Pad Thai Zoodles
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Sometimes I have to mix up my zoodle weeknight meals. Zoodles are awesome because they give you the impression of eating a noodle (if you're playing dumb...but it's for a weeknight dinner so I play right along). I've been into making a pad thai inspired peanut zoodle dish when I just need a change. I thought that you guys might be looking for a little variety in your weeknight dinners too so here's what I do...

Pad Thai Zoodle Recipe:

2 large zucchini (or 3 small zucchini)-You could also buy zoodles if you don't want to zoodle them yourself

1/2 cup of peanuts

1 cup of your favorite peanut sauce (I use 365 brand organic peanut sauce from Whole Foods...You could also make your own peanut sauce with a recipe like this one: https://www.google.com/amp/s/allrecipes.com/recipe/72487/the-best-thai-peanut-sauce/amp/)

2 T chopped green onion

1 T chopped habanero peppers (omit this if you don't like things spicy)

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup of chopped sugar snap peas

1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper

Directions:

Chop/prep all of your vegetables.

Zoodle each of your zucchini (I use the attachment for my mixture that I linked below and love it).

In a large bowl, combine the zoodles, peanut sauce, habanero peppers, shredded carrots, snap peas and red bell pepper. Mix until it is thoroughly combined.

Garnish with the chopped green onion and peanuts and enjoy!

Clean Eating Pancakes
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I LOVE breakfast food! It’s no surprise because I have a sweet tooth. However, the cleaner that I eat, the crappier I feel when I eat all of the carb-loaded breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles, french toast...They tend to put me in a slump without energy. Not to mention I get hungry so soon after eating them. While I’m never going to give up a special pancake while out at a legit brunch, I am into making this recipe at home. It’s gluten free, has protein, is void off fake sugar and is actually really, really good. Trust me, it’s taken a longgggg time to find the right protein pancake recipe that sang the tune to my song! I am sharing this recipe so that you don’t have to go through all of the disappointments that I did with failed attempts! I top mine with vegan butter or ghee plus organic maple syrup (that I heat up because #diva) typically. It’s also great with berries, unsweetened coconut flakes, honey...you name it. These are gluten free and vegetarian but they can also be made vegan by replacing the eggs with flax eggs. You can double this batch to have enough for both weekend days or to feed a hungry guy like the one in my house!

INGREDIENTS:  

1 ripe banana

2 eggs

1/2 cup egg whites

1/2 t ground cinnamon   

4 t baking powder  

2 scoops protein powder  (I use Orgain or Tone it Up)

1 cup rolled oats

2 T ground flaxseed  

Coconut oil spray  

Toppings and/or inserts of your choice  

DIRECTIONS: 

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender on medium speed until it is totally mixed. Put a nonstick griddle over medium heat until the entire pan is hot. Spray with coconut oil spray and then pour batter into circles. Include any additions (bananas, blueberries, chocolate chips...) if you desire. When the edges of each pancake looks like its cooked, turn it over. Top with whatever toppings you desire and enjoy! 

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Chicago Guide
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I recently spent five nights in Chicago and loved it! It's such a cool city with lots of great food (priorities). I LOVE exploring a new city and seeing all that it has to offer. That of course includes the local cuisine, which in this case was deep dish pizza. I definitely wouldn't replace regular pizza with it if I had to pick one but I won't discriminate against any kind of pizza. Sauce + Cheese + Dough...I'm in. Chicago is a really great food city and I loved every meal that I had. 

The only downside of Chicago was that it was even colder than New York. I definitely need to go visit again when the temperatures are higher and I can go on a boat on the water and enjoy all that Chicago has to offer in the summertime. The wind was no joke either! Fun fact: the reason that it is called the Windy City is not because of the gusty wind and it is instead thought to originate from the hot aired politicians. I stayed at The Westin Michigan Avenue, which was close to the wedding that I attended. It was located by a lot of great shopping but I was too cold to walk around and shop much! 

Favorite meal: Girl and The Goat (and then we went next door to Soho House for drinks to make it even better!)

Favorite Site: Skydeck (and then we went next door to Giordanos for deep dish pizza to make it even better!)

I did a TON of research on what to see and where to eat while in Chicago so I thought that I would share this guide with you guys....

TO EAT  

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For Deep Dish: 

Pequods is supposed to be the best one. We were supposed to go to the location in Lincoln Park but ended up canceling the reservation after a bunch of my friends' flights were delayed. I thought that it was impressive that they let us make a reservation for a large group there.

Lou Malnatis seems to run a close second for deep dish. I thought that it was great! However, Jay and I made the mistake of each ordering a personal size (small) and as a result, it was not as thick. It didn't give the true deep dish impression and in hindsight, we should have ordered a medium size and split the toppings on each half of the pie. This would be a fun place to go watch a game on TV too. Pro tip: if you have to wait for a table, place your pizza order in advance. It takes 45 minutes for them to make it so you will get to sit down and eat (you'd have to wait either way). 

Giordanos (pictured above, along with my puffy "I've been eating too much salt" face) is the most recognizable name in the deep dish local chain. We got a large pie here since we went with friends and it did NOT disappoint! Yum!

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For Dinner:

Girl and The Goat: So freaking delicious and full of unique dishes. It was one of the best meals I've had in a long time. It has a lot of small plates, so you get to try a bunch of different things. We loved EVERYTHING! It's located in the West Loop, which has tons of great bars and restaurants so its easy to grab a drink before or after somewhere. I also heard great things about their sister restaurant, which is a much more casual spot called Little Goat Diner. 

RPM Italian: We LOVED our meal here! They had classic American-Italian dishes with an upscale flare. The restaurant had a chic feel to it and was really big (especially compared to what we are used to in NYC). This was a perfect date night spot.

RPM Steak: The sister restaurant to RPM Italian (both are owned by Guiliana Rancic and her husband). I definitely trust it after my experience at RPM Italian.

Alinea: A major fine dining experience. It features a tasty menu and is pricey but supposedly worth it. Make sure to snag a reservation well in advance. 

Monteverde: Another upscale Italian spot that I heard incredible things about. 

Topolobampa: Rick Bayless's Mexican restaurant with a Michelin star!

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For Cocktails:

The Allis at Soho House: This spot at the Soho House (pictured above) has decor that makes my heart sing! This area of Soho house is open to the public (without a membership) and is definitely worth checking out. Sit on a swanky velvet couch and sip on a cool drink in this cozy atmosphere. 

Chicago Athletic Association: Bars at an athletic association?! This athletic association/hotel is not like others and is a sight to see in Chicago. Cindy's is a fun rooftop bar locate there with great views! It also has a game room with bocce courts and table games that you can play while sipping on some beer or a cocktail. 

City Winery: It has igloos on the river that you can sit in and shield yourself from the cold!

Stock Exchange at Ceres Cafe: A fun happy hour!

The Signature Room: This spot may be somewhere that tourist frequent more than locals but the city views are the reason why!

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For Brunch & Lunch (If you're not having deep dish that is...):

True Food Kitchen: Healthy food that's amazing in a really cool atmosphere. You feel like you are in California more so than Chicago.

Au Cheval: Known to have one of the best burgers in the world (my friends attested that it's true). 

Bad Hunter: Great for a group brunch (like the one we were at in the photo above). You can tell that they use real ingredients when they cook. It had a lot of natural light coming in, which I'm a fan of.

The Allis: Remember that cocktail lounge at Soho House that we went to and loved? Well, they serve meals too and I was hoping to go there for brunch but we couldn't get reservations. They also do an afternoon tea with snacks, which seems totally up my alley!

Summerhouse Santa Monica: Came highly recommended for brunch because it brings great atmosphere and food to the table (literally)!

Ema: Multiple friends of mine recommended this Mediterranean spot. It's supposed to have great cocktails too!

Portillos: An infamous hot dog spot in Chicago and a "must do/eat" while there. Husband tested and approved!

Eleven City Diner: The bride's favorite breakfast spot in the city!

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba: Authentic Spanish cuisine, served tapas style. 

Little Goat Diner: The sister restaurant to Girl and The Goat with a more casual flare. I hands down trust this place after my experience at Girl and The Goat!

Eataly: Eataly in any city is a good idea! The welcome party for the wedding (pictured below) was held there and the food was on point (as always). 

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TO SEE

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Skydeck Chicago: We bought tickets for this online in advance. You definitely have to work your way through various lines to finally get into "the box" but I personally thought that it was worth it. There are murals and historical facts on the walls that you can read while waiting, which was nice. There are also big windows all around the top floor that allow you to take in different perspectives of the city. It's a cool experience to stand in a glass cube that juts out of a building and overlooks a city. Someone that works there directs you to keep moving along so you only get a minute or two in the box but the guide will take your picture for you during that time. We also asked the guide in the box next to ours to take our picture so that we could have it from a different perspective. I originally wanted to go at sunset because I think that it would be so pretty but we couldn't swing it. If you can go at sunset...do it! 

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Cloud Gate: Aka the bean at Millennium Park. It was really impressive in real life and fun to see. It's also great to be able to see things in a city without spending money. 

Navy Pier: They are constantly hosting events, concerts, shows, art exhibitions...you name it! There are also a few rides on the pier. If you're going during the summer months, you can take a boat tour from Navy Pier. This is definitely a spot that is most enjoyable in the warmer months but they do host some indoor events in the cooler months. 

Magnificent Mile: This is where the shopping is at! It seems like this is the equivalent of 5th Avenue in NYC. There are more affordable stores in the surrounding area as well (along with a Sprinkles Cupcakes..we know where my priorities lie).

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Shedd Aquarium: I was looking for something to do indoors and I decided to check out the aquarium. The Beluga whales were stunning and so playful so I'm glad that I got to see them. Be warned that it cost me $53 to gain admission but you can get tickets a little bit cheaper if you buy them in advance. 

Lincoln Park: Take in this beautiful park and the surrounding neighborhoods! You can also stop by Lincoln Park Zoo

Museum Of Science and Industry: This museum was really pretty from the outside but I didn't make it in. I think that it would be particularly cool with kids. 

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AND THEN I WENT TO MY FRIEND'S WEDDING!

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My friend from Penn State got married at the Four Seasons and it was stunning! The flowers were out of this world and she looked incredible. It was SO fun to go to a NYE wedding (although I struggled physically to make it that late...yikes). I want one of my friends to get married on NYE every year because it was so awesome to get dressed up and party with my friends in celebration of something so special. If you're considering doing a New Year's wedding...do it! It was extra festive and fun and everyone came dressed to the 9s. I'm so glad that she chose Chicago for it because explore a new city with my best friends and husband! 

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What Motivates Me To Stay Active + Favorite Activewear
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Did you guys set any New Year's resolutions for exercise? I think that setting realistic and attainable goals for health and fitness is so admirable. It can totally change your relationship with exercise. Whatever it takes for you to get motivated, do it! Maybe that's some new work out gear (it always does the trick for me). My motivation is found in my past experiences of being restricted from exercising as well as doing anything that I can to get stronger and reduce my pain levels. 

Exercise wasn't on my New Year's goals list because its no longer something that I struggle to get myself to do. Instead, I really struggle when I don't do it. I think that this really happened as a result of being told that I couldn't exercise at all following so so many surgeries. I have spent so much time recovering and having my muscles totally atrophy in the past five years. It totally sucks being told what you can and can't do with your body and feeling so limited (its something that I still struggle with constantly). I have had to work my way back into exercising (all of my exercise is greatly modified, obviously) so many times and it is so hard every time. It scares me into never wanting to take an extended break because I know just how hard it is to gain back what you lose. It takes .05 seconds for me to lose all of the muscle that I've worked hard to build and then forever to gain it back after surgery (which makes sense since I'm literally laying flat on my back but it still seems unfair)! I haven't been in recovery mode with a 'no fly' zone for exercising since May and I've been feeling lucky that I can slowly but surely get stronger and stronger. I guess it really is one of those "absence makes the heart grow fonder" examples because I never truly, truly appreciated being active until I was repeatedly told that I couldn't work out! 

My main motivating factor for exercise is to gain strength that will hopefully reduce my pain levels. I need a super strong core for my back pain and to constantly work on strengthening the ligaments and tendons around my knee. When my body is in pain, it slacks off and other areas compensate for weak muscles. The stronger that I am, the better chance that I have for more "endurance" with my back before it gives out. I work SO hard to strengthen not only my "healthy" areas but my hurt areas as well. It's SO tricky and is such a steep learning curve to find the balance between pushing myself to get stronger and not hurting myself. I take Barre class and have learned a TON of modifications over the years that I am comfortable doing. Still, I hurt myself all the time and will lay there with spasms and nerve "fire works" every time I am there. I call it a win when I don't leave hurting a lot more than when I walked in though (which I have been able to do more successfully as time has gone on and I've learned what pisses my back off in a negative way). None of it deters me though because I am constantly committed to putting myself in the best position that I can to combat some of the pain that I am dealing with!

I learned very quickly that living in a healthy, pain free body is not something that should be taken for granted for even a second. I am grateful for any and every opportunity to use my body in a healthy way and get stronger. That is what gets me in the door for my Barre class every time! 

What is your biggest motivator? Whatever your motivation is, new work out threads can't hurt. When you feel good, it shows! Click on any image below to shop the item! 

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Boots With The Fur
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No apple bottom jeans over here but I did just get some boots with the fur and I'm LOVING them! I already can't believe that I went this long without a pair of shoes like this. I was in need of secure and safe shoes to walk around in during the winter that had some traction. I don't want to wear the wrong shoes with ice and snow and risk falling but I also didn't want to wear my hardcore, big snow boots out to dinner or to do something social. I am SO glad that I found these so that they can be both safe and cute. They feel really secure and have traction on the bottom of them. They also have ties, which I like because I have a narrow foot so I can adjust it to be more snug. They run true to size (I looked at what size I wore in Sam in other boots and then ordered those, so if you have any other boots by them I'd recommend doing the same thing). I also linked a bunch of other stylish winter boots that you will actually want to put on during the cold months! Just click on an image below to shop it. As always, I linked the actual pair from the picture under 'Shop The Post' also. I also linked some suede protector, because it's definitely a good idea to treat them before wearing them!

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Buddha Bowl Recipe
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In an effort to get back into eating more vegetables, I decided to make a Buddha bowl aka what you call a bunch of random stuff in a bowl haha. It was good and so nutritious so I figured I would share. I ate it hot for dinner and then cold for lunch the following day. I love a recipe that is good leftover! 

INGREDIENTS: 

Kale  

1 head of cauliflower  

1 head of brocolli  

1 can of garbanzo beans  

1 large sweet potato (or 2 smaller ones)  

3 T cayenne pepper  

3 T chili powder  

2 T paprika for vegetables + 1 t paprika for aioli 

3 T avocado oil for vegetables + 1 t avocado oil for aioli  

3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews  

1/2 cup hot water  

2 T fresh lemon juice 

1/4 t sea salt

1/2 t maple syrup 

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven for 375 degrees.  

Wash and massage the kale and then place it into bowls for serving.  

Wash and cut all of the vegetables (slice the sweetness potatoes into little rectangular blocks). Place them in a large ziplock bag with the rinsed garbanzo beans, the 3 T avocado oil and the spices. Shake to combine.  

Lay parchment paper on baking sheets and place in the oven for 50 minutes (turning veggies half way through).  

While the vegetables are roasting, make your aioli sauce. Place the cashews and the hot water in a blender and let them soak for a minute. Then, turn the blender on medium speed so that they combine. Add the avocado oil, paprika, lemon juice, salt and maple syrup and run the blender on medium speed for another couple of minutes.  

Once the vegetables and garbanzo beans are done, place them on top of the kale and then drizzle some aioli sauce on top. Enjoy!  

 

New Year's "Resolutions" 2018
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I've never been a big 'New Year's Resolutions' person. I am however a believer in being intentional about setting goals for myself and working towards them on a regular basis. At all times, I have a goal that I'm working towards personally and one that I'm working at in my marriage. Like the rest of us, I always want to better myself as a person and as a partner. I have endless flaws in all realms of life and I know that this is something that I will do for life. If we're not growing we're just standing still, right?! Once I feel like I've made some progress on a goal, I move onto a new one. BY NO MEANS does it mean that I've achieved the goal and become perfect at it. It just means that I feel like I've shaken what was still and made it move. Once you bring consciousness to something and you get it rolling, it tends to keep moving along in my experience. Obviously I have to remind myself to keep working at the "old goals" but just establishing that mindset when the goal was the core focus really helps it become easier to reroute down the line.

All of that being said, I think that New Year's resolutions are great because they inspire you to bring mindfulness to what you're doing, how you're acting, your emotional experiences, your accomplishments...

Here are a few of mine...

WELLNESS: DIVE FURTHER INTO THE NATURAL & WHOLESOME WAY OF LIVING

I want to involve essential oils in my day to day life more aggressively. I currently diffuse oils at bedtime and use one roller for pain. I want to majorly increase my knowledge of essential oils and incorporate them throughout my day. I want to get more serious about natural/homeopathic remedies for my health and pain issues in general (beyond oils, creams, mayo facial release therapy...that I currently do).

I also want to try to use more natural products in my home and for my personal care/beauty. I am about 3/4 of the way there for household, personal care and skincare products but am only like 1/2 way there for makeup.

I also am going to try to eat even more plant based meals this year. I would like to eat vegan for a majority of my weeknight meals and limit my gluten and refined sugar intake even more so than I normally do during the week as well. 

EMOTIONAL: STOP CARRYING GUILT AROUND WITH ME SO REGULARLY

I mentioned that this is my personal goal of the moment recently and I'm not ready to move on from it just yet. My two "go to" negative emotions are sadness and guilt. They used to be sadness and anxiety so I know that if I could work past anxiety as a "default" negative emotion (over the course of yearssss) then I can get past defaulting to guilt. I feel like I experience guilt daily. I am so quick to grant other people grace and empathy and forms of forgiveness but I really struggle giving myself that same courtesy.

My biggest struggle is that if I rest my back and lay around then I feel guilty for being a waste of space. If I DO'NT rest and am go go go then I feel guilty that I didn't listen to my body and am not healing properly ect. Jay will come home and lecture me about why I tortured myself and hurt myself to do XY&Z and the answer is almost always "guilt." The bain of my existence is my pain versus my life. I especially have so many negative feelings about how it's impacted my professional life and all of the guilt that comes along with that ride. Like I said, work. in. progress!

MARRIAGE: GIVE THE BEST OF MYSELF TO MY HUSBAND

Disclaimer: he has never asked, suggested, ect that I do this. He's never complained in the least or said that I don't give him my best (because I do in soooo many realms, especially in our home), but that just makes me want to commit to this even more.

I play this conservation of energy game with my back. It's crazy how much planning and forecasting goes into every move that I make. The short story is that the more that I do, the more that I hurt so I try to spread things out accordingly. I feel like I frequently "save my back's energy" for dinner with friends or other social plans that I have. That means that the night before I won't go out to dinner with Jay because I don't want my back to hurt the next day. Basically, he tends to draw the short straw for plans. He already gets me during my lowest and worst moments so he should at least also get to enjoy my company when I'm my best. Like I said before, I'm also putting so much pressure on myself to go go go and that means that by the time he gets home from work I'm hurting and miserable. If anyone deserves the best of me it's my husband. I'm committed to prioritizing him in the mapping out of my plans.

After my friend's wedding the other night he said that it made him so happy to dance with me and that he had so much fun with me and that it felt so normal and that feeling THAT made him feel equal parts sad. I just want to give him all of the "normalcy" that I can offer. Pain aside even, we're only ever going to be this young, childless and free for so long and I just want to enjoy him and our marriage as much as possible. It's a priority for me!

PROFESSIONAL: I have LOTS of goals in this department. It's where I'm hoping to make the largest leaps this year. I have so many ideas and dreams that I'm hoping will work out SO BADLY. More so than that, I am willing to work my butt off to MAKE them work out. I feel like I am staring a calling of mine right in the eyes and I so desperately want to hit the ground running towards it. I hope to share more on this soon.

BRING IT ON, 2018:

What are some of your current goals of New Year's resolutions? I hope that we can all worry less, enjoy life more, feel good and soak up all that the New Year has to offer! Fresh minds, full hearts and let's go...

Clean Eating Resumes
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Well, the holiday eating was fun (and delicious) while it lasted but my body is ready to get back on track. I feel sluggish, I've gained weight (you know when your body doesn't feel like yours?!...that's how I feel right now), my skin has been breaking out, and my achiness has increased. I definitely FEEL better when I eat cleaner. I also really love food and enjoy going out to great restaurants and trying pasta or ordering in Pizza on a Friday night. My "baseline" is a pretty clean eating routine during the weekdays and then splurging on the weekends. I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian all days of the week (and have been for 18 years). I have had so many plans and fun things going on all of December but like many of us, it means that I fell off of my normal eating routines and am paying the price. I've also eaten wayyyyyy too many sweets and treats. I've stretched my stomach out by eating bigger portions that I'm used to as well and need to get back to human size portions haha.

In order to get back to my homeostasis, I'm going to draw some harder lines in the sand for a month or two and eat plant based during the week days. I'm not a super extreme person. I do well with balance. I also can't drink alcohol medically and definitely find that my weekend is celebrated with some good food. Therefore, I'm only going to stick to these guidelines during the weekdays (Friday night not included). I'm not going to go insane on the weekends and act like an animal. I like the way that my body feels and how my energy levels are when I eat cleaner (especially because I never starve myself IN THE LEAST and am always fueling with good food) so I find that I don't WANT to pig out the entire weekend anyways. I definitely love my special weekend dinners and stuff though so they're staying. Here's my GP...

-I'm going to eat vegan during the week (I hardly cook/eat home with much dairy...the only thing I really use is cheese for dinners, which is always hard for me to cut out).

-I'm going to eat gluten free during the week. We also don't eat much gluten at home just because it coincides with clean eating. Don't get me wrong I love me some gluten and don't ever plan on fully giving it up. 

-I'm going to cut out refined sugars during the week EXCEPT for nuts and legumes. I need these things for protein as a vegetarian and I'm totally fine with them staying put! I'm trying to cleanse out the sugar in the 25905 sugar cookies that I ate, not eliminate foods that contribute great nutrients to my diet! 

I meal plan in advance (it has its pros and cons), so I figured that I would share my meal ideas and grocery list in case you want to join me with any of this! I am by no means an expert at all. I'm just a gal who loves food and wants to feel healthy and like myself again. I also feel like I share a lot of treats and cocktails on here because I think that they're FUN (and easy to photograph during the day/not during dinner time) but the reality is that I'm making this stuff way more than that stuff. If you guys like this, please let me know and I'll post more. I can also post all of these recipes after I actually make them/test them out/find out if some ideas I had are even good. I'm big on trying to repurpose things from one dinner to the next night's dinner, so I'm happy to share any ideas for that as well!

WEEKDAY MEAL PLAN (Week of 1/2/18)

Breakfasts: 

Plant based protein drink  (Evolve)

Lunches:  

Leftovers from previous night's dinner  

Dinners: 

Tuesday: Buddha bowls-Roasted sweet potatoes, cauliflower, brocolli and garbanzo beans (all tossed in avocado oil & seasoned with chili powder & cayenne pepper) over kale with a chipotle aioli **(I am going to make enough aioli for Wednesday's dinner as well).

Wednesday: Stuffed Zucchini boats-Lentil taco "meat," black beans and yellow onion stuffed in a zucchini "boat" and topped with the leftover chipotle aioli **(I am going to make enough lentils for Thursday's dinner as well).

Thursday: Lentil "meatballs" with homemade marinara on spaghetti squash with a side on steamed brocolli. 

GROCERY LIST:

For Snacking:

Berries-Blueberries, strawberries  

Apples  

Whole carrots 

Sweet potatoes  

Celery 

Unsweetened coconut flakes  

Unsweetened peanut butter  

Whole, roasted, unsalted cashews  

Drinks:

Lemons (for hot water drink)

Fresh Ginger  (for hot water drink)

Apple cider vinegar (for hot water drink) 

La Croix sparkling water

Green tea bags  

EVOLVE plant based protein drinks (I like the Chocolate) http://rstyle.me/cz-n/ctnjdhb9n27

Coffee pods  

Unsweetened almond milk

Unsweetened cashew milk  (For Jay's coffee)

For Dinners/Lunches: 

Cauliflower  

Brocolli

Yellow Onion

Kale

Spaghetti squash 

Zucchini 

Minced garlic  

Olive oil  

Avocado oil spray 

Coconut oil spray  

Gluten free tamari 

Flax egg substitute  

Pure maple syrup  

Chia seeds 

Kidney beans  

Black beans  

Garbanzo Beans  

Green lentils

Canned, unsweetened whole tomatoes  

Chipotle peppers 

Rolled oats  

Cayenne pepper

Chili powder  

Paprika

Cumin

Red pepper flakes  

Dried oregeno

Dried basil

  

Reflecting on 2018
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When the calendar struck 2017, this cozy, little space on the web was born. I've loved curating alongside you guys! When the ground was covered white with snow, I went under the knife to remove a failed surgical implant. I mourned the loss of a "fix" I so desperately sought. When the spring flowers bloomed, I got showered as a bride by the women I most admire. I went to Martha's Vineyard with my best friends for a laid-back 'girl's weekend' bachelorette party. As the temperatures rose, my speed in the great race against pain picked up. I worked like a mad woman to get into the OR a couple more times before my big day and found a portion of sought after relief. As the summer sun blared, I walked towards my groom and cried the HAPPIEST tears with him, in his arms, while smiling the biggest smile I've ever smiled. His face on our wedding day is forever burned in my mind as THE image of this year. As the dune grass danced along the bay, I danced with my favorite people that night. I basked in that summer sun with my hand in my husband's and my feet on a little deck that jut out over crystal clear Bora Bora water. The leaves changed color and so did my medical plan. I spent a good portion of the fall feeling ill as I started a new medicine. And as winter solstice came, my sickness (coincidentally) began to subside and I got to enjoy some of the festive parts of the holiday season. 2017, thank you for all of the INCREDIBLE gifts that you gave me. You gifted me a husband (the greatest one). You gave me the wedding OF MY DREAMS. You brought my biggest fantasy of honeymooning in Tahitian paradise with Jay to fruition. You brought the HIGHEST HIGHS that majorly overshadowed any lows. You made me feel 2,017 kinds of lucky. I WILL NEVER, EVER FORGET YOU! #FromCarlysHeart #HappyNewYear #NewYear

French 75
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This is my favorite champagne cocktail to make! It's perfect for NYE because it feels classy and special. NYE=Champange, right?! I've made this before for NYE where I stayed in with friends and it went perfect with PJs even. This year I'm going to my friend from Penn State's wedding in Chicago. It's going to be fancy pants so I'm excited to do something different. I feel like I always try to do the anti-NYE NYE and this year it will be fun to do it up! Cheers to 2018! 

INGREDIENTS: 

3 T gin

1.5 T fresh lemon juice  

1 T simple syrup  

1/4 cup champagne  

DIRECTIONS: 

Mix the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Top it with the champagne and enjoy! 

Christmas Sangria
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Who doesn't love a festive drink for the holiday? I feel like wine and champagne are great Christmas drinks (besides eggnog of course). Sangria is awesome because its so easy. The cranberries automatically make it pretty too! Be sure to check out my Cranberry Mules if you're looking for another Christmas cocktail. This recipe yields a carafe worth of drinks for a group! 

Ingredients:

1 cup white grape fruit juice

1 cup light cranberry cocktail juice

1 cup lime seltzer

3 cups white wine of your choice

Cranberries for garnish

Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients and then garnish!

Peppermint Bark
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These are borderline too easy. Seriously, it's dumb how easy they are. This recipe is awesome because you can make it ahead of time. I made these the week before Christmas to space out my holiday chores and they're totally fine. Unlike cookies, these won't get stale quickly! 

INGRDEDIENTS: 

4 bars of high quality white chocolate  

2 bars of high quality semi-sweet chocolate  

1 t peppermint extract  

3 candy canes (or other peppermint hard candy)

DIRECTIONS: 

Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Break the semi-sweet chocolate bar into smaller pieces and place it in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds, or until there are no chunks of chocolate left. Stir every 30 seconds throughout this process. 

Pour the chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it around with a rubber spatula until it is a thin, even layer.  

Place the candy canes in a plastic bag and hit the bag against the counter to break up the pieces. You can also use a meat pounder.  

Break the white chocolate bar into smaller pieces and place it in a microwave safe bowl. Add the peppermint oil. Heat in the microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds, or until there are no chunks of chocolate left. Stir every 30 seconds throughout this process.

Pour the white chocolate ontop of the chocolate layer and spread it around with a rubber spatula. 

Before the white chocolate hardens, sprinkle it with the broken candy cane chunks.  

Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and let it stand in there for at least 45 minutes. Use a butter knife to stab random spots and turn the one sheet into the broken "bark" pieces.