Five Quick & Clean Meals to Get You Through the Work Week Grind

There are some nights where I can’t wait to get home, light some candles, put on a good playlist (or Grey’s episode on my iPad), and setup shop in the kitchen to put together a leisure & awesome meal. However, there are those nights where my heels are off halfway through the front door, I’m beat to shreds from what the day has thrown at me, and the last thing I feel like doing is standing over a stove top to make dinner.

While I do love to cook, trust me when I say that I get how hard it is to get home after one of those days and put together a good meal, much less make it healthy and clean. It can be way too easy to just get takeout and call it a night. However, with learning the ins-and-outs of keto and clean eating in general, I have a handful of meals that have really become my tried-and-true’s, that I know are always delicious, diet-friendly, quick, and satisfying. I wanted to gather those in one place, not only as a reference to myself (must.stop.picking.up.Zoës.Kitchen.takeout), but to of course share with you all in hopes that the work-week struggle becomes a little less daunting. These meals save my waistline, my time, and my wallet. And are delicious whether you’re on keto or not.

My go-to’s all use pretty similar ingredients, and all are easy stove top/oven meals that make for max flavor and min time and effort. I keep most all ingredients to these items on hand at all times, most being from Trader Joes. Here are a few of my favorites:


The Basics

Protein

My usual picks are – Chicken Breasts (Trader Joes has great boneless/skinless chicken breast bags in the frozen section), Ground Beef, Lean Pork Chops, Tilapia/Mahi (I personally do not like Salmon but wish I did!), Shrimp, Sirloin Steak, Burger Patties (Again, I stock up from TJ’s with the frozen grassfed beef patties)

Veggies

Cauliflower (I go with bags of organic riced cauliflower and keep a ton on hand, at all times. and mildly freak out (slash break keto) when I run out), White or Baby Bella mushrooms, Cabbage, Spinach, Brussel Sprouts (again, bags of the frozen TJ’s ones), Broccoli, Zucchini, Spaghetti Squash, Onions, and Garlic

go seasonal – stock up on veggies in season (and usually well priced & easily available)

Fats

Avocado/Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Kerrygold Grassfed Butter, Cheeses of choice, Sour Cream, Cream Cheese, HWC


Now, I won’t even go as far as to call these recipes, because they are as simple as my favorite combinations of the above ingredients along with whatever I have on hand and feel like throwing in. While my version on these is low carb, high fat/keto based, many of these dishes can be altered to fit your tastes/diet. Leave out the dairy and up your veggies if you’re Whole 30/Dairy Free, use beans/veggies in place of meat if your vegetarian, use olive oil instead of kerrygold if you’re not LCHF/Keto, etc. These make great quick dinners; make extra for easy meal-prep for lunch the next day!

The Go-To’s

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Chicken & Mushroom Cauliflower Rice Risotto

Sauté riced cauliflower, garlic, and mushrooms in kerrygold (add chicken stock for extra flavor), add a little cream cheese once cooked, top with a chicken breast or slice up chicken and add in. Easily sub in lean pork chops here for an equally great flavor combo. Top with green onions or parsley if you like.

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Blackened Tilapia or Mahi with Garlic Parmesan Asparagus

Bake asparagus topped with olive oil, garlic (I slice thinly instead of dice to leave nice roasted pieces), salt + pepper, Parmesan. Use blackened seasoning on tilapia/mahi filets (or garlic/lemon/butter) and cook stove top while your asparagus is finishing up.

Chicken Cauli Rice Stir Fry

Chicken or Steak Stir Fry

Two easy ways to prep this: for more “fried rice” based, sauté riced cauliflower and veggies you have on hand in avocado oil, add in sliced chicken and add a liberal drizzle of liquid aminos. pan fry until incorporated. For more veggie based, slice up + sauté cabbage, onions, carrots (omit if you’re strict keto), and any veggies you have on hand with protein of choice. Add in liquid amminos + sriracha if you’re feeling spicy!

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Cheesy Garlic Butter Spaghetti Squash

Pasta lovers rejoice, because this dish always kills my pasta cravings. Slice spaghetti squash in half, scoop out seeds and drizzle in avocado oil. Bake until done, use fork to shred inside, add in kerrygold, garlic, salt + pepper and cheese of choice (shredded cheddar for more mac + cheese vibes, shredded Italian blend for a more traditional pasta feel), and stick back in the oven until brown. Can easily be built upon: add tomato sauce and pepperoni, add ricotta and spinach, add chicken etc. I like to use the small spaghetti squash because it creates the perfect portion + fits right into Tupperware for lunch the next day.

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Protein Burrito Bowls over Cauliflower Rice

Sauté cauliflower rice (add in scallions/cilantro and a squeeze of lime for more flavor), and layer Chicken/Steak/meat of your choice over top with cheese, sliced avocado or guac, lettuce, onions, tomato, any veggies you like! Top with hot sauce/salsa/dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and you’re good to go! Homemade guac gives this a chipotle-but-better vibe.


As you probably noticed, the pictures above aren’t plated super fancy, and are in Tupperware or even paper plates, with photos snagged from my Instagram stories. These meals truly are the quick go-to’s that keep you on track and *sane* while on Keto. I genuinely enjoy cooking, and am living proof that frequency in the kitchen does equal some pretty enviable home-chef skills. It’s not about spending hours upon hours slaving over a complex meal, its about making the most of your time (even if it’s 20 minutes) to be intentional in what ingredients you’re using, how you’re prepping them, and how you’re pulling it all together. Cooking can (and in my opinion should) be a creative & personal craft, and you’ll never know your style and potential if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone and experiment a little! It’s okay to try new things and not have them turn out the best; you learn from it!

The more you try to make new things, the more confident you become in making great meals (without a recipe or sometimes even an idea of what you’re making). Even if you’re a picky eater, chances are you can figure out a way to make things that completely suit your tastes. I used to think I hated mushrooms, but I’m telling you…I can make some damn good mushrooms now, and they’re basically a staple item for our mostly keto household.

I’d love to hear some of your go-to meals or if you’re a fan of any of the above! If you’d like to see an actual recipe for any of these or have questions, please feel free to let me know! Hope these help you stick to cutting out the grains & sugars and show just how easy it can be sometimes!

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Festival of Beauty: The March Play! by Sephora Box

Happy April y’all! So far 2018 is flying but I am just so happy we are *almost* out of the dreary, cold, grey weather that is an Atlanta Winter/Early Spring…Maybe it’s my inner Floridian, but I need sunshine, pool days, lake weekends, beach trips, and tan lines to be my happiest and i’m crossing my fingers sunny days are up ahead soon!

Earlier this week I posted the first of my Play! box reviews for the month of February , so I wanted to dive right in to my March box – full of Festival-friendly multi-benefit products to help you look your best with minimal effort.

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  1. Sephora Collection Cream Lip Stain Liquid Lipstick in 35 Bohemian Purple (Full Size: $14): Described as a “Silky lip stain in a wearable purple shade that doesn’t require reapplication”, the consistency on this Sephora lipstick is pretty impressive. At first glance I wasn’t super thrilled with the shade, as I’m not big on purple…however, upon applying this was surprisingly wearable as described and perfect for the festival theme this month. This shade would be GORGEOUS on darker skin tones or very fair, porcelain skin IMO. While I won’t be reaching for this for an everyday, office appropriate look, it’s perfect for a spunky night out and would be so fun to play up for a festival look. I’ve tried quite a few lip products from the Sephora line, and for the price point they have all been pretty nice!
  2. Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector (Full Size: $38): Described as “Mattefying primer that minimizes the look of pores and makes your look last”, my initial thoughts on this primer were not positive…upon applying it felt tacky and thick on my face, and hard to distribute compared to other primers I’ve used. However, after a few seconds of drying and applying my foundation, I have to say I really love the final look. This primer does a great job at fully covering your skin texture to create an even, smooth base, and MAN did my makeup look good even at the end of the day. This helped to control my oil-prone t-zone, even well into the afternoon where I’m typically a melty-mess if I don’t blot or reapply. While I do think it’s a bit heavy and thick and prefer more breathable primers, it did work really well. I’ll definitely be reaching for this for long days where I go straight from work to a Braves game and don’t have time to redo my makeup, or for weekends where we spend all day out on the belt line (aka the best days).
  3. IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Illumination Full Coverage Anti-Aging Waterproof Concealer (Full Size: $24): I had high, high hopes for this “Waterproof under-eye concealer that provides anti-aging benefits” simply because I love all other IT Cosmetics products I have tried thus far, however FAIR WARNING on this concealer…use a tiny amount and work your way up if need be. Upon trying for the first time earlier this week, I applied entirely too much (applying how I typically use concealers in my under-eye area) and was left with a cakey, thick mess. I could not wait to wash this off by the end of the day and felt like I had a rubber mask on all day. The texture is extremely thick and latex-y feeling, and it is extremely full coverage. This is also not a matte concealer, as it does have some illuminating features that on my skin looked super oily. I do think this would be a good product for mature skin that runs more on the dry side, and if you’re looking for a very full coverage. I personally favor concealers that feel lightweight and breathable, but still have full coverage (cue Shapetape), so this was a big miss for my skin type. However…for the purpose of this box, this concealer definitely would do the trick of covering up tired (and possibly hungover, no judgement here) festival eyes from the night before.
  4. IGK Mistress Hydrating Hair Balm (Full Size: $29): Upon first trying this “Nourishing leave-in balm that boosts your hair’s hydration for frizz-free style”, I didn’t quite have noticeable results in my hair while still wet. I used this after using this months bonus item (below), and the combination of the two left my hair feeling weighed down and greasy, even right out of the shower. The combination of both products did feel very moisturizing, but left my hair super flat and oily. I really couldn’t do anything with my hair other than flat iron super straight, as it was so weighed down. Typically I can go a few days after washing with dry shampoo to get more life out of my style, however after a day I couldn’t stand how greasy and heavy my hair felt and had to re-wash. I may try again after using a purple shampoo which typically is more drying, but overall wasn’t impressed.
  5. Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 (Full Size: $39): This “Concealing, sun-protecting beauty balm that brightens and smooths skin” felt great upon application and made my skin look super radiant and healthy. The SPF is not noticeable at all  fragrance wise or texture wise (which typically is a turn off for me using SPF products), so this is a great multi-benefit product that you can apply quickly and easily and be on your way. I’ll need to give it a few more tries to decide if I would buy this on my own, but I can totally see this being a great gym-bag addition for active mornings when you’re short on time, or on tropical low-key trips where you’re going minimal on makeup. This and some mascara would make for a perfectly protected, fresh face.

This Month’s Bonus: Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Shampoo & Conditioner (Full Size: Shampoo $31; Conditioner $34): I really, really wanted to love this duo. This was my first time trying Bumble & Bumble product, and after all the hype I was excited to finally try for myself. Fun Fact: Shampoo & Conditioner are kind of the last product category out there that I really do not splurge on. My hair does well with so many brands that can be found at target/drugstore etc that I don’t even browse Sephora/Ulta or my salon for higher end Shampoo and Conditioner. I am totally open to trying new lines and would be down to spend $30-ish a bottle if I really saw a reason to (like, a big, big reason to), but so far I haven’t found anything worth the difference… including this Invisible Oil line from B+B. Between this and the IGK balm mentioned earlier, my hair was way too weighed down and oily feeling, even through heat styling and a touch of dry shampoo. Maybe one day I’ll find a shampoo and conditioner that change my mind on this, but for now I’m sticking to $10-ish a bottle straight into my Target cart. (Want to know my drugstore favorites for shampoo/conditioner/hair products? DM me or drop a comment below to let me know!)

March Total: $209

IMG_3919This month’s bag was also super cute, and a perfect stretchy material to hold your small items in a weekend bag or gym bag. I use these around the house to store my sample sized items, and for more costume-jewelry pieces that don’t necessarily need to crowd my jewelry box. Does anyone else have a ton of costume jewelry that you just can’t part with? I have so many pieces that I would never wear out in public but have the hardest time parting with…eek!

Overall while I wasn’t blown away by the products in the March box and many of the items didn’t work well for my skin/hair type, I was still happy with the assortment, brands, and products so I could try for myself. Many of these items have caught my eye in Sephora and I’m glad I didn’t get stuck with a full size item that I wasn’t crazy about! Many of these products were very full coverage, heavy, one step products that I found to be not breathable at all, which I don’t like even for a regular day much less out in the sun at a festival.

I just got my sneak peak for April’s box and will be reviewing as soon as it hits my mailbox. As always, drop any questions you have on the products above down below!

xo,

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Feel the Love: The February Play! by Sephora Box

Subscription boxes have become so popular over the past few years, expanding into almost every category imaginable (treats for your face, your belly, your pets, your workout bag, you name it!). It’s so easy to see why the concept is so popular – what could be better than a “surprise” box full of little goodies of brands you love, or new things to discover…from you, to you! Regardless of what category, it’s a great way to try new product without feeling wasteful, and my favorite…to have travel sized items ready for your next trip!

On the same note, it can be frustrating when the samples you do receive are way offtrack from your preferences, or so tiny that it’s borderline comical (anyone else get the mini-eyebrow pencils that are so small you can barely grip them between your fingers, much less fill in both brows with it?) I’m definitely a fan of subscription boxes, but have had my fair share of misses too.

I recently switched from Birchbox to Sephora’s new monthly program called Play!, because I honestly found myself losing or not using most of the products that Birchbox sent (a girl can only have so many mini-perfume vial’s before going insane). February was my first month with Play! and I was super happy with everything I got, and actually have used all of the items over the past month instead of trying once and never touching it again.

I was so happy with the assortment that I thought it’d be fun to review what I get in my Play! box each month and share new finds (that are actually worth buying the full size of!). I will also link the full size products in my review, along with the price point on each, to make shopping easy (yo’ welcome 😉 ) and see how much each box would cost if buying full sized products.

Before I dive in to February’s products, here is a little overview of the program for those of you who are unfamiliar. And, as all content on the blog unless otherwise stated, this is solely my opinion and not influenced by sponsorship in any way. These are just my thoughts and how things worked for me; to each their own and I’ll always give it to you guys straight! 🙂

PLAY! is a beauty subscription box that is shipped once a month to you, for $10 per month (and billed monthly). We all know Sephora’s product and line assortment is stellar, so right off the bat I felt I would be happier with this subscription box because I knew the brands would be more familiar to me. Each month you’ll receive five trial-sized samples (plus a bonus product), packaged in a cute drawstring bag that correlates with that month’s theme. I personally find the bags more practical than the boxes from Birchbox, so I liked that aspect as well. Upon signing up for Play!, you will complete a short questionnaire to identify your skin type, tone, and beauty preferences, which Sephora then uses to help customize the shades/product that are sent.

You also receive a Play! Pass with each box, which gets you 50 bonus Beauty Insider points when you bring in store…which just means more free product! There are also cute features like Play! dates, which are subscriber only events hosted in store, and exclusive video how-to’s on the product you receive. Overall it’s a really straight-forward program with some great benefits, but my favorite part so far is the quality of product you get for just $10. The idea of subscription boxes are to discover product you actually want to buy the full size of, and I can absolutely see myself doing so with Play!

February’s box was themed around Valentine’s Day/Galentine’s Day and was super cute! The bag came with a cute themed-card that had beauty inspired Valentines Day cards you can give out to your girlfriends, and had the following product inside:

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Image courtesy of Sephora.com

  1. Sephora Collection Ultra Shine Lip Gel in Perfect Nude (Full Size: $12): Described on the site as “Nude lip gloss that makes lips look fuller with its light-reflecting formula”, this gloss definitely lives up to the hype. I just recently started to wear gloss occasionally again, as I’m pretty loyal to matte lips, but that’s what’s great about subscription boxes…trying products out of your typical wheelhouse to discover things that might work great for you. This gloss isn’t sticky, would compliment a vast-array of skin tones, has a great applicator, and really does make your lips look more full and pouty. A great staple-gloss to layer over color or wear solo.
  2. Make Up For Ever Artist Rouge Lipstick in M-500 – Wine Violet (Full Size: $22): Described as a “silky, high-pigmented lipstick in a deep wine shade with a matte finish”, this Make Up For Ever lipstick is so nice! This vampy shade is actually so wearable, and feel you can tone this down by blotting for a more subtle daytime look, or amp it up with a lip liner for nighttime. While I probably won’t be reaching for this every day, the mini size is perfect to have on hand. I wore alone for a night out and even just one coat lasted through our Thai dinner date..so it’s a winner in my book.
  3. Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara (Full Size: $23): What can I say about this cult-favorite mascara that hasn’t already been said? Described as the “fan-favorite mascara that volumizes and separates lashes with its unique wand”, this mascara is definitely a classic worth a try. I love having mini-tubes of these sample mascaras on hand because I keep them everywhere (one in my desk, one in my car, one in my bag), and recommend this mascara to anyone who hasn’t tried yet. Sephora always has the mini-sized tubes towards the front of the register, which is a great option if you want to try before you buy the big tube (mini’s are $12). While this isn’t my everyday go to and I do find it tends to be a bit flaky throughout the day on me, it’s worth a try because it seems to work a little differently on everyone.
  4. First Aid Beauty Ginger & Tumeric Vitamin C Jelly Mask (Full Size: $32): A “Jelly mask packed with Ginger and Tumeric to soothe and brighten Skin”, this Jelly Mask was selected for my skin type by Play!. I was completely unfamiliar with this line and product, but absolutely LOVED it as soon as I tried it! My skin always runs hot and my face carries some redness, so the Jelly texture immediately felt so good as I applied and instantly helped to soothe my skin and brighten up my overall tone. I will definitely be buying the full size of this baby once my sample is out! (but for reference, think this sample size will get me quite a few applications, which is so nice!) This product was perfect for my specific skin concerns and I thought Sephora hit it out of the park using the info I provided.
  5. Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Peeling Gel (Full Size: $48): Another product selected for my skin concern, this “Exfoliating gel that uses fruit enzymes to reveal bright, glowing skin” is unlike any product I have ever used before! You apply to clean, dry skin, and in circular motions the product helps to lift dead skin cells to smooth and brighten the surface of your skin. As I applied I was so surprised at how quickly the peel was lifting and was honestly a little freaked out at first (is this stuff taking off my skin? Am I going to have a face when this bad-boy is over with??), but after finishing and rinsing I was blown away at how clear and fresh my face looked. I did originally think a lot of what was “peeling” was the product itself…remember in grade school when you would put glue in your hands just to rub it off? That’s honestly what this reminded me of. However, after trying several more times and reading other reviews online, I realized it really is exfoliating your skin and not just balling up on itself. I think this would be a great product for mature skin as well – and read that men love this product to help with shaving/ingrown hairs on their face! (Hubs – if you’ve made it this far into reading this, be ready to try this tonight).

Monthly Bonus:

Philosophy Amazing Grace Fragrance (Rollerball: $20): Fragrance is such a personalized thing to me, so it’s pretty rare when I really click with a sample I receive. I’ve used other Amazing Grace products by Philosophy and while I like this scent in bath/body products, I’m personally not a fan of this as a perfume. I am so insanely loyal to Chanel Chance (which I’ve been wearing since High School), and am still awaiting the day when I find something that suits me better. Sorry Philosophy, Amazing Grace just ain’t it!

February Total: $157!

Granted, that would be for full size of each product, but most of these samples are sized for a few applications at minimum, rather than just one-time trial sizes. So far, I’m super impressed with the value of Play! and can’t wait to share my future boxes! Going forward, I’ll be sure to include some photos as well…so be on the look out for my March review coming soon.

 Do any of you have Play!, and if so what do you think? Anyone prefer Birchbox, ipsy, or another Beauty box? Drop a comment below to let me know, or if you have questions on any of the February items above!

xo,

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