Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Homemade Peach Frozen Yogurt

We're just a week away from school starting back up and we're trying to enjoy every moment as much as possible. Getting back into routine, earlier bedtimes, waking earlier; you know, the usual. It's also prime peach season right now! I ordered a 25 pound box from a local farm back in June when we picked strawberries, it's become part of our summer routine. They have connections with another farm in Michigan where they get blueberries and peaches every summer for customers. We place our orders and they arrive all boxed and ready to go. It's quite wonderful, and these peaches are always so delicious! The ones you get from the grocery store just do not compare.

So now I'm playing the what do I make with all of these game? I slice and flash freeze the majority of them; we'll enjoy them all winter long in smoothies, oatmeal and just by themselves. I did make a peach crisp on Sunday that was fabulous. Our little 8x8 inch pan didn't make it long in our house between the five of us. But, if you've been following me on social media for any length of time, then you know I just cannot make all these desserts. It's not apart of my lifestyle anymore, and I just don't need them. I wanted to come up with a little healthier of an option. And I just haven't been feeling like canning much lately, even though jam is a great way to use up so many.

That's when I decided to try making my own frozen yogurt. A little bit healthier (when done right) than regular ice cream, and a way for me to be able to enjoy some without wrecking my weight loss goals. I don't know about you, but I feel like we go through a ton of ice cream in the summer months with the kids. They request it almost every night after dinner it feels like. And going out for a treat just adds up, it gets very expensive to feed that many people.

Made in the food processor, and with just four ingredients, this has quickly become a favorite in our house. In fact, I told you that the girls have already requested I try making strawberry next. I will say, Greek yogurt will definitely give it a pronounced tangy aftertaste, so if that's not something you like then just stick with regular yogurt. I liked the Greek batch, but the girls said it tasted funny. They're not big Greek fans though either. The agave syrup gives it just enough sweetness, plus peaches are typically sweet to begin with.

I just love the fact that I'm getting even more nutrients into my day and getting to enjoy a sweet treat all at the same time! You'll even notice in my pictures, that I keep the skin on when I freeze my peaches. Why not? They process just as well, and again, if I can get more nutrients into our day, then we will. This will certainly be a welcome treat come those long winter days. Feel free to experiment with different frozen fruits, the combinations are endless!

Peach Frozen Yogurt

4 cups frozen, sliced peaches
1/2 cup plain regular yogurt (Greek also works)
1/4 cup agave syrup
Juice from half of a lemon

In a food processor, dump in all ingredients. Secure lid and begin to process. It will take a good 5 minutes to come together, you will have to stop a couple times to scrape down sides. Once the mixture is all combined, you may transfer to a freezer safe bowl and enjoy immediately. Place the remaining frozen yogurt covered in the freezer and it will keep for one month.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Cauliflower Rice Pizza Bowl

Whelp, it's already August and summer is just about over with. Not quite sure how I feel about that haha. I love my job and the kiddos; but man I also love being home with my own kids and doing our thing.

Another thing I love. This pizza bowl! A friend and co-worker from school mentioned how she created a pizza bowl using cauliflower rice as her base recently, and I was intrigued. And then in typical Steph fashion, I had to recreate my own. I had this for lunch the other day, and I have to say it's pretty darn delicious. In fact, I'm certain I will be adding this into my rotation for work lunches.

I made mine over the stove top, but you could heat yours in the microwave easily. Or the oven. In fact, when I head back to work; I'll probably just mix everything together in a reheatable bowl so I can quickly warm up in the lounge.

This makes enough for one serving, so just double your ingredients or more, if you're feeding the family. If you're on the fence with cauliflower rice, I promise you this doesn't even seem like you're eating a ton of veggies! But, you could begin with half regular rice and half cauliflower. Start small and work your way up.

Cauliflower Rice Pizza Bowl

2 cups frozen cauliflower rice
1/2 cup chopped green pepper & onion
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup pizza sauce
chopped pepperoni
crumbled,browned ground beef or sausage
sprinkle of mozzarella cheese

In a medium pan on the stove, heat cauliflower rice for 3-4 minutes. Stir in chopped peppers and onion, along with seasonings. Let cook for a few more minutes. Then add in pizza sauce and meat toppings. Cook just until heated through. Before removing from heat, sprinkle cheese on top and let that set just until melted. You can place a large glass plate over top and turn off heat, and that will help the cheese to melt quickly.  Remove from heat, and serve.
Makes enough for 1 serving.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Finding Joy Again During My Darkest Hour

In October 2014, I lost a baby. I had a miscarriage.

There, I said it. I've written this post several times in these last couple of years, never knowing quite what to say or having the courage to press publish.

I am 1 in 4.

Before then, I had no idea that miscarriages were that common. That they occurred more often than I could have ever imagined. That more of my friends and acquaintances have had to experience this same pain that I was, than I knew.

We weren't exactly planning for more children, but surprises happen and we were both excited and happy. Everyone knows I've always wanted a little boy. Maddux Allen, the name has been picked out since before our second daughter was born.

For reasons I cannot understand, we lost that baby at just ten weeks along. I was heartbroken. We hadn't told anyone yet of the pregnancy, we were waiting until Halloween and telling our families together. Then planning a fun announcement in November for everyone else.

I remember every moment of those next several days. It was hell, and I didn't think I could possibly cry anymore. I was moving through the motions of life, but not really living I guess. In fact, for the next year I felt that way. I remember watching babies during church services and trying to hold back tears. When friends would announce their own pregnancies, the tears would fall, the anger would overcome me. I even screamed out loud when I was alone because I was so angry.

Deep down I was a very angry and sad person. On the outside, my smile was there, yet fake at times. I loved being with my girls and husband. But something was missing. My husband had no idea until a year later, but I would cry myself to sleep often. After he would fall asleep or trying to just be as silent as I could. The tears would fall on my pillowcase. I felt alone in a very big world.

I lost a lot of weight following the miscarriage. Even though I was grieving and sad inside, I felt great in my clothes. That was probably the only good thing out of the situation. But soon after, between the demands of working two jobs and taking care of my family, I let myself slip. I didn't take care of myself like I should have. Instead of eating healthy, I was grabbing junk at night while working late. I was definitely an emotional eater. The weight slowly crept back on, and even more. That was one more thing to become unhappy about.

I talked about how I developed a word theme for my year, and it started in 2016 after the awful, long year I had experienced. Choose Joy was my theme. I even have a shirt with the message on and I wore it often. I still do sometimes. My mission for that year was to choose joy in all situations. I was tired of being sad and angry. And so I did, I tried my hardest to be truly happy.

I think I did a pretty good job. Of course, there were moments during the months where I was more emotional and would cry. In May of that year when we should have been celebrating the first birthday of our child, that was difficult. And again in October, on the anniversary of the miscarriage, I grieved. My family did their best to understand and support me. These dates are still hard for me.

But through that year in 2016 something clicked, something changed inside of me. I had decided to quit the second job at the end of May. So I was home more in the evenings with my family and that was great. I was still very unhappy with how I had let my weight creep back on. My clothes were feeling pretty tight. Summer was coming and I couldn't just hide in sweatshirts, and I refused to buy a bigger size.

Late June of that year I decided to tackle running. I've always wanted to be a runner. Our oldest runs and my husband was a track athlete in high school. So I promised myself I would actually put the treadmill to use that we purchased several years ago and start the Couch to 5K program. I would run my first race in October with my family, an event that supports our local school district. I was going to commit to exercising, eating healthier than I had been and doing something for myself. I was going to become a little more selfish with my time and not feel bad about it.

And, so I did it. I stuck with it and kept training, and ran my first 5k in October 2016. My husband ran with me and pushed me the entire way. I remember being so nervous that morning, yet excited as ever! Afterwards it was the ultimate high. I felt amazing, I had never accomplished something like that before. As a very non athletic person, to have run over three miles was huge for me. I wanted more, I didn't want to just stop there.

I had already been talking with a friend and asking more questions behind the scenes regarding what she had done to lose 30+ pounds. I decided right before Halloween to purchase my very first at home fitness program package. It was a brand new martial arts/kickboxing program that was being released. It looked like fun and it was the perfect new challenge for me. I would commit to completing the 30 day program and work even harder to clean up my nutrition. I've tried workout videos before, but would become so sore after just a few days that I would give up. This time, I would not do that. I was far too excited and motivated to change for the better.

I was added into a private online accountability group where we would log our workouts each day and my coach would post motivational messages, tips, recipes and such each day. We all quickly became like family, a fit fam I guess you could call it. We were there to hold each other to our word when we didn't want to complete the workout for the day, and yet cheer each other on as we became stronger.

That month went quickly. I became stronger, learning new moves each day and feeling fierce. I was working all day in the classroom and then coming home to press play on my videos. And instead of feeling tired, I had more energy. I also began to realize that the pain from my miscarriage was lifting a bit. I didn't find myself crying as often. I was truly becoming a happy person again.

Almost two years later and I'm still doing that home workout thing. It's become my new normal, it's my lifestyle. I am still in the same group, with many of the same individuals whom have become some of my closest friends. Except now, I'm helping to lead them each day. That first program I ever did, I'm now certified to teach.

Beginning this new lifestyle has not only helped me lose weight, become stronger than I've ever been before, helped me heal during the most difficult time in my life so far; but it's also restored a passion in me that I had forgotten about. A love for health and nutrition, and for helping others. It's also helped me find a strong passion for fitness. I love doing it all. Through all of this I finally feel like the old Stephanie, and I love myself. I truly love everything about myself, and I feel confident again.

I wish I would have talked to someone, anyone, throughout that first year, especially those first months. It was painful to go through that feeling alone. Even though my husband and closest family members were there for me, it just wasn't the same. It's not a pain you can understand well, until it happens to you. Fortunately, I did overcome it. I turned to a different outlet to help me heal and create my own happiness again. But, if there's anything I have learned from my own experience, then know this: you did nothing wrong. It's not your fault. You will get through this, the pain never quite goes away completely, but you will be okay. I am here for you if you need a listening ear.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Meal Prep: Buffet Style { $25 Visa Gift Card Giveaway!}

Meal prep has become the new freezer cooking. For years everyone was obsessed with adding meals and meal components to their freezers so they could quickly pull out supper each night to thaw and reheat for their families. When moms would have a new baby, we would arm them with tons of meals so they wouldn't have to worry about cooking for a week or longer. I was very much apart of that movement. In a way, I still do some of those things.

Now, all I read and hear about it meal prep. I see magazine worthy photos of fridges stacked with containers upon containers of prepped food ready to go for the week. Simply grabbing one and going about your day. Is this something you've tried to help in simplifying your own busy schedule?

I think it can be an overwhelming thought for sure when it comes to getting started with meal prep. There's so much information out there, and you probably think you need to have a whole week's worth of meals in the fridge ready to go. While, you can certainly do that and maybe that's what works best for you. It's not the only way.

Buffet style is one that I choose to implement in my own house, and one that I've done for several years now. Some weeks are better than others, but I always try to make sure we have a couple things at least ready to go. What on earth do I mean by buffet style meal prep? I'm talking about having foods like hard boiled eggs, cut up veggies and fruits, roasted root veggies, grilled chicken, prepared quinoa and brown rice all prepared and in separate containers in the refrigerator. When it comes time to eat, you can choose from a variety of foods you have prepared to create your lunches, etc. If you're not one that wants to eat the same exact dish for multiple days, then this would definitely give you the potential for more variety.

So, where do I start?

I think it's important to think about your own personal schedule for the week, your family's needs and what you all like. This will help you to determine which foods will be best to have prepped. You can certainly make up some soups, chili's or casseroles/one dish meals so those are ready to be reheated.

Here are just a few ideas for you to consider as you begin your own meal prep:

Grilled/Roasted Chicken
Browned ground beef/turkey (seasoned taco meat would be great)
Hard, boiled eggs
Turkey bacon
Cottage cheese

Whole Grains/Carbs:
Roasted sweet potatoes or regular potatoes
Brown rice
Black beans

Roasted veggies: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, squash, etc
Spinach/kale, washed and ready to go
Cauliflower rice: prepackaged is just fine!
Fresh made salsa (makes for a great salad dressing)
A variety of cut up fruits and raw veggies

Healthy Fats:
Mini guacamole cups or homemade
String cheese or any cheese portioned out
Almonds, cashews, pistachios portioned into small containers

If you begin with even a couple of items from each of the categories, you'll be able to put together some really healthy meals for your day. It will help to reduce stress, save you some money and save time.

Let's go over a few meal pairings for you:

Grilled chicken, brown rice, roasted broccoli
Hard boiled egg, oatmeal, fresh fruit
Mini guacamole cup, raw bell pepper strips, apple slices
taco seasoned ground turkey, salad w/salsa, black beans, strawberries

I hope that gives you a better understanding of how buffet style meal prep works. Let me know how it goes for you, especially if this is a whole new concept for you. I'd be interested in hearing what you think.

And now for that Visa gift card giveaway I mentioned in the title. For the past eight weeks I've been participating in the Live Healthy Iowa's ten-week wellness challenge. We're getting down to the end and it's been a great experience.

My team sponsor, Iowa Food and Family Project has sponsored this post and is giving one of my readers a $25 Visa gift card. How great is that?! To enter, head over to the Facebook page to enter. I will have a pinned post at the top, you will answer the question there and be entered.  I will draw one winner on Wednesday, March 21st.  Good luck!

A big thank you again to the Iowa Food and Family Project for another great experience with the Live Healthy Iowa Challenge. I always love being apart of this team!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

5 Ways to Improve Your Health This Week

Can we just sit down for a moment and talk about how quickly the beginning of the new year is going? Holy cow. Time needs to slow down for this mama, I'm not ready for graduation to be upon us so soon.

I mentioned a few weeks ago about my teaming up with a handful of other Iowa bloggers for the Live Healthy Iowa wellness challenge. It's my third year participating, representing the Iowa Food and Family Project's team and it's something I always enjoy. If you live here in Iowa, I'm sure you might have heard of this ten week challenge. It's really a fun way to kick off the new year and have a friendly competition while getting a little bit healthier.

Are you one that made some goals or resolutions in the new year? If you're like most Americans, then maybe you've already long forgotten about those and fell off the wagon a bit. Or maybe you're still cruising along, crushing them each week. I hope so!

It's easy to get overwhelmed when trying to create a healthier lifestyle. Everyone wants to overhaul their life in one day. And then they wonder why they get frustrated and quit. Begin by taking small steps, little changes at a time and then build upon those each week. Today I want to share with you five simple things you can be doing to really drastically improve your own health. No, you don't need to implement all of them right away. Maybe you already do most of these and then, I applaud you. Keep going!

1. Move your body most days of the week: Exercise, it's that simple. Maybe that means attending a group fitness class or joining a gym. At home fitness might work best for you. Walks in the evening with the family. Doing a few squats and push-ups when you have five spare minutes. Whatever you can fit into your schedule, just do it. You'll feel better and have more energy when you do.

2. Add at least one serving of vegetables and fruits to your meal plan each day: No, it's really not a lot in comparison to what you should be eating each day. But, it's a start. And it might be the only fresh produce that some get. Start slow and then build upon that each week. There's bound to be at least one veggie and fruit that you like.

3. Drink your water! You should be aiming to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. So, if you weigh 140 pounds, then you should be drinking at least 70 ounces of water every day. And I'm going to say that's water only. I'm not counting coffee, tea or other beverages in that amount. Water is really the cheapest way for you to improve your health and even lose weight. It helps to keep you hydrated of course, flushes out toxins in your body, regulates your digestion and improves the quality of your skin.

4. Practice a little self-care: This will look different for everyone. Think about what you love to do, and simply do more of it. Give yourself some time to read before bedtime. Take an afternoon nap. Relax in the bathtub with some Epsom salts. Little things like that. Take care of yourself so you can be at your very best for your family and those around you.

5. Get enough sleep each night: I realize everyone is in different seasons in their lives. But it's so important to your health to be getting a good amount of sleep. Have you ever paid attention to your eating habits when you're really tired? You end up craving more junk and not making very good food choices. If you're exercising, sleep is important so that your muscles can rest and recover. Plus we are able to function better in our day when we've had an adequate amount of rest.

These are really not rocket science or anything new. I know you've heard them all. Hopefully they are things you are practicing on most days, but I also know there's always room for improvement. We should strive to be a little bit better each day!

Being apart of the 10-week challenge, these are really things that we're all working on right now. As team members we are all working together to cheer each other on as we document our daily activity minutes, weight loss and just overall physical wellness. My team sponsor, Iowa Food and Family Project has so graciously offered to give three of my readers each a $10 gift certificate towards any fresh beef or pork purchase of their choice!

I'm going to make this super simple for you to enter: simply leave me a comment below and let me know which healthy task you are going to work on executing in your own life? I can't wait to read all of your responses! I will leave the giveaway open until Sunday, March 4th. At that time I will draw three winners at random and notify them of their winnings.

Lastly, a big thank you to Iowa Food and Family for sponsoring our team again this year and also for the pork and beef certificates. I truly appreciate the opportunity to gift these to my readers!
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