Change is Good for the Soul

I’ve been running since I was a young girl, that’s all I really did.  I did track team for some time in junior high school, but didn’t wish to continue in high school.  I was never a fast runner, slow and steady was always more my speed.  I liked the longer distances, where I could just settle in and enjoy the solitude out on the road.  I was devastated and completely stressed, when I thought I’d never be able to run again.  I definitely went through a very hard time emotionally and soothed myself with way too much food and wine.

Crawling out from the mess I made has been particularly hard this time.  I’m not getting any younger and the older I get, the harder it is to rectify months of poor eating choices.  Gone are the days where I could just burn it all off in a month.  It seems these days, no matter how hard I work or clean I eat, the pounds stay put.  But, if nothing else, I am a very determined woman.  I will get myself back to a comfortable running weight no matter how long it takes.

Long time readers, know that I am not a huge fan of change when it comes to exercise and nutrition.  I like things to stay the way they are and love to get into a routine.  My military/police dad really did drill routine and structure into my brothers and I, especially around our meals.  To change my workout routine and my nutrition at the same time is a huge undertaking for me, but at this point what have I got to lose – except a few inches and pounds.

Instead of running and risking yet another injury, I decided to give Crossfit a try.  I started going at the end of June and have been going at least 4 times a week.  This month, I’ve tried to up it to 5 times and if I can’t make it to the gym, I do the WOD at home.  Remember, we have a full gym set up in our basement, so with my husband spotting me I can do the work – no excuses.  It’s hard, but oh so motivating to do these workouts each day.  They are always different and you never know what you will get, other than drenched in sweat and spent.  They really break up the monotony of doing the same workout over and over again – think running.  The most interesting thing that happened is the more I go, the less I miss those grueling long runs.  I’m truly not at a long run weight right now anyway, so I’ve just been sticking to 3 and 4 mile runs when I can fit them in.

As for my nutrition, I just couldn’t get that darn scale to move no matter what I did.  I know from reading The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain that there are many foods that are thought to be healthy, that may not be healthy for my body.  These past two weeks, I’ve really dialed it in and cleaned up what I was eating and guess what that scale budged.  More importantly, I feel better and actually stopped craving that glass of wine at night.  Foods that I never really wanted to eat are becoming more appealing to me.  Yes, I have been doing a lot of cooking, but I’ve kept the recipes simpler.  Best of all, I think I will be able to maintain these types of meals when I return to my full work schedule.

Today, it is pouring rain outside.  After I came home from the gym, I decided to make three meals to have some pickings for the week.  I roasted some sweet potatoes with onions and garlic to be used as a nice base for poached eggs during the week.  902861B7-BA30-466B-A048-78AAF8033856.jpegI also have the crock pot going (which I haven’t used in forever) to cook some nice boneless chicken thighs with homemade BBQ sauce.  Finally, I’m roasting a tray of vegetables.  These vegetables include butternut squash, sweet potatoes and spinach with cauliflower cream sauce (dairy free).   It smells incredible in my house right now and I’m looking forward to dinner later.

Sometimes, change is good for the soul.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I feel rejuvenated and ready to keep pushing through this rough patch.  Each day I feel that much stronger mentally and physically.   If you are stuck in a rut, like I was, try something new.  You don’t have to try it all at once like I did, but believe me you will find that spark again.  Here is the recipe for the roasted vegetables I made today in case you want to give them a try.6A2B45FF-DE48-41AA-8CDD-F42CDB15E843.jpeg

Squash Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of nutmeg

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 head of caulifower, cut into florets
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. To make the cream sauce, place a couple inches of water in a large pot. Once the water is boiling, place steamer insert and then cauliflower florets into the pot and cover. Steam for 12-14 minutes, until completely tender.
  3. Drain and return cauliflower to the pot. Add the almond milk, stock, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the pot.
  4. Use an immersion blender or food processor to combine the ingredients until smooth. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a separate pot of water to a boil. Add the butternut squash and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  6. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes until soft .
  7. Stir in the spinach to wilt. Season with salt and pepper.

To Assemble:

  1. To assemble, grease a large baking dish with coconut oil spray.
  2. Spoon a thin layer of the cream sauce over the bottom of the pan.
  3. Arrange a layer of half of the butternut squash.
  4. Top with half of the spinach mixture, and then all of the sliced sweet potato.
  5. Drizzle with the cream sauce.
  6. Add the remaining half of the spinach, followed by the rest of the butternut squash.
  7. Drizzle the rest of the cream sauce over the top.
  8. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  9. Bake for 50-60 minutes until browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*Recipe courtesy of PaleoGrubs.com

Check out The Plant Paradox to rethink some of what you thought you knew about healthy eating.  I find it very interesting and does make sense with the struggles I’ve gone through.

The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain

Change Your Eating, Change Your Life!

Last week, I talked about how I needed to reevaluate my current nutritional intake and begin to make further changes to improve my health.  I am off for two weeks, so I have more time to read, learn and come up with a new plan of action.  My current goals are to: 1) Improve my health; 2) Improve my sleep; 3) Feel stronger; 4) Lose weight.  I have to accept that though I love to cook, my work schedule makes it hard to do much during the week.  I also admitted to myself that I do not wish to spend my entire Sunday, especially in nicer weather, cooking for the week and/or meal prepping.  I am looking to simplify my life, but make healthier choices by avoiding quick fixes.

I spent my first week off, reading and creating my plan of action for the remainder of the summer.  I will try out this routine while my work schedule is not a full one and hope that I can create some solid habits for when the school-year begins.  I mentioned last week, that I really liked a few of the recipes on the Paleogrub website.  They seemed to meet my criteria of healthy, simple and delicious.  Further, they do not require massive amounts of obscure ingredients.  In fact, I had many of the staples already on hand.  I decided to purchase the Paleogrub Cookbook and their ten week meal plan.  The meal plan is simple to follow and tells you exactly what you need to prepare all meals.  It gives you a specific plan for each day that includes recipes and directions for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The Paleogrub Cookbook is digital and once downloaded includes a search feature that is very helpful.  You can follow it exactly as written, or as in my case select the meals that you like.

I know that it is not realistic for me to think I will cook every single meal included in the daily plan.  Some days, I just want a smoothie for breakfast and that’s fine.  Also, what they say serves two people really serves my husband and I with enough leftover for lunch the next day, which is perfect for my work week.  Depending on how much you actually eat, I think you may not need all the lunches listed.  What I did this first week was preview the week and make a plan for what I wanted to cook.  I selected three dinners and one breakfast.  Knowing I will have leftover for lunch, I only selected one lunch this week simply because the photograph looked so appealing.  The plan also conveniently creates a shopping list for you, but I found that it included items for the entire plan as written for the week.  Since I am customizing, based on our personal likes and needs, I did have to modify the shopping list.  This was easy enough to do though, I simply emailed the list to myself and did an edit.

I do not make any money recommending this plan to you, I merely wanted to share that I thought it was good.  The meals are laid out separately by week and I downloaded them to my computer and now have them to return to.  I have noticed the scale moving down this week, which makes me happy.  I don’t feel hungry, or deprived and I feel like I look forward to both cooking and eating my meals.  Here are two recipes that I enjoyed eating this week.5E61D052-1C6F-4EF7-B01C-F7D8B8E13C6B

Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

  • For roasted carrots
    • 1 pound carrots (assorted colors or just orange ones) peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
    • ½ tsp ground cumin
    • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
    • 2 garlic, minced
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • Rest of ingredients
    • 2 small avocados, pitted and sliced or cut into chunks
    • 3 cups arugula or salad greens mix
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • ½ lime, juiced
    • salt, black pepper to taste

I followed this lunch recipe pretty much as written, with only two changes.  Instead of arugula, I used spinach and chopped romaine.  Additionally, I only used one avocado as I felt that was enough for us.  The salad had a bit of a kick as written, so either I added too much red pepper or it needs a bit less.  My husband loved the kick, so it was fine, but next time I will use a bit less red pepper.  I measured by eye, so it could be that I added too much.  Always adjust to your personal taste preferences.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Peel the carrots and cut them into ½ inch pieces.
  3. In a bowl mix the ground cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Add the carrots and toss to combine.
  4. Spread the carrots into a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 25 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  5. In a large bowl, place the avocado, arugula or salad greens and warm carrots.
  6. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lime juice and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  7. Divide the salad between serving plates and serve.

This recipe made enough for two to eat salad with ample leftover for next day’s lunch.

ThaiPorkPatties

Thai Pork Burgers

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. minced pork
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 green onions, finely chopped 2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp honey

I followed the recipe pretty much as written, with just one change.  I was not able to find fish sauce and googled what a substitute could be.  I used coconut aminos in place of the fish sauce, but you can use soy sauce as well if you don’t have that on hand.

Directions:

  1. Heat the grill to medium heat.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and stir well.
  3. Using your hand, form 6-8 small patties.
  4. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve hot.

I got four nice size patties out of a one pound package or organic ground pork.  This dinner recipe was enough for two with leftovers for lunch the next day.  The patties had a very nice taste.  We topped ours with a spoon of homemade paleo mayonnaise with a pinch of onion powder, garlic and cayenne pepper.

If you try either of these recipes, please let me know how you enjoyed them.  If you have a recipe to share, please leave me a message below.

 

To check out Paleogrubs recipes and meal plan, please visit their site at – Paleogrubs

 

 

Compromises

Sunday dinner is taking a different twist today.  We have been eating a lot of comfort meals lately and many have been meat based. Today, we are enjoying one of our favorite meatless Sunday sauce recipes.   My husband brought home a nice large eggplant today with hopes I’d make eggplant parmesan again.  Since we just had that last week, I decided to turn this beautiful eggplant into a meatless meatball for our sauce.  We’ve had this meal before and it is a nice change of pace from the traditional meatball, and surprisingly quite tasty.

My brother and my niece are both vegetarians.  George grew up on the same meals as I did and has commented on my recent blog posts.  I knew he wouldn’t be eating them though and began to wonder how to offer meatless versions of these family traditions.  I will be experimenting with that concept over the coming months and hope my brother will join me.

image
George on left, Michael on right, yours truly in middle.

During the recent snowstorm, I made a Chicken Schnitzel and George commented how the meatless gravy on spaetzle is often not quite as good as the version we grew up on.  We spoke that day about the mushroom gravy that goes on my Schnitzel. This mushroom based gravy is only used to top the chicken.  That recipe just needs one tweak to be meatless – change the chicken broth to vegetable broth in the recipe.   For Sunday sauce it’s easy to whip up marinara, but for us meatballs are a huge part of this favorite meal.  If I decided to never eat a meatball again, I’d surely be looking for ways to replace them in my sauce.  This eggplant “meatball” is one way to start thinking about alternatives to meat in Sunday sauce.  Today’s menu will include – Sunday Sauce with Eggplant Meatballs served over homemade, hand cut pasta.  Both will be accompanied with a nice robust glass of Merlot and football playoff games.

Meatless Meatballs – Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Eggplant
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Pour glass of Merlot and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen.3696CC4B-0446-4256-ABF1-53FED1C597C4
  • Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and trim off ends.  Make a few slits on the cut side and brush with olive oil.   Sprinkle lightly with salt.2881BED9-3233-4F24-BCA7-C8A79D3E2EB1
  • Place the eggplant on a baking sheet, skin side down.
  • Cook at 400 degrees 30 – 40 minutes, depending on size of eggplant.
  • Remove eggplant and allow it to cool before handling.
  • Scoop out the soft insides of the eggplant into your Kitchen Aid mixer with paddle attachment.
  • Add cheese, egg, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs to the bowl and mix on low until combined.  You may need to add more breadcrumbs if mixture is very soft.F3552CCC-0551-41FD-9EC0-06C9DFDC02F9
  • Roll the mixture into balls and dredge in flour. Fry the balls in olive oil until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.8365AB1D-CD79-4359-8265-EC2436D05429
  • Add to sauce and serve immediately.  There is no reason for these meatballs to cook in the sauce.  They are cooked and ready.  For less saucy eggplant balls, just serve plain with sauce on side.

Last week I shared my sauce recipe, along with the recipe to make easy homemade pasta.  Both recipes can be found by clicking on this link –

Sunday Sauce

Since the eggplant was large, I was also able to make Eggplant Lasagna.   Super easy and great for a gluten free lasagna.  This meal is made and assembled exactly like the traditional version.  The substitution was eggplant for lasagna noodles.    Slice the peeled eggplant lengthwise.   Place on lightly oiled baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.   Let cool, then assemble as usual.

 

How have you tweaked your meals to include meatless versions?  Please share some of your recipes with me.  I am always looking to try something new.  If you make this recipe, please leave me a note to tell me how it was, including any tweaks you made to improve it.

 

Resolutions are not Realistic

We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential. – Ellen Goodman

Every January, I hear people talking about their resolutions for living a healthy lifestyle in the new year.  They will exercise more, eat better, stop drinking and the list goes on and on.  But, resolutions are not always realistic.  They are a promise you make to do things differently, but most times they are never fully carried out.

Every January, gyms are overcrowded with people who have made these resolutions.  They vow to come every day and start off strong, but inevitably they can’t maintain this pace because it’s not realistic.  You can’t go from not working out to working out every single day without some soreness, or loss of motivation.  I don’t set resolutions, I make plans.  They often say goals (insert resolutions) are dreams without plans.  I can’t agree more.  So, this year, instead of making a resolution to do a list of things, spend time planning for your success.  Buy a calendar and plan your weeks for healthier living – when will you workout, what will you eat.  This simple change could put you on the road to success.  Now that I’m close to being cleared to return to full activity, that is exactly my plan for this weekend.

Happy Holidays and New Year to all my readers.  I’d love to hear what your plans are for 2018.  Leave me a message below.

Click this link  –  New Year, New You!  to enjoy my New Year’s column to help you get started on your plans for 2018!

 

 

Recipe Swap – Hot Toddy

I was under the weather this past week with a miserable cold and cough.  I wasn’t sure at first if it was allergies or a cold, but after a few days of horrible coughing I knew it was a chest cold.  Anyone that knows me knows I hate taking medicine, especially long term.  I did take something for the cough, but it really wasn’t helping all that much.  When all else didn’t work, I channeled my inner German/Irish grandmother and made myself a cup of hot toddy.  I couldn’t believe how much relief I got from that cup of tea.  I slept like a baby and didn’t cough during the night.

The next few days I had a cup or two of this mix and my chest cleared.  I do still cough occasionally, but overall am feeling better.  Those old wives tales sure do come in handy sometimes.  Here’s the recipe I used for my toddy.

Laura’s Hot Toddy

Ingredients

  • Organic green tea
  • 1/4 tsp raw organic honey
  • 1 tsp organic lemon
  • 1 tsp Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp Slivovitz (you can use Jack Daniels instead)
  • 1 sprinkle of Cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Boil the tea and steep for 3 minutes
  2. Add all ingredients and stir
  3. Sip and enjoy the warmth (I love the Cayenne pepper heat)

My first cup, I admit to using a full shot of the Slivovitz to aid my sleep and it worked like a charm.  First relief I had in days.  If you don’t want any alcohol (though over the counter medicines contain it too) you can eliminate the alcohol and up the sprinkle of pepper.

Do you have a home cold remedy recipe to share?  Please comment in the box below, I’d love to hear about new remedies.  If you try mine, let me know what you think.

Prince of Peace Organic Green Tea 100 Tea Bags

 

Madhava Natural Sweeteners Organic Raw Honey, 22-Ounce

 

Simply Organic Cayenne Pepper Certified Organic Containers – 2.89 Oz

 

Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, 16 Ounce – 1 Pack

 

Santa Cruz Organic Original Lemonade, 1 Quart

**Due to the alcohol in this recipe I do not recommend using with children, especially under the age of 18.  

Recipe Swap – Chicken Pad Thai

I’ve been branching out and trying new recipes that I’ve never cooked before.  I’ve heard so many good things about Thai food, but have yet to try it.  I saw an easy recipe that I thought might be something I’d enjoy.  I decided against purchasing a ready made Thai sauce as I was unable to pronounce many of the ingredients listed on the label.  I used a recipe for homemade Thai sauce found below.  I did not include noodles, but I’m sure you could.  The recipe was super easy to follow and quick!  The whole process took about 30 minutes.  It will be perfect for a work night stir fry and no I don’t have a fancy wok – yet.  The taste of this was delicious, but it was a bit hot which I love.  I’m thinking the heat came from the serrano pepper and not the sauce, so go easy on that if you prefer it milder.

Pad Thai Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp coconut yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. coconut aminos (healthier alternative to soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 tsp. organic hoisin sauce
  • 1⁄4 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp. organic ginger (I used minced ginger in jar)
  • 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. organic cilantro
  • 1⁄2 tsp.  no-salt seasoning

Directions:

1. In a bowl combine all ingredients and set aside until needed for your stir fry.   Copyright © 2016 Danette May and Mindful Health, LLC

Chicken Stir-Fry:

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 oz. chicken, cubed
  • 1 small serrano pepper, minced
  • 2 tbsp. Pad Thai sauce
  • 1 cubed organic zucchini
  • 1 chopped organic red bell pepper

Directions:

  1. In pan, add 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, zucchini, red bell pepper, chicken and minced Serrano pepper. Cook until chicken browns and is fully cooked. (I actually had leftover grilled chicken that I cubed so it was done real fast.  I cooked the vegetables for a bit first, then added the cooked, cubed chicken to warm.)
  2. Add pad thai sauce.
  3. Stir and warm.

Copyright © 2016 Danette May and Mindful Health, LLC

This was a meal by itself, no sides required but you could make a nice garden salad with it.  Be sure you have something to put out the fire in your mouth.  I drank ginger kombucha.

If you try this recipe, please let me know how you liked it.  It was part of a 30 day meal program I participated in recently with Danette May.

Some ingredients needed:

Nutrifera Organic Coconut Coconut Aminos 12.7 fl oz (375 ml)

Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce, 20 oz

 

NoSalt Original Sodium-Free Salt Alternative 11 Ounce (Pack of 2)

 

 

Recipe Swap – Gluten Free Gnocchi

Sunday sauce and recipe testing just plain go together. Especially on a chilly, rainy Sunday with nothing to do. I am always looking for ways to make this staple meal healthier. I am not gluten intolerant, but do try to limit the amount of food I eat that contain gluten. Pasta is the first swap I made and I rarely eat pasta that contains gluten. This week’s recipe swap is a delicious, easy to make version of gluten free gnocchi.

Gnocchi are soft dumplings that can be made from semolina, potato or various other combinations of ingredients. The recipe I made today was gluten free and delicious. It was a big hit and the texture was for me perfect. Had I not made them myself I wouldn’t have known they were gluten free. I hope you give them a try.

Gluten Free Garlic Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, strained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 clove roasted garlic (optional)
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 tbsp xantham gum

Directions:

  1. Strain ricotta cheese in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl for 30 minutes.  Drying out the cheese will ensure your gnocchi are not too dense. (*Mine really didn’t have liquid in it but I did this step in case.)
  2. Roast garlic in a ramekin with olive oil at 250 ̊F (Chop the tops off one clove of garlic but leave the remaining shell on.)  Allow it to cool and then squeeze the garlic clove from the bottom and work your fingers up, pushing out the roasted cloves. Set half of the cloves aside for sauce (or another recipe).
  3. Mix all ingredients together to form a dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. You want the dough to come together to form a ball but not be too dry or stiff, just easy enough to work with and roll without getting stuck to the table!
  4. Cut the dough into 4 sections and roll the first section on a lightly floured surface (using rice flour for gluten-free) into a long log about 1/2 inch thick.
  5. Use a small paring knife to cut the log into 1 inch sections.
  6. Roll the gnocchi with a fork or gnocchi board to create indentations or simply set the gnocchi pieces aside on a foil lined tray.
  7. Continue this process with the remaining dough.
  8. If you will be using the gnocchi later, wrap the tray and keep refrigerated until you are ready to use.
  9. In a large pot, bring water to boil then add half the gnocchi to the boiling water (cooking the gnocchi in batches will prevent it from sticking together). Boil the gnocchi for about 3 minutes or until they float on the surface of the water.
  10. Strain and eat immediately.

*Recipe base on one shared by Integrative Nutrition with substitution of one ingredient

Happily this made enough for my family of three with some leftover for today.  If you have a large family I’d suggest doubling the recipe.  Not sure how they will reheat yet, but I’m sure they will be just fine.  I didn’t bother rolling the gnocchi on my fork to make the dents, but I included those instructions should you want to do so.  For me the soft pillowy clouds were just fine as is.

Please let me know if you try them how you like!  If you have a recipe you’d like to share for an upcoming blog, please let me know in the comments and I’ll contact you directly.

Ingredients used:

Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour – 24 oz

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Xanthan Gum, 8-ounce

 

 

Recipe Swap

Pizza has long been one of my favorite foods.  I look forward to eating it at least once a week.  When I was younger, I could eat pizza five days a week for lunch and not blink an eye.  I probably could still eat it five days a week, but I’d have to blink both eyes now.

Growing up in Middle Village, everyone ate pizza at Carlo’s Pizzeria.  When we go home, we all flock back to Carlo’s for a slice of the best pizza in New York.  My family really couldn’t afford to order pizza often, but when we did what a delicious treat.  I’m guessing my love affair with pizza can be traced back to those carefree days growing up in the best small town ever.

Flash forward many years and I still love pizza.  I wouldn’t say I ever found a pizzeria that I love as much as my childhood one, but Staten Island has some darn good pizza.  The thing is as I’ve continued on this journey, I’ve worried about the quality of the ingredients being used in these commercial pizza pies.  We all know there are corners to be cut and money to be saved when running a business.  I don’t want my health to be connected to anyones bottom line.  I want to ensure that my pizza is made with the healthiest, freshest organic ingredients out there.  The only way I know to do this is to make it myself.

I’ve been making homemade pizza for years now and I must say once you make the switch you may never go back to store bought.  It’s really not a complicated process and knowing each ingredient used puts my mind at ease.  It’s been a journey of trial and error to perfect the recipe.  When I first started, I was buying the dough already made, but that sort of defeats the purpose of making homemade.  And, please don’t use jar sauce on it either.  If you are committing to your health and taking the time to make the pizza at home, please be selective about your ingredients, as well as toppings.

Here are a few options for the pizza crust, some healthier than others.  If you are not gluten free, consider using my favorite crust.

Ingredients 

  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients in order listed to your bread machine.
  2. Use Pizza Dough setting
  3. When finished let dough rest for at least 5 minutes before using
  4. Place on lightly greased pizza pan
  5. Add sauce, cheese, etc.
  6. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes (check readiness before removing from oven)

Here’s the directions if you do not have a bread machine, but I highly recommend getting one.  You can also buy a dough attachment for your Kitchen Aid mixer.  I have this as well, but prefer the bread machine as it takes the dough through the whole cycle including rising without me standing there.  Here are the directions if you do not have either of those options,

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in water.
  2. Beat in ½ flour.
  3. Add salt, oil and rest of flour (add more if needed to make handle-able dough).
  4. Rise in lightly oiled bowl.
  5. Place on lightly greased pan.
  6. Add sauce, cheese, etc.
  7. Bake at 400 20 minutes.

Here are two options for dough making at home:

Hamilton Beach Programmable Bread Machine, 2-Pound Bread Maker with Gluten-Free Setting (29882)

Mine is an older version, but I like that this one has a gluten free setting. I may have to upgrade!

KitchenAid Burnished Aluminum C-Dough Hook

Gluten Free Pizza Dough

I experimented with gluten free versions, but since I am not gluten intolerant and only eat pizza once a week I don’t often make it.  Here’s the recipe I found the easiest to make and closest in taste to traditional pizza dough.  Further, it’s one of the only ones that didn’t have an ingredient list a mile long and is pretty darn good.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 Tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water, divided
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and 3/4 cup warm water. Too hot and it will kill the yeast! Let set for 5 minutes to activate.
  2. Sprinkle in 1 Tbsp of the sugar a few minutes in.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour blend, salt, baking powder and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar. Whisk until well combined.
  4. Make a well in the dry mixture and add the yeast mixture. Add the olive oil and additional 1/2 cup warm water before stirring. Then stir it all together until well combined, using a wooden spoon.
  5. Lightly coat a baking sheet or pizza stone with non-stick spray and plop your dough down. Using your hands and a little brown rice flour if it gets too sticky, work from the middle and push to spread/flatten the dough out to the edge. You want it to be pretty thin – less than 1/4 inch.
  6. Put the pizza in the oven to pre-bake for roughly 25-30 minutes, or until it begins to look dry. Cracks may appear, but that’s normal and totally OK.
  7. Remove from oven and spread generously with your favorite pizza sauce, cheese and desired toppings. Pop back in oven for another 20-25 minutes, or until the crust edge looks golden brown and the toppings are warm and bubbly.
  8. Cut immediately and serve.

Recipe Credit: Minimalist Baker.com

If I update my bread machine, perhaps I can revisit this recipe and use the machine for the dough.

Cauliflower Crust

I’m including the recipe here, but I’ve only tried it once.  It was just OK for me, but my friends loved it.  I am a traditional pizza girl at heart and if I’m eating it, I want the real deal.

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds cauliflower florets, riced
1 egg, beaten
⅓ cup cheese for topping
1 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. To make the cauliflower rice, pulse batches of raw cauliflower florets in a food processor, until a rice-like texture is achieved.
  3. Fill a large pot with about an inch of water, and bring it to a boil. Add the “rice” and cover; let it cook for about 4-5 minutes. Drain into a fine-mesh strainer.
  4. THIS IS THE SECRET: Once you’ve strained the rice, transfer it to a clean, thin dishtowel. Wrap up the steamed rice in the dishtowel, twist it up, then SQUEEZE all the excess moisture out! It’s amazing how much extra liquid will be released, which will leave you with a nice and dry pizza crust.
  5. In a large bowl, mix up your strained rice, beaten egg, goat cheese, and spices. (Don’t be afraid to use your hands! You want it very well mixed.) It won’t be like any pizza dough you’ve ever worked with, but don’t worry– it’ll hold together!
  6. Press the dough out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (It’s important that it’s lined with parchment paper, or it will stick.) Keep the dough about ⅓” thick, and make the edges a little higher for a “crust” effect, if you like.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 400F. The crust should be firm, and golden brown when finished.
  8. Now’s the time to add all your favorites– sauce, cheese, and any other toppings you like.
  9. Return the pizza to the 400F oven, and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, just until the cheese is hot and bubbly.
    Slice and serve immediately!

Author: Detoxinista.com
A grain-free alternative to traditional pizza crust, that you can pick up with your hands!

This recipe and other easy recipes can be found in this book –

Everyday Detox: 100 Easy Recipes to Remove Toxins, Promote Gut Health, and Lose Weight Naturally

If you have a favorite homemade pizza recipe, please share it below.  I’d absolutely love to try it!

 

Homemade Revisited

As I sit here watching the morning news, I’m reminded of why I prefer to make my food from scratch.  This morning there are several recalls of food products.  Some are more disturbing than others and should be a reminder as to why it is important to have control over what goes into your food.  Apparently, there are golf ball pieces in packages of frozen hash browns, salmonella on chips and what the soup can says is not what was found inside.  These issues serve as a stark reminder of why taking back control over our food sources is critical.

I work long hours and totally understand the appeal of purchasing frozen foods for ease of cooking.  But when I hear of these types of situations, it increases my commitment to control as much as I can when it comes to my food.  Hash browns, for instance, are merely made from potatoes, onions and peppers.  Super easy to cook yourself and then freeze for later use.  Doing this would avoid the large production plants in which ready made versions come from, in which we wonder this morning about the quality control.  What else is in our food that we are totally unaware of!

Recently, I read about someone who found a bat inside a popular salad mix.  I would literally die if I opened my bag of salad and found a dead bat!  This morning, I’m hoping we all consider what we are buying for convenience that could possibly be replaced, like bagged salads, canned soups and frozen hash browns.  All of these items are easy enough to assemble at home to avoid mass production assembly lines.

Here are my suggestions for making this type of change to your food pantry.

Canning Food

Items like soup that come in cans are generally filled with sodium and lord knows what else.  Soup is such an easy meal to prepare at home, but not something you might have time for after a long day at work.  Luckily soup is an easy to cook ahead store meal.  You can purchase glass food storage jars and seal the soup for months in your pantry.  Or, you can place it in freezer safe storage containers and store in your freezer.  Making a large pot of soup on the weekend is super easy as it’s they kind of meal that can slow cook in the crockpot, or on the stove.  Once cooked, you divide the soup into several glass jars, seal and store.

The process of canning is fairly simple. You fill a clean jar with prepared food, apply the flat lid and the threaded ring to the jar and submerge the filled jar in boiling water.  The time for boiling depends on what you are canning and is the process that creates an airtight seal, keeping food safe for extended periods of time.  These are the jars I purchased when I was canning tomatoes.  This morning I went down the basement and brought them back up.  I plan to wash, sterilize and prepare for use again.

Ball Pint Regular Mouth Jars and Lids BPA Free, 16 oz, Set of 12

DIY Prepared Frozen Food

Open your freezer and look at what types of frozen foods you are purchasing.  Are there any, like the hash browns on recall, that you could possibly make yourself?  Hash browns are a perfect example of an easy to make and freeze food.  Cooking these at home and placing in freezer storage bags or containers when cooled give you homemade goodness ready to grab and heat.  I took stock of my freezer this morning and I have lots of frozen organic vegetables and fruit for use in smoothies.  I started purchasing them when I got tired of throwing out food that we didn’t eat fast enough.  I also have baggies with cut up banana and fresh blueberries.  This reminded me that I can purchase and freeze fresh vegetables to avoid waste.  I just need to invest in some extra freezer storage bags to place them in.  They may not store quite as long as the store brought variety, but I don’t need to store them long.

I have seen food storage machines at Costco in the past and am wondering if I should pick one up for freezing vegetables and fruits. I think this would help them maintain their crisp color and avoid any danger of freezer burn. This one looks affordable and might be an investment I make.

FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealing System with Starter Kit

Thankfully, if I am the person putting the fruit and vegetables in the bag, I’d be completely sure there are no extra critters inside my bags!

Make Your Own Salad Bags

The reason most of us purchase ready made salad bags is convenience.  I’ve had many a morning where I didn’t bring salad to work because I didn’t have time to wash, chop and assemble it.  Food prep will avoid this, but once you wash salad it begins to go bad if you don’t eat it.  I used to have a salad spinner that dried the salad after washing.  I may have to dig that out of my basement as well.  This way I would wash it, spin it, assemble it and store it.  Purchasing the Romaine lettuce whole is also more cost effective.  I could purchase my lettuce, wash and inspect, dry and assemble for the week in separate containers.  The trims can be added as needed to ensure freshness.  Most of the trims are easy enough to grab and go.  This is the type of spinner I have and I think I’m going to see if it dries it enough to stay fresh for the week.

Westmark German Vegetable and Salad Spinner with Pouring Spout (Green)

I’m excited to get back to my routes and rethink some of my food preparation practices.  I wish I had the time to grow my vegetables again, but I know I can’t maintain the garden properly.  Making these simple changes will get me closer to that and hopefully avoid unknowingly eating items such as golf ball pieces in my food.

What are your thoughts on these recalls?  Are you as sickened as I am?  Will you give these types of suggestions a try?  If you do, let me know how it works out for you.

Recipe Swaps

Coffee, the favorite drink of many.  Some drink more than three cups of coffee per day. Many never stop to think about the chemicals, pesticides or other issues with consuming large amounts of coffee.  The debate over coffee’s benefits are conflicting at best.  Research shows it is beneficial to drink, but there are also studies that show it can be detrimental.  For those reasons, I chose to spend some time revamping my daily coffee fix to ensure I am getting the most out of it.

Last year, there was a disturbing video on Facebook showing a little thought of issue with using a Keurig coffee maker.  As I watched this video, I vowed to stop using my Keurig immediately.  This machine, found in most homes and offices, has been shown to create mold.  It makes perfect sense that this could happen as water just sits inside of the machine’s inner mechanisms.  This dark environment is ripe for breeding mold.  Additionally, the fact that this machine and the pods used cause damage to our planet are not lost on me either on this Earth Day.  My husband and I when we used the Keurig always used the reusable attachment and did not purchase pods.  It was not only better for our environment, but more cost effective.

Aside from mold, coffee is a crop that is known to be heavily sprayed with pesticides.  Most people don’t stop to think about this when they are sipping up to six cups a day.  My husband drinks 5 cups of coffee per day.  If we didn’t purchase organic coffee, his exposure to pesticides would be extremely high.  Though it may be more expensive to purchase organic coffee beans, I am asking today that you think about the long term effects of drinking cups of chemical laden coffee.

Finally, most people use coffee creamers in their daily coffee.  I was a huge fan of french vanilla flavored creamer and thought nothing of adding it to my cup to make it light and sweet.  Others use artificial sweeteners to avoid adding calories to their morning cup.  Research has strongly linked these sweeteners to autoimmune diseases, as well as cancer.

With all these dangers lurking,  you begin to wonder if your daily cup of coffee is even worth drinking.  Then you read that coffee has many benefits to your health, plus you just plain love it.  The simple solution here is to do a recipe swap and upgrade your coffee drink.

Here is how I updated my coffee routine to ensure I was getting the benefits of drinking coffee while limiting the dangers.

Change Your Pot

I stopped using the Keurig after watching the mold video.  I definitely don’t want coffee laced with mold.  Honestly, I was so grossed out I don’t think I’ll ever use one again.  I immediately pulled out my old Faberware pot given to me 30 years ago when I got married.   When it finally died a few months later and I began looking for a replacement.  The newer Faberware pots did not have great reviews, so I decided not to spend the extra money to purchase one.  I purchased a Presto pot and absolutely love it.

An added benefit to percolator coffee, aside from the fact that it’s a hearty cup, is that it is hot.  I never felt the drip coffee pots, or Keurig made a hot enough cup.  I often put it in the microwave for 30 seconds just to heat and you know how I feel about using the microwave.  Here is the actual pot we purchased.  We also bought one for all our family members over the past year in hopes they’d make the change.  Not everyone has joined us on this journey, but we tried.

  Presto 02811 12-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Maker

My son purchased a French Press for his girlfriend. This is another great option for a healthier cup of coffee. This is a great option if you don’t drink a lot of coffee in one sitting. It wouldn’t be a good choice when you have a lot of company. Here’s the French Press I liked.

French Press Coffee & Tea Maker Complete Bundle | 34 Oz | Best Coffee Press Pot with Stainless Steel & Double German Glass

 

Change Your Coffee

I only purchase organic coffee at this point.  My husband occasionally picks up coffee on sale which is not organic.  I will drink it, but really try to limit my exposure to pesticides through coffee consumption.  If you order coffee at Starbucks they have organic options.  I’m betting you can request this when you go in for a cup as they do sell organic coffee beans.   I’ve tried many different brands and have settled on one of these two options.  Both are available through subscribe and save for further discounts.

Cafe Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee Medium-Dark Roast Whole Bean, Subtle Earth Organic, 2 Pound

I prefer to purchase whole beans for the freshest cup. I grind the beans on a weekly basis.

Bulletproof Whole Bean Coffee 12 oz.

This coffee is slightly more expensive so I only get one bag per month on subscription and fill in with the other less expensive option in between.

Change Your Recipe

I stopped using flavored creamers completely and will not use artificial sweeteners to replace it.  I’ve written and shared about my switch to drinking superfood coffee.  I only drink one cup per day and it’s very satisfying and has been said to improve your health.  When intermittently fasting, this coffee, with its healthy fats is very satiating and provides a nice energy boost.  Here is my recipe for coffee (based on bullet coffee):

Ingredients 

  1. 1 cup brewed hot coffee
  2. 2 tbs collagen
  3. 1 tsp ghee (or Kerry gold unsalted butter)
  4. 1/2 tsp organic raw honey (optional)
  5. 5 drops of liquid stevia
  6. dash cayenne pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 tsp raw cacao
  8. 1 tbs brain octane oil (or coconut oil)

Directions

Place all ingredients in blender.  Blend (hold the cover) until smooth for a refreshingly delicious frothy cup of coffee.

I played with this recipe for a bit until I got it the way I liked it.  The first day I wasn’t sure about this whole concept, but gave it a week.  I love it so much now that I can’t drink a regular cup anymore.

If you are a big coffee drinker, I hope you’ll spend some time reflecting and exploring.  Read up on healthier options for your daily cup.  If you try this recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Here’s the link to the collagen I use and the brain octane oil in the event you’d like to give those a try.

Bulletproof Upgraded Collagen Protein – Net Wt. 16 oz

Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil – 16 oz.