Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Spaghetti Squash Boats with Spinach, Tofu & Porcini Mushroom Butter

Hello friends! It's been a while, I know. I had to take a little break from blogging. Lift just got too busy and I had other things to take care of. But now I'm back!

I hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day. Any fun activities? We keep it pretty low-key in this house. Neither of us really subscribes much to the hype of Valentine's Day. Why do we need a day to force us to spend a ton of money to prove our love when we should just be showing it every day?

That goes for significant others as well as friends and family. Be sure to always let the important people in your life know that you love them. You don't need a day. I think the world would be a much better place if people just remembered to love.

Now I'm sounding like a hippie. I promise I'm not. LOL! But I digress. We didn't do much for Valentine's Day. The weekend consisted of catching a few movies (Deadpool and Zoolander 2), binge-watching Critical Role and, of course, the return of The Walking Dead.

I'll start with the movies. Deadpool was AMAZEBALLS!!! Seriously, really good. Probably now one of my favorite Marvel movies. Not kidding. It's a must see. I will probably catch it again at least one more time while it's in theaters.



Side note: I also kinda love how they made this movie poster look like a rom-com. You know, since it came out Valentine's Day weekend. Clever girl.

Then there was Zoolander 2...
I'm not entirely sure what to say about this movie. I love the first Zoolander. It was stupid and outlandish, but also completely hilarious. To this day, still one of my favorite comedies. Who among us didn't get a teary-eyed when Derek finally broke out Magnum and stopped that throwing star?

The second installment took stupidity to an unnecessary and unsustainable level. And this is coming from someone who typically loves that brand of stupid humor. It attained a level of weirdness that brought forth very few laughs from the theater crowd and more just left you spending most of the movie wondering, "what am I even watching?"



Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I saw it. One to check off the list. I don't regret seeing it. And if you liked the first Zoolander I would recommend checking out 2 at least once. That being said, I can't see it being a repeat watch for me.

So what else did we do for V-Day weekend? Critical Role. A lot of Critical Role. What is Critical Role, you may ask? It basic terms, it's a live stream Dungeons & Dragons game of the most epic proportions. A group of voice actors gets together and streams their legendary campaign, and the results are thoroughly entertaining. Since we started watching we haven't been able to stop. The group really gets into character. It's awesome.

And, of course, who could forget the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead? I won't write much about that one, in case you're a fan who hasn't watched the latest episode. No spoilers here. But I will say this was one of the craziest, most intense episodes of the series to date. It felt more like a season finale than mid-season premiere. Can't wait to see what the rest of the season has in store!



Oh yeah, and I made some delicious noms. Because I never pass up the opportunity to make a fancy Instagram-worthy meal. We started with a herbed baked Brie, followed by filet mignon with porcini mushroom compound butter and a side of garlic spinach, and finished it off with Cabernet chocolate truffles. Everything was SOOOO good! Who needs a fancy dinner out when you can make this at home for a fraction of the cost?


Brie is Bae
Steak in front of the TV FTW.
The truffles started melting literally the second I took them out of the freezer. ;P
There was just one problem: I was so excited about getting all the food out I completely forgot about the porcini mushroom compound butter I had made that was sitting in the fridge. I served the steak without it. It wasn't until after we were done eating I remembered it was there. NOOO!!!

So now I'm left with this stick of mushroom butter with no purpose. Of course, I had to come up with some way to use it. I was in Publix this morning grabbing a Monday morning kombucha and I happened to noticed tofu was "buy one get one free." So I started brainstorming some ways to incorporate the butter into a tofu recipe. Suddenly spaghetti squash came to mind, and I started laying the groundwork for this recipe.

It's not often I make a meal like this during the week. I live alone and I'm a busy professional. I love cooking but I just never seem to have time outside of the weekend. And I usually have very little motivation to cook a meal for myself. Most of the time, my dinners consist of eggs and oatmeal. Don't judge! You other busy 20-somethings do it too! Anyway, I considered waiting until Friday night to make this so I could make a bigger dinner for Nate. But there was just one problem with that: I wanted to try the recipe with tofu. No way my man was going to eat something with tofu in it. He'll want the meat. So I decided to suck it up and make this for myself. What's great is I just kinda piled everything in the squash boats and set it to make while I was showering post-gym and getting ready for the next day. Minimal effort FTW. And quite tasty, too.

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~ Ingredients ~

Makes 2 servings

1 whole spaghetti squash
7 oz. tofu, chopped into small cubes
2 handfuls fresh spinach
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. porcini mushroom compound butter (recipe here)*

*Note I used Earth Balance Buttery Spread and removed the salt from this recipe to make it a little more clean.

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~ Directions ~

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut the spaghetti squash in half length-wise, scoop out the seeds and place open side up on a baking sheet.

Inside each of the hollow "boat" halves of the squash, place a handful of spinach, half of the tofu, half of the shallot and 1/4 tsp. minced garlic. Place 1 Tbsp. of the mushroom butter on top of each.


Ready for the oven.
Bake until squash is soft - about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Serve warm and store leftovers.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

DIY Wand Mount Display (for Harry Potter wands, etc.)

Greetings people of earth! Hope this post finds you all enjoying a lovely weekend. Thank goodness it's Saturday! I've had a lovely morning relaxing in bed with a delicious cup of coffee as I write this blog post. Much needed after the crazy few weeks I've had.

Actually, it has really been a crazy few months, which is why it has taken me so long to bring you this post. This DIY was actually a Christmas present.

I have a lot of Harry Potter fans in my life, including myself. My boyfriend had purchased an interactive wand from Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter for his mother for her birthday back in October, as she LOVES the series. After receiving the wand, what she wanted to do more than anything was display it on the wall. And rightfully so. Those wands are hella cool.

One day when we were having dinner at her house I started researching some wand displays she might like. Almost every one I found held multiple wands (at least three). Sounds like a great excuse to get MORE wands to me. But really, all she wanted was a way to display her one wand. And she didn't much care for any of the display we found that did so.

Well, Christmas was coming up and, being the avid DIYer that I am, I decided I would solve this problem and just make one myself, and give it to her as a Christmas gift. So I did. This mount turned out beautifully and she absolutely loved it! I know kinda want to make another one for myself, only with multiple wand hooks (I have a few wands).

This project was relatively easy. The bulk of the time was waiting for the wood stain to dry. After that, I finished everything else in less than an hour one evening. So even if you're a DIY newbie, you can definitely handle this one.

Enjoy!

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~ What You Need ~

Wood plaque (like this one found at any local craft store)
Wood stain (I used the Early American color)
Hogwarts House Crest decal (I purchased mine from Etsy)
Antique-looking hooks (like these hooks from Amazon)
1-inch thick ribbon in color of your choice
Sawtooth picture hanger
Screwdriver
Hammer
Hot glue gun

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~ Directions ~

Step 1: Stain the plaque. Make sure you so this outside or in another well-ventilated area. Apply one coat and allow to dry completely before applying a second coat. Allow to sit for a day or so to ensure the stain is 100% dry. If you stained outside, make sure you set the plaque somewhere under cover. We had quite a bit of rain when I did mine and, had it not been up on my porch, the stain would have been ruined.




Step 2: Once the stain has completely dried, turn the plaque on its back and use a ruler to find the exact center towards the top. Attached the sawtooth picture hanger, making sure to keep it level. Otherwise the mount will hang crooked when you put it on the wall.


Step 3: Turn the plaque back over so the front side is facing up. Use a ruler to find the cross-section of two inches from the right edge of the plaque, and three inches up from the bottom. Mark this spot, then find the same cross section on the left side (two inches from the left edge and three inches up from the bottom). Attach the hooks at these locations.



Step 4: Place the decal so it is centered on the plaque. Apply a small amount of hot glue to each corner of the decal to hold it in place. Don't worry of the hot glue is visible. It won't be once we're done.

Step 5: Measure out the appropriate amount of ribbon to run along each side of the decal. Attached with the hot glue.

Tip: I suggest lightly melting the edges of each ribbon before attaching, as it will prevent fraying. You can do this by holding a lighter a few millimeters away from the ribbon and allowing the heat to melt it.

And you're done! Hang that baby on the wall and display your spiffy wand with pride!



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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Black Forest Cake Overnight Oats

Meh...

You know what I don't feel like doing? I don't feel like writing anything to back up this recipe. And this is my blog, so I do what I want.

Black Forest Cake Overnight Oats. Here ya go!

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~ Ingredients ~

1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk (or your milk of choice)
1 tsp. chia seed (optional)
1 tsp. flax seed (optional)
1/2 Tbsp. cacao powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cherry extract
1 packet stevia
1 Tbsp. cacao nibs

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~ Directions ~

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or other sealable container and let set in the refrigerator overnight, or at least for a few hours.


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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tiramisu Overnight Oats

Good morning everyone!

Are you feeling the post-holiday blues? It's back to work time. I'm already exhausted from the week.

So I'll keep this post short and sweet. Because, quite frankly, I don't have the attention span this week to write anything lengthy. Deal with it!

Here's a healthy breakfast to give you a nice pick-me-up from those post-holiday blues. Tiramisu Overnight Oats. Enjoy!




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~ Ingredients ~

1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk (or your milk of choice)
1 tsp. chia seed (optional)
1 tsp. flax seed (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coffee extract
1/4 tsp. rum extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 packet stevia
1 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut

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~ Directions ~

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or other sealable container and let set in the refrigerator overnight, or at least for a few hours.


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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fortune Cookie Overnight Oats + Tips for Keeping Your New Year's Res

Well here we are, ladies and gentlemen. The final day of the year 2015. I can't believe how fast this year has flown by. It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in the year.

I've seen a lot of changes happen this year - both in my life and in the lives of family and friends. Some of it has been for the worse, but most of it has been positive. 2015 was a year of growth and I think I'd rate it as a good year overall. But it's always my goal to make the new year better than the last.

Since we're celebrating the New Year, it's only fitting that I bring you all another themed overnight oats recipe. These deliciously sweet Fortune Cookie overnight oats will make a great meal for starting off 2016 on a healthy foot.


Speaking of starting off on a healthy foot, I'm dreading next week at the gym. No, not because it's my New Year's resolution to lose weight. On the contrary, I'm a regular gym nut. And as such, I must say that the gym right after the New Year really sucks. SOOOOOO many New Year's resolution people. It's too crowded and I can't get a machine to save my life. Generally I tend to avoid the gym and do at-home workouts for the first few weeks of the New Year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad those people are choosing to better themselves. The issue I have is that no one really sticks to New Year's resolutions. And that's because they're doing them for the wrong reasons.

Why do most people make New Year's resolutions? I'd argue it's because it's the start of a new year - all that "new year, new me" nonsense. Can I be honest with you? I hate New Year's resolutions. Making a commitment just because a holiday rolls around is almost a guaranteed way to ensure you don't stick with it. Why? Because after a few weeks the feeling of the new and shiny year wears off. And we all go back to our lives as usual. Then, before you know it, months have gone by and you haven't been back to the gym. But the next new year is coming soon, so you'll just wait for that.

You see what I'm saying? There's always a reason to put something off or not stick with it if you're not doing it for the right reasons. That being said, making a commitment to better yourself in the new year can be an awesome thing! You just have to know how to keep up with it.

About 6 years ago I was overweight and feeling pretty down on myself around this time of year. So I made the commitment to lose weight and build more self-confidence in the new year. And I Actually stuck with it! I lost the weight, got healthy, and have been so ever since. What was the secret to sticking with this New Year's resolution, you may ask? Well...it wasn't really a New Year's resolution. I just happened to make a decision to change my life around this time of year. Truth is, I could have had the same realizations in the summertime and I would have acted on them then. Because I was that serious. And that, folks, is the secret. Don't make a New Year's resolution. Make a New YOU resolution. Why wait until New Year to better yourself? If you want to make a change, you should do it. And you should stick with it. Sometimes it sucks, but push through and force yourself. Eventually you build good habits


I'll talk for a little bit about weight loss specifically now. I know many people have other resolutions outside of getting skinnier. But that seems to be the most popular one. So I wanted to give you some tips on what worked for me. Hint: you don't need a diet program and you don't need gimmicky weight loss pills. What you need is commitment and determination. That's it. If you're reading this post and it's not New Year, don't wait! Do this now!

Note this is a recipe for overall lifestyle change. It's one thing to lose weight. You can be skinny and still be incredible unhealthy. Changing to a healthy lifestyle ensures you will not only keep the weight off long-term, but also means you will improve your overall well-being.

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~ The Nifty Nerdarella's Tips for a Healthy Life ~

1. Start experimenting with clean eating.

This is a tough one if you're used to eating junk. And it's especially difficult when coming off the holidays which are generally filled with a lot of rich and unhealthy meals. But your eating habits are half the battle when you're trying to get healthy. So start experimenting and find what you like. Clean eating doesn't mean bland eating. The traditional food you think of when dieting comes to mind have no place here. Actually, clean eating means using natural ingredients. You'll be making more things from scratch. But you know what? Food is actually better! And when you eat clean for a while, eventually your body stops craving the junk and sugar as much, and you'll actually crave healthy food. Yes, I'm serious!

There are some recipes on this blog that can get you started. Other blogs I love that offer clean eating recipes: Skinnytaste, Simply Taralynn, The Gracious Pantry, POPSUGAR Fitness, Get Healthy U, Gimme Some Oven. And these are just a few! A quick search on Pinterest will turn up a TON of delicious recipes.

2. But don't be afraid to cheat occasionally.

For those of you who have an insane sweet tooth like me, I swear by the cheat day during the initial phases of weight loss. Cutting off all junk food cold turkey is just not realistic. We all have cravings. If you deprive yourself, eventually you will binge.

When I was hard-core in weight loss mode I gave myself one cheat day a week. Usually it was Saturday. And I looked forward to it every week. I treated it kinda like a reward. If I slipped up during the week I didn't get my cheat day. But if I met my clean eating goals throughout the week I could eat what I wanted on Saturday.

This will look different for everyone. Maybe your cheat is a dessert every night when you've eaten clean the rest of the day. Maybe something different entirely. Find what works for you. But don't deprive yourself completely.

Now that I've gotten to the weight I want, I subscribe to the 80/20 rule. Eat clean 80 percent of the time and allow yourself a treat 20 percent of the time. And I no longer use food as a reward mechanism. This is key for a long-term healthy life. You should not look at food as a reward for anything. Likewise, you shouldn't be afraid of food. This journey is all about changing your relationship with food and with yourself.

3. Set realistic goals, and ways to track those goals.

This will look different for everyone. But the most important this to remember is to be realistic. Set goals that challenge you, but not ones that are impossible. For example, you should not set a goal to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks. This is unrealistic. You will likely not meet that goal. And when you don't, you will be more likely to get discouraged and give up. Dropping that much weight that fast is also incredibly unhealthy and leads to yo-yo weight gain/loss.

Instead, make a pledge to lose a few pounds a week, and have a way to track that to ensure you're meeting those goals. Some people use a scale to do this. For me, it was a trip to the mall each Saturday to try on dresses. Because, for a while, you won't actually look in the mirror and see yourself as having lost weight. But clothing doesn't lie. And you will know if you're dropping sizes.

4. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy, and stick with it!

Again, this will look different for everyone. Take some time to try any and every exercise regimen you can think of until you land on one you really enjoy. Major key. You won't stick with your fitness if you're bored or hating life. And the possibilities are endless. I promise you there is something out there you'll like doing. For me, it's solo gym time and running. Time spent at the gym is not only my time to get fit, it's also my stress-reliever. As-is running. There is nothing better to me than a nice long run through the park on a cool day.

Also experiment with working out solo and with a partner to see which works best for you. Some people find they need the motivation of a friend with them. I prefer to be alone and retreat into my thoughts when I work out. Everyone is different.

Another awesome thing about working out: you'll not only get healthier, you'll have more energy and you'll feel better all-around. Happier. Because exercise released endorphins.

Exercise is similar to the clean eating point, in that it is essential to building a healthy lifestyle, but it is also difficult to stick with. The best advice I can give you on this one if to literally force yourself. After a few weeks this will become routine and it will be much easier to get up the motivation. And eventually your body will crave the exercise. Once you hit that point it is much easier to stick with it. But you have to force yourself to get over that hump.

Some blogs to inspire your exercise regime: BodyRock, Fitness Blender, Get Healthy UPOPSUGAR Fitness

5. Reshape how you see yourself.

Because you are beautiful. You may not see it, but others do. So stop with any negativity. During this initial period in particular you should really take to heart any compliments people give you. "You've lost weight." "You look great." etc. Think about that as you look at yourself in the mirror. In the beginning, even as you are losing weight, you won't see yourself as doing so. Some people call it ghost weight, but basically, you will still see yourself at your old weight. Don't allow this to push you into any unhealthy habits. This is why trying on clothes while you are shrinking is a great way to track. You are beautiful. Learn to love yourself for who you are and you will be so much happier.

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Any questions? Feel free to ask away. I'm happy to offer more tips and support based on my own experience. And check out the overnight oats recipe below to start off 2016 on a deliciously clean note.


Here's wishing you a fun and safe New Year filled with family, friends and love. Be safe tonight, folks. 2016, here we come!

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~ Ingredients ~

1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk (or your milk of choice)
1 tsp. chia seed (optional)
1 tsp. flax seed (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. butter extract
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 packet stevia
1 Tbsp. chopped pecans (optional)

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~ Directions ~

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or other sealable container and let set in the refrigerator overnight, or at least for a few hours.

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