Clean Eating Challenge, Days 16 & 17

I’ve hit a wall. I’m frustrated with this challenge. I expected better results than what I’m seeing and I’m not sure if the few days that I haven’t stuck to it hard-core has made the difference or if I’m doing something wrong. The only other thing I could think of is that I’m not bringing in ENOUGH calories. Like that’s ever been an issue before! I’ve added in boxing classes with my running workouts – which now consist of training for a 5K. It’s hard to get excited about something at the moment though, because I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time, energy and money, and I’m not seeing the results I want or expect.

chicken-riceDinner last night was a mix of leftover “tropical chicken” (aka chicken, salsa and pineapple in the crockpot) with onions, rice and zucchini. It was kind of a twist on fried rice? I used rice wine, and rice vinegar, a splash of balsamic vinegar, grapeseed oil, and garlic powder for the seasoning. It was hard not using teriyaki or soy sauce, and I was trying to emulate the flavors I would have gotten from those by also adding sesame oil and salt. It turned out pretty tasty, and I added some sunflower seeds on top for crunch. I think it would have been better if I had used pecans or walnuts, though – I just didn’t have any.

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Clean Eating Challenge, Day 1

Yesterday was day one of the Arbonne clean eating challenge, and “challenge” was exactly the right word for it. It was the first time in months that I didn’t drink a cup of coffee, and I was making conscious, informed choices about what I was eating. My products, like my energy fizz sticks, won’t be here until Thursday, so maybe it will be good for me to get off the caffeine a little bit. I’m also so used to adding flavor to my waters, like the Kool-Aid, Crystal Light or Mio flavor infuser liquid, but once I looked at the ingredients and realized it contained a lot of things I couldn’t pronounce, I decided against it. Instead, I made a big jug of Tazo passion tea.

Okay, so I do have to admit… the food was pretty darn good! For breakfast, I had oatmeal with blueberries. Lunch was leftover kale and hummus salad with sweet potatoes. I snuck in a quick workout after work and a protein shake.

arbonne-taco-saladDinner was the first meal from the challenge recipes, a taco salad, with the addition of all natural ground turkey. Honestly, everything was already what I was used to eating, for the most part. It was a lot of familiar flavors. The taco salad was different because I made the cilantro lime brown rice from the set of recipes (YUM!) and I used rice chips for mine (double-YUM!). (Anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to taste these delicious vegan/gluten free chips… go, buy some now. They’re awesome!) I also made fresh chunky guacamole like I used to make all the time in college… and I’m pretty sure my hubby wanted to lick the bowl.

Overall, I’m feeling pretty good. I have to admit that I wish results were overnight… but who doesn’t? I’m looking forward to my products getting here so that I can use the fizz sticks and the fiber… I think that will help it feel more like a lifestyle change and less like a challenge. I’m also looking forward to doing some more research on recipes I can use in the long haul.

Crockpot Chicken Taco Bake

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I actually made this wonderfulness a couple nights ago, but I’ve been eating it through the week. It’s so easy and so yummy! I got the chance to share it with two of my best friends last night and they agreed! James even tried to lick the bowl! A healthy, zesty combination of chicken, black beans and corn, this is a set it and forget it easy weeknight crowd-pleaser. As you can see here, it didn’t need a whole lot to be filling.

Of course, I did get it from Pinterest (I’ve been trying to make stuff I’ve pinned, can you tell?), so I have to give some credit! So I got the recipe from a blog called Budget Bytes, and it’s so easy! Make some rice, top with avocado and cheese and maybe even some sour cream. Yum.

According to the blog, it’s also very tasty with tortillas or taco shells instead of the rice.

Want to see some more recipes I’ve pinned? Follow me on Pinterest.

Chicken Taco Bake

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breasts – I used a combo of breasts and thighs because I like the taste of the dark meat
  • 1 16 oz jar of salsa – Walmart brand Zesty Cilantro is delicious! I’m betting that the black bean and corn or mango salsa would be really good here too.
  • 1 16 oz can of black beans, drained
  • 1/2 lb frozen corn
  • 1 tbsp each chili powder, cumin, minced garlic
  • 1 tsp each dried oregano, cayenne and salt
  • (If you don’t have these spices, use a packet of taco mix instead)
  • to taste, cracked pepper
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar
  • cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • Avocado, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Throw everything but the cilantro, avocado and cheese in the crockpot, along with a cup of water. Mix it together, make sure the chicken is covered with the sauce. Turn on low for 8 hours. Or high for 4, low for 2 if you have a little less time.

At about hour 7.5, go ahead and make some white rice, either in a rice cooker or on the stove. When it’s ready, shred the chicken with two forks, and serve over rice, topped with cheese, avocado and cilantro.

Sit. Eat. Enjoy. 🙂

Crazy for Some Sushi!

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Sunday night has become watch party night for Walking Dead for my foodie friend and I. It’s a much anticipated night throughout the week as we’ve challenged each other to explore foods from different cultures. This past Sunday was Sushi night! Little did my friend know that I have a cheating contraption that makes it oh-so-easy. Used previously, it worked splendidly yet again. And our sushi was delicious. Both last night and today for lunch.

This contraption is about the oddest thing you’ll ever see. It looks like a caulking gun with a plunger on the end. Basically, you open it up, put the rice and your goodies in, then close it and push out the sushi on to your nori paper. Then roll it up and cut it up

. And it eliminates trying to make the perfect little roll by doing the hard work for you. It took a little bit of exploration to find the nori in this little southern town – I actually had to go to Nashville to get it, at Whole Foods no less. Then I got some wasabi paste and pickled ginger at Publix, along with the tuna and swordfish we used. The tuna was expected, the swordfish came from a suggestion from the fish monger there – he said it was commonly picked up by other customers because it was a milder fish with a flavor similar to Mahi Mahi (which I actually like). It was surprisingly delicious.

We did up the fish three ways – raw, with a tiny dribble of sesame oil for a smoky flavor, and with some lemon-garlic powder and sea salt. I think the third one took the cake in flavor. Although they all tasted great. Our other ingredients included carrots, cucumber, avocado, bell pepper and radish. All chopped in to little bitty slivers. It took some knife skills, let me tell you. And rice? Use the rice cooker – not the stainless pot. It burns when you don’t stir it up and you have an electric stove. Thankfully we salvaged a majority of it. And then make sure you mix in that dribble of rice vinegar for the perfect sushi flavor.

I also made a yummy asian slaw to go with this – though we didn’t get that far – I might have forgotten it in the fridge because the sushi anticipation was killing me and we had been munching on the sashimi already… I sent him home with some so that it didn’t go bad in my fridge and I had some with my lunch. I think letting it sit made it even better. It had some of the same ingredients: cucumber and carrot, with the addition of cabbage, bean sprouts and tangy green apple. I then dressed it with lemon juice (to keep the apple from turning brown), and a vinaigrette made with a tiny bit of mayo, agave, sesame oil, rice vinegar and spicy garlic mustard. Yum.

Zombies and sushi… how is that not the perfect combination??? Fish has the same texture as “BRaaIInnnsSSss!!!” And yes I know I’m an odd bird sometimes.

Stuffed Portobello Rice Bowl

IMAG0573Ok, so the title of this thing already sounds a little weird. I get it. Trust me on this, though, it was pretty darn good.

When I was in the store the other day buying about a million different kinds of veggies, these huge, beautiful portobellos were screaming at me to stuff and devour them. Of course I listened. How can you not listen when food speaks to you?? On my hour-long commute home today, I was pondering what exactly I was going to do for dinner, which turned in to how can I use stuff in my fridge and combine it together to make deliciousness? Per normal, I called on what I know. Here is how the train of thought went (make sure to hop off before it derails!)

My mom makes this stellar Spanish Squash (she calls it), and it’s zucchini and yellow squash with cheese, tomatoes corn, onions and some other stuff that she has told me and I’ve forgotten. Well wait now, I have all that. I can do that. And then put it in a mushroom. But I really want rice. I can put the mushroom on top. Is that too much starch? No. It’s veggies and cheese. Not starch. This is totally doable. What can I add to break up the vegetarian streak? Bacon. Genius! Wait, I need something not hot to bring it all together… Avocado? That could work… or be horrible. No way, it’s avocado, it’s going to work. Maybe a cream? Like a caesar dressing? I have lemon. But anchovies are not coming in to this picture. Too much salt…just a cream… (This is where I stop because it went on like this for the entire ride home).

So once I got home and tried not to kill my four-legged furry kiddos for being bad (you don’t want to know the details), I set to cooking. Got the squash, onion, garlic, and tomato chopped up; drained a can of corn, and cleaned out the moustache of the mushroom. I put those on a foil-lined baking sheet. Everything else hopped in a pan with some butter. And don’t be judging me for butter. I used a whole 2.5-3 tablespoons for the whole recipe, and aside from the good fat of the avocado, everything else is light and healthy! I forgot to mention here that my bacon wasn’t as fresh as I thought it was so it didn’t get added. But it will. Next time. Because that could only add to the awesomeness that is a portobello rice bowl.

Anyway. So everything cooks together. And then I add in spinach, and cheese. And then stuff the mushroom and put more cheese. While it bakes, I mix light sour cream, cilantro and avocado together with lemon juice to make an AMAZING cream which by the way with more lemon juice works great as a salad dressing. Ding! Microwave where the rice goes is done. Take that out, put it in the bowl and leave room for a mushroom cap. Bring those out of the oven. Yep, they’re done. Add to rice. Top with cream. YUM. Promptly devour in 10 minutes flat and sit in my food coma of happiness. I guess I should give you the recipe, huh?

Let me just put a disclaimer on this that when I made it tonight I made a double recipe of the squash mixture because I’ll eat it over the rice in the coming days.

Ingredients:

For the squash mixture:

  • 1 zucchini and 1 yellow crooked-neck squash, chopped somewhat small so it cooks quicker
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 can whole-kernel corn
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp Butter/Margarine (whatever you prefer)
  • Shredded cheese (I used the mexican blend) to your liking
  • About a handful of spinach leaves, fresh (Can be omitted if you prefer)

For the Mushrooms

  • 2-3 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned of their mustache, and wiped of dirt

For the Cream

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 c. light sour cream
  • Cilantro (to taste, either fresh or dried)
  • 1/2 a lemon’s juice

Rice – prepared per directions

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep all your ingredients for the squash mixture and your mushroom caps. Put the cleaned mushrooms on to a foil-lined pan, upside down. Add just a small little bit of olive oil and 1/2 a pinch of salt. Too much will dry out the mushrooms.
  2. Add in to a pre-heated on medium heat high-sided pan or a pot the onion, garlic and one tablespoon of butter, along with just a touch of salt and pepper. The salt draws out the moisture in the onion to make them sweat. Stir occasionally until it starts to smell good, don’t let the garlic burn and your onions should be turning transparent.
  3. Add in the squash and another tablespoon of butter. Mix around and cover. Stir occasionally and cook for roughly 10 minutes. At this point, it should be letting out a lot of liquid. Add in your other tablespoon of butter to help speed up the process and draw out liquid. Your desired “done-ness” for the squash is soft, not crunchy – judge your time accordingly.
  4. Add in the tomato and the corn. Stir and cook about another 3 minutes. Then add in the spinach and cheese. At this point, there should be a lot of liquid in the bottom of your pot or pan, it should smell awesome and the squash should be soft. The benefit of cutting it smaller is that it doesn’t take as long to cook. Add in cumin and just a smidge more salt and pepper. Work the spinach and cheese around until the spinach is wilted and the cheese is melted, as well as the spices distributed. Remove from heat.
  5. Add a spoonful or two of the squash mixture to the mushroom caps. They should be heaping. Top with cheese, put in the oven for about 5 minutes, just until the cheese is melted on top.
  6. While the mushrooms are cooking, prepare your cream. In a small bowl, scoop out the flesh of the avocado and combine it with the other ingredients. Using a fork, mash it all together and mix it well until it’s a creamy consistency and very slightly lumpy. If you prefer, add just a pinch of salt to bring out more of the avocado flavor.
  7. Serve the mushrooms with a dollop of the avocado cream. If you’re like me, serve over prepared rice – to really make it a rice bowl. Mix it all together when you’re eating it.

 

Tropical Rum Glazed Porkchops

Oh the wonders of cooking with alcohol. If I really enjoy the flavor of liquor in a cocktail, then why in the world would I NOT enjoy that flavor in a home cooked meal? The major benefit is that I can enjoy the flavor without the hangover the next morning. Kitchen experimentation is one of my favorite pastimes.

So I knew that I wanted to make a Captain Morgan glaze for pork chops. Try googling rum glaze and the first and most common thing that comes up is pineapple rum glaze. And yet I feel like no one has tried it with spiced rum. Why is that? It was delicious! I used the black Tattoo spiced rum, and I used a mix of pineapple juice and mandarin orange juice because I didnt have enough pineapple juice. But I definitely would like to try it again with the classic spiced rum and straight pineapple juice. Flavor combinations are bouncing around in my mind. What about rum lime on chicken? Does cranberry and rum go together? What if I mixed orange and pineapple? Or how would it turn out if I used a juice with a thicker consistency?

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So the process was relatively simple. Although a little time consuming and exhausting. The worst part about making a glaze is that it has to boil and be whisked for like TEN minutes! My arm wanted to fall off. It’s like making a meringue without an electric mixer. Definiteky worth it though. This glaze has a half-cup of the rum, 12 ounces of fruit juice, two-thirds of a cup of dark brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. It ends up being a thick syrupy texture with very bold and prominent flavor.

When I worked with my pork chops, I put some AP flour on a paper plate, sprinkled some seasoning salt on top, and the put the porkchop in the flour on bkth siees. Then I put it in a preheated pan with about two tabelspoons of olive oil. This helps create a nice crust on the pork chop and gives the glaze something to stick to. Let it cook a couple more minutes each side before spooning some of the glaze that has cooled slightly over the top. As it’s cooking it will create even more of a syrup that you may just want to pour over a waffle because it smells that good. Flip only twice, as you dont want to lose any of that yummy crust, and baste each time with a spoonful of glaze. You will have leftovers to cook with that chicken for your salad tomorrow, I promise.

I served it with rice and may have licked the plate. Try it, you wont be dissapointed.

To make the glaze:
● 1/2 c rum (spiced, dark, dark spiced – your choice)
● 12 oz fruit juice (pineapple preferably at this point.)
● 1/2 c butter
● 2/3 c dark brown sugar
● 1 tsp cinnamon

1. Pour the rum and the fruit juice in a pot at room temp. Whisk together and turn on the heat to low. Add the butter and sugar. Keep on low and whisk frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved and tbe butter is completely melted. Have patience, this will take about 7-10 minutes on low.
2. Bring the heat up so that you get a rapid boil. Let boil for 7-10 minutes, whisking constantly to cook off the alcohol. BE CAREFUL! Alcohol is highly flammable.
3. Pull off the heat, and let sit for approximately 10 minutes while you get your meat ready and begin cooking it.
4. Baste the meat approximately twice a side, and serve. So far, this has been tested on pork by me, and on chicken and salmon by the person who wrote the recipe originally. (It was in a forum)

Hoisin Stir Fry

Beef and vegetable stir fry, rather simple actually – though it would have tasted better if I didn’t try to cheat. Not that it tasted bad. Just not as good as it could have.

The really cool part about this stir fry is that it takes about 20 minutes. So, perfect for a week night when you don’t have a lot of time. Serve it up with some steamed rice.

I’m going to start something new with the new year. I’m going to put the recipe in my post instead of a separate page. Tell me how you like it?

Here’s the ingredients:

1 lb Steak, sliced thin – the recipe says sirloin, I used a cheaper “every day” steak. I also used the same amount that I would have if I was just grilling it up for the two of us.

1 tbsp Cooking oil – the recipe suggests peanut or vegetable, I used canola and it tasted just fine.

3/4 c water

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp hoisin sauce

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp dark sesame oil

8 shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin – I took some help from the store and bought the ones that were packaged and sliced already.

1 c baby corn – or a can of corn kernels

8 oz of asparagus, cut in to 1 inch spears. Use fresh. Trust me. Canned gets mushy.

1 c sugar snap peas or snow peas and 1/2 c red bell pepper strips – I used a bag of frozen stir fry veggies… I’m thinking use the fresh stuff and add what you like.

1/2 c cherry tomato halves

Directions:

Whisk together the water, soy sauce, hoisin and cornstarch. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large pan or wok. Put in the steak and cook until just medium. Remove from pan and set aside, but keep the juices and oil.

Add sesame oil, mushrooms and corn, cook and stir until mushrooms are tender and corn is heated through. Add asparagus, snap peas and bell peppers, cook and stir until crisp-tender.

Return beef and juices to skillet. Stir sauce mixture and add to pan, along with tomatoes. Cook and stir 1 minute or until heated through and sauce has thickened.  Serve over rice

I got this from my Thai Cooking book. See my bibliography.