Sunday, December 29, 2013

Low Carb Green Bean Casserole

So I've been gone for a bit but I haven't forgotten you guys. Hope that everyone has had an amazingly blessed holiday season. On Christmas day myself and my brother cooked for the family. One of the things that I made was this low carb green been casserole. If you're looking for a recipe that's tasty and low on carbs then this green bean casserole recipe is perfection.


Here's what you'll need: 

28 ounce can of green beans

1/2 of a small onion, diced

2 slices of thick bacon( or turkey bacon for my non pork eaters)

8 ounces softened cream cheese

1/2 cup chicken broth

Parmesan cheese

Fried onions (optional)


Here's what you'll need to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Chop bacon and fry until crisp.

Remove bacon from pan and reserve the grease. 

Add onion and saute for about 5 minutes. 

Add cream cheese and chicken broth. Heat and stir this mixture until smooth.

Add green beans to pan and mix well. Pour green bean mixture into casserole dish. 

Top with Parmesan cheese and bacon. 

Add a few tablespoons of fried onions as a garnish if you like.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.

Serving Size: 8 - NET carbs 3 per serving without fried onions


Live long and prosper 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Carrabba's Italian Grill Sogno Di Cioccolata aka Chocolate Dream Remake

So my family came to town awhile back and we went to Carrabba's Italian Grill for dinner. For dessert we ordered a delectably chocolatey treat appropriately called the chocolate dream. I loved it so much that I was determined to find the recipe in order to recreate it at home. I scoured the internet and found a few recipes and decided to tweak them in order to create my own version. If you're interested in trying this then here's what you'll need.


Ingredients:

Fudge brownie mix

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup Kahlua
2 cups prepared chocolate mousse( I used Jello Chocolate Mousse Mix)
2 cups whipped cream
1 ounce semisweet chocolate shavings

Directions:

Prepare brownie mix according to box instructions, using the two egg-recipe and substituting milk for the water.

Line two 9-inch square baking pans with either parchment paper or wax paper. Spray bottoms with non-stick cooking spray. Pour equal amounts of batter into each pan.

Bake - either in a convection oven at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes, or in a standard oven for about 24-26 minutes.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the middle of the brownie comes out clean.

IMPORTANT: Do not overbake!

Allow to cool completely.

Set one brownie pan aside; invert other pan and remove brownie in one piece; return to pan upside down; remove parchment paper.

Brush the brownie evenly with ½ of the Kahlua; then top with ½ of the mousse, spreading it evenly over the brownie.

Spread ½ of the whipped cream over the mousse.

Remove second brownie from pan; brush with remaining Kahlua; place it on top of other brownie; spread remaining mousse evenly over the top; spread remaining whipped cream over the mousse.

Sprinkle top evenly with chocolate shavings.

 Refrigerate until ready to serve.

My version doesn't look quite the same but it tastes very similar to the original. I'll definitely be trying this recipe again until I get it to be 100% match taste wise and in looks.

Happy Holidays =)


Friday, November 29, 2013

Low Carb Peanut Butter Pie

Since the name of my blog is Nutbutterluver it's no surprise that I have a special place in my heart for all things nut butters. Looking back at my recent posts I noticed that I haven't posted anything nut butter related in a while so I figured when better than the day after thanksgiving to pay homage to my favorite nut butter of them all; the peanut butter. Here's a creamy, decadent peanut butter pie that's low carb. Score!

Here's what you'll need: 

Chocolate Crust:

½ cup almond flour

1 scoop chocolate protein powder

¼ tsp xanthan gum

2 TB granular erythritol

½ stick butter

1 TB water

Peanut Butter Filling:

8 ounces softened cream cheese

1 cup no sugar added peanut butter

12 drops/ 1/2 cup  EZ Sweetz 

1/3 cup Da Vinci sugar-free peanut butter syrup

2/3 cup powdered erythritol

½ cup heavy whipping cream

¼ cup sugar-free chocolate chips (optional)

Crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 inch pie plate with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine almond flour, protein powder, xanthan gum, and erythritol in a food processor.
Add butter and pulse until butter is crumbled.
Add water and pulse just until the crumbled texture goes away and the mixture turns to dough.
Spread mixture evenly into pie plate and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Filling:
In a large mixing bowl combine cream cheese, peanut butter, EZ Sweetz, peanut butter syrup, and erythritol. Blend until smooth and creamy. Set mixture aside. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until light and fluffy. Gently fold whipping cream into peanut butter mixture.
Add filling to cooled pie crust and chill in refrigerator overnight.
Garnish with sugar-free chocolate chips.

Servings:
12 slices
4.5 net carbs per slice
53 Net carbs for entire pie.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Low Carb & Diabetes Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes


Orange Rosemary Turkey

Even if you're living a low carb lifestyle or your diabetic there's no reason you should be left out of the thanksgiving feast. Here are amazingly delicious thanksgiving dinner recipes that are as healthy as they are tasty.

First on the list is the big guy himself Mr. Turkey. Thanksgiving just wouldn't be thanksgiving without a huge succulent turkey.

Here's what you'll need:

10- 20 lb. whole turkey
3/4 cup olive oil
3 TBS minced garlic
2 TBS chopped fresh rosemary
2 TBS dried parsley
2 TBS dried thyme
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 orange
1 apple

Directions

Clean the turkey, pat dry, and gently massage to release the skin.

Mix the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, parsley, thyme, pepper and salt. Rub all over the outside of the turkey, and gently lift the skin, careful not to tear it, and rub the mixture under the skin as well.

Place orange and apple along with your fresh herbs and spices into the inner cavity of the turkey.

Place the turkey in a roasting pan or in a turkey roaster and fill with water about 1/2 inch full.

Cook at 325 degrees F for 3-4 hours, or time and temperature according to the turkey's package directions.

Be sure to check the turkey every hour. If it is becoming too brown, cover gently with foil.

Remove turkey from oven, also remove the apple and orange from the cavity and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Serving size is approximately 4 oz. of turkey.

Nutritional Facts
Servings 18
Calories 194
Total Fat 13g
Saturated Fat 2g
Sodium 367 mg
Carbohydrates 2 g
Protein 14g
Turkey Gravy

This turkey gravy keeps sodium, fat, and carbs low but extremely flavorful .

Ingredients

1 Package Neck, heart, gizzard from turkey giblets

1 Medium carrot thickly sliced

1 Medium onion thickly sliced

1 Medium celery rib thickly sliced

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1 Turkey liver

3 Tablespoons fat from poultry drippings

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 Teaspoon salt

Directions

In a 3-quart saucepan, over high heat, place neck, heart, gizzard, vegetables, and salt in enough water to cover. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 45 minutes.


Add liver and cook 15 minutes longer. Strain both into a large bowl; cover and reserve broth in the refrigerator.


To make gravy, remove the cooked turkey and roasting rack from the roasting pan. Pour poultry drippings through a sieve into a measuring cup.


Add 1 cup giblet broth to the roasting pan and stir until the crusty brown bits are loosened; pour the deglazed liquid/broth into the 4-cup measure. Let the mixture stand a few minutes, until the fat rises to the top.


Over medium heat, spoon 3 tablespoons fat from the poultry drippings into a 2-quart saucepan. Whisk flour and salt into the heated fat and continue to cook and stir until the flour turns golden.


Meanwhile, skim and discard any fat that remains on top of the poultry drippings. Add remaining broth and enough water to the poultry drippings to equal 3-1/2 cups.


Gradually whisk in warm poultry drippings/broth mixture. Cook and stir, until gravy boils and is slightly thick.

Nutritional Facts

Servings 14 
Serving Size 1/4 cup
Calories 47
Protein 1g
Sodium 193 mg
Cholesterol 4 mg
Fat  3g
Carbohydrates 4 g

Cheesy Cauliflower Faux Mash Potatoes

If you're looking for a low-carb substitute for mashed potatoes then this recipe which only has 3 grams of carbohydrates.

Ingredients

2 heads cauliflower

1/4 cup half & half

2 TBS butter

1/2 cup medium white cheddar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions

Cut the cauliflower away from the core and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Place in a large microwave safe bowl. Add the half & half and butter.

Microwave on high for 5 minutes, then toss.

Repeat 2 more times until cauliflower is tender.

Pour into a food processor or blender. Add cheese, salt and pepper and blend until smooth with no lumps. (If puree is not getting smooth enough or the cheese isn't melting all the way, pour back into the bowl and microwave 2-3 more minutes and then puree again.)

When mixture is smooth, pour into a serving bowl and serve.

Nutritional Facts

Servings 8
Calories 82
Total Fat 6 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Sodium 184 mg
Carbohydrates 3 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Protein 3 g


Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

Add this delicious side dish and get a bonus of high fiber which helps slow down the absorption of carbs.
                         

Ingredients

2 lbs. brussel sprouts, trimmed

2 TBS olive oil

3 TBS minced shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 TBS white cooking wine

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 slices turkey bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled

3 TBS fresh shaved Parmesan

Directions

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.

Sautee shallots and garlic until the shallots start becoming transparent, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the brussel sprouts and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the cooking wine and broth, scraping the bottom of the pan.

When the liquid begins to bubble, reduce heat to low.

Season with salt and pepper, and cover.

Let simmer 8-10 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn't burn.

When the brussel sprouts are tender, transfer to a serving dish.

Sprinkle with the cooked turkey bacon and Parmesan shavings.


Nutritional Facts

Servings 8
Calories 100
Total Fat 4 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Sodium 192 mg
Carbohydrates 11 g
Dietary Fiber 4 g
Protein 5 g

Low-Carb Stuffing

Begin this recipe by using your favorite low-carb bread. Made from scratch, you know this recipe will deliver traditional flavors without all the carbs.

Ingredients

1 loaf low carb stuffing bread (see below) or low carb bread, crumbled or cut into cubes

1 large onion, chopped

6-7 cups chopped celery - about 2 small bunches

1 green Bell pepper, chopped

1 bunch parsley, chopped (about 2 cups)

4 teaspoons poultry seasoning, such as Bells

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Salt - start with 1/2 teaspoon, or 1 T chicken or turkey soup base (see below)

1 cup water or broth, plus more according to moisture needed

1 - 3 eggs if baking it, and if desired (nutritional info includes 1 egg)

1 T cooking oil

Directions

Make low-carb stuffing bread, or use about 1 - 1½ lb loaf of low-carb bread. Different types of bread will bring different results, so you may have to adjust the amount of liquid, seasonings, etc. I based the nutritional information below on using my homemade stuffing bread. In any case, allow the bread to dry out for awhile, either on the counter on in a low oven. It doesn't have to be totally dry, just kind of stale-level dry.

 Saute' onion, celery, and pepper until soft. Add parsley and cook for a minute or so, until wilted. Add seasonings. I include about a Tablespoon of Better Than Bouillon Soup Base at this point.


Mix together the vegetables and the bread. Add a cup of broth or water, stir, and taste. Adjust seasoning and moisture. If you're going to stuff poultry with it, leave it on the dry side because it will absorb a lot of juices during cooking.

You can eat it just as it is, but if you bake it, the flavors will come together better. Adding egg will make it come together in more of a melded together form. I usually add one egg, but don't like it too melded. You can add 2, or even three eggs. Mix well and bake at 350 F. for about half an hour, or until browned on top.

Nutritional Facts

Servings 12
Carbohydrate 5 g
Fiber 4 g
Protein 9 g
Calories 244


Green Bean Casserole

A great traditional side dish that includes a bonus of 4g fiber and a depth of flavor.

                               
Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup reduced sodium cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup half & half

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 medium white onion, sliced

2 TBS olive oil, divided

Mrs. Dash seasoning to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a small casserole dish and set aside.

Boil the green beans in salted water until bright green and softened.

Meanwhile, mix the soup, yogurt, half & half and pepper in a medium bowl.

When the green beans are done, add to the soup/yogurt mixture.

Heat 1 TBS olive oil in a small skillet and cook the mushrooms until lightly browned. Remove from heat and add to the green beans.

Toss together and pour into prepared casserole dish.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Cook the onions until they're transparent and golden. Add to the top of the green beans.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.

Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle with desired amount of Mrs. Dash.

Nutritional Facts

Servings 8
Calories 84
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 1g
Sodium 89mg
Carbohydrates 9g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Protein 3g

Sweet Potato Casserole

You can avoid traditional sweet potato recipes that are closer to dessert than to a side dish. This wonderful recipe will remind you of when you were young, but keep your blood sugars in check.

                            
Ingredients

8 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup half & half

1 egg white

3 TBS coconut oil

2 TBS Splenda brown sugar

1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup chopped pecans

zest of 1 orange

Directions

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a medium sized casserole dish and set aside.

When potatoes are done, strain them and pour into a large bowl.

Add the orange juice and half & half and whip with a hand mixer.

Add the egg white, coconut oil and sugar, and beat until well mixed.

Add the vanilla, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend.

Pour into prepared casserole dish and top with pecans and orange zest.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve.


Nutritional Facts

Servings 18
Calories 95
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 0g
Sodium 55mg
Carbohydrates 14g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Protein 1g


Sizzled Green Beans with Crispy Prosciutto & Pine Nuts

Sizzling green beans in a little oil helps to bring out their natural sweetness. Prosciutto, pine nuts and lemon zest dress up the flavor without adding a lot of fat - a nice alternative to full-fat, creamy green bean casseroles.

                               

Ingredients

Total Time: 45 minutes

2 pounds green beans, trimmed

2 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced, cut into ribbons

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh sage

1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Prepare through Step 1 and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add beans, return to a boil, and simmer until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain.

Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto; cook, stirring, until crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.

Wipe out the pan; heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add the beans, garlic, sage, 1/8 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are browned in places, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in pine nuts, lemon zest and the prosciutto. Season with lemon juice, the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Nutritional Facts
Servings 8 
Calories 98
Carbohydrates 10g
Fat 5g
Saturated Fat1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Protein 5g
Cholesterol 6 mg
Dietary Fiber 4g
Potassium 196mg
Sodium 264mg


Source: http://www.diabeticconnect.com

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

My love for fall and pumpkin inspired recipes is the inspiration for these deliciously pumpkin rich cupcakes. Here's an easy recipe for pumpkin spice cupcakes with pumpkin cream cheese frosting. Yum.

Here's what you'll need:

3/4 cup butter, softened
2-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup buttermilk


FROSTING:

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup pumpkin purée (not pie filling)

Directions

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add pumpkin. 

Combine the flour, pie spice, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and ginger; add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

For frosting, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, pumpkin puree,vanilla, and cinnamon; beat until smooth. 

Frost cupcakes and enjoy.

  
Happy Holidays 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Super Moist & Juicy Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

It's almost thanksgiving and that means it's time to figure out what you'll be cooking if you're hosting thanksgiving dinner. There's a multitude of amazing turkey recipes out there but this recipe is my absolute favorite, never fail, super moist go to turkey recipe. Enough small talk, let's get straight to it. =)


You'll need
15- 20 lb turkey, thawed, inside packets removed

BRINE
1 gallon buttermilk
8 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon black pepper
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped

INSIDE CAVITY
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 apple
1 orange
Fresh herbs(as desired)


SEASONED BUTTER
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon garlic flakes
½ teaspoon paprika


Instructions

Combine all of the brine ingredients in a large bowl.

Line a large bowl, pot or bucket with an oven roasting bag that's big enough to completely cover your turkey.

Place the turkey and brine into the bag.

Tie the bag, making sure all the air is out and the buttermilk brine is completely surrounding the turkey.

Refrigerate overnight. (Do not brine past 24 hours!!!)

Preheat oven to 325.

Rinse the brine off of completely your turkey.

Dry the turkey with paper towels until completely dry.

Combine the salt and pepper and rub inside of the turkey cavity.

Stuff the cavity with fresh herbs, onion, garlic, an apple, and an orange.

Combine all of the seasoned butter ingredients.

Brush this butter mixture generously onto the turkey, until covered with butter. Reserve some of the butter if desired.

Place turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up.

Place on the lower rack in the oven and bake uncovered for 3 hours and 45 minutes to 4 hours.

Cover with foil for the last 45 minutes (if you are content with the browning) and also remove the apple and orange at this point.

Roast the turkey breast down for the last 10-15 minutes.

Use a thermometer and your cooking guide since turkey sizes and oven temperatures vary.

Remove from oven when done.

Let rest for 20 minutes.

Place to the middle of your serving plate and garnish with rosemary or whatever else your prefer. 

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sound Proof Your Apartment For Cheap

As a college girl and apartment dweller two things are of paramount importance to me when it comes to my living space; I need it to be cost effective and quiet. When making improvements to your apartment you'd want to find solutions that are inexpensive and temporary. I hate noise and most apartment walls are so thin that you can hear your neighbors snoring at night. I've been looking for simple, cheap, temporary solutions to ensure that I hear as little noise from my neighbors as possible. If you're looking for ways to accomplish the same goal then hopefully these tips may be helpful to you.

The Door

Perhaps the best place to start soundproofing is the door. In an apartment, most doors aren't very thick and in most cases there are gaps between the door and it's frame. It's these gaps that not only bring a draft of cold or hot air into your apartment but these gaps are also responsible for adding to the amount of noise you hear from the hallway and from outside. As an apartment dweller you probably wouldn't be able to change your thin door to a thicker one but you can supplement its shortcomings with a number of cheap gadgets designed to prevent drafts. Sound waves are like air, in that they have a hard time making their way through sealed spaces.
A twin guard draft is an easy cheap device that you can slip under your door that blocks air (and sound) from both sides of the door thanks to two foam cylinders that rest on either side. It installs without requiring any attachment to the door itself, and works on most doors. Make sure you pick up one that is the right size for your door. Keep in mind that this isn't the ultimate solution. It just happens to be one of the more helpful ones without altering the door itself. You can get rubberized flaps that attach by way of screws or adhesive and rub against the floor as the door is opened or closed. This type of sweep seal is more effective, but requires some modification to the door itself.
Another great alternative or addiction would be to use weather-stripping foam tape around the top and sides of the door frame to create a better air seal that will limit the amount of sound that comes through a door. The foam tape and draft guard will reduce the amount of sound that leaks out through the door; the better the seal, the less sound will leak through. The weather stripping foam is usually under bucks 10 and can be found at any home improvement store. It has a self adhesive backing which makes it really easy for the least skillful DIY enthusiast. If installed with care the sound reduction will be significant just from those two tweaks.
Another cheap alternative would be to use egg carton foam (like the kind you find at bedding stores) can help. It isn't exactly studio quality, so it may not work as well as the more expensive stuff, but attaching that foam to the inside of the door can absorb some of the sound bleeding through the surface. It's not the most attractive option decor wise but it does provide some sound proofing benefits. Another thing to keep in mind with using foam on your door is that this may be a fire hazard. Think about it, foam stuck to the back of your door will be extremely flammable in the event of a fire. The use of the foam isn't my favorite alternative but like I said it does help with the noise factor coming from the door.    

Walls

Echo is a big factor in sound production. Walls in apartments might be thin, but there are a few things you can do to lessen the degree of impact this sound bleeding has on your apartment. As stated before, egg carton foam is a great sound insulator. If you can afford the expensive stuff, it could be worth it to you, but if your walls really are that thin, nothing short of a wall of toilet paper will insulate louder noises. 

Arrange foam in squares around the walls. It would be impractical to cover every square inch of the wall with the stuff, so try doing it in a pattern. A square could be turned and posted in a diamond pattern around the wall, with two-foot gaps between pieces. This reduces echo as the foam itself is quite absorbing. This won’t insulate against bangs and bass thumps from noisy neighbors, but it will help prevent noises from inside the room turning up on your recording. Use a mild adhesive. The foam isn't heavy, and doesn't require more than maybe a small tack or some of that gooey putty stuff. My favorite and most effective alternative is using a product called Audimute. My little brother went through a drum playing phase awhile back and the noise drove my parents crazy so my dad bought and installed about 10 sheets of Audimute absorption sheets. Audimute isn't the cheapest product but it's very effective and portable so you easily remove it and bring it to your new apartment/house. Another tip is to remember that the more furniture in your room would reduce the amount of sound. Hanging thick beautiful wall tapestries may provide a bit of soundproofing.
Another tip would be to use any bookcases that you may have close to exterior walls or walls where noise is coming from the other side. Book cases full of books standing against your walls will provide a bit of soundproofing. Clothes and towels hung on towel racks will provide some sound insulation in your bathroom. 

Windows

Windows may be one area that you have the least control over in your apartment. Aside from using heavy curtains or some basic weather-stripping, most apartments restrict you from doing anything to alter the windows. In fact, many apartments (mine included) require you to have the same brand/style of blinds facing outward that came with the apartment. Talk about a lack of options.
You can, however, find some interesting sound reduction curtains out there if the cost of those sound reduction curtains leaves you weary try your best to get thick/ double lined curtains. They may not be as pretty as the lighter decorative ones, but they do a pretty good job at absorbing the sound between the window pane and the room. Oddly enough these suggestions not only help with soundproofing but they also would help to keep your heating and cooling costs down. Score. Also when your lease is up you can remove the draft guard, foam, and bookcases without worrying about losing your security deposit. Do you use these tips or have any other suggestions you'd like to share?

Live long and prosper...in a sound proof apartment.

Haha...I apologize but I couldn't help myself. =) 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pumpkin Butter Smoothie

In case you didn't know I've been a tad bit pumpkin obsessed. I previously posted a blog post about how I use pumpkin butter so here's a recipe that I use to make pumpkin butter smoothie. It's deliciously indulgent and oh so easy to make.

Here's what you'll need:
1/2 cup pumpkin butter
1/2 cup skim milk(Almond or whole milk can also be used)
1/2 cup crushed ice
6 oz nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon or nutmeg spice to taste)
2 tsp packed brown sugar ( maple syrup/honey or stevia to taste)

Prep:
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Enjoy:
Serve with a straw or not =)

Note:
Freeze some pumpkin butter in ice cube trays and use that instead of ice to make it even creamier.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Some Monday Motivation

"Millions of people have decided not to be sensitive. They have grown thick skin around themselves just to avoid being hurt by anybody. But it is at great cost. Nobody can hurt them, but nobody can make them happy either.


When you start becoming open, both things become available: Sometimes it will be cloudy, and sometimes there will be sun. But if you remain closed off in your cave, then there is no cloud and no sun either. It is good to come out, to dance with the sun, and yes, sometimes to feel sad with the clouds too - and sometimes it will be very windy. When you come out of the cave, all things are possible, and one of the things is that people can hurt you … but that is only one of the things.

Don’t think about it too much, otherwise you will become closed again. There are millions of possibilities; think of those things too. You will be happier; you will be more loving. You will be more available, and other people will be more available to you. You will be able to laugh, you will be able to celebrate. There are a thousand and one possibilities. Why choose only one thing, that people will hurt you?"

— Osho


Picture Source:http://pdi.tumblr.com/

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

12 Uses For Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butter + Homemade Pumpkin Butter Recipe

If you read my Pumpkin Spice Fudge post you'd know that I made an all things pumpkin grocery haul at Trader Joe's recently. Actually since then I've made two trips to TJ's. One of girlfriends saw my bottle of pumpkin butter and was curious about it. I raved, offered her a taste, and of course I told her about the various ways that I enjoy pumpkin butter. Since I shared my love for pumpkin butter with her I figured why not share it with you guys. Here are a few ways I like to enjoy Pumpkin Butter:

  1. On crackers with organic peanut butter. Instead of peanut butter, you could also try almond or cashew butter. The combination of nuts and pumpkin compliment each other.
  2. Add it to your oatmeal. The combination makes it a hearty dish. Perfect for a fall breakfast.
  3. Mix in with plain Greek yogurt. You can crumble in some graham crackers for a pumpkin pie kinda action. If you're up for a bit more pumpkin indulgence try Trader Joe's Pumpkin ice cream. It's so good that I bought 2 cartons. 
  4. Add it to some cottage cheese with some walnuts or almonds, and there you have a healthy mid-afternoon snack option.
  5. Next time you bake chicken, after some salt & pepper, slather some pumpkin butter on the skin like a rub. The sweet pumpkin adds a nice twist. Serve a nice leafy green on the side.
  6. Instead of jelly or jam, dollop on top of toast or bagel with cream cheese.
  7. Add it to pancake and waffle syrup.Yum. Also add some pumpkin butter into your pancake/waffle   batter before cooking. I tried it and it's delicious. I used this recipe.
  8. Creating a Biscoff and Pumpkin Pie Cookie. Biscoff + Pumpkin butter = Yummy Goodness.
  9. Try making a Chocolate Swirl Pumpkin Bundt Cake. 
  10. Instead of peanut butter and jelly, use pumpkin butter instead of jelly.
  11. Another great use for the pumpkin butter is inside pumpkin muffins. A dollop provides a delicious pumpkin surprise. 
  12. Add Pumpkin butter to your smoothie. Yesterday I decided to give it a try and it was absolutely delicious. 
Don't have a Trader Joe's close by? No biggie, you have two choices; make your own pumpkin butter or head to your local farmers market. Around this time of year, lots of farmer's markets and other gourmet food stores start selling pumpkin butter. If you like pumpkin pie, then this is a nice quick alternative on a piece of bread. It's not really butter (in case anyone was wondering), but more like a pumpkin spreadable jam. In any case here's a quick recipe for homemade pumpkin butter.

You'll need:

1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree (about 3.5 cups)
1 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 pinch ground cloves
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon whiskey (optional)
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Then prep:

Combine all ingredients, except for lemon juice, in a large saucepan.
Bring mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 mins, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and let cool.
Pour into airtight jar(s) and store in refrigerator.

TaDa! You've just made homemade pumpkin butter.

So, do you love pumpkin butter as much as I do? What other ways have you used pumpkin butter?

Hope you have a Happy Fall fellow pumpkin lovers.

Friday, November 1, 2013

DIY Ornament Wreath

It's Fall and I'm obsessed with DIY's to transform my apartment into a holiday season cocoon. I love wreath's and wanted to try my hand at a DIY ornament wreath. I already had most of the things needed so I figured why not re- purpose my old wreath and ornaments into a new cheerful, welcoming wreath for my visitors and neighbors to enjoy. 

Here's what you'll need:
  • Foam ring or green wreath
  • Ornaments
  • Hot Glue gun w/ glue sticks
  • Patience  & Holiday Cheer (Corny I know) =)
 Initially I bought a foam wreath but remembered that I had an old green wreath in storage so I took it out and removed the poinsettia flowers and other nick nacks that were originally on it. I forgot to take a picture of the ugly original wreath but here's a picture of the naked green wreath and the foam wreath. 
With my wreaths ready to go I had to figure out the color scheme I wanted for my creation. I had a box full of ornaments from years past. For a minute I was tempted to do the traditional red and green wreath but decided to try a silver and gold wreath instead.
Naked wreath (check), ornaments & color scheme decided (check), time to get my glue gun and get to it. FYI: I used a high temp glue gun and mini glue sticks. 

I like to place my glue gun on a piece of aluminum foil as a precaution just in case some glue drips from the nozzle. Any leaked glue globs will land on the foil and not on my table or anything else. Some people would recommend removing all of the metal tops off of the ornaments but I didn't because the green hides most of the metal tops but feel free to do whichever works best for you. When gluing the ornaments to the wreath it's also recommended that you use the larger ornaments to the bottom and the smaller ones to the top. The smaller ornaments will cover any awkward looking spaces left in between the large ornaments.
So about 15- 20 minutes later I was done. I used about 80-90 ornaments total and used about 7 mini glue sticks. 
And there you have it folks. I spent a total of $4.77 to create my ornament wreath. I spent $2 on two canisters of large ornaments from my local dollar store and $2.77 for a package of 30 multi temp mini glue sticks from Walmart. I reused my old wreath and small silver and gold ornaments. Instead of spending $79 on an ornament wreath from Pottery Barn I created my own for $4.77. Well actually it'll be less because I only used only seven out of the 30 glue sticks in the package. That's a whopping savings of  approximately $74. Happy Holidays to me. Even if you don't have an old wreath on hand you can get green or foam wreaths from your local dollar store, Walmart, or Michael's etc.  Glue guns are pretty inexpensive. You can get one with prices ranging from $3- $10. Hopefully this post inspires you to create your very own holiday ornament wreath.  


Happy Holidays  

and as always 

Live long and prosper ...


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Fudge


It's Fall and that means that it's pumpkin season. Woohoo! I don't know about you guys but I get really excited when Trader Joe's begins to sell all things pumpkin.

 At my latest Trader Joe's trip I went a little pumpkin crazy. I picked up pumpkin tea's, pumpkin coffee, breakfast bars, pumpkin cream cheese spread, pumpkin pancake mix, pumpkin butter, and of course pumpkin puree. Last night I decided to try an amazingly easy recipe for Pumpkin Spice Fudge and it turned out great. In the spirit of sharing and not overindulging I shared my home made treats with co-workers today and they all loved it. Here's a quick recipe that satisfies your love for sweets and pumpkin. Happy Fall. =)

Ingredients

3 cups brown sugar

3/4 c. butter (no substitutions)

2/3 c. evaporated milk

1/2 c. pumpkin puree

1 1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 (12 oz.) pkg. white chocolate chips

1 (7 oz.) jar Marshmallow creme or melt marshmallows

1 c. chopped pecans or macadamia nuts (optional)

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


Directions

Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a heavy saucepan: cook over medium heat until the sugars dissolve, then continue cooking until the mixture begins to boil, stirring constantly.

Boil until a candy thermometer reaches the the soft-ball stage (234 ~ 243 degrees). Remove from heat, stir in the white chips until they are all melted and mixture is smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well.


Pour into prepared pan, and cool to room temperature. Cut into squares, store refrigerated in an air tight container. Makes approx. 60 pieces.

Note: The total boiling time is around 30 minutes.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Sleeping Beauty ~ The Best Beauty Tips & Tricks To Use While You Sleep


This post is all about giving new meaning to the words beauty sleep. Like most busy women I love to multitask. As I type this blog I'm cooking dinner and watching James Bond on Bravo. We multitask for most of the day so why not do it at night while you sleep. Today, I’m sharing great overnight beauty tips that will help you wake up with soft supple skin, bright beautiful eyes, healthy looking hair and soft sexy feet. Enough babbling let's get straight to the tips starting from head to toe...

Repair
 Your Hair

Every night I apply a leave-in conditioner or moisturizer then seal it on by using an oil. Doing this ensures healthy hydrated hair. While you sleep the conditioner/ moisturizer is absorbed into the hair and the thin layer of oil seals in the moisture you just placed on your hair.  My oils of choice rotates between  Coconut oil, Jojoba oil, Almond oil, Jamaican black castor oil, and Grape seed oil. If you have very fine/thin hair then I'd suggest you only use the oil once a week. I tend to use oil to seal in the moisture about 3 times a week but I moisturize my hair every single night. Another tip would be to ditch the cotton pillow cases. Swap the moisture sucking cotton for a silk or satin pillow case. Satin/silk cases feels amazing on your skin but most importantly it reduces frizz and it doesn't suck out as much moisture from your hair as cotton pillow cases do. Using your satin pillowcase ensures that the newly applied hair product gets a chance to fully penetrate into your hair cuticles creating optimum moisture and hair health.You can pick up these pillowcases from most beauty supply stores or just order it from Amazon.

 Lengthen Those Lashes


Lashes are often neglected and mistreated. Think about it, most of us clean it, drown it in mascara, squeeze it with eye lash curlers and repeat that cycle daily. Well its time to show some much needed TLC to your lashes by pampering them at night.  Castor oil is an amazing oil that thickens, lengthens, and strengthens your lashes. Get a mascara wand ( I get mine from eyeslipsface.com) and simply coat your lashes with a little bit of castor oil. Do this right before you hit the sack and be sure not to use too much as it could get into your eyes and cause burning.  Doing this simple routine consistently will result in healthier longer lashes within a month or two. Consistency is key.
 
De-puff
 The Eyes 



To help prevent puffy eyes, prop up your head on two pillows when you go to sleep. Gravity is your friend when it comes to fluid retention and of course, don’t forget your eye cream. One of my favorite under eye tricks is to use Vitamin E oil. I lightly tap a bit of the oil on my under eye area. No tugging or pulling now; be gentle. Another great product for the under eye area is RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Eye Cream. I'm a sucker for most RoC products. Don't judge me. 
Brighten
 Your Skin

It’s best to apply any face products that have brightening ingredients like retinol and vitamin C at night. Sunlight can actually deactivate them and prevent them from working to their fullest potential.  I have extremely oily, acne prone skin so I get scars from acne. I've noticed that exfoliating then using moisturizers with retinol and vitamin C at night has made a great difference in the tone and appearance of my skin. Acne scars disappear so much quicker using this regimen.  My skin looks cleaner, clearer, and younger. #Winning 


 Prevent Pesky Wrinkles


Sleeping on a cotton pillowcase can create wrinkles. Instead, pamper yourself by investing in a silk or satin one. It will lessen the pressure on your skin and help prevent hair breakage as previously mentioned. Also using a good moisturizer with retinol and collagen works wonders. 

Get Pearly Whites


For an easy DIY whitening treatment, try brushing with baking powder at night. Brush with a baking soda paste and rinse with hydrogen peroxide. This is a perfect night time beauty treatment. While you sleep the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide whitens and whitens effectively because you're not eating or drinking while you sleep. Just make sure that you don't do this too many days out of the week. I'd suggest no more than 3 times.  


 Moisturize
 Your Body

Ladies, take note: A humidifier is a must have for winter must haves. Turn on  your humidifier before you sleep (this works best during colder months because the air is drier) and let it work its magic. The humidifier instills the air with moisture, which in turn helps plump your skin and keep it hydrated.  

Care For Your Cuticles
Nail beds looking dry? Apply cuticle cream or oil before you sleep. Doing this often will ensure that you’ll wake up to healthy, hydrated nail beds. My favorite oil for moisturizing my cuticles is sweet almond oil. Sweet almond oil is one of those oils that I use for my skin and my hair, it's amazing. You can also use a very inexpensive cuticle pen from eyeslipsface.com. When I say inexpensive I mean it, the cuticle pen is only $1.00. You're welcome ladies. =)    

 Soften Your Feet
My favorite DIY deep moisturizing foot lotion is a combination of baby lotion, vitamin E, and petroleum jelly. Here's what I do... While I shower I lightly rub a pumice stone on the bottom of my feet. After my shower while my feet are a little damp ( not completely wet just damp) I slather on my moisturizer. After my feet have been moisturized I put on my socks and let the moisturizer do it's job. The socks help bind the moisture to your feet and you’ll wake up with soft, smooth soles. If your feet are really dry and cracked I'd recommend that you moisturize your feet with the 3 ingredient super moisturizing concoction, wrap your feet in saran wrap, and then slip it into your favorite pair of fuzzy socks. Yes, I know it sounds weird but the saran wrap works. Using socks works but it's made from fabric and fabric absorbs. Using the barrier of saran plastic ensures that nothing but your feet absorbs the moisture. The fuzzy socks aren't necessary but they're cute and sooo soft. 

So there you have it ladies. A few of my favorite night-time multitasking, beautifying tips and tricks. Try these and you be feeling and looking like a real life sleeping beauty...

Bonne nuit mon amie...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Midnight Musings ~ Beating The Turning 30 Blues

Today, October 23rd…I turned 30. There were no fireworks, no big bang, no gray hairs (Thank you God) no bells and whistles…just peace and thankfulness and admittedly a tinge of regret for some of the craziness I got myself into in my 20’s but most of all, I’m just happy to see another beautiful sunset, although, I was happy to see one yesterday AND the day before…etc.

These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about turning 30 and what I want in my life, who I want to be, and what is important to me. Many of these things form, grow and transform as we age and grow wiser, but there are also choices and pathways to be made, and carved, along the way.

I’ve been thinking about how deeply thankful I am for the things that are in my life, that I find places of peace and rest, and that I'm finally on my way to knowing myself well and deeply, finally I actually love who and where I am.

I’ve also thought a lot about the person I want to be moving forward. I always want to be made new, sloughing off those things which are selfish, discordant, unproductive, and negative in nature etc, and developing character that brings peace and good to myself and loved ones. 

I want to think deeply about what things will be important to me, which things won’t, which things I do and don’t want to identify myself with, who I want to be as a friend, daughter, human, and partner, what qualities are vitally important in my relationships. What I want to spend my work time and spare time doing, what I want to create, etc etc etc.

I don’t want to be a person bound by what others think of me, or by insecurity, or by fear of risk. I want to be a person known for their kindness, gentleness, sincerity, and love. I want to be a lover of those things which are substantial and good. I want to remember that anger is poisonous. I want my patience to know no end (I am not there, not even close at the moment). I don’t want to be afraid to develop deep relationships. 
 
I want to know a small group of people well, and be known fully be them. The thought of letting someone in fully has always been terrifying to me and it still is but at least now I'm opening my mind and heart to the possibility. I want to always love the small things, the things that others miss. I want to always find rest in nature, and always remember the glory of God in nature, and in people. I want to do whatever I do to the best of my ability- whether it’s work, or friendships, or motherhood, or life. I want to learn how to foster an even better relationship with my mom. I want to travel. I want to write more. I want to get a real camera and take photos, capture my life in it's entirety without fear of not liking what I see.

I want to swim in the ocean, skydive, and climb a mountain. I want to be a beautiful and gracious partner, and be loved by someone who is fully and completely committed to me and finds it a joy to be so. I want to dance every day. Every day. I want to own my own house, with a huge library with wooden shelves filled with books from floor to ceiling. I want to be more flexible (both physically and with my schedule). I want to cultivate spontaneity (paradoxical though, it seems). I want to learn to love my hair, my skin, my weight, and my body no matter what, and know that those things don’t define me. I want to read more, and really engage with what I’m reading.

I want to give generously. I want to be slow to anger. I don’t want to interrupt. I want to always make a difference in my work. I want to have children and teach them about love, forgiveness, joy, appreciating the small things, and being compassionate to those in need. I want to truly understand what Jesus said about people, salvation, and redemption, and act accordingly. I want to care less about who may not think I’m cool. I want to make my family proud.

I want to be wise, be free, and be good (down to my core). I want to learn every day. I want to be ok with being wrong. I want to communicate better. I want to risk in love again. I want to sing out loud more. I want to always try new things. I want to laugh out loud more. Like, really loud. =) I want to pray in all things. I want to always be young at heart, with an old wise soul. I want to catch a fish in my hand, and then set it free. I don’t want to be bound by productivity but still live a productive life. I want to speak kindly at all times, especially when I'm angry. I want to learn how to be firm and still gentle. I want to publish my paper. I want to sit by a fire every evening in the fall with a blanket, a good book, and a warm drink. And I want to hug people really well, so that they'll know that I mean it.

Someone asked me if I could have done my 20’s over, what would I have done differently…my response…LOVE MYSELF COMPLETELY. That’s it. Loving me…I mean REEEEALLLY loving Crystal. Love my big lips, big head, and wide grin. Love my body when it was big, small, and everything in between. I would have embraced my quirks, my imperfections, and sometimes give in to my impulses. I would have been more selective about who I loved, and gave my heart and time to. I would have recognized that although I'm flawed I'm still a wonderful person worth loving. My 20's was a time of a lot of hurt, confusion, and self hate. I never thought that I was smart enough, fun enough, pretty enough, loveable enough. I would want to be anyone but me and because of that self hate I was a miserable girl. Although I fell into a rabbit hole of emotional misery I was very good at smiling and helping others with an air of confidence while I felt dead inside. What can I say; I was a good faker. =(     
 
Not truly loving me, allowed me to attract negative beings who didn’t love themselves and who could therefore never truly love me. After all, hurt people…hurt people. I’m not just talking romantic relationships, I’m talking about friendships as well. Recognizing my own light didn’t come until recently and by then mistakes had been made and bad habits created. The key however is that I now  know that I can overcome this. I now know that it’s NEVER too late to recognize my light, my love, my passion and live fully without fear. In this new chapter in my life I aim to find myself, embrace myself! Cherish myself! I truly beleive that loving yourself and changing the quality of your thoughts creates an environment of chnage that will influence just about every facet of your life.  It’s a somewhat laborious journey, but it’s sooo worth it.

In a way though, all of those things have kept me humble, it has allowed me to speak with transparency, and to have compassion for those who have dealt with the same. With all of the bad, there has been plenty of good, I attained my undergraduate and graduate degrees and began working on my PhD. I have a great job and started an online business where I've sold merchandise to women all over the world. I’ve established wonderful friendships with people from all walks of life, I’ve been able to hone my craft and reconnect with my love for art and literature. I’m resilient, always have been and for that I’m truly grateful.

I’m in a good place…not that that things can’t be better. I’m ALWAYS striving for better but I’m good.

Today, just like birthday’s passed, I read birthday cards and messages of love and I smile while a tear rolls down my cheek. I realize that even with worldly accomplishments and material items there's still nothing better than the love returned by the ones you love, that feeling is the best gift ever. Here’s to another year of things that are good and true, one year wiser and with a fuller hopeful heart.

Here's to living, learning, growing, evolving, laughing & loving…

Happy Birthday to me.