Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Resolutions for 2012!!

After totally kicking some ASS with last year's resolutions, I decided to start with a brand-spankin' new list to ring in 2012.  I feel totally ready & pumped to take it on, and I am really excited to see where this year will take me.  This list is a bit shorter than last year, but I also have some bigger goals to accomplish.  So on that note, here we goooooo!

Things I want to accomplish in 2012: 

-    Lose 40 pounds (and keep it off!)

-    Exercise at least 5x a week

-    Not purchase any cheese or dairy from the grocery store all year (no butter, cream cheese, or anything like that either – unless it’s vegan, and I absolutely require it like for a recipe or something. Yes, this means that every once in a while I can have it when I go out to dinner, but I'm going to avoid it at all costs!)

-    Visit my grandma in Erie

-    Find a new job that I love

-    Find a way to SING more!  On stage, with a choir, karaoke, open mic – I don’t care, but I want to do it a lot more!

-    Pay off ANOTHER credit card

-    Start a garden / growing my own herbs & food

-    Rally the troops (my friends & family) and make a crazy huge donation to a charity (whether with food, money, supplies, or with our time).  Preferably do this with at least 2 charities.

-    Make more of an effort to dress more fashionably.  (I sometimes fall into a pattern of being a bit too relaxed with my day-to-day wear since I can wear whatever I want to work.  I want to look GOOD, which in turn will make me feel good!)

-    Remind myself daily that what I choose to eat directly corresponds to how I feel, how I look, and the world around me.

-    Run a 10k (without stopping)

-    Take a vacation

Wishing you all a very happy & safe New Year's!!  I hope it's EPIC!! 

All images found by Google Image searches (except the ones that are my own!).

Post-Holiday (cookie) Blues

As usual, I let myself get kinda outta control over the holiday season.  I ate when I wasn't hungry, I ate more than I needed, I had 3 cookies when 1 would've been enough.... it goes on & on.

It almost didn't even feel like celebratory eating anymore... it just felt like gluttony!  It got to the point where I don't think I was even enjoying what I was eating - I was just eating for the sake of eating.  When it gets to that point, it's not a good thing.

As I've mentioned in the past, I've always yo-yo'd in my weight.  For a woman of my height (5'6"), my age (30), and my body-type (larger-boned / hourglass shape), my weight should be right around 140-145, and stay right in that range.  At this point I'm right around 182.

Sure, it's not like I passed the 200 pound mark.  I'm thankful that I've never actually gone out and purchased clothing in larger sizes just so that I can keep getting larger.  I'm even more grateful that with my body type I gain weight pretty evenly, so it isn't as noticeable as it is with some people.

But that doesn't mean it's okay.  I'm carrying around 40 extra pounds that have no reason being there, and it doesn't feel good.  Sure I'm not 150 pounds overweight or anything, but that doesn't make it any less acceptable to me.  I want to open up my closet and feel good about anything I put on.  I want to feel happy and sexy in my skin - not trying to hide it under a billowy top and stretchy pants.  I want to feel confident and happy and not overweight.

I've been through this many times, as I'm sure a lot of you have!  It never seems to stick.  Quitting smoking seemed like the hardest thing on the planet to do - it took me at least 3-4 attempts, but I eventually kicked it.  But my continuous struggle with overeating, unhealthy food cravings, sweets, etc. has made that look like a piece of cake (no pun intended). The fact that I could even stop eating meat and never look back - there's something to be said for that!  It's obvious that I CAN do it, now it's just actually DOING it!

Anyway, I'm rambling.  My point is, there's no better time to start than now.  Sure, New Year's Eve is coming up.  Sure I'll want to party.  But why wait until the new year to get going?  Gosh, I feel like a broken record.  But I want to do this.  I NEED to do this.  I need to change my life forever and never gain the weight back again.  I told myself that I would never hit the 180 mark again, but I did.  And that's just not acceptable!

So I'm gettin' back on that good ol' saddle again.  I have the ability, I have the resources, I have the know-how to do what I need to do.  All I need now is a good dose of willpower, and the support of my family & friends.

And it never hurts to find outside motivation.  Last night I watched Killer at Large - a documentary film that was released in 2008.  I'd never heard of it before, but it was in the Netflix instant queue, so I thought I'd check it out.  It was really REALLY good, and very eye-opening.  It made me not want to support the junk food industry ever again, and also made me want to work twice as hard at avoiding them all together.  It also made me not want to be grouped into being a typical "overweight American".

I want to change the world, and make it healthier.  So I may as well start with ME! :)

Here's the trailer for Killer at Large too.  I would highly recommend it!  I hope that you all will work towards getting healthier and happier in the new year too. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Hey gang! 
The lack of post has been because of the bustling holiday season, so I'll leave you with some lovely photographs to wish you well.  

I feel so lucky to have everything that I have and to be who I am.  I think people get so wrapped up in their day-to-day lives that they start letting the little things get to them - and don't take a moment to step back and realize that they have SO MUCH that so many other people in the world aren't as fortunate to have.  I know I'm guilty of it from time to time. 

So what I wish for this holiday season is that you stop and take a moment to reflect.  Think of everything you have - not things you do not have.  Think of your family and friends.  Think of love.  And remember that you are lucky, and that you are blessed.

all photos from


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Amazing Pine Nut Brittle with Rosemary

My friend Alyson and I had a holiday-cooking-and-jam-making session this past weekend!  It was super fun, and we got to try out some new recipes, and use them as homemade Christmas gifts. :)  

One of our FAVORITES was this brittle recipe that Alyson found online.  It sounded so savory & decadent, and we jumped at the chance to make it (especially since I had an abnormally large back stock of pine nuts for some reason). It turned out SO amazing and SO ridiculously delicious (a wonderful blend of salty & sweet - so decadent), that I had to share the recipe! 

Pine Nut Brittle with Rosemary

Makes enough for one big tin or about 6 little bags of treats
We actually doubled this recipe so that we could split it in half & share it!  If you double the recipe you could probably fill about 6 large glass jars with brittle (it took up 1 large cookie sheet when we got it all flattened out). 

2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups pine nuts (I thought this was WAY too much.  We used what it called for, but you may want to just add about 1/2 of this and see how it looks in the mixture when you have everything going.)
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter (I thought this was way too much too!  I'd half it next time, and see how it goes.)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (definitely use FRESH rosemary, not dried.  I think this made a huge difference in ours!)
1 tablespoon finely ground sea salt or grey sea salt (same with this one - finely ground is essential, and the fact that it's sea salt makes the flavor so much better)

Place the sugar in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar begins to melt. (The directions said to start it on high heat then lower it, but we burned the sugar the first time around BIG time!  Definitely keep your eye on it, 'cause if it burns, it's over!  The 2nd time around we kept the heat at medium - it took a little longer, but it didn't burn.)  Keep the heat on medium to medium-high and keep stirring just until the sugar is melted. Stop stirring (but keep a close eye on it!) and watch for it to turn a medium caramel color. About 10 minutes total.

Stir in pine nuts, and then butter. Allow pine nuts to cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in half of the rosemary and half of the sea salt.

Turn the mixture out onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (not wax paper - there is a big difference), and spread it evenly to the desired thickness with a wooden spoon or stiff rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining rosemary and salt on top, while brittle is still warm.

Allow to cool completely--at least one hour--then break the brittle into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature. If your brittle isn't brittle enough to break into pieces, pop it in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes, until it hardens enough to snap easily.  (we put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, and it broke apart perfectly!)

It really was much easier than I thought it would be (except for the sugar-burning, of course), and it turned out to be something super gourmet-tasting.  Really REALLY yummy. :) 

On another random yet cute note - this is how I found Fudge sleeping the next day.  Apparently he stretched out and decided to stay that way!  He's so freakin' cute. 

Hope you're all enjoying the holiday season, and Happy Hanukkah to all of my Jewish friends! :) 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Helpful Cooking Tips!

I was just thinking of all of the little things I've learned along the way since I fell in love with cooking & baking.  I was watching a friend of mine cook in the kitchen, and kept cringing at everything he was doing wrong!  It was a lot of simple little things, all of which would've made his life a little easier - and made his food taste a little better. 

So for my friend, and for you, here is some of what I've learned! 

Beth's Cooking Tips

Proper food storage enhances the taste of your food. 
Tomatoes should NEVER be stored in the refrigerator.  The cold actually damages their cells, causing them to taste mealy.

On the other side, apples should ALWAYS be stored in the fridge.  Sure, they'll be fine on the counter, but after a while they will taste mealy - if you store them in the fridge, they'll stay nice & crispy & juicy.  However, be sure to not store apples in the same drawer as other veggies - they contain an enzyme that will actually cause certain fruits & veggies to wilt and wither faster.

I also store onions in the fridge, as it helps prevent my eyes from stinging when I chop them.

Storing leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, etc) in the crisper actually does help them stay healthy longer!  Just be sure they are kept dry.  Some people say to wash lettuce as soon as you get it and wrap it in paper towels for storing.  I've tried this, and it doesn't seem to work for me.  I find that keeping lettuce in it's original bag with the mouth of the bag left open and stored in the crisper helps it stay the freshest the longest.

Use vinegar instead of oil when cooking pasta. 
I know your momma has always taught you to add olive oil to your boiling water to prevent noodles from sticking together, right?  Your momma is WRONG, baby!  I did this for the longest time, and it turns out it's a complete myth

Personally, I like to add a splash of good ol' Apple Cider Vinegar to my cooking liquid instead.  It has certainly been more helpful to prevent sticking than oil ever has!  And on that note...

Soak your rice overnight before cooking. 
I know this takes a bit of planning, but it has become a wonderful practice for me!  Just add the proper amount of water in a pot to the amount of rice you want to cook (ALWAYS brown rice, people.  C'mon now.) - so 2 cups of water to every 1 cup of rice.

Add a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar (this is seriously one of my most favorite kitchen staples), then cover the pot with a lid, and leave it alone for the night.  The vinegar will actually help the rice to germinate.

In the morning, turn the heat on medium-high until it boils (you don't even have to dump out the water)!  Lower the heat to simmer and it should only take about 30-ish minutes to cook (instead of the usual 45 mins to an hour without soaking).  Allowing time for the soaking process really helps your body absorb the nutrients in the rice better, and it helps you to digest it.  For more information on the health benefits, click here. On the same note...

Get raw, uncooked beans in bulk - and cook them yourself!
Again, this takes some planning, but after I did a little research on my own I realized this isn't as hard as it seems.  This is a great website for instructions on how to cook all kinds of beans, and you can easily find a cooking chart (for using a regular pot instead of a pressure cooker) with soak time / cook times.

Cooking your own beans takes out the processing ingredients that are put into canned beans, including sodium (there is SO much sodium in canned beans - unless you buy salt-free), and cooking your own can aid with digestion and make them easier for your body to process - therefore making them even more nutritious.  Also, when you buy beans in bulk you're buying hardly ANY packaging, therefore saving the world one little step at a time.

ALWAYS use a sharp knife. 
I once saw a friend of mine attempting to saw through a head of lettuce with a butter knife.  *facepalm.

Before you start chopping, slicing & dicing, be sure your knife is good & sharp.  A dull knife will squash fruits & tomatoes, and you'll be more likely to have a slip and accidentally cut yourself.  I like to run mine through a basic sharpener right before I get started - just be sure to wipe the blade with a clean dishtowel before you start a'choppin'!

I guess I should have listed this one first, but ALWAYS wash your hands before you begin cooking.  There are so many icky-sicky germs everywhere, and although this seems like common sense, you'd be surprised at how many "helpers" I get in the kitchen that say NO when I ask "have you washed your hands?"

Always check the yield of your recipe first thing!
I have made this mistake a LOT of times.  I'm in the middle of cooking up a delicious casserole, and halfway through the recipe I realize, "Hmmm.... this doesn't look like it's going to make enough to feed the group of 8 that I'm cooking for..."  I check the recipe yield, and it only makes enough to serve 4.


Or in another scope (such as when making cookies or jam), you realize that the recipe yields 80 servings, and you're making WAY too much!  No wonder those cookies used an entire package of butter... whoa.

Adjust the recipe according to your party size - either doubling or halving the recipe ingredients when necessary.  Just don't forget halfway through cooking what you're doing though!  I've totally done that too!

Cooking and baking both come down to science.  But baking is REALLY a science (that I don't understand).
I am definitely more of a cooking-type person than a baking-type of person, but I'm definitely trying to change that.  I've learned through trial & error in cooking what flavors work well together, and I can flub my way through things even when they seem like a disaster.  However with baking?  I just don't get the science of how it all works.  Therefore my advice here is: when it comes to baking, follow the instructions exactly!  That seems to prevent most of the screw-ups I've created in the baking world!

Go easy on the salt. 
It's much easier to add a little more, rather than take out a little less. 

When it comes to spices, go ahead & substitute. 
I have never owned saffron.  Nor will I probably EVER own it, since it costs more than its weight in gold.  So needless to say, when a recipe calls for a spice like this or any other ridiculously specific "gourmet" seasoning that you have to go to a special store to buy - I substitute.  Or just omit it, depending on what it is!  Usually a quick Google search can give you some good ideas on spice substitution.

Wear an apron. 
Now, I know this might sound silly.  But after you have flour all down your shirt or gravy on your pants, you'll think twice!  Also I love aprons because you can just wipe your hands right there on 'em.  So convenient.  You can find some really super cute ones here.  Maybe not for the boys of the kitchen, but I kinda like this one for them. :)

Presentation is totally important. 
I didn't used to think this was true, but now I'm a believer.  It doesn't take much effort to make your plate pretty, and that extra dash of color can add some healthy vitamins to your meal.  After all, they say the more colorful the meal on your plate - the more nutritious it is!  Add some arugula or spinach under that fried egg, and a couple of sliced strawberries on the side.  Garnish your soups with some sprigs of parsley or cilantro for a spicy soup.  It's true that we first eat with our eyes, and if you make your food LOOK appealing, your mind will find it even more delicious. 

If you put love and joy into your cooking, then it will spread to those who you share it with.  That is kind of my new motto!  I love cooking and I enjoy doing it, I find it so relaxing, and it makes me happy.  Nothing is more wonderful than sharing a dish with friends, and having them go back for seconds (best compliment to the chef ever).  :)  Remember, it doesn't matter if something doesn't turn out exactly the way you wanted it to.  But the fact that you tried, and that you know how to fix it in the future - that's what matters!  Practice makes perfect!  And chances are, someone will still find it delicious.  There have been many times where I make a recipe that I totally flubbed, and I have a handful of friends that end up going crazy for it. 

That's all I got! :)  I hope these tips come in helpful for you, and I'll probably do another installment of cooking tips as I think of them.  It's always good to share what you know in case it helps someone else along down the line!  Especially when it comes to learning to love cooking & baking - I think a big problem with our country is that people don't take pride in food anymore.  We can buy just about anything pre-made, and we don't take the time in the kitchen to make food our own.  I truly believe that solving the obesity crisis will start in the kitchen. 

So grab up your spatula, and start cooking!

All photos from

Monday, December 12, 2011

A round of Cute-Cute Boys!

Nothing much to report today, so for the occasion it's time for a round of Cutie-Cute Boys!  

I've already done a couple of installments of cute girlies here & here, so it's time to bring on the boys.  I couldn't find many images of boys I actually found attractive (or over the age of 16) on the We Heart It site (one of my favorite image-search sites), so I thought I'd go with some of my favorite celebrity crushes, and the reasons why I find them so adorable.  :) 

The Funny Guys. 
This goes for both the above pic (Flight of the Conchords - Jermaine & Bret!), and the below pic (Andy Samberg from SNL).  How can you NOT love guys that are not only super cute, but that aren't afraid to make fun of themselves?  These boys are fearless with making themselves look ridiculous in order to make you (and me) laugh like crazy.  BIG time cuties, and added points for sense of humor!

The Nerdy Guy. 
I'm kind of obsessed with the show "Criminal Minds".  Matthew Gray-Gubler plays Dr. Reid on the show, and I gotta say - I've always had a big ol' crush on him!  Probably partly because his character is so obliviously innocent, and also pretty much a genius savant at the same time.  His hair is always messily adorable, and he's always coming up with the final piece to the puzzle.  He's also a model in his spare time, so I guess other people haven't exactly glazed over his good-looks.

The Rockstar. 
Sigh - Davey Havok - my first big time rockstar love!!  I fell in love with the band AFI waaaayyyy late.  I caught the video for "Miss Murder" while I was jogging on a treadmill in the workout room of a hotel in Oklahoma about 6 years ago.  His face was just so lovely, and he was rocking my socks off all at the same time.  I immediately went out & bought their album Decemberunderground, and realized that they had plenty more albums that were all equally amazing.  Not only is his voice crazy-awesome, but he's vegan, straight edge, and cute to boot.  Even crazier story?  I saw him at my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Denver a few years ago.  I don't usually get star struck, but that day I totally did.

The Pretty Face. 
Cillian Murphy is an amazing actor (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Batman Begins, etc), and definitely NOT just a pretty face.  He really is damn good at what he does.  But he also has a damn pretty face!  Maybe a bit feminine in a way, but oh-so-pretty.  The first time I saw him in a film it was "28 Days Later".  My friend Jen had seen it and said "I'm in love with the main character - he's so gorgeous".  At the beginning of the movie half his hair was shaved off, he had a terrible scruffy beard, and I could not figure out what my friend was talking about!  Then halfway through the movie, he shaves off his beard.  Once I could actually see his face, I got it. :)

The Bad Boy. 
OK I don't really know if Justin Theroux is actually a bad boy.  But he's certainly been getting that rep since he left his wife for Jennifer Aniston.  Now, I don't know the whole situation, but of course the media is having a field day with it!  But what I do know is that I find this guy smokin' hot.  A loooong time ago he was in Sex in the City (he actually played a cocky author that Carrie met super early in the first season, then the uhm...always-comes-too-early author guy in a later season), but I really went nuts for him when I saw him in "Charlies Angels: Full Throttle" as a gorgeous (totally ripped) Irish ex-boyfriend of Drew Barrymore's character.  It's worth it just for the shirtless fight scene close to the end!

The Nice Guy. 
I've never met Jason Schwartzman of course, but he seems like he'd be quite a nice guy.  He always plays such quirky characters, and can be funny and heartbreaking all at the same time.  I hear he's kind of short too, which only makes him even more cute.

The Super Cute Funny & Scottish Guy. 
Yep, couldn't narrow down this one! ;)  Ewan McGregor has been on my list for a while now, ever since back in high school when I watched "Trainspotting".  He is another one of those actors that has a wide range of talent when it comes to playing different characters, with one difference.  He can SING.  I hated the move "Moulin Rouge", but I loved getting to hear him belt out some tunes - and I can't wait to see him play a flamboyantly gay man in "I Love You, Phillip Morris" which has been in my Netflix cue for ages.  If you want to see him as probably one of the cutest (and worst) kidnappers ever, you should watch "A Life Less Ordinary".  He sings in that one too!

So there ya go!  I'm sure I could list more, but I like this list.  I apparently have quite a varied taste when it comes to men!  Luckily I have a super wonderful boy of my own as well.  I'd say he's kind of my Ewan McGregor in a way.  Well, he claims to not be able to sing, and he's not Scottish, but he does have Irish heritage, and he's damn funny and damn cute!! ;)  Yeah, I think I'll keep him.

All photos from Google Image search.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo - it's VEGAN!

I made this up the other night, with the help of a friendly suggestion from my friend Cat.  I was telling her I didn't know what I was going to make for a potluck on Tuesday night, but mentioned making some kind of Alfredo and dumping it over cooked spaghetti squash.  

She says: "You know, there's a recipe out there saying you can make alfredo sauce with chickpeas."
Me: "WHA??  I totally have chickpeas!"

And the rest is history. ;) 
I found a full recipe on how to make it here, but I didn't feel like following it exactly because I knew I didn't have all of the ingredients.  So I did a lot of eyeballing & tasting, and guess what - it turned out AMAZING. 

This is not only a great comfort-food recipe for all you vegans out there, but also totally low-carb, with some added protein comin' from the beans!  GO ME!! 

Vegan Spaghetti Squash Alfredo
1 spaghetti squash, quartered (& all the seeds scraped out)
Olive oil
About 8-10oz fresh spinach
1 can of cooked chickpeas / garbanzo beans (no salt added, preferably - drained)
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Soymilk (unsweetened), or Almond milk, about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup
Vegan butter (optional), about 1-2 tbsp
Garlic Salt, about 1 tbsp
Nutmeg, about 1 tsp
Nutritional yeast (about 2-3 tbsp)
Boiling water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Drizzle the spaghetti squash with the olive oil, and place flesh-side-down on a cookie sheet with a rimmed edge.  Place in the oven & cook for about 40-50 minutes, or until tender.

Scrape the spaghetti squash out with a fork crosswise into a casserole dish (it will come out looking just like spaghetti!  Just like the name, eh?).  Toss the spinach in, and set aside.

In a food processor, dump in the chickpeas and a little splash of boiling water.  Pulse until slightly smooth, then add in the rest of the ingredients on the list and continue to pulse.  Season to taste (I was a little generous with the garlic salt).  Don't add too much soymilk initially - see how thick you want it.  It's best to have it a little runny at this point.

Dump everything over your squash, and mix well (you'll need to get it all the way to the bottom).  Place in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until bubbly.  The sauce will thicken a bit after this!

VOILA!!  A gorgeously delicious dish!!  :)  
This was great re-heated the next day too.  I always love leftovers!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Enjoying the Holidays

It's definitely Christmastime, and last weekend I REVELED in it!  I finally perfected my icing recipe for my made-from-scratch sugar cookies (above) - aren't they just lovely?  I brought them to work and they were gone within an hour.  Woohoo!  
It's probably a good thing they're out of the house now... John and I were getting fat on 'em. 

We got a LOT of snow at the end of last week too - something like 7"!  Ok, we've definitely had more, but it's been a while since we've gotten it this early down in the city.  Personally, I love it - even though it has been pretty damn cold in the house.  Last night it got down into sub-zero temperatures, and I found out which rooms of the house stay warm, and which rooms.... don't.  Good thing I asked for new slippers for Christmas! 

The one place you can be sure to find John this winter (unless he's up in the mountains snowboarding).   This is basically where he was all day on Sunday while I was a cookie-making fiend! 

I rented this book from the library at the end of November, and I just keep renewing it, I love it so much!  All of the recipes are pretty darn easy to follow, and so far everything has turned out almost exactly like the pictures.  Case in point.... 

Man, I need to get a piping bag!  I actually made these using a ziplock bag with a hole in the end, and they turned out pretty well.  More like "elf poop" rather than "kisses", but oh well.  They're little meringue cookies, and they turned out AMAZING.  They had to sit in the oven at 200 degrees for 3 1/2 HOURS, so that part kind of sucked, but they were totally worth it, and SO yummy.  

The 3 1/2 hours of waiting for the cookies to bake gave John and I enough time to run to Target and get a little gift for Fudge.  I don't think he likes it, but it's not really for his enjoyment - it's for ours. ;) 

Hope you're enjoying the holiday season!