Tag Archives: recipe

Married Life and Meal Planning

Hi there!!

Can’t believe it’s already almost August! This summer has FLOWN by for me, with most of May and June focused on getting married and all the planning that came with it. We’re back from our honeymoon now, and settling in to married life. I love it!

As unbelievable as it may sound, I actually enjoy cleaning and organizing, so having our own little place has been a lot of fun. I’m sure there will be days that I don’t feel like cleaning the toilets or vacuuming the carpets, but for now I am thoroughly enjoying these little chores. I haven’t had my own place since 2010 when I lived down in Dallas, so it’s fun to jump back into that – and this time, with my hubby.

Some of our kitchen creations so far: Roasted Broccoli, Pesto Pasta, & BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza

Some of our kitchen creations so far: Roasted Broccoli, Pesto Pasta, & BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza

This first month and a half of marriage has been full of discoveries regarding grocery shopping, meal planning, and budgeting. My inner nerd has come out in full force, as I pore over budgeting blogs and scour the weekly ads for the best deals at each grocery store.  One week Dierbergs thought they could get me to pay $2.99 for strawberries. Little did they know, this girl reads her Aldis ad every week and got strawberries for $1.89 on sale. Aldis, 1. Dierbergs, 0.

I quickly realized about a week into married life that meal planning is a life-saver. I’ve always coached my clients to meal plan as much as possible, because it helps you avoid impulse trips to Five Guys or eating chicken pot pie every night of the week. And now I’m seeing just how much meal planning helps with budgeting, too! When I don’t have a meal plan for the week, I find myself wandering around up and down the aisles, with no idea what I’m doing. Every few steps, I take something off the shelf, look it over, try to think of a meal I could use it for, and then inevitably decide I have no use for it at all. Or, I panic because I don’t have any kind of plan and just start grabbing random things that sound good to me at the time and stuffing them in my cart. By the time I get home and start putting groceries away, I realize that nothing I bought will go together for a complete recipe. It’s not easy to make dinner with a can of kidney beans, California raisins, and macaroni noodles. Believe me.

So, the discipline of meal planning has become my friend in the kitchen. It takes a few minutes at the beginning of the week, but it’s so worth it in the end.

The way I see it, these are the top 5 benefits of meal planning:

  1. Save money by only buying the things you need for the week

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  2. Avoid ending up with random foods in your fridge that don’t go together. (see example above with raisins and kidney beans)
  3. Enjoy a variety of foods throughout the week and avoid getting bored with your meals.
  4. Eat healthier! By actually cooking a meal instead of scrounging around in the pantry for junk food, you can ensure that you get at least SOME veggies in your stomach every night!
  5. You won’t have to eat PB&J every night til the cows come home. (Although my husband insists that he doesn’t mind if we eat PB&J all the time, I’m pretty sure he’s just being kind. There may or may not have been one night last week where I started crying because I was so exhausted and didn’t want to cook anything for dinner…that might have prompted his PB&J comment. Maybe.)

As you can see, meal planning definitely has its benefits. However, there can be some pitfalls to this process, if you don’t know what you’re doing. (i.e. the first 3 weeks of my married life) Even though I’m rather a newbie to this whole process myself, I thought I’d share with you my tips for streamlining the meal-planning process. (that was a mouthful)

Tips for Awesome Meal-Planning:

1) Figure out which day you are going to grocery shop each week. Then, work on your meal plan a day or two beforehand. I like to meal plan on Sundays because I can look at our calendar for the week and figure out which nights I will be cooking vs. which nights we will be eating out, eating on the run, or be at a party with food.

2) Plan ahead for which nights you will have time to cook vs. which nights you will be rushed for time. If I have evening clients around dinner time, I like to do a crock-pot meal or a casserole that I can make ahead of time. This keeps us from eating at 8pm, which is what happened the first week of our marriage… oops.

3) Try to mix up your flavors and foods. This is pretty simple: don’t make chicken every night or green beans with every meal. Try a variety of meats, veggies, and flavors. As a general rule, I like to do a pasta one night, fish one night, and then fill in with chicken and pork meals.

4) Don’t make it too complicated. As much as it would be fun to mysteriously conclude, “There’s a fine art to meal planning,” …there really isn’t. It’s simple. Which is good. Pull out your cookbooks, search “dinner recipes” on Pinterest, or find a few cooking blogs you love. Ask your friends for their favorite go-to meals, and put together a binder full of your best creations. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If it’s awful, at least you can say you tried something new. If it’s amazing, then you’ve got a new favorite recipe to add to your repertoire. Can’t go wrong with that!

In closing, here are a few of my favorite resources for meal-planning inspiration:

My Pinterest Recipe Board
Real Simple Recipes
Cooking Light Recipes
A great selection of dinner recipe boards on Pinterest

Happy Meal Planning!!

pick up pizza

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Calling all Chocolate Lovers!

I’ve got a DELICIOUS dessert recipe to share with you today that also happens to be really good for your health!! How’s that for a win-win?

These brownies are a huge hit at my house and they always disappear within a day or two. We like to keep them chilled in the fridge – there’s something about cool, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate that really hits the spot on a warm, sunny day.

brownies edited2Don’t be turned off by the secret ingredient in this recipe: avocados. I promise, you cannot taste the avocado at all and it makes the brownies so smooth and creamy! Plus, avocados have lots of healthy fats that are essential for good health – specifically Omega-3, which boosts your heart health and helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

I sprinkled my batch with walnuts before putting them in the oven, but if you’re not a fan of nuts in your brownies, feel free to omit that step.

 

 
Chilled Avocado Brownies

3 large, ripe avocados
1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 cup honey
6 oz dark chocolate (I love these bars from Trader Joe’s)
3 TB coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large eggs
2 TB vanilla extract
2 TB coconut flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
sprinkling of mini chocolate chips or nuts
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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut avocados in half, peel and mash in a bowl with a potato masher until very smooth. (a food processor would also work)
3. Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together on the stove over a double boiler. Make sure the chocolate doesn’t get scorched. (Here’s how to make a double boiler using pots you already have at home!)
4. Transfer avocados to a large bowl and add all other ingredients.
5. Use either a hand mixer or whisk to combine until smooth.
6. Grease a 13″ x 9″ pan with coconut oil (or use parchment paper) and spread batter into the pan.
7. Sprinkle the top with mini chocolate chips or nuts.
8. Bake for 25-28 minutes, depending on your oven and how gooey you want the brownies to be!

Enjoy with a dollop of whipped cream and a glass of milk.  And don’t feel bad if you eat half the pan in one sitting like I did.   😉

Yet Another Reason to Love Sweet Potatoes

I’ve always harbored a deep affection for sweet potatoes, but today I discovered yet another reason to love them.

And it can be summed up completely in three little words: Sweet Potato Chips.

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You may be thinking that sweet potato chips have been around for ages – which is true – but I’d never tried a homemade version, until today. I recently stumbled across this blog while looking for a recipe, and discovered a very simple how-to post on homemade Sweet Potato Chips. “Very simple” meaning: three ingredients – one of which is the sweet potato!

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods because not only are they extremely good for you, but there are lots of ways to prepare and enjoy them! One of my favorites is to microwave the sweet potato for 6 minutes, slice into rounds, slather with coconut oil + cinnamon, and a sprinkle of sea salt. I also love to cube sweet potatoes, steam them on the stove, and toss them into a salad. And then there was the time I made sweet potato browniesmelt-in-your-mouth good.

I’ve made sweet potato fries before, but these chips were even better (in my opinion) because they got a little crunchy around the edges and really tasted like a salty, fried, potato chip. The only difference is that you fry these chips in a good-for-you fat and sprinkle with mineral-rich sea salt, so they should be enjoyed entirely guilt-free! 🙂

Without further ado, here is the recipe for this healthy and delicious snack:

SWEET POTATO CHIPS

sweet potato 3There are just a few steps to this recipe and the whole process took me less than 15 minutes. Simply slice your sweet potato (into VERY thin slices so they will cook more evenly) and heat up some coconut oil on the stove while you’re slicing. Then fry the sweet potato slices for 3-5 minutes, flipping regularly to keep them from getting overly dark like mine did. 😉 

Once they’re done cooking, lay them on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil, sprinkle with some sea salt, and enjoy!

sweet potato 4

 

Check out these links for more info:

Why Coconut Oil is a Good-for-You Fat!

Health Benefits of Sea Salt vs. Table Salt

Baking Adventures…and Other Highlights of the Past 2 Months

As I type this, I’m sitting at a window table at a Starbucks in Springfield, MO, sipping a passion fruit iced tea and wondering how in the world it’s been so long since I blogged!

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Initially, I decided to take a couple weeks off this little blog to focus on school because things were getting kinda crazy as graduation approached and I didn’t want to fall behind. Those “couple weeks off” quickly turned into almost 2 months away, but I’m finally back today with plans to be more consistent with my writing.

This blog is primarily just a personal creative outlet for me and a way to express (in writing, at least) the thoughts flying around in my brain. 🙂 I don’t claim to be any kind of exceptional writer or attempt to impress anyone with my fitness or healthy living. I just love to write and journal and share the random musings that come to mind. And it’s fun to have a place to do that!

The past couple months have been a blur…as of March 1st, I am officially a graduate of IIN (the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) and I’m now a Certified Holistic Health Coach! I’m so excited to be officially graduated, but it also means I really need to kick it into gear with my marketing and business development! I started coaching my first client a couple months ago, while still finishing up school, and that has been going well!

I have lots of ideas about how I want to develop my coaching business and the demographics I hope to work with…now it’s all about translating those ideas into ACTION and making it happen! 🙂 I’m excited! …and a little nervous. 😛

In my free time, I’ve been running a lot (for me), spending lots of time with my family, and eating a lot of dark chocolate. Especially the chocolate part. 😉

I’ve also made some really fun desserts that have garnered good reviews from my guinea pigs family.

Most notable were the Superbowl-themed desserts I made for a party at my sister’s house. I’ve never done much intense decorating of baked goods so the fact that these turned out was a huge win in my book!

Yard-line chocolate cupcakes:
This is a great step-by-step recipe, which is exactly what I need when special icing decorating is involved. 😉 Those little “footballs” on top are chocolate covered almonds!!

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Football brownies:
(I used this recipe, but made my own from-scratch brownies instead of using the mix)

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Also of note were the cinnamon crescent rolls I whipped up one night which were highly reviewed by my 19 year old brother. After eating 3 of them, he mumbled with his mouth full, “dude, these are legit!” …These wonderful cinnamon pastries are not really what most people would consider “healthy” but hey, everything in moderation! We had a tube of crescent rolls in our fridge that were going to waste so this was the perfect way to put them to good use.

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This post has already gotten annoyingly long, I know, but I’ve saved the best recipe (in my mind) for last… homemade chocolate peanut butter cups!! This is truly the most simple and easy recipe imaginable and only requires two ingredients, but the idea is ingenious! I found the recipe on this blog and went to work. I made simple chocolate peanut butter cups (I did add a little sea salt on the top of mine) but she offers all sorts of delicious toppings suggestions if you want to get a little creative.

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I brought these to a family dinner one evening and they were definitely a hit! (as if it’s possible for ANY combination of chocolate and peanut butter to not taste amazing…)

I promise I haven’t ONLY been baking and eating delicious desserts for the past 2 months. But yes, that’s been a huge part of my life of late. 😛

I’m in Springfield for a quick day trip with my brother and a friend of his who came in town to visit a university here. While they sat through a few seminars and informational sessions on campus, I donned my running shorts and did a little exploring of downtown Springfield on foot. It’s a warm, gorgeous day today and I had a great 4 mile tempo run in the sunshine. I’m hoping spring has finally come to stay for awhile!

Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

Brownies are the Way to Anyone’s Heart…

It’s no secret in my family that I love to bake. And I love having excuses to bake.

This semester, I’m doing the “young adults” group at my church, which is on Thursday evenings. So, when our table leader asked for a volunteer to bring snacks for the next week, my hand shot up with record speed. Like I said, I love having excuses to bake. 😛

After taking a poll from the table, it became obvious that the majority wanted something chocolate. Surprise, surprise? So, I decided on some good ol’ homemade brownies. I didn’t want to just make box-mix brownies, though, so I set out on a search for a delicious from-scratch brownie recipe. Two hours of google-ing later, I finally found a winner, and the baking commenced:

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These brownies turned out perfectly! I didn’t actually try one of them because I really try to avoid gluten for my health and wellbeing, but EVERYONE that had one could not stop raving about them.

The key to brownies is making sure you cook them just enough that they’re not raw, but not long enough that they become crisp and overdone. Everyone seems to agree that moist brownies are the best – and these definitely fit the bill!

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One of the girls at our table follows the Paleo way of eating, so I decided to find a “Paleo brownie” recipe to make for her. That wasn’t hard to do, and I ended up making these Sweet Potato Brownies from a great Paleo blog I found. <—if you eat Paleo, this is a great resource for recipes!

Don’t be turned away by seeing the words “sweet potato” and “brownie” in the same recipe. I promise, you can’t taste the sweet potatoes at all. The sweet potato is used in place of flour and sugar and gives the brownie the perfect consistency and sweetness.

I DID try (several) of these brownies and they were amazing. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of them, so you’ll just have to imagine how delicious they were…

The brownies were perfect kickoff to a fun weekend, which I spent largely watching hockey and football with my brother and acting like I know which teams are good and all of that. 😉

I do follow football (somewhat) but I’m completely lost when it comes to hockey. I know the basic rules and strategy of the game, but that’s about it. I’ve discovered that i can appear pretty knowledgable, though, by inserting the occasional comment here and there…such as: “How did he not make that shot?!” and “What an awesome block!” etc, etc. 😛

Somewhere in between hockey games on Saturday, I got the crazy idea to arm wrestle my brother, which didn’t end too well for me. Well, it never does. About every 6 months, I challenge him to an arm wrestling match, as if I actually think I’ll be able to beat him this time. Hah. Who am I kidding? He’s a buff, 18 year old guy who’s always down in the basement, grunting and groaning as he benches, squats, and deadlifts insane amounts of weight. I’m kind of jealous, not going to lie. 😉

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After being sufficiently humiliated in the arm wrestling match, I headed to the gym and had a great 5 mile run on the treadmill. I felt bad for not running outside and enjoying the beautiful weather on Saturday, but by the time I was heading out, it was almost dark. I’m ready for longer days, please! No more of this getting dark at 5pm business.

Sunday, after church, I headed back to Lone Elk Park for another adventurous trail run! It was a chilly 20-something degrees, but the sun kept it from being miserable. This time I took the trail in another direction at one of the forks, and instead of taking me into Castlewood Park, I ran along the Meremac River and toward West Tyson Park. I’d never heard of this West Tyson Park before, but apparently if I’d kept running long enough, it would have taken me all the way there! I wasn’t looking for a crazy long run, though, so I kept my roundtrip to about 6 miles and got a great workout from jumping over all the roots and rocks along the way.

I was excited to visit this trail again without the slush, snow and ice I encountered last time, but for some reason the trail was STILL really muddy! I squelched my way through and ended up with some pretty muddy shoes by the end.

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After my run, I drove around the park to see some of the elk, and got pretty close to a couple of them:

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So far, the week is off to a great start…
This morning I woke up and just felt like it was one of those days that I needed to put a little extra effort into breakfast. I took my time deciding what I wanted, and ended up using some cubed chicken out of the freezer for my base. I stir-fried the chicken with some veggies and ate it alongside a few eggs. Everything was topped with avocado, which I’ve been eating like crazy these days. Avocados are a great source of healthy Omega-3 fat, as well as potassium and protein.

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(sorry for the blurry picture…I was in a rush to taste this before it got cold!)

I’m off to enjoy the rest of this day! I hope you’re enjoying it too!

Fueling After a Workout

Over the weekend, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile was asking me for some health eating advice. We got talking about what to eat after a workout, and he asked me what I typically go for to refuel after a workout.

Refueling: What to Eat

My refueling food of choice definitely depends on what kind of workout I’ve just completed. Simply speaking: if it’s a weights day for me at the gym, I focus on protein in my refueling meal. If it’s a running day or some other form of cardio, I’m more intent on getting some good carbs in my system post-workout.

Lately, my favorite refueling protein snack is an amazing combination of Greek yogurt and fruit. I start with about a cup  Greek yogurt in a bowl and mix in some cocoa powder and a dash of Stevia…which makes it taste like chocolate mousse…yum! Then I dice an apple (Fuji is my favorite at the moment) into small pieces, toss it on top of the yogurt chocolate mousse, and sprinkle on some cinnamon. To add a little healthy fat and some delicious crunch, I top the bowl with a few peanuts or cashews and munch away!

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein – one serving can contain anywhere from 13 – 22 grams, depending on the brand. Greek yogurt has less sugar, less carbs and more protein than regular yogurt, and it’s now sold in most every grocery store. I’ve tried several different brands (here’s an article comparing the various options out there) but my favorite is definitely the Trader Joe’s brand, because of the consistency and creaminess!

For my post-run carb fueling, I usually opt for a bowl of oatmeal, with some frozen blueberries, cinnamon and peanut butter mixed in. There are lots of other good options for post-run refueling options – generally anything with (approximately) a 3-1 ratio of carbs to protein is  best! In the past, I’ve tried everything from toast with peanut butter to sweet potato fries dipped in Greek yogurt (sounds weird but tastes delicious!)  Don’t worry about getting the ratios exactly perfect…just focus on getting some healthy carbs into your system!

Refueling: When to Eat

Generally speaking, it’s best to refuel as soon as possible after a workout.  A lot of fitness experts even suggest that you start sipping on a protein shake toward the last 15 minutes of your strength training workout to get a jump-start on the refueling process and get the protein to your muscles as soon as possible. As for post-run/cardio refueling, it’s best to get the carbs (and a little protein too) into your system within 30 minutes because your muscles are best primed to assimilate and utilize the nutrients directly after a workout. Your goal is to replace the glycogen stores in your muscles that were depleted during the run, and the first hour after the workout is the best time for that! Here’s some more information about this optimal refueling window of time: Refueling at Its Best!

Refueling: What NOT to Do

Refueling can be a downfall for some people because they can easily go overboard with their post-workout feast snack. If you’re truly wanting to see results in your fitness and weight, you can’t go blowing all the progress you made during a workout with a refuel meal that sends you into a food coma! I’ve talked to a lot of people who are frustrated because they’re not seeing results from their workouts. Often, I find out that they’re going home after burning 300 calories on the elliptical and devouring a whole box of Girl Scout cookies or a huge plate of mac and cheese! Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional Girl Scout cookie or other indulgent treat, but again, if you want to see RESULTS in your fitness and weight, you need to be smart about refueling! You may feel ravenous after a long run or strength training session at the gym, but start by just consuming an average refuel meal, sipping some water or tea, and waiting for your food to start digesting. It’s easy to scarf down a lot of unnecessary calories as soon as you get home because you feel like you could eat the whole fridge. Pace yourself, eat slowly, and chew well. Listen to your hunger cues and stop when you feel satisfied – not stuffed. And in general, choose healthier options for refueling like whole-grain toast, milk, oatmeal, yogurt, and eggs, rather than hitting IHOP for a huge plate of flapjacks. 😉

Another mistake that is on the other side of the spectrum, but just as easy to do, is the mentality that because you just worked out (i.e., did something healthy) you’re going to continue your healthy habits by not eating AT ALL after your workout. FAIL. This isn’t going to help you in any way! You’ve just finished exhausting your muscles and pushing them to their limits…the best thing you can do now is give those muscles some protein and carbs to help them rebuild and grow! Don’t think you’re being “healthy” by denying yourself food for hours after a workout – get some good calories in your system ASAP so your body can start the rebuilding and refueling process.

Wedding Pics!

There’s always more to say and write about this topic, but I’ll end here and leave you with some pictures from my sister’s wedding last weekend! It was a blast…everything went so smoothly and we had a great time party-ing it up! 😀 So happy for my sis and her new husband!

My family!

My sister and I right before she walked the aisle!

 

Sneaky Spinach

For several years now, I’ve read post after post from bloggers who swear by the awesome “green smoothies” that they drink all the time. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical. Partly because these “green smoothies” include SPINACH, which sounded rather disgusting to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love spinach; I eat spinach salads quite often. But, putting  spinach in a SMOOTHIE? That didn’t sound very tasty to me. Every blogger that wrote about these wonderful green smoothies would always promise, “You can’t even taste the spinach!” and I always thought, “Oh reeeeeally?”   😉

Despite the odd color, this really was delicious!

Well, I finally decided to put my fears aside and give these spinach smoothies a try! I’d read somewhere on a blog (I think it was Julie’s) that the key to “not tasting the spinach” was to include a banana in the concoction.  With some trepidation, and a whole lot of skepticism, I threw some raw spinach into my blender, added some water, and sliced half a banana on top. After I’d given the blender plenty of time to completely liquefy the mixture, I added some frozen blueberries (just for fun) and some of my favorite vanilla protein powder.

After another minute or two of blending, I poured the green somewhat purple smoothie into a tumbler and dove in for a taste test! And      it was surprisingly delicious! I truly  couldn’t taste the spinach at all, and the smoothie basically tasted like banana-blueberry, with a hint of vanilla. Yum!  The best part of the whole creation was that I ingested about 2 cups of raw spinach, without even tasting it. Not that I mind the taste of spinach, but if I can eat it through a delicious banana-blueberry smoothie, why not? 🙂

So, there you have it! I’ve officially jumped on-board the green smoothie bandwagon.  😛  If you’re looking for a simple and delicious way to sneak some extra greens into your diet, give this a try! I promise, you really can’t taste the spinach.  😉

BASIC GREEN SMOOTHIE RECIPE:

      – 2 handfuls/cups of raw spinach

      – 1/2 banana

      – 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (or other frozen fruit)

     – enough water to liquefy 

     – 1 scoop protein powder of your choice

      Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into an awesome tumbler of your depressing hometown football team, and enjoy with a straw!  😉

 

 

In other news…

– I got my VOTE on today! And I have a sticker to show for it.  😀  I went around 2pm and only had to wait 5 minutes in line! Win, win!

   – I’m going to knock out a couple more hours of studying and then I’m off to the Neon Night Run with Big River Running Company! A is going to meet me there and then spend the night afterward. Some hot tea and election-results viewing is definitely on tap for tonight!