Roasted Garlic Smashed Cauliflower

26 Mar

Roasted Garlic Smashed Cauliflower
Guess where I’m headed tomorrow? Vegas! It’s time for Joel’s annual work “retreat” where they work for a couple days then all the significant others come and have a fun filled 3 day weekend. I’m kind of excited and kind of freaking out. This is the first time I am leaving Hannah and I know she will be fine but a mama never stops worrying. She’s definitely a mama’s girl and sometimes she wants me and only me. Haha, good luck mom and dad. Noah was over a year old the first time we left him for a weekend getaway and I thought I was going to vomit the whole 2 hour drive. Breathe Meghan, everything is going to be ok.

Are there any places we need to eat while in Vegas? The only place we have planned is the brunch buffet at the Paris Hotel. And I am totally living it up that meal. I’m talking crepes, bear claws, eggs, waffles. It’s all happening. I fully expect to feel sick since I’ve been eating clean since Lent started but I’m hoping it will be worth it.

Speaking of clean eating…I’ve been struggling with side dishes to our meals. It’s usually just a salad or some kind of steamed vegetable. But when we were at the grocery store the other day I spotted heirloom cauliflower in purple, orange and lime green. I showed Noah and asked him if we should try some and he got very excited and said we should get the orange one. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it (I usually roast it), but it was totally being purchased after seeing how excited he was over a vegetable.
Roasted Garlic Smashed Cauliflower
After thinking a bit, I decided to try my hand at smashed cauliflower. A lot of the recipes I found added cream cheese which sounds amazing but just wasn’t going to happen. Since there wasn’t much I could add to gain that creamy texture, I decided to add lots of flavor instead. Cooking the cauliflower in chicken stock and adding a whole head of roasted garlic definitely fit the bill. It’s a light, flavorful side dish that’s just as fun to eat as it is to look at.

Roasted Garlic Smashed Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower (I used an heirloom orange cauliflower), cut into florets
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 head roasted garlic
Salt and pepper

Place cauliflower and chicken stock in a pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender (most of the stock will be gone). Mash cauliflower in pot, if you have a lot of stock left, drain some out. Add in parmesan cheese and roasted garlic and continue to mash. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Copycat Chipotle Chicken

24 Mar

Chipotle Chicken

We very rarely eat fast food around our house but when we do we always go for subs or Chipotle. My meal of choice at Chipotle is always the chicken burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans and hot salsa. A few months ago, my mom made a cilantro lime rice and black beans that was very similar to Chipotle and ever since, we have all been obsessed. Like eat it every two weeks or so obsessed. Now, if you know me, that’s saying a lot since I rarely make the same thing without a few months in between. I enjoy variety and trying new recipes, but I always seem to crave that meal.
Chipotle Chicken
I’ve always just made a simple Mexican rub that is really yummy but I was craving the real deal Chipotle copycat so I went on the hunt for something more similar to the restaurant, with chipotles in it of course, and this recipe I found on epicurious is so perfect. I changed it up a bit by removing the oil to make it healthier and adding lime juice because it just makes things like this better. I also upped the amount of cilantro because I’m kind of addicted right now. I know cilantro is usually a love or hate herb for most people and I used to fall into the latter category but I kept trying it in things and I totally love it now. If you are a hater, you could leave it out with delicious results still.
Chipotle Chicken
Mmm, now I really wish we had a can of chipotles in adobo. Pretty sure they will become a staple pantry ingredient from now on.

Copycat Chipotle Chicken
recipe adapted from Epicurious

1/4 cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 lime, juiced
3-4 boneless chicken breasts or thighs, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness

1. Combine all ingredients, except chicken, in a blender or food processor. Blend until completely combined. Place chicken and marinade in a large ziplock bag and squish around, ensuring all the chicken is covered. Place in refrigerator and marinade for 3 hours or up to overnight.

2. When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill chicken 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through and juices run clear. Dice and serve over cilantro rice and black beans.

Whole Wheat Pizza Rolls

21 Mar

Whole Wheat Pizza Rolls
Remember that fun dinner I talked about on Wednesday using whole wheat pizza dough? Well, here it is. Pizza rolls baked in a muffin tin.

Noah had a lot of fun helping me roll out the dough and spread the toppings. He’s been really into helping me in the kitchen again which means he’s super proud and is a lot more likely to eat what we are having. Not that it’s ever a problem when it’s pizza. But when he gets to help cut up the broccoli or cauliflower (with his kid knives) then he won’t complain as much when it comes to eating it. Sometimes the “help” isn’t all that helpful but we both enjoy it so much and sometimes the fun messy chaos is much more important than getting things done. I know these memories will be cherished for a long time to come.
Whole Wheat Pizza Rolls
But back to the recipe at hand. These rolls are fun and kid friendly. I mean, who doesn’t love to eat with their hands. If you’re all fancy pants, you can cut them up with a knife but Noah and I preferred grabbing them with our hands and dunking them in the sauce. Dipping totally makes things more fun for kids too (and maybe adults).
Whole Wheat Pizza Rolls
If you have the dough and sauce made up in the freezer, this would be an incredibly easy weeknight meal to whip up. I always make a big batch of both those things and freeze the leftovers for this very reason. Then all you have to do is thaw everything and grate some cheese.

Whole Wheat Pizza Rolls
recipe from Foodie Crush

Olive oil
Pizza sauce (make it clean by replacing brown sugar with honey)
1 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
Any other toppings, I put pepperoni in half of them (for the boys)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease a muffin tin with olive oil.
2. Roll out dough into a 10×20 inch rectangle. Spread a light layer of sauce over the dough then sprinkle with cheese and additional toppings of choice.
3. Roll lengthwise (like cinnamon rolls) to make a 20-inch log and pinch edges to seal. Slice into 2-inch sections then place them in the muffin cups, pressing down slightly.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and dough in the center is fully cooked. Serve with additional pizza sauce on the side.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

19 Mar

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
Whether we are eating clean or not, something Joel just can’t live without is pizza. So I knew I would have to find a whole wheat pizza crust so we could splurge a little. And turns out, it’s pretty darn good. He asked me why I was able to eat it…he couldn’t even tell it was whole wheat.

I made a fun dinner with these using a cleaned up version of our favorite pizza sauce (just replace the brown sugar with the same amount of honey and make sure there isn’t any added ingredients in the tomato puree). I know some people who eat clean don’t eat cheese but that’s just a bit too extreme for me! I always buy blocks of cheese and shred them myself that way it doesn’t have any extra junk and it tastes so much better. I have also only been eating it in moderation.

So clean pizza it is! Using white whole wheat flour makes for a milder wheat flavor so you can totally trick any non-believers you are feeding. The dough was light, chewy and had the slightest bit of nutty flavor…just perfect in my opinion.
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
The recipe makes enough dough for 4 9-inch pizzas and includes instructions for freezing any extra so you can do the work now and have an extra dinner waiting for you in the freezer on a busy night.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
recipe from Weelicious

2 1/4 tsp. rapid rise yeast (or one 1/4 oz. packet)
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
3-4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for greasing bowl and brushing on pizza crust
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Combine the water and yeast in the bowl of your mixer and allow to sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the olive oil and honey to the yeast mixture and stir to combine.

3. Stir together 3 cups flour and salt then dump into the yeast mixture. Mix on low for about 3 minutes until smooth. Crank speed up to medium and let it run for 5-6 minutes until it springs back when pushed. If dough is wet or sticky, add more flour 1/4 cup at a time.

4. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead for 15 seconds then divide into four equal parts. Form each ball into a disk and allow to rest for 5 minutes. At this point, you can freeze the dough for future use. Stack the disks on a baking sheet with parchment paper in between each then put in the freezer for an hour. After the hour is up, put the disks in a labeled freezer bag.

6. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Take a disk and holding the dough at the edges, pinch and pull the dough to 9 inches across. Periodically switch from pulling and pinching the dough to stretching it out using your knuckles.

7. Spread with sauce and top with desired toppings. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Balls {No Bake}

17 Mar

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Bites
These are my new favorite snack and dessert and breakfast. I’ve pretty much been finding any reason to eat them. So much so that we have gone through 2 batches in less than a week. And Saturday night I was having a major sweet craving and just couldn’t get them out of my mind…so I made another batch.
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Bites
They absolutely satisfy your sweet tooth and contain only healthy, all natural ingredients. Major bonus. I’m pretty sure these will become a staple in our refrigerator.
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Bites
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Balls {No Bake}
recipe from Food Doodles
yields approximately 2 dozen small bites

1/2 cup peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt, if peanut butter is unsalted
1/4 cup cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips)

1. In a small bowl, mix together the peanut butter, honey and vanilla. You may need to microwave the peanut butter a bit so that it’s easier to combine. Stir in the oats, coconut, salt and cocoa nibs. I mixed with my hands.

2. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes. Roll into balls and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Bites

Why Healthy Eating is the Best Way to Lose Weight

14 Mar

Today, I am bringing you an article written by Adrienne of Healthline. They contacted me asking if they could compile an article to share with my readers and with the clean eating I’ve been doing since Lent started, I jumped on the opportunity. I am by no means an expert in health so I always worry about sharing my opinions or eating habits as I don’t have the experience or education to give that kind of advice. If you are on a path towards healthier eating, I hope that you will find this helpful and interesting.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.

Could it be that the days of crazy diets are over? Probably not, but thankfully we are seeing a lot more interest in healthy eating for weight loss as opposed to highly restrictive diets. Why the change? It likely has a lot to do with all the access we now have to healthy recipes that let us eat better without having to sacrifice taste and we can lose weight doing it.

Diets Still Don’t Work

Just because a person is able to lose weight on a diet doesn’t mean that diets work. Successful weight loss requires being able to keep the weight off and diets that restrict entire food groups or drastically cut down your calorie intake aren’t realistic to maintain. Studies have proven over and over again that not only do most dieters gain back the weight they lost,  but the majority go on to gain even more so that they weigh more than they did even before starting the diet. And, as great as some diets claim to be, this sad truth applies to all kinds of diets. According to researchers at UCLA, dieters typically lose 5-10 percent of their starting body weight in the first 6 months of a diet and more than two-thirds regain even more weight than they lost within the first 4 or 5 years.

Healthy Eating for Weight Loss

Can you lose weight by just deciding to eat healthier food? The answer is yes—an even bigger yes if your current diet has been one filled with fattening, processed foods!

Eating healthy allows you to eat more while consuming less of the stuff that makes you gain weight. Healthy foods contain less fat and calories than processed foods, yet make you feel full faster. This is precisely why eating healthy is a better option for people wanting to get their weight in check: you can eat well and feel satisfied without taking in too many calories or fat.

The reason why healthier foods are able to make you feel full on less is that they contain more water, fiber giving them a low energy density. There are no empty calories that have you eating but getting nothing out of the food. Instead, healthier food choices fill you up and give you energy to put out. They also help boost your immune system thanks to being high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and can help you lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and more.

Eating Healthy and Yummy

The key to weight loss with healthy eating is to do what diets don’t let you: feel satisfied and eat in a way that’s possible to sustain forever, even long after the pounds have been dropped. You do this by following a balanced diet and taking the time to make food that you actually enjoy eating. You don’t often think of weight loss and delicious foods together, but it turns out that you really don’t need to eat a rabbit’s diet or live on rice cakes to lose weight thanks to healthy alternatives to all the foods you crave.

We are blessed to live in a world where we can get our hands on anything with just a few clicks. Fortunately for those of us who want to eat better and lose weight without feeling like we’re sacrificing all the stuff we love; recipes to make healthy versions of our favorite treats are also just a click away. The Mayo Clinic offers great advice by telling you to stick to low-energy-density foods that let you feel full on fewer calories, like fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains. Lean proteins will also help you feel full. They give a great example to show you the difference between high-energy-density foods, like those filled with fat and sugars, and low-energy-density foods that are healthier and cleaner options:

Raisins have a high energy density, with 1 cup of raisins containing about 434 calories, while grapes have a low energy density with only 104 calories per cup.

Imagine having to eat over 4 cups of raisins to get the same amount of calories as 1 cup! You wouldn’t because you would feel full long before getting to 4 cups. It’s a perfect example of how better choices leave you feeling full on less and why it’s better to eat healthy to lose weight.

Use these things to make lower-fat versions of your favorites using recipes easily found online and you still get to enjoy food without the weight or the inevitable guilt. Making the change to healthier eating will help you keep your weight in check while also lowering your risk of disease and keeping your immune system strong. Restrictive diets on the other hand, will make you fatter, weaken your immune system, and increase your risk of disease. The right choice is simple, no?

Get your fill on everything health and diet by clicking here.

References

How to Cook Brown Rice Perfectly

12 Mar

Perfect Brown Rice
Thanks to Our Best Bites, I have found the perfect way to cook brown rice. Seriously, I will never cook it another way. It was everything I never knew brown rice could be. It even got the stamp of approval from Joel so that’s saying something.

The rice came out light and fluffy with an amazing texture. I always seem to undercook brown rice and it ends up crunchy and unappetizing. But not anymore. After making the rice, I added lime zest and cilantro to make cilantro lime rice so that’s what the green specks are in the photo. I forgot to snap pictures beforehand.
Perfect Brown Rice
So so so good. I plan on doing this once a week to have brown rice for lunch all week along with some grilled chicken and veggies. Turns out this whole clean eating thing ain’t so bad.

The Perfect Brown Rice
recipe from Our Best Bites

1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/3 cups water (you could also use chicken stock for a bit more flavor)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place dry brown rice in an 8×8 pan. Bring water, butter or oil and salt to a boil. Remove as soon as it starts boiling and pour it over the rice. Cover tightly with several layers of foil. Bake for about 1 hour.

2. Remove from oven and carefully remove the foil. Fluff the rice with a fork then cover with a kitchen towel for 5 minutes. This helps collect the steam rather than it collecting on the foil then falling into the rice when you remove it, making it soggy.

Homemade Nut Butters

10 Mar

Peanut Butter
I have a Pinterest board called Storebought to Homemade with all kinds of DIY recipes for delicious items from the grocery store. Things like dulce de leche, wheat thins, graham crackers, extracts and nut butters. Things that I have totally intended to start making from scratch but as you can see, I just haven’t gotten there yet. This whole eating clean thing is forcing me into though and I’m happy about that.
Almond Butter
I almost always have a smoothie for breakfast and one of my favorites calls for peanut butter. Since I can’t eat sugar right now and natural peanut butters come in small, expensive jars (and sometimes still have added ingredients) I decided now was the time to jump in and make it from scratch. Nut butters are incredibly easy to make at home and only require one ingredient, whatever nut you choose. Of course, a bit of oil can be added for additional creaminess but I didn’t feel it was necessary.
Peanut Butter
I decided to make almond butter and peanut butter to have a variety on hand so I will provide the “recipe” for both below and some variations that would be delicious. You can use any amount of nuts you want/need. I listed the amounts that I used below so that you can see how much it yielded. So far, I have only used them in smoothies and for dipping apples so I can’t say how well they will work in recipes but they taste delicious. Make sure you store them in the refrigerator in an airtight jar or container.
Almond Butter

{Photos with almonds scattered are of the almond butter, the other photos are peanut butter}

Almond Butter

2 cups natural almonds
Pinch of salt, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place almonds on a rimmed sheet pan and place in oven for 5-10 minutes. Be sure to check them often and shake the pan to ensure none of the almonds burn. Remove from sheet pan and allow to cool.

2. Dump almonds in a food processer or high powered blender* and turn it on. Scrape down the bowl every minute or so until it starts to form a paste then just let it run until it’s nice and smooth. This took about 5 minutes in my food processor. Add a pinch of salt if desired. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container (I like using mason jars).

Peanut Butter

3 cups roasted peanuts**

Place peanuts in a food processor or high powered blender. Turn on and scrape every minute until it starts to thin out and form a paste. Then just let it process until desired consistency has been reached. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.

Nut Butter Variations:
-Add a tablespoon or so of honey when blending the nuts
-After the nut butter is completely smooth, fold in some finely chopped dark chocolate (no sugar added)
-Add a teaspoon of vanilla when processing the nuts
-If you prefer chunky peanut butter (I do I do!), after peanut butter is completely processed throw in another handful of peanuts and pulse a few times to add some texture
-This vanilla bean coconut peanut butter also looks to die for delicious

*I tried using my Vitamix at first and I constantly had to push the nuts down into the blades then it started to get really hot and the motor was making a weird noise so I switched over to my food processor which worked much better for this. I’m sure it works but I just didn’t want to risk ruining my beloved Vitamix so just be aware if you are using a blender.

**When buying roasted peanuts, read the label! Every brand at my traditional grocery stores had all kinds of nasty added ingredients. I ended up going to Trader Joe’s and found “clean” peanuts.

Peanut Butter

Buttermilk Almond Chicken Fingers

7 Mar

Buttermilk Almond and Panko Encrusted Chicken Fingers
Man do I love me some fried chicken. Like, it would be my last meal kind of love. But I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I eat it in a year. Especially now that we are eating clean for Lent. Why is it that you crave something so much when you just can’t have it? Walking past the kettle chips at the grocery store yesterday just about killed me. KILLED ME. They are another one of my weaknesses.
Buttermilk Almond and Panko Encrusted Chicken Fingers
Since real deal fried chicken is absolutely out of the question right now, I figured I should find a substitute to curb the craving. Do these taste just like fried chicken? Um, no. But they are a delicious, healthy version that totally hit the spot. The buttermilk soak creates a moist chicken tender while the almond meal and whole wheat panko lend a nutty flavor. They don’t get super crispy but baking them on a rack help bring some texture reminiscent of the fried stuff.
Buttermilk Almond and Panko Encrusted Chicken Fingers
Buttermilk Almond Chicken Fingers
recipe from How Sweet Eats

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup almond meal
3/4 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1. Place chicken tenders and buttermilk in a zip top bag and place in refrigerator to marinate for 4 hours, or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray a wire rack with nonstick spray. Place rack on top of baking sheet.

3. Combine almond meal, panko, flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a bowl. Dredge each chicken finger in the mixture, pressing to adhere, then place on the rack. Spray the chicken tenders with nonstick spray. Bake for 12 minutes then gently flip them over, spray with nonstick spray and bake another 12 minutes.
Buttermilk Almond and Panko Encrusted Chicken Fingers

Chocolate Chip Cake with Cookie Dough Frosting

3 Mar

Chocolate Chip Cake with Cookie Dough Frosting
So I have a little thing to tell you guys and I hope you won’t be mad at me. For Lent I’ve decided to eat clean (except for 2 meals a week). Gah, I’m scared but totally committed so wish me luck. Joel wasn’t too thrilled when I informed him on what I had decided but he’ll get over it. He gets free catered lunch every day from all kinds of yummy restaurants so he can get his fill of junk food then.
Chocolate Chip Cake with Cookie Dough Frosting
That being said, I figured I should share this delicious dessert we had for Valentine’s day before I bid farewell to sugar. I gave Joel a bunch of different dessert options and this is what he chose. He is a cookie dough fanatic so it was kind of a no brainer.
Chocolate Chip Cake with Cookie Dough Frosting
The butter and brown sugar in the cake and frosting really make this taste like a complete cookie dough fest. And I am totally digging recipes with instant pudding mixes. They make everything so moist and delicious.

You can’t really go wrong with a moist yellow cake dotted with chocolate chips smothered in a cookie dough frosting. Plus, it’s incredibly rich so a little piece goes a long way. Try it and enjoy all the sugar on my behalf.
Chocolate Chip Cake with Cookie Dough Frosting
Chocolate Chip Cake with Cookie Dough Frosting
recipe from Mother Thyme

1 cup all-purpose flour
3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding (just the mix, do not prepare)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 Tbsp. sour cream
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cookie Dough Frosting:
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square or round pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, pudding mix, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, butter, sour cream, egg and vanilla.

3. Slowly pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stirring as you do so. Mix until the batter just comes together then stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes then remove from pan (you can also leave it in the pan if you want to serve it that way.

5. For the frosting: cream together butter and sugars. Add vanilla and a small amount of milk. Keep adding milk until desired consistency is reached. Mix in mini chocolate chips. Frost cake once it has cooled completely.
Chocolate Chip Cake with Cookie Dough Frosting

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