Cheers to a New Year!

It’s always exciting to look back and reflect on our year as it comes to a close. 2014 followed one of our most exciting years, the one where we got married. This year was full of travel (both work and pleasure), weddings for dear friends, new challenges, exciting moments (buying a house), my husband finishing grad school and of course, our first year of marriage. Tomorrow we’ll go through our “Good Things jar” and reminisce on the year and our best times! Here’s a quick recap:

Year in Review 2014-2

A few things not mentioned:

  • I wrote three articles that were published in Charlotte Happenings, a local magazine through the Charlotte Regional Visitor’s Authority (CRVA)
  • My husband finished his Master’s degree through Northeastern University (we’ll be heading to Boston to celebrate in 2015)
  • I was offered a teaching job at a community college for Communication courses (due to work travel I couldn’t swing it this year, but maybe in the future)
  • I only ran two races this year, but spent almost all of my Wednesday nights this summer at NoDa Brewing’s run club with my (new) girlfriends
  • I started a book club with some really awesome girls that I look forward to seeing each month
  • We saw some really awesome concerts
  • We watched the Hokies beat UNC and Duke
  • We grew a really awesome garden with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers and herbs (AND A LEMON TREE!)

Some of our favorite trips were to Ponte Vedra Beach, Ocean Isle, Annapolis, St. Martin and Chicago. We also loved our trips to Boston but we were too busy frolicking around and eating that I apparently forgot to document us being there!

We fostered some really awesome dogs this year (and only fell in love with one of them!). I also began managing the Twitter feed for a local rescue group and have grown our following. Fostering saves lives like the ones above. It’s a great way to help out if you’re not sure you want to adopt. If you can’t foster, helping out at adoption events on the weekends or transporting dogs are both great ways to help out.

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I’m beyond grateful for our sweet friend, Sarah, who took our anniversary photos for us. And I’m even more grateful for this guy and everything he did to make this year amazing. 2014 was another wonderful year and I’m looking forward to all that 2015 brings. Off to ring it in with some fun friends and my favorite husband! Wishing you a happy and healthy 2015!

Guy Day Friday [Protein Energy Bites]

Have I mentioned that our stove has been broken for more than 2 weeks now? It’s terrible. We’ve used our griddle and crock pot for meals but seriously, there is SO MUCH you need a stove for! My husband is likely getting tired of me telling him we should just forget the warranty company and go buy a new one (I REALLY WANT TO BE ABLE TO USE A STOVE!). Anyway, I made these delicious protein energy bites to travel with us for the holidays and since they’re no-bake, it worked out perfectly.

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Ingredients: 

1 c. quick oats (I actually used steel cut)
2 TBS chia seeds (PACKED WITH PROTEIN!)
1 TBS flax seeds
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips (or dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, raisins, craisins, almonds, walnuts)
2/3 c. coconut flakes
2/3 c. peanut butter (I used crunchy! Almond butter would also be good!)
1/3 c. honey (or agave nectar!)
1 tsp. vanilla

Optional:

1 TBS protein powder

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Directions: 

Mix all ingredients in same bowl until combined well (I used my hands but a wooden spoon would work too)

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Put in refrigerator for 30 minutes until mixture cools/hardens a bit

Roll out into 1 inch balls  on wax paper

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Should make 20-25 balls per batch. Keep refrigerated. Good for up to 5 days (I doubt they’ll last that long after you try the first one! SOOOO good!).

Let me know if you try other ingredients, I’d love to know what flavor combinations you come up with!

Pumpkin Everything

With the arrival of Fall this month, I immediately starting craving all things pumpkin (except for Starbucks’ PSL, I know, go ahead and hate me). It’s easy to crave comfort foods in the Fall, especially as the weather gets cooler and we want to be full and warm. So trying to be conscious of that, I’ll share my favorite pumpkin recipes and then some healthy recipes to offset some of the unhealthiness of those.

First, (since I love dessert so much), 3-ingredient pumpkin cookies. They claim these are “low fat” but I wouldn’t overindulge. They are quick and easy and great if you need to take something to a holiday party or work function.

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Next, pumpkin chocolate chip bars. These are heaven in your mouth. I won’t make any low-fat claims, but I will tell you how amazing they are. They will be devoured wherever you take them. That is, if you can get them out of the house; my husband wants to eat them all the second I make them.

Pumpkin Stew is another favorite. You make it and serve it right in the pumpkin, which will surely wow your guests (or kids). This one takes a little longer to make but will be well worth it. It’s a hearty meal, too. Make sure to scoop out some pumpkin with each serving to give everyone a little more of the pumpkin flavor.

For breakfast, I’d serve pumpkin pancakes, maybe with chocolate chips or caramel drizzle on the weekends but plain maple syrup will do the trick, too. You can’t go wrong with maple syrup. Oh and bonus? These are gluten-free (enjoy, Christina!).

Lastly, pumpkin chili, because everyone loves chili in the colder months. You add in black beans and garbanzo beans to make this recipe delicious, but we’ve always been fans of having 4-5 kinds of beans in our chili, so I say the more the merrier. This is a vegetarian recipe, but you could certainly add meat if you wanted. I would probably recommend ground turkey.

Now, looking for a few healthier fall meals and side dishes? These will be loved by your friends and family, so start cooking!

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Potato & Green Lentil Salad, a vegan side that’s actually pretty easy to throw together. I used baby red potatoes, but as the recipe says, you can really use whatever you prefer. Since it’s vegan, there’s no mayo which is a plus in my book! I loved the mustard-y flavor of this dish and that it was served warm, and not as gooey as traditional potato salads.

Vegetarian stuffed Greek peppers are not just colorful, but also flavorful. You can put so much goodness in one of these babies and even customize it for each person. Another favorite is this quinoa stuffed portabellos. I made these for dinner one night and was surprised at how full I got! I even had extras for lunch the next day.

15247_10100998721121973_1725917825394690934_nSince being a (mostly) vegetarian this month, I’ve eaten a lot of fish. Couldn’t cut seafood out of my diet, too! This roasted salmon and brussels sprouts recipe is perfect for fall. Brussels sprouts are definitely one of my favorite veggies to have for dinner – especially in the fall!

Lastly, I love this easy recipe for rolled oats turkey meatballs. I would suggest mixing in 1 TBSP of an organic (low sodium) tomato sauce to give them a little more flavor, especially if you’re not planning to use for spaghetti and meatballs. I ate mine as the meat for my meal, with a side of veggies. Usually 3-4 meatballs fills me up. You’ll want to play around with the recipe the first few times you try it.  *You’re supposed to stay under 2300 mg of sodium/day. Be aware of how much is in the packaged or canned food you’re eating. When possible, go with unprocessed foods!

I’d love to hear your favorite fall or pumpkin flavored foods – please leave a comment with a link to the recipe. Always looking for new ones to try! Speaking of, I’m dying to try this white bean, kale and sausage recipe I found on Pinterest! It will have to wait until October though, I’m finishing out September strong with vegetarian meals.

Healthy & Happy

Ever noticed how you drag after a weekend of eating fried food and indulging in a few more alcoholic beverages than you normally do? I certainly do, and I’m the first to notice when I’ve gained even a single pound. Eating healthy takes more work and lots of self-discipline, but isn’t it worth it to look and feel better? I’m committing to making the change and fueling my body with what it needs to run (literally), and getting rid of the “bad” stuff. This does not mean that I actually think the wings and barbeque I had from Mac’s yesterday (yes, I had both) were bad, but they certainly aren’t the definition of clean eating.

I spent time with family yesterday after dropping my husband off at the airport and didn’t make it to the grocery store. I am planning to go this afternoon and I’m including my shopping list (Clean Eating Groceries) for you – and a meal plan for the rest of the week.

So far today, I’ve had two over-easy eggs and 1/2 of an avocado and a salad with grilled chicken, tomatoes, corn, black beans, onions and cilantro with lemon slices for the dressing. For dinner, I’m having left over ribs (thanks, Shelly & Doug) with sautéed garlic spinach and mushrooms. Since I plan on working out after work, I have a banana that I’ll have for a snack this afternoon. The grocery list is made based on what’s currently in my refrigerator and pantry, you’ll want to check your own before heading out to shop.

Here’s the rest of the week’s meal plan:

Tuesday
Breakfast: Oatmeal (if you need a recipe)
Lunch: Quinoa Salad (save the leftovers)
Snack: Apple
Dinner: Vegetable & Bean Soup (save the leftovers)

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Egg & Spinach Cup
Lunch: Vegetable & Bean Soup
Snack: Banana
Dinner: Skillet Chicken & Quinoa

Thursday:
Breakfast: Protein Shake w/ Coconut Milk
Lunch: Quinoa Salad
Snack: handful of almonds
Dinner: Herby French Lentil Salad

Friday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Vegetable & Bean Soup
Snack: Banana
Dinner: Grilled chicken /spinach / broccolini

Most of it is pretty self-explanatory and I’ve included recipes for those items that require more effort. If you’re not a fan of plain oatmeal, try the overnight oats recipe that I included. You’ll need a crock pot, ramekins and some time for most of these items, but it will be worth it at the end of the week when you’re already seeing a difference. Instead of waiting until after next weekend, or until the beginning of a new month (or year), why not start now?

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