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For The Love of Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken

When people find out that I cook (a lot) or that I do recipe development, one of the first questions they ask is, “What is your signature dish?”  A close second being, “What is your favorite thing to cook?”

This always left me stumped and scrambling for answer because the truth is that I like to cook all the things.  I don’t have a signature dish or a cuisine that I like to focus on.  I enjoy it all.

However, this week, I realized that probably my favorite thing to make is a roast chicken.  There is something very elegant and classy about a great roast chicken.  It also looks fancy even though it’s so easy to make.

I try to roast a chicken once a week and usually on Friday evenings.  That’s my idea of a great Friday night.  In my jammies, a chicken roasting away in the oven, and sipping on a glass of wine while I prep veggies and the side dishes.

That’s how I like to unwind after a long work week.  I don’t want to go out or really interact too much with others.  I want time to relax in my own space making a great dinner.

So I guess the next time someone asks me what my favorite thing to make is, my answer will be a lovely roast chicken.

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Making Stock In The Slow Cooker

Slow cooker stock

I used to make stock on the stovetop with a huge pot that simmered for about 4-5 hours.  I started off with six quarts of water and would only end up with about 3 quarts of stock.

It took me a long time to try making stock in the slow cooker.  I think a part of me was afraid that it wouldn’t turn out right but friends, I was wrong.  Oh so very wrong.

The first time I made stock using the slow cooker was last Thanksgiving and I will not be going back to the old method at all.

I don’t have a pressure cooker or an Instapot so for me, the slow cooker is the best method for getting the most flavorful and rich stock.

Using my basic recipe for broth:

Bones + Veggies + Salt + Apple Cider Vinegar + Crapton of Water

I add all these things to my slow cooker and I fill the slow cooker all the way to the tippy top with water.  Put it on high and forget about it.  Once the liquid inside reaches a nice simmer (which takes about 6 hours), I turn the temperature to low and let that baby go for 24+ hours.

Yes, 24+ hours.

The house smells amazing and I end up with the best stock I’ve ever made.  When I get up in the mornings I’ll top off the slow cooker with more water to bring the level back up to the tippy top and give it at least another 6 hours.

I strain everything out and portion out the stock.  Typically I end up with about 5+ quarts of stock.  Chicken is my favorite but I’ve done this with beef and pork as well.

In fact, I just picked up some pork neck bones with my local hog share and I cannot wait to make some amazing stock out of that.  Pho in da house for daaayyyyzzz!

Some folks who use or drink stock on a daily basis will keep the slow cooker going for a week, topping off the water to replace what they remove.  I may try that if we get to a point where we are drinking stock on the regular but for now 24+ hours is perfect.

The best part (aside from the result!) is that making stock in the slow cooker means the house doesn’t steam up and I can move on to other things without having to babysit a big pot on the stove.

Now go make yourself slow cooker stock!

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Weekend Unplugged

 

Winding TrailScott and I had the most relaxing weekend.  Friday was my birthday and I tried to take the day off and enjoy some things l love.

That didn’t quite work out as planned, everything from getting a walk cut short to over cooking some steaks.  Bah! I wasn’t going to let that one day dictate how the whole weekend was going to be though.

Saturday we headed out because I wanted to hike Horsetooth.  I know it’s a popular trail but it is really pretty and we have yet to hike that whole trail.  We arrived and the trailhead was full so it was closed off.  We drove around and found another trailhead that was still open and decided to check it out.

So glad that we did!  We did about a 6 mile hike (out and back) and part of the trail was up a steep incline.  We weren’t able to go all the way to the top due to time constraints which was a bummer but we still had an awesome hike.  The weather was perfect with a slight breeze keeping us from getting too hot.

We came home and had a really comforting meal of meatballs and polenta.  No picture because I was too busy stuffing my face!

Sunday, the weather was even better! We had a sunny 80 degree day.  Scott and I, and the two punks, spent as much time as we could just lounging in the backyard soaking up all that glorious sun and warmth.

Saturday I rarely checked my phone and Sunday I didn’t even go on my computer once.

It was the perfect weekend.

Taking time to unplug and just be present and in the moment is so important.  I think sometimes we get so focused on staying up to date and trying to document everything we forget to actually live it.  One of the weekly challenges in my accountability group is taking time to unplug.

I love this idea so much that I will be running a challenge group focused on this concept.  The group will start in April and will be more introspective.  Instead of focusing on food we will working on self-care. Things like making sure to get enough sleep each night, taking time to unplug each day, and spending quality time with people we care about.

Self-care is so important for our heath and well-being!  I try to incorporate this into each day.  If you’re interested in joining my April challenge group just let me know!  It’s a free group, there is nothing to purchase.  It will run for 21 Days and we will be doing little exercises each day that are geared towards self-care and taking time to unplug.

 

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Alcohol Free February Recap

Funkwerks White

For the month of February, Scott and I challenged ourselves to abstain from alcohol.  There were two “treat” days since Scott’s birthday was during the challenge.  So for 26 days we didn’t have a drop to drink.

Bah.  That sucked.

I did learn a lot during this challenge though.

For one, beer and I currently do not get along.  It screws up my digestive system and gives me a headache along with making me feel like crap.  Like I’m coming down with the flu.

I did miss drinking wine and cocktails more than beer.  I think it’s because since our move to Colorado we have been hardcore beer focused for the past couple of years.  I’m at a point where I’m good with beer and my drink of choice is wine or a mixed drink.

Does that mean I’ll never have beer again?  Heck no, we’ve got a cellar full that we need to work through.  But beer is getting put on the back burner for a bit.

The biggest surprise of all is the discovery that alcohol seems to mess with my sleep.  After the challenge, when I was able to have alcohol again, I also started having restless nights.  Waking up in the middle of the night only to lie in bed awake for hours.

UGH.

I love sleep so this news does not sit well with me.

I am positive my body’s negative reaction to alcohol is the result of wrecking my digestive system with too much beer over the past couple of years.  Which means it is time to work towards getting my body back to tip-top shape.

Since December, I have been working towards getting back to a healthier me, but now I realize how much of a beating my body has taken over the past two years with too much beer and unhealthy food.

My focus will be centered around healing my gut through healthy foods and keeping alcohol intake to a minimum.

While the No Alcohol challenge was difficult and did stink, it helped me realize where my body’s current level of healthiness is along with what steps I need to take to fix the situation.  2015 is definitely the year to get back on track!

 

 

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21DFX Wrapup

Yogurt with granola and banana

Over the weekend, Scott and I finished the 21DFX program.  I will be honest and say that I’m glad to be done with it. I liked the challenge but wasn’t in love with it like Insanity Max 30.

LIKED: The use of the containers.  At first that seemed a little intimidating keeping track of them and making sure to get the right portions in.  It was really eye opening because at first look, I assumed that these containers were too small and that I would constantly be hungry.  They are actually the perfect size and most times I became full before evening finishing full portions.

DISLIKED: Being so restricted on what I could and couldn’t have.  That is the point of this program and it’s geared towards folks who are getting ready for a big event (dinner, wedding, vacation) and want to tone up and lose a few extra pounds.  Since I wasn’t in that category, limiting some portions (like healthy fats) left me feeling frustrated and cranky.

LIKED: The workouts that incorporate resistance bands and light weights.  These workouts are not intense despite the fact that the program is labeled as “extreme”.  Anyone at any fitness level will be able to complete these programs with no worries.  I enjoyed the workouts, some more than others, but I liked the use of weights and that the workouts were only 30 minutes long.  It went pretty quickly.

DISLIKED: I felt like there wasn’t enough time between sets to set up with the resistance band.  Most times I fell behind on those moves.  I also didn’t have near the calorie burn that is mentioned.  I can see doing these workouts paired with a higher intensity HIIT or cardio workout.

LIKED: That the program is only 3 weeks long. It’s a great intro program for someone learning about portion control and getting back into the swing of working out.

RESULTS

I lost between 5-7 pounds on this program, it fluctuates.  Scott lost 6 pounds.  Both of us lost inches in our waist as well.

I was surprised with my results. Since the workouts are not that intense I really didn’t expect to see much movement on the scale.  I’m pleased with my results!

Overall, I enjoyed the program more once I made some adjustments to it.  A lot of the challengers in my group, along with myself, found the program too restrictive and not sustainable so we adjusted to how we live our lives.  Still seeing results with the workouts and sticking with the portions shows that the program does work and you will get the results you’re looking for.

Would I recommend this program to someone?  Maybe if they were looking to lose a few pounds before an event. Otherwise I would suggest someone try out the original 21 Day Fix first and see how they like that.

My next group challenge starts in April and we are going to be focusing on self-care.  Like making sure to get enough sleep each night and taking time to unplug during the day.  If you are interesting in joining this FREE challenge, let me know and I’ll send you all the info!

If you have any questions about Beachbody products or programs, feel free to drop me a line so we can chat about them!

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Exploring The World of Trader Joe’s

TJs purchaseLast week, Trader Joe’s opened up here in town.  It’s been much anticipated especially since the opening date was pushed back several months due to construction issues.

I fully admit that I’ve never really been impressed with any of the Trader Joe’s that I’ve been in.  They have a lot of processed food items that seem to make up the bulk of the store.  That’s not really my style.  But I decided to check out the new Trader Joe’s here and I was pleasantly surprised!

Most TJs that I’ve been in don’t really carry any fresh produce.  Ours does and for really great prices.  I was able to get a huge bunch of bananas for just over a dollar.

They also have a really great cheese section that I look forward to exploring once the crowd reduces a little bit.

There is a huge dip and hummus section that I would also like to explore and check the ingredients.  I either need to go before the lunch rush or wait a few weeks for the store to be less crowded.

I was able to find some grassfed ground beef and fun items like purple spinach!  However, they did not have large tubs of spinach or salad mix, only smallish bags.

It’s a small store, there’s no deli, meat, or seafood counter.  You can find a few of those items in the refrigerated section.  The dairy section had only store brand almond and coconut milk. I didn’t look at their milk offerings but I did not see any local milk on the shelves.

This may not be news to you if you are a seasoned TJs shopper, but I am not, and I found the set up to be interesting.

A few fun items I got were things like pomegranate vinegar and sriracha barbecue sauce which has a great ingredient list and has a great flavor!  I’m also giving their Miso Broth a whirl to see what that tastes like.

Would I be able to do all my shopping there?  No, but it will be nice to go on occasion for some fun items that are unique to the store.

 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post for TJs. They have no idea who I am. I’m just sharing my experience with my local store.

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21DFX Halfway Point

Blueberries and yogurt

Scott and I are at the halfway point with 21 Day Fix Extreme.  I am so happy to be halfway done with this program!

I’m at a point where I feel a little frustrated with the program and so I’m thankful we are halfway done because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s extreme so it’s a little more restricting and that is the part that I have the most trouble with.  I just don’t eat that way naturally and it’s challenging to incorporate that into daily life.

I was getting bored with some of our eats so I’ve been branching out a bit and experimenting more in the kitchen.

Costco had a great deal on blueberries (I know, out of season but so hard to pass up when they are under $5!) and we enjoyed blueberries with yogurt for breakfast the past several days.

We had pizza earlier this week on a cauliflower crust.  I still need to tweak that recipe a bit but I’m on the right track with it.  I added in some grain free flours to help stretch the dough since it had to feed both of us.  It definitely satisfied a craving.

Last night we had zoodles with crab, tomato, and avocado and it was heavenly!  Seafood + avocado is one of my favorite combinations.  The creamy richness of the avocado pairs so well with the sweet briny flavors of seafood!

I’m still sticking with the plan but have reached a point where I need to experiment in the kitchen and create some new meals for us.  I feel like new adventures and journeys should be fun and not feel like work.

The challenge wraps up for us next week and I’ll have all the details about what I loved and didn’t love about the program.

Now I’m looking forward to the weekend and some super yummy eats!

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Halfway Point No Alcohol Challenge

Avery Barrel Aged Beers

Earlier this month I announced that I was going alcohol free for February. I’ve had two cheats days (hate that term but it applies), one was at a media event where I had some wine because I’m not passing up free wine!  And the second was for Scott’s birthday, we went out to celebrate and I had a couple of beers.  Not a big deal and not something I’m beating myself up over.

Other than that, no alcohol.

I’m extending the challenge to include the first week of March because of a new fitness challenge that I’m doing.

Surprisingly I’ve learned a lot and it’s only been a few weeks.

I miss wine more than I miss beer.  This was a STOP THE PRESSES moment for me.  I love beer and have expanded my palate and educated myself on it more over the past two and a half years.  Yet at the moment I really would like to have a glass of red wine and not beer.  When the challenge is over I’m probably going to opt for wine and pass over beer.

I’ve realized that it isn’t the alcohol content (ABV) of beer that was causing me digestive issues, it was the beer itself. Wheat and all it’s gluteny goodness wasn’t playing nice with my digestive tract. I have to limit my beer intake and when I do have it, I cannot combine that with other wheaty things (no pasta, no breads, etc) or else the results are not good.

So far the challenge hasn’t been terrible though I do have moments where I stomp my feet and just want a glass of wine.  I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking forward to the end and counting down the days till I can partake.

Scott is doing this with me and that has been a huge benefit.  I’m not sure I would have lasted if he was sitting there having a drink of his own.  That would be too tempting!

Two more weeks and then this lady gets a drink!

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21DFX Week 1 Thoughts

Chicken, green beans, sweet potato mashWeek 1 of the 21 Day Fix Extreme is in the books and we are kicking off Week 2!  The first week was a little rough as I got used to the containers and meal planned our week.  The containers and the amounts we can have a day are so specific that making things like soups and chili is challenging because those meals are hard to measure.  So I’ve put them aside for now.  We did have Pho last week but that was simple since it had one protein and one veggie.

These last two weeks I’m going to focus more on protein, veggies, and fruit.

The biggest challenge with doing the Extreme version is limiting some items.  For example I am only allowed 1 healthy fat a day and the container for that is tiny.  It equals 1/4 of an avocado, chopped.

No one eats only a 1/4 of an avocado at a time!

That has been my biggest gripe and poor Scott has heard me bitching about it the entire time.  Since healthy fats are so limiting, most times I don’t even bother because it’s just not worth it.  I only have 2 more weeks of the program left, not a big deal.

I’ve seen some a few others on Instagram who are also doing this program (not with my group, on their own) and they are sneaking in little cheats here and there.  Of course there are ways to get around things and naturally people are going to find the loopholes.  But I’m sticking with the program!  No treats and no alcohol for three weeks.  I might be a little crabby about it but I’m doing it!  It’s just not worth it to me to create cheats because I don’t want to sacrifice, say a protein, just to have some fake chocolate.

I enjoy the exercises a great deal.  They are not super intense and there isn’t too much jumping around but they are challenging.  Using light weights and resistance bands are what I like the most.  It’s challenging and you have to push yourself but it’s not so hard that it makes you want to give up or leaves you feeling frustrated.

Now it’s time to kick off Week 2 and dominate it!

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Day 3: 21DFX Easy Like Pho

Day 3 went so much smoother!  I’m starting to get the hang of the containers and the portions that we need for each meal.  I was much more satisfied this time and was actually surprised by how much each container holds.  They look small but actually hold hefty portion sizes!

BREAKFAST

Yogurt and granola

Greek yogurt + homemade granola + 1/2 a banana

1/2R + 1Y + 1/2P

LUNCH

Kale salad, pineapple, and smoked salmon

Kale salad + smoked salmon + pineapple

1G + 1R + 1P + 1 O

I make a big batch of this salad, dress it with a homemade balsamic dressing and it makes a few days worth of salad.  Since the veggies in the mix are things like kale, brussels sprouts, and cabbage, the dressing doesn’t weight it down or make it soggy.  It gets better the longer it sits!

The kale salad mix I get at Costco.

DINNER

Shrimp Pho with Zoodles

Shrimp Pho + zucchini noodles

1.5 R + 2G

This turned out to be a lot of food and I didn’t even finish my bowl!

EXERCISE

Was Pilates Fix and that used a resistance band for the whole 30 minutes.  It was challenging and different as I haven’t used resistance bands in that way before.  It provides a nice change from using weights all the time.  Just like weights, you can always increase the resistance to make the moves more challenging.