Give Thanks

This year I hosted my first Thanksgiving.  I am proud to relay the message that it was a success.  While gathering around the table, I said a Thankgiving prayer and then took a moment to silently reflect on the past year.  I am thankful for many wonderful blessings…my family, friends, career, cozy home…the list goes on and on.   Now that I am myself again, I can also say that I am thankful to have been loved and to have experienced love.  I’m not sure when I will have a go at it again, but I can finally say that I am healed from the heartbreak.  I didn’t know how the holiday would pass, but I can honestly say that I didn’t miss having that special someone around.  I admit that it was quite refreshing to be able to do my own thing.  I spent the weekend with friends and family and enjoyed every minute of it. Here’s a look at the Thanksgiving spread.

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Now it’s time to get decorating for Christmas!  The countdown begins.

 

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Wine and Paint Night…you can do the dining after.

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Since I turned 30, my nights out have changed quite a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, I still go out on the town but the occasions are more rare these days.  Instead, I like to find alternatives that tend not to leave me with a wicked hangover.   My friend, Christina and I, are pictured above with our smocks on because we decided to spend the evening being slightly productive.  We decided to go to a wine and paint party at Artist on the Rocks in North Cape May.  I realize that these places have been popping up all over the country in the last year, but Cape May County is usually a little late to the game.  Better late than never!  All we had to do was bring a bottle of wine to the studio and pay $25 for our 3 hour session.  They provide you with the canvas and all the supplies you need and a slice of pizza (painting is rigorous so you need some sustenance along the way).  They post a session schedule of the paintings on their website so you can plan your night ahead of time.  I have been two times already and you can see the results below.  Looks like a little wine brings out the artist in me!
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Last Five

Songs I downloaded from iTunes.

1. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. This one is hard to resist. Who doesn’t want and need some uptown funk in their lives? I heard it on the radio when I was waking up one morning and I knew I had to have it. This is going on the cooking music playlist for sure. Best lyric: “I’m too hot, I make a dragon want to retire.”

2. We All Want the Same Thing by Rixton. This was a Pandora find. It came up the other day and I thought it was catchy. These guys have had one medium radio hit recently, but I don’t know if this is reaching the Top 40 at this point.

3. Cross my Heart by Marianas Trench. Another Pandora find. I downloaded three songs by Marianas Trench this summer and I’m still listening to them constantly. Their sound is very similar to Fall Out Boy, and I love Fall Out Boy, so it all makes sense. It’s a great gym song.

4. Never Had a Dream Come True by S Club 7. I heard it randomly, and I needed it immediately. S Club 7 is good stuff from the middle school era of my life.

5. Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Pentatonix. My first Christmas song of the season! This version is an interesting combination of traditional, a cappella, and gospel. Their whole Christmas album is pretty solid, but I didn’t go crazy, because my Christmas repertoire is already pretty full of the songs they selected. I can’t make a mix with my five favorite versions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I wish they put out a few more songs.

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PS- I’m seriously considering downloading Dangerous by David Guetta featuring Sam Martin, because I’ve heard it on the radio about 20 times in the last couple days and I like it (the video takes about 4 minutes for the actual song to start).

Almond Joy Brownies: A Hershey Inspired Dessert

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This month, I made a trip to Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA on the way back from visiting my alma mater.  One of my memories as a child is going to Hershey Park in the summer to ride all the thrilling amusement rides and to visit Chocolate World.  The best part of Chocolate World was the ride inside that detailed the process of making Hershey’s chocolate.  As you walk into Chocolate World, you are blown away by the smell of chocolate emanating from the building.  The aroma is overwhelming and you become immersed into a magical world where nothing matters except all the chocolate treats that you can purchase there.  Needless to say, I went home with a goodie bag.

When i returned home, I felt the need to whip up my very own chocolate creation inspired by Milton Hershey himself.  I put a Hershey twist on brownies.  I used Pillsbury Dark Chocolate brownie mix and doctored it up to make Almond Joy Brownies.  I made the batter as stated on the box, then added 1/2 tsp of coconut extract, 1 tsp of almond extract, and 3/4 cup sliced almonds to the batter.

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I poured the batter in a 13×9 inch pan and then topped the batter with coconut flakes.  I used Toasted Coconut Chips from Creative Snacks Co.  This sample bag was given to me by one of my sales reps this summer.  If you use regular coconut, be sure to toast it in the oven before you top off the brownies.

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Bake the brownies as directed on the box.  The result is a twist on a classic and your dinner guests won’t be able to pass on dessert.  Top a brownie with the ice cream of your choice and hot fudge sauce to make an even more irresistible dessert.

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Third Time’s the Charm

Last weekend I ran the Richmond half marathon, which was my third half marathon ever. It was a lot of fun! I got to spend some time with great friends, and had a great run! Turns out I just keep getting faster! My first half marathon was the 2012 Richmond half and I finished in 2:04. Then in February of 2013 I finished the Colonial half marathon in Williamsburg, VA in 2:02. Last weekend my goal was to break the 2 hour barrier, but my expectations were low because I really only ran once, maybe twice a week this fall. I did a lot of cross training, but I didn’t think it was enough to improve my time.

My brother and I posing with the Governor pre race!

My brother and me posing with the Governor pre race!

On Saturday it only took me 1 hour and 57 minutes to run 13.1 miles! I was so excited!

I had a terrible night’s sleep the night before, and I wasn’t feeling particularly well. But I took a few tylenol and suited up with the expectation to try my best. Once I started running I actually felt great! I was running pretty fast (for me) and I just kept pushing because it felt good. Here’s how the race played out in terms of splits and some of the songs I remember that came up on my shuffle.

1: 9:20- Weaving through the crowd at the start. Lips are Movin by Meghan Trainor- I got this at the beginning and towards the last couple miles.

2: 9:01- Found my pace. Irreplaceable by Beyonce- This was a short uphill. Beyonce=motivation.

3: 8:58- Gold Digger by Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx- This one got me through mile 3, and reminded me of senior year of college!

4: 8:55- So Emotional (David Morales mix) by Whitney Houston kept me moving.

5: 8:57- Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson came on- It’s a classic.

6: 9:06- I think this was a little uphill. Stutter by Marianas Trench got me through.

7: 8:56- I’m surprised my splits were that consistent for 6 miles straight. If I Could Change Your Mind by HAIM.

8: 9:14- This is a rough mile (for me at least) because you’ve run 8 and you still have 5 more. You need to refresh that motivation! Rich Girls by Down With Webster definitely made me laugh on the inside at this point.

9: 8:50 This was when I really decided I could push it and make sure the tank was completely empty at 13. Amazing by Kanye West feat. Young Jeezy came on, I think I listened to this 3 times in a row in mile 9.

10: 8:37- Killing it. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift- Obvi.

11: 8:36- Killing it. Bailando by Enrique Iglesias feat. Sean Paul, Descemer Bueno & Gente de Zona, because Enrique is the pinnacle of inspiration.

12: 8:42- Killing it. Dancing On My Own by Robyn, because Robyn is awesome running music.

13: 8:23- full disclosure: the last half mile of the race is downhill. I have no idea what songs finished the race for me. I was just so happy to be finishing!

This unflattering look says I'm freezing, tired, and ready to take a shower asap.

This unflattering look says I’m freezing, tired, and ready to take a shower asap. My brother is just happy he’s still in one piece. My dad is clearly elated with our accomplishment.

What’s for Dinner Tonight – Chicken Marsala

IMG_0918An easy and comforting meal to make is chicken marsala.  I usually serve this with mashed potatoes or rice pilaf because I’m not a huge fan of pasta.  You can pick whatever you want to pair it with depending on what your mood is that night.  You simply can’t go wrong because the flavorful sauce is the shining star of this dish.  The marsala wine and the saltiness of the prosciutto make this dish stand out.

The recipe that I use to make this dish is provided by Tyler Florence.  I must say that he is a master at perfecting a classic dish.  You can find the recipe here.  Be sure to use a good marsala wine when making this dish.  Don’t use something that you buy at the grocery store.  Please take the time and go to your local wine and beer store.  I like to use Taylor when I use marsala wine or sherry for cooking.  Always choose something you wouldn’t mind drinking on its own.  If you don’t want to drink it in a glass, don’t cook with it either.  You’re taking time to make a home cooked meal and you don’t want to ruin it with low quality ingredients.

Now let’s get going.  Ready, set, cook!

In the Kitchen with David

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Sadie and I have a love for In the Kitchen with David on QVC.  It airs every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon hosted by the fabulous David Venable.  I got the unique opportunity to go see the show live at QVC Studio Park in West Chester, PA.

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It was everything I thought it would be and so much more.  I saw Tara McConnell, the creator of Temptations, and the oh-so-famous Bob Warden.  Before the show started, we had a chance to have a quick question and answer session with David and Mary.  It was confirmed that David is down to earth and really cares about his fans.  In fact, he announced that he would be available for a cookbook signing session after the show.  My mom and I were ecstatic.  In fact, my mom was a little starstruck when she met David.

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He mentioned that one of his favorite recipes from his new book was Italian Wedding Casserole.  Well folks, it is simply divine.  I made it last night and I must say it was a success.  You can find the recipe here in this preview of his latest cookbook, Back Around the Table.  Have fun foodies!