Sloppy Joe – A Weeknight Fave

Here is one that will keep you on track with your goals and the kids will love!  SLOPPY JOES. Sooooo yum.

Let me give you the way I have designed the recipe.

  • 1 lb of extra lean ground turkey
  • 1 tsp of worcestershire sauce
  • 15 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp of tomato paste
  • .25 cups of bbq sauce (we use Stubbs original)

Last night I threw in some chopped onion too.

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Leeann Likes – Sweet Potato Toast. Is this #reallife?

What is up with Sweet Potato Toast??

Let’s talk about sweet potato toast.  I feel like it hit the internet by storm.  I LOVE sweet potatoes.  Sweet potato fries are on the top of my favorite food list.  But for some reason I was weirded out by the idea of toast.  Maybe because I was scared to cut those suckers that way.  But see something enough times and you just need to try it.  I found two methods of cooking.  Some people use the toaster, other people use the oven.  I went with the oven because I think sweet potatoes taste better when cooked low and slow.  I can’t imagine how many rounds it would have taken them in the toaster.  I make a a lot, stored them in the fridge and then toasted them each morning for breakfast or in the afternoon for a snack.  I was really surprised.  It was great and I can’t wait to make it again!

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Pool Side Dinners – Summer 2017 Laura’s Menu

With a week of swim team, dive team and swimming lessons while school is still in session, we have to be at the pool from 5:30 – 8:00 pm every night. So we have four nights of pool side dinners (you can bet we ate out on Friday!)

Some ideas are more detailed and creative than others but maybe it will give you some ideas.

Night One: Make your own chicken tacos with shredded chicken from the crock pot.
Kids ate it so I call it a win!

Night Two:  Ham and cheese sandwiches served with:
Yogurt tubes frozen
And roasted veggies

Just a cooler full of yummies

Night Three:  Grilling out!

Grilled salmon for mom and dad
Grilled hot dogs for kids
Veggie kabobs for all
Fruit assortment


Night Four – Chicken pita pockets

Chicken skewers from Costco (Jackson ate 2!!)

Parent version:
Sautéed peppers, Greek yogurt, and feta for topping in st Joseph’s mini pitas!

Jackson version:
No pita and skewers dipped in ranch

Elli version:
Skewer in pita with ranch and Greek yogurt

Served with go-gurt tubes for kids and salad for parents with fruit for all!

Night Five:  Chipotle people! This mom got tired.



Pool Side Dinners – Summer 2017 PowerFull Moms Menu

As I was sharing some of my pool side menu last week, I had some awesome moms share their pool side cuisine as well. The more ideas the better! Check out these two options…

Amy’s Idea:  Steak Salad.

Grilled steak
Roasted veggies
And a orange sesame dressing!


And Aspen shared taco options!: I made taco filling, rolled up the kiddos some soft tacos, and made Dave and I some 6 layer “dip!” Taco meat, cheese, lettuce, salsa, black olives, and sour cream, plus chips to scoop! It was fun to have dinner by the pool.

Perfection! Bring on summer!!!


Get In Your Veggies! Without Having to Hide Them

I am so excited about spending March focusing on nutrition.  Are you Ready to Be…MindFULL of Nutrition?  Does that scare you a bit?  Do you ever wonder HOW MUCH produce you need?

I turned to Choose My Plate as a great resource for this. Check out their website here.

General guidelines have women ages 31-50 needing about 1.5 cups of fruit daily. This is for women who get less than 30 minutes of exercise daily so it can be increased if you are more active!  In case you’re wondering – children ages 4-8 also need about 1- 1.5 cups of fruit a day.  You can check this chart for more on what a cup of fruit looks like depending on the type!

For veggies, women ages 31-50 need 2.5 cups of veggies daily (again this is for women who get 30 minutes or less exercise each day so it can be increased with increased activity).  Children need 1.5 cups (ages 4-8).  If you want more on this or for other recommendations based on kids age and gender check here).  This page also has a really cool chart based on how many veggies per week you need from each sub group – kinda cool!

Please note these recommendations are generalizations and can change based on other factors!  

So we know we need them….how do we do it?  This is where my great friend Valerie from Nalls Produce.  Valerie is a great resource for all things veggies and produce.  Our family LOVES OUR CSA  with Nalls but it can be tough sometimes to figure out HOW to get the veggies in.  But Valerie never fails to help  – check out her NINE tips I love her involvement in the community and her desire to bring healthy meals to our homes:

Valerie shares:

You want to eat more fresh veggies. You really do. You want to have a crisper that is full of vegetables that you know are good for you and your family, and you want to USE them. You want children that won’t turn up their noses at cabbage steaks. YOU don’t want to turn your nose up at cabbage steaks. But you know that pureeing butternut squash every other day to include in your mac and cheese is not realistic either.

Most of us with moderate to low levels of willpower, children, and responsibilities, the “want” is not enough. New habits are really hard to create. Period.  But you WANT to, right? Try these tricks to make it happen!

    1. Write down your goals. Make them quantifiable and specific. Just saying “I want to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit” is not enough. To be quantifiable and specific you need to say something like “ I want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables with dinner at least 4 nights a week for the next 30 days”. This gives you a specific number that you can measure. The 30 days part – of course you will want to extend this habit beyond the 30 days, but your brain can better handle the challenge of achieving this goal if there is a set end point. At the end of 30 days you will want to look back and evaluate your performance and set a new goal for the next 30 days.
    2. Track your progress Make a chart with 120 circles on it and color in the circle every time you have a fresh veggie with dinner. Place this chart where you can see it every day and have written on it “Fresh Fruits & Veggies with Dinner 4x weekly for 30 Days”. Marking off the circles is a fun way to get your kids involved, too!
    3. Prepare yourself for success!  Stock your kitchen with enough fresh veggies to make this happen. If you come home in the evening late on a weekday and you have no fresh veggies in your kitchen, it is going to be hard to make it happen that night. Buy enough to have plenty on hand.
    4. Buy plenty!   See trick number 3. Also, most of us have a compelling need to not waste food. If you have an abundance of fresh produce but you know it is going to go bad soon, you are more likely to hurry up and use it.
    5. Try new recipes!  If you enjoy playing in the kitchen, find new recipes to experiment with. It can get you excited to play around with new ingredients!
    6. Repeat winning recipes!  There is nothing wrong with knowing you love roasted cauliflower and incorporating it regularly into your meal planning. A veggie eaten is a veggie eaten, it doesn’t have to be a new, exotic, exciting recipe to “get credit”
    7. Reverse plan your meals!  Instead of thinking “What’s for dinner?” think backwards. “I want my dinner to include cabbage, so I will make cabbage steaks. Kielbasa goes well with that, and I will add whole wheat dinner rolls to finish the meal” This works even better when you have the veggies on hand. “I want to use this cabbage — what can I make? Oh, cabbage steaks, plus kielbasa and rolls”.
    8. Grow your own!  Tomatoes and peppers are fairly easy to grow, even for those of your with self-proclaimed “Black Thumbs”. If you have grown the veggies yourself, you won’t want them to go to waste. You will have pride in your accomplishments and will be eager to reap the rewards! Visit a independent garden center, they can get you set up to handle a few plants successfully, even if you have your doubts.
    9. Join a CSA!  Many farms or produce shops offer packages of pre-selected produce on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, or CSAs. They will include a variety of items that are in-season and ready to eat. This forces you to try new things, based on what you receive that week, fills your crisper, and, best of all, forces you to use it relatively quickly. You know that you are receiving another share soon, and you will need the space in your refrigerator.  Hopefully you can try these methods and get some more fresh produce into your diet easily! Sometimes it’s best to just think about ways to manipulate your brain and thought process rather than just thinking about the desired outcome!

Ahh – these tips are great. I specifically love the idea of setting specific goals and CHARTING them. That makes it fun for the family and makes your progress tangible.  Thanks so much Valerie for sharing with us.

Valerie Nalls is the manager of Nalls Produce, 50+ year old family operated garden center and fresh produce shop in Alexandria Virginia. Learn more about the Nalls CSA program at


Protein on a Budget – More Real Life Tips from Moms!

Yesterday I posted this amazing article from Amanda about how she breaks down the cost of protein at dinner.  Many of the moms in our boot camp crew had some thoughts to share as well. I love this community for this reason – we get so many new ideas and tips from each other.  It takes a village right?!

Janis says:

Today I’m cooking organic chicken drumsticks from trader joes. I think it was only $1.99 a pound. It was $3.50 for the package, around 8 drumsticks. I cook in a crockpot with 1.5 cup of BBQ sauce, a bunch of spices-cumin, paprika, mustard, onion powder, etc. cook on low 4-6 hours. I always stick in broiler for 5 minutes so the skin is crispy. This will feed my whole family, 2 adults, 2 kids plus my lunch (over salad) . I make some veggies too, maybe cauliflower rice or a carb. Super cheap meal.  

Janis’ BBQ sauce:  The recipe for the sauce is from my favorite crock pot cookbook. Good for those giant amounts of chicken, pork, beef, etc. from Costco. They have a healthier edition now, too. I have to get.…

Amanda replied:

I would LOVE it if 8 drumsticks would feed my family. My husband eats 8 drumsticks on his own (seriously). BUT drumsticks are an awesome way to stretch the protein dollar. Typically they are very inexpensive or on sale. A few weeks ago Giant had them on sale for 88 cents a pound! I bought 3 “family pack” packages for $12.50 ($4.15 a package) and each package had 15 (ish) drumsticks in it. So I use one package for my family of 5 – my husband eats 8 and the three kids and I share 4-6. I take the skin off before cooking to cut the fat, add a veggie and a fruit for the kids and a meal for the whole family for less than $1.50 a person.

Janis asked:

Do you buy organic or not organic! I tend to waiver depending on the price, truthfully!

Amanda replied:

Also depends. Whole foods often has their chicken leg/thighs on sale or if not on sale they are really well priced and you get 5 whole thighs and legs. Otherwise I typically by non organic as its often cost prohibitive for us. My family eats A LOT. My husband will usually have 4 chicken breasts in a dinner, the girls will eat 1-2 between them and I have one. That is 6-7 chicken breasts in one meal. We have to balance it out – I am happy knowing they are eating a good protein (and not a PBJ sandwich or pizza) and comfortable enough with that to avoid the organic guilt.

If you have to have kosher meat or are out of the country and meat is even more costly – how can you find some cheaper alternatives?

Amanda replies:

A hard boiled egg sliced up on a salad or sandwich is delicious as well as a poached egg. A lot of time we also over look fish – a fantastic source of protein!

Rebecca adds:

Tonight we are eating falafel with hummus, and sometimes we eat scrambled eggs or tuna subs or veggie chili with kidney beans for protein.

Janis adds:

There are also places to buy bulk meat/ organic meat. Here is one from the famous Polyface Farms (from that book- Omnivore’s Dilemma)- my friend picks up nearby.
I know that there are a bunch of other ones. I don’t have the freezer space for all of that! I just go to Costco, they have organic meat there

Jessica said:

If dairy isn’t an issue, 2% plain Greek yogurt has 23 grams of protein per cup. I love it with cinnamon and slivered almonds over berries. Good snack or breakfast idea!

Hope some of these tips help you.  Practical FITness. Practical Moms. Practical Tips.


Protein on a Budget – Real Moms Share Their Secrets

I am so excited to have our awesome instructor, Amanda, share her thoughts on protein and eating on a budget for a family of five.  This post from her has some great insight on what it looks like to practically feed your family without breaking the bank.  I love her preface at the beginning – this is going to look different for everyone and that is ok. This is just how it works for her family and hopefully by sharing what works for her, we can all learn how to make it work for us.

Check out her thoughts!!

Protein.  Insert Sigh. We have talked and talked about protein and how many grams we need, and why we need it and different foods that have it – but what we haven’t talked about a lot is how much it costs. It’s not an easy question and for some its an uncomfortable question because we all come from different financial situations, some of us are cooking for 1 and some for 5 and (others for 10!), and what is a “cheap” protein for some is not for others. But in my classes and in our seminar the topic of the cost of protein has come up and I think we should address it.

This post is not meant to be an all encompassing review of the price of proteins, but rather just a basic way to break down the price of protein and maybe make it a little easier to visualize what you need and what it could cost.

amanda1Lets start with a pork loin, because that is what I happen to be cooking tonight. Now, pork loin in a fairly lean protein and can be very cost effective. This particular pork loin was from Costco. It was $15.87 for 4 pork loins – 2 packages containing 2 loins each. That works out to be $3.96 a pork loin (I could break this down by price per pound, but I think breaking it down by number of loins helps visualize the cost better). Not too shabby.



My  family eats a lot so I cook 1 package of 2 loins for 1 meal so that is $7.93. You can do quite a bit
with a pork loin – roast it, crock pot it, smoke it. For purposes of my ridiculous Monday schedule, I chucked it in a crock pot.
I threw in some sliced up carrots, a few stalks of celery, and 1/4 of an onion, put in a 1/2 cup of chicken broth (because I had left over, you could use water), and some spices and by spices I mean salt, pepper and the pitiful end of some garlic powder. Done.

At dinner time I quickly made some quinoa. Now, before you say “But Amanda, my kids wont eat…My husband wont like…” The recipe is not the focus here, its the cost. You can modify any recipe to fit your needs, but I want to show you this as an example of the cost of a high protein meal. Lets break it down.


4 oz of pork loin has approximately 23 grams of protein. That’s good!

Now lets say you add 1 cup of quinoa for an additional 8g of protein.

So far you are at 31g of protein for 1 meal. Excellent.

But what did it cost?

Lets break down the meal for a family of 5 (because that’s who I cook for).

Pork Loin = $7.89, veggies = $2.00 (approx),

Quiona = $2.00 (approx).

Total = $11.89 broken down between 5 people = $2.37 per person. 31 grams of protein for $2.37 (ish)?


If you only cooked 1 loin it would be around $1.60 a person.

Now, I wanted to break this down because I know for many they see the almost $16 for a package of meat and get intimidated, but you have to know how to break it down. Yes, $16 in one shot for the protein can hike up the grocery bill, however when the cost is broken down by price per meal or price per person, its far easier to visualize what you need, and what it will cost. Keep in mind, I still have 2 more pork loins left and some left over of the cooked pork I will throw on a salad tomorrow. I hope this little “break down” exercise helps take some of the anxiety out of your grocery shopping and puts the how much question into a little bit better perspective.

Thanks so much for sharing Amanda. It really does help to see things broken down this way. We were just doing this in our family with our packs of salmon.  Yes it is expensive to buy a bag of frozen salmon at Costco so we sat down and broke it down/filet and it was way cheaper than eating out.  Such an awesome way to take the fear out of protein shopping!



Need to Use that Avocado?

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In this past post we chatted about WHY avocado is such an awesome thing to add to your diet.  But, maybe you need some ideas on HOW to use it.  Well the ladies in my boot camp classes have that for ya!  Check out some of the awesome ways they incorporate this super food into their daily diet.


Aspen:   I love to toast a slice of bread and top with 1/2 an avocado, salt and pepper. Yum.

Stephanie:  Avocado is my everything. I can’t find the recipe I’ve used, but this is similar.…/ I really don’t think I used chocolate chips, just cocoa powder. It’s delicious. The crust is really important, so don’t skimp and use store bought.

Stephanie added:   I’ve also been eating a “salad” of chopped avocado, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes and cilantro with just a bit of evoo and lemon juice. Super fresh, easy and yum! Add black beans for protein!

Tristan:  I have friends that add avocado to smoothies/protein shakes. It sounds weird, but it makes it creamier and you don’t taste it! That’s a great way to get more healthy fats in your diet if you don’t like actually eating avocado.

Eileen:   I eat half an avocado over a fried egg. Salt and pepper. Super yummy and lots of protein right there! I also make avocado mash..just mush it up and use it like a condiment on a sandwich.

Tristan added how she makes her avocado mash:  Avocado mash, plus some cayenne pepper, salt & pepper & lime juice mixed in with tuna or chicken for tuna salad or chicken salad (instead of mayo)

Laura B says to keep the avocado from turning:  I make a half an avocados worth then save the other half and the unmade chicken separately for the next day.

Another way to sneak in the awesome benefits of avocado is through avocado oil!  Even just putting a bit of avocado oil on your food will get you some of those awesome avocado benefits.  Check this article for 9 ways that using avocado oil can help with your health!  Let’s talk about #8 and stretch marks! What what!!!

Thanks boot camp ladies for sharing your ideas!


Poolside Cuisine – Whatcha Cookin’

PoolsideCuisineI am on a mission to come up with something to eat all summer at the pool BESIDES just sandwiches. Here are some that I’ve tried and some that friends have shared.

Pool Side Salad

I mixed together (and pardon the very much estimated measurements)

1 can black beans
bunch of chopped mango (bought the slices from Costco and chopped)
a cucumber
few tablespoons of OJ
few squirts of lemon juice
bit of sea salt
dash or two of cumin

This was a hit with Elli (which really shocked me). Jackson spit it out . Jacob enjoyed it. So I’ll keep it in the rotation for the rest of us.

Another recipe I tried:

Cucumber/Tomato Pasta

Boil any style pasta you have and let cool.

Chop up cucumber (1/2 – full) and cherry tomatoes.

I added about 1/2 can of corn and about 1/2 can chickpeas (any more and my kids would have noticed the beans!)

Add the veggies to the pasta  and stir.

Then add in about 1/4-1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I kept mine around 1/4 cup because my kids like stuff plain).

Add about 1/4 cup (to taste – can add more/less) EVOO.

To taste: add sea salt Combine and refrigerate.

I served ours with pita chips.

Verdict: the kids really liked this one better. Elli didn’t like her pasta cold so next time I’ll leave hers at room temp but other than that, this is a keeper. I made a huge batch so we can grab and go. You could have it plain, over spinach, with chips or even throw in a taco shell or wrap for ease of eating.

Sarah shared a couscous salad:

It’s couscous (or quinoa) mixed with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, grilled chicken, and feta cheese. Season with minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, EVOO, salt and pepper.


Naomi shared a bean salad:

I love this bean salad…maybe to yours you could try some cilantro for extra flavor (we LOVE cilantro):

Bean Salad
4 cans of beans to your choice (I like chickpeas/navy or a white bean/black beans)
½ onion (chopped)
cilantro chopped (to taste)
1 cup of olive oil
1/3 – 1/2 cup vinegar
3 envelopes of Goya Salad & Vegetable Seasoning
Drain & Rinse the beans, then mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl
Cool in the fridge overnight for best flavor

Eileen shared traveling tacos:

We eat “traveling tacos”…easily use turkey meat and make it ahead. Fixins for whatever they like on a taco. Mine basically eat shredded cheese, shredded lettuce and some sour cream. Could use salsa, guac, whatever..Then you buy snack sized Doritos bags (yes, moderation, remember?) Smash the chips in the bag. Put meat and toppings in the bag. Eat out of the bag! (best part!)

Amy shared:

Burritos. I like chicken Caesar in tortillas. Guac, salsa and bean dip with chips. Tabbouleh, humus, tzatziki and chips. I normally take cut up veggies and some sort of fruit.

Leeann shared a chickpea salad:

I made this last week and am dreaming of making it again. I roasted an entire chicken to go with it. It was delicious and I had a ton of chicken leftover for other things. Took this salad and some cold chicken on a picnic and it was fabulous. The chicken didn’t dry out since it was cooked on the bone! Click here for the recipe

Thanks friends for sharing all those awesome ideas. Our poolside dinners are gonna be ROCKIN!

Try It Tuesday – Meatless Dinners?!?!

try it tuesdayAnyone here ever do a meatless meal once or so a week?

We try to do several nights of meatless meals or at least once a week to help with our budget. Eating beans is just cheaper!  But besides just saving money –  there are health benefits as well. When you cut meat from the meal – you end up having to replace it with more veggies and whole grains (which protects against heart disease). Also, when we cut the meat from our meals, we often cut the saturated fat from our meal as well.

For us we find that when we cook a meatless meal, we up our fiber intake at dinner. I also love the challenge to get a bit more creative in the kitchen when we do it.

So maybe this is something you can try too! Try upping those veggies and fiber and whole grains in your meal by replacing your “meat” with quinoa. Use veggies as your base (sweet potato and bean nachos) or mushrooms for portobella pizzas. Trying this may help you get out of a food rut and experiment with new things.

So want some yum ideas?
Here are some of my favorites:…/

This one is super quick!

And another favorite!…/

I asked my boot camp ladies to share their favorite meatless dish and here is what they shared:

Diane:  We do as many meatless meals as we can. This lentil quinoa taco recipe is a weekly event in our house because the kids scarf it down. And its so easy! Lentils, quinoa, garlic and taco seasoning (we skip the other spices because its easier to dump it in from a packet) and you’re done! We always cook beans and corn to go along with it.  We do them in hard shells to give it more texture, or over nachos or sometimes bake sweet potato nachos, or inside quesadillas for the kids. endless options

Amy:  One of my faves is fettuccine with marinara and a poached egg on top. Yummy!! Rao’s marinara is a bit spicy and works really well

Heather:  We are vegetarian so we have a bunch of recipes. We like to get Trader Joe’s dough and make calzones, either mozz cheese and veggie or spinach and feta. We also use Trader Joe’s steamed lentils a lot. They are good with fried onions and Greek yogurt and cucumber.

Nancy:  I make a meaty chili that was my husband’s favorite dinner, but I started experimenting with healthier recipes and he actually likes veg chili even better (and it’s easier to make 🙂 ) I use a couple of tweaks from the top review and throw in any fresh veggies I have around. And it saves me from making dinner later in the week when it reappears as chili dogs -ha!

Aspen:  My mom just made lentils last night. Her version isn’t completely meat free because she uses a little bit of pepperidge farm summer sausage to season it, but it’s a negligible amount from a cost standpoint. She serves them over rice. It’s a filling, delicious and easy meal that I had totally forgotten about! Going to put it on our rotation.

And Naomi adds:   I have a Spanish version (w/ chorizo) that is AWESOME and like you said, w/ the amount you use, it isn’t like cooking up 4 steaks.

Julie Ann:  Love making shepherd’s pie and trying different veggies and no meat.

So Try It Today! Try one of the many varieties we have shared – you may just stumble into a new family favorite.