Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Favorites Numero Dos

Happy Friday everyone!

So remember how I said in my last Friday Favorite post that I'd probably forget to post this every Friday? Well, funny story but this morning I was chatting with Layla (normal, right?) and I was asking her if she was excited that I had the day off so that we could spend more time together. Yes, I'm a crazy dog lady. 

Then, I realized it was Friday and that I better get this posted! Before that I had completely forgotten and I probably would have gone the whole day without remembering. So good thing I talk to my dog or else this post wouldn't have happened! :)

One of my first favorite things is of course Black Friday shopping!


I've actually never gone shopping on Black Friday and have zero intentions! I'm not a shopper at all and I doubt that I could even handle all the insane crowds on this day. I am much happier to stay at home and get all the Christmas decorations up. Speaking of which, I'll be doing this afternoon after I get some writing done! Anyway, back to the real list--

1. My Family

I grew up with a very strong sense of family because I have always been very close even with my extended family. I was fortunate enough to grow up across the street from my aunt and uncle which means my younger cousins are like my sisters and brothers. My grandmas were both only a few blocks away so I got to see them too whenever I wanted. I seriously cannot explain what a blessing it has been to grow up with the support network that I have. My aunt is honestly a second mother to me, and she has always been there for me. Both her and my grandma (on my dad's side) have been there for us through the thick and thin of everything going on with my mom. My grandparents on my mom's side passed away a few years ago but I was also very close with them.  My parents are also divorced but I'm still able to see my dad a lot. And don't get me started on Amanda, I wouldn't know what to do without her! Yeah we fight like any other sisters but at the end of the day we love each other, and would do anything for each other. The value that we were taught about family is the main reason that Amanda and I decided that we would take on the responsibility of caring for my mom. It never even crossed our minds as a possibility to not do it because she would have done it for us without a second's hesitation. 

My wonderful grandma Meow Meow (it's a long story but she likes cats...if you couldn't already guess!)

With my aunt, uncle, and my cousins! 

Papa Bear 

My beautiful Auntie!

And of course, my three lovely ladies! 

2. Christmas music!

It's the day after Thanksgiving which means Christmas everything and anything is now fair game! I have a very strict rule that nothing Christmas-y is allowed until after Thanksgiving, you have to give it it's proper due as a holiday! You bet I'm listening to Christmas right now as I type this up in between writing grad school essays. Some of my favorites are: For King & Country (as always, ha), Matthew West, Trans-siberian Orchestra, Michael Buble, and of course my girl Mariah Carey! Although my cousin just introduced me to Pentatonix and I'm pretty much in love right now. Mary Did You Know is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs and I'm obsessed with their version! I added their whole album to my Spotify :)

3. Balance

You had to have known this one was coming, right?! But really, yesterday was the first holiday since 2011 that I was able to enjoy without any anxiety over foods! I sent my coach this ridiculously long email this morning just talking about it (she's such a saint hahaha) and how different I am from even just last year around this season. Amanda and I were talking about it on our run yesterday how she can really see the changes in me, and it's so great to hear that from the people around me. I can see the change and even my coach can over the past few months but it's always encouraging to hear it from my family and friends! I loved being able to not stress over food at all yesterday but rather focus on spending time with loved ones! 

4. Katiesfitscript

Speaking of my wonderful coach, if you don't already know it's Katie from Katiesfitscript! She's honestly amazing and an answered prayer. I love working with her and she is 100% committed to each and every one of her clients and their goals! Always super sweet, loving, encouraging, positive, knowledgeable, I mean everything you'd want in a coach! I happen to have converted two people and they are now working with her, and another couple of my friends are interested! She's the absolute best and I recommend her to everyone :) 

5. Jif Whips

I just couldn't leave this one out, today! I mean it's no secret that I eat at least 2-4 tablespoons of Jif Whips a day hahaha! I have every flavor they make right now in my pantry but I'm running low on a couple so I have to re-stock them soon. My two favorites are definitely the Maple Brown Sugar and the S'mores so you should check them out! 

Here are a couple of my favorite smoothie recipes with them: 

They're also great on rice cakes, bananas and apples, or even straight out of the jar with a spoon :)

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guesstimating Macros: Planning Around Mystery Foods

Let me pitch you a scenario right now.

You happily have your macros planned out for the whole day. You have it all down to the gram and feeling pretty dang proud. All of a sudden, you get a text. It reads "Birthday dinner tonight at 5:30pm". It's from your aunt and it's for a family friend, which means it's not an option to not go. 


First, take a breather and relax because it's not the end of the world. Secondly, this actually happened to me last week so there is a legit way to handle a scenario such as this one.

It's called life and life isn't gonna plan itself around your macros. Stuff happens and plans change. You might have a restaurant planned but the line is too long so you have to go someplace else, completely messing up your macros since you were banking on that grilled chicken salad. You might get last minute dinner texts like I do or a coworker brings a surprise treat in just because they wanted to brighten everyone's Thursday.

Don't panic! There are ways to navigate these situations even when you have your macros planned.

With my aunt, it was easier because my family knows that I'm on a "special diet" as they call it. They know I'm really into fitness and "all that" so I know they're not going to give me a hard time about my macros.

But, wait. You still don't know what's going to be at that dinner. Here's what I do: I call them and ask if I can bring anything. That way I can make something that I know I'll be able to eat and not have to sit in the corner while having to watch everyone eat around me.

By calling and asking them, usually they'll start going through what they're making to see if I can bring anything. Voila, I just found out what's on the menu! If they don't do that start probing like "do you need a salad, or a dessert, or any appetizers" because chances are they'll say "well, we already have the chocolate cake, and cheese and crackers, etc."

Or, if you're comfortable asking because it's family or a close friend that knows about your goals, simply flat out ask them! Just be like "hey, I gotta plan my macros so what's going to be there. P.s. you're the best aunt/friend/family member ever and I love you." I suggest adding in that last part so they don't get annoyed or exasperated with you ;)

So, back to how I dealt with the situation. I knew pasta and meatballs were going to be on the menu. I also knew that I did not have enough carbs for pasta or enough fat to allow for a protein like the meatballs. Here's what I did:

     1. I had chicken planned for dinner so I ate that before I left because I wanted to make sure to hit my protein and keep it high.
     2. I deleted the rest of what I had planned for dinner and as well as my after dinner dessert treat. This allowed me wiggle room for carbs and fats. Because let's be honest, there wasn't gonna be much protein in my dessert ha :)
     3. So, I now knew I had x amount of carbs and fats when I got there for dinner. I didn't need to worry about hitting protein since that was already close enough for the day. There was a roasted vegetable salad, some bread, and a couple of other appetizers in addition to the pasta and meatballs. I grabbed the salad and half a piece of bread and was able to sit down and eat with my family, completely enjoying myself!

Now, it was a birthday party so do you think I really didn't plan that cake was gonna be there?! 

As this was a very informal get together with my family, I just waited til the main serving part was done and then got my own little piece. If you're at a more formal situation just ask for a smaller piece! If that doesn't work usually what I'll do is I eat what I need and then do the good old "here, you can have the rest!" to either my dad/uncle/cousins I mean whoever is the designated garbage disposal in your family. We all have one and it's either my dad or uncle. If anyone can't finish their leftovers it goes straight to them. That way I can eat my cake and not waste it! Worst comes to worst and you don't have someone else to give it away to, just eat the cake. Seriously. You only live once so just eat it and you'll be fine, I promise.

Here's another situation that I was faced with this week. I had a meeting around lunch time and all it said in the email "refreshments will be provided". Then, my boss went on to say that there might be pizza, or cookies, or doughnuts and coffee, or all of that or maybe just juice. I'm seriously not kidding, that's what I was given to go on. I just know that some type of food will be there. Instead of panicking, I thought it out.

Again, plan for carbs and fats if you don't know what's going to be there. A food that is high protein while low in fats and carbs do not usually appear at gatherings such as this. I mean we're talking grilled chicken or egg whites. When's the last time someone has brought in a giant bowl of egg whites to a meeting?! Exactly. 

So give yourself plenty of wiggle room with fats and carbs. What I did in this situation is that I saved my morning peanut butter for possibly the afternoon depending on what was going to be there. If I ended up having a doughnut, I would just cut out the peanut butter entirely and then I'd have it still packed for tomorrow! If it was something like just coffee and juice, I'd have the peanut butter when I got back. So I was able to cut out a decent amount of fats (because let's be honest I eat A LOT of peanut butter) as well as some carbs by taking out the rice cakes. Instead, I ate my greek yogurt (usually my afternoon snack) as my morning snack which is high protein, lower in carbs with no fat. 

I got to the meeting anddddd it! There was also a side salad which was nice as well. So I grabbed some salad and a small slice of pizza. I did some calculating with my macros before I went so I knew that I would still have to nix the peanut butter because pizza can be pretty fatty, and still keep out the rice cakes. I also got rid of my cookie dough balance bar that I usually have for lunch since that gave me extra carbs and fats to account for the pizza. That left me with my egg whites to eat as my snack when I got back because I usually eat those for lunch. 

I didn't have to mess with my breakfast, dinner or dessert macros at all! Essentially, all I did was play around with my lunch and snacks. I swapped my snacks since that allowed me wiggle room for fats and carbs. Then, since the pizza and salad became my lunch that left me with the balance bar and egg white scramble which is usually what I eat for lunch. I had to get rid of the balance bar and then kept the egg whites as my afternoon snack to make sure I got enough protein. 

Even with playing around with my macros, I didn't feel deprived at all! I still got a yummy breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, then dinner and dessert. 

I realize that it's not going to work out perfectly in every single situation but that is what guesstimating is for. It's not meant to be exact and it may not get you down to the gram but the important thing is it allows you flexibility. I think it's totally fine to have about 2 days a week where you guesstimate. I've been doing it that way for months now and I've seen nothing but progress!

It allows me mental freedom and I don't get as anxious about foods at parties or meetings. It's a lot easier if you know what's happening ahead of time (don't worry a post is coming about that, too) because I personally find that there are multiple "guesstimating situations" as I call them. There definitely is a difference between guesstimating when you know what's going to be there vs. when you don't know. Obviously, the second one is harder but I hope that this at least gave you some tips and ideas! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't Choose Macros Over Memories

Okay I'm going to try my best to not make this sound like a rant. But...this was really bothering me. Pretty much the couple days right before Halloween and then all day on Halloween, I kept seeing all these little charts about what kind of exercises you'd have to do to burn off a single little mini piece of candy like the twix or snickers. People even started talking on the radio about it. This is what they said, "You might want to think twice about reaching for a mini twix once you know how many burpees you'd need to do to burn it off." And then everyone would groan and grumble because they wanted to eat the candy but felt like they shouldn't.

Honestly, it all made me mad.

And I'll tell you why.

This is exactly the type of mentality that should not be promoted towards food. I'll tell you what, on Halloween night I ate a Reese's pumpkin, mini twix, mini snickers, and hot apple cider. And it fit my macros. Which means, it was all perfectly fine that I ate that. Even if it didn't fit my macros, it's only one night! I was going to enjoy a piece of candy.

It doesn't matter if you follow macros or not, you're allowed to have a treat every once in awhile. Eat the stinkin' candy! I do not want to look back and realize I was worrying about macros over making memories.

This is why I'm trying to get myself better. I work hard every day to get myself to that point where I could go somewhere and enjoy myself with my friends and family. I don't want to be analyzing every bite that goes into my mouth, worrying if it fits my macros or not, trying to calculate how many burpees I'd need to do to burn it off. Yes, I'm not there yet but I'm so much farther along than compared to last year.

If there comes a time where I have to choose between my macros or my family, I don't want to give a flying hoot about those numbers! There are times where we are allowed to let go and just enjoy being alive. At the end of my life am I really going to say "Wow, I wish I hadn't eaten that piece of candy 25 years ago. It really messed everything up."

In 10 years, God-willing that I have kids, I don't want them to see me stressing over food. If I have little ones in my life, I don't want them thinking "Well, Mommy doesn't eat the candy so maybe I shouldn't either." No, I want to set a healthy role-model because I don't want them growing up thinking that they constantly have to be worrying about food or how their bodies look. I want to show them balance, and the peace that it brings.

It just really made me mad because thinking twice over food like that leads to feelings of guilt. Guilt leads to fear, and fear gives power to food that it shouldn't even have in the first place.

I've been in that place where I gave food ALL THE POWER. And it sucked. It sucked big time.

Okay, yeah, you probably don't want to eat like 30 pieces all at once but enjoying a few pieces here and there isn't going to harm anyone. It's not going to completely derail all of your hard work. If you have a few more than planned, don't sweat it. Tomorrow is a new day and you can get back on track.

I just hated the idea that somewhere out there, someone saw that chart, and ended up feeling guilty because they ate a piece of candy. Then, they felt the need to work it off by doing extra exercises or depriving themselves. They grew afraid of the terrible horrible things that the candy was going to do to them. Make them gain weight, bloat up like a balloon, wreck their entire progress etc.. This whole process led to fear of that candy so that next year when Halloween comes around, they'll be terrified to eat it. So they won't, and they'll be stressed and miserable because food is controlling their decisions.

How do I know this? I was there. This is the type of cycle that got me exactly to where I shouldn't have been two years ago. I'm not saying that it will happen to everyone or that a chart like the ones I saw is exactly how it starts, but the point of this post is that thought process is not healthy.

Food is fuel. It only becomes something more than that if we make it something more than that. If we make it out to be the enemy, the bad guy, the root of all our problems.

Well, let me tell you that it's not. Food is our body's best friend and what we need to survive. It's only when we give it the power of fear that food starts to become seen as the enemy.

And don't even get me started on the whole working it off thing. Working out SHOULD NOT be a punishment for your body! Again, I've been there. I completely lost my passion for running and working out when I was restricting because it became a punishment. It was the absolute worst so don't force yourself to do burpees if you have one mini snickers! If you hate burpess for crying out loud, don't do them. Do. what. makes. you. happy!! Whether that's running, lifting, yoga, pilates, kickboxing, swimming, ultimate frisbee. It's about you and what you enjoy to do.

I just couldn't believe my ears when people were trying to guilt-trip me over the radio. I understand that they thought they were doing some good, but coming from the standpoint of a past history of unhealthy eating habits, I only saw the damage it could do. As soon as I heard that a little red flag popped up and I thought "no, no, no please tell me you're not trying to make people feel guilty for eating one piece of candy."

That's the thing. The whole debacle was over a single piece of candy. Just one piece.
Let me take that thought one step further.

Here are some examples:
1 mini snickers has 5.5g carbs, 2g fat, and <1g protein
1 mini twix has 6.7g carbs, 2.3g fat, and <1g protein
1 mini milky way has 6g carbs, 1.4g fat, and <1g protein

In terms of macros, going over 5-6g on one day is practically negligible in the big picture. There are some days where I don't hit my grams spot on and I might be a little over on carbs or under on fats. It happens and a variance of about 5g is fine. Which means, who cares how many jump squats it takes to burn off a mini reese's cup?

And if you don't want to go over on your macros or just don't even count macros in the first place? It's totally fine to plan ahead, knowing that you'll be having candy later, and say to yourself "I know that I'll be having some candy later or a treat so maybe I should eat lighter during the day". I do this every time that I know I'm going to have a small cheat meal or a guesstimating day. I keep my protein high, carbs moderate, and lower on the fats. I don't feel deprived at all but rather if I know I'm going to have a cheat, all I do is skip my morning peanut butter (yes, I have peanut butter multiple times a day) and substitute one of my more carb-heavy snacks with a higher protein one. That's what I did on Halloween and look at all the fun foods I still got to eat guilt-free!

Planning for cheats or guesstimating is easier said than done so I'll probably do a post on it in the near future but the point is, it's totally possible! It's also totally fine to just say heck to guesstimating and know that you want to count that treat as a cheat. Fyi cheats and guesstimates are two different things in my opinion, again I'll do a post on that.

Okay, so I totally failed at not making this a rant but it's something I wanted to get out there. I also understand that there are people who may not be at the point where they can enjoy a piece of candy or can't stop at just one piece. You might still be finding your balance and aren't yet to a point where you can enjoy a day free from the numbers or stress. Don't worry, loves, I was there last year. That mental process takes a lot of time to heal, and even now there are days where I struggle with keeping that balance. This was the first Halloween in three years where I actually allowed myself to enjoy a couple pieces of candy!

So I'm not saying that you have to go out and force yourself to enjoy that piece of candy. I know better than anyone that you can't do it until you're ready. All I'm trying to say is that fear promotion of certain foods is not healthy or that you have to "work off" what you eat. I know I sound like a broken record and you're all probably all at the point of "SAM PLEASE STOP" since I say it 4059028904 times a day in my posts's about balance.

With the end of my giant rant, please do me a favor guys. The next time you're eating a mini snickers just go ahead and enjoy yourself. Oh, and don't you dare do a single burpee :)

...unless of course you like burpees. But let's be honest, who does?!

Friday, November 21, 2014

First Friday Favorites!

Apparently, Friday Favorites is a thing in the blogging world, and most of the bloggers that I follow participate and they happen to be super cool. So maybe if I participate I'll be super cool. No? Well let's just give it some time. 

All kidding aside, I think it's a cute idea so I wanted to give it a go! 

If I'm being completely honest with myself and the fact that I know myself so well, I will most likely forget a few Fridays here and there to do this specific post. It's just not in the cards with a memory like mine buuut I'll do my best to stay consistent! 

Okay so here it goes in no particular order at all:

1. LAYLA. Okay, yeah, in this post specifically we all know that Layla is listed as first because yeah she's my faveeee :) 

But can you blame me?! She brings me such happiness, and her love is such a blessing in my life! No matter what kind of day I'm having, I can always look forward to her greeting when I come home. She teaches me so much about unconditional love, and I absolutely adore her <3

2. Hallmark Christmas movies. They're totally cheesy and almost obnoxiously upbeat but I get sucked into them so easily! I may or may not be watching one right now at the moment as a matter of fact. There's been a marathon of just Christmas movies back-to-back-to-back and that's pretty much all we've been watching lately. I can't wait for the official Christmas season to start!!

3. Jodi Picoult books! My coworker has gotten me completely hooked on them. I read My Sister's Keeper a couple years ago but I didn't realize just how many books she has out! In the past few weeks I've made my way through Nineteen Minutes, Plain Truth, and now I'm reading The Storyteller! If you guys have any recommendations, please share! I'm a total bookworm. 

Sorry, I just got home from the gym and all hyped up on those endorphins! 

4. Flannel Pajamas. It's getting cold out and I really have a thing for matching flannel pajama sets. I know, it's weird but I have no shame in admitting it. I'm actually upset because this year I don't have mine since someone (ahem, Amanda) ruined them. I asked for a set for Christmas, though, so I can't wait until I can have them!

What are some of your favorites?!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Ok, so my big announcement is that I switched blogs! The reason I did this was because I felt as though I was growing away from my old one Minor Numbers. It's not a bad thing at all but I wanted to branch out because I realized that my "why" for the blog was shifting. 

I was in a different place when I started my blog back in March and so much has changed in the past 8 months that I wanted to start a new chapter. When I first started blogging, I was still finding my voice. It's a common thing when people start, and it may take awhile for someone to find their niche. 

In March, I was at the place where I finally threw the scale out the window and no longer was determining my worth by that number. Don't get me wrong, that's still so, so important! But, I am so different now. In a good way, though! From March to now I was on another chapter in my journey and even though I was done with the scale, I was still looking for something.

It was balance.

And I can say that I've found it now. For the past couple months, I have had peace with myself and it's been the most incredible blessing!

Which brings me to why I decided to switch blogs. My old one was about what I went through from February 2012 to March 2014 which was overcoming the scale, and the hold that number had over me. It was only part of the battle and I wasn't sure which direction to go in after I got past that part. I still had so much farther to go, and I definitely knew that so I started blogging to track my journey, and to connect with others along the way.

Then, two months ago, it all clicked! I could tell that I was different and that my blogging style was different. I had grown more into myself and what I wanted to write about. I mean I'm still gonna write about the same things like self-love, recipes, and balance. None of that is going to change but I feel as though this new blog will be more encompassing of what I want to write about.

I probably need to explain this better but I felt as though with my last blog, the first impression was about throwing the scale out the window. Like I said, that's important but it's not the only important part of the journey. I was still in that first phase when I began the old blog but I've learned so much more since then. I felt as though I was only writing and focusing on that first part, which is why I wanted to branch out. Now, I want to write more about the big picture and what I was striving for which was balance.

So, with the big picture there came three things: love, live, and balance. Although you probably already guessed that right? ;)

I believe that these are the three main components of what got me to the point I am in my life. The point where I am the strongest mentally that I've ever been, completely comfortable with myself and my body, and utterly in awe of my awesome God who healed me.

Let's start with love.

The whole cycle began with loving myself, others, and God. Once I started being nice to myself and loving myself, things started falling more into place. I put my faith in the Lord and prayed every day for healing. I made leaps and bounds but there still felt like something was missing. Then one day, a couple months ago it hit me: I need to give some of that love and healing pouring into my life back out to others. For close to two years, I kept my struggles to myself and didn't want to talk to anyone about it. I was being selfish, though, because I know now that there are people in my life going through similar things. What if I had reached out to them earlier, and we could have gone through it together? We can be so much stronger when we love on one another and encourage one another.

So I began investing more in the people in my life, and something wonderful and amazing has happened! I have been receiving that love back ten-fold, and I cannot thank God enough for teaching me this lesson. It's not enough to only love yourself, you have to give that love back to others. It's absolutely one of the best gifts, and the main reason I decided to apply to grad school. If all goes well, I'll be able to make my career about investing in others and giving back that love and healing.

Next comes living.

I wanted to live my life free of those anxieties about food, to live free from those negative thoughts, to live free from hating my body and focusing on the numbers. I wanted to live my life the way God intended and the way I was created.

This past weekend, my sister said something to me that really stuck with me. I ended up going to dinner both Friday and Saturday so I had to guesstimate my macros, something that would've given me severe stress and anxiety before I found my balance. We were getting ready to go out Saturday and I was just eyeing through my macros to see what I could fit. I can't remember exactly what I said but I think it was something along the lines of "well maybe I can squeeze in some bread but if not, it'll be fine I have some wiggle room." And Amanda's response was "it's so great seeing you with your new-found freedom".

What Amanda said is true, though, because I'm at the point where I can go out with friends and family without having panic attacks over food. I just guesstimate and leave it at that. Yeah it's not going to be exact but it's not going to hurt me either! It's about enjoying myself and spending time with those I love. That's something that I was robbed of nearly three years ago but I'm living it up now that I have it back!

Talking about it this past weekend, I realized just how much the people around me could tell the change in me. I had a heart-to-heart about it with my best friend on Friday at dinner, and she told me about how worried she was when I was dropping weight like crazy. We were roommates at the time in college, and she could tell that something was definitely wrong but didn't know how to help me. We had gone shopping before dinner on Friday since I needed to find a dress, and she said it was such a relief to see me looking healthier and stronger.

When I was restricting and depriving myself, I wasn't just causing myself emotional pain but those around me. My mom, sister, and best friend were worried sick about me because they were closest to me and could see the changes. Now that I'm free from all that, I'm ready to start living my life because I wasn't before when I was trapped by my own mind. My anxiety over food and my weight literally controlled my life. I wouldn't want to leave the house if I knew there would be fear foods at a gathering. I wasn't living at all, and I could have been spending my time doing so many other things such as investing in others, serving my church, or just enjoying life! Now, I love being able to guesstimate and not stress about food. It's wonderful to be free from those old anxieties and insecurities, and to see the change in myself.

Lastly, there's balance.

This is what brings it full circle. When I brought everything together: loving myself, loving others and God, loving the workouts that I do, living free from the scale, the negative thoughts, and the fears about foods then everything slid into place. I stopped looking at what was in front of me, and started looking at the big picture. That is how I truly found my balance.

I honestly fell in love with the process and the lifestyle when I switched to flexible dieting. I do it because I 100% love it and believe in the process. I love my workouts, and genuinely look forward to them. Some of my coworkers and friends think I'm crazy but I really do love working out! I also like tracking macros because fueling my body is important to me. I want to be the best version of myself that I can be, and I'm not talking about physically. That really doesn't matter to me anymore because I learned to love myself from the inside out.

So, with that being said the best version of me has nothing to do with how I look physically. I want to be the me I was created to be. There's no way I could have lived my life being controlled by my fears for the past two and a half years. I gave it all to God and got back more than I could have ever imagined. As I sit here typing this, I can't believe the difference of where I am now compared to even last year, the Lord is truly amazing!

It took me from February 2012 until October 2014, and I look at it now as simply a part of my life. It was a chapter that changed me, shaped me, and I grew from it. Yes, it was difficult and stressful, but now that I'm out on the other side I can truly appreciate what I've learned.

I realize that this was a super long post but I wanted to make sure that I explained myself :)

I hope you guys like the new blog and I love each and every one of you guys! Seriously, I mean that and if anyone has feedback about the new blog I'd love to hear from you!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Forgot About the Ice Cream Sandwiches

I had an epiphany this weekend. It might sound silly and really random at first but bear with me. It was a moment where I could actually pinpoint just how much things had changed for me, and in the best way!

For the whole story to make sense, I should back track to last weekend. While at Target, me and Amanda picked up some ice cream sandwiches. I admit, I had an instant twinge of anxiety when Amanda suggested getting them because I didn't know yet if I was ready to have them in the house. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to control myself around them, and that it would send me backwards.

Let me back track even further. Ice cream sandwiches are my weakness. They always have been and always will. I absolutely love them and usually have to eat two because I can't just stop at one. Even before my struggles with food I had this problem! I don't know what it is about them but I lose all self control and devour them. Not even the fancy kind. No, I don't want any of those chocolate chip cookie ones or skinny cows. Nope, nope, nope. I'm talking the plain and simple regular old ice cream sandwiches. You know the kind with the two chocolate rectangles and vanilla in the middle? Yep, only those.

Now, back to last weekend. I was hesitant but I was proud and didn't want to say that I was scared in front of Amanda. So we bought them and I decided that I would have to face my fear of them eventually.

And guess what?

By the next day, I honestly and legitimately forgot we even bought them!

Still sound strange? Let me explain. If I had gotten these during the time I was still depriving myself, those babies would be on my mind 24/7 that's all I would think about and how I couldn't have them. Now, I hardly ever have those urges with food.

It's simply because I've slowly allowed myself access to those foods. I didn't do it all at once because that would've been a nightmare, and there were times where I probably took on foods that I wasn't ready for a.k.a. a carton of cookies n' cream fro yo. I had to do it slowly and one at a time by picking a food that I had deprived myself from because if I did it too fast, I would trigger a binge.

When I think now to the foods that I have in my house, it's pretty miraculous for me. Foods that used to be huge fear foods for me but now I'm able to enjoy them! I have golden Oreos, mini Oreos, mini Rolos, ice cream sandwiches, vanilla frozen yogurt, graham crackers, pumpkin custard, 6 flavors of peanut butter (#jifwhipsforlife lolz), pretzels, sweet potato chips, and vanilla cupcake goldfish grahams. I actually didn't realize all that I had until I sat here and listed them all out but I'm not embarrassed at all. For some people they might cringe at the thought of all that "processed unclean" foods buuuut I don't prefer to label foods anymore, and simply balance it all out!

I think it's perfectly fine to eat those foods because I make sure to take care of my body. Yesterday I had part of an ice cream sandwich, peanut butter and 2 mini Oreos but I also had a banana, egg white omelette, carrots and hummus, rice cakes, greek yogurt, chicken, and a fresh salad. Even with the "unclean" foods I still hit my macros spot on, down to the gram.

The funny thing is my cousin was over the other day and she said "wow, your pantry actually looks back to normal now." For so long, I didn't allow things like Oreos, peanut butter, or cartons of frozen yogurt in the house because I was afraid of them. I was afraid of triggering a binge and I didn't want those feelings of guilt, shame, self-disgust to consume me. They'd come one way or another but I thought for so long that keeping those foods at bay would solve the problem.

But it won't. The problem is not the food, it never has and it never will be. The problem was with myself and my perception of food. That is a mental change that takes time and patience.

If I'm at the point where I can keep ice cream sandwiches in the house without the need to eat the entire box, I'm in a pretty good place at the moment. I never would have thought I could have gotten to that point because believe me there were times when I tried to overcome those triggers and failed miserably.

I even ate only half of an ice cream sandwich yesterday, which would've been unthinkable to me before now! This is where I'm thankful for IIFYM because I wanted an ice cream sandwich but couldn't have a whole one. So I asked my mom if she wanted to split one because I could fit half of one in my macros. I was able to balance out my cravings and my macros. I ate my half and was happy! It was all I needed and then I went about the rest of my afternoon. With zero feelings of guilt, I might add :)

This is what I've been striving for the whole past year and a half. To be able to enjoy the things I love guilt-free and balance it out with taking care of my body. I want my nutrition and fitness to compliment one another and to work together as a process to make me the best version I can be.

One is not meant to cancel out the other. Don't try to out-do a bad diet with crazy amounts of exercise or deprive yourself because you didn't work out that day. It should be a balanced cycle of fueling your body for the workouts you love or just simply having a day to enjoy yourself free of tracking because you know that you're active enough all the other days.

That is the life I want to live. My end goal is to switch to intuitive eating. When I get to that point where I can listen to my body and know what it needs. I honestly mean it when I say that I look forward to the day where I can delete the myfitnesspal app off my phone. Realistically, I probably won't be ready for at least another year but I'm perfectly fine with that.

I'm taking my own sweet time because it's not a race for me. I'm looking at the long term and big picture because I'm healing myself now so that I'll be balanced for the rest of my life. I mean it when I say that this is a journey for me. I'm in no rush because I want to do it the right way, and I only want to have to do it once. I don't want to force myself to take on things that I'm not ready for, and risk being unstable through the process so that I'd need a re-do.

So, I just wanted to share this because it was a tangible moment where I could measure how far I am compared to this time last year. Other signs that I've noticed is that I am legitimately looking forward to the food on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm not afraid of facing all those foods, and I'm not depriving myself anymore. It'll be the first time in three years that I'll actually be able to enjoy my favorite foods in moderation all while celebrating and appreciating time spent with those I love best. The only thing I can say is God is good and my prayers for healing are being answered!

I hope everyone has a wonderful day! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Finding Your Running Shoe Solemate

Guess what this past Saturday was?! You guessed it, another long run! I know, I'm pretty predictable :)

But this was an extra special long run because I finally got to break in my new running kicks. I absolutely love getting new running shoes, I'm a weirdo like that. You can also tell I'm a runner because my running shoes are my most expensive shoes and actually cost me more than $30. Tell me to spend $120 on boots and I'll laugh at you but I won't give it a second thought to get my hands on a pair of new Asics! 

You might be laughing at me right now for spending $120 on running shoes but trust me when I say I won't be laughing when the shin and knee pain kick in if I skimp on quality and go for a cheaper shoe. Talk to any running expert and they will tell you that shoes are key! Price does not matter if you want to spare your joints the pain and actually preserve your body.

And since my goal is to be a runner for life, no joke I'm gonna be one of those little old ladies you see kicking butt in marathons, I happily invest the money in my shoes.  

First, a quick disclaimer: just because these shoes work for me, DOES NOT mean they will also work for you! If you're looking for good quality running shoes, I highly recommend going to a specialty running store where the people there know what they're talking about. I personally have gone to general sporting goods stores to look at shoes and have not found it to be the best experience. 

With that in mind, I go to Elite Runners and Walkers which is about a half hour drive from my house. The staff there are extremely knowledgeable and runners themselves. I always get great quality service and they keep my shoe type and size on file so I can just go in and pick up a new pair whenever I need one.

So shiny and new :)

I absolutely love, love Asics and will always recommend them as the first brand for people to try. I'm a bit biased because I've been sticking with this brand since my high school cross country days. For the past three years, I've worn the GT 2000 series and have nothing but love for them! 

Of course, I'll admit that they're not the ONLY great brand of running shoes. They're just the best brand for me! Everyone is different though, and it can take some time to figure out which shoes are best for you. 

With that being said, here are some general things to keep in mind while looking around for running shoes: 

1. Does the store specialize in running? (obvious, but still)

2. What kind of brands of shoes does the store offer?
Yes, they are going to be expensive but you want to make sure they have the high quality brands. We're talking Asics, Brooks, Saucony, etc. 

3. Will the store do an evaluation? 
This is key and will let you know the quality of the store. When I first went to Elite, the guy helping me out had me first run on a treadmill to establish my natural gait. He then brought out several, and I mean several, pairs of shoes to figure out which ones worked best for me. I then had to run a few laps in each one so that again he could assess how I was running in them and how they felt on. 

4. If you're a newbie at running, take someone with you who is more experienced.
They'll be able to help you out with their opinion and guide you through the process. 

5. Creep on some conversations! 
I know, I have no shame. This past weekend while I was waiting to pick up my shoes, I listened to what some of the staff were saying. This one girl on staff was explaining to a customer about shin pain and increasing mileage too quickly. I already knew what they were talking about but still you never know what you might pick up!

6. If you don't want to take the creepy route then just ask! 
We all start somewhere so who cares if you have a lot of beginner's questions. I can guarantee that we all had them when we started out, too!

7. Make sure it fits right
This kinda goes along with the evaluation part because whoever is helping you should tell you what to look for in the fit of the shoe. Ideally, you want to make sure that when you have the shoe on that it doesn't feel like anything is on your foot. What I mean by that is you don't want it to feel lumpy or hard in certain places. When I first went, the guy helping me really wanted me to try out Sauconys because of my gait and how I needed extra inside support. I was adamant, though, on not getting them because it felt like I had a rock underneath the arch of my foot. He was surprised because based off the structure of my foot and the way I run, it should've been a great match for me. But it wasn't and I was much, much happier with my Asics. It just goes to show that what may work in theory is entirely different in practice!

8. Don't assume that a single brand will always work for you. 
I made this stupid mistake the last time I got shoes, even though I've been doing this for about four years now. I usually get the Asics GT 2000 series but when I needed new ones, they were out! Amanda had gone to get her shoes so I wasn't there, she was just going to pick up my regular ones. She ended up bringing me back the 3000 series since we figured they had to be close enough, right? They were still Asics and still the GT series. WRONG. Within one week, my feet ached, my toes were killing me, and I had major blisters in new places that my shoe didn't typically rub. Luckily, I was able to exchange them for my usual 2000s once they stocked up. I learned my lesson! I always call to see that they have my shoes before I make the drive out.

9. With number 8 in mind, don't be afraid to branch out if a shoe no longer works for you. 
It happens. Our bodies can change and eventually you might require different shoes. There are also different styles and brands that might adapt or change, and if you don't give them a shot you might never know if they work better for you than the shoes you have now. You never know unless you try! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Overnight Oreo "Pudding"

I discovered this on accident. But I'm obsessed now! 

I always pack my lunch the night before and I wanted to add some mini Oreos to my greek yogurt because I mean why not? Oreos make everything better. 

So I crumbled three mini Oreos into my greek yogurt and left it in the fridge overnight. When I went to eat it at work the next day, I first thought "ugh, I wasn't thinking when I put the Oreos in last night. I bet they're soggy and gross now." 


Guys, it tasted just like Oreo pudding! I mixed up the yogurt better and the Oreos had broken up even more overnight and kinda soaked up the yogurt like what happens with overnight oats. It tasted amazing!!

The best part? It's loaded with protein from the greek yogurt. Plus it's simple and includes Oreos. What more could you want in a food?! 

If you're a fan of Oreos, you seriously need to try this out! 

It's really easy. All I did was mix 8oz of plain greek yogurt that was sweetened with a bit of stevia, and added 3 mini Oreos. I also did 7oz of yogurt with 2 mini Oreos yesterday and that proportion worked well too! It's just enough Oreo to distribute evenly throughout the yogurt. 

I let mine sit overnight so it probably gets a good 8-12 hours before I eat it the next day. 

Enjoy and Happy Friday! :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Move Over Panera! Homemade Pesto Vegetable Soup is Here!

Wow, it has taken me forever to get this post up! It just got pushed back along the queue and I forgot about it...oops. This is the perfect example of the kind of stuff that Amanda has to deal with my memory being terrible and it drives her crazy!

It doesn't bother me in the slightest that 95% of the time I'm forgetting something but I can't believe it literally took me almost two weeks to get this post up. I'm also behind on emails which I'm going to do my best to get to those tonight! Grad school applications are taking up a lot more of my time than I anticipated, yikeeees.

Anyway, fall soups are my specialty and I love, love, love using the crock pot to make them! It's easy, simple, and very hands off. I just throw all the soup ingredients into the crock pot and leave it sit for a few hours. I swear something magical happens in the crock pot because the taste is always so much better than if I were to make it in a giant pot on the stove.

I decided to make my own version of pesto vegetable soup. I wouldn't call it a copy-cat because I didn't model it to taste exactly like the one you would find at Panera. I wanted to make my own homemade version and not to boast or anything, but I prefer this batch to Panera's :)

For the soup you'll need:
3 small-medium yellow squash
3 small-medium zucchini
1 15oz can of red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 bag of baby spinach
2 32oz containers of vegetable stock
4 medium sweet potatoes
8 large carrots
1/4 cup pesto

The spices I used I did to taste but they included: salt, black pepper, roasted garlic herb mix, dried basil, dried parsley, and fresh garlic.

I used all organic ingredients but that's not necessary at all. 

Also, can we talk about how cool these carrots are?! I got this bag from Trader Joe's because yes there were purple carrots and that's all I cared about. They're naturally tri-colored so there were orange, purple, and yellow/white ones. I wanted the soup to be nice and colorful so I picked out the pretty carrots!

Put everything in the crock pot, minus the spinach and pesto, and cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10 depending on when you put it in. I didn't start making it until after lunch so I cooked it on high to make it go faster. 

I added the spinach about an hour before the soup was supposed to be done. I didn't want it to get too cooked down in the soup. I also added the pesto at this time and checked again for the spices and probably added in some extra again as well. 

I'm terrible with keeping track of measuring out spices since I just do it all to taste. I checked on the soup about every hour to see how it was cooking, and probably added in spices as I went when I thought they were necessary. 

Ok, so I have this cheesy joke that I have to share but it cracks me up every time. Whenever I go to open the arugula (which is like every night at dinner) I say to my mom and sister "Watch out, guys, you better stand back because the arugula is a little wild tonight" ahahaha I crack myself up! I told you it was cheesy, and Amanda just rolls her eyes at me as I giggle every single time at my own joke. 

I ate my soup with a grilled chicken hummus wrap, and it was the perfect combination! 

Oh, I almost forgot! The macros--
Per cup (makes 18):
88 calories
14g carbs
2g fat
3g protein

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Typical Rest Day Sunday

I fully believe that rest days are crucial, and there was a time where I used to hate, hate, hate taking them! Basically, all due to anxieties in my head. But now I look forward to them and don't think I could survive the week without one. 

That's not to say that I don't do anything productive on my rest days, though. Let's not forget that I have an 11-month old puppy which means that there's not always a lot of rest going on, especially if she's in hyper mode. 

So I usually like to take her for nice long walks on Sunday afternoons, given that the weather is nice. Last Sunday we went for about an hour and a half walk around our neighborhood. Sometimes I take her to the park or woods to do some trails but often times it'll just be around our neighborhood. 

Also, important side note: Layla's older half-sister Lola spent the weekend with us! 

This is what I got to come home to on Sunday after church, who doesn't want a double dose of doggy greetings?!

I mean, come on look at that face! Yeah she was clearly done with all my picture-taking but you can't deny that cute looks obviously run in the fam with her and Layla :)

It was literally the perfect fall day! All I needed was my puffy vest and some gloves to stay warm. 

The leaves were absolutely beautiful and it was so peaceful to just walk along together and enjoy the scenery. 

We also started family game night! It might sound silly to some people but board games like this really help my mom with therapy. It involves a lot of steps with her spinning the wheel, moving her car along the correct number of spaces, making decisions like what kind of house or job she wants. She also had to count out her own money, and do simple math. While she was in in-patient therapy, they actually played a lot of board games or card games. Things that might seem inconsequential but really are beneficial while recovering. Plus, it's just a great activity to get her involved and away from just watching the tv. 

Someone else wanted to join in on family game night. She couldn't sit exactly on my lap so she settled for simply having her front half up so she could "help". I know what you're thinking but no, she's not spoiled at alllll...

Guys, I couldn't help it. She's just too cute sometimes! Although she knows that she's not allowed up like this if we're eating. Also please excuse my expression, I clearly was not ready for this picture. You gotta be able to laugh at yourself, though! The important part is that Layla is cute and camera always. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Today Is Beautiful

As I was working on another post, the song "Today Is Beautiful" came on my Spotify, and as I listened to the lyrics a completely different post came to mind. So I abandoned my post about the vegetable soup from last weekend (I promise I'll get it up soon!), and wanted to share something important that I've noticed over the past couple weeks.

I can't explain what's happened but something has slowly just clicked into place. Like everything and I can't pinpoint when it exactly happened but this morning after my run I thought "I've been in a really good mood the past couple weeks". I consider myself a pretty happy and upbeat person but I have those days just like anyone else where I'm annoyed, nothing seems to be going right, or I'm cranky (God help my mom and sister on those days!). I've been told that when I'm cranky, I'm an absolute bear. It's something that I try to work on but I admit, it often gets the best of me! 

Anyway, I started to notice the change the past couple weeks and then my coach, the amazing Katie from katiesfitscript :) made a post this week about her change in perspective. As I watched her video, I was like "aha! that's what it is, it's been a change in my perspective!". So how did this happen to me?!

A couple weeks ago, God laid a truth upon my heart. In my Bible study, the lecture leader said something that really hit me hard. In times of struggle, uncertainty, trials, temptations, whatever you might be going through, instead of asking God "how can I get out of this?", I should be asking "what can I get out of this?".  I immediately felt convicted because I always go with the first option, and will often complain about less desirable circumstances as they come up in my life.

It was a wake up call and something that I wanted to start working on. I began to feel a shift as I started looking more at the big picture. Once that happened things just starting sliding more into place. Applying to grad school, being comfortable with my body, finding greater balance with food, my relationships with the people in my life, and my faith in God and His plan for me.

For awhile now, I've been focusing on only what's in front of me and I think it began to have a negative impact on my life because I was being selfish and caught up in my own world.  I would get stressed about silly little things that are just so insignificant when looking at the big picture. Things like last minute changes in my work schedule, when people would take the machine I needed at the gym, or the stats on my posts. I mean things that really don't matter at all.

So I gave it all to God and tried to see what I could get out of the past two weeks. And let me tell you: I've never had such peace in my life.

I've never felt so comfortable with my body and who I am. I've never felt as sure as I do now of the next step I need to take for my future. I've never felt so much love from the people in my life. I've never felt such strong faith in God and trust in His plan.

As I've started investing in the people in my life and pouring out some of the love and healing God has given me, I've been receiving even more back. I'm not even kidding that once I gave up thinking about how many people read my posts or how many followers, then things started sliding into place. I had women reaching out to me, both readers and in my life. It's been such a blessing to make those meaningful connections and I can't thank God enough for this change in perspective.

I feel as though I completely rambled during this post because I was just kinda winging this as I went. But I hope that it makes sense because the point is I started looking at the big picture in whatever I might be facing-- the "what" that I can get out of the circumstances. We all go through different things in life, both struggles and triumphs, but our attitude is what determines whether or not we learn something from them.

I'm in the process of applying to grad school and yeah it's time-consuming and definitely not my favorite thing. But, looking at big picture I want to do it because I've felt a calling, and I want to give back to others. I want to help women who have gone through similar things as me so the more important thing is being able to invest in others and give back love, it doesn't matter that I don't like the application process. It's not about seeing what's in front of me, but what God sees for me.

So, no matter what I might be going through, I'm going to try to look at the big picture: today is beautiful. I am alive, healthy, loved, and God has a plan for us all. I lost sight of that and allowed myself to get derailed and mixed up in the insignificant things. God has used the past couple weeks to teach me a valuable lesson, and I wanted to share because it has greatly impacted my life for the best.

Here's the song that I was telling you guys about and if you listen to it, please listen closely to the lyrics because it's a pretty powerful message:

<3 with love,

Friday, November 7, 2014

More Updates: Halloween Weekend!

I know this post is a little late but I was pretty excited this Halloween because it was the first time in three years that I was actually able to enjoy all the treats and candies that come with this holiday. Halloween in 2012 and 2013 were not happy times because both years I was afraid of eating the candy-- one year of gaining weight and the second a trigger for a binge. 

However, this year was different! I was actually looking forward to being able to enjoy a couple pieces of candy here and there. I even survived a Halloween party at my office where coworkers brought in treats. I did my best with guesstimating and was able to eat a lot of the foods! It felt amazing to not feel deprived, restricted, or have any anxiety over what I was eating. 

I guesstimated for the party because I didn't want to pass up enjoying myself! I didn't go overboard but I was able to have a little bit of everything: coffee cake, some chips and salsa, mini brownie, half a sugar cookie and a thumbprint cookie. I just cut off the portion size that I needed and was able to stay on track! 

It was also helpful that the day before the party, we all sat down and talked about what we would make so that no one was bringing the same stuff. This was great for me because I knew what would be there and was able to plan my macros for the day ahead. If not, I was just planning to leave a lot of wiggle room especially with carbs and fats. 

If you're not able to sit down and plan it out like we did, something else I would do is to ask my closer coworkers what they are bringing so I could at least plan to have a little something of that. The rest I would have to leave up to chance and fit in as I went. My office is pretty small and there were only 5 of us so I was able to fit in a little bit of everything since it wasn't a ton of food. 

So the party was a success and big step for me because often times it can still be hard when I have to guesstimate. When I first heard the words "Halloween party" I felt that instant and familiar pang of anxiety-- what am I going to do?! But then I took a step back and reminded myself that this is life and I wanted to enjoy myself and the food. 

I then took a deep breath and started planning my macros and it ended up being a lot easier than I thought. I hardly had to make any huge changes to my usual meals so I didn't feel like I had to hoard all my macros for the party then not be able to eat for the rest of the day. I could even fit in my regular protein pancakes after dinner. And any day you can fit two cookies and protein pancakes is the optimal situation in my opinion!

We had the party on Thursday (a couple people had Friday off) and then on Friday I took my little cousins trick-or-treating. This was another step because I was yet again going to be around a ton of candies, and had to learn how to deal with that. Of course, I had some things planned in my macros and was able to enjoy a Reese's pumpkin, mini twix, and mini snickers. We also stopped by the house of one of our friends from Bible study and she gave us hot apple cider! That one was probably a stretch with completely fitting but like I said it was a guesstimate. 

The important thing is that I didn't completely freak out with being presented a food that didn't fit my macros. I thought to myself "hey even if it doesn't perfectly fit helloooo extra carbs as fuel for my long run tomorrow!" ;)

Speaking of my long run, it was only 40 degrees and the forecast called for freezing rain. I think my face says it all....

Anyway, trick-or-treating ended up being a lot of fun even though I had to take Layla home early when the rain started. We all enjoyed ourselves and it was great to spend time with family. It was also so much fun to watch Layla because she was literally overjoyed with all the youngsters running around, she loves kids! At our friend's house I was sitting on the front steps with her and all the little kids were asking if they could pet her. I was so proud of her because she was such a good girl by remembering her manners, and sat there nicely as they all patted her head. 

I ended the night curled up on the couch and watching a movie with my momma!

Overall, it was a great weekend and just what I needed! I was also very productive with some new recipes which I'll be sure to get up as soon as possible.

Have a wonderful Friday everyone!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Shoulder and Chest Circuit

There are days where I have limited time to workout but any workout is better than no workout, right? With that being said, I had little precious time to do a shoulder workout after I got back from my run on Tuesday morning.

This is when super sets and circuits come in handy because they definitely save me some time but also allow me to still get a great workout in! I personally like doing super sets during most of my workouts but that's just my preference. Also, for those of you who don't know super sets are where you go from one workout to the next without rest in between. 

For example, if you see 3x12 lateral raises SS 3x12 chest flyes all it means is you'd do a set of lateral raises then immediately chest flyes then immediately back to the lateral raises then the flyes until you finish out the 3 rounds. Pretty much it just means you don't stop working out! 

This circuit took me about 20-30 minutes to complete but don't be fooled because my shoulders and chest were on fireeeee! I was able to do this at home because I have adjustable dumbbells that can go pretty high. For the following exercises I used a 15-20lb range, but do what works for you. Just make sure that you are pushing yourself and it's a struggle (without breaking form) to get those reps out. 

Okay, so for the circuit I just did my favorite shoulder and chest exercises: 

x12 upright rows
x10 lying chest flyes 
x12 front raises
x10 push-ups
x10 rear delt flyes
x12 lateral raises
x10 lying chest press
x12 arnold press

Repeat 3 times! I didn't rest between the moves but kept going through the circuit. Instead of doing a circuit, you can also break it up into 4 sets of supersets a.k.a. 3x12 upright rows SS 3x10 lying chest flyes and then 3x12 front raises SS 10 push-ups etc. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mango Meringues

I am not the best baker, and most times find myself completely clueless and a total novice. With that being said I have a couple things that I am confident on and one of those is meringues. They're my absolute favorite cookie, and I've made them so many times that I could probably do it in my sleep. 

Everything else can pretty much be a hit or miss but not when it comes down to meringues. I've tried out many different recipes and methods but I stand by this one recipe that never fails me! 

I have no idea where I picked it up but I have the recipe and steps memorized at this point so I just go with it. It was the first recipe I ever tried, and it has ruined all other recipes after it. It's simple and only requires 4 ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and vanilla. That's it! 

Well, except for this recipe where I decided to add a mango twist. But the mango is totally optional or you could always substitute another fruit for it! Mango just happens to be one of my favorites :)

There are two very important things to consider while making meringues: the weather and oven temperature. I'm not kidding you when I say that it needs to be a non-humid and non-rainy day when you're trying to make them. I thought it was absolutely absurd when I heard that but seriously, I tried it once and could not get the egg whites to whip up properly since my house was too muggy and humid! It sounds crazy but believe me, it can make a difference.

Secondly, I have seen many recipes that vary with cooking time and oven temperature. The key to meringues is lowww and slowwww. I've tried recipes for 30 minutes at 350 and they did not turn out to be proper meringues! When you bite into one, it's supposed to be lightly crispy on the outside and then melt away in the inside. These were like chewy marshmallows and I was not a happy camper.

So, I cook mine at 200 degrees for about an hour and a half, and then turn off the oven and allow them to cool for another half an hour while still inside the oven. I learned that trick by accident once when I forgot about the meringues in the oven after I turned it off. Turns out, it worked! I've seen it in other recipes, too and it just helps the outside shell to get crispy without burning.

For the meringues you'll need:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup super fine sugar (don't panic there's a substitution)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 package of freeze-dried mangoes (or any fruit you want)

I've never used super fine sugar with meringues because I've never had it in my house or even know where to get it. All I do is throw the sugar in the food processor and turn it on for about a minute until the sugar is much finer. This just makes it easier to dissolve into the egg whites and not make the meringues so grainy. It's not necessary as I've seen recipes with just regular sugar. If you decide to do that then you just might have to whip the egg whites and sugar for a lot longer to really make sure the sugar dissolves into the batter.

Okay, so to make these:

1. preheat the oven to 200 degrees

2. Beat the egg whites on medium-high with a hand-held beater until they're foamy and fluffy

3. Add the 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar and whip the egg whites into soft peaks 

Soft peaks are when the egg whites are still soft enough that they can't hold their form. The peaks will kind of slump over and not remain fully up. 

4. Turn the beater on high and slowly add the sugar about a couple tablespoons at a time. I usually give it a good minute in between additions to really make sure the sugar incorporates. 

5. Once the sugar is fully incorporated (the batter won't feel grainy), add the tsp of vanilla extract and keep beating until stiff peaks form. These will hold their form and will be much thicker than the soft peaks. 

I split the batter up into plain and mango. I only used half the package of fruit but if you're not splitting it up, then use the whole thing. You want freeze-dried because you don't want any extra moisture. The egg whites are very delicate and any water from fresh or frozen fruits could completely ruin the meringues. If you haven't caught on by now, working with egg whites can be a pain! But totally worth it in the end. 

The bag I used was 1.7oz and it was pretty standard for a bag of freeze dried fruit. Anyway, it was probably about 1/2-3/4 cup chopped up. I just guesstimated and eyeballed it to make sure there was enough mango in the batter. 

I first spooned out the plain ones and then folded the chopped up mango pieces into the remaining batter. Make sure you are GENTLE when you do this as you don't want to upset the egg whites at all! 

Important note: DO NOT grease the cookie pan! I use either parchment paper or a silpat mat. Just something that is a non-stick surface. 

I got a total of 22 for this recipe-- 10 plain and 12 mango. Also, don't worry about the placement because meringues don't spread out while cooking. That's why my placement is really random because I didn't now exactly how many meringues I'd get sooo I just kinda put them wherever! 

Bake them at 200 degrees for an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes.

When they are done the outsides will no longer be so shiny and glossy, the outside shell will feel crisp, and the bottoms will be an off-white color (a tiny bit darker than the rest of the top). The test I use is if I'm able to pick up the meringue up and it doesn't cave in. I recommend cooking them for a minimum of an hour an a half.
Then, shut off the heat and allow the meringues to cool inside the oven for about 30 minutes or so.

One of my favorite parts about meringues? The macros!
Plain-- 27 calories, 6g carbs, 0g fat, and 1g protein
Mango-- 33 calories, 8g carbs, 0g fat, and 1g protein

What's your favorite cookie?