Here Fishy Fishy…

I remember when I was younger I had a huge aversion to fish, like many children do.  The texture, flavor, and smell are unlike anything else.  I used to fight my parents to not have to eat it, used to get chicken or something of the sort at Red Lobster if we went there (and yumm, yes, the biscuits).  As I got older, I started to LOVE fish.  All kinds of fish.  And SUSHI.  Oh, what would I do if I didn’t have sushi?!

When my mini me got diagnosed with food allergies to Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Fish, and Shellfish, my thoughts immediately went to  what she couldn’t have, and how we were going to be able to find foods for her to have.  I worked thru it.  I found substitutions for some of our favorite foods and got creative in the kitchen.  We ate less processed foods than ever!  We found that Oreos are actually Vegan, so she could have small indulgences like the rest of the kids she knew as she grew up.

Earlier this summer, we had our annual allergy appointment where the doctor did a skin test for some of her allergies.  We were ESTATIC to find that she could eat fish and shell fish.  She was so excited to be able to eat fish and shellfish, even though she had never tasted them before.  Just given the opportunity to eat something she has never been allowed to had her all reved up.  We bought some fish sticks the very next day (I figured that was a safe bet for a 3 year old to try fish for the first time) and cooked them up.  She sat down and tried them.

She LOVED fish.  I was so scared that she was going to not like it, and we would have gone thru all of the testing for no reason.  Since then, we’ve had shrimp, salmon burgers, and pollock burgers, all of which she loved.

Last night was the true test… I had plans to make fish tacos.  Not too extreme, but still something I would picture a 3 year old eating.  So I went ahead and started making them.  I didn’t write down a recipe, but it was simple enough that I’ll give details below.  I even had some slaw and avocado to put on top.  I tell you, this small child of mine will try anything once!  I put a taco together for her, and was expecting her to try it and hate it… But she didn’t!  She loved it!  Devoured the whole thing in a matter of minutes, and asked for more.  She makes my heart smile – her courage and adventurous nature makes me so proud to be her mom, and makes me want to continue to strive to be better in every way.

Oven Roasted "Blackened" Tilapia Slaw Slaw & Avocado Smart & Delicious Mini Multi-Bran Wraps Tilapia with Seasoning

Oven Roasted “Blackened” Tilapia Tacos with Slaw

  • Tilapia seasoned with chili powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder
  • Baked for about 15-20 at 400 if frozen (which mine was because I didn’t think far enough ahead to take out of the freezer), less if fresh or thawed
  • Cole Slaw Mix combined with Walden Farms Thousand Island dressing and put in the fridge while baking

I topped small multi bran tortillas with some crumbled tilapia, a bit of slaw, and some chopped avocado.

I hope you enjoy if you give it a try!

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The end… And…SUSHI!

Yesterday I made the tough decision to end my adventure into the world of my second Whole30. I had decided at the beginning of this year that my healthy lifestyle was going to be something I enjoyed and not despised. While I agree with the principles of the Whole30, I do not want to deprive myself of some of my favorite foods because they don’t fit into a bucket created by someone. It did give me a chance to be able to refocus my nutrition on healthy and natural sources of foods, remind me that most of my foods at meals should be vegetables, and that I need to be mindful of the other “crap” that I consume. However, I need to be able to enjoy things like sushi and the occasional beverage. So, back to my norm – eat what I enjoy, in moderation, and find new ways to serve healthy foods to my family.

Now, back to sushi…  Mmm… Sushi.  We ordered takeout from our favorite sushi place last night for dinner, Aodake.  Fantastic place, three locations in the Chicagoland area now. Woo!  The two below are my favorites.

Baked scallop, crab, shrimp and cream sauce
Baked scallop, crab, shrimp and cream sauce
Spicy salmon, avocado, cucumber in soy paper, with assortment of fresh fish, tobiko on top (12pc)
Spicy salmon, avocado, cucumber in soy paper, with assortment of fresh fish, tobiko on top (12pc)

The dynamite roll is AMAZING!!!  And the perfect rainbow is, well, perfect!  Anyone I have introduced to these two rolls love them, and I have not been able to find anything like them at any other sushi place.  Now, if they could somehow come up with a frequent diners card my life would be complete!

I start working out again tomorrow.  After hurting my knee last Sunday during goblet squats, I gave it a rest week.  I can’t wait! I feel like I’ve gotten soft this week even though I have been eating very well.

Hope everyone has a great Saturday!

Who got me a stripper??

It has been a busy week and a half for me!  Just about two weeks ago I got to help one of my best friends celebrate her 30th birthday with an amazing party at a local bar.  I donated a hotel room to the cause, which was the site of a little girl bonding time while we were getting ready and an after party.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a party that I was at (or hosting) unless there was a random pop-in by the police.  IMG_7651No… We weren’t that awful!  I am in my 30s… I am somewhat respectful (shush).  The people a few rooms down weren’t all that respectful, though, and filled the hall with some very rank weed smoke.  Blech!  The cops heard our music, stopped by, and of course I made friends with them.  Sometimes, making a police officer laugh (in this case five police officers laugh) is enough for me.  Brings me back to my birthday when my cousin, Sarah, and I moved into together when I was right out of college.  We were pre-gamming prior to going out to the bar when there was a pounding on the apartment door.  Me, being me, got up to answer the door and on the way to the door says loudly… “Which one of you guys got me a cop stripper???”  I open the door, and who else would be standing there but  a police man.  I don’t know whose face was more red… Mine or his.  Turns out he was looking for the previous resident.  Good laughs all around for that one.

The Monday after my friend’s birthday I started the Whole30 again.  I did this downloadonce before a few years back to help get my body rid of toxins and launched into a year of paleo eating.  I have pretty much eaten clean since, taking learning’s of my paleo stint into my cooking, but felt the need to get my system clean of hormones and toxins.  I’m now a week and a half into it and feel pretty good.  Not going to lie… The first few days were hell… My body wanted SUGAR!!!!  I stayed strong and maintained composure (sorry to my coworkers if I was snappy last week).

Last night I wanted to do something different for dinner.  I was doing just meats or eggs and veggies for dinners and lunches since I was low on time, but last night I felt inspired.  I had a leftover cooked acorn squash from the previous night that I wanted to use for D and I, and I wanted to stuff it.  One of my favorite acorn squash recipes is a turkey stuffed acorn squash with rice and butter and cheese… Well, three of those things are not allowed on the Whole30, so I got to brainstorming, and this is what I came up with.

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Creamy Cauliflower and Zucchini Rice

Ingredients

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  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2T bacon fat
  • 1 cup coconut milk (canned, light or full fat)
  • 1T nutritional yeast
  • 1t sea salt
  • 1t black pepper
  • 1t herbes de provence

Directions

  1. Prepare food processor with the shredding blade attached.

2.  Slice cauliflower so that it fits in your food processor funnel, and go to town. Mini Me enjoyed helping me with this.  She was the official button-presser.

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3.  Once all of your cauliflower is “riced”, pour into a bowl and set aside. Cut the ends off the zucchini, and shred away!  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

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4.  Repeat shredding process one last time with the onion and garlic cloves.

5.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2T of bacon fat until melted.

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6.  Pour in onion and garlic combination and sauté for a few minutes (until fragrant).

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7.  Add coconut milk, cauliflower, zucchini, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and herbes de provence. Stir to combine, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 12-15 minutes stirring occasionally.

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This cauliflower rice can be used alone as a side, topped with a meat, over easy eggs (yummy breakfast this morning), or as a stuffing for various other vegetables.  Hope you enjoy as much as we all did!!

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Makes around 6 large servings.

Cal – 145, Fat – 9g, Carb – 15g, Protein – 5g

No, Mommy… You can’t go run. I want pancakes.

Sunday morning.  The first morning in a week that the temperatures have been over 20 degrees.  This means… RUNNING!!!  I’ve been waiting for this morning for a week.  The arctic temps here in Chi town have been insane.  Time for them to move on and make someone else miserable (sorry if you are that someone else).

Going to bed last night, I triple checked to be sure I had my alarm set so that I could wake up and get a run in around 7am.  I wasn’t planning a long run, just a quick 30 minutes out getting some fresh air, shoes to the pavement, enjoying the “me” time.  Alarm went off, I got up, slowly started getting myself to wake up enough for my brain to tell my feet to move one in front of the other, and suddenly I hear…”MOOOOOMMMMMMMYYYYYYY!!!!!  MOMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYY!!!” coming from the room next to mine.  Mini Me was awake.  I suppose I can’t really complain when she sleeps 12 hours, but darn it… I wanted to be out the door when she woke up.  I go in, give her wake-up snuggles, and asks if she wants to hang out with me while I finish getting dressed for my run.  She looks at me all innocent and says, “No, Mommy.  You can’t go run.  I want pancakes.”  I explained to her that she can get up, have some milk and a banana while I was running and when I got back I would make her pancakes.  Told her I would be gone for 45 minutes, max.  She seemed ok with this rationale.

I finished getting dressed, getting my new ear buds in (thanks to my bro-in-law) and my runner’s pepper spray (thanks to D and mom-in-law… we have coyotes around here), and get to moving.  Finished my run at a pretty good pace, and entered the kitchen, knowing that Mini Me was probably getting hangry at this time.  If you don’t already know this, a hangry three year old is no good.  I am pretty sure that is how wars start.

Enter… Pancakes.  Now, as a quick reminder, Mini Me is allergic to eggs, milk, peanuts, fish, and shellfish.  Baking is constantly difficult, and breakfast foods are one of the most difficult things to work around.  But a few years back, I was lucky enough to stumble across a Banana Oatmeal Pancake recipe from the Colourful Palate.  These have been a lifesaver for me!  I did alter the recipe slightly from theirs, making them less gummy and a bit more toddler approved.

Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Ingredients:

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  • 1.5 cups quick cooking oats
  • 0.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • Mini Chocolate Chips (mine are allergy free)
  • Canola Oil Spray or Coconut Oil (for pan prep)

Directions

  1. IMG_7342Blend all ingredients until combined, except bananas and chocolate chips.
  2. Add bananas and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour batter onto a hot skillet or griddle prepared with spray or coconut oil (I use my electric skillet because I can fit more), and sprinkle chocolate chips onto the pancakes as desired.  Wait until bubbles form in the center of the pancakes and flip to finish.

Recipe will make around 12-15 medium sized pancakes.

IMG_7341        Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

After all was said and done, Mini got her pancakes.

BONUS – these refrigerate and reheat really well for quick grab and go breakfasts during the week!

Go home Mother Nature… You’re Drunk

brrrrr

Brrrr…. This extreme winter weather is about killing me!  Woke up this morning to -9 degrees with a feels-like temperature of -28.  That’s in Fahrenheit to all my international, folks.  IMG_7220  Not even kidding.  Right now, it is actually warmer in Antarctica than it is Chicago.  It’s a nice 29 degrees Fahrenheit there.  See ya later folks, I’m moving to Antarctica.  Go home, Mother Nature… You’re Drunk.

The temperatures are more than just cold, they are draining.  I used to be able to get outside for a run in the mornings, but when it is this cold (anything lower than 15 degrees I don’t run outside) I don’t even bother – too dangerous for me.  No outside run, means no fresh air, no Vitamin D, no energy.  I’ve been supplementing with my ½ bottles of 5 hour energy pre-workouts, a nice little shot of espresso after my workouts, and a mug of coffee on the way into work.  This is probably waaaaayyyy too much caffeine, but I’m dragging.

Because I’m dragging, and it’s the first full week back to work, I wanted to have some easy meals to be able to fix for us.  The GIANT batch of soup I made this weekend helped with warming me up throughout the week, and Mini Me loves eating soup, but sometimes you just want a little something different.  Different, yet easy.  Enter cobb salad.  To me, it feels a little more like summer when I eat salads.  Don’t ask me why, but cheers me up a bit.  I’m funny like that, I know.

Easy Cobb Salad for Two

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Ingredients:

  • 9 ounces romaine mix (one bag, I used Dole)
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, chopped (I cheated, bought precooked and peeled eggs from Eggland’s Best)
  • 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
  • ½ avocado, about three ounces
  • 4 ounces ham, chopped (cheated again, bought the pre chopped stuff)
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons ranch dressing (I like Walden Farms)

Feel free to add other ingredients for your tastes or macros!

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Directions:

Prepare all ingredients.

This took me about two minutes.  I split the bag of lettuce between two bowls.  I used a fancy egg masher (like the one in this little set – Multi Function Kitchen Tool) and easily mashed my eggs.  Measured and crumbled my block of blue cheese (less expensive than the already crumbled cheese).  Sliced my avocado and weighed it to be sure I was getting the right amounts.  I was a little over, so I let Mini snack on some pieces – she loves it and I really can’t blame her.  Weighed and split the ham between the two bowls (chicken would be a good addition for extra protein, too).  Used my kitchen sheers to cut my green onion directly into the salad bowls.   Measured and poured my dressing into the bowls.

Viola!  Yummy salad done and in a hurry.

Sure – I could have done something fancy or taken the time to prep all of the ingredients myself, but if it’s healthy, yummy, and makes us all happy and think of summer (ok maybe that is just me), why not?

Enjoy!

What’s After Christmas, Mommy?

IMG_6821     After all the holiday celebrations were completed in our house, the question we kept hearing from Mini Me was “What’s after (fill in blank with a holiday)?”  I would get her a calendar and explain to her when things happen, but (1) she can’t read, (2) she has no concept of time (nap time and night time are the same concept to her – she sleeps and wakes up), and (3) she will just forget anyway.  Oh, to be a young child again.

“What’s after Christmas?” Mini Me questions me one night while I’m making dinner.  I open the fridge, faced with leftovers from various gatherings.  Yes, indeed… What is after Christmas?  A fridge full of leftovers and a puzzle of how to put them all together.  One item is glaring me right in the face, taking up an entire shelf in and of itself – The Veggie Tray.  Every one of my family’s gatherings has one, and every family gathering there is one left over.  Too many other yummy things to feast on, I suppose.  My cousin was gracious enough to let me take it home (thanks, Sarah!), knowing that we eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day.  But, the holidays came and went, and the ominous Veggie Tray was still taking up shelf space instead of space in our bellies.

I decided that I was going to use that Veggie Tray once and for all, cleaning out additional fresh veggies from our produce drawer along the way!  Challenge….. Accepted!

Enter….  Veggie Tray Soup.


Veggie Tray Soup

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces celery, diced (about 6 stalks)
7 ounces carrots, diced (about 1 ½ cups baby carrots)
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon herbes de provence
80 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth
14.5 ounce can of diced chipotle chili tomatoes
1.5 ounce sugar snap beans (about ¾ cups)
3.5 ounce grape tomatoes, quartered (about 1 cup)
15 ounces broccoli, chopped (one 12 oz bag, plus around 2 cups)
7 ounces (half package) polish kielbasa, cut into ¼” coins and quartered
1.5 pounds chicken breast, cut into small cubes

 

Directions:

Prepare all ingredients as listed.  I chop all vegetables, then sausage, and finally chicken so that the raw food is the last thing to go on the cutting board.  Even though it all gets cooked together in this meal, I’m pretty methodical on how it gets prepared.

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Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add celery, carrots, onions, salt, and pepper.  Saute until fragrant and onions are translucent.

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Add all remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine.

Cover and bring to a boil (about 5 minutes).  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

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Makes 8 large servings (around 3 cups each).

Cals – 320, Fat – 13g, Carbs – 15g, Protein – 34g

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I think she is satisfied with what came after Christmas.

Hash House a Snow Snow

Yesterday was a cold winter’s day in Chicago, and all was quiet…  Except for the plows going by the house every 10 minutes starting at 3:45am, knocking over garbage cans, the garbage men coming through the neighborhood, and the insanity of a three year old little girl who loves chasing two little barking dogs (a 5lb Chihuahua named prince and a 7lb mini dachshund named Isabel).  Ahhh… This is my life.  While it is chaotic, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

After deciding at 5am when my alarm went off (after listening to previously mentioned plows go past the house for a good hour) that I was not going to be able to get a morning run in, I rolled out of bed determined to do something with my day.  I had HUGE plans.  Plans that included cooking, cleaning, and having a dance party with mini me.  Like I said… HUGE plans.

I downed a cup of coffee, made some breakfast (pictured below – sauteed spinach topped with egg whites, Babybel cheese, and sriracha), and started with my day.

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My cooking plans for the day included making a sweet potato hash, inspired by my mom’s farmhouse hash she had made for our Christmas celebrations with our family.  It was the perfect addition to eggs.  Don’t get me wrong – I love my eggs, but I was in search of something to make them more exciting.  I knew that I wanted to add some more veggies (let’s be real – who has a hard time getting all their veggies in every day??) and use sweet potatoes (more nutrient dense than white potatoes).

Here is what I came up with.

Sweet Potato Hash

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Ingredients:

  • 1.00 container (16 slices ea.), Low Sodium Bacon
  • 2.00 lb(s), Sweet potato – Cooked, baked in skin, without salt (Sweetpotato)
  • 0.25 cup(s), Oil – Olive
  • 13.50 oz(s), Onions – Raw
  • 2.00 lb(s), Squash – Zucchini, includes skin, raw
  • 12.00 oz(s), Spinach – Raw
  • 5.00 clove(s), Garlic – Raw
  • 1.00 tbsp(s), Spices – Thyme, dried
  • 0.20 oz(s), Spices – Rosemary, fresh
  • 2.00 tsp, Salt
  • 0.50 teaspoon, Crushed Red Chili Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into small cubes, toss with olive oil and roast at 425 for 25 minutes, flipping once in the middle of baking.

While potatoes are baking, chop onions and zucchini into small cubes; mince garlic, and chop rosemary.  Chop Bacon into small pieces.

Saute bacon in a large skillet until crispy.  Remove from pan leaving the bacon grease for sauteing vegetables.  Add onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).  Add zucchini.  Cook until softened (about 5 minutes).  Add spinach and stir until wilted.  Add bacon and sweet potatoes back in and heat through to combine.

Makes 14 servings (¾ cup per serving, around 6 ounces).

Cals – 169, Fat – 7.7g, Carbs – 19.8g, Protein – 6g

This recipe turned out amazing, and was just what I was looking for!  Would be a great side dish for dinners as well as a nice addition to a morning meal.  I ended up packing up half of mine and freezing it for next week.  I scooping the rest out into pre portioned containers for easy grabs in the morning to bring into the office.

Hope you all enjoy!

Starting Somewhere

The illusive first post…  Bahhh!!!!

Having some time off work for the holidays, I found myself being drawn into the kitchen rather than the gym.  (Ok, ok…  I also spent my fair share of time eating and drinking in the kitchen over break as well, but we will get to that later…)  My brain was in creative overdrive.  I was able to be creative without the constraints of work bogging me down.  I knew I needed to get back on track with eating right, and being the healthy caregiver that I am deep down I knew that had to start in the kitchen.  No more chicken nuggets for Mini Me or takeout for D (the hubs) and I.

Cooking from scratch is something that I love to do, but I usually haven’t just put recipes together on my own.  I’ve usually started with someone else’s and adjusted.  I suppose that is what most chefs do, right?

Well, yesterday I made my interpretation of a Jambalaya (no shellfish because of Mini Me’s allergies).  After serving it, D says, “This is good.  Remember this recipe to make again.”  Crap.  I was so busy winging it, I failed to record what it was… I’ve never actually turned a meal I made into a recipe before.  I was able to piece it together so you can taste it, as well. Hopefully you like it!

Jambalaya

Jambalaya 1.2.14

  • 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 14oz package andouille sausage (I would have prefered this, but had kielbasa to use), cut into 1/4″ coins, sliced in half
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package of frozen three color bell peppers (or fresh peppers)
  • 14.5oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1T olive oil, separated
  • 1.5T cumin
  • 1.5T paprika
  • 1T oregano
  • 1T dried cilantro
  • 1/2t cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Directions:

  1. After prepping all ingredients, heat 1/2T olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken breast to sear on all sides.  Remove from pan until later.
  2. Add remaining 1/2T olive oil to pan, and add in onions and garlic. Saute until fragrant and onions are becoming translucent.
  3. Add the package of frozen peppers (or fresh), and cook until peppers are no longer frozen.
  4. While peppers are cooking, mix cumin, paprika, oregano, cilantro, and cayenne pepper to the crushed tomatoes and stir until combined.
  5. Add chicken back into the skillet, and add sausage.
  6. Pour tomato mixture into skillet. Stir to combine.
  7. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Enjoy!

Serve over rice or quinoa if desired.