Movie Night with the Martian

Have you seen any good movies lately? I went out tonight with my two eldest kids and really had a great time. (not sure if they would agree as much with their “MOM” tagging along but we’ll just leave good enough alone!)  We decided to see “The Martian” together.

Wow.

I have to say that the trailer for this movie didn’t really speak to me at first; but after hearing some rave reviews about the movie, I thought, what the heck?

The storyline and the feeling of it all made me want to stand up and applaud, cry my eyes out and feel as though I was in the story myself.

Not for the reasons you’d imagine – like the drama and the premise of the story line…

but more about the underlying meanings of the unfaltering human nature and drive that many of us forego in our day to day lives.

So for those of you who haven’t seen it or if you don’t know what it’s about; let me give you an outline of the story. (and no spoilers to worry about if you still want to see it). This is a story of a group of astronauts who travel to Mars and are on a mission that needs to be aborted earlier than expected, except that one of the astronauts is lost in a storm and left on Mars (assumed to be dead).

The true power comes not in the plot of how the story unfolds but in how we react to the situation at hand; every second, minute and day of our lives.

I have been obsessed with our mindsets; why some people stick to goals in life while others decide their goals are not worth the sacrifices and struggles it takes to reach those goals. In all reality, we are all pretty much the same. We have the same basic needs, struggles and wants. We have the same capabilities to believe in ourselves and what we want; or not. We can all achieve any goal we decide that we want bad enough to get after it but that doesn’t guarantee that all, or many at that, will persevere.

Now back to the movie; this astronaut would have been dead within hours or days if he hadn’t decided that there may be another way. He had to get over the initial shock of his situation and decide to fight like hell to make it no matter what. Why? Probably because he had no other option aside from giving up and dying and that can be a big motivating fact for most of us indeed. (Proof of this is after a doctors visit for those who are given a negative result of health or unwell and how they can make the changes in their foods and lifestyles that ordinarily they would not have)

I think of the many times I’ve become frustrated when things didn’t go the way I had expected, and I wanted to just give up and forget about it. . I think of the times when the goals I have are larger than the frustrations, so I dig in (after I calm down) and find another way or look for another solution to complete what needs to be done. How many times have you decided something wasn’t worth the headaches, sacrifices or stresses? Of course, if the goal isn’t enticing or important enough, chances are that not many (if any) of us would stay invested long enough to find a way.

So this astronaut first assumes defeat (much like we do when things, out of our control, seem to derail our best efforts) but the need for this man not to give up and die overshadows the enormity of his situation. Time after time,  he is hit by what we would consider the “end of it all” and yet you see him looking for another solution in the cracks. How many of us can truly say that we exhaust all areas of a situation before giving up? I know for myself, I had only known walking away at the first sign of struggle or disappointment.

Really? My ego had to be submerged so that I could actually deal head on with issues that arose unexpectedly. And this is not easy.

But what is powerful is how our minds can expand to look at all roadblocks as a detour. We can become better and more practiced if we learn to look for that underlying route or “plan b”. Finding humor in the moments that can make or break us, is what I love most and can change the negativity in my mind to finding a better way. I remember a metaphor that was shared by one of my previous gym managers’; he asked us what we would do if we were driving along on the highway one day and up ahead we see a car stopped in our lane. We naturally slow down but what would we do next? Would you come to a complete stop behind this car and just wait it out because this was our “plan”? Or would we find a solution like maybe going around the car and getting in another lane or even going over the car if needed. Because we don’t know for sure if that car is going to continue and we sure as heck shouldn’t allow someone or something else to determine our reality.

Matt Damon, who plays the astronaut left on Mars, shares that his first initial thought when he realized he was left on the planet was “I’m going to die” but then he immediately shifts that thought into, what are the most critical things I need to survive right now and how can I go about achieving those now with what I have and my strong areas?

This should be an area we are all required to learn or study at least once in our lives. Being defeated doesn’t mean the story is over. Being defeated in one way, just means we MUST find another way. And we keep on looking for more solutions until the correct one is found.

But only if we want the end result as bad as we say we do. 😉 

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Gratitude Wins

Sundays are one of my favorite days of the week.

Yes, although I’ll admit it wasn’t always that way; I’m not a “calm” personality by nature so the fact of just slowing down on an entire day of each week was something that took a loooong time to get used to.

But I am getting used to it and really enjoying it too. 🙂

It’s a day to reflect on what the past week entailed and what we look forward to in the coming week. It’s a day to give thanks for all that we have; and this was also a difficult issue at certain times of my life.

I mean, how EASY is it to complain and whine about life “not being fair to us” and “what coulda been”, etc? I’ll admit, I was the first one to believe that I wasn’t guilty of this but it turns out.. I WAS! Go figure! lol Being positive means more than just turning our frowns upside down. It’s about getting back up each and every time that life knocks us down. It’s about not taking it too personally and in finding a NEW way to move ahead again. I know I’ve had my share of complaining about everyone else’s roles in my own struggles and stresses. It was always just easier that way, I guess. Then one day, (if you’re lucky) you wake up and realize that the fingers we are pointing out at everyone else are just pointing right back at us.

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Truth.

I used to blame so many people in my life for various reasons. Pick anyone and pick anything and I’m sure I had complained about it before. To my dismay, I’ve been corrected over and over and over again until it just hit me BAM! in the face that much of it had been MY problems in the long run. Was I a ‘bad’ person? No. I was just guilty of allowing certain behaviors to take over what I knew was right and allowing my own negative behaviors to take over when I felt threatened.

And it turns out, I must have felt threatened more often than I really even knew.

The other day, while I was doing my regular self development reading, I came across a verse stating that we cannot expect anybody else to love US more than they can love THEMSELVES.

BAM! Tears started streaming down my face as I realized how many people I had incorrectly judged over my life. How unfair I had treated others by assuming that they weren’t giving it their all or being selfish in their love for me and all I believed to be right and true. I had been unfair in my judgments and am working on righting that behavior in my mind and in my actions.

Today, I reflected on that while we enjoyed, truly enjoyed the family time together. Instead of getting caught up in what most of us think we want more of; power, money, authority, or whatever…

there’s nothing more we need than what most of us have in front of us today; family, love, friendship, understanding.

These are the true blessings in life and should be what we all strive to share more of with others…

and in turn, receive more of it for ourselves in the long run.

Panic Disorder: You are NOT alone!

Okay, WARNING!! I’m going to be completely transparent and it really makes me feel a little nervous but if I could help just ONE person get the help needed today, that is well worth the nervousness!!

So, backing up, I know that I’ve shared before that I suffer from panic disorder and I just touched on the surface of it. It started when I was 19 years old and I’m not completely sure of the reason that started it, but I had just gone through a major emotional time of my life with an engagement and awful break-up with some deep rooted reasons that shook my world.

I was a wreck. I felt alone most of the time, even though I was surrounded by family and friends. It was a time that taught me what it feels like to be crushed and needing to rebuild on faith alone.

 

So, that is when my panic disorder began, to the best of my knowledge.

I recall the first time it hit, I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep…and then all of a sudden, I could NOT breathe. I could not catch my next breath. It was like with every inhale, I would will to “catch up” to my next breath…

But. I. Just. Could. Not.

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It was the worst feeling I had ever known. I KNEW that if I couldn’t catch my breath, I would die. And the feelings only increased as my panic began to rise. I ran to my mom who tried to talk me down; as I paced around the room, working feverishly to catch my breath and just calm down.

I don’t remember how long that first panic lasted but it felt like an eternity.

And it didn’t end there. It would hit at random, some nights I was able to relax and fall asleep peacefully. Some nights, I would be awakened to the awful feeling of no breath. The cycle was tortuous and at that time there were few resources to turn to. I was alone, nobody could understand the enormity of the feeling as it crushed down onto my chest…and paralyzed me from anything else.

I would recite to myself during the day, that it was only episodes and these episodes would pass. I heard from doctors that I wouldn’t die from this. I remember being furious at the non-caring comment made by one doctor whom my mom took me to see. He diagnosed me with MVP. That is a heart murmur issue and he put me on heart medication.

I knew that this was not the cause of my episodes but when my mom explained to him what I would do and say in the midst of these panics, he just blatantly said, “She WON’T die. She just has to relax”…

As with any issues we face, life goes on and we have to deal with the ups and downs whether we like it or not. I did that and kept my panic hidden as best as I could. After I had my first two children, I went through another enormous roller coaster of emotions and thought I could never recover from it. It was at this time the panics came back with a vengeance.

Tortuous. Severe. Debilitating. My husband had no idea what was happening and in his lack of knowledge, made me feel it was “all in my head”. That, in and of itself, was devastating. I know now that he didn’t understand how awful that felt to me but at the time it was like I was on island all alone with nobody to turn to.

After my third child was born, I formed almost an “abnormal” attachment to him and would just sit and hold him and feel “safe”. I remember anytime I would leave the house and if panic would strike, I would focus on his face in my mind and breathe until I calmed down.

This was the first sign that I ever experienced that “maybe” just “maybe” I had a fighting chance of getting past this. I had no idea how it would be possible, because by now, I had almost come to the conclusion that there was some “ticking time bomb” always waiting to go “off” in my body at any given time and I just had to deal with it all. I had tried many different ways to handle it. Lucinda Bassett (is that her name?) created a cassette tape program with workbooks which I ordered from the radio advertisement that I heard it over. This helped me for a time but never for good. I figured that I was the exception to the rule that it would ever be “over”. But knowing that there was finally a “title” for the disorder was a weight lifted off of my shoulders, after almost 20 years!

In all stories that I’ve heard and all the studies I have researched regarding this issue, there is never ONE way to overcome this problem and the resolution for each person varies. Some can learn breathing techniques to help them overcome the panicky feelings, that didn’t work so well for me. Some have help in medications and therapy. I had one therapy session and the doctor was a bit surprised I had never spoken to anyone years earlier and put me on a low dosage medication to allow me to sleep and control the issues. But even taking the medicine caused me to panic. I found that just splitting the dosage in half and taking as needed has allowed me to overcome the chest clutching breathing issues and sleep without being torn out of my restful slumber to the gripping feeling of being held underwater.

I know to some, this sounds incredibly simple to overcome. I remember feeling embarrassed to talk about it to anyone, which only makes it worse, in my opinion. I hope that opening up and just letting this out can help someone who is feeling alone and crippled by this problem. Seek out someone to help you; whether it is a trusted and caring family member, doctor or therapist. Get the help that makes YOU feel at ease; and not what anyone else tells you is the “answer”. You will know. And if all else fails, you are not alone. There are many out there who share this problem and have never talked openly about it so it could easily be hidden in people you already know and love and are close to.

I am tired of being held hostage to feeling like we have to be “normal” and never speak openly about any issues that we may have. It’s time to just be ourselves and I know it will only allow more people to open up and share their own issues…which is step 1 to a solution in any shape or form.

God Bless you and you are not alone.

Who Wants ABS? (or maybe I should just ask who doesn’t to weed out the non-committed folks!) :)

IMG_0953This is for all the beautiful people who have been dreaming and wishing and hoping to one day have a sexy midsection! Is that YOU?? I am pretty sure it’s most of the population! LOL

When it comes to creating incredible abs, even the most effective workout programs can only bring you so far. That’s because you can’t get a flat, hard midsection without losing body fat. No matter how much effort you put into creating a six-pack, no one’s going to see it if it’s covered by a layer of flab.

Seriously, I know! I’ve worked out so intensely and so often that if this was a proven method, I’d have had a six pack for most of you reading this today! 😉  But, alas, foods are the KEY to getting those abs to POP!

If you’re following the dietary guidelines of a fitness program, you’ll automatically be eating the right foods to lose fat as you get in shape. But the following seven principles can give you an extra edge, and will help ensure that the effort you’re putting into your abs will bring you the results you want.

1. Get plenty of protein
Eating enough lean protein promotes fat loss and muscle gain, the two most important elements for developing great abs. It also helps keep you from getting hungry while you’re eating right. You don’t have to gobble down 12-ounce steaks—just eat a normal portion of lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy, or vegetarian protein with every meal, and make sure your snacks contain some protein, too. If you still have a hard time getting enough in your diet, a daily Shakeology shake can be a perfect addition.

By the way, protein is especially important in the morning, when a lot of people don’t get as much as they should. A protein-rich breakfast will help keep your blood sugar steady for hours, preventing the dips that can lead to cravings later in the day. (Try some low-fat chicken sausage, or an omelet with one whole egg and three egg whites, along with fruit or whole-grain toast.) Tell me how much protein do YOU get each day? I see and talk with so many women who DON’T bcuz they think it will “bulk” them up….

NOT! Get that protein in yo face asap! 😉

2.Reconsider your carbs.
Despite the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets, the average American meal is still too high in sugar and fast-burning starches to bring body fat down to ab-baring levels. It’s time to say goodbye to sweetened soda, ditch the Doritos, and save the cake for your birthday. DUH!  If your fitness plan calls for a sports drink before a long cardio workout, or a carb-and-protein recovery drink after resistance training, that’s fine. But the rest of the time, stick with foods that are on the low end of the glycemic index (refer to GlycemicIndex.com for more information)—these foods burn more slowly, so they won’t spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.

3. Have fun with fiber.
Something about the word “fiber” just doesn’t sound appetizing. But high-fiber foods can actually be quite delicious: fresh berries and other fruits, salads loaded with colorful produce, your favorite steamed vegetables or vegetable soup, stews or chili made with beans, chewy whole-grain breads and cereals…You get the picture. (These foods just happen to be loaded with nutrients as well.) High-fiber foods keep you fuller with fewer calories, and they help keep your digestive system working at its best—a double-whammy for getting rid of belly bulge. And “double-whammy” is such a fun word to use that I encourage you to try it out a few times this week!

4. Enjoy some yogurt.
Probiotics, the healthful bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods, have been proven to help reduce belly fat. In a recent study in Finland, new mothers who took probiotic supplements averaged smaller waist circumferences—and lower body fat in general—than those who didn’t take probiotic supplements. And while the topic is still controversial, studies have found that eating lots of calcium-rich dairy foods like yogurt may increase overall weight loss. It’s why I eat Greek yogurt and drink my Shakeology DAILY!!

5. Don’t forget to eat.
Tempted to lower your daily calorie count by skipping meals? Don’t. Seriously, I cannot tell you how many women tell me that they don’t know why they aren’t losing weight; since they only eat maybe 1 time a day!!! EXCUSE MOI??????

Going hungry can raise your levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which research has found can increase belly fat even in otherwise thin women. And eating too infrequently can lower your metabolism and energy levels, while increasing the chance that you’ll get too hungry and decide to chuck your meal plan entirely. If you’re eating the right foods, regular meals and snacks will keep your body fueled while you’re working toward that strong core. You MUST eat!!! It’s the ONLY way! 😉

6. Drink more fluids. Hydration is important when you’re on a fitness plan, but drinking plenty of water has particular benefits for your midsection. It helps keep your stomach full, so you don’t overeat, and it helps flush out excess sodium to prevent belly bloating. (Eating more potassium-rich foods, such as tomatoes and bananas, will also help in this area.) Plain ol’ H20 can’t be beat, but you can also switch it up with flavored waters, iced tea, and anything else you like to drink that isn’t full of sweeteners. How much do you need? The old rule of 8 glasses a day is a good start, but everyone is different: drink more if you’re exercising or it’s hot out, and drink less if you’re running to the bathroom every 5 minutes.  I will challenge you to drink the recommended amount for fit individuals; 1/2 your body weight in ounces!! So for someone who is 150 lbs; they would need to drink at least 75 oz of water every day! Or a gallon if you are really up to the challenge!

7. …With two exceptions.
It’s time to cut down on those mood-altering substances, coffee and alcohol. Too much caffeine raises your cortisol levels and can impair your sleep, which can lower the production of fitness-promoting hormones. Meanwhile, the proverbial “beer belly” isn’t just the result of extra calories—alcohol actually makes it more difficult for your body to metabolize carbs and fat. Booze also stimulates your appetite and lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to bingeing. The best road to flat abs is no alcohol at all, but if you really like a drink now and then, just have one at a time (and no more than a few a week), and stay away from higher-calorie beers and sugary mixed drinks. Something to seriously consider especially over the weekends, am I right or am I right? (you are SO smart! lol)

If you add these rules to your fitness plan, you’re sure to see faster improvements in your midsection. Of course, there’s an added bonus to eating this way: it’ll keep you healthier, too. That may not be as big an inducement as great abs, but that’s just  for free.

Do you need an added incentive? I have a BUSY MOM’S support group starting first of the month and welcome you to message me today for info on joining. You can succeed and have time for your family AND save money along the way! All thrown in for extra bonus!! 😉

Email me at: http://www.spazzykay@gmail.com

Pumpkin EVERYTHING!!! 17 recipes to kick off your Fall season!

Here are 17 different pumpkin recipes for you to try, but don’t stop there! Once you’ve tried these recipes, I think you’ll want to experiment with using pumpkin in all sorts of dishes. What are your favorite ways to cook with pumpkin? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

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Pumpkin Pie Shakeology

Make your Shakeology taste just like pumpkin pie! This healthy smoothie has a full serving of pumpkin, and tons of fiber to keep you satisfied for hours. There is a full serving of yummy pumpkin in this pie-flavored smoothie. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is important for healthy teeth and vision.

Total Time: 5 min.
Prep Time: 5 min.
Cooking Time: None
Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:
¼ cup water
¾ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
½ cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pure maple syrup (or raw honey)
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped raw pecans
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup ice

Preparation:
1. Place water, almond milk, Shakeology, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, pecans, pumpkin pie spice, and ice in blender; cover. Blend until smooth.

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Pumpkin Muffins

Amanda Meixne  came up with this delicious, high-protein recipe for healthy pumpkin protein muffins that are just perfect for Fall.

Total Time: 28 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 18 min.
Yield: 12 servings, 1 muffin each

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 large egg white
¼ cup pure pumpkin puree
1 large banana, cut into chunks
½ cup all-natural almond butter
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 scoops Beachbody Whey Protein Powder, Vanilla flavor, or equivalent
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
1 dash ground nutmeg

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Prepare twelve muffin cups by lining with muffin papers or coating with spray.
3. Place egg, egg white, pumpkin, banana, almond butter, and maple syrup in blender; cover. Blend for 30 seconds.
4. Add Protein Powder, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg; cover. Blend until smooth.
5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.
6. Bake 16 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown and tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
7. Transfer muffins to rack; cool.

 

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This pumpkin spice latte has half the calories of your favorite fall treat.

Total Time: 10 min.
Prep Time: 5 min.
Cooking Time: 5 min.
Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:
1 cup nonfat milk
1 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup brewed black coffee or 1 shot espresso
1 dash ground nutmeg (to taste; optional)

Preparation:
1. Heat milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and extract in medium saucepan over medium heat; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until mixture is hot, but not boiling. It is ready when there are many small bubbles on the sides of the saucepan.
2. Remove from heat; mix vigorously with a whisk until frothy.
3. Pour coffee or espresso into serving mug; top with milk mixture.
4. Top with nutmeg if desired.

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Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese

This hearty salad topped with lentils and fresh pumpkin is perfect for fall and winter months. In other seasons, replace pumpkin with sweet potato!

Total Time: 34 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 24 min.
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 lb. raw pumpkin, cut into medium-sized cubes (about 4 cups)
4 tsp. olive oil, divided use
½ tsp. sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1½ tsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 cups fresh arugula (or mixed baby greens)
2 cups cooked green lentils
2 Tbsp. crumbled soft goat cheese (½ oz.)
2 Tbsp. raw pumpkin seeds

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Combine pumpkin, 1 tsp. oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; mix well.
3. Arrange pumpkin mixture on baking pan.
4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stir; continue baking for 10 to 12 additional minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Cool.
5. While pumpkin is baking, combine lime juice, maple syrup, and mustard in a small bowl; whisk to blend.
6. Slowly add remaining 3 tsp. oil, whisking continuously until blended. Set aside.
7. Evenly divide arugula between four serving plates. Top evenly with lentils, baked pumpkin, cheese, and pumpkin seeds.
8. Drizzle evenly with dressing.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 8.42.51 PMPumpkin Risotto with Garlic and Sage

Risotto is comfort food, pure and simple, but it can be loaded with high-fat ingredients. That’s why we created this delicious, lighter version with pumpkin, sage, and brown rice.

Risotto is comfort food, pure and simple, but it can be loaded with high-fat ingredients. That’s why we created this delicious, lighter version with pumpkin, sage, and brown arborio rice (if you can’t find it, brown rice will do).

Total Time: 1 hr. 10 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 1 hr.
Yield: 6 servings, about ¾ cup each

Ingredients:
4 cups low-sodium organic vegetable broth
3½ cups water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 medium shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup dry white wine (or water)
1¼ cups dry brown Arborio rice
2½ cups cubed raw pumpkin (½-inch cubes)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Preparation:
1. Heat broth and water in large saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
3. Add shallots; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until shallots are translucent.
4. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
5. Add wine; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute, or until wine evaporates.
6. Add rice; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
7. Add 1 cup broth mixture; cook, stirring frequently, for 6 minutes, or until liquid is almost completely absorbed.
8. Add remaining broth mixture ½ cup at a time; cook, stirring constantly. Add the next ½ cup after the first ½ cup is absorbed. (This will take about 50 minutes.)
9. Add pumpkin during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
10. After all the broth mixture has been added, add cheese, sage, and pepper; mix well.
11. Serve immediately.

 

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Vegetarian Pumpkin Curry

Don’t be intimidated by making your own curry! Our recipe makes it easy to prepare and oh-so delicious. This simple dish of pumpkin, bell peppers and fragrant fresh basil and coconut milk is ready in just 25 minutes.

Total Time: 25 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 15 min.
Yield: 6 servings, about 1 cup each

Ingredients:
1 cup canned light coconut milk, divided use
2 Tbsp. vegetarian red curry paste
2 cups low-sodium organic vegetable (or chicken) broth
½ tsp. sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
1 lb. raw pumpkin, cut into large cubes (about 3½ cups)
½ medium red bell pepper, sliced
4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. black sesame seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
3 cups cooked brown rice, hot

Preparation:
1. Heat coconut milk and red curry paste in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until well mixed.
2. Add broth, salt, pumpkin, bell pepper, and lime leaves if desired. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes, or until pumpkin softens.
3. Add basil, sesame seeds (if desired), and coconut (if desired); cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove lime leaves.
4. Place ½ cup of rice in each of six serving bowls and top with pumpkin mixture.

Tip: If you have an Asian market in your area, you will be able to find kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil (which you can use instead of regular basil).

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Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin is the star of this belly-warming vegetarian chili that has only 96 calories per serving!

Total Time: 55 min.
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cooking Time: 40 min.
Yield: 8 servings, about 1½ cups each

Ingredients
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Sea salt (or Himalayan salt) and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. ground cumin
2 cups low-sodium organic vegetable broth
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, drained, rinsed
½ cup pure pumpkin puree
4 cups cubed raw pumpkin (½-inch cubes)
8 Tbsp. nonfat plain Greek yogurt (optional)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley (for garnish; optional)

Preparation:
1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion, bell pepper, and carrot; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
3. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
4. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
5. Add chili powder, cumin, broth, tomatoes, beans, and pumpkin; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Add pumpkin; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until pumpkin is soft.
7. Top each serving with 1 Tbsp. yogurt and a sprinkle of parsley if desired.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 8.43.12 PMChicken Baked with Pumpkin
This casserole with savory bites of lean chicken breast, pumpkin, and fresh herbs has a whopping 25 grams of protein per serving and only 182 calories.

Total Time: 34 min.
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cooking Time: 19 min.
Yield: 4 servings, about 1¼ cups each

Ingredients:
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. raw chicken breast, boneless, skinless, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Sea salt (or Himalayan salt) and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
4 cups cubed raw pumpkin (½-inch cubes)
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 cup low-sodium organic chicken broth

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
3. Add onion and chicken; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
4. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until well blended.
5. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Transfer to an ovenproof pan or casserole dish.
6. Add pumpkin, thyme, and chicken broth; cover.
7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender and chicken is no longer pink in the middle.
8. Enjoy as is, or serve over cooked brown rice.

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Pumpkin Quesadilla

This is not your average quesadilla! It is stuffed with pepper jack cheese and spiced pumpkin puree and topped with all the trimmings. All for only 269 calories per serving.

Total Time: 10 min.
Prep Time: 5 min.
Cooking Time: 5 min.
Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:
1 (8-inch) whole wheat tortilla
½ cup pure pumpkin puree
¼ tsp. chili powder
1 dash ground cumin
3 Tbsp. pepper Jack (or mozzarella) cheese (¾ oz.)
Nonstick cooking spray
2 Tbsp. pico de gallo (or chunky tomato salsa)
1 Tbsp. nonfat plain yogurt
1 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish; optional)

Preparation:
1. Spread half of tortilla with pumpkin; stopping ½-inch from edge.
2. Top with chili powder, cumin, and cheese; fold in half.
3. Heat nonstick skillet lightly coated with spray over medium heat.
4. Add tortilla; cook, turning once, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and tortilla is golden brown.
5. Place on serving plate. Top with salsa and yogurt. Sprinkle with cilantro if desired.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

For a crunchy, salty snack, try these pumpkin seeds!

Total Time: 45 min.
Prep Time: 5 min.
Cooking Time: 40 min.
Yield: 6 servings, about ¼ cup each

Ingredients:
Seeds from one medium pumpkin, rinsed (about 1½ cups)
Water
½ tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. cayenne pepper (or garlic powder, seasoning salt, or 1 Tbsp. curry powder) (to taste; optional)

Preparation:
1. Preheat the oven to 300° F.
2. Place seeds, water (2 cups water for every ½ cup of seeds), and salt in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; gently boil for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Dry with paper towels.
3. Coat baking sheet with oil; spread pumpkin seeds on baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until seeds are lightly browned. Let cool completely.

Tip: For flavored seeds, coat with one or more suggested spices before baking.

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Pumpkin Pizza

Create this beautiful gourmet pie for your next family pizza night

and listen to the oohs and ahhs! Making fresh roasted pumpkin puree is totally worth the effort, but canned puree tastes great too!

Total Time: 18 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 8 min.
Yield: 8 servings, 1 slice each

Ingredients for Pizza Dough:
¼ oz. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (100 – 110° F.)
2 tsp. sugar
3 – 3¼ cups whole wheat flour, divided use
½ tsp. fine sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
2 tsp. olive oil, divided use
Nonstick cooking spray

 

 

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Ingredients for Pizza:

1½ cups fresh roasted (or canned) pumpkin puree
¾ tsp. curry powder
2 Tbsp. low-sodium organic vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 tsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped kale, stems removed
1 medium red onion, chopped, caramelized (see tips)
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 8.57.13 PM

 

For Pizza Dough:

1. Place yeast, water, and sugar in a medium bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until yeast becomes foamy.
2. Combine 3 cups flour and salt in a small bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to yeast mixture. Mix with clean hands until mixture does not stick to your hands. Add additional flour if needed. Roll dough into a ball. Brush with ½ tsp. oil. Place in a bowl; cover with a towel. Let rise for 2 hours.
3. Punch down dough to remove air; knead and roll into a ball. Brush with ½ tsp. oil. Place in a bowl; cover with a towel. Let rise for an additional 2 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 450° F.
5. Roll dough until it will no longer stretch. Let rest for 5 minutes. Continue to roll until it reaches your desired diameter, about 10 to 12-inches, and about ½-inch thick. Place on baking pan lightly coated with spray.
6. Brush with remaining 1 tsp. oil.

For Pizza:
1. While pizza dough is resting, combine pumpkin, curry powder, and broth in a medium bowl; mix well. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat.
3. Add kale; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until kale softens. Set aside.
4. Spread pizza dough evenly with pumpkin mixture, stopping ½-inch from edge.
5. Top evenly with kale and onion.
6. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust is golden.
7. Top with cheese.

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Tip: You can make fresh roasted pumpkin puree by cutting a pumpkin in half and placing it on a baking pan. Drizzle it with ½ tsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 350° F. for 35 to 40 minutes. If using fresh pumpkin puree, increase vegetable broth to 4 Tbsp. To caramelize onion, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in medium nonstick skillet. Add 1 chopped onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes. Once onions begin to brown reduce heat to low. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until onions are brown.

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Cauliflower Pumpkin Au Gratin 

This combination of cauliflower and pumpkin sauce has all the comfort of a creamy casserole without the fat.

Total Time: 58 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 48 min.
Yield: 6 servings, about ¾ cup each

Ingredients:
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
Nonstick cooking spray
Sea salt (or Himalayan salt) and ground white pepper
(to taste; optional)
¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
⅓ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
2. Place cauliflower on baking sheet that has been lightly coated with spray.
3. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
4. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.
5. While cauliflower is cooking, bring almond milk to a boil in medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low.
6. Add cheese, pumpkin, and mustard; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until well blended.
7. Add cauliflower; mix well.
8. Pour cauliflower minute into 8 x 8-inch casserole dish that has been lightly coated with spray.
9. Top with bread crumbs.
10. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

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Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Brown Rice Pilaf

This colorful side dish packed with vegetables is hearty enough to be your main course!

Total Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cooking Time: 1 hr. 20 min.
Yield: 8 servings, about ¾ cup each

Ingredients:
2 cups cubed raw pumpkin (½-inch cubes)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tsp. olive oil, divided use
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium celery stalk, chopped
2 cups chopped kale
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Sea salt (or Himalayan salt) and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
3 cups low-sodium organic vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry brown rice

Preparation:
1. Combine pumpkin, sweet potato, and 1 tsp. oil in a medium bowl; mix well.
2. Arrange pumpkin mixture on baking pan.
3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stir; continue baking for 10 to 12 additional minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Set aside.
4. Heat remaining 1 tsp. oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
5. Add onion, celery, and kale; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
6. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes.
7. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
8. Add broth, bay leaf, and rice. Bring to a boil, covered. Reduce heat to low; gently boil for 45 to 50 minutes, or until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaf.
9. Gently fold in pumpkin mixture.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 9.15.04 PMPaleo-Friendly Pumpkin Bread

Warning: the scent of this paleo-friendly pumpkin bread wafting from your kitchen will make family and neighbors come running for a slice.

Total Time: 1 hr. 5 min.
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cooking Time: 45 min.
Yield: 12 servings, 1 slice each

Ingredients:
1 cup almond flour
¼ cup coconut flour
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp. sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
¾ cup pure pumpkin puree
Nonstick cooking spray

Ingredients:
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Combine almond flour, coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; mix well. Set aside.
3. Combine eggs and oil in a large bowl; mix well. Add maple syrup and pumpkin; mix well.
4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture; mix until just blended.
5. Place batter in small loaf pan that has been lightly coated with spray.
6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Pumpkin Coconut Custards

Step into fall with these pumpkin custards made with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a touch of coconut extract.

Total Time: 1 hour
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 50 min.
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. fine sea salt
4 large eggs, beaten
½ cup pure maple syrup (or raw honey)
½ tsp. pure coconut extract
1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin puree
¾ cup canned coconut milk
¾ cup unsweetened almond milk

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
2. Combine cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl; mix well. Set aside.
3. Combine eggs, maple syrup, and extract in a large bowl; whisk to blend.
4. Add spice mixture and pumpkin.
5. Gradually add coconut milk and almond milk; whisk to blend.
6. Pour mixture evenly into eight 6-oz. custard cups. Place cups in 13×9-inch baking pan; fill pan with 1-inch hot water.
7. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until knife inserted in custard halfway between center and edge of ramekin comes out almost clean. Cool completely on wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Pumpkin Cookies

Bake a batch of these yummy pumpkin oatmeal cookies with raisins and pecans. Only 103 calories for two!

Total Time: 25 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 15 min.
Yield: 9 servings, 2 cookies each

Ingredients:
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp. sea salt
1¼ cups pumpkin puree
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup chopped raw pecans

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven for 350° F.
2. Lightly coat baking sheet with spray. Set aside.
3. Combine oats, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a medium bowl; mix well.
4. Add pumpkin, maple syrup, raisins, and pecans; mix well.
5. Drop by rounded Tbsp. onto prepared baking sheet; flatten cookies with a spatula.
6. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes or until firm.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 9.15.27 PMPeanut Butter Shakeology Cups

Peanut butter and chocolate combine in a healthy version of this classic candy made with Shakeology.

Total Time: 36 min.
Prep Time: 5 min.
Cooking Time: 1 min.
Yield: 12 servings, 1 cup each

Ingredients:
¼ cup dark chocolate morsels
2 scoops Chocolate Vegan Shakeology
1 Tbsp. psyllium husk powder
½ cup pumpkin puree
6 tsp. all-natural smooth peanut butter, divided use

Preparation:
1. Prepare twelve mini muffin cups by lining with muffin papers.
2. Place morsels in microwave-safe container. Microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds; stir; microwave for an additional 30 to 45 seconds or until just melted. Do not overcook. Set aside.
3. Place Shakeology, psyllium husk, and pumpkin in a food processor. Pulse until it forms a dough.
4. Divide dough into 12 small balls; place each ball in a muffin cup. Press dough down into a flat disk with a depression in the middle. Place ½ tsp. peanut butter in each depression.
5. Drizzle melted morsels evenly over each peanut butter cup; spread to create a thin chocolate layer on top.
6. Freeze for 30 minutes, or until chocolate hardens.

 

 

Are You Struggling Today?

It’s amazing to me when I hear people assume that if you don’t complain or talk about your struggles; that you must no have any.

BULL!!! 

Our struggles are our stories!!! Embrace them and learn to grow from them.  That is your message to the world around you.

In keeping with today’s topic; I will share some of mine…

I am a very happily married woman of almost 20 years to my amazing hubby.  Do you think that it’s been bliss ever since the day we said, “I Do”???

FAR FROM IT!!!

…and to those of you who are, or have been married know that it would have been a complete lie for me to say otherwise.

We started out as your average “happy” young couple with dreams of a family life, successes, growing in our faith and many blessings.

While I can’t say we aren’t enjoying all of these today, it sure has not been “easy” in any respect.

Which reminds me of a joke my son told us this summer;

“Why did the washing machine stop working?…. Somebody threw the towel in…”

=D =D =D

We all have struggles and if we stick with what needs to be done consistently; we can work our ways through them and come out stronger than ever. This doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to complain to everyone around you or share all over social media about your issues…

Because there is such a thing as an “unfollow” button and that will get pressed if you make complaining a habit. Instead, act as though everything is going great and your reality will become so. You have more power over your progress and success than you know.

My point is that although life has had it’s share of ups and downs for us, we never gave up. We kept refocusing on helping each other and moving forward in the best way we could understand at the time. There is no fairy tale life. There is no perfection for anyone. I know we will continue to have our struggles but without them, we wouldn’t be as happy and as strong as we are today. My hubby is my best friend and I know he has my back just as much as I do, his.

But you have to get a little bit (sometimes, a LOT) uncomfortable before you feel proud of where you’ve come from…

Let’s focus in on the happy parts of today!

Embrace the Funny Moments

So, I thought I’d share a funny story that happened this week as we headed out of town on our yearly family beach camping trip.

I rode in one car with my daughter who was driving. (which is so awesome that I don’t have to be behind the wheel at all times these days!) Hubby took the boys in a second vehicle with most of our luggage and supplies.

As we drove along on the freeway, I was zoning out after a rather hectic morning, (I mean, seriously, when you are staying busy with a crazy long checklist, it never fails that things will always come up and work to try and derail your plans. Not so much, luck!)

All of a sudden, my daughter shouts out, “What’s he doing???” in an exasperated and very annoyed tone. (they seem to pick up LOTS of things from their parents…lol) 😉

I glanced to her left and saw a car keeping in line with our vehicle.  She was trying to have them either get ahead or slightly behind us, with no luck.  I didn’t really see the driver but assumed they were just keeping pace and weren’t really aware of how annoying the pace was to my daughter.

For some reason, I decided to make a second attempt to REALLY look  at what this “person” was doing and leaned forward in my seat enough to see that there actually two young men in the other car who were smiling and trying so hard (obviously not successful) to gain the attention of my 18 year old driver.

Apparently my attention surprised them (probably since they didn’t see me as well in the passenger seat) and they finally sped along and stopped their attempts to impress my daughter. She thought that it was hilarious! Here,she was annoyed and then when I explained how they really couldn’t see me until I leaned forward and fixed my attention on them and they both shot looks of “HOLY CRAP! That’s her mom!” bahahahahahaha =D

About five minutes after this happened, the freeway was slowed down and stopped by a highway patrol car. Obviously there was something ahead of us and we were left sitting in a parked car for at least 10 loooooong minutes and we happened to be parked directly behind these “friendly” young men’s car.  They obviously weren’t too thrown off of their antics yet, as they both opened their car doors and jumped out to run all the way around the car and back to their original seats…smiling and laughing and glancing one last time towards my daughter.

Seems like fate fate gave us a good smile after our very stressful morning!!

Do you find humor in your days when you most need it?