Tag Archives: food

Meal Prep 101

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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!

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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.

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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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Energy Bites

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Every afternoon I find myself looking for something…

A cup of coffee? A cookie? A nap?

I don’t know what it is but 2:30-3:00 pm is a tough time of day for me. I try my hardest to avoid that cup of coffee, because as good as it will taste, I will kick myself come 9:00 pm when I’m trying to relax for bed and my brain is going a million miles a minute thanks to the caffeine that seems to linger in my body. As for the cookie… well… most days I do have my Banana Oatmeal Cookies on hand, but they don’t always satisfy my craving.

Thank goodness Pinterest was invented. A while back I found a recipe for Energy Bites and they became a staple in my fridge. Then I got lazy and stopped making them.

Last week I was heading to over my friends house to help her take some photos and she told me to bring something to photograph for my blog as well. (As you can tell from most of my photos, I use my phone to take them. While I’m getting better at it, it’s not the same as using a DSLR.) As my brain started scrambling for something I could quickly “make & take” I remembered these little life savers.

Much to my dismay, the link I had on the old post no longer worked and while Pinterest has tons of these gems, I couldn’t find one that looked right. Thankfully I rarely clean out my junk drawer, so I dug through it, hoping to find the piece of paper I had scribbled the recipe on…and I did, but it was ripped, so I tried to fill in the gaps and came up with these, which were perfect to me.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or vegan chocolate chips)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
  2. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (Mine were about 1″ in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  3. Makes about 20-25 balls.

Don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with these. Swap out the chocolate chips for some dried cranberries or raisins. Toast the coconut or add some chia seeds to the mix. Changing the type of nut-butter you use will change the flavor profile too!

*If you are doing the 21 Day Fix, you can use these as a yellow container treat. I would count 2 of them as a serving.*

Have you ever tried making Energy Bites? There are sooooooo many different versions of these out there, I would love to hear of variations you’ve tried and liked.

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21 Day Fix Restaurant Tips

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One of the things I have found over the last 5 years of becoming a healthier person, is that restaurants happen.

It’s honestly hard to avoid them, especially when being social and food kinda go hand in hand. Invited to a party? There is food. You want to catch up with an old friend? You meet for lunch or a coffee shop…again, we have food. Date night? Food. Girls night out? Food and drinks. It’s one of the hardest things to avoid, so instead of trying to avoid it and risk becoming a social outcast, learn to navigate it!

Before I get into my 21 Day Fix restaurant tips, I’d like to touch upon one of my favorite topics in my accountability groups… THE “CHEAT” MEAL or as I prefer to call it, A SPLURGE MEAL.  Some are all for it, some are totally against and others just don’t fully understand what it means.I figured this would be a perfect topic today, since so many people choose to dine out over the weekend. I’ve said before that this healthy eating lifestyle is not meant to be overwhelmingly restrictive or perfect and the same goes for life while doing the 21 Day Fix.

One amazing way I’ve found to ensure I stay on track with my goals is a splurge from time to time.

When you eat clean, your body needs fuel more frequently throughout the day because it becomes more efficient at burning fat and metabolizing food. Your body loves this clean style of eating but mentally, we sometimes get bored and think we really need that fried, greasy or sweet treat …and that’s okay!

The key to this is not allow that craving to control you. You must control the craving and you can do that by giving in to it, but on your own terms. We don’t want to undo all of the hard work we’ve put forth through nutrition and exercise throughout the week. So you should PLAN on when, what and where.

Many restaurants have their full menus on-line now.
When selecting a restaurant, take a few minutes to look up their menu and see what your options are. This will give you an opportunity to plan ahead and make a smart choice. If the restaurant your friends are discussing will completely derail your nutrition, don’t be afraid to suggest a different one! This simple step can ensure you avoid the possible landmine of not making any healthy choices during you meal out.

What to look for: When looking at the on-line menu, be sure to have your Eating Plan book with you, or a list of your favorite foods for each colored container. This will help you to make smart choices and build a plan for your day around your restaurant meal.

Just because I said a cheat/splurge meal, doesn’t mean we are going to order everything fried and covered in cheese! We still want to make smart choices by keeping these rules in mind:

21 Day Fix Restaurant Tips

Although I am helping you plan to have a splurge, you still need to keep your container requirements in mind as you plan. Here are some quick ideas:

Red Container (Lean. Grilled or Baked):

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Steak
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh

Green Container (You get a lot of these with the plan so use more than one):

  • Side Salad Appetizer (dressing on the side – it’s an orange)
  • Steamed Veggies (no sauce)

Yellow Container (This is where you could factor in your splurge for your favorite pre-dinner bread):

  • Potato, mashed or 1/2 a medium
  • Sweet Potato
  • Pasta, 1/2 cup (restaurant servings ARE way more)
  • Bread, 1 slice
  • Quinoa
  • Tortillas, flour (6″)
  • Tortillas, corn (two 6″)
  • Corn
  • Beans

Blue Container (This is where you meals can become exciting)

  • Cheese (Mozzarella, Provolone, Cheddar, Jack)
  • Avocado/Guacamole
  • Goat Cheese
  • Feta Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Hummus

This nutrition plan is really flexible and you can easily stay 100% on point if you don’t want to splurge. Just be sure to stick to the do’s and don’t’s and remember to count those teaspoons for the oil or butter that the chefs may be using (you don’t have any control over it when dining out, so just make the best choices you can and go with it.)

I’m all for saving my yellow containers so I can use them for dinner. As a matter of fact I did that last weekend. Mike and I went out for a date night and I knew we were going to Longhorn Steakhouse. Well, I’m a complete and total sucker for their Honey Wheat bread, so I saved a yellow container especially for it! I also knew I planned on having some of their House-made Kettle Chips, so I wasn’t disappointed in myself when we ordered them and I ate them. We don’t go there often so I’m not tempted by them often, therefore I allowed myself to give in to the craving and satisfy my want for them.

Once you make your food choice stick with it! After looking on-line at the menu and forming your plan, stick with it. Many times when we go out with other people who have not taken the steps to improve their health, they’ll try to pressure you into having your favorite high calorie meal, having unneeded appetizers or dessert and another round of drinks. This has more to do with them than you…remember your goals and that a good time doesn’t depend on how many calories or how much alcohol you consume.

Speaking of drinks: When dining out always opt for water as your main drink. You can ask your waiter to add lemon or lime to it, to give it some flavor. Sparkling water is also an approved option and you could add lemon or lime to it as well. Coffee is also on the approved list so you won’t have to sit there sipping water while your friend have dessert. Just make sure to skip the cream, sugar and any weird syrup flavoring options. Not alcohol shots in it either!

As stated in the Eating Plan book, you are entitled to swap out one yellow container for 4 ounces of wine. Beer is not on the list but I’m not gonna lie, I’ve swap a yellow for one in the past and survived to blog about it. If you don’t think you can stop at just 4 ounces of wine, my advice would be to skip it completely. I know it can be hard while out with friends, but they should support you in your goals and those goals are more important than making them happy.

Become familiar with page 70-71 in your Eating Plan book. These two pages cover the topic of eating at restaurants as well as eating at mom’s. Pay special attention to the purple boxes on page 70, and the example box on the top of page 71. They tell you how to measure and count certain items from the list using a green container OR by following the portion size listed.

Example:
Meat lasagna – Use your green container to determine the size of your piece, then check off 2 yellows and a red on your Tally sheet.
Cheese Pizza – You’re allowed 1/4 of a 12″ pizza (mind you most pizzeria pizzas are NOT 12″) and it counts as 2 yellow and a blue on your Tally sheet.

Do NOT make this meal the equivalent of calories to a full day of meals. This is why some people don’t to use a cheat/splurge meal.  It can be a slippery slope. Many people end up making their cheat meals fried, cheesy and greasy, which means TONS of unnecessary calories. We want to limit that as much as possible. We are allowing a little room for breathing without going off the deep end. Many times you just need a taste to be satisfied.

You’ll also find that the longer you eat clean, the less you’ll want to have that cheat meal, because you’ll feel a difference in your body and mood when you eat processed foods. Most times you’ll decide it’s just not even worth it.

So enjoy a splurge meal from time to time, but don’t sabotage yourself or let other people influence you in a negative way. This is your journey and you set goals for yourself!

Have good restaurant tip for eating out while doing the 21 Day Fix?! I’d love to hear about it in the comment below!

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Simple Morning Smoothie for Back to School

Today my kids officially started school again. It seems like just yesterday they were excitedly waiting for the bus to half day Kindergarten, yet this morning they were off to 8th and 5th grades. Time sure does fly! Mornings around here can be pretty crazy. There is the battle to wake up the kids, the arguing over who gets the bathroom next (we have two bathrooms mind you, but NO ONE wants to go downstairs….sigh), lunches, clothes, homework, snacks, clock watching for the bus and of course, breakfast! Thankfully both of my kids like smoothies and what they like is easy enough for me to make while waiting for my morning dose of life….caffeine….coffee to brew. The “Simple Morning Smoothie” for them is one of three things, Banana, Chocolate Peanut Butter or Strawberry Banana, which is featured below. I also typically add a half a scoop of protein or Shakeology to their smoothie, depending on how they’ve been eating. (Shakeology is always included in the chocolate peanut butter one).

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In all honesty I used to hate dragging out the blender to make these up, especially because they NEVER agree on which flavor they want, however since Mike got me the Ninja with the single serve blender cups, I don’t mind at all. It’s actually nice to hear them ask for a smoothie for breakfast or an after school snack, instead of a Pop-Tart, some sugary cereal, chips or cookies. PLUS I get to hide things inside of these that are good for them, like protein and ground flax seed …which they would never agree to purposely ingesting.

As parents we need to get creative to ensure our children are getting enough vitamins and minerals. I know I slack in this area from time to time because I get tired of battling every little thing. I end up feeling like a shitty parent because of it, so it’s nice to have some simple & nutritious tricks up my sleeve that leave everyone happy and smiling.

Do your kids like smoothies? I would love to know what flavors they enjoy so I could try them with mine!

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Body Beast Fajitas

Messing around in the kitchen is one of my favorite things to do. It helps to calm me when I’m stressed and it’s actually just become part of my fitness routine. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest looking for new recipes to try. I own a lot of cookbooks and I love that all of the workout programs I own come with nutrition guides and recipe ideas.

So far, the nutrition guide that came with Body Beast, “The Book of Beast” is my favorite. I have tried just about every recipe in it and I have loved them all. As a matter of fact I have shared quite a few of the recipes already. They contain things that are important to me when picking a recipe; they are quick, easy and of course, they all work well for meal prep. This recipe for Body Beast Fajitas is perfect to have on hand for a quick lunch and it packs a lot of flavor!

Body Beast Fajitas

You could also easily substitute steak, shrimp or pork if you want to change things up and keep things interesting! Having basic recipes in your arsenal, that you can make simple changes to is so important when eating clean. Spices are such an important part of keeping things interesting and with a recipe like this, you can easily play around with amounts to suite your tastes. You could add jalapenos, cayenne or use a variety of pepper colors. Little changes like that can completely change the flavor of a dish and keep you from getting bored with your meals.

If you’re like me and LOVE eating at Chipotle, you should definitely try skipping the tortilla and making this with some cilantro-lime rice or as a salad. It would make a super quick dinner option (if for some reason you forgot to meal prep…but we don’t forget to meal prep, right?!) and as an added bonus, you get to skip the drive, looking for a parking spot AND that long ass line! Oh…and when you make it home, guacamole DOESN’T cost extra! SCORE!

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Body Beast ….Whatever It Takes!

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It feels like I just settled in to the 21 Day Fix but it’s over, which means the start of a new program for me! When I started 21 Day Fix in June, I made a deal with Mike that if he joined me for the 3 weeks, I would join him for a round of Body Beast. He kept his end of the deal (with great results) and I’m keeping mine!

In all honesty, I love weight lifting. I would much rather lift weights than do cardio. I feel more accomplished, stronger and like I’m doing something with purpose when I lift. I don’t know…it just makes me happy!

Now, for those of you who have never heard of Body Beast, it’s a 90 day Beachbody program (no surprise there…I adore their workouts and have been doing them for 5 years now) that combines weight lifting workouts, groundbreaking nutrition, and supplementation, all in one neat little package. This program does require a vast collection of dumbbells, a bench and a bar with weight plates but there are limited equipment options that use a stability ball with dumbbells in place of the bench and bar. You’ll also need a pull-up bar or resistance bands.

  • Body Beast includes 12 different cutting-edge workouts that fuse the best of old-school resistance training with a new breakthrough in sports science called Dynamic Set Training.
  • Increases in resistance, power, tempo, and volume lead to greater muscle gain and fast results.
  •  The Body Beast Eating Plan helps you increase in size, maintain new muscle growth, and cut up to be in competition shape.
  • Four new extreme supplements specifically designed to enhance growth and performance. (optional)

The Base Kit for Body Beast includes 12 workouts plus a FREE bonus disc called Lucky 7 when you order through one of the links here. This kit will take you through the 3 phases of Beast which are Build, Bulk and Beast. There is also a Challenge Pack option for this program that includes all of the Body Beast Supplements. I am only using the Hardcore Base Shake and Fuel Shot. Mike has added the Super Suma along with those and decided not to add any M.A.X. Creatine for this round.

In my opinion, one of the best aspects of this program is The Book of Beast, which is the program/nutrition guide. It is packed with information and will give you such a great understanding about fueling your body correctly to get the results you want! It also has some of the best recipes I’ve tried with a Beachbody program. I’ve shared the recipes for Sagi’s Signature Turkey Meatballs, Power Protein Balls and Beast Chili before, but there are so many others, including this Body Beast Power Turkey Meatloaf.

healthy meatloaf

Power Turkey Meatloaf

Total Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Prep Time: 20 min.
Cooking Time: 1 hr. 10 min.
Yield: 8 servings, ⅛ meatloaf each

Ingredients:
2 lbs. raw 93% lean ground turkey
1 cup all-natural mild salsa
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
Ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
Fresh chopped parsley (for garnish; optional)

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Combine turkey, salsa, bread crumbs, eggs, garlic, salt, and pepper (if desired) in a large bowl; mix well with clean hands or a rubber spatula.
3. Shape mixture into shape of a loaf and place on ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
4. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until center is no longer pink and meat is cooked through.
5. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve garnished with parsley.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this recipe. I honestly didn’t even want to make it, since I associate meatloaf was colder weather, but I’m really glad I gave it a shot!

Mike and I are almost done with week one and I am really enjoying lifting again. I am as sore as anything….but I really am enjoying it and feeling the changes in my muscles already.

I know I have been a little bit of slacker here the past week, but I hope to post a Fourth of July weekend recap as well as a post of how to Eat Like A Beast soon!

Any ladies out there complete Body Beast of currently doing Body Beast? If so, I would love to know if you are using the supplements and what your thoughts are on the program.

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{Recipe} Banana Oatmeal Cookies

One of the things I like about the 21-Day Fix plan, is that you can trade out one of your yellow contains for a “treat”. I mean, who doesn’t deserve a treat from time to time, right?!

In the nutrition guide, there is a recipe for some yummy looking Banana Oatmeal Cookies. The recipe called for golden raisins and walnuts (which I’m not a fan of) so I swapped out some mini Enjoy Life chips and unsweetened shredded coconut instead!

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Banana Oatmeal Cookies(Makes 8. Serving size is 2 and replaces 1 Yellow container on the 21-Day Fix)

Ingredients:
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
2 medium ripe Bananas, mashed
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life since I have dairy issues)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
3. Combine oats, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl, making sure to mix well.
4. Add mashed bananas, chips and coconut, mix well.
5. Drop by heaping Tbsp onto your baking tray. (I used the large Pampered Chef Scoop)
6. Flatten the cookies with wet fingers (so they don’t stick) or a silicon spatula.
7. Bake for 14-15 minutes, or until they are firm.
8. Cool and Enjoy!

The results were some seriously yummy cookies that I can eat for breakfast with my coffee, or have as a dessert on days when my sweet tooth kicks in.

What’s your favorite 21-Day Fix treat?

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{Product Review} Vega Bars

Recently, I was selected to be a Sweat Pink Ambassador for Fit Approach and I couldn’t be happier. I have met so many fabulous, fit and strong women in this community and I love that we can all share our knowledge, motivate each other and support one another, as we conquer our workouts one squat at a time.

As an ambassador, I had the opportunity to participate in a campaign for Vega, which allowed me to sample some of their newest bars to hit the market…and man were they good!

If you’re not familiar with Vega, they offer plant-based, gluten-free, non-GMO, nothing artificial nutrition options. To view their guiding principles CLICK HERE.

 

Vega Bars

 

As you can see from the photo above, Vega truly has your day covered …and sometimes it’s even covered in chocolate!

The first bar I tried was the Vega Sport Protein bar in the Chocolate Mint flavor. It featured 15 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of BCAA’s and 2 grams of glutamine, which made it a great post workout option. Since your body needs fuel within a certain time period after a tough workout, these would be a perfect addition to your gym bag…because sometimes you need to run errands before going home, right?

vega sport protein

Post workout nutrition is important…don’t skip it!

 

Next up was the Vega Snack Bar! I love to snack and I know you do too. When I opened the box of treats Vega sent me, I couldn’t wait to tear into the Dark Chocolate Mixed Nuts and Sea Salt. I decided to show a little restraint and save it for when I was out running errands and feeling hangry. The snack bars are perfect for these scenarios! How many times have you been stuck in a long line at the grocery store and began drooling over the candy bars or chips they showcase up the registers? We work too hard to sabotage ourselves, so be prepared for when hunger strikes with a snack like this! Trust me.

Vega Snack

I always keep an emergency snack in my bag.

 

Then there are the days that are just hectic and start with time not being on your side. Thankfully Vega even offers Vega One bars, which are total meal replacements! This morning I had to grab a Chocolate Peanut Butter bar and it was goooooood. The Vega One bars are packed with 12g complete plant-based protein, 4g fiber, 1g Omega 3, 1 serving of greens, 1 billion dairy-free probiotics, 25 added vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. That’s pretty awesome considering all you have to do is unwrap and eat!

Vega One

Emergency carpet cleaning? Vega One can power you through!

 

The final bar I tried was the Vega Sport Energy Bar in Apple Cherry. There are days were I cram a run or a workout in wherever I can, because I have other things I need to tend to first. These days become tricky because I can’t time my nutrition properly. Having an energy bar like this on hand, gives your muscles the fast-acting, long-lasting whole food energy they need to endure. The energy bars contain 27g carbs from whole food ingredients, high and low glycemic carborhydrates for immediate and sustained energy, as well as 1g Omega 3.

Vega Sport Energy

Your body needs proper energy before you workout. Fuel it right.

As you can see, Vega offers a wide variety of bars to fit your daily nutrition needs. I really enjoyed the taste of all of these. Some were better than others, but that also comes down to personal taste. (I love anything with chocolate). For more info on these items, be sure to visit the Vega Blog.

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(I received a variety of VEGA bars from VEGA and Fit Approach to review. All opinions in the post are my own, honest feeling on the item.)

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Sausage and Vegetable Casserole

I apparently have two speeds when it comes to this blog, over productive and complete slacker. I truly apologize for that.

It’s been a crazy few weeks. Between snow storms, everyday tasks and studying for my certification, I’ve been highly overwhelmed and stressed. When I get that way, I try to remove things from plate that aren’t essential to day to day living, so blogging tends to take a back burner, which I hate, because I enjoy doing it.

With that, I’ve still been in the kitchen and sticking with clean eating (with the exception of the Papa John’s Pizza and the burger I had while at Super Bowl Boulevard the other day – more on that soon) and I have a new recipe to share with you!

I found the inspiration for it on Pinterest of course. It’s more like a crustless quiche than a casserole but I’ve never made a quiche so I can’t say for sure, therefore we shall call it a casserole.

Sausage and Vegetable Casserole

Sausage and Vegetable CasseroleIngredients:
1lb Italian sweet sausage (you can use hot if you prefer)
¾ lb broccoli florets (about 4 cups)
2 medium zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
½ medium onion, finely chopped
1 small pepper (any color), chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon fine grain sea salt, divided
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
A pinch of red pepper flakes
3 free-range organic eggs
½ cup milk (you can use non dairy)
A handful of fresh basil, chopped
A pinch ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place sausage on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 mins (Turn them halfway through cooking. Slice into 1/4 round pieces, like the zucchini)
3. Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish and set aside.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add broccoli florets, zucchini, pepper, black pepper, ½ teaspoon of salt, red pepper flakes and about ¼ cup of water.
5. Cover with a lid and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes stirring often. The vegetables should brown a bit and must be thoroughly cooked, but still retain some of their crunchiness. Turn off the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
6. In a large bowl whisk eggs, milk, ¼ tsp of salt and nutmeg for a couple of minutes until fluffy. Add chopped basil and stir to combine.
7. Add the sausage and vegetables to baking dish and spread them on an even layer. With the back of a spoon press them down gently.
8. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (if desired).
9. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

This was a quick a simple recipe to make. You could add any vegetables you have on hand to it and you could even use chicken if you prefer. I was craving sausage and peppers but I didn’t want to have bread or pasta, so this worked out perfect.

I haven’t tried too many new recipes lately. Since I’ve been so pressed for time, I’ve been sticking with what I know and keeping meals very simple.

If you have tried any new recipes that you loved, please send me a link to them! I’m always looking to try new things.

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{Slow Cooker Recipe} Asian Five-Spice Pulled Pork

There are days that I don’t know what I would do without my slow cooker. Those days are usually Mondays. I don’t know what it is about Monday that usually leaves me running around like a chicken with their head cut off. Maybe it’s getting back into that weekday routine after being relaxed all weekend, or maybe it’s because I tend to cram everything humanly possible into the few short hours that the kids are in school. My guess is a combination of the two, but thankfully, the invention of the slow cooker makes one Monday task an easy one.

As I mentioned in my Eating Healthy On A Budget post, I like to purchase meat in bulk. I have staple meats that are always on hand in my freezer, ground beef, pork loin, chicken thighs and chuck roasts. These are staples for me because they can be prepared using different cooking methods, and are perfect for tossing into the slow cooker while still frozen!

Sometimes I plan my week with grand intentions of trying tons of new recipes, but then I wake up with a headache, end up having to go out somewhere or just flat out don’t feel like cooking (I know, that last one is crazy, but it happens from time to time). Those are the times I thankfully for my supply of frozen meat options, my slow cooker and my collection of recipes on Pinterest!

This recipe is actually intended for pork ribs, but I didn’t have pork ribs…I had a pork loin roast, so I figured why not?!

Asian Five-Spice Pulled Pork
Recipe Inspired by The Clothes Make The Girl

Asain Five-Spice Pulled PorkIngredients:
2-3lb pork loin roast
2 tsps Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp garlic powder (I used a garlic pepper combo)
2 Tbsps apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsps coconut aminos
1 Tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper
1 sliced jalapeno (optional – I used some jalapeno hot sauce because I didn’t have a fresh jalapeno on hand)

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, Chinese five-spice, and garlic powder, then massage the mixture onto the pork.
2. If using the jalapeno, toss the sliced piece into the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the vinegar, coconut aminos and tomato paste. Stir well to combine the tomato paste with the liquids.
3. Add the pork roast and cook on low for about 8-10 hours.
4. When the pork is done, shred and mix with the juices in the slow cooker. Serve.

This pork had a wonderful, sweet flavor with just a hint of spice from the jalapeno. I served this with sweet potato mash and sauteed spinach, but this is yet another dish that would work perfect as a lettuce wrap. There are really very few meats that wouldn’t work well as a lettuce wrap, right?!

I’ve clearly been on a Asian kick with my meals this week. I think it might just be an excuse to eat lettuce wraps and Sriracha, because that is exactly how I used the left overs from this meal today.

Do you own a slow cooker? If so, do you use it a lot or does it just sit on a shelf in the pantry?

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