Easy Vegetable Lasagna Skillet

 

finished bowl first image

I’M BAAAAACK! Well, technically I never left. Buuuut let’s just say that adding our youngest child to the craziness of our family left me with slightly less time to blog. ūüėČ But now that the littlest is a little bit older, I’m back and simply rarin’ to go with sharing healthy recipes, fitness motivation, and likely some funny stories of this hot mess of a mom on a mission to live life¬†healthy!

Today has been EVENTFUL, man. And it’s not even 4:00pm! I always have to laugh when we tuck little Gracie girl in for nap, because I tell her, “Sweet dreams, sweetie. Have a good nap.” And she in response tells me to have a nice nap, too. {IF ONLY WE NAPPED WHEN OUR CHILDREN NAPPED.} Eeeeeee! But I digress…back to the craziness of today.

We were getting our entire family of 5 ready for a walk/run, since it’s slightly warmer than frigid here in our corner of Wisconsin. 40 degrees in March around these parts means you get outside and enjoy it while it lasts! That is, we WERE getting our entire family of 5 ready to head outside UNTIL my hubby stepped in a lovely gift left for us in the backyard by our dog, Kora. So just the big kids and I headed out, while he stayed back to tidy up!

Here are the big kids, enjoying the last of their lunch-on-the-go. We ran for almost 2 miles today. Not as long as I would’ve liked while I’m training for this half marathon, but we had talked about everything from pine cone collections to what houses are made of to the 3 Little Pigs, and I decided I’d get another workout in later at home instead of a longer run. Sometimes I just have to concede defeat to the craziness!

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The little cow and sock monkey on our run.

After we were sufficiently tired out and every question known to man was answered, they went down for nap. And I got to work in the kitchen creating a SUPER easy veggie lasagna skillet to share with all of you!

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Seriously, guys. It was amazing. And warm, cheesy, ooey-gooey, and all of the things we love about lasagna – it just took a fraction of the time, is healthy, spot on with the 21 Day Fix eating plan, leaves leftovers, AND has relatively hidden vegetables. #momwin

I’m 100% on plan with 21 Day Fix nutrition these days, after upping my caloric intake while I was breastfeeding the little guy. Now that I’m back to following it to a T, I like to get creative with still giving my family recipes they love, but ones that save me time and don’t require me to make multiple different dishes per meal. Because ain’t nobody got time for that nonsense. ūüôā

So here’s the recipe, because I CANNOT keep this one all to myself!

Easy Vegetable Lasagna Skillet (serves 8)

Ingredients:

2 lbs extra lean ground beef

4 cups whole grain shell pasta

1 cup onion, diced

3 cups spinach

4 cups sugar-free tomato sauce

15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese

2 cups mozzarella cheese

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Brown beef over medium heat in skillet; drain.
  2. Add onions, tomato sauce, onion powder, and garlic powder; stir.
  3. Add spinach; cover skillet to wilt.
  4. Mix in ricotta cheese; stir. Turn to low.
  5. While the flavors of the sauce are combining, prepare your pasta.
  6. Combine in one skillet to serve.
  7. ENJOY! Because for real…it’s freaking delicious!

And for my fellow 21 Day Fixers, the container count per serving is: 1.5 red, 1 yellow, 1/2 purple, 1/2 green, 1 blue.

side by side

Goodbye, old friend.

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Oh…adulting. Sometimes it truly sucks. And sometimes, just sometimes, you think to yourself after a really hard decision, “Man, I’m a sheer IDIOT for not doing that sooner.”

 

In this case, I’m talking about the super adulty decision of cutting ties with someone who you used to consider a close friend.

 

This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make as a grown-up person. Which apparently I am now, since I’m married, in my thirties and have three kids. Who woulda thunk? But when I finally put on my big girl pants and did it, it was like this huge freaking weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

 

The clouds parted.

The sound of angels singing softly trickled down from the heavens.

Off in the distance a lovely rainbow appeared.

 

Okay, FINE. Not really.

 

But it sure as hell made my life a lot less cringe-worthy, and I felt like I could finally BREATHE. No more lies. No more pretending.

 

Look – people change. That’s the cold, hard truth. And sometimes people just plain aren’t who we thought they were in the first place. There is only so much garbage one person can put up with over the years and still be willing to call something a friendship.

 

If someone is causing you pain over and over and over again, and never seeming to care?

 

Goodbye.

 

Yes, this may seem harsh. Especially if you’re invested in the friendship, and have some mutual friends. But if you honestly can think about your life and feel like it would be so much more uncomplicated and messy and stressful…do it.

 

Because looking out for yourself is NOT wrong. There’s a reason why they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first when the plane is going down.

 

You should NOT have to rip yourself into pieces to keep others whole. Self-care is important. YOU are important. And for me, when I finally came into my own as an adult and realized my value, I knew I needed to reassess certain friendships.

 

A true friend is someone who is happy for your happiness.

Who is sad for your sadness.

Someone who has your back.

Someone who you can turn to and know you won’t be judged. Criticized. Looked down upon.

 

THOSE are the keepers. Find the friends like that in your life and hang on like hell. Because none of us are getting any younger, and having a true friend or two standing by your side on this crazy ride called life really makes it a whole lot sweeter.

 

 

Resolution Solution

A friend posted an article on social media yesterday that really hit home and drove me crazy all at the same freakin’ time. Honestly, I loved parts of it. But the rest got me all kinds of fired up.

It was all about how women should accept themselves the way they are at the beginning of each year, and decide to love themselves instead of putting any focus on changing, or (gasp!) resolutions. Which, in theory, is an absolutely WONDERFUL idea.

…In a perfect world.

Because unless you’ve actually been the chubby little girl getting picked on for being the first girl to have to wear a bra in her class.

Or the young adult going to bed at night and praying she looked like her skinny best friends when she woke up in the morning.

Or the grown woman wearing a size 26 and completely ashamed to look in the mirror…

DON’T tell me to stop wanting to change myself.

I know I’m a good, kind-hearted person on the inside. I try my hardest to be the best mom and wife I can be. I work hard in my business to help people and make an honest difference in their lives every. single. day. There isn’t a thing about any of those qualities in myself that I would change.

But does that mean I shouldn’t have a desire to change my outward appearance? To make ME feel more beautiful?

We could start the conversation about society and it’s pressures and unrealistic expectations that it puts on women and blah bitty blah blah blah. We ALL know that’s a serious issue, and I don’t mean to minimize it. But is that changing anytime soon? Nope.

Are kids getting less vicious with bullying? Nope.

Is the world of social media and magazine covers with crazy photo-shopping making things any easier? Nope.

But when it comes right down to it, I don’t want to change me for any of THEM, I want to do it for ME. For my family. To be able to run around and play with my kids and not get winded. To not develop any medical issues due to my weight that could keep me from spending as many years with them as possible.

There are PLENTY of things I wouldn’t change about myself.

My weight just isn’t one of them.

 

 

 

Struggling to get the kids to EAT?

So…I’m running this free healthy eating group with recipes that are family-friendly on good ole Facebook. My inspiration? My little guy, who is almost 18-months, has been struggling to eat his vegetables. My 3-year old daughter Gracie gobbles them up – first, no less – but Parker barely touches them. No amount of choo-choo trains, me eating them to show how delicious they are, or even liberal amounts of “sprinkley cheese” will get him to like them.

Enter some of these recipes. MOM WIN. Like Рme dancing in the kitchen as he eats them, celebrating.

So why not share?

Here’s my first creation!

Banana Veggie Muffins

Banana Veggie Muffins

2 large eggs
3 cups (6 large) very ripe bananas
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup grated carrots
3/4 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup maple syrup or raw honey
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
Cooking spray (I use my Misto – it’s super handy!)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and spray non-stick muffin tins with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add bananas and mash well. Add remaining ingredients, except flour, and whisk to combine. Now add flour and gently stir until well incorporated. Do not over mix otherwise muffins will be tough!
3. Fill each tin with batter and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let muffins cool for about 5 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool off completely.

I served mine to the kids this morning with a hard boiled egg and some fresh raspberries. Delicious! Hope you enjoy!

THE FEAR

I shared a little bit recently about how I’ve lived with a constant fear of failure for most of my life.¬†An overpowering, undeniable dread in the pit of my stomach that I am incapable of success when it comes to my weight loss journey. Of finally seeing something through. Of keeping my blinders on, setting my goals, and actually accomplishing them.

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago about how we were raised. How we haven’t necessarily had shining examples when it comes to having a healthy relationship with food or our¬†body image. Those formative years are, well, formative. Being told you have “thunder thighs” or that you actually COULD probably use to lose a few pounds after your brother teases you for being fat isn’t exactly conducive to a healthy self-worth. But I’m not here to complain about my childhood, because if anyone has ever had a perfect childhood in the history of EVER – you seriously deserve one heck of a gold star.

What I AM here to talk about is what you choose to do about it. How you can CHANGE. How you can take those old views, take the old you, and TRANSFORM.

Losing over 85 pounds has sure taught me a thing or two about dedication. About perseverance. About how sometimes you just have to get out of your own darn head and DO THINGS to change your life. If you’re unhappy, staying in the same place and allowing yourself to remain stagnant is NOT an option. Sticking to the same bad habits will get you nowhere and FAST. You will never regain happiness or find self-worth that way. And honestly,¬†being constantly unhappy with yourself is no way to live.

If you TRULY want to make changes in your life and in your health, you just have to START. Decide where you want to see yourself in six months. In one year. Who is the person you want to be? You CAN accomplish your goals. So can I. Because honestly, nothing holds us back more than our own insecurities.

Get out there. Set goals for yourself. Get out of your own head, and out of your own way. Your journey will likely be perfectly imperfect, just like mine. But a journey is a journey, and there’s no better day to start than today. ‚̧

I blinked…and then she was three.

I had a moment of clarity last night. It hit me HARD. My baby girl will be three years old this week. How is that even possible?

Gracie girl.
Gracie girl. ‚̧

She was this tiny, sleepy, smiley little bundle of joy from the minute she arrived. She had a head full of curls as soon as her hair got long enough. She waited to giggle until we thought we couldn’t stand being patient for one more second, and when¬†she let out her first squeal of glee I felt as though I could leap over mountains with joy. She captures my heart with every twirl of her hair, every raised brow, every question, every made-up song, every silly dance move, every strum of her ukulele. She will have me in the palm of her hand forever.

When our¬†son was born, I was handed a piece of wisdom – just because Gracie¬†is the oldest now doesn’t mean she’s big yet. And I honestly think it has taken 14 months for that to sink in.

She woke up crying in the middle of the night last night Рa rarity these days. She was clearly dreaming, sat up, and started bawling. Her Daddy and I rushed up the stairs to comfort her. It was in that moment, when I watched him snuggle her and carry her to use the bathroom, that it hit me Рshe will ALWAYS be our baby. No matter how old she gets. No matter how much she grows and changes, that will remain constant.

Right now she¬†has this ferocity about her. Everything has to be just to her liking; just the way she envisions it. She¬†can run into your arms with such abandon that the weight of her body against you, the weight of her trust in you, fills your entire soul with happiness. My heart stops in those moments, knowing that with time all of this will change, and new, magical things will take their place. And while I can’t wait, I already mourn the loss of each stage we have passed¬†these last three years.

She is changing. She is growing. She makes me proud every single day. And I can’t wait for all of the exciting things to come.

I’m not special.

Read that title? Seriously – I mean it. I’m NOT.

I shared something super personal about my journey as a Team Beachbody Coach today. I have been debating whether to share it for almost two weeks now. I won’t get into it here. It’s not my point.

I had someone almost immediately message me and tell me that I shouldn’t have shared it. That I was sending the wrong message. That somehow sharing my story – my TRUTH – isn’t allowed. That bothered me. A LOT.

See, the thing is – I’m NOT special. I’m just a wife and a mom. I decided last fall that I was going to change my life. I was determined, set goals for myself, and have seen the results of consistently reaching those goals. I’m NOT claiming to be a fitness or nutrition expert. I’m NOT claiming I have everything in my life figured out. But I AM sharing my journey. How I’ve lost over 85 pounds and kept it off. How I fight inner demons every single day to not revert back to the way I used to live. How sharing my story has changed not only my life, but the lives of my family. How I could finally ditch that corporate job that made me miserable and stay at home with my kids.

Gracie and me. Being silly. Nothing special.
Gracie and me being silly. Something we get to do every day now. ‚̧
Life can get hard. People can try to shoot you down. I knew when I started this journey that was bound to happen. The thing is – you need to keep your chin up. You need to have faith and hope in your OWN journey. You need to be able to look those naysayers in the eyes and say, “That’s fine, you don’t have to agree with it. But I’m doing this for ME and MY FAMILY.”

Because when you get right down to it – your journey is about YOU. Dream big. Inspire people along the way. Know that you can’t change the unwilling.

Be true to yourself. And if being true to yourself means clearing out your sister’s dresser to make yourself a hideaway – so be it. DO YOUR THING.

Parker's hideaway.
Parker’s hideaway.

Bugger off, rain. I’m choosing SUNSHINE.

I had a rough morning. One of those mornings where you want to throw a conniption fit, stomp out of a room, and cry for about 3 hours. THAT kind of a morning. UGH.

But this afternoon I have an entirely different perspective. The attitude of others, while it can sometimes be upsetting, does NOT have to reflect on how I think of myself. I do NOT have to let that negativity seep into my daily life.

People will doubt you. People will think you’re messing everything up and doing everything wrong. Heck – you might be. But if you’re doing your best and trying as hard as you can, STAY STRONG.

Believe in yourself. Follow your dreams. Work toward your goals. Be the shining ray of sunshine in the gloomy, rain cloud of a world.

Choose happiness.

The phone call that just can’t happen.

For a second I forgot you were gone today, Dad. I was mindlessly folding laundry and heard a commercial on Pandora that mentioned remembering to call your parents. For that one split second I had the fleeting thought, “Oh! I should call Dad.”

And then it hit me. It hit me as hard as it did the day you were diagnosed with a stage IV brain tumor. As hard as it did the day we lost you. That phone call is never going to happen again.

Miss you.
Miss you.
A lot.
A lot.

I should have called more when I had the chance. I should have been more present in your life despite the hundreds of miles between us. A few more phone calls. More texts, when that was something you were still able to do. I got so busy with life and the kids and didn’t cherish what little time we had left with you.

I just didn’t want to face that you wouldn’t be here to watch Gracie and Parker grow up. That you wouldn’t be around to visit and cheer them on at their baseball games and dance recitals. It just hurt my heart too much.

You’d laugh pretty hard at how I snapped out of these thoughts, though. I heard Gracie say, “Ewwwww, Parker!” and ran into his room to discover him with a used Q-Tip in his mouth. Somehow in the minute he was out of my sight he managed to get into his garbage. I can almost hear your laugh in my head right now.

I miss you, Dad. I’ll never NOT miss you. But hopefully someday my heart will hurt a little bit less.