Sunday, June 30, 2013

Finally, what you've all been waiting!

The chili recipe was shared here before, but I included it again in case anyone missed it.


DISCLAIMER: Everyone wants my recipes, but I don’t measure when I cook, these are estimates, taste as you go!

This salad is a treat, not an everyday meal- there is sugar in the salsa, the ranch is creamy, and there is a lot of cheese!

spinach- enough to fill the plate
Trader Joe’s healthy 8 veggie mix (broccoli, carrots, green pepper, red cabbage, green cabbage, jicima, radish, celery)
about half a chicken breast shredded
1 slice turkey bacon crumbled
1 avocado cubed
2 tbsp Trader Joe’s pineapple salsa
drizzle of cilantro ranch dressing (see recipe below)
shredded Mexican blend cheese

Layer all ingredients on a large plate in the order listed.

¼ cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp white vinegar
salt & pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
finely chopped fresh cilantro
enough milk to get it to salad dressing consistency

Mix all ingredients together.  I like to wait until the sour cream is almost empty & make it right in the container.

(Because you couldn’t pay me to give up peanut butter, actually you might be able to- if you paid me, I could afford to switch to almond butter, I’m sorry, but at $5 a pop, I’ll stick with peanut.)

1 very ripe banana, peeled & frozen
1 tbs peanut butter
2 tbs plain unsweetened coconut milk (add more if not blending)
1 tbs (or more!) cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in blender or food processor, blend & serve! Comes out like soft serve ice cream!

half an onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced or shredded
a few tbs crushed garlic (to suit your taste, I like a ton!)
olive oil
taco seasoning (
adobo seasoning
optional: 1 pkg browned ground beef or turkey
2 tbs tomato paste (Trader Joe’s sells it in a tube now!)
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of chicken, beef, or veggie broth
1 can black beans
1 can cannelini beans
1 can diced tomatoes
half a pkg Trader Joe's frozen super sweet fire roasted corn
1 pkg Trader Joe's frozen tri color peppers (or chop up your own)
handful of frozen spinach leaves*
handful of frozen kale*
optional (if you want to make it a cheat meal because of the grains): 1 pkg Trader Joe's 10 minute farro (or you could use brown rice)

*I buy spinach and kale bagged like for salad, stick the whole thing in the freezer, crunch up the bag, then throw handfuls in everything for extra veggies that are too small to be detected by picky children.

Turn the slow cooker on high, and add chopped carrots, celery, & onion, with a splash of olive oil, all the seasoning, and the crushed garlic.
When the onions are soft, add all the other ingredients except the farro & give it a good stir.
Cook for 6-8 hours, add farro 10 minutes prior to serving.

1 tbs butter or olive oil
½ an onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced or shredded carrots
1 tbs crushed garlic
½ cup green lentils
½ cup red lentils
1 cup frozen kale and/or spinach
1 cup chicken, beef, or veggie broth
optional: 1 pkg sweet Italian sausage, sliced into coins
salt & pepper
optional: cayenne pepper
optional: parmesan cheese

Place butter or oil, onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in the slow cooker. When onions have softened, add all other ingredients except barley, rice, and parmesan cheese. Cook on high for 3 hours or low all day. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 

This can also be an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of meal. Add every veggie or meat you want! Sometimes I make it with chicken breast instead of sausage, and just shred the chicken after it’s cooked all day. Sometimes I make it completely vegetarian. I’ll also throw in a can of black beans or garbanzos if I have them in the house.

1 tbs olive oil
half an onion, diced
1 tbs (or more!) crushed garlic
3 zucchinis, sliced into half circles
2 yellow squashes, sliced into half circles
1 package (or about 2 cups) sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 jar marinara sauce
1 container ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 tbs parmesan cheese
2 tbs milk
salt & pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
Italian seasoning mix or basil, parsley, oregano & thyme
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté onion & garlic in olive oil until onions have softened. Add veggies, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add marinara sauce.

In a separate bowl, mix ricotta, 2 beaten eggs, parmesan cheese, milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning.

Spread half of the veggie/sauce mixture in a greased lasagna pan, then spread the ricotta mixture on top, sprinkle with some of the mozzarella & goat cheese, reserving most of it for the top layer.  Cover with the other half of the veggies & sauce, then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella & goat cheese on top.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  

Everyone is asking about my salads.  Honestly, they're all variations of the same ingredients:

Lettuce (spinach, red leaf, or bagged spring mix)
shredded chicken breast
crumbled turkey bacon
hard boiled egg
slivered almonds
Trader Joe's healthy 8 veggie mix 
kalamata olives
roasted red peppers
shredded carrots
pea shoots
cheese (feta, gorgonzola, shaved parmesan, or goat cheese)

Dressing is usually extra virgin olive oil with salt & pepper. Sometimes I'll treat myself with balsamic glaze from Trader Joe's or the ranch dressing recipe above (usually with parsley & dill instead of cilantro). 

Faith & Fitness- Small Changes


I don’t think I could wake up tomorrow and do a complete overhaul of my diet and routine. Remember, small measurable goals, right? Here are the changes I made:

The first thing I did (years ago) was take out high fructose corn syrup from my diet. Your body does not know how to process it, so it stays in your system.
The second thing I did was take out white foods- white flour, white rice, white sugar- I still eat these things if we're eating out because there's not always an ingredient list available but I don't buy them the grocery store and that's made a big difference - you must read labels! I looked for whole-grain flours in my breads- no enriched flour- that is (white) flour that has been processed so much that nutrients had to be added back into it because they were stripped in the processing. (This was back when I still ate grains regularly).

These first 2 changes resulted in dropping 10 lbs almost immediately.  I knew I needed to start eating more whole foods but that seems like an impossible change as a busy mom. These were 2 small changes I could make without derailing my whole routine.

The next change was to start making green smoothies for breakfast every day and sometimes lunch - that took off another good chunk of weight. I use a whey protein powder (I like designer whey) and kale or spinach with a very ripe banana- the riper the banana the more cancer fighting properties it has. I add berries, sometimes a scoop of peanut butter, coconut milk or iced green tea as the base and I add cinnamon which has weight-loss properties and Chia seeds which are very high in fiber & protein and sometimes I also add flaxseed for fiber. I need to start adding probiotic powder, as probiotics are very beneficial to your health. I used to use kefir, but I have been cutting back on dairy.
Eventually (last month) I was ready to take grain and sugar out of my diet almost altogether- I allow myself a treat on Tuesday night and Sunday mornings because that's when the church is serving Panera goodies! Those are indulgences that are worth it- never waste your treats on junk that's not "worth the calories" (I don't count calories but I still like this expression).

I thought this change would be impossible, but it's been rather easy. Again, I started small- stevia in my coffee, fruit when I crave sweets. Lettuce wraps with cold cuts instead of sandwiches.  Later I was able to switch from cold cuts to preparing a bunch of chicken breast in my slow cooker at the beginning of the week- less sodium, no preservatives, and more bang for my buck! Now for lunch, I make a big salad every day. I use Trader Joe's healthy 8 chopped veggie mix, & other pre-chopped veggies, & a bit of crumbled cheese like feta or gorgonzola so there's not a lot of prep.

At the beginning of the week, in addition to the chicken I prepare, I also hard boil 2 dozen eggs for salads & snacks- my family eats these up SO FAST! And I prepare a bunch of turkey bacon & crumble it up. I slice carrots on the diagonal for “chips” to pick up hummus or homemade ranch dip.

 (my garden- the only thing I planted from a seed was the cilantro)

The only thing I really need to do at lunch time is slice an avocado & wash some lettuce. You could do bagged lettuce, but I find a whole head of lettuce lasts longer, and I replant the root in my garden & get my own homegrown lettuce for free! (You can also do this with celery, onions, and any vegetable that leaves you with a root when you're done with it!)
Dinner is usually chicken or fish & lots of veggies or a side salad. I almost always make dinner in the slow cooker- it allows me to do the hard work at a time of day when my children aren't as needy, and it's a healthy way to prepare foods. My go-to meals are balsamic glazed chicken thighs, chili, and lentil soup with tons of greens.
It was important for me to find alternatives to the sweet treats I usually ate because I definitely have a sweet tooth. (Experts say you should wean yourself off sweet flavors- I’ll let you know when I’m ready for that- ha!) I found a recipe for Paleo fudge that used raw honey instead of sugar and I used less honey than it called for. I pour it over almonds or pecans for some added protein, and sprinkle in some shredded coconut- voila! homemade almond joy. The whole family loves it. I also made up my own recipe for ice cream using a frozen banana instead of cream and sugar.
This is what has worked for me so far- I am still not eating completely “clean”, nor am I entirely sure what is & isn’t clean.  I hear legumes are bad, but I’m not sure why (looking into that now).  When I reach a point where the weight is no longer coming off, perhaps that will be my next change.  For now, I like my chili with black beans! The point is, everyone has to find what works for them. One of my favorite fitness resources, Metabolic Effect, puts it this way: "One person’s perfect fat loss plan is another person’s formula for being fat or flabby." You have to find the foods that keep your hunger, energy, & cravings in check AND result in fat loss. They like to say you're a detective, not a dieter.
My good friend & fitness expert puts it this way: if you can’t eat this way for the rest of your life, it's a DIET. Same for exercise- if you can’t sustain it, it won’t work.

Faith & Fitness- Week 2


“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Some of us are so unhappy with our bodies that we put our happiness on hold. Paul tells us in Philippians that he has learned to be content no matter his circumstances. I believe this applies to how we see ourselves. We should not wait until we're a size 0 to be happy. We should thank God for every small goal we reach with our health. Am I where I want to be yet? No! But I am grateful for the improvements to my health- grateful I've found a way to fit more veggies into my diet, grateful I've found exercise routines I enjoy, grateful for the support of good friends as we go through our fitness journeys together, and heck yeah, I'm grateful for the 25 lbs I've lost & the muscle tone I'm starting to see! I think the thing I am most thankful for is that God has brought me to a place where He can now use me to help other people reach their goals.

Do I still have a long way to go? Yes! But I am not putting my happiness on hold. I am content because I am looking for the blessings in this journey, and not only waiting for the end. There is always a reason to be thankful, you just have to look for it!

Faith & Fitness- Week 1

I'm excited to be leading a new ministry at my church called Faith & Fitness.  I will be posting the devotionals and some other content here each week. I'm playing catch-up today, as we've already completed the first 2 weeks.

Week 1: God & Your Fitness Goals

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

(includes excerpts from “Live Out Your Faith With Fitness”, a devotional plan from the You Version Bible App)

Sometimes it seems like we hear a lot about all the other aspects of our faith-based life and not a lot about our health and fitness. But our bodies are a
temple of God and we should treat them as such. As believers, the world is watching to see how we live, act and move- literally. Are we being good stewards with the body God has given us?”
I did this devotional plan in the Bible app a little while ago, and it opened my eyes.  I never thought about how God could be a part of my fitness goals!

God has allowed me to reach many new fitness milestones in the last year, but I was not really losing weight. I was building muscle but had plateaued big time with the numbers on the scale. Failure to drop the pounds caused me to lose sight of the small gains He was allowing me to make along the way. It is important to set small, measurable goals- and thank God when you reach those goals! I just kept setting the arbitrary goal to “lose weight”. Then, inspired by my friends who were running marathons, I suddenly decided I wanted to be a runner. My first measurable fitness goal was to run a 5k.  I built up my endurance with my Zumba fitness classes, and I was blessed to be able to meet that goal this past April.
“Pray about what your health goals should be. God cares about your health. If you don’t have your health, you can’t enjoy your family, friends and most importantly, Jesus!”

I never realized my pursuit of better health could be a spiritual pursuit. Now when I’m running and feel I can’t go any further, or I’m lifting and it feels too heavy, I pray for the strength to keep going.  In yoga class, I don’t chant or set my focus inward, I pray, and I thank God for the ability to exercise, and for allowing me to take care of my health (not to mention the relaxing hour of stretching without my children screaming & climbing over me while I plank!). When I reach new goals, I rejoice that God has allowed me to improve.  I feel closer to Him through fitness.