Posts Tagged With: Healthy Eating

Panera Hidden Menu Review

Last week, I stumbled upon Panera’s Hidden Menu. This is their new off-the-menu – menu – that can only be found online. From first glance, it appears that the items are all gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and paleo. Haven’t confirmed this, but it is probably a good bet.

The options looked very healthy, and I’m all for having fun with my food. I am not a big fan of Panera’s regular menu, but they I like their creativity with this campaign and it proved to be a great marketing strategy to get me through the door.

My first trip was during lunch and I ordered the Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad which was described as all-natural, antibiotic-free chicken, baby spinach, romaine, tomatoes, apple-wood smoked bacon, diced eggs, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. The girl at the cash register said I was her first person to order off this “secret” menu and she was excited to hear what I thought of the food. Unfortunately when I got my food, it was not the Power Mediterranean Salad. The salad that I received had chicken and spinach, but also had sliced almonds, feta and other ingredients. I explained that it was not what I ordered but the salad-maker seemed convinced that it was correct. I took my salad to whom I assumed was the manager and explained my situation, showed him my receipt (which was rung in correctly, as far as I could tell) and showed him my phone with the photo of what I should have received. He quickly corrected it and said it was a new thing. Normally I wouldn’t “complain” and would just eat it, but I was really wanting to try the item I ordered and decided to speak up to get what I want. While I was waiting for salad #2, I saw him fumbling around trying to find the laminated card that showed how to make it. The other employees seemed a bit confused about the whole matter and it was about 10 minutes of wasted time on my 30 minute lunch break. When I finally received the salad, it was tasty and looked very similar to the photograph.

Here is the photograph from the Panera Blog:

Panera Hidden Menu Power Med Chicken Salad

Here is what I got (the second time):

Actual Med Chicken Salad from Panera Hidden Menu

Pretty close, appearance-wise. Overall I enjoyed it, but Panera you need to do something about your hard-boiled eggs! They are so tiny and flavorless with a spongy texture, not fresh-boiled tasting at all. Another nearby restaurant makes up a beautiful cobb salad that has good hard-boiled eggs, so I know it can be done in the fast food service industry.

My second trip was over the weekend for Sunday breakfast. I am at home on the weekends, so we went to a different Panera location that is closer to our home and ordered the Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with Steak which is described as two all-natural eggs, seared top sirloin, sliced avocado & tomatoes. Again, the cashier said I was the first person to order off the menu. Same as the last cashier, she seemed excited that someone was ordering an item from this menu. Mr. Nine noticed a small QR code placed on the front of the cash register that said “Hidden Menu”. I completely overlooked it amongst the display of cookies, gift cards, and other things that clutter the POP display. Indeed, the menu is hidden! Once again, the “cook” was unknowing of how to prepare my meal. A cashier (manager?) walked over to help him get started, showing him the laminated sheet with the steps. It took awhile, and there was a heavy sigh as the cook had to go into the back to get an avocado, and then cut it for my order, but it was made with the correct ingredients. They say you eat with your eyes first, and sadly this bowl was not very visually appealing! It looked nothing like the photo online, and my “seared top sirloin” was more like cold roast beef deli meat. Eh.

Here is the tempting food photography that Panera lures you in with:

Panera Hidden Menu Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with SteakHere is what I received:

Actual Power Breakfast Bowl from Panera Hidden Menu

Even my camera was a little scared of this concoction, as proved by the blurry photo. 😉 The whole dish was served cold (except for the eggs, which never stay warm for long). The flavor was okay, for what it was, but it was ridiculously hard to eat! I want all Panera employees and management to sit down and try to eat this bowl with the fork and spoon provided. There is a lot of cutting required (of the egg, tomato, and lunch meat) and it is impossible to cut it into bites with just a fork and spoon inside of the bowl. I thought about getting up to ask for a knife (do they even have knives?) but it would still prove difficult to cut inside of a bowl because of its concave shape. It took awhile to cut and eat, but there wasn’t much food here so it was a good thing that I got to make each bite last a little longer. Would I order this again? Probably not anytime soon, but it has inspired me to create my own version at home!

The Panera hidden / secret menu is a cute and novel idea, but needs some work. Employees need to be better educated on how to make these dishes, and some further thought needs to go into some things like the hard-boiled eggs, the “steak”, and how easy it is to eat. I may go back another time (Hummus Chicken Bowl, anyone?) because they say that to see change you must vote with your wallet and I applaud them for creating healthier items that cater to the gluten-free and dairy-free crowds. Maybe if I vote a third time, it will help them realize there is an interest and work on improving and expanding.

If you have dietary restrictions, or are just looking for a lower-calorie, healthier fast food option, do give it a try and let me know what you think!

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Week’s Eats

In a rut and looking for some dinner ideas? Here is what I’ve been making this past week.

Hot Garlic Shrimp and Asparagus

Hot Garlic Shrimp and Asparagus from Eating Bird Food

My Notes: Flavorful and quick! We only used 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper and that was plenty. I’d think that the 1-2 teaspoons the recipe calls for might be too much for most people. You can always start out with less and add more! I added some red and green bell pepper, plus baby spinach, to increase the veggie-ness.

Elana's Pantry Chocolate Chip Scones

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Scones

Chocolate Chip Scones from The Almond Flour Cookbook

My Notes: Makes 12 (not 16). I wouldn’t call these scones as they lack the classic scone texture, but they taste like excellent pillowy cake-like chocolate chip cookies. Try them! I’ve made these twice in one week – once with dark chocolate chips and once with Enjoy Life! chocolate chips.

Clean Eating Apple Grilled Cheese

Apple Grilled Cheese with Grainy Mustard from Clean Eating

My Notes: Added smoked turkey for more protein, and ate with sliced honeycrisp apple and salt & pepper pop chips! Simple, super fast lunch!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza Closeup

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Veggies

Cauliflower Crust Pizza from Janetha at Meals & Moves

My Notes: Made a much smaller pizza than expected. Used up some veggies on hand (bell peppers and mushrooms). Baked on parchment-lined baking sheet, flipping before adding toppings. Not as crispy as I like my crusts, but nice and “bread-like”. Interesting concept, would try again with some changes, but good base recipe if you want to try working with cauliflower dough.

Tandoor Chef Pizza

Tandoor Chef Roasted Eggplant Naan Pizza

Okay, this isn’t homemade, but it’s out of this world! My local co-op had this on sale for $2.24 and it is worth every penny. The eggplant gets crispy, has a slight spice to it, and the naan crust is fantastic. The only downside is that these pizzas are small and soooo good that I can easily eat a whole one myself, and I do.

Clean Eating Shepherds Pie

Shepherd’s Pie with Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potato Crust from Clean Eating

My Notes: Liked this more than I thought I would! Good for a cold autumn night. Leftovers were equally as tasty.

All of the above are easy to make and QUICK. I work full-time and don’t have a lot of time and energy to spend hours in the kitchen every night. Most of the recipes I make are quick and require few ingredients.

What are you cooking up this week?

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Sunday in the Kitchen

Today was our town’s big 10k. I’ve run this race every year since I’ve been a runner (3 years) and this was the first year that I had to gracefully bow out. I’m still struggling with running injury-free, and while things are definitely a lot better than they were a year ago, I have to practice patience and learn not to push myself. I could have run, but I didn’t want to end up not being able to run the rest of fall, and then I’d miss out on all these windy, chilly, fabulous fall days.

Instead, today I stayed in and spent most of the day in the kitchen.

Mr. Nine took care of breakfast, delivering a warm heaping plate of scrambled eggs, toasted Ezekiel bread, bacon (!), apple-maple chicken sausage, and coffee to my warm place on the couch. I love having breakfast underneath a big blanket sitting in our living room. It is the only meal I’ll eat away from the table. For some reason eating lunch and dinner on the couch is a big no-no to me, but breakfast is okay. Probably because I am too lazy to move to the dining room that early in the morning.

After breakfast we walked down to the 10k race with cow bell in hand to cheer on some of our friends. Seeing those lead runners trailing the pace car was amazing!

Seeing the race actually made me relieved that I wasn’t running. I could just walk back home, not worry about splits, and instead spend the day at home being domestic. Hey, I did run a 5k yesterday so I’m not being totally lazy. 🙂

I started off by baking up a batch of Gluten-Free Banana Blueberry Muffins.

Gluten-Free Banana Blueberry Muffins in Pan

Gluten-Free Banana Blueberry Muffins Close-Up

These were good, although a little eggy, but since they lacked sweetener they were very mild. I secretly wanted to sprinkle on a bit of Truvia to make it a little sweet. 🙂

Next up was a throw-it-together pasta.

Gluten-Free Pasta Toss

I didn’t follow a recipe, but here is what I did:

  • Cooked a box of Ancient Grains Quinoa Pasta (Rotelle).
  • Removed the casings from a package of  Smart Chicken Sweet Italian Sausage, crumbled and browned.
  • Removed the cooked chicken and set aside, and in the same pan, cooked up a container of mushrooms.
  • Stirred in a few handfuls of fresh spinach until wilted.
  • Added a handful of multi-colored cherry tomatoes, sliced in half.
  • Seasoned with some spices (crushed red pepper, oregano, salt)
  • Added the chicken back to the pan.
  • Added the cooked, drained pasta to pan.
  • Poured in 1/4 jar of Newman’s Own Marinara Sauce.

That’s it! Super easy, yet healthy and tasty. This batch will last us for a few work lunches this week.

Next up were the Paleo Pumpkin Bars.

Paleo Pumpkin Bars

Paleo Pumpkin Bars Detail View

This is the second time I’ve made these in a week, they are so good! A note on these: I found that these need to be cooked approximately twice as long as the recipe states. I bake mine for 45 minutes, which could be that I use canned pumpkin. These definitely have a coconut flavor from both the coconut flour and oil, but I really like that.

I also experimented with dinner and made stuffed bell peppers with cauliflower “rice”. We really liked them, and I wrote down the recipe because I am planning on keeping this one around. I’ll post the recipe for that tomorrow.

No workouts today, but a lot of running… the dishwasher. 😉 We did have a last-minute trip to visit family due to an unexpected circumstance, so our day was full as it was. Dinner for tomorrow is already planned out, so I should have time to get a workout in after work.

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Difference Between Blanched and Unblanched Almond Flour

This year I began baking with almond flour. Most recipes will call for non-specific regular “almond flour” while others specify “blanched almond flour”. This intrigued me, was there really a difference? My local grocery store only sells Bob’s Red Mill and that has been what I’ve been buying and using and have found it to work well but I had nothing to compare it to. I was surprised to read that Elana, from Elana’s Pantry and author of the book The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, does not recommend Bob’s Red Mill (see what she says here) and instead favors Honeyville Farms.

Several years ago Mr. Nine & I had the pleasure of visiting Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, Oregon. I love his vision of the company, their products and facility! His almond flour has been working fine in my recipes, but it is really expensive so I decided to look into alternatives.

A family member recommended Trader Joe’s for having the best prices on almond flour and indeed they do! Too good to be true? I decided to grab a bag at TJ’s this weekend, and ordered a bag from Honeyville online to compare all three.

Almond Flour Brands

Here we have Honeyville Farms, Trader Joe’s and Bob’s Red Mill (in the container, unfortunately I do not have the original bag). Let’s take a look at all three compared side by side.

Almond Flour Comparison

Honeyville Farms Blanched Almond Flour – $6 lb.*
view on Honeyville Farm’s website

Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour From Blanched Whole Almonds – $10.99 lb.
view on Bob’s Red Mill website

Trader Joe’s Nuts Just Almond Meal – $3.99 lb.
view on Trader Joe’s website 

* Based upon purchase price of $29.99 for a 5 lb. bag since 5 lbs. is the minimum purchase. Please note that I did not include the cost of shipping or sales tax, if applicable. Prices will also vary depending on where you live and shop. I’ve seen Bob’s Red Mill for as high as $12.99 at Super Target down the road!

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal Flour Blanched

Shown above is Bob’s Red Mill. A nice light golden color (obviously blanched, even though that word doesn’t stand out on the product packaging) and is a fine texture. The packaging describes this as a meal/flour.

Honeyville Farms Blanched Almond Flour

This is Honeyville Farm’s almond flour. Very similar to Bob’s, just a touch lighter in color and is ground just ever so slightly finer. It would be hard for me to tell the difference if I was not directly comparing the two. I did notice that Honeyville was more fragrant in smell (a fresher almond aroma).

Trader Joe's Almond Meal

Trader Joe’s almond meal is darker in color and you can see the pieces of skin. This is a tell-tale sign that it is not blanched.

It is important to know that almond meal is not the same as almond flour. Almond meal is simply ground up whole almonds with their skins, while almond flour is blanched and processed into a finely ground flour. Trader Joe’s says “meal” right on the bag, and you tell an immediate difference by color.

I’ve used both Bob’s and Honeyville in baking and both perform as well as I’d expect. I’ve yet to try Trader Joe’s in a baking application (just bought it this past weekend), but I think it would be better suited for applications as breading chicken, or mixed into something where you wouldn’t mind the little pieces of almond skin. It might also work in a recipe where flour is not one of the main ingredients, or where the end result has a dense texture.

To me, Bob’s and Honeyville are virtually the same. Bob’s is easier for me to purchase since I can just go down to my local store and buy a bag. However, even with shipping ($4.49), Honeyville Farm’s almond flour is a heck of a lot cheaper. Depending on where you shop the savings could be 50%! The downfall to Honeyville is that you do have to buy it in bulk  (minimum 5 lbs.) but I will definitely use it up so I didn’t mind buying such a large bag.

In conclusion Honeyville Farms is the winner in my book because of price, color, freshness and how it performs. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Bob’s either, especially if you don’t plan on making a lot of recipes with it and don’t want to commit to a 5 lb. bag.

What brand of almond flour do you use? Have you tried Trader Joe’s Almond Meal in baking? How did it turn out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Looking for where to buy almond flour? Most stores like Jewel, Trader Joe’s, Super Target, Woodman’s, Whole Foods & Hy-Vee (to name a few) carry it in the gluten-free section or in the aisle with specialty flours and baking mixes. The most popular brand in my area is Bob’s Red Mill and it comes in a clear plastic 1 lb. bag. You can also order it online on websites like Honeyville (see link in post above) or King Arthur Flour. You could also make your own, but I’ll save that for another post. 😉

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A Healthy Food Community is Growing

Living in a community plagued an abundance of fast food restaurants and more greasy bar food than one could imagine, it is refreshing to see some healthy and creative women in our community combating that.

Rural Girl Soups

Rural Girl Soup to Go

Rural Girl Salad to Go

Last month, I had the opportunity to sample some soups & salads at a special event from a new soup delivery business called Rural Girl Soups. The concept is a weekly soup service that will deliver soup to your front door. The owner, Gail, makes all the soups from scratch and her husband Joe makes the deliveries. You leave a cooler with ice on your front step, similar to an old-fashioned milk delivery service. Rural Girl also sells colorful salads, cookies and resells hand pies from Over The Top Sweets in Elgin, Illinois and Potter’s Crackers from Madison, Wisconsin. (I just wrote about Potter’s in my last blog post, I picked up a package of their Rhubarb Graham Crackers at the Dane County Farmer’s Market!)

Jo Cessna Natural Cook

Then there is Jo Cessna, a lady who is helping us eat healthier one dish at a time. She calls herself A Natural Cook, and focuses on clean eating principles. Jo makes appearances a local events (I first saw her at a Progressive Wine Tasting last year), and does workshops and private or small-group cooking lessons. She also sells recipe cards and has a blog with more good stuff!

It is refreshing to these smart, beautiful, entrepreneurial women leaving their mark to help this community get back to real food. I’m inspired by these women and I want to be part of this real food movement and help to inspire others.

I’ve been busy in my own kitchen trying lots of new recipes. Most of the recipes I have been trying have been Paleo-ish or at least clean eating and gluten-free.

Mustard Lime Chicken

Elana’s Pantry Mustard Lime Chicken on the grill with a side of cauliflower puree. This marinade rocks and is so simple! Lime juice, cilantro, dijon mustard, olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper all mixed up in the Vitamix. I only had time to marinate it for 20 minutes (just long enough for the charcoal to get hot) and it was plenty of time! Loads of flavor here. The best part? I have a leftover breast that I plan on slicing up for a salad for lunch today!

Almond Cheddar Crackers

From the Almond Flour Cookbook, I made these Cheddar Cheese Crackers. They are made from almond flour, salt, baking soda, cheddar cheese, grapeseed oil and eggs. They were super easy to make (the oils from the cheese keep the dough nice and easy to form and roll), using parchment paper keeps things clean and pre-scoring them made it a cinch to snap after baking. I had to increase my bake time by 10 minutes to get them golden brown. They taste very similar to Cheez-Its only much better for you. I used a sharp cheddar from Wisconsin that I grated fresh (way better than the pre-shredded cheese!) and the flavor was great. The only thing I am not thrilled about is the texture which is a bit soft. It kind of reminds me of eating a stale cracker that has softened. 😦 I still like them enough to eat them, but wish they were crisper. This recipe makes A LOT of crackers so I may smash some and use it as a “breading” for baked chicken!

Paleo Breakfast Cake

Paleo Breakfast Bread. Wow. Super simple and quick to make! These contain only almond butter, eggs, honey, vanilla extract, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. The recipe also calls for stevia, but I left that out as I find it too bitter in baked goods. I mixed it in my Kitchen-Aid and then into the oven it went for 15 minutes (quick!). This “cake” has a mild sweetness and is really addicting!

Paleo Breakfast Cake

Moist, not overly sweet with a beautiful nuttiness. I usually wait for a cake to cool before cutting it, but I cut into this within minutes of it coming out of the oven. It tastes great warm, and sliced up fine. It also tastes good room temp. I had to stop myself from eating the whole pan.

I am in a baking mood this week, but a friend reminded me to focus more on eating vegetables and other healthy, clean, natural foods, and not just making Paleo-fied desserts and treats. I don’t always get into the baking mood though, so I am just enjoying it while I’m on a roll. However I will have to pay extra attention to adding more veggies into next week’s meal plan because I wholeheartedly agree with her (right after I make these Primal Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies). 😉

I almost forgot, I won Tales from an Average Runner’s Cryocup Giveaway! Mr. Nine made a ice massager from a Dixie Cup filled with water, but this looks better and more durable. I’ll let you know how it works once I get to try it.

Do you have any real food activists in your community? How are they making positive changes? Any tips on baking crackers that stay crispy?

Categories: Food, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Week of Food Highlights

This week may have gotten away from me, but I haven’t forgotten to snap photos of FOOD! 🙂 Here are some highlights from the past few days.

Butternut Squash Burger

Burgers with Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onions from Paleo Table. Served with Sweets & Beets and sliced strawberries. Loved a bun-less burger topped with butternut squash! However I could do without the sausage. Next time I’ll stick with 100% grass-fed ground beef and leave the ground sausage out. She has a method for doing caramelized onions, but I was short on time and just sauteed a Vidalia until soft and sweet. This was a great combo worth trying.

Vitamix Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup from Elana’s Pantry. So simple, just olive oil, onion, broccoli, water and salt. That’s right, no broth! I was worried it would not be flavorful, but it was. A good little soup to mix up in the Vitamix, however it was very watery and was more of a sipping soup than a soup you’d eat with a spoon.

Clean Eating Tarragon Chicken

Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon from Clean Eating Magazine. Great, classic flavor. The leeks loose their bright, light green color in the cooking process but the taste is wonderful. Mild yet flavorful.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Squares

Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars from Little B’s Healthy Habits. I made these with Truvia instead of Stevia in the Raw (which is too bitter for me). The peanut butter flavor is mild and it is not too sweet. A dense chocolate cake that is perfect for a post-gym treat. Very moist and healthy and a good starter protein cake recipe that you can tweak to your liking. Store these in the fridge since they are all natural!

Berry Tart

An early birthday cake from my sweet Mom – a fresh berry tart from Whole Foods! SO GOOD! Hands down, the best birthday “cake” I’ve had. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries & kiwi atop a vanilla custard nestled in a shortbread-style crust. This was unbelievable people, gone in less than a day. I went to the fridge looking for more tonight, hoping another would magically appear. It sure is a good thing that Whole Foods is an hour drive from us or else I’d be there now in my pajamas with fork in hand.

Homemade Tomato Sauces

My MIL stopped by today and brought all these containers of homemade pasta sauces. An entire shelf in the freezer is loaded! Any suggestions on what to make with these sauces? I am trying to stay away from too many grains today, so a gluten-free or paleo-friendly option would be ideal.

Finally Running

In other news, I ran my first 5k distance since mid-December! It has been over 4 1/2 months and it has been tough. I went from running 15 miles to zero due to my IT Band injury. I have lost some speed, but I almost hit a sub-30 and I wasn’t even trying for that, I was just having fun running in the cold rain on a cloudy day. I have a race coming up this weekend (I signed up in early January when I was still optimistic and didn’t think I’d be injured so long!) and can’t wait to pin on a bib number and hear the shotgun start. I am not going to try for a PR of course, just want to finish and have fun! A few months ago I was depressed and honestly felt like I’d NEVER run again. I’d run 500 feet and be in so much pain, even after taking weeks off from running. Looking down at my Garmin and seeing that beautiful 3.10 number really made my day. Hopefully I’ll be back to running half marathons again by this fall, but for now I’m taking it one day at a time.

What have you been cooking this week? Have you ever had to take an extended period of time off from running for an injury?

Categories: Food, Running | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

What I Missed About Running

One foot in front of the other.

Merrell Pace Gloves

Yesterday I headed out for a late evening run. While moving along inhaling the heady fragrance of lilacs, I realized what I missed most about not being able to run the past few months. It wasn’t so much the physical activity. There are other forms of exercise that you can do to keep your heart and body healthy. It wasn’t the thrill of racing, or the camaraderie of group runs (although that is indeed missed). What I missed most was delighting in the simple details that you experience during a run.

Lilac Bush

The smell of lilac.

Gravel Pitted Road

The uneven, pitted streets that collect tiny pools of rain water.

Brick Wall

The texture on the facades of buildings that have been around longer than me.

Lily Of The Valley

Sidewalks lined with lily of the valley.

These are just a few of the things I missed. Don’t even get me started on trail running.

This experience cannot be replicated indoors on a treadmill or elliptical. Sure I could take a walk outdoors and enjoy the sounds, sights and smells but it is different when you are running. Your senses are heightened. Your breathing is deeper and you inhale the smells around you more intensely. You are covering more ground in the same amount of time than you would if you were walking thus experiencing more. And since you are moving at a faster rate, each experience with a sound, smell, sight or feeling is so fleeting. You take it in and hold onto it as long as you can, before exhaling and releasing. Anticipating the next sensory delight which awaits around the corner. You could replicate this to a degree with bicycling, although I feel that some of the sensory elements are removed since you are moving faster. (Although I adore cycling for other reasons which I’ll share someday.) For whatever reason, maybe it is the rhythm that it creates, running is the right speed and method for me to pull enjoyment and inspiration from my surroundings. It is a way to get to know a neighborhood in a more intimate way, or a therapeutic dose of nature. Either way, it is so much more than running.

Inhale. Exhale.

And because no post is complete without a little talk about food, I bring to you “Two Nights of Elana’s Pantry“. Carrot Muffins, Apricot Power Bars… I find myself going back to Elana’s Pantry for more. As good as the muffins and bars are, I needed some savory ideas for dinner and Elana delivers in that department, too. Last night I made her Green Chili Turkey Burgers.

Elana's Pantry Turkey Burger

It’s a simple combination of ground turkey, green chiles, onion, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. While Mr. Nine was grilling these, I went out to the garden and picked some asparagus and prepared it with wilted asparagus drizzled with oil and vinegar. Nothing like super fresh veggies and a good protein! The burgers were moist and full of flavor. We enjoyed these sans-bun to make it gluten-free and didn’t need any toppings! That says a lot for a humble turkey burger. Leftovers were enjoyed for lunch today and reheated fabulously. My only tip would be to layer the formed patties between small sheets of parchment paper on a plate and freeze for about a half hour or until slightly firm. I would have done this if I had the time. The patties were super soft with a high moisture content, and Mr. Nine executed his superb grilling skills to ensure that they stayed in one piece. While he was out there grilling, I had him throw on a few chicken breasts for tonight’s dinner – Mexican Chicken and Rice.

Elana's Pantry Chicken and Rice

Doesn’t that look yum? What is fantastic about this recipe is that the “rice” is really cauliflower! Mr. Nine took a whole head of cauliflower and fed it through the food processor fitted with a grating disc. He only did this because I had a minor kitchen accident with the blade that required bandaging my thumb. 🙂 Elana says to use the “S” blade, but I thought the grating disc did an excellent job and kept all the pieces uniform. The whole dish contains grilled chicken, onion, cauliflower, green chilies, salt, cumin, oregano, chili powder, cilantro and salsa. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo-friendly, but you could take some of her other suggestions and add cheese, or even black beans. This recipe is really versatile. Personally, I left out the celery and cut the oil and salt in half (the original amounts seemed unneccessary). I could envision other veggies like red or orange bell peppers – use your imagination!

Now the question is, did the cauliflower taste like rice? I am not sure you could fool anybody into thinking it was rice, but it wasn’t bad at all. It essentially had the same texture, color and shape of cauliflower and the flavor was somewhat neutral and absorbed the spices and other flavors. I think this could definitely grow on me. I like the idea of having a cruciferous vegetable instead of rice because it is way lower in calories and higher in nutrients. I made a little comparison chart to illustrate this.

Cauliflower Vs Rice Comparison Chart

With the cauliflower, you are getting way more potassium, fiber and vitamin c, and lower carbs and calories. The rice has the advantage on the minerals, but all in all I think the cauliflower is the better option. What do you think?

Tonight’s questions: What would you miss about running if you had to stop? Have you ever made cauli-rice?

Categories: Food, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Clean Eating Sirloin Steak Recipes

An alternate title for this blog post could be “A Tale of Two Sirloins”. I’ve been trying to eat more meat and bought a huge package of beef top sirloin at Costco. I decided to use this beef in a few Clean Eating recipes, one which was okay, the other was great.

Let’s start with the great…

Sirloin Beef Wraps

Clean Eating Sirloin Beef Wraps

Yum, yum!

I didn’t have any romaine (or any lettuce for that matter) and my cucumbers were not looking very good, so I stuck with just carrots, red onion and cilantro for the topping and it was plenty flavorful, crunchy, colorful and interesting.

The sauce for the wraps is made from whisking together Dijon mustard, raw honey, stevia, balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes. The result is a sweet and tangy sauce that worked well on top of the beef.

Although the recipe does not mention this, it is always important to slice steak against the grain. With sirloin this is not as important as say a flank steak, I still find it makes a big difference. The meat is much easier to eat because it is not as tough to bite. Why? Because when you slice against the grain it shortens the muscle fibers. This website article, The Food Lab: Slicing Meat Against the Grain, does a great job of explaining the meat math behind it!

I would definitely make these wraps again. 🙂

Get the recipe for Sirloin Beef Wraps from the Clean Eating website.

The heap of carrots in the background? That is my Avocado & Carrot Salad. I’ll post the recipe for that later on so stay tuned.

Next up on the sirloin cooking spree…

Sirloin & Peppery Tomato Reduction

Clean Eating Sirloin and Peppery Tomato Reduction

The sauce made from reducing down diced tomatoes, water, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes, tastes a lot like A-1 Sauce. The recipe also calls for olive oil which I omitted, and I subbed tomato juice from the can (I used petite cut diced tomatoes) for the water.

Instead of slicing the meat for plating purposes, I decided to leave them as whole steaks. While this was okay, it didn’t wow me enough to want to make it again. It was quick, involved minimal dishes, and was acceptable for a simple weeknight dinner.

Get the recipe for Sirloin & Peppery Tomato Reduction from the Clean Eating website.

In conclusion, out of the two sirloin recipes, the steak wraps were hands down better.

In other news, I tried TRX Suspension Training for the first time!

From the TRX website:

“Born in the Navy SEALs, Suspension Training bodyweight exercise develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously. It requires the use of the TRX® Suspension Trainer, a highly portable performance training tool that leverages gravity and the user’s body weight to enable hundreds of exercises for every fitness goal.”

It was an introductory class so we didn’t get too sweaty, but was a nice way to try it out with a certified instructor. It was a lot easier than I anticipated, but some of the moves were definitely hard.

The great thing about TRX is that you can alter your foot position or angle of body to make it harder or easier. Squats, push-ups and pull-ups were pretty simple, one-foot lunges and planks were a little harder.

Imagine yourself in plank pose, but your feet are suspended in straps that can sway and move side to side. This means that you have to engage more muscles and requires balance and stability.

TRX Plank

(That is not me in the picture, photo credit goes to Couch2Camino.)

One-foot suspended lunges were definitely hard because of the balance factor. Check this out:

TRX Suspended Lunge

(Unsure who to credit for this photo, but I found it on Man Bicep.)

I can do one-foot lunges with my foot on a bench, but in a moving strap is much harder. I had to have someone stand in front of me so that I could lightly hold their hand so I wouldn’t topple over. With practice, one could master this, but it was definitely harder than the other moves.

There are no TRX facilities near our home so we had to drive and hour to try it, however you can buy the straps for home use. The only downside is that they are $200!

I prefer regular weight training and cardio, but this would be a great idea for someone who is bored with their regular workout routine, or for someone who wants a “portable gym”. If I ever got this, I’d prefer to do it outdoors in a park by attaching it to a sturdy tree branch.

If your gym offers this, definitely check it out! It is always nice to find new ways to push your body. If this was offered at a facility closer to our house, I’d probably go once in awhile for workout variation.

Have you ever tried TRX? Do you own a system? If so, do you use it often?

Categories: Fitness, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Clean Eating Spaghetti Carbonara and Slow-Cooker Brisket Tacos

I’ve been on a clean eating recipe kick lately, and so far it has been yum-tastic. When I first discovered Clean Eating Magazine a few years ago, I loved making the recipes. Then I hit a series of bad recipes that took away my confidence in them and I shelved all my issues for a long while.

Now I’ve rediscovered my love for them and I’ve been having fun making new dishes every week.

Spaghetti Carbonara – November/December 2010

This is not to be confused with their Quick & Healthy Pasta Carbonara, which is a different recipe entirely.

Clean Eating Spaghetti Carbonara

I chose this dish because we have fresh asparagus in the garden right now just begging to be eaten! It is a little early for asparagus, but our winter has been unseasonably warm and the first spears were ready for harvest mid-March.

This Spaghetti Carbonara was a cinch to pull together, and tasted indulgent! I haven’t made spaghetti carbonara in nearly a decade. I use to make it the traditional way with lots of bacon, after all it is traditionally an egg and bacon spaghetti. Although it has been awhile since I’ve had the “real thing”, I was very satisfied with this and did not miss the bacon at all (well maybe a little). The ham gives a nice saltiness, and the asparagus gave it a nice bit of crisp veggie goodness. Instead of using oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, I used the bagged sun-dried tomatoes that are found in the produce section. I think that these taste fresher and I like that they come in a resealable bag that I can keep in the fridge.

This is a very simple dish, full of flavor, minimal cooking time and minimal kitchen clean-up. For extra protein, we enjoyed southwestern grilled chicken breasts alongside smaller portions of the pasta. There were leftovers for 2-3 more meals. I wondered how the leftovers would hold up (with the egg/parm sauce), and it did pretty well. It was slightly gummy in texture from sitting overnight and then being microwaved , but it was to be expected. It didn’t stop us from eating every last bite!

Clean Eating does not have this recipe on their website (boo!), but someone posted it here on TasteBook.

Next up is a fun taco recipe!

Slow-Cooker Brisket Tacos with Tangy Chimichurri Zucchini – April/May 2012

Clean Eating Slow Cooker Beef Brisket Tacos

This is from the latest issue of CE, where they did a whole feature on tacos called Five Nights of Tacos. I could not find ancho or guajillo peppers at the two grocery stores I went to, so instead went with my backup plan and used the Rick Bayless Red Chile Barbacoa Sauce packet.

This has the same flavor profile as the CE recipe (roasted tomatoes, ancho and guajillo chiles are the main ingredients) but in a simple open and dump packet. It was also on sale, and ended up being cheaper than getting the ingredients and making it myself.

I browned the flat cut beef brisket and added it to the slow-cooker (or as some people like to call it, a crock pot) and cooked it for 8 hours on low. The CE recipe says 6 hours, but that seems short to me, and Mr. Bayless says to do 8 and I trust his advice. 😉

While I can’t give an accurate review for the meat since I didn’t follow the recipe, the meat made with Rick’s seasoning pouch was great! I’d suggest taking a cue from him and adding a little onion powder, paprika, chipotle, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to up the flavor profile a bit.

I DID make the Tangy Chimichurri Zucchini part of the recipe and it is FANTASTIC! I love chimichurri, but never thought to add it to raw zucchini and use it as a taco topping. It is zingy and tangy and all around lip-smacking good. The raw zucchini adds a bit of crunch to the soft shredded beef and is a gorgeous bright green color.

It was so easy to whip up in my Vitamix, just puree 2 cups fresh cilantro, 1 cup fresh parsley, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1 garlic clove and 1 jalapeno (seeded). Pour this green goodness over thinly sliced zucchini and you have a delicious taco topping. CE states that this can be made up to 2 days in advance, which combined with the slow-cooked meat, you can have a dinner that comes together the instant you get home.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the Ezekiel corn tortillas that I bought because they were hard and chewy. I normally purchase El Milagro, but the store was out of them. Ezekiel, I love your bread and your english muffins, but your corn tortillas are not very good.

Clean Eating does not have this recipe on their website, but is in the current issue (April/May 2012).

From the same issue, I decided to make a sweet treat…

Meyer Lemon Bars – April/May 2012

And here is a bonus recipe, that was a fail for me.

Clean Eating Meyer Lemon Bars

In all fairness, I used regular lemons (no meyers to be found) and substituted Stevia in the Raw for the evaporated cane juice. The result was bitter and not palatable.

Sadly, it all went into the garbage.

Has anyone else tried this recipe? It was easy to make, and I’m wondering if I should try it again using regular sugar and real meyer lemons, but not sure if it would be worth it.

Have you made any of the other recipes in the April/May 2012 issue of Clean Eating Magazine? If so, what are your favorites so far?

Happy Cooking!

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Clean Eating Bison Stroganoff and Fish Fritters

Clean Eating Magazine is a great source of inspiration for healthy versions of recipes, however I wish they had more of their recipes and reviews online.

Cooking Light, another food magazine, has all of their recipes listed on their website in an easy to use recipe finder. Their readers are very active in reviewing those recipes, making it a great source for finding opinions and suggestions.

If you visit the Clean Eating recipe finder, you’ll notice that they only have select recipes available, and their readers are not as active in reviewing. I’m not sure if CE worries that if they post all their recipes people won’t buy their magazine? I do not find that to be true! I read the magazines, but also like to be able to look up recipes online. For example, if I am leaving work I might want to do a quick search for a recipe for dinner so that I can stop at the market on the way home. More often than not, I cannot find the recipes I am looking for and end up frustrated.

I think that CE can learn a lot from CL in the way they share their entire database of recipes, and the way they display the reviews right on the page (not behind a tab). I also dislike how CE lets you rate a recipe but not review it. I firmly believe in constructive criticism, and when I just see a rating of 1 star (or 4 stars), I want to know WHY someone rated it as such. With no written reviews, it is hard to know what went wrong, or what was great about it.

I hope that CE focuses more on enhancing their online recipe database and presentation. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to review any Clean Eating recipes that I make, right here on my blog. Hopefully this will help a few people out there who are curious about a recipe and like do read reviews as much as I do.

Let’s get started with a few recent meals.

Bison (Beef) Stroganoff  – Clean Eating October 2011

Clean Eating Bison Stroganoff

I made the bison stroganoff recipe using beef tenderloin instead. This was delicious! With beef, baby portobello mushrooms, red onion, garlic and fresh baby spinach – this was a nutritious spin on a classic comfort food. The cream sauce was made from 3 simple ingredients: nonfat plain Greek yogurt, evaporated milk and dijon mustard. Mr. Nine made a side of cottage cheese protein mashed potatoes to go along with it and to soak up any extra sauce.

One thing that surprised me, and I should have known since this was a “stroganoff” dish, was that the picture in the magazine does not look like the real thing!

CE Bison Stroganoff Magazine Photo

In the photo you can see all the pretty colors of the ingredients, and the food stylist “hid” the cream sauce in little dollops along the edge of the plate. In the recipe instructions you add the cream sauce to the entire skillet of ingredients, mix it all together and heat 2 minutes so it is all incorporated like a traditional stroganoff.

They did this so that the recipe photo would look more colorful, and look healthier (covering something in cream, even if it IS greek yogurt) tends to scare most healthy eaters away. Regardless, I wish that their photography was more honest.

While this recipe was delicious, despite the photograph issue, I am not sure if this would reheat well for leftovers. It has greek yogurt in it, and the recipe warns not to overheat or it will curdle. I heated the sauce very gently and had no problems with curdling, but I am imaging that if you reheated it in the microwave the next day, it may cause some sauce separation issues. Has anyone made this? Did you try heating it up the next day? How was it?

Unfortunately this recipe is not published online in their recipe finder. Bison Stroganoff can be found in the October 2011 issue. This is not to be confused with the Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff, which is an entirely different recipe.

Onto the next recipe…

Fish Fritters with Red Pepper & Malt Vinegar Dipping Sauce – November/December 2010

CE Fish Fritters

Next up was the Fish Fritters which are basically tilapia and broccoli fish cakes. Unlike the stroganoff, I thought that the real fish fritters looked better than the magazine photo! Look at all that green!

While not difficult to make, I found that this recipe created a lot of dirty dishes and a mess of the kitchen. My food processor is small, so I had to chop the broccoli, jalapeno and fish in 3 batches. I ended up with little bits of broccoli everywhere. I also used my Kitchen-Aid standmixer to beat the egg whites (they need to triple in volume). And then I used my Vitamix for the sauce, so I ended up with lots of dishes to wash. I was surprised at what a HUGE batch this made! In fact, after making a dozen fritters (the recipe says it yields 12, 4 to a serving) I still had a lot of mixture leftover and I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup to make perfectly portioned fritters.

I thought that these were good, but not great. I liked them enough to eat them, but not enough to make them again. Don’t leave off the sauce, it MAKES this dish. Without the sauce I am not sure I would have enjoyed them at all. The sauce is pretty neat, just throw roasted red peppers from a jar, malt vinegar and greek yogurt into a blender for a few seconds. The flavor tasted very much like buffalo sauce! I would definitely make the sauce again, just to use on a topping for something else.

Here are the fish cakes with the sauce.

CE Fish Fritters with Sauce

Since my kitchen was a mess, and it took awhile to fry these fritters up in multiple batches, I kept the side dish easy and just heated up some frozen whole wheat pierogis. Not the side I wanted to pair with this dish, but it did the job.

Now check out CE’s official photo for this recipe.

CE Red Pepper and Malt Vinegar Dipping Sauce

Mine were so much more green! These look a little blah, not as vivid as real life. However, the magazine photo shows the sauce as being MUCH lighter in color and much creamier looking which does not seem achievable with the recipe measurements. The recipe for the sauce is as follows:

  • 1/2 cup jarred sliced roasted red bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup malt vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon nonfat Greek-style yogurt

You do the math, 1 measly tablespoon of yogurt is not enough in proportion to make the sauce look creamy or to lighten it to the degree that their photo shows. I wonder if this is a recipe error? I thought the sauce tasted good as written, but it was definitely on the watery side and had a STRONG tang like buffalo sauce. I almost wonder if they flip-flopped the measurements on the vinegar and yogurt…

Unfortunately this recipe is not published online in their recipe finder. Fish Fritters can be found in the November/December 2010 issue.

And while not a CE recipe (although it does follow that criteria!), I wanted to share this one by new fitness guru Natalie Hodson. 🙂

Blueberry Protein Pancakes – Natalie Hodson December 2011

Natalie Hodson Blueberry Protein Pancakes

If you are not familiar with protein pancakes, they are simply a way to prepare egg whites in a way that is sweet not savory. There are lots of recipes for these floating around out there, but most include egg whites, oats, cinnamon, almond milk and fruit.

Natalie is a girl who did the Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer and saw AWESOME results and was featured on the bodybuilding.com website. She has started a Facebook page where she shares recipes and tips on food and lifting.

Here is the recipe for her Blueberry Protein Pancakes that are shown in the photo above.

Natalie says she uses a blender to mix these, but that you can also use a bowl. My Vitamix was dirty so I just used a bowl and the mixture was VERY watery (and I only used 1/4 of the milk). I knew that the batter wouldn’t stay together in the pan so I just used a large skillet and dumped the whole mixture right in. The egg white & oat mixture filled the bottom of the pan and I let it set up 75% before I used the spatula to cut this into 4 easy-to-flip segments. So while my pancakes were not round and pretty, they ended up just fine. They are topped with unsweetened natural applesauce, cinnamon and more fresh blueberries.

Now the word “pancake” can be misleading to someone who has never made this sort of thing. These do not taste like traditional pancakes, they are very eggy and healthy tasting. I personally like that, but Mr. Nine is not a fan and would prefer regular pancakes so I only make these pancakes for myself. This particular recipe is also not very sweet. If you like sweet things, you may want to add another packet of Truvia. Also very important, DO NOT LEAVE THE BLUEBERRIES OUT! They make this particular recipe. The few bites I had without any berry were downright blah. The berries add sweetness and flavor and are necessary in my opinion.

Next time I think I’ll use the Vitamix to break down the oats to thicken the batter, and I’d also add some banana.

Have you ever made protein pancakes? What are your thoughts on them? If a cooking magazine published all of their recipes online, would you still subscribe to it (paper or digital)?

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