Sweet Potato Risotto Taco Bake

I’m back to it!

Back to focusing on what goes into my body and creating meals that are hits with EVERY member of the family (well…I try at least 🙂 ).

This one, however was one! Thought I’d share!

Sweet Potato Risotto Taco Bake

sweet potato risotto taco bake 1 sweet potato risotto taco bake 2

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups dry Arborio rice (risotto)
  • 1 TB Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 medium-to-large sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 TB chili powder (more or less to taste…I wanted a kick)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp masa harina (you can find this in the international section, on amazon!)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • crumbled Queso Fresca (the crumbling variety)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix Arborio rice and olive oil in sauce pan and heat over medium to high heat until the rice starts to turn golden.
  • Add 1 cup of vegetable stock to rice, over medium-high heat and stir until absorbed. After this, continue to add stock, 1/4 a cup at a time until the rice has become soft (but not mushy!).
  • In the meantime, cook your sweet potatoes. My method? Wrap them in saran wrap and cook in the microwave, 5 minutes per potato!
  • Peel and slice sweet potatoes into cubes.
  • Combine arborio rice, sweet poatoes, corn and spices.
  • Sprinkle cheese on top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

ENJOY!!

I served with a side of fresh spinach and refried beans with homemade guacamole!

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It’s Worth the Effort!

I love gardening…if you’ve been following along for awhile you know this.

I love knowing where my family’s food comes from and providing in a very real way. In the past, I’ve started from store bought starters…which is great! But, this year, I wanted to start from scratch…from seeds. I got them started in March and my garden is finally set outside It’s been quite the learning experience, but it’s been fun!

Last night I took some time to weed, to replant and to assess everything, so far, I’m pleased!

We have:

  • cucumbers
  • yellow pear tomatoes
  • sweet 100 tomatoes
  • yellow sun shine tomatoes
  • big boy tomatoes
  • jalapeno peppers
  • carnival sweet peppers
  • eggplant
  • sweet basil
  • garlic chives
  • dill
  • thyme
  • bib lettuce
  • kale
  • peas
  • black beans
  • green beans

garden 2

garden 3

garden 1

It seems like a lot. But…

Growing our food is fun for everyone and helps my kids develop a love of fresh veggies and growing food. It teaches them the importance of understanding where their food comes from.

It relaxes me. I love spending time caring for the plants and envisioning the food we will have all summer long. It forces me to take a break.

It gives me time to focus on what matters, to prepare for what’s ahead and to put life on pause.

To me, these gifts are hard to come by elsewhere. Gardening is one of my favorite releases…what are yours?

10 Steps for Lacing Up the Running Shoes After Babies

Here goes. I’ve shared that I’m getting back into the groove. 3.5 months post twins I’m ready to get moving again. I’ve committed and I’ve followed through. But, boy. It’s a process that I wasn’t bargaining for! Let me share a few things I’ve learned if you’re ready to get back out on the pavement!

running shoes

(note: these are my running shoes. I’ve missed them. But right now we sure have a love-hate relationship! 🙂 )

Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to stay in shape through pregnancy. In this case, you’ll likely bounce back much faster. But, if you’re like me…you might need a little extra time, a little extra push and a little extra love.

Ready to go? Check out these tips to get started!

1. Do it For the Right Reasons

Before any fitness endeavor…it’s important to ask why. Why are you trying to get moving again? Where’s your heart? Is it because you feel like you have to? Is it because you feel outside pressure? Is it because you’re not happy somewhere on the inside? If your answer is yes to these questions, you’re not ready to get started. Figure out your heart an where you stand BEFORE you start a love-hate relationship with a new running routine!

2. Be Patient

Remember…fitness is a journey. You’ve spent 9 months CREATING LIFE. 9 months coming down from your fitness peak. This means that getting back into it isn’t going to happen overnight.

Like anything in life…you can’t do something and work up to a certain level in something, walk away for 9 months (plus recovery time), then jump right back into where you were. Patience fellow mamas, Patience!

3. Love the Past…Don’t Live in it!

You know what? I’m proud of my PRs. My husband and I keep our medals on the wall. We love the memories we’ve made traveling to races, we love celebrating each others’ accomplishments. We have pride in what we’ve been able to do, pride in the times that our hard work paid off.

But right now? Life is taking over! We have four beautiful little ones to love on. We’ve moved across the country from our families so we have little help. John’s fully emerged in his job and church activities. I am running my own business and just started another. The kids have activities….this is LIFE and it’s amazing.

Do we still have past goals to look back on? Yes. Is it hard to look at current times and to realize that I may never get back to my peak? Yes. But, that’s what a peak is…a huge accomplishment to be proud of forever, but to come down from at some point!

Does this mean that I’ve given up on myself or my goals? Absolutely not. But, it means that I needed to shift my perspective, to be proud of where I am now and to be patient with myself! Remember the past…live in the now…focus on the future!

4. Set a New Goal

Speaking of the future, it’s an exciting prospect…right? Why not jump in by setting a new…REASONABLE…goal?

Want to do a race with friends or pushing the stroller? Want to train for a mud run? A triathalon? Make finishing your goals and completing your training plan. Start thinking of goals that pertain less to times and placing, and more on fun.

5. Start Small…and I Mean SMALL

The minute I got the okay from my doctors to start a new workout routine (which consisted of walking. Very slow walking), I couldn’t wait to jump in. “2 miles,” I thought… “2 miles.” I look back at myself and laugh at that day.

You see, 2 miles in the past was a warmup…a joke. Of course I could walk 2 miles. Boy, I was wrong. After .3 miles I was done. DONE. I was down on myself. It was bad.

But then, I got the okay to “jog.” Great! I set my treadmill to 6.5 miles per hour…you know, my previous casual pace. HAH! I didn’t make it .1 miles. Seriously…not even a tenth of a mile. I was stressed an depressed about the situation.

My big issue? I forgot that fitness is a process. I forgot to start small. I forgot to celebrate small victories. I set myself up for failure.

I had to step back. Talk myself down and start over. You know where I am today? I’m running 10-12 minute miles. Coming from a competitive running past, this was hard at first. But..you guys…I got to 5 miles last week. 5. I started small and I started building. I. Couldn’t. Be. Prouder. Seriously. New goals, new perspective, new pride. The key? Starting small.

6. Put a Lid on the Guilt

I hear this…A LOT. “I want to workout, but my babies are only small for so long. I don’t want to miss it.” I get it. I’m right there in the mire with guilt with you. I promise.

But, I have also learned to step back. Do my babies need me? Absolutely! And that’s a huge gift!

At the same time, I’m the best mom I can be when I’m happy with myself and when I’m at a reasonable level of health. This starts with putting a focus on fitness. This doesn’t mean spending 3 hours every day at the gym. When I can walk for 30 minutes, or get a quick Tabata session in, sometimes that’s gotta be enough.

Sometimes letting yourself rest IS best…but do it because it’s the right thing, not because you’re too guilty to step back for an hour or so.

7. Push Yourself (within reason)

I’ve talked a lot about being easy on yourself. You’ve accomplished a lot in the past year! But, that doesn’t mean you have a permanent excuse to slack (balance people…balance!).

If you want to grow in your level of fitness, you’ve got to push it. You’ve got to grow. This means that you have to push yourself!

If you find yourself making an excuse after every workout, or a lack of progress, evaluate whether you’re pushing yourself hard enough. If not, try to step it up (again…within reason and SLOWLY).

8. Set a Schedule

We’re always busy. Always. As a mom, especially a new mom, there’s always someone that needs you…and that’s okay. But, it’s also a great way to miss a workout…then to miss 3 workouts…then to go a month without putting in a single mile. See how it builds?

Combat this natural tendency by setting a schedule. Let your husband or whoever helps you at home know that during this time, you’ll be out running or doing a workout. Over time, it will become a routine that comes naturally.

9. Find a Buddy

Just like any other time, if you’ve set a fitness goal, it’s easiest to accomplish it with some support.

Look for another new mom or running newbie and partner up. It’s a lot harder to push snooze when you know someone else is counting on you!

Talk about your goals and push each other to achieve them!

10. Don’t Give Up

Like anything in life, you’ll have set backs. You’ll have days when you wonder if this is what you really want.

Take it easy on yourself. Love yourself. Push through. The only true disservice you can do in this process is to quit…or to never get started in the first place.

What are ya waiting for? Get out there. Put on your running shoes…and go!

My New (Ad)Venture!

Here goes.

I’m not one to turn down something new. Over the last year my life has been full of these things! From a new move and home, to two new family members to a host of other changes, I’ve learned to thrive on “new.”

Additionally, I’m a bit of a bath product snob. There’s not much I like more than a long bath with great products. I’m loyal to my favorites, but love trying out new things. From bath bombs and body scrubs to face masks and lotions, I can’t get enough.  But, I’m also very aware of where many of these products come from, and the long term damage they can do to our skin and overall health!

These two facts combined made me very excited when a friend introduced me to Perfectly Posh, a naturally-based pampering bath and body product line, filled with the products I love with ingredients I can pronounce! Free of unhealthy by-products and filled with essential oils, sea salts, honey, and other ingredients approved my major groups like the Rainforest Alliance, Perfectly Posh offers the best products with the best ingredients.

The best part? None of the products are over $25. Talk about affordability!

I’ve taken the past few months to become familiar with and try various products. The more I try, the more I love.

That’s why, after much thought, I’ve decided to take a leap into a new venture. I’ve become a Perfectly Posh consultant. I want to share these products with my friends, family members and readers! Since the new spring/summer line just launched, it seems like perfect timing!

I’d love for you to take the time to check out the catalog through my site, and to try a few of the products out. If you have questions, I’m here to answer them! Below are the details on a few products to give you an idea of what they have to offer!

My link is: http//:luxwithlaura.po.sh

as good as gold perfectly posh dry body oil perfectly posh perfectly posh bees knees The Dark

As always, I appreciate your support in this new little business I’ve launched. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about the products!

Have a great day…happy pampering! 🙂

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Super Easy Enchilada Salad

Enchilada salad

We’ve all been there. We’re in a rush and we need food fast, so we resort to frozen or fast food dinners that might, if we admit it, be a little less than nourishing.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Quick can be healthy! This enchilada salad proves it. Full of color and important nutrients, it’ll satisfy hunger while maintaining deliciousness. Perfect.

Here goes:

 

Enchilada Salad:

Ingredients:

  • chopped lettuce
  • baby spinach
  • prepared dried black beans OR drained/rinsed canned black beans (heated)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 sweet OR red onion
  • 1 spiralized zucchini
  • 1 cup frozen corn (heated)
  • grated cheese of your choice
  • Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil or oil of your choice
  • dressing (if you choose)

Directions:

  • prepare lettuce and spinach as the base for the salad
  • bring the oil to heat, add peppers and onion and saute until grilled to your taste
  • add the zucchini and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes
  • add sauteed veggies, corn and black beans to lettuce mix
  • sprinkle some cheese on top
  • enjoy

Packed with numerous micro nutrients, this salad will leave you full. If you’d like, add grilled chicken or steak to make everyone in the family happy 🙂

Enjoy!

 

 

Fit Pregnancy: A Call for a New Perspective

Guys. I have to tell you, I am so so very excited to share this post with you all. While many of you know that I’m on my own pregnancy journey, and some of my posts will likely reflect that once I’m back up and going, long before I knew I was pregnant, I knew what I wanted this time around: a fit pregnancy.

While my new goal is simply a healthy one, someone very close to me, my sister-in-law, got to accomplish just that. I’d done tons of research on the perks of exercising, even strenuously, during pregnancy, and had read tons of success stories. However, I hadn’t been close to anyone who’d made it happen. So, I was excited to hear her take and to encourage her through her exciting journey!

What I didn’t expect, is what she encountered during that time. I think that what she put together here is an interesting read that we should all take to heart, whether we’re going for it or not. I’m not going to divulge more…she does it perfectly…but I did want to share a picture of my new niece for everyone to enjoy before jumping in!

Read what Jen has to share, think about how you can relate – from the inside or outside – and share your thoughts!

Madeline

“You’re still teaching at the gym?! I stopped doing cardio when I found out I was pregnant because I wanted to keep my baby”.  This isn’t something I expected to hear at 20 weeks pregnant.

Let me preface this little rant by saying that I have always been athletic.  I grew up playing field hockey, basketball, and swimming.  I continued playing field hockey throughout college, and afterwards I picked up running to clear my head and keep me in shape. I have two half marathons and a full under my belt.  I’ve conquered a few “Tough Mudders”, and in the last 2 years I started teaching INSANITY at my local gyms.  The point is, I’ve never been what you would call a “couch potato” and I have been blessed with good health thus far in my life.

Before trying to get pregnant, my fitness routine mostly consisted of weight lifting 5 days a week and teaching 2-5  INSANITY classes. I have always loved fitness because it makes me happy. It clears my mind.  After my husband and I decided to try to get pregnant, we discussed that having a healthy baby was our top priority. My first stop was the OBGYN to have a check-up and ask if it was safe to continue this lifestyle while trying to conceive, and throughout pregnancy.  His answer?  “Keep doing what you’ve been doing and listen to your body”.  Awesome. A healthy baby and healthy mom were two goals that seemed to go hand-in-hand.  And so, the day I found out I was pregnant I resolved to continue to work out as best I could.   I would not push myself farther than my body wanted to go, and I would always listen to the little one growing inside of me.  I promised myself I would stop immediately if anything felt “off”. Nothing was worth sacrificing the well-being of my child.

The first time I really began to understand the dynamic of a “fit pregnancy” was at 6 weeks pregnant.  Months before this, I had signed up to complete a 3-day, 60-mile walk for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  After months of fundraising and training, this was something I felt very strongly about completing. This was going to be an enormous challenge for me but I vowed to take it step by step, both literally and figuratively. I completed all 60 miles of the walk, and while I felt a huge sense of accomplishment physically, what I learned during those 3 days was far more important.  I began to understand that it was okay to take things slowly. I never for one second felt unwell during those 3 days (ya know, besides my knees and feet feeling like they were going to fall off but that’s pretty typical from what I’ve gathered).    Even at 6 weeks, the baby needed me to rest a little more often and to always have snacks and water on hand.  After the walk, my husband and I thought that learning to make these small changes would be one of the toughest challenges I would have to face in pregnancy.  But then I told people I was pregnant.

Sharing the best news of our lives with loved ones was full of congratulatory excitement, but it wasn’t long before the criticism began to take shape.  We announced our pregnancy at about 12 weeks.  The first comment I seemed to get after telling someone the news was disbelief that I was going to continue teaching INSANITY.  It was funny to me that people with no medical background would argue that it wasn’t safe, despite the fact that I had cleared it with my Doctor and that I myself have significant medical knowledge. As I continued to safely maintain my fitness routine throughout my pregnancy, the criticism seemed to gain momentum.

My response to all comments was simply a smile. But inside I was fuming.

As I ate my usual salad for lunch, “Salad again huh? Don’t you know you’re supposed to enjoy your pregnancy?”. Actually, I was enjoying it, until you opened your mouth.

After someone asked me if I was wearing maternity pants at 5 months pregnant and I said no; “You’re working out too much. That poor baby has no room to grow”.  My Doctor says I’m measuring right on track, thanks.

At 6 months pregnant a student of mine at the gym asked how far along I was.  Once I told her, she answered with a long stare and asked “Do you even eat?!”  I didn’t even have a response for that.

Sometimes the critiques were mildly veiled with concern.  “What does the Doctor say about your weight gain? Is the baby getting enough food?” Again, measuring right on track.

The comment with which I began this article was perhaps the most hurtful I heard during my pregnancy.  The implication that I cared more about fitness than the possibility of a miscarriage was beyond insulting.  I can remember staring at this person with my mouth open wide, and promptly going to the bathroom to cry.

It may be important to note that 99% of the negative comments were made by other women – many of whom were already mothers or were pregnant at the time.  I’m guessing that for most of you reading this, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  My experience as a pregnant fitness instructor may seem somewhat unique, but I am positive that the underlying tone of these criticisms is something that every pregnant woman experiences in one way or another.  If it’s not about being “too fit”, it’s about gaining too much weight (“are you sure it isn’t twins?!”). We critique the pregnant woman who enjoys an occasional glass of wine, or her daily cup of coffee.  There are opinions about how long we are planning to take off from work, what our “birth plan” consists of, or whether or not we were “trying” to get pregnant.

Why do women feel the need to tear each other down especially during pregnancy?  I can’t say that I have an answer to that.  Has society created a cookie-cutter image of what pregnancy should be for every woman?  That image being we should gain a lot of weight, become highly emotional/irrational, send our partners out for pickles and ice cream at 3 am, and will happily accept the fact that our bodies will never be the same.  Lost in those stereotypes is the fact that we are taking 10 months to grow a human life.   In truth, pregnancy is one of the greatest responsibilities that some women will ever take on. What’s sad is that society seems to ignore this point, and only focus on some of the superficial aspects of the process.

Every woman is very different in how they experience and handle their respective pregnancies.  Yet what is common among women is that almost all of us have difficulty with pregnancy at times, and we feel very alone in these struggles.  Society’s image of pregnancy tells us that it isn’t normal to experience this type of struggle – and this feeling of isolation can easily breed insecurity in mothers.  I think that when we see a woman whose pregnancy is/was different than ours, some of these insecurities surface as snide remarks and criticism.

I believe the key to overcoming this problem is for women to be more honest and open with each other about both the joys and insecurities of this experience.   By moving past the typical baby-bump questions (“How much weight have you gained?”, “What foods are you craving?”, “Don’t you feel like a beached whale sometimes?”), we can create a more honest and supportive community.  Women can ask each other how they are really feeling, praise them for the incredible sacrifice they’re making, and comfort them when they face difficult problems.

I know this is all easier said than done, and that change won’t come overnight.  Society will still give us its version of the rom-com pregnancy.  Princess Kate will still be paraded out in front of cameras in high heels, a face full of professional makeup, and a designer dress, just “10 short hours after giving birth”.  (Mothers, am I the only one who wondered what was happening in her underwear at that moment)?  Pregnant women will continue to ask themselves “Why is this so much harder for me?”  But over time, we can work towards an honest and transparent community where mothers can feel more secure.  My time as a pregnant woman allowed me to appreciate the experience that every mother goes through and understand the fact that each woman is unique in their own way.  When my daughter Madeline finally came after 41 long weeks, I was ecstatic to hold all nine and a half pounds of her in my arms (hey critics, guess there was enough room for her to grow)!  That moment made the past 10 months of a sometimes difficult journey completely worth it.  There’s great comfort in knowing all new moms will eventually get to that point.  It’s up to us all to make it a little bit easier for them to get there.

41WeeksPregnant

Here’s Jen looking fabulous at 41 weeks!

 

 

Delicious Substitute for Cheese and other Condiments

It’s a sunny 75 degrees here in NC and I couldn’t have been more excited to spend the day outside. To culminate it all, I thought it’d be fun to start up the grill (not that we don’t use it throughout the winter, but, it’s a lot more enjoyable in bare feet!)

So, I started with Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Quinoa burgers (recipe to come later!), but wanted something a little healthier to top it off. This fit the bill! It was 1 – delicious, 2 – green, 3 – packed with nutrients and 4 – EASY and fast to pull together!

avocado spread

Avocado Spread for Burgers and Pretty Much Anything Else

  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 TB minced onions (fresh or dried)
  • 1 TB miracle whip with olive oil (or) EVOO, your choice
  • 1 TB mustard (give or take a bit depending on your preferences)

Mash it all together.

It’s seriously that simple. Mix it up and add it to burgers or any other sandwich you’d normally add cheese or other less-healthy condiments to in order to give your meal a little nutrient boost along with a rich, creamy flavor!