Monday, September 15, 2014

Meal Plan Monday {I Heart My Crockpot....and butter-free, gooey, delicious, chocolate chip cookies, say what?!}

Hello Loves! You like that long title, don't ya? The cookies are totally title-worthy, believe me and then make them. Taking a little over a week from Meal Plans and blogging was a good refresher for me. I've been working way more than normal, so combine that with things that must get done around the house, blogging had to take a back seat! 

Because of my crazy schedule and the delightful pre-fall weather we have been having here in the Lou,  I broke out my Crockpot last week and it still hasn't made it back into the cabinet! It is one of the best ways to cook this time of year (in my humble opinion) and it keeps me from spending tons of time in the kitchen. 

First up, Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'm slightly obsessed with Chicken Tortilla Soup. This one, from Yummy Healthy Easy, is yummy, healthy and easy. I used low-sodium options to keep our sodium intake in check. If you like a little more kick, get the fire roasted green chiles. I also used drained, canned corn instead of frozen because it's what I had on hand. We had lunch leftovers with this one too!

Chicken Cordon Blue

I've never been a huge fan of ham, but have recently decided to eat it because everyone else in my family likes it. It's totally a texture issue for me, so when it's inside of a biscuit or paired with something else, I can deal. Someone brought us a similar meal after I had Brooklyn and we loved it. So, I scoured Pinterest for recipes and made more than one version, before falling in love with this one from Diva di Cucina. Seriously, so yummy! The chicken breasts that I used were about 10 oz each (one serving size of chicken is only 4 oz, so I only used 2 chicken breasts for our family). I also only used 4 slices of ham, opted for slices of swiss cheese and lowered the amount butter (mostly because of fat content in butter) to one tablespoon. This recipe is definitely a favorite around here!

Beef Stew

This meal is the epitome of fall/winter eating. We eat very little red meat these days, but this is one of those comfort foods for us. For this recipe, I only used 20 ounces of meat (instead of the called for 2 pounds) and added more veggies. I choose to use whole baby carrots instead of spending the time chopping them and new potatoes (but remember, calories aren't much more if you prefer russet). I used low sodium beef broth, nixed the added salt and didn't use the steak marinade. I also used the entire packet of Lipton onion soup mix...not sure how that relates in terms of tablespoons. You can serve over rice if you choose, we opted out because we are trying to lose weight.

Chicken Florentine

So, maybe I was a little obsessed with chicken last week? Payton asked what was for dinner one night and followed her inquiry with "please don't say chicken!" Hahaha! Well, can't blame her for wanted variety I suppose. It is kinda what she is used to. Anyway, yep, Chicken Florentine, in a crockpot. Thanks for that Dash of Reality! I didn't have diced tomatoes with herbs on hand, so I used plain diced tomatoes, but mixed in a teaspoon of oregano, a teaspoon of basil and 2 cloves of garlic (pressed). I also used fresh spinach, because it's what I had. I chose Pinot Grigio for my white wine, because I will drink the leftovers. ;) And even though I know this would be delicious with heavy cream, I did use the Greek yogurt. Served over angel hair pasta.

Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Y'all, I cannot get enough of these cookies!! If I'm letting my inner-South come out by using the "word" y'all, you better believe it will be a party in your mouth!! I've made these more than once and I've used milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet and left out the cinnamon. Milk chocolate chips with the cinnamon, semi-sweet chips with the cinnamon. You can do no wrong! I love pecans in cookies too, but haven't added because the oatmeal by itself creates the perfect texture. The outside has a crunch but the inside is oh so gooey. I promise you, my mouth is watering as I type about them. The best part is, you totally use coconut oil instead of butter! I have a family chocolate chip cookie recipe that my sister tweaked and those are my ultimate favorite cookie, but the recipe calls for a POUND, yes, an entire pound of butter. I can't play that game while I'm watching calories!! I ate an embarrassing amount of these cookies last week and still managed to lose more than a pound. Hey, maybe there really are healthy sweet treat options! Now, get in the kitchen and make these cookies. You will thank me. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Averie Cooks. If you love sweets, you should probably follow her blog too! =)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Just a Few Things

I'm working again all this weekend, so I wanted to do a short post today before my crazy started to tell you about a few things. First of all, I am loving my Fitbit! My husband brought it home for me a couple weeks ago now and it is so nice tracking all my burned calories throughout the day, my sleep patterns and how many steps I take in a day. It's bluetooth, great battery life and the app also syncs with My Fitness Pal (my other accountability tool) which I love. 

We also will finish up our third week of P90X3 tomorrow. I haven't done the other two P90X versions, but I love that this one is only 30 minutes! Time is such a huge factor in why we also chose to do Focus T25. There is more equipment involved in P90X3. Damien is using a pull up bar, but I am just using resistance bands. Pull ups are no joke! I'm at a complete loss trying to do one. So, the resistance bands were the perfect option for me. The first three weeks have been the same, meaning each day of the week has it's own video. Wednesday is a yoga day and it is such a nice break from the hardcore cardio and strength training of the other days. I'm already seeing more transformations in my body.

I take more pictures after the first 30 days...I'll post the before and after, so be on the lookout.

Next thing that I must tell you about. Clinique at Dillard's is having their Bonus Time!
The treatment in this gift is fantastic and the colors are even better. You get to choose between Violets and Pinks and I promise, you cannot go wrong either way.
Gift includes: Moisture Surge Intense, CC Cream, Rinse-off Foaming Cleanser, eyeshadow trio, Chubby Stick Baby Tint and Lash Doubling Mascara.
Gift ends on September 20th.
FYI, the Chubby Stick Baby Tints can be misleading. They work with the natural tone of your skin, changing after applied. They look different on everyone. The pink goes hot pink on my lips and the violet shade stays more subtle. Both are fun!

My top picks for Clinique right now.

Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush
Gentle, yet effective cleansing brush. Waterproof, so you can use in the shower. Head tilts so it gets to those hard to reach areas. Your face will thank you!

Clinique Long Last Soft Matte Lipstick
A truly matte lipstick that actually feels good on the lips. Not drying. Beautiful shades. My top shade picks are Matte Crimson, Matte Magenta and Matte Petal. 8 shades available.

Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask
I don't know about you, but my skin gets seriously dehydrated in the winter. With the cold right around the corner, this is a must-have product to give your skin the extra boost it needs to tough out the harsh conditions.

Lancome at Belk is also in gift, so if you love Lancome, you can shop for that here.

My top Picks for Lancome right now.

Lancome Grandiose Wide-Angle Fan Effect Mascara
I got up close and personal with this mascara recently and though I have my favorite in another line, this one is top-notch. It has a plastic brush, which I think are far better than the softer bristles.

Lancome La Base Pro Perfecting Makeup Primer
Foundation primer is all too often forgotten about. This primer is among the best of the ones I have used. It feels silky on the skin and is oil-free. Your makeup will look as good when you take it off as it did right after you put it on.

Well, that's all I've got for today! Happy Weekend! I hope you do something exciting!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Note to Self

I'm not a person who boasts about not living with regret. Actually, I regret many things from my past and regret is something that I believe is okay to feel, just not to dwell on. I am a child of The One True King and he has forgiven me. We all have made mistakes or have said something we wish that we could take back. But we can't undo. 

So, this little quote popped up in my Facebook news feed last week. 

It really made me start thinking about things I would tell the younger Liz. Although, I could never imagine it only being two words. So, today I'm sharing the letter than I penned to "the younger me" (think 14ish). I probably wouldn't have listened to the older me, because, well, I'm stubborn. 
Here goes...

Dear Elizabeth,
       Remember when you sat in front of your toy box and asked Jesus to come into your heart? Well, I think you may have forgotten that your body is now His temple. One guy decided that he didn't like you anymore and you decide to prove that you are "mature" enough to handle an older boy by mistreating your body. You are not treating your body like a temple at all. Smoking is bad for your insides and will age you on the outside. You are far too young to drink alcohol and the way that you partake, is abusing it. Your body should be on reserve for your husband. Guys who are wanting physical attention from you are not guys you should be associating with. These things do not make you more mature, they make you stupid.
        I know that this party phase of your ever so young teenage years will dissolve, and you will be forever grateful for the reason they dissolve. In high school, nurture friendships. Focus on school so you get good grades and can attend college with scholarship,s instead of getting student loans that will be a burden later in life. There will come a time in your life when you are ready to marry, high school is not that time. Again, spend time with friends and stay focused on school. There are many great love stories of people who happily marry their high school sweethearts. You will not be among them.
      Although no one can tell you this in high school, you are smitten with him and everything he is. He is good for you. He doesn't smoke or drink, so his influence is good for you. God very well could have placed him into your life to prevent many bad choices which would then allow bad things to happen to you. You will be forever grateful for him. When you do realize he is not your forever, be gentle. His love is real and he deserves the same love in return. Don't hold on just because it is comfortable.
      Be kind with your words. You have a sharp tongue and it pierces deeper than you will probably ever know. You will forever regret things that come from your lips and once they are out there, they can never be unsaid. Be nice to your little brother too. Even though you'll know he loves you and even forgives you, there will be enormous amounts of guilt you will live with because of how you mistreated him.
       When all is said and done, you will find the one whom your soul loves and you will marry him and have beautiful babies. He will help you in becoming the best version of yourself. He will love you, in spite of your flaws. God will hold tight to you. He heard your prayer when you were a little girl and he is faithful. His protection over you during your darkest days is nothing short of miraculous. He will pull you back to himself and tell you that you are beautiful and loved, despite the scars of your past.
      So, be wise, young one. Cling to your Savior to spare yourself the guilt and regret. Know that there is only one path that does not lead to destruction.
                                                                                              Much love,
                                                                                                      Your Older Self

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Meal Plan Monday.....on a Tuesday!

I worked all weekend, plus Monday since Damien was off and could be home with the kids, hence the tardiness of the Meal Plan Monday post. I'm going to make up for it by sharing the most amazing blueberry muffin recipe as well! My sister made them when she was here for the birth of Brooklyn and I've made them a few times since then. They have cream cheese in them. Need I say more?

Monday: Turkey Meatloaf with Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes

Growing up, my mom never made meatloaf. The tought of a loaf of meat somewhat grossed me out. Damien and I were invited to eat dinner with some friends in SC once and she served meatloaf. Obviously, when you are invited to dinner, you eat what's prepared or feel rude. I tried it and I thought it was delicious. So, I've been trying different meatloaf recipes for years now. 

This turkey version from The Kitchen McCabe is amazing! My entire family loves it! I had never made one with carrots in it and I feel like it adds just another punch of healthy. 

This night, I started dinner later than usual, so I used this and cut my cook time to 20-25 minutes at the same temp. You could also use a cupcake pan. Making individual servings not only cuts the cook time, but makes it much easier to serve.

You can't have meatloaf without mashed potatoes. I chop and boil 3-4 new potatoes (depending on size), drain and place back into pot. Add 1/2 cup warm milk, 2 tablespoons of sour cream, 1 tablespoon of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Then, I hand mash mine using this. Done.

I also used fresh French green beans. I blanch them in boiling salt water for 3 minutes then place then drain and place on a paper towel. Place pan back on heat and add a teaspoon of olive oil. Add green beans back to pan, add salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 more minutes. 

Tuesday: Burrito Bowls with Creamy Chipotle Sauce

Meatless meal of the night number one. We love the simplicity of this recipe! The recipe calls for rice, I replace the rice with quinoa (of course!), making it packed full of protein. It's a great quick, easy weekday meal. I've had some comments about houses with picky eaters, so I'll tell you how I do this for my picky eaters.

My kids love black beans and corn, so when I make these bowls for Damien and I, I make cheese quesadillas for the girls, and then give them black beans, corn and cucumber slices. Everyone cleans their plates and are happy. 

Wednesday: Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

If you haven't noticed just yet, Damien and I are obsessed with spicy food. If it has a kick, chances are, it'll go on our list of favorites! While meal planning for the week, I asked Damien if he had any requests and he wanted some sort of buffalo style chicken. So, I asked him if he remembered when I made this recipe from Ella Claire Inspired and if these would be ok. They are a true skinny version of buffalo chicken! We also leave out the blue cheese crumbles (which if you read my meal plan posts regularly, you know we aren't fans of blue cheese).

Also, the kids won't eat buffalo sauce, so I give them plain shredded chicken and some fresh veggies. Again, simple solution without cooking an entirely separate meal for them. Cause nobody has time for all that! Buffalo chicken not your thing either? Well, there are other great lettuce wraps recipes at the bottom of her blog posts for these (haven't tried them yet, but they look delicious!)

I made some baked salt and pepper potato chips to go with these. 

Salt and Pepper Potato Chips

2 potatoes (new or russet work)
clove of garlic, peeled
olive oil cooking spray
sea salt (in grinder)
black pepper (in grinder)

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚
  2. Slice potatoes very thin (I used my Mandoline)
  3. Spray cookie sheet with olive oil spray, then rub pan with garlic clove, pressing into the pan.
  4. Place potato slices on the pan.
  5. Cooke for 12-15 minutes.
  6. Take out of oven, flip potato slices.
  7. Retuen to oven and continue cooking for another 7-8 minutes.

Thursday: Creamy Spinach Tomato Tortellini

Oh pasta! Why do you have to be so full of calories? This recipe From Bombshell Bling is so easy, it's a travesty that I can't make it and eat it once a week. As you know, I do indulge in pasta typically once a week. I just don't over indulge. (wink, wink). This is meatless meal two for the week, by the way. But, you can always opt for a meat stuffed tortellini. I do prefer cheese tortellini over meat versions.

I have a hard time finding the brand of tortellini she used, so I just grab one that is frozen or refrigerated and cook according to package. I serve up a salad with this entree.

Friday: Garlic Lemon Butter Shrimp with Pancetta Green Beans

I'm digging the addition of shrimp to our regular list of proteins. This recipe was a little more fattening because of the butter, but so tasty! Kudos to Half Baked Harvest! She recommends cerving with some coconut rice, which I think would be so yummy, but I didn't have the ingredients on hand.

I did make some fresh green beans again (again, I bought a large quantity, so we had green beans more than once!) This time, I sauteed some pancetta, garlic red onion to top the green beans and they were oh so delicious!! I blanched the green beans in salted boiling water again, but while they rested on a paper towel, I added chopped pancetta, a clove of garlic (pressed) and 1/4 cup chopped red onion. Sauteed over medium heat until onion was tender. Then added the green beans to the mixture and cooked for another 2 minutes to combine. 

Saturday: Pineapple Crockpot Chicken

As I mentioned before, I worked all weekend, so I busted out the crockpot on Saturday morning so my fam could have a hot dinner Saturday night in my absence (I got home right at dinner time). This was an easy, decent meal. Not my favorite, but it's more because it's a crockpot meal. I'm being honest, it's rare that I fully love a meal made in the crockpot, but it's the most convenient way to prepare a meal when I'm not home.

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can pineapple tidbits
1/2 an onion, sliced
2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Place onion slices in bottom of the crockpot.
  2. Combine salt, pepper and garlic powder and sprinkle over both sides of chicken.
  3. Place chicken on top of onions.
  4. Dump can of pineapple over chicken.
  5. Combine soy sauce and chicken broth, pour over chicken.
  6. Cook on low 3-4 hours (or until chicken is cooked through).
Serve with veggie or salad.

Saturday Morning: Blueberry Muffins

I don't like blueberries plain. I don't like blueberry cobbler or pie. But, a good blueberry muffin or bread. Mmmmm! Emphasis on "good"! Don't expect me to eat store bought blueberry muffins or the kind you make out of a bag or box. No thank you! 

I'm so grateful to my big sister for introducing me to these little pieces of blueberry heaven from A Family Feast!

Hope you enjoyed today's post!! I will not be posting a Meal Plan Monday next week, due to working. But I promise to be back and on time the following week!!