Alright, guys. Bear with me here. This recipe is a little different than my standard “cleaned up comfort food” (it’s a far cry from my Chicken Spaghetti Casserole or the Alfredo recipe), but I promise it’s equally amazing. With the weather getting MUCH warmer, lighter dishes that aren’t as cheese- and sauce-laden have become more appealing to me. This one can be served chilled or warmed up (I prefer chilled), and it holds well for lunches throughout the week if you decide to make it for meal prep.
During the first few weeks of helping my boot camp friends prep their meals, I was approached by a pescaterian friend who wanted me to set her up with some lunches. I came up with this on a whim as I was trying to think outside of my typical chicken or beef mindset, and it’s been a staple menu item ever since. It’s easy to make, doesn’t have any off-the-wall or hard-to-find ingredients, has LOTS of flavor, works well for pre-made lunches, AND is packed with protein (the macro split is 41% protein/40% carbs/19% fat) — I really can’t ask for more in a dish.
Mediterranean Shrimp and Quinoa Salad
Nutritional Overview (for 1/2 of recipe):
Cook time: 25 minutes
- 1/2 cup uncooked red quinoa
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 12 oz shrimp (de-veined, tail-off)
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1 tbsp white cooking wine
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Low-sodium Lawry’s seasoning salt, to taste (I used about 1.5 tsp)
- Crushed black pepper, to taste (I used about 1.5 tsp)
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (I buy the bagged kind, not canned in oil)
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cucumber, quartered
- 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- Optional: 1/2 can chickpeas (not included in nutritional information)
- Add broth and quinoa to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes
- While quinoa is cooking, heat olive oil in a medium skillet
- Add shrimp and onion. Cook until shrimp is pink and onions are tender-crisp
- Add parsley, basil, cooking wine, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat shrimp evenly
- Turn off heat. Transfer cooked shrimp into pot with quinoa, and add remaining ingredients (2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, cucumbers, lemon juice)
- Stir well to combine and serve
All It Takes is a Nudge
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking back on the last year. The drastic changes that have happened in my life since the beginning of 2013 all started with small “nudges” that kept me going along the way. The first was my friend/coworker convincing me to cough up $35 for a Groupon which got me started at Synergy. That’s really where it all began: a cheap Groupon, an awesome boot camp environment with a fantastic coach (KK, you’re my hero!), and a friend’s encouragement. I started with small, simple changes that stemmed from a person nudging me to do something that I didn’t really want to do at the time, but was willing to give it a shot. The second was my coach giving me a meal plan, which inspired me to find creative and tasty ways to liven up the traditional “healthy diet.”
Fast-forward to now, and I’ve changed so many different aspects of my life for the better that I feel like I completely new person. The pre-2013 Mackenzie wasn’t necessarily terrible, but there was definitely room for improvement (and I still have improvements to make. We all do). The point is that today, I’m willing and ready to make changes. I’m open to those little “nudges” that keep pushing me every single day — whether it’s having a fellow camper tell me that they looked to my blog posts to motivate them after a rough week, someone telling me that they cooked one of my recipes and absolutely loved it, or seeing my close friends and family transform themselves and their health for the better through smarter daily choices. I’m receptive to all of this, and it makes me excited about where my life is headed. It makes me want to keep doing the things that I do, and then some.
Step out of your comfort zone. Try something new. It doesn’t have to be huge or outrageous — it can be trying a different workout routine, cooking a new dish for dinner, or signing up for a class. Small changes can lead to something big. The determining factor is how willing and receptive you are to change. If you’re stuck in a rut, mix things up. Make TODAY the day that you take a new, different step to get where you want to be. Start small, then build on. That’s how lasting changes are made — there is no silver bullet or on/off switch. It’s all about taking small steps toward a big goal.
Random Bonus Gym Tip: Two Weird Workouts That Kick Ass
I’m probably messing up the flow of my entire blog post here, but this morning was leg day for me, and I want to share two of my favorite moves that use standard weight room equipment in very non-traditional ways. If you’ve spent more than a few minutes familiarizing yourself with typical gym equipment, you’ve probably seen a Smith machine and a Leg Extension machine:
The Smith can be used for a wide variety of different exercises — squats, rows, presses, and more — but I decided to get UNDER the bar this morning for some leg presses, and holy cow. I was exhausted by my last set. Check out this demo:
I went a little slower and deeper than the girl in the video does (I did 4 sets of 25 reps), and my legs were on fire by the end. I love this move because it really helps me take tension off of my lower back, and I feel like I focus more on my major leg muscles when pressing up.
The next move on the leg extension machine was a little bit awkward to get into, but I instantly fell in love the first time I tried it. My new favorite thing is doing hip thrusts on the leg extension machine instead of using a bar. The padding on the machine makes the move way more comfortable for your hips. (THANK YOU, Kristina, for sharing this one with me!)
These are two ingenious moves that I absolutely loved this morning. You might get some strange looks if you decide to try these out at the gym, but once you get into it, you’ll be addicted.