Easy pumpkin soup

The temperatures are starting to drop and my love for all things pumpkin are back in full force.

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Last weekend I made some pumpkin muffins with a pumpkin pie filling on top that are wonderful(recipe to come soon). With the leftover pumpkin, I decided to make us a pumpkin soup. This soup is thick, warm and delicious and was ready in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup of milk(can use cow, almond, coconut)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter
  • pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries(optional)

Heat oil over medium heat. When hot, saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent.

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Stir in fresh ginger. Cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Stir in curry powder and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant, about another minute.

Add in vegetable broth and pumpkin. Stir well until combined.

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Bring mixture to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, stir in milk. Let heat for about 5 minutes.

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At this point, it is ready to serve. Or for a smoother and creamier consistency, blend or immersion blend. I used my immersion blender to make sure there weren’t any little pieces of onion.

Serve.  Top with dried cranberries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds if you so desire.

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Goodbye, summer

Friday seems like so long ago that I can hardly remember what we  did.  We had plans to go out to eat, but with some torrential down pours right after I got home from work, we decided to order in. We ordered in some chicken shawarma from a new restaurant. It was so-so. So far, I haven’t found a place that competes with a a restaurant by my work. Then we set up an assembly line and put together our wedding invitations. After that was done, we rewarded ourselves with some couch time and started watching Orange is the New Black. Is everyone else watching this show? You should be! It’s great.

Saturday morning, I got up and made a veggie loaded breakfast with homemade tomato sauce, spinach, and eggplant. It was so delicious.

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Then I headed out for a busy day of going to the post office, hair cut and eye exam. The lovely lady at the post office gave me multiple kinds of misinformation including that we needed more postage for our invitations and that they don’t sell the stamps we need at that post office. Being that I needed to get to my hair cut, I delegated the other post office run to Brian. He had a pleasant post office experience, unlike mine, and the man at the other post office said we didn’t need extra postage, hand stamped our invites and mailed them for Brian. After having several unpleasant experiences with the post office closest to us, I will never be going there again. I will happily go out of my way and take extra time to go to a different office. Before my haircut, I stopped at a burger place by our wedding venue and tried out the Hurt Burger. It was supposed to be incredible spicy, but I didn’t think it had much of a kick, despite having jalapenos on it. The fries were really good though. My excuse for eating a burger and fries for lunch is that I need to be able to give wedding guests accurate information about eating establishments around our hotel. Ha!

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Sunday morning, I experimented with a new pancake recipe for Brian. They were incredibly dense and not the proper color, but he said they tasted great. Maybe it was all the cookie butter I slathered on them.

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Frustrated by his wonky pancakes, I didn’t pay much attention to my breakfast cooking and botched my eggs. I spent a good while at my garden then went to my last class of aquatic exercise of the summer. IO am saddened that I will have no more opportunities to be in the pool.  We had a quick “clean out the fridge” lunch before going to buy groceries and run errands. We stopped at Target and goofed around in the toy aisle. I spent the rest of my evening planning Monday’s cook-a-thon and watching more episodes of Orange is the New Black.

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Monday started off with a bang and an open-face egg sandwich. I headed into the kitchen to make black bean brownies, pumpkin muffins with pumpkin pie filling tops(they taste much better than they look), homemade, bbq sauce, curried ginger pumpkin soup, sunbutter and ended the day by grilling steak, burgers, chicken and veggies. We should be eating well all week!

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My long weekend was wonderful and productive with plenty of fresh air and exercise. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Honey almond roasted carrots

These carrots are a fall delight.

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I was ready to hunker down, make soup, watch football and eat my fair share of roasted root vegetables then we got a spike to hot temperatures again. That didn’t stop me from making these carrots!

I may have also been motivated to make these carrots as I was desperate wanting to use my new Le Creust dish that I received forma  dear friend as an early wedding gift. I named her Camille, because she’s French. Enough about the why and a little more about the how:

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds fresh carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup silvered or chopped almonds
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Thoroughly wash your carrots and cut green end off. If you feel so inclined to peel your carrots, you can do that, too.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a thick bottomed pan. Place carrots in bottom of pan and toss to coat with carrots.

Salt and pepper your carrots to your liking. Drizzle with honey. Top with almonds. Place rosemary sprigs on top.

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Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil, or simply place lid on pan if it has one. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Cook closer to 20 minutes if you are using closer to 1 pound of carrots or if your carrots are on the thinner side. If using closer to 2 pounds of carrots and/or your carrots are on the thicker side, cook closer to 25 minutes.

After your 20-25 minutes is up, remove lid and cook another 20-25 minutes(follow the same guidelines). The carrots will start to brown and be nicely caramelized when done.

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Serve as a tasty side dish. I love the slight sweetness that the honey gives with the crunch of the almond. It’s really a great flavor combination. Upon eating them, my immediate thought was that I couldn’t wait to make them for Thanksgiving!

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Holiday weekend

Maybe it wasn’t technically a holiday weekend, but with the 4th falling so close to the weekend, it seemed like one. Thursday we had a few people over to grill out and enjoy the back yard. There was a ton of food and festivities(maybe a little too much for some of us).

We now have oodles of left overs that I have been trying to recreate into other dishes so that we aren’t eating burger after brat after burger.

Saturday I woke up at 5:15am and couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I headed up and did some work in the garden and headed to water aerobics, only to learn that it started at 11am, not 10am. I didn’t want to wait around so I headed home and started creating some calzone dough. I made two different fillings, one being ground taco meat, corn and black beans with cheddar cheese and the other of chicken, pesto, tomatoes and swiss. I thought they turned out pretty tasty.

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Saturday afternoon I spend relaxing and watching a Law and Order: SVU marathon. Delightful. It’s amazing how crimes can be wrapped up neatly in a one hour TV segment. Saturday night I headed to Michael’s craft store and browsed their clearance. I got some fun glitter paint and goods to make some bracelets. A wonderful little night at home.

I had recently heard in a podcast that if you want really fluffy eggs for omelettes to put them in the blender. It will also make your eggs go farther, needing you to use less. So, after making a batch of almond milk, I cleaned out the blender and threw in one egg and 3 egg whites. I also threw in a few handfuls of spinach(who not???). It made my eggs super fluffy and green! I had a 12 inch skillet full of eggs. I topped them with marinara. Delicious and colorful.

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Once my food settled, I headed to meet some friends for an aquatic exercise class. Get a tan and exercise? Yes, please! Lunch consisted of BBQ chicken salads and fruit. I topped the salad with grilled corn, black beans, carrots, cucumber and some crushed tortilla chips.

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After realizing that yesterday was National Chocolate Day and being a little tired of eating meat at every meal, I decided that we would have chocolate chunk waffles for dinner. Well, Brian would. I had half of a waffle, veggie patty and some fruit. I don’t care for sweet breakfast foods all that much and I would have been really cranky later if I didn’t eat some protein.

Brian:

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Me:

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I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend as I did. So happy it finally felt like summer!

Happy Valentine’s Day

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It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without a post.

Every month at work we have Payday Potluck. When we get paid(once a month), we all bring in food. It’s always a feast. This month we moved it up a few days to celebrate a birthday and Valentine’s Day as well. I wish I would have taken a picture of the spread. It was deluxe! We had fried chicken, french fries, fried okra, tamales, pizza, Indian rice, salad and Iowa Girl Eat’s brownie truffles.

I may have gone a little nuts. So I am focused on drinking a lot of water and getting in a really good workout tonight.

After my workout, I am going to use one of my Valentine’s Day presents from Brian. We usually don’t do much but he went overboard this year and completely surprised me. He got me a really amazing at home massager which is a life saver after my workouts. I love it because it has a really long handle, so I can use it on my back. Oh, and did I mention it’s heated? It’s auh-mazing. Then I’ll probably curl up with the  new book he got me. I’m one lucky girl.

I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day! And Happy Birthday to my awesome Dad!

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Ch-ch-changes

Here we are again on the eve of a new year. Time for reflections on the past year and looking forward to what will come.

Last year, I made a lot of changes at the start of the year to my diet. I followed Whole Living 28 day action plan and felt awesome afterwards. I had cut out most processed foods. I had also decided to eliminate Diet Coke and more importantly fake sweeteners from my diet. Wow. What a change. But I’m so happy that I did it. They taste so awful and chemically to me now.  I can’t believe I ever drank and ate them. However, as the year progressed, I started to incorporate more and more processed foods back into my diet. I’m not disappointed in myself, because I think moderation is key. I would like to focus on eating as few processed foods as I can in the coming year.

The other big change is that I am going to mostly cut out added sugar to my diet.

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Why mostly? I am going to allow myself to have added sugar once a week. This is a two-fold issue. It is going to help me limit my treats and splurges to things that I really want. No more eating cookies at work just because a co-worker brought them in. I think the hardest part of this is going to be my daily coffee. I know, you are thinking that coffee doesn’t have any sugar. I know it doesn’t, but I really love to add a little cream and sugar to my coffee in the morning. Not much, just a little. I did without it(the cream and sugar) during the detox last year and was fine, but I prefer it. It needs to stop. There is no reason for it. The other part is that it will help to eliminate processed foods from my diet. 99% of processed foods contain added sugar! Yikes, that is an alarming fact. Here’s another: The average American eats between 1/4 to 1/2 pound of sugar a day. That is how much is snuck into processed foods. No wonder there is obesity in America.

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The other part of my new year, new me plan is the work out portion. My knee does not love me running on it anymore. Short distances are ok, but long are not. I’ve tried everything. It’s frustrating. So, I need to find something else to supplement my running to help myself stay fit and in shape. Or actually to get into better shape. One thing that I like doing and that has worked for me in the past is Jillian Michael’s videos. So, for January I am going to work out 5 days a week. 3 of those days are to be the Jillian video. For Christmas I asked for Jillian’s 90 Day Body Revolution which is on its way in the mail to me. I am going to start that Feb 1. Also Feb 1, I am going to redo the Whole Living action plan from last year. I’m waiting until Feb 1st to tackle the big things because I will be gone 10 days in Jan and don’t want to set myself up for failure.

What is everyone else planning to do to make 2013 their best year ever?

Merry merry

A very belated Merry Christmas! I spent 5 days in Florida for Christmas visiting Brian’s family. The time went way too fast. We could have easily used another few days to see everyone we wanted and to get in enough quality time with people. But with we did the best we could with the time constraints that we had.

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As soon as we got to Florida we had a very nice lunch with his mom.
For Christmas Eve dinner we had a wonderful meal prepared by Cheryl. I loved the texture of our dinner napkins.

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After dinner we lit candles in their annual Christmas Eve candle lighting and connected with family through several forms of technology.

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On the way back from visiting his sister and awesome nieces and nephew, Tomtom took us on a scenic tour of south Florida.

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Brian and I took a cruise along A1A for some mansion and ocean viewing.

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There were so many bikers, I thought we were in the Tour de France. The yellow jersey was even in the lead!

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And we saw a lot of big boats. I like big boats and I can not lie!

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Right before we headed back to the airport, Brian got one of his beloved Russo’s subs that I have been hearing about for years. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as he had remembered.

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Overall, it was a great trip and I enjoyed spending time with his family. I have to admit, it was a little bit weird to not be cold at Christmas though.

Edible Christmas gifts

Earlier this week I was in Texas visiting my adorable and goofy 6 month old niece.
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While flying home on Wednesday, I learned that my good friend Aaron was stuck in Chicago and unable to get to Iowa due to the blizzard. So we met up at the airport and he headed home with me. Since there were no flights headed out for him until Friday at the earliest we made a plan to spend the day making lots of Christmas goodies(with a full guest post to be coming from Aaron soon).
We started off by making a double batch of Ina Garten’s mulled wine to keep us warm while we worked.
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Then we got to work on Alton Brown’s ginger snaps:
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A batch of really amazing apple cider caramels:
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Then we got busy and made 4 dozen red velvet cake balls:
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We also made a batch of Christmas salty toffee and peanut butter Nutella fudge.
Perfect little boxes of treats for my coworkers, Brian’s coworkers and Aaron’s family.

We finished up the evening by having a plate of cheese and crackers as an app and a big pot of spicy curry. Perfect for a cold night. Post coming soon!

Happy Holidays!

Winter Holiday Travel Tips

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I know I usually just blog about food, but after traveling this week and traveling again next week I thought I’d throw out some of my personal travel tips. Which I find even more important to stick to during the holidays when travel gets a little crazier than usual and I need to keep my sanity.

  • If you wear contacts, travel in your glasses. My eyes get so dry on the airplane when I travel in my contacts it’s almost unbearable. And if I happen to doze off on the plane, then I’m not sleeping in my contacts. Trust me, your eyes will thank you.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Always accept a drink from the airline attendant…or two. I always get a water. And usually a hot tea or coffee. Another great way to hydrate is to take an empty water bottle with you. There are water fountains all over the airport where you can refill it as many times as you need to after you are through security. It saves money too, as you aren’t paying $2 to $5 per bottle of water.
  • Pack food and snacks. Nuts, fruit and granola bars are great. You can even pack yourself a little sandwich to take with you. It will give you healthy options and again save money. This can also be a huge save for when you get delayed, rerouted or suffer a hunger attack mid-flight. I like to make a zip lock of Puffins multi-grain cereal, dried fruit, nuts and a little chocolate. You can eat it all together or pick out whatever you are having a craving for(sweet or salty). It’s light enough that it won’t weigh you down.
  • Wear layers. Planes can be freezing cold or blazing hot. It’s never fun to be uncomfortable for hours on end. I like to wear a few light layers and adjust accordingly. I almost always wear a pashmina when traveling too. Big enough to be a thin, small blanket, converts to a scarf or shawl and can easily be tucked in your bag.
  • Pack light. No one likes lugging around heavy luggage. One of the easiest ways to do this is to pack outfits when you travel instead of random clothes that you think will work together. I like to pack a pair of very versatile pants and a versatile cardigan that I can rewear, dress up and dress down. Saves on a lot of extra clothes!
  • Oh, and be patient! I hate waiting. The security line is the worst for me. It’s crowded and slow. Yuck! I think I am going to try listening to a podcast when I wait in the security line next week. It will help to distract me and get less irritable.
  • BE NICE. Traveling isn’t always easy. There are delays and cancellations and it’s not the people’s fault who are working the counter. There is only so much they can do and they will be less likely to be helpful if you are rude and demanding. So if you are getting stressed about the situation, step back, calm down and don’t be a jerk.

I’m sure I forgot a few things and they are in no particular order. Happy Holidays and happy travels to all!

Spice up your life

With Sriracha salt!

Super easy to make. And a perfect gift for the Sriracha lover in your life.

Mix 5 teaspoons of Sriracha with 1/2 cup of salt.

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Make sure to mix well and get all the salt moistened.

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Spread out on wax paper and let dry 1-2 days.

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As it dries, it will harden and clump. Break it up and spread it out periodically.

Once dry, put in a salt shaker and use it on EVERYTHING! Just think of the possibilities, shrimp, chicken, steak, baked potatoes, fries, popcorn, eggs….