The Salad Challenge – Warm Arugula & Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Goat Cheese, Pomegranate and Walnuts

I’ve been in a bit of a diet rut lately, and I’ve decided to post about this journey here in oder to keep myself accountable and hopefully inspire others.

You see, over the last few years, my husband and I have been trying to follow a lower-carbohydrate diet. I’ve definitely had my share of ups and downs, and my weight has followed suit. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to change my food habits for the better, and have realized that while trying to stay low-carb, I’ve formed some not so good habits.

Since I’m home most days, I’ve fallen into the trap of making myself cheese quesadillas with low-carb tortillas. I think this is a great “once in a while” lunch, but eating them practically daily cannot be good. There’s little nutritional value and how “low-carb” can a bread product really be anyway? While they’re pretty tasty, the main reason I find myself eating quesadillas so much is because they’re easy. I can buy a  pack of shredded cheese and tortillas each week and there’s my lunch.

Anyway, I’ve decided to swap out most of my quesadillas for salads, which to me is a bit of a challenge. First of all, I find it hard to keep fresh ingredients in the house. Since I’m the only one eating lunch at home, they often go bad quickly, and I hate to waste food. Second, I’m pretty lazy. Salads often require a lot of slicing and dicing, and when I’m hungry, that’s the last thing I want to be worrying about. On top of all that, salads can get pretty boring and aren’t always the most satisfying meals either.

With all of that being said, I’m determined to find a way to make this salad thing work. I’m going to think more about the ingredients I’m buying and I’m going to do my darnedest to keep my salads fun, interesting and fulfilling. I’m also going to share them here!

Without further ado, here’s today’s salad:

Warm Arugula & Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Goat Cheese, Pomegranate and Walnuts

brussels sprouts and arugula salad

Ingredients:

- shaved Brussels sprouts

- arugula

- pomegranate seeds

- chopped walnuts

- goat cheese

- Lucini’s Fig & Walnut Balsamic Dressing (just a drizzle)

If there’s one thing to notice about this salad, it’s that I I didn’t have to chop a darn thing. I bought a bag of shaved Brussels sprouts from Trader Joe’s to have for dinner last night, and set aside a few to use today. I sauteed them with some olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic, and then put them on the bed of arugula. At first I wasn’t sure how this would work, but the fact that they were warm and hearty made the salad a lot more satisfying. I love arugula, so I’ve been keeping big boxes of it the fridge, and am also trying to keep a variety of fruits, nuts and cheeses on hand to toss into salads. Pomegranate seeds are definitely a new favorite of mine. They add just a bit of sweetness and some crunch.

So there you have it, the first of hopefully many salads to come.

pomegranate & bleu arugula salad

My husband was away on business for a few days, so I thought it’d be a good time to try some new Fall recipes.

Last night I tried a new quiche recipe for dinner, but it was a total flop. Not wanting to go for takeout, I took to my fridge to see what I could drum up. The day before I made this salad from Eat Yourself Skinny for a potluck brunch (totally delicious btw!!) and still had some leftover dressing, arugula  and bleu cheese.  I used these leftover ingredients and also added some pomegranate seeds and chopped walnuts.IMG_3477

As it turned out, my disaster quiche was a blessing in disguise — the salad was delicious! I’m not one to measure much (probably why my quiche failed), but here’s my recipe for the salad. I recommend eyeballing the ingredients like I did, though I wouldn’t suggest going too crazy with the bleu cheese because it can easily overpower the other flavors.

Pomegranate & Bleu Arugula Salad:

- Baby arugula

- Crumbled bleu cheese

-  Chopped walnuts

- Pomegranate seeds

For the dressing (from Eat Yourself Skinny): 

*I used just a small drizzle of this on my salad. You can cut the recipe down or keep the leftovers in the fridge for future salads.

- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard

- 3 Tbsp olive oil

- Salt and pepper, to taste

 

savvy wedding wednesday: save time for sales

When shopping with my mother as a small child, whenever I wanted something in a store that I didn’t necessarily need, she’d ask me one simple question, “Is it on sale?” I didn’t really know how to read then, but I’d look for that big glossy sign or telltale orange sticker, and if it wasn’t on sale, it went back on the shelf. My mother ingrained this in me so much that I actually thought if something wasn’t “on sale” it wasn’t “for sale.” This often perplexed me – if it’s not “on sale” why is it even in the store?

Then one day, when I was probably about three or four and had not yet learned out to read, my mom was reading the daily newspaper when I peered over her shoulder exclaimed, “look mom, that says sale!” Sure enough, “sale” was actually the first word I learned to read.

Throughout most of my life I’ve been a pretty savvy bargain hunter, though in my adult years I’ve also learned the value of treating yourself to things you really want (only of course if they’re within your means). I’ve found the few items I’ve splurged on I’ve used the most. I’ve worn my most expensive pair of boots nearly more than any other pair of shoes I’ve owned – and my $500 Coach bag? I think I used it literally every day for the first two years after I purchased it.

When it comes to wedding planning, I think it’s good to find a balance between splurging and bargain shopping and I’ve found the major key to this is time. The bridesmaids dresses and my gown were all purchased on sale, and not because we went hunting around for a bargain, but because we had time to wait for a sale.

Since my future mother-in-law and my mom both live in different states and both wanted to shop with me, I had to start when they each happened to be visiting, which was more than a year before our wedding date. After a few different outings, I finally chose my dress, and then learned it would be 30% off during a trunk show a few months later. Fortunately I had time to wait, so I was able to benefit from the sale and got my gorgeous Allure Bridal gown for less than $1,000 (sorry – can’t share this yet since it’s still a surprise to Chris).

As soon as my dress was picked out, I moved on to the bridesmaids. They also live 3,000 miles away, so I tried the dresses on myself and immediately fell in love with J.Crew’s silk chiffon dresses in “spiced wine.” The styles were gorgeous, but it was mainly the color that stood out to me, as I hadn’t seen anything like it anywhere else. The only problem was the price tag – $250. I’d set $200 as my loose budget, but was really hoping to keep it well under that.

Disappointed that my favorite dresses might not be a reality, I spent a little more time shopping around and also surveyed my bridesmaids. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything else that lived up to the dresses, but I came to an exciting realization – J. Crew has sales all the time, especially around the holidays. Since their bridesmaid dresses don’t require any extra shipping time, we had leeway to wait for a sale. It was mid summer when I decided on the dresses and since my wedding is in April, I gave my bridesmaids a deadline of January 1 to purchase their dresses, assuming there’d be a sale during the holidays. I monitored the J.Crew website daily, and sure enough, sometime in October they offered 25% off all items over $150. Each of my bridesmaids rushed to purchase their dresses that week and they only had to spend about $180. As a matter-of-fact, they’re running this same sale right now, so if you’re looking to buy J.Crew bridesmaid dresses, now is the time!

Okay, so maybe I’m just lucky the things I wanted eventually went on sale, but remember this – if you don’t have time to wait or even shop around – you’re going to pay a premium – unless, of course, you’re REALLY lucky and things happen to be on sale when you discover them. Needless to say, if you have time, it doesn’t always hurt to wait a little to see if you can get a better price.

savvy wedding wednesday: tuxes optional

So I’m realizing it’s a bit tougher to write about wedding stuff when I don’t have any finished products to show you yet. I have a couple great ideas I want to share, but feel like it’d be more beneficial after the wedding so you can see how things turned out. Though I guess it can’t hurt to share my experience along the way now can it?

I’ll post more about this as the look comes together, but I wanted to start with menswear since it’s something I was totally clueless about. When it came time to start thinking about what the guys would wear for our wedding, I started asking friends what they had done, and pretty much got the same “tux rental from Men’s Wearhouse” answer from everyone. This seemed like a good route to take, so Chris and I scheduled an appointment for Men’s Wearhouse hoping to quickly cross tux rentals off of our to-do list. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Without going into too much detail, I have to say I was extremely disappointed with the customer service at Men’s Wearhouse. Extremely. Since our appointment was on a busy Friday night, I decided to try again on my own a few days later at a quieter time, and had an equally miserable experience. While I know not everyone’s experiences with this store have been as bad as mine, and I’m sure they do have some genuinely good sales people, I was so put off by them that I decided I did not want to give them a single cent – so what next?

I suppose the one good thing that came out of my experience with Men’s Wearhouse was the decision to buy a nice black suit for Chris to wear rather than rent a tux. Without being able to see much of the selection in person, let alone try it on before renting, we figured buying a suit that could be altered and worn again was way more practical.

Chris got his suit at Jos. A. Bank during a 50% off sale for about $400. Granted this is more expensive than renting a tux, he’ll get a greater ROI. He’ll be able to have the suit altered so that it fits him perfectly and can totally wear it again – either together or as separates.

If you’re going to go this route for the groom, you should seriously be aware of sales. Jos. A. Bank has different sales every few weeks – 50% off, buy one, get one, buy one get three and so on. If you’re not in a rush it’s definitely wise to wait for a sale that works best for you. Men’s Wearhouse has similar suit sales too.

We haven’t purchased the other pieces yet, but will definitely hunt around for the best deals. We looked at vests at Jos. A. Bank and they were pretty pricey. While we sprung for the suit, a vest is a different story since it’s not likely to be worn again. We decided we might skip it altogether, but also noticed some great options at Koh’s the other day for around $30! You can check those out here.

But what about the groomsmen? Wouldn’t buying suits for them be too expensive? Well, it doesn’t have to be!

Chris consulted his groomsmen about his decision and about ⅓ of them already owned plain black suits and the rest were totally fine with purchasing one. While this might seem like a lot to ask, remember this –  bridesmaids have to buy their dresses and the cost can range anywhere from $100 on (unless you’re a super savvy shopper). And when we did enquire about tux rentals at Men’s Wearhouse, it was around $180 for something that wouldn’t be tailored to fit properly and the guys would never get to wear again! At least bridesmaids can keep their dresses if they want to wear them again – or can try to sell them (probably more likely in most cases).

I’m definitely glad we decided to go the route of buying suits. It sounds like it’d be so much more complicated and expensive, but it doesn’t really have to be if you know where to look. Stay tuned to see how the look comes together and where to find the best deals on suits for the groomsmen too!

target find – swimwear part II

I wrote a similar post last year, but in case you missed it, I love Target swimwear!

To summarize quickly –  last year I ordered a non-returnable J.Crew bathing suit on clearance and was totally bummed when it didn’t fit quite right. Days later I found an awesome suit at Target, which I’ve been wearing ever since. I’ve received so many compliments and people are always surprised to learn it’s from Target.

Anyway, I’m going on my honeymoon in May and figured it’s time to start shopping around for a new bikini or two. I’ve been working my butt off to get in shape for the wedding, so I think I deserve it, right?

Last week I was running some errands and decided to stop and try on a few bathing suits at Macy’s just for fun. Since I have a giftcard burning a hole in my pocket I figured it’d be a good place to start. I tried on three different bikinis ranging in price from $50 to $125. All were cute on the hanger and decent on me, but I wasn’t totally wowed by any. Not for those prices at least.

Yesterday I was running errands again and found myself in the Target swimwear section, so I tried on this little Mossimo number.

Mossimo® Women’s Mix and Match Reversible Stripe Triangle Swim Top -Peppermint

Mossimo® Women’s Mix and Match Stripe Side Tie Swim Bottom -Peppermint

Much to my surprise, or maybe not, it was so much cuter and more flattering than the pricey Macy’s suits I tried on. Since I was “just looking,” I decided to leave it behind, but when Chris saw the photos I took (everyone does that when trying on clothes, right?) he sent me right back to Target to buy it.

What I love about these bathing suits is that they’re sold as mix and match separates, which is perfect for all kinds of body types. Not into the triangle top? (I’m not usually that brave – but hey – it’s my honeymoon in Mexico.) They’ve got a few different styles, including a tankini. They even have a swim skirt too. With prices ranging from $17.99 to $19.99 per piece, you can get a full suit for less than $40! Heck, I’m tempted to buy some extra pieces so I can mix and match at home too.

Here are a couple more pieces in the “Peppermint Mix and Match” collection for your viewing pleasure.

Mossimo® Women’s Mix and Match Bandeau Swim Top -Peppermint

Mossimo® Women’s Mix and Match Swim Skirtini -Peppermint

Mossimo® Women’s Mix and Match Stripe Tankini Swim Top -Peppermint

Mossimo® Women’s Mix and Match Tab Side Swim Bottom -Peppermint

introducing “savvy wedding wednesday”

When Chris and I first got engaged I was extremely overwhelmed with the cost of having the type of wedding we wanted. While everyone has different ideas about what “budget wedding” means (shouldn’t that really mean any wedding with a set budget?), and some might not consider our wedding a “budget wedding” at all, we’ve tried really hard to remain within our means and to save  money where we can.

In the beginning of our engagement I sought out all sorts of “budget wedding” advice, but was super frustrated when I realized so much of it did not apply to us. Having a backyard potluck wedding was not an option for us. Not only because that wasn’t exactly what we envisioned, but also because we don’t have a backyard or any relatives close by who might be able to help out. I don’t have a sister who is a baker, uncle photographer or nephew DJ. I’m not much of a DIYer, I’m not comfortable with having a family member officiate, and I love flowers.

Okay, so maybe I just sound difficult, but I really wondered if we were doomed to have a wedding that cost more than we were comfortable with. Of course I wish we could spend a little less than we are, but I’m also really happy with how everything is turning out and have savored the opportunities to save a bit when we can.

Anyway, I’m not an expert, but I thought it’d be fun to start sharing some of the ways I found to save money on our wedding, since I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with the same predicament.

Please check back later this week for the first installment of Savvy Wedding Wednesday!

since i’ve been gone

You may have noticed I stopped blogging for a while and just recently started up again. It took a bit of internal debating, but I decided to spare you all from one of those “wheretheheckhaveIbeen” posts. However, since I’m practically a certified crazy cat lady, I thought I’d share just this bit with you.

Since I’ve been gone, Chris and I have adopted our second kitten from the Humane Society and he’s practically grown up already. Meet Rupert.

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