chicken enchilada soup ~ slow cooker (and a bonus "recipe")

my last post about balance was so serious.  i'll try to keep it light for the next while, none of the poor-me crap.  (real quick, to you wonderful friends who commented on that post, i did reply to your comments.  one thing i can't stand about blogger is the fact that you can't reply to individual comments like with wordpress).

speaking of light, this soup is light.  and awesome. 

we have some crazy busy weeknights around here and sometimes we don't get home until 8:00 or so.  it's too late by then to whip something up for dinner that i feel good about so i've been using the slow cooker a lot.  

this recipe for chicken enchilada soup was seriously good.  the kids ate theirs gone and i enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day topped with a 1/4 cup of pepper jack cheese.  yum!

chicken enchilada soup ~ slow cooker
printable recipe
via realmomkitchen.com (link shows malware so, i'm not posting it)
1 (14 oz) can reduced sodium black beans
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes with sweet onion
10 oz frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts (i used 2 - 6oz breasts)
1 (10 oz) can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
1 (10.75 oz) can mild or medium enchilada sauce (i use medium)
1.5 cups milk (i use 1% organic)
topping suggestions: pepper jack cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips, avocado

combine the black beans, tomatoes, corn, onion and bell pepper in the crock pot.  place chicken breasts on top.

in a medium sized bowl, combine the cream of chicken soup, enchilada sauce and milk.  pour over the top of the chicken.

cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.  30 minutes or so before serving, take chicken out and shred with a knife.  put chicken back in and stir to combine.

serve with breadsticks and with your favorite toppings.

yields 6 servings
Nutrition Facts
chicken enchilada soup
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat4.2g
      Saturated Fat0.8g
      Trans Fat0g
      Dietary Fiber4.9g
Vitamin A 24%Vitamin C 56%
Calcium    14%Iron 9%
and a bonus "recipe" ..

have you ever tried crockery gourmet?  you just mix the pouch of poisonous chemicals with 2 cups of water and then add everything else.  teasin' ... it's just a bunch of dried herbs and spices and maybe a little bit of starch.  no big deal.

anyway, it makes a delicious meal.  i use 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a bunch of new potatoes, chopped onion, baby carrots and celery.  you're not supposed to mix it all together.  just put everything on top of the broth mixture and let it cook all day.

a complete meal!




how do you balance your life?  is it even something you think about?

it's something i think about.  actually, it's something i obsess about and lately it has consumed me.  mostly in regard to healthy living and that's only because i feel well balanced otherwise, honestly.  

what first sparked this was when i realized recently that, despite all of my intentions, efforts and focus, i have lost ground when it comes to sticking to the very principals that i preach.  i've gained weight.  not a lot, just enough to make me feel lousy.  enough to make me wonder if this could be the reason my back keeps giving me trouble.  enough that my clothes are tight and, i'm uncomfortable.  enough that i'm really grumpy about it.

this is tough to admit but necessary because i think my struggle to obtain and maintain my ideal body weight is something that other people can relate to.  when other people relate, they'll be more open for discussion and more apt to offer support.  i need your support.

last week there was a bloggers conference held in philadelphia called the healthy living summit.  many of the bloggers that i follow (read) attended this conference and so there has been a lot of re-cap type posting from these individuals.  truthfully, i find it all to to be rather boring and drab but one blogger over at the delicate place wrote yesterday about her opinions of the conference and what she said really struck me:

"you cannot magically un-do your healthy lifestyle in a span of three days."

she was referring to the obvious OCD she witnessed from fellow bloggers over food and exercise while they were there. 

obviously i wasn't there and i don't know any of these bloggers on a personal level but i'm not surprised that these kinds of behaviors/conversations transpired.  the kind of people who attend a "healthy living summit" are typically the kind of people who are interested in (obsessive over) health/wellness/fitness/etc.   it's what they do.  it's who they are.  but one commenter said something that stood out to me which was, "... life is much richer than just that topic [diet/exercise/health/fitness]."  

and i agree.  even with my tenancy to be obsessive and my obviously impressionable personality, i do believe that balance is imperative.  there is so much more than just diet and exercise but, i really struggle to find it (the balance) and maintain it.  

what is really important? i think "happiness" is the answer to that question and what makes one person happy is not the same as what makes another person happy.  knowing this is the only reason i bite my lip every time i want to spout off health advice/statistics/information to folks around me who may or may not want to hear it.  . someone said to me fairly recently, "not everyone cares like you do" which made me question if i care too much?  am i unbalanced?  

yes.  based on one fact alone and that is how my entire demeanor/mood/outlook changed horribly when i stepped on the scale the other day and then took the time to look back at my previous numbers from last year.  like that number is the only thing in the world that can make me happy.  like it's the one thing that determines my worth.  it's not healthy and i am, therefore, unbalanced by even allowing the thoughts into my mind.  

what i know to be true is that i originally lost weight for pure vanity.  i am vain.  however, at some point i realized that maintenance would not be possible if i wasn't in it for the long haul and for the right reasons.  i began to devour information about the food industry and subscribed to many fitness magazines. then i got confident and really felt like i had a handle on it.  this was our life and i could balance this way of living.  it's what i want, to raise a healthy family.  i thought that my desire to make our health a top priority would be enough to keep my weight in check.  the fact that i exercise and enjoy it.  that by eating balanced, wholesome meals i wouldn't have to be as conscious about the numbers (calories, macronutrients, etc).  then i stopped weighing myself thinking i didn't need the scale.

i was wrong.

even with all that i do, all that i care about, "too much food" is still too much.  the proof is in the pudding. balance is important.  figuring out how to live a full life by accomplishing all that is important to me is tricky.  what i strive attain i need to be able to maintain.  i cannot be told that i'm put too much importance on these things because these things truly are important to me.  (along with a slew of other things -- i don't have complete tunnel vision).  

so my goal right now is to strive for balance while i work on incorporating certain activities that will help me to get back to my goal weight.  these activities include obvious things like eating even more mindfully and continuing to exercise my body ~ things i do already, sort of. but now, i will be doing so with even more diligence and taking care to make better choices by being mindful of the consequences.  i have no interest in being skin and bones and i have no interest in being overweight.  i'm interested in being healthy.

because it's important to me.  when i'm doing what is important to me, i'm happy and "if momma ain't happy ain't nobody happy." (thanks deb!).  when i'm happy, my family gets the best version of me.  i am less distracted and more present for them which is what they deserve.  


pasta sauce with sweet italian turkey sausage

pasta sauce with sweet italian turkey sausage
recipe adapted via allrecipes
1.5 lbs sweet italian turkey sausage
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can peeled whole tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce, no salt added
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper 
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp brown sugar
cooked pasta (i use 1/2 box whole wheat spaghetti & 1/2 box barilla plus spaghetti)

heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  (if turkey sausage is in casings, remove casings) cook sausage until no longer pink.  remove from pan and drain fat.  set aside.

add olive oil to the same skillet over medium-high heat.  cook until soft and then add the garlic, continuing to cook until fragrant.  add the turkey back to the pan and then add the salt, pepper, basil and oregano.  

cook for another minute or two and then add the tomato's (breaking them up with the back of a spoon), the tomato sauce, 1/4 cup of water (if you prefer a less-thickened sauce) and the brown sugar.  stir to combine.  add the bay leaf and then simmer for uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 

mix sauce with pasta and serve topped with parmesan cheese.


yields 6 servings

Nutrition Facts
pasta sauce with sweet italian turkey sausage
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat10.7g
      Saturated Fat2.4g
      Trans Fat0g
      Dietary Fiber3.7g
Vitamin A 15%Vitamin C 33%
Calcium    9%Iron 5%


milk, it does a body good?

did you think that was me in the picture?  it's totally not me.  my boobs are bigger and i would never wear those shoes.  or that sweater.  or, use a handheld shopping basket because i'm lazy.  i'm way cooler than that lady is.  hopefully she's not you.

now that i've cleared up any confusion about the photo, let us talk milk.  it's possible that i'm at war with milk.  it started a while back, i don't know when exactly but there was a point in time when i decided i didn't want to drink milk anymore.  milk was never my favorite to begin with (unless i'm growing humans in my belly) but, i need it.  don't i?

some smart folks will tell you that milk is actually bad for us.  they say that our digestive system is not able to digest cows milk after the age of one.  now, i don't know anything about that but apparently, if we were to look at the world as a whole, only a small percentage of people drink cows milk and most of them are caucasian.  in fact, most people don't drink cows milk because it makes them very sick.  just in case you're interested in reading about this theory, this is an interesting read.

last week when i was running at the gym i was listening to another of jillian's podcasts which happened to be all about milk.  the girl knows her shit, i'm telling you.  she's one smart cookie and she practices what she preaches so when she talks, i listen.  

as i move through this never-ending journey to improve/maintain my health and the health of my family, i learn a lot.  healthy changes are easier to make when you understand why it is you're making them.  baby steps are crucial because time is needed to gather information and soak it all in.  for me, it's a lot all of the time and can be overwhelming so i celebrate all victories no matter how small.  something is, in fact, better than nothing.  this little disclaimer is necessary because it needs to be understood that i understand where i fall short as far as true, complete wellness is concerned (if there's even such a thing).

after i listened to jillian's segment on milk i jotted some notes down.  she touches on many of the varieties; dairy, soy, rice, almond, coconut, organic vs. non organic etc. and basically gives each one a grade. 

most of this is verbatim.  first of all, a large percentage of the population is lactose intolerant which means they have a very bad reaction to dairy (cows milk).  for those who are not, dairy is okay as long as it's organic but organic milk is very expensive so it is not assessable to the masses. 

[i went to costco and noted that i could get four gallons of non-organic skim milk for roughly $8.00 while the 1% organic milk was $8 for 3 half gallons.  if you're not good at math, that's more than double the price of regular milk]. 

when dairy is not organic, she says "this is a pass." basically, stay away from it. why?  because these cows are being treated with hormones that make them produce massive quantities of milk.  normally, an average cow would produce something like 14 gallons of milk per day while these cows pumped full of hormones are producing 100 gallons per day.  as a result, they end up with massive bacterial infections in/on their udders and they're treated with massive quantities of antibiotics. then there's how these cows are fed.  instead of eating grass, like cows do (or should do), they're fed genetically modified corn.  cows can't digest corn so it destroys the lining of their stomachs.  hello more antibiotics! 

grass fed cows have healthier milk with more healthy fats and they won't be full of hormones and antibiotics.  i don't know about you but, i'm a little bit suspicious over how quickly kids start going through puberty these days and i'm not interested in poisoning my children too often.

now.  if one were to say, "we've been drinking non-organic milk forever .... " as if to imply "we" are all doing just great and dandy health wise or, leave good enough alone, let's take a good look around at our ever-growing population and i'm not referring to the number of people on the planet.  clearly, milk as we've been drinking it is not doing our bodies good among many other foods we choose on a regular basis. sickness everywhere.

what we know now is that dairy milk is a go as long as it's organic and as long as it doesn't make you ill. 

she also mentions rice milk and says, "pass" it has zero nutritional value.  almond milk is okay as long as the almonds are non-GMO.  it must be noted that almonds can be GMO and they don't have to label it.  the problem with genetically modified almonds is they're untested and require high quantities of pesticides.  so if you go with almond milk, it must be organic.

then there's soy milk.  jillian hates all things soy.  she's very outspoken about this and her reasons why were enough for me to quit buying my beloved non-GMO, organic soy milk.  she says she "never wants to see it in your fridge." several reason why quickly recapped: soy, unless fermented, is actually toxic to our bodies.  isoflavones in soy attack our thyroid.  soy could potentially be related to breast and ovarian cancer because of estrogen in soy.  when genetically modified (GMO), soy is heavily drenched in pesticides. [her co-anchor asks about why it's advertised as being so good-for-you?] press and propaganda = big business only because it's cheap to produce and it's subsidized by the government.  soy and corn are in everything "trust me, you're getting plenty of soy in your diet." 

last of all is coconut milk.  coconut is all the rage right now because it's considered a "super food."  personally, i've been using coconut oil quite a bit while baking and i really like it.  the milk is only okay. good enough to be used with my cereal or over my fruit and that's all i care about.  here's what jillian has to say (yes, i'm aware that she's on the carton.  she endorses it because she personally chooses coconut milk.  she doesn't endorse anything that she doesn't believe to be worthy.  like subway for instance.  only bob harper walked into those subway's with the biggest loser contestants because jillian won't recommend subway until they remove HFCS from their bread which they have yet to do). 

coconut milk, not the canned kind. lactose intolerant?  not an issue!  non-GMO (they're not genetically modifying coconuts these days) which means it's organic. it tastes good.  less calories per one cup of milk compared to skim milk (90 calories in a cup). coconut milk is antiviral and antimicrobial which helps to support a strong immune system.  it's also loaded with medium chain fatty acids. medium chain fatty acids are actually processed by the body as energy.  the don't lend themselves to being stored as fats.  it's good for you!

[she also touches on the importance of getting enough calcium when not consuming dairy]. it's important that we get our calcium so any substitute for dairy must be fortified with calcium but the body can only process so much calcium at once so you need to get the right amount and it needs to be combined with vitamin d and magnesium for absorption.  coconut milk is fortified with calcium, vitamin-d and magnesium. one serving of coconut milk equals 30% of the recommended daily allowance for calcium.  

[one thing she's heard people say about coconut milk is that it doesn't offer much in regard to protein when compared to dairy.  she responds to this as well.] so it doesn't have a high quantity of protein in it but, that's kind of like saying raspberries or spinach don't have enough protein.  protein is not the purpose of the milk (or the raspberries or spinach). 

when jillian talks about milk, she's very passionate about it.  she's not the only one.  when i started to try and determine where to focus our money as far as organic food is concerned marion nestle says, "milk is a good starter food for organics ... since the side effects of pesticides in kids are likely to be worse than in adults, and kids drink proportionally more milk" (source)

here's the other thing (just when you thought i was off my soap box), not all organic products are created equal.  the cornucopia institute maintains and organic dairy rating scorecard.  

is this as frustrating to you as it is to me?  sheesh.

what i've decided is i'll be buying this organic dairy milk for my family from now on and coconut milk for myself.  i'm uninterested in cows milk but, they like it and i'm not going to ask them to drink coconut milk.  not yet anyway.  .

i feel good about this choice.  moving on.

what kind of milk do you drink and why?


a post about food

food is my favorite.
i love food.
i believe if you choose the right food, it will love you back.

some days my choices are better than others and lately, i have had more "better" days because i had not been feeling so great and i know it had much to do with my poor food choices.  

i am not one of these girls (women) who can eat loads of sugar and not count calories (unless i have no regard for my weight and physical health, of course).  that's just the way it is.  honestly, i feel like i have one "treat" and i can barely button my pants afterward.  

because of this, i try really hard (you know i do) but, there are always a few challenges i have with all-the-time clean eating.  one would be that it can get really boring and another is that it's a lot more time consuming (think physical labor) to plan, purchase and prepare these kinds of meals.  it probably takes just as much time and even more money to drive to mcdonalds but, it's easier for sure.  no standing at the counter chopping and measuring.  no dishwashing either.  hell, you don't even have to get out of your car if you don't want to.

since i won't eat mcdonalds unless i'm about to die from hunger, i tend to just snack on stupid food when i'm not in the mood to cook.  none of it's ever "bad" per say, but eating an entire bag of dried fruit and nuts in one sitting and calling it lunch is definitely counterproductive to my long term goals.

bang. head. against. wall.

my "ideas for what to eat" list has come in handy lately.  i'm keeping track of what i have in the fridge and resigned myself to the fact that it's not the end of the world if i eat close to the same thing for every breakfast and lunch.

if you're bored with food and/or if you need some ideas, consider this post for you.  otherwise, it makes me look really weird for taking pictures of all of my food.

1. "bangkok curry" from noodles & company (my mcdonalds)
3. breakfast :: 3 egg whites/1 whole egg scrambled and topped with jack's fresh salsa.  fresh fruit in vanilla soy milk.
4. breakfast ::  coaches oats pancakes (costco - yum!) topped with banana's, blueberries and pure maple syrup.

1. lunch :: egg salad (2 boiled egg whites/1 whole egg, 1/2 tsp light mayo, tiny squirt of mustard) on toasted "la tortilla" whole wheat tortilla's.  green salad with avocado, grape tomato, cucumber and homemade honey mustard (2 tsp dijon, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 1/2 tbsp olive oil, pepper and 1 tsp water.  yields two servings).
2. breakfast :: 3 egg whites/1 whole egg scrambled and topped with jack's fresh salsa.  1 slice of "ezekiel" sprouted grain bread topped with 1 tbsp almond butter and sprinkled with truvia.
3.  same as 3 above (boredom)
4. lunch :: green salad (leafy greens and spinach) topped with grilled spicy chicken breast (i keep a little jar of this rub in the cabinet for chicken.  it's amazing!), green grapes, avocado and homemade honey mustard dressing.

dinner :: steak fajitas :: i made these fajitas the other night after marinating the beef in this amazing marinade.  they were delicious.  try this recipe for sure.

1. dinner :: hawaiian chicken sandwich on a whole grain bun with steamed asian veggies and "alexia" sweet potato fries (yum!).
2. lunch :: lemon pepper grilled chicken, grapes, 1 slice "ezekiel" sprouted grain bread topped with homemade guacamole (1 avocado, squirt of lemon juice, sliced cherry tomatoes, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, dash of salt.  combine and refrigerate for one hour prior to serving).

date time :: lunch :: my handsome husband humored me with a visit to omar's rawtopia  where he ordered the hummus pizza and i had a combo plate of raw pasta and sweet basil salad.  so incredibly delicious, it blows my mind.  i tell you, he is not into this sort of food and he didn't want to go but, he's good to me.  i was thrilled when he said, "it's actually really good."

snack time.
1. convenient store snacks :: almonds.  i'd never tried these flavored almonds so i thought i'd give them a try.  they were, quite literally, the only acceptable "snack" food i felt comfortable eating from the convenience store while i waited for sissy to finish tumbling.  i really liked the chili lime flavor.  i only had one wasabi soy almond and it was way too hot for me.  
2. husband and i went to the downtown farmers market and had the most amazing mint limeade.  i will recreate this beverage one day soon. i've already spent way too much time googling recipes.  this will happen on a "splurge" day, of course. *wink*
3. treat :: sno cones.  i like a "maui waui" or "hawaiian bomb."
4. and this, my friends, is not just my darling son standing in front of a large serving of hamburger and fries at our local grocery store.  no, that there is a cake.  a "specialty" cake no less. seriously gross.

that's all folks.

has anyone tried coconut milk?  'cause i'm thinking about it.  jillian is telling me i should and i believe everything she says.


do you have a favorite sno cone flavor?  cream or no cream? (i like cream but it gives me a belly ache).


attitude shmattitude

hold tight while i verbalize my bad attitude.  my attitude sucks right now and because attitude is everything, everything sucks right now.  okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but i'm feeling sorry for myself so we're just going to go with it.

on saturday my back went out.  this will be the fourth time i've had this problem.  the first time was six or so years ago when i was training with a personal trainer.  one of the exercises was too much.  or the weight was too much.  either way, a disc in my lower vertebra slipped and i ended up flat on my back for several days before finally going to see the dr.  she sent me to a physical therapist who instructed me to keep my core strong and showed me various stretches and exercises i could do to focus on this part of my back.

fast forward a few years later and i have a day old baby and my back goes out again as i twist to get out of bed one morning.  that pain was probably the most memorable because it scared the shit out of me not being able to move and being home alone with three kids.  luckily, my mom was on her way to help me and arrived just in time.  i was near passing out.

the last time it went out, i had just lost all of the baby weight from baby #3 (i like to call it baby weight rather than just weight.  it sounds more forgiving, i think.).   i went to set the little guy down on the floor with some toys and pop! there i was again, crippled and in pain.

that was almost three years ago so i'm pretty proud of myself for warding off another attack-of-the-back for so long.  i focus a great deal on core strength and find yoga and running to compliment this in different ways.  but lately, i've felt things have "loosened up" in my lower back.  i've tried to be careful, stretching an extra amount and not doing too much with the strength training but, when i went to grab my gym bag on saturday morning, i must have twisted just right and i felt that familiar pain.

fortunately (unfortunately), i know exactly what i need to do to recover as quickly as possible and that is to lay flat on my back as much as i'm able while rotating the ice pack and the heat pad.  that was my weekend.  just laying there, watching movie after movie feeling incredibly guilty that i wasn't up doing all that needed to be done.  two things are for sure; i am not good at doing nothing unless everything else is done and, i prefer being the caretaker.

today i feel 80% better.  i'm walking so that's always a plus and, my spine isn't nearly as twisted as it was on saturday.  just a lot of tightness through my lower back and hips.  this is all good news.  it means whatever i'm doing is working but, i'm still carrying around this crappy attitude.  still feeling sorry for myself because i am so conscious of this problem and so careful in taking care of myself.  feeling sorry that i've now missed two runs and i'll certainly miss yoga tonight.  boohoo.

during the time i was just laying here, i did a lot of web surfing and i came across this blog called running to the kitchen.  she wrote a post about being sidelined by her own back injury that i could have literally written myself.  what stood out to me was her saying she was so frustrated because she's in great shape, she takes care of her body but still ... this happened/happens.  she recalled having received advice from her dr. that was something along the lines of "we don't take care of our bodies to avoid getting injured or sick.  everyone will get hurt or sick at some point or another but those who are physically fit and 'healthy' will recover much faster."

it helped me to read this.  i believe it to be true and it's what i needed to hear right then.  sometimes i wonder what the hell i'm doing "all of this" for?  but then, imagine if i didn't take care of myself or if my core wasn't as strong as it is.  it's safe to assume that my back problems would occur more frequently and my recovering would be much longer than three days.  my physical therapist told me at that first visit that this injury would never go away without surgery and if i wanted to avoid surgery, i needed to keep my weight down and my core strong.

these moments are the ones i file away in my motivational bank.  when i get tired and don't want to work out or when those french fries sound better than a salad, i need to dig into this bank and pull out the reminders of why i'm doing this.  remind myself why it's important to me to take care of myself and my family.  vanity aside, it makes me feel good and i'm happiest when i feel good.

lately i've been too lenient.  feeling like what i do day in and day out should be "enough."  the truth is, it's not enough.  i rarely weigh myself because i want my focus to be on how i feel and how my clothes fit.  right now, my clothes are not comfortable and i don't feel how i like to feel.  there's a lot to this.  more than just physical weight.  so i have some thinking to do.  some planning and goal setting.  i need to get over feeling sorry for myself when i say "no thank you" and i need to stop giving in.  every once and awhile has turned into all of the time and it's not okay.

when i'm at home, i eat well enough.  i plan healthy meals and prepare them frequently.  it's when i'm not at home, when we're out and about, i end up making choices that are not in line with my goals and that make me feel lousy afterward.  the catcher is that when i'm in the moment, i feel lousy about restricting myself.  i just want to fit in, go with the flow, eat what everyone else is eating.  it's a constant battle.  another thing to ponder.

so that's what i'll do.  now, i ponder, plan and set some new goals.  i'll be back ....

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