Sunday, June 26, 2011

Squeaky-clean eating

Ah, Sunday night. How'd you get here so fast? Having The H gone Thursday/Friday, planning the little guy's birthday party (and then hosting and cleaning up after it) on Saturday, spending time at church, then grocery shopping, meal planning, and a bit of gardening (more on that later) on Sunday all have a way of making precious "time off" go by too quickly.

In the interest of efficiency, I focused on just one resource for planning my menu this week, rather than pulling favorites and newbies from various places. The majority of my meals come from the book "Squeaky Gourmet: Simple * Clean * Food" by Maureen Jeanson and Jamie Wilson.
The authors were kind enough to send me a copy this past winter, when I was out of work and looking for some hobby reading to occupy my time. I'm excited to try them--we made three of them today alone!--and share the results with you. Virtually, of course. Unless you call ahead.

Here's what I came up with:
Mexican Burgers + Mom's Mexican Rice
Chicken with Olive-Tomato Relish + Quinoa with Caramelized Onions
Honey Lime Chicken + Lemon Quinoa with Asparagus
Sweet Potato Breakfast Cakes + Vanilla Cappuccino Shake
Thai Coconut Shrimp - this will be a lunch for me, since The H is allergic

I *love* flipping through a new cookbook or magazine for fresh ideas. The H couldn't believe how many sticky-notes I had flagging the pages of this book already. It's shaping up to be one of my new favorites! Hopefully in a few days I'll be able to post a more thorough review as I get a chance to cook through more of the recipes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Decadent crispy chocolatey goodness

When you think "rice crispy treats" what might come to mind (other than the fact that I spelled it with a "c" because the "k" version is a registered trademark) is the gooey marshmallow version that begins with melting a whole stick of butter. Perhaps you've even had one that includes chocolate or butterscotch chips (I know I have...yum).

Well. This recipe contains none of those. And it's phenomenal.
Chocolate Hazelnut Crispy Squares
from Clean Eating Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 3
serves 24

1/2 cup unsalted raw hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups unsweetened brown rice cereal (gluten free, if you so desire--Rice Krispies are not)
3/4 cup rolled oats (again, GF if you need that)
2 1/2 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao or more), broken into pieces
1 cup unsweetened dried pitted dates, pureed
1/2 cup unsalted hazelnut butter (or other unsalted natural nut butter)
2 Tbsp raw honey

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine hazelnuts, cereal, and oats. Mix well and set aside.

2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (small bowl set above a pot of simmering water). When melted, remove top part of double boiler from the heat and stir in pureed dates, nut butter, and hone. Stir carefully with a wooden spoon until combined. If mixture becomes difficult to mix, set over simmering water as needed.

3. Add chocolate mixture to bowl with cereal and fold in with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Spread into a 9"x12" pan, pressing firmly to even out the top. Refrigerate 30 minutes to let bars set. Cut into bars and serve.

These can also be rolled into truffle-like balls rather than into bars.

Nutrition information per 1 1/2 inch square:
Calories - 110
Fat - 6g
Carbs - 13g
Fiber - 2g
Sugars - 7g
Protein - 2g
Sodium - 0.25mg
Cholesterol - 0mg

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gluten-free coconut macaroons

I've always loved macaroons--sweet, soft, coconutty goodness. While it's true that many macaroon recipes are gluten-free, the majority of them also call for sweetened condensed milk. No thanks! A web search led me to this recipe. For us, it's kind of a non-issue that they're gluten-free, because The H doesn't like coconut anyway. But I do, and I was excited to try these! In a half-sized batch, of course. No need to go crazy up in here.
Gluten-Free Coconut Macaroons
from Elana's Pantry
makes 24

6 egg whites
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup agave nectar**
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

1. Beat egg whites with salt until stiff peaks form.

2. Fold in agave, vanilla, and coconut.

3. Drop batter 1 Tbsp at a time on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

4. Bake at 350* for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet briefly, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
My batter was a bit wet, and some agave leaked out around the edges while they baked, making (very yummy) caramel-like puddles around some of the cookies. Those were easily removed without harming the finished product. Which, by the way, is soft. A bit sticky. And sweet. And coconutty. Perfect. The little guy has already chomped his way through three of them, proclaiming them delicious. LOVE that kid.

**There is some controversy about agave and how much better--if at all--it is than high fructose corn syrup. Read some articles/blogs (I like this one) and use your own judgment.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Coconut Chicken

I hadn't originally flagged this recipe when I flipped through the September/October 2010 issue of Clean Eating Magazine, but at second glance (as is the case for many dishes I make from there) it caught my eye and got added to my meal plan.
Coconut Chicken with Pineapple-Strawberry Salsa
from Clean Eating Magazine, Vol. 3, Issue 5
serves 4

1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup light coconut milk, divided
4 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced, divided
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb)
1/2 small fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced (about 2 cups)
10 large strawberries (about 8 oz), diced
5 oz mixed greens

1. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup coconut milk with white parts of scallion, salt, and pepper. Add chicken and let marinate at room temperature 30 minutes, or covered in the fridge overnight.

2. In another large bowl, combine remaining 1/3 cup coconut milk with green parts of scallion. Stir in pineapple chunks and diced strawberries (I also added a seeded, diced jalapeƱo). Set aside, or if not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Heat a grill (or grill pan) over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 5-7 minutes per side, until cooked through and juices run clear.

4. Divide chicken and greens evenly among four plates. Top each serving with fruit salsa and serve.

The little guy wasn't into the chicken, so he had turkey breast, string cheese, and assorted fruits. With the exception of the bell pepper, which he said was sour (he preferred the red one he had before dinner), he cleaned his plate.

Nutrition information per 4oz chicken + 1/2 cup salsa:
Calories - 214
Fat - 4g
Carbs - 17g
Fiber - 3g
Sugars - 11g
Protein - 28g
Sodium - 90mg
Cholesterol - 65m

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summery salmon salad

Last year when I got the July/August 2010 issue of Clean Eating Magazine, I put this meal on my mental to-try list. Buying salmon isn't something I do often, thanks to The H's allergy and my desire to purchase small portions of wild-caught fish (the co-op requires a 2lb minimum), so it's something I have to plan ahead for since I don't often have fillets in the freezer.

Today my restock-the-pantry travels led me right to the door of one of our favorite local meat places, and I made it a point to grab a few small ones--mostly for this recipe, and to have a spare.
Arugula, Asparagus, & Salmon
from Clean Eating Magazine, Vol. 3, Issue 4
serves 4

12oz wild salmon fillet, skin and bones removed
Olive oil cooking spray
2 cups asparagus tips
2 cups blackberries, divided
2 tsp raw honey
4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp dark sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
6 cups arugula
4 large scallions, sliced on the diagonal

1. Preheat the ovven to 400* and spritz a baking sheet with oil. Divide the salmon into four pieces, place on baking sheet, and bake 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Set a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water and steam asparagus for 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Rinse with cool water and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, mash 16 of the blackberries, then add honey, soy sauce, oil, and orange juice. Stir to combine.

4. Divide arugula among four plates, then top each with asparagus, scallions, a piece of salmon, and reserved blackberries. Drizzle each portion with blackberry dressing and serve.

I subbed cranberry juice for the orange, used organic spring mix (which was surprisingly arugula-heavy) instead of the arugula, and omitted the asparagus because I forgot it was called for and didn't have any.

This was a light, fresh lunch that I didn't feel one bit guilty about eating after my many errands this morning, like I would have if I'd dashed to Buffalo Wild Wings... The salmon I used was 8oz (I halved everything else); once it was cooked, I packaged up half of it with half of the blackberry-honey sauce for tomorrow's lunch.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Good news/bad news

Good news: I was able to maintain my weight while eating mainly from restaurants (ok, and a few street vendors...) for two weeks straight
Bad news: While the number is the same, I can tell I'm more "fluffy" than usual, no doubt due to decreased mileage and no work with weights

Good news: I get to shop and cook in my own kitchen this week!
Bad news: The H is out of town at least two nights
More good news: I can make the Thai Coconut Shrimp I came across in an old Clean Eating Magazine

Good news: The little guy's birthday is Saturday!
Bad news: In less than a week, I'll be the mom of a THREE year old
More good news: My parents, grandma, in laws, and sister (+ bro-in-law + nephews!) are coming to celebrate with us :)

In other news, on my menu this week:

Coconut Chicken
Thai Coconut Shrimp
Leftover chicken-salsa-rice
Electric Cheetah
Girls' run (salad night)
*Possibly* chicken-fried steak (yes, it's a clean-eating recipe!) if it's not too hot
Pizza for the little guy's birthday, per his request

Oh, and yes, I did get my familiar-turf run done today! That felt good. :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tonight, tonight

I'll sleep in my own bed tonight!

And tomorrow I'll go for a run on familiar streets, free from clouds of secondhand smoke, in an area where I *know* people. After that, I'll go to my own church with my own family, have lunch that (hopefully) doesn't come from a restaurant, not surrounded by hundreds of strangers, and restock my full-sized refrigerator with beautiful fresh produce from the grocery store a few blocks away.

Home, sweet home! It was a good trip, but man, it's nice to be in our own space again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

With a little help from my friends...

I mean, Trader Joe's and the Marriott breakfast buffet, I was able to refuel with steel-cut oats topped with walnuts after my 4-mile run this morning. While I do appreciate having things I don't buy at home, like bagels and cream cheese, when we travel, having them fairly often for two weeks isn't very smart. Granted, I have been mixing it up a little--eggs and toast, English muffin and peanut butter, fruit and yogurt--but it still felt really nice to get back to those old familiar oats.

Today the little guy told me he's "done with Phillyadelphia" and wants to go back to Michigan now. When I mentioned that maybe he'd get to have his new big boy bed for his birthday and not his crib* anymore, he clapped and said, "Yeah, and not a couch!" Poor kid...he's been an AMAZING traveling buddy, as usual, but it's quite apparent that he's tired of the nomad lifestyle. We have one more full day here, ending with a laid-back pizza dinner with my friend and her family. Oh, and packing. Lots and lots of packing.

(Has anyone ever shipped their dirty laundry home to lighten the suitcases on the return trip? Anyone?)

*Yep, it's true. As of two weeks ago, we still had our almost-three-year-old in a crib. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. However, after sleeping very well in a queen bed, a toddler bed, and on a couch made up as a bed, we think going back to the crib especially when he is nearly potty trained, would make it broke. :(

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to not feel like a boat...

after eating at the Hard Rock Cafe: order two shrimp skewers (total: 12 large grilled shrimp) and a side of "confetti rice" (mixed with pea pods, corn, broccoli). It was more filling than it sounds, but still way lighter than any of the other options. I love that HRC lists the calorie *and* sodium counts of each item on their menu. Too much salt in a day makes me feel gross. I was very happy with this lightly satisfying dinner after almost two weeks of meals-from-menus!

The H and I ground some of our Ocean City Blend (decaf) coffee after the little guy went to bed, and now I'm perusing some running routes for tomorrow morning. Philly is a really cool city, FYI. I just wish there weren't so many people smoking everywhere we walk... :z

Monday, June 13, 2011

First day in Philly

After a whirlwind tour of the great state of Pennsylvania, we arrived safely in Philadelphia last night. Our hotel room is situated in a way that we have a great view of "dat building wif dat man on it" according to the little guy. He and I spent the morning exploring our surroundings, playing on the giant game pieces at the municipal building, and bumming around Trader Joe's. Yum. I picked up a few snacks for us to have around this week (string cheese, hummus, rice crackers, dark chocolate) and some breakfast options (bananas, steel-cut oats, gluten-free Puffins cereal) to have when the breakfast buffet gets wearying. We had lunch in our room before he went down for an early nap. Being pushed around in a stroller for a few hours is apparently very hard work for this almost-three-year-old.

Post-nap found us in search of the Bath & Body Works I found on Google Maps (I need more lotion! It's all on sale!) and killing time waiting for The H to get back from work. For dinner, we ended up at a teeny little non-chain place called Giorgio on Pine. And that is where we wish we could spend the rest of our week.

Service was friendly, attentive, helpful, and fun. Portions were massive. They were *great* with the little guy, who wasn't so sure about this "fancy" place. It's a BYOB restaurant, but we didn't have any B (or W, actually) so that didn't matter. The owner, Giorgio, who recognized us from the phone call The H had made asking about a kids' menu, included a complementary creme brulee for dessert, after making sure The H was aware of all their (delicious) gluten-free options. Once he knew The H was gluten free, Giorgio brought The H his own package of crispy GF breadsticks so he could enjoy the garlic-infused dipping oil, too. We plan to go back, even if it's just for a splurge dessert or cappuccino later in the week.

Tomorrow, the little guy and I are off to visit a friend, whom I haven't seen since roughly 1999, and meet her little boy! Wish us luck on the train. I'm a big fat chicken about handling my impossibly wiggly monkey child on public transportation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Eatin' on the cheap...on vacation??

Usually when we travel with The H, we've on the company dime. We try to use some of his daily food allowance to buy us ingredients--healthy meal/snack options--so we're not forced to eat out every night. But this week we're on our own, and I don't want that to mean all restaurants, all the time. First, because it can be expensive, and second, because I don't want to rely on fat- and salt-laden meals all week!

The past two days we've spent nothing out-of-pocket on food until dinnertime, and one of those days included a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo.

We're fortunate to be staying at a hotel that sets out a fantastic continental breakfast spread every morning (included with the room rate). If we eat here, and bring a few extras back to our room for later, we can easily do lunch on the cheap. This time we took advantage of the little guy's insulated lunch box--previously filled with airplane activities-- and the icemaker in our room, and were able to pack a lovely little picnic for (nearly) free.

Here's what we had at the zoo:

The H: a few hardboiled eggs, gluten-free pretzels, and hummus (from our small grocery trip Monday), plus an apple and yogurt from breakfast.

The little guy and I: PB&J on wheat with peach yogurts (all from breakfast); he also had pretzels and hummus and some bites of apple while I had cantaloupe from breakfast.

We all brought our own water bottles, too. Having lunch this way saved us *at least* $30 (I think that's a conservative estimate) that we then had available for dinner. Plus, not having eighty zillion (unhealthy) choices in front of us, we all stuck to what we'd brought and that was that. No tantrums about this fried meal or that frozen treat! Love it.

Today's lunch was brought to us by "Kate's Tendency to Overpack and Plan for the Worst." Before we left MI, I tucked a few microwaveable soups and a box of GF mac 'n' cheese into my suitcase, in case we didn't have time to grab dinner at the airport between flights. My leftovers from dinner + macaroni for my boys + applesauce + more hardboiled eggs + chicken-rice soup = "free" lunch again! This was after we had breakfast in our room, which was a combination of grocery-store acquisitions and continental breakfast.

We even went so far as to bring our own coffee (and grinder...) on this trip, not really to save money, but because we're weenies.  

Every time we travel with The H, one (or both) of us complains that hotel coffee "just isn't the same" as our freshly-roasted-from-a-local-roaster java at home. So yeah, it took us this long to figure out that if we bring our own, that's not an issue! SMRT, I tell ya. We've been augmenting it with half-and-half from the breakfast buffet.

How do you (or DO you?) look for ways to save money on vacation?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hello, New Jersey!

This is my first time in NJ, and the first week of our 14-day adventure with The H. I started the week with a lovely run from our hotel Monday morning. Although I started a bit fast, it felt GREAT to be running without a training plan hanging over my head! (FYI, the majority of that third mile was downhill!)

Split Moving Time Distance
1 0:08:34 1
2 0:08:34 1
3 0:08:03 1
4 0:08:31 1
5 0:08:23 1
6 0:00:23 0.05
 Summary 0:42:28 5.05

After I refueled (peanut butter toast, yogurt, melon) and got cleaned up, we set out for the Adventure Aquarium, where the little guy had a blast watching sharks, penguins, seals, and fish. He almost didn't stay awake through lunch, but lucky for us took a two-hour nap once we got back to our room. Whew!

Post-nap = pool. The water was a bit chilly (it was kind of breezy out) but I bet in a few days when the temp hits 98* or higher we will find ourselves there again. For dinner, we gladly gave our business to Pizza Pomodoro, which advertises an extensive gluten-free menu. Yay! A bit of brief grocery shopping followed, then it was home for bed. Whew! Great first day--looking forward to the rest of the week.

I forgot the camera cable, so no pics until I figure out how to upload from my phone or 'til I have The H load the memory card into his laptop...but trust me, there will be some! (Think: little guy in a full-body rashguard/wetsuit, complete with built-in Superman-esque swim floaties at the chest and back...)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Well that flew by...

Has it really already been a week since we headed up to Traverse City for the marathon? Having a shortened week/long weekend to kick off this past week kind of messed me up. Here it is, Friday again, and I feel like it's only Wednesday. I suppose there are worse things...

Today is a whirlwind of laundry, packing, and shopping for me as we get ready for our two-week trip to Pennsylvania. Got any great "must-see" recommendations, or a gluten-free restaurant we should try?

Our meals for the past week were more or less cobbled together at the last minute, but pretty decent if I must say so myself. Last night we had grilled cubed round steak, corn on the cob, leftover potato salad, and fresh-from-the-co-op grilled asparagus. I used grapeseed oil instead of olive oil on the asparagus, which I don't recommend, but otherwise it was a good meal. We've also had one of my favorites, "fridge cleanout pizza." It was topped with mushrooms, green pepper, onion, and co-op beef pepperoni. YUM.

Tonight I'll probably throw some chicken breast on the grill, sauce it with Trader Joe's BBQ sauce, make some rice or quinoa as a side, and grab a green veggie at the farmer's market while I'm running errands. How handy that I just discovered a new market right near where I'll be shopping today!