Clean Eating Challenge, Days 8, 9, 10 & 11

I hate to admit it, but for the past 3 days, my clean eating challenge had to go out the window. But it was for good reason.

Archery Rough Creek 2014zipline rough creek 2014The amazing owners of the company where I work decided to take us on a three-day retreat to work on the business, and it was at this gorgeous ranch in the middle of Texas. Though they were somewhat accommodating to a gluten-free lifestyle, the other restrictions of the clean-eating challenge were much harder to follow and accommodate. I would have been eating nothing for three days. The bright side, is that the chef was a high class chef who made everything in house. I’m pretty sure they even slaughtered their own beef somewhere. Meaning there wasn’t anything processed. And they were bound and determined that we would NOT go hungry. Not that I minded. We ate these elaborate, delicious three course meals with bottomless glasses of whatever we chose, and more food than we could ever finish. The other plus side was that we were active the entire time we were there – walking, running, shooting, climbing, you name it – we did it. Except maybe swimming – that might be the one exception. To be honest, I’m sure that something that I’ve eliminated from my lifestyle is for the better, because there was more than once that my stomach was not pleased with me. I just don’t know if it was potatoes or dairy.

Back to “reality” today, day 11. It’s been 11 days since I’ve had coffee or soda. Eleven days that I’ve avoided fast food and refined sugar, and for the most part, processed anything. I’m pretty proud of myself, but still find that I’m craving junk. I still don’t think that I’m drinking enough water, and the smell of coffee makes my mouth water. I could always be doing better using my Arbonne products and really sticking to a strict intake of food and output of calories. Today I found that I was tired and worn down, and I’m not sure if it was from the trip and the related catch-up at work, or if it was because of what I did and didn’t eat while we were out.

broccoli-pesto-chicken-pastaDinner tonight was simple, but tasty. I made a broccoli walnut pesto, and mixed it with George-Foreman-grilled chicken and brown rice pasta. The pesto was, frankly, frustrating. It didn’t want to blend just right and I’m not sure what I was doing wrong. But once it finally (kind-of) came together, it was really good.

I worry that overall I’m doing something wrong, because in the mornings and afternoons, the shakes are enough to fill me up for a reasonable amount of time. Maybe it has something to do with not working out enough? I want to get up in the mornings and workout, but I also really like getting a full eight hours of sleep and feel like that might be a crucial step I’ve been missing in the past. Sleep is so important to a healthy lifestyle.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Farmer’s Market Finds

DSC_0353This weekend we went to the Clarksville Downtown Market, and got to experience a completely different type of farmer’s market than what we had experienced before. This one was smaller, calmer and much more friendly. There were fewer merchants, but they were all different, rather than a monopoly on veggies like we tend to see in Nashville. There were also a lot more artisans of handcrafted goods, which was very cool.

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We got a huge bushel of apples that I turned into apple butter and apple pie apple sauce. We also got some heirloom carrots and tomatoes, beautiful, fat zucchini, a huge basket of green beans and a wonderfully colored acorn squash.

DSC_0363I used some of the veggies in a stir fry as a complement to some frozen veggies and leftover rotisserie chicken. I then created a cheesy pasta primavera with whole wheat pasta. There were 8 different types of vegetables that were lightly steamed and delicious and a lighter mozzarella sauce that blended everything together. Recipe below!

By the way, I’m in love with my new camera, and it has a “food” setting on it that helps to bring out some of the beautiful colors. Hence the silly amount of pictures today!

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Pasta Primavera with Market Veggies

Market fresh vegetables, cleaned and chopped to approximately the same size. I used: 1 large zucchini, 1 eggplant, 4 heirloom carrots, a handful of cherry tomatoes, 3 sweet peppers, a head of broccoli, a handful of green beans

3 cloves of garlic, diced

olive oil

2 tbsp white wine of your choice

whole wheat linguine, about a quarter to half of a box

Fresh basil, 1 large bunch, julienned

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

Approx 1/4 cup fresh parmesan or three cheese blend

1/4 – 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

approx 1/2 cup milk (you can substitute soy or almond milk – I did!)

Approx 2 tbsp each: ground sage, ground thyme, dried dill, black pepper

Approx 1 tbsp each: paprika, ground oregano

Approx 1/2 tbsp dried cardamom

Salt to taste

  • Prepare all the veggies, cleaning and chopping. Put all but the garlic in a large bowl. Warm a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil – once around the pan. Then add in the garlic and cook until fragrant.
  • While the pan is warming and the garlic cooking, prepare your pasta pot with water and set to boil. Once  boiling, add in a handful of sea salt and olive oil to add additional flavor to the pasta itself. Then add in the pasta and cook until al dente.
  • Once the garlic is fragrant, dump the bowl of veggies into the pan and toss well. Add another round of olive oil and continue to toss to coat. Top with sage, thyme, dill, and oregano, as well as 1 tbsp black pepper and a pinch of salt. Toss well to coat and cover pan, cooking on medium for 2-3 minutes. After this time, add in the wine, and stir. Then re-cover, and let cook on medium low heat while pasta cooks, stirring occasionally.
  • To make the sauce, first melt the butter in a pot. Once melted, add in the flour, stirring vigorously. Once that creates a paste, add in about 1/2 the milk, continuing to stir. Add in the parmesan and the mozzarella, continuing to stir. Add the rest of the milk, the paprika, 1 tbsp of black pepper and the cardamom. The sauce should be creamy as it melts, and if needed, add a little more milk to increase the creaminess. Continue to stir to evenly incorporate the heat and melt the cheese, as well as preventing burnt cheese on the bottom.
  • At this point, the pasta should be done. Taste test for texture. Drain, and return to the pot. Add 3/4 of the basil to the veggies and stir, cooking just long enough to wilt. Once wilted, add to the pasta, top with the cheese sauce and toss well to coat. Serve with fresh basil on top.

Alfredo and Peppers

The past couple of nights, making dinner has been an adventure. I’m having to modify my way of doing things a little bit to make sure that I’m staying within my calorie count. Instead of just saying, “Yeah that looks right,” I’m actually measuring things, and I’m not doing a whole lot of improvising these days. I guess as we grow older, things have to change a little right?

The real challenge I faced yesterday. I had to go back to work at the restaurant, where I had to physically think about not grabbing a french fry or downing a cup of soda, which I’m so used to doing while I was there. I am almost dreading working doubles because I am going to have to bring my mid-day meal to resist the temptation of getting something stupid unhealthy.

So, on to the food. The whole reason people read this blog.

The other night, I pulled out one of my other cookbooks, and this one I’ve mentioned before in a post and in a recipe. It’s the Eat What You Love by Marlene Koch. This time I found her recipe for a Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo, and instead of using the heavy cream and butter with tons of parmesan to make an alfredo sauce, she uses lowfat milk and cornstarch to imitate the creaminess of the sauce and then only a little bit of parmesan and I’m thinking that because the cheese doesn’t have to penetrate as much sauce, a little bit goes a long way and it’s absolutely delightful. And, the broccoli is basically steamed in the microwave which makes for super easy preparation. And I got to have pasta! On a diet! It was a good day.

So then last night, I decided to try something that I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that my hunny would enjoy, but that I had never tried to make and that only had 187 calories per serving. That would be Stuffed Peppers, and goodness gracious did they turn out pretty. Now, out of the three go-to cookbooks for this diet adventure, the only recipe that I could find for a low-cal version involved using the meatless soy crumbles instead of ground beef. I had pulled out ground beef, I was going to use it. I had bought some deliciously colored red, yellow and orange bell peppers at Sam’s Club and they were calling me to make this dish. (Have you ever noticed that the more pretty an ingredient is, the more you want to eat it? It goes right along with that whole eat with your eyes first mantra.) Therefore, I turned to my friend Google and found a great recipe. And guess what? My hunny loved them. And we both decided that the meat mixture that goes into the peppers would also taste really good wrapped in a tortilla with some cheese.

Corkscrew Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

Ingredients:

8 oz rotini or bowties

5 c. broccoli florets

1 c. low fat milk

1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

1 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/4 c. light cream cheese

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp pepper, or more to taste

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

2 c. shredded cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast (I used chicken thighs and it was really good too)

Directions:

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions while preparing the sauce, and set aside.

2. Place the broccoli in a large microwave-safe dish. Add 3 tablespoons of water, cover, and microwave for 4 minutes, or until crisp tender.

3. In a medium saucepan, whisk the milk and cornstarch until smooth. Whisk in the broth and place over low heat. Add the cream cheese, garlic powder, and pepper. Bring to a low simmer and cook until the sauce thickens, about 4 minutes. Whisk in the Parmesan and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes, or until sauce is smooth.

4. Toss the cooked pasta, broccoli, and chicken together in a large serving dish. Pour the sauce on top, and toss gently to combine.

Serves 6.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING (1 1/2 CUPS): 330 Cal, 36g Carbs, 7g Total Fat (3.5g Sat Fat), 6 WW Points

RECIPE FROM: Eat What You Love by Marlene Koch

Broccoli Cheese Soup

There are only two kinds of soup that absolutely need to be served out of a bread bowl. Clam chowder, and broccoli cheese.

Last night, though it wasn’t as cold as I would have liked for soup, we had home-made broccoli cheese soup – in a bread bowl. I saw a pin from one of my girlfriends for a recipe that was supposed to be better than Panera’s version. Therefore, I had to try it.

The ingredients were simple, and the method was simple, and it was pretty much amazing. Though Panera’s is amazing too. This is just amazing in a different way. This was the first time I have ever used cardamom in cooking, and I enjoyed the flavor. It was a sweet, salty, smoky flavor all at once. I think next time though, I would probably add just a little more nutmeg. I am definitely curious to see what other kinds of recipes use cardamom as well though because I bet they’re pretty tasty.

Surprisingly, the fiance didn’t say there was too much cheese! Go figure. I’ll convert him yet. My next adventure is to learn how to make the bread for the bread bowls. I bought these from Wal-Mart for $3 a piece. Decent deal for the ginormous roll of bread, but I would still like to make my own.

By the way, I got the recipe off Mangio da Sola. Here’s the link to my version. Thanks!