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?

Advertisements

Clean Eating Challenge, Day 4

Day 4, I got my products! It was very exciting to see that huge box on my doorstep! I’m super excited to try it out. I did add some fiber boost to the dinner I made last night, and it really is tasteless and odorless, and the best part, in my opinion, is it doesn’t change anything in your dish – it’s not a thickener, it doesn’t make it runny, anything like that. So it’s not going to affect the dish if you add it.

I did have two shakes yesterday – one for breakfast and one for lunch, and I didn’t seem to have any problems with being starving. At least, not more than normal. It took a few hours, and it was dinner time, and then I was hungry. But I’ve been doing really well with spacing out my meals and snacks throughout the day. It’s almost becoming a second nature. Now I just need to work on drinking more water. Baby steps!

cauliflower-pastaYesterday was (unfortunately) one of those days. And with my emotional eating, all I wanted to do was drive over to Wayne’s, get a burger and a cherry limeade, and eat my feelings. Instead, I went to the grocery store and bought healthy, gluten free ingredients for dinner. Except that one I had to send my hubby for later.

roasted-vegetableDinner last night was a completely different one than I’ve ever tried before, but it was comfort food all the same, and that’s what I needed. Completely vegan and gluten free too! I made a cauliflower “alfredo” sauce, rice pasta, and roasted veggies. The cauliflower alfredo took some toying with – so I’ll post a recipe for that one later. The pasta, though it was rice pasta instead of wheat pasta, was really good! Neither of us could tell the difference and my hubby even went back for seconds – which means it must have tasted good.

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.

DSC_0332

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!

DSC_0359DSC_0349

 

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.

Chorizo and Kale Pasta

Dinner last night was something I’ve never tried before. Pasta! Just kidding. Well, not really. It was pasta, it was just pasta with chorizo and kale…and tomatoes, onion, garlic and cheese. It was pretty good. Though I’m not sure it’s something I’ll do again. It was kind of bland. And unfortunately because of my lack of experience with kale, I wasn’t sure how to make it better.

I had made baked kale chips the other night and they were delicious – like I ate half of what I made in one sitting before realizing I wanted a couple for lunch the next day. And that was just oil and salt. I wonder if the baking did something to them that the cooking in a pan did not? The chips were a little sweet, had a really good flavor and the salt brought out the flavor even more. The kale from my pasta didn’t have a whole lot of flavor. I kind of felt like Thumper trudging through the greens to get to the chorizo and cheese. Sad day. Oh well, it was edible, and everyone has to screw up sometimes!

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Oh yeah, and I’ve become a fan of Instagram. You can follow me at jennmontgomery.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

When I first saw this recipe on Pinterest, I was a little unsure about it. I repinned it to revisit later. What I wasn’t sure about was how the bacon and the ranch would taste with pasta and cheddar cheese. Well, in my house, it was a hit. My hunny LOVED it. I know this because he went back for seconds. And then told me he would eat leftovers (Shock and amazement abounds)! What I really like about this recipe is that it used a majority of the remainder of the rotisserie chicken that I had bought in hopes of putting it on salads all week. Obviously my plan didn’t quite work out. And it’s a one pot meal!

Oh yes, the other thing that i really enjoyed about this pasta is that it was cheap. I’m all about the low cost meals these days. Rachel Ray could totally feature this on thirty minute meals. So final thought, yay for a Pinterest meal turning out awesome!

image

Ingredients:
2 cups chicken, chopped -leftover rotisserie is great
5-7 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 tbsps ranch seasoning mix – works out to be about 1/2 a packet (for those of you who have never used this before, you can find it in the dressing aisle, NOT with the onion soup mix.)
Pasta of your choice, about half a pound, which is half a box – I would suggest using a pasta like penne rigate that has ridges for the sauce to stick to
2 cups of milk
1 1/2 tbsps flour
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese – or more if you’re a cheese hound like me.

Directions:
1. Prep your ingredients, aka chop the chicken and cook the bacon. And yes, you can cook the bacon in the microwave, I totally did. Thats the prep. Awesome, right?
2. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water. Once it’s cooked, drain and set aside.
3. In that pot you cooked the water in, add the butter and melt. Then add 1 tbsp of the flour. Whisk… for you more experienced cooks, you’re making a roux here. Once everything is in a dough-y consistency, slowly add in your milk, whisking in to your doughy stuff. Make sure you break up all the clumps, that is what makes the sauce thicker. And here is where that other half a tbsp of flour comes in to play. The original recipe called for only 1 tbsp but I found that wasnt enough. Add it here and whisk. Let this cook for a few minutes on medium heat until it thickens a little bit… probably about 5 minutes.
4. Once you have a sauce coming together, add in the ranch seasoning, and the cheese. Stir it all together. You will find that you have a fantastically thick sauce now. Once the cheese is mostly melted, add in your chicken and bacon and toss to coat. Let this cook a couple minutes to heat up the chicken.
5. Add in your pasta, coat it with the delicious sauce, and let it warm back up for about 2 minutes. Serve with garlic bread and a salad to help balance out the meal.

Final thoughts: this isn’t the healthiest meal we have ever had. But it is delicious, and everything in moderation, right? Sometimes you have to jump off the health food bandwagon for some good comfort food. And I’m betting this would be really good with some chopped broccoli added in.

Chicken and Apple Sausage with Primavera Pasta

Last night was a little crazy, and fitting dinner in to an already full night didn’t help matters. But I did, with much help from my hunny. A few weeks ago, I had a bought a chicken and apple sausage from Sam’s Club that looked absolutely scrumptious and I needed a way to use it. There was a picture… somewhere… that I saw that had sausage mixed with pasta with broccoli. Inspiration turned on the little lightbulb above my head.

So dinner was born: Chicken and Apple Sausage with Pasta Primavera. Here’s the ingredient list (I didn’t include a lot of measurements because it adjustable to how much of each item you like.):

  • Chicken and Apple Sausage (duh.)
  • Pasta – I used penne rigate because of the ridges, I needed it to hold as much flavor as possible.
  • Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
  • Broccoli, cut in to just smaller than bite size pieces
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Spinach leaves
  • 1/4 White Onion, sliced in to ribbons. Would also be good with red onion.
  • 1 can Artichoke hearts, quartered
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt / Pepper
  • Dried herbs, including: Dill, Sage, Garlic Powder and Thyme
  • Feta Cheese

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put your sausage on a sheet tray and cover loosely with foil. Once the oven is preheated, put the sausage in and cook for 10 minutes – the sausage is already fully cooked, you’re just warming it up.

Get your water boiling for the pasta, and when it’s a rolling boil, add sea salt and olive oil. You can’t really skip this step because this pasta doesn’t have a sauce, and this will add flavor to the noodles themselves.

While this is boiling, get the onions with some salt going in a pan with olive oil. Cook for about 3 minutes and add broccoli. Season with your spices – I went heaviest on salt and dill, and then the sage and garlic powder, and light on the thyme and pepper. Remember, there are a lot components, so don’t be afraid to season! Cook this for about 5 minutes until the broccoli starts getting soft.

Add in mushrooms and cook down a little longer – about two minutes. Then add in tomatoes and spinach leaves. Cook until the spinach leaves start to wilt. Add in feta cheese and stir around to incorporate and get melting.

By this time, your pasta should be ready. Drain it, but not entirely, leave about a tablespoon of cooking water. If you use penne rigate, a lot of that cooking water will be inside the pasta anyway. Add in your veggie mixture. I hope you used a large pot because there are a lot of ingredients here! Mix together to further melt the cheese. Serve with your heated sausage sliced up and some crusty buttered French bread.

Marinated Veggie and Tomato Chicken

I was bored. That’s a dangerous thing around dinner time in my kitchen. I was not only bored and hungry, but I was also bored with what I’ve been eating lately. Therefore, experimentation gets to running rampant.

We have a marinated olive and vegetable mixture that we got from our honeymoon, and I’ve been itching to try and find another way to use it. I took my vegetable mixture and threw it in my food processor. Then I did the same thing with a can of stewed tomatoes.

For the rest of the meal, I sauted garlic in olive oil just until it was fragrant, and then put in some cubed chicken thighs. To balance out the tangy flavors of the vegetables, I made the chicken a little on the spicy side. I added in chili powder, red pepper flakes, onion powder, basil, salt, pepper and just a pinch of cinnamon to balance it out. Once that was mostly cooked through (it doesn’t take long), I added in the veggies and most of the tomatoes – I tried to avoid using the liquid and mostly used the meat of the tomatoes. Let that all work together, and I also threw in some frozen corn to, again, help balance out the flavors. I served it over some linguine with a side of garlic bread.

Of course, I’ve never tried this, but I’m so happy with how it turned out. The spice only came through a little bit on the back-end, and otherwise it was just a very tasty blend of a lot of flavor.

What kind of kitchen experimentation have you done lately? How did it turn out?