School Lunches Made Easy

When Cole first started preschool at 3 years old, I purchased a normal lunch bag from Target and started by using the plastic Ziploc Containers and baggies for his food. After just a few days of using these things, I became super frustrated. I couldn't seem to pack the lunches that I wanted to pack and I didn't feel like I had enough space or enough containers.  It all felt so unorganized and I couldn't stand the thought of going through that every single day for years to come.

I started doing some research and stumbled across the Planetbox on a blog that I followed at the time. The price was a bit steep but I was confident that it would be worth it because the reviews were AMAZING.  It's important to me to send Cole with a healthy lunch and I wanted that process to be easier, so I invested in the Rover, an ice pack, and a carrying case.

I immediately fell in love with the setup of the Planetbox.  It forced me to think outside the box and it helped me remember to include all of the food groups.  I didn't need separate containers or baggies anymore, and I loved that I could include a small little treat in the center compartment.  I started to share photos of Cole's school lunch on my Facebook page and quickly realized that so many moms HATED the process of packing school lunches.  I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on it, so I decided to share my knowledge and my process and create an ebook that I could easily share.

I have received amazing feedback from this ebook and I really hope that you love it just as much as others have.  Packing healthy school lunches should not be something that you dread every day!  

To receive a FREE copy of this ebook to your inbox, fill out this form!

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Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

These Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins are seriously one of the best muffins I've EVER tasted.  They are grain free and CAN be dairy-free if you'd like them to be!! Instead of flour, these use almond butter - which means they are packed with protein and healthy fat.  Just one of these will leave you feeling full and HAPPY!  I typically make two or three batches and freeze a bunch of them for later.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (9 ounces/255 grams) almond butter (I like smooth in this recipe)
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces/140 grams) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling; canned is fine)
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup (4 ounces/110 grams) honey (may substitute maple syrup)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces/75 grams) dark or semi-sweet (or dairy-free) chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a standard muffin pan with 10 paper cup liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin and the almond butter until smooth. (If the almond butter has been stored in the refrigerator and is hard, it is helpful to bring to room temperature before mixing.)
  3. Stir in the eggs and honey. Mix in the pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips, reserving a few for the top, if desired.
  4. Using a large ice cream scoop or a 1/4-cup measure, distribute the batter evenly among 10 muffin cups. Top each muffin with a few reserved chocolate chips.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the centers are just firm.
  6. Allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, the muffins will keep for at least a week. May also be frozen.

21 Day Fix Pork Carnitas

Since recommitting to our meal plan, I’ve been on the hunt for some new, delicious, HEALTHY recipes that both my husband and I will enjoy.  These 21 Day Fix Pork Carnitas are a new favorite of ours and will definitely go into the rotation from now on.  Not only are they good, but they are also SO easy.  The crockpot is truly one of my best friends.  Anybody else hate the massive prep and cleaning that goes into making dinners?

We made these for dinner on a Sunday and then had the leftovers for lunch over the next couple of days.  These Pork Carnitas are a must try, even if you’re not following the 21 Day Fix plan. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs of Pork Loin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cup of water

For the rub, combine:

  • 2 tbsp of chili powder
  • 2 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp oregano

For the Carnitas:

  • Corn Tortillas
  • Black or Pinto Beans in a can
  • Romain Lettuce
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Diced Avocado (optional)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  1. Mix all spices together in a bowl (except the bay leaf). 
  2. Rub down the entire pork loin with the spices and place in your slow cooker. 
  3. Add the bay leaf and water and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Keep an eye on the pork to make sure it’s not absorbing all of the water.  If it appears to be drying out, add more water.  You want your pork to pull apart easily. 
  4. Once you can shred it, remove it from the crockpot.  Shred the pork and then place back into the crockpot.  Stir the meat to coat with the juices. 
  5. Add the drained beans and 1/2 cup water to a pan and cook on stove until heated through.  Gently mash with a fork until they reach your desired consistency.

Optional: Lightly spray your corn tortillas with cooking spray and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Crisp in the oven on 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until desired crispiness.

Cilantro Lime Topping:

  • Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro Chopped
  • 1 lime cut into wedges for garnish

Combine these ingredients in a bowl for the dressing and set aside.

If you're following the 21 Day Fix, you can assemble these based on your plan!

21 Day Fix or Weight Watchers?

I come in contact with a lot of people who are either doing Weight Watchers or who are thinking about doing it, and they want to know what the difference is between WW and the 21 Day Fix.  I have done both programs and I have supported dozens of people through the 21 Day Fix, so I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of each and how they differ.

When my son was around 9 months old, I finally made the decision to throw out my excuses and lose the extra weight I had been carrying around.  I was tired and sluggish all of the time, and I knew that I wasn’t the best mom or best wife that I could be.  My unhappiness with my appearance, my lack of confidence, and the way I was feeling on the inside really changed me as a person.  I was impatient, cold, and miserable.  My pre-pregnancy clothes didn’t fit and we had no money to purchase new ones.  My co-worker and friend had great success with Weight Watchers and mentioned that I might enjoy it as well.  

I decided to jump in with both feet in December of 2011 and by April 2012 I had lost 17 pounds.  I enjoyed the program because I am totally a numbers girl.  I loved having a plan and knowing exactly how many points I had each day.  Although it obviously worked for me, I found that I was hungry most of the time because I wasn’t being smart about how I was using my points.  I would eat a lot of carbs and allow myself to have m&ms or other chocolate, which left little room for protein and healthy fats that would keep me full.  My meals certainly weren’t balanced.

With the 21 Day Fix, there is a focus on eating the right foods AND the right amount of food.  It’s not just about portion control, it’s about learning how to fuel your body with the correct foods.  I found that I was very full and satisfied most of the time while following the 21 Day Fix.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t still have some cravings for sugar and other favorite foods, but those weren’t out of hunger.  My husband also follows the plan and rarely complains about being hungry.  Eating a balanced meal encourages your body to let go of excess fat.

Here is a summary of the specifics of each program:

Weight Watchers

  • Monthly fee to access points and tracking system.
  • Use point values to determine servings and portions.  Every food has a point value and you can eat wheat you want, as long as you don’t go above your point total for the day.
  • Weigh and measure your food to determine points.
  • No emphasis on a balanced diet.  Eat whatever you want as long as points add up (WW does encourage clean eating, but it is not required).
  • No workouts included.  Movement is encouraged but WW does not include any structured workouts.
  • Can weigh in and attend meetings with other members in your area.

21 Day Fix

  • One time fee for the program.  Keep the containers and workouts forever.
  • Use color coded containers to measure food.  If it fits, you can eat it.
  • Emphasis on a clean, balanced diet (red= protein, green= veggies, purple= fruit, blue= healthy fats (avocado, nuts, etc), yellow= carbs, orange= dressings, seeds, tsps= oils, nut butters)
  • Seven 30 minute workouts included.  Minimal equipment/space required, workouts done in the privacy of your own home.
  • Access to an online support system & challenge groups.

I strongly believe that everybody is different and what works for one may not work for another.  Only YOU know what is best for you, these are just the facts as I see them.  I honestly feel that success is possible with both programs as long as you are focusing on eating the right foods.  I do like that the 21 Day Fix does not require a monthly membership fee and that it includes 30 minute workouts that can be done in your home.

Which one sounds like a better fit for you?  If the 21 Day Fix sounds like your kind of thing, shoot me a message at erica.tehonica@mac.com so we can chat!

One Pan Mexican Quinoa

One pan!  ONE!  I’m pretty sure I just made all of your dreams come true.  If you ever feel overwhelmed at the thought of cooking healthy meals for your family, here is your solution.  Not only is the prep and cooking quick and easy, but the clean-up is as well. 

One of the main ingredients in this dish is Quinoa.  Do you know all of the benefits of this super grain?  There are SO many, but just to name a few: it is full of fiber and protein, contains all essential amino acids, is gluten free, and it is high in nutrients (especially magnesium).  Okay, I’ll stop talking now so you can go prepare this One Pan Mexican Quinoa for dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapenos, minced
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and jalapeno, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  2. Stir in quinoa, vegetable broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder and cumin; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in avocado, lime juice and cilantro. 
  3. Serve immediately.

Original Recipe Found HERE.

Slow Cooker Burrito Bowls

I love me a good crockpot meal in the fall and winter, and this one is the perfect blend between easy and healthy.  If you love burritos, there is no doubt that you are going to love this recipe.  You have the option of eating it right in a bowl and cutting out the tortilla, which means less calories!  If you are concerned about calories at this point in your life, go light on the cheese and sour cream.  

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or a mix
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • *Optional toppings: *shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, sour cream, diced avocado, salsa, hot sauce, diced green onions, shredded lettuce

Directions:

  1. Combine the chicken breasts, diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup of chicken stock, chili powder, salt, and cumin in the bowl of a 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-quart slow cooker. Make sure the chicken is covered. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. 
  2. Remove the lid and add the rice, black beans, frozen corn, and another 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Replace the lid and continue cooking on low for another 3 to 4 hours. Check the rice periodically in the last hour of cooking, stirring once or twice to make sure the rice cooks evenly and adding more chicken broth if the mixture seems dry. Cooking is done when the rice is tender — if the rice is done while there is still liquid left in the slow cooker, remove the lid and cook on high to let the liquid evaporate. Total cooking time from start to finish is 6 to 8 hours.
  3. Use two forks to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. You can do this either in the slow cooker itself and then mix it into the rice, or you can transfer the chicken to a cutting board if you prefer to keep it separate. Taste the burrito mix and stir in more salt or other seasonings to taste. 
  4. Serve burrito bowls with a selection of toppings. The burrito mixture will keep for 1 week refrigerated or for 3 months in the freezer. This recipe makes about 7 total cups of burrito mix.

Recipe Notes

  • *Cooking the Rice Separately: *If you won’t be home to add the rice to the slow cooker, you can skip this step and cook it separately on the stovetop just before serving. To modify the recipe, combine the chicken, diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup of stock, and spices in the slow cooker and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low. Add the black beans and corn, and cook for another 1/2 hour, or until warmed through, while you’re cooking the rice (omit the remaining chicken stock).
  • *Vegetarian Burrito Bowls: *Combine the diced tomatoes, 1 cup of vegetable stock, spices, rice, black beans, and corn in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid. Stir once or twice toward the end of cooking to make sure the rice is cooking evenly.
  • *Beyond Burrito Bowls: *Besides burrito bowls, you can use this filling to make regular tortilla-wrapped burritos or freezer burritos.

Original Recipe found HERE.

Whole Wheat Carrot Applesauce Muffins

I saw these Carrot Applesauce Muffins for the first time on 100daysofrealfood.com almost a year ago.  I kind of wrote them off and assumed I would hate them because they have carrot in the title.  I seriously hate carrots.  No really, I do.  I happened upon the recipe again last week when I was searching for new ideas for Cole’s school lunches.  I figured I would try them out just to see what they were like.  

Let me just tell you, you don’t want to wait to make these!  They are really delicious and you would never know they have carrots in them.  They are just the right amount of sweet with a small taste of cinnamon and ginger.  The original recipe says they make 12 oversized muffins, but I ended up with 15 regular sized muffins!  I’ll be freezing a bunch of them so I can pull them out when I need a healthy snack or something for Cole’s lunch.

Let me know how you like them! 

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), softened (but not melted)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¾ cup carrot shreds (I used a cheese grater)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper, foil, or silicone liners, and set aside. 
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. 
  3. In a large bowl fitted with an electric whisk (or beaters), mix the butter, honey, egg and vanilla together on medium speed. Turn the speed down and slowly add in the flour mixture until well combined. The batter will be fairly thick at this point. 
  4. Using a spatula, carefully fold in the applesauce and carrots. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until a toothpick comes and muffins are beginning to turn golden brown on top. Enjoy!

Healthy Freezer Pizza Bites

If you have kids, you know that these Freezer Pizza Bites are GOLD.  Kids love pizza (who doesn’t?), and if you can give them a healthy alternative that they love, it’s a win-win for everybody.  These are very similar to what you can buy in the freezer section of your grocery store, but without all of the preservatives and extra fat.  

Here is the recipe, originally posted at Super Healthy Kids.  While you are there, check out their other kid-friendly, healthy recipes.  It’s one of my favorite sites!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Favorite toppings: pineapple, green bell peppers, mushrooms, black olives, mini pepperoni, onion

Directions: 

  1.  Let the dough rise until double in size. 
  2.  Roll out very thin – about 1/4″ thick. 
  3.  Use the circle part on the back of the press to cut out circles. 
  4.  Stretch the circle on top of the press. 
  5.  Use about 1 tsp of pizza sauce on the small circle. 
  6.  Fill with your favorite toppings 
  7.  Press the dough and place on a pizza stone or baking sheet.  If you use a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray or a bit of oil first. 
  8.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-11 minutes or until golden. 

To Freeze: Cool completely, and place in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

To Reheat: Remove desired number of pizza bites from the freezer and warm them individually in the microwave for about two minutes or until heated through. To bake, place on a baking sheet in a 350-degree F oven for 20 minutes, or until heated through.  

Yields 24 Pizza Bites

21 Day Fix Review

Meet Cara!  I met Cara a few months ago in a fitness focused Facebook Group.  She expressed unhappiness with her body and wanted to do something to change it.  After chatting for bit about her goals, we decided that the 21 Day Fix was a great fit for her.  She has finished two rounds so far and her results have been amazing!  Cara is self-motivated and she’s always wanting to learn more.  She works hard every single day to follow the eating plan and get her workout in.  Her hard work is paying off and I am so excited to continue to follow her fitness journey! She has become a friend to me and our daily chats help me as much as they help her.  In her own words, Cara shares her experiences with the 21 Day Fix so far:

What Beachbody challenge did you begin your journey with?

I started with the 21 Day Fix Challenge Pack.

What do you like most about the program?

What I like most about the program is that the videos are only 30 minutes and it is easy to make time for them. They are also very easy to follow along with. The nutrition aspect is easy to follow as well. I just keep it simple and eat a lot of the same things I know I enjoy. Some people try to make recipes and then have a hard time figuring out which color container to use and how many containers used. 

What do you like most about Shakeology?

The thing I like most about Shakeology is that it tastes delicious. If you blend it with ice, it makes a large portion and since I am obsessed with chocolate, it really curbs my cravings later. I drink it for breakfast with ice, peanut butter and banana. 

What other Beachbody programs have you done or what program do you plan to do next?

I have not done any other Beachbody programs yet. I am loving 21 Day Fix so much. I am planning to do PiYo next.

What results have you seen so far?

I just completed 2 rounds on the 21 Day Fix. At the end of the first round, I had lost 3 pounds and 5-1/4 inches. At the end of the second, I had lost 4 more pounds and an additional 9-1/2 inches!!! I am now on round 3 and hoping to lose even more. I totally love this program!!!!

How has Beachbody changed your life so far?

Beachbody has changed my life in a big way. As long as I can remember, I have hated my body and the way I look. This program, along with my coach Erica Tehonica, has drastically changed they way I see myself. I have learned that the number on a scale, though it does sometimes bother me when I don’t see it go down very much, is just a number. It is not a reflection of the way I look. By eating according to the plan, I know that I am eating the right things for my body and not putting junk into it and more importantly, that I am eating the right portion sizes. The workouts, even though they are only 30 minutes, are strenuous enough so that I feel I actually accomplished something. When I used to work out at the gym, I would never feel like I was building on anything. I was just there for an hour and not getting anything done! It only takes a week or less on these workouts to see and feel a difference. It is amazing to me how much my view of myself changed in just a few days time.

I’m so proud of you, Cara!  Thanks for sharing your experience with us. 

 

Chicken Burgers with Cheddar and Spinach

I first came across these Chicken Burgers when I was doing a clean eating challenge. Ever since then, these have made it into our weekly dinner rotation. They are just SO good- you have to try them!

I couldn’t find ground chicken the first time around, so I used ground turkey instead. They tasted just as good! Feel free to use less cheese and less panko, or even eat them without a bun. We typically eat our burgers without the bun to eliminate those extra calories.

Here is the recipe:

First, throw this into a food processor:

  • 4 oz. wilted spinach
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 green onions, roughly chopped

Then, stir this mixture into 1 lb. ground chicken and add:

  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t. soy sauce
  • 1 t. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Then, add about 1/2 c. of Panko (NO EGG!), mix it all together, and form them into patties. Refrigerate for about 2 hours prior to dinner. Grill or broil.

Original recipe found HERE

Let me know what you think!