March 31, 2012

Couldn’t Say No


If running 18 miles at 5 am on a Saturday morning isn’t crazy enough, the rest of our day has turned out to be even crazier.

A few days ago we were approached by our next door neighbors. We have been much more sociable with them lately, ever since they brought home an adorable shar pei puppy a couple of weeks ago.




Well…this discussion was much different than the small talk that usually ensues.  Apparently, soon after they brought the puppy home, they discovered that their son began having severe allergic reactions.  Because of this, the puppy (Sampson – love that name!) has been living in a crib in the garage until they figured out what to do.

They couldn’t take him back, and don’t have any local friends or family that wanted him.  Because of our interest in Sampson, they thought we would make a great fit.

Earlier in the week having a puppy was not in our immediate future, but hearing their story/proposition made us consider it a bit more.  Especially since they didn’t want anything in return and offered free dog sitting whenever we need it (like tonight).  Our initial reaction was mixed and we told them we’d discuss it and get back to them soon.


IMG_5261  IMG_5262

After discussing it over a 3 hour run and weighing the pros and cons, Mike convinced me that this opportunity would be worth it.  And Mike can be quite convincing. 

Sampson stole our hearts the minute we met him.  How could you say no to those wrinkles?


So, without further ado, we introduce:

Sampson Alexander


Now, after a quick Petsmart visit, we are taking advantage of the dog sitting and heading out to watch some final four action.  Pet ownership officially begins tomorrow.

Wish us luck!

March 30, 2012

FF–Orange and Black


It’s not just for Halloween anymore!


Daily Outfits16

This  color combination is one of my current faves.  It’s clean, sharp and looks great with a little bit of khaki and white mixed in.  Play around and try it today!


March 29, 2012

Pizza Mexicana

Last night was pizza night!  I was at school pretty late with parent-teacher conferences and needed something quick and easy to fix for dinner.  Pizza, semi-homemade, was definitely the answer!

We fix different types of pizza quite a bit and have only shared one of our delicious creations, until now!  This Mexican Pizza is one of our favorites and better yet, from start to finish it only takes about 25 minutes.

This version is meatless, but chicken, pulled pork or ground beef could be added to the bean mixture for added protein any time!  Served with taco sauce and reduced fat sour cream this meal is hearty, filling and oh-so-simple.  Enjoy!



Mexican Pizza

Print this recipe!

  • 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained or 1 1/2 C prepared salsa
  • 1/3 C frozen or canned corn, drained
  • 1 can refried beans (I used non-fat)
  • 1/2 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 3/4 C reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 whole wheat pizza crust
*any desired veggies can be used in the mixture - these were just the ones I had on hand.
**chicken, pulled pork or ground beef can also be added for a meaty mexican pizza.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium pan, saute onions with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add about 1 T of taco seasoning and combine. 

Once the onions are softened, about 5 minutes, add the drained tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes with Garlic and Olive Oil in them for added flavor, but any will do) and corn and the rest of the taco seasoning (to taste).  Cook on medium low for about 5 minutes.


Next, assemble the pizza, see instructions below:


Bake for 10 minutes directly on the oven rack.


Let cool for a few minutes.  Serve with taco sauce and reduced fat sour cream if desired.


Leftover bean mixture?  No problem!

If you are a bean lover like me, just save it in a separate container and take for lunch the next day.  You can eat this by itself, which I often do, or serve over a salad, with baked scoops or in a soft taco for more variation.


March 28, 2012

Bundle of Joy


I love celebrations! 

Yesterday we helped one of my co-workers, Alicia, celebrate her first baby with a book themed baby shower.  With everybody contributing to a pot luck style menu, the food was homemade and extra delicious.

We shared laughs and tears and even more “ooohs and aahhhs”.  Here are some of the highlights:



Presents galore!


Alicia's Shower



The food selections included a little bit of everything:

  • Spinach dip
  • Fruit and dip
  • Apple Muffins
  • Crescent Cheese Danish
  • Black Forrest Cake
  • Brownies
  • Veggie platter
  • Salsa and Cream Cheese Dip
  • Grocery Lane Granola – party favors

and more!




My contributions were, besides GL Granola, the Crescent Cheese Danish and Apple Muffins.  Both recipes are family favorites. 

The danish is very easy and one of my mom’s signature dishes, while the apple muffin recipe (again, easy) belongs to my Nana.


IMG_5368  IMG_5386

I even used reduced fat crescent rolls and cream cheese for the danish and it was dee-lish.  There were only 4 squares left!

Visit the recipe page, or click on the pictures above for the recipes to these sweet finger foods.



Although Alicia and her husband are waiting to find out the sex of the baby, there is one thing for sure – it will be a Baby Gator!


IMG_5397 IMG_5398

She received loads of fun reading material for the baby’s library, ranging from Dr. Seuss to Caldecott award winners.  I can honestly say, teachers give the best books and we didn’t have any duplicates.  Score!




Alicia's Shower1

Check out these adorable receiving blanket “cupcakes” my friend Kristana made to go in her gift basket.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!



Hand drawn artwork made with love from our highly talented art teacher.  So special!



Our third grade teachers are quite busy this spring/summer:  Alicia’s due date is April 28 and her teaching partner, Kristana, the hostess, is getting married June 9!  Congrats to you both!

March 27, 2012

A Tisket, A Tasket…

 here are some great ideas to fill an Easter basket!


In my opinion, Easter baskets are the next best thing to Christmas Stockings.  I love coming up with fun ideas that are fun, inventive and not calorie dense.  Candy is always fun to receive, but not the best option since Easter is in the middle of bathing suit season (at least in Florida)!

Here are some ideas that are practical,  multi use and figure friendly! 

Easter Basket Ideas -

Print this list!

  • bath salts, bubble bath
  • facial /mud mask - individual travel sizes to test out
  • fingernail polish/nail clippers/emery boards
  • books/magazines
  • new work out DVD
  • mini recipe books - often found in check out lines
  • kitchen gadgets (spatulas, picnic knives, dish towels, etc)
  • Luna bars/dried fruit/trail mix
  • homemade granola/gourmet nut butters
  • lip balm
  • Tervis Tumbler - I have my eye on this one :).
  • small bottles of wine/champagne- World Market has great selections
  • hand soap
  • coffee - fun flavors
  • picture frame
  • gardening tools/gloves
  • candles/air freshener
  • gum/lifesavers/certs
  • Love Bucks

  • flashlight
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • cologne
  • tools
  • golf balls/tees
  • fishing lures
  • gift cards
  • car wash items
  • Tervis Tumbler
  • beach hat/sunscreen
  • beer/wine - Total Wine has a great selection and sells beers individually.
  • water bottle - great when exercising like Brita or Camelbak
  • crossword/word search books
  • Love Bucks

  • Easter storybook
  • Children's Bible
  • Silly putty/play doh
  • bunny themed jump rope or bouncy ball - to encourage kids to get outside!
  • puzzles
  • fun themed toothbrush
  • fun band aids
  • crayons/markers/paints
  • coloring books
  • fun hair accessories
  • small personalized Tervis Tumbler
  • new shoe strings
  • foam stickers and shapes
  • bath crayons or bath toys
  • sidewalk chalk
  • sunglasses
  • yo yo
  • flip flops
  • blocks/legos
  • finger puppets
  • card games
  • stuffed animal/small toys
  • Love Bucks

-If you do want to add a little bit of sweetness for your sweeties, try picking out one candy bar instead of incorporating a whole bag into the basket.

-Small budget?  Start with a small Easter basket and use travel sized items!

-Want to be more creative?  Go for a themed basket:  exercise, coffee and tea, cooking, gardening, tools, etc.

-Great stores with great deals and unique gifts:  World Market, Home Goods, Dollar Tree, Target $1 Bin, Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby


The only thing I'm really hoping is in my basket?
A big jar of natural PEANUT BUTTER!

March 26, 2012

Menu Monday

Weekend highlights:
  • Friday night fun at the Magic Game.  Gorgeous arena and good friends.


  • Saturday: early morning run and a beach trip.  IMG_5296

17 miles finished by 9am!!!  If I look like I was in pain, I was!  Marathon training is no joke!

Top off on the Jeep, sushi in the sand and a Mexican fiesta.


  • Sunday Moving Day!  Not for us, but for our good friends Rick and Chrissey.  They moved from a small condo to a large house with a pool.  I can’t wait for Green Bay Packer parties!
Two full truck loads and a couple of car loads later, they’re in!

The first meal in the new house!

And the best part, getting to see Sweet Baby J.  She’s grown so much!

After many unexpected meals out this weekend, I am definitely ready to get back into the kitchen and get cookin’.  Here is our plan of attack:

M: Broccoli, Ham and Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes
T:  Pork tenderloin w/ Baked Apples and Asparagus
W: Mexican Pizza*
Th: Chicken, Pepper and Onion Kebabs w/ Mixed Veggie Cous Cous
F: Baked Ziti*
Sa: Steak, Feta and Apple Salad w/ Balsamic Vinaigrette
Su: Sloppy Joes w/ Roasted Carrots

Have a great week!

March 25, 2012

Pasta e Fagioli


Here is a great copy cat recipe to recreate Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli soup at home.  The soup, meaning “pasta and beans” is hearty, delicious and is even better leftover. 






Pasta e Fagioli

Print this recipe!


  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2  pounds ground beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 diced carrot sticks 
  • 2 stalks diced celery
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 C beef stock
  • 2 1/2 C marinara sauce
  • 1 C small dry pasta (I used ditalini)


Sauté beef in oil in large 10-qt. pot until beef starts to brown. Add onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse beans and add to the pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, spaghetti sauce, and pasta. Simmer until celery and carrots are tender and pasta is done, about 45 minutes.

If you want to freeze this soup, it is best when you don't add the pasta, since cooked pasta doesn't freeze very well.  If you freeze the soup you can always cook up some fresh pasta and stir it in when you are ready to serve your family.

**as the soup sits it will thicken, if you want a thinner consistency, just add more stock.



I served mine with homemade croutons instead of crusty bread for dipper, which were delicious!

Here’s how I did it, and I can’t wait to play around with the recipe and come up with more variations:

Cut day old bread into cubes and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until dried out a bit and crunchy.  In a sauté’ pan, melt about 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter.  Add croutons and stir.  Top with garlic salt for added flavor.

March 23, 2012



It is no secret that I love sports.  Playing, competing in, and watching, I love it all. 

With March Madness currently taking up a lot of our time, I thought it would be fun to do a post for those readers out there who love to show their team spirit, without looking frumpy.  Who said tailgating couldn’t be fashionable?

--if you are not a Gator, Badger or Packer fan, I apologize.  Just imagine your favorite team colors instead.

Here are some tips:

  • Logo tees are always fun, but go for a more fitted look.  Most team stores have women's selections which are usually more fashionable than the men's.  Old Navy has a great selection of trendy yet comfy logo shirts.
  • When shopping for solid color items (tanks/tees, scarves, belts, cardigans, camisoles) always look for your favorite team colors.  You will be so thankful you have them when it’s time to pick an outfit for a watching party!
  • Look for prints in your team color(s), or one team color combined with white.
  • Shoes can add another dimension to your outfit:  I have green slip-ons for Green Bay Packer parties, orange sandals for Gator games and black flip flops for Badger outfits.
  • NCAA, NFL, MLB, etc. licensed merchandise can be expensive, especially if you buy at the stadium.  Instead, shop online after the specific sports season ends for great deals and save your purchases for the next year. Discount clothing stores like Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Ross also have great team clothing selections.
  • Don’t forget the accessories!  Finding jewelry , specifically statement earrings and necklaces, in your favorite team(s) colors can add a pop of color without being overbearing.


Look #1:   Logo t-shirts-








Look #2:  Solids-   tank tops, dresses, scarves, belts, cardigans





Look #3:  Prints:  stripes, polka dots



G o G a t o r s!

Elite 8 Baby!

March 22, 2012

Have you ever ________…

Good morning!  I can't wait to share these tips, tricks and reviews with you all today!  I love anything that can make my life either taste better or seem easier and am sure you do to.   Enjoy!

1.  Have you ever used stuffing instead of breadcrumbs in your meatloaf?

 First of all, let me preface this by saying, I love stuffing.  It is one of my favorite comfort foods that I fix throughout the year, not just around Thanksgiving. 

As I was standing in my pantry the other day, I reached for the panko I had on hand and it just looked so boring sitting right next to a package of herb seasoned stuffing.  Then, it hit me, why not use the stuffing instead of plain breadcrumbs?!? 

Score!  The smaller granules of stuffing were almost the same size as the panko which made for a perfect switch (this wouldn't work as well with cubed stuffing).



This will definitely be my new meatloaf staple.  It added lots of flavor and tasted delicious!


2.  Have you ever bought tomato paste in a tube?

If you haven't, I would highly recommend it!  This tubed version is available in most grocery stores near the sauces/pasta aisle.  Stored in the refrigerator after opening, this tube version saves so much tomato paste waste and is very convenient for weeknight cooking!


3.  Have you ever looked forward to taking your vitamins?

Since the moment I found these Adult Gummy Vitamins, I look forward to eating them every morning!  They work like a charm, and better yet, don't feel like I'm swallowing a watermelon much like all of the other  multi-vitamins I've tried in the past.


Teaching first grade everyday and training for a marathon can wear your body down, but I'm happy to report only one cold this year thanks in part to these yummy gummies!

4.  Have you ever eaten a LUNA Bar?

There are many times in our life, especially while in training, that we are in need of a quick bite to eat on the go.  Many protein/energy bars are just so-so and often times packed with lots of calories, fat and sugar. 

Luna Bars, which are developed from the makers of Clif Bars (also yummy) are made with women in mind (they aren't however harmful to men) and the nutritional needs most women lack.



Luna bars are a bit daintier and lower in calories than a "normal" energy bar and they come in delicious flavors:

  • Blueberry Bliss
  • Chocolate Dipped Coconut
  • Chocolate Peppermint Stick (shown above)
  • Iced Oatmeal Raisin
  • White Chocolate Macadamia (my favorite)
  • Peanut Butter Cookie
just to name a few.  These bars are found in most grocery and drug stores near the vitamins and sports supplements.

For more nutritional and background information visit the Luna website here.

5.  Have you ever used a garbage bowl while cooking?

Talk about a time saver tip!  Whether you cook a lot or are just starting to experiment in the kitchen, a garbage bowl should be incorporated into your cooking regime. 

I use mine everyday, which is actually Rachael Ray version - since she is the reason I started using one in the first place, and it makes cooking and clean up a breeze.  

Just by simply putting all of your garbage in the bowl during your food prep instead of making ten trips to the garbage can not only saves time, but cuts down on cross contamination and hand washing.



Special bowls aren't necessary, just fun, but any large bowl will do.  Good luck!