Monday, August 31, 2015

Turkey Tamale Potpie

I recently bought a few packages of ground turkey. I cook with it often, but this time I mistakenly bought the ground turkey breast. It is so tasteless! I much prefer the darker meat ground turkey, which has a higher fat content. So in order to make the turkey breast more palatable, I've been testing out a few new flavorful recipes to kind of "disguise" the blandness of the meat. This is one that both Adam and I really liked (as well as Jenna!). It's like a potpie, except it contains Mexican seasonings, and the topping is made out of cornmeal. You could make one big potpie or make 4 individual servings in smaller ramekins. Let me know if you try it!

Turkey Tamale Potpie

2 teaspoons oil
1/2 cup diced onion
10 ounces ground turkey   
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup diced zucchini    
3/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce 
1/2 cup  yellow cornmeal   
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water, divided
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add turkey; cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Stir in cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour turkey mixture into a large baking dish or ramekin coated with cooking spray.
3. Place remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, and broth or water in a small saucepan, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and cook 2-3 minutes until thickened. Stir in 2 ounces cheese. Spread cornmeal mixture evenly on top of turkey mixture. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 2s ounce cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool before serving. Serve with something cold and fresh, like a salad or fruit. Enjoy!

Not the best pictures, but you get the idea!
Before baking:
After baking:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lucas' First Day of Preschool

Lucas started preschool today! Lucas is attending the same in-home preschool 2 days a week that Ryan went to last year. It is on our court, which makes it SO convenient for me! I think I'm really going to love walking both boys to school this year.

Our morning started out really rushed. Ryan had stayed home sick yesterday so he was moving a little slow this morning. We walked him to school and then rushed home to take Jenna to the doctor. She has been sick all weekend and was up almost all night last night. She was diagnosed with her first ear infection today at the doctor's office. My poor girl is so sad and pitiful.

So after all that it was finally Lucas' big moment.....his first day of preschool!
Per Lucas' request, we did a few silly poses. He was really excited to go! He was anticipating doing lots of painting and eating lots of snacks.
 Lucas was doing fine until he realized I wasn't staying. He thought I would be staying at preschool with him.....and I saw him tearing up when I left.
But when I picked him up he was so happy and the teachers told me he did great! He had immediately perked up once I left, and even used the potty twice while there. (He's not doing quite so well with the potty these days, so I was a bit worried about that). Lucas also made a new friend, which didn't surprise me. He's a pretty social little boy.
So other than all the sickness in our house, the first couple weeks of school are going really well! I had 1.5 hours alone with Jenna today when both boys' school time overlapped. It was really strange, really quiet, but also really really nice!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Jenna: 9 Months

This was a pretty big month for you Jenna! You had some gross motor milestones and your little girl personality has really started to emerge.
It's no secret that you are a little slow with your gross motor skills. Your big brothers started walking in their 9th month! You are still taking your sweet time with these skills, but you did master sitting up this month. You are also an expert at the army crawl. You scoot all over the place and you are starting to move really quickly!
You are still on the small side, measuring just over 17 pounds. Your hair is looking more and more sandy blonde everyday. Depending on what you are wearing, your hair can also look quite red.
Your skin is definitely the same as your Daddy's, with lots of pink undertones. Your brothers and I look so tan next to you!
Speaking of those brothers, they just love you to pieces. Ryan is so good with you. He loves sitting and holding you (if you'll let him!), and he asks constantly if he can pick you up and carry you around. Lucas is still learning how to be gentle with you, but he loves trying to play with you like you are a little doll.
You have started to get really frustrated when you don't get your way. If I take something from you, you will start shrieking and crying. You also get really upset when you are contained because you would rather be moving around and exploring.
While I sometimes wish you were still a content little baby who never gets upset, it is fun to see your personality changing and emerging. (Sometimes!)
 This new frustration makes taking your picture pretty hard!
You absolutely love eating finger foods. Some new foods this month included parmesan, beans, salmon, tomato, lentils, bell pepper, and quinoa. You also tried spaghetti and absolutely loved it. When you're eating something you really like you make these cute little sounds. If you could talk I'm pretty sure you'd be saying "yum!"
I forgot to mention this last month, but you learned how to nod and wave at people. You still love smiling at other people, but hate if anyone besides me tries to hold you.
One word we used to describe Ryan at this age was "serious". When Lucas was 9 months old I asked Adam to describe him in one word, and he chose "crazy". This month our word for you is definitely "happy". We've got a serious, a crazy, and now a happy. A perfect mix!
I love you so much my sweet Jenna Mae!
**Jenna's surgery for the lump on her head is scheduled for Monday morning. Please pray that everything goes well and she has an easy recovery.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ryan's First Day of Kindergarten

Well we both survived Ryan's first day of Kindergarten and I'd say we did quite well!

I wasn't sure what to expect from Ryan. I absolutely cried my eyes out on my first day of Kindergarten. Ryan is also quite shy, so I was half expecting him to do the same. But we had talked about Kindergarten so much this summer that I think he was just really ready to experience it.

He chose a new shirt to wear and in typical Ryan fashion, only ate a couple bites of breakfast before he was ready to go. We snapped a few pictures on the front porch first. Ryan told me "I'm a strong man now Mommy".
Once we were in the schoolyard Ryan looked around for people he knew but unfortunately he doesn't have many friends yet. I hope that changes for him really soon!
I'm pretty sure Lucas thought he was also going to school. He seemed just as ready as Ryan!
The teacher told everyone to line up and just like that, I had a Kindergartener! Ryan lined up and waved goodbye to us.
We live only one block from the elementary school, so I told Ryan I might walk by during his recess to peek at him. He told me he would look for me and that he wanted me stand out there the whole time. Well I went by during recess and he was happily playing. After school he told me he forgot to look for me. I told him it was okay.  I was just glad that he was having fun playing!

One of the first things Ryan told me when I picked him up was that he had forgotten to eat his cookie! For some reason he thought they got 3 breaks to eat, so he was saving it for the last break, after he had eaten his lunch. I assured him he could eat his cookie at home. Haha. He also told me he saw another boy eat only half his lunch before eating his treat. And that Ryan knew that wasn't the right way to eat his food. I thought this was so cute. Apparently he has been listening to a thing or two his Mommy says! Here are the before and after pictures of his lunch:
The poor guy dropped his opened banana on the ground so he had no snack today.

Once we got home Ryan told me that he had been missing me while he was at school, but that he did want to go back tomorrow. I told him I missed him too. It felt really strange for Ryan to be away from me for so long.  Ryan has been with me almost every minute of every day for the last 5 plus years. To have him suddenly be gone for half the day just feels weird, like part of me is missing. I was trying to explain this to Adam, but he didn't really understand. I'm sure it will feel more normal as the school year continues. I'm just so happy that Ryan had a good first day of school!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stinky Cheese Face

Jenna does so many things that remind me of her brothers at this age. For example, I remember Ryan growling at everyone we passed in the grocery store, and now Jenna does the exact same thing. Is it because they are siblings, or do all babies do these things at similar ages? Probably the latter. But it's still fun to compare their milestones and pictures. I really do think Ryan and Jenna look quite similar.

Here they both are doing their stinky cheese faces, at roughly the same age. Ryan used to scrunch up his nose just like Jenna does, like he was smelling something bad.

 I love comparing my babies' pictures!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ryan's School Lunches

I'm going to have my very first Kindergartener next week! This means that for the first time ever, I will be packing lunches every day for Ryan. I have to admit....I am so excited! I know this is where some of you more experienced Moms are probably rolling your eyes because you know that packing school lunches will soon become a dreaded chore. But don't tell me that just yet. Let me be excited for now.

I asked for advice on Facebook on what kind of lunchbox to buy, and I got a variety of responses. Back when I was a kid I took my lunch to school in a brown paper bag, filled with little Ziploc baggies. And it worked just fine. But these days there are SO many cool ways to pack a lunch. I ended up buying Ryan a blue Yumbox.
And a matching blue thermos, which he LOVES.
I also purchased a few of these cheaper Easy Lunchboxes, for days when his main lunchbox is dirty.
I also bought a mini thermos to use for transporting hot food. If Ryan doesn't end up using it, Adam said he will use it for his work lunches.

So I'm all set with the necessary gear for Ryan's school lunches. Now for the hard part......what food am I going to pack for him?? There are a million healthy and creative ideas on the internet. I've been browsing through them, and unfortunately most of the ideas are foods Ryan would never eat.

Ryan is a very picky guy. He always has been, and I fear he will be for quite some time. So I sat down with him to brainstorm ideas for what to pack in his lunches. We broke it down by food groups, and here is what we came up with.
As you can see, there isn't a ton of variety on here. He will eat a few fruits and a few snacks, and possibly a few cheesy hot foods like spaghetti or tacos. Oh, and he said he will definitely eat treats in his lunch. But no sandwiches, no cold cheese, no vegetables, etc. I came up with a list of foods "to work on". These are foods that I think Ryan would like if he would actually try them. This list includes a few fruits and veggies, as well as sandwiches and nuts/seeds. Basic things that I really wish he would just try!

We went on a picnic to the park recently and tested out Ryan's lunchbox. I packed him a hotdog with ketchup, string cheese, watermelon, and popcorn. All foods that he has eaten in the past.
 And this is what his lunch looked like when he was done.
 He ate the hotdog.

According to Ryan, the popcorn wasn't buttery enough, the watermelon had a few white seeds in it, and he just doesn't like cheese. (And this was 1pm on a day when he hadn't eaten breakfast. The boy has no appetite!)

I'm curious to see if Ryan's eating habits will change once he starts school. Will the peer pressure of eating with other kids cause him to try new things? I don't necessarily plan on putting lots of new foods in his lunches. (I don't want him to starve!) But my plan is to start with his favorite foods and try to include one thing that is new for him to try each day, such as a carrot stick or some trail mix.

Tell me, what do you pack in your kids' school lunches? I'm open to any ideas!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

We Did The 21 Day Fix!

A couple months ago Adam had a routine physical. He has a family history of heart disease so we like to stay on top of his health checkups. The good news is that Adam's heart and blood pressure and blood sugar are all excellent. However, the doctor mentioned that he could stand to lose a few pounds in order to further reduce his risk factors for heart disease. So like any loving wife, I offered to whip him in to shape and put him on a strict diet. Can you believe that Adam has never intentionally tried to lose weight in his life? Over the next few weeks Adam lost 8 pounds just by listening to my advice about portion control. But then we both lost motivation and his weight loss stalled out.

Meanwhile, I wasn't entirely happy with my body or my weight. I lost all 55 pounds of the weight I gained while pregnant with Jenna, but my body was still looking pretty pudgy to me. My tummy pooch didn't go away as easily after this pregnancy and I was just feeling really soft and low on energy.

Enter the 21 Day Fix! I had been hearing about this popular program by Beachbody for a while. Normally I don't pay attention to these types of infomercial lose-weight-quick plans. They seem gimmicky and unhealthy. But this one is different, and here is why. The 21 Day Fix combines a 30-minute daily workout with sensible portion control. That's it. No replacement meals or bars with weird ingredients. Just whole, nutrient-dense foods in smart portions. This appealed to me because I fully believe in eating real unprocessed foods as much as possible. I just falter when it comes to eating the proper portions. (And staying away from sugar!) I also like that this plan does not eliminate any food groups. I don't think I could ever stop eating an entire food group. I felt a little silly approaching Adam with the idea to try the 21 Day Fix. But he was immediately excited about the workouts, and I was excited about the meal plan. So we agreed to motivate each other in our weak areas, and do the 21 Day Fix together. Here is a brief summary!

Workouts: It's no secret that I'm not the most athletic person. I really do not like exercising, especially when it comes to cardio. So the idea of a workout that was 30 minutes start to finish (including warmup and cooldown) sounded very do-able. Adam set his alarm for 5am and woke me up so we could get our workout in before the kids woke up. If it had not been for Adam getting up and working out with me, I most definitely would have quit after day 1! Here were out workouts:

MON: Total Body Cardio Fix
TUE: Upper Fix 
WED: Lower Fix 
THU: Pilates Fix 
FRI: Cardio Fix 
SAT: Dirty 30 
SUN: Yoga Fix.

The program also came with an extra 10-minute AB Fix, which we did a few times. I loved all the ab-work in this program but Adam hated it. He preferred the cardio, which I hated!

So here's the deal. These workouts were short and intense. But very do-able for a beginner like me. By the end of each workout I was ready to collapse. But at the same time I felt strong and really proud of myself. The first week was tough because I was SO sore. Walking up and down the stairs killed me. Picking up the kids killed me. But then the soreness went away and the exercises started getting a little easier. And waking up early even got easier! By the end of the 3 weeks the workouts were starting to feel a little bit easier and I was using my "heavier" weights.

(Ryan picking up my weight)

(Ryan picking up Adam's weight. Whoa!)

Nutrition: Now for the fun part....the food! When I first saw the little containers that would be aiding us in our portion control, I was shocked by how small they appeared. I was afraid I'd be starving during the 21 day fix! However, (this is coming from someone who loves eating large amounts) I really did eat a lot of food on this plan. Based on your current weight, you are assigned a caloric range, which then determines how many of each color container you can eat. For example, if you fall in the 1200-1499 calorie range, each day you get to fill up and eat 3 green containers, 2 purples, 4 reds, 2 yellows, 1 blue, 1 orange, and 2 tsps of oil or nut butters. (Yellow and blue were my favorites! Carbs and cheese.)
I fell into the lowest calorie range, but bumped myself up to the next range because I am still nursing and I did not want to do anything to jeopardize my milk supply. The meal plan is comprised of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. I found it to be a lot more vegetables and protein than I am used to eating, and fewer carbohydrates. I am going to be completely honest and say that the first 5 days were really hard. I had a constant headache, and I think it was some sort of withdrawal from sugar. My body was used to eating way too much sugar and probably too many unhealthy carbs.
We ate SO many veggies on this plan. I kept returning to the grocery store to stock up on more produce. 4 servings may not sound like a ton, but you would be surprised by how much food you can stuff into the little containers. It's a good thing Adam and I both love vegetables.

On the 21 day fix you are given a list of foods that you can eat in each category. For example, just because cinnamon toast crunch would be considered a carb doesn't mean you can stuff it into your yellow container and eat it on this plan. Instead, healthy yellow options would be foods like brown rice, whole wheat pitas, or quinoa.
A few reflections on the eating plan. The key to success is to plan ahead. I had an excel spreadsheet (I know, I'm a nerd) that I used to keep track of what we were eating. I tried to plan out what Adam and I were going to eat a couple days in advance. It helped to spread our food out throughout the day, so we didn't end up with 3 servings of protein still left to eat at 9pm. Putting together our meal plans was like a puzzle and I really did enjoy it. Here is what a typical day of eating looked like for me. You are encouraged to eat every 2-3 hours on this plan, so that is what I tried to do.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with sunflower seeds and peanut butter. (Adam and I loved eating our oats after our workout. It is a new favorite breakfast for us).
Snack: Fruit and eggs 
Lunch: Generally leftovers , or some combo of protein, veggies, and maybe a carb 
Snack: Fruit and peanut butter/yogurt (I often blended iced coffee with banana and peanut butter and yogurt to make a "frappuccino"
Dinner: A protein, carb, and 2 servings of veggies
Snack: I often "saved" a protein to eat in the evening when my craving for ice cream struck. I would eat full fat plain greek yogurt with lots of cinnamon sprinkled on top. If I closed my eyes I could almost pretend it was ice cream.

So as you can see, I was definitely eating a lot of food on this plan. There were even a few days when I couldn't eat all of my containers. I would also like to note that we went on a family vacation for 3 days during our diet. I packed every single thing we would eat in a large cooler, so that we didn't have to eat out on our trip. It definitely felt like a sacrifice but we both agreed that we were proud of ourselves afterwards for sticking to our plan.

Once my headache cleared on the 5th day I started to notice a big change in the way I was feeling. I was no longer experiencing the afternoon slump. I felt like I had consistent energy all day long. My body was being fueled every few hours with the proper portions, and I honestly felt really great. I also noticed that my taste buds were changing. I started to really look forward to my healthy foods, and found that they satisfied my cravings for less healthy foods. For example, one day I was out past my snack time and I came home ravenous. All I wanted to eat was a banana with peanut butter. And it tasted SO good!

So do you want to know what our results were at the end of the 21 days?? I went back and forth, and back and forth about whether or not to post these pictures. I am honestly really embarrassed by my "before" pictures. I hate the way I look. Gaining 55 pounds and giving birth to my 3rd baby in less than 5 years definitely changed my body. But the number one comment I hear from people about my blog is this: They appreciate my honesty and transparency. So I'm being honest and vulnerable here and posting my pictures and stats. Whew. Here we go.

In 21 days.......

I lost 4 inches in my waist.
I lost 3 inches in my hips.

I lost 9.4 pounds.

By no means do I have a six-pack. But if I stand a certain way and tighten my stomach muscles, I actually see a little something!

(Adam would prefer I not post his results. But he did even better than me!!)

We finished our 21 day diet over the weekend. And what did Adam and I do the next day? We ate pizza and ice cream and chocolate........and the next day Adam woke up and asked me if we can do another 21 day fix soon. And I agreed. Because we honestly both felt kind of crummy. The indulgent food wasn't that satisfying after all. It left me with a headache and I've been feeling kind of blah.

I'm really glad Adam and I did the 21 Day Fix together. Sure, we could have just tried to eat healthier, but sometimes it really helps to have a solid plan with guidelines. It also helped having a coach. LeAnn, author of the popular blog Real Fit, Real Food Mom, was our 21 Day Fix coach and she did a great job providing us with information and encouragement along the way.

Let me know if you have any questions about the 21 Day Fix!