Let the Christmas Season Begin!

I love this season. Like love. I love it so much that I definitely “started” the season two weeks ago. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, if you follow me on Instagram (if you do, THANK YOU! If not, get on it :)! ), then you’ve seen some of the decorations hubs and I have going on this year. I thought I’d share them on here, along with two quick and easy tutorials for super simple (and super cheap!) Christmas decorations. I’ve (hopefully) got a healthy banana bread recipe and spicy peanut noddle recipe coming at ya later this evening!

I love lights. Obviously.

I love lights. Obviously.

I LOVE this nativity set. It's the first major Christmas decoration we bought together. It's from Kohl's and it is definitely my favorite!

I LOVE this nativity set. It’s the first major Christmas decoration we bought together. It’s from Kohl’s and it is definitely my favorite!

Our Christmas tree! We decorated with burlap, red and white ornaments, and a few ornaments that were either gifts or important to us from our childhoods.

Our Christmas tree! We decorated with burlap, red and white ornaments, and a few ornaments that were either gifts or important to us from our childhoods.

Our dining room.

Our dining room.

Alright, quick tutorial number one is the set of boards above the buffet table. They were seriously so easy and so unbelievably cheap. I found this on Pinterest.

  • I cut a large foam board in half (I believe the foam board is from Target)
  • I picked out that super adorable Christmas tree fabric from Hancocks. I ordered 2 yards because it was on sale, but had tons left over. I’m thinking about making pillows ūüôā
  • I used a hot glue gun to glue the fabric to one side of the board. Pull it taught so it looks nice and clean.
  • I also glued white yarn in a loop on the top to hang it.

Ta-da. I know. Easy. I glued the fabric edges to the back of the boards so there wouldn’t be any “glue bumps” in the front. You could use this to display Christmas cards, or just as a simple and cheap decoration.

Super fabulous "snow candles"

Super fabulous “snow candles”

And tutorial numero dos. I call these snow candles. I know. Original. 

  • From the Dollar Store, I bought 4 glass “globe-like” containers, 4 tea candle holders, and 4 tea candles.
  • I had plain old epsom salt on hand, but you can find it at Kroger, Walmart…Really, wherever you shop you will probably find epsom.
  • I poured some epsom salt in each globe, and nestled and tea candle holder in each.
  • I put a tea candle in each holder that was “nestled in snow.” When lit, they glow! It’s so simple, but so beautiful.

 

And now, I leave you with this…

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Because there is NOTHING cuter than a chihuahua in a make shift Christmas bow tie.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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When this blog reaches 100 followers, I am going to have a sweet giveaway to celebrate!

 

Motivational Monday: Surviving the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us! I am way pumped. Today, I’m working on some DIY Christmas decorations. I will post those a little later.

Besides the decorations, family time, and chilly temperatures, the season also brings about TONS of food. The temptation of eating sweets, seconds, and thirds is at an all-time high for the next month and a half. But don’t worry! My handy guide will help you stay on track and maybe even lose a couple pounds this season!

  1. Follow the two seconds rule.¬†I always make just one “main pass” of all the foods, and get APPROPRIATE PORTION SIZES of what I want. When I’m done, I wait about fifteen minutes before deciding if I want seconds. If I do, I choose my two favorite dishes and get small portions of those. After the two seconds, I’m done!
  2. Eat dessert¬†if you so choose. Some people aren’t dessert people. I am a dessert person! I love pies, cookies, cakes, whatever. I get small portions of desserts I won’t get any other time of year. Cookies? They pop up often. Pecan pie? Not so often. And as far as seconds, you really don’t need that second slice!
  3. Talk to people.¬†Food should not be your focus on any holiday. Get away from the table and away from the food and talk to your friends and family! Keep the conversations away from food and you won’t have anything to mindlessly eat.
  4. But if your family congregates in the kitchen… Like mine does, drink some water or chew some gum until meal time. If you really can’t resist munching, then set out some healthy appetizers, like a fruit and veggie tray, to keep you out of unhealthy things.
  5. Stay active. While it may tempting to sprawl out on the couch after a big meal, try taking a walk or playing Frisbee or throwing a football outside. Being active will help move digestion along, which will eliminate any awful bloaty (made up word alert!) feelings of being too full.
  6. When it comes to alcohol, moderation is key.¬†As is how your “non-holiday” drinking should go. Nobody wants to see you drunk dancing to “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree.” Watch your liquor, and sip on water in between drinks to keep you from getting dehydrated or too crazy.
  7. Drink calories totally count, too.¬†This goes for alcohol, tea, pop, etc. Really, your best bet is water. I trade off usually between a glass of sweet tea and a glass of water. It keeps me from drinking too much tea. And while I do enjoy a glass of wine or two throughout the season, I make sure I set my glass down in between sips so I don’t drink too fast!

 

What are some holiday survival tips you have? Share in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

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Crockpot Salsa Chicken Tacos

After this post, I am FINALLY caught up on posting recipes! Yay! Took me long enough…

Anyway, last night I made some EXCELLENT chicken soft tacos. And I mean “hubs didn’t talk through the meal because his mouth was full” excellent. Probably the best part (for me at least) was that this chicken cooked all day without me having to mess with it. YAY CROCKPOT. All I had to do was shred the chicken before serving, and that was easy because this chicken was SO TENDER. It practically fell apart on its own.

A simple "sauce" made from three ingredients makes this chicken so unbelievably delicious.

A simple “sauce” made from three ingredients makes this chicken so unbelievably delicious.

Not much to look at right now, but just wait 6-8 hours...

Not much to look at right now, but just wait 6-8 hours…

How cute is this crockpot? I'm owl obsessed. And it is perfect for smaller crockpot recipes.

How cute is this crockpot? I’m owl obsessed. And it is perfect for smaller crockpot recipes.

Oh yeah. Delicious taco filling.

Oh yeah. Delicious taco filling.

Um, YUM. So good. And so easy! You PROBABLY maybe have everything you need for this recipe already! All it takes is chicken, cream of chicken soup, salsa, and taco seasoning. I make my own taco seasoning so I can adjust the flavors.

Taco Seasoning

These are all rough measurements, of course. Unless I’m baking, I rarely actually measure out the seasonings.

Mix the following up in a small tupperware container (I’m talking the tiny squares):

  • 1 rounded tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • dash of salt and pepper

Crockpot Salsa Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 thin and frozen chicken breasts
  • 1 c. salsa (I use Pace)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (I use Healthy Request)
  • 1+ tbsp taco seasoning

Method:

Mix the salsa, seasoning, and soup together in a bowl.

Place the frozen chicken breasts on the bottom of the crockpot. Spread the salsa mixture over the chicken.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. I put this in about 11 am and got it out about 6:30 ish.

Shred the chicken with a fork and stir back into the sauce.

This chicken would be totally excellent in tortilla soup, or in a soft taco (which is what I did!)

Yum! With a little cheese, lettuce, and hot sauce!

Yum! With a little cheese, lettuce, and hot sauce!

West African Peanut Soup

I am so excited to share this soup recipe, I can hardly stand it. This is a vegan soup that is so unbelievably comforting and simple to make. It takes about 40 minutes from start to finish, and 35 of those are “love it and leave it” minutes. The recipe makes four total servings, and each serving is less than 400 calories. It’s a little high in calories for a soup, but it is packed with good stuff so it evens out! If you want to cut fat, you can use reduced fat peanut butter. I prefer the full fat because it makes it a bit creamier. I just adjusted my fat intake for the rest of the day to make up for it.

This West African Peanut Soup recipe is adapted from Cookie and Kate. I adjusted just a couple of things for my taste preferences–and what I had on hand-so feel free to adjust!

 

 

Delicious veggie broth. Choose low sodium so YOU can control the salt.

Delicious veggie broth. Choose low sodium so YOU can control the salt.

Red onion, garlic cloves, and ginger make this soup spicy and fragrant. Adjust the amount based on your preferences.

Red onion, garlic cloves, and ginger make this soup spicy and fragrant. Adjust the amount based on your preferences.

20 minutes later, you get this flavorful base for the soup.

20 minutes later, you get this flavorful base for the soup.

Oh man. After the peanut butter mixture is added.

Oh man. After the peanut butter mixture is added.

Oh yeah. I KNOW you want to know how to make this now. So without further ado…..

West African Peanut Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 c. kale, chopped
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • Sriracha to taste

Method:

In a medium stock pot, bring the veggie broth to a boil. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Combine the tomato paste and peanut butter in a heat-safe bowl. Add/ladle a couple of cups of the hot broth to the bowl, and whisk together until smooth. Add the peanut mixture back to the stock pot. Add the chopped kale and sriracha to your taste. Let simmer for another 15 minutes.

You can serve this delicious soup over brown rice (like hubs requested) or with some garlic naan (like I did!).

I mean....Delicious.

I mean….Delicious.

 

Easy, right? What are your favorite comforting soup recipes? Let me know below!

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Penne alla Calabria

I am KILLING it with posts today! I’m proud of myself. Now, I’ve got a delicious and healthy pasta recipe for you. This is adapted from my Healthy Cooking for Two cookbook hubs got me for our anniversary. You can purchase it here!

It’s loaded with veggies, protein (41 grams!), and omega-3’s from tuna.

I had no idea what Calabria was/meant. So I googled. And apparently it is a region in Italy. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

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I LOVE this pasta. It’s my new favorite. You get a serving of veggies in with the pasta! It’s like killing two nutritional birds with one stone.

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Nobody is ever mad about broccoli. At least I’m not…

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Woop woop. Everything delicious in this world.

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It’s definitely not the prettiest pasta you’ll ever eat, but it is SO GOOD.

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It looks prettier with cheese on top. As does, like, everything.

Penne alla Calabria

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. uncooked penne pasta (I love the veggie versions)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 c. frozen broccoli florets (gotta love the convenience!)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cans chunk light tuna, drained
  • Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese for topping

Method:

Cook penne pasta according to package directions, but omit the salt. The tuna is salty enough, so you don’t really need to add any extra in.

Meanwhile, sautee the broccoli over medium heat with the olive oil until tender. I have to overcook the broccoli a little so my braces don’t break off. Haha.

Once broccoli is tender, add in garlic and canned tomatoes.

Add in drained tuna. Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until bubbling and hot.

Drain pasta really well (no soggy dishes here!) and dump it into a large bowl. Add in the tuna mixture and gently toss until combined. Transfer to a serving bowl (you get 2 HUGE servings out of this!) and top with some parm if desired. Enjoy!

Each serving is under 600 calories, under 15 grams of fat, and has more than 40 grams of protein.

Comments? Questions? Let me know below! 

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Motivational Monday: Overcoming the Dreaded Plateau

Happy Monday! Again…. ūüôā

 

I figured that for this Motivational Monday, I’d discuss something I am going through currently. A doggone plateau.

If you’ve embarked on¬†any fitness journey, whether it has been to lose weight or to gain muscle, you probably have experienced this. If you’re like me, you struggle with breaking out of them. Plateaus are annoying for a number of reasons. Besides the fact that a plateau means your body is no longer changing, you have to deal with the¬†emotional and¬†confidence hits. When I hit a plateau, I get this terrible idea in my mind that I’m doing something wrong and that I have failed at my health goals. I get discouraged, and may even fall off of and ignore my healthy lifestyle for a while. That, of course, is going to knock me off of my plateau, but not in the way I want!

I’ve been sitting at the same weight for a few weeks now. A couple weeks ago, I (finally) added in exercise. Nothing. Happened. Hello, plateau.

I’ve been researching a bit this morning, and found articles about plateaus on WebMD, Jillian Michaels, and Fitness Magazine. The original articles are linked. After reading through all the articles, I picked a few tips that I’m going to try over the next few weeks. Even if you haven’t hit a plateau, try them with me! Maybe they will open your eyes to some new tips you hadn’t thought of before.

  1. Pay attention to what you’re consuming.¬†Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to watch what goes in my mouth. Am I actually snacking more than I think I am? Are my portions out of whack again? I’m going to start measuring out my portions again to see if this could be the culprit for my plateau.
  2. Vanity Pounds?¬†I thought this was interesting. Jillian Michael’s wrote about “vanity pounds” in her article. Jillian says vanity pounds are in the double digits- 10, 15, 20 pounds. Basically, trying to lose weight at the “end” of a weight loss journey. For example, I need to make more drastic changes to continue my progress. At 153 pounds, I can’t do what I did when I was 183 pounds. That 30 pounds less of weight means that I’m burning¬†less calories with the same type of exercise. Basically, “moderate” exercise isn’t going to cut it any more. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to step up my workout regimen.
  3. Set a goal out of your current ability.¬†The Fitness magazine article discussed a woman who couldn’t get below 150, so she signed up for a marathon. She couldn’t complete the marathon, so she found better ways to train. Turns out, she was not running efficiently! She was using up energy on shrugging shoulders, etc., which it made it more difficult to burn more calories and to actually finish the marathon. A friend of mine has been talking about running a Mudderella, so I’m going to make that a goal and start training.
  4. Are you cutting back too much? Am I depriving myself of nutrients I need? Am I getting enough fat or carbs? Over the next few weeks, I am going to record what I eat and enter it into a nutrition calculator, just to make sure.
  5. Am I being consistent?¬†Am I really working out as much as I think? Am I really eating healthy as frequently as I think? Along with recording what I eat, I’m going to record my workouts.

 

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be asking myself these questions and following the tips. Join me!

Do you have any tips or tricks for getting out of a weight loss plateau? Are you dealing with a plateau right now? Let me know in the comments below!

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Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

Happy Monday! I’ve got a Motivational Monday post coming your way later on this morning/afternoon! But first, I’ve got a super simple, super delicious side dish for you!

I¬†love mashed potatoes. Like, love. What I don’t love are the carbs. Occasionally, I will splurge and will have mashed potatoes, but usually I make mashed cauliflower. The texture is a little different, but the taste is so similar, I hardly notice.

This mashed cauliflower dish has my favorite flavor-Garlic! This side dish is garlic-y, creamy, and just plain delish.

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

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(I’m trying out a new, easier to read format for my recipes)

Ingredients:

  • Package of pre-cut cauliflower florets (4 ish cups)
  • 6 tbsp 1/3 fat cream cheese (more or less depending on your preferences)
  • 1 c. fat free chicken stock (again, more or less depending on your preferences)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves (more or less)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Place florets in a medium sauce pan; add water to cover by about an inch.
  2. Bring to a boil. Boil about 10-15 minutes until the florets are super soft.
  3. Drain; place cauliflower in a large, microwave safe bowl.
  4. Add in the cream cheese, stock, crushed garlic cloves, and salt and pepper. This is all to your preference. Add stuff in until you like how it tastes!
  5. I use a potato mashed to mash everything together, but if you want your dish to be smoother, feel free to use a hand mixer or food processor.

This makes about 4 servings, and comes in at under 80 calories and 6 carbs a serving.

 

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