Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spiralized Vegetables

Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals
by Ali Maffucci

Last year I noticed my Giant grocery store had Zucchini Noodles or Zoodles (now all my local groceries are carrying it) so I bought it on a whim. I have never heard of this before so I googled to find recipes for it and came across this amazing book which I borrowed from the library. It's changed the way I look at vegetables. After reading it I purchased a spiralizer. I figured it was cheaper than buying the noodles which cost $6.37 when I can just buy a zucchini and spiralize it myself which I've been doing for eight months now.

The very first zucchini noodle recipe I made was a Zucchini Noodles with Creamy Avocado Pesto. It was so delicious and then I made an Oil-free walnut pesto zucchini noodles. A friend of mine once gave me a tip to use walnuts in pesto instead of pine nuts because it's cheaper and tastes the same. It's been such a creative way to have pasta without pasta by turning zucchini into spaghetti noodles. If you're wondering, once spiralized I put the raw zoodles on the frying pan for a few minutes to soften them up. Spicy Sesame Zoodles is another great dish!

The author of the book doesn't just spiralize zucchini, she also does butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, and exotic vegetables like rutabaga, daikon and celeriac. She explains that "zucchini noodles are helpful for weight loss, thanks to their low calorie and carb count, and high dietary fiber content. They’re also packed with folates, which help your metabolism function properly." If you're trying to low-carb but don't want to eat salads, spiralized vegetables are a great option!  It's a way to turn vegetables into noodles and create fun new recipes with it. To me it's been a perfect way to make healthy low calorie dinners. Because let's face it spiralized veggies are just more exciting than chopped veggies! Plus it looks like a larger volume of food, takes less time to cook and are cut perfectly. Here are some of my recent dinners:

Spiralized Sweet Potato, White Bean and Kale Bake

Bell Pepper Fiesta Skillet

Creamy Spiralized Rutabaga with Cherry Tomatoes and Tofu

Kale, Vegetarian Sausage and Butternut Squash Lasagna

Honey Ginger Tofu and Carrot Rice with Bok Choy

I was very skeptical about the last two dishes. Lasagna noodles made out of butternut squash, how would that taste? Surprisingly tasty and filling! I used Field Roast vegetarian apple sage sausages. This week I'm making a sweet potato noodle lasagna with kale and lentils.

 I had never had baby bok choy before so I probably over cooked it but with the carrot "rice" and tofu, it was another fulfilling meal. I've also made plantain "rice" and beet "rice". The possibilities are endless! Spiralizing vegetables has really encouraged me to try new vegetables and have fun making new creations with them. This year so far I've lost 10 lbs making the switch to spiralized vegetables for dinner. Have you tried spiralized vegetables?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lion Movie Review

I saw the most magnificent movie last weekend! Lion is based on the book of the true story of  5-year-old Saroo who gets lost riding the train in India and loses his family. He ends up in an orphanage in Calcutta and is adopted by an Australian couple but feels lost not knowing where he came from. More than two decades later, through Google Earth's mapping technology Saroo spends 2 years looking at every railroad station online to see if it reminds me of the one he came from so he can search for his lost family in India.

Starring Dev Patel who you might remember from movies like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Slumdog Millionaire, Nicole Kidman and a wonderful child named Sunny Pawar. Nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Nicole) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Dev) although it was mind boggling that nomination didn't go to Sunny.  Eight year old Sunny was originally unable to attend the US premiere of the movie because he was denied a visa. Producers of the film had to make an appeal to Homeland Security, after which Sunny and his father were allowed to come to the US.

I was blown away by this amazing movie! It's definitely a tear jerker. It's such a beautiful film about family and belonging. The movie is so gripping about the  story missing child cases. Did you know that over 80,000 children go missing in India each year? If you saw the film and were engrossed by this, the film's website links you to Indian charities that are trying to help.

The scenes in India are excellent! Sunny's facial expressions alone spoke volumes. No need for words. In fact he didn't speak English during filming of the movie. But I have to say the scenes were the children were being kidnapped from the streets and the orphanage were just so raw. Saroo was very fortunate because most children in his situation did not survive and his survival depended upon using his instincts to avoid people with ulterior motives. 

While we don't see much of Saroo's adopted brother Mantosh (also from India) in the movie, I think he was there to show contrast with two sides of love, loving someone who's easy and someone who isn't as far as parenting goes. If it wasn't for him, Kidman wouldn't have had her compelling scenes. While his disability is not revealed clearly in the movie, my guess was his two meltdowns were due to autism?

In the book Saroo actually had another older brother Kallu and its implied that the loss of the two boys gave the other two children a better future than they wouldn't have had, as the mother could now afford to send those two to school. The sister was able to become a teacher.  The siblings always wanted to help the mother move out of the slums, but the mother refused to go anywhere in case Saroo ever found his way home.

I've been to India four times and for awhile I was really into watching Bollywood movies which typically are 3 hours long with lots of song and dance. But only in the last decade have they started to show kissing. I think that influenced why in Lion you never actually see Saroo kiss his girlfriend on the lips, even though they're in bed. I think they wanted to make the film more marketable in India? I wasn't a fan of Mara Rooney's role of the girlfriend in the movie. I just thought she was  unnecessary and didn't like the importance of her character. Even the poster for the movie makes it look like the movie is about their love story, it's not. I wish the director hadn't chosen to keep focusing on his relationship with his girlfriend instead of his adoptive family.

The music is mostly classical piano and was nominated for a Golden Globe. I loved the song by Sia in the movie called Never Give Up. The Australian scenes were filmed in Tasmania, Australia and the scenery was just gorgeous!  If you want to understand why the film is called "Lion" stay for the end credits, there’s an explanation behind the film title and also you can see some pictures of the real characters of the story.

Lion moved me to tears. I could not recommend it highly enough. This is the best movie I've seen in a long time!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Halo Top Flavors!

Halo Top is a healthy ice cream that actually tastes good! I've raved about this ice cream a couple times on my blog before but since they released new flavors I have to rave about it again! Halo Top is a low calorie ice cream sweetened with erythritol (a sweetener naturally found in fruits like pears and grapes) and stevia. I was very skeptical about this ice cream, but it's honestly a game changer. This stuff legitimately tastes like ice cream, not diet cream, or fake cream. Halo Top has this comparison chart on their website for one ½ cup serving to show you how it matches up to other major brands. I went and compared the pistachio flavor on Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry's sites for myself and there's just no comparison. Halo Top has just 2 grams of fat vs 17 grams for regular ice cream. It also has much less sugar! It costs $5.69 for a pint.

You can find it at Whole Foods. My favorite flavors are Mint Chip, Chocolate, Vanilla, Oatmeal Cookie, and Red Velvet. The only flavors I wouldn't buy again are s'mores and sea salt caramel as they had a weird taste to them.  Pistachio had zero flavor and black cherry reminded me more of frozen yogurt.

Related Posts:
The best of light ice creams

Monday, February 13, 2017

National Gallery of Art

After 3 years of renovation The National Gallery if Art reopened last fall with 12,250 more square feet for art. The National Gallery is a treasure trove of great art and just celebrated its 75th anniversary. Note it's not a part of the Smithsonian. My mom used to take me here a lot as a child, but this was my first visit in many years. She enjoyed watching all the films they show - classic and contemporary cinema from around the world. Be sure to reserve a lot of time for your visit to enjoy everything as there's so much to see. The new space includes the roof terrace, an outdoor sculpture terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Ave. On the roof is an eye-catcher giant 14.5 foot tall sculpture, an electric cobalt blue "Hahn/Cock" on loan on from the Glenstone Museum.

The museum is made up of two buildings and a sculpture garden that turns into an ice-skating rink in the winter time. The East building focuses on modern art and contemporary artists, while the West building focuses on Renaissance art. They have a good directory so you can focus on the type of art you like. The two buildings connect underground through a concourse walkway. Ten years ago they installed a light sculpture that has 41,000 computer programmed LED lights that run on a program along the 200 foot underground space. This moving walkway connects you to their cafe and gift shop which is huge and a lot of fun to browse through.

Admission is free and the museum offers free Wi-Fi! Handicap parking is allowed right in front of the museum and courtesy wheelchairs are available to borrow. Free concerts are held in the  garden room on Sunday evenings. It's definitely one of the premiere art galleries in the world and always an interesting place to spend a few hours.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My Visit to Kate Spade

I went to an event at the Kate Spade store with a group of local bloggers - the Bubbles & Bloggers.  Starting in college, for many years I only rocked Kate Spade bags.  The original owner Kate Spade has since changed her name and sold her company 10 years ago to Liz Claiborne Inc. They still carry beautiful feminine bags in gorgeous colors like the ridley street blanca and floral patterns. What I really like about Kate Spade is that they don't take themselves too seriously so you can find quirky bags with pink flamingos, monkeys, pigs, dinosaurs or rabbit in the hat purse. They also have a line of home decor items that are very chic with gold dots. Their jewelry is very sparkly and they have whimsical key rings. It's a fun brand with fancy dresses and girly shoes with sequin or bows on them. Yes their prices are high but they have lots of sales. The store greets you with neon signs telling you to be happy. 

I love the green Satin Crepe Flutter Sleeve Dress! It also comes in white and black and is on sale now for $279.

Kate Spade makes a stylish Smart Watch that connects to your phone linking through their app. It's slightly thicker than a regular watch and doesn't have a computer screen like an apple watch. No one will ever guess it's a smart watch looking at it. The 12 o'clock is represented with a Kate Spade logo and six o'clock has two champagne glasses. A cluster of crystals above the glasses are combined with a moon. It's compatible with android and iphones. You can put your phone on a shelf, stand back and take a selfie by pushing the button on your phone. When your mom calls the phone's hands will move to one so you know its her calling without having to look at your phone. It can track your sleep, your steps and be your alarm clock. The bottom button will enable you to control music on your phone. It will also countdown to important days and cheer you on when you've consistently hit personal targets each day. It very feminine looking and comes in 4 colors: pink, navy, black and silver for $250.

pink rhinestone monkey ring $98; they also have a flying pig, pink unicorn and purple dinosaur ring

cell phone cases

dinosaur purses

Monday, February 6, 2017

What's New on Netflix 2017

There's a lot of great new movies released on video this year that you should see. Did you know that netflix still has four million DVD subscribers and I'm one of them. I get 2 discs each week for $12.68 a month. I think that's a great deal so I rarely go to the movie theater as everything ends up on DVD 3 to 6 months later. As soon as I see a commercial for a movie I immediately put it in my netflix queue and when it becomes available it'll move up in the queue so I don't have to remember and keep track of what I wanted to see. I must have a netflix warehouse nearby because they get my returned discs very fast. The only time there's a wait for a DVD is if it's super popular like Prince (Purple Rain) and Carrie Fisher (Postcards from the Edge) movies right after they died. And Christmas movies in December which I can never get.

The negatives of dvd rentals is that two years ago netflix quietly stopped Saturday delivery of dvds. Last year the movie companies removed extras from rental dvds, so if you want to watch the deleted scenes or interviews you have to buy the movie. This year I've discovered that I can no longer play their dvds on my 10 year old dvd player! I couldn't figure out what was going on because I know my dvd player works because I do exercise videos every week. The netflix dvds worked on my computer. So after this happened with 3 discs I finally called them and they told me that new dvds have a security patch on them which make them unplayable on old dvd players. If you rent redbox dvds you might encounter this issue too. While DVD players aren't that expensive, it just sucks that I have to spend money on a new one when I have a perfectly good working one already. When I searched amazon for dvd players released in 2016, there were only 12 models, none from brands I recognized. Then I thought well how do I even know that those have the new security patch? I read somewhere that you can download the security update to your dvd player, but mine is not connected to the internet, hence I don't do streaming.  I'm stuck, I don't know what to do?

I'm a big IMDb fan! The Internet Movie DataBase is the go-to site to find out about who is in movies, plots, reviews, etc. I always read their goofs sections before watching a movie to know what to look out for while watching. It could be mistakes or lack of continuity in filming, always interesting stuff! Most common are cars seen in the movie were not available during the time period the movie was in. Also on the movie pages is a message board where people ask questions about the movie. While I don't post, I enjoy reading as I learn more about the movie or someone answers a question I had in my head. Well IMDb just announced they are shutting down their boards. There's already a petition to stop them. lol There is also a new location for the boards but quite frankly it's not the same. I want to see the discussion right under the movie listing, I don't have time to look around a message board.

Girls Season 5
Lena Dunham brought to TV a unique show that we didn't have anything like. An all female cast of whimsical, broke, millennials living in Brooklyn. The show is provocative, all the characters are unlikable, yet I can't turn away.
I keep bookmarking all the cool places they go to in NYC like the rice pudding bar. I described more about this show in this post. I'm a bit sad that the final season will air on HBO in February.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Jacob finds his grandfather's old photos and curiosity about them leads him to a dilapidated former orphanage, where he discovers a group of children who are not only peculiar but also possess extraordinary powers.  If you read the book, know that the characters have been changed and it's very loosely adapted from the book. Tim Burton's movie is rated PG-13 as its not meant for younger children. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Green,  Judi Dench, and Allison Janney.

Southside with You
The story of Michelle and Barack Obama's first date. The entire movie takes place on one day in 1989. While working at the same law firm in Chicago, Barack tricks Michelle to going out on a date with him. The movie is well done and plays lots of classic R&B music from that period.  Starring Tika Sumpter and  Parker Sawyers.

Jason Bourne
This is the 4th movie in the series, can't believe the first one was 10 years ago! They show scenes from it and Matt Damon looks so young. I always find all the spy/government technology in these films so intriguing!  Expect a non-stop action flick. Some of the scenes are filmed in DC and at the end you see them walking through a park with a pond. Well I immediately recognized that park! It's where I used to do my lunchtime walk at a previous job. The park always had few people in it, just the occasional tourist and ducks. So imagine my surprise when one day a man walked past me and said he sees me there everyday! I immediately found a new route. lol

Homeland Season 5

The long wait is finally over! If you've never heard of Homeland read my synopsis here. In Season 5 they were finally able to drop the Brody story line and just focus on my favorite characters Carrie, Saul, and Quinn in Germany against the backdrop of the War on Terror. At any given moment, each of these three could have been playing for the same team or lunging for one another’s throats. Carrie remains fearless, overly passionate and unstable. The show has won 5 Golden Globes and 2 Emmys.

In 2013, CIA technical expert Edward Snowden revealed stolen classified U.S. government documents. This Oliver Stone movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley tell the story that exposed secret NSA mass surveillance programs including taping the German Chancellor's cell phone, and being able to search anyone's facebook or email account for little reason. Snowden was granted asylum in Russia. For more info read this article: The Snowden Effect: 8 Things That Happened Only Because Of The NSA Leaks

The Secret Life of Pets
I normally don't watch children's movies but this movie was really cute. It's seeing the world through a dog's eye and the adventure they take. You'll recognize Kevin Hart's voice immediate, he plays the rabbit.

Based on the true story of a plane in 2009 that landed on the Hudson River after both engines were disabled by birds; saving 155 lives. Tom Hanks plays airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger who deals with accident investigators who second-guess his decisions. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Watching this movie in February makes me feel how cold it was for the passengers stuck outside on the water without coats. It was a fantastic movie detailing the heroism of that day.

On the same topic of a movie about a pilot making a safe landing, you must see the movie "Flight" starring Denzel Washington. Kept me on the seat of my pants with an ending I did not see coming.

Kevin Hart: What Now?

Kevin Hart returns to his hometown and shares his does a stand up comedy show in front of  53,000 fans at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, marking the first time a stand-up comedian filled an NFL stadium to capacity. I also liked Kevin's last live show that he made into a movie, read my review here.

Central Intelligence

Starring Kevin Hart and  Dwayne Johnson as high school classmates who reconnect at work. One is an accountant and the other a CIA operative. It's a funny look at their  counterespionage operation.

Girl on the Train

During her daily rail commute, divorcĂ©e Rachel Watson observes the happily married couple living in a house near the train route. One day, she witnesses a scene that enrages her -- and soon finds herself deeply entangled in the ensuing mystery. I loved the book and wrote a review here. The book is based in London while the movie is based in the suburbs of NYC. Though the main character Rachel played by Emily Blunt still has an English accent that comes and goes during the movie. They poke fun of it once when she asks the psychologist where he's from and he says back you have an accent too. While I liked the movie, I think you really need to read the book first as it dives deeper into all the characters as gives more dimension to the story. Emily was pregnant when she filmed this movie so to mimic being an alcoholic she changed contact lenses that made her eyes look more glossy. 

Jack Reacher: Never go Back
Tom Cruise returns with his particular brand of justice in the second movie in the Jack Reacher series based on the books by Lee Child. When Army Major Susan Turner, who heads Reacher's old investigative unit, is arrested for treason, Reacher will stop at nothing to prove her innocence and to uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy involving soldiers who are being killed. Filmed in DC and New Orleans, it was fun to watch Tom Cruise get off a DC metro bus. This action packed movie will keep your attention.

The Infiltrator 
Think new version of  Donnie Brasco starring John Leguizamo and Benjamin Bratt. The exploits of U.S. Customs agent Robert Mazur are recounted in this narco-crime thriller set in the 1980s. Gaining the trust of some of the world's most notorious drug lords, Mazur becomes a key player in an intricate government sting.                                                              

The Dressmaker
Based on the fictional book of a woman who was banished from her small Australian town to go to Paris and become a dressmaker. She returns home what ensues is comedy, drama and tragedy. Expect lots of twists and turns. The costumes from the 1950s are amazing! Starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth who I thought had too much of an age gap to be romantically involved. 

The third movie in the series of the Da Vinci Code. Tom Hanks returns  as symbologist Robert Langdon. This time, Langdon awakens in an Italian hospital with no memory of the past few days and suddenly finds himself in a race to stop a madman from unleashing a plague on the world. The ending is different from the book. The scenery of the movie filmed in Italy makes me want to go back! The cinematography at the beginning of the movie is creepy, almost as if they were trying to make this a scary movie. Overall I was disappointed with the movie.

The Girlfriend Experience

Inspired by the 2009 film of the same name, this anthology series delves into the world of "transactional relationships," in which a bevy of modern-day courtesans provides a lot more than sex for their wealthy clients. Starring Riley Keough.

Advanced Style
This documentary profiles seven New York City women aged in their 60s through their 90s, whose snappy style decidedly disproves the notion that advanced years and glamour are mutually exclusive. Based on the books of the same name, its the brainchild of a photographer who walks around NYC and asked women of advanced age who are dressed fashionably to pose for his photographs. Most of the women featured have an
eccentric style and talk about how marginalized they feel because of their age. This movie really takes you out of the box and makes you think about traditional beauty. I highly recommend this movie! 

Coming out next week:

Queen of Katwe

Disney presents a movie based on a vibrant true story starring Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo. A Ugandan girl's life changes forever when she discovers she has an amazing talent for chess, in this celebration of the human spirit.

The Accountant
Offering two very different skills to his clients, a financial forensics expert and trained assassin goes to work for a tech mogul who's determined to eliminate those responsible for secretly manipulating the company's financial records. Starring Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick.

During a perilous World War II mission in Casablanca, French-Canadian operative Max Vatan falls in love with and weds French spy Marianne Beausejour. After learning that Marianne may be a Nazi double agent, Max launches an investigation of his wife. Starring Brad Pitt, it was nominated for 1 Oscar for costume design.

Coming out in March:

Recounting a landmark chapter in the struggle for civil rights, this absorbing drama depicts the 1958 arrest and imprisonment of Richard and Mildred Loving for violating Virginia's law against interracial marriage. Nominated for 1 Oscar.


Starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Working as a trash collector in 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson struggles to raise his family while trying to transcend the bitter experience of being a talented baseball player denied the opportunity to play in the majors because of his race. This film is nominated for 4 Oscars and won 1 Golden Globe.

Coming out in April:

The film is an interesting look at the days after JFK assassination and how Jackie had to stand up for herself against all the men that were telling her what to do. Starring Natalie Portman who really nailed Jackie's accent and way of speaking. The movie shows what a fashion icon Jackie was. I was surprised it only showing at the indie theater in my city. It's nominated for 3 Oscars including costume design.

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2016 movies on netflix
Golden Globes Viewing Party

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