ETC: Week 37

Hi friends,

I hope everyone’s week is going well!

This week, was a milestone week as we have now technically reached *full term*! I cannot believe we are so close to meeting our little girl! In an effort to keep my weekly post promise as we wind down, here is my week 37 update!

One of many amazing flamingo walls in Chicago to match my pink shirt and the safari/jungle theme of Naomi’s room. This flamingo wall is in Humboldt park. 


Unfortunately, this week I was SICK! On Monday’s I always have my weekly check ups at the doctor. Well, last Monday, I woke up and went to the gym just like every other Monday. When I got there I stood on the elliptical and just thought to myself “nope.” Something was off. I walked on the treadmill for about 40 minutes then got ready for the day.

I was going through my normal Monday job tasks and I just felt terrible; nauseous, FREEZING but my body was warm, tired, just completely not myself. I made it through the day (barely) and met Te after work to head to the appointment.

Once we got to the doctor, I told them I felt awful and they checked my temperature. Sure enough, 100.5 – low grade fever. Due to my fever, the baby’s heart rate was elevated so we had to stay in the office for 30 minutes while they hooked me up to a non-stress test monitor and checked to see if over the span of time, Naomi’s heart rate went down. 30 minutes later, it did not. We were sent down to labor and delivery so I could get some IV fluids in me and be continuously monitored for a longer period of time to make sure baby was ok. 

4 hours, 3 tubes of blood drawn, 2 bags of IV fluid and one other miscellaneous test, I was re-hydrated, Naomi’s heart rate went down and we were stable enough to be discharged. Woof. It was 11 pm and Te and I were both exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally, but we were super thankful that both baby and I were doing better.

Luckily, my fever did not follow me throughout the week but I did battle a virus all week long. I finally felt better on Saturday. Luckily my hubby took great care of me all week and allowed me to rest and recover.

Being sick was my first real scary moment as a parent. There was nothing I could do but rest and recover as this virus passed through my system. It was awful. I’m so thankful God protected me and Naomi through it all. Ever since, she’s been moving around like crazy in preparation for her big debut (very soon, I hope!). It’s so bizarre that Te and I never EVER get sick (knock on wood) but of course this year we both got hit. It was definitely tough but again, I’m so thankful we all pulled through! 

Looking ahead to week 38, I’m very excited! We are so close and with each day that passes, we are getting ready to celebrate the birthday of our first human baby (because, Pumbaa is our first baby.. 😻). I’m so READY – we both are. Hopefully next week, I will have a more positive update for you all, sans any illnesses. I may even have a baby announcement! Stay tuned friends!

Until next time..

ETC: T-30 days

 

We are so close! In less than 30 days we will be Bates, party of 3!

Looking ahead, since we aren’t sure when our little girl will make her grand appearance, I’m going to try and give an update every week. Don’t hold me to it, but I’ll try my best 🙂

For this post, join me as I take a look at back at our 8th month of pregnancy.

33.

33weeks_image

Warning, this was a crazy busy week for us! For our 1 year anniversary, Te bought me tickets to a bread baking class. I was super excited because I’ve always wanted to go to a couple’s cooking class! We learned how to make sourdough bread and once everything came out of the oven, the instructor pointed out a loaf that was ‘perfect’. Low and behold, it was Te’s 🙂 It was also pretty ‘punny’ that we had our bread bun in the oven while I also have a ‘bun in the oven’ 🙂

Next on our list, we drove to Milwaukee to pick up a stroller. Also, I met with my long time friend Jenny and my sister for brunch. It was so nice to catch up!

Another thing we did was attend a home buying class! Redfin hosted a free class where they provided dinner and some tips for first time buyers. It was eye opening and left us feeling optimistic about *someday* buying our own humble abode.

Also this week, we went to our first Chicago Blackhawks game! It was magical 🙂 We have now been to every major Chicago sporting event (yes, including the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Wolves). The atmosphere at the Blackhawks game was unreal – I think it’s my new favorite type of event! We saw some friends at the game and were able to catch up with them a bit, which added to the excitement of the evening!

Believe it or not, we ALSO had a baby shower this week [I warned you, it was a very busy this week!]. Te’s Shred co-workers-turned-family threw us the cutest shower. We got our first diaper cake and Naomi got her first pair of (gold) Nike’s!! We are so thankful for the Shred team who has truly become family for us.

34.

34

This week, the city of Chicago celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by dyeing the river green! I’ve never gone to see the green river so we decided this year was the year we would go check it out! I couldn’t believe how truly green it was!

Unfortunately, after our many festivities of week 33, Te came down with the flu during week 34. It was a very tough week because he was VERY sick so I was trying my best to care for him while not getting sick myself.

On top of Te being sick, we scheduled a vet appointment for Pumbaa. It. Was. Awful. Our cat HATES the vet. It’s truly the worst time of year when we have to take him. He gets angry and hisses and is very mean. I understand he’s scared, but jeeze!!! At any rate, we got his shots so he’s ready for baby. However, Te had to clean poop and pee off of Pumbaa’s butt when we got home because they kept him in the kennel to administer the shot, he got scared and let loose. I felt terrible because I couldn’t help since I have to avoid cat poop while pregnant. UGH! What a day it was. We both took a long nap after that event.

After an entire week under the weather (poor babe 😦 ) and an awful vet appointment, we were able to get out of the house that weekend and turn our frowns upside down. We went to see Beauty and the Beast! I’ve been dying to see the movie and for Valentine’s Day, Te ordered tickets for us to go. It was amazing. I cried at least 5 times in the theatre and twice when we left. I also indulged on delicious movie theatre popcorn which was incredible.

All in all, it was a happy ending to a very tough week.

35.

35weeks_image

This week was much easier. Slower pace and no illness! We always wanted to take a photo at this adorable coffee shop and of course, try their coffee. Well when we arrived, unfortunately the coffee shop was closed. 😦 We still took the picture then went back to our car. Before we left, we stopped in to Goddess & the Baker to get a latte and a scone. To our surprise, as we were waiting for our order, a ginormous (tall) guy walked in and right away, Te knew who he was [Paul Zipser from the Bulls]. Te went up to him and showed him a photo that Te took of him while at the Bulls game. They talked briefly and we let him get on his way. I would have had NO idea this guy played for the Bulls but thanks to hubby, we got to briefly meet him.

36.

IMG_2330.PNG

9 months pregnant. Woah. In the next 4 weeks (or 5-6.. but hopefully 4 :)) we will meet our little girl! This week was ALL about nesting. We got the changing table we’d been eyeing up and were able to organize everything in Naomi’s space. We gave our apartment a mini makeover and a deep clean since we aren’t sure when we will have time to do that again.

On the way to take our bump pic this week, we decided to stop at Cafe Tola to get an empanada snack. They had chicken mole empanadas which, if you know me, you know I LOVE mole. It was absolutely delicious! We decided to scrap our original photo plan and take our bump pic on the side of the Cafe Tola building because, well.. Hey Kanye! 👋🏽🤣

Also this week, Jaime & Tiffany came to Chicago and spent the day with us! It was so fun seeing them. They brought Naomi some of the most adorable gifts. She’s so blessed to have such thoughtful family! During their visit, we went to HopLeaf because it’s been on our “to-do” list forever. After a couple of drinks for the boys, we went to DMK for dinner and completely indulged in some of the city’s best burgers and fries. We don’t have much planned for the rest of the week so I’m excited for another slow, uneventful couple of days.

We are very close to meeting our princess. I may or may not have a “bumpdate” for you next week – I could possibly have a baby update!

Stay tuned!

Until next time..

ETC: Another New Year

Hi friends,

The time has come, yet again, to ring in another new year. I hope everyone had a safe and cheerful new year’s celebration. Today, as they say, is page 1 of the 365-page novel we call, “2017”.

Before I set new goals, I am going to take a moment to reflect on the goals I set for myself in 2016. I created resolutions that represented each category of my blog: Explore, Thank, Create, as well as a few additional. Let’s take a look at what I accomplished and what got pushed to the side.

2016 Resolutions: Explore
1. Explore 20 new things (cities, states, restaurants, fitness classes, recipes, etc).
This goal was definitely accomplished. I traveled to Grand Rapids, NYC and Palm Springs, joined NRC run club, started practicing ‘Yoga with Adriene‘, went to several new restaurants for brunch and dinner around the city. I visited the Field Museum in Chicago and rode the CTA Holiday Train, both for the first time. Also, I tried lots of new recipes ranging from no added sugar to tasty new desserts. This past year was definitely one of exploration and I couldn’t be more thankful for all of the new experiences I created.

2016 Resolutions: Thank
1. Continue serving at church as needed & attending small groups when offered
Although there was a short break I took from church, once I went back, I jumped in full force. I joined a serving team and a small group right away. I’m happy for the supportive community who welcomed me back.
2. Read my Bible

Eek. I did not do good on this. I did try to keep up with my daily verse on the Bible app but I must get more disciplined in reading the word of the Lord regularly.

2016 Resolutions: Create
1. Continue posting 1 or more blog posts per week
I took several long breaks from my blog this year with a few ‘catch up’ posts.
2. DIY as much wedding stuff as possible to save some dinero🙂
Well, we DEFINITELY DIY’d our wedding. After quickly changing our plans from an October 2016 wedding to a February 2016 wedding, we didn’t have time for many expensive decisions anyway 🙂 . I was able to borrow a dress from an amazing friend, created invites online and made TONS of decor at home. We saved a ton of money and had the wedding of our dreams just 4 short months after our engagement. Best. Decision. Ever.

2016 Resolutions: Wellness
1. Run 15 or more miles each week
On average, this happened for the majority of the year. AND, I completed the Chicago marathon. 🙂
2. Practice yoga 2 times per week
On average, this did not happen. I definitely found an awesome yoga channel I can tune in to at home, but I was not disciplined in my practice.
3. Become Personal Trainer Certified
This one is still pending. I’m trying to figure out if this is truly the route I want to take. More to come on that. 🙂
4. Be less stressed out/anxious – Trust God more
Eek. I have not been the best at this. It’s a process and I’m still working on it.

2016 Resolutions: Community
1. Have a friend date once per month
This happened! I even started a monthly lunch club with some of my best gals. 
2. Get married to my best friend in front of some of our closest friends & family
Check! And I couldn’t be happier 🙂

2016 Resolutions: Follow Up
1. Practice Spanish 3 times per week for 1 hour each
Well, this did not happen. I need to get more disciplined with this because I really want to teach Naomi Spanish. Mama’s workin’ on it!
2. Read 10 books (2 of which in Spanish)
Ah, reading. Well, I read my small group book, I read ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and I read a LOT of articles. As far as book, I haven’t been reading much. I’ll need to rework this goal.

WOW! I was ambitious last year 🙂 There were many goals I accomplished and some that fell by the way side. This year, I have to be realistic in my goal setting because I will soon be a mommy and it will no longer be all about me. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on my personal goals for the coming year. Naomi needs a role model 🙂 Here are my 2017 Resolutions:

2017 Resolutions:

  1. Practice Yoga 2 times per week.
  2. Run a total of 365 miles over the course of the year.
  3. Read [at least] 10 pages of a book every day.
  4. Post a blog update [at least] twice per month.
  5. Keep a jar of memories; Each week Te and I write on a slip of paper the highs and lows of the week. Next NYE we will read each note.
  6. Remind myself every day that I am doing the best that I can; speaking positive reinforcements to myself instead of always telling myself I could/should be doing more/better.

I definitely cut down on the list of resolutions this year. I tried to focus in on some of those that I let slip last year, and added those which I can keep up with, despite becoming increasingly busy [and tired] new mommy.

How do you hold yourself accountable to your resolutions? One of my friends creates a ‘dream board’ each year. Her dream board is a visual representation of her goals for the year. I think this is a great way to remind yourself of your goals and stay focused on your plans. This year, I probably won’t create a dream board, although it’s a fabulous idea, but I do plan to write these down in my phone and on paper at my desk, as well as at home, so I am forced to remind myself of these goals each and every day.

So, what are your goals for 2017? I’d love to hear about your 2016 reflections, as well as your goals for the upcoming year. Leave it in the comments below!

Happy New Year!! May God bless you and your families this year.

Until next time..

ETC: A 4 Week Nutrition Journey – Part 3

Hi friends! I hope your weeks have been going well! It’s finally feeling like summertime in Chicago with the sunshine, warm temperatures and the return of a classic summertime staple in the grocery stores, Watermelon!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last followed up on our nutrition journey. How has your journey been going? I hope some of the tips I’ve given have helped save you money and time when it comes to feeding your family. I’d love to hear your success stories (or any questions you might have) in the comments below!

Today, we are going to talk kitchen fundamentals. This post is for those of you truly do not like to cook. If you do not enjoy cooking, it can be due to many things; you might not be great at it, you might not know where to start or you might just think it’s too complicated. No matter what stage of disliking cooking you’re in, have no fear! With a few simple tips, you can get started cooking in no time!

Let’s set the playing field before we get in to it. No one is born a great cook. Everyone has to learn how to cook and in that process, burn something 7 times, but still try an 8th time. I cook often and I believe that I cook pretty well. However, I did not grow up in a kitchen or in a family where we cooked together every night, allowing me to learn cooking skills. Nope. In fact, I pretty much taught myself to cook through the power of google, food magazines and the food network. So let my story be your example if you feel like you’ll never learn to cook. If you have a desire to provide healthy meals to your family by cooking meals, you definitely can do exactly that!

To make cooking something you enjoy, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared. Have you ever found a recipe online that sounds delicious but when you go look in your pantry, none of the ingredients are to be found? Here are a few items I suggest you stock in your kitchen that will allow you to make a wide variety of recipes:

Essential Tools:

  • Knives: you’ll want a good set of kitchen knives so your cutting and chopping will be quick and easy. You can get a decent chef knife at almost any store. Heck, go to Target! There are plenty of options that range from $17.99 up to $59.99. Just get yourself a few good knives.
  • Cutting board: I would recommend at least 2 cutting boards, one for meat and one for veggies and fruit. Again, these can be found at Target. I use both wood and plastic, wood for meat, plastic for veggies and fruits, but you can choose your preference.
  • Pots and pans: I bought myself the Rachael Ray 15 piece set on Black Friday about a year ago for $89.99 and so far it’s been pretty great. Since we have a few months to go until Black Friday, I would suggest you get at least one pan and at least one large pot. This will give you options to cook meats and saute veggies in the pan as well as boil eggs and veggies in the pot. You can find pots and pans anywhere! Here’s a link to Target’s Rachael Ray Porcelain 12 piece set.
  • Mixing Bowls: You’ll want bowls to mix things in, whether it’s fruit salad or brownies, get yourself a big bowl.
  • Kitchen Utensil Set: Bed, Bath and Beyond has a 7-piece Kitchen Utensil Set for $8. You’ll need these things, go splurge.
    • While you’re there, a non essential, but very handy gadget to have is a Garlic Press. I used to chop garlic piece by piece, but since getting my garlic press, my quality of life has improved.

Essential Pantry Items:

Now that you’ve got the tools to make you a successful cook, I suggest stocking your pantry with a few items that you’ll need for most recipes. Also, some spices can be used on just about anything, whether it’s Mexican or Italian food, these are the must haves in your pantry.

  • Garlic [Powder/Salt]: I actually keep all three stocked in my pantry! Fresh garlic is great to put with chicken or steaks! Garlic powder is my savior when I don’t feel like using the garlic press. I sparingly use garlic salt because I don’t like to use salt much, but if I do, it works great when I’m sauteing veggies or roasting sweet potato fries.
  • Black Pepper: I love my black pepper grinder. I put tons of black pepper on everything, always freshly cracked. Get yourself a nice grinder and some black peppercorns, your taste buds will thank you!
  • Olive Oil: I don’t use this as much now, because I usually use coconut oil. But olive oil is great to have on hand for a variety of recipes.
  • Coconut Oil: I use this to fry up veggies and meat. I always buy the organic, unrefined coconut oil and am not shy with my scoops.
  • Cinnamon: I think this is an essential because I eat oats a few mornings each week and cinnamon is such a great topper for oats!
  • Chili Powder: Everything is better with a kick! I add chili powder to most of my recipes because I enjoy the spice. It has such a great flavor with a mild kick, I’d recommend having it around!

Once you have your kitchen in order with a few of the above listed essentials, you’re still probably thinking, ‘but I still hate cooking, so how will these help?’

A couple of ways the above lists will help you learn to love cooking are:

  1. You’ll now be prepared. You might not be prepared to make every recipe you find, but you can prepare a lot of basic recipes with the above tools.
  2. You’ll have the opportunity to buy tools that you like. If you don’t like cooking because you are using that old pan from your grandma’s kitchen, toss it out and get a pan in your favorite color. Pick kitchen utensils that you enjoy using and that make your cooking process enjoyable (ex: a good knife) and it will really help change your perspective.

If you’re still skeptical because you fear you’ll burn things or you just don’t know what to do when you get in the kitchen, here are a few beginner tips to get you through:

  1. Do not be afraid of ‘ruining’ something. You might burn it, that is OK. You must not let the fear of messing things up prevent you from trying! This rule is rule #1 because it’s most important. Burn something 7 times, you better try for 8! 🙂
  2. Cook things at a lower temp for a bit longer. A prime example is chicken. Warm up your coconut oil in a pan over low-medium heat, place your chicken in the pan and add some seasoning (pepper, garlic, chili powder) then cover. Allow the chicken to cook slowly on the one side for several minutes, uncover, flip the chicken to the other side and recover. By cooking your chicken on a lower temperature, you’re allowing it to cook thoroughly and retain the juiciness! Also, all of the flavors of your spices will surround the chicken by keeping the lid on it. Give it a whirl!
  3. Find simple recipes. You don’t need to make a masterpiece to eat healthy. If salads are all you can handle, start with salads. Perfect the salad then move on to adding chicken breast or steak. Start simple and once you’ve mastered a few meals, start looking for a new challenge.
  4. Get creative! There are plenty of recipes out there that call for a million ingredients. See if you can tweak them and work with what you have. There are plenty of times I’ll mostly follow a recipe but omit a few ingredients because they are either very small parts of the recipe and I don’t have the ingredient or I’ll only plan to use that ingredient for this one recipe so I don’t see use in buying it. When that happens, use the recipe as inspiration; you don’t need to go out and full bottles/jars of spices for one recipe if you don’t plan to use them again. Try to get creative with what you’ve already got and you might surprise yourself!
  5. Have fun! Cooking should be fun. You might not be ‘the best’ cook, but you can learn to enjoy it. Cooking opens up many doors to being healthy. Once you learn to enjoy cooking, you become in control of what your family eats instead of giving that power to Betty Crocker. You’ll pick the ingredients that fuel your body and your family and that is such a positively powerful thing!

In honor of tradition, I’ve added a delicious recipe below that anyone should enjoy cooking because it’s a Brownie recipe!! You’re thinking ‘What? Aren’t we talking about nutrition here? How are you going to give us a brownie recipe?’ Well my friends, this recipe only calls for 3 ingredients, all of which can be purchased and used in other common recipes. Also, these brownies are quick, healthy and delicious. I hope you enjoy!!

3 Ingredient Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 3 Overripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup almond butter (or any nut butter – I used creamy sunflower butter)
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (the more cocoa powder you use, the richer the brownies will be)

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Blend until banana chunks are mostly smooth, like brownie batter
  • Pour batter into a greased 8×8 cake pan and back for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow your brownies to cool completely before cutting.
  • I topped my brownies with powdered sugar (a very small sprinkle) but additional toppings could include nut butter (as a frosting) nuts or dried fruit!

img_8158img_8160-1IMG_1249

I hope today’s tips will help you appreciate cooking! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I am looking forward to next week, the last week of our journey, where we get into more detail about how to make food tasty!

Lastly, if you have it in your hearts and your wallets, I’m still on my journey training for the Chicago Marathon and fundraising $1,000 for Girls on the Run as I go! Here is my fundraising link. I would love if you could donate today! http://bit.ly/25PECj1

Stay well this week my friends!

Until next time..

ETC: A 4 Week Nutrition Journey – Part 2

Hi friends! I am writing this blog from the vet’s office in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Our cat, Pumbaa, is not feeling well. He’s been up all night puking and just not his normal, cuddly self. If you could say some prayers for his recovery, Te and I would greatly appreciate it!!

Being stuck in the animal ER is a great segue to today’s topic. It’s the perfect example of how life happens and sometimes you simply don’t have time for everything you’d like to do. When you find yourself in a pinch like this, it’s best to be prepared with healthy foods that can be taken on the go so you don’t default to Taco Bell.

First, let’s back up a little bit. Last week we started our 4 week nutrition journey. We talked about some fundamentals and 4 common objections to healthy eating. How did it go last week? Did you take a peek at your local Aldi’s selection? What are your thoughts? Leave some feedback in the comments below!

Now, let’s dig in to this week’s objection. Time!

Objection #2. But Taco Bell is quick!

Life is busy and things don’t go according to plans sometimes. In these situations, how do you fuel your body? Are you quick to turn to Taco Bell and other fast food options or do you wait until you have access to a healthier option?

Healthy options can be available just as quickly as Taco Bell. I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Yeah right, it takes forever to cook a healthy meal (or snack).‘ But really, it doesn’t! Let’s take a look at some basic food items you could use to make a quick snack or meal.

Ideas for quick snacks:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • 1 handful of trail mix
  • A string cheese stick
  • A piece of fruit or small handful (Apple, banana, red pears, berries, melon and grapefruit are some of my favorites)
  • A cup of plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey, some berries and/or dash of cinnamon spice (key here is to get plain Greek yogurt to avoid the added sugar- check your label! Yogurt seems healthy until you realize one small cup packs about 15g of sugar. Considering we should only take in about 25-30g of added sugar per day, that yogurt cup doesn’t seem like such a good idea after all. Dress it up with natural sugar in fruit or some honey instead of buying the triple berry version at the store.)
  • Lara bars (I love my 6-ingredients-or-less bars!)
  • A protein shake (1 scoop of protein powder + water +lots of shaking = yumm!)
  • 1 serving of cottage cheese
  • A few slices of sandwich meat (deli or roasted) with an ounce of cheese

These are all snacks you can just grab and go or package up (i.e. trail mix or cottage cheese) to take with you in a pinch.

Ideas for quick dinners:

  • Egg tacos (My favorite! Make 2 scrambled eggs and mix in some cheese and maybe veggies you have cut up or avocado, heat up 2 tortillas, enjoy!)
  • Avocado BLT salad (mix 2 hard boiled eggs with avocado and chopped up bacon and put on bread, crackers or over spinach, enjoy!)
  • Chicken anything! (Heat coconut oil in a pan, add chicken breast, cover and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, top with your favorite sauce, cheese and/or avocado and enjoy along side veggies or on a sandwich, enjoy!)
  • Zucchini noodle spaghetti (This one requires a vegetti of some sort but once you have it, put your zucchini through the veggeti, warm up some gluten free spaghetti sauce and top your ‘noodles’ with sauce and parmesean cheese, enjoy!)

You’re either thinking, “Wow, these are great ideas! I can’t wait to try them” or “Wow, those sound great but I still won’t have time to cook these meals or snacks each night.” If you’re saying the latter, here are some tips for making time to prepare healthy meals and snacks:

Pick a day to prepare these snacks ahead of time. If you don’t have two free hours in any given day, take just 20 minutes each day. Package your creations up in plastic bags and/or Tupperware so you have them ready to go (including the days you’re running late or you’re unexpectedly taking your cat to the vet). You’re thinking “But Leah, I really don’t have time to do that.” and I’m thinking “I bet you do.

That 10 minutes you spend scrolling through your Facebook news feed after work? Spend it packing up trail mix or cottage cheese for the week. The 30 minutes before bed where you’re deciding if the next episode of Big Bang Theory is worth it? Decide yes, turn it up loud and head to the kitchen to cook some chicken and boil some eggs. Those #SundayFunday afternoons you spend binge watching Netflix, sulking in the fact that Monday is coming? Open your Netflix app on your phone, head to the kitchen and spend 2 hours watching your favorite show while prepping an entire week’s worth of food. [That is my preferred method of preparation, by the way. How else do you think I found time to watch the full season of Fuller House? 🙂 ]

The fact of the matter is that we are all busy. You have to prioritize your health into your busy schedule and plan for the unexpected. If you reorganize some of your down time (aka social media or TV time) you can use it to set yourself up for a healthy week, no matter what unexpected things may or may not pop up.  

Now that you have some quick, healthy snack and meal ideas, your homework is to make a few! If you’re thinking “Ughh, but I hate cooking! I always burn things and don’t know where to start!” then stay tuned for next week’s post which will offer some practical cooking tips and tricks!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for has arrived; recipe time! Since this week is all about being quick, I’m going to share a delicious snack idea that is quick to make and serves perfect as a sweet treat or a wholesome breakfast on the go.

Energy Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup sunflower butter (or almond or peanut butter. Based on my experience, I suggest using the creamy version)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds*
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts*
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries*

* indicates that this item can be swapped out with a variety of ingredients depending on what type of energy bite you’re hoping to make. Some examples of ingredients include chia seeds, flax seeds, chopped walnuts, chopped almonds, chopped pecans, dark chocolate chocolate chips, shredded coconut, dried cherries, dried cranberries, any dried fruit really, the list of options is almost never ending!

Directions

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl
  • Scoop out 1 tbsp of mixture and roll into a ball
  • Place energy bites onto a pan covered with wax paper and freeze for 2 hours*. After 2 hours, remove from the freezer and store in airtight container in the refrigerator or cupboard, depending on your preference.

*if you don’t want to freeze them you can eat them right away or store in the refrigerator right off the bat.



The best part about this recipe is that you can customize it to your preference AND you can find all of the ingredients at Aldi! Don’t like nuts? Use coconut. Don’t want them cold? Keep them in the cupboard. Don’t want them for breakfast but need a healthy dessert option? Add chocolate chips. Don’t have all day to prepare a snack? These only take 5 minutes! The recipe yields about 18-22 balls depending on the size and makes 9-10 servings.

I hope you are now feeling equipped with some quick, healthy snack and meal options! Stay well my friends! I look forward to hearing about your week 1 experiences in the comments below!

Until next time..

nutrition and eating well is a form of self respect

ETC: A 4 Week Nutrition Journey – Part 1

 

Hi friends! It’s Wednesday once again! I hope your weeks are going great. Spring is here! To all of my readers in snowy states, we made it through yet another winter! Congrats to us! 🙂

Spring is a wonderful time of transition. A fresh start, a new beginning and a bright outlook are all feelings that come to me when I think of Spring. Coincidentally, March is National Nutrition month. Whhhaatt? Yup. What a perfect time to evaluate your nutrition habits and goals!

I should start off this post with a disclaimer that I am not a nutritionist or registered dietitian. I only have my personal experience and knowledge I’ve learned from a variety of sources which guide my personal food decisions. What works for me may not work for you. However, by sharing what works for me, you might learn a few healthy tips that would work in your own life. That is what I am hoping for!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk nutrition. Nutrition is definitely a tough topic. We all know what we should be doing: eat more fruits and vegetables, less sweet treats and drink more water. But it’s not always easy to choose a salad over Taco Bell. Over the next four weeks I will explore some common objections to healthy food and offer practical tips you can follow to get you started on a path of owning your health. Each post will also include a quick recipe (or cooking tip) for you to try out!

First things first, let’s figure out why you’re choosing Taco Bell (or insert favorite fast food restaurant here). There’s probably a few reasons:
1. It’s cheap
2. It’s quick
3. You avoid having to cook
4. It’s tasty

The list probably goes on but I can imagine those are some of the most popular objections. All of which, I can 100% relate to. I am always on a budget, pressed for time, some nights have zero desire to cook and I obviously always want to eat tasty food. Let’s dissect each of these objections over the next 4 weeks and hopefully, each week you’ll be a little bit more convinced that you too can eat healthy! Please keep in mind, eating healthy isn’t only about what you look like on the outside; yes, it’s great to lose weight and feel great about how you look, however the most important thing, is what is happening on the inside of your body. When you constantly feed your body highly processed foods, you’re harming your insides and setting yourself up for serious health problems as you get older.

Let’s dig in to our objection of the week:
Objection 1. “But Taco Bell is cheap!”
Yes, Taco Bell is cheap. You can get away with an entire meal and a drink for about $7. Amazing! So let’s run with this. Assume you don’t cook at all and you eat out for every meal of the day. (By the way, this example could be using Taco Bell, Subway or Burger King, it doesn’t matter where you’re eating – the principle is the same.) So, let’s estimate $5 for breakfast, $7 for lunch and $10 for dinner. That’s only $22 all day, not bad! Maybe you get a couple of snacks and a Gatorade from the vending machine at work too so let’s round up to $25 per day. You’re probably thinking that so far, Taco Bell is looking like a good option. You can’t imagine that the grocery store would save you money, right?

Well, let’s do the math to see how much that costs us over a week’s time. $25 x 7 days per week is $175. Whoa. Ok, so total, that’s kind of a lot of cash per week. But let’s keep going. Imagine if you’re feeding a family of 2. Ok, so double that and you’re now looking at $350 per week. Wow. Ok, hmm.. What about a family of 4? Let’s assume you have two kids so they only eat $15 of food per day.
$25 x 7 days= $175
$175 x 2 adults = $350
$15 x 7 days = $105
$105 x 2 kids = $210
That gives us a grand total of $560 per WEEK for a family of 4 in fast food.

Now that is definitely a lot of cash. But maybe you’re still thinking, ‘but the grocery store is more expensive.’ Well let’s take a look.

I will use my personal experience shopping which is based on a family of two adults. Typically, we spend a whopping $130 per week on groceries. (Yes, that $130 is including our wonderful 10.25% sales tax, thanks Chicago.) On this budget we eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks 7 days of the week. That’s a $45 savings per week. This means, in one month you’d be saving $180 by going to the grocery store and you’d be able to feed yourself and your family healthy meals all day, errday.

I know you are skeptical right now. You can’t believe we only spend $130 per week at the store because each time you go to the store you spend $200 or $300 or more. So how do we get away with spending only $130 per week on groceries for two grown adults who eat at home each meal?

Secrets revealed:

  1. I buy fresh produce and food that will spoil. Instead of paying for boxed, processed foods which can get pretty pricey, I buy fresh peppers and apples and bananas which are usually less than $1 per piece or per pound. By doing this I ensure that we are eating healthy foods and can stick to a budget.
  2. I make sure the recipes I make for the week all have ‘reusable’ ingredients. What I mean by this is, If I’m making a recipe that calls for a ton of bell peppers, I’ll make something else that calls for similar ingredients so my extras don’t go to waste.
  3. We shop at Aldi for most things. Aldi is amazing! It’s a cheap alternative to some of the fancier grocery stores but it has just as many options which are all just as healthy. If you don’t even know where to start when it comes to grocery shopping, especially at Aldi, take a look at the below list which is 90% of what I purchase each week:
    – Coconut oil (for cooking)
    – Trail mix (not the one with m&m’s and reese’s peanut butter cups, the one with nuts and seeds)
    – Granola
    – Eggs
    – Milk
    – Cheese (we always buy brick cheese & shred it but Aldi also has preshredded cheese)
    – String cheese (for snacks)
    – Plain greek yogurt
    – Original unsweetened almond milk
    – Cottage cheese
    – Coffee
    – Tortilla chips (El Milagro, because I’m obsessed)
    – Salsa
    – Honey
    – Cooking spices
    – Produce (avocado, apples, bananas, grapefruit, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers, limes, berries, etc)
    – Spinach
    – Turkey bacon
    – Organic black or pinto beans
    – Whole grain bread
    – Oatmeal
    – Tortillas
    – Frozen veggies or fruits
    – Brown rice
    – Organic chicken
    – Canned tuna
    – Sandwich bags (for meal prep)

You see, you don’t need to shop at Whole Foods to be healthy. Your local Aldi has all of these healthy options at (typically) a much lower cost. Two things you must remember when you go to Aldi: 1. Bring a quarter for your cart and 2. Bring your own bags. They do have bags for you to buy each time, but to save a little more money, splurge on a couple of their large, reusable bags for $1 and bring them with you each time.

I do admit, there are a few items for which I will go to a different store (typically Jewel Osco or Mariano’s). I do this because some items are just not available at Aldi. For example, instead of a boxed granola bar with 500 unknown ingredients, I prefer Lara bars with 6 or less ingredients.
Here is a list of those items:
– Sunflower Butter (if you are still eating plain ‘ol peanut butter, make the switch, you will NOT regret it)
– ‘Granola’ Bars (We eat Lara Bars – they are made with only natural ingredients and each bar has only 6 ingredients or less! Talk about eating real food!!)
– Fish and Red Meats (We don’t eat red meat often, but when we do, we buy a very lean version at a different store. The same goes for fish, which we do eat often. I prefer to buy fresh salmon and tilapia versus frozen.)
– Quinoa (I haven’t found a quinoa from Aldi that I like quite yet, but the Aldi alternative to quinoa is brown rice!)
– Individual produce items (sometimes Aldi only has lemons or onions in large bags, but I only need 1 lemon or onion, in this case, I’ll buy an individual item at a different store so I don’t waste the rest)
– Gluten free bread (I’ve recently started eating less gluten and as of today, Aldi doesn’t sell GF bread; if they do someday, I’ll buy it at Aldi!)

FAQs I anticipate after you read this post:
Q: How do you know which items to buy at Aldi versus another store?
A: If something is raw (bell pepper, fruit, egg) I would say it’s 100% fine to buy at Aldi. A fruit is a fruit whether it is $0.69 at Aldi or $1.59 at Whole Foods. Save your money, get it at Aldi. Always look at the labels, the less ingredients listed, the more natural the item is.

Q: Ok, what about the organic options versus non-organic? How do I know what’s important to buy as organic or not?
A: Everyone will have a different opinion on this but I will tell you what I know and believe. I have been told that you should buy anything with a skin you would eat in an ‘organic’ form. That means apples, grapes, peaches, tomatoes – think something you would just wash and bite in to. Anything with a rind (oranges, bananas, etc.) can be organic or not. Do I follow that 100% of the time? No. I usually don’t buy organic EXCEPT for coconut oil and honey. I always 100% of the time buy these two items in their ‘organic’ form. Aldi does offer a section of organic produce for you if you are interested in purchasing organic, 100% go for it!

Q: What if I don’t have time, or the option, to go to various grocery stores?
A: Then don’t! Do what works best for you! I promise, eating a slice of toast with peanut butter topped with a banana from Aldi will be better for you than that quesalupa. Also, your peanut butter banana bread will cost you about $0.50/slice versus the $2 quesalupa.

Q: Ok, so I go buy all of this food but then it takes FOREVER to prepare, I don’t like to cook and I never know how to make my food taste good, what do I do?
A: Stay tuned over the next three weeks and learn how to quickly prepare delicious meals with little effort! I promise to stick with you on this nutrition journey! I truly want to inspire you to learn to love healthy food. Does that mean you can never ever have Taco Bell? No, not necessarily. Balance is key. But don’t rely on fast food! Show your body some love and respect by fueling it with REAL food while saving a boat load of money along the way!

Homework for this week: Take a look at how much you are spending on food each week. Figure out what types of food are you eating, where you are eating and what you are putting in to your body. Next, decide if an extra $180 per month or more is worth it to you. Also, decide if your health is worth it to you. If this is all important to you then use this week to go to your local Aldi and just look around. Since each store is a bit different, see what options they have. Start thinking about what types of foods you could make. Take a pen and paper with you and make a list. Then, stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for more posts on what to make and how to make delicious food quickly!

As promised, below is a recipe I’m sure you’ll love! This recipe is a healthy and delicious side dish or meal. It yields about 6-8 one cup servings and all of the ingredients can be purchased at Aldi.

Edamame, Bacon & Brussel Sprouts Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of Brussel Sprouts
  • 20 slices (about 1 package) of Turkey Bacon
  • 1 cup of frozen, shelled Edamame
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Coconut Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (go easy on the salt, maybe a pinch here or there. Use black pepper [fresh cracked is my favorite], garlic [fresh or powder] and chili powder for added flavor)

Directions

  • Heat your oven to 400.
  • Lay your brussel sprouts on a baking pan and drizzle olive oil over top, sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasonings to taste.
  • Mix the brussel sprouts around so they are covered in oil and seasoning then bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until tender. Once finished, remove from oven and set aside.
  • While the brussel sprouts are cooking, heat the coconut oil in a frying pan and add your edamame, salt, pepper and seasoning to taste. Sautee for about 5 minutes or until you see some char marks on the edamame. Once finished, remove from heat and set aside.
  • Lay tin foil out on a baking sheet or two (tin foil helps with the clean up!). Place bacon side by side on baking sheet, be sure they don’t overlap but place them close to one another so you can fit as many as possible on one sheet.
  • Bake turkey bacon in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Once done, remove from oven and let cool. Once cool enough to touch, break up the bacon into small, bite sized pieces.
  • In a large storage container add brussel sprouts, edamame and turkey bacon and mix together.
  • Enjoy!

Let me know your thoughts, concerns, questions and/or comments below!

Until next time..

Create: Healthy Quick(ish) Meals

Is it just this time of year or are my weeks legitimately getting busier constantly? I am not sure. What I do know is that no matter how much time I have, I always make time to cook a healthy, nutritious meal that will fill me up and refuel my body properly.

I want to share 3 recipes all of which are nutritious, filling and quick! The first recipe takes the longest, about 45 minutes, and would be great for lunch or dinner. The second takes about 5 minutes to make with about 5 minutes of prep time and would be a delicious option for breakfast or dinner… or lunch! Lastly, we’ll make a yummy snack or dessert in just 2 minutes!

Before we get started, I must mention that all of these recipes I came up with on my own due to wanting a quick and healthy meal, satisfying a craving with a healthier option or pure creativity with the random ingredients I had left before my next trip to the grocery store. So please, use these as a motivator to not be afraid to get crafty in the kitchen, amazing (tasty) things can happen!

Recipe #1: Sweet Potato with Goat Cheese & Sauteed Veggies
Ingredients
– 1 or 2 Sweet Potato(s)
– Coconut Oil
– 1 Bell Pepper (any color)
– Mushrooms (any kind)
– Goat Cheese
– Cayenne (optional)
– Cracked Black Pepper (optional)

Directions
1. 
Turn on your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is preheating, rinse your sweet potato(s). Poke holes in the potato(s) and wrap in tin foil. Place wrapped potato(s) on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender.
2. Slice your bell pepper into long strips and your mushrooms into slices for sauteeing.
3. Heat coconut oil in your fry pan. Once hot, add bell pepper. Sautee for about 5 minutes then add your mushrooms. Sprinkle in Cayenne and Cracked Black Pepper. Once veggies are soft and charred, remove from heat, cover and set aside.
4. Once your sweet potato(s) are tender, pull the pan out of the oven and open tin foil. Spread Goat Cheese across each potato and return to oven, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese becomes warm.
5. Remove potato(s) from oven, top with sauteed veggies and enjoy your delicious, healthy meal!

Potatoe.jpg

A Few Health Benefits: Sweet Potatoes are high in Vitamins A, C and B6, as well as Vitamin D, which all of us in the Midwest can always use more of to help regulate our energy levels, moods and build strong bones. They’re also a great source of magnesium which is the relaxation and anti-stress mineral. Lastly, their sweet tasting but their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream to ensure balanced energy without blood sugar spikes that lead to weight gain and fatigue. Read more about sweet potato benefits here.

Recipe #2: Egg Tacos  (A personal favorite)
Ingredients
– 2 to 4 eggs (Think about 1 egg per taco)
– Coconut Oil
– Cayenne (optional)
– Turmeric (optional)
– Cracked Black Pepper (optional)
– Tortillas
– Pepperjack Cheese
– 1/2 Bell Pepper
– 2 to 4 slices of Avocado
– Salsa and/or Hot Sauce (optional)

Directions
1.
 Heat coconut oil in a fry pan. Crack eggs into the pan and let them begin to cook while adding a few shakes of cayenne, turmeric and cracked black pepper. Scramble eggs up in the pan and let cook.
2. Shred pepper jack cheese (or cheese of choice) and add a few pinches of cheese to hot eggs. Mix around until cheese is completely melted.
3. Slice Bell Pepper into thin strips, about 3 per taco. Slice small strips of Avocado (or cut into small chunks), 1 slice or 3-4 chunks per taco.
4. Warm up tortillas. I have a gas stove so naturally, I throw them on the open flame burner to get the delicious char marks. A microwave will work to heat them up if you have a fancy electric stove 🙂
5. Lay warm tortillas on the plate. Add egg and cheese mixture, bell pepper and avocado slices and top with salsa and/or hot sauce of your choice. Enjoy!

taco.jpgAll in all, this meal takes about 10 minutes and it’s filling, nutritious and is a great option for any meal of the day!

A Few Health Benefits: Eggs are an excellent source of protein and the Avocado will provide your body with (heart) healthy fats. Turmeric is a yellow spice that is extremely beneficial for your health. It is essentially tasteless so it’s great to mix with eggs because the color blends right in and you’re getting healthier with each bite! Turmeric contains strong anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help defend us from disease, it also can help prevent Cancer (due to its ability to reduce the growth of cancer cells), Alzheimer Disease, Heart Disease and Depression. Ready more about this powerhouse spice here.

Who’s ready for dessert (or a quick snack)?

Recipe #3: PB Ezekiel Bread
Ingredients
– 1 Slice Ezekiel Bread
– 2 tbsp JIF Natural Super Chunk Peanut Butter (or any nut-butter you prefer)
– Cinnamon
– Honey (optional)

Directions
* Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat, if you’re not eating chunky peanut butter, you’re doing it wrong. 🙂
1. Toast your Ezekiel bread
2. Spread Peanut Butter across top of bread
3. Sprinkle with cinnamon and honey (if desired)
4. Enjoy!

pb bread.jpg

A Few Health Benefits: Ezekiel Bread is sprouted bread which contains no added sugar, compared to most other breads which do. Also, it contains more protein than other breads and is very filling. Read more about Ezekiel Bread here. Cinnamon is another power spice I like to use a lot! Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It can fight the risk of heart disease, bacterial and fungal infections and even cancer. And, it’s sweet and tasty!

I hope you enjoy these recipes. They definitely get me through the busiest of weeks on a healthy note! Let me know some of your favorite healthy meals in the comments below!

Until Next Time..