November 30, 2015

Skinny Eggnog Oatmeal with Cranberries

Thanksgiving is over which means the winter holiday delights are in abundance. Hooray, eggnog!! It seems to be one of those things people either love or loathe. I happen to love it! That spicy nutmeg and cinnamon flavor mixed with creamy sweetness... good thing I can't drink very much of it. And luckily there are tons of "skinny" eggnog options out there. I found a lovely pumpkin spice "almond nog" by Silk that's only 50 calories per 1/2 cup. It's also dairy and egg free.


I had some of my leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and eggnog and cranberry seemed like the perfect combo. Trying to lean out for our annual trip to Cabo in a few weeks, I opted to make a skinny baked oatmeal with eggnog and cranberries as the highlight. All the fun and taste of true holiday flavors without the guilt!


The tart cranberries perfectly complement the sweet richness of the eggnog for a deliciously healthy breakfast, snack, or dessert!

Skinny Eggnog Oatmeal with Cranberries
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

1 cup old fashioned oats (can use quick oats)
1 cup Silk Almond Nog
1 cup water
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp cranberry sauce (or sub dried or whole cranberries)

Directions
1. Bring almond nog (or eggnog of choice) and water to a boil.
2. Add oats and simmer 5-10 minutes until oats have absorbed most of the water and reach desired consistency.
3. Pour oats into two small bowls and top with 1-2 Tbsp cranberry sauce.
4. Add additional cinnamon and nutmeg and/or drizzle with maple syrup if desired.

November 25, 2015

World's BEST Cranberry Sauce

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Did you just fail at baking a pumpkin pie like I did?* No worries! Here's a recipe for the absolute BEST cranberry sauce you'll ever eat that is impossible to mess up.


It's a perfect accompaniment to your Thanksgiving plate. And it is amazing on a leftover Thanksgiving sandwich. You could even spread it on toast. Cranberry sauce non-believers will see the light after tasting this sauce. You will be seen as a cranberry whisperer.

*Yes, I did in fact burn a pumpkin pie. The Eagle brand recipe. It was a sad time. I don't recommend making that one. Stick with Libby's or go rogue and make your own.

World's Best Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients
1 12 oz package whole cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp orange juice
Pinch of salt

Directions
1. Empty bag of cranberries in a medium sauce pan with burner set on medium low. Reserve 1/2 cup of berries and set aside.
2. Add 1 cup of granulated white sugar and 2 Tbsp orange juice.
3. Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Once cranberries begin to soften and sugar starts to melt, turn burner to medium high.
5. Add a pinch of salt and stir occasionally until cranberries begin to burst.
6. The sauce should start to be thickening at this point. You can mash the berries with a wooden spoon to the consistency you prefer. I like mine a little chunky.

Wishing your and your's the happiest Thanksgiving!

Jessica

November 23, 2015

Easy Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Potato Soup

I just love the holidays! I'm always in a happy mood from Halloween until my birthday in January. There's something magical in the air, especially around Christmas time. I love the crisp air, the sparkly decor everywhere you go, and of course, that jolly bearded man in a white suit.

Not to mention, this is when I get a lot of time off. ;-)

In the winter, San Diego's sunset is around 4:30pm. And I am out the door for work when the sun is rising. So it's pretty hard for me to capitalize on that precious natural light for my blog photos. Today, however, I am on vacation!! And I have the BEST Broccoli Cheddar Potato Soup recipe for you! I made it a couple of weeks ago and Greg has been raving about it ever since. My mom is flying in today from Michigan and he requested I make the soup again "for your mom." Sure, babe, for my mom. :-)


Believe it or not, this soup is a "skinny" version. It's made with a bunch of broccoli, low fat milk, and reduced fat cheddar cheese. But you wouldn't know! I keep mine kind of chunky, but you are welcome to completely puree it if you like a smoother consistency.


This is a soup that eats like a meal. Serve with crackers or in a bread bowl if you want to be fancy like that. It takes about 30 minutes of cook time and is excellent heated up. In fact, I think it tastes better the second day. It'll go quick, so make sure to double it if you have a large family. It's the perfect quick and easy pre-Thanksgiving meal.


Easy Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Potato Soup
Makes five 1 2/3 cup servings

Ingredients
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour (all purpose, whole wheat or ap gluten-free)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup fat free or low fat milk
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced small
2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
1 tsp fresh pepper
4 cups (about 2 heads) broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces
2 cups reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar
1 tbsp parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Chop onion, carrot, celery, garlic in a chopper or mini food processor.
2. In a large soup pot, melt butter. Add chopped vegetables and sauté on low heat until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Add flour, salt and pepper to the pot and stir until smooth.
4. Add chicken broth, milk and potatoes and set heat to high until it comes to a boil, then cover and cook on low until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes.
5. Add broccoli florets, parmesan cheese, and stir well. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Cook uncovered until broccoli is cooked, about 5 minutes. Add cheddar and American cheese, stir well and remove from heat.
6. Using an immersion blender, quickly blend part of the soup for a quick second or two. If you don't have an immersion blender, remove about 1-2 cups of potatoes and broccoli, place it in your chopper, then add it back to the soup. This helps thicken it a bit.


I hope you enjoy it! What are your Thanksgiving plans this year?

November 15, 2015

Skinny Turkey Spinach Meatballs

Good morning!

Well, it's finally gotten cold in San Diego. And I am happy to say I have been using my central heat the past couple of weeks. I have been sleeping much better under several blankets and instantly putting on my robe and slippers upon waking. What's more, cooking warms me up, so I've been doing more of it. Yay for me, yay for you! ;-)

I also changed up my workout routine the last couple of weeks. Fall is my favorite season and I seem to get more energy once the seasons change. I'm always the most fit during the holidays, which is probably very unusual. However, I am usually the least fit after summer, which is not that lucky! Swim suit season persists in San Diego for months. For whatever reason, the holiday season peps me up and gives me more motivation. And being a school counselor, I have a lot more free time for working out during the winter months.

So I recently started doing reformer Pilates at a place near my work and it is tough! It doesn't look like it's doing much, but holy moly, it burns in places you didn't even know could burn. What I like about Pilates is that it is very core focused. Core workouts are my favorite. The core muscles repair the fastest, so you can see progress quicker and you can build muscle easier than other body parts. The secret to a flat core, however, is your diet. You can have all the muscle you want on your abs, but a bad diet will cause a layer of fat to conceal all your hard work. So that's why I put more focus on my diet recently and also invested in a heart rate monitor. I've been alternating between Pilates for resistance training and HIIT (high intensity interval training) for cardio and fat blasting. I went to a Grit Strength class (HIIT) at 24 Hour Fitness that was 30 minutes, followed by a 30 minute core conditioning class, and I burned 550 calories. Not too shabby. With my heart rate monitor, I'm able to see how high I get my heart rate and how many calories I burn.



I got this heart rate monitor on Amazon and I'm very happy with it. It's easy to use and it inspires me to challenge myself. If you feel like your workouts are stale or you've reached a plateau, just change up your routine or try something new. Remember: if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you. ;-)

I've been trying to eat cleaner, home made meals lately after slacking a bit because I get so tired after working so early during the week. So, the other day I decided to experiment with some meatballs. Generally they're pretty easy to make and there are a million variations. But I was quite pleased with how these turned out. They were flavorful, hearty, and gluten free. Plus, for picky eaters, they have finely chopped spinach hidden within them.


I regularly buy ground turkey, so I had all the ingredients on hand, which was nice and convenient. You could use ground beef if you want. This recipe is very versatile.


You could use regular pasta, gluten free pasta, or even just have the meatballs by themselves with veggies on the side. I ate leftover meatballs with a side of my easy roasted zucchini and carrots and it made for a delicious and healthy lunch.

What new workouts have you tried out or been wanting to try out?

Skinny Turkey Spinach Meatballs
Makes ~5 servings

Ingredients
1.25 lb package of extra lean ground turkey
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. paprika
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small handful spinach leaves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato sauce or marinara

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Lightly coat large baking sheet with spray; set aside
3. Combine turkey, salt, seasoning, paprika, egg, oats, garlic, spinach, and tomato sauce in large bowl; mix well by hand
4. Roll mixture into 15 1.5-2 inch meatballs. Place on prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle.

Optional: Place meatballs in a sauce pan and add a jar of marinara until sauce is warmed through. Top pasta or a roll with the meatball mixture.

November 9, 2015

Autumn Harvest Salad


Last weekend, Greg and I traveled to Charleston for a mini vacation. Neither of us had ever been to the Carolinas and we heard fall was the best time to go. We stayed right downtown in the Historic District and I fell totally in love with the city's charm. We ate sooo much delicious food and one thing that stands out, oddly enough, is a delicious salad I had at Verde. This salad post isn't a complete copy cat, but it's pretty close.

The first couple of days we spent in Charleston (where we saw a Thomas Ravenel impersonator on Halloween) and the second half of the trip we drove to Charlotte to see the Colts take on the Panthers. Sadly, the Colts lost and it was pouring the whole time, but we still had a great time. We both wore super cool blue panchos, but somehow Greg wasn't wearing it at the time of this photo. :-)


The salad I had at Verde had a sweet tea vinaigrette which I wasn't ambitious enough to try today. However, this one does have a delicious tangy sweet apple cider poppy seed vinaigrette you're sure to love. I threw in some autumn accouterments like sliced apples, pecans, and dried cherries on top of bright green baby spinach. I added gluten free pasta to bulk it up, but you can leave it out and/or add any protein of your choice.


I hope you enjoy it! What city do you find charming?

Autumn Harvest Salad
Makes 5-7 side servings

Ingredients
5 oz baby spinach (half a 10 oz bag)
1 cup small pasta of choice (cooked according to package directions and cooled)
3/4 cup dried cherries (can sub cranberries)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 Braeburn apple (or apple of choice)
1/3 cup pecans

Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
4 Tbsp white sugar
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp poppy seeds

Directions
1. Add all dressing ingredients except poppyseeds into a blender or food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds. Pour liquid into a resealable container and add poppyseeds. Shake to combine.
2. Add all salad ingredients into a large bowl or several small containers. Slice up apple if necessary.
3. Pour 2 Tbsp of shaken dressing onto each portion of salad and serve immediately.
4. Store dressing and salad separately if eating at a later time.

October 12, 2015

20 Minute Fish Tacos

Ah, Monday... who likes you? I don't and I certainly don't like thinking about having to go home and figure out what's for dinner right after work.

Which is why I love how easy fish tacos are. They are seriously a staple in my home. The BF and I make them weekly. Why? Because they are SO easy and fast. Not to mention healthy and delicious. Win-win.

My secret to fish tacos is that I use frozen fish fillets and a bottle of blackening seasoning. We buy our fish from Costco, but most grocers carry a pack of frozen fish fillets. We like mahi, but tilapia, cod, and salmon work too. You can also make my best ever Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos. They take a little more work in that you marinate the shrimp, but they are worth it.


You can use flour or corn tortillas, but I must recommend the Tortilla Land brand that you cook yourself on the stove. They are amazing and only 60 calories a piece. You can also add any toppings you like. We usually add pico de gallo, lettuce or cabbage shreds, and guacamole. Costco also has little 100 calorie Wholly Guacamole packs that are great for tacos.

So you see? You can have a super easy, healthy, delicious meal and hardly spend any time cooking. Just thaw the fish for about 15 minutes, throw on some blackening seasoning, and grill it up on the stove. You can heat your tortillas at the same time and voila! Dinner is served. Don't you just want to take a bite of these?


I like to add salsa or my chipotle crema sauce and I'll provide that recipe below.

20 Minute Fish Tacos
Makes 4 Tacos

Ingredients

2-3 tsps canola or coconut oil
2 frozen mahi fillets (can use fresh fish and any type of fish you prefer)
2 Tbsp blackening seasoning
4 corn tortillas (or flour)
Optional toppings: guacamole, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce or cabbage, shredded cheese

Ingredients for chipotle crema:
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 cup 0% plain Greek yogurt
2-3 tsps milk

Directions
1. Thaw fish fillet for 15 minutes in room temperature water or until completely thawed.
2. Preheat a skillet with a few tsps canola oil on medium high heat.
3. Sprinkle thawed fish with blackening seasoning to evenly coat.
4. Pan fry fish on on each side for 3-4 minutes or until evenly cooked. Fish will be white and flaky when done.
5. While fish is frying, heat a skillet/griddle on high heat.
6. Add tortillas and grill for about 1 minute per side.
7. Add half a fish fillet per tortilla and any toppings you desire.

For the chipotle crema: Blend pepper and yogurt together until completely blended. You may need to add a little milk to reach desired consistency. I like to put mine in a squeeze bottle, but you can also dollop it on your tacos like sour cream.

Enjoy!

Jessica



October 6, 2015

One Pot Skinny Lasagna Soup

Today was the first real fall feeling day in what feels like forever! I can finally drink my pumpkin spice coffee without feeling off. And I wore a scarf with boots today! Lots to celebrate. ;-)

So I was going to make regular ole' spaghetti, but then I got inspired to do something more creative. I was also sick all weekend and finally had the energy to cook.


If you know how labor intensive a lasagna is, but really love those cheesy Italian flavors, then this is the recipe for you. One Pot Skinny Lasagna Soup. One pot, 30 minutes, lean, and delicious.

Now that it's starting to be chilly in some parts of the country it's comforting to have a hot and savory bowl of soup. You can easily make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat or carnivore-friendly by adding ground beef or Italian sausage. For an easy meal that's sure to please a crowd (and make everyone say "Mmmm" when they walk in the door), you should definitely try this recipe.


One Pot Skinny Lasagna Soup
Makes ~8 servings
Adapted from here

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.25 lbs extra lean ground turkey
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
7 cups chicken broth (if using reduced sodium, you'll probably need to add additional salt)
2 (15-oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups uncooked rotini pasta (I used gluten free, but you can sub any pasta type you want, even broken up lasagna noodles)
2 small zucchinis, sliced
¼ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp pepper

Cheese topping: Shredded low fat mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Heat oil in large pot and add onion. Cook until translucent.
2. Add garlic and stir in for about 1 minute.
3. Add ground turkey and cook until fully cooked.
4. Add tomato paste and Italian seasonings and cook for 1 minute.
5. Pour in chicken broth, diced tomatoes WITH LIQUID, zucchini, pasta, salt and pepper.
6. Let simmer for 10-14 minutes until zucchinis and noodles are cooked.
7. Serve with cheese melting on top.

Easy, right?

Enjoy!

Jessica

September 28, 2015

Skinny Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

What's better than a sweet, hearty, chocolatey, pumpkiny little bar of love?


Nothing. I know, right?! Really, there's nothing better. I feel like I want morning to hurry up so it can be an appropriate time to eat these. 3am is considered "the morning," right? ;-)



As you all know by now, I use oats all the time. In fact, this recipe doesn't differ too much from my last post! However, these bars are great in that you can heat them up or eat them at room temp and they are easily transportable for those busy mornings.




What's even better is that each bar contains a scant 103 calories and 6g of sugar. Much better than any of those store bought breakfast bars. The old fashioned oats and whole wheat flour really help keep you feeling full until lunch time. And at 100 cals each, you can snack on a few of these without any guilt.


The pumpkin spice isn't overpowering and the chocolate balances out the oaty fall flavors beautifully. If you aren't a chocolate fan or prefer to have even less sugar, you can sub any kind of nuts or even chia seeds. Oh, and did I mention you only need to dirty one bowl?


I hope you enjoy these as much as I do! Happy fall, y'all!

Skinny Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bars
Makes 16 small squares in an 8x8 or 9x9 pan
Adapted from Sally

Ingredients
2.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick oats)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour or gluten free)
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla, but regular is fine)
3/4 cup pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup almond milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly spray 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 square baking pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
2. Mix together oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Add in the vanilla, pumpkin, milk, egg, and maple syrup. Mix together until evenly combined. Fold in mini chocolate chips gently.
3. Pour the mixture into the pan, spread around evenly with spatula and bake for 20 minutes-30 minutes, or until baked through in the center.
4. Allow to cool and cut into bars.

Bars stay fresh for up to 5 days in a covered container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.


September 13, 2015

Balsamic Roasted Zucchini, Squash, and Mushrooms

Hello!!

I feel like I've been neglecting my little corner of the blogosphere lately. I moved again which was a big surprise, but a very happy one. So now I'm finally settled and I'm in love with the surroundings at this place! It's like a little jungle. Perfect photo ops with beautiful natural light. I can't wait to start developing new recipes!

This is the view of our little yard from our bedroom doors.

In the meantime, I did experiment with spicing up my regular ole' roasted veggies by tossing them in an olive oil/balsamic marinade. It was light and flavorful and these veggies were a perfect side dish to some rotisserie chicken.


All you do is chop them up, whisk the marinade, pour it on, and pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes.


A simple, pretty, healthy side dish to any main course.

Balsamic Roasted Zucchini, Squash, and Mushrooms
Serves 2-4

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 8oz container of sliced mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar (I use Trader Joe's brand)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray.
2. Slice veggies and place in a large bowl.
3. Whisk up marinade ingredients and garlic, then pour over veggies and toss to coat.
4. Spread veggies in a single layer on pan and place in oven.
5. After 10 minutes, stir veggies around.
6. Roast for 10 more minutes or until veggies are soft and starting to brown.

September 9, 2015

Healthy + Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

These.


Oh my.


Words are lost.


But seriously, guys, these are some of the BEST FREAKIN PANCAKES I've ever made! And I know, I know, I'm a weirdo pumpkin freak. But still. They are AMAZING. I can't even believe they are healthy. They taste like a glorious pumpkin muffin that has 500 calories. And yet... they're good for you. Whaaaaaat?! Just look at that melty chocolate and those layers of pumpkin yum.


Meteorologists said September 1st was the first day of Fall. Ok, no need to tell me twice. Here ya go! You're welcome. ;-)

Healthy + Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Makes 6-8 medium pancakes/2-3 servings (1/2 the recipe is 300 calories not including syrup or other toppings)

Ingredients
Wet ingredients
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, not an entire can)
1/3 cup pumpkin or vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, or sub whatever milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract (Mexican vanilla highly encouraged, but you can use regular)

Dry ingredients
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup oat flour (blended oats, be sure to measure 1/2 cup after it's blended)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions
1. In a small bowl, mix together the wet ingredients until very well combined.
2. I recommend using a pumpkin or vanilla flavored Greek yogurt (pumpkin if you can find it!), but plain yogurt will work too.
3. In another bowl (very important to separate wet and dry ingredients for this recipe), toss together all of the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
4. To make oat flour, place regular old fashioned oats or quick oats in a blender or food processor and pulse until they resemble flour. Make sure they aren't chunky and really resemble a flour. Measure after blending and not before.
5. Combine wet and dry and stir until just combined. Over-mixing the batter yields denser pancakes.
6. Grease a griddle or large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray (I use a coconut oil based spray) and heat the griddle to medium heat.
7. Place about 3-4 tablespoons (the smaller, the better these work out) on the griddle or skillet. Allow to cook about 2-4 minutes per side or until golden brown and the center is "poofy" (completely cooked through)
8. Place on a plate, cover with maple syrup or peanut butter (or whatever toppings you like on your pancakes) and enjoy immediately.
9. To keep the pancakes warm while the others are cooking, you can place them separately on a large cooling rack (stacking makes them soggy) in a 200-degree oven UNCOVERED for up to 20 minutes - after that they start to dry out.

Adapted from Chelsea's Messy Apron.


August 24, 2015

Three Websites for Free Gym Alternatives

Are you one of those people who loathe the gym? Do you refuse to pay the high monthly price at your local gym? Do you find it near impossible to make it to the gym, but desperately need to get exercise in your life?


Then this post is for you! I've compiled a list of free workout regimens you can find online. The best thing is, you need little to no equipment and an area where you can work out.

1. My friend recently told me about Nike Training Club. I downloaded the app to see what it's all about. The interval training I did on a local school's blacktop was super tough... in a good way. I'm always looking for a challenge.


PROS: You can use the app anywhere you are. It counts down the entire pre-designed workout and gives you videos to see what each exercise is. There are a lot to choose from and you can select type (cardio, weights, yoga, stretching), length, and level (beginner, intermediate, advanced).

CONS: I couldn't figure out how to get the narration to stop after I already knew what the moves were. Not a huge deal, but the voice did interrupt my music, which was annoying. You also can't skip ahead or go back between reps.




2. I've blogged about Melissa Bender multiple times.


PROS: She has a YouTube and website where you can either workout with her or just use her 400+ free exercise videos. She has a variety of videos, but mainly utilizes high intensity interval training. The cool thing is that you can do really short workouts or repeat them for longer ones. She also has a lot of videos that don't use equipment in case you don't have any. She also seems super down to earth and like an overall good person.

CONS: There's no app thus far, so I will sometimes print out her workout breakdowns and take them with me to wherever I plan to work out.




3. I recently discovered GymRa through Christine Khuri.


PROS: She is a beast and her workouts are super intense. I would only recommend her if you are intermediate or advanced. Her ab workouts are killer and very effective. But GymRa has a variety of types of fitness routines and levels.

CONS: You have to comb through YouTube to find what you want. It's not organized as neatly into a website like NTC or Bender Fitness. There's also no workout breakdown, so you don't really know what each routine entails prior to doing the workout.


I hope you find these ideas useful. They are my go-to's when I can't make it or don't want to go to the gym. I do still hit the gym regularly for resistance training, which is very important to preventing osteoporosis in women, maintaining the proper balance of human growth hormone (nature's youth serum), and keeping tight and toned. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn in a day resting.

What do you like to do for a workout aside from the gym?

August 18, 2015

A Handy Guide to Meal Prepping!

Good morning!

As I embark on my new career as a high school counselor this week, I have been gearing up for my new lifestyle (also I may be blogging a little less because I'm ridiculously busy--sorry!). I will have to be at work by 7:15am and will rarely be able to go off campus on a lunch break. Therefore, I need to bring all my meals, gym clothes, and work with me every day. Sure, I could bring a prepackaged meal, stop by a fast food place on my way to work, or bring leftovers. But a) I have to keep track of my nutrients and calories in order to stay feeling my best and staying in shape and b) I don't eat fast food...


...Fast food from a window that is! What I do eat are the individual meals I prepare using the meal prep planning method. Sundays I will make large portions of various meals complete with healthy sides that I can consume throughout the week. I have about a million tupperware containers so I can grab my meals and run out the door at 6:45am. All I need is a microwave at work.


You can meal prep breakfast, lunch, dinner, even snacks. I for one know that the last thing I want to worry about when I get home from a long day and a commute is dinner. Between long work days, driving, hitting the gym, and spending time with loved ones, I want to maximize my time doing what I love... and sometimes cooking is just another chore. And I love to cook! But time management is key to having a successful life, staying in shape, continuing to eat healthy, and being happy overall. Less stress = more happiness.

Ok, now that I've hopefully convinced you of why meal prepping is so great... here are some handy tips and recipe ideas so you can start your meal prepping journey:

1. I'm a list person. It seems that if I write something down, I'm much more likely to go through with it. Therefore, I will write down my workout and meal goals for the week. Check out this handy-dandy planner that can help to hold yourself accountable and ensure you buy all the right ingredients, etc, for your weekly meals. This company has a ton of options, including a fitness and meal specific planner. Check them out!


2. Invest in reusable containers. I have a variety of Tupperware containers. Some are Gladware from the grocery store and some I specifically bought for meal prepping because they have nifty little dividers so you can bring an assortment. The more types of food and color on your plate, the more nutrients you're consuming. Check out Amazon if you want to invest in these.

3. Figure out your "go-to" meals. For me, I'm a big Mexican food fan. Therefore, I always have salsa, Mexican spices, corn tortillas, chicken, and Mexican toppings on hand. But the same goes for any genre. For example, make crockpot oats to last the week. Oatmeal is cheap and you can buy it in bulk. Find your commonly made meals and make sure to always put those items on your grocery list. When you don't have time to test out a new recipe, the oldies are goodies.

Pictured here is my Crockpot Salsa Verde Chicken. It's super easy to throw together and you can make a huge batch to use for tacos, burrito bowls, salads, etc. You can also freeze it.

4. Start small. Meal prepping can seem overwhelming and I know I was intimidated by photos on Instagram and Pinterest of dozens of perfectly prepped and portioned meals in Tupperware. However, start off by just making one prepped meal, rather than meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For example, make my delicious Skinny Sloppy Joe's and keep what you don't eat in the fridge. Perfect for lunch or dinner leftovers.

My Baked Strawberry & Banana Oats is one of my most popular recipes and it heats up very well. (Your coworkers will ask you for the recipe :-)

5. Change it up!! For the most part, I can eat the same thing day in and day out for quite awhile. But it's more because I know it's good for me when I make it versus eating out and feeling guilty. However, chicken breast gets mighty old after awhile. (The boyfriend agrees.) So make sure you change it up. I use ground turkey a lot as well as fish. I also use veggies as much as possible. Veggies and spices really help step your flavor game up. For example, you can make turkey burgers, turkey chili, turkey spaghetti, and turkey meatloaf with a plain old package of lean ground turkey breast. Veggies are a great addition to any main dish, help keep you fuller longer, and of course, are soooo good for you. You can eat almost endless vegetables each day (minus potatoes, corn, avocados).


So there you have it! Five tips to get you started on meal prepping. What do you usually cook for make ahead meals?



July 29, 2015

Mint Chocolate Spinach Smoothie and Berry Banana Hemp Protein Smoothie

Hello folks!

One thing I make a lot of and don't seem to blog much about are protein smoothies. They are great for a breakfast on the go, a midday snack, or to satisfy that pesky sweet tooth craving. Your muscles crave protein, especially if you use weights, so make sure to incorporate lots of protein into your diet. I do have two protein shake recipes here and here, but I have two new protein smoothie recipes coming right up! Read on...


First up is my favorite protein smoothie ever--my Mint Chocolate Spinach Smoothie! I make it so much and am in heaven every time. It lasts about two minutes before I suck it all down. :-)

I know some people are squeamish about putting greens in their smoothies and shakes, but I promise you can't even taste it. More than that, if you're one of those people who really needs to get more veggies in your diet, here's an easy, tasty way to sneak'em in. You can also leave out the mint if you're not a mint person and it tastes like chocolate banana OR you can leave out the mint and add peanut butter for a super decadent smoothie. My boyfriend loves it with the peanut butter. It's really so versatile... you can do kale instead of spinach, add berries, whatever your heart desires.

Mint Chocolate Spinach Smoothie
Makes 1 large or 2 small

Ingredients
1 frozen banana (sliced or broken in half)
1 handful spinach leaves
3-4 mint leaves (optional)
2-3 tsp cocoa powder
1 cup unsweetened cashew milk (or milk of choice)
1 scoop unflavored protein powder (you could sub vanilla or chocolate if you'd like)
1 tbsp dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs
1-2 tsp agave nectar (can omit if using flavored protein powder and/or chocolate chips)
2-3 ice cubes (optional, but it thickens the smoothie and makes it nice and cold)
Place all ingredients in a blender and liquify!





Next up is this beautiful Berry Banana Hemp Protein Smoothie. The hemp hearts add in omega fatty acids that are good for your brain, heart, eyes, and skin. You could also use chia seeds or just leave out seeds altogether.

Berry Banana Hemp Protein Smoothie
Makes 1 smoothie

1 frozen banana (sliced or broken in half)
1 cup mixed frozen berries
1.25 cups cashew milk (or milk of choice)
1 scoop whey protein powder (unflavored or vanilla)
1 Tbsp hemp hearts

I hope you enjoyed these smoothies! What kind of protein shakes do you whip up in your kitchen?

XOXO,

Jessica

July 25, 2015

Double Chocolate Banana Applesauce Cake

Few things in this world are as satisfying as taking a bite of a huge, moist, chocolatey slice of cake. Can I get an amen?



When it comes to baked goods of any kind, texture is key! I just can't stand crunchy cookies and dry cakes. And I gotta tell you, this is one of the moistest cakes I've ever made. And guess what? It's not from oil, butter, or eggs. Nope, a lot of this cake's flavor and texture comes from bananas and applesauce.


As a matter of fact, if you were to use vegan chocolate chips, this recipe is completely vegan. It's a healthified cross between a chocolate cake and a brownie, but it tastes as good as sin.


I start my new school counseling job next week and I have been thinking about how I will win over my co-workers as the newbie counselor. I'm thinking I can just happen to bring in "leftover" baked goods from time to time. This cake should do the trick. ;-) It keeps really well, up to 4-5 days if you can even keep it around that long. If you can, I would suggest putting in a fridge after a couple of days just in case. Oh, and did I mention you make it all in ONE bowl? Yep, all ingredients stirred together in one bowl and poured into a baking pan. It might just be my new favorite dessert.


This is the perfect snack to include in your lunch or after dinner. Low calorie, and low fat, with all the flavor of the real thing. Thumbs up!

Double Chocolate Banana Applesauce Cake
Makes 9 squares in an 8X8 pan

Ingredients

2 very ripe medium sized bananas
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup applesauce (no sugar added)
⅓ cup water
1 tsp white vinegar
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
⅔ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Mash bananas in a medium size bowl.
4. Stir in sugars, applesauce, water, and vinegar until thoroughly combined.
5. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt just until combined.
6. Fold in ⅓ cup of chocolate chips.
7. Pour batter into prepared dish.
8. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top.
9. Bake for 25-33 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. (Oven temps vary, so check earlier rather than later)
10. Let cool, slice and serve.
Original recipe here

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