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The BEST Snack Ideas to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions ALIVE!!

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Cauliflower Crust Pizza Bites

Today I am here to help you keep on the right track for your New Year’s resolutions!  One of the hardest things I fight while trying to stick to a diet is my carb craving. I am an absolute CARB JUNKY!! Who’s with me?! One of my favorite foods is pizza and seriously, I would eat it every day for every meal if I knew it wouldn’t make me 300 pounds overnight. Lol. I would have to say pizza is also one of the HARDEST cravings to satisfy with other things. When you want it, you WANT it! It doesn’t help when you’ve had a long day, a million things going on and for $5 you can pick it up “hot” in a drive thru. That is just asking for me to break down. UNTIL NOW! Enter, my pizza snacks made with cauliflower crust. I actually came up with this recipe by finding other things online but eventually developed it into my own. I also started using it for snacks because snacking keeps me from eating three meals at one sitting after I have starved myself all day. (Not a good way to stay healthy!!) One of my favorite options about this is different toppings because my husband and I have different pizza preferences. I am more of a veggies girl and he likes the meats. By doing these little snack bites, we both win! They also stay good in the fridge for a while so you can make a big batch to use for the week or even freeze for another time. Add to that they have just a few simple ingredients you almost always have around the house, and BOOM, an ideal recipe without much effort.

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Here’s what you will need:

  • 2 bags (16 oz. each) of frozen cauliflower
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese (you can use ANY kind. My favorite had been pepper jack but I honestly use whatever we have in the fridge!)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of Garlic salt
  • Pizza sauce (Check to make sure it has low sugar and NOT regular pasta sauce! I chose to use tomato sauce and added my own seasonings like Italian herbs and chopped garlic. This is only because the store I was at did not have pizza sauce and to keep the recipe low in sugar, you can’t use regular paste sauce.)
  • Any toppings you like! I used pepperoni, bacon, sausage, banana peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and orange bell pepper.
  • Muffin pan
  • Non-stick cooking spray

So the first thing to do is prepare the crust. First, throw the cauliflower in a bowl and run water over it for a few minutes.

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Next, throw into the blender trying to keep water out. After you have blended for a minute, stir it around and blend again to get most of the chunks out. This does NOT have to be perfectly smooth. Next, take some paper towels and blot off the excess water from the blended cauliflower.IMG_0235 For me, I just put it back into the original mixing bowl and start squeezing the water out. Then take the 3 eggs, 1 cup of the shredded cheese, and garlic salt stirring together with the cauliflower. (Save the other cup of cheese for toppings.)

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Spray your muffin pan and place a spoonful of mix to fill half of the muffin cup. Place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes, or golden brown on top. If you have made the crusts thicker, you may want to broil an additional 5 minutes until you see the top become a golden brown crust.IMG_0232

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My Kitchen Helper MaeBelle

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Your crust is ready for toppings! Place a spoonful of sauce on the top, and layer away your choice of veggies or meats.

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Place back in the oven for 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and voila! Your pizza bites are ready to be devoured!

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Looking for more ideas of what you can snack on? Head on over to Healthy Snacks from Nuts.com to find all kinds of ideas to keep you on track! Wondering about some other food hacks that can satisfy those cravings?! Check out the chart below!

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What are YOUR go to snacks to keep you and your family healthy? I would love to hear what your favorites are!  Xoxo, Brooke

Cooking with Brooke!
Cooking with Brooke!

The BEST EVER Eggplant Parmesan

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Are you looking for something other than the traditional meals that you eat and make during EVERY holiday? Well, how about becoming Italian for a night?! A few years ago when I first got married one of the biggest problems I had was coming up with meals my man (all carnivore) and I (a vegetarian) could both enjoy. Finding a way to make a meal we both felt satisfied on also became quite the challenge. (I guess salads are not a meal for most men??) One day I was looking through recipes and found Eggplant Parmesan. Over the years, I have tweaked this to become my own recipe and even discovered the SECRET to making it the best you have ever had! If you have had this recipe before and found your eggplant to be bland and rubbery, this is the revamped version that will amaze you and leave your family begging for more! First, a list of ingredients you will need:

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1 Large Eggplant (the purple kind that is found in the produce aisle, make sure it isn’t nicked or black)

8 ounces Fresh Mozzarella (the fresher the better, but buying the cheaper store kind like the one pictured is ok if you are on a budget)

8 ounce package of Fresh Parmesan (Do yourself a favor and do NOT use the chemical powder they sell in the dry goods aisle)

1 Package Fresh Basil (this should NOT be substituted for dried)

1 Small Tub of Ricotta Cheese

1 Jar of Newman’s Own Marinara (you can sub this BUT I have tried several different kinds and this is by far the best option)

1 Can of Italian Bread Crumbs (using panko or cornbread as a coating will change the flavor)

1 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (This is what I always use, not sure why my picture shows Canola. Lol. This amount is estimated and you should have plenty on hand to replenish as the eggplant soaks it up. Aim for about a ½ of an inch in the pan at all times.)

3 Large Eggs (beaten), 1 Cup of Milk, and 1 cup of All-Purpose Flour

And now we are ready to begin making this delicious dish!

STEP 1: Start by cutting the eggplant into even slices, about ¼ inch thick. I use even the small slices to fill in the gaps in the casserole dish, so don’t worry that the circle size differs. Just aim for the depth to be consistent. I personally do not peel my eggplant as it gives you something to use to turn over the eggplant while frying.

STEP 2: Pay special attention here because this is the secret trick to making this dish. Place all the eggplant slices on a cutting board or a clean space on your counter tops. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt. Yep, salt! Wait about 5 minutes and you should see water beading up on the tops. This is actually taking out all the bitterness of the eggplant to give it a better flavor. Simply towel blot the water off the slices and now you are ready to start battering them for the fryer!

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STEP 3: Place a ½ inch of the olive oil in the pan. Place on medium-high heat. Make sure your oil is not too hot as this will turn the eggplant black, but if it isn’t hot enough, it will take forever to cook your eggplant.

STEP 4: Set up your battering station. This should include a bowl of milk, a plate of flour, the 3 beaten eggs in a bowl and lastly your bread crumbs. Make sure to have it in that order as the milk helps the flour stick, and the eggs help the crumbs stick. Place your first slices in the frying pan. Turn when those sides are a golden brown. (Usually a few minutes.) Cook all the slices and place on paper towels to soak up excess oil. I don’t always use every slice in the casserole dish, but will use the leftovers for sandwiches or cutting them up for salad toppings. (YUM!)

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STEP 5: Now you are ready for layering inside the casserole dish. Place a fried eggplant slice on the bottom of the casserole dish. I usually use the largest slices for the most coverage and my dish uses about 4 per layer. Place a spoonful of ricotta on each eggplant slice. Cut the mozzarella into ¼ slices and place one on each eggplant. Then place one basil leaf on each eggplant. Then sprinkle Parmesan on each slice. Then top with some Newman’s marinara. Place another fried eggplant slice on top of the marinara and start the layering all over again until you reach the top and have no more room for eggplant. Cut the smaller eggplant slices and put them into the side cracks in order to get use of them and make bigger/heftier servings. I use the rest of the marinara on the top and add additional Parmesan to the top as well.

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STEP 6: Place in 350 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the marinara is bubbly and the cheese on top is melted.

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Viola! Dinner is served and this is sure to be a crowd pleaser! Add a dinner salad and some garlic bread to complete your meal! Tell me what you think about my recipe! Any differences you noticed in mine you were happy to try?! I love to hear from my readers!!                                       xoxo, Brooke

TWO for TUESDAY!! Featured: Blue and Gold Dress from “Mobile Fashion Night”

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It’s TWO for TUESDAY y’all!!! I am starting a series where I take one item of clothing and style it two different ways and post it on a Tuesday! One of my favorite things to do when looking at a piece of clothing is to come up with multiple ways to style it in my head. If I already have most of what I would put with it, I am more likely to get a ton of use out of it. Cue this bright blue dress with those brilliant gold flowers! I first saw this on the runway at Mobile Fashion Week and most of the stores had little shops outside to peruse afterwards with their runway looks. I immediately went to the Ruby Blue Boutique and met the delightful owner, Lacey. I asked her about the dress with a certain size and how cool is it they started grabbing it off the model straight off the catwalk?! They were all such a delight at that shop and I can’t wait to stop by for their latest shipment!

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So how did I style this outfit two ways? Well, I decided to make it more casual for daytime and then a dress up look for an evening out. My first look includes a chambray shirt that I have been pairing with everything this year! I probably have 4 or 5 chambray shirts and style them according to the hue I am looking for.  I wanted to tie it around my waist in lieu of a belt because this dress has such a beautiful A-line cut; I wanted to make sure to accentuate the lines of that. I added some vintage pearls for my necklace, a Michael Kors bracelet for some gold bling, and finished the look with my favorite old cowboy boots by Carlos Santana. I originally wanted to wear some brand new cowboy boots I have, but I couldn’t get over how much I liked the broken in look with the rest of my ensemble. Word to the wise ladies, investing in really nice pieces almost always pays off. These boots were really expensive when I purchased them, but they have gotten better with time and have been well worth it! Lastly, my sunglasses are aviators from Steve Madden that I purchased at TJ Maxx.

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For the second style, I just HAD to wear some thigh high boots. They are EVERYWHERE this year and you need to go get some! This particular pair is equally cool because you can also flip the top part down for a more casual look. It’s all in the details too, they have a tie up part in the back and I always love a bow! My favorite way to wear them is showing just a little bit of leg. That’s the best guide to keeping the look classy, but still adding some sass. I have shied away from thigh high boots in the past because it always seemed like you had to have pencil thin legs to make them work. (I played too many sports for too many years to ever fit in this category. lol) I really felt pretty in them though and think the trick is to just wear something longer and only aim to show a couple inches of skin. I changed my necklace to a pretty long tassel chain and added a TAHARI jacket to finish the look. The TAHARI jacket also cut into the waist then flared in order to keep the A-line form showing from the dress. If you want to flatter you figure and not look boxy, tricks like that will help you BIG time! Have other ways you would have styled this look? Let me know what you think! Also, this stunning dress is still for sale so get it while you can!        Xoxo, Brooke

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Blue/Gold Dress: Ruby Blue Boutique/http://goo.gl/tXHhzS

TAHARI Jacket: similar here/ http://goo.gl/7mP2A6

Reversible Tassel Necklace: Harper & Jewels/ sold out but they restock often! http://goo.gl/KlvCAa

Aviator Sunglasses: Steve Madden/ similar here http://goo.gl/DD5cM6

Black Thigh High Boots: Baker’s/ similar here http://goo.gl/bLLJM5

Cowboy Boots: Carlos Santana/ http://goo.gl/5P6U7I

Gold Bracelet: Michael Kors/ http://goo.gl/iV7GOG

Chambray Shirt: Mossimo for Target/ http://goo.gl/nBxKVu

 

LIEBSTER AWARD 2015

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THE TIME HAS COME! I HAVE BEEN NOMINATED FOR THE LIEBSTER AWARD (MY FIRST NOMINATION EVER.)

This award is passed down from blogger to blogger to help discover new blogs and even gain a few new friends along the way. I was nominated by the lovely Tori, over at Tori in Thousand Oaks . She has amazing posts about Dorm DYI, organization, and summer camp fun! Just by a glance, she gives me so much inspiration.

Now I am going to answer 11 questions Tori gave me for nominating 11 others.

Questions:

  1. If you could go anywhere in the World, where would you go and Why?world map

Well, considering I have been to 24 countries already, you would think I’d have a short list. I find myself adding more countries all the time when I see a new place that peeks my interest! (Pinterest pictures & friends going somewhere always get my wheels turning!) Most recently, I have really been thinking about something a little more off the beaten path. I have done all the big cities such as Rome, Athens, Paris, London, NYC, etc. so I was thinking a more personal trip would be really great. So where would this be?! To Scandinavia! My mother’s family is from there and tons of them (distant relatives) actually still live there. I want to see the Northern Lights, hike around some fjords and wear the really cool Norwegian dresses the girls wear. I said Scandinavia, only because it would really be a shame to go to Norway and not hop over to Stockholm, Sweden. I have wanted to go there ever since reading all “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy books. Haven’t read them?? You definitely should!

  1. Why Did You Start Blogging?

I started blogging because I am in a very intense, study all day, study all weekend, study every Holiday Master’s program and needed a creative outlet. I have always been a creative person and not having time to really engage in that side of me has been a real challenge. (Creative people need to create or it can get ugly. lol) I knew that I wouldn’t have the time to invest like the full time bloggers, but doing something here and there is fun for me. Sometimes when life gets busy, you have to take at least a small amount of time to do something that makes you happy. For me, that is blogging. I also wanted to put myself out there as being vulnerable for a change by opening myself to meeting new people and making other blogger friends. I realize the internet can have some harsh critics and maybe not everyone likes my style, but at the end of the day it’s a risk I am glad I took!

  1. Who Would you choose to Star in a movie about your life?reese

I would have to say Reese Witherspoon! She is a fellow Tennessean and stays true to her southern roots. Plus….she gorgeous! Who doesn’t want an upgrade when someone plays them?! Also, she recently started her own clothing line (which I love, check it out here if you haven’t seen it! DraperJames.com). We are definitely kindred spirits on the creative side!

  1. If you could have a Super Power for a day, what would it be & why?

I would love to be able to hear people’s thoughts! There are several reasons for this. One, I am inherently, ridiculously nosy. All those people who suddenly die at a young age and no one eveeeeerrrrrr tells you what happened. Why is that?? I think it should be a rule that if you have an obituary, you HAVE to tell cause of death. Otherwise, you get no write-up. Second, I am genuinely interested in people and their wellbeing. By being able to hear thoughts no one else knew you could, how great would it be to encourage someone who is feeling down? People hide so much in life but I think it would be a tool that could make me the ultimate friend!

  1. Who is your Biggest Inspiration?photo1 (4)

My grandmother is my biggest inspiration! She was a WWII bride at the age of 14, and succinctly had 5 kids. Because of her young start at a home life, she had not graduated high school. She didn’t let that stop her from going back to high school (While her kids were there no less!) and graduating. She then went on to become a nurse after that. She had grown up very poor and most in her family did not have this education. She did not let poverty, societal disapproval or her situation dictate her life and how she was going to achieve her goals. After nursing, she also went on to open her own successful business she ran until she retired. She inspires me EVERY day that with enough determination, the right outfit, a few strands of pearls and some lipstick- I can do ANYTHING in life!! (She is the ORIGINAL fashionista in my family and was throwing high heels and jewels on me since I was 5.:))

 6. What is your BIGGEST Pet Peeve?

People who are so self-involved, that they never try to get to know you. Our society is so wrapped up sometimes in having a great Facebook life and who can post the best photos on Instagram, we forget there are people sitting right next to us that are worthy of our time and efforts. If you have a job and see people all the time, or even like my situation spending 40 hours of class time together, you all had to be pretty amazing to get that same type of job or place in school right?  Well, making connections or asking about someone and their life should never revolve about what you can get out of it. Life should be lived like anyone can enhance your life in some way, even if you don’t think they have anything to offer. I have learned that so now I personally try to engage everyone around me and find out their life story! I challenge you to do the same! Always take a pet peeve situation and find a way to make it a positive situation!

  1. What is your favorite post you have written?

I would have to say my favorite post is “My Wedding Dress cost $1 Million dollars.” This is for many sentimental reasons but the biggest one being, I LOVED my dress and my wedding day is still the best day of my life! Writing that let me share just a little of the joy I had shopping for ‘THE DRESS’ and going on an adventure with my beautiful momma at the same time.

  1. If you could have one food the rest of your life, what would it be?

PIZZA!!!!! I have no reason for this other than I can sometimes be a very easy to please girl with a serious craving for some cheese. Pizza it is. I would say probably from Mellow Mushroom too.

  1. What is your Dream Job?caduses

I am actually in school for my dream job so, Physician Assistant. I have been involved in some facet of medicine for years and I really enjoy helping people physically and mentally. Also, the dream part of my job involves me still having time to spend with family, go on vacations, and work at free medical clinics overseas.

  1. What do you Love doing in your Free Time?

What little time I have, I enjoy blogging, going to any kind of community event like art fairs (with the hubs of course!), and singing. I also volunteer in the community with Junior League and we do different projects that help women and children.

  1. What advice would you give a brand new blogger?

I would say be true to yourself and do NOT go down the comparison trail! It is easy when you get started to see bloggers getting flown to fashion week in Paris and sporting all the new designer duds for free. You may even wonder when you will get your turn. You have to realize that we all have our own story and our own journey. We all have something unique to contribute so don’t be scared to express yourself because you’re worried if anyone will like it. If you like it, that should be all that matters. I think passion and your love for what you do shines through and eventually that always pays off. Don’t chase numbers, chase your dreams…happiness is always on the other side of that.

Now I Nominate these amazing bloggers…

Instructions for Nominees:

– Create a blog post on your site, answering the questions I will provide below.

– In your post, be sure to link back to the blog that nominated you (me!) with a thank you and a shoutout.

– After completing the questions, add a section for your nominees.

– Select, list, and link to 11 other bloggers with under 200 followers. Provide them with these instructions and give them an additional 11 questions to answer.

– Notify your nominees and provide a link to your post so they know what to do.

When you’re all finished, come back here and comment with the link to your post so I can read your answers!

Questions:
1. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
2.  Why did you start blogging?
3. What’s the hardest thing you have ever done?
4. If you could choose one super power to have for a day, what would it be and why?
5. Who is your biggest inspiration?
6. What is your happiest childhood memory?
7. What is your favorite post you have written?
8. If you could only have one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
9. Who is your celebrity crush and why?
10. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
11. What advice would you tell your younger self?

I can not wait to see what all my nominees have to say! Also, I hope you learned a little bit more about me 🙂

My Wedding Dress Cost $1 MILLION Dollars…

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Ok, so maybe it didn’t really cost $1 million BUT it definitely made me FEEL like a $1 million dollars! My dress also has a very unique story and the journey was half the fun. Today is my 3rd wedding anniversary and I couldn’t help but dream about wearing my beautiful dress again. I wasn’t one of those girls that planned her wedding from age 5, so you can imagine the learning curve I had when looking for the perfect wedding dress. If I had any advice to a future bride, it would be to look around in a ton of magazines and Pinterest to find what you are attracted to. I always told myself I would never wear a strapless gown, but as you can see-that’s what I fell in love with! When looking though the magazines, I found myself always attracted to the heavily beaded gowns with tons of intricate detail. I felt pulled toward the romantic and flowy types without over the top princess. I started tuning into “Say Yes to the Dress” because that also gave me insight to how dresses fit on real life women as opposed to the models in the magazines. Finally, when I started seeing a pattern of what type of dress I liked, it turned out they were mainly all from one designer- Lazaro.Sessions-BrookeBridal-0039

My next step was to make an appointment at the largest bridal store in the world- Kleinfeld!! It was so surreal getting an appointment and being shown around to all the amazing designer dresses you had only seen on TV and in magazines. Since I had narrowed down my love for Lazaro that was what I told my consultant I wanted to try on. I had also seen a couple of Amsale I wanted to try on. Funny enough, I found myself adding a blingy Lazaro belt to one of the Amsale dresses because it felt too plain when I put it on. I am all about the pizzazz and sparkle! My mom and I were the only ones at my appointment so we were allowed to do something most people aren’t. My consultant allowed us in the back room and let me pick out every single dress that I wanted to try on just by looking at it and thinking it was pretty. I think I may have tried on 50 dresses! It was a dream. Their selection there is unbeatable and I even tried on a Pnina Tornai that I am sure cost half of a house. As much as I thought that dress was beautiful, I also tried to imagine myself dancing away the night in it. It was super heavy and I was not able to move as freely as I would have liked. It came down to my top 3 dresses. The top 2- both Lazaro, and the 3rd was the Amsale with the Lazaro belt. They always say you have found your dress when you are crying etc. Well, if you are anything like me and not a crier, I was wondering how I was missing the typical bridal milestone so many others experienced. After a few minutes, I kept going back to the one dress that I wanted to put back on and never take it off. This was my personal sign of finding my dress. I felt beautiful, I felt elegant, I felt like a million bucks! This was definitely the dress for me. Imagine my surprise when they told me- we can order it, but you may not get it on time for your wedding. WHAT?!? I had NEVER heard of not being able to get a wedding dress after trying it on and asking to buy it. I mean, that’s why I am here, right?! Well ladies, take note. Apparently unless you buy something off the rack, it takes up to 6 months to order one. That also didn’t include the alterations you would need and the timing for that before the wedding. Most brides need two to three fittings. So if I wanted the dress of my dreams, I would have to give a deposit I wouldn’t get back and hope I didn’t have to go buy something at the last minute in case my dress never came in. They said it would be a rush order for 3 months and 6 months was normal. I couldn’t take that chance and so we left NYC empty handed.

Sessions-BrookeBridal-0088Fast forward to my mom calling every bridal store in America (literally). No one had the exact dress I wanted. I shopped on bargain sites, resale sites, bridal sites, it was nowhere. Then one day my mom received a call back from a bridal store in Birmingham, Alabama called Bella Couture. They had gotten her call and wanted to let her know- they had the dress on hand!!! YES!!! They had a Lazaro trunk show and were willing to sell us the dress off the rack. They were the most delightful people and even asked to see pictures when I was married because how happy they were to help make my dress dreams come true. I was living in Savannah, Georgia at the time and finding an alterations place that would touch a designer dress was hard to come by. Most bridal shops only alter dresses they sell. I found a place called Stitch in Savannah and it was the best person I could have asked for. The French bustle was perfect and she did not cut my dress, but was able to alter it by tucking the material.  Considering the beading, this was a daunting task! In the end, I felt like a beautiful princess and am still swooning over my dress. I hope if you are looking for that special dress, my story has helped you on your journey! Any questions? Please email me anytime!! I would love to help anyone on their special day feel as beautiful as I did. Also, please check out Bella Couture Bridal! I could never say enough great things about them and their ability to make bridal dreams come true!!                 xoxo, BrookeSessions-BrookeBridal-0109

email me at: basicallybrookeblog@gmaildotcom

 

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