Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Focus on What's in Season: Zucchini

It's no secret I love zucchini. If my husband wants to win over my stomach at dinner he just grills a little of it up on the BBQ with some olive oil and fresh herbs and sits back and smiles while I exclaim  how GOOD dinner is. 

Naturally when planting my garden this year it had to include some (many) zucchini, and now that my plants are producing pretty rapidly I had to come up with some great low calorie ways to use up the excess. 

Before I get into the recipes are there any gardening gurus out there that can tell me what these spots are on my plants? They kind of look!

So when I think of using up excess zucchini I always think of Zucchini Bread, but because I'm trying to cut some of the excess calories I had to find a tasty low sugar/fat one. This one from SkinnyTaste is pretty good, it's not that sweet but the chocolate chips make up for that. I think I could have cooked mine a little longer even though I baked it the full 55 min and the toothpick came out clean when inserted. Zucchini is very moist and it can take awhile to cook, so just a heads up on that one...mine was slightly doughy. Swapping out the oil for applesauce is always an easy way to keep things a bit lower fat, but still keep the moisture. If you try this recipe let me know what you think.

This next recipe was a huge winner, everyone gobbled it up at dinner time and I had it for lunch the next day too. One Pan Skinny Tex Mex Chicken and Zucchini....that's a mouthful...a delicious mouthful! ;) 
This recipe is very easy, prep is pretty minimal and clean up is a cinch with only one pan. It's packed with flavour (I heart cumin so it easily won me over), and is a very good way to use up your extra zucchini. I reduced the cheese to a generous half cup but otherwise kept everything the same.

What have you been doing to use up your zucchini? Please share as I still have lots!

Are you still reading this months Book of the Month Club read (Wild by Cheryl Strayed)? I blazed through it, and loved it. The author has a great writing style and really pulled me into her story. 
It's time to start thinking about what Septembers read will be. Thoughts on A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout? It looks really good, and stays in the memoir vein that Wild started. Feedback please. :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Food and Fitness Update

If you follow me on Instagram then you may have seen some of these photos already. I wanted to give you an idea of what I'm eating and some of the changes I've been making. My big focus has been not to make it more than I can handle, I don't want to set myself up to fail.... this is a permanent change.
I have really upped my water intake, not so crazy that I'm chained to the bathroom but I am definitely drinking much more than before...must flush the toxins out! I've also changed to only one cup of tea during the day, I drink it along with my breakfast. It's not that I think tea is bad, it's just that this really encourages me to drink more water, and because I take just under a tsp of sugar in my tea that helps eliminate that too.

I've nearly eliminated my processed sugar intake, it's pretty much just that morning cup of tea. In exchange I've been eating a lot more fruit, remember I said I wanted to keep this doable, and the fruit helps any sweet cravings.

The kiddies and I have been picking fruit to enjoy....

and buying it too...oh how I wish I had a peach tree.

With most lunches I enjoy a bowl of Imagine Organic Creamy Butternut Squash's delicious, only 110 calories a cup and really helps fill me up. It also helps me to eat slowly and mindfully as it's difficult to eat soup quickly. With this lunch  I had a slice of 100% whole wheat bread with a quarter of an avocado spread over it, a little bit of salt and pepper and then one fried egg on top. Enjoyed with yet another large glass of water and I was completely full and satisfied. Sometimes I have an open faced tuna sandwich, or a salad with lots of veggie toppings and a little goat cheese and pumpkin seeds. It depends on how I've eaten the day before, I'm trying to keep things balanced...not too many starches on the same day...breads, rice, pasta etc...

Here are a couple examples of my dinners from the week:

I made Crockpot Chicken Thighs and while Chris and the kids had them in taco shells with cheese and sour cream, I had them over a mixed green salad topped with corn and red cabbage. I had it for lunch the next day too!

 My late planted garden is just starting to offer up delicious tomatoes and zucchinis and I'm beyond thrilled to be able to incorporate them into my cooking. Although I grew up with a big garden this is the first year I've had my own and have really worked to have it produce. There have been some ups and downs but that's a subject for another post.

Last night I picked two big tomatoes and two big zucchinis so it was the perfect time to make Naked Turkey Bruschetta Burgers.
I will admit I eyeballed the bruschetta measurements but boy did it turn out yummy (don't forget to add the mozza right before serving).

The grated zucchini goes right into the turkey patties and it makes it incredibly moist (something that can be difficult with turkey). This dish was a big winner.

I have quite a bit of zucchini leftover and will be making some zucchini bread with the kids today...stay tuned for that post!

I just realized I forgot to talk about what I've been eating for breakfast and it's been pretty simple, usually just a piece of 100% whole wheat bread with a Tblsp of peanut butter. That with the tea keeps me full until lunch time.

I've been walking 7km every evening and I really look forward to this time. I take a dog along with me, pop my earbuds in for music (I've actually been thinking of listening to books during this time...any recommendations?) and away I go. It's my me time and it's lovely.
I've also dusted off (literally) my Bowflex Sport and have been working my upper body. I've had some sore pectoral muscles for a few days but it feels great!

Overall I can't believe how much better I feel already. I never feel slow and sluggish during the day and I have way more patience. Speaking of patience, I thought this was interesting...after taking my kids and their friend blackberry picking we decided to go to Dairy Queen for a kids cone to cool off. I had a kids cone too thinking it was small and I've been doing really well. I was starving afterwards...I couldn't seem to fill up and I was really grumpy for the rest of day. I had no patience, kids playing and screaming seemed to go directly into my brain. That one little sugar (and who knows what else goes into DQ "ice cream") filled cone was my undoing. It is absolutely amazing how food effects you...that sugar made my cravings spike through the roof and all I wanted to do was eat. I'll stick to the fruit thanks.

I've been thinking of getting a Fitbit Flex to keep track of my steps and activity throughout the day. You actually wear the band 24/7 so it monitors your sleeping habits too, good information to have. Does anyone out there have one? What do you think of  it?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Focus on What's in Season: Blackberries

I've been walking every night and the area that I've been walking in is loaded with blackberries. I've been sampling them a bit and now that they are perfectly plump, juicy and sweet...harvesting was in order. 

I grabbed a bucket and some willing blackberry pickers and we went to work. Well...I went to work, they had a second lunch.

Once I had taken my blackberry pickers swimming to cool off and then fed them dinner I went searching on Pinterest for a quick and easy blackberry cobbler recipe. I stumbled on the perfect one and it's low calorie too since it's mostly berries (big bonus!).

I doubled the recipe since the original is only enough for two and there was enough for five here. I used an 8 x 8 pan...placed a double layer of blackberries in it, and sprinkled them with vanilla (no water needed here..these berries were super juicy).

Mix together your dry ingredients..

Add your melted butter...don't do what I did and forget to double the butter and then have to drizzle it on halfway through baking. However, if you do that I'm here to let you know it'll work out just fine.

Mix your ingredients together with a fork and then finish with your hands to make these nice crumbles.

Spread the mixture over the berries and pop into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

That's it, so easy!

I put a little ice cream on mine but you could easily eat it by itself. I can't even tell you how good this recipe is, I wish I could have invited you over to's that good.

What's your favourite blackberry recipe?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Making Changes

If you followed my old blog Random Thoughts From a Stay at Home Mom then you know I have tried many different ways to lose weight. All of them have worked, most quickly, but it just wasn't something I was able to maintain for the long term. I could usually get two or three weeks out of it but pretty soon it just felt so restrictive that I would break and...

That would mean the weight would come back, I would get frustrated and think...what's the point, I'd rather eat what I want and be happy. Of course I wasn't really happy, I felt like I failed.
I decided to let things go and just do what I wanted for the summer, eat whatever, not worry about calories or even if it was really healthy...if it tasted good..awesome. Of course I don't allow my children to eat that way know...I know better. :S
It had just the the affect you would expect, when I got on the scale after not being on it for months it was a bit of a shock. I'm not really sure why because I knew I was up, I could feel it, but when it's looking you in the eye like that...ouch.
So dieting wasn't working, letting things take their course wasn't working, it was time to find out what would work. I decided to consult a professional. I had my first appointment last week with a personal trainer named Kathleen. Weight and measurements were taken and body fat percentage was calculated....a surprising After that unpleasantness we moved on to goals for the next couple of weeks. The main one is to eat mindfully. Now this may seem pretty easy and straightforward but when you get up to two little kids and a lot of dog chores you pretty much hit the ground running and taking time to eat mindfully is a serious challenge. I often eat my breakfast while checking emails, and my lunch answering texts...tsk tsk. I have been quite good about following through at dinner time as it is always a sit down family affair with no distractions allowed, I'm still working on the early parts of the day.

 If you aren't sure what mindful eating is I found this handy dandy  little chart on Pinterest:

It's important to slow down and think about your food, where it came from, how it got to you, taste and savor each bite, don't ready another bite before you've swallowed the first one, in fact put your fork down in between if you have to and wait until the flavour from the first bite is gone before you put the next one in your mouth. At first it feels like it takes forever and you just don't have time but it's worth it, you feel full with much less food.

I've done a three day food diary for my next appointment, and I'm adding in the exercise that fell by the wayside over the summer. Somehow laying on the beach didn't burn that many calories. ;)

My plan is to post about my progress (and struggles) every Monday. By being accountable to myself, Kathleen and to you it will be much easier to stay the course. A steady lifestyle change, it's what's needed and it's what I'm doing.

I wanted to share this great recipe I found for Cocoa Granola Bars. They are semi sweet and a nice little chocolatey treat without all the excess sugar and junk that comes with the boxed bars. I made a couple of changes to the recipe, I didn't have tart cherries so used a blend of dried cherries, cranberries and blueberries and I used about 1/3 cup of honey rather than 2/3. They are a family hit.

If you want to join me on my journey to get fit and strong, the more the merrier and I would love to hear from you in the comments section. Here's to us!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Keeping it real....natural

My name is Mariah and I'm a product addict...there, I said it. I love beauty products. My sisters and I used to spend hours wandering around pharmacies and drugstores looking at new make up and smelling different lotions and hair products. It was so much fun and felt like Christmas once you got everything home. I have passed that product love on to my children, both of them love to check out everything on the shelves, smell every bottle, tests colours on the back of their hands. It's become a family affair.
 What I have learned since I was a young girl is just how many toxic ingredients go into the making of all those fabulous products....making them not so fabulous. Now my mission is to find clean toxin free natural products for both myself and my family. When the kiddies and I check out products we include reading the label along with smelling and testing.

I love sharing my finds since I know that hunting down products like these can be both time consuming, and costly if the product doesn't work as well as it's says it will.

Here is what I have been loving:

This foot butter from the Rocky Mountain Soap Company is fairly new to me but I have been really happy with it so far. I love the smell, it's refreshing and clean..perfect for feet, and my very dry flip flop wearing summer feet are full on laying down and thanking me for it. They were definitely in need of some buttery lovin'.

LaVanilla deodorant is really having a moment right now, and I'm so glad. I have tried many times over the years to find a natural deodorant with no aluminum that actually worked and every one has failed. LaVanilla has brought new hope. Although I wouldn't trust it to work while running a marathon or anything it's perfect for everyday wear, and has been holding up to the very hot summer we've been having here. You can find it either directly from LaVanilla or it's also available at Sephora. My favourite scent is actually Vanilla Summer although I ended up buying the Vanilla Grapefruit by accident (careful not to mix scents on the back of your hand!), and it's pretty good, smells a bit like fresh laundry.

I've had Bite Beauty's Agave Lip Mask for months now and I still love it. I use it before going to sleep at night for a long lasting deep treatment, and I also use it as a clear lip gloss during the has amazing staying power. The tube is expensive but will last you forever so is well worth the purchase in my opinion. This product is safe enough to eat which makes me feel good when my seven year old daughter wants to use it too.

My littles are the most important thing to me and that means that even more than for myself I want to keep things as natural and toxin free as I can for them. They love their bubble baths and I love this Fairy Whispers Bubble Bath from Kogi Naturals. The whole bathroom smells so nice and fresh and clean...and check out that ingredient list, not a nasty thing in sight. It makes great bubbles too.

I hope I've shared something you've been looking for, any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section below, and product suggestions for me are always welcome too!