Sunday, November 22, 2015

moving on - back to swell challenge #16

When I started The Full Plate Blog six years ago my goal was to combine my personal chef experience/make-ahead meal expertise to help busy moms prepare nutritious meals, quickly and easily. 

Marooned at home while my youngest was napping 2x/day, the blog was a fabulous creative outlet-- a free way of sharing my recipes with friends near and far.

Right from the get-go, this blog gave me a sense of purpose beyond what I viewed as my first priority: being a balanced and happy mom. Then over the years, the blog took off. It won multiple awards (that pat on the back a SAHM rarely gets), garnered a bigger and bigger audience (which was wildly exciting), and offered an opportunity to work with brands I admire (even if it usually was more work...for free).  I became known as "the mom with that food blog". And to a point, that was awesome. Especially at cocktail parties, since I had a quick, cool answer to "what do you do all day?"

But there comes a time when something that was such a big part of your life ceases to fulfill you in the same way that it once did. And you know, deep down, when it's time to move on.

The Back to Swell Challenges I posed this month have amplified my desire to identify what is most important to me as a mom, wife and friend, and invest my time in those areas. When I first started the blog, it seemed I had endless amounts of unstructured time to fill and years to spend with my children, but now I can count on one hand the number of years before my oldest heads to college.

There's a book I read last year, by Greg McKeown, called Essentialism, and the over-arching questions/ideas he poses, have stuck with me:

"Is this the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?"

"Stop celebrating being busy. Focusing on essentials is a choice. Your choice."

"Do less, but better."

"In order to live a life without regret you need to identify what matters and invest your time and energy in that."

"Social media is a burden b/c we always know what others are doing, so the 'shoulds' are amplified."

"If you don't know what the end game is you will waste time trying to look good for other people."

And the kicker:

"Sunk costs/time make it harder to walk away and focus on the present." 


As my boys have grown, I've grown alongside them. I have come to appreciate that nourishing my family also means setting the example of being a parent that takes the time to nourish herself-- of course by preparing delicious meals to share-- but also by prioritizing how I spend my free hours.  

There is no "good time" to stop blogging. I could always come up with a reason why I should keep it going. But now is as good a time as any for me to relish the blog's success and make a conscious decision to be more present in my off-line life.

And so, I am embarking on Back to Swell Challenge #16: 

Leave the party while you’re still having fun.

I hope you have enjoyed our time together. I wish you and your family a healthy, happy and peaceful holiday season together.
Cheers to what's next.
    - Eila

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Back to Swell Challenges #11-15

I hope that each of you took a little time out of your busy schedule and relished the five Back-to-Swell Challenges proposed last week.

I hope your walks were long,

your to-do list is now a little shorter,

and that you enjoyed a dinner either made ahead, or made by someone else.

I hope your bath was relaxing,

and that whatever you chose to do for yourself on Friday brought you a smile.

Congratulations to the two back-to-swell challenge winners last week, Ally D. and Leslie T., who took the challenge to pencil in exercise daily, and motivated their friends to prioritize it alongside them. We have one more week of challenges to relish before we head into Thanksgiving.

With the tragedies in Paris so fresh, all of the moms I have spoken with this weekend feel this heavy sense of, "why?". It seems important to fill this week ahead with something we can control-- kindness, both to ourselves, and those around us. So, with that in mind, here are the challenges for the week ahead:

Monday, Challenge #11 - Plan a family dinner. In the same vein of penciling in walks last week, look at the week ahead and find at least one night when you can gather as a family. The power of family dinners should not be underestimated.

Tuesday, Challenge #12 - Prepare for the feast. Plan now, so that you can be present and relaxed next week. No one wants a stressed out mom. Here is how I have prepped and enjoyed the feast in year's past.

Wednesday, Challenge #13 - Make a big pot of soup, and share some with another family. Soups are easy to make in bulk, and have the power to nourish. Imagine how excited you would be to receive a container of homemade soup.... Here are a few of my favorite easy soup recipes if you're looking for inspiration:

Thursday, Challenge #14 - Spend an hour organizing one area of your home and help some in need. I will leave the area that needs attention and the receiving donor up to you, but I am planning on doubling up on two areas and recipients:
  • Going through our closets and gathering warm clothing my children have outgrown, or that my husband and I don't wear often, to give to Person to Person, a local agency that helps families with limited resources, and/or who are going through a rough patch.
  • Organizing our pantry and gathering up staples that my children can bring to the food drive at their school.   

Friday, Challenge #15 - Make a plan to meet a friend for a walk or coffee/tea, and share a copy of a book you've recently read and enjoyed. Look on your bookshelf for a book that's uplifted you, or inspired you, and pass it along to a friend who would enjoy it.

I look forward to hearing about how you tackle this week's five challenges--  including the soups you make, the areas you tidy, the people you help, and the books you pass along. To be a part of the drawing for this final week's "birthday presents", you may leave comments on the daily Facebook challenge post, or tag @swellmom and use the #backtoswell hashtag on Instagram.

Just joining us now? You can read about the first ten weekday challenges here:
Challenge #1
Challenge #2
Challenge #3 
Challenge #5 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Back to Swell Challenges #6-10

I was asked to queue the weekly challenges up ahead of time so you all could plan, which plays in nicely with Monday's Challenge #6: Pencil in time every day this week to go for a walk or exercise. As in, make it an appointment that is as important and non-negotiable as everything else in your busy schedule. I recommend doing this on Monday morning, just as soon as the school bus has rumbled away.

Tuesday Challenge #7: Cross something off your to-do list. What you choose is up to you. For me, it's ordering holiday cards now, while they're on sale (bonus!), so they'll arrive before the holiday rush. This way I can leisurely address them during free pockets of time, and it becomes more of a fun activity than "something I have to find time to do" during the busy holiday season.

Wednesday Challenge #8: Let someone else make dinner. Pull something from your freezer stash, or find some healthy, delicious take-out place near you. Put your feet up and enjoy a bonus hour!

Thursday Challenge #9: Take a detox bath. After all of these long walks, your body will thank you. Simply add the following to your bath water: 2 cups of epsom salts + 1/2 cup baking powder + 10 drops of essential oil to your running bath water. Enjoy a 20+ minute soak. My favorite essential oils are lavender (when I need calming) and grapefruit (when I want uplifting).

Friday Challenge #10: Block out 1-hour to do something nice for yourself.  Enter the weekend recharged and refreshed. You choose what's going to be most enjoyable, and where you'll get the biggest bang for your buck. Is it meeting a friend for coffee? Finding a quiet spot to read that new book? Going for a mani/pedi? Carve out some time for yourself.

I hope you are all enjoying these challenges as much as I am. I'm loving the ideas you all are sharing on Instagram and Facebook. The "birthday present" winners from last week's challenges are Maria S. and Kristen B, who will excitedly be receiving an assortment of tea and cookies from yours truly. Who will be the winners next week? We shall see! Keep the pics and comments coming.

Just joining us now? Get "Back to Swell" with us:
Challenge #1
Challenge #2
Challenge #3 
Challenge #5 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Back to Swell Challenge #5: create bonus hours for yourself

Just joining us now? Get "Back to Swell" with us:
Challenge #1
Challenge #2
Challenge #3 

Back to Swell Challenge #5 is to make at least one recipe this weekend that will freeze beautifully, and be at the ready for busy nights ahead.

Part of the reason I am able to spend time taking care of myself this month is because I've gotten a jump start on family dinners. Family dinners are something that is really important to me, but I don't have the time-- or interest-- to cook dinner every night. So, what I do is spend a little time here and there cooking in bulk, and then I stock our freezer with homemade meals that I can pull out on busy days.

Not sure what freezes well? Here are a few fabulous, freezer-friendly Fall and Winter recipes:

To simplify cooking ahead, I also put together two instantly downloadable ebooks for those who really want to create a stash of homemade goodness. In order to make these as accessible as can be,
as a special treat to all of you doing the Back to Swell Challenge, I am offering a bundle of both ebooks, two for the price of one! Please note that you must purchase the bundle through the red button below in order to get this limited-time Back to Swell Challenge discount:

The Original Stock Your Freezer in a Snap ebook included shopping lists, recipes, packaging recommendations and reheating instructions for Zucchini-Carrot Fritters, Baked Taquitos, Creamy Pot Pies, Easy Lasagna, an Enchilada Casserole, Mediterranean Beef Stew, my Go-To Turkey Chili, Oven-Baked Meatballs, Power Pesto, Sloppy Joe's, Posole Stew, and Tahini-Flax Chicken Parm. More info on this ebook can be found here. (Or purchase it above to get the Challenge discount.)

The Second Batch of Stock Your Freezer in a Snap focuses on some of my family's favorite gluten-free and vegetarian recipes, and more info on that ebook can be found here. The shopping lists, recipes, reheating instructions, packaging recs, and step by step photos include: Mediterranean Stuffed Shells, Lentil-Sweet Potato Stew, Stratas, Roasted Carrot-Cashew Pesto, a Polenta Casserole, Loaded Veggie Enchiladas, Calzones, Broccoli-Arugula-Parmesan Pesto, Cheese and Chard Twice Baked Potatoes, Greek Stuffed Peppers, Black Bean Fiesta Soup, and a Red Coconut Curry.

Once you've selected the recipe(s) you're going to make this weekend, leave a comment below to be entered in this week's drawing for a little "birthday" present. Two more options for bonus entries: take a pic of your freezer-friendly recipe and tag @swellmom, using the hashtag #backtoswell on Instagram, and/or leave a comment on the daily challenge post over on the FB page.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Back to Swell Challenge #4: cup of tea

Back to Swell Challenge #4 is to hit the pause button and enjoy a cup of tea

Steal a moment of quiet at home, or meet a friend out for a cup of tea. Your choice.

I don't know about you, but I need gentle reminders to stay hydrated. In the chillier months, I try to keep a stash of herb teas at the ready, since I find that one of the most enjoyable ways to get half my weight of water, in ounces, down the hatch. These are a few of my current favorites:

What are your favorite teas? Leave a comment below letting me know if there are any great ones I should try and you'll be entered in this week's drawing for a "birthday" present. Two more options for bonus entries: take a pic of your quiet moment, tag @swellmom, and use the hashtag #backtoswell on Instagram, and/or leave a comment on the daily challenge post over on the FB page.

Just joining us now? Get "Back to Swell" with us:
Challenge #1
Challenge #2
Challenge #3 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Back to Swell Challenge #3: make a plan to meet a friend for a walk

This post contains affiliate links.

Challenge #3 is to make a plan to meet a friend for a walk on 
either Wednesday, Thursday and/or Friday of this week

Once you've asked a friend and have a plan, leave a comment below to be entered in this week's drawing for a "birthday" present. Two more options for bonus entries: take a pic of you and your friend out walking, use the hastag #backtoswell and tag @swellmom on Instagram, and/or leave a comment on the daily challenge post over on the FB page.

If we pass out on our walks, please introduce yourself!

Just joining the Back to Swell Challenge now:
Challenge #1: get outside
Challenge #2: pick a book

For Challenge #2, I went for a long walk with my friend, Dawn, from No Kidding Nutrition, and picked two books (overachiever that I am, ha). I went to our local bookstore to peruse their recs, picking out what promises to be a light, fun read by foodie legend, Ruth Reichl, but they didn't have the second title I'd been wanting to read so I bought one locally and ordered the other off Amazon. Here are my amazon affiliate links for both books, in case they've piqued your interest:
Ruth Reichl's "Delicious" 
Rachel Macy Stafford's "Hands Free Life"

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Back to Swell Challenge #2: pick a book

Back to Swell Challenge #2: keep up with your :30 walk outside, and pick a book you're going to read in November

Hope everyone had a fabulous walk yesterday! Sometime just pulling myself away from the laundry, computer and errands, even if just for :30, makes a total difference. I thoroughly enjoyed a long hoof around town yesterday with a dear college friend, and today I am meeting up with my friend, Dawn, who runs No Kidding Nutrition.

As for the book, I can't wait to cull through the stack on my bedside table or treat myself to a new book from our bookstore in town.

Don't think you have enough quiet minutes in your day to actually read this month? Here's another option: a friend recently turned me on to Overdrive, which allows me to check out audio books from my local library, download them to my iphone, and listen to them as I walk. Awesome.

Once you've selected the book you're going to read and gone for your walk, leave a comment below to be entered in this week's drawing for a "birthday" present. Bonus entry if you show me you're also keeping Challenge #1 up. Two more options for bonus entries: take a pic of your book, hashtag it #backtoswell and tag @swellmom on Instagram, and/or leave a comment on the daily challenge post over on the FB page.

Just joining me? Here's the scoop on the November Back to Swell Challenge.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November "Back to Swell" Challenge

Today is the first Monday in November, which also happens to be my birthday month. So, for these first few weeks, I have fifteen special challenge for myself-- and any of you who would like to join me. {Yes, there will be parties and presents involved!}

Rather than get caught up in the frenzy of upcoming holidays, or wallowing in the grays that keep springing out of my head, I'm putting a little spring in my step, and making the first half of November a "Back To Swell" Challenge. I'd love for all of you busy moms to join me.

Here's how it will work:
  • There will be 15 Back-to-Swell Challenges posted here on the blog between now - November 20th. If you complete the challenge, leave a comment on that blog post, post a pic of you doing the challenge using the #backtoswell hashtag and tag @swellmom on Instagram and/or leave a comment on that day's Challenge on the Meals in a Snap Facebook page.
  • I will randomly award a few little "birthday presents" to those moms who are getting themselves Back to Swell. Win-win-- not only will you be taking even better care of yourself, you'll also have a chance to win a little pressie. 

Let's begin!

The Challenge for Monday, November 2 is to take a walk outside for at least :30 minutes.

Remember, comment below once you've done it. Tag a pic of your walk on Instagram #backtoswell or show me a pic from your walk on the Day 1 Challenge over on the Facebook page. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

smoothie: chocolate-banana

This has become our go-to after school snack. A sweet treat full of nourishing ingredients to power the kids until dinnertime.

Chocolate-Banana Shake
(make about 4 cups)

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2-4 pitted Medjool dates (to sweeten)
  • 2-4 heaping Tablespoons nut butter (I tend to use almond)
  • 3-4 cups almond milk (or other non-dairy or dairy milk, of choice; our favorite is Calafia coconut-almond milk)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (or you could use a scoop of chocolate protein powder, if you have one you like)
Combine everything in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Store any leftovers in the fridge and simply shake or whisk before serving if the smoothie separates. 

smoothie: probiotic berry-banana

A favorite before school breakfast, or after school snack. 

Probiotic Berry-Banana Smoothie
(makes about 4 cups)

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups kefir (sweetened or unsweetened, plain or flavored, your choice)
  • 1 cup non-dairy or dairy milk (I usually use hemp or almond milk)
  • 1 cup organic strawberries (or mixed berries)
  • optional - 2-4 pitted dates to sweeten

Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender. Blend until smooth. Store any leftovers in the fridge, and simply shake or whisk before serving if the smoothie separates.