Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What to Expect the First Year {College Edition}


This has been a post on my mind for several months now, and I think I'm just slightly qualified to write it. Especially since I just sent our daughter off to begin her second year of college a couple weeks ago. {Insert tears} No, but really, I have struggled with this new season a little more than I ever expected. But, it's also such a fun time in our lives. I've witnessed a complete transformation in her, in a good way, of course. She's growing up, maturing, figuring out her path and what she wants out of life and it's just a whole lot of fun to sit back and watch it all take place!

So, this is my post for you mamas. The ones that are getting ready to drop their babies off in the next couple of weeks. The ones that aren't sure what this new season of life may bring.

If you are like me, you made it through graduation, the open house celebration and every other important event without breaking down. It's a time for celebration, right? There was no need to cry or feel sad. We did it! I say we, because us parents have just as much claim in that diploma as they do.


You've hopefully spent time this summer enjoying last minute trips, embracing these "final" days together, making them their favorite meals and treats and shopping trips for all of the dorm essentials.

The day is set, you've probably got two car loads of belongings to take with and you're moving your kiddo into their new home away from home. You might have a bit of an anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach, holding back tears that you don't exactly know where they're coming from. And then you get there, and there's so many students and families all doing the exact same thing you are. It's crowded and you quickly move boxes and totes from the car to the itty bitty dorm room. If you're lucky, you'll get to stay and help them set up their new arrangement. But, in all reality, there just isn't enough room and it's time to let them go. You've done your job, you've set them up for success and now it's time to let them fly.

Driving away was the hardest. Giving that final hug before we got back into the car was not easy. I instantly got into the car and literally began bawling. And I'm not going to lie, that whole week afterwards was difficult. There were tears out of the blue. The walking past her bedroom and it being so empty. The getting used to one less person in the house. It was just a new normal and it takes time getting used to.

If I had to give you a few tips for the upcoming school year, they would be:


1. Give yourself grace and let yourself grieve. Like I said, it's just a new normal. It takes time getting used to the changes. Even though we as parents are happy for our children, it's okay to feel sad. They are growing up and not needing us as much anymore. It's fun and a little sad at the same time.

2. Be prepared for full laundry baskets when they do return home for visits! Haha! I'm serious though. But, I'm pretty sure you won't mind doing some extra laundry again for the weekend.

3. It never gets any easier watching them drive away. When it's time to head back from the holidays, winter break, etc. You might still find yourself fighting back tears. It's almost like it starts all over.

4. Have faith that you raised them well and they will make the right decisions in life. You have to step back now and let them figure things out on their own. It's not easy, but they have to make the mistakes. They might fall, but you better believe they'll get right back up. You did good mom and dad!

5. Cook their favorite meals and snacks for when they come home. Visits are few and far between, so ask what they'd like to have for dinner. You have to remember, those cafeteria meals don't compare to mom's home cooking!

6. They might not admit it, but they get a little homesick too at times. Phone calls, text messages, facetime calls; they want to share their new life with you just as much as you want to hear about it. I pray that you are able to keep in touch with your child just as much as our daughter does with us. They love receiving fun surprises in the mail too!

7. Sit back and enjoy this new season! Life is beautiful. Be sure to enjoy each and every moment. This new season that you're in; it's one to be cherished.


So dear mama, I know what you're feeling. I really do. And, I'm here sending you a big hug and lots of love during this transition. You've done good. Now, it's time to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Chia Seed Pudding


If you're like myself and need to be careful with sweets or that inner sugar dragon comes out real quickly; then this recipe is for you!

Do you use chia seeds in your house? Ever had a pudding made with them? This is something fairly new to our household. And, I really like it! I'm thinking of it as a dessert or treat, but I would totally let the kids eat this for breakfast if they wanted. I can only imagine how full and satisfied they would be all morning long in school.

Most everyone doesn't geek out over nutrition and the science behind food, but I'm going to share a few health benefits real quick regarding chia seeds. I want you to really understand why they're good for you. Not only do they help keep inflammation in our bodies in check, they are high in fiber, which I'm sure you could always use a little more of. They are great for digestion, known to help reduce belly fat and can improve insulin sensitivity. They're a pretty awesome healthy fat, and I think you should keep a bag in your pantry at all times.



Often times I see them added into smoothies, but I'm hoping you give this pudding a try. It's pretty basic and very versatile. You could add in some cocoa powder for a chocolate version. Add different fresh fruits on top. I was pretty basic and mashed up a few frozen strawberries that we picked in June. I also added a few Lily's chocolate chips on top. It certainly satisfied my sweet cravings.


Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons chia seeds
3/4 cup coconut or almond milk
1/2 tablespoon Swerve sweetener (you may also use honey, maple syrup or agave)
Fruit toppings

Directions:
In a small bowl mix together chia seeds and milk, add in desired sweetener. Please note that I have only tested this recipe with Swerve. If using a different form of sweetener, start small and work your way up to your desired taste preference.

Pudding will begin to thicken. Divide into two servings, it makes enough to fill one 8 ounce jar. You may serve immediately or let chill in fridge for 1-2 hours to thicken even more. Serve with choice of toppings.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Ditch the Cereal! {Kid-Friendly Breakfast Ideas}


I might ruffle some feathers a little bit here, but I'm going to state it: Our kids do not need cereal every morning for breakfast. Or ever, honestly. Take a look down the food aisle, or in our pantry cupboards and I'm sorry, but these have become more like dessert and we're serving it every day in a rush to get out the door on time.

I don't know about your kiddos, but many times mine are starving come lunch time. Cereal doesn't exactly keep them full and ready to take on a full morning of learning. Did you know that most cereals are 75% sugar? Therefore, causing our body's energy levels to go through it's own sort of rollercoaster; up and down all throughout the day. Plus, have you ever noticed within your own self, that you crave more sugar and carbs throughout the day once you begin with cereal, pop-tarts, muffins or donuts? Consuming sugar just makes you crave even more sugar.

But, I'm not here to lecture. We're all doing the best we can, I know we are. And when we know better, we can do better. I also understand that there's just not a lot of time in our schedules to prep a bunch of foods. Oh do I get it! We're rushing around in the mornings getting ready and packing lunches just like everyone else, and I'm in the classroom with our kiddos all day too.

I want to give you some ideas for healthier, more filling options for that first meal of the day. These are all kid-friendly because my own girls love them, but they work for us as adults too. Yes, some require some advanced prep work, you can fit this in on the weekends or any time you have a free moment. I know you're busy, I really do, and I also know that if it's important to you, you always find a way to get it done.

There are also times where a quick egg and toast breakfast are what works. We do this often in the mornings and take it on the go. Cooking up an egg takes no longer than it does to pour a bowl of cereal, honestly. And, if your kiddos just really do enjoy that bowl of cereal or whatever it is you have, then I'm going to ask you to at least pair it with some sort of protein like an egg. Help fill their little stomachs up for the morning so they can focus longer and be productive in their day. I think you'll notice an improvement in so many areas.

Let's take a look at a few suggestions:


Healthier Breakfast Options:

Coconut Flour Pancakes

Low-sugar Baked Oatmeal



Quick 2-minute Ham & Egg Bowl  Now, everyone has time to make one of these. You can even prep them ahead of time. You could add in chopped up peppers and onions for extra nutrients and flavor. These are great for adults too, not just the kids.



Breakfast Quinoa

Freezer Smoothie Packs  These are so versatile! We always use either almond or coconut milk, coconut gives extra healthy fats that are great for the brain and helping to keep our kids full for longer periods of time. You can also add in avocado for extra creaminess without adjusting the taste of the smoothie, the kids won't even notice it's in there! Tossing in a little bit of protein powder or nut butter is great as well.

Buckwheat Pancakes



Veggie and Sausage Frittata  You can easily make this for dinner one night or ahead of time on the weekend, and just slice and reheat throughout the week.

Yogurt Parfait  My only tip here, is to make sure to avoid sugar laden yogurts. Otherwise our efforts are tossed out the window. There are some better yogurts on the market now sweetened with stevia and such.

Wonton Breakfast Cups


Friday, July 12, 2019

Egg Crust Pizza


It seems like everyone I know these days is trying to follow a more low carb lifestyle, which makes my heart happy! Our bodies don't need all of these processed food products and grains. We can get enough carbs in our day just through wholesome foods like vegetables, for instance. I'm not saying you shouldn't ever turn down your favorite foods and treats, it's just that we don't need them in our lives as often as we probably are consuming them.

Life would be pretty boring without some of our favorites like pizza. Pizza is good! We probably have it for dinner almost once a week. I came up with this healthier version so I can still satisfy my pizza cravings, but not feel so bloated from the dough afterwards. The girls have yet to try it, but I did make one for the hubby last night and it passed his test. He can be pretty picky at times too, so this is a win in my book.

I'm definitely not the first person to ever make a pizza crust using eggs, I've seen them before. But, I'm using the whole egg and not just egg whites. I pay a pretty penny for my local eggs and I don't want to waste any bit of them. Plus, the egg yolk is so good for you! You've heard me say this before, just eat the whole egg!


So far we've only tested out pretty basic toppings on our pizzas, but I'm sure anything will work. Get creative with these and send me pictures, I want to see! While it's very easy to make and will fill you up, my biggest tip is to make sure your pan is greased very well. I used butter with Josh's pizza and definitely did not get it as well as I should have, it ended up sticking a bit and came close to falling apart when I tried to serve it on his plate. Coconut oil has worked best for me so far.

If you want video directions for this pizza, check out my story highlights on Instagram, you'll see the "egg crust pizza" there.  I can't wait for you to try this recipe. Enjoy pizza as much as you want with this healthier version!


Egg Crust Pizza

Ingredients:
2 whole eggs
Coconut oil, butter or avocado oil; for greasing pan
Pizza sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Choice of toppings

Directions:
Grease a 10-inch saute pan well with choice of healthy fat (coconut oil, butter or avocado oil). Make sure to grease up sides of pan.

Let pan warm up on stove over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat together two eggs.  Pour eggs into pan and let cook for a few minutes. As eggs are cooking, make sure to run spatula along the edges and lift egg to prevent sticking.

Once egg is cooked almost completely through, add a little bit of pizza sauce on top of egg. Spread with a spoon, the amount you use is up to you. Sprinkle toppings over the sauce and finish with mozzarella cheese. Place a large plate over the pan and turn down to a very low temp, let the cheese melt and toppings heat for 2-3 minutes.

Remove plate, if cheese is melted, turn off the stove and remove from the pan. Your pizza should slide out nicely with the help of your spatula. Serve on a large plate, cut into slices and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

DIY Coconut Milk



I've never been much of a milk drinker, not even growing up. Chocolate milk was something I remember drinking on occasion, but I really just never liked the taste of cow's milk. I even preferred my cereal dry because I hate soggy textures. I seriously would try to eat my bowl of cereal so fast, just to prevent any of it getting soggy!

I have never forced my girls to drink cow's milk, although the majority of them enjoy it. But, they also have come to love other types of milk, such as almond. Up until a few months ago, almond milk was a huge staple in our house. I make a smoothie every single day and have always liked to something other than just water as my base. Unsweetened almond milk was generally my choice. Unsweetened because of the high sugar content in the sweetened variety. Remember, read those labels! And honestly, when you're mixing it into fruit and other ingredients, you can't even tell the difference.

If you follow along on my social media platforms, then you know I had a hard time with kidney stones earlier this year. I ended up needing surgery and it wasn't fun at all. Since this was my second time getting stones, I have followed up with my urologist and did some testing. My lab results came back showing that my calcium levels were high. Without having seen my doctor and knowing exactly what that meant for me, I decided to start eliminating some things in my diet where I might be getting too much calcium.


Almond milk was the biggest change. I don't know if you have ever paid attention, but the majority of our foods nowadays are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals. Almond milk has 45% of our daily requirements for calcium. And, that's just in an 8 ounce glass. There are times where I was using a good ten ounces for my smoothies. I began to really pay attention to the labels and searched out a new alternative.

I started using this brand of coconut milk, again the unsweetened kind, of course. The ingredients matched what I was looking for and the calcium level was by far the lowest I had seen in any other variety of milk in my area. In fact, I can only find it at my local Target store. It's also $4.00 for one half gallon container, more than double the amount I typically paid for the almond milk. But, it was exactly what I wanted, so you just learn to pay the money and I stuck to only using 8 ounces and adding a little bit of water.

I've since discovered a way to make my own though and saving myself some money. Literally this is so simple and I'm a little disappointed that I didn't think of it sooner! Making your own almond milk on the other hand, yes, that requires more time and energy.


Did you know how healthy coconut is for you, by the way? It's a form of a healthy fat, something that we need in our bodies and for our brains. Even if you don't typically like the taste of coconut, I would challenge you to give it a try; especially when blended into a smoothie or protein shake, you won't necessarily taste the coconut flavor.

If you're into DIY projects and making things at home, rather than purchasing at the store; this is for you. If you're already a fan of coconut milk, you must try this. And if you're an avid almond milk consumer, try this variety. I think you'll be pleasantly satisfied. Cheers!


DIY Coconut Milk

Ingredients:
13.5 oz. can coconut milk (found in health area or by other canned milks)
Water

Directions:
Open can of coconut milk and dump into blender. Fill can with water about 3 times and add to the coconut milk. My blender was completely full, I was able to get almost three full cans in there. Cover with lid and blend together well.

Divide milk into large mason jars or any large beverage container of your choice. I like the mason jars just so I can shake before using in my smoothies.  Store in fridge, use within 7-10 days.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Bacon Wrapped Pesto Chicken


Chicken can be a hard sell in my house, especially with the kids. Do you have this problem as well? I can't really blame them, if you're not careful, chicken breasts are can be really bland and tasteless.

I've spiced up these chicken tenders with a little bacon and pesto, because who doesn't love bacon?! If you're not sure about the pesto, go ahead and bake some without the sauce. Experiment with others if you'd like as well, buffalo is great, ranch might even be tasty!

Add this main dish to your summer lineup, it will go perfect with all of the fresh veggies coming out of the garden. Break out the grill if it's too hot to cook inside, and this would be fantastic topped over a big salad the next day for lunch! So many simple ways to enjoy this dish, the kids will be begging for more.


Bacon Wrapped Pesto Chicken

Ingredients:
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders or breasts cut into smaller strips
1 pound bacon
Pesto

Directions:
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Spread pesto over top of each strip, then wrap one slice of bacon around each piece of chicken.

Place chicken onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken with desired sides.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Food Labels 101


Food labels, do you pay attention to those when you're shopping? If you don't, then I'm going to encourage you to begin now. When we become more aware of what's in the food that we're eating, then we can start to make better choices. Not only for ourselves, but for our family members.

I'm not talking about worrying about the calories or fat content. I'm specifically talking about the ingredients. It's no surprise that we should aim to be eating a whole foods based lifestyle, one with foods that are pure to the earth. One without a ton of processed food products and fast food.


A lot of times I find that especially as women, we can get caught up in reading how many calories we are taking in; but yet, not giving any thought to the artificial sweeteners and other crazy things that are put into our food.

I also get that not everyone cares like I do. I get it! But you should! This is your only body you get, it's up to us to take care of it. I don't expect you to be perfect, or to become obsessive. That's not exactly healthy either. I just want to help educate you and for you to be more aware.

So, where do you start?

The absolute first thing I want you to focus on is eating more REAL food. Food that doesn't come in a box or from the freezer with fifteen ingredients. If you're not used to eating like that, it will take some time. It won't be exactly easy, but I promise, it's worth it and you will begin to feel so much better! If you need help in getting started or not sure where to begin; email me and let's chat. I want to help you, so you can be around for a long time for your family!


Okay, moving on. Let's cover some ingredients you need to consider avoiding. I encourage you to educate yourself even more, do your own research, and you will need to decide which are important to you and your family. There are some ingredients that we absolutely avoid, and others that I try my hardest to but let's be real; it's not always possible. Especially when you eat out at restaurants or are eating with other friends and family. And let's be completely honest, there are times when the Oreos get tossed into the cart.

Pay attention to the following:
High fructose corn syrup
Vegetable, canola, corn oil
Aspartame, Sucralose and other artificial sweeteners
Anything that you cannot pronounce 

There are tons of additives and chemicals that are put into our foods everyday, and it's hard to know what they all are and what they do. But if you can just be aware, that is the first step in the right direction.

There's actually a rule you might have heard of; only purchase processed foods that contain 5 or less ingredients, minus salt and pepper or other herbs. Especially ones that you can read and know what they are. That might be something you want to keep in mind when shopping.

Get the kids involved, let them practice their reading skills and help them to understand why we're passing on the fruit snacks and instead choosing fresh, in season watermelon instead. Make it fun! If it's not around, they can't have it and are less likely to ask for it. Yes, it takes time and it's an adjustment. But, I promise, it's more painful on us than it is on them. Give it two weeks and I think they will come around and it won't even be a big deal anymore.


I certainly don't want to overwhelm you and I hope that's not how you're feeling today after reading. There is so much to learn and understand when it comes to ingredients and what's going into our food; it would be impossible to cover everything in one sitting. Keep doing your own research and learning for yourself. Follow along on my stories on both Facebook and Instagram so you can see more about what to be looking for when reading ingredient labels.

If I could leave you with a little homework, it would be this:
* Eat real food, the majority of the time
* Read your food labels in your pantry and when you're shopping; just look at the ingredients and see what's in there. It just might be enough to make you think twice about your purchases and to look for better alternatives.



Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Coconut Flour Pancakes


Pancakes are always a favorite for not only breakfast, but dinner time as well. Whether it's due to an allergy, not liking the bloated feeling afterwards or just wanting to experiment with different ingredients; these pancakes are perfect for the whole family!

Regardless of your own particular food beliefs, flour isn't what it used to be. Our society eats a mostly high carbohydrate and processed food diet, and it's just not good. But, that's honestly for a whole 'nother discussion.

I have tried many recipes for grain free and healthier pancakes, and I have finally found the perfect recipe I want to include in my own family's rotation going forward. You know those banana/egg/oat pancakes that everyone was going crazy for not long ago? Yeah, those have nothing on these.

These are a closer consistency and texture to your standard all purpose flour pancake, and they do not taste strongly of coconut. I won't lie, there's a hint of taste, but it's not overpowering. Especially, if you were to slather these in butter and enjoy with some syrup (real maple, please!), homemade jam or almond butter as I did.

Try them, see what you think. They are not complicated at all and use wholesome ingredients. Ingredients which will help keep you feeling satiated much longer than your typical American pancake recipe.


Coconut Flour Pancakes

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon Swerve sugar substitute (or honey)
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
Butter

Directions:
In a small bowl, mix together eggs, cream, vanilla and Swerve. In a separate bowl, combine coconut flour, baking soda and salt. Add wet ingredients into the dry, and stir together.

Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter onto a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Pour batter into the skillet to form pancakes. Be careful not to make too big, they can be difficult to flip the bigger they are. Cook on each side for 2 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 6-7 pancakes. Top pancakes with desired syrup or toppings.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Take Back the Kitchen Series


Gosh, it's been awhile! Almost a full year. I've missed writing. A lot! Even though I'm very much active on social media, it feels good to be sitting here typing away. I've missed writing blog posts and it's something I really am ready to jump back into. I hope you're ready!

I told you all about how I was feeling a little frustrated with some of my family's eating habits and what was being brought into the house. Yes, I do the majority of the grocery shopping. I take the blame. I also am pointing fingers at the hubby. The girls sure do know how to work him over!

Regardless, we're putting some brakes on. I declared, mama's taking back the kitchen!

What does that exactly mean for you and your family this July?

Well, whatever you want it to be. I'm hoping you'll join forces with me and take back YOUR own kitchens! It can look different for everyone, and I encourage small steps.

Maybe you will cut back or eliminate pop or soda in your house, and encourage more water instead.
Begin reading labels more and paying attention to ingredients.
Cooking at home more often.
Taking family walks in the evenings.
Having each child or family member choose a new vegetable or fruit to try each week.

And, maybe you're not going to be quite ready to embrace this as a whole family. As parents, it's important that we are taking care of ourselves first and foremost. So that we can be around and be at our best for our children. It's okay if you focus on making some of these changes in yourself first, and then in your family when the timing is right.  It's just important that you start.

What can you expect from me in July?

Well, my hope is to bring you recipes, valuable information and tools that you can use in your own busy lives to become even just a little bit healthier. We are all at different points in our lives and that's okay.

I plan to share new recipes in all food categories: breakfast, lunches, dinner, snacks and even side dishes. I'll be sharing some new healthier spins on some of my favorites as well.

I will also be covering the importance of learning to read food labels and what that can do for your family's health.

Dealing with picky eaters, getting your family to drink more water, dinners on the go, what happens when we allow ourselves to survive on so much sugar. I've got it all covered!

Monday, Wednesday and Friday will be new post days for this July series. I hope you are as excited as I am! If there's anything else you'd like me to cover and incorporate, leave me a comment below.

Are you ready? Let's join hands and take back our kitchens, together! You never have to do this alone!
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