Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Spiralized Carrot Salad


The deep winter CSA share was great, but left us drowning in carrots.  Which meant I was scrambling for ways for us to eat them because raw-carrots-dipped-in-ranch was getting bor-ing.  And one can only eat so many maple roasted carrots.  As spring arrived I found a delicious and easy side dish to put those carrots to good use. 
Based on a recipe from {The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen}, I find that if I make a batch of this at the beginning of the week it comes in very handy as a quick side dish on those nights we are in a hurry or as an easy salad base with chicken and greens. 

Spiralized Carrot Salad

3-4 large carrots
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp chopped ginger
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (I've also used Meyer lemons and oranges)
2 tsp honey
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil

1.  Spiralize carrots and chop parsley, toss to combine in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, ginger, zest and juice of lemon, honey, vinegar and salt.  Slowly add the olive oil while whisking. 
3.  Add the dressing to the carrot and parsley.  Toss to combine.  Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge for a few days. 



I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Health and Happiness,

Cerissa

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kids packing themselves. Wait, what?!?

Yes, you read that correctly.  After about a year of practice, the kids finally successfully packed themselves for an overnight.  I'm ready to declare this a parenting win.

I mean, they needed a list, but other than that it was out-of-my-hands. 

As a family, we go on quite a few overnights.  Visiting family and friends ranks high on our priority list and we are lucky to be able to visit some beautiful places that fill our souls and give us some quality family time away from the chores of home. However, this means that we *ahem* (I) do a lot of packing.  I'm pretty organized with it and am so used to it that it isn't that challenging, but getting two to-do lists off my hands is amazing.  Last year I started giving the kids packing lists and sitting with them in their rooms helping them read the list and check off the items.  At the time I wondered if I was crazy, but good word has this paid off! 

We took a quick trip to Grandma and Papa's this past Saturday afternoon so the kids didn't need much and I knew we wouldn't be up a creek without a paddle if they missed something.  So I handed over the lists and let them be.  Stella packed up pretty quickly and was proud of her accomplishment.  At 8 years old, I was fairly certain she was up to the task. 

Tucker, on the other hand, was left to pack up with his Dad (who also maybe needs a list?) while I ran errands.  I came back and his pack was ready to go.  Of course I WANTED to check his bag.   I asked him if he had packed everything and he very confidently told me he "followed the list".  I reluctantly let it go, knowing that if he forgot something lessons would hopefully be learned. 

And gladly no lessons need to be learned.  They had everything they needed and what's more: they managed their belongings the whole time they were there.  Since they knew what they packed, they knew what was available to them and what to look for so they went to get it themselves.  I'll call it "Pride of Ownership". 

I'll also call it "Score 1 for Mom". 

Would you let your kids pack their own bags?  Have you let them do it with funny or disastrous outcomes?  I'd love to hear, please leave a comment below!


Health and Happiness,

Cerissa




Friday, May 20, 2016

5 Lifestyle Changes We Didn't Realize We Made

               
                                         

I was talking with a friend the other day (she has also been on a fitness journey) about the typical food and exercise challenges we have.  That conversation morphed into one about the people I am helping to start their journey to more healthy eating and exercising habits and how many questions they often have: can I eat this?  what about that? what do you do about ____? 

I love helping folks as they begin down this path and every once in a while it shows me just how far me and my family have come in terms of treating our bodies well.  It wasn't until I was reflecting on some of the questions and concerns I receive about making lifestyle eating changes that I realized there are some "choices" that aren't even choices for us anymore.  They are NON ISSUES because they have just become part of our healthy lifestyle.  In fact, I can't pinpoint for you when these habits changed, because it was a case of small daily choices adding up to huge lifestyle changes over time.
And here we are.  Not really missing anything too badly either!

Here are the most significant changes we have made to our lifestyle:

Exercise is part of our daily conversation.  That doesn't mean that we workout every day, it just means that exercise is something that is planned for each day.  It is at the forefront of our minds and we schedule time for it, plan for rest days and workouts around daily logistics.  Sure, we do get up and workout first thing most mornings, but some days our schedules don't allow for it and we make a plan to work out in the evening or we make that day our rest day.  The point being, exercise doesn't happen by chance anymore.  We don't think "oh, I'll fit it in sometime today", it has just become one of the to-do's on our daily list. 

Our dairy intake is more limited.  I don't know about you, but I loooove cheese.  Our cheese/meat drawer in the fridge used to be filled with bags of shredded cheese: mozzarella, cheddar, Mexican mix, parmesan.  We just freely threw it in everything.  We also almost always had a collection of cheeses for our nightly 'cheese and cracker fest'.  Now the drawer usually holds a block of cheddar cheese and maybe a block of mozzarella.  If I'm making a meal, I will shred the cheese myself.  By shredding it myself, I tend to use less because shredding is tiring, and it has to be worth the effort!  We've also moved our cheese fests to Thursday In-House Date Night.  By planning to have cheese and crackers only once a week, we tend to invest in smaller amounts of higher quality cheeses that seem a bit more like a treat.  Same goes for that pint(s?) of ice cream that used to live in our freezer. Now I just sing "Walk on By" every time I pass them in the market. And if we want ice cream, we have to go out for it and, let's be honest, that doesn't happen that often.

In keeping with the 'less is more' idea with cheese, baked goods are only in the house if I make the effort to make them myself.  I can't tell you the last time I bought anything from the bakery section of the grocery store that wasn't our weekly loaf of sandwich bread or mini whole wheat bagels (for Stella!).  It is kind of freeing to just be able to breeze through all that temptation.  Okay, maybe I visit with the goodies now and again but they rarely come home with me.  I love to bake and occasionally I will make something, but with the effort it takes it is usually something to share with a group or for a special occasion.  Basically, if it is in the house, I will eat it so I try to limit my exposure.  And worse come to worse, freezing the goodies at least makes them a bit less convenient!

We don't have an alcoholic beverage every night anymore.  I just cringed as I wrote that because I can't believe we changed that habit.  We used to be the folks who came home after a long work day (or me, waiting until my hubby came home from a long work day) and grabbed a glass of wine or beer to start to wind down.  Then sometimes that one drink turned into just one more after the kids went to bed.  We switched our nightcap for hot brewed tea most nights of the week and gosh do we feel better when we wake up the next day!  Sometimes breaking a habit just requires replacing it with a more healthy one.  For us, tea provides that nightly signal to slow down before bed and we can still bond over a shared beverage. 

I barely shop the middle aisles of the grocery store.  Most weeks, I can stick to the perimeter of the grocery store, where the more fresh and nutritious foods are located.  Sure, sometimes I need to dive into a middle aisle for coffee or oats or whole wheat pasta, but generally my selections from the "pantry" aisles are very specific.  Since I do some meal planning every week, we tend to have generally the same grocery list each week/month and I supplement with our meat CSA and vegetable CSA. 

Adopting these habits has led to a lifestyle that provides us with stronger bodies, more energy, better sleep and better moods overall.  It's not easy, but making those small choices every day can eventually change your habits in the long run. 

Have you been able to make lifestyle changes lately?  What was the hardest part?  I'd love to hear from you and help if I can.

Health and Happiness,

Cerissa



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Spring CSA Share Distribution #1


There is nothing like locally grown produce to truly make it feel like spring.  After working our way through the deep winter CSA share this winter (think LOTS and LOTS of potatoes, butternut squash, onions, beets, turnip and carrots) we are so very grateful for fresh greens and colorful radishes!
This is our first time participating in a spring CSA share and I'm so glad to be able to eat locally grown food this early in the season, when farmer's markets don't start popping up for another month or two.  While this first distribution was a bit on the small side, I fully expect to be drowning in some greens in the next few weeks.  The first thing I do when I get my share home is lay it all out on the table to see what I'm working with.  Of course, then I need to photograph it because it looks so darned pretty.  After that, the work begins.  Washing and prepping it for storage and figuring out recipes for the week. 

Here's what was in our share this week and what happened to it:

Russian Red Kale: washed and trimmed of stems ("deveining" in our house).  It will go into a salad with roasted beets and goat cheese like this one Beet and kale goat cheese salad

Spring Greens:  washed and will be used in lunch salads all week, served with leftover roasted chicken or tuna. 

Scallions: rinsed and added to lunch salads and scrambled eggs for breakfasts.  I also already used some to make mashed potato cauliflower scallion cakes for dinner the other night.  My recipe was based on this one cheesy mashed potato pancakes

Popcorn! have you tried popping popcorn on the cob?  It's so fun.  You can put it in a paper bag in the microwave for about  1 1/2 minutes (or until the popping slows) or in a pot on the stove with a bit of oil.  The kids just think it's a hoot!

Radishes: tops chopped off and composted, radishes cleaned.  Stored in the refrigerator drawer to be added to lunch salads this week.

Cilantro: I love having fresh herbs in the house.  I've just recently become a fan of cilantro, I use some in my water during the day and add to recipes during the week.  Here is one of my favorite cilantro recipes Crock Pot Cilantro Lime Chicken

Well, that was all for this share.  We should be able to use it all up in time this week, but come on back next week to see what we get in the next share!

Health and Happiness,

Cerissa





Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Narwhal~ Unicorn of the Sea (a Kid's Shelf Review)

Reading books together is one of the ways that we work on having a strong family.  It gives us a common bond as well as mental and physical (cuddles!) time together.  Yesterday the kids and I got a chance to download and read this book before it is available in stores and I'm very excited about it and wanted to share it with you.

This beginner graphic novel was a delight! I was first drawn to the book by the sweet and simple image on the cover.  Once I (and the kids) opened it we were not disappointed.

It is a story about a narwhal and a jellyfish written in three parts.  First, when they meet for the first time and discover that they have lots in common ~waffles!~ and can be really great friends.  Second, when they create a pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends.  And lastly (in a manner reminiscent of The Book with No Pictures), they read the greatest book ever even though it has no words or pictures!  By using their wild imaginations to fill a blank book with a very silly story, Narwhal and Jelly had my children (6 and 8) rolling on the floor with laughter.  The kids thought it was just hilarious that "he [Narwhal] has a sidekick strawberry!"

This book is funny and smart and plays up to children's sense of humor without being crass.  The illustrations are simple and the creatures are so animated that they draw the reader into the story.  The comic-book style gives kids a different way to access the story, as my 8 year old says, "it's good to see the pictures and the words all together so you can understand the story." 

I could easily see this book being the start of a conversation with children about letting their creativity flow while creating their own books!  It would make a wonderful gift for any young lover of animals and silliness in your life.

It is due to be published on October 4, 2016. 
Health and Happiness,

Cerissa

*I was not compensated for this review, all conclusions are my own*

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What We Eat...a meal plan share

Meal planning takes time, for sure.  But I've come to see that it is always time well spent.  I try to take some time on Mondays to plan out our week of meals and snacks (at least for me and the hubs; the kids' breakfast, lunch and snacks differ but we all eat basically the same dinner).  I've been a meal planner for years now, and I feel as though I've tried it all!  I've done weekly plans, planned 2 weeks at a time, monthly plans, plans just for dinners and plans with EVERY meal chosen.  I find that when I am just planning dinners and don't want to be super structured, monthly plans are the best for us.  But when we are really focusing on clean eating and portions, weekly plans with every meal picked out are the way to go.  It gives me a road map for the week.  Here's what I think are the benefits of such a plan:

*I know exactly what I should be eating and when.  This stops me from rummaging around in the fridge and "finding" something not so nutritious to eat.  It also means I can plan to get in all the food groups each day.

*It helps me plan the grocery shopping.  When I make the plan I think about what I have already available (usually from our meat CSA and veggie CSA) and try to plan around those food items.  Then I don't go to the grocery store and buy unnecessary amounts of food.  When we are eating generally the same thing for breakfast/snack each day I can also plan for how much of what food we will need all week.

*I use it to meal prep.  I know I need to hard boil 12 eggs for the week.  I need to prep out 5 salads, chop 5 cups of veggies, portion out 5 servings of hummus, etc.  Then my food is mostly ready to go for the week.

I also tend to repeat parts of the meal plan each week.  So it may seem a bit boring and repetitive, but there IS something to be said for not having to make a breakfast choice every day.  Besides, I save the "fun" recipes for the weekend when we have more time!

The meal plan that I'm sharing today is color coded to coordinate with the 21 Day Fix (or Portion Fix) program.  I'm currently using the 1500-1799 calorie range meal plan because I'm  working on maintaining my current weight.  When I was in weight loss mode, I was using the 1200-1599 plan which uses fewer colored containers.

The way I tend to use the meal plan is as a road map.  I follow it closely, especially breakfast and snack, and since I'm home I sometimes have to make a substitution (like if I gave my hubs the last of the chicken). Because it's color coded I know what food group I'm eating when.  At least having each category of food planned for each part of the day, I know that if the chicken is gone, I just need to substitute a protein and maybe I'll grab some steak or tuna instead.
For those not familiar with the 21 Day Fix containers, here is a quick rundown:

Red=lean protein
Green=vegetables
Purple=fruit
Yellow=starches/carbs
Blue=healthy fats
Orange=dressings/seeds
gray=teaspoon of oils/fats

Bottom line is...meal planning provides me with a way to limit stress around dinner time, manage my nutrition and keep my grocery budget in check.  If you already meal plan, I'd love to hear from you about what it looks like for you.  If you don't, I hope you will give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Health and Happiness,

Cerissa



Friday, February 26, 2016

One Skillet Cabbage and Beef

Confession--I've only come to love most vegetables in the past 10 or so years.  Before I met my husband I was a peas and carrots and corn kinda gal.

As my hubby pushed his favorite veggies on me (asparagus, broccoli with cheese) I began to expand my horizons.  I've been pretty adventurous since and I now enjoy green beans, squashes, cauliflower and my favorite, brussels sprouts.  Cabbage has taken a while to win me over.  But has it EVER.

It helps that it comes often in our CSA shares and so I've sort of been forced to find a way to love it. You'll often find me slicing it into "steaks" and drizzling with oil to roast in the oven.  Or just chopping it up with shallots, dressing with olive oil and roasting in the oven.  Or making sauerkraut.

Or most often, making this One Skillet Cabbage and Beef meal that I just..can't..stop...eating.  Seriously, once a week I'm making it for dinner and then eating it for lunch the next day.  The best way to describe it is that it's like American Chop Suey (you remember that dish, yeah?) but without the pasta.  The best thing about this recipe is that it is clean eating and 21 Day Fix approved.  It's got only a few ingredients and you don't have to mess up the kitchen to make it.  That's a win, win, win.

One Skillet Beef and Cabbage (serves about 4)
1 tbs olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, choppped
1 med onion, chopped
1 big can diced tomatoes
5 cups green cabbage, chopped (about 1/2 large head)
Add olive oil to skillet and heat over medium. Add onion and garlic, cook until tender. Add beef, cook until browned. Add can tomatoes (undrained) and cabbage. Stir, cover and set to simmer for 25 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Season with pepper and tabasco and enjoy!

21 Day Fix container count: 1 Red, 3 Green per serving

If you have't fallen in love with cabbage yet,  give this dish a try and you just might. And the next thing you know you'll be eating cabbage with eggs for breakfast!

Health and Happiness,
Cerissa