Tuesday Things

~ Inspiration & eye-candy from around the web ~

This Space

5bb2e9e3e922b291c3e7dc91decae8a8Peaceful, serene & white-on-white magic. I will go here in my dreams tonight. {via}

This DIY

jan-DIYs-290I am in love with this minimalist & unique display of a West Elm pendant cord. {via}

This Dessert

Edited-6485-682x1024Banana pudding with salted caramel. Just… wow.  {via}

What has sparked your fancy this week?

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It’s Who You Make Your Cookies With

Before I begin this post, I’d like to share a disclaimer: My mother, father, grandparents, brothers & I have been making Christmas cookies for decades with great success. I come from a long line of Christmas-cookie-bakers. We take a day or two every December to come together (as many of us as are around) to whip up batches of our family standards – Chocolate Chip Cookies, Butter Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Roll-Outs & Spritzes, among others. Every year we make cookies, every year they are delicious.

This year, we tried to make made cookies. It may (or may not) have gone exactly as planned. We may (or may not) have had a few disastrous trays of Butter & Chocolate Chip cookies for inexplicable reasons (It was definitely my brother’s fault). Suffice it to say, this post will not include photos of perfectly baked Christmas cookies.

recipeA well used & loved recipe for my Mommom’s Butter Cookies. Any recipe that calls for two sticks of butter is sure to be a win.

It really doesn’t matter, though. It’s not about how the cookies come out, it’s who you make your cookies with. (This explanation got me off the hook when I came home with less than the expected multiple tins-full of cookies for my hubby to snack on).

pbakingMy lovely sister-in-law carefully measuring ingredients – clearly she is innocent in this debacle.

I love going home at Christmas time and admiring/oogling over my mother’s huge collection of beautiful holiday decorations. I love the Sunday in December when we get together to bake & happily make plans for the upcoming holiday. This past Sunday, after an especially trying week and the unbelievably horrific events of Friday – I loved it even more. Even though my drive to Pennsylvania & then back to New Jersey was dreary and rainy. Even though my brother ruined the chocolate chip cookies our cookies were less-than-adequate-for-human-consumption.

bakingBaking is a group effort in our home. The culprit is the one wielding the cookie gun.

Time with family is a treasure.

momandmommomMy mother, and her mother, decorating the butter cookies.

Decorating butter cookies with your grandmother is a blessing, and must never be taken for granted.

mommomcookiesThe more sugar the better, I say.

Knowing that within the next week we will truly all be together – when our Californian contingent flies home for the holiday – is reason to celebrate.

I love Christmas. I always have. I cannot help but be extra-aware of how lucky I am this Christmas – to be surrounded by family, to be spending my first Christmas married to a man who makes me laugh & loves me for all of my quirks and flaws, and to have my very own Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer so I can make some more cookies that my brother won’t be able to ruin to share with friends & family. 🙂

P.S. After I left, my family continued baking and suddenly all the cookies came out great. Either I was the true culprit, and blaming my little brother is unfair, or they were actually just holding out on me so they could hoard all the GOOD cookies for themselves. I choose the latter option, what do you think?

Smart(er) Ways to Enjoy Your Favorite Fall Treats

If you’re anything like me, you are obsessed with all things pumpkin related this time of year. And, if you are anything like me, you probably can’t go around drinking two pumpkin lattes a day and indulging in pumpkin flavored cream cheese (OH YUM). (It is a cruel world where the most delicious things are the most detrimental to your wedding/life diet).

So here are some HEALTHY-(er) choices to satisfy your fall cravings! Enjoy!

 

Skinny Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

Get a load of these Skinny Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies from Sally’s Baking Addiction.


Low fat yogurt, pumpkin puree, skim milk, rolled oats, and lots of smart ingredients make these delicious AND not *too* guilt-inducing.

 

Skinny Pumpkin Spice Frappe

Love the seasonal drinks from your local Starbucks, but hate the high calorie count? Try this Skinny Pumpkin Spice Frappe recipe from Peanut Butter and Peppers.

Jennifer’s recipe uses unsweetened coconut milk & stevia, and rings in at only 45.6 calories (including the whipped cream!) Compare that to the Starbucks Grande Light Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino at 290 calories! Incredible!

 

Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice Bread

Packed with fiber & protein, this hearty Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice Bread from Jenny at Fit Sugar looks AHmazing.

Slice me off a piece of that!

 

Pumpkin-Bran Pancakes

And finally, I’ve found the perfect way to start your fall weekend days off ~ with these Pumpkin-Bran Pancakes from Espresso and Cream.

Any recipe that ends with “top with peanut butter” is a winner in my book. Can’t WAIT to try these!

What are you favorite fall recipes, healthy or not?

P.S. You should definitely spend some time exploring each of the cooking blogs I linked up in this post, they are all awesome!

❤

Spaghetti Squash… Who Knew?

Recipe for Garlicky Spaghetti (Squash) and Asparagus at the bottom of this post!

So here’s the thing. I make a conscious effort to do what I’ve decided to call eating “smart”. I wish I could say I eat completely healthy foods all of the time… but the truth of the matter is, I love bacon, peanut butter, and cheese way too much to make the healthiest possible choices at all times.

I am, however, a new member of Weight Watchers, and over the past four weeks I have been following the WW program, I have lost a pound to a pound and a half each week. And I had Wendy’s one time. And dessert when I was on vacation last weekend. So go figure. What I’m learning, though the process of looking up and tracking my daily ‘points’, is that eating is a game of give and take. I absolutely can, and will, have bacon every now and then. But when I do eat bacon, I will plan the rest of my daily points accordingly, to allow for the delicious, crispy treat.

My point, which I promise to stick to now, is that food is good, I like it, and I’m happy that with WW I do not have to feel that eating smart is a lifelong sentence of misery. With that said, my biggest obstacle to a life of eating smart is not bacon, or even peanut butter… but PASTA.

Pasta is just so stupid delicious, and I could honestly eat it every night of the week. Now, on WW, I could eat pasta every night- as 1 cup of cooked spaghetti is 5 points (before sauce, meatballs, cheese & garlic bread enter the equation). The problem is not the sauce or the cheese, however, it is the simple fact that no human could possibly eat only one cup of pasta, without returning for seconds. Not this human, anyway. To me, pasta is like a can of Pringles. Once you pop scoop some delicious pasta onto your plate, you just can’t stop.

Fortunately, for the sake of my waistline and fast-approaching wedding day… I have finally discovered the magical pasta-addicts remedy that is Spaghetti Squash. I heard good things about this vegetable, but was slightly skeptical that a squash could satisfy the way a big plate of pasta does. So, I had to try it out!

The answer to my dinner-time woes

There are a few cons to the cooking and eating of Spaghetti Squash in place of pasta.

a) It doesn’t really taste like pasta. So if you expect a forkful of carb-filled goodness in your first bite, you will be disappointed. But if you try spaghetti squash expecting to taste a yummy vegetable, I believe you will be quite pleased.

b) It is expensive. One spaghetti squash costs around $6.00.

c) It is kind of a pain to cook/prepare. Cooking a SS takes about 45 minutes, so plan ahead.

Cons aside, the spaghetti squash meal I prepared last night had some very big pros.

a) The final meal was, to me, completely delicious, and very filling. (Recipe below!)

b) Spaghetti squash, being a vegetable, is a whopping ZERO POINTS for all you Weight Watchers folks out there. I repeat… ZERO points. Dig in.

c) I felt great after dinner, and can’t wait to cook SS again!

And so, without further ado, I present to you my recipe for Garlicky Spaghetti (Squash) and Asparagus

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash (find it in the produce section at your local grocery store!)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces

2 teaspoons Minced garlic

Salt & Pepper to taste

Cooking the Spaghetti Squash

There are several different ways to cook a Spaghetti Squash. I opted for what seemed to be the easiest route- cooking the squash whole in my oven.

1. Puncture several holes in the squash with a fork.

2. Place the squash in a baking dish close to its size, and add 1 1/2 cups of water

3. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with little resistance.

4. Allow squash to cool, then slice the squash lengthwise with a large, sharp knife.

5. Remove the seeds from the center of each section.

6. Use a fork or a knife to scoop out the insides, creating stringy, spaghetti like pieces!

Meanwhile:

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large saucepan. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned.

2. Add asparagus and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until asparagus can be easily pierced with a fork.

(I have double the oil/asparagus in my saucepan, as I cooked pasta for FH to mix with half. He was not sold on the delicious promise of the spaghetti squash!)

Toss the spaghetti squash & asparagus until evenly coated in the garlic oil sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

WW people- the only cost in this meal is the EVOO (and cheese if you use it). I calculated my meal at a total of 9 points plus!

The verdict- spaghetti squash scores! Have you ever tried it? What creative & healthy meals have you cooked lately?

The Joys of an Organized Fridge (and a Recipe for Honey-Lime Chicken Kebabs)

I consider it a miracle if I can get to the grocery store on the weekend with an actual shopping list (imagine!) and a meal plan for the week ahead. Most weeks (especially when FH & I are at our busiest) I am lucky if I get to the store by Wednesday, which means Monday and Tuesday consisted of take-out or pasta for dinner. For some reason, we always have plenty of pasta in the house. I think it is because I tend to head to the grocery store without a list, and therefore grab a few boxes of spaghetti or macaroni each time, assuming we need it when we do not, and thus the stash continues to grow.

I used to think it was cute for FH and I to go to the store together on Sundays, and stock our cart while making plans for lovely home cooked meals and so on. I suppose I still think it is cute, however I’ve learned it is not financially wise (or particularly healthy) to take my man grocery shopping. Empty stomach or not, he is an impulse shopper who grabs every delicious looking thing in sight. By the end of our trip through the store, we have a cart packed to the gills, a huge bill, and an assortment of things like Tortilla chips and Queso dip, which Lord knows neither of us need to be eating.

So bad. But so good.

So these days, I make the dreaded trek to the grocery store alone. Which means by the time I am done, I am cranky (it is always crowded, and the self checkout is NEVER as easy or convenient as it should be), hungry (and I managed to pass by the boxes of Cheese-Its, my ultimate weakness), and completely dreading the task of unloading my bags of groceries. This means that when I do get home, I quickly throw all of my new groceries into the fridge and shut the door. The end result is typically a big mess of a fridge, full of new and old (and probably expired/moldy) food that I will later shove around while trying to find the ingredients to a particular recipe, etc.

Yesterday, however, was a different story. And my life may quite possibly have been changed forever.

I was feeling weirdly motivated, even after returning home from the store and lugging my groceries up to our second floor apartment by myself (FH was out). I was inspired by the sight of my future Mother in Law’s (FMIL?) fridge- which was neatly organized, with all produce cleaned, cut and easy to find in clear containers. So I set to work chopping up my veggies (bell peppers and yellow squash), slicing my strawberries and cleaning my ears of corn, so that everything will be cleaned, cut and ready to use this week.

The end result made me giddy with domestic joy. I threw away about 20 bottles and jars of expired food, and now my fridge is neat and orderly. I know exactly what I have and where it is. Imagine if I could apply this to the pantry next or… dramatic emphasis… my closet! How much simpler my life would be if everything was as easy to find as the kiwi in my fridge! I was so excited to go into my neat fridge later in the afternoon and make myself a fresh and delicious snack.

Seriously- summer fruit cannot be beat.

I now fully understand the benefits of planning and preparing in advance, and I look forward to a week of easy eating.

In other news, I made the most delicious Honey-Lime Chicken Kebabs for dinner last night. You should try them.

Honey-Lime Chicken Kebabs (served with Couscous and Grilled Corn on the Cob)

Recipe adapted from here.

Ingredients:

Boneless, skinless chicken breast (four- or a pack of tenderloins)

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Juice of 1 Lime

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, honey, olive oil, garlic, and lime juice.

Cut chicken into large chunks (or you can leave the breasts whole rather than make kebabs). Put chicken into the sauce mixture and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Soak the bamboo sticks in water for 5 minutes. Once chicken is marinated, skewer the chunks onto the bamboo sticks.

Grill on medium high heat for 6-8 minutes.

Served here with Near East Toasted Pine Nut Couscous and grilled corn on the cob (wrapped in foil packets with a little butter for a delicious grilled taste!)

The marinade is sweet and the lime juice adds a zesty kick… these were so good! FH grilled them to perfection, each piece was tender & delicious! I love couscous, by the way. I’m a meat & couscous kind of gal.

So, friends, the moral of the story here is- organize your refrigerator and you will make & enjoy a delicious dinner. Or something like that. 🙂

Have a great day!

Monday Motivation!

Welcome to my new weekly-installment of Monday Motivation: some images/internet finds collected over the weekend & compiled to bring a fresh & cheery start to the week!

Motivation for the Body ~ 5 Arm Exercises to Ditch Arm Flab Altogether from SHAPE

 

 

Motivation in the Kitchen ~ Fish Tacos with Lime Crema & Salsa from Danny’s Kitchen

 

 

Motivation for the Mind ~ Organize that junk drawer!

 

 

Motivation for the Soul ~ Daily Reminders

 

Photo Credit: Vague Dialogue

 

Motivation for Travel ~ The charming villages of Cinque Terra, Italy along the Italian Riviera.

 

 

Motivation for the Wedding ~  lovely combination of metallic & pastel hues in this table design & DIY Bunting from Elizabeth Anne Designs

 

 

Motivation for the Home ~ Liven up a dresser w/ a fun color & some pretty knobs!

 

Photo Credit: Little Green Notebook

 

Motivation for Friday ~ Hunger Games out in Theaters!

 

Photo Credit: Some ECards

 

Enjoy your Monday, everyone!

Weekend Domesticity

I must say, I used to really hate cooking. I always enjoyed baking & mixing up sweet delicious treats- but cooking always seemed to be more of a bother than anything else. When I used to live alone, a grilled cheese and tomato soup did the trick more often than not. That and the Chinese take out menu.

Don’t get me wrong- I still quite enjoy the grilled cheese and tomato soup dinner combo, and fortunately my fiance loves that simple meal as well. But while I go through ‘food phases’- where I could eat the same thing every night for weeks before I get sick of it- (try chicken ceasar salad, spaghetti and turkey meatballs, or pizza…), now that I am cooking for two, I do want to mix things up a bit.

I am not a very good cook, but I do think I am getting better. Gone are the days when I would make a gourmet dinner of rolled-up chicken cordon bleu, but forget to take the toothpicks out. (Ouch). I’ve even had some true culinary success lately- like with my Valentine’s Day Lasagna. It was really so good and cheesy. Two kinds of cheesy.

I would say I am still only really *good* at making a few things, however. Macaroni and Cheese (my mother’s recipe) is a fail-safe. And usually when I make mac & cheese, Tim will make himself a nice meatloaf (I do not particularly enjoy eating or cooking with red meat), and a comfort-food dinner masterpiece ensues.

I can also boil a mean pot of pasta, bread & fry delicious chicken cutlets (although they do not hold a candle to my true Italian friend’s mothers… REGINA!), and make some bangin’ chicken tacos.

So, anyway, this weekend I had some wonderful time on my hands. I did not blow anyone’s socks off with my weekend meals, however they were home made with love, and for that I am proud.

Chicken and/or Eggplant Parm Panini

There is nothing like fresh mozz, my friends.

Tim’s had just chicken, mine chicken & eggplant- both were fresh and delicious.

The sandwich recipe came from my FAVE foodie blog: Iowa Girl Eats

I even made myself some homemade sweet potato fries, thanks to this easy method. Do you believe one sweet potato made all of those fries?

Homemade Pizza

cheesy goodness

Ok- I know I am not breaking any molds here, but making my own pizza has quickly become one of my favorite dinners. I don’t know about you… but I could ALWAYS eat pizza. It is perfect food. But when I make it myself, with a nice, hand rolled, thin crust, organic fat free sauce & organic part-skim mozzarella cheese… double win!

Easy homemade pizza ingredients. Pizza dough recipe came from my big pink Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book!

It is almost more delicious than my favorite greasy pizza parlor’s! (I’m kidding myself- it’s good… but never as good as Mineo’s pizza. Oh Pittsburgh, how I miss you.)

I am a beast with a rolling pin.

It was a wonderful weekend of eating & crafting.

On Monday- it is back to the wedding diet grind- I am fully motivated now that I’ve ordered my wedding gown! AHH!

I hit the gym at 6:30 AM (go, me!) with my new kettle bell workout routine in hand:

booty buster

Had some delicious Kashi cereal at 120 calories a serving, and enjoyed an UH-mazing salad for lunch.

Pack your dressing & salad-toppers separately to avoid soggy greens!

Mixed greens, craisins, kiwi & pineapple chunks, feta cheese & sliced almonds, with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Healthy & scrumptious!