Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fourth of July Recap-Feasting and Fun in GP!

Sooooo, Lynn Creek Park was a hot mess. We drove up to the area, only to wait about thirty minutes in a long line of cars who had the same idea we did to celebrate the fourth of July. We knew we'd be waiting at least another hour, so we scrapped that plan and headed right back to the apartment pool. And guess what, we had an even better time. The pool wasn't crowded and we had plenty of space to grill and relax. Here's our day captured in pictures, because you know what they say...a picture is worth a thousand words...so here goes!

video
~Lex

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July Menu


Happy Independence Day America! 

I am giddy with excitement. Today we plan on spending some time outdoors at Lynn Creek Park to celebrate. We bought boogie boards from Five Below the other day and have plans to rock those out as well as do some yoga in the sand. After that it's grilling time. We'll probably only be out a few hours, but we'll make the most of it!

Fourth of July food should be simple yet scrumptious...simply scrumptious! I realize that's pretty much an oxymoron, because anytime you're on a specialty diet or eating plan, things might not be so simple. I called the roomie today and blabbered on about how I wasn't making a ton of food for the fourth but after reciting the list, it turns out I am making a lot more than I thought! Here's the menu:

Gooey Cheeseburgers with Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Homemade Paleo Ketchup (I'm omitting the curry and just making it plain)
Blueberry Lemon Cake (I'm replacing half of the blueberries with cherries)

I'm also super excited because for the first time in forever....I finally understand! For the first time in forever, we can face this hand in hand! Oops...this isn't karaoke, why am I singing ballads from Disney's Frozen? Love that movie! Okay okay, back to fourth of July menu discussions...for the first time I will be grilling. Me. Grilling. The most I've ever done is grill burgers and chicken using a grill pan and a George Forman. I'm stoked. I have charcoal, a cute little tabletop grill, and I'm so ready. 

What are you doing to celebrate the fourth of July?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer Veggie Salad with Balsamic, Feta, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Pecans


About two weeks ago the roomie and I volunteered at Johnson's Backyard Garden in Denton. The original Johnson's Backyard Garden is in Austin, TX, but they've partnered with Earthwise Produce in Denton to start a location in the DFW area. I am so thankful, because one of the volunteering perks is that you receive a free workshare of produce. You sign up for a four-hour shift during the weekday (either 8a-12p or 4p-8p for the summertime), help out in the garden and/or the Earthwise Produce shop, and then the following week you can pick up your workshare on Thursday or Friday. The workshare is very generous-it is the medium CSA box that you see on the website. We were thrilled to get our veggies, and it was a lot of fun meeting new people.  One of the girls we met actually works at one of the companies my organization partners with! Small world. :-) 
One of the garden plots. We picked the basil here!

One of the things we did while volunteering was pick basil, and I was so impressed with how fragrant the basil was. We had to cut the blossoms off of the basil plants, and also cut the leaves that were ready for picking. The next day my right arm was sore from cutting the plants. Who knew! We also got to hear firsthand what it's like running the garden from the guy in charge, Ryan Crocker. He was super friendly and laid back. We are going to try to volunteer again this month. It's a little hard for us to volunteer, because you can only volunteer during the weekdays, so we have to wait until we have off on a Friday or a half day. Since the roomie is off Fridays and I have half-days until the end of July, we've decided to volunteer again. And I plan to go back on holidays that I am off of work. It was such a cool experience.

All that to say, we got a ton of veggies and I looked around the JBG website for recipes using the produce. I made a salad yesterday (which will be our lunch for the next several days), their Summer Veggies with Pecans, Feta, and Balsamic Vinegar. The recipe is great, and is really a starting point. There aren't measurements for the pecans, feta, or balsamic vinegar, so you can play around with it to your liking. I swapped out some of the veggies for others, and decided on some set measurements for my salad. I am so pleased with this recipe. The veggies are crisp-tender and juicy. The feta and sun-dried tomato are rich and add a salty bite. The balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic make a zesty dressing, and the pecans add a slight nutty sweetness. Yum! 


Summer Veggie Salad with Balsamic, Feta, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Pecans
Adapted from Johnson's Backyard Garden
Serves 4

1 large pattypan squash, de-seeded and sliced
2 small purple bell peppers, de-seeded, piths removed, and sliced
3 long green sweet bell peppers, de-seeded, piths removed, and sliced
2 long red sweet bell peppers, de-seeded, piths removed, and sliced

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Dressing:
2 tspns balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

~ In an extra large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the veggies. Stir frequently, making sure all sides of veggies touch the bottom of the pan and get a little browning. Let cook 5 minutes. 
~ While veggies cook, combine dressing ingredients and set aside. 
~ Remove veggies to a large glass bowl. Let cool to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes. 
~ Add dressing, pecans, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese. Toss gently, being sure to coat all of the ingredients in the dressing. Serve at room temperature, or chill in the refrigerator if you prefer to eat it cold.
~ Enjoy your veggies! :-) 







~Lex

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Low-Carb Chicken Parmesan


What could possibly be better than a thin, juicy chicken breast, crisply crusted, and then spread with marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese? If you guessed almost nothing, you are absolutely correct. 

This was last night's dinner. It does take some time to "bread" all of the cutlets, but if you're only cooking for one or two the prep time can be reduced significantly. I served these atop some spiralized summer squash, but this can be served on its own with a colorful salad.



Low-Carb Chicken Parmesan
Serves 5 (2 each) or 10 (1 each)

5 large chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and pounded to a 1/4 inch thickness
2 large eggs, beaten
4 cups plain ground pork rinds (be sure to get the ones without added salt or preservatives)
1 tspn salt
1 tspn ground black pepper
8 oz block mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/4 cups marinara sauce ( I made Giada's and added 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves and 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped before simmering)
2/3 cup coconut oil, divided

~ Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. This'll keep the chicken warm and crispy as you cook through the batches. Have a large baking sheet ready for the cooked chicken. 
~ Prepare your dipping station. Add the eggs to a shallow dish or bowl; add ground pork rinds to another shallow dish or bowl. Have a baking sheet with the unbreaded chicken and a baking sheet ready for the breaded chicken. (I know it sounds like a lot, but this'll help cooking the chicken in batches go a lot smoother)
~ Dip a chicken breast (both sides) in the egg, let excess drip off. Immediately dip both sides in the ground pork rinds. Let excess crumble off.  
~ Repeat above step with remaining chicken breasts. 
~Heat an extra large skillet over medium heat and add 1/3 cup coconut oil. When oil is shimmering, add in 4 coated chicken breasts. Cook until golden brown and edges are cooked, about 3 or 4 minutes. Carefully turn over and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove chicken to baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.
~Add in the remaining 1/3 cup coconut oil, swirl it around the pan, and add 4 more coated chicken breasts. Cook and remove, then add the last 2 coated chicken breasts, cook and remove.
~ Spoon 2 tbsp of warmed marinara sauce over each chicken breast. Top with 2 tbsp shredded cheese (or more if you like it cheesier) and put under the broiler. Watch carefully at this point. It'll take only a few minutes for the cheese to melt and get bubbly. I personally like a little golden-brownness on my cheese, but if you don't take the chicken out when the cheese is melted to your liking. 
~ Enjoy!

What's your favorite way to eat chicken parmesan? 

~Lex

Monday, June 30, 2014

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day-June 2014!

Afternoon y'all!

This month was my third month participating in the Foodie Pen Pal program, spearheaded by the genius Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. If you haven't done this before, drop everything and sign up. Here's how it works:

  1. You sign up before the 5th of the month at http://www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/.
  2. On the 5th of the month Lindsay will send out a mass email with the name and information of your foodie pen pal for that month.
  3. The ball is in your court to purchase up to $15 worth of foodie items for your pen pal. You can also add things you've made too (i.e. granola or marinara sauce, etc). 
  4. Both pen pals mail the packages out by the 15th of the month and enjoy the goodies. If you have a blog, you post on reveal day, which is the same for everyone so at the end of the month it's like a virtual posting party!
This month my pen pal was a native Floridian, Lauren from The Finish Line Runner blog. She's a runner and has a list of marathons she's completed and a list of ones she has yet to complete. I love her passion and diligence for running! 

Check out my awesome package:


As of today the banana chips are almost gone, and the snack stick and protein bar have been devoured. I plan to use the sun-dried tomatoes in this Summer Veggie Salad this week with some fresh produce I got at the Coppell Farmer's Market on Saturday. I haven't used the tea yet, but I love Sleepy-time tea, so I know I'll be using it soon to help me relax in the evening. Those wasabi peas threw me for a loop! Those'll be going into our snack bags and I'm also going to see if I can find a creative way to use them. My two favorite items from the package are the Trader Joe's bag, that totally has Florida printed on it, and the pink shoelaces! Lauren is an I'm Fit Possible ambassador, and helps to encourage others to be fit and strong no matter what they look like. I absolutely love it. I'll be posting a picture of my own running shoes with the laces. I just love that! 

~Lex

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Easy Italian Sausage and Peppers

The roomie loves italian sausages. And not just any sausages. Johnsonville sausages. Now, they may not compare to authentic Italian sausages from a real Italian deli, but for grocery store brand, they'll do. 

Sunday I was working on my food prep, and it was taking a pretty long time. I wanted to make the sausages in a way where I didn't have to slave away over the stove. So I threw them in a baking dish and let the oven do all the work. Super easy, and you just need to turn them once during the cooking time. 





Easy Italian Sausage and Peppers
Serves 2-4

1 package Johnsonville Italian sausages at room temperature (we prefer hot versus mild)
1/2-1cup sliced bell peppers
1/2 cup sliced onion
1 Tbsp chili-infused olive oil
1 tspn dried parsley or basil (or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or basil)
1 tspn red pepper flakes (decrease the amount if you don't care for the heat, we like it HOT)
Salt and Pepper to taste

~ Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
~ Evenly spread onion and bell pepper in bottom of baking dish.
~ Place sausages on top of the onions and bell peppers. 
~ Drizzle with the olive oil, parsley, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Toss with your hands or tongs to make sure everything is coated with the oil. 
~ Pop into the oven. Bake 15 minutes, then turn sausages and bake for another 15 minutes. Serve up alone or with a buttered, toasted bun and enjoy! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Lettuce Wrap, Oh Lettuce Wrap


Saturday was a lettuce wrap kind of day. It didn't happen intentionally, it was actually the result of an empty refrigerator. There was a roll of ground chorizo, eggs, and leftover ground beef from the previous week's enchiladas. Breakfast was chorizo and eggs on lettuce, and then lunch was Quick Sriracha Beef Lettuce Wraps by Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. I subbed lemon zest and juice instead of lime, and since I didn't have fresh scallions or cilantro, I used dried shallots (cooked with the beef) and dried parsley (mixed in with the lemon juice). They still tasted great. I will definitely try the recipe without substitutions next time. I know that the lime, scallion, and cilantro give the lettuce wraps a lot of freshness. We actually drizzled a lot of extra sriracha on the wraps, and that brought the flavors out a lot more. A great recipe, and now I'm hooked on trying all different kinds of lettuce wraps!