Finding Balance ……and Berries🍓

️Spring is finally here in Middle Tennessee after a long, harsh winter. Proof was at the 12south farmers market yesterday where fresh local strawberries were on display.  There’s no going back now…….imageThat is a theme in my life right now- no going back.  As I have navigated my way the last couple years between career moves and lifestyle changes I’ve found myself wondering about what propels us forward. Sometimes we choose to move, sometimes we are forced, but either way there is movement. Just like the seasons our lives change constantly. And for every ending, there has to be a fresh sweet beginning- like the berries.

My my life now is centered around trying to find BALANCE. Usually that means trying to find more time, but for me it’s more internal.  Balance between past and future, self and others, work and play, physical and spiritual…….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Local strawberries will be around for just a few short weeks. The sweetness and goodness they offer is fleeting so enjoy them to the fullest. The present moment is like that too. I try to not get caught up in the future or dwell on the past, but instead relish the ripe present moment.

Simple Chicken-Wild Rice Soup

I like simple things. Simple food, simple exercise, and simple recipes. I don’t like: trendy, complicated work-outs, exhausting preparation in the kitchen, or weird food on menus of restaurants that are trying too hard. No Thanks, I don’t want to try “Pad-Thai Ice-Cream” no matter how real it tastes.

I think when food gets too mixed up, we lose the point that food is fuel and can be enjoyed in it’s natural state. When we make food into an emotional experience, that’s when the problems start. I like to taste the real-ness of the food, not someone’s idea of what it should taste like. I go light on condiments and seasoning and I cook things that I can still recognize when they are finished. When I am craving simple comfort I make this easy, nourishing, Chicken Soup. which is very similar to my Stay Well Soup.

I started by boiling a 3-4 pound hen and adding fresh herbs. I picked what was in my garden which at this time of year is Rosemary, and then snipped some fresh Thyme that I have growing in the house. I added onion, dried dill, black pepper, and garlic. After about an hour, remove hen and let cool enough to remove meat from bones. It should basically fall off.

Slow Cooked Chicken

Save broth and add chopped carrots and celery. Bring to a low simmer until veggies are soft. Place meat back in pot and continue to cook. Add any other seasonings you wish at this point. I am staying away from salt so I used Mrs. Dash.

Chicken Broth

Add chicken meat to soup and let simmer.

homemade chicken soup

Next cook wild rice in 2 parts water, 1 part rice. Bring to boil, cover, let steam for 30 minutes or until rice is soft. Add rice to chicken soup.

WIld Rice with Soup

I added in some fresh baby spinach near the end to give it some green and vitamin C.

Simple. Delicious. Nourishing.

chicken wild rice soup

Check out my vegan broccoli soup here

Winter Wrap-Up + Snowday Cookies

It’s March and winter won’t let go! Yesterday we had ice and snow and today the snow has stayed because it’s so cold. That is not normal this time of year. It seems all I’ve been doing the last few weeks is trying to stay warm! I’ve been gravitating towards warm, comfort foods and vitamin C packed citrus. (Oh and the snow day prompted me to bake cookies!)

My yoga student brought me some oranges and grapefruits fresh from an organic grove. I’ve been cutting way back on fruit since following my lean meal plan, but I couldn’t not try these. I split the grapefruit in half, sprinkled a small amount of brown sugar on top, and broiled for 3-4 minutes to let the sugar caramelize.

broiled grapefruit

It was so good and juicy! The oranges were like candy and I limited myself to 2 of those.

I’ve also been enjoying healthy bowls of food for simple lunches and dinners. My boyfriend isn’t a fan of this, he likes a knife and fork,  but I love the idea of throwing everything together in a bowl and sprinkling with nutritional yeast. It’s simple and easier to clean up. I start with rice or a grain, then add a protein, and top with cooked veggies. I’ve made this with tempeh and tahini and called it a “Buddha Bowl” 

Buddha Bowl

Lola got a spring haircut a bit too early. She is shaved down to a slick coat and it’s still pretty cold out, but I think she loves it- her energy level is way up and she’s acting like a puppy. She’s been curling up with us on the furniture whenever possible as if she knows how cute she looks.

Peke haircut

The ultimate snowy day activity for me is baking! I have not baked in a long time and yesterday it was so fun to make these chocolate chip/oatmeal/peanut butter cookies.

oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Recipe:
1/4 stick butter, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 peanut butter, 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1 teaspoon each of salt, baking soda, baking powder, 2 cups rolled oats, 1 cup chocolate chips, 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut.

Mix all wet ingredients, add flour, coconut, chips and oats. Drop on parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes at 375.

They are SO good and I love that there is no white sugar or white flour in them. Check out my other healthy cookie recipe for Tahini Cookies 

Enjoy!

Sexy Sunday Omelette

What’s not to love about a Sunday morning? The slow awakening, the lingering in bed, staying in pajamas until we feel like it, the breakfasts……Oh the breakfasts are the BEST part of my Sunday morning!

buckwheat waffles

During the week my breakfast is the same every morning: Oatmeal with berries and cinnamon and 5 egg whites with spinach and avocado. I follow my clean-eating meal plan pretty strictly during the week so on Sundays I like to mix it up a little bit and take my time in the kitchen. Cooking in pajamas is sexy, right?

I still want my protein and carbs but every once in awhile I will have a delicious buckwheat waffle or pancakes as a treat. Or maybe even a mimosa if it’s a very special Sunday.

Today I made a lovely, high protein, chicken, spinach, and feta cheese omelette. I started by placing 1 cut up grilled chicken breast in a heated skillet.

grilled chicken

I used 10 eggs, but only 3 yolks. This was for 2 people. Just typing this I realize how much food we put away together. You may not want/need 10…..

eggs

Add about 1 and 1/2 cups baby spinach to chicken and stir over medium heat just until spinach begins to wilt.

spinach chicken omelette

Add egg mixture, black pepper, garlic granules and cover to steam for 5 minutes.

spinach chicken omelette

Add crumbled feta cheese and re-cover. I only used about 1/3 cup. I use cheese very sparingly, if at all. It’s a treat and not something that I need in my daily food intake.

Flip omelette over after edges begin to brown and firm up.

spinach omelette

Cook thoroughly with pan covered until firm and fluffy!

spinach cheese omelette

I served this with sliced white and sweet potatoes browned in coconut oil- YUM!

8 Weeks of Clean Eating

As my 8 weeks of clean-eating is coming to a close I am anxiously awaiting my next bod-pod test. I took my first test October 1st and got an accurate reading of my muscle mass, body weight, and fat percentage, none of it where I wanted it to be for my age and activity level. This led me to following a protein rich meal plan that upped my metabolism, while cutting back on fiber-filled empty calories. In 2 days I will know how my efforts have paid off. In the meantime here are some random thoughts on the last 8 weeks….

1. There’s only so much you can do with chicken breasts. I baked, grilled, marinated, sauteed, and pan-seared. I used herbs, vinegar, lemon juice, and lots of hot sauce. But at the end of the day- chicken is chicken- get used to it and embrace the bird.

grilled chicken breasts

2. Kitchen confidence is a huge side-effect of clean-eating. I feel I could successfully cook for a family of 12 now. As much cooking, preparing, and shopping as I’ve done for just me, I am now confident I could handle any amount of people at any given meal-time.

3. Oatmeal turned into a decadent treat. With no sugar, honey, or sweeteners for the last 8 weeks my morning oats, warm with cinnamon and berries, began to taste like a heavenly dessert. I looked forward to breakfast everyday for the warm, gooey, spicy, naturally sweet goodness of my oatmeal.

healthy breakfast

4. Greek yogurt is a great mayo replacement. I made a killer lean tuna salad with water packed tuna, plain greek yogurt, dill, and lemon juice. The more it marinated, the “creamier” it got and I never once wished for mayo.

5. With so much shopping, I feel very at home in my neighborhood grocery. My car seemed to automatically park where it knew it should, my feet led the way to the greens, the chicken, the tuna, and the eggs every 4 days. The clerks began to recognize my parsnips and quit asking what they were.

6. If you don’t like structure, you will not enjoy clean eating for very long. If you are an “eat on the run” type, or grab whatever whenever the mood hits you, you will have trouble sticking with the timed meals of this plan. I ate almost on the dot every day at the same times and I happened to love the structured routine of this. It took the indecisiveness out of what and when to eat.

7. Progress comes slooooowly. I had to stop checking the mirror every day to see if my abs were any more defined. I realize the body works at it’s own pace no matter how hard I willed things to “change”. Change happens on it’s own whether we are monitoring it or not.

farm fresh eggs

8. Real food is really simple. Meat, potatoes, vegetables, eggs, oats, berries. This was my diet for the last 2 months. There was no stevia, mixes, protein powders, syrups, breads, spreads, soups, chips, or bars. It was food made to eat with a fork and a knife as my boyfriend says. No finger foods, no wrappers or containers. Simple. Satisfying. Energizing.

Results and photos coming soon!

Meal Prepping 101

People want to know exactly what I do to prepare for the week on my 6 week meal plan. Having healthy, prepared meals ready to eat is the key to keeping on track with clean eating. You will need to set aside a block of time in your week that you can devote to organizing a list, shopping, cooking, and containing your meals for the week. I do mine on Sunday but it doesn’t have to be, it’s whatever works for your schedule. It shouldn’t take anymore than 2 hours once you figure out a rhythm.

Here are a few tips that work for me:

-Plan and write out your meals for the week, write down your grocery list before going to the store. Be sure to include lean protein, complex carbs, fresh produce

-Divide meat/fish into 3 days servings, cook enough for 3 days and store the rest in freezer

-Buy large container of medium size eggs (30 count) for the best value

-Buy in bulk when available: tuna, oats, olive oil, brown rice, quinoa, frozen berries, frozen meat

-Do all the cooking at one time while your oven is heated. Ex: bake sweet potatoes and root vegetables while you’re baking chicken or fish.

Today I did chicken with root vegetables, fish, greens, and sweet potatoes all at the same time. My oven was packed!

healthy cooking

For the baked chicken I surrounded the breasts with the veggies and sprinkled some herbs de provence, garlic, and lemon pepper. After covering with foil I baked for 1 hour at 375 . I turned off the oven and let it sit for 30 more minutes. This makes it very juicy!

baked chicken with root veggies

More tips:

-Bake 4-6 sweet potatoes at a time, plain, pierced with fork and wrapped in foil. Store in fridge for easy access. Keep cooked meat tightly covered in fridge

-Keep measuring cups out on counter for oatmeal and brown rice servings. Use the “palm” rule to measure your protein serving. The serving should be no larger than the size of your palm.

-Keep greens sealed in the produce drawer and don’t wash until before cooking. Cooked kale/spinach can be kept for 2 days before getting soggy

I roast broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus with a little olive oil in a 375 oven for about 30 minutes or until it begins to get golden.

roasted greens

-Have fresh garlic, white onions, and fresh lemons on hand for seasoning.

-Have adequate supply of small serving containers to pack lunches, keep lids and containers together.  Also have plenty of aluminum foil, regular and heavy duty.

I bake/steam one large fillet of cod or salmon with lemon juice, dill, onion, and lemon pepper in a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes. This can be divided into 2 meals.

baked salmon

-Prepare lunch the night before and keep in fridge

You may have to make an additional trip to the store during the week to stock up on fresh produce or meat. At least until you figure out how much to buy. It takes effort to eat like this but the pay-off is so much greater than the time spent.

For more info on clean eating and nutrition counseling visit me at www.createwholehealth.com

“Food is Fuel” Week 2

I am two weeks into my 6 week meal plan and I feel really amazing! I have lots of energy, I feel much stronger at the gym and I am still sleeping so much better. Have I noticed any visual changes yet? No, and that can be frustrating, but I am not the most patient person in the world. Ask my boyfriend if you don’t believe me.

I feel like I am feeding 4 teenage boys with all the cooking I am doing for myself.  I cook on Sunday nights and usually again on Wednesday. I am learning to add more sweet potatoes in my initial batch because they keep great in the fridge. Chicken breasts I only do 4 at a time, but then those are gone in 2 days.

grilled chicken breasts

I stocked up on tuna packets and make a lean salad with tuna, hard-boiled egg white, lemon juice, dill, and mustard. It’s pretty tasty and tangy.

My  breakfasts look like this:

healthy breakfast

Spinach and tomato omelette and bowl of oats with berries and cinnamon. Sometimes I put a dash of vanilla in the for flavor, but I am enjoying the pure flavor of the foods without a lot of seasoning. I started adding avocado slices for healthy fats and to keep me full feeling for awhile.

Packing my meals to go when I have to has not been a problem either. The biggest surprise was last weekend on my “splurge” meal when I was supposed to eat whatever I wanted. I didn’t really have a craving for anything in particular except I wanted to try a new ice-cream shop everyone loves. I have not eaten junk in so long that nothing else seemed tempting. All I really miss is my beloved honey and homemade sweet treats.

My mind is so focused on treating my body well and feeding it what it needs to perform that the ice cream didn’t satisfy me. I am moving so far away from emotional eating and learning how my body absorbs and uses nutrients that I am losing interest in giving it sugar, heavy cream, artificial flavorings or color.

My typical meals look like this:

healthy meal

A protein, a green veggie, and a starch. Plus lots of water throughout the day and herbal tea. No weight loss or loose fitting clothes yet but I am looking forward to noticing some changes in the next 2 weeks for sure!

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