Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crockpot Minestrone

The Crockpot is my friend. I really wanted to learn how to utilize my crockpot this year, and not just make food that was edible- I wanted GOOD food! Convenience, health and deliciousness all rolled into one. This recipe definitely fits the bill.

This minestrone recipe was originally given to me from my sis-in-law years ago (Hi, Kate!) and it was not a crockpot recipe. I always wanted to try to make the transfer, but never did. However, now that I'm like a crockpot advocate, I finally I did make it a crockpot recipe and this minestrone passed with flying colors. So here it is! As always, I'm going to give it to you exactly how I made it, but feel free to tweak it to your tastebuds.


1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 Tbl. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbl. fresh basil, chopped (could sub with dry, just use less)
1 tsp. sea salt
2 16 oz cans kidney beans, rinsed (i used 1 dark red, 1 light red)
1 28 oz can Italian Style Diced Tomatoes
41 oz chicken stock (or 3 cans)
1 zucchini, cubed
1 squash, cubed
whole grain pasta shells (small or medium)

Put all ingredients except zucchini, squash, and pasta into the slow-cooker and put on low for 6-7 hours. With only 30 mins left of cooking time add zucchini and squash in the crockpot and bump heat up to high. During this last 30 minutes, cook pasta according to directions on box. When time is up scoop a little pasta into your bowl and then ladle soup over the pasta.

I paired it with a 1/2 grilled cheese for the boys and they both ate it all up! As a mom, I will never get over seeing my kids gobble up their vegetables :)

Bon appétit!

NOTE: It is not squash season, so I did omit the squash tonight. But believe me, had I the choice, it would most definitely be in there!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Clean Popcorn!

You know when you have those days where you're feeling extra "snackie"? The kind of day where you just feel like popping something into your mouth with a little crunch. Well, I have days like this and when I do, I turn to this clean popcorn recipe. What can I say other than it's a whole lot healthier than sitting on the couch with a big ol' bag of greasy chips. My recipe was originally taken from the blog "Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth" (click HERE to see her post). My only issue with her recipe was there was no flavor! So here is the how to with a couple of my topping suggestions.

Serves 2 - but lets be honest, I've eaten the whole thing once or twice ;)

All you need!

1. Put 1/4 cup organic popping corn into a brown bag.

2. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes (some microwaves may vary, but start here)

3. Pour in a bowl and eat as is, top with a little hot sauce (my fav), or you can spray with a couple sprays of olive oil cooking spray (or any of your favorite healthy cooking spray) and sprinkle with a 2-3 T of your favorite cheese (parmesan, gruyere, etc) for a healthier cheesy treat!

4. Share with the fam (or don't ;) ) and enjoy!

Happy Snacking!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

I Love Snacks. Snackie, Snack, Snacks.

Ahhh, snacks. Huge fan. I've always loved snacks, and always will, but there was a time when I felt ashamed for snacking. I seriously thought it was wrong that I could be hungry during the 5-6 hours between meals. Sooooo glad I got over THAT phase (oh, silly, younger-20s Nikki)!!  Now I know how important snacks are, especially to a highly active person such as myself. In my Body Back training, Farel Hruska compared it to stroking a fire. We need to give our bodies fuel to keep it working properly- mentally and physically. I know personally, if I miss a snack between meals, I come to a meal starving and ravenous; not the right frame of mind for preparing and eating a good, healthy meal.

Now, let's talk fuel! We can't just put anything into our bodies and expect to reap the benefits. What we need is a good balance of those high nutrient foods we love, in smaller portion. I'm talkin' unprocessed, natural foods that have protein, fiber and a little natural fat to give us that satiety we need. Almost everything I've read says a great snack size should be around 200 calories. And, of course (this may go without saying), if you aren't hungry don't snack. In a recent FITNESS magazine article, they offered up something called the "apple test." If you think you are hungry, but an apple does not sound good and you really only want junk- you're probably just bored or dehydrated. Have some water and go for a walk.

Need some healthy snack ideas? Here are some of the snacks I've recently posted on Instagram: 

KIND bar (4g sugar or less ones like my fav like Dark Chocolate, Nuts, & Sea Salt):

Fresh veggies & 2-3 T hummus. I especially love carrots, cucumber, and bell peppers with hummus:

Plain Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, little granola (look for granola that is under 5g sugar a serving), sprinkle of chia seeds:

Homemade trail mix:

Banana with peanut butter:

Celery with sunflower seed butter (I LOVE this combo):

Other favorite snacks that are not pictured include:
  • 1/2 an apple or pear with a stick of string cheese (or the whole piece of fruit if I'm really hungry)
  • a small homemade fresh fruit & veggie smoothie
  • 1 cup of pretzels with mustard to dip
  • Clean popcorn (I'll post recipe soon!)
If you are like I was and embarrassed or ashamed that you get hungry between meals, don't be! Just snack smart! Be prepared with healthy snacks when on the go and know you have options. Happy Snacking!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

NRM: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

So you know that scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba names all the things you can do with shrimp? That's kind of how I feel about hummus. Rarely does a day go by that I don't have hummus at least once. I love it in my wraps, as a snack with raw veggies, and I've been known to make my one-year-old hummus/avocado sandwiches (which he loves). Because we eat so much hummus in this house, we go through it quickly. Homemade hummus is fresh, easy, cost efficient, and eliminates the chance of unwanted "extra" ingredients. For New Recipe Monday, I thought I would share with you my go-to hummus recipe. This recipe is based off a recipe given to me by my sister-in-law, Emily, and we love it! As a matter of fact, after I made this batch, I had my three-year-old, Landon, taste it and he immediately requested I put some on a piece of bread for him. Hope you love it as much as Lando!


2 15oz cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbl tahini
3 garlic cloves, quartered
1 roasted red bell pepper*
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
Juice of 1 medium-sized lemon

(sorry, pepper, you didn't make the photo shoot)

Put all ingredients in a food processor and combine until smooth. That's it!

Eat however you like and bon appétit!

*You can get your roasted bell pepper from a jar or roast your own (I usually roast my own, but buying jarred is convenient). To roast a red bell, cut it in half lengthwise, and get rid of ribs and seeds. Flatten and place skin-side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 5-10 mins or until mostly blackened (no, really, there will be big black charrings on there). Place in ziplock bag for 10 mins or until cool (can place in fridge to quicken this step). Peel blackened skin off and voila- you have a roasted red bell pepper!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

NRM: Protein Pancakes!

**Err... New Recipe Tuesday? Sorry for the delay, but these are worth it!

After seeing these "pancakes" in a Huffington Post article titled, "Healthy Breakfast Ideas: What Nutrition Experts Eat in the Morning," I had to give them a try. The recipe is given as if it serves one, but personally, I think it's perfect for two (or one mama, and two babes). And, guys- IT'S DELICIOUS!! I give it a 10!

Serves 1-2 people

1 ripe banana
2 eggs
1 Tbl. natural peanut butter (I'm sure any nut butter would work)
sprinkle of cinnamon
drop of vanilla

Optional toppings:
peanut butter
blueberries (I wish I had some!!)
Pure maple syrup (for the kiddos)

1) Mash banana in bowl.

2) Add eggs and mix.

3) Add peanut butter, cinnamon, and vanilla and mix.

Looks a little like this:

4) Spray a pan with cooking spray and turn heat onto Med. Low.  Add about half of the "batter" (about a 1/3 cup) and cook just under 3 mins a side. Do the same for remaining batter.

5) Bam!!!

All three of us gobbled these down. They were so good. I topped mine with a little more peanut butter, but next time, I hope to only top with a small handful of blueberries :)

Bon appétit!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Just Want to Be Normal!

Recently there has been a bit of speculation about what/how I eat. I think people see a picture of a salad I'm having for lunch (because, yes, I'm a bit obsessed with photographing food), and assume that means I'm not "eating carbs" or that I am on the Paleo diet. I've even had people tell me what my diet must be, without ever asking me directly what I eat. So here it is. I'm just going to lay it all out there for ya.

**Please recognize that this is the way I choose to eat. I am not saying that what is right for me, is right for everyone.

First off, I eat 5-6 times a day. I've been told by multiple RDs, nutritionists, and/or health buffs that people are built to eat every 3 hours or so. As soon as I started to not feel guilty about the obvious hunger I was feeling between meals and began preparing myself healthy, nutritious snacks, my overeating at mealtime took care of itself and I didn't walk around like a crazy lady all hungry and grouchy all the time. I'm a pretty routine person and my eating schedule looks something like this:

6:00am- Breakfast
9:00am- Snack
12:00pm- Lunch
6:00- Dinner
8:00pm- Snack

While this is definitely subject to change, this is more or less when I eat every day. No really, my stomach tells me when snack time is coming. (Does this make me like Pavlov's dogs?)

Right now, I try and eat foods that give me more bang for my buck. Meaning, I eat foods that have fiber, protein, or a meal that combines the two. It's scientifically proven that foods that have a lot of nutrients but fewer calories help us lose weight - and mother nature went ahead and took care of what that entails.

So, "what" do I eat? First and foremost, I eat fruits and veggies. I pretty much have at least a fruit or veggie in every meal/snack I eat. The only exception is when I am on the run and have a snack of just nuts. I love a colorful plate, and the color is mostly from nutritious, fiber-rich fruits and veggies.

I eat lean meats like turkey, chicken breast, and lean cuts of pork. Love fish, although avoid high mercury seafood like swordfish. I don't avoid red meat, but I'd say I have it about 1-2 times a month and really watch portions. I don't eat bacon or cured meats. There are a lot of people who speak up for bacon, but my thinking is if it's a red meat that is more than half fat and often processed, I can find a better option.

I love me some beans. You can probably tell, considering they have ended up in just about every recipe on here. Currently, I have a fondness for lentils (droooooool). And I don't think a day passes that I don't eat nuts.

Bread, wraps, english muffins, tortillas are all okay in my book, I just buy "whole grain" and try to find options with few ingredients, or in the very least, ingredients that I can pronounce. I am at a point where white flour products don't even taste good to me, so sticking to whole grain isn't really a challenge. I am trying to "expand my repertoire" a bit in the whole grain department. Quinoa, oats, [enter popular grain here] I eat all the time, but am yet to try a bulgar recipe (NRM?).

When possible, I buy organic. I feel most strongly about buying organic when it comes to produce, milk, and meat. But overall, this household buys mostly organic. To me, organic even tastes better. And while I used to think that the lowest fat was the only option, I'm learning now that natural fats are things our body needs, it's the factory-produced fats to be really weary of. This leads me to...

Processed foods. I would say that I try to keep processed foods to a minimum. The more I learn, the easier it is getting to identify over-processed, and seek out more natural options. But I am still learning. Artificial sweetener was one of the hardest additives to drop. The very last habit being Diet Coke, which started from a young age. Once I rid my body of artificial sweetener, I truly started feeling good. Once in awhile, I'll steal a sip, and I can't believe how "chemically" it tastes to me. I drank it for so long- weird.

And now the big finale, ready?! I'm not perfect! And guess what?! I don't want to be! I just want to be normal.  I want a normal relationship with food. I will never say something is completely off limits (yes, even bacon) because as soon as I do, it's all I want. Instead, I try to eat a wide variety of healthy, delicious foods MOST of the time. I do a great job of eating healthy, but eating is a social thing and we don't have 100% control all of the time. So instead of feeling guilty, I try and choose the best option available and allow myself to indulge here and there. As soon as I let go of the guilt- guilt over snacking, guilt over having chocolate at a party, guilt over anything pertaining to food, really- THAT'S when change happened... and I have never felt better.

I just want to be normal when it comes to food, and I wish you all normalcy, as well.

Please feel free to leave me a message, if you have questions. 

UPDATE: I realized after I posted this I left out eggs! I love me some eggs. Especially, organic brown eggs. I don't go overboard, though, and stick to 1 whole egg a day or 2 at most. This is only based on the information given from a R.D. I heard speak at a conference- egg yolks are power-packed of nutrients, but can be a little high in fat. Egg whites are wonderful, though, and don't need the same reservations as yolks. Eat eggs :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Workout Wednesday!

ACE, or American Council on Exercise, has declared today Workout Wednesday. In an attempt to get people moving before the big day of eating, they encourage us all to get out and burn some calories! In the article they remind us that an average Thanksgiving meal is 3,000 calories!!! Yowza! Don't over-think it, just get out and get moving! Every calorie burned helps.

Just in case you need a little direction, below is a "Thanksgiving Burn" interval workout you can try. Keep moving and the intensity high! Interval training is a great way to burn more calories in less time. Also, I picked exercises that I think most people are familiar with, and they don't take anything but you and a chair (you want a hard chair like one from the kitchen table)! Put on some good tunes and get to work!

**Please note that this workout is for those without injury and who are in good-standing health. 

1 minute each exercise, do each round twice. Give yourself a 30 second break in between rounds to recover (try and move from exercise to exercise with little to no break).
**With a 3 minute warm-up and cool down, this should take approximately 30 minutes**