Paleo Baked Spaghetti

I’ll admit that I go through food phases.  For a while I was all about grilling chicken thighs and I’m pretty sure I ate that every day for lunch and sometimes dinner for a good couple of months.  In the winter I get on a comfort food kick and make meatloaf, chili, and stew every week (or so it seems).  As the season changes from winter to spring and back to winter again because Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind in Indiana, I find myself wanting spaghetti (or maybe its simply because my race season has started and I always want spaghetti when I’m running.)  Either way – I’ve been playing around with using spaghetti squash, zucchini, and yellow squash as my noodles.  But all in all, it is the same variation of the same thing – squash noodles and sauce on top.  Then my friend sent me a link for baked pizza spaghetti  pie.  I thought I could do something like this but make it more like baked spaghetti and less like pizza plus add in my own favorite things.  It makes a ton and I plan on eating it for lunch every day this week so I suppose I’ll share the rest with my husband so it won’t go to waste.  Enjoy!

Lunch for the week!  Totally customizable for your specific taste buds too!

Lunch for the week! Totally customizable for your specific taste buds too!

Ingredients
1 large (or 2 small) spaghetti squash
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 cup mushrooms (your choice of kid), sliced
1 small can black olives, sliced
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup – spaghetti sauce (no sugar added, I used Classico)
4 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8×8 glass baking dish, or I used a 2 quart dish which is a 7×11, either one will do, and set aside.
2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and threading.  Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the skin of the squash gives when you press on it.
3.  Using a fork, shred the squash into a large bowl and set aside.
4.  Place a large pan over medium heat. Add ground beef, bell pepper, mushrooms, and onion. Cook until pink no longer remains in the beef and it is broken up into pieces.  Add in olives and mix together.
5.  Combine the beef mixture with the spaghetti squash in the bowl.  Add 1 cup of spaghetti sauce, salt and pepper.  Finally, add whisked eggs to the baking dish and mix everything together until you can no longer see the eggs.
6.  Evenly distribute the mixture into your baking dish and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until a slight crust forms on top of your baked spaghetti.  Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Highly Addicting Chocolate Mousse

About 2 weeks ago my friend, Z, said she had tried this new chocolate mousse recipe that was dairy free and she had some to share with me.  I love anything chocolate/dessert and if it is dairy free and gluten free, count me in.  I drove over to her house to pick it up and literally I pulled the used spoon out of my lunch box and devoured the whole thing in my car on my way home from her house.  No – I am not ashamed.  I can’t tell you how good it was.  It was freaking AMAZING.  I HAD to have the recipe.  This was Friday evening.

Enter Sunday afternoon – I have now procured the recipe from my friend.  You can find her original recipe here.  So Sunday afternoon I gave it a whirl on my own.  The recipe was so easy and took less than 15 minutes from start to finish.  The worst part is waiting the few hours for the mousse to set so you can partake in the chocolatey rich goodness of it.  Anyway, I was able to make 5 1-cup ziplock plastic to-go containers out of 1 recipe.  Naturally, I ate one every day Monday – Thursday as an after school treat or after dinner dessert (I shared one with a friend).  That was on March 9th.

Since I had consumed my last chocolate mousse, I really haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  I’ve never been addicted to anything so I’m not sure what that feels like but seriously I could not stop thinking about this mousse.  And now that I’m writing this (and eating my mousse at the same time) I didn’t realize that I just made this last week.  Still – not ashamed.

So tonight I caved and busted out my KitchenAide mixer and took a quick 15 minutes to make myself another heavenly batch of the highly addicting chocolate mousse.  You can thank me (or my friend, Z, later).  You’re welcome!

So good and so easy - you'll want to make it every week!

So good and so easy – you’ll want to make it every week!

Ingredients
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Palm Sugar (coconut sugar)
1 cup mini chocolate chips (I use EnjoyLife)
4 eggs separated
1 can full-fat coconut milk (just the solid cream part, not the liquid)

Directions
1. Separate 4 eggs, place the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another
2. Open a can of coconut milk and drain all the water from it, making sure to keep the solid milk fat portion
3. Add water to a pot and heat until it is boiling
4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the coconut sugar to the pan, whisking it in until it the sugar is dissolved
5. Move pot to another burner and allow it to cool for about five minutes
6. Add the chocolate chips to pot and whisk until melted
7. Whisk egg yolks until they are light yellow in color
8. With your mixer, whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks
9. Add the egg yolks into the same pot and whisk until the consistency of the chocolate mixture is smooth
10. Fold the egg whites into the pot containing the chocolate mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined
11. Add the can of drained coconut milk to the mixture and again, whisk until well combined and the mixture is smooth.
12. Place the chocolate mousse into containers, 1 used 5 1-cup ziplock disposable containers and evenly portioned them out.
13. Refrigerate overnight
14. Sprinkle a generous amount mini chocolate chips on top of mousse before serving and enjoy!

Shamrock Shuffle 5K 2014

8:00 AM and my alarm goes off.  Already I am in a good mood.  Why, you might ask?  Because my first race of the season doesn’t start until 10:10 AM and that is fantastic!  The birds are chirping, the sky is blue – already this is a vast improvement from last year’s Shamrock Shuffle where it was cold, gray, and on the verge of raining.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still quite chilly out but somehow the cold factor is so much more bearable when the sun is shining.

I love the Shamrock Shuffle 5K because 1. It supports Tatum’s Bags of Fun which is a great organization that distributes backpacks filled with games, activities, and toys to every child diagnosed with cancer in Indiana. 2. It is by far one of my favorite race shirts EVER.  They are so comfortable and soft it is not even funny.  And it gives me something green to wear for St. Patrick’s Day.  3. It’s close to home so I don’t have to drive far or fight traffic for a parking spot.  BONUS!

This year they made it even better because you got a super sweet green frog medal (the mascot for Tatum’s Bags of Fun).  That’s an improvement from last year.   I’m always down for some new race bling.  They also improved the route from last year as well which is greatly appreciated.  All in all – I really dig this race and because I was able to run in the inaugural race last year, I’ll probably want to keep running it every year.  It’s not very often you get to be a part of an inaugural race.

Anyway – despite the sunshine it was still pretty chilly and the wind was brutal.  Even with these two factors (and don’t forget a couple of hills), I was able to hit a new personal record for a 5K.  My last personal record was in June of 2012 when I ran the Fishers Freedom Festival 5K.  My official time was 24 minutes and 47 seconds.  I’m super proud to say that I broke that PR today with an official time of 24 minutes and 32 seconds.  My husband didn’t do too shabby either.  He finished in 23 minutes and 40 seconds.  We both were able to place in our age divisions, he placed 3rd and I placed 1st.  This is the 3rd time we have both placed in a race together.  I’m hoping this becomes a regular occurrence.

So my race season has officially started and it’s gotten off to a great start.  I couldn’t be happier!

Shamrock Shuffle 2014 Official Time - 24:32 Average Pace 4:54/K Official Place - 19/291 Age Division Place - 1st

Shamrock Shuffle 2014
Official Time – 24:32
Average Pace 4:54/K
Official Place – 19/291
Age Division Place – 1st

Toasted Coconut and Almonds

So today was the last day of ISTEP+ (or at least the first round of them) and I was looking to indulge a bit.  Yes, some days I can be an emotional eater.  I was looking forward to the rest of my fruit salad but with a whole lot of coconut whipped cream on top (more whipped cream and less fruit if you know what I mean).  But the whipped cream alone just wasn’t going to cut it tonight.  I wanted something more.  So I pulled some staples from my pantry and made a delicious topping for my whipped cream that tastes oh so sinful but it’s really not that bad for you at all.  I got this recipe from my friend, Z.  You can find the original recipe here.  It is so simple and it really takes your dessert to that next level.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Directions
1. Mix the salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. Heat a frying pan over high heat, add the coconut flakes in a single layer.  Keep an eye on them because they toast quickly!
3. Once the flakes are lightly toasted, put them in the bowl with the salt and cinnamon mixture and toss until coated.
4. Next put the almonds in the pan and toast until slightly brown – again keep a close eye on them because they also toast quickly!
5. Add the toasted almonds to the coconut flake mixture and toss.
6. Allow to cool, then store.
This picture was taken a while ago but by the time I thought about it, I had already eaten my entire dessert.  You get the idea though!

This picture was taken a while ago but by the time I thought about it, I had already eaten my entire dessert. You get the idea though!

On a Budget (and coconut whipped cream)

I’m a huge proponent of eating clean (when you can) and staying on a budget.  Let’s face it, eating healthy can be expensive.  Produce isn’t always cheap and because it can go bad, you are always stocking up your fridge for the week.  The key to saving money is finding the produce that is on sale and buying that for the week.  I used to just buy whatever I wanted for each week but when my grocery bills were exceeding $100 (for just 2 people), I was thinking my spending was getting out of hand.  PLUS, I was throwing some stuff away because I just couldn’t eat it fast enough.  Now that I’ve eliminated a bunch of things from my nutrition like dairy, legumes, and gluten (not for the trend but for health reasons), I find I’m able to eat more produce because I don’t have as many choices to choose from.

Anyway – Kroger was having this great sale on produce: Pineapples – $1.00, Strawberry Papayas – 2 for $5.00, 5-lb. bag Blood Oranges – $2.99, and Raspberries 2 pints – $5.00.  I also picked up a package of pre-sliced mangos for $4.99 (that wasn’t really bargain shopping but I LOVE mangoes and they were really ripe this week so I couldn’t pass it up).  So I picked up all of these things, took them home, chopped them up into bit-sized pieces and made myself this super delicious tropical fruit salad.  To take this fruit salad to the next level, I whipped up some super easy coconut whipped cream.  Yes – you really can make whipped cream from canned coconut milk.  It just takes a little bit of planning and a few minutes and you are all set.

Ingredients
1 can coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional – if you like it to be a tad sweeter)

Directions
1. Place a metal mixing bowl in the freezer for at least 1 hour.  Place your coconut milk in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight if you really like to plan ahead.  This ensures that the cream separates from the liquid.

2. Separate the solid cream from the liquid.  Save the liquid for later or pour over your fruit salad to act as a liquid.  In your metal mixing bowl, add the solid coconut cream and vanilla extract (and powdered sugar if you are using it).  Mix with an electric mixer on high for 1-2 minutes or until thoroughly mixed through and it has a creamy consistency.

3. Add a huge dollop to your fruit salad and enjoy!

A delicious and guilt-free treat!

A delicious and guilt-free treat and on a budget too!

The actual fruit salad ingredients with their prices
1 small pineapple – $1.00
2 strawberry papayas – $5.00
1 container pre-sliced mangos – $4.99
1 pint raspberries – $2.50
2 blood oranges – $.74 (8 oranges for $2.99 = $0.37 an orange)
1 can coconut milk – $2.89
Total – $17.12
Makes about 10 servings (perfect for breakfast and lunch sides) = $1.71 per serving

Pure Barre Review

I’ll admit that I have fitness ADD.  I find something that tickles my fancy and I engross myself in it until I really can’t stand it any longer.  Actually – I’m that way with a lot of things.  When I was in 7th grade, I asked my mom to make me salami and cheese sandwiches for lunch EVERY DAY.  I ate the same sandwich EVERY DAY for lunch, Monday – Friday, for 7 months before I decided I was on another kick (peanut butter & fluff).  I haven’t eaten a salami and cheese sandwich since.  No lie.  Anyway, when I first moved to Indiana I didn’t have any friends and I had left my family back in Pennsylvania.  So naturally I immersed myself in the gym scene where I accidentally stumbled upon Zumba.  I instantly fell in love.  After the first class I found myself rearranging my schedule so that I could make it to every evening class that was available during the week (that also was taught by my favorite instructor).  That love turned into me pursuing my group fitness certification and eventually teaching my own classes.  This love affair with Zumba lasted for about 4 years until I decidedly became officially burnt out and it was no longer fun for me.  I was dreading going to teach class and after teaching my own class and aside from taking classes from a select few, I found it hard to be part of the class again.  So I was on to the next thing.  Enter running.

I officially began running in 2011 while I was still in the midst of my Zumba phase.  But as I was becoming more serious about running and training, Zumba began to take a back seat.  In fact, after Lifestyle Family Fitness became LifeTime Fitness and I lost all of my LesMills classes (BodyPump, BodyAttack, and CXWorx), I really stopped enjoying group fitness all together.  The classes at LifeTime Fitness (I only speak of the facility I was a member at, not the company itself) just didn’t measure up to what had been the caliber of classes and the instructors when it was Lifestyle.  So I just focused on my running and lifting weights here and there.

Now I’m 3 years into running and while I still enjoy it – I’m looking to add something else to my weekly line up.  I want something that is fun and engaging as well as promote long, lean muscles.  My friend suggested Pure Barre.  I’ve had a few friends now who have tried Pure Barre and absolutely LOVE IT.  They rave about it.  I also did some research about it and I decided to give it a shot.  A nice thing about this company is that your first class is absolutely free so there is no risk in giving it a try.  That is a major plus in my book!

I always go in to new workouts and classes with an open mind and try hard not to be biased.  After my first Pure Barre class, here are my thoughts:

Pros

  1. The facility is really nice and clean.  The front lobby area reminds me of a little boutique where you can buy accessories and Pure Barre gear.
  2. The front desk gal was super nice and welcoming.  She gave me the short tour and a welcome goodie bag.
  3. The actual workout room is large and spacious.  Everything looked clean and smelled clean (which is huge in a fitness facility).  There was plenty of equipment (mats, balls, weights, and bands) for everyone.
  4. During the actual workout – my arms felt like they were getting a good workout despite the light weights, my legs were definitely shaking from time to time during the bar workout (hello plie squats!)
  5. Although I didn’t sweat, I felt like my major muscle groups got a pretty good workout.

Cons

  1. The instructor didn’t do the workout with the class.  She walked around to check form (which I totally can appreciate), but she gave directions on the microphone which was about the same level as the music so it was sometimes difficult to hear what she was saying. Also, because she wasn’t always demonstrating, being new to the class and new to the lingo, I had NO IDEA what was going on.
  2. The lady next to me took my equipment instead of her own, so I was always 2 moves behind everyone else while scrambled to where her things were so I could also have equipment.  That lady was so clueless, she had no idea that she even took my ball in the beginning.  So that automatically threw me off from the start.  For future reference, stand next to someone who looks like they know what they are doing.
  3. It was super crowded (good for them, not for me) – so I felt like I was going to hit the person next to me during the upper body weighted segment.  Also – it was so crowded that when the instructor did do demonstrations on the bar, it was at the opposite end of the room and her back was facing the group (no mirror) so I still had no idea what she was doing.  I tried to look around but the people in the class were all doing different things so I wasn’t sure who was doing it right.
  4. If you haven’t been going for a while, some of the directions make no sense.  Her idea of a pulse and what I call a pulse are two different things.  What in the world does pulse, freeze mean?
  5. The instructor didn’t ask if anyone was new in the beginning of class so when she finally came around to inform me that I was doing it wrong (which I already knew), I had to tell her that I was new and had no clue what she was talking about.  After that she did a better job of circling around more to help when I obviously looked lost.  Actually, I felt pretty dumb in this class and who likes to feel dumb?  Not me.
  6. I checked my watch every 15 minutes – that’s not a good sign.  It seriously felt like the longest hour of my life.
  7. It just didn’t have that spark for me.  If I’m not super into the class within the first 15 minutes, I’m probably not going to come back.  I do my best not to leave class in the middle because I don’t want to offend any instructor, but I was seriously ready to go after 20 minutes.
  8. It is SUPER EXPENSIVE.  Even with my teacher discount, it is still $140 a month.  Thats a bit pricey for only 1 type of class every day.

All in all – I can see why some people really enjoy this.  My instructor was nice, she knew what she was doing, she was rehearsed, and the music was okay.  I can tell I will be sore tomorrow because I used muscles that I don’t normally use in my regular workouts, but sadly this workout just isn’t for me.  I just couldn’t get into it and for that money, I need to be addicted.

Crustless Paleo Quiche

I’ve entered the world of meal prepping on Sundays to make my life that much easier Monday-Friday.  It’s always a good morning when I can have eggs and roasted sweet potatoes for breakfast, but let’s face it – sometimes it’s also a good morning when I hit the snooze button for an extra 30 minutes of sleep but then the very notion of making myself a hot breakfast is out the window and it’s on to what can I grab and go?  My solution – this crustless quiche.  Now I’ve never been a big fan of quiches and quite frankly I’m not really sure what a quiche is BUT this looks like a quiche to me and I baked it in a pie plate so that’s what I’m calling it.  

It is a super simple recipe and extremely tasty.  Cut into slices and you’ve got 8 wonderful slices of home-cooked yumminess to start your day off right!  Enjoy!

Image

Ingredients
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and mandolin sliced thin
1 small zucchini, sliced (or veggie of choice sliced, chopped, whatever)
1 lb. organic, no hormone added country sausage, cooked & crumbled 
8 eggs, lightly beaten 
1 tbsp coconut oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook your sausage on medium heat making sure it gets nice and crumbly.  When all of the meat is no longer pink, set it aside on a plate with a paper towel to help drain any excess grease.  

Meanwhile, peel and slice your sweet potatoes with a mandolin slicer set on thin.  You can get a cheap slicer from Walmart for about $10.  Just be careful not to slice your finger!  Set potatoes aside.Next thinly slice your zucchini and set aside.  

Next, put the tablespoon of coconut oil into your glass pie plate and place in the oven for 1-2 minutes or until all of the oil is melted.  Take it out of the oven and evenly lay your sweet potato slices on the bottom of the pie plate.  You should get 2-3 layers of potatoes. Then layer your zucchini followed by the sausage crumbles.  Next, pour all of your eggs over the quiche.  It probably won’t cover everything, but that is okay.  Top with salt and pepper to your liking and stick it in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the egg is set.

Let it set up for 5-10 minutes before you cut and serve it OR cover with saran wrap and serve it the next day for breakfast.