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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.

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

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

My Latest Kitchen Gadget

Since my last few attempts at making spaghetti squash have been absolute fails (I’m still figuring out my new antiquated oven), my latest thing has been zucchini noodles. A few months ago I purchased a julienne peeler to make my noodles. While it does the job, it takes FOREVER and it wastes a lot of the zucchini. I feel bad wasting any food so I went a bought a mandolin slicer that has a julienne blade. Well, the worked too but I still couldn’t use most of the zucchini for fear of slicing my fingers off. The nifty finger guard only works of you are slicing it like chips and not like noodles. So that was kind of a bust (however it does work well for making sweet potato home fries but that’s another blog). Then I saw a picture in my new cookbook Against All Grains of a spiralizer. I had to have it.

I busted it out for the first time tonight to make some real zucchini noodles and let me tell you, my life is now complete. I spiralized 4 large zucchini in roughly 5 minutes! And out came these long beautiful noodles. I cooked them in some olive oil and dumped some pasta sauce on top. It was magnificent. I could twirl my zucchini noodles like real noodles. It was awesome! I will probably never julienne my zucchini or squash ever again. It’s the spiralizer all the way.

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Tom Yam Gung (Shrimp and Lemongrass Soup)

Do you ever have those days where you simply crave something from your childhood?  That is exactly what happened to me.  Most of the time people crave some type of comfort food like mom’s mac & cheese or meatloaf or even an apple pie.  But today, that wasn’t the case.  Today I was seriously craving something Asian and not your average run of the mill Chinese takeout (which is completely Americanized).  I wasn’t something that you really can’t get at a restaurant.  You can only get it from someone’s house who knows how to cook authentic Asian cuisine.  Since my mom lives in Pennsylvania and I live in Indiana, my only solution was to call her up on the phone, ask her what I needed, and take a trip to the local Asia Mart.

The freshness from the lemongrass make this probably one of the most popular Thai soups out there.  And if you really want to eat it authentically, you pour a little on your jasmine rice as flavoring.  But if you don’t eat grains, you can eat a big bowl of this broth-y soup either with your meal or as a light meal by itself.  Due to the pungent flavor of the lime leaves and lemongrass, this soup is perfect for all seasons.  It’s a refreshing summer soup but since it’s hot it makes a great winter treat too!  I’ve made it with shrimp but my mom said you can also make it with chicken if you’d prefer.

For any of you who do Whole30 or follow the Paleo diet, I’ve made sure that this recipe is 100% compliant.  Enjoy!

Serves 4

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
4-inch piece of tender lemongrass, roughly chopped (you don’t want to eat this)
1-2 limes, freshly squeezed to taste
6 tablespoons fish sauce (I use Red Boat which doesn’t have sugar)
1-2 small fresh red or green chilies, roughly chopped (optional – I don’t like the heat so I don’t use them)
16 straw mushrooms, cut in half (canned mushrooms will do)
1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Directions
1. In a pot, heat the stock and add the lime leaves, lemongrass, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, and chilies (if you are using them).  At this point I would taste the broth to determine if it has enough lemon/lime flavor to the broth.  If not – add more lime juice.   Bring it to a boil and simmer for two minutes.  Stir in the mushrooms and shrimp and cook for a further two to three minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through.  Be sure not to overcook your shrimp!

2. Pour into soup bowls and serve.

A little taste of home

A little taste of home

2013 A Year in Review

As I say goodbye to 2013, it’s nice to take a look down memory lane and remind myself that although there were some of the rough goes that each year brings, there were also some high points too.  It is so important to keep these high points in your memory to remind you that life isn’t that bad and when you are feeling down and out, you can always pull on your best memories to keep yourself in check.

So more as a reminder to myself when I’m feeling bad about my nutrition (or lack thereof), how I’ve fallen off the workout wagon (I will get back on soon, I promise), or how I continuously make excuses why I’m not making it to the gym (it’s freaking cold outside!) – I can take a look back at my 2013 and know that if I did it once, I can do it again, and if I stick to it I can probably do it better.

Without further ado – my top 10 2013  fitness highlights…

1. I climbed 36 flights of stairs.  That’s 780 steps and 500 feet straight up in 7 minutes and 6 seconds coming in 3rd place in my age group and 206th out of 1,068 people.  Not bad for my first try and not training.

2. I hit a new personal record for my 2nd half marathon.  I ran the OneAmerica 500 half marathon in exactly 2 hours, which of course was my goal.  I’m so proud of that number and I’m hoping to maybe hit a new PR in 2014.

3. I placed 3rd in my age division at the KeyBank 8K during the Carmel Marathon Weekend.  This put me in the running for the Triple Crown Series.

4.  I placed 3rd in my age division along with my husband at the Geist 5K this year and we ran the 5 miles back to the car in the rain.  It was definitely a memorable race.

5. I won 1st place in my age division in the Triple Crown Series 8K events (KeyBank 8K, Eagle Creek 8K, Hoosier Park 8K).  The first time I’ve ever placed 1st in anything!

6. I placed 1st in my age division at the Noblesville Fit Fest 5K.  The second time I’ve placed 1st in a race and it was in the same year!

7.  With the support of a few friends, I completed my first Whole30 program without any cheats or having to start over.  Through this program (and a lot of testing and doctor visits) I was able to determine that I have a gluten and dairy intolerance that was causing some undesirable effects on my body.  I have now since remedied those and I am feeling WAY better.

8. I was able to help a friend run in her first half marathon and ensure that she reached her goal of finishing in 2 hours and 30 minutes or less.  There were times where she wanted to stop but together we pushed through and we ended up beating her goal by a few minutes.  I am truly blessed to have been able to be a part of that experience with her.

9. I tried many new fitness activities in 2013 including CrossFit, SkyZone Skyrobics (trampoline exercises), Insanity, Hip Hop Abs, and Boxing to name a few.  Pushing myself out of my comfort zone allowed me to realize that there are some activities that I really enjoy that I never thought I would and others that just aren’t the right fit for me and that is COMPLETELY okay.

10.  I had a 2013 goal to run 12 races in 12 months and I met my goal.  I used to be that person who said, “The only way I would run is if someone was chasing me,” or “Look at those people running outside.   They look miserable.”  I never thought I would have enjoyed running as much as I do and I look forward to keeping up with this fitness adventure in 2014.  Perhaps 14 races in 2014 should be my next goal.  What do you think?

Happy New Year!

 

Funktastic

I’m not going to lie.  I’ve been in a pretty serious funk the last two weeks.  The last time I even attempted a workout was when I ran my half marathon 2 weeks ago.  Since then (that very day in fact), I’ve moved into my new house and life has been pretty hectic ever since.  After we moved into our new home, I had to go back to work on Monday morning so there was no day of unpacking a getting settled.  It was get up early, go to work, come home, bake a pie, and head out to Bible study.  The week consisted of unpacking box after box and figuring out where to put things.  I finished unpacking my kitchen, which took 3 days, and then moved onto my closet which also took a few days… When the weekend rolled around we spent the entire Saturday raking leaves and ripping ivy off the side of the house as well as off some of the trees.  Did I mention that having mature trees totally sucks?  Yes, they are very pretty to look at but they completely suck in the fall.

Before I knew it, Monday had rolled around again and it was back to work I went.  Where did my weekend go?  This week was worse than the first because my husband had to leave for a work trip which left me alone with the dog.  This meant earlier mornings and later evenings, cooking, cleaning, and more unpacking plus my normal after school tutoring gigs (I tutor 4 different kids every week Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays).  I know that people say (and I’ve been guilty of it too) that if you really want something you will find the time to do it.

Let me tell you – I really want to work out.  I really enjoy working out.  But I honestly could not find the time to do it unless I woke up earlier than 5:30 AM or went to bed later than 11:00 PM and I’m sorry but sleep ranks high up on things that I need to function and I’m not willing to give that up.

I am a person who craves routine.  I live for routine.  It makes me comfortable and keeps my stress levels low.  These last two weeks I have had ZERO routine and I’m still struggling to find it.  I’m trying to figure out how to juggle my full-time job, my part-time job, volunteering at church on Monday evenings, cooking home-cooked meals not only for dinner but for my lunches as well since it is tough for me to eat out, unpacking my house, keeping up with my house responsibilities, AND finding time to get the gym.  It has not been easy.

Today was the first time I was able to actually step foot in the gym.  I ran for 3 miles and about puked all over the treadmill.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m out of practice or because I ate that piece of gluten-free chocolate cake about an hour before I left for the gym.  Either way, my gym experience was less than stellar (and not because of the facility, that was great), but because I’m just out of the game.

Here’s hoping to get back on track and finding a routine that works with my new schedule so I can get back to working out and feeling good.  Fingers crossed!