A Lesson on Balance & Comfort – Brought to you by my crockpot.

For a while now I’ve been using my crockpot as storage. The most action it’s gotten in the past few months have been the bottom of miscellaneous stacked bowls. This also goes for my gym membership. For awhile, my $39.99 membership mine as well had been cash I dropped on the ground. I wasn’t going. I couldn’t get myself up to go before work, and couldn’t get myself to go after. I had been a morning person before, so I knew, eventually, I’d be back at it. But it took time. I am four months into my first big girl job and I have finally nailed down my schedule and daily routines. As I continue to get used to my new schedule, I’m slowly learning how to balance my time in order to keep a balanced diet and a balanced social life. I wasn’t really sure what clicked. It could have been seeing the dust on my crock pot, realizing that I don’t cook anymore. It could have been that I work for a denim company, and that denim was getting a little tighter as the holidays drew closer. It also could have been my swollen face from taking in way too much sodium, which made me realize I didn’t have to participate in every happy hour special, no matter how good $5 beers and half off nachos tasted. I realized I was missing this little thing called moderation, self discipline and general comfort in my clothing. In the past few years, I’ve gradually graduated from the phase of wanting to be a size 4, to focusing on comfort and overall health and happiness.

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So – I’ve laced up my shoes, given in to my alarm clocks, and made a few moderate changes that have gone a long way. My energy has already improved a long with my attitude. Results take time, but I feel them coming (I know, just in time for me to have four helpings of eggplant parmesan on Christmas). Sundays, for me, are crucial. As are my weekends. I have started to make the best out of my Sundays. I make sure to make a trip to the gym, whether it’s a good or bad workout, it’s a workout, and I always feel great after it. I make sure to not binge on fried food and carbs, and allow myself to eat something I love, in moderation, like the sushi roll and gluten free cookie I had yesterday. I grocery shop, make sure I’m outside even if it’s just a walk to the gym or store, and cook up some food for the week. The only thing I let myself binge on is Netflix. It is Sunday, after all.

I have been using my crock pot a lot recently. Meal prepping for the week has me in the kitchen like a spazz and using the crockpot has really calmed down the process. I throw a few different ingredients into my crockpot – leave it for a few hours – and there I have it. Dinner or lunch for every day of the week.

Chicken Chili Soup

Don’t worry – it tastes better than it looks. Confession – this wasn’t supposed to be a soup. I decided to wing it and threw the below ingredients into my crock pot. Though I was hoping for a chili, it turned out a bit soupy. (Is soupy a word?) It could have easily thickened over night / throughout the course of the day but for now – I’ll call it a soup. Update: It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. 

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1 lb. Chicken Breast
1 cup Chicken Broth (low sodium)
1 can Refried Black Beans
1/2 bag mixed veggies (carrots, peas, corn)

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Makes about 4 servings.

1 serving:
326 calories
6 g Fat
28 g Carbohydrates
38 g Protein
(6 g Fiber , 5 g Sugar)

Chicken & Vegetable Soup (with or without Rice)

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3/4 lb Chicken Breast
2 Cup Chicken Broth (low sodium)
1 bag mixed vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, corn)

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Makes 3-4 servings.

1 Serving:
254 Calories
3 g Fat
10 g Carb
35 g Protein

Optional: Make your soup into 4 servings and add rice. I cooked quinoa and brown rice and mixed it together – switching it up every now and then is important! (Recommended serving size – 1/2 cup cooked rice)

Quick Meals & Sweet Snacks

Before you read; This post isn’t all about chicken. But naturally, I rant about it for a solid half hour.

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Chicken is a pretty touchy subject for those who eat it all the time. When I first started becoming more aware of my eating habits, my focus was mostly on counting calories. Chicken seemed to be something that fit my macros appropriately. I could also eat a larger portion of chicken for a lower amount of calories than, say, ground beef. I always favored chicken… chicken breast, chicken thighs. I’d have chicken for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Chicken for days. And I mean…DAYS. So here I am, making my grocery list, and realizing that I have to buy some chicken. Buzzkill of the century. It’s more the thought of chicken that’s been pissing me off. In reality, when I sit down and eat it, it’s not that bad. I go through stages with my diet. Sometimes my go-to is chicken and sometimes it isn’t. I realized it’s because I never really experimented enough with chicken. Pictured above is chicken I seasoned with Lemon Juice, Mrs. Dash Chicken Seasoning & Mrs. Dash Spicy Seasoning. The lemon juice adds some moisture to it, and the mix of seasonings keep it exciting.

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Pictured above is a dish that looks a lot more fancy that it is. It is, simply, 5 cups of Kale, 2 cups of Mushrooms, under 1 pound of chicken, seasoned with Lemon Juice & Mrs. Dash Chicken Seasoning.

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I cooked this dish on 400 degrees for I don’t know how long. Estimate 25-30 minutes. Depending on the intensity of your oven. Anywho, I cut the chicken up into slices, added more lemon juice, and put it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes to ensure that the chicken was fully cooked. (I realize I need to start writing things down when I cook them so I don’t forget how to cook them. On my way to be the number one cooking blog in America..)

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I served my dish over a mixture of brown & wild rice and quinoa. It was very tasty and the chicken kept it’s moisture! Nobody likes dry chicken.

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This chicken dish was prepared in my cute little crockpot. I stared at my chicken for a solid ten minutes because I couldn’t figure out how to cook it and the last thing I wanted to do was cook these babies whole. Shredded chicken was my best bet. I put a pound and a half of chicken in my crock pot with 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth. I added Lemon Juice (obvi), Basil leaves, and Mrs. Dash Italian Blend seasoning. You haven’t lived until you’ve used Mrs. Dash Italian Blend seasoning… it’s a game changer. I let it cook on low for about 8 hours. I then changed it to warm and let it sit, which is something I’m never gonna do again because it wasn’t nearly as juicy as it should have been. So, next time, I’ll probably cook it on high for about 5 hours max and take it out. In the middle of the day, I slowly started shredding the chicken. Once it was cooked through, I shredded it completely and let it sit. The flavor was perfect but the chicken was slightly overcooked. I think I’m gonna try again today. I would have taken pictures of the finishing project but it was gone in 60 seconds or less. I’ll document when I’m more successful.

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Oh, tilapia. I have the same opinion about tilapia as I do with chicken. I cooked 7 ounces of Tilapia in Mrs. Dash Italian Blend seasoning and lemon juice. I put my tilapia over sliced celery, and a delicious slaw I’ve been buying from Kroger! I added lemon juice, hot sauce and horseradish mustard to the top and mixed it like a salad. It was delicious! I’ve been doing this with my tuna, too. The slaw adds a perfect crunch!

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I cooked about 3 pounds of Ground Turkey meat with Lemon Juice, Basil Leaves and a blend of italian seasonings that my mother gave me while I was home last weekend. The seasoning is delicious and has no sodium! Pictured above is just 6 oz of Ground Turkey with asparagus and carrots. I added hot sauce to my ground turkey. Perfectly portioned meal. Meat & veggies, you can’t go wrong!

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Pictured above is the same ground turkey meat I cooked, over rice and veggies, and a little bit of Mia’s Basil Marinara sauce! This meal gave me my italian fix, without the splurge! This was about 6 oz Ground Turkey, 3/4 cup rice, and two cups veggies! When I eat rice I typically eat 1/2 cup (measured cooked) brown rice.

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Onto some more “sweeter” options. Everybody likes a sweet every now and then. We’re only human. Sweet potatoes aren’t exactly a “sweet”, but they taste like candy when cooked to perfection! I turn my oven on 400 degrees and let my sweet potato sit for about an hour. I take it out when it starts oozing. (Oozing? Ew.) I haven’t made sweet potatoes in awhile, but I’m back on that bandwagon.

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Rice cakes have been my go-to snack lately. It may be one of those obsessions that I will soon get tired of, but right now I’m on a roll. I have been limiting my nut butter to, barely, twice a week. Rice cakes are also a great snack choice when eating nut butter because you are less likely to overeat. I just spread one tablespoon of nut butter on one rice cake, add some jelly, and I get my peanut butter and jelly fix! I haven’t been eating nut butter because it is so easy to overeat. You’d be lying if you said you’ve never sat there with a spoon and your jar of peanut or almond butter. Once I stop eating nut butter for a week or two, I stop craving it. Allowing myself to have it every now and then keeps me disciplined. I know I can eat it, but the less I have it, the more likely I am to have it in moderation. Portion control.

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I might do a whole blog post about Quest Bars, so I’m going to keep this light. This is a Cinnamon Roll Quest Bar, baked in the oven on 350 for 6 minutes, with 1 tbsp Nut Butter & 1 tbsp Jelly on top. I’d talk about it, but all you have to do is look, and you get the picture.

IMG_5296Last but not least… Cucumbers? As many of you know, there is a huge community of “fitness freaks” on the social media site, instagram. #FitFam #EatClean #InstaFit I recently saw someone post a bowl of cucumbers with…cinnamon? I thought it was weird, but then I heard from a friend how delicious it really was. So I cut up my cucumbers, added cinnamon and liquid stevia, and holy crap it was good!

As you can see, all of these meals are very healthy, easy, and diet friendly! Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be fun! You just have to get in the right mindset and you’re halfway there. Enjoy!

Yours Truly,

Stef

Indulge Without the Bulge

My last post was sweet and everything. Actually, no… no it wasn’t. There’s always the ever dreaded questions I receive. For example: “Do you ever eat good food” “Do you ever crave sweets?” “Do you even eat sweets?” “What do you do when you crave normal people food?” Haha. Normal people food? What does that even mean? What is normal people food? I’m assuming they are talking about the processed foods, the stuff that “tastes good”. The stuff in packages. The stuff you get at our schools dining food market. “I have a feeling you never eat like..queso and chips” So I laugh, because technically I can’t even eat queso anymore. Those were the days. But I guess I’m better off for it. I can’t count the amount of times I made trips to the market with my roomies back in the dorm days to prepare ourselves for a snack attack. Octopus gummies, chips and queso, oreos. It happened, I just never let it happen too often. Discipline. There is no greater feeling than self discipline. So just because I eat healthy 90% of the time I’m all of a sudden not normal? I have my fair share of fat Sundays and “YOLO” moments. Those moments where you just put the burger to the face. Skittles? Yeah sure, it’s Tuesday. Chipotle? Totally, I mean it’s Wednesday. But…if you treat everyday like a holiday you go from treating yourself to cheating yourself.

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The answer to all the above questions is, yes, I do eat good food. I do crave sweets, and I eat them too (sweet potatoes mostly). But what do I do when I crave “normal” people food? A lot of different things. I was about to explain to you guys that I “allow” myself about one cheat meal per week. Then I decided to reword that sentence. I allow myself to eat what I want to eat at all times. It just so happens that I want to eat healthy 95% of the time. And 10% of the time I don’t. It overlaps. 5% of that 95% of time that I want to eat healthy, I don’t. Mainly because I will go insane if I don’t treat myself with a greasy meal and a few beers (approximitly 10) with my friends. (just kidding about the 10 beers.) So when I’m craving a nice hardy meal and order in with friends, I’ll tell you what I eat. My chipotle order is white rice, chicken, fajita vegetables, salsa, guacamole & lettuce. Sometimes I’ll even get double meat. Treat yo’self. I will sometimes order a Gluten Free, no cheese, pizza from Dominos or Athens local brewery and restaurant, Jackie O’s. They also have gluten free buns for hamburgers. Hey. Girl. Hey. It’s halloween so I bought myself two packets of skittles. One for Halloween weekend and one for the actual day of Halloween. I’m trying to be more flexible with myself and my diet in the healthiest way. Yes, skittles are no where near healthy but it could be much worse. There are times when I don’t want to completely go off the paleo clean eating bandwagon, so I treat myself in a moderate, non traumitizing, non expensive, way. Here are a few meals I eat at home. These are not recipes, just ideas on how to have a great tasting, healthy, treat meal.

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1 Rudi’s Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin bagel, 2 tbsp Natural Almond Butter, 1/2 Banana

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In need of extra carbs & fats? 1 Slice of Udi’s Gluten Free Bread, 2 oz Sweet Potato, 1 tbsp Nut butter of your choice (this was peanut butter), 2 oz chicken thigh. You can use any protein you want. It’s just as good with ground meat or an egg. Experimenting with food can really turn out delicious…

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Sometimes I get really annoyed of cooking. I pace my kitchen a million times because I can’t figure out what I want for dinner. I don’t feel like heating up vegetables or cooking anything that has 1 oz of effort in it. My appetite was so suppressed that I really just wanted something sweet and delicious. I plopped 2 Vans Gluten Free Waffle in the toaster. I was going to spread peanut butter and banana on both sides, but then realized I was completely lacking protein. At the end of the day, protein is what keeps me feeling satisfied and full. I decided to heat up some leftover chicken and do my own take on chicken and waffles. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, so on 1 waffle I put 1 tbsp of Peanut butter and 1/4 of a banana. I heated my chicken, put it on the other waffle, and poured some agave maple syrup on top (not too much). It was absolutely delicious. This meal was about 450 calories and 30 g protein. Not bad for something that looks like a pile of junk!

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I can’t express to you how crucial sweet potato fries are. Everybody loves fries, right? Did you know you can lose weight while still eating fries? Sweet potato fries, that is. Cut a medium sweet potato into whatever shape you want your fries to be. I usually do circles or normal fry shape, but you can get as creative as you want… Soak your sweet potatoes in olive oil. Don’t take that and run with it…use about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Salt your fries. There are many different ways you can make your sweet potato fries. I sometimes put cinnamon instead of salt. I’ve seen people put seasonings like garlic and onion powder too. That, you can get creative with. While your preparing your sweet potato fries, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. I typically leave my fries in for about 20 minutes. It quite honestly depends on how patient I’m feeling. The picture above shows peeled sweet potato fries. It is up to you whether or not you want the skin on, but keeping it on makes a crispier fry. Enjoy!

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Oatmeal! I love oatmeal. I typically eat Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal. There is so much variety you can put into your oatmeal. Sometimes I go with bananas and cinnamon, and sometimes I go a little farther. Pictured is cinnamon oats with slivered almonds and cherries on top. I also put about 1 tbsp of shredded coconut into my oatmeal. Other times, I’ll add a tablespoon or less of almond or peanut butter. Other topping ideas include: raisins, mixed berries (blueberries are my favorite), any nuts/nut butters, egg whites (added protein, not added flavor), ground flax seeds & chia seeds, and chocolate chips if you’re feeling rebelious.

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Pretty sure I ate this on a heavy deadlift day. I was lacking carbs, starving, and hadn’t really been able to eat much that day juggling my classes. I toasted two slices of Udi’s Gluten Free bread, spread 1.5 tablespoons of peanut butter (half on one piece, half on the other), and added about 4 oz of sweet potato to my sandwich. This is a game changer.

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Picture above is a little dessert I made for my brother. Yeah, its vegetables, and yeah, it was delicious. I microwaved butternut squash in a little water and coconut oil. I added shredded coconut, a pinch of salt, a lot of cinnamon, and who knows how much almond butter. When I made this for myself, I used about 1 tbsp. Rumor has it it tasted like a Cinnabon.

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Pretty self explanatory. Gluten Free Rice Chex Cinnamon Cereal. My go-to when I’m in need of cereal.

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So the only thing different about this meal is the fact that instead of eating a plain burger I actually put it on a “bun”. Filled with a whole plate of vegetables.

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And last, God Bless Chipotle.

High School Parties & Chicken

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Something you eat a LOT of on your typical healthy diet is chicken. And I’m not talkin chicken nuggets. Just like you, I sometimes wish chicken nuggets were a part of my every day life. Plain chicken gets boring. Chicken nuggets make you feel young again. Young as in the sense of drunken high school nights at Jenna’s house, with the main concern being that we had dinosaur chicken nuggets to eat after our “party” filled with stolen Absolute Vodka and Mikes Hard Lemonade from our parents. Nights that made me think it was funny to stick my head in a mailbox outside of the royal farms?
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Nights like New Years senior year. These nights made us think it would be funny to post pictures of our guy friends who wore elephant thongs at midnight, to only be found by our high school principle. I’m not sure if they were our friends anymore after that.
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But, 500 dinosaur chicken nuggets and a few stupid nights later we did in-fact graduate.
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And now I’m sitting on my computer trying to write a blog about chicken. Chicken has great protein, almost nonexistent fat, and decent calories. It’s the go-to for a quick healthy meal, and it is largely chosen over most meats. I recently discovered chicken thighs, and haven’t let myself turn back. Buuuut now I’ve been moving back to the usual chicken breasts. They pack a little more protein and are generally less expensive… You can also have more chicken breast for the same macro’s as a serving of chicken thighs offer. Not a bad switch.
In my opinion, chicken is boring. Yes, it’s delicious, but to eat it 2-3 times every damn day? No, nike, I will not just do it. That’s why people favor red meat so often, the flavor is already there. If you want a crazy good chicken dinner, it requires trying. And nobody has time for that. So we go with simple. Or at least I do. Little spices, oils, or herbs can go a LONG way with chicken. Eating plain chicken will eventually turn into eating cardboard. Nobody has time for that, either.
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Garlic & Basil Chicken Breasts
Yeah, that’s chicken in a bag. I didn’t get to capture this cooking process so that’s all you’re gonna get.
I put a pound of chicken in a zip lock bag. Added garlic olive oil. The garlic olive oil is a game changer. I chopped up some basil and put it all in a bag, mixed it up, and let it sit for about 15 minutes before I cooked it. Talk about a mouth watering smell, and a simple mouth watering lunch.

Next, Homemade Guacamole Stuffed Chicken Breast.
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Simple. One pound chicken breast, and 1-2 tbsp of homemade, or store bought, Guacamole. I’d recommend buying the thick chicken breasts. Slice your chicken in the middle as deep as you can without poking through. Measure your guacamole and stuff it in your sliced chicken. Fold the chicken back over. Cook for about 25 minutes on 400 degrees. Does that not look delicious? And it took almost zero effort. Fun times.
Something else I enjoy making is soup. Chop up some chicken, cook with salt and pepper. Chop up veggies of your choice. You can use your typical carrots, green beans, celery. Use organic (no salt added?) chicken broth. What’s pictured is this soup I made with gluten free noodles. You can leave out the noodles…but it’s whatever you’re into.
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And then you can simply add spices to your chicken. That’s self explanatory. Mrs. Dash is my go to. Garlic powder. Salt and pepper adds a kick, though that still gets a little plain after awhile. I’d start experimenting. That’s all I do. This simple lunch pictured at the beginning of this post could have turned out very boring. Instead, I added Mrs. Dash Italian seasoning and some meat tenderizer. On the sweet potato I added 1 tbsp of cashew butter and some raspberries. The broccoli, well, it’s just broccoli. There’s really not much you can do about that one. Sorry everyone.