Fit Friday: Granola Bars for Back to School

In the last twelve days we have experienced the first day of school, two swim meets (one where that boy of mine shattered all of his personal best records & is on a fast track to qualifying for state!), high school football kick-off (live on ESPN where one of my girls performed with the guard during pre-game & half-time), two softball games, Audley has already travel to Nebraska & Iowa (traveling  again next week), and tomorrow I will run my first ever 5K (with my youngest daughter) as a victory dance to all of the goals I have been working to meet.
To say our lives are crazy busy is a total understatement at this point.

But I do love it!

First Day of School Picture … it’s a tradition!


There was a point just 15 months ago where I would have been stressing and crying over all the things I couldn’t keep up with.  And NEVER in 100 years would I have seen myself playing softball again or running a 5K.

Change is good.It’s been so good for our family, especially for our children as I can fully enjoy all of the things they do as well.

I am not the only one who has made changes over the last year or so.  My kiddos have as well.  Gone are the days of soda and potato chips (except on rare occasions) to drag them down and they make plenty of healthy choices for themselves.  I’ve even received phone calls from the girls while they are dinning out with friends asking for the best options from choices on the menu.
Yes, change is very good.
I’ve always had my kids pack a lunch for school.  There are many reasons behind it, but the two main factors are school food is gross (a quote from my children), and now I have a teenage boy that can’t seem to get enough to eat (duel sports of swimming & wrestling will do that to you), so one lunch does not begin to fill him up!

We have gotten creative packing their lunches.  While we still fix good old fashioned peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (using homemade completely organic jam & all natural PB on whole wheat bread), I have made things like veggie roll-ups (flour tortillas spread with cream cheese and topped with chopped cucumber, broccoli, carrots, etc… and rolled up), homemade chicken salad (using super fresh and organic ingredients), and what has become their favorite snack, granola bars!Have you ever read the ingredients on the package of any granola bar?  There are probably ten items listed and 75% of them can’t be pronounced!

These granola bars are simple to make (so simple that even my girls can whip these up in five minutes) and have only three basic ingredients, all of which you can pronounce.

3 cups Organic Oatmeal
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup honey (chose a mild flavored honey)

I use honey from my brother-in-law who raises bees.  Hit the farmers market to find your own fresh honey. Nothing can beat that flavor!

{I told you these were simple}

Combine all of your ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well.  If you would like you can add miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped nuts.

Press the granola bar mixture in a 9×9 pan (I actually used a tart pan), cover and refrigerate overnight.  When ready to serve, slice with a pizza cutter and pack for lunch.

These granola bars are chewy.  While they do firm up a bit, they do not harden like the ones you purchase at the store, so don’t be disappointed when they squish in a lunch box.  My kids put their’s in a small tupperware bowl to protect them.

These have become such a hit in our house that even Audley looks forward to me making them, which I am more than happy to make these since they are so delicious and wholesome!

Linking up with Foodie Friday this week.


Fit Friday: Let’s Get this Party Started!

In all of our lives at one time or another, we have faced that one thing where we don’t want to admit we have a problem.  It’s like a huge elephant in the room at every family get-together, or the frustration felt in our daily lives. It’s something we don’t want to talk about, much less hear about, but it’s always there.

For some it is drinking, for others smoking, and for others it may be more serious.
My addiction was/is food.
 For over ten years I heard my parents reminding me how unhealthy I was becoming, that heart issues are genetic and I was just encouraging them.  My nephew would go home after visiting us and talk about how fat his Aunt Jen was.  I had people mistake me for being pregnant, cried in dressing rooms because clothes I wanted to wear just did not fit, worried that my family was embarrassed by me every time we went out in public, slept for the entire 8 hours while my kids were in school because I had no energy to do anything else, & virtually stopped going to social activities outside of church and my children’s activities.
I was surviving, but I sure wasn’t living.
Then came the fateful day that my husband had to have a heart cath last spring.  As a SAHM who was just days from turning 40, I was not prepared in the least for any of the stresses that had come upon us.  While Audley came through all of his issues with flying colors, it left me with plenty to think about.
What if something happened to Audley?  Who would take care of our kids?  How could I work when I couldn’t even get through the day without a long nap?  I mean I couldn’t even walk up the hill from our mailbox without getting winded.  I was in no position to function if something were to happen to my husband.
Please don’t let my candidness offend you, but
At 5’2 I weighed 269 pounds and I was Obese.
Like any problem we have, admitting it is the first step to fixing it, and for the last fourteen months I have done everything in my power to change my life and fix my problem.
And wow!  Has it ever changed!
Is being overweight your problem?
 I know, it’s embarrassing.
It’s a really tough subject to talk about, and sometimes it’s easier to pretend it doesn’t exist.  When someone has an illness they generally talk about it.  Obesity is an illness, and it needs to be talked about, no matter how embarrassing it is to face.  Talk shows discuss it, reality shows portray it, but they can’t begin to cover how much of an issue it is.  There is a lot too it.  Sometimes underlying issues that I can’t even begin to fathom are behind a person’s obesity, but it needs to be discussed.
I can tell you why I was so overweight … I was selfish.  I was so self-absorbed that when we moved with Audley’s job so many times that I turned to food and myself for comfort instead of getting out and enjoying the blessings of life, meeting people and getting involved in activities outside myself.  I hid in food, made food my best friend and whenever something upset me, offended me, scared me, or I found myself alone I turned to food to fix it.  I was totally addicted to food!
I’ll be honest, I do like food.
I like to play with flavor, I like to cook and I really like the results when people brag on my dishes.   That hasn’t changed any, but what has changed is the manner in which I play with flavor and the attitude in which I treat food.  It’s a matter of eating to live now, not living to eat.  I will always struggle with my food addiction
Now I am not going to tell you how to get skinny.  I’m not about skinny, but I am about fit and healthy as I continue along my our fit journey.  There is a huge difference between fit and skinny and I can assure you the latter is far better!
Here are a few ways to get started:
First, change your mind. You cannot start any kind of fitness program without the determination that YOU CAN DO THIS!
Is it easy?
Heck no!
When you have the ugliest piece of furniture or  room that you decide to restore or transform do you see the original shape it was in?  No, you look ahead to what it can be.
It’s the same thing with getting fit.  Look to what you can be, not your starting point.
And keep in mind, NO ONE is too old to change.  I work out in the gym with men and women who are in their 60’s, 70’s, and yes there is even a lady who is in her 80’s that trains several days a week!
It’s all a mind game!
Second, get moving!  Turn off the TV, shut down your computer and move it!  Turn on some music with a beat and go for a walk.  Start off slow doing what you can and add to it every day. Even moving slow beats sitting on the couch!  And a peaceful walk is so relaxing.
Undertake a massive housecleaning.  You want to work out, try moving furniture and vacuuming underneath it, dusting bookshelves and rearranging all of the books, wash windows, scrub baseboards, rearrange a room…. These things come easy to me now, but were neglected in our home for a long time because I simply did not have the energy to tackle them.  Pick two and go for it today!
Pick up a beginners workout DVD.  The Dancing with the Stars series is fun (although I have NO rhythm) and after I got the hang of a few dances I really enjoyed it.  I close the blinds for that workout though!
Check out a local gym.  Take a beginners yoga class, walk the treadmill, or take a low-impact aerobics class.
Don’t be afraid of the gym.  Yes, it can be intimidating, but it is truly the place for everyone.  If you are uncomfortable with a co-ed atmosphere, there are women’s only centers as well.
When I hit the gym for the first time it was to learn resistance and weight training.  I don’t do cardio (except to train for a 5K I’m about to run) but instead I’m building lean muscle which burns more fat than cardio will.  Cardio is good for your heart, but burns up all the fuel you feed your body.  I will cover that more later.
This is what weight training will do for you … no sagging skin here!
If you can budget it, hire a personal trainer to give you a hand getting started.  You would be amazed at the help a trainer will be.  I used one for four months and it truly made all the difference in my efforts!
Make a conscious effort to move for your health everyday!
Third, stay away from fad diets.  Believe me, I’ve done them all.  I’ve no-carbed, counted points, took a pill, drank a shake, fasted, etc….  All that did for me was stress me out, made me cry and head to the kitchen because I was starving at the end of the day!
Your body needs fuel.  Feed it, just feed it correctly.
Choose lean meats, fresh veggies, low to no sugar, and very low sodium.  Bake, Broil (w/o butter), and grill your meats.  Make your own salad dressings using natural products.  Mrs. Dash and growing my own herbs has become the norm for preparing meals in my kitchen.
Clean out your cabinets and pantry.  Throw out the chips and cookies and Hamburger Helper and pasta salad mixes and Special K bars and cereal and…..
Eat clean.  You’ll feel better, it’ll taste better and you’ll notice a difference really soon!
And speaking of eating, eat!  DO NOT skip a meal.  Balance each meal with a lean protein, a carb (potatoes, rice, etc…), and fresh veggies (at dinner & supper).
I actually measure my food.  I have 4-5 ounces of my protein (8 ounces of fish), one cup of a carb and unlimited fresh veggies.
When you start out eating, go with your three standard meals, but as your body starts to change, possibly lose weight and you feel better, you may find yourself hungry more.  Add a fourth meal.  Don’t snack away the hunger.  It just doesn’t work.  Right now I eat five small meals a day.
One last thing, write down everything you eat all day long …. even the one bite of peanut butter or taste of a cookie.  Then look back at the end of the day and see what you could have definitely done without.
You’ll be amazed.
Keep a food journal.  It will help keep you accountable.
Fourth, don’t quit!  No one ever said this was easy.  In fact I have shed many a tear of discouragement and frustration.  There have been days I just want to scream, throw a dumbbell, or break a plate, but that’s all a part of it.
Taken in Jamaica 1 year apart.
Talk openly and candidly with your family about what is going on with you.  Invite their support and encouragement.  Enlist the help of friends who will walk with you, or even workout with you.  A support system will help you through the most trying of times!
I think I have the best support system around.  Audley works out with me on weights, as do Bradley and MacKenzie.  Madeline has convinced me to run a 5K with her in two weeks, so she is my running partner for now.
MacKenzie & I post leg workout … 
This chick who couldn’t walk up hill or stairs without getting winded a year ago is playing softball on a co-ed team right now, climbed a mountain earlier in the summer, and keeps a pretty clean house these days (as clean as three teenagers allow, anyway).
Madeline & I prior to my softball game last night!  She’s a great cheerleader!
My two best guys prior to pre-game last week.
I know that I can’t change the world, but after this last year I want to make a difference in someone’s life.
Today is a good day to get started.  Don’t wait.  After all, while tomorrow is another day, tomorrow never truly comes.
If you have any questions or would like some help, please ask.  I will do all I can to help you on your own fitness journey!
Let’s get this party started!!

Fit Friday: Chicken Kebabs w/ Orange-Basil Vinaigrette

There is something about firing up the grill in the summer that is so relaxing and natural!  What could make firing up the grill even better is the possibility of having supper on the table in 30 minutes?
I have a super easy, really healthy & delicious chicken kebab recipe for Fitness Friday this week that will allow you to do just that!

In a small bowl combine 
1/4 cup fresh squeeze Orange Juice (if you are limiting your sugar you can use orange Crystal Light)
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive oil (I am partial to California Olive — NON-GMO)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2-3 Tablespoons fresh, chopped basil leaves
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
fresh ground black pepper for flavor

In a large dish suitable for marinading
pour the basil-orange vinaigrette over 2 pounds of cubed chicken breast and let soak for about 20 minutes turning to completely coat the breast.

While the chicken is marinating
cut up your desired veggies that you would like to grill with your chicken as well as a whole navel orange into pieces to skewer as well.

For my kebabs I cut up fresh zucchini, bell pepper, sweet onion & oranges, then tossed it in the marinade with the chicken for the last few minutes it marinaded.

your skewers with the chicken and veggies alternating and adding an orange wedge here and there.

Have your grill pre-heated to 400 degrees.  Be sure to spray your grill racks with PAM before heating it up.

the kebabs over medium-high heat, turning every two minutes until the chicken is done.  About 8-10 minutes.  You can baste with a little of the marinade to keep your veggies from drying out when you turn the first couple of times.

Discard the marinade.

Serve your kebabs with 3/4 cup of rice or a crisp green salad.
Serving size for the kebabs is 5 ounces of chicken … roughly two kebabs.

It’s summer, take advantage of those fresh farmer’s market  or garden veggies!

Not only is this recipe easy, fast and absolutely delicious, it is also so colorful and great for a company dinner without you spending all evening in the kitchen!

And that can’t be beat!

Have a fabulously fit weekend!