11/23/14

Steph’s Favorite Things 2014!

Can you BELIEVE it’s that time of year? 
Wasn’t it JUST September like a second ago?

Although I feel like I never really embraced the Halloween spirit this year (aside from passing out tricks and treats- that’s ALWAYS a blast), I can FEEL the holiday cheer building up inside me; bubbling up like a glass of sparkling champagne on New Year’s eve. 
And with Thanksgiving just a few days away, and temps getting cooler here in Florida, I am feeling festive and ready for a fun and memorable holiday season!

We’ll be spending Thanksgiving with family and friends at my cousin’s lake house (complete with a roaring fire to close out the evening). Just a short week later we’ll be packing our bags and heading north for a few days in the mountains! We’ve rented a cabin up in Blairsville, GA (my favorite spot in that area) and will be spending a few days relaxing with friends, building big campfires, drinking way too much wine, hiking up to beautiful waterfalls, shopping at all the fun local spots, and rounding off the trip by chopping down an evergreen to bring home for the holiday season.
I. Cannot. Wait. :) 

Hopefully while we’re up there I’ll be able to start some of my holiday shopping too! I love gift giving, and finding something unique or interesting for my family and friends is always a blast. In addition, I’ve had my eye on a few things that seem like they would make great gifts! If you need a few ideas, check out my list of favorite things for this holiday season!

Owl Cookie Jar- I spotted this the other day and fell in love! Not into cookies? Fill this cutie with trinkets, caramels, or use it as a piggy bank!
$19.99 @ Target

14621853

FitBit flex- I LOVE my FitBit! I’ve had it for about a month now and love tracking my fitness progress and goals each day. I also love that it syncs with MyFitnessPal and my Humana Vitality account. The more I move, the more points I earn. Points= prizes! It’s a win win. ;)
$99 @ Fitbit.com or Targetad56-800Tervis Tumbler- I seem to always have a Tervis in my hand. I love these cups! They keep your cold beverages cold and your hot beverages hot! And who could pass up this adorable new Snoopy Christmas design for 2014! :)
$23.00 (24oz) with lid @ Tervis.com 

ShowDesignImage

The Pioneer Woman’s Year full of Holidays Cookbook- If you know me IRL, you know how utterly obsessed I am with Ree Drummond. We’re practically best friends, make that SISTERS even! (in my head). This book would be a fabulous gift for the foodie in your life.
$20.75 @ Amazon.com 

thanksgiveaway_17

Sports Team Pint Glass set- Baseball fan in your life? These awesome pint glasses can be customized with your favorite MLB team! Mine, of course, would be the Rays. ;)
$31.99 @ shop.mlb.com

pMLB2-5894954dt

Clothing and Accessories from Simple Addiction- I just recently discovered Simple Addiction (follow them on IG!) and have fallen head over heels for their cute and chic wardrobe additions. Their deals are a MUST see… like this adorable Serenity Spade necklace!
$9.95 @SimpleAddiction.com

SerenitySpadeModNOLOGO-500x500

TOMS- These comfortable and cute slip-on shoes come in a variety of colors and look adorable with shorts and a tee, or jeans and a blouse. For each pair you purchase you’re also paying it forward, because Tom’s has dedicated their brand to providing shoes for the less fortunate. And don’t just think they sell shoes. Check out their website for accessories, home decor and more! And can we go ahead and discuss just WHO will be buying me a pair of these Dave Matthews Band Firedancer TOMS? Women’s size 11, please and thank you!

Dave-Matthews-designed-TOMS-shoes1Polar Bear Pajama Pants- Because everyone needs a pair of polar bear pajama pants.  
$16.94 @ Old Navy

 Women's Printed Flannel PJ Pants - Polar BearSeventh Avenue Apothecary Candles- I first laid eyes (and nose!) on these last year at an event at the beautiful Oxford Exchange in Tampa. These candles are SO unique; with original scent combinations, small batch and hand-poured production, and local heritage and inspiration packed inside each one (they are based out of my own Tampa, FL). 
Starting at $15 @ tampasoy.com

 

7th-Ave-APothecary_IMG_9239

Pilot G-2 Colored Pens- Need an idea for a stocking stuffer? I get ALL giddy over the sight of a good pen. (#teacherlife). These G-2 pens are hands down my favorite! 
$10.99 @ Staples 
 

s0695042_sc7

 

Drew Estate Natural Cigars- Fun fact: I love cigars. I’ll enjoy one a few times a year, especially when around the campfire or strolling down the streets of Key West. In fact last year in the Keys I was introduced to “Dirt”, one of these Drew Estate cigars and was blown away by its sweet smooth flavor, with a hint of vanilla and coffee. Since then it has become one of my favorite line of cigars! 
$33.68 (for a 6-pack flavor sampler) @ Cigarsinternational.com

natural_cigars

Reusable Grocery Cart Bags- As a fan of all things food and grocery store shopping (yes, I know, it’s dorky), I have GOT to have these! Brilliant!
$19.95 each @ reuseit.com

 

rei_17_twoincart

 

Feetures! Running socks- Another awesome stocking stuffer: especially for the runner in your life! These socks come in cute colors (yes, there are manly options) and are so supportive. I love the double tabs too! Nobody likes socks that sink down into your shoes never to be found again! 
@ feetures.com

Spring Outlook home page ad-1

Smartphone Projector- Have you ever tried to share a video with a group of friends and only 1 or 2 people can actually see it? They sit and watch as you hold the phone, laughing away at whatever it is that they’re watching, while the rest of the group tries to decipher what the hell is going on. Well, this projector solves those dilemmas by displaying your funny videos for the whole room to see! 
$27.00 @ Uncommongoods.com

25572_zoom2

Cheese & Crackers serving board- Well isn’t that clever. ;)
$48.00 @ Uncommongoods.com
24830_zoom1And don’t forget that handmade gifts (like boxes of homemade truffles, or hand-made crafts) make beautiful, thoughtful gifts as well! 

What is on YOUR Christmas list this year? Do share! -Steph :)

 

11/9/14

Are there farmers markets in hell?

If you’re my friend, or if you follow this blog (or stalk me on social media) you KNOW I hate Brussels Sprouts.
Like hate them.

Like if I had my way it would be illegal to grow them, sell them, serve them at restaurants. You get the idea. 
And I can hear your voice as I type this.

“Have you tried them with bacon?! Have you tried them glazed in a reduced balsamic?! Have you tried them roasted with salt and a little EVOO?! Have you [insert a million other suggests I’ve heard you guys tell me here]. 

Ya’ll I’m not kidding. I detest those veiny green balls of disgusting. I don’t like the texture, the flavor, nor do I like that bulbous feeling against my tongue. Hear me when I shout from the rooftops that I HATE BRUSSELS SPROUTS! 

And aside from their overall foulness, I DO have an emotional reason for detesting these beasts. 
Way back in once upon a time time I attended a very strict private school. It was 1980-something and I was just a wee 1st or 2nd grader sitting in the cafeteria of this school preparing to eat whatever they had plopped onto my tray that day (we had no choices back then kids; so consider yourself lucky!) 

Now something you might not know about me is that I was a complete goody two-shoes growing up. I mean I was terrified, TERRIFIED of doing something wrong. So because of that, I was very shy, and VERY quiet. And what made my fears even WORSE is that fact that this school was lead by a mean, old, crotchety, rottenly rude “principal” named Father B (I’m sure he’s dead and giving Jesus a hard time right about now, but we’ll keep his identity private… in case his family is tuning in). 

Father B was STRICT, and I mean STRICT. And back then, hitting kids was still a thing in the schools (specifically whacking them across the hands with rulers and crap!). So when Father B patrolled the lunchroom each day, kids were silent, and they cleaned their plates- no questions (or arguments!)… or else. Recess was right after lunch so if there were any children not following the lunchroom rules that day, they would not be able to go outside and play, and they would most likely have to deal with the big “B”. 

Well years later I can clearly see THE lunch that turned my world upside down on that fateful day. There was a grilled cheese sandwich, a bowl of clam chowder (right? no allergies back then!) a pile of steamed, bulbous, wretchedly veiny Brussels sprouts, applesauce cake, a carton of white milk and my retainer wrapped up in a napkin in the corner of the tray. I devoured my grilled cheese, slurped my chowder, inhaled my cake, and washed it all down with the milk. I was thoroughly full at that point, but KNEW I had to so something about the 4 sprouts staring me down from their little boxed section of the plastic lunchroom tray. I had never, and I mean NEVER seen anything so foul in my entire life, but figured that these little green balls from hell weren’t going to prevent me from sliding down the slide today. So I took one and popped the entire thing in my mouth. I bit down and felt the hard, leafy, bulbous texture collapse in between my teeth, and rapidly spit it out onto the table; just as Father B walked by. 

The half-chewed green sprout looked as though it had been run over by a truck. I carefully picked it up with two fingers and laid it in the corner of my tray next to my wrapped up retainer. And at that moment, I heard three little words that I will never, ever forget. Three little words that to this day replay in my head anytime I make eye contact with those little green sons of bitches. 

Clean. Your. Plate. 

I sat there staring up at Father B as he stared back through his thick rimmed black glasses and sheepishly informed him that I didn’t like them, only to have him utter those three horrific words once again, along with a threat that if I didn’t comply, I would not be joining the rest of my class at recess…and possibly even worse. 

Now I wish I could say that I embedded a little exaggeration into this tale, but you’ve got to believe me when I say that all of this actually happened, including the fact that I sat and stared at those 3 + 1 half chewed sprouts through recess, reading, math and science lessons that day. And when Father B finally came back to the lunchroom to see me sitting there staring at those same sprouts (now even more limp and cold), he shot me a disgusted and disappointing look, told me to clean off my tray, and sent me back to class for dismissal. I had won the battle that day against both Father B and the sprouts, but to this day, I am still battling the war against those nasty things.  

And although I’m now 35, I cannot shake those same feelings from that horrific day from my childhood. I was convinced that Father B knew the devil himself and got those green balls straight from the booth of a farmer’s market in hell. I really, REALLY want to like them. They’re packed with goodness, and it seems as though the rest of the world is on board, and some even go so far as calling them “delicious!” So now as an adult, with a different palette than the one I had 25+ years ago, I have attempted to prepare these things based on all of the suggestions I’ve read about and heard about in recent years, but have managed to unsuccessfully cook these creatures in a way that will A. please my taste-buds and B. wash me of the trauma Father B created in my head. 

Until today…

As I was shopping at Trader Joe’s, I came across a bag in the produce section. 

Winery-Explorers-Cruciferous-Crunch-2I had been craving a slaw I made based last week while cooking at the Ronald McDonald House, and had already planned to purchase the broccoli slaw to make it, when this caught my eye. Kale? Love it. Broccoli? Yum. Cabbage? Eh, they’re alright when put in a slaw. Brussels Sprouts? Evil beasts, get back! *Whip* Hisssssss! 

But I bought the bag. And made the slaw. And you know what? It was delicious. Sure the sprouts were technically hidden and covered with lots of things that I love, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction. I ate something with Brussels Sprouts and LIKED it. Baby steps. 

Cruciferous slaw with shrimp and quinoa

1 bag of Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch slaw
12-15 cooked shrimp (peeled with no tails)
1/2 cup nuts (I used walnuts)
1/4 cup craisins
3/4 cup this dressing  (make extra in case you like your slaw with more dressing)
*You can purchase coconut aminos at Whole Foods, or sub soy sauce
1 cup cooked quinoa 

Combine all ingredients and serve warm or cold! 

 unnamed (7)

10/29/14

Paleo caramel apples

I. Love. Halloween.
I love the tricks. I love the treats. I love the costumes, the chill in the air, the pumpkins proudly propped on porches. 

Be still my heart. 

I probably love Halloween THIS much becuase my mom loved it just as much (if not more!) than I do. 
I grew up celebrating Halloween in a BIG way. Awesome homemade costumes, trick or treating around the neighborhood, special treats to take to school to share with teachers and friends- the whole 9 graveyards.

But the best part about my childhood Halloween experiences?  AMAZING Halloween parties at my grandparent’s house. Every year my mom would throw these super fun parties with friends and family to celebrate the holiday. Festive decor, spooky witches brew (with dry ice!), hilarious party games, delicious munchies, hayrides around the block. Those memories remain vivid in my mind, and I hope to one day bring as much joy to my own children’s Halloween as my mom brought to mine. 

I’m excited for Halloween this year because it falls on a Friday! We plan to sit outside in camping chairs passing out treats to all the little ghouls, goblins, princesses and superheroes that swing through the neighborhood. 

And I’ll be adding a little something special to MY trick-or-treat bag: Paleo Caramel Apples!

Yup, you heard me right! No tricks here! These apples are the real deal, and BOY are they scrumptious! 

 1510947_10152875597232474_3116621556681821455_n

Paleo Caramel Apples
You won't miss the real thing with the caramel coated treats!
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 5-6 medium sized granny smith apples
  2. 1 cup raw unfiltered honey
  3. 1/4 cup almond butter
  4. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  5. 1 tsp. sea salt
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  7. topping options: chopped nuts, unsweetened coconut flake, dark chocolate bits
  8. Popsicle sticks
Instructions
  1. Wash apples with a mixture of white vinegar and water to remove the wax coating some apples come with. Insert Popsicle stick into the top of each apple.
  2. Prepare a tray lined with wax paper. Set aside.
  3. Place honey, coconut oil, almond butter, vanilla extract and sea salt into a microwave safe bowl.
  4. Microwave on high in 45 second increments, or until honey begins to bubble slightly; stirring in between each interval.
  5. Let the mixture cool for a moment, then dip each apple into the mixture, turning to coat evenly. Allow excess caramel to drip into the bowl then place on wax paper to cool.
  6. While cooling, sprinkle with toppings. You can also re-dip before you sprinkle with the toppings to ensure a thick and even coating of caramel :)
  7. Place into the fridge to harden. Enjoy!
Orangespoken http://orangespoken.com/
10/28/14

The Best Meatballs Ever! (on my blog)

Ok so maybe these aren’t’ the best meatballs that have ever rolled through town.
BUT, I must say they ARE the best meatballs that have ever graced this website. ;)

So what makes these meatballs so great? 

1. They’re PACKED with fresh veggies. (They’re grated into the mixture so your tasters will be none-the-wiser). 
2. They’re breadcrumb FREE! Yup, no bread in sight!
3. They’re juicy, and delicious- the perfect addition to your tried and true pasta sauce! 

IMG_0092affwweg

The Best Meatballs Ever
Yields 20
A veggie-packed, breadfree addition to your weekly recipe roundup!
Print
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1lb ground beef (I used 80/20)
  2. 1/2 lb ground pork
  3. 1 egg, whisked
  4. 2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
  5. 1 large carrot
  6. 1 large zucchini
  7. 1/2 sweet onion
  8. 1 clove of garlic
  9. 2 tbsp. each fresh chopped parsley, basil and oregano
  10. 2 tsp. sea salt
  11. 1 tsp. cracked red pepper flakes
  12. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Using a cheese or vegetable grater, grate the carrot, celery, onion, garlic clove and zucchini into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add both meats, seasonings, herbs, cheese, whisked egg and brown rice to the bowl.
  3. Using your hands, mix just until ingredients are all combined (over mixing=tough balls!) ;)
  4. Chill the meatball mixture for 15-20 minutes, then roll into golf-ball sized balls with your hands or a melon scoop.
  5. You can choose to fry or bake your meatballs before placing them in your favorite sauce to simmer-I like to fry mine over medium heat in a bit of olive oil to create a crispy outer sear that holds up well in the sauce.
  6. If you choose to bake them, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees, then place your meatballs in a shallow pan (a mini muffin tin works well too!) and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Notes
  1. I like to serve these guys with a hearty, homemade marinara sauce atop some steamy, fresh spaghetti squash “noodles!”.
Orangespoken http://orangespoken.com/
10/19/14

PiYo for Plus Sizes

As many of you already know, I have added something called PiYo to my workout regimen (read all about PiYo in my intro post by clicking here!). 

I’ve been following the suggested workout calendar that’s included in the DVD set (I know right? Total no brainer!) and I am really having fun with it! 

But……

Boy can I tell how NOT flexible I am. I mean saying I’m “inflexible” doesn’t even cut it. I’m stiff, rigid, awkward, clumsy, and hell if those fat rolls don’t get in the WAY of every single pose and position!

BUT…….

I know, in time, I will improve. And I’m really looking forward to seeing my progress as I journey through the next 30 days of this month-long PiYo challenge. PiYo really is designed with ANY body type in mind. The workout is packed with modifications, and if there’s something you just can’t do (right now), skip it, or do something you CAN do in its place (squats or lunges are always my go-to filler!). 

piyo with label

Even at Orangetheory I make modifications if there’s something that causes me pain or discomfort that just doesn’t feel right. For example, the extra weight I carry is killer on my wrists. So things like pushups and burpees always do a number on them. I modify pushups like many people do- by getting on my knees whenever I need a break. And for burpees, well I have to credit Coach Jeff at OTF for showing me how to do burpees on the weight bench. They still get my heart rate pumping, without causing wrist pain.

Piyo for Plus Sizes

What I love about PiYo is that I’m able to use many of these modifications (and others I didn’t even know about!) to ensure I’m completing the poses with proper alignment, and focusing on form in an effort to avoid injury and get the most out of what the workout has to offer. 

In the end it comes down to owning your body, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and working WITH them, not against them. It’s SO easy to get frustrated, self-conscious or even quit when fitness becomes awkward or challenging. But if you stay calm, stay positive and stick with it, you’ll find that you’ll be able to reap the benefits sooner than later. 

unnamed (11)

Flexibility comes with practice.
Results come from consistency.
Strength comes from determination. 

Here are the workouts I’ll be doing over the next 30 days:

  • Align: The Fundamentals (40 min.): This workout breaks down the most important and effective moves in the program to help you perfect your form and get the best results possible.
  • Define: Lower Body (25 min.): Get your sleekest and leanest legs ever as you lengthen and strengthen your entire lower body—from your glutes and hamstrings to your calves.
  • Define: Upper Body (20 min.): Use this incredibly effective workout to start chiseling away at your upper body to help shape your arms, carve out your triceps, and define sexy shoulders.
  • Sweat (35 min.): A traditional PiYo workout that incorporates effective dynamic conditioning, fast-paced cardio yoga-flows, and bodyweight resistance strength training to help sculpt your entire body.
  • Core (30 min.): This ab-centric workout hits your powerhouse from every angle to build a strong core, flat, sculpted abs and obliques, as well as a strong and sexy back.
  • Strength Intervals (25 min.): Twenty-five minutes is all you need of this nonstop body-carving, calorie-incinerating workout that uses no weights, no equipment, and gives you no bulk!
  • Drench (45 min.): This endurance workout maximizes fat burning while it works every muscle in your body. It will not only leave you drenched—it will kick-start your metabolism as you scorch away the fat.
  • Sculpt (30 min.): This workout uses varying tempos to keep your muscles under tension for different periods of time. This generates muscular endurance and metabolic changes that will totally transform your figure.
  • Full Body Blast (30 min.): A total-body workout that uses the Beachbody Strength Slides to push your fat-burning potential into overdrive in just 30 minutes.
  • Strong Legs (30 min.): Use the Beachbody Strength Slides to lunge, squat, and stretch your way to amazing quads, glutes, and hamstrings for your strongest, leanest, and most defined legs ever.

If you’re interested in doing this 30 day PiYo challenge with me, let me know!

And it never hurts to bring a friend or two along your journey with you…

10665776_10152856265512474_7068737440222291175_n

Have you tried yoga, Pilates or PiYo? Do you have any suggestions for plus sized athletes? Do share!
Steph :)

10/5/14

Sometimes you just need to shake things up… (and a giveaway!)

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been on this weight loss journey my entire life. 
Well, honestly, it HAS been. 

As many of you have learned already, I have been “overweight” as long as I can remember. 
Being heavier than the average child, teenager, and young adult had far more disadvantages than the health concerns carrying extra weight brings. As most of the world knows, there is a certain stigma attached to the overweight. And because of that, I never really had a lot of friends as a child. Being overweight made me VERY shy, and embarrassed, and so I just kept to myself. I opened up a bit more in Junior High and High School, and although I was able to grow my circle of friends, as people began to date and pair off, I never even went on so much as a date in high school. 

By the time I entered college, my weight had begun to really lose control. And by 2010 I was tipping the scales at almost 380lbs. I remember going to the doctor’s office for a check-up and getting the “talk” from my primary care physician.

“Stephanie, you know you’re only a few pounds away from reaching 400lbs”.
“Stephanie, you know it will be easier to lose weight while you’re still young.”
“Stephanie, do it for your health. I don’t want to see you become sick or injured.”

Funny thing is, I had been hearing the last two comments most of my life, but it would take a 400lb reality check that would put me into total freak out mode. And so I decided that enough was enough.

photo 2

I started walking at first, and attempted to eat better, which is what led me to start cooking and creating recipes. 
I completed a few 5ks and noticed that the pounds started to fall off. 
I got into swimming, biking, and eventually went on to complete two sprint triathlons. 
I wanted more of a challenge so I crossed the finish line of a 15k. 
I decided that I needed even stronger  of a push, so I joined Orangetheory Fitness
I started to cut grains and sugars and focused on eating clean.
I passed by the 300lb mark and vowed to never see that “3” again!

oct2012

good

And over the past 4 years, what has become most important of all, is the realization of how strong and capable I am. I’ve learned to recognize my successes, be proud of my curvy body, and above all else, learn what it feels like to be confident. 

PicMonkey Collageasdfasdf

I may have been working on this for a long time, but who cares. It’s my journey, and I’m enjoying every second. I have never resorted to using drastic or dangerous methods for losing this weight and getting my body to be it’s healthiest. The reality is, there is no permanent quick fix. Weight loss is hard. It takes time. It’s a complete lifestyle change.  It takes effort and a desire to want to push yourself to be your best YOU. 

My journey is not over, in fact, in a way it’s just beginning. Each and every day I set new goals for myself, and challenge myself to try new things and push my body out of it’s comfort zone. Each day is a new day to go for something that will benefit my health, and help create a better version of my past self. Are there times when I’m scared? Absolutely. Do I get frustrated? You bet. But living a healthy life is about feeling that fear, acknowledging those frustrations, and continuing on regardless of those pesky emotions.
Above all else, always #BeBrave.

10309376_10152817397387474_1424743433706188393_n

While I’ll be continuing my hard work at Orangetheory Fitness, I’ll also be adding something new to help me along my fitness journey. Orangetheory has changed me (big time!), but I’m finding that I need something extra to help me with balance, mobility and flexibility. For a long time now I have had some conversations with myself about starting yoga classes. As I was researching local studios and offerings, I was introduced to something that would be the perfect solution: PiYo.

PiYo combines muscle-sculpting, core-strengthening benefits of Pilates with the strength and flexibility advantages of yoga. It’s an awesome low impact workout that is easy on the joints! It’s a workout for people of all ages, fitness levels and body types. There’s a modifier to follow in every workout move so you can focus on form and work at your own pace! 

The thought of taking a yoga class made me a bit nervous. As I said before, flexibility, balance and mobility are not my strengths, so I was a bit anxious about being in a class and possibly falling on my face! (there’s that fear!). When I heard about PiYo, I knew this would be right up my alley for the main fact that I would be able to do this in the comfort of my own home, where I would be able to make mistakes and practice at my own pace. 

It didn’t take much to sell me! My DVD set arrived last Friday and I’ll be trying out my first session tomorrow. I have quite a few friends who have been doing PiYo since it was released last summer and have seen some amazing results. I’m hoping that a month from now I will be able to post a follow-up sharing some of my successes with this program. In addition to Orangetheory Fitness, clean eating, 5k races (I have 5 coming up!) and PiYo, I will also continue my journey by nourishing my body with Shakeology

For the past month I have replaced my breakfasts with a daily glass of Shakeology. If you’re on social media in any aspect, I’m sure you’ve heard of Shakeology at some point. So what IS it?

Shakeology is a nutrient-dense drink with over 70 super nutritious ingredients including proteins, fruits and vegetables, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, prebiotics, probiotics, fiber and digestive enzymes!  It can be used as a meal replacement (if you’re looking to lose some weight) or as a supplement in addition to your daily meals. Shakeology has helped me lose weight (7lbs during my first month!), has reduced my junk food and sugary cravings, has increased my energy and has helped improved my…well let’s just say I’ve noticed a significant change in my “digestion.” ;)

Shakeology comes in a variety of flavors, and REALLY does taste delicious! It is not your typical grainy, overly sweet, or stomach-turning shake. I mix mine with unsweetened almond milk, and everything from frozen fruit (think Vanilla Shakeology, frozen cherries, almond extract and almond milk) to peanut butter (think Chocolate Shakeology, peanut butter, almond milk)! The combinations are endless, making it hard to burn out on the same ol’ same ol’ every day. 

Now here’s the part I really need you to listen to. Pull up a seat and pay close attention. Are you here? Are you listening? OK, good. 

It’s not too late to begin your own journey to health. Whether you’re 25 or 55, it’s time. 
It’s time to feel better about yourself in clothing and pictures. 
It’s time to prevent disease and premature aging. 
It’s time for your joints to feel normal again.
It’s time for you to learn to love yourself and enjoy life. 
It’s time for you to feel the accomplishment and pride that comes along with knocking the crap out of your goals. 
It’s time for you to DO THIS.

And I want you to know that I am here to help motivate you, keep you accountable, and be your own personal cheerleader. If you think you’re ready to make those healthy changes in your life, I’d love to connect with you. We can chat about options for meal planning, workouts that would fit into your life, questions or doubts you might have, options for accountability groups I’ll be starting up that you can join and so much more. Oh and remember that giveaway I mentioned? Comment on this post (about anything you want!) and you’ll be entered to win a beautiful hand stamped #BeBrave bracelet, and a prize pack of goodies that celebrate all things healthy and beautiful. 

il_570xN.612320417_5jjg

I want you to succeed. Life is special. YOU are special. Feeling good is important. Being your best self is your priority. 
Let’s #BeBrave together. 
Love, Steph
orangespoken@gmail.com

10/3/14

Healthy cooking for beginners

Out of all the searches that drive readers to my blog, the top search phrase has always been “healthy cooking for beginners”. I get a LOT of questions about how to meal plan, how to shop and how to cook. I’ve had people tell me that their eating habits are horrible because they “can’t cook”, and resort to pre-packaged foods, fast food and dining out. I’ve heard this on the blog, social media and even in person. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that healthy cooking is EASY. No seriously, I promise! Here are my tips for getting started in a healthy meal prep routine… and making a habit of it! 

PicMonkey Collagecooking

First things first
What does it mean to “eat healthy”? For me, it’s eating whole, unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, beans, dairy products, nuts, honey, butter, etc. Yes, I eat full fat items. Typically foods labeled “fat free” come with a price: high sugar content, calories, preservatives, etc. Keep it clean, fresh and natural. Think about how your grandparents and great grandparents ate… yes, this includes “real” fats like butter, olive oil and coconut oil. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of eating fats like our grandparents did, read this

Before we begin, let me say this: I don’t cook everyday. It may seem like that on social media (if you stalk me), however, I don’t. I cook at least 4-5 days a week, but we go out on the weekends for dinner, and breakfast out on Sundays. And honestly, some of those weekdays involve eating leftovers.  I do all of my shopping and meal prep on Sundays, but if Sundays don’t work for you, find a day that does. You don’t need to shop AND prep on the same day, so divide the time into two separate days if necessary. 

But before you dive into the world of shopping and prepping, consider the following:

  • What is in your fridge and pantry right NOW? If your goal is to eat and cook healthier meals, start with a purge of your current food supply. Typically packaged foods that have more than 5 ingredients in a label are purge worthy. Anything that contains MSG, high fructose corn syrup and/or giant words that Siri wouldn’t even be able to pronounce shouldn’t be going into your nor your family’s bodies. Take a look at your spice cabinet as well and look for the same kinds of words on those labels. If you’re feeling guilty about throwing those items away, consider donating them to a food pantry or soup kitchen. 
  • What are some of your (and your family’s) favorite foods? If you live alone, think about what you enjoy eating. Make a list and cross off the items that are prepackaged, processed crap. Focus on what’s left behind and keep your list handy when planning meals. Have children or a spouse? Consider giving them the same survey and collecting info about what their favorites are. Are “chocolate chip cookies” making an appearance on your list? So what. You can totally make those from scratch with whole ingredients easily. It’s not about restricting what you’re eating, it’s about rethinking what you’re eating. 
  • What tools do you have in your kitchen? Keep it simple. All you really need for healthy prep and cooking is a sharp cutting knife, cutting board, vegetable peeler, can opener, saute pan, baking sheet/jelly roll pan, food processor OR blender, a simple slow cooker (think $20 at Target), a somewhat deep pot, your oven (of course), a spatula and a wooden spoon.
  • What’s your weekly grocery budget? This is a big one, as healthy eating always comes with a higher price tag. Consider shopping at a local farmer’s market or joining a co-op to save money on your fresh produce. Look for BOGO deals and other sales on meat at local supermarkets and stock up (if you have the space) when you find a good deal. Join a rewards club (like Winn Dixie’s gas points) or a bulk store membership (like Sam’s). Plan meals that are heavier on vegetables and beans (like chili) that will stretch your dollar further. 

Meal planning
Whether you’re completely new to cooking or cook regularly, plan to prepare 2-3 healthy meals each week to start. You can easily double most recipes, giving you leftovers that you can freeze, take to lunch or serve for another dinner option that week. Most recipes can be used in other ways as well (think slow cooker pork loin and black beans becomes pork tacos another meal). 

Before you start your weekly meal plan, think about what you currently KNOW how to do. 

  • Can you grill? Think grilled chicken, steaks, burgers, veggies (wrapped in foil with salt, pepper and a bit of oil)
  • Can you roast? Think roasted veggies and roast chicken or turkey cutlets. 
  • Can you saute? Think sauteed chunks of chicken and veggies for stir fry, mushrooms and onions for burger, steak and chicken toppings, fish filets with a little butter, lemon and fresh herbs, ground meats like chicken and beef for tacos, lettuce wraps and meat sauces over veggie noodles (like thinly sliced ribbons of zucchini). 
  • Can you bake? Think baked whole chickens stuffed with lemon wedges, fresh herbs and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, homemade meatballs lined up in a dish and baked until golden brown, and homemade fritattas with eggs and veggies like spinach, onions and fresh herbs, for breakfast options. 
  • Can you turn ON a slow cooker? Think slow roasted pork loin, brisket, chili, soups, shredded bbq chicken, chowder. 
  • Can you boil? Think boiled sweet potatoes topped with ground beef, veggies and shredded cheese, thinly sliced ribbons of squash or zucchini (as a pasta replacement), hard boiled eggs to add in salads, and cauliflower, rutabaga or parsnips boiled then mashed with milk and cream cheese. 

Think about what you CAN do and build on those strengths. Sure, there will be times when you might try a recipe that’s a no-go (I’ve done it PLENTY of times), but it certainly doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Cooking is a science. It’s all about exploring and testing different flavor combinations that work and please you and your family. Don’t be scared to play around. And, try being a little adventurous during each trip to the market! I like to try and purchase 1 new item at the market each time I visit. Maybe it’s a new vegetable, or a fish I’ve never tried. This keeps things interesting in the kitchen, and teaches me to learn to like new things (and not be scared to cook them!). 

Once you’ve established what you know how to do as far as technique goes, grab a pen and pad and get to work on a list. I try to never complete a big grocery trip without a list. If you’re thinking about going grain free and low sugar (like me), feel free to use and print the list I’ve made with compliant foods that you can find in your local market. You can find the list here. If you just can’t seem to give up grains, consider trying quinoa as a rice or pasta replacement. You can click on this link to learn all about purchasing and preparing this ancient seed. You can also try using cauliflower as a rice replacement! It’s delicious! Here is a recipe for cauliflower “rice”. Squash, zucchini, and spaghetti squash also make a great pasta replacement. Check out Rachael Ray’s recipe for zucchini noodles, this recipe for spaghetti squash and sausage bake (think baked ziti!) and my recipe for unpasta lasagna with squash and eggplant instead of noodles! 

Before you create a shopping list, start with your meals. Here are some “norms” that show up in our house each week:

  • Breakfast: Lately my go-to morning breakfast is to whip up a Shakeology smoothie. I’ll typically blend a scoop (or packet) of Shakeology with frozen fruit and almond milk. It’s SO satisfying and over the past month I have felt a real difference in the way I feel as far as energy goes. Oh, not to mention I’ve lost 7lbs! Not into morning shakes?How about mini fritattas and crust-less quiches? I make them ahead of time, freeze or refrigerate them, then warm them up throughout the week for breakfast. You can add your family’s favorite veggies, cheeses and meats. They’re easy, portable, healthy and delicious! I also like to chop up fresh fruit and place them in baggies, plain yogurt with honey and walnuts (buy a big container and use small Tupperwares to divide). Greek yogurt pancakes are also an easy make ahead breakfast item that you can refrigerate or freeze, then warm up when ready. Want to make them grain free? Try almond flour instead of regular flour and use plain yogurt (sweeten with honey or pure maple syrup). 
  • Lunch: I pack my lunch most days, and usually they consist of dinner leftovers. We try to grill out on Sunday evenings, giving me an opportunity to grill up extra chicken (breasts or boneless/skinless thighs) and burgers then pack those for lunch (think grilled chicken salads and burger salads. To go along with lunch I prep bags of carrot and celery sticks, grape tomatoes, and cucumber slices to dip into guacamole or homemade avocado ranch
  • Snacks/Dessert: I love munching on apple slices with peanut or almond butter (ingredients should just be nuts+salt),energy balls, cheese cubes, dried fruits (like figs and apple chips), unsweetened apple sauce, hummus, fresh salsa (in the produce section or make it yourself!), raw nuts (like walnuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds), 85% or higher dark chocolate and fresh whipped heavy cream with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger with fresh berries. I also like to boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week for hard-boiled egg snacks, or to toss into salads. 
  • Dinner: I plan on grilling once a week (grilled chicken, burgers, steaks, fish wrapped in foil with veggies). Once a week I make a roast in my slow cooker (pork loin, brisket). I bake a whole chicken once a week (great for chicken salad with the leftovers!). I’ll use leftover grilled chicken or homemade meatballs paired with one of the pasta alternatives mentioned above. Big pots of chili or soup are also great go-to dinners that make for delicious leftover lunches. Some of my favorite sides are mashed cauliflower or rutabaga, butternut squash, roasted veggies, and sweet potatoes.
  • Beverages: Water with lemon or lime and fresh mint, coffee with cream. I love to flavor water with berries, citrus, and fresh herbs like basil and mint. My latest craze is sparkling water (Think LaCroix!). It’s such a satisfying treat! 

IMG_8762

This is just a sample of what my week looks like as far as meal planning goes. Remember, build on your strengths in the kitchen, and food likes to help create your own family favorites that are healthy, and you can feel good about cooking each week! 

When you head to the market, stick to your list. Try to shop the perimeter of the store (produce, meat/poultry/fish and dairy. Head to the center aisles only for things like nuts, healthy oils (coconut, olive oil), dried fruits and seasonings. And never shop on a hungry stomach. Let your list guide you, not your brain! 

Prepping and cooking
Plan to dedicate time to prep everything when you get home from the market. Two hours on a Sunday afternoon will save you TONS of time during the week. Wash and chop all of your veggies ahead of time (keep in mind things like apples and pears will brown if pre-cut). Utilize gallon and sandwich/snack sized bags for cut veggies for roasting and snacks. Pre-wash greens and fresh herbs, then keep them dry and long lasting by wrapping them in paper towels before placing them into Ziploc bags. Do not freeze fresh greens, however, a great idea for herbs is to chop them, then freeze them in ice cube trays filled with chicken or vegetable broth. They are an easy way to add flavor to soups, slow cooker recipes and so much more. Pre-season roasts and meats, then place them into gallon sized bags to marinate (they can be easily frozen in the marinade), then defrosted the night before you plan to cook them. Post a list of everything you plan on preparing that week for dinner as a reminder of things like what to take out of the freezer ahead of time (and of course, to keep you motivated and organized!) ;)

Want to save even more time? If you find that you have extra time on those weekend prep days, consider roasting veggies, baking sweet potatoes and steaming cauliflower for sides! Store them in containers, refrigerate or freeze then warm up when needed throughout the week, that way you’ll only need to focus on cooking your protein on busy weekday evenings. Stews, chilis, cooked beans and soups also freeze well ahead of time, so when you have the time, whip up these dishes in advance and store them in your freezer for when you’re in a pinch and are dangerously close to hitting the drive thru. Get into the habit of labeling containers and Ziploc baggies before you store them away in the freezer. When times get really crazy, you’ll be glad you did! 

I’d love to feature some of YOUR tips for healthy meal planning, prepping and cooking! Comment with your great idea below and I’ll add it into the post, with a link to your blog (if you blog!). :)

Steph

09/28/14

Butternut squash pasta sauce

If social media hasn’t let you in on the secret yet….
IT’S FALL, YA’LL!

And for reasons other than pumpkin-everything, fall is my absolutely favorite time of the year. 
It’s a chance to whip out hearty recipes like this one; even though it’s still 90 degrees outside. 

So if you’re a blog reader from a part of the world that truly DOES get a fall, this recipe will be the perfect dish for those crisp and cool Sunday evenings. And if you’re like me, in an area of the world where fall is only in swing because the calendar says so, well, lower your AC and pretend. You won’t get a chance to look at fall leaves cascading down your window as you eat this gorgeous pasta sauce, but you can do your best to pretend. ;)

Butternut squash pasta sauce
This hearty, sweet, yet savory pasta sauce would be amazing over so many things other than pasta. I used potato gnocchi and sliced Italian turkey sausage for this recipe, but feel free to get creative with this versatile cream sauce (and don’t forget to send me pics of what you come up with!). 

Ingredients

1 butternut squash, seeded, diced and steamed (you can also buy the steam-in-the-bag kind)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 large carrots, diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
the juice of 1 lemon
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
2 fresh basil leaves, chopped (save extra basil for a garnish)
1 fresh sage leaf, chopped
1 tsp. salt (reserve more to taste)
1 tsp. cracked black pepper (reserve more to taste)
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. raw honey
1/2 cup heavy cream (or 1/2 and 1/2)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Directions

In a sauce pan over medium heat, saute onions, carrots and celery in a bit of butter until soft. Add garlic and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add butternut squash, fresh herbs, honey, lemon juice and seasonings. Stir to combine, and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour the contents into blender and blend until smooth. While still in the blender, add chicken stock. Blend to combine, then return to pot and reheat. When hot, remove from the stove top and stir in heavy cream. Serve over your favorite pasta with a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan cheese and basil ribbons. Enjoy!

unnamed (5)

 

09/7/14

#BeBrave

brave
adjective
ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage

What comes to mind when you hear the word “brave?”
A firefighter? Police officer? Soldier? 

We all understand what it means to be brave in those aspects, and appreciate and honor those who dedicate their lives to defend, help and protect us each and every day. They are true heroes and display braveness, above all else, in their daily lives. 

However I’m here to recognize a different form of brave. 
A quiet form that often gets overlooked. 
An internal brave that many people must endure at some point in their lives.
Probably one of the most difficult situations where one may ask you to “be brave”. 

When my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 of an aggressive form of breast cancer, we knew we would need to encourage her to be brave. It was important for her to stay positive; to keep hopeful; to trust her doctors.

When she courageously underwent weeks of chemo, radiation, surgeries, and days where she just could not get out of bed, we would encourage her to be brave. And on that last week, when the outcome was inevitable, we would continue to tell my mother to be brave.

My mother bravely fought for her life until her last breath, and above all else, that is what I remember her for most. My mother was strong and outgoing; fun and positive. She was SCUBA certified, and wasn’t afraid to try new things. She was all about grabbing life and making the most out of it. She was one of the bravest people I had ever met. 

I often think about my mother in moments where I need to find my own braveness, and because of all that she went through, I have adopted this motto for my own life and for #TeamJudy. Because being brave is what makes life worth living. 

Being brave is about fighting against the things that try to take life from us. 
It’s about staying strong and positive; even through the roughest of life’s moments. 
It’s about being there for the ones you love. 
It’ about going for your goals and the things you want. 
Being brave isn’t about being fearless. Being brave is about feeling the fear, and doing it anyway. 

If you’d like to show your support for #TeamJudy and our #BeBrave campaign, please consider ordering one of our upcoming race shirts. We’ll be wearing these as we Race for the Cure in October. 

usethisforblog
09/5/14

So much to say, so much to say

Hi! ::waves::

10653826_10152741414787474_8646149832800265194_nSorry I’ve been so MIA around the blogahood. A LOT has been going on, and life has been anything but calm!

But that’s the way it always goes with the start of a new school year. I must say this is one of the smoothest starts I’ve ever had. I’m still working in that hybrid position as teacher/instructional coach. I’m teaching 6th grade science for three periods each day. The remaining periods are dedicated to helping teachers grow professionally. It’s my 2nd year in this role, and I still love it; even more so this year because I know what to expect! 

In between getting to know my new students and falling into a steady fall routine at work, there was an evening at the Summer of Rum Festival. It was H-O-T, but the drinks were ice cold, and we were able to escape the heat a few times inside the gorgeous Cuban Club in Ybor. 

10625005_10152703968947474_5683717634857232754_n

There was also a surprise party for my Uncle Marty’s 50th birthday at Hula Bay in South Tampa! My aunt Bernadine and I had been planning it for a few weeks and were so excited that HE was so excited (and surprised!). It was an awesome time with good food, cold drinks, and our closest family and friends. 

10440791_10152741365767474_7919075297127897295_n

10610769_10152741370907474_6393216937296963588_n

10451009_10152741370192474_4245088184850739496_n

I also teamed up with Callie, from The Wannabe Athlete , for a week of clean eating and a month-long trial (thanks to a teacher friend) of Shakeology and can’t wait to share my thoughts with you guys! My goal for this week is to try and cut back on my dairy intake. Eating NSNG means I rely on cheese a LOT for snacks and such. I’ll be looking for some salty alternatives to help cut the dairy a bit!

10616087_10152738043742474_5467550924778063022_n

And…we purchased our first camper! During our last camping trip at Ft. Desoto, we decided that we were done with the world of tent-camping and needed an upgrade. After shopping for a few weeks, and being totally disappointed with what our budget was bringing us, we found this little pop-up for a steal! It’s in AWESOME condition, sleeps 4-5 comfortably, has AC, running water, an outdoor stove and lots of storage! We’re going to test it out in a few weeks on our first camping trip with our new home away from home! 

10626454_10152715629572474_6544857310374554155_n

And last, I had a little snafu in the way of minor surgery…

10178122_10152749782332474_1466704188307004988_n

10676293_10152750372152474_8533464641680924648_nI’ve always had this “bump” on my shin, which I always attributed to a softball injury from high school. I got hit with a line drive to the shin area which left me with a long-lasting bruise and quite the bump for a few months. The bruise eventually went away, but the bump always kind of hung around. When it started causing me some pain over the summer, I decided to have it checked out. An X-ray, sonogram, an MRI and a visit with a specialist later, and well, the rest is history. The MRI showed that it was nothing terribly serious to worry about and that it could be scar tissue or some type of fatty cyst. Either way, bone and bone tissue looked clear, as well as the surrounding muscle tissue. It was definitely benign and the only reason my doctor suggested we remove it is because it was causing me discomfort. As much as I hated to take off a couple of days so close to the beginning of the school year, I wanted to go ahead and get the procedure over with. Aside from some anxiety from putting in the IV (my first!), and some post-op nasuea from the general anesthesia, it went well. Today I’m resting up in front of the tv with an ice pack, lots of ice cold LaCroix, and some pain medication. I should be good as new (I hope!) within a week or so! :)

So what have YOU been up to lately? Do share! 

Steph :)