Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sloppy Joes and Mock Mashed Potatoes

If you have trouble getting veggies into your kids, then this is the meal for you!

This was probably the first time I ever made dinner and had no starch/grain side dish. I wasn't sure how well it would go over, considering this meal is about 65% vegetables. 

Shhhhh, I won't tell if you don't.

When I was making this, it reminded me of a cookbook that I have called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. It's full of recipes that she hides vegetables in by pureeing them.

These Clean Sloppy Joes are loaded with veggies and taste! 

This was another recipe from the kids' Mayo Clinic cookbook, but I tweaked it to make it totally clean. 

Brown the meat with onion and green peppers.
From what I understand about clean eating, when it comes to meat it's all your own discretion. The main thing is to watch the fat content. Our family has decided to cut back on red meat...but not cut out. (We like our steak) We have always eaten ground turkey so we use a lot of that and we have added more fish to our menu. I'm also learning that there are plenty of other ways to get protein other than meat, such as beans. As I learn more, I'll share it here. 

For this purpose I used ground turkey. 

Combine all the ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
I have not ventured into baking my own buns yet, but it is on the to-do list. Since I didn't have any homemade buns, I just bought whole wheat buns. We are still new to the clean eating way of life and it's taking a while to fully get on board. We live on a budget, like most of America, so I have a certain amount for groceries every month. I have been slowly replacing the old with the new every time I get groceries and trying to learn what ingredients I need to have on hand at all times. It is definitely a time-consuming and involved process, but I really am enjoying it! And someday I'll get to those homemade buns. 

For the mock-mashed potatoes there is only one secret. It's not potatoes. 
It's cauliflower. 

Steam Cauliflower until soft and tender.
I know a lot of people have heard of these or have tried them, but we hadn't yet. There are lots of recipes out there for them, but this one that I made was SO good! Cheesy, garlicky, delicious, and so easy to make. 

Mash the cauliflower, then mix in cheese and garlic powder.

Ok, ok, enough with the chit-chat, on to the recipes...right?

Sloppy Joes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 15oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added, undrained
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 Tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 4 TBSP tomato paste
  • pepper to taste
Brown turkey, onion, and green pepper in a skillet. Once fully cooked, drain fat.

Add tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, garlic and pepper. Stir together. Then stir in zucchini. Turn heat to medium, put lid on and bring mixture to a boil.

Once boiling, add tomato paste. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir and serve.

Mock-Mashed Potatoes

I made this recipe to feed 4.
  • 1 head Cauliflower, steamed until soft
  • 1 cup Non-fat Cottage Cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Romano cheese (or Parmesean or Asiago)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
Steam cauliflower until it is soft. If you are serving this with the sloppy joes, you can do this while your meat mixture is coming to a boil.

Mash cauliflower in a bowl. Add cottage cheese, Romano cheese, and garlic. stir/mash together. 

I sprinkled some dried parsley on top for looks. It made it look more like potatoes!

Here is the Original Recipe. This says that if you blend everything in a kitchen appliance the consistency is more runny. That's why I just mashed it with a potato masher. We like ours lumpy. 

The Sloppy Joes and Cauliflower were all we had for dinner that night, and it was plenty. It was all so tasty and filling that we were happy to just have seconds. 

And the best part? No one felt like they HAD to eat their vegetables. 


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lean, Mean, Baking Machine

What did you do last weekend?

I was a single girl! My hubby took off for his monthly drill weekend and then my in-laws whisked my girls away after school on Friday.

What's a gal to do??


I had lots of new recipes to try and what better time to do it than when I can crank up the radio and dance around the kitchen at the same time.

I found a website that has become my Clean Eating Go-To Guide. She has every recipe you can ask for, and more, and the recipes I made Saturday were all from this website: The Gracious Pantry.

On the list for this particular Saturday was sandwich bread, pizza dough, and protein bars.

I've been trying to find a good bread alternative and also figure out what would be the most cost effective way to get bread, so I have been experimenting with baking my own bread. I haven't made up my mind on bread yet, but I'm having fun figuring it out!

We used to eat a lot of frozen pizza. It was the go-to dinner for either Friday or Saturday night. Not too expensive and easy to make. Well, on a clean diet frozen pizza is out. what? How about making our own pizza? I've made homemade pizza before, but I usually bought the pre-made crusts from the store. This time I wanted to try out a clean pizza dough recipe.

As I've stated before, I've been trying to find more snacks for all of us. My husband, Chad, drives a lot for work so he needs food that is portable. He has been so supportive of our eating clean, so I have been trying to support him as well by buying or making food that he can take to work. Protein bars seemed like a great portable snack. Less chance of pit-stopping for fast food!

I couldn't believe how well I timed all of the baking. It's amazing what you can accomplish when there is no one to take to the potty every five minutes or no arguing to break up. (It's also amazing how clean the house stays.) There was a lot of toast these while you mix that, knead this while that rises, bake this while that rises, eat this...and this...and this...

At one point I had this going on:

And then of course there was this:

  And last but not least, it all turned into this:

Here are the links for each of the recipes. They were all surprisingly easy to make, of course as long as you have the patience to wait for dough to rise. And most importantly, they were all delicious!

I followed this recipe exactly, the only thing I omitted was the 10 grain cereal. She recommends a cereal from Trader Joe's, but we don't have one where I live and I didn't find something comparable, so I just left it out. I still think it tasted good and we have been using it for sandwiches all week. 

This recipe was wonderful! I made it exactly and it tasted great, perfectly in-between thin and thick crust. I made my own pizza sauce using canned tomato sauce (no salt added) mixed with a sprinkle of onion powder, garlic powder, basil, and oregano. Then I dug out whatever veggies I had, in this case peppers, olives, and spinach and grated some cheese, and voila! Homemade clean pizza. I was extremely surprised when I ate this, it tasted really light and fresh! It is my new favorite! So long Red Baron, don't let the door hit ya...

Ok, these are where I tweaked a little. It was one of those, "oh crap, I don't have that ingredient" moments where you just make due. First off, the recipe calls for vanilla whey protein powder, but all I had was chocolate so I used that instead. It also called for grain-sweetened chocolate chips....honestly, I had never even heard of those, so I didn't bother. I left them out, figuring the chocolate powder would be enough chocolate (like you can ever have ENOUGH chocolate). And then it also calls for Chia Seeds. This also brought forth a "Huh?" from my lips...Although I did find these at the store, they were a little pricey for that shopping trip, so they are on the list for next time. So this time around I also left out the chia seeds. I thought the version I made turned out pretty good, at least we all like them. But I do want to make the original version sometime, to compare how they taste. All in all, they make a great snack!

I was lacking my regular taste-testers, but luckily my sister-in-law was coming over that night for one of our Sweatpants Parties. Yes, that's right. A party that you wear sweatpants to and have no expectations to meet. The best kind of party there is. Anyway, she graciously offered her services in the the taste-testing department and gave all of the recipes a thumbs-up.

So there you have it, a little bread, a little mess, and a whole lot of taste! 

Lean, Mean, Baking Machine? 

I don't know about the lean or mean part....but the baking machine is accurate!

Now time for a snack....where are those banana oatmeal muffins I just made....(coming soon!)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Such a simple thing to make. Eggs.

However, when I first got married, I couldn't hard boil them to save my life. They were always undercooked, overcooked, or the shell wouldn't peel off and they just got ruined.

Then Betty saved me.

Betty Crocker, that is.

I gave up trying all the ways people kept telling me to try and I went to the best source I knew.

Remember, I was newly married and newly cooking more than Mac & Cheese or Tater-tots.

Here is the kicker: The cookbook was my husbands.

He had a red, three-ring, Betty Crocker cookbook from 1986 that I'm sure he acquired from his mom when he moved out.

I really wish that I could tell you that it was mine, after all, I'm the wife, right? But, alas, that would be a lie.

Moving on.

So why is this relevant?

Since we have been trying to eat clean, I've been buying eggs much more frequently. We have them for breakfast a lot but I have also been hard boiling them to have for lunch or a snack. I have probably hard boiled more eggs in the last three weeks than I have in the 5 years I've been married.

Today as I was peeling the shells off, it occurred to me that every time I cook these, they are perfect. Flawless. Cooked to perfection and the shell slides right off. Betty, you've done it again.

I chewed on whether or not this was blog-worthy...but ultimately decided that if someone had told me 5 years ago to cook them this way, I would have been grateful. So I decided to share. Maybe there is some young mom that has the same trouble I did, or maybe this will just inspire you to eat more eggs!

So here you go:

Put your eggs in a medium sized pot. Fill with water until the water is an inch above the eggs. Turn the burner on high, cover and bring to a boil. When rapidly boiling, turn off the burner and keep lid on. Set timer for 20-24 minutes. I typically do 20.

When the timer goes off, drain the water from the pan and then fill with cold water. Or you can have a bowl of ice water waiting to put the eggs in. The point is to stop the eggs from cooking further. Let them sit in the cold water for a few minutes until they have cooled.

Once cooled, gently crack the shell by tapping it on a paper towel on the counter. Then, while holding the egg under gently running water, begin to peel off the shell.

Eat and smile.

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Check Me Out, I Made Soup!

Usually Sunday night is our Family Movie Night. We pop popcorn on the stove and find a movie on the DVR list or on Netflix to watch. It's the one night of the week that we set aside for the family. 

Well...popcorn doesn't really fit into our new clean eating thing. At least, not the way we usually make it! Popped in a pan with oil and then pour popcorn butter and salt all over it...Mmmmm....I mean, uh, so not healthy, right?

I know that we still can eat popcorn if it's prepared right, but this past Sunday we made up a new tradition. 

Sunday morning at church some dear friends of ours gave our kids a Mayo Clinic Kids Cookbook. 

It's a really great cookbook. It's written for kids, so it has lots of descriptions of cooking terms, weight measurements, nutrition facts. The girls were super excited. 

So that night, as I was trying to come up with a replacement for popcorn, I thought we could give a recipe a try for dinner.
First of all, I consider it a MAJOR accomplishment that I had any ingredients on hand to make any recipe on short notice. That almost never happens.

Truth is, I didn't have all the ingredients, but I decided to wing it. That is something else that rarely happens in my kitchen...but I'm learning to broaden my horizons.

We picked a vegetable soup that seemed pretty easy. Of course, I had never made soup I was just guessing that it was easy. 

Since I really didn't have many ingredients that were listed...I ended up using the recipe more as a guideline...and just did my own thing. I have to was pretty fun!

But the most fun was finally having "time" to teach my 7-year-old how to cook. She was really interested and had a lot of fun reading the directions and cutting up the vegetables. It was good bonding time for the two of us!

I call this Vegetable Dump Soup because I basically grabbed whatever veggies I had in my fridge, and you can do the same.

Bring all the vegetables and broth to a boil in a soup pot.
One of the main things that I changed from the original recipe is that it called for Vegetable Bouillon. I swapped that for homemade vegetable broth. 

A few weeks ago, as I was perusing the internet, I read a comment left on a blog somewhere about how you can use all the vegetable scraps that usually get thrown away. Put them in a gallon freezer bag and keep it in the freezer, adding to it until it's full. Once it's full, cook it in a pot of water for a couple hours to make your own Vegetable Broth, strain out the yucky stuff, and then freeze the broth. So I did just that and it worked beautifully

I really didn't expect to use the broth, much less use it as soon as I did, but I'm sure glad I had it! It made the soup taste amazing and it was WAY less sodium than bouillon.

Add pasta and EAT!
I'm really in awe of how well this last minute dinner worked out. It used up some broth (boosting my confidence in my efforts), it used up some vegetables that were on their last leg, it provided family time, and it tasted awesome!

It went so well, that our new Sunday night ritual is to find a recipe out of the Kids Cookbook for dinner, and then scrap the movie night for a game night. One more step in the right direction for a mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy family!

 Vegetable Dump Soup
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • Whatever veggies you have in the fridge. I used:
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 cans diced tomato, no salt added
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta (I used Rotini)
  • 1Tbsp olive oil
Heat oil in a soup pot, add onion and garlic and cook until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

Then add in the carrots, celery, and mushrooms.

Stir in tomatoes, spinach, basil, and broth. Turn to medium heat and cook until boiling. Once soup is at a boil, put the lid on and let it cook for 10 minutes.

Next, cook pasta in a separate pan, following the directions on the box. Do not add salt. Drain pasta and set aside.

Once soup is ready, stir in the pasta.

Serve and enjoy!

The nice thing about this kind of soup is that you can use almost any vegetable, any pasta, or any kind of canned tomato (no salt added). It is definitely going to be my new go-to dinner for nights that I don't have a lot of time. Plus, combining the fact that you can use what you have around your kitchen and that it's a meatless meal, it's pretty easy on the budget!

Who knew making soup was so great? Probably you. But I sure didn't!