Blogmas Day 2: Top 10 Soups to Warm Up With This Holiday Season

Welcome to Blogmas Day 2! I hope you enjoyed the recipe post.

As you likely know if you’ve been reading this blog for any appreciable amount of time, I eat a TON of soup. Over the past year, I’ve tried a ton of different and unique soup recipes. Today, I wanted to do a round-up of some of my favorites, plus some I’m dying to try. If you love soup as much as I do, read on!

  1. Butternut squash soup with citrus cranberry relish. This is one of my recipes from my grandma here on the blog, but this classic butternut squash soup gets a little pizzaz with the addition of creme fraiche and cranberry relish.img_5542
  2. Leftover Roast Chicken Soup with Roasted Vegetables. This one is a staple in my house, and we’ve made it for guest multiple times. It was a butternut squash based broth, and is packed with flavor. It’s also paleo, if that’s your thing.img_0687
  3. Sweet potato, pear, and leek soup with spiced croutons. I also call this my magic soup. It has spicy ginger undertones, and has never failed to quell an upset stomach. Back when I was still sick, I swear every time I was having a flare up, this soup nipped it in the bud. The curry scented croutons elevate this soup to another level. And if you’re feeling lazy, you can take prepared butternut squash or sweet potato soup, blend in a pear, then add spices and croutons. (See how I did it here.                                                                                      img_6016
  4. Chicken avocado soup. I’ve made this a few times now, and you really can’t go wrong with avocado, right?img_7621
  5. Avgolemono (chicken lemon rice Greek soup). Cooking Light’s take on this Greek soup has tons of flavor, and I love the addition of fresh herbs. I highly recommend adding a bit of feta as well .                                       img_8408
  6. Colombian Chicken Soup. This is a fun soup that is really different, and has a lot going on. Toppings include corn on the cob, avocado, and cilantro. If you’re looking for something unique, give this a try!                               img_6674
  7. Skinny Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup (Crockpot). This is the one crockpot recipe on the list. I found this recipe when making my mom a crockpot cookbook last Christmas, and it was a winner. It’s packed with flavor, but also with hidden veggies; cooked into the soup are zucchini and grated carrots. img_5499
  8. Sweet potato, kale, and corn chowder. Everyone loves a good chowder to warm up, and this fits the bill. It’s dairy free, but still creamy thanks to blended sweet potato and corn. You’d never know it though!                               img_7238
  9. Spinach and goat cheese bisque. This one is a bit different. It reminds me of Spanikopita, the Greek spinach and cheese pastry. It packs in a whopping 24 cups of spinach, and the croutons are to die for.                                    img_6548
  10. Split-pea soup with Portobellos. My picture does not do this soup justice, so definitely click through to the original! I feel like split pea soup can be a hit or miss, an this was definitely not a miss. The mushrooms add a whole lot to the flavor, and this soup is loaded with veggies.img_6799

I want to close this post out with a few soups I’m dying to try. Note that pictures are taken from the original blogs, and are not mine!

Cheesy Vegan Potato Kale Soup via Emilie Eats

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Cleansing Vegetable Turmeric Soup via Emilie Eats

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Roasted Garlic and Asparagus Soup via Diethood

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Creamy Roasted Garlic, Carrot, and Rosemary Soup via Veganosity

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Blogmas Day 1: Double Chocolate Cranberry Bread

Happy December! This brings us to our official start of Blogmas: a new post every day until Christmas, with fresher than normal content. Expect some recipes, workouts, and hot topics. I wanted to kick off Blogmas with a bang. Or at least with a delicious recipe.

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During my hours at the zoo as the holiday season drew closer, I started daydreaming about what types of things I wanted to eat. This recipe popped into my mind: double chocolate cranberry bread. Because who doesn’t love chocolate? The recipe is adapted form my double chocolate banana bread. This recipe packs a kick of chocolatey, tart flavor with minimal nutritional damage (although we know I definitely preach eating whatever the heck you want during the holidays). This bread is an everyday kind of dessert bread, with only 1/4 of a cup of honey as the sweetener, apart from the chocolate chips. Additionally, the cranberries pack an antioxidant punch to help protect against all those pesky germs hovering around this time of here.

So make this for your friends and family, and don’t tell them the secret behind it’s nutritional value. Shhh, I won’t tell!

Double Chocolate Cranberry Bread

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Ingredients:

4 ripe bananas

1 egg (or 2 whites)

2 T oil (I used avocado)

1/3 c milk

1 t salt

1 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 c cocoa powder (I used dark chocolate, hence the color)

1 c flour-I used gluten free multi-purpose, but I’ve made this before with whole wheat pastry flour as well

1/4 cup  honey

1/2 c semissweet chocolate chips

3/4 c chopped fresh cranberries

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1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Mash bananas and mix all ingredients besides the chips and cranberries.

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3. Stir in chips and cranberries.

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4. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 until done.

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Enjoy! This is delicious alone, served warm, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

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Getting Better+Cranberry Everything

Guys! Blogmas will begin shortly! In fact, this is probably the last normal post before it starts. I haven’t decided how I want to handle day to day things during Blogmas. I might include them in my Blogmas posts, or I may be double posting in a day. We shall see.

I wanted to recap a little food and a little fitness before I take a little trip tomorrow. Blogmas Day 1 and 2 posts are all typed up, scheduled, and ready to go!

All I’ve done fitness-wise this week is Crossfit. I was really excited for Monday’s workout. We are preparing for the open. It’s always interesting to see how different boxes prepare in terms of their programming. At my box last year, we did a ton of longer workouts, like 3 10 minute AMRAPS with a few minutes of rest in between. Where I am now, we’re working on endurance in the form of disgustingly long sets. We’re doing a set of 20 back squats, and a set of 20 presses. This week I did 120 lbs for the squat. It’s crazy how I can be sore from just one set. I was not excited for that. The thing I WAS excited for? We redid 16.2. I was really happy with my performance when I did it the first time. I had just gotten my toes to bar literally the week before, and was so proud of myself for getting through them. 16.2 was 25 toes to bar, 50 double unders, 15 cleans at 95 lbs. If you finish that in 4 minutes, you move on to do that again in 4 minutes, with the weight on the cleans increasing and the reps decreasing. Last time I got majorly tripped up on my doubles (LOL pun sort of intended), and finished with 46 doubles in the first round. My doubles are MILES better than in March, so I was really excited to tackle this again. Not a lot of people Rxed this so they definitely did more rounds than I did, but I really wanted to see what I could do. The doubles were cake. I finished the toes to bar and doubles in 3 minutes, and got through 5 of the cleans before running out of time. That’s 9 reps better than last time, but it’s a big 9 reps because the cleans are time consuming. I was panting and shaky at the 4 minute mark, and not entirely sad to be done with the workout.

This morning I went to 6am Crossfit because I woke up at 4am and could not fall back asleep. When it was 5:15 and I wasn’t even tired, I figured I should just get up and get it done, especially since I had plans to have a more interesting and large lunch than normal. We worked on snatches, and then the WOD was 3 rounds of 15 wall balls, 15 pull ups, and 15 deadlifts (I used 135#). I knew the pull ups would be a little challenging, but I’m not going to baby myself anymore with pull ups in workouts. Unless it’s a crazy number of reps, I just have to suck it up and do it. I’m at a place now with Crossfit where I feel like I’ve made a ton of progress over the past year, and I’ve started to finally get a lot of the movements, so to progress I need to suck it up and Rx the workouts, as slow as it may be, because the speed will come. Honestly, it’s a little bit of a pride issue. At my box, a lot of people don’t Rx the workouts, which is totally cool with me. But it means when I do Rx them, I’m often one of the last people working. But I need to get over that, because it’s the only way I’ll get better.

In terms of food…

Breakfasts:

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Flapjacked muffin with blueberries.

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Going strong with cranberry here. Yogurt with cocoa powder and maple syrup stirred in, topped with cranberry sauce. Eaten in about 5 minutes between Crossfit and taking my dog for a walk with a friend.

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We got talked into signing up for a CSA box while picking up my bib at the turkey trot. It’s cool in that it’s delivered to your door, and you get to pick what you get in your box. I don’t always like Gala apples, but this was delicious. I had it with my typical breakfast (at least for the past 3 months) of yogurt, sunbutter, and cinnamon KIND granola.

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Lunches:

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Leftover Whole Foods Chicken Lemon Artichoke soup with avocado toast.

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Chinese food! I think everyone has that one Chinese restaurant that they’ve been going to forever. My sister just got back from 3 months in Europe, 2 of which were spent in Florence, Italy, and she was craving Chinese food like crazy. I haven’t had it in quite some time as well because I was worried soy sauce (it has a little gluten) would cause me to flare. Now, I feel pretty safe that it won’t, so I was excited as well! I started with egg drop soup, and then got chicken and vegetables with fried rice. And always extra sweet and sour sauce. To put on rice, to put on veggies, to put on chicken. Why not?

Dinners:

My mom and I have been on our own for dinner this week, and we both are fans of simple. We made open faced turkey and havarti sandwiches. Normally we do these with apples on top, but I wanted to try them with cranberry sauce. The verdict? Delicious. We also happened to buy some turkey that was more like carved turkey than deli turkey on accident, so it was perfect with the cranberry sauce! On the side, we sautéed up some zucchini noodles, one day with garlic, and another with smokey salt seasoning blend.

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Etc.

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After 16.2, I was sort of shaky and light headed, so I needed sugar and protein ASAP. I tried this flavor for the first time while cooking dinner. I saw it in St. Louis but never made the leap. It’s good! Who can complain with chocolate though, right? The cinnamon chocolate works with yogurt.

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Trader Joe’s has really delicious peppermint bark. It’s SUPER thick and really hard to break up though! My sister also hadn’t been to Trader Joe’s in 3 months, so she was just a bit excited to go. I was really excited to see GF peppermint jo-jos. I got them, took a bite out of one, and then thought to check the label. They have coconut oil :/ I decided “screw it” and finished the cookie, but thanks to a coconut allergy I can’t eat them since I’m going to react. Darn. Why is coconut oil in everything these days?? At least I have peppermint bark to ease the pain though, right?

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My first coffee back in CA! This was good. Search for the best coffee round 2?

Also, note: I am wearing jeans. It’s been at least 10 months since I wore jeans. Mark your calendars.

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This dessert right here is part of why I firmly believe there is space for a dessert every day. That bowl is only 140 calories. 120 without whipped cream. A serving of Halo Top, a spoonful of delicious gourmet salted rum caramel sauce from St. Helena (in Napa Valley), what could be better?

And with that, I’m signing off. Check back in tomorrow for Blogmas Day 1!

Visiting the Castle

We’ve been to Napa quite a few times now, but this year we did something pretty unique. More on that to come!

I mentioned yesterday that I was struggling with lack of appetite on this trip, so I was hoping starting my day with a workout might bump up my ability to eat a little bit! I was hoping to run, but it was raining and to be honest, a cold rainy run on vacation didn’t sound too nice. I modified Peanut Butter Runner’s 1000 rep workout to better meet my needs, and just cycled through for about 40 minutes (I didn’t get to 1000 reps).

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Our big plan on the agenda for the day was a visit to Castello di Amorosa, an amazing winery based out of an authentic castle. It took 15 years to build, and every stone was imported from Italy.

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The castle has 107 rooms, many of which store wine. The winery opened in 2007, and have been making quality wine since then. Their red wines are aged about 4 years, so the red wines sold now are 2012. The tour was about 2 hours, and took us though the amazing rooms of the castle.

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This was styled to be like an authentic 13th century Italian castle, and even had a dungeon with torture devices!

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This awful looking chair would be heated, and the spikes would melt into one’s body. It’s apparently where the phrase “hot seat” came from.

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We also got to try some Cabernet Sauvignon straight from the barrel. This was a young red wine; it was only aged 2 years.

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The tour ended with a tasting. We got to pick out 5 different wines to try. I’m definitely more of a white wine girl, so I tended in that direction, although I did try the Cab that was the same kind as in the barrel, but fully aged. It had a lot more complexity!

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The wine was good, and our sommelier was super friendly and helpful. He overheard me talking about vet schools, and he offered to talk about Davis with me, since he got his Viniculture degree there.

We tried a couple of sweet wines which were really unique; the moscato was rich with flavor and complexity. In terms of regular wine, I liked the Chardonnay and the dry Gewürztraminer; this wine is often sweet, but their version is dry and had a really interesting flavor.

The wine is only sold on site, so we definitely took some bottles home!

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After our morning wine, we were ready for lunch in St. Helena, at the Bistro. This is one of my favorite restaurants, and it’s a meal I always look forward to!

We split a grilled artichoke to start.

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And got the avocado salad with for my main course. Avocado, fresh mozzarella, tomato, high quality olive oil, and sea salt.

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We also shared some of my dad’s sweet potato fries.

We made our usual stops in St. Helena:

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Fideaux, an adorable pet store. I actually had to get some Christmas cat toys to mail to Yoyo and Scooby; I miss them!

Olivier, which is mainly olive oil, but has expanded to all sort of gourmet items like caramel sauce and tapenades, and has free samples of most of their products.

And of course, Woodhouse Chocolates.

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I managed to talk my dad into splitting some hot chocolate from Woodhouse, and it was of course delicious.

We relaxed the rest of the afternoon before heading to Oxbow Market for dinner. Oxbow used to have AMAZING arepas, but still has lots of good options! Since my family is now really into beer, we stopped at the taproom for Fieldwork Brewing Company and got a flight to share.

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We picked out 5 beers to sample, but were most excited about the Bad Conduct, a chocolate maple imperial brown. It was delicious, but was a very strong flavor and we all agreed that we liked it a lot, but couldn’t imagine having a full glass of it! I thought the beer overall was pretty good, but not really as interesting as the St. Louis craft beer I’ve been drinking! It was fine, but nothing too special (with the exception of the chocolate maple).

Since I figured I should actually put some food in my stomach as well, my mom and I shared a gluten free margarita pizza and salad.

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The Oxbow Market is an indoor area with a lot of different shops and food places. It’s sort of like the Ferry Building in SF, but smaller.

For dessert, my family chose Kara’s Cupcakes, so I had a GF mini brownie with chocolate chip buttercream.

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We finished the evening with chocolates and Gilmore Girls by the fire. I’m actually only starting Gilmore Girls now, only on season 2!

I began my last morning in Napa with a run. I love running around the edge of the property; it’s so beautiful there! I did 3 miles before breakfast.

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We went to the Grille for breakfast, which was a buffet.

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On my plate was frittata, country potatoes, fruit, and Strauss yogurt with apple compote (mostly because I wanted the apple compote).

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Then, it was back home. The only other highlights I want to share are my needy kitty, and homemade cranberry sauce.

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This is the worst picture ever, but I had some leftover cranberries and the desire to put cranberry sauce on everything, so I whipped up some cranberry sauce. It sort of kills me to pour white sugar into things, so I sweetened the sauce with maple syrup to taste, and the maple flavor came through amazingly. It seemed like it would be perfect on ice cream, so I made myself a little baby bowl. YUM. Cranberry sauce is seriously so easy to make. Heat cranberries on the stovetop with a little water until they break down, and add sugar as desired.

And that, my friends, is a wrap on Thanksgiving 2016.

Exploring Napa Valley (Again)

I go to Napa every year for Thanksgiving, but while we do a lot of the same things, we try to visit some new places as well. The world opened up when I turned 21!

Friday morning, my mom and I went to the spa for a massage and facial. We did this for the first time a year ago. Both were delightful. I started an actual skin care regimen after going last year, and I feel like my skin is a whole lot better now. I actually had the same person doing my facial as last year, and she was super nice (Ashly)! She said If I come back next year I should request her so we can catch up!

The next item on the agenda for the day was Genova Delicatessen, an Italian deli. Their egg salad is to do for, but this time I had a massive slab of cheesy polenta with some different salad sides: coleslaw with pineapple and Greek salad.

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After lunch we went across the street for our annual Ross Dress For Less trip. My sister and I used to spend hours there trying on party dresses when we were younger. I didn’t get too much because I just rediscovered 80% of my wardrobe (yay for living out of suitcases) so I wasn’t really in the shopping mood, but I did get some Blogmas props!

Next on the agenda was the real Black Friday shopping, at Domaine Chandon.

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Although we did a full tour with a tasting last year, we still did a tasting again!

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We did the basic tasting, which gave us tastes of 4 different champagnes. Last time we got to try the best of the best, which obviously I liked better!

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They have a nice outdoor seating area where you can sit and sip your tasting. They are also dog friendly in the outdoor area, so we are tentatively planning a Napa trip with Chloe sometime in the future, as the area is really dog-friendly and she could always use the socialization!

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Upon arriving at our rental place, we broke into some fall Trader Joe’s finds, which was my first time trying both. The salsa may be my new favorite salsa; it reminds me of vegetarian chili and it isn’t too spicy!

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Then, we headed out to enjoy a little holiday celebration: a tree lighting!

There were carolers, free hot drinks (hot chocolate for me), and Christmas cookies!

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We ordered takeout from the grill right next to the main house area, and came out just in time to see the tree being lit!

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For dinner, I shared a roasted brussels sprouts and apple appetizer, and had a salad with fresh mozzarella.

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For dessert, I had a gluten free brownie.

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To be honest, I was really struggling with lack of appetite on this trip. This is a major annoyance of my stomach condition. I feel like I can hardly eat anything. Normally I have more appetite, but different foods, travel, and way less physical activity is making it hard for me to enjoy all the delicious food! That being said, I was still pretty sick this time last year so I’m thankful the worst I’m dealing with is mostly just getting full quickly!

This post is getting long, so I’ll save the castle post for tomorrow!

Have you ever been champagne tasting?