Making Meal Prep a Habit

Whatever direction your life is taking you now, 8 months into the Covid 19 pandemic, I am certain you are busy. Besides work and family obligations we need to remember to take care of ourselves. Our health management is one of the best and most important parts of self care, and that includes keeping our physical strength up, and our metabolisms running efficiently. It’s not always easy to put ourselves first, but if we do a few basic things to take care of ourselves, we will perform better in the other aspects of our lives. Here are a few helpful hints from a meme I found on social media:

Happily, my life is very full at this point. I go to work every day (safely, and well distanced from others), I am in the pool at least 3 times a week, sometimes 4. On the rest of the days I take walks, and I start each day with 10 minutes of stretching. Plus I manage to fit in a bit of a social life. But no matter how busy, or tired I am on the weekends, I do my meal planning, my grocery shopping, and my meal preps. Meal planning and prepping are key not only to my weight management, but to my entire well being. My healthy, clean meals keep my body running like the machine I need it to be.

This week I made a super easy one pot recipe I found in one of my daily Hungry Girl newsletters this past week, a healthy chicken enchilada stir fry: https://www.hungry-girl.com/recipe-makeovers/chicken-enchilada-stir-fry. This recipe is loaded with healthy vegetables and yummy Mexican flavors. I doubled the recipe, as it was just for 2 servings. I’ll be eating this with jicama tortillas, or Ole Wellness whole wheat tortillas throughout the week.

Chicken Enchilada Stir Fry

To catch you up on last week, my husband and I had social plans on Sunday, so I threw together a tuna salad loaded with celery and red bell pepper. I had plenty of my chopped salad left from the previous week, and it was still good, so I added Trader Joe’s Power Greens to that, and had a satisfying, and healthy lunch for the week, last week. No recipe required.

Tuna salad on Trader Joe’s jicama tortillas and Chopped Veggie Salad on Power Greens dressed with TJ’s fresh Green Goddess dressing.
A little more inspiration for you

So, friends, make it a great week by making self care your first priority, and try to begin to turn some of those things into habits, like meal planning and prepping, and making time to exercise.

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Take Care of Your Heart

Watch the salt, my friends.

I don’t like “preachy” people, therefore I try not to be “preachy”. But friends, please take a look at your sodium intake. This subject was inspired by my October 2020 issue of Nutrition Action, a health periodical I have been receiving for years. It’s the best $20.00 a year I spend: https://cspinet.org/nutrition-action-healthletter. The article is “Salt Wars”, and is an interview with the author of the new book out by the same title https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/salt-wars. It explains how salt raises blood pressure, which caused hypertension. This increases our risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and more. The foods that are the biggest culprits are processed meats like bacon and cold cuts, frozen meals, prepared soups, and breads. But the foods that are highest in salt are restaurant meals. The bottom line is to be mindful of your salt intake. Try to stay away from processed foods, but if you do choose to use them, read the labels and compare products. Many chain restaurants post their numbers online. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to choose clean and healthy foods such as fresh produce, beans, low fat dairy, fish, and poultry rather than processed foods. Making these changes will not only lower your blood pressure, but will increase your potassium levels. Potassium is known to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Replacing sodium with potassium is the way to go. End of lecture.

/This week I made my own granola! Low fat, low calorie, low sugar, low point granola is one of the hardest things to find in the grocery store. I have scanned many a bag of granola at all different markets, and end up putting them all back on the shelf. The only one I’ve found that I like can only be purchased online, and it’s getting more expensive each time. But it’s really good, and I recommend it to those of you who love a good granola, and don’t want to take the time to make your own. It’s Julian Bakery Pro Granola, Vanilla Cinnamon Cluster. It’s 97 calories for a 1/2 cup serving, which is 2 points: https://julianbakery.com/product/progranola-vanilla-cinnamon-cluster/.

I used this recipe I found online: https://cookieandkate.com/healthy-granola-recipe/. I followed it pretty closely. I made 2 changes. One was successful, the other was a big mistake. The good news is, it still came out delicious, and cost me pennies per serving on the dollar. I figure it is about 4 points for a 1/4 cup serving. Since I use it to top my yogurt bowl, I’ll be using about 2 tablespoons per serving. The author of the recipe encourages you to use whatever nuts and dried fruits you want in your granola. I chose raw walnut halves, raw sliced almonds, and (here is the flub) roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds, or pepitas. Since the granola is baked, the pepitas are essentially roasted a second time, and they came out bitter. Lesson learned. Buy the raw pepitas. I don’t eat dried fruit any more. That is one of the things I gave up completely when I started with WW. It’s really high in sugar. I had freeze dried raspberries in the house. I reconstituted about 1/4 cup of them and tossed them in to the granola mixture with 1/4 cup of coconut flakes as well. The recipe author gives a choice of sweetener for the granola, and I chose maple syrup over honey. Since we are talking about salt today, I should alert you that there is 1/2 teaspoon in the entire recipe. Note that a little salt in recipes brings out the flavors of the ingredients.

Homemade Granola Baby Boomer Mermaid style

My meal prep this week was salmon pinwheels from Trader Joe’s and a simple chopped salad with Persian cucumbers, radishes, a red bell pepper, shredded carrots, and green onions, which I will toss over fresh arugula. I’ll be dressing that with Trader Joe’s fresh Green Goddess salad dressing. I had been eying the salmon pinwheels there for weeks. They are a fresh salmon filet rolled into a beautiful pinwheel stuffed simply with spinach and feta cheese. These only give me 2 days worth of lunch preps, but I have Trader Joe’s frozen shrimp burgers in the house, as well as Dr. Praeger’s Garden Veggie Burgers, either of which will also go great with my fresh chopped salad.

Salmon pinwheels. I put a little avocado oil in the bottom of my baking dish, and just seasoned these with freshly ground black pepper. I baked them in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. The internal temperature of salmon should be 135-140 degrees when done.
Fresh chopped salad prep for the week

The take away from this week’s blog is to be mindful of the prepared foods you choose. This week, I used a prepared fresh salmon product, as well as a bottled salad dressing. I made sure that the ingredients were clean and fresh, not overly processed. It’s great to use convenience foods. Just read the labels.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope I have inspired you to take better care of yourself. Make it a great week!

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Surprise Delivery Delivers Fresh Inspiration

My good friend, and WW Tribe Member, Stacey, has been receiving deliveries from Imperfect Foods https://www.imperfectfoods.com/ pretty much since quarantine began back in March. She went from almost never cooking, to cooking for herself every day, every meal. She receives this delivery twice a month along with meal preps from Blue Apron https://www.blueapron.com/, and twice monthly shopping trips to Trader Joe’s. She has lost 30 lbs in the last 6 months just by making this one change – cooking fresh, clean, homemade meals 3 times daily. When you are eating out for most meals, even if you think you are making good choices you don’t really know what the salt and sugar contents are in the foods that you are eating. We can all take a lesson from Stacey, and up our cooking and clean eating games. She has been a true inspiration to me, and to our other tribe members who have been stalled in their own weight loss journeys.

Because every week Stacey tells me of the treasures that arrived from Imperfect Foods (broccoli leaves, her new favorite – who knew?), I became intrigued. I am in a different situation. I love to cook, as does my husband, and we only go out once a weekend for lunch or brunch. Since quarantine started we have brought in food exactly twice, and those were planned “treat” meals. But I was intrigued, as I said, so I signed up for the service. I did not go through with placing my order this week though, or so I thought, and on Thursday I got a text that my box was on it’s way. I panicked a little, since this wasn’t planned, but ended up taking it in stride. Here is what I got:

My Imperfect Foods Delivery Detail. (By the way, I did not get just 1 of each of the produce varieties mentioned. I got 3 beautiful peaches, 3 perfect little red pears, and 2 roma tomatoes.)

I had put in a few preferences such as fruit and vegetables (unspecified), salmon, and ground turkey. Most things on the list shown above are things that I would normally eat. There are a couple of challenging items here though. Can you guess which ones? The Shishito peppers, and the dragon fruit. Never tasted either one.

The Shishito peppers became my inspiration for my lunch prep this week. I found an Asian Turkey and Rice Bowl recipe on line that featured pickled Shishito peppers as a garnish. Of course I had to spin both of these recipes to fit my Baby Boomer Mermaid eating and cooking style, and that is exactly what I did. First the original recipes: https://sweetphi.com/asian-ground-turkey-rice-bowls-recipe/#wprm-recipe-container-18205 and https://eatsimplefood.com/quick-pickled-shishito-peppers/.

In the turkey rice bowl I used Trader Joe’s Risoni lentil rice instead of white rice, and I added diced red bell pepper and green onions to the ground turkey meat. I omitted the sugar from the recipe, and cut the soy sauce in half, by using coconut aminos for half of the liquid. So I slashed the sugar and salt in my prep significantly. For the pickled peppers I found a quick pickle recipe that didn’t have sugar as one of the ingredients. Sugar is usually prevalent in pickling recipes. I also added the shredded carrots and more green onions to the pickled Shishito peppers. The more veggies the better!

The dragon fruit was my next challenge. Most recommendations online were for smoothies. But I don’t use smoothies. I was told early on in my WW journey that blended fruit does not promote weight loss. I honestly never fully looked into it, but here is a comprehensive article that explains: https://www.treehugger.com/why-is-whole-fruit-healthier-than-smoothie-4868770. I diced up the dragon fruit, which is a truly beautiful thing, and plan to use it in my breakfast yogurt bowls this week along with my blueberries. I gave it a taste, and found it quite bland. As pretty as it is, it was one of the most expensive items in the box, and I would not choose to get it again.

Breakfast yogurt bowl prep.

I did not publish anything the previous 2 weeks. The Jewish high holidays fell on the weekends, and although I did not spend them with my family or attend services as I normally do, I still took some time for myself to reflect on the past year, and the coming one… which will hopefully bring more peace, health, and happiness to all mankind. This past year certainly sucked. Bring on 5781!

I still did my meal planning and prep though. 2 weeks ago I bought sliced turkey meat, a multi grain bread, and 2 prepared soups from Trader Joe’s. I highly recommend the Spicy Pozole Verde. It’s a must try!

Easy soup and sandwich combo takes away the meal prep but not the planning.

Last week I put together a little quick stir fry that was inspired by a Martha Stewart chow mein recipe https://www.marthastewart.com/1512441/chow-mein. Again here, I slashed the salt and sugar and made a yummy Asian noodle dish. I used shirataki noodles, which have almost no calories, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirataki_noodles, omitted the sugar in the recipe, and used coconut aminos in place of half of the soy sauce. I also used chicken breast in place of the chicken thighs, and added snap peas. I was really happy with the result.

Chicken Chow Mein Baby Boomer Mermaid Style

I hope Stacey and I have inspired you today. I feel that she has been my partner in today’s blog. My goal here is to inspire you to be mindful, take good care of yourself, and eat healthy, and clean. I hope I achieved that today. Please feel free to send any comments or questions to me any time.

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Make it a great week!

In Gratitude

Finally caught up on my sleep the last couple of nights. I woke up today feeling good. My first thoughts were of how lucky I am. Sure, work is immensely stressful, and no real money is coming in. Sure our home is in need of a lot of updating and repair. BUT – I have my health and my mobility. I have a job with a lot of earning potential. I own my home, and it is 14 blocks from the Pacific Ocean. AND I have a wonderful, supportive husband who has a heart of gold and who cooks dinner every night, and 2 adorable, loving kitty cats. I have a loving and supportive extended family, and I have THE BEST friends. I could not get through the stresses of the pandemic without all of these people in my life. I am extremely grateful.

Recently, finally, my local pool reopened. We are required to reserve our lanes 3 days in advance, and often the portal gets jammed, and we can’t get in on the days and times we want. Also, the pool is closed Sundays and Mondays, and the hours are much shorter. I know. First world problems. I wasn’t able to swim yesterday, but learned of a Masters Swim Class starting today, so I decided to join. That is the reason for the early meal prep and blog. The bonus is, my swim crew will be there too. Excited for us all to be together for the hour, swimming together like the old (pre-pandemic) days.

This is what the pool looks like when we arrive for our lane reservation. A far cry from what it normally looks like on a summer afternoon. At least there are still a few children there taking lessons.

Because of my busy day today, I planned and shopped for my meal prep yesterday. I chose to make an easy, no cook garbanzo bean Greek salad. I will pair that with a pesto turkey sandwich this week. If I get tired of the turkey (which I’m sure I will… ) I also have tuna, and smoked salmon in the refrigerator, shrimp burgers, and veggie burgers in the freezer, so I’m prepared to change it up. The important message here is to have delicious low calorie, low fat, low point choices on hand so we don’t get bored or in a rut.

Easy no cook garbanzo bean Greek Salad for lunch this week. The dressing is my old stand by, the WW red wine vinaigrette: 1/3 c. olive oil/ 1/3 c. red wine vinegar/ 1/3 c. water. I added a diced shallot, dried oregano, s&p to season. To the salad, I’ll add arugula and fresh San Marzano tomatoes as I dole out my portions during the week.
Using this 70 calorie/ 2 point sliced multi grain bread, and kale, cashew, basil pesto on my turkey sandwich this week.

Time to go! Gotta eat my yogurt/ berry bowl, and get ready to meet the girls at the pool. Wishing you all a wonderful week. Take care of yourselves. Take a moment to reflect on all that is good in your lives.

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Birthday Week

During the Pandemic

And so begins my birthday week during the pandemic. I honestly don’t mind celebrating quietly. We did that for my husband’s birthday in April when things were really shut down. It’s more about missing celebrating with my dear lifelong friends who also have birthdays this month. One good thing – my local pool is finally reopening this week. I swim on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since mid March. I just cannot wait. My poor sore, orthopedically challenged body is ready for the water! Happy Birthday week to me!

I kept it simple this week again for my lunch prep. I was inspired by a meal prep I found on my new favorite culinary blog, https://www.flavcity.com/. Here is the link to the prep that inspired me: https://www.flavcity.com/low-fat-meal-prep. I made marinara turkey meatballs and a zucchini, summer squash, and tomato saute to accompany them. I realized that if you start any saute with good olive oil, onions, and garlic you can add any vegetable you want and it will turn out yummy. I seasoned the veggie mixture liberally with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. The main dish is Trader Joe’s Frozen Fully Cooked Turkey Meatballs, and my new favorite marinara sauce. Silver Palate Low Sodium Marinara (found at Ralph’s) is 60 calories/ 3 points for a 1/2 cup serving. But it is just 6% sodium, and has 0 added sugars. The ingredients are clean and pure. No preservatives. And it’s delicious. The turkey meatballs are processed, but still fairly clean, and of course convenient to prepare, and delicious to eat. They are 100 calories/ 3 points for a serving of 2. I am having 3 meatballs per serving for lunch for 4 points.

The fixings for this week’s lunch prep.
And the finished products. The Parmesan cheese mix will top my lunch plate.

I am switching it up just a little for breakfast this week too. I have been having non fat Greek yogurt bowls with bananas, blueberries, flax meal, and chia seeds, along with a hard boiled egg each morning, along with my mock chai tea latte (Trader Joe’s chai spiced tea bags with unsweetened vanilla almond milk). It’s good, but it’s getting boring (not the tea; must have my chai tea in the morning). I got inspired by this egg stuffed peppers idea I found on Pinterest: https://skinnyms.com/egg-stuffed-peppers. I substituted the cheese for Nutritional Yeast (https://www.marthastewart.com/7796957/nutritional-yeast-explained). Less fat and calories, but a nice cheesy flavor. I will still have my yogurt bowl in the morning, in a smaller portion, and one of these.

Super simple, healthy veggie and egg prep for the morning

Make it a great week my friends. Stay safe, stay healthy, wear your mask, and wash your hands. Thanks so much for stopping by. Any critiques, questions, and comments are always welcome.

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Quick Meal Preps for Busy Weekends

Busy work weeks translate to busier weekends. Happily, I am maintaining the balance of getting things done vs down time. It just requires a little more planning. I am now writing things down and keeping a calendar, so that now everything fits in the way I want it to. Honestly, the only piece of my puzzle that is missing is swimming. When that opens up, I will pivot again, as to ensure the harmony that I so desire.

In addition to my meal preps needing to be quick, easy, clean (not processed) foods, anti inflammatory diet friendly, as well as low in calories and WW points, they also need to be easy to put together in the morning as well as in my work place when getting ready to eat them. I don’t ask for much ;).

Today I put together a quick and easy ground chicken taco mixture. I started my sauteing my diced red onions in a skillet, then adding the chicken, which I seasoned simply with s&p, a generous amount of cumin, dried oregano, and a couple of the frozen garlic cubes. I added canned diced tomatoes with chilies, a can of mild diced green chilies, and a can of pinto beans, which I drained and rinsed. I also ended up adding some frozen spinach. As I was cooking, I realized needed more veg, specifically a dark leafy green (for that anti inflammatory aspect I want every week).

Here is my lunch side salad for this week. Cabbage slaw mixed with broccoli slaw, dressed with Bolthouse Farms Coleslaw Yogurt dressing for 50 calories/ 1 point for 2 tablespoons. By the way, I have 2 tablespoon containers I use, so my dressings are always pre-measured.
Full Meal. Lunch prep, ready to pack. BTW, the cheese gets packed in a 2 tablespoon container same as my salad dressings. Pre-measuring is key for me.

Last week I did a different easy lunch prep that involved very little time, and very little cooking. I did a Greek salad with a little roasted chicken breast. I made a super simple red wine vinaigrette for this. It’s 1/3 cups red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup water, a half teaspoon each of s&p, and I added dried oregano because it was for a Greek salad, after all.

Beautiful fresh ingredients for my Greek salad with roasted chicken breast. Not shown are the Trader Joe’s light feta, and kalmata olives that made the salad so tasty.
The final dish

I hope that these quick and easy lunch preps inspire you to find your own that make you happy. Meal planning and prep do not have to be complicated, or take all day. The interwebs are full of great ideas. It is so easy these days to find culinary inspiration, and to hack a recipe to fit your dietary needs and desires. Here is a short list of some of my favorite blogs/ websites for meal prep inspiration:

https://www.hungry-girl.com/recipes

https://thepounddropper.com/

https://skinnyms.com/category/recipes/

https://www.flavcity.com/

https://diethood.com/

Make it a great week, my friends. Stay safe and healthy. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Take good care of yourselves.

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