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)

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Cookie Dough Quest Bar Cereal

If you haven’t realized, I’ve recently become an unofficial spokesperson for Quest Bars. I talk about them almost daily, I recommend them to those with a sweet tooth, and I just generally praise their existence. Almost as much as peanut butter, but that’s pushing it.

Okay, so Quest Bars are no chocolate lava cake, but they are the closest thing you will get to that while still keeping your diet clean. They don’t taste like any ordinary-100 ingredient list-high calorie-no protein-just carbs-diet bar. Each flavor tastes amazing, you almost feel like you’re cheating on your diet! But don’t worry, you’re not. Each Quest Bar has 160-190 calories, 4 net carbs, a ridiculous amount of fiber (rock on), and a weird amount of protein. Weird, as in freakin’ awesome, that is. Where does the protein come from? I’ll list the ingredients for the Cookie Dough Quest Bar, and then you’ll see.

-Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate)
-Isomalto-Oligosaccharides (100% Natural Prebiotic Fiber)
-Almonds
-Water
– Unsweetened Chocolate
-Cocoa Butter
-Erythritol

It may look like I skimped on the ingredient list, but I’ll give you some proof.

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The first time I heard about Quest Bars I could have sworn they were going to taste like plastic. I got a Cinnamon Roll Quest Bar and ate it. It was delicious, but I was still not THAT impressed. Why was everyone raving about them? I then realized that my quest bar was practically frozen, so it was a little harder than it should have been. I put it in the microwave, and it’s all a blur from there.

Quest Bar Nutrition’s instagram posts 15 second recipe videos, which can also be found on youtube. I want to start trying almost all of them! Which takes me to my first experiment. Quest Bar Cereal. Who doesn’t love cereal? The other day I saw someone eating Reeses Cereal and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. My inner fat girl was crying to come out. Anywho, this happened:

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-1 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest Bar
-1 Rice Cake
-1 Small Banana
-1/2 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk

The instructions are also very simple. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Cut your Quest Bar into tiny pieces. I’d say bite size but, I take big bites. I cut my quest bar into pieces the size of peanut M&M’s (yum). Lay your quest bar pieces on a cookie sheet, or a piece of tin foil (I didn’t feel like doing dishes). Once your oven is preheated, put your quest bar in your oven and set your timer for 4 MINUTES. No more, no less. Once that 4 minutes is up, take out your quest bar and “stir”. Put your quest bar back in the over for another 4 MINUTES. No more, no less. Once my four minutes were up I put my quest bar pieces directly in the freezer for another four minutes. I chopped up my rice cake into cereal-like pieces, cut up my banana, and took my Quest Bar Cereal out of the freezer and added it to the bowl! Add your milk and enjoy 🙂 

Yours Truly,

Stef

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For a video of how to do this, click here!

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

A CrockPot Mishap

My CrockPot Mishap

I wanted to make some sort of delicious crockpot recipe but then I remembered that I am unfortunately not Juli Bauer. I also wanted to keep it as “clean” as possible. I threw some stuff together and this is what happened. It turned into a half soup half chili type situation, but it was seriously delicious!

✔️2 Pounds Ground Turkey
✔️2 Cups Kale
✔️1 Pepper (I used 1/2 Red, 1/2 Yellow)
✔️1 Cup Chicken Broth
✔️3 Chopped up Garlic Cloves
✔️Lemon Juice, Mrs. Dash Italian Medley, Basil

Put your ground turkey into your crockpot, add the Kale, peppers, seasonings, garlic & broth! One step process, people. You’ve got this. I served myself about 1.5 cups of this recipe over 1/2 cup of Brown & Wild rice.

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Yours Truly,

Stef

Paleo ‘Egg Sandwich’ Pancakes

After a long weekend at OSU’s campus, there was only one thing I was craving, and that was pancakes. I had made these pancakes before and they are completely paleo, depending on your toppings & syrup of choice. This time around, I added some protein powder to the pancakes. The protein powder I use, in my opinion, is the cleanest and closest to paleo protein powder you can find. (Besides the paleo protein powder, of course)

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Paleo Egg Sandwich Pancakes

1.5 tbsp. Almond Flour
1 tbsp. Coconut Flour
3 Eggs (2 eggs in batter, 1 egg for the top)
1/3 cup egg whites (about)
1/2 Small Banana
2 tbsp. protein powder (optional; not paleo)
1 tbsp. agave nectar
2 tbsp. walden farms syrup (optional; zero calorie, but faileo)

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I mixed all the ingredients together, minus the 1 egg and syrup. I mushed the banana as much as possible, and wisked until the batter was smooth. Key word, smooth. This batter was not thick, but made amazing pancakes. It may help to put it in a blender, but it wasn’t necessary. I cooked my pancakes on medium heat, then cooked my last egg and put it right in the middle of the three pancakes. I pushed down and let the egg run all over, almost like it’s own syrup. I honestly barely needed the syrup, the yolk was perfect. But I mixed the two syrups together and poured it over my pancakes and DEVOURED.

404 Calories
20 g Fat
19 g Carbs
36 g Protein

(Recipe can accommodate to your own caloric needs)

Loaded Balsamic Chicken Pasta

I absolutely just cooked myself the best dinner I have ever eaten! I wish I wrote it down as I went… I waited till the end and hope I got it right!
Measure out 2 oz of Pasta, I used Gluten Free pasta! Start your water and bring it to a boil. Add pasta to water when it boils. Then I soaked about 6 oz of chicken in some balsamic, salt, onion powder, and Mrs. Dash. (See picture of seasonings below) Cook the chicken on medium.

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Seperately, cut up two medium sized tomatos. Pour one tablespoon of Olive Oil (I used Garlic Olive Oil from Roots…I recommend the garlic olive oil!) Add (close to but less than) 1 tablespoon of Balsamic, a sprinkle of salt, garlic nuggets, and onion powder. Put it on medium heat in a frying pan and let it simmer into more of a sauce consistency.

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When your pasta is finished, strain and add it back into the sauce pan. Add your sauce to the sauce pan with the pasta.

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Then sauté your vegetables. Mine were already cooked, so I just needed to heat them up. I added a small amount of all of the seasonings pictured to my veggies as well.

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Cut up your chicken and add it to the pasta & sauce. Once your veggies are cooked or heated, add them to the sauce pan as well. This way, your food is still cooking & heating, and soaking up all the different spices… YUM!

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The finished product! Yes, it’s a huge bowl. This dinner was about 540 calories, 60 carbs, 45 protein, 14 fat, and 8 fiber. I like the look of those macros…especially after my day. I wasn’t able to eat much today at all. I ran, woded, and did some heavy deadlifts! I’ve been adding a LOT of cardio into my workouts. I take a cycling class once a week, run twice a week, and wod 2-3 times a week. I will sometimes go to our schools gym and do intervals or half hour runs on the treadmill or elliptical on days that I wod. Oh yeah…back to the machines. Ha..Ha… I’m trying to make sure that even though I’m adding so much cardio, that my strength is staying consistent. Yes, I want to lean out, but I sure as hell don’t want to lose my strength! I focused on strength all summer. I was PRing on a lot of things at crossfit. Not that I regret it, but I wasn’t focusing on my BODY and how it looked. I got to school and my clothes fit me funny… So Crossfit & cardio is the plan for now! I’ve been adding in little “treat” meals more often. My diet has been so strict for months that I am just worn out from being so concerned all the time. I’ve also been doing this for five years, its a lifestyle, and sometimes it isn’t going to be perfect. When I say treat meals, I don’t mean papa johns or oreos. (unfortunaly…) Treat meals, for example, this meal I posted above. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself some pasta, in moderation, every now and then. I also eat brown rice, quinoa, and rice cakes. Basically just more carbs…which might be OK since I’m doing so much cardio. So yeah, I’ve jumped off the paleo bandwagon a bit. I still base my diet off the paleo diet, with some small exceptions. SERIOUS obsession with rice cakes with peanut butter, banana, ground flax seeds for extra fiber. Peanut butter is another thing I havn’t been able to eat, and I can now. God has answered all of my prayers…
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When you’re left with…

A bit of a sweet tooth. A craving (already) for oatmeal. But you’re not allowed (says who?) to eat either. You get really creative.
Now if you don’t already know, I’m doing the whole life challenge. Basically, for myself, this means no more oatmeal, stevia, brown rice, GF breads, walden farms dressings, syrup, honey, and limited fruits and nuts. Sugar hates me, and I hate sugar. I will be in agony for hours having abdominal paralysis symptoms if I have too much sugar. For example that smoothie from smoothie king before I started the whole life challenge. Close to 200 g of sugar. I’m not sure I even eat that much sugar in four days. BYE SMOOTHIE KING. The thrill of getting smoothie king was not worth the stomach ache, dizzy spells, etc. The only fruit I’ve been eating lately is bananas and pineapple. Pineapple is great for digestion, and bananas are the shit.

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But I will attempt to limit my fruit intake to see if I notice more successful fat loss. Nut butter is also the most amazing thing to grace this planet, so I will also be limiting that. Not a complete elimination, but limiting.
So. Whole life challenge. No gluten, dairy, soy, legumes, artificial sweeteners, processed foods. I dare people to eat only real food for a week, I guarantee a difference. You might feel hopeless, especially starting from scratch. Not many people understand how to cook for themselves. Society cooks in microwaves now so…I guess you can’t blame the people. Blame the microwaves.
Anyways. I made the most amazing meal for my last meal. I had been thinking about it all day and I’m really glad I went with it (my life’s exciting). So simple. Packed with protein. Some carbs. Perfect before bed and if you need to get a little extra calories in your system. It also kind of reminded me of oatmeal…which you know I love.

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3/4 Cup Egg Whites
1 Medium Banana
Cinnamon (don’t go overboard)
Feel free to mix the serving suggestions to your liking. It is a very small meal. Would be great for a side dish with some steak and veggies for breakfast.
Looks like I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow… See ya.