21 Day No Sugar Challenge

Today, we’re kicking off our 21 No Sugar Challenge! I decided to do this for myself when I discovered my glucose levels were wonky after my annual routine blood work. Diabetes doesn’t run in my family, but my addiction to baked goods is likely to blame. I knew it was time to cut back on the processed sugar, and I knew the best way for me personally to do that was to go cold turkey. I’m not doing any sort of program, I’m just going to do my absolute best to cut sugar from my diet for the next 21 days.

Tears are being shed for all the future donuts I will not eat.

I know this is going to be super hard for me. But I also know this is crucial for my health. I’m 41, and it’s now or never to kick my sugar addiction.

Here’s my strategy:

  • Continue drinking more water to help flush my system (thanks, Hydration Challenge!)
  • Drink more hot herbal and green teas that don’t need sweetener
  • Chew sugar free gum when I get a craving
  • Eat more fruit
  • Cut white sugar and white flour food items

Here’s what I hope to gain by day 22:

  • A shift in my taste buds toward less sugar cravings
  • More stamina instead of the crash and burn from glucose energy
  • Overall feeling of increased health and wellness
  • A new perspective on diet
  • Lots of yummy new recipes!

This ain’t gonna be easy, folks. I expect there will be tears. Especially when my severe PMS cravings kick in. Some of the challenges I’m expecting are:

  • Not having my morning tea routine
  • Not eating chocolate in any form
  • Not having scones with my tea
  • Making sure I carefully read all labels

Speaking of Labels…

I know what I’m getting into, and I know my body. I quit smoking thirteen years ago, and to this day that was the hardest thing ever. After years of trying to quit with everything from medications, patches, and gum to sunflower seeds, toothpicks, and learning to knit, I learned that the only thing I really need is motivation and determination. I’ve never been so motivated to change my eating habits as I am now.

Are you motivated too? No matter what your fitness goal is for 2018, it can benefit from eating less sugar. I’d LOVE to have you join me on this journey. It’s free. I’m not selling anything, it’s all about accountability and commiseration. It’s going to be hard and challenging, but fun and oh so worth it. There will be a giveaway at the end, too, and we all love winning stuff! So come along with me on this sugarless trip, and tell me what you’re motivated to change in 2018. Together, we can do it!

To join the challenge, enter our giveaway by clicking the picture above or here and interact with us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I’m here to support you as you chase your goals, so TELL ME ALL ABOUT THEM. Let’s do this!

Recipe Box: Thai Red Curry

Shortly after our wedding, Clay and I decided that we wanted to change our diet. Again. Not entirely surprising, if you know us at all (I write about food a lot)… but this shift was definitely bigger than any we’d done before.

We’d been watching Food Inc., which we’d both previously seen, and it reignited our concerns about factory farms and agribuiness’ negative impact on the environment. Since ultimately we vote with our dollar, we decided to try being vegetarian – choosing not to buy meat, and really looking into where our food comes from.

This shift has been really eye opening all around. Since we also pay pretty close attention to our macronutrients to ensure that we are still getting the appropriate amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates, we’ve had to really consider carefully the types of vegetarian food we depend on. Turns out it isn’t as difficult as you might think to get plenty of protein with vegetarian food sources. We end up eating a lot of tempeh, tofu, and tofurky sausages to help us hit our numbers – and truth be told, everything is super versatile and very tasty.

We still try to eat pretty clean: no added sugars, lots of vegetables, very little processed food. While now we eat a lot more carbohydrates than previously, I’ve found – and I think Clay would say the same – that my body appreciates a more carb-heavy diet. I find myself with more energy, which is vital to fueling my workouts. I also find myself feeling lighter. Figuratively, if not literally. Being vegetarian has allowed me to eat much more intuitively, which has allowed me to feel significantly less stressed about food. I still track everything in My Fitness Pal and eat clean, but I also allow myself to enjoy cookies or Halo Top or pancakes. Consequently, my body feels good and so does my mind. This works for me – and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly fulfills my desire to have a positive impact on the planet as well as a healthy lifestyle.

Three cheers for finding peace with food.

One of our favorite go-to recipes while on this vegetarian venture has been Thai Red Curry from Cookie and Kate.

This recipe is super easy (we modify it a bit to cut out the sugar and the rice (sometimes we make it and sometimes we don’t). To make the prep easier, we’ll often split up the tasks: Clay will cut all the veggies beforehand so when it’s time to make dinner, all I have to do is assemble the pieces. We also add tofu to bump up the protein content, and it’s super delicious.

Give it a try!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ¼ cups brown jasmine rice or long-grain brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • Pinch of salt, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (about a 1-inch nub of ginger)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin 2-inch long strips
  • 1 yellow, orange or green bell pepper, sliced into thin 2-inch long strips
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into ¼-inch thick rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can (14 ounces) regular coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups packed thinly sliced kale (tough ribs removed first), preferably the Tuscan/lacinato/dinosaur variety
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coconut sugar or turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar (we don’t do this)
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce (we use coconut aminos)
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar or fresh lime juice
  • Garnishes/sides: handful of chopped fresh basil or cilantro, optional red pepper flakes, optional sriracha or chili garlic sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To cook the rice, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the rinsed rice and continue boiling for 30 minutes, reducing heat as necessary to prevent overflow. Remove from heat, drain the rice and return the rice to pot. Cover and let the rice rest for 10 minutes or longer, until you’re ready to serve. Just before serving, season the rice to taste with salt and fluff it with a fork.
  2. To make the curry, warm a large skillet with deep sides over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil. Add the onion and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, while stirring continuously.
  3. Add the bell peppers and carrots. Cook until the bell peppers are fork-tender, 3 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the curry paste and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, water, kale and sugar, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the peppers, carrots and kale have softened to your liking, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and season with tamari and rice vinegar. Add salt (I added ¼ teaspoon for optimal flavor), to taste. If the curry needs a little more punch, add ½ teaspoon more tamari, or for more acidity, add ½ teaspoon more rice vinegar. Divide rice and curry into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, if you’d like. If you love spicy curries, serve with sriracha or chili garlic sauce on the side.

Recipe Box: Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies

Bake. All. The. Cookies.

We all know I love to bake. I’ve been baking all summer, working on finding the perfect recipe for my wedding cake. I instituted #FridayBaking at my office, and often bake Pinterest finds in our office kitchen. So, it should be no surprise that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I end up baking A LOT of cookies.

This probably has something to do with the nostalgia that baking Christmas cookies carries. As a kid, I can remember enjoying many a cookie-baking day with my mom and my sisters, yelling “OVEN’S OPEN” any time we had to put a new batch in or take a done batch out. Frosting cookies with my Girl Scout Troop. I’ll be home for Christmas this year for the first time in five years, and my mom is already planning what cookies we’re going to make. I can’t wait.

ANYWAYS. When we were invited to a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner, I offered to make a side (Brussels Sprouts with Bacon), but I also decided that I would contribute a dessert. Typically at this time of year, I stick to some family favorites: peanut butter blossoms, candy cane cookies, pecan balls. But, I wanted to try something a little different.

Some Pinterest searching later, and I stumbled upon a recipe for gingerbread cookies from If You Give a Blonde a Kitchen. My interest was piqued. I love gingerbread, but somehow, it doesn’t make it’s way into my regular holiday cookie rotation. As I threw these cookies together, all of the spices and smells got me super stoked for more cookie baking and Christmasing with my family.

Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but still cool, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

  1. With an electric mixer (either hand or stand) stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and add the butter pieces. Mix at medium-low speed until the mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and, with the mixer running, gradually add the molasses and milk. Mix until the dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.
  2. Scrape the dough onto a work surface; divide it in half. Working with one portion at a time, shape the dough into two round disks. Cover them in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, refrigerate the dough 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and begin rolling the dough into balls, about 2-inches in diameter. Be careful not to overwork the dough as it will lose its chill and get too warm. Roll each dough ball in the granulated sugar until coated. Transfer ball to confectioners’ sugar and roll again until coated evenly. Place the coated dough balls 1-inch apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake the cookies until set in the centers, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake. Cool the cookies on the sheets 2 minutes, then remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

What are some of your favorite Christmas cookie recipes?

Recipe Box: Beef Stir Fry

Friends, today is a hard day. I don’t want to preach or soap box, but I needed to say that if you’re feelings are raw or your heart hurts or you’re feeling vulnerable this morning, know that you are not alone. I’m feeling that right alongside you – and I know that the best way to move forward is to take care of each other. We’ve all got each other, no matter our differences. We can heal.

I’m finding it hard to write with my usual sense of joviality today, but I do have a recipe to share, and it’s a good one and definitely hits the mark on the healthy/delicious scale. One of our go-to meals is stir fry, but its rare that we make it with anything but chicken. And if I’m being quite honest, I’m over all of the chicken. Too much chicken. All the time.

So, in meal planning for this week, we took a stroll through Costco and picked up a few cuts of meat that we don’t usually get, namely a massive amount of chuck roast. Which is perfect for throwing in the slow cooker and making things like Italian beefs, and, as it happens, stir fry.

img_3169

Ingredients:

Broccoli (4 cups, ish), chopped

Snow peas (a couple handfuls)

Whole red and yellow peppers, sliced

1 large white onion, diced

1.5 lb Chuck Roast

Salt

Pepper

Ginger (to taste)

Onion powder (to taste)

Cayenne (to taste)

Soy sauce

Teriyaki sauce

Sesame oil (JUST A LITTLE)

Kikkoman Stir Fry Sauce

Lime juice

Pull out your crock pot, tenderize that chuck roast to within an inch of it’s life. Seriously. Slice into inch cubes. Toss in the crock pot with soy sauce and teriyaki and a liiiiiittle bit of sesame oil. Also throw in your seasonings, to taste. Let that sit for… a few hours. Like, maybe four? Or five? Just let it ride for a while. When it’s broken down and falling apart, it’s ready.

When your meat is ready, get your veggies all chopped up. Throw them all in a wok (or sautee pan, whatever), on medium heat with olive oil covering the bottom. Add a few squirts of lime juice. Stir occasionally, making sure to evenly distribute oil and juice on all the veggies. Cook only until warm through – they should still be pretty crisp. Drop the meat on top, stir it up and feed your face.

You will have a BUNCH of foodz and in my house, that means leftovers, which are the best.

Recipe Box: Foodball Edition

When I sat down to write today, I really wanted to follow up on Jenn’s post about the Broncos and share my love of football too… but since I haven’t run a race in many months, I needed a different angle.

Enter food.

Of course.

Now that football season is in full swing and fantasy teams have been drafted, every Sunday at my house has become Foodball day. Clay and I spend Sunday mornings cooking and preparing snacks for the nearly ten people that pile on our couch starting at 1:00 to binge on beer, chili, chips and sports. (To be fair, I usually get a workout in on Sunday morning, so that the laziness of the rest of the day doesn’t catch up to me.)

foodball

He’s a Browns fan, but he humors me and cheers for the Packers, too.

The menu typically includes Clay’s Turkey Chili (which has no recipe… otherwise I’d share that with you today), Buffalo Chicken, guac, chips, some kind of dessert (last week I made Cleveland Brownies… get it?), pizza and other snacks. It ends up being quite a spread, but you need that kind of sustenance for 8+ hours of football viewing.

The chili is always a hit, but the sleeper favorite is the Buffalo Chicken. This shredded crockpot dish is a regular in our house because it’s so so so easy to make, and can be used in a lot of different ways. We like to put the shredded chicken on pizza, over salads, on a bun, in a wrap, or even eat it plain.

All you need is:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3-4)
  • Your favorite Buffalo sauce (we’ve used Frank’s and Wegmans brands and love both)
  • Ranch seasoning packet
  • Your crockpot. Duh.

Since we usually prepare our Buffalo Chicken for meal prep or parties, we typically use 4-5 chicken breasts, though you can just do 2-3. We usually go through a whole bottle of Buffalo sauce and a complete seasoning packet, but if you use less chicken, you just need enough sauce to coat and cover it a little. The seasoning can be cut in half, too.

Place your chicken boobs in the crock pot, cover with Buffalo sauce and Ranch seasoning, and cook on high for 4-6 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours. You can start checking it after about 4 hours to see if it’s cooked through and ready to shred. I shred it in the crock pot so the chicken can soak up more of the Buffalo sauce, and then I keep it on warm when we’re serving to a group. If it’s for meal prep, I’ll shred it, leave it to cool down a bit in the crockpot and then move it to tupperware and the fridge.

Serve with tortilla chips, rolls, wraps or on pizza!

What’s your favorite tailgating or football food?

Recipe Box: Crock Pot Hawaiian Pork

I’ve written before about the importance meal prep plays in my life: it makes eating healthy very easy, and packing lunches in the morning for work is a cinch when all I have to do is grab a pre-made Tupperware on my way out the door.

My fiance and I have been pretty diligent for the last few months about prepping our lunches for the week on Sunday nights. For a long time, we were doing grilled chicken and broccoli. Let me tell you, though. After about three months of essentially the same lunch, every work day, chicken is kind of the last thing you want to eat. Not to mention the fact that grilling what amounts to about eight chicken breasts in one night and prepping them for lunches is really time-consuming.

Mmmm. Chicken. And Broccoli.

Mmmm. Chicken. And broccoli.

We are not about that life anymore. Or right now, at least.

And then, two weeks ago, we remembered that we have a crock pot and that it’s a life saver. We planned a recipe for the week that would not only not be chicken, but also be able to be thrown in the crock pot, and left alone for seven hours, so we could run errands and enjoy couch time without having to spend a chunk of our Sunday cooking.

Since we didn’t want chicken again, I suggested looking at alternative options at Costco – which, if you didn’t know, is one of the best stores on the planet. We ended up finding a huge pork loin (that could be halved, and frozen, and last us two weeks!) We got home, got to brainstorming, and put together this tasty recipe:

Ingredients:
3lb pork tenderloin (or whatever you have)

1 pineapple, chunked and thrown in the food processor until pureed

Teriyaki sauce, to taste

1 tsp-ish ginger

1 Tbsp-ish honey

Instructions:

Put tenderloin in crock pot – make sure it fits nicely, cut in half if needed. Peel pineapple, and cut into chunks. You can either leave your pineapple like this if you want big pieces in the final product, or you can use your food processor to puree it – I like this option better because it releases more of the juice. Cover pork in pineapple puree, add teriyaki, honey and ginger. You’ll notice that none of these measurements are accurate, because we don’t really measure – we eyeball. Oops. If you’d like, you can also add a little bit of BBQ sauce, too. I usually top my lunches with a little bit, too.

Cook for 6-8 hours, or until the meat falls apart.

That’s it! Super easy, super tasty, and a definite improvement over chicken and broccoli for months on end.

What are your favorite summer crock pot recipes? 

Recipe Box: Healthy Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

The past month and a half has consisted of takeout food for me and mine. Sad, but true. With moving house and getting settled, it’s been less about being healthy and more about just getting things done.

However, now that we are finally getting things in order, it’s back to cooking nightly. Which is great because it makes our house feel more like home.

I found this Healthy Sesame Chicken with Broccoli recipe on Feed Me Phoebe last year while doing the Advocare 24 day Challenge. It’s become a standby for our family and it’s pretty awesome because it’s fake-out food. Meaning it tastes like take-out but it’s not!

Huzzah! Cheaper, healthier, and absolutely delicious.

sesamechickenbroccoli

You ready for this?

Grab your ingredients!

Ones I usually have to buy at the store each time are:

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and dice
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced (I don’t usually use the green parts, tbh, but you can do as you wish)

Things I usually have on hand in the house unless I’ve run out:

  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I always “cheat” with a jar of minced garlic in the fridge)
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (black or regular)
  • rice

Okay, so I always, without fail forget to get the rice going before the food and then about 2/3rds of the way through I’m throwing out curse words (quietly, because children) and rushing around to get the rice on the stove. So I’m going to put it right up here on the top. If you want to serve this WITH RICE, go on and get that going.

pepperandscallions

I always also forget to read ahead with recipes. My bad! Therefore, my suggestion to you is this: cut up your ingredients beforehand. That means cube the chicken. Clean and chop your pepper. Take care of the scallions. Get all the little things out of the way ahead of time so you can just toss things into your skillet and cook when the time comes.

In a large skillet, cover the broccoli florets with 2 cups of water. Simmer over high heat. Cover and then cook for a few minutes. Drain in a colander. Rinse and dry skillet.

Whisk the egg white, cornstarch, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the chicken and coat.

This was around the time that I realized I had forgotten the rice.

This was around the time that I realized I had forgotten the rice.

Heat a splash of the vegetable or coconut oil in the same skillet and cook the chicken, about 2-4 minutes on both sides. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.

Add another splash of the vegetable or coconut oil in the skillet and stir fry your peppers and white scallions until lightly charred. Stir in the garlic and mix until fragrant. Add the chicken back into the skillet along with the tamari, sesame oil, honey, and sesame seeds. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.

Add in the broccoli and green scallions (if you’re going that route) and mix.

Serve over rice and chow down!

finishedproductchickenandbrocc

It is amazing! Tonight I’m making another favorite here in my house, Skinnytaste Mongolian beef and broccoli, which is similarly amazing and has the same fake-out effect. Yes, please.

What’s on the menu at your house? Got a link? Share it with me, I’d love to check it out!