Harvest Cobb Salad–Damn Delicious, Indeed

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If you’ve read any of this blog, pretty much ever, you know I like Damn Delicious. Seriously…go check out her blog. Not always healthy recipes, so you have to be mindful when planning your meals, but always tasty.

Today, I’m talking about a recipe of hers that is decently healthy and the unhealthy bits are dang easy to modify. The Harvest Cobb Salad. Guys, I’ve eaten this for lunch twice this week. That’s a big deal. I can’t do the same food without throwing it out and heading up town to buy something different. But this? This mix of sweet and tangy and tart and crispy-ness? This I could do everyday.

Now, you can click the link and head over to her website and copy it from there for wonderful meal, or you can follow my modifications. Because, well, I’m trying to get healthy. Bacon every day is (sadly) not part of a healthy lifestyle. I do add bacon to my freezer breakfast burritos ( “recipe” coming later, because they’re perfect for a hearty, filling breakfast when you’re short on time) and to my cobb salads periodically (periodically–get it, get it? Heh…Chemistry), but it’s not an every day thing. Something my waistline thanks me for.

Perfect bacon substitutes in this salad are ham (either deli meat style or from an actual, spiral cut ham), turkey bacon (but it’s a bit more expensive), or really any protein of your choice that’s on the more savory side. Though I will say well-cooked, de-greased bacon–either on a skillet with a drain or baked (more details to come!)–is not completely bad for you.

The original recipe is for a serving of 4. Go for that, if you’re doing mason jar style, but remember–your pears and apples will oxidize, so I suggest making as much as you need.

Recipe, if you can even call it that:

  1. 1 1/2cups chopped Iceberg lettuce or lettuce of choice. That 1.5 cups is not set in stone–make this as big or as small as you like.
  2. 1 slice of bacon, or the equivalent amount of dices ham/protein of choice, diced
  3. 1/8 cup dried cranberries
  4. 1/8 cup roasted pecans (salted or unsalted, but prefer unsalted), diced
  5. 1/16 cup goat cheese (or more, if you desire)
  6. 1 hard boiled egg, diced
  7. 1/4 apple, diced
  8. 1/4 pear, diced (eat the rest now, they don’t keep. Throw it in a smoothie. Make pear/avocado/chocolate pudding–recipe to follow).

Throw lettuce in a bowl. Place the toppings on top of the lettuce in lines, so it looks pretty. Or not, as you’re just gonna eat it. But a pretty picture is more instagram worthy, ya’ll. (Notice how I don’t have a picture of the salad–which one do you think I did?)

The dressing’s a bit more complicated for me. The first time, I ignored the suggested poppyseed dressing and just threw together some balsamic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon pepper, and garlic. DO NOT DO THAT! Balsamic does NOT mix with the sweet and tangy flavors here well, at all. The next time, I followed a modified version of the recipe Damn Delicious calls for. You do you, here. I’ll share mine, but definitely gives hers a go:

My recipe: Mix equal parts lactose free milk and apple cider vinegar (1 1/2TBS each gives a good amount). Throw in 1/2 tsp-1 1/2tsp of poppy seeds. Pour over salad and enjoy.

I did this with ham, no bacon, and the healthified (and lactose intolerant friendly) dressing I shared above…so damn delicious, to use the originators name. Seriously, ya’ll, try it!

 

 

Home Chef and Blue Apron, A Review

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Cooking is a lot of fun. Experimenting with spice combinations and ingredients can lead to either your new favorite–or something the dogs won’t even touch. And if my dogs won’t touch it, trust me, it’s bad. Cooking is something my husband and I both enjoy and enjoy doing together (now if only one of us enjoyed the dishes that follows….) But both of us kinda have a our specialties: I’m good with Thai, Indian, and Italian, and he’s good at Chinese, Italian, and Cajun. But that leaves a whole spectrum of flavors out. And we don’t wanna leave anything out of our cooking repertoire.

In comes Blue Apron and Home Chef. When a friend posted that Blue Apron was giving you $30 off your first order, no questions asked (which amounts to half price), I decided to try one of these meal delivery services. A friend then posted on her status about Home Chef instead, so I looked in to and read some reviews. I decided to try both and see for myself.

The first one to arrive was Blue Apron. It arrives in a box filled with ice packs, insulation, and organized ingredients. Seriously, we recently had one arrive during Thanksgiving break, and the ice packs were still cold when we got to it 2 days later. They pack this stuff to last. No worries if you have a schedule that doesn’t let you get home in the middle of the day to check on it–it will be waiting, cold and refrigerated, on your front porch. We now have a collection of awesome freezer packs, which we’re giving away to friends and family. But if you don’t have people who’d use these nice freezer packs, Blue Apron has a recycling plan, as well.

Our first meals were Basque Style Cod, Summer Pepper and Potato Shakshuka, and Summer Udon Noodle Salad. To give you an idea of how good they all were, we’ve done all of these meals on our since. In fact, we had basque Tilapia last night. It’s one of the only ways my husband will eat quinoa. Pretty much every meal we’ve had from Blue Apron has been really, really tasty. They’re super high quality ingredients, too. It’s expensive…but it’s kinda the equivalent of shopping only at Whole Foods. It reflects the organic, free range, grain fed quality. Blue Apron even has the option of an additional wine subscription so you can be guaranteed to get a wine that pairs well the meal. All their recipe card come with suggested wine pairings.

Home chef is a slightly different take. I think Blue Apron is better organized in terms being the most “green.” They use less packaging for a similar amount of ingredients. But the story holds true here–it doesn’t matter how long it sits out, this stuff is packed with skill and will remain cold. No need to rush home to get the ingredients in the fridge. Our first meals with Home Chef were Parisian Bistro Steak, Southwestern Sweet and Spicy Pork Chop, and Cajun Spiced Tilapia with Remoulade. All were delicious. They were a little too salty for our taste, but we don’t add sale to anything. Blue Apron was not overly salty. We also recognized that Parisian, Cajun, and Southwestern food all tend to be a on the salty side, so figured it might be simply the type of food. It turns out we were partially right…Home Chef does tend to be saltier, but they also tend to cater to saltier palettes and flavorings. We have received a few meals that weren’t from typically salty regions and they haven’t been overly salty. Now, again…we do not add salt to anything. We buy low sodium soy and teriyaki sauce. We hate salt, so take that with a grain of salt. (Get it?  Get it?). This is also high quality food, but I would definitly say that Blue Apron caters to a more refined palate than Home Chef. High Quality, Grass fed…but not quite as upity.

We recently decided to stop our Blue Apron subscription. While I generally consider Blue Apron to be slightly higher quality (we’re foodies, and that’s who they’re catering to), there were enough things I didn’t like to make me stick to Home Chef only.

The first thing is that Home Chef emails you a warning a few days before your charge goes through, so you can skip the delivery. This is great, because we try to do these once a month as a special treat that gets us to expand our cooking repertoire. It’s simply not something we can afford every week. Blue Apron doesn’t send a reminder. While this is really on me and I should be remembering, I love the added customer service of a reminder.

The second thing is choice. Blue Apron has 6 choice, and you can’t pick any of the 6. There are only certain combinations you’re allowed to chose. While they’re all tastey, this is an issue if you’re dealing with food allergies or sensitivities, which we are. Home Chef has 10 options, with an added option for breakfast, smoothies, and seasonal fruit. You can pick any combination you want. With Blue Apron, you must get three meals. With Home Chef, you can select as few as 2 all the way up to all of them. Including the extras.

One feature Home Chef has is that you can specify your allergens. Stephen is Gluten Free (through rigorous testing, trust me) and I’m lactose free. Home Chef lets you specify that and will tailor their suggested picks to that. We have never gotten a gluten containing meal from Home Chef. We have many times from Blue Apron. The only time we’ve received a dairy containing meal is because Stephen wanted that steak dish, dang it, dairy containing or not. If they don’t have three meals that are both gluten and dairy free, they only suggest 2. This is a great feature and for anyone with food sensitivities or allergies, I would definitely recommend Home Chef over Blue Apron, any day.

One down side to Home Chef is that shipping is free only above $45. Two meals comes to $39.80 with $10 shipping where three meals comes to $59.70. Now, you can add on the smoothies for fruit for $10, which gets you to that free shipping mark, but it is annoying, because it basically makes you pay more unless you want to spend $10 on shipping.

Both meal plans come with recipe cards and both meal plans let you access the recipe cards for ALL meals, even ones you didn’t order, if you keep your account active. You can access the recipes for the meals you did order even if you’re account is inactive, but they send you recipe cards. Home Chef actually sends a three ring binder the first delivery and all their meals come three-hole punched, so you can keep everything organized.

I hope this helps any of you trying to decide if you want to try a meal delivery service. They’re a lot of fun and they have expanded our horizons in terms of cooking.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Chili

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This is one of those posts that says yes, I am a white girl. (I type this as I’m sipping a non-fat, no-whip Pumpkin Spice Latte). It’s fall. Therefore, things turn pumpkin flavored. Though, strangely enough, I don’t like pumpkin pie. Never have. But other pumpkin-y things? Delicious. Like this chili.

Adding pumpkin is a way to increase some of the veggies. It also keeps it thick and stew-like, which is great! This recipe was loosely based upon this blog’s recipe. By loosely based, I mean I pinned it on pinterest and didn’t look back.

One thing I have to say about the Pumpkin Spice craze is this–they make things overly sweet. They add nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar to things that aren’t meant to be sweet. Leave my stews alone–they’re hearty, not dessert, thank you very much. Which is something this chili recipe gets rights. It’s got pumpkin, but it’s most definitely chili. A nice, hearty stew with pumpkin-y hints to make even more fall friendly–as if a nice bowl of steaming chili wasn’t already a fall favorite. It’s basically you’re normal chili, add pumpkin. My husband (who’s with me on the too-sweet thing, but even more so) loved it. And he thought it sounded somewhat terrifying at first. But then he ate three bowls.

Servings: 6 (Hard to judge, like I said, my man ate three bowls in one sitting).

Time: 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 large can pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling, plain ol’ pumpkin, please).
  2. 1 Tbs oil of choice (I used avacado)
  3. 1 lb ground meat (I used half lean turkey/lean beef)
  4. 1/4 of an onion
  5. 4 Garlic cloves worth of minced garlic
  6. Chili (too taste)
  7. 1 Tablespoon Cumin
  8. 2 cans diced tomatoes
  9. 2 cans beans of choice (I used Chickpeas, but we were out of everything else)
  10. Water to proper consistency (I used 1/2 cup)
  11. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  12. Powdered garlic, to taste

Procedure:

  1. Brown meat, onions, and minced garlic in oil.
  2. Add pumpkin puree, canned tomatoes, beans, and spices. Stir to mix flavors and bring to low boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until beans soft.
  3. Enjoy!

One thing I love about chili is how easy it is. Seriously. Put stuff in a single pan. Cook. Enjoy. And clean that single pan. It’s great, and I love this take on it. Chili can be a great healthy option, just chose the right ingredients!

What’s your favorite take on Chili?

Take Out (the Calories) Pad Thai

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Okay, I haven’t posted in forever. I’m really bad about that. BUT! I’m going to be better. The bad was for two reasons: I stopped planning as many healthy alternative meals and I didn’t have time to write the ones I did try. Or so I told myself. My starting up again is for two reasons as well: I am officially a BeachBody coach after having done half of the 21 day fix and losing 15 pounds BUT gaining muscle and I’m making myself do it.

Becoming a coach is motivating me on my health journey. I needed a reason, and joining as a coach gives me that. That’s perhaps the biggest piece of advice for this post (and possibly this blog, definitely the best up to date): Find your reason. Give yourself a reason to stick with it. Not just a goal of getting to  specific weight, being able to lift a specific amount, but a reason to be healthy. I’m selling health products, so I better well be healthy. One of my favorite quotes I’ve found recently is that you shouldn’t work out because you hate your body, but because you love it. If it’s just to get rid of the weight, it won’t stick. What’s your why? Share in the comments!

Part of the reason I like BeachBody is that they don’t market themselves as a quick fix. Reading reviews of the 21 day fix, even on their website, they were pushing 20lbs weight loss in three weeks. That’s doable. That’s healthy. If you lose much more than that, you’re not getting healthy, you’re getting skinny. There’s a difference. One other thing I liked is that the challenge pack came with portion control containers and a plan on how to use them to eat healthy. BeachBody isn’t about a quick fix, it’s not about a pill, it’s not about miracles. It’s about learning how to take care of yourself. It’s about training yourself to eat right and to see what a healthy plate looks like. It’s about training yourself to work your butt off every day (literally). They tell you you’ll sweat. They tell you you’ll hurt. They tell you it’ll be worth it. Quick fixes aren’t fixes, they’re the duct tape holding pieces together until something comes along and detaches it again. A lifestyle change, which is what BeachBody is about, is actually putting that broken thing together and getting it fixed. This isn’t going to turn in to a BeachBody advertisement. The point of this is to say that quick fixes aren’t permanent. Often, they’re not healthy. So don’t fall for them.

Okay, so off of the healthy fix band wagon and on to the healthy food!

Like I said, I’ve been using portion control containers from BeachBody. One thing they push is eating your veggies, so I’ve started doing veggie replacements for a lot of things. (Well, what we consider veggie replacements. There aren’t a ton of real veggies in the world). One replacement I did recently was substituting spaghetti squash for rice noodles in Pad Thai. It worked really well. Of course, if you want more traditional Pad Thai, just use the rice noodles instead.

SpaghettiSquash

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 Package Cole Slaw Veggie Mix
  2. 2 Bunches Green Onion, chopped
  3. 1 Cup Unsalted Roasted Peanuts
  4. 1lb lean ground meat
  5. 2 tsp Rice Vinegar
  6. 2 tsp Fish Sauce
  7. 2 Tbs Minced Garlic (or to taste)
  8. 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  9. 2 Cups Crunchy Peanut Butter (You can use smooth, but then add extra peanuts).
  10. Sprouts (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare spaghetti squash in whichever way you prefer. This usually takes quite a bit of time, so feel free to start this ahead of time.
  2. Brown mean with vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, and soy sauce in a pan.
  3. Once mostly brown, add peanuts. Let cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add green onion and peanut butter. Keep stirring until the peanut butter is a smooth sauce, evenly spread throughout.
  5. Taste. Add more garlic if needed.
  6. Add in Spaghetti Squash Noodles. Stir until evenly mixed in.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

If you’re using regular noodles, you’ll have to cook them around the same time.

The sauce is also great to make on it’s own. Just mix the peanut butter, fish sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, and soy sauce together in a pot. Keep stirring, or it will burn! You can add the peanuts, but make sure to cook them before adding the peanut butter, so they’re soft. I’ve used this sauce with ground beef as a lettuce wraps. I’ve diluted the sauce with more vinegar and used it as a salad dressing. I’ve added plain greek yogurt and used it as a veggie dip. There are so many possibilities. It’s really tasty and high in protein.

What’s your favorite Thai Take Out dish?

Two (Or Three, Or Four) Ingredient Healthy Cookies that Taste Good

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Okay, I have a confession: I have a sweet tooth, and a rather large one at that.

I love sweets. I think they’re delicious. Problem is, they’re not nutritious. Now, there are some great blogs out there about “healthifying” recipes, but the problem with them is that most I’ve found use strange and expensive ingredients. Or “healthify” them in ways I don’t think really makes them healthier. Like making everything gluten free. If you actually need gluten free, then those recipes are great! But, unless you actually are gluten intolerant, then they’re not any healthier. It’s a health craze that isn’t better for you. And it annoys me. There is a very, very, very, small part of the population that needs gluten free. But most people don’t.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten really off topic…

Back to healthy sweets! Most recipes are not my cup of tea. I’ve found some zucchini brownies I really like (which I’ll share later. They’re from the amazing Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog. If you haven’t read her recipes, do so. They all taste really good). The other problem is most of them are simply healthier. Y Many use sugar substitutes, when almost every substitute has been shown to be worse for you in the long run than sugar. Using natural sugars like honey and agave nectar aren’t bad, but if you do a direct substitution, you’re not really cutting out the unhealthy aspect. Yes, it’s less processed, which is a big bonus, but it’s not any lower calorie. I remember when my sister was so proud of cutting sugar our of her diet. Come to find out, instead of adding 3 spoonfuls of sugar to her tea, she added around 4 spoonfuls of honey. Less processed, but not cutting sugar out of her diet. You’re still better off avoiding them. But avoiding them doesn’t help my sweet tooth.

So, when I came across a two ingredient actually healthy cookie in my browsing through pinterest, I was super excited.

Yep, you read that right. 2 ingredients.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 2 Bananas.
  • 1 Cup Quick Oats.
  • Mix until cookie dough consistency and bake on a GREASED cookie sheet at 350* for 15 minutes.

That’s it.

It makes about 16 cookies.

I’m sure you sitting there asking me, “Wait. How are oats and banana’s cookies?” The answer lies in the natual sugars in the banana and other nectars. When baked, a banana sort of caramelizes. (Here’s where the Chemist part of me comes out, because naturally, being a chemist, I had to look up the science of caramelizing fruit. And now I have to share it with you!)

When we think of sugar, most people think of a singular substance. But, scientifically speaking, there are a lot of different sugars, many of them are present in the fruits we eat. (Which is what makes then so yummy and sweet!). When we bake them, we do things to those chemicals. (We’re adding heat). It’s actually a complicated process that’s not entirely understood even though it’s been used in cooking for hundreds of years. Part of the reason it’s so complicated is because of all the different types of sugars. There’s a lot going on when you caramelize something. The main process I’ll talk about here is a dehydration process. For those of you who saw chemistry and got scared, let me tell you something: dehydration is just what you think it is. It’s losing water. Some sugar is losing an H2O molecule to give a different chemical, known as caramelan. This has increased the conjugation (meaning that there are more double bonds in the molecule) which is what gives it the brown color. Cool, huh? It’s a form of pyrolysis, of the breaking down of a compound when heat is added. But there’s more to it than that. (That’s why it’s complicated. There’s simply so much stuff in biological systems! The Chemistry is amazing and complex and beautiful and just so much fun!) The other reason the food browns is called the Maillard Reaction. This reaction is responsible for the browning of meats when they’re cooked, for dulce de leche, for roasted coffee, and many other things. It’s a reaction between amino acids and sugar, which means that there are lots of products because there are lots of amino acids and sugars in foods. The those in turn go through even more reactions.

Long story short, chemistry makes your food taste good.

If you skipped my aside in to chemistry (I didn’t even go that deep, I promise! I don’t think I could do it justice in this blog), then here’s the why it tastes good: the bananas natural sugars caramelize, meaning that the sweet flavors are brought out even more. When I made these, I added a handful of dark chocolate chips, which was delicious. Next time, I’m going to try adding some cocoa and honey to a bit to see if I can make them chocolate, but healthier (because still, mainly oats and bananas). Or maybe peanut butter for the husband (as I don’t like the nutty spread).

These cookies are great.

Best part? I’ve eaten two for breakfast guilt free. It’s basically eating a banana oatmeal, but your brain still thinks it’s a cookie. For breakfast. There’s no losing with these.

Zucchini Pizza Boats

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Trying to do healthier pizza is apparently a thing of mine. I think I associate Pizza with quick meals. When you order it or do frozen, it is. When you have to make your own crust to make it healthy…not so much. This recipe, however, has very little prep time and only about 40 minutes of cooking.

I got his recipe inspiration from a lot of things, so I’m not going to link it.

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Ingredients:

3 Zuchini

  • 1 Package Shredded Mozzarella
  • 1 can Pizza Sauce
  • 10 Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 TBS Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tsp pepper
  • 1 Tsp Lemon Pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 350* F.
  2. Mix oil, garlic, pepper, and lemon pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Cut Zuchini in half. Scoop the softer, seeded portion out. (You can set it aside to use in other cooking).
  4. Coat the zucchini boats in the spiced oil on all the lighter green, non skin portion.
  5. Slice the Cherry tomatoes as if you’re cutting up a larger tomato for a sandwich. Place those on the cored portion of the zucchini. Cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Get Zucchini out. Put on cheese and toppings, as much as you want.
  7. Broil for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is slightly crispy.
  8. Let cool. Serve and enjoy.

Lemon, Artichoke, and Asparagus Pasta

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I was in a pasta mood last week. But all the pasta dishes were different, which made for a varied menu even if 3 out of the 4 meals cooked were pasta dishes.

 

This one I tried purely because of the name.

 

Lemon Artichoke and Asparagus Pasta.

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It just sounds delicious and amazing. And it was. I actually mainly followed the recipe this website (written by Tiffany), but I also added lemon garlic pepper chicken, lightly spiced with those spices.

 

Ingredients

 

  • 8 ounces pasta, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch asparagus spears, chopped
  • ½ Lemon, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • ½ TBS Butter
  • 2 cups milk (I used skim)
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • shaved parmesan, to taste

 

Instructions

 

  1. Cook pasta and drain.
  2. Spray a large pan or non stick skillet with cooking spray. Add artichoke hearts and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add asparagus and garlic and cook another 2-4 minutes until tender, stirring throughout. Remove artichokes and asparagus with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add pasta and stir to coat. Stir in artichokes and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add Parmesan to taste/creaminess desired. (Less is healthier).

 

 

It’s a great recipe. The chicken was cooked to taste and added because my husband is not a fan a veggie meals. It sounds great to me without the chicken, but it does taste great with chicken. The recipe is pretty much the same with that, you just cook the chicken and add it to the pasta and veggie mix dish. That’s it. Hope you enjoy it!