Go home Mother Nature… You’re Drunk

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Brrrr…. This extreme winter weather is about killing me!  Woke up this morning to -9 degrees with a feels-like temperature of -28.  That’s in Fahrenheit to all my international, folks.  IMG_7220  Not even kidding.  Right now, it is actually warmer in Antarctica than it is Chicago.  It’s a nice 29 degrees Fahrenheit there.  See ya later folks, I’m moving to Antarctica.  Go home, Mother Nature… You’re Drunk.

The temperatures are more than just cold, they are draining.  I used to be able to get outside for a run in the mornings, but when it is this cold (anything lower than 15 degrees I don’t run outside) I don’t even bother – too dangerous for me.  No outside run, means no fresh air, no Vitamin D, no energy.  I’ve been supplementing with my ½ bottles of 5 hour energy pre-workouts, a nice little shot of espresso after my workouts, and a mug of coffee on the way into work.  This is probably waaaaayyyy too much caffeine, but I’m dragging.

Because I’m dragging, and it’s the first full week back to work, I wanted to have some easy meals to be able to fix for us.  The GIANT batch of soup I made this weekend helped with warming me up throughout the week, and Mini Me loves eating soup, but sometimes you just want a little something different.  Different, yet easy.  Enter cobb salad.  To me, it feels a little more like summer when I eat salads.  Don’t ask me why, but cheers me up a bit.  I’m funny like that, I know.

Easy Cobb Salad for Two

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Ingredients:

  • 9 ounces romaine mix (one bag, I used Dole)
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, chopped (I cheated, bought precooked and peeled eggs from Eggland’s Best)
  • 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
  • ½ avocado, about three ounces
  • 4 ounces ham, chopped (cheated again, bought the pre chopped stuff)
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons ranch dressing (I like Walden Farms)

Feel free to add other ingredients for your tastes or macros!

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Directions:

Prepare all ingredients.

This took me about two minutes.  I split the bag of lettuce between two bowls.  I used a fancy egg masher (like the one in this little set – Multi Function Kitchen Tool) and easily mashed my eggs.  Measured and crumbled my block of blue cheese (less expensive than the already crumbled cheese).  Sliced my avocado and weighed it to be sure I was getting the right amounts.  I was a little over, so I let Mini snack on some pieces – she loves it and I really can’t blame her.  Weighed and split the ham between the two bowls (chicken would be a good addition for extra protein, too).  Used my kitchen sheers to cut my green onion directly into the salad bowls.   Measured and poured my dressing into the bowls.

Viola!  Yummy salad done and in a hurry.

Sure – I could have done something fancy or taken the time to prep all of the ingredients myself, but if it’s healthy, yummy, and makes us all happy and think of summer (ok maybe that is just me), why not?

Enjoy!

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What’s After Christmas, Mommy?

IMG_6821     After all the holiday celebrations were completed in our house, the question we kept hearing from Mini Me was “What’s after (fill in blank with a holiday)?”  I would get her a calendar and explain to her when things happen, but (1) she can’t read, (2) she has no concept of time (nap time and night time are the same concept to her – she sleeps and wakes up), and (3) she will just forget anyway.  Oh, to be a young child again.

“What’s after Christmas?” Mini Me questions me one night while I’m making dinner.  I open the fridge, faced with leftovers from various gatherings.  Yes, indeed… What is after Christmas?  A fridge full of leftovers and a puzzle of how to put them all together.  One item is glaring me right in the face, taking up an entire shelf in and of itself – The Veggie Tray.  Every one of my family’s gatherings has one, and every family gathering there is one left over.  Too many other yummy things to feast on, I suppose.  My cousin was gracious enough to let me take it home (thanks, Sarah!), knowing that we eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day.  But, the holidays came and went, and the ominous Veggie Tray was still taking up shelf space instead of space in our bellies.

I decided that I was going to use that Veggie Tray once and for all, cleaning out additional fresh veggies from our produce drawer along the way!  Challenge….. Accepted!

Enter….  Veggie Tray Soup.


Veggie Tray Soup

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces celery, diced (about 6 stalks)
7 ounces carrots, diced (about 1 ½ cups baby carrots)
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon herbes de provence
80 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth
14.5 ounce can of diced chipotle chili tomatoes
1.5 ounce sugar snap beans (about ¾ cups)
3.5 ounce grape tomatoes, quartered (about 1 cup)
15 ounces broccoli, chopped (one 12 oz bag, plus around 2 cups)
7 ounces (half package) polish kielbasa, cut into ¼” coins and quartered
1.5 pounds chicken breast, cut into small cubes

 

Directions:

Prepare all ingredients as listed.  I chop all vegetables, then sausage, and finally chicken so that the raw food is the last thing to go on the cutting board.  Even though it all gets cooked together in this meal, I’m pretty methodical on how it gets prepared.

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Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add celery, carrots, onions, salt, and pepper.  Saute until fragrant and onions are translucent.

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Add all remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine.

Cover and bring to a boil (about 5 minutes).  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

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Makes 8 large servings (around 3 cups each).

Cals – 320, Fat – 13g, Carbs – 15g, Protein – 34g

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I think she is satisfied with what came after Christmas.

31,536,000 Seconds

Today marks my one year streak of logging into the fitness and nutrition website, MyFitnessPal.  52 weeks… 365 days… 8,760 hours… 525,600 minutes…  31,536,000 seconds… Committing to my health and fitness.

The Good

 

I started off strong last year, and was given P90X by a friend to help give me a kick start. I ate right (or so I thought), got stronger, and expected to see HUGE results.  I did not.  I believe I only lost 5lbs during that time.  Sure, I lost a couple of inches.  Sure, I was stronger.  But, I was still so new to fitness and nutrition at that point that I didn’t realize that I was actually sabotaging myself with my nutrition.  The important lesson I learned during P90X is that I was strong, I could do it, and I kicked my own ass.

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I learned I LOVE yoga (even though at the beginning you had to bribe me to do it).

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I learned that I could do push-ups.  A lot of push-ups.  Push-ups until I fell on my face.  And I learned that I want to kick Tony Horton’s ass and give him a hug at the same time.

After P90X, I was ready for a new challenge. Since I like the flow of P90X, I ventured into another Beachbody program – P90X3.  I was not a fan of this program, to be honest.  I kept with it thru about 60 days.  Meh.

At the same time, I was challenged to start running again.  I despised running.  I would even venture to say that I hated running.  I was not only challenged to start running, I was challenged to run 5 miles.  I had trouble running 1, and felt like I was going to die running 3.  But, what did I do?  I decided (because I don’t like being told I can’t do something) to run a 10K… That’s 6.2 miles.  Yeah.  As soon as it came out of my mouth, I wish I could have taken it back.  So, like a little machine that I sometimes I think I am, I started running.  I started slow using a 10K training app.  Each day was hard.  Really hard.  I pushed thru.  Soon enough, my normal route became too short and I had to explore new routes – running thru the neighborhoods in the early morning hours and sometimes in circles so that I could keep going until the app told me to stop.  There was one morning, around 4.5 miles into my run, that I realized I suddenly LOVED running.  Sure, it was hard.  Sure, I was sore.  Sure, every morning that I woke up I wanted to keep sleeping, BUT when I got into my zone it was just me.  Finishing my runs I felt accomplished.  I felt badass.  I felt like I was becoming the person I knew I could be.  At the end of August I finished my first 10K with a friend I had met on My Fitness Pal.  We had a blast!

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I also completed a few rounds of the 21 Day Fix in the middle and towards the end of the year.  I recommend this program if you are needing to get moving a bit more – it really does work!

After all the video training programs I did, I decided I wanted to lift heavy.  I wanted to be a badass like so many of the people I have grown to love and call my friends on My Fitness Pal.  I picked up my book that I bought a while back, Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body by Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis (available here).  While I read this book a few years ago, and tried it out, I was nowhere near as experienced with health and fitness as I am now.  I understand what Macros are, and how they work for your body (http://iifym.com), how to have correct form, and why I shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavy weights.  So I started… And I started on the Advanced program.  Yeah me!  I LOVE it.  If you are curious if the program works…Just ask my favorite pair of nice butt jeans.

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The Bad

I’ve been distracted.  Distracted in life, distracted at work, and distracted from my family.  I’ve been caught up in things that don’t really matter in the long run.  I’ve self-sabotaged myself, and am starting 2015 at the same weight that I started 2014 at.  You can make excuses for me all you want, say that you are stronger and smarter, yada yada yada.  I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t want to say that to myself.  I’ve said it enough already.  It really isn’t ok.  The truth is… I know better.  So, as I sat here in tears writing this portion or my post, I sucked it up.  The past is the past.  I’m not going to let myself down this time.  I won’t let myself make excuses.  Sure, I’ve lost over 100lbs at one point.  I’m not at that point.  It doesn’t matter how much I have lost.  It matters where I am going and that I am not going to let myself get in my own way.  There will be no “can’t”, no more comparing myself to others, and no more celebrating the past victories, only my future ones.   This morning I took pictures.  I will be taking pictures every week, and stepping on the scale every Monday.  No excuses.

So, cheers to a new me.  Not a new year.  Every day is a new start.  Don’t wait for a new year to make changes.

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Hash House a Snow Snow

Yesterday was a cold winter’s day in Chicago, and all was quiet…  Except for the plows going by the house every 10 minutes starting at 3:45am, knocking over garbage cans, the garbage men coming through the neighborhood, and the insanity of a three year old little girl who loves chasing two little barking dogs (a 5lb Chihuahua named prince and a 7lb mini dachshund named Isabel).  Ahhh… This is my life.  While it is chaotic, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

After deciding at 5am when my alarm went off (after listening to previously mentioned plows go past the house for a good hour) that I was not going to be able to get a morning run in, I rolled out of bed determined to do something with my day.  I had HUGE plans.  Plans that included cooking, cleaning, and having a dance party with mini me.  Like I said… HUGE plans.

I downed a cup of coffee, made some breakfast (pictured below – sauteed spinach topped with egg whites, Babybel cheese, and sriracha), and started with my day.

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My cooking plans for the day included making a sweet potato hash, inspired by my mom’s farmhouse hash she had made for our Christmas celebrations with our family.  It was the perfect addition to eggs.  Don’t get me wrong – I love my eggs, but I was in search of something to make them more exciting.  I knew that I wanted to add some more veggies (let’s be real – who has a hard time getting all their veggies in every day??) and use sweet potatoes (more nutrient dense than white potatoes).

Here is what I came up with.

Sweet Potato Hash

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Ingredients:

  • 1.00 container (16 slices ea.), Low Sodium Bacon
  • 2.00 lb(s), Sweet potato – Cooked, baked in skin, without salt (Sweetpotato)
  • 0.25 cup(s), Oil – Olive
  • 13.50 oz(s), Onions – Raw
  • 2.00 lb(s), Squash – Zucchini, includes skin, raw
  • 12.00 oz(s), Spinach – Raw
  • 5.00 clove(s), Garlic – Raw
  • 1.00 tbsp(s), Spices – Thyme, dried
  • 0.20 oz(s), Spices – Rosemary, fresh
  • 2.00 tsp, Salt
  • 0.50 teaspoon, Crushed Red Chili Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into small cubes, toss with olive oil and roast at 425 for 25 minutes, flipping once in the middle of baking.

While potatoes are baking, chop onions and zucchini into small cubes; mince garlic, and chop rosemary.  Chop Bacon into small pieces.

Saute bacon in a large skillet until crispy.  Remove from pan leaving the bacon grease for sauteing vegetables.  Add onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).  Add zucchini.  Cook until softened (about 5 minutes).  Add spinach and stir until wilted.  Add bacon and sweet potatoes back in and heat through to combine.

Makes 14 servings (¾ cup per serving, around 6 ounces).

Cals – 169, Fat – 7.7g, Carbs – 19.8g, Protein – 6g

This recipe turned out amazing, and was just what I was looking for!  Would be a great side dish for dinners as well as a nice addition to a morning meal.  I ended up packing up half of mine and freezing it for next week.  I scooping the rest out into pre portioned containers for easy grabs in the morning to bring into the office.

Hope you all enjoy!

Starting Somewhere

The illusive first post…  Bahhh!!!!

Having some time off work for the holidays, I found myself being drawn into the kitchen rather than the gym.  (Ok, ok…  I also spent my fair share of time eating and drinking in the kitchen over break as well, but we will get to that later…)  My brain was in creative overdrive.  I was able to be creative without the constraints of work bogging me down.  I knew I needed to get back on track with eating right, and being the healthy caregiver that I am deep down I knew that had to start in the kitchen.  No more chicken nuggets for Mini Me or takeout for D (the hubs) and I.

Cooking from scratch is something that I love to do, but I usually haven’t just put recipes together on my own.  I’ve usually started with someone else’s and adjusted.  I suppose that is what most chefs do, right?

Well, yesterday I made my interpretation of a Jambalaya (no shellfish because of Mini Me’s allergies).  After serving it, D says, “This is good.  Remember this recipe to make again.”  Crap.  I was so busy winging it, I failed to record what it was… I’ve never actually turned a meal I made into a recipe before.  I was able to piece it together so you can taste it, as well. Hopefully you like it!

Jambalaya

Jambalaya 1.2.14

  • 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 14oz package andouille sausage (I would have prefered this, but had kielbasa to use), cut into 1/4″ coins, sliced in half
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package of frozen three color bell peppers (or fresh peppers)
  • 14.5oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1T olive oil, separated
  • 1.5T cumin
  • 1.5T paprika
  • 1T oregano
  • 1T dried cilantro
  • 1/2t cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Directions:

  1. After prepping all ingredients, heat 1/2T olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken breast to sear on all sides.  Remove from pan until later.
  2. Add remaining 1/2T olive oil to pan, and add in onions and garlic. Saute until fragrant and onions are becoming translucent.
  3. Add the package of frozen peppers (or fresh), and cook until peppers are no longer frozen.
  4. While peppers are cooking, mix cumin, paprika, oregano, cilantro, and cayenne pepper to the crushed tomatoes and stir until combined.
  5. Add chicken back into the skillet, and add sausage.
  6. Pour tomato mixture into skillet. Stir to combine.
  7. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Enjoy!

Serve over rice or quinoa if desired.