cooking, fitness, health, lifestyle, recipes

Pan seared salmon with creamy cauliflower mash and sauteed brussel sprouts

As promised, here is a step-by-step how to recipe for Pan Seared Salmon w/ Creamy Garlic Cauliflower Mash and Brussels Sprouts, so you can make this delicious meal at home! I posted this dish on my Instagram account @cook2lean earlier this week. It is gluten-free, high protein, with moderate carbs and fat. Perfectly balanced and a great post-workout meal option after a big lift!

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Macro Estimates per Serving: 73g protein, 30.5g carb, 24.5g fat

Note: I say “Estimates” because I do not own or use a food scale – I based the estimated macros on a combination of the Macros app that I use and trusty ol’ Google. Okay, that being said, let’s get started!

What You’ll Need (Serves 2):

For the Cauliflower Mash:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (if you’re not sure how to do this click here)
  • 1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, depending on garlic-loving preference
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp parsley flakes
  • Large food processor
  • Steamer/steam basket/or creative alternative

For the Brussels Sprouts:

  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, halved and stems trimmed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Garlic powder

For the Salmon:

  • 16 oz salmon fillet, sliced in half (or two 8oz fillets)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin (optional)
  • Olive oil

Making the Cauliflower Mash:

Fill about a quarter of a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Fill a steamer/steam basket with the cauliflower florets and cover to steam for 15 minutes.

Note: If you don’t have a steamer, you can try creating a makeshift steamer like I did. I used a large pan filled with water topped with a vegetable grilling pan, and covered with a pan cover to make up for the lack of kitchen inventory. 

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While the cauliflower is steaming, smash 3-4 garlic gloves, remove skins, and saute in a bit of olive oil for about 2-3 minutes until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.

Once cauliflower is done steaming, transfer (in small batches at a time) to a large food processor.

Once all cauliflower is blended, add your 1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic cloves, and parsley flakes. Blend until smooth. Scrape sides of food processor down with a spatula to get an even consistency in between blends. Once it looks closer to the bottom right picture, it is ready to serve!

 

Cooking Brussels Sprouts:

Heat olive oil in large pan on high heat, add butter.

Once butter is foaming, evenly distribute the butter around the pan and add your brussels sprouts – stir and cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and give it another stir at the end of the 2-3 minutes (the goal is to try to get them slightly browned even though my picture below doesn’t reflect that lol).

Cover pan and set flame to low – allow to cook for 12-15 minutes and then remove from heat. They are ready to serve!

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Cooking the Salmon:

Run salmon fillets under cold water to rinse away extra “fishiness.” Pat dry with paper towels.

Season the salmon with salt, pepper, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin (optional).

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Heat olive oil in a large pan using medium heat – enough to cover the bottom of the pan. I initially didn’t add enough oil and had to add a little extra after I had already put my salmon fillets down.

Once oil is HOT – place your salmon fillets skin side down in the pan and hear that nice SIZZLE!

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Let it cook for about 6 minutes, and then turn the salmon to cook the other side for another 6 minutes.

If the skin isn’t looking as crispy as you’d like it, do another flip and let cook for an extra 1-2 minutes and then remove salmon from the pan. It is ready to serve!

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Now put all your ingredients together on a dish and enjoy!

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Let me know what you guys think! Do you think you’ll try this recipe out? If so, let me know how it turns out for you 🙂

Since this was my very first step-by-step recipe post, I would absolutely love any feedback about the format of the recipe to help me improve the next post for you guys. Do you feel like you got all the information you needed or would more/less detail work better? Leave me feedback in a comment on this blog post, my Facebook page, or my Instagram! I’d also love to know what other types of recipes you guys would like to see. My Instagram is full of my past creations which I’d be happy to recreate for you guys!

I will be sharing my workouts from this week in my next blog post as well as what has worked for me this past year when it came to losing weight, keeping it off, and staying relatively consistent with fitness and health. I hope you guys will find it helpful if you’re just starting out your journey or are looking for ideas to help you stay motivated! Until next time!

 

 

 

 

fitness, health, introduction, lifestyle

My Health and Fitness Journey: Cook2Lean

Why did I recently decide to finally embrace and commit to a healthier lifestyle?

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I mentioned in my last post that I would discuss how I got into cooking and weightlifting, but to do that I need to talk about the foundation of my inspiration. This a story that I think a lot of others can relate to – a long history of poor self-image growing up due to society’s beauty standards, which I was never able to meet. I was never skinny, but I always equated the idea of getting skinny to bringing happiness.

 

Quick Disclaimer: My future posts will never be this long but this journey was indeed a long one, and I want to give it the attention it deserves so I can be as realistic and honest as possible. Additionally, I am not claiming or consider myself to be a fitness or nutrition expert – I’m purely a hobbyist discussing my own experience and sharing what ended up working for me because it was a very long time before I started changing my habits. Okay that being said, let’s move on!

 

Growing up Chunky: The Early Years

I was always on the chubbier and less active side growing up and throughout elementary school – my mom did cook for our family a few times a week, but we also regularly ate a ton of processed food (Chef Boyardee and Kraft Mac & Cheese, I’m looking at you!) Inhaling a family sized bag of Lay’s Potato chips while watching TV was pretty much a weekly norm, and I was totally content with eating frozen, microwaveable dinners.

When I became more self-conscious about my weight in middle school, I started getting obsessive about trying to lose the extra weight. I would try to exercise at home sometimes (sit ups, push ups, eventually Windsor Pilates videos in 7th and 8th grade). I also started developing really unhealthy eating habits at this time and a terrible relationship with food. I would either try to practice “fasting” to lose weight quickly, eat very little, or eat once I couldn’t continue fasting and then purge out of guilt. Around this time I think my diet primarily consisted of Starbucks Frappacinos, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Chinese takeout, and pasta when I did eat – clearly I had no idea what it meant to eat quality food at this point in my life so that didn’t help the cause, and that continued on into high school. Yo-yo dieting was a perpetual source of ups and downs with my self-confidence pretty much up until I graduated high school.

 

Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred: My First Experience with “Weightlifting”

I first started working out consistently when I was 18 or 19 – I started the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and got pretty great results as a beginner. Jillian’s workout videos helped me get comfortable with the functional movements I still regularly use in my current workouts (squats, lunges, rows, push ups, etc.) and introduced me to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I would definitely recommend the 30 Day Shred for anyone who is an absolute novice to any kind of lifting and wants to lose some fat while simultaneously building strength and learning some basic, effective movements and good form.

Note: They have Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred available on Amazon for purchase (Amazon Video and the DVD) and I always see the DVD at Target, so it’s readily available if anyone is interested in checking it out. I also do believe they have one of the workouts on YouTube. However, I did not lose 20 pounds in 30 days, just sayin.

30 Day Shred

College Yo-Yoing

Fast forward to college (Undergrad years Jan 2012-Dec 2014) – I was drinking heavily, as was mostly every other student, binging heavily at night once I started living outside of the dorms and had closer access to late night food. I was still working out religiously (mainly cardio) but I did manage to gain (and lose and gain back) somewhere in the range of 10-15lbs because I was never consistent with my diet (and you know, drank a lot of booze).

During my last semester of college, I was working out regularly again (I’d either go to the gym, do an at-home Jillian Michaels workout, or both) and started cooking healthier food after discovering Trader Joe’s (I love you TJ’s!). This helped me get back down to a size I was okay with but not necessarily a body I was happy with – I was 5’3 and around 140lbs, busty, still a bit chubby around the middle, and had a pretty flat ass (to be quite frank) which didn’t complement a top heavy figure. See FLATTERING pic below.

2014

Post-College Weight Gain

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The year after college (2015), I went from being around 140lbs to 156lbs – my heaviest, ever. I am only 5’3 so that 16 lb weight gain made a huge difference, physically and mentally. By the beginning of 2016 I hated looking at myself in the mirror more than ever and just felt heavy/sluggish overall. It was that point I decided I really wanted to commit to exercising regularly, cooking at home, and improving my overall health and fitness. I was tired of being unhappy with how I looked and felt and really wanted to find out what it would be like to actually love every part of myself for once because I never really had before. I had been fixated on hating my body for so long though and wanting to “get rid” of parts of myself so it was going to require a lot of hard work – not only physically, but mentally as well. Weight loss was always viewed as a temporary concept for me because I could never maintain my weight loss. But learning about the benefits of lifting weights changed everything for me!

 

Getting Comfortable with Lifting

During the first half of 2016, I started taking group fitness classes 4x a week (Zumba 2x/week, Body Pump 2x/week). I also started following a lot of female bodybuilders/weightlifters which sparked my initial interest in heavy lifting. I was reading all this new information about how having more muscle mass helps you get lean and lifting heavy could help you build an ass! So I had my boyfriend show me how to use the squat rack at my gym and it was love at first squat. The first time I used the squat rack, I was only able to squat with the bare barbell (no weight loaded) but after learning the proper movements, I was really excited about challenging myself to build up my strength, use more weight, and transform my body (Google: body recomposition).

 

Lifting Promotes GAINS instead of LOSSES – Positive vs. Negative Connotations FTW

I started out by lifting during my lunch breaks and then doing group fitness classes in the evening after work. Lifting was so exciting and fun, because for once in my life I was focusing on GAINING something positive (strength) instead of focusing solely on LOSING or GETTING RID of something I didn’t like about myself. It completely changed my attitude and mentality towards fitness – I was becoming stronger, fitter, more capable, and my OWN progress became my motivation. Not someone else’s

Unfortunately, I ended up injuring my lower back pretty badly after neglecting to warm up one day and couldn’t lift for a few months. This set me back significantly that year. I ended up gaining back a lot of the weight I lost in the first half of the year, and by the end of 2016 I was fluctuating between 149-152 lbs which was really disappointing. But the whole time I was injured I was primarily concerned with recovery so I could return to the gym and start off where I left off. Thankfully when I was recovered enough I was actually excited to start working out again (I’d never been excited to work out in my life before I started lifting heavy!). Starting January 2017 I was lifting 5x/week and incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into my workouts. By May, I was down to 136.5 lbs and stronger than ever. I couldn’t have done it without adjusting my diet though and I did track macros which I’ll get into more detail about in a future blog post.

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Cooking Adventures

I spent a lot of the last part of 2016 starting to cook at home more often versus eating out to save money. I also started meal prepping to save time and ensure I was making better choices at lunch. It turns out that I not only actually started enjoying eating healthier meals because I noticed a difference in how I felt and looked, but I also loved showcasing my food creations. I was so proud of them once I finished cooking and would always share pictures on my personal Instagram account. Getting into the Food Network show “Chopped” really inspired my passion for cooking (and food presentation)!

It was January 2017 that I created the @cook2lean Instagram page to share my meals, inspire myself to continue to cook healthier, and also post my workouts so I could track my own fitness progress and hold myself accountable. I stayed inspired by following other food/fitness pages and reading articles online about nutrition, diet, and weightlifting, and I continue to post regularly and do all those same things now.

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There were a lot of other things that kept me inspired, motivated, and on track this past year, and of course there were also a lot of times where I felt unmotivated. But I will be saving the motivation tips and tricks that have worked for me in a future post as this went on much longer than I had planned!

How about you guys? What sparked your interest in health/fitness? And what do you do to inspire/motivate yourself? Leave me a comment – I’d love to hear your stories!

 

P.S. My next blog post will be a step-by-step how to guide for this dinner I cooked last night! Pan seared salmon with creamy garlic cauliflower mash, and sautéed brussels sprouts! Stay tuned.

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first blog post, fitness, health, lifestyle

First Blog Post: Cook2Lean

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Who I am

Hi everyone and welcome to my first blog post!!! My name is Victoria, and many of you might be visiting this blog after being directed from my Instagram account @cook2lean or from my Facebook page. If so, thanks for being the real MVP and clicking the link! If you’re completely new to Cook2Lean, below is a little information about myself:

I am a 26-year old Pittsburgh-based health and fitness enthusiast/hobbyist who discovered a passion for cooking nutritious meals and weightlifting about two years ago. Since January 2016 I have lost about 23 lbs (SW: 156, CW: 133) thanks to heavy lifting, HIIT workouts, balanced nutrition, and consistency! I’m by no means at my goal physique yet, but I am still relatively satisfied with where I am physically, and I am even happier with where I am mentally after about 1-1.5 years of consistently making healthier choices. I’ll be using this blog to continue to track my health and fitness as I work towards my goals.

Why I am blogging
As much as I love Instagram for its quick “likes” there is only so much content you can put in a post before someone loses interest – most IGers simply double tap and scroll and the message you were trying to share gets lost/ignored (I myself being a culprit of this!)

One of my goals this year is to expand my personal brand on social media, so what better way to do it than to share more content and give more context to my newfound passion for health and fitness? I want my readers to understand WHY I love health and fitness and how it’s changed my life for the better, so maybe I can inspire them to take small steps towards a healthier life too if they haven’t started their journey already. And I hope to inspire readers who have started their health and fitness journeys to continue to work towards their goals.

What I will be blogging about
I will be blogging about the meals I cook, my workouts, staying motivated, my body transformation and what has worked for me, trials and errors, health, fitness, products I use, and life in general! My next blog post will be about how my interest in health and fitness came to be, so stay tuned! I’ll be writing about growing up, starting to exercise, the “freshman 15,” post-college weight gain, and how my weight loss/body transformation started.

Feedback/Interest
Comment on my post to leave feedback or email me at cook2lean@gmail.com if you have any questions or interest in partnerships/collaborations!