Friday Recap: The Great Crock Pot Experiment and a Protein Bar Review

HAPPY FRIDAY! The weekend is once again almost upon us, and I’m pretty effing excited.

I’ve got big (well, insofar as my grandma-status goes) plans for this evening: I’ve got a phone gabbing session scheduled with a family friend in Colorado as soon as I leave work, and then I’m gettin’ my hair did this evening. I’m going to a place near our new apartment, and it got great reviews on Yelp…so here’s hoping they handle my tresses well!

As for the Great Crock Pot Experiment and Operation: Time Management, overall I feel like this week was a win.

On the time management front, I felt much more on top of my schedule — and even though I often needed to push my morning workouts into the evening, it wasn’t hard to do. Dinner was ready as soon as I got home, which meant that working out didn’t feel all that daunting (there’s something about working out after chopping veggies and cooking that feels waaaaaay more onerous than just working out and then eating dinner).

I also really appreciated being able to rely on frozen/pre-chopped veggies, which made my life a lot easier. I saved a ton of time and effort by just opening up a bag of veggies (as opposed to rinsing, peeling, chopping veggies, and then washing knives and cutting boards), and I seriously enjoyed that.

 

As for the Great Crock Pot Experiment, the results were a mixed bag. Our verdicts on the recipes were thus:

Enchiliada Casserole: Meh. Kind of dry yet mushy, and pretty seriously lacking in flavor. I might try this one again with significant modifications, but I’m not sure.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic: We weren’t a fan. Brandon wound up ordering pizza instead.

Beef Carnitas: A good one! We approve!

Mediterranean Chicken: This was a monstrosity. It was straight-up deplorable, y’all — which, considering that I make this on the stove all the effing time, is a fairly spectacular fall from grace for this dish. I choked down my serving because I felt bad wasting so much food, but Brandon couldn’t get past the second bite.

The fact that the Crock Pot recipes were 1 out of 4 is, um, really demoralizing!

It looks like I have a steep learning curve to climb before I really get the hang of cooking things other than hearty winter soups and stews. (I bust out the Crock Pot all the time in the winter, and I have no problems with chili/tortilla soup/insert fall or winter food here — but apparently other entrees are a different matter.)

But learn I shall! In the words of the crazy restaurant owners whose Facebook meltdown went viral, I WILL PREVAIL! I WILL TRIUMPH!

In the interest of continuing to find ways to cut back on cooking time, I checked out some cookbooks from the library for a bit of culinary inspiration. I won’t be able to go Crock Pot-crazy every week, but if we can find good recipes that I can prep on the weekend, then that’ll definitely help. In the library mix:

 

Light and easy dinners

 

I looooove Ina Garten, and I’ve heard good things about Ellie Krieger — so, I’m excited to try these out!

I have to admit that I especially love all things Barefoot Contessa. She seems so down-to-earth, kind, and creative, so she seems like the sort of relatable woman I’d want to be friends with. Did you know that she used to be a budget analyst at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before embarking on a massive career change? How cool is that?!

On a separate note, I’ve been trying to increase my protein intake as part of TNROLFW. To that end, I decided to try out three different kinds of protein bars this week, just to experiment and broaden my protein-y horizons.

I scoured the offerings at Whole Foods, and I eventually decided on these three: Luna Protein in Mint Chocolate Chip flavor, a Perfect Fit Protein Cookie, and the Quest Bars I keep hearing about.

 

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The reviews?

The Luna Protein Bar was uh-maaaaay-zing. I’ve desperately missed Luna bars in the 5 years that I’ve been gluten-free, and I was beyond excited when I saw that they had a GF line of products. I haven’t tried the other flavors, but the Mint Chocolate Chip was delicious! It tasted just how I remember Thin Mints tasting, and I wolfed it down.

Verdict:

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The Perfect Fit Protein Cookie was ok. I think I was expecting a legit cookie, which probably raised my hopes and set the bar a bit too high. I suspect that if it was just a straight-forward protein bar, my expectations would’ve been lower and I would’ve been pleasantly surprised by how cookie-like it was — but since it’s marketed as a cookie, my brain had a hard time reconciling this information with my taste buds. I kept thinking “Aw man, this cookie tastes like a protein bar! Oh, wait…”

Verdict:

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The Quest Bar was surprisingly delicious! I tried the Coconut Cashew flavor, and I was really impressed. When I opened it up and saw that it looks alarmingly blob-like, my first thought was “Really? This is what everybody raves about? This looks heinous!”  I then veeeeeeery skeptically tried a teeny bite…only to be wowed by the sweet and salty taste. It’s effin’ good, y’all! I also wolfed this one down, which is really saying something.

Verdict:

 

Anyways, I’m off to do this morning’s workout (kickboxing + more lifting) — but I hope everyone has an awesome morning! TGIF, people. 🙂

Have you ever tried Luna Protein or Quest Bars? 

 If so, what flavors do you like?

 What are your favorite cookbooks?

Do you have big weekend plans? (I’m dyyyyyyyying to see the new Star Trek movie – SO EXCITED!)

WIAW: The Great Crock Pot Experiment Continues

Good morning, y’all! Being that it’s Wednesday, I’m super-excitedly rounding the last corner of the workweek into the home stretch before the weekend…as usual, it can’t get here fast enough!

Before getting into my WIAW offerings, I want to give a quick update on Operation: Time Management and the Great Crock Pot Experiment. Yesterday was a bit (ok, a lot ) of a fail. I had a ton of trouble trying to publish yesterday’s post, since WordPress kept deleting the content. (Thank God I’d written it all in Word before pasting it into WordPress! If I’d lost all that content for good, I would’ve been weeping my eyes out, rending my clothes, and sitting under my desk in fetal position.)

Anyways, it took me a full hour to finally get the post to publish properly — and by that point, there was no time for me to do even a quick workout. I was late to work again, and while dinner (chicken with 40 cloves of garlic) was a-cookin’, I knew I’d need to stay late and then come home and work out. C’est la vie!

Once I got home, I tested out my new fitness ball (!!); I got said fitness ball because TNROLFW calls for a number of exercises (i.e., the prone jackknife and the stability ball crunch) that rely on it. With that in mind, I decided to invest the $15 in this beauty:

Brandon was, um, a bit wigged out by the fact that it’s pink. We share the study, and I’m the proud owner of a pink desk chair — so when this baby rolled up (pun intended), he looked worried.

B: Wow, dude. It’s really pink.

Me: *Giggles, claps hands in excitement* I shall make my half of the study saturated in pink! Muuuahahahahaha!

Once I was done informing Brandon of my diabolical plot to pink-ify my portion of the study, I did the Fitness Blender Cardio Bootcamp and Cardio-Infused Standing Abs Workout while the veggies for dinner roasted away in the oven — and hooooooly crap, was it ever a hard workout! It was only 30 minutes, but I was sweating like a wildebeest and breathing harder than I’ve ever breathed during a 45 minute elliptical session.

 

A super-sweaty post-workout selfie, replete with the pink stability ball!
A super-sweaty post-workout selfie, replete with the pink stability ball!

 

Then we had dinner, and I’m sorry to say that the chicken with 40 cloves of garlic was no bueno. The garlicky taste was great, obviously — but I added white wine to the mix so it would have some cooking liquid, and I think that made it taste weird. I also cooked it for waaaaaay too long, because it was incredibly dry. Fail!

This morning, though, I’ve turned the page on yesterday’s blunders and am ready to start anew with this recipe for Beef Crock Pot Carnitas from Eat, Live, Run. The meat is marinating as I type this, and soon I’ll throw all the veggies into the Crock Pot. We’ll see how things turn out this evening!

Anyways, with all that being said, it’s time for What I Ate Wednesday — thanks, as always, to the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons for hosting!

 

Peas and Crayons

 

Breakfasts: There’s my ever-present coffee and GF toast before my workout — and while during the week I’m incredibly consistent with my post-workout fruit and kale smoothie, I tend to mix it up on the weekends. I’ve shown y’all a bajillion smoothie pictures, so I’ll focus on the weekend breaky foods: GF blueberry waffles served with a side of scrambled egg whites, spinach, and reduced-fat cheddar cheese.

 

Van's GF Blueberry WafflesScrambled Egg Whites with Spinach and Cheddar

 

Lunches and snacks have included Greek yogurt with GF granola, Pamela’s bars, apples with almond butter, cantaloupe, salad with chickpeas plus a creamy dill dressing that I whipped up over the weekend, and one of my favorite concoctions: Thai cole slaw (made with cabbage, carrots, romaine lettuce, cilantro, and GF peanut sauce).

 

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Dinners have been all about the Great Crockpot Experiment, and thus far they’ve included enchilada casserole and the aforementioned uber-fail (le sigh!) of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic with roasted veggies. The chicken may have been no bueno, but the roasted carrots were delish!

 

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Oh, and then there’s my Friday night dinner: I broke every rule in the healthy living book — I’m a big proponent of the theory that all healthy food and no crap makes Jack a dull boy (or, in this case, Lillian a dull gal) — and had wine (in my super-sophisticated regular glass, because I didn’t feel like having to hand-wash a wine glass…Friday nights are my nights of laziness and sloth) and home-made pizza on GF pita bread. Laziness and sloth FTW!

 

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Desserts have had a bit of a change-up, too: we ran out of fro yo (gasp, horror!), but I want to use up all the food in the fridge/freezer before we get more. With that in mind, my desserts have consisted of mango sorbet and cherries — both are absolutely delicious, and it turns out that I don’t miss my beloved fro yo at all. 🙂

 

Bowl of cherries
Life is just a bowl of cherries, y’all.

Gluten-Free Mango Sorbet

And now, of course, I’d love to hear from you lovely folks!

Do you indulge a bit more on Friday nights and/or weekends?

What are your go-to indulgence foods?

Have you ever been disappointed by a recipe that you were all kinds of excited about?

Do you mix up your breakfast routine on the weekends?

MIMM – Operation: Time Management

Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s not enough time.

I only have a few hours of free time each day, and there simply haven’t been enough of those hours to do all the things I love: hanging out with Brandon, writing, working out, making phone calls to friends and family, and cooking. (I’d love to have hired help, but I’d have to pay them in baked goods instead of real money – and I’m pretty sure there are labor laws prohibiting stuff like that.)

I wrote last week about how I’m ok with cutting back to 30 minutes of exercise instead of 45-60 in order to give myself more time to write, and that’s the first step in Operation: Time Management. After doing some thinking this weekend, I’m going to run another experiment as well: Crock Pot dinners.

We use our Crock Pot a few times a month, and I’ve found that my life feels a lot easier whenever we do. I have no trouble doing prep work in the mornings – I mean, it basically involves throwing meat, veggies, and sauce into the stoneware, hitting a few buttons, and patting myself on the back for being so productive before the clock strikes 0600 – and I really appreciate that it frees up my evening to chill out and do some writing before Brandon comes home.

Drafting blog posts on the couch > chopping veggies.

With this in mind, we picked up two Crock Pot cookbooks this weekend – and, after reading through them and finding a bajillion delicious-sounding recipes, we agreed to try a week’s worth of Crock Pot dinners to see if it makes our free time a bit easier to manage.

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On the menu for this week:

  • Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (served with roasted asparagus and carrots)
  • Ropa Veija (served with chili, cumin, and lime sweet potatoes)
  • Mediterranean Chicken (served with Greek salad)
  • Enchilada Casserole (it’s filled with black beans and veggies galore, so I won’t do a veggie dish)

It’s important to me that I have enough time to hang out with my beloved, write, and get my sweat on while also cooking up nutritious food – so if this helps facilitate that goal, then I’ll be all about it!

Another portion of Operation: Time Management involves prepping veggies on Sunday evenings. I’ll gladly concede that this isn’t fun, like, at all. My inner monologue tends to get all kinds of whiny when veggie-prep hour rolls around (Uuuuuuuuuuugh! I don’t waaaaaaaannnnaaaaa dooooo thiiiis!), so I decided to cut myself some slack this week with frozen and pre-chopped onions, frozen veggies, and dried herbs.

Lastly, I’m going to incorporate more high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training into my workout routine so I can maximize my newly-shortened workout times.

I’ve owned a copy of The New Rules of Lifting for Women for aaaaages, and I’d gotten through level one about 18 months ago before going back to mostly cardio workouts. (I went back to long cardio sessions when I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition; during the course of the training program I listened to all my class lectures while on the elliptical. I’m all about multi-tasking!)

Now that I don’t need long cardio sessions to give me time to do class work, I’m excited to start lifting again. I love strength training, and I’m looking forward to doing this lifting program again!

And, with all that, I hope everyone has a marvelous (or, shall we say, maaaah-velous) Monday — be sure to stop by Healthy Diva Eats to see the other MIMM posts (and, of course, big thanks to Katie for hosting)!

And, of course, I have questions for y’all:

What are your thoughts on strength training? Have you tried it, and do you like it?

What are your favorite time-saving tips and tricks?