Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quitting Sugar!

I read an article recently, and perhaps you did too, about a family that gave up sugar for a year.  Just today a friend posted  it on Facebook and queried whether she could do that and, if so, how.  So this post is dedicated to her quest to be sugar free.

First, we have to define what that means.  Does she want to just cut out all sugar, even naturally occurring?  Naturally occurring sugars can be found in a lots of foods!  Fruit, milk, yogurt, and basically anything with carbohydrates -- potatoes, pasta, many vegetables...  the list is lengthy.  So I am going to guess that no one is going to go fully sugar free, at least not from a naturally occurring perspective.  But no added sugar?  That I can wrap my head around.  So the dilemma then becomes what does she use as a sweetener substitute in baking or other cooking?  There are choices like honey, blackstrap molasses, coconut sugar, etc.  Or she can just eat naturally occurring sugars.

First, substituting.  I use honey or coconut sugar for almost all my sweetening.  Another great substitute is Medjool dates.  They add lots of sweetness and are very versatile.  If I want a brown sugar taste, I use blackstrap molasses or coconut sugar.  Remember though, just because it's clean doesn't mean you should overindulge.  Treats are treats, and everything in moderation!

Next, read the labels!  And research all the ways they disguise sugar in the ingredients:  glucose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, the list is pretty long!  And that particular linked list includes honey.  But I am focused here on not using white or brown processed sugar.  And let me tell you, the less you use sugar, the less likely you will crave it.  Take it from an old sugar addict!  Once you bust the addiction, you really won't want it.  And if you do eat something really sweet you won't enjoy it.  Since I started eating clean, I never enjoy processed anything, especially store bought sweets.  They taste so fake to me!

It might be hard to go all in on this especially if you're used to sugar in your coffee or tea.  So start small.  Cut out the desserts.  Then cut back on the sweetener in your coffee.  And keep cutting back until you aren't using any at all.  I think it's great to ease into these things and makes it less likely you will fall off the wagon.

Okay!  But what are you going to eat?!?!?  That's always the question, isn't it?  Even in my house where I make menus and do a prep work on the weekends!

If you find that you "just to have" a sweet, be sure to keep things like good quality dark chocolate around.  A little bit of that goes a long way and satisfies the craving quickly.  Or keep an easy to make treat in the refrigerator or freezer.  Here's one of my favorites to get you started:  Apple Pie Balls!  These are so good!  And so quick to make... which makes them a favorite with me.   And here's another one I recently found that is a great grab and go for breakfast.  Peanut Butter Granola Bars.  I made these over the weekend and cut them small.  That way I could have one for a snack or two or three for breakfast!

And here is one of the first clean eating recipes I ever ate.  This one includes whole wheat and some clean eaters don't eat wheat.  But if you do, these are the best ever!!!  And remind me of something my mom used to make.  Cinnamon Raisin Braids.  Go make you some!  You know you want to!

Edit!  One thing I always forget to mention is drinks.  Sodas, juices, etc.  The reason I forget to mention it is because I only drink water, black coffee, and tea with nothing added.  It never occurs to me that you  might be drinking scads of Diet Coke.  My personal advice, just quit.  If you really don't like to drink plain water, slice up a lemon and throw it in a pitcher or drink bottle and pour water over it.  It will add some nice flavor but nothing else.  Soon, you will be able to even skip that step.  That's how I got myself to drink more water.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spices Gone Wild!

I have taken up a new hobby....  researching foods for Ulcerative Colitis.  Blah.  #1 Son had quite a week recently with a hospital admission that resulted in this diagnosis.  On the up side, though, he has a diagnosis.  I hate he has to deal with this now and for the rest of his life, but it really is something of a relief to *know* what he is dealing with!  So I am reading all kinds of stuff about what to eat, what not to eat.  It's exhausting.  Kind of how I felt when I made the switch to clean eating.  There is just so much information out there, you don't know who to believe.  So, here is what I believe.  We will start slow and see what works for him.  I think that's true with any way of eating.  What works for you is what you should do.  This week's menu at our house will reflect some new things we are trying in an effort to help him with his UC.  But, as always, they will be clean!! No reason to throw all that effort out the window.

I have been reading a lot about the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric recently.  Apparently, if you combine it with black pepper it greatly increases the absorption rate too.  While I don't think black pepper in a turmeric mango smoothie would be good, we can probably sneak it into some rice seasoned with turmeric.  It is about to get all crazy up in here with the spices!!!

He is an on-the-go kind of person so it helps to have things he can just take with him and eat/drink on the way to work.  I think smoothies might be the way to go to start out.  I found this Turmeric and Ginger Smoothie recipe that uses peaches, which I just happen to have in the freezer left over from a farm stand purchase this summer.  Lucky him!

I don't have much experience cooking with turmeric.  I understand it's in a lot of Indian foods, so if anyone has some great recipes to try, please let me know in the comments.   What are you eating this week?  Whatever it is Keep it Clean!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Take Your Lunch to Work Day!

One of the hardest parts of maintaining a clean eating lifestyle can be "what to eat when you're not at home."  Even packing a lunch for work can be a challenge.  To make life a little easier, I present Spicy Pumpkin Meatloaf in a Mug.  Pumpkin and beef may not go together in your mind, but I was totally blown away by how good this is.  The pumpkin makes it moist and the spices add so much flavor, you won't even believe it.  And the smell in the break room will have all your co-workers envious!  I know that some people are opposed to microwaving food, so this one isn't for you. But for those who do use the microwave oven, this is a big winner!

I don't know what is the best part... that it's easy to make (so easy) or that it tastes so good (so yummy)!  I even make this when I am at home.  No point waiting until I go into the office!

Spicy Pumpkin Meatloaf in a Mug (no eggs, no dairy)

1/4 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp garam masala*
1/2 tsp (or to taste) sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix with clean hands until well mixed.  Place the mixture in an 8 oz or large microwave-safe mug.  Microwave at 70% for about 6 minutes.  I check it after about 4 minutes and then every couple minutes until it looks done.  Don't overcook, to prevent drying.

Let cool and enjoy!

So okay, but what the heck is garam masala?  Or at least that's what I thought when I first read this recipe!  For those of you not in the know (like me!), it is a blend of ground spices common in North Indian cuisine.  I suppose you can buy it already mixed at a store that sell Indian food, but I opted to make my own.  It's spices you may already have in your cupboard!

*Garam Masala 

1 T ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1-1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Mix together all ingredients.  Use what you need and store the rest in an airtight container.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Yogurt Everything - Everything Yogurt!

Oh, now I've gone and done it!  I just had to make yogurt.  Now I have to try all kinds of flavors mixed in with that yogurt!  Last night I had a little snack of yogurt with mixed berries and just a drizzle of real maple syrup.  Amazing!  This morning I am having pumpkin pie yogurt.  Another great option!  And seasonally appropriate!

I don't like things real sweet, so if this isn't sweet enough for you, you can add a little bit of maple syrup to it and I feel quite sure it would be ab-fab!

First, make yogurt!  You really need to do this a day in advance because it's a long process. It isn't time consuming on your part.  It just takes a long time for the milk to become yogurt.  I made yogurt yesterday, starting in the morning, and we had yogurt in the evening.  And now again for breakfast!

Pumpkin Pie Yogurt

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
maple syrup, to taste (optional)
Chopped pecans (optional)

Mix yogurt and pumpkin together in a bowl.  Stir in spices.  Stir in maple syrup, if using.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Yogurt Making... it really is easy!

I made yogurt today, for the first time ever!  And I would call this escapade a success!  I was pretty reticent because I didn't want to screw it up and waste 1/2 gallon of milk.... but as it turns out, I had a 1/2 gallon that was coming up on its expiration with no sign it would be used. And the only ingredients you need are 1/2 gallon of milk and 1/2 cup of yogurt with live active cultures. I used Fage plain Greek yogurt.

Off I went to try this out.  The worst part (for me) was having to stir the milk as it heated.  I have never had the patience for that, but I persevered.  Stirred and stirred, gently, while I waited for the thermometer to reach 200F.  Finally got there... well pretty close.... then I just followed the rest of the directions in the recipe.

Here is the link to the full recipe.  How to Make Yogurt at Home

I was really nervous about putting the pan in the oven (turned off), and whether it would be warm enough.  So I decided to turn the oven light on while I was heating the milk.  I could actually tell that it was a little warmer in the oven after the light had been on a bit.  My pot isn't super heavy, so I set it in an insulated bag used for another baking dish.  The directions say you can wrap it in towels if you like.  I'm sure either way works.

My niece does this overnight but I knew I would have plenty of time today, so I made it in the morning and let it sit in the oven for about 6 hours.  When I took it out, it was still warm!  I strained it for a couple of hours through a thin tea towel set in a colander (because I couldn't find cheesecloth at the store today).  It was really nice and thick when I scooped it into the container.  When we eat yogurt, we typically used plain and add fruit and/or honey to each serving.  But I have been told by a pretty reliable source that you can mix in honey, maple syrup, fruit, etc. and freeze individual servings if you like.

Since it was still warm, the taste was a little different, but it was definitely good!  I was pretty surprised and happy with how it turned out.  So, if you have been dragging your feet on trying this.... don't wait any longer!  It takes a lot of time, but most of that is just letting it sit in the oven or letting it strain.

So what are you eating today?  Be sure to Keep it Clean!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

New Favorite Thing!

Remember when you were little and everything you got seemed to be your "new favorite thing"?  Well, that's how I feel sometimes about all these great recipes I try.  Okay, some are not so great, but most of them are, so let's have some selective memory, m'kay?  My new favorite thing (this week!) is egg crepes with chia berry jam filling.  I took two really good recipes, tweaked one of them just a bit, and then combined them for one heavenly breakfast.  And you truly can make these in advance, grab a few in the morning, and eat them on the go if you have to.

Each recipe of crepes makes two servings.  The chia berry jam recipe will fill a double recipe of crepes.

Breakfast Crepes with Chia Berry Jam

Crepe Recipe - makes about 8 crepes
4 eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 TBSP coconut flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract

Chia Berry Jam Recipe - makes about 1/2 cup jam
1-1/2 cups frozen berries, thawed (I recommend small berries)
2 TBSP real maple syrup
2 tsp chia seeds
1/4 tsp vanilla

First make the jam, so it can cool while you are making the crepes.  Heat berries and maple syrup over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Once the berries start to get a little mushy and the liquid begins to release, add chia seeds.  Stir for a few minutes, then reduce heat and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Allow to cool completely.  Store leftovers in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.

Then make the crepes.
Mix ingredients together.  Allow it to rest while you heat a small non-stick saute pan.  Stir the batter again before using.  Pour a thin layer of batter into the heated saute pan and swirl to coat the pan.  Allow to cook for a few minutes.  When the edges start to curl, gently flip the crepe and cook the other side for about 15 seconds or so.  Allow to cool completely.

Spread about a teaspoon of chia berry jam onto crepe, but not to the edge.  Roll up like a burrito (fold in the sides.  Store leftovers in refrigerator.

The original crepe recipe can be found at  I chose not to add sweetener since I was filling them with something sweet-ish.  That's my big tweak. :-)  I'm sure they would be fine made either way.

The original chia berry jam recipe can be found as part of this thumbprint cookie recipe.  By the way, these cookies are the bomb too!!!

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