There are a few reasons why this challenge has been easier than any other fad diet I have failed at. Reason one: I have been realistic at setting my own personal rules. I drink alcohol and I knew that if I took that completely out of my diet for 30 days that as soon as I had a beer that my body will bloat back out. I give myself two days a week to enjoy an adult beverage. Now some people might drink more than me so they might want to cut back more to see a difference. If your two drink days have already been used but you would like a beer and relax after a hard day of teething and tantrums, go ahead. Don’t beat your self up. We all go through those days. If you end a rough teething day by beating up on yourself for enjoying a cold Pacifico then you will have a low confidence to tackle the next day. So enjoy that beer and just go for a nice brisk walk in the morning!
Reason two: Having useful tools at my fingertips has made this challenge doable, straightforward and convenient. I know I have spoken about it on the other posts but I LOVE Plan To Eat (FYI I am not being paid or given a free subscription, I just love that website!). Plan To Eat is incredibly easy and once you figure out how to use it you can plan the next three days or even a whole week in a flash! My sweet friend Emily gifted me one of her amazing Simplified Planners. Let me tell you for a compulsive list maker, OCD calendar planner and lover of pretty paper goods, Emily Ley has brilliantly created the ultimate planner. I love that there is designated space for breakfast, morning activities, lunch, afternoon activities and dinner for each day of the week. Both the weekly and monthly calendars are set up for Monday to Sunday viewing, unlike the Sunday to Saturday. It’s the little details of putting Saturday and Sunday together that make me enjoy this planner so much. Once I have used Plan to Eat to plan my meals I write them in my lovely Simplified Planner along with the printed recipes that I paper clip to the corresponding week. Waking up and having my meals planned makes it easy!
Reason three: I’m not looking at the challenge as a diet. I’m taking this on as the beginning to a life change on eating healthy. I’m not eating some disgusting non-flavored soup for seven days. If I’m not fond of the dinner I’ve prepared I don’t care. I know that tomorrow I get to eat something else and I’m not forced to eat the bad leftovers, or the same horrible soup again. The only plan I have to go by is the menu I planned for myself, not some corporation.
So even though my challenge is technically over in little over a week I’m going to continue this eat clean lifestyle. I feel great. I’m seeing results and the food I’ve been cooking has been delicious!
Mike was out of town today so I planned my meals accordingly. My day started out with a new recipe from Fit Foodie Finds. When you have a toddler that is having a fun morning tantrum, sometimes actually cooking a breakfast is difficult. Blending a smoothie or microwaving some oats are usually my go to options, especially when Lily wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. BUT the baked blueberry oat bran recipe (found here) was simple and made the perfect amount for me to nibble on while I danced to the Wiggles to make Lily’s frown turn upside down.
For lunch and dinner I went for two recipes I have already made so I knew how easy they were. For lunch I had a smashed chickpea & avocado sandwich (recipe found here) and for dinner I made grilled garlic dijon herb salmon (recipe found here). The salmon was huge and was actually all I needed or wanted.
Mike got back from a boys weekend trip today. It always seems that he is gone when Lily has been sick and since I have been under the weather too, I can’t wait for him to get home and take over parent duties so I can rest.
I cooked up a spinach and egg white omelet (recipe found here) that was super easy and something that Lily and I could both eat!
After breakfast I started prepping lunch while Lily played with my Tupperware. I marinated some chicken for a copy-cat version of Applebee’s fiesta lime chicken. The recipe calls for you to marinate it for 30 minutes, but I let it chill for an hour and a half while we went to pick Mike up from the airport. We fired up the grill when we got back and had some brown rice as a side. This chicken is delicious! We will be making this meal again. Recipe found here.
I had planned for us to go out to a local restaurant for dinner but Mike and I were both exhausted so we ordered in. Mike was craving a meatball pasta dish (TOTALLY unhealthy but tastes sooo good), but I kept it healthy getting a whole wheat flatbread with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes.
With Mike working from home today and since he was gone at a boys weekender while Lily and I were sick, he stuck around in the kitchen to keep Lily busy while I whipped up a yummy cherry vanilla muffin for our breakfast (thanks babe!). I completely forgot to buy more cherries for this recipe, but luckily I had a can of cherries I never used for a pie. I know it’s not the “clean” way…but oh well! I doubled this recipe thinking that one muffin wasn’t enough and I ended up with too much! I used two smaller ramekins and a large one. So there was plenty to feed the whole family!
Cherry Vanilla Muffin For One
From Anytime Health
1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg white
2 tbsp vanilla low fat yogurt
1 tbsp vanilla almond milk
½ tbsp honey or agave nectar
8-10 cherries, halved
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour and baking soda. In a separate small bowl, mix together vanilla extract, egg white, yogurt, almond milk, and honey.
Combine wet and dry ingredients and add in your cherries.
Spray a small ramekin with nonstick cooking spray and pour in the batter.
Cook for 25-30 minutes.
The recipe suggested to serve the muffin topped with Greek yogurt and fruit preserves but I kept it plain!
Breakfast was really filling so I made a green monster spinach smoothie (recipe round here). I crave these smoothies and if you have been reading along, I have this smoothie all the time!
After breakfast I started prepping our crock pot dinner. I was super excited to try this Itallian Stallion recipe from He and She Eat Clean because you make your own clean marinara. It’s surprising at how easy this recipe is. The best part….my Italian husband liked it!!! Check out the recipe here. The only changes I made: omitted red pepper flakes. I made some pasta for mike and quinoa for me and poured the sauce and shredded chicken on top. I love avocado and sliced up some over mine. This was full of flavor and was given a big thumbs up by Mike!
I tell you I’m addicted to these green monster spinach smoothies. You cannot taste the four cups of spinach at all! Plus it actually fills me up. I had this yesterday and again for breakfast today….and it is on the menu for tomorrow! Recipe here.
For lunch I tried a new quinoa recipe today with all the strawberries I had on hand. It was sooooo yummy. You know the one thing I enjoy about this challenge is that it has gotten me back in the kitchen and inspires me to start cooking for Mike again. We were starting to get hung up or ordering out a lot…and that doesn’t help the waistline!
Strawberry Quinoa Salad
From Fit Foodie Finds
1 cup quinoa, dry
2 cup water
2 cup sliced strawberries
Crumbled Feta Cheese, to taste (I used low-fat)
1 tbsp basil, fresh or dry
½ cup chopped walnuts
2-3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
In a small pot, bring 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Refrigerate for about an hour or until room temperature.
In a large bowl or Tupperware, mix together quinoa, sliced strawberries, feta cheese, chopped walnuts, and basil. Then drizzle on honey and olive oil. Toss
Serve cold or at room temperature!
For dinner I tried making a healthy meatloaf for the family and it was a hit…for everyone but Lily. She is going through a weird picky eating stage. I will try and feed this again to her and hopefully she will like it as much as Mike and I did. The only changes to the recipe: it called for lentils and I didn’t have any so I just used some white northern beans. Mike despises mushrooms, but I still used them. I just used a cup less and chopped them up real good (he still picked them out!).
From Eat Live Run
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 cup cooked white northern beans, I chopped them up(or cooked black or green lentils)
1 large carrot, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4th tsp black pepper
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 400.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the diced onions and saute for about six minutes, until soft and translucent.
Add the carrot and garlic and cook for three minutes. Add the chopped mushroom and cook for another five minutes or so, until the mushroom has turned soft and all the veggies are nice and juicy. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the cooked chopped white beans (or lentils), salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce and ketchup and mix well.
In a small bowl, combine the milk and panko bread crumbs. Let sit for three minutes so the breadcrumbs can absorb a little of the milk. Add to veggie mixture.
Add ground turkey and beaten egg and mix well.
Transfer to a greased loaf pan and press down to smooth top.
Combine the ingredients for the glaze and pour over top of meatloaf. Spread with a spoon to cover the top.
Bake for 55 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.
I drizzled some ketchup over and it was Y to the U to the M!
Lily is yearning already to be Miss Independent! While I was feeding her oatmeal this morning she would whine to touch her spoon, which is nothing new and I thought she just wanted to play around with it. But as she took her spoon she slowly put it up to her lips and sweetly let out a “Mmmmm.” So I took her spoon and put a bit of oatmeal on it and gave it back. Staring at the oatmeal and back at me she lifted it to her mouth and ate it! After a couple more bites things got a little crazy and oatmeal ended up in her hair, nose, highchair and even on the blinds. While all of this crazy oatmeal slinging was going on I was enjoying the view from my chair as I enjoyed my apple cinnamon quinoa (recipe found here).
We had a bunch of errands to run today so I was glad I had the turkey meatloaf leftovers, it was just as good the next day!
Since Breakfast was so much fun I decided to introduce Lily to breakfast at dinner. Growing up I loved it when my mom made pancakes or French toast for dinner. Breakfast is so good sometimes it needs to be repeated! So I made some banana oat bran pancakes again (from day nine) and topped it of with Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.
For lunch I made a classic, a grilled cheese sandwich. I spruced it up a bit by adding some avocado….MMmmmm! I didn’t put butter on the bread to keep it healthy. Super easy and super delicious!
Today was Mike’s 34th birthday and I surprised him by taking him to one of his favorite Italian restaurants, Iavarones Steakhouse. The restaurant has been open since 1948 serving up classic Italian fare and Mike is always asking to go there. I used my cheat day and enjoyed a few bites of bread, a few bites of the meatball appetizer, grouper with green beans and two glasses of white wine. BUT I went off the wagon and split a crème brulee…and it was heaven!
What a special day today was. Not only was it Mike’s birthday yesterday but two of my girlfriends gave birth to two healthy beautiful girls. Elisa gave birth to her first daughter, Emelia (her twins are playgroup buddies with Lily). Alisha, my friend I co-hosted a baby shower for, gave birth to a gorgeous daughter named Makyla. After breakfast I dropped Lily off at my mom’s while I ran to get flowers and headed to the hospital to visit my friends.
Alisha was only a few doors down from the room I stayed in and I was flooded with memories. The past 15 months has flown by. I have known Alisha since junior high school. To be in her hospital room holding her baby girl is really hard to describe. I am so happy for her and Adam and I can’t wait for Lily to meet her. Elisa was in the same hospital so it was nice to be able to just walk to the next tower to see her and her new bundle of joy. I remember when Elisa told me the news of her pregnancy. I smiled and tensed up because I didn’t know if it was good news they were planning or a whoopsie (the best kind of whoopsie right!). We were all elated to find out she was having a girl with three boys at home already! Sweet Emelia was so tiny and had an adorable knit hat from Elisa’s grandmother. AH, the smell of newborn babies. There is nothing like it. I must admit, when I came home I was a bit depressed that the past 15 months has gone so fast. I want another one…..but not until I loose some more weight!
For breakfast I made a berry oatmeal bake from Fit Foodie Finds. I have made another similar one before, read that post here. I LOVE oatmeal bakes and if you haven’t tried one, do it. It is beyond simple and lip-smacking good! On the way to the hospital I grabbed a Starbuck’s skinny iced vanilla latte since I didn’t have coffee with my breakfast.
I got home from the hospital just in time for lunch. Mike was working from home so I called him on the road and told him to defrost some shrimp and start the water for the orzo. I used a recipe for roasted shrimp and orzo (recipe found here). The only thing I didn’t do was roast the shrimp, I just left them plain. This was a tasty lunch that was quick and easy!
For dinner we made the mouth watering parchment baked sea bass again from week one (read here). So good and pretty easy!
Are you seeing a reoccurring”easy” theme? Making easy recipes is reason number four why this challenge works!