Tag Archives: clean eating

“Clean Eating” Banana Bread

For the past six days I have been pretty absent from the world (both real world and online world) as I recover from this nasty cold. I haven’t done much more than camp out on my couch, drink juice, eat soup, and watch endless marathons of TV shows on Netflix, between boughts of sleeping.

As of today, I’m back at work and feeling about half-way back to normal. This has been one heck of a cold! And having a cold in the middle of the summer feels downright unnatural. I guess I just associate a stuffy nose and sneezing with winter weather – do you?

On Saturday I thought I was starting to recover so I mustered up the strength to bake some banana bread. I was going completely stir-crazy from being stuck on the couch and needed some activity to take my mind off things. Also, I tend to eat a lot when I’m not feeling well – is that just me? I feel like my stomach is a black hole and I can just eat and eat. It’s terrible. And I crave the junkiest food when I’m sick – does that happen to anyone else?

So I decided on a better option – this banana bread that is so quick and easy to pull together! 🙂

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My go-to banana bread recipe is one that was given to me by my mom. Banana bread was a staple in our house growing up and when I moved out on my own I got the recipe from her to bake for myself. The recipe is labeled “Kona Inn Banana Bread” and I suspect she got it or learned it while we were living in Hawaii when I was younger. While I love the original version, it involves a good bit of butter and sugar and I wanted to see if I could “clean it up” using a few healthier ingredients. It was a big success! The bread was slightly denser and moister than the original, but I really loved the final product! (I didn’t take any pictures of the process of making the bread because I was pretty much the walking dead from my cold)

I converted the recipe by changing the white flour to whole wheat (reducing it by 1/4 cup), using honey instead of sugar (raw, local honey), and applesauce instead of butter. I was really impressed how well it turned out!

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“Clean Eating” Banana Bread
Makes one loaf.

    – 1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
    – 1/2 cup honey (local, if possible)
    – 4 ripe bananas, mashed
    – 2 eggs
    – 1 cup whole wheat flour
    – 1/2 teaspoon salt
    – 1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mashing the bananas into the mixture thoroughly (I use a fork). Do not over-mix. Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil or other oil and pour the batter into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Note: you can easily convert this to a vegan recipe by substituting “flax eggs” for the eggs.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe! It comes together really quickly and is definitely a perfect example of comfort food (that you can feel good about) to get your through a not-so-great day. 🙂

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“Berry Green” Smoothie Recipes

This past Friday I worked from home which meant I got a run in first thing in the morning (yay!), got to wear sweatpants all day (double yay!) and got to enjoy my morning smoothie in a real glass instead of a travel mug.

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That’s my awesome Hogwarts glass from my trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter earlier this year.

I start every (weekday) morning with a green smoothie. On the weekends I usually treat myself to some eggs, French toast or pancakes.

I wrote my very first blog post about my love of green smoothies. Making a green smoothie every morning was one of the first healthy habits that I adopted and I just don’t feel right without them now. It’s a great way to kick-start your morning with fruits and vegetables – and packs fiber and protein to keep you full until lunch. I love that you can get in several servings of dark green leafy vegetables (which are so healthy!) and you can’t even taste them – even if the color of the smoothies can be a little off-putting. I posted my recipe in my original post, but I have definitely fine-tuned it since then and I think it’s almost perfect!

First, I add my greens to my blender. I use kale almost every time I make this smoothie, but I sometimes substitute spinach based on what is in season. I loosely pack the greens up to around the 4 cup line on the blender. In the photo it looks like it’s closer to the 6 cup line but I think it’s just the angle. 🙂

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Next, I add milk to just above the 1 cup line on the blender. Since there’s already greens in the blender – it’s not a true “1 cup” measurement, probably closer to 3/4s of a cup. I find this amount of liquid makes the smoothie the perfect consistency, but on some days when it needs a little more, I add a splash of two or water while it’s blending until it’s smooth. I started off making this smoothie with skim milk, and recently switched to soy milk but you could make it with almond milk, juice, green tea, or even water.

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Next, I add one tablespoon each of chia seeds, flax seeds and Greek yogurt.

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I’m not too particular about getting these exactly at one tablespoon and for the Greek yogurt I make it a huge heaping spoonful which is probably closer to 2-3 tablespoons.

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Next, I add a frozen banana and some kind of frozen fruit. I always keep a big bag of frozen bananas in the freezer for smoothies and I buy up fruit when it’s on sale and freeze it or buy frozen fruit when it’s out of season.

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Depending on what fruit I have on hand, I either add berries or peaches or mangoes. I was very excited to discover recently that the Harris Teeter brand organic frozen fruit now offers mangoes! I find cutting up a mango to be a pretty frustrating experience – and I never seem to end up with much mango. I think the frozen mango is definitely the way to go.

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Depending on what I’m using, I add about a ½ cup of fruit. For large strawberries it ends up being about three berries, or maybe 6-8 blackberries, or about a ½ peach or mango. The smoothie is relatively light on the fruit side.

Then I blend it up really thoroughly. I mean, I let it run for a few minutes at least. If the mixture is a little thick and not blending, add splashes of water until it starts to process correctly. It’s important to blend it thoroughly to not end up with a “chewy” smoothie with chunks of kale in it.

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”Berry Green” Smoothie Recipe
Serves one.

    – 3-4 cups kale or spinach, loosely packed
    – ¾ cup liquid of your choice (milk (skim, soy, almond, etc), tea, juice, water)
    – 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
    – 1 tablespoon chia seeds
    – 2-3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
    – 1 frozen banana (if using a fresh banana, add ice to the smoothie)
    – ½ cup frozen fruit (strawberries, other berries, mango, peaches, etc)

Here are some tasty combinations to try:

– Pina Colada: Coconut milk or water with frozen pineapple
– Green-Tea Mango: chilled green tea with frozen mango
– Apple Pie: apple juice, frozen banana (double the banana and skip the other fruit), add a dash of cinnamon
– Berry Madness: blueberry or pomegranate juice, mixed frozen berries

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On a different note, I want to announce the winner of the ENERGYbits giveaway!

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With the eleventh comment – the winner is Katie!

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Please email me with your mailing address to claim your prize! 🙂

Travel-Friendly Snacks

So on my aforementioned work trip, I was vaguely concerned about starving to death. This happens to me every time I travel. I’m a big snacker, and I obviously love to cook for myself, so when I’m away from my home kitchen and forced to eat on other people’s schedule I tend to starve. Ok, I’m being dramatic. It’s not legitimate starving. Like, I haven’t eaten in three hours when I’m used to eating every two kind of starving. I realize this is a first world problem.

Also, thanks to Murphy’s Law, my work flight ended up on the same week that I was traveling for personal reasons, so I get back late Thursday night and fly to Florida first thing Friday morning. I’m spending less than 12 hours back in DC before heading back to the exact same airport to leave again. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Snacks are going to be needed to power through.

To solve both of these problems, I decided to pack my bag with snacks like a squirrel packing up for the winter.

Therefore, let me share some travel-friendly snacks that I came up with! 🙂

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Protein/Granola-Type Bars
I didn’t want this category to be straight protein bars, as a good quality granola bar serves the same purpose. My personal favorite is Lara Bars thanks to their short-and-sweet ingredient list. Unfortunately, Lara Bars can also be very expensive. Luckily I discovered that Lara Bars are pretty reasonably priced at Target (of all places). The boxes are usually around $4 which is much better than the $2.50 a bar I’ve seen at some places (*cough*Harris Teeter*cough*). They are still a pretty pricey snack, but since they’re not an every day snack for me I accept the expense. It’s worth it to have something healthy in the cabinet in case I need a snack.

Nuts
Nuts are a great snack because they have a ton of health benefits and even though they are high in fat, it’s mostly the heart-healthy unsaturated kind. Also, that fat helps give you that “full” feeling! A handful of nuts is a great healthy snack, but watch the portion size if you eat any more than that. I was particularly excited about the bag pictured above (which I also found at Target) which is unsalted and has a wide variety of nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, etc). I also learned from the package that hazelnuts are also called ‘Filberts’ – what a dorky name for a nut! 🙂

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Nut Butter
Speaking of hazelnuts, I found these individual serving packages of Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter! Delicious! They also had packets of almond butter at Target, but I stuck with the chocolate because it looked so delicious. It’s sort of like Nutella, although it does have a slightly gritty texture. I was happy to find individual packets, as apparently peanut butter counts as a gel when traveling through airport security. There’s no need to unnecessarily provoke TSA seeing as on my way back from my Orlando vacation I accidently left a half-drunk water bottle in my carry-on and I swear the guy almost threw me out of the airport. Just a friendly tip! I think it’d be a great idea to pack crackers, or some sliced up veggies to go with the nut butter – unless you’re shameless like me and sometimes eat this stuff straight from the packet. Try not to judge me.

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Sliced Fruits and Veggies
Sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, as well as grapes or apples all make great travel-friendly (and TSA-friendly!) snacks. And compared to the fruit and veggie boxes at the airport, you can save a bundle by packing your own. Plastic baggies were definitely my friend for this trip! 🙂

What are your favorite snacks to take with you when you travel? Is anyone else as snack-obsessed as me?

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Along with the BBQ Chicken and cornbread I made on Saturday night, I whipped up a quick side of some Parmesan Roasted Broccoli. Along with grilled asparagus, it’s one of my all time favorite “quick and easy” side dishes. I’m always amazed at how delicious such simple meals can be! 🙂

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Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
Serves three to four.

    – 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets (don’t throw away the stems! Stash them in the freezer and once you get 3-4 you can make cream of broccoli soup – blog post to come!)
    – 3 tablespoons olive oil
    – Salt and pepper
    – ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the broccoli florets (you can peel and dice the stem and include that in with the florets if you wish!) with the olive oil and salt and pepper and place in a baking dish. Roast for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. Top with the Parmesan cheese and roast 1-2 minutes more, until cheese is melted.

Speaking of using up broccoli stems, I read this wonderful article from Organic Gardening about using up food scraps that we would normally throw away and I found it truly inspiring. I already do a few of these tips, like saving broccoli stems, but there are so many more I can now incorporate. One thing not mentioned in the article that I do, is I keep a large plastic container in my freezer for onion skins, carrot skins, carrot tops, scraps of garlic, onion roots, herb stems, etc. Once the container is full, I use these items to make my own stock! You can get a delicious stock out of the items you would usually throw away. It’s such a healthy and frugal way to keep your food budget on track!

Protein-Rich, Whole Grain Cornbread

On Saturday, when I hosted my BBQ Chicken dinner and a movie girls’ night, I also made a couple of delicious side dishes (if I do say so myself). First up, I was going to make corn on the cob but my corn had mutinied and dried out on me. To be honest, it was my own fault as I had basically forgotten it was in the house. I was doing so well with using stuff before it went bad, that I was bound to slip up some time.

So I needed a plan B. I had already gotten the combination of corn on the cob and BBQ chicken stuck in my head, so after digging through my cupboards for an idea I figured it out – cornbread!

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No, not “from a box” cornbread – but made from scratch cornbread. I was pretty sure I had all the basic ingredients. Now to search Allrecipes for a recipe…

I found a recipe on Allrecipes using sour cream, which I was pretty excited about as I use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for just about everything. Not to mention the other 5 thousand things I use Greek yogurt for. The recipe required quite a bit of adaptation since it used all purpose flour (and I only keep whole wheat in the house), and I also only had soy milk on hand since I’ve been experimenting with using it in my smoothies instead of regular milk. However, the food fairy godmother was on my side and the cornbread ended up turning out great! It was rich and definitely has a ton of protein in it from the Greek yogurt. It’s definitely a great side dish for BBQ or chili – I might make some the next time I make Cincinnati Chili in the Crock Pot.

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Protein-Rich, Whole Grain Cornbread
Makes eight individual servings (if you can limit yourself to one piece of bread! :-)).

    – ½ cup whole wheat flour
    – 1 cup cornmeal
    – ¼ cup sugar
    – ½ teaspoon baking powder
    – ½ teaspoon baking soda
    – ½ teaspoon salt
    – 1 egg
    – 1 cup Greek yogurt
    – 1/3 cup milk (I used soy milk – not sure how much it would affect the recipe to use regular)
    – ¼ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease (I used coconut oil which worked brilliantly) a 9×5 inch baking dish (this is the size I used and the dish was VERY full, like in danger of making a mess – but it thankfully didn’t. You may want to use a slightly larger pan).

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to combine, but do not over stir. Mix until the ingredients just come together.

Pour into prepared baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Homemade BBQ Sauce & BBQ Chicken Recipes

After the 5k on Saturday morning, the day turned into the rainy, grey day that it was supposed to be all along. I’m very thankful that we had that brief window of perfect weather to run the race in the morning! 🙂

Saturday night was definitely a “staying in” kind of evening so I planned a dinner and a movie date with two girlfriends at my place. No matter how often we try to get together for a girls’ night – we always end up saying “it feels like it’s been too long!” Does that happen to everyone else, too? 🙂

I’ve been dying to try making my own BBQ sauce, but I don’t eat BBQ very often so it has sort of been on the back burner. But, I thought some BBQ chicken would be the perfect low-key dinner for our girls’ night! And after tasting this sauce, I may be eating BBQ more often. It’s super quick and easy to throw together, and made from ingredients you probably already have in your house.

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Homemade BBQ Sauce
Makes approximately 1 ½ cups sauce

    – 6 ounces tomato paste
    – ¾ cup ketchup
    – ½ cup chicken (or veggie) stock
    – 3 garlic cloves, minced or pasted
    – 2 tbsp brown sugar
    – 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
    – 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    – 1 ½ tbsp cider vinegar
    – 1 tsp smoked paprika (regular paprika will work)
    – 2 tsp cracked black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a medium sauce pot and cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens to desired consistency. I cooked mine for about 10-15 minutes. If the mixture appears too thick, you can thin it out with another splash of stock.

I used the sauce to make some BBQ chicken in my cast iron skillet.

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BBQ Baked Chicken
Serves 4-6.

    – 4 chicken breasts (or thighs, or other meat – it’s up to you!)
    – Homemade BBQ Sauce (recipe above)
    – Coconut oil, olive oil, or other cooking oil
    – Salt and pepper

This is a quick and easy recipe to throw together! 🙂 Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Next, I cut my chicken breasts in half because they were absolutely huge. Next, put a few tablespoons of your cooking oil into your cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet) and allow it to heat up. I used coconut oil because it has a higher smoke point then olive oil, and I have a particularly sensitive fire alarm. And my cats hate the fire alarm. It makes them make faces like this.

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Salt and pepper the chicken and add to the skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. You’re just looking to sear the chicken, don’t worry about cooking it all the way through. Once both sides of the chicken are golden brown, coat the chicken in BBQ sauce and transfer to the oven. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through.

Serve with your favorite BBQ sides, and additional sauce on the side for dipping!

Chili – Cincinnati Style

This weekend I decided to make chili in the Crock Pot. It’s completely out of season since people tend to eat soups and chilis in the winter, and summer has just started to kick in for the DC area, but I’ve never been very good at doing things at appropriate seasonal times. I tend to cut my hair short in the winter, as I did this past winter – to a pixie cut. And dye my hair darker in the spring. I just can’t get myself on the right seasonal clock. Maybe I’m meant to live in the southern hemisphere. 🙂

My absolute favorite kind of chili is Cincinnati-style. Part of my family is from Ohio, so I was fortunate enough to get to try this style of chili growing up. It has a very unique “sweet-spiciness” to it which is the result of cinnamon in the recipe. Also, in Ohio they traditionally serve it on top of spaghetti. Personally, I’m not one for chili on my spaghetti but I do think this style of chili is the perfect texture and taste for chili dogs. Hello guilty pleasure!

I decided to cook this chili in the slow cooker, as I do with most chili recipes, because chili is one of those foods that only gets better the longer the ingredients have to meld together. Plus, you can’t get easier than the slow cooker! Since it was a warm and sunny day outside, I could start my chili and then leave it while I enjoyed the beautiful weather at the Washington National’s game with my friend Jen. And I returned to a pot of delicious chili! I’ve been fooling around with a few chili recipes for a while, but I think this one is finally perfect! 🙂

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Cincinnati-style Chili in the Crock Pot
Serves 8

    – 2 pounds ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
    – 6 oz of tomato paste
    – 1 onion, chopped
    – 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    – 2 tablespoons chili powder
    – 1 teaspoon unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
    – 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    – 2 teaspoons dried marjoram (can substitute oregano – but it’s a stronger flavor)
    – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    – Pinch of ground cloves
    – 2 15 oz cans of dark red kidney beans

Brown the ground beef in a skillet and drain well. Add the beef and all other ingredients except the beans to the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. You don’t have to worry about chopping the onions or garlic too small, as both will “cook away” and become part of the sauce/beef mixture. You can hardly tell there are any onions in the chili! It could be a good way to sneak in some vegetables if you have picky eaters in the house. Add the beans to the slow cooker during the last hour of cooking. Serve Ohio-style over spaghetti with sharp cheddar cheese, or over hot dogs, or just plain in a bowl with some shredded cheddar on top. It’s delicious in so many different ways! 🙂

Note: I’m a big fan of beans so this recipe is a little bean-heavy. You can reduce the recipe to 1 can of beans if you prefer.