Juicy Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas

20542895_10108425902291080_1867616304_oWe eat a LOT of chicken around here, and Mexican flavors are some of my personal favs. I’m always looking for new dishes to serve that spice things up a *little*, while being easy to prepare and full of flavor. This combo was a winner!

I think the true secret to how these turned out was the pan configuration. Thanks to Nom Nom Paleo, I had the inspiration to try this in my own kitchen and never would have tried such a thing. The trick is to take a (metal of course) wire cooling rack, nest it on top of a baking sheet, and bake/broil at a high temperature, while the food cooks evenly.  I have no idea if they make wire cooling racks out of material OTHER than metal but I’m going to hazard to guess that they do. You don’t want to melt anything or set any smoke alarms off for the sake of fajitas 🙂

Faijtas are traditionally served with tortillas, but honestly, we haven’t eaten them that way for years. Sometimes we serve them with black beans, but usually we just eat them bowl style with the meat/peppers/onions and any toppings we want. Less messy, less carbs and you get to REALLY enjoy the flavor. My favorite topping is a generous scoop of guacamole, while my husband is more of a sour cream and cheese guy.

Ingredients
1/4 c olive oil
3 T fresh lime juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 – 2 pounds of fresh (or fully thawed) boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into strips (fajita style)
2-3 colored bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 onion, sliced into 1/4 in thick strips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Your food is going to rest on top of the rack, so make sure it is somewhat of a fit, and not going to slide around.
  3. Combine ALL ingredients except for peppers and onions in a large bowl and toss to coat.
  4. Evenly distribute chicken (tossed in spices/oil) over your rack.
  5. Add peppers and onions to pan.
  6. Place the tray in the oven and and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Move the chicken and veggies around on the rack (if you desire, I’m not sure you need to do this) and close the oven. Turn it on to “broil” on high.
  8. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Your veggies should be soft but still a little crisp. Enjoy!

 

My Story – A Look Back at the Last Several Years

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Photo from July 2014

On August 1, 2014, Mike and I committed to each other to, for ONE MONTH, make significant change in our daily lives to see if we were “capable” of really locking down and getting this thing done. We both DESIRED to live healthy lives. What follows is an overview of my story, now several years after that initial *big* decision to be committed once and for all. 

Back in January 2014, I was a completely exhausted mom of two young kids weighing in at 200 pounds. I ate food that was awful for me and collapsed at the end of the night to “treat myself” with sweets upon sweets. I was terrible at making time for myself, asking for help or voicing what I needed in order to achieve some balance in life as a mom. Food had ALWAYS been my crutch, and in what felt the most stressful and demanding season of my life thus far, this was no exception.

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July 2014

I decided I wanted to change the way I felt. I didn’t want to feel burned out and exhausted every day with nothing left over to pour into the people I loved. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to feel more confident, as wearing maternity clothes four months postpartum was NOT helping. I wanted life to feel easier because it felt VERY hard. I wanted to be in a place where I woke up well rested and had enough energy to last me through the day without totally emptying the tank. I wanted to be a good example for my kids and to have good habits to pass on to them, instead of trying to feed them what I wanted them to eat and then hiding in the basement to eat my snacks away from them. My goal I set for myself was get down to my pre-baby weight. I was at least 20 pounds overweight BEFORE I ever got pregnant with my first child, but losing all the baby weight felt like the most logical place to start.

There were a lot of things that made this a difficult process for me. I was struggling with making time for myself. I was struggling with putting myself first before caring for the other people. My past was full of over a decade of stories of yo-yo dieting that involved crashing to lose the weight I wanted quickly, only to put it back on and usually with a little extra too. I told myself this time “there was no back”, and I needed to find a way to lose the weight in a way that it would STAY OFF for good.

Below, some photos showing my struggles with weight over time, even before kids.

two years of progress

I was introduced to the idea of “clean eating” in the summer of 2014. This included foods that were whole and nutritious, with no added sugars, not bathed in sauce, etc. This was revolutionary for me! I loved frozen foods, convenience foods, potatoes in a box you could add milk or water to, etc. Little by little, I worked on swapping one thing at a time out as I unpacked this lifestyle people raved about.


In August 2014, my husband and I really dug into eating whole, nutritious foods and instantly slashed the amount of processed carbohydrates we were eating. We told ourselves it was for just one month. But after feeling amazing and both losing some of weight we wanted to kiss goodbye, one month became two, two became three and we began closing in on Thanksgiving as our “end goal” for our strictest season of being “locked in” with food. We took a trip over Thanksgiving and, looking back, that was the first time I can remember eating “treats” in over three months.

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Before this, if you would have told me I would spend more than three months without desserts and pizza and other things that had been my crutch for so long, it would have seemed like forever. But now, several years later, three months was nothing. A blip. I took that time to rewire my eating habits, lose almost all of the weight I needed to lose to achieve a healthy weight and set my family on a trajectory of a healthier lifestyle for the course ahead. Three months well spent, I would say! I have pizza from time to time now, and treats, too. But I plan for them and they don’t lead me to throw in the towel on all the other healthy choices I make. The next moment, meal or day I’m still on track and the weight hasn’t come back.

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October 2015

It wasn’t until after that Thanksgiving trip I even began working out. Mentally, I couldn’t handle thinking about more than just overhauling my food as that was a big enough task for me. However, once I felt better and was encouraged by my progress, it was a natural next step for me. And THAT is when I fell in love with exercise for the first time in my life. I was feeling good about myself, I was not overwhelmed and most importantly, I felt READY for it.

Nearly 65% of people who lose weight gain it back (source) and in my opinion, they gain a few extra pounds with it and gain it back very quickly. I am determined to be in the minority here. I tell myself “there is no back”. 

Below, my tracker from “My Fitness Pal” of the months I was losing weight. 

weight loss chart

When I first begin coaching someone, I encourage them to “lock it in” with their food for 21 days. I know it sounds like FOREVER without treats or your favorite things but I’m telling you, the time you give your mind and body to rewire and process the changes you’re trying to make is time well spent for your life moving forward. The only thing I would change about my journey is I would have started it a lot sooner if I would have known just how much it would have changed things for me once I did it!

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July 2017

Where am I now? I never expected to be here, at a much more comfortable weight than I was even when I first got pregnant. My energy is through the roof and I’ve fallen in love with fitness so much that I became a group fitness instructor in 2015. I have built a business I can work from home that allows me to help people all over find healthy lifestyle habits, stay accountable and even help others out themselves along the way. I was able to leave my part time job outside the home to focus my efforts on this business and gain even more time with my family at home.

My bucket is full a lot of the time thanks to a regular rhythm of personal development and PLENTY of me time now. I ask my husband for help when I need it and clearly communicate what my goals are and what I need to do to achieve them. My kids eat healthy, nutritious foods and it is all they know. Seeing people truly find their way out from under years and years of unhealthy habits and settling into a “new normal” is an honor and privilege I have as a coach. And I feel the best I ever have, on top of it all.

Are you interested in talking with me about setting your goals for a healthier lifestyle? Click here to send me a message and I’ll be sure to follow up with you in the coming days! 

Recipe Makeover – College Football Saturday Cheesy Beefy Dip

dipjpgOne of Mike’s favorite foods ever on college football Saturday is cheesy beefy dip. 1 thing of Velveeta, a can of rotel and a pound of ground beef. As much as he enjoys it, I just really can’t bring Velveeta into our kitchen. Enter my quest to come up with something different yet similar…

I started experimenting years ago and have finally come up with a permanent substitute that passes the test with Mike, and the kids and I happen to enjoy too 🙂 And while not the “healthiest” thing out there, it is made from whole food, staples that I keep in my kitchen regularly. Pair it with some salty corn tortilla chips and you’ll satisfy that college football Saturday craving right away! Without reaching for the Velveeta!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb of browned ground beef (I prefer grassfed, not only does it taste much better but it is so much leaner so you don’t have to drain tons of grease off the meat)
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar (I like to shred my own cheddar in my food processor so you don’t have to deal with that “anti-clumping agent” they add to the shredded cheese you get at the store)
  • 1 c of medium salsa (pick a fresh pico de gallo from the deli or a jarred version with no added sugars)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of sour cream (or plain greek yogurt if you don’t use sour cream)

Directions

  1. Brown your ground beef and drain the grease.
  2. Either in the same pan, or in a saucepan, mix all the ingredients together over medium low heat. Stir often so it doesn’t stick.
  3. Once its bubbling and clearly heated through, grab a chip and taste it. The beauty of this recipe is how flexible it is. If its too spicy, add a little more sour cream or yogurt. If it’s not cheesy enough, add a little more shredded cheddar.
  4. Enjoy with corn tortilla chips, or whatever your favorite is!

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 anymore 😦 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, too 🙂

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!