Where I’ve Been Lately…and a Delicious Seasonal Twist on Pancakes

I took a couple of weeks off from blogging. Why? Honestly, I started reading more about improving your blog and found out I’m doing everything wrong.

I take pictures with my iPhone…or use free stock photos. I don’t have an email list. I don’t offer some great product, have sponsors, paid ads, etc.  Just about all conventional wisdom about blogging is the opposite of what I do.

But then I realized something: I didn’t set out to have a successful, monetary blog. I set out to do something different: share what I know for free. Take it, leave it, ignore parts that don’t fit you. That’s what I wanted to do.

You see, this past year has been one of the hardest of my life. And in the midst of that pain and stress, I felt like God wanted me to write and share what I know. Give it away, and be an encourager. So now I’m back to do just that.

I worked on Black Friday and we all took in dishes for a potluck meal to eat as we were very busy. I took in a family favorite called Spiced Winter Fruit to combat all the rich, gooey, unhealthy stuff that I knew would be present. And I discovered a new way to use it: pancake topper.

See, I love pancakes. I mean LOVE. ❤ Mostly for dinner on Sunday nights. It’s just a tradition for me. I make pancakes various ways. Sometimes with bananas and eggs and a bit of flour(always gluten-free since I’m sensitive to wheat). Sometimes with oat flour instead of regular, or other times using almond flour. (Not almond meal, as it’s coarser. Get the finely ground almond flour for pancakes). Or sometimes with a quick mix from Aldi, my favorite gluten-free biscuit and pancake mix( which is also very low in sugar…score!)

Oh, one simple tip: If you use oat flour save yourself the money buying it. Take regular oats and grind in the blender until they form a fine flour. See? Inexpensive, healthy and gluten-free(if you get gluten-free oats).

Anyway, I don’t like syrup and butter on my pancakes/oatcakes because the meal doesn’t stick with me. I want something with a bit of protein and natural sugar that’s got the fiber, etc. I always use almond butter in place of butter because, well, I LOVE almond butter. 😀 And for the topping, I often use frozen blueberries/cherries that I thaw a bit in the microwave. But the other night I covered the pancakes with the winter fruit and it was amazing.

So here’s my mom’s recipe. It’s very versatile as it uses canned fruit since fruit can be hard to come by in the winter. You can use fresh fruit-you just have to cook a little longer in the oven to get the dish to be tender.

Spiced Winter Fruit

  1. 1 can (15 ounces) peaches, drained and rinsed and chopped
  2. 1 can (15 ounces) apricots, drained and rinsed and chopped
  3. 1 can (15 ounces) pears, drained and rinsed and chopped
  4. 1 can (15 ounces) pineapple tidbits, drained and rinsed
  5. 15 ounces of unsweetened applesauce
  6. 1 Tablespoon of butter
  7. 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon
  8. 1/4 cup Sherry

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray lightly. Place all canned fruit in the dish. On the stove top, mix the applesauce,  sherry, and cinnamon together and cook over medium until the mixture begins to bubble. Pour over the fruit in the casserole dish. Dot the entire top with bits of the butter. Bake at 350-degree oven for one hour. Serve warm.

Here are my delicious almond butter fruit pancakes. I worked Sunday night so I treated myself to these for lunch on Monday where I ate the outside in the beautiful autumn weather.

Do you like pancakes? What are your favorite ways to eat them?

My Best Tip for Cooking with Ground Turkey…and a Twist On Traditional Chili

Autumn is in the air in many parts of the US now. I am enjoying cooler temperatures, crunchy leaves, and pumpkin spice everything. Yes…I am pretty “basic.” 😀 As the nights are longer and temperatures drop, I long for familiar, warm comfort foods, don’t you?

I had a discussion with someone who hated cooking with ground turkey and was asked how I can stand using it in recipes. Well, beef gets old after a bit and I have slightly high family-inherited cholesterol so I try to watch my red meat intake. Enter turkey.

The key I have found is this: seasoning. If I cook Italian dishes, I use basil, oregano, and garlic powder and work them into the turkey before browning. Mexican dishes get my homemade taco seasoning and a pinch of red chili seasoning. And in the picture above, I used garlic and onion powder, hot chili powder, and cumin. This gives flavor to the meat as it’s cooked in during the browning process that I love.

So there it is: my simple tip to add flavor to your turkey. I do sometimes add onions, garlic, and peppers, as well, but the picture above was on grocery day when the cupboard was pretty bare.

And just for something different, or for a Paleo or Whole 30 version, I will share my latest chili recipe seen above.

Turkey Sweet Potato Chili

  • 1 pound seasoned and browned Ground Turkey
  • 2 medium to large sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and diced
  • 8 ounces of tomato sauce
  • 4 ounces of green chilies
  • 2 cans of chili ready tomatoes (or regular tomatoes with 1-2 T chili powder and cumin to taste…we like a lot of cumin here. I usually season myself but I had the preseasoned cans here that I got on sale)
  • Any veggies you like…I like to sautee green peppers and onions with the meat and throw in
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or bone broth, if you like a thinner chili

That’s it. Cook on high for about 4 hours. low for around 6.

Do you use ground turkey? Or chili? Let me know what you think if you try seasoning the turkey before using it.

Açaí Bowls, Social Media, and Being Real

Don’t you love my beautiful chocolate smoothie bowl? Only it’s not. It’s an Açaí Bowl.

But aren’t those a beautiful, vibrant purple? Well, yes…unless it has açaí, blueberries. strawberries, and spinach. Then it’s a muddy brown like this.

Enter VSCO and other picture enhancing apps. Well, and, taking the picture before you add spinach. 😉 You play with the saturation, shadows, tint, and filters. And you end up with this something more pleasing to the eye.

As an aside, check out this beautiful açaí bowl from Honest Cooking -just gorgeous.

My point in this(besides sharing my go-to açaí bowl recipe below] is to remind you: what you see isn’t always real. We put our best face on, filter the heck out of it and clean it up, and present it to the world. Yet our food isn’t always beautiful, we have wrinkles as we age, our homes are messy and so are our lives, at times.

I want to embrace real. Honest. And eat delicious açaí smoothie bowls, even when they’re not pretty.

My Go-to Açaí Smoothie Bowl

1/2 cup Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk

1/2 scoop Designer Whey Vanilla Almond Whey Protein

1 Tablespoon Almond Butter or Peanut Butter

1 Packet Frozen Açaí

1/2 Frozen Banana

1 cup frozen berry mix( I love cherries, blueberries, and strawberries)

1 handful of spinach

Have you tried açaí? And how do you stay grounded in an age of illusion and social media? Share your thoughts!

Experiencing Autumn

I love seasonal changes. It is the perfect balance between newness and vitality and stability. The seasons come over and over but each time a new one begins it feels fresh and new.

If any of my readers are Myers-Briggs personality junkies like I am, I will admit that I’m an INFJ. We are the introverts who often function as extroverts, the dreamers with our heads in the clouds, the worriers, the ones reading everyone in the room and ignoring our inner self. Our five senses are often underused.

My husband is an ESTP. They’re the comedians and people persons of the world. Think Jim Carey and take it down a few notches and you have my husband. The great thing about him is he will take a morning walk with his oatmeal, not caring a bit who sees him, to breathe in the fresh air, look at the trees, and chat with anyone who comes by. He often stops mid-sentence in awe of creation.

This year I’m trying to think in those same terms. Fall is my favorite season and I adore the weather and blue skies of October. There is nothing else like it to me. So I’m trying to slow down and experience it. Here are a few things I’ve done:

  • Tried new recipes with fall flavors
  • Slowed down during my meals, really tasting my food
  • Eaten outside
  • Taken walks to new places
  • Watched new-to-me movies with my kids…mostly to experience their laughter and joy
  • Traveled
  • Read books that had fall settings
  • Changed up my fitness routine

Are you a person who experiences life or is so busy in your mind and with your hands that days slip by without notice? Share with me your tips and tricks for really experiencing the here and now.

What I’m Eating Lately

I thought I would share my big eating health tip. I do this almost daily and it is versatile, delicious, filling, and packs a punch nutritionally:  salads.

Salads are so easy. I honestly take lots of leafy greens, veggies I have on hand in the refrigerator, a few seeds, some craisins, usually, and a bit of feta cheese. I often throw my leftover protein on there, too. Chicken, chopped or shredded, meat, beans, even chili, all make a great topping for a healthy salad.

I usually have a salad for lunch. It’s easy to throw together while I’m doing other things and I can even make it the night before and take it to work on days that I work a longer shift.

The biggest key for me with salads, honestly, is HOW I eat them. I revert to the childhood method of eating one thing at a time. 😉 Or, hey,  let’s say the fancy way of eating one course at a time. Sounds better! I eat that salad before the main course. I find I slow down and have to chew more and it’s filling so I don’t gobble up too much of whatever is following. It seriously has helped me get in touch with my hunger and satiated signals and that’s such a great benefit.

Other benefits include lots of nutrition, ease of preparation, versatility, no need to cook so minimal clean-up. There are also tons of digestive benefits from eating more raw foods and I find that is so important to my gut health as I get “older and wiser.” 😀

Do you eat salads or other raw foods for your health? Show me your pictures or send me your favorite salad recipes.

What I Learned about Life from taking a Pilates Reformer Class

Last Monday I got to do something I had been dying to do for two years: take a private Reformer class. And, for those curious about what a Reformer looks like, here is an example:

The instructor lives in a beautiful loft apartment in my town and teaches there to keep costs affordable. I love that! I was excited and nervous about going but mostly eager to be learning something new and getting some hands-on instruction to use in my personal mat practice.

This sweet lady got on to demonstrate and told me I would be doing some innocent sounding exercises called “footwork.” Piece of cake, right? Well, except for the fact that this is Pilates so every exercise is designed to be total body and is never simple.

I loved the lesson and can say I was a bit sore for two days after that! And the biggest takeaway for me was this: Nothing is as easy as it appears to be.

We often watch other people flow through life. Things seem easy and success effortless. But there are always hours of learning, re-learning, sweating, and shaking that precedes any change.

If you are doing Pilates “right,” your entire mind and body are engaged and in the moment. And so it is with life off the mat. But the time spent to learn how to do something right is crucial to living your best life.

So please, don’t compare yourself to others. Try something new. Let yourself be a beginner. And live in deep satisfaction of soul that comes from knowing that you experienced the adventure of being yourself.

What lessons are you learning lately? Head over to my Facebook page and let me know.

Meeting your Wellness Goals in a Perfectly Imperfect World

Perfectlyimperfect2-1

 

I was recently asked some readers for feedback on my Facebook page about what keeps them from meeting their health, fitness, or wellness goals. Here were some of their answers:

  • Distraction
  • Depression
  • Illness
  • Work
  • Children
  • Busyness
  • Unexpected Curveballs
  • Lack of focus
  • Long-term health issues

 

I felt overwhelmed with what these wonderful women shared with me. I wanted to help but I had no easy answers. And what I do know is going to sound so trite. Because it all boils down to this: Life gets in the way of our best-laid plans.

 

 

So what do we do? Especially those of us Type As who want to do it all and do it perfectly?

I recently talked with a friend who was reading a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. While the title was off-putting, I looked into the main point of the book. You know what it boils down to? Embracing imperfections in yourself and the world around you. And not seeing every flaw as something to be improved upon.

And that’s just it. What if we give ourselves a break? What if we look at areas we really struggle with (perhaps getting up early for a workout or not eating lots of sugar) and dig deep into the why of it. Why do I struggle with it? Is it really important to me? Maybe I need to embrace seeing exercise, nutrition, and wellness as something I do “good enough,”  rather than perfectly, always striving for some elusive or impossible goal. What if I make my health, fitness and nutritional goals serve me. Now they’re something I do to improve my ability to enjoy my life and live better. Once I do this it becomes much easier to make a fitness plan that fits into this total package that is my imperfectly perfect life.

So let’s agree to embrace wellness and not just fitness. I think we’ll discover that it changes the dialogue in our minds about our health journey. Sometimes giving ourselves a break can lead to our best breakthroughs.

Easy One Pan Meals

With cooler mornings and a hint of fall in the air, I’ve been ready to cook some fall meals. I neglected my oven during the summer in favor of grilling and my slow cooker. And yes, I am totally obsessed with my slow cooker. I use it all the time for quick and easy meals. My recent discovery has me excited to cook indoors again because I can still cook everything in one pan…but in the oven. Easy cooking, easy cleanup, minimal time spent in the kitchen. What could be better?

I will share my recipe for the meal above and then give some general tips so you can experiment and create your own oven roasted meals.

1 head of broccoli

1-1 1/2# chicken breasts (I pounded mine a bit thinner for ease of cooking)

BBQ Sauce(I make my own that I got from Real Food Whole Life,  recipe below)*

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and washed

Olive oil

Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wash, peel and cube sweet potatoes and toss with a bit of olive oil and salt. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I use a Pampered Chef stoneware pan so I skip the parchment paper). Place chicken on the tray and spread barbecue sauce on both sides of the meat. Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, break broccoli apart and toss with a bit of olive oil and salt. Place on top of the chicken and potatoes after 20 minutes and return to the oven to bake 10 minutes more. Remove and serve!

I have made this using a homemade honey mustard sauce, lemon pepper seasoning, etc. I have also used barbecue sauce chickpeas in place of meat and I know other people who use seasoned tofu, sliced steak, etc. Brussels sprouts are great veggies, as are carrots. You can also use russet potatoes. The choices are endless.

*Barbecue Sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 6-oz can tomato paste

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

Do you like one pan meals? What are your quick and easy weeknight meal ideas?

September Musings

fallleaves.jpg

I am a goal maker and a thinker. It’s just hard-wired into me. So at the end of each month, I evaluate things and then choose a new focus or to-do list for the next month. Each new day, week, month and year are filled with possibility and that is exciting.

So here are a couple of lessons I learned in September.

It’s okay to be a beginner  I started a new job in August in retail. It’s part-time, about 20 hours a week. You would think retail would be easy, but it’s not. I’m back to dealing with people, both co-workers and customers, who also have to deal with me. 😉 Plus, learning new lingo, systems, and ways of doing things. So I have let myself be the new guy. Lowered my expectations and asked questions and tried hard not to beat myself up for being less than perfect. And you know what? It’s a nice way to live. I think I’ll let it spill over into other aspects of life as much as possible.

The unexpected can bring some great memories  We were caught up in Hurricane Irma’s path. We had lots of extra visitors from Florida, very little gas(and it was expensive), and days without school, power for some people, etc.  But that time spent off the normal routine, with my family, was precious. I have the best things in life in my family and in friends, and that’s something that no amount of gas or inconvenience can take away. Plus, I met some amazing Floridians at work and heard incredible stories of their lives. Definitely, it’s something I’ll always remember.

Even though I can make pumpkin spice everything, September in the south still feels like summer!  A little tongue in cheek, but man, it’s been hot here this month. And you know what? It makes anticipating the fall weather, changing leaves, and shorter days all that more magical. And yes, I still had my homemade pumpkin spiced coffee.

So here’s to October. And thank you, September, for memories, lessons, and the gift of life.

P.S. Drop me a line and tell me about your September. I love hearing from you.

My love of Quinoa

When you have allergies, things get interesting. I am allergic to corn and fairly sensitive to wheat. I get tired of rice and oats as my grain choices.

Recently I tried couscous and then quinoa. Oh, quinoa, where have you been? Versatile and higher in protein because it’s a nut that thinks it’s a grain, haha, quinoa is super easy to cook and relatively inexpensive. It’s grown mostly in Peru and Bolivia and is a member of the amaranth family, for those of you interested.

One thing I did was to invest in a simple fine mesh strainer. Quinoa has a natural coating, called saponin, that can make it taste bitter or soapy if you skip this step, After that, you need a simple pan, two cups of liquid to a cup of quinoa, and you’re ready.

I bring two cups of water, milk, or broth to boil along with the quinoa. After it boils, I reduce to simmer, cover, and cook fifteen to twenty minutes. That’s it. I use milk for breakfast quinoa and water or broth to make a more savory batch.

You can use quinoa for warm breakfast bowls like you would oats. Add in fruits, nuts, a bit of milk, and it is amazing. For lunch, I love adding it to my salads to get a boost of extra protein and heartiness. At dinner time, quinoa makes a great side or the basis for a food bowl. I love food bowls! Meat and/or beans, veggies, quinoa and, if I am feeling ambitious, a quickly made tahini based sauce. Or salsa, barbecue sauce, squeeze of lemon or lime, etc. Healthy, quick, filling, delicious.

Have you tried quinoa? Or are you a no-grain type of eater? Yes, I realize some people feel much healthier that way. Drop me a line and share your quinoa recipes. Or, let me know the types of things you would love to see on the blog.