the peanuts gang

Bienvenuto to Olive Garden’s New Menu!

I had the opportunity to taste test items off of Olive Garden’s new menu. All opinions {and shameless selfies} expressed are my own.

Whether you’ve fallen in love with their breadsticks or the house salad, Olive Garden provides a home-taste comfort and offers a wide variety of delicious menu items to sweep you away to Italy without ever leaving the states. So when I had the opportunity to try out their new menu additions, I knew I had to jump at it!

#OGTastes Menu Introduction

With an extensive menu, they have something for everyone. From pasta to lighter fare dishes, Olive Garden’s menu serves even the most experienced palette. You’re taste buds will thank you!

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The first round of dishes were the appetizers and small plates.

1. Crispy Risotto Bites- A Sicilian favorite! A bite-sized blend of Italian cheeses and rice, lightly fried and served in marinara sauce. These were one of my favorites – light, airy, and fried deliciousness!

2. Polenta Shrimp alla Greca - Inspired by Italy’s southern coast. Sautéed shrimp served on creamy polenta and topped with a fresh blend of olives, capers and tomato sauce. The sauce provided a rich tomato flavor and is the perfect option to share on a date or with friends.

3. Spicy Calabrian Wings – the spicy Calabrian wings were HOT! If you like it spicy, this is the way to go. Served with a gorgonzola cream dipping sauce to cool you off.

4. Parmesan Olive Fritta with a Citrus Aioli - A bite-sized blend of olives and Italian cheeses, rolled together and lightly fried. Served with your choice of a citrus aioli or gorgonzola cream dipping sauce. Even though I don’t love olives, I actually really loved this small plate! Full flavor with a great dipping sauce, this shareable dish is a win.

#OGTastes Appetizers

When the entrees rolled around, they almost had to roll us out already from all the great food, but we pushed forward and tried some of these mouth-watering dishes.

{from the bottom left and counter-clockwise}

Bucatini with Spicy Diavolo and Shrimp – WOW! Spicy is the name of the game and if you love it, you’ll like this dish served with fresh shrimp and bucatini pasta.

Smashed Chicken Meatball Sandwich - Focaccia bun with roasted bell peppers and mozzarella. Served in a spicy diavolo tomato sauce.  This was my favorite of the items below actually. Served with parmesan garlic fries – this lunch menu item is soft, flavorful and covered in mozzarella.

Wild Berry Layer Cake – light, tart and creamy – I love this break from my traditional chocolate favorite.

Chicken Abruzzi – at only 575 calories for this whole dish, this light and flavorful chicken platter will fill you up without adding to your waist line.

Large Paccheri with Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato served with Chicken Meatballs and grated cheese – you can easily share this with your dinner partner and still find yourself satiated and enjoying more salad and breadsticks.

#OGTastes New Menu Sampling

Not to mention the service is out of this world and the servers loved to get in on the fun!

Great Service #OGTastes

What Olive Garden menu are you excited to try?

Find Olive Garden ::

Facebook || Instagram || Twitter


Samantha

Chugging Along! {Treadmill Tuesdays – Week 18}

Week 16 || Week 17

This week was wrought with Easter goodies and hanging outside in this beautiful weather! I ran, I walked, and even took the boys in their first spin in our bike trailer (I was exhausted!) But I logged my time (sometimes begrudgingly) and now we start a BRAND NEW WEEK!

Treadmill Tuesdays Week 18

How are our exercise goals going? What’s keeping you going and what’s motivating you? Send it my way because I need all the help I can get!

Workout Jam of the Week

Lunchtime Recipe

Super Snack (as pictured)

Samantha

Healthy and Delicious Triple Berry Balsamic Salad {Thanks, #MyMarianos!}

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and Mariano’s.

If you’ve followed my journey thus far, then you know how important it is for me to find healthy and delicious foods that fuel my workouts and help to assist me in losing weight. That’s where Mariano’s – a Chicago grocery store – comes in. With healthy options, a full produce section, and plenty of fresh options, Mariano’s is the perfect complement to my healthier lifestyle. I have even recently been inspired by one of their top Tastemakers, Chef Carrie Nahabedian, in her own weight loss journey of losing over 150 pounds! She offers excellent tips for keeping those cravings at bay and finding great options at Mariano’s for any dietary plan. She inspires me not only on a cooking level, but on a personal health level as well! My progress is not always quick, but the numbers on the scale are going in the right direction!

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Before heading out for a visit, I always peruse their website to find sales, local store information and to see what else their Tastemakers are up to. Much of what Chef Carrie focuses on centers around the expansive produce section that Mariano’s offers – with a full line of organic options and fruit and vegetable variety, you can find just about anything you’re looking for.

Produce Section #MyMarianos #cbias #shop

Produce #MyMarianos #cbias #shop

I love following along with the Chefs chosen as Tastemakers because not only do you gain insight into their own restaurants, but you also learn a bit more about key ingredients that can be versatile in recipes you’d like to put together. In this case, I was inspired by Chef Carrie’s desire to maintain health and keep recipes tasty, but low-calorie.  I opted to create a salad that will not only wow your tastebuds, but will help minimize that waist line.

Triple Berry Balsamic Salad  #MyMarianos #cbias #shop

One of the great elements that Chef Carrie focuses on are FRESH ingredients! Delicious, plump berries were an easy choice and help combine vegetables with fruit in this highly nutritious combination. A wide variety of options for greens can either be put together from the original source or chosen from #MyMarianos selection of bagged lettuce varieties, such as this 50/50 Spring Mix. #CollectiveBias

I went on to find some delicious Feta cheese in the extensive cheese section – from soft to hard cheeses – Mariano’s offers many options to enhance a dish you are creating. In fact, I recently used a sharp white cheddar with dried cranberries that was a real hit! For this recipe, I chose a basic Feta and knew this would be the perfect addition to my salad.

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The dressing was a bit more complex, but still focused on original fresh ingredients – strawberries, poppyseeds, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey keep this dressing simple, light, and flavorful.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette  #MyMarianos #cbias #shop

Since the salad is relatively low-calorie, add a slice of sourdough bread. Worried about eating the whole loaf? Mariano’s offers a wide-variety of bread options, including small bread bowls that are perfect for slicing just what you need without  overwhelming you with its size.

Soup Bowl Bread Loaf  #MyMarianos #shop #cbias
I love shopping at Mariano’s because while my son travels around in a police car shopping cart, munching on popcorn, I can grab everything I need relatively uninterrupted. We frequently eat lunch at the in-store mini-restaurants or finding a sweet treat to keep little mouths happy. With plenty of options and extensive grocery choices, I always know I’m going to find what I need to make the perfect recipe that I know my family will love and in my case, sticks with my health plan to keep me happy and healthy!

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Triple Berry Balsamic Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salads
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This delicious Triple Berry Balsamic Salad is paired perfectly with this Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Ingredients
  • 1 bag of mixed greens
  • 1 c. of strawberries, washed and halved
  • 1 c. of raspberries
  • 1 c. of blueberries
  • ½ c. feta cheese (or cheese of your choose)
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • ¼ c. balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ c. honey
  • 1 tbsp. poppyseeds
  • 1 c. strawberries, washed and halved
Instructions
  1. Wash and rinse all produce and toss in a bowl with feta cheese.
  2. Set Aside.
  3. Blend together oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and strawberries.
  4. Add poppyseeds and mix well.
  5. Toss salad in homemade vinaigrette or dressing of your choice.
Notes
This recipe also works well topped with candied walnuts, green onions, or diced cooked bacon.

Samantha

Stonyfield Fuels My Life Marathon {#StonyfieldSuperFan}

I received Stonyfield products in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Running and losing weight  have become a big part of my quest to stay healthy. With active boys, a marathon-running husband, my life can get a bit hectic. Having healthy snacks and breakfast options means thinking of things that are nutritious, but also fast. Stonyfield Greek Yogurt is the perfect option!

Stonyfield - Granola & Fruit Parfait

My favorite flavor of Greek Yogurt is strawberry and whipping up this patriotic mix is perfect for quick mornings on the go.  When food looks good, I feel more apt to eat it, so I love the layered look in a wine glass. Simply layer sliced strawberries, blueberries and top with your favorite granola.

Stonyfield Yogurt Parfait

Stonyfield works great as a snack, breakfast, lunch-on-the-go or serving at your favorite playdate. Low in calories and delicious tasting, this parfait will have your crew chanting for more!

Did you know Stonyfield is also the official yogurt of the Boston Marathon?

Boston Marathon - Stonyfield

We remember.

Samantha

Rub-a-Dub Dub, Live Clean (Baby) in the Tub {Review}

We received a combination pack of washes and bubble baths to try. All opinions and silly bathtub smiles are our own.

With two boys and a big yard, we are no strangers to dirt. Now that the weather’s warmed up, we have dirt permanently caked underneath fingernails and lots of grass-stained knees to combat. I think often about what we put into and onto our bodies, so when I had the chance to try out the Live Clean (Baby) line by Walgreens.

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The Live Clean (Baby), the eco-conscious baby bath time collection, has an assortment of items that bubble up in the tub. The Shampoo & WashBaby Bath and the newly launched Tearless Foaming Wash (with an easy to use pump for mom), are all tear-free and enriched with certified organic botanicals of Chamomile, Lavender and Aloe. They are also hypoallergenic and pediatrician-tested.  The fun in the tub items are $6.99 and available exclusively at Walgreens and Walgreens.com.

A bit more about the Live Clean (Baby) Foaming Wash

265 mL, suggested retail $6.99

Enriched with certified organic botanicals of Chamomile, Lavender and Aloe

Made with 98% plant ingredients

Petroleum free

Paraben, Phthalate and Phosphate free

Enhanced with a convenient bath-time friendly foaming pump, this unique pediatrician tested formula

Moisturizes baby’s dry skin, leaving it soft and smooth

Formulated with a minimum of 98% plant ingredients, I can let the boys get muddy and dirty knowing that the next thing that goes on their skin will be just as close to nature without all the mess.

Live Clean (Baby) by Walgreens

Samantha

Sacrifice {Treadmill Tuesdays – Week 17}

Week 16 || Four Month Update

On this week of eternal sacrifice, I’ve thought often of that word. What does it mean to sacrifice?

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Sometimes, I have to get up earlier than the sun to run. Sometimes, I have to drown out the sounds of Doc McStuffins. I do laundry more often because of sweaty clothes. Some days, I have cramps and other days, I feel so exhausted I don’t want to move.

Some days, I’d rather watch Grey’s Anatomy and others, I’d rather eat everything in sight.

But time and effort are a small sacrifice for health. They are a small penance to pay to want health eternally and to be able to run after my little ones.

Treadmill Tuesdays Week 17

What have you sacrificed for your health lately?

Workout Jam of the Week

Drink of Choice – Orange Dreamsicle

3 clementines, peeled

5 ice cubes

1/2 c. almond milk

splash of vanilla creamer

Blend and enjoy this refreshing drink on this Spring Day!

Samantha

Perseverance {Four Month Update}

 Month 1 ||  Month 2 || Month 3

Perseverance: The greater the obstacle, the greater the glory in overcoming it.

Four months ago, if you had told me I’d be standing here actually feeling good about how I looked and put myself together, I wouldn’t have believed you. But with the weather warming and the proverbial layers shedding, I’m finally feeling more like the real me. This month has had its share of challenges – including a general apathy towards actually pressing on, but I kept being reminded – with every comment, compliment, encouragement that giving up now is not an option.

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Yep, that’s a bathroom selfie. You’re welcome. 

To those of you who have followed my journey, who have offered words of love, comfort, and encouragement, who talk about the inspiration that you find in my simple story, you make it worth it. Know that each word means so much to me. And I plan to continue on to finish this race.

By the Numbers:

Since March 9th: 9 lbs

Since December 9th: 35 lbs

Overall: 54 lbs

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Not the clearest pictures, but photographs with the same workout clothes months apart. Loving these changes!

Monthly Victories

Ran over 100 miles

Continued to train on the weekends and started #planksforplushhorse

No pop since December 8th

Signed up for some more races and aimed to continue to run – even when I didn’t feel like it!

Seeing changes in my skin and my energy levels

Being able to keep up with the boys at the park AND being able to actively exercise almost daily

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I bought this dress from Ross for only $24.99 thinking I’d use it for a wedding at the END of May. I bought it in a size I didn’t think I wore yet, so thought I’d have time to fit into it. Got home and lo and behold, the dress fit (even with a little room!) already, so I’ll be returning and finding something else (and even smaller hopefully!)


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I ran on Sunday and still was able to make two park trips with my boys. I chased them up slides, climbed up ladders and ran across bridges. This season is just beginning and I feel like each month is a bigger step towards this new life.

Also, a quick Treadmill Tuesday since I’m incorporating it from yesterday:

Treadmill Tuesdays - Week 17
How’s your journey going?

Samantha

First Park Trip of the Season

Spring official sprang on Monday with temperatures in the 60s and the sun shining down! The boys requested a bike ride and I never thought we’d make it all the way to the park (about a mile round trip), but we did! And so off we went on our adventure…

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Nothing is quite as lovely as the first trip up the jungle gym. And the first set of dirty spring knees.

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Adventure is the name of the game and we plan to have many of them in the coming months!

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It’s amazing how BIG Jack seems, just from last summer. Running, climbing, jumping, and trying out new things!

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A little musical break

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Swing Love. There is nothing like the back and forth motion of swinging to remind you of how simple life can be. Charlie works hard to pump his legs and move, but Jack is still just enjoying the gentle push and ride of mommy helping.

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How did you enjoy one of the first Spring days?

Samantha

Spring is SPRINGING! {Treadmill Tuesdays – Week 16}

Week 14 || Week 15

Hurrah! Spring has finally arrived and we couldn’t be more delighted. Three bike rides so far, including one, all the way to the park (about a mile) and running around, jumping, playing, laughing. Exercise this week included running (duh!), a killer Spartan circuit with my bro, wallyball, and manual labor at a Habitat for Humanity project. My legs were SO sore, but in a good way! Food was meh this week, so back on that and working on keeping that water intake UP, UP, UP!

Treadmill Tuesdays - Week 16

Turning over new leaves has been amazing – so excited for the NEXT four months!

This picture and caption speaks for itself, but after a bike ride to the park, running after the boys there, and riding home, I wasn’t even out of breath. I didn’t feel different and once again, I felt alive. I’m getting healthy so that I can LIVE life with people – not just watch life happen around me. Cheers to the next big adventure!

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Workout Jam of the Week

Samantha

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Home {Thanks, Direct Energy!}

Thank you to Direct Energy for sponsoring today’s post, and encouraging me to share tips for a smarter home!

Whether you make small changes (like changing out your light-bulbs for those that are more energy efficient) or switching to the big things (new, efficient, Energy Star® appliances), making changes as a family to make life more “green” is always a step in the right direction!

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Here are a few of our tips for an eco-friendly home:

With warmer weather around the bend and our first full summer in this big backyard, I’m excited to start taking on some fun ways to “greenify” our living spaces. Our first order of business is to build in a big garden – think veggies and fruits to share. I already had the boys start working on clearing out the rocks and I’m making plans to head to Home Depot Soon! I love the thought of growing our own vegetables and being able to go out and pick what we need for dinner or lunch that day. It’s a great way to save money and help greenify the planet!

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Another way I love to give back is by using reusable shopping bags when I head out to the grocery store. I always keep some handy in my car for unexpected trips, a few hanging on the last door we walk out of in order to grab them before we go and I also use them frequently to return items to friends or to carry our sports equipment instead of buying a brand new bag just for that purpose.

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With our thermostat going downwards, my hubby also just got the reminder to change out our air filters. Doing so every 1-3 months can decrease energy costs since your furnace does not have to work as hard to blow the air out. Our smart thermostat sends out the reminders and we just have to remember to do it! (Consider the Direct Energy Smart Thermostat!)

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One other way we keep ourselves in check is by unplugging energy sucking devices when not in use – think computer, printer, DVD player, phone charger, and any attached to a power strip! Proud to say that I’ve been doing this for a while and always try to find ways to reduce our costs and save on energy!

How do you save energy in your own home? Do you have ways you love to “greenify” things? For even more tips, check out Direct Energy!

Samantha