Discount Meal Prep and My Recipe for Baked Ricotta.

When I first started the keto diet, I stuck to the basic meat and veggies. I didn’t want to over complicate things until I understood my new eating habits, and how they would affect my body.

You can only eat so much chicken and broccoli before you start to lose your mind.

Baked Ricotta  (AKA crust-less Ricotta pie, AKA Ricotta Bake) was first introduced to me in one of my binge eating groups. The ingredients fit within the keto requirements, and individual portions can be prepared in bulk and frozen for those of us with over-eating issues.

Basically the ingredients are ricotta cheese and an egg, mixed and baked at 450 for about 25 minutes.. but there’s so much more you can do!!

I frequent the discount rack at our grocery store. They mark down ultra ripe produce to 99 cents per container. The downside is that they’re so ripe that they’re about to go bad, so they need to be used or frozen the day you buy them. No problem for this mama! I’ll take deals on clean food where I can. It isn’t cheap to feed a one income family of 5 non-processed food, but it’s 100% my goal. Ambitious, I know.

 

So here was my amazing mega- find on the discount rack:

 

Looking at the ingredients bestowed upon me, I knew immediately what I was whipping up. In addition to the discount ricotta, produce and eggs, I also grabbed shredded mozzarella cheese and steel cut oats.

 

The detailed recipe I use:

 

base ingredients:

8 oz Ricotta cheese

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

*optional 1/2 cup grated cheese. It binds the ingredients better, and will result in slices vs. scoops. It isn’t always something I have in the house, so I typically omit it.

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basic topping ingredients:

1/2 cup red sauce

1/2 shredded mozzarella

 

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Mix ricotta cheese, Parmesan, beaten egg and seasonings together.

Place in an oven proof dish, either casserole- style in a 9×13 or (my preferred) in cupcake tins.

Top with marinara and mozzarella cheese.

Add any additional toppings. (I pulled some ground beef out of the freezer, used my discount mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes)

Bake at 450 for about 25 minutes.

Freeze in batches.

To reheat:

Place wet paper towel over ricotta bake, microwave until hot or reheat in the oven for 10 minutes.

 

Viola! Baked Ricotta.

 

 

 

So, you’re probably thinking- what about all that other stuff you bought? Well, it all had to be used or frozen the same day, so I did a major meal prep haul.

 

I first whipped up a double batch of steel cut oats. Although oatmeal is technically not keto friendly, now that I have reached my goal weight I have reintroduced whole grains in small doses. My children also LOVE oatmeal, so we go through it fairly quickly.

I peeled and boiled my zucchini, and threw it in my ninja until it was blended thoroughly. Then, I folded the blended zuc into the cooked oats. This is similar to zucchini bread where the produce adds moisture, vitamins and fiber but doesn’t have a detectable taste. Add 2 pinches of salt.

I sorted my produce into similar- flavored piles. For this haul I got apple & cinnamon, pear, and “tropical” mango, orange &kiwi.

I blend each pile separately in the ninja blender, then incorporate into 1/3 of the cooked oats.

When cooled, separate into single portion containers to freeze.

 

I also cooked those sweet potatoes, mashed with salt and nutmeg, and froze them.

 

Let me tell you, my freezer is STOCKED. It’s nice that there are different flavor options when the kids choose their oatmeal. The cooked sweet potato is great to heat up quickly as a side for Anna’s lunch. The baked ricotta has been used as both the star of the plate (paired with baked eggplant chips topped with Parmesan cheese) and also as a side to our typical meat and veggie dinners. It’s incredibly versatile and delicious, and I love that my toddler can eat it herself without the fear of her choking.

 

This entire stock cost me less than $20. All home made. All natural. No additives. All healthy.

 

 

We’ve been using this stock for almost a week now, and still are not sick of it. While cooking, we make a point of using different flavors in each batch. After it’s prepared, the pairing options are unlimited. It’s fed the five of us multiple meals- still working from the same investment of $20.

Don’t fear the discount rack! Save money, stay healthy. Use your brain and your freezer. You’ve totally got this, and your family’s health will thank you!

 

With happy hearts (and full tummies!)

Kate and the Kids.

 

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Finding Confidence Without Justifying.

Finding Confidence Without Justifying.

This morning was about 36 degrees. Here in Massachusetts, that’s a heat wave for January. I decided Anna and I needed some fresh air.

 

We bundled up, and hit the pavement. She isn’t a fan of having to wear the snowsuit, so we tried layers instead.. She still gave me the sour face for not being able to move freely. She got over it when DJ M.O.M. started bumpin’ baby shark on the speaker. (sorry to anyone in the neighborhood who heard our toddler rave.) We were moving, grooving and happy.

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We walk by a ton of our neighbors. They love to tell me how beautiful Anna is, or compliment my weightloss. Anna loves it most when she gets to pet the dogs. She’s a little Dr. Doolittle, I swear. We’ve never had anything but positive interactions.

 

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Well, I guess I can’t say that anymore. A grumpy old man walked up and scolded me for having my baby out in such cold weather. There was a fire lit inside me- anger, frustration, being annoyed- but I just swallowed it and said “have it under control, thanks.”

 

He seemed surprised when I kept walking, like he was expecting me to be ashamed and apologize. Maybe he was anticipating I’d engage and throw bitter words right back at him. Those are options, but not the only options.

 

There was a time in my life that words like his would have completely knocked me off my game. With low self confidence, I’d have completely believed his harsh words, been overcome with embarrassment, apologize a million times, and headed home to right my wrong.

 

I’m not that person anymore. I don’t need to change myself for a disapproving loudmouth. I’m not going to let you make me feel that I’m wrong, or that my worth is anything less than what it is. I don’t have to apologize OR explain myself to you.

 

I do not have to explain that Anna has one million layers on, or that we haven’t left the house in days. I don’t need to make you understand the road I’ve traveled or why staying active is important to both Anna and I. I have to do what’s right for us, for me. Even though I have taken appropriate precautions, I don’t have to justify them. I owe nothing to you. Not even a conversation.

 

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I won’t lie, as I walked on the anger grew in my mind. “I should have told him to fuck off.” “I should have yelled.” “I should have made him feel as stupid as I did.” “I should have stood up for myself.”

 

When the voices in my mind quieted down, I realized that I had, in fact, fought back. I stood up for myself without turning into a rage monster. I didn’t embarrass myself, I didn’t cause a scene. I was quietly and simply confident.

 

Grace has always been my intent, but not always my capability. Working with mood disorders and a younger brain (full or hormones at that) I’ve seen my fighting side. I’ve yelled out of rage, went right for the kill, and said the meanest things I could think of. I’ve even thrown a punch or two. More commonly though, I would retreat back into my low self worth. I’d meekly apologize several times, try to come up with an explanation. I’d run and hide away, beat myself up for being so stupid.

 

Not anymore.

 

I do not need to explain myself. I owe myself dignity, and owe nothing to anyone else. I don’t need to answer you, and I won’t. I’m not going to engage in negative people. End of story.

 

This has been a new concept to me, but I’m starting to really get the hang of it. Here are my tips.

 

  1. Don’t miss a step. Keep walking, and LITERALLY don’t let them slow you down.
  2. Simply acknowledge that you heard them with a short reply that doesn’t really engage. Acknowledging their words will empower you by standing up for yourself, instead if just sweeping it under the rug. You’ll feel confident and domineering for kindly taking control of the conversation.

Some of my favorite responses:

  • Got it under control, thanks.
  • I hope your day gets better! (said with sincere poise, this can be especially liberating to say to a customer service worker who has been less than kind to you.. And it feels much better than yelling or insulting them.)
  • The mother of all comebacks, look at them as if you pity them and drop an “ooohhh, I’ll pray for you.”

 

Mic drop. Walk away. No further engagement.

 

Hold your head high. Trust your own compass. Have stake on your own intelligence. Speak with conviction, without insult and without shame. You are amazing, and you don’t need to justify why. Be confident.

 

With happy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

 

Work it, Girl! – Even when it’s a literal pain in the back.

Work it, Girl! – Even when it’s a literal pain in the back.

Exercise has been a crucial part of my weight loss journey. It was torture to move all 303 pounds of me originally, but I soon became addicted. I loved the feeling of accomplishment after a good cardio session. The more I lost, the more confidence and motivation I acquired- especially when I discovered my first “runner’s high.” For those that haven’t herd this term, it refers to the feelings of euphoria and reduced anxiety after a long and effective aerobic workout.

As I rounded 150 pounds, I looked forward to my daily 3.3 mile walks. I’d pop Anna in the baby carrier and take her right with me. Bonding, euphoria, weight loss- what could go wrong?

..Until the “POP.”

I wasn’t lifting, or twisting, or doing anything unfamiliar. I was just wearing my 9 month old in the baby carried when I herniated a disk in my back. Driving and sitting is excruciating. I was put on a weight lifting ban, and started physical therapy.

It’s been a few months now, and the pain comes and goes. From what I understand, when the disk bulges on the nerve it causes electric pain in my back and leg. When it’s closer to where it’s supposed to be, I have less pain.

The injury has forced me to change my workout routine- but there’s no way in hell I’m giving up. I can’t imagine carrying those extra 153 pounds around ever again. I will not go back.

So what’s plan ‘B?’ I still walk, but I have to use the stroller or wagon for Anna. Unfortunately that means I cant take her on the track with me at the gym. I’m totally digging HIIT workouts at home. I use a free app as a timer. I warm up with 15 minutes of cardio, then lift and and move in intervals with the timer.  I’m careful with lifting, and cross reference with my physical therapist if I’m unsure. For cardio I walk outside with Anna, do step inside, and lots of jumping jacks.

The best thing for my back pain has been yoga. I’ve loved the relaxing aspect of yoga for years, but now that my body is aging I have a new appreciation for the stretching.

This is the routine I’ve found most helpful for back pain:

  1. Child’s pose – best stretch ever, and great for mental grounding.
  2. cat/cow pose – gets disks moving and warms up the surrounding muscles.
  3. downward dog– stretches my back and spine, and often puts enough distance between the vertebrae for my disk to work it’s way back to its painless place.
  4. Windshield wiper– slow stretches for yoga, slow tight sets for an awesome ab workout.
  5. repeat child’s pose
  6. end with shavasana, relax, meditate. Let you back muscles rest for a few moments. enjoy the peacefulness and rest.

 

Yoga and distance cardio (or HIIT) have been my winning combination lately. As with anything, if you’re hurting consult a doctor.

 

Just to bring this all full circle, I’d love to tell you how exercise and yoga affect mood. Endorphins released during physical activity diminish the perception of pain- some say it even mimics morphine. It’s been scientifically proved that activity reduces stress when used as an outlet, decreases anxiety and depression, boosts self- esteem, increases productiveness, and creates opportunity for more restful sleep. It increases your energy to assist with depression and lowers blood pressure to ease anxiety. Physically, it strengthens your heart, improves various muscle tones, and makes you feel fit and healthy.

Whether you’re looking for physical or emotional benefits, exercise is the way to go. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, out of shape, or don’t know where to start- start small. Go for a walk. Stretch. Lift a gallon of milk a few times. Tomorrow, walk longer. Stretch deeper. Do a few more reps with the milk. I promise if you just take one extra step each day, you’ll soon be confident enough to try new things.

Believe in yourself as much as I believe in you. You deserve health, you deserve happiness. You can do this. 

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.