Carrot Cake

carrotcake

Today is my first-born’s 20th birthday! Sam is an exceptionally picky eater, which is a little frustrating because he wasn’t so fussy as a child. He used to eat many more vegetables than he ever would now, but he has always had an aversion to “wet” foods, as he would describe them. But one thing Sam has always loved is carrot cake. I found this healthier carrot cake recipe in a recent issue of Clean Eating magazine. After carefully reading through the ingredient list, I figured that this just might make it past Sam’s highly sensitive taste buds. He doesn’t always appreciate my attempts to make beloved recipes healthier, but I am hopeful that this one will be okay. Whether he likes it or not, I can tell already that I will love it! I will admit to licking the beaters after preparing the frosting, and it was delicious!

For the record, I substituted a gluten-free flour blend for the whole-wheat flour, because I do not have any wheat flour in the house at all. I also substituted sugar cane juice for the maple sugar, because I don’t have maple sugar either. Also, the recipe says to process the grated carrots in a food processor, but I skipped that step. Sam doesn’t seem to mind seeing the carrot in carrot cake. I don’t think those changes will make any major differences to taste or texture.

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

cupcake

This recipe comes from a site, The Healthy Chef, that I recently discovered via Facebook. Where various options were listed, I used avocado oil, 1% milk, and raw honey. The recipe makes 12 cupcakes, but I used a mini muffin pan (baked for only 20 minutes) and almost got 24.

Once the cupcakes were cool, I sampled one. I liked it. I think my kids might like them, although one is not a big chocolate fan and one is super picky. My daughter will like them, I’m sure. Mostly.

These cupcakes are not overly sweet on their own, but I can live with that. Even with the mini size, I found eating one to be quite satisfying. If the kids don’t like them, I can always throw them in the freezer and pull one out to enjoy from time to time.

Green Tea Pomegranate Lemonade

greentea

I found this recipe at the back of one of my Clean Eating cookbooks and instantly fell in love with it! This is the type of recipe that is easily adapted to suit personal tastes. In fact, I’ve already made some changes to make it perfect for me. While it isn’t free of calories, it is much lower than a non-diet commercial product. The only problem is that it does not last nearly long enough!

Put 7 green tea bags in a 2L pitcher. Add 7 cups of boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes. (Don’t remove the tea bags yet!)

Stir in the following:

1/4 cup raw honey (you can use up to 1 cup or you can use Sucanat instead of honey, although I find the finished product darker, which didn’t really affect the taste but I prefer the honey)

1/4 cup pomegranate juice

the juice of 4 lemons which works out to roughly 3/4 cup (you can use up to 1 cup or use less)

Chill for at least 30 minutes. Remove tea bags. Serve over ice.

Clean Eating Reboot

I’ll freely admit that I have not been doing a very good job of eating clean for quite a few months now. I can blame that on stress, busyness, major surgery, and a host of other things, but the truth is that those are merely excuses. All those excuses certainly play a role in my life, but they are simply things that happen in the course of life. They do not define me, and they certainly should not have any power over me. I have reached the point where I am thoroughly disgusted with my eating habits and ready to jump back on the clean eating wagon. I know it won’t be easy. This is the crazy, busy part of our year, so my organization and determination are often about as strong as paper-mache in the rain.

Since I am about to re-boot this lifestyle change, here are the basics of clean eating:

What to do:

  1. Eat more. Aim for six small meals a day.
  2. Eat breakfast every day.
  3. Eat lean protein and complex carbohydrates at each meal.
  4. Eat two or three servings of healthy fats every day.
  5. Drink two to three litres of water each day.
  6. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables for fibre, vitamins, nutrients and enzymes.
  7. Proper portion sizes

What to avoid:

  1. All over-processed foods, especially white flour and sugar
  2. Chemically charged foods
  3. Foods containing preservatives
  4. Artificial sugars
  5. Artificial foods
  6. Saturated and trans fats
  7. Sugar-loaded beverages
  8. Alcohol
  9. Calorie-dense, low nutrition foods
  10. Super-sizing your meals

 

Quiche

While I often make frittata, I cannot recall ever making quiche, but I made one for dinner last night. (I forgot to take a picture-sorry!) I could not find a quiche recipe in my clean eating cookbooks, so I kind of cobbled together a couple of different recipes and made a ‘hope it works’ substitution to make something that would work for me and the ingredients I had on hand. This is likely not truly “clean”, but it would be lighter than a traditional recipe.

You need:

1 pie crust (I am horrible at making my own pie pastry, so I used a store-bought crust I had in the freezer.)

6-8 slices of bacon (I cut off most of the fat, then diced what was left before frying.)

1 cup grated Swiss cheese

4-5 green onion stalks, diced

4 large eggs

1 cup skim milk

1/2 cup low-fat, plain yogurt

1 tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper

1. Heat oven to 425F.

2. Sprinkle bacon, cheese, and onion onto pie pastry.

3. In a bowl, beat eggs lightly. Whisk in milk, yogurt, salt and pepper. Pour into pie pastry.

4. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300F. Bake another 30-40 minutes, until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

 

It must have been good, because there wasn’t any left after dinner!

Menu Planning

I did something on Sunday that I have not done for a long time. I sat down with a list of what was in my freezer and a couple of cookbooks, and I planned out dinner for the entire week.

I first seriously started weekly meal planning in January 2012. It was great while it lasted, which was several months. Baseball season was the beginning of the end of my planning sessions, because our household lives in chaos from mid-April until mid-summer. Having time to actually prepare dinner is difficult enough during baseball season, let alone having enough time to plan ahead. I know that is a cop-out. Planning ahead would make life simpler, I know, but living at the ball park for three months wears me down. So, my meal planning fell apart, and I never got around to picking up the pieces until now.

Meal planning is always a challenge. There are varying degrees of picky children and conflicting schedules in this house. It isn’t easy to find meals that will be healthy and enjoyed by every member of the family, and I really do not want to eat those few meals several days a week! My oldest, most picky child believes in four major food groups: Subway, pizza, tacos, and spaghetti! While I do enjoy each of those meals, I want more variety than that.

Making healthy meals is another challenge. I strive to eat clean, but it is often a struggle. I am currently avoiding wheat, which may not be a forever choice for me, but I do think that I will generally consume very little. Sometimes a recipe can be easily adapted to be made without wheat without compromising the taste that my kids expect and enjoy; however, there are just as many instances where the end result really is not all I would like it to be. For example, shirataki noodles are a wonderful wheat-free option in lieu of regular pasta. I’ve used the spaghetti-style shirataki noodles with stir-fry and with spaghetti sauce, and both were great. Even the kids ate those noodles without batting an eye! Then I tried the fettucini-style shirataki noodles and they completely bombed. Honestly, it was like trying to eat rubber!

So, planning a week’s worth of meals often feels like a daunting task. I want to try new recipes but know they won’t likely be appreciated. I want to make healthier choices, but I don’t want to be throwing out leftovers. I want the benefit of having a plan, but I struggle with the interruptions to routine that throw wrenches into my plans. I might plan a more elaborate meal for a particular day, only to wind up driving a child somewhere right before dinner that night, and there goes my plan! And then, sometimes I just like being spontaneous. There are a lot of dishes that I have to be in the right mood for, and you cannot plan for moods.

Despite all that, I did sit down and I did plan out a week of meals. Let me tell you! Yesterday was the first day of the week, but my plan already saved me. Mondays are always long days, because I work a full day and usually have somewhere to be in the evening. Yesterday was no exception, but I also had to pick up two children from two different locations, and I did not have a solid time frame for the one. While I had hoped to pick up both kids by 3:30, we were not finally home until 4:30. It was so tempting to stop somewhere and pick up something that would be ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ instead of sticking to my plan, but having a plan made such a difference. When I made the plan, I knew that Monday would be crunched for time, so I planned the meal appropriately. The ‘pick up something quick and easy’ option would not truly have been as quick! By the time we would have picked up something up and got home, it would have been at least 5:00 pm. Instead, we were eating brown rice pasta with Italian sausage meat sauce and Caesar salad shortly after 5:00.

So, here is the rest of my meal plan for the week:

Tuesday: Chinese chicken and rice, raw vegetables (leftovers for picky kids)

Wednesday: Shepherd’s pie, a green salad and raw veggies

Thursday: roasted pork tenderloin, quinoa, corn

Friday: roasted salmon fillets, roasted asparagus, green salad

Saturday: I seldom cook on Saturdays, because I start work so early that I am basically in zombie mode by late afternoon.

Sunday: black bean soup (sandwiches for the picky kids)

Brownie Cupcakes

 

Here is another recipe from Damy Health. I used almond butter instead of the cashew butter, but I don’t think it really made a difference.

My non-chocolate loving son tried one before I got around to making the frosting. He did not like it, which isn’t so surprising since he doesn’t really like chocolate. He said they tasted too healthy. If he only knew!

My daughter tried one without frosting and couldn’t wait for one with frosting.

These brownies are small and rich without being overly sweet. I didn’t pile on the frosting, so there was a fair bit leftover.