40 Pounds of Pumpkin

Hey All!

Hope you had an awesome Sunday! It was a gorgeous day in Chicago, albeit a tad chilly when I went out for my 5 mile run. Scott and I spent quite a bit of the day doing fall-related things, but before I get into that – let’s hear it for breakfast!

Breakfast was an omelette made with 1 egg and 2 egg whites, filled with cheddar cheese, bacon, and a mess of veggies leftover from our salad last night…

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This was super high in protein which is just what I needed after my run.

After breakfast, we headed out to the pumpkin patch. Scott immediately became enamored with the extra large pumpkins, so one 40 lb pumpkin managed to follow us home and make it to my dining room table…

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Yes, that really is 40 pounds of pumpkin sitting on my table. I’m glad I have a sturdy, solid wood table. I wonder how many pumpkin pies 40 pounds of pumpkin would make? Hmmm….good question – I think I’ll do a little research and let you all know!

Aside from “The Great Pumpkin”, I also picked out a few smaller pumpkins to put around the house…

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I really like the light orange and light green pumpkins – they are so different from the standard orange pumpkin. The patch was running low on these so I settled for a darker green one, which is still pretty cool.

Aside from pumpkins, we also bought a few apple cider donuts and promptly ate a couple right on the spot…

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I am NOT a donut fan but this is the one time of year where I will actually eat one without any qualms.

We spent a little more time at the pumpkin patch than we thought so it was already lunchtime when we were packing the pumpkins into the car. We headed to our favorite little Italian cafe for lunch…

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I had a chicken pomodoro panini which was filled with grilled chicken, provolone cheese, basil, tomatoes, and spinach. It sounded SOO good on the menu but honestly it was just so-so. I think there was a little too much basil on it which overpowered everything else. I only ate half and took the rest home.

The afternoon was spent cleaning and carving the pumpkin, as well as preparing the seeds to make roasted pumpkin seeds. We also ended up taking a 30-minute walk which was fantastic! It was chilly, but so crisp and bright outside. I loved seeing all of the brightly colored leaves and all of the neighbors’ halloween/fall decorations. 

Dinner was my responsibility tonight so I made one of Scott’s favorites – Basil Chicken Stir-fry…

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Unfortunately, as I think I have mentioned before, I can’t give out the recipe for this dish due to copyright issues. But, you can find it in the Williams Sonoma “Chicken” cook book. This can be a very spicy dish depending on how many jalapeno peppers you put in. When Scott makes it, my lips are practically burning. But when I make it, I use just enough peppers to give it a little spice without having to drink a glass of milk with each bite.

After dinner, I had a little dessert to round out my nearly perfect fall day…

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A chocolate chunk cookie from Costco! We bought these cookies yesterday because they looked really good in the package – almost like homemade. Now, after having a couple, they are starting to taste like regular store-bought cookies. 

Well, I have an early morning tomorrow and a busy day planned. Our new CEO, whom I’ve never met, is starting tomorrow. We have an all-staff meeting to welcome him. And of course, there will be more food – pizza! Should be quite an interesting day!

Have a great night everyone and see you tomorrow evening!

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Evening everyone!

Well, it was rainy and cold again today, for like the 20th day in a row. I don’t really mind the rain, but it’s been so rainy and gloomy lately that I’m ready for a change. However, things may be turning up for Chicago, at least for a day or so. Tom Skilling – the famous Chicago meteorologist – is predicting high 60s/low 70s for Monday. If you are from Chicago, you know that good old Tommy Skilling is nearly always right, which is quite uncharacteristic of most meteorologists. I guess that’s why he’s famous.

I was so happy that I was able to get out for a run before the rain started this morning. Four and five-mile runs seem to go by so much faster when you’re actually looking at scenery and not staring at the television or the clock from the moveable perch of a treadmill.

Breakfast ended up being a huge (double my normal size) bowl of homemade oatmeal….

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…made from whole oats and skim milk, mixed with all-natural creamy peanut butter and walnuts, then topped with fresh strawberries. My eyes were bigger than my stomach (I’m so becoming my mother by using that phrase) because this turned out to be way too much food for my stomach to handle.10.16 breakfast1

After browsing on the Internet and working a little, lunch was another super convenient meal…

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…defrosted turkey chili over elbow noodles, topped with sharp cheddar cheese, plus a side of carrots.

This afternoon was spent running errands, including a stop at the doctor, and Starbucks – woo hoo! It was just the pick-me-up I needed on this grey day.

Tonight, Scott and I headed to the mall to do a little suit and shoe shopping. Actually, I did the shopping while Scott browsed his iphone. With my big meeting less than 2 weeks again, there are still a bunch of things I need to get in order to be ready for all of my events and receptions. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything to my liking tonight – not even at Nordstrom which usually has great shoes. Although my shopping efforts came up short, we did manage to have a nice dinner at The Cheesecake Factory..

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I really wasn’t that hungry so we ended up splitting the chicken tacos. Although they were quite good, I could barely eat one whole taco – I’m just not having a good stomach day. We left with no cheesecake and no dessert of any kind. Some people ask how we can go to the Cheesecake Factory and not get cheesecake. Easy – neither of us cares for cheesecake so it’s never an issue with us.

I’m am barely awake as I write this, so I guess that’s a sign I need to get to bed. I am predicting that shopping will be on the agenda for tomorrow. I’m hoping to get an early start to beat the crowds.

See you all on the flip slide!

Fairy Tales Come True…

When I arrived home from work today, this is what was waiting for me…

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I married quite the romantic!

Along with the very (prince) charming card, I received a gift certificate to make my very own purse at 1154 Lill! If you’ve never heard  of 1154 Lill they are a chain of small boutiques where you can design your own purse, handbags, wallets, etc. They have boutiques in Chicago, Boston, Kansas City, and Philly. I made a purse at the Chicago location a few years ago and had so much fun designing it. Although, I nearly had an anxiety attack trying to choose my fabric – they have so many to choose from! It took me nearly 3 hours to design, but it was well worth it because now I have an original purse to show off. And, soon I will have two – thanks honey! 

Aside from the beautiful card and purse, I came home to a wonderfully homecooked batch of chicken and dumpling soup!

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This is one of my absolute favorite soups to eat! The dumplings, when you make them right, turn out like little fluffy clouds that float on top of the soup. So yummy!

I am so ready to just veg out tonight. See you all in the AM!

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Hey Ladies!

It was a very windy morning today – gusts up to 40-50 mph, so I decided to run on the treadmill. I ran a very fast 4 miles – 32 minutes flat!! Yippee! I just wish I could keep up that speed for 10 miles – he he!

Breakfast was a quick bowl of Kashi Go Lean cereal mixed with Cascadian Farm dark chocolate almond granola…

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Then, on the way to work, I stopped at a drive thru Starbucks to pick up a warm, but skinny vanilla latte..hmm..

OK, now onto the good stuff!!

Happy Anniversary – I love you Scott!

Eight years ago today Scott and I were married on the North side of Chicago in an old Catholic church. It was a small wedding/reception, attended by less than 90 people, but it was beautiful!


Two days after the wedding, we jetted off to Maui for our 10-day honeymoon in Wailea at the Four Seasons – the best hotel/resort I have ever stayed at!


In 8 years, we’ve traveled all around the US, have cruised to the Caribbean, and have spent time in Europe. So, where are we headed next?


We’re going to Disney World! That’s right, in the Spring, we’re going back to the place where it all started. We met in Disney World in college so the Mouse is quite magical and nostalgic for us. I get sappy just thinking about it!


So, here’s to 8 years of adventures and many more adventures to come!

All Shopped Out

Evening everyone! Don’t know about you but I had a wonderful day, eating, shopping, and eating some more!

Scott and I started our day with 45 minute power walk – it was a great way for us to catch up and unwind after a stressful week. We didn’t get back until about 10:30, so we just grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out the door…

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I had 1/2 a peanut butter sandwich made with MaraNatha all-natural creamy PB and Brownberry whole wheat bread. We had a ton of errands to run, so I just ate it in the car. 

First up was a trip to the eye doctor so I could pick up a comp pair of contacts. I’m on my last pair and they wouldn’t let me reorder unless I came in (and paid for) another eye exam, which will happen next week. Next was a stop at my hair salon to pick up some styling products, then it was off to lunch!

Keeping with our anniversary celebration, we dined at a very cool steakhouse called Wildfire. We’ve eaten there before and have always had great food and service – today was no exception!

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We started with a simple side salad – but really, this salad was not simple at all. It had mixed greens, carrots, tomatoes, cucs, eggs, and artichoke hearts, all with a red wine vinaigrette dressing – fantastic! I’m really glad we split the salad, otherwise, I might not have been able to eat my entree which was a HUGE turkey burger….

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This burger was crazy messy with white cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and lettuce, and tomato. There was no way in the world I was going to be able to pick this baby up gracefully, so I cut it right in half. This burger was outstanding! I really would have eaten the WHOLE thing but I stopped at 1/2 because I didn’t want to stuff myself – having the super yummy fries didn’t help either 😉 

Stopping when I was content enabled me to enjoy one of my favorite desserts – banana cream pie!

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Can you believe this is only a 1/2 piece of pie? That’s all I wanted so that’s what they gave me. I absolutely adore banana creme pie but I rarely see it on menus these days. So, when I do see it, I jump at the chance to eat it. The pie was the perfect ending to a perfect meal in perfect company of course!

By this time, we were both ready to roll out of the restaurant (the pie really put me over the edge), so we headed out to do a little shopping. Today, we were in search of birthday presents for 3 different people which took us to Target, Toys R US, and the mall. Thank heavens too, because all of that walking really helped work off the food from lunch.

Nearly 7 hours later, we were finally hungry enough to actually eat more food. We opted to not go out to dinner – I’m not one for eating two big meals in a day. Instead, we warmed up some of our homemade pasta sauce…

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This really is one of our favorite meals to make. Even though we ate dinner at home, we tried to make it a little different by using our fine china that we received from our wedding. I think this is only the second time we used it in 8 years!

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The red pasta sauce was a great contrast to the white china with silver trim – very chic for a dinner at home! After our stomachs were full once more, we headed out to finish our shopping for the day. Then finally, we ended up at Barnes and Noble. I nearly always buy something at B&N when I go there, whether it’s a book, magazine, or a Starbucks drink. Well, tonight we didn’t buy anything! I think I was all shopped out by the time I got there and didn’t have the energy (or money) to buy anything else.

I have an early date with my running shoes tomorrow morning, so let me say goodnight to you all!

Tapas Anniversary

Morning Girls!

Did you miss me last night? If feels weird not posting in the evening – like I’m forgetting something. If you were all wondering why I didn’t post last night it was because I was out to dinner with my husband celebrating our anniversary! 

My husband and I love tapas restaurants. A few years ago we traveled to Barcelona and had authentic tapas which were just amazing! So last night, we decided to try a new tapas restaurants called Emilio’s Tapas. The whole restaurant was Spanish-themed, including these little windows on the outside…


Seriously, if you’ve ever been to Spain, this is just how the windows look! 

For dinner, we started with a complimentary appetizer…

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I don’t remember the exact name of the dish but it consisted of two pieces of crusty bread topped with a ham and veggie pate.  

While we were eating our very tasty appetizer, we also had some lovely Spanish cocktails. I ordered white wine sangria – LOVE this stuff!

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In keeping with tapas tradition, we ordered our tapas in “courses”, or two by two. We started with tapas frias (cold tapas) first…9.25 dinner3

We had a small plate of pollo al caserio (chicken from a small village?), which was cold chicken stuffed stuffed with mozzarella cheese serve with roasted bell peppers. This dish was so good I could have ordered it again!

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Then came another Spanish specialty – dates wrapped in bacon! I can’t recall ever having a date before tonight but if I was ever going to have one again it would be wrapped in bacon – 🙂 The combination of the savory bacon mixed with the sweet, plump dates was perfect – as well as the red pepper aioli sauce for dipping!

After that, ’twas a Mediterranean salad for me. This was not the best Mediterranean salad I’ve had, but I haven’t had a salad in like 10 days so it was very nice to eat lettuce again. I really don’t know why I haven’t eaten much salad – could be that it’s so much trouble to make! The salad last night had shredded lettuce (not a big fan), hearts of palm (Love!), onions, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese. It probably sounds good to most people and it did taste fine, I’ve just tasted better. The presentation was also a little blah.

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Anyway, my husband proceeded to order and eat by  himself, two more dishes – the gambos a la plancha (shrimp cooked in a skillet) and the lamb with Spanish potatoes. Because I don’t eat seafood or lamb, I just kept enjoying my drink while he ate.

We opted to not get dessert there but came home and had ice cream, mostly to save money but also so that we could watch our favorite show – Psych!

I woke up this morning at 7:50 AM – this is sooo late for me even on the weekend! There was no way I was getting to the 8 AM yoga class and besides, I was feeling a little queasy. I’m not sure if it was something I ate or the fact that I had very little food last night to soak up the alcohol that I drank 🙁

Now, we’re off and running again – this time to do a little shopping.

See you all later!

Williams Sonoma French Weeknight Dinner

Evening girls! I just returned from my first Williams Sonoma cooking class! It was more of a scaled down cooking show really…

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where the Chef stood behind the counter/stove and prepared a variety of dishes while giving us step by step instructions. There were about 10 people in the class, sitting in chairs in front of the stove, 3 men and the rest women. I was one of the youngest people there!

Tonight’s themed menu was French Weeknight Dinners and included:

  • Citrus marinated olives
  • Lentil, bacon, and frisee salad
  • Pan-seared chicken with mustard sauce
  • Apple tart

I asked the chef what made the dishes “French” and she said that olives, lentils, mustard, and anything with puffed pastry (like the tart) are all considered French. 

First up, were the marinated olives, which were quite tasty, although I would do the recipe with all green olives. I can’t divulge the recipe for copyright reasons but you can find the recipe in Williams Sonoma – The Weeknight Cook.

9.23 WS olives

Next, was the lentil, bacon, an frisee salad…

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This salad was fantastic! It was made with brown lentils, carrots, and celery (among other things) and placed over mixed greens (the chef chose not to put it over frisee like the recipe called for because she said it was too bitter).

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The chicken was cooked at the same time as the salad. It was thinly pounded (or bought thinly slice) and then pan-seared in butter. The mustard sauce was then made from all of the drippings and spooned over the chicken. Again, I can’t give you the recipe but this chicken dish was amazing – especially if you like mustard flavor!! Everyone in the class was raving about the chicken.

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I think both the salad and the chicken recipes are keepers! If you want to try them, the lentil salad can be found in Williams Sonoma’s Food Made Fast, Salad and the chicken dish in The Weeknight Cook.

While we were watching the demonstration, we were encouraged to sample WS’s many varieties of sea salts. I didn’t know there were so many varieties! I tasted the Pink Sea Salt – loved the color and the taste!

9.23 WS Pink Sea Salt

I liked it so much I even sprinkled a little over my chicken and salad.

Finally, the apple tart – I am kind of appled out these days between all of the apple cake, apple pie, and apple slices I’ve had the last few weeks. So, apple tart was not high on my list to sample tonight. It was made with puff pastry, apples, and sugar – no more, no less. This recipe was very simple, easy to prepare, and tasted light and fluffy. I thought it was tasty, but I still prefer something chocolate for dessert.

After eating a modified three-course meal, I was pretty full at the end of class. There was even food left over if people wanted more, but no one seemed to want to indulge too much at 8 PM and with everyone else watching.

I have to admit, it was pretty cool and quite relaxing watching someone else cook. And, just taking a cooking class is very different than my usual forms of entertainment and self-indulgence. I would definitely recommend the WS’s classes if you’re interested in trying something new and fun. 

Ok, all, I have a very early morning run planned for tomorrow so I must get to bed.

Night all!

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.