Spaghetti Squash

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about spaghetti squash ever since I started eating it at home and I always tell people how easy it is to cook. I roasted one today and took photos to show you guys just how easy peasy it is!

Spaghetti squash looks like a regular squash on the outside.

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The magic happens when it’s cooked. I just split the squash into two pieces, took the seeds out, sprinkled it with a bit of olive oil, and stuck it in the oven for 40 minutes in 375 degrees.

When it’s fully roasted (you can tell if it’s cooked all the way by sticking it with a fork), let it cool for a bit and with a fork, “comb” the inside flesh and tada~ the flesh breaks apart into long strands like spaghetti!

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I use it just like I would a pasta. Today, I sauteed up some ground turkey, onions, corn, and spinach with some canned tomatoes for a sauce, mixed in the spaghetti squash and layered whole wheat rigatoni, mozzarella, and the sauce for a casserole.

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Healthy, hearty, and really yummy! Last time I didn’t add the rigatoni but my husband and I are running a 10 mile race this Sunday and thought we needed to maintain our carbs this week :)

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{CPL Challenge} Goodbye Plastic Bags!

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Sorry, no pretty photos today! Today it’s all about plastic bags…

It just so happens that today is Earth Day and I’m writing a post about plastic bags. I promise I didn’t plan it! For me, every day should be earth day so today being the “official” earth day doesn’t warrant a special post or special action. In fact, I wish people, companies, and the government will spend less energy publicizing that today is earth day and more energy on actually living an earth-friendly life.

Plastic bags have been on my mind a lot lately and I’ve been meaning to launch an official CPL challenge to reduce my (and hopefully your) plastic bag usage. Whenever I know I’m going to make a trip to the grocery store or any store, I take my reusable bags to make sure I don’t bring any plastic bags home with me but on those random, spontaneous trips when I don’t have my trusty reusable bags on hand, I end up walking out of the store with plastic bags in hand to add to the bijillion I already have at home.

Who doesn’t have a pile of these at home?

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I do (sadness). A couple months ago, I dumped a whole bunch in the plastic bag recycling bin at the neighborhood grocery store with a resolve to never have to do that again by never compiling so many plastic bags. Being religious about using my reusable bags for all my shopping needs was my plan. Well, that plan has had a success rate about 50/50 so far. Hence the again growing pile of plastic bags, most of them from those trips when I had forgotten the reusable bags. But even if I don’t bring plastic bags home from the grocery, I’ve noticed they end up finding their way in through other ways, i.e. through people who visit us and bring stuff in plastic bags or through us visiting others and bringing stuff back in them. Things just tend to travel in plastic bags in our society…

But again, I believe small actions can make a big difference when all those small actions accumulate. So!!! Here’s the very first CPL challenge! I challenge you, dear readers, to minimize (and eventually eliminate) your plastic bag pile. If you’re taking me up on my challenge, how you’re going to make that happen is something you might have to think about. In specifics.

For me, I’ve found it’s about working towards changing my habits even more. Apparently, bringing out the reusable bags when I think I need them isn’t enough. I need to cultivate the habit of always leaving some in the trunk of the car and of keeping a small foldable one in my purse at all times (for those spontaneous impulse buys). And not least, be brave enough (and not embarrassed) to tell family and friends “no plastic bags for me, thanks!”

As I’ve been learning, eliminating plastic bags from my life won’t happen overnight. There will be times when I forget and will have to use them to bring groceries back. But rather than guilt tripping myself, I’ll just have to file those moments away towards furthering my resolve and making concrete steps towards my goal. Plastic bags, be gone!

Homemade citrus vinegar cleaner review

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It’s been a while but continuing my last post on green cleaning, here’s an update on the citrus vinegar cleaning solution that I said I was going to make and try out!

Here’s what it looked like after about 3 weeks:

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Method: I strained the orange colored vinegar above and diluted it with water in a 1:1 ratio into an old spray bottle. The quart of vinegar and water filled the spray bottle up and there was about a full cup of the non-diluted solution left.

Color: The clear vinegar started turning yellowish after about a week and ended up a bright orange color. The solution had been sitting on top of my fridge for about 3 weeks when I finally “made” the cleaning solution, aka, diluting it with water. Can it get easier than that?

Smell: Vinegar in its pure form does have quite a potent smell but after being “marinated” in citrus peels for about 3 weeks, the potency was noticeably diminished. While I did get slightly vinegary whiffs when I sprayed out of the bottle, I’m happy to say it smells mostly like citrus and the slight vinegar smell doesn’t really linger and goes away pretty soon after you wipe down whatever you’re cleaning.

Effectiveness: I first tried cleaning the bathroom with this solution and it did everything that my old cleaner did, WITHOUT all the chemical fumes that used to make me cough and my eyes water. The tile floor, the ceramic sink, and faucet were all clean and shiny when I was done. I also tested it in the kitchen, on the carpet, shelves, and floors, all to my satisfaction. I was especially surprised at how easy it was to wipe down my crusty stove after letting the vinegar cleaner sit for about 10 seconds. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and degreaser without the toxicity of the store bought cleaners. Really, what’s the need to overuse chemicals that’ll, in the long run, harm us more than protect us?

Cost: A quart size vinegar bottle at the supermarket costs around $1.50 so for the cost of a couple oranges (which you can eat as a snack after you use the peels to “marinate” the cleaner solution) and about $1.50, you get almost a bottle and a half of cleaner. Saving $$$? No chemicals to inhale?? Yes, please!

If you want a healthier home for the fraction of the cost of a name brand chemical cleaner for most of your household cleaning needs, I definitely recommend trying this cleaner out. I won’t be browsing down the cleaning section of my local Target anytime soon, that’s for sure. There’s tons of other uses for vinegar around the house which I’ll be looking into and sharing with you all. I also bought a huge box of baking soda the other day to experiment with. More green cleaning trials to come!

 

 

DIY dry erase board

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A new DIY today! If you have any old frames lying around that you don’t know know what to do with or scored a cheap frame at a secondhand store, this would be a perfect project for a weekend afternoon.

I have some frames that I found in the hallway of a friend’s apartment a while ago so I’ve been trying to come up with ideas to use them. In their old form, I think they’re pretty ugly. So for one of them I popped the glass and backing out and painted the frame silver and used it as a part of my gallery wall as you can see in this post.

The other day I decided to make a dry erase board with another (since you can never have enough surfaces to write down your to-do list or grocery list, of course). Here’s the step-by-step tutorial.

Materials:
1 can of white primer spray paint
1 can of spray paint in a color of your choice
Newspaper or paper shopping bag to spray on
Patterned paper larger than the size of the frame

1. Remove the glass and backing and wipe down the frame to prep it for paint.

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2. In a well ventilated area, spray on a coat of primer onto the frame and let it dry for about 10-15 minutes.

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3. Spray on the first coat of paint in the color of your choosing. I chose a can of mint colored spray paint that I already had. Let the first coat dry for another 10-15 minutes.

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4. Spray on the second coat and if you really want, a third coat for maximum coverage (let it dry in-between coats!).

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5. After the paint has dried completely, cut your patterned paper into the size of your frame backing. You can glue it onto the backing before you lay it onto the glass but I just laid it against the glass and since the size of the paper is the exact size of the glass and frame backing, I know it won’t budge even without glue. And here’s the final product. Take a dry erase marker and write away!

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Junk mail and PaperKarma

Topic of the day: Junk mail. I know, exciting, right?

Junk mail, which includes retail catalogs, soliciting brochures, and those pesky pre-approved credit card offers, is a huge source of trash and waste. Consider this pile of mail below…

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Out of the 3 inch high stack of mail, 90% of it (or all 3.75 inches of it) is going to end up in my recycling bin. Even though I’m recycling it, can you imagine how much raw resources were used to create these things that we automatically toss without a second thought? And also how much energy and resources have to go into recycling the paper products that didn’t serve any useful function in the first place?

Because I hated the thought of that and I hated sorting through ginormous piles of junk mail just to get to the important stuff, a while ago I started calling companies to PLEASE STOP sending me those stupid, useless, wasteful catalogs, brochures, and credit card offers. First off, even with my initial determination, it got pretty daunting. While some companies have their phone numbers printed on their mail, others didn’t and so I had to go searching on the internet for a phone number to call. Once I had the phone numbers, I had to jump through hoops and numerous automated options just to get a live person on the phone. Then I had to explain to them that I didn’t want their junk mail anymore and a lot of times they asked for customer numbers, name, address, etc, which became a long winded phone conversations. In essence, NO BUENO… After going through the first batch, I lost some steam. It was pretty discouraging that it was that time consuming and inconvenient just to get people to NOT send you stuff. Seriously?

Then I found out about PaperKarma. What a godsend. It’s a free mobile app and basically, all you have to do is take a photo of the “offending piece of mail” and PaperKarma does the leg work for you by contacting the companies and unsubscribing you from their distribution lists. No more time consuming phone calls to make!

Here’s how it works in PaperKarma’s own words:

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In less than 24 hours, out of 34 requests, I had 20 successes, 4 pendings, and 7 fails. The failed requests were my fault though. Being a PaperKarma newbie and despite clear instructions to include the name of the company in the picture, I didn’t and therefore they didn’t know who to go to with the request. So don’t do what I did!

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Less trips to take the recycling out, less mail to sort through, less junk mail produced, less raw materials used, less useless marketing $ spent by the companies, less work for the postal service, I say it’s a win-win-win-win. Definitely try it out!

 

Fried plantains

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I made Peruvian-style whole roast chicken the other week for some friends and in thinking of what sides should go along with it I decided to make fried plantains. The last time I had Peruvian chicken was in Baltimore (which was to die for) and we got yucca fries with them. I know yucca and plantains aren’t the same at all but maybe because because they’re both fairly “exotic” and both fried, it totally made sense in my head to make fried plantains with the chicken. And yes, they went together fantastically.

The recipe is from Guy Fieri. His recipe has directions for a sweet and hot sauce to dip the plantains in but I didn’t bother since I had made the Peruvian green sauce for the chicken.

Ingredients:
Canola oil (for frying)
2-3 plantains
1/4 cup minced garlic
Red pepper flakes
Cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper
Optional: 1 lime

Directions:
1. Remove the peel of the plantain and cut into 1 inch thick diagonal pieces.

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Some of my favorite things around the CPL apartment

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Nesting in a tiny city apartment the past year hasn’t been easy as we severely lack storage space (it took me about 3-4 months of moving in to fully unpack and get rid of any traces of moving boxes). But with the combination of some kind friends who allowed us storage space in their basement plus me purging a lot of unneeded items the past year has allowed at least some decent living space in our 300 something square feet apartment.

I’ve been slowly decorating as I go but as we’ve been recently discussing the pros and cons of moving to a bigger place and as it seems likely we will move when our lease is up in the summer, I’ve lost much of the motivation for some of the projects I had planned for the apartment. But before we move, here are some of my favorite things around the CPL apartment!

Living room:

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This gallery wall in our living room are all mostly from frames that I’ve received as gifts or found secondhand from flea markets. The faux Van Gogh on the bottom is from a Paint Nite with some girlfriends.

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The outer silver frame is one of several frames I found in a friend’s hallway that was left out as “trash.” I popped out the glass and the original artwork and painted the once brown and gold frame all silver and tada, instant new life.

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