On the Menu – New Favorites!

This past week we had some new yummies on the menu! First was a taco casserole for dinner. It was delicious and received 2 thumbs up by everyone! My toddler even tried a bite… which is huge, ha! But this is one of those meals that doesn’t seem like it should be healthy but it is! I found the original recipe through pinterest but made a few minor changes to make it a little healthier. To find the original recipe, click here! My modifications: use ground turkey instead of ground beef (and be sure to drain any liquid from the meat once its browned, before you add the tomatoes, pepper and spinach – this will keep it from being soggy!) and also we used whole wheat tortillas. I didn’t actually measure out my cheese but I don’t think I used the full amount specified in the recipe, either. I just wanted to keep the cheese to a minimum so I just used enough to make a difference but not so much that it was covered in cheese!

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Quick shout-out to my neighbor who provided the freshly grown grape and cherry tomatoes! It was such a sweet surprise for him to bring over a big bag of tomatoes while I was outside playing with my little man. That kind act really made my day – and made dinner extra fantastic!!

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The second new yummy recipe is what I made myself for lunch throughout the week. I made one big batch and re-heated it each day! It held up pretty well but had lost a little flavor by the end of the week. But either way it was a yummy change of pace from my normal salads! This is one that I sort of borrowed bits and pieces of various recipes to make this new little creation, so I guess you could consider this an original recipe?! Here goes:

Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Veggies

Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2  cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups broccoli florets
1 lb chicken, grilled (or prepared however you like!) and cut into bite-sized pieces
parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half, scoop out seeds, and place face-down in a baking dish. Fill the dish with about 1 inch of water. Bake for 50 minutes. Allow to cool, then scrape out the “noodles” with a fork and set aside.

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2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and allow to cook for about 3 minutes until they become bright green. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add garlic and allow to cook until fragrant. Add the cherry tomatoes and the broccoli and cook for 7-10 minutes, until the veggies soften.

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4. Add the spaghetti squash noodles and cooked chicken to the pan and mix together. Allow to heat through so that everything is warm.

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5. Serve sprinkled with some parmesan cheese and enjoy!

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Let me know if you give either recipe a try! Enjoy!!

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Family Beach Trip

Phew! It’s been a crazy few weeks. I had such an incredible experience at Summit, but have hardly had time to really wrap my head around all that I learned since I went straight from there to the beach with my family. So I’ll focus on the beach week for now!

We had SUCH a great time together as a family. And we were lucky to have absolutely perfect weather too! My parents are so fantastic to rent a house where we can all be together and enjoy the beach, the pool, and each other. This has been the most fun year yet for my little family with the kids. James is at an age where he LOVED the water and felt very comfortable in his floaties swimming and jumping around. It definitely helped that his sweet cousin Ruthie Jeanne was there to act as his constant companion! Those two are so fun to watch – they are truly best friends!

And little Neely… ohhh my goodness. This girl LOVED the beach! At first I tried to keep her contained to the blanket but it became clear that the little adventurer wanted to be FREE! She crawled like lightning all over the sand and straight into the waves, giggling and blabbing the whole time. She would stop occasionally to pick up a shell or a clump of sand, squish it around in her fingers, then drop it and keep on moving. It was so fun to watch her!

One of the highlights of beach week is the FOOD! Yes, I’ve been living a healthy lifestyle and that didn’t change while I was at the beach, but it certainly became a little less strict 😉 Each couple takes turns planning, shopping, preparing, and serving dinner and it has become such a fun tradition for our family! We’ve got some seriously talented cooks in the family. I’m excited to share a bit more about one of my favorite meals and some words from the chefs themselves in another post 🙂 But for now, enjoy some of our fun pictures from the trip!

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Wednesday Words – In Christ Alone

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I know I typically do scripture but I absolutely love hymns and scripture-based worship songs. What I love about music is that the tunes and words will just get stuck in my head and I’m singing or humming to myself all day these sounds of worship. I believe that the way a song gets stuck in our head is God’s desire for our prayer life as well – that thoughts of Him and communication with him are constant, even in the midst of the chaos and craziness of our days, he wants us to be in communication with him. That is why he gave us the Holy Spirit, after all.

In Christ Alone is one of my favorite hymns. It was sung at our wedding, in fact. I love that it lays out the entire story of Jesus in one song: his birth, his death, his resurrection, his glory, and the promise of my own future glory. It is truly a beautiful song and I love the days when this is the one stuck in my head instead of the Itsy Bitsy Spider or the theme song from Daniel Tiger 😉

Click here for the printable version: InChristAlone

10 Months

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What a fun month it has been with our girl! I’ve said since James that this age – the 9/10/11 month age – is my favorite baby age! It seems like this is when their personalities really seem to blossom, and with Neely that is proving to be true yet again. She is so FUNNY! I think she has such a fun little personality, and boy can she make some faces. She is so expressive! She makes it clear when she is not entertained by whatever you’re doing (she’s not an easy audience, she makes you work for her laughs!) Her face also clearly shows when she thinks she is being funny or sneaky, and she makes this super sweet, funny scrunched-nose face when she makes a new discovery. We just love her so much!

Neely is certainly on the move these days and is FAST! She makes a beeline for whatever she decides she wants, which is usually Penny’s food or the computer cords, or James’ cup or snack – pretty much whatever she knows is off limits. She is getting really sturdy on her feet too and will stand un-supported for multiple seconds at a time. We’re anticipating her first steps any day now! She has figured out how to walk while pushing her walker toy so I know she’ll be walking independently in no time. Oh and she also learned how to climb up the stairs – uh oh!

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Neely had some fun experiences this month. She had her first visit to the aquarium and she loved it! We seriously didn’t hear a peep out of her the whole time, she was so enamored by the fish. We took the kids to the dolphin show and while James was scared and whimpering the whole time, Neely couldn’t get enough!

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Neely has enough hair for clip-on hair bows and I think they are about the cutest things I’ve ever seen in my life! She usually doesn’t even know its there so for now, she’s not pulling it out every few seconds! I even managed to create her first little ponytail with her bow and I could barely handle the cuteness 🙂

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Of course we’ve spent much of this past month having fun as a family, celebrating Father’s Day and the Fourth of July. Our time at home consists of Neely trying new foods (and loving them all!), playing with her brother and watching his favorite movies over and over again (Cars and Planes, mainly), babbling and giggling (she’s starting to try to mimic us when we say “dada” or “mama”), getting more and more teeth (she has 7), and being adventurous (Neely doesn’t shy away from a dangerous situation. She is willing to crawl straight off her changing table or beds or stairs… I’ve caught her every time but you would think she would realize that’s not a good idea. Girl loves an adventure!)

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Neely continues to bring us so much joy!!!

Transformation Tuesday – The 6 Month Mark

This month marks 6 months since I began changing my nutrition and exercise habits and I feel incredibly proud of myself. Six months feels like a big deal. It feels like, after this, I’m proving to myself and everyone else that this is more than just a diet or a phase. This is my life.

I’ll be posting more details on my results from my latest round of 21 Day Fix Extreme once that is complete, so for now I’ll just talk about my overall progress over the past 6 months up until today.

6 Months

I have lost 24 pounds and unfortunately I didn’t take measurements so I can’t say a number of inches. But I have gone from a size 10 pants to a size 4 so I guess that speaks to the number of inches I’ve lost. I have muscle definition in my arms and legs that I’ve never had before, even when I was involved in sports as a teenager. My stomach also has some muscle definition although I also have lose skin from pregnancy that will probably always be there – I’m ok with that 😉

I have gained so much more than I have lost! I have gained passion and purpose. I never thought of myself as much of a dreamer or goal-setter, but now I am. I’m not afraid to set goals, even lofty ones, because I have a newfound confidence in myself that if I put in the effort, I can achieve whatever goals I set for myself.

I am finally seeing myself for who I really am. I am finally allowing myself to be who I was created to be. I am experiencing the true life and joy that comes from SURRENDER! By surrender, I mean that I am no longer trying to squeeze myself into a mold that wasn’t made for me. I am no longer trying to measure up to other people who I deem “better” than me. I am surrendering to who I am and how I was created, allowing the Lord to use me, and further developing the gifts he has given me that make me special and unique.

Who would have ever thought that all of that could come from eating right and exercise? Not me! But I believe that the way Beachbody does it – the way they have coaches who are just regular people (like me!), the way the challenge groups are designed for community and support, the way the variety of programs cater to each individual’s needs – it works. It works in ways I never could have imagined.

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My hope is to encourage and inspire. I want people to know that you CAN do it. You CAN change the way you live your life. You CAN make positive changes and see results. You are WORTH it. You deserve to feel confident, to feel beautiful, to feel proud. What is stopping you from dreaming, and from reaching your goals? For me, the number 1 thing that has made this all possible has been support. If it weren’t for these challenge groups, my coaching teammates, my supportive husband, I would have quit a long time ago. But when other people believe in you, even before you believe in yourself, you CAN achieve your goals.

If you need someone to believe in you, please let me be that person! If you need a support system, please let me support you. A new challenge group starts on July 27. Let me help you start YOUR journey to become your healthiest self. Leave me a comment or send me an email, and let’s get started 🙂 (elder.meredith@gmail.com)

God’s Voice

Yikes. My head can be a crazy place to live sometimes. I can be so emotional and sensitive… which I think are good qualities but they can get me into trouble from time to time.

What’s hard is that when my circumstances become challenging or I feel disappointment, these voices enter my head that threaten to bring me down. The negative voices of “you’re not good enough,” or “you’re not strong enough,” or “you’ll never do this or that.” Do you hear those voices sometimes too? What do they say to you? Mine attack my self-worth. They make me feel un-valuable and un-valued. They make me feel like a failure. They make me feel invisible. They convince me that no one cares. I guess when it comes down to it, they are telling me that my greatest fears are actually my reality.

It is a daily battle between those voices and God’s voice in my head. Because what God has to say to me and about me is pretty much the exact opposite of the negative voice. God says I am worth EVERYTHING to him. God says that I matter, that I am loved, that I am important, that I have gifts and talents that make me uniquely ME and he wants me to use them. He says that he sees me, he hears me, and that he cares.

I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been writing so much scripture and putting it up around my house. I want God’s voice to be the loudest. I want His voice to ring true. I want to be able to easily distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the enemy.

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We’ve been dealing with some tough stuff lately. For awhile after we moved it felt as if we could see so clearly all the ways God was weaving our story and bringing us to where we were supposed to be. We felt overflowing joy and peace and gratitude. But, as it tends to do, life became a bit more sticky and messy and God began to feel more distant. Why do we assume that when things are good, God is near, and when things are bad, God is distant? Maybe that’s just me.

The truth is that God is always near. And he is always good. Even when circumstances are bad. For me, I am weak and I allow my circumstances to dictate my mood and my happiness and the thoughts swimming through my head. My prayer is that every day I will be a little better at fixing my thoughts on the only One who is steady and constant in the midst of storms and struggles.

Week One 21 DFX – Food!

Well, I’ve finished out my first new week on 21 Day Fix Extreme and overall it went well. I didn’t get every single workout in but I’m working hard to get back on track! Thankfully, and even more importantly, I managed to stick to my meal plan about 95% which I feel great about!

So for week 1 I decided to have my Shakeology in the afternoons as lunch and have some make-ahead breakfasts ready each morning. While I enjoyed my breakfasts, I found that in the afternoons after my shake lunch and workout, I was feeling hungry and needing to eat all my snacks between lunch and dinner. So I think I’ll be switching up my plan to have my shake for breakfast next week, and a more filling lunch!

But anyways, here are some of the foods I enjoyed this past week, along with links to the recipes (that I have available!)

Baked Oatmeal Cups with Berries and Bananas (click here for the recipe!)
These were AWESOME to have ready ahead of time. I made a whole batch and ate them throughout the week. They heated up really nicely in the microwave. I used them as breakfast but they could also be a great snack as well. (Two cups = 1 yellow and 1 purple) I ate them alongside 2 eggs (1 red)

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Spinach Egg Cups with 1/2 Whole Grain Bagel (click here for similar recipes!)
These are an awesome go-to for me as well, and I love that 2 cups gives me a full serving of veggies! The particular recipe I used came from my 21 DFX Meal Guide, but follow the link above for 3 different AWESOME options for egg cups! I really want to try the southwestern ones! The cups below are very similar to the “Super Green Egg Cups” in the link above! (Two cups = 1 green and 1 red) I ate these alongside 1/2 of a toasted whole grain bagel! (1 yellow)

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Crock Pot Marinara Chicken over Zucchini Noodles
This is seriously one of the easiest meals ever! It is literally 2 or 3 chicken breasts in the crock pot, then you pour marinara sauce on top (I just used a jar of store-bought, but I’m sure homemade would be better!) Cook on low for 6 hours. Then you just shred and serve over the noodles of your choice! I spiralized some zucchini and sautéed them for a few minutes on medium-high heat with a little bit of olive oil and garlic. I heated it just until it was beginning to soften, but had a bit of an al-dente feel. (Zucchini noodles = 1 green; chicken = 1 red; marinara sauce = 1 purple; whole grain roll = 1 yellow)

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Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole (click here for the recipe!)
I am a casserole lover. I love that its an all-in-one type meal, and that you throw it in a baking dish and throw it in the oven, and boom you’re done. Makes it easy on mommy! But typically casseroles aren’t all that healthy! This one though I think is a real winner. I’ve passed along the recipe to others who have loved it too! It’s super simple ingredients and lots of flavorful, healthy deliciousness. It’s a crowd pleaser too! Even picky eaters will like this one! (I did use turkey bacon for this as well to be 21 Day Fix approved) With casseroles, your servings and portions are a bit of a guessing game but we tried to make our portions equal 1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 green.

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Jalapeño and Pepper Jack Turkey Burgers (click here for the recipe!)
This is a new, serious favorite at our house. We haven’t always cooked burgers that often, except for when my hubby would have high school guys over for bible study while we were on YL staff. But for us, we just never got too excited about them. UNTIL NOW. And its crazy because these are TURKEY burgers! My hubby was skeptical, but he LOVES these burgers and so do I. They seriously feel like a cheat meal and they are perfect on the grill during these summer months! We ate them on whole wheat buns – delicious. (1 burger = 1 red, 1 blue, 2 yellow, plus the lettuce and tomato which equals a little bit of a green, but not a whole serving of veggies!) I had planned to serve these alongside some carrot fries to get our green container in but dropped the ball on that one – oops!

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These recipes were mostly found through Pinterest and the Beachbody Blog!