Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Find What Works For You!


Tips for Finding a Fitness Program

You know why I think blogs are so great? Because it allows human beings to connect with one another on a level of “relate-ability” (yes, I will make up words if I want to!) that you can’t always get from friends and family. I was just talking to a friend about a blog that I recommended she read. We were commenting on how it’s great to be able to read about others who are going through similar things as you. Every person is unique. Everyone’s situation is unique. But just when you feel that you are all alone in the world you talk to someone or read an article or blog and you find commonalities, and within those commonalities you can find inspiration.

Remember that epiphany I had about needing to exercise? At one point, I started to feel like I was the only person in the world who struggled to eat right and exercise (ok I knew that wasn’t true, but you get the point)….especially the exercise part…I mean really how hard is it to go outside and take a walk or throw in an exercise DVD and get to work? These days we are constantly bombarded with information. Eat this, not that. Do this workout, not that. Look at this skinny girl. Look at that ripped guy. It is never ending and it can be a real downer sometimes. Even with all of this information at my fingertips, Old Me just couldn’t seem to find my place in the world of fitness, but stumbling upon others who shared similar struggles inspired me not to give up. What made me successful this time is that I genuinely considered what I NEEDED…not just what was popular, not what my friends or family were doing but really considering my NEEDS. Then based on my needs I made goals for myself…that is, what would I accomplish through an exercise program?

Work For It

A few weeks ago I posted about starting CrossFit and what lead me to it. Mainly I thought about what would make me successful…I knew I had an issue with boredom, lack of accountability and lack of knowledge of fitness beyond cardio equipment…mix all this up with my introverted self and I was sure to fail in a regular gym. So I looked for something that would provide me with:

~Variety (different WOD…workout of the day, every time)

~Mixture of weight training and high intensity workouts (knowledge is power! No more treadmills!)

~Coaches (to teach me and hold me accountable)

~Social group (the support of other members is unbelievable!).

I love CrossFit (and can’t believe I just admitted that…*wink, wink*) and I feel like I have finally found something that works for me and that I will stick with in the long run. But I am not telling you that you should go out and join your nearest Crossfit box…I am telling you that you need to do what works for you and that may involve trying different things and keeping an open mind. Here is the perfect example…although Hubs and I started out on our fitness journey together we are complete opposites…he loves the gym, putting in his ear buds and blocking out the rest of the world. He has his routine and has done an amazing job learning what mix of cardio and strength training works for him. Prior to this, he also considered Crossfit but after we shopped around he knew it wasn’t going to meet his personal needs so he looked at other options.

Do the thing you think you cannot

So if you are ready to take that first step and start exercising make sure you take the time to figure out if something is right for you or not. If your heart isn’t into it, you will not succeed and you will be back to that couch potato you loathe!

do what you always do

Here are some tips on how to find the right program for you:

  • Research – Talk to others about what they like and their experiences. Read about different types of exercise programs and the pros and cons of each. This means reading reputable journal articles and making sure the information is from a trustworthy source. Then when you know about the benefits, read blogs and personal opinion pieces to see what other people are saying and experiencing.
  • List Your Needs – What do you need in an exercise program to be successful?
  • Set realistic goals – What goals do you want to achieve through your exercise program? Do you want to gain more energy, lose weight, and gain muscle? For example, my main goal was to workout at least 3 times per week and to gain more energy. I had to consider whether or not a crossfit program would help me achieve this goal.
  • Shop around – Don’t be afraid to call around or drop in at different places. Most gyms will give you a free tour and allow you to observe. Some will even allow you to “drop-in” to a class. Make sure you are asking a lot of questions and take into account the feelings you get about the place (trust your gut!). Do you feel comfortable? Do the staff/coaches/trainers seem knowledgeable? Are they friendly? Are they condescending and arrogant? Do you feel intimidated?
  • Consider online support – There are a ton of free fitness groups on the internet, including on Facebook. I can’t recall how I stumbled upon this, but prior to going on vacation over Christmas I was a little nervous about not doing Crossfit for over a week! I joined a free online “accountability group” that was run by a fitness and life coach for the 10 days prior to Christmas. The purpose of the group was to stay accountable with fitness and nutrition even during the holidays. Not only did it provide me with support but it gave me ideas about other exercises, DVDs, programs, etc. that I could do when I wasn’t doing Crossfit. I am still involved in a similar group that is more ongoing and I find it very beneficial.
  • Try and try again – So even if you follow the steps above and decide to start a program you may find that it’s not working out like you expected. This means it’s time to re-evaluate and find something else. Don’t try to stick with one thing that you don’t care for because this will probably lead to failure. And most importantly, don’t give up on exercise all together. Try other things and keep looking until you find what works for you!

Did you enjoy my blog? Don’t forget to “Like” me on Facebook!!

you can do it

2 Comments »

They Call It The Winter Blues


Barbecue Pulled Beef Lettuce Cups

Winter has me in a funk. It has been so cold and I feel like I only see the sun about once a week. I have no motivation. I don’t feel like doing my schoolwork. I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning. I don’t feel like going to workout. I guess you could say I don’t feel like doing much of anything. I’m trying not to allow myself to be swallowed up by this grumpy weather-induced state, but it is extremely difficult.

winter blues

Although I have been doing pretty well with my food choices these past six months, I noticed that I was definitely eating better in the summer and fall. I also cooked more. I find it harder and harder with each passing cloudy, cold day to get up early and make my breakfast and pack my lunch. It’s harder to resist those treats that inevitably show up at meetings or say no to the office birthday cake. It’s harder to stick to the dinner menu I plan for us each week.

sorry

Isn’t it weird how the weather can have such a huge impact on a person’s mood? In the winter I feel like I am walking through life in a fog…doing what is only absolutely necessary (in layman’s terms…I become lazy!). Cooking is necessary…. and even though I may not cook as much as I should, it’s during times like these I like to turn to my slow cooker.

bad mood

Slow cooker meals are great because they are typically quick and easy with both preparation and clean up. I tend to avoid those slow cooker recipes I see that involve a lot of work or separate pans. This pretty much defeats the purpose, in my opinion. (Why do you need to sear the beef first? Is there really any difference in the taste? I don’t think so.) I also like slow cooker meals because you can make enough to ensure leftovers…thus you won’t have to order out with your coworkers everyday!

Barbecue Pulled BeefI made this paleo recipe the other night with a few modifications. If you check out the original it is one of those recipes that I usually wouldn’t consider making due to all of the extra work outside of the slow cooker. I ended up making a more flavorful, simplified version. I have to say it was really good! When I made it I used flank steak because that was all I had on hand, but you can pretty much use any cut of beef you like (the original calls for brisket). It will work well with cheaper cuts of meat because of the long cooking time and the wonderful flavor of the sauce and spices. It does have some non-paleo ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, but you can easily find a recipe to make a paleo version. I used this one. I recommend tasting it after about six hours to make sure the seasoning is how you want it. You don’t want to wait until the very end to add more seasoning because you want the flavors to really be incorporated into the meat. You can serve it in lettuce cups, on a salad, by itself or on a roll.

Barbecue Pulled Beef

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pulled Beef

Modified from FedandFit.com

2-3 pounds boneless beef roast (chuck or round is ok), or beef brisket, flank steak, etc.

1 small onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic

½ tsp. black pepper

¼-1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/4 cup beef stock

½ cup organic tomato sauce

3 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. organic mustard

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. liquid smoke

1 tbsp. chili powder

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Lettuce, iceberg or bib

  • Place beef, onion and garlic in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the beef stock, tomato sauce, honey, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, chili powder, and apple cider vinegar. Pour sauce over the meat in the slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  • After about 6 hours, taste the sauce and adjust seasonings to your preference. At this time, also remove the meat from the slow cooker allow to cool for about 10 minutes and shred, using 2 forks.
  • Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and finish cooking.
  • Serve in lettuce cups or as desired.

Don’t forget to “Like” me on Facebook!!

1 Comment »

Feel Good Friday


I’ve been thinking about my blog and what direction I want to go with it. I am happy that I shared my experiences with detoxing from sugar and getting headed on a path to a healthier life. This blog is definitely still a cooking blog because that is what I love to do, but I think I will incorporate my fitness and wellness journey as well. I hope to inspire those who are like “Old Me” and too lazy, scared, unmotivated, etc. to really take their physical health seriously. So I’m thinking about a Feel Good Friday post where I’ll share my opinions, advice, workouts, articles or whatever I feel like (probably will just complain about how sore I am!) that relates to being healthy.

As far as the blog goes I am not going to be removing or changing my old posts. Some of those recipes are far from being “clean” but this blog is about cooking good food. Some of it may be good for you, some not as good for you, but “New Me” is all about balance. As a matter of fact I won’t be posting strictly healthy or clean recipes…I will be posting whatever I feel like deserves to be shared. As an individual it is up to you what you do or don’t put into your body….remember this word: “BALANCE”!

I want to also say hello and thank you to my new followers. I have had an influx lately and I hope this will continue. It means a lot that I am reaching people out there in this big world. Make sure you head on over to Facebook and “Like” my page. It is also a work in progress but I will be sharing some interesting stuff on the page as well as my blog posts.

Anyway…for my first “Feel Good Friday” I leave you with this fun “at-home” workout that I came across on Pinterest (the original source is greenthickies.com). I used it when I was travelling over the holidays and it definitely gets the job done!

At Home Circuit Workout

Leave a comment »

It Tastes Exactly Like…


Some things really irritate me. One of those things is when people make “food swaps” and say that it tastes EXACTLY like the real thing! It also irritates me when people add healthy ingredients to recipes and say “you can’t even taste it.” That’s how I ended up making today’s recipe, zucchini pizza crust.

zucchini crust 2

A colleague at work was drinking a green smoothie…another person heard us talking about it, chimed in and made the dreaded mistake of saying that she loves green smoothies because she eats veggies she normally wouldn’t because “you can’t even taste it.” This is a lie. Face it. I am not saying that it doesn’t taste good or that you can distinctly say “oh I taste kale”, but it adds a different flavor profile than just drinking a smoothie without veggies. You know I’m right!!

Our conversation then turned to food swaps…you know those things that claim to taste like the real thing but are so much healthier. Pizza crust is a popular one. I’ve seen pizza crust recipes made from sweet potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, and about 100 different Paleo pizza crusts. I decided I wanted to prove my point and so, I came home found some frozen shredded zucchini in the freezer and got to work. I read through numerous zucchini crust recipes, developed my own from what I’d read, and jumped in.

zucchini crust 4

Now, I’m sure this is the point where you are waiting for me to tell you that I was wrong and that faux-pizza crust tastes just like real pizza crust. If you are attuned to the blog world and if you believe in all those picture perfect Pinterest recipes you dutifully pin each day…then yes, you would expect that I was wrong. But…

I was not wrong…it tasted nothing like pizza crust.

However, it did make a great base for my pizza and was a nice alternative to all that flour and carbs. In all honesty, it didn’t really taste like much of anything. I am glad I added some seasonings because this did help the flavor. I may have gotten a little carried away with trying to make it super crispy, so it looks a little dark on the bottom. (Also, what is up with these pictures??? I think a 5 year old could take better pics…I promise to work on this!)

zucchini crust 3

So my point is this…if you want to try to make “faux-foods” and swap out ingredients for healthier ones than go for it. After all, any step to being healthy is a step in the right direction. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that it is going to replace the real thing. I think all these paleo treats and food swaps just reinforce our toxic relationship with food.

My advice: if you want pizza go ahead and eat a piece…just one piece! Eat most of your meals as they are meant to be and skip the paleo brownies (more on paleo treats in an upcoming post!) and if you just absolutely want a brownie, go ahead and eat a real one (because that paleo brownie does not taste just like the brownie you want and you’ll probably end up eating a whole pan of real brownies after your “healthy” one just didn’t cut it).

It’s all about balance. I know that it’s easier said than done…trust me I have struggled with this all my life. I feel I’m doing pretty well with this now…but I am human and humans just have a hard time breaking bad habits. Just don’t give up. You can do it….and if you mess up along the way don’t give up. Get back on that horse and try again!

zucchini crust 1

Zucchini Pizza Crust

2 cups shredded zucchini, drained of all excess water

½ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 egg, beaten

  1. In a bowl combine the zucchini (make sure to squeeze out all the excess water as much as you can!), garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and shredded mozzarella cheese.
  2. Add the beaten egg a little bit at a time. You don’t want it to be too wet but if it doesn’t stick together add a little more egg.
  3. Mix it all together, spread it out on parchment paper in a nice flat layer…if you have a pizza stone I highly recommend it because it’ll get crispier.
  4. Bake on the pizza stone for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and top with pizza sauce and toppings put back in for 5-10 minutes.

Like my Blog? Be sure to check out my Facebook page!

Leave a comment »

The Sweet Taste of Success!


The following post, along with my previous three posts were written back in October/November but never posted. Here is the final outcome of my 21 day sugar detox!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

November 8, 2014

The past two weeks have gone by so fast and I am happy to report that both Hubs and I completed the 21DSD successfully (with not one “cheat” or “slip-up”!). Overall this has been a major game changer in our household. We both feel great, have a lot more energy and are really happy we did this.

As for me, specifically, I can say that I feel so much better and the best part is that I do not have those crazy cravings and I no longer get hungry every two hours (nor do I have that “I’m about to pass out if I don’t eat a damn candy bar in the next 30 seconds” feeling). After the initial first week my hunger evened out and I was able to go 4-6 hours between meals and only occasionally grabbed a snack…if I was hungry. After the 21 days I lost about 5 pounds, my skin improved and I was noticeably less bloated.

The end result is that I’ve discovered a love of real food. It is so good. Even before we finished the full 21 days Hubs and I decided to get rid of all of our processed food and continue to eat real food only. Of course, we are not going to eat completely without sugar, but we will not be eating anything with refined sugar…at least not very often; and we will try to limit our sugar intake. In addition to the sugar, we’ve decided to cut out bread, pasta, traditional and whole wheat flour, etc.. These are things I have learned my body does not tolerate well.  We’ve decided to continue to eat dairy (in limited amounts….the only thing different is that we switched to “full fat” dairy so that it is less processed and I try to buy local organic cheese and milk when I can. Occasional rice or quinoa is ok, and overall we are just trying to stick to meat, fruits and vegetables.

Packed up all of our processed food to donate!

Packed up all of our processed food to donate!

I am all for living this way most of the time, but I do feel that if we want a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream, then we should not deny ourselves. Through this experience I have found that I don’t really “crave” those things anymore and when we did indulge in some molten chocolate cake to celebrate our success it tasted too sweet and was not as satisfying as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, it was freakin’ awesome! But a few bites were enough to make me happy…and then it was just too much sweetness.

604

I know that by no means will I ever be perfect and eat a strict Paleo or clean diet. I won’t always shop at Whole Foods, buy organic or grass-fed. And I am ok with that! What matters the most to me is that most of the time I will do my best and try to avoid sugar and processed food and eat as close to the real thing as possible. If I do eat something I know is not the best I won’t let it get me down….those days of feeling guilty for not following a “DIET” to the letter are over. As a matter of fact I won’t feel guilty at all if I have a treat because I know that I am doing my best most of the time.

So my advice to those of you who may be a junk food junkie like me or stuck in the traditional ideas of “dieting” (i.e. low fat, fat free, processed ‘lean’ meals, whole wheat, etc.) would be to consider eating whole foods, listening to your body and finding what works right for you. Stop beating yourself up over that candy bar you ate yesterday and learn to just move on.

Eat to live and fuel your body. It’s that simple! You will love real food, trust me…

As far as completing the 21DSD, my body is definitely detoxed from sugar and I feel great. It was just the start I needed to living a better life. I would recommend this for anyone who is ready to change their ways and open to the facts about the harmful effects of sugar on the body. Do a little research, read some journals, read some blogs and choose what is right for you!

I leave you with one of my favorite recipes that I tried during the 21DSD. I love it not only because it tastes great, but because it is quick and easy! I recommend using fresh herbs (always) but I have made it both with fresh and dried and either way it tastes great! This makes a about 6-8 servings, which is more than enough for Hubs and me. However, I usually always make the full recipe because it makes great leftovers.

575

Chicken and Artichoke Bake

Adapted from this recipe at Paleo Newbie.

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. dried basil (if using fresh add more)

8 oz. jarred artichokes, liquid drained

20-24 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash the tomatoes and cut in half and cut the chicken breasts into cubes or bite size pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic and basil.
  4. Add the tomatoes, artichokes, and chicken and stir to coat.
  5. Add mixture to a large glass baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve over rice or eat as is, you can’t go wrong!
1 Comment »

Just Eat It!


Just a reminder that I wrote these blog posts back in October but never got around to posting them. I thought it would be good to chronicle my 21 Day Sugar Detox experience for anyone who may be considering it.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m still alive! One week without sugar and I feel fine. I thought this was going to be so much harder than it is and I really didn’t experience any terrible cravings or physical sugar withdrawal symptoms (i.e. headaches, lethargy, etc.). The only thing I really noticed was that I was hungry…all of the time! Apparently this is common and ok…however the hard part for me was to eat whenever I felt hungry. Especially because I was so hungry!! I have to keep reminding myself that the 21DSD is not about losing weight, but strictly to detox the body from sugar.

This made me reflect on everything I know about ‘diet’ and I’m referring to this term in both the aspect of the food you eat as well as how most people think of the word diet…losing weight. I felt so guilty eating when I was hungry because I felt like I was eating too much. For most of my adult life I’ve focused on calorie restriction…even skipping meals in an effort to lose weight. I recently read a blog (darn it, if I can’t remember where it was!) and the author spoke about how she basically loathes the term “clean eating” because it makes it sound like those who don’t eat clean, are eating dirty and that this just reinforces her toxic relationship with food.  I like this, because I can relate. My “food relationship” is also toxic. Whether it is overeating, eating too much junk, restricting myself, eating low-fat & nonfat chemical laden foods…the whole thing is just messed up. I mean, why do we even have a “relationship” with food? Shouldn’t we just eat when we’re hungry to fuel our bodies? Can’t we just enjoy a treat here and there without feeling bad or dirty? Maybe it’s the sugar withdrawal…but I am starting to see things in a whole new light…a much more positive light!!

This past week I’ve had to retrain my brain to recognize when I was genuinely hungry and to allow myself to satisfy this hunger. For me this first week was about truly listening to what my body was saying and not allowing myself to be driven by my thoughts about eating too much. Although it has only been a week, I feel very good and it makes me hopeful that this is a step in the right direction for me…and Hubs as well. The food we eat is so good…I’ve made a number of recipes from the 21DSD book and some that I’ve found on Pinterest. So today I share with you a recipe for Brussels Sprouts which I made as a side for steak on day 4 (is it Brussels or brussel? spell check always changes it to the city). The original recipe is from a magazine (possibly Redbook)…but I cannot remember the exact source.

IMG_0153

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts

2 lbs Brussels sprouts

2 garlic cloves

3 tbsp. olive oil

Salt & pepper, to taste

½ cup walnuts

2-4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven on Broil setting.

2. Clean & trim the Brussels sprouts.

3. Put the Brussels sprouts, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.

4. Spread the chopped Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and broil for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Leaves should be browned, but not burned. To prevent burning make sure you are stirring!

5. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a pan set to medium heat for about 5 minutes.

6. When Brussels sprouts are done, remove from oven and place in a bowl. Add the toasted walnuts and balsamic vinegar. Mix it up to distribute the vinegar (start with 2 tbsp. and taste; add more if desired). Taste & adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve warm or room temperature.

1 Comment »

%d bloggers like this: