Conscious Cleanse Check In

photo[1]

I am writing this as I round out day seven of my Conscious Cleanse experience. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. But not from lack of food. Far from it in fact. I am worn out from the immense prep it takes on the weekend since weekdays do not allow much time for anything other than survival. This weekend I shopped on Saturday, prepared a slow cooker meal for Mike and Rylan and roasted beets. I should have done more on Saturday…

Sunday morning brought a rush of prep requiring the Vitamix since our kitchen is so close to Rylan’s room and blending during nap would lead to complete chaos. Homemade almond milk, zucchini hummus, beet hummus, dressing for the roasted beets and sunflower seed dressing for the week. I also snuck in my green smoothie for breakfast. It combined frozen pitted cherries, kale, spinach, banana and pear. Amazing.

Once Rylan was down for nap I quietly carried on with my prep — rainbow chard and white bean soup, salads through Wednesday, wild rice salad, cauliflower mashers (not my favorite), green smoothie packs for the week and pre-portioned veggie snack bags for easy snacking with hummus. Mike also lent a hand by making a batch of meatloaf in muffin tins for Rylan. There are a lot of great recipes on the Conscious Cleanse website if anything sounds appealing! You certainly don’t need to be cleansing to enjoy these.

Prep aside, this is an incredible program. My body is resetting more and more each day and I have never felt more hydrated. I am learning new habits, like grabbing a handful of veggies instead of always reaching for crackers or other carbs. I’ve learned that life is possible without coffee. Forgoing wine for more than a week at this point means I am sleeping sounder than ever.

I know I won’t stay free of coffee, cheese, wheat, wine and sweet treats forever. Life is too short and a hot cup of coffee hits the spot before a long day. Wine will flow through the holidays and I look forward to sharing in a few glasses with family and friends. And if the cleanse ended today, I think I’d opt for a big piece of garlic bread.

But I’ve learned that life doesn’t end when you cut out dairy, wheat, alcohol and processed foods. Reconnecting with salads, veggies and grains is more than possible with pre-planning. At this point of the cleanse I am learning so much still.

Here’s to the home stretch!

This Happened: Sweet Potato Noodle Shrimp Puttanesca

photo 1

In about 20 – 25 minutes total, I turned this heap of spiralized sweet potato into a one-pot Sweet Potato Noodle Shrimp Puttanesca. And about five minutes after that, our bowls were empty. Recipe, of course, a la Inspiralized. 

Sunday got away from me so I used a few spare minutes before dashing to work Monday morning for prep. I took out frozen shrimp and placed it in a glass bowl to defrost in the fridge all day. Whenever I do that I cover the shrimp tightly with plastic wrap and have never had an issue with smell. I also peeled and spiralized my two large sweet potatoes and stored the “noodles” in the fridge in tupperware.

After Rylan went down (he was in no shape to wait for this dinner tonight after barely napping at daycare…but that’s another story) Mike peeled the shrimp and I completed the rest in minutes. We did skip the red pepper flakes so Rylan can hopefully try it tomorrow and I did not get anchovies because, well, I don’t like them. I also opted to use dried parsley instead of fresh because we have a busy week and I knew it would go bad.

BEHOLD!

photo 2

Apologies for the poorly-lit iPhone food shot. It’s simply all I have time for these days, and I have no aspirations of achieving professional food blogger celebrity status. I cook, we eat and then I share recipe links when I can. Let me know what you’ve spiralized lately!

Recipe Survival Guide: Spiralizer Edition

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 8.37.38 PM

Credit: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-spiralize/

Time. There is simply never enough.

Choosing sleep means less blogging or gasp, reading of real books that aren’t about nap scheduling and behavior milestones. Choosing the gym means deli meat (organic of course, we really do try), string cheese and frozen veggies for Rylan’s dinner more nights than I’d like to publicly admit and fewer home cooked meals than I daydreamed about when Rylan was still on only breast milk and I glorified family dinners at the table together.

Still, I do my best to keep a few meals in rotation these days so that Rylan’s tastes expand and I don’t fall back to cereal every night for dinner. I never thought Cheerios and cold milk for dinner could get old but it has become pretty bland and boring.

My #1 tip to busy households with or without kids? Treat yourself to a spiralizer. Now. Like, stop reading my blog, go order it on Amazon, and then come back here to keep reading.

Okay. Did you order it? Good.

Being able to turn one raw zucchini, some shrimp, capers and the squeeze of a lemon into a healthy one-dish dinner in a few minutes is insane. On spiralizer nights we’re eating healthier than ever and I crave the leftovers for lunch at work the next day. Better yet, one incredibly smart blogger has dedicated herself to spiralizer recipes AND launched an iPhone app. An app for spiralizing! Healthy dinners are saved (one – two days per week, in the spirit of full honesty).

Recent spiralizer sanity savers:

Can’t wait to hear if you are obsessed with terms like “zoodles” as much as I am. Please share your favorite spiralizer recipes in the comments!

Healthy Make-Ahead Recipes

Meal Prep Sunday

No matter how busy we get I refuse to get totally derailed from eating healthy. In fact, finding a way to get real food on the table is more critical than ever while we shape Rylan’s eating habits and expectations for the type of food he will get at home most days.

Weekend meal prep is my best shot for avoiding takeout temptations. I still haven’t found the time to make large batches of freezer meals but I have found a few new recipes that yield a fair amount of leftovers to carry us into the week for lunches and dinner.

Links I suggest all busy households pin and try:

  • Vanilla chia seed pudding. A delicious, crazy-fast and protein-packed breakfast that you can prepare at night and eat for at least two – three days following. I have been topping mine with organic strawberries and blueberries.
  • Kale pesto (nut free). I read on a mom blog somewhere that pesto is something all families should keep in the fridge. Tossing it with pasta is a fast weeknight fallback. Until Rylan has been exposed to all nuts I searched for a nut-free version and am surprised by how good this one tastes. Since we are not vegan I did add some parmesan cheese–highly recommended.
  • Chickpea, avocado and feta salad. This is dummy-proof. To make it even heartier as a standalone dinner I mixed in about a cup of Trader Joes Harvest Grains mix. Rylan devoured this.
  • Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili. This is now a staple in our house. I make it at least twice a month and freeze extras for mid-week meals when we’re running low on energy and motivation. I omit the chipotle peppers since I am breastfeeding and want to keep it on the milder side.

Overnight slow cooker oatmeal is a forever-staple and I always make sure to keep frozen veggie burgers and fish on hand to bare with a basic salad. Morning green smoothies have gone on a hiatus but I am hoping to make another round of smoothie packs now that the weather is warming up. I am obsessed with the daily recipes shared by Simple Green Smoothies on Instagram.

We’re keeping Rylan gluten free, per our pediatrician, until one year and that will influence a lot of my cooking until then. Some freezer-friendly recipes I was able to test this last weekend include:

  • Mini Frittatas (for Rylan, but good for any busy household. I made ours in a mini muffin pan)
  • Paleo pumpkin muffins (for Rylan, though I realized the almond flour might not have been the best choice so even though he reacted fine, we can’t bring them to daycare. Again, I used the mini muffin pan)
  • Salmon cakes (I used gluten free bread crumbs. Warning – do not overcook or these bad boys totally end up like hockey pucks)
  • Crock pot vegetarian stuffed peppers (I can’t for the life of me find the recipe I followed! But if you Google “slow cooker stuffer peppers) there are endless varieties. I used brown rice, frozen corn, black beans, shredded cheese, cumin and chili powder. They baked perfectly in about 3 hours on high)

What weekend meal prep saves your sanity during the week?

 

Pre-Made Smoothie Packs

Eating healthy as a busy working professional is hard enough. Tack on having to nurse a baby and pump off before getting to the office at a decent time – with a million bags in tow – and I am amazed that I even eat breakfast at all–and that it doesn’t (often) come through a drive-thru window…although Starbucks has some pretty scrumptious and healthy breakfast options these days. But I digress.

Pre-making green smoothie packs has changed my perspective on smoothies in the morning. I’ve always loved them but dread washing fruit and spinach in a rush in addition to having to portion out my flaxseed, chia seeds and protein powder. Nothing about smoothie making is rocket science but every second counts in the morning.

So right before I went back to work I played around with putting everything but the dry ingredients into a sandwich bag and sticking it in the freezer. I take out a pack before I get in the shower so it has a chance to soften up and then combine it in the blender with unsweetened almond milk (only 30 calories per serving) and the aforementioned dry boosts.

Voila! Green goodness – packed with fruit and leafy greens – is ready to enjoy before the little man demands his breakfast. These little frozen packs are saving my mornings. You really can’t make them wrong but an easy starter pack contains:

  • 1 cup washed spinach or other leafy greens (kale takes some getting used to in smoothies, in my opinion)
  • 1 cup mixed berries, fresh or frozen (I’m a fan of always including one or two strawberries. Blueberries and raspberries are easy choices while peaches and pineapple give any blend a lighter taste and showcase the greens more)
  • 1 whole banana, peeled

I haven’t pre-portioned my dry ingredients yet but as Rylan gets ready for his daycare transition and our mornings become even more hectic I probably will.

Please share other tips you have for making hectic mornings a little saner, and a bit healthier!

 

Vegan Quiche Cupcakes

As a mom with an infant I have discovered that you learn to do lots of things one-handed. These tasks include laundry, putting on makeup, reading magazines, texting, feeding the dog and probably most common, eating.

Ever since I started nursing I wake up starving. Like, “get me breakfast right now or I am going to die” starving. That never happened to me much while I was pregnant but has been a constant since Rylan arrived. But the problem lies in that fact that Rylan also wakes up STARVING, screaming at me “mom!!! Feed me right this instant!!!”

My solution is to get myself up at least 10 minutes before his 7 a.m. wake time (though he is a 6:45 a.m. kind of dude most days) and start my beloved cup of coffee in our Keurig and heat up a small breakfast that is portable and can be eaten with one hand. I like to nurse in the basement in the morning so that I can watch The Today Show, so breakfast must be easily transportable downstairs on one plate with my one free hand. I have tried cereal but the milk goes everywhere – not ideal.

The zucchini muffins I blogged about awhile ago are an awesome choice but I figure that if I eventually want to be able to button all of my pre-baby jeans, I shouldn’t start each day with a muffin. And since I am still 100% off dairy for the little guy my options are even more limited.

That is why I was excited when I came across the recipe for Vegan Quiche Cupcakes via VeganCooking.com. Some of the ingredients, namely the nutritional yeast as a cheese supplement and tofu instead of eggs, made me wary but I decided to give them a go. And you know what? They are pretty tasty! I froze most of the first batch and take them out of the freezer two or three at a time at night. Thirty seconds in the microwave and you have a one-handed breakfast. If I have an extra spare minute before grabbing Rylan I cut some one-handed friendly fresh fruit to0. Lately peaches and apples have been fridge staples.

What say you. Are you brave enough to give these vegan quiches a try?

P.S. One extra new mom tip. Invest in a few travel coffee mugs and enjoy your coffee (or hot beverage of choice) in those each morning. It prevents spills on the baby as you chug caffeine over their head while nursing and lets you steal a few extra minutes of the beverage actually being hot…a small miracle with little ones. 

Fresh Fruit Quinoa Crumble

Gina of Running to the Kitchen is one of my all-time favorite bloggers. Her recipes are inspirational yet approachable and I’ve posted about them here often. She also has a great, sarcastic sense of humor (or at least it seems like it from her writing) which I appreciate.

Since Rylan arrived, many wonderful friends and family have delivered meals. Therefore, my time in the kitchen has, thankfully, been kept to a minimum. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am doing a ton of “feeding…” but it isn’t for any of the adults in the household. But I was really excited when my friend and colleague Carissa (whose second son is 14 weeks) invited me and another friend and coworker (whose son is approx 8 weeks) to her house for our first official “Three Amigos” playdate and a potluck brunch. Yep, we all had boys back-to-back and have been on maternity leave at the same time. Many thanks to our patient colleagues for dealing with the triple baby arrivals this summer!

Our get together was a blast. Just what I needed. Lots of mom talk and war stories with a wonderful power walk through one of Denver’s prettiest neighborhoods. Then we (because this is how it always goes now) hurriedly ate our delicious potluck-style lunch before our boys melted down in protest of wanting lunch as well. Carissa made a scrumptious dairy-free quiche and Lauren made a super fresh green salad with blueberries and strawberries. I closed out the meal with a dessert by Gina that caught my eye last week – a Peach and Cherry Quinoa Crumble. I managed to take one photo of it before baking but with all the boys crying I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. Click over to Running to the Kitchen for MUCH prettier pictures. That’s why she is the food blogger!

 

We topped it with dairy free almond milk ice cream since I’m off dairy completely right now (a real pain but it’s helping Rylan tremendously so that is all that matters). I will absolutely be making this again. I imagine any seasonal fruits would taste great with the quinoa/almond flour/coconut oil crumble. Enjoy!

Balsamic and Rosemary Grilled Salmon

Credit: AllRecipes.com

A recipe is a keeper when the dish is devoured so quickly that I forget to take a picture for the blog. That happened with this Balsamic and Rosemary Grilled Salmon from AllRecipes.com. The picture above is from the recipe website but I hope it inspires you to give this flavorful take on salmon a spin.

Many thanks to my friend and colleague Ramonna for delivering a pescatarian and dairy-free meal that helped to keep this tired mama sane and well fed for another day. Yes, it seems the dairy-free diet will continue for awhile. Rylan (knock on wood) has only projectile spit up one or two times since I cut out all milk, cheese and frozen treats more than a week ago. Of course those episodes tend to happen at 3 a.m. Because why would projectile spit up at 3 p.m. be any fun?!

Bring on the almond milk!

More Freezer Meals: Garden Zucchini Cakes

 

Zucchini Cake served alongside polenta and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from my father-in-law’s amazing garden.

My immense appreciation for post-baby freezer meals continues. Yesterday marked my fifth week of maternity leave (how did that happen?!) and while I’m becoming a lot better at maximizing my “down time” while Rylan naps, cooking grandiose meals from scratch still feels like a stretch at this point. A hot, uninterrupted shower trumps meal prep every time.

Our freezer is stocked with some delicious meals but the real bummer is that I had to cut out dairy beginning last Wednesday. Rylan starting spitting up after every feeding and was noticeably very uncomfortable as well. The first recommendation from the pediatrician was for me to cut out dairy and cut back on citrus — and it seems to be working. Not that I mind, I want him to be as healthy and content as humanly possible. But after nine months of navigating pregnancy food rules, I can’t say that I am over-the-moon to once again be on a restrictive diet.

Luckily one of the dishes my mom and sister-in-law prepared for us were Garden Zucchini Cakes. The recipe is from the incredible Once A Month Mom website, a killer resource for meal planning and prep. The patties are dairy free and a breeze to thaw and reheat. We’ve eaten them twice for dinner alongside fresh salads and/or additional vegetables. Nothing beats a healthy dinner that’s on the table in about 10 minutes flat.

I hope Rylan outgrows the dairy sensitivity sooner rather than later. I appreciate any advice or experiences other mamas can share with me about foods they had to cut out while breastfeeding — and tips for if/when to try reintroducing those foods down the line as well.

You can find the Garden Zucchini Cakes recipe here. Enjoy!

Freezer Friendly Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

Grabbing a proper breakfast between early morning feedings with a newborn is not easy. Factor in my deep need to start every day with a shower – however short – and I’d be looking at chowing down on store-bought granola bars for the next few months.

Thankfully I found an awesome Zucchini Oatmeal Muffin recipe on EatingWell.com and once again, my mom came to the rescue by baking not one but two full batches for us to freeze.

Unfortunately, the first batch didn’t make it past the first week in the freezer. As of Thursday morning, there is one left from that batch. Yes, these muffins are that irresistible, especially when paired with fresh fruit or some nonfat Greek yogurt. 5:30 a.m. wake-ups just got a bit more pleasant.

Design by Designer Blogs