Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dear Parent, You Need to Put YOU First...

Now from the title I feel the backlash coming... the sacrifice you accept when you become a parent, your husband should be first, God should be first, etc... and although I appreciate the quick, harsh comments without reading what I say other than the title, please read on... and feel free to disagree at that point, I disagree that the previously stated things that should be first, so let's agree to disagree and move on with life. :)


Dear Parent,

For most people, and I assume you, there are three main priorities as an adult after children: Family, Work, Health. (Priorities being different from the responsibilities everyone has- like laundry and cooking.) We tend to put them in the previously stated order, and that is what I am urging you to change. I hear it all the time, mostly from my friends and their co-workers- you are far too busy taking kids here and there, making dinner, doing laundry, caring for everyone, etc. that you therefore eat McDonalds on the way to work, after all the drop-offs of course, and spend time on the internet perusing the latest diets, pills, wraps, supplements, whatever, that will waste your money and not get you any closer to where you were before kids...and get judgement from these oh-so-lucky CrossFitting people who, while not having kids, are going to the gym daily. I hear it in my mom-group... women who have "lost themselves" after having kids...they are stuck in a body and lifestyle they don't recognize and don't know how to start again...
Here's how. You need to put YOU before your family. YOU need to be a priority. Selfish? Let me explain...
First of all, I am by no means saying that in a dangerous situation you should not take a bullet for your child or protect them from harm. I am also not saying that you should abandon your home and work priorities and do whatever you want all the time- skip your kid's baseball game to go to the gym- etc- that is misinterpretation of "putting yourself first." I am saying, on a weekly basis, you need to rearrange your priorities to allow, and honestly demand, that you get 20-30 minutes of exercise minimum a few days a week, and have time to prepare and eat something not frozen, from a box, or from take-out. If you can't manage that with your partner so you can be alone, have your kids be a part of it... some days may go better than others with stopping to give snacks and getting in less time and whatnot, but either way I know you can do it... your health needs to be first. Am I suggesting you drop everything you are doing and join the local CrossFit box and immediately start a Whole30 challenge? No. (Although honestly I for one would definitely recommend CrossFit as a great way to get in and out of the gym in an hour or less with a whole-body weight-training-cardio workout, meet great people... but that's neither here nor there :) What I am saying is that priorities need to be rearranged- Health, Family, Work. It is amazing what we have time for when we make it a priority- for example that weekly TV show you never miss.
Usually people tell me that their family is first, that is the sacrifice you make when you become a parent, correct? Well when you put everyone before you, let your health fall last, what does your future look like? My grandparents, all of them, were deceased before I finished my sophomore year of high school, one dying at 51 years old before I had the chance to know an apparently great man... If your health deteriorates, or you die prematurely, you are not what you wanted to be for your family you sacrificed so much for. I am going to go out on a limb here, but I assume you want to be around to see your grandchildren, and possibly great-grandchildren, therefore, you need to be alive. But I want you to go further, better than just being alive, don't you want to be able to get up and down off the floor with those grandchildren, play with them, go to their events, etc.? I bet you do.
My Mom with Charlie at the Gym

The second major reason you need to put you first is for your mental health. Arguably as important as your physical health. I have noticed (and my husband would agree) that I am a much better wife, mother and teacher when I have worked out. My mood feels stabilized, I have more patience, I am less stressed and I have more energy. Research has repeatedly shown a positive correlation between fitness and increased mental health. When I was a single parent, and now watching my brother go through something similar, it is mentally fatiguing to never get a break. FYI- Work is not a break. There is no partner to relieve you at the end of the day, share the house work with and that is so exhausting. There is so much to be said about the reset you get mentally from just a little bit of time to yourself- a good sweat on a long run, uninterrupted, a relaxing stretch at yoga, whatever it is you like. You owe yourself and your kids that, to be the best you mentally.
Speaking of the children, the third main reason you should be first is the precedent we set for them. When you are pregnant the main thing you want is a healthy baby. We want our children to grow up smart, healthy, and happy. Setting the example that exercise is important, the goal setting, lack of quit, and healthy eating that usually goes along with it is equally as important. It is easier to teach by example, so be the example. I remember growing up watching my parents train for marathons, watching my Uncles and Aunts get ready for annual road races... and that sticks with you. I fail to understand how we want our kids to be healthy, but then step aside, still saying that to them, and allow ourselves to fall apart.
Now I know I fall on the extreme side of things... I work out quite a bit and it is easy for a fit person to judge others- I only have one kid so people tell me "just wait"... but I will say something I have said many times- you really don't know how good you can feel until you really feel good- and I won't let that go. Will I continue to train as much, get up at 4:30am to not miss a day, keep competing? Maybe not. But I will keep my health a priority because I owe that to my family, and so do you.

Love,
Me

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Road Trip Snacks- Granola and Blueberry Muffins

Matt and I just returned from spending a few days on a houseboat in Kentucky and are gearing up for a camping trip in Northern Michigan- what that means is a lot of time in the car! I am a fan of packing my own snacks and only stopping when necessary. Since we had limited fridge space on the boat, and won't have anything to keep things cold besides a cooler while we are camping, it was time to get snacks ready for roadtripping! 

Now that I have shifted away from a Paleo diet, I have been working on a new granola involving less expensive ingredients, like oats, and clumped together more like the kinds you can buy- and this one is one of the best I have ever made. I have always been a fan of making my own granola because 1) it is easy and 2) it is so darn expensive at the store. Do yourself a favor and make your own!


Easy Granola

- 2 Cups Quick-Cooking Oats
- 1/3 Cup Blanched, Sliced Almonds (or any nut chopped fairly small)
- 1/3 Cup Peanut Butter  (If you are going with a "natural" one or a nut/seed butter, pick a thick, non-runny kind)
- 1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Pinch of Salt
- Heavy Sprinkle (1/4- 1/2 tsp) of Cinnamon or Pumpkin Pie Spice

Preheat Oven to 325 degrees

1. Mix together the oats, almonds, salt and spices in a bowl. Melt the peanut butter, vanilla and maple syrup until smooth.
2. Add the PB mixture to the oat mixture and try to cover all the pieces. Spread onto a parchment-lined, or greased, baking sheet and press down slightly with your hands or spatula so it sticks together, this makes for bigger pieces of granola.
3. Bake 18-20 minutes. At the half-way point, turn the granola in large sections if possible and press it together again. Take it out when it is slightly browned, it burns quickly and hardens as it cools so don't walk away! Once it has completely cooled, break it into pieces. I store mine in mason jars.

Kodiak Cake Blueberry Muffins

(Makes 12 muffins)
Kodiak mix is a higher protein, lower carb, "pancake and waffle" flour that is awesome for a variety of recipes, including the donuts I posted about a few weeks ago. It is available at pretty much every grocery store near me now, and even at Costco! It is found near the Bisquick and other pancake powders. I use the higher protein blend. These muffins are not super sweet, which I prefer, but are perfect on the road and easy for Charlie to help me make. 

 - 2 Cups Kodiak Power Cake Mix
- 1 Cup Milk
- 1 Egg
- 1/3 Cup Coconut Sugar (or brown or refined or any kind)
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 1 Cup Fresh or Frozen Blueberries
- Pinch of Salt

Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. Fill a greased or lined muffin tray- they might be close to full and thats ok. Bake 18-20 minutes and remove from the pan for cooling. 

Nutrition Facts
Servings 12.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 111
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 1 g2 %
Saturated Fat 0 g1 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 2 mg1 %
Sodium 141 mg6 %
Potassium 50 mg1 %
Total Carbohydrate 11 g37 %
Dietary Fiber 3 g14 %
Sugars 8 g
Protein 6 g11 %
Vitamin A0 %
Vitamin C2 %
Calcium6 %
Iron3 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On the Grill! Fajitas, Kabobs and Salmon

I am officially off for summer! Woohoo! Near the end of the school year I always feel a little beat-up, as do most teachers I am sure. If you aren't a teacher, you might know the feeling when your kids go to school in the Fall and you can take a deep breath because you are ready to have a break from them even though you love them... that's the feeling teachers get at the end of the school year. 160 kids, ages 16-18, and usually their parents, needing something from you to the point that the 6 minute passing time doesn't allow you to pee, therefore you don't drink water even though you are pregnant and need to, gets old. It was a rough school year for me emotionally as well... losing a baby, being pregnant pretty much the entire time, I am exhausted mentally trying to keep that out of my mind as I teach and be the positive, supporting and motivating seniors who have checked out. Just as I was losing it in my final days I had a former student come and bring me a cake and a hug... she is someone who was super quiet, but so nice, and who I honestly had no idea I had impacted. 

Followed the next day by a current student, again, who I had no idea even cared for me, dropping off a note expressing his gratitude toward my teaching style and personality. That's what makes the year. It makes every shitty day feel a whole lot better. It reminds me that teaching is so much more than content. I don't know if it's the hormones or what, but a note, a hug, things that might not mean a lot to them, meant so much to me. 

PS- Jelly is perfect with cake and ice cream. Don't judge until you try it. 

I am now a stay-at-home-mom until August, I don't get paid or thanked, but man am I excited for some little things this brings, aside from time with my child. I am excited to not grocery shop with everyone and their aunt, uncle, grandma, and 85 children on Sundays. I am also excited to go to the gym or workout in the morning so I can have a less stressed evening where I cook a dinner that is not leftovers or prepped on Sundays. Don't get me wrong, meal prep for me is essential to keeping healthy and my life moving smoothly during the week, but gosh is it nice to not have to do it for 10 weeks and get my Sunday afternoon back. This week is all about the grill... it gets hot in the kitchen, Charlie wants to play outside, and it is so nice to not make my kitchen a mess. This week I went with some favorites that are easy and family friendly- well maybe for our family since Charlie eats peppers, asparagus, fish, etc. :) If I put pineapple and rice with anything she will eat it so that's a win!

Fajitas

These were actually made the last week of school. We did the chicken on the grill with the rest of the chicken for the week, seasoning it with cumin, garlic powder, salt, paprika, chili powder, and pepper. The same things I would put in taco seasoning- you could of course buy taco seasoning or fajita mix, but this is healthier and just as easy. I make a batch and keep it in a jar in my cupboard... recipe found here- Taco Seasoning.

- 3-4 Chicken Breasts (about 3 lbs)
- 2-3 Tbsp Taco Seasoning (see homemade recipe here or wing it)
- 4 Bell Peppers, any color
- 1 Sweet Onion

Fajita toppings!
- cheese
- salsa
- lettuce
- tortillas
- black beans
- rice
- lime juice

As mentioned above, the chicken was sprinkled with seasoning (about 1 Tbsp.) and grilled. Then cut into thin strips.
When we were ready to have fajitas I sliced the peppers and onion into thin strips and put them in a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. I sprinkled them with seasoning and added the chicken. Cooking 7-10 minutes total until everything was warm, cooked and flavors were together. :) Enjoy!

Sweet and Salty Marinated Salmon

The great thing about fish is it doesn't need to marinate for very long! I put this together when I got home and 2 hours later we were ready for the grill. The sugar makes a delicious almost crust on the salmon... we ate it with grilled asparagus and rice. I used the lemon pepper and garlic powder on the asparagus as well.

- 2-ish lbs (1-2 filets) Skin-on, Wild-caught Salmon (look for it at Costco!)
- 1/3 Cup Coconut Aminos (or soy sauce)
- 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar (or coconut sugar or honey or plain sugar)
- 1/3 Cup Water
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 2 tsp Garlic Salt
- 2 tsp Lemon Pepper

1. Rub the salmon filets with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Add the remaining ingredients to a zip lock bag or bowl and add salmon tossing to coat. Let it marinate 1-2 hours in the fridge.
2. When you are ready, preheat the grill and cook the salmon, preferably on foil or a fish screen, skin side down, until it is sightly firm to the touch in the thickest part.

Chicken Kabobs

Charlie was a big help making these. She was not a fan of touching the chicken, which I don't blame her, so she did purely vegetable ones.

- 2 lbs Chicken Breasts, cut into 1" pieces
- 4 Bell Pepper, cut into 1" pieces
- 1 Sweet Onion, quartered and pulled apart
- 1 Pineapple, cut into large, 1"+ pieces

Add everything to skewers and grill! I sprinkled mine with Penzey's Salt Free Murals of Flavor- but anything involved garlic, salt, pepper, etc. would be delicious!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fast Dinners that were family hits- Mongolian Beef and Broccoli, Chicken Fried Rice, Thai Chicken Stir-Fry

 The end of the school year is upon us! While I have been criticized for being excited because it apparently takes away from my enthusiasm in the classroom I beg to differ. Wouldn't you be excited to spend the summer with your own child instead of 160 of other people's children every day? The same people that criticize me and my profession will be the ones celebrating when they send their kids back to me in the Fall... just saying. Oh you don't want to spend all day with them but you want me to? Awesome. :) In all seriousness I do love my job or else I wouldn't do it- especially with the pay/benefit cuts I have taken, pension issues, increasing class sizes and demands on me, etc.- it is just time to re-group and re-charge, focus on my family, take a break and come back ready to go again. Charlie and I started celebrating early by eating all the cookies in the house.... :) 

My food prep on Sundays is coming to an end with the school year and it has become incredible simple. Wondering how to start or how I do it? I make a list with Matt either Saturday night or Sunday morning- what are the 3-4-ish things we making for dinners/lunches? What needs replacing in the pantry? Etc. I grocery shop early on Sunday, 7-8am, because there are no crowds and we are awake anyway. 



The actual prepping takes 1-3 hours depending on what's being made- and that's not all hands on time. Matt usually mans the grill and will cook all of the meat, I throw things in the crockpot, get things in the oven and set timers. Charlie can easily help with this process, even though it makes things slower. Then lunches go in portions and containers as stuff is ready, dinners get put tupperware to be heated later and we are done!


Carrot Cake Muffins- this week's sweet treat

Staples made every week- roasted sweet potatoes for lunch and breakfast, rice, grilled chicken (8+ breasts)

Dinners this week I decided to make at night and they were hits with Matt and Charlie. She pretty much likes anything with soy sauce and rice so that's a great place to start for us. 


Chicken Fried Rice

Lots of options here- the quickest thing is to not cut more than you have to- so chicken prepped for cooking on your prep day and omitting everything else or using dried/powdered spices. Charlie loves peas and corn so we add a lot of that- if your family doesn't, then omit them... this is also fantastic with pineapple tid-bits if you have those in the pantry! 

- 2 Tbsp Oil (I recommend Sesame or Avocado)
- 3 Cups Cooked Rice, using day-old+, cold rice is best
- 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut in 1/2" pieces
- 1/2 Sweet Onion, minced (Charlie HATES onion so we leave it out)
- 1/2-1 Cup Frozen Peas
- 2 Carrots, peeled and small dice
- 1/2-1 Cup Frozen Corn
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 Cup Coconut Aminos (or Soy Sauce)
- 1/2 tsp Fresh Grated Ginger (optional)
- 1 Garlic Clove, minced (optional)
- Siracha (optional)
- 2 Green Onions (optional)

1. In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil. Add the chicken and cook through. Remove from the pan. 
2. Add the remaining oil, onion (if using) and carrot. Saute until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir frequently. Make a "well" and add the eggs. Once the eggs are cooked, stir everything together, add the chicken back, the soy sauce, peas and corn (and anything else you are adding). Toss. 
When everything is combined and heated through, turn off the heat and enjoy. :)  

Mongolian Beef and Broccoli 

-2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons oil (sesame or olive)
- 1 teaspoon Fresh Ginger, grated
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 cup Coconut Aminos (or soy sauce low sodium is best)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1.5 lb flank steak (or skirt steak)
- 1/3 cup Arrowroot Powder (or cornstarch)
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 2 Cups Broccoli Crowns
- 2 Carrots, peeled with a vegetable peeler* optional                     
- 1 Small Onion, thinly sliced* optional 

1. Slice the flank steak into 1/4" slices, against the grain, and toss with arrowroot (or cornstarch). Gently shake off any excess.
2. Place 1 tablespoon at a time of oil in a pan or wok and heat over medium-high heat. Cook the beef in small batches for about 2 minutes until browned (It doesn't need to cook all of the way through, it will cook completely when combined with the sauce). Remove the steak from the pan.                      

3. Heat remaining oil over medium low. Add ginger and garlic and stir just until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the vegetables and turn the heat back up to medium high. Cook 3-5. Add soy sauce, water and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Let boil 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
4. Add the beef back and toss to combine with the sauce and heat over medium until hot and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in green onions. Serve over rice. 

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry 

Not the prettiest, but it sure was tasty! This was the only one Charlie was not a fan of, too spicy and she hates noodles... but Matt and I liked it! 

- 1 Package Pad-Thai Noodles (usually 12-14oz)
- 1/4 Cup Coconut Aminos (or soy sauce)
- 1/4 Cup Water
- 2 Tbsp Honey
- 3 tsp Red Curry Paste
- 1 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar (or Apple Cider or White)
- 1 tsp Fresh, Grated Ginger
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Small, Sweet Onion Finely Diced
- 12-oz Button Mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 Carrots, chopped in a small dice
- 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- Siracha* optional
- Green Onion* optional 

1. Cook the noodle according to their directions. Whisk the coconut aminos, vinegar, water, ginger, and honey together. Set aside. 
2. In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and cook the onion, garlic and carrots until they start to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes until they soften. 
3. Add the chicken and cook through. Add the noodles and sauce, toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add the green onions and a drizzle of siracha- enjoy! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Baking Breakfast- Coconut Banana Muffins and Baked Protein Donuts

My typical breakfast is sweet potatoes I roasted on the weekend with one egg and two egg whites and broccoli... or a whole-grain English muffin with the eggs and broccoli. Both take less than 5 minutes to make and I am on my way.


On the weekends we like to mix it up, we make pancakes, sausage, waffles... and now I bought some donut pans to experiment with and Charlie and I worked on a new muffin recipe since we have so many rotten bananas. Yay!!! As I have discovered, any muffin recipe works in a donut pan, you just need to change the baking time. I bought my donut pans on Amazon for a total of $13 they are the Wilton 2105-1620 6 Cavity Nonstick Donut Pans (2 pack)- while usually I am not a fan of buying things for just one purpose, like donuts only, for the price and the fact that they don't take up that much room in the cupboard, I think these are awesome. 


Baked Protein Donuts- 

The first time I made these I used "A Big Man's World" recipe for Flourless Cinnamon Bun Breakfast Donuts- while they were good, I thought they were fairly dry and just not amazing. 


The second try I used a recipe I got from my friend Taylor and adjusted it to make 12 donuts, added some protein, and guestimated how to make her "frosting." These are awesome!

Kodiak Cake Protein Donuts

(makes 12 donuts)

Donuts:

- 3 Cups Kodiak Protein Cake Mix
- 3/4 Cup Milk
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1 Egg
- 1 Egg White
- 1/4 Cup Sugar (or sweetener of your choice)
- 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Frosting:

- 1 Scoop Chocolate Whey Protein Powder
- 1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips, melted
- Water or Milk to thin out
- Sprinkles, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

1. Mix all of the donut ingredients together in a medium bowl. Using a spoon, or just fixing the donuts in the pan after you pour the batter, evenly fill 12, greased, donut molds. Tap the pan on the counter when you are done to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 7-9 minutes until they spring back when you lightly touch them. Let them cool completely before frosting.

2. Frosting- work fast! Lesson learned my first time! I melted my chocolate with a bit of milk in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Pour into the protein powder... thin out with more milk or water (if needed) until a thick, smooth, frosting is formed. Dip each donut in the frosting and let it dry on a cooling rack. The frosting will harden as it cools. 

Including frosting:
Nutrition Facts
Servings 12.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 187
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5 g7 %
Saturated Fat 2 g10 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 32 mg11 %
Sodium 233 mg10 %
Potassium 55 mg2 %
Total Carbohydrate 26 g9 %
Dietary Fiber 3 g13 %
Sugars 12 g
Protein 11 g22 %
Vitamin A1 %
Vitamin C0 %
Calcium5 %
Iron5 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Coconut Banana Muffins

(Makes 12 Muffins)

One of the great things about muffins is that Charlie can help me... and she loves them... and now breakfast or snack is done for the next few days as long as I can keep Matt away from them.

- 1 1/4 Cup All-purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder (aluminum free)
- pinch of salt
- 2 Rotten Bananas, mashed
- 1/2 Cup Melted Coconut Oil
- 2/3 Cup Coconut Sugar (or regular)
- 1 Egg
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 1 1/2 Cups Shredded, Unsweetened Coconut, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees

1. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the banana, coconut oil, sugar, egg and vanilla, whisk again until smooth. Fold in 1 cup of the coconut. 
2. Using a non-stick muffin pan (I LOVE my Sur la Table ones) or grease a muffin pan... divide the batter evenly. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of coconut. Bake for 20-23 minutes until the top spring back when you lightly touch it, or a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 
Let them cool slightly before enjoying :) 

Nutrition Facts
Servings 12.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 296
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 19 g30 %
Saturated Fat 16 g81 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 16 mg5 %
Sodium 28 mg1 %
Potassium 81 mg2 %
Total Carbohydrate 29 g10 %
Dietary Fiber 5 g20 %
Sugars 15 g
Protein 3 g6 %
Vitamin A1 %
Vitamin C3 %
Calcium0 %
Iron3 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.