Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Spinach and Artichoke Tortellini Bake

Eric and I consider ourselves connoisseurs of spinach and artichoke dip.  I know, I know ... We're fancy.

In all seriousness, though, we order this as an appetizer at nearly every restaurant we visit.  We obviously don't order it if it's not on the menu, and there are those occasions when we want to try something different (or skip an appetizer altogether) ... But generally speaking, this is the first thing we order when we go out.

Our favorite spinach and artichoke dip (yes, we actually both agree on a favorite) comes from an Irish pub in town called The Brazen Head.  It's thick and creamy and cheesy and served in a bread bowl.  The boxtys are delicious and they have some great beers available on tap, but sometimes I honestly just want to go there so I can get some dip.

Since we're huge fans of spinach and artichoke dip, I got really excited when I came across this recipe in the archives of one of my favorite food blogs.  I'm pretty sure I've skipped over this recipe in the past because, for whatever reason, I thought it was going to be extremely complicated.  It's really not.  Not at all.

This is one of the best meals I've made in a while!

Although it doesn't taste exactly like our favorite spinach and artichoke dip, it is extremely creamy and cheesy.  Oh, and delicious ... I can't forget to include that in my description!  If you're a huge fan of spinach and artichoke dip, you need to try this.  Trust me ... I'm a connoisseur!

Spinach and Artichoke Tortellini Bake

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on Taste and Tell.

Ingredient List:
  • 2 lbs refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 cloves garlic (or, if you're lazy like me, the equivalent of jarred, pre-minced garlic)
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1% milk, since that's what we usually have on hand)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (you could also use a 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach, but I had a bunch of fresh spinach available since we bought a huge bag at Costco)
  • 1 13.75 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash Italian Medley
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp white wine
  • 1 1/3 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded


1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3.  Melt the butter in a large skillet.  Add the garlic and cook for about 30-60 seconds, or until fragrant.

4.  Whisk in the flour, and cook for approximately 2 minutes.

5.  Slowly whisk in the milk, taking care to rid the mixture of any lumps.  Allow to cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sauce thickens.

6.  Meanwhile, add the tortellini to the boiling water.  Cook according to package directions until al dente and drain.

7.  Once the sauce has thickened a bit, stir in the white wine.  Add the crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, Mrs. Dash Italian Medley, sea salt, and black pepper, stirring to combine.

8.  Stir in the fresh spinach, allowing it to cook and wilt into the sauce.  Add the quartered artichoke hearts and 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, stirring until everything is well combined and the cheese has melted.

9.  Spray a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray, and add the drained tortellini to the pan.  Pour the sauce over the tortellini and stir until the pasta is evenly coated.  Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining Parmesan cheese over the entire dish.

10.  Bake the pasta for 10 minutes, or until the cheese has completely melted.

11.  Switch the oven to broil (I used the low broil setting) and allow the dish to cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown a bit.

Doesn't this picture make you want to try this immediately?  It should!

As you can see from the picture above, I served this with a simple green salad.  I also highly recommend having a glass (or more!) of white wine with this meal.  I had my favorite (Reisling), and it really complimented the flavors of the dish.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Playlist: September 2014

Oh, hello there.  I'm not sure if you remember me since I haven't bothered to post anything in almost two weeks.  I know I don't have a ton of regular readers, but when my mom (yes, I finally gave my mom the link to my blog!) told me she'd been looking forward to my weekly recipe and I had to tell her I didn't have time to write anything this last week, I realized that someone out there actually does notice if I don't update ... So I promised myself I'd make an effort to post several times this week.  (We'll see how well this works out.)

The main focus of this post is going to be my September playlist (we are nearing the end of the month, after all!), but first I wanted to share a few pictures from this weekend.

The picture of Eric and me (third from the left on the bottom) is a perfect example of how bangs and windy weather don't mix.

For the past four years, Eric and I have been going to visit an alpaca farm in Nebraska during their "open house" weekend in September.  (Well, every year but last year ... It kind of got lost between my cousin's wedding and our own.)  This is not a sponsored post, but if you're in the area and want to check it out in the future, their website can be found at Alpacas of the Heartland.  It was really crowded this year, but we still managed to get a few pictures (as you can see) and spend some time petting and feeding them.  The dark brown ones were my favorites, while Eric (obviously) cozied up to one of the white alpacas.  We kept calling the one in those pictures his "friend" because it seemed to like (or at least tolerate) him pretty well.

We had a really great time even though it got a little hot.  I'm hoping that since we haven't had true "fall" weather yet (well, not consistently anyway), this winter won't be too terrible.  (Hey, a girl can dream!)  I actually love cold weather, but I absolutely hate driving in the snow.  The less snow we have this winter, the better (at least in my opinion).  But anyway ... I don't think anyone really cares to read my thoughts on the weather, so I'll move on to my main focus today: my September playlist.

As you might remember, this month I participated in a monthly personal challenge link-up.  I'll be posting my (less than stellar) results this Thursday, so if anyone reading this is interested in how I did, you can check back then.  Since this challenge focused on fitness, I decided to base this month's playlist around that theme as well.  The songs I'll be sharing with you today are some of my favorites to work out to.  Although I'm usually stuck with whatever is playing in one of my classes, these are some of the songs I like to hear if I'm walking or running on the treadmill.  (Just a note: I only included songs that haven't been included on my other Divulge and Indulge playlists.  Some of the songs I've already shared are among my favorite workout songs, but I didn't want to be repetitive.)

Click on the link below to listen to this playlist.

Hopefully you'll enjoy these songs enough to add at least a couple to your own workout playlist!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Green Curry Chicken

The recipe I'm sharing today is a household favorite.  It actually might even be Eric's absolute favorite meal (that I make at home, anyway)!

I hadn't made this for a long time, though.  I think I've been so focused on trying new recipes to share on this blog that I've neglected recipes that used to be in our regular rotation.  I did share this recipe on my old blog, but, after making it again recently, I decided to take a couple of (slightly) better photos and share it on Divulge and Indulge.

Before I post the recipe, though, I want to share something funny/adorable that Eric does.

photo 2
I'll also share a picture in hopes that you'll stick around for the actual recipe.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before on the blog, but Eric does the majority of the grocery shopping for our household.  He typically asks me for a list, which prompts me to search for new recipes I want to try (as well as consider recipes I've made in the past that we both love).  I'll then make a preliminary list on my computer (also listing my recipe sources so I can easily find them again and, of course, properly credit them on my blog), then add everything to the Our Groceries app.  If you've never used Our Groceries, I'd recommend it (and no, this isn't a sponsored post).  It's really helpful since you can separate the lists by store (for example, we have a Target/Hy-Vee list, a Trader Joe's list, and a Costco list), easily add and delete items, and, if you're like us and buy a lot of the same things on a regular basis, it saves those items so you can just type a couple of letters to quickly add them to the list.

Anyway, the point is that I make a list (after an absurd amount of preparation apparently), and he gets everything.  Sometimes, though, he'll get stuff that's not on the list.  That's obviously fine, especially since it's usually something delicious (like gelato or White Cheddar Cheez-its) or something convenient (like frozen skillet meals and pizzas that are a lifesaver on the nights we don't have time or energy to cook a "real" dinner).

Sometimes, though, I'll start looking through the kitchen and discover that he's purchased all of the ingredients to make the curry I'm about to share with you.  I think it's funny and kind of cute since it's a somewhat subtle hint that he really wants me to make it again.  It's not like he can't ask me to make it (he does a lot of the time), but I think he just sees the stuff in the store and thinks, "I should probably get this and then she'll want to make it soon!"

And it works.  I mean, seriously ... Buying things to make his favorite dinner and then casually placing them in the kitchen?  So cute.  (Not to mention the fact that this meal is quick, easy, and delicious!)

And now, without further ado (or further mushiness), I present to you the recipe for Eric's favorite meal!

This is one of those meals that's kind of difficult to photograph well, but trust me ... It tastes delicious!

Green Curry Chicken

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Ingredient List:
  • 2 large cans of chicken, shredded or cubed (You could easily use 3-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead, but that would obviously increase the cooking time.  I've always taken the canned chicken shortcut with this recipe, and it always tastes amazing ... So I'd say it really doesn't matter which you choose to use.)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 14 oz. cans lite coconut milk (I always use lite to make it a little healthier, but regular is also fine)
  • 2 4 oz. cans diced green chilies
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp Garam Masala
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 6 cups cooked rice (We alternate between jasmine and basmati, but prefer jasmine for this recipe)


1.  In a deep saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the shredded/cubed chicken and season with sea salt and black pepper, cooking for approximately 3 minutes.

2.  Add coconut milk, diced green chilies, curry powder, Garam Masala, and cumin to the chicken and bring to a simmer.

3.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (The sauce will be fairly runny.)  Although it's not completely necessary to simmer the chicken and sauce for such a long time, I prefer to do this because I think it helps all the flavors blend a little better.

Please note that Eric and I always make a double batch of curry and rice and this recipe reflects that.  Since we both really love this meal (and it actually reheats well), we like to have plenty of leftovers.  If you don't want to make as much, just cut this recipe in half.

I always serve the curry over cooked jasmine or basmati rice.  (I used jasmine this time.)  I usually also serve this meal with a side of Tasty Bite spiced lentils (we like the Jodhpur and Madras flavors best) or Steamfresh vegetables.

As you can tell from the instructions, this is an incredibly simple meal.  Don't let that fool you, though ... It's packed with flavor!  It's obviously not an authentic curry you'd find in a restaurant, but it's delicious and something easy to whip up on a busy weeknight.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've mentioned at least a couple of times that I'm not much of a baker.  Since one of my personal goals is to start baking more so I can become even more confident in the kitchen, I decided it was time to bust out my KitchenAid stand mixer and bake some cookies.

And these aren't just any cookies.  These are delicious cookies that taste like fall (or how I imagine fall would taste if it had an official flavor).

I know you really shouldn't eat raw cookie dough, but I definitely ate some of this.  Totally worth it!

I was so proud of the way these turned out!  I didn't change the original recipe that much since I'm still a newbie when it comes to baking, however, I think my small tweaks made this recipe even more phenomenal (if I do say so myself).

Please try these cookies immediately.  While you may feel ashamed of yourself after eating three (or seven), be comforted in the thought that you're doing your part to ring in autumn 2014.  (Or whatever makes you feel better after stuffing your face with a ton of cookies.)

The delicious finished product.  The pumpkin really comes through without being overpowering, and the chocolate chips and pecans add even more great flavor!

Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on I Heart Naptime.

Ingredient List:
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée
  • 1 11.5 oz. bag milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract


1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Combine the pumpkin purée, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg in a large bowl.  (I added all of these ingredients to the big bowl on my KitchenAid stand mixer and mixed them together for a couple of minutes on the lowest setting.)

3.  In another large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt.

4.  Stir the baking soda and milk into the wet ingredients.

5.  Carefully pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients, mixing well to thoroughly combine.  (Again, I mixed them for a couple of minutes on the lowest setting on my mixer.)

6.  Add the vanilla extract, milk chocolate chips, and chopped pecans to the cookie dough.  (I mixed the dough for about a minute on the lowest setting to ensure the chocolate chips and pecans were distributed as evenly as possible throughout the dough.)

7.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

8.  Spoon cookie dough onto the aluminum foil.  (I didn't take the time to shape my cookies, so they weren't completely uniform in size and shape.  They still baked evenly, though, so it shouldn't matter as long as they're approximately the same size.)

9.  Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes.  (My cookies were pretty large/thick, so I had to bake them for 13 minutes.  I'd recommend checking on them regularly after the initial 10 minutes is up since baking time may vary based on the size of your cookies.)

As I said, I was really proud of how these cookies turned out.  I'd even go as far as to say that these are my new favorite chocolate chip cookies!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Go Big Red: 5 Years in Nebraska

Around this time 5 years ago, I made a move that would eventually lead to some huge changes in my life.

Eric and I were in a long distance relationship for a little over 2 years before I moved to Omaha to be with him.  (At some point I'll share the story of how we met on this blog ... It's actually pretty awesome!)  Although I never pictured myself as the kind of girl who would move to be with a guy, it seemed like the best thing to do at the time.  Eric had just gotten a great new job, and I wasn't really happy with my situation ... So I started applying to jobs in Omaha.  When I finally found something, I was more than ready to pick up everything and see where this move would lead.  (After all, I knew we couldn't move forward as long as we lived several hours apart.)

After moving, I had some doubts about whether I'd made the right decision.  I mean, it was scary ... I was completely uprooting my life and taking a huge chance.  Sure, things were amazing when we spent small chunks of time together, but I was terrified ... What if we didn't work as a couple once we were put in a totally new situation?

Obviously, I got over my fears and things actually worked out for us.  (If you're new to this blog, I say "obviously" because Eric and I are now married.)

Sometimes you have to trust yourself.  Yes, everything doesn't always fall into place so perfectly, but sometimes you have to believe that you'll make the right choices for yourself (whether in love or in other areas of your life).

And, because no post should be without pictures, here are a bunch from Saturday.  What better way to spend my 5 year Nebraskan anniversary than at a Husker game with my husband?
I'm still not great with the panoramic photo option on my iPhone (as you can see from the slightly warped football field in the first picture), but you can at least get the idea.
I wish the third picture wasn't so blurry since it was actually my favorite.  Oh well.
Eric after the game.  He clearly takes football very seriously.

Showing off the Husker gear that Eric bought me last week.  Please ignore the ridiculous face I'm making.

And, since anyone who reads this blog probably knows how much Eric and I love food, here are some pictures of what we ate (minus the hot dog and slice of pizza at the game):

I just had to add this hilarious picture of Eric from the restaurant!

In case you're curious, we went to The Fat Toad Pub for drinks after the game (top right picture: my Spicy Pineapple mixed drink and Eric's beer) and Tico's for dinner.  At Tico's we had chips and salsa (bottom left picture), I had a blackberry margarita and potato and chorizo enchiladas with rice (top left picture), and Eric had a beer and chicken and cream cheese enchiladas with refried beans (bottom right picture).

I've really enjoyed my last 5 years living in Omaha, and I hope to create many more great memories here in the future!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Things I Should Like But Don't: Part 5

As I was thinking about what I felt like sharing today, I realized that I went through the entire month of August without a "Things I Should Like But Don't" post.  (My previous posts on this topic can be found here, here, here, and here.)

If you've missed my other posts and don't feel like clicking on all of those links, here's the basic premise: once in a while I cover something that, based on my interests and hobbies, I should probably like.  Despite the fact that it would make sense for me to like it, I don't.  I've honestly tried to like everything I've added to the ever growing "Things I should like but don't" list, but, like I said, I just don't.

Today's post covers both a book and a movie based on that book.  (See?  I really tried to give this a fair chance ... I watched the movie after reading the book to see if it would be any better.  It wasn't.)  Today's post is about Atonement.

Image courtesy of IMDB.com.

I first read the novel (written by Ian McEwan) several years ago after picking up a copy at Half Price books.  The plot sounded like something I would love (I'm a huge fan of darker stories), and it received so many rave reviews that I had to read it!

I'll admit that the first third of the book was amazing.  I couldn't put it down!  And then Robbie goes off to war ... And the whole book went downhill.  I was so bored throughout the second part of the novel.  It focused solely on Robbie's experiences at war, so you'd think it would be thrilling (or at least interesting).  Nope.  I think it took me over a month just to make it through that section because I had no desire to pick it up and continue reading.  The last section of the book was slightly better, but it was still kind of ... Meh.  I did appreciate the ending, but I wasn't overly impressed with the way McEwan arrived there.

After reading the book, I decided I'd try to watch the movie.  Again, it seemed to get many rave reviews, and I was curious to see how a novel with such rich imagery and character development (Ian McEwan is an amazing writer even if I don't always adore his work) would translate to the screen.

I was pleasantly surprised that the war portions of the novel were significantly reduced in the film, but it still managed to let me down.  I can't put my finger on what exactly turned me off, but the whole thing just kind of flopped for me.

I know a lot of people enjoyed both the book and film versions of Atonement (the movie was even nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year at the 2008 Academy Awards!), but I'm just not one of them.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Creamy Bacon Avocado Pasta

Believe it or not, I really don't like summer.  I hate being hot.  I hate the sweaty, sticky feeling of stepping outside on a ridiculously humid day.  I have an extreme phobia of all bugs, and, unfortunately, they seem to be everywhere in the summer.  I also prefer fall and winter clothing ... Give me sweaters and hoodies and boots over shorts and tank tops and sandals any day.

Summer isn't all bad, though.  I have to admit that fresh vegetables, light meals, and ice cream/gelato/frozen yogurt are just a few of the perks.  And today's recipe, with its combination of avocado and fresh tomatoes, seems very summery to me.  I definitely didn't want to wait until the weather cools down and everyone is searching the internet for pumpkin everything to post this!

Eric and I love avocados, and we've been buying a bag of them every time we go to Costco.  I wasn't really very creative with them for a long time, though.  We'd usually just make guacamole, a spread for sandwiches, or throw chunks of it into a burrito bowl.  I've seen a lot of different uses for avocados while searching Pinterest and various food blogs, though, and when I saw a recipe for a creamy avocado pasta sauce, I knew I needed to try it.

I made several changes to this dish, and I was really excited about the end result.  It didn't photograph as well as I would have liked, but we both thought it tasted great ... And that's really all that matters, right?

See what I mean?  Not exactly the most photogenic dinner I've ever made.

Creamy Bacon Avocado Pasta

Adapted from a recipe on Two Peas & Their Pod.

Ingredient List:
  • 1 box short pasta (I used Garofalo organic casarecce from Costco)
  • 2 avocados
  • 5 slices bacon (I used turkey bacon to make it a little healthier)
  • 20 grape tomatoes, cut in halves or fourths
  • 2 cloves garlic (or, if you're lazy like me, the equivalent of jarred, pre-minced garlic)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cilantro


1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2.  Add the pasta to the boiling water.  Cook according to package instructions until al dente and drain.

3.  Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  As with the Cheesy Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta I previously posted, you'll want the bacon to be so crispy that it easily crumbles (whether you usually eat it that way or not).

4.  Once the bacon is crisp, remove it from the skillet.  (I just placed mine on a paper towel lined plate and set it to the side.)

5.  Add the avocados, garlic, onion powder, black pepper, sea salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and cilantro to a food processor or blender.  Blend until the ingredients form a smooth and creamy sauce.

6.  Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and mix thoroughly.

7.  Crumble the bacon on the plate.  Add the crumbled bacon and tomatoes to the pot of pasta and avocado sauce, mixing until everything is well combined.

I served this meal with a fresh green salad.  (And, just so you know, this recipe is best on the day it's made.  The leftovers weren't bad, but the sauce seemed to lose some of its flavor and creaminess after it was reheated.  If you're cooking for one person, I'd consider cutting the recipe in half to avoid having a lot of leftovers.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

It Never Gets Easier, You Just Get Stronger: A September Fitness Challenge

A week ago, I discussed some of my fears and concerns when it comes to blogging.  In that post, I also discussed my desire to step out of my blogging comfort zone and, at the very least, start commenting on blogs I enjoy reading and/or participate in some link-ups.

Shortly after sharing that, I found the perfect opportunity.  As a regular reader of Not Entirely Perfect, I was excited to see a monthly personal challenge link-up that starts this month.

This month's challenge is all about fitness.

I kind of fell off the workout wagon after Eric and I got married last November, and, needless to say, I gained some weight.  This obviously didn't make me very happy, so I decided I should probably do something about it.  I started with committing to a BodyPump weightlifting class once a week.  Eric had been asking me to go with him for a long time, and I finally decided to give it a chance.

After I made BodyPump a regular habit, I looked for some other classes to add to my schedule.  I started taking yoga and BodyFlow (a combination of yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi).  I now typically go to classes 3 or 4 times a week (BodyFlow, BodyPump, and 1 to 2 yoga classes).

Image courtesy of www.dailymakeover.com.

Since I'm already making a real effort to maintain a regular fitness routine, I actually had to give this link-up challenge some thought.  I mean, I'd love to say I'm going to go to the gym 7 days a week, but that's not realistic.  So I've decided to keep my fitness goals for September simple since I'd actually like to achieve them!

My September 2014 Fitness Goals:

1.  Continue going regularly to the classes I've been attending.  Because my schedule can get kind of crazy sometimes, I'll commit to going to at least 3 classes each week.  This means I'll be going to the gym Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday (or a combination of at least 3 of those days).

2.  Incorporate at least 1 day of cardio into my routine.  I used to almost exclusively do cardio (especially before my wedding), but since I found a bunch of classes I love, I rarely find myself on a treadmill.  I'd like to change that.

3.  Before our wedding, I was using MyFitnessPal constantly.  But now?  I haven't used this app in months.  Since I found it incredibly useful when I was actively trying to drop weight for the wedding, I decided to give it another go.  I just signed up for a new account using my blog name (if you're a fan of this app and want to add me as a friend, I'm divulgeandindulge), and, at minimum, I will be logging all of my fitness activity.  If I have the time, I'll also add all of my meal information to keep track of my calorie intake.

I'm excited to participate in this link-up!  I'll share my results on October 2nd, which is the official end of the challenge.  Hopefully I can stick with these goals and see some more results by the end of the month!