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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

{Holiday Tradition -The Lucky Foods }

Traditions, what would the holiday season be without them?  A tradition is a tradition no matter how big or small. Christmas Eve without my mom's Chicken Wild Rice soup after the evening church service just wouldn't be the same.   And even though my sister and I are fully grown we still insist on my dad reading The Night Before Christmas before bed on Christmas eve.  Yes, some traditions we will never out grow.  

  Traditions make the holiday season extra special. 

And just because Christmas is over doesn't mean that the Holiday traditions stop!  Ever since I can remember my mom and dad have prepared the same New Years day feast.  So what do we feast on New Years Day?  Well my parents make pork, black eyed peas, and purple cabbage!    Why these foods?  Well, because these 3 simple foods were believed to bring you good fortune in the upcoming New Year!  I guess you could call them "Lucky" foods!  Cabbage represents financial prosperity, pork  represent progress and the moving forward into the new year, and black eyed peas represent luck and prosperity (source, source). 

I can remember being small and rolling my eyes at the thought of eating purple cabbage on New Years day!  The sight of the vegetable made me wrinkle my nose.  I may have also thought my parents were crazy for this "Lucky" food tradition that we would partake in every New Years Day!  But a tradition is a tradition and as I got older I began to love our New Years Day feast (minus the pork now).  And if you ask me, New Years Day wouldn't be the same without these three "Lucky" foods!  

Caraway Seed Purple Cabbage with Apples and Onions
Recipe from my Mom 
Serves 6 

1 Large Head Purple Cabbage - Finely Shredded
1 Spanish Onion - Thinly Sliced 
2 Apples Peeled and Thinly Sliced (Granny Smith are delicious) 
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar 
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter 
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth 
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar 
1/2 Tsp. Salt
2 Tsp. Caraway Seed
1/2 Tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper 

1- In a large bowl combine shredded cabbage, salt, and red wine vinegar.  Mix and let stand for 5 minutes. 
2- In a large skillet melt butter.  Add cabbage and turn 2-3 times.  
3- Stir in Onions, Apple, Caraway Seed, Chicken Broth, Brown Sugar and Pepper. 
4- Reduce heat to low and cover skillet.  Cook cabbage on low for an hour until cabbage is tender.  Best served warm! 

Best of luck in the upcoming New Year!  Enjoy

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry and Bright

The Holiday season is by far one of my most favorite times of the year! What I love most is the emphasis on good quality family time, the joy of making new memories, spending time with loved ones, the hustle and bustle of the kitchen but most of all I love the spirit of the Holidays!  I feel so blessed this year to be surrounded by so many amazing people and for the many blessings I have been given in my life! 

(love this crazy bunch of people)

So, as the business begins I simply want to say...
Merry Christmas to you all and Happy Holidays!  May your Holiday season be filled with joy, loved ones and new memories! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

{Banana Oatmeal with Lemon Blackberry Compote}

I seem to have an "on again, off again" relationship with oatmeal.  And my oatmeal relationship is "on again" in full force!

However, this time around my oatmeal isn't overloaded with peanut butter and bananas.  No,  I am taking a much simpler approach to how I top my morning oatmeal now.  A simple drizzle of honey with cinnamon and bananas, fresh berries with cinnamon and brown sugar or my new favorite a delicious fruit compote like the one I am about to share with you.   

Banana Oatmeal with Lemon Blackberry Compote for One
** This recipe could easily be doubled! 

1/2 Cup Rolled Oates ** Not quick cooking oats.  I liked Trader Joe's Brand
1/2 Cup Milk of Choice (I used unsweetened Almond Milk) 
1/2 Banana Sliced Thin
1/3 Cup Blackberries 
1/2-1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar - Depending on how sweet you want your compote
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
4 Tbs Water 

1- Cook oats in milk on the stove top per package instructions.  Add in your thinly sliced banana towards the end when there is just a little milk left. 
2- While oats are cooking (they take about 20 minutes) add your blackberries, lemon juice, water and brown sugar to a small saucepan.  As the blackberries begin to cook lightly mash them to release more of their juice.  Bring your blackberry mixture to boil stirring constantly.  Once your blackberry mixture is boiling reduce to a simmer and continue cooking/stirring until you have reduced the liquid by half. 
3- Place oats in a bowl and top with your fresh blackberry compote. 
4- Serve with additional milk and sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.  

Check out these other delicious oatmeal recipes! 

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

{Banana Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars}

That name is a mouthful but I promise that these bars are the bees knees!  These bars show off my love for the classic food combination, Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Bananas!  Can you ever go wrong with that combination?  I don't think you can!  I remember eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches as a little kid, and still one of my go to snacks is peanut butter covered banana with mini chocolate chips!  Perfection, oh its the little things in life that make me happy!

Do you want to know another great thing about these bars?  You only need 6 simple ingredients, many of which I bet you already have on hand!  They take little to no time to bake, and they leave your home smelling of fresh baked goodness!

Have I sold you yet on making these bars?   You better walk no run to your kitchen to make these bars pronto!  Do it now, please!

Banana Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
16 Bars or more depending on how you cut them! 


2 Cups Rolled Oats
2 Ripe Bananas mashed with a fork
1 Egg
1 Cup Peanut Butter (I used Natural Jiff)
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

 1- Combine peanut butter and brown sugar in a large bowl and use a hand mixer to beat ingredients together.
2- Add in your mashed banana and egg and beat once more with hand mixer until well combined.
3- In a seperate bowl stir together your oats and baking soda.
4- Slowly add oat mixture to banana mixture and stir with wooden spoon till well combined.
5- Mix in your chocolate chips.
6- Pour batter into a greased 8x8 pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 min or until bars are golden brown and middle is not jiggly!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Drum Roll Please...

And the winner of the first ever Brunch and Cupcakes giveaway is...

#2 Brianna Hope! 
Congrats on winning your copy of he Unforgettable Photograph, 228 Ideas, Tips and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life


Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Birthday To...

Happy Birthday to the most amazing Dad a girl could ask for! 

To the dad that has encouraged me to be the best version of myself, who taught me all about cooking  (and yes grill in the rain) and who continues to encourage me to go after my dreams. Thank you for being my role model, my biggest supporter, and my shoulder to cry on. 

Thank you for teaching us that anything is possible with a little hard work and determination and for modeling that throughout our lives. I have put you through a lot over the year, but I wouldn't be the person I am today without you!

 I love you daddy, Happy Birthday!

{Comfort Food - Veggie Packed Penne with Spicy Chicken Sausage}

Piping hot chocolate piled sky high with whipped cream, heaping bowls of veggie packed chili and steamy plates of good old spaghetti.  These are a few of the foods I crave on a cold December day!   I reach for dishes like these that are comforting, yet healthy during these long cold winter months! 

Doesn't that look delicious?  Want to learn how to make it? 

Veggie Packed Penne with Spicy Chicken Sausage:

1 Box Whole Wheat Penne Pasta 
One 24 Oz. Jar Low Sodium Marinara Sauce ( I like Prego Heart Smart)
1 Green Pepper Chopped 
1/2 Onion Chopped 
1 Tomato Roughly Chopped
Pepper  and dried basil to taste
Parmesan Cheese for Serving
1 tsp Olive Oil or Butter 
3 Links Italian Style Chicken Sausage Chopped (I like Trader Joe's Brand) 

1- Prepare pasta based on package directions.  
2- Chop your pepper, onion, tomato and chicken sausage.  Heat oil or butter in a skillet.  Once skillet is hot add your peppers and onion.  Saute until tender. 
3- Add your chopped tomato and sauté for 2 minutes. 
4- Add in chicken sausage (Trader Joe's brand comes precooked) and saute with veggies for 5 minuets until sausage is browned. 
5- Add your jar of tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. 
6- Drain pasta and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese if you desire! 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

{Book Giveaway} The Unforgettable Photograph

Since starting my blog I have become fascinated with photography.  And as my little blog has progressed I find myself trying to take better and better pictures.  Taking good pictures can sometimes be tricky especially when the only camera you are using is your iPhone!  

Yes, eventually I will be investing in one of those beautiful DSLR cameras, but until then I make do with what I have.  But lets get back on topic!  I find that taking good pictures take a lot of practice, editing and patiences and sometimes learning a few new techniques!  That is why I was thrilled when Cooking Light Editor Scott Mowbray put together a book giveaway for the Cooking Light Bloggers, to promote the book The Unforgettable Photograph, 228 Ideas, Tips and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life, that he published!

Scott referenced the book as "An almost completely non-technical book that shows easy ways to take better pictures of anything." - Scott Mowbray 

"The book walks the reader through ideas, techniques and projects, all laid out in an instructive, beautiful way that will make better pictures inevitable for every reader." Workman Press Release 

The techniques in the book will work with a simple point and shoot camera, fancy high end camera or even your smartphone!  

So who is ready to win a copy of The Unforgettable Photograph?  Ready to learn how you can enter to win your very own copy?   Heres how to enter the giveaway.  You have 3 ways to enter!  

1- Leave a comment below telling me about the best picture you have ever taken. 
2- Bonus Entry - Follow Brunch and Cupcakes through Google and leave a comment below that you follow the blog
3- Bonus Entry - Follow Brunch and Cupcakes on Facebook and leave a comment below that you are a Facebook follower! 

The giveaway will end Next Monday 12/16.  I will announce the winner on Tuesday 12/17! 

Best of Luck! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

{Holiday Baking}

The holiday season is full of many wonderful things.  Quality time with family and friends,  hot chocolate, cookie baking, warm cozy blankets, and fireplaces to snuggle up by!  Those are just a few things I love about the holidays!  

And while I am not a baker at heart ( I don't have the patience for it) I find my desire to bake intensifies around this time of year!  It is as if my impatience with baking dwindles and I am able to sit back and enjoy the long drawn out process that baking can turn into.    

Maybe I enjoy baking so much this time of year because baking turns into a social affair during the holiday season.  I genuinely enjoy spending an afternoon with friends/family piled into a kitchen with sweet aromas filling the air.  Socializing with friends and loved ones while baking takes the chore feeling out of it!  

So today I figured I would share with you a few of my most favorite holiday treats!  You know, those treats that you just can't live without during the holiday season! A few oldies, some goodies and a few new found favorites! 


Must have Sweets! 
Peanut Butter Blossoms - Best when eaten warm straight from the oven! 
Peanut Butter Reeses Treats - Reese cup in the center of a peanut butter cookie! 
Red Velvet Mini Cupcakes - Cooking Light 

Happy Baking! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

May your day be filled with family and friends!
Enjoy this time Giving Thanks for all the wonderful things in your life! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

I want to say a big "Thank You" to my family and friends supported and donated to the St Jude Give.Thanks Walk!  It was wonderful to see so many people out there Saturday morning (even in 18 degree weather), supporting such a wonderful organization like St Jude Children's Research Hospital.  This children's hospital is doing amazing things and I am so glad that I get to participate in fundraisers like the Give. Thanks walk to show my support! 

Thank you again! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

{Give Thanks}

Ever since I joined my sorority ( Delta Delta Delta) in 2006 I have been passionate about fundraising for St. Jude Children’s ResearchHospital in Memphis Tennessee.  Not just because St Jude and my sorority have a national partnership but because St Jude is truly a wonderful organization, that I believe in!  

Since joining my sorority I have been fascinated and amazed at all the amazing things that St Jude Children's Research Hospital does for their patients and patients families.  St Jude's is a place where passionate people work together to find cures for some of the most catastrophic childhood diseases.   St Jude Children's Research Hospital is a place filled with hope, love and compassion for the children and families that are served there.   No child will ever be turned away for treatment and no family will ever receive a medical bill from St Jude Children's Research Hospital, to me that is simply amazing.  Fundraising and supporting this wonderful mission and organization is a no brainer to me, and that is why this upcoming Saturday I will be taking part in the St Jude Give Thanks Walk. 

I walk because I care, because I want to give children who walk through the St Jude doors a fighting chance at life and because I believe in St. Jude Children Research Hospital as an organization.  

I give thanks for my faith, family friends, Derek, my health job and countless other things.  What do you Give Thanks for?  Walk with us Saturday, November 23rd @ 7 AM, Target Field.  Help give a child a fighting chance at life.  Click here to find a walk near you, sign up, or donate!  I want to say a personal 'Thank You' to all my friends and family who donated to this wonderful cause!  I truly appreciate the support! 

Lets make a difference together! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Love {Pumpkin Season}

My obsession with pumpkin is crazy this time of year.  My mouth literally begins to water just thinking about pumpkin spice, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie or just about anything pumpkin related! 

It is during this time of year that I have at least one can of pumpkin in my cabinet at all times, and I obcess over finding the perfect pumpkin recipes!  I literally pour over Pinterest like a crazy person for hours looking for the most delicious pumpkin recipes out there!  And since I have already made pumpkin chili, pumpkin bread, and these delicious chai spiced pumpkin muffins I decided it was time, shall I say to branch out.  Queue crazy obsessive Pinterest searching. And after a solid  30 minutes (ok a solid hour) of crazy searching I landed on the following recipes as inspiration for the delicious soup that I made last night for dinner! 

Here was my recipe inspiration: 

The quinoa absorbs a ton of the broth so don't be alarmed if it looks a bit runny!  Serve with crusty bread or crackers and you have yourself a delicious meal! Also, if your looking for strong pumpkin flavor in this soup you will surely be disappointed!  But this soup is still amazing and flavorful, it got my sisters approval! 


Pumpkin Soup with Quinoa and Black Beans 
Inspired by the above
Serves 8


1 Can Black Beans Drained 
1 Can Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling) 
1 Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes 
1/2 Onion Diced
2 Cloves Garlic Minced 
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil 
1 Cup Quinoa
 5 Cups Vegetable Broth 
1-2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon 
1-2 Teaspoons Cumin 
Salt and Pepper to taste 


1- In a soup pot heat olive oil.  Add diced onions and sauté until onions become translucent.  Add garlic in with onions and sauté until garlic becomes fragrant.  Now stir in your spices.
2- Add vegetable broth, pumpkin and fire roasted tomatoes in with your onions and garlic.  Bring to a boil. 
3- Once your soup is boiling add in 1 cup quinoa, cover your pot and bring to a simmer. 
4- Cook soup until quinoa is cooked (about 15 minutes).  Stir in black beans heat for 2 minutes and serve! 

Best enjoyed with crusty bread of choice! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The 5K

I remember running my first big race. The anticipation the night before, the nervous yet excited feeling as you wait at the start line, and the energy you get from the crowd cheering you on. 

Running races simply put, is one of my favorite things.  And this past Saturday, as I watched my Girls on the Run team line up for their 5K, I was overjoyed with how much I love running, and so proud of the progress these 3rd-5h grade girls had made!  To see the girls I helped coach over a 10 week period so excited to be there and race just made my heart skip a beat!  You could feel the excitement and energy at the start line as the girls began to warm up, just itching to get out there and run! 

It was simply an amazing experience to be a coach for Girls on the Run this season.  I got to meet and work with some amazing women, share my passion for running and serve my immediate community! 

And as I watched each and every girl cross the 5K finish line with a huge smile on their face, I was so proud to be there supporting such a great organization!  And as I think back to the Girls on the Run season I realize just how important those few hours a week volunteering are/were.  

How are you impacting someones life?

"Every action we take impacts the lives of others around us.  The question is: Are you aware of your impact?" - Arthur Carmazzi

Friday, November 15, 2013

Shine On

Friends, the week has simply gotten away from me! It was like the blink of an eye and the week was over!  I hope your week was wonderful and went as quickly as mine!  I will see you next week for a few life updates, yummy recipes and fun!  But until then I will leave you with this! 

Go out there and shine! 
Happy Friday! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Weekend Shenanigans - U of M Vs. Penn State

Before I jump into talking about the weekend shenanigans we have planned, I simply must share this quote with you...

"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you would be happy to live with all your life.  Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement" - Foster C. Mcclellan

My mom sent this quote to me about a week ago and I have been thinking about it a lot!  We all have an inner spark and endless possibilities for our lives.  We just have to figure out where our talents lie and trust that with a little hard work and effort we can truly reach our highest potential.  

Now lets talk about the weekend shenanigans that we have planned!  Tomorrow, we are headed out for a little Saturday football! Minnesota is playing Penn State! 

This is going to be my first Minnesota football game and I cannot wait!  It is going to be a bit chilly but will still be a blast!  

I will be sure to take lots of pictures! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Winter Treat - The Best Hot Chocolate Ever!

It has officially snowed here in Minnesota.

And while the snow might not stick around for long, the sight of the white fluffy stuff swirling outside my apartment window certainly got me in the mood for my favorite winter drink... Hot Chocolate!  

Hot chocolate is one of those drinks that goes hand in hand with big fluffy blankets, a great book or movie and snow watching!

While I don't aways love to be out and about in the snow, I always enjoy sitting and watching the snow swirl and fly around the sky.  It is almost as if your in a giant snow globe.

(source) - Cooking Lights Barcelona Hot Chocolate

So today in honor of our first snow fall I thought I would share a delicious homemade hot chocolate recipe, that my dear friend Katie passed along to me!  This hot chocolate recipe is so easy to make and makes a great gift!  Oh, and did I mention it is down right delicious?  Because it is!  So grab your ingredients, your favorite mug and curl up in your coziest blanket to enjoy the most delicious hot chocolate ever!

The Most Delicious Homemade Instant Cocoa
 Recipe From - My Dear Friend Katie

**This makes a large batch!  Store hot cocoa mix in an air tight container such as a mason jar!

4 Cups Nesquick
1 LB (9.6 oz.) Carnation Powdered Milk
6 Oz. Container Regular Coffee Mate Creamer
2 Cups Powder Sugar

1 - Combine all your ingredients stirring well to combine.
2- Store in an air tight container

To Serve:
 1- Heat up 1 1/2 Cups water
2- Add 1/3 Cup Cocoa Mix to hot water and stir until combined.
3- Sit back and enjoy!

Add in Marshmallows if you wish!

Other delicious hot chocolate recipes from around the web:
Cooking Light - Barcelona Hot Chocolate
White Chocolate Peppermint Hot Chocolate 
Carmel Swirl Hot Chocolate 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We Did It.. Strive 2013 10 Miler Race Recap!

Well my friends,  my sister, Miranda and I successfully ran our 10 Mile race this past Sunday! 

And despite the insane wind the weather was great!  We ran the Kowolaski Strive 10 Miler which is a smaller race that takes place around the beautiful White Bear Lake! The race raises money for the Strive Foundation which helps local seniors in area high schools raise their GPA's, graduate from high school and get scholarships to further their education.  And 100% of the races entry fee goes to the Strive Foundation!  Amazing!  I ran the race last year as my first ever 10 Miler (read race recap here) but I was extremely happy to have my sister by my side this year on race day! 

My mom and Derek were there to cheer us on and I know both my sister and I appreciated seeing them at mile 4.5.  It was also great seeing both their smiling faces at the finish line cow bells and all!   I definitely needed a little extra motivation for this race.   I was having a rough race day.  I was in a bit of a race funk and couldn't find my running groove.  But I stuck it out and ended up with a new 10 miler PR!  My sister did amazing as well and I couldn't be more proud of her!  It was such an honor to help her train for her first long distance race and such a privilege to witness her run through the finish line strong!   10 miles is not a piece of cake but she tackled the double digit distance “head on” and came out strong! 

Check out the Stats:

Hilliary's Race Stats - 

10 Miler Official Time - 1:17:21
10 Miler Watch Time - 1:16:58
Over All Place - 32nd out of 131
Women's Over all Place - 7th out of 64
Women's Age Group Place - 4th out of 9

Miranda's Race Stats- 

10 Miler Official Time - 1:36:42
Over All Place - 89th out of 131
Women's Over all Place - 38th out of 64
Women's Age Group Place - 7th out of 9

I am looking forward to more training runs with my sister!  Such a great way to bond! Half Marathons here we come! 

Have you ever run a race with a sibling?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween to all my lovely Brunch and Cupcake Followers! 

I hope you have a lovely day filled with candy corn, caramel apples and tricks or treats!
Have a ghostly cupcake on me! 


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

Yesterday, I got to be a part of something amazing!  As many of you know I have been volunteering as an Assistant Coach with Girls on the Run Twin Cities for the past few months and yesterday just so happened to be our  practice 5K!  Read about Girls on the Run here! 

Our practice 5K took place at beautiful Lake Harriot and despite some not so ideal weather we all had a blast!  The practice 5K is to help gear the girls up for the real 5K we will hold at the end of the Girls on the Run Season. 

I had the privilege of running alongside one of the girls I coach and was so proud of her as I watched her cross the finish line!  I had a big smile on my face as I watched each one of our girls cross the finish line and could not be more proud of them!

It was truly an amazing afternoon and I can hardly wait for the real Girls on the Run 5K!  For those Minneapolis runners out there if you’re looking to run a 5K on November 16th sign up for ours!  Follow this link to participate and run alongside our Girls on the Run Girls!  It is going to be a blast! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Personal Favorite - Banana Bread

Ah, Banana Bread... One of my all time favorite quick breads! And as I am sitting here writing about this post I instantly wish I had a slice to go along with my coffee! 

Great with coffee, tea, by it self or with a large smear of peanut butter (my personal favorite), banana bread is a delectable treat straight from the oven or the perfect snack to unwind with! 

Check out this heavenly Banana Bread Recipe from All Recipes.  Made with honey, whole wheat flour and lots and lots of banana goodness! I took it into work on Friday for team breakfast and came home with none!   Make it for you, make it for a friend, make it to share... just make it! 

Sub in applesauce to make it a bit healthier, add in chocolate chips to make it more decedent!  The sky is the limit!  Enjoy!