Thursday, March 28, 2013

30-Day Paleo Challenge: Day 5

I'll start this post by saying that yes, I did stick to my Paleo challenge today, but once again I'm going to post something that is not a part of the diet. 

Exactly one year ago today, I lost a very dear friend, almost like a sister, to lung cancer.  Erinn was only 35 years old when she passed away and never smoked a single cigarette in her whole life.  She ended up fighting a long and difficult battle, and was the type of person that remained strong and positive until the very end.  I miss her tons!

Our friendship started to blossom when we moved in next door to Erinn and her family.  Even though she was not very much older than my two sisters and I, she eventually started to babysit us almost every weekend.  Erinn also started taking family trips with us to Cedar Point, would go to movies with us, take us to political events (I met president Bush because of her), go out to eat with us, etc.  Over time, Erinn really became more than just a friend, she became more like a member of the family and someone I always made sure to visit whenever I traveled back to Michigan.  She even came down to visit me, and had another trip planned but unfortunately that was the beginning of her sickness and she was never able to make it. 

One thing that I loved most is that Erinn, other than her comic and caring personality, was her passion for baking.  It's something we had in common.  Unfortunately with her living in Michigan though, whenever I went back to visit, we always just talked about one day baking together; but sadly never got around to it. 

Therefore, today's cupcake recipe is in memory of my friend Erinn, mostly because I know it's something she would have enjoyed!

Menu for Day 5:

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 egg whites (scrambled), and 4 slices Canadian bacon
Lunch: Turkey Burger Salad - 1 1/2 cups - 2 cups spinach, 1 turkey burger patty cut in pieces, 1/2 avocado, 1/4 cup green pepper, a dash of balsamic vinegar
Snack: 7 slices, deli ham (Oscar Meyer), 6 macademia nuts
Dinner: 4 oz. chicken pieces, 2 eggs, 2 egg whites (scrambled), a handful of spinach (I mixed everything together)

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes with a Strawberry Butter Cream Frosting
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Cupcakes: (makes around 24)
2 sticks butter, softened
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cake flour
1 TBSP. baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups sugar
4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk
¼ cup strawberry margarita mix

Frosting: (I needed a double batch, so just double the ingredients.  We like frosting)
1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 TBSP. strawberry margarita mix


For the cupcakes:
Line a cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, on a medium-high speed, beat together the butter and sugar, until light in color and fluffy.  Stop to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.  Slowly blend in the vanilla and the tequila.  Set the mixer to a low speed, and slowly add in the flour mixture, in 3 separate increments, alternating with the milk and margarita mix.  Beat each addition, until just blended.  Do not over mix.  (It may appear thick in texture)

Scoop the cupcake mixture into the prepared pan, filling about ¾ the way full.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until you are able to insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.  Remove the cupcakes from the pan, and allow to cool completely.  Repeat the process with the remaining batter.

For the Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on a medium-high speed, until light and creamy.  Add in the vanilla and combine with the butter.  Slowly beat in the confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time, until well combined with the butter and scraping down the sides of the bowl, as needed.  Once the confectioner’s is blended together, add in the 2-3 TBSP. of margarita mix and beat on medium-high, until light and fluffy.

Frost the cupcakes as desired!
Source: Bowl of Creativity Original

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

30-Day Paleo Challenge: Day 4

I typically find that if I can make it past the third day, when it comes to any food challenge, it seems to become somewhat easier.  It's probably all mental though, but I can truly say that most of my cravings are completely gone by this point.  I even made my white chocolate macadamia nut scones recipe last night. (For Jeff, of course.  I can't have him starve while I'm out of town).  I'm also currently in the process of making Monster Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter Cookies.  The old me would have sampled some of the batter by now.......ok, when I say some, I really mean sampled quite a bit.  However, I'm completely determined this time to change how I eat, so I can honestly, and proudly say, that I didn't even lick the little bit of batter that got on my finger.  Instead, I used a napkin and wiped it off.  I even turned down a donut from my favorite store at school today.  Now I know that that may not sound like a big deal to most of you, but you have no idea how much I LOVE sweets!  I get it from my dad.  Thanks dad!

Needless to say, I had another successful day following my meal plan for the week!  I'm currently feeling great, health wise, and even though I haven't been able to exercise yet, (I can't wait until I can) I've already noticed that my pants fit a little better, and according to my measuring tape, I've lost a couple inches around my legs, waist and hips!  That's definitely motivation to keep going!

Menu for Day 4:

Breakfast: 4 oz. chicken and 1/2 avocado
Lunch: Leftover stir fry from day 3
Snack: 7 thin slices deli ham (Oscar Meyer) and a handful of macadamia nuts
Dinner: Turkey burger, 1/2 avocado, spinach

I DID NOT EAT!  THEY ARE DEFINITELY NOT A PART OF THE CHALLENGE, THEY ARE NOT HEALTHY, AND THEY WERE NOT FOR ME!  (Although I'm sure they're delicious and was informed that they were)

Monster Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cookies
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Ingredients: Makes about
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup old fashioned oats
½ cup peanut butter chips
½ cup milk chocolate chips
Reese’s Pieces mini candies (1 bag)
Reese’s Pieces (normal size)

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together, on a medium-high speed, until fluffy, the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Pour in the vanilla, and combine.

With the mixer set to a low speed, slowly pour in the dry ingredient, and mix until just combined.  It is important not to over beat.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the oats, peanut butter and chocolate chips, plus the whole bag of Reese’s Pieces mini candies.  Refrigerate the dough for 20-30 minutes.  While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, or parchment paper.

Using the wooden spoon, scoop out about three TBSP. worth of dough and place it on the prepared baking sheet.  Press down the dough down until it’s in a disc shape, about ½ inch to 1 inch thick.  Add on, and press down a handful of normal size Reese’s Pieces.  Bake, six at a time, for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges just start to turn a nice golden brown.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before transferring the cookies.  Enjoy with a tall glass of milk!
Source: Slightly adapted from Lemon-Sugar

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

30-Day Paleo Challenge: Day 3

Once a month at school, I'm in charge of organizing a 6th grade teacher luncheon.  This gathering is a celebration for anyone on our hallway whose birthday happened to be that month.  Honestly though, it's really just a nice, relaxing time to all get together and enjoy each others company (we're usually incredibly busy, and always have students' in our classrooms, even at lunch). 

When the time arrived, I was a little nervous.  Obviously, having very recently changed my eating habits, I really thought that the variety of food was going to present a challenge.  The reason I felt this way was because I knew what people usually liked to bring.  Luckily though, I planned ahead and made this month's luncheon a build your own salad.  Therefore, when it came time to eat, I was so good!  I completely stuck to the meal plan I created and wasn't even tempted by the cupcakes, breads, soda, etc. that was laid out on the table. 

So here's how today looked for me.......

Menu for Day 3:

Breakfast: Western Omelet
Lunch: Leftover Spinach Fajita Salad
Snack: 100 Calorie Pack of Emeralds Almonds, 2 Slices Canadian Bacon
Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry (with Broccoli, Red and Green Peppers, Garlic)

Overall, I had absolutely no sweet cravings today!  I even passed out a whole bunch of chocolate pieces to my students, as a reward.  They didn't even look appealing.  Now that's progress, at least for me! 

Western Omelet
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4 eggs – 2 whole, 2 egg whites only
¼ tsp. chili powder
3 slices Canadian bacon, cut into pieces
¼ cup, combination of red and green peppers, chopped
5-6 pieces of baby spinach, chopped (I just tore with my hands)
Black pepper for garnish

Combine the eggs and the chili powder in a small bowl and whisk together. 

Spray a small skillet with PAM olive oil, place over a medium-low heat, and pour in the eggs.  Once the eggs begin to cook, choose a side and add on the Canadian bacon, peppers, and spinach.  Using a spatula, flip the half of the egg mixture without the ingredients, onto the side containing the ingredients.  This will seal them in.  After allowing the omelet to cook for about 1 minute on the one side, use a spatula and flip the omelet over to the other side.  Allow to cook for about another minute, and then transfer to a plate.  Garnish with some fresh black pepper and enjoy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

30-Day Paleo Challenge: Day 2

                                                        I have not gone hungry yet!

Day 2 was another successful day of Paleo eating!  In fact, I actually cut out a portion of the snack I'd planned for, due to the fact that I wasn't hungry.  Other then that, I stuck to the original meal plan I'd created.  Now, if I could just add exercise back into my routine, I'd be ecstatic!  Unfortunately though, after a long day at school, and a lot of walking around, my leg injury seems to be acting up again.  I find it to be somewhat discouraging, but ultimately I'm not giving up hope that it'll feel better soon.

Cravings: The unhealthy food cravings were a little less intense today, but I'll admit that wanted some tortilla chips, with cheese, when I arrived home from school.  This use to be my typical snack, (I love cheese) but I'm hoping that after a few days the cravings will be gone.  Instead of snacking, I turned my attention to gum!  Specifically, Extras Mint Chocolate Chip gum, which I swear is a lifesaver!

Menu for Day 2:

Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Chicken Hash
Lunch: 1 1/2 - 2 cups, leftover Pork Loin with Veggies
Snack: 2 oz. shredded chicken with 100 calorie pack of almonds
Dinner: Rotisserie chicken, steamed broccoli, spinach salad with sunflower seeds and a tsp. of  balsamic vinegar

Apple Cinnamon Chicken Hash
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1 tsp. olive oil
4-5 oz. leftover chicken (shredded)
1 granny smith apple
2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1-2 tsp. water

Head the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add in the leftover chicken.  Slice the apple into thin strips and add to the chicken in the saucepan.  Sprinkle in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and water.  Stir around until well combined, cover, and cook on a low-medium heat until the apples become tender.  Make sure to continue to stir frequently, so that the food doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan.  The process only takes a matter of a few minutes.  Serve warm!

Source: Heavily adapted from The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet

Sunday, March 24, 2013

30-Day Paleo Challenge: Day 1

I hope that you don't mind, but I'm going to stray away from food for just a few minutes and talk about something else.  I know that I haven't posted in awhile, even though I swore I'd get better about it, but lately it's been one injury after another.  The latest one actually had me on crutches for about a week.  In fact, I literally just stopped using them today, but am unfortunately still in some pain.  Being injured is incredibly frustrating, especially to me, because I know that I'm addicted to exercise, and honestly, these injuries have kept me from wanting to do much else. 

However, after a lot of procrastinating, I've finally decided that something needs to change!  I'm tired of not feeling like my normal, perky self (I've put back on quite a bit of weight, and have definitely been eating unhealthy) and I'm sick of coming up with excuse after excuse as to why I've been being unhealthy......"I'll just have one bite," "I'll start eating healthy again tomorrow," "I'll go out for a run later," etc.  Therefore, I'm officially declaring that I'm ready for a change, and I know that it has to happen internally, before it can happen externally. 

"Just because you don't see results after a day, or even a week, don't give up.  You may not see changes, but every smart choice you make is affecting you in ways you'd never imagined." - I couldn't say it better myself.

So, with that being said, I'll let you know that I've completed diets in the past, and found one that actually worked for me and that I could stick to.  While I was following that diet, I lost a total of 45 pounds and managed to keep it off for quite a few years.  Even today, I can say that I've not gained all the weight back; which means that I'm not looking for an extreme diet, but rather a healthy lifestyle to live by.  This is why, very recently, I came to the decision that I would start to eat Paleo.  Before settling though, I wanted to gather more information about what exactly this meant. 

Therefore, I decided to ask a good friend of mine, because I remembered her saying that she recently took part in a 30-day Paleo challenge at her gym.  When I questioned her about it, she happily informed me that during those 30 days, she lost a total of 15 pounds and is currently feeling great!  After being inspired and listening to what she had to say, I decided that this was definitely the way to go!  It sounded very much like what I'd hope to accomplish.  Needless to say, I immediately hopped on Amazon and ordered the book, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet

Now I just had to wait.......but while I waited, I began looking up paleo recipes.  This way I could get an idea of exactly what I was in for.

To my surprise, the book arrived yesterday! (after only two days!)  I was so excited that I immediately opened it and started glancing through, and reading some of the different sections.  I also set up and created a weekly meal plan to follow, because I knew I'd want to start eating Paleo as soon as possible.  I must be a little crazy though, because today marks my 1st day going paleo, and next week starts my spring break.  Oh well, what is life without challenges and obstacles.  I also know that if I can stay strong over spring break, then nothing can stop me!

So here's how DAY 1 went.......Honestly, the food I prepared was delicious, and definitely filling.  However, I can't lie......I did have strong cravings for sweets and chips; pretty much all things that are considered bad and definitely not Paleo.  I didn't cave though and even though it was an especially difficult day.  (I had to make a 1/2-sheet cake for a birthday party, my second job).  Jeff was such a good sport, and gladly volunteered to be my taste tester.  Thanks hun!

Menu for DAY 1:

Breakfast: 3 slices Canadian bacon
                 3 scrambled eggs (2 whites, 1 whole) + 1/4 tsp. black pepper
Lunch: Chicken fajita salad
Snack: 2 oz. chicken, 1/2 avocado
Dinner: Crock Pot Pork Loin with Veggies

Crock Pot Pork Loin with Veggies
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3 lb. lean pork loin
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 + cups sliced zucchini
4 cups chopped cauliflower florets
1 Tbsp. basil
1 Tbsp. Oregano
Dash of pepper

Place all the ingredients into a crock pot, cover, and cook on low for 6-7 hours.  Serve warm and enjoy!  This recipe will definitely make enough for leftovers to be used later on during the week.

Source: Adapted from The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet