Michele Joan

Wife, Mother, Blogger & Author

Back on the Wagon – More THM tips

I know, I’ve been MIA for quite some time.   I’ve had this post drafted for some time now but just haven’t had the time to finish it up!   After reviewing my 2014 stats I figured I owed you all something new.   I also know there are probably lots of you out there who have been on and off the wagon with THM so I wanted to share my story so people know you can start over after time off plan and still be successful.

My story in a nutshell – I started THM in May of 2013.  Although I didn’t think I needed it because was already exercising 3-4 times a week and a healthy weight, my friends were raving about it so I thought I’d give it a try.   I am so glad I did – it was the best thing that I have done for myself health-wise!  By September I had lost an additional 10 lbs and was thinner than I had been since high school.  I also felt energized and was eating all healthy and delicious meals.


Summer 2013 – on plan – truly trim & healthy!

In October, I was expecting baby #4 and it all went downhill.  It was my intention to stick to the plan and gain only 20 lbs, but I felt so tired and awful the whole pregnancy and fell into old junky eating habits.  I gained 40 lbs.

Off plan & 36 weeks pregnant

Off plan & 36 weeks pregnant

Three months postpartum I got back into THM.  Although its been a slow ride, I’ve got just 10 more pounds to be back where I started!  It’s my hope to be at goal weight by summer.

Moving on…..While I love trying new recipes, there is nothing worse then spending a lot of time, energy and money and having a flop.  With New Year’s Day here, I’d like to share some recipes I have tried this year that have been huge hits in my house.  I hope this saves you some time and you enjoy them!


This is a deep S for sure, but my husband had a taste for a Wendy’s Baconator – we made burgers with grass fed ground beef (now available at Aldi!!!) topped with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato & mayo on Oopsie rolls

They were amazing!

I love using the crock pot, it makes dinner time so much less stressful!  This is a great recipe for Whole chicken in a crock pot from 100daysofrealfood.com (S)

With the leftover chicken, be sure to try this awesome Chicken Salad from love4coffee.blogspot.com (S)

Another great crockpot recipe is this Shredded Chicken recipe from RhondaSue.com.  It’s a great base and can be used as an FP, S or E.

Another favorite was http://www.alldayidreamaboutfood.com’s Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash (S)  I added diced chicken to it and made it a complete meal.  If you haven’t visited that site yet, I highly recommend it.  Every single recipe I tried was amazing and she’s recently added THM sweet blend substitutions.

This last dinner recipe is a bit involved, but worth the effort.  If you like pork, try Smothered Pork Chops form wellnessmama.com.  Even though my kids know it is a “healthy recipe”, they request it all the time!

Need some tasty side dishes?  Try this Low Carb Tomato Bacon Goat Cheese Tart (S)or this low carb Green Bean Casserole. (S)

To wrap up main dishes, my three favorite oatmeal recipes are these Oatmeal Cupcakes (E), Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal (E) and overnight oatmeal (E)

Drinks & Desserts:

Below I’ve included the links for some uber delicious and healthy drinks and desserts….. If you are going to try just one, make it the peanut butter fudge brownies!!!   Again a bit involved, but worth your time!

Frozen coffee – (S)

Peanut Butter Cup Shake – (S)

Blueberry frozen yogurt – (FP)

Pumpkin cheesecake – (S)

Ice cream – (FP)

Pumpkin ice cream – (S)

Peanut butter fudge brownies – (S)



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Trim Healthy Mama on a Shoestring

chicken blt

Grilled Chicken BLT

As much as I love my Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle, I’ve been spending a ton of money on food over the past four months.  It seemed like I was always running out of something and I was running to the grocery store every day!  Now that I have my fridge and cabinet converted from sugary junk to wholesome foods,  I have really been trying to keep the grocery bill down!  Here is a few ideas that have helped me to stay on budget.

Once a month Wal-Mart trip….

Now I am really trying to only shop once a week and stick on a budget.  On the first week of the month I stock up on Joseph’s pitas, lavash, Dreamfields pasta,  and low carb tortillas and Breyer’s low ice cream!!  I buy as many pitas and lavash breads as they have (usually around 6 of each) and toss them in the freezer. If I run out, I have to figure out something else to use.  Extra trips to the store always seem to cause the budget to explode.  Be creative with what is in your fridge and freezer!

No more weird ingredients…. I try to shop the other weeks only at Aldi and only use what they sell!

Instead of always trying to find a new recipe in the book on online, I have taken many of my old recipes and made slight changes to be THM friendly.  Here are a 7 recent dinners I’ve made that don’t require a single weird ingredient and you can get everything at Aldi and Wal-Mart :

Really Easy Roast (S) – I’ve made it with beef and venison.  Just throw it in the crock pot and season with Montreal Steak Seasoning, pour in one cup of water and top with a sliced onion.  Cook for 8 hours on low.  It was so tender my kids ate the whole thing!!

Tacos (S) – I season low fat ground beef with aldi taco seasoning (3 carbs) and serve in low carb tortillas with lots of veggies.

Chicken BLT Wraps (S) –  Grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, & tomatoes in half a Joseph’s Lavash served with caprese salad on the side (fresh mozarella, tomato and basil).

Chili (E or Crossover) – I use ground turkey to keep it low fat and season with Aldi taco seasoning (yes, I meant to write taco, we like it better than the chili seasoning)  Again it only has 3 carbs.  I use one can black bean and one can chili beans with 2 cans diced tomatoes.

Grilled Chicken Salad (S) – use up all your garden veggies to make a delicious salad!  I top mine with chicken grilled on just a heated pan with Kickin’ Chicken Seasoning from McCormick.  Use less than 3 gms chicken and Wishbone spray for a FP!

Mediterranean Wrap (S) – I used to eat a lot at Noodles and Company restaurant loved their Mediterranean wrap.  This is my own rendition of that recipe:  Grilled chicken breast with diced cucumber and tomato topped with feta cheese in a Joseph’s pita.  Its great all by itself or tossed with balsamic vinagarette.

Ratatouille (FP) – sautee  one onion, one green peppers and a few cloves of garlic until softened in scant amount of coconut oil (just enough so they don’t stick to the pan, but not enough to put you in S territory).  Add in 1 cup eggplant, one cup zucchini, one cup yellow squash and cook until soft.   Add in 2 red tomatoes and 1 yellow tomato and season with basil, parsley, salt and pepper.  I wanted an “E” meal, so I served over dreamfields pasta with one homemade sourdough biscuit on the side.  You can also add a little grilled chicken on top if you’d like some meat in your meal.  Keep it under 3 gms for FP!

Make smoothies ahead of time.

Fresh smoothies are best, but when I am in a rush in the morning sometimes they don’t get made and I give my kids a cup of Greek Yogurt instead.  I’ve been burning through 5 tubs of Greek Yogurt a week and that is really expensive!  I found blending up my kefir into smoothies as soon as I strain my kefir and keeping a pitcher ready to drink in the fridge helps make it more accessible.  With the warm weather I’m getting a batch of kefir every 12 hours, so making quite a lot and also making kefir cheese.

Other Helpful Tips – These are also great social support as well as money saving help:

Form a local THM email group – We have formed a local yahoogroup for our THM friends and share our success stories and favorites.  It’s like a microcosm of the THM FB page but since we are all close friends already can post more private things.  We share recipes, which stores are having sales on THM items, meal plans and other tips.  We have also ordered Joseph’s Pitas and Lavash in bulk.  They cut you a huge discount when you do this and then we just freeze them to have easy access.

Get a THM buddy – I have a wonderful friend here in town that is doing THM with me.  Whenever each of us finds something new we really love, we pick up extra for each other and drop it off.  It started out with me bringing her a little THM starter kit with Joseph’s pitas, glucommanan, stevia, home made sugar free berry syrup.  Since then we’ve swapped  many fun things like Sans Sucre Stevia sweetened brownie mix, True Lemon Drink Mixes, Oolong tea, Steaz stevia sweetened drinks, SOBE drinks and even samples of our favorite homemade dishes.  It’s fun to try new things, surprise your friend with little treats and look forward to what new things you’ll receive.  We also stock up on things we see on sale for each other to save both money and time.

So far, the budget (and my husband) have been much happier!  What are your favorite THM Money Saving Tips?

This post is linked to Gwen’s Nest and Stacy Makes Cents Trim Healthy Tuesday Link up.



Kefir Cheese!

kefircheeseLast year I shared my introduction to fermented foods with learning how to make a homemade drinkable yogurt called Kefir (see my original kefir post here).  Since last summer, its become an staple in our house and I have split my grains with many of my readers to make their own kefir.

Fermented foods are all the rage now, and for good reason.  They are full of probiotics to help improve your overall nutrition, increase healthy intestinal flora and increase immune function to help fight of harmful bacteria and other pathogens. (See more on the benefits of fermented foods here).

Since I know many of my readers are kefir makers, today I’d like to share with you a new discovery of mine, kefir cheese!  I try to make fresh kefir every few days, but some days I don’t have time to strain it, so I toss it into the fridge to halt the fermentation process.  Last week was one of those times.  Then it got forgotten… and a little too thick.  I left it on the counter with the intention of straining out the grains and tossing the kefir, but when I looked at it, the curds and whey had completely separated.  I did a quick google search on how to make kefir cheese and found this great post on Cultured Food Life.  I took my clumpy looking kefir, dumped it over a strainer lined with a coffee filter sitting in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge.  The next morning, a little afraid of what it might taste like (or if I’d give myself food poisoning), I spread it on my toasted sprouted bread…..

It was delicious!!!  So delicious that I made a second batch and have used it in my sandwiches every day now on my Trim Healthy Mama diet.   Its considered an S or FP (thanks to Stacymakescents.com for the clarification!)  Its spreadable like cream cheese and has a tart flavor.  Its so easy to make too!

I’m sharing this post with you today because I have thought in the past that it was just too hard eat healthy, but I want you to know that there are some simple and very healthy things you can do that are very easy!!!   Kefir and kefir cheese are both great things to give to your kids.  My family loves kefir shakes in the morning and now the cheese on their sandwiches.  Its so delicious and the benefits of fermented foods keep you and your family healthy.

The picture above is my breakfast today. Toasted Trader Joe’s sprouted whole wheat bread with kefir cheese, cucumbers and seasoned with Gwen’s Nest’s recipe for Greek Spice Blend. I served it with egg beaters and sauteed yellow crook neck squash for a fresh summery meal.

This post is linked to Gwen’s Nest and Stacy Makes Cents as part of Trim Healthy Tuesdays.

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Summertime Green Bean Salad (S)

greenbeansWith summer gardens in full bloom, I’ve been enjoying lots of delicious fresh picked vegetables thanks to my father-in-law’s huge garden.  With green beans and cucumbers bountiful this time of year, I made this tasty, yet easy green bean salad I thought you might like to try!  It fits on my Trim Healthy Mama diet as an “S” meal.


1 lb fresh green beans, snapped into 1-2 inch long pieces

2 large cucumbers

4 tomatoes, diced

4 shallots diced

1 cup feta cheese

Salt & Pepper to taste

Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (I use aldi brand – 4 gm fat, 2 gm carbs per 2 Tbs)

1 cup sliced almonds


Boil green beans for 8-10 minutes until tender.  Remove from heat, strain and put in ice water to stop the cooking process (this will leave you with some nice, crunchy beans).  Add cucumbers, tomatoes, shallots and feta.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with light balsamic vinaigrette and toss.  Chill for at least one hour or overnight.  Sprinkle almonds on before serving.  Enjoy!

Other great additions to this salad can include walnuts & fresh grated parmesan cheese.  Looking for a full meal?  I added some thinly sliced tuna steak to the top – delicious!!

Summertime Green Bean Salad was first posted at http://www.michelejoan.com

This post is linked to Gwens-nest.com and Stacymakescents.com Trim Healthy Tuesdays Link-up.


Vacationing Trim Healthy Mama Style


Just when I thought summer was going to slow down a bit and we were done traveling, we got a wonderful surprise; we were about to go on the biggest trip yet! My husband called me on a Thursday morning and told me friends of ours graciously offered us a week in their condo on the ocean in Hilton Head, South Carolina that they were unable to use.  The only downside was we had to leave in less than 48 hours!  We couldn’t turn this offer down, but as the queen of planning for our household, I  was really wondering if I could pull of continuing with our new Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle on such short notice!

Once you get accustomed to eating the carb monitoring, no sugar, healthy plan, it gets much easier.  However, going out of your elements on a vacation makes things a little more difficult, especially because one of our favorite things about vacation is going out to eat!

I am so happy to say that the trip was magnificent, one of our favorite vacations.  I think I could have stayed the rest of the summer!  Not only that, but with a little bit of planning, I was able to eat a healthy diet and enjoy myself.  Here is how we did it:

First, make a plan.  Since my husband and I are already at our goal weights, we decided we would stick to the plan strictly during the day, but crossover at night and allow 3 meals of the 24 to be “total cheats”.   My goal was to enjoy ourselves, but not get sick by overindulging!

Second, pack up as much Trim Healthy Mama food as you can.  Since this was a surprise trip, I had just done my weekly grocery shopping.  I packed up 2 coolers with Greek yogurt, eggs, egg substitute, stevia, light cheese wedges, lean lunch meat, Joseph’s Pita and Lavash bread, Trader Joe’s sprouted bread, almond milk, natural peanut butter, tuna, tons of veggies and fruits as well as other plan approved foods.  This made breakfast, snacks and lunch time easy for me.  I loved getting up every morning to enjoy a breakfast like a delicious egg, mushroom and spinach wrap with a cup of hot coffee with heavy whipping cream while sitting on my balcony overlooking the ocean.  After a morning at the pool or beach, I’d return to our room for lunch for a tasty lean turkey sandwich with Greek yogurt and sparkling water.  Dinnertime was the challenge as we went out every evening, but since we were on the ocean, I decided to try different kinds of fish each night.  It was glorious to have shrimp, lobster, crab, mahi mahi, tuna, salmon, mussels, oysters and scallops to enjoy!


Third, when you cheat, you don’t have to go crazy!!  I think in the past when I have dieted, I lived by the philosophy, “Well I’m off the diet, so I might as well enjoy it!”  I would totally pig out and feel so bloated and sick.  This time, I decided on the nights I would allow myself to enjoy the fine dining, I would keep it small.  Just 2 pieces of pizza, a few hushpuppies, or a couple of adult beverages.  I thoroughly enjoyed everthing and did not get sick.

Finally, don’t forget to exercise.  My friend jokingly told me before I left “Exercising on vacation is overrated!”  Before this trip, I totally agreed.  I never understood the people who spent hours on their vacation in the exercise room or running.  I thought vacation meant a break from everything!  However, since I have been seriously exercising 5 days a week, I knew taking a break for over a week would make it tough to start back up.  Since I had just started this new exercise program called “Pretty Fierce Lean Out” by Lindsay Brin of Moms into Fitness, I tossed the 11 DVD set into my bag with some hand weights and hoped for the best.   It was the best decision!  After my tasty THM breakfast, I’d pop in my DVD and get an awesome workout.  I’d feel more energized for the day and was burning tons of extra calories.  I not only enjoyed the trip, but came back with a flatter stomach!

Bottom line, with a little planning, you can have a healthy and enjoyable vacation!

This post is linked up to Gwen’s Nest and Stacymakescents Trim Healthy Mama Tuesday Link Up.


Crockpot Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Ten years ago my husband and I did a mission trip for Mustard Seed Communities, an organization who carew for abandoned, disabled children in Jamaica.  It was a beautiful experience, and while we were there, we had the opportunity to enjoy the traditional local food.  On our “day off” from work, we took a trip to a small island and the staff made us a delicious meal of Jamaican Jerk Chicken.  We fell in love and have been trying to replicate the taste ever since!  When we returned to the states, we searched for the perfect jerk flavor and found it in Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Seasoning


Recently my mom made this delicious crockpot Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe for a party and it was a huge hit!  I was delighted to see that this flavorful seasoning contains zero fat, one carb and zero sugar per 2 tsp, making it a perfect choice for my Trim Healthy Mama diet!  Its so easy with only 2 ingredients and can be a perfect S, E or FP meal depending on how you serve it.  Chicken thighs have 4 grams of fat per 4 ounces, so stay under that for a fuel pull.  Enjoy a little more on a Joseph’s pita for an S meal or serve 4 ounces or less on some quinoa and a delicious E meal is ready to serve!

The super simple recipe:

Layer 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs in bottom of crockpot.

Spread one tsp Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (Hot & Spicy) between the three pieces (its very spicy, so stick to the 1tsp unless you want it really hot!!)

Cook on high for 4 hours.   Shred the chicken and enjoy!

jerk chicken

We ate ours on Joseph’s Pita bread with sauteed onions and peppers.  Super delicious!

This post is linked to Gwen’s Nest and Stacy Makes Cents Trim & Healthy Tuesday Link Up.

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Spinach Salmon

spinach salmon1

This week I’d like to share an old favorite recipe on mine.  I was thrilled when I looked through my recipe box and realized it would work nicely as an “S” meal on the Trim Healthy Mama plan.  It’s become our #2 favorite meal next to the Cheeseburger Quesadillas from Gwens-nest.com

This is a simple recipe that makes a delicious meal to share with others when you are bringing a meal for a new baby, surgery or gathering!

Spinach Salmon


1 Large Salmon Plank (I purchase from Aldi for 6.99)

fresh spinach

roma tomatoes

sweet onion

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

fresh squeezed lemon juice


salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven on 350 degrees.  Place large piece of foil on cookie sheet.  Lay salmon plank on foil.  Season with salt & pepper.  Add thin pats of butter across the plank.  Top with thin sliced roma tomatoes, fresh spinach and sweet onion slices.  Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Cover in foil and tightly wrap the edges to keep in steam.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Cooked Spinach Salmon served with a side salad.

Cooked Spinach Salmon served with a side salad.

Note: This recipe may also be made with individual salmon fillets for a smaller family.  I did a little taste test and made 2 fillets of Alaskan Wild Caught Salmon from Fresh Market (19.99 for 6) and they taste was unbelievable.  If you can afford it, I would highly recommend, but my family still enjoyed the inexpensive salmon from aldi!

Thanks to Gwens-nest and Stacymakescents for the Trim Healthy Mama Tuesday Link Ups!


Crossover Pizza and Mulberry Sauce

I’ll admit it, I’ve become completely obsessed with my new eating plan Trim Healthy Mama (THM) that I shared with you a few weeks ago (read my original post here).  My favorite website to visit for tips, recipes and advice is Gwen’s-Nest, so I have decided to be part of her Trim Healthy Mama Tuesday Link Up!

I have learned how to make this plan a lifestyle change and not just a diet, but my biggest challenge is that clashes with our other obsession – pizza making.  We have a big, beautiful wood fired pizza oven in our backyard which cooks at 800 degrees and makes amazing pizza.

Pizza oven

Last summer, my husband and I spent all summer testing our crust and sauce recipes to make the perfect pizzas.  Once we found it, we became total pizza snobs, as nothing could compare to the delicious, fresh pizzas that come out of our oven in two minutes flat.  However, As the authors of THM, Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison write “The problem with pizza is not the toppings.  It’s the crust!”  Those eating this lifestyle know that combing the good fats of pizza toppings combined with white flour crust is a “weight disaster.”  While THM has several crust recipes in the book, they require a dough too soft or crumbly to put on a peel and toss into the oven.  Many of them need to be put on parchment paper, which would just start on fire if put on an oven floor that hot.  Putting a pan with pizza in the oven defeats the whole purpose (told you I was a pizza snob).  Since my husband and I are both at goal weight now, we researched (and researched) to find some great crossover crust recipes that would fit on this diet.

We came to the conclusion that we would try the Forno Bravo Sprouted Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe.  Forno Bravo is the designer of “The World’s Finest Pizza Ovens and Pizza Oven Kits” so we trusted their recipe would be good.   We used veganically grown One Degree Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour in the above mentioned recipe link and divided into 6 crusts.


We topped it with our favorite sauce recipe (from Thursday Night Pizza, Fr. Dominic’s Favorite Pizza Recipes by Fr. Dominic Garramone), which was our go-to sauce last year and sugar free!!  We added tons of veggies, reduced fat mozzarella cheese, and popped it in the oven.  It slid off the peel with ease (which does not always happen when we try a new crust) and it baked up perfectly!  Not only was it delicious, I figured the math, and it was only 27 carbs for a whole pizza!  Crossover Success!!

Check out the beautiful brown wheat crust!

Check out the beautiful brown wheat crust!

We had the perfect meal planned, and now just needed a dessert.  This time a year, the old nursery rhyme “He We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” has a special meaning as we literally make circles around our neighbors mulberry trees picking this sweet blackberry looking fruit that grows wildly here in Ohio.  My children especially love these tasty little treats that turn their fingers and mouths purple!  (Please don’t take this as advice to pick and eat random berries you see as they may be poisonous, we know for a fact that the trees we pick from are safe to eat).  In past years we’ve just eaten them by the handful, but with so many this year, I decided to use them in Gwen’s Nest Sugar Free Berry Syrup recipe.  This sauce was already a favorite of ours for pancakes and tasted delicious in this new fresh picked flavor.


Mulberry Sauce

So delicious that for my daughter’s birthday party I drizzled it on the THM cheesecake recipe with sprinkles of chocolate nut slab and topped it off with fat free Reddy Whip!  Absolutely awesome!


THM cheesecake with fresh sugar free mulberry sauce, topped with THM chocolate nut slab sprinkes and a squirt of fat free whip cream. Magic coffee brewing in the background!

Who says diets can’t be delicious?


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