Whole30 Dump Ranch Veggie Dip

*articles may contain affiliate links* This recipe for Whole30 Dump Ranch Veggie Dip was (as Greg put it) “a happy accident”. Because it would be great for picnics, I had to go up to the computer and work on this post right away (after I gobbled up my lunch with it as a side)!

whole30 dump ranch veggie dip

All I did was make my Dump Ranch (based on this recipe that’s from the must-have Whole30 Cookbook) for dinner the other night. Okay, I made it but I was one room temperature egg in before I realized I was out of my olive oil (and we’d been to two stores and dinner was already late). I stared at my gigantic jar of coconut oil and decided it would do. I scooped some in a bowl and heated it up so it was nice and melted.

The ranch served its purpose for dipping my wings in, then I put it in the fridge. The next morning when I had piping hot potatoes that were begging for something tasty on top, I grabbed for my ranch. Unfortunately, it looked more whipped than creamy. Oops.

Or not.

I had just discovered a way to 1) thicken without adding an extra egg and 2) have a healthy veggie dip (just in time for a 4th of July picnic, too!). It went great on my carrots but also worked on the potatoes because it came to the just-right temperature when hitting their heat.

To say I was surprised and ecstatic is an understatement. I was giddy! Arianna and Greg confirmed that I’d found a goldmine in my “mistake”. We’ll be making this more often, and perhaps you will, too!

Whole30 Dump Ranch Veggie Dip

Before you start this recipe, make sure you have an immersion blender (this one is the one we use because it is able to withstand lots of mixing when preparing dinners for six, even though it’s small it packs a punch!) and a wide-mouthed jar (while a pickle jar is good, if you are creeped out about sharing the dill taste with your ranch, give these ones a try).


If you try this, let me know what you think!

Whole30: Round Two

Yesterday completed Whole30 Round Two for me. Let me just shout it out – I am out top of the world happy with my results. There, I said it and that’s that, right?

No, for real. I’m more proud of myself than I was the last time I went on my weight loss journey. And if you don’t remember, during that one I dropped 130 pounds, ran a half marathon, and even wore a bikini for the first time since I was a kid. I was (excuse me) damn proud of myself and what I accomplished – and not just because I looked good but because I felt good and was healthier for my kids.

But this time is different. This time, I am older and have two more kids and a longer commute. I have more faith. I have more drive. I have more to overcome. And I am doing it.

Choosing to do a second round of Whole30 this year was a no-brainer. After reintroducting foods and then training for the half, my eating sort of slushed a little. I was mostly gluten-free, but I allowed myself some treats (and paid for them later). I was mostly dairy-free, but I ate ice cream twice in one weekend – packed with guilt. It was time to do something for me again.

This time, we tried a few new recipes. I ate less sweet potatoes. I lifted heavier (I still have lots of gains to make there, but boy am I seeing changes). I ran less distance. I found beauty in my imperfections. And I learned that eating clean is a good way for me to live.

Whole30 Round Two Results

As a result of my commitment to my health, I have:

  • Longer hair
  • Looser clothes (I have gone from an 18 to a 14/16 and even put on a pair of size 12’s!)
  • More energy
  • More strength
  • Lost 6 inches
  • Lost 17.6 pounds

And you guys – that’s just on Whole30 Round Two. In all this year, I have lost 43 pounds in six months and have found out what I need to put in my body to fuel it properly. And I’ve gained confidence, courage, and strength.

I have to give a big thank you to my husband for letting me take care of me – putting in hours at the gym or on the trail, leaving dinner work up to him, making him read labels and hunt for “weird” ingredients. Greg, you’ve made this so much easier on me, even though this time around of losing it has been the hardest. Thank you!

Whole30: It’s a Wrap

*articles may contain affiliate links* My Whole30 journey (round one, anyways) officially came to a wrap on February 4th. It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t help but sounding like a “junkie” throughout the entire process – maybe too much.

For thirty days, I stripped grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes from my diet. For thirty days, I put my husband to the test in the kitchen. For thirty days, I made a commitment to myself and my family to be better. And for thirty days, I was whole.

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Sure, eliminating cheese, bread, and peanut butter isn’t the easiest things to ask of anyone. I get that. But when you do, you’ll realize how much better you feel. At least that is what happened to me. Let’s rewind.

I started the Whole30 on January 5th following a 3-day refresh from Beachbody. **Full disclosure – I didn’t prescribe to quick fixes when I originally lost 130 pounds, so I was skeptical about the process. But after the holidays and  a year of holding onto 75 pounds gained before/after having the twins, I needed something to jump start my progress.**

Because I pretty much ate whole/clean from 2011 to 2014 (save for couscous, quinoa, whole wheat, cheese, peanut butter, and black beans), my body didn’t go through the rough days that many experience in the first days of Whole30. Pushing the reset button on my life actually felt right and not like a crash course diet (because it’s not, it’s about changing your life). (Alright, I did have 2 days of stomach issues – likely keto flu because my body started processing things a bit differently – but I soon bounced right back.)

Along the way, there were temptations, though not as many as I expected. The Mounds Cake was a tough one to walk away from. One night, Evan redeemed a Book It! pizza and I had major flashbacks to working at Pizza Hut as a teenager and I had to walk away quickly. And another weird one, Red Bull. (Someone opened one in the van while I was driving Uber and I got this pang of wanting one – I did kinda have an addiction to the sugar free version in 2006 because of the flavor. Thank goodness a co-worker clued me in the that cran-raspberry La Croix water has a similar taste.)

Along the way, there were wins. We really love the Spicy Turkey and Cauliflower Rice recipe in the Whole30 Cookbook and it was super easy for Greg to cook. I felt different, more energized. I enjoyed a girls’ weekend with my best friend and didn’t find eating difficult. We brought real bacon into the house and Evan about passed out with glee (he’d only ever had turkey bacon, but now that I know what’s really in there, I don’t want it anymore). Arianna and I went through about 10 dozen eggs (and are even more upset that we can’t rent chickens in our town).

And at the end? I felt so good. So good. I had some amazing NSVs (non scale victories): longer hair, longer/stronger nails, more energy, consistent exercise, no heel or hip pain while running, stress off my shoulders, less stress in general, better skin). And although it wasn’t about the weight loss, I did lose 17.5 pounds and 8.75 inches (officially retiring a pair of size 20 and size 18 jeans that I’d survived in for the last year).

whole30 before after
Can you see the difference?

Reintroduction (the ten days, for me 14, of bringing back the things stripped out) didn’t go so well. Wine was good. Oatmeal, too. Peanut butter gave me some hives. Gluten gave me issues – bloating and other gross stuff. I ate ice cream for the first time in 45 days (or more?) on February 15. I finally ate chocolate the other day – I missed that friend but not as much as I thought I would.

So my next steps? Living 90/10 Whole30. That means I’ll be eating clean 90% of the time as my goal. I know I can’t do glutens. I did them today – Thin Mints called my name – and I’ve felt awful ever since (my stomach is in knots). Cheese will still be part of my life, but in small batches maybe once a week. And I hope that I’ll see the results I saw in the two weeks post ending the Whole30 (down another 9 pounds) continue.

Pro Tip: If you are interested in doing the Whole30, I highly suggest you get a copy of the book and cookbook (linked above) and finding some friends who are into it, too. Like me. If soy sauce is something you love, I suggest replacing it with (compliant) Coconut Secret Organic Raw Coconut Aminos Soy-Free Seasoning Sauce-8 Oz (2-Pack). Trust me when I say I know it will be hard, but think about your end goals. You’re worth it.

Vegetable Chili with Kale and Quinoa

There is no denying that the days are getting colder and darker. These are the kind of days that our family loves to enjoy eating a bowl of piping hot chili while under a comfy blanket and watching a good movie. You? Recently Hormel sent me a recipe for Vegetable Chili with Kale and Quinoa, a healthy alternative to your standard chili recipe. It sounds absolutely delicious, so I decided to share it with you.

Vegetable Chili with Kale and Quinoa
photo courtesy Hormel

Vegetable Chili with Kale and Quinoa

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 small yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans HORMEL® chili
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 2 cups chopped fresh kale

Directions: 

  1. In large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-low heat.
  2. Sauté onion, carrot and celery 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in zucchini and next 3 ingredients and sauté 8 minutes.
  4. Stir in chili, quinoa and kale and simmer 15 minutes.

Enjoy! xoxo

 

Brown Sugar and Garlic Green Beans

This summer has been full of gardening complimented by trips to the local Farmer’s Markets. We’ve been canning, but hadn’t received our pressure canner. I knew I had to do something with the pint of green beans we picked up last weekend, so I decided to saute them up and season them. Thus, brown sugar and garlic green beans were born!

Brown Sugar and Garlic Green Beans

Brown Sugar and Garlic Green Beans

I rarely get the chance to share a recipe with you that I haven’t even had a chance to have Greg try hot, but it’s so worth you giving this a try without one more opinion. You see, he was off at his Fantasy Football Draft with church, doing “man stuff”. I was barefoot in the kitchen, cooking up a storm. He missed out on these fresh from the pan (which is the best way to enjoy them).

What will you need? 

  • Pint of fresh green beans, rinsed and ends snapped
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar (I use Splenda’s brown sugar for less calories)
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic (fresh would be GLORIOUS)
  • 2 tsp paprika (trust me here)
  • small pot (LOVE this one from T-fal – it’s dishwasher and oven safe!)
  • water

green beans cooking

I have this thing with snapping my beans. It’s like therapy for me, something relaxing about feeling them pop as I prep them for the eating.

What will you do? 

  • Bring water to boil in the pot.
  • Add the green beans and cook for about 5 minutes (until the beans are soft).
  • Drain all the water off the beans.
  • Spray pot with cooking spray and return beans to pot.
  • Continue cooking, adding in the brown sugar, garlic, and paprika.

seasoned green beans

  • Allow the seasonings and beans to get to a syrupy, golden brown.
  • Remove from heat and enjoy!

cooked green beans

These are delicious, bringing a sweet savory side to your standard “meat and potatoes” kind of night. (I paired mine with my secret turkey meatloaf – beg that recipe out of me!) Enjoy! xoxo

These green beans were from Robinson’s Greenhouse & Farmer’s Market outside of Kittanning. It is well worth the drive! 

Copycat S’mores Blend

Did you know that I have a horrible addiction to coffee? Coffee itself is not so bad, but I am hopelessly devoted to two brands (including this one that currently has an AH-MAZING S’mores drink that is almost 600 calories but I’ve had two in the past two weeks and oh why can’t I drop this weight woes surround)…yeah it’s like that. I could really do fine on just black coffee and it not be a problem. It wasn’t from 2011 to 2015. But lately I’ve been bad. Hence, I needed a copycat s’mores blend drink to help me kick my habit and start making some healthier choices.

Copycat S’mores Blend

This drink is packed with protein (your favorite powder, I’m no longer partial) and can make you feel like you are being bad when you are being good. What I created fit in my snack range 150-250 calories, but could also be a breakfast drink paired with some fruit or a greek yogurt.

copycat s'mores blend

Ingredients (to make a 16 oz drink)

  • 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder of choice
  • 6-8 ice cubes
  • 8 oz brewed and chilled coffee
  • 2 + 2 TBSP non-fat whipped cream
  • 1/2 TBSP mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 of a graham cracker, chopped up

Instructions

Blend all but a few of the chocolate chips/graham cracker and 2 TBSP of the whipped cream until consistency of your choice. Top with the whipped cream, chocolate chips, and graham cracker. Enjoy, with no guilt, your copycat s’mores blend beverage. Smile.

Energy Balls

Did you know that today is National Chocolate Chip Day? I decided to celebrate by making two of my favorite recipes that make me feel like I am indulging while still eating healthy. Today I’ll be sharing my recipe for Energy Balls, but tomorrow’s post has a small sneak peek over on my Instagram if you’re impatient and like guessing games.

energy balls

So, the energy balls. These babies became a staple back when I was eating for health, but when I was nursing the twins, I put in a milk making “secret” ingredient (that I’ll share below). They are no bake, but do take some patience. Today, for example, I had to go to and from the refrigerator several times before I had it just right and the mixture was firm enough to make balls. But, as a mom who is always needing to go to the kitchen to feed one of the six mouths in this house, it doesn’t really impact my life. Anyways.

What do I love about them?

  • They are filled with protein and really do make me feel full and energized.
  • They are quick to pop in a snack-size bag and take with on a trip to the gym or commute.
  • Feeling dried cherries and white chocolate today? No big deal – just sub them in for the “original” ingredients I’ve listed.
  • They freeze REALLY well. I took a whole batch with me (frozen) on our road trip to Nurin’s wedding last summer. They survived four days in the car (to and from) as well as Charleston June sunshine, thanks to freezing ahead and putting in snack bags.

And now, for you to also fall in love with them! I highly recommend sticking to the recipe below for SIZING, but feel free to sub in (I’ve listed some options). Note that I say this from experience. Again, I have six mouths to feed, so I am known to cook for an army. This isn’t the time to do so. Enjoy!

Energy Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (uncooked) rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I LOVE semi-sweet, but you can use your favorite – white, milk, etc)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (today I went for The Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter in Chocolate which is great if you have nut allergies in the house, but I do find a crunchy peanut butter or almond butter works best)
  • 1/3 cup honey (our’s is a local find – can’t wait for farmer’s market season!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup add-ins (dried berries, coconut flakes, sliced almonds, chia seed, flax seed all are tasty)
  • * If you are a nursing mama, I suggest adding in 1 TBS of Brewer’s Yeast to help with milk production

Aren’t they so pretty together? 

energy balls

Instructions

  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Put in fridge for about 30 minutes to “set” – this makes the forming easier!
  3. Ball up the mix – I like to use my cookie baller for this and place on a baking sheet with wax paper.
  4. Freeze until set (about 1 hour) and then eat, portion for the week, or put in a freezer safe container until it’s time to enjoy!


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*articles may contain affiliate links*

Back to Healthy Habits

*articles may contain affiliate links*
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Seriously, where has September gone? Our family has all kinds of goals, especially getting back to healthy habits. Back to school has come and gone, but we’re still working to get into the routine of remembering all the things for all four kids (and still remembering to care for ourselves, too).

We tried a free vitamin program from the pharmacy in town, but it just wasn’t going over so well. Why? Because the kids said they were cute but hard to swallow and chalky when chewed. Yuck, who wants that?

alternavites kids

Thankfully, a fellow blogging friend told me some more about another option, alternaVites Kids. This vitamin “has revolutionized the children’s vitamin category as they no longer have to be the chalky chewable parents had as kids or a sugary gummy that’s missing essential nutrients and can stick in between children’s teeth causing cavities and tooth decay”.

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You just pour the vitamin directly on your child’s tongue (or can even mix it in with drinks or food).

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The ‘lil Burghers give this option a two thumbs up! You can order these vitamins with PRIME Shipping on Amazon – go here to order NOW.

In addition to good stuff for kids, I was also provided with tips from Registered Dietitian, Ilyse Schapiro, to make getting back to healthy habits an easy exercise:

  1. Don’t Forget Breakfast: On those busy mornings before school, it’s often hard to get your children in a matching outfit then to worry about ensuring they eat a healthy and well-balanced breakfast.  However, research has shown that eating breakfast can not only help get our children the nutrients they need for their growing bodies and minds, but that it can also help with school performance.  A well-balanced breakfast also makes you feel full and focused for the day ahead of you.  Try to incorporate whole grains and protein such as waffles, steel-cut oatmeal, eggs, nut butters (or alternatives)  and don’t be afraid to get creative and use nuts, fresh fruit, or even a little bit of dark chocolate every once in a while to make it fun too!

 

  1. Don’t Overlook Snacking:  When we let hours go by without eating, it’s only normal to feel weak and deprived.  When it comes to kids, this usually means melt-downs, tantrums and irritability. So, keeping kids properly fueled is important but you have to pick the right snack.    However, choosing healthy snacks can be hard when their friends or classmates bring in junk food.  Try a baggy of air-popped popcorn, whole wheat crackers and cheese, roasted chick peas, homemade cookies with dark chocolate chips or muffins made from pumpkin, or even whole grain English muffin pizza.  You can also try to make fun shapes and animated characters like ants on a log, pretzels wrapped with turkey, and fruit dipped in dark chocolate (use cookie cutters to make this even more appealing).  These will still make your kids feel like they’re getting a treat while giving them a great balance of fiber, protein and carbs.

 

  1. Hydration is Key:  It is vital that your kids stay well hydrated, not only to keep their energy levels up and their mind focused.  Give them a water bottle for school and make sure to have them drink before they leave and right when they get home.  Try to stay away from caffeinated drinks and those high in sugar as those can have the opposite effects.

 

  1. Grab and Go: Once a week, cut up fruits and veggies and store them in little containers.  Also, measure out half-cup servings of snacks and put them in little baggies.  This will not only save you time, but you and your children will be able to take the guess work about what to eat and help save you time.  You can also have these snacks out and waiting for them on the table for when they get home from school, so they’ll start noshing on that instead of chips, etc.

 

  1. Insurance Policy: Don’t think of a daily multivitamin as cheating – it’s actually the opposite.  Despite how well-intentioned we all are as parents, it’s impossible to feed our children well all of the time.  A comprehensive formula with vitamins and minerals (like alternaVites Kids) can offer the added nutritional protection almost all of our kids need nowadays.

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Thanks for these tips! What is your family doing to get back to healthy habits this fall? Do you need some help and motivation? I’m here for you – just tell me what you need. xoxo

SnackMob

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Bolthouse Farms Kids™ and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

SnackMob

The four ‘lil Burghers are always snacking. Thankfully, I’m trying to show them how to make healthy snack choices when they must eat all the things right this minute. Since it’s back to school season, we’ll also be looking to reinforce healthy snacking habits by packing options that kids will love (like veggies, salsa, low-fat cheese sticks, or fruits). It’s like we are a real, live SnackMob! 😉

We were able to catch the Bolthouse Farms Kids™ Snack Mob truck at the Pittsburgh Zoo last weekend. It was a hot day, so we all welcomed a taste of the Strawberry Meets Banana smoothie. This snack quickly made its way to our grocery list because it was refreshing, healthy, and tasty.

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Arianna and Evan couldn’t wait to get to open these! If you’re wondering, they are a twist cap but still easy enough for them to open.

And the truck? It was awesome to see the truck in action after hearing about it. We LOVE food trucks, especially ones that hand out treats and coupons! (Psss…you can snag a coupon good August 1 – December 31, 2015 here if you can’t make want to give these a try.)

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If you have yet to catch the Bolthouse Farms Kids™ Snack Mob trucks in the Pittsburgh area, you still have time before back to school. They will be at the Junior Great Race on September 19 (8 AM at Point State Park) in addition to several other weekend events up until then. You can find more here: bolthousefarmssnackmob.com. You even have a chance to have the SnackMob truck crash your own party. Tweet the date and type of event you’re hosting to @BolthouseFarms with #SnackMob and #Contest in your tweet. Must be 18 years old to enter / have 100 people minimum at your event. Contest ends September 10, 2015 at 11:59 PM (see www.bolthousefarmssnackmob.com/).

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Bolthouse Farms Kids™ is making it easy for kids to go back to school in a healthy way with their refrigerated line of real fruit and veggie snacks. We’ll be integrating grab-and-go choices like Chili Meets Lime Veggie Snackers (carrots) or Peach Meets Mango Smoothies in Arianna’s school lunch while Evan might chose a Blueberry Meets Raspberry Fruit Tube for an after school treat. With 25 to 90 calories // real ingredients // on-the-go packaging, we can’t go wrong. (You can read more about these treats on my first post about them here or at www.bolthouse.com.)

Bolthouse Farms Kids

 

Bolthouse Farms Kids

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Bolthouse Farms Kids™ and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

Don’t judge a mama who loves her kids’ snacks. Especially when the snacks are DELICIOUS and HEALTHY for you. The big kids have been enjoying some treats from Bolthouse Farms Kids™ over the past few days…and they finally caught on that I was snacking, too.

C’mon. It’s hard not to when this snack line has adorable messaging, colorful packaging, and is filled with great taste. Bolthouse Farms Kids™ is a healthy snack that is found in the produce section of your local grocer (Pittsburghers – Giant Eagle is where we grab ours!). They are “on-the-go” sized snacks made from real fruits and veggies.

Even my protein lover Evan has been enjoying the freshness (check out the Instagram video of him taking his first sip of Strawberry Meets Banana, a fruit smoothie packed with 1 1/2 servings of fruit in each bottle — with no dairy for his big sister!). Like I said…I’ve been taking them for healthy additions to my lunches and breakfasts, and Arianna is ready to ask Bolthouse Farms Kids™ if they can sponsor all her breakfasts (she loves them that much, especially because they are easy to open).

Needed a breakfast idea that could work for my #lilburghers. The @bolthousefarms #snackmob fruit tubes did the trick! #ad

Personally, I love the Fruit Tubes the best out of the snacks we tried out. They are fruit purees in tubes that are easy to tear open and enjoy. Bonus? They freeze well and make for a cool treat on these hot summer days. With 30-40 calories, these are great snacks for the whole family.

We also got to test out Veggie Snackers. The “Carrot Meets Ranch” was one of my favorite snacks while pregnant with the twins. The kids would taunt me for eating the kid carrots, but who cares. You “unleash tremendous flavor” by opening up ranch or chili lime flavoring to coat the carrots and give them a ‘lil kick of all natural seasoning. It’s hard to share this snack, but I do.

Mama just unleashed tremendous flavor in her lunch thanks to @bolthousefarms (not just for) kids! #ad #snackmob #lilburghers 25 calories of delish! #carrots

What is your go to for a healthy snack? Which are you most excited to try?

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Pittsburghers will get a chance to sample the Strawberry Meets Banana smoothie or Carrot Meets Ranch Veggie Snackers at Bolthouse Farms Kids™ Snack Mob truck events (for FREE). These will be at select Giant Eagle stores and other Pittsburgh events for six weeks throughout August and September. You can check out the list of events to find one near you. Look for us! We’ll be going to at least one event – so be sure you’re watching on Twitter, too! (Grab a coupon good August 1 – December 31, 2015 here if you can’t make it but want to give these a try.)

Here’s a sampling of upcoming events that the Snack Mob truck will be at:

Sunday evenings throughout August: Citiparks Cinema in the Park Movie Nights (dusk)

August 2: Snack Mob kickoff event at Settlers Ridge Market District (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

August 15: “Kindergarten … here I come!” at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (9 a.m. – 10 a.m.)

August 30: First Responders Day at Kennywood Park(10:30 a.m.)

September 19: Junior Great Race at Point State Park (8 a.m.)

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Even better, you can win a visit from the Snack Mob truck at your next party. Tweet the date and type of event you’re hosting to @BolthouseFarms with #SnackMob and #Contest in your tweet. Must be 18 years old to enter / have 100 people minimum at your event. Contest ends September 10, 2015 at 11:59 PM (see www.bolthousefarmssnackmob.com/)