Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Seared Ahi Tuna and Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing

Saturday was a day of indulgence. Hash browns for breakfast, a burger and beers (read: many, many beers) for dinner. It tasted good. It was fun. But Sunday meant getting back on track. Fish seems to be my go to for "getting back on track" dinners. It's something new and exciting, since we don't eat it a lot, and it's light and healthy. I decided to go with some lovely Ahi Tuna which I marinated and then quick seared. 

They turned out delicious and Adam kept saying how good they were. Ahi tuna has a nice meaty texture and is delicious in a soy ginger marinade then served with soy sauce mixed with sriracha for dipping.

I served this with a nice side salad of butter lettuce and a delicious homemade carrot ginger dressing. This dressing reminds me of the dressings they serve at japanese restaurants. It's the kind of dressing that can be poured over simple lettuce and the salad is done, nothing else needed.

The carrot ginger dressing is from Smitten Kitchen, but I made some modifications. Mainly the elimination of 1/4 cup oil which produced a more chunky dressing, but I felt the texture was just right. I didn't want it to be thinner and I didn't miss the oil.

Marinated and Seared Ahi Tuna with Side Salad Topped with Carrot Ginger Dressing
Dressing adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 2 with extra dressing

For the Tuna:
2 pieces of sashimi grade ahi tuna
1 heaping teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce - plus more for dipping sauce
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
sriracha to taste

For the Salad and Dressing:
2 side salad portions of butter lettuce or other lettuce
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
half of 1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons white miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons water

- To make the marinade, combine the grated ginger, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce in a bowl. Whisk together and pour over fish. Cover fish and put in fridge to marinade for 1-3 hours.
- Meanwhile make the dressing. Roughly chop the peeled carrot, ginger, and shallot. Place in food processor and blend until finely chopped.

- Scrape down the sides then add the miso, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Blend then add the water. Blend again. If the dressing is too thick you can add up to 1/4 cup grapeseed oil or any other neutral oil, but I found the viscosity to be just fine. Top lettuce with dressing.

- When ready to cook the fish, heat 1/2 tablespoon canola oil in a large pan. When the oil is hot, swirl it around and add the tuna.

- Sear tuna 1 to 2 minutes each side, depending on the thickness of the steaks. 

- Remove from pan and serve with soy sauce mixed with sriracha for dipping. Enjoy!

Peace, love, eating light, and happiness!

Two Week Challenge: Day 8

Back on track!

Green Monster Smoothie

Leftover Seared Ahi Tuna and salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing
Small bowl of Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup


Baked Apple Chips

Cauliflower Crust Vegetable Pizza with Homemade Sauce

This pizza uses cauliflower and no regular flour or gluten to make a crust. The result is a pleasing pizza crust with a little crunch. The texture and taste aren't exactly the same as a regular crust and you need a fork to eat it, but Adam enjoyed it so that says something! To get the cauliflower crust to hold together you need to use a lot of cheese. Be sure to use part-skim cheese to cut down on the fat and calories. I topped my pizza with lots of veggies and kept the cheese topping to a minimum.

Daily Totals:
Vegetables: at least 5 servings!
Fruit: at least 2 servings

I did a good job getting fruits and veggies into my diet today! Yay!

Peace, love, day 8 down, and happiness!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Two Week Challenge: Days 5, 6, and 7

I'll be honest. The weekend was not what you would call a success in terms of eating healthy. Friday went well, minus the 4 beers I drank that night. But friends were in town so I had to celebrate! Saturday was a complete failure, the only redeeming moment being that I split a burger and salad at dinner instead of eating the whole burger alone. I promised I would document what I ate so here it is, in all it's glory...


Green Monster Smoothie

Southwestern Salad from Porto's

This salad is filling and delicious. I don't know much about the dressing which is always the downfall of restaurant salads, but it's a mango vinaigrette that doesn't seem overly oily. But who knows. Normally I get no cheese, but I "forgot" this time. Whoops.

Daily Totals:
Vegetables: at least 3 servings
Fruit: 1 serving

Dinner at a friend's house. Two chicken drumsticks (no skin) with hot sauce. Green beans and a little bit of pasta salad.

Very happy I didn't overeat as I sometimes do when there is a lot of food lying around.


Potholder breakfast enchiladas (eggs, cheese, tortillas, and enchilada sauce) and hash browns.

Kept me full enough that I didn't need lunch! At least one pro! Although I know I need to turn down the hash browns.

This was definitely my cheat meal. We decided to go to Beachwood BBQ with friends and it was glorious. I split a fried green tomato salad and burger with a friend. 

Splitting was a good decision so that I got some greens in from the salad. I didn't eat all the bun on the burger and we didn't get fries! So that's kinda good!

Daily Totals:
Vegetables: 1 serving (sad)
Fruit: 0 servings (very sad.)


Pan toasted polenta, eggs over easy, and 2 vegetarian sausage. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.

"Pan Toasted" is my way of saying fried. So yet again another fail.

1 chicken skewer at the Farmer's Market. Half a mini cauliflower crust pizza with fresh tomatoes and homemade sauce.

Not bad. Made the smartest choice I could at the Farmer's Market.

Baked apple chips


Finally eating healthy again!

Daily Totals:
Vegetables: at least 3 servings
Fruit: 2 servings

This week is going to be good I promise you! Just check out my bounty from the Farmer's Market!

Peace, love, a healthier week ahead, and happiness!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup

This is a riff on Chicken Tortilla Soup. I modified Rick Bayless's Sopa Azteca Recipe and then loaded it with veggies. It was pretty easy to make and packs a nice punch of flavor. It's great topped with a little shredded cheese and a squeeze of lime. Diced avocado would also be a nice topping addition. I like this recipe because it's healthy eating with the feel of being slightly indulgent.

You could make this soup more indulgent by adding tortilla strips or making your own. Homemade tortilla chips are a cinch to make. To make tortilla strips to top your soup -  just stack 2 corn tortillas, use a pizza cutter  to cut them in half. From there cut into strips. Spray a baking sheet with canola spray. Place strips in even layer on baking sheet and spray with a little more canola spray. Dust with salt and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for around 5 minutes. Watch to ensure they don't burn.

What drew me to this soup recipe was the roasted chiles. Rick Bayless's recipe calls for a large dried pasilla (negro) chile quickly toasted over an open flame but I wasn't sure if I was going to find one so I instructed Adam to pick me up a fresh anaheim chile. (I wanted to make it as easy as possible for him) A poblano might work well too, although it might be spicier. You can roast your chile over an open flame on your stove or pop it in the oven under broil and turn frequently, making sure to  keep an eye on it.

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup
4 - 6 servings

1 large Anaheim Chile
1 - 15 oz can fire roasted tomatoes 
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium brown onion, diced or sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly minced
1/2 to whole jalapeno (depending on how spicy you want it), seeded and chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound chicken tenders or breasts, boiled and shredded*
1 red bell pepper
2 small to medium zucchinis
1/2 cup corn 
1/2 teaspoon salt - or salt to taste

- Roast the anaheim chile and red pepper over an open flame, turning often. Or, alternatively, preheat oven to broil and place peppers in oven. Check often and turn often. Remove when skin is charred. Place charred pepper and chile in a ziploc plastic bag. Seal.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in large pot. Chop onion, garlic, and jalapeno - add to heated oil. Cook, stirring  occasionally until onion softens and garlic turns golden. About 5 to 8 minutes. 
- Remove the red pepper and chile from bag and peel off skins. Remove seeds and roughly chop both. Place red pepper aside for use later. Add chopped anaheim chile and canned tomatoes with their juices to a blender. Scoop up the onions, garlic, and jalapenos with a slotted spoon, pressing against the side of the pot to leave behind as much oil as possible, transfer to the blender. Blend the chile, tomato, onion mixture until pureed and smooth.
- Return pot to medium-high heat. When pot is hot add the puree and cook, stirring constantly until it is fragrant and slightly thicker, about 6 minutes.

- Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add salt to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes. 
- Chop zucchini into fourths. Add zucchini to pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add corn, diced roasted red pepper, and shredded chicken. Remove from heat. If you are using frozen corn, add it with the zucchini in the step above.

- Serve with a fresh wedge of lime, cheese if desired, and tortilla strips if desired.

*I boiled 1 pound of chicken tenders in chicken broth and some spices (garlic, onion, chile powder) and then shredded it and added it to the soup. I feel this resulted in somewhat dry chicken. You could use leftover cooked rotisserie chicken or do as Rick Bayless suggests (what I will do next time I make this) and add 1/2 inch diced raw chicken breasts to the soup 10 minutes before the soup is done. Bring it to a boil again after adding the chicken and then reduce to a simmer until the chicken is cooked through.

Peace, love, soup, and happiness!

Two Week Challenge: Day Four

Day four went well... up until dinner. But I can't be blamed for my dinner fail. We decided to have a date night at the Irish restaurant down the street from us, and I couldn't turn down a date night... even though it was my idea. Hehehe. I'm hoping if your following my Two Week Challenge that you're doing better than me!

Green Monster Smoothie with frozen blueberries


Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup

This recipe is a riff on a chicken tortilla soup. It was very yummy, but I was dying to eat it with tortilla chips. But I didn't. Point for me.

small Vegetarian Italian Salad

KC Branaghan's Thursday Prime Rib Special with potatoes au gratin and steamed veggies

I know, I know, this was kinda a cheat meal. But to my credit, I gave Adam half of my potatoes au gratin. And that my friends, was really hard to do. Also there are veggies!

Daily Totals:
Vegetables: at least 4 servings
Fruit: 1 serving

Peace, love, day four down, and happiness!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Garlic Honey Lemon Chicken Marinade

I made this marinated chicken last week and froze it so that I always have something for dinner in the freezer. Keeping homemade meals handy in the freezer is starting to be one of my favorite things. It makes life so much easier during the week to be able to pull something out of the freezer and have a home cooked meal for Adam and I. I'm pretty sure someday he'll thank me that he doesn't have to live off of freezer pizzas and eggs for dinner... but then again, I think he misses his freezer pizzas.

I bought some rather large chicken breasts so I cut them in half and divided them two pieces to a bag so each bag is one meal for the two of us.

Garlic Honey Lemon Chicken
4 servings

2 large chicken breasts
2 small lemons
1 1/2  tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 -6 garlic cloves, minced
splash of water
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon herbs de provence

- Cut the chicken breasts as if you are butterflying them but cut completely so that you have 2 pieces of chicken. Season each piece with salt and pepper.
- Make the marinade. Combine the juice of one lemon (about a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half), the honey, olive oil, and minced garlic and a splash of water. Whisk together. Add optional ingredients if desired.
- Place 2 pieces of chicken in a freezer bag. Place the other 2 pieces in another freezer bag. Divide the marinade between the two bags. Place 2 lemon slices in each bag. 
- Let chicken marinate in fridge for 8 - 24 hours before cooking or freezing.
- To cook frozen chicken, let chicken defrost either in fridge during the day or place bag in a bowl of cool water for about 30 minutes.
- Grill chicken on a BBQ grill.

I made this chicken a meal with Lemony Feta Zucchini Noodles. I have a love affair with zucchini so there is always some in my house. Normally I just julienne it and quick saute it with some sliced almonds and olive oil and a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper. But these Lemony Feta Zucchini noodles are a fancier way to enjoy zucchini. 

I used this Tri-Blade Spiral Vegetable Slicer to make my zucchini noodles. I've had it for over 6 months and this is only my second time using it. I'm determined to make better use of it. It's super easy and the spiral noodles are pretty and reminiscent of pasta. If your not up to adding one of these thingy-me-bobs to your over flowing cabinet of kitchen gadgets, don't fear - just julienne the zucchini with a knife or mandoline, or use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons.

Lemony Feta Zucchini Noodles
2 servings

2 medium to large zucchinis
2 cloves of garlic minced
just under a 1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup non fat or low fat feta cheese
dash of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
- Make zucchini noodles using a tri-blade slicer or julienne the zucchini or use vegetable peeler to make ribbons.
- Heat olive oil in pan. Once heated, add slivered almonds and allow to brown for about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir to prevent burning and get all sides evenly.
- Add minced garlic (for this recipe I like to chop whole cloves with a knife) and stir. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until garlic begins to brown slightly.
- Add zucchini and feta. Cook for 1 - 2 minutes. You don't want to make the zucchini mushy, you want it to retain some of its crunch. Stir to incorporate almonds and garlic. Squeeze with juice of  half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

Place  grilled Garlic Honey Lemon Chicken on top of bed of Lemony Feta Zucchini and marvel at the perfect, healthy, and delicious meal you have just created in almost no time at all!

Peace, love, quick meals, and happiness!

Two Week Challenge: Day Three

I cheated a little bit today. Whoops. But even with the cheating, I feel that overall I made healthy eating decisions. I've been getting home late from work so it has been hard to make food so I ate lunch out. I went to my favorite teriyaki place in Glendale, Teriyaki Me and got the white chicken meat skewers with brown rice. Pretty healthy, right? But then I thought, damn I need a veggie, so I added a side of broccoli. My side of broccoli ended up being a giant side of mixed veggies with broccoli and cost me $4. So lunch turned into $13. (I try not to go over $10 for lunch on work days.) I somehow rather irrationally turned this into a reason to eat the tempura that came in the combo meal (1 piece of shrimp, 2 veggies). I know this goes against the rule "absolutely no fried foods" and I am very sorry, I only hope that you can be stronger than me. I made up for it by splitting my meal into two portions and eating half at lunch and half at dinner. I've learned not to stuff myself, even when I really want to keep eating, because I end up feeling better in the long run if I haven't gorged myself on food.

Here is what I ate:

Egg whites with spinach and non fat feta cheese and plenty of Tapitio

This was yummy and easy, but The Green Monster Smoothie actually fills me up more.

1 chicken breast skewer, brown rice, side salad, tempura (sorry!) and veggies

I know I shouldn't have ate the tempura, but I couldn't stop myself. Splitting the meal into two was the best decision and even though the side of veggies cost me an extra four bucks, I'm happy I got some green into my lunch time meal.

1/2 grapefruit

Leftovers from lunch, although I still couldn't finish all the rice and vegetables.

I felt good about this since it was light but filling and there was no more tempura to eat so it was a pretty darn healthy meal.

When I got home I got it into my head that I wanted to make these chickpea cookies that I saw on a blog. It's totally weird to make cookie dough out of canned garbanzo beans and I had to give it a try with the leftover garbanzos from my Vegetarian Italian Salad. So I made a mini batch, and since I had to fudge the measurements a little bit, my dough came out a little too mushy and gooey and when I pulled them out of the oven I was convinced I was gonna hate them so I didn't even snap a picture. Adam walked by and said "What are those?" I told him and said "I don't think they turned out." To which he replied "They sure didn't." Well, he was wrong. By no means were they perfect and  they have room for improvement, but I ate two right then and there and had to stop myself from eating more. These are tasty little suckers, especially since I don't love super sugary things. These are a nice alternative to a sugar filled cookie when craving something sweet but trying to be good. I'm figuring they aren't that much of a cheat since they consist mainly of chickpeas and peanut butter. Hello protein! I only added about 1/2 a tablespoon agave syrup, 2 teaspoons brown sugar and about an 1/8 cup dark chocolate chips. The batch I made yielded 8 cookies so that can't be that much sugar per cookie. I'm going to experiment and come up with a recipe for a full batch, but if you can't wait until then check out the original recipe --> here.

Daily Totals:
Vegetables: at least 3 servings (too bad chickpeas are technically a legume)
Fruit: 1 serving

I need to up my fruit intake!

Peace, love, day three down, and happiness!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two Week Challenge: Day Two

Day two went well and I got some fruit into the day. Yay! I had to finish off the stew leftovers, so still a little bit of a cheat meal. I was starving when I got home for dinner (at 9 pm) but I still managed to cook something healthy and delicious.

Here is what I ate:

Green Monster Smoothie

One of my favorite things to have in the morning. I added peanut butter this time around. I'm sure the addition of protein is great, but I prefer the taste without it.

Leftover Stew from the night before

I think I decided I don't care for stew very much. Again, wishing I had some greens in this meal.

Half Grapefruit
Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds

Garlic Honey Lemon Chicken Breast with Lemony Feta Zucchini Noodles

Absolutely delicious! The zucchini noodles made the meal feel filling and I kinda thought I was eating pasta, plus they were truly delicious. This also took me about 15 minutes to put together and that is ALWAYS a plus.

Daily Totals:
Vegetables: at least 4 servings
Fruit: 2 servings

Peace, love, day two down, and happiness!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Basic Green Monster Smoothie

This is my absolute favorite smoothie! It's so simple and packs a nice big serving of greens without any yucky taste. It's also easily adaptable - you can throw peanut butter in it or maybe some frozen berries. Personally I like the basic version the best. The best part - it's filling. This can normally hold be over for at least 3 hours, and I'm an EATER - meaning I LOVE to eat. So that says a lot.

Helpful tip - peel ripe bananas and wrap in foil and freeze for use in your smoothie. That way you don't have to add ice! 

Basic Green Monster Smoothie
1 serving

1 frozen banana
1 to 1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
couple large handfuls of baby spinach
Optional Add ins:
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 cup frozen berries

- Add banana and almond milk and any optional add ins to blender.
- Add spinach. I normally just put enough in to fill the blender - loosely packed.
- Blend until creamy and flakes of green are completely blended 3 -5 minutes.
- Feel healthy and proud that you got a serving of veggies in your morning meal and it didn't even taste like it!

Peace, love, green goodness, and happiness!

Two Week Challenge: Day One

Day one went well. I feel like it was a nice way to ease into the whole thing. I didn't eat as much vegetables and fruit as I would have liked, and I feel my breakfast and dinner only fell loosely into the guidelines. I'll work my way to a stricter diet. I promise.

Here is what I ate:

Low Carb breakfast burrito with vegetarian sausage, egg whites, and cheese.

I have now decided these will no longer be allowed during this two week period. I made them mainly for Adam and had to give one a try. They were good, but not great. My main reason for not including them in this Two Week Challenge is that every meal must have some fruit or vegetables and this breakfast burrito has neither.

Vegetarian Italian Salad
Delicious! And filling! This recipe is a keeper.

Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds

Slow cooker stew with potatoes, carrots, and onions

I feel like this dinner is a little bit of a cheat meal since it contains no green veggies and ideally potatoes should be avoided during the Two Week Challenge. But I had the ingredients on hand and I'm feeding a food eating machine named Adam as well, so I went for it. No reason to waste food, and at least it's homemade!

Daily Totals:
Vegetables - at least 4 servings
Fruit  - 0 servings

Peace, love, day one down, and happiness!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Vegetarian Italian Salad

This salad is so tasty it can get away with having no meat, yet it still has protein! Thanks garbanzo beans! This is going to be a staple during my Two Week Challenge. It's super easy to make and it tastes great.

Romaine hearts are cut into a nice chiffonade, creating a salad that isn't clunky and overly leafy. I find I enjoy salads much more when everything is cut to bite size proportions.

Vegetarian Italian Salad
makes 4 lunch sized salads

4 Romaine hearts or 2-3 bunches of romaine lettuce
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can corn
1 can kidney beans
3-4 roma tomatoes
3-4 zucchinis 
3/4 - 1 cup skim mozzarella cheese
Italian dressing of your choice

- Wash lettuce and dry. Roll up the leaves so that you can slice them into thin ribbons. If you are using Romaine hearts you can just keep the base in tact and hold the leaves tightly as you slice.
- Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and corn. Pat dry.
- Wash zucchini and cut into bite size pieces. I peeled them first, but there really is no reason to do this. Next time I'll keep the skin on. I cut the zucchini into fourths lengthwise and then slice into 1/2 inch slices.
- Add desired amount of lettuce to a bowl and top with 1/4 cup corn, 1/4 cup garbanzo beans, 1/4 cup tomatoes, 1/4 cup zucchini, 1/4 cup kidney beans and just under 1/4 cup cheese.
- Bag your leftover ingredients. Put a paper towel in with your lettuce if it is still slightly damp. Save ingredients for next time you make the salad.
- Mix salad with your favorite Italian dressing. Enjoy!

Peace, love, yummy salads, and happiness!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds - Two Week Challenge Snack

Sweet potatoes are packed with nutritional value and make a great snack. I can eat these sweet potato rounds cold, and that says a lot since I'm a lover of hot food. Make a big batch of these and keep them on hand for when hunger strikes.

Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds
1 serving

2 sweet potatoes
oil of choice - olive oil or coconut oil spray or use a brush to brush the oil on

- Preheat oven to 400.
- Peel sweet potatoes and slice into 1/4 - 3/8th inch rounds. Make sure they are even so they cook evenly.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Spray baking sheets with olive oil or coconut oil spray. You could also use a brush to brush the oil on.
- Spray rounds lightly with olive oil or coconut oil spray. You could also use a brush to brush the oil on
- Place rounds on baking sheets and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 10- 15 minutes each side.

Peace, love, sweet potatoes, and happiness!

Two Week Challenge - Shopping List #1

My friend, Jaclyn, has asked me to post my shopping list so that she can follow along and me my partner across the country in the two week challenge. I'm counting on you Jaclyn! Keep me updated!

So here is the shopping list for today - I'm thinking this will get me through at least 3 days, maybe a week.

**1/23 update - I made the breakfast burritos which were a slimmed down version of this recipe, and was unimpressed. I have also decided that tortillas will not be in the diet. So I have replace the low carb breakfast burritos which an egg white, spinach, feta scramble.

Here is the plan:

Mornings: Green Monster Smoothie or low carb breakfast burritos Egg White, Spinach, Feta Scramble

For the Green Monster Smoothie:
- bananas (1 for each morning that you are planning on having a smoothie, unpeeled and frozen)
- baby spinach (big bag)
- almond milk (unsweetened vanilla)
- vanilla extract (optional)
- peanut butter (optional)
- frozen berries (optional)

For the Low Carb Breakfast Burritos:
- low carb tortillas (I know, they probably count as a processed food, but I'm making these burritos for Adam and freezing them and I'll probably end up eating them too)
- eggs
- egg beaters (egg whites)
- low fat cheese
- turkey sausage or vegetarian sausage

For the Egg White, Spinach, Feta Scramble:
- egg Beaters (or any egg whites)
- baby spinach (get a big bag and use for both this and the smoothie)
- non fat feta cheese (will also be used for green beans for dinner)

Lunch: Vegetarian Salad or Chicken Tortilla Soup

For the Vegetarian Salad:
- romain hearts or romaine lettuce
- can of kidney beans
- can of garbanzo beans
- carrots
- can of corn
- tomatoes
- zucchini (pick up a few zucchini's they will come in handy throughout the week)
- low fat mozzarella
- lite italian dressing or make your own

For the Chicken Tortilla Soup
- chicken breast or chicken tenders
- can of fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 zucchini
- 1 brown onion
- 1 large pasilla chile (Not sure if I'll find this, might settle for anaheim chile)
- 1 lime
- 1 avocado
- leftover corn from vegetarian salad

Dinner: Marinated Chicken, garlic / feta green beans, brown rice
- Chicken breast
- favorite marinade or my Garlic Honey Lemon marinade (2 lemons, honey, olive oil, garlic)
- green beans
- low fat or non fat feta
- garlic
- lemon
- brown rice (I use Trader Joe's frozen brown rice)

Dinner: Stew
- lean stew meat (beef)
- potatoes (I'm using fingerlings)
- onion
- carrots
- 1 packet Italian seasoning mix
- 1 packet brown gravy mix
- 1 packet Ranch seasoning mix

- nuts
- any fruit (I'm doing grapefruit and berries)
- any veggies
- roasted sweet potato rounds

Alright, so that's my plan for now. I'm heading to the grocery store!

Updates and recipes as the week goes on!

Peace, love, groceries, and happiness!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fresh Friday - My Two Week Challenge

Starting Monday I am challenging myself to a two week eating healthy challenge. This shouldn't be TOO hard since I believe that I already eat pretty healthy. I have a lot of knowledge about what is healthy and what isn't, but that doesn't mean I always make the right choices. My busy schedule and late nights at work often hinder my ability to eat healthy, but I know there are better choices I can make. For example, if a fall of the wagon, I FALL off the wagon. For example my thought process will go like this, 'well I already had a cupcake today and ruined today's plan, so I might as well eat pizza for dinner.' This is the WRONG way of thinking. I should be thinking, 'I ate a cupcake today so the rest of the day needs to be healthy to make up for it.' That's why I feel I need to reset the way I think with a two week challenge.

Here are the guidelines:

1. Eat mainly vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and whole grains and legumes.
2. Avoid gluten - bread, flour, etc, in favor of brown rice, quinoa, lentils, etc.
3. Limit intake of dairy, especially cheese.
4. Absolutely no refined sugar or sweets.
5. Absolutely no fried foods.
6. No processed foods or snacks.

Here are the exceptions:

1. Low-fat cheese can be used in salads or with veggies to make them more appealing so I am more likely to eat them.
2. Sweeteners like honey and agave can me used in marinades. Teriyaki sauce is ok also.
3. One cheat meal each weekend.

The Goals:

1. To have at least one veggie or fruit serving with every meal.
2. To get rid of (or at least tone down) my cravings for sweets.
3. To loose some weight.

I will post what I am eating on the blog each day in order for me to keep track and be held accountable. I'm hoping this will help jump start a healthier way of eating that centers around vegetables, fruits, and home cooked food. I truly believe that if you make it yourself it is much more nutritious than what you can buy in a store or even a restaurant.

Here are some recipes I'm going to use as inspiration during my two week challenge.

{photo from Yummy Mummy}

{photo from Smitten Kitchen}

Smitten Kitchen's Carrot Ginger Dressing.

Everybody Likes Sandwiches' Miso Ginger Chicken Marinade.

Some ideas I have:

- Chopped salad with zucchini, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, corn, tomatoes, and light mozzarella cheese.

- Green Monster Smoothies for breakfast - my fav! Post on those later.

- Lemon Garlic Parmesan Chicken on zucchini noodles.

Well, that's it until Monday! I'm gonna go stuff my face with all the things I WON'T be eating in the next two weeks! Just kidding. Kinda. Not really.

Wish me luck!

Peace, love, healthy living, and happiness!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Veggie Packed Taco Meat

The best part about home cooking is that you can control what goes into the meals you make, therefore making them more nutritious. I try to maximize the amount of veggies I can sneak into every meal. Gotta get the bf to eat green stuff somehow. Surprisingly, I've found that taco meat is one of the best vehicles to get vegetables into my boyfriends diet.  This is probably the best revelation since sliced whole wheat bread because taco meat is delicious, versatile (tacos, burritos, salads, egg scrambles), and easy! And comes with the added bonus of freezing well so I always make a double batch.

It's easy to get veggies into taco meat. Obviously you want onion in there anyway so why not add a finely diced green pepper, a couple shredded carrots, and zucchini? The texture of chopped and shredded vegetables blends nicely with the crumbly meat and if you don't think the taste of the green and orange goodies make the meat better, at least it's pretty unnoticeable.

My other secret to good taco meat is to keep it moist. If you are following the instructions on the back of a seasoning packet they are most likely going to tell you to use meat, maybe an onion, and the seasoning with some water. BORING. Why not add some fire roasted tomatoes and green chiles? How about some tomato paste for good measure? This creates a saucy, moist, flavorful taco meat that you won't want to stop eating. Think of it this way - do you like how Taco Bell's taco meat is juicy and saucy (mainly from all the fat and who knows what else), well, you can get that same flavor, but without the fat by using tomatoes and tomato paste. You can make your own blend of taco seasoning to further up the homemade feel, but lately I've been using Trader Joe's seasoning which is potent and spicy, just the way I like it.

Word to the wise about Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning - this one packet is enough for 2 pounds of meat. And trust me, it is MORE than enough. So if you are doing less meat, half the packet. Also this seasoning has quite a kick to it, so if you are wary of spice you might want to use less or try a different seasoning packet, or make your own seasoning.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it works great with ground chicken breast and turkey as well as ground beef. The veggies and tomato paste give the meat enough moisture that the ground chicken breast or turkey won't dry out. My favorite is ground chicken breast which I pick up at Sprouts when they have it on sale. This time around I used 93% lean ground beef.

Veggie Packed Taco Meat
makes 12 or more tacos

- 2lbs 93% lean ground beef, lean ground turkey, or ground chicken breast
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 - 2 zucchinis, shredded 
- 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes and green chiles
- 1 packet Trader Joe's taco seasoning OR 2 packets your favorite seasoning OR make your own seasoning
- 1/2  (6 oz) can tomato paste (you may use less depending on your taste)*
- 1/4 cup water (if needed)

- Heat up a large pan on the stove. Prep your veggies. Dice your onion and bell pepper. Using a fine grate, shred your carrots and zucchinis. 
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and allow to heat up. Add the onions, bell pepper, and carrots to the pan. Sauté for 5 minutes or until onions sweat and become translucent.
- Add ground meat to the pan, using a spatula to break up the meat as you go.
- Once the meat is browned, drain the fat off the meat if needed. Add the shredded zucchini. Stir. Add the can of fire roasted tomatoes and green chiles and your seasoning mix. Stir.
- Add the tomato paste and water if needed. I often just add the tomato paste and stir well and find that the juices from the fire roasted tomatoes are enough to mix the paste in. But if you are having trouble mixing in your tomato paste, add 1/4 cup water. You may want to start with a spoonful of tomato paste, taste, and add more as you like.  
- Let simmer for 3-5 minutes to get the flavors to mingle. Serve however you like and freeze the leftovers.

*This website has a great method for freezing tomato paste and using as you need.

Peace, love, sneaky veggies, and happiness!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What to Watch Wednesday: SOMM

Do you drink wine? Do you LOVE wine? Do you want to know more about wine? Are you fascinated by the world of wine? If you answered yes to any of these (and even if you didn't) you need to watch the trailer for a fantastic new documentary called SOMM!

And if you look at the above photo you will see why I think you should watch the trailer - that line there that says "Story Producer MICHELLE BRANCH."Yep. That's yours truly!

But honestly, my desire for you to watch it goes deeper than just the fact that my name is attached to it. It is truly beautiful, funny, dramatic, and emotional. It is a unique look at a world that you might have not even known existed. The film follows four young, and by the way good looking, guys as they take one of the hardest tests known to man - they exam to become a Master Sommelier. You know, one of those guys in fancy restaurants that helps you pick out wine - except a MASTER is the top level of being a sommelier, and there is only something like 172 of them in the world. It's a great film and I am so excited to have been a part of it. Please spread the word and the love!

Blogger wouldn't let me upload the trailer so see it ---> HERE.

Peace, love, wine, and happiness!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quinoa Burger with Pickled Onions

As part of my (very original) resolution to eat healthier this year I decided to make these delicious looking Quinoa Burgers. Now would be a good time to share with you something that I'm ashamed of. I can't seem to make myself like quinoa. Don't judge me. I WANT to like it, I really do. I know it's like soooo good for you and so I keep trying which is why I decided to make these burgers. 

They were pretty easy to make and for once I followed the recipe almost exactly, only adding a squeeze of lemon.

My verdict is that they were good... but not stellar. Like I didn't finish the 12 that I made, and I'm not dying to make another batch. But hey, I warned you, I don't think I like quinoa. Or at least I don't like it enough. Also I would have added more seasoning to the recipe... oh me and seasoning... I love it!

Since I was guessing I might not fall in love with these I decided to make pickled onions to go with them. I love almost anything pickled. I love the tang it adds.

These quick pickled onions are super easy to make and taste great on many things. Top your taco, add to a salad, burgers, meatball sandwich, quesadilla, the options are endless. 

Quick Pickle Red Onions
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 large red onion - sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
a couple shots of hot sauce

- Slice onion into uniform thin slices. Place in jar with a good sealing lid.
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat.
- Pour liquid over onions. Allow jar to cool slightly then place in fridge. Once onions are cold, enjoy!
*I haven't tested the boundaries of how long these keep for... I'm guessing about 2 weeks, that's the longest I've had them in fridge before using them all up.

Peace, love, pickling, and happiness!