Saturday Morning Quickie: Weekend Travel Essentials

‘Tis the season for weekend getaways, family vacations, and road trips.  Often times, we hit one or more snags in our travels, we leave one or more necessities at home, or we spend one or more percent over our budget–either because we throw inhibition to the wind, eat out more than we expected, or because we have to make up for things left behind. I am heading to a weekend at the beach with some girlfriends and thought I’d pass along the essentials I am bringing along so that I can stay on track and on budget! I will keep this quick and to-the-point.  Please Pin or share with someone who could use these reminders!

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  1. Protein bars: I am packing some Lara bars and some Luna bars–my snack/protein bars of choice–so that I always have a healthy and protein-based option available.  We will be dining out for most meals and though I plan on picking the healthiest menu options I can find, I want to make sure I reach my protein goals.  I also know that since we are dining as a group and celebrating with friends, our meals will be scheduled later than normal.  I also will be taking the Cape May-Lewes ferry for the first time and want to have a healthy snack on hand in case my ferry is delayed or travel hits a snag.
  2. Nuts: Almonds, cashews, pistachios, and other nuts will energize, satisfy that salty-food craving, and pack a protein punch in a pinch.  I try to have a snack baggie of one or more of these in my bag at all times.  I will also stash some in my overnight bag.
  3. Fruit and Veggies: I have some baby carrots and apples stowed away in my suitcase so that I can get my crunch on after I do some crunches. 😉  Healthy snacks that allow me to reach my nutrition goals will make indulging on an adult beverage or a greasy appetizer a little less guilt-riddening.  Plus, since my entire family will be traveling this weekend, packing these perishable items to take along allows for minimal waste. That is a win-win in deed!
  4. Sunscreen: Pack sunscreen.  No matter what!  It is always more expensive when you are in touristy locations.  A travel sized bottle can tuck away nicely even in the slimmest of Michael Kors cross body bags. And don’t forget to protect your lips!  Chapstick or lip balm with an SPF is a must–even if only under your favorite lip gloss.
  5. Protein powder, mixers: This may be just me, but as I’ve shared with you before, I have found such health and balance thanks to incorporating Shakeology into my diet.  I don’t want to let that slide while away.  Whatever powder you choose, bring some along! I have some packets packed along with a non-refrigerated carton of almond milk (my liquid of choice), some bananas, and my Shakeology tumbler.  If there isn’t a blender in our rental, I’ll nix the banana and just give the rest a good shake, most likely for breakfast!
  6. Medicine–prescribed and OTC: Don’t forget your meds!  That’s it.  No reason besides you need them! 🙂
  7. One extra set of clothes: This is mostly important if you are traveling far.  If transportation gets too delayed, unexpected weather strikes, or you decide on an unplanned detour, having an extra set of clean emergency clothes is never a bad idea.  A basic tee or tank and a pair of jeans can easily fit most occasions you did not expect!
  8. Your workout essentials: I plan on going for a run each morning and, hopefully, getting in a BOD workout as well.  I am packing sneakers and socks and sweat gear so I am more likely to make it happen! Tuck your socks and even a set of yoga pants into your sneakers if you need to save room in your overnight bag.
  9. An extra book: I love to read, but I have been slacking on it the last few months. I am making myself the promise that I will read throughout both ferry rides and while lounging on the beach tomorrow.  I am going to pack an extra book just in case I get through one.  I don’t want to break my own promise!
  10. An extra charger: If you lose one, you won’t be sorry. If you don’t, I am sure one of your travel companions will need to borrow one at some point. It never hurts!
  11. Earbuds: I will hold myself to my morning runs if I have earbuds.  I will be able to catch up with my kids bright and early without waking the other ladies on my trip if I have earbuds.  I will be able to listen to podcasts and music if I have earbuds. I will survive almost anything with earbuds.

Oh, yeah. Sunglasses.  How can I forget my fave no-makeup but who knows accessory? 😉

What essentials make your must-pack list?  Let me know below!

Saturday Morning Quickie: Beach and Pool Tips

This July, I am going to try a series called “Saturday Morning Quickie.” I’ll make it worth it in a short amount of time.  Today, in honor of 4th of July, I am sharing some tips for beach and pool safety and fun!

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This weekend allows us to enjoy time with friends and family and to indulge in time by the pool and at the beach. We must keep some tips in mind to make sure we stay healthy while enjoying ourselves!

1. SUNSCREEN! No one is too-cool for sunscreen. Sun burn and skin damage–not to mention melanoma–are not to be overlooked.  Apply sunscreen while putting on your suit and reapply often. No need to use anything higher than 30 if you are sure to reapply!  If yoy plan on going for a hike or doing yardwork, please use sunscreen as well.  And always wear sun glasses and/or a hat to protect your eyes and face. I promise you that even on an overcast day you can get a sun burn!

2. HYDRATE! Water intake is extra important when we spend time outdoors on a hot and sunny day. We should all aim to drink half our body weight in ounces of water every day.  Add to this when you are outdoors or exerting yourself.

3. GET MOVING! At the beach?  Take a walk!  Build a huge sand castle.  Boogie board!  Get a game of volleyball going. At the pool?  Swim some laps!  Do water aerobics!  Laying out and getting a tan–which really defeats the purpose of tip number 1–or reading a book under an umbrella is relaxing and deserved. Just be sure you add some physical activity.  It will keep you alert and keep your body from getting too stiff.

4. BRING FOOD! Whether you are attending a BBQ or spending the day at the beach, bringing foods your family and you can enjoy will save you money and will save your waistline. I can recommend many healthy options.  Just ask in the comments below!

5. TIME IT! Hit the beach early in the morning or the pool later in the day.  Avoiding midday will let you beat the crowds and the hottest sun. This will keep everyone from experiencing sun stroke or from getting overheated. Plus, if you are one of the first ones on the beach, you’ll get the best spot and be home by nap time.

Have kids?  Here are some suggestions for making their time at the beach or pool easier on you!

What are favorite tips for staying healthy and having fun at the pool?  Leave me a comment below and I’ll post some of the best!

I am a Boy Mom Raising a Daughter

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This realization hit me while enjoying a family afternoon at the pool. I was sitting in the shallowest of water bouncing a giddy Kellen on my knee. Mike was standing in the waste-deep water watching our big kids run and splash with friends. All was right with the world: the kids were engaged and happy and behaving.  I was getting some vitamin D and cooing at the baby. Mike was chatting with a fellow dad in the pool and not home mowing the lawn.  Then it hit me.  It wasn’t an epiphany or a light bulb or an “aha moment”, unfortunately; it was a large splash of water right to my face.

“I am so, so sorry,” came a hurried and apologetic voice.  I shook the water from my eyes, checked a giggling Kellen, and looked up to see an adorable pool mom–you know the type: perfectly-placed messy bun, classic solid-print bikini (not from Target!), a smidge of red lip gloss, JLo-worthy sunglasses, and just effortlessly chic while I was effortlessly unchic–quickly squatted down and scooped up her even more adorable daughter. “Lily!  No splashing!  No, no, no!” she crooned in a voice as soft and wispy as the toddler’s top knot.

“It is really no big deal. I have three kids.  I get splashed all the time!” I offered.

“Three kids? Well then, you must be Super Mom!” she said, with a kind smile and genuine shake of the shoulders.

I told her that was hardly the case, that I am just surviving like everyone else, and we continued to chit chat over names and ages and the amazingness of this pool and weather for a few polite minutes. During this time, I complimented her on her daughter’s fashionable hair style (She loves when I do her hair!), on Lily’s matching swim suit and sun shirt (Gymboree has GREAT sales!), and on their matching pedicures (We get our nails done every Sunday!). Each compliment and cheery response led me to reconsider my own mothering.  There was Kayden, running after her friends with unbrushed hair, chipped nail polish, and a few fading temporary tattoos.  I then looked down at my own at-home pedicure–easily two weeks old–and self consciously pressed my bare lips together to make them pinker. My new “mom friend” was sweet as can be and did not give off the hint of judginess, yet, in that moment I, became very judgy of myself anyway.  Our mommy banter eventually ran its course and as she and her 20-month old daughter retreated back to their lounge chairs, I caught one last glimpse of the pair.  It was then that I finally had the aha-moment you expected in the first paragraph.  I am a Boy Mom–and I am raising a daughter.

Before I ever had kids–before I was even married, perhaps–I can recall a night when my best friend, Lindsey, and her mom, Diane, were over my parents’ house for a girls night of hot tea, Diane’s peach pie, and gossip.  Lindsey encouraged us to do some needle test: essentially an urban legend in which you rotate a needle on thread over the palm of your hand and the direction and amount of rotation indicate the number of children you will have and the sex of those children. “All boys–what I’ve always imagined!” my mom cried after it was my turn. “Really?” I remember asking. “Yes, I just picture you with all boys. I don’t know why.”

She never really elaborated and I was too offended by the idea of this to ask her to go deeper. But she is right.  I am a mom made for boys.  I do not think to go to Gymboree or wherever else to buy the perfect outfit for Kayden for the perfect occasion–say, her graduation or a concert–until it is either too late or she reminds me. I hardly do my own hair, so braiding or, true confession, often brushing her hair isn’t at the forefront of my thoughts. I am just not a girly-girl.  I would rather play tennis or catch or ride bikes with the kids than sit and have a tea party or play house.  Yes, as a young girl I played school and Barbies non-stop.   Non-stop.  And I will happily play them now.  But I want to get up and move–to be outside with my kids.

Don’t get me wrong–I love my daughter just as much as I love my sons.  This confession is not an excuse for being a lazy parent, either.  I am just not innately a mom in-tuned to the needs or desires of a little girl.  I will be buckling Paxton into his car seat and glimpse at Kayden sitting on her booster in the back row of the van and think Damn it, I should have done her hair.  We will be at a family party and she’ll look adorable in her dress, but I will think to myself Why didn’t you get her shoes for that outfit?! These thoughts are irrational and have nothing to do with how much my heart bursts for her. And I will say it again: this has nothing to do with me being a lazy mom or even a too-busy mom.  This simply comes down to the mom-of-daughter things not crossing my mind. If my kids are dressed with little-to-no battle and everyone has eaten some semblance of a healthy breakfast before we get out the door, I am doing my job. If my daughter is wearing mismatched clothes but feels confident that she could get herself dressed, I am doing my job.  If my son wants to wear brown tube socks with his sneakers and mesh shorts because they are his favorite, I am doing my job.  I am letting my kids be themselves–girl, boy, what have you.

When Kayden was a newborn, she slept in a pink room full of flowers and butterflies.  She had a closet full of beautiful girly clothes. I’d push her around the mall or through the park in her pink convertible stroller. But any stranger who saw her would inevitably ask, How cute! How old is he? And every time I would reply that she is a girl and she’s however many months old, I would get the same response: Well, where is her bow? Her bow! Damn it!  I never remembered the damn bow.  Or the frilly socks. Or the blinking marquee sign hanging from the stroller flashing BOY MOM DOING HER BEST!

Emotionally, Kayden baffles me.  When she has a melt down, I just don’t get it and I really don’t know how to respond effectively.  When Paxton has a meltdown, though, I can usually tie his emotions to something physiological: he’s obviously hungry, so I’ll grab him a snack or he’s over-tired so I’ll give him his blanket and some alone time on the couch.  If either of these fail, a cuddle and a kiss do the trick. With Kayden, I try my best to figure her out, to offer possible causes and solutions, and nothing works.  I am the husband to her wife.  I am the yin to her yang. And that is because we are the exact same person.  We are introverted extroverts.  We are alpha females who panic over making little decisions. We remember everything anyone has said or done or indicated–small, big, or imagined–and take so much to heart.  You would think that being that way I would know how to react. I don’t, though. If I did, I’d write a book about the secret sauce to cracking my code. Instead, I’ll just write a blog confessing my motherly short falls.

Kayden and I butt heads regularly.  I know it is going to be a long summer.  She is getting closer and closer to turning 6 and she is getting closer and closer to running the world. She needs me to find the perfect blend of boy mom and girl mom and, essentially, just let her be herself in the process. She needs me to praise her but not too much. She needs me to take time to paint her nails and to get her the matchy-matchy shoes for her favorite summer dress and then to not get mad when she wears them to play tag with the neighbors and cakes them with mud. She needs me to brush and braid her hair just so she knows I set her apart from her brothers.  She is unique, and not simply because she is my only daughter. She is unique because her mind is deep and her thoughts are real and she isn’t a toddler anymore.  She is a young lady who needs her boy mom to be open to mothering her however a budding feminist and future leader and confident young lady requires. I can’t expect, nor should I desire for, Kayden to alter her personality and her “girlness” to suit me.

To be even more honest, I am happy I am not the adorable girl mom from the pool.  Please know I mean this with no criticism.  I applaud her for being so on-top of her own femininity and for showing her daughter the importance of poise and grace and softness. I believe I model that, too, but in my own way. I would be putting on airs if I was to get dolled up before heading to the pool.  I would not be being myself if I was wearing a cute sun dress right now as I type this in the lobby of the car dealership while getting an oil change and not the comfy shorts, sports bra, and white tee I am wearing.  Yes, I washed my hair and have on some eye-liner and mascara, but my lips are bare and my legs aren’t freshly shaven and I am totally comfortable being me that way. Maybe that makes me a boy mom.  Maybe that makes me low maintenance.  Maybe it just makes me me. My daughter will know that women can be strong and opinionated and makeup-free.   A woman, like a man, can be whatever the individual wants to be or pursue or feel.

Super Mom I am not.  I never will be.  I am a boy mom raising a daughter.  I am a mom, though, with a daughter who–in this day and age of gender stereotyping and sensitivity–will not be pigeon-holed by the bow on her head. Even if that is because I forgot to put it on her head in the first place.

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21 Day Fix Fish Tacos

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I really, truly love sea food–especially white fish. And I have come to love fish even more in recent months because it can be quite healthful. The right fish can be a perfect form of protein and many varieties contain an ideal amount of healthy fats. Fish can be rather lean and can often be doctored up much like chicken without being as filling. I often like a light her meal at dinner time, especially as the weather gets hotter and hotter, so fish is perfect.

At least once a week, I stop at Whole Foods on my way home from school and see my pal Dan, the fish monger. I always have a seafood meal listed on my weekly plan–such my honey orange salmon or BBQ shrimp–but if Dan has a better suggestion or if a certain cut or type of sea food is on sale, I am always open to a new option. Last night, this happened. I planned on making fish tostadas using tilapia and Ezekiel wraps. By the time I got to the store, though, I was already prepared to make a change. First off, I overextended my yellow containers at school (I blame my Relay for Life hangover! More on that in a later post!), and since it was only day 1 of my 21 Day Fix, I knew I needed to make up for an earlier splurge. Secondly, Whole Foods did not have any fresh tilapia. What Dan did have, though, were individually portioned Chilean sea bass fillets. I’ve never cooked sea bass before, but, in full disclosure, before my foray into clean eating this January, I hadn’t made many diverse foods.  I’m a cooking work-in-progress. Dan assured me that I could grill these much like I would a steak, so I bought two and made quick mental calculations as to how I could plan the rest of the meal around this unexpected purchase.

I grabbed a few avocados, a head of butter leaf lettuce, and went to the checkout–knowing full well that some of my clean staples already in my pantry and fridge would cap off a sure-to-be successful dinner.

I was right.

I am not a taco lover. Well, that’s isn’t a fair statement. I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten a taco. So I guess I am a taco-averse person?! I also don’t entirely love hot food–like steamy, right-out-of-the-oven food. Except cookies. 😉 I often let my meal sit for a bit before I eat it just so it cools off and I never reheat my lunch. Never. But turn a taco shell into a veggie and the ground beef into a delicious white fish while deducting a ton of the physical heat–but still leaving the spice, of course–and I am all in.

This dinner was light and full of flavor. My mom and kids all approved–though my kids deconstructed theirs.

Side note/rhetorical question to parents: am I the only one with kids who LOVE to eat with their hands when not appropriate (i.e. Spaghetti or pancakes or apple sauce–spoons are for babies!) but refuse to eat with their hands when a meal actual calls for it? My 3 1/2 year-old had a near meltdown after his first bite of taco when 1 minuscule drip of salsa touched his palm. Okay, not a near melt down. A full on cry. Like a “you broke my Lego castle!” cry. Or a “You deleted all the Odd Squads!” cry. So I quickly cut up both kids’ tacos and got on with a more peaceful dinner.

I have discovered that jarred salsa is my go-to ingredient. When in doubt or playing around with a new possible recipe, I often lean on a jar or half jar of salsa to add a kick or moisture or texture. The right brand and the right variety–I love Paul Newman’s Mango or Pineapple Salsa in particular–add just the right something. I even add salsa to my turkey burgers!

After I grilled the sea bass, I layered it on a butter lettuce leaf with a slice of avocado and tablespoon of salsa. I then sprinkled a bit of Mexican cheese blend on top and served it with fresh pineapple. My mom and I felt like we were vacationing in the Caribbean with each bite. Plus, one taco was filling enough on a day in which I hit my yellow containers early and needed a light yet balanced dinner.

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Here’s the game plan! Give it a try with any white fish you’d like!

21 Day Fix Fish Tacos

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fresh, light, Caribbean-inspired taco recipe using a lettuce wrap--perfect for a summer night!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Chilean sea bass fillet per person (1 red container)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika (smoked would be best!)
  • 1 tbsp salsa of choice per person: I used 365 brand Mango and Peach salsa (1/4 purple container)
  • 1/4 avocado per person, sliced thin (1 blue container)
  • 1 butter lettuce leaf per person (1/2 green)
  • optional sprinkle of Mexican blend cheese
  • optional tsp of nonfat Greek yogurt (in lieu of sour cream–plus it adds protein!)

Directions

  1. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.
  2. Drizzle sea bass with olive oil and spread to coat both sides. Sprinkle seasoning on top. (I only add seasoning on one side so I can still enjoy the flavor of the fish.)
  3. Grill sea bass for approximately 5-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
  4. Place avocado and salsa in a lettuce leaf. Add 1/2 sea bass filet. Top with cheese and/or Greek yogurt, roll up the sides, get messy, and enjoy!

**21 Day Fix Containers, per my own unofficial deductions: 1 red, 1 green (lettuce and salsa, though you may choose to count salsa in the purple container), 1 blue.  Non-Fixers can go all-out and add the cheese and nonfat Greek yogurt.

I’d love to get more lettuce wrap or fish taco recipes that are tried and true!  Feel free to leave one below!  Or, let me know if you would like to enroll in my next Clean Eating Group: Quick-N-Clean 15 minute meals!  I’m enrolling now!  I will provide 7 days of clean eating meals for both dinner and breakfast that can be on the table in 15 minutes or less.  This group is FREE, but space is limited! Don’t delay!

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22 Minute Hard Corps: An Honest Review

I was truly hesitant to try 22 Minute Hard Corps.  I have such a girl crush on Chalene Johnson that the idea of not doing PiYo for another round kind of broke my heart.  But, I am a coach first.  I promised my challengers I’d try 22MHC along with them during our May “Make Time” challenge group. I am so happy I made this choice.

First off, let me tell you about my challenge groups so you can understand why it is so important I work along with the women in my groups.  I host monthly fitness and nutrition groups, which are private Facebook communities through which I can motivate, answer questions, and guide nutrition.  The best part for me has been the accountability these groups provide–both for me and for the challengers.  I have been more consistent with my early morning workouts, more deliberate with my meal prep, and more inspired to be a glass-half-full kinda gal thanks to the support and inspiration of my challengers. I know some of these women from earlier stages of my life, childhood or college, but others have come to me by chance and social media.  These women are moms or just married or brides-to-be.  These women all started their journeys with different goals.  These women are now all friends and have reached potentials and exceeded their own expectations.

We decided to up the ante this month.  As a group, we didn’t want to just focus on our fitness and nutrition.  We wanted to focus on ways we can fit time into our day–find the hidden minutes.  Plus, I wanted a way to explore a new program while keeping Chalene in my life. I decided to give 22 MHC a try–22 minute workouts give us plenty of extra minutes in our day–and to incorporate Chalene Johnson’s Push planner into our group to help us set realistic priorities and to work on time management.  I will share my thoughts on the Push planner another time (simply, I’m in love!). Let’s focus today on Tony Horton, some kick-ass veterans, and a workout that is deceptively tough while being perfectly basic.

Tony Horton and Beachbody created 22 Minute Hard Corps as a way to bring people back to simple, gym class style calisthenics (Yeah, I haven’t used that word in years either.).  There are three cardio workouts–simply named Cardio 1, 2, and 3–and three Resistance workouts similarly titled.  The cardio workouts incorporate plyometrics (Jimmy jumps, side shuffles, etc) and some body-weight exercises, like burpees. The resistance workouts, on the other hand, incorporate hand weights (or a sandbag–which I haven’t tried), a resistance band, and pull-up bar.  There is also a Cold Start (warm-up), and two Core 10-minute programs. 22 MHC comes with an 8-week calendar that shuffles the various workouts and allows for recovery and meal prep on Sundays.

Meal prep is a critical part of most Beachbody workout programs.  It is estimated that 80% of a person’s fitness results come from nutrition.  Like the popular 21 Day Fix, 22 MHC comes with the Portion Fix color-coded containers.  Tony and the creators of the program designed a Rations for Results nutrition guide that allows for 3 square meals, one snack, and one Shakeology each day.  The portions depend on your calorie intake, but the basic layout of the meals is the same.  For someone who enjoys grazing or snacking throughout the day or who likes to skip breakfast, this may feel like a shock to the system.  It is completely doable, though, and promotes eating real, clean food.  You will eat plenty when sticking to this plan; you will just be consuming the right mix of macronutrient groups to ensure your body refuels and burns fat.  I had become quite used to budgeting my container allotment each day the way I saw fit, so the three square meals have taken some getting used to, but now that I am 1 1/2 weeks in, I finally feel like I am able to enjoy these meals and not feel overloaded in one sitting.  By bedtime, I am still full from my day’s eating, which is perfect considering I workout first thing in the morning.

Let’s discuss the workouts.  Those of you familiar with 21 Day Fix are used to a consistent rotation.  This is a bit different.  The days alternate between Cardio and Resistance, but in a progressive way.  Tony Horton also varies the amount of reps for each exercise: some increase, some decrease from round to round, which keeps your muscles and your cardiovascular system guessing. I have yet to attempt Cardio 3 or Resistance 3 because I am still working to perfect 1 and 2 of each. This repetition allows immediate gratification for someone like me.  My first time through Resistance 1, for example, I labored through the weighted burpees.  I was definitely behind the count and, though I completed each exercise, I was off pace and therefore did not perform as many reps.  The second time through–and just days later–I was able to stay on pace with the veterans.

That’s right: veterans.  This program is back-to-basics training and Tony Horton is surrounded by veterans from all branches of the military who perform each workout.  It is motivating, truly sells the boot camp vibe, and intensely patriotic.  I find myself counting along with Tony or the lead vet’s cadence and yelling “Hard Corps!” whenever prompted.  Some say I have a group-think mentality.  Put me in a room with enough people excited about the same thing and, gosh darn it, I’ll be excited about that, too!  For example, I often attend teaching in-services lamenting the hours I’m about to spend listening to yet another teaching style and within the first hour I am already planning how I will implement these new practices.  It may be this almost addictive aspect of my personality that motivates me through each Hard Corps, but only partly.  These vets who invested their lives and their time for our country exude energy and discipline that is contagious.  Plus, Tony Horton is drill-sergeant strict and adorably personable at the same time.

One word of warning: This is not 21 Day Fix. This is an 8-week program; therefore, true results will take time. Being 10 days in I will say that I feel strong and lean and have maintained the definition from my previous programs.  I know that as I remain consistent with both the program’s fitness and nutrition components I will succeed and see results I can be proud of.

Who would enjoy this program?  Just about anyone who believes time is of the essence, who enjoys feeling motivated, who likes to vary their workouts, and who wants to shake off a few pounds for summer. 🙂

You can take a look at the program here.  Or, even better, fill in the contact form below and I will be in touch about joining my next challenge group!

 

Raspberry Almond Power Cookies

imageThese cookies happened by accident. I was making a quick attempt at my own energy bites and failed to carefully consider proportions. When I whipped everything together, the “batter” was far too liquidy to ever evolve into a perfect ball. I considered adding more rolled oats to absorb the moisture. Nah. I questioned chucking the mix all together and starting over. No way. That defeats everything my minimal waste cooking and eating philosophy stands by. I figured I would spoon cookies, drop them on a cookie sheet, throw them in the oven, and see what happens. I am so glad I did!

I love sweets and snacks. I worried when first delving into clean eating that I would be overwhelmed by my sweet tooth and would, inevitably, fail. That is not the case. I have grown to love the flavors of real food and, as I’ve written about before, love meals now. In fact, on my daughter’s Mother’s Day story that she wrote at school, she completed the sentence “My mommy loves to…” with eat the yummy dinners she makes. In 2015, that would have read “bake cupcakes” or “snack all day” or “eat only her side dishes.” My daughter notices my healthier eating habits. I know they are more likely to rub off on her since she sees me living by this ideal, that our nutrition matters.

So yes, I’ve conquered my sweet tooth and often have carrots with peanut butter or nonfat Greek yogurt with berries when I do have a snack. I still, however, love a good cookie and know its place in my life remains.

imageEating clean doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a decadent treat once in a while. I value balance. Balance means redefining your expectations each day to align with your own priorities. Forget anyone else’s expectations; focus on your own priorities and let go of the rest. That is balance. Most days, my priorities are self care, serving my family, and building my business. On any given day, I may spend more time on one of these tasks than I will the others or I may add something to the list. Some days, self care means fitting in my fitness and eating well all day. Once in a while, though, Mama wants a cookie–or 3–and that’s ok! These raspberry almond power cookies fit into this balanced lifestyle. Plus they are clean, they are full of fiber and healthy fats, and they are chocolatey.

Yes, chocolatey. Delicious, ooey-gooey, sweet and semi tangy, soft and kind of crunchy (pun intended) chocolatey cookies. You and your kids will love these when you want a different but home baked dessert or when you want a treat without much guilt. These also take little time to prep and bake and are one of the many ways to use those last few bananas before they turn.

You can easily up the ante and add protein to these cookies by trading out the cocoa powder for chocolate protein powder, but once in a while it is nice to eat a treat that is just that: a treat. You could also trade out the freeze-dried raspberries for freeze-dried strawberries. They would be equally delicious.

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These cookies are dairy free, contain no added sugar, and can be certified gluten free if you need. Yum!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 overripe bananas, smashed with a fork
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (certified gluten free if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-natural almond butter (or butter of choice)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped small
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life dairy free)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a cookie sheet with nonstick coconut oil spray.
  2. Smash two bananas in a mixing bowl. Add all ingredients except chocolate chips and mix well with a spoon. Sprinkle in a pinch or two of oats if too liquidy.
  3. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spoon teaspoon-sized portions onto the greased cookie sheet. Cookies will not expand, so you do not need too much room between them.
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool for one minute on the cookie sheet then for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.
  6. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

These unique flavors make for a scrumptious snack and a little pick-me-up when the days get long. Enjoy as is or alter to your liking. Please share your thoughts in the comments or send me your feedback. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter by leaving your email below! You’ll receive a free 5-day clean eating menu just by subscribing!

Mixed Berry Streusel Overnight Oats

Overnight oats is a game changer. (Trust the grammar here. I’m an English teacher.) 😉

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Yes, I am aware of how lofty this statement is, but it is not hyperbole. It is truth. I am not an egg-eater (something my followers have come to learn), yet I know the importance of a breakfast packed with protein. After years of cold cereal or muffins from DD, I noticed an immediate shift in my energy levels, hunger, and cravings once I unprocessed my first meal of the day and upped my protein intake.

When I was on maternity leave, I explored various breakfast options that provide balanced macronutrients and are, well, yummy. These are some of my faves:

  • A slice of Ezekiel bread (full of protein and flourless!) topped with a quarter avocado and a slice of turkey bacon with a side of berries (raspberries provide healthy fiber!). image
  • An Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffin toasted and smeared with all-natural peanut or almond butter and banana “coins.” You can add a side of berries or even scrambled eggs–but I won’t!
  • Boiled rolled oats mixed with a splash of unsweetened almond milk, a shake of cinnamon, and some fresh berries (okay, yeah, I love berries with my breakfast!).
  • Shakeology, especially for mornings that get away from me! image

I dont often have have the time to make my actual breakfast each morning. My husband and I both need to leave the house by 6:45 am to get the kiddos to school and the sitter and be at our respective jobs on time. Most mornings I do wake up early to work out, but I am able to shave 5-10 minutes off of my morning routine and inches from my waistline by having overnight oats at the ready and avoiding the processed sugar rush of cereal or baked goods.

I prep 3-5 days worth of overnight oats every Sunday when I am meal prepping. It is essential for me to have a healthy breakfast ready to go. This habit lowers my stress levels in the morning, eases my nighttime routine (praise be the moms who can do the crock pot overnight breakfasts! They are yummy! I just ain’t got time for that!), and meets my nutritional needs.

You can Google and pin hundreds of overnight oats recipes with varied proportions and varied ingredients and varied flavors. I encourage you to play around until you find your perfect texture and some flavor combos that work for you and for your family. The base blend that I’ve stuck to for the past month or two really works for me. It contains protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and fiber, so I confidently set my macros in balance right from the start. This blend also fits perfectly into the 21 Day Fix or 22 Minute Hard Corps meal plans–which is an added bonus for me as a healthy lifestyle coach win Beachbody.

This recipe grew out of my Saturday goal of using up as many perishable ingredients as  possible. I don’t like to waste the fresh fruits and veggies that we may not have gotten to during the week. This past Saturday, a half pint of overripe strawberries and a handful of blueberries sat pathetically in my fridge, uneaten and hours from being replaced by newer, fresher versions when my husband went to the grocery store the next morning. So, I made a note in my meal planner to make pb&j overnight oats when meal prepping.

The next morning, I began to prep while Mike shopped, knowing that making my oats early would make room in the fridge for the fresh produce of the day and save me time later. I opened the cupboard to get a new jar of organic all-natural peanut butter and noticed something else: a bag of pecans. That’s when this idea hit me.

You can easily make this recipe your own. I will break down the ingredients for my ideal overnight oats base blend and the add-ons that make this recipe what it is. I encourage you to give it a try but to also venture into your own flavor combos. Comment below with a recipe that makes you look forward to breakfast!

INGREDIENTS

BASE BLEND (per serving):

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (1/2 yellow container)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (1/2 orange container)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed (1/2 orange container)

ADD-ONS FOR STREUSEL:

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup, plus 1/4 tbsp
  • overripe strawberries, diced
  • overripe blueberries, diced (these equal one purple container)
  • 1/2 blue container, approx 2 tbsp, chopped pecans
  1. Make the base blend by combining all ingredients. Add the cinnamon and 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup. Mix well and place in air-tight jar.
  2. Top with fruit and pecans. Overripe berries will emit juices that make this really sweet and dessert-like.
  3. Drizzle with remaining maple syrup.
  4. Seal, refrigerate, and enjoy within 5 days!

My Meal Prep Pointers

My biggest piecIMG_8824e of advice is this: take time NOW to save time later!  The more effort and planning you put into your weekend,the easier your
weeknights–and mornings!–can be! I spend Saturday night meal planning while my husband and I catch up on our DVR and then I spend a good amount of time on Sunday meal prepping.  I take time for family activities and fitness, but I make sure I get as much done now as possible. My weeknights and mornings are better for it. 🙂

 

  • Meal plan with a purpose!
    • I’ve written about clean eating on a budget and have shared some of my weekly meal planning ideas. I cannot stress how important meal planning is for effective meal prep. Meal prepping without forethought is like going to Magic Kingdom without Fast Passes.  Yes, you’ll enjoy the experience, but you will spend a lot more time waiting and figuring out what could have been done ahead of time. 🙂
    • I meal plan on Saturday nights.  I look at a few recipes I’ve pinned or bookmarked and see how any ingredients may overlap with faves from the the past.  For example, Monday night I am serving Colby Jack Chicken Roll-ups (which I’ll make today!). I’ve added Taco Zucchini Boats to Thursday’s Cinco de Mayo dinner menu since it uses the same cheese. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday’s dinner all use various types of peppers as well.  I am going to have Kung Pao meatballs over spinach for lunch each day, which will overlap the spinach from the Roll-ups as well.  I’ll use leftover onion from the meatballs in Tuesday’s crock pot meal. You can save money and time by overlapping ingredients. When you eat clean and get to know food’s natural flavors as well as the deliciousness that exists in natural seasonings, you won’t even think twice about ingredients showing up again and again. When paired with something new or prepared even slightly differently, new flavors take center stage.
    • When meal planning, I also consider the method and equipment with which I will need to prep the meals. I may plan on Salsa Chicken for lunch for the week since that uses my crock pot and saves the stove top and over for any other meal. Today, I know that the meatballs and roll-ups bake at the same oven temp, so that makes prepping them simultaneously easy. This may seem a little too-focused, but as you get more comfortable with the recipes you love and with coming up with your own spin in the kitchen, this will all become second nature.
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This week’s menu
  • Chop and dice as much as you can!
    • It is important to rinse and fully dry any fruits and veggies before prep. Do this as early as you can. Then, an hour or so later once you really are ready, you can get in there and prep.
    • When you chop and dice, think about all of the meals you are prepping today AND all of the snacks and meals you’ll need later in the week.  If I am making fajitas on Tuesday night, I will still slice the peppers and onion on Sunday, seal them in an air-tight container, and have an even easier time making one of my quickest, yummiest meals on a very busy night.  I will also chop up and portion those peppers for school lunch snacks (with hummus!) and add these to my snack drawer. When packed appropriately and when allowed to air-dry, these veggies will hold-up for the week.
  • Don’t forget breakfast!
    • Cliche or not, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is too easy for us working moms to skip eating it ourselves and to rely on packaged goods for our family.  Try meal prepping breakfast and you and your family will truly eat and be well. I’ve shared plenty of overnight oats recipes and cannot say enough about how delicious and easy they are. Feel comfortable playing around with the various recipes I’ve posted or to mixing flavors of your own to come up with the portions and ingredients that work best for you. With the perfect air-tight container (mason jars are awesome for this, though I use my BabyBullet canisters!), these will stay all week for the perfect breakfast on the go for any member of a busy family. Plus, Greek yogurt or protein powder (I prefer Shakeology) added to these gives your family the protein it needs to fuel the day.
    • Your crock pot and griddle are also great for meal-prepping breakfast.  You can make various bakes in the crock pot that set while you sleep. You can also double any batch of pancakes or french toast or waffles that you bake for the family Sunday morning, freeze them, and have them on hand. Leggo my Eggo? No. Leggo my homemade protein pancake, thank you very much!
  • Find reusable containers that work for you!
    • This is a bit of a duh, but it makes all the difference. I like using Pyrex glass dishes to keep my made-ahead meals ready to go.  Be sure to let them sit at room temperature before you bake or reheat, though, so as to not shatter the glass!
    • Mason jars and BPA free Tupperware are easy to clean and to grab and go. If you use plastic baggies for snack portions, don’t be afraid to wash and reuse once or twice.
  • Have clean meals and snacks accessible!
    • Life happens!  Sometimes I may need to take one child to the doctor or am nursing or bathing an exceptionally fussy baby.  That is why you need to consider snacks when meal prepping as well. Having a snack drawer my toddlers can reach and having meals prepped in advance allow anyone–from my five year old to my husband to a grandma or babysitter–to get a healthy snack or meal ready. This saves time and saves money since we won’t be ordering pizza or hitting up Chick-fil-A…at least not as frequently! Plus, kids will eat what is available to them. Placing yogurts and fresh fruit and veggies and homemade granola bars or energy bites where your kids can easily find them makes these the go-to snacks, not bags of Goldfish.
  • Involve your kids!
    • Getting your kids busy in the kitchen is the easiest way to ensure they will eat what you want them to. My daughter now LOVES chicken because I have let her help me prepare it.  We all learn our eating habits, and I want to role model healthy ones for my kids at every turn. On Sundays, I involve my  kids in at least one level of meal prep. Depending on the weather (hey, I’d want to be outside riding my bike, too!), I may have them help throughout,but I want them to get outside and get active and be creative as well.  One way they help is to portion our snack bags. I’ll ask them to count out grapes or baby carrots or slices of peppers.  I can also ask them to help chop.  They are young so I keep it to items like bananas and strawberries, but they are learning kitchen safety and having a hand in our family’s health.  They will help me measure out ingredients or stir up batters and mixtures.  They will help me portion meals into our lunch containers.  They will stock with snack drawer.  Now, my kids even come up with their own recipes for overnight oats or ways we can doctor our protein bars a bit differently.  Their help is a big time saver and also a lot of fun for all of us, and I am confident they are learning invaluable lessons!
  • IMG_8486Use a garbage bowl!
    • This seems like a silly tip, but to me, it is a big time-saver. I keep a larger mixing bowl on the counter that I use for trash: onion and garlic skins, thick asparagus stalks, yogurt lids, apple cores, paper towels, you name it.  Saving myself constant trips to the trash can allows easier multitasking and quicker meal prep. When it fills up, I throw it away, but otherwise, I keep chopping and prepping and cooking away!

I hope these tips are helpful!  Share a go-to tip in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. And if you subscribe to this blog or to my email list by leaving your email below,  I will share one week’s worth of clean eating recipes that are kid-friendly and family-approved. Happy Sunday, y’all!

Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese

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Who doesn’t love a good sweet potato? Well, my husband doesn’t. My dad doesn’t. My daughter doesn’t quite love them. But other than those three, I imagine everyone else in the world feels the same steadfast devotion to the sweet potato that I feel.

My go-to lunch since I graduated college has been a shrink-wrapped sweet potato, zapped in the microwave for 7 minutes, ready to eat. This is a healthy and clean meal, but as a teacher, I frequently do not have the time to waste 7 minutes microwaving my lunch.  Besides, no one person in a faculty room should commandeer any one appliance for that long.  Because I haven’t been getting my sweet potato fix at lunch time as frequently, I’ve tried to incorporate sweets into our dinner menu a few times a month.  I’ve fallen in love with Eat Yourself Skinny’s Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash and often add sweet potatoes to the mix when I roast veggies. But that wasn’t enough.

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I wanted a way to show my daughter that she actually loves sweet potatoes.  That’s when I came across a sweet potato mac & cheese recipe that enticed me.  It wasn’t as clean and healthful or as easy (too many pans!) as I liked, so I adapted it and came up with a recipe my family–and yours–will love! Plus, you can rest assured knowing the orange coloring in this cheese dish comes from a sweet potato and not from food coloring.  This pairs perfectly with a small salad and my turkey meatloaf muffins. 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box whole grain or brown rice elbow macaroni
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 cups milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese (or cheese of your choice) +1/4 cup to top
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, slightly thawed
  1. *Preheat oven to 350º and spray a deep baking dish with nonstick coconut spray.
  2. Prepare macaroni per package instructions.  Drain and set aside in the baking dish.
  3. Remove the skin from the sweet potato, stick with a fork in various places, and add to a pot of boiling water.  Boil for 8-10 minutes, until very tender.
  4. Drain the water from the sweet potato pot and remove the sweet potato.  Cut into large chunks and return to pot.  Add one cup of milk, flour, half the cheese, and the garlic and simmer on low-medium heat.  Continue to the add the rest of the milk and cheese until the mixture mostly liquefies.
  5. Blend contents with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and combine into a sauce.
  6. Pour over the pasta, add in the peas, and stir to combine.
  7. If baking and serving immediately, top with a sprinkle of cheese and place in the oven for 7-10 minutes, or until cheese melts.  Enjoy!

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*If you are not serving immediately and prepping ahead, skip the baking until the night you plan to eat this. You may need to increase baking time to ensure dish is heated through. 

Enjoy this ooey, gooey, hearty dish!  I love reheating this and placing it in a thermos for my kids to have as a school lunch.  Add a protein–like a cup of Greek yogurt–and a sliced apple, and you have a pretty complete lunch!

Please let me know below if you try this recipe.  This recipe is also featured in my Clean Eating with Kids menu.  If you’d like the full menu–recipes and shopping list included!–please leave your email below and subscribe!  Thanks!