Saturday, March 31, 2012

red smoothie

I'll admit I'm getting kind of obsessed with smoothies right now... I can't say that I'm too ashamed of it though because they are not only delightful but tasty too!  Since I've started adding weight training to my workout routine I really want to make sure I'm taking in enough protein to help my muscles recover and smoothies are definitely one way to do that!

I've found some great ideas from Pinterest and also this website but mostly I have read a few recipes and then thought I had a grasp of the idea so I just started doing my own thing.  My roommate did share a great idea she found on a blog about smoothie bags (check it out - it's an awesome post).

Seriously, this has changed my life!!  When you work and want to get up early to work out and get in time with the Lord and actually eat something healthy in the morning, the hours start staking up.  I've tried my best to organize everything for the next day but there are some things you can't do until the day of, right? 

With that said, this is my recipe for what I affectionately call the "red smoothie".

What you need...
1 cup frozen strawberries (see note below)
1/2 banana frozen
1/4 cup (or a little less) of frozen raspberries
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 - 3 spoonfuls of Vanilla Greek yogurt 
1/2 - 2/3 cup milk

Yield: about 16oz

Note: I recently made a trip to our local Sprouts Farmers Market (I shop here a lot) and noticed that fresh strawberries were on sale - two 12oz packs for $3.  That's about 13¢ per ounce!  When comparing it to two 12oz bags of frozen strawberries for $6 (25¢ per oz) it's clear that fresh was the way to go!  This will not always be the case, but it's best to check.  If you know the approximate amount you'd spend to purchase frozen fruit you can check that with sales of fresh fruit and load up when the sale is good.  The blessing of frozen fruit is it keeps for much longer than fresh!  I bought two containers, washed the berries and cup them up so they are ready to be used.  I just place them in a plastic bag until I'm ready to use them.

I like to place my frozen fruit (banana, strawberries, and raspberries) in the bottom of the blender and blend it up just a bit (using the "ice crush" setting).

Add in the rest of the ingredients (protein powder, Greek yogurt, and milk).  And blend.

Pour it out, stick a straw in it, and enjoy!

*Toss in 1 TBSP of flaxseed (yes, I'm adding it to everything now).  It gives the smoothie a bit of a crunch, but I don't mind it.  If you don't like that you can use ground flaxseed in it's place.
*Add frozen red cherries
*For a completely different take on this smoothie, omit the protein powder and milk.  In its place add 1/4 cup Pomegranate or raspberry juice and 1/4 cup orange juice. The OJ will make it more tangy, but it's still a great tasting smoothie. 

I know, so easy! But so tasty and a great way to enjoy protein and fruit servings.  I find the frozen fruit and Greek yogurt make a nice and thick smoothie.  If you like it more runny you can add more milk (or juice if you are doing the alternate smoothie mentioned above). 

The best part by far is the prep you can do with this!  I cut my banana up, measure out my cup of strawberries, and then toss in the raspberries and stick my baggie in the freezer.  In the morning I grab, toss in the blender, and go!

Friday, March 30, 2012

O-my omelet

Omelets are a great way start your day!  I've experimented for a while now as to the best way to create a healthy and tasty omelet.  This recipe (more of a procedure really) is what I've come up with thus far.  Thought I'd share :)

What you need...
3 eggs (1 egg w/ yolk and 2 egg whites)
*Note: As pictured to the left, I like to use the shell of the egg to separate the yolk from the white - so much easier (and cheaper) than anything you can buy in the store.
Dash of fat free milk (to be technical maybe 1 TBSP)
Salt  & Pepper to taste
Small frying pan
Olive oil spray
1/4 cup shredded cheese
2 TBSP salsa

Total Calories: about 245

Place the frying pan on the stove, coat with a spray of olive oil, and turn on to medium low heat. 

Start by separating out the egg whites and yolks (shown above) and then add the dash of milk.  Mix up well with a fork and add the salt and pepper. 

Pour into the now-warm pan and let sit.  Shown on the right are the stages your omelet will go through. 

Top is the egg mixture just poured. 

Second is when the eggs are solid - I check this by gently shaking the pan back and forth to see if the mixture has solidified or if it is still runny.  Once it reaches the solid stage, it's time to flip!  Make sure you go all along the edges first so there is no sticking, then slide your spatula underneath and flip. 

The third picture shows my omelet once I flipped it - a bit brown but that's not a bad thing.

Once flipped,  top with cheese and salsa.  I like to let the cheese melt just a little before covering with the salsa. 

Flip the other side over and let sit for a few minutes.  At this point turn off the element.  You can let the omelet sit on the element and the cheese will continue to melt.

*Add a variety of different ingredients to the egg mixture before you place in pan.  I suggest: onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and garlic.  I usually do this when I have a bit more time to prep.  The veggies cook with the eggs (so tasty) but also make it harder to flip over.
*Add avocado at the end just before folding it in half.
*Add extra yolk (so 2 yolks & 1 egg white) for extra protein (but also extra fat)
(Note: any additions will change the calories)

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!  Usually takes me about 15 minutes in all and I'm usually doing something else (like dishes or making my lunch for that day).  Just make sure you keep an eye on the eggs as they cook - you don't want to over-cook it before flipping!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

almond flaxseed protein shake

I've started using whey protein recently to help my body recover after my workouts.  I've been finding some great recipes online but have made up a few of my own.  I love the idea of putting flaxseed in shakes - you don't really taste it and the health benefits are great!

What you need...
6 ice cubes
1/2 C. non-fat milk
2 scoops (I use two spoon fulls) Vanilla Greek Yogurt
1 tbsp. almond butter  
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tbsp. flaxseed

Yield: about 16 oz.
Calories: between 325 and 375 depending

Depending on how amazing your blender is, you may want to crush up your ice first.  I like my smoothies smoother so I usually do this.
Add in the rest of your ingredients: yogurt, almond butter, protein powder, flaxseed, and non-fat milk.  Blend it all up until you get the right consistency.
Pour into a glass, drop in a straw, and drink up!  

*Substitute Peanut Butter instead of the Almond Butter
*Double up on scoops of protein powder if you need the extra protein
*In the same line of thinking, you can use 1% or 2% milk instead of non-fat
*In place of ice cubes you can use a frozen banana - it will change the flavor of the shake but it's still good!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

garlic & herb whole wheat pizza dough

I love pizza.  There is just something about fresh bread, tangy tomato sauce, and hot melted cheese that cry out to me and cause me to eat way too much in once sitting *guilty face*.  Because of this love for pizza which I think I got from my Dad, I thought I'd share my recipe for a pizza crust that will not only support that beautiful tomato and cheese combo but will also add flavor to the pizza itself!  My Mom always makes homemade pizza with the best whole wheat crust and this is my variation.

What you need...
1 1/4 C. whole wheat flour
1  packet dry yeast
1 C. warm water (temp between 120° - 130°)
2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. garlic salt
2 tsp.  Italian Herbs
1 to 2 more cups flour

[Using a stand up mixer]
Put first portion of flour and yeast in your mixer.  Add the cup of warm water (make sure you keep the temp between 120° - 130° in order to activate the yeast and not kill it) and the olive oil to the mixture and turn the mixer on low for about 30 seconds.
Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and then mix again for roughly 3 minutes.

After the  3 minutes are up, add in the garlic salt and Italian herbs and mix slightly then, exchanging the flat beater for the dough hook (yes, I will admit to looking up the proper terms for those because I couldn't think of what to call them) slowly add in more of the flour taking time for it to become completely incorporated before adding more.

When the dough sticks to the hook and is no longer sticking to the sides slide it off and onto a lightly floured surface to kneed it.  This is my favorite part!  Since the dough will probably be slightly sticky add more flour over the top and gently kneed it just a few times until it is touchable and yet still elastic.  You don't want the dough to become too stiff.
Once it's to this point, round it out and leave it on the board in a warm spot (I keep mine on top of my oven since it's on getting heated to bake the pizza) and drape a thin dish towel over the top to let it rest/rise for 10-15 minutes.

Once it's rested, stretch it out!  This is your opportunity to pretend that you work in a pizza parlor.  You can use both fists to stretch it out, twirling at your own risk.

I don't have a pizza pan (yet) so right now I use a rectangle baking sheet and spread my dough out on it - generally using my fingers to stretch it to the sides in a very unattractive fashion but I just claim it adds character.

For the Pizza...
Turn on your oven to 375°
Once the above steps are complete, take the crust that you've just made and bake it for 15 minutes.
I like to rub a little olive oil on the crust before I bake it.  This is a great opportunity to use garlic olive oil too (just to add insult to injury). 

After the 15 min. pull it out and top with sauce, cheese, and any toppings you like to use.
For me that looks like marina, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, and black olives all from my favorite local Sprouts Farmers Market .  Once your pizza's topped, stick it back in the oven and give it another 15-20 minutes.  The crust will definitely be done by then, but judge "done-ness" by your toppings.  If the cheese is melted and bubbling and everything else looks nice and cooked - it's done!

**A side note for draining liquids from canned goods such as olives.
Use a hand opener and open the can half way then pour out the liquid contents.  This way nothing will come out but you've effectively drained all liquid.

I've taken you through my normal pizza-making routine!  Hope you've enjoyed the journey and I know you'll enjoy the results.

banana applesauce muffins

I had a great run this morning - 5.68 miles in fact!  Upon recovering and enjoying an almond butter & whey protein shake (recipe coming soon) I felt the call of bananas from the freezer.  Strangely enough they were asking me to make them into some muffins so I decided to give in and answer their call.

I defrosted them, mashed them up and set about looking for a recipe that will fit in with my "new approach" to food.  It's not as drastic nor as scary as it sounds.  Basically, I want to cut back (or cut out) processed foods, decrease the amount of sugar I use, and in general create something that will do two things:
1) Allow me to feel good about eating the product
2) Be a healthy and smart alternative to eating out our purchasing the same type of food (which would go against the idea of processed foods).
This being the case, I decided I'd adapt a recipe I found at All Recipes and create my very own Banana Applesauce Muffin recipe.  I'll share it with you here :)

What you'll need...
1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. unbleached white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt 
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 C. thawed, mashed bananas
1/2 C. applesauce 

1 to 2 tbsp. flaxseed (optional)
1/4 C. pecans or your nut of choice

*You can do both cups of flour in whole wheat or white - depending on your personal taste.
*Feel free to decrease the sugar to 1/4 C. I think I'll do this next time because the muffins are still extremely sweet.  You can also substitute agave nectar for the brown sugar but that will affect the ratios of wet to dry.  I am just beginning my use of agave so I'll update the recipe when I'm more familiar with it.

Turn your oven to 350°
Mix dry ingredients together and keep in a separate bowl.

I decided to use my stand up mixer (thanks Grandma) but  you can use a hand mixer or just good ole' wo-man power!  It's always a great work out on the arms. 

Cream butter and brown sugar together.  Once combined, add eggs one at a time and scrape sides of bowl.  Then add bananas and applesauce to the mixture and let it combine. 

Slowly add flour mixture, beating in between each addition to thoroughly combine all ingredients.  Once all of the flour mixture is combined, add in the flaxseed and nuts and mix. 

Spoon mixture into greased muffin tins (you can use muffin papers if you want but they aren't necessary).  My batch made about 20 muffins.
Make sure to fill any empty spaces in the muffin tins half way up with water so that the tray will bake evenly. 

Bake the muffins for about 18 - 20 minutes (depending on the size of your muffins).  I'm weird and like to set a timer for a certain amount and then switch the shelves my muffins are on.  So, after 7 min I flopped the top rack to the bottom, waited another 7 mintues and did it once more time then waited about 5 minutes.  I feel it ensures a more even baking but maybe I'm just crazy ;)
They are done when you slip a toothpick or thin knife into them and it comes out clean.

Well, I hope you enjoy this recipe and that they turn out well for you.  It's a great way to 'slip in' flaxseed (awesome source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids) to kids if yours don't enjoy it and they are just a handy snack or useful for breakfast-on-the-go.  Try them with a little bit of nutella and you'll never turn back!

Friday, March 23, 2012

homemade hot chocolate

On a grey cloudy day like today nothing says comfort than a good book (The Hunger Games) and some hot chocolate.  I've got applesauce cooking on the stove and a bit of extra time before the rest of my day starts so it's time to put on the hot chocolate!

What you need...
2 quart pot
2 C. Milk
1 TBS Cocoa powder (I like to use "Natural High Fat Cocoa" from Penzeys Spices)
1 heaping tablespoon Sugar
Fresh ground Nutmeg (optional)
A favorite mug

Instead of measuring out the milk, I usually just pour a mug full and use that as my 'measuring' cup.  If you are making more (doubling the recipe for example) feel free to measure out with a measuring cup.
Pour the milk into the pan and add the cocoa (feel free to add more for a heavier chocolate taste), sugar, vanilla (I just do a 'dash'' so it's about 1/2 tsp), a few shakes of cinnamon, and a few scrapes of nutmeg (I use fresh nutmeg w/ a grater).

Set your element to about 4 (medium low) and use either whisk or spoon to stir all the ingredients up.  It will take the cocoa a bit to mix into the milk, the heat will help this.  I like to use a spiral whisk  because it's a little smaller and creates a bit of air into the mixture.  Any whisk will do though.

Once the mixture is hot throughout (not boiling, this will take about 10min), pour back into your measuring mug and add whipped cream if you so desire and a tiny sprinkle of cocoa on top for decoration sake.
*Add a few drops of mint extract to the mix and have mint hocolate
*Add a few drops of maple extract in place of the vanilla
*Melt a few chocolate chips in the bottom of your pan first before adding the rest of your ingredients for an extra-chocolate taste
*Dissolve 1/2 tsp of molasses in the milk first
(Note: Molasses is a strong flavor and not everyone is going to like this)
*Cut back on the sugar, substitute your favorite sugar replacement, or use agave syrup for sweetener in order to have a low sugar hot chocolate
*Use brown sugar in place of white

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

freezer burritos

I absolutely love making my own refried beans minus the re-fry part.  It's a recipe that I'll be putting up here soon, but in the mean time I made a batch of beans with the intent of making freezer burritos.  Honestly, when you make that many refried beans you'd better be planning to either have a party or to do something specific with them because it makes a lot!

What you need...
A batch of refried beans
Cooked & seasoned beef, chicken, steak etc. meat*
Flour or Corn tortillas
Shredded Cheese (any kind  you prefer)
Saran Wrap

Note: If you use corn tortillas there is the definite possibility that they will crack/crumble when you fold them - this is just a heads-up
*I decided to keep things simple this time and omitted the meat but feel free to cook up a batch of seasoned meat to add to these burritos

Rip off about a 10" section of saran warp and lay it on your work space.

Place your flour tortilla on top of the saran wrap, glob on some beans (as shown), and follow with cheese.
*Here you can also add on your meat of choice.

Wrap up your tortilla and then wrap the saran wrap around it as well.

Place your final product in the freezer and you're good to go!  I love how simple this is and then, whenever you need something quick for lunch or dinner, grab a homemade burrito.

To defrost, unwrap from plastic and either heat in the microwave or wrap in foil and place in the oven (if you have extra time).

I've now got about 8 of these in my freezer and feel very accomplished!  Since I'm out of the house for at least 2 nights out of the week I rely on bringing not only my lunch but also my dinner to work with me and this has joined the ranks of my 'pre-planned' dinner ideas.

For me, the less I need to rely on purchasing food outside of the home the more I save on my budget.  Also, I feel better about my eating habits in general when I am the one preparing my food and not purchasing pre-made items (even from great places like Trader Joes).  I can make 8 burritos for a fraction of the cost it would take to buy the same amount.
Hope this simple idea creates excitement in you as it did with me :)