Holiday + Menu

It has begun, well it actually started for me 7 weeks ago, the holiday food binge that is. I have been baking something at least once a week and eating at least one cookie a day since I came home from the hospital with Thomas. This might not really sound like a big deal to you. You might in fact bake weekly too, but I usually don’t. When I do bake, it is typically for a special occasion, not just because I want cookies (& I want them all the time right now).

Anderson (my oldest) has started requesting to bake with me. He doesn’t love baked goods the way I do, he just likes to lick the spoon and I think he knows it is a sure-fire way to spend time with me. Granted this time is spent with both of his siblings, but he still gets the most attention since he is the most proficient in the kitchen. I will probably keep on baking once a week until I go back to work. I am so hungry breastfeeding and want to make sure my supply stays up. I might as well help it stay up with cookies, am I right?

Normally, I would be super focused during this holiday season, making sure that I am not gaining unwatned weight while still partaking in any goodies I want. We are entering into an eight week stretch of parties (or maybe not- COVID), gifts filled with candy and baked goods, etc. My husband says this is “fluffy season” with all the cookies, bread, and cakes I am keeping on hand. It makes it really hard to not indulge when it is sitting right there, easily accessible.

If you don’t make it, then you can’t eat it. If you don’t buy it, then you can’t eat it. It is pretty simple, but I am making it and I am buying it, so his willpower is being put to the test. I imagine this is how most people feel when they live with someone that is not trying to eat healthily. I am still cooking healthy meals, but the extra treats are still around. It is much easier to live a healthy lifestyle if you have a friend or spouse that is encouraging and helpful in this endeavor.

As I said, outside of the things that I am baking, we are keeping it healthy. The kids’ Halloween candy is still intact, they don’t even care about it really and if they get a treat, we aren’t trying to finish it off. Those calories that you sneak in, like eating a bag or two of miniature candy with your kids or finishing off their ice cream (because it is still hot in November), count and really can throw you off. ONE little bag of Sour Patch Kids is just over 100 calories. Seven or eight pieces of tiny little candy are over 100 calories, that is just ridiculous. If you are counting your macros or calories, you can find more filling ways to spend 100 calories, you can even bake cookies that are around 100 calories each if you use the right ingredients and serving size.

I do not promote denying yourself any treats…hello, I am baking every week now. The holiday season is great because of all of the great goodies that go along with it; however, I do promote planning for those treats. If you know that you are going to have a few drinks or treats, don’t eat your normal amount all day and then gorge on food and drinks that night. If you have been consistent all week with your food intake and exercise, one cheat meal is not going to ruin it.

ONE cheat MEAL, not a cheat day or weekend.

The key to counting macros/calories and staying on track to reach your goal(s), is to be consistent. You might have a day or two where you went under on your food intake and then went out for a cheat meal, that is okay. It all balances out. If you are consistent during the week, but eat like it is your last meal every weekend, then your intake is not balanced and you will gain weight. For some, it is helpful to look at the weekly intake, as well as the daily intake. A lot of people stop tracking on the weekends and think they are eating less because they fasted until lunch, but then unknowingly ate 1,000 calories at one meal. If you consistently repeat this, you will gain weight.

One pound is estimated to equal 3.500 calories. If you eat well during the weekdays, but then consistently over-eat on the weekends you are going to end up with weight gain. With the holiday season here, it is very likely that you will be overeating/drinking on the weekends. If you are not being consistent throughout the week with your nutrition and exercise, you might find yourself with a New Years’ weight loss goal. Daily consistency is crucial, but during this holiday season; however, it might be more beneficial to look at the bigger picture and focus on the weekly intake. You do not want to feel like you are punishing yourself by skipping the cake or not eating when you go to a holiday party.

P.S.- Food should never feel like a punishment or a reward, but that is another talk for another day.


One Pot Chicken + Sage Dumplings

Bourbon Burgers + Sweet Potato Fries

Cabbage Roll-Ups

Pineapple Glazed Pork Roast with Bacon Wild Rice Stuffing

Healthy Taco Dish

One Pot Chicken + Sage Dumplings

I made this last week and had not planned to make it again this week, but I ran out of freezer bags and had to cook the rest of my chicken. I had plenty of carrots and celery on hand, so I went ahead and cooked another patch of chicken and vegetables for the dumplings.

I loved this meal, but really rushed through cooking the dumplings and did not have enough broth. I posted a picture on my Instagram and posted the ingredients and macro break down. If you are on a low-carb diet, then you are going to want to skip this meal. You could possibly use almond flour instead and keep the carbs at bay, but will likely end up with very few dumplings in your dish. I made a recipe for the dumplings and a recipe for the soup in my food app, and I added the chicken separately to each meal. Doing this helped me keep the macros more accurate.

*changes I make to meet my macros

2 bone in skin on chicken breasts
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*omit oil 
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 ribs of celery, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
*10-12 ounces
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 quarts low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
*170-200 grams
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus fresh sage leaves for serving
1 cup buttermilk
*1 cup low fat milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar
2 ounces grated parmesan or crumbled gorgonzola cheese
*60-80 grams reduced fat parmesan 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, for serving

Bourbon Burgers + Sweet Potato Fries

B E S T burger I have ever had is from Liam’s in Thomasville and it is back on their menu. I am still trying to perfect our burger to match theirs. They are well known for their cheese, so it was not just your basic cheeseburger by any stretch of the imagination. Usually, we don’t eat cheeseburgers and try to keep it super healthy, but every now and then we do. I would be happy just to recreate their method of cooking the burger and onions. Josh started adding in bourbon to the burgers, because he loves bourbon, and it was the best choice. Literally, the best burgers he has ever cooked.

Hamburgers will never go out of style and can be healthy if you don’t smother them in cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise. When I track my hamburger I weigh out my meat after it has cooked. This is controversial in the world of tracking food, but I think that it makes sense. The fat is going to cook out of the meat, so I don’t actually end up eating all of the fat that was originally in the raw meat.

I am going to add some sweet potato fries with the hamburgers for the kids. I will eat them as a snack later on, but not with this meal. You can always mix a packet of ranch seasoning with non-fat Greek yogurt to dip the sweet potato fries in for a healthy snack.

Hamburgers have your fats, protein, and carbs (if you eat a bun). The only thing I do is eat a second hamburger patty without a bun to get in more protein. Macro-wise there is no reason to add a side dish. I know everyone loves fries with their hamburger but you are doing some major calorie intake if you do that.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

80/20 meat- onion powder, garlic powder, season all, chili powder, 1-2 tablespoons burbon, pepper 
Brioche buns 
Heirloom tomatoes 
Yellow mustard 

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
*spray olive oil 
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
fine sea salt, to taste

Cabbage Roll-Ups

I haven’t cooked these in a while, I usually forget about them until I have grown tired of spaghetti and chili. They seem very difficult to make just because of their presentation, but I promise they are super simple. Josh killed a deer recently, so we have a lot of ground meat on hand again. We had just run out this week and had to buy ground beef at the store. I really prefer ground venison over ground beef. I still use 80/20 ground beef in my app because it is the closest match when tracking.

There are two key players in this dish that can blow your macros out of the water, the rice and hoisin sauce. The hoisin sauce is key though, don’t skip it, but don’t get too happy with it. You have to mix it with water and then cover the cabbage rolls with the diluted sauce. KEY.

In order to make these you will want to break the cabbage leaf about 1 inch from the bottom, fill the top of each leaf with an equal amount of mixture (if tracking), then start rolling from the top to the bottom. The break in the leaf allows the rolls to sit freely. If you are basing your measurements off of the changes I make, keep in mind that I double all of my recipes to have for lunch the following day.

Each roll was 190 calories, 18.7 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 9.2 grams of fat.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
*9 grams
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
*400-500 grams
1 lb ground pork
*around 40 ounces ground beef or venison 
1 cup cooked jasmine rice
*reduce to 3/4 cup if cutting calories 
1 large carrot, shredded
*4 ounces matchstick carrots 
3 scallions, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
*2 tablespoons 
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 large head Napa cabbage, leaves separated and thick white core removed
¼ cup hoisin sauce
*51 grams 
2 tablespoons water
*enough water to thin down, around 1/3 cup 

Pineapple Glazed Pork Roast with Bacon Wild Rice Stuffing

This dish is beautiful, really tasty, but it can be difficult to track! When I make this I have to make sure I stuff the loin with one serving of the stuffing and then have the rest as servings for the side. I always have a hard time not getting the pineapple to completely burn up and roast in the oven. If you are uncomfortable with stuffing the loin, just cook the pork and eat it on the side, which is likely what I will do just to make my life easier.

If you still want to roll the rice mixture in the loin, here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to cut the meat. I am going to omit the squash so I can have more rice with each serving. To keep the pineapple from burning in the oven, you can line the baking pan with parchment paper or test it out on the grill!

*Changes I make to meet my macros

1 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice 
*1 cup rice uncooked 
1 teaspoon salt 
6 slices thick cut bacon chopped 
*0.5 ounces cooked per serving   
8 ounces button mushrooms sliced 
10 ounces fresh or frozen spinach thawed if frozen 
1 cup roasted pistachios 
*omit pistachios  
8 ounces feta cheese crumbled 
*20 grams non fat feta 
1 pound pork loin roast 
1/2 cup grainy mustard 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
*20 grams  
pinch of cayenne pepper 
1 cup medium pineapple peeled 
1 medium delicata squash halved, deseeded + sliced into half moons  
*omitting squash for more rice 

Healthy Taco Dish

This is a taco casserole, but I am going to track the meat and rice separately to get the most accurate count on my macros. To do this I am going to cook the rice on its own and leave the chicken whole on top of the dish to easily pick it out of the casserole. If you are using ground meat, then keep it out of the casserole entirely if you are wanting the most accurate count. The rice and meat can be added separately to each person’s dish depending on their macro needs. This could even be thrown in a tortilla if you are eating a low carbohydrate meals.

The recipe also does not want you to strain your meat before adding in the vegetables, but I am going to cook the meat, strain it, weigh it, then add in the vegetables. I am going to do this so I can get an accurate weight on my meat, rather than straining after I add in the vegetables. You might want to strain a second time once the vegetables are cooked to get out the excess water from the vegetables. 

If you are adding rice to the mixture while it cooks in the oven, you will need to add the broth. If you are going to add rice to each serving after it has cooked, then you will not need the broth. The vegetables and tomatoes will prevent the meat and veggies from drying out. If there doesn’t seem to be enough liquid to your liking, add in 1/2 to 1 cup of broth. You don’t want it to be soupy, but don’t want it to dry out either. 

Remember that the changes I make are not only for macros but also to ensure that I have at least 4 servings for two very hungry adults, plus some extra for the kids. We eat these meals for lunch and supper. Leftovers are great for tracking macros since you already know what the macros are! 

*Changes I make to meet my macros

1 lb. ground beef
*20 ounces ground meat or chopped chicken breast
½ medium onion, diced
*1 onion
1 small bell pepper, diced
*4-5 ounces
2 small zucchini, diced
*3 squash or zucchini 
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 
2 Tbsp. homemade taco seasoning (or store-bought)
1 (14-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 ¾ cups beef broth
*beef or chicken depending on meat used and if adding rice
½ cup frozen corn
*80 grams sweet corn
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
*cooked separately  
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, divided
*20-30 grams fiesta cheese per serving
Optional toppings: Salsa, diced avocado

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