Cheaters Never Win, Unless It’s With Moderation

Top of the morning/afternoon/evening/night/whatever time you’re reading this to my readers! This week I’m going to share with you a secret of my weight loss that not a lot of people understand. Just because I eat healthy most of the time it doesn’t mean that I don’t still get to enjoy some of my favorite foods. So many programs and people will tell you that in order to see results you have to completely change the way that you eat and avoid anything that’s bad for you. But the truth of the matter is, that’s no way to live your life. It’s absolutely not sustainable for long periods of time. If you’re giving up everything that you want to eat, you’re left with eating stuff you don’t want to eat and how can you be expected to keep that up long enough to see results? You can’t. I was recently introduced to the idea of the 80/20 rule which allows you to balance your diet by eating well 80% of the time and giving yourself 20% of leeway. This seems to be the way I work my cheat meals that works well for me.

So here’s one of the secrets to my success, I’ve never completely stopped eating the things that I love. For me, the number one craving I get that is hard to satisfy while keeping a healthy lifestyle is pizza. I can blame my Italian roots, or the fact that growing up we had pizza every Saturday night, but I think that really when it comes down to it I just really love pizza. I used to eat pizza pretty frequently, and when you pay for delivery it’s definitely not cheap. Now I definitely have my days where I go all out on carbs and eat a real legitimate pizza, but most of the time I try to stick to thin crust. It’s a modification, sure, but it’s definitely better than not getting any pizza at all and it honestly satisfies my cravings. Most of the time I just buy frozen thin crust pizza and have it on the days I do my long runs. With how many calories I burn, I can usually eat the whole thing for dinner and still be under my calorie total for the day. Which feels pretty awesome. Lately though I’ve been trying a lower carb meal plan so I haven’t been able to really eat pizza unless I seriously prepare for it. But you can bet that on my cheat days it’s definitely what I want.

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Last week’s cheat day dinner- an incredible build your own pizza from Blaze Pizza!

That’s another thing you should keep in mind, everybody needs cheat days. No one wants to eat salads and clean food every single day. You’ve gotta give yourself some leniency, especially given that sometimes you need to eat a little crazy to kick start your metabolism if you’re in a slump and have stalled in weight loss. Personally, I reserve my cheat days for Fridays for the simple reason that it’s Chris’s day off of work and we usually like to go out and eat or he wants to cook something that doesn’t fit into my meal parameters. This allows me to have a day that I can look forward to for most of the week, and keeps me from cheating on other days. If I know I have a cheat day coming up that’s no more than 6 days away, I can stick to my healthy eating for the most part.

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Recent cheat day included a trip to Wahlburgers Orlando which had the awesome option of putting any burger on a chop salad to make it lower carb! So I made up for it with Sweet Potato Tots instead. 

Another fun part, at least in my opinion, about making changes to your diet and eating is getting to explore new recipes. I’ve got several pinterest boards with oodles and oodles of recipes on them that are healthy. Some are paleo, keto, whole30, and some are just low calorie but I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to broaden my culinary horizons and find some new foods that I love. 2 years ago I would not eat sweet potatoes after a bad incident from my childhood that involved me getting sick and it being orange and scarring. Now I eat them probably every other week in some form. I’ve spent time perfecting my mashed sweet potato recipe and I’m pretty proud of it. In my 25 years I had never even tried Brussel sprouts until this past December, and now I can’t get enough of them. I have a favorite recipe that I got from my godmother, but I also love to use them in other recipes. I made this incredible pork and Brussel sprouts skillet a few weeks back that was seriously one of my favorite dishes I’ve ever made and it had less than 10g carbs per serving. Prior to my weight loss journey beginning, I made pasta probably twice a week and my “recipes” were a handful of family recipes and the occasional chicken dish I had thrown together. Now I make a new recipe almost every week and repeat the ones I really love when I crave them. It makes me feel like a real cook.

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This paleo pork and brussel sprouts skillet was seriously the bomb diggity. 

The point I’m trying to make here is that just because you want to lose weight and feel or look better it doesn’t mean that you have to give up eating the things that you love. If you’re like me, you might even discover new foods that you enjoy and you never would have given a second glance previously. Also I would like to add that when you’re first starting out, don’t go for broke and start eating nothing but salads or you will never stick with it. Initially I just controlled my portions and counted calories and was losing weight at a pretty quick clip. I’m almost 2 years into my journey and I just started trying a low carb diet about a month ago, it’s all about trying things and seeing what works for you. In the past, I didn’t need to do low carb to lose weight but recently I wanted to see if trying it would do anything positive for me. Since I started, I’ve lost half an inch from my waist and about 6 pounds when I spent months at the same weight. Basically try a lot of different things and see what works best for you! Weight loss is an individual activity, just because some crazy diet worked for someone else it doesn’t mean it will have the same results for you. Listen to your body and give it what it wants.

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And for me that means my body wants pizza. Always. So I have to cut it back a bit. 

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Greek Turkey Burgers & Cilantro Lime Shrimp

Hey howdy hey readers! So I know it’s not a Monday, but I wanted to get a post in before the end of the week and I figured I would put up a couple recipes I used recently. Last week I meal prepped lunches & dinners as I was trying to focus on my nutrition, so I made turkey burgers for lunch (along with a delicious tzatziki sauce) and cilantro lime shrimp for shrimp tacos for dinner. The turkey burgers were 163 calories each (before adding pitas and the tzatziki which was only 21 calories a serving) with 19g of protein in each serving. The cilantro lime roasted shrimp was 113 calories per serving with 28g of protein. As always, at the end I’ll add the recipe write-ups to make shopping easier.

We’ll start with the turkey burgers, as they involve more prep time and actual cooking. I started by making the tzatziki sauce so it had more time to soak in the flavors while the burgers were cooking. The tzatziki is just 7 oz. low fat Greek yogurt, 1/4 tsp minced garlic, 1/4 tsp dried dill, juice of half a lemon, and a dash of salt.

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Super tasty and low fat tzatziki! 

To start the burgers, make sure your spinach is thawed out and if not go ahead and defrost it. You want to dry out the spinach as best you can, I did my best to wring it out with paper towels so that it doesn’t weigh down the burgers. Then you chop up the spinach to avoid getting any long stringy pieces, as well as chopping the sun dried tomatoes and 1/4 of a red onion. In a mixing bowl combine the chopped veggies with the ground turkey, feta, minced garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. You want to mix it well so all of the filling is evenly distributed.

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It doesn’t look super appetizing at the moment, but here’s the burger mix. 

This mix will make 6 pretty good sized patties, make sure to form them tightly as you don’t want to lose any of your filler ingredients! I also advise making an indent in the center of each patty the size of 2 thumbs so when you’re cooking them in the skillet they don’t turn into softballs.

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Patties all ready to go into the pan! 

Cook the burgers over medium heat, I did 3 at a time in about a tbsp of olive oil for each side. I cooked them covered in a skillet for about 3 minutes on each side. Since these are turkey burgers and not beef burger, I wanted them to be cooked all the way through instead of keeping them a little rare like I normally would.

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Patties all done cooking and ready to be put away for consumption throughout the week. 

The way I served my turkey burgers was on a Flatout Foldit pita, atop a bed of arugula. I also spread the tzatziki on both halves of the pita/bread and topped with another sprinkle of feta. With all of that, each lunch topped out at around 300 calories- which is not too shabby in my book. Especially for something that tasted so good.

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A tasty, low-cal lunch! 

Next up was the cilantro lime roasted shrimp for my tacos! You want to preheat your oven to 400 degrees before you start working on the shrimp. Now unless you want the extra work I had, buy your shrimp peeled and deveined. I used 1.5 lbs of shrimp because I wanted 6 servings for my tacos. You begin by making the sauce/glaze which consists of 3/4 cup chopped cilantro, red wine vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, lime zest, salt, and pepper whisking to combine.

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A very cilantro-heavy sauce for the shrimpies. 

After your sauce is prepared, you want to pour it over the shrimp and mix it well so the shrimp are thoroughly coated. After you’ve mixed it well, you evenly distribute the shrimp onto a foil lined cookie sheet so that they’re in a thin layer.

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Ready for the oven! 

After cooking for 10 minutes, pull the shrimp out and garnish with some fresh cilantro if you so desire. I set aside my shrimp for dinner but then packed away the rest in tupperware for my tacos!

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A lot of delicious shrimp for dinner! 

As for my shrimpies, as I mentioned I put them in tacos for dinner. I used 2 carb balance tortillas each night topped with half an avocado, shredded lettuce, red onion, and some tomatoes. Each dinner was about 500 calories with a lot of fresh and healthy ingredients to satiate my frequent craving for Mexican food and stick to my healthier lifestyle.

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Voila! Shrimp tacos! On the first night I tossed a bit of the extra feta in there for a bonus treat. 


Greek Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce 

Tzatziki ingredients

  • 7 oz. plain greek yogurt
  • 1 medium fresh lemon
  • ¼ tsp minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp dried dill

Instructions

  1. Prepare the sauce by combining the yogurt, ¼ tsp minced garlic, dry dill, juice of half the lemon and a dash of salt. Stir everything to combine and then refrigerate to allow the flavors to blend while you make the burgers.

Greek Turkey Burger ingredients

  • 1.25 lb. ground turkey
  • 6 halves sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 oz. frozen spinach
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Thaw the frozen spinach and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Roughly chop the spinach to prevent long stringy pieces. Also chop the sun dried tomatoes and ¼ of the red onion.
  2. In a bowl combine the ground turkey with the spinach, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, feta, ½ tsp minced garlic, dried oregano, egg, bread crumbs, ½ tsp of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Stir everything until it is evenly combined. Shape the mixture into six patties.
  3. Cook the burgers on a counter top grill, a non-stick skillet or over open flame. I did mine in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, covered for 3 minutes on each side.

 

Cilantro Lime Roasted Shrimp 

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs shrimp, shell off and deveined
  • ¾ cup of fresh cilantro, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime (about 1 tablespoons)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon of pepper
  • zest of one lime

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a small bowl mix, ¾ cup of fresh cilantro, red wine vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, 2 minced garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, lime zest, salt, and pepper. Whisk until combined.
  3. Pour cilantro lime sauce over shrimp that has been patted dry, toss to coat everything.
  4. Spread seasoned shrimp out on a baking sheet, making sure they are in a single layer.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until pink.

 

Lent: Or How I Learned About Sacrifice

As those of you, like me, who were raised Catholic may know we have reached the Lenten season leading into Easter. For those of you not raised in the Catholic Church, or brow beaten into going to Sunday school… Lent is the period of 40 days prior to Easter in which we spend time praying, making sacrifices, and not eating meat on Fridays- and fasting if you’re confirmed! Anyway the biggest part of lent, after the whole not eating meat on Fridays/fasting is the Lenten sacrifice. For the 40 days, you are expected to give something up or find some way to better yourself as a human. Though my Catholic faith is less than consistent at this point, I always attempted to participate in lent and chose to sacrifice each year in lieu of bettering myself. This year however, I’ve chosen to work on bettering myself- physically, mentally, and spiritually. But before we get to this year, let’s review some of my past lents!

Growing up, once you make first communion (2nd grade) you’re expected to begin observing lent and start participating in the whole sacrifice thing. For many years of my childhood I recall giving up something rather minuscule like ice cream. Which, while I love ice cream is not something I was eating every single day or anything. It was tough, for a kid but probably not all that difficult past elementary school. When I was younger (and even still) my family would go to Disney pretty often, always in the spring before Easter as it’s typically less crowded. I remember us going to one of our favorite restaurants, Alfredo’s in Italy at EPCOT, and ordering spaghetti and meatballs and my mom reminding me that it was Friday and I couldn’t have the meatballs. As an 8-year old I was absolutely devastated by this news. Instead of letting me absolutely lose it and burst into tears in the restaurant, my mom told me that we would just set the meatballs aside and box them up and bring them back to the room with us and I could eat them tomorrow. I stopped my almost-tears from flowing and agreed to this arrangement, pleased that my sacrifice needed only be temporary. However later that night, when I realized I wouldn’t be able to have my traditional Disney dessert of a Mickey Premium bar, the weight of what I had given up really hit me. I think this was probably one of the first times I really understood what it meant to give something up.

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You can’t see the devastation on my face in this picture, but giving up ice cream was hard. 

Let’s fast forward a few years to middle school, where my typical Lenten sacrifice was chocolate. While this may not seem a big sacrifice to some of you, it was huge to preteen/teenage Meg. Chocolate has always been a vice for me, a reward when I’ve done well and something to lift my spirits when I’ve experienced some form of sadness or defeat. Giving up chocolate for 40 days meant I wouldn’t be able to celebrate an achievement or commiserate a loss in a way. While ice cream was something few and far between for me, chocolate was a much more present sacrifice. I learned that sacrifice was something that was meant to be hard, not something casual that was a bummer here and there. When I hit high school, I really stepped up my game for lent and decided to try and give up snacks and sweets of all kinds. Obviously I could partake in fruit and the like, but I wasn’t allowed any: candy, ice cream, cake, cookie, brownie, etc. and also wasn’t allowed to snack between meals. This way I ensured that I would fast on Fridays because I had no other choice, snacks were out. Those were some tough 40 day periods, but when I came out the other side successful it meant a lot. It meant that I could give up a lot and still get by each day without these things I thought I needed.

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A slightly more mature (aka middle school) Meg with my friend Nicole… also at Disney because that’s where all my pictures are from apparently. 

Now let’s get around to my point, which is that this weight loss journey was about a lot of big sacrifices. I gave up a lot of things that I loved, and never thought I could live without. Truly. That’s how addicted I was to some of these things. Pasta was a part of my weekly, sometimes daily life in the past and to cut that out because of all the carbs and calories was really tough for me. In the last 20 months I’ve made quite a lot of sacrifice in the service of bettering myself physically. It’s time that the rest of my life start sacrificing things in order to better myself in other ways. This year for lent I decided not to give something up specifically, but rather just work on improving little things. I’ve starts trying to spend less time on social media- Facebook was always my go to scrolling place when I was bored or had nothing better to do. Now, instead I’m trying to spend extra time reading or writing posts for this blog. I’m trying to unplug and just enjoy things as they happen instead of constantly attempting to capture an elusive moment with my phone. As for the spiritual betterment, that’s a work in progress. But for the time being, I’m exploring my options- mostly by doing yoga and trying to use breathing exercises when I’m stressed. Working on calming the inner me and becoming mellower or something. Like I said, it’s definitely a work in progress.

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A photo with my dad & Shaun from last weekend at EPCOT. I’m really proud of the definition in my arms that’s showing up now! Happy Easter Season! 

Are any of you participating in Lent or any form of self-sacrifice for the time being? Maybe for a prescribed period, maybe for an indefinite amount of time. I would love to hear from anyone working on bettering themselves!

 

Tuna Patties & 21 Day Fix Approved Chicken Enchiladas

Time for another couple of recipes on this week’s edition of Meal Prep Monday- this week I made tuna patties/burgers for my lunches and 21 Day Fix chicken enchiladas for dinner. Both of these are fairly low cal and high in protein. Each tuna burger is 230 calories with only 10g of fat and 24g of protein per serving, I served mine on a sandwich thin for an extra hundred calories. You could add tartar sauce or lemon if you so desire. Each serving of the chicken enchiladas is 530 calories at just 10g of fat and 57g of protein, I’ve been craving Mexican food lately and enchiladas are a personal favorite of mine so I was looking for a healthier recipe. In the past I’ve made a chicken enchilada casserole that was pretty good but I wanted the real thing, well a healthier version of the real thing. This one definitely satiated my craving! My tuna patties recipe can be found here, at Simply Recipes. The 21 Day Fix chicken enchiladas is courtesy of Burn This Mama Down- here.

I decided to start with the tuna patties first, as the recipe recommended I chill them for an hour before cooking, so that they stay together better. As usual, I slightly altered the ingredients in the recipe to suit me and recommend you do the same. In place of Dijon mustard (which I dislike), I used Ken’s lite honey mustard and instead of crumbling up white bread I used seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs (which I had on hand). I also skipped the part that suggested I saute the patties in olive oil and butter, instead just using the olive oil. After combining all of my ingredients and shaping the tuna into patties I let them chill in the fridge for an hour as I started prepping my enchiladas.

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These babies are ready to chilllllllllllllll (haha pretend I’m funny)

Seeing as how I want to keep the recipes separate, we won’t do things exactly chronologically in this write up. So skipping ahead by an hour, I heated up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a medium-large skillet and put these patties in to cook.

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Let’s get cookin’, good lookin’ (I’ve got jokes) 

After 3 or so minutes on each side (and another tablespoon of olive oil before flipping) these patties were done and ready to be packed up for my lunches for the week. The recipe made 4 patties and seeing as how my Fridays tend to be a little off the cuff for meals , it was perfect to get me through the week. Plus when you have more than 5-6 servings of the same food in a week it starts to get a little monotonous.

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These patties are a little crispy, but for my first try not bad! 

Now on to the chicken enchiladas! First you’re going to need to preheat your oven to 350. The prep for this one takes a bit longer, as the recipe calls for the chicken breast to be already cooked and shredded. So I used a quick and easy method to cook the chicken with a southwest flair. I simmered 3 cups of chicken broth on the stove and added my 3 breasts as well as 2 bay leaves. I cooked the chicken for about 16 minutes- 8 on each side flipping them halfway through. Because cooking on the stove top isn’t always accurate I used a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature was 165 before I set them aside to shred. While I was waiting on the chicken to cook and cool, I combined the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl (15 oz of black beans, 2 cans Rotel 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, and 2 tsp Mrs. Dash Southwest Seasoning) and after shredding the chicken I added to the bowl and mixed.

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I know, it doesn’t look very delicious now but wait- there’s more! 

Next we’re going to heat up our tortillas in the microwave for a bit so they are easier to handle. The ones I used were Mission “super size” white corn tortillas and I made a line of filling in the center and then rolled them up placing the seams down in the pan. After doing that 9 more times, you’ve got a full pan of enchiladas (or in my case 2). I used one large can of Old El Paso red enchilada sauce to cover them and then sprinkled about a cup and a half reduced fat Mexican cheese on top before placing them in the oven for 30 minutes.

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All 10 enchiladas, covered with sauce but pre-cheese. 

After 30 minutes in the oven, the chicken enchiladas were done cooking and ready to pack up for my dinners. Because as usual I used a larger amount of chicken than required (2.4 lbs instead of 2), I ended up with extra filling for the enchiladas so I just put them into each container along with 2 enchiladas. they fell apart a bit when packing up, but they don’t need to be pretty, just tasty.

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Fresh out of the oven, still looking pretty and smelling delicious. 

This week’s recipes were relatively easy to make and super delicious. As always, I’ll write up the recipes with my modifications below, if you decide to try either one out feel free to comment and talk about your experience. Happy prepping!

Tuna Patties 

4 servings – 230 calories each

Ingredients 

  • 12 oz. tuna (canned or bagged)
  • 2 teaspoons Ken’s lite honey mustard
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp water (or liquid from the tuna)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped green onion
  • Salt & ground pepper to taste
  • A couple squirts Crystal hot sauce
  • 1 egg raw
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Drain tuna: Drain the liquid from the tuna cans. If you are using tuna packed in water, reserve a tablespoon of the tuna water, and add a teaspoon of olive oil to the tuna mixture in the next step.
  2. Mix tuna with mustard, bread, zest, lemon juice, water, parsley, chives, hot sauce, salt, pepper, egg: In a medium bowl, mix together the tuna, mustard, torn white bread, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, parsley, chives, and hot sauce. Sprinkle on salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste the mixture before adding the egg to see if it needs more seasoning to your taste. Mix in the egg.
  3. Form into patties, chill: Divide the mixture into 4 parts. With each part, form into a ball and then flatten into a patty. Place onto a wax paper lined tray and chill for an hour. (You can skip the chilling if you want, chilling just helps the patties stay together when you cook them.)
  4. Sauté in skillet: Heat the olive oil and a little butter (for taste) in a cast iron or stick-free skillet on medium high. Gently place the patties in the pan, and cook until nicely browned, 3-4 minutes on each side.

21 Day Fix Approved Chicken Enchiladas 

5 servings – 530 calories each

Ingredients 

  • 3 chicken breasts (cooked and shredded as described above)
  • 15 oz. can of black beans (reduced sodium) – drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans Rotel tomatoes & diced green chilis (no salt added) – drained
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle Seasoning
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 1.5 cups reduced fat Mexican cheese
  • 1 large can Old El Paso red enchilada sauce

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine chicken, beans, chilis, tomatoes, yogurt and seasoning in a large bowl.
  3. Heat tortillas in the microwave before assembling.
  4. Add chicken mixture to each tortilla, roll up, and place in baking dish seam side down.
  5. Pour enchilada sauce over enchiladas so that all of the tortillas are covered.
  6. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.

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1 serving of the tuna patty – on a sandwich thin with some arugula and all 5 servings of enchiladas with the leftover filling. 

Skinny Slow Cooker Pernil Pork & Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Top of the day to you, readers! I’ve decided to post another in depth Meal Prep Monday post after some requests. This week I chose a less hands on meal prep, skinny slow cooker pernil (Puerto Rican) pork and cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes with cranberries. Both of these recipes come from other sites (courtesy of Pinterest) so of course I would like to credit the original recipes before I get into my prepping. The pork recipe can be found here courtesy of skinny taste. The cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes & cranberries recipe is located here, from Little Bits Of. Now, on to my version of the recipes and how I prepped them.

We’ll start with the Pernil Pork, as it was a longer process (as any slow cooker meal is). I would like to begin by saying that this has already become my favorite pork recipe and I’ve only had one out of my 6 servings so far. The pork is moist and tender, while also being incredibly flavorful despite using so few ingredients. I used a 2.4 lb extra lean pork tenderloin for my recipe instead of the shoulder it called for, mostly because it was on sale at Publix (which affects many of my decisions) and also because I just prefer the extra lean meat for my calorie counting lifestyle. Slightly different than other slow cooker recipes, this one requires marinating the pork overnight with crushed garlic, in a combination of orange and lime juice, with spices- cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.

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Right now it looks super unappetizing, but this makes incredible pork. I swear. 

After letting the pork marinate overnight, you cook it on low for about 8 hours (mine ended up being closer to 9 due to a late run because of inclement weather). I don’t think the extra hour did any harm to the pork, if anything it probably just made the meat more tender and easy to shred. So after the 8 hours on low, you remove the pork loin and shred it. You also want to remove all of the liquid from the pot, reserving 1 cup of it.

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After 8.5ish hours, that pork is nice and tender for shredding. 

After shredding, place the pork back in the slow cooker along with the cup of liquid and add additional salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. The recipe says to cook for another 15-30 minutes on low, but I elected to try it on high for 30 minutes to try and give it a little crisp. Some pieces got a bit crispier, but if I wanted carnitas type pork, I probably should’ve broiled it. No biggie. After the additional time, the pork was perfect. Juicy without having an excess of liquid and cooked to perfection. I decided to split my pork up into 6 servings of about 158g of meat which comes to 221 calories per serving with 37g of protein. You could use this meat for tacos or serve it over rice, but I wanted to cut back on carbs this week so I’m just eating the meat by itself. Trust me when I say it’s delicious enough that it needs no toppings or extras.

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The finished product, 6 servings of the best pork I’ve ever made. 

Next, we’ll move on to the cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes. As some of you may know, I’m rather obsessed with sweet potatoes. They’re one of my favorite side dishes and I make them probably at least once a month as part of my meal prep. Whether it be baked, mashed, or otherwise. This week I decided to try a new recipe recommended to me by my godmother, Suzanne. Truthfully the prep for this didn’t take much, just skinning and chopping sweet potatoes and mixing them up with the cranberries (I also added a half cup of chopped pecans because it sounded like the perfect addition). Then coating them in melted coconut oil (1 tbsp) and 1 tbsp maple syrup for sweetness (I used butter lite syrup as it’s what I had on hand) and sprinkling with cinnamon and salt. Then you pop them into the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

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Before the roasting, just a lot of great colors in here. 

After I removed them from the oven, I separated the recipe into 6 approximately even servings to be put into Tupperware for the week. Some people suggested adding a bit more maple syrup for flavor, and I might try that on my next serving as the cranberries make it a bit sour. The sweet potatoes come out nice and crispy almost like home fries, which unfortunately you lose with microwaving, but they’re still very tasty. The pecans add a nice crunch to make up for that though. If I were to attempt this recipe again, I might skip the cranberries (I just don’t particularly care for the sour aspect) and just keep it sweet potatoes and pecans. This dish comes out to 6 servings at 189 calories with only 4g of fat but 41g of carbs because sweet potatoes. Low carb isn’t something I stick to at all, so it doesn’t make a difference to me. Plus sweet potatoes are better for you than white potatoes anyway.

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My 6 mostly equal servings all portioned out for the week. 

For convenience I’ll also include the recipes below for a more organized look at each dish. These are copy/pasted directly from the source.

Skinny Slow Cooker Pernil Pork 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 lb boneless pork shoulder blade roast, lean, all fat removed (I used 2.4 lbs of extra lean pork tenderloin instead)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp crushed black pepper
  • 3 oranges, juice of (1/2 cup)
  • 2 limes, juice of

Directions: 

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut slits into the pork and stuff holes with half of the crushed garlic. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over pork. Place in the ceramic part of the crock pot, cover and refrigerate, turning pork occasionally so the marinade covers all of pork.
  2. The next day, remove the crock pot and cook on low, 8 hours.
  3. After 8 hours, remove pork and shred using two forks. Remove liquid from crock pot and add pork back to crock. Add about 1 cup of the liquid back and adjust salt, pepper and cumin (you will probably need to add more). Let it cook another 15-30 minutes.

Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Cranberries 

Ingredients: 

  • 6 cups chopped sweet potatoes (about 2.6 lbs)
  • 8 ounce bag of cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • (Optional) half cup chopped pecans

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine sweet potatoes, cranberries, pecans, coconut oil and maple syrup. Stir mixture until potatoes and berries are evenly coated.
  3. Then sprinkle on cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir to coat evenly. Pour onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Roast for 40 – 50 minutes for until a fork easily pierces through the sweet potatoes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Enjoy!

This week I don’t have a fancy plated picture for you, as I reheat the potatoes in the Tupperware to save on dishes, but trust me you don’t need the presentation because the food speaks for itself! Would love to hear back from anyone who tries these recipes!

Mighty Meal Prep Monday!

Good day readers! I’ve decided to try something new this week and see what kind of a response it gets from you all, if it’s a success I might consider making it a regular part of the rotation. As many people know, part of my healthy lifestyle for the last 19 months or so has been meal prepping my dinners on Sunday/Monday and having delicious healthy food for the week. This week I’m going to share with you all not only my recipes, but also some pictures of the in progress cooking and my experience with it. Today I’ve made balsamic caramelized onion turkey burgers which I got from a recipe here! As well as a side of what I’ve dubbed “Brussel Sprouts Suzanne” as my godmother created the recipe and introduced me to brussel sprouts which I’ve found to be delicious!

I decided to make the brussel sprouts first as they required less actual cooking, since they’re oven roasted. So once I finished the prep work I could let them roast for a while and start prepping the necessary ingredients for the turkey burgers. The brussel sprouts prep is pretty simple- for the actual sprouts you just need to wash, remove the stems, and quarter the sprouts. Once you’ve fixed your sprouts, it’s time to chop up some bacon! The way Suzanne taught me to prepare it is 2-4 pieces of bacon per 10-15 brussel sprouts which is enough for 2 servings. Because I was making 5 servings, I used 6 pieces of bacon. Once you’ve got all your ingredients in an oven safe baking dish, drizzle with 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and mix it well. Once your oven is preheated to 400 degrees, you’re going to roast the sprouts for 25-30 minutes stirring once about halfway through. Once they’re done cooking and removed from the oven, drizzle balsamic glaze on the whole dish and then mix it up before serving. The way I prepared it, each serving came in at 171 calories with 11g of fat (that’s the bacon mostly) and 7.5g of protein (which is more than I expected).

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I’m super proud of my presentation here, the dish is absolutely delicious! 

My next step in prep (hehe that rhymed), was caramelizing the onions for out turkey burgers! You can read detailed instructions in the link I posted above. I used yellow onion because it’s my favorite and was on sale, so I halved and sliced 3 large onions and added a half cup of balsamic vinegar to a pan with a lid and let this cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. After that time, I removed the top and stirred the onions allowing the liquid to disappear is what causes the onions to caramelize. Once all the balsamic vinegar is gone, add 1/3 cup of water and stir the onions frequently until the water evaporates as well. After all is said and done, you’ll finish with 8 servings of balsamic caramelized onion to top your turkey burgers, each serving of onions is 32 calories.

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The onions, mid-caramelization

The final part of my prep was tackling the turkey burgers, the toughest part of the day for sure. Combine all of the ingredients listed and form into 8 burger patties, be sure to make an indent in the center of the patties as they will expand when you put them on the hot skillet. I used a cast iron skillet, because the only grill I have is a George Foreman and I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose any flavor. They could just as easily be grilled, either way you want to use medium high heat. The recipe called for cooking the burgers 7 minutes on each side, adding the provolone cheese for the last minute. I forgot to add the cheese to the first 3 until after I had already plated them, so that’s why 3 of them look a little funky. I’m sure they’ll taste the same though. You can also serve the burgers on whatever you choose, I bought french hamburger buns from the Publix bakery as they were also on sale this week and clock in at 160 calories a piece. Though it could just as easily be served without the bun, on a lettuce wrap, or a sandwich thin if that tickles your fancy. The burgers (without bun or onions) are each 173 calories with 8g of fat and 22g of protein.

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All my burgers, in different states of done (and 3 wonky ones with partially melted cheese). The center burger and the one directly to the right were fresh off the pan. 

For your convenience, I’ve listed all the ingredients below and a photo of the finished product all plated and fancy. If anyone attempts this meal prep I would love to see pictures or hear your reviews.

Brussel Sprouts Suzanne 

5 servings – 171 calories each

  • 25-30 brussel sprouts
  • 6 pieces bacon chopped (I used center cut because of calorie content)
  • 2-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-4 Tbsp balsamic glaze
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Remove stems from brussel sprouts and quarter them tossing the extra pieces into the dish as well.
  3. Chop bacon into medium to small pieces and add to baking dish.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Mix the dish so that all the sprouts have olive oil on them and the bacon is distributed equally.
  6. Roast for 15 minutes, stir, and roast for another 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan and immediately drizzle with balsamic glaze, stir and serve.

The following is the exact recipe I used, copy and pasted from The Foodie and The Fix blog.

 
Balsamic Caramelized Onions

8 servings – 32 calories each

  • 3 large onions (any kind will do, but I usually use white or red), cut in half and then sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  1. Put your sliced onions and vinegar in a large skillet with a tight fitting lid. If you don’t have one you can use a pot instead, but the process may take a bit longer. Cover and cook about 20 minutes.
  2. Take off the lid and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, until there is no liquid left. Once this happens, the onions will start to caramelize. You’ll then add 1/3 cup of water, stirring again until there is no liquid left.
  3. Repeat this process until onions are fully cooked and caramelized. Set aside.

Turkey Burgers 

8 servings – 173 calories each

  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp (3 large cloves) of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs dried thyme

Toppings

  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • balsamic caramelized onions
  • whatever you want to put it on: whole wheat bun, english muffin, pita, greens, etc..
    Instructions

To make the burgers:

  1. Mix together all ingredients, form into 8 burger patties.
  2. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Make sure it’s nice and hot before adding your burgers or they may stick. You can also cook these in a cast iron skillet.
  3. Either way, using medium-high heat, they should take about 7 minutes on each side. Flip only once to get the juiciest burgers and cook until the burgers reach 165 degrees or if you don’t have a thermometer, until they’re hot and no longer pink on the inside.
  4. Put a slice of provolone on each one and close the lid until melted (this will only take a minute or so).
  5. Serve each tasty turkey burgers on whatever you like, such as a whole wheat bun, english muffin, greens, etc., along with about 1/8th of the caramelized onions.

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The finished product- a delicious dinner for under 600 calories!

 

 

Thanks For The Memories (And The Tips)

I would like to start off with an apology to all my faithful readers for missing the last couple weeks of posts. I’ve been incredibly busy with school and sales have been picking up on my Etsy shop so I’ve been stretched a bit thin. I definitely wanted to take some time before the holiday this week to talk about what I’m thankful for especially regarding my weight loss and fitness. I also intend on sharing some of my “tricks of the trade” for getting through Thanksgiving without winding up overstuffed (stuffed, like a turkey. Get it? I like puns, I’m not sorry). So kick back and enjoy this post full of sentimental nonsense and a couple eating tips.

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Had an early Thanksgiving with my second family, the Tyos over the weekend! I’m so thankful that they always have room for me at their table. 

As we approach the day in which we give thanks, I typically tend to take some time to reflect on what I’m thankful for like many others. Mostly so that when I’m inevitably asked on Thursday while sitting around a table full of people, what I’m thankful for I can be prepared with an answer. In the past it’s always been something smarmy like my family, or more recently my dad for always taking care of me and my brother and keeping us together even without my mom. But this year there’s a lot of things I’m thankful for besides the generic answers.

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Chris is of course #1 on the list, the Superman to my Wonder Woman. Hence the Halloween costumes (this is also the most recent picture of us such a coincidence). 

I’m thankful for my boyfriend and biggest supporter throughout this journey, Chris, without whom I would’ve never made it this far or probably even past the first month. I’ve tried losing weight so many times before and I’ve never stuck with it for more than a month. Thanks to his endless support and a bit of my perseverance I’m going 17 months strong and have lost 98 pounds. I’m also incredibly thankful for my godmother, who’s been a huge inspiration for my fitness journey and has helped me through my weak moments and not only started but has supported my running habit for nearly a year. Yeah, I said habit, like a “drug habit” because it’s a serious addiction. I wake up at 6:30 am 3 days a week to run, something I would’ve never believed possible before. My godmother is more than just a fitness mentor to me, she’s always been an important person in my life but since beginning this journey she’s really become such a close friend and I love that so much. Her family is so important to me, even if we’re not blood I consider them to be my family. I’m thankful for my friends, especially the ones who make time for me even though they might not live near me or have a lot going on in their lives. Emily lives 2 time zones away but we manage to text nearly every day and Facetime pretty often to keep up with each other.

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I love any time I get to spend with my godmother, especially if it’s at Disney. 

I have so much to be thankful for that it’s hard to just reduce it down to bite size chunks for a blog post, but those are mostly the greatest hits. Believe me, I could spend hours droning on about how great my life is and all of the fantastic things I have to be thankful for but no one wants to hear all of that. The other side to that coin of course is that there are plenty of things in my life and everyone else’s that aren’t perfect or idyllic and can drag you down on any given day. I’ve chosen to ignore those bits as best I can and try to look on the bright side of things as often as possible. If I don’t feed the dementor of depression, sometimes I hope that it will go away for good (If you don’t get this metaphor, see my earlier blog post about finding your patronus).

Rather than end things on that downer of a note, I’ll give you my tips and tricks for surviving thanksgiving without packing on the poundage. Tip #1 if you can take some time to get a little cardio in before the feasting it will allow yourself some extra calories for feasting! I had an early thanksgiving over the weekend with my second family, the Tyos and I ran 4 miles in the morning so I would eat without guilt. It was so worth it to enjoy a piece of pecan pie. Tip #2 don’t waste plate space or calories on things you don’t absolutely love. I go for my favorites first and I can usually fill up on that without things like salad and corn. For me it’s white meat turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and a roll. Rule #3 always save calories and/or room for dessert- you will want pie and you should have it. Tip #4 and this one is the most important, portion control will save your life. You’re more than entitled to fill your plate, just be careful of things like extra helpings and calorie fillers like alcohol (unless your family supported the opposing presidential candidate in which case alcohol may save you). Let yourself have dessert, just don’t eat half the pie. Or something useful like that. I know I said that the last tip was the most important, but tip #5 is actually the MOST most important. Tip #5 don’t be afraid to let loose and enjoy yourself! If you eat a little too much don’t beat yourself up, you’ll get back on track the next day or the next week. You can survive the holiday season and you can do it while losing weight. I promise. Just stick to your guns!

alpha-turkey

Be like Linda, and conquer Thanksgiving. Be the alpha turkey.