Ground Mushroom Tacos

Nick and I have an interesting and evolving balance of eating preferences in our house.  Nick is allergic to peanuts and other related legumes, such as lentils, garbanzo beans and soy.  (Thankfully, this allergy doesn’t include all nuts or beans!)  He also appears to have an intolerance to gluten so we are cutting that out.  He eats meat and I occasionally eat fish, but prefer to eat vegetarian the majority of the time.  So we have a range of things to balance around meal times, from allergies that could cause death, intolerance that causes discomfort/illness, to preferred eating styles.  Although it sounds really complicated, it doesn’t have to be and we have found ways to make it work.

By default, Nick eats mostly vegetarian and will occasionally buy chicken, ground turkey, and occasionally sausage to have with dinner or lunch throughout the week.  I will also make foods he can’t eat, like lentils or very occasionally tofu, to have for lunch or dinner when he isn’t home.  To save time and money, however, the majority of our meals are comprised of ingredients we can eat.  The meat/no meat thing is easy and I think we have gotten really good at that.  What is proving to be a little more tricky is our new conversion to little-to-no gluten.  It’s only tricky at this point because we have quite a bit to learn, particularly around gluten free baking.  For example, I excitedly purchased a large bag of gluten free all purpose flour and thought, “well that was an easy switch.”  That weekend I made some waffles with it and after one bite Nick asked what type of flours were used (his body reacts quick!).  I looked at the ingredient list and the first one listed was garbanzo bean flour!  Doh!  So begins the process of learning the many different flours and how they work…more to come on that!  Do you have multiple eating styles to balance in your house?  I’d love to hear how you do it 🙂

Mushroom Tacos, scottileona.com

One favorite recipe of ours that is both gluten free and vegan is Ground Mushroom Tacos.  The texture and flavor of the ground mushrooms is similar to ground beef, so these are great for those meat eaters that like their textures!  🙂  Furthermore, mushrooms can act has a faux meat in so many instances (think portobello burgers, mushroom gravy with biscuits, and mushroom marinara sauce) without soy.  They are also quick to prepare and this recipe will have dinner on your plate in 30 minutes or less, making it an ideal mid-week-stressed-to-the-max dinner.  Mushrooms also boost a great number of health benefits, including:

  • Naturally low in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol
  • Rich in B Vitamins
  • Antioxidants
  • Fiber
  • Only vegan, non-fortified source of Vitamin D (important for those of us dwelling in the Pacific Northwest!)

We also topped our tacos with healthful veggies, including kale, grated beets and carrots, and avocado.  Serve them with beans you cooked over the weekend to save time and add protein.  YUM!

Ground Mushroom Tacos, scottileona.com

Recipe

By Scotti Leona

Makes 5 tacos (Serves ~2)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 red onion
  • 4 oz mushrooms (any kind will work, I used shiitake because that is what came in my CSA)
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 corn tortillas
  • Kale
  • Carrots and beets, shredded
  • Avocado

Method:

  1. In a pan, saute the onion in coconut oil until softened
  2. Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped
  3. Add the mushrooms to the onion and continue to cook a little
  4. Add the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and if you want a little spice, throw in some paprika or chilli powder
  5. Divide the mushrooms among warmed tortillas and top with carrots, beets, kale and avocado (or whatever you want!) 🙂
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Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Amaranth

A few months ago, I discovered amaranth at my local food co-op and decided to give it a try.  I had read about this lovely little grain in the Thrive Energy Cookbook by Brendan Brazier and I first tried it out as a rice substitute in this stuffed poblano peppers recipe.

Amaranth

Amaranth is a tiny grain that looks a little like quinoa and packs a serious nutritional punch.  This gluten free grain contains:

  • Three times the average amount of calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C – Amaranth is the only grain documented to contain this!
  • Complete protein

I love amaranth because it cooks up quick and is super versatile.  In addition to using it as a substitute for rice, you can make it into porridge and eat it for breakfast!

To cook amaranth, rinse 1 cup under cold water.  Boil 2 cups of water on your stovetop and add the amaranth.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed.  To make a thicker porridge-like consistency, use a 1:3 grain to water ratio and mix in desired spices.

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Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Amaranth

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 cup cooked amaranth
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, grated (omit or use a dairy-free alternative to make this vegan)
  • Avocado, tomato, cilantro and lime for garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Cut the peppers in half and remove the stem and seeds.  Brush the peppers with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or so to soften the peppers.
  2. While the peppers bake, mix the amaranth, beans, corn, cilantro and green onions in a bowl.  Add some cumin, cheyenne, salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven.  Fill each pepper with the amaranth stuffing.  Top each with a little shredded cheddar cheese and place back in the oven until everything is warmed through and the cheese is melted.
  4. Serve with avocado, tomato, cilantro and lime.  Enjoy 🙂

Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology

Hello there!  I hope you had a lovely weekend.  Portland continues to bask in summer’s glory with sunshine, delicious produce, and SO many weekend activities!  It’s hard to keep up with everything that goes on throughout the summer!  

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I am now in week 12 of training for the Portland Marathon and seriously can’t believe the race is only 7 weeks ago!  On Saturday my long run was 16 miles.  16 miles!  That is 3 miles longer than I have ever run before.  It was by no means easy.  It was hot, I got tired, and walked more than I would prefer.  I did, however, finish and that is my main goal for the race.  I’ll keep trucking along and putting my best foot forward with each run 🙂

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Last weekend, Nick and I picked fresh peaches on a farm on Sauvie Island.  We came home with a box of huge, juicy peaches that entice me every time I open the fridge!  With those on hand, along with the huge bag of blueberries I picked on Sauvie Island and froze, I had the perfect solution for lazy summer days.  To keep cool on Sunday before heading to the second day of MusicFest NW, I headed straight for the blender and whipped up a Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology.  Pure perfection.

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Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology Recipe:

Serves 2

For the first layer, combine in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 handfuls of frozen organic blueberries
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
  • Ice

Blend and split between two large glasses.  If it’s really warm in your house, place the glasses in the freezer while you make the second layer.

 

For the second layer, combine in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 organic peaches
  • 6-8 (or to taste) fresh mint leaves
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology

Blend and pour over the first layer in the glasses.  Stick a straw in there and enjoy!  ❤

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Life is too short to eat plain oats!

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Oats are a classic breakfast staple.  It seems like I am not the only one who feels a bit nostalgic about a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning.  That feeling reminds me of my grandmother and the warm cereal has been a necessity in my survival of Portland winter mornings (I know, it’s so obvious I am from Southern California when I complain about the winter here!  Go ahead and roll your eyes East Coasters, I won’t be offended!  (-: ).

There are several options for oats, including old-fashioned rolled oats, quick oaks and steel cut oats.  The various types are the same food, just cut differently, giving the oats a different texture and cooking time.  We know from Quaker brand commercials and packaging that cooked oats is a great food for those who are working to prevent or are currently dealing with heart disease or diabetes.  This is because oats contain beta-glucan, a fiber that has been shown to have positive benefits on cholesterol levels.  Beta-glucan also enhances the immune system and gives oats their blood stabilizing quality.  Their high fiber content also allows oats to remove cholesterol from the digestive system, thus keeping it out of your bloodstream.

Oats are also great for the following:

  • They increase appetite-control hormones
  • Oats may reduce asthma risk in children
  • They are low in calories and fat, but high in protein
  • Oats also contain lignans, which are thought to protect against heart disease and hormone-dependent cancers (i.e. breast cancer)
  • Oats contain unique antioxidants that prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Oats are a great source of carbohydrates too, which can prepare you for a work out or get you fueled for your long day ahead
  • Oats are also very inexpensive, especially when purchased from a bulk bin!

For 1/2 cup dry (1 cup cooked) of whole grain rolled oats, you get 190 calories, 3.5g fat, 32g carbs, and 7g protein.

For more information on all the amazing benefits of oats, head on over to The World’s Healthiest Foods and The Whole Grains Council.

Because oats are so low in calories, it makes them a great base for fun breakfast creations!  Here are a few of my recent favorites!

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Ginger Peach Oats with Raspberry Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 bags of Trader Joe’s Organic Ginger Peach Tea
  • 1 fresh peach or apricot
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Splash of almond milk
  • Chia seeds
  • Sliced almonds

Steep the bags of tea in one cup hot water.  Meanwhile, microwave the frozen raspberries for approx 30 seconds or less (until melted and mushy).  Mix in the protein powder and chia seeds and splash of almond milk until desired thickness.  Next, cook oats in brewed tea on the stovetop until done.  Top the oats with sliced almonds and the fresh peach.  Pour the sauce over the top and enjoy!

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Chocolate Orange Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • Stevia drops to taste
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Almond butter
  • Fresh orange

Cook the oats in 1 cup water with the orange extract.  Once done, stir in the protein powder and cacao powder.  Top with almond butter (I used Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter by a company called Wild Friends….I can’t even explain how amazing this almond butter is) and an organic mandarin orange.

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Coconut Blueberry Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Frozen or fresh blueberries
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Coconut milk

Cook oats in 1 cup water and coconut extract.  Once done, add the protein powder.  Top with blueberries, shredded coconut and coconut milk to taste.

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Coconut, Strawberry and Banana Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2-3 fresh organic strawberries
  • 1/2 banana
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut

Cook oats in 1 cup water and coconut extract.  Once done, stir in the protein powder and top with fruit and coconut.  Could also add coconut milk as well.

The plain flavor of oats allows you to add ANYTHING your heart desires!  Play around, experiment and try new combinations!  Let me know how it goes!  🙂

Carrot Greens Pesto

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I cannot tell you how many times I have purchased a bunch of carrots and simply chopped off their top leafy part and tossed it in the compost.  Recently, after I received my home delivery of produce, I was about to chop and compost my carrot greens and then…a lightbulb!  Maybe the greens are edible!  Maybe they are healthy!  Maybe they are even tasty!  So I hopped onto good ol’ Google and found some mixed messages.  On the one hand, carrot greens are touted to be:

  •  Full of Vitamin K, which is lacking in the carrot itself
  • Rich in protein
  • Rick in minerals and vitamins
  • Loaded with potassium
  • High amount of chlorophyll, which has been shown in studies to combat the growth of tumors, as well as having cleansing properties that purify the blood, lymph nodes, and adrenal glands

On the other hand, some claim they are toxic.  From what I could tell, the concern over carrot greens comes from their close relatives: poison hemlock, water hemlock, and the wild carrot (a.k.a. Queen Anne’s lace).

According to The World Carrot Museum website, the main reason there is a conflict between whether carrot greens are edible or not is because there are poisonous look-a-likes that are often mistaken for wild carrot.  Therefore, you should be certain of what you are eating.  Furthermore, the bitter taste that makes some weary is reportedly from the high amount of potassium the greens contain.  They also contain flurocoumarins, which may cause an allergic reaction on the skin when touched.  According to the World Carrot Museum, this only affects people with allergies to the plant specifically, which are often the same people who have skin allergies to yarrow, ragwort, and chamomile (hopefully you already know if you fit in that category!).  The World Carrot Museum website also states:

“The toxicity linked to carrot tops is the same toxicity issue with any greens.  That is that all greens contain alkaloids.  When you eat the same type of greens all the time (like if you had spinach all the time or carrot tops all the time) then the levels of that plant’s alkaloids starts increasing in your system.  Alkaloids are toxic in high amounts.  Therefore the rule of thumb is that you need to keep rotating your greens.”

I am not a doctor and cannot speak to which side of the debate is correct.  I can say, however, that I ate them, felt great, and thought they were delicious.  If you are in any way hesitant or concerned, please ask a health professional.

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In any event, I used my carrot greens to make a pesto.  They tasted a bit like parsley and went really well with quinoa, black beans and roasted vegetables (beets, broccoli and rainbow carrots).

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For the pesto, combine the following in a food processor:Image-2

  • Roughly chopped carrot greens
  • A couple cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I am estimating here, I did not write down exact measurements but you can start with less and add as needed)

Pulse until well mixed and add to vegetables, fish, meat, pasta, whatever you’d add a pesto to!

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Other ways to use carrot greens include:

  • Homemade mouthwash (carrot greens contain antiseptic qualities) 
  • Mixed in with a mixed green salad
  • Add to coleslaw
  • Use for garnish

Baked Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad with Pearled Barley

I was headed to work that night, so I ate mine from a glass tupperwear.

I was headed to work that night, so I ate mine from a glass tupperwear.

Spring is in the air!  The weather has been treating us well in Portland, with less rain and more of that much needed sunshine, and the excitement of summer produce and festivities is making my heart so full it could burst.  In celebration of the warmer weather, I made this baked goat cheese and arugula salad with strawberries and pecans the other night.  Although it took a little over an hour to put together, the salad was so refreshing and light, yet still filling and absolutely delicious.  I typically test my cooking skills by how much hot sauce Nick uses, and he hardly used any on this dish!  Score!

I served it with a side of pearled barley seasoned with thyme.  Whole grain barley is a high-fiber, high-protein whole grain that boasts quite a list of health benefits.  Pearled barley, unfortunately, has been through a process that removed its hull and nutritious bran layer.  Barley groats are hulled but still have that bran layer.  Pearled barley is the most commonly used form of barley and is easily added to soups or cooked on its own as a rice substitute.  Some of barley’s health benefits include the following:

  • Barley is has a low glycemic index (measures how foods that containing carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels)
  • Good source of soluble fiber, which is effective at lowering cholesterol and is beneficial at slowing the absorption of sugar
  • Barley is also a good source of insoluble fiber, which may be beneficial in helping the body to maintain regular bowel function
  • Naturally cholesterol free and low in fat
  • Barley contains Vitamin B3, Vitamin B1, selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and copper.
  • Barley also contains antioxidants and phytochemicals, which studies have indicated may decrease the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

For more information, see Barley Foods and The World’s Healthiest Foods.

I had some pearled barley in my pantry from a soup I made a while ago, so I decided to use it as our grain with the salad.  Cooking it with thyme and onions made a tasty, yet mild, side to the flavor packed salad.  We had quite a bit of barley left over and used it the next day with black beans, lime, cilantro and avocado to make a power bowl.

Pearled Barley Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1 small onion
  • Thyme (2 sprigs fresh or dried)
  • 3 cups water
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the pearled barley and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the barley is lightly browned.  
  2. Add the onion and thyme and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened.
  3. Add the water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed and the grain is tender.
  4. Fluff the barley with a fork.  If you used fresh thyme, remove the sprigs and serve.

Click here and here for other yummy-looking ways to eat pearled barley.  I may have to try these too 🙂

Baked Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad Recipe

Original Recipe from Clean Eating Magazine.

Serves 2.

  • Olive Oil (in a spray bottle would be best or you can use cooking spray)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chopped raw unsalted pecans
  • Baby arugula
  • Fresh Strawberries
  1. Image-14To caramelize the onions, lightly spray a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high.  Add the sliced onions and stir frequently for about 1-2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, sticky and light caramel color (about 1 hour).  Remove the skillet from heat and let cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.

 

 

2.  While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In Image-11a small bowl, lightly beat the egg whites and set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, thyme, salt and pepper.  Using your hands, press the goat cheese into 4 balls and then flatten each into 1/2-inch-thick patties.  Dip the patties in egg, turning to coat completely.  Next, dip each patty into the panko mixture.  Repeat the process twice with each patty.  Transfer patties to a small plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap and stick in the freezer for 20 minutes.

 

3.  Line a medium baking sheet with foil and mist with olive oil.  Arrange the cheese patties in a single layer and mist the tops with olive oil.  Bake for 6 minutes, flip the patties and bake for another 6 minutes, until golden.

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4.  Turn the oven heat off, add the pecans to the baking sheet and leave in the oven for an additional 3 minutes.

5.  For the dressing, whisk the lemon juice, dijon mustard, and some salt and pepper.

Plate the arugula with sliced strawberries, caramelized onions, pecans, dressing and two patties per person.  And…devour 🙂

Spring Vacation to Mosier, Oregon

Last weekend, I had to pleasure of spending three days in Mosier, Oregon with 6 of my best gal pals.  This is the third year in a row that this group of friends and I have left Portland for some out of town adventure, relaxation, and quality girl time.  All 7 of us are social workers who went through school together to get our MSW, so we have shared a uniquely stressful and rewarding period of our lives together.  Although 6 of the 7 ladies are now done with school (I’m so close!), this time spent away from the stresses of our jobs to eat food, drink wine, laugh, cry, and be silly remains important for our self care and sanity.

We have gone to different locations each year, and this year’s rental house had the most amazing view of the Columbia River Gorge!Image-1

We had quite a collection of wine, tequila and gin!  These girls were thirsty!

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A few of us headed down the road to Hood River for some shopping and enjoyed cider in the sunshine.  Check out this adorable little shop with cook books, gardening guides, and delightful kitchen collectables.  I was so in love!

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Even the dogs had a fabulous time.  I feel so bad for Reymie when the weather is rainy and I am SO busy with school and work, I felt like she enjoyed the weekend away with her buds as much as I did!

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We each choose a meal to cook for the whole group, and I did dinner the first night.  I came across some healthy adaptations of Mexican food on Pinterest and decided to make Chipotle Citrus Superfood Vegan Tacos from lunchboxbunch.com.  This was the first time I’d seen this blog and it is AMAZING.  So many recipes, helpful tips, nutrition information.  So great.  As for the Chipotle Citrus Tacos, so. freaking. delicious.  I mean, they were just perfect!  This recipe is definitely bookmarked as a favorite to make a million more times.  The girls and I “de-veganized” them with a little cheese and Greek Yogurt, but that was definitely not because these babies lacked flavor!  Here’s what you’ll need for this amazing spread.  For more information on the nutritional benefits of this recipe, more incredible photos, and other really awesome posts, please go to lunchboxbunch.com!!

Lime Cilantro Superfood Quinoa:

Makes 4 servings.  I doubled this recipe for the 7 of us and we had some left overs that made delicious salads for a couple lunches the following week!

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime, squeezed and some grated zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional for extra nutrition)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed (optional for extra nutrition)
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds (optional for extra nutrition)

Toss cooked quinoa with all of the above ingredients.  Garnish with lime wedges.

Mango Goji Guacamole

Makes 8 servings.  Mine is photographed without the avocado, we had to keep that separate for a food allergy.

  • 1 1/2 avocados, diced
  • 1 mango, diced (I defrosted some frozen mango chunks from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons goji berries
  • Spices to taste

Toss everything together!

I prepared the quinoa and guacamole that morning before heading to Mosier, leaving only the tofu to cook up.  That saved a lot of time to chat, drink wine, and gush over our glorious view.  As I learned with the leftovers, the tofu was also good for a few days after as well, so everything can be made ahead for a dinner party or meal prepping for the whole week!

Chipotle Tofu

  • Extra firm tofu (quantity depends on how many mini triangles you need.  I used the Organic Sprouted Extra Firm Tofu from Trader Joe’s and we used about 3 of those little halves they are split into.)
  • Agave Syrup
  • Chipotle powder
  • Spritz of lime juice

After squeezing out the water from the tofu with a paper towel, slice tofu into triangles.  Add chipotle powder to taste, drizzle with a little agave syrup and lime and cook on a skillet for 1-2 minutes per side.

Serve however you’d like!  We put some quinoa, 1-2 tofu triangles, mango and avocado dressing in a whole wheat tortilla and topped with some grated cheddar and Greek Yogurt to make burritos.  With the left overs, I put quinoa, tofu and avocado over spinach for salads on the go.  These ingredients are versatile, so easy to throw together, filling, healthy, and incredibly delicious.  Such a great dish!!  Thank you so much, Kathy at lunchboxbunch.com!

Image-4For the most part, our meals throughout the weekend we pretty healthy but I took the time to focus on catching up with my girlfriends and enjoying time away from my day-to-day so I indulged, didn’t count a single calorie or macronutrient and didn’t even run!  One weekend with my ladies is not going to completely derail my fitness goals.  I am not training for a fitness competition and in the long run, I think the boost in my mental health will show up on my physical body.  So yes, I had that tasty little cinnamon roll, drank a few gin and grapefruit juice cocktails, and didn’t think twice about it.  Fitness and healthy weight loss doesn’t consume my life, and I’d encourage everyone else to let go every once in a while too.  🙂