Deconstruction Zone: Meals for All Kinds of Eaters!

Susanna DeRocco

Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds

A common want-to-pull-my-hair-out complaint that I hear from people about dinner time is that there are only a handful of meals that everyone likes and eats together. While jelly beans, popcorn and toast may not be our ideal, cooking one meal is; deconstructing them is one way of getting there.  These ideas are not ground-breaking, but they may help you get through a busy week. These meals allow everyone to customize their own plates and participate in the same meal time, even though plates may look decidedly different. Below are four examples of meals that are simple and relatively quick (if you have done a bit of preparation and some planning) to put together. Your family can deconstruct and reconstruct as desired!

Baked Potato/Sweet Potato Bar:

bar with 2 potatoes

The combinations of toppings here are virtually endless–I recently had BBQ sauce, caramelized onions and lentils in a baked sweet potato and it was delish!  Here are some great ideas for a baked potato bar and a sweet potato bar!  Take your potatoes in a broccoli/cheese direction, top with frozen peas (defrost first!) and Parmesan, spice it up with a Mexican theme, enjoy with lentils & caramelized onions or with leftover chili.  You can bake the potatoes ahead for the week or make them in your crock pot via the recipe below:

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

Wash potatoes (sweet or russet) thoroughly and poke some holes in them with a fork/knife.  Wrap in foil and place in the crock pot.  Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or until potatoes are soft on the inside.  Cook up to 10 potatoes in a 6qt. slow cooker.

Make-Your-Own-Sandwich night:

Feeling bad about sandwiches for dinner? Well, don’t.  Sandwiches  are a great option for a busy night; they can be planned ahead or eaten on a whim.  The ‘make-your-own’ is the best part.  Does your youngest want a nut-butter and banana sandwich?  Great!  Go for it!  Your oldest wants to use up leftover chicken? Wonderful!  What? Someone wants pizza but you only have an English muffin, some jarred tomato sauce and a cheese stick? Have at it!  Are you downright dog-tired and just want some avocado on toast? Brilliant!  Bring it! You just have to make sure you have a few staples in the house to make this night come together. After sandwiches have been created, have everyone pick their own fruit and sit down together to enjoy your sandwiches. It is only one meal, two if they have had a sandwich for lunch, so don’t sweat it.  Sandwich night. That is all.

Eggs:

Eggs are an easy way to get a quick meal on the table! They make a pretty regular appearance at our dinner table in a variety of forms (frittata, hard-boiled, fried, over easy, scrambled).  Nourish Schools provided this recent run-down (dare I say it was egg-cellent?),which I could not have said better!

Taco Night:

Create a do-it-yourself taco bar.  Employ your kids to chop vegetables, shred cheese, get out bowls, heat up tortillas in the microwave, etc.  This is great for families that have meat and non-meat eaters (same goes for dairy).  You can eat the vegetables over salad, as a rice bowl, or in a tortilla/taco shell.  It is also great if you have any leftover grains like brown rice, quinoa or polenta or grilled vegetables to use up!  Plan ahead and make a double batch! The quick lentil recipe below makes a nice change if you are trying to cut back on animal protein (or on your grocery bill).  Some options are (you do not have to make all of these!):

  • Whole wheat tortillas (optional)
  • Taco shells
  • Ground turkey (using spice blend from lentil recipe below), leftover grilled chicken or grilled shrimp
  • Chopped greens like Romaine or spinach or a combination
  • Chopped red cabbage
  • Black beans (or any canned beans) or crock pot refried beans
  • Green or red jarred salsa (or fresh if you like)
  • Leftover brown rice (or other grain like quinoa)
  • Cut-up avocado
  • Lime, cilantro, garlic (I like to chop the garlic & cilantro and add a half of a lime to the avocado)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • grilled vegetables (peppers, mushroom and onion)
  • sliced banana or jalapeno peppers or chilis
  • corn (fresh or frozen)
  • sliced scallions
  • sliced black olives
  • diced tomatoes
  • diced raw onion
  • crushed baked tortilla chips

Taco-seasoned Lentils

1 1/4 cups brown or green lentils (8 ounces)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (or none for sensitive palates)

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cups water to a boil . Once boiling, add lentils, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer covered for about 20 to 25 minutes, until most of the water has been absorbed.

Turn off the heat, then stir in tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt (or not), black pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.

What are some meals that help you satisfy all kinds of eaters?  We would love to hear your ideas!

 

 

 

12 Meal-Planning Motivators

Susanna DeRocco

Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds

Meal planning tips and tricks

“Motivation is what gets you started.   Habit is what keeps you going.” Jim Rohn

Planning and executing a week’s worth of meals that simultaneously take into consideration all of the various needs in any given household while also trying to keep them healthy, budget friendly and something everyone might entertain eating is tough work, my friends. As someone who has made my share of ‘meals-that-didn’t-fly, I know.

It. is. tough. work.

The thing is, the time and effort you put into planning yields huge pay-offs; saving money, eating healthfully, feeling relaxed (instead of crazed) are just a few that come to mind. While being motivated certainly helps, personalizing your system and making meal planning into a habit is what will ultimately keep you going (thank you, Jim Rohn).

Here are some tips to help you go from motivated, well-meaning meal-planner to confident, habitual meal-planner:

1. Keep it Simple. Contrary to what you may think, you do not have to create a gourmet meal!  We are talking about using simple, fresh ingredients to plan meals that will not put you over the edge.  Find your recipes from resources you trust like favorite magazines, cookbooks, websites, your recipe binder (see #7).  Make a list of ingredients you need from those recipes Buy them.  Make said recipes.  The majority of my weekday meals are recipes I have made before and know how to execute or have prepped/planned in advance. If you have a desire to try something new, aim for a night or weekend where you will have more time to experiment. 

2.  Make a commitment to yourself.

This is important. It takes 21 days to form your habit.  Make sure you set yourself up for success by creating a goal to meal plan and by sticking to it.  Bust out your calendar and take a peek at the week ahead.  Which nights do you have time to prep something simple?  Which nights will you have no time at all?  Plan for busy nights by using a crock pot, cooking a meal in advance or cooking extra portions and re-purposing the ‘left-overs.’  Start slow by choosing 2-3 nights (you can have leftovers for lunch) and keep moving!

3. Keep your pantry, freezer & refrigerator organized.

Wendy Keer's pantry

Organize by shelf in your pantry (i.e-baking goods), or by food in the refrigerator (i.e.-vegetables), keep oils and vinegar in one spot, etc.   Organize in a way that works for you.  This way you can cross-reference what you have, what you need, and what is on sale.  You also will avoid having five, partially-used bottles of rice-wine vinegar!

3. Chunk it out. Your time, that is.  Not only for meal-planning but for shopping, prepping and organizing.  When can you plan meals?  Is your shopping day also your organizing/prepping day?  What works for you?  Sundays are usually the day in my house where I am hard-boiling some eggs, baking/grilling off some chicken, cutting/roasting vegetables or making double batches of something (brown rice, quinoa, whole grain waffles) that I can either freeze or use throughout the week.  During the winter when days are short, I may even make an extra dish and freeze it for ‘one of those nights.’

4. Cook once, eat twice.

[soup2.jpg]

Okay, you don’t have to break Venezuela’s world record for biggest pot of soup, but I recommend living by this rule whenever possible! Roasting chicken on Sunday?  Have a chopped chicken salad on Monday night.  Or shredded chicken tacos. Or chicken tetrazzini. You see where I’m going.  If your kids don’t like ‘leftovers’, don’t call them ‘leftovers!” Having salad? Chop up a few heads of Romaine and keep it in a salad spinner–it will last a few days in the fridge! Making brown rice for a stir fry?  Make a double batch and keep in the fridge for your lunch or for another meal later in the week.  Same goes for soups, chili, stews and baked goods. Food nerd alert:How sweet is it when you realize you have an extra loaf of chocolate zucchini bread in the freezer?  It’s like finding $5 in an old pair of jeans. Cha-ching!

5. Have a ‘sure-thing”.

Spicy Shrimp Soup is great for sinuses!

Spicy Shrimp Soup is great for sinuses!

There are certain things I always have on-hand (lemons, garlic, olive oil, greens, frozen shrimp, brown rice, white beans, artichoke hearts, tomato/marinara sauce, herbs/spices).   I can always quickly make something with these ingredients.  Limited to eggs, spices and frozen spinach?  Try a frittata or make breakfast for dinner–this is always a hit in our house!

6. Have a go-to list of staples. Create a list on your computer of staples that you get each week.  That way you can simply add to your list instead of starting from scratch.  Here are seven different iphone apps that allow you to create and share lists, scan specific items into your list, and more.

7. Create a family recipe binder.

This tool is critical for me. I have recipes from my family, my friends, magazines, online, etc.  The recipes in the binder are tried and true ‘keepers’. I have a different file for recipes I’d like to try.  Full disclosure-this is not a picture of my binder!  My binder is old, food-stained and not pretty at all, but it works!  Some people like to have their recipes on a computer or saved on a particular website.  I have the recipes organized in clear sheet protectors so I can utilize both sides for recipe in a way that works for me (Breakfast, Sides, Chicken, etc.). You can organize your binder in a way that works for you.

8. Utilize a system.

A blank calendar, an app for your phone, a white-board, a chalk-board,  a meal-board like those found on Pinterest.  Find something that is true to your style and that you will actually use.  I use (drum roll please…) a piece of paper and a pen.  See? Now you know my secret.

9. Add a theme. “Fiesta Tuesday”, “Breakfast for Dinner”,  “Wacky Wednesday”.  Themes are fun!  Themes help you plan!   My personal favorite now that my kids are older is “YOYO–You’re On Your Own”!  If you have kids, let them create a theme/come up with a name!

10. If you have kids, bring ‘em in! Create a list or menu and post it.  Allow your child to plan the menu one day/week (they will be more likely to eat it!) Grow, shop, cook with your child.  Not only are you giving them a life-skill, but including them in the process also means they are more likely to eat what they have helped plan.

11. Trust yourself. Planning is all well and good but life happens. When you suddenly find yourself in the throes of  ‘one of those nights’ unprepared, take a quick look in your pantry.  Chances are, you probably have some items on hand that will make a tasty meal.  Trust yourself to create something without a plan.  Yes, sometimes what you make will suck, but other times you will do a big ol’ fist pump because you have created something to add into your  ‘rotation.’  You can always plug the ingredients you have on-hand to one of my favorite websites,www.epicurious.com for ideas.

12. Keep trying. Planning meals takes time and effort.  It requires us to make time to plan, time to shop, time to organize, prep, and cook.  Keep plugging away to find a system that works for you!  Start slowly (plan 3 nights) and work your way up to having the week planned (enjoying one night out can be part of your plan!).  Finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough, find something that works for you.  My pantry, binder, & fridge are not “Pinterest worthy” but they work for me and get the job done!

Please add any meal-planning strategies that you use and find most helpful–we are tremendous resources for one another and don’t forget about the meal planning workshop on Thursday, October 16th from 7:30-8:30 pm at Thomas Moreland Fitness!  You can sign up right here!

“Make-Once, Eat-For-Days” Lunches with Some Staying Power!

Susanna DeRocco

Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds

Quinoa/Corn salad

We took this quinoa salad on a recent camping trip…I used a corn salad recipe that we love and added the quinoa for some staying power! Have a vinaigrette that you love? You can do it, too! Combine the vinaigrette with a grain and some vegetables and guess what? You did it!

Ingredients

1 cup prepared quinoa
2 ears of corn, cooked/grilled and cut off the cob
2 medium tomatoes (or 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved)
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

Method

Rinse and prepare quinoa according to directions–I like to use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water. Cool quinoa. Mix together olive oil, cider vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside. Once quinoa has cooled, add corn, tomatoes, onion, basil and mix in dressing. Add olive oil/apple cider vinegar by the teaspoon if it still needs some kick! Enjoy!

Greek-style Edamame Salad (adapted from Cooking Light, 2014)

Greek-Style Edamame Salad Recipe

Ingredients
2 cups frozen shelled edamame
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt/pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped shallot or red onion
1 cup chopped English cucumber
2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
@ 10 grape tomatoes, halved
* 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Method
Prepare edamame according to microwave or stove-top directions.
Combine oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic powder, salt & shallot/red onion in a medium bowl. Stir in edamame, cucumber, tomatoes and feta (if using).
Makes 4 servings. Enjoy 3 cups as lunch or enjoy 1-cup servings as a mid-afternoon snack or side-salad.

Turkey-bacon Salad w/Peaches & Pecans

Turkey bacon salad with peaches and pecans

Turkey bacon salad with peaches and pecans

 Vinaigrette
5 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tablespoons good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Salad
6 pieces of cooked turkey bacon, crumbled
Chopped romaine lettuce (you can add some chopped red cabbage, mix in some spinach, arugula or some mesculun greens—all nice)
2 cups sliced, peeled peaches (about 3 peaches—can also use nectarines)
½ cup toasted pecans (toast raw pecans in a pan on the stovetop @ 5 minutes on medium heat)
*Crumbled goat or feta cheese (optional)

Method
Whisk together all 8 ingredients for Vinaigrette
**Combine turkey bacon and remaining ingredients (except cheese, if using) in a large bowl.  Place salad in bowl/container top with turkey bacon mixture.  Add vinaigrette to taste.

**I often put the individual ingredients in separate bowls and let people help themselves accordingly. Serving the vinaigrette on the side also allows for individual taste preferences.

Greek Quinoa Salad

Another favorite vinaigrette is the base for a Greek-style quinoa salad.

Another favorite vinaigrette is the base for a Greek-style quinoa salad.

Ingredients

1 cup prepared quinoa

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt/pepper to taste

1 tablespoon chopped shallot or red onion

1 cup chopped English cucumber

1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

 Method

Rinse and prepare quinoa according to directions–I like to use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water. Cool quinoa. Mix together olive oil and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Once quinoa has cooled, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes and mix in dressing. 

 

School Lunches: “Dready” to Think Outside of the Box?

Pizza Ezekiel Muffin

Ahhh. The beginning of the school year. The time of year I am equal parts ready for the boys to get back to school and some semblance of a schedule, yet also dread losing the somewhat more relaxed schedule (particularly with sports), and beginning the onslaught of paper, homework and general craziness that arrives along with the school year.  I call this feeling “Dready.”  That craziness includes the omnipresent, ever hovering, school lunch. I know, most of you would rather be tied to an ant hill and slathered in jam than resign yourselves to packing lunches every day. I get it.  Here are some ‘lunch lessons’ to revisit along with some links to many people far more creative than myself to help us along!  Do you hear Will Smith singing “Getting Dready With It?”  C’mon! Put your hands together and let’s get cracking on those lunches!

The basics: Keep in mind that each child is an individual; some kids can happily eat PB&J for lunch every day, some need variety and others are just plain overwhelmed by too many choices.  Overall, we want our kids to feel nourished, strong and energized throughout their day. Not ready to eat their arm off by noon. Here’s what’s going to help them:

Lean sources of protein: like beans, edamame, eggs, lean meats, yogurt, quinoa.   Since protein takes longer to digest, it keeps us feeling fuller, longer, which means having a source of protein in your lunch box is a good idea.  Protein is the ‘it’ girl right now. What? You haven’t seen the new protein-infused M&M’s?  Kidding.  There’s no such thing yet but don’t buy into all of the ‘protein’ hype. Your kids do not need a lot.  Use natural sources of protein like those listed above.

Healthy fats: like 100% natural nut-butters (also a good source of protein), avocado, unsalted nuts & seeds (pistachios, almonds, cashews, pecans, chia, flax, sunflower seeds) and salmon (though this may be tough in an enclosed lunch box!).  We need these fats for brain power and to help regulate hormones.  They also help us absorb vitamins like A, D, E, K.  Small amounts of healthy fats keep us feeling full and satisfied.  Sounds like a lunch-box winner!

Good sources of fiber and complex carbohydrates including a variety of fruits, vegetables, & whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa (also a good source of protein) & farro or breads made with 100% whole grains like wheat, oats, rye.  Including these will help keep your kids full and satisfied as well as provide sustained energy throughout a busy school day.  Plus, fiber helps things keep moving (just make sure to include water in that lunch box!).

How to do it:
1.) Deconstruct. Deconstructed lunches are perfect for kids who do not care for sandwiches, find themselves with ‘soggy’ sandwiches or who just like some variety. Some examples include:
•Un-sandwiches: Rolled-up turkey on toothpicks (nitrates/nitrites-free) and pita triangles. Pita triangles with a side of hummus. Include sides they can build on or eat alone like avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, pickles, carrots, apple or cheese slices. Inside-out sandwiches like turkey wrapped around a whole-grain breadstick.
•Un-Salad: Start with a base of greens and include sides like leftover roasted chicken, beans, tuna, chickpeas, dried or fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, nuts, seeds, hard-boiled egg.
•Un-Tacos: Pack beans (with or without cheese) or leftover ground turkey or your favorite ‘hot filling’ in an 8-10 ounce insulated Thermos. Make it into a salad with some Romaine lettuce or include a Garden of Eatin’ taco shell, whole grain tortilla or tortilla chips and some of your favorite sides (avacado, tomatoes, greens, cilantro, salsa, Greek yogurt, olives).
Un-Pizza: Whole-wheat pita bread, tomato sauce, grated cheese, toppings (peppers, olives, mushrooms). Keep in mind that the “pizza-style” Lunchable has over 100 ingredients!
•Un-Parfait: Plain Greek yogurt (add fresh fruit, vanilla, lemon zest), granola like Bear Naked ‘Fit’, cereal (high fiber, low sugar) roasted nuts/dried or fresh fruit.  You can even add some honey or maple syrup–chances are you are not going to add as much sugar as some of the fruit-filled on-the-shelf brands (can contain up to 30g of sugar for 1 cup!)
•Lunch Kebabs- fruit, cheese, leftover grilled chicken, raw or roasted vegetables, if you can name it, kebab-it!

2.) Include Old Favorites
•Quesadillas (black bean, corn & cilantro; cheese & spinach; avocado& cilantro) add side of salsa, tomatoes, corn, etc.
•Peanut or other 100% natural nut butter with bananas & honey, apples, mashed berries or no-added-sugar jam.
•Pizza “roll-ups”- Whole grain or sprouted grain tortilla with tomato sauce, cheese, vegetables.

3.) Try New Twists

Apple peanut-butter sandwiches with carrots, popcorn and apple spice muffins (baked ahead of time and frozen)

Apple peanut-butter sandwiches with carrots, popcorn and apple spice muffins (baked ahead of time and frozen)

•Apple & Peanut butter sandwiches with all kinds of ‘fixin’s’ (dried fruit, seeds, oats, brown rice crispies, ).
•Make PB&J ‘sushi’ by smearing the ingredients (and any add-ons listed above) into a whole-wheat wrap. Roll, cut and pack into ‘sushi’ size bites (my son loved this).
•Use a large, leafy green lettuce as your “wrap”. Romaine, bibb lettuce, collard greens and swiss chard work well! Stuff with hummus & mixed vegetables, savory vegetable quinoa, white bean dip and veggies or other fillings you enjoy!
•Spread nut butter, honey, & fresh fruit between two whole-wheat waffles.

4.) Include Hot Lunches. This is a great way to utilize leftovers! I have one kid who will not eat anything at room temperature and one who will be ‘that kid’ in college who eats “anything for a dollar!” Invest in a good insulated 8-10 ounce thermos. My ‘hot-meal’ kid maintains that all of his lunches have remained, at the very least, warm.

Soup hits the spot on a cool fall day

Soup hits the spot on a cool fall day

•Soups
•Leftover rice & Chicken/Stir Fry/Pasta & Sauce
•Pork/Chicken BBQ & Brown rice
•Quinoa patties out of leftover quinoa (or quinoa & veggies)
•Roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon and maple syrup or roasted vegetables with lentils & savory spices.
•Baked potato with favorite toppings
•Bean/chicken/turkey chili & corn bread

This oatmeal bake!

5.) Create A ‘Snacking Box‘:
•The European: whole-grain crackers, cheese, fruit, nuts, a square of dark chocolate
•The Bento Box: vegetable sushi, steamed edamame, rice crackers, fruit, nuts

Lunch frittata

6.) Salads!  Grain  salads like bulgur, quinoa (ok, it’s technically a seed), freekeh, wheat berries and farro can go in any flavor direction you like!  Green salads, bean, salads, vegetable salads, oh, my!  Use animal protein like chicken (or don’t)!  So many directions to take this (for you and your kids)! *Kids cannot have glass in the cafeteria, however.

7.) Add a theme. I have talked about this with meal planning, the same goes for lunch. Themes are fun! Themes help you plan! Encourage your kids to create a theme/come up with a name! Some could be:
Breakfast for lunch: “Wacky Wednesday” or “Freaky Friday”-Pre-make and freeze whole grain waffles, pancakes or french toast (you can cut these into ‘sticks’) and pack sides like Greek yogurt, Bare Naked Fit granola, homemade trail mix, or applesauce. Pack oatmeal in an insulated container with roasted walnuts, blueberries, 100% maple syrup and banana. Pack leftover frittata (great for cleaning out the fridge of wayward vegetables and perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner) as seen in the first photo on this page.
Taco Tuesday: see Un-Taco listed above
Mambo Monday: Whole wheat/brown rice pasta salad with cucumber, beans, carrot, olives, tomatoes. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt/ground pepper and your favorite spices.
Waste-Free Wednesday: Try to pack a lunch without any trash. Include a reusable napkin, a reusable water bottle reusable containers like these and silverware from home, if needed.

Finally, here are some general tips–some you may remember from Meal Planning 101–that may help:

Utilize a system.

Lunch frittata

We use various Lunchbots containers in our house. I like these containers because they are a visual reminder of what we need to pack. Even if you don’t like the system, there are some great lunchbox ideas on their website. There are many other systems (also with great lunch ideas on their websites) including: Laptop Lunches, Ziploc (BPA-free) Divided Containers, Goodbyns, Lunchsense, PlanetBox and Packit. A good insulated food thermos is also key. They usually run @ $20 (I have yet to find one that is not made in China, however).

Have a plan. Make lunches the night before (heck, one of my friends makes three days’ worth of lunches!), utilize a crock-pot, have go-to recipes to utilize ‘left-overs’, freeze sandwiches–they will defrost by lunchtime, freeze home-made smoothies or applesauce in containers like these (I got this idea a few years back from www.100daysofrealfood.com), or have a recipe swap for new ideas.

Get the kids involved!

Griffin makes grilled cheese sandwiches and freezes them to pop into his lunch box.

Griffin makes grilled cheese sandwiches and freezes them to pop into his lunch box.

You have heard this before. Involving your kids means they’re invested. Create a list or menu and post it. Allow your child to plan the menu one day/week (they will be more likely to eat it!) Grow, shop, cook with your child. Last but not least, have older kids (gasp) make their own lunches! Not only are you giving them a life-skill, but including them in the process also means they are more likely to eat what they have helped make and plan!

Look for creative resources. Here are a bunch of sites I have used for inspiration but remember that whole foods themselves are beautiful enough. If you are really interested in making your lunches stand out without much work, you can include silicone liners as dividers (the heart shaped liners in my pictures are from Target) or use some cookie cutters to make sandwiches more interesting. If spending the time punching out shapes of fruits and vegetables or taking a cookie cutter to your kids’ sandwich is going to put you over the edge, here’s some advice:DON’T DO IT! Yes, there are some beautiful and creative lunches out there, but if creating them is not an enjoyable experience for you? Bag it. Yes, you may have to make lunch, but you do not need to create more stress for yourself!

Making lunches is something we have to do at some point. It can be arduous and it may never be ‘fun’ but we can make it easier on ourselves by getting creative, planning, getting our kids involved, and coming together to use our most valuable resource: each other!

After all, as quoted by Ron Atchison (okay, from a card I found at Trader Joe’s, but who cares?) “What are we here for, if not to help one another?” Let’s hear about some of the lunch ideas and strategies that work for your family!

Moving Forward, Scaling Back

Susanna DeRocco
It’s hard to believe that our ‘Spring Challenge’ has wrapped up and we have landed smack-dab in the middle of the summer! The focus of this challenge was to make planning, eating real food and regular physical activity an integral part of our lives.  Identifying how certain foods may make us feel, practicing self-care and self- compassion while working toward our fitness goals was also top priority.
Though weight loss is an important step on the path towards optimum health, it is only one measure used to gauge overall health (and not always an accurate one–think of  ‘thin’ people you know who may not have the best health behaviors–they are losing out in the long run!).   Gaining strength, energy and making small changes that add up to overall improvements in health and well-being are  what we are after!  Sometimes being preoccupied with a number on the scale actually gets in the way of better health!  In my 20′s the number on the scale could make or break my day.  A pound in either direction could easily shift my daily outlook.  What a waste of energy!  Focus on other factors–how you feel, how your clothes fit, your energy level and digestive health.  If you must weigh yourself, keep it to the same time of day, one time per week.  I no longer own a scale and check in at the gym when I feel I need to, but most of the time I know when I need to make a shift in my exercise or eating habits.   The last thing we want is for anyone to focus so much on the scale number that they forget to recognize the very important changes that they have made along the way.   Take a moment to focus on the healthy lifestyle changes you have made!  You don’t have to lose weight to see benefits! Here are a few:
Eating more real, whole foods.  You are making healthy meals, snacks and treats, eating breakfast, keeping healthy snacks on hand and trying to incorporate vegetables into all three meals.  Incorporating more vegetables and colors into your day means more antioxidants.  More antioxidants means less inflammation, which is the calling card for disease.
Becoming more mindful of what, when and where you are eating.
You are reading ingredient labels. You are creating arsenals of healthy snacks at work. Stress eater? Comfort eater?  Eating in the car?  Take the time to savor and enjoy the healthy food you have worked hard to plan and create!
Eliminating those afternoon/evening sugar cravings. Eliminating refined sugar and reducing the overall sugar in our diets can seem daunting–I can tell that you have felt a difference in your energy levels when the excess sugar has been reduced or eliminated.
Planning- You are looking for AND SHARING healthy recipes, making lists (checking them twice) and sticking to them!  You have snacks at work, you are prepping snacks, you are bringing Nutri-bullets to the beach, you are running down Coastal Highway while on vacation.  You are looking up menus for restaurants and planning meals in advance.  Keep up the planning!  Even if we have to make a shift, the shift will come more easily if you are used to planning.
Going food shopping and preparing quick, simple, and fresh meals–Regardless if you are beginning to cook or comfortable in the kitchen, you have all made incredible steps here.  Keep the momentum going by trying one new, simple recipe per week. The more you can prepare your own food, the better!
Making Choices!  Guess what? We can’t have it all.  And you didn’t. If we want to meet our fitness goals and truly make nourishing ourselves healthfully a way of life, we need to make decisions.  Plan for your treats (notice I didn’t say ‘cheat’). If you really want that cocktail, bypass dessert. If this dessert is something you’ve looked forward to all summer, bypass the cocktails. Choose and plan for your meals and snacks. Each meal/snack is a new opportunity to make a choice.  If you were not happy with your choice at one meal, make choices you will feel good about for the next one!
Keeping a journal. Try to keep this up.  It allows you to see first-hand where you may be struggling, how different foods impact your energy and mood, and really how much or little you are eating.
Drinking more water. You are water-drinking fools! Remember that even being a little dehydrated effects your metabolism and does not allow you to burn calories as efficiently! Being adequately hydrated reduces cravings and helps your body perform on many levels!
Setting goals. Stick with this. Try creating a few goals unrelated to the scale.  For example, count how many push-ups, burpees, squat-jumps,etc. you can do in one minute.  The next time we do an exercise in class, try to beat your number!  Are you doing push-ups on your knees or not lowering all the way down?  Try a few full push-ups. Create a goal (I will do three full push-ups) and work toward that.  Keep on making (and revamping, if necessary) your short and long-term goals.
Calling on your tribe.  We have a great tribe of women here to support us!  During the summer we are often surrounded by friends/family; some of whom may not be as supportive.  They may view our healthy eating habits or our choice to exercise on vacation as being  ‘party-poopers.’  Remember, you are making these changes for you, not for anyone else. If your husband wants to go out for ice-cream you do not have to it eat it! If your mother insists that you eat another brownie,  you do not have to have it!  Create social opportunities that revolve around activity–even on vacation! Yes, it is difficult when the people around you are not supportive, so find a tribe of people who are and do not let anyone stop you from your own, personal journey!
Compassionate self-care.  Talking to yourself differently, moving on from a choice you were not happy with and not throwing in the towel based on one decision. Keep practicing.  We can never be kind enough to ourselves.
 
Think back to four (or maybe eight)  weeks ago–many of these things may have felt foreign to you!  Look at how much you have learned and accomplished! All of these little things add up to a healthier way of being.  Little things that you can continue to do for yourself throughout the following weeks until they become habits.   You are not a number on the scale; you are interesting, dynamic, inspiring women!  Remember the bigger picture!

Fueling yourself well and exercising regularly will:
Keep your stress hormones in check!
Help regulate mood!
Help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol!
Prevent/manage health concerns like type II diabetes, stroke, depression & arthritis!
Promotes better sleep & helps with weight loss and increases in energy!
Take time to really reflect. What about this challenge worked for you? What did not work for you? What can you sustain and where do you need additional support?
Every single day you get another chance to make a change.  You get to decide where you will make that change and how you will implement it.  Will you make your breakfast the night before to insure you don’t skip it and head to the drive-thru?  Will you go to bed a little earlier to get seven hours of sleep?  Will you try full push-ups to increase your strength?  Will you suggest meeting friends to do something active instead of for a cocktail?

 Will you leave the cheese off of your sandwich since you really can’t taste it anyway?  Small things, right?  Trust me. They. Add. Up.
Think of one change you made and how it has impacted your goals.  Would you have been able to do x, y, or z if you had not made that change? Think about it.  Maybe you did not lose any weight but you worked out on your vacation for the first time?  Maybe you maintained your weight on vacation and felt good about the balance you created with treats? Maybe you cooked a meal from scratch for the first time? Maybe you have added another exercise day into your schedule? Maybe your food choices and exercise choices enabled you to manage the stress of summer schedules? Every little bit helps. Small changes absolutely make a difference–they are the building blocks of creating healthy habits.  When planning or exercising or cooking or any one of these things becomes a habit, you are setting yourself up for a life-time of well-being. Being fit is not about the number on the scale.  It is not about deprivation or even ‘getting back to’ a certain preconceived size. Fitness means making a commitment to yourself each day. Believing that you are worth putting yourself first and valuing your health enough to make time to exercise and eat to nourish and fuel your bodies.  You are worth it!
Now, what are you doing every day to reach your goal?  We want to know!

 

Eat This….Not That

Awhile back I copied a quote “Eat to live, not live to eat!” I share it again while we work through this healthy eating challenge to also challenge you to change your thinking. Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, why not try to focus on all the great things you can eat while feeling and looking great! Whether you are participating fully in the challenge or want to start living healthier by making small changes….check out the list below of healthier substitutions for some common foods we all crave. I’m not saying to never enjoy an indulgence from time to time, but if have particular triggers (foods you can’t stop eating with one serving), try some of the foods below to stay in moderation and reach the goal you are working towards.

 

I’ll start with my trigger which is peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter…any type really!

*Peanut butter- replace with PB2 I don’t eat it straight out of the jar, but I add to smooties, yogurt, and Susanna’s muffin in a mug.

*Ice Cream- replace with smoothies- just saw these on Self.com:

Chocolate Banana Smoothie- blend all ingredients in blender

choc smothie

1/2 avocado (or less)

2 T dark cacao powder

1 frozen banana

1/4 cup plain non fat greek yogurt or use soy for non dairy

2 T almond milk (or more to make less thick)

 

Tropical Green Smoothie- tastes like a green pina colada

greensmoothie-14

1 C spinach

1 C frozen pineapple

1 C frozen mango

1 med banana

1 C almond milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

tsp Stevia (optional)

 

*Take out pizza- replace with quick homemade pizza

1 flax/oatbran wrap, flatbread or Lavash bread- sometimes in lunchmeat section, or bread aisle

olive oil and minced garlic (mix together) 1 T olive oil w/1 tsp garlic

handful light mozzarella and light ricotta

sliced tomatoes

oregano

Fold the wrap in half to make thick crust. Baste the wrap with the olive oil and garlic mix. Top with the cheeses, tomato and oregano. Bake in 350 oven until cheese melted and crust is browned. Can dip into tomato sauce too. (Purchase brand with ingredients that include olive oil, spices, tomato puree.

 

*Salty craving (chips)- replace with air popped popcorn sprinkled with low sodium old bay, parmesan or nutritional yeast flakes w/ sea salt for a buttery like taste or steamed edamame with sea salt

*High fat Cheese and wine- replace with Laughing Cow wedge with a Wasa brand  cracker or Carr’s table water cracker AND add seltzer water to your wine to make a wine spritzer. You can consume two drinks for the calories of  almost one.

*Cookies, Cake, brownies- replace with a Quest Bar your choice of craving flavor. I buy at Vitamin Shop or online. These are not to eat everyday, or as a meal substitute, but they are great to satisfy a craving you can’t get past! (think pms time)

*High sugar, high carb breakfast cereal- replace with peanut butter banana overnight oatmeal

oatmeal

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond mild

1 T chia seeds or ground flax

1/2 ripe banana

2T PB2

Mix ingredients together in small pint glass jar and place in fridge overnight. Stir in am and add more almond milk if too thick. This would be great as a dessert or snack as well!

We all have temptations and cravings, parties to attend, weddings, vacations….etc, etc. There will always be something most weeks that will interfere with strict, clean eating, but having a list of easy, quick substitutions on hand will help you stay on track most of the time. Staying on track MOST (85-90%)of the time, while  exercising regularly, is enough to reach and maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle. Do you have a healthy substitution you would like to share? Please add it to the comment section below so we can help each other feel and look our best without depriving ourselves of the foods we love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Challenge! Week 3 Reipes

5 Ingredient Grilled Shrimp

 

grilledshrimp

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail intact
1/4 cup olive oil, I use extra virgin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large garlic clove, minced (or 2 small)
juice of 1 lemon
Method

Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a shallow bowl. Be sure to crush dried oregano in your fingers to release extra flavor. Mix well.
Add shrimp, tossing to coat. Allow to stand 5 minutes.
Heat an oil grill so shrimp do not stick.

Grill 1 ½  minutes per side until opaque. Watch closely!

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

sweetpotatoburgers

 

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped (can use bag of microwaveable sweet potatoes)
1-1 1/2 cups oats (depending on the size of your sweet potato)
2 green onions chopped fine
2 tsp onion powder

2 cloves/garlic

1 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 T nutritional yeast, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil the sweet potato until tender. Mash the cooked sweet potato.  Add the oats and stir in the seasonings.  Form the mixture into patties.  Line or grease a baking sheet with a bit of oil and put the patties on it.  Place in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the burgers are a bit crispy on the outside.  Enjoy!

Zucchini Frittata

zucchinifritatta

 

Ingredients

2 T  olive oil

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, thinly sliced

1 cup fresh corn kernels

Coarse salt

8 large eggs

 

Method

Heat broiler. In medium ovenproof skillet (cast iron pan works well), heat oil over medium heat and cook onion, stirring until tender, @ 5 minutes.

Add zucchini and corn and cook until tender.

In a bowl, whisk eggs with ½ tsp salt and pour into skillet with vegetables.  Cook until sides are just beginning to set, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer skillet to oven and broil until just set in the middle and lightly golden @ 2-3 minutes.

 

Wasabi Glazed Salmon

wasabisalmon

 

Ingredients

4 (4-5oz) pieces of salmon

Juice of 1 lemon

11/2 T olive oil

2 T soy sauce

2 tsp wasabi (can use regular wasabi or buy powder to make paste)

 

Method

Clean and oil grill grates, preheat on high.

Place salmon skin side down in shallow bowl

Cover with lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce.
Smear a little bit of wasabi on each piece of salmon.

 

Grill on high heat 7-10 minutes (you do not have to flip the salmon).  Salmon is finished when the skin just begins to separate from the flesh, it flakes easily when poked with a fork, the filet feels slightly firm and spongy, the filet looks opaque.

 

Crock Pot Honey Soy Chicken

crockpothoneychicken

 

1 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 boneless chicken breasts

½ cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari

¼ cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken broth

½ cup chopped green onions

2 T honey (reserved)

 

Place olive oil and garlic on bottom of crock pot; cover with chicken breasts.

Combine next four ingredients and pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low 4 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker and brush with honey.  Top with slow cooker sauce.

 

This is a great meal when you are pressed for time; the vinaigrette comes together easily and you can pick up a rotisserie chicken at just about any grocery store these days.  You can get the greens and peaches from your local farmers’market; stone fruits like plums and nectarines are a great substitute.  Eliminate the chicken for your vegetarian eaters.

 

Roast Chicken Salad w/Peaches & Pecans

Ingredients

peachpecanchickien

Salad

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken .

2-3 heads chopped romaine lettuce (you can add some chopped red cabbage, mix in some spinach, arugula or some mesculun greens—all nice)

2 cups sliced, peeled peaches (about 3 peaches—can use nectarines, plums or grapes, whatever is in season)

½ cup toasted pecans (toast raw pecans in a pan on the stovetop @ 5 minutes on medium heat)

 

Vinaigrette (or dressing of choice)

5 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

3 Tablespoons good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons minced shallot

1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 Tablespoons real maple syrup

1 ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Method

Whisk together all 8 ingredients for Vinaigrette

**Combine chicken and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Serve individually and add vinaigrette to taste or pour half of the vinaigrette over the entire salad and serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.

 

**I often put the individual ingredients in separate bowls and let people help themselves accordingly.  Serving the vinaigrette on the side also allows for individual taste preferences.

Spring Challenge! Week 2 Recipes

proteinpancakes1

Protein Powder Pancakes

Ingredients

4 eggs

½ cup rolled oats

1 scoop protein powder

½ cup water reserved (can use unsweetened almond milk)

Fruit of choice (berries, bananas, nectarines, etc)

 

Mix together and let sit overnight. When ready to make, add water/almond milk as needed to loosen batter.

 

Caramelized-Onion-White-Bean-Dip1

Caramelized Onion & Cannellini Bean Dip

Ingredients

1 T olive oil

1 sweet onion (like Vidalia) sliced

1 sprig fresh rosemary

15oz can/box cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Ground pepper/cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Method

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and rosemary sprig; sauté until onions are very soft or caramelized (10-15 minutes). Remove rosemary.

Blend onion and other ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.

 

greek chicken

Greek Chicken

Chicken

4-6 chicken breasts, cut into1 inch pieces

Juice of 2 lemons

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp Dijon mustard

salt/pepper to taste

 

In large bowl or Ziploc, mix together everything but the chicken. Add chicken & marinate over night or all day (I have done this with only an hour to marinate & it is fine)

 

*To turn this into a salad:

 

Salad (really you can add as many or as little vegetables as you like, barring the olives)

2 heads Romaine lettuce, chopped (can add some other greens, too)

¼ cup Kalamata olives (pitted, cut)

2 T red onion, (sometimes I dice a shallot and put it directly into the dressing instead)

1 cucumber, diced

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

 

Dressing

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 cup (good) olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

salt/pepper to taste

 

*You can make the dressing ahead of time and keep in the fridge. Just take out a few minutes before so the olive oil can de-coagulate. It can last up to a week in your fridge—use it on salads, veggies, sandwiches, etc.

 

black-bean-burgers

Quick and Easy Black Bean Burgers

Ingredients

15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp ketchup

1 tbsp yellow mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

⅓ cup instant oats

 

Method

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper and set aside. In a mixing bowl, mash black beans with a fork until mostly pureed but still some half beans and bean parts are left. Stir in condiments and spices until well combined. Then mix in oats. Divide into 4 equal portions and shape into thin patties. Bake for 7 minutes, carefully flip over and bake for another 7 minutes, or until crusty on the outside. Add condiments of choice and serve with vegetables or corn on the cob and a side salad.

 

vegetable stiry fry

Vegetable Stir Fry with Cashews

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and julienned
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup small broccoli florets
1 cup carrots, (thin coins or matchstick size)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (check the label: no more than 2 grams sugar per serving) or soy/tamari sauce
2 cups sliced bok choy
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup snow peas
2 tablespoons sesame oil
½ cup cashews
Method

Start by preparing and cutting all the vegetables and measuring your ingredients so that they are ready to go. You can chop the day before and store in the fridge. Once you begin stir-frying, it goes very quickly!

In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the peppers and onion while stirring constantly. While continuing to stir, add successively the, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and teriyaki sauce. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add the bok choy, pepper, and salt and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more.

Stir in snow peas and sesame oil and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
Salsa-Chicken2-500x300

Crockpot Salsa Chicken Salad

2 pounds chicken breast

2 jar salsa (your choice)

1 can black beans

1 can corn (optional)

Pour one jar salsa in bottom of crock pot, add black beans and place chicken breasts on top. Pour another jar salsa on top. Cook on low for 6 or 7hours. Shred the chicken with a fork and mix everything together in the crock pot. Serve over green salad with additional ingredients using sauce as dressing.

Salad

Chopped Romaine

Corn

1 Avocado (1/4 avocado per serving)

Grape tomatoes

Cilantro (if you like), chopped

Lime

 

10333394_10152474000654750_3631938399350594716_o

Cannellini Bean Marinara w/Shrimp, Artichoke Hearts, Spinach & Garlic

Ingredients

1 can/jar artichoke hearts in water (drained, save water)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 can/box cannellini beans

1 box/can chopped tomatoes

1lb frozen cooked shrimp, defrosted

1/2-1 small box container spinach or other greens (it wilts, so add as much as you like)

red pepper flakes to taste

salt/pepper to taste

 

Method

Pour 2 T of artichoke water into a pan on stove top on medium-high heat

Add chopped garlic and cook for @ 2 minutes

Add 2 T more artichoke water and mix in beans, tomatoes artichoke hearts and shrimp, heat through

If pan seems to be getting dry, add rest of artichoke water

Add spinach until desired wilty-ness

Remove from heat.  Season w/red pepper flakes, salt & pepper (if needed)

 

halibut_170

Halibut over Spinach

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, smashed and cut in half

10 ounces baby spinach (I small bag/box—use the entire thing!)

1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for rubbing

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

4 4-ouncehalibut fillets, skin removed (can use any mild white fish like cod, sole, etc.)

1 lemon cut into 8 slices
Method

Heat the oven to 450° F. Rub a sheet pan with the cut side of the garlic (can save garlic and chop if you like). In a large bowl, toss the spinach with 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and spread evenly on the sheet pan. Season the halibut with the remaining teaspoon of salt and rub with a thin coat of oil. Place on top of the spinach and top each fillet with 2 lemon slices. Bake until the halibut flakes easily, 7-8 minutes.

 

quinoa grape 

Quinoa Salad with Chicken, Grapes and Almonds

Serves 4 to 6 people

 

Ingredients

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 1/3 cup quinoa

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 ½ tablespoons good olive oil

1 medium shallot, diced (or about 1 T)

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 1/2 cup green or red grapes, quartered

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

 

Method

Rinse quinoa under cold running water and drain. Bring 2 cups stock to a boil. Stir in quinoa and a pinch of salt then reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and set aside to let cool.

 

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, salt, pepper and shallot. Slowly add the oil, whisking well. Add quinoa and toss to combine. Add chicken, grapes and almonds and toss again. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Spring Challenge! Week 1 Recipes

spinachstrawberrysalad

 

Spinach and Strawberry Salad (thanks Jen G.!)

Ingredients

Dressing

2T balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 T extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

6 cup spinach (can add arugula/Romaine if you like)

1 pint fresh strawberries sliced

1/4 cup walnut or almond pieces (lightly toasted)

 

Method

Prepare dressing by whisking balsamic vinegar and mustard together. Slowly whisk in  olive oil until well combined. Combine the salad ingredients and pour dressing over the salad. Toss well to combine- enjoy!! Add any lean protein of your choice to make this salad a meal!  Leftovers (salmon, chicken, shrimp) are a great addition.

bbqpulledchicken

BBQ Pulled Chicken

4 chicken breasts

1 red onion, quartered and then cut in half

1 container low sugar, few ingredient BBQ sauce (Stubbs is one I have used—can certainly use home-made, but this is designed for a quick, easy night)

Place chicken and onions in crock pot.  Pour BBQ sauce over top.  Cook on high 4 hours.

coconutrice

Coconut Rice

Ingredients

2 tsp olive oil

*1½ cups uncooked long grain brown rice, rinsed (I use brown basmati rice)

1 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt)

1½ cups water

1 cup canned unsweetened light coconut milk

 

Method

Rinse rice. Drizzle the oil in a 1 qt. saucepan and swirl it around until it coats the surface of the pan. Turn burner on high eat and heat until pan is hot.

Add the rice to the hot oil and stir it around until there is a ‘toasted rice’ aroma. Stir in the salt.

Slowly and carefully add the water and coconut milk (it will splatter b/c the pan and ingredients are so hot). Bring to a boil. Stir; reduce heat to low and simmer covered for @ 17 minutes. (Do not stir again).

Remove saucepan from heat. Fluff the rice with a fork. Let stand, covered, for @ 10 minutes before serving.

 

quinoa

 

Easy Quinoa

Ingredients

1 T olive oil

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup quinoa

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

roasted/grilled vegetables (preferably leftovers!)

Chopped spinach

 

Method

Warm oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion until onion is translucent @ 3-4 minutes.

Add quinoa, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add stock; cover and simmer 20 minutes (or according to package directions).  Remove from heat; let sit 5 minutes.

Fluff with fork and add vegetables and spinach.

zucchinipasta

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles

Adapted from Skinnytaste.com
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

2 T olive oil

pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 lb peeled and de-veined shrimp

6 cloves garlic, sliced thin and divided

4 medium zucchini, peeled thin with a julienne or regular peeler or spiral cut w/spiralizer

pinch salt and fresh black pepper

1 lemon

1 cup halved grape tomatoes
Method
Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 T of the oil and crush red pepper flakes, add the shrimp and season with pinch salt and pepper; cook 2-3 minutes. Add half of the garlic and continue cooking 1 more minute, or until the shrimp is cooked through and opaque. Set aside on a dish.
Add the remaining 1T oil and garlic to the pan, cook 30 seconds then add the zucchini noodles and cook 1 1/2 minutes. Add the shrimp and tomatoes to the pan and squeeze the lemon over the dish. Remove from heat and serve.

 

zucchiniedamameavocado

Zucchini Salad with Avocado and Edamame

Ingredients
1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed off
1/2 lemon
1/2 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt & pepper to taste
2 oz diced avocado (1/2 medium haas)
1/3 cup shelled cooked edamame (can follow directions on bag of frozen)
1 basil leaf, minced
1 tsp minced chive

Method
Use a vegetable peeler (or julienne peeler or spiralizer) and cut the zucchini into thin spaghetti-like strands or thin strips. Trim the strands into bite size lengths, about 8 inches long and place it in a large work bowl. Drizzle the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss.

Dice the avocado into small pieces and add to the bowl along with the edamame, basil and chives. Serve right away and enjoy!

tunawasabi

Tuna with Wasabi (can also use Salmon)

1 ½ lb tuna steaks (or salmon)

2 T soy sauce (tamari-gluten free)

2 T rice vinegar

½ tsp sesame oil

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ cup plain soy yogurt

½ tsp wasabi paste

Mix the soy,vinegar, oil and ginger in a bowl. Add tuna and marinate in fridge for 30 minutes. Mix yogurt and wasabi in bowl and set aside. Coat a grill pan with cooking spray and cook tuna for 6 minutes, turning once (medium rare). Serve with wasabi sauce.


asianporknapaslaw

Asian Pork with Napa Slaw (marinate ahead of time)

Pork

2T low sodium soy sauce (use tamari for gluten-free)

1 T olive oil

1 T sesame oil

1 T rice vinegar

1 clove garlic

1-1/2 lb pork tenderloin

Combine ingredients in large glass bowl/pan or Ziploc bag, cover/seal and refrigerate 8-24 hours

Preheat grill to medium-high heat; grill pork, covered w/grill lid, 20-25 minutes or until done.  Let pork rest 10 minutes before slicing.

mache

Mache Salad with Beets & Pistachios

Ingredients

1 container Mache (can use arugula or Romaine)

1 box steamed, peeled beets (5-6 beets, cut into bite-size pieces)-or canned

2 T shelled pistachios

Dressing

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 T lemon juice

Salt/pepper to taste

3-4 scrapes of onion (scrape on grater and add to dressing)

Method

Mix olive oil, lemon, salt/pepper, & onion in a large bowl

Add mache, beets and pistachios and toss!  Enjoy!

 

tarragonchickensalad

Tarragon Chicken Salad

1 rotisserie chicken

¼ c white wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced

2 T fresh Tarragon leaves or 1T dried

Bag of salad greens

Pull chicken off the bone and cut or tear into bit sized pieces. Whisk together vinegar and olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Add chicken, celery and tarragon and toss to combine. Serve on a green salad of your choice.

 

Snacks

mugmuffin

Muffin in a Mug

Ingredients

1/4 cup whole ground flaxseed meal (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 tsp. aluminum free baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 large egg white
1 Tbsp 100% real maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup.frozen unsweetened blueberries (I like Trader Joe’s Frozen Organic Wild Blueberries)
1/2 tsp lemon zest

Method

Coat inside of an over-sized mug with coconut oil, butter or olive oil spray (I have skipped this step and it is just fine).

Mix dry ingredients together thoroughly in the mug.

Add egg, maple syrup, vanilla and lemon zest and stir until combined

Microwave for 90 seconds.

yogurtprotein

Yogurt Protein Snack

6oz almond milk or soy yogurt

1 T vanilla, strawberry or chocolate protein powder (plant based—whey protein is dairy)

1T nuts

Mix together and enjoy!

Dawn’s Story

 

 

In January, I started doing the spin bootcamp at Fit Mom. The classes were very challenging, but extremely rewarding at the same time. Melanie is a great trainer and really keeps the classes interesting with such variety. Once my session ran out, I knew I needed to keep it up. Four months in, Melanie proposed a nutrition challenge. I was hesitant at first; the thought of altering my diet was scary. However, at the same time, I knew something needed to change; I could not lose weight on my own. I grew up on sugar and have always indulged.

This challenge took me out of my comfort zone. The initial 10 day detox required eliminating dairy, wheat, sugar, alcohol, and processed food. I followed the meal plan and found that I really enjoyed the clean food. In addition, I was not hungry on the plan or bloated anymore. I’m not going to lie, I did cheat occasionally, but this challenge made me take control. I found it very helpful to plan my meals for each day. I wasn’t scrambling at any specific meal time for ideas. I had a plan.

I had immediate results. I lost 6 pounds the first week, and after a month’s time I was down 1o pounds. I felt great and my clothes fit better! By doing this challenge, in conjunction with bootcamp and spin, I am stronger and more confident in my daily routine. Nutrition, meal planning, and a structured exercise program have gotten me back on track. I am so glad that I had this opportunity and am very thankful to Fit Mom/Melanie for helping me accomplish what I was unable to do on my own. My story doesn’t stop here; I need to keep moving forward with all this new knowledge and become even healthier!