Meal Plan Monday 9.18.17

I had every intention of putting up a kick-ass Meal Plan Monday post, including actual pictures of deliciousness (or deliciousness in progress).  I had gathered all my links from Skinnytaste and Budget Bytes by last Thursday, ready to take on this week like a boss.

Flash forward to the weekend: I came, I saw, I conquered the Rock & Roll 10K, as well as a post race brunch, a cupcake from Cake Life (just like Beyonce would do), some pizza and wings.  I laid on the couch like a log, watching episode after episode of Crossing Jordan and to be honest, I regret nothing.  Sunday was a full day with an early morning Spin & Sculpt session at The Wall, a wonderful baby shower with friends from high school, and more pizza and wings for dinner with the BF’s brother, sister-in-law and kids.  All in all, a truly wonderful weekend.
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I highly recommend A Taste of Britain in Wayne for your bridal or baby shower!
Notice what didn’t get done: a grocery list.
We headed to Wegman’s after our second pizza and wings binge of the weekend, totally unprepared to grocery shop but 100% committed to getting back on our healthy-eating wagon.  And you know what? We did wonderfully.
1. Get in the right mindset before you go inside. Just because you overindulged for a few days and probably feel bloated, don’t think “Oh, it’s time for a juice cleanse.” It’s not.  It’s just time to recommit to your goals.
2. Shop realistically. Yes, I’d like to plan to eat only veggies for 3 meals a day until you feel normal again, but that has never really worked for me.  I like a well-rounded meal of vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates.  Plan accordingly so you won’t feel deprived, which could lead to more indulgences that you don’t actually enjoy.
3. Keep a list of stand-by recipes in your head.  It makes shopping without a true list much more manageable.  We picked up salmon and broccoli to make our favorite Maple Soy Glazed Salmon and roasted veggies, as well as pre-marinated steaks and a new pack of chicken to grill for salads and lunches.  Nothing fancy, complicated, or new but all very satisfying and delicious!
4. Avoid trigger aisles.  I am the WORST with buying snacks for the car ride home from the store, especially when a bulk candy section appears in front of me.  WHO DOES THAT?! It’s like a 20 minute drive and we’re not going to starve.  I get into this mentality that tomorrow is a new day, so I might as well enjoy one more treat before I refocus. Not cool.  I successfully avoided the gummi bears and jelly beans and we were both better off for it.

While it’s easy to look on Instagram or Facebook and see all of these wonderful bloggers with their pre-portioned week of meals, it’s not always feasible or necessary to work that hard at meal planning.  Knowing that life will get in the way sometimes and having a plan B will ensure that everyone starts their week off on a high and healthy note!

Meal Plan Monday 9.11.17

I don’t know about you, but stalking Refinery 29’s Money Diaries has made me realize how much money I spend on eating out, buying coffee, and picking up random snacks during the day.  While most of my choices are nutritious, it’s not healthy for my wallet.

I’ve found that the easiest way to cut back on money spent on food and drink is meal planning.  Since we moved in June, Mike and I have done a great job of pulling together a loose weekly meal plan to keep our grocery list focused.  Having a plan and the food needed encourages us to pack our breakfasts (I catch the bus around 7AM so I don’t eat before I leave), lunches, and pre-workout snacks.

For breakfasts, I keep a variety of frozen things that I can quickly pop in Tupperware and throw in my lunch bag, like frozen multi-grain waffles or English Muffins.  Paired with the peanut butter I always have in my desk and a piece of fruit, it’s a super easy way to avoid the many breakfast carts scattered around campus.

Lunches lately have been sandwiches on low-carb wraps, but I made a big pot of chili yesterday for football so we portioned the rest out into single-servings for the remainder of the week.  Crock pots for the win!  I will throw in some veggies and hummus as well as some tortilla chips to keep myself satisfied.

Snacks for this week are Trader Joe’s Omega Trek Mix, which I keep in my desk 24/7.  It’s not my favorite trail mix (there’s no chocolate in it), but it keeps me from mindlessly snacking when I should just have a glass of water instead.

Dinners are a little different this week since we have zero meat in the freezer…the world was my oyster when it came to a menu!

Here’s what we decided on…

Monday: Going out to dinner…it’s my running group’s 1-year anniversary party at the local brewery!
Tuesday: Chicken Primavera & a side of pasta
Thursday: Leftover Chicken Primavera & pasta
Friday: Turkey burgers, vegetables, and potatoes on the grill (Great pre-race meal as I’m running a 10K on Saturday morning!)
Saturday: Going out to dinner
Sunday: “Make Your Own Pizza” and salads (Trader Joe’s has the BEST pre-made crust)
I try to stay on track during the week, but life happens and you might not feel like making your Chicken Primavera if you don’t get home from work until later in the evening.  In situations like that, Mike and I have some frozen pizzas in the fridge that we can quickly pop in the oven.  No, it’s not the most nutritious option, but it is important to cut yourself some slack.  Not every meal is going to be well-balanced and homemade!

Let’s get ready to rummmmble!!!

Guys.  It’s football season. That means we don’t have any more football-less weekends until FEBRUARY!

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With the glory of the game comes everyone’s second (some people’s first) favorite thing about the season: food.  All the glorious fall food…crock pots for everyone!

Eating your way through Sunday doesn’t necessarily have to wreck the hard work you put in Monday through Saturday.  Moderation is key, but so is finding healthier versions of your favorite recipes.  Some are so good that even your fried food loving friends will devour them!

Appetizers

Texas Caviar – Basically salsa, but with beans (I also add corn) that will add some protein and staying power!  I make this for every get-together and at least one person asks me for the recipe as they walk out the door and they’re shocked when they realize how easy it is!  Best served with pita chips or tortilla chips.

Lightened Up Buffalo Chicken Dip – A football staple that is a little more health conscious but still tastes delicious! Great with celery or tortilla chips.

Main Course

I try to keep my main dishes in the crock pot for a few reasons, namely you don’t have to spend your time cooking instead of watching the action.

I love this turkey chili recipe from Ambitious Kitchen.  Full of protein, low in fat and super delicious.  I like to put out bowls of sour cream, shredded cheddar, and green onions for toppings so people can customize it to their liking.  If you think you can control yourself and not eat the entire pan of cornbread (spoiler alert: I can’t), it’s a great addition to it as well!

Another great crock pot option is pulled beef from Skinnytaste.  Another one of my party staples!  Get some good rolls and thinly sliced provolone and let everyone have at it.

Dessert

Not every football party requires dessert, but if you know people are going to have a post-game sweet tooth, these “ice cream” sandwiches from Skinnytaste are a great option.  I love to keep the desserts limited to cookies or cupcakes so people can grab and go as opposed to waiting for the cake to be cut.

While these recipes will keep you from breaking the calorie bank all in one day, intuitive eating (Fannetastic Food goes more into it here) is still your best option…eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and enjoy the game!

“You ate a whole wheel of cheese?”: Laughing Cow Alfredo Sauce

Despite my overabundance of freckles, I am Italian.  And with my heritage comes an unending desire to consume mass amounts of carbohydrates in the form of pasta.  Cover it with veggies, cheese, chicken…doens’t matter.  I want it and I want it now.

The one thing I do manage to avoid mostly is alfredo sauce.  Aftering looking up the nutrition facts in high school for the Olive Garden alfredo (found here if you are willing to deal with the consequences) it was pretty easy to give it up.  But don’t get me wrong…I do miss it.

So imagine my excitement when I was on my fourth hour of Pinning one day and say someone’s post about Laughing Cow Alfredo Sauce!  I was pretty excited to give it a shot, so I rounded up some test subjects and started in on the deliciousness.

Ingredients
All of the delicious ingredients!

I was left at the mercy of Whole Foods’ Laughing Cow selection, so I had to buy the original instead of the light.  It was a marginal difference in fat and calories (about a 15 calorie and 2.5g fat per wedge difference) but it could make a difference if you’re following Weight Watchers or just a really diligent calorie counter.

This is the best part: all you do is combine all of the ingreidents in a pan and cook over low heat until everything melts together.  I chopped up some sundried tomatoes and cooked them in the sauce for a little different flavor.  I’ll involve sundried tomatoes in anything I can.

Pasta
Yum!

It was a hit!  The only thing I’d recommend is using a whisk while you’re cooking it.  I either couldn’t find mine or don’t have one (my apartment is very tiny, there’s only room for essentials like a juicer and a SodaStream) and the sauce had some lumps in it.  Also, I like a good amount of sauce on my pasta, so I’d recommend making a little more than the recipe indicates.  This might defeat the purpose of “light alfredo” but that’s what running is for.

Speaking of running, I’m leaving for Strasburg, VA in a few hours to celebrate the wedding of two very special people.  If you know of any good running routes for me for tomorrow, let me know!

Did you like the recipe?  Do you have any lightened up favorites to share?

If an avocado and hummus had a baby.

I actually set them up on Friday night and they did have a baby.

My friend Anne was nice enough to have our usual group of girls over for a movie night.  We’re all trying to save money and the best way to do that as a 20-something living in the city is to not go to a bar, and with Maggie doing her long runs on Saturday and me running the Rock and Roll Half on Sunday, we weren’t up for a wild and crazy night.

We did a BYOB/BYOA thingy which is my favorite kind of night, especially since my friends are such good cooks!  Maggie made us some healthy chicken nuggets (light breading, no oil, baked) and Anne made what be my new favorite app….buffalo cauliflower! I mean, it’s not wings, but you can pretend.

My contribution was Spinach and Avocado Cannellini Bean Hummus from my favorite foodie, Anne and Fannetastic Food.  I love avocados and I love hummus, but I was a little worried this wouldn’t have much taste or it would just taste like blended spinach.  Luckily, it didn’t!  And it’s so simple.

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The avocado was definitely ripe but I had a hard time getting it off the pit. Does anyone else have that problem or am I just bad at avocado?

All you need is a can of cannellini beans, half a ripe avocado, a lemon, spinach, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  I used a food processor, but I feel like all you need is elbow grease and you could do it with a masher or something else.  Get creative.

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Am I excited about how healthy the dip is? Or am I excited about cooking in a normal sized kitchen?

I combined everything in the food processor and poured it into a bowl.  Literally.  That’s it.  BOOM.  You just made your friends a healthy dip.  We ate it with pita chips, celery, and carrots but I also would have eaten it with a spoon.

We never actually watched a movie because we were too busy talking, but nevertheless nights like that are my favorites.

What do you do when you’re trying to save money but still want to have fun?  What’s your favorite dish to bring to a night in at a friend’s house?

People actually study this stuff?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I read stories on various health and fitness studies and think “Wow! I never thought of that!”  Hopefully by rounding up these random links we can all avoid what seem to be common health and fitness mistakes while learning something new!

  • Would you like two hours of exercise with that? – Studies show that seeing the calorie count of an item isn’t likely to influence your decision, but seeing the time you must spend in the gym to burn it off might.  Does this ring true for you?  I don’t think it would for me.  As someone who loves the gym, I think the calorie counts would scare me more.  It already works when I go to Starbucks…I haven’t had that delicious lemon pound cake in a year. 😦
  • LC to the rescue! – Speaking of calorie counts, you can try reducing them by using these healthy-swap tips from everyone’s favorite Laguna Beach resident, LC.  Considering she looks better now than she did when she was being hated on by that meanie Kristen, we might want to listen to her.
  • The recovery benefits of compression wear. – I purchased my first pair of compression socks at the Philadelphia Marathon expo last year and wore them after the race. While I almost injured myself trying to get them on (those suckers are TIGHT!) I will say that I wasn’t as sore as I was the year before.  I’ll let you know if I ever get up the courage to run in them!
  • Cheesy Quotes – I mean, some of these are TRULY cheesy, but if one person gets any motivation from them, they have done their job.

Speaking of motivational quotes, let me leave you with my favorite…

Run

 

Meatless Monday: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Most of you have probably heard of the concept of Meatless Mondays.  It was an international campaign started by the good people at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health that encourages people to make healthier choices at the beginning of the week, and one of those healthy choices is to cut down on the amount of meat in your diet.

I’m not necessarily a Meatless Monday devotee, but I am cutting down on the amount of meat and dairy in my diet and trying to replace it with fruits and veggies.  Some days it’s easier than others, but as I learned from my failed juice cleanse, everything is better in moderation.

I took this Meatless Monday (Sunday, really) as an opportunity to try a new veggie-filled recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Anne at Fannetastic Food.  I figured since she’s Anne and I’m Annie, it was only fair to invite my friend, also Anne, to reap the rewards of my cooking.

Best part of the recipe? Super simple and easy clean up.

You start by boiling the sweet potato in one pot, while combining all of the other ingredients in a skillet and sauteeing until the spinach is wilted.

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Use a big pan for all of the veggies…I ended up having to transfer it from a smaller one to this one because I couldn’t stir it.

After everything is cooked and the sweet potatoes are mashed, spread some of the potato onto a tortilla and pile on the veggies.  Roll up the tortilla and place it in a baking dish with a thin layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom. Repeat until you’ve used all the veggies and potato (it made about six for me), pour the rest of the enchilada sauce on top and cover with cheese and some fresh cilantro.

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Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees and you’re good to go!

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Uh…yum.

They are SO filling, which I didn’t anticipate since it’s mostly veggies and I’m more of a meat and pasta kind of girl.  I can’t wait to make these again!

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Anne is saying she loves it but it’s hard to understand with her mouth so full of enchilada deliciousness.

You can find the full recipe at Fannetastic Food.  It gets a full seal of approval from all the Ann(i)es in Philly!