Fancy a Chocolate or 50?

Ok, enough already. I, once again, walked into the staff lounge to find more food….

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Somehow, gourmet chocolates seem to lose their appeal when they are laying in front of me in mass quantities. But, I had to test one out, just for research purposes of course…

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Hmm, dark chocolate covered orange cream…I’m still on the fence about this one. I may have to try the raspberry cream later ūüėČ

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For breakfast, I grabbed a quick shot of Zola’s Daily Wellness drink then had a little cereal bowl…

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I had a mixture of Cheerios whole-grain and Cascadian Farm organic dark chocolate almond granola. It was very tasty. However, I became distracted by my pile of laundry, so by the time I ate the cereal, it was a little soggy.

For lunch, I went to Go Roma Italian cafe for some super tomato basil soup!

9.23 lunch

It was just what I needed on this chilly FALL day! Now that I am refueled for the afternoon, I have to do a s-load of writing. Ugh – deadlines are approaching and I’m feeling a little queasy just thinking about them.

Tonight, I’m headed to my first-ever Williams Sonoma cooking class. It’s on weeknight French suppers -doesn’t that sound yummy! I’ll write a tell-all post tonight, so stay tuned!

Peachy Keen and Nectarines

Hello All!

I mentioned in Flavors of the Fall that I am a Big Ten Football fan. Monique asked who I cheer for…well, I grew up near Ann Arbor so Michigan is near and dear to my heart. But, my husband and his brother (and all their friends) went to Illinois and are pure Illini fans. It’s really hard to choose so I like both – which most Big Ten fans will deny to the grave – but I am actually quite proud of this choice!

Now, onto my day…

I had a super productive day – how about you? I basically wrote ALL day long but I really cranked out some good pieces. And, I’m sure you’re all wanting to know about the pastries in the staff lounge – I did not have ANY of those pastries from this morning. I only ventured into the lounge twice – once for my lunch and another time to get more water. So, crisis and pastries averted!

For lunch, I had some leftover minestrone soup…

9.22 lunch

Ahh, a great light lunch for the first day of Autumn! But, it also may have been a little too light. Around 4 PM, it started to wear off and I was so wanting a snack. I didn’t bring one and was trying to avoid the lounge and pastries at all costs. Luckily, my boss brought in some cool organic treats from Trader Joe’s (sorry, no photo). I had a couple chocolate-covered raspberry sticks and was set until dinner.

Speaking of dinner, hubby was teaching again so I made a simple dinner tonight…

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It consisted of a 1/2 salami and white cheddar cheese sandwich on 12-grain Brownberry bread, with some Cape Cod crispies on the side. I also threw is a really ripe and juicy nectarine…

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I used to be a peach kind of a girl, but now I fancy the sister fruit – the nectarine! I really can’t tell the difference in taste too much. But, we buy nectarines now because my husband has an aversion to the peach fuzzies!

A couple hours later, I wanted a little something sweet, so I whipped up a little somethin’ somethin’….

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I had a 1/2 cup of Breyer’s all natural vanilla bean ice cream, topped with chocolate chips and a dab of MaraNatha all-natural creamy PB! Hmm – Hmmm good! Scott and I used to make Cold Stone runs way too often. Then I realized that all I really wanted was vanilla ice cream with some chocolate chips. We save so much money now by just eating ice cream (and other treats) at home. But, you do have to have self control with goodies in the house and my husband needs a little help with that – he he!

Before I sign off for the night, I have to ask РAre you a peach kind of a girl or do you prefer nectarines? 

Have a peachy keen night everyone!

Enter At Your Own Health Risk

Morning All! So I came into work this morning and stopped by the staff lounge to put my lunch in the fridge, and I was faced with the following scene…

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Box after box…

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After box…

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And more boxes…9.22 treats4

of PASTRIES!! Don’t supposed there’s any MUFA in those?

Note to self: Do not go into the staff lounge unless 1) it’s absolutely necessary to get my lunch or 2) I suddenly become hypoglycemic. Seriously, there should be a sign on the door that says Enter At Your Own Health Risk.

Apparently, a vendor that we use for printing brought all of these lovelies in as a thank you for providing him with business. It was a very sweet gesture (literally) but hasn’t anyone ever heard of healthy food? I think I’m going into sugar shock just looking at these pictures.

I want to add that this is just the start of “food season” at our office. From now until the end of the year, there is literally nonstop food at our office. Thank goodness I have self control, unlike some of the other girls here. Does anyone else have a “food season” at their work? How do you handle it?¬†

Thankfully, none of today’s tantalizing pastries tempted me – at least for now –¬†because I ate breakfast before coming to work.

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I received another Kashi sample – this time it was their Honey Sunshine cereal – little pillows of whole grain goodness.

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I had very high hopes for this cereal because it looked like Captain Crunch (one of my faves as a kid), smelled like Captain Crunch, and even got soggy like Captain Crunch. Well, this was no Captain Crunch! ¬†But, with 6 g of fiber and only 100 calories per 3/4 cup, it’s a pretty tasty, and much healthier alternative to Captain Crunch. Maybe it could be marketed as the new Captain Crunch for adults??

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Now, I must really get some work done before I blog the day away! You all know how that goes!

Damn it – someone just walked by with a chocolate eclair – Look away, Jennifer, look away!!

Stir It Up…

Howdy there everyone and Happy Last Day of Summer!

I just rocked at work today! Because it’s crunch time, I have put myself on a strict schedule at work so that I can get all of my projects done on time, or even ahead of time.

But, of course, even with my long to-do list, there’s always time for a little lunch…

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Today, lunch was left over vegetable risotto from Friday night. It was still just as yummy as the day I made it!

Later in the afternoon, I snacked on a new Cascadian Farm high fiber organic granola bar -this time it was blueberry and pomegranate.

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The bar was not as chewy as I thought it would be but it was still very good. I really like the blueberry/pom combination.

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I arrived home relatively early compared to the last few weeks. It was nice not to fight traffic and to be able to enjoy some of the nice weather before heading in for dinner. 

Speaking of dinner, Scott had dinner almost ready when I came home. Tonight, it was chicken-vegetable stir-fry…

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I have to admit, I have been avoiding this dish for the last two weeks. Stir-fry just hasn’t been sounding good to me. But tonight, it tasted fantastic and I think I had at least 2 servings of veggies on one plate alone!

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We paired the chicken and mixed veggies with a side of brown rice. I nearly always choose brown rice over white rice because brown rice has more nutrients.

After clean up, I talked to my parents for a few minutes on the phone. They live out of state so I try to talk to them at least once a week. But I realized tonight that I haven’t talked to them in 8-9 days, so I was not surprised to hear the phone ring at 8 PM and have it be my mom on the other end.¬†

With our stomachs settled, Scott and I broke out the Breyer’s ice cream for a little dessert. I’ve been into mixing things lately – cereal, noodles, and now ice cream. I had one small scoop of vanilla bean and one small scoop of caramel praline crunch, topped with about 1 tbsp of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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I originally bought the chips to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but the chips are going fast! They might not last long enough for me to put them in the cookie!

Well ladies, I’m off to bed. See you all in the AM for the Autumnal Equinox!

Misty Morning Run

Morning Friends! I went to bed last night thinking that I may have to run indoors this morning. Most of the weather reports called for rain in the early morning. But, I was very happy to wake up to find that it was only a light mist.

I woke up very early this morning – around 4 AM and just couldn’t fall back to sleep. Maybe it’s the Autumnal Equinox causing an imbalance in my life and sleep patterns – he he! I stayed in bed trying to go back to sleep but that did not work of course. So, around 5:45, I got out of bed and on the computer. It was still dark outside, otherwise I would have hit the road right away. It did not get light enough for me to run until around 6:15.

After my misty 4-miler, I enjoyed a familiar breakfast…

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Trader Joe’s nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt! After nearly a week of ¬†not having any yogurt, this was definitely a welcome change from cereal. A girl can only go so many days without her Greek yogurt (a week max) before she starts to go through yogurt withdrawal.

I topped my yogurt with about 1/4 cup of Cascadian Farm¬†organic dark chocolate almond granola. If you haven’t had this granola, it really is worth a try. It has a great flavor and has chocolate in it!

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I also added a giant strawberry to my granola bowl for added vitamin C and other healthy antioxidants. I have been eating a ton of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries this summer – all of which are great for the immune system and your skin!

I topped off my breakfast with a shot of daily wellness from Zola. This was day 21 in my RWC Daily Wellness shot challenge. I must say, it has become kind of a habit to drink this juice shot every day. I wonder if I’ll miss it when I run out at the end of the month?

Have to get to work. See you all after dinner!

Flavors of the Fall

Evening everyone! With the official start of fall just a day and a half away, I thought I’d do a little fall decorating this afternoon.

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This made me wonder – Fall is my favorite time of year, but what was my favorite thing about the Fall? Well, there are so many things that I love about the Fall that it’s hard to choose just one thing – so, I made a list!

Jen’s 10 Fall Faves:

  1. Watching the leaves changing colors
  2. Changing my signature Spring/Summer drink – a Starbucks Frap – to a Starbucks skinny vanilla latte
  3. Wearing my Fall sweaters and Gap jeans
  4. Listening to my Fall transition music – James Taylor’s Greatest Hits
  5. Cheering for Big Ten Football
  6. Running in much cooler weather
  7. Picking pumpkins and gourds
  8. Eating fresh cider donuts from the cider mill
  9. Watching Fall classics like It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
  10. Finally being able to put up Fall decorations!

So, my question to you is – what is your favorite thing about the Fall?

Scott’s parents came over this afternoon and stayed for dinner. And, an amazing dinner it was!

We started out with some multigrain crackers and white cheddar cheese…¬†

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And with it, we had some vino…

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I don’t drink very often, but when I do, it’s usually wine. Tonight, my father-in-law brought a new wine over from Trader Joe’s…

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This was a very different type of wine than I’d ever had. It was a mixture of several different kinds of wine…

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As you can see, it was such an unusual wine that I had to try a glass. It was pretty smooth and had a good flavor, especially for being on the less expensive side of wines.

For dinner, we had my husband’s famous minestrone soup! He makes a huge batch of the soup about once a season and it’s usually when we have people over for dinner. I have not received the ok from my husband on whether or not I can reveal his secret recipe, but I can tell you that it requires a ton of vegetables!

9.20 minestrone

Along with our very warm and tasty soup, we had fresh 12-grain bread for dipping…

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We dipped the bread in our soup and in olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar with added spices and parmesan cheese..

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The balsamic vinegar was actually from Gourmè Mist. A few weeks ago, the company had sent me several samples of their olive oil and vinegar misters to try. I am happy to report that the balsamic vinegar mister was fantastic!

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It had a great flavor, was easy to use, and the mister was a very clever way of adding just a hint of balsamic taste to the dipping oil. Can’t wait to try this on a salad!

For dessert, my father-in-law made homemade “apple slices”, which is a cross between an apple pie and apple strudel…

9.20 apple slices

This was my first time having this dish and it was so yummy! We paired it with Breyer’s Vanilla Bean ice cream – ok, can this get any better?

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After that fabulous dessert, I am happy to report that dinner (and the food) had finally ended. I seriously don’t think I could eat anymore and I only had one bowl of soup!

I have an early day tomorrow, so I’m ready to turn in for the night.

Have a great night everyone!

Sunday Morning With Bob Marley

Running With Cake Fact: I ONLY run in Nike running shoes. I haven’t worn any other running shoe since high school.

Hey all!

It’s so nice to actually sleep in on a Sunday. Before I started my typical run, I had a little pre-run snack..

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I had 1/2 of one of my LUNA bars – Nutz Over Chocolate. I usually only eat power bars half at a time. Any more than that and I’m afraid I may feel too full during my run.

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As far as nutrients, this bar had 180 calories, 10 g of protein, and 3 g of fiber. Plus, it combined two of my favorite things – nuts and chocolate!¬†The bar tasted awesome…I just really wish that there was more fiber in it.

My run consisted of a quick 5-miler. Although I was well-rested and it was a gorgeous morning, I just wasn’t in the mood for a longer run – I’m sure you all have been there.

I wasn’t too hungry when I came home from my run, so I ate a simple breakfast of fresh, whole fruit…

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A super yummy pear! I used to hate pears as a kid – I’m not sure why, maybe it was the texture. Now I love them – although they have to be pretty ripe for my taste.

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After the pear, I still had a taste for something a little sweet, so I picked out a few fresh strawberries….

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Now these beauties were VERY sweet and juicy! Just like watermelon, I am sooo going to miss strawberries in the winter.

The rest of the morning/early afternoon was spent house cleaning. My in-laws are coming for dinner and somehow, the house looked like a tornado swept through it. It’s not as if I don’t clean EVERY day, so how does it get like this?

While cleaning, I listened to the melodic sounds of Bob Marley. I typically can’t wait to listen to Bob Marley, Jimmy B, and all of the other summer favorites. But this summer wasn’t that hot and most of the time, it just didn’t feel like summer. Hence, Bob and Jimmy were barely played at all the last few months. I guess today was as good a day as any to bring them back out for a final summer fling. Now, for the next month or so, it will be my Autumn transition music (what I play until I’m allowed to play Christmas music in the house), including Jack Johnson, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and plenty of classical.

I stopped mid-cleaning and had a simple lunch…

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…which was a 1/2 salami and ham sandwich with cheddar cheese, and Mezzetta hot peppers, all on 12-grain Brownberry bread. Plus, I had a handful of carrots and my tasty Cape Cod potato chips!

We’re making homemade minestrone soup for dinner tonight, so I’d better get chopping!¬†

See you all tonight!

Bonfires and Goodbyes

Tonight, we went to a goodbye party for my sister-in-law’s younger sister who is moving out of the country. Our friend had visited Brazil on two occasions and loved it. She loved it so much that, a few months ago, she decided it was her time to move on in her life – her time to move to Brazil. She set the wheels in motion, putting her condo up for rent, learning Portuguese, and doing other preparations. On October 1, she will officially be living in a different country, within a different culture, and among strangers. If that’s not courage and determination, I don’t know what is.

There were many friends, family members, and neighbors on-hand to celebrate our friend’s final days in the States and to wish her well before she left. Although she will be greatly missed by all of these people, email and other technology have made our world so small that even when a person is half way around the world, they seem just as close and accessible as the person next door.

During the party, we enjoyed plenty of great food. I loaded up on appetizers because they looked so amazing – and I was really hungry!

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I had some very spicy mango salsa (quick, get me a drink!), a little chili dip with black corn tortilla chips, and veggie-cream cheese “pizza”.

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We’ve eaten these appetizers before at parties hosted by the same family and they are all so delicious. If you don’t get to the them quickly, they can be gone before you even get a taste!

Dinner was catered by a local Chicago favorite – Portillo’s! Oh how I love my Portillo’s! If I ever moved away from Chicago, I think Portillo’s would be the restaurant I would miss the most. Anyway, by the time I actually got around to eating my dinner it was very dark outside which made for terrible lighting to take pictures of my food, even with the flash. So, sorry, no photos to post of my incredible dinner. But, I had a small piece of Italian sausage, potato salad, and a small scoop of cheese tortellini. All of this fit on 1/2 of my very elegant paper plate and the other half was full of a very yummy salad.

After dinner, a bonfire was made to create more light and to give off some heat.

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I love bonfires and always have. I especially loved them in college when the sororities and fraternities would do joint bonfires. Ahh, to be in collage again! I haven’t been to a bonfire in nearly a year. Ironically, the last one I experienced was started by the family who did the bonfire tonight, just at a different location.

In addition to light and warmth, the bonfire also provided a great opportunity for the kids at the party, and even some adults, to make s’mores.¬†I am not a big marshmallow fan so I passed on that. But, on the way home, we stopped at Barnes and Noble so I could pick up one of their huge chocolate chunk cookies…

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These cookies are fantastic! I highly recommend them. But, notice I only ate 1/2 the cookie. I’m pretty sure these cookies have 600 or so calories in them, so I decided to split my calorie intake between two days/nights.

Now I simply must go to bed. My in-laws are coming over for dinner so I must get up early to get these ready for their visit – not to mention do my long run!

Good night everyone and see you in the AM!

Who Has the Best Veggie Burger?

Afternoon everyone! I didn’t get to bed until after midnight! I was sucked into watching V for Vendetta – one of Scott’s favorite movies. I’ve never had an interest in seeing it, but I caught the last half of it last night and decided to watch the rest of it. Pretty dark movie, but still entertaining and thought-provoking.

Because of my late night, I chose not to set my alarm for yoga. I wanted to see if I would wake up naturally, and early enough to make it there on time. Well, I didn’t get out of bed until 7:30 AM, which was probably plenty of time to make it to 8 AM yoga if I rushed out the door. But I really didn’t feel like rushing to yoga.

Instead, I opted for a nice leisurely breakfast. I have been eating so much cereal lately that I just had to have something different today. I’m out of Greek yogurt, so homemade oatmeal it was!

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And so yummy it was too! I used a 1/2 cup of raw oats, combined with 1 cup of skim milk, topped with 2 strawberries and a dollop of MaraNatha creamy peanut butter.

After breakfast, Scott and I took a long walk in a forest preserve – something we used to do quite a bit before our schedules got so crazy.

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The whole trail loop is about 2 miles long and we ended up doing 1 1/2 loops for a total of 45 minutes.¬†It was an absolutely gorgeous morning outside, just cool enough for a brisk walk. I’m really looking forward to walking this route when the leaves are in full color.

After our walk, we headed home to get ready for our lunch date. I was in the mood for a chicken sandwich and french fries (a girl can’t always eat healthy!), so we headed to Red Robin. That place can be dangerous because of the bottomless french fries, but I do like their sandwiches. Today, instead of my usual chicken, I ordered the Garden Burger with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles…

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And, of course, it came with french fries.

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I’m usually a turkey burger or chicken sandwich kind of a girl. But, I’m really starting to like veggie/garden burgers more and more. However, I really haven’t eaten that many to really know which brand is best.¬†

So, my question to you all is this – what would you say is the best brand of veggie/garden burger out there?

Ideally, I’d like something that is not overly processed, all-natural, etc. as well as easy to make with a delicious taste. I’d love to hear your thoughts!!

After our very filling lunch, we’re relaxing until we head out to a late summer party tonight. One of our girlfriends is moving to Brazil on October 1 and her family is throwing her a going-away party. As of now, she only plans to be gone for a year – but you never know! I’m looking forward to the party because I know there will be a ton of fun people there, as well as great food and maybe a bonfire!

Must get back to relaxing, so I’ll see you all tonight!

Late Summer Risotto…

Hello All! I just finished watching Psych on USA. I love that show! It’s one of the very few shows that I watch regularly. It’s also one of the very few shows that can make me totally laugh out loud – along with The Office of course!

The afternoon was spent doing a little lounging outdoors and then running more errands, including making yet another trip to the grocery store.

Dinner was grilled lemon pepper chicken, courtesy of my 1/2 chef, 1/2 computer guru husband. We also had wonderful, late summer veggie risotto…

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The risotto was made by taking traditional arborio rice and cooking it as directed. But, we also added several sauteed veggies to the rice, including:

  • Chopped bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Broccoli¬†
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Parmesan cheese

Risotto is simply amazing and versatile. You can add pumpkin or squash to make it more of a fall/winter dish, or add a ton of veggies for spring and summer.

Ok, girls, it’s Friday night and I am spent for the day. See you all tomorrow.