Friday, November 20, 2015

From Kelly's Kitchen: Roasted Sweet Potatoes

We eat a lot of sweet potatoes in our house. We roast them, bake them, and boil and mash them. They end up in casseroles, in stews, and in tortilla españolas

Sweet potatoes are good for you. 

And they make a great side dish. 

Here's what I do. 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes...whether you roast 2 or 10 is your choice 
Coconut oil (or olive oil)
Maple syrup
Himalayan salt or course sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
*Optional...crumbled bacon, fresh thyme. 

Preheat your oven to 425.
Peel and cut your sweet potatoes into evenly sized chunks. Place in a large mixing bowl. 

In a small bowl, mix oil, salt, and pepper. Add a splash of real maple syrup. 
Pour over the sweet potatoes, enough to lightly coat, but not enough to create a puddle in the bottom of the bowl. 

Spread onto a greased cookie sheet or into a baking dish. Ideally, you should have a single layer to avoid steaming, but potatoes roasted in a baking dish will still come out delicious. 

You can sprinkle with more salt and pepper if you want. 

Roast for thirty minutes to one hour, depending on how much you have to cook. Move them around about halfway through cooking so the bottoms don't burn. They will be tender when they are cooked. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Adventures in Cooking Class

I love to cook, and after taking a macaron class last spring, I learned that cooking classes through a local community education program are a fun way to learn new techniques,  eat well, and take home delicious leftovers. 

This fall, I decided to take some cooking classes with my friend, Chef Sherry B.  
What a treat! 

Over the course of three nights, I took classes in making Gifts from the KitchenA Passion for Pumpkinand Everything but the Turkey. 

My series began with Gifts from the Kitchen. In this class, we made sweet treats, including chocolate truffles...

peanut brittle...

and salted caramel sauce. 

Then, in A Passion for Pumpkin, we made pumpkin fudge (OMG!), pumpkin fritters with caramel sauce, pumpkin cookies, and this pumpkin risotto, with bacon and sage. 

The last class in the series was Everything but the Turkey. In this class dedicated to Thanksgiving sides, we made fresh cranberry relish...

pumpkin biscuits...

stuffing with sausage and sage...

and mashed potatoes with gravy. According the Chef Sherry, the secret to mashed potatoes is a ricer.  My mom uses an electric hand mixer to whip mashed potatoes; I use a hand mixer and sometimes, the electric mixer. Both work well for me. 

In every class, I learned new techniques, like differentiating between the ball states in candy making, how to make the perfect risotto, and the secret to fail-proof biscuits. It's an opportunity to expand my own recipe repertoire, and a fun opportunity to cook with friends. 

There are cooking classes offered all over the globe. You can find classes through international programs and tour groups, through adult continuing education programs, at independent cookware stores, and at larger chain stores, like Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. From specialty cuisines to knife skills, there is something for everyone. 

Have you ever taken a cooking class? Do tell. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Weekending: Heartache and Schoolwork

On the weekends that I have class, it feels like I have no weekend at all. It only happens once a month, and this was one of those weekends. The classes aren't difficult; just a lot of work. With four more online modules and one more face to face, the semester is winding to a close. The good news is that I'm learning a lot, which helps me better serve the kiddos in front of me every day. 

Some of the books I have to read this semester. 

And then there was the madness of Friday night. Paris holds a very special place in our heart. It was where we were engaged; it's forever our city of love

My heart hurts. It hurts for Paris. 

And for Beirut. 

And for Kenya. 

And for our world. 

While I can't do much to bring peace to our world, as the song says, I can let it begin with me. 

The highlight of the weekend came on Sunday, when we went on our Sunday coffee date before the Patriots game later that day. 

The Señor found a lovely little shop about an hour west of where we live. Billed as the best of Massachusetts, it did not disappoint. Whether it is the best coffee in the Commonwealth, I'm not sure, but it was well worth the ride and the together time that the drive provided.  

And it seems like that was it. 

Sunday night was all about watching the game (another win for our Patriots), having a glass of wine, and enjoying a light dinner. 

And here we are...back at Monday and back at it. 

New week, new opportunities. 

How was your weekend? What is something fun that you enjoyed?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday 5: Things I Would Rather Be Doing

Here in New England, Mother Nature is still offering us her best. In fact, it has been unseasonably warm, and I'm grateful, but it's now November, so if the leaves aren't completely off the trees when this goes live, I am sure they will be soon.

Despite the beauty of the autumnal landscape, the change back to Standard time has me yearning for summer's light. The urge to hibernate nest kicks in, and I start thinking about things I would rather be doing. 

It's almost dark, and not even 5:00. 

So, thanks to Kerry from Till Then Smile Often, for this fun post idea. 

Here are five things I would rather be doing than adulting. 

1. Exploring with the Señor. No surprise.  

Silliness in Salamanca, Spain.

2. Cooking for family and friends. 

Using up some leftover potatoes for a tasty side dish.

3. Writing.

And backing up, because that's what you do. 

4. Hanging out with my favorite girl. 

Silly photo-booth fun.

5. Beachside anywhere. 

Never. Gets. Old. 

What makes your list? What would you rather be doing when adulting gets in the way?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In gratitude

Thank you to all those who fought for our country and for their families who love them. 

Like my dad.

And a special thank you to those who are still active in our military, and to the families who love them and manage life with grace on the home front. heart emoticon

Blessings to you all on this Veteran's Day, today and always.  

Thank you. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Exploring Dublin: The Guinness Storehouse

The Señor is a beer lover, and when we landed in Dublin for a few days, a trip to the Guinness Storehouse, Ireland's most popular tourist attraction, soared to the top of our itinerary. 

Imagine that?! An old beer factory trumps the Blarney Stone and the Book of Kells as Ireland's most popular tourist attraction! 

Designed as a seven story pint glass, the Guinness Storehouse gives visitors an interactive history of the Irish brew that culminates with a pint on the famous rooftop Gravity Bar. 

The tour begins with the history of Arthur Guinness and his 9,000 year old lease, signed in 1759. 

On the first floor, visitors learn about the four ingredients that go into Guinness: water, barley, hops, and yeast. 

The water used in Guinness manufacturing comes from the Wicklow Mountains, not the River Liffey. The water rights were part of the original 1759 lease negotiated by Guinness. 


And hops

Each floor offers an interactive exhibit teaching visitors about the Guinness history. There are plenty of spaces for photo opps. 

The Guinness story, told in the perfect pint. 

Visitors are given a free pint of Guinness, which they can enjoy in the Perfect Pint bar, where you can learn how to pour the perfect pint and later, receive a certificate. Or you can enjoy your Guinness in the rooftop Gravity Bar. 

I learned the fine art of pouring the perfect Guinness. 

And, since I'm not a beer drinker, the Señor was doubly blessed. He poured the perfect pint and then enjoyed my beer in the rooftop bar. 

When you start to get hungry, you can eat in the Storehouse's full-service restaurant, The Brewery Bar, or you can help yourself to the snack bar's specialty, Guinness Stew. 

So good!

And shop all things Guinness to your heart's content. 

Even though I'm not a beer drinker, I had a great time at the Guinness Storehouse. The museum is very user friendly, with handsets for non-English speakers, and the interactive layout brings the history to life. 

If you're lucky enough to visit Dublin, make the Guiness Storehouse part of your itinerary. 


Have you ever been to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin? Did you enjoy your pint in the pouring room or in the Gravity Bar? 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Adventures in Car Shopping: Meet Blanche

Anyone that knows me knows that having too many choices stresses me out. So when it came time to replace my car, the task became nearly paralyzing.

For my husband, on the other hand, the Consumer Reports guy who would happily spend hours pouring over options on, the task of finding me a car became an entertaining quest to find the best deal on the best car. 

It began with weekend drives. 

What cars catch your eye, he would ask?

I don't know that I ever pointed out a car and thought, gee, that's cute. My husband, though, can pick out makes, models, years, and body re-designs and tell you what each was rated in nearly every category.

Where I saw too many choices, my husband saw options. 

Every time I thought we had narrowed it down to one or two models, he threw in another option. 

"I just want you to be happy," he said. 

How can I argue with that? He's a love.

When we had finally decided on a make and model, he found a car at a nearby dealership. We agreed that we would get up early, go for breakfast, and, if it was the right deal, sign on the dotted line. 

And so we did. 

We got up early and were prepping to leave. Just before leaving for the dealership, he said, "I don't want to confuse you, but take a look at this." 

In my mind, I was back in our wild goose chase. 

As it turned out, the car we wanted sold, and our plan B at the same dealership turned out to be a bust. 

The wildcard he threw in at the last minute turned out to be the one we bought. 

Meet Blanche.

In New England, where we live, where nearly every street is a significant hill, all-wheel drive is a must. He found us a good car to replace mine, and I am grateful. This 2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring has great reviews, she's certified, still under warranty, and super cute. 

I feel like a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders. I will never like car shopping, but knowing I have the best and most knowledgeable shopper on my side makes all the difference. 

Here's to wonderful memories and many thousands of safe happy miles in our new car. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

5 Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Before the last trick or treaters have begun negotiating their loot, advertisers begin their holiday marketing, and we begin planning for the tastes of the season. 

It's easy to see why we gain weight around the holidays and in the winter. 

Cooler days and longer nights have us nesting and layering in roomy, warm, comfortable knits. It's the time for soups and baking and crockpots and parties. 

Cold, harsh weather and the winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, make it easy to hibernate and our favorite comfort foods rarely meet our ideal nutritional profile. 

Nevertheless, there are things you can do to be proactive and keep your weight in check over the holidays. And, in staying accountable over the holidays, you are ready to take 2016 on your terms. 

Be proactive
Going to a party? Bring something healthy that you can enjoy. It's not hard to find delicious and healthy options that do not include a veggie platter (although those are a great option as well). Hosting a party? Serve things you don't mind having as leftovers or send your guests home with the food you don't want tempting you after the party has ended.

Get creative with your workouts
Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you have to hibernate inside. Make an effort to find one outdoor activity that you love. Or buy yourself a gift certificate for a new workout or program. Have you been thinking about Crossfit? Check Groupon for an introductory deal. Are you easily bored? Check out streaming videos, like those offered by Beachbody On-Demand, where you can do workouts at home from Beachbody's most popular programs. 

Reach out and find an accountability partner
Get yourself a push partner, someone who will get you to move your mass, even when you don't want feel like it. Remember, an object in motion stays in motion. It's harder to get motivated to move when you've been "at rest" for a while.

Create a motivation board
Like a vision board, these graphic motivators can help you to keep your eye on the prize. You can keep it fitness related or extend it to other areas of your life that you want to work on in 2016. 

Allow for an indulgence
No one is perfect. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Go ahead and eat the cupcake, but then work off that cupcake. It's all about balance. If you have eaten "clean" all week, designate a meal at which time you can indulge in something you enjoy, and when you have enjoyed it and you're done with it, get back on track. You will come to appreciate those treats more if you have them less often.

Better yet, find a way to indulge that is not food-related. Find an old jar and for every workout you complete, pay yourself a dollar. When you reach some pre-set amount, like $30, go treat yourself to a pedi, or put it toward something you would enjoy. 

There are ways to stay on track, even during the holiday season. As with anything, if you want it, you will make it happen. 

What are some ways you have been successful in staying on track with your nutrition and wellness?

AND...Happy Blogging Anniversary to me. Onward!