Thursday, January 31, 2013

Honey Mustard Chicken Fingers


When you make the conscious effort to go on some form of a diet - where you know you will be limited to some of the foods you should eat on a regular basis, coupled with both the ideas of eating "clean" and saving some dough, you start to run out of options in the kitchen. "Mommy, mommy, I'm still hungry!" my daughter whined, after already consuming her goldfish crackers that I gave her for an after-school snack. Mind you, it was only about 5 o'clock and dinner normally isn't on the table in my house until 6:30ish [ok, we like to eat pretty early] - but my daughter's tummy was telling her otherwise. With payday a day away, and a diminishing food supply, I had to decide pretty quickly about what we were going to eat for dinner last night. I looked through the cabinets and thought:  Since I did so well for breakfast and lunch, I have 500 more calories to blow on dinner!  With that in mind, I was thinking of breakfast for dinner - more specifically, pancakes and sausage! Yummmm... But then I glanced at the syrup we had on hand, and knew that it wasn't such a great choice for me if I wanted to stay within my 500 cals.  So I began searching for something better.  Something that we weren't sick of eating day in and day out - I mean there is only so many things you can do with steak and chicken...  Or is there?!

Then all of a sudden, out of my mind pops a delicious idea - one that I haven't personally created before.  Honey Mustard Chicken!  I have to tell you, this recipe was super simple, extremely satisfying, and only about 200 calories per serving!!!!!  With the extra 300 calories left, I splurged on a side of garlic fries and still had more to spare!  My daughter loved the chicken so much, she asked for seconds - and she's not normally a fan of mustard!  Yes!!!!  Dinner was clearly a huge success...

*calories excluding brown sugar

Honey Mustard Chicken Fingers
(Original Recipe) / Serves 2-3

Ingredients
  • 5-7 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenders (defrosted)
  • 1/3 cup Mustard
  • 4 TBSP 100% raw, unstrained Honey (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp Brown Sugar (optional)
Directions
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour mustard, honey, and brown sugar in a bowl and stir until well blended.
  3. Cut chicken tenders in half (width-wise) and arrange them in one layer in a Pyrex dish.
  4. Spoon honey mustard mixture over top of chicken tenders and flip - making sure each piece is fully coated [feel free to prepare more mixture if need be].
  5. Place Pyrex dish (uncovered) in oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked - flipping halfway through to ensure the chicken does not dry out.
  6. Remove chicken from oven, stir leftover sauce and use for dipping.
  7. Enjoy!
*Serve with your choice of side(s)


 



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Move it Or [don't] Lose It!

Ok so it's been two weeks since my last recorded weigh in.  And, OFFICIALLY, I lost 1 pound (boooooo!)... Unofficially, I was down to 158 at some point; but, unforunately my weight has fluctuated over the past two weeks due to some bad food choices [eating out], partying [it was my friend's birthday], and not exercising daily - which was one of my goals.  I've found myself being quite lazy these past two weeks.  I'm not sure if it's because school is beginning next monday and I'm trying to get in all the rest I can before disaster strikes, or if I'm just plain lazy!  Either way, I have GOT to do better.  Although my net weightloss has been 1 pound, I should technically be losing at least 1lb per week - without gaining any back.  And let's be honest, it's not healthy to lose weight based on caloric restrictions alone.  Exercise is KEY to weightloss success... Therefore, I have thought up a few things that will help me through my "lazy bone jones" ;-)
  1. Weekly Planner:   I have compiled a weekly schedule, incorporating all of the things I must do each day - i.e. class, work, pick up the kid from school, cook dinner, bath time, study time, etc. - so that I can figure out when I have leftover time to exercise.  The goal is to schedule exercises each day when I'll actually do them, not when I plan to.  I have found that, while early morning workouts are most effective with fat loss, I simply cannot wake up any earlier than the last possible moment before I am on the verge of running late (queen of procrastination here)!  Therefore, I have scheduled my workouts during the time my daughter is in the bath.  I know that every night she will take a bath before bed - therefore I will have NO excuse not to get on my elliptical for 30 minutes while she plays in the tub.  If I cannot fit in any additional workouts throughout the day - hikes, walks, or Wii "Just Dance 2" - I know that I have at the very least got a 30 minute workout in - which will result in a minimum of 200 calories burned.  I mean, how many people can say they have an elliptical machine in their home?!  They're not too expensive to purchase, but for some reason most people would rather spend their money on other luxuries.  So, since I have one, that works, I really don't have an excuse not to get my big butt on it!

  2. Meal Planner:  I have a found a wonderful website (aside from emeals.com) that allows you to search for recipes, add them to your weekly calendar (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and then view your weekly shopping list based on the recipe ingredients!!  Pure GENIOUS!!!!  And the best part - it's FREE!!!  Go to How Does She Do It to test it out for yourself!  Additionally, I've found another website (www.myfridgefood.com) which allows you to input whatever ingredients you have on hand in your kitchen, and voila - out pops some recipes to cook up for dinner (or whatever meal you're working on)!  My goal is to work up a menu on saturday/sunday of each week - to include Breakfast and Lunch (for me on the go), and Dinner - by using the above-mentioned tools.  Planning ahead is key to success, and I know this meal plan will help me to avoid impulsive eating/snacking.  Not to mention save me a ton of cash on purchasing convenience items!
I shall post another check in after two more weeks - hopefully I'll be down 2 more pounds by then.  Wish me luck!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Eating Out While Dieting

In today's Society, eating out has become a serious custom among Americans.  I don't know about you, but both my daughter and I enjoy the occasional restaurant visit - where I can get a break from cooking, and my daughter can have anything she chooses to eat for dinner.  The problem is, most entrees begin in the 900 calorie range, and can go up to 2000 (which is the max calories/day a non-dieter should consume) depending on where you choose to eat! YIKES!!  Not to mention that some restaurants don't even provide you with the nutritional value menu - if not requested.  So, do yourself a favor, the next restaurant you visit (fast food or sit down), ask for a nutritional menu and skim across your favorite items.  I want you to look for the calorie, fat, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar content.  You will be absolutely amazed, and probably disgusted, at what you've been consuming all these years; but knowledge is the first step toward making better lifestyle choices!

The first thing to consider while eating out is:  PORTION CONTROL.  What many people fail to realize is, in America, restaurant portions are at least 2 servings, and should not be fully consumed in one sitting.  Therefore, when ordering your meal, you should try to opt for the lunch (or half) portions - if available.  If not, then request that the server bring you a take out box with your meal so that you can immediately pack away half of your entree to prevent yourself from over-eating!  It may seem ridiculous to everyone else sitting at your table, but if you're like me, you will lose track of how much you've eaten while being caught up in conversation.  And before you know it, you've eaten the entire plate, your stomach is buldging, and the guilt begins to follow!  Do whatever it takes to prevent over-eating - you'll be happy that you did!  Also, rule of thumb when you're choosing a menu item is:  stay away from the pastas (if you can), and dishes with a lot of sauces - these are where the bulk of your calories lie.  Those calories could be better spent by adding an additional portion of meat or vegetables - to prevent you from being hungry again within the next hour.  Often times you can personalize your entree by swapping out sauces, replacing fries with vegetables/fruit, or choosing brown rice over white rice.  Swapping out fattening choices for more nutritious, lower calorie options can really help you in the long run - plus it allows you to eat more (food) for less (calories)!

You should also be cautious about your DRINK CHOICE during your meal.  If you are tired of drinking water, and absolutely need a tasty beverage, your best bet is unsweetened iced tea with lemon - or a diet soda, if you must.  I try my best to stay away from diet drinks these days, since you're swapping out real sugar for mechanically processed substitutes - which also have their downfalls.  When in doubt, I go for the real thing - or better yet, ask for some honey!  If it's been one of those days, and you just have to have a cocktail, then be extremely cautious about your alcoholic drink of choice.  Alcoholic beverages are LOADED with calories.  The worst of all are those fruity mixed drinks that we all love so much.  Rule of thumb:  STAY AWAY FROM DRINKS WITH UMBRELLAS!!! lol.  Those are the Mai Tais, blended Daquiris, etc. that will end up ruining you in the end.  My advice is to opt for the skinny drinks - if available.  Those are the ones with less added juices - which are loaded with sugars.  Or choose a glass of red wine - which is somewhat high in calories, but the alcohol in wine is converted from natural sugars (from grapes) as opposed to the added sugars used in hard liquor.

Above all of the tips I've provided, the most important is to PLAN AHEAD!  If you know you will be attending a restaurant later in the evening - perhaps for a friend's birthday, or other special occasion, etc. - you should put in an extra work out in the morning.  As my cousin used to tell me - "you can eat whatever you want, just pay for it first" - meaning:  work your butt off in the gym in the morning, & put at least 600 extra calories in the bank, then you now have 600 extra calories to eat during the day!  That's 1800 calories you can consume for the day - for all of you 1200 calorie/day dieters!  Plus, if you watch what you eat during breakfast and lunch, you can easily have 900-1100 calories left to splurge for dinner!  It's all about planning ahead, and a little sacrifice, of course.  Just because you're dieting doesn't mean you have to miss out on life's pleasures...  Just do the best that you can to make better food choices and try to exercise each day - even if it's only for 15 minutes.  And if at the end of the day you end up over your daily calories, don't obsess about it!  Try to put in a 15 minute workout before bed, perhaps do a few sets of crunches, and try again tomorrow.  There is no such thing in failing as long as you keep getting back up and trying again!

Good luck on your next dining out experience!  And don't forget to enjoy yourself! =)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Spaghetti" with Meat Sauce

During my two weeks of Paleo eating, I was absolutely craving pasta, and knew that I could not have it.  I remembered a friend talking about Spaghetti Squash a year ago, and decided I would give it a try.  After doing numerous searches online about how to actually cook the squash, I developed my own recipe of homemade "Spaghetti" with Meat Sauce!!  In my opinion, it was incredible!!  The squash tasted like a crispier version of spaghetti - & by crispy, I mean a little crunchy.  The flavor was great, and when paired with the meat sauce, it was the PERFECT substitute for noodles.  I will definitely use this recipe again, as well as develop future recipes with spaghetti squash.  My daughter, on the other hand, was not a huge fan.  She loves spaghetti, but was not fooled by my imitation.  I topped hers with grated parmesan cheese, and prayed that she would finish her plate!  All in all:  Great substitute for the adult palate, not so much for the child!

(Original Recipe) / Serves 4

Ingredients:
*this is an estimate generated through myfitnesspal.com
  • 1/2 Spaghetti Squash
  • 1/2 lb Ground Turkey (93/7)
  • 1-8oz can 100% Natural Hunt's Tomato Sauce w/ Basil, Garlic & Oregano
  • 1-14.5 oz can 100% Natural Hunt's Diced Tomatoes
  • 4 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Onion, chopped
  • 1/4 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 2 TBSP Mrs Dash Salt-Free Tomato Basil Garlic Seasoning Blend
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Extra Light Virgin Olive Oil
Directions:

Spaghetti - (directions derived from Whole Foods)
  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees
  2. Slice Spaghetti Squash in half (lengthwise) - by inserting knife mid-way and working it down [this will be tough to do, so be careful!]
  3. Completely remove the seeds and filling from the center of the squash - looks like a pumpkin inside
  4. Store 1/2 Spaghetti Squash in the refrigerator for later use
  5. Drizzle the other half with olive oil, and sprinkle with Kosher Salt
  6. Place Squash cut side down on a cookie sheet (pyrex dish preferred to prevent sticking), add about 1/4 cup water, and place in the oven.
  7. Cook until the "meat" can easily be lifted with a fork (about 35 minutes)
  8. Scrape the inside of the squash back and forth with a fork to remove the "noodles"
  9. Placed desired amount of "noodles" into a bowl and set aside
Meat Sauce

  1. Pour 1TBSP Olive Oil in a saucepan, add Bell Pepper, Onion, Garlic, Ground Turkey, 1TBSP Mrs Dash, Kosher Salt (to taste), and Pepper (to taste)
  2. Cook over medium heat until the ground turkey is completely brown
  3. In a separate saucepan, add 1 can Diced Tomatoes, 1 can Tomato Sauce, 1TBSP Mrs Dash, Kosher Salt (lightly), and browned Turkey mixture
  4. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes (add extra seasonings to taste, if desired)
  5. Pour Meat Sauce over "noodles" and Enjoy!


**Note:  I really enjoyed this meal, however you may want to consume all of the cooked noodles within that meal.  I tried re-heating some for leftovers the next day and it didn't taste as great as the first day - although it could be because I heated it together with the sauce.  If you are left with leftover "noodles", try heating them up separately, and then pouring the warm sauce over the "noodles" instead.  This may prevent them from tasting overcooked like mine did.**

Banana Protein Breakfast Shake

If your mornings are usually as hectic as mine - snoozing the alarm 2 times before actually getting out of bed, waking up your kid at least two times before she actually gets up, shower, get dressed, check and make sure your kid is getting dressed, brush your teeth (and your kid's), do your and her hair, make sure she lotioned and put on the right socks and shoes for the weather - & by that time you're already about 5 minutes late!  But wait, you forgot about breakfast!  You can easily grab a banana for your kid to eat on the go, since she's going to eat a real breakfast at school, but what can you do?  Clearly one banana is not going to be enough to hold you over until your morning snack, and you're already all out of time to sit down for a bowl of cereal or oatmeal.  My remedy:  Breakfast Shakes!!!!  They're quick, taste amazing, and you can drink them in the car on your way to dropping the kid(s) off at school!  Plus, since they're shakes and not smoothies (i.e. no fruit juice), the sugar content is very low, so you can enjoy them guilt-free every day!  Take THAT Jamba Juice!  My ultimate favorite is my Banana Breakfast Shake.  There are so many different ways you can blend up this delicious "meal", so go ahead, be creative! 

(Original Recipe) / Serves 1

*using 1TBSP Almond Butter & no Honey*

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz Unsweetened Almond Milk - Vanilla
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 - 2 TBSP Unsalted Almond Butter
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ginger Root, shredded
  • 1 TBSP 100% Raw Organic Honey (optional)
Directions:
  1. Add Almond Milk, Banana, & Almond Butter to your blender (the Magic Bullet, Hamilton Beach, or any other grab & go individual blender work perfect!)
  2. Add remaining ingredients
  3. Blend until smooth (be sure to stir or shake container a bit in the middle of the process to ensure any nonblended ingredients are pushed to the bottom)
  4. Enjoy!


*Note:  You can also add 1/4 cup of Rolled Oats to the mixture if you need a little extra something to prevent mid-morning stomach rumbling syndrome!  Although this will increase your calorie content quite a bit (about 75 cals), so be cautious.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sweet Potato "Fries"


Sweet Potatoes are a healthy alternative to eating regular potatoes or even red potatoes, and can be cooked numerous ways to go with any entree.  One of my and my daughter's favorites is Sweet Potato "Fries" - & not just because they're so darn easy to make.  They are both delicious and nutritious - yes, I did just say that!  Since I do not have one of those hand dandy fry slicers, I make mine the old fashioned way (pictured above).  It's easier for me, and they taste the same anyway!  Pictured below are my Sweet Potato "Fries" with my Open-Faced Turkey Sliders.  According to myfitnesspal.com, this meal came out to be about 400 calories (although I'm sure I overestimated a bit - to be cautious)!!  Here I only used one Sweet Potato, since I don't have many calories left for the day & my daughter doesn't eat much.  Feel free to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to your liking! ;-)

(Original Recipe) / Serves 1-2

Ingredients:
  • 1 Yam/Sweet Potato
  • 1TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
Directions:
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice Yam (about 1/4 inch thick) and spread slices [do not overlap] on a cookie sheet
  3. Drizzle slices with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher Salt
  4. Place cookie sheet in oven and bake until golden brown - about 10 minutes (turning halfway through)
  5. Enjoy!
*Note: these also taste amazing with ground pepper and garlic powder.  Season them any way you like for your own variation of "fries".
**Quick Tip: If you slice the potatoes thinner (using a food processor), they will become more like chips - so be super cautious when baking, as they will begin to burn easier. [The thinner the slice, the quicker they burn!]

Open-Faced Turkey Sliders

Today while making changes to my new blog, my daughter began complaining about how "STARVING" she was - as if she didn't just have snack at school and again when she came home.  I promised her that as soon as I finished my last post, I would head to the kitchen and whip something up in a flash.  Although I wasn't quite sure what I was going to make.  After perusing my refrigerator, I found some leftover turkey meat from a spaghetti recipe that I had created a few days ago (which will be posted soon), & voila:  Open-faced turkey sliders and Sweet Potato "Fries"!!!



(Original Recipe) / Makes 4 sliders

 
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb Ground Turkey (93/7)
  • 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1/8 cup Sweet Onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Seasoning Salt, to taste
  • Extra Light Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 slices Leafy Romaine Lettuce
  • Mild Cheddar Cheese slices
  • Mustard
  • Tomato, sliced
  • 4 slices Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread (use lettuce wrap for low-carb/gluten-free options)
Directions:

  1. Add chopped garlic, onion, pepper, and salt to ground turkey and mix (with hands or utensil) until well blended.
  2. Lightly coat saucepan with Olive Oil (nonstick pan or grill is ideal)
  3. Form patties with hands and place in saucepan (then lightly sprinkle with seasoning salt) - turning occasionally
  4. Cook until no longer pink in the middle - place cheese slices on each patty when almost done
  5. Toast Whole Wheat Bread & spread with mustard
  6. Top Toast with turkey patty, sliced tomato, and lettuce
  7. Enjoy!
 

*Serve with Sweet Potato "Fries" or a side salad

Chocolate Paleo Ice Cream

After beginning my Paleo lifestyle, I quickly began CRAVING sweets, since sugar is on the no-no list.  Yes, of course, you always want what you cannot have!  Well, I stumbled upon this ice cream recipe during my pinterest #paleo trend search, and immediately fell in love!  You mean to tell me that I can still have sweets without actually using sugar or flour?!  Get outta here!!!!  Well, it didn't take long for me to curb my first craving.  And here you have it, Chocolate Paleo Ice Cream!!!!  Both my daughter and I really enjoyed this treat.  It was a great bonding experience for both of us, since she is always asking me if I need help in the kitchen.  If you too have little ones begging to help cook, I encourage you to pull up a chair for them and let them dig in on this one!  Plus if nothing else, they'll enjoy watching the machine churn the ice milk ;-)

My First Time using my Ice Cream Maker!
The Final Product! Yummmmm =P
  



(recipe provided by Civilized Caveman Cooking)

Tools Needed:
  • Ice Cream Maker
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Blender
Ingredients:
  • 14 ounces Coconut Milk, refrigerated
  • 1/4 cup 100% Raw Organic Honey
  • 2 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
Directions:

  1. Add your cold coconut milk, honey, vanilla, and cocoa powder into a blender and pulse until well blended.
  2. Remove your ice cream maker bowl from the freezer, place it in the machine, and press start.
  3. Immediately begin to slowly add your mixture and let the machine work its magic!
  4. DO NOT STOP the machine, whatever you do.  This process will take at least 10-20 mins (maybe longer) for the mixture to harden.
  5. Once your ice cream has reached the desired consistency, transfer your ice cream to another bowl and place in the freezer for an additional 30 minutes for further setting.
  6. ENJOY!
*note:  The longer you leave the ice cream in the freezer, the harder it will become.  I ended up discarding mine after a few days, since it ended up turning into an ice block!

Intro / Weightloss Challenge 2013

Hello World!

My name is Gynieka, and I am a 29 year old single mother from Los Angeles, CA.  Since my second year in college, and the infamous 2am chili cheese fry runs to Crossroads Cafe at UCLA, I have been struggling with weightloss.  My weight has fluctuated over the years due to many of life's circumstances and my numerous yo-yo diets (atkins, weight watchers, calorie counting, etc.) - though now that I look back, I looked pretty darn GREAT in college!  I honestly don't know what I was trying to lose then! Hahahaha.  On a more serious note - after my mother recently lost her battle to cancer (in April 2012), I have learned that all of the processed foods, mechanically engineered sugar substitutes, hormones, additives, etc. that we consume over the years are drastically effecting our bodies and overall health, and it is definitely time to start FIGHTING BACK!!!  Did you know that some cancers, diabetes, & other diseases could be avoided if we paid more attention to what we consume?? There are a lot of natural foods and remedies out there that can help prevent our bodies from malfunctioning (such as flaxseeds, coconut oil, etc.), but many people do not know about it.  I have never felt so sluggish, depressed, anxious, exhausted, lazy (and the list goes on) in my life, and I know it is because this past year I have not dieted nor exercised AT ALL!!  Ok well maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but let's just say I did not step foot in the gym not once, nor did I intentionally cut back on my eating - it's been an emotionally tough year!  Anywho, in an effort to cleanse my body of all of the horrible foods I've ingested over the years, in an attempt toward living a healthier life - I began a "Clean Eating" challenge on January 1st, 2013.

My challenge began with the Paleo lifestyle, and after the first two weeks of cooking & eating Paleo - although I LOVED the new recipes I was trying/creating - I have decided that I was giving up too much of what I enjoyed, and knew that my cheat days would be pretty drastic.  Plus, I was spending waaaaay too much time in the kitchen, not just creating meals, but also developing snacks to take to work - which was depleting my quality time with my daughter.  Therefore, I have decided to incorporate a variation of a "Clean" Low Fat Diet into my lifestyle; in which I still plan to consume organic meats (grass-fed, if possible), as well as fresh organic fruits & veggies - as with Paleo - however, I will also reintroduce some gluten (although with a bit more caution), raw sugars, some dairy (as in greek yogurt, butter, & cheese), and grains.  Because I am reintroducing grains, which often cause bloating and weight gain, until I reach my goal weight, I will also be more conscious of my daily caloric intake - which I'm sure will begin to get easier with time.

I hope that through documenting my journey toward weightloss, I will be able to somehow inspire other single moms out there who have been struggling with weightloss and are looking for ways to both eat healthier and serve healthier foods to their child(ren).  Plus, I know this documentation will help me to hold myself accountable for what I eat/do each day - "no more excuses girly!"

While the idea for this blog started off as merely a weightloss documentary, I have expanded it to also include not only recipes and weightloss tips/tricks, but everything under the sun that has to do with my world as a Single, Working, Schooling Mother ;-)  I hope you enjoy my little piece of the world.

Disclaimer:  I'm sure a majority of the ideas that will be posted in the beginning of this blog (& possibly throughout) will be derived from some online source - unless otherwise noted.  Pinterest and other blogs are a mom's best friend!! And I'll be sure to give credit, when credit is due...

Thank you for being a part of this journey with me.  Now let's begin!