Dairy-free and Delish Coffee Creamer

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In my attempt to cut dairy from my diet, the biggest hurdle for me is that damn coffeemate/international delight/liquid sugar deliciousness. Just almond milk and sweetener was not thick enough. And it’s pretty hard to go from peppermint mocha to no flavor whatsoever. Except for “coffee” flavored… but who wants coffee that is just coffee flavored? (I’m sure some of you do. I’ve got you covered too!)

I found a few recipes but most were too complicated or not quite right. After some experimenting and a lot of almond milk, here’s my recipe base for the perfect dairy-free coffee creamer. The quantity is perfect for one of those salad dressing carafes that comes with the good seasonings mixes. Add-ins are listed below to make it your flavor of choice.

Xanthan gum is expensive, but… you use so little of it that it will last you forever and then some. Split it with a health conscious friend!

This is the one I picked up at my regular, local grocery store. There would probably be a better selection at a health foods store, but this was the only one I had available. It’s a good brand though!

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Basic vanilla creamer

  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (plain if you are anti-vanilla)
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetener of choice, to taste (I did 4 splenda packets)

Toss all ingredients in the blender and thoroughly blend. Pour into carafe, mason jar, or a washed out coffeemate bottle! Creamer will have some trapped air bubbles that will settle out in the fridge over night.

Mix-in flavor options

  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp extracts (peppermint, hazelnut, almond, coconut, etc)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

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That’s it! Super easy. Have fun with the flavorings. If you have any specific requests, ask! I might be able to whip something up. Got a great mix-in combo? Comment below!

Small Changes we ALL can do to be happier and healthier in 2014!

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Many times the overall process of “dieting” and weight loss can be overwhelming. A before and after shot that is a year apart might be super impressive, but the thought pops in: “I can’t do that. She/he probably changed their whole lifestyle!” And the year… that’s a long time. I get that.

It doesn’t have to be so overwhelming though. Of course, if you have the drive and commitment to totally revamp your lifestyle then please do it! For most people though, we need to take baby steps. Ease our way in. Unfortunately that usually leads to disappointment as small changes often bring about little to no change in the short term and let’s face it; Americans aren’t too interested in the long term. We want to do the minimal amount of work but get the large payoff. Fit bodies that you see on various instagram feeds for “fitspo” (fitsporation = fitness and sport inspiration) feature models and athletes that dedicate HOURS a day to wellness. It is a fine goal, but I wish more of them would show more real people with real lives, families, and jobs. We need to be motivated by other things than looking hot in a sports bra. Truly, that is not what matters, and just like those victoria’s secret models, the fitness models are a very small percentage of healthy and fit humans and should not be looked at as an ideal.

Recently Howard Schatz’s photos of female Olympic athletes revealed how different and amazing we women look even at peak performance levels. Yes, they all train differently, but every one of those women are considered the best of the best. And they don’t all look like lingerie models.

In 2014, I challenge you to think about your health and fitness goals. Stay away from anything aesthetic. Instead, focus on what you want to be able to do. Run a 5k. Play with my kids without getting tired. Get through a work day without getting tired. Decrease my blood pressure. Increase my immune system. Be more productive at work. Sleep better. Have better sex. Whatever. Just try to stay away from “I want to be hot! Bikini season!!!!” I have a daughter, and I’m a high school teacher, so I feel a personal responsibility to promote fitness for health and not for looks. And to spread the word that while a few small changes in our daily lives might not make us fitspo material, your quality of life will improve.

A few small changes to our daily lives that ANYONE (yes, even you) can make are:

  • drink water as soon as you wake up
  • stand on one foot when brushing your teeth to practice balance. switch feet morning and night.
  • use coconut oil instead of butter in most recipes, even spread on toast.
  • whole grain/ whole wheat breads/pasta/rice instead of white
  • cut out or cut back on soda. (switch back to regular instead of diet if you are just cutting back. Diet = chemicals = two thumbs wayyyy down!)
  • sit up straight when at your desk or driving your car
  • take the stairs
  • park farther away
  • Unplug when you eat – no phones/email/social media. Better yet, if the weather is nice, eat outside! Listen to nature/traffic and people watch.
  • Meditate. Even 10 minutes a day helps calm the mind and focus throughout your day.
  • drink a glass of water before you eat every meal. You’ll eat less and chances are you need the water.
  • Use more herbs/seasoning and less butter/cream/cheese in your recipes.
  • breath deeply and consciously a few times a day. I like to do this at red lights.
  • walk your dog twice a day. Jog/walk in mailbox intervals. “today I am going to jog one mailbox further than yesterday and walk the rest.” Your pooch will thank you too!
  • Laugh. Every. Day.
  • Pick a full body exercise and do a set while the coffee is brewing. Push ups, burpees, planks are all good choices. Every couple of days add one or two reps to the set. You’ll be surprised how much stronger you will get with 25 pushups every morning.

This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. Pick just ONE or TWO and just try! See how you feel! Good? Great! Try another one. Before you know it, you might get the ball rolling to full-on wellness enthusiast. That’s how it happened to me. 🙂

Let me know what you are going to try in the comments below! Or have another idea to add to the list? Share it!

❤ Amy

Eating around a workout

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If you are like me, I have struggled through an intense workout too soon after a meal and maybe (!) saw that meal again, sadly. Felt like a whole lot of wasted time and food. Or I have woken up for a endurance exercise like a long run and felt utterly sluggish from the lack of fuel. A cup of coffee just won’t cut it!

In the recent weeks I have been researching and experimenting with eating before and after a workout. I believe I have found the secret formula for both intense and moderate workouts!

For all intensities…

An hour before your workout starts: Have a small simple carb with low fiber, like a banana, and a liter of water. I also will have a cup of coffee. The caffeine will get the energy levels jump started. Avoid having more than two cups though. Too much acid can cause tummy troubles mid workout.

After your workout: Pack on the protein and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I recommend a recovery beverage, like P90X results and recovery to help process the lactic acid and prevent soreness, but that is not a food! Protein shake, veggie egg scramble, and Greek yogurt and granola are all great options for a post early morning meal. If your workout is later in the day, you can go for any protein/complex carb mix. Try Avocado and black bean with quinoa wrap, or hummus and whole grain flat-bread with veggies! I always have pre-baked chicken breasts on hand in the fridge, which go great with just about anything.

For those pesky long endurance workouts:  Carb loading is not a myth. Have some simple carbs the night before if your workout will be longer than an hour. I reach for good old cheerios and almond milk before bed. Late workout? Carb it up at breakfast but ease up at lunch. See previous guidelines for an hour before your workout. Those still apply!

Your body is a machine! Fuel that puppy right. If you are making an effort to fit exercise into your busy life, give yourself the best shot to make it super effective! Get the most bang for your buck time!

Meal prep! Failure to plan…

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Failure to plan is planning to fail… someone once said that. Various sources are pointing at Franklin or Churchill. I am not sure who deserves the credit for the quote but I love it. I know the wording is kind of harsh, but I would say that if you have a goal to eat well and save money, there is no better way to ensure your success than meal planning and prepping your food ahead of time.

I’m a teacher, so I had today off, and tomorrow is a professional day (no students). So I have a fairly easy week ahead of me, and I did my weekly prep and plan today (Monday) instead of the usual Sunday. Yesterday the kids and I took a day trip to Magic Kingdom. We live only a couple hours from Orlando, but the big one was complaining the whole ride about how long the trip was! If only you knew how good you have it, kid!

My meals this week will be clean and yummy for the whole family! I am weening myself off of dairy. I still give my kids milk and yogurt and cheese, but the only thing I am allowing myself at this point is the sugary goodness that is coffeemate creamer. Next long weekend I am going to experiment with a few homemade, dairy-free recipes but for now it’s my little treat in the morning.

  • Shredded chicken tacos in the crockpot with black beans and avocado.
  • Lemon tilapia, steamed zuchinni, and roasted sweet potatoes (yes again! I am in love with them roasted in coconut oil!)
  • Shepards pie – I found a variant using frozen cooked butternut squash in place of the mashed potatoes. Going to give it a whirl!
  • Whole grain pasta with my hidden veggie sauce and a salad

I leave one weeknight meal for Leftovers, and one night we will be out the house for dinner. This will take us through Saturday!

Sounds good right? I also prepped some things for breakfast, lunches and snacks:

  • boiled eggs
  • cooked plain quinoa
  • baked a lb of chicken breasts
  • Soaked oats for tomorrow’s baked oatmeal – with strawberries this time – that should last most of the week.
  • cut up a watermelon, avocado, and a mango
  • portioned grapes (otherwise my daughter would plow through the whole bag in 5 minutes)
  • Bagged up portions of black beans and quinoa for lunch wraps

20140120_181944 20140120_182014That about does it! I’ve been using a structured dinner plan with a few ideas for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. That’s what works best for my family and it simplifies things for us here who like to decide snacks on a whim. However, when I was on a super tight grocery budget, I planned down to how many apples I would need to buy for each person’s snack needs. It works for some, but that was just way too much micromanaging for my taste!

I had the chicken and tilapia in the freezer already (I buy extra when it’s on sale and stock up my freezer), but with this meal plan plus all the breakfast/lunch/snack foods AND various health/beauty items I needed, my grocery bill only came to $78!

Eating well does NOT have to be expensive! More on that another day, but really people, I promise it’s doable. More than doable.

Not only is it easier on the wallet, but my training for my second half marathon is going leaps and bounds better than my first. I know without a doubt it’s because I’m eating well! Fuel your body right! It will do whatever your mind decides it wants to. Promise. ❤

How is your week looking?

Baked Blueberry Coconut Oatmeal

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This is a recipe that I modified from thischickcooks.

And by modify I mean added unsweetened coconut, used frozen blueberries instead of fresh (boo… sorry I’m cheap. Fresh is best, I know) and two tablespoons of honey instead of 1/4 cup of maple syrup.

As is, the recipe’s great! I’ve made it with the syrup before but I think mine is not a high enough quality for the recipe. Use whatever sweetener you enjoy. Brown sugar would work too. I didn’t use a 1/4 cup, but I don’t like my oatmeal super sweet. The following recipe makes 4 servings. I double the recipe and make it on the weekend. Refrigerate for a quick and easy, yummy and healthy breakfast all week!

Overnight Baked Blueberry Coconut Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter – melted
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons raw honey
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Instructions

  1. Combine oats, water and yogurt and cover. Set on the counter the night before you want to bake the oatmeal.

  2. Heat the oven to 375. Grease an 8×8 inch casserole dish and sprinkle with half of the berries.

  3. Stir remaining ingredients into oat mixture (except for berries) and sprinkle on remaining blueberries.

  4. Bake for about 45-55 minutes or until it is set and the top is golden brown.

Swap out blueberries for whatever berry or fruit you like! Let me know if you changed anything and how it turned out in the comments below.

Here is the link to the original recipe:

http://thischickcooks.net/2012/05/14/overnight-wild-blueberry-baked-oatmeal-nourishing-traditions-style/