Easy Chicken and Vegetable Skewers

Hope you had a splendid Fourth of July!

Mine was fantastic. My brother is in town for the long weekend and we are all ecstatic to spend some quality family time together for the first time since the winter holidays!

Last night, it was just my mom, my brother, and me for dinner, so I wanted to keep it simple (but delicious, always delicious) while still creating a festive summer meal.

What screams simple summer meal more than chicken and vegetable skewers??

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It’s realllllllllly easy. I marinated the chicken and chopped up the vegetables in the afternoon, so at dinnertime all I had to do was slide them all onto the bamboo skewers (which you can get at the grocery store–a pack of 100 for less than a dollar!) and grill away. Easy peasy!

I’m already thinking about how to mix things up for next time…maybe I’ll add pineapple…mmmmmmm.

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I used yellow squash, zucchini, red onion, and mushrooms, but you can use whatever you want, or mix and match! My brother isn’t a fan of squash and zucchini, so I just layered his skewers with chicken and mushrooms. For my vegetarian friends out there, I made some with just veggies too and they were divine. The onions get all caramelized and the squash and zucchini have a perfectly charred crunch while still retaining the moisture on the inside…yummm.

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Recipe:

serves 4

Ingredients:
5 raw/frozen chicken breasts
2 tablespoon seasoning of your choice (I used 1 tablespoon McCormick Grill Mates Roasted Garlic & Herb Seasoning and 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
1 teaspoon salt (if needed, the seasoning I used contained salt already)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 red onion
4-5 large mushrooms
*or vegetables of your choice!
Sea salt

Directions:
1. At least 2 hours in advance, cut raw chicken into large cubes, then create marinade with 2 tablespoons seasoning (I like my chicken well-seasoned!) and 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus the salt if needed). If using frozen chicken breasts, make sure they are thawed before you begin this step. Mix it all together to make sure the chicken is well coated, then cover and set in the refrigerator.

2. Chop up the vegetables and place in separate bowls. You can do this in advance to make dinner quick and easy, or just do it right before you eat.

3. Layer chicken and vegetables onto the skewers as you like. Lightly drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sea salt before grilling.

4. Preheat grill on high. Cook skewers for about 3 minutes per side, checking to see if the chicken is done and the vegetables are charred to your liking!

5. Enjoy with loved ones.

6. Follow with light, summery dessert (recipe coming soon!):

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Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cookies

These cookies…my goodness.

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My friend Nisha and I had strawberries on hand one evening (Ok, ok… it was Valentine’s Day. We had a girls’ night planned complete with gourmet truffle mac ‘n cheese, chocolate covered strawberries, wine, and a romantic comedy). We had planned on making chocolate covered strawberries, but as the time drew near, we both agreed that we were craving cookies instead. Solution? Chocolate covered strawberry cookies, of course!

Nisha was a little hesitant to add fresh strawberries into a cookie, but I assured her that it would turn out well and be delicious (I had no idea what I was doing; my fingers were crossed the whole time).

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The base we used for the cookie was the rich, chocolatey base Sally uses in her death by chocolate peanut butter chip cookies. We followed the recipe almost exactly, but instead of 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup peanut butter chips, we added 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, 2/3 cup white chocolate chips, and 2/3 cup chopped strawberries.

The result was the fudgiest, most decadent cookie I’ve ever had, with a refreshing tart strawberry bite that made it irresistible. The richness of the chocolate melted into the cookie paired with the chocolate chips and white chocolate made me drool, but the strawberry kept me coming back for more.

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Although these cookies were good fresh, they were unbelievable the next day, after spending a night in the refrigerator. It was like taking a bite out of amazingly indulgent, cool fudge.

An important note is that they MUST be kept in the refrigerator. Once you taste them after they’ve been cooled, you won’t be complaining. Promise.

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Admittedly, they’re not the most photogenic cookies…but
they make up for it in taste.

In the scorching heat of summer, these cooled cookies with a tall glass of milk would be the ultimate refreshment, don’t you think?

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If you make these, please check back in and let me know how they turned out for you!

Enjoy!

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Daddy’s Girl

I can sum up my relationship with my dad with one story. A story that still brings me to tears when I think about it:

Daddy and me, after my second full marathon.

Daddy and me, after my second full marathon.

May 1st, 2011 was the day of my first full marathon. It was also my dad’s first day at his new job. He had reluctantly broken the news to me that he wouldn’t be able to be there for my race because he couldn’t leave work early on his first day. He wouldn’t get to see me cross the finish line. Understandable, but still heartbreaking. For both of us.

I ran the race, the most difficult run of my entire life. It was below freezing, pouring rain the whole time, extremely windy with thunder and lightning, and it even included bits of hail and freezing rain. I wanted to give up, but I knew that my mom, family, and friends were waiting for me at the finish line. I couldn’t help but think about how sad I was that my dad wouldn’t be there to see me cross. Little did I know what was truly in store for me at the end of that race.

As I approached the finish line, my friends began to chant my name, which sent me into an all-out sprint to the finish. Closer and closer…and I realized what was in front of me. Who, actually. There stood my dad–my daddy–standing on the other side of the finish line with his arms outstretched to me.

Just like I did as a little girl, I ran across the finish line and straight into his arms, sobbing.

He had come through, as he always has in my life. I feared that he wouldn’t be there, but of course he was. Of course. He has been there for every important moment, every celebration, every triumph, as well as every failure, every breakdown, every moment of pain. But here’s the thing: he has loved me just the same throughout all of it.

Sending his baby girl off to senior prom.

Sending his baby girl off to senior prom.

He has never made me feel like I wasn’t worthy. He has provided nothing but words of encouragement. What he may not always be able to express verbally, he can communicate in a hug. He has held me tightest at my weakest moments, when only he could provide the strength, comfort, and assurance that I needed.

I may be a daddy’s girl, but that is because my dad is responsible for teaching me to love unconditionally. His arms are the safest place in the world, his heart is the biggest heart I’ve ever seen, and his embrace is the warmest there is.

Daddy's girl, always and forever.

Daddy’s girl, always and forever.

Love you, Daddy. Happy belated Birthday and Happy early Father’s Day!

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That Oklahoma Soul

One of my favorite Oklahoma stories takes place in Chicago:

I visited Chicago a few times while I was in high school. One time, I was walking around in downtown Chicago, just absorbing the sights and loving life, when I was stopped by a complete stranger. She looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “Are you, by any chance, from Oklahoma?” I was shocked. I wasn’t wearing anything that gave me away, so I was utterly baffled as to how she could know where I was from. After I confirmed that I was from the great state, she said she knew where I was from because I had made eye contact and smiled at her as I passed her on the street. Turns out, she was a native Oklahoman living in Chicago and was craving a bit of that Oklahoma soul. She recognized it as soon as I smiled at her and her Oklahoma craving was fulfilled. We talked for a few minutes and parted ways, smiling at what had just taken place.

I will never forget that moment because it reminded me of what it meant to be from Oklahoma.

Throughout my childhood here in Oklahoma, I learned many important lessons.

I learned in Mrs. Griffith’s first grade class that people don’t like it when you talk about them behind their backs. I learned the value of a harmless prank in Ms. Ross’s third grade class. I learned in Mrs. Wiley’s fourth grade class that people who may seem very different to you probably have the most in common with you (lookin’ at you, Paivy). I learned the Preamble to the U. S. Constitution in Mrs. Keel’s fifth grade class.

But one of the most significant lessons I learned was in Mrs. Neely’s 8th grade class when she introduced us to this quote:

“Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not…rather find strength in what is left behind.” -William Wordsworth

That is the Oklahoma soul. We are bred to foster strength and muster it from the deepest core of our being when we are suffering. In fact, we value that strength so much that we lend it to our neighbors when we see that they need it more than we do. During tragedy, we join hands and spread our strength across the state like butter on bread. We unite. We pray. We help.

When the tornado hit Moore and thousands of lives were devastated and changed forever, I cried. And cried and cried. I was heartbroken for these people–my people. But as I saw the first responders, policemen, firefighters, immediate volunteers (so many that they had to be turned away), and thousands of people across the state reaching out, I realized that I was crying for a completely different reason. I was crying because of how proud I felt of my state, my Oklahoma family.

I was overwhelmed with love for the people backed up for miles in traffic with cars full of donations hours after the tornado hit. For the ones who were so eager to volunteer from the beginning but had to be turned away. The ones who have been volunteering in any way they can. And I have since been overwhelmed with appreciation for all people across the country and the world wanting to help our Oklahoma families rebuild.

After everything we have been through as Oklahomans, we only continue to grow stronger. We learn to respond more quickly; we know what needs to be done. We wring our hearts of the sadness and our eyes of the tears and face the devastation head-on, prepared to fight.

We will rebuild. It’s what we do. 

(source)

Moore tornado. (source)

Donation drop-off line of cars. (source)

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Shin Splints & Zensah Compression Sleeves

Shin splints. They are every runner’s nightmare. They are the aching reminder that stays with you for days after a long run. They even ruin the short runs. What can be done about them?

I hadn’t has issues with shin splints in the past, but when I first ran 6 miles while training for my most recent marathon, they hit me hard. Shin splints are one of those things that, even if you have never experienced them, you know exactly what’s happening when you feel it. It’s a “Ohhhh THIS is what they feel like!” moment. At least, it was for me.

Even though I iced my shins plenty post-run, I was still in a considerable amount of pain the next day. My trainer friend Kylie recommended using a foam roller to put pressure on my shins. It worked really well, but I wanted a preventive measure that would protect my shins while running. Obviously I turned to my trusty adviser, Google.

I saw that people have had success with compression sleeves in preventing shin splints. I did a bit more research and found that a recommended brand is Zensah. Although they were slightly pricey (the price listed on Amazon is only for one sleeve, not a pair), they seemed worth the investment.

And (drumroll please) goodness gracious, they were worth EVERY penny!

I wear them for every run, and I haven’t had shin splints since. I still ice my shins after long runs just to be safe, but they have absolutely changed my life. I highly, highly recommend them for any runner who is having issues with shin splints.

They go through the washer and dryer just fine, which is great and makes for easy cleaning. I don’t wash mine after every run, and I wouldn’t suggest it either, just to preserve the product, but you can still wash them fairly often without issue.

And BONUS: I’m boring and bought the black sleeves, but they actually come in so many fun colors!

The only (read: only) downside to these is the potentially gnarly tan lines they can leave post-run…especially if you tan as easily as I do. If you’ve heard a rumor that I purchased sunless tanning lotion to get rid of those tan lines for Monica‘s wedding, you’ve heard the truth. It happened. The lady at Target was only slightly confused when I started inquiring about sunless tanning lotion…but hey, it worked (temporarily).

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Ps. It’s really hard to take a picture of your own calf. Don’t try this at home.

But honestly, the tan lines are nothing compared to the nuisance caused by shin splints, so I’ll take it.

(Don’t want to take my word for it? Check out the reviews on Amazon!)

Question(s) for you:
Do you have shin splints? How do you remedy them?

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Chocolate Coconut Cashew Butter (Paleo-friendly!)

When I first tried out the Paleo Diet, I was desperate to find ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. I could give up bread and starches, but I wasn’t about to give up chocolate. Another difficult thing for me was to give up peanut butter. How was I going to survive without peanut butter??

Cue Averie’s blog. Her blog is full of wonderful recipes that helped me stick to the Paleo Diet while allowing me to indulge.

The first thing on her blog that I tried out was her chocolate coconut cashew butter. Something chocolate-y and sweet that I could eat in place of peanut butter–perfect! This paired well with fresh fruit and made it feel more like dessert, which I loved. The extra dose of healthy fats wasn’t too shabby either!

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Ingredients:

-1/2 cup cashews, soaked for about 2-6 hours beforehand
-1/3 cup agave/honey/maple syrup
-1/3 cup cocoa powder
-1 heaping teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (though I was slightly heavy-handed with it)
-1/4 cup coconut flakes*
-2 tablespoons coconut oil*

*If you do not like coconut and would prefer to make chocolate cashew butter, just omit the coconut flakes and coconut oil.

You throw everything into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. It’s that simple!

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I would recommend using a high-speed blender or food processor if you want the amazingly smooth results that Averie was able to achieve. My butter wasn’t nearly as smooth, but the flavors were all there!

I served this at a dinner party that I hosted for some friends and paired it with fresh blueberries and apple slices. It was divine. I think another dreamy combination would be to try it with strawberries…or, you know, just straight out of the container with a spoon.

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Question for you:
What would you pair with chocolate coconut cashew butter?

Posted in Food, Healthy, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, Paleo, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Borrowing Legs for 26.2 Miles

My friend Taylor recently started her own blog (check it out here!) and she has a “Marathon Mondays” segment that I love, so I decided to jump right on the Marathon Monday bandwagon! Here goes nothing…

A question I’ve been asked several times is what exactly a person thinks about for 26.2 miles. Music is great and all, but it cannot possibly be enough to occupy your mind for that long.

For my first marathon, I was actually advised by Monica to refrain from listening to music. She recommended that I just take in the environment and really soak up my first marathon. I am so grateful to her for that advice. I was able to talk to people, truly appreciate the volunteers and spectators (and hear their encouragement), and focus on the feat I was accomplishing. I have passed that precious piece of advice on to friends since then, and I will continue to do so. Thank you, Monica!!

So what about my second marathon? What did I think about during that race?

Well, this race was very special to me. I had to overcome so many obstacles to run that 26.2 miles, and I wanted to reflect on it during the race. But something that was very important to me was that I didn’t lose sight of the true reason my healing process, though extremely painful, had been so remarkable: the incredible people in my life. 

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Before the race–ready to run and focus on the people who provide me with strength.

It came to me three days before the race, as the first thought I had when I woke up:

I was going to make a list. A list of 25 people/groups of people who had carried me through the past year with their constant love, support, and prayers. People without whom I would not have been able to heal as miraculously well as I had, and not nearly as quickly. People who filled me with hope and the courage to fight.

For each mile of the race, I was going to focus on one of the people (or groups). I was going to reflect on the memories with them from the past year, how they expressed their love to me, and what they had done to lift me up. I was going to open myself up to the dark memories as well, the various things they had to witness or how they must have felt to see me suffer–as we suffered together. I was going to “borrow” their legs for that mile, relying on their support yet again, because without it I would forever be at the starting line.

A marathon is 26.2 miles, so why 25 people?

Mile 26 was the mile during which I focused on myself. I thought about how I had grown and how far I had come in a year. Just one year, yes, but the longest year of my life.

So although I crossed the finish line on my own two feet, I ran the race on the feet of the people who loved me enough to lend me theirs.

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