Easy Peasy Campfire Meal

When I was younger, I recall camping being a time to eat all the snacks that weren’t normally in our house. This included things like wrapped Hostess snacks, chips, and all other “unhealthy” treats. Dinners usually consisted of hot dogs, brats or burgers on the grill. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burger or brat on a campfire, but this year I wanted to mix things up a little bit and balance out our meals between the s’mores & strawberry ice cream. Some healthy snacks I packed were grapes, strawberries, hummus & pita chips. The not so healthy: all the accoutraments for s’mores, cookies, crackers,  and Trader Joe’s Chicago mix popcorn {warning: if you purchase this, you will eat the whole bag, to say there are 4 servings in there is absurd ;-) }.
 
During the week, hubs sent me a link to campfire foil meals. I looked at the recipe and thought “easy enough” but instead of using the ingredients listed, I came up with my own (delicious) version using some of the vegetables I had from our garden and some purchased from the store. Instead of using chicken breasts, I used chicken thighs. I’ve been on a chicken thigh kick lately because 1: it’s delicious-there’s more fat on them than chicken breasts so the meat doesn’t dry out as much and 2: chicken thighs contain higher amounts of iron & zinc-two things that runners don’t get enough of but is vitally important to maintain good health. You can read about the “why” here.  
 
The most time consumer part of this meal was cutting up all the vegetables. This recipe comes along with easy clean up and can be done from your oven at home or over the grill.
 
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Foil Pack Meals
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of chicken meat cut up and cubed
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 8oz container of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 medium sized sweet pototoes, peeled & cubed
  • 6 cloves of garlic sliced very thinly (I cut mine w/a kitchen scissors)
  • 1 large zuchinni sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 juiced lemon
  • salt, pepper, and thyme to taste
Directions
Take all the ingredients beside the olive oil and lemon and combine in a large zip-lock bag. Sprinkle the season on there to your heart’s content (I never measure out seasoning for cooking, I just “eye it up”). After the meat and veggies are seasoned, pour in your olive oil and lemon juice. Make sure the bag is zip locked tight or else you will end up with an oily bag-I speak from experience :-) When you are ready to cook, lay out 4-5 good sized pieces of aluminum foil and spread evenly. Wrap the packets up really tight and then take another piece of aluminum foil and wrap it up tight again to make sure they won’t fall apart. Cook for about 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is opaque and the vegetables are tender. Remove for fire (very carefully) unwrap and enjoy!    
 
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If you try it out, let me know how you liked it and what vegetables you used! I’m off to go finish my tomato sauce canning party…my first canning experience ever!  Wish me luck!

5 Things Friday

5. This blog post. I stumbled across Gina’s blog a few years ago through the Lululemon ambassador site. I was drawn to her style of writing and what her blog was all about. Her goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states. She’s not a daily blogger; she posts mainly just about each marathon she’s recently ran and what’s going on in her life at the time. In her latest post, she talks about her battle with Lyme disease and running. It hit home to me because my mom suffered with Lyme long before anyone even knew what was wrong with her. Gina’s such an inspiration to all runners out there! 

4. Trader Joe’s Sunflower butter. This stuff is addicting. Smooth. Sweet but not full of sugar. I eat it with apples, toast, or by the spoonful. It doesn’t last very long in our house. 

3. Using your child as a weight. Madelyn still likes to be picked up from time to time so I try to make it fun for her and turn it into an arm workout for myself.

airplane

Mama gets a good ab workout in table top and Madelyn thinks we’re playing airplane.  A win win for everyone. 

2. Homemade pasta sauce with homegrown tomatoes and garlic. This working mama is all about fast, easy, healthy and delicious meals. Last night, I was feeling like spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner. Easy enough right? But I couldn’t justify buying jarred pasta sauce and spaghetti noodles when I had a TON of zucchini and tomatoes to use from my garden. So I whipped up this quick batch of pasta sauce and spiraled some zucchini.

vitamix sauce

 

Sauce includes: 8 medium roma tomatoes, 1/2 onion chopped, 1 small green bell pepper, 4 garlic cloves peeled,  4 TBSP tomato paste, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp coconut sugar, 1/2 lemon squeezed for juice, 1/2 tsp of salt.  Put in the vitamix in the order that is listed, mix for 1 minute up to 10 and then high. I browned some grass-fed ground beef with Penzey’s Chicago steak seasoning, added the sauce and simmered for about a 1/2 hour.  It was the best & easiest homemade pasta sauce I’ve ever made. I’m thinking of having a canning party one of these days. 

pastasaucewithzoodles1. Amazing friends who know how to keep you motivated. This is Kristine. Kristine is my long time college friend and Garmin Connection.IMG_2170

We met in college over a shared love for PRSSA and Chicago. Both from the Milwaukee area, we ended up in Chicago after graduation. She still lives there, and I’m slightly jealous. I’ve been talking to her about ordering a Vivofit since I lost my fitbit a few months back. I just didn’t know if I could justify purchasing another activity tracker. I finally bit the bullet on Wednesday and by Thursday I received my package in the mail. Talk about fast delivery :-) Imagine my surprise when I opened my box, expecting just to see my Vivofit and a package of bands:

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I was wondering why it so much heavier than expected! Besides my vivofit and bands, in the box I found a new snazzy Garmin tee, a heart rate monitor, water, packs of fluid performance, scratch hydration mix (I tried this at PRO a few weeks ago and I really liked it!) ProBar energy chews, Power bar energy chews, Honey stinger energy chews (my fave!), and a lululemon gift card. On three of the flaps there were messages. One message was a personal one from Kristine reminding me that we have 8 weeks left to go, that we can do this and to never give up. The other two flaps were quotes: “When you feel like quitting, think about why you started” and “Dead last is greater than did not finish which trumps did not start.” I love it! 

Thank you so much Kristine for giving me the motivation that I so desperately needed to power through these next 8 (almost 7 weeks!) You are truly a blessing and I can’t wait to celebrate our victories in Chicago. #chimarathon2014

What was the highlight of your week? It was a fairly good week over here, but my special delivery was definitely my highlight! 

Spaghetti Squash Bake

Happy Tuesday! How was everyone’s weekend?  Ours started out really good and then ended kind of a low note…my strep throat returned and a busted tail light :-/ Womp womp!  Hubs accidentally backed my car into his…the worst kind of accident. But luckily, everyone is okay.  Easy (but pricey) fix.
fenderbenderI started feeling kind of crappy on Sunday when I woke up, but pressed forward with baking cookies with my little darling.
IMG_2530After that adventure and cleaning up the kitchen, I was exhausted and could feel my throat starting to swell up.  I called my doc to call in another round of antibiotics, so hopefully this round will do the trick.  I have a half marathon to run this weekend and I want to go into it feeling 100%.
To continue on with celebrating National Nutrition Month, I want to share an amazing recipe using spaghetti squash in place of pasta.
Both pasta and spaghetti squash have their own nutritional benefits.  For example, pasta is a better source of folate, where as eating spaghetti squash will provide you with more antioxidants.  Both are low in fat, but if you’re watching your carbs, spaghetti squash would be the better choice.  There are 7 grams of carbs in spaghetti squash compared to pasta’s 31 grams of carbs.  And calories? 1 serving of pasta (and let’s face it, most of us are consuming more than the recommended amount) packs in 158 calories, while spaghetti squash contains 27 calories. (source)   Overall,l if you’re trying to eat low (complex) carbs, low-fat, gluten-free or whole, unprocessed foods, I would say that spaghetti squash is the way to go.
Last week I made this delicious number.
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I cut 1 spaghetti squash in half (lengthwise), brushed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven at 400 for about 45 minutes.  While that was baking in the oven, I cooked up some italian chicken sausage, spinach, and pasta sauce.  Once the spaghetti squash was out of the oven, I took a fork and “fluffed” up the “noodles”.
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Then spooned the chicken sausage mixture over top and then added a sprinkle of goat cheese crumbles.  And voilà! Dinner :-)
What’s your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash? I used to scoop it out onto a plate and eat it like spaghetti, but I found this way to be much more appetizing and EASY!

Asian Chicken Salad

Happy Tuesday!  How was everyone’s weekend?  Ours was pretty busy over here, with drill and the last of our work holiday parties plus taking care of a sick kiddo.  Let’s just say, I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Last week, I was on a mission to use up some of the pantry items I’ve had on hand for awhile.  There were a lot of random meals being made and at one point, I said to hubs as we sat down to dinner, “I have no idea how this is going to taste, but all these things sounded like a really good idea.”  And it was.  I did, however, make one meal that I knew would be a for sure winner.

Every time we have a big family gathering, my grandma makes this Oriental Salad and it’s always a hit.  The salad is made with a pack of ramen noodles and you use the flavor packet as part of the dressing.  It’s amazing.  I would like to experiment with making the dressing completely from scratch one of these days just because I know how much sodium is in that little flavor packet.  If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears!  To serve as a main meal, I cut up two chicken breasts into bite size pieces and sautéed them in sesame oil and black pepper.  The chicken definitely added some staying power to the salad.

IMG_2488Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb bag angel fine cole slaw
  • 1 pack oriental flavored ramen noodle
  • 1/2 c diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 c honey roasted sesame sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c roasted almonds sliced

Dressing

  • 1 flavor pack that comes with noodles
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 c oil

In a large bowl, mix up all of the salad ingredients.  Crush the ramen noodles up for garnish if you want to.  It adds a nice crunch to the salad.  In a separate smaller bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and stir.  Mix well into the salad.  Add in the chicken.  There you have it!  A salad packed with flavor that has some staying power.  Win win!

This week, my meals are well-planned out but my workouts are kind of all over the place, but I’m getting it done!  Here’s what’s on the agenda for this week:

Monday: PF Chang’s Asian Lettuce Wraps (thumbs up!) + Interval Barre & Running 3 miles

Tuesday: Runner’s World Meatloaf  (sooo good!) + foam rolling & stretching

Wednesday: leftovers + barre bee

Thursday: Jerk shrimp stir-fry + my Air Force PT Test!! (I’m anxious to see how all the push-ups in barre have helped me!)

Friday: Mexi night + Barre & running maybe?

I’ve been putting my Runner’s World cookbook to use!  I have yet to make a disappointing recipe from it and can’t wait to try out some of the desserts.  It was one of the most useful birthday presents that I received last year.

Question of the night:  What’s your favorite recipe book?  I could always add more to my collection!  My favorite would have to be a gift from my grandma.  One year for Christmas, she made up books for all of the women in my family of all of her best recipes.  It’s a cookbook I will keep forever!

Turkey Chili

As I sit here and write this blog post, I’m waiting for two dozen cookies to cool off so that I can throw them away.  cookiefailHashtag cookiefail.  I will be the first to admit, a baker I am not.  If you look at the top of the page and scroll over “Recipes”, you will see very little under the desserts section.  Cookie baking has never been my thing.  Cookie eating on the other hand?  Well, that’s a different story.  It’s probably a blessing that I’m not great at baking cookies.  On Monday, I tried out a new cookie recipe and they turned out fabulously!  And on the first try too!  The only problem with them was, they were a little crumbly.  So this time around I added more butter and, well?  Not so good.  For the next batch I added a little less butter and a tad bit more C4C flour and they’re looking much better.

As much as I enjoy being in the kitchen,  cooking is more of my thing.  The star entree of the week has been the turkey chili that hubs requested for Monday.  It was a definitely a chili kind of day…14 degrees?  That calls for chili.  I was browsing recipes online and either we didn’t have the right kind of peppers or it didn’t sound good to me.  So I decided to “wing it” and see what happens.  Verdict? So good, the recipe is worth sharing :-)  I was successful at something this week!

Turkey Chili
Ingredients

  • 3lbs ground turkey meat
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp Chili seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp Cumin
  • 2 heads of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium red onion chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 3 15oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 2 15oz cans kidney beans
  • 2 15 oz cans pinto beans

Directions
Place ground turkey in a stock pot and brown the turkey.  Season it with italian seasoning and chili powder.  Add in the garlic, onion, and peppers.  Stir until soften.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a boil and then place on simmer for about 45 minutes.  You can choose to garnish it with cheese and sour cream if you wish.  We tried a little bit of gorgonzola and it was amazing!

turkeychili

I’m off to finish the rest of my cookie baking!  Wish me luck, I’ll be needing it ;-)

Special shout out!  I’d like to thank the peeps over at For Two Fitness for making me a brand ambassador.  I am honored :-) I am a HUGE advocate for exercise, especially when growing a little bambino (IF okayed by your doctor of course!).  I sported their super cute and comfy exercise tops while I was pregnant with Madelyn and will be proud to put back on my “Sweating for Two” when the time is right ;-) Head over to their website and purchase something for that pregnant person you know in your life or for yourself!

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WOAH BELLY!!!!

Leftover Turkey Soup

Hi guys!  I’m so so grateful that I have Mondays off.  Our weekend was so jam-packed, it was nice to play catch up today-a day full of running errands, working out and cleaning.  This morning, I met up with a friend for a gym date.  I got there a little early and did 30 minutes of light cardio on the elliptical.  She met me afterward and we did a killer lower body workout.  It’s so much better doing resistance training workouts with friends!

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Thanksgiving Recipes 2013

Happy Holiday weekend!  Anyone score any great black friday deals?!  This is the first year I partook in the madness that is black Friday/Thanksgiving night shopping and I nearly got run over at Kohls’ for the last Shark steam mop.  On Friday, hubs and I enjoyed a much leisurely shopping experience at Home Depot where we got a great deal on a dishwasher. Ours broke a few months ago and we’ve kind of put it on the back burner until now.  Dishes aren’t too bad in our house since it’s just the two of us and the munchkin, but it’s nice that we will now have options.

This was my second year hosting Thanksgiving, but a first in our new house.  Overall, everything went fairly well.  We had a few misjudgments about the turkey, but having a double oven really helped out with things.  I don’t think I will ever be without one ever again.

With Madelyn being dairy-free, this year posed some new challenges, substitutions and lots of finger crossing.  I wanted her to be able to eat anything on the table.  Our first dairy-free Thanksgiving was a HIT!!  Everyone raved about my sweet potatoes and had some requests for the recipe, so here it is!
sweetpotatocasserole

Dairy Free(gluten free) Soul Sweet Potato Casserole (Serves 15)
Ingredients

  • 8 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups of coconut cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups pecans chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted dairy-free butter (I used Earth’s Balance)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 and place potatoes on baking rack.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.  When the potatoes are finished, place on a big cutting board and let them cool. Once they’re cool, cut all of the sweet potatoes down the center and scrape out the inside.  Place the insides of the sweet potatoes into a very large mixing bowl.  Increase the oven temperature to 400.

Next, add in the sugar, coconut cream, eggs, vanilla and salt.  MASH the mixture up with a potato masher until all ingredients are combined and somewhat lumpy.  Spread the sweet potato mixture into a square or oval baking dish.  In a separate bowl, mash the brown sugar, pecans, flour and butter with a fork until thoroughly mixed through.  Sprinkle the crumbly mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Bake it until the top is golden brown, about (45 minutes).

The next dairy-free dish I made was dessert.  Hubs requested a traditional pumpkin pie so I made that with dairy.  But for Madelyn and anyone else who wanted some, I made dairy-free pumpkin pecan pie bars.  They turned out really good, and I will definitely make them again.  I preferred this pumpkin pie filling over the traditional actually and couldn’t even tell that it was dairy-free. Coconut milk and cream is a great substitute for pumpkin desserts.

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DF & GF Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares (Serves 12)
Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used C4C)
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 can (15oz) pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup pecans chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • soy whipped cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar and butter into a small bowl.  With a hand mixer, beat at low speed for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is crumbly.  Take the mixture and press on the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 baking pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

Next, combine the maple syrup, pumpkin, coconut milk, eggs and pumpkin pie spice in a larger mixing bowl.  Beat at a medium speed for 2 minutes and pour over crust.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Combine the pecans and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a smaller mixing bowl.  After the 20 minutes is up, sprinkle pecan topping over filling.  Continue to bake for about 20 minutes.  Cool completely in pan.  Cut into 12 bars and serve with whipped cream.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend and spending quality time with family and friends.  Today, we ventured off to Sprecher Brewery for a tour with Madelyn :-) She did surprisingly well and was a hit amongst our group.  I’m off to watch some Christmas movies on the couch with Larry.  Have a great rest of the weekend!