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Adventures in Keto

In my last post I mentioned that I started doing Keto and if you’re like me, you’ve heard the term on social media and know it has to do with eating large amounts of fat…but you don’t really know what it’s all about.

I’ve been friends with people who follow a ketogenic diet on social media for quiet some time and I thought they were insane because all they ever posted were chicken wings, crazy amounts of cheese, bacon, steak and butter. Now there is nothing wrong with any of those items…. I’m actually a huge fan of all of them! I just couldn’t wrap my head around how eating those could possibly help you lose weight and be healthier. Then I met a dude who was super passionate about Keto and how it helped him and he explained it all to me. I mean he totally explained it all… like science nerd explanation complete with YouTube videos and books! After falling down the YouTube rabbit hole and taking a shit ton of notes I decided I couldn’t judge these people on Instagram without trying this and the science behind it all actually made a ton of sense to me.

I am not about to attempt to explain it myself. While I’ve read tons and watched a bunch of video AND took notes, I’m too new to actually explain it. So if you want to learn more about ketosis, read this: What is the Keto Diet 

Prefer videos? Check out Thomas DeLauer on YouTube he is easy to understand (and easy on the eyes) and really gets into the science behind the ketogenic diet.

Now as a sugar junkie, carb loving woman, my inner fat girl threw a hissy fit when I decided to give this a try. No pizza, no bread, no sugar….how was I going to survive?! No really…. I was pretty sure I was going to die. (I can be quite dramatic at times.)

But I didn’t. As I type this I am just about a week into it, intermittent fasting and all, and I gotta tell you, I feel awesome! I am never bloated, I don’t get hungry during my fasting (except for that one I baked a cookie cake before I even had my first cup of coffee, lol) and eating a ton of healthy fat is a lot easier than I thought it would be. Yes, I did have some “keto flu” symptoms. I had a headache one day and brain fog another. I also had some bad charlie horses in the middle of night because I need more electrolytes and I had this feeling that I can only really describe as “energy buzzing”  for a short time on days 3 and 4, but all in all it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Granted, having a Keto Guru in my corner helped A LOT in figuring it all out and answering all of my dumb questions when I was too lazy to Google them. (Thanks dude!)

As you know I’m also a total Pinterest junkie so of course I did my “keto homework” and found lots of “fake keto” recipes. What’s fake keto you ask? Well, it’s recipes that are keto friendly but simulate the delicious carb heavy foods that you love! Recipes like the ones below have been my saving grace in all of this because if I can simulate a carb or sweet treat, I’m a happy camper. These Fathead bagels and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fat Bombs have been staples in my diet this week! They are sooooooo good!

Want the recipe? Check out Wholesome Yum’s blog here!

Want the recipe? Check out PaleoMomNoms blog here!

So  stay tuned for more Keto updates from me as well as life saving recipes that I try along the way. If you’ve done Keto before or currently follow a Keto Lifestyle, I’d love to hear your best tips and tricks to making it through the first few weeks!

 

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Oven Fried Chicken {Healthy Comfort Food}

Oven Fried Chicken

Forget greasy fried chicken! This oven fried chicken recipe has all of the juiciness and crunch you’d expect from fried chicken, without the added fat and calories.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Nonstick Cooking Spray
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup cornflakes, crushed finely
  • 1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, four 4-oz pieces*

* I’m a huge fan of dark meat, so I use boneless skinless chicken thighs. 2 thighs per serving.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine flour, Cajun seasoning, pepper and cayenne pepper together in a medium size bowl. Place buttermilk and corn flake crumbs in 2 separate shallow bowls.
  3. Roll chicken in flour mixture and evenly coat each side. Next dip chicken into buttermilk and then corn flake crumbs.
  4. Place coated chicken on your prepared baking sheet. Spray chicken with a light coating of the cooking spray.
  5. Bake until chicken is tender and no longer pink, about 25 to 30 minutes (there is no need to flip the chicken during baking).
    Makes 4 servings.

For those of you using the 21 Day Fix this is roughly 1 yellow and 1 red.

Once you have your first round of the program under your belt, try not to stress out over your containers. Life should be about balance and making healthier choices to keep yourself headed toward your goals and this recipe does that…even if you don’t have exact container counts.

Anytime you skip the KFC drive-thru, search for a healthier recipe and go to the store to buy the ingredients to make it, you’re on the right track!

What would be your side dish of choice with this chicken? We opted for some zoodles quickly sauteed with garlic.

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Shepherd’s Pie {Healthy Comfort Food}

Healthy Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie and comfort food go hand in hand to me. Mashed potatoes, beef, veggies and a creamy sauce….yuuuuum!!

In this version, I have lightened things up a lot. There is no butter, milk, cream or sour cream to be found, but there is still a lot of comforting flavor!

Healthy Shepherd’s Pie

Potato Topping:

  • 2 lbs Yukon gold or Russet potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 3/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsps Greek yogurt
  • salt & pepper to taste

Meat Filling:

  • 1.5 lbs 95% lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups frozen peas & carrots
  • 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Boil potatoes in a medium pot of salted water until cooked and soft. Drain and mash with chicken broth, Greek yogurt, salt and pepper, set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  3. In a large saute pan brown meat over medium high heat, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and sauté on medium heat about 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the flour, frozen vegetables, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Simmer on medium for about 8-10 minutes, until sauce thickens.
  5. Spread the meat filling on the bottom of 9×13 casserole dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Top with mashed potatoes and sprinkle with paprika. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, then place under the broiler 1 to 2 minutes until the potatoes turn golden. Remove from oven and let it cool 5 minutes before serving.  Makes 6 servings.

21 Day Fix and Fix Extreme Containers: 1.5 Yellow, 1 Red, 1 Green

For those of you following the 21 Day Fix, you can cut back on your yellow container and tack on an extra green by cutting the amount of potatoes and adding mashed cauliflower. The two mix together wonderfully and you keep the great potato flavor without going over on a yellow container.

Want to cut all of the potato? Top with just mashed cauliflower. Not sure how to make mashed cauliflower? Just steam your cauliflower, toss into a food processor with the Greek yogurt and broth and pulse it all together until creamy. (Reserve a little cooking water or add some more broth if it is too thick.)

You can also substitute mashed sweet potato for your topping!

This is a really a forgiving dish and a great way to use up veggies that you may in the fridge.

I hope you are enjoying this Healthy Comfort Food segment. Don’t forget to share YOUR favorite comfort food with me below, so I can try and share a healthy alternative to it.

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Football Snacks to Keep You on Track

Football

Are you ready for some football?!

I know I am!

This month I was going to run a 7 day group focused on football snacks to keep you on track, but I didn’t have any takers for it (insert sad Nikki face here). As a result, I decided to turn my idea into a blog post that might help some football fans who I have not personally connected with on Facebook yet.

(Hint Hint…you can like my Facebook page OR leave a comment below so we can connect!)

Fall equals football season, there is no denying that. Some of us can’t wait for Saturdays, so we can cheer on our favorite college teams, some are die hard NFL fans, some are into both and let’s face it…there are people who don’t care about who’s playing or who wins, they’re just in it for the snacks and the beer. I don’t know many of them, but I hear they do exist.

Personally I have always been into the NFL more (Go Broncos!) but over the last few years, I’ve been watching more Big 10 games and trying to keep all of the college rules and teams straight. I married into a family who takes football very seriously and likes to trash talk, which is really a lot of fun. Getting together with others on a Sunday to talk smack and drink a few beers is a great way to catch up and socialize, but the food that is typically served at these gathering can really screw up your week if you are trying to be healthier.

Below are some links to recipes that I love to make, as well as some that I plan on trying the football season. The goal is to help myself stay on track, while not feeling like an outcast who only eats steamed chicken and broccoli. I hope you give them a try and if YOU have any favorites that I did not list, I would LOVE to hear about them in the comments section below!

Football Appetizers

Healthy Football Appetizers:

Football Main Dish

Healthy Football Main Dishes:

Chili, Pizza and Taco’s just come to mind when I hear football. For you, it might be burgers or sausage subs. When you select your main dishes for game day, just keep a few things in mind:

  1. Keep it lean. (Sub turkey for beef or go 90% or leaner with ground beef. Turkey sausage is also super yummy!)
  2. Keep it hand held or easy to eat. (Sliders are a perfect way to enjoy burgers on game day!)
  3. Keep it simple. (You’ll want to watch the game, not be chained to the kitchen!)

As you can see, I kept things simple and flavorful. Good fun doesn’t have to be fried, full of fat or time consuming to make. These recipes are just the tip of iceberg and I encourage everyone to search Pinterest for more ideas, share some your favorite healthy game day snacks or even share an unhealthy favorite that you might need help cleaning up!

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box by using cauliflower pizza crusts, offering Energy Bites or Cookie Dough Dip as a sweet treat instead of cookies or using mini peppers to make some Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers!

My final tip is something that you already know…… LIMIT EMPTY CALORIES FROM BEER AND ALCOHOL! I know having a beer while watching football makes the experience feel complete, and it’s okay to have one or two. It’s when you begin drinking to excess that you run into problems. As with everything in life, moderation is key!

Have fun with your food this football season and best of luck to your team!

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{21 Day Fix} Beach Friendly Snacks

Pool Snacks
Let’s talk beach & pool food!

You’re working out hard, doing great with your meals and then your friends or family want to hit the pool or the beach to cool off and enjoy the summer weather. You begin to freak out because this is out of your norm and you don’t want to ruin your progress with the 21 Day Fix or your fitness routine.

Don’t worry! Here are some healthy options to pack and take with you for a little fun in the sun.

21 Day Fix Beach Friendly Snacks:

  • Fruit & veggies teamed up with some hummus, PB, guacamole or yogurt dip are all quick, simple & nutritious option to prepare the night before.
  • Clean out old PB jars or use a mason jar to pack celery, apples it baby carrots with some PB or hummus. (This will also help to reduce getting sand in your food at the beach)
  • Plastic soda cups with lids make awesome salad containers. Just layer your ingredients (put your dressing on the bottom) and stick a fork in the top, for easy grab and go lunch!
  • Wraps are another great option. One of my favorites is nitrate-free turkey or ham with hummus, lettuce, tomato and a little broccoli slaw for crunch. Want something lower carb? Ditch the tortilla and use romaine lettuce as a wrap instead.

All you need is a cooler with some ice-packs, a little prep time the night before or the morning before you leave and you’ll be on track to avoid buying a hot dog, pretzel of other junk options that you typically find at either location.

Do you have a favorite pool or beach snack? If so, please share below!

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Santa Fe Stuffed Peppers {21 Day Fix Friendly}

SantaFe stuffed peppers
Why yes, this is another recipe with Mexican flavors. I can’t help it. I’m obsessed.

There is just something so satisfying about healthy Mexican dishes. I don’t know if it is the bold flavors, the balance between those flavors or the bright rainbow of colors that you end up with on your plate. Plus it’s an excuse to eat avocado, right?!

I am a big fan of stuffed peppers, especially since starting The 21 Day Fix. It’s just a great way to get that extra green container in, plus peppers are pretty darn inexpensive, especially as the summer approaches.

The other night, I set out to make a stuffed pepper recipe from The Whole30 book I received for my birthday, but I forgot an ingredient so I decided to hop on Pinterest and see what caught my eye and these Santa Fe Stuffed Peppers were the winner. I used a recipe from For The Love of Dessert as my base and changed things up a little.

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These peppers were packed with flavor and really hit the spot! I topped mine with some shredded mozzarella, but pepper-jack would be a great choice too. You could even skip the cheese and top them with  some of the guacamole I shared with you yesterday. {Click here to get the recipe}

If you’d like to speed up the cooking process on these, you could pop the pepper halves into the oven while your filling is cooking, to soften up, then fill, bake and top with cheese 5 minutes before they’re ready.

Looking for a healthier taco seasoning option? Make your own! I love the recipe for Clean Eating Taco Seasoning over on The Gracious Pantry. {Click here to view it.}

I promise my next post will NOT feature food with a Mexican theme. I’ve been dreaming about Memorial Day BBQ food, so I’m pretty sure that will be next!

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Cuban Style Rice & Beans with Turkey

Cuban Style Black Beans & Rice with Turkey
Last week I was sitting and waiting as my husband got his hair cut and a copy of Clean Eating Magazine caught my eye. As I flipped through the pages, I saw a photo of Cuban Style Rice & Beans with Turkey with the page number for the recipe. I immediately flipped to the page only to see that someone else had ripped the page out of the magazine and taken it with them.

Talk about rude! Why couldn’t they just whip out their smartphone and take a photo of it? Sheesh!

As we drove home, I tried looking up the recipe on the magazines website, but I couldn’t find it and that made me sad. I checked Pinterest too and nothing. I even checked the magazine section at Target while I was there and they didn’t have that particular edition anymore. Sigh.

Today, while checking out my Pinterest feed, a photo caught my eye. It was the Cuban Style Rice & Beans with Turkey that I had been searching for! Clean Eating Magazine had finally uploaded the recipe to their site and pinned it! Oh happy day!

Of course I quickly clicked on the photo to check out the recipe, made a list of the few ingredients I was missing and hurried off to the store so I could make this dish for dinner.

I had to make a few tweaks to the recipe because a) the grocery store I went to didn’t have any poblano peppers and b) I thought I had oregano on hand but I was mistaken.

Despite my two slight changes, this dish turned out really good and I will definitely be making it again!

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This recipe was very simple to make and it’s super budget friendly too, which is something I honestly look for when meal prepping.

If you’re doing the 21 Day Fix, you may cringe at the number of yellows this dish uses, so you might want to save it for your second round or have it on a day when you might do some extra activity outside of the Fix workout for the day.

I really want to try this with just the oregano and a poblano pepper to see if they flavor profile is really different, but in all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of oregano, so the swap didn’t bother me.

After lifting weights and running, this meal hit the spot and it’s nice to know I have a new recipe to add into the mix.

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Loaded Sweet Potato Skin

Loaded Sweet Potato BannerQuick. Simple. Easy.

Those are 3 traits I look for in my lunch items and this recipe for Loaded Sweet Potato fits all three….plus it’s 21 Day Fix friendly!

I had picked up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, as part of my meal prep on Sunday. I shredded it up and tossed the dark and white meat into a container to use for lunches during the week. I know, chicken breast is considered the almighty of healthy meats, but I’m a fan of dark meat. It’s moist and has more flavor to me, so I mix it all together to get the best of both worlds.

While searching for new recipes to try, I found this one for Sweet Potato Skins with Chicken and Spinach, which I really wanted to try. I ended up using it as inspiration because a) I didn’t feel like making the whole recipe and b) I like to be a culinary rebel at times.

(Truth is, I was just lazy and didn’t want to look up the recipe so I tried to remember it as best I could and winged it.)

This lunch came together in under 10 minutes and we ridiculously yummy!

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The key to simplicity with this recipe is having the cooked chicken on hand. Rotisserie chickens are a really great meal prep item to have on hand, or you could roast one up yourself when they go on sale at the grocery store. They can be used in chicken salad, quesadillas, quick and easy taco’s, wraps and on pizza.

They’re a blank slate and are just begging for a little creativity and seasoning!

Do you use rotisserie chickens or pre-cook chicken to have on hand for quick and simple meals? If so, what is your favorite way to prepare them?

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Savory Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancake Banner
Obsessed.

It’s a word you could probably use to describe me when it comes to pancakes. As I’ve mentioned before, I eat them almost every morning and I’m not ashamed of it.

Yesterday, I woke up and saw that we forgot to run the dishwasher. Not thinking, I popped in a detergent tablet and hit start before realizing my griddle pan and both Ninja cups, as well as the blade where in there. That meant no pancakes for breakfast and I almost cried.

I carried on with my coffee and a bowl of banana oatmeal topped with strawberries but it just wasn’t the same.

When lunchtime rolled around, I was still thinking about pancakes (it really is an obsession) but I also wanted something savory. I look in the fridge at what my option where and decided to experiment.

With 3 simple ingredients and my pancake making tools, these 21 Day Fix friendly, Savory Sweet Potato Pancakes were born!

INGREDIENTS
  • ½ cup mashed sweet potato (the flesh from 1 medium-small cooked sweet potato)
  • 2 eggs
  • nonstick spray for cooking
  • Optional Seasonings
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • I used cajun seasoning in mine to keep them savory instead of sweet

DIRECTIONS:

  • Blend or whisk together your eggs, sweet potato and spices (I used my Ninja smoothie cup to quickly blend it and make a nice smooth batter).
  • Pour 1/4 cup servings onto a hot griddle and cook for 3-5 minutes per side.

These yielded a much thicker batter than what I am used to, so I had to spoon them into the pan. I probably could have thinned it out a little with some water, but the texture of the final product was spot on.

For those of you doing 21 Day Fix these count as 1 Yellow, 1 Red and if you top it like a veggie like I did, 1 Green.

After digging through my spices, I opted to use some Cajun seasoning in my batter. I then topped them with 1 cup of baby spinach, which I wilted on the griddle as the pancakes were cooking and a drizzle of Sriracha.

I plan on trying these with cinnamon and maple this week, as well as some other variations over the next few weeks. I’ll report back with what works.

Have you ever tried a savory pancakes before? What flavor combinations do you think would work well?

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Meal Prep 101

MEALPREP101b
Meal prepping is a life saver for me. It allows me to stay on track with my nutrition goals and it helps to save a lot of time during the week.

By taking some time on a Saturday to make a meal plan for the week and then go grocery shopping, I not only form a plan for my week, but I save money! When you sit down and plan out what you’re going to eat for the week, you take the guess work out of grocery shopping and cut down on impulse buys.

Sundays are typically my prep days. I take the plan I’ve created along with the recipes and go to work in the kitchen. On average, this takes me about 1-2 hours (including clean up) depending on what I am making for the week. That’s not a lot of time when you consider that you’re prepping your entire week. By taking the time to prep, you’ll also never stand in front of the fridge, staring inside of it, wondering what you’ll eat when you’re hungry. That’s in itself makes prepping totally worth it!

MealPrep101

 

Here are some Meal Prep 101 tips to get started:

1. Find what works for YOU.  Some people will shop and prep all of their food for the week in one afternoon. Others find it more manageable to prep the night before for the next day. Meal prepping is all about making YOUR life easier, so experiment and see which method fits your lifestyle best. Personally, I prep enough food on Sundays to make it through to at least Wednesday or Thursday, then I repeat.

2. It’s okay to start small.  If you’re new to food prep, begin with prepping just one series of meals. Think about which meal for the day is your toughest (which one will you most likely skip or grab drive-thru for?) and start there. If breakfast is your downfall, consider whipping up a batch of these Egg Muffins or making some Overnight Oats. Does lunch send you to the drive-thru? Consider prepping some Mason Jar salads or a big pot of Turkey Chili to get you through the week. Once you have mastered that one meal, add on one more!

3. Prep BEFORE putting the groceries away.  If you begin your prep work as soon as you get home from the grocery store, you can save yourself the hassle of having to put everything away twice! You’ll be more motivated to prep foods while they’re still sitting on the counter then you will to have to pull them all out again after you just put them away. I like to wash and chop my vegetables, breakdown family packs of meat (buying family packs is a money saver!) and ration out nuts, fruits and other snack items. By doing this I have snacks and recipes ingredients ready to go when I’m hungry!

4. Keep your meal plan and recipes within arms reach.  This is a habit I got into during my first round of 21 Day Fix. I began hanging my meal plan for the week right on my fridge so I could see it whenever I walked into the kitchen. This kept me organized and on track. If I was hungry, my next meal with right in front of my face (and prepped and waiting in the fridge) and it allowed me to double check I had everything I needed for the next days meals. (Let’s face it…sometimes we think we have garlic or chili powder but we don’t!) 

Click here a printable meal planner to get your started.

5. This is not an all-or-nothing task.  Don’t think you need to wash, chop and pre-cook everything for an entire week in one shot. It’s best to ease yourself into this new habit. Maybe your first step with be making a meal plan and just shopping for it. Next you’ll conquer that one troublesome meal and then maybe you’ll graduate into a half week prep. Prepping and portioning food for cooking later, or even for one weeknight meal is better than doing nothing at all.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over my last five years of trial and error, it’s that mastering one small change before moving on to the next one is key. When you try to change too much at once, you can become overwhelmed and give up on everything.

kitchen tools

Some items you’ll need to successfully meal prep:

  • Glass or plastic containers with lids: Wide mouth mason jars are great options. If you opt for plastic, make sure they’re BPA-free!
  • Ziptop bags: These come in many different sizes and they even make colored sandwich size ones which are PERFECT for 21 Day Fix.
  • Basic Cookware: A skillet, soup pot and at least 2 saucepans should be enough for you to prep. Baking trays /cupcake pans will also come in handy.
  • Measuring Cups/Spoons: These are needed for most recipes and will be important for portion control.
  • Knives/Vegetable Peeler/Grater: Those veggies aren’t going to chop and peel themselves!
  • Aluminum Foil/Plastic Wrap/Parchment Paper: These help to cut down on clean up and as well as storing your prepped meals.

Of course as you embrace working in the kitchen more, you’ll look to add items like a good blender (not the $10 one you can get at Target when Back-to-School dorm life items roll around) and food processor (doesn’t have to be top of the line) as well as a cast-iron pan, griddle or grill pan. Oh and a zoodle maker would be good too….if you’re into that type of thing. The world of kitchen gadgets is never ending and I’d own a lot more if I had a larger kitchen!

I could go on and on about meal prep, seriously! There is so much that can be discussed, but I think this is a really good starting point. I can always do another post with some step-by-step advice as well as some meal prep hacks if you’re short on time. If you would like more info on meal prepping, comment below and let me know!

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