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.

sundays

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. 

FullSizeRender

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

IMG_1886 IMG_1887 IMG_1888 IMG_1894

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)

IMG_1716

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

IMG_1699

IMG_1700

IMG_1703

IMG_1701

 IMG_1709 IMG_1704

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.

IMG_3842

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.

IMG_4679

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.

IMG_4692

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..)

IMG_4697

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.

IMG_5415

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.

IMG_5421

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!

IMG_5619

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!

IMG_5622

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.

IMG_5630

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.

IMG_4830

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.

IMG_4831

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