Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Freezer Meal: Cilantro Lime Chicken

I’ve saved the best for last! This freezer meal recipe was BY FAR our favorite – twice over. 

First, we accidentally created a vegetarian option when I forgot to tell Kyle that the chicken was in a separate bag … and neither of us noticed the missing meat until I came home from work and found nothing but veggies in the Crock-pot. Oops! Kyle convinced me to try the filling in our taco shells anyway, and they turned out great (and of course, lighter in points). 

(NOTE: You'd think that since we made this twice, I would have taken a picture at least once ... alas, I did not. Sorry!)

Cilantro Lime Chicken - 6 points per serving for regular, 3 points for vegetarian (filling only - shells/rice and toppings extra points), serves 6

Ingredients
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or none for vegetarian!)
  • Juice from two limes
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 16-oz. bag of corn
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers (can substitute one bag of frozen pepper blend)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. each salt and pepper (more to taste)
Prep Directions
  • Place lime juice in small sandwich bag; place all seasonings in separate sandwich bag
  • Add chicken to large freezer bag; add remaining ingredients (beans, pepper, onion, garlic, corn, cilantro) in a separate large freezer bag
  • Seal all bags and stuff into one large freezer bag (or two if they don't all fit ... just don't forget one of them like we did!)
  • NOTE: The original recipe also calls for you to freeze a cup of shredded cheddar cheese in its own freezer bag ... but it's only used as a topping, so I left it off the list of ingredients
Cooking Directions
  • Remove bags from freezer and let thaw in fridge overnight
  • Dump all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours 
  • Serve in taco shells or on rice, with topping of choice: cheese, avocado/guacamole, sour cream, scallions, etc. 
This is the eighth of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. Thanks again to the Farm Bureau and Michelle for throwing a fantastic, tasty and educational event! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Disney World Planning Part II: Budget

In case you forgot (or in case you haven’t seen me in person and heard me obsessing over it …), I’m currently planning my family’s first visit to Disney World! Woohoo! I’m sharing my planning experiences to hopefully help other first-time planners/parents. My first post was all about research, but today, I’d like to talk about the next big hurdle you’ll encounter when planning a trip: the budget! 

How much does it cost?
Disney makes it seem easy to price a vacation. You simply visit their website, enter in some dates, choose a resort, add tickets, select a dining plan and … voila! You have your final price, right? WRONG. There are soooo many factors that go into that equation, and you can dramatically change your bottom line by shifting some key decisions and exploring all your options. 

The TouringPlans Blog has a detailed post explaining the various methods you can use to price your vacation – it’s a lot of detail, but it’s worth reading if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck!

Personally, I think it boils down to a few factors: 

Dates – Like a lot of vacation destinations, Disney World adwdjusts its pricing based on expected crowd levels – the bigger the crowds, the higher the prices. If you have the flexibility to visit at an off-peak time, you can save a lot of money. 

This is why the first step in WDW Prepschool’s six-step process is picking dates. You can use her crowd calendar or a myriad of others around the Internet that have the same basic information. Esentially, any time schools are out, you can count on Disney World being crowded. That’s why we decided to take our daughter out of school for our first trip – go ahead and judge me, but I think the savings in our budget (and sanity) will be well worth it. Plus, she’s only going to be in preschool; as she gets older, I don’t think that decision will be as easy. 

Transportation/lodging – In my opinion, these go hand-in-hand ... From the get-go, I knew we would be flying to Orlando. (I still have flashbacks to our loooong family road trip when I was 8 … plus, I drive enough on my commute to work.) So I immediately knew I needed to factor airfare into our budget. And then Disney sorta trapped me attracted me to stay at one of their on-site resorts because they offer Magical Express buses to/from the airport as well as free transportation (bus/boat/monorail) all around property. This means we don't have to figure out navigation/parking on our own ... DONE! 

Despite my preferences, I fully realize a lot of people choose to DRIVE to Orlando instead. This makes staying at an off-site resort more appealing because you already have a car and don't need to rely on any transportation. This is a HUGE money saver if you're looking to do Disney on the more frugal side. Do you think Disney is going to show you off-site resort/hotel prices on their website? Nope! This adds some complication to your research, but it can really cut your budget and take that Disney-generated price waaaay down. 

How can I save for it? 
My first piece of advice to anyone planning a Disney trip: It's never too early to start. Why? Well first of all, there's soooo much to learn, and you'll appreciate having the extra time to research all your options and make decisions based on what's best for your family. And second, you'll have more time to SAVE!  

Last year, before we booked ANYTHING, we opened a separate savings account just for our Disney fund, and our giant jar of change (every family has one, right?) was our first deposit. It wasn't much, but it was a start. Over the next six months or so, we were able to add a few larger deposits. 

After we’d made some more concrete decisions on lodging, tickets and food, I calculated how much we still needed to save. I took that amount and divided it by the number of weeks until our trip – then I had a weekly “payment” that was much easier to manage. With the magic of automatic banking transfers, our Disney trip was suddenly funding itself! 

Another thing we did? We opened a Disney Visa Rewards credit card … I realize not everyone is a fan of credit cards, but we decided to try the whole “charge everything, pay it off and keep the rewards” method … For us, it works! I am completely OCD about checking our account balance daily to be sure we’re not overspending, and I always pay the bill in full on the day we get the statement. I don’t wanna disclose how much we’ve received so far, but let’s just say we’re on track to fund our entire dining budget with rewards. BOOM! 

If you’re interested in more strategies for saving, check out these other websites I found helpful: 


If you’re starting to price your Disney vacation, I hope you found this helpful. Next up? How I got lucky got a hell of a deal on our resort ...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Freezer Meal: Curried Pork Loin with Sweet Plantains

Before I write about this recipeI need to disclose a few things:
  1. I did not know what a plantain was before the freezer meal party ... I honestly thought they were something like a tamale ... don't judge! So obviously I never tried one before ... 
  2. I'm not a fan of pork loin in general - yes, I've tried it several ways, but none of them really excite me
  3. The recipe recommends that you serve the dish over rice, but I didn't see that beforehand - instead, I cleaned out some leftovers in the fridge and served it with mashed potatoes and broccoli
So, let's say that you actually had tried plantains before, liked pork loin and served this dish with rice: Then I bet you'd like it a lot better than I did. I'm definitely NOT saying this dish was bad, but it's just not something that suited my taste buds. My husband really liked the pork loin's flavor, but he wasn't digging the plantains. I, on the other hand, actually liked the plantains better than the pork loin, but wasn't crazy about either.

I hope you'll try it for yourself and see! This could be a really unique dish in your rotation - defintiely not your run-of-the-mill freezer meal. 


Curried Pork Loin with Sweet Plantains - 6 servings, 13 points/serving (not including rice)

Ingredients
  • 2-lb pork loin
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each, salt and peper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 3 yellow/black plantains
  • 1 bag frozen chopped onion
  • 2 14.5-oz cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
Prep Directions
  • Place pork loin in freezer bag; place all spices in small ziploc bag, then add to pork bag and seal
  • In a separate large freezer bag, add onions, fire roasted tomatoes and chopped plantains and cilantro
  • Squeeze lime juice into small ziploc bag and add to veggie bag; seal 
  • Free both bags
Cooking Directions
  • Thaw ingredients completely
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees; place pork in center of a large baking dish and rub spice mixture all over it
  • Spread plantain/veggie mixture around the pork loin; reserve lime juice for serving
  • Bake for about 30 minutes or until pork reaches internal temperature of 145 degrees; remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving
  • Serve over rice; Drizzle with lime juice just before serving

This is the seventh of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Racecation Recap: Cedar Point Run and Ride

For once, I don’t have a lot of words for a race recap. I think I can sum up the Cedar Point Run and Ride Half Marathon weekend in a few bullet points:
  • Despite a few minor issues, our family had a pretty fantastic time in the parks (and in our cabin), which isn’t surprising since we’ve been vacationing at Cedar Point for years. Kenlee especially LOVED our “ba-cation” and rode every ride she could (she’ll be my coaster partner in a few years!). Her favorite part of the entire trip was playing in the water at Soak City. 
  • Steroids did the trick, and my sciatica didn’t bother me the entire weekend, including race day! (In case you don’t follow on Facebook, I’ve been having some trouble …) Because I wanted to run the race as a marathon training run, I took it easy and averaged around a 9:30 pace – finish time was 2:03:24, which is great, but I’m just happy I finished without any hip pain.
  • Most importantly: KYLE RAN HIS FIRST HALF MARATHON! He finished in 2:26:50, which beats my first half time by nearly 10 minutes! I know he was a bundle of nerves the night before the race and the morning of … but he managed to stay calm and run smart. Needless to say, I was soooo excited to see him coming toward the finish line still upright and looking strong. Trust me, I’ve ridden all the coasters at Cedar Point, but NOTHING was more thrilling than seeing him finish this race. So, so proud of him. 
Before I start to cry, I’ll just finish with some pictures.
  






I think that last one says it all. :)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dear Husband - Before You Run Your First Half Marathon

Dear husband,

Before you head out to run your first half-marathon, I'd like to tell you a few things. First of all: DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST. (I know I've already said this 20 times in the last week, but it's worth repeating ... I just want you to learn from my mistakes, OK? Also: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.)

Second, no matter how the race goes this weekend, I AM SOOOO FRICKIN' PROUD OF YOU. (Yes, the frickin' is necessary.) For I-don't-know-how-many weeks, you've been training for this and you've never once given up. Sure, not every run was perfect, but you ran anyway. You've done the work; you've taken the challenge. YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO IT. This race is just your victory lap.

Kyle and Kenlee after a stroller training run - LOVE!
I'll be honest, just a few years ago, I could have never imagined I could run a half marathon ... let alone that YOU can run a half marathon. (I know you won't hate me for that statement because we both know it's true... smooches!) You say I've inspired you ... but you've inspired me even more, I promise. As we've gone on this journey together, I've come to realize we BOTH have more strength and potential than we could ever know. It's been an honor to watch your incredible transformation.

So, remember how blown away you felt after my first half? How you kept saying, "Holy cow, I can't believe you just ran 13.1 miles?!" Take that feeling and multiply it by about a thousand. That's how I'll feel when I see you cross the finish line Sunday. (Plus, add a few tears ... we all know I'm a cryer.) Now, take the hunger you felt after running 12 miles last weekend, and multiple it by about 100. All those endorphins will burn some extra calories, and you'll never be so happy to see chicken wing in your life. :)

Not gonna lie, it's been nice having another runner in the house. You finally understand why I spend so much money on shoes, and you no longer roll your eyes when I suggest going to Under Armour just to see what they have. I'll also never forget our first family run a few weeks ago ... even though we didn't stick together, we were still out there being active, showing our daughter exactly what it means to work hard for all your dreams.

To wrap this up ... as you head out for your first half marathon, don't focus on the finish line - instead, focus on all the work you've done to get to the starting line. That's all that matters.

We love you. You've got this.

Love,
Tami

P.S. Don't go out too fast. Don't go out too fast. DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST! And hydrate.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Freezer Meal: Balsamic Roast with Roasted Carrots

You can't go wrong with a good roast, am I right?! This recipe has a lot of unique ingredients I wouldn't normally use in a roast (tamari, honey, red pepper, etc.), but the combination is DELICIOUS! And the carrots? Those would be the perfect side to a number of other dishes. I might need to add those to our regular vegetable rotation. 

Ingredients for Roast - Serves 6 (10 points per serving)
  • 3 pound beef roast (chuck or round)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1.5 tbs. tamari
  • 3 tbs. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
Ingredients for Carrots - Serves 6 (1 point per serving)
  • 2 pounds baby carrots
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
Prep Directions
  • Place roast in freezer bag; add all other ingredients and massage to combine, then seal and label (NOTE: After making the pork chops, I decided it would be much easier to combine the spices/liquids in the bag first, then add the meat and massage)
  • Place carrots in a separate freezer bag, and place spices in another separate, smaller bag and add to carrot bag; seal and label
Day of Directions
  • Remove both bags from freezer and let thaw in fridge 
  • Add roast to Crock-Pot and dump remaining ingredients on top
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours
  • About 45 minutes before serving, combine carrots, spices and 2-3 tbs. olive oil in a large blow; toss to combine, place on baking sheet and roast in over at 415 degrees for 45 minutes
  • Remove roast from crock pot, break apart slightly and add a bit of juice on top; serve with carrots
This is the sixth of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Freezer Meal: Simple Italian Burritos

OK, so you might be a little confused about the concept of an Italian burrito. I was too before I tried these. I'm telling you, they're AMAZING. These little buggers taste like lasagna made a love child with a chicken burrito - the result is delicious! They're so tasty, in fact, that I had TWO servings before I counted the Weight Watchers points ... Whoops! It was worth it though ;)

Simple Italian Burritos (Serves 6, 16 points per serving)
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds shredded chicken or ground chicken (cooked)
  • 8 oz. container whipped cream cheese (regular works too, but whipped is easier to mix)
  • 8 oz. jar of sundried tomato spread (can substitute 6 tbs. sundried tomato paste of jar of sundried tomatoes, chopped)
  • I was halfway done before I remembered to take a picture!
  • 6 flour tortillas
Prep Directions
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and sundried tomato spread well
  • In the center of a tortilla, spread roughly 3 tbs. of the mixture and top with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of chicken
  • Fold in ends of tortilla and roll; place in freezer bag 
  • Repeat with remaining ingredients; seal and label bag
Day of Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Remove desired amount of burritos from freezer and place on a baking sheet
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cooked through
  • Microwave option: Cook one at a time for about 4-5 minutes on high
This is the fifth of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Apple Balsamic Pork Chops

I'm normally not a big fan of pork chops, but I was definitely a fan of these! Not only was I completely impressed with the flavor, but I was also impressed that these came from ME, given the fact that I was the one who assembled this recipe at our freezer party. (So glad I didn't screw anything up ... at least not this bag!) 

Kyle loved these, too. And my dad happened to be over at our house for dinner the night we cooked these, and he also gave them two thumbs up! 

Apple Balsamic Pork Chops - 6 servings, 7 points each
  • 6 bone-in pork chops
  • 3/4 cup apple butter
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp each, salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp onion powder
Prep Directions
  • Place all ingredients in gallon-size freezer bag; massage bag until combined and chops fully coated
  • Seal, label and freeze
Cooking Directions
  • Remove chops the day before and let thaw in fridge
  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Dump contents into casserole dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until chops have internal temp of 145 
This is the fourth of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Freezer Meal: Honey Ginger Chicken

Did anyone see April? I'm not sure where the hell it disappeared to ... Oh well! I'm back in the blogging game, and I'm finally catching up on those freezer meal recipes I promised. To add to my awful blogger reputation, I forgot to take pictures for most of the remaining recipes. Just imagine it's delicious, OK?!

So here's what happened with the honey ginger chicken ... We didn't really like it at first. While Kyle and I did manage to clean our plates, Kenlee protested after the first bite (can't win 'em all, right?).

It wasn't bad ... It just wasn't all that great either. HOWEVER, Kyle and I turned the leftovers into something AMAZING! We cut the chicken into chunks and added them to bowls of brown rice and broccoli with some soy sauce - BOOYA! Everything was much better the second time around.

Honey Ginger Chicken - 4 servings, 11 points each

Ingredients
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced (or 5 tsp pre-minced)
  • 3 tbs. ginger paste
Prep Directions
  • Combine all ingredients in ziploc bag; mix, label and freeze
Cooking Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Pour chicken and sauce into baking dish and bake uncovered for about 35 minutes or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165
This is the third of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fly When You Need to Fly (A Race Recap)

As I type this, I am in pain. My quads are burning and my hips are aching. Every time I get up from my desk chair, I feel like my thighs and glutes are going to give out beneath me.

It's a delicious soreness that makes me grin from ear to ear.

The pain is a gift left over from racing the Towpath Half Marathon this weekend. To make a long story short: I nailed it. I ran smart, fast and free ... and I have a shiny new PR to prove it.

My Camelbak is much cuter than my medal, but that's OK.

When the field took off in front of me during the first mile (which was pretty much all downhill), I reined it in and found my pace. And when everyone slowed to climb two bridges, I put the pedal to the medal and coasted my way down the other side. I kept my head on straight and my focus on my body, not my watch. I decided to let my legs fly - after weeks of training, I trusted them to know what they had to do.

I thought about running with my brother, but he ran with the ponies when the gun went off, and I knew I couldn't hold that pace for long. Unfortunately, neither could he. Around mile 8 or 9, he hit a wall ... Around mile 11, I tapped him on the shoulder and said hello. I knew he was hurting, but I also knew I needed to push on - I still had gas in the tank, and my legs were still revving the engine.

Me and my brother Scott at the finish line ... we were both wrecked, but managed a smile. 
I gradually pushed and pushed, until I couldn't push any more. As I climbed the staggering hill at mile 12 (and again at mile 13!) I let myself slide into autopilot and just enjoy the satisfaction of knowing I was going to make it under goal. As I crossed the finish line, the race clock (gun time) said 1:57:11... a PR for sure (previous was 1:59:39)! Later, I was even more thrilled to learn my chip time was 20 seconds faster: 1:56:51. 

The Towpath Half Marathon wasn't a big race, nor was it all that exciting, but it was thoroughly satisfying for me. I proved to myself that training hard does pay off, even though illness and injury threatened to throw me off track. I also learned I need to listen to my body: Rest when you need to rest ... and fly when you need to fly.

Beautiful day + beautiful course = beautiful PR