Moroccan Chicken with Chickpeas

Ok, so yesterday I came to a realization.  I’m chubby.  I might even be fat.  Ugh, fat.  It hurts writing that.  As if putting it down in words somehow materializes something that otherwise would not exist.  Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works.  My body is squishy regardless if I acknowledge it on this blog.

Now for someone who has seen me since I’ve pushed out my babies, this shouldn’t be news.  If anything, confusing on how I have gone for over a year since the birth of my youngest son and I am only now just realizing that I am a chubby girl.  But honestly, for the last year I am lived completely oblivious to this reality.  My lack of awareness of my own body size is the result of many factors.  But really, it can be boiled down to one single truth.

I suffer from a high self-esteem.  Much like my mother, I live my life with complete confidence in myself.  For the majority of my life, I have been blindly self-assured of who I am as an individual, appearance and all.  And frankly, it has served me well.  As a whole, I am almost always happy with my life because I am largely confident in my life choices.  I’ve gotten job offers, made friends, found stylish clothes that fit.  When I was single, I never had an issue getting a date.  Overall, if I really wanted it, I would will it to happen.

So after having my baby boys, sure, many of my clothes still didn’t fit.  But that didn’t mean I was chubby.  My hips have shifted.  Or I am not that far off from where I was (oh I am).  Because in my head, I wasn’t overweight (oh I am).  I was in complete denial.

This isn’t the first time my body imagine has not matched reality.  When I went to college, as a quintessential overachiever, I gained 30 pounds.

Yet, I remained as confident as ever.  I went through three full years of undergrad before I actually realized that I was chubby and needed to rethink my habits. I won’t forget the day it hit me.  I was sitting in a class, talking to a girl who lived in my dorm who was friends with my roommate.  She was telling me a story about someone.  Or trying to see if I knew someone.  That part of the story has faded.  But the rest of our conversation, I can close my eyes and find myself sitting in that classroom.  There were no desks, and the plastic chairs made a giant circle outlining the room.  It was right before class as we made what I had amounted to nothing more than small talk.  She began describing this girl she was talking about to me.

“She is a little bit of a bigger girl. You know, like you.”

Those words stung.  In that moment, I wanted to cry and run out of the classroom.   I replayed her words over and over in my head on my walk back to my room after class.  I had to get them out of my head.  So I joined Weight Watchers. lost the weight, and got myself down to 128 pounds.  I was fit, healthy, and happy.

This time, she hasn’t been around to bring me back to reality.  So I am not sure what happened to snap me out of it.  But yesterday, I realized that maybe I was a bit farther away from my pre-baby weight than I’d like, and I need to kick it into gear if I want to feel confident in my skin by summer (and more importantly, my Italian vacation with my husband).

So I am embarking on the 8 week total body challenge on the Strive with Megan app.  It includes a daily 22-28 minute workout and a meal plan.  It’ll be tough.  Mostly because Matt loves snacking and I love to be part of the party 😉 But I’ve done it before.  So it’ll happen again.

We tried one of the meals from the 8 week meal plan, and it was delicious! I tweaked it a bit to make it our own, including adding rice because otherwise Matt would have claimed there was just not enough food.  It was simple to make, and the ingredients are mostly items that you would find in your kitchen on any day.  Matt put this on his: make again list.

[ps: I don’t plan to share other variations of the meals from the Strive app but I encourage you to get the app yourself!]

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Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Breasts

Christmas time is here! Wow, that was fast.  Wasn’t I just picking out costumes for Halloween and picking fresh veggies from our garden? Gah, life has a way of catching up with me!  So I spent the past weekend going to Kohl’s and stocking up on new Christmas decorations.  My living room, kitchen, and tv room are slowly becoming decked with jiggle bells and mistletoe.

Christmas Dining Room.

And in that spirit of giving, my husband bought me a new purse, wallet, and clutch for winter.  I’m a big believer in having a summer purse, a fall purse, a spring purse, and a winter purse.  I blame my mother.  Her purses were always inspired by the weather.

so spoiled.

I wanted to show my gratitude by making something special for Matt.  Matt loves wings.  Whenever I find a recipe that has some spin on buffalo wings, I bookmark it. Of course, I also have a wing tooth–I love the salty, spicy flavor of a good batch of wings.  Unfortunately, so do my thighs.  Hence, looking for the same tasty flavors minus the hefty calories.  This stuffed chicken is exactly that! A low-calorie option to deep fried wings.

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Sesame Encrusted Baked Chicken

I finally have joined the rest of the world–I own a smart phone!  After years of free phones that can hardly text, my phone is fully functional, complete with GPS and Words with Friends.  But the best part of having a smartphone is the camera!  For the past couple of years, I’ve had to bug Matt for his phone whenever the urge for a photoshoot struck.  Now I can whip out my own phone without the hassle of convincing Matt to fork over his.

My last recipe required so much prep work and cooking time.  This recipe is much more worker-friendly.  The ingredients are all ones that you can normally find in your cupboard.  It was a simple, yummy meal that I recommend on those busy nights.

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Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

Do not let the slow cooker part confuse you.  This recipe is not a quick toss everything into the slow cooker and enjoy sort of recipe.  It’s a bit more labor intensive but oh so worth it!

Now that I have been cooking regularly for several months, I have been trying to modify and create my own recipes.  Many Italian recipes I have been finding online requires a jar of spaghetti sauce.  That is the first thing I eliminate from every recipe I try.  Instead, I substitute a can of tomato sauce.

I do this for two reasons.  First, with tomato sauce, I can control the level of salt and spices.  Spaghetti sauce generally is full of salt.  I can just add a pinch of salt instead of being subjected to the already mixed salty sauce.  Plus, my herb garden allows me to add fresh spices instead of the dried ones.  Second, a can of tomato sauce is far cheaper.  So with health and my wallet on my side, I haven’t missed the jar of spaghetti sauce in my recipes.

True to form, I have modified this recipe slightly.  Subbing out the spaghetti sauce and modifying some ingredients and prep.  This recipe was a huge hit.  It allowed us to enjoy the delicious taste of wings without the deep fried fat.

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Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

The dreaded bar exam is lurking around the corner.  In 16 days, I’ll be sitting down in a crowded, stuffy classroom, surrounded by over-stressed, nerve-ridden students waiting to take a two day-12 hour exam that will decide whether or not we are fit to practice law in Minnesota.  Sounds great huh?  Bring on the fun!

While I wait in anticipation of this joyous event, I have been cramming every single piece of law I can into my over-sized head.  It’s gotten to the point that when I have conversations, they consist of me telling someone about a certain area of law.  “Hey! So you’re never gonna believe this crazy piece of information! You can use prior inconsistent statements to impeach a witness. AND it can come in as substantive evidence.” Yeah, I know. Crazy. But it’s true!!

So since I can only speak in legal jargon, I’ve decided to stick to crock pot recipes for the next two weeks.  Anything that takes more than 20 minutes to cook makes me feel guilty for reading something that isn’t cluttered with italic, Latin phrases. My poor summer fun reading list has been set aside (sorry Jessi Witkins!) And this recipe only calls for ingredients that most people have on hand at all times.  No need for a grocery run.

The heat index in Minneapolis has started to decline (we live in house without air conditioning. the last couple days were less than pleasant) so using the crock pot isn’t completely unreasonable.   Plus, after a full day of studying, a warm meal sure feels great! And hell, who doesn’t love chicky catch with some long ass rice (much love to my boy Tom Haverford).

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Feta Crumble Chicken Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Hot summer afternoons means gardening.  My garden has doubled from last season.  I have a special herb garden filled with cilantro, basil, mint, orange mint, rosemary, hot and spicy oregano, chives, and parsley.  Plus two huge planter boxes my husband made me stuffed with red, yellow, orange, and green peppers, serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, green beans, carrots, several types of tomatoes, garden salsa peppers, okra, sugar peas, potatoes, and cucumbers.  I know—it’s a lot of plants!  (I have 15 basil plants! My backyard smells heavenly). But my goal is to be self-sufficient this summer and autumn, and I think I’m right on track.  With all these fresh vegetables and herbs, salads are a must!

One of the planter boxes my husband made for all my pepper plants

 

my patio and porch are filled with potted plants. my favorite.

Two of my friends started CrunchTime Fitness, a website focused on helping individuals attain their physical fitness and nutritional goals.  Thanks to them, I started and finished one round of p90x (next round to be started soon) and rejuvenated the way I look at food.  This salad has been modified from their recipe box.  The dressing was delicious! I plan to mix up this dressing with different salad variations throughout the summer.  It’s the perfect way to meet your veggie requirements on a hot, sunny day.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

I never knew my love for Indian food until I moved to the Twin Cites.  My friend Leslie was coming to visit and wanted Indian food.  She did some online research and found The Dancing Ganesha.  The food was amazing! It quickly became my favorite restaurant, and I have celebrated many occasions there.  Since starting to cook, it has been a goal of mine to make Indian food at home.  It took a while for me to track down garam masala, but once I found it, I couldn’t wait to make this.  And it was definitely worth the extra effort.

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Grilled Chicken and Tri-Color Peppers with Chimichurri Sauce

When I want to splurge, I buy red, yellow, or orange bell peppers.  Matt buys fried chicken.  As much I as love Matt, fried chicken doesn’t have many healthy redeeming qualities so we went for a compromise. Matt whipped up some homemade onion rings for himself, and I made a chicken entree with bell peppers. (although I did sneak a ring or two and they were amazing!)  But what’s with all this splurging?  Well, I had my health law final yesterday, and it went well!  One thing you learn from law school is the importance of celebrating the little victories. So today’s dinner was our mini-celebration.  I found a traditional South American sauce to pair with our chicken and peppers.  This sauce has a bold, herbal flavor that is perfect for summer grilling.

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Better Than Take-Out Orange Chicken

Growing up in a small town means no Chinese food restaurant.  So the first thing I did when I got my driver’s license was drive to the near-by town with my best friend to go to the Chinese buffet.  It was the ultimate sign of freedom.  (although we somehow managed to get lost driving home from Marshfield.  To this day, I have no idea how we did that).

Now that I live in the “big city” getting Chinese food is less of a special event, but it still tastes just as delicious.  Unfortunately, the deep fried dishes and heavy sauces take a toll on the waistband.  This healthy version of Orange Chicken doesn’t sacrifice any of the taste and cuts down the calories.  Instead of deep frying the chicken, the chicken is sauteed.  Plus, the sauce is full of fresh ingredients and low-sodium soy sauce.  Place this chicken and sauce over rice, and it makes a great meal.  Matt and I aren’t big fans of rice so we opted out of the rice.  Without rice, this meal is 5 Weight Watchers Plus Points.

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Peeta Pockets

I have always been a sandwich lover. From peanut butter and jelly to my “world famous” turkey, avocado, tomato stacked sandwich, I can always go for a sandwich.  This chicken pita has a zesty, fresh taste that is perfect for lunch or dinner.  With all the hype around the Hunger Games, I named this dish after my favorite character Peeta Mellark.

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