{Healthier} Valentine’s Chocolate Cake

We were so excited when Rob’s mom offered to babysit for us on Valentine’s Day!! ❤ We got dressed up a little and went out for drinks at a new place right down the road from our house. ??  

Then we went to Olive Garden for dinner with a gift card we had! I used to really care about making special nights like Valentine’s Day a big deal with a new restaurant and all that, but I’ve come to realize that it’s actually just as fun to go to a regular old place when you have a gift card and know your dinner is paid for!!? So we got the fun of trying out a new place for drinks while also saving money with our dinner gift card! Budget win!!  ??

Earlier in the day, I had made this flourless chocolate cake for us to eat when we got home from the date night, but we were so stuffed full of pasta and breadsticks that we decided to save it for Wednesday night instead. ?

I used to make this cake fairly often during our first year of marriage, but had forgotten about it until just recently when I was brainstorming ideas for Valentine’s desserts.
This cake still has sugar in it so it’s not *super healthy* per se, but it’s definitely *more healthy* than a lot of desserts out there. Plus it’s decadent, rich, and melts in your mouth, so what else really matters?? ? Served alongside some vanilla ice cream, it is incredible. 

Bonus: it’s only 4 ingredients, and I bet you already have 3 of them on hand in your kitchen! Doesn’t get much easier than that. ??

Check out this delicious recipe HERE. And make it now. You won’t regret it. ?

On Black Friday, we eat cinnamon buns and stay in our pjs all day…

We had such a fun Thanksgiving, celebrating with our loved ones! Rob worked an overnight shift on Wednesday so he finally crashed into bed aound 7am when he got home. Lydia and I went on our own little turkey trot run with our friend Danielle at Creve Coeur Lake while he slept. 🙂 The rest of the morning was spent playing with Lydia, drinking coffee, and getting ready for the family 15252505_10210391183923649_3873663387622559765_ogatherings! We ate the big meal with the Varwig side around 2pm; it was delicious, as always! Around 5pm, we headed to my parents’ house to join them for dessert and a very competitive card game. 😉 So glad we got to see both our families; we’re really grateful to have them all here in town!

Rob and I toyed with the idea of trying to get a few things for our new home with the Black Friday sales today. We are in the market for a kitchen table and a TV. But in the end, neither of us really enjoys fighting crowds and decided we’d rather stay in and have some family time today. So, of course, I wanted to bake something special for breakfast.

I found this recipe for Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns and had all the ingredients on hand which hardly ever happens. I love that you don’t need any yeast because, let’s be honest, it’s not like I keep yeast packets on hand in my pantry. Definitely not that domesticated. 😛

fullsizerender-2Lydia sat in her little sit-me-up chair and watched all the happenings in the kitchen. These were really not too complicated to make, and they turned out SO WELL. You never really know with healthy baked goods if they’re going to taste like the “real thing” but these definitely exceeded my expectations. We downed them warm out of the oven with glasses of milk and couldn’t stop talking about good they were. In fact, they’re so good that I’m eating my second one right now at 1 in the afternoon. Let’s call it a post-lunch snack. 

I think this is the beginning of a new Black Friday tradition for us: homemade cinnamon rolls and pajamas all day. Oh and listening to Christmas music, of course. I’m finally willing to fully embrace the Christmas music, now that Thanksgiving is over. 😉

If you’re looking for an amazing baked good (that’s just a bit healthier) to enjoy this holiday season, try these out!! Recipe is here: Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns. ENJOY!

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What We Ate Last Week!

Good nutrition plays such a huge role in a healthy body and mind. And my job revolves largely around helping my clients promote good health in their lives through things like meal planning, learning to read nutritional labels, choosing healthy foods at the grocery store, making healthy choices at restaurants, knowing which ingredients to avoid, the list goes on and on.

During sessions with my clients, I’m frequently asked, “So, what do YOU eat? What kinds of meals do you cook at home?” I love giving my clients ideas for simple, healthy meals that can be prepped in 30 minutes or less. Even though I love to cook and relish the idea of having hours in the kitchen to make everything from scratch and present a 4-course meal to my husband every night, the reality is that I don’t have time for that. And neither do most of my clients and friends. We need meals that are easily prepped, quickly prepared, and ready to be served ASAP. Most of us have busy, hectic schedules and dinner needs to be simple and easy.

healthy-eating-ecardAlthough the ideal is that everything would be homemade, with no prepackaged foods, and only organic, locally grown produce, the reality is that most people don’t have the time – or the money – for that. Sometimes heating up a bag of frozen green beans is the only way we’ll get our veggies in at dinner. I’ve learned over several years of being a Holistic Health Coach that if I give my clients complicated recipes that call for weird ingredients and take an hour to pull together, they’ll just end up driving through McDonald’s instead.  😛

For most people to invest in cooking healthy meals, they need to be as healthy as possible while still being as SIMPLE as possible, which is where I come in. 🙂 My goal is to provide my clients with recipes that are as healthy as possible, while also ensuring that they (and their kids, which is often the real challenge) will be willing to eat the foods involved.

I thought it’d be fun to do a weekly post on here about the meals that my hubby and I are eating each week! Hopefully it’ll provide some inspiration for those who are looking for healthy meal ideas.

I haven’t done my meal plan for this week yet, so here’s a look at what we ate last week, instead:

WHAT WE ATE LAST WEEK:

Monday: leftovers from the weekend!
chicken-wings1.jpg
Tuesday:
Crock Pot Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings
– this is one of Rob’s favorite recipes that I make, so we eat this pretty often! 🙂 I always use drumsticks instead of wings, though (our personal preference).
– I made a pot of rice with this and some sauteed green beans for our veggie!

Wednesday: Trader Joe’s Shitake Mushroom Chicken
– about once a week we have a night where we need a super quick meal and I don’t have time to cook much of anything. Our go-to for those nights is Trader Joe’s frozen section! This was our first time trying this particular entree and it was delicious! We had leftover rice from the night before and ate that with the stir-fry.

Thursday: leftovers!lemon-chicken-veggies-1

Friday: Lemon Chicken with Veggies
– first time trying this recipe too, and it was delicious!
– I didn’t have room in my pan for everything, so I roasted the potatoes in a separate pan with just some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (our favorite way to eat potatoes!)

Saturday: out for dinner (at a friend’s adorable gender-reveal party with a Pasta House buffet!)

I’ll be back soon with a post sharing my favorite resources for healthy, easy recipes!
Time to get a meal plan going for this new week! Enjoy your Sunday, friends! 🙂

Can Pasta be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Pasta is often fiercely frowned upon in the health and fitness world. Thanks to the low-carb diet craze, everyone is all concerned these days about eating enough protein and limiting their carbohydrates. In fact, almost every time one of my new clients admits to eating pasta for dinner, it’s accompanied by an embarrassed attempt to justify or excuse their choice.

pastaThe war against pasta stems primarily from the fact that pasta is a high-carbohydrate food. And carbs have developed a pretty awful reputation in the health industry these days. But, when it comes down to the science, your body actually NEEDS carbohydrates – and a good amount of them, too – in order to function and thrive. Added bonus: pasta is delicious.  🙂

We need to stop feeling like we’ve “messed up our diet” because we ate lasagna or fettuccine or some other delightful form of noodles for dinner last night. And maybe the night before that.

Because, honestly, pasta isn’t the problem. 

Now, before you run out to Pasta House for an all-you-can-eat pasta feast, let me clarify my views on noodles:

There are several components of pasta dishes that often make them not-so-great choices, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.  However, there are also some simple changes you can make to health-ify (for lack of a better word) your pasta and enjoy it without regret.

Here are a few ideas:

1) Try gluten-free noodles.
This one goes without saying. Because of the way our wheat is processed and the horrible digestion issues that many of us have, it’s more than likely that your body has some level of sensitivity to gluten. Even if you don’t have any specific symptoms that you can link to those pasta dinners you enjoy, chances are that gluten could still be undermining your health. It’s worth it to experiment by going off of gluten for 30 days to see if it changes the way you feel. Bonus: you can’t even taste a difference with gluten free noodles! My favorite is either Brown Rice or Brown Rice and Quinoa noodles, available at Trader Joes, Schnucks, Dierbergs, you name it. They’re inexpensive and much easier on your digestion.

dog and pasta

2) Watch the sauce. 
The sauce is what usually sends the calorie count through the roof on pasta dishes. If you’re eating out, try to order pasta dishes with an olive-oil based sauce, rather than a cream sauce. Or if you absolutely must get the Fettuccine Alfredo, try to eat half and take the rest home for another meal. When making pasta at home, use Extra Virgin Olive Oil or full-fat dairy products for your sauces (not low-fat, sugar-laden junk!) and look for recipes that use real-food ingredients and not processed packets and pre-made sauces.

3) Add veggies to your pasta dishes.
Almost every pasta dish I cook has some sort of vegetable in it. Broccoli, asparagus, and tomatoes are my favorites. The fiber from the veggies will help fill you up and keep you from going back for endless plates of noodles.

lemon-pasta2

4) Watch your portions. 
This is my mantra with pretty much any food out there. Everything in moderation. A healthy diet doesn’t mean extremes and restrictions and lists of “bad foods” to avoid. That’s why I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo a few weeks ago at Maggiano’s and enjoyed every bite. Life’s too short to miss out on pasta. Right?!  Just make sure that you’re eating until you’re comfortably satisfied, and don’t stuff yourself to the brim.

Eating more slowly and savoring each bite will often help you eat less as well. Your hunger and fullness signals take 20-30 minutes to kick in as you are eating, so try not to scarf down multiple plates of pasta before your brain has a chance to say “that’s enough!”

Now, go find a delicious pasta recipe you can make this week! Here are a few ideas…

Teriyaki Noodle Bowls

Lemon Chicken Pasta with Broccoli

Chicken Parmesan Baked Ziti

When all else fails, search “healthy pasta recipes” on Pinterest and feast your eyes on all the delicious goodness that appears on your screen.  🙂

Married Life and Meal Planning

Hi there!!

Can’t believe it’s already almost August! This summer has FLOWN by for me, with most of May and June focused on getting married and all the planning that came with it. We’re back from our honeymoon now, and settling in to married life. I love it!

As unbelievable as it may sound, I actually enjoy cleaning and organizing, so having our own little place has been a lot of fun. I’m sure there will be days that I don’t feel like cleaning the toilets or vacuuming the carpets, but for now I am thoroughly enjoying these little chores. I haven’t had my own place since 2010 when I lived down in Dallas, so it’s fun to jump back into that – and this time, with my hubby.

Some of our kitchen creations so far: Roasted Broccoli, Pesto Pasta, & BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza
Some of our kitchen creations so far: Roasted Broccoli, Pesto Pasta, & BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza

This first month and a half of marriage has been full of discoveries regarding grocery shopping, meal planning, and budgeting. My inner nerd has come out in full force, as I pore over budgeting blogs and scour the weekly ads for the best deals at each grocery store.  One week Dierbergs thought they could get me to pay $2.99 for strawberries. Little did they know, this girl reads her Aldis ad every week and got strawberries for $1.89 on sale. Aldis, 1. Dierbergs, 0.

I quickly realized about a week into married life that meal planning is a life-saver. I’ve always coached my clients to meal plan as much as possible, because it helps you avoid impulse trips to Five Guys or eating chicken pot pie every night of the week. And now I’m seeing just how much meal planning helps with budgeting, too! When I don’t have a meal plan for the week, I find myself wandering around up and down the aisles, with no idea what I’m doing. Every few steps, I take something off the shelf, look it over, try to think of a meal I could use it for, and then inevitably decide I have no use for it at all. Or, I panic because I don’t have any kind of plan and just start grabbing random things that sound good to me at the time and stuffing them in my cart. By the time I get home and start putting groceries away, I realize that nothing I bought will go together for a complete recipe. It’s not easy to make dinner with a can of kidney beans, California raisins, and macaroni noodles. Believe me.

So, the discipline of meal planning has become my friend in the kitchen. It takes a few minutes at the beginning of the week, but it’s so worth it in the end.

The way I see it, these are the top 5 benefits of meal planning:

  1. Save money by only buying the things you need for the week

    picking up milk

  2. Avoid ending up with random foods in your fridge that don’t go together. (see example above with raisins and kidney beans)
  3. Enjoy a variety of foods throughout the week and avoid getting bored with your meals.
  4. Eat healthier! By actually cooking a meal instead of scrounging around in the pantry for junk food, you can ensure that you get at least SOME veggies in your stomach every night!
  5. You won’t have to eat PB&J every night til the cows come home. (Although my husband insists that he doesn’t mind if we eat PB&J all the time, I’m pretty sure he’s just being kind. There may or may not have been one night last week where I started crying because I was so exhausted and didn’t want to cook anything for dinner…that might have prompted his PB&J comment. Maybe.)

As you can see, meal planning definitely has its benefits. However, there can be some pitfalls to this process, if you don’t know what you’re doing. (i.e. the first 3 weeks of my married life) Even though I’m rather a newbie to this whole process myself, I thought I’d share with you my tips for streamlining the meal-planning process. (that was a mouthful)

Tips for Awesome Meal-Planning:

1) Figure out which day you are going to grocery shop each week. Then, work on your meal plan a day or two beforehand. I like to meal plan on Sundays because I can look at our calendar for the week and figure out which nights I will be cooking vs. which nights we will be eating out, eating on the run, or be at a party with food.

2) Plan ahead for which nights you will have time to cook vs. which nights you will be rushed for time. If I have evening clients around dinner time, I like to do a crock-pot meal or a casserole that I can make ahead of time. This keeps us from eating at 8pm, which is what happened the first week of our marriage… oops.

3) Try to mix up your flavors and foods. This is pretty simple: don’t make chicken every night or green beans with every meal. Try a variety of meats, veggies, and flavors. As a general rule, I like to do a pasta one night, fish one night, and then fill in with chicken and pork meals.

4) Don’t make it too complicated. As much as it would be fun to mysteriously conclude, “There’s a fine art to meal planning,” …there really isn’t. It’s simple. Which is good. Pull out your cookbooks, search “dinner recipes” on Pinterest, or find a few cooking blogs you love. Ask your friends for their favorite go-to meals, and put together a binder full of your best creations. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If it’s awful, at least you can say you tried something new. If it’s amazing, then you’ve got a new favorite recipe to add to your repertoire. Can’t go wrong with that!

In closing, here are a few of my favorite resources for meal-planning inspiration:

My Pinterest Recipe Board
Real Simple Recipes
Cooking Light Recipes
A great selection of dinner recipe boards on Pinterest

Happy Meal Planning!!

pick up pizza