Thursday, April 11, 2013

lettuce eat

It's been a week and two days I've been on a strictly clean diet and I'm feeling nothing short of amazing.  To be honest I haven't really struggled at all which is definitely promising, but I am still in the early stages.  Allotting time to prepare meals is probably the trickiest part of the whole transition, but I've been making larger meals that can last me through the workweek, like the Coconut Curry Chili I wrote about in my last post.  Sadly I finished the last of it today and was completely bummed the second it was gone.  I could literally eat it every day (and have for the last 4!). 

Before I start to post some of the clean recipes I've been making I have two in my archives that were awesome (and surprisingly almost clean) that have to be posted.  This one is going all the way back to Superbowl Sunday, which happend to fall on my birthday this year. I love when that happens!

My game day snack was something both delicious and nutritious that didn't lose that interactive, party-food feel.  Lettuce wraps! My dad would beg to differ on those notions and would ask why we couldn't just have regular tacos and if there's lettuce instead of shells then we should at least be eating beef.  But alas these beauties were made with ground chicken, which really picks up all the seasonings nicely.

The only elements making this dish "unclean" are the Asian chili sauce and the hoisin, and within those it's mainly the sweeteners that are to blame.  I'd still definitely recommend making this dish regardless--it's such a crowd pleaser and I'm sure a simple Google search will yield results of how to make your own sauces, clean as can be (usually using honey in place of any other sugar additives)!

This is a super easy and satisfying recipe.  You're going to start by simply cooking your ground chicken in a skillet with just a few spritzes of nonstick spray while making sure to break up the pieces of meat as they brown so you have manageable bits to stuff inside the Bibb lettuce.  Take time to chop your veggies while it cooks.  (Note: I didn't have green onion when I was making this, so I added shredded carrots instead.  I'd add them again next time in addition to the regular ingredients--they added a nice pop of color and some natural sweetness to the dish.)

When it's almost cooked through you're going to add in all remaning ingredients with the exception of the water chestnuts, green onions, lettuce (duh) and sesame oil, which get delayed a few minutes.  Add the chestnuts and onions and stir for about 2 minutes or until the onions start to wilt.  When the chicken has browned up nicely, finish the mixture off with the sesame oil for flavoring and they're ready to serve! I do suggest doubling up on the lettuce, however.  It's much sturdier to eat with two leaves as opposed to one (plus you can stuff more taco meat in there)...and a few extra greens are never a bad thing!


Monday, April 8, 2013

squeaky clean

Tuesday marked Day One of my clean eating lifestyle change, which means tomorrow will be a week down!  This is something I'm really excited about for multiple reasons.  First, it forces me to cook more, which I've been needing.  I work a lot and it's hard to find the time, but it's there, I just need to utilize it effectively.  Secondly it allows to me to eat lots and lots of fresh fruits and veggies along with anything organic I can get my hands on, not to mention cutting out any and all processed foods as well as white sugar, dairy and flour.  I love all kinds of foods, so to have to focus solely on super healthy dishes isn't something that comes as difficult.  If anything it's liberating to try new takes on classic dishes.  Thirdly it's going to be just what I need to get me in tip-top shape for the upcoming summer.  I'm also jetting off to florida for a week at the end of the month so that's some motivation in itself.

All in all it's been a great week full of delicious and healthy foods, but starting a few of those days with a green smoothie made it sweeter.  I'll add organic frozen fruits, a huge handful of greens (kale, spinach, etc) and water with a splash of unsweetened vanilla almond milk before blending it together.  It's so great to have a nutritious breakfast that lasts me my entire 35 minute commute to work!

All that being said I have lots of new recipes to post!! I still have a few that I made before this little change that I definitely want to add as well so those will be filtered in.  But right now I have to tell you about something I found that changed my life: Powdered Peanut Butter.  No joke. Just Great Stuff is the brand on this stuff and let me tell you it's nothing short of amazing.  Not only is the nutritional difference drastic (200 vs 45 calories, 15 vs 1.5 grams of fat - per 2 tablespoons), but it's versatile! You can add it to smoothies, oatmeal, or mix it with water and eat it plain.  I've been having it with apples and adding cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.  Heavenly.  I've also been having it (with or without spices) with banana and unsweetened shredded coconut.

Such a great snack that really sticks with you. I have unsweetened shredded coconut on hand (which is very hard to find, I might add) since I made these amazing clean coconut cookies that I'll be posting very soon. I've made them twice within the week, but in my defense I brought almost the whole first batch into work to share with coworkers.

Tonight I did some more grocery shopping to prepare for my week ahead and whipped together a Coconut Curry Chili with Sweet Potatoes, Bulgar Wheat and Green Bell Peppers in honor of Meatless Monday.  Take a look at this recipe because, my god, it was delicious.  Super filling, too! Unfortunately my camera has been on the fritz so I wasn't able to take photos of it but trust me on this one.  I'm still full and already can't wait to eat it again tomorrow for lunch.  I didn't alter much in the recipe but I did add about a tablespoon of corn starch at the end to aid in the thickening process, and I used hot curry paste.  Love me some spice.

I'm going to do my best to get all of these great recipes up in the next few days.  And I'd love to hear about any clean recipes you've made...I'm always interested in trying new things!

Monday, April 1, 2013

breakfast food bliss

Easter Sunday is easily one of my favorite holidays to cook for.  We always have a huge brunch for my whole family with an obscene amount of food, but the dishes don't usually vary.  This is where my love of the day comes in.  I try and make something different each year (in addition to deviled eggs, of course) that I know everyone will enjoy.  Last year I made these outrageous banana bread cupcakes so I knew I had my work cut out for me.  After a tough debate of savory vs. sweet I ultimately decided on a strata...aka everything you love about breakfast baked together. Sold.

This is such a simple recipe and it's fully customizable to suit your tastes.  Don't like bacon? Bring on the sausage.  Mushrooms gross you out? Peppers, please.  I'd love to hear about your changes and how they tasted!

Things you'll need:

2 T olive oil
2 small onions, diced 
3 c (10 oz) sliced mushrooms
8 slices bacon, cooked & chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 c (6 oz) shredded Swiss cheese
3/4 c (3 oz) shredded fontina cheese
6 c bread cubes (about 1 inch)
2 c baby spinach
8 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Start with your olive oil in a nonstick skillet (I used a cast iron pan) over medium high heat before adding the onions.  You want to cook them at this temperature just until they've softened, about 2 minutes, then turn it down to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're a nice golden brown. 

I used this down time to cut up my bread, shred my cheese and cook my bacon.  I have this great contraption called Makin' Bacon that cooks it in the microwave on these t-shaped hangers that lets all the fat drip down and get caught in the bottom.  Now I don't make bacon very often at all but it's nice that there's an option to cook it without it sitting in its own grease.  Brilliant.

For the bread I got a nice french baguette which was perfect in the strata.  The crust stayed hard while the soft insides soaked up all the egg for a perfect blend of texture.  I definitely recommend going with a crusty loaf for this recipe.

Alright, back to the onions. Remove them when they're done and add your mushrooms.  These don't take nearly as long to cook and will be done in about 4 minutes, so keep and eye on them and keep stirring! Once your veggies are all set you're going to add them along with the bacon, thyme, cheese, spinach and bread cubes in a large bowl.  Next comes the addition of the eggs, milk, salt and pepper that you pour over the other ingredients.  Give it all a stir to combine.

Throw it all into a casserole dish, press down with a spatula so it's even, and bake at 350º for about 50 minutes, or until it's nice and browned. You can serve this dish right out of the oven or at room temp. 

Simple.  Delicious.  Crowd pleasing.  What more could you ask for?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

out of this swirled

These tasty treats are the perfect blend of chocolate and citrus...and they're so pretty to look at!  Although these aren't the quickest cookies I've ever made don't let that deter you from trying them out.  You can also change the orange flavor to just about anything you'd like to pair with chocolate...cherry, mint, peanut butter...the options are endless.

I chose to stick with the orange since I have a soft spot for those chocolate oranges that you whack on the table and break into delicious little slices.  The flavor was comprable, which I was pleasantly surprised about.

First, you're going to beat 1 cup of butter in an electric mixer until it's nice and creamy.  Gradually add in 1 cup of sugar followed by 1 large egg and 1tsp of vanilla extract. In a separate bowl you're going to combine 3 cups of flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt and slowly add it to the butter mixture (make sure it's on a low speed or you and everything around you will be covered in white powder. No need for Scarface reenactments around the dough).

After you've put together the base of these cookies you're going to want to separate the dough into two equal portions, taking one out and adding 2 1/2 teaspoons of orange extract and 1/2 tsp of fresh orange zest to the remaining dough.  Give that a mix and set aside, preparing for the second half to take over the KitchenAid.

This half uses 2 ounces of melted semisweet chocolate to flavor the dough which makes it super delicious.  Beat well before taking it out of the mixer, wrapping both halves (separately), and refrigerate for an hour.

Once they've firmed up you're going to roll out both into approximately 15x8 inch rectangles on floured wax paper. Don't skimp on the flour, you definitely don't want these to stick.  Of course you don't need exact measurements for this--just eyeball it so they have a similar size and thickness before placing the rolled out orange dough on top of the chocolate.  From here the obvious next step is to roll them together, starting from the short end.

You might have to coax the dough from the wax paper (hence the abundance of flour).  Once it's all rolled up you're going to wrap it and send it back for the fridge for another hour.

The next part is the most gratifying.  You get to see your hard work swirled perfectly around each other--something that totally seems doable in theory but let's face it, it's still surprising when it comes out as perfectly as you'd hoped.

Cut these puppies into 1/4 inch slices, place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes.

Picture perfect!
And there you have it! An impressive little cookie that is full of chocolatey, orangey goodness.  Enjoy!

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