Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sweet Potato Casserole

For our Easter dinner at my in-laws, I made sweet potato casserole as a side dish for turkey. I was happy to find this recipe last time I made turkey; it uses sucanat natural sweetener instead of brown sugar and uses oats and other healthy ingredients.  For just us two, I halved this recipe, but this amount is great for a family party!  Hope you try it soon.

Sweet Potato Casserole
(serves 10)

7 Large Sweet Potatoes
5 Tbsp Fresh Orange Juice
1/2 cup Sucanat Natural Sweetener
6 Tbsp Organic Butter
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 c. Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1/2 c. Sucanat Natural Sweetener
1/4 c. Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Cinnamon
6 Tbsp cold Organic Butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes and poke with a fork several times. Wrap potatoes individually in foil. Bake 30-45 minutes or until the potatoes are soft (soft when you squeeze them and a fork can easily be poked into the sweet potato).

2. Let sweet potatoes cool a few minutes, until they can be handled. Peel skin off of sweet potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add the 6 Tbsp butter, orange juice, 1/2 c. Sucanat and vanilla extract to the sweet potatoes and mix well, until everything is fully blended and the butter is melted.

4. Mix the rolled oats, 1/2 c. Sucanat, flour, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Add the 6 Tbsp butter and cut-in with a pastry cutter, whisk, or your hands, until crumbly.

5. Put the sweet potato mixture into a greased 9x13" dish and top with crumb mixture.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for around 30-35 minutes, until the crumb topping is cooked. Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Deviled Eggs

Normally I would make deviled eggs with mayonnaise as one of the main ingredients.  I made this recipe a little lighter by using greek yogurt and some apple cider vinegar; some ideas I found off blogs through Pinterest.  These are great for a party side dish!

Deviled Eggs (Lightened Up):
(serves 12)

12 eggs, boiled
½ c. 0% plain Greek yogurt
1½ tsp yellow or djion mustard
1½ tsp apple cider vinegar
1½ tsp finely chopped chives
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
paprika, for garnish

1. Fill a medium saucepan 2/3rds of the way full with water.  Bring to a boil.  When water begins boiling, take off the heat and dip the eggs in and out a couple times before dropping in the water.  Once you have added all the eggs to the water, put back on the burner and boil for 13 minutes.

2. As soon as the 13 minutes are up, drain the water and fill with very cold water.  Continue to replace the water with very cold water until eggs cool. 

3. Peel eggs and cut in half.  Scoop out yolks into a bowl.

4. Mix together yolks, yogurt, mustard, vinegar, chives, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper until creamy.  Check for seasonings.  

5. Spoon or pipe yolk mixture back into egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika. Chill to set mixture for at least an hour before serving.  Store in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sweet & Sour Chicken

This has been a favorite meal in our home for a couple of years! I adapted it from a recipe I found in Clean Eating magazine.  Note - you can marinate this chicken for up to 8 hours, but you can just do it for as little as 30 minutes (as explained below) and it will still taste excellent. I hope you try it soon!

Sweet & Sour Chicken
(serves 4)

1/3 c. Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or low-sodium soy sauce)
2 Tbsp raw honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts - chopped into 1" pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1" chunks
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1" chunks
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped or 1 Tbsp dried cilantro
1 c. uncooked brown rice (I used brown jasmine rice)
2 c. water
1 Tbsp organic butter (optional)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Chop up chicken into about 1" chunks.

2. Place chicken in a large shallow dish or ziploc bag. Pour soy sauce mixture over chicken, tossing gently. Cover or zip up bag (removing air) and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 8 hours.

3. Prepare rice according to package directions or bring 2 c. water to a boil in a medium saucepan. When water begins boiling, add 1 c. rice, stir, cover, and drop the heat down to low (to simmer). Simmer 35-40 minutes, or until all the water has even absorbed and rice is fluffy. Add 1 Tbsp butter, if desired.

4. While rice cooks, chop up peppers in 1" pieces and chop up onion into small pieces.

5. Also while rice cooks, chop up pineapple into 1" pieces. See pictures below for how to cut up a pineapple. Chop off ends of pineapple and then stand upright and cut off skin. Then, cut pineapple around core, discarding the core. Finish by cutting the pieces into about 1" chunks.

5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken with marinade and sauté for about 7 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

6. Add bell peppers and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are slightly tender.

7. Add pineapple and cook for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately over rice. Enjoy!!

Nutrition Facts: (Sweet & Sour Chicken without rice)
Serving size 1 1/4 cups chicken
Calories: 161
Fat: 1.5 g
Carbs: 17 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 13 g
Protein: 21 g
Sodium: 404 mg
Cholesterol: 48 mg

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sloppy Joes

I adapted this recipe from the "Healthy Treasures" cookbook by Annette Reeder.  Most Sloppy Joe recipes are high in sodium and sugar; these are adapted to be much healthier without sacrificing taste.

Sloppy Joes
(serves 4-6)

1 lb. lean grass-fed ground beef or ground turkey
1/2 small onion - chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 oz. can tomato paste (mixed with 1/2 c. water) or 8 oz can no-salt added tomato sauce
1/2 c. organic ketchup
1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp molasses (or to taste)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
hot pepper sauce - to taste
4-6 whole wheat or ezekiel hamburger buns

1. Brown the meat in a large skillet over medium heat with the chopped onion and minced garlic.

2. Once the meat is browned, add in the rest of the sauce ingredients (tomato paste & water, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, mustards, molasses, pepper, and hot pepper sauce).  Mix together well and simmer for about 5 minutes until warm and combined.

3. Test the sloppy joes for taste; you may want to add a little more molasses if it isn't sweet enough for you.  Spoon 1/2 c. of the mixture onto a whole wheat or Ezekiel hamburger bun.  Enjoy!! You can serve it with some salad or raw veggies or my guacamole recipe.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

One of the biggest complaints I hear when talking about eating healthy and organic foods is the cost.  Hopefully this blog helps you save a little money while you stay committed to eating healthier every day.

Usually when I hear the phrase "I don't have the money to eat healthy," it makes me think - the money you spend now will save you a lot of money in the future on healthcare costs.  However, that doesn't necessarily solve the problem.  Many need the money now and can't simply look to the future for the cost savings.  So, let me give you a few tips:

Note: You'll notice I don't mention clipping coupons or only buying sale items.  Unfortunately, this can be a very time consuming project for most people.  And, most of the time, I find these special sales only apply to things like chef boyardee and snack packs (sorry for any offense!).  I am not saying you can't find some healthy sale items or coupons on health items, but they are fewer and far betweeen. I think these tips are more of regular, every day and every week habits.

Tip #1 - Eat Leftovers!

*I read this tip on a similiar thread on the internet and agree, it is very important step in saving money, no matter if you are eating healthy or not.  The fact is, most meat packages come with at least 1 lb of meat; many 2 person families can't (and probably shouldn't) consume this in one meal.  Many people tell me they "don't like leftovers."  I can't make you like them, but if you ate it the first time, why can't you eat it a second time?  What is different? As long as you keep the meal refrigerated and covered, there shouldn't be much of a difference.  Your mom probably told you when you were little, "there are starving people in Africa, clean your plate!" I tend to agree...though those children might not get your leftovers, the point is you are wasting food and money.  I'm not saying I eat every ounce of leftovers in my fridge or never throw any food away. But, if you plan your portions and meals well, you should be able to minimize food waste.  I usually eat food for dinner and then lunch the next day at work.  This also helps me eat out less during the week because I won't have to also plan and prepare a lunch.

Tip #2 - Plan Your Meals

*As I mentioned in tip #1, if you plan your meals well, you will help minimize food waste.  Awhile back, my sister-in-law Brittany showed me a sheet she had printed out from the internet that helped her with planning meals.  It has you list each day what you will eat.  Then, it has you list what groceries you will need for each recipe, categorizing them by Dairy, Meats, Vegetables, Frozen Foods, etc.  When you are done planning for one week, you take it with you to the grocery and buy what you need.  The other benefit of this list, is you save time at the grocery store because everything is categorized in the sections you will find it (time is money people!).  There will always be some standard foods to have in the house, but this will help you plan the short shelf-life foods for the week.  I try to practice this tip each time I go to the grocery store so I only have to go once a week and know I will eat what I buy. 

Tip #3 - Meat Sales

*This tip is one I need to work on as well.  If you find a good sale on meat, take advantage and buy a lot at once and freeze it.  When you need it, it will already be in the fridge and you won't have to worry about buying it each week.  Another idea is to go in with some other foodie and frugal friends and buy a half of a cow or quarter of a cow from a local grass-fed farmer.  My mom has done this in the past, and I am hoping to do it as well this year.  Buying a good deal of meat at once, you will get a discount while buying grass-fed and local!

Tip #4 - Eat Out Less

*I like to eat out at some of my favorite restaurants just as much as the next person (Cleveland-Heath anyone?), but it can become quite expensive.  It will almonst always be more economical to cook at home. My husband and I have gotten to the point where we try to only eat out only 1-2 lunches per week and try to only eat out one night per weekend.  Sure, some days it isn't practical or we don't have enough time, but most of the time if you are planning your meals (tip #2!), you won't run into these instances too often.  Then, when you do find yourself eating-out, it will be a treat and you will find a little more money left in your pocket!

Tip #5 - Buy Local

*I am anxiously awaiting the Edwardsville Farmer's Market to open in May! I find that the prices at a farmer's market are often going to be much less expensive then those at a big grocery store.  Not every vendor at a Farmer's Market are going to be certified organic or use organic methods.  Ask them - how do they grow their foods, what kind of pesticides do they use/not use, what do their animals eat, etc.  You will find many of the vendors use organic methods, or close to it (but can't afford to pay to be certified organic), and this can save you time while supporting a local farmer and local business. 

Tip #6 - Build Your Own Garden

*For the most part, my mom has had a garden for most of my life.  She has grown things such as tomotoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, and so on.  I am excited to have a house instead of renting this year! My husband has already dug up the garden, we are just waiting for the snow to go away!  I bought a cheap indoor kit for starting seedlings and some organic seeds. I plan to plant some of the vegetables we use most often such as celery, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, etc.  It is also a great way to get out in the sun and soak of some Vitamin D and get a little excercise!  I will post some pictures later of the progress on my garden. 

I hope you found some of these tips helpful! I am always open to suggestions, comments, and questions.  These aren't the only ways to eat healthy on a budget, but I think they have greatly helped me and my family. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Easy Baked Fish & Cranberry Almond Wild Rice

I made up these recipes, inspired by a few different recipes on the internet.  I was looking for a delicious and healthy low-calorie fish recipe.  I served it with a salad, but wanted a healthy grain on the side as well, so I combined a few recipes from the internet for the rice as well. As with most of my recipes, feel free to double or triple for your needs. The fish would also pair well with some green beans (see recipe here) or grilled asparagus (see recipe here), but this is what I had on hand.  I hope you try and enjoy them soon!

Easy Baked Fish
(serves 3-4)

1 lb. wild-caught white fish (I used Alaskan White Cod Fillets)
Sea salt, to taste
Lemon or black pepper, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1 Tbsp butter, cut into chunks

1. If thawing fish, I suggest removing the fish from the package and placing on paper towels to thaw, but it is not necessary.  When the fish has been thawed, rinse well and pat dry. 

2. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.  Place the fish in a greased cast iron skillet or preheated baking dish (heat dish at 375 degrees for a few minutes). Grease baking dish by rubbing with a little bit of butter (if you have preheated the baking dish, the butter will easily melt).

3. Squirt lemon or lime juice over fish fillets.  Place a small pad of butter on each fillet (totaling 1 Tbsp).

4. Place dish in a 375 degree oven for 8-12 minutes, or until flaky and cooked through.  Yumm!!

Cranberry Almond Wild Rice
(serves 4)

1 c. uncooked wild rice
2 1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp butter
3 Tbsp unsweetend dried cranberries
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/4 c. water
3 Tbsp sliced almonds (I use my homemade dehydrated almonds -  see my post on Dehydrating Nuts).

1. Cook rice according to package directions or combine 2 1/2 cups of water, 1 c. rice, salt, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid and drop the heat down to low (simmer).  Simmer for about 40 minutes, until all water has been absorbed and rice is fluffy.

2. Heat up frozen peas in a small saucepan with 1/4 c. water on medium-high heat until thawed and cooked through (about 5-7 minutes) or in the microwave on high for about 3 minutes.

3. Split almonds in half by popping them open with your hands (they will easily pop open with a little pressure). Add heated peas, sliced almonds, and dried cranberries to wild rice and mix well.



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Southwest Chicken Soup

Since spring has decided not to appear yet and we have a small snowstorm on the way, I thought it would be perfect to make some warm and comforting soup! This recipe was adapted from the cookbook, "Healthy Treasures Cookbook" by Annette Reeder.  This is one of those soups where you need to prepare a few ingredients, throw it all in the crockpot, and let it cook all day.  All the flavors will combine together and taste super yummy! Feel free to half or double the recipe for your needs.  I hope you try it soon!

Southwest Chicken Soup
(serves 8)

2 tsp (organic) butter
1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
28 - 32 ounces organic chicken broth (low sodium is best)
16 oz. organic frozen corn
14 oz can diced tomatoes (I recommend the fire roasted diced tomatoes)
1 medium onion - chopped
1 medium green pepper - chopped
1 medium red pepper - chopped
1 jalapeno pepper - chopped (optional)
4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pepper, to taste

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet on medium heat.  Sprinkle a little salt on both sides of the chicken and add it to the pan.  Brown the chicken on both sides until cooked through.

2. When the chicken is done, remove the chicken to a plate to rest for a few minutes.  While the chicken is cooking and resting, cut up the onion and peppers and mince the garlic. Add to the crockpot.

3. When the chicken is done resting, cut it into small bite-size chunks.  Add to the crockpot.

4. Add the remaining ingredients to the crockpot, stir to combine, cover, and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Enjoy!!  I recommend serving it with some fresh salad and/or some organic blue corn chips and salsa or guacamole. (Check out my guacamole recipe here.)