Monday, July 29, 2013

Celebrations










This past week was full of fun.  We celebrated 18 years of marriage and 15 years of parenthood, all on the same day. It's nearly unbelievable to me.  This time has gone so incredibly fast, the years have held so many surprises along the way.  There have been difficulties and victories, we've seen the birth of four babies and the loss of two, but more than anything else, it has been full of love.  A love that grows by leaps and bounds every single day, a love that I dreamed would exist amid all our promises of forever eighteen years ago.






 




We celebrated our eighteen years by doing something that I have wanted to do for a really long time:  we went to see the Dave Matthews Band in concert.  I was crazy-excited to finally get to see them in person.  At one point earlier in the afternoon, when we came from the intense heat and humidity of the outdoors and entered the super-chilly and immaculate hotel room in which we would be staying, the "tired mama" version of myself was crying out to just stay right there in that room and take a nap or even to sleep until morning, but then again, "the real me" was fighting to go to that concert, enjoy my adult time alone with my husband, and have some fun!  I was feeling a little out of my element to say the least.  I didn't let it get me too far down, though.  The concert was amazing and this "tired mama" was able to pull off standing in the heat in pretty platform sandals for ten hours while shouting and cheering and dancing and singing every word to every song, taking in every moment of the DMB goodness.  I am SO glad I did!  I had a great time.  It may not be something that I want to do often, but every now and then it's great to do something different, something that makes you feel alive!















The next morning we awoke painfully early considering our 2 am bedtime and went out for breakfast.  That breakfast was SO good.  I'm a sucker for a good Cracker Barrel breakfast along with several cups of coffee.  I am certain that I prefer that meal to any other one when given the choice.  There is just something so comforting about breakfast food, especially grits.  ;)










After breakfast we made our way back home to our boys who were celebrating their fifteenth birthday.  We arrived home early and spent the day with them, cooking dinner for their birthday and getting ready for their celebration.  I can't believe they're fifteen already; young men practically ready to take on the world.  They're so full of goodness, honesty, and love.  I couldn't be more proud of the men they're becoming.  We ended the night with barbecue, cake, ice cream, and a few gifts.





These days have been really good.
We have so much to be thankful for and more blessings than we can count.

I am so grateful.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summertime Ranch Chicken Fajitas








Since I began my journey back to healthier eating, I'll admit I sometimes get tired of the simplicity of combining a portion of lean meat with two veggies and calling it dinner.  Sometimes that simplicity is just what I need, but other times I want something a little more complex in taste and texture, yet still within my range of healthy choices.  This recipe came about from my family's love of fajitas, my overflowing garden tomato basket, and my love of sweet, fresh corn.  I started by making up this recipe to fit my family of six, so you can adjust your ingredient amounts accordingly. 

I chose six ears of fresh, sweet corn and cleaned them:  {You could absolutely substitute frozen corn here.}





After they were fully cleaned, I cut the kernels from the cob:





Next, I chopped one large onion into strips and diced two large bell peppers.  I sauteed them in about one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, until they were tender, then removed them from the pan.





After removing the onions and peppers from the pan, I put the pan back onto a medium-high heat, added another tablespoon of olive oil, and added about two pounds of chicken breast, cut into small strips or chunks.  While the chicken was sauteing, I added to it one teaspoon each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes, while adding two teaspoons of chili powder and three teaspoons of ground cumin.








I tossed it all around to coat well and cooked it until done, around 8 minutes.  When the chicken was nearly cooked, I added to it the cooked peppers and onions and allowed it a few minutes to sit together and absorb the seasonings before I tossed in the fresh corn.  After adding the corn, I allowed it to warm through, but not cook for any length of time so I could preserve its sweetness.




Now, what goes better with a dish like this than some fresh pico de gallo?  Nothing!  So, since I had more tomatoes from my garden than I could eat at the moment, I made up a fresh batch.  Here's how I did mine:

I finely diced two cups of tomatoes, one small green bell pepper, half of a large red onion, a good handful of chopped, fresh parsley (you can use cilantro if your family doesn't think it's a little too strong), a dash of garlic powder or a fresh minced garlic clove, and finish it off with a dash of salt and pepper and a few shakes from the hot sauce bottle.    Simple and SO good on just about anything.




I was initially craving this with a little ranch dressing, so that is how I made mine.  However, when I went back for the second one {uh hmm} I used plain sour cream.  They were both good and I still don't know which way I prefer them.  You may want to try it both ways as well.


Putting it all together:  I used a warmed Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Tortilla, and layered in a portion of the chicken and corn mixture, an equal amount of pico de gallo, and topped it off with a bit of shredded cheese and a couple teaspoons of ranch dressing.



This was absolutely a huge winner here at our house and everyone is waiting for the next time I make these.  The corn and pico de gallo made the perfect addition to plain old chicken fajitas to make them taste perfectly like summer.  They're definitely going back on the menu next week!


Here's the rundown of the recipe again:
Click here for the Printable Recipe





Summertime Ranch Chicken Fajitas
serves a family of 6, so adjust your amounts accordingly

6 fresh ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
1 large onion, cut into strips
2 large bell pepper,  your choice of color, cut into strips or dices
2 pounds of chicken breast, chunked or cut into strips
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp chili powder
3 tsp ground cumin
*(of course, you may adjust the spices to your taste)
Ranch dressing or sour cream
shredded cheese
flour or whole sprouted grain tortillas


Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat and add the sliced onion and chopped bell pepper.  Saute until tender then remove from pan, set aside.  Place the pan back onto the heat, this time at medium-high, and add 1 Tbsp olive oil and the chicken breast.  Sprinkle the spices over the chicken and saute for about 8 minutes.  Add the onions and peppers back to the pan, tossing to coat in the seasonings.  Cook for another two minutes.  Turn the heat to low and add your corn, just heating it through then removing from the heat.





Pico de Gallo

2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 handful cilantro (or parsley for a milder flavor), finely chopped
a dash of salt and pepper
a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce

Combine all these ingredients in a bowl and toss.  You can make this ahead of time and store in the refrigerator, or put it all together while your chicken is sauteing.  







Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Where I've Been



The above photo was me at the end of January this year.  This was the exact time that everything was hitting home for me, the time when I could no longer deny my state of mind or state of health.  

This past new year, I decided that I would begin focusing more on myself.  So, I have been.  I had a LOT of weight I needed to lose and even MORE happiness that I needed to find.  I was fed up with being tired and disgusted about continually growing out of my clothing.  I had spent way too long in denial about my personal state.  I was so sad - every day, every moment.  It was time to do something to make myself better, to make myself happy again.  So, in February I began eating clean.  Only lean meats and veggies, no grains, no sugar, no processed foods, always stopping to question whether the food I wanted was as close to the way God gave it to me for nourishment. And, that's the way it began.





 
I added in some light walking fairly soon after my eating was under control then worked my way up to power walking for an hour at a time.  After I could easily complete my hour of walking, I decided to up the ante again, so I began the Couch to 5K program in May.  It started slowly, alternating running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds.  It was HARD at first and I felt every second of my one minute runs, but with each workout I found that I had just a little more endurance than the time before.  Soon I was running for three minutes, then five minutes, then ten minutes, until finally, as of now, I can run 30 minutes non-stop.  That's equivalent to a 5K, or 3.1 miles, without stopping.  That is a HUGE accomplishment for me, a woman who has never ran before except when I needed to get away from a bee or something!  Late last week I finished my eighth week of C25K and I feel great.  Also, to mark the end of my program, I can say that I have officially lost 50 pounds.  50!  All the hard work has paid off.  I may not be where I want to be just yet, but I am 50 pounds closer to my goal.





The journey has been fairly easy, but then again, not without its moments of difficulty.  I have found that the difficulty is NOT in the food,  but in my mind.  I can be my own worst enemy.  There have been only a couple of hard moments that I've had to contend with.  Once in early June, I was having a hard time with cravings and verging on a binge.  And, the other time would have to be right now.  This week has been hard for some reason.  And, it's ironic that my difficult week is also the same week that I finish my C25K goal AND reached the first magic number in my weight loss goals.  Maybe I'm subconsciously putting too much stress on myself for things to go perfectly or wishing that things would move along faster than they are.  Maybe I'm disappointed that I'm not further along to my goals.  I don't know.  But, one thing is certain, nothing will get better as long as I entertain these negative thoughts.










That's why I have finally written this blog post.  I know it really just skims the surface of what's been going on, and the details surrounding every pound lost and every step taken are many.  But, I think that it's time I started sharing more, accepting more help, more advice, more encouragement.  It's time to stop doing it alone.   Don't get me wrong, the encouragement I have received from my immediate family has been amazing, but for some reason, I feel like I'm still hiding away.  Not from the shame of being overweight, but from being scared to fail.  So, I'm going to stop hiding away so much.  I'm going to start being as honest with others as I have been with myself. 






 Along with the struggles, I also want to record the victories from here on out.  I want to record how great it felt to finally buy a regular size XL shirt instead of one from the women's department or worse yet, one from the men's department as I was forced to do last January.  I want to remember moving down from a size 22 pant to my current size 16.  I don't want to forget how running has made me feel.  The pain of it, the strain of it, the burning in my lungs, the way sweat runs in my eyes, the way my face is as red as it can be, the way it makes me want to cry.  But, most importantly I want to record how every run makes me feel better about myself.  Self-confidence is being built with every step.  I feel stronger and as if I can do anything.



Both of these photos were taken yesterday, 7/15,  in the dressing room at the mall.  Both dresses were a size 14!  I wasn't comfortable enough in them to get them (or comfortable enough with the price tags, for that matter!) but it was fun to try them on!




 I also want to record the moments inside the dressing room as I try on sizes I haven't seen in years.  I want to try on clothes that I know I'll never actually buy just so I can see what I look like in something besides a tight pair of jeans and an oversized tee shirt.  I want to record how nice it is to buy normal sized clothing in regular stores.  I want to record all this because I don't ever want to go back to where I was.  I was in a dark, ugly place.  A place that scared me and I'm sure it even scared those around me.  A place where I hid away and didn't invite anyone in.  Ever.  I'm tired of hiding and of rejecting everyone around me.  One thing I've learned these past five months is that I have to DO things differently than I ever have before to get the different results that I desire.  That difference is including this bold (for me) honesty about my weight, my feelings, and my struggle.  So here I am.  Right now.  Being completely honest.

Hello World.  xoxo