What's Cookin'

Best Hot Cocoa Mix
This recipe makes a lot!  It's great to give as neighbor gifts.  

4 C. Non-fat dry milk powder
1 1/2 C. Powdered Sugar
1 C. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 C. Chocolate Chips (I use a mixture of semi-sweet, dark and white chocolate)
1 C. Powdered Non-Dairy Creamer (It's fun to use flavored)
1/4 t. Salt

Measure all ingredients into mixing bowl and whisk until evenly blended.  Store in tightly covered container.  

To serve:  Depending on size of mug, spoon 3-4 generous tablespoons of mixture into mug. Add to boiling water and stir well.  For a creamier taste, add to warmed milk instead of water.   

I found the jars at my local dollar store.  
Labels found here.

Iced Valentine's Cookies
I usually try to share only healthy recipes, but even us "clean eaters" splurge once and a while.  
Mother's Iced Circus Animals was (still is) one of my favorite comfort foods and when I saw all the blogs on how to make your own, I pinned every one I could find.  I mean, if I'm going to splurge, I can at least make it myself so I know that good, quality, chemical-free, hormone-free ingredients went into it.  So anyway, here is my version.
I basically used this recipe found at thefrugalgirls.com. 

However, I added one ingredient.  Their recipe did not have any vanilla. I worried that without it the cookie would taste a bit bland so I added 1 tsp. vanilla.

This vanilla is by far THE BEST vanilla on the planet!  It had the consistency of thick syrup and it has real vanilla seeds in it.  

See all those delicious little morsels creamed in with the butter and sugar.  Oh yeah, they make all the difference.

Once all the ingredients come together, you have a lovely little ball of dough...

ready to be wrapped and chilled in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  

Once chilled, roll out to about 1/4" thick and cut with your floured cutters. 

One trick I have found is to dust your counter with powdered sugar instead of flour.  It will still keep your dough from sticking, but will not toughen up your dough as you roll and re-roll the dough.  

Bake in a 300 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.

For my oven, 13 minutes was perfect.  

Now, here is where I departed from her recipe.  She used canned frosting for her cookies, but I decided a more authentic flavor would be had from using white chocolate.  
These can be found at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Walmart or basically any store that sells candy making supplies.  I bought the dipping tools there as well.  I recommend making the small investment.  It made the entire dipping process quick and easy.

Follow the directions on the package for melting.

Then, dive right in!

While the chocolate is setting, shake on your sprinkles.

Easy, peasy!

I bagged them up, attached a vintage valentine card I found online and voila!
If you are a fan of Iced Circus Cookies, I'm pretty sure you will love how these taste.  I found them quite yummy.
Please let me know if you try them.  I would love to hear your opinion!

CPK Knock Off Salad
A certain Pizza Kitchen has a delicious quinoa & arugula salad that is to die for and that I can't seem to find a copy-cat recipe for.  So, I went on their website to check out the ingredients to try to duplicate it.  My version was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  So good in fact, a good friend of mine has been nagging gently reminding me to put it up on my blog. So, here it is.

The first thing to do is cook your quinoa according to directions.  For my salad, I made about three cups of quinoa.  I like to make a lot to have some leftover for lunches. 

For added flavor, I cook my quinoa using whatever broth I have on had.  For this batch I used beef broth, but I have used vegetable and chicken broth with great results, as well.

Let that cook while you start on the other ingredients.

When finished, set it aside to cool. 

Next, you'll need about a pound of trimmed asparagus.

The easiest way to trim asparagus is to bend a piece until you find the spot it snaps.  Then, place that piece on top of the rest of the untrimmed asparagus and cut at same place.  It's fast and easy and saves you from having to find the tender spot on each, single piece.

Once you have your trimmed pieces, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle then toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle on some kosher salt to taste and put in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until tender.

Next, toast 1/4 C. of pine nuts.  to do this, simply put them in a pan on top of a burner set on medium to low heat.  Toss the nuts occasionally until browned.  Be careful, they don't take long to brown and can go from browned to burned in no time at all. 

Next, chop a half of an onion and enough greens to make  2-3 cups, depending on your own preference.  The ingredients on the website said red onion, but I used Maui sweet since they are my favorite.  I also do not like arugula so I used baby spinach instead.  You could use any green you like.  I've also used chard.  IT was delicious.

Now you start assembling your salad.  Here I have the cooled quinoa, onion and pine nuts ready to be tossed.

Notice how I had to switch bowls.  Anyway, to that I added 1/4 C. sun-dried tomatoes.

And the chopped, cooked asparagus.

To that, I added about 1/4 C. Girard's Champagne Vinaigrette and gave it a final toss.

And, voila!  This salad is delicious slightly warm or chilled.

I served mine with some delicious Chicken Oscar sliders with lemon-yogurt sauce.  I got the recipe from the Oxygen Magazine website.  You can see it here.

Be sure and let me know how your salad turns out. 

This recipe comes from the March 2012 Clean Eating Magazine  
Chocolate Cherry Drops

These cookies are so moist and chocolaty, I have to restrain myself from sitting down and eating the entire batch straight out of the oven. 
I have made them multiple times, even for those who don't subscribe to the Eat Clean lifestyle, and every person who has tasted them has loved them. 

1/4 C. light spelt flour
1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
4 oz. dark chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger.  The better quality chocolate you use, the better the cookie will taste.)
4 tbsp. organic butter, room temp.
1/3 C. organic evaporated cane sugar (I have also used coconut sugar and they were delish!)
1 lg. egg
1/2 tsp. pure vanilly
1/4 C. raw almonds, roughy chopped
1/4 C. dried cherries

Preheat even to 350.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt, set aside.
In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate.  It's faster in the microwave, but I have tried to melt chocolate in the microwave and I think it turns out better in a double boiler.  
In the bowl of your mixer, cream butter and cane juice until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.
Add melted chocolate and beat on low until just combined.  Add flour mixture in 3 additions until just combined.  Fold in almonds and cherries.
With a small ice cream scoop or melon baller, scoop about 1 tbsp of dough on to baking sheet.  Leave about 2" between each ball.  Press down lightly on each ball with your finger to slightly flatten.  
Bake for 8-10 minutes until tops of cookies begin to crack.  Let cool for 10 minutes.  
These cookies aren't super low calorie.  They are approximately 121 per cookie, but they are so rich one cookie is all I need to satisfy any chocolate cravings I have.  

Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

I admit, I have let this section of my blog slide a bit, as of late.  Let's face it, with all the guests I have hosted over the last month, I have had to let a lot of things slide.  Blogging is just one of the many things I am behind on.  But, I wanted to share this recipe with you because I just made it for the first time and it is yummy.
During this time of year, one of the weekly staples in our Underwood Farms veggie box is Kale.  Before the box, I was a kale virgin, so I've struggled with finding ways to incorporate this uber veggie into our diet.  
Then, I saw this recipe on the Pioneer Woman website.  It is her version of Olive Garden's "Zuppa Touscana" but like most of her recipes, the ingredients don't even remotely fit into my clean eating lifestyle. However, a few minor adjustments and voila, a cleaner, lower calorie version that my family gobbled down.  
A note on portions, I do not have to feed a large family of hungry ranch folk, so I halved the recipe.  We had enough for dinner and plenty left-over for lunches.

Here are my changes:
1 bunch kale, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces
6 Yukon Gold potatoes ( No "eat clean" reason for the switch, I just prefer Yukon Gold)
1/2 large onion, chopped
3/4 lb. Jenny-O Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake (I left this the same because we like a bit more spice than most)
2 cups fat-free chicken broth ( I make my own, but store bought is fine.)
1 cup fat free milk
2 cups fat-free evaporated milk
Splash of fat-free half and half (an oxymoron, I know, but they do make it.)
Fresh or dried oregano
Sea salt and Black pepper to taste

The cooking instructions are exactly the same, so I won't print them here for fear of plagiarizing.  If you want to make this, please go to her site and print off her recipe.  You can write my adjustments on the side.  

Let me say again, this was delicious!  I don't know what the original recipe tastes like, but I can't imagine that it is too much better and this version won't give you "the guilts".
Mangia, mangia!

Roasted Vegetables

I credit this recipe to The Barefoot Contessa.  She did a segment on roasted brussel sprouts that are to die for.  I'm not kidding.  Before I tried this, I thought I hated brussel sprouts.  No, I didn't just think it, I actually did hate them.  The only reason I even tried the recipe, was because we had a bag of fresh ones in our weekly veggie box from Underwood Farms and I didn't want to toss them.  Well, they turned out so delicious, roasting is now my preferred method for all root type vegetables.

So, basically, you start with any root vegetables you like.  Here I used carrots, radishes.  I've also used golden beets, turnips, onions and parsnips.  And, even though they aren't a root vegetable, I have also used red, yellow and orange peppers.  

Cut the ends off of the brussel sprouts and cut them into halves.

Now, here's where I do it different than Ina, because she puts the cut veggies directly on the pan and then pours copious amounts of olive oil in them.  I choose to put them in a zip lock bag.

Then I add one measured tablespoon of olive oil.  Now she (and all the other Food Network chefs) will tell you they are adding a tablespoon of oil as they pour it freely from the bottle into their recipes but I can tell by simply watching, they are actually pouring on about 3 times that amount.  And for those of us who watch our calories and try to eat clean, that is a serious difference.  
One of the hugest mistakes people make, is to eyeball their measurements when cooking.  One tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories.  So, using three tablespoons when you think you are only using one...well, you get where I am going here.  So, USE EXACT MEASUREMENTS!

Anyway, once I have poured in the oil, I add sea salt, fresh ground pepper and two teaspoons of thyme.  You can tweak this to your particular taste.  Then I close the bag, shake the veggies until they are evenly covered with the oil and spices.  

Then, I put them on a parchment covered baking pan and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Half way through cooking, I open the oven and mix the veggies around to make sure they are evenly cooked.  When they are done, you will have the most sweet, firm yet tender, vegetables ever.  I swear, it is a revelation!  Thanks, Ina.  

Mini Turkey Meatloaves

Our family has always been a meatloaf loving family, so when we started down the Clean Eating path I wanted to morph our fatty meatloaf recipe into something that would fit with our new lifestyle.
I searched and found a basic turkey meatloaf recipe by Ellie Kreiger of Food Network, and tweaked it until I got it just the way we like it.

3/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 C, skim milk
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/2 of medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 of a red (can use yellow or orange as well) pepper, finely chopped
1 egg white
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/3 C. ketchup
A couple dashes (or more depending on your taste preference) of Cholula sauce. Be sure and use Cholula.  In my opinion, it has a better flavor than any other hot pepper sauce.
1/2 t. sea salt 
1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper
1 (8 oz. can) tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large bowl stir together wheat germ and milk.  (I say wheat germ, but really any whole grain will work.  I have used everything from oat bran to 9 grain cereal.  Really, what ever you have on hand will work.  I just really like the texture the wheat germ creates.)  Let this sit while you chop your onions and peppers.

 Combine turkey, wheat germ mixture,  and all other ingredients except tomato sauce.

Mix until well combined.
Here comes the fun part.  Get out your ice cream scooper.  Evenly space level scoops of meat mixture on aluminum foil (I use Reynolds Easy Release.  They virtually slide right off the sheet when they are done.) covered cookie sheets. 

Spoon 1 T. of tomato sauce over each mini loaf.

Then, into the oven they go for 30 minutes.

So, here is my plate.  Two mini's, 1/4 C. cooked quinoa, roasted carrots, and freshly green beans.
I have had several people ask me why I don't just make this recipe into a traditional meatloaf.  The answer to that is portion control and ease of convenience.  Each of these mini's has 98 calories.  So, I know exactly how many calories I am ingesting with each one.  I don't have that kind of control with traditional style meatloaf.  I can't always be guaranteed that I will cut each slice to exactly the same size, so I could never be sure of the calorie count of each one.
This plate of food is approximately 400 calories:
2 mini's-196
1/4 C. quinoa-56
1 1/2 C. green beans, boiled-51
1 C. roasted (with olive oil) carrots-104

These little babies make a great pre-work out snack as well.  I have blood sugar issues which, if I'm not careful can cause me to get light-headed and dizzy when I heat up and sweat a lot.  To fend this off, I grab one with a small piece of fruit and I have enough energy for a hard weight training session.  

So there you have it.  One of my favorite, go-to meals.  I cook it at least twice a month.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  I would love to hear your comments.

Beef-Bison Sliders

I work out 5 to 6 times per week.  I also work on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  So, those evenings can be pretty rushed.  I usually don't get home from the gym before 6:30 and I when I do, I am ravenous from the spinning and weight training.
Dinner has to be fast, fast, fast.  I recently saw a recipe on the new HGTV Pioneer Woman show for sliders, so I decided to adapt it to my new eat clean lifestyle.
I eat most of my carbs during the day, so at night I try to eat higher in protein.  That means that I usually eat a protein, some vegetables and maybe a little brown rice or quinoa.  What is that you ask??  Well, I eat a lot of it so I'm sure, sooner or later, it will show up on this page.
These sliders are made from:
1 lb extra lean ground beef (95% lean)
1 lb lean ground bison
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. chili powder
Sea salt (I use Maldon) and fresh ground pepper to taste.
I then used an ice cream scoop to scoop out one level scoop of meat per slider.  Then I formed them into small patties and pressed my thumb in the middle so they would cook evenly.
I sauteed them on top of the stove and since even lean ground beef has an amount of fat in it, I did not add any additional oil to the pan for cooking.  They only took about 2-3 minutes per side.

So there is my plate, two sliders with a small amount of cheese paired with a large portion of green salad, topped with homegrown tomatoes, pickled beets and one tablespoon of Newman's Own Light Honey Mustard dressing (my favorite).  Delicious and totally satisfying!
You might be surprised that I eat beef. Yep, I do.  Beef is an important source of protein, zinc, iron, selenium and vitamin B12.  Yes, it is higher in fat than other meats, but clean eating doesn't prohibit any food.  In fact, fat is not bad for you, per say.  Bodies need some fat, but not a huge amount.  Therefore, higher fat foods are simply consumed in smaller portions.
You might be afraid to try bison.  Well don't be.  It is a delicious, more healthy alternative to beef.  It tastes similar to beef but has a more mild flavor.
Now you might also notice that this recipe makes a lot of sliders and I only ate two.  I always cook extra so I have healthy food to bring for lunches during the week.  I hardly EVER eat out any more.
Eating out a lot does not mesh well with the Eat Clean lifestyle.  When you eat out you have little to no control over what goes into your food.  Besides, once you make Clean Eating a habit, restaurant food just doesn't taste that good any more.