Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Vegetable Frittata

My dad turned me on to making frittatas. It was a dish that he made many times over the years and every time it turns out a little different than the time before. Why? Because we usually just throw in whatever veggies happen to be on hand. So experiment and see what your favorite combination is!
Vegetable Frittata
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (I use flavored such as garlic or habanero flavored for a kick)
6 small baked red potatoes, diced
1 C fresh spinach
1 C chopped asparagus
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves (minced)
salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1/2 C Feta or shredded cheese of choice
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place onions, garlic, asparagus, and potatoes into the pan, sauté until lightly caramelized. Add in the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the spinach begins to wilt, about one to two minutes.
In a medium bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Pour into skillet over the vegetables. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for five to seven minutes, or until the eggs are firm. Top with cheese and let melt.

Another option would be to partially cook the egg and vegetable mixture on the stove, until egg retains a little liquid to it, and transfer into an oven safe dish (or cook in oven safe pan) and put in the oven at 350 degrees, cooking until eggs are fully cooked and the mixture has a lightly golden brown across the top.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stuffed Zucchini

My parents anniversary was coming up and we typically spend some time together on that day to celebrate what was the start of our often time crazy but always loving family. Since I was going to be out of town for both their anniversary and my birthday, I decided I would cook them dinner. I knew that no matter what I made, they would love the thought and effort behind it, but of course I wanted it to be delicious too! Both of my parents have nurtured my love of cooking and I always love being able to share the finished product with them.

So for this very special meal, I decided to go with a stuffed zucchini. I'd never made it before, but saw some recipes on Pinterest that looked very good. I blended a few things from different recipes and added some things of my own and was pleased with the results.



Ingredients:
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • Sm white onion chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 med red bell pepper diced
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 large zucchini
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1/4 C Italian style fine shredded cheese
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Heat grill to medium heat. Slice zucchini, stems on, in half length wise. Scoop out the centers, trying to keep in tact for use in the stuffing. Set aside. Lightly salt and pepper the zucchini halves and set aside and start making the stuffing.

Place a large pan over medium heat, add olive oil and warm. Add the onion, garlic, and red bell pepper, cooking until pepper is soft and onion is transparent. At this point, put the ground turkey into the pan and cook until no longer pink. Add salt, pepper, basil, and crushed fennel seed. Add zucchini and diced tomatoes. Let simmer until zucchini softens. Drain. In a mixing bowl, add meat and vegetable mixture with bread crumbs and cheese. Combine thoroughly.

Brush edges of zucchini halves with oil. Place halved zucchini on grill for about five minutes, or until softened and grill marks appear on zucchini. Remove and allow to cool slightly before stuffing. 

Stuff zucchini with mix and return to grill to warm through. Top lightly with cheese and allow to melt. Serve alone or with side of rice, quinoa, or side salad.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Twist on a Family Favorite ~ Zuppa Toscana

My boys love the Zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden... or at least the version of it their aunt makes. It was always one of my favorites as well. Cream soups laden with sausage and potato? Yum. I love dairy, but unfortunately it doesn't always love me back, so I often try to find ways to cut it out where I can. While I don't know how much the changes affected my soup in the nutritional data department, I do know that the flavor was fantastic and I had two boys who left the table with empty bowls which is always a good sign. So how did I make our version of the soup? Let's get down to the nitty gritty shall we?

The Boy's Zuppa

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 med fennel(anise) bulb, chopped
  • 1/2 med white onion, chopped
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Chardonnay
  • 1 lb chicken or turkey Hot Italian Sausage
  • 1 lb chicken or turkey Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 6 sm - med russet potatoes washed, skin on
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1-2 bunches of kale, cleaned and chopped 
  • 2 cups Unsweetened Almond Milk
Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Lower the heat and add the fennel, white onion, and garlic. Cook until transparent and starting to caramelize. Pour in the Chardonnay to de-glaze the pan. 

Add the Italian Sausage to the pan and cook thoroughly. Drain excess oil and any grease from the meat mixture. Return to pan. Add the potatoes, Italian seasoning, and chicken stock.


Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes become tender, careful not to over cook them. Skim off any excess grease from the surface of the soup. 


Add the chopped kale and the Almond milk. Return to a simmer. Allow to cook until the kale is wilted, about another 10 minutes. 


You are ready to serve! 


Doesn't that look delish? I have to be honest. It's not as creamy as the Zuppa Toscana that my sister introduced us to years ago, but it was still pleasing to our tummies and we left the table satisfied and smiling. If you give this recipe a try, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I am sure the wine addition isn't super healthy, but I love the flavor of wine in cooking. Happy eating, my friends!





Thursday, February 9, 2017

Not a Vegan...but

I am currently not a Vegan. However, I will say that after a day of watching some plant-based food and vegan documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., and Vegucated (to name a few)...I definitely saw the appeal to eating that way. I am not going to get all preachy. Everyone's dietary choices are their own. For me, I honestly do not know if I could ever go full Vegetarian or Vegan. In part because my father is such a master of the grill. However, I am on a journey to eat cleaner and eat more of a plant-based diet for my own personal health.

All that being said...I made a journey to the library. If you follow me/friend me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen a picture of my haul. I went a little nuts in the book department. I had help. One of the twins helped me locate various vegan and vegetarian cook books - a list of which I am going to share with you now.

The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions - this was a pick by my son. He found it on the shelf and in what I am convinced is an uncharacteristic gesture for a teenage boy, said 'this might be good for the stuff you already love to make'

The Naked Kitchen Veggie Burger Book - I love a good veggie burger and my dad and I have decided that we would go on a mission to seek out a good homemade veggie burger recipe. My sister follows a mostly vegetarian diet, so that started our mission. Now I am arming myself for the good fight...mostly because I am a sucker for a good burger and since I've come to adore some (not all) of the vegetarian options I've tried, I'm excited to try more.

Lust for Leaf - This just looked like a fun book and in the margins of each recipe is a beverage and music pairing. The foods are geared toward picnic, potluck, and party fare, which thoroughly excites me in a work environment when chips, fat laden dips, greasy foods, and desserts seem to be the main staples.

Crazy Sexy Diet - While this has a some recipes, I did not pick this one up for the recipe aspect of it or even the 'diet cleanse' aspect of it per se. In all actuality, I picked this up for the information nestled within it's pages. Lots of facts, medical info and insight, and a dose of personal sharing from the author who was diagnosed with an inoperable cancer at the age of 31.

Dirt Candy a Cookbook - One part cookbook mixed with one part graphic novel. This honestly, just looked entertaining and different, so I grabbed it. The recipes come from an upstart New York City vegetarian restaurant.

Last but not least (because this is by far my favorite pick)....

Thug Kitchen Party Grub - What can I say about this? It grabbed me because I'd seen a comment by someone online about the Thug Kitchen. Then I started glancing through the pages while standing at the library. It is full of cursing, so if you are sensitive to that, you may want to stay away. The recipes though, shared with a dose of humor like you were talking with your rough around the edges neighbor, are short of mouth watering. There are recipes here that I think I can even get my kids to eat without too much fuss. Recipes like Cinnamon Apricot French Toast and things I can't wait to try like Roasted Beet Hummus.

So there you have it. The mother-lode of plant-based/vegetarian/vegan cookbooks that I managed to bring home from the library. Can't wait to dig in and try some of the recipes. Do you have a favorite plant-based or Vegan chef you enjoy? Give a shout out. I'm looking for inspiration as I strive to incorporate more vegetables into our meals.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Chicken Italian Sausage and Vegetable Soup

There is something very comforting about having a pot of soup simmering on the stove. Even in Vegas, with our temperatures in the unbearable range during the majority of the year, I can't live without soup. When I'm having a rough day (or week) whipping up a batch of soup is usually just the therapy I need to bring me back to center...especially this weekend when one of my boys and I are fighting some sort of nastiness that seems to be going around. Because I am trying to opt for healthier options, I've substituted regular pork Italian Sausage for a ground Chicken Italian Sausage available at my local grocer and also opted for vegetable broth (sometimes I leave the sausage out all together. Give this a shot, let me know what alterations you made to the recipe, because sometimes one little change can make a great recipe even better!



Ingredients:
1 lb ground Chicken Hot Italian Sausage (You can use Mild if that is your preference)

1/2 bulb of Fennel sliced

3 – 4 stalks of celery

2 – 3 zucchini sliced into large pieces

2 – 3 yellow crook neck squash sliced into large pieces

1/2 medium white onion, chopped

3 large cloves of garlic minced

1 bell pepper chopped

1/2 head of cauliflower

2 – 3 handfuls of washed and trimmed spinach leaves

1 – 2 carrots (sliced or shredded)

Red or white wine (I know there are some die hard wine enthusiasts that will say you should use white since we are using a pork product and a chicken base, but I say go with what you feel like or have on hand)

5 – 6 cups of Vegetable broth (or enough to cover the vegetables) 

I Tbsp Italian Seasoning

1 – 2 Bay leaves

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot add the sliced fennel, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and the Italian Sausage. Cook on low, stirring frequently, allowing the vegetables to soften and the sausage to lose most of its pink, adding up to a 1/2 cup of wine to give added moisture and flavor, breaking apart the sausage with each stirring of ingredients. Once the sausage has cooked all the way through, add all the remaining vegetables to the pot, reserving the spinach for last. Add your seasoning (I usually omit the salt as I feel the sausage provides enough salt for my liking). Cover with broth and allow to simmer until the vegetables start to soften. Be careful not to over cook, unless you like mushy vegetables. Add the spinach and simmer until the leaves wilted. It is ready to serve!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Pity Party, Table for One...

Yes...it is happening. In full blown, let me throw myself on the floor and kick and scream about how unfair it is that I have no willpower. It has pulled an Elvis and left the building.

I have been really trying to stay positive, but I also promised myself that I would be real when I shared my journey. That means the good, the bad, and the ugly. I'm sure if you made it this far, you've probably guessed it...today is a sharing of the bad. This is where I have to hang my head in shame and tell you that my unintended cheat meal has stretched into two days. TWO DAYS!

It started with a sister day...and teriyaki pineapple chicken sliders with a side of fries. Then two candy bars that I practically inhaled...and some more candy bars today. Yes I am ashamed. Truly uncomfortable in my own skin and very disappointed in myself. On top of it all I feel like crap. I can truly see how my changes in diet and exercise have impacted the way I feel. I've had no migraines, no queasy, upset stomach. And my energy level has been a lot higher. With this little derailment, I am feeling it all!


I know. It's a new day...or rather, tomorrow is a new day. Yet a good portion of us have a hard time letting go of that guilt. Especially when we feel that our good intentions have gone so far south you can't even find the humor in it. If you are like me, I can't pinpoint what makes me derail. Sometimes it's emotions, sometimes it's boredom, and sometimes it's just a serious lack of willpower. This time it truly was the latter.

The worst part about it is....the vicious cycle that it seems to create. I eat crap food...and guess what? You got it...I feel like crap. And I beat myself up. And I eat more crap food because I decide to have myself a little pity party. This is where I am right now. In the midst of my pity party. But I promise, I'm about over it....until the next one comes along. For now, I think I need to go find some vegetables and soak up some of this sugar in my system that is making me feel super queasy. I knew the journey wasn't going to be easy. I didn't let my health go to shit overnight and I can't expect it to get better without a little hard work and sacrifice on my part. There will be slip ups...obviously...but they don't have to be the nail in the coffin. Stay strong my friends.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Celebrating Successes- Blood Pressure

My battle with my blood pressure has been going on for about 13 years. When I decided to start my journey to health this is an average depiction of what my blood pressure looked like (don't mind the date on the display - I can't figure out how to change it).



I started trying to dial things in. Change my eating. Make better choices. Found great support with some like-minded individuals. Trying to be honest in what I share and what my struggles are. And have made the commitment to being more active. Things that are not always easy for me.

Where am I at now? Let's be honest. I've been carrying around 'baby weight' for 13 years now. That is a long time to use the baby weight excuse. And it has literally taken me that long (and a family emergency) to make me realize that I was not that committed to my health and being here for my children. Sure I made small changes here and there, but I was lacking the motivation and drive, I'm sure I've said this before and it is started to sound old. But it really is about what motivates you. If you are not seriously locked in to your 'why'...if it is not personal to you and done for ONLY you...then the chances that you will stay committed long term begin to dwindle. Just my opinion. And after all the roller coasters I've gone on in this little journey, I have self-sabotaged and derailed my healthy train many times. Only over the course of the last month have I truly honed in on my why and it has created a snowball effect that is making a difference in everything else...including blood pressure. See?


Isn't this a lovely picture? Seeing those numbers and the little arrow in the green instead of the red is something I haven't seen in a long time. And it is a struggle to maintain it. I'm not perfect and neither are those numbers. So many things can change them (stress, food, drinks, my laziness...), but I am determined to get off medicine and control it myself. I am a work in progress. And so are you. Celebrate your accomplishments no matter how small, Revel in the feeling of seeing those little changes. And most importantly, don't beat yourself up when your healthy train gets a little de-railed.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Numbers ~ Accountability

It is all about being accountable to ones self. For your health, for your motivation, for your dedication to keep moving forward. So...as scary as it is, I am putting down my numbers here. I will be honest. I actually started taking this journey seriously about two months ago, so I will share my starting numbers and the numbers I took yesterday and today. So here goes....




Now, it is out there in the universe. The numbers are real. They are scary for a girl who fights blood pressure issues and has watched her entire family struggle with their own journeys to health and wellness. This is about more than looking good in a bikini. For me, this is a journey to being better. To being comfortable in my own skin. To be confident and comfortable in my body. To love what my body has been capable of and what it will be capable of for years to come. To learn to enjoy the journey and the food that fuels us so we can do all that we dream of. The time for this journey is long overdue and I am thankful everyday for the people who help lift me up, support me, encourage me, and most importantly...love me regardless of how I feel about myself.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Chasing Lemonade Defined

You may be wondering what the meaning is behind the name 'Chasing Lemonade', and why would anyone call their blog that....

Know that old saying? When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade? Well this is me, runninfrom the lemons and chasing the Lemonade. I'm a huge work in progress, which pretty much sums up my entire life. But more recently, I've been motivated to switch things up and do things a little differently in my life. I'm focusing more on me. Sounds selfish, sure, but we all need to focus on ourselves a bit. If we don't we aren't much good to others. Especially if that lack of focus leaves us run down, under nourished, and craving some mental clarity.

So this is me...a single-mom who is seeking out a better version of myself. In other words, I'm Chasing Lemonade.