Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trader Joe's Breaded Cod - Easy Dinner

When I want something quick, easy and healthy for dinner I will often go to my freezer and get out some Trader Joe's frozen breaded cod fillets, which I always have in my freezer.  They only take 20 minutes to bake in the oven and while they are baking I make a quick homemade (no mayo) tarter sauce and some sautéed spinach and tomato. It's so easy and super delicious!

This meal is jam packed with protein and vitamins - I love it and I always feel great after eating it.

Home made tarter sauce:
- 2 heaping tablespoons of sour cream
- 1 teaspoon of capers
- 1 teaspoon Siracha sauce
- chopped chives
- a squeeze of lemon
- 1 teaspoon horseradish 

Just mix it all together - add a little salt and some garlic powder - yummy!

Then after I make the sauce I just heat a sauté pan with some olive oil, add some largely chopped tomato and let cool for  3 or 4 minutes.  Then I add some fresh spinach leaves, add a dash of salt and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes.  

Next I plate the spinach and tomatoes.  Then I take the cod out of the oven and onto my plate, spoon some tarter sauce over the top, and Voila, a delicious and healthy dinner or lunch.

This is my go to meal when I want some serious vitamin power!

Quick and Easy Shepherds Pie

Occasionally at our house we eat a big lamb steak with mashed potatoes and baby broccoli for dinner. It's one of my favorites - but lamb can be really expensive so we don't have it that often.

Here is the left over lamb steak from the night before...

Usually we end up with a lot of left overs and instead of eating the exact same thing the next night, I like to mix it up and make a super quick and easy shepherds pie using the left over lamb and potatoes.

It's so delicious - it could almost be better than having the lamb steaks.  

- half a pound of left over cooked lamb steak - chopped into small chunks 
- 1.5 cups of left over mashed potatoes
- 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese
- half an onion diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 1/4 cup of chopped carrot
- 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen peas
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 small tomatoes finely chopped (or can of diced tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- water or stock
- salt, pepper, dried oregano and some chili flakes
- olive oil and a little butter

First I assemble all the ingredients starting with chopping the veggies. I put all the onion, celery and carrots together since they take the longest to cook. 
Then once they are all chopped, I put them in a sauté pan on medium heat with a little olive oil and a teaspoon of butter.

While that is cooking I prep all the other ingredients.

Next, after the veggies have cooked for about 5 minutes or so the tomato paste will go in.

Meanwhile I am still prepping...

Then I stir around the tomato paste until it is well combined. About this time I preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Then I add some seasoning, the salt and pepper, chili flakes, oregano and sometimes I add some garlic powder.
I will then add some water or stock and let it cook down until the carrots are soft for about 15 minutes. Just keep adding water if the veggies start to stick or get to dry. 

Next I add in the meat and frozen peas. I usually will add a bit more butter and let that sauté for another 10 minutes until it is all nicely combined and the veggies are well cooked.

Then I assemble all the ingredients into a lightly greased oven dish. Starting with the veggie/ lamb mixture on the bottom, and then adding the potatoes and grated cheese on top.

This is what it looks like all assembled:

Then I pop it in the oven for 20 minutes and voila! An easy, delicious shepherds pie! 

You could use this same recipe with any leftover protein you have, ground beef, ground turkey, left over chicken or even just as a veggie dish it would be delicious.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Morning Skinny Drink

Currently I have two children under the age of three and have discovered how difficult it can be to find time to take care of yourself.  I am so busy taking care of other people (miniature crazy people) that I end up neglecting myself, and am often so exhausted that I look and feel tired most of the time.

Before I had children, somewhere in my late twenties, I weighed on average about 123 pounds (I'm about 5'5" tall) which was pretty lean, not really skinny but not overweight either - I was usually a size 4. After having my first child I gained quite a bit of weight. When I was pregnant is when I started the weight gain and then never really was able to lose it, and I weighed an average of about 140 pounds, which put me at about 20 pounds overweight.  It was not a huge amount to overcome, but challenging non the less.  I finally made a commitment to get back to my pre-kids weight after the birth of my second child.

To make a long story short, after my second child was about 4 months old, I lost the weight doing a diet for nursing moms.  I lost all the extra weight, and then some.  I am now the size I was when I was like 19 years old (pretty skinny) at about 115 pounds and I have more energy than ever even though I still don't get much sleep (baby sleep training is still my everyday experience).  I won't go into all the details of how I did it since I really want to focus on "maintenance" for this post.  I'll save the weight loss journey for another post.

I've made a conscious effort, as much as possible, to really think about my food choices before I eat, while I'm eating, and be as thoughtful as possible about what I put in my mouth - even being as busy as I am with the kids.  Before I lost the weight I wasn't really thinking about what I was eating - I was just eating - now my mind is working differently and I am always thinking about what the food is, how much I'm consuming and if what I am eating is making me feel physically good.  I think of food in terms of energy, healing and joy.  I know that seems vague but, I will go into more detail about that in a later post.

The "thinking" is the first part.  The second part is what I like to call my "skinny medicine foods".  These are foods that I have done research about (and by that I mean searched Pinterest boards) and consider to be food choices that I can make on a regular basis that not only help me maintain my weight but also aid in losing weight and flushing out my system. 

There are about twenty or so such foods that I keep on my list, but the main one and the one I swear by is what I call my "Morning Skinny Drink".

It's pretty simple and I drink it religiously every morning, and if I ever miss a few days I still drink it at least 4 days a week on average.  

What is the magic drink? It's basically just lemon and water.  I know it sounds too simple to really work - but believe me - IT WORKS!!  

Now, the trick is to drink it when you first wake up about 15 minutes before you eat or drink anything else.  I won't get into a long explanation of how it works, but essentially it helps flush your intestines, it gets rid of harmful bacteria, it helps boost your metabolism, it balances the PH levels in your body which helps your body manage sugar (don't have tell you how important that one is), and also gives you a little energy boost.  It does a bunch of other stuff too but I will leave it to you to do your homework about it.  Suffice as to say it's a magical, magical, wonderful thing and super easy to do on a regular basis.  

Like I said, water with lemon, every morning, first thing.  Pretty easy!

Now, If you REALLY want to give your body a good clean and want to go to that extra effort to look good and feel good then you've gotta try my "Super Skinny Drink"

This is it:
- Tall glass of ice water
- Juice of one whole lemon
- Unsweetened Cranberry juice
- 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
- 4 whole mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon of honey

Mix all together and drink it down first thing in the morning then follow up with one glass of regular water.  


Here's a before and after photo so you can see the difference this has made in my life...

Here's me a few months after second baby - at 140 ish pounds...

Here's me last weekend at 115 pounds and looking a lot healthier and happier!  It's not a ton of weight difference (only about 25 pounds) but the difference is HUGE! You can really see the difference in my face (already have a round face to begin with) but the change is dramatic.  And my waistline really tells the story too - from wearing large baggy t-shirts to small tops and size 2 dresses!  I look better, feel better and can wear my old skinny jeans! Yay!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

5 Beauty and Wellness Secrets Every Mom Should Know

Lately I have been getting some really positive comments from friends and family about my looks.  I have heard that I am looking years younger, that I look great, lost weight and generally am looking very well.

I did lose a lot of weight recently, about 25 pounds. I started to work on it about 4 months after I had my second child.  I really worked hard to get the weight off, and it most definitely took about 10 years off my appearance.  However, I think a combination of things is what I attribute to my general feeling of well being and the positive comments I have been getting.

I recently started doing 5 or 6 things religiously on top of losing the weight that I am certain have made a huge difference in making me look younger.  I even think I may look better now than I did when I was in my 20's simply because I know the secrets now, and I take better care of myself.  It is not easy to take care of yourself when you have little ones to take care of - believe me ladies I know!!  But, that's why it has been so important to me to take a little time for myself, because feeling confident and happy can make all the difference you need to get through a rough day with the kids.

So, here are my "secrets" that I wish to share with all of you...

1.  Keeping Off The Weight

Something I think a lot of women experience is when you eat like a bird for a month, lose some weight and then a few weeks later the weight creeps right back on.  So, I have found a few ways to keep myself in check without feeling like I'm constantly on a diet.
Mainly, I just do a few little things like, only eating bread once or twice a week.  Keeping sweets, especially chocolate out of my pantry - and just about once a week or so I will buy some chocolate as my 'special treat'.  Another thing I do is serve myself dinner on an appetizer plate.  I think we've all been taught from a very young age to finish everything on your plate - and it's only natural to eat everything that is in front of you.  To avoid overeating, especially when pasta or pizza is on the menu, I just eat on a smaller plate.  I do it at restaurants too - just scoop food onto an appetizer plate - and pack the rest in a to-go box.

Here is the real secret though...

2. Magical, Magical Lemon Water

Okay, before you dismiss this one because it sounds too simple, let me explain to you the amazing benefits of this magical fruit...

- Lemon balances your PH levels (I know what you are thinking; it's acidic you say.  Well yes it is - until you eat it- then it's properties change internally to balance body's PH levels) 
There are tons of articles about this online.
- Lemon is THE MOST ALKALINE food you can eat - meaning helps to counteract the bad effects of sugar and carbs.
- It also kills bad bacteria in your gut and helps regulate your digestive system
- Lemon also beefs up your immune system which helps all your organs function better and prevent illness
- (the best one) Speeds up your metabolism and helps you lose/ regulate weight
- Gives you an immediate energy boost!  Start your day off like this - and you will feel so much better everyday!

Okay, so the main trick is to squeeze a whole lemon into a tall glass of water and drink it down in the morning when you wake up - BEFORE you eat or drink anything else.  I do this religiously every morning and I swear it has made a HUGE difference in my overall health and helping me lose/ maintain a skinny waist line. The only thing is that it can mess with your tooth enamel so be sure to brush your teeth after breakfast.

Check out this article from LA Healthy Living...

3. Eyebrows To The Rescue

Well, if you are like me and were a teenager in the 90's, then you know that plucking the crap out of your eyebrows to get that 'oh so trendy' super thin line eyebrow look was a big thing back in the day.  

Well, recently I have discovered 2 things about eyebrows...
1) Big eyebrows are REALLY on trend right now
2) Bigger, thicker eyebrows make you look years younger. 

 So if you really want to take years off your face - put the tweezers away and start embracing all the available eyebrow pencils and fillers available out there.  If you are like me and you did pluck the crap out of your brows, you may not have a whole lot of brow to work with. I certainly don't - but I am doing my best to grow them back!

I try and keep my makeup simple and natural for just everyday, but I never leave the house without brushing and filling in my brows - no matter where I am going.  It instantly takes years off my face.  The main reason for this is simple; as we age our eyebrows along with the rest of our hair become thinner - so in your subconscious mind when you see people with thicker eyebrows, you assume they are younger.

I have watched a zillion eyebrow makeup tutorials to make sure I know how to make them look naturally full.

Check out this tutorial from Desi Perkins - one of my favorite makeup artists - I subscribe to her You Tube channel.

4. Complexion Rescue FOR REAL

My wish has finally come true now that I have found a tinted moisturizer/ BB cream that actually DOES what it says it's supposed to do.

Let me introduce you to the best product ever - Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue.
I use the lightest color Opal 1 - since my skin is really fair and I have cool undertones.  It matches perfectly!

Honestly, I have searched for years for a product like this - it is The Magic Unicorn of all makeup products.  I have had a lot of skin issues in my life - I'm very fair with a fair amount of freckles; I've struggled with acne for years; have a ton of sun damage, and have redness issues too.  This product makes my skin look smooth, even and glowy (in a youthful, natural sort of way) and the best part is - it blends in so well with my skin it doesn't even look like I have any makeup on!!  Plus it has the every important SPF in it.  I'm telling you - it's magical. Don't take my word for - get a sample from Sephora and see for yourself.

5. It's All About The Hair

After I had my fist child I got so mad about her pulling my hair and it was all falling out anyway from pregnancy hormones, so I decided to chop it all off into a short bob.  My hair cut was cute but, since I was already over weight in only magnified the effect of making me look older.  The main reason is that long hair lengthens out the look of your face, hides neck thickness, and leaves a youthful impression - which of course makes you look skinnier.
Since then I have been growing out my hair - 2 years later it is still only a couple inches past my shoulders but it has made a big difference in making me look a little younger.
The second and most important part of my hair maintenance is my hair stylist.  I can't stress enough the importance of an excellent stylist.  I've been with my stylist for a few years now and couldn't be happier. She is amazing!  She is a fantastic colorist and she is constantly keeping up with trends, new products and developing her skills.  
The best tip I have for finding an top notch hair stylist is to look for salons that carry Kerastase products.  Kerastase has certain criteria for allowing a salon to carry their products and that criteria usually means the stylists there are really good. 

 This is by no means inexpensive but, to me, worth it!  I spend a lot on my hair when I go in, but because my stylist is so good - I only have to go in every 3 or 4 months.  It's like being pampered once every few months - so wonderful for my confidence and general well being.

Here's a photo to prove my point.  As you can see in the photo on the left I was heavier, had shorter hair, my eyebrows were thinner and my skin was looking textured with age.  Now, even though the photo on the right is not a great one (just took a selfie with my phone) you can see I look thinner, my longer hair makes me look younger than the photo on the left, I have fuller eyebrows, and my skin is looking much more youthful.  Also, I think I just look happier - and that is the main goal!

6. Prevention

Lastly, I would like to add the one thing I wish I would have known when I was in my twenties.  
Always protect your skin!  That means always wearing SPF in your face and neck.  It means always washing your face at night and using moisturizer. It means drinking plenty of water and not drinking too much alcohol.  And most importantly, it means NOT worshipping the sun!  If I could go back in time and stop myself from ever tanning or letting my face get tanned or burned I would.  Nothing ages you faster than the sun.  Don't think that just because you have dark skin or tan easily that you are impervious to the ill effects of too much sun exposure - if you've ever seen those videos where they look at your skin through an ultra violet light and reveal all the damage you will know what I am talking about.

I'm sure a few women told me something about this when I was younger but I never heeded their advice.  Now I am paying for it with sun damaged skin.

However, I did stop tanning about 5 years ago and it has helped a lot.  Not to mention being tan is not a fashionable thing anymore like it was when I was growing up - now the message is (as it should be) that;

Your skin is perfect and gorgeous no matter what your natural shade.  If you are dark or light - don't try to change it! 

SPF - is an everyday must!!!

Below you can see more before and after photos that really speaks for themselves.  The photo on the right was taken about 3 years ago when I was about 25 pounds heavier and my hair was short, and I didn't know about filling in my brows or any of my other beauty secrets.  Well, I did know about having a great hair stylist - fortunately I have known that one for years - my hair was still cute even though it was short (which aged me a bit).

The photo on the left is me a few weeks ago after I got my hair done with my AMAZING stylist, only it's longer and more flattering on me.  Even though I don't have any good full length photos of myself - I think you can really see the weight difference in my face.

Well - you heard them all - I'm always looking for new ways to improve my well being, and even though exercise was conspicuously absent from my list - I try to get some in when I can - I didn't add it since it's sort of a given that we all need to try and get exercise and the benefits are obvious. However, if you are a mom with multiple little ones under the age of 4 you already know how hard it is to do.  I'm right there with you!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Maintaining Sanity When You Have...One of THOSE Days...

You know the one...the days starts off with your toddler making you do laps around the house to catch them and change their diaper.  Your infant pukes all over themselves right after you feed them, you didn't wash the dishes from dinner the night before, making it even harder to get that morning cup of coffee going.  Your toddler only wants blueberries for breakfast and you are out of them.  You know the story...the day continues on like this with what seems like an endless stream of messes, mini-emergencies (explosive poop diaper situation) and you are tired from being up with baby all night, and you need to wash your hair but you can't get a shower since nobody seems to want to take a nap at the same time.

Here are my favorite tools and ways to stay calm and happy when I need to de-stress, as well as make my life a whole lot easier:

1.  Kindle - is my new best friend
Every kind of book from cheesey romance novels, vampire fantasy, epic love stories, or parenting books are right there at my finger tips.  This super portable device has saved me from having to just sit and stare while my toddler eats lunch or I'm out somewhere and my kids fall asleep in the stroller.  Those precious free moments are now a blissful escape to some adventure.  I especially love Kindle Unlimited which allows me to read as many books as I want for $10 a month.  

2.  Comedy
Laughter, smiling and giggles is a magic balm that is a guaranteed mood lifter.  Find something you know will make you laugh.  Save a funny cat video on YouTube, put a tutu on your dog, put a tutu on one of your kids.  The idea is just keep something in mind that's really, really funny that you can pull out and anytime to look at or listen to when you need to smile.

3. Schedule a date night or Girls Night Out
You don't need to plan anything elaborate or expensive.  It could be something as simple as a walk, going to a movie, or just a quick dinner at your favorite Taco stand.  It’s just about getting time alone with your significant other or your pals. 

Planning a girls night out - even if it's only once in a blue moon - it gives you something to look forward to, and helps keep your stress levels down.

As moms, we are notorious for putting our own needs last, and after a while it can take its toll.  You will be a more patient parent, and better equipped to deal with those toddler emergencies if you have some fun for yourself every now and then.  A happy mom means happy kids.

And, if you would rather just be alone while you're out, schedule a pedicure and ask hubby to watch the kids for an hour in the evening, or weekend, or whenever it's possible. 

4.  iPad / iphone Apps 
Okay -  I know you think this one is silly, but honestly having a few apps on you phone which is very portable can help you focus on something other than the crying fit going on when you put your toddler in time-out.  Now it's time for mommy time-out (in a good way).  I could sift through Pinterst for hours looking at crafty projects, shoes, and hair cuts that I want (if I ever get time to go to the salon).

I'm not advocating for staring at you phone all day instead of paying attention to your kids - but having it on hand when you need a few minutes is very useful - especially if you realize you are almost out of diapers and you can just quickly place an Amazon order from your phone.
     - Pinterest - Hours of fun pinning things you love and getting ideas
     - Pandora  - Music soothes the soul as they say
     - Amazon  - Online shopping is every moms ultimate helper
     - YouTube - Cute cat videos to make you laugh, or makeup tutorials are just a click away - you could show a funny video to your toddler when you need to distract them from whatever dangerous maneuver they were trying to pull before you distracted them.
     - Snapfish  - Order prints of your favorite kid photos from the millions of pics you been snapping directly from your phone - So easy!
     - PvZ2 - Killing Zombies has never been so fun - mindless escape is sometimes necessary
     - Etsy -  Oh the cute stuff you can find!  You could even start your own little shop and manage it from your phone!
     - Instagram  - Looking at photos is endless entertainment, and calming.

5.  Tea
Make yourself a cup of tea - there are so many benefits; the best one being that you will feel a little better and more centered with each sip you take.  It could be any tea - my favorites are de-caffeinated English Breakfast, Jasmine tea, chamomile and Peppermint.  If you don't like tea that much - just have some hot water with a little lemon and honey in it.  You will get the added benefit of feeling hydrated as well as relaxed.

6.  Make a List
Make the most basic list you can think of.  Put things like, - eat lunch, wash dishes, brush teeth, check email etc...
It feels really good to check things off a list - and you will feel a sense of accomplishment even if everything else about your day has gone wrong.  Even if you just do a few things on your list, you will feel so much better.

7.  A Few Minutes of Peace
Okay I know what you're thinking, that this one is impossible. Hear me out - I know it seems like you never get a break, especially when you are a stay-at-home mom and you have multiple children under the age of five.  So, in order to feel like I get a moment to myself, I set my alarm for about 20 minutes before the kids normally wake up.  Even though I've probably not had that much sleep and I am super tired - it is so nice to start the day off having some time to yourself - it can make a huge difference in the outcome of your day. Whether you just do something as simple as take a shower, or enjoy a nice breakfast, or get some things prepped and ready to go for your kids when they wake up. Whatever you choose to do, that extra few minutes will give you the calm, collected feeling you need to face a day of kiddie disasters with a smile on your face.

8.  Call Your Girlfriends
Your besties are the perfect people to call when you need to just vent for a minute, or twenty.  They are especially great to talk to if they have kids the same age as yours - they know how it is girl!

9.  Get out of the house
Sometimes a lot of the difficulty of being at home with kids is the fact that you are alone and your house is getting trashed by small human tornadoes.  Just getting out of the house - even just to go for a walk, go to the park, the mall, or a play gym - can help you feel better because you can interact with other adults and be away from messes you feel obligated to clean.  That messy house will be there when you get back - out of sight, out of mind.

10.  Wellness or Beauty Activity
By wellness or beauty I mean do something that doesn't involve your kids or their interests, and makes you feel good about yourself.  If you can put the baby in the walker and put on an episode of Mickey Mouse for the other one, and have just a few minutes to yourself - do something that will help your body, or make you feel beautiful.  For me, that means doing something like, putting on some eye makeup, or doing some relaxing stretches on the floor, or drink a big glass of ice water and take a few deep relaxing breaths.  Remember, it should be something that is either good for you, or makes you feel good about yourself.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Super Quick - Nap Time Blog Post...

A Day in the Life of a Mom...

I decided that I had better post something since I have been off the radar for a while.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom with a toddler, and a 5 month old :)

So, in honor of all the moms out there that are daydreaming of all the things they would 'like' to do, or 'used' to do...this one is for you...

Wake-up mommy, it's 6am, the day is bright and new
Oh what fun things there are for mommy and kids to do

Breakfast may take a while since messes are aplenty
Then to the park we'll go...
Getting out the door may take an hour and twenty

Time to change your clothes little one, oh look, now it's your turn too
How is it already ten o-clock? What's a mother to do...

Much time has passed, snacks finally packed, we're headed to the car
Oh NOW you have to poop, of course, well at least we didn't get too far

Running, jumping, screaming, laughing, taking toys from others
Throwing sand, Oh no, no, no, baby crying...
Words of sympathy from other mothers

At the park for an hour and mommy is ready to be homeward bound
Then mommy says, it's time to go, and you throw yourself to the ground

Mommy is often day-dreaming of other things she'd like to do
Nap time comes along at last, it may only last an hour, sometimes two

Mommy eats some food real fast, checks email, washes dishes or some other chore
Possibly picks up leggos that have taken over our living room floor

At long last, the time has come for a project mommy wants to address
Oh wait, is that a baby cry - my project can wait another day... I guess