food

holiday decor + mini-thanksgiving.

As promised, today I’m sharing some photos from our super festive marathon of holiday celebrations this past weekend. In case you missed it, we decorated our apartment and cooked a belated mini-Thanksgiving dinner… all in roughly 24 hours. We don’t do things halfway here in the Kosik household!

This is our third holiday season in this apartment, so we kind of have our decoration routine down to a science. We buy a tree from a guy who sets up shop around the corner (his name is José) and Matt carries it home, which is a city phenomenon that never fails to surprise the little suburban girl inside my soul.

This year, we bought a few new seasonal throw pillows and candles, plus an ornament or two, but mostly, we used things we’d already collected. The red and white paper chain you see in the photos below is something I made by hand for our first holiday in Brooklyn, and we’ve somehow managed to keep it intact for three years now! (For the record, I was fully expecting to have to start from scratch annually.) Hanging it up is one of my favorite traditions, and if you’re looking for a low-budget, high-impact element to add to your holiday decor, I would definitely recommend making one for yourself!

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Once the apartment was properly in the festive spirit, we transitioned immediately into Thanksgiving mode! As you know if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, Matt and I started a tradition of making a mini-Thanksgiving dinner last year, and even though we made it happen a little bit late this time around, I’m really glad we did it. We absolutely love the big Thanksgiving celebration that happens with family in Pennsylvania, but it’s nice to have a smaller version, too, with just the two of us — plus, we both like to cook, and it’s been fun to figure out what recipes are going to be part of our own tradition.

We reprised a lot of the classics we made last year — a turkey breast (of course), stuffing, kale salad, cranberry sauce — but we added in a new roasted potato dish and biscuits. I also finally got around to making a recipe for apple crumble that my friend Angela gave me a few months ago. She made it for us when we visited her and her sweet family back in October, and I was waiting for the perfect time to try it myself. It was as delicious as I remembered it!

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I was honestly a little worried that squeezing our decorating day and our Thanksgiving dinner into one weekend would somehow cheapen both events, but I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. Sometimes, it makes me sad to think that we’re not always able to savor things because we’re moving so quickly through this season of our lives, and I don’t like the idea of condensing the calendar simply for the sake of getting everything done. Rather than a rush, though, this weekend just felt like the perfect mash-up of celebrations, and it launched me into the holiday season wildly quickly.

(Also, we have a fridge full of leftovers, which has been especially helpful throughout this crazy busy week. Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving leftovers?)

If you haven’t had a chance to check out my guest post over on HomeBodySoul, I’d love for you to take a look! This is about as raw and honest as I’ve gotten with sharing the story of my transition from corporate America to freelancing, and I think it will help shed a little extra light on how and why I’ve ended up where I am. Thanks so much to Meghan for giving me the platform to open up! 

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10 thanksgiving recipes i have my eye on.

With Thanksgiving falling so early this year, it looked for a hot second there like Matt and I weren’t going to be able to find a time to have our second-annual mini Thanksgiving — but, thankfully, we got it on the calendar. It’s a good thing, too, because there would have been one very unhappy husband over here if we hadn’t been able to make it work. Don’t get me wrong… I would have been bummed if we hadn’t been able to find a time for it, too (putting off a tradition after just one year? how lame is that?), but I’m pretty sure Matt would have cancelled the holiday season altogether. We’ll have to wait until after “real” Thanksgiving to make our own, but I’m glad that we’ll be able to extend our favorite occasion and throw ourselves into enjoying it in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to if we tried to squeeze it in before we travel back home to Pennsylvania next week.

Now that the plans are officially underway, I’ve started pulling together recipes, and it’s making me even more excited. There were a few dishes we made last year that I think will become a staple for us moving forward, but it never hurts to add in a new twist for a new season. I thought I’d share some of the ideas I’d come across that looked especially delicious in case you’re also on the hunt for something fun to make for a Friendsgiving or family feast.

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1. Creamy Pumpkin and Cheddar Scalloped PotatoesI get the coziest, most nostalgic feelings anytime there’s a scalloped potato situation happening within a few feet of me, but the pumpkin flavors added to this recipe kick it up a seasonal notch. (via Cooking For Keeps)

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2. Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Hazelnuts & Brown Butter DressingWe’re big fans of Brussels sprouts at my house (tell that to six-year-old Alli and she’ll scream “Gross!” and run away). The combination of these ingredients sounds like it would make for a fantastic Thanksgiving salad. (via The Kitchn)

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3. Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries with BarleyI’ve already professed our love for Brussels sprouts, and Matt snacks on cranberries like they’re going out of style, so I think this dish might be a big hit. I always love experimenting with different kinds of grains, as well, so why not barley? (via Cookie + Kate)

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4. Parmesan-Thyme MushroomsIt only took me eight years, but I recently discovered that my husband loves mushrooms, so I’ve been collecting ideas on how to prepare them. This recipe only takes 15 minutes to make, and it features my very favorite kind of cheese. (via The Kitchn)

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5. Roasted Butternut Squash RisottoI have no word for this other than this one: YUM. (via Cookie + Kate)

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6. Creamy Cauliflower SoupI would very much like to be the kind of person that makes and serves a hearty soup for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet, but a girl can dream, right? (via What’s for Lunch, Honey?)

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7. Buttermilk BiscuitsI’m delving (slowly, cautiously) back into the world of gluten (you can read more about that here), and I think that trying my hand at some classic homemade biscuits this Thanksgiving would be the perfect way to celebrate that. (via The Kitchn)

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8. Pumpkin Biscuits with Brown Butter and Cinnamon SugarThese could definitely be a contender for my “gluten, I’m back!” celebration, too. Is it socially acceptable to make and eat two kinds of biscuits? (via Cooking For Keeps)

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9. Pumpkin Dessert LasagnaI’ve never quite learned to enjoy pumpkin pie, so I’m always in search of another pumpkin dessert that I could make for Thanksgiving. This “lasagna” is assembled with cream cheese mousse, pumpkin pudding, caramel sauce, and spiced whipped cream. (via The Kitchn)

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10. Caramelized Peach + White Chocolate Oatmeal Skillet Cookie PieWhite chocolate is one of my favorite flavors for Christmas desserts, but I’m thinking of getting a jump on it a little early this year! I also fell pretty hard for caramelized peaches over the summer — this recipe is seriously calling to me. (via Half Baked Harvest)

Do you have any fun recipes planned for this Thanksgiving? Tell me more in the comments below! 

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healthy work-from-home habits.

When I put out my last call for questions that you’d like to see addressed here on the blog (you can still submit them here!), a few people asked me about how I’ve kept up a healthy eating and workout routine while working from home, and if my approach to it has changed at all since I left my former life in corporate America. Due to some recent circumstances, I’ve made a bunch of adjustments to what I was doing before — both a few months ago in my freelance life and a few years ago in my 9-to-5 life — so it seems like the perfect time to share what’s been working for me lately!

Some of you may know that I’ve been working through some more general health concerns over the last few weeks, a process that’s forced me to take stock of how I’ve been treating my body and what I can do to better serve it. I’ve been pretty passionate about nutrition and exercise since my early college days, but the (thankfully minor) bumps in the road I’ve encountered these past few months in terms of my health have been a welcome reminder that there are lots of ways to be “healthy.” Just because I think I’m doing all the right things to stay well and in shape doesn’t mean that those hard and fast rules work for my body. For many years, they did, but I’m learning to make adjustments and it’s actually been a really good thing.

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I’ve written previously here about both my chronic insomnia and my long-standing digestive issues, but what I haven’t shared is that I also deal with intense hives. Without allergy medicine every day, I will literally find myself covered in a hot, itchy rash 90 percent of the time. At one point, I thought it was simply sensitive skin or a harmless allergy, but as it grew worse earlier this year, I began to wonder if it was somehow connected to my sleep and stomach issues — and if all of these problems could be addressed with one magic solution. Over the summer, I met with an allergist and immunologist, who worked with me on a few tests that were ultimately inconclusive. I have some other doctors to see that will hopefully have more answers for me, but in the meantime, I’ve adopted some new habits at the recommendation of the immunologist, and they’ve definitely impacted my general health!

Our recent trip to California also forced me to take a step back and reconsider my health habits. I guess it’s pretty cliché for my New York self to come back from the west coast with a new lease on food and fitness, but what can I say? Call me cliché! In the three weeks since we’ve been back from our vacation, I’ve noticed some changes in my health philosophy. Combined with the changes suggested by the doctor, those mental shifts have felt really good, especially within the framework of my work-from-home life.

  • Sleep: You may already know that I’ve been dealing with insomnia for the better part of four years now, but one tiny little adjustment has made a big difference recently. Vitamin D! My autoimmune doctor suggested it and I’m so grateful. It’s just the generic drugstore kind, but one pill a day has been making it a lot easier for me to fall — and stay — asleep. Game changer!
  • Diet: Since my sophomore year in college, I’ve been managing chronic digestive issues that are still generally undiagnosed. Thanks to some changes in my diet, my belly problems have gotten mostly better, but our trip to California inspired me to test out some other dietary routines, and I’m so happy did! What I realized in California (warning: another total cliché coming up) is that I haven’t been placing enough emphasis on real, well-made foods. I’ve been focusing so much on what’s gluten-free that I’ve almost totally eliminated foods that can actually fuel me, turning instead to anything that had that “GF” label on the package. And guess what? A lot of those foods aren’t really that good for you! I realize how lucky I am not to have Celiac Disease (I took gluten out of my diet a few years ago — along with garlic and onion — when I experimented with the Low FODMAP diet, a process that really did cure most of my symptoms), and I thought it was time that I start bringing a few whole wheats back into rotation. I’m still sticking with gluten-free pastas and staying away from anything too gluten-y (I know it’s not a word), but I’m feeling much healthier since I said goodbye to gluten-free packaged snack foods and started allowing myself a fresh piece of bread here and there. I’m leaner and more energized, and I suspect that this change might also have helped my sleep. Garlic and onion are still my major triggers, so I won’t be bringing those back any time soon.
  • Exercise (and not exercise): For years and years, I’ve relied on exercise as the primary factor in my health. I viewed myself as a healthy person because I worked out six days a week, and I pretty much assumed that the rest would fall into place. Exercise is still really important to me, but when I last went to see my doctor, he schooled me on how much stress I put on myself when I go to the gym on just a few (or zero) hours of sleep. This is the kind of stress, he said, that causes hives and an intensification of my stomach pain, so I’ve tried to force myself to take more rest days — and I definitely don’t push myself toward a hardcore workout after a sleepless night. Instead, I’ll take a long walk outside mid-afternoon, which has the added benefit of clearing my head and getting this WFH-er into the outside world! I’m still going to the gym about five days a week, but I’m also looking for other opportunities to be active in different ways when I know it’s better for my body.
  • Meals: Figuring out my meal schedule — and resisting the urge to snack constantly from my all-too-available kitchen — has been an ongoing process since I started working from my home office, and lately, I think I’m in a good groove. Here are a few tips:
    • Make breakfast the night before. I prep my oatmeal every night before bed so that it’s ready and waiting for me when I wake up the next day. This way, I’m not tempted to creep (yes, creep) around my kitchen considering less healthy options, and I know right when I wake up that there’s a hearty, delicious meal on tap.
    • Maintain consistency. When it comes to breakfast and lunch, I pretty much eat the same thing (or a variation of the same thing) every day, at least for a few weeks at a time. It takes the guesswork out of planning my meals for the day and helps me avoid those bouts of hanger that will typically lead me to a handful or five of chocolate covered pretzels. I picked up this routine while working in a more traditional office, and it hasn’t failed me yet!
    • Take advantage of meal prep and leftovers. I love a good Meal Prep Sunday as much as the next girl, but we’re on the road so often on the weekends that I usually can’t swing it. Instead, I’ve been upping the quantities I’m cooking at dinnertime (especially salads or veggie side dishes) and packing them away for the next day.
    • Plan your snacks. I’m a grazer by nature, and no matter how hard I try to resist temptations, my fridge is always going to be just a few steps from where I’m working. Instead of driving myself crazy fighting off snack cravings, I plan ahead by buying snack foods that won’t make me feel sick or guilty, and budgeting time to eat them into my schedule.

If you’re still working on your health journey (or if you’re in the market for advice that’s way more expert than mine!), check out the Kickstarter campaign for my friend Meghan Meredith‘s Whole Body Fitness planner. I can attest to the fact that it’s an awesome product! It’s also really special to be able to support Meghan’s big dream, which has been such an investment in time and sweat equity for her. Check out Meghan’s recent guest post for a preview of what this resource is all about — then pledge your support on Kickstarter if you’re feeling inspired! 

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the perfect chocolate chip banana bread.

Good morning, sunshines! First of all, I want to say a big, huge THANK YOU to all of you who reached out with love and encouragement after my last post. It’s empowering to be able to share difficult pieces of my story so honestly and to have others recognize and share in my experience. I try to keep in mind as much as possible that I’m never alone in my frustrations and insecurities, but it’s always nice to be reminded — so, thank you thank you THANK YOU.

After the weekend (plus all of your kindness), I’m reset and ready for what the next few days have in store. Matt and I were so happy to have some downtime here in Brooklyn. We spent a lot of hours holed up in our apartment napping and reading good books, and I decided to cap off the weekend by whipping up some banana bread. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me, and since we had a few bananas turning brown in the kitchen, banana bread seemed like the obvious thing.

I’ve been perfecting my banana bread recipe since my senior year in college. It’s based loosely on this recipe from Rachael Ray, but over the years, I’ve made several adjustments both to make it a bit healthier and to make it taste better : ) This banana bread has quite a history. When I started making it in college, my friends and roommates became pretty obsessed. They would deliberately over-buy bananas to give us (well, me) an opportunity to make it, and this very recipe got us through many breakups and tough study sessions. To this day, I rarely go visit a college friend without a batch in my bag! I still think it’s the perfect kinda, sorta healthy treat when I’m in need of a pick-me-up in my grown-up life, and after last week’s scaries, I’m happy to have it in my apartment to help kick off what I’m sure will be a much better week.

I can’t believe I’m releasing the full recipe into the world (I hope my friends still need me after this!), but here it is. You’re going to love it.

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The Perfect Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour — it’s the best gluten-free flour I’ve found!)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (<– this is my secret!)
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.

Prepare a baking pan with non-stick spray (I use coconut oil spray). If you don’t have a loaf pan, you can use a shorter baking pan, instead! Back in college, we used to cut this up like brownies : )

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In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt (you really only need a quick shake of salt, do don’t bother measuring it out!).

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Mix in the oil, bananas, vanilla, and eggs.

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Stir in the chocolate chips (add nuts, if you’d like!).

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Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a fork inserted into the center comes out clean, between 60 and 80 minutes. In my oven, 65-68 minutes is usually the sweet spot.

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Cool the loaf in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely before you indulge!

I hope you and your loved ones enjoy this recipe as much as my loved ones and I do! Let me know what you think in the comments below if you decide to give it a try.

Remember to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a $25 gift card to BaubleBar! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Wednesday 8/30, so get those entries in ASAP!

 

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