Baked Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

I have a confession. I am a picky eater. If you notice, my recipes tend to contain the same main components. Though I do like fruits, I am not a fan of vegetables or squash like things. This last Thanksgiving, I helped my Aunt make butternut squash. I’m not sure if it was how it was prepared or the squash itself, but I was not a huge fan. For Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend made spaghetti squash. It was good. I liked it. Which, is a big deal. I have a texture thing. I don’t like such things normally. I was hit with inspiration and went shopping today. I was going to make spaghetti squash!

Ingredients:

1 small-medium spaghetti squash

1-2 garlic cloves

Olive Oil

1/2 cup – 1 cup cheese- mozzarella, parmesan, any mix of cheese you would like

8oz tomato sauce

1-2 tablespoons minced onion (or dried onion flakes)

Meat of choice- I used mini salad shrimp, sausage, ground beef/turkey/pork, muscles, again totally up to you

Spices/Herbs- basil, oregano, parsley

Pre-heat oven to 300

1. Slice your spaghetti squash in half- I read AFTER I cut mine to bake it a bit to soften it. It is quite difficult to cut in half. So you can choose to pre-bake yours for about 15 minutes or just hack away like I did. Cut in half and scoop out the pulp, like a pumpkin.

2. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and place on a baking sheet, skin side out, that’s also been drizzled with olive oil.

3. Rip a small piece of foil, place in 1 or 2 garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap up and place on the cookie sheet with the squash- nothing beats roasted garlic!

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4. In a sauce pan on the stove, combine your sauce, meet and spices. Just kinda keep it on low while the squash is baking to let the flavors meld. I used little tiny shrimp so that the flavor was still there but so that I didn’t have huge chunks.

5. At 30-45 minutes, flip the squash flesh side up and test with a fork. You should easily be able to pull the strands away from the rind. If not, continue baking. I left mine flesh side up for another 15 minutes or so.

6. Once the squash is done, scrape out the flesh with a fork into a separate bowl. Add the sauce and half of your cheese and mix until well combined.

7. Replace the mixture back into the hollowed squash skins. Sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese and put back into the oven for another 15 minutes to melt the cheese on top.

8. Serve hot with a hearty slice of bread and butter!

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St. Patricks Day

I know I’m a few days behind, but I’m sure the leprechaunS forgive me. I have always loved St. Patrick’s Day. I am very fortunate to have a family that enjoys history and keeps track of who and where our family came from. I am off-the-boat Irish. My family came over in the late 1800s-early 1900s.

1922459_10203369528264042_1221351795_nWhile I was wandering around Victoria Square in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I came across a picture of the family crest!

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Now that I’ve been to Ireland, my adoration for the holiday has grown…if that’s even possible! You can read all about that trip HERE! St. Patrick’s Day is also a mostly American thing because it is a celebration of where we came from and our heritage…not just a day to drink cheap green beer. Since I was home for the day, I made 2 St. Patty’s day treats.

First, I made a shamrock shake

Ingredients:

2 scoops vanilla ice cream

1 cup of milk

1 teaspoon sugar

Green food coloring

Peppermint Extract

Handful of ice

Throw everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Add food coloring until it is the desired shade. Serve with a cool shamrock straw.

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The second thing I made was green chocolate chip cookies. It’s a relatively basic cookie recipe with…you guessed it…green food coloring.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 stick butter

1/2 cup butter flavored Crisco

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)

Chocolate chips of your choice- I used dark chocolate

1. Cream butter and crisco, add sugar, vanilla and eggs.

2. Add green food coloring to desired shade. I used about 10 drops.

3. Combine flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Slowly add it to the “wet” ingredients.

4. Mix in 1 1/2 cups, or half a bag of chocolate chips. It will look like mint-chocolate-chip ice cream.

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5. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Trust me. Don’t skip this step. Longer is better. But at least an hour.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 350, bake for 10-12 minutes depending on your oven etc. The cookies will JUST start to turn brown around the edges.IMG_5336

EAT, with a nice big glass of milk!

And now, for some Irish fun facts to make your St. Patricks day a little educational-

-Only 9% of the Irish population are natural redheads.

-A book only needs to sell 3,000 copies to top the Irish bestseller list.

-There have never been snakes in Ireland. St. Patrick did nothing with snakes.

-Gaelic is Ireland’s official language, but English is most commonly spoken

Frosted Strawberry Raspberry Bread

My dad has this guilty pleasure- the frosted fruit bread from Shady Maple. It’s pretty awesome. With everyone home and my favorite guest joining us for the weekend, I figured I’d make an extra treat. I was going to make this recipe as muffins, but we didn’t have enough muffin papers sooo I changed my plans a bit and went for the full loaf. I am really missing my summer berries and decided to bite the bullet and just go get some to bake with and eat the next few days. If I do say so myself….I don’t think we’ll need to spend money to buy them anymore! 🙂

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

3/4 white sugar

1/4 light or dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar and the rest milk, let sit a few minutes to make buttermilk)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Dash of cinnamon

Chopped strawberries, raspberries or fruit of choice

Glaze- 1 cup powdered sugar 1/4 teaspoon vanilla 2-3 tablespoons milk (until reached desired consistency) Whisk all ingredients together, adding milk until you’ve reached a thick, glue like viscosity.

Pre-heat oven to 350, grease and flour a 9×5 bread pan

1. Whisk the egg and sugars until there are no brown sugar lumps.

2. Add in the buttermilk, vanilla and vegetable oil.

3. Slowly add in the flour, baking soda and salt. Add a dash of cinnamon.

4. Hand mix in the chopped fruit.

5. Pour into bread pan. I added some additional strawberries and raspberries on top. Loosely cover with foil so that the top doesn’t burn.

6. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake until a knife comes out clean. Mine took an hour and 5 minutes.

7. LET COOL. Remove from baking pan onto a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet. Drizzle the top with the glaze. I added additional berries on top, because WHY NOT!?

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This same recipe can be used muffin size, just bake 16-20 minutes or until the tops are golden and a knife comes out clean. Other goodies to throw in include black berries, blue berries, and any combination with strawberries and raspberries! I would also dice/chop up the fruit a bit smaller and use the same batter in my mini-donut maker! YUM!

Jen Turano Author Interview

Last night I posted my book review of Jen Turano’s A Change of Fortune, the first book in her Ladies of Distinction series! I was inspired by my writing for the media class to incorporate more author interviews. If there is one thing I have learned recently, it is that most authors are more than willing to answer a few questions. Why are more people not reaching out to do this!?

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Oh yeah, and she’s s so pretty! 🙂 Below is my mini interview with Turano-

AS- Me!

JT- Jen Turano

AS-Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any thing in particular you like to have with you? Tea, specific music, candles, outside etc…

JT-When I’m writing a first draft, I’m most productive if I stay in my office and work on my big computer with the large screen and enormous keyboard. After that, I can move around the house with my laptop to do edits, although I’m not a writer who enjoys going to coffee shops to write – there are just far too many distractions and I’d never get anything done. I really don’t have any specific rituals when I’m writing. I just set a goal for the day, usually word count, and I don’t stop writing until I reach that goal.

AS-You are an Ohio native, but have moved around a bit. Do you think the different environments have influenced your writing?

JT-I don’t think the different environments influenced my writing as much as the different people I’ve encountered have. Most of my characters are inspired by real people I’ve met over the years, and most of those people have been rather quirky. If I’d have lived in one place all my life, I wouldn’t have met so many fabulous friends, and I’d have far less ready material tucked away in my mind to pull out when needed.

AS-Writing was not your first career, in fact, you found writing quite unusually. When did you realize that you might actually have a knack for this and go for it?

JT-As many readers know, I started writing because of a rather horrible series my son and I were reading together when he was in the third grade. We decided we’d try our hand at creating a book together, and armed with his wild suggestions (because he was your typical little boy back then) I wrote a fantasy called “Fanglers” that was filled with creatures and completely ridiculous scenes that my son suggested. I really didn’t consider sending it out to anyone until my son’s librarian asked to read it. I ran the PTO at the school so everyone knew me which is why I really had no choice but to hand over the story – especially since librarians can be somewhat scary. I was then pleasantly surprised to discover she enjoyed it. However, that’s when I learned my first important lesson – people who know you, are not the best people to critique your work. When I did send the manuscript out to a few agents, I was quickly informed that my craft needed a ton of work, but since it was somewhat pleasant, using my brain again, I just started writing a lot, and different genres at that. I knew I was doing something right because I got suggestions back from agents/editors, and then I finally signed with an agent and she very kindly sold my work to Bethany House.

AS-I truly appreciate your love of The Gilded Age, since I am a bit of a time period snob myself. What about that era drew you in and made you decide to set your series in that time?

JT-Growing up, I read mostly Regency when I’d read a romance, but a few years back, I read a non-fiction book about Alva Vanderbilt and realized how absolutely fascinating The Gilded Age was. This was truly a time in our history when we can see the rise of the New York Socialite, and see the influence of American heiresses. Since I have a background in fashion, I love being able to use the old department stores for scenes every once and a while, and don’t even get me started on the interior of the mansions that began springing up on Fifth Avenue. With my latest series, I’ve been adding in a touch more history to the storylines, mostly because there are just so many cool things about The Gilded Age. I’ve even set a story in Newport for the sheer reason that I wanted to set the scene in one of the “cottages” that were in such demand during the summer social season.

AS-I just finished reading A Change of Fortune, the first book in your Ladies of Distinction Where did your inspiration for these characters come from?

JT-Odd as this may seem, I was actually thinking about walking away from trying to get a book published because I’d had some disappointing news regarding a different manuscript. Because I was in a bit of a gloomy mood, I decided I’d clean the house because…well, that’s sure to perk a girl up, and while I was scrubbing the shower – the entire Ladies of Distinction series popped to mind. I knew everything – the characters, the storylines, you name it, it was all there. But, because I’m a little weird about cleaning, I couldn’t simply stop and start writing, so armed with a pad of post-it notes, I continued on to another room, scribbling down ideas as I cleaned, and then I started writing “A Change of Fortune” the next day. I’ve come to the belief that my inspiration for this series definitely came from above because I really was ready to throw in the towel and go back to fashion after being a stay-at-home mom for so many years.

AS-Faith takes a relatively important role in your books, and you’re obviously published by Bethany House; what made you decide to incorporate that aspect into your writing? Did you find that it hindered your opportunities at all?

JT-I felt there was a distinct need for more clean romances in the market – books that a mom would not be embarrassed to share with her teenage daughter if you will. Because of that, and because I’m comfortable with my faith and talking about God, it was a logical choice for me to turn to the inspirational market. Do I feel it’s hindered my opportunities? That’s difficult to say. My books do get banished to the dark and sometimes gloomy Christian section in the large bookstores instead of being shelved in romance, but…with every new release, more readers find me, so…I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

AS-A Most Peculiar Circumstance, was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Romance for 2013, what did it feel like to have that recognition that you had not only been accepted as a writer, but people were truly enjoying your work!?

JT-It was a huge surprise, as well as an honor, but, quite honestly, it completely freaked me out. Writers are an odd lot, and we dwell on all sorts of nonsense, mostly what will happen if we can’t produce another fun book, and then…readers will hate us and they’ll never buy another book again, and…well, the neurosis goes on and on. That’s what happened to me when Booklist was so kind as to really like my book. I was sure I’d never be able to produce something even remotely close to “A Most Peculiar Circumstance” again and then I’d just have to go back to being a buyer for a department store. I’ve calmed down a touch since that book was released – although I do still get super nervous when I have a new book coming out because it’s always all about the reader, and I really don’t want to put out a book that readers find disappointing.

AS-What is the best advice you have been given as a writer thus far?

JT-Keep producing new work and don’t read your reviews – especially on Goodreads because, wow, people can be mean.

To learn more about her books visit http://jenturano.com/category/books/

To learn more about the Gilded age and why she loves it so much, check out her posts here!

Follow her on Facebook to keep up with new books, book giveaways, other articles on Jen and her work and just to see what she’s up too!

A Change of Fortune- Jen Turano

I recently discovered a new author. I’m kind of excited about this one and I can not wait to get even more of her books. Jen Turano is an accidental writer, finding her niche when she began writing along with her young son. She is a historical-Christian-fiction-romance writer. Say that five times fast. I thoroughly enjoyed every ounce of this book from start to finish.

Miss Eliza Sumner is a woman on a mission, one scorned woman to be exact. As English aristocracy, her family fortune was swindled by their seemingly trustworthy accountant. She has tracked him down and followed this man across the pond to New York City.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett is a widower with two endearing children. He is wealthy, good-looking and a bit brooding. Life is a bit monotonous and business deals are falling out from under him left and right. He is doing the best he can considering his circumstances. At a dinner party held by the Watsons, he meets the family’s quirky and entertaining governess is it a twist of fate and just what he needs?

Mr. Zayne Beckett is the younger brother of Hamilton Beckett. Charming, business-minded and much less broody than his brother, Zayne is off-limits to the world of women…or so he says. He too has the pleasure of being invited to the same dinner party as Hamilton and meets the unique and intriguing governess. Will she pull him out of his world of dating or help turn his world upside down?

Miss Agatha is the oldest of the three Watson daughters. She does everything to avoid her mother’s scheming, matchmaking ways, including feigning illness to avoid her parent’s dinner party. She is an aspiring and succeeding writer…unbeknownst to her doting and very proper parents. Pairing up with the new governess, Agatha engages on an adventure not even her creative mind could create.

I am a sucker for a good romance. I am a sucker for a good historical romance. I liked how she entwined a bit of mystery and managed to make everyone’s story intertwine. It was nice to be able to read and know that I wouldn’t be coming across awkward sex scenes. The struggle with faith that Eliza and Hamilton go through compared to the faith of Agatha and Zayne was great contrast and real. How often do we go through valleys of faith while those around us seem to be growing and blooming in their own? It is hard to praise God through the storm, not to be cliché.

I had a sneaking suspicion within the first chapter how everything was going to work out- but the actual getting there is always my favorite part. When an author can get my heart rate up with excitement and anticipation, when an author can make me giggle and laugh at the antics of the characters, when I groan and shake my head feeling their own embarrassments and mistakes-when authors can make you connect and feel their people- THAT is a good book.

Change-of-Fortune

Snow Day Garden Planning

It is a winter wonderland right now. Seriously. We have over a foot of snow in our yard, a combination of the approximately 8 inches we got today plus what was already laying on the ground. My dad used our snow blower to created a doggy path in our back yard since our critters are a bit vertically challenged.

10437617_10206255174127735_8793836284818350200_nI am desperately looking forward to the days when our yard looks more like this-

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Last year was the first garden my parents did. This little plot is 8×10. This year, we are more than doubling that to a whopping 32×10. Yes, 32×10. That is 320 square feet of prime food growin ground. When you decide to grow a garden that big, you can not haphazardly throw plant in the ground. There is an art to this, a serious science. I have spent at least 3 hours researching, drawing, erasing and going back to the garden boards to plan out our vegetable garden this year. An excel spread sheet, and 2 tables later, I think I’ve got it!

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This is an excel spread sheet of all different fruits and vegetables we will be growing, whether in the main 32×10 garden, in a separate box, like our strawberries, or in our side garden, like the cucumbers. It features how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant them, how many can be planted in a square foot, when to plant, companion planting info, soil info and sun preferences. Instead of having to search 18 different websites, I can simply pull this up and all of the info I need is right there in one spot!

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This is our 32×10 garden lay out. Below is the color key, black is walking space. It is a pain in the butt to harvest, weed and take care of a garden when you have no room to actually walk! What a travesty to have great plants and accidentally step and crush them! This helps aid this problem. Having it laid out also means no guessing when it comes to planting time. Each square will have 1-16 plants depending on what is being planted there. We LOVE canning homemade tomato sauce, and being able to harvest and freeze fresh green beans, carrots and peppers to use throughout the winter and spring. Nothing beats having fresh carrots and green beans in a good hearty pot of stew in the middle of December. We are also planting marigolds around the perimeter of the whole garden. There are numerous benefits of this, one of them being that they attract bees, which helps pollination, which in turn means lots of produce!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.33 PMRight now, the wind is blowing and the snow is still kinda falling. By the end of the week it is supposed to bounce back up to the 40s and Spring will quickly be approaching. I still have our front flower gardens to plan and a few weeks before we’ll be able to till the ground and get our (organic/natural) soil additives in preparation for planting time mid-April. Though it seems so far away, like the snow may never stop and the ice will never melt, I know that in just a few short weeks I will have my toes in the dirt and seeds in the ground!

This Very Crafty Mama Stickers

By a twist of fate I follow Jessica, owner of Etsy shop ThisVeryCraftyMama on Instagram. I saw that she was running an AWESOME giveaway and decided “Why not? It’s worth a shot!” AND I WON! HOLY COW! 😀 This afternoon I practically RAN to the mailbox in hopes of having a package in the mail- and there it was, in all of its hot pink glory!

IMG_5167When I opened my pretty envelope, one of the nicest happy mails I have ever received slid out! There is something to be said for a person who takes such ginger, love and pride in her work!

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IMG_5170And on to the best part- THE STICKERS!

IMG_5171I know there are some girls out there that are OBSESSED with mermaids. I’ll give it to ya, I love The Little Mermaid. I do grow my hair out for years at a time in order to donate and sometimes kinda feel mermaid-ish. Not only are these mermaids so cute, but so are their sea friends! I can’t wait to use them this summer and plan beach and aquarium trips JUST so I can use them!

IMG_5172I am an Army brat, and come from a long line of service men. We celebrate all of the holidays associated with them. I also have a friend who is dating a man in the service now. I will be sharing these Army stickers.

IMG_5173These baking stickers are spot on for planning. They are the perfect size and don’t take up too much space in the squares. The colors are fun, but soft. They are a perfect addition to my collection. 

IMG_5174Everybody loves a good page flag.Pictured are both the solid and patterned ones! The stickers are matte, and colorful without being too bright or so patterned that you can’t write on them. She knocked it out of the park on these guys.

IMG_5175Ok, so when I first saw these I laughed way too hard for way too long. These “Monthly Cycle Tracker” stickers couldn’t be better. Not much makes any aspect of this more tolerable, other than chocolate, but these might help a bit.

IMG_5176I know Valentines Day has passed, but hearts are really all year round. How could I pass up those heart-sleeved coffee cups, or those owls, or instagram stickers!? Nothing is wrong with back stock either…

IMG_5177A roll of washi tape, some more stickers, star sticky notes, mini clothes pins, and small envelopes rounded out my killer giveaway package!

Follow Jessica on instagram at ThisVeryCraftyMama for new shop additions and a baby picture now and again! Visit her Etsy shop for ALL of her stickers! She carries stickers for Erin Condren, Plum Paper, FiloFax and Kikki K so regardless of what planner you love, she can help you out!

Don’t forget to follow Brunetteswithbrains on Instagram for blog posts and other random fun, Pinterest and right here on WordPress!

Where can you find a planner to use all of these adorable additions!? Here is a referral link for $10 off of a purchase of an Erin Condren planner for yourself! After you create an account you will receive an email with the code. HAPPY PLANNING!