight the weeks meals




Yes, I know rice is a carb - but we couldn't resist! ;)


- THREE -

I forgot to mention in this week's posts.. last Saturday's Beer Tasting Party was a hit! I think everyone enjoyed themselves and got to try a handful of different brews! We spent the night playing cornhole, beer pong, and beer darts - and finished it with a cozy bonfire and some great music! I'd say it was a huge success!

Apparently I'm the worst picture taker.. New goal - become better at photographing these moments ...


- FOUR -

This week I was able to catch a Happy Hour at Red Cow with some of my sorority sisters. While each of our lives may be crazy busy, it's always nice to sit down for a few hours and catch up - especially now that we're going through so many exciting changes and adulting milestones. Also, I cheated on my carb diet for a burger (it was dubbed Twin Cities Best Burger - how can you turn that down?!?) and a few cheese curds - now those were the best I've ever had. ever.

So thankful to have those ladies in my life though. Seriously - they're so wonderful!


- FIVE -

The new Starbucks fad is definitely as good as everyone is raving! For those who haven't seen these fabulous "pink drinks" blowing up instagram.. it's their Strawberry Acai Refresher but with coconut milk instead of the usual water they add. It is bomb. and I treated myself this morning.


Last week it was the donut, and this week was Starbucks. I think I might have to make "treat yo' self Friday" a trend :)

Have a good weekend!




Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Thai Chicken Peanut Lettuce Wraps

Popping in today to share another fabulous recipe that I've been excited to share since I took the first bite! Now this is a good one, because for all you out there watching your carb/fat/sugar intake - this is for YOU!


Phone died right after this so I couldn't take better pictures... and you know I wasn't about to wait for it to charge to dig in! ;)


Thai Chicken Peanut Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

For the Peanut Sauce:

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tbsp Sriracha chili sauce (or more if you like it spicy)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed (we used garlic powder - worked just fine!)

For the Chicken:

Cooking spray
16 oz. ground chicken (Think we used a pound - worked fine!)
1 tbsp. Sriracha chili sauce
4 cloves garlic, crushed (again with the garlic powder)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp. soy sauce
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup chopped onions
2 tbsp chopped peanuts


Directions:

Make the peanut sauce; in a small saucepan combine chicken broth, peanut butter, sriracha, honey, soy sauce, fresh ginger, and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat stirring occasionally until sauce becomes smooth and thickens, about 6-8 minutes.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over high medium until hot. When hot, spray oil and saute the chicken until cooked through and browned, breaking it up as it cooks. Add the sriracha, remaining garlic and ginger, and saute 1 minute. Add the soy sauce, cook 1 minutes.

Add the shredded carrots and onions. Saute until tender-crisp, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside.

Divide the chicken equally between lettuce leaves. Drizzle with peanut sauce.

If you wanna be fancy you can also add some shredded cabbage, more peanuts, cilantro, and lime wedges.

---

There ya have it! Didn't take too long, and was so yummy! We served ours with a side of cilantro-lime rice (using that Trader Joe's rice I mentioned in my last post, and fresh cilantro from my herb garden!), and some steamed broccoli!

Eating healthy does not have to be boring :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Favorite Trader Joe's Finds

If you would have told me a few years ago that I would someday get so excited about going grocery shopping, I would have never believed you. It just seemed like such an adult thing. When I was younger, going to the grocery store with my parents was just another chore to do on the weekends. The only thing that made it not suck so bad was when we would make our way to the Cub bakery section where I knew there would be those free mini cookies for children "12 and under" - sometimes we'd take like 4 of them (don't judge).

Fast forward to Senior year of college, when it occurred to me that I couldn't live on pasta, frozen pizzas, and take out forever. Also around this time, Andy and I started cooking a lot together. So thus started our weekly grocery store trips together, and it turns out that grocery shopping and picking out new things to try can actually be super fun!

Now, regular grocery shopping at Cub or Target is one thing - but taking trips to Trader Joe's is a whole different ballpark. They have the coolest food, and unbeatable flower prices. I wouldn't be lying if I said that going there is probably the highlight of my Monday. So today I'm sharing my favorite Trader Joe's finds, and hopefully will intrigue you to try them too!


- COOKIE BUTTER -

Self explanatory.. perfect on toast, bagels, pretzels, off your finger straight from the jar...


- BEET HUMMUS -

Well all of their hummus is delicious but this one I just picked up last night and ohhhhmygosh it's yummy and the pretty color makes it fun to eat!



- GREEK YOGURT -

At just 99 cents per container, this is a lot cheaper than a lot of other brands and comes in so many awesome flavors. My favorite is pomegranate!



- JASMINE RICE -

This rice takes 3 minutes to make in the microwave and is perfect for a quick side! We used some last night and then put some cilantro and fresh lime juice in it to go as a side with our Thai Peanut Lettuce Wraps. So versatile and easy!




- PARSNIP CHIPS -

Perfect to dip in that Beet Hummus I mentioned above



- RED CURRY SAUCE -

This + chicken = life changing



- PEANUT BUTTER CUPS -

Dare I say they're better than Reese's (gasp)




Other amazing finds - banana's (19 cents each!!!), their pasta sauce (only 3 grams of sugar per serving), frozen gnocchi, green tea lemonade, and ALL of their produce because they have some unbelievable deals!



Alright, now pull up your maps app, and find your closest Trader Joe's because you will definitely fall in love like I have!




Monday, June 13, 2016

Guinness Cupcakes

Happy Monday everyone!

Just popping in to share a great cupcake recipe I used for our Beer Tasting Party this past weekend. Now I've made cupcakes before (with little to no luck), but these ones really turned out fantastic - and they were so simple! They got rave reviews at the party, and it was a fun way to incorporate our theme into a dessert! The cake was moist and the Guinness was subtle enough and mixed well with the cocoa flavor.

Alright, enough rambling..



Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Frosting

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Guinness stout
2/3 cups dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 pinch table salt
3 tablespoons Irish cream
1 tablespoon milk


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24-30 cupcake cups, or fill with paper liners.

In a saucepan, heat the butter, Guinness, cocoa, and brown sugar, whisking often until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, sift together salt, flour, white sugar, and baking soda. Add the cooled Guinness mixture and beat on medium for 1 minutes. Add eggs and sour cream and beat on medium for 2 minutes or until smooth.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake cups. Bake in a preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled.

In a cleaned bowl, cream butter until very light and fluffy (make sure it's room temperature before you get started!). Add salt and slowly add confectioners sugar. I ended up only using about 3 cups to get the right consistency. Add Bailey's and milk until spreadable consistency is achieved.

I then refrigerated the frosting for about 20 minutes, as it was super warm in the house and it's much easier to work with when it's more firm.

Frost cupcakes with Bailey's frosting. Decorate accordingly.



Excuse the iPhone pics.. but this recipe makes about 24 cupcakes!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Five on Friday!



Actual photo of me taken this morning with my healthy breakfast choice... hey, it's friday!


The time has come again for some good ole' Five on Friday! Like usual, I'll be joining AprilNatasha, & Christina for this fun link-up!



- ONE -

Tomorrow Andy and I are hosting a Beer Tasting Party and I have been a busy girl allllll week planning, designing decorations (on Canva.com - that's a post for another day!), planning snacks, getting supplies, etc etc etc. It's going to be in the 90's and humid (ugh) but at least there's no rain! We'll be having snacks, a huge batch of Strip 'n Go (the drink, not the activity), cornhole, beer pong, music, a bonfire... the works. Hoping it turns out to be a good time!





- TWO -

I finally caved and bought the super popular "They're Real" mascara and I officially have joined the fan club. Seriously, this stuff is the real deal. My lashes are about 50% more full and long, and it stays on all day!




A day well spent :) 

- THREE -

Victoria's Secret's SEMI-ANNUAL sale was this week and my credit card was put to good use ;) Did you know they're getting rid of their whole swim line??? - cue tears - This sucks because their swim line was the best and the actual suits last a long time and keep their bright and vibrant colors. But on the plus side, it's all 40% off so if you like them as much as me - go stock up!



- FOUR -

Next week is officially Week 12 of my Kayla Itsines bikini body guide workout!!! I'm honestly surprised and super proud of myself for making it through all 12 weeks and while I still have not reached the amount of tone and muscle I'm shooting for, I can see major differences specially in my legs and stomach. I like this workout sooo much that I'm going to restart from week one and do it all over again!


- FIVE -

Tonight the weekend starts which means Andy and I can have some carbs with dinner. THANK GOD. I get awful hangry without those carbs during dinner time. Hopefully I get used to it soon, because workouts have been hard this week (also for the sake of my sanity). 

Tonight on the menu is Tequila Lime Shrimp and Steak skewers, with some sort of rice (we're thinking cilantro-lime). YUM!



Have a good weekend!!!!





Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Avocado-Cilantro Salad Dressing

Guys, beach season has officially arrived. and Andy and I have made a big decision this past weekend. We decided to limit our carb intake during the week so that we can both work on our summer bods. This is hard because we loooooovvvveee our mashed potatoes, pasta, sandwiches, pizza, quesadillas... the list is endless.

We agreed on do-able plan though. Weeknights we will stick to a protein, and two sides of vegetables or salad. Then on Saturday and Sunday nights we can splurge a little. Sounds easy, but two days in and it's already difficult (what can I say, I'm a comfort food gal ;) ).

So last night I made a big salad to go with our BBQ ribs. I wanted to do something exciting to go with our (mostly) uninteresting meal. So that brought me to a recipe for Avocado Cilantro salad dressing.



I had all ingredients on hand, and a full pot of cilantro in my herb garden (which is surprisingly still alive - yay!). So I put all the ingredients into my food processor and bam! Fresh, homemade salad dressing that is to die for.. it takes under 5 minutes and tastes like store bought, but better!



Via: PinchofYum

Avocado-Cilantro Salad Dressing

Ingredients:
Half an avocado
1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 cup water
1 small clove of garlic 
Pinch of salt
A squeeze of lime juice


Directions:
Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend - that's all!


Last note: This recipe is great because it is completely customizable too! If you like it more thin - add more water! Like a stronger note of cilantro - add a whole cup! Like it saltier - you know what to do!




Friday, June 3, 2016

Five on Friday

Wait, what? It's Friday already? Having Monday off for the holiday made the week seem super short...no complaints here though :)



Friday means for another round of Five on Friday!

- ONE -

This week was such a whirlwind, I didn't even get a chance to catch up on my Memorial Day weekend. I don't think we actually sat down for the whole four days. Friday was full of Chinese takeout and a visit to our favorite bar for a margarita (beer for Andy). Saturday we spent with my family up at the festival near my hometown, and we devoured lots of yummy food and then I got sick after being forced to ride some yucky carnival rides with my thrill seeking boyfriend.



After having a delicious breakfast with my family Sunday morning, we went back to the city to spend the afternoon and evening with some of Andy's old work friends, and toured some fun restaurants and bars in St. Paul.

Monday we were out on the lake all day, and despite neglecting reapplication of sunscreen AND losing my sunglasses after jumping in the water (not a smart move on my part), it was a great day!


My captain.. :)


Bring on the aloe!

- TWO -




If you didn't check out my post yesterday on these delicious little things, go do it now! I was tempted to devour the rest of them yesterday, but thankfully my self-control took over.


- THREE - 

I love milk. Maybe that's the midwestern in me ;) but I found something that has blown my mind. Man, did I underestimate the deliciousness of almond milk. I probably wouldn't drink it plain, but it adds a hint of sweetness and flavor in cereal, smoothies, etc. and on Wednesday I picked up what I thought was just plain, unsweetened almond milk but when I got home I realized it was flavored vanilla-coconut. Now I think I will only be buying this kind because wow is it delicious!

This is the stuff! Go try it, now!


- FOUR -



Just a quick shout out to this handsome fella, who as of Wednesday has been working with Target as an Executive Team Lead for one whole year! I am completely in awe of all that he has accomplished in this year, and am so amazed at the effect he has on his whole team. He is the most dedicated, passionate, hardworking man I know.. and watching him grow in his career has brought so much joy to me! Does he make me one proud girlfriend :)


- FIVE -



ATTENTION: Today is NATIONAL DOUGHNUT DAY! I don't know who came up with this national holiday but holy wow what a brilliant idea. So that means you should probably go pick some up this morning, afternoon, evening, night, whatever and treat yo' self.