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.

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.

 

Yummy Spinach “Burgers”

Let me just start by saying, I have a stupid amount of veggies in my fridge. So tonight I found Imagesomething to do with them! I found this recipe on Pinterest for these spinach burgers that sounded really super easy, and they were. The original recipe came from a blog called “The Domestic Mama and the Village Cook.” These are put together the same way you would put together a from-scratch meat burger. And the taste is so versatile that it can be paired with just about anything. I actually had two, one with feta and pita bread, and one with regular bread and pickles. Both were fantastic. I think next time I might put some whole-grain mustard on the bread, the tangy vinegar taste would really add to the flavor here.

And speaking of pita, I found some at my local Kroger that is awesome, it was one sale 2 for $3. It’s already cut in half, so you can just pull it out and stuff it. I’ve had three pieces already in two days! It tastes spectacular with hummus too.

So, the recipe… you’ll need:

1 box of chopped, frozen spinach that has been defrosted and drained well

1/4 cup diced onion

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1/4 cup cheese

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

2 egg whites and 1 whole egg

Directions:

1. Mix everything together in a bowl. A spoonula works well.

2. Heat a pan over medium heat and coat with some cooking spray. Add in the spinach patties that you create from your mixture. Let them cook for about 3-4 minutes and flip. Let them cook another 3-4 minutes. They will be lightly browned and a little crispy on each side.

3. Serve warm with your choice of bread and toppings.

See, easy. I think next time I would consider mushrooms, maybe some fresh red onion on top, and like I said, some mustard.

Here Fishy, Fishy

IMAG0547Fish tacos. Among most people, there seems to be a love hate relationship with this delight. For me, it depends on the ingredients, how the fish is cooked and the overall combination of flavors. I prefer a crisp, crunchy, clean flavor. And I managed to achieve that with my most recent creation. I looked in my freezer as I was leaving my house at the horribly awful hour of 5 a.m. and decided I should use the fish that has been in there for quite a long time. And for some reason, though I am usually of the mantra “fish are friends, not food,” fish sounded good.

Most of the way home, I was trying to decide what I was going to do with the filets calling me from the freezer – I’ve found that if I really exhaust all the possible cooking options in my mind, I’m less likely to be lazy and stop somewhere to just pick something up. I didn’t think that this breaded tilapia would be good on tacos, and then I realized using my schnoz that it was actually  flavored breadcrumbs. Ok. Now it had possibilities.

One of the other fish that I have in my freezer is cod, and I was thinking about making a hoisin glazed cod as well. So I kind of combined my two ideas by making a slightly tangy/spicy hoisin sauce for these as well. It was definitely the perfect finishing touch that made for the perfect crispy, crunchy, clean, tangy taco that totally hit the spot.

And you can’t see it here but I also had a delicious half of an acorn squash with this. MMM Veggies. MMM Squash really, I really do enjoy just about all the kinds of squash when it’s cold outside.

Hoisin Tilapia Tacos

Ingredients:

Tortilla – one per taco

Lettuce, chopped or shredded – a fresh made, lightly sauced, cold coleslaw would be good here too

1 Tomato, chopped – I made two tacos and had some left over

Avocado, chopped – I used about half an avocado for my two tacos because I’m an avocado freak

Feta cheese, to taste

Breaded (seasoned) Tilapia – freshly made or frozen. I’m lazy, I did my from a frozen state. I used one filet for my two tacos.

Cooking spray in a small Pyrex casserole dish to cook your fish

For the sauce:

Hoisin, about 2 tbsp

Frank’s Red Hot sauce, about 2 tsp… 10 dashes or so?

1/2 tsp horseradish

Directions:

  1. Prepare your fish how you prefer. I stuck my frozen fish in the greased pyrex casserole in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes. While that’s cooking, make everything else.
  2. For the sauce, mix the three ingredients in a small ramikin and adjust seasoning to taste.
  3. Prepare toppings, warm the tortillas on a paper plate with a damp paper towel covering them for about 30 seconds in the microwave.
  4. Prepare taco with desired toppings minus the sauce in the warm tortillas. Either put the cheese directly on the tortilla or directly under the fish so that it will melt a little.
  5. Once the fish is cooked, remove from the pan and let sit about two minutes so it stiffens a little bit and gets the nice crispiness. Then cut in half and place on the tacos.
  6. Fold, eat, enjoy. Yum.

On a final note, apparently I’m feeling very hyper today. It’s probably from lack of sleep and coffee. I’ve been talking about a hundred miles an hour and I just reread my post….slowly noticing that I am forcing you my loyal readers to bounce along a very winding train of thought that has no clear final destination. Sorry about that.

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.

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

In an effort to find something super tasty for dinner with Lady Luck, I found this – pulled from BunsInMyOven.com, a blog I read all the time.

There, it was called Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas, but after careful deliberation, we decided that lasagna is layered, and enchiladas are rolled. This dish is layered. Therefore, it can’t be an enchilada.

There are so many veggies in this dish it’s ridiculous! There’s cauliflower, three types of peppers, two types of potatoes, corn and spinach. Oh yeah, there’s also cilantro infused salsa, tortillas and sooo much cheese! I love it! It’s spicy and crunchy and savory and amazing! Lady Luck was doing back flips over the flavor.

This is so simple too! Chop up all the veggies, and roast them with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper in a dish for 30 minutes. Then layer in a casserole dish starting with the cilantro infused salsa (we actually used salsa verde), then cheese, then veggies, spinach and corn tortillas. Repeat process. Simple, right?

To go on top, we made up some guacamole, and got some sour cream, and topped it with green onions. I’m pretty sure Lady Luck and her daughter couldn’t wait to dig in again the next day because I got a very happy text message.

For dessert, we put together a twist on sopapillas, and it satisfied the sweet tooth rather well. Mix an 8 ounce package of sour cream with a cup of sugar and some vanilla extract. Open a tube of croissants, roll it all out together, and then layer the cream cheese and put another rolled out layer of croissants on top. Pinch the edges together, top with melted butter and cinnamon sugar and bake until golden at 350 degrees.

Repeatable? Definitely.

Holy Crepes Batman!

This week’s dinner with the sweet-tooth friend of mine (she needs a nickname…I think we’ll call her “Lady Luck” since she’s such a huge fan of Lady Gaga) had a French theme. So naturally, we had a super scrumptious supper of roasted chicken and sage-infused roasted potatoes and some delectable veggies. And did I mention the crepes?

Dinner was extremely flavorful, and to be honest, we were just too damn hungry and busy devouring it to take pictures of it – but I don’t want to anyone to think it wasn’t description worthy! Due to some car trouble, actually roasting a chicken – or making chicken francese as was the original plan – was a little bit out of the question. But substituting a rotisserie chicken from Fry’s works just as well. They were even nice enough to put an apricot glaze on it! Lady Luck made some awesome potatoes…I was eating them straight from the pan, I have to admit. We’ll call it quality control. They fried up in some sage and thyme infused oil and it gave them such a unique flavor! Definitely not like that other dish we had that wasn’t so good because of the amount of sage in it. My love of all things herb-y has been rekindled!

Once we had…you know, gorged…ourselves on yummy chicken, potatoes and a veggie medley, it was time for dessert. And let me just say that we are talented enough to edit a high school paper (Lady Luck’s daughter) while making crepes! Ridiculously simple to make by the way. I was a little intimidated at first – crepes seem like such a fancy food that it takes a patisserie chef to make one. I was wrong! They’re essentially a really big pancake made from a too-thin batter, and of course, we added Nutella to ours. Oh, and Ghiradelli chocolate chunks! Hence the little brownish black crispy goodness you see in these pictures.

I definitely love what has become a ritual with an amazing friend. Next week? We’re going to Thailand! There may even be a drink involved – non alcoholic that is!