Arugula, Goat Cheese and Beet Salad

I recently discovered I love beets and have been putting them in everything I can!  They are a bit difficult to deal with, so if you’ve never made them before be prepared for your kitchen to get a little messy.  And by a little messy, it will practically look like a crime scene.

What I’ve discovered on this little health kick I’ve been on is that I can eat a salad for lunch and feel full if I put the right things in it.  The few times I’ve attempted to eat a salad for lunch in the past have left me feeling faint and disoriented hours later because there was nothing useful in it.  I honestly thought that a salad was a combo of iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and shredded carrots.  Maybe a little ranch dressing to make it edible.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  This salad is packed with flavor and nutritional value, so it keeps me full for almost the rest of the day.

Ingredients:

  • arugula
  • roasted beets
  • goat cheese
  • walnuts

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

I didn’t include the amount needed for the ingredients because I think it would be good no matter how much or how little you add of each of the salad parts.  For me, I roasted four beets, but since I was going to the trouble I wish I’d done more.  To roast beets, preheat your oven to 375.  Just wrap them in tin foil and place on a cookie sheet.  Place in oven and roast for 45-50 minutes.  Allow beets to cool slightly, but peal them while they are still warm to make it easier.  While beets are cooling, mix dressing ingredients. Chop pealed beets into bite-sized pieces and pour half of the dressing over the beets.

Allow the beets to marinate for at least an hour.  Once you are ready to serve the salad, combine arugula, goat cheese, walnuts and beets in a bowl.  I made small servings everyday and stretched this salad into three lunches.  Pour remaining dressing over salad.

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The Fault in our Stars

Can you remember the last time you read a book so perfect that while reading you’d pull yourself away just so the experience lasts a little longer?  That’s exactly how this book made me feel.  It’s one of those books where all I wanted to do was read it despite whatever else was going on in my life that day.  I managed to stretch it out over two days, but that is with significant effort to walk away.

The novel would technically be classified as teen literature, but don’t let that scare you.  This book is for anyone.  It focuses on the story of two teenagers who have been diagnosed with cancer.  The narrator, Hazel, has cancer that is terminal, and the other character, Augustus Waters, is in remission.  I know that it sounds depressing, but it really isn’t a “cancer” book.  It’s so much more.  The story is pretty much about the friendship between the two, but that is only skimming the surface of this book.

I recommend this to you.  I know I might not even know you, but I still recommend it highly.  It made me laugh out loud constantly, and also made me cry.  More than once.  Don’t let that scare you either.  When I finished the book I was sad, but felt like the experience of the book made any sadness worth it.

I’m not doing the best job of explaining this.  It’s kind of hard to explain without scaring potential readers.  Just go get a copy today.

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Mer rating: 10/10

Skinny Sweet Potato Bites

I definitely stole this recipe directly from my boss, but imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

The past week I’ve been trying to eat healthier overall.  I’ve always been fairly healthy, but recently I realized that I could eat macaroni and cheese again after a few years of not being able to tolerate dairy, and let’s just say it got a little out of hand.  I won’t say I was eating it every day, but ….

Anyways, sweet potatoes are incredibly good for you because they are high in fiber and full of the antioxidant beta-carotene.  I wish that I loved sweet potatoes without all the goody, but I need to sweeten them up to make them edible.

The best thing about sweet potatoes is that they are inexpensive.  During the holidays I was able to get them for .39/lb, which is huge considering I usually buy sweet potato fries at over $3 a package and call it a day.  This alternative is not only cheaper, but lower calorie too!  Who can argue with that, especially when everyone is still trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolutions.

My boss at Gregory Paul’s adds poblano peppers to this dish to add a little extra spice!  I didn’t do this today, but it makes them even better!

Ingredients:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks.  Spread on a cookie sheet.  Pour butter and olive oil over pieces.

Top with cinnamon and brown sugar.  Try to spread ingredients out as evenly as possible.

Bake 1 hour, flipping the pieces half-way through.

Serves: 2

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Remember When?

Remember when I used to blog all the time?  Yeah, me neither.  Life has gotten so busy, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, so I need to find a way to make this part of my life again because I enjoy it so much!  I’ve got some recipes and books reviews already created to show you, so expect me to step up my game at least a little in the coming months!

So, what have I been doing you might be asking.  Well, first of all, I got engaged! I’m really excited, and I know that is absolutely not an excuse to have slacked on here, but planning a wedding does take up way more time then I ever imagined it would.  (I know, cry me a river.)

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I got a new puppy, Vonnegut. It just felt like Lumen needed a sibling.  I swear I’m not insane.3f3b981478a411e28b3722000a1f99d9_7

I’ve also been hard at work at my two jobs and night school!  All of which are going well.  I’ve completely learned the language of stenography and am now just building my speed.  KWR/HRUFB/T/FPLT/KWR/PH/SOE/TKPWHRAD/KWR/STKAOEUD/D/TAO/TKAO/T/FPLT.  <—— That says “I love it.  I am so glad I decided to do it.”  See what I mean about learning a language?

The interior designer I work for opened a retail space downtown which has been a huge learning experience.  I’m her only employee, so you can see here what I helped set up.  I also helped with setting up the online shop.  I’m also still working at Gregory Paul’s selling his amazing food.  If you live at the beaches and have not tried it yet, you are missing out!  I’m not trying to make excuses here… ok maybe a little.

Having so much to juggle has definitely made me less creative in the kitchen.  On nights I have school, I stand by my old crock pot and casserole recipes.  It’s too risky to come home after a 14-hour day and not be positive that I have a delicious meal ahead of me because I tried a Pinterest experiment.  I also work for a business that makes fresh prepared meals that I just have to put in my oven when I’m ready to eat.  It takes a bit out of the incentive to cook.  I do still LOVE to cook though, so I will be trying more things in the coming weeks.

Two of my best friends had babies since the last time I blogged, and I can’t resist showing them off here!

Baby Rowan and his beautiful momma!

Baby Rowan and his beautiful momma!

Baby Madeline reading the book I gave her!

Baby Madeline reading the book I gave her!

A couple of weeks ago, we also took some time to expand the garden for the spring!  I cannot wait for it to start growing like last year!  We got so spoiled last year by all the fresh veggies, so I’m hoping for luck this year too.  We have tomatoes, green onions, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, herbs, strawberries, beans and carrots just to name a few.  Oh, and I also insisted on getting a tree that grows cocktail lemons and limes.  If I’m going to drink alcohol, might as well be as healthy as possible about it, right?

Wanted to give the garden a beachy feel, so we painted the posts with drip paint!

Wanted to give the garden a beachy feel, so we painted the posts with drip paint!  There are better pics to come, this was just the beginning of the planting process!

We broke the wheel off the wheelbarrow, so we turned it into an herb garden!

We broke the wheel off the wheelbarrow, so we turned it into an herb garden!

So, long story short, I will do my very best to post more regularly in the coming weeks.  I know you have no reason to believe this, but just check back in and you will see!

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At least I get to come home to this everyday!

Apricot, Goat Cheese and Pecan Bites

I have been so incredibly busy lately, but I am still trying to maintain this blog as best I can!  Between school, work and play, I’ve had little time to try new recipes.  On top of that, I am having somewhat of a slump in the kitchen— burning lasagna and baking a turkey upside down (?!?!?) being just two examples of my misadventures this week.  I blame it on the hectic schedule of the holidays!

These little appetizers are almost impossible to mess up, and taste delicious.  Each bite includes all three flavors making the combination perfection.  I can’t take full credit for this recipe.  I work for a caterer who created it, so when I needed something for book club this week, this came to mind.

The trick is to use candied pecans.  Of course, my boss made those himself, but most grocery stores sell them already made.  The other key point is using honey to sweeten the goat cheese.  I saw that they sell goat cheese with honey already in it, so you could technically save yourself a step there too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package dried apricots
  • 1 package candied pecans
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • 1-2 Tbs. honey

Directions:

Combine the honey and goat cheese.  Place a dollop on top of the apricot.  Put the candied pecan on top.  Could it be any easier?

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Rules of Civility

Of all the fluff books my book club has picked this year, this one is by far my favorite.  When I heard the premise: young girl, New York City, 1930′s, chance meeting with a man changes everything!  I cringed.  With time spent reading 50 Shades, Gone Girl and a book called Blackberry Winter which I didn’t even bother to write about because it was THAT bad, I couldn’t imagine wasting more of my time.  Life is too short for bad books.

To my surprise, it dispelled my preconceptions and held my attention throughout.  I’m not saying run out and buy it, this is the best book of the year, but I am saying it’s pretty good.  It follows a woman named Katey as she navigates jazz-era NYC.  It seems to be an attempt at a retelling of The Great Gatsby from Daisy’s perspective if Daisy actually had a brain in her head.

Tinker is the Gatsby-esque character as he is a man of mysterious wealth.  In every chapter is seems like there is a different party and everyone is skipping through life with a flask in his or her pocket.  There’s even a car wreck that doesn’t kill our Myrtle character, Eve, but does injure her severely.  While it doesn’t follow the classic Fitzgerald piece precisely, it does seem sometimes like all that’s missing is a green light at the end of a dock.

The main twist the author seems to want to pass on is that instead of Nick Caraway narrating the chain of events, we have a female lead in Katey, and she has an independent streak.  The reader knows that she isn’t going to sit away and pine after any man, except for maybe Tinker.  This might be a stretch for some people, but it was kind of like if F. Scott Fitzgerald had been hanging out with Carrie Bradshaw instead of Zelda during the jazz age.

So— the ultimately determination is that this book isn’t that bad.  When I went to my book club meeting several of the girls gave it a 10 out of 10, enjoying it even more than The Night Circus and Tell the Wolves I’m Home.  It’s not something I’m going to run and recommend to everyone I know, but if you’re wanting a chick lit novel, this is definitely the way to go.

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Mer Rating: 6.5/10

 

White Oleander

Where do I even begin with this perfect, magical book?  It’s one of those rare finds that make you want to keep reading forever.  I was hooked from the opening page, with its beautiful similes and metaphors, and continued to be throughout the entirety of the novel.

Sure, this book came out in 1998, but I just discovered it.

A brief synopsis doesn’t begin to cover the depth of the novel, but essentially a girl, Astrid Masgussan, is sent through the foster care system after her poet mother kills her own ex-boyfriend.  At each foster home something terrible happens, and Astrid is moved to another home.  I won’t go into too many more details because I don’t want any spoilers, but that is the gist.

The book has received many criticisms because it was chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick, which brings any book under a microscope.  I don’t want to give the impression that I think this book compares to the classic cannon, but it is a worthwhile and entertaining read.  One of the major criticisms is the fact that our narrator, Astrid, is too vague and her decision making process is hard to understand.  To that I say she is growing up throughout the course of the novel.  It starts when she’s 12 and ends when she’s 18.  Hardly any of what happens to her is really her fault because she is at the will of her foster families.

The other major criticism is the fact that the most intriguing character, Astrid’s mother Ingrid, is only seen through Astrid’s eyes so we never fully understand her.  Ummmm isn’t that the point?  When we have a specific narrator we are forced to look at the world through their eyes.  Honestly, Ingrid was probably the most evil female character I have encountered in modern literature, so I really don’t want to understand her thought process any better.  By evil I mean modern-day Lady MacBeth combined with Sleeping Beauty’s Malifiscent.  Something wicked this way comes=Ingrid.

The third major criticism is that it is so depressing.  Just when you think Astrid’s life is going in the right direction, something else happens.  If you read Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone, you have an idea of what it feels like for the main character to be in constant battle with the forces around her.  I loved Lamb’s book as well as Fitch’s, which according to some book reviews I’ve read means I love chick lit.  Both of those novels surpass what I think of when I think of chick lit, mainly in the lack of a Christian Gray type of character placed to save the ladies from danger.

The one thing I did not like about the book was the ending.  Don’t read any further if you want to read the book.  I was expecting something much better after the excruciating detail Fitch went to describing the rest of the novel.  It seemed like she wanted to wrap everything up in a happy ending bow and call it a day when the book had barely a scrap of happiness in it.  I particularly didn’t like how nonchalant Astrid seemed about her mother getting out of jail.  If the book had gone on, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ingrid found a way to kill her own daughter.  Yes, that evil.

At the end of the novel, I expected to burst into tears because the novel was over.  There are very few books that have made me feel that way, so in my mind this is a rare book.  I’m not even starting a new book today because I need one day to digest all that I just read.

Mer Rating: 9/10