Archive for April 21, 2011


When it comes to dinner for my family, the faster and easier the better. The trick is finding dishes that everyone will like. I live with some pretty picky people and they all like and dislike different things which makes things challenging (and frustrating at times). I’m not quite sure how we ended up this way because when my boys were little they ate pretty much everything good. Somehow along the way they decided they don’t like certain things anymore that they used to love. Hopefully it’s just a phase. My husband has been picky ever since I met him so that’s no big surprise. Now that I’m attempting to provide healthier food it’s even more challenging. You see, they all like pizza and hot dogs and french fries, but eating that way all the time isn’t exactly ideal.

Tonight, I decided to throw together a soup inspired by the ease of Sam the Cooking Guy’s tortilla soup. With plenty of ingredients in the cupboard I started throwing things together and it turned out better than I expected. Here’s the “recipe”. The ingredients are listed in the order I dumped them into the pot. The only thing I wish I had, but did not, was corn. Oh well. Next time. Oh, and maybe some green chiles. Shredded rotisserie chicken would work, too. Ok, the possibilities may very well be endless.

2 14.5oz cans Swanson chicken broth – 33% less sodium

about 1tsp minced, dehydrated onion

1 14.5oz can organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes with juice, crushed by hand (because I didn’t feel like washing the blender)

5 cloves of garlic, pressed

taco seasoning, chicken and tomato bouillon to taste (didn’t measure)

about 2tsp Mexican oregano, crushed (different from regular oregano, found in the Latino section)

about 3/4c Barilla Plus penne pasta, dry (added after the rest came to a boil and simmered for 12 minutes)

The entire pot of soup only had 725 calories, 3 grams of fat, 46 grams of protein, and 36 grams of fiber. Serves 4-8 depending on whether the soup is the main dish or a side.

I topped the soup with some shredded cheese and served it with salad and corn bread. I’m thinking it would’ve been really good with some freshly squeezed lime juice like Sam suggests for his Black Bean Soup (also easy and delicious).

Just as I thought, the kids found the frozen strawberries so my first shake of the day was Greenberry with mango puree from Trader Joe’s. I love that stuff. There have been too many times where I’ve shelled out good money for fresh mangoes, waited patiently for them to ripen and then cut them open to find they’ve turned brown even though they’re barely soft. No more! The frozen puree is perfect for shakes and it’s not stringy. Between the ice and mango I ended up with a very large shake. It didn’t all fit in the 16oz shaker cup. I just wish my camera did a better job of capturing the color. It’s actually much more vibrant and not really the color of pea soup.

I got a late start to my day (notice the time on the stove when I made my first shake) so I didn’t end up following the plan exactly. If I had weighed myself before I started I would’ve been more concerned with doing things exactly according to plan so I could share my results, but I got what I needed out of it. I definitely feel less fluffy, my clothes are fitting much better, and I’m hydrated again. And perhaps the most important benefit, I’m just interested in eating things that are good for me because I need them instead of eating whatever just for the taste. It’s amazing how much your mindset toward food can change in just three days. Once you realize how much better you feel after eating healthy you don’t want to go back to eating junk because you realize it’s just not worth it.

I had this idea that when I quit working outside the home somehow I’d be less busy. I suppose in some ways that’s true because technically I could sit around all day and do nothing, but doing nothing means nothing gets done. Ok, maybe that’s kind of obvious, but when my kids were little I managed to spend day after day doing just that. I didn’t neglect the kids, but I only did enough to make sure they were taken care of…and nothing more. Now they’re older and in school and without a job to go to my days all begin the same way, as a blank slate. I could just sit around playing games on facebook or watching TV, but I have actual goals now, things that matter to me and my family. Since I don’t have anyone telling me what to do all day long it’s up to me to make sure I’m getting everything done and you know what? There’s a lot to do.

I could spend all day working on building my fitness coaching business or blogging or walking around outside taking pictures and working out or cooking and cleaning, but that would mean neglecting everything else. For a while I thought I had it figured out. I went to bed at a decent time, got up early to get the kids off to school, started the laundry, took a walk, blogged about the walk and posted photos, worked out, had lunch, spent the afternoon working on my business and finishing up the laundry or cleaning, took the kids to basktball or karate, made dinner, helped the kids with homework, relaxed a bit and then headed to bed to start all over again. It was great and I was getting things done, moving toward my goals, but there was something missing…my husband.

Because he lives and works on a completely different schedule the only opportunity I have to spend quality time with him is late at night. Going to bed by 10:30, I was missing out on that and I felt us growing apart. One of the main reasons I decided to build a business is so he doesn’t have to work at night, allowing us all to spend more time together and for him to be able to sleep more than a couple hours at a time. If our relationship falls apart while I’m building it then it would all be kind of pointless. No amount of money can replace having a close, loving family.  I knew I had to make some changes and start balancing things better.

The first change I made was to stop walking at 8:15 every morning. Other than the occasional friend, no one was showing up to come with me from the apartment complex. I still get to walk, but I’m free to do it whenever it works and I can stay up later to spend time with my husband because I can go back to bed after everyone leaves for the day. I can tell he appreciates the time we spend together and our relationship is getting stronger by the day (or night). Now I have to shift my thinking  just as I’ve shifted my schedule. I have to get used to the idea of being more productive at night while I wait for him to be done working. I have to admit I’ve let some things slide with this transition.

I was thinking about all of this the other day while I was walking around the track at my son’s school, trying to figure out how to find balance again with all the things that need to get done. Then it hit me. The same thing that helps us balance physically helps in all aspects of life…a strong core. The core is the center of who we are, the things that drive us, our priorities. Some things are just more important than others and when we focus our attention on what matters most the rest will fall into place. I knew I had to go back to the goals I had made and look at the top priorities in my life (something I had done when I did Chalene Johnson’s 30-day Challenge…I highly recommend it) to figure out what to spend my time on and what could be pushed to the back burner.

Now that I’m seeing more clearly what I need to do the next step is to design my day by making a to-do list (also a valuable tool learned from the 30-day challenge). I used to hate the idea of a list controlling my day, but I’ve come to realize that you control the list…it doesn’t control you. By figuring out ahead of time what really needs to be done and checking back throughout the day to stay on track you actually create more free time because you get things done much faster. It’s really a beautiful thing, if you do it.

For someone like me it’s definitely a new habit that needs to be formed which isn’t always easy. But after experiencing the life-changing power of the list (that’s right, I said it…and mean it) I know it’s worth the effort. The key is to do it properly and the person to learn that from is the Queen of the To-Do List, Chalene Johnson. So if you need some help with balancing your life and figuring out what it is you really want and how to get it, click on the link for the 30-Challenge and get registered. What you will get from it is priceless (and it’s free). I’m done talking now and am going back to bed so what are you waiting for? 😉