I know, I know, its February. But, let’s be real, its February 2021. Need I say more? I had great intentions of bringing you an AMAZING and INSPIRATIONAL New Year’s post, but here we are. So, in true 2021 fashion, let’s keep moving!
Even with it being a strange time and life being anything but normal, we can still make goals. We just have to adjust to scope and scale of our goals to fit into our current lifestyles. I love the fresh start of a new year, or new season, or even new month! It’s an opportunity to take stock of what we’re learning (or not) and moving toward something NEW! Yes, I can see you rolling your eyes! “Impossible! We’re stuck at home and there’s nothing we can do about it!”
Setting Goals From Home
MAKE THEM REASONABLE: Make small, measurable goals you know you can accomplish. You’re much more likely to keep bigger goals when you start small and build your confidence. Drinking more water, eating veggies with every meal, getting more sleep, moving your body
MAKE THEM INCLUSIVE: Some of my most successful habits over this last year have included my family. It makes sense since we’re all hanging out together anyway. And if you’re family isn’t on board, take it to social. Tag a friend and be together apart! Family walks, time outside everyday, family meal planning and preparation, zoom workouts, Instagram challenges
MAKE THEM FUN: Find ways to take normal, healthy activities and turn them into a game or challenge! My two boys love anything that’s a competition. Sometimes we trade screen time for drinking water or have a random family soccer game before dinner. Water logs, workout trackers, reading challenges.
One of my all time favorites was a goal we set to use less electronics. One evening we sat down and all sketched each other’s faces. It was so fun and the outcome was hilarious!
A Little Something to Get You Started…
As a small gift from me to you I’m giving you my custom meal planning template for FREE! I printed and laminated mine and it hangs on my fridge. (So easy with any online print service like OfficeMax or FedEx) I just use a dry erase marker to fill it in. My husband and kids each help me fill it out each week and everyone can check it as often as they like. It keeps us on track with our weekly shopping list/budget, helps us make healthy food choices (no last minute carryout), and eliminates the ever-present “what’s for dinner” question.
Click here to sign up for my newsletter and I will send you the PDF in both 8.5 x11 and 11×14 format. If you’re already a subscriber drop me message and I’ll send ityour way!
This is an exciting time to be an middle aged woman! WHAAAATTTT? Well, It’s exciting because while I (and some of my peers) are looking to smooth away fine lines and lift up sagging skin, there are FINALLY some safe alternatives to the anti-aging products of yester years. Actually, even if you’re in your teens, twenties or thirties, you should start thinking about your skin now!
Bakuchiol- A safer alternative to retinol
I’m geeking out over here! All because of Bakuchiol (LMK if you figure out how to pronounce this). This is an exciting, plant based solution to help with skin inflammation, fine lines and wrinkles (read on about cell turnover) and even in acne!
READ, READ, READ… This is exciting stuff! It’s so tempting when you start to see those dark circles, sagging jowls, or crows feet to just grab the latest and greatest retinol product. But there can be some nasty side effects: dryness, redness, flaking… Bakuchiol is a great alternative!
Hyaluronic Acid(HA) is a GLA (a hormone) found among our joints and connective tissue. It is a product of Estrogen so naturally decreases as our estrogen levels decrease (aging). It works hand-in-hand with Glucosamine to help prevent collagen and cartilage loss.
I first learned about HA when several of my family members had hip replacements. I wondered if there was anything I could do to support my own joint health as I age? The wonderful side effect of incorporating HA into my lifestyle has been learning about, and experiencing the skincare benefits!
FINALLY, PLEASE remember that you can use all the creams, serums and supplements in the world, but if you aren’t eating a well balanced diet and drinking plenty of water you’re fighting an uphill battle!
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE pizza! I know that may cause me to lose my official foodie status, but I do. Pizza is so versatile and the variety of topping combos keeps monotony at bay.
Semi-homemade is okay with me.
I love a good hand tossed pizza crust as much as the next person, but when I’m looking for a quick crust or one that’s GLUTEN FREE, I always reach for a box of Chebe (not sponsored, just a fan). It’s also super clean when it comes to ingredients and with only a few in total, checks all my boxes when it comes to mass-produced foods. It’s base is tapioca flour which leaves you with the best crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside crust. I’ts my very favorite grain free option and believe me, I’ve tried most. It comes together in about 2 minutes and bakes for 15-20. Perfect!
I like to roll mine out and brush with olive oil. I usually bake just the crust for 7-10 minutes on my pizza stone, then add toppings and finish off baking.
Now, if time is really an issue just use your favorite store bought pizza sauce. But, in the amount of minutes it takes you to pre-bake your crust you can whip up a delicious sauce that rivals any grocery offering.
Just combine a can of 8 oz tomato sauce and 6 oz tomato paste with 1.5 tsp sea salt and 1 TBLS pizza seasoning. Just read your label to check for any tricky ingredients. Heat all of these with a drizzle of olive oil over medium until heated through. Depending how much sauce you like, this should cover 3 pizzas. You can even freeze your extra!
On the the really good stuff…
Remember pizza’s versatility? Well , here’s my kids favorite thing to do with pizza dough and why I always have 2 or 3 boxes of Chebe in my pantry.
PIZZA ROLLS :
Roll your dough out into a thin rectangle. It should be thin, but not quite transparent. Cut into equal strips about 1-1.5″ wide. Dollop a tsp of pizza sauce every inch or so down on every other strip. Top with a sprinkle of cheese and any other toppings. Brush the sides of the dough with olive oil and top with an empty strip. Press the sides to seal and cut into squares with a pizza cutter. Brush the tops with olive oil and bake according to package directions or until tops are crispy and golden.
With a few minutes of prep and some containers we all have around the house, breakfast is ready in flash!
Think about your typical morning. If you’re anything like me, there are lots of moving parts in those first morning hours. If I don’t have a quick and easy plan in place, my breakfast gets skipped! I recently saw one of my favorite bloggers writing about her delicious, make-ahead jars. Immediately I had a vision of rows of tiny jars of goodness lining my fridge shelves.
I’ve got 2 variations to share with you today!
These came together in a flash and all of the ingredients were so delicious on their own, they barely made it into the jars. I knew from the start I wanted to include quinoa. It’s packed with protein and is considered a super food in many cultures. For my friends with gluten sensitivities it IS a gluten free grain, but is often processed in facilities containing gluten, so get to know your sources!
Next came the kale! Kale is one of my favorite greens to chop up and toss in with my morning eggs, so it was a natural addition. It’s packed with nutrients, especially when raw. Tossing it in a sweet and tangy vinaigrette with the quinoa made it the perfect foundation.
I really could go on and on about these delicious little jars but instead I’ll share the full recipe with you here:
I don’t know about you, but some mornings I’m just NOT ready to wake up and eat eggs. I know I need a healthy dose of protein first thing, but it can be a struggle sometimes in those early hours of day.
Enter these next jars.
Start with old fashioned oats. They pack more nutrients than the quick version and by pouring your liquid in 4-16 hours before eating, they’ll be plenty soft when you’re ready to indulge. I like to add a little flax meal (OMEGA 3’s) and collagen peptides (PROTEIN) to my oats.
Top these with almond butter, your favorite berries, a sprinkle of coconut flakes for texture and you have a great, and very portable breakfast!
So, its almost February, who made a resolution to eat healthier this year? Anyone, anyone? If you’re like me in many years past, it was two-fold: healthier choices means more eating at home and more eating at home means less spending! Win, win! As with a lot our resolutions, good intentions, etc…, it’s tough to turn these into habits without a plan.
I’m going to show you my meal planning process and explain why it works for me!
CREATE A MASTER PLAN
Whether it’s a spreadsheet, app, or pen and paper, you’re going to need someplace to lay out your meal plan. I like to use a simple Google spreadsheet. I usually plan for 1-2 weeks at a time. I physically print it and hang it on the fridge, but my husband and I can also access it from our phones when we’re out, which has proven SO handy! Some of my friends like to print the blank spreadsheet and write their plan in. Try a few different systems and see which works for you! I’ll show you mine below!
MAP OUT YOUR WEEK
Take a look at all of the activities you and your family will be involved in for the week; sports practices, extra shifts at work, travel, lessons. Take a look at the evenings you may be getting home later and need a quick and easy meal versus the days you’ll have a bit more time for prep. I like to lay all of these things out on a spreadsheet like this:
CHECK YOUR FREEZER, PANTRY & FRIDGE
Once you know what’s happening in your upcoming week, take a look in your freezer and pantry. Do you have a whole chicken, several cans of black beans, a surplus of cilantro from a recent recipe. Try to incorporate these extras in the upcoming recipes. It’s amazing how much money you can save, not to mention cutting down on food waste. Last week I spent only $65 dollars on my family of four utilizing ingredients I already had in the house.
PUT ALL YOUR INFORMATION IN ONE PLACE
Maybe this is self-explanatory, but it was a huge game changer for me! My master spreadsheet has tabs for shopping lists (including all the stores I frequent, recipes, and ideas for future meals. Having it all in one place really helps me stick to the plan.
PLAN YOUR PREP
This may be my favorite part of my master plan! About six months ago I added a prep tab into each day. When I’m mapping out my week I can look at lighter schedule days and add some meal prep for upcoming busier days. I do the more labor intensive prep on the first day of the week, but also build in time to pack lunches, make a loaf of bread, etc… This really helps me to rely more on home cooked items and less on the easy access packaged ingredients.
So, you’ve got your plan, make your shopping list, purchased groceries. What happens if Tuesday rolls around and you don’t feel like eating tacos? Who cares! You are in control! Change a day, eat leftovers, push a meal off to the next day. The plan is just a framework to help you avoid all those last minute panicked dinners or bowls of cereal for dinner. Here are some wonderful side effects of meal planning:
More time with my family. If I know I have a busy work week, I’ll choose simple Instant Pot or slow cooker meals. That way when we’re home, we’re together.
Kids help! My boys help me sit down on the weekend and pick out meals for the upcoming week. They love having a say in what they’re eating.
Healthier choices. By mapping out activities and meals I can make sure to purchase and prep foods and meals that align with my health and fitness needs and future goals.
Budget is in check. By making my list based on a detailed plan and checking my fridge, freezer and pantry every week, I can keep food costs and food waste down. This makes me (and my husband) super happy!
Now that you’ve heard my ideas, get to work on your own! I’ll bet you can find a system that will simply your life and help you gain some precious time back in your week. I’ll help you get started- download my template below! If you do, drop me a comment and let me know what you gain back into your week by meal planning. Happy planning, friends!
About 18 months ago I had the pleasure to serve as private chef to an incredible group of female business owners. They were at a creative retreat designed to infuse their businesses with new vision. One of the perks of this retreat was all meals served up in-house by yours truly. The menu was in place BEFORE the participants. Upon registering, each person had a chance to list food allergies, intolerances and preferences. So there I was, not only needing to meet pretty tight timelines for meal service, but also needing to adapt each meal to accommodate 3 very specific needs. TIME TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!
TIPS FOR ADAPTING A MENU
1.STAY CLOSE TO NATURE.
Menus made of mostly whole, unprocessed foods are the easiest to modify. You can control EXACTLY which ingredients to include and omit. This does require making most of your food from scratch, but with good planning you can make a lot of things in advance. (Don’t get me started on my love of meal plans. That’s a post for another day!)
2. DON’T OVERTHINK.
I remember freaking out the first time I had to cook for a friend who has celiac disease. This is not just a matter of a tummy ache, too much of the wrong food could land her in the hospital. I used to go to elaborate lengths to cook a different meal for her. She actually wanted to be eating what everyone else was, so I stopped over-planning. When I made a big batch of lasagna for our small group I made a smaller pan using zucchini noodles. One simple ingredient switch. Instead of serving cake or cookies for dessert, we did fruit parfaits. They were every bit as delicious, but wouldn’t hurt our friend.
3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
Cooking , and especially baking, can be pretty tricky when it comes to certain food needs. Spend some time learning. Just a few tips can go a long way. A while back I took a deep dive into gluten free baking. I learned all about alternative flours, which could be subbed 1:1, which could not. Now I have this little reference file tucked away in my brain. It makes adapting a baking recipe so much easier and I can use MY favorite recipe and still serve my gluten free friends.
4.KEEP YOUR ADJUSTMENTS TO YOURSELF.
If you serve it, they will eat! Did your parent ever try to sneak extra veggies into your meals? Maybe they did and you didn’t even notice! The best way to serve a mixed crowd is to just SERVE THE FOOD and say nothing. Instead of announcing to the group about this gluten free/dairy free/paleo brownie, just serve it and watch what happens!
I think the best compliment I received the weekend of the retreat was the women asking if I had remembered their allergy when preparing a certain food. I always assured them I did, but they couldn’t see a difference between their food and the rest of the group. One woman teared up telling me how much she enjoyed eating some foods she hadn’t had in ages. SHE didn’t even know of some of these tweaks were possible. There’s so much joy in serving food, especially when folks have been feeling left out.
Today I’m sharing with you my recipe for the delicious quiche pictured above! I used to serve it in a flour crust, but I decided to try a potato crust for my gluten free friends. Guess what? I loved it, my family loved it! It’s our new go to quiche.
Who loves tacos? I guess the better question is, who DOESN’T love tacos? In my house we diligently guard our Taco Tuesdays (and Wednesdays, Thursdays… you get the picture). Actually, tacos and fajitas are one the top ways I utilize leftover protein. So when I realized my Whole30 was going to prevent me from enjoying my beloved corn tortillas, I went to work on a grain-free option.
Now, before the Whole30 judges come to get me, I am WELL AWARE that tortillas are SWYPO (search it); taking an item and making a paleo version of it, rather than just giving it up for a month. However, my reasons for Whole30 these days are not to identify triggers or allergies, but simply for a reset and refocus. And, so here we are!
Being healthy means sometimes letting go of all the expectations.
It’s been a week around here! Rather, it’s been a crazy winter season in general. My youngest (the little cherub cheeks in the photo) is in Kindergarten and our wonderful family doctor has been assuring me since child #1 that virus-after-virus when starting school is part of developing a healthy immune system. Honestly, without her encouragement my mama-bear brain would be circling the drain. It’s so hard to watch your kids fight continuous sickness and despite all best efforts and healthy habits, it’s still happening. I’m so fortunate and truly grateful, that even with these “seasons” of sickness, my kids are generally in great health. I have nothing but respect for those parents who walk through chronic illness with their children.
I’m a creature of habit: a non-type A person who actually thrives in a routine. I know it sounds strange, but I’m actually MORE creative when I have a plan for the day. Not a plan for every minute or hour, but an idea of what things need to take time; morning, afternoon and evening. For years I was so resistant to planners and digital calendars. Now they are my trusted companions.
So, when life throws me a major curve ball I find my tendency is to throw it all out! Forget about meal planning, exercise, juicing, etc, etc, etc. And then I beat myself up for abandoning “THE PLAN.” You know what… SOMETIMES THAT’S WHAT’S NEEDED!
–Sometimes I need to stop everything, order some carryout and snuggle my boy.
–Sometimes I need to realize I haven’t slept through the night in weeks and though going for a run may temporarily clear my head, the toll on my body may not be ideal.
–Sometimes getting a sweat on is just what the doctor ordered!
-Sometimes a big, green smoothie can cure a multitude of ailments.
Being healthy means sometimes letting go of all the expectations and taking a moment to back off the routine and just sit, relax, heal, and reevaluate. A mandatory, unplanned week at home is one of the best things for me to clear my head and reset. Unfortunately, this usually only happens when someone is home sick. How sad.
So for this week, I’m snuggling my rosy-cheeked boy, baking sourdough biscuits, watching hours upon hours of Wild Kratts and striving to live in a place of balance and gratitude for this beautiful, messy gift of a life!
It’s upon us! That time of year that is both exhilarating and exhausting, magical and mind-spinning… you get the idea. It’s the holiday season and as I get older I realize that for too many years I’ve just barely limped through the holidays. I wanted to share a few tips that have proven helpful to me in my personal journey toward a healthy mind, body and spirit.
Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.
George F. McDougall
Okay, I won’t get too mystical here, but I do believe you can’t talk about the holidays without addressing what it “truly means” to you and your tribe. On that note, we’ll tackle SPIRIT first.
What does Christmas/ “the” holidays/ this season actually mean to you? As a Christian my season does (or should) center around celebrating the birth of Christ. In my house, we love starting out December with a daily Advent devotional, celebrating the life and times of St. Nicholas and having a big ‘ole birthday party for Jesus. And don’t worry, we still love Santa, write our letters, make our lists, check them five hundred times.
As a new mom I used to get really caught up in creating the perfect Christmas moments for my boys and EVEN WORSE the perfect post-able photos. UGH! I’m embarrassed to even type out those words. In my quest to create some magic for my family, the outcome was quite the opposite. I was run down, rushed, sleep deprived and not joyful. And forget actually taking a moment to remember Jesus.
I’m not sure when it clicked; that I was NOT a Griswald, and didn’t need to outdo the Jones’s with my Christmas displays. I could create a meaningful and very magical Christmas experience for my kids in my own way. Starting the Advent devotional was the best thing that ever happened to us. We end every evening reading a reflection and prayer about why we celebrate this season. This may not be your style or how you choose to do the holidays, but my challenge is this: FIND WHAT MAKES YOU PAUSE AND PONDER DURING THE HOLIDAYS. Maybe it’s mindfulness, gratitude, acts of service- Find. that. thing!
We’re fast approaching the date when everyone decides they’re going to be healthy…for two weeks. Groan. Let’s not hang out here.
It’s easy to get physically depleted during this time of year. We’re traveling, participating in extra parties, making some of the most delicious goodies of the whole year. I’m not here to tell you to abstain from any of those things- they’re all good.
For me all things in moderation becomes my mantra this time of year. Christmas cookies? In moderation. Wine? In moderation. But lets also add a few other good things to our list: moving our bodies, drinking water, eating lots of fresh vegetables. I wouldn’t in a million years advise anyone (or myself) to adopt any hard and fast rules about eating or fitness this time of year. I feel, in general, success comes through gradual, MODERATE changes (in most cases).
Here are my goals for the next month:
Eat a fresh, raw vegetable with every meal. YES, EVERY MEAL! For me this usually means tossing some mixed greens with a yummy infused balsamic and some olive oil for breakfast. For real, folks, breakfast salads changed my life!
Move my body every day. A brisk walk around the house, up and down the steps a few extra times, or most preferably getting myself, my kids, and our pup outside.
Focused exercise 3 times per week. This includes some intense cardio and lifting weights. You’ll be amazed what this can do for your body and your mental health!
DRINK WATER!!!! Take your body weight, cut it in half and that’s the amount of water (in ounces) you should be consuming every day. I’m taking to myself here, too! Find a cute tumbler you like, throw in some fruit slices and ice and keep refilling throughout the day
For those of us who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one or lack of the ideal family situation, the holidays can be a very tricky time of year. There are so many opportunities for these magical, card-worthy moments and I can sometimes get caught up in the lack I’m feeling. Now-a-days I feel the sting when I attend my kid’s Christmas programs. All of the grandparents proudly sporting their Christmas best, snapping pics of their little legacies. You see, even though my dad has been gone almost 20 years and mom and step-dad are amazing grands, I still can’t help but remember my own proud father at these productions and how much he would have adored attending every one now. The potential to circle the drain is so strong.
And here is where I make a choice. A sometimes-harder-than-others choice. I choose to remember my dad, my grandparents and other loved ones who’ve passed and how they celebrated Christmas. I choose to make my Granny’s gingerbread or try (with much failure) to ice skate backwards while holding my kids’ hands, like my dad did for me. I talk about these people with my kids A LOT. I share favorite memories and look at photos. MOST OF ALL, I honor them by NOT sinking into despair or feeling like I’ve been robbed of something. I honor them by CHOOSING JOY DURING THE HOLIDAYS!
So maybe your holiday angst doesn’t come from this same sort of loss, but something you’re longing for or waiting for. Make a choice to acknowledge those feelings without letting them be the focus or driving force of your holiday. Give voice and name to those feelings (don’t ignore) but don’t hang out with them. Put yourself in a better position this year. Maybe that means changing up your traditions; serving at a feeding center, not going into debt to purchase gifts, inviting someone new into your celebrations. Just think about it and make a better choice.
Now for something a little more light-hearted, head over to my recipes page where I’ve shared my Granny’s gingerbread with a few tweaks of my own!
How’s your relationship with social media? Does it make you better? Does it lift you up? If you’re anything like me you’ve found a lot of good out there: tips on how to make life easier, healthier, simpler, more exciting! But you’ve probably also found some bad: trolls, political divisiveness, picture-perfect people that make you feel so small. And while I can CHOOSE to pass on social media, unfollow the bad and try not to compare myself to the perfect, it’s still out there… in the world!
I keep stumbling across and fighting against this need to curate the life I put out for everyone to see. Whether it’s on social media or in front of peers at my kids’ schools, this perceived need to portray myself as something (good-competent- capable-etc) is strong. I sometimes even find myself trying to do this with the people who know me best; my husband, family, even God. Why is it so hard to be vulnerable?
For me it two-fold: FEAR and PRIDE. I’m AFRAID people might see the real me and not approve. I’m too PROUD to allow that to happen. It’s a terrible way to live. It robs me of true connection in relationships and even keeps me from seeing growth opportunities for myself and taking them.
I follow some really amazing people on social media who do a phenomenal job of laying it all out there. A lot of them are SO real it sometimes rubs me the wrong way. And sometimes, even when it looks a lot different from my way of life, it’s incredibly refreshing! One friend is so real in her struggles and finding strength in her faith it’s challenging, refreshing and makes me feel I know her better (and she’s a friend in the tangible world, too)!
So here’s my challenge to you and to myself: Let’s get real! Let’s put useful, beautiful, creative things out there in the world. BUT, let’s also let our freak flags fly! Let the struggle show, let the mundane show, let the need show. That way we can use this incredible platform of instant communication to benefit each other. Isn’t that really the most beautiful thing of all?
P.S. I’ve got a really yummy healthy swap recipe coming your way just in time for the holidays!