How to Resist Foods-And Why I’m Giving Up Chocolate for the Month of June

Here’s why I decided to take on this challenge-I want personal growth of not relying on chocolate to be the only satisfying food in my life. Immediately after dinner I’ll want chocolate and it doesn’t matter if I’m full from dinner or not, I just want it, so I’ll eat it regardless. However, I’ve realized that the foods you don’t have in your home means you can’t eat them. It’s been YEARS since I’ve walked down the cookie and soda aisle to pick up a box of cookies or bottle of soda. I realize now I can incorporate this same method into buying healthier items instead of something chocolatey for after dinner-like ice cream, chocolate ice cream sandwiches, etc. Last year, I realized that every time I bought a regular size tub of ice cream I’d devour it in a LESS THAN A WEEK. Once I caught on to doing this, I stopped buying it, again, I didn’t walk down the ice cream aisle.
I’m not saying I’m never going to buy or eat chocolate again. I’m doing this experiment to see how much will power I have to go without chocolate for one month and to make myself eat healthier options after dinner and on the weekends as a snack.
Here are my tips when it comes to self-resistance of chocolate or any food you’re trying to avoid while shopping at the grocery store:
1. Have a positive mindset-Tell yourself that you’re taking on this challenge for a good reason. Decide what you want to substitute chocolate (or any food) for. For me, this is fruit-raspberries, grapes, blackberries or blueberries. While I know fresh fruit can be pricey, it’s also substituting for the chocolate I’m not buying, which ultimately costs the same price.

2. Do not walk down the grocery aisle that the food you need to avoid is in-This is simpler than it sounds. If you’re trying to avoid eating cookies, don’t walk down the cookie aisle. IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE FOOD IN YOUR HOME, YOU CAN’T EAT IT. This is why it’s important to make substitutions instead of going cold turkey. Because I’m use to eating chocolate after dinner, my rule is to either make dinner portions big enough so I’m full or subbing chocolate for fruit.
**If for some reason you have to walk down this particular aisle, be mindful by telling yourself not to stare at the items and keep walking.

3. Give yourself a timeline-Make this sustainable-not too long or too short. You want to give yourself enough time to really explore how you feel about the challenge. Do you have cravings or is the fruit you’re eating keeping you satisfied?

4. Think about the benefits of why you’re making this change-Mine is for health and mindfulness reasons. After graduating college, I received my first cavity. I was convinced it was from two things, becoming older and years of eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. During college I drank lemonade (hello, sugar overload!) like it was my job. Once I got that cavity filled, I only drank water. I switched my mindset of allowing myself to ONLY drink water. I also want to be more mindful of what I’m putting in my body and knowing when to stop after being full from dinner. I started a workout routine and since then I’ve noticed my body tells me when it’s time to stop eating. Also, the healthier foods you put in, the more energized your body will be!

5. Don’t give up-If you’re going to commit to a challenge for a certain timeframe, make sure to stick to it! Tell your loved ones too, so they won’t tempt you with the foods you’re trying to avoid.
Any of these tips can be useful for changing your lifestyle in many different ways. Create goals and timeframes to accomplish what you’ve set out to do and they’ll become a positive way of life.
What food would you give up for an entire month? Have you ever used any of these tips to accomplish your goals? Please let me know in the comments below!

What to do When Your Meal Goes Unplanned

You know those nights where you have dinner all planned out then something happens and your “planned meal” goes unplanned? The tomatoes you planned to put in the pasta aren’t good, you planned a fun night out but it got cancelled or you just weren’t in the mood for the meal you planned? Whatever your situation is, try to selvage any food you have in your kitchen to make a meal work.

Here are my tips on what to do when this happens…

Tip 1. If you’ve already begun cooking dinner and one ingredient is bad, mix in something similar. This literally happened to me tonight-hello post inspiration! I was planning on making pasta with chicken and tomatoes and found that most of the tomatoes I had bought three days ago went bad…so instead I replaced them with spinach and mixed it into the pasta. Cooking with fresh ingredients can be challenging because you don’t know how long the food will truly last-I have trouble using avocados all the time because if I don’t check on them regularly to see if they are ready to eat they can go bad pretty fast.

Tip 2. There have been many times where I will take out chicken to unthaw it and think it’s going to be ready to go the next night but turns out it’s not. When this happens my whole dinner game is thrown off. Also, the opposite has happened where I’ll forget to take the chicken out of the freezer to unthaw then I have to wait until it unthaws for dinner the next night. So what then? I’ve learned this year that it’s best to keep the freezer stocked full of food you can cook on the stove in less than twenty minutes such as turkey and chicken burgers. These are perfect substitutes when things go unplanned because you were planning on cooking anyway.
Tip 3. There is ALWAYS something in your kitchen you can cook for dinner. You might need to be creative-try mixing ingredients, looking online for inspiration (search for recipes where you already have most of the ingredients), cook something simple like pasta but make your own dressing. Or try my favorite, have breakfast for dinner-this can be anything from eggs on toast to an omelet with cheese and veggies. Don’t overthink the recipe and don’t get overwhelmed, as long as you’re grocery shopping on a regular basis and stocking up on food like pantry or frozen foods, you’ll always have something you can substitute when dinner goes unplanned.

Tip 4. For the nights when you thought you weren’t going to be home but your plans changed-instead of running out to the grocery store to buy food (since you were planning to spend money anyway on dinner) see what you have in the kitchen that you can cook up quickly. My mindset when this happens is that I’m not in the mood to cook because I was planning on having a fun night out, so if I can quickly cook up something in the microwave, in the oven or even make a sandwich I will. If all else fails, do what my grandmother would do and have a bag of popcorn! She always said that a bag of popcorn counts as dinner!
Tip 5. When you had a meal planned but you aren’t in the mood for it. This happens to me when I’ve made a big batch of something like pasta, and have eaten it for the past three days, it means it’s time to eat something else! Mood and cravings are everything when it comes to food, so ask yourself what are you REALLY in the mood for? If you can’t quiet figure it out, just make something that comes to mind or if it’s something you have in stock make that instead.

Do you have any solutions to unplanned meals? Let me know in the comments or on social media! @stylestomakeyousmile

My Favorite Homemade Smoothies

Over the past two years I’ve found a LOVE for making homemade smoothies. I make them either on my way out the door before work, during the late afternoons on the weekends or before a road trip so I won’t be hungry on the road.
The main ingredients I use are:

Cacao powder, banana, mixed berries, strawberries, almond milk as a base, avocado for creaminess, ice, chia seeds, flax seeds, basil, spinach and peanut butter.

The key to any smoothie is to have a liquid base (ice or milk), veggie or fruit and something to make it thick like an avocado or banana. Adding the chia/flax seeds to any smoothie can help for digestive health.
My indulgent smoothie-Almond milk, cacao powder, banana, strawberries and peanut butter. Note-I only use a few strawberries as too many can overpower the entire smoothie.
My work smoothie-Almond milk, mixed berries, banana, basil and chia/flax seeds.
Others-Ice, spinach, avocado, berries and basil.

Would you try any of these smoothies? What are your favorite homemade smoothies? Share in the comments or on social media! @stylestomakeyousmile –Facebook Page & Instagram

A Delicious 30 Minute Freezer Meal

I’ve recently gotten back into the habit of buying freezer meals. They are easy to cook, inexpensive and a great option for a night in.

The featured meal is from Trader Joe’s-Organic Superfood Pilaf-Quinoa with sweet potato’s, kale and carrots. This is ready in about 15 minutes by stove- you can also cook in the microwave.

To this I’ve added organic chicken that I cut into small pieces (it cooks faster this way). Once cooked I’ll add it to the pilaf with some olive oil, pink salt & pepper.

I love cooking dishes like this because of its versatility. You don’t have to eat it the same way twice especially with great add ons such as: tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, avocado, tofu or another meat or fish, soy sauce, balsamic, lemon dressing or Italian dipping oil with herbs.

What are you’re favorite freezer meals?

How I Stock My Kitchen

When I go grocery shopping each week, I normally have a list of items to buy, but what I’ve come to realize is that I can add value to my shopping trip and stock my kitchen if I buy at least one extra item from the list below. This is helpful in case there were ever a time when I couldn’t run to the grocery store like getting sick or having a busy week.

Below are lists of items I stock up on:
Freezer-Organic chicken and beef and turkey burgers, pizza, vegetables (you can get bags of these for under a dollar at certain stores), fruits-strawberries and mixed berries, vegetable rice/quinoa and Greek yogurt pops.
Fridge-Water, Almond milk, yogurt, eggs
Pantry-Cereal, peanut butter, soup, pasta, tuna, cereal bars, rolled oats.
Other-Apples, oranges, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers

Stocking up on these items means I will always have a full kitchen. It also means I’ll never run out of ideas on what to cook. While I might buy something one week, it means I can eat it when I’m in the mood for it later on. None of these items listed costs more than $10 total, so it won’t break my budget. For more information on budgeting read: How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget When you give and take on your budget it all comes out the same-stock up on one expensive item one week-like organic chicken-then next week stock up on frozen vegetables.

How do you stock your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below or on social media @stylestomakeyousmile

Why I Enjoy Eating Simple & Healthy Meals

This week I made an easy delicious yet healthy dinner and if you’ve read any of my other Tuesday food posts, you’ll see that this is a weekly theme.
The ingredients for this meal were: Garlic naan, tomatoes, kale, and chicken with pomegranate vinaigrette.

This meal was simple to prepare because I bought a rotisserie chicken which I tore apart, cooked the kale in water and olive oil, sliced up tomatoes and cooked them, warmed the garlic naan in the oven and put all the ingredients together on the bread and poured the pomegranate vinaigrette over top. This took less than 30 minutes to make.


The next night, I reheated the meal, added a small avocado and topped it with everything seasoning. It tasted so good this way, too! The beauty of this dish is that you can add many ingredients to make it new again, which is why it’s a staple dish.

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The reason why I enjoy eating a meal like this is because I get to eat what I want while still eating my vegetables. And, anyone can make this dish. I treated it like it was a personal pizza. While I LOVE pizza and eat it from time to time, I also enjoy coming up with new dishes that satisfy me the same way a pizza would. I encourage you to try this too, all you have to do is think about ways you can alter your favorite dishes to make in a new healthier way at home. Doing this will make you more excited about cooking and eager to try something new for dinner.

Tip: I’ve learned to treat cooking as a way to relax my mind. Anytime I need a break from working on something or need to clear my mind, I find that cooking focuses my mind.

What’s one staple dish you’ve reinvented? Would you eat the dish I’ve posted? Let me know in the comments below.

How To Get Out Of A Food Rut

While driving home from work, I realized I didn’t want what I had planned for dinner-chicken fried rice with veggies. While it is a simple dish to cook it didn’t sound appetizing. I caught myself wanting to drive to the grocery store to pick up something to eat, so I started to think about what I could make with the ingredients I’d already had that could be incorporated with the dish. Since I had fresh food at home I didn’t want to waste the money I’d already spent and waste another night of not eating the fresh food. I knew I had kale, zucchini and eggs. Since none of those ingredients take long to cook, I decided to cook them all, throw them on a plate and call it dinner. It came out really good and was a very filling meal.
Here are my tips when you find yourself in this rut while driving home from work:

1. Think about the foods you already have in your kitchen. If you have a lot of fresh ingredients cut up some or all of them and incorporate them into the dish you originally planned to have. Just thinking about creating a new dish will get you excited about dinner and will make you want to eat at home.

2. Think about the possibilities for two meals instead of one. If you make enough food to last two days or more, come up with ideas on how you can make the meal a different way for leftovers. Small things like adding new dressings, seasonings, bread or cheese will really add to the dish to make it taste new.

3. You’ll save money. If you’ve convinced yourself that the dish you’re about to make will satisfy you for dinner that night, then you’ve saved money. The fresh food sitting in your kitchen is something you picked up from the grocery store for a reason, don’t let it go bad for another day.

4. You get to be creative. Coming up with several ways to prepare a meal stretches your mind-you become versatile in cooking.

5. You’ll get to cook. Going to the grocery store to pick up dinner is really easy. However, I find that after work I enjoy cooking because it gives me something to focus on. Plus, every time I cook something new it helps to further my cooking knowledge and ability. It also shows me what I enjoy eating and is a meal I can cook again in the future.

 

Do you have any ideas for how to get out of a food rut? Any meals you enjoy making with fresh ingredients? Let me know in the comments below!

My New Perspective on Food

Before I can tell you my new perspective on food, I’ll tell you my original perspective. I used to only buy enough food for the week and nothing more. What I’ve learned is when sticking to a budget- How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget  and shopping at two stores where I can pick and choose what I want to buy based on the food items prices-I can buy more each week. I also used to buy whatever food I wanted, until I started recognizing what foods my body truly doesn’t like and recognizing what foods I’m addicted to. Here are my new perspectives on food:
Stock up on frozen & pantry foods. By stocking up on these items, it means you’ll always have something to eat. The only problem I’ve seen is that sometimes I’ll forget what I’ve bought a week or two ago. To combat this issue, I write down what I’m going to eat each week for dinner. If I have to buy food to go with it I’ll write that down that too. If I’m making something with fresh ingredients, I’ll incorporate them into my dinners for the week. However, if I’m making something frozen I can choose to make half of it for the week and the other half some other time.

Since I’ve been stocking up on food, my budget can go further by buying extra items-I’ll buy a package of chicken sausage even if I’m not going to eat it that week. Or I can save money by not buying any meats that week because I already have some in the freezer. I can also choose to spend my money on something that’s the same price as chicken.
What you eat each week begins in the grocery store. Over the past few years, I’ve realized what foods my digestive system likes and dislikes. One of the things I love is chips and artichoke & jalapeno dip from Trader Joe’s, however, my body does not. Not only because I’ll devour this food in a weekend but the food just makes my stomach upset. So, knowing this, I focus on buying foods that actually give my body energy and make me feel good. Since I know what foods I’m addicted to: chips, dip, salt, chocolate, etc. I try to minimize or eliminate buying them during the week. Another thing I’ve realized is that by eliminating the purchases of these items means I have money for fresh and healthy foods. The chips and dip costs almost $6, instead I bought hummus and veggies that cost less and makes my digestive system happy.

Tip: If you don’t know what foods you’re addicted to, start by looking at what you buy each week and try to figure out why you buy these foods. Is it because they taste good but then later your body doesn’t feel good or works improper? For one week, try eating different foods to see how your body handles them.

As I mentioned earlier, I am addicted to chocolate, so to combat this I’ve tried a few different things. Last year, I used to buy a  whole carton of ice cream and eat it in a week. I realized I should try eating less sugar each week, so I then started buying Greek Yogurt Frozen Pops (they are really good!). This gave me a small portion of chocolate to consume each week. Other things I buy are chocolate almonds-they come in a small pack and because I only consume a small handful every few nights, it takes me two weeks to eat through the pack instead of a week. The other thing I’ve tried is to buy 1 or 2 chocolate candy bars a week, which really cuts down my chocolate intake. After dinner is when I’d normally have chocolate, so if I don’t have it in my home, I’ll make sure I’m eating enough food at dinner.

The point of all of this is to recognize that the foods we bring into our homes is what we’ll be eating every day. And if those items are not making our body function to its best, we should try something else, or slowly wean ourselves into eating something else. I also learned last year that if I don’t walk down certain aisles in the grocery store that means I won’t be tempted to bring those foods home.

I’m curious to know, what is your perspective on food? Let me know in the comments below or on social media IG: @stylestomakeyousmile FB Page: Styles To Make You Smile

How to Make Fresh Pasta

On March 3rd I went home for a Pasta Party! My Dad showed my family how to make pasta from scratch. We made spaghetti and ravioli. My Dad’s family is full blooded Italian so both his grandparents and parents learned and taught my Dad how to make fresh pasta. His family always made pasta for traditional holidays.
Over the past few Christmases my Dad received a Kitchen Aid, pasta attachments and he bought a drying rack for the pasta-these are all items his parents & grandparents would have appreciated. When they made pasta, they would roll out the dough by hand, cut it and then hang it on a broom that was placed in between two chairs to dry on. Fast forward to today and all you have to do to make the dough is put the ingredients in the mixing bowl and let the Kitchen Aid do all the work.

Recipe for Dough: 3 cups flour, 4 eggs, a few tablespoons of water and olive oil.

Mix the ingredients in the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl until it forms into dough which will then form itself into a solid piece (you’ll need the KA dough mixing attachment to create the dough), cut into quarters, place the pasta attachment on the Kitchen Aid and push the dough through the machine. You’ll need to do this several times and on a several number settings on the machine until the dough forms into the consistency that you prefer-you’ll need it thin for spaghetti and thicker for ravioli.
Spaghetti: Once you’ve created the right consistency (thinness) for the spaghetti, you can push the dough through the attachment and it will cut the dough into thin strips of pasta. Take the pasta and place it on the drying rack to dry. If you purchase the Kitchen Aid drying rack, it comes with a wand where you can place the middle of the pasta on the wand and bring it over to the rack without having to handle it too much. Once you’re ready to cook, bring water to a boil, the pasta will cook in about two minutes.

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Over a pound of pasta made!

 

We served the spaghetti with what we call “Seafood stuff.” This includes: crab, shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes (fresh from Dad’s garden-he froze these since the end of summer), lemon, garlic and wine.

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Ravioli: Once you’ve got the right thickness for the ravioli, lay the pasta on a sheet pan, measure where the dough can be cut in half, cut there, then place the ravioli filling on the bottom portion of the dough. You’ll want to strategically place the filling straight across from each other on the pasta so you can cut down the middle and then in between the fillings. Before you cut, place the other portion of the pasta (that you cut in half) on top of the fillings and begin cutting. Once the raviolis are cut, use a fork to push into the edges to make indents in the pasta. Bring water to a boil and cook for five-seven minutes. This depends on the consistency you like.

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Strategically placing the filling on the pasta to make ravioli

 

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These are cut pretty close to perfection! haha.

Recipe for Ravioli Filling-Ricotta, sugar, cinnamon and sausage. Note: We made half of the ravioli with the sausage and the other half without it.

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Ravioli filling

 

All the pasta tastes extremely fresh, soft and you can really taste the ingredients. I promise boxed pasta won’t ever taste the same! What are some of your family traditions? Do you have any family recipes handed down from other generations? Let me know in the comments!

The Meals I Eat Weekly

If you saw my last post How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget you got to see a list of the foods I restock in my fridge. This week, I thought I would share what I eat for breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner. The meals are simple and can be thrown together/cooked quickly. I try to have at least two-three options of each meal so I’m not always eating the same thing every day. I buy medium-large quantities of items so they last a while and will make each meal different; large pack of frozen berries, eggs and almonds. Having go to meals to eat on a regular basis means you won’t have to think too much about what to eat-just remember to stock up on fresh ingredients at the store each week!

Breakfast: Eggs-sunny side up during the week and on the weekends I add cheese, toast and avocado
Cereal-Topped with berries
Yogurt-Mixed with granola and berries (use one or both)
For the cereal and yogurt I include chia/flax seed mix for good digestive health. Also, I bring a piece of fruit to eat at work in the late morning, usually an orange or banana.

Tip: On Sundays I put frozen strawberries and mixed berries into glass containers and thaw in the fridge to put in my meals during the week.

Snacks: Fruit bars
Veggies and hummus
Smoothie-My smoothies can include a combination of any of the following: Almond milk, strawberries, mixed berries, banana, chia/flax seed, peanut butter, cacao powder, avocado and spinach. Sometimes I make these for breakfast when I’m in a rush to leave for work or am going on a long car ride.

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Just one of the many smoothies I enjoy making during the weekend as a snack or for breakfast

 

Lunch: Sandwich-Multi grain or whole wheat bread, chicken (rotisserie or sandwich meat), cheese, olive oil mayo, spinach and salad dressing (if I don’t have a store bought brand I’ll make my own with olive oil, lemon, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper). I also eat a side of Greek Yogurt-I buy several flavors so I’m not eating the same thing all week.
Salad-Spinach, chicken, almonds, cheese, tomatoes, avocado, chia/flax seeds, seasoning and salad dressing. Salads are very versatile so you could switch up the ingredients weekly by using different greens, meats, cheeses, nuts and dressing or use some of the ingredients one day and all of them the next.

Tip: I put the salad in a long tupperware so I can store a fork and small-round salad dressing container in it.

Leftovers-I’ll bring anything to work that will easily fit into one tupperware dish like soup or whole wheat orzo with chicken.

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Leftover Italian soup from Christmas dinner

 

Dinner: My dinner meals are different each week but my normal routine meal is: Meat, grain & vegetable-even in the form of pizza-because this totally counts! haha.

Store bought meals-Sometimes at the end of the week I like to splurge for something in the ready to eat section of the grocery store or get a wrap with chips. If I know I’m going to do this before grocery shopping, I’ll add the cost of the meal to my weekly budget.
Check out: How to Gain Weekly Food Inspiration for more ways to find dinner recipes.

Tip: Once you have the basics down for a few good recipes that you enjoy cooking, it’s easy to alter them with new ingredients to make the meals taste new.

I’d love to know what meals you eat each week! Leave some meals in the comments below.