Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The #HungryHusbandProject - 4th Edition: Eggplant Parmesan with Spaghetti (Squash)

It's been a while since I contributed to the #HungryHusbandProject, and I am embarrassed to say that I actually had 2 other meals to write about, but managed to misplace the husband's score sheets. Oh well.

The 4th edition of the #HungryHusbandProject is Eggplant Parmesan with Spaghetti (Squash), inspired by my college friend/roommate, Kelly. Kelly is pregnant with her 3rd baby and due any day now. Her mom made her some Eggplant Parmesan to see if it would induce labor (so far it hasn't)...but it sounded delicious, so I decided to make it tonight. This recipe is low-fat, low-carb, and vegetarian. I wasn't sure how the hubs would feel about it, but when I texted him from the grocery store, he was all for it.


Left: Fresh out of the oven; Right: For a low-carb meal, serve over cooked spaghetti squash. (I made mine in the microwave.)

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (or 2 small eggplants)
  • 1 jar spaghetti or marinara sauce
  • 2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 (2 cup) container low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • Italian seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
  2. Beat eggs in small bowl. In another bowl, combine parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  3. Slice eggplant(s) into 1/2" slices. Dip each slice in egg, and then dredge through parmesan cheese mixture. Place in single layer on cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at  425°F for 20 minutes, turning slices halfway through.
  5. Spray a 9"x13" pan with non-stick spray. Cover bottom of pan in a thin layer of spaghetti/marinara sauce. Layer half the eggplant slices on the bottom.
  6. Top with another thin layer of spaghetti/marinara sauce, then spread ricotta cheese evenly over the sauce.
  7. Add remaining eggplant slices, then cover with the remaining spaghetti/marinara sauce, then mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes. Serve over cooked spaghetti or spaghetti squash.
It smelled so good while it was cooking and took me less than an hour to make. Surprisingly, the hubs really liked it and said he'd definitely eat it again.


Here is the verdict:

 28/30  Taste
 20/20  Presentation
 10/10  Originality
 10/10  Re-heatability
 10/10  Clean-up
 20/20  Overall Ranking 
----------------------------------
98/100  Final Score
    A+    Letter Grade

Comments:
"Had surprising flavor for a vegetarian dish. Might even taste better the next go-around!"

This is my highest-rated meal so far, which is surprising since it's vegetarian. (I swear I said that last time.) The original recipe I was looking at called for ground hamburger, which was browned and then placed over the ricotta cheese layer. This is an option for those who eat meat. I've never cooked eggplant before, and I've actually only eaten it a few times. I definitely didn't mind the flavor. I have to admit though, my fave part was the melted mozzarella cheese. :)

Luv,
the Bride

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Becoming a vegetarian

I have been eating a vegetarian diet for just over a month now. (Technically, a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, as I eat eggs and dairy.) It has actually been a lot easier than I thought it would be, and certainly much easier than eating low-carb. I had to figure out a few vegetarian fast food options for those days when I have to go to work but haven't had time to pack a meal. I've started visiting Taco Bell a little more and Panera Bread a little less. (I love how easy (and cheap) the Cheesy Bean & Rice Burritos and Bean Burritos are.) I've also fallen in love with The Remedy Diner


Overall, I don't feel much different. I was expecting to feel different, maybe lack energy (or gain it), but I feel about the same. One thing my friend Beth pointed out to me was that I need to be careful of my soy intake since I have hypothyroidism. Luckily I have a physical and thyroid check up next week, so I'll discuss it with my doctor then. 

I was only planning on doing it for a week, but a week turned into two weeks, and two weeks turned into a month...I think I will likely incorporate fish and seafood in (pescetarian), but we'll see.


A few things I've discovered: 

  • Excluding meat cuts down on cooking time significantly! 
  • You don't have to include meat for a meal to be tasty.
  • Cutting out meat was not as hard as I thought it would be.
  • I've met more vegetarians in the veterinary field than anywhere else.
  • Vegetarian restaurants are pretty darn good.
  • There's usually a way to "vegetarianize" or "veganize" a meal and make it still taste good.
  • Raw meat grosses me out a lot more than it used to. (I never did like cooking chicken very much.)
  • LOTS of food (packaged, pre-packed, prepared, un-prepared) contain meat or meat products.
On another note, the hubs and I have been cooking up an interesting project we want to start together. More on that later. :)

Luv,
the Bride

Saturday, August 23, 2014

When it rains, it pours...

It has been just under 2 weeks since we said goodbye to Lamb. Our other Chinese Crested, Noah, has been sick since Thursday of last week. At first, I thought he was in mourning and just grieving the loss of his best friend. However, after running diagnostics for the past few days, we discovered that he has a foreign body. Fortunately, he's not obstructed, so they think they can remove it via endoscopy (less invasive than surgery). Unfortunately, it is still costly, and after everything with Lamb, the estimate of $1600 is a big burden for our little family. When it rains, it certainly pours!

I have created a crowdfunding campaign through Go Fund Me, and we are trying to raise as much money as possible to help pay for his medical bills. 

This has been a trying few weeks for us, but we're staying positive and pressing on as much as we can. If you wouldn't mind sharing this with your friends, family, and fellow animal lovers, and/or donating (even the smallest amount helps), we would be so grateful.


Thank you, and puppy kisses!

Luv,
the Bride (and her black and white dog)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Grantland feature


I'm so excited to share something that has been in the works for some time now. Check out this feature article by Katie Baker for Grantland! A part of ESPNGrantland is an online magazine that covers sports, entertainment, and pop culture.

Katie contacted me in April to ask me about my experience with the Bridal Veil post office as well as the process of designing and creating my wedding invitations.

Check out her article to read all about Postmaster Geri and the famous little post office in Bridal Veil.

Luv,
the Bride

Saturday, August 16, 2014

She's now gone meatless.

My sweet Lamb passed away in the wee hours of the morning on Monday. After suffering for the past 10 months, she took a turn for the worse while David and I were on vacation. We rushed to MD (where she was staying with my mom) and made the difficult decision to let her go. 

It feels different without her. It's hard to see her little bed or dresses or toys and know she isn't coming back to them. Noah went with us to say goodbye to her, as he's known her all his life. He's actually been suffering from an upset stomach the past few days, and I'm beginning to think he's in mourning too.

The loss of a loved one is never easy. I've worked in a vet hospital for the past four years, and have helped countless people say goodbye to their pets. It doesn't get any easier.

"She's now gone meatless." (That's a Monk reference, by the way.) 
In an effort to refocus my thoughts, and to honor Lamb, I've decided to go meatless for the week. That is, I'm fasting from eating meat for a week. If Lamb was a human, she totally would have been a vegetarian. It's something I've wanted to try for some time now, and I started it on Thursday. 

So far it has been relatively easy and even kind of fun. I have purchased meatless burgers, "chicken" patties, and even tried a local restaurant with vegetarian and vegan options. I haven't had any cravings for meat yet. I don't know if I will continue to do it after the week is over, but it's definitely a lifestyle I'd consider.

The last 6 months with Lamb were hard. She was getting progressively thinner and weaker. She was having accidents all the time. She lost what fat and hair she did have. I am glad she's no longer suffering, but I miss her completely. Rest in peace, little Lamb.

Luv,
the Bride

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

DIY: Tufted headboard

David and I have been married for 8.5 months now! It's hard to believe that a year ago at this time I was busy with wedding plans, working out, and basically eating/drinking/breathing all things wedding. 

The first major purchase that we made as newlyweds was a new bed. We had discussed before marriage that we would consider getting a Tempur-Pedic or some sort of memory foam mattress because of my sleeping habits. (I have suffered from insomnia and nocturia, both of which cause me to toss and turn.) We also discovered on our honeymoon that we love the size of a king-size mattress. Fortunately, our bedroom would accommodate one perfectly, and our friends/family were so generous in fulfilling all the bedding from our registry. We had no excuse not to get one!

The only thing we needed was a head board. After having a metal bed frame for the past 10 years, I wanted something a little more luxurious and plush: a tufted headboard. Unfortunately, the ones I found were way too expensive. I quickly decided I was going to have to make my own.
My Inspiration: Skyline Furniture Linen Nail Button Tufted Upholstered Head Board via WayfairSkyline Furniture Micro-Suede Tufted Headboard via AllModernThea Velvet Tufted Bed, Light Gray via One Kings Lane

After pouring over tutorials by Sarah (Thrifty Decor Chick), Jenny (Little Green Notebook), and Meghan (Involving the Senses), I collected all my supplies: peg board, 1"x3" and 1"x2" wood, corner bracesbatting, foam, fabric, cover button kit, buttons, Decorator's Needleswaxed button thread, French cleat picture hanger, spray adhesive, staple gun, and staples.

Here is a very rough sketch of my design.
You can see how I laid out the frame with the wood. 
For our king size bed, I decided to make the headboard 72"L x 32"H, which is what I had the peg board cut to at the store. I then built a simple rectangular frame with the 1"x3" and 1"x2" wood pieces and the corner braces and screwed it to the pegboard. (The people at the home improvement store are generally very helpful and can cut everything to size for you.)

Note: I purchased peg board as Jenny did in her tutorial, but I quickly discovered that you cannot staple into peg board, which is why I ended up purchasing the 1"x3" and 1"x2" wood pieces and corner braces to build a frame. This ended up stabilizing the peg board as well, which can be flimsy. The idea of purchasing peg board is that it already has holes, so button placement is much easier. If you use MDF and drill your own holes, you should be able to staple into it with no problem. (See Meghan's tutorial for more info on building a frame.)

I then cut the foam to size. (Like Sarah, I found that it was cheaper to purchase a mattress foam topper than foam from the craft store.) I decided on a simple 2-row zig zag tufting pattern (though you may choose to be more adventurous), and circled the holes with a marker on the peg board. I pre-made the 9 buttons I used following the directions in the cover button kits. I glued the foam to the board, stapled the batting over it, and then stapled the (grey suiting) fabric on top. From the back of the board, I drilled through all the layers using the holes I pre-marked as a guide. This helped me with placement of the buttons on the front. 



Many people have asked how I get the "tufted" look where the buttons actually look regressed into the headboard. You can get complicated with the tufting (which includes tucking, making pleats, and usually involves a more complicated button pattern, like in Meghan's tutorial). Or, you can do something simpler, like I did (a 2-row zig zag pattern). To give the buttons that regressed look, I used a knife to cut out some of the foam from the holes so the buttons would "sink" into place (see Jenny's tutorial). I also followed Meghan's tutorial by using extra buttons I had on hand to "anchor" the threads into place on the back of the head board. (This is also helpful if you're using peg board, since you can't staple the threads in place.)


Bedding: DKNY & Kenneth Cole;  Frames & Night Stands: Ikea; Photos; Brian Mullins; Mirrors: Target
It took me between 4-5 hours to finish the project, and it ended up costing around $100 for supplies. I hung the headboard on the wall using a French cleat picture hanger and a couple extra nails, and it has stayed in place so far. Both the hubs and I are very pleased with how it turned out. It has really dressed up our room and bedding. Best of all, I saved so much money by doing it myself!

Luv,
the Bride

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Guest Post: Fabulous bridesmaids and groomsmen gifts

Meet Ann
Today's guest post is brought to you by Ann Harris of Beauty Makeup Online. Ann lives in Melbourne, Australia with her lovely husband and two beautiful children. She loves to write about love, relationships, beauty, weddings, DIY, and more. 

David and I both struggled with finding the perfect bridal party gifts. I ended up giving each bridesmaid a robe, slippers, and wedding day jewelry in a jewelry pouch. David was more personable and found different gifts for each groomsen including a vintage pipe holder, DVD set, and computer gadget. He also included the pocket square and fun dress socks to wear at the ceremony.

For those of you looking for some unique ideas, Ann has come up with a list of the 7 fabulous gifts for both bridesmaids and groomsmen! 

Luv,
the Bride


7 Fabulous Bridesmaids and Groomsmen Gifts

Picking out a gift for someone is hard enough, but it gets even more challenging when you have to shop for several bridesmaids and groomsmen who have varying tastes and personalities. For soon-to-be married couples who are stuck and cannot figure out what to give their dear friends as a token of appreciation for helping celebrate their union below are excellent suggestions.


Bridesmaids Gifts

Certificate for a Spa Weekend
There is no woman who would turn down three days and two nights of mind-numbing pampering, especially when it is free. Brides usually invite their closest female friends to their wedding so giving the girls the pampering of a lifetime is always a winner. The spa certificates can be for the same package, or you may also opt for varied treatments to suit the preferences of each bridesmaid.

Among the most popular treatments include rejuvenating facials, deep tissue massage, detox salt baths, and mineral mud wrapping. Any of these treatments would certainly be appreciated by your bridesmaids.


Dalton Blue Note by Crane & Co
Personalized Scented Stationery
If your bridesmaids still subscribe to the merits of putting pen on paper and leaving quick notes as opposed to text messaging, a set of personalized stationery would make for a great gift. 

Certain high-end stationery stores (many of which can be found online) can create lovely scents specifically for stationery, and you even get to pick from a wide array of fragrances.




Classy Clutch Bags
There are very few women in the world who would turn down a free bag, especially one that is one-of-a-kind. Classy clutches would definitely count as a very thoughtful gift your bridesmaids, especially if they can be used for casual as well as formal events. The clutch bags can come in any color, shape, size, and accents (i.e., sequins etc.). 

Added bonus: You can pick out something that your bridesmaids can bring to the wedding.

Gift Certificate for Cooking Classes
Many women love to cook, and some would like to hone their culinary skills. A gift certificate for cooking classes (especially those taught by celebrity chefs) would be such a great gift for one or all your bridesmaids.


Kimonos by SunsetToSunrise
Monogrammed Robes
Decadence takes on many forms, one of which is a terrycloth or silk robe that is soft and luxurious to the touch. Online specialty stores offer monogramming, which would make the gift all the more special. 

Added bonus: You can take some cute bridesmaid photos while you're "getting ready" in your matching robes.



Scented Tranquility Candles
If you prefer to pamper your bridesmaids in the comfort of their own home, aromatic candles would make a fine gift. You may also opt for a package that includes essential oils, potpourri, and many other sweet-smelling goodies.


Necklaces by JewerlyByRMSmith.
Engraved Jewelry
Brides want their bridesmaids gifts to be as memorable as possible, and nothing can be more appealing than a piece of jewelry (bracelets, necklaces, earrings). Engraving is an option especially if you are getting the same item for all bridesmaids. 

Added bonus: You can pick out something you'd like your bridesmaids to wear for the ceremony! (That's one less thing they have to pay for.)



Groomsmen Gift Ideas

Microbrew of the Month Membership
A lot of guys like a good beer, and some of them prefer microbrews. A microbrew of the month membership (usually 6 months to one year) would be greatly appreciated by your male comrades, perhaps even more than a very expensive bottle of Scotch.

Tickets to a Sporting Event
If one or more of your male friends likes sports, tickets to see their favorite team would be an excellent gift. Ideas include: football, golf, hockey, basketball, baseball, and racing. If you can afford it, try to get excellent seats so that they really feel part of the action.

Personalized Beer Mugs
If your friends love beer, they would certainly appreciate a personalized beer mug. Wooden mugs are a tip of the hat to old speakeasies and the tradition of drinking beer at the end of a particularly grueling work day...or you may prefer a etched glass stein.


Skeleton Pocket Watch
by Things Remembered
Monogrammed Pocket Watches
Not a lot of grooms can afford to gift Rolex watches, so personalized pocket watches are the next best thing. 

This kind of timepiece may be outdated by any standard, but it is certainly novel to have on hand. Men do appreciate excellent timepieces, even those that cost about $50-$100.

Added bonus: You can have your groomsmen wear their watches if you're doing a vintage theme.



Laser Tag Tickets
Grown men who still enjoy childhood activities would definitely like laser tag tickets. This provides the groom a choice of getting together with friends after the wedding. This is quite a fun gift and one that almost no one would turn down. Other ideas include miniature golf or go-karts.

A Day on the Track
If one or several of your groomsmen like to race, a track day would do very well as a token. Some track racing packages even provide a choice of cars, from run-of-the-mill Japanese cars, to exotic cars such as Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Maseratis.

Swiss Army Midnite MiniChamp
Swiss Army Knife
A Swiss Army Knife is something both practical and nostalgic. These multi-tools are indispensable and useful. Besides the typical knife blade, they may also include the following: scissors, screwdriver, bottle opener, light, nail file, keychain, and pen.

Some come in different colors and may have the option for engraving.






When choosing gifts for your bridal party, it is always ideal to factor in the personality and interest of each individual. While there are generic gifts available, it pays to go the extra mile so as to convey the couple’s gratitude for sharing in their very special day.