Thursday Thoughts (on a Friday) 39.0: September Recap

Well hello there! I’ve been working on this post for two weeks and it’s finally finished! Life is busy folks, but life is good. đŸ™‚

Also, I’d like to take a moment here just to say: THE ROYALS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOO!!!!!!! It’s been a long, long time coming and obviously I’m REALLY excited about it. Now, back to regularly scheduled programming…

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[1]

After flying through 7 books in August, I read a much more modest 3 in September. Luckily, they were all good ones!

Books read:

1. A Little Bit Wicked by Kristen Chenoweth and Joni Rodgers

2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

3. The Smart Way to Your Ph.D. by Dora Farkas

[2]

September…not my best month in the physical fitness department. Between group meetings, fellowship reports, traveling, and the gym being closed for part of the month it was difficult to find the time to fit a good workout in. Regardless, I did better than August. Boom.

September

As I mentioned last month, I have revised my 2014 fitness goal from completing 1000 miles of cardio to beating the total from last year (872 miles). As of the end of September, I have completed 553 miles. Only 320 to go….

[3]

I went to a lovely wedding in September (more on that below) and of course that gave me the perfect excuse to give myself a manicure! I splurged and bought myself this nice mint polish to match my dress.

September

[4]

Fun things I did in September:

1) Enjoyed a nice dinner at the Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. with K

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2) Attended my cousin’s wedding in beautiful Steamboat Springs, CO

In late September, K and I traveled to the beautiful state of Colorado for my cousin Morgan’s wedding. We flew into Denver and were picked up by my parents at the airport (thanks guys!). Then, we began the beautiful and windy 2-3 hour-ish drive through the mountains. It was SO BEAUTIFUL and we made it in time to see the aspen trees begin to change color:

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One thing that surprised me about the drive was how much the altitude affected me. I’d always kind of cynically assumed people were exaggerating when they complained of headaches, shortness of breath etc. Boy was I wrong–I had quite a headache for the first day. It went away eventually, but never again will I make light of the whole “altitude sickness” thing.

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What a view!

After arriving at our hotel and checking in, we met up with my grandma and my aunt for dinner.

The next morning we took a short drive to Fish Creek Falls with my parents and my grandma. The drive up to the park was beautiful, and the entry fee is only $5 per car. There were several hiking trails, including a very nice and very mild 1/4 mile gravel trail up to the waterfall. We were mostly there to see the famous waterfall, which inspired in the original Coors Beer can, but the views along the way were well worth the $5 entry fee.

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The falls!

That evening, after enjoying some family time at the rehearsal dinner, some of the family took advantage of one of our hotel’s fire pits. We had snacks and some drinks–it was a very nice time!

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The wedding ceremony was held the next afternoon. The weather was beautiful for nearly the entire day, but an hour before the ceremony was to begin storm clouds moved in. Normally this wouldn’t be cause for alarm, but since the wedding was to be held outdoors on a golf course (with really beautiful views of the mountains) we were all hoping the weather would hold out. Regardless of these fears, the ceremony began. My grandma arrived in style on a golf cart (not pictured here) and was escorted down the aisle by my cousin Josh.

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 One of my favorite things about the ceremony was the couple’s use of their dog as a “ring dog.” So cute! I loved it!!!!

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Finally it was time for the beautiful bride to walk down the aisle. She smiled the whole time and looked so happy!

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The ceremony was lovely and the rain held off until just after the ceremony concluded. I’m so happy they got to have the ceremony they wanted without any nasty weather interfering.

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The happy couple!

 

After the ceremony, we headed to the reception for some great food and good times with family.

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Thanks for sharing your special day with us Morgan and Jeff. It was great!

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Hope you have a great weekend!

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Chili’s Chicken Enchilada Soup

I have a love-hate relationship when it comes to restaurant copy cat recipes. In theory, it sounds like a great idea (oh boy I can recreate my favorite restaurant dishes at home!), but rarely does the end result actually end up tasting like the beloved dish. I’ve tried copy cat recipes for many different dishes, but have never posted them here because the end result was disappointing every single time. Until now.

It’s a poorly kept secret here at Ex Libris that I love soup. A lot. I’m “that person” who orders a bowl of soup at a restaurant and only a bowl of soup. And yes, that is all I really want for my meal, thank you very much. One of my favorite restaurant soups has always been Chili’s Chicken Enchilada soup. I’ve tried many different recipes for enchilada soup (including this slow cooker version), but ultimately was unsatisfied because none of them had the rich taste and thick texture of the Chili’s original. But I’m happy to report that I have finally found the recipe! I’ve made this soup twice now, and have loved it both times. Enjoy!

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Chili’s Chicken Enchilada Soup

Adapted from: Food.com & CopyKat Recipes

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Ingredients (* see note below):

Soup:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 lb cooked chicken breast, diced 

2 (medium) onions, diced

2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 garlic clove, minced

1 quart chicken broth

1.5-2 quarts water

*2 cups masa harina

1 can enchilada sauce

*1/2 lb processed American cheese, cut in small cubes

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon chili powder

*1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

*1 teaspoon salt, to taste (optional)

Garnish:

Shredded Cheese

Crumbed tortilla chips

Instructions:

In a large pot, add the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook until soft and translucent (or about 5 minutes). Then, add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and salt (optional). Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the masa harina and 1 quart of water in a large bowl. Stir until all the lumps dissolve. Then, add the masa harina to the large pot and mix well. Once the mixture starts to bubble, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly.

Stir in the broth, remaining water (Note: I usually only add 2 cups instead of 4), enchilada sauce, tomatoes, and cheese. Mix well and bring to a boil.

Add the chicken to the soup. Reduce heat and simmer soup 30-40 minutes or until thick.

Serve soup in cups or bowls and garnish with shredded cheese and tortilla chips.

Notes:

1) Masa harina is a flour made from specially treated corn, and it is frequently used to make things like tortillas and tamales. You should not substitute the masa with corn flour or cornmeal because you will not get the same results. Besides, why would you want to? It gives the soup a wonderful flavor! It’s frequently found in the “international” section of a well stocked supermarket.

2) After reading Salt, Sugar, Fat I had a knee jerk reaction when I saw this soup called for “processed American cheese.” I was dead set on using the good stuff, but after doing some reading in my cookbooks and on the Internet I decided to go ahead and use American cheese. Apparently, the processing gives the “cheese” a resistance to separating during cooking and therefore retains its taste and texture. If you are dead set on using natural cheese, I would add some extra cooking time to allow the cheese to melt.

3) The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. I doubled this to a full teaspoon because I like some spice to my food. If you prefer milder dishes, I would recommend only using 1/2 teaspoon.

4) As usual, I didn’t add the salt and I didn’t miss it.