Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

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.

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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

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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.
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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.

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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.

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Bye-Bye, Sugar!


The next three blog entries were previously written in October & November, but were never posted. The truth is, I wanted to document my attempt at the 21 Day Sugar Detox (21DSD) and talk about getting fit and healthy but I was scared I would fail and I only wanted to post them if I was successful (I know, I have issues, but I also have a high failure rate when it comes to eating healthy). I wrote them as I went along and saved them to my computer….only to be completely ignored as life (and grad school) got in the way! Now that I have a few weeks off from school I felt like working on my neglected blog and I thought it was important to share some of the stuff I’ve been doing over the past few months.

October 12, 2014

My blog has been sadly ignored and abandoned. I am back today because I am about to do something extremely crazy (ok not really!) and just felt the need to write about it.

But first, over the past few months I have made some important changes in my life. Somewhere along the way I had this epiphany….I need to exercise (DUH!)! A new gym was being built close to our home and Hubs expressed an interest in joining. We thought for sure we’d be successful if we joined a facility that we had to drive past every day and was only a 2 minute drive from home. We both got excited and were ready to get our exercise on…we checked it out and I suddenly had a premonition…I would go for a month or two committed and enthusiastic…I would get on the treadmill one day, the bike the next day, I would be afraid of the weights and weight machines and then I would be bored and discouraged from lack of progress….just like every other gym experience I’ve had. This gym really had nothing to offer besides location and I just didn’t feel it was a good investment….but I wanted to do SOMETHING!

I started to give some thought to CrossFit, which is a popular trend right now. Although I hate being a conformist, it seems that I always end up on the latest fad bandwagon, whether it’s a new popular diet (pretty sure I still have some nutrisystem food lying around, which will come in handy for the end of days, that stuff will never go bad!!) or some new exercise fad (anyone need some P90X DVDS…only used one time!). That’s not to say everything that is a fad is bad and it’s important to  objectively research and learn what you can about it; which is just what I did.

Crossfit Humor

It was difficult to find objective information on Crossfit. The internet is overflowing with two types of Crossfit articles: those that are anti-Crossfit and those that are overzealous about Crossfit. Despite this, I was able to come to my own unbiased conclusion and started to look for a Crossfit program in my area. I recognized that Crossfit is not for the faint of heart…that it wouldn’t be easy…but it just felt “right” to me (try listening to your instincts some time…they work!). For the first time I felt excited about making a commitment to getting my body in top shape. So when Hubs asked what I wanted for my 35th birthday (please don’t tell anyone I’m not 24!) I told him “Crossfit!” I know he was skeptical because he knows me…Oh. So. Well. I’m sure he was thinking “here we go again…another thing for her to start and quit after a few months.” However since he is a rockin’ husband he supported me and said “of course dear” and paid for me to take the two week introductory class. I survived “On-Ramp” where I learned a lot of the basic moves and we focused on proper form….and although I literally could just barely walk for two weeks (and did you know your elbow muscles can get sore?) I knew I had made the right decision.

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I have been doing the regular Crossfit classes for about a month now. I feel good. And strong. And sometimes sore….well most of the time sore…but it has been worth it. Hubs calls me his “Little Meathead” and I take it as a compliment. I ran a half mile without stopping for the first time ever in my life (I couldn’t even run 200 meters when I started)!! I am actually starting to get a butt (bye-bye flat ass!) and my hour glass shape is slowly making a reappearance. I have more energy and actually exercise on my “off-days” by walking/running with Gemma Pooches. This may not seem like a big deal to some people who do not struggle to exercise (or just to get off the couch!)…but to me it is huge! My small victories are what keep me going. In the next year I intend to be in the best physical health I have ever been. Nothing’s going to stop me now!!

Well…maybe one thing…

My bad eating habits and love of junk food.

eating habits ecard

The strange thing about getting fit and exercising regularly is that it actually makes your body want healthy foods…but then your brain and your emotions take over and say “ignore your body; you NEED that second slice of pizza!!” “You had a salad for lunch. You can have ice cream for dinner (or a cupcake, which I’ve done…more than once).” Even since starting Crossfit I just cannot get my act together and eat right. A lot of people in the CrossFit community eat a “Paleo” diet and so I started to look into it. Although I am not sold on following it completely I am definitely in favor of eating “real food!”

cookie dough ecard

That’s what brought me to what I am about to do in few days…the 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo. When I came across it I remembered a friend’s sister had done it and blogged about it. I went back and read her blog post and I was sold! Since I’ve known her as an acquaintance I felt that if she can do it then I can too. I purchased the book, read it in one sitting and started to prepare. The thing that I love is that the book validated all the things I suspected about myself….that my body cannot handle processed food and my blood sugar levels are on a constant roller coaster ride and as much as I do not want to admit it “I am a sugar addict.” I used to think part of me was crazy…how could I possibly eat a large McDonald’s value meal and be hungry 2 hours later…it had to be mental…but it wasn’t. I was genuinely hungry! After reading the book I understand how these processed and unnatural foods work (or actually don’t work) in the body and are keeping me overweight and still hungry! I highly recommend this book. It is written in a way that is easy to understand and you can really see the effect sugar has on the body.

I am excited, but anxious at the same time….the same way I felt when I made the decision to start Crossfit. It’s a good anxiety because I just know this is something that is going to be the start of a new me!

So with that said, I will be back with my experience and hopefully my success. In honor of healthy new habits here is a quick and yummy smoothie recipe.

Cinnamon Pear Smoothie

1 pear

½ banana (frozen optional)

½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or add up to 1 cup for a thinner smoothie)

¼ tsp. cinnamon

1 pinch nutmeg

Ice

In a blender combine all ingredients and blend well.

Serve immediately.

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