New Year’s Letter

Dear Friend,

Here we are.  It’s the start of a new year, a blank slate.  What will this year bring?  What are you hoping for?  What are your goals?  Are you going to make any resolutions?

I remember this time last year, you made a resolution to lose weight.  You spent time, money, and energy preparing for this goal.  You got a gym membership, you asked for workout clothes for Christmas, and you stocked your fridge with organic fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.  Your pantry housed whole grains (but no too many) and tea (no coffee because the only way you like coffee is with cream and sugar).  You purchased a Clean Eating cookbook with the gift card you got in your stocking.  You were so psyched to make last year your healthiest yet!  As the year went on, you were struggling to meet the expectations you had set for yourself.  You were missing your weight goals and you could not figure out why, so you switched up your diet plan to ditch the carbs.  You knew that gave you quick results the last time you did it, but you did not have the willpower to keep the weight off.  This year would be different.  As the year progressed you were meetings your goals, but were still behind where you wanted to be.  You felt like a failure.  Then the holidays approached again and you decided you were tired of thinking about food all the time and you wanted to enjoy the holidays and start again with the New Year.

How many years has this pattern happened?  The hashtag #NewYearNewYou is so tempting and you want that to be true for you, but you are also tired of not enjoying your life.  What if you made a different resolution this year?  I know it’s scary to go into the new year without a health goal, but what if you decided to learn more about how your body works instead of forcing it to change?  What if there are some things you are already doing that positively effect your health that you might enjoy doing more of?  I hope you are able to put some thought into your resolutions this year and chose to do something that will bring more peace and less stress into your already stressful life this year.  You deserve it.

Sincerely,

A concerned friend

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Slow Cooker to the Rescue!

So this time change has had me feeling a little behind and tired all week.  When you add that to an already busy week at work, my motivation for cooking dinner is almost non-existent.  I would much rather pick up something to eat on the way home, than go straight to the kitchen and continue working.  There are people out there that probably find cooking a meal from scratch relaxing.  I am not one of those people.  I enjoy cooking most of the time, but for some reason, cooking any meal that requires more than 15-30 min active cooking time makes me feel exhausted before I even begin.  That is why most of the meals I cook are pretty simple and why I LOVE my slow cooker!

When I know I have a busy day coming up, I try to plan on making a meal in my slow cooker.  If I make sure to add an extra 10 min or so to my morning routine, I am able to throw some ingredients in my slow cooker and let it cook for me all day.  As an added bonus, mine has a timer I can set so it will switch to warming once it has finished cooking.  It is so relaxing to come home to the smell of an almost complete dinner and know I only have to do a few simple things to get the meal ready to eat.

One of my very favorite meals to make in the slow cooker is chili.  The longer it cooks, the better it tastes, so it is ideal for a slow cooker.

Here is my favorite recipe from the cookbook Simply in Season.

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef, venison, or turkey (brown in a large frypan)

1 onion (chop and saute 3-5 min)

1c green bell pepper (chop and saute 3-5 min)

1c celery (chop and saute 3-5 min)

4c cooked kidney beans or pinto beans

4c tomatoes (chopped) or tomato juice

1-2 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp sugar, honey, or molassses

1 tsp salt or seasoned salt

1c corn

1c mushrooms

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 hot chili pepper

Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker (except the mushrooms) and cook on high for 15 min and then on low for 8-10 hours.  Add the mushrooms, if desired, during the last hour.  Serve as a soup or over rice or pasta.

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My favorite way to eat this chili is with cornbread.  (I usually pick up some already prepared cornbread from Whole Foods because it is amazing!)  And most of the time, I serve the leftover chili on baked potatoes the next day!

Do any of you use a slow cooker?  What is your favorite recipe?

Edamame Lo Mein

Earlier this week, I realized I had a whole bag of frozen edamame that I hadn’t used yet.  I looove edamame, so I was dying to find a recipe to use it in.  While scrolling through my Eating Well app, I stumbled upon a recipe for Edamame Lo Mein.  Besides the fact that it had edamame, my husband and I love to make meals that give us a chance to use our chopsticks.

So to begin, I chopped up the veggies and heated up the frozen edamame.

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Instead of using the whole wheat spaghetti the recipe called for, I used rice noodles.  I LOVE rice noodles, however, the brand I used for this recipe were not my favorite.  Oh well, I’ll remember that for next time!  (And there will be a next time!)

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I then whisked up all the ingredients for the sauce.  It was sooo tasty!

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Once the veggies were cooked, I added the noodles to the pan and drizzled on the sauce.  After the flavors got a chance to meld together, it was time to plate and eat!

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Here is the recipe from EatingWell.com

Edamame Lo Mein

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/edamame_lo_mein.html

From EatingWell:  April/May 2006, EatingWell Serves Two

This is not the greasy Lo Mein of your favorite Chinese take-out, it tastes even better. Plus you get plenty of nutrients with the addition of edamame, a great vegetarian protein source. Make it a Meal: Fruit sorbet and sesame cookies are a perfect ending.

4 servings, 2 cups each | Active Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 2 cups frozen edamame, (shelled soybeans)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce, or vegetarian “oyster” sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice-wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 small red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and edamame and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk scallions, oyster sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and crushed red pepper in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add carrots and bell peppers and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pasta and edamame. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is crispy in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

 

I hope you are having a blessed day!  : )

Smoked Paprika Red Potatoes and Baked Eggs

I would love to share with you all a recipe I made recently from NaturallyElla. I have recently fallen in love with her blog! Her recipes are delicious and her photos are beautiful!

So to begin, I washed and sliced one pound if red potatoes and then one half if a medium onion. I placed these into my favorite Anthropologie pie plate!

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The potatoes and onion were then tossed with garlic, smoked paprika, cream, and red pepper flakes.

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These were baked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees and then I added 2 eggs that I got locally from my friend Meghan and sprinkled them with feta cheese.

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The dish was added back to the oven to bake for around 12 minutes and…voila!

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It was so pretty I didn’t want to mess with it!

Here is the recipe so you can make this lovely dish for yourself! Add a simple salad on the side to make it a complete meal.

Smoked Paprika Red Potato and Egg Bake
Prep time
5 mins
Cook time
25 mins
Total time
30 mins
Author: Erin Alderson
Recipe type: Dinner
Serves: 2-3
Ingredients
  • 1 lb red potatoes
  • ½ medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (*optional)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • ¼ cup blue cheese (*optional)
  • Chives, to top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚.
  2. Cut potatoes in half, length wise, and then each half lengthwise again. Dice into ½” slices. Cut onions into chunks as well.
  3. In a large baking dish (I use a pie pan or 11″ quiche pan), add potatoes and onions. Mince garlic and add to pan along with the heavy cream, paprika, salt, and pepper flakes. Using a spoon or your hands, toss everything together so that potatoes and onions are coated.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, stir, and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  5. Remove from oven and create a well in the center. Crack desired amount of eggs in the middle and sprinkle cheese over eggs and potatoes. Return to oven and continue to bake until eggs have set, 7-12 minutes depending on desired firmness of yolk- just make sure the egg whites have set.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle chives on top.

Enjoy!

Breakfast in a Hurry

I would like to share with you a recipe I found for individual oatmeals.  These are perfect to have on hand when you just don’t have time to really make yourself a good, nutritious breakfast.  You can also add any toppings or flavorings you want to make them just the way you like them!

So I began by mixing all the wet ingredients together and then added the dry ingredients.  It looked kind of like oatmeal soup which doesn’t sound very appetizing, especially if you like your oatmeal thick like I do.  But don’t worry, it will bake up nice and thick!

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I then lined my muffin pan with cupcake liners and poured about 1/4 cup of mixture into each liner.  I chose 3 different toppings:  walnut chocolate chip, apple, and raisin.  There are so many more options that I can’t wait to try next time!

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After 30 minutes, I took all these adorable little oatmeals out of the oven!

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You can freeze however many you like and save them for a quick breakfast during the week or a nice snack!

Here is the recipe I used from Sugar-Free Mom

Ingredients

 

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups applesauce, unsweetened
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 6 packets of Sweetleaf Stevia or 1 1/2 teaspoons stevia powder or use 1/2 cup honey
  • 5 cups, Old Fashioned rolled oats { I used Bob’s Red Mill}
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal*
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • Optional toppings: raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips

 

Directions

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix eggs, vanilla, applesauce, banana and Stevia together in a bowl. Add in oats, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and mix well with wet ingredients. Finally pour in milk and combine. Spray a 12 and 6 capacity muffin tin with cooking spray or use cupcake liners. Pour mixture evenly into muffin tin cups. If using toppings add them onto the tops of muffins now. If using fresh or frozen fruit, drop it right into the batter.Bake 30 minutes until a toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool and enjoy or freeze them in gallon freezer bags.

 

What kind of toppings would you use?

Baozi Adventure

Before our vegetarian experiment began, Nate and I decided to make some steamed pork buns known as baozi in China.  We spent a day in our kitchen and were a little nervous as to how they would turn out since we’re obviously not Chinese and have never tried to make any authentic Chinese food before.  But before I show you how we made them, let me give you a little back story as to why we love them so much.

NateTIP

Last year, Nate went to Beijing, China for a year to teach English with an organization called TIP.  While he was there, he taught English to English teachers from all over China to help them perfect their pronunciation, grammar, spelling, etc. so it would be easier for them to teach their students back in their hometown.  I had the fortunate opportunity to visit him in Beijing.  Almost every morning we would stop by this sweet woman who sold baozi and jaozi and bought some for breakfast.  This was one of my favorite meals in my time there and we were anxious to recreate it.

So to start making the baozi, we had to make the dough.  When we began I realized I did not have enough all purpose flour, so I improvised and used one cup all purpose and the other whole wheat flour.  This made them much more dense and nutty in flavor, but we were able to work in whole grains!

Once we combined the dry ingredients with the water and yeast mixture, we mixed the dough into a ball and then placed it into an oiled bowl.

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The dough was left to rise for 3 hours.  In the meantime, we went to play some frisbee golf.  I will add that if you ever play with me, make sure you stand behind me to avoid possible decapitation!  :-/

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We came home to find our dough had doubled in size and it was time to make the dumplings!

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We divided out the dough and started forming several small discs with the dough.  We then mixed the ground pork with all the seasonings, and began placing it in the center of the discs.  The fun part was forming the dumplings, even though we were CLEARLY inexperienced!

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Once we had made all the dumplings, we placed them in our steaming baskets.  I was a little nervous that the meat would not cook all the way through, so I was standing by with my meat thermometer! (My foodservice classes came in handy!)

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And…..the finished product!  Not quite as good as what we had in Beijing, but good enough for us!

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I found the recipe on TheKitchn.  I hope you can also try it out sometime.  I just love kitchen adventures!

Steamed Pork Buns (Baozi)
yields 16 buns

For the buns
1 tablespoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, plus additional as needed
4 cups all-purpose flour (I like White Lily)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling
8 ounces ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped Chinese cabbage or bok choy
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sherry or rice wine

For the buns, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Allow to proof until bubbly and creamy, about 10 minutes.

Sift the flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the salt. Turn the mixer on low speed, and pour in the warm water-yeast mixture until the dough begins to form a ball. If it looks too dry, add more water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until it forms a ragged clump. Continue to knead on low speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny, and springy to the touch.

(Alternately, you can do this by hand: Dribble the water into a large bowl holding the flour mixture, using one hand to slowly mix it in a circular direction. When it forms the ragged clump, turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and shiny.)

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, flipping the dough to coat it in oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Store the bowl in a warm, draft free place until it doubles in size, approximately 2 to 3 hours.

Prepare the filling (recipe below). Cut 16 squares (approximately 3-inches each) of wax or parchment paper. Spray each square with cooking oil.

Punch the dough down, then divide in half. Roll each half into a rectangular log. Using a pastry cutter, slice each log into 8 pieces. Roll a slice into a ball, then shape it into a thin, flat disc (like a pancake). Try to keep the center of the disc thicker than the edges. (Once steamed, this keeps the bun from being too doughy on one side and too thin on the other.)

Spoon a dollop of filling into the center of the disc. Pull the edges up around the filling and pinch together to form a bun. Place the bun on a square of parchment paper and cover with a towel. Continue this process with the rest of the dough until all of the buns are filled. Allow the buns to rest for 20 – 30 minutes.

To cook, prepare the steamer basket. Working in batches, position filled buns (each still on its parchment square!) into the steamer, allowing room on all sides. (The cooked buns will be up to 50 percent larger.) I placed the buns seam-side down so they would have a smooth, round top.

Steam the buns for 15 minutes, then remove the pan and basket from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing the lid. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the buns and serve immediately. To reheat heat buns (they will keep for a few days in the refrigerator), pop in the microwave for 30 seconds or re-steam.

For the filling, combine the pork, cabbage, scallions, soy, sesame oil, and sherry in a large bowl. Set aside.

A New Twist on Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I have always been fond of mac ‘n’ cheese.  As a staple in many children’s diets, this is one dish that can easily grow up with you.  It is SO easy to add just about anything to it like chicken, bell peppers, broccoli, etc.  Recently I had just been adding tuna to pump up the protein and omega 3’s.  Then I ran across this recipe from Clean Eating Magazine.

Broccoli & White Bean Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup skim milk, divided
  • 3 tbsp whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup nonfat evaporated milk
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4 oz low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded(about 1 cup)
  • 5 tbsp finely grated or powdered Romano cheese, divided
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz whole-wheat elbow macaroni (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cups chopped 1-inch broccoli florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup BPA-free canned unsalted white beans, drained and rinsed (TRY: Eden Organic Cannellini Beans)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup skim milk and flour; set aside. In a large saucepan, combine remaining 3/4 cup skim milk and evaporated milk. Place saucepan on high heat and stir in garlic and nutmeg. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium and whisk in flour mixture until no lumps remain. Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar and 3 tbsp Romano until well blended. Season with salt and pepper, cover and keep warm on lowest heat setting until needed
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add macaroni and broccoli and cook for 6 minutes; pasta will be slightly undercooked at this point. Stir in bell pepper. Drain and return to pot. Stir in beans and milk mixture and heat on low. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until heated through. Spoon onto serving dishes and top with remaining 2 tbsp Romano and paprika, dividing evenly.

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It was SO tasty!  The white beans blended into the cheese sauce so you couldn’t really tell they were there (which is great if you are serving this to a picky eater).  This dish was colorful and packed with protein, vitamins A & C, whole grains, and fiber.  And isn’t it so much prettier than plain ol’ mac ‘n’ cheese?

 

I also have to add how BLESSED I am to have a husband who supports me in my kitchen adventures.  Not all of my kitchen experiments follow through according to recipe and he always has a MUCH calmer reaction than I do.