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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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!
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
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:
- 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.
- The front desk gal was super nice and welcoming. She gave me the short tour and a welcome goodie bag.
- 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.
- 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!)
- Although I didn’t sweat, I felt like my major muscle groups got a pretty good workout.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- I checked my watch every 15 minutes – that’s not a good sign. It seriously felt like the longest hour of my life.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!