Asian Lettuce Wraps Made-Over

Story time! I ran a huge freezer meal club for 18 months. We met monthly and made a record breaking 220 meals in 2 hours one time (I know. We were crazy.) For more about that season of my life, see all my freezer meal posts here.¬†During freezer meal time, I was taking my meal prepping and planning (and organizational skills lol) to the next level while simultaneously making the transition to clean eating. This led to my first experiments in writing my own recipes (or re-writing ones I found out on the internet) to suit my own family and things we like to cook with. Here’s the deal – the transition to how we eat now wasn’t completely sudden (though I can definitely identify certain decisions where we made more of a sweeping move than a gradual one). Rather, it can better be described as tackling one thing at a time, one recipe at a time, one meal at a time. Baby steps got us as a family to where we are now.

6a00d8341ef22f53ef01311008bfb7970c-500wiFreezer meal club hasn’t been meeting for awhile now (miss you ladies!) but I do get cravings for certain meals that we made OVER and OVER and haven’t had in awhile from time to time. I have some killer romaine lettuce right now in my garden and I thought about how badly I REALLY wanted Asian Lettuce Wraps with it. So I opened up the recipe. And there it was. Hoisin sauce. Something I don’t really want to cook with anymoreūüė¶ Why? Check out the first ingredient in the ingredient list… SUGAR! We’ve done a really good job with eating very little sugar, especially in our meals (some of the kids snacks are still a work in progress) and so I wanted to come up with an alternative. If I eat sugar, I want it to be chocolate. Or ice cream. Or something completely and utterly delicious. But hiding in my everyday meals? Nope, no thanks. One thing at a time, right?

Enter, my new Asian Lettuce Wraps recipe. #BOOM

Ingredients
2 lb ground turkey, browned
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 onion, chopped
2t minced garlic
6T reduced sodium soy sauce (reduced sodium is really important!) OR coconut aminos
2T natural peanut butter
1T honey
2t rice wine vinegar
2t sesame oil
1/4t garlic powder
1t ginger
6 green onions, sliced thinly
1 head of “large leaf” romaine lettuce (this isn’t actually a thing just look for some sizable romaine)

Directions

  1. Brown your turkey, chopping it up well in the pan.
  2. Add bell pepper and onion to pan and saute until onions are translucent.
  3. Mix the garlic, soy sauce/coconut aminos, peanut butter, honey, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic powder and ginger together. Pour into pan and stir well to coat. When making sauce with peanut butter, I really like to warm it up a little so I can mix it together well before I add it to the pan. I mix my sauce up in a glass pyrex measuring cup and then right before I add it to the pan I hold it over the pan so it steams it up a little. Then I whisk it all together right before adding. 
  4. Once heated through, add the green onions to the top
  5. Serve with large romaine leaves and alongside cauliflower fried rice! YUM!

Do those look amazing or what!?!?

THEY WERE! (And I’ve got leftovers…. wheee!)

Makes 8 servings – 21 Day Fix container conversion – 1 red, 1/2 green, 1 orange, 1 teaspoon

Have a recipe you want “made over”? Let me know! I’d be glad to take a look at it and make suggestions!

 

Corn, Edamame & Tomato Salad

So I was making a side dish for a cookout tonight and I thought I’d share it with all of you. Its inspired by a salad I found over here at One Perfect Bite¬†but I made some modifications to “clean” it up a little bit and use what I had in the house.

I bring you clean-eating, 21 Day Fix-friendly¬†Corn, Edamame & Tomato Salad.¬†It’s one of those recipes that fits the healthy bill but folks with all kinds of tastes will enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups frozen corn
1 cup frozen edamame beans
2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1/4 cup (or more) chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:
1) Heat a deep skillet over high heat. Add coconut oil and swirl to coat.
2) Add garlic, ginger and salt. Stir for about 30 seconds. Add corn and toss to coat with oil. Stir in edamame beans. Cook until corn and edamame are heated all the way through, about five minutes.
3) Add tomatoes and drizzle honey. Toss or stir gently until they are warm and heated through.
4) Add sesame oil and cilantro and mix well. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm.

Yield: 8 servings (you can halve this recipe if you only want 4 servings)
21 Day Fix Container equivalents: 1 yellow, 1/2 green, 1/2 orange

Cauliflower Cheeseburger Skillet

Click back to our very early married days when my very budget-conscious hubby would look at our grocery bill (which, for the record, was HIGHER back then when it was just the two of us and we ate a TON of processed food!) and, in an effort to trim the grocery bill, would say things like, “One night, can’t we just get hamburger helper!? I LIVED on that stuff growing up!” I never actually made it but I do think that I got some in the house for him for the nights that I would work late (1-2 times a week before we had kids) and he’d have dinner on his own.

Fast forward 7 years. While we’ve never had hamburger helper as a family, I’m finding it a fun challenge to “recreate” some of the classic “mainstream” dishes into clean eats that our whole family (or at least 3/4 of us) will eat. I got a STEAL on cauliflower at Sam’s this week so we need to make at least 2-3 dinners with cauliflower this week (not a problem around here). So I thought it’d be fun to make a hamburger helper-esque dish for dinner!

Seriously, before I begin, can I just share the cuteness of this moment with you? These two were so adorable (and not at all fighting) when it came to cooking dinner tonight. Asking questions left and right and waiting their turns… ¬†the moments a mom lives for!

Cauliflower Cheeseburger Skillet

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-large head of cauliflower, cut into florets (OR a bag of frozen cauliflower)
  • 1 lb of grassfed beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 c of cheese (colby, cheddar, etc.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 TB parsley
  • 2 TB grassfed butter
  • 1 TB brown mustard (dijon, spicy, etc.)
  • 1 TB worcestershire

Directions

  1. Boil a pot of water and cook cauliflower until tender (about 15 minutes)
  2. Once cauliflower is boiling, melt butter in your skillet.
  3. Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add beef to skillet and break it up, browning it.¬†If you have grease to drain off the pan after this step, do so. However, if you use a high quality beef, you’ll be able to skip that step!
  4. Add salt, pepper, parsley, mustard and worcestershire and mix over low heat.
  5. Drain cauliflower. Add to skillet and thoroughly mix.
  6. Add cheese and stir until completely melted.
  7. Serve your dish!

I’d definitely consider this a “low carb” recipe if that’s something you keep track of. And if you follow the 21 day fix, this makes 4 servings and counts as 1 red, 1.5 green, 1 blue, and a teaspoon!

My Mason Jar Experiment

mason-jar-salad-anatomyWith some new mason jars in my pantry, and a friend who is a raving fan of mason jar salads, I’ve been wanting to give these a try for ages! Finally, I did!

Looking for some inspiration, I loosely followed this guide from The Two Bite Club¬†in terms of how I would be assembling my jars. I had all my normal salad “staples” and went to work!

Since I tend to use some fruit in my salads from time to time, I included fruits (like berries/apples/etc.) in the “soft veggies” category. Also, I added a small piece of paper towel folded at the top of the jar to capture any moisture that got trapped inside the jar to help keep them fresh. I do this with my bags of lettuce that I wash and bag/seal up too, to help keep them fresh for the week.

I just started with all the things i use to make salads throughout the week pulled out and spread out on the counter. I didn’t really have a plan per se.

The hardest part about this “winging it” method was figuring out what dressings to use. I’m not a huge dressing person honestly. Give me a teaspoon of olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic and I’m good. And on my Mexican-type salads, I usually just use a little salsa instead of dressing to spice it up. I did whip up some of the “Fixate” honey mustard salad dressing to use on a couple of these though, in the name of trying something new.

Another nice thing about making all my salads at once was measuring my ¬†containers for several meals all at one time! I just jotted it down on a piece of paper in case I forgot what I put in each one. Cass enjoyed helping with this part. She actually kind of seems to know what foods go in what container, tooūüôā

Look at them! So so pretty, as Cassidy would say. And so delicious!

My biggest question was “is it going to taste fresh!?” And the answer was a resounding yes! I ate my last one on Friday (prepared these on Sunday) and it tasted like I’d just put it together. I also loved the convenience of everything in the jar. Made packing lunch on workdays sooo easy.
  

I will definitely be assembling more mason jar salads in my future! Maybe not every single week, but alternating weeks to keep it interesting. Or maybe just putting like three together so I’m not eating one every day but do have them for convenience. I get bored with food so I don’t want to burn out on ’em.

The only adjustment I would make would be to keep my main protein out of the salad (unless I’m doing like a chef salad or something with definitely cold meats). I realized I do really like my protein to be warmed up most often, and since I usually have chicken breast strips on hand in my freezer and ground turkey pre-cooked for the week in my fridge, it shouldn’t be too difficult to measure out a red container of protein, heat it up, dump my jar and add my warmed protein to it. Other than a preference of tastes, there was not WRONG with having the meat in there, though!

Butternut Squash Turkey Chili

img_8160One of my new favorite loves this winter, I’ve been wanting to come up with a few more butternut squash recipes while all the winter squash are still easy to come by and a great price in the stores. Enter… my new butternut squash turkey chili!

This was a quickie to throw together. I chose to make it in the dutch oven over about an hour and a half but it could be a crockpot recipe too. See below the instructions for recommended crockpot modifications.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
2 t oregano
3 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 c diced pepper (I used red pepper)
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 can tomato paste
3 cups beef broth, divided
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes (NOT drained)
1 1/2 – 2lb butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes

Possible toppings include diced avocado, shredded mozzarella or cheddar or sour cream if desired.

Instructions
Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. Add the spices, cook and stir for 30 seconds.
Add onion and bell pepper. Cook about five minutes.
Add the ground turkey and fully cook, chopping it up well.
Add tomato paste, black beans, diced tomatoes and 2 cups of the beef broth.
Add the butternut squash. Bring to simmer and reduce to medium low.
Cover the pot and stir every 10 minutes. Add last cup of beef broth if desired.
Cook about 60-80 minutes until butternut squash is fully cooked. Enjoy!

Recommended crockpot instructions: Brown ground turkey. Add all ingredients to the crockpot and stir well. Increase beef broth to four cups. Give it a good stir at least one time in the middle of cooking. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 4 hours. 

21 Day Fix Containers: 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green (does not include any of the suggested toppings)

Knowing how far you’ve come

One of my instructors last week posed the question, “as we enter the last week of the year, make sure to take some time and ask yourself ‘how far have I come this year?'” I thought it was a good opportunity for me to look back on this past year, 2015, because gosh it was an incredible one.

Click back to December 31, 2014 when I wrote this post:

dec31_2014_post.png

Coming off of 2014, and the shocking surprise it was (really, I didn’t set out to lose 40 pounds in that 52 weeks last year) I had no idea what to expect for 2015, so I simply set the possibilities wide open – sky high. Here’s a quick recap of¬†things I did this year that never seemed within reach… before this yearūüôā

  • Set a workout schedule and stick to it long-term. In January of this year, I started to find my groove with my first “real” workout schedule since I became a mom in 2010. And I stuck to it. That schedule still is fundamental to my week coming out of the year, just like it was, even so new and fragile, at the beginning of the year.
  • Register for, train for and run in my first competitive run longer than a 5K. (The 10K with the Illinois Marathon.)¬†13528_10104954745636840_7318643304820967340_n
  • TIMG_1320ook a leap and signed up as a Beachbody coach, to help others along their own journey, just as I had several people helping me. I didn’t know what to expect, but coaching has been an incredible ride this year and I can’t wait to keep it going this next year. Oh, and I get to go to Nashville for free next summer thanks to¬†such an exciting start out of the gates this year!
  • “Kicked things up a notch” with my fitness schedule, when it went from something I did a handful of times a week to something that began to challenge and push myself in day in and day out. Mike tells people there was a specific day where I told him “someday I’m going to take these two 60 min classes at the Y back to back”… and then that very day, walked out of the first class just to tell him I’d decided to kick it up a notch and make THAT day the day I tried them bothūüôā
  • Began and successfully completed three different at-home workouts, spanning between 21-60 days each, on top of the other workouts I was doing
  • 11707547_10105215014221510_1221497081363800093_nCelebrated one year of healthful living with my hubby when we had our “August anniversary“. We commemorated it by each holding 45 pound weights at the gym, since we’d both individually lost 45-50 pounds at that point.
  • Took what felt to be my biggest leap yet and signed up to go through training to become a group fitness instructor for Les Mills Body Pump. That was back in October, and I managed to survive an intense weekend of training, my first (somewhat nerve-wracking) times teaching in front of a live class, hours and hours of studying and practicing and passing my taping to become “officially official”.

And those are just my “how far I’ve come” milestones related to fitness!

Things I’ve gained this year? Deeply rooted confidence in myself unlike any other time in my life. Way more muscle than I ever thought I’d have on my bodyūüôā Improved relationships with my hubby, kids and others, too. Many new wardrobe items.

What have i lost this year? Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly really), not much weight. I’m ending this year just a little less than ten pounds less than where I was when I started it. But I am telling you, the difference in myself (physically, mentally and otherwise) is INCREDIBLE from them until now. While it may sound cliche, I have to say it. You are so much more than a number on a scale. A LOT of change can be happening without even seeing *that* number moving much.

It’s been a huge year. How far have I come? I go back to what I said almost exactly a year ago: “… I have no clue what I’ll be capable of in the new year and I won’t be limiting myself.” Yep. That’s exactly what happenedūüôā

My BODYPUMP Certification Adventure

11082618_10104827889183190_1297740662901646353_nSo… where to start this story? I guess it began almost a year ago (as of tomorrow). Mike and I made the decision after much consideration to join our Y here in Champaign. Neither of us had any sort of regular workout routine going, though we had both just embarked upon significant weight loss during the second half of 2014 thanks to some major changes to our diet and eating habits. I was excited at the prospect of exercising regularly again, knowing how important it was for my health. My first stop was the cardio equipment, as putting some earbuds in and getting on an elliptical, treadmill or bike was the “comfortable” thing for me to do.

One Sunday afternoon that December, I was on the elliptical, earbuds in, when I watched a bunch of people (seemingly in kick-butt shape) lining up outside the group fitness studio. A group of 20 or so people flooded out shortly after, and the new group poured in. I realized the same class was being offered back to back, and was completely packed out for both hours. Quick consult of the schedule on my app, ok they’re doing something called BODYPUMP. I’d never heard of it. I made a point to creep over pay a few visits to the water fountain that hour and think, “how on earth do they lift that many weights?”

I’d never lifted weights before, except for a small handful of times with Mike several years prior.

One night that week in late December, I found myself walking into that studio completely unplanned when I saw it starting up again. I walked up to the instructor and said, “I have no idea what I’m doing. Please don’t be offended if I walk out half way through.” I wish i could remember who that instructor was because she was incredibly kind, got me all set up and encouraged me before she hopped up on the stage.

I walked out of that studio completely sucked in. Less than a month later, I’d fallen in love. People talk about “soulmate workouts”. This was mine. I felt so STRONG and the fact that this was so far out of my comfort zone made me feel amazing every single time I made it through the sixty minute class. I was completely addicted to the way it made me feel. And not too long after that, I thought “I’m going to teach that class someday”. “Someday” in my mind was when I had older kids (you know, like school age, like YEARS from now).

Then someday became sometime in 2016.

Then a training popped up right in Champaign in October 2015. Opportunity, present yourself. I went back and forth for a looooong time and then one random morning I talked it over with a friend (and new instructor of another class) and I decided to go for it. In the two days that followed, a number of people found out I was planning to do it and my own accountability on actually following through with registering was getting pretty solid!

Training weekend happened. Saturday and Sunday, all day, 8-4. I think we did the equivalent of five or six Pump classes. I lifted heavier weights than I ever did in the class before in our BODYPUMP “challenge”. I held a four minute hover¬†for the first time. I ached like I didn’t know I could ache. But I made it through…

And I passed!  

That’s not the end of it though! Passing your certification training is just the first step. Then you are released to team teach with instructors at your gym, before teaching the entire class start to finish by yourself, filming it and sending it in to Les Mills for review and the ultimate “yay” or “nay”. I have some INCREDIBLE instructors and one of them reached out to me during my certification weekend and said I could join her on stage later that week. I knew right away that was just what I needed, so I could jump right into the next phase and get over THAT hurdle in and of itself. To date, I think that very first class I led three tracks in was the biggest class I’ve been in front of with over 30 people! So thankful for the opportunity to do that fresh out of the gates!

You have an 8 week window in between your training and your deadline to submit your video, but I wanted to knock it out before Thanksgiving so I upped my time to be about 6 weeks to prepare. Lots of team teaching (shout out to those INCREDIBLE instructors again!) and then some solo prep time in the studio on Saturday afternoons. And I was ready (I hoped!) to go…

I borrowed a camera and planned a small “off schedule” class one afternoon. Some of my friends came to support me and participate in my class. Filming went smoothly and teaching went pretty well, all things considered. I’d never taught 60 minutes straight and schwooo¬†was that a wake-up call!

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 8.10.29 PM

Two short weeks later…. THIS arrived! I was THRILLED!

certificate

So… now on to the next thing. When I signed up for training, I wasn’t even sure of what the next steps would be. I had tried to talk myself out of certification training because I “wasn’t ready yet” and needed to get in even better shape. Turns out I really needed the intensity of training to help push myself to the next level in whatever my fitness journey is. Things are starting to come together now and any time I get the chance to teach I’m always excited and filled with anticipation… plus its just FUN. This photo to the right is from our training weekend, when we did an exercise where we listed every word that Pump made us think of.. and yep, this pretty much sums it up for me. I’m so thankful to have found my “soul mate” workout and pushed myself to a whole new level in exactly one short year… whatever will the next year bring!?!?