Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekly Meal Prep

I have been planning meals for a long time, and I have found that when I plan, life goes a lot more smoothly. While I have planned meals for years, I used to only write out a menu and a grocery list, go shopping, but did little actual prepping and cooking on the weekend.

When I did the Conscious Cleanse in January, I quickly realized the benefits of having plenty of prepared food in the fridge. Since there are no processed foods on the cleanse and there are also certain foods you can’t eat, it’s essential to have foods that you can grab when you get hungry.

After I finished the cleanse, I continued to prep a lot of food ahead of time, and I always strive to have several veggies, fruits, and proteins ready to eat. I pack some of them for lunches, and we also eat the prepared food for dinner but assemble them in different ways.

I usually prep food for about three days on Sunday, and on Wednesday I make more.

One tool I find very helpful is using the slow cooker. While I go to the Farmers’ Market and prep other food, it’s great to have a healthy meal cooking all by itself. This week I cooked black beans (I’m trying to use fewer canned beans), and last week I made beef stew. While I could put the meal in the slow cooker during the week before I go to work, I like to do it on Sunday and then clean up everything. Plus, that way there are more options for lunches, snacks and dinner.

I have found that since I started doing a lot more precooking on Sundays, we are eating a lot better because we eat a lot less processed “snack foods,” such as crackers and cheese. Snacks are fruits, veggies, nuts or a small serving of a protein and vegetables. If I have healthy foods to eat, I always eat those and not other foods. It’s not that difficult to cut up a melon or some veggies, but sometimes it seems like a big chore when you get home hungry. It’s nice to always have something ready to eat.

Also, the foods that I prep/precook can be used for all different kinds of meals, and I often eat them differently than hubby and the kid. For example, I’ll mix the beans with the ground beef with some added spices and veggies. Hubby and the kids will have them with some quesadillas.

Here is what I prepped for the beginning of this week:

Meal Planning 929
  • Honeydew
  • Grapes
  • Veggie bags (cucumber slices, carrots, bell pepper slices, and celery sticks)
  • Hummus
  • Spiced black beans (cooked in the slow cooker – I washed and sorted the beans (to removed small stones, etc.)  and then soaked them overnight. Then I used 2.5 times the amount of water to dried beans (in cups), a chopped onion, 1 teaspoon salt and Tabasco each and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cardamom, turmeric, red curry, and cumin each and cooked everything on high for 4.5 hours.)
  • Ground beef sautéed with onions, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, and celery
  • Purple rice
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Roasted veggies (asparagus, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes)
And here is an Instragram photo from our nature walk on Saturday. It was a beautiful day, and we really enjoyed getting some exercise together.
Nature Walk Instagram

And here is some playground fun. I worked on my arm strength a bit myself on the monkey bars and realized that I have to get a bit more serious about weight lifting again…

Playground Fun 02Playground Fun 04Playground Fun 01Playground Fun 03

Questions: Do you meal plan? Do you prep and/or pre-cook meals on the weekend? What’s your favorite tip to keep you organized when it comes to weekday meals? What was the highlight of your weekend? 

Be well,
Andrea

Monday, September 23, 2013

Risotto and Sticking to Your Routine

I remember making risotto for the first time almost 20 years ago. The recipe called for saffron, and I discovered what an expensive spice saffron is. I had high expectation for the dish but unfortunately was quite disappointed. Looking back, maybe my expectations were just too high… Unfortunately, I have pretty much stayed away from making risotto myself ever since.

When I received Nicole’s cookbook - Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking: 100 Light and Delicious Recipes to Promote Energy, Weight Loss, and Well-Being - the risotto stood out right away because Nicole stated it was her husband’s favorite dish. Plus, it has asparagus and mushrooms, which I love. I therefore knew that I had to make it. It was time to have a risotto success story!

The publisher gave me permission to share the recipe with you. The recipe is not difficult but a bit more time consuming as you’ll have to add liquid and stir the risotto while it’s cooking. The outcome is a creamy, very tasty risotto. We can definitely see why Mr. Prevention RD likes the dish so much.



Sticking To Your Routine When Life Gets Tough

Life has been challenging lately, and I am once again reminded of the importance of taking care of myself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and let go of healthy habits in difficult times. Yet especially during a tough time, it’s important to continue to go on my walks (I’m averaging 11,000 steps, over 5 miles daily according to my Fitbit), practice yoga, do sprints a few days a week, and do some strength training.

Sticking to my routine always makes me feel better. Cooking a healthy meal and enjoying it as a family is soothing, and I am so very, very thankful for our time together.

Living a healthy life is about so much more than how your clothes fit or how well you perform certain athletic moves. It’s about setting yourself up to be able to deal with whatever life throws at you the best you can. Things can change so quickly. But if you have a system in place, you can continue to prepare and eat healthy meals and feel as good as possible.

On a happier note, the older kid spent the weekend with us, and we enjoyed a special breakfast on Saturday. Excuse the messy hair! Smile



Questions: Do you like risotto? Do you make it yourself? Feel free to link to your favorite risotto recipe in the comments. What was the highlight of your weekend? It was nice to spend quality time with all my boys.

Be well,
Andrea

[Disclaimer: I received Nicole’s cookbook for free from the publisher but all opinions are my own.]

Monday, September 16, 2013

Squash & Tomato Soup and Instagram

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I made a squash/tomato soup with a giant homegrown squash and some tomatoes over the weekend.

Squash and tomatoes

I just signed up for Instagram on Friday night, and I love it. To be honest, I had no idea that Instagram was available for Android phones (after being jealous of people with iphones for years) until the older kid asked me to follow him. Apparently, it’s been available for Android phones for a while… Sometimes it seems like I live under a rock…

Anyway, the soup was very simple but tasty and smelled wonderful. The kid actually asked if we were having pizza.

Tomato Squash Soup 

Ingredients
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 6 small tomatoes, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 giant squash, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • olive oil
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 2 minutes
  2. Next add the garlic, tomatoes, and squash and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, oregano and thyme and let cook for 20 – 25 minutes, until the squash is very soft.
  4. Puree the soup with an immersion blender.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The highlight of the weekend was that Jenn from Girl Heroes and Newschool Nomads came over with her family for dinner on Friday night. They are traveling across the U.S. in an RV and are homeschooling their two boys. I have been reading Jenn’s blog for years and met her in real life two years ago when they were just starting their journey. We had a great time, and I am very glad that we got to hang out.


Another exciting event of the weekend was that the kid started Korean school. I’m very excited that he is going to learn more Korean as well as about Korean culture. Here is another Instagram photo. Yes, I’m pretty much obsessed and have to keep myself from constantly posting things… Smile

Korean school

Questions: Do you use Instagram? If so you do you like it? If you do use Instagram, leave me your user name in the comments so that I can follow you (if you want). What was the highlight of you weekend? 

Be well,
Andrea

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Weekend Fun and a New Cookbook

It was very hot this past weekend, so we decided to skip soccer practice on Saturday and instead headed to the beach. We left early and therefore avoided the traffic.


On the way, we stopped to get some treats at a bakery. I wasn’t going to get anything, but when I saw that they had wheat free blueberry/white chocolate cookies and overheard someone say it was her favorite cookie, I decided to have one. It was my first cookie (or anything baked for that matter) since January, and it was amazing - moist and not very sweet. Hubby and the kid loved the cookie, too, and I now want to recreate that cookie at home, which is very unlikely since I am not a baker at all. 


However, I experimented and made a few almond meal/chocolate chip cookies on Sunday, and they were approved by the boys despite having very little added sugar. So my plan is to experiment with that recipe and hopefully come up with a good blueberry/white chocolate cookie.

While I don’t think cookies, even healthier ones, should be a regular part of a diet, I would like to have a good, pretty healthy go-to cookie recipe to make once in a while. And if the recipe is gluten-free and I can taste one occasionally that would be even better.

New Cookbook

Over the weekend, I also got a new cookbook, Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking: 100 Light and Delicious Recipes to Promote Energy, Weight Loss, and Well-Being, in the mail from Skyhorse Publishing. I was very excited to check it out as it is written by Nicole of the Prevention RD blog.


Nicole and I started blogging around the same time, back in 2009, and I have read her blog since. I also got to meet her a few times, once when she was at a conference in the area and also at the FoodBuzz Festival several years ago.

Nicole 01Nicole 02

One thing that stands out in the book are the beautiful photos of all the dishes. The recipes sound uncomplicated, interesting, and there is certainly something for everyone.


One very neat future are the labels that are used to mark recipes. For example, it’s very easy to find the gluten-free recipes which I want to try most.



Each recipe is also accompanied by a little note from Nicole, which I enjoy reading very much. In the notes, she shares shopping tips, fun facts, nutrition highlights/comments, cooking tips, who in her life loves the recipe and more.

Over the next weeks, I will try out some of the recipes. I was given permission to share one or two of the recipes with you. So stay tuned for a recipe or two from Nicole’s new cookbook. By the way, the cookbook was just released in August, and Nicole is already busily working on cookbook number two! Way to go, Nicole!

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? Do you like reading cookbooks? I love reading cookbooks even though I very rarely make anything from a cookbook. I know that sounds weird, but I truly enjoy reading the ingredient lists and instructions as well as any anecdotes or side notes. And while I seldom make a recipe, I certainly find inspirations for the dishes I do make, which I usually just make up as I shop for ingredients and then put together when I cook. I also love beautiful cookbooks with gorgeous photos. It’s a pleasure just looking through Nicole’s book. Do you have any healthy, gluten-free white chocolate/fruit cookie recipes you would like to share?

Be well,
Andrea

[Disclaimer: I received Nicole’s cookbook for free from the publisher but all opinions are my own.]

Friday, September 6, 2013

5 Ways to Clean Up Your Eating for Fall

Another Conscious Cleanse starts on September 9. Registration is closed, but even if you aren’t doing an official cleanse, here are some things I do when I feel it’s time to clean things up a bit (many of them I learned by doing the Conscious Cleanse twice and from reading the The Conscious Cleanse book):

  • Start each day with 32 ounces of warm lemon water. I squeeze the juice of one lemon into the water. If you like your water less “lemony,” you can use the juice of half a lemon. I feel so much better when I start the day with lots of water.
  • Have a green smoothie for breakfast most days. Here is my favorite smoothie combo: 1 small banana (or 1/2) banana, lots and lots of spinach (I really pack my big blender full with it), 2 Tbs hemp seeds, 1.5 cups water, a little stevia (optional), some frozen mango, strawberries, and peaches (I buy an organic mix at Costco). While this is my favorite combo, I make sure to rotate my greens on a regular basis. Other greens I often use are Swiss chard, beet greens, and kale.
  • Make veggies the main part of every meal. This starts at breakfast with lots of greens. For all the other meals, I fill up my plate with veggies and add some protein or grains as “garnish.” In addition to salads and raw veggies, veggie soups, veggie stews, and veggie casseroles are great ways to eat lots of veggies in the fall. Great dips for raw veggies are homemade hummus, guacamole, and salsa.
  • Cut out added sugar. This includes condiments, such as organic ketchup. I always have to work on this one. A great sweet treat is one date.
  • Limit (or eliminate) processed foods as much as possible. The more I plan, the better I am at this.
Questions: What’s one food/drink choice you think you could/should clean up? What’s your favorite fall veggie? I’m definitely looking forward to all the fall/winter squashes.

Be well,
Andrea

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Free Yoga Classes

I took my first yoga class about 15 years ago. At the time, I went every Saturday at the gym I belonged to as I felt it was “good for me” and something I “should do.” However, I didn’t love it. When I wasn’t able to go to the class anymore, I didn’t really miss it. A few years later, I bought some yoga DVDs and practiced once in a while to “mix up my workouts.” I also took classes here and there at studios in the area when there were specials or Groupons, but I never really found a studio that felt “right.” That changed in April when a friend introduced me to a wonderful studio.

Yoga 2Yoga 1

I got a 14 day pass for $20 and then purchased a six-month membership when they had a great sale. Every class I have gone to was good and most were amazing. Yoga has become a big part of my life. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get another membership once my current one ends, but I plan on still taking some classes there. I think getting feedback and adjustments is critical when you learn new poses or advance in your practice, so I definitely want to go to some classes at the studio. But it won’t be as often as I ideally would like to go.

While I know enough to put together my own practice, I enjoy being led through poses. Fortunately, there are some free (or cheap) yoga classes. Here is what I found:

Lululemon: Lululemon stores typically offer at least one free yoga class per week. Classes are usually led by local yoga teachers from various studios in the area. I have taken several classes at my local Lululemon store, and I liked most of them a lot. To find a class near you, go to the website and find your local store. From there, check the calendar for their current schedule. Sometimes Lululemon stores also partner up with local studios and offer free classes at studios. You usually have to pick up a pass at the Lululemon store to attend the class for free.

Athleta: Athleta stores also offer yoga classes in their stores. Again, go to the website, find your local store and check out the calendar. I have never taken a class at an Athleta store, but the classes are also led by local yoga teachers and sound good, and I plan to check one out soon.

YogaGlo video classes via the Athleta website: There are currently three free classes.

Yogadownload.com: Yogadownload offers a number of free classes. There are some video classes as well as audio classes with downloadable pose guides. A paid membership offers you a large number of classes, ranging widely in style, difficulty level, and duration. I previously purchased a Living Social deal for a three-month membership with 15 free downloads and unlimited videos to stream, and I really enjoyed it. It’s an affordable way to do yoga at home.

Hulu.com: Hulu offers numerous yoga videos, including several beginners videos. Hulu Plus has an even larger variety.

I also looked into apps for my Kindle and phone, but, unfortunately, the yoga apps for Android phones that I found weren’t that great.

Questions: Do you like yoga? Do you practice at a studio or at home? Any tips for free or cheap yoga classes/apps/etc.? Did you have a nice weekend? What was the highlight?

Be well,
Andrea