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1.30.2015

Cookbook Review: The Wellness Kitchen


Disclosure: I received a sample of The Wellness Kitchen for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience using the book.  I was not financially compensated for this post.

If you follow me on social media, you know that for the last few weeks I have been trying recipes and following a 21-day meal plan from Paulette Lambert's new healthy cookbook, The Wellness Kitchen: Fresh, Flavorful Recipes for a Healthier You.  Paulette Lambert is a dietician who's known for her role as the nutritional expert in ABC's Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.

This is a book I'd recommend, especially for someone who was trying to eat more healthily, but without feeling like they are restricted to plain, bland foods.  The meal plan was also a great introduction into having a balanced diet using whole foods and fresh ingredients.  Click here to purchase your own copy of The Wellness Kitchen on Amazon.

My goal was to try the 21-Day Food Plan for Health and Weight Loss in the book, but I ended up having my wisdom teeth removed this month (all four!), and had to take a week off in the middle to subsist on soup and applesauce.  For the two weeks that I followed the diet plan, I was impressed and can see how it would work well and lead to weight loss.  I lost six pounds during the three total weeks (but note that I was also consuming a low amount of calories the week after my wisdom teeth were extracted).  The first week includes a lot of bran and fiber, which really helped regulate my digestion.  The recipes were all really tasty (see my reviews of specific recipes below), and the meals really balanced.  I was never hungry, because the meal plan keeps you full as you are always snacking (think hummus, nuts, Greek yogurt) - though in specific low-calorie portion sizes, and every meal includes a fruit or veggie side.  In addition to the high-fiber aspect of the meal plan, you get a large amount of fruit and vegetables, and are eating all whole grains and fresh foods.  The meal plan also takes into account how much weight you'd like to lose and gives you guidance on calorie targets. 

Over the two week period I got to try several of the recipes.  I was happy to see healthy versions of some of my favorite meal staples, such as chicken piccata, chili, omelets, and roast chicken.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't have to add much (if any) extra seasoning to the recipes, as they were all very flavorful.  I usually find I have to add extra salt or garlic to recipes for flavor, especially for meals that are "healthy," but that was not the case with the recipes I tried from this book.  Lots of garlic, fresh herbs, and a healthy amount of sea salt and cracked pepper made the dinners savory and full of flavor.  I also loved that this didn't seem like a restrictive plan, and instead was very balanced.  There were carbs, meats, and savory sauces. 

Here are photos and reviews of some of the recipes I tried:

Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins
This was beyond good. Not dry and crumbly like some bran muffins, but fluffy and flavorful like a regular blueberry muffin.  Definitely a keeper.

Fruit Smoothie
 
This is another keeper.  This was a quick, simple fruit smoothie recipe that makes two creamy smoothies.
 
Turkey Meatballs Al Forno
 
The meatballs before going into the oven.
 
 
The finished product with the book's basic tomato sauce (definitely a keeper) and whole wheat pasta.  I think this would have been really good over spaghetti squash as well.  This meal took a little longer to make, as it was more involved than some of the other dinner recipes.  The sauce has multiple steps, but was worth taking the time to make it fresh.  I am considering doing a big batch of the sauce to freeze in portions.  It is thickened with shaved and pureed carrots believe it or not. 
 
Crispy Fish Sticks with Homemade Bread Crumbs  
 
This was good, though I had to add some additional seasoning to the breading.  It is baked in the oven, so you don't have the guilt of extra fat from frying.  I did take the easy way out to make this a quicker weeknight meal by using pre-made whole wheat bread crumbs. 
 
Grilled Margherita Pizza with Arugula 
 
Before going into the oven.
 
 
The arugula salad that tops the pizza.
 
 
The finished product.  While the pizza wasn't as cheesy as its non-healthy equivalent, it was very savory.  The lemon in the arugula salad dressing paired amazingly with the garlic and olive oil of the pizza.  This was a very guilt-free alternative to pizza.
 
Honey Mustard Salmon with Spinach and Lentils
 
The salmon was a really quick and easy meal.  Not many ingredients, and great for a weeknight.  The lentils made with the spinach was a delicious side dish, and very filling.  I will definitely make the lentil and spinach side more often in the future.
 
Spinach-Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf
 
The sautéed spinach and onions are rolled up in the ground turkey like a jelly roll.
 
 
The meatloaf is topped with ketchup... as it should be!
 
 
The finished product.  This was probably my favorite meal that I attempted during the two-week review period.  The flavor was incredible, and it was a lot easier to make than it looks.  I actually only did half the recipe, and it was plenty of food for my family of four. 
 
French Chicken in a Pot
 
I always love an opportunity to use my Le Creuset French oven, so this was fun.  It was also pretty simple - only a few ingredients and simple instructions.  I found that the white wine sauce/chicken stock reduction at the bottom of the pan after roasting was phenomenal drizzled over the chicken on your plate.  This meal has to roast for an hour (after taking 10 minutes to brown on the stovetop).  So, I recommend either prepping in advance, or starting it right when you get home then taking a break to exercise while it's roasting.
 
Quinoa Chili Rellenos
 
This was delicious, but like the meatballs, it was a very involved meal.  In the future I would only do this recipe on a weekend to ensure I had time for all of the prep and multiple steps.  It also had a very spicy kick, so good for adults but not so much for the little ones.
 
I am sure I will be coming back to this cookbook regularly along with the other recipe favorites that rotate through my meal plan.  It is nice to know that I have access to healthy recipes that also taste good.  Don't forget to pick up your copy of the cookbook on Amazon here, and follow @fabeverydayblog on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram for ongoing recipe inspiration.

1.27.2015

Travel Tuesday: Easy Sedona Hike for Families with Children

 
We just drove through Sedona, Arizona on our most recent family road trip.  Sedona is truly one of my favorite places on earth.  I have seen some beautiful parts of the world, and Sedona ranks among the top.  Since this was my first time through Sedona since having kids, I wanted to experience some of the beauty with them, so I looked for a hike that we could all do together.  I found a great option: the Boynton Vista Trail at Boynton Canyon.  The hike is about 1/2 each way (1 mile round-trip) without too much elevation, and a nice, smooth walking surface.  Even with it's ease, you end up with beautiful views of the canyon and valley, impressive red rock formations, and a visit to one of Sedona's four main energy vortexes.  Click here for more information and a description for how to get to this specific trail.  For more information on the vortex, click here.

 
We were really fortunate that it was such a beautiful day - warm enough with clear blue skies.  There was still snow on the ground at the lower part of the trail, but it didn't cause us any problems.  In fact, the kids loved it!


 
As you can see, the terrain wasn't too much for our 5-year-old to handle. 

 
At the very end of the trail you do have to climb up the rocks just a little.  My 5-year-old could do it on his own, but my husband decided to carry our 2-year-old at this point.  It was such a short distance that it wasn't a problem to carry him at the end.

 
Here is one of the beautiful rock formations at the top.  This rock formation is called the Kachina Woman (feminine), and is part of the vortex site.  It is balanced by a formation called the Knoll (masculine) across from it.  Many people like to meditate with one of the rock formations, or between them where the energy is balanced. 

 
G got a kick out of the whole vortex thing, and said he could feel the energy absorbing into him when we touched the rocks (I think he compared it to something like a super hero getting super powers). Here we are doing a selfie in front of the Kachina Woman. 

 
Here is the Knoll rock on the opposite side.  Beautiful, no?

 
Another angle of the same rock, with absolutely no Photoshopping or filtering.  Just gorgeous.



Here we are on the way back down.  As you can see in the background, someone was even wearing their baby on this hike.  That should give you an idea of how mellow a hike it is.  I look forward to trying some more next time.  We wanted to see the petroglyphs and some Indian ruins (both hikes were 1/2 to 1 mile), but both of those were closed the day we were there due to the snow.

1.23.2015

Valentine's Gift Idea: Moisturize and Rejuvenate Her Feet with Geluxury Slippers - Product Review

 
Disclosure: I received a sample of Geluxury Slippers for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience using the product.  I was not financially compensated for this post.

For the last few weeks I have been testing a product to review for the blog, and am totally sold.  If you are at a loss for a gift for your gal for Valentine's Day, consider getting her a pair of Geluxury Slippers (you can purchase them online here)!

So, what's the deal with these slippers, you are probably wondering?  Well, they are not just slippers.  Yes, they are super soft, warm, and comfy - perfect for lounging around the house.  But what makes them special is that they actually moisturize and rejuvenate your feet while you wear them.  It sounded kind of hard to believe, so I felt it was worth a try.  From personal experience over the last three weeks, I can see (and feel) a noticeable difference in the hard calluses on my heels... they are less dry and hard.  My feet also overall feel more moisturized after wearing them.  While I wear them I can feel a soothing, subtle tingle from the essential oils. Their website says that you start seeing the best results in about a month (even offering a money back guarantee), and I can say that I have already seen a difference in just a few weeks.  Plus they are just comfy to wear.

Here is how it works (from their press release): "Infused with 7 botanical oils and ceramides, the dermatologist tested SmartGel® is formulated to restore, repair and rejuvenate distressed skin on the feet. The Geluxury Slippers are fully lined with a contoured fit, providing treatment to the entire foot. With regular use, these moisture replenishing slippers will soften and smooth dry, rough skin and calluses, while repairing damaged cuticles and nail beds."

You can get more information on how it works and purchase them here on the Geluxury website.  They retail for $39.95, and come in a couple of different colors/patterns.  They even have gloves if you want to try for the same results for your hands!

Photo Source: Geluxury.com

I look forward to seeing how much more these improve the skin on my feet.  Feel free to comment or hit up @fabeverydayblog on social media if you have any questions!  Thanks to Geluxury for the chance to review these slippers for my readers.

1.20.2015

Travel Tuesday: Family Road Trip from Texas to California

 
We had such a good time on our road trip!  Today I am sharing the itinerary from our most recent road trip from Texas to California and back.  This time we did not include Route 66, but if you want to focus on Route 66 (Disney/Pixar Cars lovers in your family?), click here for my blog post on our family Route 66 road trip from a year and a half ago.  I featured a lot of the spots that inspired Cars. 

Today's post is focused on the itinerary and the kid-friendly stops and sight-seeing excursions from this trip.  Click here for a separate blog post with my tips on how to survive (and actually enjoy) a road trip with young children.  As I state in that post, we try to keep it under a max 8 hours of driving per day, as that is what seems to work best with our young kids.

First, we will start with the drive to California from East Texas.

 
Day 1
 
Departed East Texas (we were there for Christmas with my husband's family).
Drive through Dallas, Texas.
Dinner in Abilene, Texas.
Spend the night in Hobbs, New Mexico.
 
Can't forget to pack your essentials! We found that after a long day of driving, an exercise like yoga, Pilates, or PiYo was the perfect way to stretch and get some fitness in at the hotel each night.
 
Longhorns we saw en route in East Texas.

Day 2
 
Breakfast at the hotel (we try to seek hotels with a free hot breakfast to save time and money).
Visit Roswell, New Mexico.
Drive through Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Lunch in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Visit White Sands National Monument.
Spend the night in Tucson, Arizona.
 
Beautiful rainbow over a field in New Mexico.
 
The kids just loved Roswell!
 
Some of the alien-themed sights of Roswell, New Mexico.
 
Fun at the UFO Museum in Roswell.
 
An art installation at the UFO Museum in Roswell.
 
More fun at the Roswell UFO Museum.
 
Roswell had lots of alien-themed souvenirs... even something in burnt orange for my Texan.
 
More sights in Roswell.
 
We stopped to play in some snow near Ruidoso, New Mexico.
 
We weren't dressed for snowy weather, but we had fun anyway!
 
On a boardwalk between some dunes at White Sands National Monument.
 
Ready to slide down some sand dunes at White Sands!  G was fired up!
 
No fear: G was the first one to slide down the dune.
 
More family fun on the dunes at White Sands National Monument.
 
Brothers climbing up the sand dunes.
 
These kids had so much fun sliding, that we had trouble getting them to leave White Sands!
 
Day 3
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Drive through Phoenix, Arizona.
Lunch in Indio, California (get your first In N' Out Burger on the journey).
Drive through Palm Springs, California.
Arrive at our first destination in Murrieta, California (to spend time with family).
 
Hard to beat free hot breakfast at the hotel!
 
Wind turbines near Palm Springs, California.
 
Day 4
We stayed in Murrieta for a few days with family, so day 4 is actually "Travel Day 4" and not the 4th day of our trip.  We stayed a few days in Los Angeles as well, but we will stick with the road trip/travel days here.
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Drive to Los Angeles, California.
Lunch at Sugarfish on La Brea (the best sushi you have ever had).
Visit Hollywood Blvd.
Dinner at your choice of a number of fabulous restaurants in LA (click here for my list of favorite LA restaurants).
 
Even the kids loved Sugarfish.  The best sushi... no exaggeration.
 
Even though we lived in Hollywood for years, we still had to do the tourist thing.  Here's G at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Blvd. Walk of Fame.
 
Since we were in LA on New Years Day, I had to seek out some place with black-eyed-peas for my Texan.  We found a delicious restaurant in Carson.  I highly recommend R&R's Soul Food if you are in that area.  This was LEGIT!
 
 
Day 5
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Drive through Barstow, California, grabbing lunch somewhere in the vicinity.
Try not to stop much so you can make it to Grand Canyon South Rim by sunset.
Dinner in Grand Canyon Village.
Spend the night in Flagstaff, Arizona.
 
We didn't leave early enough to get to the Grand Canyon before sunset, but we went and visited anyway.  It was gorgeous in the light of the near-full moon.  Totally a different perspective on the South Rim.  The pictures don't do it justice.
 
Dinner at Plaza Bonita in Grand Canyon Village.  HUGE platters of Mexican food.
 
Day 6
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Drive to Sedona, Arizona, hike and have lunch (check out next week's Travel Tuesday blog post to see my write-up on an easy, family-friendly hike in Sedona).
Drive through Phoenix, Arizona, pick up an early take-out dinner for later.
Spend the night in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
 
My boys and me enjoying one of Sedona's many breathtaking views.
 
Gorgeous Sedona.
 
More Sedona scenery.
 
Beautiful Sedona, unfiltered.
 
Fried cactus at Olde Sedona Bar & Grille.  For the record, it was good - tasted like a cross between fried zucchini and fried okra.
 
Day 7
 
Breakfast at the hotel.
Souvenir shopping in El Paso, Texas (Saddleblanket).
Lunch in Fort Stockton, Texas.  Don't forget to visit the "world's former largest roadrunner statue."
Arrive home in Central Texas, pick up a take-out dinner close to home.
 
A nice, greasy patty melt at Howard's Drive-Inn in Fort Stockton, Texas.