Get Real!

Finding ways to enjoy the hell out of life, while on our journey towards a healthy, authentic and passion-filled life.


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Re-Committing to our Health Journey

Re-Committing to your health journey (something I think we need to do every now and then, as so much changes in our lives, and our goals, etc.).

It’s easy to notice (well eventually anyway) when you are just completely sideways, off track, off the wagon, out of the club, however you want to think about it.

But what about when you have just been flirting a bit too much with the ‘other side?’ Maybe you have maintained a great deal of weight loss for a great deal of time, but can’t seem to push yourself any further. Maybe you eat extremely healthy much of the time, but still eat pizza, chips or other junk foods too often.

We, as a society, have finally come to terms with the fact that healthy eating (and moving your body) is not a diet. It is not a temporary way to live. It is a long term, lifestyle, habitual way to live.

So when there is no ‘diet’ to get back on. How do we re-commit? How do we live by a certain set of standards, without restricting ourselves so much as to make this something we cannot continue to commit to? I think the answer is pretty simple, like much of the answers we often seek, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Simple and easy are definitely NOT synonyms.

Simple is eating whole clean foods at basically every meal, with a focus on vegetables and fruits. And it sounds easy too, but it’s not. Or is it? Now, I’m confused because it sounds so easy. But apparently it’s not.

We can hold on to things for as long or as short as we want. We can re-commit to living by our own values anytime we want. But because habits absolutely DO take work to unform or reform or get rid of, this isn’t exactly as easy as saying ‘I will not do XXX any longer.’ Well, the problem is our mind and body ARE going to want to do XXX because they are used to it now. When that desire comes up, you can either do the behavior … or deny that desire. One or the other has to happen, and our basic instinct will be to do the behavior (if that is what we are used to).

So what I commit to for the next three weeks, is to actively deny the desires that are against what the life I really want to have looks like. To allow the desires to come up (because they certainly will), realize what they are (which are little pulls to do things that I have, unfortunately, become used to), and to just deny the desire. And this doesn’t have to be an angry, negative, denial. It can be loving instead, ‘I understand I want to do this certain thing, and it’s ok that I want to, but it doesn’t mean that I have to, and in fact I’m not going to.’

Cheers to re-committing after I haven’t even blogged here in 8 months!! Yikes!!

Remember, we all have different constraints. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know, and if you do that you can only continue to grow.


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Real Clean: Enchilada Stuffed Bell Peppers

As you may have noticed, I love making different dishes and then ‘enchilda-izing’ them! This one is no exception. I just love all these flavors! Now to make things easier (well for every night, not just for enchilda-ized dishes), I cook and pre-shred 3-4 chicken breasts, 5+ cups of brown rice and a couple cups of black beans in the beginning of the week and store them all in airtight containers in the fridge. It makes meals like this (and so many others) easier, quicker and far less messy.

Enchilada Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 2 comfortably (each to have two halves of bell pepper over stuffed), or can serve 4 with a side dish (like salad, or brown rice with chopped up cilantro and lime juice mixed in)

Ingredients:

Bell Peppers

  • 2 Bell Peppers
  • Olive Oil

Stuffing

  • 2 Medium Tomatoes (juicy tomatoes, not roma)
  • 1/2 an onion (yellow, white or sweet)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalepeno
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro
  • Your favorite spanish style Spices, I use 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 Tbs Chilis in Adobo Paste (optional, but I always keep this on hand for all my enchilada dishes)
  • 1 shredded chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup cooked black beans (if canned, rinse them)
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • small amount of cheese to top it off (optional, I used about 2 tsp worth of goat cheese on each half)

Directions:

First things first, if you don’t have your rice pre-cooked and your chicken pre-cooked and shredded then this must be done first. Cook the rice according to package directions, and as for the chicken boil the breast for at least 15 minutes and then shred with two forks (if it doesn’t look 100% done after that don’t worry, because these will be baked in the bell pepper later as well).

For any stuffed Bell Pepper, start out pre-heating the oven to 350. Cut the bell peppers in half vertically and scoop out any seeds or ‘guts.’ In a square casserole dish (sprayed or rubbed down with a little extra virgin olive oil), place all bell pepper halves in and spray the inside of each bell pepper with olive oil as well. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

While the Bell Peppers are pre-baking, prepare the enchilada stuffing. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and toss all of it into a pan on medium-high (all juice included), next chop and add the jalepeno, onions, garlic and cilantro. Add in the seasonings. Mix all together and let cook for at least 5 minutes until it all thickens up a bit. Next add the chilis in adobo paste and re-stir. Followed by the black beans, shredded chicken, and brown rice. Stir all together well and continue cooking a few minutes longer.

When the Bell Peppers are done pre-cooking, take them out of the oven and scoop stuffing into the halves with a spoon, overstuff them! Use as much stuffing as possible! Re-cover with foil and bake for 25 more minutes.

If desired, take them out after this, top with a little cheese and bake for another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

Remember we all have different constraints. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know, and if you do that you will continue to grow!

 


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Real Clean: Chicken Enchilada-Lasagna

Chicken Enchilada-Lasagna

Serves 2 people a very large portion, though can still serve 3-4 (especially if you have a side dish like a salad!).

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:

  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon Oregano
  • 2 Teaspoons Chile Powder (any type of chile powder)

For the Enchilada Sauce (can use store bought to make this simpler, but highly recommend checking the ingredients, there should basically be only vegetables listed, no sugar or syrup, etc):

  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
  • 1 Onion (any type, yellow, white or sweet)
  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Jalapeno
  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon Oregano
  • 2 Teaspoons Chile Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Coriander Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Chilis in Adobo Paste (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 2 Cups Tomato Sauce (plain sauce, not pasta sauce)
  • 3/4 cup Vegetable Broth

For assembly of the Lasagna:

  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 2 Large Handfuls of Kale or Spinach (technically optional**)
  • 1-2 Cups Shredded Cheese, the less the ‘healthier’ (recommend buying blocks of cheese and shredding yourself, as the pre-shredded mix has a couple yuckies in the ingredients added in)

 

Directions:

  • Start a pot of boiling water. Chop each chicken breast into quarters, and sprinkle the spices (a little on each side). Once water is boiling, set chicken inside and set kitchen timer to 15 minutes.
  • In another pot, melt/heat the coconut oil (or can use extra virgin olive oil) over medium-high heat while dicing up the onion, garlic and jalapeno into tiny pieces. Then throw all the veggies into the oil and mix all around. Add all the spices in and mix all around again. Allow this to cook for about 5 minutes. Now, add in the chilis in adobo paste, followed by the tomato sauce and then the broth. Mix it all up very well and turn the heat up to high. Once this starts boiling, cover pot and reduce to low heat. Let simmer until ready to put it all together.
  • The chicken should be done any moment now, and once the timer goes off, drain the chicken and (with two forks) shred it all. It will take a few moments but will be worth it!
  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 as you assemble the lasagna!
  • In a square glass baking dish (8X8 or 9X9), assemble! When pouring the sauce keep in mind that you will need 4 total layers of sauce. Pour a thin layer of sauce in the empty dish and spread around, then a layer of corn tortillas (two tortillas per layer, I tear them in half and then place them in the rounded edges are all facing inwards sort of like an envelope), followed by a layer of spinach or kale, half of the shredded chicken and half of the cheese, another layer of the enchilada sauce spread around. Repeat process, with another layer of tortillas, layer of spinach or kale, the rest of the chicken and cheese, almost the rest of the sauce (leave a small amount for the top). Now one more layer of tortillas followed by the rest of the sauce. (If this is a splurge meal, which is on the weekends for me, feel free to top it with another 1/2 cup of shredded cheese or so).
  • Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
  • Can top with some salsa and organic sour cream if you wish.

Enjoy!

And remember, we all have different constraints. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. If you do that, you will continue to grow!


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Get Real (about cooking clean, simple meals!)

Those who know me have come to learn that I have found a passion in healthy cooking, understanding ingredients, and making smart eating choices (almost all the time anyway). The question I feel that I get asked the most is about simple meal ideas. The real secret is that living this way needs to be formed as a habit, a way of life, a matter of fact. And you just need to start. Start somewhere!

If I were to take a look back at the meals I was making every night when I first started with healthier eating/cooking, I would think that the portions were way too large, some of the ingredients were full of added sugars, salts and other chemicals, etc. And right now, if I ate that way, I would GAIN weight. However, at the time I was making huge improvements and was losing lots of weight! As I learned more, I adjusted my eating habits more. And as I lost more, and my stomach could get fuller on less, I was able to eat less. It all happens in time. We don’t (generally speaking) go from a fast food or junk food diet to a completely clean one overnight. Well, wait, we do when we are on a ‘diet.’ But who the heck wants to be on one of those!!??

All that said, at this point I eat small simple meals Monday-Friday nights, and splurge a bit on the weekends. Here is my #1 tip for beginning to make healthy eating a habit. As well as what I am making for dinner these days!

My tip? Plan Ahead! Though I go in phases where I am planning out my meals for the week, or where I am not. It makes it a whole lot easier when I do. Financially and time-wise (less trips to the grocery store, planning meals using ingredients more than once that week, etc) it makes sense. It also gives me an opportunity to look forward to my meals, knowing what I have planned (and therefore less likely to deter from that on a whim). It also makes it less stressful at the end of the day to just stick with the plan, instead of spending time mulling over what to eat.

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2-3 times per week, I make a ‘mexican’ egg bowl:

2-3 scrambled eggs, 2 slices turkey or regular bacon, a couple tablespoons of black beans, a couple tablespoons of salsa, and about half of an avocado. Takes me 10-15 minutes to make. Buy a can of black beans, rinse them, drain them and store them in a Tupperware or glass container in your fridge and one can will last a couple weeks this way!

1-2 times per week, I make a ‘taco’ salad:

2-3 large handfuls of chopped romaine lettuce, 1/2 chicken breast (boil for 10-15 minutes until no pink in the center, and then shred and season it with any type of chili powder), 2 tablespoons black beans, about half of an avocado and 2-3 tablespoons salsa instead of dressing.

about 2 times per week, I make some variation of chicken (or fish) and veggies:

With the chicken, I usually cut it into bite size pieces and pan-grill it (season it on both sides with sea salt/pepper, etc.), using just enough olive or coconut oil to keep things cooking (instead of burning). Or I will slice up a link of chicken sausage (like Adells) and saute right with the veggies. For fish, I use salmon or cod (well seasoned) and pan fry for just a few minutes on each side. Some common veggie sides that I will use are:

  • Bell Peppers and Onions (sauteed along with the chicken)
  • Mushrooms and Asparagus (trim asparagus and chop mushrooms in half, then in a large bowl mix with a couple garlic cloves minced finely, some rosemary minced, and some olive oil, and mix it all together very well… spread it all out on a baking sheet and broil for 5-10 minutes or bake at your ovens highest temp 450-500 for around that time)
  • Roasted Red Potatoes, Carrots and Garlic (Chop the potatoes and carrots into bite size pieces and boil for 10 minutes, drain and throw into a large mixing bowl with whole cloves of garlic, add sea salt/pepper and olive oil and mix all of it together well, pour all of it into a glass baking dish lined with aluminum foil — a large enough piece of foil to be able to wrap it all up like it was in a pouch, bake at 350 for 40 minutes or so)
  • Salsa! Just saute the chicken pieces in salsa. Any type of salsa! Tomatillo, Tomato/Garlic, Peach/Tomato, any kind you can think of.
  • Kale (chopped into small pieces, making sure that the stem is not included as it is too tough and uncomfortable to bite down on, mixed in a bowl with olive oil, sea salt/pepper, minced garlic cloves, and minced rosemary leaves.. saute on the stove for just a few minutes)
  • Spicy Green Beans (trim green beans and boil for up to 5 minutes, mix with a little olive oil, and some crushed red pepper flakes, saute about 10 minutes)

Remember, we all have different constraints! Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. If you do that you will continue to grow!


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Real Clean: Bacon Cheddar Mac N’ Cheese

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I’ve tried so many different things when it comes to weight loss and a few years ago my focus shifted to health (over weight loss, though of course weight loss is still a benefit). One of the things I have tried is being vegan! I had no idea when I cut out all meat and dairy how long I would be doing this for, but I am so thankful for my two month stint simply because of all that I learned and some of the habits that I carried with me. A big one being: Almond milk!

I still try to limit my dairy intake to this day, it can be high fat and calorie and a lot of people have some level of sensitivity to dairy or lactose and may not even realize it. Almond milk is lower in calorie, lower in sugar, and of course dairy and lactose free. A great alternative! Be sure to check the ingredients to make sure there are no added sugars, etc.

Almond milk is great in cereal, whole oats, smoothies or hot chocolate. And I use it as a sub for milk in ANY recipe, so far I have found none (even for baking) that aren’t just as delicious! And, no need to buy flavored Almond milk, because it’s simple to add your own vanilla or cocoa. It’s actually pretty simple to make your own almond milk too, but I haven’t ventured there quite yet myself.

So, the following recipe is a great example of how almond milk can really help ‘healthify’ a recipe. There is no denying that this Mac N’ Cheese dish is definitely not vegan, paleo or dairy or grain free. But it is clean, and a great alternative to other recipes or processed boxed products out there. This isn’t something I would eat everyday, but I can rest easy that this is still a healthy meal.

Bacon Cheddar Mac N’ Cheese

Makes 2 large bowls (to feed two) and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (dry) whole grain or whole wheat pasta
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 T whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups (when grated) cheddar cheese (organic, grass fed, if possible)
  • 4 (nitrate free) slices turkey bacon
  • (optional) 2 small handfuls of greens (spinach, kale, etc) and 2 T whole wheat bread crumbs

 

Get two pots and one pan on the stove, medium sized pot/pan and one large pot. Start boiling water in the large pot, and once boiling add your pasta and boil until al dente (generally around 15 minutes).

Prepare the cheesy sauce and turkey bacon while the pasta is boiling. Pre cut the turkey bacon into small bite size pieces. Saute them in a pan until very well cooked (with a teaspoon of coconut oil if needed). Set aside.

For the cheesy sauce, pour the almond milk in the other pot and stir in the whole wheat flour until not clumpy. Heat on medium high for about five minutes. Grate your cheese during this time and once finished, lower the heat to medium and throw in large handful after handful of the cheese into the almond milk waiting for it to melt between each handful until all the cheese is melted. Finely chop your greens or blend them on grind setting and stir in to the cheesy sauce (you’ll hardly know it’s there)! Keep stirring this until pasta is done boiling.

Drain pasta and return to pot, pour cheesy sauce over pasta and add turkey bacon. Toss all together and garnish with whole wheat bread crumbs if desired.

Yumm!

And remember, we all different constraints. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. If you do that, you will continue to grow!


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Real Clean: Spicy Chicken Enchilada Soup

Soups are an amazing way to get a ton of veggies in, without having to add any dairy, grains, or even meat (if you are avoiding that too) to your meal. And they can be delicious and filling as well. All of my soups basically start off with the same key ingredients and then I just play around from there to find different combinations (think pot roast potato and veggie soup, Indian spiced soup, and this chicken enchilada soup). So please! Feel free to adjust the ingredients and add others as you like! The ingredients I have placed a ‘*’ next to are the ones that I would recommend as your base if you do choose to play around!

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Makes 5 good size bowls of soup (feeds 2 more than comfortably, and 4 if you add a side dish), and takes about 1 hour-1 hour and 15 minutes to fully prepare (most of this is letting the finished soup simmer)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 chicken breasts
  • *1-2 T coconut oil
  • *3 cloves of garlic
  • *1 onion (any kind white, yellow or red will do)
  • *various spices: in this case- cumin, coriander, sea salt/pepper, oregano, chile powder
  • *3 cups chopped tomatoes (I like to mix it up with some roma, and some heirloom, but there are no wrong answers here!)*
  • 1 bell pepper (any color)
  • 1 jalapeno, de-seeded
  • 2 T chipotle paste with adobo (might take you a moment to find in your grocery store, but it’s there)
  • *2.5 cups low sodium chicken or veggie broth
  • *6 oz can tomato paste
  • *2-3 large handfuls of greens (chopped spinach, kale, etc.)

Directions:

Get two pots on the burner (one large enough to hold the 5+ bowls of soup — this one needs to have a lid — and a smaller one that will hold the chicken breasts to boil). Start boiling water on high heat in the smaller pot and add the whole chicken breast/s once boiling (you will want this to boil about 15-17 minutes which should be how long it takes you to chop everything else up).

Place the 1-2 T of oil (coconut) into the big pot, and turn the heat to medium high. Peel and chop the garlic up into small chunks (does not have to be minced super tiny), and do the same with the onion. Dump the garlic and onion into the now melted coconut oil and stir around. Add spices as you like, at least a teaspoon of each! Keep stirring mixture. Let the garlic/onions/spices cook (while stirring occasionally) while you chop up all the tomatoes into bite size chunks of various sizes and dump those in too. Let this all cook while you chop up the bell pepper and jalapeno into bite size chunks and add those in.

Add the chipotle paste with adobo, stir. Add the chicken or veggie broth, stir. Add the tomato paste, stir. At this point, I would add a bit more spice as well, again a teaspoon or so of each.

The chicken should be about boiled by now (after 15 minutes for one, 17 for two), so take this out and chop into bite size pieces (use a fork and knife as chicken will be hot!), and add the chicken to the soup. Add the 2-3 handfuls of chopped greens (I promise you won’t taste them and it is a great way to get these suckers in your diet). Stir everything altogether once more.

Turn the heat to high and once the soup is starting to boil, put the lid on and turn it down to low (1-2 if numbered). Set your timer for about 45 minutes to allow chicken to cook a bit more if needed and the rest of the flavors to all meld together and intensify!

YUMM!

And remember, we all have different constraints. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. If you do that, you will continue to grow!


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The 80/20 Rule (for clean eating)

So. Once I realized (and I mean really realized) that a diet is not a temporary way of being/living/however you want to look at it, I realized that I was going to have to allow myself some wiggle room. This wiggle room is what I have been struggling with lately. I’m ok at being 100% strict when it comes to what kinds of foods I allow in my daily routine. I’m also, as I know from past experience, ok at being 0-50% strict as well (gorging out on fast foods or ice cream, GASP). What I would like to find and maintain is some balance!

I know what I consider clean eating (and it may be different than what you consider clean eating):

  • As many fruits and vegetables as possible (organic)
  • Nuts and seeds (mostly peanut butter with no other ingredients, and chia seeds)
  • Lean (organic, and grass fed when possible) meats such as chicken and fish and occasionally beef (no more than once per week)
  • 100% organic whole grains in terms of breads, pastas, or rice (not during every meal, not even everyday), preferably sprouted grains
  • Organic, grass fed when possible, dairy (butter, cheese, sour cream, etc… sparingly 2-3 times per week)
  • Organic cooking oil, such as coconut oil or ghee (as needed)

So it is easy to see what 100% coherence to these guidelines would be. But is that feasible for the rest of my life, forever and always? I truly do want to get to the point where it is. Where a treat is organic dairy on top of an organic slice of sprouted toast and the ice cream with several ingredients I generally shutter at (and will definitely give my stomach a problem afterwards anyway) just isn’t even appealing at all.

Many folks go by the 80/20 rule, choosing to stay strict within their dietary guidelines 80% of the time. This allows for some ‘cheat’ foods to be eaten 20% of the time. That being said, to some the piece of toast with butter on it would be considered a ‘cheat.’ While to others it would be the ice cream. I’m still trying to figure this out for myself.

Anyway, it has been a journey so far, and will continue to be. I have the rest of my life to work all these details out, and that is important to remember as well. Enjoy today, but keep working towards what you want for all of your tomorrows.

And remember that we all have different constraints. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. If you do that you will continue to grow.