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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Holiday Treats, Cheats, and Good Eats!

 As you know, my focus is on clean eating -- all year long.  It's a lot harder this time of year, that's for sure, but I do try really hard to stay as clean as possible.  I allow myself more leeway this time of year but not too much!  But Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without lots of special treats, would it?  I am guessing, based on my limited knowledge that the same may be true of Hanukkah.  These two holidays run right up into each other this year.  But alas I don't know much about kosher Hanukkah recipes. So, if you keep kosher, I hope you can use some of these too!

MR and I have a little holiday thing we started a few years ago.  We weigh ourselves the day before Thanksgiving and then again on January 2.  (You can weigh yourself in between to track progress.)  The goal is to not have gained any weight over the holiday period.  That's quite a goal, isn't it?  Last year I went over by about 4 pounds.  I wasn't happy about it, but I recognized that it could have been a lot worse.  This year, I have some new tricks up my sleeve.  

As you may know, if you read my post about low carb tracking with MyFitnessPal, I have recently started paying more attention to not just eating clean, whole foods, but also specific counts.  For me, it isn't just the carb count, or the calorie count (I really still don't pay a lot of attention to the calories even though it's part of the app), it is a mix of carbs, fats, and proteins.  I am having more success lately by making sure I am getting enough good fat.  So all that just to say, I am hopeful that this year will be different.  I will use the MyFitnessPal app to keep an eye on what's going on.  But I'm sure I will indulge occasionally too.  The app helps me factor that in so it isn't a complete debacle.

The other tricks I have up my sleeve are some really amazing recipes that I will take to events to share whenever possible.  We have a potluck at work every year.  Plus this year we have a big retirement party.  My office provides the protein (ham and turkey) for the pot luck and everyone brings sides and desserts.  I will be very involved in providing snacks for the retirement.  My boss (who also eats clean) and I will stack the deck in our favor and make sure we bring some amazing clean eats so we can feel like we are indulging, even when we really aren't!

The Grandparents will come to our house this year for Christmas.  This blog is as much for that purpose as anything.  I want to be well prepared for this gathering!  The Grandparents are wise to my clean eating tricks, but have learned to at least try what I offer... usually.  And I think they have often been pleasantly surprised!  If you have been at this very long you have likely learned that most favorites can be replicated in a clean eating way.  I haven't been stumped yet, although my friend Jaime keeps trying!!!

So, what's on the menu this year?  Let's take a look!  And, oh by the way, these and many other great holiday ideas are over on my Pinterest page for low carb clean eating holiday recipes.

One more quick thing... I mention it at various places below but want to point out that you can substitute your preferred sweetener in most cases.  I would stick with granulated sweetener if that's the type called for (or liquid if that is the case, etc.) but other than that, you should be able to sub easily.  I do it all the time using coconut sugar, honey, or blackstrap molasses.

Cranberry Salsa - I bought cranberries every time I went to the store in November.  Some I just wash and then freeze fresh.  Others I dry.  I don't add any sweetener because I love the tart flavor.  But I put a ton of cranberries in the freezer and this is one of the reasons why!  You can serve this with crackers as is, or you can pour it over a soft cheese like goat cheese.  It makes a fabulous snack before or after the big dinner!

Gingerbread Cookies - What would Christmas be without gingerbread men?  This particular recipe calls for Swerve sweetener.  I use coconut sugar, though.  It works the same!  It will give you a slightly higher carb count, if you are tracking that. 

Candied Yams with Marshmallows - I don't actually  make this recipe.   In our house, we eat fried yellow Jersey sweet potatoes for Main Event dinners.  But I wanted to throw it in because I know a lot of folks have this tradition.  And it isn't it nice you can have a clean version?  I have made clean marshmallow though and it isn't as hard as you might think.  The Kitchen-Aid did most of the work!   (They are one of the very few foods I will eat fried, but they are AWE-Some!)  

Gingerbread Scones - I love scones!  And what a great treat on Christmas morning with your favorite coffee!

Cranberry Scones -  Did I mention I love scones?  Oh yea!  And this one is amazing.  I mean, you know, it's CRANBERRIES!

Chocolate Glazed Pecans - Here's a great snack to toss back!  Nuts are always a holiday favorite in our house, and this gives the Grandpa one of his favorites but in a healthier version!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dirt Cake - This isn't very Christmas traditional but MR specifically mentioned dirt cake recently, and then lo and behold I ran across this recipe.  I will take it to a potluck to help us avoid all the other decadent desserts that I anticipate will be there.  It has gotten to the point that one group I regularly pot luck with always has great interest in what we will bring.  They have learned from us that clean eating does not have to be about giving up favorites!

Slow Cooker Gingerbread Cake - HA!  Talk about a win-win!  Slow cooker AND cake?!  Love this idea!  And the smell of gingerbread just says CHRISTMAS to me!  (I linked this through the original blogger's site so you will have to scroll down and click one more time but it will be worth it.  I have never made anything from www.alldayidreamaboutfood.com that wasn't wonderful!)

Cookie Cut Outs - Another Christmas-wouldn't-be-Christmas-without kind of recipe!  Although cut outs can be tedious, this is the time of year that I don't mind doing it.  They are so lovely to look at and these are even lovelier to eat!!!

Sticky Buns!
Sticky Buns - Something extra special for the morning!  These are so delightful!!!  You know you want them!

And last but nowhere near least, cranberry fat flush drink drink to help clean it away!!  I have tons of fresh cranberries in the freezer and I am going to make homemade cranberry juice (this recipe calls for agave or white sugar; I prefer coconut sugar or Stevia but I think you could even sweeten with a little apple juice).

Okay, wait a minute! Wait a minute!  This is all about treats and sweets.  Why, yes it is!  Because, frankly, I think the easiest part about clean eating is meat and vegetables.  It's when I want a snack or a treat that I get in trouble.  But having all these great treat recipes really helps me.  So cook up your turkey, your ham, whatever you prefer.  Make a side of green beans, sweet potatoes, and even those candied yams (above!).  And then allow yourself a wonderful treat.  Just whatever you do, Keep it Clean!










Saturday, November 22, 2014

You had me at... SWEEPSTAKES!

Hey, a quick post to tell you about a sweepstakes going on over at alldayidreamaboutfood.com.  You think you are just getting an awesome pumpkin roll recipe (and isn't that enough?!) but then you find out you can also enter a sweepstakes to win a $100 gift card from Nellie's Eggs!

So hurry and get over to check out this low carb pumpkin roll recipe and get a sweepstakes entry too!  You know you want to!  I get a free entry just by posting about this, but I want to tell you that I love so many of the recipes on her site that I would do it anyway!  I personally prefer to sub in coconut sugar where the recipes call for sweetener, which makes a lot of them a little higher in carbs.   But either way, she has some of the best recipes you will find to fit into your clean eating plan!

Go check her out!  You won't be sorry!!!!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Comfort Foods... Soups and Desserts!

I just don't know where the time has been going!  I haven't written a post in a while, and I have even been slacking on posting recipes to my Facebook page.  I see a lot of really good recipes, but I just haven't been able to find time to try them out.  I'm pretty sure it's because it's dark by the time I get home so I feel like it's almost bedtime.  I definitely don't get as much done in the evening this time of year.

I have been giving a lot of thought to the upcoming holidays though!  I don't do a lot for Thanksgiving, as the MIL handles that.  And MR makes the pie... so it's clean!  They don't have to know that, and you don't have to tell them.  I am making big plans for Christmas, though.  I have been making mental lists of different things I'd like to make.  I have no idea what the big entree will be, but boy do I have plans for sides, desserts, and snacks!  So those will be coming up soon.  Just not today.  I am testing a recipe today that I hope will be a big winner so I can share it.

For now, you get to peek at what's on the menu at our house.  Since we have Thanksgiving weekend, I don't have to make a big list so here is what I have

Broccoli and Cheddar soup.  If you eat bread, serve it with a big hunk of crusty bread to soak up all that goodness!

Peanut Butter Dirt Cake  - MR said to me one day that he'd like some dirt cake.  And the very next day I ran across this recipe, without even looking for one!  I can't wait to try it.

Pumpkin Chipotle Soup - This is my new go-to super-easy soup.  It is full of flavor -- and not pumpkin-y tasting -- and always a big hit.  I make a batch and eat leftovers for lunch all week.  Very willingly, I might add!

Almond Butter Pumpkin Bars
Frittata - This recipe is really versatile.  You can follow it as written or do what I do -- throw in what you have.  For me, it's more likely that I will have sundried tomatoes, and Parmesan or asiago cheese, so that's what I use.  Use what's available and what you like.  It'll be awesome.

Oh you know what??  What the heck.  I will share that recipe with you that I am trying out today.  I am not serving it until tomorrow, but gosh... it's almond butter and pumpkin... how can that be bad?  I added chopped pecans and dried cranberries (no sugar added) for a little extra. You can pretty much add what you want, within reason, I guess!
Almond Butter Pumpkin Bars - Here!... go make you some!



Friday, November 7, 2014

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie and some low carb info

You may have noticed a shift in some of the recipes I am posting.  I told you a little while back that I was using MyFitnessPal app to track things.  As I noted then, the beauty of clean eating for me has been that I don't have to count things.  I just eat whole foods in their most natural state.  But that just didn't seem to be enough anymore.  I had gotten off track somehow so I decided to start watching my carb intake.  I did that the whole month of September and definitely started seeing a difference.

I limited the carbs quite a bit in that month.  Since then I have adjusted it upward a little but still keeping it what most would consider "low carb,"  One thing I have learned along the way is that it is not usually just one thing.  Not just calories.  Not just carbs.  It is a ratio of all the good stuff.  With MyFitnessPal I can track calories, carbs, fats, and proteins, and more.  I personally just pay attention to the carbs, fats, and proteins.  And of course I still make sure I eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.

Based on what I have read, it's important to get the right kind of fat, and enough of it. You probably already know you need protein.  But did you know you can get too much of that?  This where the app comes in so handy!  You figure out your own ratios and then it helps you stay within those.  **If you want more information about ratios and stuff, just leave a comment and I can help you one on one.  It really depends on what you want.**

I can't weigh myself because my scale died!  But I am fitting into some things that were getting too tight.  And that is the best feeling, isn't it?  I am not saying you should do low carb.  I am just saying it seems to be working for me.  And I'm not having any trouble finding good things to eat.

This is what I ate one day this week....

Breakfast - French Toast Puff (I don't use syrup with me because it saves me a couple carbs)

Snack - 1/2 Low Carb Bagel

Lunch - Pumpkin Chipotle Soup, Hebrew National Hot Dog , 2 peanut butter fat bombs

Snack - cup of beef broth

Dinner - Coconut Chicken Finger on romaine lettuce with Romano Caesar dressing, Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

That skillet cookie is the amazingest!!!  And everyone that has tried the Pumpkin Chipotle Soup wants the recipe!

You you know you want a piece of that skillet cookie!  Go get you some!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies... in a Skillet!

I really didn't intend to write another post today.  My plan was to just write the one that I posted earlier and then do a lot of prep cooking for the week.  Well, I did both, but some of these recipes turned out so well that I just had to share!  So this will be quick, but with lots of tasties for you to try!

First, I made yogurt.  This time though, I used a slow cooker!  I am so lazy that I hate to stand there and stir while it heats up.  It takes a long time.  It takes even longer in the slow cooker, but at least I can ignore it for a couple of hours.  It is still in the sitting around at 100 degrees stage, but here I am... writing!!

Next, I tried my hand at bagels.  Not your traditional New York style ones, but a clean and low carb version.  I had trouble getting them out of the pan, but the taste was good.  The texture was more like a cake donut, but that's okay too... as long as you know to expect it.

I also made a big batch of coconut chicken fingers.  I can take these for lunch, throw them into a salad, whatever.  And they are good warm or cold!  They really only take about 30 minutes to make start to finish.

I had made cauliflower rice the other day and there was a fair amount left.  I didn't want it to go to waste so I used it to make hot pockets!  I used asiago cheese in the crust because I had some to use up and mozzarella and pepperoni on the insides.

I also made a big pot of chili for #1 Son and MR.  But the piece-de-resistance was.... drum roll please....   Skillet chocolate chip cookies!
 I don't have a big iron skillet anymore so I used personal size pizza pans and made two!  The directions say you don't have to use an iron skillet but I like baking in these.  I subbed coconut sugar for the sweetener so it has a little more carbs, but these are really amazing!  I hope you'll try them!


A Lifetime of Healthy Habits

I was on Facebook this morning (as usual!) and saw an ad for a weight loss system.  It doesn't matter which one but it does matter that it's one of the ones that you have to buy their "food."  I put that word in quotes because what they offer doesn't meet my criteria for real food.  Not being a snob, just saying.... if you really want to lose weight and keep it off, it's not about a diet.  It's not about a system.  It's about a lifestyle change.  Unless you want to buy prepackaged stuff through the mail for the rest of your life, I just don't see how it can be sustainable.  It's interesting to me that the ones I have read about still require you to buy fresh fruits and vegetables to add to their meals.  Wouldn't it just be easier to make food?  And help you feel less deprived?

Admittedly, I have not used any of the mail order food programs.  But I do personally know others that have.  Some had some degree of success while they were purchasing the product.  Every one of them has gained it all back since stopping.  To me, that is not a success.  Changing how you eat forever, and sustaining good healthy habits is though.

Almost three years ago I switched to clean eating.  (Added bonus, MR and I lost 80 pounds of combined weight in less than a year!)  I get my food at the grocery store or at the farm market.  I do go to Trader Joe's sometimes, and to Whole Foods occasionally, but it isn't necessary if you don't have those options.  Even not having access to a farm market isn't necessary.  You can do this with just a regular old Kroger, Publix, Giant, or even the Piggly-Wiggly!  My local grocery carries some of the more unusual items that I purchase, such as almond flour, coconut flour, unsweetened coconut.  If yours doesn't, there are ways around that.  (To be honest, I prefer to buy all those things at Trader Joe's because they are cheaper there, but I will get them at Giant in a pinch.)

And, yes, those items can add to your grocery bill.  But you don't buy them every week, or at least I don't.  And you stop buying other things.  MR and I eat clean together.  Which means I don't have to buy special his food and her food.  I just buy food!  And he is not someone that would do a "diet" or eat fake food.  He loves good food, especially desserts.  And we have found a way to make us both happy by eating only real, whole foods!  If you want to ditch the sugar, cut the wheat, or any of the other diets you have read about online, start by making your own food.  If you must buy prepared or prepackaged foods, read the labels!  If you can't pronounce it, you likely shouldn't eat it!

There are so many amazing recipes out there that your family likely will not know you are feeding them clean foods unless you choose to tell them.  Just tell them you've decided to cook more!  My friends like to challenge me to clean up a favorite recipe.  I don't think they have stumped me yet.  Feel free to give it a try by posting a request in the comments!  In the meantime, go make you some Parmesan Chicken.  You know you want to!

Parmesan Chicken

2 lbs chicken tender
1 cup shredded 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.