Couples Challenge!

couples challenge

This coming week is going to be exciting–and not simply because the US Open begins (though, as a tennis-watching freak, I am SUPER pumped about that!).  This week will rock because the Beachbody Health Bet kicks off.  Curious?  Here is an easy 5-step plan to capitalize on this:

1. Join our challenge group, Betting on You!
2. Log at least 3 workouts a week–which can be any workout you wish (a BB program, a class at the gym, a run, yoga, ANYTHING!)
3. Post pics of your Shakeology at least 5 times a week.
4. Be motivated and held accountable at every step of the way by your awesome coach–me!
5. Receive a check from Beachbody when all is said and done.

Seriously, it doesn’t get any easier! We’d love to share this experience with as many couples as possible, but are welcoming solo participants as well. This just can’t be beat! Beachbody believes in its products–especially in Shakeology–so much that it is pledging between $1-3 million to be split among all qualifying challengers. I will lead the way and make sure each of you qualifies and gets PAID!

I am adding an extra twist to this group: while I will have one group geared towards women, I am also running a COUPLES CHALLENGE.  Get healthy, strong, and active with your partner.  You know what they say: the couple that sweats together stays together!

Fill in this submission form so I can get you started TODAY!

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!

Friday Faves: Me Time

I’ve blogged before about the many hats I wear. I do not say this to seem remarkable; I say this to prove that we are all that way. At any given moment of any given day we may be mom, employee, wife, sister, car pooler, team mom, friend, neighbor, coach, daughter, boss, chef, maid, etc. We switch from being needed to needing, from being in charge to following orders, from being free to being structured. This causes chaos in our minds, our bodies, and, often, for our families. I must remember that of all the identities I juggle on any given day, I am always me. Scheduling or “indulging” in “me time,” as most call it, is beyond necessary for our own well-being.

I haven’t been as consistent with Friday Favorites since I started back at work, but I decided this week I am not compromising on it. I am writing this week. Which gave me the idea to write about why I love to write: it is my perfect me time. I am an awe of words and sentences (just ask my students) and often marvel at how they link together and create imagery and worlds and beliefs and arguments and beauty.  I teach my students that they should write like readers and read like writers. I strive to do that, too. When I sit down to write a blog–whether it is planned out ahead of time or rather in-the-moment–I feel a true release of energy and a surge or calm all at the same time. I adore toying with word placement and sentencing, with exploring how I write something rather than what I write. This is when I am most centered, most grounded. This is my favorite me time of all. I encourage you to try it. Get a journal or start a blog or post of Facebook once a day. Even one sentence well-considered is therapeutic for me.

What else do I love to do when it’s just me? Keep reading to find out. You won’t find any earth-shattering on this list, but perhaps you’ll remember what it is you love that helps you find your center. Strive to spend even just 10 minutes each day on “you time” so that your other hats can fit a bit better.

2. Reading: I don’t read enough. I know I’ve previously shared my favorite novels, but that list is deceiving. It takes me quite a while to finish a novel. For one, I am always rereading a text or two for school–not to mention the student writing I read. I really need to make an effort to fit in reading for pleasure. I cannot do so right before bed, though, or I’ll be asleep within 5 minutes. When I do make the time, however–when Mike is watching college hoops or when I have just 15 minutes of hall duty left after grading quizzes–I love it. I escape into another place and embrace the journey.  I marvel at the author’s craft and daydream my own endings.  I let myself be in a moment that belongs to just me.
3. Running/working out: I’ve written before about starting each most mornings with a sun salutation.  It is amazing what those few minutes of yoga and meditation can do for my psyche. But I need to really sweat, to really workout, to feel true to myself.

I’ve grown to love running.  It is freeing to run outdoors, in the fresh air, and to push my pace.  I am not fast but I love challenging myself.  Reach the stop sign before the song ends.  Sprint for 30 seconds every time the song changes.  These mind games fuel my competitive side while quenching my need for health and fitness.  I get grumpy when I don’t get a run in over a long period of time.  Even if I am in the midst of an at-home program or challenge group, I get especially antsy if I haven’t been able to run.  I am still regaining my miles from my pregnancy.  I know it takes time.  The runs I’v been able to tackle, though, inspired me to get back into distance running.  My husband, sister-in-laws, and I plan to run a half marathon in November.  Now it is time for serious mind games.

I also adore working out in my living room, sometimes bright and early and alone, and sometimes with a kid or two or three at my feet.  TurboFire is my go-to.  Chalene Johnson is my best friend in my head.  The mix of HIIT and Fire workouts allow me to do the perfect program in the amount of time I have available.  I’ve had this program for 5 years and is still my favorite. I am in the midst of 21 Day Fix Extreme right now

4. Shopping. At Target. Alone.: Moms, need I say more? Especially if there is a Starbucks. It is like a mini vacation. I would worry the employees all in red look at me strangely for meandering around their aisles for a full hour, but I know I am not the only one. I’ve got my leggings on, I’ve got a list I’ll exceed by at least 7 items, and I’ve got the perfect Pandora station playing from my iPhone. I am home. Until I’m really home with three bags full of dollar-bin items for holidays weeks away that I’ll either A. give to the kids in a matter of days, or B. forget I have entirely until the holiday has passed.

I can also get pretty zen traipsing up and down the narrow aisles of Whole Foods or the wide halls of the mall. Again, my earbuds are in and I’m focused.  I’m trying to send the message that my time is for me only.  No, I do not want to smell your perfume.  No, I am not interested in your miracle hand cream. No, if I wanted a new tub I’d go to Home Depot, not the food court foyer. No, I’d rather not have my eyebrows threaded in front of all these people. If I wanted to be having a conversation with someone, I would have brought my kids along. This is all about me.

5. Cooking: This is a new one for me.  I’ve always been fascinated by recipes, but found most yummy ones intimidated.  I’ve had my standbys, though.  If I was cooking for a crowd or for a holiday, I’d make stuffed shells.  If I was a guest at a party, I’d make my fruit salsa.  If I was cooking on a weekend morning, I’d make pancakes.  Mike and I have differing tastes, so I tended to stick with tried-and-true recipes on weeknights, like my pork chops or chicken ala yummy.  Plus, he often works late, so I lived by the mantra “the easier the better,” which left to countless nights of take-out or boil-out-of-the-box pasta with sauce out-of-the-jar.  My husband never complained, but he rarely praised my cooking.

Now, he does. He often expresses how much he enjoys our new recipes, and I am truly in love with cooking them. We’ve both become increasingly adventurous as we’ve began to understand the importance of clean eating and balancing our macronutrients.  As a result, I’ve curated an extensive library of clean recipes from the vast corners of the internet and am venturing more and more into creating my own.  The most beautiful side of clean cooking and eating is that our meals rely on the natural flavors of in-season foods; you almost can’t go wrong.

I also love getting the kids involved–even though this is listed under “me time”.  This adds many minutes to the suggested “prep time” of any recipe,  but the memories and healthy habits this creates are priceless.  My son especially loves to bake with me; he is always on hand when I make muffins or cookies. Kayden, though she loves to watch baking shows on YouTube, prefers to cook or meal prep.  She loves to sort our fresh snacks or to portion out the ingredients for a meal.  I hope to get them more and more involved as they get older.

6. Watching my shows: I feel like one of my grandmothers when I type that, “my shows.” Each of my grandmas had their shows (or her “stories,” as Nanny Agnes called them), and by shows they meant soap operas.  I am not a day-time TV kinda gal, but I do fall hard for one or two shows at a time that I need in my life.  Big time. I will curl up on the couch alone with a cup of tea or a handful (ok, a bag) of Craisins or a huge spponful of peanut butter and just watch.  I don’t binge.  I absorb.  I immerse myself in these characters.  I memorize their lines.  I cry with them and laugh with them and love with them.

I’ve had many shows over the years–Big Love, Swingtown (gone far too soon!), Smash–and am currently hooked on Younger, The Americans, and Nashville. My husband and I watch The Americans together, which makes me feel less guilty that I am currently in long-term relationships with 3 shows, but I couldn’t pick just one.  I am obsessed with them.

Something to realize is that “me time” doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Many times, when I pencil in time to recharge and get back to me, it involves my favorite people.
7. Talking to my mom on the phone: I do this daily. We usually chat blue tooth-style on my short drive to work in the morning and at least once again in the afternoon.  These phone conversations are part routine, part catharsis, completely “me time” qualified because it is like having a conversation with myself.
8. Girls nights: Every person needs a time to recharge his or her batteries.  I refuel once every month or two with a girls night. This usually means a dinner out with some wine and good conversation, it sometimes means a Pampered Chef or 31 party, and it can even mean a meet-up for lunch (a girls day!) at one of our houses.  These social gatherings with one or more girlfriends renews my sense of self and rekindles my ability to be Mom. These get-togethers are good for my soul and good for my family.
9. One-on-one time with each child: I don’t get to do this enough, but that is the lot we chose by having three kids 5 and under.  Someone is always demanding my attention.  When I can devote time for an activity each child loves, though, we reconnect and I feel less mommy-guilt.  Anything that reduces mommy-guilt has to be “me time.”

With Kayden, I play school.  If she had her way, we would play every waking minute of the day. What she doesn’t understand is that I play school every day as a high school English teacher.  Continuing that momentum and those activities when I just want to be Mom feels daunting and draining and droll. I can often swindle my way into being “Miss Pam,” who is conveniently a like-named women who works in the school’s office.  This way I can continue to make dinner or work on paperwork or fold laundry and it is as if I’m completing my secretarial duties. Other times, I can take the role of “Miss Julie,” the college-aged helper who assists all classes in the afternoon.  When I am Miss Julie, I can spend 10 minutes with Kayden in full kindergarten aide mode–cutting circles and folding paper and sorting books–and then assist the other classes for a stretch of time, aka spend time with my other two children.  But some days, she wants me to just be her teacher or just be her student and when I do, when it is just us, I can’t help but be in awe of her imagination and attention to detail and eerie reincarnation of my entire childhood.  This is “me time” for both of us.  I must allow myself to enjoy it fully more often.

Paxton likes waking up early and cuddles and Odd Squad and doing puzzles.  We often spend our one-on-one time while everyone else is still sleeping.  He is naturally an early riser and an immediate eater, so we will head down for breakfast and put on a favorite show and relax on the couch for a few minutes before the hustle and bustle of the rest of the day and family take over.  These few minutes of contact are usually all he needs.  If he wakes up and I am already getting ready for school or doing my workout, he accompanies me throughout the entire process.  He just needs to know I’m there and needs me to know he’s there.  Lately, he’ll do a puzzle on the floor while I get my things together for the day, or he’ll sit beside me as I check in with my challenge groups early in the morning.  He’s my shadow most of the morning and though it can stress me out when we are in a time crunch or when I’m tripping over him at every turn, I have to embrace these moments when Mommy is his number one girl.

Kellen’s an easy sell: give him a few minutes to nurse and he is golden.  I am especially in love with nursing this time, most likely since we plan on Kellen being the final Bus Baby.  I can tell he is beginning to teeth and is a bit antsy, but I am going to ride out this wave with him as long as he’ll have it.  Stay tuned for his big boy mommy-and-me time. 😉
10. TV with my husband: I’ve already told you about my shows.  Well, Mike and I have our shows as well. We love the entire Chicago series: Fire, PD, and Med. We’ll watch Shark Tank and The Big Bang Theory.  We’ve seen every season of Homeland and 24.  And last year we finally got on the Breaking Bad bandwagon and never looked back.  We’ll sit together with cups of coffee or tea or a glass of wine and just watch.  This is the time when we mentally unwind, often fall asleep, and do very little talking, but we love it. We compare notes on predictions or quiz each other on a new character’s identity from a different show or film (well, maybe I just quiz him and then immediately look up said actor/actress on IMDB), but it is this routine that I find most comforting.  This isn’t boring marriage stuff.  This is practiced marriage stuff.  This is “life is so chaotic and our world is often so loud that this televised escape is needed” stuff. Plus, Mike knows I’ll make up all the not-talking with plenty of chattiness the second his head hits his pillow.

How do you sustain you? Tell me in the comments!  And leave your info below!  I’d love to know who’s reading, and I promise–no spam. Just Pam. 🙂





Lick-the-spoon Protein Cookies…and a Salad

I’ve missed cookies.  Cookies and ice cream are my two biggest weaknesses.  Since I’ve started drinking Shakeology every day, I no longer miss having a bowl of ice cream.  I have found so many recipe ideas online and just by playing around that I pretty much start each day with a chocolate or coffee milkshake.  This shake, though, is full of super foods and vitamins and the protein my body needs to burn fat, build muscle, and feel properly full.  But I’ve missed cookies. IMG_6953

Thank heavens for Pinterest and Facebook.  Between these two sources, I’ve found various recipes for energy bites and clean cookies that I am starting to satisfy these cravings with healthful, whole snacks.  Yesterday, I stumbled upon my favorite yet while mixing ideas from a few other recipes–and a faulty ingredient leftover from the weekend.

I am calling these Lick-the-Spoon Protein Cookies because you will do just that: lick the spoon clean after you finish portioning them on your cookie sheet.  They are eggless, so the batter is safe to eat raw, and they are gluten free if you use the right kind of old fashioned rolled oats. Plus, these took maybe two or three minutes to prepare.   Combine that with a 15 minute bake time, and I was munching on a few in less than 25 minutes.

What inspired the cookie creating?  I am currently running a Clean Eating Accountability group on Facebook and am on the lookout for some clean snacks to share with the ladies and one gentleman participating.  I found a basic recipe for banana oatmeal cookies that seemed simple and yummy enough alone, but the recipe lacked protein.  I have found protein to be so beneficial to my overall health and fitness that I wanted to make the cookies more worthwhile for me, my goals, and my participants.  Plus, I had just finished eating the most delicious and clean citrus chicken salad that I knew I could afford a cookie or two–the right cookie, anyway.

To up the protein ante, I added two ingredients: raw homemade almond butter and a little bit of chocolate Shakeology.  The almond butter addition came out of my desire to really live a clean lifestyle.  I attempted to grind down a cup of almonds for a Super Bowl Sunday snack, and my first attempt didn’t go well.  Instead of turning into a crumbly topping like I envisioned, the almonds became moist, dense, and chunky in my Nutribullet.  I succeeded on a second cup of almonds by using my blender instead, but the initial serving of almond “buttery” something just sat on my counter unused.  When I was mixing together the ingredients for the cookies and took a jar of almond butter out of my fridge, I remembered the forgotten blend from the day before and used that instead.  This added a crunch to some of the cookies as well, which I am not complaining about.

I added the Shakeology, and just a little bit, to add a chocolate flavor and some more health benefits, but this step can easily be left out or even subbed for cocoa powder if you aren’t interested in additional protein.

I’ll get to the actual recipe in a minute, but first, you have to earn it.  Here is the recipe for my clean citrus chicken salad.  I combined ingredients from various meals from the week to create an unplanned, accidental, delicious lunch that I cannot wait to have again today.

CLEAN CITRUS CHICKEN SALAD INGREDIENTS

I combined all ingredients in a bowl and enjoyed every bite.  This didn’t need any dressing, but if you find it to be dry, squeeze the juice out of one of the orange segments.  Keep it clean and light. 🙂  This salad will make you feel like you are vacationing in California–something my parents are currently doing–which this Jersey girl appreciated on a gray February afternoon.

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Drum roll, please. It’s cookie time.

Lick-the-spoon Protein Cookies

  • Servings: 12-18
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cookies so good, you'll forget they are healthy!

Ingredients

  • 2 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup organic old-fashioned rolled oats, certified gluten free if necessary
  • 2 tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 tbsp. chocolate Shakeology
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used dark mini chips)

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Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray  (I used coconut oil spray and the aroma is to-die-for and also vacation-like!).
  2. Combine the bananas (I mashed mine with a fork), oats, and almond butter until smooth.  If you are adding the Shakeology or cocoa powder, combine that now as well.
  3. Fold in the chocolate chips.  Spoon even rounds onto the cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until firm.  Allow to cool for one minute on the cookie sheet and then for 3 minutes on a cooling rack.
  4. Store in an air-tight container in your fridge–if you have any leftovers!

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This is an easy and yummy dessert that even your kids can enjoy.  A cookie without butter and eggs isIMG_6957 my new favorite kind of cookie.  Share your thoughts below or of any changes you made to the recipes.  Cooking and baking should allow for creativity.  Have confidence to play around with recipes and you will find true joy in the kitchen!
If you do not want to make your own almond butter, I have found this brand works very well for baking, for my Shakeology, on apples, and on Ezekiel toast.  It does have a rather nutty flavor, but it spreads well and doesn’t separate.  

If you like this recipe and want more healthy lunch and snack ideas, join my next FREE 5-day clean eating challenge!

 

My Why

I have been a mom for over five years, but nothing has motivated me to take control of my family’s health and wellness as much as Kellen’s CCAM. While I was pregnant this third time, countless people–from friends to family to complete strangers at the grocery store–felt the need to impart their feelings on “being outnumbered” with three kids: You’ll be lucky to get out of the house! Try to remember to eat! How will you keep their names straight? The laundry! But you already have your boy and your girl! These such positive and supportive comments truly helped ease a mind already panicked at the baby’s health and worried about the impact a newborn would have on a 3-year old and 5-year old.

I am a bit of a control freak. I am the type of person who rearranges the dishwasher after my husband loads it. I adjust the way my mom has placed one of my child’s shirts on a hanger when helping me around the house. I am by no means a neat freak or a clean freak, but I need to be in control of so much of the minutia in life to feel any sense of inner balance. Kellen’s diagnosis really shook me at my core. Not only was his health in question, but my ability to be in control–and, this time, about something so vital, so real–was virtually non-existent.

As I neared and then passed my due date, I realized just how little control I had over many of life’s biggest moments. I couldn’t predict or plan this baby’s arrival.  I couldn’t will him a perfect lung.  I couldn’t even control how he would change the lives of my other two children.

I’ve mentioned my maternal grandfather, Vince, on this blog a few times.  “Let it go” was his signature phrase, one that ties us to him still.  After we learned the CCAM CVR was only a .21, I became open to letting go of so much stress and worry and emotion.  I continued to carry so much weight and so much internal pressure to get everything right, however, in the other aspects of my life. The moment Kellen was born and I heard him cry the most robust, gorgeous cry, though, I finally let it go.  All of it.

What is it? Everything I can’t and shouldn’t attempt to control, to micromanage, to perfect. The irony in this is that just as quickly as I let go of what I couldn’t control, I became more aware of what I could control: my health, my happiness, my confidence, my ability to provide these for my family.

This is my why, my reason for making healthier choices and for making myself a priority. First, I joined a boot camp, this first thing I have done solely for me in a very long time.  This inspired me to rekindle my love of writing and to launch this blog.  The catharsis it allows me is priceless.  Both of these new endeavors have equated to more accountability in my choices.  I am sticking to my workouts and to clean, balanced eating not simply to lose the baby weight or to write about it.  I want my confidence and my control in the most healthy way.  I want to be almost as strong as Kellen.  I want to be a role model for my daughter.  I want my middle child to love cooking healthy meals with me, not just baking cookies. I want all of my children to grow up in a house where we follow our dreams and support one another and don’t stress about the rest. That is why I’ve taken the step to become a Beachbody coach–to inspire my children and other people as well.

I’ve let go of much of my panic and embrace my life’s chaos and unpredictability.  I’ve let go of bad eating habits and perpetual snacking and have made room for healthful choices and real meals.  I’ve let go of the me who held herself to an impossible standard and welcomed the work-in-progress me.

In doing this, I realize I have real time on my hands.  Yesterday, I spent two hours at a hair salon highlighting my hair.  It is something I have wanted to do for years, but chickened out with worry of how I’d look.  At least that was the excuse I said out loud. The truth?  The idea of doing something alone and just for me and at such a cost made me almost sick.  I am a working mom and my husband would never tell me I couldn’t pay for something like that, but I still felt such guilt. The expense! The time away from the kids! I let these excuses weigh me down.  I let go of such excuses on November 11th.  And I still had time for life.  I spent the morning at CHOP for Kellen’s follow-up (all is perfect!), took my daughter to get her new glasses, did some laundry (with the help of my mom and I didn’t fix any hangers!), and made two meals, one for dinner and one for lunch for the week. I am not listing this to brag. I then ended the night working on my Beachbody coaching business plan and doing some training while watching the Iowa caucuses and college hoops with my husband.  I didn’t get a long workout in, which I would have liked to do, but I had me-time, family-time, husband-time, and healthful-time regardless.  I will celebrate victories, especially Kellen’s, and not pay attention to what didn’t work or didn’t happen.  I’m thrilled with what I can control and the rest, well, I’ve let that go.

Clean Eating on a Budget

My grandfather used to always say that you do not skimp on food.  If you’ll eat it and it is good for you, pay for it!  This is a good reminder for those of us trying to prepare clean, balanced meals for our families.  We see the canned soups and boxed mac and cheese and aisle packed with sugary cereals and think two thoughts: cheap and easy.  I hear ya. Sometimes, cheap and easy is what we moms crave most.  But I would like to encourage you to think beyond these two words.  Instead, think healthful and worth it!

Perhaps our initial shopping bills were higher than normal, but only slightly. I keep my grandfather’s words in my mind and realize that my family’s health truly has no price. Regardless, this concern is common.  In that past few days since I began publicizing my family’s rather-layered journey to health, I have received comments and questions touching on this very issue.  How much more do I have to spend to eat clean? We can’t really afford this!  I hope to show you that you can.

My best piece of advice? Meal planning!  I am–or was–a coupon girl.  I was not TLC-worthy extreme couponer, but I spent a half hour to an hour most Saturday nights scanning circulars, organizing coupons, and creating a very specific list for my husband’s Sunday-morning super market runs. Clean eating has taken away my beloved coupons almost completely, but I now fill my momerific Saturday nights meal planning quite strategically.

Through meal planning, you can uncover patterns in recipes and plan accordingly. Follow my four-step process (which makes me sound like a pro. Nope! Totally figuring this out as I go!), and maybe you’ll find clean eating will work for your family.

Step one happens well in advance. Scan sights like mine (shameless plug, I know!), CleanFoodCrush, Eat Yourself Skinny, Skinny Taste, Fit Foodie Finds, and HelloHealthy and bookmark recipes that are must-tries for your family. Find more than a week’s worth–at least 10-20 meals–so that steps two and three are most effective.

Step two requires you to examine the ingredient lists within your collection of clean recipes for your “must buys.” These “must buys” are the seasonings, spices, oils, flours, etc.–basically, the kitchen staples–most required for clean eating and the recipes you are interested in trying.  This will most likely be your biggest expense, but it is also an infrequent purchase.  Buy most of these once, and they should last at least a few months.

Some of my “must buys” included various pure extracts (for overnight oats and smoothies and coffee flavoring), sriracha sauce, chili paste and powder, coconut oil, and sesame oil. I bought organic for some and didn’t worry about it for others. Eating, like life, is about balance. You may also consider old fashioned rolled oats and whole wheat flour (if you are not a gluten-free household, coconut flour if you are!) and stevia if you bake and want to eliminate sugar.  I stick to sugar, but that is just me.  Purchasing an all-natural peanut butter and an all-natural almond butter is smart as well.  Sun flower seed butter is a great alternative for allergies. These go perfectly in protein shakes and smoothies and on top of apples or Ezekiel bread.  And don’t forget brown rice, quinoa (any variety), various beans, and low sodium broths or stocks to have on hand.  You’ll be surprised how many recipes call for any or all three of these. Plus, they work well in soups, which are a perfect way to achieve step four, described later on.  This seems like a lot, but as I already mentioned, these have legs and last quite a while!

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Step three is a week-to-week meal plan. Take the time to figure out what meals best overlap. In other words, what fresh, perishable ingredients can be used in multiple recipes.  Find two recipes that call for half a yellow onion and make them two nights in a row. This is not only health-conscious and wallet-conscious, but earth-conscious as well.  I will share a sample weekly plan later.  Plan your shopping list with these fresh, overlapping ingredients in mind.  I also suggest weekly purchases of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, unsweetened plain almond milk, avocados, berries, bananas, lemons, and garlic cloves.

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Step four is more fun.  I am have decided to dedicate Saturday to ridding my home and my fridge of all that remains.  I have yet to find a meal plan that causes no excess.  On Saturdays, I vow to cook as much of it up as I can.  This is a fun way to experiment with different recipes and to save some money on the process.  My household fell into the Friday or Saturday take-out trap.  We are saving money and eating better now that we do this. You can read more about how we are managing this in my blog post “Out with the old; in with the new.”

We are still in the early stages of our clean eating journey.  I have a lot to learn–and will admittedly see how well I keep this up when I return to work post-maternity leave.  But we have developed such keen habits already.  I am confident we have now made this our lifestyle rather than a fad diet.

What does this look like in my household?  Here is a look at this week’s meal plan (recipe links included when possible) and how the ingredients overflow.

  1. Sunday: My husband’s famous chicken fried rice (Want this recipe? Leave a comment asking for it!)
    • fresh ingredients: brown rice, chicken breasts, carrots, zucchini
  2. Monday: 21 Day Fix-approved Meatloaf Muffins
    • fresh ingredients: lean ground beef, carrots, celery, yellow onion
  3. Tuesday: Carrot soup with Beef Stir-fry
    •  fresh ingredients: lean beef, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms
  4. Wednesday: Healthy Baked Quinoa Chicken Parm
    • fresh ingredients: chicken breasts, mushrooms, yellow onion, green pepper,
  5. Thursday: 21 Day Fix-approved Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs with Mashed Cauliflower
    • fresh ingredients: ground chicken, yellow onion, cauliflower
  6. Friday: Zoodles & leftover meatballs
    • fresh ingredients: zucchini
  7. Saturday: Leftover creation!
    • I’ll have some onion left over as well as some pepper and sweet potatoes from a dish I am making to bring to a brunch that morning.  I’ll probably defrost some chicken tenderloins and saute it all with some cannellini beans.
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Prep from Monday’s dinner

Some notes:

  • We only used celery in Monday’s meal, so I’ve been packing it in the kids’ lunches as a snack with some pb for dipping.
  • What do I eat for lunch? The previous night’s dinner!  I also buy avocados weekly and have a 1/4 of one on a slice of Ezekiel toast and a protein shake if not enough of dinner is left.
  • Breakfasts? We love overnight oats! Lots of recipes to be found!  We also like green smoothies or protein shakes–my kids included!

Best of luck! Please comment below with any tips you may have.  I also encourage you to check out the “contact me” page so I can get to know you better.  What info would you like me to blog about? 🙂 I am also organizing a FREE clean eating challenge group for mid February.  Want to try it for 5 days? I’ll coach you through! Let me know on the “contact me” page as well!

A Name that Means Powerful

I am an English teacher.  This may explain my love for names and their meanings, or might just be an excuse for when I search for a connection between a character’s name and his or her role in a story. Read any Jodi Picoult novel or even my blog’s name-inspiration, To Kill a Mockingbird, and you may do the same.  This name-personality connection transcends literature, at least in my experience.

My husband and I believe that a name ties intrinsically to an individual’s personality, thanks to our two oldest children. Our daughter, Kayden, is stubborn and strong-willed and physically tough.  She stands up for herself and asserts her role in most situations.  She is smart, creative, and spiritual.  Her name, or its origin, Kaden, means “fighter.” Our second child, our son named Paxton, wears his heart on his sleeve.  He loves hard and fast and finds the most harmony through cuddles, sleep, and quiet. Pax, which means “peace,” fits him perfectly.  Of course our daughter has many tender moments while our son can flare a temper, but, at their cores, our children embody their names.

This weighed heavily on my mind as we searched for the perfect name for Baby Bus #3. I am the type

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Christmas Morning 2015

of pregnant woman who needs to know two things in order to mentally survive the last few months of pregnancy: I need to know the gender of the baby and I need to know his or her name.  I am not one willing to wait for that delivery room “It’s a [fill in the blank]!” surprise, nor am I content to simply tell “Baby” to stop kicking my ribs. I need to know this child, to imagine him or her fully–name and all–for my belly-bonding to really take shape. Skylar, meaning “scholar”, was a possible girl name. She would fit in to her big sister’s love of school. Or maybe Asher for a boy, which means “blessed and happy,” would make a fitting addition.

These thoughts left us completely after our anatomy scan.

About half way through this pregnancy, my husband and I ventured to the OB for an ultrasound and consultation with one of the doctors.  These scans had gone routinely with my first two pregnancies, so I wasn’t worried. I made two different envelopes–one for a girl and one for a boy–so we could have an immediate gender reveal with our two kids upon returning home, and off we went.  I wasn’t thinking about how different this pregnancy had been already, from on-going queasiness to slower weight gain to a consistently achy sciatic nerve. I wasn’t thinking that this appointment would be any different than the two anatomy scans we’d had before.  I wasn’t thinking we had anything to fear.

Our ultrasound tech was super social throughout most of the appointment.  She pointed out everything she could, hid the screen when confirming gender, and asked us sweet questions about our two other children.  With about 5 minutes of the scan remaining, though, that changed.  She became quiet and hyper-focused.  I assured myself she was merely concentrating on keeping the baby’s gender a surprise for our family reveal.  I smiled at my husband and enjoyed the little printout she gave us before she ushered us down to the exam room where we would meet with one of the OBs. Mike and I were so full of joy from seeing the baby and hearing the heartbeat that my husband and I didn’t expect the mood to so suddenly shift upon the doctor’s arrival.

When the doctor entered the exam room, the same doctor we had for our middle child’s anatomy scan, my husband and I could sense the tension.  She sat down on a stool beside the exam table and began listing all that was good: the baby’s skull is forming well, there is no cleft palate, the baby has ten fingers and ten toes, the fluid levels are strong, etc. She was being so specific to tick off every single success of our baby’s development, so careful to hit every positive base that we just knew we were bracing for a “but.”  And it finally came. “But the ultrasound tech noticed a shadowy area in the baby’s right lung,” she said. “We would like you to see maternal fetal specialists so they can use their big boy ultrasound machines and check it out. Maybe it is just a shadow. Do you have any questions?”

My husband and I looked at one another and I immediately said “no.”

She continued anyway. “What it could be is something called a CCAM, a lesion in the baby’s lung.  But MFM will check it out and let you know for sure.  These usually shrink and eventually disappear–if that’s what it is.” And then she sent Mike and me to reception to make our next appointment.

We drove home almost silently. We psyched ourselves up for the fun we were about to have: boy or girl? We pushed those 4 maybe-letters from our minds.

Kayden and Paxton greeted us at the door as soon as we pulled in the driveway.  When they opened the envelope revealing this baby, Baby Bus #3, was a boy, Kayden began a triumphant “yay!” and Pax repeatedly asked us what this meant. We smiled, then hugged one another and the kids and my mom and immediately retreated upstairs to do the dreaded Googling.  Google CCAM and, most likely, the first site you’ll come to is from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  You’ll learn that CCAM–or congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation–is the most common lung lesion found in fetuses and children and that the outcomes vary greatly. Depending on the size, positioning, and effect on the four chambers of the heart, each baby afflicted with CCAM takes his or her own path to recovery, if recovery is possible. One word came up again and again: cancer. This knowledge, this information is why I said “no” when the OB asked if I had questions. I didn’t want the worry of what might be wrong until we met with the specialists and had a true diagnosis.

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Baby Bus #3 says, “Don’t worry, Mom. I got this!”

The diagnosis was true, though. I could see it the second the ultrasound tech placed the wand to my belly. What normally looks like blank, black space in the baby’s chest cavity looked like cotton, like white smoke.  Like it didn’t belong.

We were at our first MFM appointment two weeks after the initial scan.  That doctor, who was caring and honest and paternal, told me not to get too emotional. “You worry about the baby, and I worry about you.  So don’t worry!”, he insisted. “We will see you in 4 weeks and check the size of the CCAM then. If it shrinks, which most do, you will have nothing to follow up with.  If it remains this size or, more unlikely, grows, we will refer you to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.” My husband and our families encouraged me to think positively.

Four weeks.  I hardly ate.  I tried my best to internalize my nerves and to enjoy my summer home with my 2-year old son and 4-year old daughter, but in the quiet moments–when one or both was napping or they were engaged in their own play–my mind went crazy.  When my mind went crazy, my fingers searched for answers. I read blogs and message board and the websites of countless hospitals. I began to learn more about fetal surgery and EXIT surgery and hydrops and lobechtomies than any woman creating life should learn about.

Four weeks–and the most upsetting doctor’s appointment yet.  “There,” I said to my husband, as I pointed out the snowy mass in the baby’s chest. “Can’t you see it?” He could.  It was still there, plain enough that we didn’t need the ultrasound tech or MFM specialist to confirm it.  I began to cry, silently, staring at the dropped ceiling so as to avoid eye contact with my husband or the tech. One sweaty hand clutched one of Mike’s while I kept the other tucked behind my head, fingers crossed. I focused on breathing deeply, keeping my tears away, being strong for this precious little baby who looked so much like his brother via ultrasound that it made my heart ache even more. When the scan was complete, the tech led my husband and me to a consultation room and immediately brought in a monitor to check my blood pressure. “They didn’t do that last time,” Mike said. “They are worried about my blood pressure,” I explained, “checking for hydrops.” I didn’t have hydrops, which was the only good news of the appointment.

“We have a problem” were the first four words that came out of the MFM specialist’s mouth as he entered the consultation room soon after.  Not “Hello, I’m Doctor So-and-so.” Not “How are you feeling, Mom?” Nope. We have a problem.  From there, I half-listened, half retreated into my own thoughts as he detailed that the CCAM grew quite a bit and that the baby was also measuring small, particularly in his femurs. More to Google. More bad stuff to read.  More worry.

Our next step was a visit to CHOP–after another 10 day wait.  At this point, I became so concerned with his size, I stopped exercising. I tried to eat more, but my stomach was so upset from my worries that I didn’t get much down.  My mindset and nerves cannot be providing the right environment for a healthy baby, I kept telling myself, and that guilt only made both worse.

We finally had a full day of appointments at CHOP: ultrasounds, fetal echo-cardiograms, an MRI, consultations with genetic counselors and nurse liaisons, and so on.  You name it, Baby Bus and I did it. It was a long, tiring, emotional day which ended with what I can only describe as a slice of comfort.  Mike and I met with a wonderful MFM specialist who confirmed the CCAM, ironically known as well as a CPAM, and explained to us that the baby’s lung is like a tree planted in a garage.  I am paraphrasing here, but he described to us that the roots don’t have room to spread out, so they’ll simply remove the garage–or, the bad tissue–and the roots will spread themselves out. He explained that this is done in one of three ways, depending on the severity of the lesion: through fetal surgery, EXIT surgery, or surgery at approximately 6 weeks old. The magic number was 1.0.  If the CVR (CCAM volume ratio) was greater than 1.0, fetal surgery was immediate.  If the CVR was close to 1, EXIT surgery was likely. If it was significantly smaller, infant surgery was necessary. Inside, I tried to mentally prepare for Baby Bus #3’s CVR.  I could see the lesions clearly and I was not medically trained. I knew it was going to be a number I did not like.

.21.

I was so wrong. With a CVR of .21 and the four chambers of the heart remaining in place and full, we could wait until we delivered our son at our own hospital, take him home, love him, and then bring him in for surgery weeks later. My heart swelled. Yes, his femurs were still measuring small, and his weight was a little below average, but his CVR was such a small fraction that those other issues failed to seem significant.

Mike and I drove over the bridge back to New Jersey with lighter minds and real smiles on our faces.  I could feel a sense of peace.  I also felt something break–a wall I had slowly built around me.  It seemed like almost from the start of this pregnancy, even before I knew of the CCAM, I was protecting myself and the baby from something.  I was more distant and more irritable, less patient and less open. For months, I hadn’t felt like me.  Now I did.  I knew we had a long road ahead, one that included weekly scans to check the baby’s growth and that eventually led to a lobechtomy on part of Baby Bus #3’s right lung, but I also knew that I was open to taking that road with my husband and my family and my friends.  I realized that I didn’t need my tears to stay silent and that I didn’t need to worry in my head. I could talk about it.  I could feel openly and honestly.

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Getting prepped for surgery

A few weeks later, Mike and I took our two oldest children to Disney World.  Aside from the 100 degree heat and my 7-month waddle, I enjoyed myself more than I could have a month before. Baby Bus #3 was strong.  He kept that CCAM from getting too big, I was sure of it. I continued to break down my wall.  I reconnected even more with my husband.  I laughed more genuinely with Kayden and Paxton. We had a brilliant, albeit exhausting, vacation as a family of 4.

School started, and our growth scans continued, but the CCAM had stabilized.  Before long, we didn’t even need the growth scans. Baby Bus #3 was suddenly in the 40th percentile for fetal size and I could enjoy the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy without visiting MFM. I must have made a pretty good home in there for him after all, because he overstayed his welcome and arrive on Veteran’s Day–4 days after his due date. A neonatalogist was on-call for the delivery, but this baby came out chubby and crying and ready to face the world, bum lung and all.

Within a week of that initial scan months earlier and the discovery that Baby Bus #3 was in fact a boy, I approached my husband as he paid bills online and told him we needed a name.  This baby needed a name.  I needed a name so my prayers were more real and my connection to him was more eternal. We started from scratch, throwing out all we had liked or loved or disagreed on before. We soon settled on it. A name that means powerful seemed most fitting, and Kellen sure lives up to it.

On January 8th, at 8 weeks old, Kellen had a lobechtomy.  The chief-of-surgery at CHOP removed the lower lobe of his right lung. He spent 24 hours in quite a bit of pain, unable to nurse, and connected to a chest tube.  By hour 25, however, he was nursing, smiling, powerful. Mike and I brought Kellen home for the second time on January 10th, one day shy of 2 months old. Many people said this type of journey is harder on the parents, especially on the moms, than it is for the babies. I believe them. I truly believe, though, that Kellen’s name embodies his essence–just like those of his sister and brother.

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Friday Favorites: Post-workout Snacks

Who doesn’t love a yummy snack after a good workout or a healthful but delicious dessert while catching up on your DVR?  I do!  And I’ve discovered a blog trend I am going to try: fun Friday favorites.  This week, I am going to share my favorite post-workout or after-dinner snacks.  These provide a nutritional boost and assist in recovery, plus each one contains protein and/or healthy fats that keep our metabolism revving while satisfying our hunger.

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the 6-week boot camp in which I am participating. I love it!  I’ve been focusing on HIIT training, which isn’t a new notion for me, but I am training in a way that targets my body more effectively. In addition to 20-30 minute HIIT workouts, I have been doing 20-30 minutes of cardio a few days a week.  I love to run (hoping to train for a 10k or half marathon this year!) and also love Turbo Fire!  This program is especially great for cold or snowy weather or when I am home with all three kids and can’t get out for a run. I haven’t had a gym membership in years; I don’t need it.  Don’t let a lack of membership be your excuse to ignore your health and fitness!  I’ll be sharing more specific fitness strategies and goals in the coming weeks, so please follow if that interests you.  I’d love to help you find the results I’m experiencing.

Back to my Friday Favorites. What are post-work out snacks or desserts I love? There are two easy choices that anyone interested in fitness already knows: protein shakes and protein bars.  I am currently nursing my 10-week old, so I stick with vegan chocolate protein powder, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, and a few ice cubes blended together. I’ll sometimes throw in a half a banana, a teaspoon of natural peanut butter, a few frozen strawberries, or even a 1/4 of an avocado.  Play around and find a combo you like! Protein bars are great to keep in your bag–or diaper bag–for those times when you have to run out for a school pick-up immediately after a workout or for when hunger hits on-the-go. But these are easy, common snacks.  My three favorites are more as follows:

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  1. Apples with protein peanut butter

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved having apples with peanut butter as a snack.  I can still picture my mom slicing the apples and smearing them perfectly with peanut butter while my brother and I sat at the kitchen table doing homework.  I could never quite distribute the PB as perfectly as my mom could. She could spread it so evenly over every surface of each apple slice; my attempts resulted in more PB on the plate or stuck to the knife than on the fruit. Moms are great that way, at creating food miracles, which is probably why I am finally a successful PB-apple spreader. My mom’s feat was especially skillful, though, since you couldn’t pay my mom to eat PB! Anyway, this snack was always the perfect pick-me-up after a few math worksheets and a vocabulary exercise.

As an adult, I’ve re-imagined this snack to better fit my workout and macronutrient needs. My husband and I love Shark Tank and discovered Nuts ‘N More after the company pitched on the show.  The high-protein chocolate peanut butter is delicious in my protein shakes, but I am obsessed with it smeared atop a few slices of apple.  This also works well as a late-night snack when cravings for chocolate can hit.  Remember, indulge once in a while!  There are many flavors to try, so see what works for you. Just make sure you give the peanut butter a good stir first.

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2. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt topped with berries…and mini chocolate chips

The average 8 oz. serving of organic nonfat plain Greek yogurt has 22 grams of protein.  That is a significant benefit to a person burning fat and building lean muscle. Top with berries and even a small sprinkle of mini dark chocolate chips (I add these on my cardio days as a little reward) and this is good enough for dessert.

I am an ice cream lover.  Thanks to my dad, I grew up having ice cream almost every night.  I can still see him standing at the microwave warming up a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream for a few seconds before settling on the coach to watch a Knicks game. I would often sit beside and have a scoop or two of something myself–a habit that followed me into adulthood and, especially, pregnancy.  I can now have a bowl of Greek yogurt instead to satisfy this childhood habit while staying on track.

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3. Apple Pie Oat Muffins 

The recipe for these muffins popped up on My Fitness Pal–the app I use to log my nutrition and fitness each day–and I immediately checked my kitchen for the ingredients.  I baked these yesterday with one substitution.  I used pumpkin pie spice instead of apple pie spice for two reasons: I happened to have it on-hand and I love it. I am a PSL girl, after all.  My 3-year old son helped me whip them up, which was fun and easy! East coast readers, this is a great recipe to try while you’re snowed in this weekend.  It will be the most delicious smell to come inside to after shoveling or sledding.

I had two for breakfast this morning (along with two slices of nitrate-free turkey bacon to make sure I reach my protein goal by the end of the day) and they were delicious.  I am keeping half of the batch in a storage bag in the fridge and the other half sealed well in the freezer.  My mother-in-law tried one last night and she approved as well! They are wholesome, clean, filling, and flavorful.

What are your favorite post-work out snacks? What clean desserts do you indulge in?  Let me know, and feel free to link to your own healthy snack posts so I can check them out as well!

 

Baked Chicken ala Yummy

I have a confession to make: I love chicken. That’s right, folks.  I am obsessed. This may seem like no big deal to you, but up until about a month ago I would have told you I don’t eat chicken.  I have never had the taste for it–unless if was processed and formed into a nugget and half-eaten by one of my kids and I snatched it up before scraping it into the garbage disposal.  When I’d make chicken parm for my family, I’d make eggplant for myself.  Chicken or fish at a wedding?  Fish, please.  This all changed at the start of 2016.

I am currently 2 1/2 weeks into an online fitness boot camp in an attempt to do the dreaded “lose the baby weight” thing.  I love working out and I love eating fruits and veggies, but I’ve also let being a mom–especially a working mom–break so many of my disciplined habits.  I became a perpetual snacker who hardly ate real meals, a woman who felt guilty leaving the house for even a 20 minute run, and a person who heard the slightest child-whine or baby-cry in the distance and immediately turned off any workout DVD I had managed to begin. Yes, I would have still considered myself fit and healthy, but I wasn’t as fit and healthy or happy as I could have been. I’d play outside with my kids and run with them in my double-jogger and enlist them to help me blend my morning green smoothie.  But, I was often tired. I lost my patience rather easily. I resented my husband’s longer hours at work. I was pretty normal.

This boot camp is changing all of that.  It allows me to find accountability, motivation, and mindfulness through a group of women all embarking on a virtual fitness journey.  It encourages me to workout and to invite others to join me, like my husband, sister-in-law, and my kids.  It inspires me to pay attention to my eating and to really make the most of it by eating clean.  I have lost 3 1/2 pounds since I started the boot camp, and I attribute this to a combination of regular workouts, a true support system, and smarter eating.

What does this have to do with chicken?  Just about everything.  My online fitness coach helped me realize that I was lacking protein in most of my meals. This caused me to feel hungry, to be sluggish, and to crave sweets. As I did my own research on foods rich in protein and lower in fat, chicken repeatedly appeared.  Turkey, beans, lentils, nonfat plain Greek yogurt–these were already favorites of mine.  But chicken? Bleh. I sucked it up, though, and found that when stripped down and incorporated into healthful, clean recipes, chicken may be my new favorite thing.  Need proof?  I am lunching on crock pot salsa chicken over mixed greens and avocado right now.

I am now a meal-eater.  My husband and I were revealing in that fact last night. I have nearly cleaned my plate at every meal since January 4th when this began.  I know my metabolism is revved up, but I am also not filling myself with needless snacks. I am incorporating protein in every meal as well, which keeps me fuller longer and helps my body break down the fats and carbs I do consume.  Last night’s dinner–which I am calling Baked Chicken ala Yummy–was a perfect example of all of my new habits coming together. I ate chicken. I finished my meal. I woke up still full. 🙂

In full disclosure, this is an old recipe I happened upon years ago, maybe from a cooking show or online, that I tweaked to make my own.  I hadn’t cooked in ages, though. When Mom doesn’t want to eat chicken, Mom hardly cooks chicken.  Perhaps the best part of this dish is just how yummy your house smells while you bake it, hence the name.

I served this with a side of zucchini spaghetti, so I’ll include those directions as well.

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Baked Chicken ala Yummy

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A tasty, simple chicken dinner the whole family can enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut thin (or 4 cutlets)
  • 1 slice nitrate free turkey bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, thinly slice
  • 1 tomato on the vine, diced
  • 1/3 cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lemon for juicing, halved.
  • 1 large zucchini, spiraled into spaghetti (I use the Veggetti)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray the bottom of a large baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. Place the 4 cutlets into your baking dish. Top with bacon, tomato, and garlic slices.  Sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Squeeze the juice of one-half of the lemon over the chicken.
  3. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes uncovered, then cover with foil for another 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and your home smells good enough to eat.
  4. During the second phase of baking, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add zucchini spaghetti and boil for 6-8 minutes, depending on the consistency you prefer.  Drain, and top with the juice of the other half of the lemon.
  5. Serve warm.  Enjoy!

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You can play around with this recipe in countless ways: use traditional bacon, eliminate the lemon juice and drizzle everything with olive oil, add onion as well, you name it!  Before I was eating clean and trying to avoid as many processed foods as possible, I would serve this with a side of pre-packaged mashed potatoes or refrigerated crescent rolls or something of that sort. I have really been able to eliminate much of these types of foods and feel less bloated and overall much healthier. Give it a try and I am sure you will have similar benefits.

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Please comment below with ways you made this recipe your own! Happy cooking!