Tag Archives: food

Meal Planning Monday: 1.16.2017

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I always write these on Sunday, but Monday sounds so much catchier. Anyway, if you’re actually reading this on Sunday, high fives to you for being a go getter. 

It doesn’t even matter when you meal prep: just get it done when it works for you. 

Here’s what I’m cooking and eating up this week for dinner. I also have some badass breakfasts to share. Lunches for me are usually leftovers. I live a glamorous life, I know. 

Sunday (today): Slow cooker cider pork roast with apple thyme gravy. Serving with mashed cauliflower. This recipe is cooking right now. It smells great and was stupid easy to throw together. I skipped the apple brandy and picked up a mini bottle of apple whiskey. Boozy dinner ftw. You can freeze extra meat to use in other things if you won’t be using it up for leftover lunches and dinners this week. 

Monday: Upside down BBQ chicken bowls. The bonus of this is that you can put a huge batch of chicken breasts in your slow cooker with a little BBQ sauce. Cook that 4-6 hours and shred with a bit more sauce. You now have meat for more bowls during the week, or just freeze the cooked meat in individual portions for another day. I like that this recipe uses lots of broccoli slaw. Eat that up, it will fill your belly. 

Tuesday: Slow cooker posole(pork and hominy stew). I’m going to riff off of this Skinnytaste recipe, using the leftover pork from Sunday, though her instructions help you use fresh pork too. I don’t own a pressure cooker (wah!) so I’ll use the slow cooker instead. I’ll serve this with a fresh salad of citrus, avocado, and greens. 

Still have soup leftover? This will freeze just fine to live another day. 

Wednesday: Winter citrus butter salmon. Serving with a wild rice blend and steamer bag broccoli. This recipe sounds incredibly good. I’ll likely go light on the butter and need to sub regular oranges for the blood oranges unless they appear in the market soon. 

Thursday: Leftovers if we’ve got them: or soup from the freezer. 

Friday: Taco Friday is not #tacotuesday. But if I make a giant batch of seasoned taco meat, I can eat a taco on Tuesday and feel cool. Freeze some extra meat for tacos any time. I have tons of ground turkey in my freezer, so I’ll use that plus some low sodium taco seasoning. Or make your own. I usually opt for small corn tortillas – they’re low in calories. Lower carb tortillas work well too. And I’m perfectly happy to make a taco salad out of taco meat, tons of veggies, and a little guacamole. 

Saturday: Beef bourgignon (stew with red wine). A lazy kind of winter day meal to fill your kitchen with good smells. If you make a big batch, this freezes really well too. I’ll serve it with just a little crusty bread along with the veggies in the stew. 

Have a recipe that rocks your world? Leave a comment and tell me all about it. Have a great week! 

Meal Planning Monday November 28, 2016

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It’s a new week and maybe I don’t need to eat pie every day. Or maybe I do? I had quite a lot of good pie and other treats for Thanksgiving. 

There’s no need to repent or detox.  But I’m craving some vegetables. This week’s dinner menu will have plenty of them. Hopefully there will be good leftovers for lunches, and I’ll throw some spinach into my breakfast smoothies or fold a few veggies into an omelet. 

Monday: Black Bean Pumpkin Soup from Smitten Kitchen with a mixed green salad

Tuesday: Feta spinach chicken sausages roasted with red bell peppers, onions, and broccoli. (Use whatever veggies and seasonings you like! I’ll sprinkle on oregano, salt, and pepper and roast in one pan at 400F until it looks nice and toasty. 25-35 minutes should do the trick. 

Wednesday: Baked ginger soy chicken from David Lebowitz, served with a big side of steamed or sauteed stir fry veggies. (Just buy the frozen ones if you don’t have fresh veg on hand.)

Thursday: Surely we have leftovers. Right? Right? If not, I’ve been itching to make the turkey meatloaf from Skinnytaste. It would taste great with a side of sweet potatoes and broccoli. 

Friday: Lentil chili from Little Broken. With a cornbread muffin, because yum. 

Saturday: Hosting a sleepover for many 4th grade hooligans. A DIY hot dog bar with fruits and veggies on the side will work for the kiddos. Turkey brats with apple sauerkraut and roasted Brussels sprouts for the grownups. Plus wine. Of course. 

Sunday: Blackened fish taco bowls from Noshtastic

Are you cooking up a favorite meal you’ve discovered lately? Tell me all about it in a comment below. Have a great week!

Ranch Chicken Burrito Bowls with Chipotle Avocado Crema

burrito bowlBring all the bros to your yard with a burrito bowl that puts Chipotle to shame – though I actually like Chipotle for a quick, relatively inexpensive and healthy meal option on the go.

Chipotle style burrito bowls are popular among the macro counting ‘IIFYM, bro’ crowd because it’s so easy to customize your plate to exactly what you want on it: more protein and fewer carbs for your day? Just pile on more chicken and go easy on the rice and beans. I used a recipe for cilantro rice and beans here.

This recipe is also easily doubled or tripled if you want lots of leftovers to make it through the week. My 3 boys have begun eating mountains of food, and I was sadly left with no extra chicken. I’m so screwed once they grow into teenagers, right?

I dig this meal for my family too, since everyone can just make their own bowl as they like them. My favorite upgrade to this recipe is the avocado crema, which I found inspiration for via the blog Carlsbad Cravings. I’ve tweaked her Fiesta Ranch Chicken Bowl recipe a bit. I’ve included no nutrient info because it really depends on how you make each component and throw it together. It should be easy enough to guesstimate if you’re a calorie tracker. Enjoy!

Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowls with Avocado Crema
Print Recipe
Dope burrito bowls put the fast food varieties to shame. Customize your bowl for a healthy, filling meal full of flavah.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
25 minutes 2 hour
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
25 minutes 2 hour
Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowls with Avocado Crema
Print Recipe
Dope burrito bowls put the fast food varieties to shame. Customize your bowl for a healthy, filling meal full of flavah.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
25 minutes 2 hour
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
25 minutes 2 hour
Ingredients
Chicken marinade
Avocado Crema
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Chicken: Pound your breasts to an even thickness with a mallet or rolling pin. I do this with the breasts between sheets of wax paper or just out on a cutting board when I'm lazy. Make the marinade: In a small bowl, whisk all of the marinade ingredients together for the chicken. Add the chicken to the bowl and toss to coat. The chicken can sit out for 20 minutes or you can marinade it in the fridge for a few hours. Crema: Throw everything into the blender. It's just that simple. Salt and pepper afterwards to taste, and thin with a little milk if it's thicker than you'd like. Cooking the chicken: Either on the grill or on the stovetop in a saute pan or grill pan, saute your chicken for around 5-6 minutes per side, depending on how thick your chicken breasts are. Let the chicken rest 5 minutes. Cut on the diagonal into strips or smaller bites to serve. Set out all your ingredients, and eat it all up.
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8 Reasons Why We Eat Too Much And What To Do About Them

dogbonesIt’s lunch time on Tuesday. It’s a writing and “housekeeping” sort of day, so instead of running around, I’m snuggled up at home. It’s warm. Ella Fitzgerald is crooning softly on Spotify. And I have time: exquisite, rare time to be alone in my house and wander into the kitchen and grab a snack. Or two. Or three.

Now it’s 2:15 and I’ve eaten the lion’s share of my calories for the day, yet I’m not sure I was really even that hungry. I was just surrounded by yummy things in my home. Can you relate to eating out of boredom?

Why We Overeat
There are many reasons that we end up eating too much. The idea of “too much” is a bit loaded. Let’s say for our purposes today that we’re using the context of energy needs to either maintain our weight or lose fat. If you’re one of those people who is trying to put on weight, I salute you. Bulking sounds like a hell of a fun challenge.

Here are some common reasons why we eat too much to support our body composition goals, with troubleshooting suggestions that follow.

bing1.  Reactive Bingeing – Binge eating can be a form of eating disorder, and if you regularly binge on foods, consuming thousands of calories at a time, I strongly urge you to connect with a therapist who can provide real help. Another form of bingeing exists too, however: reactive bingeing. If we severely restrict calories for a period of time, we instinctively want to fuel ourselves. That can lead to unbridled eating that unravels the deficit we were trying so hard to create. Instead of slashing our calories down severely, a more modest deficit of 300-500 calories is healthier for our bodies and minds.

nope nope nope

nope nope nope

2. Go Home, You Are Drunk. There’s a reason that fast food joints are open late around college campuses. After a night of partying, what seems like a good idea? Tacos. And pizza, of course. Not only does alcohol come loaded with calories, we lose some of our better judgment when we get lit. This can lead to poor food choices and cringe-worthy decisions in general. Though it always leads to becoming an awesome dancer. Thanks, vodka. Imbibe responsibly.

 

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3. Boredom.
Emotional eating isn’t always the worst thing in the world, and we’re not failures for having the urge to nosh in response to our feelings. After all, we’re not robots. We’re thinking, feeling beings. Food is something that nourishes our bodies. But it also brings us together, soothes us when we’re aggravated and elevates occasions when we’re celebrating.

Whoever came up with the quip that food should ‘only be fuel’ must be someone who is decidedly not a foodie. The ability of our species to combine flavors and textures to create sublime-tasting dishes is something to be treasured.

The problem is, as someone who really loves to cook and eat, it’s easy to get swept away and pack on more pounds than I’d care to carry.

To help combat eating out of boredom, we can at least be mindful in our eating. What may feel like hunger may not actually be hunger. Instead, we may just have time to imagine delicious things that get our brains humming with possibilities. If you can wait a half hour to see if your hunger grows, you will have solid feedback that eating is a wise idea.

C6E4GF USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Young woman working in office. Image shot 2011. Exact date unknown.

4. Stress. This plays into #3, but along with the solution of mindfulness being helpful, developing alternative coping skills for stress can be a game changer. If food becomes our only coping mechanism, we’re likely to overeat. Walking, playing or listening to music, knitting, and reading a book are ways that I unwind. What are things you can do to care for yourself that don’t necessitate using food?

Hehe remember this book?

Hehe remember this book?

5. Too much junk food. A little junk food spices up life. Ain’t no shame in your game for loving a few “fun foods”. But a steady diet of highly processed foods will likely not only deprive you of precious nutrients; it will also leave your belly grumbling. Whole foods like lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits will keep you full longer with fewer calories consumed.

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6. Too much ‘healthy’ food. It’s harder to over-consume calories if you’re eating plenty of whole foods. But it can still happen. The biggest culprits that I find trip up my online training clients are things that actually do have an excellent nutrient profile yet are calorically dense: nuts, avocados, and whole grains are just a few. You don’t have to stop eating them. Just be aware that small portions are probably the best way to incorporate them unless you have a big calorie budget.

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7. Mindless nibbling. I did this a lot when my kids were young – I’d eat a bite or three off of their plates. I’d grab a handful of this or that each time I entered the kitchen. When you’re a mom of many little people, actually sitting down to a thoughtful meal during the day can be tricky. If you’re a nibbler, change the environment that’s causing this to happen:

For example, if you mindlessly snack in the kitchen, try keeping foods off of the kitchen counter. Consider putting portions of snacks into containers that you then can decide to eat. You’ll often consume less overall this way. Alternatively, consider eliminating snacking and instead choosing larger, more filling meals to decrease the urge for snack foods.

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8. Celebrating. When we’re caught up in a wonderful moment with people we love, food becomes a way to connect with each other. There are two ways to look at this: one would be that food doesn’t have to be the centerpiece of enjoying people’s company.  Another would be to just allow yourself to enjoy the food and your loved ones. We only have one life on this planet, and constant restraint usually leads to overeating at some point later on.

My strategy on this one – fill up earlier in the day on foods that are relatively light on calories yet high on the “filling factor”: namely lean protein and veggies. That way you won’t have eaten all that many calories when you head into your party. You also won’t go in ravenous and ready to dive bomb the nachos.

The Big Picture
The really good news is that once you’ve begun to identify where your trouble spots lie, you can take steps to improve your eating habits. And remember, food isn’t the enemy. It’s something we can love – as long as we have a healthy relationship with it for the long term. 

Looking for more ways to get healthy in the new year? Sign up for my FREE Women’s Strength Challenge and get a kick start to building lean muscle in 2016. It takes just 30 minutes 3 times a week. Get on it!

 

Preparation is Everything – How Unemployment Helped Me Reach My Nutrition Goals

photo credit: taxcredits.net

What do frugal families and people who are skilled at managing their weight have in common? It hit me the other day as I saw a powerlifter friend on Facebook exclaim “chicken breasts are $1.97 a pound at Hy-Vee this week! Get it!”

They know that preparation is a cornerstone to success.

It took a challenging period in my life to give me the tools that have helped me nail my nutrition goals, both for weight loss and for performance.

In 2008, I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler. I remember standing at our kitchen counter making dinner when my husband came home from work. He looked like someone had died. “What’s wrong,” I joked. “Did you get fired?” In that instant I knew that ridiculous joke was actually a reality. The recession had hit, and he was the low man on the corporate totem pole. For the first time in his life, he lost his job.

We’d made the decision when our children were young that I would stay at home with them and delay my own career. It was a good life. We had enough, though I don’t think I appreciated it until we felt like we had lost it all.

Very quickly I shifted into survival mode. I had a history of depression and anxiety, but strangely I felt more focused than ever before: I had babies to protect. I got a part-time job so my husband could still collect unemployment and look for employment. We juggled new schedules. I had to learn new choreography for the daily dance of our lives.

Obligatory adorable baby pic because they’re all giants now.

A big part of getting by was cutting our food budget. I quickly learned the lesson that I still now lean on: preparation is everything. The big things I learned  still play a big role in how I handle my nutrition, and they allow my family to eat well without breaking the bank. (Although budgeting is getting tougher as my kids get older – they eat like a pack of starved wolves!)

Key Factors:

  • Menu Planning based on what key ingredients I already had in my stockpile

  • Grocery Shopping

  • Cooking Meals Ahead of Time for Busy Days


    Menu Planning
    Planning our weekly menu saves us money because I’m not constantly running to the store. Every trip I pick up extra stuff that I don’t always need. Planning also helps me stay on track with my nutrition goals. One lesson I’ve learned over the years is to be realistic with what I’m going to make for dinner. When I get too ambitious with my plan, it backfires and I sometimes don’t have the energy or desire to cook.

    When I plan my menu, I think about healthy meals that also incorporate food that’s on sale at the supermarket or that I may have on hand. This leads me to another skill I learned:

  • Stockpiling
    Stockpiling is a big practice among frugal people. It seemed a little extreme but it is actually a helpful way to make healthy cooking on a budget more doable. Having a chest freezer makes this a hell of a lot easier too.

    photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

    photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

    I began scanning the weekly grocery ads and when items were at a good price, I’d buy as many as I felt like I could afford. The first few months of this were tough because I didn’t yet have resources in my pantry and freezer. Meat was the main item I targeted for stockpiling. Meat can be really expensive, and I found that the difference between the regular sticker price and the sale price was often pretty large. Stockpiling meshes really well with the  next strategy:

    Freezing Meals for Later Use
    Freezing meals is another trick I picked up from the mommy brigade: I could either fully or partially prepare meals for later use and save both time and money. If I have to make marinade for chicken breasts, it doesn’t take me much longer to prepare a marinade for six batches of chicken than it does for one. Getting multiple meals out of 1 prep session kicks ass.

    I also found that preparing freezer meals saved me money beyond just having available ingredients that I’d stockpiled at a good price. How many times have you bought a bag of celery, only to use 2 stalks and have the rest of it go to waste? If I prepared several batches of a recipe, I made better use of the ingredients I had to buy to create it. Look for an article soon with more details for a  freezer meal how-to and recipes.

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    Bro Prep
    I later found that my dinner preparation was going well but I had really poor choices available for lunch. Have you ever seen the pics of weight lifters displaying their neat rows of meals in Tupperware for the week? I don’t think I could eat the same thing every day, but they’re on to something. Many fitness geeks do batch cooking of a main ingredient, like chicken, and have it on hand all week for salads, sandwiches, and whatever else sounds good. When they plan their meals, they also plan for breakfast and lunch and make sure that everything they might want is on hand.

    The Big Picture
    Most of the time, when I find myself eating food that doesn’t support my goals it’s because I’m caught without the food I need. I’m not talking about celebration meals or treats – those are important too and we need to incorporate them into our lives. But if we’re perpetually calling for take-out or nibbling on snacks because we have nothing in the house to make for lunch, the likely skill we must build is preparation.

    How to Get Better at Preparation 
    If you struggle with any of these habits, you can nail them. I promise! But habits like meal prep are actually skills that we have to learn. Pick one small habit, like planning a menu for a few days, and observe what went well and what needs work. Go from there, step by step.

    How has the skill of preparation impacted your own fitness journey, either positively or negatively? Have a tip or comment?Please share it in a comment!