Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Breakfast Smoothies

(This article does contain affiliate links to a couple of my favorite products :)

One thing about working hard to get fit is that I also am focused on my eating. I've found smoothies to be a great way to start my day. They are so versatile! You can make them in so many different ways. I also like the fact that I can add extra things to them to boost their nutritional value.

One of my favorite things to add to my smoothies is chia seeds. Those little seeds really pack a huge amount of nutrition in each teaspoon. They are basically tasteless so they don't change the flavor of the smoothie. They also add a little bit of thickening as well. When added to liquids chia seeds expand in size and become somewhat gelatinous.

Here is what I've found out about chia seeds...

They are rich in antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium (gram for gram they have more calcium in them than diary products)
They are high in Omega 3 fatty acids
They are high in B vitamins
They are high in protein
They have anti inflammatory properties and also help in lowering blood pressure and stabilizing blood sugar levels

Plus more.. there is a lot of information on the internet on them for further reading.

Due to the high fiber content in them it is important to incorporate them slowly into your diet so you don't get bloated. I started with 1t a day and now use 2T a day.

My basic breakfast smoothie is simple..

1 cup almond milk
1T chia seeds
½ cup frozen strawberries
¼ cup cottage cheese (adds creaminess and increases protein)

Puree it all in a blender and enjoy!

You can vary this smoothie in many ways...

Use regular milk or coconut milk or kefir
Add different fruits such as bananas or frozen berries
Add grains. My daughter likes to add oats to her smoothies
Add peanut butter or almond butter
Add your favorite yogurt

Add spinach or kale

Play around with different ingredients to produce a nutritious way to begin your day.

I like to also find ways to increase the protein in my smoothies. More protein means I stay satisfied longer. I know some people like to add protein powders to their smoothies but I've not been a big fan of that. Most of them seem to have flavorings and sugars or artificial sugars added as well. I have however found a natural protein supplement that I love...

This is a beef gelatin made from grass fed cows. The gelatin does not thicken up when added to liquids. It is good for the joints and skin and it adds 12 grams of protein in 2T. It does not have any taste to it. I add this to all my breakfast smoothies.

If you are looking to start your day off in a healthy way, try a nutrition packed smoothie!  :)


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Easy Salmon Fillets

I only had a vague idea what I wanted to do with my salmon last week. In the past I've not made a whole lot of seafood and fish. It was just too expensive when feeding a large family. Today it fits better with our budget and it tastes so good!

I only wanted wild caught salmon, not farmed salmon. I found what I was looking for at Costco...

It is very nice for cooking small amounts. It is a 2lb package and each piece of fish is individually wrapped making it handy to just pull out what you need.

I used about 1 ½ lbs of fish, which was 4 pieces.

I cut up a small onion and a few mushrooms and sautéed these in a large frying pan in a bit of olive oil until they were just starting to soften. Then I put the fillets in the frying pan and sprinkled them with salt and pepper...

I let them cook for about 5 minutes and turned them over...

I fried them for another 3 or 4 minutes and poured on a little Italian dressing and let it cook another 2 or 3 minutes and turned over again.. to make sure they were done.

I served them with brussel sprouts and garlic bread for a very easy and quick meal that tasted amazing!

Easy Salmon Fillets

1 small onion, sliced
3 or 4 mushrooms, sliced
2 to 3T olive oil
1 to 1 ½lbs salmon fillets
salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup Italian salad dressing

In a large frying pan sautee onion and mushrooms in olive oil until they just begin to get soft. Lay salmon fillets on veggies in frying pan. Let cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn salmon fillets over. Allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour Italian salad dressing over fillets and let the salmon cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the fish flakes and is cooked all the way through.

Serve and enjoy!!


Monday, January 25, 2016

Menu Monday!


I ended up making a few extra meals last week so I could have some meals in the freezer. I made tuna patties and spaghetti along with the other meals I had planned. It's always nice to have a few meals tucked away in the freezer for those busy days.

One of the meals I made last week was salmon. I found wild caught Alaskan salmon at Costco in the freezer section. It's really nice, each piece is individually wrapped so you can pull out just what you need. I'll be sharing how I cooked that tomorrow.

I made the pork chops that I had on my menu last week on Sunday. I still have enough of that and some of the bean soup leftover, so that is what we are having for dinner tonight. As usual this is errand day and grocery shopping day so the leftovers are nice to come home to.

Here is how my menu is looking for this week...

Garlic Shrimp Pasta
Garlic & onions and a little kale, sauteed in butter with a little salt and pepper. Add shrimp and cook a few minutes. Mix in a bit of angle hair pasta. Serve a salad on the side... and you have dinner in less than 20 minutes! :)

Homemade Pizza
Pizza is just sounding good this week. I plan to also make up a few extra pizza crusts for the freezer. It takes half the work out of homemade pizza if the crust is already made.

Sausage & Gravy with Biscuits
I like to make my sausage gravy first and then put it in a baking dish. I put the biscuits on top and then bake it all until the biscuits are done. It is just easier to serve this way. I'll open a jar of green beans to go along with this.

That should do it for the week!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

13 Ways to Help Ease the Winter Blues

I posted this article a couple years ago. Winter time blues are a real thing. I do find since I started walking and working on fitness it seems to be a bit easier. Also, as #13 says, acceptance of the season has helped but more than that I'm learning to embrace each season, be content and just roll with it. The seasons go by quickly and it is important to realize this and let God help me to appreciate all the little things that make each and every season beautiful and unique. 

I don’t know about you but personally I deal with the winter time blues. It’s not bad but it is something I’ve dealt with for a long time. As soon as the weather warms up, the days get longer, the trees start to bloom, the birds and frogs are back making their spring time noises, I start feeling much better! But in the meantime the stark look of winter and short days are just no fun. However there are a few things that I’ve learned to do over the years to pull me out of it all and learn to make the most of this time of year. 

1. Lights
I’m not talking about the fancy SAD type lights (although I’ve heard they are helpful), I tend to turn on every light in the house during the day. Maybe because I live in an area that can be rather gray and gloomy most of the time I’ve found this to be very helpful.

2. Candles
Candles create a mood, a good mood for me. I find pretty smelling candles and light them. This is especially nice in the evenings.

3. Exercise
Honestly this is not one of my better traits. I’m typically resistant to exercise unless it is something I like doing.. such as swimming in my pond, working in my garden type of exercise. But I’ve learned that a walk in the fresh air is very mood enhancing. And good for my body as well. 

4. New Year’s Goals
Remember those goals you made at the beginning of the year? This is the time most of us have forgotten that fresh outlook and determination to make desired changes for this year. I pull out my list and begin working on whatever I can.

5. Prayer
Don’t forget your quiet time with the Lord. Time spent in His word and in prayer can lighten the burdens of life each and every day.

6. Sleep
I know I seem to sleep more in the winter months. For whatever reason my body just needs it. I look at it a lot like hibernating. ~smile~ I do feel better and more refreshed to start the day when I’ve had plenty of good sleep.

7. Friends
A couple of weeks ago my best friend called and wanted to come and spend the afternoon with me. We had such a good time. We enjoyed coffee lattes made by my daughter and laughed and talked and spent time with our kids. I felt very refreshed after our visit. I can tend to just want to hole up in the winter and avoid people. It was a good reminder to me to take a little time with a friend now and again to just have some fun.

8. Plan a Garden
The garden catalogs are rolling in now and they are fun to look at. I like to think, ponder, create in my mind my dream garden. Even better when I can order some seeds in preparation for spring!

9. Start a Project
Not anything elaborate but I find winter the best time to start a sewing project or crochet an afghan. Or maybe start a craft project. Find something you enjoy and work on it as your time allows. 

10. Eat Healthy
Spending a lot of time indoors in the winter can cause us all to not make the best food choices. We can snack on and eat too much sugar and carbs and then end up feeling awful. Make a point to eat healthy foods and avoid overdoing the junk snacking.  However a treat now and again is a nice way to spend a winter's evening with your family. 

11. Make a Gratitude List
One thing that can always change my mood and give me something to brighten my spirits is a gratitude list. Take a moment and write down all the things you are grateful for in life and hang it on your fridge. Make sure to look at it often and add things to it as you think of them.

12. Do a Little Cleaning & Decorating
I know I feel better when my home is clean and in order. What better time to focus on cleaning up the home. And after you have a room cleaned up, do a little decorating; nothing fancy or expensive. Maybe some flowers, or check out the thrift stores for a little something special that will make your room feel warm and cozy.

13. Acceptance
Finally, instead of fighting winter, accept that we can’t do anything about the time of year. Take on a new attitude. This year I’ve made a point of thinking about how nice it can be to put on a cozy warm sweater, read a good book, snuggle up with an afghan on the couch and a hot cup of tea in the evenings and enjoy family. This season will end and the next will begin so the goal is to walk through it all the best we can!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Menu Monday!

Hard to believe we are in the second half of January. The month seems to be going by quickly, at least for me. And it's time to plan out a few meals for the week.

I'll be grocery shopping and running errands today so I have a frozen lasagna that I'm going to make for dinner tonight. That along with some garlic bread and a salad will be on the menu.

Here is my plan for the rest of the week..

Garlic Honey Mustard Pork Chops
I found pork chops on sale last week when I was shopping. I'll be making this simple easy and tasty recipe with them. You can find my recipe HERE. I'll serve rice and broccoli on the side.

Baked Salmon
I'm hoping to find a decent deal on wild caught salmon. I've been in a fish/seafood mood lately and this sounds good. I'll sautee up some onions and put those on the bottom of the baking dish, the salmon on top, pour some Italian dressing over the salmon and bake it. Pasta and a nice green salad will make a perfect meal (and pretty easy! :)

Black Bean & Sausage Soup
This is another simple but oh so good meal. It uses canned black beans, chicken broth, rotel tomatoes and sausage. Easy and comfy for a winter evening. Biscuits and a salad round out the meal.

That should do it for the week!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Getting Fit in the 50's – One Year Update

Well we are half way into January and I decided it was time to share an update on my fitness progress.

One year ago I decided it was time to get up off the couch and start moving. I desired to be in shape. I was out of shape, and still am.. but the improvements I've seen in one year have been amazing.

I posted my journey last year and added updates as the year went along. I am now one year into my fitness journey. So I wanted to update and give you a little bit more about my year.

In January my main goal was to just .. move.. I did not like where I was at. I wanted to be more active. I began by walking. I still walk. And I love it. It costs me nothing, I don't need special equipment (other than a good pair of shoes!), I don't need a membership anywhere and I can do it in various ways any time and anywhere.

My first goal was to walk a mile. When I step out my door, walk to the end of my driveway, down the road to where it meets the next road, turn around and come back.. I have walked one mile.

I could not believe how much that mile exhausted me. I felt worn out when I came home. But I kept at it. Pretty soon I could do the mile and felt more exhilarated than worn out. I increased it to two miles. I waked to the next spot down the road, turned around and came home.. 2 miles. The big challenge for me was the 3 mile loop. I could walk a loop that was a little over 3 miles. A LOT of my walk is uphill. Especially at the end. So it was a lot more challenging than a 3 mile flat land walk would be. But.. I did it! I will always remember the first time I walked it and came home.. and fell on the couch and was sure I'd never get up again!

Pretty soon I was interested in seeing how much I could walk in a regular days activities. So I downloaded an app to my phone that tracked my steps. I loved it. The only down side for me was that I had to wear my phone on me all day long. Not something I typically do. That got me interested in the FitBit.

I purchased a FitBit in April and began to track my steps each day. Here is what I found out. It is a LOT of work to get 10,000 steps in each day! 10,000 steps is the daily recommend amount for basic daily activity to maintain your weight and be fit. That comes out to approximately 5 miles a day. That is a LOT. I found there was no way I got 5 miles of walking in my day without adding an extra purposeful walk into my day. 

That became my goal, 10,000 steps each day. No, I have not reached that every day, but I have reached it more than I have not. I have to say the FitBit has been incredible motivation to just keep moving every single day. I now look for opportunities to move and I love that. Even when I'm out shopping I look for parking spaces farther away from the entrance of the store just so I can get more steps in! :) It has made me feel more fit, more vigorous and more alive. I feel the difference in my everyday life.

One thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is that we have rain... lots of rain. The area I live in gets around 75 to 100 inches of rain each year. That makes for a lot of rainy days. I'm not a fan of punishment, walking in the pouring down rain is not something I do. But I needed my walk. So on one rainy day I popped into my DVD player a Leslie Sansone DVD. She has incredible “Walk at Home” videos. They are low impact and she is fantastic motivation. She has 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 mile DVDs. So.. that is what I do when the days are rainy. I even started doing them early in the morning over the summer. When the temps reach 90 and above walking outside in the heat is not something that appeals to me. So I would get up early in the cool of the day and walk, and walk, and walk.

Now here I am in January one year later. I feel so much more fit! I feel alive and love being active. We have gone through some nasty winter weather which is cold temps, brutal winds, snow and ice. Not the kind of weather that beckons me outside to walk. No worries. Yesterday I put in Leslie Sansones 5 Mile Mega Walk.. and did the whole thing. I did not die when I was done, in fact, I cleaned my house, did laundry and went to town with my hubby by the time the day was done. My steps were around 15,000 by the time the day ended.

I have strength where I never had it, I have endurance that I did not have one year ago, I have motivation to keep moving every day!

I will meet my fitness goals, I will reach my health goals, I am 'intent' (my word for the year) on continuing to make it happen this year!

I post this to encourage anyone who is struggling like I was with their health and fitness. You can reach your goals. It does not have to be a burden. You can be someone you did not know was inside of you. I've never looked at myself as a fitness type person, but today I do. And so can you. Remember my first goal when I started was simple... just MOVE... get up off the couch, walk away from the computer and do whatever I can to move my body.

As we age I'm seeing there are two things that must be given attention. The use of our minds and the use of our bodies. Be active in both mind and body is my goal as I walk through my 50's. I'll be 52 in a couple months and I know I can achieve my goals of being a fit person!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Parmesan Chicken

I'm pretty sure I'm becoming the queen of quick and easy meals. After spending the last 25+ years in the kitchen .. ok that is a bit dramatic.. ha, ha. But seriously, one of the main ways we made it living on one income and raising 8 children was that all our meals were cooked from scratch. It was how I stretched the $$ and kept our family well fed. I never minded it. I enjoyed spending all that time in the kitchen with my daughters cooking, teaching them to cook and how to have the skills to raise their future families.

Nowadays, my life has changed a lot and I find there are many other things I would rather be doing than spending lots of hours in the kitchen. So I look for recipes that taste good but also are quick and easy.

This is one of those recipes. 

Flatten chicken breasts with a meat pounder, top with spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and a bit of italian seasonings.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with pasta or rice, or garlic bread and a salad.

Parmesan Chicken

2 chicken breast halves
1 cup spaghetti sauce
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
¼ cup paremesan cheese
Italian seasonings, just a sprinkle
salt & pepper, to taste

Lay the chicken breasts between parchment paper and pound with a meat pounder until they are somewhat thin.

Spray a 9x9 pan with non stick spray. Lay chicken breast halves in pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each breast with ½ cup spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle on ½ cup of mozzarella cheese on each one. Top with 2T paremasan cheese. Sprinkle a little bit of Italian seasonings over each one.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked and cheese is melted.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Menu Monday!

Another Monday and another weekly menu! I was trying to figure out what to make this week and decided to shop at home :). I checked my freezer and found I had what I needed right in there.

One of the recipes I made from last weeks menu was Parmesan Chicken. I made it yesterday and we are having the leftovers tonight. It was another super easy, quick meal. And it was also super good! I'll be sharing that recipe tomorrow.

The rest of the week is looking like this...

Orange Chicken
This is frozen orange chicken from Costco. My husband had a craving for orange chicken and saw it at Costco so we bought it! I'll be serving some Costco egg rolls and a salad along with this.

Ham and Navy Bean Soup
After Christmas I put my ham bone and leftover bits of ham and juices in a zip lock bag in the freezer. I'll be using that to make the soup. I plan to serve biscuits and a salad with this.

Hamburger & Cabbage
This is a simple meal. You can find the recipe I use HERE (scroll down past the first recipe). It is a combo of hamburger, onions and cabbage. It is a quick meal that tastes yummy. I'll serve rice and green beans on the side.

I'm sure this should do it for the week for us. I hope your menu planning is going well this week!


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Luscious Lemon Chicken

Last week I had planned to come up with an easy chicken meal. I was not sure what I was going to do, but something chicken and mushrooms sounded good. What I ended up making was even better. I made a lemon chicken dish and served it over angel hair pasta. Oh my, not only did it taste delish, it was so quick and easy. If your chicken is defrosted you could have this on the table in 30 minutes or less.

I first cut up one medium size onion and sliced about 3 cups of mushrooms. I used 2 chicken breasts and sliced those fairly thin.

I sautéed the onions and mushrooms in a little olive oil until the onions were looking a bit soft...

Then added lemon juice, some garlic, salt and pepper. Stirred that around and then added my chicken.

I let the chicken cook a little. Then added chicken broth. I let this simmer with the lid on for about 10 minutes. Then added a little cornstarch mixed with water and cooked it another minute to thicken up.

I served it over angel hair pasta and had a salad on the side...

I'm still getting the hang of cooking smaller size meals. This meal can be doubled or tripled pretty easily to feed more people. It was perfect for the 3 of us.

Luscious Lemon Chicken
Serves 3, approx.

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1T olive oil
2 chicken breasts (approx 20 to 24 oz total), sliced fairly thin
3T lemon juice
2 cups chicken broth
1 ½ t granulated garlic or garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
1T cornstarch
2T water

In a large frying pan on medium/high heat sautee mushrooms and onions in olive oil. When onions just begin to get soft, add chicken breast and lemon juice. Continue sauteing until chicken starts to slightly cook.

Add chicken broth and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let cook about 10 minutes or until chicken is done.

In a small bowl combine cornstarch and water and add to chicken. Stir and cook about 1 minute to thicken sauce. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if needed to suit your own tastes.

Serve over angel hair pasta with a nice salad on the side.

**NOTE: If you find the dish is a little tart you can sprinkle in a tiny bit of sugar to offset


Monday, January 4, 2016

Menu Monday!

My newest challenge is learning to cook less food. I'm no longer feeding an army. So this year begins with readjusting my brain to know what is enough for 2 or 3 people for our meals.

Last weeks menu worked well. I had planned some sort of chicken and mushroom dish. I was not sure what I was going to do until the day came. I ended up making my own version of lemon chicken and it turned out so yummy. I'll be sharing that recipe tomorrow.

I made the Asian beef in the crockpot on Sunday and still have enough for us to eat tonight. Today is grocery shopping day and it will be nice to come home and have dinner ready to go.

This week I'm planning 4 meals. I'm not sure if I will use them all, it will depend on how many leftovers there are. It's all part of the adjustment to smaller meals.

Here is what I have planned..

Basic, easy, and one 2lb meatloaf should feed us for a couple days. I'll serve tater tots and a salad to go with it.

Garlic Shrimp Pasta
Seafood is sounding good this week. I'll serve this with some french bread and either a salad or broccoli on the side.

Black Bean Soup
It's cold here and soup to warm us up on a cold windy night sounds perfect. It will be a mix of black beans, sausage, Rotel tomatoes and topped with shredded cheese. Tortillas chips and a salad will be served along side.

Chicken Parmesan
Bake chicken breasts covered in spaghetti sauce and topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Easy and good. Served with pasta, french bread and a salad, it will make a filling and delish meal!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ringing in the New Year and Changes on the Homestead

Hubby had to work on New Years Eve.. which was fine.. we never do anything to exciting. But I am excited for the New Year. So many possibilities and so many changes here on my homestead.

My son Jacob moved into an apartment in the city much closer to his work. He was commuting 3 hours a day to and from our home. I'm so happy for him now. He is 10 minutes from work and closer to his girlfriend. So it's a win-win.

A pic of Jake and his girlfriend, Julie...

But now that leaves us with 1 child at home. What a change that is! After years of raising kids and having an extremely busy household the quiet is an adjustment. I see the empty nest more so. My youngest son works full time and is gone all day long. My husband I keep looking at each other and saying.. is this for real? With only 1 child at home I'm already seeing the change in cooking and cleaning, and I like what I see. It makes us feel like we are on vacation in some ways!! ha, ha..

It has us contemplating our direction in life and making different plans. It's not bad, but it is a change. It's been about 33 years since it was just “Tobin &  Crystal”. As this year came to end we talked a lot about our life of raising 8 children and the busy years. We both think it will take us some time to settle into a new 'normal'.

The strangest feeling of all is the empty bedrooms! A couple years ago my sister in law came and stayed with us for a while and when she was here she helped me turn one of the bedrooms into a guest room. That has been such a blessing to have. She is planning on a visit here soon and she and I are going to turn another empty bedroom into a guest room. I'm excited for this project. I'll share about it along the way.


This year will also bring with it a wonderful new blessing. My daughter Hannah and her hubby are having another baby. We are so excited. Our newest little grandbaby will be here mid to late June. She decided to have a homebirth this time around. That made me even more thrilled. Hannah was my first homebirth. Five of my children were born at home. I had the same midwife for all of them. When Hannah went to meet her midwife she told her she was born at home. The midwife asked who delivered Hannah and, small world that it is, she knows her!

It will be exciting to see all that 2016 has in store as we adjust to our changes.