Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Giving back in November - What I plan to do about it

Oh November. The month that the sales world thinks is December. The month that only gets a week where we acknowledge it with a big old turkey and a pumpkin pie and some fake leaves scattered across the table for decoration. It holds the holiday that we only decorate for if we are hosting it, otherwise we get a jump on the decorating for Christmas.

I always loved Thanksgiving. I loved going out on Turkey Eve and waking up slightly hung over to an awesome dinner -- that I could continue to eat all day long. I loved watching the parade in my jammies while the house filled with the smell of that dinner. I loved waiting for the rest of my family to get there only to spend the day laying around, playing cards or hanging out with my relatives.

Things have changed a lot. Now I have to cook. Turkey Eve takes on a whole new meaning (going to bed at the same time as my toddler so I can wake up to get food in the oven.) Working out a tight oven schedule so that everything gets cooked and served warm. It is all exhausting. And as I sit here worried about the stress of it all, there are families all over who are stressing for a completely different reason. They are stressing about being able to feed their families. And it breaks my heart.

We are plagued, like many others in my generation, by the onslaught of student loan payments and other things. But I am blessed in that I have never had to worry about putting food on the table for my child. There was a time that I had to make tough choices. I was going to school full time, working retail (as many hours as they could give me) and had weeks that I spent every last penny I had. I remember having to search the back of the cupboard to eat what I could find until pay day. And I was fortunate I had those old cans of soup or whatnot to find (and my roommates snacks to steal) until payday.

Maybe it was because I remember that feeling that this article touched my heart so much. I never had to Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Challenge and I am eager to be a part of it.
ask for assistance (I hated even the thought of asking for help from family -- I am so stubborn) and I can't imagine what it would even be like to be in that situation. The pride swallowing, the emotions that go with it. But through this article, I found the

So this is what I decided to do --

For every challenge pack purchased from me November 1st through Thanksgiving, I will sponsor a family through the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Challenge.

What is a challenge pack?

It is a bundle put together through Beachbody that gives you a 30 day supply of Shakeology, a workout program, a 30 trial of the club membership and access to my challenge groups, coaching, meal planning and support.

So you get all the tools you need to succeed and meet your goals before the New Year and a family gets a Thanksgiving dinner. Win. Win.


Since I have made my pledge to give back in November, Beachbody has announced it's monthly deals and plans for November as well. It seems as if I am in good company -- so not only am I giving back by helping to feed a family this month, Beachbody is too. For every Challenge Pack, they are giving back $20 and for every Shakeology Home Direct order they are giving back $10.

Plus when you order a challenge pack, they are giving you a $20 coupon back to use towards a future purchase of $30 or more (which is so easy to do.... )

My next challenge starts November 11th.

Message or email me at scyobe@gmail.com for more details. And check out the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Challenge for more information or to donate!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Possibly The Easiest Broccoli Soup Ever (or pureed soup heaven)

no diet just eat healthyI used to think I hated soup. Not really my thing. The cooked carrots in soup made me gag and I just can't handle the texture most veggies have after swimming around in broth for such a long period of time. But now I have to renege because I have discovered that pureed soup is my jam. I am obsessed.  Give me a veggie, some stock and my immersion blender and I will make it happen.

I had some kohlrabi in my fridge. And I love kohlrabi (super weird I know) but my grandpa used to grow it. Every summer I looked forward to getting some from his garden (along with a ton of sweet corn). I would just cut and eat it raw. Yummy, awesome goodness.  

Kohlrabi is also a super nutrient dense food (meaning it has a ton of stuff that is great for you for not that many calories.) It is rich in vitamin C and some B vitamins too. According to fitday.com it contains "vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and folate. B vitamins play a role in increasing metabolic rates and maintaining healthy skin and hair." Seriously, I didn't need an excuse to love the stuff but anything that helps my metabolism goes straight to the top of my favorite list. They are like the teachers' pets of all the veggies out there. Gold stars all the way.

health benefits of broccoliAnd, of course, broccoli is pretty awesome too. So this recipe is a win, win. Easy, fast, healthy and yummy (I may or may not start salivating when I think about it.)

Since soup has become my dumping ground for random veggies, I decided to take some inspiration from a broccoli soup recipe I found online and just modify it a little bit. It may be the best soup I’ve ever made (either that or I am just getting better with practice.)

Here is what I did –

2 boxes of veggie stock
2 heads of broccoli
2 large kohlrabi
1 sweet onion
TBS (or so) olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

I cooked the onion and kohlrabi in the bottom of the pot with some olive oil until the onion started to become translucent. I added the stock and the chopped up broccoli and brought it to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Let it cool and blend.

So it turns out kind of like a cream of broccoli soup sans dairy. Of course it isn’t as creamy as the real thing without the help of some type of dairy. If you aren’t avoiding dairy completely (or need a little something to make you feel like you are cheating) you can grate some parmesan on top or even add a little goat cheese. 

low calorie quick and easy healthy broccoli soupOn a side note the original recipe called for just using water, boiling the broccoli in it, putting the broccoli in a blender and slowly adding the water back in until the soup was the desired constancy (You can check out the recipe I used for inspiration here.) I like stock and the flavor it gives it so I used stock. And if you don't have kohlrabi, skip it. Add a potato. Whatever. Just another reason I love making soup! It is hard to mess up. A great way to use up veggies that are (rapidly) heading toward their expiration date. And it is super easy to double or triple the batch, freeze and pull out on a freezing night -- like tonight-- or a day where getting a cooked meal on the table will just not happen. Heat and eat. Whoot!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pumpkin Granola Bars (and why going on vacation makes me want to bake!)

Vacation is in T minus 2 days. I don't have a thing packed or ready to go except for buying snacks. Typically, when we head south, we fly. This year my sweet little pumpkin is 2 and while that means some independence, fights and the dreaded potty training, it also means we no longer have to spend our hours on a plane fighting with a wiggly, upset child on our laps. Yes, at the age of 2, the airlines make you buy your child a ticket (which is both a blessing and a curse -- I mean now I have hands to read my kindle and possibly take advantage of the airline beverage service since I can 1. put my tray down and 2. the odds of her knocking it over are lessened slightly by the distance of the next seat. So there's that.) But ticket prices to fly to Orlando have been crazy high lately and are not dropping so that means gassing up my car and taking a road trip.

And a road trip inspires me to buy and make snacks. Lots of them. Because what else is there to do in the car besides drive, listen to music and eat?

I saw a recipe on Pinterest for pumpkin granola bars. I have made road trip granola bars before (Tosca Reno's sweet potato bars) and they didn't make it to this blog. They were mushy and wet and soggy. Good flavor but the texture made me gag. (My poor husband had to eat a gallon size bag of them by himself. My toddler and I both voted no.) So I was hesitant to try these. Pumpkin and sweet potato (and butternut squash!) are kind of similar and interchangeable in a lot of stuff. But I gave it a shot. Because it's fall and even the air should be pumpkin flavored. (Side note - I do not drink pumpkin spice latte's they gross me out. To compensate, I attempt to eat my way through the fall by way of the pumpkin and other various squash cousins - namely of the acorn and butternut squash variety. But to each their own.)

This recipe was amazing -- not only because it contains pumpkin and chocolate but a bunch of other awesome things as well. Flaxseed for omega-3's, ginger for some anti-inflammatory action, cinnamon for all sorts of reasons (read more about that here) and even honey which (raw honey) has been touted as anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and an anti-viral substance (check out more on honey here.)

They baked up not sticky and messy but kind of cakey, not what I expect in a granola bar. I think they would make awesome cookies. They are really good. Not very sweet (I cut the original amount of honey in half) but I wasn't going for sweet. I have really cut back on sugar in general (even natural sugar) so I have become more sensitive to sweet (which for me is a mini-miracle. I used to eat frosting, out of a can.) I also think maple syrup in this recipe may be amazing.

The original recipe for the pumpkin granola bars is here. I (of course!) had to do a few things differently.

First - I doubled the recipe. An 8x8 pan was not going to cut it. (I have 16+ hours in a car with a toddler. Plus a week's worth of snacks I need to pack since she refuses to eat real meals and only snacks -- we call lunch and dinner "big" snacks and sometimes it works *wink wink*)

Second -- I added raisins because I love them and cut back on the chocolate.

Third -- I searched high and low and everywhere to find chocolate without soy lecithin. (Yes! it does exist.) I prefer my chocolate without a side of GMO soy. (I used Enjoy Life brand.)


5 cups of old fashioned oats
1 cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 cup of pureed pumpkin
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup raw honey (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)
1/2 cup raisins


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Grease a 9 x 13 pan (I used coconut oil to grease mine and it worked awesome!)

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (oats through cloves)

In another bowl, mix all the wet ingredients (save the chocolate chips and raisins)

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well (it was gross but I mixed it with my hands to make sure it was all mushed together -- in a good way)

Fold in the chocolate and the raisins (again I used my hands)

Press into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top browns slightly. 

Let cool completely and cut. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

Eggplant and Tomato Soup (more comfort food for fall....)

The theme with all of my recipe posts seems to be that I am trying to use up the veggies that come pouring in from my CSA. In this case it was eggplant --and one can only eat so much eggplant. I mean I love it fried and smothered in cheese and sauce but since my body no longer agrees with that dinner (my digestive system is all that was your gall bladders job girlfriend, if you try to make us do that we will make you pay!) I need to find another way to use eggplant. Much to my chagrin, I don't really like it minus the fried cheesy saucy goodness.

What I have found that I love about making soup is that it is hard to screw up and you can pretty much just dump stuff in a pot (aka cleaning out my fridge). It also freezes well, so I am not stuck with all the freezer burned veggies in January that  I lovingly tried to freeze correctly during the summer. Plus it is something I can throw in the crock pot, let reheat all day and come home to dinner. A dinner my toddler likes because it allows her to dunk things. Boom. It makes me feel awesome all around.

I originally saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. (Which is a pretty awesome blog for really cool and
different recipes, although reader be warned most of them, while super delicious are not health recipes. Seriously the pictures alone will make your mouth water. So pin the super awesome dessert or grilled cheese ones for one of your cheat meals for sure!)  You can link to the original recipe here -- but this is what I did (my version involves much less measuring and more dumping and of course no dairy. Since I have found that processing diary was also part of my gall bladder's job description.)

Ingredients --

2 medium sized eggplants

tomatoes (in this case I used 2 large tomatoes and a handful of grape tomatoes I had on hand)

1 sweet onion

Garlic (in this case I used 2 heads of garlic but I love garlic so you can adujust this based on your personal relationship with garlic)

Olive oil

Balsamic Vinegar

32 ounces of vegetable broth


Salt to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Chop eggplants onion and tomatoes in half  and place them on a large cookie sheet or two. (Or if using grape tomatoes just toss them on the cookie sheet.) Also add the garlic.

Drizzle veggies with olive oil (I used a Misto to spray my veggies with olive oil) and I splashed them with balsamic vinegar.

Place in the oven and let roast 40 minutes to an hour (they should be slightly browned and tender.) I did add my garlic 20-30 minutes in so it wouldn't burn. With that said, I have also forgotten to roast the garlic and just add it to the pot later. Either way it turns out fine.

Allow the roasted veggies to cool enough to touch. Skin the eggplant -- the skin should peel right off.

Toss everything in a large soup pot.

Add the veggie broth and any spices you want to use. (I think the beauty of this soup is that you can add whatever spices you love. I have been obsessed with turmeric lately so I just dumped some in.)

Bring the soup to a boil. Turn down and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

Allow it to cool slightly and puree. (You can do this in batches in a food processor or use an immersion blender. Side note -- I love my immersion blender and use it daily.) This is where I usually taste test and add salt or any other spices I feel it needs.

Super easy and really yummy. It is one of those soups that is perfect for a fall or winter night with some really good bread. (I mean what is soup without good bread?)

I had a big bowl and packed the rest away in the freezer for later.

I have actually made this recipe twice and have varied the amount of tomatoes each time (based on what I had to use up. The only difference being it just tasted more like a yummy tomato soup the more tomatoes I put in -- makes sense. But you still get the benefits of the eggplant. (For more info on why eggplants rock check this out.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Difference a Year Can Make (and yes this means I am putting my fat pic out there for the world to see)

This is one of those things I have been dreading since I started down the path to wellness. As part of my ownership of where I was and how far I have come, I feel that making my journey public has held me accountable to where I am going and not giving up. So I guess that means I have to share the terrible awful picture that made me get off my ass and do something (although I would rather burn it and delete off of hard drives than actually put it on the internet for the masses to see.) So here it goes....

I guess I could have blamed it on baby weight (and that was part of the problem) but I had always lived a super busy, crazy, never home, living out of my car kind of life. I worked non-stop, often at least two jobs or I was working and going to school full time. I didn't eat. And when I did it was take out, from the food court at the mall (I worked retail management for almost 7 years) or from the pretzel stand outside of our store. But I was always on my feet, so I didn't suffer from the ill effects of the way I was eating until later on. It wasn't until I was in a super stressful, crazy work situation that I started to gain weight. (Don't get me wrong, my weight has fluctuated my whole life, up and down like crazy, but in my 20's living a go-go-go-go life and consuming more calories in alcohol than actual food, I was hanging steady at a size 6/8 and wasn't thrilled but wasn't unhappy enough to change my lifestyle either.) I gained about 20 pounds and I couldn't get it to go away. I was working out like crazy with no results. So I quit. I figured why bust my ass when it isn't getting any smaller anyway.

A few years later I left my job to go back and get my masters (again another going to school full time with a full time internship--just my kind of crazy.) I got married and was still hanging onto the 20 pounds or so I gained a few years back and just couldn't get rid of. But at this point, I was too worried about going out and drinking microbrews and going to wine tastings than really focusing on what was going on. I also couldn't find a job with my new fancy masters degree, so I was nannying. Sitting on the floor (or couch) at someone else's house, playing with their kids and all that awesome kid junk food laying around (stuff my mom would never buy me growing up, ever.) And then I got pregnant. So add on the 38 pounds I gained with that and we arrive at that dreaded picture (I still don't want to acknowledge.)

That picture was taken on the Fourth of July 2012 which we spent in the Pacific Northwest. I had a dear friend of mine come out for the weekend so we were doing all sorts of fun touristy things (including taking lots of pictures). She sent me all the pictures she took of our time there a month or two later and I remember the gauntlet of feelings I had when I saw that picture. Disbelief, embarrassment, shame and then finally deciding I had to do something, anything. How had I gotten so out of control?

So I dusted off a copy of P90x that belonged to my hubby and stuck it out for about 3 weeks. I started
having pains in my abdomen that were terrible. I thought it was from the exercise and we had spent a weekend cleaning out my grandfather's house, so I was convinced I pulled something. The pain became spasms and then turned into full out attacks that were paralyzing and extremely painful. I went to the doctor and he immediately said it was my gall bladder. I was put on a no fat diet. I was pretty much eating oatmeal for every meal and the attacks just kept getting worse until at one point I had to call an ambulance. I was scheduled for surgery the next day. Through that whole mess I actually ended up losing about 12 pounds and went down a jean size. By the time all of this happened, it was November and cue the holidays. My weight loss (and smaller jean size) were short lived. By January, I was almost back to where I was in July.

Once the holidays were over, I knew I had to do something. I purchased a groupon for a morning bootcamp. 5 days a week at 5:30 in the morning. I thought maybe in doing something drastic, it would finally make a difference. I felt like no matter what I tried, or did, it didn't work. I spent a whole month busting my butt in this class. I was glad to see that I could hang (all that working out with Jillian Michaels paid off even if it wasn't consistent) but I didn't lose any weight. Not a pound. Not a half a pound.  Unfortunately, I hadn't learned about the other ways to measure progress (measurements, calipers, old jeans that didn't used to fit.) So I was angry, frustrated and quite frankly desperate.

Desperate enough that I logged on and ordered Insanity. I thought doing bootcamp workouts were going to be crazy and intense enough to finally work, so I my next logical thought was that if Insanity is supposed to be one of the hardest programs out there something HAS to happen. And it didn't.

I went for 3 weeks. I loved the intensity. I loved the fact that all I wanted to do was lay on the floor and not move when it was over. I loved that feeling of giving it all until I had nothing left to give. So if that was what I was doing, why was nothing happening?

So I emailed someone I used to work with who I knew was coaching. I signed up for a free account with her, joined a challenge group, added Shakeology and discovered clean eating. That in combination with the second half of Insanity resulted in a loss of 9 lbs, 9.5 inches overall including 2 inches off my waist. I was thrilled. (You can read more about my experience with Insanity here.) After Insanity I moved onto TurboFire and continued to see great results (a 5 pound weight loss in the first month!)

While I am no where near where I want to be, I thought it was important to reflect on how far I have come. I tend to just keep looking at where I want to go next, the next goal, the next program, the next size down and never look back. In doing this and consciously looking back, I have been able to see exactly what I have accomplished. Over the last few months, I have plateaued, switched programs due to an injury, adjusted to life back in Pittsburgh and the additional responsibilities I have here. But I have kept going, I keep pushing play, I keep cleaning up my eating and am finding new ways to motivate myself and others. I am running my own challenge groups now that allow people to pick goals, stick with them and stay motivated. They were a key piece in the puzzle for me and I am so glad to be able to possibly do this for someone else (and keep myself motivated at the same time).

If you are interested in joining me in a challenge group please send me a message or an email to scyobe@gmail.com I have new groups starting each month and I would love to continue on the journey with you! (To read about my October challenges click here.)

Happy Rocktober (and pumpkin flavored everything!)

October is here. Time for the nights to start getting colder (and for me to start freezing at Friday night football games) and for everything to officially become pumpkin flavored. Everything. (Sometimes I feel bad for other yummy fall members of the squash family. Like the butternut squash and the acorn squash which are both just as yummy -- if not yummier -- than the pumpkin.)

So other than October being the month where pumpkin should be running through our veins it also means that within the blink of an eye the holidays will be upon us. (And in a house where I am running around like a crazy person 99% of the time this is more like a half a blink.) 53 days until Thanksgiving. 79 days until Christmas. 86 days until New Years. Eeek! Time to start freaking out a little bit. (or a lot!) Christmas shopping, juggling family obligations, fighting about who is hosting what holiday and what they are going to make. (Because if I have to eat anyone's stuffing other than my mom's, there will be words. Hands down the best.) And of course there is the obligatory family photo for on the Christmas cards and the one relative who always had a camera attached to his face (and typically captures photos of me eating. Because honestly, when I am dead and gone that is what I want everyone to see. Me stuffing my face at every family get together.) So I spend much of my holiday dodging the sniper with a camera and buying at least a dozen outfits in an attempt to find one that makes me look the skinniest (because we all know those who get the Christmas cards are those we rarely see and the whole point is for them to know you are thinking of them and that you want them to see how great you look and how cute your kids are.)

So what if we could rock any outfit we choose (and skip the fashion show that happens right before the picture) and actually enjoy the fact that there is someone running around with a camera and embrace the "Me, me! Right here! I am ready for my close up" attitude?

Welcome to the Rocktober challenge!

Here is how it would work -- 

For 60 days I would put you in a closed Facebook group with others trying to achieve the same goal (including me! yay!) We will break our goals down into 30 day and 60 day goals. We will talk about clean eating, meal preparation, meal planning and everything you need to get set up for success. We will measure progress by not just using the scale but by measurements and photos (I know. Super scary but when you think you aren't making any progress it is amazing to see what you actually done in the photos. Believe me. I've been there! (To see the first part of my journey check this out.) We will do this on Day 1, Day 30 and Day 60.

We will post daily in the group and rate our day on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best and 1 being the worst. We will rate our diet and our exercise (basically how hard you brought it!) and whether or not we had our Shakeology.

We will commit to trying out Shakeology for 60 days. I know once I did it, I fell in love with the
energy I had and how great I felt from getting all the nutrients I need. (*Side note* my nails look awesome. Better than when I was on prenatal vitamins. It is my current obsession since I have struggled with weak and peeling nails forever! One of the perks I didn't know I was going to get.) So Shakeology is going to fuel your body (key word fuel) with the vitamins and nutrients you need throughout the day. And there is a 30 day guarantee on Shakeology so if it isn't working for you, we'll talk (and you get your money back.) --For more on my experience Shakeology read this. AND you can totally make pumpkin Shakeology. (It is awesome.)

We will eat clean. (For more info on what that means read this.) But basically just strive to eat real, whole food. No chemicals and no processed food. I will provide you with recipe ideas, meal planning and all the tools that have worked so far for me on this journey.

We will also commit to working out 5-6 days a week. I don't care if you run, walk or lift. Just get that body moving! If you already workout regularly think about stepping up your game. Adding some weight training to your cardio. If you don't have an exercise regimen we can talk about options. If you are interested in trying a Beachbody program, we can talk about that too and get you set up with something that totally works for you. There are so many options outside of P90x and Insanity (which I feel gets all the love) so if hard core intensity isn't for you, we can totally find something that is. I am currently doing TurboFire and am in LOVE with it. It really gives my inner cheerleader some much needed attention. I have found success with the at home programs from BeachBody because they are a killer workout and they all come with a schedule. So I can wake up, get my toddler some breakfast and toss in a movie, look at the schedule, pop in a DVD and press play. I don't have to worry about getting her ready to go to the gym with me or what series of exercises I am going to do that day. I know me and I need that schedule. I get really freaked out if I am going to miss a day and "mess up" the schedule or the order. But whatever works for you, we will make it happen.

Plus I will give you daily motivation, tips and tricks and share all the research I have accrued over the last few months.

If this sounds like something you would love to do contact me! I am going to have TWO groups enrolling this month. One starting October 14th and the other starting October 28th.

And honestly who wouldn't like to meet their New Years resolution before New Years? How amazing would that be?
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