Holiday Hostess

My cheeks and jaw are sore from laughing so hard last night. The can’t-breathe, eyes-are-watering kind of laughing. Those are good moments. :)

My parents are very good at hosting friends for meals and tend to go way overboard with the amount of food they prepare. Last night, they set up a build-your-own-pizza bar for some of their friends and mine while we played games like Taboo for about 6 hours.

I made a ‘fruits & veggies’ pizza – pineapple, tomato, artichokes, bell peppers, onions and spinach. It’s funny how differently everyone designs their pizzas! My best friend Kerri and I used to have a lot of homemade pizza nights in college and we had very strong opposing opinions on cheese placement. She argues that the cheese goes between the sauce and veggies like glue. I believe cheese goes on the very top like a seal. We agree to disagree.

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Seeing how my parents host parties and events with their friends makes me excited to do the same in my own place. Two years ago, I hosted Thanksgiving at my apartment in Flagstaff, AZ while I was a senior in college and I loved planning the drinks and decorations and place settings. Last year, I was in charge of appetizers and dessert.

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Obviously food is at the core of holiday celebrations. When you live that healthy lifestyle, a full day of feasting can be a little stressful. I don’t like to let my healthy values fall to the wayside on major holidays because overindulging typically results in feeling guilty and that is not a feeling to associate with a day of thankfulness.

Side dishes that are individually portioned are one way to avoid over-eating. One pre-sliced crostini with a tablespoon of toppings is a two-bite snack that won’t ruin your appetite for dinner.

Our Thanksgiving dishes aren’t extremely traditional. Basic recipes are typically heavy on the butter/salt/cheese ingredients and low in nutritional value. Plus, after decades of the same boring turkey and mashed potatoes, we are ready for something unique, spicy and creative! We’ve made curried sweet potatoes (try something besides marshmallows, I dare you) and bacon-roasted brussel sprouts. I do think these butternut squash and sage crostini’s were my favorite appetizer, probably in large part to how pretty they plate!

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Butternut Squash & Basil Crostini App: 

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage, rinsed
  • 4 Laughing Cow cheese wedges (I used the asiago flavor)
  • 1 baguette, cut into 12 slices

1.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir butternut squash cubes into the olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on a cookie sheet.

2.) Bake the squash for 45 minutes.

3.) Place the baguette slices in the oven for 4-5 minutes until warm. Top with a tablespoon of cheese, squash and some fresh sage.

Enjoy!

Another appetizer success last year was my spicy cranberry jalapeno relish and “stuffing sliders.” I’ll share this clean-eating recipe later this week.

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A week from today, my office is having a Friends-giving potluck lunch with the office and I signed up for a sweet potato dish. Sweet potatoes are one of my top 5 favorite foods ever and I’ll make a post about my favorite sweet potato recipes as well. If you’ve only ever eaten sweet potatoes with marshmallows and brown sugar, these will change your life. ;)

Feel free to share any of your favorite healthy or not-so-healthy holiday recipes!

XO Kenz.

 

Halloweekend

It is truly Halloweekend over here. Friday night I left work early to get ready for a Roaring 20’s themed Murder Mystery Dinner party in a “Speakeasy” with lemony libations. The costumes were elaborate with fringe and feathers, and three courses were each paired with a cocktail from the era. It was a night straight out of my favorite book in high school, The Great Gatsby!

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Three of us girls sat together in the decorated club with five large full tables plus 6 actors roaming around and setting the storyline in to motion. The performance took us back to prohibition times in a Speakeasy with a VIP poker game in the next room. The proprietor and his rival, plus a flapper girl and her husband as well as the hustling doorman were all alone in the VIP lounge when suddenly the rival died. Suspected poisoning. #whodunnit

I’ve watched CSI (Las Vegas of course. None of the spin-offs will compare) enough to overthink the details and clues. All of the actors started throwing out their alibi while we debated their motives and means.

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“Mrs. Peacock….in the library….with the rope!” ;)

We began the night with a cocktail called “The French,” which was citrusy and sparkling in a chapagne flute. One of the actresses was served a drink and she abandoned it without a sip at our table, so I happily made sure it didn’t go to waste either ;) This was paired with a wedge salad, champagne-soaked melon balls, gorgonzola and candied walnuts with a champagne vinagrette while the flapper girls sang on stage.

The next course (in between scandelous murders and speculation) was a Steak l’ Orange, with seared sea scallops, amazing apple bacon risotto and honey glazed carrots. The cocktail for this course was a sidecar that was definitely strong enough to knock you sideways.

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By the time we solved the case – a classic case of a love triangle and cyanide – we had our final course of mini lemon meringue and the least favorite cocktail. A “White Lady” which includes an egg white. Pass.

The entire week was one fall festivity after the next, because there were too many fun events going on that we couldn’t pass up!

Every month, our country club has a Ladies Night with different themes. This month was “Cocktails and Crafts” and if you don’t already know, I am Pinterest’s #1 fan. My friend Shelby and I and both of our mom’s got crafty with the help of pumpkin spice martini’s and caramel apple sangria. The craft of the night = autumn wreaths.

The event coordinator looked like she raided Hobby Lobby and had a table full of every leaf, ribbon, bow and bell you could imagine. I tried to control myself with the toppings so it didn’t look like I threw up a pumpkin spice latte all over the wreath but there were too many cute decorations to choose.

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Can you handle anymore pictures of hues of orange and gold? I promise the autumn overload will end soon, but it will likely be replaced with scenes of cliche snowy shenanigans so I can’t promise it will be any better.

Brush’d Experience is a local painting class hosted at local restaurants and bars. Last week I won a giveaway on their Instagram and attended their October class for free! The class was held on Thursday evening in a cafe with serious mood lighting and fruity cocktails. My friend from work, Alissa, joined me to follow along the painting instructor for a canvas of a pumpkin patch.

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Raspberry Lemonade Mimosas! (Yes this is the most alcohol I have ever consumed in a week, haha. If you’re new to the blog and wondering why I consider this a “health and fitness” theme – this is not my normal routine!)

I diverted from the instructions slightly because I wanted to recreate a photo I had taken myself a couple weeks ago at the corn maze. This was the inspiration for my painting:

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We used acrylic primary colors and mixed our own shades. I won’t be hanging this anywhere permanently but it can sit on the kitchen counter for a week or so as a holiday decoration :) The funny thing is – this morning, Brush’d Experience hosted another giveaway for next months event and my mom won!

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This must be a record for most pictures of pumpkins and alcoholic beverages in one post for my blog ever. Editing all of the photos has given me newfound motivation to get myself over to the gym right now. I think November will be a refreshing break from cocktails and pumpkin treats – since my 2012 “No Gain November” is still one of my most populat posts on Pinterest, I think I’ll do a little 2016 reboot next week. You in?

Off to trade in sangria for spin class. Martini’s for mat pilates. Sidecars for stair masters. Champagne for chin-ups. Too much? Okay, bye.

XO Kenz.

 

Pie Crust Cut-Outs for a Festive Hot Chocolate Bar!

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The sun rise this morning was at 8:10am. 8:10! Before this summer, the farthest north I’ve ever lived is Arizona. The 10pm sunsets during the summer blew my mind and these dark mornings are throwing me for a loop now too. Considering that I wake up at 4:30am, the first four hours of my day are spent without daylight.

Once the sun was finally up on Sunday, we drove out to Eagle, Idaho to hike some of the foothills. We walked Seagman’s Gulch, a hilly loop with a full view of Eagle and the fall colored trees.

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I also found some bike paths, an outdoor public sports complex and another loop that looked like perfect future running routes. On the way back, we stopped at a local Eagle coffee shop Perks of Life. I couldn’t resist ordering from their seasonal menu and sipped my Maple Spice americano on the drive home.

Speaking of festive flavors – we are officially one week out until Halloween! Our pumpkins are picked, my costume is set, and tomorrow night we are braving a haunted corn field.

My work takes holidays very seriously so we’ve had Halloween shenanigans all month. This week, each department is assigned a day to host a trick-or-treating event for the rest of the office. We tend to be somewhat competitive with our originality so there will be no bowls of Twix and Snickers.

Instead, my department is hosting a Hot Chocolate Bar for Tuesday’s trick-or-treating station! Along with cups of hot chocolate, we’ll have a table full of marshmallows, whip cream, sprinkles, crushed candy cane, caramel, chocolate spoons, coconut flakes, shaved chocolate curls, and these adorable pie crust cut-outs for a crunchy topping.

Eat, Drink, and Be Scary!”

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I saw this idea on Pinterest (where else) and picked up a couple mini cookie cutters at the grocery store along with a pre-made pie crust. It was the simplest “recipe” ever.

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Just unroll the pie crust, create the shapes with your cookie cutters, place on a lined cookie sheet, and bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes. The smaller your shapes, the less cooking time.

Stars, hearts, or letters could easily be substituted if you’re using this for a different time of year. Pie crust dough doesn’t expand or change shape in the oven, and I used a little knife to carve indentations into the dough to give the shapes some texture.

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Obviously I had to test them out at home before I brought them into work! Which is just a fancy excuse to brew a Keurig cappuccino, add some Cool Whip and pumpkin pie spice, and top with a pie crust pumpkin. :)

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Perfect sweet treat! Hot Chocolate and all those extra toppings are so sweet, so the savory pie crust is a good contrast. Pie crust doesn’t have any sweetness to its flavor, but if you like to spice it up a bit then you can toss some cinnamon & sugar on the dough before placing in the oven.

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Thank goodness I’m able to work out again right? ;) After 7 full days of complete rest after my wisdom tooth surgery, I’ve started back with some light cardio and weight-lifting circuits. Just in time for trick-or-treating.

Cheers!

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