Monday, September 25, 2017
I'm a big salad girl, I would be alright eating them most days of the week. As long as I can change up the ingredients a bit, I'm game. Josh and I had this particular salad during the first week of our 21 day program we completed in August. Mason jar salads have been around for a little while, but it wasn't until recently that I actually gave them a try. They've made my lunch prep a lot easier and have saved me from using up many of my glass Pyrex bowls at once.
You can change up the ingredients a bit with this one. Before, we used hard boiled eggs as our protein source and avocado for our healthy fat. This time though, I took advantage of a rotisserie chicken from the store and cheese. The object is to layer the ingredients, putting the "wet" foods at the bottom so they will not make your greens a soggy mess. Since I am not sure what salad dressing everyone wants, I left that out. Otherwise you'd want that at the very bottom.
I made a total of 5 salads to start the week off. These will be plenty for me to eat, there's really quite a bit of food in that jar. Plus I'll add a fruit to my lunch. Josh will need a little something else I'm sure. But really, these are so cost effective. So much cheaper than any lunch I could go out for. It's definitely an estimate, but I figured each salad only cost me $1.96 to make. Obviously, depending on the current sales, where you shop and the season can all affect the price. You get my point though. Packing your own lunch will always be cheaper and generally more healthy.
Layered Mason Jar Salads
Pint size mason jars
For each salad you will need:
1/3 cup black beans
3/4 cup shredded, cooked chicken
1/8 cup cheese (I used grated pepper jack)
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup lettuce or salad greens
choice of dressing to serve with
Layer each mason jar starting with the black beans, chicken, cheese, carrots and top with salad greens. Put lid on and store in fridge until ready to serve. Then you can dump everything on to a plate or in a bowl to eat, top with your salad dressing or salsa. These will keep for 3-4 days.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
This is definitely my favorite time of year. I love how for our family; our schedules slow down a bit now that school is out and our evenings don't feel quite so rushed. I also love all of the fresh produce available during these months. Every Saturday morning my family knows to expect making a trip to our local farmers' markets, whether they decide to join me or I happen to get a few moments to myself. It's a favorite part of my weekly routine.
I haven't always loved vegetables as much as I do though. It was about seven years ago when I really started to become interested in sourcing local foods, learning more about farmers' markets and gardening. Sure, I've always liked a good veggie tray and corn on the cob is a must here in Iowa. But vegetables like asparagus, eggplant, kohlrabi and zucchini. I just had never tried them before.
Growing up, mom made plenty of meat and potato type meals. Lots of pot roasts, mashed potatoes and maybe even some steamed green beans on the side. I don't ever recall trying some of the grilled veggies we now like to make. It honestly took me a long time before I came to like cooked vegetables. You could give me any of them to eat raw, but the mushy texture of anything cooked made me turn my nose away.
It wasn't until the last several years that I've started to change my mind. Now we eat so many different varieties of vegetables each week, plenty of them grilled, roasted and even raw. I think it just takes time, trying new methods and new recipes. The kids aren't always the greatest at eating them cooked. I tend to have them try a bite and if they don't want anymore then that's fine. They'll come around some day, just like I have. The hubby has come full circle too. In the past few years he's gotten so much better at eating healthier foods, as long as I let him drizzle hot sauce over those veggies. Hey, anything to sneak in extra nutrients.
Most of the time during the summer we'll just slice up the veggies, toss them with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder and then throw them into a grill pan. They don't need much else as far as seasoning. But I did try a new little marinade this past week. It was a nice change up from our typical side dish yet still let the natural flavors from the vegetables shine through. It was also nice to assemble ahead of time, I always appreciate having dinner ready to go. Gives us more time to spend with each other in the evenings.
You'll want to pop on out to your local market and gather some of your favorite veggies for this marinade. It's very versatile, use what's in season and those that your family enjoys most.
Marinated Summer Veggies
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice of one lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 medium zucchini,sliced
1 medium summer squash, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into small pieces
In a small bowl, mix together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic. Set aside.
Add all chopped veggies into a large gallon ziploc bag or into a medium sized pan with a lid. Pour marinade over veggies and toss all together. Cover and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes before preparing.
When ready, add veggies to a prepared grill pan lined with foil, season with salt and pepper, and cook over heat for about 15 minutes or until veggies start to soften. You can also cook them over the stove top in a large skillet.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Last week I did something a little scary, but really was an eye opening experience for my body. I followed a three day cleanse program, it was my very first... and I survived.
So, you might be wondering why on earth I would want to do such a thing? Well, since I've started on my fitness journey I have heard many friends and fellow coaches talking about this particular three day cleanse and I just have been interested in giving it a try. Now, I understand the body naturally detoxes itself, but this was much more than that. I have been getting some great results through my workout programs and getting my nutrition back on track. But through this experience, I really feel like I've been able to break through any sort of sugar addiction my body still had from when I very first started.
I decided to use the days after Memorial Day to focus on getting back on track. I had just came off of finishing a ten week fitness program, but I did splurge more during my extra long weekend. As you can see from my starting point photo, my stomach was looking and feeling a little extra fluffy that morning. It's amazing what a few adult beverages and a couple treats can do.
I took the afternoon on Memorial Day to prep all of my food. It only took a matter of a couple hours and it was a wonderful feeling to have everything ready to go in the fridge. I'm really not sure how successful I could have been if I wouldn't have taken the time to prep. Included in my program box I received a booklet with all the foods I could choose from. It made it so simple and took all the guesswork out of meal planning.
I chose to eat a lot of the same things throughout those three days, not only because it was cheaper on my pocketbook, but I also really enjoyed the foods I picked out. Breakfast each day was my daily Shakeology drink I typically have, this time it was only prepared using water, a little ice and a serving of fruit mixed in. Mid morning I would drink a quick fiber sweep. It did typically fill me up because I was used to just having a few almonds and yogurt to snack on when I get hungry in the classroom. I had to make sure to quickly drink it though because I have heard and could tell it would get very thick if I didn't. Lunch was a fruit (usually watermelon) and veggies (typically bell peppers) and a healthy fat (avocado) plus my vanilla fresh. It was similar to my morning shake, lots of nutrients included: 200 calories and a good amount of protein. I always felt satisfied after eating lunch. After work I would have a snack of almond butter and celery sticks. It was a sweeter snack that filled me up and let me think I was also getting a treat. Then dinner each night I chose to make a salad, it was one of the larger looking options in the plan.
Going into day 1 was a little exciting and a little scary all at the same time. I did go through spurts in the day where I'd feel hungry, even tired and by the end of the day I had a pretty bad headache. I don't drink coffee, nor caffeine or really any pop at all; so I doubt it was a caffeine withdrawl. But sugar was most likely the cause. I ended my evening with a little peppermint tea and went to bed. By morning I was feeling much better.
Day 2 started off pretty good but I quickly felt really irritable, lousy and just plain hungry by pretty early in my morning. It was also our planning day at school where that day just generally drags anyways plus there was an ice cream machine with all the toppings in the lounge and it was our end of the year potluck celebration. I had decided to make a coleslaw to bring for everyone, but I was sticking to my plan and enjoyed my own prepared lunch. After I got my fiber sweep in later that morning I really started to feel better and really felt great after lunch. I was proud of myself for resisting all the temptations that day.
I couldn't believe how much my stomach had gone down just from the first day and by the time I woke up on day 3, I realized how amazing I was sleeping. I generally do sleep pretty well, but this was a completely different feeling. From not having any added sugars and all the carbs in my diet, I was really feeling wonderful. And I really was not craving anything like I thought I might have been. I will admit that it got a little tempting when cooking my family supper. By the end of my cleanse, I was really just wanting more food. Not that I was feeling really hungry, but I just wanted my typical piece of toast with peanut butter for breakfast.
In the end, the scale was down 5 pounds. My husband noticed my face seemed thinner and I could tell a difference in my waist and the pants I wore.
Following last week, I obviously have not kept up with that strict of a diet. I've since added back in some carbs, like my daily piece of toast. The scale has not gone back up. Over the weekend I did enjoy an adult beverage and an ice cream cone. I will say that Sunday night my stomach felt a little bloated and yucky from adding some of that back in. But by morning, it was feeling back to normal. It's just proving to me that I can't eat all the foods, especially on a daily basis, that I used to. I feel so much better when I fuel my body the right way. And while it might not always be the most fun, in the end I'm much happier.
Would I do it again? I think so. Not often, but maybe anytime I'm feeling I might need to clean up my nutrition. It's a great way to get back on track. And I'm glad I gave it a try. I think I learned quit a bit about what my body needs.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
I'm loving the fact that it's still light out when I make supper each night. It's always so hard to try photographing dishes during the winter. I'm lucky to even get supper started before it turns dark, let alone get an actual good photo of it.
I had these on our menu for Sunday, but we had such a busy weekend that I wasn't able to get our groceries purchased until late Sunday afternoon. My pineapples were not ready for this recipe, I always like to let them set for at least a couple days before I cut into them. They just seem to taste better.
We have a local chef that makes these amazing looking shrimp and chicken pineapple bowls. I've seen some of my friends posting pictures of them and they look delicious. And the fun part is he serves them up in a pineapple bowl, literally. I've yet to try one, but they've been on my mind for quite some time now. And so I decided to try creating our own version at home, a healthy version.
So that's what I did last night. Unfortunately, we've had some sort of stomach bug being passed between the two youngest girls and our oldest was at work for the night, so I didn't have too many mouths to feed. But really that just means more leftovers for lunches, right? Not such a bad thing after all I suppose. My vision with these was to really keep them healthy, but I know a nice teriyaki sauce would taste delicious mixed in. I used a mixture of garlic, a little pepper and soy sauce for seasoning. Then sprinkled fresh cilantro on top and it gave such a wonderful fresh taste to the dish. Feel free to adjust seasonings and spices to your liking though.
Oh and I tried making my own pineapple bowls, but that just felt like a major fail! Between trying not to waste all the pineapple or cut my own finger off; I gave up and just started cutting the fruit up. We love pineapple too much to waste any. Regardless of what it's served in, I think you'll be happy with this new dish.
Pineapple and Shrimp Bowls
12 oz. bag medium sized shrimp (peeled, devieined and cooked)
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 orange or red bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
black pepper, to taste
2 cups diced pineapple
chopped cilantro, for serving (optional)
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute garlic, bell pepper and onions for a couple minutes. Remove from skillet and set mixture aside on a plate.
In the same skillet, cook shrimp for about five minutes. If they came already cooked, you just want to heat them up. If they are still raw, make sure to cook long enough so that they turn a pink color.
Once the shrimp is heated through and a nice light pink color, add pepper and onion mixture back into the skillet. Add in rice, soy sauce and pepper. Let continue to cook for a few more minutes to soften the peppers a bit. Toss in pineapple, cooking for one more minute. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Remove from stove and serve into bowls. Top with fresh cilantro if desired. Serves 4-5
Saturday, March 25, 2017
I posted a couple pictures of this soup on the Facebook page late Sunday night, I was rushing to finish up prepping it for my lunches for the week and get to bed. We had a bit of a bad ending to our weekend when our seventeen year old daughter came home from work that evening and said that someone broke into her car. Nothing of value was taken, but it still had her a little shaken up. So it was definitely very dark by the time I was able to get the soup on the stove and a couple snapshots on my phone were all I got for pics. Good thing this is a favorite soup of mine, so I'll be able to update later, but for now, these will do.
We're heading into the final week of the Live Healthy Iowa challenge and it's been a great ride. During this time I was able to complete one round of the Insanity program. It was definitely one I struggled with, it's by far the most challenging workout I've ever done and while I didn't lose a ton of weight like some do. I'm so proud to say I finished and I feel so much stronger overall! This past week I've begun a new program called T25, it's a cardio based workout that is only 25 minutes a day. It feels wonderful to be done in such a short amount of time, yet still leaves me dripping with sweat. I've also begun training for a Mother's Day four mile race, so I'm dedicating a few days each week to running. Now that it's officially spring, I can't wait to get back outside for my runs.
So I've gone back to using what I call the portion fix container system. If you've ever heard of the 21 Day Fix, then you probably know what I'm talking about. They are small color coded containers I use in planning out my meals. I know a get a certain number of each color for the day so I can just measure my foods in there to coordinate my meals, etc. I haven't always been a believer in them, but I seen some great results when I first started really working out so I knew it was time to get back to it. I feel like it's a great way for me to ensure that I'm eating enough veggies in a day and not too many carbs, which are always a downfall for me.
My husband helped me create this detailed spreadsheet so I can plan out my weekly meals and workouts. I loved having it for the week and always knew what I was planning to eat next. I did realize that I'm not eating enough early on in my day and that's leaving me really hungry by the time I get home from work and I don't feel like having an after dinner snack usually so I'm going to eliminate that I think. A lot of you let me know you like my sharing this, so I'm aiming to keep on top of it and make sure I share it each week, either in a blog post or on Facebook, maybe even both.
Wow, so I've gone a little off topic from the soup. I love Panera, if I ever do eat out for lunch I almost always choose there. They've got fresh salads that I really like and good soups. My favorite by far is the garden vegetable with pesto. I knew it would be much more cost effective if I would just recreate my own version at home so I've been doing this since last fall I believe. Now, Panera adds barley to theirs but I chose to keep that out and just used veggies. It's still very flavorful and I think the yellow wax beans always look like pasta anyways. Even after eating this for four days straight this week, I still could go for another bowl. I just love it that much!
I've still got one more gift to give to one of my readers as we are wrapping up Live Healthy Iowa. Scheels is a favorite store in our family, especially with the hubby; and I've got a $25 gift card to send to one of you compliments of the Iowa Food and Family Project! We're keeping it super simple to enter this time again, here's what I want you to do: Leave me a comment with your go-to lunch for work, etc. Feel free to add a link too. I'll draw one winner on Monday, April 3rd. Good luck and I can't wait to read all of your responses.
Veggie Garden Soup w/Pesto
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped cauliflower
14 oz. can yellow wax beans, drained
14 oz. can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, oregano
1 medium zucchini, cut into slices and then quatered
32 oz. vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 cups chopped greens (I used collard greens, you could use swiss chard or even spinach)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
pesto, for serving
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over stove. Add in onion and bell pepper and let cook for a few minutes to soften. Then add in minced garlic and let cook for one minute, just until fragrant. Dump in beans, cauliflower, tomatoes and zucchini. Continue to let cook for a couple minutes before adding in vegetable broth and one cup of water. Season well with herbs, salt and pepper. Add in greens and let come to a boil before turning down to simmer. Let soup simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from stove and ladle into bowl. Serve with a spoonful of pesto on top. Makes about 4-5 servings.
If you're using soup to meal prep: Ladle soup into desired storage bowl. I used two cup glass pyrex containers with lids. I was able to get just over four bowls for the upcoming week. I did add the pesto on top, but be forewarned, it did tend to stick more to the lid when I went to reheat. If you don't want that to happen, I would recommend adding pesto to another small container. I was able to scrape most of it off and mix into my soup so it's really your preference. This soup also does freeze very well!
Monday, March 6, 2017
Life has taken some crazy turns this early in the new year. Not only did we have to bury my grandmother in early January, but the same day our oldest was admitted to the hospital for severe abdominal pain and then the latest; our nine year old broke her arm just two weeks ago. It was the worst thing I've ever witnessed, being an open fracture. Honestly it looked like an awful sports injury you see happen on ESPN. I've since warned all the girls, there is to be no more hospital stays this year, at all! And I'm done with broken bones, they've all broken one thing or another. It's enough.
Besides all that chaos, everything else is good in life. I'm still actively participating in the Live Healthy Iowa ten week health challenge. We've just begun week seven and I'm in my last week of the Insanity workout program that I've been doing. Spring break is just around the corner for us, starting on Friday for our school. So I'm excited to relax a little more, and maybe if the weather cooperates, get outside and do a little running.
During my week off from work, I'm hoping to get a little meal prepping/freezer cooking done. The girls and I are always home by ourselves on Monday nights while Josh has bowling league and this is one dish we occasionally like to enjoy. While it's probably not the most healthy dish in the world, when I can make it at home and know what ingredients are in it, I'm happy to serve it to our family.
In the couple years that I've been making it, I've really come to like prepping an extra batch for the freezer. The chicken holds up well whether I leave it in a pan or throw it into a freezer bag. I leave the sauce separate or even mix it up the night of to prevent the breading getting too soggy. We serve this dish with rice and lots of steamed veggies. It's one of my favorite DIY takeout meals!
Sweet and Sour Chicken
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
Olive oil (for when ready to cook)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp ketchup
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
Rice, for serving
Choice of veggies, for serving
Cut chicken into cubes on a cutting board and season with salt and pepper. Set up two bowls, one with the cornstarch and another with the eggs, lightly beaten. Dip chicken into cornstarch, coating completely and then into the eggs. Cook chicken in a large skillet with a bit of olive oil just until browned, a few minutes. Remove the chicken onto a large plate lined with a paper towel to cool.
Once completely cooled, add all the chicken to a large freezer safe dish, I used a 9x13-inch Pyrex baking dish that has a lid. Or I've dumped it all into a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Just make sure to label and date with contents. Place into the freezer, will keep for up to three months.
You can mix all the sauce ingredients together and throw into the freezer as well, either in a freezer safe bowl or a baggie. But it really only takes a few minutes, so I usually just wait until I'm ready to prepare our meal and mix it up.
When ready to cook your chicken, remove from freezer and let thaw. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour sauce over the chicken and bake in oven 15 minutes. Flip pieces of chicken for even browning and then return to oven for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice and your choice of veggies.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
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.
1.5 pounds ground beef, thawed
2 garlic cloves, minced
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
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.