"New Plant"

Hellooo! Hope your weekend was wonderful.

Mine consisted of a fun show in Doylestown (drummer boyf rocked it out, as per usual), a night in Philly at our go-to bar, a gorgeous wedding in Alexandria with perfect weather, got to meet tons of Coop’s college friends which was awesome…they are super CUH-razy….just how I like ’em ;), and then we spent allllll Sunday watching football (YEAH Eagles!!!) and drinking iced DD cawfs (pumpkin is baaaack!).

One pump pumpkin syrup, please. (Source)

Only time we got up all day was to walk to pick up our veggie-topped za from Old City Pizza, with black olives, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, spinach, broccoli and sliced tomatoes. Uh, yum. Also watched Rescue Dawn late night…we both liked it! May or may not have been a two-hour nap thrown in there as well….what a glorious day.

The wedding was amazing. Loved hanging out with all of Coop’s college buddies; they are all so much fun. Both the bride and groom went to Muhlenberg, so I got to meet a lot of friends they went to school with. The couple was so in love and it was a beautiful, thoughtful ceremony and a fantastic party. I love weddings!

We got a late start from Philly in the morning, so I was nervous about having time to get ready when we got there. Luckily, we hit next-to-no traffic and I had time to relax with a beer and meet some friends while throwing my hair up and makeup on. Beer + meeting new people + doing hair and makeup all at once = just call me Super Multi-tasker.

Sad attempt at taking pictures of the back of my head
to make sure the hurr looks alright.
(Yes, did this in front of people I have never met before. Class.)

The ceremony was outdoors at a beautiful country club, not a cloud in the sky.

One of the only pics we took that night! Oops.

Then, we took it inside for amazing food, fabulous drinks, and plenty of dancing. Basically, we all crushed the dance flo’…like usual.

Oh, hi, newly short-haired boy already dancing at the table
before the reception is in full swing.

Anyway, definitely ready to get back in the healthy-eating & workout mode. Fun to play all weekend, but my body needs a serious detox. On the agenda for today was my FIRST time trying BodyPump, and a little elliptical for some cardio. Les Mills does it again…I’m a fan! Now if only I could get my booty to the 5:45 am class to get it out of the way for the day!

Oh, and I think it is about time to finally post that healthified mac ‘n’ cheese recipe I have spoken so much about! I am no nutritionist or dietician by any means, but I do try to cook things that are tasty and good for my body.

I’m a huge fan of hearty, cheesy, home-cooked meals, and something about crispy breadcrumb-topped, creamy mac ‘n’ cheese is so comforting. Add in the extra benefits of low fat cheese, milk and Greek yogurt, giving it a creamy texture without butter or cream, whole wheat pasta and breadcrumbs that keep you satisfied longer than processed white carbs, and the addition of a bunch of spinach, a heart-healthy super food full of vitamins and nutrients while being low in calories. Plus, capsaicin, a component in chili peppers that makes hot stuff hot, has shown in studies that it may curb hunger. Sign me up.

(I apologize for the phone pics…gotta fix that camera! Hope to update this one day with better pictures.)

Healthy Buffalo Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Spinach

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
~ 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
~ 1 C hot sauce such as Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce, divided into two ½ C amounts
~ 2 TB extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing)
~ ½ red onion, diced
~ 2-3 large cloves garlic, minced (I love garlic…you can use less if you are not a huge fan!)
~ ½ tsp cumin
~ Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
~ 1 lb whole wheat pasta such as shells or rotini
~ 3-4 C spinach (This stuff sautés down to nothing! Good way to get lots of veggies in.)
~ 1 C reduced-fat cheddar cheese
~ 1 C reduced-fat Colby cheese
~ 1/2 C skim milk
~ 1 C nonfat plain Greek yogurt such as Fage
~ 1/3 C scallions, minced (the green tops)
~ 3 TB whole wheat bread crumbs
~ 2 TB panko bread crumbs (super crispy!)
~1 tsp ground flax seed
~Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Prep time: 25 minutes (plus about 40 to bake the chicken)
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Directions:
1.)     Prepare two chicken breasts by marinating in ½ C of the buffalo hot sauce and baking or grilling until done. Then pull apart with two forks. OR use rotisserie chicken to cut down on time! Set aside.
2.)      Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
3.)      Prepare the whole-wheat pasta according to box; it is okay if it is still a little al dente (it will cook more thoroughly when it is later baked). Set aside.
4.)      Sauté onions, garlic, cumin, and a bit of cayenne (optional) in the extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Do this in a fairly deep pan so that you can later add the rest of the cheese sauce.
5.)      Meanwhile, sauté the spinach separately. I use EVOO and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
6.)      Into the garlic-onion-cumin-cayenne-EVOO mix, melt 1 C cheddar and 1 C Colby cheeses, adding in up to ½ C skim milk to keep more viscous. Add in ½ C buffalo hot sauce (I originally used 1 full cup here and in addition to the cayenne I used, it was a little too hot! But add hot sauce to your preference). Stir continually to avoid burning. You may want to use a whisk.
7.)      Once melted, turn off heat and stir in 1 C Greek yogurt and the scallions. Set aside a few scallions for garnish later, if desired.
8.)      Add the pulled buffalo chicken into the cooked pasta, and then add the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.
9.)      Take half of the pasta/chicken/sauce mixture and spread in a greased baking dish (I spray lightly with olive oil PAM).
10.)  Layer the sautéed spinach on top of the half-mixture.
11.)  Layer the other half of the pasta/chicken/sauce mixture on top of the spinach.
12.)  In a separate bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, ground flax seed, salt, pepper, and cayenne (to taste). Sprinkle on the top of the mac ‘n’ cheese. Garnish with a few leftover minced scallions if preferred.
13.)  Bake for 25-30 minutes, when the breadcrumbs are crispy and browning.
Sautéing
Buffalo Cheese Sauce

Adding the pulled buff chicken into the cooked rotini

Second layer of pasta over the spinach

Breadcrumby!

May not look pretty, but it is delish!

Let me know if you try it! It is a hit with the family and a fave of the boy’s.

Need an art fix until later this week when I post my newest drawing? This was originally going to be an art blog, after all! Here is my design idea for a bookmark that I will sell, and also throw in as a little extra for commissioned pieces (…Already did a commission for you? Hit me up, I’ll send ya one when they come in!).

Balloon Duck

Also, I must make a note that I have a new goal for this year. I have a serious problem with killing every plant in my sight (I missed out on the green thumb gene that my mom has), and I am going to try again.

Here was Beasley the III (yes, Beasley and Beasley the II were both murdered by yours truly). Don’t be skewed by the picture where he doesn’t look so bad…this thing has been sitting on my work desk, dead as a doornail, for months.

Ill-fated Beasley the III (and baby Koda)

Enter “New Plant” (haven’t found the perfect name yet, but I think I need to hop off the Beasley train. Name is cursed). My goal? Keep this baby alive for more than a few measly months. See you in December, fully flourishing, big and beautiful New Plant!
(Recent development: first day I bring in New Plant, and a HUGE wasp lands right on it, a co-worker swats it [along with New Plant], and buries said wasp in it’s dirt. This will either be extra fertilizer or he will emerge from being buried somewhat alive and sting the hell out of me. Eek.)

“New Plant” and the waspy grave

PS: Can ya tell from my work desk that I am a bit of a Flyers fanatic?

Another little sidebar…if anyone is from the East Coast near Philly/most of Jersey/Delaware, you probably know and love Wawa. I seriously craved this stuff when I lived out West. They recently enhanced their menu by introducing new ingredients like cucumbers, roasted red peppers, spinach and jalapenos!!! I live for jalapenos and everything spicy/southwestern. And…I guess I am on a cucumber kick lately, despite my usual feelings about them. Now if only they would throw avocado into the mix…I would be a happy girl. Hint, hint, Wawa!

Yum.

Gonna finish watching some Monday Night Football now. Go Pats!

See you tomorrow!

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