It’s no big secret – I love Magic Meat. So much so that we have some kind of variation of it about every 10 days, if not weekly. I’ll use ground beef, chicken, turkey, sausage, pork, veal, elk, bison, duck, venison, or lamb as at the protein with an innumerable combination of vegetables. Normally I make two pounds of meat, combining a slightly fattier animal with a leaner one. Recently I found the ground elk / Italian sausage duo to be ridiculously delicious, and Mr. Musky concurred. Lucky for him, there’s just two of us for the summer, so I can stretch the meat into two distinctly different meals, which is how I came up with these little gems.
Quinoa Muffins house everything you need in a meal: healthy carbohydrates, plenty of nutrient dense vegetables, protein and healthy fat from both the meat and the quinoa, and rich, satisfying flavor….
I’m coming off a brutal winter cold – one that really knocked me on my butt last week. Everything presented a struggle. I know I’m sick when nothing tastes yummy and just walking upstairs to lie down in bed feels like a challenge, but I listened to my body and rested for three days straight. Apparently that’s what I needed because by Friday I felt like an entirely new person, and even ventured out to a favorite local restaurant on Date Night for a cocktail and some good nibbles.
Saturday morning dawned bright and held promise for an unseasonably warm day, so I joined a few other “bells girls” for an outdoor workout on the local mountain. Having not worked out for a full week AT ALL, it proved one of the toughest 45 minutes for me since last September when I joined the group. As I gasped for air and glared at the ground before lying down for yet another burpee, Tim the Trainer recognized the signs of resignation and meandered over to me. Hands on his knees, he whispered in my ear.
“Don’t you quit. You’re almost there. Finish this workout.”
I’m telling you people, THAT is how it’s done. That is how you motivate people. It requires grace and class, and it’s effective because people respect you, and because you believe in the people you’re influencing. Whether you’re at work or play, in a high pressured business deal or listening to a friend, think about how you can motivate. It’s not with yelling, intimidation, or force. It’s by truly believing in a person, keeping it short and sweet by offering a few kind words of encouragement, then shutting the hell up. Let your words permeate their mind. Make THEM come to the realization on their own that yes – they really can do it.
I may have looked like a whale flopping on the shore gasping for air, but I finished, and it might be my proudest moment since I started working out last year. Not because of any personal bests or most calories burned or newfound tricks mastered, but simply because I finished.
Workouts like those leave me feeling accomplished thanks to the strides I’m making toward optimal health and wellness. Did I have a cocktail later that day? Hell yes – I had three. But you know what it inspired? Healthy treats in my mind that I’m executing upon this week. Take a peek at this gem:
In the longest name for an appetizer ever, I give you Sweet Potato Bites with Herbed Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans.
The boys and I returned home last night from a quick middle-of-the week trip to my beloved Alma Mater, the University of Illinois.
While I don’t want to ever live in Champaign or Urbana again, I do love visiting and all the nostalgic feels it offers. It’s especially entertaining watching my kids take it all in with open minds, yet a critical eye. More on this to come…our trip was a really, really good one.
Hey Gang! That big game is right around the corner, are you set? Do you know what you’re eating? Drinking?
In my mind the Super Bowl is all about the food and drink. Oh – and the commercials. There’s one Super Bowl in my recent memory where I actually gave two craps about the game, and the Bears lost to the Colts 29-17 in 2007 . Before that? I was a punk kid and the Super Bowl Shuffle gang dominated the entire 1984 season. Needless to say, it’s not about the game for me.
This year my workout buddy Michelle is hosting a little get-together, and I’m psyched because she told us to bring dollar bills. For the Magic Mikes who will be entertaining us at halftime, right after Lady Gaga performs.
Kidding. She’s going to play dealer for some blackjack, which while it may not be as highly entertaining, at least the menfolk will stick with us and not run out, intimidated by naked hotties.
Whether your attending a party this Sunday or hosting, here’s a SIMPLE and quick fix for your food table. Notice I did not use words like “healthy” or “paleo” – proof that I still cheat on a semi-regular basis. These are worth the cheat. I give you a new kind of slider…
The week is dragging along; in fact, the weeks are dragging along until I can finally use my knee version2.0 to it’s full potential. It’s only been two weeks since my surgery, but it feels like months. I’m not good at sitting around. Never have been. Even when I worked in Corporate America, I constantly took conference calls while folding clothes, preparing dinner, making the beds or picking up the house. In the office it was no better. I stood up all the time and meandered around my cubicle like a caged lioness. I’m sure my cube-mate, Blair, had it up to his eyeballs with me on a daily basis. I compensated for my odd behavior by gifting him with chocolate.
What would make my Wednesday a whole bit brighter? Face-planting into this luscious dip.
On Saturday I attended a sleepover with these lovelies.
Yeah yeah – I’m in my 40s. But in my teenage years, sleepovers were a weekly ritual – pick a friend, ask them over, sing “Jesse’s Girl” at the top of our lungs into our curling irons and hair brushes, make Chef-boy-ar-dee pizzas and devour an entire slice in one bite, drool over Bo and Luke Duke, then see what evil, calculating plan J.R. Ewing hatched for the week. Good times.
So why are we limited to them in our teen years? I’ve waxed on before about Girls Weekends, but turns out that a grownup girl sleepover is easier to pull off and just as fun. We chatted, ate great food, played some hilarious games, hot tubbed, and drank adult beverages. Well, I actually stuck to water because I’m midway through an annual detox. Believe me, I would have L.O.V.E.D. to join in with the apéritifs, particularly the Old Fashioned. Another time.
A few days before the event I learned the host is Vegan. Challenge on to create something yummy and original! I had so much fun coming up with a treat that would meet her dietary needs, that I could still enjoy with a fairly restricted food list myself, yet would also win the rest of the group over.
Enter: Lentil and Vegetable Curry.
Several weeks ago the boys and I packed it up, packed it in, let me begin, I came to win, battle me thats a sin…
Never mind. We headed north to Madison to see our darling princess. Turns out the Kollege Klub is right up my alley.
A pack of angry Badgers obliterated my alma mater.
My sister- and brother-in-law joined us for their first night away together from the new baby. I’m sure she’s all they talked about on the drive up and back. We loved hanging out with them for the day. So did Bucky!
Big Sister immersed Little Brother fully in the college experience. They went out on Friday night, and I’ll spare you the details lest you realize the derelict parent I really am. I do know that the evening (ahem: early morning) found them at the infamous Ian’s, where Little Brother devoured none other than their world famous BBQ chicken pizza that wise Big Sister and her roommate insisted he try.
I’m downright giddy.
Tonight I pick up Kahley from O’Hare, thanks to a very convenient coach bus that will transport her from a block from her dorm to within an hour from our house. This’ll go down after I make a fruit pie for Thanksgiving, prepare a crap-ton of other food for salads and sides, set the table, workout, pick up vegetables from the farm, run to the grocery store, sit in rush hour traffic, and eat a bon bon.
Har Har. Just checking to see if I put you to sleep yet.
I finally understand the parents of college students. It’s not just about the child coming back; rather, it’s the vision of having our nuclear family reunited, in our home, cozied under blankets with a fire and Christmas movies on TV for several days in a row. It’s playing games after we stuff our faces on Thursday, laughing until we cry. It’s eating pumpkin pancakes and bacon while sipping hot coffee on lazy mornings. It’s the dripping sarcasm that comes out of our mouths every other sentence, jabbing and jiving one another to keep us on our toes. It’s decorating the house for Christmas and gathering in the kitchen for Apéritif Friday with music blaring, cocktails in hand, just happy to be together as a foursome again.
We visited her a few times and she did come home for a couple of nights in October, but the thought of having all of my people at home for six nights in a row is making me feel like a grinning chimpanzee swinging on a vine with a banana in my hand. I can’t wait.
Regardless of where you are and what you’re doing this week, I hope it’s with family, good friends, and outstanding food and drink. If you missed it Friday, check out my Thanksgiving Apéritif Roundup if you’re in charge of the cocktails this week. And if you’re a procrastinator (like me!) and are charged with a side or appetizer for Thursday’s festivities, I’ve rounded up some favorites to help you out.
I normally don’t like to serve a ton of appetizers before the main event, but some people just can’t wait (I’m looking at you, Dad) and require a few nibblers while the turkey does its thang. Here are few that hopefully won’t kill their appetites completely.
Fig and Proscuitto Roll Ups, originally posted by Kristen at Iowa Girl Eats, are a light and zesty way to kick things off. I love the goat cheese/fig jam/arugula combo with these, and you can make them in advance to avoid taking Xanax on Thursday.
Bacon Wrapped Dates are a no-brainer. I’ve NEVER had one of these leftover when I make them. They’re savory/sweet profile make them perfect for a bite sized treat, but they’ll be gone before you know it.
A classic that never goes out of style, Deviled Eggs are another finger-food that always seem to pop up during the holidays, making me wonder why we don’t have them more often. Probably because I’d eat half the tray before they make it to the guests!
For something a little more hearty, my Zucchini and Squash Puff Pastry can be consumed without a fork and knife while curbing the appetites of your hungriest guests. If things are running a bit late, plop this in front of the drinkers to soak up those bevvies.
Butternut Squash Soup screams fall. Light enough to be dubbed an appetizer, it can also be served at the dining table as the host carves the turkey and puts the finishing touches on the meal. But be a dear – no talking politics once your butt hits the chair for dinner.
If you’re challenged with contributing a side to the feast, ask the host if she or he has a preference as to what you bring. If not, inquire about the rest of the menu so you can add a complementary item. Many of my sides are hearty enough to star as a main dish, but remember that most will only take a small spoonful since so many other goodies grace the table. Here are my favorite fall vegetable dishes, any of which would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving meal.
Stuffed Acorn Squash is beautiful, can be assembled well in advance, then popped into the oven just before serving to warm everything up. These are hearty, so if you feel it’s too much just make the stuffing and pour it into a greased 9×13 dish. You can roast the squash and add it to the mix, or omit it all together, calling a Savory Sweet Grain-Free Stuffing.
Succotash will be gracing our table this year. It’s an amazing mix of vegetables from the late summer harvest, and I intentionally froze fresh corn and okra from the farmstand to make this on Thanksgiving Day. Don’t be afraid of using frozen vegetables in this one if you can’t find fresh. It’s a flavor party in one bowl.
In years past I made Honey Gingered Carrots, but this year I’m trying this recipe for Glazed Carrots with Cardamom and Ginger. My Honey Gingered Carrots are slightly sweet and spicy, and are a fresh alternative to sweet potato casseroles.
Not a huge fan of mashed potatoes? Me neither. Try these Parmesan Crashed Potatoes out on your guests. You can substitute the sour cream with gravy to keep things turkey-ish.
I’m a big fan of multiple vegetables in a single dish. My Vegetable Gratin fits the bill perfectly, with spaghetti squash, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. This is similar to a traditional casserole with no “cream of” any soup, so it’s fresher and healthier than the 1980s version.
Speaking of “cream of” soups, if you’re a sucker for traditional Green Bean Casserole and can’t imagine Thanksgiving Day without it, use all your powers to resist the glop and give my Loaded Green Beans a try instead. You’ll be surprised how rich and satisfying they are without the goo. In fact, you might not even have leftovers…these taste that great!
Now I’m hungry. I’m off to start chopping, and will be back at the end of the week with a Black Friday cocktail.