Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Mexican Inspired Green Chicken Chili

Hi Everyone!!

I wanted to post this recipe real quick because a friend of mine received some requests for the recipe when he posted a picture on Facebook (thanks Adam!)

Green Chicken Chili Recipe

1 pound ground chicken breast
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 teaspoons minced garlic (from jar - or use 3-5 cloves fresh minced)
2 large pasilla or Poblano peppers (dark green, large peppers)
1 can whole green chilies - Hispanic food section
1 handful of tortilla chips (14-18 chips)
6 cups of chicken broth - (I used Chicken bouillon and added water)
1-2 Tbsp cumin
Generous amount of garlic salt, onion salt,
fresh ground black pepper, more cumin if needed
1-2 large ripe avocados
2 15 oz cans pinto beans, UN-drained

  • Start by chopping the onion and pasillo/fresh poblano peppers. Heat olive oil (1 Tbsp or so) in a large pan and add chopped onion and peppers to pan. Sauté on medium high for about 6-8 minutes until onions are translucent. Once onion is sautéed, add garlic. Add garlic last because garlic burns and become bitter very easily.
  • Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a large soup pan on medium high. Add 3/4 of the onion/pepper mixture to the soup stock. Leave 1/4 of the onion/pepper mixture in the pan.
  • Add chicken breast to onion and pepper mixture and add cumin and other seasonings to the chicken as its cooking. The reason you want to do it this way is because otherwise the meat comes out bland when you bite into it. Cooking the chicken with onion and peppers and spices will ensure the chicken has a depth if flavor when the soup is finished.
  • Once chicken has browned, turn burner off and add the entire mixture to the soup stock. Add both cans of beans. Turn soup up to medium high and allow to simmer.
  • Here's the trick that makes this soup taste like green chili. Empty your can of whole green chilies into a food processor and process until its turned into mush. Add the processed chili to the soup and mix together. You'll also want to process your tortilla chips and add them to the mixture as well. Both these elements make the soup thicker.
  • Once all ingredients are combined into soup pan and it has been brought to a boil, turn heat to medium and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Then serve yourself the soup and add the avocado on top of the soup. Warm avocado may sound odd, but the creamy avocado stacks up pretty well in a warm soup - it's incredibly delicious this way!

Hope you try it and love it - Adjust the seasonings as needed and enjoy! If you made it, leave a comment below and let me know how you liked it!

Monday, March 25, 2013

How To Maximize Your Evenings - and Quality of Life

Do you ever come home from work so exhausted and mentally drained that all you can dream of doing is taking a nap... and waking up the next morning?

If you've been there (and if you've ever actually tried that method...) you know that burning through your precious after-work hours is either impossible or it will leave you with twice as much to do tomorrow evening. If you have kids, the option to go to bed at 6:00 has probably never presented itself!

Everyone wants to feel productive. We live in a society that encourages overworking and rewards it with increased salaries, which leads to increased stress and responsibility (as if we didn't have enough). And if you can seemingly "handle it all" (juggle a family life, social life, work life, self-care, exercise, eating right, cooking homemade meals, and hobbies) according to our culture's standards, you are a super-human!

The truth is that most of us are struggling with juggling multiple priorities. What do we do with ourselves when we get home from work? Or school? I don't have any hard statistics, but I do know from working in HR that most Americans work to make money and take care of their families - they aren't necessarily working their dream jobs.

I'd like to introduce this quote, which I found incredibly insightful. I found this quote when I was reading a DIY home improvement magazine and why you should stop before you're completely burnt out on a project:

Perfectionism, in psychology, is a belief that perfection can and should be attained. In its pathological form, perfectionism is a belief that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable.” (Wikipedia)

It's so true. Can you think of the last time you avoided something? Gave up on a project? Threw in the towel? If so, what was it and why? The idea that we have to perfect our work is enough to push it off - isn't it easier to admit defeat if we didn't put ourselves out there or put our effort into it? 80% of our effort is better than 100% of doing nothing - or not trying at all, to avoid the responsibility of having to be perfect.

A lot of times we feel so weighed down by the burden of responsibilities placed on us at work that we simply don't have room in our brains for creativity, exercise, hobbies, when we get home from a long and stressful day - even our romantic lives and marriages can suffer as a result. But when it comes right down to it, the message we tell ourselves is so powerful - it's human nature to avoid or brush off that which makes us vulnerable or requires extensive effort. If you try, you might fail - or be rejected. If you don't know how to do it right, why try to do it at all? Someone might criticize you. (That is the f*** it mentality talking!)

Another something to consider is our emotional state. Many people feel entitled to do whatever they want after work - after all, they've already been told by others what they should be doing all day. Have you ever told yourself "I'm going to go home, put on my sweats, and do NOTHING all evening - because I can!" It's a very empowering feeling! It may sound silly, but of course we want to go home and do "whatever we want because we can". It's the only time of day that we feel empowered by our own choices.

The problem with doing "whatever we want" is that a lot of us are so out of touch with what we want. Something feels good, we do it. A lot of things feel good, but not a lot of those things are empowering - nor do they make us innately satisfied or happy. So many people I run into have said things like "You did what!?" or "That was really ballsy of you" or "I wish I could do something like that." The truth is, I don't have any secret power or weapon to go after what I want. In fact, I am usually very weary of trying anything new.

I, like most people, normally avoid what I want or need to do to feel better, because doing what I want and what would make me feel happier requires more risk, effort, work, and energy than just slumping into the couch and leaving my butt imprint on the cushion. The payoff, however, is far more empowering than resisting efforts altogether.

Here are some things I do to keep myself motivated after a long and stressful day:

  • Get some peace and quiet
    • Spend time alone each night without your spouse or your kids. If you think that's impossible, you may want to reevaluate your trust in other people (people who can help you watch the kids or who will encourage you to take a time out when you need it.)
    • If you feel uncomfortable spending time alone, it's important to explore that feeling of discomfort. It's natural for many people, especially extroverts, to deliberately avoid time alone, but it is vital piece of mental wellness to sit with yourself each day. (If you don't like spending time with yourself, that will be apparent to others.)
  • Do something you love for at least an hour or more per day
    • Do you love walking? Reading? Sewing? Crafting? Taking baths? Dedicate 1 hour a day, no questions asked. You will love yourself for it.
    • I recently picked up a few new hobbies out of inspiration from spending time with my Mom. She loves to bead and make jewelry, re-purpose used furniture, and frequents garage sales. Those are things I never would have thought to do before, that I am now starting to love!
    • How many hours do you spend each day doing things that you wouldn't do unless a paycheck was involved? One hour a day is just 4% of your entire day. Make it a priority.
  • Take a new perspective on household chores
    • Don't just do the dishes to avoid living in filth. Think of the outcome - a sparkling clean, organized home will makes you feel much more at ease and in control (a feeling we often lack in the workplace). 
    • If you're really resistant to household chores, it's important to ask yourself why you feel so resistant. Were you forced to clean when you were younger (before you could have ANY fun)? Did your parents suspend your privileges if you avoided mowing the lawn? Hey, guess what, you're an adult now - take the 12 year old version of yourself out of the equation, and do it because you will feel better - not because of something that used to really annoy you! 
    • No one controls us, even as adults - But the dialogue we repeat for years and years is hard to stop listening to. Start by noticing what you are avoiding, without judging yourself.
  • Stop trying to be perfect (otherwise known as self-sabotage)
    • If you go on a "diet", and you're attempting to lose weight through means of extreme self-deprivation and/or setting limits on yourself, your knee-jerk reaction one day might be "OMG I want ALL THE HORRIBLE JUNK FOOD I CAN GET MY HANDS ON!" C'mon - we've all done it! We are all guilty of falling into the psychological trap of deprivation. 
    • Maybe you want to lose weight, maybe you are avoiding a food because it makes you feel tired or depressed. Maybe it doesn't have to do with food, maybe it's alcohol or cigarettes. Either way, the limits and the sabotage are symptoms of perfectionism. There's that voice again - "If I can't do it perfectly, then screw it."
    • Remind yourself of why you want something. If you want a clean house, why do you want that? Is it to feel more calm? Is it because household messes stress you out? Or maybe you want to lose weight and feel better about yourself - why? Is the reason more important than sabotaging your own efforts?
    • The moral of the example is to give yourself a freakin' break! The reason so many people fall into this pattern of thinking is because they place limits on themselves; then, out of the natural inner rebel that wants to be "freed" of excess limits, we sabotage our own efforts to become better people by doing something (binge eating, abusing alcohol, other addictive behaviors) which we never set out to do in the first place. 
Sometimes we just need a break from everything - and that's okay. We need a cookie or a dinner that isn't "on plan". That's okay. The trouble is when we let the games we play with ourselves overcome the bigger picture. These games are typically patterns of thought that we've learned from years and years of not knowing any other way. 

Think of it this way: It's okay to break your own set of rules, because you are already free from your own rules to begin with. You are the boss of your own life - you set your own limits, and you are free to change those limits at any given time, without having to explain it to anyone. Therefore, when you do something or eat something that isn't conducive to creating your best life, you made that choice, and it is up to you how you will react to it. Changing your perspective can be incredibly empowering.

Very rarely do we want to do the hard work it takes to feel good, to feel happy, to feel abundant. We would rather sweep it under the rug, literally and figuratively, than deal with the hard things in life. Housework is hard. Relationships are hard. Meeting someone is hard. Family is hard. Going to work is hard. But does it have a reward? 

When you put in the effort and change your perspective, you will reap the benefits of an amazing and fulfilling life.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Down 24 Pounds - What Have I Been Eating!?

Hello Everyone!

I recently posted a picture of my weight loss progress on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and a few people have already asked me how I've lost 24 pounds - 14 of those in the last 6 weeks!

As some of you may know if you are friends or family, I've had a long history of weight fluctuations throughout my life. I reached my highest weight right before my wedding last August (great timing, I know). Here is the before and after comparison:

Highest weight, August 2012, on left. Current weight (-24 pounds - and back in the 100's!) on right

A side by side of my face shape/jawline before and after losing 24 pounds

Here are some pictures of what I have been eating to lose the weight!

My sisters were amazed that I was able to order a Rueben sandwich with no bread
at a local German restaurant. (Lol!) Since I am gluten-free,
I often order typical restaurant fare without the bun/bread/etc - and I love it that way!
Here's what you get instead - delicious plate of corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and
German potato salad. (Although I typically avoid cheese, it's okay for me in moderation.)
A fancy homemade meal consisting of quinoa, blackened chicken breast,
avocado, and cherry tomatoes. I was inspired to make this from reading this post by one of my favorite beauty gurus, Annie Jaffrey.

I came up with this Green Chicken Chili recipe because I absolutely LOVE New Mexican flavors.
I wanted to make a green chicken chili that was healthy and hearty.
This one consisted of poblano peppers, pinto beans, onions, garlic, ground chicken,
and a flavorful broth made from chicken stock and canned green chilies I threw into a food processor.
Top with fresh avocado - Only 400 calories per serving and incredibly satisfying.

I must admit, this is not how I am eating anymore! When I first started tracking
on MyFitnessPal again (around January), I was eating many of my favorite (gluten free) comfort foods.
This is Udi's gluten-free flax-chia bread french toast (homemade).

My all-time favorite coconut milk is the Vanilla Unsweetened So Delicious.
You can find it in the organic section at most grocery stores, or at any natural foods retailer
(Whole Foods, PCC, New Seasons, etc.)

One of my go to snacks is a hearty hummus with celery and carrots. I used to hate
celery and carrots, but when you eat them with hummus, you can actually taste the flavor
of the vegetables and the hummus so much more than if you had it with salty, greasy chips.

Another staple in our house these days is KALE! Kale is so amazing for you.
Besides it's health benefits though, it really holds up in recipes and cooking. If you
aren't a spinach fan (like me), you will love kale. It has a hearty flavor and a firm texture when heated.
I use this kale recipe every time I make kale.

I adapted this beautiful chili recipe from the Wazzu Tailgate Chili recipe. Since I have
been eating a more low-starch diet recently, I omit the beans from time to time. I've also
switched out ground turkey for ground beef and it always tastes just as good to me.
One serving is around 500 calories (about a cup and a half) - if you eat this for lunch,
you are sure to be content until dinner. :)

These are soooo expensive at New Seasons, which is the Portland natural grocery store
(less expensive than Whole Foods but just as clean and organized). This brand is fantastic -
but these run about $7 for just 2-3 ounces!

Kale chips are amazing because they maintain the true crunch of  chips or nuts
without packing a huge calorie punch. Although most commercial kale chips are coated
in a nut-nutritional yeast mixture to give it a cheese-like flavor, the calories can't compare
to that of regular potato or tortilla chips.

My go-to treat! These are made with sesame seeds, sugar and/or honey. Each packet
contains about 4 sesame snaps and usually costs about 200 calories. The overall sugar
content is low, so I find them perfect to include in my low-sugar lifestyle as an occasional splurge.

Fruit doesn't have to be boring :) try making a homemade banana ice cream (super easy)
and topping it with some of your favorite treats - or more fruit - for a vitamin-rich, high-fiber alternative to commercial ice creams.

Did you ever think cauliflower could be turn into RICE!? Try it for yourself here!
Also pictured: 2 giant, organic chicken breasts bathing in a crock pot full of
melted Earth Balance (dairy free, soy free butter spread), chicken stock, fresh, garlic, parsley,
and, not pictured, lemon slices. SO easy - cook on low for 7-8 hours in your crock pot,
and lunch will be ready for you tomorrow morning!

Green beans with bacon and onion, sauteed in the bacon fat.

Lemon Sage Steak from GirlMeetsPaleo - check out her blog, she's amazing!

Super easy sugar free peanut butter thumbprint cookies:
1 cup all-natural, no sugar added peanut butter
1 cup Splenda or your sweetener of choice (Erythritol is really good)
1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients, shape into 16-20 balls.
Using the back of a tablespoon, indent a hole in the middle of the cookie.
Fill with your favorite low-sugar jam or sugar-free chocolate.

I am not kidding  - this is hands down the BEST almond milk
available on the market! I drink it straight from the bottle.
Califia Farms is expanding rapidly, but it is are currently available at most natural food retailers and Whole Foods.

These muffins were adapted from a low-carb, grain-free muffin recipe I found online.
They turned out amazing - I will be posting a full recipe for them!

Romantic dinner I made my husband and I last night. Fried pork chop, roasted cauliflower,
and a giant mixed-greens salad with peppers, cucumber, tomato, radish, avocado, and
homemade lemon-sage-honey dressing. Oh, and wine, of course.

MIRACLE 1 carb, high fiber, grain free, sugar free, dairy free, gluten free, and VEGAN (!!!)
chocolate chip cookies.
I can't reveal the recipe because my husband and I are going to try to market them (they are that good)!! 
Overall Diet/Lifestyle Summary

As you can see, the food I've eaten has been plentiful - I am not on a fad diet or going gluten-free because of a trend. I actually have a severe intolerance to gluten - an intolerance I ignored for years, even though I knew those foods did not make me feel good.

My diet is 100% free of gluten, soy, refined grains, processed foods, some nuts, coffee, and most chocolate. I eat dairy occasionally but only very rarely, as dairy affects my hormone levels (I have PCOS, so I have to be really careful with hormone balance. The wrong foods for me means cystic acne, dry skin, cankersores, stomach aches, bloating, and other very uncomfortable symptoms.) It is a very challenging way to live, but this is what makes me feel best and I believe it's what's best for me personally. 

I hope you found this post helpful and inspiring, and I hope that anyone reading will also find what works best for them - it's not the same for everybody. But everybody can agree that wholesome, homemade foods are what gives us life, energy, and happiness.