Super Simple Protein Oats!

OK, I know it’s not exactly Paleo (who am I kidding? It’s totally not Paleo), but I’ve been obsessed with oatmeal lately. I was just buying the single-serve packets to quench my cravings, but I looked over the ingredients and was shocked to find how much JUNK was in them. Even the organic brands had a lot of sugar added, and it seemed the only way to avoid the unnecessary simple carbs and “natural flavorings” (seriously, what is that crap??) was to make it on my own.

On Monday, I decided to prep my breakfasts for the week, and I wanted to make it as simple as possible. I took four mason jars and filled them with oatmeal, vanilla protein powder, stevia, cinnamon, and cashew milk. I had no idea how it would taste, but decided to make five of them and hope for the best.

HOLY DELICIOUSNESS, BATMAN!!!

These things are amazing. Instead of eating them cold (as overnight oats), I’ve nuked them for about three minutes and they turn into this warm, almost oatmeal-cookie esque bread pudding that’s to die for.

For roughly 320 calories, I’m getting a solid 35g of protein and 5g of pure fiber goodness. And, most importantly, only 1g of sugar (33g total carbs, but I’m not doing a restrictive diet here)!

In case you want to recreate this vanilla cinnamon orgastic breakfast, here’s what I’m using:

  • 1/2 cup organic, steel-cut oats
  • 1 scoop of Isopure Vanilla 0g carb protein powder (pricey, but worth it)
  • 1 cup Silk Unsweetened Cashew Milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/3 cup Stevia powder (more or less to taste)
  • Between 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup water, added a few drops at a time while microwaving

Mix-in Ideas:

  • 1/4 cup organic raisins (roughly 100 calories)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (roughly 200 calories)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (roughly 40 calories)
  • 1 tbsp chocolate chips (roughly 80 calories)

You can realistically get away with microwaving this about 90 seconds if you just want it to be warm and thick, but I discovered that cooking it longer makes it puff up noticeably (imagine a cake rising) and give the illusion of substantially more food. If you do microwave past 90 seconds, consider adding a few tbsp of water every 30 seconds or so and stirring. I cook mine roughly three minutes and it turns into a MASSIVE bowl of doughy/cakey oats, which is my FAVORITE. If you prefer porridge-style oats, definitely cut the time to less than two minutes.

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FYI: I know this is a terrible picture, but it smelled so good and I was so raring to eat it, I honestly didn’t care about getting a good picture. It smelled like the oatmeal cookies your grandmother used to make.

And the added plus? This keeps me full for HOURS! I ate this around 10am yesterday in the office and didn’t touch my lunch until after 3pm. As someone who normally grazes all day (and eats religiously every 2 hours, hungry or not), that’s saying something about the staying power of this simple dish.

So, these oats prove it: there really is no excuse for not eating a healthy breakfast every day. I literally prepped five of these in under five minutes Monday morning, and they take less than four minutes to heat/cook. It would’ve taken me 2-3x the amount of time to stop somewhere and grab a breakfast sandwich, and they’re substantially more filling than my usual protein-bar-out-the-door routine.

What’s your excuse?

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

 

RX Bars: Best Customer Service!

So, I’m sure all of you remember the horrific debacle I dealt with a few weeks back with Julian’s Bakery regarding their moldy, nasty Paleo protein bars, right? It was an all-around terrible experience: their customer service led me in circles, insisted I mail back their product, and told me I’d be responsible for shipping costs – all while I dealt with a product that was literally slimy with white mold. Needless to say, when I finally got my money back, I vowed to never order from them again.

While I absolutely love Quest Bars, though, I knew I needed to find a Paleo-approved substitute to use in my regular diet. Quest Bars are made with corn fiber and dairy/whey, which is a big no-no for most primal diets. So, while they are good for the occasional cheat, they definitely shouldn’t play a prominent role in your daily nutrition.

That being said, I did a bit of research and discovered the RX Bar company!

RX Bars are 100% natural: they contain fruit, nuts, and egg whites. The end.

And, with each RX Bar boasting 12g of protein and lots of fiber, they’re the perfect breakfast-on-the go for Paleo and non-Paleo people alike!

I had ordered three cases back in July and kept them in my pantry, where they were unfortunately forgotten for about three months. When I rediscovered them last week, I was thrilled to dive back in and enjoy them. I did notice, though, that two of the bars I opened had a tiny spot of mold on them. I checked the expiration date and the product should have been OK, but I did note the wrappers were thin, so I likely had damaged/ripped them when I put them away.

Fearful for a repeat of the terror Julian’s Bakery, I sent a request through the “Contact Us” form on the RX Bar’s website, praying to just get a coupon or something for the product so I could order more.

But I got so, so much more.

About an hour after my request was submitted (noting the mold on the bar, the expiration date, and the fact that I believed the wrapper could have been damaged by me or in transport), they had a customer service representative call me personally.

What?! A call from a real human being?! What sorcery is this?

The young lady was SUPER sweet, verifying the details I put on my request form and just asking for the bar code from the packaging so she could check to see if there was any history or issue with that particular batch of bars. She was never accusatory or defensive (see my conversations with Julian’s Bakery to see the OPPOSITE of this behavior), and she apologized several times for any inconvenience this caused me. She immediately told me that they’d redesigned their packaging to avoid this issue several months ago, and also changed the recipe slightly to bring down the moisture (switched from dates to cashews), so she was positive I’d have a better experience in the future. She also confirmed I didn’t have any allergies (seriously, how courteous is that?) and then offered to replace the bars – a full 12-pack! – as an apology and a means of rectifying the situation.

WHAT?!

So, not only did she offer an apology for a slight issue with the product, but she also replaced it – with free shipping! – by 1200%!

****LOOK****

THEY ARE SO CONFIDENT ABOUT THE QUALITY OF THEIR BARS, THEY GUARANTEE THEM RIGHT ON THEIR WEBSITE!

This is LIGHTYEAR’S beyond how the customer service department at Julian’s Bakery treated me, and far beyond my expectations for excellent customer service. I already loved RX Bars for their delicious product, but now their incredible customer service has now solidified a life-long relationship with me.

If you’re on a Paleo, Whole30, Primal, or nutrition-focused diet — or just love real, healthy food — you definitely need to pick up a few packs of these bars! I love the Coffee Cacao and Blueberry, but ALL of the flavors are truly amazing!

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

 

 

 

Animal Kingdom: The Healthiest Park?

For those who do not know, I am a Disney-holic. My husband and I have annual passes, and we are at one of the four Orlando-based Disney theme parks every weekend. And, most times, we go more than one day.

Theme parks are not normally known as the mecca of healthy options, and everyone knows I am a sucker for sweets, but I’m thrilled to report that Animal Kingdom might be one of the healthiest options for any local or tourist looking to stick to their diet. My reasons?

ONE: You walk everywhere!

The park is mostly outdoor, and spans THOUSANDS of acres. You can easily log 6-7 miles of walking even during a short visit, and can go much longer than that if you take advantage of the HIKING TREK adventure offered in Africa’s Kilimanjaro Safari tours. It’s almost six hours of backpacking through their habitats!

TWO: healthy food options are everywhere!

Not only do they have stands dedicated to gluten-free menus, but even the regular food options are pretty healthy.

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We found hummus with veggies at one stand, and falafel balls (fried, yes, but mostly healthy) with fresh tzatziki sauce!

IMG_7823I wanted to eat all of these myself, but I begrudgingly shared with my husband.

The new Harambe Market features tons of new options, which are mostly grilled chicken, beef, and sausages! It took me a while to find an unhealthy option at the park, and I was happy to see very few patrons were dining there on a beautiful Florida day.

THREE: it’s HOT!

The weather in Florida is scorching in the summer, and most Disney parks have primarily indoor attractions to keep you cool, but not at Animal Kingdom! Most of the Animal Kingdom attractions are outside, so you’re sweating like a fiend. I’m not sure about you, but I absolutely lose my appetite when I’m hot. So I nearly forgot about eating lunch at the park, and it wasn’t until a quick summer shower forced us into the stores around 2pm that I remembered about sneaking in a meal!

While I’ll never stop loving Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom may have stolen my heart as the place to go when I don’t feel like splurging on my diet AND want to see some gorgeous animals.

On that note… bon appetit, my friends!

Tori

Combating the Office Job

One of the biggest challenges with having an office job is the 8-10 hours of sitting my body has to endure 5 days per week, 48-50 weeks per year.

Fortunately, I work in an environment where kinetic engagement is encouraged, with most meetings occurring on the move (we walk laps around the lake our building is situated next to) and an open floorplan that encourages us to make our space ours.

My amazing team surprised me on my birthday this year with a balance ball chair for my birthday, which has pretty much become my favorite thing on earth.

IMG_7185It came with a smaller ball, but I happened to have a spare balance ball at home, so I rotate between the smaller and larger depending on what I’m doing throughout the day.

As someone with ADHD, this thing is a lifesaver. The slight bounce keeps my extra energy channeled, and the unstable surface keeps my obliques and lower abs engaged (but not exhausted) throughout the day.

The smaller ball is easier to sit on (it fits the chair perfectly), but doesn’t challenge my core to balance as much, and I have to make an active effort to bounce to feel the effects. The large ball, however, is like sitting on a wild animal, and after a few hours I can feel every muscle in my back, shoulders, and abdominals getting tight and firm.

While this balance ball chair hasn’t helped me resist the office sweets and treats (darn that candy jar!), it has helped me stay focused and do something other than just sit and stagnate for the majority of my day.

Every little step counts, right?

Bon appetit, my friends, and happy bouncing!

~ Tori

Bursitis? Tendonitis? …the GOUT?

Remember a few weeks back when I complained about my wrists aching from the Stairmaster?

Well, the pain is back …and with a vengeance.

I’ve spent the last week avoiding the stairmaster – and just about every upper body machine and free weight – due to excruciating pain radiating from both wrists.

I felt fine last Friday when I spent the day kayaking with my mother, and honestly don’t remember feeling any pain Saturday morning after spending two hours on the stairmaster, but sometime between Sunday and Monday, a terrible burning and stabbing pain began to radiate from both wrists and it hasn’t abated.

Per a quick symptom search on WebMD, I could have anything from carpal tunnel (doubt it, mainly because I’ve had it before and this is about 1,000,000x worse), to rheumatoid arthritis (oh, please no!) to gout.

Really? Gout? I didn’t realize it was 1615. I better warn the serfs that I shan’t be returning on the ‘morrow.

Following the advice of my dear friend Lonnie-Lou, I’ve been popping ibuprofen and icing both wrists, and steering clear of anything that might put further stress on them …other than typing, of course, because I literally couldn’t function in my daily life without my laptop.

Boy, you don’t realize how much you use your wrists for every day activities until they’re painfully sore with every movement.

Oh, did you want to zip your dress? Yeaaaaah, that’s not happening.
Scratch the back of your head? NOPE.
Heck, even brushing my teeth and combing my hair has become a dolorous, painful process.

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While this is cramping my style a bit, I’m taking it super easy this week at the gym, sticking to lower body movements and hands-free elliptical, and doing what I can to not injure my wrists any more. If the pain isn’t gone by next week, I’ll be seeing a specialist.

Let’s hope it’s not the “king’s illness” (aka, the nickname for gout), and I won’t have to give up my red wine habit. :/

On that note… bon appetit, everyone!

~ Tori

The Downside of Morning Workouts

I both love and hate Thursdays.

I love them, because I work late: 12pm to 9pm. I love them because I get to work out in the morning, and feel like I’m starting my day out productive.

I hate them, though, because that morning workout I enjoy so much turns me into a RAVENOUS, CANDY-INHALING BEAST all day long.

I’ve heard that morning workouts do wonders to boost the metabolism, but all it seems to do for me is set my appetite on overdrive.

I eat, and eat, and eat… and even though I feel full (fit to bursting!), I want more.

So far today, I’ve had:

  • 4 tbsp of Cashew Butter (I could easily eat the whole jar – so good)
  • 56 oz (yes, 56 oz) of Minute Maid light lemonade (not Paleo, but it’s so delicious)
  • Quest Bar (Double Chocolate Chunk- not Paleo, but one of the healthier cheats!)
  • 1 cup of frozen mango
  • 5 Milky Way minis (definitely not Paleo!)
  • 5 Caramel Creams (definitely not Paleo!)
  • 4 slices of Julian’s Bakery coconut bread
  • 4 tbsp of mustard
  • 8 oz of Boar’s Head deli chicken
  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 2 cups of Snapea Crisps (not Paleo)
  • 2 Caveman cookies

That’s right. It’s not even 7pm and I’ve already consumed almost 1,900 calories. Yikes.

Granted, my workout was intense (90 minutes on the stairmaster – burned about 1700 calories), but YEESH.

I’m stuffed to the point of pain, and yet I still want more food. I’m making myself drink water and -gasp- even Diet Pepsi (I normally avoid soda like the plague) just to control myself from eating more.

I’ve had so much today, I’m honestly thinking about squeezing in another hour at the gym after work, just to cancel out some of the ridiculous consumption from the day.

And this, my friends, is why I have a love/hate relationship with Thursdays.

Does anyone else have this problem?!

~ Tori

Paleo Stuffed Peppers!

OK… everyone has been raging about stuffed peppers in my office this week. For three days in a row, it’s all anyone can talk about.

“Ohhhh, my wife made these ground andouille sausage and quinoa stuffed peppers last night and they were amazing!”

“I saw a recipe on Pinterest for these brown rice and ground pork cheesy stuffed peppers I can’t wait to try!”

“Have I said stuffed peppers yet today? Stuffed peppers! Stuffed peppers! STUFFFFFFED PEPPPPPERS!!”

OK. I get it, Paleo gods, I get it. I need to make some Paleo-friendly stuffed peppers.

However, I work full-time and hate the thought of coming home at 6pm to clean, prep, and bake stuffed peppers for an hour …because, damn it, I’m starving when I get home from work. I want to CHOW DOWN!

So… it’s crockpot time. Time for the magic.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2 bunches of pearl onions
  • 8 large bell peppers
  • 1 cup raw button mushrooms
  • 2 cups of Trader Joe’s organic marinara
  • 1 cup red wine (of your choice)
  • 6 tbsp ground garlic
  • 6 tbsp ground chili powder
  • 4 tbsp dried onion flakes (if you haven’t noticed, I add these to everything I cook)
  • Non-stick Coconut Oil spray (I prefer Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

In your crockpot, spray a thin layer of coconut oil to prevent searing/sticking. Clean your bell peppers, chopping the tops off and removing the seeds/insides. Place the bell peppers into the crockpot.

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Now, in a large pan (I used a wok), spray your coconut spray (to prevent sticking) and put it on medium-high heat. Gentle saute your mushrooms (I chopped mine small), pearl onions, pepper caps (why waste them? dice ’em and add it in!) until they were nice and soft. Once tender, I added the raw ground turkey and seasoning.

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After the turkey was cooked through, I added 1 cup of the marinara, mixing well.

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While that cooked down, I mixed the remaining cup of marinara and the wine and poured it IN BETWEEN the peppers in the crockpot. The hope is that the fluid would help to poach the bell peppers, making them soft and sweet.

Once the meat mixture cooked down, I used a big spoon and (quite clumsily) stuffed the peppers in the crockpot.

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Don’t those look AMAZING? Who needs grains? Not this girl!

Since the meat is cooked and I won’t be home until after 8pm tonight, I set the crockpot to LOW and to cook for three hours, then reset to “warm” so it would still be steamy warm when I get home.

Now, since my husband isn’t devout Paleo, I sprinkled a little low fat mozzarella and Parmesan on four of these to make them extra tasty for him, and I plan to enjoy mine with some freshly mashed avocado.

Needless to say, I can’t wait for my work day to end so I can go inhale these!

Bon appetit, my friends, and I’ll let you know how they turned out tomorrow!

~ Tori