Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Weight Loss Journey: Euphemisms Anyone?

I lost 10 pounds and 9 total inches in 3.5 weeks. You can see it in the picture. My mid-section is my problem area and this is the closest I’ve ever come to being able to spot reduce in the place that needed it most.
I majored in English in college and I’m a writer, editor, and blogger by profession. Suffice it to say, I know a thing or two about euphemisms. Voluptuous. Curvy. Buxom. Bosomy. Shapely. I could go on and on. But the reality—and the hardest thing to admit (even to myself!)—was that fact that all these pretty, fluffy adjectives that I was using to describe myself were in fact lies. I was overweight.

There I said it. It’s down on (virtual) paper and I can’t take it back.
But I Was Skinny in High School!
My story isn’t a new one. I was very involved with sports in my youth, especially tennis and softball. I grew up in the desert so the combo of activity and heat kept me very thin.  

College(CHICO!!!) brought keg parties, the dorm cafeteria,  and the requisite “freshman 15.” A semester abroad in London eating far-from-healthy food and consuming too many pints in the local pubs all lead to the same thing: weight gain.


A Gradual Plumping

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t blow up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade float or anything. I just started a gradual plumping…2 pounds here, another 3 or 4 there…but all these lbs were adding up and leading toward the very slippery slope of being overweight.

This continued through my early- to mid-twenties. My weight would fluctuate along with my workout routines and dieting whims. But I was still on the heavy side during most of this time.
2007...My heaviest pre-baby weight.
Wedding, Babies, and Weight Gain, Oh My!
In 2004 I met my now-husband, Josh. We dated for a few years, and got engaged in 2007. And, as we all know, nothing motivates a girl to get in shape like an impending wedding.
Our wedding day 10/3/08

I hired a personal trainer and got back into shape—the best I’d looked or felt in YEARS (Thanks, Mike!). Josh and I were married in October 2008 and I got pregnant with my daughter seven months later. I gained 33 pounds with my pregnancy, which is totally within the normal limits. And then I had an unplanned C-section. I lost most of the baby weight with nursing but my body was never really the same.

When my daughter was 11 months old, I got pregnant again (yes, on purpose), gained another 33 pounds, and had another C-section 19.5 months later with the birth of my son.

Being “sawed in half” twice did a number on my body. And having two babies under age 2 left me too tired to think most days, let alone really workout. I’d always exercised (think riding the bike at the gym while reading 50 Shades of Grey and pushing a double stroller miles, and miles, and miles) but it just wasn’t enough to get rid of the baby weight. If I’m being totally honest a lot of the weight was sticking around due to “dietary indiscretions,” mostly in the form of salty, carb-filled snacks and my best friend cabernet sauvignon. 

September 2012 - My heaviest post-babies.
A Champagne-Induced Promise
New Year’s Eve 2012 we joined a few neighbors for a potluck. There was a lot of champagne flowing….a lot. I don’t know how it happened but a few of the ladies on our street talked me and my friend Lauren into joining their team for the infamous 10k Camp Pendleton Mud Run.
Up until that point, my motto had always been, “I don’t run unless chased.” And it was true. I had come up with every excuse in the book as to why I couldn’t be a runner. Well, joining a team to run a RACE, six MILES, mostly UPHILL, in MUD was a little extreme for a beginner. But I’d made a commitment and I always keep my word.

The group met on Sunday mornings to train together. My first run—March 3, 2013—just happened to be after a night out celebrating Lauren’s hubby’s birthday. Pretty sure I had wine, beer, and a margarita that night—not the best running “fuel,” but hindsight’s 20-20, right? At any rate, I set off with the group, determined to pull my weight. Not wanting to disappoint my teammates, I ran the whole 4 miles…without music…wearing crappy, old, no-support tennis shoes. I remember channeling Dory’s mantra from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But I did it. I ran the whole way. I was a sweaty, huffing and puffing mess…but I ran the whole way! And so it began.

…That Led to a New Lease on Life
What started as an, “Oh my gawd, what the heck have I gotten myself into!?!” moment quickly transpired into a new passion. I downloaded some new music, updated my shoes and running gear, and started pounding the pavement. In addition to Sunday morning training with the girls, I was running several other days a week…FOR FUN.
Again, I’d always exercised but running gave me this amazing mental and physical outlet for all the stress, anxiety, and built up tension that I’d never experienced before. Every time I went out—even on the days that were hard—I came back a healthier, not to mention saner, person. Running helped me become a better mommy, a better, wife, and a better human being in general.



In preparation for the Mud Run—and for a little fun—some girlfriends and I signed up for The Color Run. It’s an untimed, 5K fun race that’s billed as the happiest 5K on the planet. And it is. This event gave me a taste of the energy and excitement that surrounds race days… I was HOOKED! Yay for team Tints N’ Sass!!!  Can't wait to do it again!

I’ll always be thankful to the original “Women of the Bend” (Deanne, Melissa, and Rene) for asking me to be a part of the team that eventually became “Meet My Mudder.” And I continue to be thankful for these ladies as well as my other teammates Karen and Lauren for training with me, inspiring me, and keeping me motivated up to—and during—the Mud Run. The race itself was so much fun and I can’t wait to do it again next year. My “dog tags” I received after the race’s completion are now one of my treasured possessions.


The AWESOME ladies of team "Meet My Mudder"

I guess we got a little dirty.

The "dog tags" and a well-deserved beer post run.

Ryann is Running                                                                    
It’s been said that a body in motion stays in motion. And it’s true. I’d been bit by the running bug and there was no turning back. I started to crave running. In fact, I’d get grouchy if I couldn’t go for a run. Right before the Mud Run I got a little nervous about the race. I mean, it was six miles and only three months prior I’d barely run a minute in my life.


So what did I do? I signed up for something even scarier and more challenging: The Long Beach Half Marathon. After all, what’s six miles when you’re ultimately training toward 13? The race is in October and I’m in full on training mode now. To date, my longest run has been 10.10 miles but I’m feeling good and the longer runs are slowly becoming less challenging. (A big thank you to my neighbor and neighbor Wendy for helping me train and keep on track for the half!)

Bringing Home the Hardware
Every year the little community I live in does a Fourth of July timed race. There’s a kid’s 1K, a 5K, and a 10K. I wasn’t quite ambitious enough to sign up for the 10K but I did register for the 5K. My friend Lauren did it with me and racing with friends is always more fun.
Fast-forward to race day. We both got to the race a little early…her husband was running the 10K (go Greg!) and we were there to cheer him across the finish line. Then it was our turn. We waited at the starting line, fiddling with our phones/music and reveling in the nervous excitement. All of a sudden it was go time! Lauren shot off like a rocket and disappeared rather quickly and I weaved my way through the crowd slowly but surely. As the race progressed, I realized I was feeling good and passing a lot of the slower race participants.

Before I knew it, the race was almost over. I had some fuel left in the tank so I turned up the intensity and literally flew down the homestretch. It’s probably the fastest I’ve ever run. My hubby and kiddos were there to cheer me on…I actually high-fived Josh right before I finished and barely realized it was him—he was a total blur and I had the blinders on!
Come to find out, we really hauled some butt. Lauren placed FIRST in our age group (30-34) and yours truly managed a BRONZE medal third place! I was shocked and very proud of both of us. I had come such a long way since my “just keep swimming” days just four months prior.

1st and 3rd place in our age division?!? Gooooo us!!!
AdvoCare 24-Day-Challenge
My newfound addiction to running had resulted in a not-too-shabby weight loss of 12 pounds. I was losing fat, building muscle, and feeling pretty good. But I really felt like I had plateaued and I wanted to take my weight loss and healthy eating to the next level.
My same running friend and neighbor, Lauren, had taken the AdvoCare 24-Day Challenge in January, lost 10 pounds during those initial 3.5 weeks, and continued on to lose another 15 lbs over the next 3-4 months for an impressive 25 total pounds. She was looking great, feeling great, and I was TOTALLY inspired.

So I did it. I took the plunge. I ordered my kit and put my start date on the calendar: 7/5/13.
Cleanse + Clean Eating + Targeted Supplements = Results
The first 10 days of the challenge is an herbal cleanse. Don’t be scared off by the word “cleanse.” Yes, you are eliminating toxins (caffeine, alcohol, excess fats, processed foods, sugar) but you still get to EAT. This was a big deal for me. I’d never be able to do any type of “diet” that didn’t allow actual chewing.


Before my coffee addicted friends run for the hills—there is an energy drink…AND it contains caffeine. It’s called Spark and it’s awesome. You drink it in the morning and in the afternoon if you need a pick-me-up. It comes in several flavors (my favorites are mandarin orange, fruit punch, and pink lemonade) and it’s DELISH! I regularly “Spark” around 3PM…it’s my new Happy Hour.
The remainder of the challenge is the Max Phase. Days 11-24, you have a tasty meal replacement shake in the morning and take targeted nutritional supplements that control appetite and help burn fat before breakfast, before lunch, and with your mid-day meal. You also take a concentrated blend of essential fatty acids for all 24 days. (All of these products, including the Spark energy drink, are included in the 24-Day Challenge Bundle.)

For the entirety of the challenge, you are encouraged to eat clean. Think lean protein sources (chicken, fish, turkey, eggs) and lots of fresh veggies and fruit. Complex carbs like brown rice, beans, oatmeal, quinoa, and whole grains are also okay. You just focus on keeping the portion sizes reasonable. Snacks are encouraged as well. This isn’t a “diet” that starves you. It just gives you the right fuel for burning fat, losing weight, and building muscle.  (Several of the recipes I’ve posted on Recipes by Ryann in the past are challenge friendly!)


I also chose to use Catalyst. It’s a blend of fat-burning, muscle-building, energy-boosting amino acids. It is not mandatory to take during the challenge but Catalyst—along with Spark—are the two products I plan to take indefinitely because I like them so much.
Real, Rapid Results
I knew from my friend Lauren’s success with the
24-Day Challenge that pretty impressive results were possible—though I was a little skeptical about the short time frame. I honestly didn’t expect such dramatic changes personally. But it WORKS.  The combination of AdvoCare products, clean eating, and keeping up my exercise routine literally transformed my body.

I lost 10 pounds and 9 total inches in 3.5 weeks. You can see it in the picture at the top of the page. My mid-section is my problem area and this is the closest I’ve ever come to being able to spot reduce in the place that needed it most.


Nothing Tastes As Good As Being Fit Feels
I’m not going to lie…I love coffee and wine and carbs and cheese…but there’s a time and place for all of these things…in moderation of course. Now that I’ve completed my challenge, I need to focus on training for that Half Marathon! I’d like to lose another 10-15 pounds but honestly, I’m focusing more on how I look and feel rather than trying to achieve a specific number on the scale.
It’s been said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels…well, I don’t want to be skinny per se but I do want to be fit and I’m well on my way there. And I’m looking at food—and booze—differently these days. When you’re working hard and feeling great you don’t want to sabotage your efforts with a cheese wheel or a vat a wine.

Products I Believe In
I SUCKED at the only sales job I ever had—mostly because if I don’t believe in something 100% I can’t fake my enthusiasm. I originally signed up to be a distributor of AdvoCare products because of the discount I received. Now, I’m glad I can share the benefits of these great products with my friends and family. I believe in them—because I’ve seen the results with my own eyes...and on my own body!
Here’s a link to the exact bundle of products you will need if you choose to take the 24-Day Challenge yourself. (You can change the flavor of the meal replacement shake if you don’t like chocolate mocha…but it’s really good!) If you do accept the challenge, be sure to take before/after photos. You will be AMAZED at the transformation that occurs.

If you’re not ready to commit to a full 3.5 weeks, the 10-day herbal cleanse is a great way to kick off a healthy eating program or just start with a clean slate. (I plan to do the cleanse a few times a year to help me stay on track.)
If you have ANY questions about the 24-Day Challenge, AdvoCare’s wide range of health-enhancing products, running, training…anything really, feel free to email me at Advo949@gmail.com or post your questions in the comments section at the bottom of this blog. I promise to answer your questions to the best of my ability.

Thanks for letting me share my story with you. Stay tuned for more healthy, tasty, and easy-to-make recipes in the very near future!
Until next time,
Ryann


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Low Carb Tomato Pesto "Pasta"


Guilt-Free, Low-Carb Deliciousness!!!
 
As you’ve probably noticed from my previous posts, I am a big fan of the tomato-basil combo. I mean really, these two yummy, fresh ingredients paired together…how can you possibly go wrong? Which is why when I first saw this recipe, I fell in love.
I adore pesto, and throwing tomatoes into the mix not only beefs up the health factor, it boosts the flavor as well. And any excuse to use my handy-dandy julienne peeler is a special added bonus.  
 

My favorite non-electrical kitchen gadget of all time.

I strayed a little from the original recipe. For starters, I used pine nuts instead of almonds. I also opted for real tomatoes rather than the canned variety. More basil and garlic are always better in my book, so I increased those amounts as well. Finally, I cut back on the olive oil, omitted the salt, and used veggies instead of pasta for the carb watchers out there. And thus, Low Carb Tomato Pesto "Pasta" was born. Here’s what I came up with.

Low Carb Tomato Pesto “Pasta”
Serves 2-3
Ingredients
3-4 zucchini squash
2-3 yellow squash
½ cup pine nuts
1 cup fresh basil
1½ cups cherry or grape tomatoes (or 1 large whole tomato)
1/3 cup shaved parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Dash freshly ground black pepper
Water (if needed)
Olive oil spray


Directions
Use a julienne peeler or spiralizer to cut the zucchini and squash into thin, spaghetti noodle-like strips. (Here’s a quick YouTube video I found on how to use the peeler!)
Combine pine nuts, basil, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil, and pepper into a food processor or blender and pulse until mostly smooth. Add a little water to thin if desired.

Spritz a medium-to-large skillet with olive oil spray and add “noodles.” Heat over medium-high heat until the vegetable strips become flexible, about 3-5 minutes.
Add tomato pesto sauce to the pan and stir well to combine. Continue cooking until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, plate, and garnish with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, a few pine nuts, a dash of pepper, and a basil leaf, if desired.
Results
Ohhhhhh. Maaaaaaaa. Gawd!!! I seriously didn’t think vegetables could ever taste this good! If you want the indulgence of a delicious Italian dish—without any guilt—give this recipe a try.


I’ve made this three times now and it just gets better every time. I serve it with a little crusty fresh-baked bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce (you know, to make up for the carbs I cut out by not using pasta) and it’s one of my favorite new meals.
You can also use the pesto on top of whole wheat pasta or as a dip. I’m pretty certain it would be amazing on top of a grilled chicken breast too.

I hope you enjoy this delicious recipe as much as my family and I do. It’s a keeper!
Until next time,
Ryann


P.S. I can hardly believe it but Recipes by Ryann turned one year old this month! WOOHOO!! I know I’ve been posting fewer recipes lately but life has been busy. I’m getting ready to start back at work part time but I will do my best to post healthy, delicious, family- and waistline-friendly recipes as often as I can. Thanks for reading and cooking with me. XO

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rosemary Dijon Chicken

Simple yet delicious. It doesn't get better than that.

A couple of my girlfriends and I were out having drinks a while back and we were chatting about recipes, feeding our families, etc. All of us share a love (okay, maybe obsession is a more appropriate term) of Pinterest, so it was no big surprise that we ended up talking about a pinned dish by the name of Holy Yum Chicken. My friend Amy said that even though her husband doesn’t like mustard, she’s made this twice and he’s devoured it each time. And my friend Lauren who hates yellow mustard was wary but a bit intrigued since this recipe calls for Dijon mustard rather than regular old French’s.
First of all, I LOVED the name. Holy Yum Chicken. How can you NOT make something with that title? I noticed straight away that this dish contains similar ingredients to one of my favorite go-to chicken dishes Unbelievably Simple Honey Mustard Chicken. (Remember that one? Just mustard, honey, and melted butter and it turns out AMAZEBALLS.) Well, think of Rosemary Dijon Chicken as the more sophisticated and über popular older sibling of the honey mustard chicken dish.

I stuck to the original recipe pretty closely but decided to use agave instead of maple syrup, omit the salt, and add a bit more rosemary. I didn’t have any fresh herbs on hand so I used dried rosemary but using the fresh stuff would probably make this dish even more incredible. I also used chicken breasts instead of thighs but I doubt it matters all that much. Finally, I didn’t really think the “sauce” needed thickening so I didn’t use any cornstarch. Here’s what I came up with.
Rosemary Dijon Chicken
Serves 2-3


Ingredients:

Olive oil spray
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons dried rosemary, divided use (use fresh if you have it)
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets


Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Spritz a medium glass baking dish with olive oil spray.


In a small bowl, mix together mustard, agave, vinegar, black pepper and 3 teaspoons of rosemary. (Save 1 teaspoon of rosemary for garnish after cooking.)

Place chicken fillets in the glass pan and pour marinade over them, turning to make sure they are coated well.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Results:
If you couldn’t guess from the intro, this dish turned out awesome. Rosemary Dijon Chicken is easy to make, the flavors dance on your taste buds, and even though it’s simple, you’ll be able to fool others into thinking you slaved away in the kitchen for hours to make this deliciousness.
If you’re tired of boring old chicken, give this recipe a try. You won’t be sorry.

Until next time,
Ryann

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rainbow Fire Slaw

Simple. Spicy. Scrumptious!
A few months ago, the hubs and I were watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network. They were featuring food trucks around the country and one of them was serving these yummy crab cake burgers with something called Tiger Slaw. It was like coleslaw on steroids. It had all sorts of crazy-cool ingredients like daikon, grape seed oil, lemongrass stalks, and kaffir limes. It sounded delicious but let’s be serious—who has these ingredients on hand? (I just now had to Google “daikon” to figure out what it was! It’s a white radish…who knew?)

Anyhoo, I wanted to make an easier, more normal-person-friendly version that was inspired by some of the flavors in the original dish. (Think green apple, garlic, citrus, and a little heat.) Plus, making slaw allows me to use my new favorite kitchen gadget, my julienne peeler. If you don’t have one, go out and buy one immediately. I got mine from Home Goods in a pack with two other peelers for $6 bucks and it’s the best investment I’ve made in a LONG time.
Now if you are expecting traditional coleslaw, just walk away now. Mayonnaise is my least favorite condiment so it’s not a likely ingredient in the recipes I come up with. However, if you’re in the mood for a flavorful, fun, and healthy variety of veggies in a tangy, punch-you-in-the-taste buds dressing, you won’t be disappointed. Here’s what I came up with.

Rainbow Fire Slaw
Serves 2-3
Ingredients:
2 cups cabbage (red or green), shredded
2 large carrots, julienned or sliced into thin shreds
1 yellow squash, julienned or sliced into thin shreds
1 zucchini squash, julienned or sliced into thin shreds
1 green apple (I used Granny Smith), julienned or sliced into thin shreds
3 green onions, thinly sliced
3 limes, juiced (about ¼ cup of lime juice)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce


Directions:
Combine all julienned or sliced veggies and the apple in a large, preferably stainless steel, bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, minced garlic, apple cider vinegar, and chili sauce. Stir well to combine.

Pour dressing over the slaw and stir well. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.
Toss well prior to serving.

Note:
If you’re not a fan of spicy food, swap the Sriracha for sweet chili sauce. This would be good if you were planning on serving it to kids as well.
Results:
The hubs and I seriously loved this slaw. It’s tangy. It’s garlicky. It’s spicy. It’s just plain delicious. I piled a bunch on a plate and then topped it with a piece of grilled mahi-mahi and some mango salsa and it was TO DIE FOR. So many flavors dancing on my taste buds…it makes me happy just thinking about it right now.


Rainbow Fire Slaw would be great served with just about any fish or chicken dish. If you are feeling ambitious, you can make some spicy papaya salsa from scratch and top the meat/fish with that. This slaw would also be really tasty wrapped up in a tortilla fish-taco style.
My only regret was that I didn’t use red cabbage. I would have liked this slaw to be a little more “rainbow,” but I had to make do with green since it was all Trader Joes had in stock. The yellow squash and orange carrot do lend a little color to the mostly green palette, but if you can find red cabbage, please use that instead.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did. As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or message me on Facebook.
Until next time,
Ryann

Monday, April 22, 2013

Veggie Quinoa Salad With Citrus-Basil Dressing

Full of protein--and delicious flavors!
I’m sure you’ve noticed but quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is all the rage these days. This little protein-packed, gluten-free wonder is a big hit with health food nuts and regular Joes alike. Why? Because it’s so versatile. I’ve used it in everything from Pizza Bites to breakfast casseroles. Not only is it easy to make, it’s good for you too. And in my book, that’s a win-win.

I saw this recipe on Pinterest (of course!) and thought it sounded too yummy not to replicate. I put my own spin on it by omitting the corn, adding lime juice and pepper to the dressing, and using more basil than the original dish called for. I just love fresh basil. I couldn’t help myself.
Here’s what I came up with.

Veggie Quinoa Salad With Citrus-Basil Dressing
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa, uncooked (I used the tri-color one from Trader Joes)
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup bell pepper, chopped (I used orange)
1 cup green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper


Directions:
Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, and green onion. Stir in quinoa once it has cooled to room temperature.

Place olive oil, lime and lemon juice, basil, and a dash of freshly ground black pepper in a food processor or blender and process until all the large basil leaves are chopped.
Pour dressing over veggies and quinoa and stir well to coat. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and serve cold.

Cooking Tip:
If you know you want to serve this salad cold, you can always make the quinoa ahead of time and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
Results:
As I’m sitting here typing up this blog post I seriously want to make this salad again. It’s so tangy, fresh, and delicious I can almost taste it now. (Can you tell I’m hungry?) This is one of my favorite dishes I’ve made recently. I love that it calls for fresh, healthy ingredients and that it only takes about 20 minutes to whip up (not including cooling time). I made this for lunch and ate the first round room temperature. It was great but I have to be honest, I preferred it cold for leftovers the next day. In fact, I liked it so much, I had it three days in a row. And that’s saying something because I get bored with food pretty quickly.


With all the protein from the quinoa and beans, this dish works as a standalone meal but it’s also a nice side for chicken, beef, fish…pretty much anything. Because quinoa is actually a seed, it’s gluten-free. You’ll note the absence of dairy and meat in this recipe so this salad is vegetarian and vegan, too.  And for those of you thinking, “This sounds too healthy to actually taste good.” I promise it is delicious.
So if you are in the mood for a little tangy, fresh, veggie-filled dish, give this one a try. You—and your taste buds—won’t be sorry.

Until next time,
Ryann

Monday, April 8, 2013

Crock Pot Verde Carnitas


Delicious and simple...what more can you ask for?
You know what I love? Easy recipes. And it doesn’t get any easier than tossing a few things in the Crock Pot. This is one of my tried-and-true slow cooker faves. I don’t know where the recipe originated from but I’ve changed it a little over time in order to make it as simple—and tasty—as possible.
In the past, I’ve always used Pacifico, Corona, or Tecate as my “cerveza” of choice, but I didn’t have any of those in the fridge so a nice maple porter from Sam Adams went into the pot instead. (Really, whichever beer you are willing to sacrifice will do the trick.) You can also swap the beer for water or chicken broth if you are so inclined. Finally, if you don’t like pork tenderloin, chicken works really well in this recipe, too. Here’s what I came up with.
Crock Pot Verde Carnitas
Serves 8-10
Ingredients:
1 medium white onion, chopped (a little reserved for garnish)

1 pork tenderloin (I get the 2-pack at Costco and use one package per meal…it’s probably 1.5 pounds or so)
1 12-ounce beer of your choice
1 large jar of salsa verde a.k.a. green salsa (a little reserved for garnish)
Fresh cilantro, washed, trimmed, and chopped (for garnish, optional)
Reduced-fat sour cream  (optional)
Corn or flour tortillas (I like the carb balance ones from Mission)
Guacamole (optional)
Directions:
Place chopped onion in slow cooker. Add tenderloin and pour beer into the pot. Cover the tenderloin with most of the jar of salsa verde (remember to save a little for later!). Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.


When cooking time is complete, shred the tenderloin with a fork (when it’s done, it falls apart easily). Serve taco-style on corn or flour tortillas and garnish with remaining onion and salsa verde and add a little cilantro and sour cream, if desired. (Chopped tomatoes and shredded lite Mexican cheese are good additions too!)


Results:
Really, you can’t go wrong with these yummy carnitas. Be aware this recipe makes A LOT of food. It’s awesome for feeding a group but the leftovers are also great served over brown rice or on top of tortilla chips with cheese and jalapeños nacho style. If you are trying to be all healthy, you can serve this mixture over romaine lettuce and go the low-carb route. It’s really versatile and delicious no matter how you eat it.


The recipe as written above produces a fair amount of liquid. If you don’t like it so “soupy” you can reduce the amount of water or beer you add or leave it out altogether and just let the tenderloin cook in the salsa. Up to you!


Again, I‘ve been making this recipe for years and it’s always a big hit in our household. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.


Until next time,
Ryann


P.S. Happy 70th birthday, Dad! I love you and hope your day is as wonderful and special as you are.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Open Faced Turkey Bacon Egg Salad Sandwich


An Egg-cellent Alternative to the Boring Turkey Sandwich!
I don’t know about you, but I often get stuck in a rut, eating the same thing for lunch every day. I’ll admit I just don’t have a lot of energy, creativity, or patience by the time the mid-day meal rolls around. Usually there are two tired and hungry toddlers hanging off my leg demanding food, water, and everything else under the sun.  And by the time I get them fed, cleaned up, and planted in front of the tube for a little downtime I’m too beat to manage more than a sandwich.
Problem is, I’m SOOOO sick of deli turkey I might die. Okay, maybe not really but I’m seriously over lunchmeat right now. That’s why this recipe caught my eye. It’s easy to make, full of fresh, good-for-you ingredients, and best of all—it’s not a freaking turkey sandwich!
I really didn’t stray much from the original recipe. I just used grape tomatoes (because I had them in the fridge) and turkey bacon (because it’s less fatty). I also decided to make this an open-faced sandwich but you can cut the carbs by omitting the bread if you’re so inclined. Here’s what I came up with.
Open Faced Turkey Bacon Egg Salad Sandwich
Serves 2
Ingredients:
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
1 avocado, diced
15-20 cherry or grape tomatoes
4 slices turkey bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pepper (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
2 slices sprouted grain bread, toasted
Directions:
Place eggs, avocado, tomatoes, cooked turkey bacon (I used the microwave!), and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir well to combine. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Spoon egg salad mixture onto the slices of toasted sprouted grain bread and enjoy immediately.


Cooking Tip:
Hard-boiled eggs are awesome to have on hand for meals and snacks. They are so easy to make. Just place raw eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a medium saucepan. Fill the pan with enough cold water so that the eggs are covered with about an inch or so of water. Turn the burner on high and heat uncovered until water starts to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let the eggs “cook” in the water for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, you need to cool the eggs quickly. You can use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the pan and transfer them into cold (even iced) water or you can drain the water from the pot and add ice water to that. Whichever method is easiest for you. As soon as the eggs are cooled, they are ready to eat. You can also store unused eggs in an air-tight container for 3-5 days.


Results:
This recipe is SOOOOOOOO good! I’m not kidding…I ate some variation of this egg salad three days in a row after I first tested it. In fact, I’m going to boil some more eggs this afternoon so the hubs can try it for lunch this weekend. Yum!


If you’re sick and tired of turkey sandwiches (or whatever boring fallback lunch item you revert to), give this simple and tasty egg salad a shot. Do you have other easy lunchtime recipes you’d like to share? Send them to me at
ryanngroseclose@gmail.com or post them in the comments section below.

Until next time,
Ryann

Friday, March 8, 2013

Low-Sugar Banana Oatmeal Muffins


Low sugar, no flour, no oil, no butter = NO guilt!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no baker. I get baking powder and baking soda confused (which one freshens the fridge again?!) and I’ve never dared to attempt any recipe that calls for yeast for fear that whatever was supposed to rise wouldn’t.  But when I saw this yummy muffin recipe on Pinterest it piqued my interest. No flour, no oil, no butter…it sounded promising. Plus I already had all the ingredients in the cupboard so I was good to go.

I stuck to the original recipe pretty closely. But I wanted to cut back on the sugar—my children turn evil the second sugar hits their bloodstreams—so I used a little natural sweetener (stevia) instead. I also used quick oats (because I had them on hand).

The best part about these little low-sugar wonders is that you just toss everything in a food processor or blender, stick them in the oven for a bit, and in minutes you have a healthy, delicious, not-too-sweet treat. Here’s the modified recipe I came up with.
Low-Sugar Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Makes about 20 mini muffins or 10 regular muffins


Ingredients:

2 cups quick oats
1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
2 eggs
¼ cup sugar
2 packets (2 grams) stevia powder (I used Stevia in the Raw)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 ripe bananas

All the ingredients ready to go!

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Place all ingredients in a blender or large food processor and blend until batter is smooth.
Line a muffin or mini muffin tin with paper or foil liners. Fill cups about ¾ of the way full.

Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean.
Results:
My kids LOVED these. And my big kid (a.k.a. the hubs) and I really enjoyed them too. They had a great consistency—you’d never know I didn’t use flour—and even though they weren’t full of oil and sugar they tasted every bit as delicious as a traditional banana muffin.


I made mini muffins, which were perfect for snacking, lunches, etc., but regular sized ones would be great for breakfast on the go or brunch as well. Next time I make these, I’m going to try folding some fresh blueberries into the batter just prior to baking. I think they would make an awesome addition.
If you’ve been looking for low sugar, good-for-you muffins, you’ve come to the right place. Give this recipe a try and, as always, let me know what you think.

Until next time,
Ryann

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cilantro-Lime Chickpea Salad

Fresh, tangy, and oh-so-tasty!
I don’t know what it is about cilantro but I’ve been obsessed with it lately. Its pungent, savory flavor is amazing—especially when combined with citrus—and I keep finding excuses to make recipes that call for this tasty herb.

Not everyone feels the same way. In fact, it’s quite a polarizing issue. People either love or hate cilantro...there doesn’t seem to be much in-between. My dad told me that cilantro actually tastes different to some people. Since he’s a rocket scientist (I’m not joking) I’ll defer to him on this one.
Anyhoo, when I ran across this salad that called for another of my favorites (chickpeas) along with fresh veggies all tossed in a yummy cilantro-lime vinaigrette, I knew I had to tweak it to make it my own.

I left out the corn and salt, decreased the amount of olive oil, added a little apple cider vinegar, and changed the portion of veggies a bit. Here’s what I came up with.


Cilantro-Lime Chickpea Salad

Serves 4
Ingredients:
I (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup green bell pepper, diced
½ cup red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 limes, juiced (about 1 tablespoon lime juice)
2 garlic cloves
½-1 cup cilantro (I used 1 full cup)


Directions:

In a medium bowl combine chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, and red onion.


Place olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.


Pour cilantro-lime vinaigrette over chickpea/vegetable mixture and stir well to combine. Place in the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes. Stir well just prior to serving.


Results:
I was surprised at how tangy—almost spicy—this salad turned out. The combo of red onion, bell pepper, and garlic gave it quite the punch. The acidity of the lime juice and apple cider vinegar kicked it up a notch as well.


The hubs said he enjoyed it but would have liked a little feta cheese. I’m sure that cheese would be a delightful addition (and I’ll probably try it at some point) but I kind of like the way this vegan/healthy dish turned out. It’s one of those things that not only tastes great but is good for you too.


I was eating leftovers for lunch the day after I made this and my 16-month-old son surprised the heck out of me by eating the cucumbers covered in the spicy cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Granted he is the adventurous eater (my three-year-old daughter is MUCH pickier) but I was I was thrilled that he seemed to like this salad as much as his mommy.  


The only thing I might do differently next time is to use an orange or yellow bell pepper instead of a green one. And the only reason would be to add another pop of color. Our foods should be as colorful and diverse as we can make them—it helps ensure we ingest a wider range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Bottom line: If you love cilantro even half as much as I do, give this tasty salad a try.
Until next time,
Ryann

Friday, February 15, 2013

Guilt-Free Loaded Cauliflower

A healthy, guilt-free alternative to loaded baked potatoes.
Bacon, sour cream, and cheese, Oh my!  Yup, loaded baked potatoes are pretty much the bomb. Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly healthy fare.

Recently I stumbled upon a recipe that swapped out the carb-filled potato for cauliflower. It was a great start but I couldn’t resist the urge to make it healthier by cutting out more fat and calories.


I started by using turkey bacon instead of the real deal. I omitted the heavy cream. I used reduced-fat Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese. And I cut back on the amount of cheese called for in the original recipe. Finally, I didn’t have chives on hand but I did have green onions so I went ahead and used those.


Yes, it still contains cheese and yummy, creamy yogurt. But given the healthy swaps above, I feel pretty good about calling it “guilt-free.”


Here’s what I came up with.


Guilt-Free Loaded Cauliflower
Serves 6


Ingredients:
1 pound (about 3 cups) cooked cauliflower (steamed preferred)
1 cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup reduced-fat Colby jack cheese, shredded *
1½ cups reduced-fat Greek yogurt
½ cup green onions, sliced (reserve a little for garnish)
6 slices turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil spray


* You can use all cheddar or any cheese of your choice. I just had a little Colby jack left over so I decided to mix the two.  


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Steam or cook cauliflower until tender.


In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, green onions (reserve a little for garnish!), cooked turkey bacon crumbles (I did mine in the microwave for about 4-4.5 minutes), and black pepper. Stir well to combine. Fold in cooked cauliflower and stir gently until well coated.


Lightly spritz an 8x8 glass baking dish with olive oil spray. Spread cauliflower mixture evenly into dish. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup shredded cheese and a little additional freshly ground pepper (if desired).


Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees or until cheese is browned and bubbly. To get the crispy golden-brown look, place under the broiler on high for about 5 minutes.


Spoon onto serving plates, sprinkle with a little green onion for garnish, and serve immediately.


Results:
I had my doubts that this reduced-fat, reduced-calorie dish would taste as good as the original recipe sounded. After all, cutting out the fat sometimes diminishes flavor. Boy was I wrong. This dish turned out great. No, make that awesome. To quote the hubs, “This is seriously the best cauliflower is ever going to taste.” I have to concur. No joke, it really reminds me of a loaded baked potato. It’s cheesy, creamy, delicious…and then the smoky flavor of the turkey bacon seals the deal.


I had a bag of frozen cauliflower on hand but the next time I make this, I’m going to steam it fresh. I think it’ll turn out even better.


I served this as a side with Agave-Citrus Baked Pork Chops and steamed lemon-pepper asparagus. I think it would also pair nicely with a juicy steak and green salad. You could even file it away and serve it as a healthy side at Easter dinner.


However you choose to enjoy it, enjoy it you will. So, indulge away—guilt-free, of course—and let me know if you like this recipe as much as I do.


Until next time,
Ryann

Friday, February 8, 2013

Skinny Tomato Basil Bisque

High in taste, low in guilt. YUM!!!
Baby it’s cold outside again and you know what that means…more soup!

Now before the foodies out there get all riled up, I realize that a true “bisque” contains seafood, most commonly lobster or other shellfish. But I don’t like lobster and I figured that the creamy (yet still healthy!) base of this soup semi-justified the name. Plus, bisque just sounds fun and fancy so there you have it.


I was perusing Pinterest when this recipe jumped out at me. I had pretty much all of the ingredients on hand and it made my mouth water so I knew we had a winner. This one sounded pretty amazing too, so what I came up with is sort of a Frankenstein mix of both recipes.  


Since I can’t—in good conscience—call any dish “skinny” that’s dripping with cream and butter, I decided to make this recipe more waistline- and heart-friendly by using plain, nonfat Greek yogurt and leaving the butter out entirely. Yes, it still contains 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese. But it’s divided amongst several servings so it’s not too terrible. Both of the original recipes called for other veggies (celery, carrots, and onions) but I wanted to keep it simple so I stuck with the tomato-basil-garlic combo. I used chicken broth but if you want to make this soup vegetarian, swap the chicken broth for veggie broth and you’re good to go.  


I know I’ve been on a Crock Pot kick lately—I just can’t help it, it makes life SO simple!!!—but you can use a stock pot and simmer this on the stove just as easily. Take your pick. I’m sure both preparation methods are equally delicious.


Here’s what I came up with.


Skinny Tomato Basil Bisque
Serves 8


Ingredients:
Olive oil spray

2 cups tomatoes, diced (divided use, I used Roma)
1 cup fresh basil, shredded (divided use)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt
2 cups low-sodium tomato juice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3/4 cup parmesan cheese (shaved or shredded)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
½-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf (optional)

Directions:
Lightly spray a large stock pot or Crock Pot with olive oil spray.


Place 1 cup diced tomatoes, ½ cup basil, and 1 teaspoon olive oil in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.


Place tomato/basil puree in pot. Add all remaining 1 cup of tomatoes, ½ cup shredded basil, and all other ingredients and stir well to combine. Cook on low (Crock Pot) for a minimum of 2 hours or on the stovetop over medium-low for the same amount of time. I did about 4 hours in the Crock Pot on low and then switched it to warm until we were ready to eat. Remove bay leaf prior to serving. 
Results:
I just finished a bowl of this delicious bisque as leftovers for lunch and, dare I say, I like it even better today? Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful last night right out of the Crock Pot with the warm, crusty rosemary bread we enjoyed it with. But today, Wowza! For some reason, it tasted even better.


If you’re looking for a creamy, hearty, delicious soup—without the guilt!—this is the ideal recipe for you.
As always, your feedback is invaluable and I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment on the bottom of this page or share your thoughts on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram (@RyannGroseclose), or any other social media outlet you’d like.

Until next time,
Ryann