Monday, July 28, 2014

Favorite Snack - Whole Wheat Pretzels

A year or so ago we discovered a place that makes whole wheat pretzels.  MR was particularly happy because he is pretty much a pretzel freak.  These are the big hard pretzels -- great for eating as a snack or breaking into soup.  The only ingredients are whole wheat flour, water, salt, and yeast.  That's it!  They even source their flour locally.  Now, don't you feel even better about having a pretzel snack?!  The place we go is Martin's Pretzel Bakery in Akron, PA (Lancaster County).

They also have regular pretzels (white flour) and flavored pretzel bits, but we always get the whole wheat.  We buy our whole wheat pretzels right at the bakery.  They are so incredibly fresh, I can't even tell you!  (You can order them online if you can't get to PA.)  This past weekend we went to Lancaster for some produce and other items we like to get up there, including our side of beef.  (The side of beef is a story for another day!)  When we went into the bakery, I could see through a window some of the Mennonite women who were making the pretzels.  I asked to take a picture, and they agreed, even telling me to go through another door so I could get a better view!  In the picture, one lady is taking a tray of just twisted pretzels to the oven, while the other ladies continue to twist.

According to their web page, each employee can make about 10 or 12 pretzels a minute! They make about 26,000 pretzels or 1,200 pounds a day!  I guess they aren't technically home made, but the only way they could get closer to home made is if they did it in my house!

These apparently only available within a 50 mile radius of their bakery and in New York City unless you order them online.  Here is a link to some more information about how their pretzels are made.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Clean Eating Menu with Recipes!

Our cow is ready!  Yay!  We are down to two packs of chipped steak in our freezer, so definitely time to fill 'er up!  My in-law's neighbor raises beef, and every year we buy a side from them.  We don't eat that much meat in a year, though, so we share it with the in-laws and a friend.  I just love knowing exactly where my beef is coming from and how it was raised and fed.  The taste is incredible!  I know it seems expensive when you buy a half a cow at a time (somewhere in the ballpark of $1000), but when you do the math, it actually works out pretty cheap when you compare it to grocery store prices. I haven't gotten the invoice yet for this year, but last year's was around $6 or $6.50 a pound, as I recall.  When you look at the price of beef, that is an excellent price.  To buy really good hamburger, you are going to pay that... and this is for beef cut the way you want it!  We get lots of roasts, steaks, hamburger, hamburger patties, chipped steak...  So, yes, a lot of money up front, but it saves me a bunch of money in the long run.  Plus, it just tastes better!

In honor of this event, the first recipe up this week is my favorite Rosemary Pot Roast.  I love it because it is super simple but so full of flavor.  If you use the leftovers for soup, you will be totally blown away!  And I'm pretty sure I will make roasted potatoes with truffle salt to go with it.

Instead of soup, though, we will use leftovers to make pot roast sandwiches.  Trader Joe's carries clean whole wheat hamburger buns.  And pickles on the side...  Yeah!  Something else I am totally hooked on (thanks to my SIL) is Claussen kosher dill pickles.  You can find them in the refrigerator section. I really prefer to make my own, but when that isn't happening, these at least don't have any added sugars.  And they have that wonderful Crunch (yes, with a capital C!) that makes biting into them even more delightful!

MR keeps asking for pizza.  He admits that he would pizza every day, if he could.  So we will get a Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza crust (in the refrigerator section), TJ's quattro formaggio cheese blend (this is what totally makes the pizza!), and MR will make his super-easy-makes-a-bunch-so-you-have-some-to-freeze pizza sauce.  I like to make a grain free crust for my pizza, mostly because  I love the taste, plus I make them in personal size so I can take them for lunch! Pizza sauce and grain free crust recipes here.

We really like to keep things pretty simple, mostly because we both work outside the home full time, and we have pretty long commutes.  So we will find a nice evening and throw some chicken on the grill.  I just rub it with olive oil and sprinkle it with Italian seasoning.  I like to make a little extra so that another evening we can throw together a salad and top it with grilled chicken.  No recipe for that, just make it the way you like it!  Grill some vegetables, too, when you make that chicken!  Dee-licious!

Since I still have those two packs of chipped steak, and I know I have some whole wheat tortillas in the fridge, we will have cheesesteak wraps one night.  I prefer to use fresh peppers and onions to saute for these, but I won't kid you, sometimes I just don't have that stuff and I am not going to let that stop me.  I keep frozen mixed peppers in the freezer for just such an occasion.  It is so handy to grab a handful of these and throw them in the pan.  I also like to have them handy for soups and marinara.  Is fresh best?  Probably.  But I hate to have produce get wasted, so sometimes I go with frozen.  As long as there's no added junk, it's fine.

I also have some homemade, no sugar added applesauce to use up, so I hope to get some figs this week and make Apple Pie Balls.  I just love these little babies!  Easy to make, and a nice snack!  If there are leftover figs, I will dip them halfway into some melted chocolate and roll them in chopped almonds!

I made this two weeks in a row, and might have to do it a third....  Almond Joy cake.  I cut back on the almond flavor (to 1 tsp).  To me, it tastes more like German chocolate cake than Almond Joy, but either way, it definitely tastes amazing!  I highly recommend you make this cake today!

The other thing you might want to make is this so simple mousse!  I substitute honey for the agave.  Delicious!  You can whip this up in a minute and have a really healthy dessert for your family.  Not that I suggest you hide it from them, but if you don't tell them there is avocado in it, they probably will never guess!

MR's Sure-To-Be-Famous Cole Slaw

One of the really nice things about MR, and there are many, is that if he gets home from work first, he often starts supper.  The other day was one such day.  I usually use the Naked Kitchen honey lime cole slaw recipe, but he didn't know where to find it, so ... in true MR fashion... he made one up.  So simple yet so good!  You certainly can shred your own cabbage and carrots and make your own mayo, but if you're just trying to be better, not perfect, you can use his recipe as written.

MR's Cole Slaw Recipe 

Bag of shredded cabbage and carrots 
3/4 cup Duke's mayo
2 TBSP honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
sea salt and pepper to taste

Mix together and allow to chill.  
You may want to add the mayo and vinegar a little at a time until you get the right taste for you and your family.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Clean Eating Breakfast Bars

I found this Grainless "Nutri-Grain" Bar recipe.  Since I am always on the lookout for something like this that I can grab and go, I thought I'd give it a shot.  As usual, I didn't have everything the recipe called for, so I subbed where I knew I could.  They turned out good!  I will admit that rolling them out and then putting another layer on top was the tricky part.  I ended up kind of piecing together the tops.  So they aren't beautiful but they are totally edible!  Below is my recipe, or you can use the one linked above.


3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 TBSP flax meal
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Hawaiian sea salt (or whatever sea salt you have)
No sugar added preserves  (try to get the cleanest you can).  Or just use fresh or frozen berries.

In a large bowl, mix almond meal, coconut flour, flax, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, cream oil, coconut sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt.  Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix until well combined.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Grease two pieces of parchment paper with coconut oil.  Place half the dough on a piece of parchment, then cover with the other greased parchment.  Using a rolling pin, roll into a rectangle about 1/4" or less thick.  (While thinner is a little harder when making these, it makes the finished product a little less dense.)  Cut the rolled piece into rectangles.  Place a little preserved down the center of each piece.  Roll out the other half the same way and make the tops.  I really just rolled it out and kind of pieced it together.  As I said, not pretty but still yummy.  Pinch the edges to seal seams.  Place on parchment paper on cookie sheet and bake about 14 minutes.  Move to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.  Make 8 - 12, depending on size.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

It's What's for Supper!

Have you made Almond Joy Bars yet?  Well, I am here to tell you... you should!  These turn out like cake and are so very very good that I made them twice last week!  The blogs say not to use almond meal, but I did and they still turned out fab-u-lous!  The only reason I didn't make it again is because I ran out of unsweetened coconut!  I will take care of that today when I go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

Almond Joy Bars
I have a busy week ahead so it's very important that I have a plan for meals, especially after working all day.  Some of this will be prepped beforehand.  For example, when I make marinara sauce, it makes a lot so I just freeze the extra.  Lucky for me I had some in the freezer that we can use!  The quinoa salad will be made this weekend so it's all ready to go on Monday.  I love those kind of days!  What are you clean eating this week?

This week's menu includes:
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad - I really love this stuff and it makes a bunch so I have it all week for lunch too!
Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken - If it has feta, I am there!!
Sundried Tomato Meatloaf - The sundried tomatoes really make this meatloaf awesome!
Marinara Sauce with whole wheat pasta (or pasta of choice) - Make a bunch and freeze it!
Pizza! - I have made this recipe so many times lately.  Because I make them personal size, I always have some to freeze and take for lunches.
BLTs - MR just loves his BLTs, and since it's tomato season, who am I to say no?!

I think we need a few treats too.... 

Thin-ner Mint Cookies - Taste so much like Girl Scout cookies, you won't believe it!
Apple Pie Balls - A family favorite!
Pecan Pie Balls - Super easy to make!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Don't Try This at Home! UN-clean choc chip cookies!

I don't normally do this, because I don't want to tempt you!  But if you find that you need to make an unclean treat for your family or a gathering, I would say this is the one to make.  I bake for #1 Son's lunches sometimes.  Typically, I am able to leave them alone because the sugary treats just don't interest me anymore.  But I ran across a recipe for Doubletree Chocolate Chip Cookies.  If you have ever stayed at a Doubletree, you know what I am talking about.  They tempt you right from check-in with a warm cookie.  I stayed at Doubletree a few times for some training events, and the front desk clerks were awesome about sharing cookies with us whenever we asked.  Maybe too many!  But oh they are so good!  So when I ran across this recipe, I just knew I had to try it for #1 Son.  I did make a minor tweak to the recipe linked above by using part white flour and part white whole wheat.  I also ground up the walnuts because he isn't a big fan.  So here is my version of ....

Doubletree Hotel Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup rolled oats, ground in food processor until fine
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, ground in food processor until fine

Cream together butter, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice in large mixing bowl.  (I use a Kitchen-Aid with the whip attachment.)  Add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth.  Scrape the bowl occasionally.
In a small bowl, mix together oats, both flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix gently until just combined.  (I use the Kitchen-Aid flex edge flat beater.)  Add the chocolate chips and walnuts and mix until evenly distributed.  Do not overmix.
Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.  Using a spoon or cookie scoop, place the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 2" apart (depending on the size of your cookies... I make mine pretty big!).  Bake at 350 for about 13 minutes or until golden brown.  When baked, cool on the cookie sheets for a couple of minutes and then move them to a cookie rack until completely cooled.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Easy Peasy Pizza Crust!

I was hanging out with a good friend this week.  We did a pretty good job of eating clean, except for that Fisher's Popcorn!  (Sorry, but if you go to the shore in the Ocean City, MD area, you have to have Fisher's caramel corn!)  Anyway, one of the things we ate was pizza.  I made this pizza crust once before.  And it was good.  But this time we made some unintentional changes that made it even better!

The key is to stretch this just about as thin as you can.  You will be tempted to make it what you think is thin but, trust me on this, keep stretching.  It really should be just as thin as you can get it.  I make this in personal size pans, but you can also do it on a regular pizza pan.  For a personal size, the first time I made it I made four pizzas.  But the last time I made it, my friend was helping me stretch the dough and I thought I had too much for four pizzas.  I wasn't sure how that worked out, but rather than waiting to check them all, I threw away the "excess" dough.  Well, I needed it.  But what happened is that I stole a little bit from the other pizza crusts to finish that fourth one.  So they had to be super thin.  Bottom line, you should be able to get five personal size pizzas out of this recipe.

Also, if you have time, refrigerate the dough in the pans before topping them.  Maybe an hour.  Not required, but I think it may also make a difference.

To spread the dough in the pans we just had to put a little olive oil on our fingers.  Otherwise, it's a sticky  mess.  Full instructions follow the recipe.

Okay, to summarize:  If making personal size pizzas, you can make 5; spread as thin as possible, and then even thinner; use a little olive oil on your fingers to help spread the dough and keep it from sticking all over your hands; and refrigerate the dough in the pans before topping if you have time.  (According to Domestic Man, where I found the original recipe, you can make two medium pizzas with this. But I have not tested that.)

Grain and Gluten Free Personal Pizza
(adapted from The Domestic Man Cast Iron Skillet Grain and Gluten Free Pizza)
Makes 5 personal size pizzas
1-1/2 cups tapioca flour
1/2 cup half and half
2 TBSP butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp (or so) Italian seasoning
dash of garlic salt
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pizza Sauce
26 oz can tomato sauce
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP Italian seasoning (more or less, to taste)
1 tsp oregano

Stir together all ingredients.  This makes a lot of sauce, so put it in small containers and freeze so you have it the next time you make pizza.

Pick your favorites!  Fresh mushrooms, pepperoni, fresh vegetables!

For the crust - Put the tapioca flour in a bowl.  Heat in a small pan over medium heat the half and half, butter, and salt, stirring constantly until it just starts to boil.  Mix liquid into flour with a wooden spoon.  Allow to cool about 5 minutes.  Mix together the egg, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and Parmesan cheese in a separate bowl.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture, using a wooden spoon.  You can use your hands if you need to.  It won't get totally smooth.

Break the dough into five equal pieces.  Press each piece into a personal sized pizza pan or a medium sized cast iron skillet.  (It turns out that it's important that you use a cast iron skillet or something equally well seasoned.)  Keep pressing and pushing with your fingers to get it to the edge and as evenly spread out as possible.  Refrigerate for about an hour (if you have time).  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with pizza sauce and your choice of toppings.  Pop them back in the oven and bake about another 10 minutes.

No, you don't need to grease the pan.  These will pop right out with just a little help from a spatula.

These are amazing reheated in a toaster oven.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summertime Refreshment!

I picked up a seedless watermelon the other day.  I was really looking forward to that sweet goodness.  So I was less then amused when the inside was mushy.  Not all of it, but enough that I just couldn't eat it.  The texture was just gross.  The flavor, however, was fine.  Waste not, want not, Mama always said!  So I pureed that stuff up in a hurry!  I poured most of it into ice cube trays for later, but I had about a cup or so left and no more ice cube trays.  So I left that in the blender, added a scoop of vanilla protein, and two heaping spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, a dash of cinnamon, and made myself a really refreshing treat!

Now, I think I will take my Watermelon Refresher and go lie in the hammock!

Watermelon Refresher