Oct 142013
 

Happy 12th Anniversary to us!

Anniversary Card made by Matthew.

Anniversary Card made by Matthew.

In case you can’t read the card…

Happy Annibersary

Happy Fall

I love Annibersarys

I love you mom and dad

I think that about sums it up.  There were other cards.  Several more drawn by the boys as well as the one Dan and I exchanged.  Gifts exchanged.  (Well, gift exchanged.  I didn’t get Dan anything, but he surprised me with the sweetest Christmas ornament.  He knows me well!)  Copious amounts of sushi consumed.  Ice Cream shared.  Asleep by 9:45pm.  This might not be the most exciting anniversary on record, but I thought it was a perfect day.  Happy 12th.  Can’t wait to see what this year brings!

 

Oct 122013
 

I don’t remember when I first heard about Walt Disney World adding the Minnie 10K race to their famous Marathon Weekend, which happens the second weekend in January.  But I do know that as soon as I heard about it I knew it was something I wanted to do.

I watched the Run Disney website just waiting for registration to open.  Dan and I talked about whether or not I  could even run 6.2 miles.  I did a little research on how to train for a 10K and found a couple of different training programs I could use to get ready for the race.

Having run several 5K races over the last year as well as training to run the Expedition Everest Challenge at Animal Kingdom in May, I knew I was ready to take on a longer race.  And with that, I signed up to do the Minnie 10K on January 10, 2014. I registered to run this race with a group of people from Team Up! with Autism Speaks and I embarked on raising $650 to further research in the world of autism.

I have such an amazing group of people in my life and I managed to reach my goal last week!  Thank you, thank you, thank you to each of you who gave so generously to Autism Speaks and to those of you who support me as I begin my 13 week training!

After a quick Google search I was able to find an unofficial map of my race course.  When I first saw it I panicked thinking I would have to run along the overpass near EPCOT, but someone has assured me there are no overpasses to run!  I hope they’re right.  After all, I live in Florida.  Land of flat roads.  The closest bridge I have to run over only crosses four lanes of traffic!

An unofficial copy of the race route for the Minnie 10K, taking place on January 10, 2014.

An unofficial copy of the race route for the Minnie 10K, taking place on January 10, 2014.

Check back regularly.  I will attempt to chronicle my training as well as share with you what I learn along the way.

 

Sep 232013
 

One year ago today I scratched something off my bucket list.

Run A 5K.

Run a 5K.  Me.  The girl who did everything she ever could to get out of running in high school.  I remember rowing on the crew team and my entire boat would go out and run a mile and I would stay back and do strength training and row a zillion meters on the erg to avoid having to run that mile.  In fact, the only time I ran was when I had to get to a ball on the tennis court.  Suffice it to say I was not a runner.  Not in the least.

Fast forward to March 2012.  I was in the gym, using the elliptical and I thought maybe I should giving running a try.  Came home, downloaded a couch to 5K app and jumped in.  It took me from March until September to complete the 8 week training program.  I started, stopped and restarted several times.  But I was determined to run and I had my sights set on running a 5K.

September 22, 2012 I ventured out of my comfort zone…out of the gym and out of my neighborhood and joined over 3,000 people and I ran my first 5K, Miracle Miles, in Orlando.  I did it with several MoM’s (Mothers of Multiples) in my local twins club.  It took me 47 minutes to do it, but I did it.  I crossed that finish line and it was an amazing feeling.

Miracle Miles Finish Line 2012

My friend Gina, on the left, was a huge support that day. She encouraged me the entire way and willingly stuck with me, when she could have run the race twice in the time it took me to do it once. I’m on the right, and the girl in white is some random person who unknowingly photobombed us.

What’s the significance of this first 5K?

Well, since last September I have run in and completed six more 5K’s including the Everest Challenge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which was not just a 5K, but also had obstacles and a scavenger hunt.  (In fact, according to Runkeeper we ran over 5.5 miles that night!) Me!  The non-runner.  The girl who got out of running whenever possible.

And that brings me to my point.  Yesterday, my husband and I woke up at 5:40, got dressed and ran in the Miracle Miles race.  A year ago he wasn’t a runner and now he runs half marathons.  A year ago I had never run in a race and now I’ve run in several.

A year.

I guess  this means I’ve officially been a runner for one year.

I hadn’t realized it until Dan turned to me in the car on the way to the race and said, “Congratulations on making it one year”.  He went on to say that most don’t make it.  Most people give up.  Or maybe they get bored.  Or injured.  Or lazy. Or maybe they discover that they hate running.  But whatever the reason, many give up.

But I didn’t.

I worked through the boredom of the treadmill and graduated to running on the streets and trails.  I battled injury and spent the summer in physical therapy.  I overcame the laziness that so easily creeps into your day if you let it.  And I decided that I loved running.

Who would have thought?

Yes, I am proud of him!  The one who has encouraged me like no other.  The one who hasn't said a word about any money I've sunk into shoes and clothes.  The one who ran a 15K yesterday in less than 77 minutes! And I'm proud of me.  For making it one year.  I can't wait to see what the next year brings me.  All I need is my shoes, my headphones and the street.

Yes, I am proud of him! The one who has encouraged me like no other. The one who hasn’t said a word about any money I’ve sunk into shoes and clothes. The one who ran a 15K yesterday in less than 77 minutes! And I’m proud of me. For making it one year. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings me. All I need is my shoes, my headphones and the street.

Next item to scratch off the Bucket List?  Running a 10K!

 

Miracle Miles 2013 photo credit to Charla Kim Photography.

 

 

Sep 152013
 

Churro Cupcake - cinnamon cake with a cinnamon buttercream topped with a churro.

Churro Cupcake – cinnamon cake with a cinnamon buttercream topped with a churro.

It’s Mexican Night with our Community Group and we’re bringing dessert!  These tasty little treats are sure to hit the spot.  Enjoy!

Churro Cupcakes
(24 Cupcakes)

Cake Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
  • small bowl of cinnamon sugar mixture (approx. 1/4 cup sugar to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together using a stand mixer until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time,mixing until just combined.  Then add vanilla.
  4. Alternating between flour mixture and milk, add a little bit at the time, stirring until just combined, beginning and ending with the flour mixture flour mixture over the butter mixture and gently stir in until barely combined. Add half of the milk, mixing until just combined.  DO NOT overmix.
  5. Fill each muffin cup with about 2 tablespoons of batter.
  6. Bake the cupcakes for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with one or two crumbs clinging to it.
  7. Cool cupcakes for 2 minutes and then dip the top of the cupcakes in your cinnamon sugar mixture.
  8. Cool completely before frosting with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting.

 

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks, plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (A stick equals 1/2 cup)
  •   4-41/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, or to taste
  • 2-2.5 tsp. milk, to desired consistency

Directions:

1. Cream butter on medium speed.
2.  Slowly add sifted sugar.
3.  Add vanilla.
4.  Add milk a little at the time until you get the consistency you desire.  (The stiffer the frosting, the better it will hold its shape when piping.

When cupcakes are completely cool, pipe your frosting on, sprinkle a little more of your cinnamon sugar mixture on top and then garnish with a small churro slice.  I bought my churros at Tijuana Flats, but you can also find them at Costco.  Or, if you’re ambitious you can make your own!

(Recipe adapted from Legally Delish.)

Dec 122012
 

Chocolate chip cookies.  The old standby dessert.  Most people like them, and there are a million recipes out there for them.  A favorite in our house is my mom’s version, which includes pecans and toffee.  Try as I might to make them, they always spread out really thin on the cookie sheets.  They’re still delicious, but they certainly aren’t pretty.
While browsing Pinterest several months ago I stumbled across a browned butter chocolate chip cookie recipe that I had to try.  It starts off with melted browned butter, which alleviates the whole “Is the butter soft enough or is it too soft?” debate that I face when making my mom’s recipe.  I love that!  This recipe comes together nicely, and the cookie dough is delicious! (I laugh in the face of salmonella!)

If you’re looking for a good cookie recipe that’s almost as good as my mom’s, you’ll want to try this one!

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 ¼ cups  flour
  • ½-1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons cream (whole milk or evaporated milk can be substituted in a pinch)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½cups  chocolate chips  (I use dark, semi sweet and milk chocolate chips)
  • Sea Salt to top, if desired

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375°. Melt  butter on stovetop over medium low heat.  Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat when it turns brown. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Pour browned butter into a mixing bowl.  Add sugar and combine with mixer on medium speed.  Add egg, yolk, cream and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Incorporate the flour mixture until well combined.  Stir chocolate chips in by hand.

3.  Scoop cookie dough with a teaspoon and place on a baking sheet.  (I use a Silpat on top of my baking sheet because it’s fabulous.)  Sprinkle with just a pinch of sea salt.  Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until the cookie is slightly browned along the edge.

4.  Remove, cool for a minute and eat!

5.  If you follow the recipe above, the Weight Watcher’s Point Plus breakdown is 3PP per cookie (based on 48 cookies).  Not too shabby for a dessert that uses real butter, cream and sugar!

 

Variations:  Just a quick note to say that tonight I didn’t have any cream, so I used some Salted Caramel Mocha creamer by International Delight.  I didn’t taste the mocha flavor, but it did kick up the saltiness of the cookie.  Yum!

Nov 282012
 

I guess it’s no big secret that I’ve lost some weight over the last 10 months.  People ask me what I’m doing.  The answer is pretty simple.  I’m eating less and exercising more.  A huge component of eating less has been using Weight Watchers Online.  They have a pretty amazing program now called “Points Plus”, which basically assigns a point value to every food you eat and every exercise you do.  One of the great things about their program is the fact almost all fruits and vegetables have a point value of zero.  Yes, ZERO!

Last week their website announced changes to their program are coming.  I read the little teaser about it, but didn’t think too much on it.  What I’m doing works for me.  However, I was reading in a forum today about this new Weight Watchers 360 program so I thought I’d look into it a little more.

First of all, the US website has only a teaser video with no real information.  If you want to watch his video you can see it here:  http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=217581

After not getting a whole lot of info from the video I turned to Google and found a few blogs that touched on the subject.  But it wasn’t until I went to the Weight Watchers Canada site that I found anything useful.  Below is the graphic from their site.

Weight Watchers 360 - Canadian

From the Weight Watchers Canada Site, regarding the launch of their newest program, Weight Watchers 360

 

From the graphic above, the gist of the new program is this:

  • Eat real food.
  • Don’t buy the foods that tempt you.
  • Make wise food choices.
  • Get moving.

I’m interested to see how they incorporate this into the Weight Watchers Online program.  It sounds like a good plan, but I’m curious to know if the six steps above are really new concepts to the WW community.  At any rate, I look forward to seeing the changes made and seeing how they play out for their online customers.

What do you think about their new program?

Disclaimer: My thoughts.  My words.  My limited research. :-)

Nov 212012
 

Frosted Cranberries

I have been asked for this recipe so many times that I’ve lost count. So, without further ado, here it is.

Frosted Cranberries - Perfect Holiday Treat

Frosted Cranberries – Perfect Holiday Treat

Frosted Cranberries

1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup sugar
1 bag FRESH cranberries
2 cups confectioners sugar (or more)

1) Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until all the sugar has melted. Remove from burner and cool completely. (This can be done by putting your saucepan in the freezer for five minutes or so.)

2. Wash and pat dry fresh cranberries. Pull out any that are soft and squishy and discard those.

3. Now you will need one or two dinner plates (last time I made these I needed a fresh one halfway through) and one or two clean, dry cookie sheets. Assemble your line. Cranberries, sugar water, dinner plate and cookie sheet all in a row.

4. On your dinner plate, sprinkle about 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar. (You will do this repeatedly throughout the process.)

5. Place a handful of cranberries in the sugar water. Scoop out the handful of cranberries with one hand (this is your wet hand) and drop them gently in the confectioners sugar. With your dry hand (which will get really gross!), gently roll the wet cranberries in the confectioners sugar, coating them completely. With your DRY hand, scoop them up and put them on a cookie sheet. Repeat this process until all cranberries are frosted.

6. These are better made the day before you plan to serve them. Also, the longer they sit out on the cookies sheets without being covered, the better they are.

These are super easy to make, and I’ve never actually sat down and typed out the recipe until just now. One year when Dan and I traveled to Minnesota for the holidays his mother was making these. I followed her lead and helped out that year. We’ve had them in Minnesota every Thanksgiving since! Dan and I brought the “recipe” home to Orlando and have been making them for holidays, parties and even gifts for years. The “recipe” has been given out at countless events. I hope you find them as easy to make and as good to eat as our family does! :-)

Nov 132012
 

I am so happy that the weather in Florida has finally figured out that it’s November!  Why?  Because I have a not-so-secret love of casseroles.  Just ask my husband!  He’s been known to walk in the house in the middle of July and find me making anything from Chicken Pot Pie to Mexican Lasagna.  I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m crazy for heating up the whole house when it’s 95 degrees outside, but sometimes a person just needs a good casserole.  And folks, let me tell you, the one below is a good casserole!

 Marsala - Close Up

Chicken Marsala Casserole

(adapted from Rachael Ray’s Marsala Chicken-and-Mushroom Casserole)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • two cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, uncooked
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped roasted chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons grated asiago cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees .
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and  mushrooms and cook, until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir in for 1 minute.
  4. Add the marsala and cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken broth and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. In a greased 8.5-inch by 11-inch dish, spread the rice evenly across the bottom; top with the chicken.
  7. Pour the marsala mushroom mixture to cover the chicken and rice.
  8. Cover dish with foil and bake until bubbly, approximately 35 minutes.
  9. Remove foil, sprinkle with asiago cheese and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  10. Serves six.  (7 Points Plus, per serving)

You want to make this for your family.  Trust me.  They will devour it, just like mine did!  And if you’re watching what you’re eating like me, you will appreciate the fact that it’s only 7 Points Plus per serving!  I love making a recipe that calls for  fresh ingredients, and is still manageable on Weight Watchers.  I hope you enjoy it, too!

Oct 312012
 

Beer Bread

Ingredients:

  • 12oz beer (I like Amber Bock)
  • 3 C. self rising flour
  • 1/3 C. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, optional

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan.
2. Combine flour, sugar and cheese; stir in beer. Dough will be sticky.
3. Pour into prepared loaf pan and cover with melted butter.
4. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cool in pan for 30 minutes, then turn out and serve.

Source: Me, thanks to some Internet reseach

My notes: I started making beer bread after having some at a Tastefully Simple party. This recipe tastes so close to the mix from Tastefully Simple that you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! In fact, the only difference I can see is TS Beer Bread costs $5.00 for the mix, plus the beer and this recipe does not! I did some research online and took several recipes into account and then created this one. Enjoy!