One pot zucchini noodles

I have become mildly obsessed with my spiralizer. I’ve used it to make several things, but I think my favorite creation is “zoodles” aka zucchini noodles. They are so easy! Plus they are a delicious and healthy alternative to standard noodles. If you are like me and looking for way to cut out more of those tempting carbs, this is a fantastic option. It’s not quite like noodles but the texture and feel when eating them is very similar, plus you get the added benefit of tasty zucchini. My husband loves it and asks me to make it, which is honestly the biggest compliment I can give the dish as he tends to be pickier and slightly more wary of “weird” foods than I am. This is my version of one way a coworker told me she likes to make zoodles. I make it as a one pot meal, but if you want to be fancy about it you could brown the meat separate from the vegetables. I just like an easy meal – I’ve made it both as a one pot and browning them separately and honestly there is little difference. So in the spirit of keeping healthy options simple, here is a step by step one pot option. This will serve roughly 4 people. (Although I like to make it as dinner for 2 then reheat it for lunch for the next few days. Your call)


– 1 package of fully cooked sausage (I prefer chicken sausage. H-E-B makes a wonderful natural artichoke and parmesan chicken sausage that goes great with this recipe)

– 4 zucchini

– 1 sweet onion

– 2 green bell peppers

– 2 cloves minced garlic (I always have a jar in the fridge, garlic fanatic here)

– Oil, preferably coconut oil (I prefer the coconut spray oil… once again very convenient)

You will need a spiralizer – there are a ton of options out there. I love this one I got from Bed Bath and Beyond, the hand crank helps make sure your fingers are protected:


I like a super thin zoodle, so if you have multiple settings I recommend the smallest cut. Here you can see it collect at the bottom of the spiralizer:


I cut the ends off the zucchini so they are flat, then I halve them so they fit easily into the spiralizer.


I spiralize all the zucchini and put that aside. I chop the onion and the bell peppers, also putting that to the side. Finally, I slice the sausage.

prepped ingredients

Once I have all the ingredients cut and ready, I put a pot on the stove and spray it with my coconut oil (If you are using standard oil, just pour in about a tablespoon or more into the pot and swirl to coat). I then add the chopped onion and peppers and cook them for about 5 minutes on medium high heat until they start to become translucent. At that point, I add the minced garlic and the sliced sausage.

One pot

I continue to cook at medium high heat for about 5 more minutes. I usually end up turning the heat up high and brown it for another couple of minutes – be careful to keep an eye on it so nothing burns, and you just get nice browned edges on your onions and sausage.

browned meat and veggies

Once the mixture is browned to your liking, turn the temperature back down around medium or medium high and add the zoodles. Stir those in with the browned meat and veggies. The zoodles warm and cook pretty quickly – within 3-5 minutes. Zucchini tends to sweat out a lot of moisture as it cooks, so make sure you keep stirring this while it’s on the stove to coat.

That’s it. It’s really easy – basically the only time consuming part is chopping veggies and spiralizing which really takes no time.


You might want to add other vegetables to this, or a different meat, or no meat at all — really the sky is the limit. I personally feel like there is a lot of moisture produced by the zucchini so I don’t think a sauce is necessary. For me, the moisture mixing with the flavors of whatever else you have in there, which then coats the zucchini noodles is more than enough. But feel free to play with this! If you try something different and want to share, please feel free to leave a comment, I’d enjoy learning other things that folks love with these tasty vegetable noodles.


One pot zucchini noodles

One pot zucchini noodles


  • 1 package of fully cooked sausage
  • 4 zucchini
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil


  1. Spiralize zucchini, set aside
  2. Heat pot with oil, medium high heat
  3. Chop onion and bell pepper, sauté about 5 minutes
  4. Chop sausage, add sausage and garlic to onion/pepper mixture
  5. Cook until sausage is hot and browned to your liking
  6. Add zucchini and stir, zucchini will cook within a few minutes.
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My brain has been my biggest obstacle. At the end of 2013 I wrote:

…my ultimate goal is to train for a half marathon. I don’t know if I will run one this year, I’m leaning more towards training during 2014 to ultimately run in one by early 2015. I am going to try! Exciting to think about… and a little scary.

I have been training all year, just as I said I would. In 2014 I became a stronger and more capable runner. A week didn’t go by where I didn’t run at least several miles, 2-4 times. Early in 2014 I decided my aim was to run the half at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon; not only because it was early 2015, but also because it was a marathon that my own father has run. It excited me to think of being able to cross that finish line myself (even if it was a half instead of a full marathon like my dad had done).

Even in December 2013 when I wrote the goal I acknowledged my problem. Being scared. Ultimately it is the fear of failing. I have been working on getting healthy and fit for so long now, and this is an actual marker of success. This is a clear and definitive goal to achieve rather than just getting healthy, or posting before and after pictures. If you run a marathon, you either finish it or you don’t.

As the race drew near I contemplated whether I was ready. While I knew I was ready physically, my fear took hold. I wussed out. A couple of friends asked if I was going to run, even tried to talk me into at least running the 10k. I said I’d think about it but deep down I knew I really didn’t want to run the 10k. I wanted that half and if I wasn’t doing the half, frankly I didn’t want anything to do with the event. I knew it would be a giant neon sign of failure in my own brain if I did anything less than run that half. And after all the hard work and effort I had put in, my brain put up a wall and I chose to cowardly skulk away from the whole event.

The other day someone asked if I would be there to watch her finish the race. I made up a completely lame excuse about not wanting to deal with the parking. I felt awful about it. So I talked to my husband. He knew how I felt, and asked me if I really wanted to run. After some hemming and hawing I admitted: YES. I was really scared but yes, I wanted to run. I had always wanted to run.

Last minute and way too much money later, I am signed up to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. I’m going to crush it. And yeah – I’m still scared. But I think that it’s okay to be scared. It will be all the better when I cross that finish line. My time might be wimpy, but that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is completing the goal I made. I’ve turned my life around over the last 2+ years. I’ve earned this, and I am really proud of myself for going for it. I’m going to cross that finish line, just like when I watched my dad cross it.

I got this.



This quote is frustratingly accurate:

“When we try to control, we become controlled; when we release, we become free.” – Bryant McGill

I have control issues. It has been helpful to me in some ways, but I’m trying to let go of some control and that’s tough. I have been keeping tabs of everything I have eaten for about 2 years now. I diligently pick up my smartphone, open the MyFitnessPal app, look up then log every single bit of food. That truly helped – I’m not trying to knock the practice of self awareness and monitoring calorie intake. That being said, I have come to the realization over the last few months that I don’t really need to do that anymore. To say that my habits are sticking is an understatement; in fact I think the word habit is inadequate. I’ve adjusted my whole lifestyle.

Then why am I still counting every single calorie? Why am I wasting that time obsessing over it? I am controlled by my own need to control. I’m sick of it. I feel burdened by it, and I’m the one who has made the choice to do it. I have decided it’s time to let that go (cut to Frozen…)

I’m not cutting every fitness app. I like to know how much I am doing. I love my Fitbit, I get to compete with my friends and family and it motivates me to keep moving. I also like knowing details such as speed and distance when I go running or biking, or how far my husband and I wander on adventure hikes, so I will keep using Runtastic as well. But I am done logging calories eaten. I am so happy I found MyFitnessPal when I began trying to get healthy. It absolutely made me change my behaviors with food and helped to shine a light on what kind of choices I could make in my diet to lose weight. And I plan to keep the app so if I am curious about calorie content I can still use it for the food database. (It also cleanly synchronizes my exercises up to Fitbit from other apps. It’s easier to just keep it for that purpose than to reconfigure it all – I tried and failed.)

I logged my food yesterday. That was it, I told myself as I entered the food, the last day I’m recording it. To be perfectly honest, I feel weird about not using it today. I have to train my brain that I’m done with that task. I’ve only been awake a few hours and it already feels like I’m forgetting something I need to do.

I know that I won’t backslide. And god forbid I do, I clearly know how to log calories and go back to those behaviors. I just don’t see that happening. I love exercising, eating healthy, and the way my body feels now compared to the old me. I believe I can maintain and have a little more freedom away from that nagging side of my brain as well.

*deep breath*


Greek marinated chicken with orzo

There is a restaurant near my home that makes Greek chicken wings, they are delicious. My husband and I crave them often, they are a hard to resist cheat meal. When I came across this Greek marinated chicken recipe on Budget Bytes I had to try it since it looked similar to the wings. It was an easy recipe – I added a little to it and paired it with orzo and it turned out absolutely amazing. Definitely rivaled those wings from up the street!

Side note: I love the Budget Bytes site, I have made quite a few recipes they’ve shared and I have yet to be disappointed.

You can make the chicken without the orzo, but I have to say they paired perfectly.

Greek marinated chicken legs with orzo

Greek marinated chicken legs with orzo


– 1 cup plain yogurt (regular yogurt is fine, doesn’t need to be Greek yogurt)

– Italian parsley (fresh, chop about 1/3 of the bunch)

– 1/2 – 1 Tbsp Oregano (dried)

– 2 – 4 cloves garlic (minced)

– Salt & Pepper (about a 1/2 tsp each)

– 1 lemon

– 3 1/2 – 4 lbs chicken drumsticks

– 4 Tbsp butter (for the orzo)

– 1 16 oz. package orzo

– Feta for sprinkling on the chicken/orzo


In a bowl combine the first 5 ingredients, the yogurt through the s&p. Grab your lemon and grate lemon zest into the marinade. Then cut the lemon in half. Squeeze half of the lemon’s juice in the marinade. Save the other half of lemon for later.

Greek marinade

Once you’ve mixed everything together get a freezer bag and place the chicken legs in, then cover them with the marinade. Squish it all around, make sure the chicken is fully covered and try to get the air out of the bag as best as possible. Place this in the fridge for at least a half hour. I left mine in the fridge all day, I prepped in the morning and it turned out awesome.


You will need to preheat the oven to 375. Put the chicken + marinade into a 9×13 pyrex and put that in the oven. It needs to bake for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. It will be golden brown when it is ready. Near the end of the bake time, prepare the orzo per the package instructions. Once the orzo is done, squeeze the other half of the lemon over it, add butter, and sprinkle some feta on it. Once the chicken comes out of the oven, sprinkle a little feta on that too and put it back in the oven for a couple minutes to get the cheese to melt a little over the chicken. When you make your plate, pour some of that delicious marinade from the bottom of the pyrex all over the orzo. Makes the orzo ridiculously rich and delicious!


You can make this even healthier and use less butter on the orzo, use fat free yogurt, or even skip the feta. But even if you make it as listed above, it’s not an especially naughty dinner. I finally found a healthier version of those naughty wings we love to splurge on. Score!



Progress – September to November 2014

I haven’t done an official “progress” post in months. Not much to report, other than I’m really dialed in with maintaining. Still hitting right in the 120-125 range I aim for.

Finally, cool weather! Hitting up my normal weekly runs, as well as mixing in some hiking and biking as well.


South Mountain, gloomy day

Running South Mountain

Running South Mountain

Screen grab by Matt of me running South Mountain

Screen grab by Matt of me running South Mountain

I’ve been running at my work’s gym during the week a lot but now that the temperature dropped I think I will be able to just go running outdoors after work. Finally! I mean, it’s November already for Christ’s sake. It’s about damn time I can go running in the afternoon without roasting alive.

Hiked/ran a mountain new to me today. North Mountain.

North Mountain, view of Phoenix

North Mountain, view of Phoenix

It was cool, pretty steep but a little less intense than Camelback. Hiked up and ran down, nice little workout!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was able to model for a local photographer, as she was looking for tattooed people to shoot. I got the photos back, and I really love them!

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Thrilled. (If you are local to AZ and want a great portrait photographer, check out Araya Photography.) I don’t know how to say this without sounding a little lame: I feel pretty. It’s really fun to see photos of myself that look so nice! When I saw the first one, my mind was blown. I didn’t actually recognize myself at first. I recognized the tattoos before my own face. Weird, right?


Biometric bragging

I’ll just start by saying I am odd. Ever since I’ve started to care about my physical wellness I get excited about the biometric health screening my work provides. As I’ve mentioned before – I love competing. This provides an opportunity for me to compete against myself in order to see if I am improving year to year. Last year was my personal best score, a 94. Yesterday was the annual screening and lo and behold… I got an even better result.


98!!! That’s about as good as it gets. I have peaked. I am literally in the best shape of my life. Truly solid validation that I’m doing the right thing, and I should continue my goal of maintaining. Ideal blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI… all of it. This is a pure bragging post. It’s one thing to like what I see in the mirror; I’ve been much happier with my reflection over the last year + of my life. But it’s especially rad to know that my body is healthy from the inside out. That’s the stuff you can’t really see in the mirror.


Alright already, summer

Enough! I’m ready for fall! Living in the Arizona desert is rough. Every summer is torture. You wake up and look out at what appears to be a beautiful sunny day only to feel the burn akin to opening an oven when you step outside.

Now that we are about halfway through September the extreme heat is winding down some. That’s good news since my absolute favorite way to exercise is to get outside and explore with running, hiking, and biking. My rad husband Matt took some very flattering photos of me last weekend on a hike (Fat Man’s Pass, South Mountain, AZ):

Fat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZFat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZFat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZ

I’m going to level with you: I’m sharing these purely for vanity reasons. I’m feeling really good about how fit my body is and I love these photos! I’m not ashamed to admit it, I work hard and I know this is the best shape my body has ever been in. I’m proud of myself.

I’ve decided after a lot of careful consideration that when my gym membership expires this month I won’t be renewing it. I get bored at the gym. If need be I can always join again, but I want to focus on outdoor activities now even if it means waking up at the crack of dawn to beat the heat. I’ve been lucky enough to befriend active folks and be invited with various  groups to go running; plus there is my eternal partner in crime Matt who is always down to hike and bike. Big decision for me and my routine, but it makes sense. My work also just put in a gym at their new building too, so I figure I can always use that if there is a crap weather day.

Plan in place. Less indoors… adventure it is.



Progress – August 2014

My weight is still in my desired range – I’m usually 123 when I weigh myself lately. I traveled a lot this summer and after one vacation I came back and I was back up to 127 but within 3 days of being back in my routine (and kitchen) I was back to my 120-125 range.

I did something really out of the ordinary for myself – I volunteered to “model” for a professional photographer who was looking to expand her portfolio (she was looking for tattooed folks). For many years I hid from the camera. I am no longer that girl, and I actually really enjoy getting my photo taken these days. So when a coworker alerted me to the photographer’s search I quickly responded. (As soon as I get the digital copies I plan to include them in a post with a link to her site! Stay tuned!)

It’s an especially strange choice when I think back to how I used to feel about being the subject of a photograph. There is a giant span of time where barely any photos exist of me. I was good at dodging cameras when I was at my heaviest. When a photo was being taken I tried to move quick to make sure I was behind someone or that the best angle was used to hide how big I was. Also, any time a bad photo was posted by someone else I would ask them to delete it.

The other day a friend posted a few photos from their wedding 4 years ago. One photo that went up was a big group photo and I was horrified to see myself and my husband, Matt, at our very fattest. At first my instinct was to feel awful and want to get it deleted. Then a wonderful old friend forwarded it to me with a very lovely message:

You’ve been my friend for so long and I hardly ever tell you how much I love you and look up to you. I’m so proud of you with how far you have come with your weight loss…it’s truly inspiring. Love you Jillybean!

It was a relief to hear something so positive come when I was feeling so self conscious, and now I am embracing this old shot and comparing it for this (kind of incredible) before and after.


WOW. Right???

Not only did I clearly lose a ton of weight, but holy shit… check out Matt! What a stud. I’m really proud of us. I don’t know if I would have been half as successful without him there cheering me on and being an understanding partner through all the cravings, struggles, and setbacks. He is amazing and I am truly lucky to be loved by him.



Progress – June to July 2014

Still maintaining my weight! My goal was to keep myself between 120-125 and I’ve got it on lock.

This is especially impressive because I have been a traveling fool all summer. I’ve already been to three different states and I will be traveling to two more before summer wraps. This has been the summer of wedding trips and babies being born. I’m especially excited to go meet my baby niece in Texas! That will be my next trip, which will then be followed with the final wedding trip to New Jersey for one of my cousins. I’ve already been to Texas once this summer for my sis’s baby shower, then Georgia for one cousin’s wedding, and finally Milwaukee for a best friend’s wedding – I was the officiant!! That was a surreal and touching experience, I really loved it.

I think the fact that I’ve maintained is impressive, because I’ve been eating delicious (naughty) food. The most recent trip was to Milwaukee – SO MANY CHEESE CURDS EVERYWHERE. Oh lord. I mean, I am a little lactose intolerant so I typically avoid cheese but I just couldn’t help myself here. It was everywhere, and it was amazing. But I made sure to walk everywhere and my husband Matt and I went running nearly every morning. I did so well I had even dropped a pound within my range when I got back and weighed myself.

Did a little sassy hotel modeling (wearing Black MilkThe Dress 2.0):

litte black dress

little black dress

I love finally being secure enough with my body to wear a little black dress.

I guess the point I’m trying to make about food and progress this time can be narrowed down to this: Please eat delicious food. Just take care of yourself; as long as you are active and exercise you can TOTALLY splurge on cheese for four days straight. Seriously, I wouldn’t have changed a thing, nothing was damaged when it comes to my progress because I earned all that cheese!


Rowing machine and variety

I’ve been addicted to the rowing machine at the gym for awhile now. I don’t do it every time I am there, but every other week or so I like to dedicate a solid 30 minutes on it, with an occasional 15 minutes here or there in between those longer sessions. It’s rough. It doesn’t look like it should be, but I feel it burning just about every part of my body. I love it (and slightly hate it too).


I’m one of those crazy people addicted to House of Cards and I actually let out a small squeal when Claire introduced the rowing machine into their home, since I love her and that damn machine so much. I like that the show seems to be bringing rowing into greater popularity, I think it would be fun to find a rowing class at a gym. I know from searching online that they exist in some cities, haven’t found anything local yet.

Beyond the rower: I think what helps me to be find success is variety. I do outside activities – running, walking, hiking and biking. When it’s too hot, I go to the gym. At the gym I will use either the elliptical, stair climber, rowing machine, or stationary bikes. If I want to get something done in my living room at home I use either a weighted ball, small free weights, do squats, pushups, or situps. There is no magic formula other than keeping myself interested by not always doing the exact same thing.