Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Curried Apple and Parsnip Stirfry with Yogurt and Mango Chutney

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Ingredients:


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1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and chopped into even pieces


2 Tbs coconut oil


1 Onion, chopped


2 Apples, thinly sliced


1 tsp Curry Powder


Sea Salt and Black Pepper


1/4 cup Greek Yogurt (plain)


1/4 cup Mango (or other) Chutney


2 Tbs Cilantro, chopped



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Directions:


Steam the parsnips until tender, 6-10 minutes. Melt your coconut oil in a large Wok pan and add onion, apple, and curry.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.  Add parsnips, season with salt and pepper, and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in chutney, yogurt, and cilantro.  Enjoy!


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Original recipe is found in my favorite cookbook here: http://deborahmadison.com/vegetarian-cooking-for-everyone/

Cheesy Baked Eggplant with Red Wine Tomato Sauce

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Ingredients:


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2 Large Eggplants


Sea Salt


3/4 cup Grated Mozzarella


1/2 cup Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese


Sauce:


2 Tbs Olive Oil


2 Small Onions, minced


2 Bay Leaves


1/2 tsp dried Thyme


1 tsp dried Oregano


1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes


3 Garlic Cloves, minced


1 Cup Dry Red Wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)


1-28oz Can Crushed Tomatoes


1/2 tsp Sea Salt


Black Pepper


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Directions:


Slice the eggplant into slabs about 3/4 in thick (skin on or off, doesn't matter).  Arrange single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.  Let stand for about 30 minutes, then blot to remove as much moisture as possible.  Brush both sides of the eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until bottom side is browned. Turn over and continue baking until the other side is browned, then remove from oven.



Reduce oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare your sauce in a large skillet.  Add oil, onions, herbs, and red pepper flakes.  Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often.  Add your garlic and cook 1-2 more minutes.  Raise heat and add wine and 1/2 cup of water.  Simmer until reduced by half.  Add tomatoes and salt and let simmer about half an hour until your sauce has thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.image
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Top eggplant with cheeses and heat in oven at 375 degrees until cheese melts.  Remove from oven and plate your eggplant. Top with your homemade sauce and ENJOY!

Original recipe can be found here in my favorite cookbook: http://deborahmadison.com/vegetarian-cooking-for-everyone/

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Jesus Paid it All...The Legalities of Adoption

It's been a rough couple of days in the Rooyakker home, but with the trials have also come a deeper understanding for which I am so grateful.



As I have questioned God regarding all of the red tape we have had to get through with this adoption, He has given me a new perspective on our situation.  He has allowed me to see this adoption in a completely new light.  Let me first give you the details of the week and then I'll share what I have learned from all of this!



A couple of days ago we received word that our homestudy (a detailed written report of our family that was compiled and prepared by a social worker), was not approved by the US government.  What we have since learned is that a new law was put into place in July 2014 (shortly after we submitted our original homestudy) that requires all international adoption cases to have a Hague-compliant homestudy (which ours was not), regardless of whether or not the country in play has joined the Hague Adoption Convention.



The Hague Adoption Convention is an agreement that ensures adoptions are happening in the best interest of the children being placed with families.  I am all for this and I agree 100% with the intentions of the Hague agreement.  To learn more about this, check out this website:  http://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en/hague-convention.html.



What is upsetting, is that even though Ethiopia is not yet a part of the Hague Convention, under this new law we are required to have a Hague-accredited homestudy and this was never communicated to us.  We even had our social worker out to our house a couple of months ago, paid a bunch more money, they conducted a homestudy update, and again, this was never once mentioned.  Had either of our two agencies been paying attention to our case, we would have had over a year to take care of this and make the necessary changes, but instead we are just now being informed of this by USCIS and now there is a delay in our adoption process while we wait for all of this to be sorted out.



That is the drama that has filled up my week.  That is the frustration.  That is the trial.



Thankfully that is not the end of the story.



God has revealed Himself to me in mighty ways this week through all of this chaos.  What He has shown me through the scripture is that God has been in our shoes, He has been through the adoption process when He adopted us as His sons and daughters, and He, too, had to deal with the legal realities of adoption.  God had to pay SO MUCH more for His children than we ever will.  The blood of Jesus was the legal requirement in order to satisfy God's own law of punishment for our sins that stood in the way of our adoption into His family.  Talk about a MAJOR roadblock!



Through this lens of new understanding, suddenly no amount of money we have paid or legal hoops we have had to jump through seem like much of anything at all.  The trials we face in the adoption process do not even come close to comparing to the sacrifices made on the cross.



I am so thankful to serve such a loving God. A God who is so faithful to open my eyes to the bigger picture when I get lost in my own little world. Jesus paid it all.  What an incredible story of redemption.


 

 

 

Monday, June 29, 2015

7 Thoughts from Adoption

1) I have never loved my husband more than I do now as I see him embrace the role of being a Dad.  I love hearing him talk about our kids and all of the things he looks forward to doing with them, seeing how excited he gets as we prepare for their arrival, and listening to him talk about how much he already loves them. The other day he was talking about how he can't wait to discover what they are interested in and then helping them pursue those passions.  It's conversations like that that make me fall head over heels all over again for that boy :)  


Screen shot 2015-06-29 at 1.47.15 PM

2) White privilege can't be denied or ignored.  Our transracial adoption has really begun to open my eyes to this reality.  Many of us, if not most of us, don't recognize the daily privileges we have in this country simply because of our white skin.  I'm not simply talking about racism, where people seek out and assert privilege over a race other than their own, however, I am talking about the unspoken, unintentional, often unnoticed advantages we have here because we are white.   Yes this is more evident in certain parts of the country than others, but truthfully, it's everywhere.  I have certainly been one to be oblivious in many ways to this in the past, and as I learn more about it, I feel a sincere obligation to continue learning and find the best ways to advocate on behalf of my children.


Screen shot 2015-06-29 at 1.51.32 PM


3) Adoptive parents also grieve the loss of their children's birth parents.  I have read a ton about helping children through the grieving process, and for the kids, this is a process that I expect to work through with them and I feel prepared to handle. However, for myself, this really snuck up on me.  I have had a very difficult time these past couple of weeks as I think about our children's biological parents. It breaks my heart into a million pieces that they don't get to see their beautiful children grow up.  Here we are, in the midst of the most wonderful blessing we could ever imagine, and yet sometimes we forget that our blessing is born from unthinkable tragedy.  I use to only reflect on the loss that the children experience, but as I step forward as their mom, I now also view their story from the eyes of a parent. It's painful in so many ways.  I wish their birth parents could know that we will love their little children fiercely, raise them to remember and honor them and their Ethiopian family and heritage, and that we will provide for them the very best life we possibly can. We will face a lifetime of questions, many that will forever go unanswered.  We know very little about their mom and dad, and hope to learn more from the memories our kids carry with them.  Adoption is the most wonderful thing, but the intense history behind any adoption story is very tough.


4) The adoption community is unlike any other network of support I have ever been a part of.  It's amazing, really.  I have met some of the most wonderful people through online support groups that I have been added into.  I can't even tell you how many moms have spent hours on the phone with me or writing back and forth via email to answer my questions, give me advice, share experiences, etc. There is even a group for learning how style and care for African American hair and skin-super helpful! These families have blessed me so much over the course of our adoption process as they have either been through it or are currently in the process alongside of us, and I really couldn't ask for a more supportive community to surround ourselves with as we continue to move forward.


5) Expectations are everything.  I don't listen to timelines anymore.  If you tell us we can expect something by such-and such-date, I'm going to add on a few extra months to that just to be safe (though I still pray for a much faster result--always hope but never expect).  Safe from what?  Frustration, mostly.  In a process that is already so stinkin' long, there is nothing worse than passing an expected due date on the calendar with no end in sight for the completion of the task.  Adoption is so unpredictable considering there are so many different people who have their hands in the process, and I would much rather be surprised in a positive way with something taking less time than predicted than vice-versa.  This is true with anything in life, really.  "Expectations are the root of all headache." -Shakespeare


6) God is so good with surprises!  Three kids, really?!  Biological siblings, God? Our agency told us that wasn't possible! SURPRISE!  We were just as surprised as the rest of you probably are, but in the best possible way!  This is truly a dream come true for me.  And this goes back to #1 as well when I talked about Patrick--when I first approached him with this opportunity I wasn't sure how he would react to the idea of 3 kids, but here we are now and he and I both couldn't be any more excited.  Could I be married to anyone more perfect for me?  NO! The ways that God has worked in both of us to bring this whole adoption together amazes me.



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7) "Your life's work is where the needs of the world and the joys of your heart intersect." I'm not sure where I read this quote, but I wrote it in my journal almost six years ago and it has been something that I have thought a lot about ever since.  I wrote this when I was living in Texas and working as a foster mom with an agency there, and at the time, I remember very clearly feeling called towards adoption.  Today, this quote has come alive for me.  It finally fully makes sense.  I knew when I read this that I needed to discover or create this connection in my own life. My purpose.  My life's work.  I am so grateful for the journey that has brought me here.




AleenaRooyakker_XoXo_M

Monday, June 15, 2015

Adoption Story--We Accepted a Referral!!!

This past month, all of my time, energy, focus, thoughts, and dreams have been about one thing and one thing only…our adoption story. After a year and a half of pursing adoption and dreaming daily about who our children would be, we finally know! You may recall that our original plan was to adopt two children under 4 years old. Well, God had a much greater plan in store for us—the perfect plan! Patrick and I are being blessed with three of the most precious biological siblings—two girls and a boy—ages 3-9! We are unable to share much online at this time, but I simply couldn’t wait to share the news with all of you who have been following our adoption, praying for us, and who have joined us in this incredible journey!


 

To be completely honest I don’t even know how to put my feelings into words right now. I have never felt more confident, blessed, excited, or happy in my entire life. My heart feels so full that I think it could just pop right out of my chest. I look at our children’s sweet, joyful pictures a thousand times a day and I have somehow instantly become one of those people who cry about everything—LOL. Seriously though, I start crying when I see their photos, when I think about their past, when I mailed off their first care packages, when I went to talk to their school, when I think about their birth parents, as we prepare their bedrooms, as we shop for their clothes…I mean, I’m an emotional wreck over here (shoot…I’ve got tears running down my face as I write this!)!


IMG_6528 These are the start to our first care packages we sent the kids. We sent two outfits each, toys, toothbrushes, photo books so they can see who their new mommy and daddy are and the house they will be living in, sunglasses, ring-pops, and more!  You wouldn't believe how much I squeezed into those little backpacks :)


Don’t get me wrong, we certainly know there will be many challenges ahead for our family, and we are preparing the best that we can for all of the unknowns that lie ahead. As I look back on everything that has led us to where we are today, I truly believe this is something God has prepared us for over the course of our entire lives—I know without a shadow of doubt that raising these beautiful children is our purpose and I feel truly honored to get to be their mom.



I have two daughters and a son in Ethiopia right now!!! Ahhhhhhhhh :) I can't even believe this is really happening!



So you’re probably wondering when we get to bring them home! Unfortunately the process from here is still quite long. We are hoping to fly to Ethiopia for our first trip around November to meet the kids, go through court, and legally adopt. Once that happens, we have to wait for their exit visas to be issued, which can take another couple of months. Hopefully we will have them home with us by January! This timeline is only an estimate based on time-frames of other families who have finalized their adoptions recently with our agency. We will certainly continue to pray for a faster process—we just cant wait to meet and love on these kiddos!



I know my adoption blog has been very inconsistent with only a few posts here and there. However, this month is when things started to get really exciting so I am sure that I will have a lot more to share with you over the coming months! Thanks to all of you—friends and family—for being the best support system we could ever ask for!


AleenaRooyakker_XoXo_M

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bikini-Ready Meal Plans: Complete meal plans to get you ready for the summer fun!

If you can relate to the sweet baby in the photo above, I totally get it!



Has it ever been so bad that you have made excuses why you couldn’t participate in a fun summer activity because you didn’t want people to see you in a bathing suit?



This was ME for so many years! I would pack on a few (or often more than a few) pounds over the winter months and then before I knew it, summer was staring me right in the face and I would feel a total sense of panic wash over me.



Summer has always been one of my most favorite times of year, I LOVE the sunshine, but I have never been able to fully enjoy it because for as long as I can remember I have dreaded swim-suit season!



Last year, I had finally had enough! I decided that this was NOT how I wanted to live my life. I wanted to be healthy, feel confident, be happy with who I was, and never feel the need to skip out on the fun! And so I made a decision. I made a commitment. And I changed my life.



Taking control of my health and fitness has transformed me in so many ways; far beyond my physical appearance. I want these same transformations for you.



Did you know that studies have shown that over 75% of our weight loss happens by properly nourishing our bodies? Unfortunately, for many of us, when summer shows up we jump into restrictive, temporary diets in order to get quick results, but we end up slowing our metabolism in the process and increasing our cravings, all of which becomes a very dangerous cycle for us.



So today I want to give you some healthy and balanced meal plan options, very similar to the ones that I have personally used to get my own results, to help you get on track with your nutrition. Do me a favor though, as you use these plans, start to think of this as a lifestyle way of eating, not a diet. My goal is to help you adapt to healthy, and sustainable eating habits that will get you both fast and long-term results.



I have included two different meal plans for you below, one meat-eater plan and one vegetarian option. These are balanced plans, designed to get you enough of each necessary food group daily, and if you follow them I am willing to bet you will be feeling much happier, more confident, and ready for all of the summer fun that awaits you!






Want to create even more variety on your menu? Sign up here to receive my healthy recipes and lifestyle tips right to your inbox!



And remember, it’s simply a choice. Decide to make the commitment. I can’t wait to watch you succeed!



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Guess What? You actually DO have time to workout!

“I’m so busy, I just don’t have time to workout.” This is something I hear ALL THE TIME from people who want to better their health and fitness, but feel they don’t have enough hours in their day to squeeze in a little exercise.



IMG_5545


I will be the first to admit that I’ve been there. Those three limiting words, “I’m too busy”, use to flow from my mouth way too often as an excuse for my lack of fitness. This is a dangerous mindset that is plaguing our society and it’s something we need to recognize and take control over! WE DECIDE what we do with our time.



IMG_5285


Being busy is no justification; it’s our reality. We all have the same 24 hours in a day to be divided between work, family, sleep, responsibilities, commitments, etc. The ways in which we maximize and prioritize our time on a daily basis ultimately determine the direction in which we take our life. And let’s be honest, investing in your health and fitness will allow you to be a better spouse, parent, employee, and friend. If your wellbeing is truly important to you, you will make the time in your crazy busy day to fit in a little exercise!


 IMG_5540


So just remember, it is simply a CHOICE. You decide to pursue being healthy as a part of your busy days, or you decide not to. If you are committing to saying YES to a healthier you, then here are five ways to help you squeeze in those workouts:




  1. Get it on the Calendar! Whether you use an old school paper planner, a simple wall calendar, or an online time management system to schedule your day, make sure to plug in a time to workout. This doesn’t mean you have to carve out an hour or two to hit the gym, everyone can find at least 30 minutes to work up a sweat (yes, everyone!). So, write it down on your calendar and follow through with the commitment! Your time is so valuable, so when you take the time to prioritize and make a schedule for yourself, it is imperative that you stick to your plan!







  1. Learn to Master the Art of Multi-Tasking! Do you have phone calls to make or a conference call to listen in on? Plug in your headphones and head out for a walk! Need to get some reading or some studying done? You can do that while you jog on the treadmill or elliptical or do a little stationary biking! Will these be your most effective workouts? No, they probably won’t be. However, this is a great way to get your heart rate up a little and sneak in some exercise on the most chaotic days when everything on your to-do list seems to be a top-priority and there isn’t much of a margin to cut out half an hour solely for working out. Don’t get me wrong, this should never become your main source of daily exercise, but it’s good in pinch and it’s a great added bonus to burn some extra calories in addition to a focused workout as well! Being able to multi-task in an efficient way is one of the reasons I love home-workouts such as 21 Day Fix and PiYo.   These short workouts allow me to do chores at home like the laundry while also doing a quick, intense, and focused workout (I can pause for a minute as needed to switch the laundry or whatever needs to be done!). I’m able to kill two birds with one stone with my at-home fitness DVDs!







  1. Put a Little Skin in the Game! Invest in a fitness program, race, club membership, or some type of class. By investing money into your fitness goals, you are more likely to follow through and make time for your workouts. It’s fun to have something to work towards as well such as a half-marathon if you’re a runner or maybe paying to compete in a bikini competition! Another way to invest in your fitness is to reward yourself for your workouts. Put a dollar or two into a jar every time you exercise and then once you have enough money saved up, treat yourself to something special like a hot-stone massage or a new workout outfit!







  1. Take Your Bike! Do you live within 4 or 5 miles of your job? If you do, why not ditch your commute and either bike or run to work? This may require some adjustments such as leaving some nice work clothes at the office to change into, or buying a backpack to carry your laptop in for example, but it’s worth the time and energy it will take to adapt to this new routine. You have to get to work anyway, so you may as well double up and knock out that workout while you’re at it!







  1. Become an Early Bird! Studies have shown that people who wake up early tend to be more productive than those who don’t. I am not suggesting that you exchange sleep for fitness (unless you are sleeping more than 7 hours each night, then you do have some time to cut into right there!), but if you schedule your days to start early and end at a reasonable time to ensure proper sleep, you are setting yourself up for greater success. I like to get my workouts in first thing in the morning so that I don’t even have to think about it for the rest of the day. My alarm goes off at 4:00am, I typically head to my computer to answer a few emails and do about an hour of work and then I hit my basement and push play on my workout DVD! If you have a hard time getting out of bed or you are tempted to push the snooze button, set the alarm on your phone and put your phone in another room so that you have to physically get out of bed to turn it off. I also often sleep in my workout clothes so that it seems less “difficult” to workout since I am already dressed and ready to go!




  IMG_5291



As always, I wish you great health! I hope that starting today you will make your health and wellness a priority in your life and that you will invest in it on a regular basis!


 AleenaRooyakker_XoXo_M

“I’m so busy, I just don’t have time to workout.” This is something I hear ALL THE TIME from people who want to better their health and fitness, but feel they don’t have enough hours in their day to squeeze in a little exercise.


 

I will be the first to admit that I’ve been there. Those three limiting words, “I’m too busy”, use to flow from my mouth way too often as an excuse for my lack of fitness. This is a dangerous mindset that is plaguing our society and it’s something we need to recognize and take control over! WE DECIDE what we do with our time.


IMG_5545


Being busy is no justification; it’s our reality. We all have the same 24 hours in a day to be divided between work, family, sleep, responsibilities, commitments, etc. The ways in which we maximize and prioritize our time on a daily basis ultimately determine the direction in which we take our life. And let’s be honest, investing in your health and fitness will allow you to be a better spouse, parent, employee, and friend. If your well-being is truly important to you, you will make the time in your crazy busy day to fit in a little exercise!


IMG_5285


So just remember, it is simply a CHOICE. You decide to pursue being healthy as a part of your busy days, or you decide not to. If you are committing to saying YES to a healthier you, then here are five ways to help you squeeze in those workouts:




  1.    IMG_5540


     Whether you use an old school paper planner, a simple wall calendar, or an online time management system to schedule your day, make sure to plug in a time to workout. This doesn’t mean you have to carve out an hour or two to hit the gym, everyone can find at least 30 minutes to work up a sweat (yes, everyone!). So, write it down on your calendar and follow through with the commitment! Your time is so valuable, so when you take the time to prioritize and make a schedule for yourself, it is imperative that you stick to your plan!







  1. Learn to Master the Art of Multi-Tasking! Do you have phone calls to make or a conference call to listen in on? Plug in your headphones and head out for a walk! Need to get some reading or some studying done? You can do that while you jog on the treadmill or elliptical or do a little stationary biking! Will these be your most effective workouts? No, they probably won’t be. However, this is a great way to get your heart rate up a little and sneak in some exercise on the most chaotic days when everything on your to-do list seems to be a top-priority and there isn’t much of a margin to cut out half an hour solely for working out. Don’t get me wrong, this should never become your main source of daily exercise, but it’s good in pinch and it’s a great added bonus to burn some extra calories in addition to a focused workout as well! Being able to multi-task in an efficient way is one of the reasons I love home-workouts such as 21 Day Fix and PiYo.   These short workouts allow me to do chores at home like the laundry while also doing a quick, intense, and focused workout (I can pause for a minute as needed to switch the laundry or whatever needs to be done!). I’m able to kill two birds with one stone with my at-home fitness DVDs!







  1. Put a Little Skin in the Game! Invest in a fitness program, race, club membership, or some type of class. By investing money into your fitness goals, you are more likely to follow through and make time for your workouts. It’s fun to have something to work towards as well such as a half-marathon if you’re a runner or maybe paying to compete in a bikini competition! Another way to invest in your fitness is to reward yourself for your workouts. Put a dollar or two into a jar every time you exercise and then once you have enough money saved up, treat yourself to something special like a hot-stone massage or a new workout outfit!







  1. Take Your Bike! Do you live within 4 or 5 miles of your job? If you do, why not ditch your commute and either bike or run to work? This may require some adjustments such as leaving some nice work clothes at the office to change into, or buying a backpack to carry your laptop in for example, but it’s worth the time and energy it will take to adapt to this new routine. You have to get to work anyway, so you may as well double up and knock out that workout while you’re at it!







  1. Become an Early Bird! Studies have shown that people who wake up early tend to be more productive than those who don’t. I am not suggesting that you exchange sleep for fitness (unless you are sleeping more than 7 hours each night, then you do have some time to cut into right there!), but if you schedule your days to start early and end at a reasonable time to ensure proper sleep, you are setting yourself up for greater success. I like to get my workouts in first thing in the morning so that I don’t even have to think about it for the rest of the day. My alarm goes off at 4:00am, I typically head to my computer to answer a few emails and do about an hour of work and then I hit my basement and push play on my workout DVD! If you have a hard time getting out of bed or you are tempted to push the snooze button, set the alarm on your phone and put your phone in another room so that you have to physically get out of bed to turn it off. I also often sleep in my workout clothes so that it seems less “difficult” to workout since I am already dressed and ready to go!


    IMG_5291






As always, I wish you great health! I hope that starting today you will make your health and wellness a priority in your life and that you will invest in it on a regular basis!


 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Homemade, Dark-Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups



image

Homemade, Dark-Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Total Time: 36 min.
Prep Time: 5 min.
Cooking Time: 1 min.
Yield: 12 peanut butter cups

Ingredients:

¼ cup dark chocolate morsels
2 scoops Chocolate Vegan Shakeology
1 Tbsp. psyllium husk powder
½ cup pumpkin puree
6 tsp. all-natural smooth peanut butter, divided use

Preparation:
1. Prepare twelve mini muffin cups by lining with muffin papers.
2. Place morsels in microwave-safe container. Microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds; stir; microwave for an additional 30 to 45 seconds or until just melted. Do not overcook. Set aside.
3. Place Shakeology, psyllium husk, and pumpkin in a food processor. Pulse until it forms a dough.
4. Divide dough into 12 small balls; place each ball in a muffin cup. Press dough down into a flat disk with a depression in the middle. Place ½ tsp. peanut butter in each depression.
5. Drizzle melted morsels evenly over each peanut butter cup; spread to create a thin chocolate layer on top.
6. Freeze for 30 minutes, or until chocolate hardens.

Monday, May 11, 2015

9 Things You May Not Know About Me

Here are some random things that you may not know about me!  


1) I have perfect eyesight but sometimes I wear glasses! Okay…so I haven’t done this in a while but I’m thinking about buying another pair soon. Glasses are so stinkin’ CUTE, you guys! They are such a fun accessory and just because I have great eyesight doesn’t mean I should have to miss out on all of this awesomeness, right?! So there you have it…next time you see me sporting a pair of adorable eye-glasses you will know my secret ;)




2) I have lived in four different countries (10 different cities)! I grew up in Washington State, studied abroad twice living in both Mexico and Spain, became a nanny in Germany after graduating college, moved to Wisconsin where my husband grew up, and now we are planting roots in Minnesota!


 

Germany


Mexico (crammed on a little vw bus on my daily commute!)


Spain


3) I’m a Vegetarian! Who would have guessed that a small town country girl who use to raise pigs for slaughter, one whose name was Breakfast, would become a vegetarian?! I clearly did not grow up without eating meat, but I made the choice to become a vegetarian about a year and a half ago. This decision was the result of being introduced to some eye-opening documentaries followed by a lot of research related to the ways that our bodies operate with and without animal products. As someone whose diet was flooded with chicken on a daily basis, the transition was difficult in the first couple of months, but I have never looked back because I truly believe that I am making the healthiest choice for myself by giving up meat (and after this long, the thought of eating it is not even slightly tempting).



4) I met my husband online! We lived in separate states and “dated” over the internet/phone for about three months before meeting in person. I moved to Houston where he was living at the time, we dated for real for only four months before getting engaged, and then we were married nine months later! We’ve now been married five years and becoming his wife was one of the best decisions I have ever made!



5) We are adopting three Ethiopian Children! Fostering and adoption have long been a desire on my heart. I was a foster mom for eight months before I married Patrick and the experience was unlike anything I have ever done before-it was something so special! In December 2013 Patrick and I began the process to adopt from Africa and since the process is a long one, we are still waiting to meet and bring our kiddos home with us. We can’t wait to be their parents! 

(updated to show you their picture!  They are home with us now!!)

6) I have a super competitive nature! Sports, games, business…doesn’t matter what it is, if you put a challenge in front of me I am instantly motivated to bust my buns and pull out a win! Funny Fact: When Patrick and I were first married, we had to quit playing games together at home because we are both so competitive that every night one of us would end up going to bed angry! Thankfully we have since overcome this and we can enjoy our games, win or lose, but that competitive bone runs deep!

7) I come across as a very outgoing person, but inside I feel super shy! If we are meeting in person for the first time, odds are that I am feeling a little nervous about it! Don’t get me wrong, I really do love meeting new people, but something about it makes me feel really shy. Same thing if you put me in a room with a lot of people (especially if I don’t know a lot of them) or if I am made the center of attention within a group—it kind of makes me want to be a turtle and hide in my shell. For some crazy reason though, my personality overcomes these feelings and you would probably never realize this about me. Weird…I know…does anyone else ever feel like this?!

8) I have never broken a bone! Knock on wood, right? The thought of this kind of boggles my mind, especially considering how aggressive I use to be playing sports growing up! I have come close a couple of times (getting stepped on by a horse and ramming my shin into a steel compost machine while sledding in the dark), but my bones have held strong!

9) I am totally scared of the dark! You would think this would be something I would have grown out of by now, but…nope, still terrified! I think I must have watched too many scary movies! I have worst-case scenarios constantly flowing through my mind when I am alone in the dark (including when I am at my house alone at night)! Every tiny sound is magnified and gets my heart racing like crazy!


So there it is…9 things you may not have known about me! I would love to hear some of your quirky, unusual, or hidden qualities and life experiences—share one with me in the comments below!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Round 3 Transformation: If I can do this...SO CAN YOU!

I can't believe there was a time not too long ago where I had essentially given up hope for ever feeling confident in a bikini again! I have been hiding behind my one-piece for far too long!


I mean it...I really didn't think I actually could LOOK and FEEL as good as I do now after completing my third round of 21 Day Fix.


I relate to people who look at this program and think that it's too expensive, because that was my initial reaction when I was introduced to the program.  My husband and I follow a pretty strict monthly budget and I just didn't think I could justify paying $160 for what I thought was just a set of home workout DVDs that would probably sit and collect dust after I lost motivation!


However, as I started seeing people I knew having such incredible results with 21 Day Fix, I took a closer look into the cost.  Here is what I found...when you break it down, you only pay around $4/day, and since your Shakeology is replacing one of your meals every day, you are hardly adding much at all to your grocery budget!  The way that I looked at it, I could go spend my $4 on a coffee or a sub sandwich as usual, OR I could invest in this program and replace that with the super-food nutrition of Shakeology and try out the program to see if I could get my own results like everyone else was.


I couldn't have made a better life choice than I did by starting 21 Day Fix and properly investing in my health and fitness.


The physical results that you see below in my "After" photo are only a small part of the overall transformation that I have made over these past three months.  I am happier, more confident, less stressed, more energetic, and I am FINALLY past that chapter in my life where I no longer believed in myself!


You guys, these results are a reflection of hard work and discipline, but one of the best parts is that I only committed to 30 minutes of working out every day.


I really, truly mean this from the bottom of my heart: If I can do this...SO CAN YOU!!!


Take a look at my photos here.  In the past three months, I have been on both sides of this transformation, the "before" and the "after".  Life is better when you feel good about yourself and your accomplishments, and if you are where I was just a few short months ago, the best advice I can give you is don't hold yourself back any longer-YOU are the only person standing in the way of your success!  If you want to make these changes in your own life, I want to help you do that--please fill out the form below and I will connect with you to get you started on your own journey towards the happiness and confidence that you deserve!


Round 3 Transformation

[gravityform id="2" name="21-Day Fix Exclusive Participant Application "]

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Yellow Squash & Red Quinoa Salad


It's probably safe to say that I'm absolutely obsessed with this new cookbook of mine, The Superfoods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi.  If you don't have a copy of this at home, I highly recommend you get your hands on one!


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The recipe I am going to share with you today is honestly a little more of a spring/summer type of dish, but it just sounded so healthy and delicious that I couldn't help but try it out in the dead of winter.  And let me say, it was just as good if not better than it sounded and I would eat this year round!


Cucumbers aren't always my favorite, but I think that the feta cheese in this recipe really helps to balance out it's strong flavor.  Without I further delay, I present to you...


Yellow Squash & Red Quinoa Salad


(Serves 6)


1 1/2 cups red quinoa


2 TBLS plus 1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil


1 pound yellow crookneck squash, cut into 1/2-inch chunks


Sea Salt


1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


1 clove garlic


1 small cucumber, cut into 1/2 inch chunks


5 green onions, white and tender green parts, cut into 1/4 inch pieces


1/4 cup fresh basil


1/4 cup chopped fresh mint


1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


Directions:


1) Rinse and strain quinoa under cold running water.  In a saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a boil over high heat.  Add quinoa, stir once, and reduce heat to low.  Cover and cook, without stirring, until all of the water has been absorbed and the grains are tender, about 25 min.  Let it stand for a few minutes, covered, then fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.
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2) Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat the 2 TBLS olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the squash, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until tender-crisp, about 3-4 min.  Transfer to a plate and let cool.
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3) On a cutting board, using a fork or flat side of chefs knife, mash the garlic into a paste with a pinch of salt.  In a small bowl, stir together the mashed garlic and lemon juice and let stand 10 minutes.  Whisk in the 1/4 cup olive oil to make a vinaigrette.
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4) Put the quinoa, squash, cucumber, green onion, basil, mint, and feta in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss gently to mix and coat well.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve immediately.
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This is a super light and refreshing salad.   I would love to hear your feedback, so let me know what you think of this one!


xoxo,


Aleena

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Black Bean & Chile Salad

Allow me to introduce you to yet another winning recipe from The Superfoods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi.  This recipe would make a perfect dish to pass at a potluck.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the Poblano chiles, but they didn't have much of a kick like I expected them too (not sure if this is true of all Poblano chiles or just the ones that I happened to pick out?).  Either way, the chiles did add great flavor and the odd combination of sherry vinegar with the mustard was a surprisingly great addition to the salad.


You can throw this dish together in no time and keep it in a covered bowl in the refigerator for the week.  Hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!


Black Bean & Chile Salad


(Serves 6)


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2 Poblano Chile Peppers


1/4 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil


2 TBS Sherry Vinegar


1 TBS Dijon Mustard (I used whole grain mustard)


1/2 TSP Cumin


Salt


Pepper


2 Cans Black Beans, rinsed and drained


1/2 Red Onion, diced


1 Pint (370 g) Cherry Tomatoes, halved (I used one heirloom tomato, diced)


Directions:


1) Cut 2 Poblano chiles in half lengthwise and remove seeds, stems, and the ribs.


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2) Place chiles cut side down on a baking sheet and broil, turning as needed, until the skin is blackened all over (I should probably have left mine to blacken even a little more!).


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3) Transfer to a heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam for 5 minutes.


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4) Using wet fingers, peel off the blackened skin.  Dice chilies or cut into strips.


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5) Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, mustard, cumin, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add black beans, tomatoes, onion, and chile peppers and toss well.


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6) Let stand for a few minutes to blend the flavors.



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I have been eating this as a side dish with a veggie burger or as a simple snack during my day!  I have also found it to be absolutely delicious as a filler for a taco!  Just add a little cheese to bind it all together and heat it on the stove.  Topping suggestions: sliced avocado, diced tomato, and greek yogurt! Dinner is served!!


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xoxo,


Aleena