Busy Mom Chicken-Stuffed Peppers

I love my Fixate cookbook–I have a handful of recipes from it that I make all the time (Grandma’s Tomato Sauce and the Clean Eating Sloppy Joes are a couple of examples), and now there is a Fixate cooking show on Beachbody On-Demand that I watch every week to get new recipe ideas!  I was watching it last week and got reminded of this stuffed pepper recipe that is so good, but also a little involved and complicated.

On the show, Bobby Calabrese (the chef) mentioned that instead of buying chicken breasts and cutting them up into bite-sized pieces to cook, you could just get ground chicken to save some time and energy.  GENIUS!  I’m not sure I would ever have come up with that on my own, but it’s such a simple tip!

The original recipe calls for quinoa and corn, but I opted to leave those out because 1) I don’t really like corn, 2) I didn’t want that many carbs in this meal, and 3) I was being lazy and didn’t want to add quinoa.  If you love corn and don’t care too much about the extra carbs, feel free to add 1 cup cooked corn and 2 cups cooked quinoa to the filling when you add the black beans.

If you want to make this recipe even easier and quicker, you can skip the whole baking step and slice your peppers into large strips and use them as a chip alternative.  You could also skip the peppers altogether and just eat the filling alone, or in taco shells or with tortilla chips.  Check your grocery for pre-chopped onion and minced garlic in the jar.  That saves a few steps, as well!  Last, instead of chopping the cilantro I usually just tear it by hand as I add it to the dish and that is a lot faster, as well.

Enjoy!

Busy Mom’s Chicken-Stuffed Peppers (adapted from Fixate)–serves 4

4 bell peppers (any color), cut in half and seeds/ribs removed

2 tsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground chicken (can up this to 2 lbs to bulk up the filling if you prefer)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp cumin

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

Salt, to taste (at least 1/4 tsp)

1 cup tomato sauce (I used plain canned tomato sauce, no salt or sugar added)

5 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp lime juice

Optional: 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

Optional: Hot sauce, to taste, for serving

Preheat oven to 375F. Place peppers skin side down on a baking dish (spray with cooking spray).  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add onion and cook for 5-8 minutes, until soft and translucent, stirring frequently.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add ground chicken, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is cooked all the way through and no longer pink.

Add tomato sauce, black beans, cilantro, and lime juice and reduce heat to medium low.  Stir together until all ingredients are fully mixed and heated through.  Remove from heat and turn heat off.

Scoop a heaping 1/2 cup of filling into each pepper half.  Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until peppers are soft.  If desired, top each pepper with cheese and bake for 3-5 more minutes uncovered until cheese is melted.

Let cool about 5 minutes before serving. Top with hot sauce if desired.  Each serving is 2 pepper halves!

 

My Mindfulness Checklist

In an effort to manage my depression and anxiety, I’ve developed a morning routine that is focused solely on helping me clear my head and start my day with positive momentum.  Getting up early isn’t really my favorite thing to do, but the benefits I get from waking up earlier than the rest of the house, having some time to myself, and working through these steps makes it completely worth it!

Before I started implementing these steps, I was very skeptical about it.  I didn’t think that meditation or affirmations would make any difference, and honestly I felt really foolish doing it.  It took me a long time to even give it a try, but when I kept reading over and over about these successful people I look up to, time and time again they talked about doing affirmations and meditation (or least some version of it).  If all of these people that I respect were doing it, why not give it a try?  Once I did this for about a week, I noticed a big difference and I became a believer in the process.

Here is how I work through my checklist; hopefully this gives you some ideas on how you can incorporate these steps into your day.

  1. A peaceful space: Find a spot in your house that will allow you to spend a few minutes alone, a space where you can keep your materials for your morning routine, and a space that makes you feel calm and peaceful. For me, I use a spot in my basement; it’s away from the rest of the house, it is comfortable and relaxing, and there’s a table next to my couch where I keep my Bible and journal so it’s easy to access.  It really doesn’t matter where you decide to make your morning mindfulness space, as long as you feel relaxed and can be uninterrupted for at least a few minutes–your kitchen table, your living room couch, your bedroom, your porch or deck, etc.
  2. 10 minutes of quiet solitude: This has been huge for me!  I wake up with a lot of tension–lots of thoughts swirling through my head, physical tension in my back, and stress thinking about my to-do list for the day ahead.  Taking 10 minutes of quiet solitude to start my day has allowed me to get rid of that stress and start my day with a lot more peace.  I use the Headspace app for their free 10-min guided meditation sessions–it doesn’t have corny background music, it doesn’t ask you to focus on anything except your breathing, and it doesn’t feel too hippy-granola to me.  If meditation isn’t your thing and you want to spend the time praying alone, awesome.  If you want to spend 5 minutes focusing on your breathing, fantastic.  If you want to just sit at your kitchen table and sip your coffee for 10 minutes, great!  The key here is to try and CLEAR your mind, not just sit quietly for 10 minutes stressing about your day or what happened yesterday.  It might be helpful to try a guided meditation once or twice to give you the tools, and then you could do it on your own.  I also have a list of positive affirmations about myself that I say out loud–things that help me change the negative dialogue in my own head.  One of my affirmations is “I am disciplined” to help me focus on who I want to be, instead of spending my day talking down to myself.  The affirmations help me change my perception of myself–when you talk negatively to yourself, you are a negative person.  When you talk positively, you become more positive.  It’s pretty simple, but it makes a huge impact.
  3. Intentional focus on spiritual development: I love doing this section right after my meditation because I’ve cleared my head, gotten rid of some tension, and I feel much more equipped to focus on my reading and prayer instead of feeling distracted by my thoughts.  My spiritual development is really all about focusing on my personal relationship with God and growing in that; I read my Bible (following a specific plan), do some journaling about what I read, and spend some time praying.  If you aren’t sure where to start with this, I love the She Reads Truth app–it’s free, includes a Bible in the app, and has a lot of great studies to choose from (free up to $3).  There is also a He Reads Truth app for the guys, too.  Focusing on this helps me keep my priorities in check, helps me have a good mindset for my day, and helps me focus on what is really important in my day instead of focusing on insignificant stressors.
  4. Physical activity: This one might be my favorite.  I like to do a full workout in the morning with Beachbody On Demand–I usually forget that I even worked out by lunchtime and then it feels like a rest day!  But even just a short and sweet workout, like some pushups and crunches, or jumping jacks and planks, even for just 5 minutes, is shown to benefit your mindset in the morning.  All exercise releases endorphins and helps you get your day started with positivity.  When I start my day with a workout, it helps me stay motivated to make healthy choices throughout my day, too.  Whether you choose to do a full workout, a few jumping jacks, or a 5 minute yoga flow, doing some kind of physical activity will help you lower your stress levels and get in a good mood for your day.
  5. Personal Development: One of my favorite things about my coaching business is the focus on personal development.  Being intentional about reading positive books that help me become a better person, better wife, better mom, better coach has truly made all the difference in my life.  Personal development is what helped give me the confidence to leave teaching and be a stay-at-home mom, and helped me be able to identify my depression and anxiety enough to know I needed to get help.  In choosing a personal development book, I think about one of my goals and what I feel like is holding me back from accomplishing that goal.  For example, as I’ve been trying to lose weight, I’ve realized that I struggle with emotional eating, and I looked up some books dealing with that topic before choosing Made to Crave, which has been an amazing resource for me.  Some of my business goals weren’t becoming reality and I realized I needed some help being disciplined, so I read a book called Take the Stairs that was a huge help.  You can also choose a podcast to listen to–I love the God Centered Mom podcast for personal development, too.  We all have aspects of our lives that we want to improve–I use personal development as a tool to become the person I want to be.  Starting my day with this helps me stay focused on making better choices throughout the day instead of going on autopilot with bad habits.

I’ve included a printable version of this checklist for you to use as you create your own routine for mindfulness.  There is a lot of evidence for everything included here and the benefits of putting them into practice, but the only evidence you really need is trying it out for yourself.  Give it one week and see what kind of a difference it makes, and then come back and let me know how it went!

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Mindfulness Checklist

 

Healthy in Every Way–My Journey Through Depression and Anxiety

I have major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. (I tried to think of a nice introduction to transition into this declaration, but I couldn’t think of how to get there so I decided to just go for it.)  I’ve been fairly open about my struggle with depression on this blog before, and this past year has been a pretty dark place for me.  I’ve been pretty quiet about what’s been going on with me lately, but I want to share more about this aspect of my life because I’ve been realize just how much my mental health is connected to my physical health.  

 

I’ve struggled with depression for several years, but this past year has been the hardest yet.  The transition from working mom to stay-at-home mom is never an easy one, my husband has a new position in his work with some new responsibilities, and there have been lots of other transitions in other areas of my life, too.  I think that for a long time it was really easy for me to blame teaching for my depression, but once I left and the depression stayed, I was forced to really examine what was going on.

 

So, for the first time in my entire life, I started going to a therapist and taking an antidepressant.  This was honestly a really hard decision for me to make because even though I’ve recommended therapy to a lot of people close to me, I was embarrassed to admit that I needed that kind of help.  I’ve always had some kind of twisted pride in the fact that I was “managing” my depression without the help of therapy or medicine.  But honestly, I wasn’t managing anything.  I was barely holding on by a thread and constantly felt like everything was falling apart.  Every single part of my day was a struggle, from waking up to getting out of bed to taking care of my child.  I was miserable, so my pride in taking care of myself was pretty misguided.

 

Before I started therapy and learning different ways of coping with my depression and anxiety, I had pretty much one coping mechanism–food.  I’ve always known that I was an emotional eater, but I didn’t quite realize how deep my relationship with food really went.  I started to figure it out after I read “Made to Crave” and did Whole30, but once I finished Whole30 I basically fell into a giant pile of sugar.  I had certainly learned better food habits, but I hadn’t worked on the deeper issue: I was using food as a coping mechanism instead of actually dealing with my depression and anxiety.

 

As a result from this emotional eating+not working on my mental health combination, I gained some weight and started to feel bad about myself.  I lost energy, I lost motivation, I lost confidence.  I was embarrassed that I was losing control of my health–again–and I felt like a total failure.  Of course, that just made my depression even worse.  And then I continued to eat poorly to cope with all the negative feelings…which made me feel worse.  See the cycle there?  It took me months to figure out that connection.  Actually, it took me months to figure out that I was deeply depressed.  It was a rough year.

 

But, that is in my rearview mirror.  Once I figured out what was really happening, decided to get to a professional, and became open to medicine, things started to change.  Now, I have a mindfulness routine to start out my days.  I’m focused on my personal development to help keep my mindset positive.  I’m focused on being consistent with my fitness because a good workout does WONDERS for my depression and anxiety.  I’m learning different ways to cope with my issues instead of running to the drive thru for a sweet tea and cookie every day.  (True story).

 

I’m going to be posting a little more about some of the specifics of my routine and different coping strategies, but I set an alarm to get up early so I can have some quiet time to do a 10 minute meditation, read my Bible and have some prayer time, read personal development, write out affirmations, and say some affirmations out loud.  I feel like a total hippie when I’m doing it, but it’s seriously amazing to feel the difference in my mindset every single day.  Those are my new coping mechanisms instead of food, and even though it’s still a struggle and I’m still working on it, I finally feel like I’m out of the pit and I’m able to get back to myself again.

 

So, why am I sharing all of this?  Part of it is to help myself get out of feeling embarrassed that I have struggles.  I deal with depression and anxiety–that’s part of my story and I don’t want to be secretive about it anymore.  It’s not anything to be ashamed of; it’s just part of who I am.  But more importantly, I want YOU to know that you’re not alone.  It has been amazing to me to hear some of my friends and family say “me too!”.  Whether it’s a struggle with depression or anxiety, or going through junk that distracts you from your health, or just dealing with gaining some weight after working so hard to lose it, you are not alone.  And you need to focus on your mental health!  It’s not just about your physical health–you have to take care of your mind and your spirit to be truly healthy.  

 

Since this is now a part of my health journey, it’s going to be a part of the blog more and more.  Stay tuned for more posts about this aspect of my story, and feel free to share any wisdom from your own journey, too!

Clean Eating Orange Chicken

I love Chinese food, especially orange chicken.  When I saw this paleo orange chicken recipe, I made it just a few days later!  This is a pretty involved recipe, so it’s definitely not a quick weeknight meal, but I made this one afternoon when I was home alone and then ate on the leftovers for a few days.  This would be a good meal to make on the weekend and then save it for a quick Monday night dinner.

I did switch out some ingredients based on what I had on hand, so the way I made it isn’t Whole30 approved or necessarily paleo.  I switched the tapioca starch for cornstarch and used coconut oil instead of avocado oil because that is what I had on hand.  I served this with brown rice (the instant kind you cook in the microwave for a minute) over a bowl of fresh kale.  This would be great with broccoli tossed in, served with cauliflower rice, or with fresh spinach.  It was a great mixture of sweet and spicy!

Clean Eating Orange Chicken (slightly adapted from Food Faith Fitness)

Serves 4-6

For the sauce:

3/4 cup 100% orange juice (I used fresh Cara Cara oranges to squeeze my own)

Zest of half an orange

1 tbsp coconut aminos

1 tsp rice vinegar

Pinch red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp hot sauce

 

For the chicken:

2 tbsp coconut oil

3 tbsp cornstarch

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb chicken, cut into cubes (I used boneless skinless thighs, but you can use chicken breast or tenderloins)

 

In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, zest, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet, melt the coconut oil (for the sauce) on medium heat.  Sautee the garlic and ginger, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the orange juice mixture and cook on high, stirring constantly.  Meanwhile, put 1 tsp cornstarch in the now-empty medium bowl and set aside.

Once the orange juice mixture is boiling, add 2 tsp hot sauce to the cornstarch and stir together until smooth. Whisk into the boiling sauce and continue to whisk for 2 minutes.  Lower heat to medium and cook until sauce is thick and glossy, stirring constantly.  Pour into a bowl and set aside to thicken while you cook the chicken.

Melt the coconut oil (for the chicken) in the skillet (or in a larger one if you prefer).  Put cornstarch and salt/pepper in a large ziplock bag and shake to mix.  Put chicken cubes in bag and shake to completely cover  chicken with cornstarch mixture.

Put covered chicken in skillet (don’t overcrowd them–you may need to cook the chicken in multiple batches).  Cook chicken until browned on the outside and fully cooked (an instant-read thermometer should read at least 165 F), 2-3 minutes per side, turning once.

Once chicken is cooked, put in a large bowl and pour the thickened orange sauce over it.  Gently stir/toss the chicken with the sauce to completely cover each chicken piece with the sauce.

Serve with rice, broccoli, cauliflower, or greens.  Enjoy!

 

Getting Back Into Running

Before I had my Little Man, I had been into running for a few years.  I did several races, including a couple of half-marathons, and I loved it!  Over the past three years of having my son, though, I just fell out of regular running.  It takes a lot of time to train for longer distances, and I was really loving my at-home workouts.  It’s so much more convenient to just walk down to my basement and get a workout in without worrying about driving anywhere or worrying about what the weather is doing.  I still prefer my at-home workouts to running, honestly, but I missed running!  There is something about running that clears my mind and just lifts my mood that nothing else can replicate or replace, and I just missed it.

When I realized how much I missed running (which not surprisingly was happening as I watched a lot of my social media friends posting about getting ready for the Kentucky Derby Festival Half Marathon), I decided to get back into it and train for a race.  I’m spending the next several months training for the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in October!  Go big or go home, right?  It doesn’t really take that long to train for that distance, but I’m going from not running in months to working up to that distance, so I’m giving myself plenty of time to build my stamina again.

Right now, my training plan is to get 2 runs in per week.  Most programs you’ll find online will recommend 3 runs per week, but when I was training for my past half marathons I did 2 runs and it was fine.  The most important thing to me is to get that long run in each week and to be consistent with my cross training.  The last half I did, I really focused on my cross training and it made a huge difference for my pace and endurance.  And with the all-access streaming workouts I have through Beachbody On Demand, I can do literally any type of workout I want while I’m training–cardio, weights, Pilates, yoga, barre, or dance.  That will help me not just with my running, but with my overall fitness and helping me continue working toward my goals.

This is my weekly training plan–I’m staying flexible to change this as I pay attention to what my body seems to need rest-wise.  I’m already thankful for my Beachbody Performance Energize and Performance Recovery to help me have the energy to push hard in my workouts and not be sore!  I know I’m going to need the help!

Monday: Whole Body Cardio workouts

Tuesday: Upper Body workouts

Wednesday: Training run

Thursday: Pilates/Core workouts

Friday: Lower Body workouts

Saturday: Long run

Sunday: Yoga/active recovery workouts

 

This is just a loose schedule–it won’t look like this every single week.  Sometimes I’ll need to switch up when my training runs are happening based on what our family schedule is and my husband’s work schedule, which means I’ll need to change up workouts and switch things around.

I’m especially excited about choosing different workouts from different programs!  There are some programs that I’ve done before and LOVE (like 21 Day Fix, T25, and Insanity Max:30) that I excited to do again, and there are programs I’ve never done before that I am looking forward to trying (like P90x3, Yoga Studio, and Country Heat).

This is what my workout schedule looks like this week:

Monday: 21 Day Fix Extreme Power Strength

Tuesday: 21 Day Fix Upper Fix

Wednesday: Training run

Thursday: 21 Day Fix Pilates

Friday: Long run

Saturday: T25 Lower Focus

Sunday: 3 Week Yoga Retreat Week 1 Stretch

Gluten-Free Orange Cherry Muffins

One of my FAVORITE things about my online streaming workouts is the Fixate cooking show.  The 21 Day Fix creator Autumn Calabrese and her brother Bobby (who is a chef) share healthy, clean eating recipes that are so good!  I love looking every week at what new recipes they’ve come up with–they are always adventurous and something that I wouldn’t think of on my own, which makes it fun for me.  I’m actually working on a “Fixate Week” where I only eat Fixate recipes because I love it so much!

Last week I tried the Fixate Vegan Orange Cherry Muffins–I had some Cara Cara oranges I needed to use, and my son LOVES cherries, so I thought this would be a perfect experiment!  I ended up adjusting the recipe a little bit because I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand, and I didn’t want to buy special ingredients I don’t normally use just to keep the muffins vegan (especially when I don’t really care that much about eating vegan).

Instead of using fresh cherries, I bought dried cherries (which are a little more tart than fresh, so if you go that route you might want to add a little more syrup for more sweetness).  I also swapped the flaxseed for a whole egg because I didn’t have flaxseed on hand and don’t normally use it (flaxseed is used as a binding ingredient to substitute eggs and is a great source of omega-3s).

These were really good! Next time I’ll use 100% orange juice because the fresh juice I had wasn’t quite enough.  I would love to try these with fresh cherries, so I’m keeping an eye out for cherries at my grocery as we get closer to summer!

For my Fix followers, each serving (1 muffin) is 1 yellow, 1/2 purple, 1/2 blue, and 1 1/2 tsp.

Fixate Orange Cherry Muffins (adapted from Fixate on Beachbody On Demand)

Makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 tbsp all natural creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 tbsp orange zest

3/4 cup orange juice

1 egg

1 large banana, thickly cut (about 1 cup of banana)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped cherries (fresh, frozen, or dried)

 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and spray with baking spray.

Combine flours, baking powder, salt, and walnuts in a large bowl.  Mix well and set aside.

Put oil, peanut butter, maple syrup, orange zest, orange juice, egg, banana, and vanilla in a blender.  Mix for 30 seconds.

Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture.  Mix just until moistened–do not overmix.

Fold in cherries to batter mixture until just mixed.

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, spoon batter into lined muffin tin (1/4 cup for each muffin).

Bake muffins for 18 minutes, until tops are lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean from the center of muffin.

Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes in pan.  Remove muffins from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

These kept well in an airtight container on the counter.  They only lasted a few days before we ate them all, but would probably be fine for about 5-7 days. You could also put baked muffins in the freezer and reheat them in the microwave.

Enjoy!

 

 

Gluten-Free Pancakes

I’ve found a great gluten-free waffle recipe, so I wanted to find a great gluten-free pancake recipe, too!  We love eating breakfast together in my house, and it’s so special to have my little man help me make waffles, pancakes, or french toast and then enjoy the fruits of our labor together.

This was the first gluten-free pancake recipe I tried, and it was great!  The original recipe called for buttermilk, which I didn’t have on hand, so I subbed in equal parts plain greek yogurt and milk.  The original recipe calls for blueberries, but you could use any kind of fruit or choose to leave fruit out of the batter and just top the pancakes with fresh fruit and pure maple syrup.

I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop out the batter, and it made 4 medium-large pancakes.

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Pancakes (slightly adapted from Bakepedia)

  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk OR 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt+1/2 cup milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (for the pan)

Combine all ingredients except the oil.  Mix until completely combined, but not completely smooth.

Heat a skillet on medium-low heat.  Melt oil on skillet.  Use a 1/4- or 1/3-cup measuring cup to spoon batter onto skillet.  Cook for 3-4 on one side until bubbly.  Flip and cook 1-2 more minutes until golden brown.  Top with fresh berries and pure maple syrup.