08/21/17

Greek Wedge Salad with Herb Vinaigrette

Two years ago I visited my cousins at the beach house they were renting for summer vacation.

We were having a little lunchtime potluck, and so I decided to whip up a healthy and refreshing Greek quinoa salad since we’d be in the hot sun most of the day.

Well apparently, my cousin Ryan has been thinking about that simple side dish since that day, and so for this year’s beach trip repeat, I made that same salad. 

And I must say, it was as good as we remember! It was even better paired with marinated grilled shrimp and chicken (courtesy of Chef Ryan), and of course a beachfront view (even if it rained). 

When I made it two years ago, I used a bottled Greek dressing, but this time around I decided to whip up a fresh batch of my favorite vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, fresh herbs, garlic, and red onion.

I love, love, LOVE this dressing. Not only is it great for the quinoa dish, but it’s also wonderful on fish, grilled shrimp, or chicken! What makes it stand out among the 76 different types of Greek dressings out there are the fresh herbs that go in it. The flavors from the herbs just put it over the top!

Today I was craving 2 things: that vinaigrette and a wedge salad.

Well, obviously you know what happened next: Greek Wedge Salad!

This salad is everything you guys. The crisp iceberg wedge topped with juicy diced tomatoes, seedless cucumbers, diced red onion, chopped kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese, and of course, that mouth-watering lemony herb vinaigrette. Ya’ll, go make this. 

Oh and to make the quinoa version of this salad, all you have to do is mix everything (except for the iceberg lettuce) with cooked quinoa! 

Greek Wedge Salad
Write a review
Print
For the vinaigrette
  1. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  3. the juice of 1 lemon
  4. 1 tbsp. honey
  5. 1 tsp. fresh parsley
  6. 1 tsp. fresh oregano
  7. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  8. 1/4 tsp. salt
  9. 1/4 tsp. black pepper
For the salad
  1. 1/4 head of iceberg lettuce
  2. 1/4 cup diced roma tomatoes
  3. 1/4 cup diced seedless (English) cucumber
  4. 2 tbsp. diced red onion
  5. 2 tbsp. chopped kalamata olives
  6. 2 tbsp. crumbled feta (or more, I love more!)
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. (You can place it in a mason jar and keep it in the fridge for up to a week).
  2. Place the wedge of iceberg lettuce on a plate.
  3. Top with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives and feta.
  4. Drizzle on vinaigrette to desired taste.
  5. Devour!
http://orangespoken.com/

Enjoy!

08/17/17

Scotties #ReadySetSchool Campaign!

Back in July, Scotties announced that they would be launching a new campaign, in partnership with the Kids in Need Foundation (KINF), to inspire children to be prepared for the school year in an effort to help them do their very best! 

I was happy to partner with Scotties in this campaign because, as many of you know, I spent 13 years teaching in some of the most impoverished schools in the Tampa Bay Area. Many of my students would come to class without supplies, hungry, and running on limited sleep because of the adverse situations they were facing in their young lives. Teachers who work with these students who have the cards stacked against them work tirelessly to provide the supplies and nutrition they need to ensure their success! 

According to the KINF, students who go without the school supplies that they need not only struggle academically, but also socially (lacking self-esteem) compared to students who are prepared. 

Scotties wants to change that by believing and acting on the idea that every child, no matter their circumstances, should have the supplies that they need to help them be engaged in learning. 

To do this, Scotties asked influencers like me to help to bring this message to the masses! With the help of kids from all around, we were asked to create short videos having children answer the question: If you could put one thing in a backpack, and then give it to a kid who needed help getting through the school day, what would that one thing be and why?

For each video shared on social media, using the hashtag #ReadySetSchool, a backpack filled with school supplies will be donated to a kid in need!

With the help of a few of my friends with children, we were able to create some videos to begin the campaign, and inspire others to join in! 

Check out a few from Instagram:

Sam’s thoughts

Sean’s thoughts

In addition, Scotties announced they will be surprising the students of Town and Country Elementary School in Tampa, Florida with much- needed school supplies. The school is a Title 1, Renaissance School with over 400 students from pre-kindergarten through-5th grade.

By partnering with the Kids In Need Foundation (KINF) Scotties hopes to prepare the students to help make each day great and inspires them to believe that no matter their circumstances, they can achieve amazing things in life!

“We are so excited to have backpacks and school supplies donated for our students,” said teacher, Lori Caro. “New supplies always motivate students. They want to take them out, and start using them to learn!”

Over ninety percent of students at The Town and Country Elementary School receive a free or reduced-cost lunch. Despite the financial need at the school, the students continue to improve in academics. This year they earned the grade of a “”B” from the Florida Department of Education, and are striving towards achieving an “A”. As the school moves forward focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), the fourth and fifth grade curriculums will also include a robotics program.

“Our research shows that when students have access to the tools they need to learn, their classroom participation increases, and their interest in learning increases,” said Dave Smith, executive director, The Kids In Need Foundation. “We are thankful for the generous donation from Scotties, because we know many more students will have the confidence that comes from having the supplies they need to succeed.”

Scotties is donating $25,000 nationwide to provide backpacks filled with pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks, and of course, boxes of Scotties. The Kids In Need Foundation provides school supplies to kids who need them most, nationwide. In 2016 alone, KINF supported more than 5.4 million students with supplies.

About Kids In Need Foundation (KINF):

The Kids In Need Foundation’s mission is to ensure that every child is prepared to learn and succeed in the classroom by providing free school supplies nationally to students most in need. The Kids In Need Foundation, a national 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded in 1995, has distributed nearly $900 million in school supplies, directly benefiting 5.4 million students and nearly 200,000 teachers annually. For more information, visit KINF.org, and join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @KidsInNeed

About Scotties® Facial Tissues by By Royale®:

Scotties® facial tissues by Royale® is one of the top facial tissue brands in the United States. Scotties facial tissues are manufactured and sold by Irving Consumer Products, Inc. under a registered trademark licensed from and owned by Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. Royale and kitten logo are registered trademarks of Irving Consumer Products Limited. Irving Consumer Products is a Canadian-based and family-owned company committed to managing its operations in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner. For more information visit www.scottiesfacial.com.

Considered one of the top facial tissue manufacturers in the United States, Scotties® Facial Tissues by Royale® is owned by Irving Tissue, Inc. a Canadian-based and family owned company committed to managing its operations in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner.  For more information visit www.scottiesfacial.com.

 

08/16/17

What’s holding you back?

Change is an important part of life.  

My 20th high school reunion just passed a few months ago and that milestone got me thinking about all of those messages high-schoolers write to each other in yearbooks: “Keep in touch!”, “Call me over the summer!” and the probably the most infamous jotting- “Never change!”

Never change? Really? Why was that always our go-to sentiment I wonder?

If you’re not changing, you’re not growing.

If you take a moment to examine your life and realize that you are living the exact same life you were living 20, 10, 5, or even 2 years ago, it might be time to reevaluate things.  

Maybe you’re still working at the same job you’ve had for the last 10 years and it makes you unhappy.

Maybe you are ready for a relationship but haven’t found the courage or confidence to jump in and start dating.

Maybe you are yearning for some freedom from something keeping you down and you’re looking for some inspiration or motivation to move on.

Maybe you’re still holding onto regret or mistakes of the past and cannot forgive or allow yourself (or others) some grace to move forward.

Whatever it is that is keeping you from evolving and growing, well, it’s time to think about some actions you might take to get rid of these anchors that are weighing you down. 

I just recently turned 38 and as I sit back and reflect on my life so far, I am thankful beyond words that I am not the same person I was at 18, 28, or heck, even 32 (the age I lost my mom). Each year of my life, through struggles, heartaches, negative mindsets, assumptions, self-doubt, mistakes, judgments, changes, and losses (some of which shook me to my core), I have learned valuable lessons that have shaped who I am today.

And I’m beyond grateful for those lessons, because I am finally, FINALLY comfortable with who I am.

I live my life fully and more authentically than I could have ever imagined because of those experiences. I can’t go back in time and alter my story. I can’t rewrite stories that are undesirable, embarrassing, or regretful. My story is my story. It’s my truth. It’s who I am. And I wouldn’t want to change it.

Because of my past, I am able to relax into my present and plan for a future that is built upon the lessons learned from my life thus far.

If your mindset takes you to a place where you believe that you (or people you know/have known) should be the same person their entire lives, or, that people should be “called out” or shamed for being better than they once were, then you might need to think about the reasons why you possess that fixed mindset about yourself and others, (maybe beginning by taking an intrinsic look at what exactly bothers you about others growing and changing), and start to dig deeply into what you can do to evolve into a better version of yourself each and every day. Because we all know that life is literally over in a flash, so why not start evolving into our best selves as soon as we can. 

Cheers to being better and living a more fulfilling life each and every day. <3 Steph 

Do you need support in making a life change, check out this post: How to change when change is hard.

 

08/15/17

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: Try blending fruit and milk with your favorite protein shake. 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). Sometimes I’ll bake a whole chicken  (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 half and half and cinnamon powder. 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!). 🙂

signature

07/20/17

Stretching and Massage with DeepRecovery.com

Disclaimer: I’m not a physical fitness expert, so please consult your doctor prior to starting any form of physical exercise or change to your diet and/or lifestyle. 

Stretching is NOT something I’m good at. 

Let me rephrase- I know how to stretch, but I don’t always dedicate the time and effort to stretch!

Why? Who knows. Sometimes I forget, sometimes I feel like it’s too time consuming. Sometimes I feel like it HURTS and so I avoid it (hello foam rolling and deep tissue massage!). But I NEED to make a better effort to work on flexibility and healing every day.  Continue reading

07/12/17

Am I too fat to workout at a gym?

Lately I’ve had people searching for some interesting things that have led them to my blog:

“Am I too fat to workout at a gym?”
“Too heavy for Orangetheory?”
“Weight limit for rower”
“How to overcome humiliation at a gym.”
“How much should I weigh before I buy a gym membership.” Continue reading

06/26/17

Giving back at Ronald McDonald House Tampa

Started my 38th trip around the sun volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House with this group of amazing people! 

These people are the real deal. Kind, smart, funny, and most of all, selfless. When I started talking about getting a group together to volunteer our time at the Ronald McDonald House here in Tampa as a way to celebrate my birthday, they all said “yes!” without a second thought. And yes… we made cupcakes… and YES I had one, of course. It was my birthday after all! 😉 Continue reading

06/24/17

6 years

2191 days since we met, and every day is better than the last…

One of our first dates in 2011

Happy first date anniversary, husband! This life together is just everything. Continue reading

06/20/17

Easy oven baked ribs

I can’t recall the first time I had ribs. 
But I remember NOT liking them.

I’m not much of a “eating meat off the bone” kind of lady, so gnawing on chicken wings, T-bone steaks, and ribs just isn’t my thing.

But then, I decided to play around with making a version at home and that’s when these delicious, tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs came into my life. 

And I was forever changed.  Continue reading