Rate a Recipe

I actually get bored easily by food. So, although all the research says that weight loss happens more effectively when you have LESS variety in your diet, I'm all about MORE variety. I mean really, why else would I buy not one, but TWO cooking magazines and never leave a bookstore without spending at least 30 minutes in the cookbooks section. So, I'm always looking for new ways to cook staple foods - like chicken breast. For the most part, I really like Clean Eating Magazine. I like some of the sections, and I really like the weekly meal plans. But their recipes are hit and miss. So, I thought it would be fun if we did a "rate a recipe" every once in a while. We could share what we liked/disliked about the recipe and whether or not we had tips or tricks for it!

My first recipe rating comes from the August issue of Cooking Light Magazine (and next time I'll remember to take a photo)! Chicken and Rice Casserole (less than 350 calories per serving, and just about 9.5 g of fat - and I'm pretty sure that my substitutions reduced all that a bit too).
First - the substitutions to make it clean:
1. Use brown rice instead of the long grain white
2. Use whole wheat flour instead of the all-purpose
3. Use 1 T olive oil instead of the 1T butter
4. Use skim milk instead of the 2%

The benefits of this recipe are that it's a one dish meal with all the necessary requirements - good lean protein (chicken breast), a good serving of veggies (zucchini and yellow squash), and a health starch option with the brown rice substitution.

The flavors were great too, mostly coming from a single teaspoon of chopped FRESH rosemary. And once finished, this meal was both filling and tasty.

The cons here are that it is not a "quickie." The rice takes time (though you could pre-cook it) and all the steps take time too. There's both stove-top cooking AND oven cooking AND broiler cooking. But the yummy flavors are worth those troubles. The only thing is that I'd likely save this for later in the fall when having the stove and oven running heating up the house isn't such a bad thing.

Also, I did write in "make rice first" at the top of the directions because I realized (almost too late) that I needed "cooked rice" from the ingredients list.

I'm giving the recipe 3.5 (out of 5) stars for great flavor and super healthy benefits. But it is a little boring looking because the sauce and rice are all so neutral looking. It also takes a lot of steps and I like faster meals. However, as I said, they were worth it and I will make this again!

You can find the recipe here: Chicken and Rice Casserole


More Veggies Needed

I recently started a boot camp class and have been talking with the trainer about nutrition. I am down to my last 10 pounds, and as everyone knows, those are the hardest to lose. So, one thing we discussed after going over my daily intake (which he agreed was highly nutritious) was that I was eating too many grains and not enough veggies. As I looked, I had to admit that he was right. I was getting about 4-5 servings of "fruits AND veggies" but most of my servings were coming from the fruit side rather than the veggie side. Well, I struggle with this and have a hard time adding variety into my diet. So, when the trainer started posting his smoothie recipes online, I was of course interested because I DO love my morning smoothies. Well, he posted one recently, raspberries, blueberries, non-fat milk, protein powder, and SPINACH. What? Was that a typo? No, he was serious. Claimed you couldn't even taste it. The next day, a similar recipe was posted - again with spinach and all these other sweet ingredients. Well, as I said, I've been struggling with the veggie servings so this morning, I did a little experiment of my own. I took my favorite smoothie recipe: 1 c skim milk, 1 banana, 1 TB natural peanut butter, 1 scoop chocolate flavored protein powder, and 5 ice cubes and mixed it up. Only this time, I also added a handful of spinach leaves. And know what? I couldn't taste the spinach at all. And bam, one veggie serving down. It was the perfect way to start the day.


yummy pears...

after being disgusted at the pear selection where i buy my groceries, i decided to give it another go when a friend of mine suggested this little snack:

1 pear, chopped
feta cheese

that's it! i'm not big on cheese, but i buy that crumbled feta and just put a few chunks on top of the pears and then add some walnuts. yum!!!

instead of using the whole pear, get a handful of strawberries and add them to the mix with half the pear.

liz :)


It All Starts with Breakfast!

If we've heard it once, we've heard it a hundred times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, I'm here to remind you how true that is. If you want to maintain your health, your body needs fuel. It's important to remember that although YOU may be asleep, your body is still working for you all night long... pumping your blood, keeping you alive. Right? But it's doing all that on no fuel, no food - for a good 6-8 hours. So, in general, breakfast is just important for a good "fill up."

But especially if you are changing your eating habits because you want to a) change the shape of your body and/or b) lose weight... there is nothing you can do better than to fill up first thing in the morning. The key to weight loss (that took me 45 years of hearing, not believing, then waking up and realizing I was wrong) is not simple reduction in calories. It's absolutely, first and foremost changing your metabolism (and eating enough, not too many, calories). And you know what comes next, right? To boost the metabolism, you start out by feeding that body that has already been starving during those sleep hours. Just go ahead and give it a kick start every single morning.

So, not having been a fan of the breakfast previously, I find my breakfast choices tend to get boring. This morning I experimented a little and I loved the result. Perhaps you do this already, perhaps not. I do love hot oat bran cereal - reminds me of my childhood Cream of Wheat days. But of course, here is a healthier version:

1/2 c oat bran
1 1/4 c water
1/2 banana (sliced)
dash of salt
1 tsp pure maple syrup (optional)

Combine the oat bran, water, salt and sliced banana in a bowl. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. It will look like it's still watery when you take it out but once you stir up the bran from the bottom it will be fine. While stirring, mash the banana so that it mixes in with the hot cereal. If desired, add 1 tsp pure maple syrup for added flavor.


Grilled Chicken and Mango Salsa

Grilled Chicken:

1. season thawed chicken breast tenderloins (or whole breasts) with a little sea salt and some fresh ground pepper.
2. grill until done.

Mango Salsa:

1 whole mango, chopped
1 whole avocado, chopped
a few sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 red onion (you can use more, but mine was super hot)
1/2 jalapeno (again, you can use more but mine was HOT!!!)
1/2 small can super sweet white and yellow corn
about 6 cherry tomatoes, chopped
lime juice (about 3 Tbsp?)

chop all the above stuff up. mix it all together and stir in the lime juice. Add to your cooked chicken.

This is my favorite thing i've made so far! and the best part is you can use this salsa on just about anything else...wraps, salads, pork loin. i don't know what else, but if you think of something good to put the salsa on, leave it in the comments section :)



shim-han cho-un su-reg-i

that means "serious good garbage"...well this isn't garbage, it's chicken. and it's pretty darn good and easy, to boot.

Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken Breast:

marinade: balsamic vinegar, honey...don't ask me for measurments. just go easy on the honey and make a thick liquid while stirring in the balsamic vinegar.

marinade the chicken with it for about an hour. and grill. super easy. i'd say i used about 3 Tbsp honey and about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar over 4 medium sized chicken breasts.

it was excellent. i served with my fave bag of 50/50 mix lettuce...topped with feta, dried cranberries, and kalamata olives. the dressing i made using 2 tsp olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a few shakes of onion powder and italian seasoning, and one clove pressed garlic. again, not really a measuring kind of person.

next time i make it, i'll post a pic. it looked pretty!


Once You Go Clean

I feel like I've been introduced to a whole new level of taste since eating clean. I didn't really notice it until this weekend though. Not only have I been eating clean, but I've also been pretty committed to buying Farmer's Market fresh and organic produce. This has been my way for almost three months now. But this weekend the kid went to the grocery store and bought some food, including apples. I was hungry, and an apple's and apple, right?


One bite into that grocery store, non-organic apple and I wanted to spit it out. It tasted almost plastic, fake. I couldn't believe that a poor apple could really be so tasteless. But I was hungry, so I ate that plastic, fake tasting apple. But half-way through it, my stomach turned into a knotted, cramped mess. I was so sick! I mentioned something to the kid tonight at dinner about it and she looked at me and admitted that she had gotten a stomach ache from eating the apples too!

It just goes to show you how desensitized our bodies become to the crap, the wax, or the sprays or whatever. But after you rid your body of all that junk, it doesn't want it back, not in the teeniest tiniest bit.


Salmon and Spinach Pasta

yummy! super easy and super fast...

2 salmon fillets (i buy the individually packed/frozen fillets)
1/4 pound whole wheat pasta
1/2 bag fresh baby spinach leaves
2 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. McCormick Perfect Pinch Mediterranean Herb Natural Seasoning
1 clove garlic, pressedPrepare pasta as suggested on package.
  1. Sprinkle herb seasoning on both salmon fillets. Grill salmon or cook in skillet in 1 tsp. olive oil until done. Remove from pan
  2. Add another tsp. olive oil to skillet and add pressed garlic. Add spinach leaves and saute until wilted.
  3. I usually get 3 meals out of this. If you want to do the same, cut up salmon fillets and add spinach and salmon to pasta and separate into equal portions.
  4. Enjoy!


Kicking the Habit

So, if you are here, you are likely making an attempt, maintaining, or considering a clean eating lifestyle. Hey, me too. But is there something (maybe more than one) in your diet that you know for darn sure it isn't within the guidelines of eating clean? Sure, I'm sure there is. Maybe it's that' Diet Coke you just have to have every day with lunch. Or, perhaps you really can't live without an occasional Dairy Queen Blizzard. Well, nobody is perfect. I've been clean eating now since just after the Thanksgiving holidays. Yes, I went for it at a very difficult time of year. I stopped eating candies (yes, when my boss gave me a coffee cup filled with Hershey Kisses, I did eventually eat them all gone - but I gave some away too), I stopped drinking soda of any kind (fell off that bandwagon though last week and I had ONE Diet Coke because my daughter, aka the temptress, bought and brought home a case and left it sitting on the kitchen table), and I stopped eating white flours (and that's been pretty easy).

All that went out the window - mostly - on vacation. But I digress as that is a post all on its own.

But what about that one vice, that one thing one can't live without? Tosca Reno herself has one - and it's coffee. For me, it's my little pink packet (and it MUST be the pink kind) of artificial sweetener in my two cups of coffee first thing in the morning. Before I drink my water, before I eat my breakfast, before I work out on my treadmill... I have two cups of freshly brewed, wake up full on caffeinated, hot cups of coffee with a dash of milk and a pink packet of ultra sweet goodness.

For the first four weeks, I thought - later, later I will give it up. The fifth week I said, now. So, I bought some Agave syrup thinking that was the sweetest stuff described. And for 10 days I tried it. I hated every cup of coffee. But I kept drinking it - it's my thing - it's what I do. I went to Costa Rica for a week this month and while there I decided, well, since there is no agave, and I don't want to revert to my artificial ways, I'll try the unrefined pure cane sugar they had. No dice. I hated every single cup. So, I returned home (and on the trip I brought Tosca's book to read), and thought about Tosca and the plan.

It's clear that for Tosca, she was unwilling to give up her coffee. She made many other good choices, but that one, that very one was not going to budge. I started thinking about my development. I realized, I eat damn healthy 98% of the time. I've given up artificial sweeteners in my fake cookies, my low-fat false ice creams, my diet sodas, my diet iced tea drinks, my powerade/gatorade drinks - from everywhere else, it has been eradicated. So, is it completely and totally necessary to give it up in my coffee? I've decided, no. But I've reduced. I've learned that having a Hazelnut coffee, or a coffee dusted with cinnamon before brewing provides natural sweetness. So, I only need a 1/2 packet per cup to still love my coffee.

So, there you have it. Sometimes, it's just allowing yourself a simple pleasure that can keep you right on track.


Grilled Chipotle Chicken and Spinach

ok, so maybe the two don't go together but whatever. it's yummy! and, just so you know, if it ain't simple i'm not going to make it! this is SIMPLE!!!

  • Chicken Breast (i make like 6 pieces at a time and eat them over a few days)
  • Chipotle Chili Pepper Seasoning
  • Fresh Spinach Leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

(i don't measure things really, sorry!)

  1. Trim fat off chicken breast. Rub about 1/2 tsp of chipotle seasoning on each chicken breast, both sides.
  2. Grill or bake until done.
  3. heat 1 tsp. olive oil in pan and sautee garlic. Add spinach leaves until wilted.
  4. EAT!!!

super simple, right? and super yummy! Enjoy!


Meal Planning

I wanted to talk a little today about what I believe the foundation is of successful Clean Eating. Yes, that's right - it's the meal plan. With one of the main components of eating clean being munching on 5-6 meals a day, I realized early on that I needed a more organized way to keep up with all that food intake. I know a lot of people at least plan their dinners for a week, but I'm here to say that planning all 5 meals makes this girl one successful clean eater. I have snacks at work, my kid just looks on the fridge and has a plethora of lunch and snack ideas from which to choose, and I come home and already know... "what's for dinner?"

As soon as took the Clean Eating plunge, I knew I was going to need guidance, so I immediately subscribed to Clean Eating Magazine (which coincidentally is published by Robert Kennedy publishing which hmmm, also happens to be the name of Tosca Reno's husband... but that's a story for another day isn't it). I also went to the bookstore and picked up an earlier issue of the magazine knowing that my subscription would be lagging and I wanted to soak up all the information I could. So, here is where I discovered the meal plans. If you check out the website you'll see the link to my very first meal plan. In each issue, they include 2 weeks worth of meal plans and coordinating shopping lists. So, I've adapted those plans and shopping lists based on: 1. my personal food choice tastes
2. my budget
3. what I might have in the house, or in particular leftover from the week prior.

And for all of you who say, I hate grocery shopping... this does work best if you shop 1/week, but I can see making a plan that you could stretch into two weeks - just means using more frozen fruits and veggies.

Tips for adapting meal plans:
1. Start with dinner - this allows you to more easily plan lunches, especially if you are a small family like ours. There are sure to be leftovers and you can use them elsewhere.
2. Vary the menu - I mean, introduce yourself to one or two new recipes or foods each week. You might surprise yourself in what you or your family are willing to eat.
3. Stick to the plan at the grocery store - this helps you manage your budget and be less impulsive when shopping (for me it means fewer frozen dinners and other sugar/preservative laden convenience foods thrown in the cart).
4. Commit to the time for planning - use your own cookbooks, search online (I particularly like cookinglight.com for easy to adapt recipes).
5. Add notations to your plan for easy and fast cooking such as where to find a recipe you've included.
6. Planning at least one slow cooker recipe with a larger serving amount works great for freezing foods and having them available for future planning.

Here are 3 examples of my meal plans - the first two are fairly close to the ones from the Nov/Dec issue of Clean Eating magazine, but the third is my own. I used several recipes from the magazine, but also from two of my cookbooks (CrockPot and an all-time favorite The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook)

Ok - so now that I set you up for the grand finale of the post, I've spent the last 30 minutes trying to figure out how to post my Meal Plan files, and it just. won't. work. So, instead... I will link you to my personal blog... where I KNOW how to post my meal plans and will do so now.

Happy Eating everyone!


My Story

Allison here! aka - Ally, aka - scrapally. Thanks to Liz for starting the blog where we can all chat and share our tips, recipes and ideas. Love it!

I thought I'd make my first post more of an introduction and explain my motivation for eating clean. About 14 years ago (age 31), I was in the best shape of my life - and I mean the B.E.S.T. I was 95# (I'm only 4'9" so don't freak out too bad) and 16% body fat (athletic for a woman). I was buff and I ate whatever I damn well pleased. I probably ate about 3500+ calories a day. But overall, they were low fat, low/artificial sugar, lots of lean meats, etc. What I considered a "healthy" diet. Yes, I would indulge, but I tried to think in terms of nutritional value. How does one under 5 foot gal take in 3500 calories and maintaing that body you may ask? Exercise. Lots and lots and lots of exercise. I was working out 6 days a week. 60-90 minutes of kickboxing and advanced step aerobics and then another hour of weight training - the real stuff - squats, bench presses, dumbbell flies. You get the idea. But that's a lifestyle that I couldn't continue, nor do I want to return to that kind of exercise regime. So, it didn't last. It was HARD to retrain my eating habits back to a normal amount of calories, and I continue to struggle with viewing my body (which is healthy, but not tone and on the higher end of the scale from which I am comfortable) in a way that I accept.

I'll be honest, a month ago I was fluctuating between 115-117. Yeah, yeah, I know, you all would kill for that. But when you look at my BMI, it's right on the cusp of that every dangerous 25. So, it's not where I want to be. It's not where I am comfortable. Again, I always considered myself a healthy eater. Once I got serious about getting my body to look as healthy as I thought I ate, I searched for the solution - I knew it included exercise and I'm good with that. But I wanted a regime that allowed me and my busy schedule to all work together. I tried Weight Watchers. And that worked. But if you've ever done WW, you know it's all about the points and because of my weight and size, guess how many points I was limited to - 18. A mere 18 points. That leaves no room - and those extra points each week? If I used them, I didn't lose - only if every day I stuck to 18 points. It just wasn't enough food and I could never keep it up for the long haul.

Around the time I was getting serious and searching I saw a book at the grocery store. I was always picking up anything that looked like a cookbook with healthy recipes. And this book piqued my interest - Clean Eating. But whoa, what was she saying? No processed food, no chemicals? Yeah right. Everything's got stuff in it. That sounded like a silly, fanatical idea.

Fast forward about 3 years. Here is Liz - posting her amazing transformation and guess what she was talking about? Yup, we all know the answer - clean eating. I'd been getting more interested in the whole buy local, use farmer's market, etc trend and this whole idea suddenly made complete and total sense. 5 meals a day? I'm sure not going to feel hungry! All fresh? I LOVE fresh veggies and fruits. And I already typically picked up whole grain breads and tortillas, why not everything else?

So, here I am. I'm making it work. I'm finding what does indeed work for me and what doesn't. And bonus - in the last 3-4 weeks of clean eating? I've lost 4 pounds. Yeah, now that's good motivation. What's yours?