Tag Archives: food

Fun Times Friday: Date Night Creativity

If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know that Mike and I go on a date every Saturday night. Each week we switch off planning and paying for them and, if possible, we make it a surprise. So last week was mine and, considering I’m on a VERY tight budget I’ve had to get pretty creative with what we do. My budget most weeks is about $25 for both of us. How the heck do I figure that out??

Well if you keep an eye out for free events going on in your town, you never know what you’ll find! There’s a nice, upper class area called Peoria Heights that I drive through every once in a while and I saw a sign for “Chocolate in the Heights.” You know those signs that you tend to ignore because you’re just too busy going about your day? This was one of those. But since I’ve come to realize my not awesome financial state, I’ve started actually looking at those signs! There was no description of what it was, just that it was the next Saturday (yes!) from 10am-5pm. I did a little searching and found a slightly more detailed poster for the event.

chocmap2012brochure

Using my deductive reasoning, I assumed that each boutique and shop on the main street would have some kind of deal on chocolate and/or something free to offer. Done and done!

As usual, I planned to take him to this event and then bring him home and cook a nice, sit-down meal for us both.

I kept it a surprise until we parked in the Heights and let’s just say Mike looked less than excited. However! I kept the energy going. I gave us $15 to spend on chocolate and whatever else we wanted and, because I had to work late, we had an hour to do it.

It ended up being REALLY fun. Of course we only took one picture because I was too excited to remember to take more. But we discovered a whole street of awesome shops we didn’t know were there: an oil and vinegar shop with about 30 different types of gourmet vinegar (cool!) and a few more specialty shops with random but also really unusual knick-knacks. We got some great gift ideas for Christmas.

photo-3

^ Yep, I look like I’ve just discovered gold.

We used this as our food vacation day and got lots of delectable treats. Free stuff we indulged in: chocolate fountain (see above), chocolate pretzel clusters, oil and vinegar samples, cheese, wine, beer, and chocolate cupcakes. With our $15 we bought an amazing triangle of cheese, a bar of specialty chocolate, and some Pear Balsamic Vinegar. And we had such a good time scoping out the options and then going back to the shops to purchase what we wanted.

So it’s possible! To have a few hours of fun and still stick to your budget. You just have to keep an eye out for free things around your town.

Happy Friday everyone! 🙂

Produce: To Buy Organic or Not?

I had a realization last night that I really want this blog to be about staying healthy with no time OR money. I think I’ve done pretty well with the no time but where’s the money guidance Ashley!? Where is it?

Organic produce: SUPER expensive but sometimes it’s really worth it. Here’s an easy to follow list of rules when buying produce. Or anything really.

Rule #1: If it’s available, buy LOCAL – this is because the closer you can get to where your food is produced, the more you can be comfortable that it’s not grown with any pesticides or other crappy chemicals. Also, the shorter the shipping distance, the more nutrients left when it hits your mouth. And you’re supporting your local economy! Here’s a guide to see if your community offers the best thing for local produce, farmer’s markets.

Rule #2: If it’s available, buy ORGANIC – again, chemicals (such as pesticides) are bad in food and very bad in your body. Get that stuff out of there! Also, non organic produce is often genetically modified and much lower in nutrients. [According to a study done by Stanford, link here, there are no more nutrients in organic food than conventionally grown. However, there is a strong but so far unstudied likelihood that the presence of pesticides affects your body so much that it is not able to absorb all the nutrients in the produce.]  If you’re gonna eat an apple, might as well get all the good you can out of it, right?

Rule #3: If organic is too expensive or there’s a limited selection, follow the list of the CLEAN FIFTEEN and DIRTY DOZEN. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out this awesome list every year of the cleanest and dirtiest produce on the market that year. If it’s on the clean fifteen, it has very few pesticides and isn’t a huge harm to your body. If it’s on the dirty dozen, only buy it organic because conventional farmers basically bathe it in a chemical bath.

^This is a great pocket guide you can download from the website but you should definitely check it out in all it’s glory. Here’s the link. I am signed up for the newsletter (they don’t bombard your inbox like I do) and I got the app for my phone so I can have it whenever I’m at the market.

How is your market’s selection of organic produce? What has been your organic buying practice up to now?

Don’t forget to smile 🙂

Sunday Recipe: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free Pancakes

Today is a seriously gorgeous day in Peoria. Scattered clouds, beautiful blue sky, about 67°F. AND one of my best friends managed to extend a work trip in the area and we get a whole two days with her! She is leaving very soon and I’m gonna be really sad. It’s so amazing to be around someone who you can sit in comfortable silence with then break the silence with an awesome conversation and easy laugh. I love it and miss it/her a lot.

And what’s even more awesome is that she is gluten and lactose intolerant just like me! So this morning we made gluten free pancakes for all of us. They were SO good. Just sweet enough and dense enough to be like normal pancakes without all the bloating and over-full feeling. And Katie had the awesome idea to use the leftovers for a post-workout snack.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups multi-purpose gluten free flour (I keep this around to use as a thickening agent in some recipes)
  • 1/2 tsp stevia powder or 15 drops stevia liquid
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon xantham gum

Instructions:

1) Whisk together the eggs, melted butter, coconut milk, and vanilla.

2) In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir in the egg mixture.

3) Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes (this makes them fluffier). Preheat skillet on medium for the last 5 minutes.

4) Lightly grease it with coconut oil or another high heat oil. Scoop the batter (I use a small glass) into small dollar sized pancakes.

5) Cook pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes, till the tops lose their shine and bottoms are golden brown. Flip and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on the other side.

6) Top it with whatever delicious yummies you can find in your fridge. We used berries and pure maple syrup (not sugar free).
Sunday breakfast is probably one of my favorite meals of the week. YUM.
I hope you’re having wonderfully peaceful Sundays 🙂

Thursday Recipe: Build-a-Salad

 

*to those interested, birthday update at the bottom of the page

Whenever I mention healthy eating, people’s automatic reaction is, “I hate salad.” Let me share something, me too. The typical restaurant salad is cold, unsavory, and wholly unsatisfying. But I’ve recently determined that they’re doing it wrong. As I’ve mentioned before, my current lifestyle goal is only eating grain for lunch and restricting carbs at dinner. This is not to lose weight but to prevent a haphazard insulin spike right before bed. So “salads” have become my go to dinner options and I’ve realized, they’re not all that bad!

To build a great salad just replace whatever carb you were going to use (pasta, rice, potatoes, etc) with dark leafy greens (I prefer spinach). This means that you get the healthy without sacrificing the hot and savory.

Recently, in the vain of cooking a big portion of one thing, I made cooked a big batch of lentils and steamed some extra veggies I had lying in my fridge. Here is the result:

^ Start with the leafy green base. Don’t worry, it will be covered up soon.

^ Add whatever warm veggies you decided to cook. I have zucchini, red bell peppers, and eggplant.

^ Pile on whatever protein you want. I made lentils but you could do any kind of meat or legume.

^ Top it off with a healthy fat like goat or sheep cheese (pretty much lactose free) and some oil based dressing like balsamic or italian. And enjoy!

* Final note: My birthday ended up being quite wonderful. My coworkers remembered and even gave me gifts. I got so much love through this blog and facebook and texting and phone calls. AND Mike came home from his business trip early! He surprised me at work with flowers, a bottle of wine, and a Gap coat that I’ve been eyeing for months. What wonderful people I have in my life. Thanks everyone 🙂

Today, just smile.

 

Braving a World of Junk Food: Packing a Lunch

As I last posted, I’ve been working the Morton Pumpkin Fest for the last several days. If any of you know of the festival, you know it’s full of some seriously delicious junk food; including but not limited to: pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin funnel cake. Everything delicious, in pumpkin flavor!! It’s my own personal temptation hell.

However, it’s so important to learn how to brave these situations and so that you can join the rest of your community celebrating awesome things like Fall!

Some Tips:

1. Choose one thing to treat yourself to and wait until the end of your trip to do it. The buildup will make sure you don’t violate your own rule.

2. Make sure, before you leave the house, that you eat a big, healthy meal. Being full means you’ll be less tempted by anything other than your planned treat.

3. Bring some snacks! This is where dinner leftovers make things quick and easy.

 

Here was mine for an 8 hour shift at the fridge:

– Sandwich – gluten-free bread, sunflower butter, and blackberry jam we found at the farmers market.

– Smoothie – coconut water, 1 banana, handful of frozen fruit, handful spinach, scoop of protein.

– Salad – whatever is in your fridge. Mine was tomatoes, spinach, pinto beans from the chili last week, and humus.

Tools that make it easy:

– Resealable container like a Tupperware.

– Blender bottle for the smoothie. It’s not only easy to drink out of but it has a little spring ball that you keep in the liquid and when you’re ready to eat you just shake it all up.

– Lunch box/ bag keeps things cold or hot and easy to carry.

^ My handy dandy lunch box.

I was full and happy with my lunch and this morning, as a treat for resisting for 5 days, I had a giant pancake breakfast!

Enjoy your Sundays. Don’t forget to smile!

Produce: Where and How…

Happy Saturday! Holy Bajolies this week has been crazy. I seriously can’t believe it’s Saturday already. Saturday morning is my grocery shopping time and I have a full day of work this afternoon so I woke up bright and early (and not too happily), did a quick spot of yoga to loosen up my stiff joints, and headed across the street to Peoria’s best farmer’s market.

 

A few awesome things about farmer’s markets:

1. You know exactly where everything comes from.

2. It’s all fresh.

3. It’s mostly organic too, although you have to check on this one.

4. You’re supporting the local farmers and keeping out the unhealthy, mass farms.

5. You get outside and interact with your community.

6. The food is SO much tastier than the grocery store produce.

7. You’re eating seasonal which varies your diet and provides inspiration in the kitchen.

Some things to be cautious of:

– Keep an eye on pricing, sometimes one or two items can be very expensive.

– Don’t over buy. It can be tempting with all the beautiful colors in front of you. But here’s a tip, go with a certain amount of cash (I take $25) and leave once you’ve spent it.

– Scan the whole spread of vendors before choosing the stands you will buy from, you may get to the end and realize one was much better than another.

Other than that, enjoy! I buy 50% of our fridge stock from our market and it’s made our diet so much better. I’ve come to look forward to it every week.

Check this site out for almost all the markets in the US: http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/

For those outside the US, just google “Farmer market [name of your town].”

^ pretty!

don’t forget —>  🙂

Low Grain, High Protein, Gluten Free Breakfast!

Low Grain, High Protein, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free, and Raw. I realize it sounds pretty gross but I’m telling you, this “granola” is DELICIOUS. When I’m not home to cook, this is what Mike has for dinner. Haha.

I started making this stuff when I started my new goal of less grain/carbs for breakfast and dinner and much higher protein. Granola is my #1 choice for breakfast but I can be kind of picky. That’s why I was so surprised that it is SO GOOD. It’s a twist on another recipe from the awesome book in this post.

Ingredients:

1 cup pepitas, aka pumpkin seeds (they’re really high in protein and so yummy)

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup brown rice protein, OPTIONAL

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup raw almonds, slivered or sliced

3/4 cup raw walnuts, in pieces

1 cup dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries, or a mix!

1/2 cup GF oats

Instructions:

Grind up pepitas, sunflower seeds, and coconut. I use a tiny food processor I got at Goodwill. You could do it in a blender though, or just leave everything whole. Pour all that into a gallon ziploc bag. Add all other ingredients. Shake it all up. Scoop out 1/2 to 1 cup, pour some almond or coconut milk over it. Enjoy!

This is possibly the easiest all-at-once breakfast I’ve ever made. It takes about 10 minutes to make a batch to last 2 or 3 weeks. And, because it’s so high in protein, it keeps me full for hours.

Another tip, keep the granola in the gallon bag with a 1/2 cup measuring cup in there. This way you can ration your supply saving you money and preventing over indulgence.

 

Smiles are contagious, plant one right on your kisser and keep it there all day 🙂

Recipe: Big Ole Pot O’ [healthy] Chili

Sorry for the late post today. I was cooking all day and wanted to post a recipe of something cool. And I made chili!

I mistakenly bought dry pinto beans instead of canned ones so that added an extra 5 hours onto the hour and a half taken to actually prepare the chili. BUY CANNED PINTO BEANS.

This recipe is from my favorite nutrition book, check it out here. It’s a scientific breakdown of your body and the nutrients it needs and doesn’t get in the modern american diet. Anyway, here’s the recipe. It’s really simple and takes a tiny bit of prep time and some serious simmer time. But it’s SOOOO delicious and SOOOOO healthy.

Prepping dried pinto beans (if you don’t want to spend the time just buy canned ones):

^ Sort the beans to pick out any rocks or cracked beans, then rinse them.

 

^ Fill pot with water 3″ above the beans. Boil then cover and simmer for 1 hour. Drain them.

Fill pot with water 1″ above the beans. Boil then cover and simmer for 4 hours. Check every hour to make sure there is still water.

Drain and they’re finally ready!

Ingredients (serves 8-10 < but they’ll want more than one serving):

2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

4 cloves minced garlic

2 cups chopped green pepper

4 cups pinto, black, or kidney beans

4 tsp oregano

4 tsp chili powder

4 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp sea salt

2 8 ounce cans crushed tomatoes (get organic if you can!)

1.5 to 3 pounds of organic ground chicken or turkey or grass-fed ground beef

Instructions:

Heat oil in large pot and saute onions, celery, garlic, and peppers until onion is translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add meat, chili powder, and cumin, continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes. Pour salt and tomatoes into pot. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for at least one hour. I finished cooking earlier than I expected so I just kept the simmer going and it got even more delicious.

^ nom nom nom.

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

 

Recipe Thursday: Quinoa Scramble

I am definitely not the healthiest person I know but I am towards the top of the list. One of the ways I make sure that I never fall back into bad habits is that I’m always working on something. Always taking baby steps.

My current baby step: more carbs for lunch, less for dinner. The theory is that I will actually use the energy they give me if I eat them for lunch but at night, they just sit in my stomach, converting to sugar then fat.

So I cooked this recipe to take to work for lunch and I had a salad for dinner! My dessert plate had some sugar in it but that’s the next step I’ll be embarking on.

This recipe is awesome because it has some grain but it’s also full of protein, nutrients from the produce, and good fat. *note: the less you cook the vegetables in the beginning, the more nutrients stay in them. Its gluten-free, dairy free, and sugar-free (yet tasty?). And it’s so QUICK AND EASY!

Quinoa Scramble Ingredients:

high heat oil like sunflower or coconut oil

produce that was 24 hours from going bad (my fridge had handful spinach, 1/4 onion, 1/2 tomato)

3 eggs

1/4 cup almond or coconut milk

quinoa (bought these cool ready-made packages at the grocery store)

salt and pepper

Cooking Instructions:

^ Preheat the skillet on medium heat, grease with high heat oil. Add chopped produce and saute until only slightly crunchy (my spinach had wilted).

^ While its cooking scramble the eggs with the milk.

^ and prep the quinoa in Tupperwear so you can take it with you.

^ Add the eggs to the pan and scramble them all up. Cook until the eggs are done.

^ and plate it! Sprinkle with some salt and pepper then cover it immediately to keep moisture and heat in. If you put it in an insulated lunch bag like I have, you shouldn’t need to reheat it.

Enjoy!

Leftover Mashup

A couple of nights ago I had a fridge full of leftovers and not very much time. I’ve started cooking extras when I make dinner then just pop them in the fridge for meals later. It’s awesome until you find yourself with just a little bit of everything, so I made a leftover mashup!

I always keep tomato sauce (with no added sugar) on hand for occasions like this.

So I had leftover: brown rice, lentils, and chicken (from the roast earlier this week).

I added: tomato sauce, and broccoli I bought on Sunday at the farmers market.

Because I’m doing no more microwaves: I put the rice in a pot with a 1/3 cup of water (it hydrates the dried rice) then covered and put it in the oven at 200°F for about 15 minutes. Stir frequently so rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.

^ I can’t find my good camera so pictures are a little grainy until I have some extra time to find it.

Then I cooked the broccoli, chicken, lentils, and tomato sauce on medium until it was warm enough to eat. It’s ok if the broccoli is a little crunchy, the less the heat it, the more nutrients it retains.

Then just pour the sauce over the rice and add some grated parmesan or pecorino (it’s sheep’s milk so there’s very little lactose in it) over the top and enjoy! In the words of Mike,”MMMMMMMMMmmm….”

Don’t forget to smile! They’re contagious.