The Real Bride

This post on Weddingbee reminded me of the early stages of planning.

The post is for brides to share the pictures of their dress on the model vs. on them. Seriously, real brides look WAY better in the dresses than the models do. I didn’t always feel that way though.

I remember when I decided on my dress. I went in with a really open mind, but with a budget. I never saw the dress before in a catalog or magazine, but I was so drawn to it that it was a natural choice for THE DRESS. I remember asking the sales lady for the dress name, so I could stalk it endlessly on the Internet for the next few months before receiving mine.

When I went on the Internet, I found the dress. Wow, did it ever look GOOD on her! I wanted to look like that…I told myself that I HAD to look like that on our big day.

Original Dress Link

Well, you know the rest of the story. I didn’t become a size 0. However, on my wedding day, I felt so beautiful and amazing, even at a size 22.

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Image taken by Amanda Meyer

Moral of the story? If you are about to be a bride, don’t push yourself to look like the model. Just be REAL!

Eat that pint of Ben & Jerry’s when the invitations don’t go quite right and don’t beat yourself up if your florist appointment ran into your work-out time. You will still look and feel great in your dress on the big day! I promise!

Another vow…this time to me!

When my husband and I were planning our wedding, I got really gung-ho about losing weight and being healthy. I even told myself that I was going to keep this up, because I was on a roll. I lost about 20 lbs. since my college graduation! It was great!

After the wedding, however, we started adjusting to our new lives together and things took a bad turn. I found myself feeling less and less guilty. I would eat WHOLE pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, crave Nawlins style snowballs everyday, and never have remorse for fast food! I also quit the YMCA to save money and swore I would get back into shredding. What was I thinking? :(

I had to do SOMETHING. I had no motivation. So, I rejoined Weight Watchers. They are having a deal until October 17th that you can buy one monthly plan and get one free. So, two months of meetings and weigh-ins for $40. That should be enough for a jump start, right?

Since September 30th, I’ve lost 5.2 pounds! To see the 250′s again on my scale feels very good. I haven’t gotten back into exercising quite yet, but that will be happening this week. With the beautiful Fall weather on my side, I’m restarting the Couch to 5K work-out plan! Maybe I can get a friend to do a 5K with me next Spring. Who knows.

As for rewards, I remember writing this post about rewarding myself. I know, I should be in the 230s right now, but oh well, at least I’m back on the horse! No need to beat myself over it!

Here’s my new reward ideas:

By Thanksgiving, I WILL be in the 230s.
By New Years, I WILL be in the 210s. 
By my 26th birthday, I WILL be in ONEDERLAND! (that’s weight with a 1 in front of the two other numbers, not a 2)
By summer 2010, I WILL be in the 180s.
By Labor Day 2010, I WILL reach my GOAL! (170s)

I will be giving myself some great rewards for reaching these goals too…

Reaching Thanksgiving goal — Buying a dSLR after Christmas!
Reaching 26th bday goal — A little ol’ shopping spree at VS. I’ve always wanted to shop there!
Reaching Summer goal - A brand new swimsuit!
Reaching GOAL — Big time shopping spree and a pat on the back!

Is anyone else trying to lose weight since they gained some newlywed poundage?

40 Cloves and a Chicken

chickengarlic

I’ve been reading so many great reviews about 40 cloves chicken. That is chicken baked/cooked with 40 (yes, 40) cloves of garlic!

There are so many recipes out there, however, so I decided to rely on my tried and true recipe maven, Alton Brown. In reading some of the reviews from the Food Network site, people recommended that I watch him make this. So, I did!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAGtkAoVBCU]

You’ll have to fast forward a little to get to the part where he makes the chicken.

Of course, as you might know, Alton Brown’s show contains characters that add a little humor to the episode. Sorry if vampires aren’t your thing…hehe…vampires, garlic? Ok, maybe too obvious. It made me chuckle.

I ended up making this in a stainless steel shallow pot as well, and it came out beautifully. Very simple too! The flavor was definitely garlic, but not overwhelming. I also took Alton’s  suggestion to make garlic french bread with the spreadable garlic and leftover oil. Simply yummy!

The next day, I shredded the leftover chicken to put in some cajun jambalaya. Yum yum yum!

40 Cloves and a Chicken
Source: Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer) cut into 8 pieces (we used 3 bone-in chicken breasts..cut in half)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 40 peeled cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with a 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown on both sides in a wide fry pan or skillet over high heat. Remove from heat, add oil, thyme, and garlic cloves. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, carve, and serve.

15 Minutes a Day

Last week, I made a vow to our house. I promised everyday to do a cleaning task for 15 minutes so I won’t be spending so much time in the house on weekends cleaning. I really didn’t care that much before, but now that we will be hosting Thanksgiving in the house, my husband and I have made a goal to have our home spic and span for the holiday season! Hopefully, we can make this happen and hopefully, we can keep up with it afterwards.

Next weekend, we are holding a 3 family garage sale with his family. I was SO excited to bring over 4 boxes of clutter and be able to clean even more! I feel like Danny Tanner right now. Haha!

So, here was my Monday. Our kitchen island has been a mess of mail and other stuff. I decided to take some time to clean this up! I’m being bold and posting befores. Don’t judge me. :

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About 10-15 short minutes later, using a mail organizer for our mail, I cleared up the clutter! Excuse my husband’s tools…we are still doing fix-up things around the house! So, they have to stay for now.

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Tuesday, it was pretty boring. I ended up changing the sheets in our bedroom. No need for before/afters, since it’s just pale green vs. pale yellow sheets! Nothing exciting.

Wednesday, I decided to tackle the guest/craft room. This room was housing garage sale stuff, and  my sister was going to sleep over this weekend, so I had to clean it. (She ended up changing her mind, but oh well, we have a clean room now!) This was more of a 30 minute task, but it’s done! Again, don’t judge my mess. :)

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Here’s the after. There are still some garage sale items in the front of the room, but it’s MUCH better.

My poor sewing machine. I haven’t used it yet, because I need to learn to sew! Maybe I should make that a little goal of mine too!

Just to note, the bedsheets were in the washer at the time of the picture. :)

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Oh gosh, this is the worst. I do my make-up and hair in the guest bedroom so my husband and I have separate bathrooms in the morning since we go to work at the same time. Our sink is full of make-up that dropped or powder remnants…I’m messy in the morning!  Blech, I’ll say it again, don’t judge me! I ended up spending 15 minutes last night tackling the counter and sink!

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Thanks to the magic of Comet, the sink is squeaky clean. That make-up was a pain to remove! I placed everything else in the cabinets below the counter.

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I’m making my list for next week on what to tackle. I will be doing a little bit of cleaning this weekend, but not as much as I would have had to since I did these tasks during the week! Did anyone else tackle some small areas of the house this week?

Halloween M&M Biscotti

biscotti

Here is part 2 of the bake-palooza. I decided to make biscotti for my Operation Baking Gals package, since biscotti is a pretty sturdy cookie. I knew it would hold up well for shipping!

A few months back, when I was actively blogging for Weddingbee, I saw a fellow blogger use this recipe for making possible edible favors. I starred it, but as usual, I forget about my starred recipes. I’m obviously making it a goal of mine to look back and make these recipes!

So, I decided to give this recipe a shot. It’s a little different than my normal go-to biscotti recipe, which uses olive oil instead of butter. However, this came out beautifully. I added crushed Halloween M&M’s to make it more seasonal instead of the chocolate chips that were called for.

Chocolate Halloween M&M Biscotti
Source: Epicurious, via Weddingbee blogger, Mrs. Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (subbed 8 oz. crushed M&Ms)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate baking chips (omitted)

Directions:

  1. Line large baking sheet with double thickness of foil. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in semisweet and white chips (or M&Ms).
  2. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheet in two 10- to 11-inch-long strips, spacing 3 inches apart. Using metal spatula or wet fingertips, shape strips into 11- by 2 1/2-inch logs. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake logs until tops are cracked and dry and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes; cool 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Using foil as aid, lift logs onto work surface. Line baking sheets with clean foil. Using serrated knife, gently cut warm logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange half of slices, cut side down, on each prepared baking sheet. Bake biscotti until just dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Turn biscotti over. Bake until top is dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Cool on sheets.

My First Operation Baking Gals

This past month, I decided to participate in Operation Baking Gals for the first time. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies, and now that I’m on a diet, I’m trying to find opportunities to bake that don’t require me to have a pan of brownies housed on my counter for a few days. Too tempting!

I knew I was going to bake three items: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies, Halloween M&M Biscotti and The Chewy, which will all be featured on the blog.

I first went to the Dollar Tree and bought three packs of disposable containers, along with packing supplies. I also got the flat rate APO/FPO shipping box for free at the post office to do this. If you were doing this to send to someone NOT in the military, go ahead and just get a flat rate box. You’ll be glad you did…my box of goodies ended up being 7 lbs.!! Flat rate rocks!

First, I followed the directions on the OBG website, which said to line the containers with paper towels and place a few pieces of apple peel in the fold nearest where the baked goods will be placed. Then, I loaded up the containers with baked goodies, put another paper towel with apple peel and taped the container shut, just in case!

Then, I put in one layer of baked goods in the box and squished in grocery plastic bags around them to make the boxes as immobile as possible. The trick here is to make everything in the box stay absolutely still, so if they are shaken, they won’t get super crumbly before reaching their destination. I’ve shipped two boxes of decorated cookies using this method with GREAT success!

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Then, I added a second layer of baked goods. I ran out of containers, so I lined two ziplocs with a paper towel and apple peel and filled them up. I wrapped them tightly in bubble wrap as well. I’m not quite sure how these will fare, but hopefully, since they ended up being packed in pretty tightly, I’m hoping they will be ok!

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I also added a note to tell them how much I appreciate what they do for our country. :) Then, I added a bunch of plastic grocery bags to surround the second layer of boxes/bags, as well as on the very top, put two layers of bubble wrap, so they don’t accidentally cut through the goodies when opening the box!

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All in all, this was a fun way to show appreciation to our troops! I paid maybe $20 (including $11.95 shipping) to do this, and I know I’ll definitely be doing this again!

I’m thinking, if I have enough Internet buddies interested, of hosting a team for December’s shipping dates. It is the holiday season after all, and who doesn’t like baking with fun holiday sprinkles?! :)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

cookiebrownie

I think I’m pretty brilliant. I have to be. I mean, who in their right minds would join Weight Watchers the week before bake-palooza was going to happen at their house? That’s right, me. There WAS a plan here, I promise!

Bake-palooza happened this weekend for me, because I joined a team on Operation Baking Gals for the first time. I’ve been ITCHING to just have a weekend of baking bliss, and this was the perfect opportunity. My brilliance kicks in even more, because I got to give away all of this food to people I think completely deserve a little something to remind them of home. In other words, I only had one sliver out of this pan vs. eating half of the pan had it been left home with me for a couple of days b/c I felt that the box needed to be filled to the BRIM with goodies for these wonderful soldiers!

However, brilliance did meet with stupidity. Stupidity was this happy baker going to Albertson’s on a Saturday morning to get butter and eggs on sale. Not just ANY Saturday morning…the morning of an away game for LSU. Usually Saturday mornings are so slow, but no, this Saturday involved standing in long lines on Saturday morning surrounded by baskets of ribs, Doritos and LSU colored Bud Light. It took me 15 minutes of waiting in self-checkout (shortest line, or so I thought) to get out of the store, but I had my supplies in tow! I was ready to bake!

I decided to bake three things for the soldiers. This first recipe was featured on Bakerella in the beginning of the year. I’ve had this bookmarked for quite some time, but never got around to making it. I’m glad I did. These turned out to be some very sturdy (shippable) brownies, and the one sliver I tasted was so yummy!

Oh yeah, and these aren’t from scratch. Yeah, I broke a couple of rules here, but it was, after all, game day. Shortcuts needed to be taken since these were thrown together during half time!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies
Source: Betty Crocker (via Bakerella)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Betty Crocker Original Supreme brownie mix (w/ chocolate syrup pouch)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pouch Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 container Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting (omitted for shipping reasons)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray, or grease with shortening. Make brownie mix as directed on box, using oil, water and 2 eggs. Spread in pan.
  2. Make cookie mix as directed on pouch, using butter and 1 egg. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls evenly onto brownie batter; press down lightly.
  3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes. Frost with frosting. For brownies, cut into 8 rows by 6 rows.

Stay tuned for what I made after the game! :)

Baby Sheep Cookies

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My fellow blogger friend from Taste of Home Cooking is expecting a baby girl in a few short weeks!

I wanted to send them a gift card to Target, but doing only that seemed impersonal since we are both food bloggers. Looking for any excuse to bake, I decided to make her some cookies! As I was looking through my cookie cutters, I found a sheep one, and thought aww, baby sheep.

Then, the icing ideas started flowing. I ended up making a good bit, but I was picky and wanted to make sure they got the prettiest ones. My husband was anxiously awaiting the rejects, since he kept smelling almond extract throughout the day!

I made these using the recipes for cookies and royal icing from Cookie Craft. I can’t recommend this book enough! It’s so great for ideas and how-to’s. Even Bakerella recommends it! I’m not a pro, but I’m getting better with my cookie skills.

I think the mom-to-be was really surprised! Congrats! :)

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My Vow to Cleaning

I’m sure many people can relate to me when I say that cleaning the house is very difficult to upkeep and just plain tedious. I mean, I’ll spend a good half day of my weekend to make sure the house is spotless, only to find myself doing the same thing all over again the next weekend! I want my weekends back!

After reading this article about housekeeping, it seems that people CAN keep their homes clean when they work on it a little everyday, consciously preventing the mess from happening all over again. This isn’t a deep cleaning, but more of a way to keep things organized in your home and prevent clutter. Deep cleaning still would need to happen, but it won’t take up 1/2 of my day!

So, here is my vow to my home until the end of the year. I will spend 15 minutes everyday cleaning you, other than doing the daily things like dishes and laundry. I will also share with you every week what I did!

15 minutes is nothing. It’s a quarter of an hour, in a day when I come home from work and have 7 hours to spend on doing other things. Now that I type that..7 hours….wow, I feel lazy! Where does that time go?

So, it’s time to put on the iPod, jam to 4-5 songs and spend that time CLEANING! It’ll be over before you know it!

15 minutes cleaning ideas

  • Steam clean the kitchen floor with the Shark Mop.   I can’t tell you how much my kitchen floor gets grimy from my messing cooking and baking. It gets on my dang nerves!
  • Throw away junk mail and organize bills.   I usually do this once a month and it proves to be a pretty daunting task. Once a week would be MUCH easier and would allow me to have our kitchen island back!
  • Clean out the pantry and organize food to giveaway to a food bank.   This is especially great since the holidays are coming up, and I know we won’t be needing all of that Chef Boyardee since no hurricanes hit this year! Whew!
  • Clean the bathroom countertop.   Blech…all that make-up residue and hair around the sink? Clean it up with a Clorox wipe and put everything back in their drawers!
  • Weed the garden.   If I did this once/week, I know would only take me fifteen minutes. Pesky weeds!
  • Clean the bedroom floor.  I can’t tell you how much stuff I just throw on the side of my bed. Magazines, dirty socks, coupons…ugh!
  • Switch out the bed sheets!   I think I’m supposed to do this once/week or something like that. I don’t want to imagine the dust mite colony that we sleep in. I only change the sheets every 2-3 weeks!

Does anyone want to take this cleaning vow with me? C’mon, you know you hate it when your weekend is taken up by Clorox and the broom!

 

Pumpkin Bread

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I can’t believe this pumpkin shortage. I mean, who would have thought that store shelves would be empty where this stuff is usually stocked? In fact, around this time, most groceries have special holiday baking sections with rows and rows of pumpkin. None to be found. It’s SO weird!

However, as a woman with a craving, I went on a mission to find this rare canned pumpkin. Five stores later, I found myself in a grocery store in a pretty bad part of town. (I went during the day, if you are wondering how wild I am.) I walked down the baking aisle in crazy anticipation. There they were – two large cans of pumpkin puree. I grabbed them quicker than a kid grabs the bubble gum off the candy aisle.

I was so excited when I got home, but I knew I have 58 precious ounces of pumpkin puree. I need to ration this wisely, just in case I can’t find any for the beloved Thanksgiving pie. (You never know!) I couldn’t help but make myself pumpkin bread. It’s a Fall breakfast staple for me!

I’ve seen this recipe from Allrecipes around many food blogs, and people rave about it, so I decided this would be the lucky recipe. It turned out to be a really good pumpkin bread, however, it wasn’t very spicy. I prefer spicy pumpkin bread, like this one I made last year.

Of course, I did my favorite applesauce for butter/oil substitution and it didn’t disappoint. I also halved the recipe  since I don’t need 2 loaves at one time.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread (full recipe)
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (sub applesauce)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans. (When I halved the recipe, I used one large loaf pan.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes (took mine 60 minutes) in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The Skinny - per serving, Serves 24 (in full recipe)
Calories 187.6
Fat 1.1 g
Fiber 1.3 g