Date Truffles

This recipe is so deceptive. Just three ingredients (four if you add a different topping option), all of which can be considered ‘healthy’ with no added sugars. I believe this is completely Whole 30 compliant though I have not, nor do I plan on doing Whole 30. My friend that shared this with me has actually brought them to a couple of events but I was always put off by the Whole 30 concept and the idea of a dessert that isn’t filled with sugar or other decadent goodies. I know, I’m breaking my own rules about trying new things. At the last event that she attended, I gave it a ‘courtesy taste’ and was hooked from that moment on. They really do taste like a rich, chocolate truffle. How could this be?? I needed the recipe and she was gracious enough to oblige (thanks, Rachel!)

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Disclaimer: Another turn-off for me before trying them was the use of dates. Sure, I keep them in the house for one of my favorite desserts: sticky toffee pudding, but the ratio of dates to everything else that makes that recipe is so minimal that I figured this was like  using raisins in a dessert. Why on Earth would you ruin something by doing that? Boy was I wrong.

Date Truffles
Makes approx 14-16

Ingredients:
1 cup dates packed
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 can of coconut milk, but only the thick, solid white part (not the liquid milk)

Optional:
Toppings can be additional cocoa powder and/or unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. Throw the dates into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the cocoa powder and coconut milk. Process until all combined. Place into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled (it will make it easier to work with).
  2. Once the mixture is chilled, use a spoon to scoop out tablespoon size portions. Roll into a ball and coat with topping. Set aside until all are complete, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

That’s it! How easy is that??

My friend recommends Whole Foods 365 coconut milk. I hate making the trek over to our nearest Whole Foods so I just used coconut milk that I had left from the Healthy Vegetable Alfredo (great way to use the rest of the can of your coconut milk). It worked out perfectly and I was able to make a good amount of these truffles with it. I also just found that coconut milk in the International Food section at my local grocery store, though I saw there were so many varieties throughout the store, including in the baking aisle. I just didn’t get the low-fat version as I figured that would probably decrease the amount of the thick, solid coconut milk in the can.

Weekend Recap, Workouts, and Shakeology Recipe

This weekend was harder than I expected – probably one of the most indulgent ones I’ve had since the holidays (not counting NOLA since I was out of town and I feel like traveling gets its own set of rules).

It really all started on Saturday. We had a busy day with early morning activities for the kiddos. Luckily, I was able to get a bootcamp workout in. I live in the same neighborhood as my trainer who also happens to run a program called Bootcamp Moms. She and another one of my Y instructors run regular classes that are tough. Really tough. I had never been to one of them, but I’d heard from other friends who had been and I really could only imagine after the things my trainer has put me though. Because I had such an action packed day planned, the only time I could fit a workout in was first thing in the morning, so I decided to give their class a try… and y’all know how important I feel it is to step out of your comfort zone!

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One of the tortures of the bootcamp was an egg hunt with various workouts you had to complete.

 

Well, the class was awesome, I got home in time to make a new Shakeology recipe and then we were immediately off to the museum for the dinosaur egg hunt. My shake was filling and held me over until lunch time which we had at the museum. Normally, I would pack a lunch if I wasn’t sure what a place would have available, but our local science museum actually has a really great menu filled with lots of healthy options. I ended up with a turkey panini and I scraped off the dressing. That left the flavor of it but I always feel like there’s too much dressing on sandwiches anyways. I had it with a side of fresh fruit and I was good to go… or so I thought! I couple of hours later and we were at our next stop, an egg hunt with friends. I didn’t realize they would have a full spread of food and as it was about the time I would normally have a small afternoon snack, I realized I was a little hungry. Well, once I saw the food, I basically made myself another little lunch. I knew I didn’t really need that amount of food, but for the first time in a while, I didn’t really care. I think it was a combination of exhaustion and just a mentality of ‘I’m going to indulge for once’ that took hold. And while I didn’t necessarily completely fall off the wagon, I did battle with the guilt after. But anyways, after the egg hunt, we ended up going home and for once we were all able to coordinate a nap at the same time. With two toddlers, this feat is a once in a blue moon occurrence so we just decided to embrace it and rest.

Dinner that evening was light, but I spent the rest of the night prepping for our big Easter brunch the next morning. This of course involved making desserts and with that, sampling chocolate that was going on my beautiful carrot cake. Again, not normally an indulgence I take part in, but as it was such a rare treat – we really don’t keep a ton of unportioned out candy in the house – I decided to embrace it, knowing I would be back on track the next day.

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Carrot cake… because carrots are totally healthy… right??

The following morning, we had our big Easter brunch. I made sure to have a balanced plate of some indulgences, but also lots of fruits and veggies. I shared my desserts with my son, both of us only having a few bites of each thing. Luckily, my sweet tooth does seem to have faded slightly in that I can have a couple of bites and be satisfied… I think the sugar starts to get a little overwhelming as I try not to have too much of it on a regular basis. Anyone who knows me and my previous cupcake business wouldn’t believe what I was saying right now but this lifestyle change really has changed my tastebuds and the amount of sweets that I can reasonably enjoy. I’d like to hope that’s all a long-term change though I know I will constantly need to work on it.

Now here’s the kicker: After this feast of food and drink, I had a 10 mile run planned. And not just any ten mile run, but spadework. My running buddy and I agreed the week before that we would try to do ten miles at some point on Easter Sunday, and work on keeping our miles under a ten minute mile average. As a former 16 minute per miler, this would be a big feat for me. I had just completed the Kilt Run last weekend with an average under ten minutes, but that was just for 5 miles. Luckily, my girlfriend had complete confidence in me and pushed me to meet our goal.

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10 miles, and speed-work, all after Easter brunch. I’m a glutton for punishment.

While most of my runs are first thing in the morning and on a very light stomach, this one was not and thus was an extra challenge. We both had indulged this weekend and we pushed ourselves harder because of it. Thankfully, we made our goal and had that fantastic feeling of accomplishment afterwards.

So now, on to the week! I’m ready to take back control. Our meal planning is done, and we really tried to focus on healthy options to ensure that we could keep on track with our weight loss goals for the week. I also planned out some pretty intense workouts as I want one last push before I do a lighter load next week in preparation for Rock N Roll Raleigh.

Now, here’s my workout recap from last week:

  • Monday: Cycle Beat (morning), 5 mile run (evening)
  • Tuesday: Interval class (morning), power walk pushing the stroller (evening)
  • Wednesday: Cycle Express class and some treadmill time (morning), light run/power walk (evening)
  • Thursday: Treadmill before bootcamp class (morning), Zumba (evening)
  • Friday: Treadmill intervals and Zumba (morning)
  • Saturday: Bootcamp (morning) and chasing the kids around
  • Sunday: 10 mile run, focus on speed

I don’t always do so many workouts in one day, but again, I’m trying to reach my final weight loss goal and toning for the summer so I’ve been really pushing it. I also find that it’s better than me just surfing the web all night in the evening or sitting in front of the tv.

Oh, and here’s my latest favorite Shakeology recipe! I haven’t seen it around, though there’s so many out there, I’m sure someone has come up with something similar! This is a great, filling shake first thing in the morning, or when I know I’m going to have to go a decent stretch between meals. I’m so hooked on the Cafe Latte flavor that I just ordered that this month so I could play with different variations on it.

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Mocha Shakeology Recipe

Mocha Shakeology Recipe:

  • 1 scoop Cafe Latte Shakeology
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, plain Almond Milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 cup water

I add ice and then blend. It’s a delicious mocha flavored smoothie and now in heavy rotation in the house.

Let me know what you think! What’s your favorite Cafe Latte Shakeology recipe?

 

 

Meal Planning for March 27th

I realized late last week that I never posted our meal planning schedule for the week. I’d love to make this a regular routine as we already regularly plan our meals, I figured I might as well share them for people who are looking for new ideas or those who just want to see how I make it work with ‘normal’ food. As mentioned before, we really just plan our dinners as our lunches are generally a mix of the same things. We don’t usually eat out for lunch – dinner is the biggest temptation but at this point we really only do it for special occasions. If you want more details about our day-to-day, non-dinner meals, check out the original post.

Meal Planning for Week of March 27th:

  • Sunday: Juicy Lucy Burger from Hello Fresh (we ordered another box because we liked it so much). Serving with asparagus as we’ll probably need a detox from Easter brunch deliciousness.
  • Monday: Hello Fresh Dijon Pork Chops with Crispy Potato Cakes and Roasted Asparagus
  • Tuesday: Hello Fresh Heirloom Tomato Flatbread
  • Wednesday: Healthy Vegetable Alfredo with Pasta
  • Thursday: Split Pea Soup and Grilled Cheese
  • Friday: Turkey Tacos (and taco salad for me)
  • Saturday: Homemade Spaghetti Sauce and Spaghetti
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Healthy Alfredo Sauce on Pasta and Grilled Chicken

And in case you wanted to see last week’s schedule, here you go:

Meal Planning for Week of March 20th:

  • Sunday: Chicken Squares, mashed potatoes, peas
  • Monday: Veggie burgers with baked sweet potato fries
  • Tuesday: Turkey tacos (and taco salad for me)
  • Wednesday: Leftover chicken squares
  • Thursday: Split pea soup and grilled cheese
  • Friday: Healthy Vegetable Alfredo with Pasta
  • Saturday: Crockpot pulled pork sandwich, no side (big lunch)
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The lifecycle of the crockpot pulled pork

Wishing everyone a safe and Happy Easter! Have a great week!

Healthy Vegetable ‘Alfredo’ Sauce

I’m always looking for ways to get more vegetables into our daily diets, especially with two picky toddlers. Give them pasta, smother it a sauce, and it’s usually something that they will consume.

We went to a friends house for dinner a few months ago and they made this. The kids had seconds… then thirds… and we loved it too. My friend was kinda enough to share the recipe. She had made quite a few modifications from the original and I did the same when I made it. But everytime that I’ve made it since, we’ve had the same results: clean, empty plates.  So here’s my version:

FitNewton_HealthyAlfredoRecipe

Healthy Vegetable ‘Alfredo’ Sauce
Makes 8-10 servings (freezes great)

Ingredients:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 head cauliflower, stems removed and cauliflower chopped
5-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3/4 cup coconut milk (the liquid part, not the thick part)
salt to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the sweet potatoes and olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 30-35 minute until soft.
2. In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the onion and stir to coat. Turn heat to low, cover and let caramelize, stirring occasionally. Cook about 20 minutes on low. Add the garlic and toss with the onions. Remove from heat.
3. In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until tender, about 7-10 minutes. Once tender, remove from heat. Add the sweet potatoes, onions, and coconut milk.
4. Using an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender, blend until smooth. Salt to taste.

This sauce is excellent served right away but you can also freeze it and reheat for later. I find that it makes a lot and we can get at least 3 full meals for the family out of it. After making our latest batch, I put one serving in the fridge for later in the week, and two in the freezer for a later date. So even if it’s not the fastest recipe to make, we get so many future meals out of it, it’s more than worth it.

We serve ours over Trader Joe’s Brown Rice and Quinoa pasta and added some diced, grilled chicken breast. It’s delicious, so filling, and low in calories. My kids don’t notice that there isn’t actually milk or cheese in it, and we all get plenty of veggies in the process.

Challenge Group: 22 Minute Hard Corps

With just two months until the local pools open up in our area, I’ve decided to crack down on my cardio and toning and really focus on getting swimsuit ready. So I’m excited to create my first challenge group for the new Beachbody program, 22 Minute Hard Corps.

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It’s just a 22 minute a day bootcamp type workout that will focus on overall fitness, cardio, and toning. If you do the full challenge you will also get a meal plan and a month supply of Shakeology.

The challenge group includes me being your coach and guiding you through the program with the other challenge participants, an app for your smart phone (Team Beachbody Challenge Tracker in the app store) and/or a Facebook page if you prefer to follow along there. The app allows you to log your workouts, shakes, progress measurements, photos, and any other journal entry information you might want to keep track of throughout the program duration. You can also see how the rest of the challenge group is doing and get their feedback and support through both resources. And of course, I’ll be there to support and coach you along the way!

If you want to learn more about the challenge, send me a note at fitnewton@gmail.com. We start on April 11th – so I hope to hear from you soon!

Small changes that make a big difference

I’ve made changes throughout this journey. Changes to my mindset, my diet, my activity level. Some were small, some were huge. Ultimately, if you’re not willing to make changes, then you’re not going to see changes.

Here are some that I still do regularly:

  • I make a lot of open faced sandwiches or whole wheat wraps. I love carbs and couldn’t give them up completely. It’s just not realistic for me. But I started out doing an open-faced sandwich once in a while. Now I do it almost all the time. Or if I go to a restaurant and order a burger, I only eat it with half of the bun. Little things but the extra 50-100 calories add up.
  • I also like to slice my bread myself. Luckily, my gym is right next to a bakery that specializes in amazing breads. I order their most wheat or fiber filled bread and ask for it unsliced when possible. Bread slices can be so thick, and by cutting it myself, I get a little more control over what I’m eating. If this isn’t an option but you want to do something similar, you could just evaluate the different bread options at your grocery store for the one that offers the best value in terms of size, calories, and healthy ingredients.
  • Go for an evening (or morning) walk. I try to do this at least once or twice a week. I text some friends to see who’s available, or I go on my own (I carry pepper spray when I’m solo if it’s really dark out, though my neighborhood is as safe as most probably are…I’d just rather be prepared).
  • Swap out coffee for tea, soda for water, etc, etc. When I have coffee, I add sugar, creamer, the works. Or I just got straight for a mocha or latte. I decided to give it up for Lent, and it’s been great. I have tea occasionally instead, but ultimately, I preferred not to drink my calories on something that wasn’t offering me tons of health benefits or really even filling me up. My morning routine now consists of a Shakeology smoothie and/or a granola bar before I do my morning workout.
  • Eggbeaters/egg whites for eggs, turkey bacon instead of bacon. Ok, I’m a bacon purist and always scoffed at people who pushed turkey bacon, but one day I decided to try it – just because I figured I could save some calories, and make sure I was eating things that could have more benefits for things like my cholesterol. So eggs and turkey bacon seemed like an easy fix, and surprisingly they weren’t a hard change. I still do both of the ‘real deal’ for a treat, but that’s all it is – a treat. It’s not a regular habit.
  • Meal planning. I’ve talked about this before, but it’s part of our routine now. We do it every week. We used to do it when we remembered… maybe every few weeks, and then we wouldn’t really follow it. Now, it’s just part of the routine, and it helps us to stay on track.
  • Add more vegetables to your meals. I know for us, this was a big change because we rarely ate more than one serving of veggies a day. Now, we try to have it for at least two meals a day, and put more veggies on our plate than extra carbs and starches (like backing off on that extra helping of potatoes and doing a salad instead). I’ve found that this has helped me to broaden my vegetable horizons and my taste buds have changed to where I actually enjoy vegetables more. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice or as forced as it did initially.
  • Try something new! In an effort to cut back on the carbs and incorporate more vegetables, I actually had a taco salad for the first time ever (I know, a little shocking, isn’t that such normal thing?) but I found that I really enjoyed it. I also went through cookbooks that I’ve owned for years, and actually made some recipes that I had flagged on Pinterest, and found that I have some new recipes that were hits in the house and can now be added to our meal planning rotation.
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My first taco salad!

So nothing huge or necessarily life-changing shared here, but these were just some small steps that I made that I like to incorporate into my daily routines.

What are some of your favorite tips and tricks, and changes that have made a difference for you?

 

 

Review: Hello Fresh

Last week, we tried out Hello Fresh, the meal prep home delivery service. I had a coupon code and wanted to try and mix things up from our weekly routine. Here is what we thought of the various aspects of the service.

Ordering: On on their website, you can look at the menus for the Classic, Veggie, or Family box. You can look at various upcoming weeks and decide if there’s one that you want to jump in on. Oh and of the weekly meals, it looks like at least one is a meal created by chef Jamie Oliver. I love his food and they’re all so fresh and healthy! But overall, I like that you can see the upcoming menus for several weeks, and get an exact idea of what they offer.

Once you have an account, you can select the box and choose the meals that you want. Depending on which plan you select, you can order anywhere from 2-5 meals for the week. Make sure you pick the week that you want to start with (based on the menu) ahead of time, then go in and start your first order. Once you pay, you select the meals that you want. One thing that I would have liked the first time I ordered it, was a quick overview on the initial order page of the meals being offered that week. I accidentally selected the wrong week and didn’t realize that it wasn’t the menu that I had originally planned for until after I paid. I was still able to find meals I wanted to make for that week, but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t the week that I had originally wanted.

Delivery: When you order, you select your delivery time. They gave me an all day range and I knew we wouldn’t be around for some of it, but based on their delivery description, I knew that the food would be fine on our porch. When we did get home to find the giant Hello Fresh box there, I was very happy with how it was all packed. Plenty of ice, insulation around everything and each meal was boxed up individually for easy storage and sorting.

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Meal Prep and Time: When it came time to make the meals, we just unpacked the individual meal box and read through the enclosed menu instruction packet. There were detailed instructions and photos guiding you through the prep. The instructions were simple to follow and were spot on. Two of my meals took under 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish (and a lot of that time was inactive cooking time where I just had to keep an eye on the stove). The last meal was a risotto but I had fair warning that it would be more time consuming based on the ratings on the website and reading the instructions ahead of time. It was my first time making risotto on my own (it was Jamie Oliver’s risotto recipe and funnily enough, I made risotto with him years ago when he was doing a demo and I was selected to be his ‘assistant’ on stage).

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Taste: The taste did not disappoint! Everything was perfectly seasoned and was just as described in the individual meal plans. The best part for us was that almost everything we made was something we hadn’t done before, or had at least one new item that we hadn’t cooked previously, like cous cous or fajitas made from scratch.

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Some of the meal plans we did add on to on our own. For example, with the fajitas we had fresh corn on the cob as I had some on hand already. With the risotto, we added rotisserie chicken, but just because I wanted a little more protein and it was easy to pick up an already prepared chicken without adding extra prep time. But we could have had both meals on their own without adding anything else and been fine.

Overall Impression: We really enjoyed it and would definitely order from them again! It’s pricey, but it was a great way to mix up our menu and add some variety into our weekly routine. I liked that we didn’t have to get anything else from the grocery store – it was all conveniently packaged with everything that we needed to make the meal. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and the prep/cook time specified was pretty exact.

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At $10 a meal (per person), it really isn’t that bad of a deal, though our initial purchase discount definitely made it more appealing. They offer a coupon of $40 off of your first order with a referral code (the link is one) and with referrals, you will get a discount of $20 on subsequent orders. I think that would make it something where we would be able to do it once, maybe twice a month. And it does seem like they mix up their meal plans pretty regularly so you could always be trying something new.

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Oh, I also loved that I was able to find the meals in My Fitness Pal. I just searched ‘Hello Fresh’ and the recipe name, and the meals were listed in there. It made it very easy to log and track my calories for the day. When reviewing the meals on the website too, you can look at more details which includes the nutritional value breakdown.

So overall, I think Hello Fresh was a great value and a nice addition to our lifestyle. I wouldn’t be able to do it every week, but I do look forward to trying it again soon.