Friday favorites

Happy Friday, friends! I’ve been preparing for a big exam all week, so writing this post served as my brain-break. I haven’t written a ‘Friday Favorites’ post in far too long, so I figured today would be the perfect opportunity to do so. Here are some things I’m loving lately:

-Bridesmaids dress shopping:
Wooohooo we picked the dress! I’m not showing the one we picked but I will say it’s a summery navy! We picked it on Valentine’s Day, hence our flowers in the picture below : –) Love my girls!

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-Easy, weeknight veggie-packed meals:
Loads of homework unfortunately results in a lack of time for cooking. However, roasting large amounts of veggies, preparing stir-fry’s, and making big batches of quinoa helps get me through the school week with a healthy meal pattern.

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-Having my Dad healthy:
Last week, my Dad suddenly had to have a pacemaker put in. While I’ve been told this is a pretty routine-surgery now, it didn’t make me any less worried. I’m relieved to say he’s now healthy and home! I went to back to Maine last weekend and we had margaritas to celebrate : –)

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Engagement Photos with my husband-to-be:
While it was a freezing cold, blustery, Maine winter day in Kennebunkport, we had so much fun with our photographer Kathryn Williams a few weeks ago. Thanks for everything, Kate! Here’s some of my favorites:
Meredith  Brandon-1-6Meredith  Brandon-28Meredith  Brandon-1-2Meredith  Brandon-31Meredith  Brandon-38Meredith  Brandon-43Meredith  Brandon-53Meredith  Brandon-55Meredith  Brandon-66Meredith  Brandon-69Meredith  Brandon-1-5Meredith  Brandon-82Meredith  Brandon-89Meredith  Brandon-94Meredith  Brandon-104

Have a great weekend, friends!
What are your Friday favorites?

so snowed in

Hello from snowy Massachusetts and happy February! Once again, I didn’t have class yesterday due to another snowstorm, but after a very late Super Bowl celebration (yay, Patriots!), it was much appreciated.  Who else is snowed in? We got over 3 feet early last week, and yesterday another foot (at least) was added to the pile…yuck!
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Clearly, I’m not impressed. Even though I’ve lived through these snowy, frigid New England winters my whole life, it doesn’t mean I have to like them! Anyway, being snowed in has its perks…I’ve gotten a little extra sleep, had some time to catch-up on homework and wedding to-do’s, and have had some extra time in the kitchen, which I never mind at all. However, on the flipside, the freezing cold temperatures outside always lead me to crave comfort foods, so lately I’ve been on the search for a few lightened-up versions of my favorites.

Last week, we were craving soup, so I made this corn chowder from one of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats (the only changes I made were substituting-in unsweetened almond milk instead of regular milk, cutting the potatoes down to 3 cups, and using turkey bacon in place of regular). This did NOT disappoint. It’s gluten & dairy-free, but full-of flavor. The cauliflower-based broth is genius, and using bagged hash-browns helps cut down on the preparation time!
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After the soup was devoured (and we froze some!) we got even more snow. Naturally, more snow meant more comfort food cravings, so a bowl of pasta did the trick.
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Contrary to belief, pasta doesn’t have to be considered a “cheat meal” or a “bad option”. It’s all about portions and choices. I’m hooked on brown rice pasta; it’s a good source of protein, fiber, it’s wheat-free, comes in a bunch of different shapes, and lastly it’s not mushy at all. I’ve found it in nearly every grocery store (recently I bought Tinkyada brand and I’d recommend it), and I’d chose it over white pasta in a heartbeat. My favorite thing to do when I am craving pasta is to steam or roast a bunch of broccoli and/or cauliflower (or any vegetable you prefer) and add it to my bowl as my “base”. Then, once cooked, I add my pasta, parmesan, and sauce/toppings. Adding an ample amount of vegetables to the base of the bowl helps fill me up without having to go overboard on the pasta, yet I still end up feeling completely satisfied when the meal is done.
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Lastly, for the Superbowl, I made these mini-garlic monkey breads (I made them on New Year’s, too). They were a hit at both parties, and are incredibly addicting. If you need a simple party recipe, make these! I altered the recipe only by using a different method for cooking the dough: I cut each biscuit into quarters, and then added the dough into muffin tins by pressing 5-6 pieces into each tin and then placing one additional piece of dough in the middle on top. (I did this instead of tying them into knots). Either way will work!

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I’m off to class; I hope you all have a terrific start to February!

What’s your favorite comfort-food?
Anyone else snowed in?
What’s your favorite way to spend your day if you’re stuck inside?
I love lounging in pj’s and baking!

meatless monday, mostly meatless meredith

Hey friends! Happy Monday/MLK Day. Today is my last day of “winter break” and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in shock about it. Where did January go? I am happy that I feel like I accomplished a lot of my wedding to-do list in my time off from classes, however, it’s still shocking how fast time goes by as we age. While I’m sad to see vacation end, I’m also excited to get back into a daily routine and get this show on the road with classes. I can’t wait to be done already!!

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hehehe!
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Anyway, since I haven’t blogged much at all in the last couple of months, I haven’t had the chance to share what I’ve been eating lately. Since this has always first-and-foremost been a food blog to me, I want to stay honest about it. Ever since December, I’ve been dabbling with eating a (mostly) plant-based diet. Brandon and I actually declared December as a “Meatless Month”, with the exception of a few pieces of bacon here-and-there (whoops), and seafood. I’m just not interested in cutting out seafood…life is too short and I love it too much! Anyway, to me, this isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle. This diagram does a good job of explaining what exactly what a plant-based diet consists of:

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Source

There’s been a few reasons behind this switch, one because I’ve never been a huge “meat” person, and two because I’ve always generally felt better (on the inside and out)when I’m eating mostly plant-based foods.Truthfully though, my entire mind-set shifted entirely after seeing the movies Forks Over Knives and Food Inc. in one of my classes this semester. (Watch these movies!!!) I am so happy to now have more awareness and knowledge surrounding the prevalent health issues linked to animal-based diets, and after learning about the secrets behind the meat industry, I now feel that eating meat and most other animal-based foods just isn’t for me. Trust me, I know this isn’t for everyone, and I’d never push this on anyone! In fact, I can and will still cook  with some animal products, be around it, and serve it; it’s just not something that I, personally, want to eat anymore.

I think my main concern (and my family’s main concern) was where I would get my protein from. I stopped eating dairy a few months ago (with the exception of cheese pizza and ice cream now-and-then because like I said, life is too short!), so that hasn’t been too difficult for me. Vanilla almond milk=my favorite! However, it’s astonishing how many people believe that if we don’t eat meat, we will be protein deficient. That couldn’t be more false! Instead of meat protein, I’ve been focusing on getting my protein from other things: like grains, seeds, seafood, nuts and legumes. Here’s some of the things I’ve been making/eating:

2-bean taco salads
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Roasted vegetables
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Shrimp, quinoa, and vegetables
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Broccoli slaw quinoa salad
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Flourless blueberry pancakes with walnuts and gluten-free granola
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Rice pasta, grilled shrimp, and roasted cauliflower

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Arugula quinoa salad with peanut-butter rice cakes
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Peanut butter protein bites
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Anyway, I’m not preaching anything here, I simply wanted to share this with all of you in hopes to show that eating a mostly plant-based diet can still be delicious and nutritious, and maybe some of you will want to go “meatless” once and a while, too. I’ll be back this week with a recipe; talk to you soon, friends!

What is your favorite meatless meal?
Lately, mine is a big salad with quinoa and vegetables, and I’m loving experimenting with more cauliflower-based dishes.
Would you ever switch to a mostly-plant-based diet?

hello, 2015

Hello out there and Happy New Year! It’s been a while, that’s for sure. I know I’m a week late on the New Year thing, but it just wouldn’t feel right not saying it in my first post of 2015. Is anyone else freaking out that it’s 2015? I AM (but in a good way). 2015=wedding year!!!

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#truth
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Anyway, a lot has happened around here since the last time I’ve written!
1st semester=complete:
Finishing up my first semester of grad school was a big accomplishment and SUCH a feeling of relief for me. See ya never again, organic chemistry!

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Next semester will be even busier, but I’m looking forward to it, especially since I’ll be in mostly nutrition-based classes from this point forward.

Holidays:
Christmas came and went, and it was nothing short of amazing. I love that  some of the Christmas traditions my Mom and Dad have had with my sisters and me  since we were little have stuck, even as we’ve grown older. Baking the same desserts and appetizers each year, wrapping gifts together, blasting the Christmas music, gosh I love the holidays. We don’t open a single gift until all of us are together,  either, which means we’re usually opening until midnight, but it’s such a blast.
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I also love celebrating with two families, not just one. Love my French family!

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For our gift to each other, Brandon and I spent a night in Kennebunkport, Maine (the place of our engagement.) We stayed at David’s Boathouse Hotel, and now we would highly recommend it. Loved, loved, loved it! Check out this view from our room:
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Plus, a personal parking spot wasn’t too shabby, either Winking smile
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New Year’s Eve was also amazing. We attended our second-annual  house party at our friend’s New Hampshire home. It really is the greatest party ever because we wear “comfortable” pants on the bottom (a.k.a. pajamas or sweatpants) and a dressy shirt on the top, since all you see in pictures is the top, anyway, and then everyone is comfortable the entire night. Isn’t that genius?! I went with polka dot pajama pants…thanks Aunt Jane!  : –)

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I made these garlic knots from Pinterest for the party and they were amazingly easy and amazingly tasty!
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Wedding planning madness!
Since Christmas, wedding planning has been in full swing. With the upcoming semester coming quickly, I’ve been trying to cross as many things off of the list as possible.
Venue =check

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Shoes=check

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Dress=check
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Photographer=check!

Website, registry, flowers, dj, videographer, accommodations, etc…in the works!

I’ve been cooking quite a bit lately, too, and have some fun recipes to share in the next couple of weeks. It feels good to get back into a routine after the holidays, that’s for sure.

Talk to you soon, friends!

What was your favorite part of the holidays?

Anyone else getting married this year? For those of you already married, please tell me I’m not alone on this feeling!

life lately

Hello out there! How is it nearly mid-November? I can’t believe a month has passed since I’ve written…yikes. I just renewed my blog name, so a promise I’ve made to myself is that 2015 is my writing year!

Anyway, today is extra special because today, my beautiful Mom celebrates her 61st birthday.
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We love you , Mom!

And yesterday, my second-Dad celebrated his birthday, too! Happy birthday, Dad! We love you : –)
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So, back to life lately. October & November (so far) have been pretty busy around here!

We finished up our year-of-weddings:
We were invited to 9, and were able to attend 7 of them overall. What a whirlwind, but a wonderful whirlwind it was. Each wedding was beautiful and unique in their own way, and all of them were full of love, my favorite! Thanks to all of our friends and family for including us in your special days.

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We traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, and became obsessed with it:
A city that is filled with rocking chairs everywhere and beautiful sunshine instantly became a favorite of mine!

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I saw Demi Lovato in concert:
A weekend in Connecticut with my twin, her husband and the puppies was LONG overdue. We may have partied a little too hard, but we also carved pumpkins and got some quality time together. Such a blast!

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I became obsessed with over-sized earrings:
I may have an accessories addiction, but since these were on a super-sale, it’s okay, right?

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We’ve been searching constantly for a wedding venue:
I can’t believe we don’t have a venue yet, but it’s been a much harder process than I ever imagined. To our friends and family,  we’ll have a date and a venue before Thanksgiving! What I can say, for now, is that it will be in Maine : –)
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I’m off to class, but I’ll be back soon with a couple of oatmeal-based snack recipes…they’re just too good not to share!
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Have a great rest of the week, friends!

What have you been up to lately?
Has anyone else been to Charleston, SC? Did you love it?!

Friday favorites: Apartment edition

Hey there friends! Happy Friday and happy October. WOW…October? Where did that come from? It’s hard to believe it’s fall, and hard to believe we’ve lived in our new place for over a month now. The last time I wrote, Brandon and I had just moved; however between classes, the move, and working weekends, I simply haven’t had the chance to sit down, write, and share about it.
Since I had a few minutes, it’s Friday, and I love to read blogs about new homes and home improvements, I thought it would be fun to share some favorites from our new place.

The best part about moving is the decorating, right? It certainly is in my opinion! The top 3 things I’ve learned from moving thus far:
I have a Home Goods problem.
I have a T.J. Maxx problem.
I have a Marshall’s problem. 
Luckily, I didn’t do tooooo much damage since I’ve had 4 different apartments over the last 7 years (!!!) and between Brandon and me we already had most of furniture and things to fill it, but the first step in curing an addiction is to admit it, right? Winking smile

While I love our apartment for many reasons(such as the location, the quiet, and the gym, just to name a few) I have a few favorites inside our new place, too: 
Our nautical décor and tall windows:
I am all about nautical (always have been) and love the look of the starfish in the top window pane. Also, we found this great “Maine” sign listing all of our favorite places on the coast that matches perfectly. The tall windows that let the sunshine come through each day are also a favorite. Plus, to go along with the nautical theme, this rope mirror was a must (Home Goods find…obsessed!)
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Kitchen and signage:
I’ve always loved being in the kitchen, and it remains my favorite spot in our place! The counter space, island, and signs make me smile. We haven’t completely finished it, but here’s a sneak peak:IMG_0259IMG_0274

Bathroom colors:
Lately, I’ve been loving light yellow, and when we moved in I knew I wanted the bathroom to be nice and bright. Because of this, we went with a yellow and white color contrast. Here’s a peek, plus some more signs (told you I have an addiction)!
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Living with this guy: Love love LOVE living with him again (clearly this picture shows he loves it too…hehehe):
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He is such a handy man and did all of the dirty work when it came to moving. Our place looks better and better each day thanks to him. Love you B!
With that, I’m off to class. Hope you enjoyed this sneak peak SmileHappy Friday, friends!

What’s your favorite part of your apartment/condo/house?
Does anyone else have a “signage” obsession like me?

Catching up & a Quinoa Recipe

Hey there and happy Thursday to you all! It’s been a busy couple of weeks around here. Between getting engaged(!!!!), moving,  starting classes, attending amazing weddings and still working weekends, I feel like I’ve been in “go-go-go” mode constantly. However, Brandon and I were SO excited to move into our new place. Minus the actual “moving” part, it has been so surreal to set up our new home together as fiancés! (Can I just admit how much I love saying that?!)

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I also started my Master’s Degree program last week, which was exciting yet overwhelming all at once.  Organic Chemistry will be consuming my life for the next four months. #sendhelp
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Anyway, back to our new place. I think my favorite part of our new digs is the kitchen. The counters, the cabinets, the island, the set-up…I just LOVE LOVE LOVE it (I will share a picture once it’s all set up). Plus, having a new kitchen makes me so much more motivated to cook. Healthy dinners for the win!

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Speaking of healthy dinners, my favorite vegetarian protein source lately is quinoa. I started to eat quinoa back in Australia and I haven’t turned back since. The first time I tried it, I wasn’t too fond of it, but that’s because it tasted really bland to me. However, once I researched it a bit, I learned that if you cook it in chicken broth (or vegetable broth), it’s so much more flavorful. After that, I became hooked.  It’s a great source of protein, filling, gluten-free, and simply delicious. This week, I decided to use up some random vegetables in my fridge and make a veggie-quinoa mix. It’s so easy and makes terrific leftovers, too. To complete my dinner, I stuffed a red pepper with the mixture and baked it for 15 minutes, eating it alongside of some roasted veggies and corn (off) the cob. I plan on putting the mix on salads as leftovers for the rest of the week! Here’s my recipe:

Veggie & Black Bean Quinoa Mix
1 cup quinoa
2 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup black beans
1 small yellow squash, chopped
1/4 red pepper, chopped
handful of spinach
salt/pepper/seasonings to taste
1 red pepper (optional)

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2) Place quinoa and chicken (or vegetable) broth in a saucepan, stir, and put burner on high. Once it begins to boil, lower temperature to a simmer and cover (stirring every few minutes), until it’s thickened and fluffy. (This will take about 15 minutes). Trust me, one cup expands IMMENSLY!
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3) While the quinoa cooks, chop your vegetables. I chose onions, squash, mushrooms, red pepper and spinach, and at the last minute I added some black beans in, too. The beauty of this dish is you can honestly use any vegetables in your fridge.
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4) Stir-fry these on the stove until cooked thoroughly (using spices of your choice), and add the spinach in at the last minute. Once cooked, set aside until the quinoa is finished.
5) Once the quinoa has finished cooking, add the vegetables in. Voila, you have your quinoa mix!
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6) ***Optional: I cleaned a pepper out and stuffed/baked the mixture inside for about 15 minutes, but this isn’t necessary. You could also just stand at your stovetop and eat it too (yes, I am guilty of this Winking smile)

Have a great rest of your week and weekend, friends. Happy almost fall!

***9-11-2001 Never Forget***

Do you cook with quinoa? If so, what’s your favorite way to eat it?

Any recipes to share?
Any one else move in September?

Gahhhh moving is the worst!