Archives for March 2013

Weekly Meal and Fitness Plan – April Week 1, 2013

Happy Easter!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend celebrating the holiday with family and friends.

Kyle and I visited my mom and my dad in Iowa this weekend. It was great to see everyone since we haven’t been down to Ames since before Christmas.

It is always nice to visit our old stomping grounds although it makes me miss college life even more! Here are some of the photos from the weekend.

Lap Dog

Ever since our return from Puerto Rico, Mitchell has somehow convinced himself that he is a lap dog. Maybe he just missed Kyle too much!

Flowers

Kyle brought me home flowers after work on Thursday. I thought they were “just because” but then I found out that he spent my $30 rewards certificate at DSW!!! Grrr….

EsTas

On Friday night, we hit up a few of our old college hangouts including Es Tas. I always thought Es Tas was one of the “expensive” bars while in school… $2.50 per drink, crazy expensive for a happy hour ;)

Dunkin

On our way to go shopping on Saturday, we stopped by the new Dunkin’ Donuts in Ames. Kyle enjoyed a Boston cream donut and I had a decaf black coffee – so good! I wish they’d come to Minneapolis!

Easter Bunny

Scratch

The Easter bunny came on Sunday and brought way too much candy (Reese’s eggs!!!) and delicious cupcakes (Peanut Butter Cup and Monster Cookie were my favorite flavors) from Scratch Cupcakery!

Laura and Tyler

My sister, Laura, and her husband, Tyler at Easter dinner at my mom’s – They are moving to Colorado later this year. I’m so excited to visit them there!! :)

I apologize for being hit and miss on the blog last week. I have been having a difficult time adjusting back into the real world after vacation. Being in vacation mode is so nice but it isn’t great for my productivity at home or at work!

I have an awesome recipe to share with you tomorrow and then two more Puerto Rico recaps later in the week so I should be back to my regular blogging schedule by next week!

This is the first time in 2 weeks that I’ll be creating a meal and fitness plan. I’m crazy excited to go grocery shopping and have real food to eat this week :)

Meal Plan

  • Sunday: Easter Dinner
  • Monday: Homemade Black Olive Pizza
  • Tuesday: Fresh Mixed Greens with Grilled Salmon
  • Wednesday: Groupon Dinner
  • Thursday: Kyle’s breakin’ out the grill for the first time in 2013!
  • Friday: Grilling
  • Saturday: TBD

Fitness Plan

  • Sunday: 4-Mile Easter Run
  • Monday: Yoga
  • Tuesday: Yoga
  • Wednesday: Run
  • Thursday: Yoga
  • Friday: Yoga + Run
  • Saturday: Run

What did you do this weekend? Did you celebrate Easter with family or do something low-key with friends?

Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar

“Holy crap. I just had the best dinner of my entire life in Puerto Rico. The only words I can utter are holy crap. Blog post to come!”

That was my Facebook post after visiting Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar my last evening in Puerto Rico.

Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico is simply the best restaurant I have ever visited. End of story.

Oh, you want to hear more?

Perfect.

Marmalade Menu

Everything from the ambience to the service to the food to the wine deserves 5+ stars at Marmalade. Make sure you put this restaurant high on your list of priorities when you visit Puerto Rico!

Plus, the owner and chef of Marmalade is from eastern Iowa. I love supporting my home state and everyone from it!

We arrived early for our 7pm reservations on Sunday, March 24th – as a side note, make sure you make your reservation far in advance of your vacation, Marmalade fills up quickly and we were lucky to get a table on short notice! – and were warmly greeted by the wait staff and taken to our table.

Table View

I don’t have great photos of our table but it was situated in a corner of one of the dining rooms making it great for both Kyle and I to people watch during dinner :)

After being seated, our server walked us through the menu and gave us recommendations on what to try for both food and wine. He highly recommended the 5-course tasting menu accompanied with wine pairings so Kyle and I both decided to try the tasting menu!

The tasting menu allowed each of us to select a plate from the Amusements, a plate from the Intermediates, a plate from the Flavors of the Sea and Land and a dessert. The 5th course was Marmalade’s famous “Tiny White Bean Soup” which I will detail out later in this post. Each plate was matched with a wine so Kyle and I didn’t have to worry about selecting wines that would complement each course.

My plate and wine selections included:

 Becky's Marmalade Meal

I won’t go into detail about each of my plates – I don’t want to give you too much food envy bore you with all of the delicious details – but I do want to share my two favorite tastings and my favorite wine pairing with you, the Tiny White Bean Soup, the Milk Chocolate Mousse and the Meiomi, Belle Glos, Pinot Noir – Santa Barbara 2009!

First of all, I want to tell you that each one our courses was absolutely outstanding. I could go on and on about every delicious detail but you should really just go there and try it for yourself! You will be amazed by the gorgeous plating, the intense flavors and the phenomenal pairings that the chef creates.

So, let’s start with Marmalade’s famous Tiny White Bean Soup.

Tiny Bean Soup

To be honest, I was skeptical when our server told us that a soup was their signature dish. A soup? But its hot and humid outside. Okay, whatever, I guess I’ll try it if I don’t have a choice.

Well, let me tell you, the Tiny White Bean Soup is one of the best things I have ever tasted and I am SO glad that this soup is included on all of Marmalade’s tasting menus! Perfectly creamy and topped with a drizzle of truffle oil and a few flakes of pancetta, this soup is to die for. Kyle and I enjoyed every last drop in each of our bowls. Amazingness.

I will be attempting to recreate this at home so look forward to a delicious recipe coming your way!

My other favorite course was dessert. Of course, right? Milk chocolate mousse doesn’t sound like anything spectacular but holy moly, it was orgasmic. Yes, I just referred to my dessert as orgasmic.

The description above does not do this mousse justice. A light passion fruit sauce drizzled onto the base of the plate topped with a gooey, flourless brownie that is topped with a decadent chocolate mousse rolled in cocoa powder that is topped with a small scoop of macadamia nut ice cream. Yes, please!

Mousse

I was insanely full after my meal but there was no way that I couldn’t not eat all of this dessert. Even Kyle was envious of my selection :)

And then there was the wine, lots and lots of wine. Our server told us that their wine tastings were not really tastings but more like 4 ounce tastings. Ummm… 4 ounces is a glass, right? Needless to say, there was lots of wine enjoyed that Sunday evening!

Trying to pick a favorite wine is like trying to pick your favorite child. You love them all, just differently. At least that is what I think I will feel like when I have children.

Anyways! My “favorite” wine of dinner was the Meiomi, Belle Glos, Pinot Noir – Santa Barbara 2009 which was served with my Organic Baby Kale Salad. This wine is the epitome of a Pinot Noir – Rich, flavorful and delicious. Our server saw how much I (and Kyle, he stole a few sips!) enjoyed this wine and refilled my glass.

Kale Salad

That is the type of service you can expect to receive at Marmalade. If you don’t like something, they will bring you a new plate. If you have allergies, they will alter their menu. If you love one of their wines, they will pour you another glass.

Impeccable service to go along with impeccable food. Again, the best meal I’ve ever had.

Kyle’s plate and wine selections included:

Kyle's Marmalade Meal

I tried each of Kyle’s meals but since I didn’t eat as much of them as Kyle, I am not going to pick a favorite of his. I will just share his menu above and let you decide for yourself!

One thing to note, Marmalade is not cheap – impeccable food and service should never be cheap! Our meal totaled approximately $300, including the food tastings, wine pairings and gratuity, and it was more than worth the price.

Please promise me you’ll go to Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar the next time you visit Puerto Rico. It is a must see.

What has your favorite restaurant experience been? How do you find great restaurants while on vacation?

Puerto Rico Recap – Cuisine!

**Disclaimer: This may, in fact, be the longest blog post known to man. I apologize but I promise it is worth reading!!**

To preface this post, I would like to state that I am not a picky eater.

Yes, I have preferences on what I like to eat – I like to be healthy and I prefer fish to steak and watermelon to honeydew and chocolate to butterscotch but I’ll try most everything once. Except for brain and intestines – those are on the no-no list.

Throughout my many travels, I’ve enjoyed foie gras and raw oysters as well as steak tartare and liver pate – all of which I loved!

Unfortunately, try as I might while on vacation, I could not make myself like Puerto Rican food. In my opinion, it is overly fried, much too fatty and has limited flavor. Not a great combination if you ask me!

To be quite blunt, I actually prefer broccoli to Puerto Rican cuisine, and if you ask my mom, that is a HUGE statement.

Fried plantains (yes, even the sweet ones) were fried until crisp, left a ridiculous amount of grease on your fingers and had zero flavor. Restaurants provided a mixture of mayo and ketchup to add flavor to the already deep-fried side dish. Add fat to fat? Why not. I tried fried plantains THREE times thinking they would get better over time but I just didn’t like them. French fries are a much better fried food option ;)

The traditional Puerto Rican mofongo also left much to be desired. Maybe it was because the base of the dish consists of fried and mashed plantains or because the pork or beef included in the entrée had a crazy amount of fat not trimmed from the meat but mofongo was not my favorite item.

Before I visited Puerto Rico, Kyle warned me that it would be difficult to find healthy options at restaurants. I didn’t take him too seriously – he is the guy that always orders something fried or meaty from the menus! – but man was he right!

mango

Luckily, I was able to find at least one or two healthy options (and by healthy, I mean not fried and made with real ingredients – not low in calories!) most nights we went out to eat. I also stocked up on fresh fruit at the local market in Palmas del Mar to enjoy while Kyle was at work. One food item that is amazing in Puerto Rico is mangoes. They have the most delicious mangoes that I have ever tasted! I enjoyed quite a few of these while on the island :)

So, what did I eat while in Puerto Rico?

Sunday: After getting in Sunday afternoon, Kyle and I went to C Bar with a few of Kyle’s coworkers. They were all raving about the restaurant so I had high expectations. First things first, the drinks! The guys all ordered beers and I ordered a beer-garita. I love them and C Bar’s did not disappoint!

cbar 1

After a day of traveling, my stomach never feels great (I’m sure the sugar in the beer-garita didn’t help either!) so I decided to order something healthy and small, a salad with grilled shrimp and jicama. I forgot to take a photo of my salad but hopefully this photo of the glass of sangria Kyle and I shared for dessert will suffice :)

cbar 2

Overall Review – C Bar was good, I wouldn’t rave over it like Kyle’s coworkers but if you’re in the area, it is worth checking out!

Monday: I really wanted to try some “real” Puerto Rican cuisine on Monday, so Kyle and I went to La Brochette – a Puerto Rican restaurant in Palmas del Mar. Unfortunately, once I looked at the menu, I realized that I didn’t want anything heavy and had limited options. I ended up ordering sangria and a grilled mahi-mahi steak with steamed vegetables. A light and healthy meal, right?

When my meal came out, I was shocked at how large the fillet was, it had to have been at least 10 ounces and my “healthy” steamed vegetables were covered in at least a ½ cup of butter. They sure were tasty though!

Dinner 2

Overall Review – I wasn’t thrilled by this restaurant. The service was great and the prices were decent but – not being a fan of Puerto Rican food – I wouldn’t be the best judge of what their good ethnic dishes taste like.

Tuesday: Puerto Ricans LOVE baseball and on Tuesday night Puerto Rico was playing the Dominican Republic in the 2013 World Baseball Classic so Kyle and I headed to Chihuahua – Tex Mex Cantina to enjoy some Mexican food and to watch the game!

chihuahua

Kyle and I ordered margaritas and guacamole to start with. Holy yum. The tortilla chips are made fresh daily and were delicious. After another margarita (vacation splurge!), I ordered the chicken fajitas for my entrée. The fajitas were enough to feed 4 people and they were amazing! I ate way more than I should have but man, were they good.

Unfortunately Puerto Rico lost the baseball game but it was really fun to be in an atmosphere where everyone loved their team so much!

Overall Review – Definitely go to Chihuahua’s if you are in Palmas del Mar and are looking for great, inexpensive Mexican food! It is a restaurant with great service, a fun sports bar atmosphere and good prices.

Wednesday: Kyle mentioned an interesting restaurant earlier in the week so on Wednesday, we – along with Kyle’s boss – visited Zafra for dinner. Zafra is a Caribbean-Mediterranean style restaurant (trust me, it works!) with an urban, chic atmosphere. I didn’t get great photos there but their chairs had a zebra-striped upholstery and they had interesting sconces and chandelier fixtures throughout the dining room. So fun!

zafra

We started out with an appetizer of ceviche (one of my favorite beach foods!) and then I ordered a cod fillet in a garbanzo-Spanish stew. I didn’t know what to expect but I was not disappointed! I wish I would have gotten a photo of this meal because it was my 2nd favorite of the entire trip. The cod was cooked perfectly and was complimented by a tomato-garbanzo stew. YUM!

Overall Review – Although Zafra was about a 30 minute drive from Palmas del Mar, it is a MUST see/eat if you visit that region of Puerto Rico. The food was amazing and I could have gone back every night to try something new :)

Thursday: One of Kyle’s coworkers, Daniel, hosted a tapas party for the team at his condo on Thursday night. I was really excited to taste all of the different tapas that would be served but first, Kyle and I were invited to a complimentary wine happy hour at our hotel’s wine bar, Circles, and I couldn’t pass that up!

Circles 2

Puerto Rico doesn’t have great wine (it is just too hot!) but I could never say no to a free glass (or three!) of Pinot Grigio :)

Circles

After our happy hour, we headed to Daniel’s for some tapas. There were about 30 of Kyle’s coworkers there and the condo was not air-conditioned. I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out how hot a little condo full of 30 people can get! Whew! Anyways, there were lots of delicious tapas served included many with plantains (not my favorite), pork and salmon. Yum!

Foosball

Foosball and karaoke also happened after a few cases of beer were consumed :)

Karaoke

 

Friday: Holy goodness, the sangria towers at Chez Daniel alone should convince you to purchase a ticket to Puerto Rico right now! Check out the fun tower that Kyle and I ordered on Friday night! And this was the half size…

sangria

In addition to the sangria, Kyle and I ordered spinach dip with tortilla chips and fried calamari to snack on (we may have still been slightly hungover from the previous night…) while we waited for our main course – seafood paella – to be prepared.

paella

Take a look at that gorgeous paella! Kyle and I devoured every last bite of the rice and the calamari and the shrimp. It was super salty but totally worth the salt swollen fingers and eyes the following morning :)

Overall Review – YOU MUST GO HERE ASAP!! Chez Daniel’s sangria towers are one-of-a-kind and their food is amazing. When a place is packed with locals on a Friday night, you know it has to be good.

Saturday: After our heavy meal on Friday night, Kyle and I wanted something lighter when we arrived in San Juan. The hotel we stayed at had multiple restaurants and I am always in the mood for sushi so sushi it was!

sushi

Yamato wasn’t anything special for sushi but if you are having a serious sushi craving (like I do at least once daily!), it will definitely hit the spot. They have lunch specials for less than $15 per person which is an awesome deal for good sushi!

Overall Review – The sushi was good but it wasn’t anything I’d write home about. If you are having a sushi craving in San Juan, definitely go to Yamato but if not, you could skip it. You should also skip the wine here and enjoy a cold Magna beer – Puerto Rico’s signature beer that tastes very similar to a crisp, cold Heineken in Amsterdam.

magna

Sunday: Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar – AKA the best meal of my entire life.

This was my Facebook post after finishing dinner on Sunday: “Holy crap. I just had the best dinner of my entire life in Puerto Rico. The only words I can utter are holy crap. Blog post to come!”

This restaurant experience requires a separate post – Look for it later this week :)

Tips

  1. Many restaurants are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in Puerto Rico. If you are planning out your vacation week and plan to cook at your hotel/condo a few nights, do this on Mondays and Tuesdays!
  2. If you don’t like heavy foods, I recommend stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables for your breakfasts and lunches and saving your bigger meals for evenings. Puerto Rico is not a light place to eat!
  3. Plan on splitting meals with your friends/significant other – it will cut down on the price of the meals and leave you wanting to wear your swimming suit the next day ;)
  4. Call ahead to confirm the hours of the restaurant you are planning to visit that day. I found that websites don’t always have the most accurate and up-to-date information and it is easier to call to confirm!
  5. Drink menus are rare at the best restaurants in Puerto Rico. Ask your server for their most popular drink or for their recommendation and I can assure you that you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
  6. Along with #5, I also suggest that you ask your server for their entrée recommendations. I like to try new, unique foods while traveling and your server should have some great recommendations!

What is your favorite type of ethnic cuisine? Have you ever traveled somewhere only to discover that you didn’t like the “local” food?

Puerto Rico Recap – Fitness!

Hello from sunny and warm cloudy and cold Minneapolis. Sadly, I am back in the land of eternal winters but I am excited to share with you all of my vacation activities!

I’ll be sharing a variety of topics over the next week starting with my fitness recap today. Stay tuned for posts about Puerto Rican cuisine and drinks, hotels and accommodations, things to do, my vacation favorites and more!

Before going on vacation to Puerto Rico, I knew that I wanted to stay active throughout my trip. I am the type of person that needs to be active daily and going 9 days without any type of fitness just wasn’t an option. I would go absolutely crazy and would probably drive Kyle crazy as well :)

While packing, I made sure to remember my running shoes, my new Ellie capris, one pair of shorts, two Lululemon tank tops, a sports bra and a headband. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fitness gear for 9 days but I figured that I could wash everything in the hotel’s sink and have clean apparel throughout the trip. This was mistake number one.

If you didn’t already know, Puerto Rico is not only hot, it is also HUMID. It is so humid that nothing dries, ever. After my first sweaty run on Monday, I washed my tank, sports bra and headband and hung them outside in the hot sun to dry. Well, dry they didn’t and I was stuck wearing damp gear on Tuesday morning.

Although my clothes didn’t dry, I continued to wash them after each of my runs. If I would have skipped this step, I would have ended up with not only still-damp-from-my-last-workout gear but also sweat-encrusted and smelly gear.

Sounds appetizing, right? This is why I’m doing my Puerto Rican cuisine recap on a different post ;)

So, how did I stay active during my trip?

Sunday: Our flight left Minneapolis at 6:30am. Yep, 6:30. Needless to say, there was no workout pre-flight. We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico around 2:30pm on Sunday and by the time we got our rental car, drove the hour to Palmas del Mar, checked into our hotel and got settled, it was around 4:30pm. Traveling is exhausting and I was in no mood to head out for a run so I had a margarita instead ;) I’m calling it a bicep workout – It is hard work lifting a heavy glass to your lips!

Drink 1

Monday: I woke up early with Kyle and after he left for work, I went out on my first run in gorgeous Palmas del Mar! The gated community is absolutely incredible – which I will share more details about in a future post – and one thing I really appreciated was the miles and miles of paths. Yes, they were paths for the 36-hole golf course on the resort but I used them for my running needs :)

Run 1

Anyways, about a mile into my run, as I was gazing around at all of the amazing palm trees and wiping sweat from my forehead, I wasn’t paying attention to the path and my shoe got stuck in a bridge crossing a lagoon. This was mistake number 2.

Long story short, I fell while running full speed (approximately a 7:50 minute/mile pace) and landed directly on my knees. OUCH! My phone went flying – Thank goodness it didn’t land in the lagoon!! – and I ended up face down on the bridge. No joke.

A retired couple was playing golf at the time and rushed over to make sure I was still alive and hadn’t broken every single bone in my body. (This was ridiculously embarrassing…) The woman was a retired nurse and told me I should probably go have my knees x-rayed based on how I fell on them. They hurt pretty badly but I didn’t want to visit a Puerto Rican emergency room so I passed at their offer to drive me.

I attempted to run a few additional miles after my graceful face plant but wasn’t successful. My knees were swollen, bleeding and starting to bruise so I headed back to the room to shower and then I hit up the pool for some necessary liquid pain killers… rum. Later that afternoon, I walked 2 hours along the beach for some more activity and to loosen up my stiff and pained knees.

Run 2

Look at this view and tell me you wouldn’t trip over your own feet too! ;)

Tuesday: I woke up Tuesday with a sun-burned booty – SPF 55 doesn’t cut it in Puerto Rico! – and bruised, scabbed and swollen knees. My knees seriously looked like they had just been part of a gang fight… and lost. Super sexy. Regardless of my purple knees, I was determined to go on a run and a successful run at that! So I pulled myself out of bed, kissed Kyle goodbye and headed out for attempt #2. This time there was no falling just a super sweaty Becky who had to dodge 3-foot long iguanas every half mile. Success!

Knees 2

In the afternoon, I also went on a 2-hour walk along the beach and spent some time with my favorite tree while wading in the ocean.

Beach 2

Wednesday: I had finally adjusted to the heat and humidity after two days so Wednesday was my first “good” run of the vacation! I felt awesome and ran for 30 minutes, about 3.3 miles, without stopping. Even though I was drenched in sweat by the time I returned to the hotel – it felt like a great workout. After my run, I hit up the hotel’s gym for some core and arm strength exercises before showering.

gym 1

The gym wasn’t great but it had free weights that got the job done!

I was STILL hot and sweating after showering so I decided to swim some laps in the pool to cool me down. I ended up swimming for about 20 minutes, enjoyed an awesome mai tai from Henry the bartender and then walked the beach for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Thursday: Exactly the same as Wednesday! A run, a swim and long walks on the beach… alone. So romantic ;)

Pool 3

Friday: I may have partied a little too hard with the Puerto Ricans Thursday night. Kyle and I woke up feeling dehydrated and pained and it was pouring on and off Friday morning so, needless to say, I did not run. A run in the rain would have felt amazing but my shoes would have NEVER dried. After a few ibuprofen tablets, I swam laps for 30 minutes and went on quite a few beach walks throughout the day.

In case you were wondering, the fresh ocean breeze cures hangovers ;)

Saturday: My best run of the entire vacation! I woke up ready to go and ran for 3.5 miles which felt awesome! I was still super sweaty but finally found my groove and favorite running paths on the resort. Sadly, it was my last day there. After a morning run, Kyle and I walked along the beach and I introduced him to my favorite tree before we left for San Juan.

Don’t worry, I’ll tell you ALL about him in a future post.

Bob the Tree 1

Sunday: Kyle and I stayed out late in San Juan on Saturday night. San Juan is basically a mini-Vegas (I’ll detail it out in a future post!) but they like to party and gamble there until the wee hours of the morning. We didn’t stay out until 5am like the rest of our hotel but it was still a lot later than I’m used to so I wasn’t up early enough to run before the midday heat. After breakfast and a walk along the beach, I swam laps for 30 minutes and then met Kyle at the poolside bar to watch the rest of the ISU game.

Run 3

Monday: My last morning waking up in Puerto Rico :( San Juan didn’t have the great running paths that Palmas del Mar did so I decided to run along the beach instead. Whew! Running in the sand is hard work! I only ran for 2 miles but felt like I had run for 5 – a great workout! I was glad to get some activity in during the morning since I sat on a plane/in an airport for 10 hours Monday afternoon.

Overall Tips for Staying Active in Puerto Rico:

  1. Bring plenty of fitness gear! Unless you will have access to a washer/drier plan to bring one outfit for every two days you will be there. This will give your clothing time to dry between washes.
  2. If you are planning to workout outside, wake up early. After 9am the heat and humidity indexes are too high to have a healthy and safe workout outside. There is no way that you could hydrate yourself well enough once the temps start rising so get that run or beach yoga session in before 9am!
  3. Stay hydrated! Even if you aren’t working out, this one is important. It is HOT and you will be sweating so you’ll need to drink more water than you do at home.
  4. Keep your phone and ID with you and let someone know where you are at all times. Puerto Rico is very safe (I never felt in danger or worried about my safety at any point on this trip!) but whenever you are in a new area and not familiar with your surroundings it is best to be overly prepared and cautious with your safety!
  5. Watch out for the wildlife. There are iguanas and lizards everywhere on the island! They aren’t poisonous and won’t hurt you but they don’t move when you run by them. Be prepared to dodge large reptiles/amphibians (I still don’t know the difference between these two…) when you are running, walking or driving!

What are your tips for staying active on vacation? Are you like me and trip over your own two feet on a daily basis?

Peanut Butter Blossoms

**Before I share my crazy good cookie recipe with you, I have a charity event to share that my blogger friend, Danielle (I did a guest post for her last Tuesday.) is hosting in honor of her aunt.  Her aunt is currently fighting ovarian cancer and Danielle has been raising money to help find a cure for her aunt and others with this type of cancer. She is currently selling t-shirts and would like your help! If you’re interested in purchasing a shirt, donating to the charity or learning more about Danielle’s fundraising, head on over to her blog!**

It’s spring, apparently.

Spring is here? I don’t know about you but I’m skeptical.

Temps below freezing… wind chills in the single digits… snow… SNOW!

So, in celebration of this spring Christmas-like weather, today I am sharing with you one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes.

PB 1

Peanut Butter Blossoms!

Chewy peanut butter cookies topped with a delicious, milk chocolate Hershey’s kiss.

Besides my mom’s peanut butter balls and chocolate peanut clusters, Peanut Butter Blossoms are my favorite cookies to enjoy during the month of December.

And since it currently feels like December, I thought I would indulge my peanut butter and chocolate obsession. It’s not like we’re going to have bikini weather anytime soon, right?

PB 2

Adapted from Hershey’s original cookie recipe, my cookies have the perfect amount of peanut butter flavor. What’s even better is that you can use chunky peanut butter in these babies. Yep, you read that right, chunky peanut butter in a cookie!

I don’t know about you but I rarely keep creamy peanut butter on hand (I’m a chunky lover!) so when I discover that I don’t have to purchase a jar of creamy for a recipe – I get excited.

Overly excited, especially when I get to eat these cookies :)

PB 3

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Makes 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 36 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk, I used almond milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and peanut butter with electric mixer until well blended. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla and mix well. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture until just mixed. Place 1-inch cookie dough balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately place a Hershey’s kiss onto center of each cookie. Remove cookies to wire rack and allow to cool completely. Enjoy!

PB 2

So, if you’re as depressed about the “spring” weather as I am, please make these cookies. They will bring back happy memories of your childhood Christmases – Beautiful, white Christmases with gifts and family fun.  And, since it feels much like Christmas as you gaze out your window at the big, fluffy snowflakes, make sure you begin to prepare your Christmas list in preparation for the holiday… 9 months from today.

What are some of your favorite Christmas or holiday cookies? 

Guest Post: Minnesota Blogger Get-Together!

Greetings from sunny Puerto Rico! I have another wonderful guest post for you today – Katie from running4cupcakes!
Katie is a fellow Minnesotan blogger who writes about her cute family, including her baby – Luke and her dog – Abby, her love of running and everything fitness and her daily life as a Minnesotan. Her daily blog posts always leaves me with a smile every morning :)
I’m off to enjoy another day in the sun and a few more rum-infused cocktails so, without further ado, here’s Katie!
First things first, I am super jealous that Becky has escaped the Minnesota winter and is currently drinking a pina colada on a beach in Puerto Rico, but I am also super honored that she asked me to write a guest post while she is gone!

Have you heard?? Becky and I are putting together a Minnesota blogger get-together.  It is on April 6th at 2pm at Sebastian Joe’s in Uptown (on  Franklin).

 (Image Source)

This is my first ever blogger get-together. And I am super excited!

More excited than Abby in this picture…

Katie and Abby

I have always been super jealous of other bloggers who talk about getting together and having fro-yo or ice cream… and talking about blogging. It just looks like so much fun. And I know my husband is looking forward to having me talk to someone else besides him about “the blog!” So, I thought I would put together a little list of the things I am looking forward to at my 1st blogger get-together!

1. To meet new people and hopefully making real life friends!

2. To meet in person the people who I “know” so well through their blog posts.

3. To eat some awesome ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s!

4. To get some new tips and tricks for the blog.

5. To be able to talk about the blog, and have someone else who totally understands!

I love Blogging (Image Source)

6. To grow the blogging community in Minnesota –> there are so many more ice cream places that we will have to check out and make this a regular thing!  Izzy’s, Grand Ole Creamery, Pumphouse Creamery, Crema Café… and don’t even get me started on fro-yo options!

SMILE PHOTO

7. To celebrate spring after our ice cream with a walk around the city.

Pinned Image (Image Source)

8. And finally, because I think it is going to be fun!

Are you a Minnesota blogger??? Are you going to be able to make it?

Pinned Image (Image Source)

My days right now…

Hello from Puerto Rico! Since many of my dear friends are experiencing miserable Midwest weather at the moment, I thought I’d share what my days have been like this week. Spread the Vitamin D joy, you know?

7:00am: Kyle’s alarm clock goes off. He gets up to shower for work and I lie there and think about how much my sunburned cheeks hurt… And no, I’m not talking about my face.

7:05am: Roll out of bed, reach for the aloe and put my running shoes on while looking at this view…

Palm Trees 1

7:30am: Walk with Kyle to the hotel cafe where he buys a coffee and an unhealthy double chocolate chip muffin for breakfast. I get a banana and 2 bottles of Dasani water that I proceed to chug.

Run 1

7:45am: Kiss Kyle goodbye and head out on my morning run that has views like this.

Run 2

And this.

Run 3

9:00am: Hop in the shower and rinse off the 10 gallons of sweat that I just lost while running. Seriously – I have been sweating from places that I didn’t know had an ability to sweat – knee caps, ears??!? Coat myself in 5 cups of SPF 55 and walk around naked for 10 minutes while it dries. Note: I have to be strategic about this. The maids are not shy at this hotel and will barge in, naked or not!

10:00am: Embark on an hour-long hike to the market for fresh fruit and more water and potentially beer or wine. Get asked by men driving Porches if I need a ride. Tempted to say yes but decide to be safe and sweat it out via walking and carrying 30 pounds of liquid.

11:15am: Another shower and SPF 55 routine then it is out to the pool!

Pool 2

11:45: Order my first drink from Jose or Henry which typically involves copious amounts of rum and/or tequila. Plus maraschino cherries. Mmm… cherries…

Pool 1

12noon-2pm: Take ridiculous amounts of photos and post them to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Most of this is rum driven, my apologies ;)

2pm: SPF 55 break.

2:30pm: Head down to the beach and walk in the waves for an hour while staring at the breathtaking colors of the water. Take gorgeous photos like this.

Beach 1

And this.

Beach 2

3:30pm: Realize that I’m STARVING and thirsty. Head to the beach bar and order a fish salad and a large piña colada – They are great for rehydration ;) All of this occurs while dodging creepy, middle-aged men that are trying to pose in photos with me. True story… Gross.

4:15pm: Head back up to the hotel for another SPF break.

4:45pm: Back to the pool for a drink and to wait for Kyle to get home.

5:30pm: Kyle gets back to the hotel and is greeted by an overly excited Becky which may or may not involve a hug/body slam while in a wet bathing suit – another rum driven action. Kyle is now irritated and soaked so he goes to change into his swimming trunks. We relax in the hot tub for 30 minutes while Kyle has a few cervezas and then head to the room to get ready for dinner.

7:00pm: Finally figure out the who/what/wheres of dinner and hop into Kyle’s car to brave the crazy Puerto Rican drivers.

Dinner 1

 

Please excuse the crazed look in Kyle’s eyes and my exhausted looking face – This was on Sunday after 10+ hours of travel!

8:00pm: Eat and drink unhealthy amounts of fried plantains, tequila, meat and guacamole. Watch baseball, laugh with Kyle’s coworkers and enjoy the Puerto Rican culture.

Dinner 2

9:30pm: Arrive back at the hotel and crash from exhaustion driven by sun exposure and well, you guessed it rum ;)

As you can tell, my days have been strenuous. You really shouldn’t be that jealous… It’s hard work vacationing here in Puerto Rico.

If you’d like to experience my rum-induced photo taking and Tweeting on a minute-by-minute basis, make sure you’re following me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

How do you like to spend your vacations? Do you like to stay active doing excursions or do you prefer to relax by the pool and drink margaritas?

Guest Post: Thai Chicken Pizza

Hello, hello from sunny and warm Puerto Rico! Since I’m currently relaxing on the beach, pina colada in hand – don’t be too jealous ;) – I have an awesome guest post for you today!

Carly is one of my all-time favorite bloggers. She’s brutally honest. She’s hilarious. She teaches kickboxing. She celebrates Christmukkah. AND she’s a college student. I like to live vicariously through her college adventures in California. So, once you’re done reading her guest post here on ONW, head on over to her blog, Snack Therapy, for some good laughs and amazing recipes!

Here’s Carly!

Hi, Olives ‘n’ Wine readers!  I’m Carly from Snack Therapy and I’m so excited to be here!  I hope Becky is enjoying her well-deserved vacation.  I’m insanely jealous, but I’m hoping she’s soakin’ up some vitamin D to bring back to Minnesota with her.

Carly 1

Okay, now a little about me: I’m a college student with a spending addiction.

Okay, strictly speaking, that isn’t true.  But, I do find myself groping the cobwebbed corners of my pantry at the end of each month, searching for dusty cans of soup and beans to eat because I spent my last paycheck on another tube of mascara (old mascara causes eye infections!) and another pair of wedges from DSW (but they were on sale!) and another package of socks (because the washing machine ate my old ones!).

However, eating a can of garbanzo for dinner gets pretty old pretty quickly.  And, as you can imagine, eating a can of garbanzo beans is not conducive to successful interactions with other people.  Beans, beans, the magical fruit…  You know where I’m going with this.

I’m off on a tangent.  Here’s the moral of my story: I like finding easy ways to make cheap, healthy, delicious recipes.  One of my favorites?  Pizza.  It’s such a college staple, but making it homemade allows me to control the cost, the flavors, and the ingredients.  And trust me, this pizza tastes ten thousand times better than any delivery pizza I’ve ever tasted.

Thai Pizza 1

Thai Pizza 2

Thai Pizza 3

Thai Chicken Pizza

Thai Pizza 4

Thai Pizza 5

1 pound ball of whole-wheat pizza dough

½ cup – 1 cup of cooked and cubed chicken breast

½ cup peanut satay sauce

½ zucchini, thinly sliced

1-2 carrots, grated

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Green onions, to taste

Peanuts, chopped

Bean sprouts

Preheat the oven to 450*F.

Let the pizza dough sit on a floured surface for about thirty minutes. Roll the dough out into desired shape.

Mix the chicken breast with half of the peanut sauce.  Spread the rest of the peanut sauce on the dough. Layer the zucchini slices, the chicken, the carrots, and the cheese on the dough.  Sprinkle about half of the green onions on top.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Top with more green onions, chopped peanuts, and bean sprouts.

Slice and enjoy!

Thai Pizza 6

Thai Pizza 7

And in case you were wondering, I didn’t eat four and a half pieces of this pizza the night that I made it.  Nope.  Definitely not.

Guest Post at Truffles n’ Treadmills!

Hello my lovely ONW readers!

I am guest-posting for Danielle over at Truffles n’ Treadmills today!

Head on over to Danielle’s blog to get some great tips on how to stay healthy while eating at restaurants!

Also, make sure you stay tuned for some awesome guest posts appearing on ONW later this week!

Guac-obani

By now most of you are already familiar with my love for all things chocolate and peanut butter. What you may not know, however, is that I have an undying love addiction to avocados.

Avocados on toast. Avocados on salads. Avocados on hamburgers. Avocados on tacos. And yes, just plain chunks of avocado with a spoon. I don’t discriminate, especially when it comes to this luscious, green fruit.

Thankfully, Trader Joe’s sells these babies for $2.69 per bag of four. If they didn’t  I would have to cut back on my clothing budget – and let’s be honest – we all know that isn’t about to happen ;)

Anyways! Yes, I love avocados and avocados are healthy for you – in moderation. One quarter of an avocado satisfies a good portion of your daily fat calorie requirements. ONE QUARTER! When I read this nutritional stat the other day, I was devastated. I can easily consume an entire avocado in one meal.

So what’s a girl to do? Well, luckily for you (and for me!) I did some experimenting in my kitchen last week and discovered a lower-calorie and lower-fat way to enjoy avocados.

The answer involves Chobani Greek yogurt.

Chobani is my all-time favorite yogurt. It is high in protein and calcium, low in calories and fat and Chobani has tons of flavors to choose from! Chobani is also easy to cook with – Check out their ingredient conversion chart below for your next cooking and/or baking adventure.

chobani-conversion-chart

(Image Source)

Guac-obani.

Guac 1

Guacamole + Chobani = Guac-obani :) Or skinny guacamole, if you like.

Quick and easy to prepare and even tastier than traditional guacamole – my guac-obani contains about half the calories and fat as your traditional guacamole plus it is ridiculously delicious. What more could you ask for?

The 0% Plain Chobani adds a decadently rich and creamy texture to my guac-obani, making it most definitely satisfying.

In addition, to its delicious flavor and creamy texture, my guac-obani does not turn brown – unlike traditional guacamole – making it the perfect recipe to share with your friends at a party!

Guac 2

Guac-obani

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 avocados, skin and pit removed
  • 1 cup 0% Plain Chobani Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup tomato, finely chopped
  • Salt

Directions

In a medium bowl, mash avocados until smooth. Mix in Chobani and stir until creamy. Add in onion and tomatoes and mix until just combined. Salt to taste. Enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips or a plate of raw veggies!

So what are you waiting for? Grab a container of Chobani, a bag of avocados and make your soon-to-be favorite version of guacamole!

What are your favorite Chobani recipes?

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