Thursday, March 29, 2012

Healthy Pasta Bowl

Hey there! If you saw my WIAW post yesterday you already know what's in store for you here. A super easy, filling and healthy pasta bowl! I was inspired by Julie's lunch the other day, and am so glad that I whipped this up. I've had it for dinner twice and lunch twice and I'm still not sick of it. This might be a new go-to for me when I don't want to do a bunch work and when I want leftovers for the week.

I love this so much because it's packed with whole grains, protein, veggies and, of course, a little bit of cheese (only a bit, I promise!). It keeps you full for a long time, without making you feel stuffed or uncomfortable like most pasta dishes can. So, whip this up and enjoy a super filling meal!

On a side note, you're welcome to use any kind of chicken sausage, but I absolutely fell in love with the smoked apple chardonnay chicken sausage from Trader Joe's. I immediately went out and bought some more the day after I made this. I highly recommend it!

Healthy Pasta Bowl
Recipe inspired by Julie's lunch
Serves 4-6

*Four smoked apple chardonnay chicken sausages (or any other chicken sausage!)
*1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets and roasted (see below for quick directions)
*1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
*8 oz whole wheat rotini pasta
*a couple handfuls baby spinach
*1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
*olive oil
*salt and pepper to taste

*To roast vegetables: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread out on sheet pans or roasting pans. Drizzle with olive oil and season as you'd like (I used salt and pepper, plus garlic powder). Cook for 15-25 minutes.

*Prepare pasta according to package directions. When you go to drain pasta, place spinach in the colander first. Pour the water over it, and allow the pasta water to wilt your spinach!

*Slice chicken sausage into bite size medallions. Cook on a skillet with olive oil, until slightly browned on each side.

*In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables, pasta, spinach and chicken sausage. Place individual servings in smaller bowls. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp parmesan cheese. Serve hot!

Forgive the fuzzy pictures...I was on the phone with my sister while snapping away from my phone!

Ta-da! Still just as tasty looking as yesterday.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WIAW: Back to Basics

After what feels like weeks of being off my routine - everything from food, exercise, sleep, work - Monday made me feel like I got back into the swing of things. After traveling and then getting sick twice in a month (life of a teacher!), my eating and exercising habits had started to get especially out of whack. I was craving lots of sweets again, not making it to the gym as often and feeling pretty bleh.

However, I'm back in my regular routine of Greek yogurt for breakfast, protein + veggies + fruit for lunch, and a nice well-rounded dinner. The only thing that wasn't on par were my snacks - too many treats in the office! Oh well. I did get back to my cardio-heavy Mondays, even though I didn't particularly feel like going at the time. I knew that by the time I finished I would be oh-so-glad I pushed myself. And I was.

Thanks for hosting, Jenn!

Breakfast: This was easy, as I stocked up on Chobani Greek yogurt the last time I was at the store. True story: the only reason I go to Marsh is for diet soda and Chobani Greek yogurt. It's worth it.

Snack: I stopped in the office to make copies and this little apple pastry was screaming my name. Unfortunately, it didn't taste as good as I'd hoped. Wah wah.

Lunch: I had a leftover chopped salad from dinner Saturday, and it was filled with chicken, bacon crumbles, red onion, hard-boiled egg and some spinach that I added in honor of National Spinach Day! I followed it up with my new obsession, a Cara Cara orange.

Snack: I stopped in the office, again, for open office hours and snacked on some cheese and pita chips, plus a handful of popcorn, while chatting with other teachers and the dean. You know I can't resist that combo!

Dinner: After Julie posted this lunch, I was craving a pasta bowl of sorts, especially since I had all the necessary ingredients on hand in my fridge. (Side note: Julie realized we have the same Fiest bowl, too! Thanks to my good friend Jessi for the lovely set!)

I knew this would fill me up after my workout, and keep me satisfied enough to resist snacking all evening. I'll post the actual recipe soon, but it included whole wheat pasta, garlic-roasted broccoli and cauliflower, wilted spinach, chardonnay apple chicken sausage, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Honestly, it was fantastic, and I didn't snack the rest of the evening.

Welp, time to finish up the last few report cards! Spring break starts at 3 p.m. Friday and I'm looking forward to my week of dental appointments with the hubby, haircut and (new!) color, spring cleaning, time outdoors and sleeping in {sigh}. Enjoy your Wednesday, friends!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Creamy Mac 'n Cheese

Where do I even begin? Um, this is amazing. So amazing I seriously considered calling this post "Aaaaaamazing Mac 'n Cheese." I really did. Obviously I didn't end up with that title, but it would so be fitting.

John has always enjoyed the homemade mac n cheeses I've made (Easy Beer Mac 'n Cheese, Baked Mac 'n Four Cheeses, Gnocchi Mac 'n Cheese), but he's still liked his Velveeta shells better. Well, I saw this recipe from Jessica, and I decided to try again to win him over. I changed a few things she did, mainly the ending. Instead of baking this, I left it all creamy and served it immediately. The result? A HUGE hit!! John went on and on about this, and I finally beat Velveeta. Woo!

I also found this to be fantastic. It was so, so tasty and a perfect weeknight meal. We each enjoyed a small bowl with a side of roasted green beans. And when John asked for this again two days later (after polishing original leftovers off for lunch the day before) I happily obliged, this time pairing it with individual mini meat loaves (recipe to come).

The ingredient list looks long, but only because there are four cheeses - and that is one of the reasons this is so darn delicious! I promise it's not as intimidating as it may appear. Same goes for the preparation instructions. Instead of paragraphs with several directions to go back to, I broke it down step-by-step.

I promise you will adore this! Make it, I beg you!

Creamy Mac 'n Cheese
Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is
Serves 4-6  

*1/2-2/3 box whole wheat elbow noodles (you can use the whole box but it won't be as creamy)
*1 shallot, sliced finely (you can skip this and it turns out great, I did it both ways)
*2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
*1/2 teaspoon olive oil
*5 tablespoons unsalted butter
*1/4 cup flour
*2 cups milk (I used skim)
*1/3 cup mascarpone cheese (basically Italian cream cheese)
*8 ounces freshly grated gruyere cheese (about one cup)
*8 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese (about one cup)
*8 ounces freshly grated fontina cheese (about one cup)
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1/2 teaspoon pepper
*1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

*Grate cheeses, placing them together in a large bowl. Boil water and prepare pasta according to directions.

*Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in olive oil and butter, then throw in shallots with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat and cook for 2-3 minutes, until soft.

*Add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

*Add flour to the skillet then whisk constantly to create a roux (a thick paste, if you will). Let cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.

*Pour in milk, stirring continuously for another 1-2 minutes.

*Add in mascarpone and the grated cheeses. Stir continuously until mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes.

*Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then tasted and season more if desired. Add pasta to the skillet and toss thoroughly to coat. Serve immediately.

Note: upon reheating the pasta may appear slightly oily. This is a result of the marscapone cheese. 

All the stages of cooking the mac n cheese
butter and oil | shallots and garlic | flour | milk | cheeses | pasta

All done! Look how creamy it looks...oh my. You won't go back to Velveeta!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Odds Were in Our Favor

Any Hunger Games fans out there catch my little reference above?? Aka the famous line "May the odds be ever in your favor." Well, not only did my weekend include going to see The Hunger Games (twice!), it was full of other happy events.

Immediately after school Friday John and I headed downtown to catch The Hunger Games. I was panicking that we wouldn't make it on time or shows would be sold out (some were), but fortunately we were able to catch a show. I loved it!! I loathed the teeny-boppers who were talking, shouting, booing, cheering, etc. during theentiremovie. I left happy I had seen it, but irked by the distractions...more to come on that later.

We raced home to catch the IU game, but unfortunately the odds were not in our favor. My beloved Hoosiers fell to UK, but I was proud of their season. Who knew we'd make it this far this year?

We were up bright and early the next morning to go see JB's state championship basketball game. Aaaaaand...they won!! By 22!! They pulled a big lead pretty early on and held onto it, playing fantastic basketball and winning back-to-back state titles. So proud of JB and his teammates!

We didn't have too much time to celebrate before we were back watching John's two cousins play in their state championship game...And they won! The odds were in favor of the Rapps this weekend. :) A celebratory dinner filled with fried pickles, onion rings and a chopped salad followed our day of basketball.

Family photos from the big win!
Sunday morning John did something extra special for me...he went to see The Hunger Games again! We went to the 9:30 IMAX showing, hoping the teens were still in bed. Turns out? They were! I enjoyed the peace of watching this fantastic movie (did I mention that I loved it?!) and enjoying the huge screen. This movie was totally meant for IMAX.

We rushed home to do some cleaning and catch the opening race of IndyCar season, aka John's second-favorite thing in the world (I'm assuming I still get number one... ;) ). My stepmom stopped through on her way to visit her parents in Ohio, and we enjoyed a quick visit. She also brought a beautiful silver platter that was passed onto me when my grandmother passed away. It's our first piece of silver, and I just adore how exquisite it looks.

We capped off our weekend by celebrating JB's birthday at Benihana's. John and I were the only two to go the seafood route, but we really enjoyed our scallops and seared tuna. Yum!

It was a family-filled weekend - and busy! - but full of great moments and memories. I hope your weekends were enjoyable as well! What were you up to?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

White Chocolate Cake Batter Blondies

I saw an adapted version of these on Courtney's blog, and she raved about them so much I knew I had to try them. I love cake batter, so what could be better than cake batter blondies (aka white brownies)?

These were super tasty, but I wasn't crazy about the texture. I'm definitely a "texture" person. I love the flavors of kiwis, blueberries and raisins, but I can't eat them unless they're mixed into something. Something about the texture gives me the shivers. I don't get it. I'm completely weird. It makes no sense. I accept this.

These got good reviews from John's family - I brought them to a family dinner we had last week - and John ate the leftover pieces we brought home. So, bake away! These are a piece of cake - pun intended. ;)

White Chocolate Cake Batter Blondies
Recipe adapted from girl meets life
Yields 1 8x8 pan
*1 box cake mix (I used butter golden)
*1/2 cup sugar free white chocolate pudding (takes 5 minutes to make, see box instructions) 
*1 egg, beaten
*1 tbsp vegetable oil
*1/3 cup skim milk

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pudding.

*In a small bowl whisk together egg substitute, oil, and pudding. Add cake mix to the wet mixture and combine (batter will be very thick). Slowly add the milk and stir until just combined. Optional: add some sprinkles to the mix!

*Place batter in an 8×8 pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 22-25 minutes or just until the edges turn golden.

*Allow to cool completely (at least 30 minutes) before cutting – the center will otherwise be pretty gooey!

Pudding + egg + oil...Showing you thick batter...batter ready for pouring!
wet...then out of the oven...showing you the edge
Finished blondies!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Favorite Fit Blogs

This "Fit Friday" I decided to share some of my favorite fit/healthy living blogs with you. I've have some great workouts to share with you in the coming weeks, but I wanted to mix it up a bit this week. That, and, I'm too excited from seeing The Hunger Games and waiting for the IU game to start to create too much detail. Eek!

To start, I decided to share three of my current favorites. I've included the blog names, links and a description of the blog and/or why I love it. I have other great ones that I'll share in coming posts. So start following some of these (and don't forget about my little one...!). Happy Fit Friday! :)

Peanut Butter Fingers - I love Julie's blog. It chronicles her healthy life, but she will enjoy nights with indulgences every once and awhile. She is very real, which is important to me in following blogs. Plus, she shares great workouts and recipes!

Sweet Tooth Sweet Life - I also love Courtney's blog! It's similar to Julie's but I relate a bit more to Courtney because she shares her struggles with being healthy all the time - I feel you! She shares workouts (she's former teacher turned personal trainer!) and some yummy recipes, too.

In Sweetness and In Health - Lindsay's blog is great! It shares awesome workouts (hello, FLOW!), and tidbits of her life. I love reading her posts because she's upbeat and seems to genuinely nice. I have a feeling she'll be an awesome OT. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Family Fun

What a week! I missed some of my favorite posts, too. No "My Life Mondays" because my life was a fever Monday and Tuesday. Bleh. No "What I Ate Wednesdays" because all I ate were saltines and a little pasta those days. Boring. (And honestly, who cares to see that?) However, we did have a family-filled weekend and lots of fun so I thought I'd catch you up on it.

Friday night we went to dinner with John's parents, siblings and siblings' significant others. We ate at BRAVO!, a great little Italian restaurant.

We started with the calamari, and it made its way around the table and was picked clean. John and I split the lobster bisque - oh my goodness, hello rich, creamy deliciousness - and then I ordered the salmon for my entree. Everything was super tasty, and we both had leftovers to box up. I love when that happens!

After dinner I met up with my good friend Ally for a cocktail and some girl talk at The Northside Social. I don't normally drink cocktails, so I left it up to the bartender to decide for me. She didn't disappoint! My pear-infused drink tasted like candy. John was sweet enough to drive Ally and I, so we enjoyed our time together catching up and dreaming of our couples' vacation this summer!

Saturday was the big semi-state basketball game for JB! We were on pins and needles the whole game it was so close! I did my fair share of yelling at the refs - it was totally justified, and I blame my husband for rubbing off on me. But in the end...we won! Check out that score!

We celebrated with some pizza and salad at John's parents house with his aunts and uncle and cousin, and then we all watched IU win and make it to the Sweet Sixteen!! We were all jumping and screaming and it was an end to a great, but basketball-filled day.

Sunday was beautiful! After a workout and grocery store run, I came home to go for a nice long walk with the hubby and pup. I couldn't help but notice all the signs of spring around us! What a gorgeous day it was to walk.

This girl didn't mind at all. ;)

She did, however, get all sorts of antsy when she saw a dog across the lawn and we wouldn't let her go play. I know, we are so cruel.

Oh! And remember those TOMS I exchanged because someone (ahem, John, ahem) didn't like them? Well here are the new ones...Love them! So comfortable and even John didn't have a problem with them. I win. :)

At the end of our walk we did our best to get a family picture, but Hoosh wasn't cooperating. For some reason she didn't understand that she was supposed to look at the camera, and not at us. Eh, oh well. Family fun at its best.

Creamy Chicken & Spinach Tortellini Casserole

Last week I couldn't decide what to make for dinner. I had some spinach tortellini chilling in my fridge at the end of its shelf life (impulse buy!) and some chicken needing to be cooked. I decided I could make some sort of casserole, but then I couldn't decide what should be the base of this casserole...creamy chicken or tomato cream sauce. So, I made both in individual ramekins!

John and I went crazy of them. So much so that just two days later John asked me to make the creamy chicken version as a big casserole. Since I didn't get too many pictures during the first one, this was the perfect time to document this deliciously easy meal.

Oh, and did I mention that this is another recipe with only 5 ingredients (plus an optional sixth)?! It is so, sooo good and oh-so-easy. Casseroles are great that way. Let me know what you think!

Creamy Chicken & Spinach Tortellini Casserole
Recipe by Call Me Mrs. Rapp
Serves 3-4

*one package spinach tortellini
*3/4 cup cheese (I suggest a cheddar combo)
*1 can cream of chicken soup
*2 chicken breasts, cooked (I poached mine) and cut into bite-size pieces
*2 handfuls spinach (about 3 oz)
*1/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs (optional)

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Cook chicken if necessary.

*In a casserole dish, combine cooked tortellini, chicken, cream of chicken soup, 1/2 cup cheese and spinach. Top with remaining cheese and bread crumbs, if desired.

*Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly on top.
All the stages of the casserole
Yumminess in a bowl!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

5-Ingredient Chicken Sausage Skillet

Hi friends! I have been totally absent for the past few days, but with good reason - I was sick! Plus a busy weekend, which I will catch you up on this week with make-up posts.

Anyhoo, this is an awesomely tasty and equally awesomely easy dish to make. I mean, when something has five ingredients, how can it really be that hard? It can't! So this is what you want to make when you have no time, and want a filling, yet light meal.

I love this meal because it is all veggies and protein. That combination fills me up and always makes my body feel good. It also makes me feel good because it requires no work. Did I mention that? Oh I did? Well, then what are you waiting for? Go make this!

5-Ingredient Chicken Sausage Skillet
Recipe by Call Me Mrs. Rapp
Serves 3, depending on portions

*4 sweet Italian style chicken sausages, sliced into bite-seize pieces
*3 bell peppers (I used red, yellow, orange, chopped into chunks)
*1/2 onion, chopped into chunks
*1/2 tsp garlic powder
*salt and pepper to taste

*Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Throw all the veggies into the pan and stir occasionally, allowing them to cook up. Sprinkle garlic powder and salt and pepper on top.

*In a separate skillet (smaller), heat a small amount of olive oil. Place chicken sausages in and cook for a few minutes, until lightly browned and both sides.

*Combine in a bowl or plate and serve immediately!

For some extra color and flavor, heat up some frozen peas in the microwave and toss them into the skillet combo!

Chopped and cooking the chicken sausage I used - so tasty!
Skillet both without and with peas (the peas were added for lunch the next day)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Ultimate Wedding Week: Our Ceremony

Hi friends! I have been reading Katie's blog posts about this new phenomenon (reminds me of What I Ate Wednesday, except for that it's about weddings!), and I finally decided that I wanted to "jump in." You ready? Or even interested? Welp, here goes... (hosted by Natasha).

For the record, our fabulous, amazing pictures were taken by the lovely (and extremely talented!) Shelly Valentine. Check her out for your wedding. I personally guarantee you won't be disappointed! She is beyond wonderful.

Our beautiful church...Second Presbyterian Church

Pictures from the ceremony...
Walking to the doors | the crowd with us | Look how happy John looks! | With my Dad :)

We're husband and wife!
About my favorite picture from the wedding!

In our getaway car :)
Our wonderful wedding party!
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