Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mini Meatloaves + Fresh Pork or Beef Giveaway!

We're already a whole month into the new year, how are you doing on your 2017 goals? I'm still committed to my current program, Insanity. While it's definitely intense and crazy, I'm finding I love it and keep coming back for more. In fact, I just finished my fourth week yesterday. Only five more to go!

In addition to working out six days a week, I'm focused on truly living out a healthy lifestyle when it comes to my nutrition. Of course, there are some splurges, like the dinner out last night with the hubby. But most days we're committed to eating healthy. Meal prepping is becoming a must to stay on track each week. If I can at least have our dinners mapped out for the week and my lunches ready to go in the fridge, then half the battle is already won.

Leftovers are generally what I like to bring to work throughout the week, but there are days where there either aren't any left, or I just feel like having something else. I try to pick one recipe to prepare each week just for lunches. It might be a new salad, or maybe a soup, and last week I finally tried a mini version of my mom's meatloaf. Minus her ketchup-brown sugar glaze. It's quite delicious, but I don't want the extra sugar in my diet at the moment.

A standard muffin tin works fantastic for cooking these and they're the perfect size for taking in the lunch and especially for kids. I paired two of these mini loaves with a generous serving of mixed greens and fresh berries and it was a healthy, filling lunch each day.

So, in addition to all of this, I've joined The Iowa Food and Family Project's blogger team for the Live Healthy Iowa ten week challenge again this year. Last year, I'll admit I didn't really work hard at any fitness goals during that challenge, but a lot has changed in my life since then. I'm excited to see what we can accomplish as a team. It's fun having a group of people with like minded goals to help hold you accountable. Of course, there's even a little competition each week to see who can achieve the most minutes when it comes to activity.

With that said, courtesy of The Iowa Food and Family Project I am giving away three certificates each valued at $10 towards any fresh pork or beef purchase! I'm keeping it super simple to enter, just leave a comment below telling me any health or fitness goal you've set for yourself this year. You have until Friday, February 17th to enter. At that time, I'll pick three winners at random.

Mini Meatloaves

1.5 pounds ground beef, thawed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
6 saltines, crushed
2 tbsp. ketchup
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp thyme
pinch of salt

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, or clean hands, mix all ingredients together very well.

Spoon meat mixture into a muffin pan using a large cookie or ice cream scoop. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until meat is completely cooked through.

Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack that has been placed over a baking sheet. This will allow any sort of grease from the meat to drip, so they are not sitting in it while they cool.

You may serve meatloaves right away, or once cooled place in containers of choice if using for food prep. Store in fridge until ready to enjoy, they will keep for up to four days.

Will also freeze well, just allow to cool completely and then place in a freezer friendly container. They will keep in the freezer for up to three months. You'll then just need to simply thaw and reheat when ready to serve.

Makes 12 mini loaves

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Beginning

Happy New Year friends! It's been awhile, hasn't it? 2016 was a frustrating year for me when it came to blogging. I launched my blog onto a self hosted site and everything bad imaginable surely happened. It was one huge headache after another, leaving me feeling defeated and not inspired to write. After getting things fixed, I still was having a hard time finding the motivation to create new recipes, they were very few. I let you down and I apologize.

In the midst of all that, I found a new passion, one that lets me take time each day to focus on myself for a change. In late June, I decided to give running a try. I followed the Couch to 5k program for the rest of the summer and into the fall, and in October I ran my very first 5k! It was such a feeling of accomplishment that I can't really explain. When you've never given much thought to exercise in your life, it's quite amazing when you realize what your body is capable of.

After that I found myself wanting more, wanting to reach another goal. I reached out to a friend, I've been watching her journey for the past four years and seen what she has all accomplished when it came to her fitness journey. She set me up with a program, a new mixed-martial arts one and I joined one of her accountability/challenge groups. I was determined to give it my all those first thirty days, focusing on completing each workout and staying on track with my nutrition.

At the beginning of December I completed that first round and my results were pretty awesome. I was able to fit back into pants that I had outgrown from mindless eating. I felt strong, because I really was getting stronger each day. Push ups that made my arms feel like they would break, were becoming so much easier. I felt confident, I realized I can do anything that I set my mind to.

So that's where I'm at in my life. I love taking those 30-45 minutes for myself each day and exercising. I'm keeping myself healthy so I can be here for my kids, I'm working to set a good example for them. I still enjoyed cookies over the holidays, probably a few too many at times. But that's okay, I give myself grace and just keep going. I have been cooking and eating healthier overall, we've always been big vegetable and fruit eaters in our house. You all know my love for the farmers' markets and gardening! But it's about keeping the other stuff in moderation too. A lot of my meals have been extremely simple, and that's okay. Sometimes simple is the best.

I'd like to keep blogging, to share my journey with you. Not necessarily a bunch of fitness posts, unless of course, you're curious and would like to hear more about what I'm doing. Then those can be worked in a bit, I'd be happy to show you some different moves, etc. But I'd love to get back to creating new recipes, to sharing those with you. Cooking is really my first passion. I love helping others. I'm not baking as much anymore, and it's not that I don't love those dishes, it's just that I'm finding if they are not around, I'm not tempted to eat them. They are instead saved for special occasions.

So what do you think? Are you ready for more? I'm certainly ready to make 2017 a good year, especially with my site.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

Most days of the week I pack a lunch for not only my children, but myself to take to work. It's generally leftovers, but I also try to prepare one of my own favorite dishes on Sunday to divide out into small containers and last me a couple days or so. There are plenty of dishes that I really enjoy but maybe the family doesn't, so it's a great way for me to get those worked into my menu plans.

Some days though, it might be me just trying to get creative with leftovers so they don't go to waste. That's what this sandwich was. And I'm really not much of a sandwich person, but this one was pretty darn good. I especially love it with the bread and chicken warmed, but when you're at work that's not always possible and it still tastes good.

I love using these divided containers for my kids' lunches and they're even convenient for myself. I don't want to bring a ton of little containers to work, so this is perfect. Since you won't want a soggy sandwich, I recommend keeping all the components separate until you're ready to eat.

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
handful fresh spinach
1 tbsp onion salad toppers
2 slices pepper jack cheese
1 whole wheat flatbread

In a small bowl, mix together shredded chicken and barbecue sauce. Top flatbread with chicken, spinach, onion toppers and cheese. Fold in half and enjoy!

You can also warm the chicken and flatbread in microwave or oven before serving.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Guacamole for the Freezer

Is it really already October? The days are going by all too quickly and it's been a long time since I've sat down to write. I think for us moms, it's sometimes hard to balance everything that needs done in our day and so things get pushed aside. I've been taking time to focus a little more on myself as a person and not just someone's mom or wife; I've discovered a new found love for running and have been devoting much of my spare time to training for my first 5k which is coming up next weekend. As I turned 33 yesterday, it feels good to give myself grace to do something just for myself. No one else. It doesn't mean I don't love being a mom or a wife, but I'm giving myself permission to take care of myself and do things I enjoy. In the end, it's only going to make me that much better of a person.

So now that it's football season, you'll almost always find a game on my TV during the weekend. It's like a ritual with the husband. I don't mind sitting down to watch a little bit, but with the guys, I guess it's like their religion. We're not big snackers during these times, but occasionally you'll find myself mixing up a little something to munch on. Or if we get invited to hang out with friends, it's nice to have a dish on hand to bring along.

Guacamole is a favorite in our family, even my kids love it. Generally I like to mix in big chunks of tomato and maybe even a little green pepper if I have it. The chunkier, the better. Last month when avocados were on sale, I got to wondering if I could freeze guacamole?

In the freezer went a batch, spooned into a freezer bag and flattened for easy storage. A total experiment. Three weeks later and I pulled the batch out to thaw. I was impressed, it wasn't watery, it didn't turn a yucky brown color and it tasted just a fresh as when I first mixed it up. I added in my tomatoes and we served it up. So now when I stock up during an avocado sale, I know I can stash a batch in my freezer for another day.

Guacamole for the Freezer

3 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, mash avocados using a fork. Add in garlic, onion and juice of one lime. Mix in chopped cilantro, use a much or as little as you'd like. Season with salt and pepper and adjust seasonings if needed.

Scoop guacamole into a quart sized freezer bag and seal shut, flattening and getting out as much air as possible. Make sure to label bag and store in freezer for up to 4 weeks. When ready to enjoy, just remove from freezer and let thaw. Snip one edge of the bag and squeeze the contents into a serving bowl. Mix in chopped tomatoes or peppers if desired. Serve with tortilla chips or veggies. Store any extras in fridge.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

I did not have my act together at all last week when I returned to work. I also probably had too many other things going on at the same time, but dinner felt like a disaster during those several days. I cannot stress how much having a meal plan helps me cope during the work week. It's relaxing to know that when I get home, everything is ready to go for me to prepare my family dinner that night.

I made sure to take the time to plan out our meals all this week and it's made such a difference. I'm usually much better about planning and should know better than winging it. I also forget how really simple dishes like this one often go over well. I can't even believe I'm sharing such a simple meal with you, but I know it's one your whole family will enjoy. Because mine sure did!

Anytime you combine pasta with red sauce, it's a hit; but add pizza like toppings and you've got a real show stopper. I also love when I can get enough leftovers out of a meal for lunch the next day. It reheats nicely and tastes just as good as the night before. If you can get your family to eat olives and mushrooms, then by all means add those babies in. Mine, however, will most certainly turn their noses up at the sight.

If you're struggling a bit in the meal plan area, add this to your menu for the upcoming week. I'm positive it's one the whole family will love. It's also budget friendly and super easy to make. Round it out with a side salad and toasted garlic bread, everyone will leave the table feeling stuffed to the gills!

Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

1 lb. cavatappi pasta
24 oz. jar pasta sauce (I like Newman's Own tomato basil)
1/2 lb. cooked, crumbled ground beef
3 oz. pepperoni
2 cups mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut pepperoni slices in half, making sure to leave about 9-10 whole, for topping the casserole. Set the pepperoni aside.

Cook pasta al dente on stove top. Drain pasta and return to pan. Add in pasta sauce, ground beef and cut pepperoni slices. Stir to combine well, and then spoon into an 11x7-inch baking pan. Top with mozzarella cheese and whole pepperoni slices.

Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, just until cheese is melted and pasta is heated through. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes before dishing. Serve with your choice of salad and bread.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Low Sugar Baked Oatmeal

Baked oatmeal is one of my favorite things to have for breakfast, especially when the weather gets cooler. I have a favorite recipe I usually make, but it's not as healthy as it could be. It's really good! But probably not the best nutrition wise. I've never been one to exercise, honestly, I can't remember ever and I wasn't all that into sports while growing up. I'm learning as I get older, if I'm going to keep cooking and baking like I love to; something has to give. This summer I've started running, using the Couch to 5k program, and am finding that I really love it. I'm currently on week five of the program and plan to run my first ever 5k in October. For the past few years I've supported my family as they participate in this particular 5k event benefiting our local school system, but now it's my turn to join in and do something for myself. I'm excited to run along side with them!

So with all of that going on, I'm also focusing on my nutrition a little more now. I do strive to feed our family with healthy foods as much as possible, but I know there's always room for improvement. I've got a sweet tooth and trying to curb that is probably my number one focus right now.

As we're heading back into another school year, it's also time to get back to meal prepping more and stocking the freezer with meal components. This can help make my days go so much more smoothly than if I didn't. I made a small batch of these oatmeal cups last week, just in case they didn't turn out like I wanted. They freeze wonderfully and I can quickly thaw a couple in the morning for a quick breakfast.

They baked up just as well as my other recipe did, the texture was spot on and they remove easily from the muffin tins. As I've focused on cutting back on sugar, I'm finding it doesn't take much to satisfy me anymore. You will notice that these are not as sweet, but definitely sweet enough. Especially with your choice of seasonal fruit on top, these peaches in particular are like candy right now. So juicy and sweet, I don't want to take away from that lovely flavor. And they are filling, two for breakfast in the morning plus a little fruit on top, is plenty to keep me satisfied.  Feel free to add your desired toppings into the oatmeal cups before baking, I personally love being able to customize as we eat them. Sprinkled with a few almonds, walnuts or pecans before you eat and you've got yourself one heck of a breakfast bowl!

Low Sugar Baked Oatmeal

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp honey or pure maple syrup (adjust according to your taste)
1-1/4 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup almond milk or regular milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine together applesauce, egg, vanilla and honey or maple syrup. Mix in oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Lastly, add in milk and stir well to combine.

Using a large spoon or cookie scoop, distribute batter into wells of muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, or until centers are set.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing to eat. Enjoy with desired fruit or nut toppings.

*If freezing, let cups cool completely before placing into freezer bags or container. Make sure to label with contents and then store in freezer. When ready to enjoy, let thaw a little if possible before reheating. Microwave or warm in oven.

Makes 6-8 oatmeal cups

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Peach Angel Food Cake Jars

Summer vacation is just about over. I'm enjoying these last couple days off before I head back on Monday. The girls will be following behind and begin school on Thursday. It's been a good summer though, we were able to do some traveling, spent many afternoons in the pool and most of all, just relaxed. Last week I treated them one afternoon with these adorable little jars filled with angel food cake, freshly whipped cream and the sweetest peaches you've ever tasted! They were in heaven for those few minutes it took to inhale.

I mentioned last week how I was up to my eyeballs in peaches and spent much of the week preserving them. I made sure to keep plenty for us to enjoy eating with oatmeal, yogurt and just plain. And of course, for this dessert. Dessert hasn't been occurring often around here lately, and in fact, it's often fruit or maybe a slice of pie. So these jars were a much welcomed treat by the kids.

I often rely on much lighter desserts in the summer, making fresh seasonal fruit the shining star when possible. That's what I love about angel food cake. It's light and so versatile. You can create so many delicious creations, using any fruit you have on hand. And because berries and other fruit are so sweet during these summer months, you won't be needing any additional sweeteners.  If you're feeling ambitious, go ahead and even bake your own cake. But I won't judge if you purchase one from the bakery, in fact I did exactly that for this dessert. It's too hot to be turning on the oven more than absolutely needed!

We loved eating these out of small jam jars, but don't feel you have to use those. Any small bowls or glasses you have in the cupboard will work. If you're needing a dessert to feed a crowd, combine this into a trifle dish or a large glass bowl and I'm sure it will be the star of your meal.

Peach Angel Food Cake Jars

1 angel food cake, homemade or store bought
4-5 medium, ripe peaches, diced
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar

In a medium bowl, combine whipping cream and sugar. This is easiest to do using an electric mixer, but a whisk will also do. Whisk on high until cream reaches stiff peaks, about three minutes. Set aside.

Cut cake into large cubes. To assemble trifle: gather either one large bowl or several smaller ones for serving. Layer each one with cake, cream, peaches and repeat layers. End with the diced peaches on top.

Serve immediately.
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