My Top Tips For Eating Healthy Part One

Eat Real Food. JERF(Just Eat Real Food). Train Dirty, Eat Clean. You see it over and over on Facebook, Instagram, and all the social media platforms and blogs. Yet the average person experiences so much guilt regarding eating, food, and food choices. I have been there too and still struggle with that at times.

So today I am taking away the guilt and giving you the first of my top three tips to guarantee you can eat healthy. What is tip number one?

EAT FOOD YOU LOVE

Now Cheri, how can that simple statement help? I mean, I love sweets! Or fast food, or soda, or…

Here’s the thing: think about what you love and incorporate that into your meal plan. Just think outside the box and be creative and persistent.

Do you love meat? I would not suggest trying a vegan diet. 😉 Love soda? Look into sparkling waters or half sparkling water and half fruit juice. Wine drinker? Save it for a special occasion or drink a spritzer( half wine half sparkling water. See how useful sparkling water is)?

I used to down diet soda and tried the waters and didn’t like them. But drinking iced tea without sugar was very tasty to me so I switched to that.

The reason I love smoothie bowls so much is that I used to crave ice cream. And now I never want it. The smoothie bowls and smoothies fulfill that love for creamy and sweet in a much more nutrient dense meal.

Love sandwiches like grilled cheese or PBJ? Can you pump them up with good quality whole grain breads, natural peanut butter and raw honey or make your grilled cheese with good quality cheese, olive oil, and other added things? I love adding in carmalized onion, apple slices and hummus. Yum!

Life becomes better when we recognize how to play. Approach meals this way. How can I make healthy, delicious french fries, good quality burgers, delicious, filling salads or pizza…whatever you love you can have! Just see how you can add nutrients to it.

The bonus is that when you get good quality ingredients in your body, your cravings go down. You feel satisfied and fuller. Your energy soars, your sleep improves, your mood is better. I didn’t believe any of that either but experienced it first hand.

So try my tip and make it work for you. You are so worth it! And be looking for my next post with tip number two.

Drop me a line and tell me your favorite meals or healthy eating tips.

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?

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.

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.

Crock Pot Love…and a Weekly Go-to Recipe

It’s no secret that I think a slow cooker/crock pot is a gift from God. 😀 I am slowly learning to use my Instant Pot too, but that’s another post.

I love throwing ingredients in and having a meal just hours later. I love chilis and stews and soups, but Mexican Chicken is something I make almost every week. It’s quick, easy, versatile, and everyone in my house loves it. The recipe is below, and then I will share ways we use it.

1-2# chicken breast or thigh meat

Taco Seasoning (I make my own)

Hidden Valley Ranch Spicy Ranch packet

Salsa

Seriously, that’s it. I need to try making my own salsa but have an organic brand I use that’s low sodium. I spray the slow cooker with olive oil, place the chicken in the bottom, sprinkle with 1/2 ranch packet and taco seasoning, and add salsa to cover. I cook on low 6 hours or high 4. Then I shred the meat with two forks.

We use to top salads, over rice or quinoa, mixed with black beans, in tortillas, to top a baked potato, and lots of other ways. It’s versatile and makes a quick lunch.

Do you use a slow cooker? Share your recipes and let me know your go-to lunches.

My Best Smoothie Bowl Tips…and a Fall Bowl

I have spoken of my love for smoothies and smoothie bowls. You throw it all in a blender, blend and go, right?

Well, no. I have learned through trial and error some tips to get my best bowls in taste and texture. I am sharing them with you today.

  1. Use a mix of fresh and frozen fruits and veggies. I have the best luck with, say, an unfrozen zucchini and frozen bananas and berries. All frozen can make the blender need more time and stops and starts to scrape or tamp the ingredients down.
  2. When using lots of frozen foods, do a pre-chop step. I have never done this with a less expensive blender, but it works great with my Blendtech. I will put frozen zucchini, bananas, berries, etc. in and whirl for 10 seconds. Then I add other ingredients and end up with a very smooth bowl.
  3. Use the least amount of milk possible to keep from adding lots of ice. I stick with about 1/4-1/2 cup per bowl. Too much ice waters down the taste.
  4. Put greens like spinach or kale on top of other ingredients. This keeps protein powders or nut butter from going straight up and needing to be scraped off the side of the blender. I want my almond butter in my smoothie, not on the side of the bowl, right? 😉
  5. Pour the milk over everything last. This also wets things down so they don’t all fly on the sides of your blender.

A great fall smoothie bowl is The Carrot Cake Bowl pictured above. I tweaked a recipe from Simply Quinoa and just love it.

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla cashew milk (or milk of your choice)

1/2 cup chopped frozen zucchini

1 1/2 frozen bananas

2 carrots, chopped and peeled

1/2 scoop Designer Whey Vanilla Almond protein powder (optional) Otherwise add 2 T of hemp seeds, etc. for a protein kick

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t pumpkin spice seasoning

1/4 t ginger

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t allspice

ice as needed

I topped with some hemp seeds, a drizzle of almond butter (of course!), and granola. Bananas are good too.

What are your best Smoothie Bowl tips and tricks? Let me know in the comments. Also, tell me what you think about the carrot cake bowl.