Friday, September 26, 2014

Cheez and... Jam???

A few weeks ago I confessed to you that I have started tracking my nutrition and exercise using the MyFitnessPal app.  In case you didn't read it (what?!), I somehow got off track this summer and started picking up some weight.  As most of us know, once it comes off the last thing we want is to let it start creeping back.  I felt like I hadn't really changed anything, but it was obvious that *something* was going on!  So I signed up for this app, figured out what sort of balance I should have in my life regarding carbs, fats, protein, calories, etc., plugged that information into the app, and away we went!  As I said previously, I don't like to have to keep track of my food.  It makes it too much of a focus.  But this app really takes the effort out of it!  And it has helped me get back on track.  And I am now pretty sure my problem was eating too many treats.  Clean treats, but treats nonetheless.  And all things in moderation, as they say!!!  Since I started tracking, I am down about about 6 pounds -- and I also had lost about 2 or 3 pounds just prior to actually starting to track just by thinking more about what I ate.  The app didn't do it for me, of course, but it did help me think more about the combination of foods and how much I was eating.  Success!!

One thing that hasn't changed is how much I enjoy trying new recipes!  I am always on a quest for something new and yummy.  Last night I was home alone (poor me....) and I decided to try out a recipe for Cheez Crackers.  Well, as often happens, I didn't have all the ingredients!  I didn't even know what "nutritional yeast" was!  So I Googled it, of course.  And then I Googled, "substitute for nutritional yeast."  I found out I can just use Parmesan cheese!  As it happens I had a chunk of that in the refrigerator, so I shredded some up with my handy dandy new cheese grater thingy (how did I live without that?!) and made Cheez Crackers!  Apparently they are really good because when MR got home he couldn't stop eating them.  We finally had to put them in a container and put them out of sight.  I just love having a nice little salty snack that isn't full of "stuff" that I can't pronounce!

My modification to the cracker recipe was to use Parmesan cheese, but you can certainly follow the original recipe and I'm sure it will be fine.  All I know is, I like 'em!

Something else I ran across recently was a great recipe for grain free thumbprint cookies.  And they were really good cookies too!  But the thing that most interested me was making jam out of chia seeds!  It was so easy, and so good!  So tonight I whipped up a batch of just the jam.  You can use it to fill in the center of thumbprint cookies, on toast, whatever you like!  I am planning to use it in the center of clean toaster pastries!  If they turn out, that recipe will be coming to you soon.  But for now, do yourself a favor, and go make you some chia berry jam!  It's spectacular!!!

What are you eating today?  Whatever it is, Keep it Clean!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Look at the Classics

I sure was on a roll this past week for good recipe choices!  Until Thursday night.  It wasn't the recipes fault.  I tried to sub a couple ingredients.  What a colossal failure.  Looked nasty and tasted almost as bad.  Oh well, that's how the ball bounces, as we used to say!  I did however make an awesome blueberry omelet this morning.  Yes!  Blueberries in an omelet.  Very good.  This was an omelet made the way I learned in Home Ec class.  (In case you aren't familiar with that, it is a class that all girls took in high school so we could learn the basics of cooking and sewing.  At that time boys took Shop class so they could learn to be handy around the house.  While I think it was sexist to put you in either class based on gender, I must admit to having learned some handy skills to have.  Not just as a wife and mom, but as a "human bean" (as my brother says) living day to day.)

So anyway!!!  The way I learned to make an omelet, but not the way I do it most days in the interest of time, is to beat the whites separate until they are firm and hold soft peaks.  Then you fold them into the yolks.  If you have never done it this way, you will be amazed at how incredibly fluffy your omelet turns out.  It is worth the time if you have just a few minutes extra.  In the case of the blueberry omelet I made this morning, I just let the Kitchen-Aid run and fluff those whites up while I mixed together the other ingredients with the yolks, and got the pan ready.  I think it was well worth the little extra time.  And then it is finished in the oven which gives it a beautiful brown top without deflating the whites.

Fortunately the majority of recipes I try from other cooks turn out well. As do some of my own creations.  This week I am pretty much sticking with the classics.  At least they are classic in my house.  While I love a great meal, I don't want to spend all weekend or every evening cooking forever.

As I write this, there is granola baking in the oven.  MR likes to mix this with some plain Greek yogurt for a snack during the day.  I bake up a batch just about every week and store it in an airtight container.  No added stuff, just good clean granola!

This afternoon I will put a rosemary pot roast in the slow cooker.  This is probably one of my all time favorite entree recipes.  It is very simple but so incredibly full of flavor that I just can't begin to describe it.  Good stuff!  Try it!

One night I will make those coconut chicken fingers again. These are good as an entree or on a salad.  I have some fresh pineapple so I will grill that and serve it alongside the chicken.

MR loves chili.  Not as much as he loves pizza, but he does love chili.  This is another easy go to.  Just a pound of ground beef, sautee some green peppers and onions, and throw in a can of tomato bits, a can of green chili and tomatoes, a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), and a can of pinto beans (not drained or rinsed).  Can you eat clean from a can?  Sure!  Just make sure the ingredients are simple.  In the case of these ingredients, most are just one ingredient:  tomatoes, black beans, etc.

Did I mention MR loves his pizza? He admits that he would eat it every day.  We makes his with fresh whole wheat crust from Trader Joe's and MR's own pizza sauce (just tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and olive oil!), but you can use one of the many alternative crust recipes available online like this one.

Did you see the recipe I posted for meatballs alla parmigiana?  Boy oh boy were they good!  I wanted to eat them all week.  And I did!  At least until they ran out.  Okay, so this week I am going to experiment and see if I can just use the same recipe for meatloaf.  You think that will work?  I sure hope so!!!

One night we will throw steak on the grill.  This is easy because I just rub it with a little olive oil, sprinkle it with rosemary, and a bit of sea salt.  The weather continues to be great for grilling so I want to take advantage of it while I can.

So what's going on in your kitchen this week?  Whatever it is, Keep it Clean!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Confessions of a Clean Eater

'Tis the season!  Labor Day has only just passed and already we are seeing all the great holiday recipes floating around the internet.  On your Facebook news feed, on Pinterest.  It's hard to look away sometimes, isn't it?  Soon and very soon, I will post some great holiday treat recipes, but for now please let me share with you why you may want to avoid all those sugar filled recipes clouding your view....

I am just going to be straight up about this.  If we don't all stop eating so much processed junk, we are going to wear our parts out way before their time!  I know we can get new knees and hips.  There are lots of meds we can take to combat hypertension, diabetes, and heart issues.  But wouldn't it be great to go into our old age without any of that or at least less of it?  I know that not everyone's issues and ailments, whatever they may be, are food related.  But I do know that we can do a better job of taking care of our bodies so that at least perhaps less medical intervention is required.  I personally know people who have been able to stop taking many or all of their medicines (with their doctor's okay) because they chose a clean eating lifestyle.  I'm sure no doctor, or any medical professional (although I did stay at a Holiday Inn once), but from my own personal experience I know how much better I feel in general when I focus on eating whole foods.

My knees have been a problem for me for a very long time.  And my hips have let me know they are not much happier.  I don't know if I will be able to avoid replacements forever, but I knew a long time ago that I didn't want to go down that road any sooner than absolutely necessary.  So two years ago I finally made shedding some weight a top priority.  All it took was a switch to clean eating.  Foods as close to their original form as possible, and no white flour or sugar.  I started subbing in stone ground whole wheat flour, coconut sugar, honey, blackstrap molasses, and dried fruits.

After a couple of years though I found that I had stalled, and even started picking up a few pounds again.  No.  We are not going down that road again!  You see, even clean treats are still treats, and I kind of lost sight of that I think.  So lately, and here is that big confession you have been waiting for, just since about Labor Day actually, I started paying more attention to my carb intake.  Now I know I always say the beauty of clean eating is that you really don't have to count anything.  And that is generally true.  But I just felt that I had gotten off track a bit so I wanted to start monitoring things more closely for a while.  I finally decided to give in and start using myfitnesspal app.  This really takes the work out of keeping track of things!  So at least it's been easy to break down and accept some help.  And boy howdy have I gotten some help!  This little tool is so cool!

As far as limiting my carb intake, it really has been mostly about limiting treats and increasing my protein.  And I truly have not felt hungry!  There is nothing worse than "dieting" and craving what you cannot have.  It just hasn't been the case.  And, to be clear, I am not going to low carb forever, nor am I going to track forever.  I am way too lazy for all that.  But for now, it is helping me return to my fighting weight and that is making me happy.

As I have traveled the low carb path I have found lots of amazing and oh yes so easy recipes to help me through!  Please allow me to share some favorites!

Meatballs ready to go in the oven!
First up, the ab-fab can't be beat meatballs alla parmigiana.  Holy moley, Batman, there is no denying these are the best meatballs I have ever had. Truly, madly, deeply!  I am lovin' these meatballs.  I had them for supper one night and for lunch the next two days.  I was sad when they were gone!  I put them together with my go-to marinara sauce and this meal was the bomb!!!

And they really didn't take that long to make and bake.  You can fry them in a pan or bake them in the oven.  I kind of combined the two methods so they would brown a bit more.  So amazing.

The quickest and easiest thing I have "discovered" is caprese salad.  I have had it before, but for some reason it has really hooked me lately.  And, in keeping with most things I do, it  is so easy!  Slice some fresh mozzarella, top with slices of fresh tomato, throw on some fresh basil, and drizzle a little olive oil over it.  MR likes a bit of sea salt sprinkled over the top as well.  Lunch in a minute!!!

Okay, and one more before I tempt you with a treat...  This soup was yet again very easy, and I love love love it!  Now don't let the name put you off.  I am not a gourmet cook so some combinations sounds odd to me, but this pumpkin chipotle soup was another winner.  (I have kind of been on a roll this week for finding great recipes!)  I actually made it the day before because it makes my life easier to prepare on the weekend as much as possible and then reheat during the week. I was concerned that the cream would not reheat well but I was oh so mistaken.  We just heated it slowly and stirred occasionally.  Quite good!  Quite good!  Doesn't taste pumpkinny (new word I just made up) but that chipotle gives it a great kick!

And now that treat I promised you!  I have been really really good for about three weeks, feeling even better than before, and shedding some weight, so yes I made a treat last night!  Remember moderation!  But these coconut chocolate bars will not totally ruin any progress you have made, that's for sure.  Minimal ingredients and you can sub whatever granulated sweetener you prefer.  I did use Stevia this time but may try coconut sugar next time.  These are not super sweet at all, but definitely allow you to feel just a little decadent!

Tonight I am using leftover grilled chicken to make pesto chicken salad. I haven't actually tried this recipe yet but I think it sounds so good!  I will forego the bread and put it on Romaine lettuce.  MR will enjoy some sourdough with this.

What are you eating today?  Whatever it is, Keep it Clean!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Frozen Pumpkin Pie Chai-Ccino!

Found on Low Carb Keto Recipe Club Facebook page
Michelle Bailey was the original poster
Frozen Pumpkin Pie Chai-ccino
1 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut almond milk
1 pumpkin spice tea bag
chai tea bag of your choice
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup frozen canned pumpkin (freeze in an ice cube tray for better blending)
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
3 Tablespoons pecan butter (you can substitute almond butter)
1/2 cup coconut cream skimmed from the can and frozen (freeze in ice cubs trays)
remaining cream from coconut can for whipping
Sweetener to taste. (I used 2T of salted caramel sugar free Torani syrup)
Steep tea bags in almond milk for 10 minutes and then chill. Remove bags. To a blender add coconut cream, mascarpone, spices and extracts, pecan butter, pumpkin and sweetener and then milk/tea mixture and blend well. Served with whipped coconut cream and dust with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
I found this recipe on Facebook and did my best to turn it into a Pin directly from the site, but it just wasn't happening.  I have copied it here, including the picture, made a few edits that do not change the recipe, and tried to give all credit to the original poster and original site.  I always want to give credit where it's due!

A Piece of the Puzzle - Plus Parmesan Chicken!

Part of the reason I write this blog is to share recipes.  The other part is to encourage others to adapt a clean eating lifestyle.  I read and share lots of information with you, with my friends on Facebook, Twitter, anywhere.  Some of what I read discourages me a little because I am concerned that it is discouraging you.  I know that it isn't always easy to go "all in" on a new eating plan.  And some of what I read makes it sound like you have to only eat organic, cage free, grass fed, pastured but not pasteurized, living on a hilltop, singing songs from the Sound of Music chickens, beef, pigs, and almond trees.

That is just NOT TRUE.  Is it ideal to eat organic?  Probably. Is it best to eat grass fed beef?  I think so.  But is it absolutely necessary to a healthier you?  Nope.  The fact is, in some areas it's harder to find those sources.  For some people, it's just not affordable right now.  (Once you get your whole family eating like this though, you don't have to buy "their food" and "my food" so it does start to balance out.)  It would be great if you could start moving in that direction, but don't let it stop you!

Another piece of this puzzle is... do you have to go all in right from the start?  Nope. Nope.  Nope.  That's how I did it, because that's how I tend to do a lot of things.  But if it's easier for you to start with eliminating one thing, like sugar, then start there.  Next switch from white flour to whole wheat.  Then start to think about making one meal from scratch, if you don't already do that.  Then another, and another.  Baby steps!!  If you go out to eat a lot, start thinking about how you can make that meal at home.  Not only will it be healthier, but it will save you a lot of money that you can spend on organic The Hills Are Alive chicken eggs!

Caprese salad, dill pickles, Parmesan chicken
You don't need to know everything there is to know about clean eating either.  As you go, you can read and learn.  But start out just by reading labels.  Does it have less than five ingredients (as a general rule)?  Can you pronounce all the ingredients?  Can you honestly define all those ingredients?  If so, then it's likely something you can eat.  Or just buy one ingredient foods.  Chicken.  Egg. Beef.  Apple.  Green Bean (two words, one ingredient... BONUS!).  Don't get hung up on the new ingredients you will start to see in recipes. Coconut sugar, whey protein, blackstrap molasses.  These are things you can add later as you get more comfortable with clean eating and clean cooking.

Another thing!  Very important.  Don't focus on what you can't eat.  Focus on what you can!  There are lots of "can" foods out there.  One thing I tell people is that if there is a food you must have, I can usually find a clean substitute for it.  Some of my friends make a game of it, I think, to try to trip me up.  But so far, I am still winning!  And so are they because they are trying these new ways to make things.

The picture on this blog is a quick supper I threw together last night because we were out a little late.  Dill pickles.  A little Caprese salad (just a slice of tomato, a slice of fresh mozzarella, and some fresh basil, drizzle a little olive oil over that).  And leftover Parmesan chicken.  You didn't think I'd leave you without a recipe, did you?  Check it out!  Quick and easy!!!

Parmesan Chicken

2 lbs chicken tender
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 T Italian seasoning blend
1 t chili powder
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter, melted

Mix together Parmesan, Italian seasoning, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Dip chicken in butter and then roll in Parmesan mix.  Lay on parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Whatever you are eating today, let's Keep it Clean!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oh I Get by with a Little Help From My Friends

I tend to be a little hard headed.  I think I can figure it out all on my own.  And I hate counting and keeping track of my food.  That's one reason clean eating has been so great for me.  For the last couple of years, all I had to do was make sure what I was eating was clean.  Fresh and as close to its original form as possible.  No white flour, no sugar, no processed foods.  And that really worked for me for a long time.  Pretty quickly after changing to this lifestyle I shed about 30 pounds.  This summer I seemed to get off track somehow, and picked up a few pounds.  And that just annoyed me to no end because I couldn't figure out what was different.

So I finally caved in and got the MyFitnessPal app.  Man, I hate it when I allow my hard-headedness to take over... because if I'd done this sooner... well, who knows?  But I think I'd have gotten myself back on track a lot sooner!  There is a little time spent to get your recipes in it. But since I tend to eat a lot of the same things, once it's done, it's done!  And, frankly, I think the credit it gives you for exercise is pretty overblown.  But I just ignore the exercise credit and focus on the numbers I am interested in.  Of course, I will have to add an occasional recipe, but I am actually kind of enjoying that part.

I started using the app about a week ago, and I am already back to losing.  And even though I don't really pay attention to the exercise credit, I do feel a little guilty if I can't log any or enough exercise.  Yesterday was rain, rain, rain, and the Grandparent is with us, so the best we could do was meander around the mall.  Well, at least we got a little movement in.  Today is nice and sunny so hoping for a lot more opportunities to get outside and move it, move it!

All that just to say -- I really recommend you use some kind of an app to help you stay on track.  With all the other things we have to do every day, it's nice to have a little help, isn't it?  But of course no post would be complete without a recipe, would it?  So here's a healthier version of Pumpkin Spice Latte from (Please ignore the typo!  Ack!)  I know it's hard to resist those treats, so let's at least Keep it Clean!