Saturday, January 31, 2015

Meal Plan, Shopping Trip, Recipes and ideas!

I shared the pictures of my grocery shopping trip this morning and had a couple of requests for my plan for the week. I spent $99, and this should last us 10 days.  I do have a few things on hand, like frozen chicken breasts and ground beef that I will be using as well.  

Here's what I bought!

3lbs Red Grapes
4 Apples
2lb bag of Lemons
1 Lime
1 Grapefruit

Grape Tomatoes
Romaine Hearts
Trio of colored peppers
Green Leaf Lettuce

Refrigerated Section:
Sharp Cheese
Yogurt for Russ
Greek Yogurt for me
Sour Cream
Almond Milk
Boiled eggs
(Yes, I buy them already boiled and peeled.  Judge me if you must, but it's a huge time saver.  Not to mention I have not been able to easily peel eggs here in Florida, it's always a struggle and I end up with more wasted egg than anything.)

Whole Wheat Flour
Pam Spray
Cream of Tartar
Condensed Milk x 2
Applesauce Cups (I use them for baking.  One is just shy of 1/2c)
Taco Seasoning (I need to make up another batch of my own!)

1lb Turkey Breast
Hershey Kisses for Russ
Dried Cranberries
Frozen Chicken Strips
Alfredo Sauce
(These last 3 are because Zach came home unexpectedly for the day and I needed something quick to make him for dinner!)

This is my meal plan for the week.  Please ignore how messy it is, I didn't realize I'd be sharing it when I made it!  Russ's is on the back side, it's similar to mine with a few changes based on our personal likes.  We both always have a Complete Shake for breakfast, and the days Russ works at JSO we will also have a Shake for dinner.  He doesn't get home until almost 7pm and neither of us like eating that late.  I work from 6am-2pm so I have my shake while I'm getting the kids breakfast, then I always eat 2 boiled eggs around 9 and sometimes a yogurt.  After the kids are fed at 11:30 I eat my lunch.  Then I eat a snack around 3 and we have dinner when Russ gets home at either 5:30 or 7pm.  I am a creature of habit and can eat the same things everyday for weeks without getting tired of it!

I tend to make things on the weekend that I can take to work throughout the day for my lunch.  This weekend I am making Chicken-Sprouts Casserole but I am altering it quite a bit to bring the calories down.  I am also making the Broccoli, Bacon & Blueberry Salad* that we love.  I have 1 steak in the freezer that I will cook and slice up to put on top of our salad Monday night. Tuesday night we are having Verde Chicken Soup*.  Friday night will be leftovers, and Saturday we will be in Daytona visiting Zach at College for Family Weekend.  Wed & Thursday nights we'll have a Shake.

The things I planned for our snacks this week are:
A variety of raw veggies w/ Hummus (homemade)
Turkey/Lettuce Wraps
Cucumber/Tomato/Onion Salad

I also made these Chocolate Muffins for Russ for a treat, cause I'm nice like that :)

And I made these M&M Chocolate Oat Bars for Zach to take back to school with him.  I know, I know... you're all wondering what's up with me today because I hate to bake!  

 Here are the recipes for the above mentioned meals:

Broccoli, Bacon and Blueberry Salad
10 slices of bacon cooked and chopped into bite sized pieces (I use turkey bacon)
2lbs fresh broccoli (2-3 large crowns) rinsed well and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2c fresh blueberries
1c mayo (I use 1/2c mayo and 1/2c Greek yogurt)
4 Tbsp sunflower seeds
half of a red onion, diced (too much for me, I use 1/4 c)

Mix all together and let sit for a few hours before eating.

And the soup...

I hope this helps those of you that asked me for ideas, or how I plan our menu's and my shopping trip!  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Becoming healthier rocks!

Hello my friends!  Today I want to share a story with you. I want to tell you about something that I have been involved with since October.  After just a few months I am convinced enough about how amazing it is, and how amazing I feel that I feel comfortable sharing it with you all.  Actually comfortable isn't the word - I want to shout it to all of you from the top of a mountain!  Please take a few minutes to read my story :)

You all know that I have been on a mission to get healthier for over a year now, almost 2 at this point.  I feel very passionately about processed foods, and how bad they are for us.  As much as I love my Doritos and still eat them from time to time, I am well aware that they are just a chemical shit storm in a bag :(   It's been a long and sometimes painstaking process, but you will find very little processed foods in our home.  What you will find are a lot of mason jars filled with things like almonds, dried beans, different flours (white, wheat, coconut, almond, etc), brown rice, quinoa, shredded get the idea.  Our refrigerator has a lot of veggies and some fruit, eggs, cheese, almond milk, some condiments, wine lol....  Is this ideal for everyone?  Absolutely not.  All of our situations are different.  In my case, I have no kids left at home - sad face - and I love to be in my kitchen cooking, so not only do I have a lot of time to do this, but I also enjoy it as well.  Really though, once you get started it gets easier and easier.  And if you decide to start cutting the processed foods out of your and your family's diet - I will be happy to help you as much as I can. I have done so much research into foods, and so much experimenting with different recipes - I have an arsenal of awesome ideas!

Back to my story, I get sidetracked so easily once I get started on the horrors of all the chemicals in our food!

I started very slowly making changes, because I knew this was a lifestyle change for me.  It wasn't some crazy diet, some phase I was going through, or anything else I was accused of by people who thought I was nuts or just jumping on the latest food trend bandwagon.  I started increasing the whole foods in our diets while decreasing the processed stuff.  I gave up my precious Diet Pepsi.  That took 3 different tries!!  That was the hardest thing I have done on this journey, hands down.  And now, I don't even miss it.  As a matter of fact I tried one a few weeks ago at a restaurant and after 3 sips I asked for a glass of water.  It tasted horrible.  If only Doritos would magically taste horrible!

So, last summer I was watching my friend Jessie post day after day on facebook about something she had started doing and was having amazing results with.  It spiked my curiosity and in October I decided to try it for myself.  That something was Juice Plus Complete Shakes.  This shake mix is amazing, it's full of healthy protein, not chalky or gritty and it tastes delicious. Best of all it DOESN'T contain chemicals, it's a natural whole food based shake mix. It's gluten free, dairy free, and vegan friendly. This video explains it better than I could write it, please take 2 minutes to watch it! The Complete Solution
In addition to the shake mix the Juice Plus company also has capsules and chewable gummies for your children that contain over 20 fruits and vegetable in each one.  I am just starting to venture into the capsules, and if you have children you can get the gummies for them for FREE.

What has this done for me personally, and why do I feel like I want to share it with everyone I know?  Let me tell you!

*More energy.  I have been drinking a green smoothie for breakfast since January of last year.  Almond milk, spinach, a scoop of protein powder and some frozen fruit.  When I got the shake mix I added a scoop of it to my smoothie and oh my goodness, the chocolate shake mix with frozen banana - DELICIOUS!  I felt like I was drinking a milkshake for breakfast.  I noticed within a week that I had A LOT more energy.  I stopped using my protein powder in my smoothies, mainly to save calories and because I was getting more protein out of the shake mix than I was the actual protein powder!

*I was sleeping better.  I have a fitbit flex that measures your sleep as well as your steps.  I started noticing that I was no longer waking up in the night, and according to my fitbit I had many less episodes of "restlessness" as well.  I was waking up feeling refreshed again instead of still tired.

*My fingernails started growing again, and were stronger.  Due to my job I can't keep fingernails at all, they always break.  Now they actually grow and if I could just quit biting them I may have a shot at having nice nails!

*No afternoon slump.  I used to need a 3pm cup of coffee to make it through the evening. I no longer felt that slump or decrease in energy and once I realized I was still drinking it out of habit I stopped.

*My mind was clearer.  You know that foggy brain, I can't remember anything feeling. Yeah, it was gone.

*I lost weight.  Yes, just by drinking a Complete Shake in the morning and changing little else, I lost 15lbs between the beginning of October and the end of November.  My friend Jessie I mentioned - she has lost around 70lbs thanks to these shakes.  I contribute it to the fact that my body is being nourished on the inside, getting what it needs to function properly and beginning to heal its self from the damage of years of eating and drinking like crap.  And - I was more active thanks to all the extra energy I had.  I started taking walks and just doing more around the house because I wasn't tired all the time.  

Overall, I just felt better.  Mentally and physically, I was noticing changes.  Great changes!!

And then the Holidays hit.   I knew I was going to be eating stuff I normally wouldn't, but I thought I was far enough a long in this journey that I wouldn't go too crazy.  Boy was I wrong.  It didn't help that I was unemployed for 5 weeks during this time, so I had nothing to do but cook and bake and yes, eat.  Old habits can creep back up so easily!!  I was out of my routine, so I quit drinking my shakes, I rarely left the house since I had no reason to, I started eating bad carbs and sugar - things I had cut out of my diet months ago.  And man, did I ever feel like crap. I was sleeping like crap, I was starting to feel depressed and anxious again all the time. For 3 weeks I kept telling Russ I was going through menopause because I was having horrible hot flashes.  He'd be freezing on the couch because I'd turned the AC up, and I'd be sitting there next to him sweating and fanning myself with a magazine. It was awful.

One day shortly after Christmas I noticed something.  I ate something sweet and immediately the hot flashes started.  Hmmmm.  Got over that one and a few hours later I ate something sweet again.  Sure enough, I started with the hot flashes again.  I still wasn't convinced so I did it again the next day and it happened again.  I realized just how unhealthy I had become again in such a short period.  The new year was approaching and I decided it was time to get back on track. The next morning I got on the scale and was upset, but not surprised to see that I gained back every one of the 15lbs I has lost.  Let's get something straight - I am not interested in being skinny.  I have been skinny before, it was nice to have clothes fit me better but even though I was skinny I was NOT heatlhy.  Not at all.  I want to be healthy, and if skinny is a side effect of that then great, but it is not my main goal!!!

Now, here is the main reason why I am convinced that these shakes are my secret weapon.  At the beginning of the year I started them back up again.  I still wasn't eating totally healthy, but I had to start somewhere.  Almost immediately I noticed a change.  I went from feeling semi depressed, anxious and sluggish to feeling alert, having energy and just feeling better in a matter of days.  It was ridiculous how much better I felt after a week.  And it's not just me - I started making Russ the shakes again as well and he noticed a change also.  Here's just some of what I noticed:

*More energy
*No brain fog
*My anxiety is gone
*3pm slump is gone again
*I am more active
*My sleep is back on track. 
*My hair feels healthy again.  I no longer need a ton of leave in conditioner to get a brush through it.  And it doesn't seize up like wet barbie doll hair in the shower anymore :)
*Feeling better makes me want to eat better so we have gotten back on track with our healthy food.  We threw away the junk left from the holidays and restocked the healthy snacks.

Are you ready for the kicker?  Those of you who really know me are probably going to fall right out of your chairs.  Last week I GAVE UP COFFEE.  Yes folks, you read that right. If Dunkin Donuts goes out of business I am sorry, but I broke my coffee addiction.  I no longer need an IV of caffeine to get through my days.  So while America may be running on Dunkin, I no longer am.  You know that awful headache that goes along with caffeine withdrawal?  Me too, as I have kicked caffeine in the past and it was awful.  Ummm, not this time.  I had a slight headache for a couple of day but it was nothing like the pounding ones I had in the past.  I am truly amazed at the ways these shakes have changed so many aspects my daily life.  And Russ is as well!

I am going to wrap this up because I know its gotten long, and if you are still reading - Thank You! I will be signing up to be a rep with this company soon, and Russ and I are going to start with the capsules as soon as I do. As well as getting Zach the free gummies since he is still in school - awesome right?!  If you have any questions at all please ask me!  I am in NO way going to pressure anyone to order anything, I just really want to share the info because I think everyone can benefit from better nutrition in their lives. I am more than willing to talk to you about it and answer any of your questions to see if it's a good fit for you and your life, and if it's something you'd like to try I'll be in a position to help you.  I have a secret Facebook group as well, if you'd like to be added to that to get more info and see what everyone is saying about it let me know. Once I am up and running I will be offering free samples from time to time so you can try it before you buy it if you'd like.  I have done the research and if I didn't believe it truly is a great product you know I wouldn't be using it - much less telling anyone else about it. I am really excited about being a part of something so wonderful, so beneficial, and sooooo good for ME!

I'll leave you with this..... Testimonial by Dr. William Sears

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cauliflower anyone?

I'll be the first to admit that I used to think cauliflower was boring. It's bland, its colorless, really it's just kind of.... boring.  However, the fact that it's a mild, bland, rather tasteless vegetable can be a good thing.  You can use it is so many dishes to up your veggie intake! Almost everyone knows it makes great fake mashed potatoes if you're low carbing it.  I'm not, but I still like them.  It makes a yummy pizza crust if done right - again a low carb thing.  I personally like it steamed with some salt and pepper - plain and simple. 

I found a recipe online (that wasn't much of a recipe really, more a picture and some brief directions) and since Russ is working late tonight I decided to experiment and try it out.  It doesn't look pretty, but it does taste good!

It was simple. Boil a large pot of water that has salt and some smoked paprika in it.  Pull the leaves off the bottom of the head of cauliflower (I cut some of the core out too).  Boil the entire head of cauliflower for about 10 minutes or until it's almost done. Take it out and let it drain for and few minutes to get some of the water out.  Place cauliflower in an oven proof dish and sprinkle with more paprika.  Now for the fun part.  Drape 5 or 6 slices of ham over the cauliflower, and then slices of swiss cheese over the ham. Put in the oven at 350° until the cheese starts to bubble.  Take it out, slice and eat!  This whole process took less than a half hour.  I don't like mushy vegetables, so I boiled it for about 8 minutes, baked it for another 8, then turned on the broiler just enough to brown the cheese a little. Also, cooking times will depend on how big or small your head of cauliflower is.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Small Things, Big Difference

Small Things, Big Difference
. This has been the topic of a couple of Pastor Ben's sermons lately and it has really struck a chord with me.  We all want everything now, immediate gratification, no waiting.  We look at the big picture and it looks overwhelming so we don't even try. Or we try to do everything all at once and its too much, so we give up.  In my own life, I KNOW I am guilty of this in many instances. 

I decided a month ago that after the holidays were over I was going to get my healthy journey back on track.  I'd fallen way off, hadn't seen the gym in weeks, was eating like crap and as a result I felt like crap.  I was tired, grumpy, my stomach hurt all the time and worst of all - I got REALLY sick.  I know you all remember my "Oh Lord, I'm dying" FB posts =/  I don't think it was a coincidence that I got so sick at a time when I was treating my body so badly.  And I think it was just as much a result of what I was putting INTO my body as it was what I WASN'T putting into it. I was back to not eating breakfast, snacking on junk and living on coffee.  Gone were the fruits and veggies I had been eating for the past 3 months, gone was my morning lemon water, and most of all gone were my morning shakes with my Juice Plus :(  I was doing a serious disservice to myself, and the worst thing was I knew it.  But I justified it because it was the holidays, and I'd been being so good.  I'd lost 15lbs after all.  I knew what to do to get back on track so it was ok, right?  WRONG!  

I stepped on the scale the Saturday after Christmas and was so angry with myself. Between Thanksgiving and New Years I gained back the 15lbs I had lost.  That Sunday we went to church as usual and it was like a light bulb went off in my head when Pastor Ben was talking.  It really is the Small things that make the Big differences.  "It's often the small things that no one sees that result in the big things that everyone wants".  How true is this?  We hear of someone getting a promotion at work, but don't realize how hard they worked for it.  We see someone with their happy family, but have no clue of the daily struggles they face.  Everyone else's victories always seem so easy compared to ours.  We don't realize that these people don't just get things handed to them, we just see them getting or having the things we want.

Back to my point here.  My point is this - I am going to focus on the small things that are going to get me to where I want to be a year from now.  And I am going to focus on them one at a time, not all at once.  I need to lose the 70lbs I have gained over the last 5 years.  I want to be healthy again.  I want to be able to run again, and to feel good and to maybe get rid of the CPAP machine again.  I'm not interested in being skinny, I love myself now and my husband loves me so that isn't even a factor. I want to be HEALTHY and I want to feel good.  Looking better in my clothes is just a bonus ;-)  

I read this today - 

And suddenly, my 70lbs doesn't seem so bad.  Using that formula it averages out to 1.5lbs a week, rounding up.  That is so doable.  Its 6 lbs a month.  I have a list of things I have been trying to do over the past year, some of them have become a habit but some are still a struggle.  We have quit eating processed foods and for the most part sugar is no longer a part of our diet.  We drink our shakes in the morning with our Juice Plus.  Those things are easy.  The things I struggle with are the consistent exercise, the alcoholic beverages we enjoy too often, logging my food, and getting enough protein.  I have made a list of these "Small Things" and am going to pick one each Sunday to focus on during the coming week.  I need to get back into an exercise routine, so this week that is the small thing I am focusing on.  I will still be aware of trying to eat more protein, logging my food, drinking water, etc... but my main focus is going to be getting that 30 minutes of exercise in each day.  

Something else I am doing is trying to make Jacksonville feel more like home to me, and to do that I need to be happier here.  I am taking small steps to do that.  The main thing is trying to find the joy in my days. I bought a journal and am writing in it each night, highlighting the good things about my day,  It's a small thing, but it's working.

Whatever you are trying to do within your own life, break it down into the small things.  It will become easier, and eventually will lead to big differences in your life.  It's only been 3 weeks for me, and the small things I am doing to find my Joy everyday has already made a huge difference in my life.  Change your thoughts and you can change your mindset - I promise!!

"Be careful with your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words and your words become your actions."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Salvaged Day

I spent the majority of my day today feeling unsettled, restless and anxious.  It started yesterday afternoon really, and came from out of nowhere.  I went to bed last night and couldn't sleep.  Had a lot on my mind and ended up being awake until almost 12:30 this morning. Not good when I get up between 4:45 and 5 for work every day.  I woke up still tired, which only made my anxiety worse.  Stopped and got a coffee with a shot of espresso on my way to work, because let's be honest here - I'll use any excuse to stop for coffee ;-) 

For those of you who don't suffer from anxiety issues, you have no idea how overwhelming it can be.  Some of you know exactly what I am talking about, the urge to give up and just go to bed, pull the covers over your head and hide from the world.  Or cry.  I am a crier when the anxiety takes over.  I'll cry over anything.  Like dropping a spoon on the floor at work. Wash it and move on right??  Sure, all the while fighting back tears and wondering why nothing can ever go right - because you dropped a spoon.  It may seem dramatic or like overkill, but some days it's my reality. 

I got home from work, happy because Russ was off this afternoon and while we had no plans I was just happy to be home with him.  I have this way of faking happy to try and hide my anxiety from people, but Russ sees right through it.  Today was no different.  I've been wanting to get my haircut for a while, so he suggested we go to the mall so I could get my haircut and he could wander around (really he was looking for a video game I've been wanting :) ).

So our afternoon/evening went like this:

The mall - where I cut 4" off my hair and Russ didn't find my video game he was trying to surprise me with. (This was a blessing in disguise.  My addictive personality + video games = a very unproductive me!) 

Longhorns Steakhouse - because I mentioned I was hungry for steak. We both enjoyed an adult beverage, yummy steaks, baked potatoes and salad, and relaxing conversation.

The Lifeway store - I've been looking for signs to hang up to remind us of our words and verses for the year, thought they may have some sort of Joy and Peace signs there but we didn't find either. We did find a few other things so it was a productive trip.

Target - the hunt for the signs continued, to no avail.

A.C. Moore - do I really need a reason??  LOL. It's in the same plaza as Lifeway and Target and I had a coupon - how could I  not go?!  Found some more stuff for the Project Life books I am going to start working on soon, so yay. 

Russ wanted ice cream, so a trip through the DQ drive through for him was our last stop for the night. 

It was on our way home that I noticed my anxiety was gone.  The tightness in my chest was gone. I felt like me again.  I love how my husband just gets me.  He knows my moods, how not in control of my own thoughts I sometimes feel, and how feeling overwhelmed can sometimes just feel like its swallowing me whole. He also knows how frustrating this can be for me.  Without me even realizing what he was doing, he "fixed" me.  I'm not even entirely sure he realizes that he does this. That he has this calming effect on me, even when he isn't trying to.  I think tonight he was just trying to distract me. And let's face it, I mentioned steak - like he was going to let that go lol. ((I can cook just about anything but I have yet to master steaks, so I very rarely attempt cooking them at home.))

Tonight I am laying in bed feeling like myself again, thanks to this amazing man who is snoring softly next to me.  I'm not far behind him,  not sure how I've stayed awake this long honestly.  Probably because I knew I wanted to write about this day, because I want to remember it.  And also so that tomorrow when Russ gets a notification that I have posted another entry to my blog, he will come here and read this. He will read that I know just how lucky I am to be laying here next to him, to be spending my life with a man who loves me beyond comprehension, and that I am grateful for him and appreciative of him and everything he does for me.  I thank God every day for giving me this man to share the journey through this life with me. There's no one else I'd rather be riding this crazy train with.  Russ, I love you more!!

Monday, January 12, 2015

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail...

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  I don't know where I heard that years ago, but it has always stuck with me.  If we don't have healthy stuff on hand to pack for our lunches, we end up eating crap.  I normally spend a part of my Sunday doing some food prep for a couple of reasons.  The main one being so we have healthy lunch options, and the other is because I hate rushing in the mornings (and I like my sleep, so getting up earlier isn't an option!)  Russ and I both get up at 5 (if not earlier) and we both leave the house by 5:45.  In that 45 minutes I have to get dressed (I shower at night), brush my teeth, put on some make-up, make my lemon water drink that I start my day with, make my cup of coffee that I bring to work, make both of our green smoothies and pack both of our lunches.  Yeah, I am kinda like superwoman!!  Having our lunch options ready to go saves me a lot of time. I keep everything in a big bowl in the fridge - grab a few things out for each of us, make Russ a wrap of some sort and that's that.  No rushing around, no running late, no anxiety issues - makes for a much happier ME every day (and probably Russ too because he doesn't have to listen to me freak out LOL).  I did some of this food prep yesterday, and finished the rest up after work today.

Zucchini, Yellow Squash, and Baby Carrots

I pretty much love roasted vegetables.  They just taste so much better when they are roasted compared to any other cooking method, in my opinion!  And what could be easier?  Cut up your veggies however you like, toss in a large bowl with a splash of your oil of choice (I am a fan of olive or coconut oil), add whatever seasoning you want, cook at 350 for about 20 minutes - or until they are done to your liking.  Viola, deliciousness!  I usually just use some salt and pepper, and I like my veggies still crunchy so 20 minutes is good for me.

I don't even know what to call this!

My good friend Joi gave me this recipe a couple weeks ago, and I thought she was crazy until I tried it.  I've made it twice since then!  I will have to see if she minds if I share it with all of you and post it one of these days.  I just call it the Broccoli, Bacon and Blueberry Salad!

Pickles and Boiled Eggs

Not sure when I developed a love of boiled eggs, but these have become a staple in my lunch bag.  They're my mid-morning snack.  Every Sunday I boil 18 eggs, peel them and package them up for us.  I packaged up some pickles for us this week also for something different.  

Celery and Apples 

We've had these Jif To Go things for a while (like months, I actually checked the date on them to make sure they are still good!).  I forgot we had them, I usually just put some PB in small containers for Russ and almond butter in them for me. Goes well with celery sticks and/or apple slices!

Normally I make some sort of healthy(ish)  sweet thing to put in Russ's lunchbox, but we are still weeding out the unhealthy items that found their way into the pantry during the holidays so I didn't bother this weekend.  I have some flavored rice cakes in there that we grab, and other various snacky type foods.  String cheese and jello cups are staples in Russ's lunch box as well.

I enjoy being in my kitchen and I don't mind spending a few hours of my weekend doing all of this, because I know how much it benefits me.  I like knowing that I am packing us healthy lunches, and providing Russ and I with healthy snack options throughout the week. Almost equal to that, I like the fact that it saves me time in the mornings, and lets me start my day anxiety free!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Shredded Chicken Recipes

So much for the "I'll post recipes later today" comment I made in my last post The Wonders of Shredded Chicken, it's been a whole week!  I'm going to blame the Wii U.  I've been busy rescuing lost fairies in Mario 3D World and haven't had time to post.  But the house is quiet this morning, I am the only one up (Cassie and Grahm are here for the weekend) so I figured I'd take advantage of it and catch up here.

So now you have made a crock pot full of shredded chicken and don't know what to do with it?  Let me help you out with that.  Put some in a bowl, put some cheese on top and put in in the microwave.  Grab a fork and wait impatiently for the cheese to melt.  Now just eat it.  Seriously - I do.  What?  Don't judge me, it makes a yummy snack!

Some other simple ideas:
Put it on tossed salad
Add some onion and celery and whatever seasoning you like and make chicken salad.
Put it in wraps with lettuce and whatever else you like
Add it to soups
Chicken tacos!

A few recipe ideas:
I am just going to add links to some of my favorite recipes I have tried and we liked, rather than reposting the entire recipe.
Buffalo Chicken Wrap
Chicken Caesar Wrap
Chicken Barley Chili
White Chili - One of my favorite recipes ever.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Chicken Club Pasta Salad

I could go on and on posting recipes that you can use pre-cooked shredded chicken in, but those are just a few that I have actually made and we liked. You can substitute the shredded chicken in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken, it's pretty versatile.  So what are you waiting for - go cook something yummy!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Wonders of Shredded Chicken

My daughters are attempting to eat healthier, so this post is dedicated to them!  Marissa told me she needed to find things she can make in big batches to eat throughout the week, and also take to work for lunch.  Cassie has mentioned the same thing, packing healthy lunches can be a struggle. My first thought was shredded chicken.  Having pre-cooked, shredded chicken on hand can be a huge time saver in the kitchen, and if you find it one sale it can be kind to your grocery budget as well.

Some tips to start with:
*From everything I have looked up it seems 2lbs of raw boneless skinless chicken breasts = 3-4cups of cooked, shredded chicken.
*The easiest way to cook up all your chicken is in a crockpot.  Cook it all day while you're at work, come home and shred it.  Easy peasy.  From there you can either just leave it in a container in your fridge to use during the week or portion it out and freeze it.  Personally, I would leave out what I was going to use over the next 3 days maybe, and freeze the rest.  But that's just me.  I know it's fine for longer than that in the fridge once it's cooked, but I'm weird about stuff like that!
*The easiest way to shred up all your chicken in in your kitchen aid mixer, trust me on this!  Use the paddle attachment, turn it on low speed and it will shred in seconds.  I find doing 2-3 breasts at a time works best.  If you don't own a stand mixer you can use 2 forks and just shred it up.  Or a Pampered Chef Mix-N-Chop.  That's what I use here since I left my mixer in NY (lucky for you Marissa, now you can shred your chicken quickly!).
*If you plan on freezing some of your chicken make sure you have freezer bags on hand and a sharpie to label your bags!  (Daughter do not try and just put it in sandwich bags, you will end up with freezer burnt chicken and that is a sad, sad thing.)  Also on that note, make sure your chicken is cooled before you freeze it - don't put it in the freezer when it's hot.  That goes for any food, not just chicken.
*Know your crockpot.  The low setting on one of mine is like the high setting on the other one. Yes, I own more than one crockpot - don't judge me :p  The last thing you want is overcooked dry chicken.

So how do you go about cooking all these chicken breasts?  SIMPLE!  Get out your crockpot and put as many boneless, skinless breasts in there as you want. If you're using fresh chicken add about 1/2 cup of water.  If you use frozen you don't need the water as it will make it's own as it thaws.  And yes, you can put the frozen breasts in the crockpot, no need to thaw them first.  Now, most of you know I am a picky food person.  I would cut all visible fat and anything else off the breasts before adding them to the crockpot, but that's because it grosses me out.  Cook on low for about 8 hours.

You can add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, slice up a whole onion and add it - whatever you want.  Just remember if you plan on using this chicken in a variety of dishes you may want to skip the seasoning and add it when you cook your dishes.  I usually just add some salt, pepper and an onion for flavor.  If you are a person who needs a recipe to follow, this one will work.
Shredded Chicken

If you don't own a crockpot, get one!  For real.  You won't regret it - even if you only use to make shredded chicken.  No worries though, until you get one you can use this cooking method.  Stove Top Method  This way just requires more hands on time that the crockpot method.

Now that you have a lot of shredded chicken on hand, you can eat quickly and healthy throughout the week.  Who says "fast" food has to be bad for you?!!  Some of my favorite ways to use this are in tacos and burritos, in soups, and mixed into a tossed salad.  I must get ready for my day, which includes dragging Zach out of bed so we can go grocery shopping at 8:30 (wish me luck on that one, that boy does not like to wake up early!!  But he leaves for college again tomorrow and needs supplies, so... I think he'll get out of bed ok this morning.  I hope...)  I am going to church after that while he goes to play paintball. Since Russ is working today and Zach will be gone, I am hoping to get my crafty on this afternoon - I found a cool project to work on!

Stay tuned, my next post will be various recipes to use this shredded chicken in.  Maybe as soon as this afternoon since the ideas are flowing now!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Here I go again!

Hello again my friends!  I've taken a break from blogging, not because I really wanted to but because my old laptop just made it too frustrating.  I have a nice new Surface Pro 3 that I am in love with, and am happy to be able to get back to blogging about my adventures here in Jacksonville.  That's right folks - it's not going to be just food anymore.  I have too many interests to limit my blogging to food related things!  Now let's not get crazy, you all know me and you know that food is pretty much my life in one form or another - between what I do for a living (Cook in a daycare center), my side job (Pampered Chef), the fact that we ALL have to eat, and the fact that I just love food!  I love to cook and try new recipes, and I certainly love to eat ;-)  But, I also have other interests and will be writing about them from time to time as well.  

Like today. I am off to meet with a group of women who get together once a month at the local library to be crafty.  Some scrapbook, some make cards, some make home decor projects, some are like me and plan on doing something but sit there staring at what we brought wishing we'd of brought something else to work on!  Last month was the first time I joined them after finding the group on a few months ago, and I am looking forward to today.  I am in a monthly card swap with my "inner circle" of crafty friends, and plan on getting my cards for this month done today so I can mail them out next week. 

Also on my agenda for today is to come up with some meal plans for Marissa.  She is trying to be better about eating breakfast and packing her lunches for work and needs some ideas.  Lord knows I have those!  I also need to make a grocery list for our house and go shopping tomorrow.  Thinking I need a trip to the Farmers Market as well, since after cleaning out the fridge and getting rid of the "holiday" food - it's pretty darn bare in there.  Not sure when being out of Zucchini became a crisis, but I was having a hard time finding something to eat for breakfast because that's what I wanted and there are no fresh vegetables in the house :(  

This is what I ended up with (along with 2 boiled eggs).  It's usually more of a snack thing for me, or a "I need something sweet" treat, but today it was breakfast.  Rice cake (chocolate), almond butter, drizzle of honey, sliced banana and cinnamon.  Delicious!