Thursday, February 24, 2011

Steak Salad

This is a nice, fancier-than-ordinary meal for a weeknight. With a glass of wine (well-chilled pinot grigio, to be exact) it hits the "TGIF!" spot just right, without having to deal with the lines and sodium content of a restaurant meal.

One of my favorite parts of this meal was the dressed vegetables that go on top of the salad. I told The H that I'd like to serve those as a side to another meal sometime, never mind the rest of the salad! Although very good, this is a bit time consuming--not one to try last minute.
Grilled Steak and Potato Salad
slightly modified from this recipe on
serves 4

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced garlic (I used 2 large cloves)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp granulated sugar (or clean substitute of your choosing)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 lb boneless sirloin, NY strip, or Delmonico steak
1/2 lb fresh green beans
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
1/2 lb white mushrooms, washed and sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (I left this out)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, washed and halved (I left these out)
Salad greens of your choice

1. Whisk together vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, thyme, pepper, sugar, and oil. Place beef in a shallow dish and pour 1/3 of the marinade over. Turn to coat. Marinate at least 30 minutes.

2. Place potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water; add a palmful of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl; pour half the remaining dressing over and stir gently to coat.

3. Microwave beans on high power for 2 minutes, or until just tender. Add to potatoes, along with mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, and tomatoes (if using).

4. Prepare grill pan, cast iron skillet, or broiler for cooking the steak. Remove steak from marinade, discarding the remaining marinade, and cook until desired doneness is reached. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing against the grain into thin strips.

5. Arrange salad greens among four plates. Top each serving with potato-vegetable mixture and a portion of sliced steak. Drizzle with remaining dressing.

I was so busy in the kitchen that I didn't know what the little guy was up to until The H brought me some pictures:

That's the hazard of keeping fresh fruit (sort of) within small hands' reach!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Something new

Back in January I mentioned that I was looking at a few new cookbooks. Every once in awhile it's good to shake up "the usual" and make something new. With that in mind, I have some exciting news!

Does the word GIVEAWAY mean anything to you?

This will be a big "first" for Clean Eating Machines.

Stay tuned...and tell your friends!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Buffalo chicken salad

Every so often when asking for healthy lunch options, a person might hear, "A salad topped with grilled chicken." Well, that sounds kind of boring to me. So I added hot sauce. 

There's no real recipe for this baby. I combined some romaine lettuce, a sliced tomato or two, half a sliced bell pepper, and some boneless, skinless chicken breast marinated in Frank's RedHot, and a yogurt-based Ranch dressing. It came together very quickly, since the chicken was cooked before I marinated it briefly in the sauce. To make the chicken less saucy but still fully flavorful, I baked it at 350* for 10 minutes before adding it to the salad.

Simple and tasty! The H used the leftover components in a (gluten-free) wrap for lunch.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mustard-Marinated Beef

Tonight's dinner was brought to you by the game "Rummage in the freezer 'til you find something that won't take too long to thaw, marinate, and cook.. ready? Go!" Aaand we have a winner!

A quick search led me to this recipe, which I modified a bit (shocker, I know). We served it over brown rice, with roasted garlic-lemon broccoli on the side. Here is my version.

Mustard-Marinated Beef
modified from this recipe
serves 4

1 lb sirloin steak, sliced against the grain into thin strips
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (some brands contain HFCS--read the labels!)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp for the pan later
2 Tbsp (two big squirts) prepared yellow mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Brown rice

1. In a shallow dish, whisk together Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, mustard, and pepper. Place steak strips into mixture and marinate at least 30 minutes.

2. Cook rice according to package directions.

3. Heat a medium skillet (cast iron works great!) over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Add marinated steak strips to pan; discard unused marinade. Cook steak 3-5min per side, or to your desired doneness. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Next time I make this, I will double the recipe to make sure we have leftovers for lunches. The beef was very tender and flavorful. The original recipe calls for onion, which I didn't have, but I can see how it would be a tasty addition to this dish, perhaps even with a sliced bell pepper.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What IS clean eating? A refresher course

It was brought to my attention tonight that, after nearly two years of living a (mostly) clean-eating lifestyle, The H is unclear just exactly what "clean eating" means. Can you say "FAIL" on my part? Without further ado, here are what I believe to be the ten most important principles of clean eating, paraphrased from a cut-out section in every issue of Clean Eating Magazine:

1. Eat five to six times a day--each meal or snack should include lean protein + complex carbohydrates.

2. Drink at least two liters of water a day--bust out your pretty and reusable bottles!

3. Choose foods with one or two ingredients--if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it (edamame and quinoa are exceptions). ;)

4. Avoid processed and refined foods--ditch the white flour, sugar, bread, and regular pasta. Use whole grains instead. This is the heart and soul of clean eating for me.

5. Skip the bad guys--avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fats (note: if a food contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, it DOES contain trans fats, regardless of what the per-serving nutrition info says), things that are high in sugar, and anything fried.

6. Shop carefully--try to purchase local and humanely raised meats if possible. Produce that is in season is tastier and usually more affordable.

7. Some fats are good--the body needs essential fatty acids daily.

8. Eat proper portion sizes--pretty self-explanatory.

9. Take your time--slow down and savor your meals.

10. Be prepared--pack a cooler for work and/or outings so you are armed with clean-eating foods even when you're not at home.

In the future, I'll try to be better about describing the "why" behind some of the choices I make, rather than assuming everyone (even those in my household...) understands what I'm doing.

Which aspect of clean eating is most important to you?

Worth the wait

This morning I couldn't decide what I wanted for breakfast, but I knew I didn't want it to be the Chex and Rice Krispies that my men were enjoying. While I sipped my first cup of coffee (half caff with half-and-half, same as always), I had a piece of locally-made wheat toast spread with Earth Balance to stop my belly from grumbling and to buy me some time until I figured out what I really wanted. Not oatmeal. Not pancakes. No pumpkin to make a protein cake with... it took awhile, but I finally came up with a scrambled egg + egg white, spinach, and Sriracha wrap in a sprouted wheat tortilla. YUM. Warm and filling with just a hint of spice (should've increased the hot sauce), and perfect with my second cup of coffee. It wasn't that appealing looking, so no pic, but I'm pretty pleased with it--oh, and the fact that I successfully avoided putting fresh homemade whipped cream into my coffee. ;) Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Derailed: update

(This is an update to my gripe last Thursday)

One week, four runs, 27.5 miles, and 2,169 calories (burned by running) later, I'm happy to say my jeans are fitting better... but then I split a piece of Cheesecake Factory flourless Godiva chocolate cheesecake with The H after dinner tonight. Oh, and I made fresh whipped cream to put on top. Insert big sigh here. I've never done that before. Why is self-sabotage so easy?

On the plus side, my running this past week has been strong and very enjoyable. I've gotten to run with some good friends that I haven't run with in awhile. Oh, and I've mostly stuck with our meal plan for the week, aside from a junky lunch with the little guy today and GF, egg-free pancakes for dinner instead of my planned spaghetti squash. That makes tomorrow's dinner a no-brainer, AND gives me a meal for Sunday.

Maybe I'll take the dog for a nice long walk tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Clean eating chocolate biscotti

Clean eating what?!

Yeah. Chocolate biscotti.

This is the first time I've made biscotti, so I can't truly compare the "clean" version to a standard recipe, but let me just say that when I was blog-browsing the other day and came across a biscotti recipe that called for more than a full stick of butter, I was content to let this recipe be my one-and-only. No oil or butter here! Plenty of flavor and crunch, though. Works for me.

Mix up a batch of these to go along with your spiced hot chocolate! These biscotti are more crumbly when fresh, but still not too hard to bite into after they've had a chance to age slightly.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti
from The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno
serves 15 (haha...)

1/2 cup raw unsalted whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped, divided**
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 tsp instant coffee crystals (I use one little instant coffee "tube")
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup Sucanat
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest (I've never used this)


1. Preheat oven to 350* and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place 1/4 cup of the almonds**, both flours, cocoa powder, coffee crystals, baking soda, and salt in a food processor. Process for a few minutes until the almonds are finely ground. Transfer mixture to a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

3. Combine sucanat, egg, egg white, extracts, and zest (if using) in a blender and process until foamy, about 3-4 minutes. My bullet-style blender works just beautifully for this.

4. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture. Add remaining chopped almonds and mix well.

5. Divide dough into two (very sticky!) lumps on the baking sheet. Shape into logs--wet your hands a bit if the dough is sticking too much.

6. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, reduce heat to 300*, and let logs cool 10 minutes.

7. Cut each log on a diagonal into ten pieces. Spread slices out on baking sheet and return to oven for another 20 minutes. Cookies should be dry to the touch.

8. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

**Rather than messing with the food processor, I've found that using 1/4 cup almond meal in Step 2 and mixing by hand, then crushing another 1/4 cup raw almonds by hand for use in Step 4, is less mess and just as effective.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spiced hot cocoa

This post is brought to you by my sweet tooth, craving something rich and desserty... at 4pm on Friday afternoon. Too early for "dessert" (even if I'd had any made) and too late for a froofy coffee drink (yeah, I'm old enough that caffeine after 3pm keeps me awake). My yen for chocolatey goodness led me to, where I found--and modified--a recipe for spiced hot chocolate.
It made plenty for the two of us, plus a slosh for the little guy, and even some leftover that I refrigerated for not-so-distant future use. It would make a fun coffee "creamer" if you're hoping for something more flavorful than milk or half-and-half. Adjust the spices to suit your taste; this one kicked me in the tonsils on the way down!

Spiced Hot Chocolate
modified from this recipe
serves 4

3 cups low-fat milk
1.5 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp turbinado sugar (oops, should've used some stevia!)
1/2 Tbsp sucanat
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Frothed milk, optional
1. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over low heat.

2. Whisk in cocoa, sugar, and sucanat until dissolved.

3. Add vanilla, cinnamon, chili powder, nutmeg, and cayenne*. 

4. Heat and stir 5 minutes or until well combined. Serve topped with frothed milk (or whipped cream if you're not feeling the cleaner option).

*I poured some for the little guy before I added the cayenne pepper; it would have been too spicy for a toddler otherwise. Use your best judgment regarding your own family.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What we're eating this week

Sunday lunch - Spaghetti (GF corn-quinoa pasta) with meat sauce, made with local ground beef

Sunday dinner - SuperBowl party with friends

Monday - Chicken tikka masala over brown rice (probably plain chicken + rice for the little guy); The H is traveling so I may resort to the convenience of a Trader Joe's simmer sauce this time

Tuesday - Leftover pasta with meat sauce after running group

Wednesday lunch, if I'm feeling ambitious and/or bored - Coconut curry chickpeas (a Clean Eating Magazine recipe)

Wednesday dinner - Lasagna (meatless and gluten-free) and a spinach salad

Thursday - Spaghetti squash casserole, done the right way this time

Friday - Steak and potato salad

Saturday - Out with friends for a Valentine's dinner

Lunches not specified will consist of leftovers, in preparation for a fridge clean-out before traveling with The H next week.

Happy eating!

Half of a half is...

a LOT! If you're talking about a cow, that is.
What you see here (in very poor lighting, yes--it was almost 10pm) is our "half of a half" of a cow, raised by a friend's family, processed locally, and picked up last night. I'd say we're pretty set in terms of beef for quite a while.

These boxes--three total, but one broke--contained the following cuts and quantities:

Burger patties - 9 two-pound packages (1/3lb patties)
Chuck roasts - 7 (huge!)
Cubed round steak - 5
Delmonico - 4
Ground beef - 19 one-pound packages 
New York strip steaks - 3
Rump roast - 1
Sirloin steaks - 6
Sizzler steaks - 2
Tenderloin - 3

I can't believe it all fit into our little chest freezer! Now I just have to figure out a way to use all this meat and not get sick of it. In other news, our grocery bill will likely go down, thanks to this one-time investment. I'm excited to head up to the corner and spend some time at Ken's Fruit Market picking out produce to go with all this beef! There's a certain steak-and-potato salad I've had my eye on...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

So far, so...ok.

I'm trying not to jump the track again today, but it's not as easy as it was yesterday. Breakfast was kind of delayed; the little guy stayed home from daycare with a slight fever, so when I would normally be sitting down with my coffee (and work...) and breakfast, I was still running around getting him fed and comfortable, and doing some kitchen clean-up. I did eat a homemade allergen-free waffle with Earth Balance on it while I swigged some coffee; it was entirely unsatisfying. But then I got caught up in playing with the little guy and doing laundry, and forgot to eat anything else until it was after 10am.

For snack, I made a peanut butter-banana-Nutella (yeah, I know...) sandwich on sunflower seed bread. After more laundry and more playtime, I scoured the fridge and cobbled together a Buffalo chicken wrap (sprouted wheat tortilla, spinach, cooked chicken, Frank's, organic yogurt dressing) for lunch. With each of those, I drank a 500mL of water. Other than semi-skipping breakfast, this isn't too bad so far.

But now I'm munchy. And that could be dangerous. I need to stop thinking about the Hershey's kisses and Ghirardelli squares I have in the cupboard and think about a *clean* snack... hardboiled egg whites and half an apple? Why does the junky stuff sound so much better? But I know that if I'm not "hungry enough to eat an apple" then I'm likely just eating/grazing out of boredom or thirst. Ever heard of that rule of thumb? Time to refill my water bottle.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


For the first time in two years, my jeans were tight this morning. ::collective gasp:: Just like a normal person! (You know, 'cause I am.) No really, my weight fluctuates even on a clean eating plan. Usually it's within the same 5lb range (even throughout marathon training) but my pants always fit the same. So their squeeziness is either a sign that I shouldn't let The H dry my jeans on high heat anymore, or that I have been getting too lax in my eating/meal planning. Since fresh-from-the-dryer jeans have never been a problem for me, I'm sadly going with the latter. Perhaps being out of work has affected my eating habits more than I've cared to admit.

Rather than wallowing in self-pity about my lack of employment (and newfound muffintop), I've decided to shape up my habits and get back on track. There's no time like, well, NOW. Here's what my day looked/will look like:

Breakfast - steel cut oats with a few dried cherries, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, maple sugar flakes, cinnamon, nutmeg, and low-fat milk

Snack - Green monster (spinach, milk, flax meal, 1/2 scoop protein powder, banana), half a grapefruit, string cheese

Lunch - Leftover chicken and garbanzo soup (chicken, leeks, garbanzos, homemade stock)

Snack - Half an apple with a small yogurt cup, two small squares of very dark chocolate

Exercise - 3-4 mile run (-5 windchill doesn't thrill me...may stick with the treadmill today)

Dinner - BBQ chicken pizza (chicken, Trader Joe's barbeque sauce, green onion, sharp cheddar, red bell pepper, GF crust)

Snack - (undecided) GF banana bread and decaf

I'm also carrying around a water bottle, something I seem to have gotten out of the habit of doing now that I'm not parked in front of my computer for work. Hopefully by this time next week (I know, these things can't be rushed) I'll be fitting into my jeans like I normally would. That's solid motivation to be mindful of my eating at this weekend's SuperBowl party!

Stay normal!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chicken & White Bean Soup

Also known as, "How to make a week's worth of lunches and clear out some leftovers at the same time"...

Last Tuesday before running group, I started a CrockPot full of white bean & leek soup from The Eat-Clean Diet cookbook. Because I was so pleased with the rutabaga from this frittata, I thought I'd add one to the soup. More veggies = good, right? Well, only if you take into account the size/texture of said veggies, and give your recipe long enough to cook.

I did not.

Thus, we came home after running to find a slow cooker of delicious-smelling, hearty-looking, mostly-inedible soup. ::sad trombone:: The rutabagas were downright crunchy. I cranked it back up to HIGH while The H put the little guy to bed, after which the two of us raided the leftovers-for-lunch stash for our own dinners. Two hours later, the soup was ready. Too bad it was 11pm. The H had a small serving, declared it very good, and helped me portion out the rest for *more* leftovers.
This soup just keeps getting better. Yesterday when I reheated some for lunch, I added a sprinkle of Penzey's Parisien Bonnes Herbes, a salt-free seasoning blend I got for Christmas. Next time I make the soup I'll add some of that to begin with! What a great complement. I was fascinated to see that the rutabagas turned more golden as the soup aged; they almost looked like butternut squash yesterday. 

This was the perfect meal to have waiting for me after a frigid (-2 with the windchill) 6 mile run! I love refueling with filling, clean food.
Chicken and White Bean Soup
from The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno
makes 12 cups

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 leeks, whites and centers only, chopped (rinse very well and drain in a colander)
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage or 1/2 tsp dried sage
6 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock
2 cups water
2 cups cooked white beans (I used cannelini)
2 lbs chicken breast, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
8oz package frozen spinach, thawed and partially drained (I omitted this)

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add leeks and onion. Cook 5 minutes, or until clear and softening. Add sage and cook 2 more minutes. Add broth and water; bring to a boil. Stir in chicken, beans, and spinach. Continue cooking until heated through.

Nutrition info per serving:
Calories - 176
Protein - 22g
Fat - 4g
Carbs - 16g

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A tiny happy moment

This morning the little guy and I were reading one of my favorite childhood books, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs At one point, it mentions that Brussels sprouts with mayonnaise was one of the meals delivered from the sky (confused? Go read the book!).

Half an hour later as we were making breakfast, he says to me, "Momma what's may-na-...may-no...may-ya-nays?" I had to explain that it was a kind of sauce that some people liked to put on their sandwiches and burgers. We haven't had it around since he was born! That made me smile, inside and out. :)