Monday, November 18, 2013

Mexican Chicken & Lime Soup

Okay, so, who hasn't heard of Williams-Sonoma's Mexican Lime Soup?  I honestly don't know of many people who haven't!  This is one of the best soups I've ever tasted!!  It was so flavorful & refreshing, and will definitely hit the spot every time you make it!  The original recipe is posted on the Williams-Sonoma website within their recipes tab, but I made a few minor adjustments, based on what I had in my own kitchen.  Go on and give this soup a try!  It's perfect for those cool and cozy autumn nights!

Mexican Chicken Lime Soup
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma / Serves 2-3

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half (cut into chunks)
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion (or white onion, if you prefer)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cup water
  • mild feta cheese - for topping
  • 1 medium avocado, diced - for topping
  • cilantro - for topping
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 TB grape seed oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp McCormick's Perfect Pinch Salt-Free Original All Purpose Seasoning (or 1 tsp oregano)
  1. Season chicken breast chunks with kosher salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan and sautee chicken breast pieces until browned.
  3. In the meantime, combine chicken broth, water, crushed red pepper, lime juice, black pepper, kosher salt, and McCormick's seasoning in a medium-sized pot.
  4. Remove browned chicken from saucepan and add to the pot.
  5. In the same saucepan, sautee garlic and red onions until nearly translucent (being careful not to burn the garlic).
  6. Add garlic and onions to the pot and cook on medium heat until boiling.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Transfer soup to a bowl and top with cilantro, diced avocado, and mild feta cheese.
  9. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Homemade Chicken & Rice Soup

    I am absolutely in LOVE with Autumn!  The beautifully colored leaves on the ground, pumpkin pie, and the excuse to break out the knit hats, scarves, and ankle boots!  Unfortunately, along with Autumn, also comes cold and flu season - which my poor little munchkin has experienced this past weekend.  In an effort to help make her feel better, I whipped up my first ever batch of Chicken & Rice Soup!  I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we did!  I can't wait to make this again!

    Homemade Chicken & Rice Soup
    Original Recipe / Serves 4

    • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 cup diced red onion
    • 1 c frozen mixed vegetables
    • 3 c chicken broth
    • 1/2 c cooked brown rice (I used basmati)
    • 1 1/2 tsp McCormick's Perfect Pinch All Purpose Seasoning (or you can sub basil, oregano & parsley)
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • kosher salt & pepper, to taste
    • 1 TB grape seed oil, for frying
    1. Cut chicken breast into small chunks and season with salt and pepper.
    2. Heat grape seed oil in a medium-sized skillet and cook chicken until golden brown.
    3. Meanwhile, combine seasonings, brown rice, chicken broth, and frozen vegetables in a medium saucepan.
    4. Remove chicken from skillet and place in saucepan.
    5. In the same skillet, saute diced onion and minced garlic, until the onion becomes slightly translucent - being careful not to burn the garlic
    6. Add onion/garlic mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat until soup begins to boil.
    7. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
    8. Enjoy!

    Friday, November 8, 2013

    Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken

    There's really no introduction needed for this recipe.  I love chicken, I love lemon, and I love garlic! And when you mix them all together, you get a mouthwatering delicious entree that the whole family will enjoy!  This dish is extremely light and healthy, and can be used as a main dish or as a topping for salads, in a soup, or even wrapped in a tortilla!  I simply love how this chicken came out, and I will definitely be making it over and over again!  I hope you and your family love it as much as mine did!  Enjoy!

    Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken
    Original Recipe / Serves 3-4

    • Juice from 2 medium lemons (approx 2/3 c)
    • 1/2 c grape seed oil
    • 8 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 TB)
    • 1/8 c minced onion
    • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
    • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
    • Lime (or additional small lemon), optional.
    1. Combine all ingredients in ziploc bag and shake until well mixed.
    2. Remove small portion of marinade to use while cooking.
    3. Place chicken in bag and marinade overnight, for best results (or for at least 3-5 hours).
    4. Remove marinated chicken breasts from ziploc bag and cook on the grill (brushing with reserved marinade) until no longer pink.
    5. Remove cooked chicken from the grill and squirt with lime (or lemon) juice.
    6. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, November 6, 2013

    Spaghetti Squash Alfredo with Garlic Wheat Naan

     For my second day, and first "official" cooking day of my 20lbs in 9 week challenge, I decided to make something light, yet filling.  I combined two of my favorite things, Alfredo Pasta & Naan bread!!!  I am fully aware that I have intermingled Italian and Indian cuisine, but I just could NOT resist!  The end product:  a
    dinner that even my picky 5 year old and non-dieting Aunt would not only eat, but LOVED!!!  I have to say, I was a bit nervous about both the Squash and the Naan.  I've cooked Spaghetti Squash once before (Click here for previous post), and my munchkin wasn't too thrilled.  Actually, to be honest, she hated it.  It took her a very long time to finish her food, and asked me not to make that again! It was the texture that she couldn't get past, and possibly the disappointment of her taste buds expecting spaghetti, but getting squash.  This time around, however, her response was "Mmmmm this is sooooo good, mommy!  I love it!"  Hearing those words come out of her mouth makes me love cooking a little bit more, if that's even possible!  Now about the Naan... I have never tried Whole Wheat Naan before.  And as much as I am in love with Naan, I honestly wasn't sure how this was going to come out.  But after the taste test - both myself and my daughter - we were both in love!  My aunt had never tried Naan before, and she really enjoyed it, as well.  All in all, I'd have to say tonight's dinner was a huge success.  My tummy is full, and my taste buds are happy!

    Spaghetti Squash Alfredo
    Adapted by Freakin' Fantastic Food / Serves 2-3

    • 1 medium Spaghetti Squash
    • 1 TB Butter
    • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
    • 1 TB Onion, minced
    • 2 TB Almond Flour
    • 1 1/2 c Almond Milk
    • 1 tsp Corn Starch
    • 1 TB whipped or light Cream Cheese
    • 1 c grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
    • 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
    • 1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper
    • Parsley & Crushed Red Pepper, for garnish (optional)
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Cut the squash lengthwise, using sharp knife, and remove the seeds.
    3. Place squash cut side down on baking sheet, and cover halfway with water.
    4.  Bake squash for about an hour, until tender.
    5. Remove squash from oven and using a fork, gently scrape the "spaghetti" strands into the center of the squash (spoon desired amount into a bowl, if desired).
    6. For the sauce, melt butter in small saucepan over low heat.
    7. Add minced garlic and onion, and saute' until golden brown.
    8. Whisk in flour and then slowly add milk, making sure well blended.
    9. Add corn starch and whisk vigorously, removing all lumps.
    10. Heat mixture for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until fully heated.
    11. Add cream cheese, and whisk until smooth.
    12. Remove from heat, and add parmesan cheese, salt, and ground pepper.
    13. Spoon cream sauce over the spaghetti squash (or bowl of "spaghetti").
    14. Sprinkle parmesan cheese, parsley, and crushed red pepper (optional) on top.
    15. Serve Immediately.

    Garlic Wheat Naan
    Recipe adapted from Budget Bytes / Serves 8 

    • 1 3/4 c Whole Wheat Flour
    • 1 c unbleached Almond Flour
    • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
    • 1 tsp raw, unfiltered Honey
    • 2 tsp Active Dry Yeast (Bread Machine Yeast also works)
    • 1/2 c Water
    • 1/4 c Oil (Grapeseed or Olive Oil are best)
    • 1/3 c  0% Plain Greek Yogurt
    • 1 large Egg
    • Butter, Garlic Salt, and Parsley - for topping
    1. Combine honey, yeast, and water in a small bowl and whisk until fully dissolved. Let sit 1-2 minutes until bubbles form.
    2. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, combine whole wheat flour & salt.
    3. Pour wet ingredients into medium bowl with flour mixture, and stir until well blended.  
    4. Slowly pour in almond flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until well combined and flour ball is formed.
    5. Place ball of dough on well floured surface, and kneed dough for 2-3 minutes, adding additional
      wheat flour, as needed to prevent sticking.
    6. Loosely cover the dough and let rise until ball doubles in size, about 1 hour.
    7. Gently flatten dough, after fully risen, and slice into 8 equal pieces.
    8. Shape each piece into a ball, by folding the edges over each other.
    9. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and spray lightly with cooking spray.
    10. Roll dough, one at a time, on floured surface, until about 1/4 inches thick.
    11. Place dough into heated skillet and cook until the bottom is golden brown & bubbles begin to
      form on the surface.
    12. Flip dough and cook other side until golden brown.
    13. Remove from heat, brush with butter, and sprinkle with parsley and garlic salt.
    14. Enjoy! 

      Sunday, November 3, 2013

      Spinach Artichoke Hummus

      Mmmmmm Hummus...  My absolute FAVORITE snack these days.
        I simply cannot get enough!!!  Because of this, I have begun making my own, because it can get to be quite expensive when you're eating a tub of hummus every 2-3 days!  This recipe was inspired by a dip that I tried a few days ago, which was a very unhealthy Artichoke Jalapeno Cream Cheese dip, that tasted amazing with wheat thins.  After eating more than my fair share of this dip, and nearly running out, I decided to make a less guilty artichoke dip - and the end product was hummus!!  This dip is great with carrots, pretzels (my favorite), or any type of cracker.  But don't just take my word for it, give the recipe a spin, and test it out for yourself.  It was sooooooo quick and easy to make, you're going to wonder why you spent all that money on store-bought hummus in the past!

      Enough of the chit chat, let's get to blending!

      Spinach Artichoke Hummus
      Original Recipe / Makes 2 cups

      • 1 15-oz can Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas), 3 1/2 TB liquid reserved
      • 2 TB Plain Greek Yogurt
      • 3 cloves Garlic
      • 2 TB Tahini
      • 3 TB Lemon Juice
      • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
      • 1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper
      • 6 oz Artichoke Hearts, drained
      • 2 handfuls Fresh Spinach, rinsed
      1. Place garbanzo beans plus reserved liquid, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, & pepper into food processor and blend until smooth (add more bean liquid, if necessary).
      2. Add artichokes and spinach and process until reached desired consistency (slightly chunky or smooth, if you like).
      3. Serve chilled.

      Friday, November 1, 2013

      November 2013 Dinner Menu Plan

      Today marked the first day of my Clean Eating Diet, and I have not only completed my shopping for the month (with the exception of the ground turkey), but I have also completed my monthly dinner menu!!!!  I'm very excited about this, because I have handpicked a number of recipes that I have been dying to try.  The trouble with these menus, though, is that I sometimes have a problem following the plan to a tee, but I am going to be as strict as possible to stick to the menu this time.  When eating Clean, planning ahead is the key to not falling off the wagon, as I've discovered over the past few months.  If you wait until you get home from work to decide "What's for Dinner", then you may end up whipping up something quick and easy, which will more than likely be something unhealthy!  So, if I can just follow along with this meal plan, then I should hopefully be set!

      Since this will be my first time cooking most of the dishes featured on my menu, I will unfortunately not be able to post the recipes ahead of time.  While most of these recipes will be adapted from other sources (mostly found while browsing pinterest & ziplist), I will undoubtedly be modifying them quite a bit to fit my personal taste, so I will be sure to post the updated recipes after each meal is completed.  If you would like to follow along, and cook the dishes on the specific days that I've planned, feel free to head on over to Pinterest and do a recipe search!  Afterall, this post isn't about getting you to love my adapted recipes, but it is to help you along your personal journey toward eating clean and losing weight.

       Thank you for tuning in... Wish me Luck!

      Wednesday, October 23, 2013

      Behavior Reinforcement Charts: A Mom's Best Friend!

      Parenting is tough.  Anyone who is a parent - mom or dad - knows this, so I don't need to get into the details about how hard of a time I am having with getting my soon-to-be 6 year old to listen & follow directions.  Because, let's face it, not listening to their parents and getting into trouble is what kids do, right?!  Well... it's what my daughter does, that's for sure.  Over the past few months (it's been too long to really pinpoint the exact time it began) my kiddo has given me the hardest time.  I mean, my already tough single parenting has turned into nearly IMPOSSIBLE parenting, in my opinion.  I have been trying my hardest to keep my cool through all of her talking back, tantrums, unwarranted crying, and overall disobedience; but I'm going to be honest, I've definitely lost my head a few times.  You see, I was under the impression that once the "terrible twos" were over, we'd be in the clear!  Well, clearly, I was soooo wrong!

      At my daughter's Kindergarten, her teacher utilizes a Color Behavior Chart to track the students' behavior each day. The colors are:
      • PURPLE - Superb!!!!
      • GREEN - Great Job!
      • YELLOW - Slow Down / Warning
      • RED - Time Out
      • BLUE - Call Home
      • ORANGE - Principal's Office

      Every student starts off with Green, and it is up to the student to stay in the green all day.  Misbehaving, or not listening, will cause the student to move down the chart or "get a color change".  The Purple is outstanding behavior, going above and beyond and exceeding all teacher expectations.  Although, we were told that students very rarely receive Purples in her class...  At the end of the week, she sends a paper home notifying the parents of which color their child received each day of the week (and the reason for any color change), and we are to sign it and return it to school the following Monday.  At first, my daughter was getting greens every day! Way to go ILa!  But slowly, one (or even two) days began changing to yellows and then reds, which got me thinking of a way to get her back on track.  

      In order to add more weight to the color charting, I decided to add a reward.  If she comes home with all greens on Friday, she can get an ice cream sundae!  And not just any ice cream sundae... I'm talking about the kind that you make yourself - with ALL the fix-ins - chocolate syrup, nuts, sprinkles, whipped cream, cherries - you name it!  Since I've implemented the reward system, she has yet to receive all greens, unfortunately.  This has been going on for over a month! =(.  But, I've noticed that she's been getting pretty upset when she sees any other color than green on her weekly behavior sheet, so I can see that the reward system has definitely made her a bit more serious about listening at school.  That being said, I realized that maybe I should begin implementing the Color Behavior Chart at home as well!!  Why not, right?!  Because it's not okay for her to get all greens at school, and then come home and lose complete control.  There has got to be some consistency here.  

      Below is a copy of my version of the Color Behavior Chart, and the rewards/consequences for each color. I decided to start on a Saturday and end on Friday so that my chart would have a little bit more weight.  Notice the Blue and Orange are taking away weekend fun activities, which my daughter really looks forward to.  I figure if misbehaving causes her to miss out on the things she wants the most, then perhaps she'll begin to modify her behavior accordingly.  This chart will be laminated and placed on the refrigerator.  Each day, I will start her with a Green, and as the day progresses, I will change the colors according to her behavior - using a dry erase marker. 

      Feel free to use my chart for your own children, if you'd like. Click Here to print a PDF version of my chart or Here to download the Excel version to personalize it!

      In addition to the Color Behavior Chart, I have also created a chart to pin point her listening skills.  Since a majority of our problems surround her difficulties in following directions, I figured I should track this behavior separately, in order to prevent major color changes in her behavior chart.  I have purchased star stickers from Dollar Tree and will be sticking them on her chart each day if she does one or both of the following:  Follows directions without arguing, or follows directions quickly (without me having to ask again).  At the end of each calendar week, she will receive a coupon (also purchased from the Dollar Tree) good for one of many things to be determined.  See below for a copy of my chart.

      Click Here to print a copy of this chart for personal use.

      I am extremely excited about these charts, and hope that they actually help to encourage good behavior in my little one.  She really is an AWESOME little girl.  She's the sweetest, most loving kid I've ever met.  And I know that she genuinely WANTS to behave, but she's having a few difficulties controlling her behavior and emotions - I'm sure she gets some of that from me.  So I will do whatever is necessary to bring out all of the good qualities in her, and to ensure that they are displayed at all times.  I'm currently in the process of finding ways to help her identify and display her emotions appropriately in particular situations, instead of defaulting to screaming & crying.  When I find something that I think will actually work, I'll create a new post about it.


      Friday, October 11, 2013

      Crock-Pot Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

      Fall is upon us!!!!  And with that, comes rainy days, fashionable boots, warm sweaters, chili, and PUMPKINS!!!!!!!!!!!  In honor of my pumpkin addiction, I have created a bowl of warm pumpkiny (yes, I did say that) Goodness to help get you through these cold Fall mornings!  I tell you, there's nothing better than waking up to the smell of Pumpkin Pie in the morning!!!! Mmmm Mmmm... This was my first time making Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal, so as the season continues, I'll probably end up perfecting it just a tad.  If I do, I'll be sure to add an update so that you may all enjoy it as well!

      Crock-Pot Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal
      Original Recipe / Serves 6

      • 15oz can of Pure Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
      • 1 c Steel Cut Oats, uncooked
      • 1 1/2 c Water
      • 1 1/2 c Milk (I used unsweetened Almond Milk)
      • 1 1/4 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
      • 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
      • 1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
      • 2 TBSP Butter (I used Smart Balance Light w/ Flaxseed Oil)
      • 3 TBSP Organic Honey
      • Pinch of Kosher Salt
      1. Spray the inside of the pot with cooking spray, to avoid sticking.
      2. Pour all ingredients into the pot, and stir.
      3. Cover and cook on low for 6 1/2 - 7 hours (I cooked mine overnight - my crock-pot automatically switches to warm when done.  If yours does not, be sure to time it properly, to prevent overcooking)
      4. Top with additional milk (I used Almond Coconut), butter, and honey - to taste.
      5. Enjoy!!!
      Serving Suggestions:  If you like yours with more of a rich pumpkin taste, try adding another 1/2 can to the pot when cooking.  Or even top with heated pumpkin, sprinkled with pumpkin pie spice.  It may also taste delicious topped with granola or chocolate chips!!  Don't be afraid to add a little variety to your bowl! =)

      *Note:  When re-heating, add milk to cold oatmeal, and microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until hot.

      Monday, October 7, 2013

      Weekday Morning Blues

      I don't know what it is about little ones, but for some reason they have only 1 speed:  super duper SLOW!!!  When it comes to getting ready in the morning, I am fully capable of taking a shower, washing my face, brushing my teeth, lotioning, getting dressed, doing my hair, making my coffee & lunch, AND breakfast to consume in the car during my morning commute - all in less than 30-45 minutes!  My child, however, takes about 45 minutes alone JUST to lotion & get dressed!!!!!

      Today, she was taught a valuable lesson.  After weeks of trying to rush her to lotion and get dressed quickly, she has continued to play games and take her sweet little time in the morning.  I have warned her numerous times that if she does not move quicker, she will not have enough time to get her hair done & will have to go to school with "yesterday hair".  In the past I have stated that I was going to start waking her up earlier since it takes her so long to get ready, but I've learned quickly that all that does is make it a lot harder on me in the mornings... I'd much rather let her sleep a little longer, to prevent early morning arguments.  Needless to say - today she learned that I wasn't joking.  My poor child not only had to put her shoes on in the car this morning (because I refuse to let her walk into school late because she was playing around & not taking care of her business in the morning), but she also forgot her socks!  So she went to school sock-less, with yesterday's hair.  I hope this was a lesson learned, and that she will finally understand that following a routine and moving quickly is a necessity for school mornings.  My hope is that not only did she learn to move a bit quicker, but that she also learned a little bit of responsibility and accountability.  She didn't really seem to care either way this morning, as she so casually walked into school - but hopefully she now knows that I mean business, if nothing else.  It's all about the "follow-through".

      Does anyone else have this problem with their little ones in the morning?  Last year, I used to lotion her & help her get dressed.  But now that she's in Kindergarten, she should be fully capable of doing those things herself... I felt really bad for her, though, as I do not want my baby going to school looking crazy!  But she didn't look completely crazy! Her hair was a little frizzy and the no socks thing sort of bugged me, but she looked like a kid with good hygiene, so I was certain that she'd be fine.

      In light of today's shenanigans, I have created a morning routine chart that my daughter will have to follow - and check off - in order to encourage independence and promote responsibility.

      I have purchased reward stickers from the Dollar Tree to stick on her chart each morning after she completes a task - or perhaps I'll let her do it herself!  This way, it'll give her something to look forward to after completing each task.  Click Here to print a copy of the chart to use for your own child, or Here to download and personalize the chart to fit your weekday morning routine.

      Have you used a morning routine chart with your child before?  Do you have any other suggestions that could help speed up the morning process?  If so, please share!!!  I could use all the help I could get!

      Wednesday, August 7, 2013

      I'm MORE than just a Mom...

      Warning:  If you are one of those people who believe that being a parent means that you have to pour ALL of yourself into your child(ren) & are no longer an individual, then PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS POST.  This is for the parents who are PEOPLE first & foremost, who just happen to also have children.

      So, I'm going to go ahead and say the "forbidden words" that mothers are just never supposed to say aloud:  I. NEED. A. MOMMY. BREAK!!!  I am literally exhausted from all of the whining, crying, talking back, huffing & puffing, attitudes & stomping around that I encounter nearly EVERY DAY as a single mom - I just need some time off to stop being a mom & be just me.  I used to feel bad about feeling this way - that my kid sometimes annoys me & there are times that I need space from her - but now I know it is an absolute necessity to proper parenting.  What most parents fail to realize is:  we are still individuals with individual needs!  Becoming a mother - scratch that - a single mother does not negate my responsibility to myself as a woman & human being!  I have needs too, just like my daughter has needs.  And if my needs are not properly met, I turn into one cranky mother (shut yo mouth) & all hell breaks loose!!  Knowing and admitting this about myself does not, under any circumstance, make me a bad mother.  It makes me a smart & brave mother who has recognized this early on and is willing to admit it.

      Once you become a mom, most of us automatically drop whatever it is we had going for ourselves & begin to pour everything into our kids.  We sacrifice our wants and needs for theirs.  We put what they want to do above what we want to do, because let's face it - that's just good parenting, right?!  WRONG!!!  Don't get me wrong, if you are a selfish person, who is only interested in doing what YOU want, and puts yourself first in everything you do - & are unwilling to put others before you - EVER - then you should not become a parent.  Plain and simple.  BUT, wanting to do this sometimes, and realizing that becoming a parent doesn't make you less of a human - who has individual needs - is only natural & is absolutely OK.  If you don't do for yourself, show love & care for yourself - how can you do for your child????  Children learn through observation & observation alone.  Showing your kids that it is okay to neglect yourself is teaching them the wrong message!  They (especially daughters) must learn that the self is important - & you must care for it accordingly.  This means you not only do the things that you enjoy, but you also give yourself the things that you need - & often forget about.  Take some trips without the kid(s).  Go pamper yourself with a mani/pedi & spa treatment (& try and leave the little ones home sometimes).  Go spend time with other GROWN-UPS, doing grown up things, where you do not have to censor yourself because there are little eyes watching & ears listening.  Go be YOU - & everything that entails!!!  And you can still be a mom - a Great one.

      All I'm saying is... If you do not put yourself first, the end result is resentment toward your children & the other parent.  And this is just not a healthy way of coping with the changes of parenthood.  So... BE a mom.  But be YOU - a woman, an individual, a human being with needs, etc. - and somehow find a way to have a balance between the two...  Once you have mastered this, you will find peace within yourself & peace with your child(ren).

      That said:  This Mommy needs a vacay, a mani/pedi, some Yoga, and a Ladies Night -- STAT!  Doctor's orders! ;-)

      Over & Out!

      Friday, July 26, 2013

      "Clean" Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce

      Now that the summer is in full-effect, there are TONS of pool parties and Barbecues taking place here in sunny California!  And with Barbecues, comes the demand for BBQ sauce!!!!  If you're like me, and trying to eat much cleaner, then you'll know what I mean when I say that a good "clean" BBQ Sauce is slim pickins!  It's very hard to find a delicious sauce made with natural ingredients (i.e. none of that high fructose corn syrup or other corn syrup derivatives junk).  So, in an effort to avoid the "sugar crack", I have created my own sauce!!!  Yes... you heard (or read) me right! This amazingly delicious concoction of all natural ingredients will have you begging, no - SCREAMING for more!  Put it on your pizza, use it on your grilled chicken/steak/shrimp, dip your nuggets in it, hell - you can even add it to a little homemade Ranch dressing & drizzle this sucker on your salad!  The possibilities with this sauce are truly ENDLESS!

      Don't believe me, it's sooooo simple to make, so whip up a batch & test it out for yourself!  I'll even let you tell your family that it was alllll your idea! ;-) #yourewelcome

      Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce

      Original Recipe

      • 1-15oz can tomato sauce - no sugar added
      • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
      • 1 1/4 tsp paprika
      • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
      • 3 TBSP unsulfured molasses
      • 1 TBSP + 1/2 tsp garlic powder
      • 1/2 TBSP dried minced onion
      • 2 TBSP raw organic honey
      • 2 tBSP balsamic vinegar
      1. Combine all ingredients into a saucepan and stir until well blended.
      2. Simmer on low heat for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
      3. Store sauce in a mason jar with the lid tightly secured - keep refrigerated.

      Monday, July 22, 2013

      Crock-Pot Sloppy Joe's

      So here's a new twist to the All-American Dish... Sloppy Joe's!!!!  Have you ever tried cooking them in a crock-pot?!  Me neither!  Until now... =)  Sloppy Joe's are so easy to make, and they're every kid's favorite meal!  But if you want to turn your ordinary simple Sloppy Joe's into more of a gourmet dish, then give this recipe a try!!!  I've been testing out a few different ways to make semi-homemade Sloppy Joe's, ever since I discovered that my favorite brand - Manwich - is PACKED with that high fructose corn syrup crap! YUCK!  In an effort to remove that from our diet completely, I had to find alternatives.  So, I began buying the Sloppy Joe seasoning packets instead - making sure there were no hydrogenated ingredients included.  After my first attempt, by simply following the packet's instructions, the Joe's were tasty, but not as sweet as I had hoped.  After a few more tries, I have finally perfected the recipe - and have turned it into a crock-pot sensation!  Okay, enough with the chit chat - make it, try it, LOVE it!

      Crock-Pot Sloppy Joe's

      Original Recipe / Serves 4-6 [based on your sloppy preference ;-)]

      • 1 lb ground turkey
      • 1-16oz can tomato paste
      • 1 1/4 c water
      • 1 packet sloppy joe seasoning
      • 1 TBSP molasses
      • 1 celery stalk, chopped
      • 1/2 onion, diced
      • 1 clove garlic, diced
      • 100% whole wheat hamburger buns
      1. Add onions, garlic, and ground turkey to skillet, and cook until brown.
      2. In a separate bowl, whisk together tomato paste, seasoning packet, water, and molasses, until well blended.
      3. Add browned turkey mixture, celery, and sloppy joe sauce to the crock-pot and stir.
      4. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
      5. Serve on toasted hamburger buns.
      6. Enjoy!

      Friday, July 12, 2013

      Crock-Pot Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal

      Hello my lovely readers!!!!  It has been a few months since my last post, and I know that you were just DYING to get another recipe under your belt.  I had an extremely long day yesterday, and came home very exhausted from my day at work then spending hours in traffic commuting home from work/school, and still had to cook dinner for my munchkin.  After all was said and done, I was so close to calling it quits at about 8:30 that night.  BUT... as always, my mind had another agenda, and in popped the idea of preparing crockpot oatmeal for this morning's breakfast!  I did a search on bing for crockpot steel cut oatmeal recipes and came across one that I found very intriguing.  After modifying it a bit, I threw all of the ingredients together, and created an AMAZING breakfast with an aroma that anyone would want to wake up to!

      My original plan was to take the oatmeal to-go - allowing my daughter to eat hers in the car, and I'd eat mine once I made it to work, but I just couldn't resist!  It smelled so darn Good!  So, we sat down for a mini family breakfast at 7am this morning, and I have to tell you - both my daughter and I were extremely pleased at how DELICIOUS it tasted!!  I have to be honest, I was actually a bit amazed that she found it so appetizing, seeing as how I added the chia seeds & it was my first time cooking with them.  And best of all - all I had to do this morning was throw it in a bowl & it was ready to eat!!  Quick & Easy - now that's my kind of weekday morning breakfast!  Now if I can only get my daughter to eat her food a little bit faster, then I think we'll really have something here! ;-)  Either way, I'll definitely be making variations of this dish for weeks to come!  Can't wait to try different fruits and toppings!  I'm salivating just thinking about all of the delicious possibilities! =)

      Okay, enough with the introduction... I know you're just ITCHING to get your hands on this lovely recipe, so here you go!
      Ingredients all mixed up & ready to cook!

      Crock-Pot Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal
      Recipe adapted from The Yummy Life / Serves 6

      •   2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped into small chunks (2-1/2 to 3 cups chopped)
      • 1-1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
      • 1-1/2 cups water
      • 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
      • 3 TBSP raw honey (or you can sub 2 TBSP brown sugar or other sweetener)
      • 1-1/2 TBSP butter, cut into 5-6 pieces (optional) *I used Smart Balance Light
      • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
      • 1 TBSP ground chia seeds or flaxseeds (optional)
      • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
      • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
      • cooking spray
      1. Spray inside of the pot with cooking spray - to avoid sticking of final product.
      2. Add all ingredients into the pot and stir well.
      3. Cover and cook on low for 6.5 to 7 hours (time may vary depending upon your crockpot, so be cautious if you are cooking overnight - my crockpot automatically switches to warm when done - preventing overcooking of the oats.)
      4. Top with additional almond milk, butter, and/or chopped nuts - if you so choose.
      5. Enjoy!
      Oatmeal cooking away!
      Leftovers may be stored in the fridge - or freezer in individual 1-cup servings to help with the hussle and bustle of your busy weekday mornings!  To re-heat, simply add milk to 1-cup serving of oatmeal and place in the microwave on high until hot, stirring occasionally.  & Voila - instant pleasure!

      Friday, April 5, 2013

      Whole Wheat Pancakes

      Why hello there!  Long time no post, I know... I've been super busy with school, apartment hunting, moving, etc., but I am BACK!  & with a brand new recipe!  Now who doesn't like waking up on a Saturday morning to the smell of Homemade Pancakes?!  I know I do... only I've never made them from scratch before... Until the other day! I wanted pancakes so badly, but only had the gluten-free pancake mix that I purchased a while ago - that I'd have to admit, wasn't as good as I had hoped.  So I searched online for a whole wheat recipe, and voila:  Instant satisfaction!  If you don't believe me, why don't you try them yourself!  These were SUPER EASY, and my whole family enjoyed them!  They weren't only filling, but deliciously fluffly.  Pure PERFECTION!

      Save Recipe

      Whole Wheat Cinnamon Pancakes
      Recipe adapted from: / Serves 3

      • 1 cups unbleached whole wheat flour
      • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
      • 2 tsp cinnamon
      • 1 tsp sugar
      • 1 large eggs
      • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp vanilla almond milk
      • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
      • cooking spray
      1. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
      2. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
      3. Add eggs, almond milk, and vanilla, and mix until blended (it should be slightly lumpy - do not overmix!)
      4. Lightly spray griddle with cooking spray
      5. Pour desired amount of pancake batter and allow bubbles to form.
      6. Once the edges are set and bubbles have settled, flip pancake with a spatula.
      7. Heat until fully cooked on other side (do not re-flip or pancakes will lose their fluff!).
      8. Repeat with remaining batter.
      9. Serve with warm maple syrup!

      Wednesday, February 6, 2013

      Crock-Pot White Bean Chicken Chili

      Me + Chili = Best Friends for LIFE!  Okay, that may sound a bit weird, but seriously, I love chili!  It's one of my ultimate favorite dishes.  I can honestly eat it at any time during the day, any day of the week, in ANY weather!  When I learned how to make it myself (thanks to my mom), I had no reason to continue to settle for Stagg's canned versions.  I particularly enjoyed their chicken chili, though - which, for some reason, isn't as popular as their other varieties & can sometimes be hard to find.  But, now that I know how to create my own, both my stomach & my pocketbook thank me! 

      This isn't your ordinary Chicken Chili, that you may eat over rice - if that's your kind of thing.  This version tastes best topped with a dollop of Sour Cream (yes, I did just say "dollop"), and tortilla strips!  And since it can be cooked in your crock-pot, it's basically fool proof!!!  Go on, give it a try!  Even you non-cookers can hook this one up!

      (Recipe adapted from / Serves 5

      • 3 cups chopped Chicken Breasts (cooked or uncooked are both fine) -- works great with leftovers!
      • 1/2 cup Onion, chopped
      • 2 cloves Garlic
      • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano Leaves
      • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
      • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
      • 1/4 tsp Red Rooster Hot Sauce
      • 1 can 100% Fat Free Chicken Broth (add extra 1/2 - 1 can if you like yours a little soupy)
      • 1 medium White Corn, uncooked & kernels removed (about 1 1/4 cup of kernels)
      • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern Beans, drained & rinsed
      • Ground Pepper, to taste

      1.  Add all ingredients (except the beans) to the crock-pot and mix until well blended

      2.  Cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours (or until tender - chicken should easily shred with fork)
      3.  Add pepper, to taste 
      4.  Add 1 can of drained, rinsed Great Northern Beans

      5.  Cook for an additional 30-45 minutes
        6.  Serve with your choice of topping(s):  Sour Cream, Guacamole, Tortilla Strips/Chips
      This recipe was a HIT with my 5 year old!  She asked for seconds!  I will undoubtedly be making this again. :-)

      Simple Trail Mix

      Since going "clean", making my own snacks has been the thing-to-do.  Not only is it healthier to create your own, due to the lack of preservatives, added sugars, etc.; but it also costs a lot less than buying pre-packaged snacks.  One of my snacks of choice is my Simple Trail Mix.  I'm not normally a fan of Trail Mix, since it's a mixture of a bunch of different nuts and dried fruits, with all of their mysterious powders, salts, and sugars all mixed up into one big bag - EWWW!!!  But, I really needed to start incorporating nuts into my diet...  So, I developed my own short and sweet version of a snack-size Trail Mix to take to school and/or work with me.  Feel free to add on extra varieties of nuts or fruits, if you like. 

      (Original Recipe) / Serves 1

      • 1 TBSP Raw Almonds (you can toast them if you like)
      • 1 TBSP Macadamia Nuts
      • 1 TBSP Raisins
      • 1 TBSP Dried Cran-Cherries (I bought mine in bulk at Winco Foods)
      1. Combine all ingredients into a small container (or ziplog bag) and shake until well mixed.
      2. Enjoy!
      (Dried apricots may be a great addition to the mix - I may test them out next time.)

      Tuesday, February 5, 2013

      Tropical Fruit Salad

      I don't know about you, but I love a nice fruit salad!  Not those skimpy versions you get from the restaurant when you order a side of fruit instead of your french fries, but a nice, hearty, sweet, colorful fruit salad.  Yummm... My mouth is watering just thinking about it! [hahaha]  Since I gave up fruit drinks and sodas, and basically any other liquid aside from water and tea, I thought making a fruit salad would help curb my cravings for juice.  Feel free to add your own variety of fruits to the salad.  The possibilities for this are truly endless.  Next week I plan to switch it up a bit - to keep me on my toes ;-)

      (Original Recipe) / Serves 5

      • 1 small carton Strawberries, quartered
      • 1 1/2 cup Seedless Red Table Grapes
      • 3 medium rings of whole Pineapple, diced
      • 1 Mango, diced

      1. Wash all of your fruit with Fruit/Vegetable Wash prior to cutting.
      2. Cut the stems off the Strawberries and slice them into fours.
      3. Remove the skin from the Mango, and slice around the large seed - then dice.
      4. Chop the stem off the Pineapple, cut 3 medium-sized slices (about 1-1/2 inches), remove the skin (and core), and dice into smaller pieces.
      5. Add all ingredients into a large bowl (including juice from sliced pineapple), and mix until well coated.
      6. Serve cold (or store in a mason jar or divide into smaller containers for later use)