saving dinnertime with hello fresh

I’ve tried other meal services like this in the past and wasn’t very impressed. There was so much packaging, it wasn’t very organized, and the recipes involved too many steps and didn’t end up being very delicious.

It’s been a couple years since I last tried it and I was intrigued by a newer company, Hello Fresh. Their meals looked delicious, healthy, and like something I would normally eat during the week. I also had a coupon for $40 off so I figured I would give it a try.

We’ve now been using Hello Fresh for three weeks and have really enjoyed it. We get our delivery on Saturday and we order 3 meals. We usually make a meal Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday and then either eat out or from the freezer on Thursday/Friday. This schedule has worked out really well for us and make the beginning of the week so easy. We just make a quick grocery store run for some breakfast and lunch staples.

So far we have loved 90% of the meals we’ve ordered. The ingredients are freshly packed, one box per meal, which makes organizing the ingredients so easy. Most meals take less than 45min to cook and they are recipes that I would definitely consider making again. Additionally, there is no waste which is usually my main complaint when making a complex recipe during the week. The portions are generous for two people.

I would definitely recommend giving it a try. I also have a coupon that will get you $40 off your first box which means you’ll only spend $20 on dinners for three nights! Use this code: U4P23G when you checkout.

{review} flyjoy bars

As I was stuffing one of these bars into my face, I realized I better hurry up and write about them (or at least photograph them) before they were gone! 
I love a good bar. I’m a big snacker and I must ALWAYS have a bar on me at all times. I’m pretty picking though about what types of bars I like. Nowadays, everything has so much sugar or other nasty stuff in it that it’s just not an enjoyable snack after you read the ingredients. I was really into KIND bars at one point but I feel like the quality of their product has gone down – they are usually ROCK HARD when I try to eat them…what’s up with that?!

Enter FLYJOY bars. These bars are made with ingredients I can pronounce like quinoa, chia, flax, cashews, almonds etc. They have a balanced amount protein and fiber while keep the sugar count in check. But on top of everything else, they are delicious. The very first one I tried was Cashew Cookie dough and it legitimately tasted like the best raw cookie dough you scoop from the bowl when you’re baking. I LOVE that they aren’t coated in chocolate because, like I said, there is always a bar living at the bottom of my bag and I hate pulling out a mushy, melted bar when I’m starving. 
If you are a perpetual bar hoarder, add FLYJOY bars to your stash. I find myself reaching for them over most other snack options when I’m on the go.
I was generously provided with these bars (thanks Madison!) to try for the first time. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and opinions are all my own. I was not encouraged to write a positive review.

training for a half marathon | week 1

Fitness Files. Fit Fridays. Friday Fitness. I mean, there are actually a lot of titles I could have used for this series but it was just too cheesy. I decided to keep it simple instead of inventing some catchy series. I opted to go with the obvious and boring title. 
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I started training for a half marathon. It’s been over 2 years since my last half and I basically became a couch potato during that time. Needless to say, I’m pretty much starting over on the fitness front. Nothing like an expensive race with a deadline to kick my butt into gear. I’m loosely working off of this 12 week plan mostly just to keep some sense of accountability and remind me what mileage I’m on. Over the next several weeks, I’m also going to try to document my “journey” here so that you can follow along.
|| Monday ||
Ran 3 treadmill miles (3 min run / 2 min walk).
While watching House Hunters and Pioneer Woman…It’s super hilly where we live and since I don’t really know my way around, I’ve been running on the treadmill to save some energy. I plan on doing longer runs outside on some of the awesome trails.
|| Tuesday ||
Barre Strength at the gym.
It’s basically Pure Barre but I really liked the class as something different. Kind of wondering what you have to do to become an instructor…
|| Wednesday ||
60 min Cycle class with C. 
Within 5 minutes of the class starting, I always hate myself and wonder why the heck I signed up. It was a butt-kicking workout but I felt good about it since this was supposed to be a “run” day but I cross-trained instead.
|| Thursday ||
30 min FitStar Yoga at home
C needed the car so instead of lunchtime yoga at the gym, I just did a class at home. I like this app a lot especially for quick and easy yoga on the got.
|| Friday ||
Rest! Yay! (Oh and travel to Michigan for Becca’s wedding!!)
|| Saturday ||
4 miles which I will probably try to run at the gym at the hotel or somewhere outside before Becca’s wedding.
|| Sunday ||
Rest and travel home from Chicago!
Overall, I think this is a great first week especially since I need a little hand holding as I ease back into a regular workout schedule. 
PS. You NEED one of those water bottles. It’s the water bottle to end all water bottles (truth. I got rid of all the other ones I own!!!). It’s from Swell and it keeps cold stuff cold for 24 HOURS and hot for 12 HOURS! I tested it and it REALLY works even in a hot car! 
(I was not paid to say this…I purchased the bottle with my own money and I’m simple obsessed.)
Are you signed up for any races this fall? Do you listen to music or podcasts? Suggestions?

natural skincare from poor & pretty + a discount!

I stumbled upon these adorable jars of all-natural beauty products by chance and was thrilled to see they are made right here in Connecticut. I immediately purchased the Rose Clay Mask and tried it out at home. While having my “at-home spa night”, I looked up the brand and started researching the creator, Sami.

Poor & Pretty was created by Sami Jensen in 2009 after she learned about all the gross ingredients in her frequently used bath and beauty products. Dissatisfied with what was out there, she set out to create her own line of 100% all-natural, hypoallergenic, vegan/cruelty-free. Her products are adorably packaged, smell amazing, and contain only the best ingredients. And because I know you’ll love Poor & Pretty as much as I do, there’s an exclusive discount code below!

I’ve had the pleasure of trying a few more of her products and I’m seriously impressed. Here are a few of the items I can recommend but I’m pretty sure everything she makes is awesome. (Not pictured: The AMAZING cocoa butter lip balm that is already living in my pocket, it’s that good.)

Coffee Sugar Scrub // This stuff smells so amazing and is so lovely slathered all over your body during your AM shower. It’s not too gritty and leaves a trail of soft, moisturized skin behind.

Whipped Body Butter // If you’ve ever had the desire to spread gooey chocolate, this stuff is your answer without all the mess! It smells like heaven and spreads so nicely over your skin. It doesn’t have a super greasy texture but it is rich so you do have to let it soak in a little. It’s even better when used after the coffee scrub!

Rose Face Mask // I’ve been really into dry, clay powder masks lately. I love that you get to mix up just the amount you need. This mask is really gently but doesn’t a great job brightening up your skin while also clarifying it. Plus, you look so chic with red clay spread all over your face (husbands and boyfriends beware!).

If I haven’t convinced you enough already, hopefully a little discount to her Etsy shop will motivate you to go check out Sami’s amazing products. Be sure to use code NATURALBEAUTY for 15% purchases of $10 or more in her Etsy shop. Everything she sells is already so affordable but this discount makes it even sweeter!

Also, 30% of every purchase made from her shop (through Saturday, May 30) is being donated to the Keydong Thukche Choeling Nunnery in Nepal to help provide comfort items like teddy bears, books, and blankets to the Buddhist nuns (some as young as 3!) who have been living outside in tents since the earthquakes hit Nepal.

Make sure to come back and let me know what you purchased in the comments! 

Disclaimer: I only post about products I actually use and love. I purchased the mask myself. I was kindly gifted the scrub, body butter, and lip balm to review for you here. I’m looking forward to trying out a few more products like her charcoal mask!

8 tips for a happier, more simplified day

I’m well aware that this title is making some pretty big claims but hear me out. I’m a sucker for “self-help” books and I love reading blog posts and articles about a simple, happy, healthy lifestyle. Over time, I feel like I’ve started to develop a few routines that help make my days a little easier which in turn makes me happier. I’m also a quarter of the way through Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before (she also wrote The Happiness Project which I read just after college). Her book is fascinating and it inspired me to write this post!

1 // Decide on your outfit while in the shower or before you get out of bed. This may sound ridiculous or frivolous but for a long time I’ve had this little rule for myself and it really helped me have a happier morning. There is nothing worse than standing in front of your closet, clueless with what to wear and becoming totally frustrated. Instead, I picture my closet, check the weather, and come up with an outfit while I’m showering/waking up. By the time I’m ready to get dressed, all I have to do is grab and go!

2 // Keep things where you can see them. Whether this is clothes, office supplies, linens, bathroom products, beauty samples…whatever it is, where it where you can see it. This means using clear plastic storage, maximizing countertop space, or strategically folding clothes in drawers. Being able to see what you own will not only make finding things easier, but you’ll reduce the risk of repurchasing something you can’t find. 

3 // Strategically de-clutter and reduce the “things” in your life. If you’ve been hanging around these parts for awhile, you’ll know that I’m a huge advocate for letting go of things you don’t like or aren’t using. But throwing stuff away can feel frustrating especially if you spent a lot of money. That money you originally spent is now a sunk cost, so if it’s not enriching you’re life, let it go. You can make the “blow” easier by selling items in a variety of ways such as Twice, GlamBot (for used makeup!), Craigslist, and eBay.

4 // Move for at least 20 minutes a day. Ever since getting a FitBit, I’m insanely aware of how little I move on a daily basis when I don’t actively think about it. You probably know this but getting your heart rate up has several mood-boosting and health benefits. Take the stairs. Walk while you’re on a conference call. Use the FitStar app to do a quick workout routine or yoga session. Or try the Nike Training Club app. Or the 7-minute workout. Bike/walk to work. Jog with your dog or a friend. Just get your blood pumping at least once a day.

5 // Prep lunches for the week on Sunday. I think I’ve said this here before but I don’t love lunch foods (salads, cold cuts, leftovers etc). But if I don’t think about lunches for the week, I end up scarfing down whatever snacks are around the office which are NOT healthy. Things go much smoother when I prepare my lunches for the week on Sunday. I’ll make salads in a jar, chicken salad, soup, chili, whatever sorts of things will last and are easy to transport. I have a MUCH better day when I’m actually looking forward to lunch!

6 // Create a shared google calendar. This applies to people with spouses or families and it’s proved to be really useful in our household. Instead of constantly reminding each other of events or needing to check C’s schedule before agreeing to something, I can just log into his google calendar and see what’s coming up. It’s one key to a happy marriage!

7 // Read something for 30 minutes before bed. You’ve probably heard this one 100 times but this is such a key to winding down for the evening and getting “ready for bed”. It calms your mind and also provides critical “me” time. I got really out of the habit of doing this and I think my sleep really started to suffer.

8 // Keep a notebook next to your bed for the evening brain dump. Last night my mind was racing before bed. I did my reading but for whatever reason I could not shut my mind off. Instead of just lying there battling with myself, I grabbed my notebook and jotted down all the thoughts running through my head. About fifteen minutes later, I was gently drifting to sleep. 

Hopefully some of these things will work for you. I’d also love to know – what things do you do to make your days happier and more simplified? Let me know!

the pure food cookbook

I was really not into cookbooks at all a few years ago. It may have been because I moved every year to a new place and I couldn’t stand lugging them around with me from place to place. It was probably also due to the explosion of food blogs and Pinterest. Recipes were now free all over the internet and I didn’t see a reason to pay for them.

It all changed about a year ago when I realized two things: 1) I LOVE reading cookbooks, like actually sitting down and reading them (the pictures are amazing as well) and, 2) I wanted to support the authors especially if they started as a blogger and I’d been enjoying their free recipes. So over the past year or so, my collection has really grown. Picking a favorite is hard because they are all so different. I love Seriously Delish and Date Night In which are two books that came out of super successful and beautiful blogs. When we got our slow cooker for Christmas, I picked up William Sonoma’s The Quick Slow Cooker and have loved every recipe we’ve tried.

The Pure Food Cookbook has been a great addition to the collection. It’s written by the creator of the Pure Bar and has a focus on healthy, whole, plant-based meals. I really, really like how it’s laid out by month so that you can maximize what’s in season and the recipes are geared toward that time of year. Making healthy food interesting can be really tough but this book has so many great ideas. It is plant-based so it’s definitely not C’s favorite but many of the recipes could easily be adapted to incorporate some grilled chicken or fish. I love that she also includes snacks, breakfasts, and desserts so it’s a complete menu!

My only con is that I wish there were more pictures in the book. There’s a section in the middle with select images but I love when you get to see every recipe.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

the easiest meal plan: food for the week with one slow cooker recipe

I’m currently head over heels in love with this new-to-me blog Hello Natural. I think I’ve pinned every single post since I discovered it. Last Sunday when I sat down to do our meal planning for the week, I pulled up this post for some inspiration. We have been really loving the slow cooker (except for a few recipe duds) and I especially love using it on Sundays. 
Meal Plan Outline: Pulled Pork
This base of these meals is the pulled pork that you’ll make on Sunday and let cook all day. I knew that most of my other recipes were going to have “mexican/bbq/savory” flavors so I chose a “spicier” blend. Here’s the basic recipe that I used. 
  • 2 – 2.5lbs pork shoulder (When I bought it, it weighed over 4lbs. By the time I had trimmed it, it was more like 3lbs. Additionally, you could also use pork butt. I think our pork shoulder cost somewhere around $15 so that’s a great deal for so much meat. You could also use chicken here – thighs or breasts just use bone-in ones for more flavor.)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup beer (Could also use wine or broth)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • lots of salt and pepper
Pat pork dry and rub spices, salt, and pepper all over. Heat some oil (I used grapeseed) in a large pan and sear the pork on all sides. Add onions and garlic to the slow cooker. Transfer meat to slow cooker. Pour beer in bottom. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours until meat is fork tender. Remove and shred. Place in an airtight container. Will keep for 5-6 days. 
Naturally, since it was a busy week, I have exactly zero pictures of how these turned out but take my word for it, I wouldn’t post about something that wasn’t delicious! 
#1 Sunday Night
I kept it simple and just drenched the pork in our favorite BBQ sauce (you can get it at Whole Foods) and served on toasted rolls with roasted kale sprouts. It was delicious. 
#2 Lettuce Wraps
It may seem weird to use pork in lettuce wraps but this totally worked and it was delicious. Used this recipe as inspiration.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1/4 cup finely diced cucumbers (try to use the seedless ones)
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • lots of salt and pepper to taste
Warm pork slightly on the stove in a bit of oil (or bacon fat!). Arrange romaine lettuce leaves on a plate and add some sliced cucumbers. Fill each lettuce cup with pork and top with sauce. Devour! 

#3 Carnitas Tamale Pie
I can’t take any credit for this one because I followed this recipe to a tee. The only difference is that I put the enchilada sauce on top of the pork since my pork was a little dry from being cooked in advance. This turned out AMAZING and I’ll definitely make it again. To make gluten-free, just sub AP flour for whatever GF blend you like. This also re-heated really well which meant it served as lunch or dinner for a couple days. 
#4 Thai Peanut Stir-Fry with Cauliflower Rice
This recipe came together totally by chance. I invented this on Saturday night realizing that we had a little more pork to use up and some other random ingredients in the fridge. As I was serving it, I told C that if it was horrible, we’d just order pizza. To both our surprises, it turned out great! We’ll definitely make this again. C actually completely forgot it wasn’t rice. This is a great low-carb meal option.
  • 1.5 cups leftover pulled pork
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 cups tuscan kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
That Peanut Sauce
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp red chili paste
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat. Whisk until everything is incorporated and sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and set aside. 
  2. Place cauliflower florets in the food processor and pulse until it looks like rice. Melt coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add kale and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat and let cook for 2 minutes. Add cauliflower rice and garlic. Stir to combine. Let cook for 5-7 minutes stirring occasionally. 
  3. Add pork to a separate pan. Pour some of the peanut sauce over pork and heat through. 
  4. To serve, portion cauliflower kale mixture into bowls. Top with pork and a little more sauce. For crunch add shredded cabbage and/or chopped peanuts.