Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Green-Eyed Smoothie


I know. This looks like shoe leather. Or like something you would goop on your face in hopes to zap away the fine lines of aging. But, I am telling you, this is the most fantastic green smoothie I have ever slurped.

So, I was on this cleanse, right? I spent the week experimenting with smoothies that didn't use bananas or strawberries or orange juice. Because I couldn't use a banana as an emulsifier, the smoothies were always sort of frothy -- not really thick. Until I stumbled upon the idea of using an avocado as an emulsifier. And what's so wrong with that? Avocados "provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a 'nutrient booster' by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients." Not only did it add the thickness I sought, but it also threw in a few key nutrients of its own.

As I mentioned earlier, I was on a cleanse. And the reason I am not anymore is because I decided to turn my homegrown cleanse into a lifestyle change, so I am still sticking to the basic idea of the cleanse (clean eating, etc.), but I am adding foods in that I know I will want to eat in the future -- nightshade veggies, bananas, etc. I guess I feel that life is hard enough. Food should be easy.

You would think, at least.

So after I get done working out in the morning, I whiz up this green smoothie for breakfast and it gives me all of the energy I need till lunch. 


It's one of those ugly duckling stories: Pretty putrid-looking on the outside (I blame the avocado), but boy oh boy, this smoothie delivers on taste. 

Green-Eyed Smoothie






Ingredients:

2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1/2 cup water
1/4 avocado, roughly chopped
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 pear, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons protein powder (I have use both kinds {not together}: Tera's Whey -- Wolfberry and Acai Berry
1/4 teaspoon stevia (I use NuNaturals)

Directions:

Add the spinach to a blender with the water.


Blend until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender.


Whiz until smooth. Pour into a cup and enjoy with spoon or straw. 

For those of you who ride a stationary bike, I came across a pretty wicked workout on fitsugar.com that I tried this morning that broke a little of the dullness stationary bikes tend to bring. I've got to admit at 100 rpms, my heart was banging in my chest! Here's what it looks like:

Pick a moderate level on the for your resistance (not too easy, not too hard). 

Step One: 00:00-05:00 Warm-up, 40-50 rpm
Step Two: 05:00-10:00 70-80 rpm;
 10:00-12:00 100 rpm; 
12:00-14:00 60-80 rpm
Step Three: Repeat step two twice
Step Four: 32:00-37:00 Cool-down, 40-50 rpm





Nutrition Information: Calories 258; Total Fat 8g; Total Carb 38g; Fiber 10g; Sugars 21g; Protein 14
*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Slow Cookin' Sunday: Chicken Veggie Soup


Man, I sure was crabby last Sunday. And whiny. This Sunday, though, I am in much better spirits.

Despite the fact that there is a nasty cold making its way through the family. It started with my mom, then my oldest daughter and now my husband is hacking away, chasing his nose everywhere. So this week's Slow Cookin' Sunday was really a no brainer -- Chicken Veggie Soup -- because nothing quite takes the edge off a nasty cold like a big steaming bowl.

At the same time, I decided to start a cleanse on Thursday and instead of plopping down hundreds of dollars to STOP eating, I decided to create my own, loosely based on popular cleanses I had read about. Today is day 5 and I must admit, I feel pretty great. I was feeling puffy, sluggish, craving sugar like c-r-a-z-y and just inflamed so I decided I needed to flush my system and get back on track. So here's what I'm doing:

Breakfast: A green smoothie with lots and lots of fresh spinach. (I'm still experimenting with different variations; haven't quite found one I absolutely love.)

Mid-morning: Another smoothie, fortified with protein powder. (I've been loving a blueberry pear ginger smoothie that I think I am going to post soon.)

Lunch: A light lunch like a brown rice wrap with veggies or some roasted chicken in a salad.

Mid-afternoon: Another smoothie, fortified with protein powder.

Dinner: A light dinner like this chicken veggie soup!

If I get hungry I have some brown rice crackers or veggies with some hummus, which I am quickly getting addicted to and I also started taking a multi-vitamin. I've eliminated dairy completely from my diet, as well as red meat, eggs, bananas, grapes, oranges, strawberries, nightshade veggies, peanuts...

I am going to try and maintain this for two weeks and see how I feel. But I feel so good right now that I don't really foresee a problem.

Also, I was *cleared* on Thursday to start running again, so I am taking it very slow and running 1/4 mile increments each week, which means today is my second day of running a 1/4 mile and walking 3/4 of a mile.

So this chicken veggie soup has served two purposes: It's helped soothe some wicked colds in this family and it also is the perfect light dinner to incorporate into my cleanse -- not to mention, it takes about ten minutes to throw together and the wonderful slow cooker does the rest.  I brought some over to my mom's house on Friday and she had some quinoa we added to it for a little texture and it was even more scrumptious.

Slow Cooker Chicken Veggie Soup







Makes About 8 Cups

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 lb carrots, sliced thin
4 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 bay leaf
1 lb chicken thigh (I used boneless, skinless)
2 large split chicken breasts (I used bone-in and they are normally frozen)
4 cups water or chicken broth (I used water)
1 cup of cooked quinoa (optional)
Salt to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat and sweat chopped onion until translucent. Season with salt.

In the bottom of a slow cooker, layer the carrots, then celery and bay leaf. Add the chicken on top and season generously with salt.


Pour cooked onions over the chicken and then carefully pour the water or chicken broth over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

When finished, pull out the chicken and allow to cool. Spoon veggies into a bowl. Pour the broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into the bowl with the veggies. Shred chicken and add to the bowl. Add the cooked quinoa at this point, if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!





Nutrition Information Per 2 Cups of Soup: Calories 261; Total Fat 9g; Total Carb 15g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 5g; Protein 33
*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars


Let's face the facts: Chocolate chip cookie dough is delicious. But sadly, salmonella poisoning, uh, not so much.  Nothing good can come from raw eggs; look what it did to Rocky Balboa and his speech patterns (although one does wonder -- which came first? Rocky or the egg?). Can't do it. Salmonella is yucky and I'm just not willing to go there for some cookie dough anymore.

The solution, of course, salmonella-free no bake cookie dough that also happens to be dairy-free, refined sugar-free and gluten-free.


I am so for real on this one. I can't believe how much this tastes exactly like raw cookie dough. This has provided so much comfort for me in my time of woe that I think it may be going to my rear, which makes me wish the stress fracture time of woe would hurry up and end. Seriously though, these go down very very easily and while the healthy fats in nuts are so good for you, too many can really go straight to your rear.

No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars 






Makes 8 Bars or 20 Tablespoon-Sized Balls

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup dates (I've used both Medjool and Tunisian with identical results.)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate (I used Baker's chocolate)

Directions:

Place the cashews in the bowl of a food processor and process until it looks like coarse crumbs.


Transfer to a bowl and put the dates in the food processor and process until a ball forms. Add the cashews back to the food processor with the maple syrup, salt and vanilla and process until combined. Transfer back to the bowl.

Coarsely chop the unsweetened chocolate.


Add the chocolate to the bowl with the date-cashew mixture and mix to combine until thoroughly incorporated.


Line a standard loaf pan with wax paper, leaving a little overhang, and press the mixture into the pan.


Place in the freezer for 30 - 45 minutes. Take out using the overhanging wax paper and cut into 8 squares. Store in a airtight container in the refrigerator.


These little bars are absolutely delicious on their own or formed into little balls and maybe mixed into some homemade ice cream...? I haven't exactly tried that yet, but it does sound intriguing, no?





Nutrition Information Per 1 Bar: Calories 236; Total Fat 14g; Total Carb 27g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 16g; Protein 6g
*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Slow Cookin' Sunday: Chicken, Carrots, Mushrooms and A Bit of Corkscrew Pasta


The weather has taken what the meteorologists are a calling a temporary turn for the worse -- chilly days and even chillier nights -- and my injured ankled (which turned out to be a stress fracture) isn't exactly healed yet. And to make matters even worse, my camera has been shipped to Japan in search of repair.

Yep, that just about sums up my week.

I ended up going to a orthopedic doctor because the pain in my ankle just wasn't going away. After an x-ray and an MRI, the crack it my lower tibia showed up loud and clear and I was given strict orders to stay off my feet -- and absolutely no running. Well, by the time they diagnosed me, my ankle was already feeling better, so I let two weeks pass and since I still had no pain, I decided to run a measly little mile on the treadmill on Friday.  It started hurting again on Saturday. Sigh.

All the while, after my daughter's birthday party, I noticed my camera wasn't working correctly and the lighting was off. After too many failed attempts to fix it myself, the lens and the camera body have been shipped home to Japan for six to twelve weeks. This I can't really believe.

So I've added my camera to the list of "things to be mourned." And I sit here with my ankle wrapped, yet again, wondering just what will become of my poor little blog without my camera companion. Wah, wah, boo hoo.

But we forge forward with a brave eye to the world and an open mouth to this week's Slow Cookin' Sunday contribution -- a very-comforting-on-chilly-nights-that-no-longer-resemble-summer-at-all meal -- Slow Cooker Chicken, Carrots and Mushrooms Over Corkscrew Pasta.

Slow Cooker Chicken, Carrots and Mushrooms Over Corkscrew Pasta






Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 bone-in chicken thighs
1 1/2 pounds bite-size cremini mushrooms
1 large onion, diced
4 large carrots, sliced thin


4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried parsley
3 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup cold water
1 lb corkscrew pasta, cooked (I used the Trader Joe's organic brown rice pasta)

Directions:

Clean your mushrooms using a mushroom brush or a damp kitchen towel. 


Do not rinse mushrooms with water as they have the likelihood to toughen up.

Layer the chicken at the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the next six ingredients to the pot. 


Pour the chicken stock over the rest of the ingredients and stir slightly. Cook on low for six hours. When there's a half an hour left, make a slurry by mixing the corn starch with the water. Pour the slurry over the crockpot mixture to slightly thicken the sauce. Continue cooking for the remainder of the time.

Serve immediately over cooked corkscrew pasta.


I have served this with the chicken thighs whole, as well as shredded; it's delicious both ways. This is a very quick throw-in-the-pot-and-forget-about-it crockpot meal that's super comfy and tasty.





Nutrition Information Per 1/4 of Veggies and Two Chicken Thighs (Does Not Include Pasta): Calories 243; Total Fat 6g; Total Carb 16g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 4g; Protein 31g
*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DIY Mickey Mouse T-Shirts


Clearly, we love wearing our DIY Mickey Mouse t-shirts. We wear them quite often.

My youngest daughter is a Mickey Mouse Clubhouser to the very core. She was a colickly baby with acid reflux, stomach discomfort and food intolerance issues -- she spent most days (and nights) crying. It was exhausting. Utterly exhausting. My mom spent almost everyday at our house helping out which I think saved my life. Literally.

I stumbled across my daughter's love for Mickey quite accidentally. She was about 9 months old and I had just been through a very tiring day with her. She was sitting in her bouncy chair and I was washing dishes when by chance, Mickey Mouse waltzed onto the TV screen talking about magic words and clubhouses. She stopped fussing almost immediately and was entranced (and quiet -- HOLY COW!). I remember running to the back door to tell my husband about her instant affair with Mickey and calling my mom and saying, "It's the weirdest thing..." 

So obviously, for her first birthday last January, we made it a Mickey Mouse-themed party with the Wilton cake and all:


I spent all day making that cake. And the funny thing about that cake was the candle did not want to blow out:


Uh, hello? Look at my niece's eyeballs popping out of her head because the flame refused to die:


Let's try this again:


It did eventually blow out. With lots and lots of spit on the cake.

I also made these Mickey Mouse t-shirts for me, my husband, kids and niece to wear. I was originally going to buy some shirts, but quickly cabashed that plan as I didn't feel like dropping $100 on t-shirts. It ended up being so easy and inexpensive to make myself.

All I did was buy plain t-shirts at Hobby Lobby. (I like the way the Hobby Lobby t-shirts fit and they also sell matching onsies which I needed for the baby.) I got them 50% off, so I think I spent a total of $12 on all five t-shirts. I bought a few 8.5 x 11 sheets of black felt which I don't think even equaled $1.

I then found a Mickey Mouse ear template online and resized it five ways to fit each of the five shirts (we're all different sizes). And then I printed out all five templates on card stock and cut it out. I proceeded to pin each template to a piece of black felt.


I then cut out each "ear piece" in the black felt.


Using fabric glue, I glued each "ear piece" the the center of each shirt. The felt is porous and the glue was white, so I simply lightly colored in the few places the glue seeped through using a black sharpie marker.

She is still a Mickey girl through and through to this day. Actually both of my kids have a love affair with Mickey Mouse, so we hightailed it to Disney on Ice this past Sunday and yes, broke out our Mickey Mouse shirts.


I have washed these shirts numerous times and they haven't bled, peeled, pilled -- they look exactly like the first day I made them.

I don't think we've seen the end of Mickey, though. We may have to redo the Mickey Mouse theme for her second birthday in January because she and Mickey are still going strong.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Slow Cookin' Sunday: Rice Pudding


So just to clear things up right off the bat: Not every Slow Cookin' Sunday is going to involve raisins and cinnamon sticks. It was merely a coincidence. Next week, I promise, will be raisinless and cinnamon stick-less.

But in defense of raisins and cinnamon sticks, they really are a tasty combo when you're trying to cut down on sugar or go refined sugar-free. Raisins add texture and sweetness and cinnamon sticks provide flavor. I can't get enough of this dynamic duo.

If you're looking for a sweet treat that is dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free, you can't go wrong with rice pudding. And you really can't go wrong with throwing it in the slow cooker. I made rice pudding on the stovetop once before and I was a damn slave to the spatula, constantly stirring and ungooing the rice from the bottom of the pan. It was delicious, but I swear my right bicep is still bigger than my left to this day...


So just plop it all in the crockpot, chill it, reconstitute it a bit with a little more liquid and embellishments and you've got yourself a lovely, sweet and refreshing dessert.

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding


Makes Approximately 6 Cups

Ingredients:

1 cup arborio rice
4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick

See reconstituting ingredients and directions below.

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Pour into the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 1/2 hours, stirring about every half an hour. 


As it cooks, you'll notice it getting thicker and thicker as the rice absorbs the liquid. When the time is up, cook on low for one more 1/2 hour. After all is said and done, it should look like this -- thick and soft:


Transfer to a container and allow to cool.  You can of course eat rice pudding warm, but I prefer it completely chilled. Once it's cool, move to the refrigerator overnight.

Reconstituting Ingredients

Per 1 Cup of Rice Pudding

1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup almond milk

Reconstituting Directions

When I serve rice pudding, I always reconstitute it with a little more liquid because I find the refrigerator really sucks the moisture out of it and makes it kind of clumpy. So I transfer about 1 cup to a bowl, add 1/4 cup raisins, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1/4 cup of almond milk and mix well.


Once it's been mixed well, you have wonderfully moist and soft rice pudding that sits comfortably on the edge of your spoon.


Even though it's a chilled dessert, rice pudding is a comforting and cozy dessert my family usually eats once fall hits.


And of course, through the winter -- hot chocolate peppermint rice pudding, pumpkin rice pudding --  think I may see a rice pudding-thon in the near future...





Nutrition Information Per 1 Cup of Rice Pudding (Include Reconstituting Ingredients): Calories 232; Total Fat 2g; Total Carb 51g; Fiber 1g; Sugars 20g; Protein 3g
*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.
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