A Squared: February 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Bacon & Roasted Red Pepper Risotto

Risotto is one of my favorite dishes because it's kind of like a blank canvas. If you've got a standard risotto recipe, it can be dressed up and changed up in tons of different ways so that it's never boring or the "same old" dish.


I had a risotto moment several months ago-- and mostly because I had bought one of those huge containers of arborio rice that seems to never end. So every week I was making some new creamy rice creation for dinner like this one with mushrooms, spinach, and bacon or this roasted red pepper version. Well, today I'm back on the risotto bandwagon with a recipe that is a bit of a mashup of those two old favorites.


This bacon and roasted red pepper risotto is a pretty simple update to traditional risotto. I love how the salty bacon works with the sweet red peppers-- it's the perfect flavor combination. And it works so nicely with the rich and creamy risotto and a pop of freshness from the basil leaves.


I served this as a main dish and it works perfectly for that. A bowl of risotto (plus bacon) is pretty rich. This would also make a great side dish too-- especially if you're serving guests!


Ingredients:

  •  3 cups fat free reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 5 strips of center-cut bacon
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 1 Tbs. butter 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine, divided 
  • 1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced 

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth just to a simmer. Cover and keep hot over medium low heat until you are ready to use it.

Preheat broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Slice the bell pepper in half lengthwise, removed stem, seeds, and ribs and use the palm of your hand to gently flatten the pepper halves. Place the peppers skin side up on the foil and place under the broiler. Broil until the skin is black and blistered. Remove and transfer to a small bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes until peppers can be handled. When cooled, peel the blackened exterior skin off the peppers, chop into 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon to the pan and cook on both sides until brown and crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain well and then crumble the bacon into small pieces.

Add 1 Tbs. olive oil and the butter to the pan and adjust heat to medium. Add the onions and saute until tender (not brown), about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat. Pour in the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bacon bits and stirring until it has almost completely evaporated, approximately 3 minutes.
  
Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and stir constantly until the broth has almost completely absorbed, for 2-3 minutes. Continue stirring the rice and repeat the process of adding 1/2 cup broth at a time. Allow each 1/2 cup of broth to absorb before adding the next. Pour in the last 1/2 cup of broth along with the chopped red peppers and continue stirring to cook until the rice is chewy and firm.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the grated cheese, remaining oil, half of the crumbled bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowls, sprinkle with remaining bacon and sliced basil, and serve warm.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Week in a Buick

Confession: In the craziness of end of the year travel and pregnancy and the holidays, I have a post that I just discovered in my drafts... I forgot all about it and should have shared it with you months ago! And that's a shame because it's a fun one. Let's talk about my week in a Buick!


Late last fall, Buick offered me a one week lease on one of their 2016 Buick Regals. Alex and I hadn't owned a car for years, so the opportunity to have one at our disposal for a full week was an exciting prospect! While we didn't have any super exciting plans for the Buick, it was so nice to finally be able do all of those things that we usually have to put off and cram into one day when we have paid for a rental car. So, with our previously unused parking space occupied for the week I got my To Do List ready and we took the Regal out on the town.


Now, let's talk a little bit about the Buick Regal... I won't pretend to be a car expert here, but this is not your grandma's Buick. And after spending a week in this car, I totally appreciate the "That's not a Buick" ad campaign beyond the fact that the commercials make me chuckle. We were pleasantly surprised by everything about this car: it's sleek appearance, high quality interiors, and all the bells and whistles that came along with it. It truly feels like you're riding in a luxury car. And one week was not nearly long enough to master or appreciate them all!


First off, the Regal is a perfectly sized vehicle for city life: It's a mid-sized sedan, so it's relatively easy to park but has a spacious interior and trunk for carting around friends, family, and anything else you're carting around. We used the car to make a long overdue trip to the local charity to donate basically a walk-in closet's worth of unused items (including an artificial Christmas tree!) that we'd been storing up for a time when we had access to a spacious automobile. And since we were about to start working on our baby nursery, the timing for this Regal to land in our parking space could not have been better!

The Buick Regal is a smooth ride and offers all wheel drive-- perfect for Chicago winters-- and improved impact isolation on bumpy roads-- perfect for navigating Chicago's potholes! Some of our other favorite features of the Regal included its intuitive navigation system, E-Z Key passive entry system, keyless push-button starting, and of course, I'm a sucker for heated front seats. Did I also mention that the car is also a wi-fi hotspot? Pretty cool!


While I was hoping we'd be able to take the car on some amazing adventure like a spontaneous dinner in Milwaukee or a quiet weekend getaway in Michigan, real life took over and it turned out we had a lot to get done in that week we were driving the Regal! It was a perfect companion for all of our everyday errands... I forgot how much easier it was to grocery shop with a car. Oh, and Target runs. I mean, need I say more?


We also took the Regal out in search of good eats! Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood isn't super public transportation-friendly, so we took the opportunity to drive there and enjoyed an amazing lunch.


I'll have to come back another time and tell you about how much I love the food at HBFC, but for now let me leave you with a photo of this delicious fried chicken sandwich (plus fried egg since they were still serving their brunch menu when we were there) and their creamy mac and cheese. It's my top recommendation on their side dish menu!


We also drove downtown for a breakfast date at our favorite spot in the city for breakfast and brunch: Meli Cafe. Alex won the award for Best Ordering Decision Ever when this cookie butter-stuffed French Toast (topped with powdered sugar and bananas) arrived at our table. I had major order envy on this one and stole more than a few bites off his plate.


Thanks so much to Buick for giving us wheels for a week! And for those of you that are in the market for a new ride, take the Regal out for a test drive and prepare to be pleasantly surprised!


Editor's Note: I received a complimentary one week lease in order to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed herein, as always, are my own.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Meatless Pizzadillas

Pizzadillas are fun play on two of my favorite cheesy dishes: pizza and quesadillas. They're great for snacking or for an easy weeknight dinner!


I took a day trip to Indianapolis for work yesterday which-- as of now-- is my last scheduled work trip before the baby arrives. I'm staying put in Chicago for now, which feels a little weird and is making this whole pregnancy thing feel a bit more real. And frankly, now that I'm in the third trimester I feel pregnant-- sore, tired, and slow... so I can't say I'm too disappointed that I won't be traveling again for a while! This mommy is tired.


So while I am at home for the foreseeable future with the ability to cook dinner every night, I'm also just not feeling totally up to it these days. After returning from a day at the office there's a pretty finite window of time that I have to make dinner and to do anything else I need to get done. So, a satisfying dinner that comes together quickly is essential for me during these long days. And these easy meatless pizzadillas fit the bill!


These pizzadillas only require a few ingredients and since they're baked in the oven, it's easy to cook them all at the same time instead of pan-frying each one individually (though you can do that). For the filling in these flour tortillas I use a combination of shredded mozzarella and fontina since they're both great Italian melting cheeses. I opted to make my pizzadillas meatless, filling them with sliced black olives and diced sweet red peppers. You could certainly add pepperoni or some cooked sausage if you wanted to add some meat here, but I think they're delicious without! Be sure to serve the sliced pizzadilla triangles with a little warm marinara or pizza sauce for dipping!


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 8 taco size flour tortillas
  • 4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 (2.25-oz.) can of sliced black olives, drained well
  • 4 oz. shredded fontina cheese
  • 1 cup warm marinara sauce, for serving


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brush one side of 4 of the tortillas lightly with olive oil and arranged oil side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle 1 oz. of mozzarella on top of each tortilla and then sprinkle the diced peppers and sliced olives evenly over the top of each cheese-covered tortilla. Sprinkle the fontina evenly over the top of each tortilla.

Brush one side of the remaining 4 tortillas with olive oil and place oil side up on top of the four prepared tortillas.

Bake for 12 minutes, until edges are becoming golden. Gently flip each quesadilla and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Transfer to a cutting board and slice each quesadilla into 6 triangles.

Serve warm with warm marinara sauce.





Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Travel Tuesday: 10 US Vacation Destinations for your Winter Wanderlust

Our mild Chicago winter has gotten a bit more frigid over the last couple of weeks and it has me daydreaming of warmer locations. In the beginning of my pregnancy we tossed around the idea of taking a babymoon, but in the interest of funds (holy childcare costs!), time (hello, third trimester travel bans... those arrive quickly), and health (that pesky Zika virus) it just didn't happen. So, I'm staying put in Chicago while we await this little one's arrival thinking back on warm vacations past. I'm sharing a round up of some of my favorites with you today to help quench your winter wanderlust... And they're all stateside for any of you mommies-to-be that still have time to squeeze in a babymoon!


1. Las Vegas - The ultimate getaway for travelers who want a little bit of everything: good food, warm weather, tons of entertainment, and some of the best people watching in the United States.
Foodie Tip: Vegas is one of my favorite cities for dining! Don't miss the Italian food at Giada Vegas, southern food and cocktails at Yardbird, and my favorite buffet: The Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan.


2. Charleston - This city was one of my favorites to visit and one that's definitely on my list to hit again. I love the history, the charm, the friendly people, and the gorgeous architecture.
Foodie Tip: Get your fix of southern food in Charleston: Barbecue at Hometeam BBQ, locally sourced upscale fare at the famous Husk, and tons of other recommendations!


3. St. Simon's Island, GA - A lesser known vacation spot than most of the others on this list, but one that's near and dear to my family. We've been vacationing here for years and it's got everything you want: the beaches and southern charm of places like Hilton Head or Charleston, but in a much more low key setting.
Foodie Tip: Tramici is one of our favorite spots for Italian food and Southern Soul BBQ is well known on the island (and on Diners Drive Ins & Dives) for its awesome barbecue.


4. Miami Beach - While I haven't seen much of Miami Beach, I have spent a good deal of time at The Fontainebleau and would highly recommend visiting! The food is out of this world and the hotel, pool, and beaches are just gorgeous.
Foodie Tip: You're in good shape dining at pretty much any of the Fontainebleau restaurants -- Italian at chef Scott Conant's Scarpetta, Asian at Hakkasan, and contemporary American food at Michael Mina 74. And don't forget to check out the adorable sweets shop!

5. Los Angeles - LA is another great location for vacationers who like a little bit of everything: beaches, nightlife, great food, and sightseeing. The Getty Center is one of my favorite tourist attractions here, so be sure to set aside some time to see it!
Foodie Tip: Hit Feed Body + Soul for brunch if you're in Venice-- and grab a Blue Bottle Coffee down the street! And Border Grill is famous for its upscale Mexican cuisine.

6. Bonita Springs, FL - For a more low key Florida experience than Miami Beach, Bonita Springs (between Fort Myers and Naples) is a great vacation spot for beautiful beaches and tons of relaxation.
Foodie Tip: Head to Coconut Jack's for fruity cocktails and fresh seafood in a fun waterside atmosphere. For a fancier night out, try Angelina's Ristorante for Italian food and a stellar wine list or Roy's Hawaiian for a taste of the south Pacific.


7. Hilton Head & Bluffton, SC - For the best of beach resorts, Hilton Head is great spot for a getaway whether it's a girls' trip, a family vacation, or something a bit more romantic. Head to nearby Bluffton for a dose of southern charm, cute restaurants, and shopping.
Foodie Tip: Java Burrito Company is a local fast casual joint with delicious Mexican food. If you're in Bluffton, check out the Bluffton Room for old fashioned white tablecloth high end dining-- and don't miss the tableside Caesar salad!


8. Newport Beach, CA - Like my Miami experience, I haven't seen much of Newport Beach... but what I have seen was breathtaking! The Resort at Pelican Hill is by far one of the best and most unique hotel experiences I've ever had. This resort is gorgeous-- from the ocean views to the private casitas with fireplaces, it's the perfect romantic escape.
Foodie Tip: While Newport Beach is filled with great food, you don't have to leave Pelican Hill to find great food-- like the pasta at Andrea and the casual dining at Coliseum Pool & Grill.


9. Napa Valley - Okay, so Napa isn't exactly a "warm" destination, but the thought of 60 degrees and sipping wine in a light light jacket sounds a whole lot more appealing than subzero temps and snowboots. Napa is a food and wine lover's paradise and a Must Add for your US travel bucket list.
Foodie Tip: Where to begin?! Chef Michale Chiarello's Bottega is known for its amazing Italian-California fusion menu, the best fast food you've ever had at Gott's Roadside, and you can enjoy an amazing wine and food tasting experience at Robert Sinskey Vineyards too.

10. Charlottesville, VA - Like Napa, Charlottesville may not be the most tropical location but it is certainly warm by comparison! It is an adorable college town rich with American history surrounded by acres of rolling farmland with adorable wineries nestled in between.
Foodie Tip: Head off the beaten path for amazing biscuit sandwiches at Ace Biscuit and Barbecue or  a little outside the city limits to nearby Gordonsville for authentic barbecue at the BBQ Exchange.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Krusteaz Breakfast Night: Cinnamon Apple Waffles with Maple Cream Cheese Drizzle + A Giveaway

I'm taking a break from our regularly scheduled dinner recipes to share something even more fun with you on this Wednesday: Brinner! A.k.a Breakfast for Dinner.


February is National Hot Breakfast Month (and fun fact: yesterday was National Pancake Day), so when the good people at Krusteaz asked me to honor this month by coming up with a delicious breakfast recipe that you could serve to your family-- for breakfast or for dinner-- I was totally on board! Breakfast for dinner is a fun way to change up your weekly dinner routine and a lot of the time, breakfast can be a budget-friendly dinner alternative too!


Waffles always feel like a really fun treat to me and the Krusteaz Belgian Waffle Mix makes perfectly light and crispy waffles, so I decided to make those the base of my brinner feast. These waffles have a great taste and texture, but I highly recommend following taking Krusteaz's advice and using cold water when you're preparing the batter. It makes the final product extra light and fluffy! I folded in a little bit of cinnamon before baking the waffles to complement the sweet spiced cinnamon apple topping.


And speaking of the topping: these apples are an easy and delicious way to dress up your waffles-- or even your pancakes! They're sauteed in butter until softened and coated in a wonderfully sticky cinnamon and brown sugar mixture. The apples come together quickly and can saute away while you prepare the finishing touch for these decadent waffles: the maple cream cheese drizzle. This sweet and creamy topping is a dressed up version of the most traditional waffle and pancake topping. The cream cheese adds delicious richness and a little tang to offset the sweetness of the maple syrup and the apples. Together, it's a breakfast-- or dinner-- that your family will absolutely love! Serve it as is or maybe with a side of bacon or breakfast sausage for a complete brinner.


In honor of National Hot Breakfast Month, Krusteaz wants to make sure that one lucky A Squared reader is able to make a hot and delicious breakfast all month long, so we've partnered up on an awesome giveaway today! Use the widget below to win an amazing prize pack including 2 boxes of each of Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake, Belgian Waffle, Muffin, and Blueberry Pancake mixes, fun kitchen items like a pancake spatula, a pancake griddle pan, a squeeze bottle for pancake art and an apron, and Breakfast Night inspiration including sample Breakfast Night recipes. Enter below for multiple chances to win-- and don't forget to add breakfast to your weekly dinner rotation!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Cinnamon Apple Waffles with Maple Cream Cheese Drizzle


Ingredients:
 
For the waffles:

  • 1 box Krusteaz Light & Crispy Waffle Mix
  • 2 3/4 cups cold water
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Heat and lightly grease Belgian or conventional waffle iron.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and a pinch of salt to the pan. Sauté for 12-15 minutes, until apples are golden and begin to soften.

Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Stir to fully coat. Cook for an additional 5 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.

Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.

For the apples:

  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 6 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs. dark brown sugar

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and a pinch of salt to the pan. Sauté for 12-15 minutes, until apples are golden and begin to soften.

Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Stir to fully coat. Cook for an additional 5 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. 

Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.
For the maple cream cheese drizzle:

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 oz. butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Using a whisk or a mixer with whisk attachment, beat ingredients until smooth and fully incorporated.

Plate warm waffles and top with a large spoonful of cinnamon apples. Drizzle with cream cheese mixture and serve.


Editor's Note: This post was sponsored by Krusteaz. All opinions expressed herein-- as always-- are my own.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lakeview Guide: 5411 Empanadas

It's been a while since I added a new post to the Lakeview Neighborhood Guide series, but I'm back today with one that was well worth the wait. 5411 Empanadas is a true neighborhood gem and one that I'm ashamed took me so long to try... Because now that I have, it's become one of my favorite places for a quick weekend lunch.


5411 is the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, a city whose food-- and particularly its empanadas-- were the inspiration behind this restaurant's cuisine. 5411's Lakeview restaurant is their first brick and mortar restaurant, but their empanada empire has quickly expanded to encompass a food truck that sells out before the end of the lunch hour (where it all began), 2 stores in Wicker Park, a downtown Loop location, and even one in Coral Gables, Florida.


Alex and I stopped into 5411 Empanadas on Clark St. on a recent Sunday afternoon for a quick lunch date while we were out running errands. The shop is cozy, but modern with a huge old fashioned espresso machine for a variety of handcrafted coffee beverages and a huge chalkboard showcasing their menu of empanadas.


Empanadas are South America's answer to the Polish pierogi, the Italian ravioli, and the Chinese dumpling. They're made of tender pastry dough stuffed with a variety of fillings and at 5411, they're baked and not fried. At 5411 they're available with a huge variety of fillings from the traditional to the creative and from meaty to vegetarian. With so many available, Alex and I decided to order 8 different empanadas so that we could sample as many varieties as possible.


At 5411 Empanadas, each empanada is shaped differently depending on its filling. Not only do they look extra pretty this way, but it's a quick and easy way to identify what you're eating before biting into it. Each table at the restaurant comes with a sheet cheat-- and there's one on every takeout box too!


Between the two of us, we sampled the Beef, BBQ Chicken, Bacon Date & Goat Cheese, Chorizo & Patatas Bravas, Cheddar Bacon & Egg, Sweet Corn, Caramelized Onion & Parmesan, and Banana & Nutella. We sampled them all along with their spicy red hot pepper dipping sauce and their traditional chimichurri, an herbaceous and garlicky sauce that's just perfect for dipping. While we enjoyed all of the empanadas we tried, there were definitely a few standout favorites among the bunch:


The Cheddar Bacon & Egg variety was a really fun twist on a classic empanada. These were great as a part of our lunch experience, but would be so perfect for breakfast on the go! They were stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs, chopped smoky bacon, and melty cheddar cheese. And they were perfect dipped in 5411's spicy 'red hot' sauce.


My hands down favorite is the Sweet Corn empanada. The filling is super creamy and a little sweet and a little savory, stuffed with big chunks of corn. It's also vegetarian-friendly!


We also loved the sweet dessert-inspired Banana & Nutella filled empanada too. Alex loves anything Nutella-flavored and the fact that it was warm and melty and accompanied by ripe chunks of banana made it extra delicious. It's also a perfect little something sweet to cap off a very savory meal.


5411 Empanadas is a great option for a quick and flavorful meal when you're out and about in Lakeview. They're also BYOB if you'd like to make it a casual date night! And for a date night in, 5411 also offers takeout and delivery options too. And speaking of, it's been about 2 weeks since my last empanada fix... thinking it's time to stop back in again!


Editor's Note: Our meal at 5411 Empanadas was complimentary, however all opinions expressed herein are my own.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My 10 Favorite Baby Gifts from Uncommon Goods

I'm approaching the end of my second trimester and my sister and best friend have been busy planning my baby shower, which means I've been busy learning everything there is to know about strollers, high chairs, and car seats... I'm a little overwhelmed! But in addition to all those necessities, I've also been having a lot of fun shopping for baby gifts of the fun, creative, and adorable varieties too. And one of the best places I've found to shop for cool baby gifts is Uncommon Goods.

Uncommon Goods is a great place to shop for unique gifts for anyone on your list, but if you're looking for something different for the parents-to-be or for something special for a new baby in your life, this is the place to get it. Not only does Uncommon Goods sell gifts that are cool and clever, but they're often made by independent artists and smaller manufacturers. Additionally, Uncommon Goods features a number of products that are made in a socially and environmentally responsible manner-- many are made of organic or recycled materials and never including fur or leather-- so you can really feel good about giving these gifts!

While it was a tough task, I checked out the Uncommon Goods Baby Gifts section and curated a list of my ten favorite gifts. So whether you're looking for a keepsake, something practical, or something that's just plain adorable, these are perfect unique gifts to bring to your next baby shower-- or to welcome a new little one to the world!


1. Wooden Pizza Slice Teether ($12.00) - If you're looking for a unique gift for a foodie baby (or a baby with foodie parents), this wooden pizza slice teether is the cutest! Made of solid maple with little "pepperoni" holes perfect for a baby's hand to grip, this gift couldn't be cuter. And it's made right here in Illinois!


2. Organic Cotton Teethers Veggie Crate ($28.00) - This is another super cute baby gift for the foodie family in your life. Each happy little vegetable is crafted out of organic Egyptian cotton. They're perfect for little ones to chew on and can grow with a child for fun pretend play when they're older.



3. Portachair Harness ($49.50) - As a mom-to-be who loves dining out, but who also lives in the city and is short on storage space, this gift checks all my 'must have' boxes for a baby gift! This harness rolls up and fits perfectly in a diaper bag and then fits securely onto the backs of numerous different chairs. So no matter where your travels or your hunger take you, baby always has a seat at your table too!


4. Lucy's Socks - Set of 6 ($26.00) - I immediately fell in love with these ladylike little socks by Trumpette and knew baby girl Colvin needed a set of her own! Each sock looks like a little jewel-toned ballet slipper and is adorned with a coordinating satin bow. It's a perfect gift for any stylish baby girl.


5. 2016 Birth Year Box ($48.00) - A contemporary spin on a classic baby keepsake gift. This trinket box is illustrated with an adorable little monkey, the Chinese animal symbol for babies born in 2016. Babies born in the Year of Monkey will be witty, curious, and clever. Sounds like Baby C. will keep us on our toes!


6. Lowercase Alphabet Blocks ($32.95) - Every kid needs a set of alphabet blocks. I love the look of these locally made (in Michigan!) blocks-- from the lowercase font to the baby animals displayed on each, this contemporary update on a classic educational toy is a wonderful addition to any modern baby's toybox.


7. Birth Announcement Pillows ($100.00) - I love the personalized aspect of these pillows. What a thoughtful gift for a new baby's arrival? Something like this would look perfect on the glider in our modern baby nursery!


8. Ice Cream Rattles - Set of 3 ($35.00) - How much do you love all of the food-themed baby gifts at Uncommon Goods? These sweet crocheted ice cream cone rattles are handmade from 100% bamboo yarn. They're a great gift alone, but would be so cute atop a wrapped gift or a diaper cake at a shower too!


9. Cheerful Elephant Baby Memory Book ($56.00) - Every mommy-to-be needs a baby book to save special memories in. It's hard to find a really cute one though, and this book fits the bill. I love its whimsical look and the organza bow on the cover.


10. Baby Fortune Cookie Booties ($29.00) - Uncommon Goods has all kinds of adorable foodie booties for babies (like strawberries and tacos!), but I loved how cozy these looked-- and the fact that they come with an actual fortune inside, all tucked into this adorable takeout box!


Editor's Note: This post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods, however all opinions expressed here are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support A Squared!

Monday, February 1, 2016

10 Small Tips for a Healthier You in the New Year

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TryALittleGoodness #CollectiveBias

Starting the new year off as a pregnant lady, my health and fitness goals have evolved from previous years. I rang in the New Year on the verge of my third trimester knowing that this is not the time to make any drastic changes to my fitness regimen or diet. It's important to take small steps to keep myself and my baby in shape as we approach the end of pregnancy-- especially after a few months of holiday indulgence! And with that in mind, I've partnered with goodnessknows® snack squares to bring you a list of small things we can do to stay healthy and active that aren't totally crazy... and you may not be pregnant, but I think they'll work for you too!

goodnessknows® snack squares are a great reminder that doing a little good for yourself can go a long way. These snack squares are available in 3 tasty varieties filled with delicious and good-for-you ingredients: goodnessknows® Cranberry, Almond, Dark Chocolate, goodnessknows® Apple, Almond & Peanut, Dark Chocolate, and goodnessknows® Peach & Cherry, Almond, Dark Chocolate. They're not made with high fructose corn starch or artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors. So, it's a sweet snack that will fill you up and that you can feel good about eating. And even sweeter? You can enter the goodnessknows® sweepstakes for a chance to win one of two $500 gift cards by sharing what brings you goodness! Check out the sweepstakes widget below for more info on how to enter:

2016 #TryALittleGoodness Sweepstakes

Here's some more good news: You can find goodnessknows® snack squares at your local Walmart store! They're either conveniently located near the registers (so you're no longer tempted to reach for a candy bar when hunger hits you in the checkout line) or in the pharmacy department near the other energy and nutrition snacks.



10 Small Tips for a Healthier You in the New Year


1. Keep nourishing snacks readily available. This is crucial. If I don't have good food available to me and hunger hits, I'm reaching for the first piece of junk food I can find. And that is not a good idea! I was traveling for work last week and between rushing to and from airports and meetings it was hard to find time for a decent meal. Thankfully, I had some goodnessknows® snack squares in my carry-on to tide me over! As they say, "goodness is greatness!"
2. Have water on hand at all times. Staying hydrated is the key to feeling full (and avoiding overeating), good skin, and fighting fatigue. So, pack a bottle of water in your bag whenever you're heading out of the house and need some extra hydration!
3. Get off the train or bus one stop earlier. Even if it means you're only adding four blocks to your walk home or to the office, it's still four more than you normally walk. And those steps add up. It's also a great way to clear your head before or after a busy workday.
4. Stretch for a few minutes every morning-- and before bed too. Stretching is an excellent way to wake your body up in the morning or to calm down in the evening for a good night's sleep.
5. When your body needs sleep, go to bed. Being too tired can lead to a ripple effect of bad food and fitness decisions. So when you feel yourself crashing, do your body a favor, put your phone down, and hit the sheets!
6. Even if you're not going out to eat, get out and walk during you lunch break. I got into this habit years ago when I was working out in a suburban office park. One of my coworkers was adamant about walking around the property on her lunch breaks, so I joined her and loved how energized I felt for the rest of the day. Now that I work in the city (and since I'm pregnant and need to move around more often), I try to make sure I escape at some point around lunchtime-- even just for 10-15 minutes-- to walk by the river or run an errand in the fresh air.


7. Meal plan. Planning your meals ahead of time is the best way to prevent yourself from coming home, surveying your fridge, and then ordering takeout a few times a week. When you've got the makings of a healthy meal in front of you, it is much harder to ignore.
8. Add whole (and super foods!) into your diet. It's easy to fill up on empty calories, but if you're conscious about what you're putting into your body you'll feel better-- and fuller for longer! I always try to make sure that my meals and snacks are made up of good-for-me superfood ingredients (that also taste delicious and indulgent) like the nuts, apples, cranberries, cherries, and dark chocolate you find in goodnessknows® snack squares.

  
9. Don't be afraid to say 'no.' It's easier said than done, but this is something I've gained a new appreciation for during my pregnancy. It also harkens back to tip #5: When you're crashing and you need to relax, it's okay to turn down an event invitation every once in a while in favor of a little R&R. Your body will thank you.
10. Everything in moderation. This is my favorite tip for living a healthy balanced life-- and one that I always try to live by, pregnant or otherwise. You don't have to overhaul your whole life and routine to live and feel better. Small changes and the occasional indulgence can add up to a big difference in the way that you look and feel!


Do you have any easy tips for living healthier? The folks at goodnessknows®  and I would love to hear them! 
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