Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in Minnesota!

I was hoping for a white Christmas in Minnesota like last year:

But it was not snowy or even very cold this year in MN - how weird!!! Oh well, our annual Christmasy MN trip was filled with lots of activities, and as usual, Dimitri made the trip up with us!

We were able to cook dinner with some dear friends Rob and Sarah, who were newly married in October!

For Christmas Eve, we went over to Bryan's brother's house where he and his wife made the most amazing three course meal for us all! We had roasted corn and potato soup, salad, and duck in mole sauce! Bryan and I were in charge of drinks and we brought cranberry mojitos! Everything was delicious. We opened gifts and little Jonah went crazy with the wrapping paper and ribbons.

Christmas Day was pretty chill and we spent time reading, relaxing, napping and chit chatting before we had another delicious dinner made by my in-laws with just immediate family.

The next couple of days were filled with family. Monday was a reunion of Bryan's dad's side of the family and Tuesday was a reunion of Bryan's mom's side of the family! It was a busy chunk of days, but it was great fun to see everybody!!

Wednesday I relaxed with my friend Sarah and got a massage and afterwards we talked over coffee and later wine! It turned into a longer afternoon of reminiscing! It was great though.

Yesterday, after a quick brunch with Sarah and her husband Bobby at the Downtowner in St. Paul, we drove back to Chicago!

It was a long and busy trip and we needed a day to get ready for this weekend - NYE CHICAGO. We have 2 sets of friends coming to visit us from MN for an epic weekend of celebrations. It will be legendary!

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles

You may see my December catch up post here!

I made these Oreo cheesecake truffles for some Christmas goodies! I was invited to a cookie exchange party by my great friend Adrie, and these were my contribution. They were well received by friends there as well as family over Christmas! I must say, they are insanely delicious!

The hard part is getting the outer chocolate shell just the right consistency. The recipe says to melt chocolate chips and butter. We tried various types of chips (even the ones straight from the recipe) and nothing worked right. We finally got it right (on the 3rd try) using baking chocolate squares, butter, half and half and a touch of coffee. Do what works best for you!

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 package Oreo cookies (minus a few for eating if you want!)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter

1. Crush the Oreos (the entire Oreo, cream and all!) until finely ground. A food processor does the best job, but if you don’t have one, throw the cookies in a ziploc bag, grab a rolling pin, and go to town.
2. Transfer 3 cups of the Oreo crumbs to a bowl and add the cream cheese. Using a spoon, press, mix and stir until the cream cheese is completely mixed into the Oreo crumbs and you have a soft, homogeneous mixture. Using a small cookie scoop (or the equivalent of 2 teaspoons), scoop/roll balls of the Oreo/cream cheese mixture and place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Once you have scooped out all of the filling, refrigerate the baking sheet for at least 30 minutes, until firm.
3. In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate chips and butter in 30 second increments at 50% power, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth. You may also use a double boiler on the stovetop. Add half and half if necessary to thin out chocolate. Working with one Oreo ball at a time, dip it into the melted chocolate, roll it around to cover completely, and then use a fork to remove it from the chocolate, letting any excess drip off. Place the dipped truffle back on the wax paper-lined sheet. Repeat with all truffles; once finished, return the baking sheet to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.
4. Serve the truffles, or garnish with some melted white chocolate and leftover crushed Oreos. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Kale and White Bean Soup

You may see my December catch up post here!

Bryan and I both had a craving for some greens one week and decided that we wanted kale to be included in the week's grocery list. I found this soup recipe and we decided to give it a try on a rainy, dreary, December winter evening in Chicago. It turned out great and we loved this soup! It is definitely going to become a winter staple around here! It also makes great leftovers, and you know how we love leftovers!

Kale and White Bean Soup
From Epicurious


  • 1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 qt water
  • 1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (not California)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 lb smoked sausage such as kielbasa (optional), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

  • Directions:

    Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and rinse.
    Cook onions in oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, broth, 1 quart water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.
    While soup is simmering, brown sausage (if using) in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning, then transfer to paper towels to drain.
    Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage, and remaining quart water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.

    Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp and Cilantro

    You may see my December catch up post here!

    After we finally finished our Thanksgiving leftovers, we wanted a lighter dish to enjoy for a couple of days. This dish popped right to mind! We first enjoyed it with our friends Thomas and Abigail while we visited them in Philadelphia in November (another interview for Bryan). It was delicious then, and we knew we wanted it again! This dish is fulfilling, healthy and light all at once and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

    Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp and Cilantro
    From Food and Wine

    12 oz soba noodles
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    3 tablespoons tamari
    1 teaspoon agave syrup
    2 large shallots, thinly sliced and separated into rings
    6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
    2 scallions, finely chopped
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    Lime wedges, for serving


    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until tender, 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the oil with the soy sauce, tamari and agave syrup. Add the noodles and toss.
    2. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat until golden and crisp, 2 minutes. Transfer the garlic to the paper towels.
    3. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir in the shrimp and season with salt. Grill the shrimp over high heat, turning once, until glazed and just white throughout, 3 minutes.
    4. Arrange the noodles on a large platter. Sprinkle with the scallions, cilantro, crushed red pepper and the fried shallots and garlic. Arrange the shrimp on top and serve with lime wedges alongside.

    December Catch-Up!

    December was such a busy month, I barely had time to sleep, let alone blog. This post will give a quick catch up of what our December was like to catch you up!

    About mid-December Bryan and I went to San Francisco for his last residency interview. The weather was perfect the whole time we were there and it was beautiful!! We got to eat at some wonderful restaurants: Zuni Cafe with my dear college friend Rachel and her husband Mikael. We celebrated the end of Bryan's interview season by eating at a German restaurant, Suppenkuche. We also had delicious coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee with our wonderful hosts and college friends Micah and Stefani.

    The day before we left for San Francisco, I took the final for my nutrition class and am very happy to have it completed! I got an A for those of you wondering :) I loved studying the material, but it was hard to take a very time consuming class while working full time and traveling along on interviews. The rest of the winter and spring should be much less stressful!

    Just prior to the trip, one of my best friends suffered a great loss as her mother died of a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. I wasn't able to make it to the funeral, as it was in MN during the time we were to be in SF and the flights wouldn't work out for me to be there in time. However, we were able to get together over the holidays to reminisce and spend some quality time with each other. My friend is one of the strongest people I know, and she will get through this. I will always be there for her! The 11th anniversary of my mom's death occurred over the holiday and there is just something about this time of year that bring everything back and make memories stronger. I love her and miss her more than words can say.

    Coming up:
    A couple of dishes that got us through the busy weeks prior to Christmas!
    Christmas in Minnesota

    Things happening this weekend and will appear on the blog soon:
    NYE in Chicago
    2nd Wedding Anniversary

    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Pumpkin Muffins

    You'd think that after a day of cooking and hosting, I wouldn't want to be in the kitchen at all the next day. However, on Sunday I woke up craving a hot breakfast that did not involve eggs or hot cereal of any kind. I wanted a hot bread, and we happened to have a can of pumpkin in our cupboard! I found a recipe for pumpkin bread, but when I saw that we were one egg short and I didn't want to wait for the bread to cook for 80 minutes, I decided to search for a pumpkin muffing recipe instead. I found one quickly that was ideal for my conditions and got to work. In just over a half an hour, we were enjoying these pumpkin muffins and coffee on a cold and rainy Sunday morning. Perfection! These muffins are probably going to be my go-to muffin recipe whenever I need one. They are quick and easy to make; the pumpkin keeps them moist; the spices give them a kick, and the cinnamon streusel on top gives them the perfect amount of sweetness. And now I get to have one for breakfast every day this week!

    Pumpkin Muffins
    From Smitten Kitchen


    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can)
    1/3 cup vegetable oil*
    2 large eggs
    1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
    1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar**
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Put liners in muffin cups.

    Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

    Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

    Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

    Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.


    This is a belated post for sure!! However, it’s about time for an update on the ol’ blog. Our lives have continued to be so crazy that I barely have time to sort out my daily activities let alone think about blogging!

    With all the traveling we’d been doing in November, Bryan and I decided to stay in Chicago for Thanksgiving. We really needed the extra days to recuperate. Since we were away from family, we decided to host a Friendsgiving at our condo! Many of our friends have family in the area and were doing traditional Thanksgivings on Thursday, so we hosted them on Saturday! On Thursday we were productive and took care of school work, studying, cleaning and somehow managed to have time for a date night movie. Friday consisted of a little shopping and mostly prepping and cleaning for Saturday. We were planning the traditional Thanksgiving feast and we provided the turkey, stuffing, and two kinds of potatoes. We used recipes that I grew up with because they are so near and dear to my heart, but it was our first time making the turkey and stuffing and we were both a bit intimidated and didn’t want to mess up!  Our friends supplemented the feast by bringing sides and desserts!

    Thanks to those of you who helped document the afternoon!! I was too busy to take pictures!

    Bryan carving the turkey

    You can barely see, but the famous stuffing is behind the turkey plate! Thanks to our friends who brought sides and desserts - we loved them all!

    The table and centerpiece

    This was the first time I actually received these recipes from my dad as well, so I will try to document them as best as I can. Keep in mind these recipes have been handed down through generations by word of mouth and by watching, so I’m taking the multi-paragraph email from my dad and trying to format it into a recipe. It's not in the typical ingredients and directions format, but more in the form of instructions as you go. If you plan on using these recipes, I suggest reading them through so that you don't miss an ingredient. I do like this way of explaining a recipe because once you do it one time, it's easy to remember.

    Preparation Day


    My dad’s famous turkey recipe follows. He makes his own brine that is injected into the turkey and marinated overnight. The next day, the turkey is grilled for a few hours to perfection.

    Start thawing the turkey two days ahead of time in the fridge. You can alternate between placing it in the kitchen sink and the fridge to make sure it thaws completely.

    One day before, unpackage the turkey and start cleaning it out. There will be a paper packet with the giblets (liver, heart and gizzard) in the cavity of the turkey. Remove the packet and set the giblets aside. Cut off the neck and tail and set aside with the giblets.

    Clean the turkey. Remove any loose skin and excess fat and rinse with cold water. Place the turkey on to a large durable pan (preferably lined with a plastic bag already so that all of the extra brine doesn’t spill all over).

    Prepare the brine. Ingredients: one quart of cold water, 3 heaping tablespoons of Morton Tender Quick (curing salt), and 2 table spoons Liquid Smoke. Hardware needed: brine injector. Inject the brine into the meat of the turkey until it is all used up. Some of it will leak out into the bottom of the pan.

    Tie the turkey with 18 gauge wire (we actually used twine) around the legs, across the wings and breast and one more in the middle. Cover the turkey with the plastic bag (we used a new unscented trash liner for our plastic bag), tie it shut and place it in the fridge over night.


    Place the giblets, tail, and neck that you set aside while cleaning the turkey in a large kettle with about a quart of water (or more if you like). Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer for about an hour.
                    *My dad prefers to add a ¾ pound package of extra giblets to give more flavors, so I did as well.

    Remove contents from the broth so that they can cool. Save the broth in the kettle and place it in the fridge. Once you are able to handle the giblets, dice them into small pieces. Peel off any meat from the neck and dice it too. Discard the tail. Place the diced meats into a container and store in the fridge overnight.

    Dice about one and a half cups of celery and two cups of white onion. Place them in a container and store in the fridge overnight.

    You will also need a bag or two (depending on how big they are) of unseasoned croutons for the stuffing the next day.

    Day of feast


    Take your turkey out of the fridge in the morning and remove it from the plastic bag. Wrap it in tin foil, leaving two inch holes on both ends so that heat can get through the cavity. Use one side of the grill for the direct heat and grill the turkey for about four hours, moving it back and forth between the direct and indirect heat until the thickest meat measures 170 degrees with a meat thermometer (our 19 pound turkey took about four hours). You can remove the tin foil for the last 20 minutes or so to let the skin brown up a little bit. Once the turkey is done on the grill, place it on a plate for about ten minutes and then start carving!


    While the turkey is on the grill, make the stuffing.

    Heat up the broth that was saved the day before. Add the diced celery and onion to it once it is warm. Season it to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning (more than you think you need) and butter (optional). It should taste like strong chicken soup. Remember you will be adding it to a lot of dried bread, so you want to the flavor to be strong.
    *At this point, I realized I didn’t have enough liquid for the amount of croutons I had, so I added four more cups of water and two vegetable bullions to the broth, which worked perfectly.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray one or two glass baking pans (depending on how much you’re going to make) with non-stick spray.

    Place the croutons in a large bowl, with room to spare. Slowly add the broth and vegetable mixture to the croutons to let them soak up the broth (I just used a ladle). Add the diced giblets from the day before. Continue adding broth until the croutons turn into a thick paste. If it is too liquidy, add more croutons. If it is too dry, add more broth. If you run out of broth, add water.

    Place the mixture into your baking pan(s) about 3-4 inches thick. Cover with tin foil and bake for about an hour and a half. You can take the tin foil off for the last 20 minutes to brown the top if you like.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    11 things

    Our lives are insanely busy these days, so here are eleven noteworthy things going on in our lives right now.

    1. I’ve been given the time to blog because my flight is delayed right now.

    2. Today’s date is pretty cool, 11/11/11, but not as cool as 01/02/2010, the full numeric palindrome and day that Bryan and I got married!

    3. Boston trip was great!

    4. Looking forward to a quick trek up to MN this weekend!

    5. Looking forward to Philly next weekend!

    6. Planning to prepare our very first Thanksgiving feast for friends in Chicago!

    7. Looking forward to more interview trips.

    8. I’ve been so frustrated and stressed about my applications that I’ve wanted to tear my hair out. I think I will survive though.

    9. My foot is healing quickly with the awesome help of Dave, my physical therapist!

    10. I get to see Dimitri today after a couple of days away! I miss the little fur ball!

    11. I’m SO PROUD of my husband!

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Slow Cooker White Bean and Ham Soup and a Massive Update!

    Wow! I can't believe how fast October flew by! We spent two weekends in Minnesota, one for the marathon weekend and the other at great friends' wedding. We also went to Kansas City for another wedding of one of my college friends! Let's see if I can give a more detailed recap of our lives!

    Where has the time gone?

    During the weeks, our time seemed just as busy! I've been putting a great deal of time into the nutrition class that I'm taking in addition to working full time. Another thing that has been taking up my time is physical therapy for my injured foot! I've been going to PT sessions twice a week for the past 3 weeks and I can really tell that there has been major improvement! When I took the boot off, I felt pretty uneasy with little balance. Since then I have made major strides in balance, strength and function! Today I got to hop on the elliptical for my warm up and I was pleasantly surprised that I had no pain! It's so crazy that when you are doing physical therapy, the most elementary activities/actions turn into enormous hurdles and can be very painful. It's nice when I can see actual improvement with my ability to do the excercises and a decrease in pain after the sessions!

    Slow Cooker White Bean and Ham Soup
    Find recipe here.

    With all that is going on, there has been little time for anything else during the week! I honestly can't remember the last time I went to the grocery store or made anything from a new recipe. I guess that means we've been eating our favorite go-to recipes that we just know! Luckily, Bryan had a little bit of down time a couple of weeks ago, before his life got crazier than mine, and was able to really help out! I had a huge craving for ham and bean soup one day a couple of weeks ago, so I found this recipe online and he got it going in the crock pot just hours later! It totally hit the spot and we had awesome left overs for days!! We have extra ham in the freezer and I think I'm going to have to whip this up again this weekend!

    Big Things are Happenin'!

    There is so much going on this fall, it's hard to put it into few words. Bryan is traveling all around the country full time going on residency interviews for urology, and I am trying to join him on as many that I can! With my job and class, my time is more limited, but I am able to make it on the important ones. I thought my life was busy already but add on traveling a couple times a week and it's hard to keep everything straight! This hectic time will continue to consume our lives up until Christmas, when we will submit his residency rank list! In January, we will know where he is placed! It's very exciting, and I will try to update on this topic when I can!

    One Last Note

    Oh, one last thing. This little guy keeps me company when Bryan is gone, and we miss him like crazy when we are away! He's such a funny little kitty! He's my study buddy, cuddle bear, comic relief and provides love and entertainment like no other!

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies have been all the rage on food blogs and Pinterest, and I decided that it was time for me to make them because I finally got my hands on some pumpkin! Can you believe that multiple grocery stores near us in downtown Chicago actually run out of canned pumpkin (filling and puree) regularly throughout the fall?! I should really just stock up in the summer before everyone decides that they have to put pumpkin in everything!

    Anyway, sorry about the rant, but I'm so glad pumpkin is back in my baking life and that I'm actually able to be up on my feet a little more so that I can bake! These cookies were definitely worth the wait on both accounts :)

    Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Adapted from All Recipes


    • 1 cup canned pumpkin
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 egg
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon milk
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


    1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
    2. Add vanilla and chocolate chips and mix well.
    3. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

    Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats

    I've been able to be on my foot just a little more now that it's been healing for three weeks, but it is still a little sore and I'm still stuck in the boot. I try not to be up on my feet too much at home, but I figured some quick baking like Rice Krispies Treats would be harmless. And these babies sure are worth me being on my feet for a short time! Everyone loves peanut butter and chocolate, and these treats give a nice change with white chocolate, which I happen to love! These rice krispie treats are sweeter and chewier than regular rice krispies, and I absolutely loved them. It's a quick and delicious fall treat that everyone will enjoy!

    Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats
    Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker


    4 tablespoons butter
    1 bag (10.5 ounces) miniature marshmallows
    ½ cup peanut butter 
    5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
    1 cup white chocolate chips
    ½ cup peanut butter chips


    1. Butter (or spray with non-stick cooking spray) an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan; set aside.
    2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter until melted.
    3. Add the Rice Krispies cereal, white chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Stir until well coated.
    4. Using a greased spatula or spoon or a piece of wax paper, evenly press the mixture into the pan. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or until set. Cut into squares and serve.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Injury Update

    Since I've been injured the past couple of weeks, I've really been taking it easy in all aspects of life. No working out, very little cooking since I'm not supposed to be on my feet (Bryan has been helping so much!), and consequently, no blogging about workouts or food!

    We had a fabulous weekend in Minnesota a couple of weekends ago! We got to hang out with friends most of the weekend and watched the marathon that I was supposed to run. It was really sad and I teared up a couple of times, but I knew that had I run, I would have permanently injured myself. I knew that I was making the smart decision to not run, but it was hard to watch. Now I'm trying to figure out if I'll ever have time to train for another marathon! At least I know that there will many more half marathons in my future :)

    My days consist of going to work every day, and then coming home and putting my feet up! My foot is still quite sore. I had to get an MRI today because the doctor said that since I still have a significant amount of pain, he needs to know where it is coming from so that he can figure out a proper treatment plan. He'll be able to tell how bad the stress fracture is and if there is any tendon involvement.

    I've been using my time to study a lot for the nutrition class that I'm currently taking. So, I guess it's not all bad that I am not able to do much right now!

    And luckily, Dimitri makes great blog material. He's so freaking cute! He's been my consistent study buddy, or lack there of... Let's just say he keeps life interesting in the Hinck Household :)

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Dr.'s Orders

    After 18 weeks of  training, I am no longer able to run the Twin Cities Marathon :( Over the last 6 weeks, roughly, I have developed a stress fracture in my left foot. Despite my proper tapering, it was still getting worse in the last few weeks, which prompted me to go see an orthopedic physician. The stress fracture is located in my navicular bone seen here:

    While I'm very disappointed because I was very excited to run the race. However, I am also very proud of myself. I fully completed my training for my first marathon ever, and I really enjoyed it! I know that my legs could carry me through the race no problem (if my foot wasn't injured) and I'm very proud of my thorough training. I was running very well and consistently and could have predicted a good finish time, give or take 5 minutes. It is not a good idea to run, especially a race, if you have a stress fracture. It can get much worse and even cause permanent damage if it is not caught early enough and allowed to heal completely. For my foot to heal, I have to wear a walking boot/cast for a few weeks and there's no running allowed. I was very surprised to find no pain while walking with the boot on! I guess I'd really been doing a good job of walking and running through the pain these past few weeks.

    I do hope to use this time in the next few weeks to start some strength training and weight lifting that I had planned on adding to my workouts after the marathon. I'll start by focusing on my upper body and core, and adding my legs into the workouts if my foot can handle the pressure.

    Until then, this is my lifestyle.

    I am still able to do day-to-day activities with the boot, but I need to focus on resting my foot as much as I can, and I try to take it easy in the evenings. It is hard for me to sit and relax when there are things to be done! Luckily, I have a wonderful husband who is very helpful and doesn't let me get up if I don't have to. He's even taking care of things in the house and making dinner for me, even though he is very busy studying for Step 2 of his medical school board exams!

    We are still planning on going to Minneapolis this weekend for some planned events and festivities, and we'll definitely be cheering on some friends and the other runners running the race!

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Girl & the Goat, take 2 - A random act of kindness

    Some of you may remember the first time that Bryan and I had the opportunity to eat at Girl & the Goat, one of the most popular restaurants in Chicago right now. That was definitely a night to remember! Our second date at Girl & the Goat is also a night to remember. I guess we have some major luck when it comes to this place :)

    After our first experience, I decided that I should put in reservations to go again in the future. So last March, I was able to make reservations for Monday, September 19th. That's how popular this place is!! When I ended up needing to take the GRE on Tuesday the 20th, I decided to keep the reservation, thinking that it would be a nice little relaxing date night and take the night off before the test. It's definitely a date with a story to tell!

    Girl & the Goat has small plates to share that are of three categories: vegetable, fish and meat. We started with their famous bread that is flavored with butter to taste like soup! It was beer bread with beer cheese butter and garlic butter. We ordered two vegetable dishes: the chickpea fritters with eggplant tomatillo caponata and mozzarella, and the infamous sauteed green beans with fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews. For fish, we ordered the seared tuna with lamb sausage, grilled blueberries and pepitas. For our meat dish, we decided to stay away from the multiple tongue options, and ordered grilled pork ribs with tomatillo mushroom slaw and grilled scallion vinaigrette. They were brought out gradually and enjoyed thoroughly! All of the dishes were so incredibly delicious! I can't wait to get back there and try more of the food! I just can't say enough how good it is!!!

    Alright, so you thought the food was the best part. Close. Towards the end of our dinner, our waiter informed us that the couple sitting next to us (actually, it was quite a close proximity because the restaurant was packed!) who had just left had paid for our meal! We were so flabbergasted, we didn't even know what to do! The waiter said he'd be back with dessert menus and left the table side. Bryan happened to see a glimpse of the gentleman out of the window and ran outside to thank him and exclaim our awe. The man, who I think would have liked to escape faster, just wished us both the best of luck. We were thinking back over the course of our meal - we did have a few conversations with the couple. We introduced ourselves and explained what we do. We eyed each others dishes when they came out, and when asked, we gave them a suggestion of a location for them to enjoy a drink later. But nothing out of the ordinary!!!

    The waiter came back with dessert menus and stated that not only did the gentleman pay for our meal, but he left a sizable cushion and that we needed to order a couple desserts and have a couple more drinks each. We were just stunned! Not only that, but we were so full we didn't even think we could even share one dessert! We just couldn't handle it, and felt bad, so we told the waiter that we'd share one dessert and a desert wine. He came back with two desserts and two different drinks, "because they're good, and we should just enjoy it!" The menu changes so frequently, I can't even look up what we had. One was a chocolatey delight with brown sugar cake and the other was a warm blueberry delicious explosion of goodness. We probably sat there an hour longer than we should have just enjoying ourselves and the fun evening.

    Bryan found out that the gentleman's name was Joel and we have him to thank for our wonderful date night. I don't think there is any better way to thank him than to pay it forward in the future... when we can hopefully afford it!

    Grilled Shrimp

    When Bryan's parents were visiting us a few weeks ago, we cooked a dinner for them of grilled shrimp and steak! It was so delicious that we ate those shrimpies up before I could snap a photo. We just decided that we'd have to make them again very soon! Luckily, shrimp went on sale at a nearby grocery store, so Bryan picked some up over the weekend. We marinated the shrimp in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cajun seasoning (more than you think you need!) for about 10-15 minutes while we got a salad ready for a quick and light dinner. We skewered the shrimp and grilled them for 2 minutes on each side, and they were cooked perfectly! They were so delicious!

    This recipe is so easy, fast, healthy and satisfying! If you have the shrimp on hand, it's a quick meal that can be enjoyed at anytime, whether fancy or casual. You could also un-skewer the shrimp after grilling them and serve them as appetizers!

    Beef Stroganoff

    Last week I had the biggest craving for beef stroganoff. I swear, nothing was going to satisfy my craving, so I decided this was a good time to learn how to make it!! It actually isn't very hard, but it does require a few steps, and about an hour of simmer time. I'm sure it could be done in a crock pot, but I didn't have time the day I made it.

    This dish was so good! We've been eating the leftovers for a few days and I just can't get enough of it! There is something about beef, mushrooms and a wine reduction sauce that screams comfort food! This dish is a wonderful fall dish that will please just about anyone!

    I actually used sour cream and added cream cheese for the sauce, which was so decadent!

    Beef Stroganoff
    Adapted from All Recipes

    Prep time: 30 minutes
    Cook time: 1 hour


    2 pounds beef chuck roast
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    4 ounces butter
    1 medium sized yellow onion
    4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed beef broth
    1 teaspoon prepared mustard
    8 oz sliced mushrooms
    1/3 cup sour cream
    1/3 cup cream cheese
    1/3 cup white wine
    salt and ground black pepper to taste


    Remove any fat and gristle from the roast and cut into strips 1/2 inch thick by 2 inches long. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. 

    In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and brown the beef strips. Remove the beef strips and set on a plate. Add the onions to the beef drippings and cook slowly for 3 to 5 minutes, then add the beef strips back to the pan.

    Stir the flour into the broth prior to adding to the pan. Pour in beef broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and stir in mustard. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until the meat is tender. 

    Five minutes before serving, stir in the mushrooms, sour cream, cream cheese and white wine. Heat briefly then salt and pepper to taste.   

    Eggs Benedict

    Who doesn't love eggs benedict? My husband almost always orders them at restaurants if we got out for brunch, which is nice for me because I always get a bite! We've been wanting to make them at home for quite a while, but have been scared of the egg poaching part. I'd been meaning to buy those little silicone cups that you can poach eggs in, but I kept forgetting. The other day we saw them at World Market and decided to give them a try. They worked pretty well, actually. Our one complaint was that their instructions said not to spray them with non-stick spray or butter them and that the egg will slide right out. Well, it didn't, so we had to use some careful scooping skills so as not to crack the yolk! On round two, we buttered them with a small amount of melted butter, and it worked much better. Regardless, the eggs benedict dish turned out very well! I used whole wheat sandwich thins because I don't really like english muffins (I know, weird, right?), topped with sauteed spinach and garlic, topped with turkey bacon, topped with the poached egg, topped with homemade hollandaise sauce! It was so incredibly delicious and perfect for a cozy fall day!

    Homemade Hollandaise Sauce
    Adapted from All Recipes


    3 egg yolks
    1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 dash hot sauce
    1/2 cup butter


    In a blender, combine the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and hot sauce. Cover, and blend for about 5 seconds. 

    Place the butter in a glass measuring cup. Heat butter in the microwave for about 1 minute, or until completely melted and hot. Set the blender on high speed, and pour the butter into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream. It should thicken almost immediately. Keep the sauce warm until serving by placing the blender container in a pan of hot tap water.  

    Crock Pot Chicken Chili

    Once fall came into full swing and we got super busy, the crock pot came right out. And let me tell you, I was so excited! I love making crock pot creations, and this one was new to me. Can you believe that I'd never had chicken chili? I guess I've always been more of a red meat chili kind of girl. This dish turned out great and we had leftovers for a week! There are a few different ways of serving it, and when you're eating it often, it's nice to change it up a bit. Each time, I topped it with salsa, sour cream and shredded cheese and served it over rice, in a tortilla or just plain! Simple, cheap, and delicious!

    Crock Pot Chicken Chili
    Adapted from Skinny Taste

    1 onion, chopped
    1 16-oz can black beans
    1 16-oz can kidney beans
    1 8-oz can tomato sauce
    10 oz package frozen corn kernels
    2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
    1 packet taco seasoning
    1 tbsp cumin
    1 tbsp chili powder
    24 oz (3-4) boneless skinless chicken breasts
    chili peppers, chopped (optional)
    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)


    Combine beans, onion, chili peppers, corn, tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder and taco seasoning in a slow cooker. Place chicken on top and cover. Cook on low for 9-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Top with fresh cilantro if you wish. Also try it with low fat cheese and sour cream. 

    Wendella Boat Tour

    I took a little hiatus from blogging as my life got pretty hectic for a while! Marathon training really ramped up with 20 mile runs on the weekends and 8 or 10 mile runs during the week. Finally, I'm in taper mode, so my long runs are not as long. The marathon is a week from this Sunday and I'm getting excited! I'm taking an online nutrition class that is proving to be much more time consuming than I originally thought it would be. However, I am enjoying it a lot!! Another hiccup in the mix was that I had to study for and take the GRE. I started studying lightly in August, but intensified my studies in September. I'm very glad to have that over with!!!

    Have no fear, I'll catch you up on everything! First up, we went on a Wendella Boat Tour with Bryan's parents when they were in town a couple weeks ago! We've lived in Chicago for 3 years now, but we had never taken the opportunity to go on one of these boat tours! I'm so glad we did! It was very informative, and we got to see some great views!! Our tour guide was well experienced, quite witty and pretty interesting. We chose to do the combined river and lake tour to get some great views of the Chicago skyline too!

    Trump Tower

    Marina City (aka Corn Cobs)

    Willis (Sears) Tower

    Navy Pier

    Hancock Building/River North

    Chicago Skyline

    The boat tour was very fun and I highly recommend it!!!

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

    I had a craving for quinoa last week and decided I’d try out a recipe that I saw recently for quinoa stuffed bell peppers! This recipe is easy to throw together, and I was able to get a lot of things done during the simmer phase and the bake phase. Yay for productive evenings! The best part is that I had lots of leftovers! I kept the recipe for the quinoa the same, but only used 2 bell peppers for Bryan and myself, with the intent of keeping leftover quinoa as filling for another night! You could also reserve some of the quinoa as filling in an enchilada or burrito!

    This recipe turned out great! We added salsa on top of our peppers because it just seemed like it needed a bit of a twist and kick. Perfection!

    Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
    Adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

    Makes: 8 servings

    • 2 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
    • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
    • 1 8-oz. package mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced very thin
    • 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
    • 3/4 cup quinoa
    • 1 (14.5 ounce) can low-sodium vegetable broth
    • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
    • 1 1/2 cups grated Pepper Jack cheese (we used cheddar because it was on hand)
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed

    Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
    Stir in quinoa and vegetable broth. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and stir in black beans, corn and 1 cup cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour reserved liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.
    Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 40 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 tablespoon of remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Grilled Brats, Potatoes with Veggies and Black Bean Salad

    I'm so happy to have my grill master back!!! I think we'll be grilling all week since neither of us grilled in the past two months. We have to make up for lost time! Sunday night, we though about doing a little surf and turf with grilled shrimp and steak, but it just seemed more like low key kind of night, so we decided to keep it simple with grilled brats and veggies!

    We got a very cool gift from my in-laws called a grill wok. It's a very handy piece of equipment for the grill! It has a removable handle so that you can close the grill on the pan and let your food get the full smoky flavor. You can grill all sorts of things with it! We've stuck to potatoes and veggies so far, but I'm sure we could do shrimp and other small items that you might worry would fall into the grill. We've had great luck with our veggie combinations - they always seems to turn out well! Last night, we did potatoes with red peppers and onions seasoned with a little olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper.

    Alongside the brats and grilled veggies, I decided to serve a bean salad because I wanted something light and flavorful, but full of protein and fiber to help refuel after my long training runs this weekend. This bean salad was out of this world delicious and I'm pretty sure it will be gone by tonight and I'll have to make a double batch to get through the week! I adapted the recipe for what I had on hand, and it was perfect in my opinion!

    Black Bean Salad
    Adapted from Food Network

    Prep time: 10 minutes, plus cooling time

    1 can black beans, drained
    1 can cannelli beans, drained
    1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
    2 Roma tomatoes, diced
    1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
    1/4 cup diced red onion
    1/4 cup diced green onion
    4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    1 tablespoon lime juice
    3 tablespoons honey
    Season with salt, pepper and cumin to taste

    Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and cool until ready to serve (refrigerate for one hour or pop in the freezer for 15 minutes like I did :) ).

    Homemade Toaster Strudel and Mini Egg Pies

    I had a special breakfast planned for Bryan's first Saturday back at home. We love to make a big breakfast and have lazy Saturday mornings every now and then, and this was sure to be one of them!

    We made some egg pies with our mini pie maker (one of the best gifts ever!) out of eggs, baby bella mushrooms, spinach, onion, a little cream and cheese. All we have to do is mix the ingredients, fill the pie doughs and pop them in the pie maker for about 8 minutes! They are so delicious!

    To go with the savory egg pies, I decided I wanted something sweet. I recently saw a blog post with homemade toaster strudels and they sounded like a perfect side to the egg pies. I never grew up with toaster strudels in the house, but I remember enjoying them at friends houses the morning after sleepovers or for afternoon snacks. I remember they were so delicious and there was never enough toaster strudel to satisfy my appetite for them. That's where these homemade toaster strudels come in. They are bigger and better than the Pillsbury boxed version! All you do is take a pastry sheet, cut it into 4 strips, top it with some jam that was thickened with corn starch, fold over and crimp the edges together and pop in the oven for about 10 minutes, and voila, the best breakfast dessert one could ask for! The only downside is that we used homemade frosting that didn't get very thick, so you can't really see it in the photo. It ended up being more like a glaze, but went perfectly with the strudel.

    Homemade Toaster Strudel
    adapted from 1 Cup Awesome

    Prep time: 30 minutes
    Serves: 4 pastries

    1/2 cup blueberry or strawberry jam (we used blueberry!)
    1/2 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1/2 tablespoon cold water
    1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 to 1 tablespoon lemon juice

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

    In a small saucepan, bring the jam and cornstarch mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook stirring for 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

    Lay 1 sheet of pastry on a board and cut it into 4 equal strips.

    Put a heaping teaspoon of cooled jam in the middle of the upper part of the dough and fold over the bottom part. Seal the edges with a bit of water and crimp with a fork.

    Arrange the pastries on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pastries from oven and allow them to cool completely.

    In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar and whisk in, 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice at a time, to make a thick icing consistency. Drizzle the icing over the pastries. Allow the icing to set for about 15 minutes before eating.

    To see a step by step guide, click here.