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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Back to Basics

Yesterday on my Facebook page, the chat turned to smoothies.  To respond to a request, I returned to some of my original sources for recipes.  GreenSmoothieGirl.com and an e-book called Try-It Diet: Eating Clean: A Two-Week Healthy Eating Plan were two resources I used heavily early on, along with www.thegraciouspantry.com and www.thenakedkitchen.com.

Truth be told, the holidays have been a bit of a challenge, healthy food-wise.  I made some clean cookies and other treats but, as I often say, everything in moderation.  I don't think I was very moderate with my cookie intake.  And, oh, yes, I certainly did eat a small piece of shoo-fly pie (decidedly UNclean!) and a bit of Breyer's vanilla ice cream.  (Shoo-fly pie is best when warmed slightly and accompanied by ice cream, just so you know.)  So, long story short, it doesn't appear that I will be meeting my holiday goal, which was to not gain any weight from Thanksgiving to New Year's.  I wasn't expecting to lose, but I really wanted to stay stable.  Uh,yeah, no.  As of right now, I am up 2.6 pounds.  That does not make me happy, but I do have until the morning of Jan. 2 to lose it, so we'll see.

Anyway!  Returning to my original inspirational books and websites made me realize that I may have gotten a bit far afield on my lifestyle.  I needed to get back to the basics and quit trying something new all the time.  So as of yesterday (Dec. 29) I am back to green smoothies for breakfast.  This was always a great kick starter to my day.  Gave me tons of energy first thing in the morning.  And when you are out the door at 6 a.m., it's nice to have energy!  Lunch will be leftovers from a previous night's dinner, as usual.  And dinners needs to go back to the basics again too.  That means a serving of protein (grilled chicken or beef, most likely) and lots of steamed veg.

Eating clean doesn't have to be complicated, and I think I was complicating it a bit.  I can probably save some money, too, if I am not always trying new recipes!  Coconut flour and coconut crystals are expensive!!  Not to say I won't still be doing some baking and making the occasional treat, but I think I need to dial it back for 2013.  Simplify my life.  Simplify my lifestyle.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Cherry Crumble Pie




Topping:
1-1/3 cup whole oats - ground to flour in a food processor (about 1 cup oat flour)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted whole almonds, coarsely ground or chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Filling:
3/4 cup coconut sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 pounds fresh sour cherries, pitted, or 2 cans (14-1/2 ounce) canned sour cherries  (make sure there is no sugar added)

Whole wheat pie crust 

Roll out pie crust and fit into 9" pie pan.  Cut and crimp edge as desires.

In a large bowl, mix cherries with coconut sugar, cornstarch and kosher salt.

Prepare topping by grinding oats to an oat flour in a food processor, add coconut sugar, cinnamon, salt and almonds. Grind together until the nuts are coarsely ground. Stir together with melted butter in a bowl.

Pour the cherries into your unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle the almond crumble topping over the cherries. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined cookie sheet (really important!  It can make a mess!). Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and thick. Remove to a rack to cool to room temperature before serving.

Adapted from SmittenKitchen.com

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Always Have a Plan!

Just like the "A" Team, even Clean Eaters need a plan.  In order to not only eat well, but also to save money, it is very important to have a plan.  I always make a menu for the week before grocery shopping.  Today I just simply want to share with you what our dinner will look like this week.  If you are interested in any of the recipes, make a comment or send me a message on Facebook.  I have shared most of these before, and am happy to do so again!  I generally list only the entree unless there is a particular veg or side dish I want with it, so please do remember to eat your veggies!

SUNDAY - Rosemary pot roast
This has to be one of the easiest and most tasty dinners ever.  All you need is meat, coconut oil, worcestershire and rosemary (fresh or dried), and a crock pot.

MONDAY - Balsamic Mustard Chicken and baked acorn squash
I like recipes that I don't have to buy a lot of weird ingredients to make.  This is another one that is made with things I usually have stocked in the pantry.

TUESDAY - Falafel with whole wheat pita and tzatziki
This one takes a little more time but is so worth it when you taste those fresh whole wheat pitas.  A lot of falafel recipes call for tahini sauce, which you can easily substitute, but we just love tzatziki (cucumber-yogurt sauce)

WEDNESDAY - Black beans and rice
Another easy go to recipe!  The only reason this takes any time at all is because the rice takes 45 minutes to cook.  If you pre-make your rice on Sunday, then this one takes about 15 minutes!

THURSDAY - Tortilla soup
I add cooked chicken for a little extra protein, but can be made without it too!  (Use leftover chicken from Monday!)

FRIDAY - Barbecue sandwiches
Repurpose the meat from Sunday into fabulous barbecue beef sandwiches!

SATURDAY - Go out!
Our Saturday is typically filled with chores and errands, so after church in the evening we usually go grab a bite to eat at Panera.  While the salad dressings are not what I would call a first choice, the salads are made with fresh ingredients, so I am going with that!  As long as I have eaten totally clean all week, one serving of salad dressing isn't going to wreck that.  I love the chopped chicken cobb with avocado!!!

Once we have made the menu, we think about our snacks, breakfast and lunches, and any special cooking we need to do that week (a treat for co-workers, perhaps?!), and make our list.  A grocery run often includes Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Giant, (with a trip to the farmer's market when possible) but all of the above recipes can be made with ingredients purchased at any major grocery store chain.

So get busy!  Make your menu.  Make your list.  Go shopping!  As Hannibal would say, "I love it when a plan comes together."  ("A" Team reference for you young'uns!)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Baby Steps!

GMOs, organic, superfood, probiotic, all natural....  Can I just say that at this point in my life and in my lifestyle change, I just know I need to eat healthy?  For me, that means cooking most of my own food.  That means being intentional about what I put in my mouth.  It took me a long time to get to this point.    But I still am focused on doing this right... because I am never going back.  

So please excuse me if from time to time I post a recipe that does not include organic vegetables in the ingredients list, please excuse me if I am confused about what foods are genetically modified, which ones are probiotic, and which is the best superfood.

I think one of the reasons I failed at weight loss attempts before is because I tried to read all the articles.  One week I was told to eat more of one thing, the next to never eat something else, the next time I turned around a different food was something I should eat all the time.  I can't keep up, and I get confused and kind of freaked out, and then I give up.  I'm not giving up this time.  

It's baby steps.  I eat clean, every day.  I don't have cheat days (okay, hardly ever).  But I still have a lot to learn.  Right now I need to focus on finding new recipes my whole family will enjoy.  Maybe next year I can learn about all that other stuff.  Just not today.




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baskin-Robbins at the Doctor's Office

I am not sure what happened with me this time.  In the past, when "dieting" with different plans, I would do well for a few weeks, sometimes longer, but always back slide. I would lose some weight and feel like things were going well, but then I guess I would get bored.  And a month or so later... the weight would be back.  Sometimes it would bring friends.

 But since I switched to eating clean, and have found so many great recipes and information about it, I am finding it very easy to stay committed to this lifestyle.  MR and I know that we will just always eat this way.  But is it because we finally reached a point where enough was enough?  What made the difference?

I have given this a lot of thought, and I think the real difference is that we can eat just about anything we want, as long as it's a cleaned up version.  Also, by eliminating the added sugars, and processed foods from our diets, we find that we no longer even have the cravings we once had.

Let me tell you about my relationship with ice cream.  I have always enjoyed good ice cream.  When I was young and skinny, it didn't seem to have much impact on me to eat it.  When I was pregnant with #1 son, I was blessed to have my doctor's office right next to a Baskin-Robbins.  WHAT?!  How cool was that?  And when they fussed at me for putting on weight (boy, did I!) I would say, "They think I'm fat?  I'll show them fat."  Really?!  How crazy was that?  Anyway, I'd just pop next  door and get a scoop of Pralines n' Cream, on a waffle cone!  So, #1 son is also known as the ice cream baby, weighing in at 9.5# and quite roly-poly.  Lucky for him, one side of my family has the skinny genes, and he has grown up to be quite tall and thin.  Also, lucky for both of us, I did not have any complications from increasing my sugar intake like that.  (What a doofus!)

So, all that oversharing just to now say that I am over it!  Truly over it!  I can buy ice cream for others, and have it in the house and I have no desire to sneak a scoop while watching "Modern Family."  While I do indulge in some dark chocolate, it is only occasionally, and usually quite dark, so pretty limited sugar.  Other than that, I just don't want ice cream, Oreos, Little Debbie's, or anything else.  I think about the flavor - or lack thereof - in a lot of those packaged items, and realize how much I was missing all those years.  I can make ice cream from bananas in just about any flavor I want.  I can make treats that taste better than an Almond Joy (another vice from back in the day!).  I don't have to have them all RIGHT NOW, as I once might have.  But I can have them if I want them.

Have we broken our sugar addiction?  Have our tastes matured and we've learned to appreciate the flavor of real food?  Still... no idea.   I do know that now I enjoy food more -- making it, sharing it, eating it!

So what's different this time?  I honestly don't know.  But I am glad it happened.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Cost of Clean Eating

I wanted to put together a meal plan that would show my readers that eating clean doesn't have to mean breaking the bank.  I have built menus.  I have made grocery lists.  And I think the menu and the lists are probably either on the coffee table or in the bottom of my purse.  Because, let's face it, I like to take short cuts.  If you read my Facebook page, Clean Eating -- It's a Lifestyle, that becomes very apparent.  I don't make up my own recipes very often.  I don't even adapt other people's recipes.  I just use recipes, pretty much as written, and if they taste good I share them with you.  And if they are complicated, forget it.   You won't see it on my page!

So instead of actually costing out the menu, as I had planned, I will just share with you the basics.  So, first of all, there are some things that you really need to buy up front.  The first trip to the store is going to be pretty pricey, but most of these things will last you quite a while.  And do shop around for price.  There are wide differences in prices on some things between Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and your local Giant (or whatever).  The things you have to have in your clean kitchen include whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour (if you use wheat), coconut flour (relax, most recipes call for small quantities), almond flour, coconut oil, coconut crystals, honey (get some local stuff), blackstrap molasses, sea salt.

Now that you have all this stuff, pour through the web sites.  I personally love www.paleomg.com, www.thegraciouspantry.com, and www.thenakedkitchen.com, although I am also starting to use recipes from some others.  Think about how you can use ingredients from one meal in another.  For instance, Sunday we will have a pot roast.  Monday we will have grilled chicken and pineapple.  Tuesday is barbecue beef night -- made with leftover pot roast, and Wednesday is barbecue chicken and pineapple pizza (again, leftovers from a previous night).  I will also use leftover meat (chicken or beef) to make soup. I think you get the idea.

It will be expensive at times, depending on what's in season, but try to be creative and thoughtful about your menus. And, for goodness sake, please do make a menu.  When you are purchasing fresh ingredients, you really have to have a plan for using them so they don't go to waste.  Once you get the hang of it and find some recipes you really like, it will get cheaper.  Where we live, produce tends to be pretty expensive.  Heck, everything is expensive here!  But when we go to the in-law's, we have found that we can get some things quite a bit cheaper.  Not cheap enough to make a special trip (it is more than two hours away), but worth it to stock up when we are out that way.  Maybe you are fortunate enough to have a local farm nearby where you can buy produce or meat.  Definitely take advantage of it!  Next year I hope I can make the time to do more canning, drying and freezing when things are in season!

Initially, truly, it cost me about an extra $50 a week.  I know that's a lot, but it has started to stabilize to the point where I am spending about the same as I was, especially since I do plan better and waste less.  I think in the long run, it will work out to about the same.  Think of it this way, if you were just setting up your household, you would have some pretty big grocery bills because you have to start with the staple items.  So just set up a new household!  A Clean One!
 

It's a Lifestyle!

(I am migrating my clean eating posts to another blog, so I apologize if you see some repeats if you have been following me.)

Anyone who knows me well also knows that I haven't slept well in years.  A "good" night's sleep for me was only waking up a few times and being able to get back to sleep within an hour.  Many nights I would be awake for hours, unable to get back to sleep and wanting only that.  So I somehow survived on an average of three or four hours a night for days on end.  Sleep eluded me, and I thought that was just how I was wired.

This past March, after a lot of research and talks with family who know about these kind of things, I decided to switch to "clean eating."  Eating clean just means that you eat food as close to its natural state as possible. So no processed foods, no chemicals or additives.  No refined sugars, no white flour.  In our pre-packaged world that sounds pretty hard, doesn't it?  Well, I found that it wasn't.  Sure, it takes a little more planning, and I definitely have to actually cook more often.  But especially after I got used to it and found some quick go to recipes, I have found that it doesn't have to be difficult.  Of course, summer time makes it easier because there is so much fresh produce to be had.  But we're going to figure out how to keep this going all winter, too!

Okay, so what does that have to do with sleeping?  Everything!  Since we started eating clean, I sleep through the night!  Through the night! I might still wake up occasionally and look at the clock but then I am right back to sleep.  But mostly, I just sleep four 7 or 8 hours.  Oh bliss!!!  I am refreshed in the morning instead of dragging around.  Seriously, if you are a bad sleeper, you know how much you yearn for that feeling!

So, you interested?  You want to try this clean eating thing?  Some people dip their toe in and ease into it.  Not me!  It's all or nothing with me. But you can go more slowly.  Whatever works for you.

So I found www.TheNakedKitchen.com and that's my main resource for meal planning.  Check it out.  You don't have to do all your shopping at Whole Foods either.  It's a great store and has lots of options, but something else my friends know about me is that I'm cheap.  So I buy bulk steel cut oats at Whole Foods, because they have the best price.  But the majority of our food comes from Trader Joe's, Giant, and the local Farmer's Market.  But you can do this just shopping at your local Piggly-Wiggly too.

So maybe you've heard, shop the perimeter.  That just means don't go in the center where all the packaged stuff is.  Buy fresh produce.  If you can't get fresh, buy frozen.  And read the labels.  The easiest thing to consider is if it has more than 5 ingredients, don't even bother trying to sound out all those words.  Here's an excerpt from www.thegraciouspantry.com that sums it up well.


  1. Eat  Lots Of Plants – Eat food that is straight from nature. (Some people say “as close to the way nature made it as possible”. But I think that leaves too much wiggle room – in my humble opinion) Eat mostly foods that are off a tree, bush, plant or vine, and you’ve pretty much got it covered. The idea is to stay away from anything that humans (food corporations) have altered in any way.
  2. Include Meats - Eat meats that are whole and straight from the butcher. Don’t buy pre-packaged meat products because you never know what’s in them. When possible, buy whole meats and grind them yourself. You’d be surprised what’s in ground turkey meat! You can also select a few turkey breasts and ask that the butcher grind them for you. Many butchers are more than willing to accommodate.
  3. Enjoy Grains - Eat grains that are still complete and haven’t been broken down into “glue”. Stick to brown rice, whole wheat and other whole grains.
  4. Read Labels I don’t know how many breads I’ve picked up at the store that say they are whole grain. But when I take a look at the ingredient list, white flour is the second ingredient after whole wheat flour!
  5. Eat Fewer Ingredients. Try not to purchase foods that have more than 3-6 ingredients in the ingredient list. And be sure you recognize each and every ingredient. If you find a “mystery ingredient” such as “spices”, contact the company! Ask them what they consider to be spices. If it’s anything other than honest-to-goodness herbs and spices, avoid it! And remember, if you can’t pronounce it, it probably shouldn’t go into your body.
  6. Eat 5-6 small meals per day. This may seem like a lot at first. But remember, you are eating smaller portions. If you really have a hard time with this, prepare your regular three meals and a snack for the day, and divide lunch and dinner in half. You’ve instantly got 6 small meals!

One other thing about eating...  I read that you should pair a protein with your complex carb when you eat.  Always.  So an apple with a piece of cheese, a handful of almonds with some berries for a snack.  For meals, grilled chicken with your grilled veggies, black beans with brown rice, that kind of thing.  Pretty easy to remember!  We even eat pizza, baked goods, and treats.  We just have learned to make them in a different way.  A whole wheat pizza with chicken, barbecue sauce, fresh pineapple, fresh mozzarella and red onion... how does that sound?!

Do you have to exercise?  Well, eating clean isn't about that, but because I feel better (I really do!) I have the energy to get out and walk.  And that's my exercise.  I try to walk about 3 miles a day.  Usually half of that at lunch time and the other half after work.  Some days I might walk a little more, and sometimes I do less.  Occasionally not at all, but I try to limit those days.  I know I need to add some other exercise to my routine but for now, this is what I am getting into my schedule.

So what are the benefits of eating clean?  I sleep; I have energy; and oh yeah, I lost 17 pounds and my husband lost 30.  (*Update 4 OCT - I have now lost 23pounds!)  We lost it slowly - a pound or so a week.  And we eat three meals and two or three snacks a day.  Every day.  And we don't eat any cardboard fake diet foods.  Just whole, nutritious stuff.  It's awesome! 

People see me and notice the weight loss and the first thing they ask is how I did it.   Well, I didn't do it by "going on a diet."  I did it by making a lifestyle change.  Eating clean is not a quick fix diet.  Don't expect that. It's just a different - better - way of eating.  I had heard for years that you can't diet, you have to change how you eat.  I admit, I never really understood that.  Now, I do.  I totally get it!  Do we ever "cheat"?  Yep.  Occasionally.  Some information I've read says you can cheat once a week.  I would say I cheat more like once a month if that, and then it's just one thing, not a whole meal.  That's why it's a lifestyle... you make it work with your life.