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,


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,


*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
Blue=healthy fats
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,


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,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Fitness Story (Part 2)

 If you haven't caught up on the beginning of my story, you can do so over here.

Because this is the part of the story where real change happens.  And it was scary for me. I had tried to do other fitness programs and workout DVDs.  I always lasted a few days before I gave up.  I told myself it was too hard, it wasn't working, that I wasn't a "fitness" person.

So, admittedly, starting a new program that included a regimented eating plan made me nervous.  But deep down I knew it was time for a change and that I had to DO something.  I was tired of being tired, sick of not feeling good in my own body.  I decided that I could be "one of those people" who is fit.

Here's the thing.  I always thought that those "fit" people were crazy.  I thought they worked out for hours and had waaaay more will power than I ever would.  I held them up to a standard that I never thought I could achieve.

Enter the 21 Day Fix program.  21 Days.  7 different workouts repeated over 3 weeks (only 30 minutes each!  I could do this!).  A foolproof individualized eating plan.  Oh, and online support, motivation and accountability through my free coach.  (<---that turned out to be the part I was missing in my prior fitness attempts).

I was ready to go, food prepped, ready to press play.  But I was nervous.  I was already thin, and people were already asking my why I was doing this.  I "didn't need to lose weight".  Why was I "restricting my diet?".  Part of me thought that they were right.  That I didn't need to do this.  I was good enough.  I could have stopped there.  But for some reason this time, a little voice reminded me that I knew what it was like to quit, and I wanted to know what it felt like to NOT.  It was only 21 days after all.  If it didn't work or if I didn't like it, after 3 weeks I never had to do it again.

It only took 7 days for me to know that I would do it again. Were the workouts easy?  Nope.  But I learned that I didn't have to do it perfectly to do it.  I did what I could and I made it through the 30 minutes.  Every Day.  I felt great, full of energy and strong. Actually, the workouts were the easy part.  The eating part was the more challenging part.  But I also learned that it is the most important part.  You can workout all you want and undo all your work in the kitchen (or the grocery store!).  The program forever changed the way I look at what I eat and how much of it I eat.  I got stronger and yes, I lost weight and inches too.  The program did everything it was supposed to...and so much more.

Because the biggest changes from doing this program were not tangible.  The biggest changes were on the inside.  What I didn't know was how working out and eating well would permeate into other parts of my life.  I didn't just get fit and strong (after many months of 21 Day Fix and other Beachbody programs), I gained confidence in myself and my body.  I gained a sense of accomplishment and pride in what I could do mentally and physically.  My family is more healthy than it ever has been.  The kids talk about nutrition and healthy choices.  They "workout" with us.

My husband and I never used to spend time together in the morning. Now we cherish that early morning time together AND we are doing something good for ourselves by working out.  It gives us something to bond over and we are both happier for it!  In fact, as we reflected on the past year we both independently decided that the single best thing that happened last year was me making the choice to get fit.  Because it impacted our lives in SO many other ways.

So there is my story. It hasn't really ended though, because exercising and eating well has become a part of my lifestyle so we just keep on going...and there are always challenges and struggles with making it all work.  But I took the first step, and that's what it is.  One foot in front of the other, baby steps every day.
Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned as I try to figure out how to make the 21 Day Fix eating plan work with our CSA sharing, local food eating, homemade pantry making life.

Health and Happiness,


Thursday, January 7, 2016

My Fitness Story

(Part 1)

I think know I've been hesitating publishing this post because it is the most personal that I have gotten so far.  Today I reminded myself that the last 9 months have included lots of me pushing my boundaries physically and emotionally because that is where the growth is, right?  And so I know that once I get this out there it won't be nearly as scary as it seems right now and that I will feel better with it out of my brain and hopefully relating to (or entertaining!) someone else.

I'm one of those "lucky" people who was blessed with good genes.  I've always been thin and been able to eat pizza and cake without too much worry.  But I have learned that being thin isn't the same as being healthy or fit.

Thus begins my journey...

In my younger college days I was thin and trim and I ate pretty much whatever I wanted from the cafeteria.  It was a diet of waffles, sugary cereal and pizza.  Oh, don't forget the ice cream every night!  For years my weight fluctuated and though I was thin, I wasn't incredibly happy with my body.  My clothes didn't fit right, and I was pretty insecure with my body image.

I met my hubby and got happy and fat.  I had gained about 10-15 pounds from what I will call "newlywed bliss".  Food has often been related to emotions with me and it is still something I struggle with.    I gained the typical 30 pounds with my first child, Stella, and after she was born I didn't lose it all that quickly.  Dealing with new mommy hood and going back to work didn't allow me the time to get back in shape and I was still hanging on to that 20 pounds when I got pregnant with #2 a year later.  I gained another 30 pounds with Tucker and after he was born I lost all the "Tucker weight" but I held strong to the "Stella weight".

Two kids under two took its toll and I was tired, eating terribly, not exercising and not feeling very appealing to my hubby (even though I probably still was, but that's a post for another day!)

And here is where I think a lot of us will find common ground: I found myself using the fact that I was working full time and I had mommy responsibilities as an excuse for not taking care of myself.
I "had" to care for everyone else and how was I supposed to carve out time for me? This thinking carried on for about 4 years as I dabbled in workouts and attempting the gym. Eventually I started going to a gym and working out at home but I wasn't seeing any results and I wasn't really motivated to keep on keepin' on.

In 2013 I transitioned into being a stay at home mom.  My plans to get back into shape still didn't come to fruition as I didn't have as much time in the day as I thought I would when I was no longer going to work. Imagine that!  Being home with the kids was just as exhausting and also meant that I was home all day to rummage through the fridge whenever I felt a grumbly tummy (or stress!).

Then January 2014 rolled around. My baby turned 4 and was a bit more independent. More importantly,  I was tired of feeling like crap.  I decided that the hubby and I would do a New Year's cleanse to jump start our eating.  We wrote our weights on the chalk board and hesitantly planned out a 7 day cleanse.  I was 147 pounds, I still have the image of that number written in pink chalk on the board burned into my brain.  I think somehow I knew that I was not planning on staying at that number anymore and that this was the start of a new season of my life.

The cleanse was terrible.  We lasted 4.5 days.  We were grumpy and irritable, but we did it together and I lost about 7 pounds.  What we DID realize was that our current eating habits were making us feel pretty cruddy.  We gained some weight back, but did another (better!) cleanse a few months later.  I lost a few more pounds and felt good enough to start running.  I hate running. But it got my body moving and I didn't know what else to do.  So I ran, like a rhinoceros through peanut butter, I ran.  And I felt good.  All summer long...and then my hips hurt and winter came.  After losing and keeping 10 pounds off I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then my hubby came home from work one day and told me about a co-worker who was doing some new workouts and home and felt amazing, and looked great.  He suggested I "friend" his co-worker on Facebook, because she was talking a lot about her workouts there.  So I did.  After seeing a post of her looking super fit after losing 80 pounds (after 2 kids!), I knew I had to do what she was doing...

Part 2 is coming soon...

But until then, does any of this sound familiar to you?  Have you made a change?  So much of my fitness story is about the way my body feels.  Do you feel good?  Or not your best?

Health and Happiness,


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What I learned about making changes in 2015

Ah, the New Year.  It's always so clean and clear and full of promise.  Everywhere, it seems, folks are making resolutions, setting goals and declaring promises to themselves.  I'm all for new beginnings. And the New Year seems like a great place to start.  The key, however, is making your new goals and life changes ACHIEVABLE.  Making them HAPPEN.

Now I'm no pro, but I did learn a few things about making changes in 2015.
Most importantly, if you want to make a change you need to be honest with yourself.  Is it really something you are inspired to change or something you THINK you should change?  In other words, you need to really want it.  No change is easy and reaching goals requires sacrifice and discipline (some more than others).  Anyone can buy those workout DVDs or go to the grocery store and get a cartload of healthy food.  It takes discipline and daily choices to actually do the workouts and actually eat the healthy food.  Which takes me to my next point...

Write it down and break it down.  Write down your goal.  Post it on the fridge, your wall, your bedside table, your bathroom mirror.  Commit to it.  Then break your goal down into smaller achievable bits.  If your goal is to eat more healthy, then maybe you start with healthy breakfast and snack choices for a few weeks and then work on healthier dinners.  If meal prepping is overwhelming, start with just prepping snacks.  Then once that becomes comfortable, move on to lunches or breakfast.

Take action towards your goal DAILY.  This doesn't mean you are "doing" your goal every day or that you are "reaching" your goal every day.  Just do something that gets you closer to your goal daily.  Taking these baby steps is where the magic happens.  If being fit is your goal, make the choice each day to move your body. Thinking about getting in a long workout every day can be overwhelming.  Don't think about tomorrow or the next day.  Make the choice to move your body TODAY.  Wake up tomorrow and make the same choice.  If eating well is your goal, make a better food choice each day.  Beginning each day by thinking "I'm going to eat perfectly all day" can be intimidating.  Starting by saying "I will eat more nutritious snacks today" is a bit more manageable. And then make the choice to eat some carrot sticks instead of the cookies or chips.

Work on it.  It's not going to be perfect.  No one makes the best, most perfect choices all the time.  It takes work.  Be realistic with yourself.  And if you find you're not making those daily choices towards your goal, don't give up entirely.  Wake up tomorrow and make taking a step towards that goal your JOB.  Because in the end it will be worth it.

Health and Happiness,