Category Archives: Uncategorized

Monday Menu Plan: 4/16-4/22

The weather is getting warmer. Do you know what that means? I’m officially in summer food brainstorming mode. Which means grilling/picnicing/camping-friendly dishes will be infiltrating my menu plan slowly and inconspicuously for the next few weeks, building up to a hostile takeover sometime in the month of May. Get ready because once we move(!!!) and get our grill set up, it’ll be on like Donkey Kong.

sweet bean salad: my new favorite summer-friendly food obsession

Breakfasts: pancakes, quick oats, eggs & toast, fresh fruit, oatmeal smoothies

Lunches: curried chickpea salad sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, leftovers, fresh fruit and veggies

Snacks: fresh fruit and veggies, veggie straws, goldfish crackers, spinach & fruit smoothies

Dinner:

Monday
  • apple cheddar quesadillas
  • sweet bean salad
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
  • pasta with butter and parmesan
  • spinach side salad
Sunday 
What’s on your menu plan this week? Share in the comments section below! If you blog your own menu plan, leave a link so we can check it out. And if you want information on how to plan a weekly menu, click HERE.

Help Me Choose a New Pair of Eyeglasses!

I need a new pair of prescription eyeglasses. I have only one pair, and with two rambunctious young kids the reality is it’s only a matter of time before they Hulk-smash that baby into bits and pieces (yes, it’s happened before… twice).

I picked my friends’ brains over Facebook one day for an affordable source of secondary spectacles, and my brother offered up the socially responsible warbyparker.com. He said he’d seen them featured on a news report and learned that for every pair purchased they donated a pair to the less fortunate. I was intrigued by this, and checked them out. Here’s a summary of what they do (from their Facebook page):

Warby Parker sells boutique-quality prescription eyewear for $95 exclusively through our website, www.warbyparker.com, and donates a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold. Polycarbonate prescription lenses with anti-reflective and anti-scratch coatings are included in the price and we offer free shipping, free returns and free home try-ons every day.

We believe that everyone has the right to see. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world today don’t have access to proper vision care. To help address this problem, we partner with renowned non-profits, such as Restoring Vision, to deliver one pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair that we sell. In doing so, we enable you to share the gift of vision with someone who can’t see today and give them the opportunity to read, to work and to live a fuller life.

If you want to check out the whole shebang, you can click HERE and head over to their website for all the deets.

I have a diamond shaped face, which is notoriously difficult to find appropriate frames for. I sort of need to try on frames before I buy them, but I didn’t want to go to a brick and mortar shop and pay up the wazoo for new glasses (since my insurance doesn’t cover another pair for about 15 more months).  You might be thinking “Whoa! $95 isn’t exactly cheap when you could get a pair for $10 bucks”… I knew I could get a pair cheaper online, but I didn’t want to gamble my money on glasses that may or may not look good on me. And considering my last pair of glasses was over $200 after insurance, $95 doesn’t seem so bad. AND considering that someone less fortunate is gaining a needed pair of eyeglasses at my minor expense is totally worth the slightly “higher” cost.

One of my favorite things about Warby Parker that sets it apart from other online prescription eyeglass retailers is their Home Try-On program. You can order 5 pairs of frames that you’d like to try on at home (you get five days to decide, with no obligation to buy!) and it includes free shipping both ways. So that’s what I did.

Now I need your help, as I’m redonkulously indecisive about these kinds of things and it’s kind of a big deal for me to pick the right ones since they’ll be on my face every. single. day. Below are the four frames I’m stuck on – one pair was definitely a no-go, so I didn’t bother including it. Check them out, and help me decide which nerd goggles I should order! And before you say anything, I know I look kind of, um, dweeby. I’m no good at taking pictures of myself, especially in poorly lit bathrooms (or anywhere else for that matter). But I can take comfort in knowing that no matter how lame I look at least there’s no duckface action going on in my photos.

Frame #1: "Winston"

Frame #2: "Bensen"

Frame #3: "Sinclair"

Frame #4: "Preston"

Which pair of frames do you think I should choose? Let me know what gets your vote in the comments section below.

(ps- I’m not being compensated in any way for gushing about the awesomeness of Warby Parker. I just think they’re that awesome.)

In the Kitchen: Fluffy Banana Snack Cake

Banana Snack Cake

What’s a snack cake? According to Wikipedia, a “snack cake” is a cream filled, frosting topped, chemical laden baked dessert confectionery. Barf.

According to me, a snack cake is a cake that you snack on. Duh.

When my daughter came to me with a request to create something out of the pile of overripe bananas sitting on our kitchen table, my mouthful of sweet teeth rejoiced. I’ve been MEGACRAVING cake lately and a quick Google search led us to a tasty looking banana cake recipe on Allrecipes.com. Of course we all know that I can’t not tinker with an already perfect recipe, so I tweaked a few things and ended up with my newest obsession: fluffy banana snack cake.

If banana bread and cake got together and had a child, this would be it. It’s light and fluffy and perfectly bananafied. It has the flavor of banana bread without the dense, chewy texture. I ate it sans topping, but I’m sure you could slather on some cream cheese or chocolate frosting and it would make a totally passable dessert cake. I’m already dreaming of sweet little fluffy banana cupcake babies. Oh yum.

What’s your favorite way to use up overripe bananas? Share with us in the comments section below!

Yummy.

Fluffy Banana Snack Cake
(adapted from THIS recipe on Allrecipes.com)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 11″x15″ glass baking dish. In a cup mix together milk and vinegar, set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately in one third increments with the milk mixture into the sugar mixture, combining thoroughly between additions. Pour batter into prepared baking dish.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place the baking dish on a damp tea towel over a wire cooling rack. Cool at least 15 minutes before removing from the baking dish.

Tips and Tricks:

* If you don’t like whole wheat flour, you can use all AP flour (the original recipe did not call for whole wheat flour). I’m sure you can also use all whole wheat flour, but I can’t promise that the texture will be as light.

* I kind of hate the term “pinch of”. My “pinch” of salt was a two-finger pinch, I’d estimate that it was probably around 1/8 teaspoon if you’re looking for a more accurate measurement.

* I cut the brown sugar down to 1/2 cup from the original recipe’s 2/3 cup and it was still sweet. If your sweet tooth isn’t as demanding as mine, you could probably whittle down the amount of white sugar also. I’d start with 3/4 cup instead of a full 1 cup, and experiment from there.

* I used 1% milk and vinegar in lieu of the original recipe’s buttermilk. You could do buttermilk if you have it, or sour cream, yogurt, or lemon juice (in place of the vinegar) and milk.

* Toss in a handful of chopped walnuts and a dash of cinnamon for a more banana bread-y experience. Or throw some chocolate chips into the mix if you’re feeling crazy (or, you know, if you’re allergic to nuts).

* If you want to frost your cake, try cream cheese, buttercream or chocolate frosting. A sprinkle of crushed nuts on top of the frosting will give it a little bit of that rustic pizzazz.

*If you don’t have an 11″x15″ baking dish, you can use two 8 inch pans (round or square), or a 9″x13″ pan/dish. If you use a 9″x13″, you should cook it a little longer (I’d guestimate 35-40ish minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).

* Baked cakes generally freeze well. If you freeze it when it’s still warm, it should retain moisture better and you won’t end up with a dry cake upon defrosting.


Injuries and a 30 Day Shred Update: Day 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28

Last week my biggest exercising fear came true: I hurt myself. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but my husband says I probably pinched a nerve or strained a muscle while exercising. There is a dull achy pain in the middle of my back that I can ignore for the most part with the help of Motrin (or, you know, wine) but I definitely notice it when I start to slouch or turn my upper body. I’ve contemplated going to the doctor, but the frequency and intensity of the pain is starting to lessen dramatically so I think I’ll stick it out a few more days. As I write this I’m going on day 8 of no exercise, but since I have no intentions of quitting the 30 Day Shred I’m going to start easing back into it. Maybe I’ll do Level 1 for a day or two to ease into things and then pick up where I left off. I have to laugh, because a month ago I wouldn’t have considered Level 1 to be any sort of mechanism for “easing into” anything, but now that I’ve seen the darker side of the workout, I’d gladly welcome Level 1 back into my life with open arms.

How do you handle exercise-related injuries? What influences your decision to stop and rest or just keep going? Share with us in the comments section below!

Day 24: Moving on to the next level of the 30 Day Shred is always welcome after 10 days of monotony. I was all excited for change, and glad to leave those pesky plank twists and pendulum lunges behind me. After making my way through the new-to-me 25 minute session, here’s what I’ve taken away from my first day of Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred:
-Sumo/plie hops make me fear that my uterus might fall out of my body, or that I might pee myself, or all of the above. And holy wow, they make for some serious thigh burn.
-Jump squats and rockstar jumps have highlighted the fact that I have zero coordination. Also, I never knew you needed coordination just to jump in the air. Also, ouch.
Honestly, everything else was okay. I had to do the easier, modified versions of some of the moves, but overall it wasn’t horrible. I wish there were modified versions of the jumping moves, because I have serious doubts that I can tackle them for 9 more days.

Day 25: I really don’t like the jumping exercises. They’re starting to hurt my knees and today I had to stop halfway through each set of moves from the pain. I can do every other move without stopping, but damn those jumps.

Day 26: I decided to not do the jump squats and rockstar jumps anymore, instead replacing them with jumping jacks, jump ropes, high knees and/or butt kicks. I know I’m supposed to push myself past my comfort zone to see results, but the idea of potential injuries just isn’t worth it. We’ll see how it goes with my substitutions. I refuse to give up! As for the sumo/plie squats, they’re an insanely easy (albeit uncomfortable) move and the more I do them the more tolerable they become. I’m not subbing those out for anything, just crossing my fingers that they don’t destroy me. I’m still doing well with all the other moves. Some are really easy for me and some are a little challenging, but I don’t feel like I’m killing myself like with Level 2.

Day 27: It was a good day for exercise today. I mentioned in my last Shred update post that I was going to work out earlier in the day, but the 7am wake-up time took a few days of getting used to (aka I slept in a lot, oops). I managed to be up bright and early today and tackled my workout before 9, and the payoff was worth it. I didn’t drag at all throughout the workout and I had a huge excess of energy for the rest of the day. It was like I drank 10 cups of coffee, minus all the caffeine or midday crash. I’m starting to appreciate why people wake up redonkulously early to fit in a morning workout.

Day 28: Everything was going fine today, I managed to make it all the way through to the middle of circuit 3 without even pausing to catch my breath. The cardio portion of circuit 3 started and I was doing my jump ropes (in place of the rockstar jumps) when all of a sudden… OUCH. I landed from a jump and a serious pain shot right through the middle of my back. I thought maybe I landed funny so I tried to start again, but nope. It definitely was not a one time thing. I stopped right there and skipped the end of the level.

*Day 28 was on February 16. As of today’s post, I haven’t worked out since :(

If you missed the previous updates you can click on the links below to check them out:

A Few Thoughts on Exercise, and a 30 Day Shred Update (Days 1 & 2)

30 Day Shred Update: Day 3 and 4

Workout Snacks and 30 Day Shred Update: Days 5,6 and 7

30 Day Shred Update: Days 8 & 9

30 Day Shred Update: Days 10, 11 & 12

30 Day Shred Update: Days 13 & 14

30 Day Shred Update: Day 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19

Nerdy 30.

Yesterday I turned 30.

(Yes, I was born on Valentine’s Day.)

Oh, hello there.

I’m just about the lamest 30 year old ever, and I warned my husband that if I got any kind of party action he’d likely get punched in the stomach. I took comfort in knowing it would be a relaxing, comfortable day. We spent the day running errands with the kids and hitting up the library. There’s nothing like treating myself to a few good borrowed books on my big day.

Embracing my inner nerd with a few good X-Men comics.

Then I hunkered down cozily on the trusty papasan and finally finished my current book.

OMG. Total book crush.

My wonderful husband made an early dinner for the kids, engaged in birthday song shenanigans and made me a lovely salmon and asparagus dinner. To truly appreciate the dinner, you need to be filled in on a little secret. My husband totally, completely, 110% abhors fish and on a normal day will not touch it with a ten foot pole. But by golly, he cooks up the most delicious salmon I’ve ever eaten. Since it’s quite the rare beast around these parts, I take it whenever I can get it.

Sorry, no picture of dinner. I was too busy om nom nomming it up. Instead, here's a snapshot of my favorite wine which accompanied my favorite dinner.

To finish off my low-key day, I hunkered down with some chocolate cake and Breaking Dawn for a guilty pleasure ending to my happy birthday. No shame.

Chocolate mousse cake from Angela Mia in Norwalk. Holy wow, their cakes are good.

I'm totally Team Edward. Woot.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you. Happy birthday to me.

In the Kitchen: Self-Serving Snack Box Tutorial and Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

1 fruit + 2 veggies + 1 "other" = snack box success!

This is a snapshot of a typical day at our house:

(While I’m doing a load of laundry) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m scrubbing the toilet) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m exercising) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m in the bathroom, shower, or otherwise momentarily indisposed) “Mommy I’m sooo hungry!”
(While I’m washing dishes… right after breakfast/lunch/dinner) “Mommy, I’m sooo hungry I’m going to starve and die if you don’t feed me unreasonably colossal amounts of food right noooooooooooow!”

It’s enough to drive a crazy person even crazier.

I’ve approached the situation from numerous angles. Here is what I’ve tried:

  • “No” = Fail
  • “No” + trying to reason with a 3 and 4 year old that they just ate and shouldn’t be hungry = Fail
  • “At least wait until I’m off the toilet/done paying bills/have washed the bleach off my hands” = Fail
  • Allowing my children liberal access to the fridge = Fail (you’d think this would work, but they just whined that they couldn’t find anything to eat and hounded me to find them a snack)

I was ready to throw in the towel and set up a permanent residence in my kitchen, since it was becoming apparent that I wasn’t allowed to leave it lest my kids become hungry and need another snack. But in a wonderful twist of fate, I came across a photo that someone posted on Facebook of a Tupperware full of snacks. The caption indicated that they fill the Tupperware each day with a variety of healthy snacks and leave it in an accessible place in the fridge for their child to graze on throughout the day. THIS! This was the answer to my conundrum. I wish I could find the original source and give credit where credit is due, but I can’t seem to hunt it down. So to the genius who passed along this life saving idea: Thank you, you are golden.

So how do you set up a snack box for your children? First, find a non-breakable container that will hold a few assorted snacks. I used plastic food storage containers from Ikea, but you could use Tupperware, a small shoe box, brown paper bags, lunch boxes or sacks, or even those plastic takeout containers.

Next, pick snacks. I take advantage of my children’s grazing habits to fulfill the fruit and vegetable guidelines, knowing that they’re more likely to nibble on a veggie if it’s at their leisure rather than when it’s a requirement on their dinner plate. I use a “1 fruit/2 veggies/1 other” formula to decide what goes into our snack boxes. Here’s a list of possible options for creating your own snack box:

Fruit:
1/2 banana
apple or pear slices
segmented orange
grapes
berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc)
stonefruit (ie peach, plum, nectarine, etc)
2-3 prunes
applesauce
kiwi slices
dried fruit (apricots, apples, mangoes, banana chips, etc)

Vegetables:
baby carrots or carrot sticks
broccoli spears
cauliflower florets
frozen peas or green beans
kale chips
tomato slices or cherry tomatoes
celery with nut butter or cream cheese
cucumber slices

Other:
popcorn
graham crackers
1/2 muffin
goldfish or other small crackers
yogurt
granola or granola bar
veggie straws or pretzels
nuts and raisins or dried cranberries (trail mix)
roasted chickpeas
hard boiled egg
cheese cubes, slices or string cheese
rice cakes
sunflower or pumpkin seeds

*For children who are apprehensive about eating plain raw veggies, you can include something tasty for dipping:
hummus or other bean dip
guacamole
ranch dressing
cottage cheese
cream cheese or sour cream mixed with herbs
peanut butter dip
marinara sauce
salsa
yogurt
ketchup

The containers in the photo above are silicone baking cups that I picked up at Bed Bath and Beyond. They’re the perfect size for holding little people portions of food. No worries if you don’t have those, you can use little sandwich baggies or any other small food container you might have. I’ve also recently stumbled upon bento lunch boxes that would be perfect for snack boxes and eliminate the need for using individual snack containers.

You’ll want to find a spot in the fridge that is easily accessible for the kids so they can grab and go without hounding you as you’re honing your inner Grammy Award winning superstar shaving your legs in the shower. Or, you know, pooping.

Lastly, sit down with your children and tell them that if they’re hungry in between “designated feeding times” (yes I run my home like a zoo, mwuahahaha) they can help themselves to whatever is in their snack box without having to ask. Explain that they can eat that food whenever they want, but when it’s gone it’s gone. So if they eat it all by 10 in the morning they’re going to have to starve in silence until lunch, regularly scheduled snacktime and/or dinner, because they’ve been pre-warned of the consequences of overindulging. I guarantee you the first couple of times they might excitedly gobble up all those snacks faster than you can blink, and then come to you 5 minutes later with tears of hunger streaming down their cheeks, begging for more food. Don’t cave in to their wily demands. Slowly but surely they’ll learn the concept of self-regulating and only eating as much as they need to at a given moment.

Try incorporating healthy snack boxes into your daily routine if your little ones are perpetually hungry food hounds like mine. I promise you’ll start hearing less of the “H” word in no time.

On a side note, this whole snack box idea has gone over so well with the kids that I might start making one for myself. As a stay at home mom the fridge has become a regular haunt, as well as my own best friend/worst enemy. Having pre-portioned healthy snacks at my fingertips might just help keep my boredom/mindless snacking habits in check.

What healthy snacks would you fill your snack box with? Share with us in the comments section below!

30 Day Shred Update: Day 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19

Haven’t heard from me regarding exercise in awhile, huh. Were you beginning to think I’d quit shredding? If you were, think again.

It’s been a crazy week at our house. Emma, my almost-4 year old came down with croup on Wednesday and has been in a constant state of crazy for the past few days. Chris has had an on-the-fly case of the sniffles, and since maladies work on the rule of 3 in our home it was only a matter of time before I caught something (not the croup, but equally unpleasant and undoubtedly spurred on by (men divert your eyes for a moment) just having started my period. Gah).

By Saturday morning I had the inevitable “hit by a truck” feeling that no amount of hand sanitizer and luck could have prevented. I tried to power my way through a workout in the morning but I caved in the middle of warm up jumping jacks. I was too achy to go on so I hit stop on the DVD player and called it a day. I was up and running again on Sunday, but then on Monday I felt like someone hit me in the face with a brick and took another day to rest up.

I was curious about what the verdict is on exercising while sick, and found a key piece of knowledge while garnering advice from good ol’ Dr. Google. Have you ever heard of the “neck rule”? Here’s a snippet from an article on CNN.com, but I saw it mentioned in multiple other articles as well:

“Experts like to cite a rule of thumb known as the “neck rule.” If your symptoms are all located above your neck (stuffy nose, scratchy throat, headache), you almost certainly have a head cold and can hit the road or treadmill safely. If, on the other hand, you have a fever, congestion in your chest and lungs, or feel achy, it is probably a sign of flu, bronchitis, or another more serious ailment, and you should rest up. (Exercising with a fever will make you more vulnerable to dehydration, among other ill effects.)”

What’s your take on exercising while sick? Do you take a day to rest up and get well, or do you power through and stick to your routine? Let us know in the comments section below!

Day 15: The second day of the Level 2 workout was just as hard. I previously considered going back to Level 1 but decided against it at the last minute, realizing that I couldn’t avoid it forever if I wanted to progress in the program. So I sucked it up and succumbed to another day of torture. I won’t lie, it was equally as awful as the day before, but I had a serious sense of accomplishment for sticking with it and not giving up. And some quick napkin math gave me another sense of accomplishment as I’ve now made it halfway through the 30 Day Shred. Woot!

Day 16: This is day 3 of Level 2. I usually work out in leggings, but they were all dirty so I threw on a pair of running shorts. In the middle of plank jacks, I heard clapping. Was that Emma cheering me on to the finish line? No. It was my inner thighs slapping together each time I brought in the plank jack. Even in the solitude of my living room with nobody around to witness, I was embarrassed (although apparently not embarrassed enough to talk about it to millions of strangers via the interwebs) and contemplated stopping. But then something happened. See, I have this weird quirk that causes my inner monologue to relate even the most mundane of life events to movie scenes. And as my inner thighs were noising away, all I could think of was this:

and all of a sudden I was much less mortified and much more motivated. If my inner thighs want to cheer me on all the way to the finish line, then that’s AWESOME.
By the way, I haven’t worked out in my running shorts since then.

Day 17: Things are beginning to look up for me. Level 2 of the 30 Day Shred no longer makes me dread getting out of bed in the morning. There are a few things I’d like to point out, especially to those of you who are (or will be) facing this workout with trepidation.
First of all, Level 2 is very hard. You’ll be panting more, sweating more and wanting to die more. There is a lot more pressure on the joints, and my knees became constantly sore after the first day of Level 2. Even after triple checking my form against the girls on the TV screen, I’m convinced that I was doing something wrong. This brings me to my second point.
After the constant discomfort of trying to follow Jillian and Natalie, I caved and started following Anita (for those of you who aren’t familiar with the 30 Day Shred, Anita does “easier” modified versions of the moves). At first I was saving Anita’s moves for the moments when I actually thought I was going to collapse, and lovingly referred to her as “Anita Break” (get it? I need a break! Ha! Okay, maybe it wasn’t that funny. Whatever. Moving on). But with all the aches and pains, I realized that she’s not there for the lazies and incompetents (an ignorant misconception that I inherited through my pride). She’s there because not everybody can start with a bang, and the smart thing to do is know your limits and ease yourself into things so that you don’t injure yourself. Pushing my pride aside, I’ve started following Anita for a majority of the moves and have found them to still be challenging, but minus the knee pains. Moral of the blabbery? If you’re in actual pain, not just whiny I-hate-exercising pain, you’re either doing it wrong or your body is trying to tell you to chill the frak out (Battlestar Gallactica reference. 10 nerd points if you caught that).
In short, do what you can and if you have to, personalize your workout to cater to your abilities. If you’re not a great swimmer and you jump in on the deep end, you might just drown. Start at the shallow end and practice, and soon enough you’ll be doing laps like a champ.

Day 18: Saturday had us all down in the dumps, so I had to lay low for a day. As I explained to my dad, when I’m sick enough that the act of putting on my sports bra is an exercise in itself, it’s probably a good idea to not work out that day. Super Bowl Sunday arrived with the anticipation of excessive food consumption and I promised myself that I wouldn’t skip the pre-game workout for anything. Despite feeling awful the day before, I worked out like a rock star and felt great for the rest of the day. I skipped the plank jacks and replaced them with regular jumping jacks for the sake of my knees, but I otherwise killed it.

Day 19: Unfortunately, what I thought was an upswing of my health was just a lull and Monday arrived with a sickly vengance. I felt like crud and took another day to rest. I started to beat myself up over taking multiple break days again, but then realized that if I didn’t allow my body to recuperate I’d be missing much more than a day here and there. This morning I jumped out of bed with determination and didn’t let a measly case of possible laryngitis get in my way. It was hard to breathe toward the end with my sore throat but I made it through. I’m still sick but I feel great – does that make sense?

Tomorrow is my 20th workout day and should technically be my last day of Level 2. But since I didn’t start Level 2 until day 14, I’m going to work at it a few more times. Maybe I should be calling this the 39 Day Shred?

If you missed the previous updates you can click on the links below to check them out:

A Few Thoughts on Exercise, and a 30 Day Shred Update (Days 1 & 2)

30 Day Shred Update: Day 3 and 4

Workout Snacks and 30 Day Shred Update: Days 5,6 and 7

30 Day Shred Update: Days 8 & 9

30 Day Shred Update: Days 10, 11 & 12

30 Day Shred Update: Days 13 & 14

In the Kitchen: Creamy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

Creamy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

Fact: I love anything that can be wrapped in a tortilla and eaten. If you scooped a pile of mud into a tortilla and handed it to me, I’d probably consider eating it (before coming to my senses and wondering why on earth you’d hand me a mud filled tortilla).

One of my favorite tortilla hugged dishes is the burrito. With two small children, I tend to resort to the basic (aka plain) burrito filled with yellow rice, black beans and shredded cheddar. Every once in awhile though I get gutsy and decide to gamble my luck at the dinner table with “new and exciting” (aka not plain) fillings. Tonight was one of those nights.

I came across a blog post a few months ago that mentioned sweet potatoes in burritos. I wish I’d bookmarked it because the sweet and savory flavor combination had me salivating on my computer keyboard. Alas, I did not and to this day I couldn’t tell you what the original recipe to inspire me was. A quick Google search though proved that it wasn’t a lone concept, apparently I’m the last person to put sweet potatoes in my burritos.

I found many recipes that, while all tasty sounding, just weren’t hitting the spot for me so I decided to improvise. Not a huge fan of salsa, which appeared in many of the recipes I found, so I left it out. I was in the mood for something creamy so I decided to toss in some cream cheese. My kids won’t touch chiles with a ten foot pole so I avoided those. What I ended up with was a super yummy budget-friendly meatless dish that is going into my recipe box for all eternity. Yes, I have a recipe box. It is my belief that everyone should have a recipe box. End of story.

*By the way, I just realized I haven’t posted a new recipe since December. What the hickity heck?!?

Creamy beans, rice and sweet potatoes: a match made in heaven.

Creamy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos
Serves 4

  • 4 cups cubed sweet potato (1/2 inch cubes, approx. 2 large potatoes)
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1-15 ounce can black beans
  • 1.5 cups cooked brown rice
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • shredded lettuce or baby spinach
  • shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 4 large flour tortillas (“burrito style”)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss cubed sweet potatoes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread in a single layer in a glass baking dish or cookie sheet. Roast potatoes for 35-45 minutes or until tender, flipping once halfway through roasting time.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, saute chopped onion in remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil for about 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add taco seasoning, cream cheese and water and stir constantly until cream cheese is melted.

3. Add beans and rice to skillet and stir to incorporate into cream cheese mixture. Heat through, stirring constantly.

4. Divide mixture into 4 servings and spoon one serving of mixture into the center of a tortilla. Add cheddar cheese if desired, and top with lettuce or spinach. Roll up tortilla and serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks:

* If you have dried beans instead of canned, you will need 2 cups of cooked beans for this recipe.

* I prefer brown rice, but you can use whatever kind of cooked rice you like. To make preparation easier you can cook the rice ahead of time. I batch cook my rice to use throughout the week, as cooked rice tends to store well in the fridge for up to a week.

* If you’re waist-watching, you can use reduced fat (or neufchatel cheese) without compromising the taste of the dish. You can also cut back the cream cheese to 4 ounces and add a few extra tablespoons of water until the mixture is creamy.

* If you don’t have taco seasoning, it’s really easy to make. I use THIS recipe from allrecipes.com and omit the crushed red pepper flakes and oregano, and add a pinch of cayenne. If you’re lucky enough to have a warehouse club membership like BJ’s or Costco, you can find a ginormous container of taco seasoning for dirt cheap.

* The great thing about this recipe is that it’s not set in stone and can be adapted to your personal taste. Add corn or peppers to the rice & bean mixture, toss salsa into the cream cheese (or use as a topping), substitute sour cream for some (or all?) of the cream cheese, throw in a handful of cilantro, top it with a dollop of guacamole. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make it your own!

What’s your favorite burrito filling? Share with us in the comments section below!

30 Day Shred Update: Days 13 & 14

This is what I imagine Jillian Michaels was saying in the uncut version of the 30 Day Shred.

Do you know about SparkPeople? It’s a super cool website full of support and resources for people who are trying to lose weight, eat better, get fit, or all of the above.

I joined 5 years ago when I was trying to shake the baby weight from pregnancy. Before I could blink I was pregnant again and had to hold off, but once Emma was born I dusted off my workout clothes and got back to it. I managed to take off 55 pounds total with the help of SparkPeople (without which I wouldn’t have known a thing about tracking my nutrition or how much I needed to exercise or any of that health jargon) but then once I was happy with the way my jeans fit I stopped logging on.

Fast forward 3 years and I’m back on SparkPeople, filling in my nutrition and fitness trackers daily, checking out the forums for tips and support (they have a support group for the 30 Day Shred!), and holding myself accountable. I’m a visual person, I need to see the strides I’m making to stay motivated to accomplish a goal, so being able to track my progress and see my statistics is key to my success.

I know I probably sound like an annoying spokesperson by now, but I promise you I’m just totally crazy about the site and want to spread the love :) If you think you might need the motivation or tools that SparkPeople has to offer, click  on the button below and check it out (and don’t worry, it’s totally free, as in I’m-a-cheapskate-and-I-don’t-join-any-of-these-types-of-things-unless-they’re-no-gimmicks-100%-free free):

Join me at: SparkPeople.com

Do you use online resources for fitness/diet support? Share with us in the comments section below!

Day 13: Still on Level 1, taking my time to move up after all of those break days that I took. Despite my setback, the workout was surprisingly easy. I pushed through it with only two 5 second breaks to catch my breath. I jumped on the scale beforehand and saw that I’ve gained 5 pounds and I’m excited (Whaaaaa? You so crazy, girlfriend. Actually a quick Google search led me to the find that I’m gaining muscle which weighs more than fat. Woot!). That weight should be going down a little soon hopefully since more muscle = more fat burning. As long as I start seeing more sexy bicep action going forward, I’ll be a happy camper.

Day 14: The night before, Mike came home and had the asinine idea that he’d do the Level 2 workout. It was awful to watch. He said he wanted to absolutely die. I rolled my eyes. On the morning of day 14, I had the asinine idea that if day 13 was getting easy then maybe I was ready for a new challenge. That was the worst idea in the history of the universe. It was awful, and I wanted to absolutely die. I don’t think I completed a full set of anything because I was too focused on trying not to die.

Geez, I am such a drama queen.

Level 2 begins with a rather low key warm up. As I was doing my high kicks I was all like “this isn’t as bad as I thought”. Even the first circuit was alright. I enjoyed (I use that term loosely) the walking push ups and found them to actually be easier than my regular modified (on the knees) push ups. But then BAM! Circuit 2 starts and it’s a disaster of biblical proportions. Pendulum lunges with hammer curls! Jumping oblique twists! Military presses with leg extensions! Plank jacks! Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! (You see what I did there? Seamless Ghostbusters reference. I couldn’t help myself.)

I replaced many moves with jumping jacks because I just couldn’t bring myself to complete a full set. I didn’t want to give up completely so I kept myself moving. But some of the moves were just too hard. Actually, I take that back. It wasn’t the moves that were hard, it was the act of breathing and doing the moves simultaneously that was too hard. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest and I was dry drowning.

I haven’t decided whether I want to put myself through that again in the upcoming days or take a step back to Level 1 for a little while. Am I not in as good shape as I thought? Or is it really that hard of a routine that I’m not the only one to struggle like that? I know I beeetched about Level 1 after the first day, but in retrospect it was a walk in the park. I’m at a stand still. I really want to move forward, make progress and not be such a weenie. But I also am very afraid that my lungs are going to shoot through my mouth and land on the floor at my feet. Today is day 15, so I guess I’ll have to make my decision before the day is over.

If you missed the previous updates, you can click on the links below to check them out:

A Few Thoughts on Exercise, and a 30 Day Shred Update (Days 1 & 2)

30 Day Shred Update: Day 3 and 4

Workout Snacks and 30 Day Shred Update: Days 5,6 and 7

30 Day Shred Update: Days 8 & 9

30 Day Shred Update: Days 10, 11 & 12

Monday Menu Plan: 1/30-2/5

It’s Super Bowl time! The Ravens aaaaaalmost made it (My team. Did you even know I had a team? I didn’t, until seven years ago when I managed a sports store in a Baltimore suburb and fell in love with the Ravens. True story) and then choked at the last minute (let’s not talk about it) during the playoffs, so this Sunday my focus will not be on the game but rather the food. I’m a sucker for dips, and after heavy contemplation I decided to offer a buffalo chicken dip for the festivities. I happen to love wings but hate the mess, and the dip is the perfect answer. I cannot wait to stuff my face full of tasty game time treats. Nom nom nom.

What’s your favorite food to snack on while you watch the game/commercials/a documentary on the history of America this coming Sunday? 

Before you get on to the menu plan, I leave you the Game Day Volkswagen commercial teaser (OMG, AT-AT dog? I die).

Breakfasts: baked oatmeal, eggs & toast, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt & granola

Lunches: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, chicken nuggets, fresh fruit and veggies, leftovers

Snacks: fresh fruit and veggies, popcorn, graham crackers and peanut butter, applesauce, yogurt, veggie straws, jello, hard boiled eggs, spinach smoothies

Dinner:

Monday
  • swedish meatballs over egg noodles
  • broccoli
Tuesday
  • pork fried rice
  • salad
Wednesday
  • mini white bean sliders
  • salad
Thursday
  • veggie scramble
  • salad
Friday
  • rice and bean burritos
  • salad
Saturday
  • pizza
  • broccoli
Sunday
  • Super Bowl Sunday!!! I’ll be heading to my dad’s with a buffalo chicken dip.
What’s on your menu plan this week? Share in the comments section below! If you blog your own menu plan, leave a link so we can check it out. And if you want information on how to plan a weekly menu, click HERE.