Eating and Living Real

Leave a comment



So one of my biggest issues with a healthy diet has been accountability and sticking with it.  Until now, that is.  Recently, I completed a Whole30 challenge.  (For more info, visit  This is basically a Paleo challenge.  Think no grains, legumes, dairy, sugar.  You may be thinking, what the heck did you eat then??!?!?!  Well, one of my new obsessions happens to be brussels sprouts and bacon.  It is absolutely delicious.  I have never even though about trying brussels sprouts before and now look at me!  Another new food I’ve developed a love for through this process is the plantain.  It looks like a banana but only tastes somewhat like one in its very ripest state.  My favorite recipe to make with plantains so far is a tostada to eat as a substitute for taco shells.  Again, it’s DELICIOUS!!

Not only have I tried new foods through the Whole30 process, but I’ve also felt better than I maybe ever have.  I can honestly say that I went 30 whole days without cheating once – and that means 30 days with no SUGAR (besides that found in fruit), and I survived.

I did this challenge with a group of people which really helped with the accountability aspect.  I knew I couldn’t cheat because I knew there were other people counting on me to complete the challenge with them.  It’s true what they say about finding someone to workout with and hold you accountable!

So where do I go from here???  Instead of 30 days – how about 8 weeks??!?!?!  Enter the Whole Life Challenge.

It’s 8 weeks of not only nutrition accountability, but fitness and overall well-being as well.  I start on January 11th and am again going to be doing it with a group of people from my local gym.  If I can do the Whole30 for 30 days, I can certainly do the Whole Life Challenge for 8 weeks (especially since the Whole Life Challenge isn’t as strict).  I’m so looking forward to feeling absolutely amazing when I finish the 8 weeks!  If you’re interested in doing the Whole Life Challenge, make sure to add my team as one of your teams.  Search for Next Level Iowa to find us!


Leave a comment

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

Wanted to share a yummy recipe with you all from  One note from when I’ve made it…I just had cut, frozen peppers from my garden available, so I lined the bottom of the baking dish with them and layered the filling over the top.  Same great taste, just a little different delivery.  Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have!

Recipe:  Stuffed Peppers

Recipe credit:


4 Bell Peppers

1lb ground beef

1/4 cup almond meal

2 slices bacon- diced

1/2 zuchinni or broccoli slaw – shredded

3/4 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup diced onion

3/4 cup canned fire roasted tomatoes

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp curry powder


1. Preheat over to 350 

2. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and membranes. Place peppers in glass baking dish filled with 1/2 inch water and microwave for 3-4 minutes until slightly done.

3. Cook bacon in frying pan until done. Add ground beef to bacon and grease and brown.

4. Add veggies, almond meal, spices and remaining ingredients to ground beef and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

5. Scoop beef/ veggie mixture into peppers and place on cookie sheet. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes.


Leave a comment

Food of the Week: Spaghetti Squash

My first thoughts…YUCK!!!  But then I gave spaghetti squash a try and it wasn’t so bad…maybe even good!?!?!?

The newest craze in real, clean eating seems to be the infamous spaghetti squash.  I mean, could it really get any better – a substitute for noodles that you can eat TONS of and not rack up the calories and even add in some nutrients!  I had been leery to try out this veggie because for one, my husband HATES squash (we’ll get to a funny story about that later) and two, I’m not super keen on it either.  However, I had found some interesting looking recipes and decided to give it a try.

Photo credit:

According to Wikipedia, spaghetti squash includes the following nutrients:  folic acid, potassium, vitamin A and beta carotene.  And with only an average of 42 calories per cup, approx. 1.5 grams of fiber and only .5 grams of fat, you really can’t go wrong!

I’ve tried out a couple of ways to cook this versatile squash.  For my first attempt, I put the squash in the crock pot whole with some water and cooked it all day long.  It did the trick, but the strands of ‘spaghetti’ were a little too mushy for my (and my husband’s) taste.  My go to method now is cutting the squash in half lengthwise, placing it cut side down on a baking pan and roasting it at 400 or 425 degrees F for approx. 30-40 minutes, or until the outer skin punctures easily with a fork.  This seems to produce slightly crunchy ‘spaghetti’ which is my preferred consistency.

Now, how do you make this thing taste good??  I’ve actually grown to like it with olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe a sprinkle of parmesan cheese with some veggies and chicken.  Or, take your favorite spaghetti noodle containing recipe and sub in spaghetti squash and see what you come up with.

Below are a couple of our favorite recipes so far:

Recipe: Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

Recipe from

Paleo Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

Photo credit:


1 lb ground beef (I get ours from a local farmer)

8 oz chopped pepperoni, divided (I always use turkey pepperoni)

1 small onion, diced small

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)

1 teaspoon EACH oregano, basil, and thyme

4 cups roasted spaghetti squash noodles (see cooking notes above)

2 cups favorite spaghetti sauce – (I use my homemade spaghetti sauce)

2 eggs

½ cup Daiya mozzarella cheese or pecorino romano, and few tablespoons extra for sprinkling, optional (Or if you’re not Paleo – use mozzarella cheese)


1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the ground beef, 1/2 of the pepperoni, onion, and garlic.

3.As the ground meat cooks, sprinkle in the seasonings. Taste (when cooked!) and add more to your liking if necessary.

4.In a large bowl, mix the warm beef mixture, spaghetti sauce, squash threads, eggs, and cheese of choice.

5.Place into a greased casserole dish ( I used a 9 X 9).

6.Top with the remaining pepperoni and a sprinkling of cheese.

7.Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

Recipe:  Bacon & Gruyere Egg Casserole

Recipe credit:


Photo credit:

This is where we get back to the funny story about my husband.  He hates squash…can’t even gag the stuff down.  Until now!  I made this casserole and wasn’t around when he was ready to eat it.  I asked him how it was – he said awesome – that he’d had 3 servings of it!  I’d say that’s a victory in my book!  Now to the recipe:

Prep time: 15 min, Cook Time:  55 minutes, Total Time:  1 hr 10mins.

Serves: 4-6


•2 cups cooked spaghetti squash strands

•8 oz. nitrate-free bacon, cut into ½” pieces

•1 yellow onion, chopped

•4 whole eggs

•4 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded and divided (I used Swiss as an alternative)

•1 teaspoon sea salt

•black pepper to taste


1.  If you haven’t done so already, prepare your spaghetti squash. (See cooking instructions above.) Preheat your oven to 350F and generously grease an 8″ x 8″ glass dish with butter or coconut oil.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and sauté the bacon pieces for 5 minutes. Add the chopped onion to the skillet of bacon, and cook together for an additional 10 minutes, until the onions are tender and the bacon is just crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions and bacon to a large mixing bowl, and combine with the cooked spaghetti squash, eggs, 3 ounces of shredded cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well.

3.  Transfer the mixture to the greased dish, and top with the remaining ounce of shredded cheese, which will create a crispy topping. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden and the center is firm. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

4.  Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

*Note:  While this is an egg casserole, I have always made it as a supper entrée.


Leave a comment

Back on Track…

So it’s been almost 7 months since I last posted on this blog.  Life got in the way, and I just wasn’t feeling it.  But…it’s time to get back on track.

A couple months ago, I started drinking smoothies for breakfast (instead of my usual oatmeal) and then an Isagenix shake for lunch.  I’d eat my normal type of suppers in the evening.  A few weeks into this routine, I realized that I was feeling awesome!  That is, until I switched things up and ate a sub sandwich here or there or homemade pizza for supper, etc.  What I noticed was, that if I stayed away from anything containing grain, I felt awesome…if I consumed grains, not so much!  Think bloating, cramps and a general yuckiness feeling.  Years ago, I had been diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowl syndrome) – the catch-all diagnosis if they don’t know what else is wrong with you.  So to conquer this, I was told eat fiber, fiber and more fiber.  So I did…oatmeal, whole wheat, whole grain…the more fiber and grains the better.  So I thought.

It’s safe to say that for now, I’m steering clear of anything containing grains and am feeling wonderful.  I’m not jumping on the celiac bandwagon and claiming that…I just feel better when I stick to a grain-free / Paleo-ish / real food style of eating.

I wanted to share some resources that have been helpful to me in learning more about this lifestyle.  Danielle Walker from Against All Grain has been an extremely valuable resource for information and recipes.  Also, because the Paleo lifestyle also omits grains, I’ve been able to find many recipes and tips and tricks from many Paleo sites as well.  I just received two new cookbooks:  Well Fed and Well Fed 2, both by Melissa Joulwan, that promise to provide a plethora of new recipes to dive into…a review will follow once I’ve tried some of them out.

Moving forward, you’ll notice many of the recipes I post will often be grain free and some of them will be Paleo as well.  I will have to admit I’m not 100% Paleo…can’t give up my cheese every once in awhile, and I absolutely love cottage cheese as an amazing protein source!!

Stay tuned for more on this topic and many other topics as we all strive towards Eating and Living Real!

Leave a comment

Recipe: Whole Wheat Pancakes



So, I FINALLY found a homemade pancake recipe that I love, and more importantly, my kids love!  We make pancakes frequently for breakfast, and I had been trying to get away from using boxed mixes.  After trial and error with trying MANY different pancake recipes, I finally found this delicious variation.  It is hearty with the oats but slightly sweet with the addition of the berries of your choice (optional).  And, to make eating these delicious pancakes even more fun, try using shaped pancake rings, like this Mickey Mouse ring!  The shaped ones are always a hit at our house!  images

Whole Wheat Pancakes

Credit:  Clean Eating Magazine


1 1/4 C Oats (Large Flakes)
1 1/4 C Milk
1 Egg
1 C Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 Tbsp Canola Oil
1/4 C Blueberries (or other berries – optional)


1.  In a bowl, mix oats with milk and let stand 5 minutes.
2.  Add egg and oil to mixture – stir to combine.
3.  Add dry ingredients – mix until just blended.
4.  Add berries (optional).
5.  Spoon out 1/4 cup of batter onto a hot pan.  Cook until golden brown on both sides.



Leave a comment

Natural Dyed Easter Eggs

Blog of the Week:…Natural Dyed Easter Eggs

Natural-Dyed-Eggs-51 As Easter quickly approaches, I’ve heard and seen many people wondering how to dye their eggs the natural way.  While the kits you can buy in the store provide almost neon-like colors, it can be interesting to dye eggs using ingredients we can find in our own pantry.  The colors may not be as bright, but they produce a look that is rustic and much more natural looking than what can be achieved from the store bought packages.

When researching different ingredients to use, I came across the blog  She offers excellent instructions about how to achieve amazing looking dyed Easter eggs with dyes that most of us already have in our kitchen.


Take a look, give it a try, and let me know what you think!!

1 Comment

Cutting out the Sugar


Sugar…more addicting than cocaine?  According to many nutrition experts, sugar is the most addicting substance legally available today.  And guess what…it is in almost every processed food out there.  Various estimates state that the average American eats anywhere between 100 and 150 lbs of sugar a year.  That is a lot of sugar, not to mention a ton of calories!  (Between 175,500 and 263,250 calories).


Now I’m not talking about the sugar found in fruits (fructose) or milk (lactose)…I’m talking about the white stuff (added sugar).  The tough part is, sugar is listed on ingredient labels under so many different names, it can be difficult to keep track of them all!  According to, common names for sugar on ingredient labels include:

  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice Syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Xylose

I love sugar and sweets just as much as the next person.  I used to crave something sweet every evening like clock work.  I never understood the hold it had over me until I stopped eating added sugar for a period of time and noticed how much better I felt.  This was further confirmed when I went back and ate sugary, sweet treats and then noticed a sluggish, overall cruddy feeling that came over me.  Sugar really does have a negative effect on how you feel.  Not only did it affect how I felt immediately after eating it, but the next day while trying to exercise, I noticed a decrease in my performance as well.

So what do I do now if I need something sweet?  I must say, first of all, I don’t crave sweet things as often, and food that used to not be sweet enough for my tastes is sometimes too sweet now.  But if I do bake and am required to use a sweetening agent, I look for natural, non-processed sweeteners in the form of bananas, honey and unsweetened applesauce.  images-2images-1imagesWhile these items contain a form of sugar, sugar in this state has a lower glycemic value so won’t spike blood sugar like the white, highly processed form.  Pure maple syrup would be another option…I find this adds too much of the maple flavor for my taste, so I stick to bananas, honey and applesauce.

Does this mean you can never eat sugar??  No, as with anything these days, it is hard to completely avoid processed sugar.  But if you are mindful of what you are eating and avoid it as much as possible, I can tell you, as I did, you will noticed a definite difference in the way you feel and perform during physical activity.

So give it a try.  Give up eating added sugar for a week.  See how you feel.  Do you notice a difference?  Then go and eat a sugary treat…think chocolate or pie and see how you feel then.  I bet you’ll like how you feel avoiding sugar much better than do when you give in to the hold sugar has over so many of us!

Recipe:  Clean Chocolate PB Cupcakes

Credit:  The Kitchen Table – The Eat Clean Diet



  • 1.5c Oatmeal
  • 4T Ground Flaxseed
  • 3 scoops Chocolate Whey
  • 1/2tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2tsp Baking Soda
  • 4T Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4c Non-Fat, Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2c Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 1/2c Natural Peanut Butter – no sugar added
  • 1/2c Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk


1.  Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.
2.  In another bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Mix well.
3.  Pour wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix well.
4.  Divide evenly into greased muffin tins.
5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Calories: 168.8; Fat: 8.7; Carbs: 13.4; Fiber: 4; Protein: 12.5