WIAW: Crock Pot Challenge Meal #5

I’m happy to report the Crock Pot Challenge is going very well so far. I’ve knocked out five recipes, so far, and plan to finish out the remaining five before the deadline. This week’s recipe was a PBFingers original. Looking for a simple menu item, I went with her Crock Pot Chicken Taco recipe. I must say, it was incredibly easy and extremely successful. I did, however, make one modification to this recipe. Instead of ground chicken, I used a large chicken breast. I did this mainly because I couldn’t find ground chicken at my store and partially because I thought shredded chicken seemed more appetizing. Now I know what you are thinking: “Isn’t she a vegetarian?” Yes, I do abstain from meat 90% of the time; however, on occasion I have been known to stray. I always make sure that if I do, I eat organic, local or at least GMO free meat. Thus was the case with the chicken.

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You had better believe that if I’m putting that crap into my body it is at least chemical and hormone free. I placed the breast in the slow cooker with 1/2 a packet of chicken taco seasoning and let it cook overnight on low for around 8.5 hours. When I woke up the next day, the breast was fully cooked and very tender. 

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I must say, I’m not a fan of actually cooking and handling meat. I also found it nerve wracking to deal with the stress of not getting raw meat on any of my household surfaces. Regardless, the chicken turned out perfectly and Alex was thrilled with the little taco bar I set up for us that night. 

Ok, now on to WIAW.

 

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After I pulled this together, I realized how unappetizing it all looked together, but keep in mind that these are things I’ve eaten over several days. The Coke Zero was definitely a craving impulse, but I literally NEVER drink soda, so I figured it wouldn’t kill me. The vitamins are my daily regimen. I have to say, the biotin is definitely working. My hair is growing fast! The Chobani was definitely the winner on this list. I took one cup of vanilla Chobani Greek yogurt and put in around 1 tsp of PB2 and 1/2 scoop of chocolate protein powder for a yummy, protein packed combo. 

My Healthy Tip of the Day: If you aren’t that into vitamins, switch to gummies to make the process fun again! Kroger makes a great Sourpatch Kids-esque version call Everyday. Highly recommend. 

Crockpot Lentils and Rice

Today was an accidentally productive day. I got up and headed out to what I thought would be a volunteer GOTR 5K planning meeting, but was surprised to learn that I had missed the latest email updating the date/time/place of the meeting. Oops. Since I was out, I decided to sit in the Tutto Gelato Café and sip some tea for a bit before heading home.

Once home, I started up dinner. I wanted something that would be ready around 7 or so, so I chose a yummy lentil stew recipe, which I modified slightly. (Recipe to come.)

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While that was cooking, I decided to go ahead and start prepping my snacks for the rest of the week. I cut up some celery, carrots and had some broccoli and cauliflower bagged up, ready to pack in my brand new lunch box this week.

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I desperately needed a new bag and found one yesterday when I was shopping at Home Goods in the Robinson Township with my friend Katie. I was so excited to discover that it was not only cuter than my old one, but had much more space. Hooray! I packed up my lunch and started thinking of something else I could cook up. This led to my second attempt (ever) at roasting a red pepper. It’s still in the oven as I type this, so I’ll update later. I’m hoping to make a yummy red pepper hummus dip with it.

Ok, back to the shopping outing yesterday. I had never been to a Home Goods store, but heard it was amazing. (TJ Maxx, but all house stuff? SHUT UP.) I can now confirm that it is indeed amazing. We walked in and I almost fainted. So much stuff! We hit every section and walked out with a good amount of stuff. I got my new lunch box, sponges, a sponge caddy for my sink, a table runner, linen napkins, and a new end table for $100. Not too shabby! I really needed a new end table and since I’ve always wanted to do a grey living room, I found the perfect piece to start working towards this goal.

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I love it. I’m obsessed with it. I can’t stop talking about it. I’m also mildly obsessed with my other purchases.

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I love this runner! After we left there, we hit Garden Ridge, which I could have spent an entire day in. I left there with two new kitchen rugs. Finally, we rounded out the trip by hitting the Robinson Mall. Much more shopping took place there. The entire day was a success.

Ok, I’m off to check my red pepper and get some other chores done before Downton Abbey tonight at 9! Wish me luck!

My Healthy Tip of the Day: Do yourself a favor and get your cooking and lunch prep done on Sundays. I can already tell I’m going to have a worry-free week because of this small step.

Honest Tea

A few weeks (maybe a month?) ago I received a sample of a few various Honest Tea brand drinks to try. I’m slowly becoming a cold tea drinker, but must admit it’s tough to drink with them food. Something about the flavors just don’t jive. Anyway, I decided to give the Honest Zero Passion Fruit Green Tea a try.

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Ok, so for zero calories, my hopes for “full flavor” were realistically low. The “tea” flavor was pretty strong in this brew, but it lacked the sweetness I would have liked. It’s definitely worth trying, but I recommend adding some of your own stevia to the mix. Hey, it has more flavor than water! I hope to try some of the other flavors soon.

Tea drinking aside, I was very busy a few evenings ago baking goodies for my office Christmas party. (I’m not being politically incorrect; it was officially called a Christmas party.) I tried out the Double Chocolate and Mint recipe my mom made at our cookie party a few weeks ago, whipped up some sugar cookies and decided to try this very yummy Rugelach recipe.

Dough

2 1/4 c (10 oz / 287 g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 c (8 oz / 227 g) unsalted butter, frozen and grated
8 oz (227 g) cream cheese
2 tbsp sour cream

Filling

1 cup of chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

1. dough:
a) whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
b) toss flour with butter bits and then with a pastry blender or 2 forks or 2 knives, blend your brick of cream cheese into the flour; add sour cream. gently blend until you get dough bits with substantial butter chunks.
c) dump dough onto your clean, floured counter top and with a bench scraper, corral and gently pat your dough chunks into a squarish shape, 1-inch thick.
d) roll into a rectangular shape about 1/2-inch thick. with your bench scraper, gently fold in half and give it a quarter turn (90º). dough will be very crumbly and possibly stick onto the roller. resist the urge to add too much flour or water.
e) if the butter starts to melt, wrap and place in fridge for about 30 minutes to chill. letting it rest in between rolling will also allow the gluten to relax, leading to tender flakes of pastry.
f) roll back into a rectangular shape, 1/2-inch thick. fold in half and turn. repeat 3 times. by the last roll, your dough should be more cohesive and uniformly smooth in texture. if you look at the dough from the side, you will see the layers that you’ve created like here.
g) divide dough into 4 even pieces and press each piece into thick disks. roll into an 8 or 9-inch disk. freeze for 30 minutes or up to 1 month if stored in zipper-lock freezer bag.
FineCooking.com has excellent pictorial directions for rolling out flaky pastry here.
2. filling:
1. for dry fillings: combine all the filling ingredients.
2. for fillings with preserves: combine sugar and spices and set aside. when filling, spread with preserves, first, then sprinkle on sugar spice mix, then sprinkle on raisins, then the walnuts.
3. rolling with filling into crescent shape:
a) work with one dough disk at a time, and keep the others refrigerated. place a disk on the work surface.
b) spread 1/4 c of the filling over the dough, leaving 2 inch in middle and 1/2 in around the outside edge of the circle uncovered; pat fillings down into dough gently with fingertips.
c) use a sharp knife or a pizza wheel to cut the circle into 8 equal wedges.
d) starting at the wide (outside) edge of the wedge, roll it toward its narrow edge, as you would a crescent roll. at the wide edge, you can also cut a snip to give it a split tail which really does facilitate the rolling process, similar to making croissant.
e) place the rolled wedges, tip down, on the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart. curve each cookie into a crescent shape. repeat this process with the remaining dough. freeze them for 15 minutes (if well-wrapped, can be frozen in a zipper-lock bag up to 6 weeks).
4. meanwhile, adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions. preheat the oven to 350ºF. lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets. parchment recommended as the cookie filling will inevitably ooze.
5. remove from freezer and brush each crescent with some of the beaten egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar.
6. bake, turning baking pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time, until pale gold and slightly puffy, 21 to 23 minutes. carefully transfer hot, fragile cookies to cooling rack using thin-bladed spatula. (can be stored in an airtight container up to 4 days.)

My dough was far from flaky and turned out to be more of a biscuit texture, but they were still very good. I would almost recommend using a store bought crescent roll dough to make this recipe a LOT easier. Though I’m not Jewish, I’ve always had a deep respect for this particular religious belief and all of it’s deep-rooted traditions.  Now I have an even deeper respect for the women spend the time making this recipe during the holidays. Oi vey!

Anyway, try out this recipe if you’re in the mood for something a little different this holiday season.

 

The Tree is Up!

Well, I finally got my tree up! It’s now officially Christmas in my house! Now, I’m excited, but nobody was as excited as Grace.

Even Karen started to show some Christmas spirit.


Of course, just as we started getting Karen in a holly-jolly mood, Grace had to go and drop a bomb. A photo bomb, that is. (Sorry, that sounded better in my head.)She was just so excited to be in the tree!

Anyway, darling cats aside, I am sad to report that I didn’t lose any more weight this past week. Now, I totally blame it on my lack of exercise, so I hit the gym this evening for a quick 25 minutes of cardio. Tomorrow I hope to do my 30-Day Challenge routine and plan to grab some more healthy staples at the store. My go-to foods are:

  • zucchini/squash
  • sweet potatoes
  • apples or bananas
  • peanut or any other nut butter
  •  Larabars or Luna bars
  • frozen spinach
  • VitaTops
  • Greek yogurt
  • popcorn kernels for air popping

As long as I have any of these items on hand, I’m good to go. Do you have any go-to snacks to help get you through the holidays?

Oh and before I forget, here is a yummy cookie recipe I found on Cooking Light. I’m thinking of trying these out this year.

Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • 1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup) $
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. 2. Arrange coconut in a single layer in a small baking pan. Bake at 350° for 7 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring once. Set aside to cool.
  3. 3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Beat in vanilla and egg. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in toasted coconut and chocolate.
  4. 4. Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies just begin to brown. Remove from pan, and cool completely on wire racks.

Jackie Mills, MS, RD, Cooking Light
APRIL 2010

Don’t those sound amazing?! If you have any suggestions or favorite cookie recipes you’d like to share, please send them my way.

My Healthy Tip of the Day brought to you by the USDA’s Choose my PlateCanned vegetables are a great addition to any meal, so keep on hand canned tomatoes, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, mushrooms,and beets. Select those labeled as “reduced sodium,” “low sodium,” or “no salt added.”

 

Curried Chickpea Dip

This recipe is part of a 10 day cleanse that one of my coworkers is doing. It’s called the Hormone Diet and it’s purpose is to help explain all the lifestyle habits required to restore complete hormonal balance in men and women through proper sleep, diet and exercise habits. Cool, huh? So here is just one of the many recipes available in this cool book. I omitted the garam masala spice and cilantro, but feel free to make the recipe with these ingredients. 

Curried Chickpea Dip

Serves 4 or 5
  • 1 can (15 oz) organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala spice
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro2012-09-29 15.09.33
  1. Puree the chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, curry powder, garam masala, garlic, salt,  pepper and cayenne pepper in food processor until smooth.
  2. Add the cilantro and pulse a few times to combine.
  3. Transfer the dip to a bowl. Eat 1/2 cup as a veggie dip or spread. Store dip in the fridge in a sealed container.

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Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories 245 | Carbohydrates 25.2 g | Protein 24.0 g | Fat 5.4 g | Fiber 4.1 g

Pumpkin Oat Muffins

I got bored last Sunday and started fishing around for stuff in the kitchen to mix up. I had pumpkin, oats and a longing desire for it to be fall. I did a quick search online, found a pumpkin muffin recipe and started improvising. (The improvising stemmed from the fact that my mother threw out my baking soda two months ago when she helped me moved. I never forget.) Here is what I came up with.

Pumpkin Oat Muffins

  • 1 3/4 cup of oats 
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup of canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar (or other sugar substitute)
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grab a standard 12 cup muffin pan and spray with a light cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, including the oats. Whisk together lightly.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, butter and pumpkin. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix until blended.
  4. Spoon the batter into each cup of the muffin tin and bake for 12-14 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

These muffins are very dense and are best served with butter or your favorite jam. I highly recommend an apple butter!

Zucchini Oven Fries

I love foodbuzz.com because it not only gives me delicious recipes to try, but it helps me find new food blogs to follow. One recipe I recently ran across was for zucchini oven fries, which instantly made my mouth water. I’m a zucchini nut in the summer months because it seems like it is the easiest vegetable to prepare. I put it in my broccoli bowls, ribbon slice it to act as pasta or simply toss it in a pan with some olive oil and garlic. Any way you prepare it is sure to be a hit.

The blog who posted the recipe for the chips was A Healthy Jalapeno: A Healthy Spice for Life. The author, Laura, is a self proclaimed health food junkie who loves experimenting with food. Here is her recipe, adopted by Cooking Light:

Zucchini Oven Chips
Servings: 4



Ingredients

1/4 cup dry whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp low-fat milk (or almond milk)
2 1/2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) slices zucchini (about 2 small)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place milk in a shallow bowl. Dip zucchini slices in milk, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place coated slices on an ovenproof wire rack coated with cooking spray; place rack on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.
Photos by A Healthy Jalapeño
Recipe adopted by Cooking Light

Nutrition
Per Serving: 61 calories; 1.9g fat’ 3.8g protein; 7.6g carbohydrate; 1g fiber; 5mg cholesterol; 231mg sodium; 87mg calcium

I don’t know about you, but I’m DEFINITELY making these soon. Yummmmm.

My Healthy Tip of the Day: When deciding whether or not to peel yourself off the couch for a workout, try to remember that moment when you finish a sweat session. Remember, you’ll regret it more if you do decide to sit this one out.

Yamburgers!

Have you ever heard of a Yamburger? No? Well you’re seriously missing out.

Today for lunch a vegan coworker brought in yamburgers, a recipe I had picked up from Foodbuzz and sent her way, for us to share. They were 100% vegan and gluten-free (except for the buns), but would impress the pants off any meat eater who dared to try one. The sweetness from the sweet potatoes and corn mixed with the spicy kick from the red pepper flakes put this dish high on my list of faves. The sauce, which was a chipotle/cilantro cream, made me realize just how little I missed mayonnaise. Taste aside, this recipe is packed full of good-for-you ingredients.

  • Black beans – great for nervous system health, cardiovascular health, blood sugar regulation, and fighting off cancers
  • Sweet potatoes – high in iron, vitamin D, C, and B6, great source of magnesium, and also a cancer fighting veggie
  • Quinoa – helps with cleaning the digestive tract, great source of calcium, terrific for boosting blood flow to the brain, and chocked full of protein
  • Cumin – full of antioxidants, good source of iron and great for metabolism
  • Garlic – helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, can prevent blood clots, can help improve the immune system, and can prevent

Top this recipe with any vegetable, but I’d recommend sticking with a creamy avocado. Mmm.

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Yamburgers with Chipotle Cilantro Cream 
(Vegan and gluten-free – makes 8-10 patties)

2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs.), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
15 oz. black beans, drained
1 cup sweet corn
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup quinoa, cooked
1/2 cup rolled oats (or almonds)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or cayenne (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper

Oil for pan frying.

Method:

  1. Cube your potatoes (leaving the skin on) and either oven roast (400f.), steam, or microwave in a large heat-safe bowl with a couple TBSP water until tender – I find the microwave to be a real time saver, and takes about 6-8 minutes. Stop to give them a stir every minute or two, until mashably soft.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your quinoa. A 1/2 cup of dry will make enough for the burgers, but feel free to make extra. Add the quinoa to a small pot over medium heat, and let it toast for a minute or two. Add double the amount of water, bring to a simmer, and cover. Let cook 12-13 minutes, turn off the heat, and let it sit without removing the lid for another 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, meanwhile… Add your oats (or almonds) to the bowl of your food processor and pulse until it looks like very coarse flour. About 30-40 pulses.
  4. In a large bowl, combine about 2/3rds of the beans, and 2/3rds of the sweet potato. Mash with a potato masher until slightly chunky and not quite smooth. Add in the rest of the beans, sweet potato and all of the seasonings. Give it another mash or two, keeping some of the texture.
  5. Add all the other ingredients, and stir to combine.
  6. Heat a skillet over medium-high, and add a drizzle of oil. Form about 1/2 cup of the mixture into a tight ball, then press it between your hands into a patty. Place patties in the hot skillet and cook 4-5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate in the oven to keep warm, and repeat with the rest of the mixture. Add oil and adjust the heat on the pan as needed.

For the chipotle/cilantro cream:
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water (can be replaced with 1.5 cups vegan sour cream or mayonnaise)
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 limes, juiced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, packed
Pinch of salt

If you’re using vegan sour cream or mayo, simply combine all ingredients in your food processor.
If not, drain the cashews and dump them to the food processor. Add the juice of both limes, and blend until smooth. Slowly add 3/4 – 1 cup water, until the cashews are about the consistency of a thick sour cream.
Add the peppers and garlic, blend until smooth, and then add the cilantro. Pulse a few times to combine, and season with a pinch of salt to taste.

Grace’s Healthy Tip of the Day: Eat more Weight Watcher’s Giant Latte bars.

Christmas Cookie Countdown

Desserts are literally flying at me from all directions this week, whether it be at work or at holiday parties. So to combat these flying, fatty fantasticos (I’m reaching), I thought I’d post five healthy cookie recipes for the next five days until Christmas. This will give those of you a good variety to choose from, if you decide to go the healthier route this year. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged!

Cookie Recipe #5: Chocolate Bliss Cookies

Serves: Prep: 20min Cook: 40 min Total: 1 hr 0min

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil.
  2. In small bowl, sift together cocoa, salt, and 1/4cup of the sugar.
  3. In large bowl, with electric mixer at medium low speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form. Fold in cocoa mixture and vanilla extract.
  4. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 1″ apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 25 minutes for soft chewy cookies or 40 minutes for crisp ones. Dust cooled cookies with confectioners’ sugar.

I thought this recipe would be perfect for the chocolate-lover in your life or great for converting the lemon-lovers. (They’re out there, I swear.) Whip these bad boys up for the family or just to help healthier your own household sweet stash.

My Healthy Tip of the Day: Don’t cheat. Ever. At anything. Ok, more specifically at the gym. When you shave off those 5 minutes of cool down at the end of your machine workout, or switch to lighter weights because you want to do more reps, you’re only hurting your own results. Seriously, just finish the 12 reps and be done with it. Nobody will be wowed by an 8 minute gym trip.

Tips

This tip was not Karen-approved. She’s a life-long advocate for the Lazy Bum-Bums Club.

Vegan Truffles

A few months ago, my vegetarian boss decided to follow a strict vegan diet. (You may remember me mentioning her here.) Since that time, she has accepted a job in a different department and will making that transition in a few days. When we all found out about the change, a member of the communications team decided to put together a surprise going away party for her. I immediately volunteered to bring a dessert, thinking vegan cupcakes would be easy (and cheap) to come by.  I was wrong. Very wrong.

After searching high and low for a good deal, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to attempt my first vegan dessert. I hopped online, did a quick search and found these bad boys. I headed out to Kroger and grabbed these basic ingredients to create this simple recipe.

Use any vegan ingredient you want to give these truffles a little extra flavor.

 

The coconut flavor was my favorite!

After I started putting everything together, I realized that this was quite possibly one of the easiest desserts I’d ever made. Plus, the little wrappers made them look fancy. I highly recommend these, vegan or not, and definitely add the coconut and almonds. They really kick the flavor into high gear.

Healthy Tip of the Day: To get a real feel for what processed foods actually do to your system, try eating clean for a few days. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll start to feel!