Sunday, November 27, 2011

{clean} Sage and Thyme Stuffin' Muffins

Stuffin' Muffins are the best of all things stuffing. When you bake your stuffing in little muffin forms everyone gets a moist center and a crunchy crispy top. Plus, it makes for an interesting presentation compared to the standard stuffing baked in a pan.

 Stuffing is something that is very easy to make but it's important to get quality ingredients to start with to get a delicious outcome.

{clean} Sage and Thyme Stuffin' Muffins

  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 small leek, diced
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 Tbps Organic unsalted butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1/2 tsp ground thyme 
  • 3 cups {organic} low sodium chicken stock (veggie stock can be used)
  • 3 eggs (Pasteurized is best)
  • Approx 16 cups of bread cubes (I used fresh baked whole wheat and semolina), air dried overnight or baked in oven for 10 minutes on 350 to dry them out.
1). Add butter and garlic to preheated pan. Saute carrots, celery, onion, and leeks until soft over medium heat. Add salt, pepper, sage, thyme and stir. Remove from heat.
2). In a bowl whisk the eggs and chicken stock. Combine this mixture with the vegetables.
3). In a large bowl, add bread and pour wet mixture over bread crumbs. Be sure to evenly coat all the bread. Let it set for 5 minutes for the bread to absorb the mixture.
4). Spray muffin tins with all natural Extra Virgin Olive Oil and scoop mixture into tins.
5). Bake, uncovered at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Or until set and crispy on top.

NOTE: I didn't scoop enough mixture into the tins this time (that's what I get for multitasking!). With that being said, I came up with approx. 18 small muffins. If you press the mixture in you can easily get 12 large stuffin' muffins and only have to use one muffin pan. And they will look nicer. It's important to take the time to dice the vegetables. They blend better into the mixture when they are diced small and take less time to saute to soft. Or blend in the Vitamix. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

{clean} Veggie Soup

It's soup season in Indiana folks, whether we like it or not. Time to heat up the kitchen with some nutrient rich {clean} Minestrone Soup.  This is a great recipe for Meatless Mondays.  Do your health a favor and dump the meat each Monday of the week. It's a great way to jump start your week into making positive food choices.

If you can chop vegetables and operate a can opener you can make this recipe. Yes, it's that simple.

{clean} Veggie Soup

  • 1 Tbps Olive Oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups Organic Vegetable Broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 med golden potatoes, chopped
  • 1 can {all natural} tomato paste
  • 1 can {all natural/no salt added} petite tomatoes, with juice.
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 1 Tbps fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1 can {organic} Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained 
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
1) Add oil and garlic to large stove top pot. Saute for 1-2 minutes on medium heat.
2) Add all ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook for 2 hours (the longer the better). Stir occasionally.
3) After vegetables have reached the desired tenderness serve and top with fresh Parmesan cheese if you please.

NOTE: I bet you could just throw this all in the crock pot, put it on low and walk away for 8 hours and it would turn out just fine. (add the pasta uncooked though) I might actually try this next time in the crockpot.
Feel free to add more or less of certain vegetables. I tend to double up on many to make a large quantity of soup to last all week long.

2012 UPDATE: I no longer make this soup with pasta. It is highly processed so I try to limit pasta to times when I feel it's really necessary (like with spaghetti) and even then I use spaghetti squash often for me instead of the pasta or mix 50/50.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

I will pretty much try ANY new vegetable or fruit on this {clean eating} journey.  I figure, what do I have to lose? You can't go wrong with too many vegetables or fruits to choose from to create unique healthy meals.

Spaghetti squash is something I hadn't tried before, until now. It's time to start caring about every single calories I take in so I can drop these dreaded last 10lbs! I usually eat whole grain pasta but then I'm left with an upset and bloated stomach and exhausted from the carb crash. This is not the case with spaghetti squash. It has a mild sweet taste that is different from regular spaghetti.

Spaghetti Squash

My daughter thought it tasted great! She thought it was really cool as I showed her the magic of the squash turning into "spaghetti". Next time I'm serving it to my 3 year old too (I wasn't in the mood for an argument this time around). If I can pass this as spaghetti to him I will be impressed.

Now, on to the awesome news. An average spaghetti squash has 165 calories. That's for the ENTIRE squash and it makes a lot of "spaghetti". Just ONE cup of regular spaghetti contains around 220 calories versus 42 calories a cup of spaghetti squash. If you were to just replace one cup of pasta with squash once a week for a year, that would be 8,544 calories (2 lbs weight loss per year). These numbers are for those that actually eat ONE cup of pasta. I am sure many people eat way more than one cup per serving. 

There are many techniques to cook spaghetti squash. One way is to microwave it. Here's a great video explaining that method.

I, personally, choose to cut it in half lengthwise and removed the seeds and pulp. Then I placed the squash rind side up in a baking dish and baked it at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

I am happy to report that this vegetable experiment was a success. I will be using spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti pasta many times this coming year.  That alone should help me with my weight loss goals. Plus, my daughter is excited to share the news of how cool spaghetti squash is to her friends. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A {year} of Clean Eating

It's been year since I embarked on this life changing mission for overall health via {clean eating}.  I must admit at first it was overwhelming and almost like studying for a test. What kept me sane was not thinking too far out into the future and focusing on the day or week ahead of me. I spent a lot of time reading labels at grocery stores. A lot of time.

The first couple of months involved dumping many of the chemically charged foods I used DAILY! Making sure the foods I stocked my new {clean} shelves with weren't full of artificial colors, artificial flavors, sugars, trans fats, and chemicals. As the weeks turned into months it started to become second nature. I started to care about every single thing that went into my mouth! Making sure it was quality food with a purpose.

If you personally knew me before this journey you probably still find it hard to believe I have given up Diet Coke(all soda for that matter). I still even find it hard to believe at times. 15 months and going strong. It just doesn't taste the same. Period. 

In my past when dealing with my health and weight loss, I counted calories, worked out to many dvds, clocked miles on my eliptical and even drank diet shakes at one point! (Let's be honest, I even prayed to get fit and slim) The truth of all of that was that none of it really lasted because it wasn't truly a lifestyle change. I would get bored and stop.  Life sucks when you count calories. Period.

This mission was to get healthy first, lose weight and inches second. Over this past year I have worked out on average 2 times a week (a hour each time) doing Zumba. I wish I could say it was more, but it is what it is. I am very grateful to God that Nichol Altman came into my life to be my Zumba instructor. Find that person that motivates you and gets results and you will go far. Through the help of Nichol, Zumba, and {clean eating} my body has never looked better!

After almost a year of clean eating I have lost 16lbs and have dropped 1-2 sizes in clothing. I feel SO much better.  Some days I feel like I should stand in the processed food aisle and shout my happy news, but I hold back(most days) and decide blogging is a more appropriate and acceptable means of communication.

I have met some amazing {clean eating} friends on this journey and learned more about the health benefits of food than I ever thought I would in my lifetime. Many of these things I have learned first hand through this journey.  I started this journey after finding out I needed to lower my cholesterol. I did not take this news lightly. I was determined to make a change.

Disappointingly, after a year my cholesterol numbers haven't dropped and stayed in the normal range. But on a positive note, my good cholesterol is finally improving! They aren't crazy high but enough that my doctor is suggesting medications. I am not mentally ready to throw in the towel so to speak and take medications. I am committed to giving my body another 6 months to lose my final 10 lbs to get me to my optimal 22 BMI and adding Omega 3-6-9 oils(flax and fish) & daily vitamins (which i wasn't that great of taking this past year, shame on me) to see if I can make one more last ditch effort to control my numbers without medications.  I will also be even MORE strict on my dietary foods focusing on heart health and cholesterol. Stay tuned and continue to follow my journey to control those numbers!

Thanks so much for those of you that have supported me in this year of transformation. It has been a rewarding year despite the news of my cholesterol. Eat clean, be happy.


                November 2011                                   November 2012

NOVEMBER 2012 Update: 
Life is good! I have continued to lose the extra pounds without even trying! It's true, I just stick to the rules and it happened. I have another year of clean eating under my {tightened} belt.  I have lost nearly 25 lbs, putting me at (or close to) the BMI of 22 I wanted to achieve!  YAY normal range! I rarely weigh myself these days but I know it's around there. I've heard before that your body will plateau when it's reached it's "happy place". I feel pretty darn happy (and haven't been this small in over a decade) so I think it's safe to say....I have arrived.  

As for cholesterol, I am sadly coming to the realization that it just may be hereditary for me. I am still not taking any medication to lower it, but continue to get it checked. It remains the same or lowers a tiny bit. I still eat a heart healthy diet, exercise, and will continue to remain in my healthy weight range.  

Planetbox {taking lunch to the next planet}


I can't say enough good things about this lunchbox system. It's easy to clean, it's eco-friendly, and it's super COOL! Purchasing this system wasn't taken likely because I had trouble getting past the $60 price tag that comes along with owning a Planetbox. I really thought out the pros and the cons. After much thought, it truly was an investment and it would pay off in the long run. Or so I hoped!

It's been 3 months since my kids have been using their Planetboxes (ages 3 and 7), and they LOVE them! They look forward to what I have packed each day.  There is nothing better than lifting the lid to your lunch and finding it ready to eat. No opening wrappers or no opening ziplock bags! Maybe there is something better, when I open the lid at home to find that all the food I sent to school has been eaten. That's very rewarding! 

Here's a few examples of my kid's lunches:

I believe the Planetbox makes eating healthy FUN! 
Now, if you think these lunches looked pretty, check out these over the top super creative lunches:

 And this one was when their doddy, Daisy, packed the child's lunch. HA!

Their website has lots of great info on it so I will leave it to them to explain the features and benefits further. CHECK THEM OUT!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chipotle Veggie Quesadillas

This recipe is packed full of veggies and loaded with flavor. The chipotle pepper adds a great smokey flavor to the recipe. 

There is some chopping involved in this recipe. If you find that you don't have time to chop your own vegetables you can always look for prechopped vegetables in your produce section. Either in the case or in the salad bar.

Chipotle Veggie Quesadillas

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen or canned {no salt added}sweet corn
  • 1 can {organic} no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can {all natural-no salted added} petite tomatoes
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 Tbps cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chili pepper (more if you like it medium/hot)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt 
  • whole grain tortillas (read labels)
  • block of cheddar cheese (shred as needed)
1). Preheat pan to med/high heat. Add oil and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
2). Add onion and peppers to pan and saute until tender.
3). Add corn, black beans, tomatoes, cumin, chipotle pepper, lime and salt to pan with veggies. Stir for a few minutes.
4). Heat a grill pan to med/high heat. Spray tortilla with cooking spray and add to pan. Add veggie mixture to tortilla evenly and top with a small amount of cheese. Fold and cook on both sides until cheese is melted and tortilla is to your liking.

NOTE: You could always use lettuce wraps instead of tortillas. Or eat the mixture straight from a bowl. Top it with freshly made guacamole and salsa. YUM!

Souffléd Sweet Pototoes {with garlic & rosemary}

It's that time of year when we all start to think of Thanksgiving and FOOD! If you are on a quest to better health and weight loss don't let the holidays get the best of your goals. You can still stay on track by planning ahead.

 This recipe comes from my Clean Eating Magazine. Many sweet potato casseroles found at your typical holiday feast are loaded with sugar and fat. This version is quite the opposite, it's packed full of flavor and has zero fat.

Souffléd Sweet Pototoes {with garlic & rosemary}

Serves 10
  • 4lb sweet potatoes, scrubbed well
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 4 large egg whites (use fresh egg whites for optimal lift)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • olive oil cooking spray
1). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a fork, prick each potato 2-3 times. Place potatoes on a baking sheet, transfer to oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until softened. Meanwhile, loosely wrap garlic in foil, sealing tightly. Place on a separate baking sheet, transfer to oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until softened but not browned.
2).  Remove potatoes and garlic form oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and place in a large bowl. Squeeze garlic cloves from their skins and add to bowl. Add broth and use a potato masher to mash until smooth; stir in rosemary, salt and pepper. (this is where I used a food processor instead)
3).  In a separate bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. With a rubber spatula, gently fold half of egg white mixture into potato mixture until just a few white streaks are visible. Fold in remaining egg white mixture, allowing a few mall streaks to remain visible.
4). Coat a 9 x 13inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add potato mixture, using a spatula to smooth top. Transfer to oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until top is lightly browned. Serve hot.

NOTE: This wasn't one of my favorite recipes. I am not sure I enjoyed the rosemary with the sweet potatoes. I decided to still post this recipe because everyone has different likes and dislikes. Plus, it make it into the magazine so someone must love it!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie Ice Cream

I'm always looking for unique {clean} desserts to offer my family at mealtime. I came across this Sweet Potato Pie Ice Cream in this month's Clean Eating magazine.  The recipe is courtesy of Food Network's Private Chefs of Beverly Hills co-star Manouschka Guerrier. 

I know this recipe contains no pumpkin and it's main ingredient is sweet potato but you could have fooled me (except for the fact that I made it)! It tastes just like pumpkin pie! If you love pumpkin pie and ice cream then you will love this sweet {dairy free} low fat treat.

Sweet Potato Pie Ice Cream

Makes 1 qt or 4 cups
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • 1/2 cup {pure} maple syrup
  • 2 cups low-fat, unsweetened oat milk (i used {light} Silk original almond milk instead)
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1 tsp {pure} vanilla extract (not imitation)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place potato in a baking dish. Pour maple syrup over top and toss until well coated. Spread in a single layer and bake until very tender, without turning, for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
2).  Remove from oven and immediately transfer to refrigerator. Refrigerate overnight to further soften the potato.
3).  In the bowl of a food processor, puree potato until creamy, about 4 minutes. With a rubber spatula, scrape bowl to prevent syrup from setting on the bottom. Add milk and blend, then add honey, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice and process until mixture turns from dark orange to light orange in color and becomes creamy, about 4 minutes.
4). Pour mixture into a 9 x 9-inch metal cake pan and freeze for 12 hours, until solid. To serve, remove from freezer and let rest for about 5 minutes, until scoop-able.

2012 Update: I would recommend using Silk unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk instead.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

PJ's Organic Skinny {low fat} Burrito

I don't always have time to make everything from scratch so I need a few go to items in my freezer. A PJ's Organic Skinny {low fat} Burrito is the perfect thing for me. Especially with my love affair of Mexican food! Top it with {all natural} salsa and you have a quick meal with lots of protein!

These can be found at my local Costco as seen in the image below. Their website states that they are also available at Whole Foods.

TORTILLA: (organic unbleached wheat flour, water, organic canola oil, sea salt, baking powder (calcium acid phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, modfied cornstarch)).
FILLING: (organic brown rice, organic black beans, organic cooked white chicken meat, organic tomatoes, water, organic green peppers, organic red bell peppers, organic low fat cheddar cheese (organic milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes, annatto (for color)), sea salt, organic garlic powder, organic chili powder, organic cumin).

For more information about their products, check out their website:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Turkey Pot Pie {with pumpkin crust}

I love my Clean Eating magazine this month! There are so many awesome recipes to try. I've been meaning to come up with a {clean} version of pot pie for my family, but once I saw the recipe for Turkey Pot Pie with Pumpkin Crust I was intrigued to give it a try.

I opted to go with shredded chicken in place of turkey since that is what I had on hand.  I thought it was delicious. I will admit this is my first time using the herb Tarragon. It has an unique, distinct taste. Not sure I loved this herb.

Turkey Pot Pie {with pumpkin crust}

Recipe from: Clean Eating Magazine

  • 1 1/2 whole wheat flour, plus add for work surface and dusting (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbps real butter
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or jarred pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 tsp {organic} extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped (I used sweet onion)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch round
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced into 1/2 inch crescents
  • 1 1/2 cups cut and stemmed green beans (1 inch long pieces-I used frozen)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed, if frozen)
  • 2 Tbps whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 cup 1% milk (Or unsweetened plain non dairy milk)
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb cooked boneless {organic} turkey breast, chopped
  • olive oil cooking spray (or just use EVOO)
1) Prepare crust: in a large bowl, add 1 1/2 cups flour, sage, baking powder and salt; Stir with a fork to combine. Stir in butter, mashing until mixture is crumbly. Add pumpkin puree and stir until flour is blended and mixture is clumpy. In bowl, use your hands to knead dough 5 to 8 times, just until dough comes together and is soft and slightly sticky, about 1 minute. (Note: Do not overwork dough, If dough sticks to bowl, add a bit more flour.) Place a layer of plastic wrap directly over top of dough and refrigerate until needed, 30 minutes or up to 1 day.
2)  Prepare filling: In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil on medium-high.  Add onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, beans and corn; cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until slightly tender. Sprinkle 2 Tbps flour over top of vegetables, stirring to coat. Stir in milk, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until milk thickens into a sauce and coats vegetables, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in tarragon, salt, pepper, and turkey and remove from heat.
3) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon filling into dish in an even layer.
4)  Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin dusted with flour, roll dough out to a 1/4 inch thick, 9 x 13 rectangle. Set rolling pin at bottom edge of dough and gently roll dough onto pin so dough drapes over top. Lift rolling pin over baking dish and gently unroll dough over filling. Using a paring knife or kitchen scissors, trim excess overlapping dough from rim. If desired, crimp edges with the tines of a fork or fingers. Cut 6 slits into crust to create steam vents. Transfer to oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until filling bubbles and crust is lightly browned. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.