Spaghetti Squash “Lasagna” Casserole

Lately I have been trying to curb my carb intake. I personally don’t believe in completely carb-free diets, but I do think that limiting carbs and being more conscious of how much I eat has made my body both look and feel better. This, however, is quite the challenge for me because I love bread, pasta and potatoes! So I’ve been seeing a lot about “spaghetti squash” lately and decided to try it out. Spaghetti squash is a big oblong squash that runs about $2-3 at the grocery store and can be found just about all year long. When roasted, the meat breaks apart into long skinny sections just like spaghetti noodles! It is the craziest thing. One cup of spaghetti squash has only 42 calories and 7 carbs! Can’t beat that! You can eat spaghetti squash on its own as a side dish, with a little white wine and scampi, in Asian inspired dishes, and just about any other way you would like to enjoy pasta. I decided to try out a classic Italian spin and made a “lasagna” spaghetti squash casserole. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious this dish turned out, and how easy it was to prepare! I tried to make this as healthy as possible and used ground turkey instead of beef, and part-skim cheese.

What you need:

Ingredients

Ingredients

 

-1 spaghetti squash
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Salt & pepper
-Ground turkey
-Spaghetti sauce
-Part-skim mozzarella, shredded

What to do:

1. Slice your spaghetti squash in half. This might be the hardest part, as the skin is pretty thick!

 

2. Scoop out the insides and discard the seeds and pulp. Just like a pumpkin! Rub each half with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water and place the squash halves cut side down. Bake on 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

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3. Meanwhile, brown the ground turkey. Once browned, add spaghetti sauce and heat until bubbling.

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4. Remove squash from the oven. Use a fork to start “fluffing” the squash. It will very easily break apart into “noodles.”
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5. Start layering your casserole. Alternate layers of squash, cheese and sauce. Finish with a top layer of cheese and put back in the oven 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.
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The squash is sweeter and crunchier than normal pasta. Definitely a different consistency. So go into this expecting squash rather than actual noodles and you might just fall in love! This was so simple to make and the spaghetti squash has endless possibilities as a base.

 

Do you have any good recipes you have made using spaghetti squash?  

Loop Ribbon Wreath Second Attempt

This weekend I tried my second attempt at a loop ribbon wreath. My little city of Winchester, VA has a huge festival holiday in May called Apple Blossom which is all about pink and green. So this is in celebration of Apple Blossom! Again, was super easy, just a bit time consuming.

Apple Blossom loop ribbon wreath

Apple Blossom loop ribbon wreath

Have you tried yet to make a ribbon wreath?

Loop Ribbon Wreath

sp12I have been making wreaths for quite some time, usually with ribbon, in a wrapped technique. I love the way the bright colors look in the sunlight against my blue front door. And Hobby Lobby has such cute prints, it’s hard to resist!

I have been wanting to take my wreaths a step further and try a loop ribbon technique but was actually pretty intimidating. I found many tutorials on Pinterest, and it just seemed like so much work. But, needing to make a new wreath for St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to take the ribbon plunge. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this was and how great it turned out! 

 

 

What you need:
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Round foam wreath (I used 12″)
Lots of ribbon spools! I used 8 in a variety of patterns and sizes. (Make sure one is a solid thick width to use as your base wrapping.)
Pack of stick pins
Scissors
Any desired embellishments or decorations

What to do:

First of all, you need to wrap your wreath foam with a wide solid color ribbon. Attach eat end with a stick pin. I did not have quite enough, so you can see some of the white showing through.
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Next comes the most tedious part. Cut your ribbon into strips between 4-5″ each. You will want at least 20 strips of each ribbon, but I suggest going ahead and cutting the entire spool. If you want a more staggered look, you can cut different lengths. For this one I kept them all the same.
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Once your ribbons are cut, congrats! You have passed the hardest part! Now you will start making your loops. Bend the ribbon and secure with a stick pin or two for wider ribbon.
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Poke the pins into the wreath to secure your loops. I used up all of one pattern at a time. I began with the thickest ribbon and tried to space them out evenly on the front and sides of the wreath. Don’t worry about which direction they face, it has a better effect if all are different.
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Continue until you are out of ribbon! Try progressing from thickest to thinnest. This seems daunting at first and a bit overwhelming, but as your wreath fills up more and more you will easily start to see the wholes where you need to fill in.

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I added a shamrock centerpiece and some top ribbon to hang my wreath.

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I was so happy with how this turned out! It is easily my favorite wreath so far. The entire project took me approximately two hours, and things were a breeze after the cutting. What I like best about this wreath is that nothing has to be perfect. In the end, the loops will all fit together and look great!

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Have you ever tried to make a loop ribbon wreath?

The Addictive World of Juicing!

Recently my boyfriend quit smoking (so proud!) and we decided to go on a mini-health kick. In addition to regular exercise and hydration, we’ve started making more of a conscious effort to eat healthy, while still not depriving ourselves of things we love. Some of my friends have gotten on the juicing kick (credit fellow blogger Evin–www.pcslife.wordpress.com) and rave about how easy it is and and how great they feel. So one night we just up went to Wal-Mart (one of our favorite night-time activities, don’t judge) to find a cheap juicer. We didn’t want to invest too much money into this thing in case it tasted horrendous or was a one-time fad. We settled on a cheapo Hamilton Beach machine for around $70.

Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juicer

juice2 Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juicer

Then we set off to the produce section to pick out our first ingredients. I had looked up some recipes on Pinterest ahead of time, and we settled for  a “Green Machine.” Looking back, we definitely under-purchased. One thing you will quickly realize with juicing is that it takes a LOT of fruits and veggies just to produce a small amount of juice.

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Green Machine

Green Machine:
2bundles of kale
2 Granny Smith apples
2 green pears
1 lemon

This particular machine boasts that its wide mouth can fit and juice whole apples! I was skeptical at first, but it really worked. You can juice fruits and veggies whole as long as they will fit, being mindful to peel any rind that may not be edible. For example, you can put in a whole cucumber or apple, but be sure to first peel a lemon, orange, or papaya. Small seeds are fine to include, but large pits as in peaches and nectarines must first be discarded.

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juice5photo 1 Finished Green Machine

I was surprised at how easy the whole process was! It only takes a few minutes of your time to get a delicious concoction. Yes, I said DELICIOUS. I couldn’t believe how great it tasted to drink KALE!

Long story short, we have become JuiceHeads (and no, not the steroid type.) Since purchasing the machine about three weeks ago, we have each had at least one juice per day. I personally don’t use the juices as meal replacements, per say, but I do drink one every morning for breakfast. Before juicing I typically never had anything for breakfast except for coffee (BAD, I know!) so this has been a great addition. It starts my metabolism and keeps me (almost) full until lunchtime. I’ve cut out coffee almost completely, except as a treat every now and then. The juice wakes me up and gives me all the energy I need.

Now, let’s talk NUTRITION! Juicing is incredibly HEALTHY! Thinking about all of the vitamins and minerals you pack into one pint of liquid. My new favorite Google search is “what are the health benefits of ______?” So many cancer-fighting, vision enhancing, heart healthy benefits in each little fruit or veggie. My office has been passing bugs around all winter, and I (knock on wood) have yet to get sick. I definitely attribute this to all of the vitamin C and other nutrients in my juice! Throughout the week, Itypically stick to alternating between green kale or spinach based juices and orange carrot and ginger based juices. Several of my favorite recipes are listed below.

But first, a few words of advice for new juicers:

1. Buy MORE produce than you think you will use! Per week, we typically go through anywhere from 7-28 apples, 10 pears, 3 bunches of kale, 1 large bag of spinach, 2 bags of carrots, 1 ginger root, and 12 oranges. These are our “essential” ingredients. We more sparsely purchase “enhancer” ingredients, such as melon, cilantro, mangoes, and beets. I try to shop once on Sundays to avoid going to the store throughout the rest of the week.

2. Juice right before you want to drink. Juices lose nutrients the longer they sit. Something about oxidation or…I have no idea.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new combinations or be turned off by weird colors. Brown juices can be delicious! Get out of your comfort zone and use ingredients you don’t really like. I am not a huge fan of celery, but I try to hide at least one stalk in each of my green drinks to reap the health benefits.

Happy juicing!

Green Monster:  2 Granny Smith apples 1/2 cucumber 1 celery stalk 4-5 large leaves of kale (Add a handful of cilantro to kick up the flavor!)

Green Monster:
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cucumber
1 celery stalk
4-5 large leaves of kale
(Add a handful of cilantro to kick up the flavor!)

Beets Me! 2 beet roots (peeled)  1 sweet apple 2 carrots 1 inch ginger root 1 orange 1 lime

Beets Me!
2 beet roots (peeled)
1 sweet apple
2 carrots
1 inch ginger root
1 orange
1 lime

Mango Madness 1 mango (peeled)  4 carrots 1 inch ginger 1 orange 1 green apple

Mango Madness:
1 mango (peeled)
4 carrots
1 orange
1 green pear
1 inch of ginger root

 

Baked Fries (Is This an Oxymoron?)

We all love french fries but all know how terrible they are for you with all that nasty fat and oil! This is a quick and easy way to get the same fry taste, without actually being fried. Guess we should maybe call them “french bakes” instead?

(Disclaimer–Okay for some reason all of my pictures turn out yellow and awful looking. Actually that “some reason” is two things–terrible camera, and terrible lighting in my kitchen. Bear with me until I get a better camera–I promise these things look much better and more appetizing in real life!)

What you need:

Russet potato(es) extra virgin olive oil, seasoning salt, garlic powder, pepper.

Russet potato(es) extra virgin olive oil, seasoning salt, garlic powder, pepper.

-Russet potatoes (I used one large one–feeds two.)
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Seasoning salt
-Garlic powder
-Pepper

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel your potatoes and cut your potato into thin slices.  I typically start by cutting a potato into thirds, and then each third into halves. I then begin to make my slices. Next spread onto a baking sheet.
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Next, drizzle potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle on seasoning salt, garlic powder and pepper to taste. Toss the slices around to make sure they are all evenly coated with oil and seasoning.

Finally, bake in the oven approximately 40-45 minutes or until golden. Enjoy with ketchup, mustard, or just plain by themselves!

Do you have a healthier way to enjoy french fries?

Valentine’s Day Ribbon Wreath Tutorial

I am addicted to making wreaths. I try to make one for every new holiday or occasion. We took our Christmas decorations down this past weekend so it was time for the Santa wreath to go back in the closet. Next up was a Valentine’s Day wreath.

Valentine's Day ribbon wreath.

Valentine’s Day ribbon wreath.


I had all of these cute ideas to do a red chevron burlap wreath or a heart shaped wreath (using a heart shaped form) but these dreams were crushed when I realized it was Sunday and Hobby Lobby was closed so I had to go to Michael’s instead. I must say I was very disappointed in their selection compared to HL. They had no burlap ribbon at all, and definitely no heart shaped wreaths. No Valentine’s themed ribbon without wire either, which is what I normally use for these types of projects. But I made do with what they had and came up with this cute little thing! So here is a tutorial for how to make the easiest wreath you’ll ever try–a wrapped ribbon wreath!

What you need:
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For the wreath:
-Foam wreath form (I used 14″ diameter.)
-2 spools thick ribbon, approximately 2″ wide (MUCH easier to use ribbon WITHOUT wire.)
-1 spool thinner accent ribbon, approximately 1″ wide
-Scissors
-Hot glue gun
For the decorations:
-2 wooden hearts
-2 flower clips

What to do:

1. On the inside of your wreath form, glue the starting edge of your ribbon. I typically try to glue it at a slight angle, in the direction toward which you are going to wrap.
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2. Begin wrapping around your form. Try to overlap the ribbon slightly so that none of the foam shows through. Pull as tightly as possible to avoid wrinkles in your ribbon. Note: it is much more difficult to smooth out wrinkles with ribbons that have wire, hence why I typically use wireless ribbon.
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3. Continue wrapping until you run out of ribbon. Usually a full spool will cover 1/2 a 14″ wreath form. Then, glue the ending edge of ribbon to the inside of your form.
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4. Repeat from beginning step until your wreath is completed covered. Be sure to start your new spool of ribbon at the same place where the old left off.

Fully wrapped ribbon wreath.

Fully wrapped ribbon wreath.

5. Next it is time to add your accessories. I normally play around with the placement before gluing, to see what looks best. Use the hot glue gun to secure the wooden hearts to the upper left corner of your wreath.
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6. If your flowers do not have a clip, glue to the bottom right corner. If they have clips like the ones I used, simply pull the ribbon slightly away from the form and clip the flowers to the ribbon.

Flower with clip.

Flower with clip.

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7. Cut two long sections of your smaller accent ribbon. The length is up to you. This is how you will hang your wreath. Tie in a bow with some slack above your wreath.
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Here is the finished product! So easy and cute!

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Have you ever tried making a ribbon wreath?

Love Your State Frame

For Christmas I wanted to give my best friend something homemade since I have gotten so into crafting over the past year. She is from my hometown of Winchester but is currently living in the Hampton Roads area. I decided to go with this theme and put a little twist on the many framed state crafts I have been seeing on Etsy and Pinterest. Forgive me for failing to have pictures of the process but this one is not too difficult to follow.

Home State Picture Frame

Home State Picture Frame

What you need:
Scrapbook paper
-1 large piece for your background
-1 medium sized piece for your state
-Small pieces for your items
Double sided tape or glue
Scissors or razor blade
Pencil
Picture frame

What to do:
The hardest part was to cut out the state. For this, I figured there was no way I could freehand Virginia, so I needed to trace. I pulled up a picture of Virginia on my iPad, turned the brightness up as far as it would go, put the scrapbook paper overtop and started tracing. This worked out pretty well, but you have to be careful that you don’t move the picture around on the screen while tracing.

Next, cut out the state with scissors, or, better yet, a razor blade. Colorado and Wyoming–you lucked out on this part. Maryland and Massachusetts–not so much.

I then decided on three symbols–a house for where she lives, a graduation cap for where she went to college, and a heart for where she grew up (home is where the heart is, right?) You can trace or free-hand these, whatever is easiest for you.

Now simply tape or glue your state onto your scrapbook paper background and glue your symbols on the geographically correct locations (ashamed that I had to double and triple check this part!)

Where you live, where you went to school, and where you grew up.

Where you live, where you went to school, and where you grew up.

Cut your scrapbooking paper to the appropriate size and insert into your picture frame.

My friend loved it! She sent me this picture of it hanging on her wall at home.
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What an easy and inexpensive gift for a friend, relative, or even as a housewarming present. What are some fun personalized crafts you have made?