7 ideas for Romaine that AREN’T salad!

Standard

I have a few things that are weekly staples on my grocery list: milk, eggs, bananas, etc. You have some of these too I’m sure! One thing I buy every week is a big fluffy head of romaine lettuce. It’s nutrient dense and yes, it’s versatile. Salad is always on the meal plan at least once a week, but I have cooked up a few ways to use it that don’t mean in a bowl with dressing.

romaine nutrients

When I bring it home on Sunday I wash and prep it to keep it fresh. Best way to store lettuce (any kind) is to wash and dry in a salad spinner, then place in a ziploc bag with a slightly damp paper towel. And poke holes in the bag! Let it breathe! Your lettuce will keep for the whole week at least!

lettuce

I always make two bags, one for the large outer leaves that I keep whole and one for pre-chopped lettuce. Why? I use it for more than salads! I used to end up with a half head of romaine every week; not enough for a whole family sized salad but enough to do something with. So I improvised and cycle in these regulars for my whole family!

  1. Use some of the chopped romaine in a wrap with leftover meat from last night’s dinner. A little vinaigrette and it’s lunch!

  2. Or if you are feeling anti-carb, use a large leaf in place of the tortilla. Stuff it with some tuna salad and cucumber. Cool and crisp.

  3. Wilt it into some whole grain pasta. Yes, like spinach or kale. Romaine breaks down more easily so turn the heat off first then dump some of the chopped stuff in there and let the steam from the pasta soften it a bit.

  4. Chop it super fine and it makes a pretty garnish. I like to roll up just a piece of the larger leaf and slice extremely thin to make ribbons. Looks nice on pretty much anything!

  5. My hubs and kids will eat it on a sandwich if it’s not too think of a layer. One way to get around this is to put a layer of two or three larger leaves between cheese on a grilled cheese. It will get softer and thinner, the taste mellows a bit, and the grilled cheese just looks prettier.

  6. Grill it! Okay, this one is like a salad, but it’s different and delicious! You actually need to leave it on the stem for this one, but take off any larger, loose leaves from the outside. Spray with a little olive oil, and toss them on the grill. They will only need a light grilling, and I put them around the outside of the grill to avoid over doing it. Rotate then remove. Perfect in summer!

  7. Keep some of the long, thin, and stiff inner pieces and use as a fancy appetizer base. A dab of crab salad and a halved grape tomato look lovely and are easy for guests to pick up and eat!

Have another idea? Comment below!

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

Standard

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

Meal prep! Failure to plan…

Standard

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?