Category Archives: #CKC

Chopped Kitchen Challenge: Spring Green Risotto

Normally spring has people thinking of fresh, light, foods. But then there’s spring in Chicago where I woke up this week to snow on the ground… I mean seriously it’s almost April. That being said I had something a little warmer in mind when putting together the ingredients for this month’s Chopped Kitchen Challenge.


The ingredients for this month were Artichokes, Leeks, Garlic, and Olive Oil. Seasonal, savory, and perfect for mixing with wine and cheese to make a big batch of creamy, cozy, risotto.

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This was my first time ever cleaning/cooking artichokes, and I may or may not have had to go through a few youtube tutorials to make sure that the parts I was using were edible. Surprisingly everything came out and even the BF liked it, though he said it would be better with some bacon 😉


Spring Green Risotto

Serves 4 dinner portions, 6 side portions

35-40 minutes

2 leeks, green and white parts thinly sliced

2 Artichokes, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 TBSP Olive Oil

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine, optional just use more water/broth if desired

3-4 cups water, veggie broth, or a combination of both

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for topping

Put your broth or water in a small sauce pot and heat to a simmer. Slice the leeks and artichokes and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add in the leeks and artichokes. Sautee for 3-5 minutes until tender, add garlic, and rice and saute for another minute until garlic is fragrant. Add in wine (if using) and stir to get the brown bits up off the bottom of the pan.

Add in 1/2 cup warm water/broth and stir to combine. Let the risotto simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost absorbed before adding another 1/2 cup of warm liquid. Continue for 20-25 minutes until rice is al dente and creamy. Stir in the parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm (it loses the creaminess as it cools) topped with extra cheese as desired.

Have you ever cooked with artichokes before? What do you do when preparing an ingredient you’re unfamiliar with?

WIR #44: The Awesome edition

Can I just say the best thing about my new placement is my supervisor. You all know I was skeptical heading into my medical placement (I knew with 99.999% accuracy this isn’t the setting for me and I was right) but I was determined to make the best of it and end my clinicals on a good note. The woman I get to work with has made that incredibly easy, and she’s actually gotten me to like some aspects of this setting.  Who knew swallow evaluations and cognition therapy could be kind of cool.

It feels weird thinking about this as my last clinical placement… two years ago at this time I was dreading graduation because I had yet to be accepted into any masters programs and had only been placed on one waitlist. Fast forward to today where I’m 7 weeks (who’s counting?) from graduation and the first one in my class with an offer of full time employment!

That’s right, my first interview from a few weeks ago panned out earlier than I thought and this girl is officially eligible for employment. I haven’t been able to accept yet since the district is on spring break but give me a week and I’ll have a big girl job all my own! I’m going to love the opportunity to work for a Special Education district (I miss those kiddos) and I know I’m going to love that it’s right up by BF! Can I start the apartment hunt now? 

Way to drop all the good news in the intro of the post huh? Hopefully you’re still with me because I have more awesomeness to recap list-style:


Don’t believe me, swing by Meghan’s and see how awesome all this listing is.

Bf got to cash in on his birthday gift with a trip to the Shedd Aquarium where we got to tour all of the exhibits and play with a penguin. I know, best girlfriend ever right here 😉

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His name was Stanley and he was pretty playful, and very slippery feeling.

I worked 5 days at my medical placement and a day of double ABA sessions (lucky me I get to cap it off with a long “weekend” because my supervisor is going on vacation).

I didn’t workout much at all… later days made it hard to come home and workout after work so my goal this week is to try and switch to morning workouts, or settle in on some kind of combination.

Prepped some weekly goodies including granola bars to share with the BF, energy bites for work (spending my day feeding others hasn’t done much for my appetite), and cranberry kombucha is on its second ferment based on a recommendation from the lovely Lindsay Cotter .

I also finally picked up my ingredients for this month’s Chopped Kitchen Challenge… nothing like waiting until the last minute for your own link up.

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Annnndd since no list complete without a sub-list and I’m soon to join the ranks of some of my favorite educators (did I mention I got a job? In a school district?) I figured I could share the “list your favorite teachers” page from my listography book.

  • Mrs. Schneider, 5th grade (she also supervised me when I student taught in high school)
  • Mr. Linders, 10th grade. The teacher who made me fall in love with math
  • Mr. Chochole, 10th grade. Because anyone who can quote Disney movies while discussing US history is a hero in my books.
  • Mr. Spitler, 12th grade. He let us make a movie for our final English “paper” and I still have a copy of the DVD.
  • Dr. Hadley, Junior year undergrad. She was my first professor in my new major and ended up writing me a letter of recommendation. She went above and beyond to welcome me to the program.
  • Dr. DeThorne, senior year undergrad. She sparked my interest in working with kiddos with autism and I’ve never looked back.

Who was your favorite teacher, and what did they teach you? Are you planning to link up for this Thursday’s party? (the correct answer is yes!) 

Chopped Kitchen Challenge: March 2014 Ingredients


What do you think? I finally got my act together created a logo for the link up that I’m proud to feature month after month. And speaking of featuring I bet you’re here to see what the featured ingredients are for the month of March (and if you weren’t… well knowledge is power and now you can join the fun) 😉

After the potato heaviness from last month I thought things should go in a lighter direction, it is almost Spring after all (I don’t care what the foot of snow we got this weekend thinks). So this month we’re going fresh and savory with: Artichokes, leeks, garlic, and olive oil.

The link-up for  this month will go live on March 27th, giving you a full month to get creative in your kitchen. So what are you waiting for?

Let’s get cooking!

Chopped Kitchen Challenge Reveal: February 2014

Is there anything better than potatoes? I know Arman is in my corner on this but seriously I could eat potatoes every day of the week (I may or may not have actually done this for a few years in college…). That being said the lowly potato gets kind of a bad rap sometimes for being boring. As if!

That’s why they were the featured ingredient for this months Chopped Kitchen Challenge. And what’s better than potatoes? Potatoes AND eggs!



I used the secret ingredients Potatoes and Chili Flakes added in some peppers and spices and called the whole thing a hash. Drop a fried egg (is that a fried egg? I don’t know to be honest) on top and called it Sunday brunch.

But enough about me 🙂 I want to know what you did with one (or both!) of this months secret ingredients. Link up your creations below (recipe not required) and let’s give potatoes the rep they deserve.


WIR #41: The Great Spring Cleanout

Good morning! I’m starting this week with a new attitude and I’m hoping I can carry this motivation through to accomplish all I have planned. And what better way to keep that motivation up than by celebrating everything I accomplished this weekend 🙂

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And what better way to do that than to link up with Meghan the lister of all listers (and the one who sent me that lovely card).

The list above was developed after I decided that I wasn’t going to work on my portfolio this weekend… I decided to do just about everything else under the sun instead (at least I’m a productive procrastinator?). I’ll get to that portfolio eventually right…

Before I even got there I decided to deep clean my whole room. I got rid of piles of notes, sorted out old clothes to donate, and even set myself up with a fancy new “desk” space to work at.

springclean_beforeToo bad I couldn’t keep my aunts puppy on my bed.

springclean_afterMoving my dresser into my closet makes it a little tight on hanging things (which is part of the reason I decided to weed my clothes out) but I was able to use the wall space to add an old coffee table which is now serving as my desk.


Beyond cleaning my room I also (finally!) cleaned out my car. I’ve been driving around with broken glass in my backseat for a few weeks that I was more than happy to see gone.

BF was working strange hours this week so we actually got to go out for a few drinks on Friday night. I on the other hand worked my regular weekend hours at my ABA job and spent the Sunday hours I usually spend with him catching up on Netflix.

Anyone else watch House of Cards? Season 2 is crazy!

Other than that there was the usual cooking, cleaning, and photographing this weekend in preparation for the Chopped Kitchen Challenge this Thursday…

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mmmmm potatoes!

This week I’m working on keeping my workouts on track and trying to keep cleaning up my eats. I’m also making a goal of carving out some me time each evening to completely unplug (I’m not going to start meditating or anything but I’m going to enjoy the me time).

 What are you looking to do for yourself this week?

Chopped Kitchen Challenge: February 2014

Hey guys, I’ve got a quickie for you today as I’m in full on crazy mode getting ready for my first professional conference tomorrow!

But it’s the first Thursday of the month which means its the time to reveal the ingredients for February’s Chopped Kitchen Challenge.

The ingredients for this month are (drumroll please…)
Chili Flakes (crushed red pepper)
That’s it! I’m keeping things simple with the ingredients but your creations should be anything but that. You have three weeks to come up with your craziest (or most delicious) combinations of these two ingredients or feature just one of them in a dish. The rules are up to you (really, you all know how often I break them). 
The party goes live on February 27th, so what are you waiting for? 
Let’s get cooking!

Chopped Kitchen Challenge: January 2014 reveal

Hey guys, happy Thursday! It’s that time of the month where you get to see what kinds of goodies everyone else dreamed up for this month’s chopped kitchen challenge. If you need a refresher for the rules you can look here… but today is all about the eats. 
This month’s mystery ingredients were all about the health. Kale, Chia Seeds, Clementines, and Pears are not only seasonal right now, they each pack their own nutritional punch. Perfect for refreshing yourself after the december holidays or keeping your New Year’s resolution in check 😉 

No recipe here, but I did load almost all the ingredients into one power salad! A mixture of spinach and kale topped with clementine segments, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and homemade honey mustard (with chia seeds!). It’s the kind of salad you dream about stuffing your face with after a really long day… or maybe that’s just me. 
These little balls of goodness have been my go-to while I’m going non-stop at my school placement. While the health claims of Chia seeds are under debate their nutritional profile is still stellar. Combined with other goodies known for their staying power and these little balls pack a big energy punch! 
Cranberry Chia Energy Bites
Makes 12 (1 bite per serving)
5 minutes
1/2 cup sunflower seed kernels
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup dry GF oats
2 TBSP coconut oil
12 dates, pitted 
1/4 dried cranberries (optional if dries fruit isn’t your thing)
Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend to combine, 2-3 minutes. Use wet hands to form the mixture into balls, squeezing it together so that it sticks. These really couldn’t be easier… unless the food processor would clean itself.  Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

Oatmeal is an easy breakfast for a cold winter morning… and we’ve had plenty of those to spare this season! The same bowl of oatmeal can get boring after a while, even if you change up the toppings it’s basically the same breakfast. That’s where baked oatmeal comes in. The same bowl of oatmeal with a crispy crust around the edges. Baking the fruit right in adds extra sweetness to the oats without the need for lots of added sugars. 
Pear Baked Oatmeal
Serves 2
Time 35 minutes 
1 cup GF oats 
1 cup water (or milk/nut milk of your choice)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 TBSP chia seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBSP honey
1 pear
Preheat oven to 350*. Combine oats, water (or milk), baking soda, and chia seeds and divide into 2 ramekins. Wash the pear and thinly slice (or dice) and arrange over the top of the oat mixture. Top each dish with 1 TBSP of honey and 1 tsp (or more!) of cinnamon. Bake for 25-30 minutes until oats are set and you can see them browning under the pear. Serve hot. 
You can bake up a batch of these over the weekend, refrigerate, and then reheat throughout the week, though the oatmeal loses a bit of the crust when reheated. It’s just as delicious though!

 Grab a button and link up your creations!

Chopped Kitchen Challenge: January 2014

Hey guys! I know everyone is on their healthy kicks for the new year (except us cool kids who like our veggies year round) and what better way to promote those healthy choices than with a  Chopped Kitchen Challenge full of seasonal super-stars!

To start the year right we’re featuring some of my favorites that just happen to be great for finding in the middle of the winter. Kale is a super dark, leafy, green that goes well in sweet and savory smoothies, soups, and salads. Clementines are a perfect little portion of vitamin C goodness (for fighting off a winter plague of your own perhaps?). Pears aren’t just tasty (though they are) they serve well warm and cold which is great for the temperature fluctuations this time of year. Chia Seeds are a fun little super food, and Santa just got me a big bag for Christmas, so why not add them to the mix. 
The rules are the same as usual. Use as much or as little as you like of one or more of the ingredients in an original recipe, and share your creation with everyone in the party at the end of the month! The link up goes live on January 30th so you all have plenty of time to get in the kitchen and explore. 
Can’t wait to see what you all dream up 🙂 

CKC December 2013: Reveal Day!

Hey guys! This has been a festive week of eats no doubt and I’m here to add to the party today with my very own Chopped Kitchen Challenge link up. The challenge this month was to use any of these holiday flavors cocoa powder,peppermint, citrus, or cinnamon  in a baked good of your choice. The world is your virtual cookie exchange for the next week while the party is live. 
I admit to having every intention of making a batch of Madison’s homemade carob chips to try as a chocolate replacement in these recipes… buuutt time got away from me and regular chocolate chips and to do. 
I managed to use all 4 ingredients this month (though only 3 in the same recipe I’m afraid) and as a result I have 2 very different holiday treats to enjoy. I teased you all yesterday with the first one…
All the deliciousness of regular popcorn, dressed up in holiday style. This was an easy and delicious treat, that I may have had trouble sharing 🙂 
Candy Cane Popcorn
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 TBSP oil for popping
4 squares almond bark (about 3/4 cup melted)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
4-5 candy canes crushed
In a large pot (or air popper if that’s your thing) heat oil and kernels. Cover with lid and swirl occasionally until all kernels are popped. Dump all popcorn onto a sheet tray and pick out any unpopped kernels (your teeth will thank you later). 
Meanwhile melt almond bark in the microwave on high, in 30 second intervals, until smooth. Pour over popcorn and toss to coat. Next melt chocolate chips in the microwave on high, in 30 second intervals, until smooth. Drizzle chocolate over popcorn and immediately sprinkle with candy cane pieces. Allow chocolate to cool completely before breaking into pieces and storing in an airtight container. 
The next treat I made is a classic christmas cookie in my mind, Chocolate Covered Florentines. 

I adapted my mom’s recipe for florentine sandwhich cookies to pack a little more punch, and fit my GF needs. The result is the lacy, crispy, cookie of my childhood with a fresh new flavor.
Chocolate Covered Florentines
makes 24-36 cookies 
1 stick of butter
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (GF)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour (GF, I’ve been using the costco blend)
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 almond milk (could sub coy or cow)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 TBSP fresh orange juice
2 oranges zested
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
Preheat oven to 375*. Melt butter in a large pot, over medium heat. Once melted add sugar, oats, flour, almond milk, and corn syrup, and stir to combine. Add in cinnamon, orange juice, and the zest of 1 orange. Drop batter by the teaspoon full onto a foil lined baking sheet, be sure to leave space between the cookies as they spread. Bake 6-8 minutes until edges are brown and cookies are golden throughout. Allow to cool one minute on the baking sheet before moving to a counter or clean cookie sheet to cool completely (cookies will be soft at first, they harden as they cool). 
Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, on high heat in 30 second intervals, until smooth. Spread chocolate evenly over cooled cookies,and sprinkle with remaining orange zest.

Your turn to link up your treats and eats, I can’t wait to see what you guys have been cooking this month!


12 Days of Allergy Free Christmas- Snacks

Hi everyone! Today I’m joining the party over at Madison’s with my snacky contributions to our holiday eats. Between potlucks at work, cookie exchanges, and the like, snacks abound this time of year… and it can be hard to be the odd man out.

Those of us with food allergies all know how hard the holidays can be. You don’t want your boyfriends family to think you’re weird for not eating anything. You don’t want you grandma to feel bad when you pass on her famous pie. You don’t want to seem rude when explaining (again) that it actually is a big deal and no you don’t want “just a bite”. 

Especially for those of us who are gluten free (due to intolerance, celiac, or choice) since the GF “diet” is still trendy in the media, it can be hard to explain (again and again) that we aren’t doing this for fun.

The best defense to any good problem is a good offense, in this case that means bringing along your own holiday offering to share. That way YOU know you have something safe to eat (just remember to set aside a plate if cross-contamination looks like it will be an issue) and you get to show everyone that gluten free food can be delicious!

Below are some great looking snacks (some holiday and some just tasty) that are sure to turn heads at any party this year, and all of them are Gluten-Free! Many of these are safe for other allergies too (or could be with a simple switch like vegan mayo and soy cheeses in the hot corn dip).

Clockwise from top

Snowman veggie plate (you could use a dairy free dip)
Parmesan edamame (sub soy cheese or nutritional yeast for a dairy free alternative)
Veggie tree (use gluten free pretzels or carrot sticks, use soy cheese for a dairy free alternative)
Hot corn dip (use vegan mayo and soy cheese for a dairy free alternative)
Baked chips and “Fry” sauce  (The sauce would work with soy yogurt or vegan mayo)
And if those savory options aren’t quite what you’re looking for I’ve got an awesome new recipe for Candy Cane Popcorn that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. 
Buuuttt you’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s Chopped Kitchen Challenge holiday party to get the details on that one J