Go big before going home?

I often joke that I workout so that I can be more a little (or in some cases, a lot) more flexible with what I eat. This week is certainly proof of that, even before the Thanksgiving holiday hits. Thankfully (or perhaps not) this morning officially kicked off the “we’re going to work you extra hard because it’s Thanksgiving” instructor punishment at the gym. Woof.

Initially I’d planned to make this dish last week but ended up eating out more than I thought thanks to a two-day work training. Not wanting to throw out perfectly good vegetables, I decided to make a skinny chicken and broccoli casserole for lunch. And to think I would have missed out on this recipe!

I did make one minor addition in that I added green peas to it and only had unsweetened almond milk. One of the potential downsides (though it could be an error on my end, especially given the type of milk I used) is that it turned out somewhat soupy for me. But it wasn’t anything a little brown rice couldn’t fix. It’d be really good with pasta, actually, but I didn’t want to push my limits…

casserole

I kept my portion small knowing what I had in store for dinner: crockpot bacon cheeseburger soup. Don’t ask. I found it on pinterest a couple days ago and figured this was as good a time as any to give it a shot. Plus it meant I could use up the potatoes and carrots that I still had from the beef stew I made last weekend. I did use turkey bacon and Italian ground turkey, though that probably doesn’t make it that much healthier…

cheeseburger soup

I know what some of you may be thinking. Pickles? In soup? Really? But it was surprisingly good. Almost like adding banana peppers to nachos or a taco. The soup was better than I anticipated, and I’m really digging my crockpot capabilities now that I’ve got a larger one. Now let’s hope I can practice some moderation and keep pushing myself in gym classes before I really indulge on Thanksgiving…

Hibernation prep

I have to admit I’ve been a bit of a grump lately. The culprit? Mother nature.

On more than one occasion last week, I wondered what in the world possessed me to move to Nebraska. Last weekend featured 50-degree days that were perfect for the dog park. By Tuesday, however, Hurley and I could only go out for about 15 minutes because we’d reached single-digit temps. How did this happen?? All the sudden I’m in search of snow pants and a full-on face mask so I can get Hurley out on walks in this god-awful weather (though once it warmed up enough to actually snow it was more bearable).

Clearly six winters in Missouri made me weak.

But whining and complaining about it isn’t going to make the next five months any easier. This weekend I decided to confront winter head on, knowing that the cold temps and snow are here to stay.

With the help of the middle (and not so much the canines…), I got plastic insulation on most of my windows. I also put up thermal curtains in my bedroom and purchased heavy-duty door mats to help with the wet boots and Hurley tracking in snow and mud. Oh, I also put air in my tires. First time I’ve ever had my low tire pressure light come on before. Thanks, mother nature.

I also got an offer I couldn’t refused. Since my neighbor and I share a driveway, he offered to do my half this winter using his snowblower. I’ll take it! (Though by my second shoveling outing this weekend I’d developed a system to make it relatively efficient should I want the workout.)

As the weekend came to an end, I let the aroma of beef stew fill my nicely insulated house. The craving came on Saturday when one of my old kickboxing/spin classmate (I couldn’t think of a more appropriate word) posted a photo of her beef stew on facebook. It seemed like a perfect kickoff to winter. I looked at half a dozen recipes or so on pinterest before decided on this crock pot beef stew recipe.

There were a few modifications I made based on my own preferences. I’m not a huge fan of beef stew meat, so I opted to just get half a pot roast. I also didn’t include celery (since I knew I’d likely just pick around it) and threw in green beans and mushrooms. And I must say, it was nice to have a full size crock pot.

stew

The flour at the end really did the trick in thickening up the stew. Initially I wished I would have cut down on the beef broth (in part because I only used one pound of beef instead of two), but it was a good ratio in the end. Great comfort food with a nice mix of vegetables. Plus it puts canned soup to shame.

beef stew

Hopefully winter won’t be so bad after all… At the very least, I know I won’t have to be under house arrest for days on end. I forget that snow doesn’t phase people here. But I may opt to hunker down with Hurley anyway.

Chow down central

So…does carbo loading count when it’s post-workout?

No? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what I ended up doing last night…

The recipe I intended to make before I got side-tracked by the zucchini dish earlier this week was a chicken broccoli and mushroom stir-fry. I didn’t follow the directions quite as planned in that I put everything in the pan at once. I guess technically I started cooking the chicken first, but then I figured it would save time and dishes if I just cooked/sautéed it all together. Priorities, right?

 

Otherwise the only real modification I made was throwing in some crushed red pepper, among a few other seasonings. And sadly I couldn’t track down ginger (which I love!) at the grocery store, so I opted for ginger seasoning instead. It surprisingly did the trick. There was just enough spice to add flavor but not too much.

stir fry

I probably should have waited until it cooled down or at least stopped steaming before I tried to get a photo of it…

It was completely my intent to pair it with brown rice to keep it somewhat on the healthy side. Then I spotted the wheat angel hair pasta and decided to run with that instead (though I wish I would have had a slightly thicker noodle to make it more like a lo mein). Given how much sauce I ended up with, I’m glad I went with pasta — if only because it really hit the spot.

stir fry 2

I’m not sure if it was a rough spin class or what, but I couldn’t get enough. Thank goodness I’d already portioned out the leftovers or I really would have been in trouble…

30 Before 30 halfway point

Well my friends, we’ve reached the halfway point! (And by we, I really just mean I.)

I’ve been meaning to post this for a few weeks (since technically it’s slightly more than the halfway now…), but I kept going back and forth on a few changes to my list. But regardless, from the time I initially published my 30 Before 30 list until my 30th birthday, I’m at the midway point. It’s almost hard to believe.

Hitting that mark did send me into a brief panic. It’d been more than six months since I blogged about my list and I haven’t been particularly good at deliberately working toward those goals. Thankfully, though, I’ve managed to make a lot more progress than I thought. Thirteen of the items are done (you can tell I’ve been focusing on my career as of late…) and I’ve made pretty good progress on nine additional ones. Not too shabby!

I did end up making a few more changes to the list, primarily in the interest of time but also because of where my motivations are at right now. I’m hoping this is the final list, but you just never know with me…

Career
1. Explore the options for becoming a certified life coach
2. Publish in some capacity DONE!
3. Volunteer with a new nonprofit DONE! (Alzheimer’s Association and the public library)
4. Find a work mentor DONE! (First meeting was two weeks ago and we’re chatting again this week! I really think it’s going to be a fantastic match)
5. Obtain a new job, ideally public health related DONE!
6. Reach out to nonprofit consultants to chart a path to get to that career In progress… (Took an e-course through the American Evaluation Association and my mentor is going to help me draft a business plan)
7. Join a professional organization DONE! (AEA and the Public Health Association of NE)
8. Look into joining a board of directors for a nonprofit I’m passionate about In progress… (Meeting with the young professional group since they organize a board matching event)

Health
1. Train for and run a 5K DONE!
2. Learn to meditate
3. Buy a bike DONE!
4. Get a full physical / health assessment
5. Log 2,000 miles In progress… (currently at 1,094 miles)

One Time Events
1. Take a community education class DONE! (Yoga, Intro to Feng Shui and belly dancing. And they were three separate courses, not all in one…)
2. Adopt a dog DONE! (I mean, I make it pretty obvious I’ve got one now…)
3. Have a technology-free weekend
4. Watch a movie in a theater by myself DONE!
5. Donate blood
6. Do one random act of kindness for a stranger
7. Go to a non-work related conference DONE! (Happiness Summit in Lincoln on Nov. 8)
8. Type up my baby journals and publish into a book DONE!
9. Create and maintain the quotes/life lessons journal In progress… (I have a few entries done but I’m not sure at what point it constitutes being completed on this list)
10. Host a dinner/holiday party DONE!

On-Going Efforts
1. Read 100 books In progress… (45 down, 55 to go)
2. Find a way to permanently store/organize all my photo and mementos In progress… (I’ve cleaned out nearly 2,000 photos from my computer)
3. Keep a gratitude journal for 30 days
4. Visit 7 new states so I’ll have visited 30 states total In progress… (three more to go)
5. Write and send 30 homemade cards to family and friends In progress… (17 done, 13 left)
6. Participate in a book club
7. Hit 500 blog posts In progress… (this makes 451)

Pleasant surprises

I’m not sure if, after years of attempting new recipes, I’m finally getting better at picking dishes I’ll actually like or what. Two recipes in the last week have really hit the spot – and what’s even better is they were really quick and easy to whip up after the gym.

Last week I decided to make a variation of a chicken sweet potato hash. I’ve really been on a skillet kick lately, although I don’t make them anywhere near as well as the middle’s boyfriend. Part of my issue is I don’t have a ton of experience in making eggs (other than scrambled) so I was a bit apprehensive for how it would turn out. It looked a bit messy and the texture wasn’t quite what I expected, but I was over the moon with this recipe.

I will mention I didn’t use chicken. Instead I threw in leftover ground turkey I had from the sweet potato casserole I made earlier in the week. I’m sure chicken would be just as good. I mostly made the switch for simplicity sake.

Breakfast hash

The best part is that it even made for good leftovers the next morning for breakfast. Double win!

My other cooking surprise was completely unintentional. Tonight I went to the grocery story and didn’t have any ingredients for the smoked sausage and zucchini recipe I spotted on pinterest the other day. But then I saw zucchini was on sale and the chicken andouille sausage was not only one sale, but got me some cents off gas. How could I turn it down?

The only real modification I made to this recipe was adding in mushrooms (put them in along with the onions and garlic to better sauté them) and a few extra seasonings, including cajun. Immediately I loved all the color (and Hurley loved the smell).

zucchini

I thought about pairing it with rice or pasta like the recipe mentioned, but I figured this was a good low-carb dish to have after spin class. Although I could certainly see where it would be a great pasta dish. I’m half tempted to get diced Italian tomatoes and throw it all together with pasta in a couple weeks to take a new spin on it.

Part of me doesn’t want to jinx the good luck I’ve had with trying new dishes lately. Fingers crossed the one for tomorrow works well, too!

Mexican mix-up and puppy love

I’ve found I really can’t go wrong with Mexican dishes. Soups and pasta can be hit or miss, and having heaping leftovers of something I’m not over the moon about makes for a rough week. But somehow Mexican recipes rarely fail to disappoint.

Tonight I used the Mexican sweet potato casserole as a baseline, for lack of a better word. I knew I was going to make a few modifications (I was a little torn on asparagus and it wasn’t on sale, and for some reason I’m not a huge fan of salsa unless it’s with tortilla chips). And then I realized I didn’t have quinoa like I thought I did, which prompted me to put in ground turkey.

So to recap, no asparagus, quinoa or salsa but instead ground turkey, corn and lots of seasoning (namely paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes and cumin). Sometimes I wonder why I bother looking up recipes in the first place…

Although the ingredients were slightly different, I stuck with the baking instructions and was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was to whip up. I actually did a lot of the prep work before going to the gym so I could just throw it in the oven once I got back. Forty minutes later I had a captive audience (he loves watching me cook and not just to beg).

Casserole

I ended up adding in banana peppers (thank you chicken nachos from Addisons in Columbia) and green olives as well since I had them on hand (unlike quinoa…). De-licious!

Mexican casserole

Hurley was a little disappointed to not et any scraps, but I’m excited for the leftovers this week. My guess is the red pepper flakes and smoked tabasco sauce I threw on will add a bit more heat to it. And you never know — maybe next time I make this I’ll actually be able to throw in the quinoa…

And speaking of Hurley (just to give my readers a glimpse of how much humor and headache he adds to my life), he’s become obsessed with tree branches lately. In fact, just last week he tried taking one off the small tree in my backyard (he stopped tugging once he saw my jaw drop). He’s been on the hunt for the biggest he can find at the dog park, and yet he’s somehow always surprised when he goes galloping through the wooded area and nearly gets whiplash because his branch doesn’t fit through the trees. Some people’s dogs…

Hurley

He’s lucky he’s so damn cute. ❤

Halloween spirit

Given the middle has a knack for holiday sweaters, last Friday night we had a sweater crafting party in preparation for Halloween. Given how much I love pumpkin everything (but also simply because I found a bright orange sweatshirt that would make it super easy to make…), I decided to run with a pumpkin. And naturally a goofy one.

pumpkin

Had I been smart, I would have printed the pumpkin and then traced it onto paper instead of trying to free-hand in (in part because I’m type A and want consistent, accurate measurements). That’s typically what the middle does and what I did for the one or two Christmas sweaters I crafted with her last winter. But thankfully the pumpkin was simple enough to create. I just traced out two eyes and the mouth on black felt.

felt

All it took was a little fabric glue and I was set. The result was lots of “that’s so cute!” at work. Perhaps because the pieces are larger (and because I only have three), it felt a bit more intact, for lack of a better word, than my other holiday sweaters. I suppose it’s true that less is more. Although not for the middle. Hopefully she blogs about her Halloween sweater, too. You can definitely tell she’s got a gift (or maybe it’s just patience, which I don’t possess a lot of while crafting) for making them!

sweatshirt

Now to get back to my pumpkin spice coffee…

Quick meals for fall

I didn’t think it was possible, but this week I didn’t make anything with pumpkin in it — despite it being the week of Halloween!

Part of it is because I didn’t spend quite the same amount of time that I normally do trying to find recipes for the week. I settled pretty quickly on a fast and easy chicken chili. Guilty confession: I primarily wanted to try it because it had cream cheese in it. A little strange and probably makes it unhealthy, but it was mighty good.

The big change is that I didn’t cook it in a crockpot since mine is relatively small. Even on the stove, though, it was still pretty quick and easy. I did mix up the bean selection since that’s how I make normally chili and also threw in crush red pepper along with a few other seasonings. Aside from that, I more or less followed the recipe as is. It’s definitely a good way to switch up typical white chicken chili, though I’ll probably have to try to limit how much frequently I make it…

Chili

In an attempt to balance that out just a tad, I’ve opted to eat a harvest cobb salad for dinners this week. There were some variations in what I put on the salad just based on availability in my kitchen and at the grocery store (so sadly no pears and goat cheese). I was primarily interested in trying the dressing since I love experimenting with new ones. It’s a little odd having a mayo based dressing, but I don’t know that you can go wrong with a dressing that incorporates apple cider vinegar. Especially in the fall.

Salad

Both recipes were definitely fitting with the weather (apparently) starting to transition to late fall/early winter this week. Let’s just hope my tough skin comes back out for a Nebraska winter or it could be a very, very long season.

Sauce and marinade marvels

You know it’s bad when you start plugging in the ingredients of your recipe into MyFitnessPal as you’re eating it just to see how much damage you did… But I could only resist pasta dishes for so long. This one pot red pepper and sausage alfredo tempted me too much (in part because the blogger’s recap reminded me of me and I could completely sympathize with her “is this recipe going to turn out??” concerns).

I should throw in the caveat right up front that I made a quite a few modifications. Like more than I normally do. I’m also afraid to call it a red pepper and sausage alfredo. I didn’t use the red pepper puree (used tomato paste instead) and used mozzarella cheese instead of the two listed on the recipe (minor oversight on my part). I also swapped out the spinach for kale and added mushrooms. That doesn’t quite outweigh the creamy goodness, but it’s a start.

And when it was all said and done? De-licious! It was comfort food and then some. (And by some I mean it was really, really hard to stop after one serving because my taste buds couldn’t get enough.)

pasta

Even the leftovers on this pasta dish are fantastic. The sauce stays creamy, the noodles didn’t dry out. and the red pepper flakes stand out even more. Dare I say the leftovers were just as good as the fresh-from-the-pot dish?

Despite the temptation, I knew I couldn’t eat it for lunch and dinner on Tuesday. Enter the skinny pineapple teriyaki pork chops.

[Insert typical statement about me not following the recipe…] My modifications this time were primarily due to poor planning. I discovered I didn’t have soy sauce (at least not half a cup’s worth) for the marinade. So I did what I do best — made my own concoction based on previous recipes. What was left of the soy sauce was thrown in with the brown sugar, garlic, honey, dijon mustard and worcestershire sauce.

I did stop by the grocery store on the way back home to pick up soy sauce to add to the marinade, but really I don’t know that it would have made a whole lot of difference. Despite outward appearances, it was amazing. It helped that I put the pineapple in the marinade and cooked that for a bit before putting it on top of the pork chops. There’s just something about grilled (or I guess sautéed, in this case) pineapple that I love.

Porkchops

I can’t take credit for the rice. Since it was BodyCombat night, I knew I wouldn’t want to spend too much time cooking or I wouldn’t eat until after eight. This steamers bag seemed to do the trick…

Easy fall baking

You’d think at some point I’d stop giving into fall baked goods… Not so much. If anything, I find myself getting more excited about trying fall dishes.

My weekend started with a low-fat pumpkin sheet cake. Not only is it simple, but it’s incredibly delicious. For the life of me (and by that I mean I visited three stores before calling it quits), I couldn’t find pumpkin spice jello mix. Instead I opted to use what was left of my cheesecake mix and added in some pumpkin pie flavoring. It seemed to do the trick.

I was a little nervous about storing it since the frosting is made with whipped cream and almond milk. Playing it safe, I decided to keep it in the fridge. It makes it a surprisingly good pumpkin bar. The frosting isn’t quite as thick as I’d like, but I’m guessing it’s because I didn’t use a whole jello packet. (Part of it isn’t frosted since the middle isn’t a huge fan of frosting, and goodness knows I don’t need to eat this entire thing by myself.)

pumpkin cake

Although I love the pumpkin treats, I figured I would need a slightly healthier snack option this week. Enter the cinnamon apple chips. It turned out to be another super easy yet delicious recipe. I’d probably prefer to make it on a colder day so it’s more comforting to have the oven on for that long, but the way it made my house smell was worth it. I came in from walking Hurley and it smelled like I had an apple pie in the oven. It’s like having a double win since this is a much healthier option compared to apple pie.

apple chips

It’s a good thing the weather is holding up for me to get Hurley out on long walks or all this fall food would really be taking its toll on me…

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