Feeling Almost Back To Normal

This week has been good. We are finally feeling almost back to normal. By this I mean, meals were shared together, exercise routine is back to an actual routine, and peaceful sleep was had all week long.

Let’s start with exercise shall we. Typically, I workout in the early morning hours at our local gym….by early I mean 5:00a.m.. With summer here my job gets much more physical when we can finally get outside and enjoy the outdoors instead of everything indoors like during the winter months. So during the summer I concentrate on making it to the gym twice a week in the early morning, I then bike on my stationary bike the other two mornings, and one day I take off for rest….not from work just from exercise. And then my husband and I have begun walking area trails for about 3 miles after dinner. Add this with many additional steps put on during the day while playing outside chasing daycare kids around and by 8p.m. I am typically falling asleep on the couch.

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As for meals, I finally feel like we are eating regular and not grabbing and going to the next thing on the agenda. If you have been a long time follower you will know that grabbing and going is not easy with my husbands artificial sweetener allergy so this has been a real struggle to keep juggling. Although, I am happy to report we are back to eating regular meals and enjoying the time to sit, eat, and chat about our day. One the menu this week was a new lentil ham soup and BBQ chicken quesadillas. Both turned out fabulous!

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That will be it for today. We actually have plans on the calendar for the weekend…..finally!!!!! Now I am just praying for no rain and sunshine so I don’t freeze since we will be enjoying some water play. It is summer after all, so that means it’s time to enjoy all the rivers and streams Wisconsin has to offer.

 

It’s Melting As Fast As It Fell

This week turned out to be fairly normal considering everything going on around us. Even with all our outdoor surroundings covered with snow yet we still managed to get outside to play and do chores. Melting is happening and quickly I might add with the temps in the mid 50’s this week. Only in Wisconsin can it snow record amounts and then be 50+ to melt it all away….but I am not complaining. Let it melt.

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Anyhow, here is what dinners were for this past week.

Saturday: BLT’s and salad

Sunday: Mexican stuffed sweet peppers (meatless)

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Monday: crock pot ragu over fettuccine with crusty bread

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Tuesday: crock pot pulled pork with basil dill coleslaw and roasted potatoes/green beans

Wednesday: spicy chicken thighs, roasted broccoli, and pasta side dish

Thursday: tortellini spinach salad(meatless) and parmesan flat bread triangles

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Friday: out

That will do it for our week in meals. Have a great weekend.

Back On Track Once Again/ Breaking Records/A Healthier “Us” Anniversary

After two weeks of meal time chaos, I feel like I am finally back on track. Everyone was home and accounted for so I knew exactly how much I needed to prepare each night for dinner this week. This makes this wife/mom happy.

Things that did not make all that happy this week was the fact that we broke records here in Green Bay with our newest snowstorm. It was the biggest snowstorm in over 100 years coming in at a whopping 24.5 inches in 48 hours….I guess winter is not quite done with us yet.

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Anyhow, back to better topic, this week we tried two new recipes and one new product I have been dying to try out on the family. Here, take a look….

Saturday: grilled chicken brats, grilled zucchini, and perogies

Sunday: Lentil veggie soup and chicken pita sandwiches

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Monday: slow cooker burrito bowls(new recipe that is a keeper for sure)

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Tuesday: dynamite stovetop casserole

***This recipe was very tasty and basic. As my boys both commented during dinner, mom why did you think this would be a keeper, you can do so much better than this on your own? Well, now, didn’t that make me feel good…although, I thought the recipe itself was quite good. Yes, basic but still good. And how often do you make a recipe that actually turns out to look just like the picture in the book?

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Wednesday: chili stuffed sweet potatoes

***I loved this so much that I needed to make it again so soon after the first time so my husband could enjoy it this time also. Last time I made it he was traveling for work and missed out.

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Thursday: out….tonight plans got scrapped for some unexpected events that happened which left no time for dinner preparations

Friday: red lentil pasta with ham, zucchini, spinach,and parmesan cheese sauce

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Have you tried red lentil pasta yet? This was our first time and I must say, it won’t be our last for sure. It tastes no different and the texture is very close to regular pasta that it was very acceptable. All of us said this is a good healthier option in pasta dishes….yeah, another win for mom!!!!

Swapping something unhealthy in your diet that you have eaten and enjoyed for years is often hard and will, without a doubt, be different BUT change is hard and sometimes has to happen. Whether for health reasons, allergies, or you are just getting on the healthier eating train, I believe you mentally have to prepare yourself for the reality of what I eat now is slowly killing me and I HAVE to change to better myself. If this mental transformation don’t happen then you will never find something you can live with in place of another product you have eaten for years and is bad for you in some way. I touch on this subject because coming up here in a few days we will hit the 1 year anniversary of eating completely artificial sweetener free in our home. Yes, at the time it was for major medical issues my husband was having. However, now those issues have all cleared up and he is feeling fabulous. We now all find ourselves reading the label and often times putting a product back on the shelf to find a healthier alternative. I guess maybe one has to be miserable enough to want to make a healthier change before it can happen long term…but for us here, only one of us was suffering with issues and instead of signaling him out we all made the change as a family unit and we all could not be happier.

 

 

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

We all love spicy black bean burgers here in our home but when my husband found out artificial sweeteners were the cause of all is abdominal issues we began reading labels on everything in our home. Believe it or not, a very popular brand of spicy black bean burgers we consumed on a regular basis had artificial sweetener in them. Which then made it yet one more food he could not eat. So I thought about it, read many other recipes, and did a bunch of research on how to make my own so we could all eat these as a family again. Then I finally gave it a try and made my own with success all the way around.

These burgers are basic, most ingredients many people will have right in there home pantry, and they literally take minutes to make.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

4 sweet baby peppers or 1/2 of large bell pepper

1/2 small yellow onion

1 lg clove of garlic

1-15 oz. can organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1 lg egg

3/4 cup quick cooking oats

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sriracha sauce

dash of salt

First, seed your peppers, peel your garlic, and rough chop your onion. Toss this all into a food processor and blend until finely chopped.

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Next, remove this mixture and lay it on some paper towels to squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

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In a medium bowl, take your drained and rinsed beans and roughly smash them with a potato masher or another appropriate kitchen tool.

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Then add the remaining ingredients along with the dried pepper mixture and mix this all together. When your finished, score the mixture evenly making four sections….each to form one burger.

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Form your burgers and lay them on a parchment lined baking sheet. IMG_0785

Place them in the freezer for 1.5-2 hours or until frozen firm. Next, you can either package them for later use or bake them immediately. For freezing, I wrapped mine individually and placed them in a  freezer safe container to store.

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To prepare, I took them out of the freezer, placed them on a tin foil lined baking sheet sprayed with non stick spray. I baked them from a frozen state at 450 for 15-20 minutes minutes per side.

Serving: 4 burgers per recipe

Enjoy!

 

Not What A Typical Week Normally Looks Like For Us

This week was full of meals I did not have to prepare. This is great for me but tricky at best for my husband since he has a severe sensitivity to artificial sweeteners. Although, we made it work and he did pretty good. Typically, we would have had to go out for one more restaurant meal this week if we would have stuck with tradition. We normally celebrate birthdays by letting the birthday person pick their restaurant of choice…..and Tuesday was my birthday. However, Tuesday we also had a snow storm and I did not mind cooking…but my boys were in charge of clean up. Plus, I knew we still had two more evenings out coming up so it was what it was.Having someone clean up for me was gift enough.

Looking back here is what the week was like…..only one new recipe and a whole lot of meals out which is not typical for us.

Saturday: out with my hubby on our 24 hour getaway (if you missed it read about it here and here)

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Sunday: penne pasta casserole and crusty bread

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Monday: take out made at home: general tso’s chicken and broccoli

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Tuesday: pasta, peas, bacon, and mushrooms with garlic cream sauce ***New recipe and a keeper at that. However, I may change the bacon to ham or go meatless next time since the bacon just did not do it for me in this dish.

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Wednesday: Out with my brother for our monthly dinner together…this month was his choice restaurant and Indian it was. Him and I loved everything, my poor nephew left hungry I am sure, and my husband was very happy with his meal choice but not so much with the appetizer when he found chick peas in it. I found out I love butter chicken and plan to give this a try at home here soon.

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Thursday: grilled homemade burgers, side salads and chips

Friday: out

Next week looks much more normal. I even have 3 new recipes at the moment planned and I am excited for them all. I am also getting back to my meatless journey and throwing in two meatless meals to try and get past my boys with little to no complaints…..here goes nothing. Wish me luck!

Sunday meal prep for the week ahead looked a bit like this. First of all, it ended up being Saturday that I meal prepped since Sunday I had plans. However, come Sunday, I woke up feeling quite crummy so I was grateful I meal prepped Saturday but not so grateful to have to cancel plans because I felt this way.

Ok, so first I had to find something to do with really ripe bananas so I prepared two loaves of banana bread and froze them for an upcoming camping trip.

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Next, I made up three lunch meals for me consisting of chicken, olives, and artichokes sauteed in olive oil with sundried tomatoes. Then I laid this over a bed of whole wheat couscous.

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While I was at it, I also found two 1/4 boxes of different pastas in the pantry….and this drives me a bit crazy to have a bit of every shape and sized noodle left. So I quickly threw together a chipotle chili mac casserole for my husbands lunches and froze them. He takes these on nights when I don’t cook dinner and there are no leftovers for his lunch the next day.

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Also not pictured is pre chopped veggies for the weeks menu and a dozen hard boiled eggs.

 

New Cookbooks Are Being Delivered Which Meals New Meals Are Being Enjoyed

I’ve added yet another new cookbook to my collection. Right after Christmas I cleaned out my cookbook cabinet and found that there were not many I used anymore since going artificial sweetener free in my meal planning for my husbands health reasons. Even now, with the three new books that I recently bought, I typically get ideas from them and add my own twist to the meal I prepare. I know what will pass the test of my family and what won’t…and sometimes I wing it and hope for the best. I will say, and give a lot of credit to both my husband and my son, they have been really adjusting much better than I thought they would to a more plant based diet. Why plant based you may ask? To simply put it, fruits and veggies don’t have labels that I have to scan for things that are not good for us to consume. They are straight forward and don’t need any help being tasty.

In other news, has anyone else noticed more daylight hours? I sure have. I have also noticed that our snow here is melting and temps are slowing becoming tolerable. Mud season(Spring) is right around the corner and I for one am so ready to dive right in. My upcoming meal plans have grilled food on them, I have charcoal on the grocery list, and all this means life for me is finally turning a corner. We even went for a walk on the neighborhood streets the other night….I have not done this in months. WhooHoo!!!

So, moving on with some meal inspiration for everyone….here is what dinner time looked like at our house this past week. I accomplished five new recipes this week…wow this was amazing.

Saturday: Moroccan stew and homemade spring rolls with dipping sauce (meatless) (both new recipes and both so yummy)

***This was a mother/son meal combo. I made the stew and he made the spring rolls with dipping sauce. As for dad….he simply enjoyed the meal;-)

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Sunday: ham, peas, and pasta with garlic cream sauce and crusty bread

Monday: slow cooker beef lo mein (new recipe and oh so tasty)

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Tuesday: cheese stuffed manicotti with veggie marinara and cheese topping (meatless)

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Wednesday: Mediterranean pasta skillet casserole (new recipe that came from my own thoughts….maybe I aught to write a cookbook since this also turned out spectacular)

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Thursday: honey mustard crunch salads (honey mustard was another new recipe-fabulous!!!)

Friday: out

I am a bit afraid of what will come once the weather is really nice and I have so much less time to spend in the kitchen to prepare quality meals. Although, I know here in the midwest  summer is so short that I can surely come up with some fast, tasty meals that can be thrown together super quick after a long hot day of playing outside. The plan is to cross that bridge when I get there.

As for food prep for the upcoming week….none at all happened. I know I am going to pay the price for not doing any on Sunday but after waking up and making a trip to urgent care for an unforseen issue, I did not have the energy to do anything but sleep.

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Less Is More – Read Your Labels

Are you a label reader? I have been for awhile now but what I now read on labels today has changed over the years. I never paid any attention to the ingredient list…ever. Mainly just the nutritional numbers and percentages. I now, rarely read those numbers at all….now I concentrate on the ingredient list almost exclusively.

Yes, time consuming it is. Yes, tedious it is. Yes, discouraging it can be. Yes, you will be completely blown away by what you are putting into your body on a daily basis….that is if you can even pronounce it . However, I also believe it can be life changing since it has been here for us. Now, before you all stop reading, let me assure you….it is not more expensive to eat cleaner food. It just takes a bit of effort on your part. I find it absolutely astounding at what companies can and will put in our food and consider it good enough for us all to consume.

Notice these few food labels we have here at our home.

Honey Roasted Peanuts: short/basic ingredients we all recognize and can pronounce for that matter.

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Crackers: three ingredients/ all things we know what they are/ and nothing fake

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Iced tea mix- nothing fake/easy to read/short list

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Snack bar– nothing fake, easy to read/short list/and everything is food

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Yogurt– clear label/ short ingredient list/ all real ingredients/no fillers/ all food

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This is how we eat today. Simple, easy to read products with clear labels.

You will find yourself getting very creative at times, especially when something you find you have eaten forever you no longer can have or want to have. For us here, there have been a few products that have really been hard to replace by making this change. Let me tell you about a few swaps we have made.

For instance, snack crackers. So many have ingredients in them that we can’t even begin to know what it is without looking it up. So one of the things we have found takes the place of crackers is cucumber slices. They can be used for dipping, layering homemade salad mixtures on (like here) or simply snacking on when hunger strikes. They are healthy, full of water, and are a great healthy option with only one ingredient….cucumber.

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Lunch meat is another big one that was hard to replace. I searched for awhile and did find a few brands that did not contain any artificial sweeteners. However, they are twice as much as all the others and you get half as much in the package. So to replace lunch meat for my family I now buy canned chicken breast. I then make up a fast and easy chicken salad and this is what we make sandwiches with for days we need a meal on the go. It has worked out great, takes very little effort and I know we are eating something without a ton of fillers in it. A bonus is that Costco carries this product in bulk which is a win.

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The one other thing we have really struggled to find without anything artificial in it is pepperonis. We love pizza…who doesn’t right? Trying to find pepperonis with no artificial sweeteners in them was very difficult. Every single one we could locate in our local grocery had sucralose as the sweetener…frustrating I tell you…very frustrating. That is until I happen to find these at our new grocery store here in town where we now buy all our meat products.

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For $3.99 a package we can have pepperoni pizza once again and enjoy every bite.

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Eating for your health and well being is not that hard to do. It is also not as expensive as most people think. Does it take more work? Honestly, yes. However, I feel we owe it to ourselves to live the best life we can since we all only have one life to live. To me this work is minimal when you look at the big picture.

Here is a list of some items we were surprised had artificial sweeteners in them:

toothpaste

some brands of cottage cheese

some sour creams

almost all freezer potato products(ex.tater tots)

airborne/emergen C

many cold medicines/cough drops

candy

almost all gum

breads….so many breads

frozen pizza

salad dressings

sauces (ex BBQ)

anything breaded or with a crunchy coating

frozen spicy black bean burgers

and the list goes on and on….even foods in the organic isles (like the black bean burgers above)

Don’t take for granted when you see natural or organic on the package….this does not mean they did not use something that was made in a lab/test tube.

Read your labels!!!!!