Ginger Peach Orzo Salad & Chili Citrus Marinated Tofu

Tofu, Really? Yes.

I’m not trying to shout it from the rooftops or anything, but I am currently eating a vegan diet. No Need to be Scared. This does not mean I will try to make You live this way. I will certainly still be preparing Non-Vegan meals for my husband and children, which means I will still be sharing those recipes with you as well. So, No Worries!

Now that we got that bit out of the way, on to this magnificent summer salad.

Ginger Peach Orzo Salad

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3 cups cooked orzo pasta, chilled

1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated

Juice from 1/2 orange (approx. 2 Tbsp), plus some zest

1 tsp olive or coconut oil

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 medium peach, chopped

1/4 cup chopped green onion

2 large kale leaves with stem removed, rubbed/massaged & finely chopped

Salt & Pepper to Taste

*Mix all ingredients in bowl and serve chilled


I paired this wonderful salad with some awesome tofu and oven roasted vegetables, while my family enjoyed it with turkey meatballs. It would compliment any protein really, I believe. Just in case you are interested in the Tofu, I will share the marinade recipe.

Chili Citrus Tofu

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1 package extra firm Tofu, drained and pressed well, then sliced into four “fillets”

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce

Juice and zest from 1/2 medium orange

*Place Tofu in container and pour marinade over the top, making sure all pieces get coated well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Cook on electric grill or skillet until desired dryness/crispiness is reached.

There you have it, a perfect meal for a hot summer evening.

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Confessions of a “Wanna Be” Blogger

I’ve been Slacking. Big Time.

Why is this so hard for me?!

Its not like I don’t have anything to say. Anyone who knows me, knows that I ALWAYS have something to say about anything and everything. So why is it, that every time I go to write a new post, I sit and stare at the computer screen. The white background and the little black courser blinking at me, taunting me.

What do I write? What do I say? Will it be sad? Will it be funny? Will people understand it?Will people find it engaging? Is it important? Is it relevant? What am I doing?

***SLAMS COMPUTER SHUT***

It has become quite the ritual.

Time to Face the music. If I want to do this, then I need to quit avoiding it and put some effort in. Consider this post my renewed commitment! Not only to the blog, but also to my dreams and goals. Expect to see a new post up WEEKLY. If I get behind again, please someone come kick me.

 

Motivation

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How do I stay so Motivated all of the Time? I get asked that question a lot, and most of the time I don’t know how to answer. So I awkwardly respond by saying, “I don’t know, I just do I guess”.

I suppose my Motivation comes from different places and changes quite often, depending on my experience. I find it in all sorts of places, people, and things, books, movies, news articles, overheard conversations and observations of interactions. I will hear something or see something that just sparks something in me to go make a change within myself or someone else. Every person that crosses my path is an opportunity to spread awareness and information, and they too have something valuable to offer me in return. I try to stay really open minded so I don’t miss out on even the smallest opportunity to learn something new.

I do have to say that I find it Very Motivational to have people reach out to me in regards to Health & Fitness. Like, Who am I? I haven’t done anything spectacular, yet someone else chooses to come to me seeking advice and motivation for their own journey. That is pretty special to me.

I would also have to say that my motivation sometimes comes from a different place, a darker place, inside of myself. The Fear of returning to where I once was. That is scary to me. Not just because of how unhealthy my physical body was, but because of how unhealthy my Soul was.

Even still, I don’t always easily stay Motivated.
I don’t think about the gym 24/7, all excited to get there and be sweaty. I don’t always have a smile on my face when I reach for a stalk of celery instead of a bag of Doritos when I’m craving a crunchy snack. I am human too. I have plenty of days where the last thing I want to do is worry about food and exercise. I am however making a conscious effort, Every Single Day, to direct my actions and thoughts towards being better than before. Sometimes that simply means just smiling more today than I did yesterday. “Healthy” to me, is not a single dimensional thing. It is not just an outward expression of how my body works or looks. I am striving for a multidimensional health. A kind of whole, all-encompassing, well-being that involves a daily improvement in the way I Act, Think, Feel, and Express myself; Physically, Mentally, Spiritually, and even Environmentally.

Motivation to be better doesn’t just fall from the sky and land in my Heart. I have to Search for it, I have to Work for for it, and Sometimes I just have to Make it up from scratch.

We all have the seeds of Motivation, Inspiration, Dedication, and Will-Power deep inside ourselves.
You just have to be brave enough to not only find it, but to also Use it.
No one else can do that for you.

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Did Somebody say Cheesecake?!

Yes, Yes I did. In fact, it’s Raw, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Could be-Vegan, Paleo, Cheesecake! Need I say More? Probably not, but I will.

This was a first for me, and  I loved how they turned out. They even passed the kid, husband, and neighbor approval test, so I consider this a Huge Win. They do take a some preparation and a little chunk of time, but well worth it trust me.

I did three different flavor variations using what I had on hand, but the possibilities are Endless really.

Raw Cashew Cheesecake

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Coconut Kiwi Lime, Raspberry Blueberry, & Chocolate Mint

Ingredients

Crust:

1 cup pitted medjool dates, soaked in hot water to soften

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup pecans

Filling:

1 and 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 6 hours & drained

3/4 cup coconut cream

2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup honey (use maple syrup or agave to make Vegan)

3-4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 cup water

Flavors:

Berry- 1/2 cup fresh raspberries and blueberries, smashed lightly

Choc- 2 tsp cacao powder, 1/2 tsp peppermint extract, 1 Tbsp mini choc chips or cacao nibs

Coconut Kiwi- 1 kiwi peeled and chopped, juice and zest from 1 lime, 1 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes

Here’s what you do:

For crust,  process nuts until fine then slowly add dates until a sticky crumbly mixture forms. Press into spring-form pan, tart pan, or even muffin tin. Set in fridge or freezer to firm while you prepare the rest.

For the filling, place soaked cashews, coconut cream, coconut oil, honey, lemon juice and vanilla into Blender and combine until smooth. Add water by the teaspoonful if needed to help combine. Divide into 3 separate bowls (or however many flavors you decide to do).

Take 1/2 of your divided filling and spread over the crust. Add Flavor ingredients to remaining filling mixture and spread on top.

You can garnish with extra toppings, I added fresh mint to the chocolate for fun. Place in Freezer to set for at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, allow it to sit at room temp for a few minutes before slicing. Store covered in freezer for up to a week.

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No-Bake Mocha Cappuccino Brownies

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Ummm, so these are amazing. Just putting that out there right now. I put all of my love for coffee and chocolate into a bowl and this is what came out if it. Pure Heaven. That’s right, Heaven. For those of you who don’t like coffee, get rid of that frowny face, because you can simply leave that part out and still have an amazing little piece of chocolatey heaven. Win for everyone! The only problem I had, is wanting to eat the entire thing.

Ingredients:

10 Dates (soaked for 15 min in hot water, drained)

5 Figs (Or use 15 dates, I just had some figs that needed to be used up!)

2 Tbsp coconut flour

2 Tbsp cacao powder

2 tsp instant dark roast coffee

1 Tbsp crushed cacao nibs or mini choc chips

2 Tbsp Almond Butter

1 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp Almond Milk

Pinch of Sea Salt

What to do:

In food processor, add Dates/figs, almond butter, and honey; combine until a thick smooth paste forms.

In separate bowl, mix together coconut flour, cacao powder, salt, coffee, and cacao nibs.

Add Date mixture and almond milk to bowl and combine very well until a firm ball of dough forms.

Press dough firmly into a small pan/dish lined with plastic wrap (I used a small bread pan).

Place in Freezer for 20 minutes to firm.

Cut into bite-sized squares and Enjoy!

Recipe Party

Okay, so I’ve been slacking on the recipe train, but I’m about to make it up to you with this post! Not a whole lot of interesting things to say, just a couple recipes I want to share.

Omelet Stuffed Peppers

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These are so easy and they are tassstyy! I originally set out to make omelet-muffins (which is essentially the same recipe, just poured straight into the muffin pan, and baked for less time) but I had a couple bell peppers in the fridge that I needed to use up before they went bad. You can make a big batch of these ahead of time and reheat them in the morning for a quick bite, perfect for when you’re in a rush. You could sub any veggies to fit your liking, I just used what I had on hand. You can also add in meat like bacon or ham if you want!

Ingredients:

3 bell peppers, cut in half and seeded

4 whole eggs

1/2 cup egg whites

1-2 handfuls chopped spinach

1 handful chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped green onion

1/2 cup salsa

Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder

What to do:

Preheat oven to 375

Place pepper halves on cookie sheet, or like I did, on a muffin pan (It helped balance the peppers)

Scramble up egg and veggie mixture in a bowl, then pour into peppers, filling them 3/4 the way full

Bake 30-40 minutes, until eggs are cooked through

If you want, you can also sprinkle some shredded cheese on top when they have about 5 minutes left.


Peanut Butter Protein Truffles (or just peanut butter balls if you’re not into fancy titles)

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Ingredients:

Chocolate shell

1/2 cup dark choc chips

OR

3 Tbsp coconut oil melted with 3 Tbsp cacao powder & 2 tsp coconut sugar

Filling

4 Tbsp natural creamy peanut butter

1 scoop protein powder (OR use 1 Tbsp coconut flour with 1 Tbsp cacao powder-you may have to add more water if using this sub, because coconut flour soaks up a lot of moisture)

2 Tbsp powdered peanut butter

2 Tbsp cold water

What to do:

In bowl, mix all filling ingredients together until a sticky batter/paste forms, set in freezer for a few minutes to harden.

Roll filling into quarter sized balls and place on a cookie sheet or plate, lined with wax paper, place back into freezer to keep firm.

While balls are in freezer, get your chocolate all melty and smooth.

One at a time, dip balls into melted chocolate, making sure they are completely covered, place back on wax paper. Once all balls are coated in chocolate, place them back into the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Enjoy immediately, or place in airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

*Makes 8-12 depending on the size*


Coconut-Sesame Pork/Chicken Skewers w/ Cilantro Lime Grilled Pineapple

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Perfect Combo for an evening bbq. We served this with rice, it was a perfect refreshing meal on a warm day.

Skewers:

4 boneless pork chops OR 3 boneless chicken breasts, Cubed

2 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut

1/4 cup chopped green onion

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 Tbsp sesame oil

Salt&Pepper

*Mix all ingredients in bowl, add meat coating evenly.

Cover and let marinate in fridge for at least 60 minutes. I like to marinate overnight but lets face it, sometimes you just don’t plan ahead!

Thread meat onto skewers (if using wooden sticks, make sure you soak them to prevent burning)

Cook on Grill, rotating on all sides, until cooked through. About 10-15 minutes should do it.

Pineapple:

1 whole pineapple, cut into wedges or slices

1 handful cilantro, bruised and minced

Juice from 1 lime, plus some zest

2-3 tablespoons honey

Fresh cracked Pepper

(Add some red pepper flakes or cayenne for a fiery punch!)

*In a bowl, mix cilantro, honey, lime, and pepper. Brush mixture evenly onto pineapple wedges, and cook on grill for a few minutes on each side, be careful not to burn.

Eating Healthy is too Expensive!

Is it really? No, but I hear it over and over. It infuriates me. Only because I know that it is a Huge Huge Lie that I believed myself for too long.

I used that excuse for years, until I chose to hold myself accountable for my choices. I do admit, when you go to the fast food drive thru, a salad and bottle of water is more than double the price of a double cheeseburger and large soda, but the thing of it is… No One is forcing you to go there. That choice is on you.

When you cook at home, you are in control of what goes into your food, and ultimately what goes in your mouth, not to mention into your children’s mouths. If you can afford to buy potato chips and pudding packs, then you can afford to buy some fruits and veggies. Seriously. You can spend $30 on a family meal from kfc but you cant spend $20 at the grocery store for the same types of food plus more? Sure you can, but it requires more Effort. That is what it really comes down to. Instead of saying it is too expensive to eat healthy,  how about you say that you are too lazy to eat healthy, and see how ridiculous you sound and feel.

This here is an example of typical Dinner for our family:

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Grilled chicken breast, spaghetti squash, wild rice, and asparagus w/mushrooms

Not fancy, not time consuming, not expensive, but absolutely delicious and full of nutrition. The only thing that was packaged/processed was the rice. I believe we had watermelon for dessert with this dinner. It took me all but 20 minutes to prepare and easily cost less than $15 for 4 people, plus leftovers for lunch the next day for my husband and I.

I take part in a food co-op called bountifulbaskets.org, which is amazing by the way. That is where I get the majority of my produce for two weeks and then I shop around the weekly sales at the grocery store for our other items. I see what I can get a good deal on, then plan my weekly meals around what I have for the week. Its not hard, it just takes a little more time and energy, but honestly not that much. If you have the time to watch TV and play on social media, then you have time.

Stop Making Excuses, and Start making Efforts.

I workout too

Judging by all of my posts so far, it seems I like to cook, eat, and talk. Which is very true but I also exercise, I promise. I figure, since I am trying to set an example for other women as how to live a healthy/healthier life, I better show the other (sweatier) part of the equation too.

It is my goal to get a good workout in 5 times a week, only because that is what feels good to me and it fits my personal schedule. This week for example: Monday morning I felt like moving my tushie so I did a little walk/jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes. That evening I went to the gym and did a 45 minute shoulder strength training session along with 10 minutes of rowing. Yesterday evening I went to the gym and did a leg workout (I will share below). Again this morning I felt chipper and hopped on the stationary bike for 20 minutes. I might hit the gym tonight for some chest, bicep, and tricep action. Tomorrow will be a rest day. I have a weekly “schedule” for my workouts written down on my calendar. I don’t strictly abide by it, but it helps me get organized and stay on track for the week. It also helps make sure I plan in rest between muscle groups. Plans change and things come up, so I am flexible and fit my workouts in around my life, not the other way around. Exercising is a positive thing in my life. I enjoy it. I like to look at as a reward, not a punishment.

Work them Leggies & Glutes!

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Warm up: (I like to get my blood flowing and muscles warm and ready!)

5 minute brisk walk on treadmill or elliptical

1 minute walking Lunges

20 body weight squats

Workout:

Cable kickbacks 4 sets 15 reps each leg

Cable side leg raises 3 sets 10 reps each leg

Cable high knee raises 4 sets 20 reps each leg

Single Leg Extensions (machine)  4 sets 1o reps each leg

Weighted Squats 4 sets 10 reps

Glute Bridge with Hamstring Curl 4 sets 15-20 reps

Step Ups with High knee raises (with dumbbells) 4 sets 20 reps each leg

Burn Baby Burn!

I never do “cardio”  right after Ive done a leg workout because well, my legs are jello, haha. Although I do like to cycle out (light effort) on the stationary bike for 10 minutes after I work my legs, it seems to help loosen my legs up and reduces stiffness and soreness later on. I also stretch and foam roll when possible.

*The weight you use will depend on your fitness and comfort level. It should be heavy enough that is challenging; you should struggle getting through your last set, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that you compromise your form. You risk injury that way. If you are just starting out, start lighter until you master the form and your body feels comfortable with the move, then shift your focus on upping the weights.

(Now Remember, I am not a certified professional trainer. I am merely sharing what I do/have done, I am not proposing that this workout or anything else I say or do will be the best idea for you and your situation. Do your research.)

 

Not-so-Healthy dose of Competition

We all have different goals. For some, its seeing the number on the scale going down every week, getting skinnier for the wedding, fitting into a smaller size jeans, wearing the bikini from your honeymoon, or possibly to get on stage in a sparkly bikini with a fake orange tan to be judged by strangers on nothing more than your physical appearance, etc. There is no shame in wanting those things. I was there myself.

The problem: the extreme measures taken to get there, are Not Healthy. The endless cardio, calorie restriction, carb depletion, chemical filled/processed supplements, artificial sweeteners, calorie free/fat free/sugar free crap, all of it, not one bit of it was good for my body or my soul. Sure, it rendered Results! At what cost though?

I backed out of competing due a to spinal condition which was putting me in a large amount of physical pain and was restricting my ability to strength-train. At first the plan was to postpone my show until I healed, but after a couple of weeks I understood that I would Not heal if I continued on that path. I did not realize how unhealthy/unhappy I had become in the previous 16 weeks until I had stepped away from it all for a while. I had no idea of the damage I was causing myself. I was paying a high price and my body had an interesting way of opening my eyes to it.

My Goal all along has been to be Healthy, Strong, and Happy. During my time prepping, I was not any of those three. Tell you what I was: I was skinny. I weighed 10 pounds less than I do now. I had abs without flexing. My love handles were smaller. My legs were leaner. Whats so wrong with that right? I was weak. I couldn’t progress with my training or increase the weights because I just didn’t have the strength. I called myself disciplined, but honestly I just became obsessed. I was exhausted. I couldn’t run, I felt too lightheaded and dizzy. My muscles were defined, but they were small and depleted. I was moody, stressed and distracted all of the time. I was constantly told that I was “skinny”. I was constantly defending and justifying it. “This is just what you have to do if you want to be a successful Competitor.” I no longer dream of stepping on stage. I dream of having my life be my stage and having everyday be a chance, a new opportunity to showcase my health, my strength, and my endurance.

I don’t judge or turn my nose at those who choose to compete. I just hope that they are going into it with their eyes wide open, and their minds full of information. I wish I would have known to ask myself some questions before jumping in head first.

You really want to feel hungry and deprived All of the Time? You really want to spend 3 hours in the gym daily instead of spending quality time with your loved ones? You really want to wake up at 4:oo am to do fasted cardio? You really want to eat tilapia and asparagus Every Single Day?  Do You really want to bring a tupperware full of cold food with you wherever you go? You really want to be afraid to go anywhere because you might be tempted with food that you are prohibited to eat? You really want to be exhausted and moody all of the time and require copious amounts of caffeine to keep your energy levels up? You really want to eat mustard on Everything? You really want to put splenda on everything? You really want to have a “cheat meal” every Saturday and eat so much your belly protrudes and you have to vomit to get some relief?  You really willing to deplete your water and food intake for an entire week leading up to the big day? You really want to binge out on endless amounts of junk for the following weekend then watch the number on the scale skyrocket and see your body balloon up twice its size?

Well, if you aren’t willing to pay the price, then you don’t deserve the Prize, right!?

WRONG.

There is another way. A healthier, safer, happier way. It is taking hold, even in the world of competing. People are catching on to the crazy idea of real health being just as important as “looking good”.

Sure, it might take you longer, but the results that come along with are also long term. There is still a cost, nothing is free. Time and Patience are pretty costly these days and those are what you’ll need most of. Change will not happen overnight. You must be willing to disregard everything you’ve ever heard, seen, read and believed about weight-loss and living a healthy lifestyle. You must change whats in your brain and in your heart before the rest of your body will follow and you must believe in your ability to do so. It’s not a Diet. It’s not a Program. It doesn’t come in a Package. There is no timeline or end-date. There is no Big Day, or Bikini Season. It’s a way of LIFE. Commit to making small daily changes, and overtime, they add up to life-long changes. Before you know it, you wont have to even think about it; it will happen effortlessly.

Looking back, I don’t regret my choice or the experience. It taught me things that I don’t think I would have learned otherwise. It has given me the ability to share with others and help shine a light on a not so hot topic. It took traveling the wrong path for a little while, to find the right one. Life does that sometimes.

 

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

My daughter like to watch a show on Netflix called D.C. Cupcakes. It inspires her to make her own cupcakes and other creations. She has a dream to open up her own bakery when she grows up. She tells me, “I like to watch ‘making shows’ and they put me in a ‘making mood’. Haha. Mostly she just makes big messes, but shes 6 and trying to express herself so I just grit my teeth and try to stay back. Something I struggled with in the past, and still often do, has been allowing my children to be independent and take hold of their own reins. Over the last year, I have made a conscious daily effort to give them space to be themselves and to not get so worked up over little things. Needless to say, I am less stressed, and they have flourished. I’m not talking about letting them get away with murder, I’m just letting them decide who and what they want to be and do, within practical boundaries of course. Now, sometimes my little girl goes to school with a crazy lopsided pony-tail with a big chunk of hair hanging out the side,wearing a leopard skirt and a tie-dye poncho with sneakers; but hey, she is confident and proud because she put it together herself. I don’t have to like it, but I try to respect it, as it makes her happy and is doing absolutely no harm to herself or others. They most often surprise me by the choices they make on their own without me hovering, which makes me feel good. I might be doing a better job at living as an example for them than I previously realized. Win for Mom. I’m rambling again, oops! I’ll get to the point.

Yesterday morning she was in her ‘making mood’ so we decided to make something (edible) together, and do pancakes for breakfast. We found our inspiration from a can of pumpkin. I understand that it is not Fall/Thanksgiving time, but my obsession for Pumpkin is a year round deal! These turned out so moist and creamy inside that we couldn’t help but feel like we were eating pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

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Ingredients:

1/3 cup almond milk (soy/rice/dairy will work also)

1 egg

2 Tbsp water

4 Tbsp pure pumpkin

2/3 cup oat flour

1 Tbsp raw coconut sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

Couple shakes of ground clove & ginger

Pinch sea salt

What to do:

Blend/Mix all ingredients well

Pour onto hot skillet, cook on each side til golden

Serve with warm maple syrup and sprinkle of ground cinnamon

*Makes 6-8 pancakes, depending on how big you make them.