January Whole30

As some of you already know, at the beginning of January, Scott and I embarked on a health and fitness journey called Whole30. For those that don’t know, Whole30 is a diet of sorts, but more of a lifestyle change from hell. Its consists of eliminating certain food groups from your diet for thirty days.

Straight from the Whole30 website:  “Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health.”

The program doesn’t promise weight loss, but it does promise a new understanding of one’s relationship with food. After moving to Indy and settling in here, Scott and I got really caught up in some unhealthy eating patterns. Lots of snacks, and unhealthy ones to beat, drinking often and in excess on the weekends and just generally eating crap and too much of it. We were both feeling pretty fed up with our established patterns, but were unsure of what to do about it. For me personally, I was tired of all the gut-rot; tired of feeling like my digestive system was always out to get me. I’ve always been petite and people don’t like to let me forget it, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an unhealthy relationship with food. I was constantly tempted and gave into the temptation of breakroom treats, after dinner drinks and just generally cruddiness. Scott’s goals were a bit different from mine. Mine involved getting a better understanding of what upsets my stomach and breaking from bad habits. Scott’s involved losing weight and getting into better shape both physically and mentally. After some tough conversations on the long car ride from Iowa to Indiana and many bags of popcorn later, we finally decided that Whole30 would be the right path for us both. We decided to commit to 30 days without: grains, dairy, legumes, corn, soy, added sugar of any kinda (natural or artificial), carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, or alcohol. Literally everything that is good and tasty in life, we gave up. Alongside these restrictions, we both started workout routines, something we had neglected since moving to Indy. I ran 4 days a week and cross trained two days for 30-60 minutes each day. Scott elliptical-ed 6 days a week for 2 hours at a time. We both spent more time cooking and in the gym than we had ever before!

I won’t lie, it was hard. The website says its not, but from time to time it definitely is. Scott was challenged every day at work for the first week during Lilly fellowship recruitment with yummy foods he couldn’t eat and an open bar he couldn’t partake in. Pizza and donuts were shoved in my face at work during the third week and I almost lost it. Social events with friends at first were really weird (not because of our friends because you all are so awesome and supportive – THANK YOU!) but because when every one else is drinking, you feel you should too. Reflecting upon our alcohol use, Scott and I could not come up with a time in our lives since we went to college where we didn’t drink for two weeks, let alone an entire month! Alcohol is such a big part of how we socialize and it was tough to sit back and sip on our waters with lemon. Every time we went out, we had to explain what we were doing to the people around us. At times it felt like a chore, but we got so much support from our awesome crew that it never felt like we were pressured into drinking. I can only imagine what this type of lifestyle change would be like if I wasn’t doing this with someone. Sometimes its hard to be accountable alone, but with another person by your side making sure you staying on track is such blessing and it made this whole process easier.

Honestly, Whole30 wasn’t all that bad after we got used to it. It became part of our weekly routine to figure out recipes we wanted to make and then prepare our shopping list. Though I did most of the shopping and cooking, Scott was a huge support when it came to the eating and the validation 🙂 (okay, and sometimes the dishes). We liked the program and our results so much that we plan to continue this lifestyle about 80-90% of the time, allowing for days or meals off when something seems “worth it.” Today was our 31st day and so we treated ourselves to date night at a new restaurant and a glass of wine and a beer respectively. It was so nice not to have to fret about the ingredients list, but it also felt weird at the same time because we have been so used to this routine that it felt like cheating almost!

Our results:

Maddie:

Weight lost: 5lbs

Non-Scale Victories: clearer skin, significantly less digestive issues, sleeping better, feeling well-rested in the mornings, significant reduction in acid reflux, less tempted by bread and sweets, no tension headaches (I used to get a couple every month) and overall a general sense of accomplishment and control over my eating habits

Scott:

Weight lost: 20+lbs and  “I woke up one night and immediately knew how to train lions” – Scott *not a common side effect of Whole30

Non-Scale Victories: Sleeping better, NO SNORING (thank god – he was a chronic snorer before Whole30 and it went away very quickly), less back pain, more energy, and overall a general sense of accomplishment and control over his eating habit. “Also, his habitual need and desires to eat couch stuffing dissipated, is no longer addicted to anthrax and now identifies sexually as a boa constrictor” – Scott *also not common side effects of Whole30

If anyone is interested in Whole30 in more detail, let us know! Or you can always do the 21st century thing and google it.

Stay tuned for a post about some of our favorite recipes from this month. For now, time to celebrate and then get back on the wagon! 🙂

Xo,

M  (&S)

 

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Lemon Poppyseed Blueberry Salad

Okay, okay, okay. I know I haven’t written in a while. But I am here now, ready to write! Side note: This post is solely motivated by my desire to procrastinate on my comprehensive assessment that I need to have completed successfully before I can head out on internship and graduate from my Master’s program. It’s due in two weeks and I am slowly losing all motivation to finish it up. It has consumed my every waking thought since the beginning of the semester and now that the time has finally come to finish it up, I am running out of steam. I guess that’s what graduate school is all about – repeatedly beating you down until you have no desire to continue on, but still being forced to because you know, you spent two years of your existence and buttloads of money on this place and this education. So alas, I carry on begrudgingly.

I have been pretty terrible at staying on top of my cooking this semester. Managing a full client case load, an extra social skills group, research, classes and work have kept me more than busy. Some nights, I wasn’t home until after 8:00pm and the only thing that seemed appropriate for dinner was popcorn. And that’s okay because I love popcorn. When I have had time to cook, I’ve pretty much stuck to my basics like pasta, pasta and more pasta with a side of pizza. However, these past couple of weeks I surprisingly have found more time in my schedule. I have no clue where it came from and have been concerned that I have been forgetting something very important for two weeks now, but whatever. Free time is free time, right?

So I made a salad. A damn delicious salad might I add. Everything else I have made this semester has been so-so, nothing to write about on the blog or brag about to anyone, except for this salad. So here comes the easiest recipe in the history of this blog.

First, get some spinach. Second, cut up some red onions. Add those to the spinach pile. Third, find some blueberries (I used frozen because they are cheaper), almonds, and feta cheese and throw that on there too. Finally, if you can find it, top it with lemon poppyseed salad dressing. I could not find lemon poppyseed anywhere, so I just bought regular and mixed in some lemon juice for good measure. This salad is perfect when you are running late or are just craving something savory and sweet. I have had this salad multiple times over the last two weeks and enjoy it more and more each time. Definitely worthy a try, especially since the weather (at least in Macomb) has been so nice and summer-like lately. Good luck. I know this recipe is super complex, but give it a shot!

Warning: this may be my last post for a while. There is a lot on my plate (figuratively and usually literally) these next few months. Scott graduates in three weeks, we take a much needed trip to Hawaii to visit our pal Ben from college (Hi Ben. We are coming to visit, hope that’s okay), I start summer classes, we attend 5 weddings (!) throughout the summer, Scott moves to Indy and starts his new job and finally, I move to Indy and start my new job. This summer will definitely fly and be filled with plenty of excitement, so stay tuned!

 

Blog? What blog?

YOU GUYS. I sincerely apologize for not posting more these past few months. I know you all are very interested in my life and the food I cook, so for that, I apologize. Don’t think I didn’t think about it; every time I cooked something new, I took a picture. My photos app on my phone is literally filled with pictures of food. Which would be really weird if someone every got a hold of my phone. They’d open the photo app and hope to see selfies or pictures of puppies or something and all they’d get is food porn. How disappointing. But I am kind of proud of that fact so it really isn’t all bad.

I don’t normally make NYE resolutions because I never stick to them. Why say you are going to do something when in the depths of your soul, know you won’t do it? I try to live my life the best I can, one day at a time. If that means I eat a shit ton of pizza because I’m too stressed to cook, then that’s what it is. If I am feeling super motivated and meal prep ~healthy~ foods on Sunday for a long week, then wonderful! If I work out 4 days a week – that’s actually really great, but if I don’t make it to the gym that many times for whatever reason, than that’s okay too. I say this now with understanding and acceptance but I can promise you this wasn’t easy for me. I caught myself many times this semester feeling guilty or sorry for myself because I wasn’t meeting my health and fitness goals. Life got busy and I let it get to me. I am tired of beating myself up every time I “fail” at being a health conscious person. I am all for this awareness of healthy lifestyles and trying to make oneself better by adapting to a healthier lifestyle, but I am sick of feeling upset, disappointed, or guilty when I can maintain a ~perfect~ week. I know a lot of this is on me and my own goal setting abilities and mental health status, but I do place some responsibility on society at large. If you aren’t trying to lose weight or be healthier, than you are looked down upon or given the look. People are busy. Give your fellow human beings a break, will you?

So with this rant, guilt, shame and disappointment behind me, I am challenging myself to live in the present. To be here (in the figurative sense, not literal) every day and to take it one day at a time. I feel I miss so much when I am planning every little detail of my day, down to the time and how long it will take me to shower. Not that this isn’t helpful when I am stressed and busy because as some of you know, I forget to shower sometimes, but it isn’t necessary and I don’t need to be planning every second of every day. I probably will still plan my meals because you really can’t go grocery shopping without having a game plan. If I did, everything in my cart would be cookies and I would die of malnutrition. I am just aiming to put less pressure on myself. Ain’t nobody got time for self-induce stress. By doing so, I am confident that I will have an even better year than last. I am hoping for more happiness and less sadness, more acceptance and less disappointment and more flexibility and less rigidity.

And I challenge some of you, who may be similar to me (even if you don’t want to admit it) to cut yourself some slack. Give yourself a break. Choose to live your life and not a life you feel has been chosen for you by societies standards. But please don’t only eat cookies and cupcakes. Still be, you know, healthy and self-aware, just put less pressure on yourself.

Since this is a food blog, here are the pictures of all the things I’ve made over the last few months. I promise to be more consistent with posting recipes and instructions this semester. Thanks for being ever-so supportive of me! I couldn’t do it without you all. 🙂

  1. Spinach & feta quiche
  2. Spicy pork and green beans (think Chinese recipe)
  3. Cilantro lime chicken with pico and guac
  4. Pumpkin pork chili – sounds weird, but is SO good. I’ll do a separate post about it because it was that good.
  5. Quinoa fried rice
  6. Pork and bacon nachos 🙂
  7. Buffalo chicken toast

 

Buffalo Quinoa Bites vs. Buffalo Chicken Toast

Woah. Where has the time gone?! October starts tomorrow and I cannot believe it. I am happy because I get paid tomorrow for the first time in 2 months (THANK GOD), but I am also sad because that means I am just one step closer to being done with school forever (well, maybe not – who knows). Anywho, I have been hella busy these past two months. Between getting settled into my apartment, getting back into the swing of things with classes and trying to balance work and a social life, I haven’t had as much time to cook as I would have liked. Soooo I have made a few things here and there that are good but not blog worthy ya know? So I figured I’d write about something very blog worthy and that is my first food failure. That’s right. I said it. I failed at cooking big time for the first time. Like epically failed. It was so bad that I just threw it all away. But before that, I need to vent about something completely off topic.

Want to know sure-fire ways to make your inner control-freak go absolutely nuts? Well here is the perfect mathematical equation.

  1.  Spend the first 7 weeks of the semester, new job, etc. not doing what you are there to do. For me, this was seeing clients. In my program we are required to maintain a caseload of 2-3 clients of our own. Don’t worry, we are video taped and supervised, but while meeting with the client 1v1, we are on our own. The clinic in which we work is free and there are no financial repercussions for missing or no-showing to appointments. In the past, this really hasn’t been a problem. Until now. I tried for 7 weeks to pick up clients on our waiting list. I set up appointment times and rearranged my schedule to only be disappointed week after week when several of my clients would cancel or no show completely. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal – however, I hadn’t seen a single person for 7 weeks when the rest of my cohort was living the dream, seeing clients and improving their therapeutic skills. I was failing behind and fast and there was absolutely nothing I could do but keep trying to pick up new clients and pray they’d show up. (hint: they didn’t until week 8!)
  2.  Have your service engine light on your car come on out of the blue. Take it into a service shop and they tell you some scary news – it could be your transmission. However, upon further investigation, they discovered it was just some weird valve on my transmission that was causing the problem. So I leave my car in the hands of the service dudes and hope its fixed in a jiffy. Hint: DID NOT HAPPEN. My car was in the shop for a week and over $400 later (which I found out my extended warranty covers – woot) and a $150 rental car fee, I was able to get my car back, but not without lots of back and forth from the service people and miscommunication with the manufactures about the right parts. Needless to say, each day for a week, I was told my car would be ready the next day. Then I’d get a call saying “nope not today sorry” and have to wait some more. Friday came and I had a wedding in Iowa to attend. I was told the car would FOR SURE be ready Friday. LOL nope. the wrong part came in and the new one would not be there until Monday so I had to find a rental car. In Illinois you cannot rent a car without an IL drivers license if you want to use a debit card. SO I was out of luck. But thankfully, the car company I used rented me a car and even took off the mileage fees.
  3. Add these two uncontrollable events + stress + general emotional instability and you get =

ONE OUT-OF-CONTROL CONTROL FREAK READY TO REAK HALVOC ON ANYONE AND ANYTHING THAT MOVED, SPOKE, OR EVEN BREATHED.

Needless to say, I was not myself last week. But I am better now. There is nothing like life slapping you in the face when you least expect it. It is one way to make sure you’re ready for adulthood. Clearly, I still need some practice.

Anywho. Back to the food. I made Buffalo Quinoa Bites a few weeks back and let me tell you… they were disgusting. Not good. Do not recommend. They were mushy, soggy and generally unappetizing. Probably because they were just balls of mashed beans with quinoa covered in buffalo sauce. I had hoped the buffalo sauce would help, but it didn’t. Nothing could have salvaged these. After I relentless tried to make them taste better, I realized that I had made my first food fail. I have been fortunate thus far to have liked and succeeded with all my trials, but my luck ran out I guess.

However, I did not want to give up completely because I am not a quitter. And I love buffalo sauce and needed to still be in love with it after my major fail. So, about a week later, I decided to go through the fridge and type in all my ingredients into one of those ingredient-to-recipe lists things online. What came up was Buffalo Chicken Toast. Holy God Almighty these were good. So simple too! I cut the chicken into about 1-2 inch pieces and threw them into the skillet. When they were done, I tossed minced garlic in the skillet as well along with the buffalo sauce and lets all of that just marinade for a bit. Not too long though – don’t want to overcook the chicken. While this was happening I took some French bread and lathered it with both ranch dressing, some more buffalo sauce (for good measure), and mozzarella cheese and baked that for a brief time – lets say 10 minutes. Then I took the bread out, topped it with the chicken and some feta cheese and broiled that for about 5 minutes. I love green onions so I added those on the top when it was all done. These were fantastic and super quick! They definitely renewed my faith in not only buffalo sauce, but my skills as an amateur cook. 🙂 Sorry the long post, but I have been up to a lot since the last time I wrote!

P.s. I refuse to post picture of the quinoa bites because just looking at them makes me sad, but here are some photos of the toast!

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Spaghetti Squash with Bacon, Spinach, and Feta

I am a pasta lover, through and through. I love carbs and carbs love me. Its a mutually loving relationship. Despite my unending love for carbs, I sometimes need a break. I have been wanting to try spaghetti squash for some time now but I have been afraid of two things happening: first, that I’ll hate it and I wasted money and time on making the meal; second, that I’ll love it and it will take over my whole life. After trying this recipe, I am very fearful of the latter. 🙂

I bought my squash from the farmer’s market here in Macomb and all the rest of the ingredients from Hyvee. I cut the top and the bottom of the squash off and threw it away. I then cut the squash crosswise into rings that were about 1 inch thick. I took out the seeds by cutting the center of each piece out and tossing them away. I coated the pieces in olive oil and sprinkled salt and pepper on both sides and placed it in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. While the squash was cooking, I cleaned my room. Once the 30 minutes passed, I pulled out the squash and set it aside. I then cut the bacon into 1 inch pieces and cooked it lightly for a couple of minutes on medium high heat. I lowered the heat to low and let the bacon cook until it was crispy. When the bacon was crispy and delicious, I turned the heat back up and added the red wine vinegar. I mixed that around make sure to get all of the delicious caramelized pieces of bacon off the bottom of my pan. I then mixed in the maple syrup and stirred to combine all the ingredients. I turned the heat back down and added a few handfuls of spinach, one at a time, stirred until it wilted and then added some more. I turned the burner off and set this mixture/sauce aside and shredded the squash with a fork and added that into the mixture/sauce. I then added some feta cheese, turned up the heat a bit and mixed everything until it was warm and gooey and fantastic. This was absolutely fantastic. So savory and sweet and I thoroughly enjoyed the squash as a carb-free version of a “noodle.” Seriously. Eat this tomorrow. You will not be sorry!

Recipe:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/spaghetti-squash-with-bacon-spinach-and-goat-cheese?utm_term=.gyoo1WXJV#.caO1rW4Q0

Ingredients:

Spaghetti squash, bacon, feta cheese, spinach, red wine vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper and olive oil

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Dark Chocolate Detox Bites and Sausage Egg & Cheese Breakfast Rollups

After I completed all of my pallet projects, it was just about time to move back to Macomb. I was both very ready and completely resistant to heading back to Illinois for another year of school. I got back to good ole’ Macomb and got all the way moved in/unpacked when I was greeted by a not-so-nice tenet already living in my apartment. No, I am not talking about another human being, but a very large flea infestation. I am telling you, there is no other bug infestation worse than fleas. They are ruthless and they bite. For the first day, I tolerated my new roomies, but by the next morning after I spent an entire night swatting at fleas and scratching at bites I had had enough. I spent the night at a friends and permanently evicted my nasty roomies. Its been about two weeks and my apartment is flea free! Definitely not something I would wish on anyone. After the flea fiasco, I started work at the Alcohol and Other Drug Resource Center on Campus the week before classes began. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful and helpful staff that I get the pleasure of working with. In the past, I have not been so lucky so I am very grateful for the good year ahead. We’ve already had a couple of alcohol education events! That’s my job as a graduate assistant this year is to educate students on campus about alcohol and other drug use. I’m glad to have an assistantship that ties very closely to my future career path as a psychotherapist. After 20 hours of work in three days, I had a nice and relaxing weekend catching up with my cohort and meeting the first-year cohort. Then all hell broke loose. Earlier in the summer I tried to prepare myself for what I knew was going to be a challenging year, but I never expected what my first week gave me: eleven hours of class, 20 hours or work, 7 hours of direct client/supervisor time and what I am sure is going to be buttloads of hours of homework. It has already taken its toll on me thus far so I am sure it’ll continue to get worse. A challenging year, but a great year for learning and getting hands on experience in my field is what I keep telling myself. I am hoping this phrase prevents me from going cookoo come November.

I write a lot about dinner food because for me, that’s the hardest meal for me to plan. I hate coming home from class/work only to hate everything/not feeling anything I have in my fridge. That’s the worst. I focus so much on brining variety into my dinner meals that I sometimes forget about the most important meal(s) of the day: breakfast and snack time. I am one of those people that could snack all day, every day if you’d let me. I try to limit my snackage to one in the morning and one in the afternoon, but I am not always successful. I have traditionally disliked nuts and seeds but for some strange reason, I began to really enjoy eating them over the summer. To keep this new development going, I decided to make these salty snacks a little sweeter. I bought dark chocolate (45% cacao), melted it and dolloped it onto some wax paper. I then topped it with dried blueberries, dried cranberries (my fave), chopped walnuts, peppitas, and almonds. I popped these puppies in the fridge for a couple of hours and presto! A delicious (semi-healthy) chocolate-y snack perfect for an on-the-go person like me. I stored them in the fridge to prevent them from melting and I personally think they taste better when they are cold. So easy and requires very little prep. And they are obviously delicious so give them a try!

I get into phases with my breakfast food. I’ll eat yogurt for a while, then cereal, then smoothies, and sometimes even just some fruit. It gets kind of monotonous eating the same thing day in and day out. The scientists say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so this week, I decided to care a little bit more about what I was having for breakfast. I was feeling tired of cold stuff. I wanted something hot to eat, but I usually wake up late and thus have very little time to make a full-fledged hot breakfast. To counter this issue, I decided to make everything beforehand and refrigerate or freeze what I made that I would not be able to eat in a couple of days. I found this recipe and I knew I had to try it. Seriously people, it was so easy my Mom could probably do it without calling me for instructions 😉 (love ya, ma!). I bought the crescent rolls and laid them flat on a cookie sheet and topped with half a slice of cheddar cheese. I scrambled some eggs and put those on there as well. Finally I added a fully cooked sausage link (like those pre-cooked ones you buy at the store) and rolled the crescent roll into its normal shape, but with all the breakfast goodness inside! I baked them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. They came out perfectly! I put some in the fridge for tomorrow and the rest in the freezer for later. I am so excited to wake up tomorrow and eat on of these; they are simply amazing!

Recipes/Ingredients:

Detox Bites: http://theviewfromgreatisland.com/dark-chocolate-detox-bites/

Dark chocolate – the higher the cacao, the better it is for you!, your favorite dried fruit, nuts and seeds

Sausage, Egg & Cheese Rollups: http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/sausage-egg-and-cheese-breakfast-roll-ups/e6d99aed-541a-4472-bd0a-27281ef52744/?nicam4=SocialMedia&nichn4=Pinterest&niseg4=Tablespoon&nicreatID4=Post&crlt.pid=camp.G0aqaeNFA60U

Crescent rolls, eggs, salt, pepper, cheddar cheese, fully cooked sausage links

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Pallet Projects

Along with my desk, I found time to create two wooden pallet projects. The first thing I made was a coffee table for my living room. I then made a coffee cup holder with my leftovers from the pallet coffee table! Overall, I am very pleased with how they turned out. My Dad did all the cutting of the pallets but I was able to much of the rest of the work myself (okay, with some help from my awesome Dad!).

For the coffee table, the first thing we did was cut the 2 separate pallets to size and sand those pieces. We then spent over a week trying to figure out how to attach the two together. We finally decided to add a piece of plywood between the two and MacGyvered the top and bottom pallet to the plywood. To do that, I used a nail gun. And it was awesome. So once the top and the bottom were attached to the middle plywood piece, we attached another piece of plywood onto the bottom of the bottom pallet. To make sure the pallet would be the right height, we screwed two blocks to the bottom of each corner and then attached the wheels to those blocks. I painted the entire thing in “Tahini Vanilla” (lol code word for white) and sanded some the edges to make it look “rustic.” You won’t be able to see that in the photo though. This project was much easier and took us significantly less time than the desk we made a few weeks back. I am very excited to get this piece into my living room!

With the leftover piece from one of the pallets we used for the coffee table, I decided to make a coffee cup storage hanging piece. All I had to do was sand the pallet to make sure I wouldn’t cut my hand off every time I reached for a cup. After I sanded the pallet, I attached hooks 4 inches apart from each other to provide enough space between the cups when they hang. I also added three bigger hooks so that I can hang pots and pans if I need to! My new apartment that I am moving into does not have a lot of cabinet space so having hanging space will be a life saver! I used 4 inch letters to write “coffee” at the top. I used the same white that I used for the coffee table. I taped the stencil to the pallet and used a sponge brush to sponge the paint on to create the fuzzy looking edges.

Finally all of my summer projects are complete! I will be sure to post pictures of what it all looks like in my new apartment 🙂

I attached pictures of my chair that I re-did as well! Also in the pallet coffee table picture, the wooden blocks that the wheels are attached too are not painted. Do not fret, they are painted now!

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Tortellini Vegetable Bake

This is my first Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) recipe and it definitely won’t be my last! This was a great way to eat all the carbs while also adding in some veggies which are really good for you, but much less satisfying than creamy, cheesy pasta.

Pick up 18 ounces of tortellini from the store. Now, if you are like me, you may freak out that this does not look like enough pasta for one person, let alone 4! But I will reassure you, it is so do not panic. Now cook the tortellini according to the directions on the package or until they look like they are done. Tortellini float to the top of when they are almost cooked so watch for that! When it looks like they may be done, add in the sugar snap peas and the carrots and cook for approximately 1 minute and then drain. While the pasta is doing its thing, make the delicious sauce! To do so, you’ll need to melt some butter over medium high heat and them add the mushrooms and sauté until they are tender (5 minutes). I did not add these because I don’t particularly like mushrooms. So you do you. Add them or not, up to you! Once the butter is melted or the mushrooms are cooked, remove it from the heat for a bit. During this time, combine vegetable broth, flour, oregano, garlic salt, and black pepper in a screw top container or jar and shake it until smooth. I recommend partaking in a 30 second dance party to Taylor Swift’s Shake it off. Makes the meal taste better in the end, I promise 🙂 Add this liquid concoction along with some milk to the skillet with the mushrooms (or just butter) and put it back on the medium high heat. Cook this until it becomes slightly bubbly. Then add the cubed cream cheese (I will argue that this is the most important ingredients so do not forget it!). Cook and stir this until its smooth. Once smooth, remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Take the tortellini, snap peas, and carrots and combine that with the mushroom (or lack of mushroom) sauce and the quartered cherry tomatoes and red pepper (or green if you’d like) and place into a 3 quart baking dish. Make sure to mix it all up with the sauce evenly distributed throughout. Bake this covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese and then EAT THIS RIGHT AWAY. So, so good. Very creamy,and cheesy, and vegetable-y. I usually don’t like peas and carrots unless they are in Forrest Gump, but in this dish, they really weren’t bad. They were actually good! I will definitely be making this again, mainly because of the sauce, but also I guess because of the veggies…

Recipe:

http://www.bhg.com/recipe/tortellini-vegetable-bake/?socsrc=bhgpin020813MPtortellinivegetablebake

Ingredients:

cheese tortellini, sugar snap peas, carrots, butter, mushrooms, vegetable broth, flour, dried oregano (crushed), garlic salt, pepper, milk, cream cheese, lemon juice, cherry tomatoes, red or green pepper, parmesan cheese
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Zucchini, Corn & Quinoa Bowl with Grilled Chicken and Lemon

Red alert, red alert! SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER 😦 😦 😦 This realization hit me square in the face today and it made me incredibly sad. I cannot believe I only have two weeks left until I start work; its kind of ridiculous. This weekend I am planning on moving out of my old apartment and into a new one, so I have been busy finishing up my summer DIY projects (see later blog post) and packing up my things. Through this process, I have notice two things: summer goes by WAY too fast, and that I have WAY too much stuff.  Seriously. The amount of stuff I have accumulated over the years, and especially this summer, blows my freaking mind. I am crossing my fingers that it will all fit into my new place. This summer, I was fortunate enough to spend some quality time with my family and friends in good ole’ Iowa. We went on many family road trips across the Midwest, went camping, and celebrated a wedding! My friends are super great and made the times we did get to spend with each other a blast! Special thanks to Kenzie for letting me crash on your daybed and spoil Greys for you :). I am sad it is all coming to and end. But I guess I have to admit that I am slightly ready for school to start up again (somebody hit me).

I am a firm believer in quinoa bowls. They are actually the greatest thing ever, especially if you season them right. I mean if you like quinoa plain…all power to you, but you are dead wrong. I make my favorite burrito bowl recipe a lot while I am at school; it is the perfect after workout meal and they reheat and freeze wonderfully. I decided I needed to expand my bowl pallet so I searched the holy grail (aka pintrest) for the perfect recipe to force my guinea pig family to try with me. I found this one and knew I had to give it a try!

First, chop up all those fresh ingredients – zucchini, corn and green onions. I used sweet corn and just took it all off the cob. If you don’t love sweet corn, you are not a real human so goodbye. Anyway, then start the quinoa. This recipe calls for cooking the quinoa in chicken broth – I chose to do this, but if you don’t like chicken broth or want a significantly less sodium, just cook the quinoa regularly (i.e. with water). Place two parts quinoa and 1 part water in a saucepan and cook on medium-high heat until it boils, then lower it to a simmer until all the water has been absorbed by the quinoa (about 15 minutes). Once the quinoa is finished, top off with some olive oil and lemon zest. Okay, rant beginning. I freaking hate lemon zest-ing. It is so dumb. I don’t feel it adds anything of significance to any dish, but whatever. I digress. While the quinoa is cooking, sauté the minced garlic with olive oil in another saucepan for about 10-20 seconds. Then add the chopped zucchini and corn and sauté for 8-10 minutes (or until the veggies are cooked). Place the quinoa, veggies, some lemon juice and grilled chicken into a large bowl and mix that all together. Oh yeah, make sure to cook some pan seared or chicken on the grill while the quinoa cooks too! Finally top with green onions and feta cheese and viola! This quick and easy recipe turned out to be one of my favorites that I have cooked all summer. All the fresh ingredients and the power-packed quinoa made this a very healthy and filling meal which is a combination that is not easy to find. The zucchini and the sweet corn made this meal more sweet than other bowls that I have made in the past which was an unexpected, yet refreshing experience. I recommend this to anyone who is looking for a quick meal that packs a healthy punch!

Recipe:

http://www.cookingclassy.com/2015/06/zucchini-corn-and-quinoa-bowls-with-grilled-chicken-and-lemon/

Ingredients:

Chicken, quinoa, chicken broth, salt & pepper, olive oil, lemon juice (and zest), minced garlic, zucchini, sweet corn (off the cob), green onions, feta cheese

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DIY Mid-Century Modern Desk & Desk Chair

With all my free time this summer, I have decided to embark on a new journey: furniture making. It has definitely not been as easy as I thought it would be. I mean, I look at furniture in a store and think, “Oh, I can make that, no problem!” Well, I have come to find out that it is time consuming and much harder than it looks. Despite all the ups and downs, I have really enjoyed making furniture that I will be able to keep in my house for years to come.

I am really liking the mid-century modern look right now. I love the clean lines and the simplicity of it all. It’s simplistic and funky all at the same time. I scoured the internet for desks with this style. I found a lot on etsy that I really liked. However, they were like $600-900! As a poor grad student, I do not have this kind of money to spend on a new desk and desk chair. So, I decided to make my own! I searched the web for directions and used this website (http://www.remodelaholic.com/2015/01/diy-midcentury-modern-desk/) as a rough outline. I did not follow this to the T, but I think mine turned out just fine. The box part of my desk is made out of birch that I picked up from Home Depot. I bought two birch boards and used those for the top and the bottom and had extra that was used for the sides, back and middle panel. I sanded all of the wood for the desk and attached the bottom piece to the sides, back and middle piece with brad nails and wood glue. I then stained the entire bottom piece (along with the sides, back and middle piece) with an Espresso wood stain. I varnished this entire section with semi-gloss varnish, rubbed it lightly with steel wool and added another top coat of varnish. I made the drawer out of a cheaper plywood material and painted it white. Once the drawer was finished as attached properly on the bottom piece. I added plywood wood strips to all of the edges that were showing on the outside to make it more cohesive after it was all stained and varnished. They came pre-glued and all I had to do was use an iron to heat the glue and place those on the rough edges. Once that was all finished, I sanded and stained those strips as well as the top board. I attached the top board to the rest of the desk with more brad nails. I applied two coats of semi-gloss varnish to the top board, with a light steel wool treatment between coats. Once the main part of the desk was finished, I attached the tapered legs to the desk with angled top plates and screws. I bought the tapered legs from Home Depot’s website. They do not carry these legs in store so if you’re interested in making a desk with tapered legs, you’ll have to order them online. The legs I bought were 28in tall with about another inch or two when combined with the top plates and the things on the bottom of the legs that prevent my desk from sliding all over the place (called a stopper? maybe?)The main part of my desk is approximately 5 in tall, making my desk around 35in tall. As many of you know, I am shorter than most. A 35in desk is way too tall to sit at comfortably so we had to cut off the legs a bit to make my desk more comfortable for me to work at. All in all, it is approximately 31in tall (all together), 44in long, 20in wide and the box part is 5 in tall. I am abosultely in love with it. My Dad and I put a lot of hard work and sweat into this desk and I know it will last for many years to come!

The chair was much easier. I have been on a flea market kick lately so when I saw one at the Iowa State Fair Grounds in early June, I knew I had to go. I bought my chair there for $5.00. It is also the mid-century modern style. Before I refurbished it, it was stained a light tan with a heinous seat cushion. I sanded the entire thing, which took so long that I wanted to give up half way through. It was harder to sand than the desk because it already had varnish and stain on it and if I wanted my chair to look good, I needed to get all the old stuff off before I could stain and varnish it. Once it was as perfect as it was going to get, I stained the chair the same Espresso color as the desk and applied two coats of semi-gloss varnish to the top board, with a light steel wool treatment between coats. I already had the seat cushion material from a pillow project from last summer so I cut the cushion and the material to size and nail-gunned it to the wooden piece and attached it to the seat with screws.

Overall, I feel that it turned out fantastic! I spent approximately $200 (upper approximation probably would be about $250) on all the building materials and it took about a three weeks of working on it off and on in the evenings and the weekends. I am very thankful for all the help and direction that my Dad gave me throughout this project. He did a majority of the cutting and nailing while I did much of the sanding, staining and varnishing. It was definitely a group effort on this one. I know this post isn’t very exact with all the measurements and the directions, so if you’d like to make one yourself, you can always contact me directly for more details or use this website that I based my design off of. There are a lot of little steps that I am sure I forgot to mention so feel free to ask me about them or refer to the website for help!

Keep an eye out for my next summer furniture project coming to a blog near you: a wooden pallet coffee table.

Instructions:

http://www.remodelaholic.com/2015/01/diy-midcentury-modern-desk/

I attached a lot of photos of the progress!

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