Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Calm After the Storm

I hope everyone is safe and sound after the hurricane. Thankfully we were hit the hardest over the night and never lost electricity like most. I know several families down south who lost their homes. So sad!

Yesterday we decided to take the plunge and go to the Linganore Wine Festival. They make a few of our favorite wines and we couldn't resist playing in the rain, good music, great friends and WINE!

We went with these lovebirds who are getting married in 3 weeks! I am so excited to see the person I first called my best friend walk down the aisle, she is going to be gorgeous! I can't believe we are all grown up, those past 20 years went by quick!

We got  rained on but had such a great time dancing in the rain, playing catch phrase (i always come prepared) and sampling all of our favorite wines!

I kept our empty wine bottles, with two more in the fridge, for a fun DIY I found on Pinterest. Wine bottle tiki torches! I am so excited to make those. I am saving the corks for a homemade corkboard for my office :)

 luckily the only damage at the house were LOTS of fallen branches.

and our apple tree looked like it threw up all over the place.

not that these guys were complaining.

i had to pick up some apple cider at the grocery store.

It is definitely feeling like mother nature is on the cusp of bringing us fall and I am all for it! hope everyone is safe and with power! did you use any of my suggestions of things to do indoors during a storm?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rainy Day Fun

As hurricane Irene makes her way up the East Coast causing people to evacuate, cancel their plans (me included) and complain I say look at the bright side and get creative with your weekend itinerary! 

Rain and storms don't have to mean a boring weekend inside. I decided to put together a list of fun, romantic and storm-ready ideas to brighten your mood!

1. Have a home wine pairing party. Research which wines go best with certain foods and get cooking! You never know, maybe you'll find a new favorite bottle!

2. On your way to the store grab some new board games to try. You can invite friends over and have a game night. They bring the wine you supply the games!

3. Get crafty. Go to the hardware/craft store and stock up on fun DIY projects that you have been obsessing over on pinterest and put your extra down time to use! 

 grab some burlap, acrylic paint and stencils and make a rustic, chic decoration for any ledge.

pick up some chalkboard paint from your hardware store and get creative. paint some pots, fill with herbs for your kitchen and have fun decorating!

I loveee this lamp shade. I think it is the perfect touch of romantic, chic and modern. Click here for the how to.

Want something that takes your entire weekend? Try this chic rug makeover. It would make the perfect addition to any room. Instructions found here.

4. Have a fondue night. Most fondue sets use candles (mine doesn't) so that means even without electricity you can have a great and romantic meal.

5. Utilize those workout DVDs you have been collecting. Having someone to workout with is extra motivation to not pause the DVD and veg out :)

6. Start your fall clothes wish list. I am drooling over some of these.

This is the perfect outfit for running to the store or picking pumpkins/apples in the fall. Subtract that watch and add a MK oversized watch.

Perfect look for the office. Love the pop of color in the shoes and love that belt!

7. Remember to charge your laptop and save it for power outages. You can watch DVDs on them when the power is out. Have a movie theme night and stack up on movie snacks. 

pizza muffins anyone? recipe here.

Stay safe during the storm and remember just because your outdoor activities got ruined for the weekend doesn't mean you can't have fun or create something chic :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Hey y'all! Is it weird I don't live in the South and just had a strong urge to use the word y'all? No? Okay.

I know I have been out of the game, but the world of Cara has been going cray cray lately, but I am back! Maybe it was the near death experience of today's earthquake that pushed me back to blogging. A 5.8 earthquake is a big deal okay people. We are on the East Coast! Either way. I'm back and I promise to make it a good one. :)

Let's start with fashion. I haven't bought any clothes in almost two months just so I could save up to spend all of my money on fall clothes. 

Have I told you how much I love fall? I did? Well here it is again... I LOVE FALL! Hats, scarfs, skinny pants, oversized sweaters, boots, colorful coats, BOOTS! I love everything that comes with the season :)

Let's start with these skinny jeans. I am dying to buy colorful skinny jeans for the fall. I think it is such a great way to add a pop of color to an outfit. Plus, color blocking is back in full force and this is a great way to utilize it. Think a pair of orange skinny jeans, white shirt and a teal cardigan. Easy!

I think purple is my most craved color of pants with red coming in as a close second. I'm thinking purple skinny jeans, black riding boots and a cream oversized sweater. Hello Purple Friday's, I am ready for you!

Next up on my fall wishlist is a yellow pea coat. Mustard yellow just screams fall to me. I'm envisioning this with dark washed jeans and a pair of brown or black boots. This coat screams wear a cute hat with me!!

I've been participating in boot camp recently and am proud of my running accomplishments. I am by no means a great runner. I wouldn't even go as far as saying I love it, because that word is a little too strong. I enjoy how I feel afterwards and I enjoy seeing my progress but you better believe after 2 or 3 miles I am done. No marathon training for me. 

My times have gone a little like this. BC Day 1 - 9:28, BC Day 2 - 8:53, BC Day 3 - 8:45.

I've had an improvement every time. And yes I am bragging. Because I can, it's my blog :)

Next up... food! Duh, you knew it was coming...

 Look at all my home grown roma tomatoes :) I cut them up and stored them in the freezer. I'm thinking they will be used for a nice big pot of fall chili.

I made vegetarian baked wontons tonight in the toaster oven. So simple! I combined minced jalapeno, cole slaw mix, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. It was delicious! I paired it with a spicy peanut sauce from cooking light. 

What is your favorite thing about fall?
I love the clothes, leaves changing colors, pumpkin picking, bonfire nights... so many reasons!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meatless Monday: Eggplant and Mushroom White Lasagna

Happy Meatless Monday! As most of you remember, I have been trying to incorporate more meatless meals into my diet. I always feel better (full without being weighed down) after a good vegetarian meal, but this doesn't mean I have made the switch permanently yet!

For those of you who are trying to do the same, I modified a recipe I found on the Whole Foods website and it was an instant success! If you prefer meat, you could always add some shredded chicken breast to this recipe! 

Eggplant and Mushroom White Lasagna
Serves 5, Modified from Whole Foods 
4 cups Eggplant - 1 large eggplant
9 Enriched Lasagna Noodles
2 tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp Garlic - minced
2 Leeks
1 cup Portobello Mushroom - diced
1 1/4 cup 2% Reduced Fat Milk
2 tbsp Rosemary Olive Oil - from Wegmans
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, leeks and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Set leeks aside and wipe out skillet. Cook your diced mushrooms.
Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch thickness. Coat pan with olive oil and brown eggplant. Blot with a paper towel afterward to soak up any excess oil.
Cook noodles according directions on package, then drain and set aside.
For the sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in milk until combined well. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, goat cheese, salt and pepper, and reserved leeks and remove from heat. Stir just until cheese melts, then set sauce aside.
Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray and spread 1/4 cup of the sauce on bottom of pan. Top with 3 noodles, then layer with eggplant slices and minced pre-cooked mushrooms mozzarella/goat. Repeat until all layers are complete and top with remaining parmesan cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for 5 minutes more. Set lasagna aside to let rest for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.

Pre-oven. I added 3 tablespoons of smoked gouda on top. It was an amazing addition.

This was a winner. I suggest serving it with a glass of Skinny Girl Sangria. Which, in my opinion, just tastes like a sweet white wine. But, it's always nice to end your day with one of those. Add raspberries and peaches to feel really special.

I have started tracking my food and workouts on for bootcamp where I am also going to publish all the recipes I make so you can track their nutritional info! You can find this recipe's page here.

At 400 calories per serving I think that makes a great dinner served with a simple salad with balsamic vinaigrette. :)

Me and Neal before our first morning of bootcamp! It was definitely intense but we made it through! We bought a groupon for 6 weeks of unlimited bootcamp and geared up for our first session this past Saturday. Silly me for thinking it was only 60 minutes. 90 minutes later I was drenched in sweat and physically and emotionally drained. 

See those rashes? From my yoga mat from doing so many plank moves. I didn't even think that was possible! My mile time wasn't my best (9:28) but since I haven't ran in over 2 months I was satisfied.

So how did we celebrate our first day of bootcamp?

Yes I wear spandex under my bunched up dresses for bull riding instances. I'm classy haven't you heard?


Hope you have a great Meatless Monday full of non-meat bulls and meals!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Before I go into detail about today's post I have to tell you I have been loving grilling pizzas and using BBQ sauce instead of marinara! I added some goat cheese, mozz, parm and carmelized onions and peppers to last nights! I also made a vegetarian version with broccoli for my sister and half with TJ meatless meatballs! It was great!

Those of you who follow me on my Facebook Page already know that we made a trip to Wegmans last night. Usually I get the bulk of our groceries at Trader Joes and pick up simple things like pizza dough mix and last minute items at our regular grocery store.

A lot of people have a conception that shopping organically can make a huge dent in your wallet. But this isn't the case!! Let me explain how normal grocery stores AND Wegmans are fakers.

The common grocery store jacks up their prices on organic items. For example, Barbara's GF Peanut Butter puffins (can you tell it's my favorite) at a normal grocery store costs between $4.50 and $5.50. BUT at Trader Joes or Whole Foods you can find the same cereal for $2.50-$3.00. 

Milk at your regular grocery store will cost you upwards of $4 for a gallon of milk. BUT at Trader Joes or Whole Foods you can find a gallon of milk for $1.99. 

Yesterday at Wegman's we saw a 6 pack of red peppers for $5.49. This looks like a great deal since a normal grocery store usually sells them for $1.50-$2.00 PER pepper. BUT at Trader Joes just last week I picked up local red peppers for $.69 per pepper.

Wegmans seems great to many because they offer more aisles of natural and organic products, but they do not compare to Whole Foods. Let me tell you why.

Whole Foods offers more options for local produce, and most of the time you can buy the local produce for cheaper. Helping your farmers = helping your community. Do it. It's best for the whole!!

Whole Foods also has bulk bins throughout their store where you can stock up on nuts, dried fruits, protein bars, grains, etc for cheaper than the normal grocery store. The great thing about bulk bins is you can buy as much or as little of an item you need! I always grab a few dates when I am there for cchheeaaapp to make protein balls! Wegmans has bulk bins, but only a handful of them and the variety does not compete with Whole Foods - but you feel great because hey this is a grocery store and they offer what Whole Foods does!

Another thing that attracts people to Wegmans are the prepared foods in the market place. A sushi chef preparing the packaged sushi in front of you, get out! While this is great, have you ever checked out the nutritional facts on those hot food items you pile into your container? That tofu wrap you grabbed at the burrito bar (because you thought you were making the healthy choice) is 960 calories. About half of your daily intake. You can find all their nutritional facts here.

My favorite Aunt Mary (well she is actually CL's great aunt, but I have claimed her as my own) told me to check out the Greek Turkey burgers Wegmans offers. These things look delicious, but once I was reading down the ingredient list I saw high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. In my burger? No thanks. Not to worry Mar, I bought everything needed to make some homemade Greek Turkey Burgers this week that you can whip up!

All in all, I think it is great that grocery stores are jumping on the local and organic bandwagon, but don't be fooled by the "fakers" out there. Do your research, check out Whole Food's coupons, and read ingredients!

Do you shop at Trader Joes or Whole Foods and agree? Disagree? I would love to hear your opinions!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Fondue Spread

The best part about summer rain storms are the rainbows that come out afterward! We caught one yesterday while driving to CL's family's house for dinner. That's good luck, right?

Chance and I kept ourselves busy during the drive. :)

Fondue holds a special place in my heart. CL bought me a fondue kit as a house warming present for our first apartment together. He surprised me on Valentine's Day with an enormous fondue spread of protein, veggies and cheese's surrounded by flowers and candles. AND for our third anniversary he took me to the Melting Pot for a surprise dinner. 

So when I was thinking of a special dessert I could bring to share with CL's family,  fondue came to mind! And not just any fondue... Chocolate Caramel Fondue. 

Chocolate Caramel Fondue
What You'll Need:
Fondue Pot
Fruits (I used strawberries and pineapple)
Rice Krispie Treats (homemade)
Brownies (homemade)
Marshmallows (cut in half)
Bag of milk or dark chocolate melts
1 jar of caramel sauce (1-1.5 cups)
1/4 cup of milk (I used skim)
Make your brownies and rice krispie treats. Cut into bite size squares once cooled completely. Cut a handfull of marshmallows in half. Cut your fruit into bite size pieces. For your fondue, heat your fondue pot to warm. Add chocolate and milk and stir until combined and smooth. Add in your caramel and stir to complete. Use the kabobs for dipping! 
*reminder, you can substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil when baking, i did for these brownies!!

This dessert was a huge hit! Everything is bite size so you can try a little bit of everything! I'm not a chocolate fan, but the caramel really made the dip special :)

Hope you guys find an occasion to make fondue special in your house too!

Friday, August 5, 2011

August's Lists

Goodbye July! You were a lot of fun, but August means I am one month closer to my favorite time of year... Fall :)

Let's recap for a second, shall we?
In July I wrote 4 more posts than June - patting myself on the back
I went to the beach twice - seen here and here

AND... I made lots of new eats!

Last weekend was the gorgeous bride Kristen's bachelorette party! We had a great time out in Baltimore celebrating... so good of a time my camera is now MIA. Devastating, I know. That's one lucky person to have a camera full of food photos ;-)

My mom, CL and I also went to Wegmans. If you have never been there before it is a grocery store the size of a super Walmart. It's HUGE!! They have an organic section similar to Whole Foods and a regular section. You can also go to their market where they have lines of hot food bars, sushi that is being made in front of you, a bakery, EVERYTHING!

I stocked up on a few goodies before heading to dinner and the movies to see Harry Potter!

I grabbed a kombucha and handful of dates, while my mom stocked up on gormet cheese and CL grabbed some oats and dried seaweed. 

I've never had this brand of kombucha, but I think I will stick with GT's brand. Their flavors you can actually taste! We tried to convince my mom that sometimes you have to eat and drink non-appealing things to live longer! haha She didn't enjoy the vinegar/fermented taste let's just say.

Did anyone else cry during the last HP movie? It was so bittersweet to see the ending of this series! I think I started reading the books in 6th grade, so HP grew up with me!

If you follow my Facebook page, you know that we started the month off with Maryland crabs! I put those TJ bags to good use!

Luckily my mom doesn't eat shellfish so by the time we were finished she had a nice pile of crab meat... which can only mean more recipes to try out involving crab! CL chose a spinach and artichoke dip topped with crab :)

Before baking.

After baking. I wish I grabbed a video of this. The mozzarella was bubbling!

Topped with Old Bay and crab meat this dip was a success! And much healthier than pre-made dips!

Healthy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Adapted from Cooking Light via Serious Eats
10-ounce bag fresh spinach
6 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
6 ounces fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 cups part-skim mozzarella, shredded
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed (not minced)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 350°F. Tear spinach into bite-size pieces, removing any thick stems. Rinse in a colander, leaving a little water on the leaves. In a large nonstick skillet, saute the spinach over medium heat until wilted. Drain in the colander, pushing a little of the extra water out. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheeses. I just mashed with a fork. Add sour cream and mash more. Add spinach, mozzarella, artichokes, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Stir everything until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan on top. Bake 30 minutes, or until parmesan is melted dip is all bubbly. Remove from oven and give it a minute or two to cool down. Serve with baked tortilla chips or this would be amazing on top of some baked chicken breast! Top with crab meat and Old Bay if you have some :)

I have a long list of things to make in August already that I'll post to my FB page.

What are you making this weekend? Anything good?