Sunday, August 31, 2014

Caramelized Figs

I picked up a couple of pounds of fresh figs yesterday... without any idea what I was going to do with them!  For a planner like me, that is kind of unusual.  But they just looked so beautiful, I couldn't go home without them.  I ate a couple with a piece of cheese.  What a wonderful snack!

This morning I woke up way too early.  MR said he will be making blueberry pancakes, but as I sat in the kitchen enjoying my morning cuppa, the figs kept calling my name.  So I made breakfast!  The pancakes will have to wait.

Caramelizing figs is quick and easy.  And you can keep them in the fridge for a couple of days too.

Caramelizing Figs

Caramelized Figs and Greek Yogurt

1/2 pound fresh figs, cut in half, stems removed
1 TBSP honey
2 cups Greek yogurt
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Warm honey in a skillet on medium heat.  Place figs face down in the honey and heat for about 5 minutes.  In a bowl, mix a sprinkle of cinnamon into the yogurt.  Transfer figs and liquid from skillet to yogurt dish.  Drizzle with additional honey if desired.  Serves 4.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Recipes for Labor Day Weekend

My friend has started a clean eating challenge among some local ladies.  It is so cool to see people just jump in with both feet!   They are really trying, even though we all know how hard it is to change years and years o bad eating habits.  But I give every one of them credit for trying so hard.  Things like this excite me and make me want to help them with great, easy recipes.  I really think that if we make it easy on you with easy recipes made from readily available ingredients, you will be more successful.

Did you try the coconut chicken fingers from last week's blog?  If you haven't, you really should!  Those babies turned out so delicious, and they were incredibly easy and quick.  Next time we make them... and there will be a next time... we are going to make some pineapple-mango salsa to go with it.  Can you imagine?!

Labor Day weekend is upon us, so I have included a couple of traditional picnic foods, but all cleaned up!  Also, the peaches are so good this year, I am going to try something new with them.  Which brings me to... the recipes!

Cinnamon Crunch Pancakes with Brown Butter Caramelized Peaches - I have not yet made these, but this recipe sounds so fabulous!  It has been on my short list for a while, so hopefully this week!

Slow Cooker Baked Beans - These are amazing!  Throw everything in the slow cooker and you will end up with best baked beans I have ever had... and I come from a long line of baked bean makers.  My mom used to do hers in a crock in the oven for hours.  These really remind me of those!

MR's Sure-to-be-Famous Cole Slaw - As I am sure I have told you before, MR is a really amazing man!  He came up with this recipe because he didn't know where to find the one I usually use.  He just "came up with it!"  And I love it!!!

Marinara  and spaghetti squash - You may recall that I made a batch of marinara last week.  It makes quite a bit so that makes my life much easier this week.  I just have to bake the squash, pull out the "spaghetti," and pour some reheated marinara over it!

Pineapple Chicken Kabobs - I haven't yet tried this easier, but I have always loved the combination of fresh pineapple and chicken grilled together!!!

Mexican sirloin steak and avocado salad - I have made this and we both loved loved loved it!

Not Just Another Cookie - Okay, I admit it!  I still like a treat now and then.  Who doesn't?  But what better way to have a treat than with a cleaned up version of an old favorite.  If you don't have cranberries you can always substitute another dried fruit like raisins or cherries.  Just make sure there is no added sugar!

Do you think you can find something good to eat from this list?  I hope so!  Is there a recipe you'd like a clean version of?  Let me know in the comments!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Recipes for the week!

It has been kind of a busy weekend!  I managed to make a menu for the week and get my grocery shopping done, but never got this blog written.  Which doesn't do you any good now, does it?!  So here's this week's recipes.  As I write this, I am cooking all the sweet potatoes for the week to make things faster when it comes to time to make the quinoa burgers and the Shepherd's pie.

We went to a picnic in a vineyard yesterday with a bunch of friends.  Great times!  But I will admit I ate some things I don't normally eat.  Way too much sugar!  But, hey, sometimes it happens.  And so the next day I just reboot!  CTRL-ALT-DEL

And on to the recipes!!!

Sweet potato quinoa burgers - This recipe makes enough for me to freeze leftovers individually so I can take them to work for lunch!

Mediterranean quinoa salad - This also makes a huge amount.  Even having it for a meal one evening allows me plenty to pack in lunches.

Spaghetti squash with olive oil and garlic - I think spaghetti squash is just one of the coolest veggies out there.  Throw it in the oven to cook and end up with these great little strands.  Plus, it's squash!  I love squash!

Caprese salad - This one is so easy you don't really need a recipe.  Just slice some nice fresh tomatoes, and some fresh mozzarella.  Layer it in a dish, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh basil.  Sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt on there and voila!  Awesome summer salad.  I cut way too much basil to make this, so now I have some drying for the next thing!

Pizza - MR loves his pizza.  A whole wheat crust, his homemade sauce, and cheese and toppings of choice!

Shepherd's pie with sweet potato top - here is a recipe for a Paleo shepherd's pie, but we prefer to use sweet potatoes, in which case you don't need to usually add much, if any milk to it.  And I like to season them with a little cinnamon.  Really, you can make one with just leftover vegetables, a little beef broth, a pound of ground beef, and some cooked sweet potatoes.  Season as you like!

Coconut chicken fingers - Anything coconut and I am there.  Civilized Caveman hasn't steered me wrong yet!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Zucchini Primavera

Okay, I have said it before and I will say it again... Waste not, want not!  I know that sometimes clean eating can seem expensive.  But when you plan, plan, plan, it does save money.  Last night I made a sort of a primavera kind of thing that really was just ingredients that I had in the house.  I had already pre-cooked chicken earlier in the week to throw into salads or something.  I used some of that, some beautiful little zucchinis I bought at the farm stand, and the rest was just what was available.  In this case, it was half of a tomato and some frozen sugar peas.  It was totally edible and so quick!

Zucchini Primavera

1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped
3 small zucchini
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
A few very thin slices of onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp Red pepper flakes
1 or more fresh or frozen vegetables, for a total of about 1-1/2 cups
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Grate the zucchini.  Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in a skillet.  Add onion, garlic (up to 3 depending on how garlicky you like your food) and red pepper flakes.  Saute and stir gently until the garlic begins to brown.  Add another TBSP of olive oil.  Allow the oil to heat up a minute or so, then add the grated zucchini.  Saute, stirring gently occasionally.  Add grape tomatoes and saute.  Add chicken to heat through.  Then add other vegetables and cover to steam.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.  Makes about 3 big servings.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Clean Eating Should be Easy!

You know what's harder than clean eating?  Well, a lot of things, because I think clean eating is pretty easy.  Of course, I've been doing it for more than two years, so now it's just part of who I am.  But when I am trying to eat clean and just don't feel like cooking..... that's hard!  I mean, there are a lot of snacks that are just grab and go, like raw veggies, nuts, etc.  But when it comes time to eat a meal, it does make it a little more difficult!

So this week, I have tried to put together a menu of pretty easy and basic recipes, along with a variety of ideas for snacks that you can choose from.  Because one thing harder than eating clean when you don't feel like cooking, is eating clean when you have to go buy a bunch of weird ingredients.  Since I've been doing this a long time, I tend to have things like coconut flour, almond meal, chia seeds, etc. in the cupboard.  But if you don't, hopefully you can mix and match some ideas from this week's meal plan.  I have kept it fairly loose, because that's really how I do it through the week.  Supper is the only thing that is planned in our house, and everything else is pretty much based on that and whatever else is in the fridge or cupboard.

Recipes follow the chart.

Banana/egg pancakes -  These could not be simpler!  Just beat an egg and mash a banana.  Mix together well.  Lightly grease a pan with a little bit of coconut oil and make pancakes!  Serve with real maple syrup, if you like.

Blueberry pancakes - I just love these!  You may need to add a little more milk if they are too thick.

Chia seed breakfast pudding - You need to make this ahead, but then you have it ready when you are running out the door!

Apple mug muffin - You know those quick microwave cakes that are all over Pinterest and Facebook?  Yep, this is one of those!  But clean.  Even Paleo!  There are also oven directions if your prefer not to use the microwave.

Balsamic pot roast - It probably seems like I make a pot roast every week.  I probably do.  I love how easy it is to throw something in the slow cooker.  And then, of course, there are the leftovers for another night or for lunch!

Grilled chicken - I just rub a little olive oil on chicken breasts, sprinkle with some Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and throw those babies on the grill!  Grill some fresh seasonal veggies and you are all set!

Greek salad with chicken - When I make the grilled chicken, I always make extra so we can have a quick salad one evening.  The Greek salads I had in Greece did not include lettuce, but this one does so we can make it a meal.  Toss together chopped Romaine lettuce, tomatoes cut into wedges (or grape tomatoes), peeled and sliced cucumber, thin sliced red onion, and chopped leftover chicken.  Dress with red wine vinegar and olive oil and toss lightly to coat.  Sprinkle on some feta cheese and a little oregano.  Voila!

Hawaiian barbecue chicken sandwiches - I haven't actually tried this yet, but The Gracious Pantry hasn't steered me wrong before!  Let me know how it goes.

Spaghetti squash with marinara - I make a batch of marinara and freeze the leftovers so I can make this quick and easy anytime.  It's really an easy recipe, and filled with yummy goodness.  I brown some lean ground beef for protein, and then add the pre-made sauce to heat through.  Spaghetti squash can be cooked in the oven and then you just pull the strings of squash out to make the noodles.

I get my whole wheat english muffins at Trader Joe's.  If you can't get those, be sure to read the ingredients of the ones at your grocer.  They need to be made with basic ingredients, as close to natural as possible.  Trader's have stone ground whole wheat flour, water, barley malt, yeast, wheat gluten, expeller pressed corn oil, sea salt, vinegar, and cornmeal.  If you can't find one that are pretty clean, opt for Ezekiel bread or something similar.

A note on whey protein.  Read the label.  There are some with so many ingredients, I'm not sure what they really are.  I found Tera's Whey (bourbon vanilla) at Marshall's.  It is made with dairy whey protein concentrate, organic vanilla, sunflower lecithin, organic stevia leaf extract.  I don't use it a lot, partly because I haven't found it again and I only have the one container, but also because most of my meals contain enough protein I don't feel the need to add it.

I really want to make clean eating easy for you.  Let me know if there is a recipe you'd like cleaned up, and I will see what I can do!  Remember, whatever you do, keep it clean!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Down with "Easy 3-Ingredient" Recipes!

I am working on not letting things annoy me, but I am really having trouble getting past a "great recipe" with "only three ingredients" where the ingredients are prepared foods filled with tons of crap.  It is misleading.  And it usually isn't very healthy.  I just ran across another one for pulled pork barbecue where two of the three ingredients were prepared barbecue sauce and soda.  Guess what the third one was??

Because all of these recipes are "so easy" it might make you think that eating clean is not.  Well, I am here to tell you it is. I am as lazy as they come, and I don't want to spend my life in the kitchen... although I do occasionally get a wild hair and spend all morning cooking.  But you don't have to make super-complicated meals to eat healthy.  Frankly, dinner should be as easy as you can get....  protein (for instance, grilled chicken) and veggies.  Don't overcomplicate it!  I just rub chicken breasts with a little olive oil and sprinkle some Italian seasonings on it.  Throw it on the grill.  I make more than we will eat so I can have leftovers to throw on salad.  Seriously.  Or toss a roast in the crockpot and make balsamic pot roast.

Where it probably gets more complicated for you is snacking.  Because what's easier than opening a bag of Doritos?  Yeah, I get it.  When you want a snack you don't want to have to work too hard for it.  That's where planning and prepping comes in.  But sometimes, you don't even have to do that.  One of our favorite snacks is plain Greek yogurt with some homemade granola mixed in.  Throw on some blueberries if you like.

The hardest part of adhering to a new way of eating is not getting bored, and you really shouldn't have that problem with clean eating.  If there is something you really love, there is probably a recipe for it!  If there isn't, let me know, and let's see what we can do!  But just don't get sucked into all those "easy 3-ingredient" recipes. 

Okay... whew... now I feel better.  When I see one of those recipes I just have to counter it with something better, and better for you!  Hope you're keeping it clean!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Stuck for Ideas? Recipes too!

A lot of people feel like one of the hardest parts of maintaining a clean eating lifestyle is eating when you're away from home.  I hear you!  Boy, do I hear you!  I am fortunate to be able to take my breakfast, lunch, and snacks with me to work.  In an effort to make your life easier, I want to share some of my favorites that I take to work.

I try to pack my food the night before because, let's face it, I am not inclined to think too well at 5:30 in the morning!

I always (pretty much always) make a batch of granola over the weekend.  This is the easiest thing in the world to take to work.  I put the granola in one container, and some milk (I use almond, you use what you like) in a jar, and when I get to work I dump the milk over the granola and warm it up in the microwave for about a minute.  So good!  It would be a good idea to have a hard boiled egg too.... have to get some protein to start your day!  But you know what else is really good?!  Mix some of that granola into a cup of plain Greek yogurt.  Drizzle it with honey if you like!  Oh yes!!!

MR's slow cooker steel cut oats are the bomb!  He makes them just about every Sunday so we always have this as an option for breakfast.  Same as the granola:  oats in one container, milk in another, and combine them and warm them up at work.

The whole wheat pancakes might be something leftover from weekend breakfast.  You can actually put these in the toaster!  Then add fruit or real maple syrup!

If you don't have a way to heat things up at work, hard boiled eggs and fresh fruit are always an easy winner.

Most of the snacks you can figure out but here is the recipe for apple pie balls and a variety of lara-type bars.  I love love love apple pie balls, but the lara bars are easier to make because I can get Medjool dates easier than I can get figs. Either way, good choices to have around anytime!

Lunch for both of us is usually leftovers.  Again, we are able to heat things up at work, so that helps!  But when we don't have leftovers, I try to have some options in the freezer.  Sweet potato quinoa burgers and grain-free pizza are two of my favorites.  I make the pizzas in personal size pans.  If you make them big, you really need to use a cast iron skillet.  Even so, you can cut them into slices and freeze those too.  And when leftovers and the freezer fail you, hard boil some eggs and make egg salad.  Or throw together a salad!  

Probably even harder than going to work is traveling!  I have lots of ideas for that too... I promise a blog is coming soon on that topic!  Stay tuned and stay clean!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Waste Not, Want Not!

My mom was the original Queen of Recycling.  She could make anything out of nothing, and never threw anything away.  I am nowhere near as good as her, but I did learn to not waste food.  This morning I made apple pie balls.  Amazing, if I do say so myself.  But that left extra crushed nuts and figs.  So I melted some dark chocolate, dipped the figs in it, and rolled them in the nuts.  If you want to make these without first making apple pie balls, here is a recipe/.  Now I had leftover chocolate.  So I dipped yesterday's coconut cashew cookies in them!
Waste not, want not!

Many Recipes, One Post

Yesterday I worked from home so I had a moment to throw some cookies in the oven.  The only problem with these cookies is that they are FABULOUS!  And ADDICTING!  I really have to stop myself from eating them all.  It's like eating a flat macaroon.  All chewy, coconutty goodness.  Making me want one!  Stop it!  So here is the link to those, just to get that out of the way!  Coconut Cashew Cookies I am telling you, if you like coconut macaroons, you will not be disappointed in the flavor!

I'm sure I have mentioned it a hundred times, but we picked up this year's side of beef last weekend.  Now my freezer is full again!  Hooray!  We have made a couple of things out of it already and, you know, awesome as usual.  There is just nothing like local-farm-raised-grass-fed beef.  And I know not everyone can source it, or afford that up front cost.  But think about this... if you stashed $20 a week, this time next year, you could afford it!  We lay out about $1000 for an entire side of beef, cut and wrapped to our specifications.  It works out to just over $6 a pound.  That's the price of really good hamburger, but includes steaks, roasts, chipped steak, hamburger patties....  Seriously.  Think about it.  And if a half is too much for your freezer our your wallet, think about buying a quarter.  So very worth it!

Things are a little up in the air for us this week, so I'm not sure how many meals I need to plan for.  I guess what I will do is make sure I have the staples around, almond milk, tomato paste, tomato sauce, eggs, etc., and just wing it from there.  I may have to do another grocery run this week depending on how things pan out.  This is another benefit to having a freezer full of meat!  At least I have protein!

Instead of my regular weekly menu plan, I will just share some of my all-time favorites!

Granola - One thing I make every Saturday morning (just about) is granola.  MR likes to mix it into his plain Greek yogurt.  I like to pour a little almond milk on it and heat it up for breakfast.

Three Recipes on One Blog! At this link you will find three of my favorites.  It's like winning the trifecta... .lucky you!  Rosemary Pot Roast, Sarah's Marinara, and Pesto Chicken Sandwiches are all really amazing recipes that you need to try.  Really! Neeeeeeeed to!

Another Three-fer!  Oh!  Here's another one that has at least three really great recipes.  Pepperoncini brisket just really couldn't be any easier, apple pie balls are the bomb, and MR's famous steel cut oat recipe is perfect for make ahead breakfast that you can have all week!

Wow!  That's a lot of recipes.  I know you will find something yummy... and clean... to eat!  Hope you have an ab-fab week!  And keep it clean!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Called the Doctor, Doctor Said...

I'm really working on not letting things annoy me.  But, gosh, sometimes it's really hard!  Case in point, a friend recently mentioned that his doctor wants him to lose weight.  The doctor advised he do a no sugar, no flour, no processed foods diet.  So far, so good.  Unfortunately, the doc couldn't stop there.  He said, essentially, this is going to be really really hard.  Seriously?!  How about applying a little psychology here?  First of all, it's not "really really hard."  I would say, depending on the person, it may be a big change.  But I would also say that you don't have to do a full immersion like I did.  You can start with baby steps.  Start with not buying processed foods, perhaps.  Making your own food from scratch.  Then start subbing in whole grains for the flour.  Cut back on the sugar, or replace it altogether with a good alternative.  It can be done.  I've done it. I know other people who have done it.  You can do it!

You know my doc said something similar when I told her a couple years ago that I was very unhappy with my weight.  She basically said, well, not much you can do about it.  WHAT?!  Okay, maybe she did employ some psychology there, because if you tell me I can't, I surely will!  Just to prove a point.  In this case, it was a good point to prove, as it turns out.  She was astonished at the difference just a year later.  MR's doc was also amazed.  All his numbers were so improved after transitioning to clean eating.

Before I go any further, my personal opinion is that different eating lifestyles (not a diet!) work for different people.  I know people who have done very well on any number of eating plans.  Clean eating is what works for me.  The nice thing about clean eating is you can really can just try it for 30 days and see if it makes you feel better.  If weight loss is your goal, it probably won't be fast, but it should be consistent.  Bonuses for me include better sleep and just generally feeling good!

I'm sure there are some very well informed professionals out there.  It just annoys me that some of them just don't seem to be as helpful as they could be or should be.  We all know that obesity is epidemic in our country.  It's important to help patients make smart choices.  I have known of people who are diagnosed with something that might be helped by diet, but not referred to a dietitian or given an eating plan, just told general things like avoid sweets.  Oh, okay, let me go load up on Diet Coke then!  (I don't drink pop, and if I do, just give me the real sugar stuff.  No chemicals required.)

I have many blog and Facebook followers say to me, Just tell me what to eat!  So that's what I try to do!  I am not here to say you can or cannot have something, but if you want to make good choices for clean eating, I will do all I can to help you find a recipe.  This morning I made some DEE-lightful cashew coconut cookies.  From protein to veggies to sweets, I am all about clean eating.  If you have a recipe you'd like cleaned up, let me know.  I will do my best to either find one for you, or clean it up.

And because you are all such loyal readers, here's that Cashew Coconut Cookies recipe:

1 cup cashew meal (or sub almond meal)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of sea salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined.  Drop from tablespoon onto a non-stick cookie sheet.  Pat down to flatten somewhat.  Bake in a preheated 325 oven for about 10 minutes.  When the edges are very golden brown they are ready, even if the center seems soft.  Allow to cool on the cookie sheet until completely cooled.  Do not overbake.  Do not try to pick them up while still warm (they will crumble).
Also, I haven't yet tried to store these but something tells me putting parchment paper between the cookies might be a good idea.