So, I started this whole "clean eating" thing back in February 2011, after being really intrigued about a plan called the Whole30 . I decided to give it a go, but quickly realized that I needed to make it more adaptable to the way that our family eats and lives. I like my glass of wine at night. I don't think a piece of gum is going to sabotage me. I think that a DQ Blizzard is a good thing every once in a while. If my friend makes the most awesome jalapeno poppers you've ever had, you know I'm going to have one. But I also know that I feel pretty darn good when I'm eating quality proteins, fats, veggies, fruits and nuts, while leaving out dairy, grains, legumes (including soy and peanuts) and the big one, sugar, at least most of the time.
Here are some of the ways to do just that....

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cleaned Up Crockpot Thai Chicken

So, this is one of my favorite Crockpot recipes ever, and I wanted to try to "clean" it up a little.  Since I'm not eating any peanuts at the moment, Sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds) was a great substitute for peanut butter.  Just try to find one that doesn't have any added sugar (same for the salsa).

2 1/2 lbs chicken (I used boneless, skinless thighs, but breasts work well too, just cut them in half)
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (I keep a nugget of it in the freezer and just peel and grate as needed)
Juice of 2 limes (about 4 TBS)
16 oz jar chunky salsa (no added sugar, corn or beans)
1/2 cup Sunbutter (I think you could probably also use almond butter)

Spray crockpot with Pam and place chicken in it.  Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over chicken and stir well.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.  Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and chopped almonds if desired.  I served it with cauliflower "rice" and stir-fried garlic green beans.

"Rice".... cauliflower rice, that is.

This "recipe" is floating around everywhere on the web, so there's no one to give real credit to--I certainly didn't come up with is...heard of it a while back, but didn't come up with it.

1 head of cauliflower

Grate, chop, or use a food processor to "rice" cauliflower.  Put in bowl, cover and microwave for 3 minutes.

This is definitely not a direct substitute for the real thing, but was actually better than I thought it would be.  Maybe next time I'll experiment with bigger "grains" of cauliflower.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So, do the kids do it too?

Digging some edamame, salmon and yes, mac n cheese
In short, no.  I don't want to take away any food group from their little growing bodies.  Sure, there are some things that they'll eat right along with us (salmon is a huge favorite in our house), but I still rely on chicken nuggets and frozen meatballs too.  I've actually contemplated how messed up this is--here I am trying to fuel my body with the highest quality food that I can while I allow all sorts of unpronounceable preservative laden things to go into theirs.  In an ideal world I'd make my own chicken tenders for them and serve that up alongside some quinoa and fresh organic broccoli, but the fact is when we're rushing to get out of the house for ballet or soccer practice, nuking up some chicken nuggets and microwaving a steam bag of veggies is about all I have left in me at the end of the day.  Sure, I try to make sure that their mac n cheese is the "whole grain" version, but I know I'm just fooling myself as I pour in the little florescent orange "cheese" packet.  However, for the most part, I know that they are well fed.  I love that my 2 year old's favorite snack is blueberries and that my (almost) 6 year old is becoming interested in the fact that "regular milk is healthier for you because chocolate milk has sugar in it" (her words).  We do fast food maybe once or twice a month.  We don't drink soda.  We keep a steady supply of string cheese, almonds and grapes on hand for snacks.  But sometimes a kid (and a Mama) just needs a Dunkin' Donut (preferably creme filled and chocolate frosted) and I'm okay with that.
A special Sunday morning Dunkin' Donut

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

This is as close to pasta as you can get without the grains!

Spaghetti Squash
Poke a couple holes in it with a knife, put it in a pan and bake it at 375 for one hour.  When it's done, cut off the stem part, and then cut it in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds and then separate the "spaghetti" with a fork.  You could always just stop here and add a little coconut oil and S&P, and I'm sure that would be delicious too.

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1lb ground chicken (you could use beef, turkey, or go without)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1TBS double concentrate tomato paste (or by that reasoning 2TBS regular tomato paste)
small handful of sun-dried tomatoes
2 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes (sugar free)
red pepper flakes

Saute onion and garlic in EVOO.  Add ground meat and season.  When cooked through stir in tomato paste and then add diced tomatoes.  Check seasoning and add red pepper flakes and more S&P if needed.  Let simmer for a few minutes...20, 30...whatever time you have on hand.

Serve over spaghetti squash.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How I plan my Menus

I find it helps if I know exactly what we're eating for at least all of our dinners a week out. That way, I can go to the grocery store (hopefully) only once that week. We've been doing our big shop on Sundays, first at Sam's to get produce (no, it's not necessarily organic, but it's still the best produce that I've found around here), and then usually to Kroger to get the rest of the stuff. I still haven't found a great place to get quality meats, but it's something I'm working on, especially as I become more aware of how it's manufactured and the butterfly effect that has on all of us.
I usually use this as my menu template (under the part that says "shopping" I usually write my prep list:

I try to plan things around when I know we have activities--for instance, since I know that my daughter has soccer on Thursday nights, I try to have a crockpot dish that night.

I also do my best to prepare enough of whatever protein that we're having that night so that my husband can take some to work for lunch the next day.

Sunday nights tend to be when I chop up all of the veggies for snacks, bake up the sweet potatoes for a quick grab and go carb, roast veggies, make up a batch of salad dressing for the week, and hardboil a bunch of eggs.Above is a picture of my husband's "food kit" for the first few days of the work week (minus the sweet potatoes and grilled chicken for his salads).

Coconut Curry Shrimp and Spinach with Roasted Broccoli

2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 bag fresh spinach, chopped (original recipe called for 2 cups--I think this is more like 4)
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped (my addition)
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (my addition)
2TBS coconut oil
2TBS tomato paste
2 tsp curry powder
1 C full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken stock (could probably do without)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet and add onion, garlic and ginger and saute until soft. Season with S&P and add curry powder and cook for an additional minute. Place half of mixture (original recipe says all of it) in blender and add tomato paste, chicken stock and coconut milk and puree until smooth. Pour mixture back into skillet and bring to a simmer. Add shrimp and cook for a few minutes until they start to turn pink. Add spinach and cook until just tender.

For the roasted broccoli, I just toss broccoli with a TBS or so of olive oil, S&P, garlic powder, and onion powder. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 450 for 10 minutes. Works as a good snack too!

Grilled Ribeyes with Cherry Tomato Relish

We had this last night and the Cherry Tomato Relish was the cherry on top, so to speak. We served it with sauteed spinach and roasted butternut squash. Delish!

Prepare and grill steaks to your liking.

For the relish:
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 red onion, sliced
Gently toss ingredients and place on a cookie sheet. Roast at 425 for 25 minutes, or until starting to brown, turning every 10 minutes. Good either hot or cold.
Top steak with relish.

Shallot and Caper Vinaigrette

This is really good as a salad dressing or a dip for veggies.
2 cloves garlic
1/2 shallot
2 TBS capers
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 TBS mustard (any kind without sugar)
Blend (preferably with an emersion blender) until smooth.

Thai "Satay" Sauce

I used this to bake a mahi mahi fillet in (sorry I don't have a better photo!), but I think that there are probably a plethora of things that this could be used for--chicken, beef, shrimp, even a dipping sauce for vegetables.

Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (I like to keep a nugget in my freezer and use a micrograter to grate as needed)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 shallot
2 TBS almond butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup coconut milk
cumin and curry powder (maybe 1/2 to 1 tsp of each, depending on your taste)
Combine in an emersion blender (or any blender) until smooth.

Avocado Mango Salsa

We use this on a ton of stuff! Here it is over Salmon (simply baked with salt and pepper at 350 for 30 min).

2 ripe avocados, diced
1 mango, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (you can leave this out if you're not a fan)
Chopped red onion (sometimes I leave it out)
Juice of 1 lime
S&P to taste.
Toss gently.

Oven "Fried" Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Parsnip Mash

So, I had some chicken (I had added some olive oil, S&P, and garlic and onion powders to it last night when I was prepping it) in the fridge that I was just going to bake tonight, but that sounded boring, so I experimented.

Oven "Fried" Chicken
Boneless skinless chicken breasts (although this would work great with tenders!)--like I mentioned, it had sort of been marinating overnight in some EVOO, S&P, and garlic and onion powders.
1 C ground coconut (I just put my regular flakes in the food processor)
1/4 C ground almonds (I was just seeing if my food processor would actually grind them, so I used it--not necessary)
Seasonings of your choice (paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, S&P....whatever your feeling!)
Egg wash, if your chicken hasn't been marinating like mine was.
Preheat oven to 400. Line cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with Pam (I know, not 100% clean, but whatev). Place coconut flakes and ground almonds in dish and season with whatever you're choosing. Place egg wash in another dish (if using). Dip chicken in egg wash, and then in coconut "crumbs" until well coated. Place on baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until done.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts trimmed and cut in half
Roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes shaking every 10 minutes or so until nice and browned.

Parsnip Mash (I needed a side dish)--Beware: your house will smell like armpits while they're boiling.
Bag of parsnips
Chicken stock
Coconut milk
Peel Parsnips and cut into 1 inch rounds. Place in saucepan and cover with 1/2 water and 1/2 chicken stock. Bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain. Mash and add coconut milk to desired consistency and season with S&P.