Spaghetti Squash “Pasta!”

Spaghetti13MARKED2After a recent farmers’ market trip, I found myself in possession of a 6-inch spaghetti squash.  I had heard quite a few good things about this vegetable including how easy it is to cook.  Well, I can now vouch that the hearsay was extremely accurate!

For my first spaghetti squash recipe, I decided to use it as a healthy substitution in an obvious but classic recipe:  Spaghetti and (Chicken) Meatballs!  I wanted this recipe to be super DUPER easy so I used seasoned ground chicken for the meatballs, and boxed (aka jarred) sauce.   Check out this easy recipe!

This squash size was just fine to feed two people!

This squash size was just fine to feed two people!

Ingredients (Makes 2 servings)

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash

1 Jar of Sauce

2 TBS Parmesan Cheese (plus additional for topping, if desired)

1 LB seasoned ground chicken

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Garlic Powder

Italian Seasoning

(OPTIONAL:  Bread, butter and garlic for a side of garlic bread)

Directions:

1. Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.

2.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place squash face up, and brush all sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle salt on the top.

Seeds are scooped out, squash is face side up, brushed with olive oil and some salt. :-)

Seeds are scooped out, squash is face side up and brushed with olive oil and some salt. 🙂

3.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.  Remove foil, then bake for an additional 15 minutes.

4.  Meatballs:  While the squash is cooking, combine the chicken with breadcrumbs (we also added extra garlic powder) and form into about 1″ meatballs.

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5.  Cook the meatballs on another lined cookie tray in the same 350°F oven.  They will take about 20 minutes to cook.  Be sure to rotate them so each side browns evenly.  I usually forget that they are chicken instead of red meat!

6.  Garlic Bread:  If you are choosing to make some garlic bread with your meal, now’s a good time to simply brush the bread with some butter, and add some garlic powder and/or additional Italian seasonings.  Just hold that off to the side and heat it up in the oven about 10 minutes before you will serve your meal.

7.  Sauce:  Get your sauce heating up on the stove – keep it simmering on a low temperature so it doesn’t boil and pop!  Once again, we also added extra garlic powder and Italian seasonings.

I used this boxed "POMI" sauce.  You can find it in a supermarket but I got mine free as a promotion.  The company sponsors a cooking show, Real Food, at the TV station that I work at. :-)

I used this boxed “Pomi” sauce in a tomato and basil flavor. You can find Pomi in a supermarket but I got mine free as a promotion. The company sponsors a cooking show, Real Food, on Telecare, the TV station that I work at. 🙂

8.  If you are timing right, it’s probably spaghetti squash time!  This part was so much fun.  With a fork, you simply scrape the inside meat of the squash.  The more you scrape, the more “spaghetti” you will be left with.

This part was the most fun!

This part was the most fun!

9.  Place the “spaghetti” in either a large communal bowl, or individual bowls ready to serve.  Toss with 2 TBS of Parmesan cheese.

10.  Take out your meatballs from the oven, too!  They should be nice and browned.

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11.  Put it together!  Put your desired amount of meatballs on top of your pasta and cover with sauce.  Add a piece of garlic bread and you are good to go!

I thought this meal was delicious.  It was such a simple way to sneak extra veggies into dinner, and stay away from pasta!  If you are questioning why I chose to add bread when I had just saved myself the calories from pasta, well, this wasn’t just any old bread.  In my blog post about my trip to the farmers market this weekend, you’ll see that Patrick and I picked up a wonderful smelling loaf of onion bread.  We just simply had to  have some with this meal, so we sliced just a little bit off and it was worth every calorie.  😉

If you haven’t yet tried spaghetti squash (I mean, how cool is this vegetable?!!), then like me, I think it’s time you pick one up and give it a whirl!  It was fun to both make and eat and I am looking forward to trying lots of new recipes with spaghetti squash.

Happy cooking!

❤ Jessi

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A Trip to the Farmers’ Market

This past Saturday morning Patrick and I woke up extra early to drop my car off to the dealership to get my seat belt finally replaced after driving around for a week without a working seat belt.  (It recently locked up in the retracted position.  They didn’t have any rental cars available either so I had to wait for them to order and receive the part.  How dangerous, right!? Don’t worry, I submitted a report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to try and get the part recalled!)

Anyway, we were out and about and passed by a farmers market (that I am honestly guilty of knowing it occurs every Saturday morning but I never make an effort to get there).  Well, I sure am glad I did because I picked up some beauties!  I’m so excited to cook with my new bounty of fresh produce bought straight from the source, and I didn’t have to wait in a checkout line to pay for them.  You can’t get much more fresh, healthy, and supportive of your local environment than this!

Is it me or is this bowl just gorgeous!?

Is it me or is this bowl just gorgeous!?  I love the idea of fresh food!

Just beautiful, right!  Okay, so let me give you the lowdown and prices:

Plum Tomatoes: $2.00 for all of them!

Organic Cucumber: $1.00

Bunch of Kale: $1.00

Sweet Onions: $1.00/pound

Red Onions: $1.50/pound

Spaghetti Squash: $4.00

Onion Bread: $3.50

The loaf of onion bread smelled amazing the whole way home!  In addition to tasting the onion loaf, I am most excited to use the spaghetti squash.  I’ve heard so much about it being a good way to substitute pasta so I cannot wait to try it!

I’ll definitely have some recipes posted soon with all of these goodies being put to use.  Stay tuned!

– Jessi 🙂

Closet Organization Mission: Accomplished!

If you follow my blog (or you are my mom AKA my biggest fan) then you may have seen my post last week about my goal to organize my walk-in closet.  Well, even with summer winding down and the inevitable attempt to squeeze in as much fun and summertime memories as possible before the temperature begins to drop, I managed to make some sense out of the scary room known as my closet.

Are you ready for the before and after photo?  Here… it… is!!!

ClosetReDoMARKEDAs I mentioned a few time in my first post, my goal was to create a boutique-like feel so that choosing an outfit to wear each day would be an exciting, not a terrifying experience!  There were a few things that I concentrated on to attempt this:

1)  My mom’s golden rule of thumb to organization:  “Like” things with “Like” things.  This is, at its simplest, a rule that means put your sweaters with your sweaters, your pants with your pants, etc. so that you can find everything when you are looking for them.  While I always had this sort of categorizing system (look! the sweaters are all up top! lol) , it still didn’t make sense when it came to the actual process of getting dressed because there would be no instance where I needed a sweater at the same time I needed a zumba tank top.  I had moved into the apartment and simply needed space to store everything… so I put my exercise clothes and bedtime shirts in the same area as my dresses and blazers.  Meanwhile, my pants were in a completely different location.  What, you say? Exactly.  It was confusing for me too.

By bringing my pants into the closet (finally), I am able to grab a sweater from the left, and pants from the right.  Voila!

By bringing my pants into the closet (finally), I am able to grab a sweater from the left, and pants from the right. All of my skirts are also in this closet now.  Magic!

2) A light to dark color scheme is always appealing to the eye, and makes certain items easier to find!  I organized my belts and my scarves according to their color, and while you can only tell by looking very closely at the “after” photo, my tops hanging on the right are also organized in the same fashion, and by sleeve length as well!

There is something so appealing about an organized rainbow of colors.

There is something so appealing about an organized rainbow of colors.

3)  The way to create a boutique-like feeling is, well, to add boutique-like elements!  When you are shopping, there are decorative mirrors, perhaps a chandelier (yes, I got one of those too! See below!) and an appealing color scheme that gives you an instantly-hip mentality that aims to inspire creativity when picking out an outfit.  I got these cute bins from Marshalls in teal, black, and paisley.  I even got an ottoman (plain black) that can help me reach those items and are stored out of reach without calling a sales associate (hehe).

My ottoman for "hard to reach" items.  BONUS: there's room for storage inside!

My ottoman for “hard to reach” items. BONUS: there’s room for storage inside!

4) I made myself part with items that I hadn’t used in the past year.  It was hard to do, but I was honest with myself and managed to get together three garbage bags worth of giveaway items.  It feels great to get some stuff off of my hands, and now I want to get rid of more!  A general rule of thumb that I’ve heard of and that I’d like to start following is that whenever you buy something, you have to get rid of something!  Usually it’s those items that you question its future as part of your wardrobe every time you do a clean out.  For other items that I was questioning, I told myself that if I didn’t wear it in the next WEEK, then it also had to go. Tough love but it worked!

What a great feeling to know that this project is finished.  It is now a pleasure of mine to envision an outfit in the morning and enjoy the simplicity of knowing where that item is and grabbing it on the go because everything is organized and in its place.  It’s also fun to just step into my boutique, take a look around, and create my outfit for the day.

Oh yeah, there is one thing I haven’t mentioned yet because it isn’t installed – since I need an electrician.  But here’s a picture of my mini chandelier that I’d like to hard-wire in.  It is smaller than it looks and would obviously hang higher but here’s a simple photo of it.

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A target.com purchase I just couldn’t refuse!

Do you think it’s too much? haha Let me know below, thanks!  🙂

❤ Jessi

Paint Chip Calendar

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I saw this project on Pinterest and just HAD to try it out for myself.  There were a few variations but I decided to go for a dark to light gradient from the bottom left up to the top right, using varying blues to match my living room decor.

For a considerably impressive looking item in the home, there are just a few short instructions to make this project!  Here are the instructions:

1 – Go to your local hardware store and gather multiple paint chips of the same family, in order.  Make sure you have at least 35 “boxes” worth if you are going to do five rows of seven, as pictured.

2 – I cut my paint chips into 1″x2″ rectangles with rounded corners- but others I saw online simply included the whole paint chip, color name on the front and all!  It’s up to you, of course, and what paint chips you have access to.  (You can see below that the ones I had only had four colors per card so I chose to cut them up…)

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3 – Purchase a frame from a store, find one at a yard sale, or re-purpose one that you already have.  Just make sure it’s big enough for your potential calendar! (I bought a 11″x14″ frame and but then ended up with this 14″x18″).  I got this one on sale from K-Mart for $18.74 (originally $24.99)!

4 – Glue or tape (I taped), the squares on a piece of paper (I used the back-side of the one that came in the frame!). hehe

5 – Don’t forget a place to write the month, and some tabs for the days of the week!   I used a Sharpie and wrote on the paint chips so the days are permanent.

6 – Put the frame back together and get some dry-erase markers and you’re all set!

You’re sure to get plenty of compliments.  Google “paint chip calendar” for more examples of colors, color arrangements, etc.  Some people randomized their colors, others did each full row a separate color, or I also saw one that was a gradient of colors (full rows) from bottom to top.  Let your creativity fly and enjoy having a calendar you can use forever that is as personable as they come!  Happy crafting!

❤ Jessi

Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce for One

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There’s something about catching your own food that is so rewarding.  That was the task at hand for me on a recent Wednesday evening where I had a bowl of fresh clams in the fridge from the previous Sunday when I was out on the Great South Bay with my family.  We go clamming pretty often so I frequently give clams away to friends, or make different recipes in order to use the clams before they go bad.  Since the clams were in the fridge and not steamed and frozen for future use, I knew that I had to get a good recipe on the stove that exact night or forfeit our bounty.

Now, I’ve made baked clams, clams casino, plain steamed clams with butter, and I’ve shucked and eaten them raw.  The two recipes left on my “Clam Cooking 101” list are a good clam chowder, and a clam sauce over pasta.  I decided to tackle the clam sauce and was extremely surprised and happy with how simple this recipe came out to be!

As a base-recipe, I used this one from the Food Network by Chef Anne Burrell.  It was a bit confusing at first because I realized she was cooking FIVE DOZEN clams whereas I was cooking for one person and decided to go with a dozen clams.  While I chopped down the amount of clams by 1/5, I simply halved the rest of the recipe to ensure there was ample sauce and flavor.  Here is how I made this dish for one:

Ingredients:

One dozen little neck clams

Four cloves of garlic

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup water

1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 pound thin spaghetti or angel hair

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon parsley

1 tablespoon oregano

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions:

1 – Clean the clams!  I like to leave them in water for a day and let them flush out their systems themselves, and then scrub the shells clean.

2 – Start the boiling process of your salted water in a large pot.

3 – Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with EVOO and half of the garlic cloves.  Saute the garlic on medium heat until the garlic is fully browned.  One thing I learned from Anne Burrell in this recipe is that once the garlic turns brown, you have to scoop it out with a slotted spoon and discard it because it has, “fulfilled its garlic destiny.” (LoL)

4 – Add the water, wine, and clams to the pan and cover.  Bring them to a boil until the clams open up, about 10 minutes.  When clams are opened, reduce the pan to low heat and use your slotted spoon again to remove the clams from the pan (except for about three for decoration).
5 – Is your water boiling yet?  Time to cook the pasta!
6 – After a few minutes and when the clams have cooled, remove them from the shells (shells can be discarded) and give them a good chopping on a cutting board.  Add them back into the pan with the butter, herbs, and a pinch of crushed red pepper.
7 – When pasta is al-dente or cooked to your liking, strain and then add back to your large pot.
8 – Top the pasta with the clam sauce, but be sure to pour slowly and use your slotted spoon once again to assist the clam pieces out of the pan.  Also, make sure to sacrifice the last bit of sauce by leaving it in the pan to be discarded, as it may have excess sand or dirt in it from the clam shells. Toss the sauce and pasta together until they cling to each other and the pasta is equally coated.
9 – Dish your serving into a bowl and add some parsley, Parmesan cheese, and the few clams that you put aside earlier for garnish.  Serve with a slice of garlic toast if desired.
That’s the easy-peasy white clam sauce recipe that I slapped together in 20 minutes on a weeknight and definitely plan on using again!  Enjoy!

Closet Overhaul Begins…

It has begun.  I can’t take it any longer.  I can’t stand to look in my closet anymore (when you see the “before” picture below, you will totally understand).

Seriously, what girl doesn’t want the perfect closet? Well, for the past 1 year and 3 months I was lucky enough to have a semi-walk-in closet in my possession.  What did I do to make it pretty?  Nothing.  I am so disappointed with myself.  So, I have put my foot down and have decided to make it something I’m proud to look at and “shop” in every day.

(Side anecdote:  When we first toured this apartment, Patrick didn’t even want to give me this closet.  The moment I saw it I said, “Oooh! My future walk-in closet!”  To which he replied, “No wayyyyyyyy!” and he swore up and down that it wouldn’t end up being my closet… but clearly, I won. Hehehe.)

There are a few things you should know about me, and about this closet before I begin explaining my overhaul to you:

1) This is not the only closet I have in the apartment that stores my clothes and shoes.  I also have half of the closet in our bedroom (you know, a standard double sided closet with one bar and one shelf), as well as all 8 drawers in our horizontal dresser in the bedroom.  (That gives Patrick the 6 drawers in the vertical dresser and half of the standard closet).  Sounds about right for the male to female closet space, right!?

2)  There are indeed many things I believe I did “wrong” in this closet, such as my regular t-shirts (like the ones with graphics on them that you get at different events and such), sweatshirts, as well as my workout gear is in here.  Perhaps I could make this work, but my initial thought is that I don’t think those are very glamorous things to have in your walk-in closet – or at least at the volume that I possess.  Therefore, my plan is to get rid of a majority of the items, or switch them with something else’s “home” in the apartment and in turn I have to bring that something else in.  I am not going to just move stuff out of the closet and put it somewhere else to have a beautiful “end” photo – this is going to be for full function, and for real! 🙂

3)  Speaking of what I have “wrong” in the closet – let me tell you what this closet currently (summer season) contains:  All scarves, belts,graphic t-shirts for working out/bedtime, t-shirts for daily wear (solid and pattern), long sleeve t-shirts,  sweatshirts (zip-up and hoodies), thin-ish sweaters, beach coverups, all dresses, all blazers and suit jackets, some skirts, pocketbooks/wallets, ALL bags (like those grocery store totes and other freebies/drawstring/backpacks/sleepover duffels), hats, laundry detergent and other laundry-related items (sewing kits, dryer sheets, handheld steamer, ironing board, drying rack, etc.), Zumba clothes and other workout gear, my zumba bag, sneakers, my grandmother’s oil lamp, an old mirror from my childhood bedroom, and a Coast Guard bear that Patrick gave me.  See if you can find all of those things in the photos below.  This is like a game of Where’s Waldo! LOL!

4) Random sidenote:  I am a FIRM believer that shoes do not belong on the shelf that is above the hanging bar.  Your shoes are your barrier against all of the dirt and other crap (pardon my french) that you walk in every day.  Shoes go on your feet.  They stay on the ground or somewhere that will always be designated for shoes only.  Oh, and when they are packed in a suitcase they go in a bag and not rubbing against all of your clothes.  Phew!  Sorry for the quick rant.

5)  I believe it’s human nature, that, depending on how much space you have, you will acquire “stuff” to fill it and soon need more space.  I have called two different rooms in my parents house mine, two dorm rooms, a room in a house in Queens, and shared a bedroom in Italy all before moving into this apartment.  I’ve always started with ample space and within due time it could be considered cluttered.  It’s time to minimize, folks!  That is exactly what I am going to try and conquer in this mission.

Okay, I’ve procrastinated long enough.  If you have OCD you may want to look away – because against my better judgement, here are the incredibly embarrassing “before” pictures of my closet:

From the outside looking in at the monster...

From the outside looking in at the monster…

I'm not Italian and I don't get Agita but I'm pretty sure this closet could give anyone agita! lol

I’m not Italian and I don’t get Agita but I’m pretty sure this closet could give anyone agita! lol

A few closer looks at the nooks and crannies...

A few closer looks at the nooks and crannies…

BUT!  Then the process to organization began. (Yes, it’s okay to breathe a sigh of relief…)

STEP 1:  Empty everything out:

There's nothing like starting with an empty canvas!

There’s nothing like starting with an empty canvas!

STEP 2:  I vacuumed the closet and sprayed down the shelves with some dusting spray. (Optional but I’d advise doing this since you have access to all nooks and crannies of the closet!)

STEP 3:  I decided to paint the back wall as an “accent” wall to add some beautification to the closet.  I went to my local hardware store and spent just about $20 on supplies.  ($7 – Paint sample can… plenty for this one wall, $3 mini roller pan and roller set, $3 drop cloth, $6 painter’s tape, $1 brush).

**DISCLAIMER: This is the first interior wall I have ever painted in my life!! It was so much fun but in no way do I claim to be a professional painter but this was so much fun to try!  You will notice I even changed my mind in the middle – I thought I wanted all shelves painted then decided against it. 😉 All I have to please is myself and I’m happy with it. 🙂

My supplies!

My supplies!

Step 4:  “Mask” your canvas by applying painter’s tape to the perimeter of where you plan on painting.

Edges are all taped up...

Edges are all taped up…

Step 5: Paint the trim with a brush…

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Step 6:  Use the roller to fill in the rest!  (FYI – The color I chose was Benjamin Moore’s “Slate Teal”)

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So, that’s where I’m at right now!  “After” photos will come soon… I promise!  I’ve already been busy sorting through every article of clothing and rearranging/beautifying this closet and I’m almost there!  I want to feel like when I walk in there, I am shopping at a store for an outfit.  It’s going to be both pretty and functional so keep checking back – I’ll have some amazing photos up soon!

A Beautiful Morning to Begin a Weight Loss Battle

Since Patrick and I started dating a little over two years ago, I’ve gained 30 pounds.

I know, I know – it’s somewhat normal and expected to gain weight in a relationship but this isn’t good at all – not for me or for Patrick, who has weigh-ins coming up in a few months for work.  I don’t know about you, but this weight gain phenomenon has happened to me in almost every relationship I’ve ever been in.  Granted, this is my worst, and that’s exactly why I now need to put my foot down and focus on me.  Why do we let ourselves go?  Here are a few reasons that you are probably familiar with but I’ll remind you of these culprits for fun, or at least from my experience.

1) When we are in a relationship, we are comfortable!  We got the guy (or girl) and we aren’t “fishing” anymore in that vast sea.  No need to be in tip top shape to impress or attract a potential fish-mate.

2) We want to spend all of our time with that person.  Especially in my situation, where my boyfriend’s and my schedules rarely match up – when we are together, I want to be with him!  I don’t want to be running off to an exercise class or to go for a run and part ways with him.  So we end up relaxing in front of the TV together, or even worse… (continue to #3)…

3) Your time together usually involves meals, and those meals aren’t always healthy.  Conversations and memories are made over a meal, and these meals are usually had out out at a restaurant where you are “treating” yourself.  Therefore, the calorie intake is rarely paid attention to, or you justify your actions with a celebratory, or an “I deserve this” type of mindset.  Not to mention that random weekdays by the TV sometimes end in the venturing out for a “treat” such as ice cream.  Relationship or not – you could probably tell by my food posts that I love eating, and that’s not something I’m entirely willing to give up.  (And I haven’t even gotten into the calorie content of alcohol!).  So, I’ll have to find another way (or some additional activities) to help me battle this bulge.

As I was going to bed last night and thinking about these things, I prepared myself to begin to combat this relationship poundage.  I figured I’d at least start by taking a few extra steps outside of my comfort zone in order to prove that I mean business.  So, today I added in a run, but not just any run.  Today I ran BEFORE work.  I am 27 years old.  I don’t think I’ve EVER fit in exercise before school or work EVER, unless it was mandatory on a team (and normally any dance team, cheerleading, soccer, or lacrosse practices I had in the past would only be in the morning on days that we didn’t have school afterwards).  But the alarm went off at 6:00am, and around 6:40am I stumbled out of bed, brushed my teeth, threw on some workout clothes, and hit the pavement around 7:00am.  (Waking up on cue to my alarm and not using the snooze button is a whole other task I’ll try to combat one day… lol).

And let me tell you, I’m so glad I got out of bed and went out for a run.  It was beautiful!   I mean, it wasn’t even that early but there were very few people out and about and it was just so peaceful.  The sun was shining, yet there was a lot of dew in the air (or perhaps it had rained throughout the night).  I had tunes blasting in my headphones as I was working out my body.  It was wonderful!  Here are some of the pictures I grabbed during my peaceful run:

The run can wait... I couldn't help but stop and take some photos!

The run can wait… I couldn’t help but stop and take some photos!

Weeks Road - Usually VERY busy yet it was so peaceful today.

Weeks Road – Usually VERY busy yet it was so peaceful today.

A canal/bridge that I passed over on my run.

A canal/bridge that I passed over on my run.

On any given day the Patchogue River is bustling with boats.  This morning?  So tranquil and not an engine to be heard. (PS - That's Patrick's boat right there) :-)

On any given day the Patchogue River is bustling with boats. This morning? Look at that tranquility.  Not an engine to be heard. (PS – That’s Patrick’s boat right there) 🙂

Guilty as Charged... here I am sweating but smiling.  So happy with my decision.

Guilty as Charged… here I am sweating but smiling. So happy with my decision.

My run. :-)  Love the Nike+ Running app!

My run. 🙂 Love the Nike+ Running app!

I am hoping that this is the start to getting back on track with my weight-loss goals as I commit myself to some additional training (and maybe even a little bit better eating habits).  I hope this post has inspired you in some way as well!  Especially you, Patrick – countdown to October weigh-in’s has begun.  Let’s kick some weight loss butt, starting now!!

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