DIY Taco Seasoning

JUST SAY NO!!

…to packaged seasonings, that is!

The first time I made my own taco seasoning, I was actually annoyed with myself. Why hadn’t I done this sooner? The ingredients make plenty, it’s way cheaper than buying taco seasoning in the package, and it cuts WAY down on the sodium in your dishes. Win, win…win (subtle reference from The Office, anyone?).

Helpful hint, buy the below ingredients in bulk at your local Whole Foods, Central Market, or Trader Joes (or maybe you’re super lucky, and your neighborhood Kroger or Publix carries bulk spices as well!). It saves money since you aren’t paying for a brand or packaging, plus it’s easier to control how much you’re buying.

Anywho, without further ado, please read the below recipe, create, and repeat.

DIY Taco Seasoning:

1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1/8 cup ground cumin
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs sea salt

Put ingredients into a cute mason jar and shake, shake, shake! I say mason jars (or any jar, for that matter) because the seasoning can seep into plastic containers and stain them, plus I feel like glass jars just hold the freshness better. So trust me, glass jars 🙂 Plus, they’re cute!

***FYI: 3-4 heaping tablespoons of this will equal your average packet of taco seasoning!***

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*Just a note, the ingredients above make MUCH more than what is pictured in my jar. I just use it ALL of the time!

These make great little gifts/stocking stuffers/etc. I poured some of the seasoning into tiny jars for my mom, sister in law, and mother in law, and they loved them!

So, as I said before…just say no! And make your own seasoning today…like, now!

Smile

What are some of your favorite DIY seasonings or spice mixes?

Talk to you soon!

-Melissa

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Crockpots & Tuesday Mornings

My Tuesday morning was entirely too eventful for my liking.

I had the bright idea last night, since crock pots are so easy, that I would just throw stuff in it this morning to make Chicken Taco Chili (recipe later!) and it wouldn’t take me more than, say, 5 minutes.

Ha.

Things always work out so well in my head. Alas, upon waking this morning I realized that I hadn’t chopped ANY of the veggies, and that opening 6 cans with my handheld can opener was going to take more than 5 minutes on its own. Sheesh. So, after chopping peppers and onions and painfully cranking open multiple cans of beans and tomatoes, I finally got everything dumped into the pot in around 15 minutes or so. Then, as I’m taking the chicken out of its bag to throw on top of my veggie/bean/tomato mess, the juice (ick) goes EVERYWHERE. Literally,everywhere. Being the germaphobe (bacteria-phobe?!?) that I am, I spent at least 15 more minutes scrubbing down my counters, hands, and hands again until I was positive there wasn’t e-coli raging throughout my kitchen.

I’m fairly certain there is, which is why I will probably clean it AGAIN tonight.

Needless to say, my crock pot adventure took MUCH longer than expected. But I still made time for my favorite breakfast ever; a whole wheat English muffin topped with cheddar, 1 egg, and plenty of egg whites. Yum.

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After a late arrival to work, I tackled my inbox and assignments until lunchtime rolled around. I live super close to my office (about a 6 minute drive), so I was able to run home today and whip up a yummy lunch of Annie’s mac ‘n cheese, Al Fresco Chicken Sausage, and TONS of veggies from my prep night!

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This may be my new favorite lunch 🙂

The rest of my day will include finishing up at the office, watching The Bachelorette on my DVR (since my husband will be out and I won’t have to hear him complain), then hitting up a NEW GYM to get my leg workout on! I’m always so anxious to try a new gym…it’s intimidating to me, and I can’t really figure out why. Luckily Preston will be going with me, so hopefully it’ll be less “scary”.

How is your Tuesday going? Does trying out a new gym make you anxious as well, or do you love it?

Talk to you soon!
-Melissa

 

 

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Sunday Night Prep

I’m an odd bird (in more ways than one), but sometimes I actually crave the consistency and routine of the workweek. It is so nice to know what your schedule is going to be (food/exercise-wise, not necessarily while AT work!). So since I can easily plan what and when I’m going to eat during the week, I try to use Sunday nights as my “prep night”. This is usually only for lunches, as dinners are usually prepared by both my husband and I (yes, he’s amazing and helps me cook!) and we can’t ever decide what we want until that day!

My typical lunches while at work consist of one of the following meals:

…I think you’re seeing the trend here. Basically a protein, a whole grain (1/2 cup to 3/4 cup), and veggies. Since I try to bring my lunch 4 out of the 5 workdays (or 3 out of 4 if it’s my Friday off), it’s easier to prep my food all in one night, divide it up into containers, and then just grab and go in the mornings!

Sunday mornings I’ll run to the grocery store and grab the essentials for the week, then come straight home and spend maybe 30 minutes or so on my prepping. That’s IT!

First, I dice up all of my veggies into chunks. My go-to veggies include squash (duh!), zucchini, bell peppers (of ALL colors!), onions, snap peas, carrots, and occasionally broccoli and broccoli slaw. I then throw them in my HUGE wok (thanks, wedding registry!) and sauté away! I try to use as little olive oil as possible, but some is necessary to get a good sear on them! A lot of times I’ll add a little low-sodium soy sauce to give it some flavor (actually, I do this MOST of the time!) The result is a LOT of veggies!

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Next comes the protein! 9 times out of 10, I can sucker my husband into grilling me chicken on the outdoor grill, but this time he was feeling a little under the weather, so I grabbed a rotisserie chicken at the store and he gladly ripped it to shreds for me Smile.

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Next, I boiled a pot of water and cooked up some quinoa (my grain of choice for the week). I usually do about 1.5 cups of dry quinoa to cover 4 meals.

Then…VOILA! All done! I pack it into 4 separate containers, pop them in the fridge, and enjoy the rest of my Sunday!

Some people find it hard to eat the same thing every day for lunch, but to me it helps me stay on track! It’s also nice to not to have to worry about what I’m going to bring. Also, I always leave at least one workday where I can go out with coworkers and eat lunch with them, so as not to be completely anti-social Smile.

A side note: the TONS of vegetables that I sauté are definitely not just used at lunch! Preston and I incorporate them into our dinners too. Check out these yummy veggie tostadas we whipped up for dinner tonight!

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Do you have a “Sunday night prep night” as well? What are some of your favorite bulk meals to whip up?

Until next time!

-Melissa

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The Workout Challenge

In my quest to build up muscle and lower my overall body fat, I decided that I should brainstorm some sort of reward-based system to help me stick to my workout goals. I like rewards. I also like to have accountability with my workouts (hence group boot camp sessions), so I enlisted my husband to join me in this little endeavor. We decided that every week, we would plan what workout we would do each day (gym, boot camp, bike ride, etc), and if we were able to stick to the plan perfectly, then each of us got $10 to put in our “gift pot.” That means that by the end of each month, we could each potentially have $40 in our Gift Pots! Then, we would buy fun gifts for each other out of the money earned. So if I am super diligent and meet my goals EVERY week, then there will be $40 for Preston to use to buy me something special! It motivates us to work out, plus gives us fun money to spend on gifts for each other. Also, there’s a little competition in there to have more money in your pot than your spouse 🙂

So, I decided to share my workout plan with you guys for EXTRA accountability! Feel free to donate $10 to my Gift Pot as well, if I stick to these goals. Ha.

This week is “off week” for my boot camp, so most of my exercises will have to be at the gym or at home. Since I was out all last week with HORRIBLE allergies, I’m fairly certain that this workout schedule will kick my hiney. Good riddance, hind quarters.  I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted on my progress as the week goes on!

What are some of the ways you keep yourself motivated to workout?

Talk to you guys soon!
-Melissa

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Pizza Night!

Last night was definitely PIZZA NIGHT in my household! The husband and I both have been craving pizza for awhile now, and finally decided to whip up a semi-healthy version for dinner. We used a gluten-free crust from Whole Foods (no, we aren’t gluten-free, but it was on sale at Whole Foods!)

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We topped it with some leftover grilled chicken, tomato sauce (sugar free), fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cheddar. Check out the pretty pre-cooked pizza:

Final verdict: good-not-great. The crust is NOT one that I would recommend. It fell apart quickly, and had an odd taste to it. Luckily, gluten doesn’t bother us (yet), so I will be going back to whole-wheat crust ASAP. It did help satisfy our pizza cravings, though, so that’s a positive.

Next time, I’d like to add on some extra veggies and a base of spinach to make it more nutritious.

What is your favorite way to make homemade pizza?

Talk to you soon!

-Melissa

The Greatness of the Butter Bell

Have you guys ever heard of a Butter Bell?? I hadn’t until a few months before my wedding, when my roommate pulled out this strange contraption and buttered her toast with the softest butter I had ever seen. In my personal opinion, few things are more frustrating than completely butchering your hot, toasty bread because your butter is too cold and hard to spread properly.

Is that just me??

If not, then read on.

Butter bell’s are super affordable, and I loved mine so much that I bought one for my mother in law AND sister in law for Christmas. You could say that I spread the love (pun ABSOLUTELY intended!)

The concept is simple, and based on some ancient method of something-or-other. See diagram below:

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Photo courtesy of butterbell.com

The design of the butter bell keeps butter at the perfect spreading consistency by insulating and cooling the butter. The butter stays fresh because of the seal of water at the base. Or so they tell me; honestly, it just works and I don’t care to fully understand why Smile.

So, this is how I use my awesome butter bell:

Step One:

Leave one stick of butter out for about 30 minutes or so, or until slightly soft (don’t allow the butter to become TOO soft. The butter should be firm enough so that is not slipping off a knife or melting in any way).

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Step Two:

With a spoon, knife, or your own (clean) hands, smush the butter down into the top part of the butter bell. This should take some effort, because the butter shouldn’t be too soft. Be sure to press the butter firmly into the lid, removing all of the air pockets.

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Step Three:

Place 1/3 of a cup of cold water into the base (as cold as possible!) Then place the lid back on the base, store in a cool place (i.e. away from your stove), and enjoy!

Some helpful hints:

  • As I said above, use cold water. If you live somewhere warm/humid, maybe use some small ice cubes.
  • Change your water EVERY 3 DAYS. This will help it stay fresh.
  • If you’re going to be gone for a long period of time, be sure to put the bell in the fridge.
  • Make sure you wash it after every use.
  • Make sure you don’t leave bread crumbs in the butter after you use it to butter a piece of toast…I’ve done this, and it makes mold form. Gross.

Have you ever heard of a butter bell? Would it be something you’d ever try?

Seriously, guys…you have to try this. Like I said, they’re super cheap . Give it a shot, it’ll make your breakfasts’ THAT much better!

-Melissa

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Vegas Outtake :)

Found this little gem on my iPhone…definitely taken fairly late at night Smile Enjoyyyy!

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JALEO + Last Day in Sin City

On our second night in Vegas, Preston and I knew that we wanted to go somewhere yummy and semi-fancy for dinner (I always drag him to ONE fancy dinner on vacations…they’re my thang). We browsed around the restaurants in the Cosmopolitan until we saw the menu for JALEO. I thought it looked yummy, and Preston liked the price, so we made a reservation and went back to change and get ready for the night.

Upon arriving, the place was bustling with super trendy people. Immediately we knew that this would be an EPIC people-watching night. They led us to our table, which just happened to be a one sided booth…meaning we had to live out our personal nightmare of being “that couple” who sat on the same side of the table Winking smile Like I said though, the people watching was on POINT that night, so we didn’t mind too terribly.

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Notice a theme here of Preston and his hatred of photos?

Everyone who worked at JALEO was super nice. The waitress brought over an iPad (yes, a freaking iPad) to show us what our drink selections were for the night. You better believe Preston spent forever scouring that baby for the best priced bottle of wine Smile

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The wine guy (sommelier?) even came over and helped us with our selection. I wish I could remember what we picked, because it was delicious. You can definitely tell a difference between good wine and cheap wine. But heck, I’m perfectly fine with the cheap!

Once we ordered the bottle and started looking at the menu, it dawned on us why the prices had looked so affordable on the menu. JALEO was a tapas restaurant…

…meaning small plates…

…meaning that the price we saw per plate was actually x3, if we wanted to be somewhat full after eating.

I could see Preston start to sweat, after just ordering a pricey bottle of wine and now learning that our semi-affordable meal was slowly turning into a multi-digit nightmare.

We ended up laughing it off (the wine helped that, I’m sure) and ordering just 3 small plates to share. We figured that if we were still hungry afterwards that we would run and get a burger or something. Luckily, the wine and tapas did the trick, and we left JALEO happy and satisfied and spent the rest of the night trying our luck at roulette.

v17Maybe I enjoyed the wine a little too much?

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And maybe he did too? Smile

Our last day in Vegas was very similar to Day 2, in that we spent the morning at the pool and the afternoon in the casino.

Okay, this is MY blog, and I know I’m all about fitness, health, etc. on here…but I’m also all about balance, so I suppose I should be honest and give you a preview of what our breakfast on Day 3 looked like…

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I know, I know. I’m not proud. That was all him, by the way. Mine looked slightly tamer, but still just as obnoxious:

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Sigh. Balance, right? Remember my breakfast from Day One?? So I was okay splurging on my last day in Vegas Smile We barely made dents in that breakfast, but man, was it GOOD. It was from the Hash House A Go Go in the Imperial Palace. If you ever make it to Vegas, GO THERE. It is delish.

Lunch was nonexistent (see above photos if confused as to why that is), and dinner was a casual affair at some café in the Bellagio. The rest of the night was spent at the Blackjack and Roulette tables.

We had SUCH a great time in Vegas. Seriously, it’s not at all what some people think. Yes, there is drinking and gambling and all that fun stuff, but there are so many things to do and see and EAT! I’m so glad we went.

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Thank you to the elderly gentleman who did not know how to use the iPhone camera function Smile

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One last treat before heading home

And that, my friends, was our trip to Vegas in a nutshell. Hope you enjoyed Smile

What are some things that we did NOT do that you think we definitely should do on our next Vegas Vacation?

Have any of y’all SEEN the greatness that is Vegas Vacation?!?!

-Talk to you soon! Mel

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Las Vegas Day 2!

Vegas Day 2 started later than we thought it would. Since we were two hours behind Dallas time, I thought we would be up and at ’em by 6 am. We must’ve been pretty exhausted though, and slept in until 9 am Vegas time. We immediately went in search of food, and stumbled upon Mon Ami Gabi, a cute French restaurant in the Paris hotel. I ordered the egg white and turkey omelet with toast and hash browns, while Preston opted for the many steak and eggs combination.

Had to get me a mimosa!

Delicious and healthy egg white & turkey omelet with tomato and avocado relish

The man meal

The rest of the morning consisted of wandering around the Paris hotel, attempting to tackle the penny slots (we were too chicken to try anything else at this point).

A shot of the Paris hotel

Dorky me 🙂

We then made our way to the AMAZING pool at the Venetian, where we spent a few hours (and a few dollars…drinks there cost $16 EACH!! For a SMALL!)

Preston slurping down every ounce of that $16 Pina Colada

After the pool, we just walked around and enjoyed the sights of Vegas. I’ll post some pics now, and come back and tell you all about our dinner on the next post 🙂

Every trip we go on involves a McDonald’s somehow. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not gonna lie about it either 🙂 Our first meal on our honeymoon was McD’s!!

Checking out the roof of the Venetian!

Chandelier bar at the Cosmopolitan

A view of our awesome hotel

Checking out one of the menus!

What was your favorite part about Vegas, if you’ve been? If not, what would you WANT to do if you went?

-Melissa

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Viva Las Vegas! Day One

Hello, world! I’m back from a wonderful trip to Las Vegas with the husband. Actually, I’m home sick today from work…some sort of sore throat/sinus crud. Loved all the texts from coworkers asking me if it was a sore throat or a massive Vegas hangover 🙂 I’m truly ill, I assure you!

We had such a good time on our vacation. Vegas has so much to offer other than gambling/drinking/clubbing (although those things are fun, too!). The shows, the FOOD, the hotels, the lights. Everywhere we looked there was something new to see and do. We stayed at Caesar’s Palace because we found a great deal on their website. The only other time I’ve ever been to Vegas was for work, and I stayed in a luxury suite at the Cosmopolitan hotel. If you haven’t seen the Cosmo, TRUST ME, it is out of this world and over-the-top nice. So I was a little apprehensive about staying at Caesar’s because I knew it was older than a lot of the hotels on the strip. It was in a great location though, and for Vegas that is VERY important!

So needless to say, Preston and I were pretty excited about our trip once we started researching more about the hotel and things to do in Vegas. Since my only trip was work-related, and Preston had never been, there was a LOT that we wanted to see and do.

About to board the plane! Preston is SUPER excited 🙂

When we finally made it to our hotel, I realized I was SO wrong about Caesars! The hotel was gorgeous…the attention to detail was ridiculous. It had so many elements straight out of Rome, from the design to the statues to the fountains everywhere!

Food-wise, our first Vegas meal was a quick one; we had time to kill before our room was ready, so we wandered over to the food court at Caesar’s to see what all it had to offer. Flying always makes me a little unsettled in the stomach area, so I decided to stick with a salad. Preston, however, was definitely in vacation mode and ordered a HEAPING pile of nachos.

My yummy custom-built salad

Preston’s instant bad decision 🙂

Not gonna lie, I had a few nachos of my own…definitely good-not-great, and an underwhelming start to our vacation. Little did we know the kind of wonderful food we would be enjoying soon! We then headed over to the penny slots to see how our luck was looking. Honestly, we are both not big on gambling…in fact, it made us SUPER nervous. We spent the first day on the slot machines, played it safe, and had a great time!

Our first winnings…turned $1 into $3.80! Yeaaaah!

When our room was finally ready, we took a break from gambling to call up our bags and check out the room before exploring a little more. Despite our attempts at getting an upgrade (Preston is SHAMELESS about asking people for upgrades/discounts/free stuff. He thinks it’s a game; I think it’s mortifying), we had an average room with a not-so-stellar view of a parking lot AND the air conditioning units 🙂

That night, it was time to get ready for our one-and-only show for the week: Phantom of the Opera. I know, I know…we should’ve gone to see a Cirque show. They were just SO expensive, and the Phantom tickets were such a good deal on Travelzoo earlier this month. I thought the Vegas production of Phantom was SPECTACULAR…the set was amazing, the music (as always) was amazing…I really, really enjoyed it. Preston, on the other hand….not so much. We now know that he is most definitely NOT a musical lover 🙂 Oh well, newlywed lessons learned.

We left the show famished and ready for a good meal. Luckily, the show was in the Venetian hotel, so food options were aplenty. The Venetian is my favorite hotel in Las Vegas; if it wasn’t so darn expensive, we definitely would’ve stayed there. Check out the view of their Grand Canal Shoppes area; it looks JUST like something you’d see in Venice (trust me, I’ve been there :))

There are gondola rides and everything; it’s beautiful! After walking around and taking in the view, we found a yummy pizzeria called OTTO by chef Mario Batali. Holy moly, did it taste amazing. We split the pancetta and goat cheese pizza, and decided that we had to try the gelato sundae for dessert. That gelato was some of the BEST gelato I have ever had, and I’ve had it straight from the heart of Italy! Fairly certain that I will be dreaming of this gelato for many months to come.

At OTTO in the Venetian

The view during dinner

Best. Gelato. Ever.

Honestly, by this point, it was 11:30 Vegas time and 1:30 Dallas time and we were pooped. We rolled our full bellies to our hotel room and called it an early night, saving up as much energy as possible for the next day!

Day one was relatively healthy and active for me, which is normally not how I do vacations. I was all about enjoying myself, but not eating so much that I felt insecure and unhappy with my body. Plus, pool time was in order the next day, and I definitely wanted to feel good about myself then!

Have you ever been to Vegas? Where did you stay? What was the best thing you ate?

More to come soon!

-Melissa

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