Jess Eats Happy: Crock Pot Turkey Chili Recipe

I’ve found that I get a lot of requests for recipes when I Instagram a picture of whatever I happen to be shoveling into my face at a frightening rate of speed (see also: eating). That prompted me to create a new “series”: Jess Eats Happy! (it’s a working title. bear with me.)

Every week or so, I’ll share a recipe that will be A) mostly healthy B) probably cheap to make and C) 100% delicious. Because that’s how we roll in the Jess Eats Happy kitchen.

Our inaugural recipe is one that blew up my IG feed a few days ago: Turkey Chili. It’s a super simple, protein and fiber-packed dish that is easy to personalize to suit your tastes and keeps you full for a while. Let’s take a look!

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Crock Pot Turkey Chili

Ingredients:

  • Chili
    • 1-2 lbs ground turkey (depending on how many you’re cooking for)
    • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
    • 1 small can tomato paste
    • 2 cans beans, rinsed (kidney, pinto, black – your choice!)
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 small green pepper, chopped
    • 1 small red pepper, chopped
    • 1 packet chili seasoning mix (i usually get the low-sodium version)
    • Optional: any other veggies you like: corn, kale, zucchini, chili peppers, etc. This is a perfect time to use whatever veggies you can find in the fridge/pantry and fit into the crock pot. Anything goes!
  • Toppings
    • avocado, sliced
    • plain greek yogurt (sub for sour cream, or go all out and use the sour cream if you’d like!)
    • shredded cheese
    • Optional: Baked tortilla chips for dipping

Directions:

Throw everything in the crock pot, wait, and eat.

LOL –  but seriously, it really is that easy! Throw the thawed meat, tomatoes, veggies, and beans all in the pot, cover with chili seasoning, mix it up just a bit to evenly distribute everything, and forget about it for a few hours: set the crock pot on High for 4 hours, Medium for 6, or Low for 8 (or 10 if your pot has that setting).

About halfway through cooking, I’ll stir once or twice just to admire the delicious yumminess that is simmering in my crock pot, and to entice my husband out from his man cave with calls of “Ooooh, it looks like chili!!”

Then once it’s ready, just scoop it out into bowls and top with whatever your little heart desires. Which, if you’re me, is ALL the avocado and greek yogurt in the house. I like to eat it like a dip with the tortilla chips too – it forces me eat a little slower and helps me realize when I’m actually full, as opposed to eating until I can’t move.

The nice thing about this stuff is that it freezes and reheats very well. Usually once we’re done with dinner, I’ll portion out the rest of the contents of the crock pot into individual containers so that we have easy grab-n-go meals for the rest of the week.

So there you have it! Give it a shot and let me know how you like it!

Hangry or Rungry or Both?

I don’t know about you, but I get ANGRY when I don’t eat. Hangry. My blood sugar dips to a perilous low and those around me have two options: stick some food into my face, or GTFO. It’s not one of my best qualities, but I acknowledge it and do what I can to manage it.

photo 1And I also carry around a ukelele to serenade those who give me food.

And when I’m training for a race I turn into a bottomless pit, especially at night after cross training or on rest days: rungry. I freely admit I struggle to keep all of that food in the “healthy” region, mainly because I cannot say no to a delicious sweet treat. For example, allow me to introduce you to my newest discovery (and quite possibly what I will be eating for lunch and dinner after my half marathon on Sunday):

r-BROWNIE-COOKIE-CHIPS-AHOY-large570That’s right. Brownie FILLED.

Guys, this is bad. Like, “eat the whole bag in one sitting and wake up the next day questioning an entire life’s worth of decisions” bad.

08212013-chips-ahoy-brownie-cookie-1a

Mh-hmm.

I just bought a box on Sunday and between my husband and I, we’re already down one row. I snag one every night and bring one in to work for a treat. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the worst thing I could be eating: each cookie is like 80 calories, and worth the splurge if you ask me. And once we tear through this package, I’ll definitely think twice before buying another. Bringing voodoo like that into the house is dangerous.

All I know is that writing this post has made me super hangry (rungry?) and now I’m going to cry into my Chobani while I look at photos of these delicious brownie-filled cookies.

Happy Wednesday!

Running on Island Time

Before I begin – I apologize for my silence lately! I had a nasty sinus infection at the end of March so I had to take a full week off running (UGH). As an aside: how do people run through illness like that? I had a fever of 102 and hallucinated that I was Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle; I couldn’t even sit up straight let alone run!

Anyway, after that, I set sail on a 7 day cruise to Florida and the Bahamas with my mama! Usually, I see vacation as my time to forget the rules and return to my natural state. Unfortunately my natural state is less “let’s get physical!” and more “screw the training plan, they’ve got free brownies 24/7 up in this bitch, it’s brownies-for-breakfast time”.

But with the half marathon looming ahead of me (18 days, eek!), I knew I had to stay active – and BOY did I! I’m proud to say that this was the most active vacation I’ve ever had – filled with running, open-water swimming, biking, rope climbing, capoeira, weight training, and LOTS of walking. No lie, in Florida we walked for 6 hours straight. We didn’t even stop to eat. I had a soft pretzel at 7pm and freaked out the pretzel cart woman with my obscene moans of relief after my first bite.

So I started my 2nd morning on the boat with a nice 5K, spread out between the fitness center and the jogging track on the ship’s top deck.

with a view like that I HAD to go on deck

with a view like that I HAD to go on deck

It was amazing – between the sun and warm air and new route, it was the most invigorating run I’ve had in months! I finished with a half hour of full-body strength training in the gym and then took the 8 flights of stairs back to our stateroom for good measure. And if you’re wondering – yes, I did have a brownie for breakfast. Life is all about balance.

That same day we toured the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and we ended up walking the equivalent of about 284 miles* (*I may be estimating). We spent 7 hours touring, and aside from the one hour bus ride we were on our feet. The. Whole. Day. The following day we were at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. I planned on doing nothing (except for drinking pina coladas on the beach), but once I got in that cool, refreshing, 15-foot deep turquoise private lagoon water? I just had to swim.

wouldn't you?

wouldn’t you?

I haven’t swam in open water in more than 2 years, but I jumped right in that water and floated, kicked, dove, frolicked, and generally played mermaid for about 3 hours. I even swam around that island you see in the center of the lagoon (the water surrounded it on all sides), stopping just once on the far side beach to give my shoulders a break.

After getting a crazy sunburn from all this beach fun (the price a mermaid must pay, I suppose), I took the next day off in Atlantis, and spent most of the day in a flowy caftan in shaded areas. It was actually kind of fun, I pretended I was a Kardashian. Not a bad way to spend a day in the Bahamas.

By our last day at sea, my sunburn had finally calmed down enough for me to put sneakers on so I started with a quick 2 miles of speedwork on the treadmill, followed by 2 hard and fast miles on the bike (in 7:40, a new bike PR!!), then ran up the 4 flights of stairs to the top deck for a session on the ropes course.

ropes course (bottom), see also "terrifying workout in gale force winds and a full body harness 17 stories above the Atlantic Ocean"

ropes course (bottom), see also “terrifying workout in gale force winds and a full body harness 17 stories above the Atlantic Ocean”

Suffice it to say that I would have been content sticking with mini-golf after my time on the ropes course, but I perservered and went to a free capoeira class instead. A bucket list item of mine, capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines dancing, fighting, and games. Lots of hovering, squatting, kicking, and general break-dancing. Lots of fun.

Now, full disclosure: the class was taught by a blindingly gorgeous Brazilian man who pronounced the word “since” with a long “I” (s-eye-nce), bless his heart. And while we’re sharing and feeling religious, God bless those rocky northern Atlantic currents. Because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to cap off my last day at sea with a face-full of Brazilian man-thigh when the boat zigged and we both zagged during a particularly intense sparring session. Cue the bad-ass music and “calmly walking away from a car explosion” scene:

and when I walked off the boat, it burst into flames, too.

and when I walked off the boat, it burst into flames, too.

Cut to today: my muscles are still on FIRE from all the wild and crazy things I put them through in the past week, and I couldn’t be happier! So what do you think? When you’re on vacation, do you go for the brownies or the ropes course (or both)? What’s your favorite activity to do on vacation? Tell me a story 🙂

“80/20” or, “Liz Lemon is my Spirit Animal”

OK, so I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect. I try my best to eat healthy, clean, non-processed foods but sometimes (okay, most of the time) it’s a struggle. It takes a lot of time and effort to select and prepare healthy food to consistently stay on track. Also, let’s be honest: brownies, cupcakes, chocolates…? Yes, yum, and more please. I mean, come on:

Liz Lemon is my spirit animal

           Liz Lemon is my spirit animal.

Full disclosure: I totally understand the benefits of clean eating. I did the Whole Life Challenge back in September and it was a truly life-changing experience. You can check out their website for the details, but the short version is this: for 8 weeks you focus on your diet, exercise, and mindfulness habits to become a better you. The exercise and meditation parts are great, yes, but I found the most benefit from the eating part. You cut all processed foods, dairy, sugars, and starches out of your diet – no bread, sugar, cheese, potatoes, pasta, etc. Instead, the focus is on vegetables, fruits and pure protein. Sounds simple, but let me tell you: it was HARD! But to stay compliant, I found a ton of new (delicious and super-healthy) recipes that I never would have tried if it weren’t for the WLC: crab cakes made with almond flour, beef and spinach stir-fry, mashed cauliflower – days of tasty meals that have made it into the regular meal plan rotation and expanded our culinary horizons!

After the challenge, it was tough to stay compliant. As a compromise, I resolved to stick to the 80-20 rule when I eat now: 80% of the time, I eat clean, non-processed “good” food, while the other 20% is non-compliant “bad” food. I hate classifying it like that, but you get the idea. 

Which brings me to today. As I write this, New Jersey is smack in the center of a diet-ruining hat trick: a 2-day long blizzard, Valentine’s Day candy week, and Easter candy’s release week. Add to that the rungries I experience during half marathon training, and I’m in the eye of a perfect storm here. So to give myself a healthier option than eating every piece of chocolate in this house and that in all of the houses in the immediate area, I decided to bake my go-to 80/20 treat: black bean brownies.

I first discovered these little squares of magic (no, not that kind of magic) at a friend’s party a few years ago and fell in love. Yes, they’re made with a box of brownie mix, which is loaded with sugar and other processed things. BUT, instead of adding eggs, butter, and/or oil like you normally would, you simply mix it with a can of pureed black beans and voila: brownies! Delicious, dense, fudge-like brownies that are loaded with filling fiber. I usually make these for pot-luck parties or work functions – the trick is to not tell people what they’re made with before they try them. I’ve found that when I say they’re black bean brownies, people immediately wrinkle their nose and turn them down. “Hell no!” they say, “No way I’ll eat a brownie made with beans!” But then, they try it, and the clouds open up and angels sing and before I know it I’m holding an empty tupperware lined with bits of brownie. 

So trust me. You may need to make them a few times to perfect them, but I promise they’ll be a hit in your house. Bonus: no eggs in the mix means you can eat as much batter as you want. I may or may not have eaten half the batter tonight before baking my batch. No judgement here. Let me know how you like them, and feel free to share your favorite 80/20 recipes in the comments!

Black Bean Brownies

oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

          oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

Ingredients: 
1 box of brownie mix any flavor (13×9 pan size)
1 can black beans (15.5 oz)

Directions:
1. Strain and rinse beans, put beans back in can and re-fill can with water to top.
2. Pour can of beans and water into blender/food processor (I use the magic bullet) and purée til liquefied. 
3. Combine box of brownie mix and puréed beans in a bowl and mix with a spoon til lumps are gone. It’ll take a while. Consider this your arm workout for the day.
4. Bake according to box, checking towards the end. Might take a few minutes longer than it says on the box, but stick a toothpick in the center – when it comes out clean you’re ready for brownies.

…and away we go!

After wanting to start my own blog for quite some time now, I’ve finally decided to dive in and join the “blogosphere”! Or whatever technical jargon-y term the kids are using these days. Seriously, I have no idea. My knowledge of what’s “in” rivals that of Liz Lemon.

The last time I blogged regularly, I can honestly say it was for lack of anything better to do. I recently revisited my old LiveJournal and found that the majority of the entries were about one of four things: my ex (and the fact that he never returned my calls), Joaquin Phoenix (and the fact that HE never returned my calls), my cat, and college life. All pretty mundane, self-centered things that any normal 20-22 year old would blog about. Most of it is pretty cringe-worthy, but it’s pretty fun to go back in time and laugh about myself; did I REALLY write that much about the pizza at the dining hall?

But now, 10 years later, I find myself with something to say. Sure, I could write about pizza (god I could write about delicious, cheesy pizza…), but I’ve experienced a lot in my 30 years and I think people might enjoy hearing about some of my adventures; most notably my journey to fitness.

Since 2003, I’ve lost 100+ lbs and gone from not being able to take the stairs to eyeing a full marathon next fall. Sure, my story isn’t so uniqure that I should get a lifetime movie – hell, thousands of people have lost weight and turned their lives around. But I like to think that by sharing my journey I may be able to help someone else find the same happiness I’ve found in being healthy. I don’t claim to be perfect (no, I’m too busy stuffing my face with a brownie batter stuffed donut to say anything like that), but that’s the point – you don’t have to be “perfect” to be happy.

So – welcome to my blog! I’ll try my best to be funny, inspirational, or just plain entertaining along the way. And I promise I’ll only write about pizza like once, maybe twice a month.