October 31, 2012

A New Adventure: Roasted Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup with Apples!

First off - HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!  What is/was your costume this year?  Trying to be creative without spending a ton of money, I went with an iconic figure and it turned out pretty well - I only spent $2 for the red & white polka dot fabric and $3 for the red socks - I already owned everything else I wore!  I got a lot of compliments on how it came together, so that was pretty awesome...here's a little photo of the finished product:

Rosie the Riveter 

NOW...onto the food...

Have you ever cooked anything involving butternut squash?  Until the other night I had not, and let me tell you it can be quite the process depending on the complexity of the meal you are preparing.  Yes, I have heard that pre-cut, frozen butternut squash exists (although I have yet to see it...quite possibly because I wasn't looking for it) but where is the fun in that?!  If you're like me, you find a great sense of peace, comfort & happiness in the many detailed steps of preparing a meal from scratch. There's just something about obtaining fresh produce (bonus if it was locally grown), washing it, peeling it, cutting into it & discovering what's inside - not just the seeds...the color, smell, taste...completely amazing components of nature if you really think about it.

October 24, 2012

Jenny + Garald | 10.20.12 | Best Day Ever...

On Saturday, October 20th at 3:30 pm, in the cozy little village of the Amana Colonies, one of my dearest (and oldest) friends married her best friend & love of her life - and it really was the Best Day Ever...

Best Day Ever

It was a gorgeous Saturday in rural Iowa - the sun was shining and there was a slight nip in the air...a perfect fall day.  As we walked into the lower level of the Iowa Theater Artists Company, we were greeted by soft lighting, smiling faces, wooden beams, colorful mums & music quietly playing in the background...a room so cozy and full of anticipation.  As soon as the guests were all seated, two of Jenny's brothers stood at the front and began strumming their guitars, softly singing their own amazing acoustic rendition of the song "Lullaby" - instantly, the love in the room was palpable.

October 17, 2012

Healthy Buffalo-Style Turkey & Spinach Meatloaf!

How much do you love buffalo-style...well...anything?!  I love it, can't seem to get enough, and most people I know feel the same way.  When thinking about the pound of lean ground turkey I had sitting in my freezer I knew it'd been a while since I made a meatloaf...yet I wanted something with a kick and I just so happened to have a full bottle of Cholula in the fridge - this sparked the idea of a buffalo-style meatloaf!  Why hadn't I thought of this one before??  Turns out there are a handful of recipes for buffalo-style meatloaf online, but I know the basics of a meatloaf and wanted to do my own version, which turned out just right and is pretty darn healthy too!

Side note: I must apologize for the lack of "finished product" photos in this post...I was chatting up a storm with a friend while cooking and we were so hungry by the time the meatloaf was done, we cut into it & started devouring it without me remembering to snap a few pics!  We also ate out on my back deck last night - such a nice night, but not great for lighting...hopefully you can use your imagination for what it will look like coming out of the oven - piping hot & smelling amazing - until you can make the meatloaf yourself!  I served this bad boy over a bed of quinoa seasoned with a little olive oil, Cholula hot sauce and cracked pepper - a delicious & healthy little combo.

Recipe below...

Fresh spinach | Eggs for whites | Onion & garlic

October 12, 2012

I Dreamt of Chicken Tortilla Soup...

With temperatures falling and leaves turning, hot soups, hearty stews & comforting crock-pot recipes dance in our dreams...and hopefully make their way into reality!  I recently busted out my trusty crock-pot (I'm more of a griller during the warmer months) and couldn't wait to try out a new recipe.  Since I had been craving Mexican cuisine for about a week, I decided I'd come up with a tortilla soup recipe - warm, hearty & soul-satisfying!

Having made chicken tortilla soup once a couple years ago - and after reading a few different recipes online - I made my way to the grocery store & ended up picking out the ingredients that I was hungry for.  That's the beauty of cooking in a crock-pot...as long as you have a base (a little water, or a broth or sauce) you can pretty much throw in any promising combination of ingredients & it will simmer into a delicious meal you can savor for days.  This particular concoction turned out better than I expected - and I had high hopes to begin with!

I should also note that, in addition to crock-pots producing tasty meals, there is also the element of ease - have you ever heard of "set it and forget it"???  Most days during the week I'm gone from my apartment for typically 11 hours - from the time I leave for work in the a.m. until I return home after the gym - now, that is too much time to leave a crock-pot meal simmering.  However, I found the best way to work around a long day is to prepare the meal at night, right before you go to bed, and let it simmer on low until you wake up - hopefully about 7 hours (if we're lucky to catch that much shuteye!).

I put all the ingredients in the crock-pot, went to bed & awoke to the smell of simmering goodness - I dreamt of chicken tortilla soup...and it came true!!!  Just a couple small additional steps the next morning & I had lunch that day & several days after - and enough to share with a few lucky friends...

Recipe below!


October 10, 2012

Caramel Apple Spice Muffins!

Happy Hump Day!  Lately I've been in the mood for something a little sweet - something apple, something spice, something caramel...what to do?  Make up a muffin recipe to satisfy my cravings!  These little treats have an oozy-gooey center & are best served warm with a glass of milk to help wash them down.  Recipe below...hope you enjoy!

Apples to Apples

October 5, 2012

Maid-Rite Hits Chicago - Loose Meat Changes People's Lives

Have you ever heard of Maid-Rite?  If you're from or have spent time in the Midwest, chances are you have...but if you haven't been to one yet & you find yourself wandering the streets of Chicago, then you should definitely go check it out. Maid-Rite just opened its first Chicago location in the heart of Lincoln Park at 2429 N. Lincoln Avenue. Conveniently located across the street from Lincoln Hall, it's a tasty & affordable option for a quick bite before or after a show (they're open until 3am on Fridays & Saturdays!) and a viable Lincoln Ave. option to Qdoba and Micky D's.  Keep scrolling down for some mouth-watering photos & an explanation of this fascinatingly tasty Midwest classic... 

Chicago Maid-Rite | 2429 N. Lincoln Ave.

October 2, 2012

A Little Autumn in Iowa...And a Healthier Crab Wonton Recipe!

Happy October, everyone!  I know, I'm a couple days late - but life happened...and it will continue to happen.  While it does, don't forget to stop & take a look at the beauty that is also happening all around you - yes ladies & gents, fall is in the house! Pumpkin spice lattes are brewing, temps are falling, leaves are changing and so are people's wardrobes - have you busted out your boots, jeans & cozy sweaters yet?!?

This past weekend was spent in Iowa surrounded by family & friends and I couldn't have been happier about it.  I was home to celebrate our good friend Jenny's wedding shower/bachelorette party, and my parents were kind enough (no surprise there) to let us use their house for the festivities.  Before the party kicked off Saturday afternoon, my friend Angie & I embarked on a Super Target run in the morning with my mom (standard), then settled-in back at the house to watch the Iowa game with my folks.

Besides fall candles in almost every room of my parents' house (wonder where I get it!), another staple of fall in the Arp household are the bowls of candy corn + peanuts you'll find in the kitchen, living room & family room.  If you have never tried this trusty little combo, it is a must do in the months of October & November.  I don't love candy corn on its own, but paired with the peanuts it is a match made in sweet & salty heaven.

Game day snacks | Candy corn + peanuts

Cozied up in my parents' family room, I felt so happy and at peace - being home during the fall is especially wonderful.  I treasure those simple days spent doing a whole lot of nothing - football watching, laughing, laying around and dozing off on the couch as the smell of food in the oven & fall candles fill the air.  Halftime of the Hawkeye game found me on the four-wheeler, zipping around my parents' land trying to capture the best shots of the gorgeous fall foliage that I could possibly get. Being out in the fresh country air & feeling free as a bird is like a mini-reset to the soul.

Foliage | Arp Compound