Four Awesome Crockpot Meals

…in 1 hour, for less than $25!

In my case, these meals didn’t cost anything because I was in the process of clearing out my pantry and freezer. I whipped up these four meals, each good for at least 1-2 days between two people, in about 1 hour this morning.

For quicker cooking, you’ll want to dice and slice up all your produce prior to putting together any meals. At this time, label your gallon-sized freezer bags like so:

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Let’s begin with recipe #1: Italian Chicken

Ingredients: 4 chicken breasts, 1 packet dry Italian dressing, 1 8 oz package of cream cheese, 1 can of cream of chicken soup (I used a reduced fat version), approximately 3 cups of frozen or fresh green beans – optional

Directions: Umm… there really aren’t any. Simply put all the above mentioned ingredients together and seal! When it’s time to cook, leave in the Crockpot for 8 hours on low.

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Recipe #2: Spicy Beef Chili

Ingredients: 1 pound ground beef (thawed), 2 cans beans (I used two cans of black beans, because that’s what I had, but you can use kidney beans as well… or one of each!), 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, 1 8 oz can tomato sauce, 1 chopped bell pepper, 2 tb minced garlic, 2tb chili powder, 1 tb cayenne pepper, salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cook the ground beef by stove top and mix in with chili powder, cayenne pepper, regular salt and pepper

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2. Cool beef. Place in gallon-sized zip lock bag with remaining ingredients.

3. On Crockpot day, cook for 8 hours on low.


Recipe #3: Portobello Chicken Stroganoff

Ingredients: 4 chicken breasts, about 3 cups of chopped portobello mushrooms, 1 can of cream of chicken soup, salt and pepper, veggie of choice (I used frozen organic green beans again)

Directions: Just like the Italian chicken, this one is pretty straight forward. Place the ingredients in the bag and that’s about it. After cooking in the crockpot, top with egg noodles or some other pasta. Cook for 8 hours on low.


Recipe #4: Healthy Meat Loaf

Ingredients: 1 pound ground beef (thawed), 1/2 cup almond milk (regular milk is fine too), 2 cups panko bread crumbs, 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper, 1 teaspoon sage, ketchup and/or BBQ sauce. 1 chopped onion is optional… I didn’t have onions on hand.

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl

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2. Form into 1-2 loafs with your hands, and place in ziplock bag

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3. I had extra mushrooms left over from the Portobello Chicken, so I topped these loaves with the leftover mushroom. When it’s time to cook these babies, I will top the entire dish with about 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce and 1/2 cup ketchup.

4. Cook in Crockpot for 8 hours on low.

And ta-da, that’s it!

4 Crockpot Meals

Each of these meals will last 2 days in our household. That’s 8 days of dinner I don’t have to worry about. By putting these meals together simultaneously,  I’m also saving myself at least 3-4 hours I would otherwise spend making these dinners on the day of. I’m also saving at least $75-100 this week since we won’t be eating out!

Even if you’re not a health enthusiast like I am, every one can benefit from the time and money-saving rewards of Crockpot meals. There will be more recipes to come!

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Current Status & 5 Key Tips for Sustainable Weight Loss

If you know me or have taken time to read through the few posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out that losing 40 lbs and keeping it off is one of my proudest accomplishments. People who find out about my transformation always ask, “How did you do it?” as though they expect me to tell them about a secret pill or trick. I explain that I achieved my initial goal of losing 20 lbs through healthy eating and exercise, but that fitness eventually became a passion of mine — a lifestyle change that I have stuck with to this day. I’m writing this blog so I can share some nuggets of wisdom that allowed me to not only lose the weight, but keep it off for several years and counting.

#1: Get out of the “diet” mindset. Weight loss is only sustainable if you stop approaching everything as temporary. Living off a “diet” of broccoli and chicken breast will only last a couple weeks before you are ready to return to your old eating habits. Begin with making small sacrifices you can actually commit to, such as limiting the amount of fast food you eat or giving up sweets or alcohol (which is a killer for your fitness, btw). Once you’re ready for more, draft up a menu that meets your caloric needs (see #4) while still being appetizing to you. Over time, your body will stop craving unhealthy foods.

#2: Accept the reality that weight loss is 80% diet. Sure, there are some people out there who are blessed to eat whatever they want and still lose weight if they exercise. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people… nor is a majority of the population. Stop justifying eating greasy, fatty, sugary foods, or drinking alcohol because “it’s Friday” or “because I deserve it.” It’s okay to have a cheat meal every now and then, but you will never train your body to crave healthy foods if you are constantly justifying reasons to eat unhealthily. Set a goal to have a cheat meal once a week and stick with it.

#3: The type of exercise you do is important. If you are already significantly overweight, cardio + healthy eating will go a LONG way. I lost the first 20 lbs simply by using an elliptical and/or treadmill for about 45 mins each day. Once I reached about 130 lbs, taking off additional fat became a lot harder without sacrificing muscle. Steady state cardio will only take you so far before HIIT (high intensity interval training) becomes necessary. If you are only moderately overweight or just looking to shed a couple pounds of fat, HIIT + weight training will be your best friend. I do not recommend weight training alone if you are significantly overweight, unless you just really enjoy it and are willing to wait longer to see results. In either case, I also recommend finding out your body fat % and writing it down for comparison each month. You can find your approximate body fat percentage by using calipers or by using a body fat monitor.

body fat chartFitness101.com

#4: Track your calories and meal prep! Piggybacking off my comments regarding 80% diet, tracking of calories is a necessary evil in order to create the calorie deficit needed for weight loss. I tracked calories using the free MyFitnessPal app for the first year of my fitness journey, and it truly paid off. If you are unsure how many calories you need to in order to lose weight, see this nifty calorie deficit calculator.

Prepping your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners ahead of time makes it easier to reach your target weight. It’s also less expensive than eating out, so what do you have to lose? Here is an example of what I eat in a day, while in fat-burning/muscle-building mode:

Breakfast: Protein strawberry + banana + spinach smoothie with almond milk – 300 calories, 30g protein

Mid-morning snack: Protein bar(s) – Approximately 200 calories, 10g to 20g protein

Lunch: Salad, sandwich, or burrito bowl – Approximately 500 calories, 20-25g protein

Post-workout: Protein smoothie – 300 calories, 30g protein

Dinner: Crockpot meal with some kind of protein + veggies + complex carbohydrates – 500 calories, 30g protein

Dessert, optional: Greek yogurt with cherries (if I worked out that day) – 150 calories, 20g protein

Approximately 2,000 calories; PROTEIN: 150g

Granted, this diet would be one that I follow if I am trying to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously. If I was overweight and had a more significant amount of fat to lose, I’d scale the calories back to 1,500 but aim to consume as much protein as possible. Protein will keep you fuller longer, and prevent any unnecessary muscle loss.

#5. Patience is key. Fitness is a journey, not a destination. – Don’t expect to see results over the course of a day, or even a week. Successfully losing weight is not an easy or quick process, and you must be prepared to endure setbacks and keep pushing. Don’t weigh yourself everyday. Set realistic monthly goals, and reward yourself when you meet them. Never lose sight of the prize! You owe it to yourself to commit to a healthier lifestyle, not a deprivation mindset.

Even today, I am still on my fitness journey. I don’t plan to lose more weight, but I am constantly working to make myself better– whether that is cutting down on my body fat percentage or trying to gain more lean muscle mass. With that said, here are my current stats as of 1/22/17:

Weight: 119 lbs; Body Fat Percentage: 24%; BMI 19.9; Chest: 34 inches; Waist size: 25 inches; Hips: 38 inches

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Because I am a firm believer in goal setting, here are some long-term fitness goals for 2017 given my current fitness level (which is mediocre at best):

  1. Develop quadriceps and calves. The bottom half of my legs are a little too skinny.
  2. Continue to develop upper body strength
  3. 19% Body fat, which leads me to…
  4. Visible abdominal muscles! Not expecting a super ripped six pack or anything, but a nice abdominal outline is attainable with the right diet/exercise plan.

That just about covers all I have for now. For my next post, I will begin posting information for my current exercise routine and meal plan if anyone is interested in keeping up. 🙂 Until next time/hasta luego!

<3

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MLK Weekend Meal Prep and PB Banana Bread Protein Bars

Hello again! Two posts in one day… I’m on a roll! I wanted to create a separate post about this weekend’s meal prep, since one of my goals with starting this blog was to share easy and healthy recipes with the public. 🙂

Since my weight loss transformation that I wrote about here, meal prep has truly been the key to maintaining my weight and saving time in the mornings. Even during weeks when I don’t get my exercise in, my weight always remains stable. Meal prep allows me more time to sleep (another key for weight loss), and prevents me from spending money unnecessarily and eating unhealthy options for lunch.

Lunch this week: chopped turkey salads. Nothing special, I know, but I didn’t want to dedicate more than 1 hour for lunch prep… so this worked out perfectly. About 20g of protein per serving with very few carbs.

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Recently I started experimenting with homemade protein bars, since these typically cost anywhere from $1-3 each at the store and are chock full of ingredients I can’t pronounce. This is the second recipe I’ve tried out in the last two weeks, and so far I’m a big fan. It only contains 4 ingredients! Behold, Peanut Butter Banana Bread Protein Bars:

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Ingredients (Makes about 20 bars. Cut recipe in half for 10)

1 cup almond flour… I got mine at Costco, but I’ve also seen it at HEB and Walmart.

1/2 cup peanut butter… any nut butter will work!

4 scoops of whey protein (vanilla)

2 ripe bananas

*2 cookie sheets and parchment paper

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Step 1: Combine mashed bananas with 1 cup almond flour, and mix both ingredients.

Step 2: In a small pot, over medium heat, mix the peanut butter and whey protein. Mix one scoop at a time.

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Step 3: Combine the peanut butter protein mixture into the banana and almond flour mixture. Stir well and put on two cookie sheets covered in parchment paper.

Step 4: Optional- You can put another sheet of parchment paper over the dough to flatten it out, or just use your hands. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until firm.

What I love about this recipe, in addition to the fact that it is only 4 ingredients, is that it is inexpensive (the most expensive ingredient is whey protein, which I always have on hand anyway) and easy.  Only about half an hour to whip up!

Approximate nutritional facts per serving: 120 calories, 6g carbohydrates, 8g fat, 10g protein

Muscle Milk Whey Protein

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Hola y Buenos Días, mis amigos!

Day 21 of Learning Spanish / Día 21 de aprender español

Since my last post, I have continued to actively learn Spanish on a daily basis. Even though I am far from fluent, I am already pleasantly surprised by my ability to speak in simple sentences and converse with Spanish speakers (using the term “más despacio, por favor” or “more slowly, please” plenty of times)!

I am dedicating anywhere from 1-3 hours a day to Spanish language learning. That may seem like a lot, but a lot of this time is spent actively speaking and listening to my colleagues who are Native Spanish speakers, as well as the occasional student. Here are the 5 key things I have been doing that is working for me:

  1. Completing 5 mini lessons on Duolingo per day – Duolingo is a free language app that helps you learn a language through various written and spoken exercise in a game-style format. Although it is not a standalone resource, it is perfect for getting quick practice in and memorizing high-frequency words.
  2. Reading and completing Spanish exercises via books – Yesterday I finally managed to finish Easy Spanish Step-by-Step by Barbara Bergstein. I purchased it off of Amazon for about $12 back in November, and it took me about a month to make it through all of the exercises. It is an excellent resource and really lays out all of the basic grammar rules. Today I will get started on the Advanced Spanish Step-by-Step… hopefully I’m ready!

spanish books

3. Listening to A LOT of Spanish Music – Selena, Celia Cruz, Ricky Martin, Shakira. I’ll listen to the song and attempt to translate as much as possible. LyricsTranslate.com is an awesome website that will bring up the lyrics in both English and Spanish, side by side. I try to sing a long as much as possible.

4. Switching iPhone settings to Spanish – What a great idea. I can’t believe I waited until yesterday to do this. Not only will most things on the iPhone appear in Spanish, but people’s posts on Instagram have an “ver traddución” option that will automatically translate an English post into Spanish.

5. Lastly and most importantly, I make an honest attempt to speak in Spanish, even if I know my grammar is wrong – I’m trying to focus less on always conjugating correctly and more on simply communicating, which is helping me learn words faster than if I wait for my Spanish to be perfect. This is a mistake so many language learners fall into, and it really hurts progress.

Yesterday I also discovered an awesome resource on the Internet and YouTube called Gringo Español. Even though he is a Native English speaker, he really breaks down Spanish concepts in a way any one can understand. Here he is explaining one of the concepts I’ve struggled with the most:

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