Roasted Italian Zucchini and Squash Recipe

I’m so excited to share a healthy, delicious recipe with you today!

This is one of those recipes I sort of stumbled on by accident. I was making pasta for my husband and kids the other night, but since I’m eliminating refined sugars and flour from my diet (more on that in a future post), I wanted an alternative for me to eat.

I’d bought some fresh zucchini and squash at the store a few days ago, but didn’t have a plan for them. That’s when the light bulb went off. I found a recipe for roasted zucchini and squash, which I thought would make a good side dish for my husband and kids’ pasta. And it would also make a great “pasta” base for me to enjoy with marinara sauce.

All of this sounded good in my head, but holy moly, the final result was beyond good! As I was eating it, I couldn’t stop raving about the flavors. My husband and kids kept looking at me like I was crazy, but I didn’t care. I was in a happy place with taste buds dancing. (By the way, the hubby and kids weren’t converted to liking zucchini or squash, but no sad faces here. It just means more leftovers for me to enjoy!) :)

At only 95 calories per serving—plus a hefty serving of vitamins and minerals—it’s hard to not like this recipe as a healthy side dish. (Try pairing it with a lean grilled protein, like fish or chicken). Or with doubled serving sizes, it would make a great vegetarian main dish. (Vegans or clean diet purists would want to eliminate the cheese.)

For another tasty, healthy side option with this, you could make “clean” bruschetta by taking whole-grain Wasa crisps, topping them with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil, and drizzling with olive oil. Yum!

All right, on to the recipe. Here it is…

Roasted Italian Zucchini and Squash

2 yellow squash, cut into ¼-inch slices
2 zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
2 cups “clean” marinara sauce of your choosing (If you like an extra saucy dish, you can bump this up to 3 or 4 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare large roasting pan by layering with foil and greasing with olive oil. Combine squash, zucchini, and oil in large mixing bowl. Add garlic powder and pepper and mix until vegetables are evenly coated. Spread squash onto baking pan in an even layer. Bake 15-20 minutes, stirring once, until cooked through.

While squash is cooking, warm marinara sauce on the stovetop. Once vegetables and marinara are ready, layer on individual plates as follows: 1-1/2 cups squash, ¼ cup marinara, 1 Tbsp Parmesan.

Enjoy all the yummy, healthy goodness!

Nutrition Facts per serving (8 servings total): 95 calories; 5.5 grams fat; 7.5 mg cholesterol; 293.6 mg sodium; 120.1 mg potassium; 8.1 g carbs; 2.1 g fiber; 4.2 g sugar; 4.8 g protein; 17% Vit. A; 27.6% Vit. C; 6.8% Calcium; 5.2% Iron

A couple side notes:

– I use Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand of marinara sauce. It’s not extremely low-sodium, but the ingredients are delicious and straightforward, with no added preservatives.

– The original roasted squash recipe I used can be found HERE. I tweaked it slightly for my preferences and eliminated the salt to offset the sodium in the marinara.

Roasted Italian Zucchini and Squash Recipe

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The Energy Difference: How Cleaning Up Your Diet Changes More Than the Scale

The Energy Difference: How cleaning up your diet changes more than the scale |

A week ago, I shared my official loss in weight and inches after finishing Advocare’s 24-day challenge.

What I didn’t share was the intangible before and afters — energy, motivation, and overall sense of well-being.

The day before I started the challenge, I had an overwhelming sense of feeling all-around yucky and decided to write down exactly what I felt. I had a hunch it would serve as inspiration when I faced those difficult days on the challenge.

Here’s how I described my state of body and mind:

“General sick feeling, constant headaches, gut discomfort, feel hungry but nothing sounds good. Extremely tired and lethargic – almost coma-like at times. Overall emotions and confidence: I don’t like myself very much. I know I’m not making good choices so I’ve been really hard on myself, which leads to a lot of negative self-talk.”

Looking back at my pre-challenge days, what’s interesting to note is how perpetual the cycle was. My food choices felt like a trap I couldn’t get out of, and the emotional consequences were a recurring trap of negative self-esteem.

To complete the picture, let me share something else I documented the day before I started the challenge — A food journal of what I ate.

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheese; 2 pieces of white toast topped with butter and cinnamon sugar; coffee; orange slices
Morning snack: Animal crackers
Lunch: BBQ ribs; canned green beans; 3 pieces of cornbread (I can’t deny I make a mean batch of cornbread. :)); a few grapes
Afternoon snack: Ice cream; cookies (I didn’t keep track of how much, but I’m pretty sure both were more than the suggested serving size)
Supper: 3 pieces of pizza
Evening snack: More animal crackers (It’s sad when Mommy eats more of these than the kids.) :)

It doesn’t take a scientist to see the correlation between what I ate and my overall energy/emotions.

As I faced temptation early on in the challenge, all these notes gave me the motivation I needed to stick with my new habits, because I did NOT want to go back to the person I was.

For anyone embarking on a major life change — especially a new diet or fitness regimen — I highly recommend writing down how you feel BEFORE you start. Be brutally honest with yourself.

Then as you hit those walls of frustration or are tempted to quit, revisit your notes to remember what motivated you to start in the first place. Tell yourself, “I refuse to go back to that person and that life.”

Maybe even write those words on your notes, and then frame that puppy and hang it in your kitchen. The more you repeat the mantra, the more your body and emotions will follow.

Have you ever kept a food journal or documented your overall state of body/mind? What patterns would you see if you did this?

I refuse to go back

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Finding Hope When I Don’t Trust God Anymore

Finding Hope When I Don't Trust God Anymore |

“When it rains, it pours.”

I’m pretty sure whoever coined that phrase was not talking about the weather.

But since it’s been, well, raining and storming and flooding around my part of the country, this phrase has become both a literal and figurative truth in my life.

Last week, I talked briefly about the pull of emotional eating–about how my diet changes forced me to go to the true Source of comfort–but I didn’t expound much.

Today, I’m going to expound. And I’m not gonna lie, this is going to be an all-guts-bared kind of post. Because the truth is, rain does come.

In my life, it has taken the form of many things lately.

On the home front, my $3,000 surgery bill has been capped off by roofing problems on our house, which has led to major leaking, which has led to mold. And oh by the way, my husband went to replace our front porch lightbulb last night and discovered yet another major leak. Where it’s coming from, we don’t know yet.

Let’s see, what else? One of the many thunderstorms to blow through here gave us this beautiful lightning strike…mere feet from our kids’ trampoline.


Not to mention the natural “storms” that come with summer break — whining and complaining, short tempers… (and that’s not even talking about the kids yet).

On top of all this, I’ve hit disappointments in my writing career. Anyone who writes Christian fiction is no stranger to this. Earlier this year, Family Christian Stores announced they were filing for bankruptcy. This contributed to the overall unstable environment already permeating the industry. Add in another publishing house closing their fiction doors, narrowing the slots for an unpublished author like myself, and it can be downright depressing.

I wish I could say I’ve handled all of these things with grace and trust and contentment. But the truth is, I’ve cried, gotten frustrated, asked “why” more times than I can count, even yelled at God and told Him I’ll come to trust Him eventually, but I’m frankly not very happy with Him right now.

(I warned you this wouldn’t be pretty.)

The ironic thing in all of this? My life coaching group, which has been meeting all summer, introduced new homework last week. I’m supposed to write a vision statement for my life, detailing what it looks like if everything I want in life is happening one year from now.

Can I be honest? (Not that I haven’t been so far… :))

I can’t even bring myself to write this statement.

I know, right? Me, the writer of the group, can’t even summon the words to verbalize a vision for my life.

Because what if the things I really want in life don’t happen? What if these dreams and goals God has put on my heart end up crumbling to dust? What if He ultimately tells me no, and the whole purpose in this is to learn something in the journey?

Not that learning something isn’t enough. But I secretly want more. And the fear that I’ll never get there can be paralyzing.

Finding hope…

Have you ever gone to a church service that seemed orchestrated solely for you? Heard a message or sermon that was eerily too close to your current place in life?

Well, last Sunday was that day for me. The worship alone had me blubbering with tears. As I sang the words about trusting God in every season, inside I was telling Him, “I’m not sure I really believe this right now. This season feels like more than I can handle. The never-ending house problems, the rejections in my writing career…This isn’t what I signed up for. But deep inside, I know words dictate actions which dictate feelings, so I’m choosing to sing this song and hope a sliver of the truth will get through to my heart somehow.”

And then in the sermon, I heard that sliver of truth.

I was reminded that Moses spent 40 years leading the Israelites around the desert. Forty. Years! (That makes my 6-1/2 years of writing for publication seem like a whisper of time.) There was nothing about that long-ago exodus that was easy, but God provided daily manna–just enough to get the Israelites through.

And something even more amazing? God let Moses vent his frustrations! Just read Psalm 90:13, and you’ll see the proof.

AND, get this… The same God who let Moses ask the hard questions, who let him accuse God of “sweeping people away like dreams that disappear” — the same God who let His own Son come before Him, crying until His distress turned sweat to blood, honestly admitting He wasn’t sure He could go through with the crucifixion — that same God gives me permission to bring my unfiltered emotions to Him.

No, He doesn’t promise life will be easy. No, He doesn’t promise to do things my way.

But He does promise that if I lift my eyes and keep coming to Him with my honest questions and fears and doubts, He’ll eventually give me the strength to get off my knees and start walking again.

And maybe, just maybe, if I build up enough momentum, He’ll help me pick up my pace and run.

And if I keep my eyes on Him, even through the fear and lack of trust, maybe He’ll even give me wings and let me soar up high like an eagle.


That’s the only hope I can cling to right now.

While the rain is pouring and nothing makes sense and I’m downright exhausted and weary from trying to keep it all together, God promises to lift me up above the clouds. Maybe not in my timing, maybe not in the way I would like Him to…but according to His perfect plan.

What about you? Have you gone through any seasons that threatened your trust in God? What kept you clinging to hope?

Finding Hope When I Don't Trust God Anymore |


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Advocare 24-Day Challenge: Before and After Stats!

Last week I finished Advocare’s 24-day challenge, and I can’t WAIT to share the results of this intensive health overhaul with you! (If you’re interested in what prompted me to do the challenge in the first place, you can read more about it HERE.)

In the days following the challenge, I’ve found that my new habits have really stuck. Yes, I’ve eaten a few small treats, but they don’t hold the same addictive power they had over me before the challenge. I truly crave healthy, clean foods and am feeling the rewards!

All right, so let’s get to the numbers. Here are my official results:

Over the course of the 24-day challenge, I lost a total of 4 pounds. That’s a little over one pound per week, so I was happy with my steady, healthy rate of weight loss!

Even more exciting was my loss in inches! In total (measuring waist, chest, thighs, and hips), I lost 7 inches of my body. But get this — 3 of those inches were in my waist alone! I went from my clothes feeling tight and uncomfortable to feeling like they fit perfectly again…maybe with a tiny bit of wiggle room. Hoo-rah! :)

24-Day Challenge Before and After |

If you read my post about body composition, these stats are proof that I officially met my goals! Many people who do the challenge might see a higher rate of weight loss. My first couple challenges (trying to lose baby weight a few years ago) helped me lose 8-10 pounds. Since I started this challenge at a healthy body mass index (calculated HERE), I wasn’t expecting a drop in pounds, but I hoped for a drop in inches and overall improvement in muscle tone.

Accomplishment complete! :)

A little side note: The before and after pictures shown above are NOT meant to be a “Look at me!” kind of thing. I really hope that if you’ve been thinking about embarking on a new diet or fitness regimen, seeing the changes will serve as inspiration. Mine was only a four-pound change — If you’re facing a bigger weight-loss journey, just think what changes you’ll see by the end!

All right, that’s it for today. I’m looking forward to sharing new recipes and tips in future posts!

What’s the most surprising thing you learned from my results? Any lightbulb moments for your own health journey?


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Advocare 24-Day Challenge: DAY 24!!!

I’VE COMPLETED DAY 24!!! Can you tell I’m excited?! :)

While this has been a successful experiment in resetting my habits, I look forward to incorporating what I’ve learned into “normal life.” I know some people adopt a Paleo lifestyle long-term, but I’ve taken that approach in the past and found it to be detrimental to me. Attempting to follow an extreme or limiting diet forever just sets me up for intense cravings, which ultimately leads to an all-out binge.

Since I prefer to avoid the extremes–including the emotional highs and lows that come with them–I’ve adopted a more balanced approach. I let myself indulge once in a while (keeping the serving size to a minimum), which keeps the binges at bay.

All right, so let’s look at my final day of stats…

Breakfast: Meal replacement shake

Lunch: Scrambled eggs; Blueberries; Small helping of Apple Cherry Baked Oatmeal (Recipe found HERE – I’m a huge fan of this site! They have a ton of baked oatmeal variations.)

Supper: Green beans; Spaghetti squash with meatballs (Recipe found HERE – This was my first attempt at substituting spaghetti squash for pasta, and it turned out really good! It was SO easy to make too, so I’m putting this on my keeper shelf.) :)

Snacks: Banana; Grape tomatoes with hummus; Apple slices; Unsalted peanuts with raisins

Tea of Choice: Candy cane green tea

Exercise: Zumba

Okay, that’s it for Day 24! I’m taking a break to celebrate for a few days. I’ll be back next week with my overall before-and-after stats, as well as other observations that come to mind. See you next week!

How do you find a balance incorporating healthy habits into your life? What’s the latest habit change you’ve embarked on, and was it successful? Let’s celebrate together!

Celebrate every step of the journey


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Advocare 24-Day Challenge, Day 23: The Secret to Healthy Shopping

I’m getting oh-so-close to the finish line! I’ve learned so many things along the way and can’t wait to keep sharing more in the coming weeks.

First, let’s look at today’s stats.

Breakfast: Meal replacement shake

Lunch: Leftover breakfast casserole; Plain yogurt with blueberries

Supper: Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad at Paradise Bakery

Snacks: Banana; Apple slices with crunchy peanut butter on top; Unsalted peanuts with raisins

Tea of Choice: Teavana green tea – Jade citrus mint

Exercise: Deep cleaning

Energy Level: Much better than yesterday, thank goodness! I capitalized and got a lot of things done around the house.

Other Observations:

– One thing I’ve discovered on a healthy diet is that my grocery cart is at least half full with foods from the produce section. While many people avoid a healthy lifestyle because of the claim that it’s too expensive, I’m convinced I’ve been able to actually eat much cheaper on this diet than my previous one. I plan to prove this out in a future post with a grocery-store experiment. :)

Since I’m buying so many fruits and vegetables, I’ve had to develop a strategy to eat them before they spoil. This means buying a variety of produce–some that might spoil quickly and others that will last for several days or even weeks.

For example, the picture below shows some of the fruit I bought in Week One of the challenge. Since the pineapple and cherries would spoil first, I incorporated them in my diet early in the week. (Berries are another example of a fruit that needs to be eaten quickly.) The pears and kiwi have varying times for ripening, so I kept an eye on them and ate them as they ripened. The apples and oranges both are great long-term options to keep in the fridge. I’ve found they stay good for as long as 3-4 weeks sometimes!


As far as veggies go, broccoli, zucchini, and fresh spinach might need to be eaten sooner, whereas carrots, celery, and sweet potatoes can be kept for later in the week.

I hate to see good food wasted, so anything I can do to prevent food in the garbage makes me happy! :)

That’s it for Day 23. One more day to go!!!

What’s the typical ratio of produce in your grocery cart? What’s your must-have fruit or vegetable to keep on hand? 

Healthy Shopping Tip |


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Advocare 24-Day Challenge, Day 22: Conquering the Pull of Emotional Eating

I’m getting close to the finish line! Woohoo! I’ve started introducing small tastes of “non-cleanse” foods back into my diet. Not that I plan on blowing my health after this is over, but I’ve learned in the past that a balanced approach works best for me long-term.

All right, let’s look at today’s stats…

Breakfast: Meal replacement shake

Lunch: Scrambled eggs; Asian cashew slaw; Blueberries

Supper: Mexican bowl with lettuce, diced tomato, shredded low-fat cheese, and a small dollop of sour cream

Snacks: Banana; Unsalted peanuts with raisins; Cherries

Tea of Choice: Pomegranate white tea

Exercise: Zumba

Energy Level: Not all that great, to be honest. It’s been an extraordinarily busy summer, and as much as my diet has helped improve my energy levels, nothing works better than…well, sleep. :)

Other Observations:

It’s been interesting to contemplate emotional eating while on the challenge, particularly how I respond to stress. The writing life brings a lot of ups and downs, and I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t avoided the disappointments so many writers come up against.

As I’ve faced moments of emotional angst or disappointment in the past few weeks, my go-to “crutch foods” haven’t been an option, which has forced me to deal more deeply with the underlying spiritual issues. Rather than running to the pantry (which I would’ve done before the challenge), I’m relying more on prayer and God’s Word to comfort me.

I won’t lie…this has NOT been easy! But it’s a much-needed discipline in my life, and I know I’m better for it.

Okay, that’s it for Day 22. Only a couple more entries like this, and then I plan to take a short break. I’ll be back with post-24-day challenge observations, as well as more tips and recipes I’ve discovered along the way.

See you tomorrow!

What seems to trigger emotional eating for you? What’s a non-food place you can go to find the healing and comfort you need? 

The Rewards of Conquering Emotional Eating |

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Advocare 24-Day Challenge, Day 21: Digging Deep Through Highs and Lows

I’m down to the home stretch of the 24-day challenge! I’ve had my highs and lows through this process, and I’ll share more on that below.

First, here are today’s stats.

Breakfast: Meal replacement shake

Lunch: Kale salad; Mac and cheese (Yep, you read that right. I cheated a little bit today. I’m okay with a treat every once in a while…The main thing is that I don’t over-indulge. In this case, I ate 2 cups of salad and only 1/4 cup of Mac and cheese. It gave me just a little taste without making me feel sick.) :)

Supper: Leftover turkey chili; Asian cashew slaw

Snacks: Banana; Spoonful of crunchy peanut butter; Cherries

Tea of Choice: Candy cane green tea

Exercise: Rest day

Other Observations:

As I’ve experienced in past challenges, a complete change in my approach to food can bring its highs and lows. Some recipes I’ve tried have been big hits and others have been flops.

I’ll be honest…The flops can really threaten to knock down my motivation (especially when I’m extra-hungry). Those are the moments I have to dig deep and tell myself it’s just one meal. Whether I’m eating healthy or not, some recipes work better than others, and it’s a learning process. So I revisit my goals, focus on the successes, and pick a “sure hit” for the next meal so I can reenergize my efforts.

All right, that’s it for Day 21! See you tomorrow…

How do you react when a new recipe turns out to be a flop? Do you have any go-to backup plans?

Dig Deep |

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Advocare 24-Day Challenge, Day 20: It’s About Much More Than the Scale

Only 4 days left on the challenge! It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

For me, this challenge has been about so much more than the physical. Sure, I hope to transform my taste buds and reset my habits. But at the core of who I am, I long to take care of the body God has given me and do whatever I can to let it function at its best.

This affects my energy levels to be a good wife, mom, writer, fitness instructor, and daughter of the King. Whenever I face discouragement or temptation (and there’s been plenty of both!), I’ve found myself clinging to Philippians 4:13 — “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” What can we NOT conquer when armed with that kind of power?! :)

Okay, let’s get to the stats for today…

Breakfast: Meal replacement shake

Lunch: Scrambled eggs; Diced pineapple

Supper: Grilled salmon; Kale salad; Fresh berries

Snacks: Banana; Unsalted peanuts with raisins; Cherries

Tea of Choice: Candy cane green tea

Exercise: Yoga

That’s it for Day 20! Enjoy your Sunday, and remember the WHY behind the WHAT.

What’s your favorite go-to verse when you need motivation?

Philippians 4:13 |

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Advocare 24-Day Challenge: Day 19

I’m heading into the final weekend of the challenge! Have I mentioned how fast this has gone?! :) My weekend will include a visit from out-of-town family, so I’ll have to be intentional to not get derailed from my goals. Weekends are good at that, aren’t they?

All right, let’s look at today’s stats.

Breakfast: Meal replacement shake

Lunch: Leftover breakfast casserole; Spinach salad

Supper: Out to eat – I ordered a salad with field greens, chicken, dried cranberries, and pecans.

Snacks: Spoonful of crunchy peanut butter; Banana; Plain yogurt topped with diced pineapple (YUM!!!)

Tea of Choice: Pomegranate tea

Exercise: Elliptical

That’s it for Day 19 — short and sweet. Enjoy your Saturday!

Don't let the weekend derail your progress |

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