Archive for ‘Cooking’

July 29, 2012

Wholesome Goodness – Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Over the past few years, as I’ve made my journey with clean eating, we’ve had an interesting relationship.  At times it was strong, the food and recipes were totally inspiring and fulfilling and at other times, not so much.  One of the biggest challenges for me has always been sweets.  I have a ridiculous sweet tooth.  Some of the things I’ve eaten in my lifetime would probably make some people sick just thinking about it.

As a kid I remember climbing onto the counter and getting into the cupboard where my Mom stored the little jars of sprinkles, red hots and other candies for decorating cakes and cookies,  I would analyze the stash, sneak an amount that I thought she wouldn’t notice and pop them in my mouth.  The same went for bags of chocolate chips, marshmallows and canned frosting: chocolate chips by the handful, marshmallows by the mouthful and frosting by the fingerful.  Oh, and marshmallow creme by the spoonful.  And while sweets in pretty much any form were a turn-on, my favorite has always been chocolate chip cookies.  Mmm…hot, gooey, chocolate nearly dripping from a cookie hot out of the oven… Yum!  Unless, of course, my Mom got the bright idea to put nuts in the cookies.  Total buzz-kill.

My Mom was actually pretty good about keeping uncontaminated chocolate chip cookies around and for the most part I wasn’t obsessive about them.  If I wanted one I would ask and that would cover the craving.  On occasion I would ask for a second one (or simply sneak another if I thought my parents would say “no” to the request), but that wasn’t too often.  However, on one occasion, I got up in the middle of the night (sleep walking) and dipped into the cookie jar.  Apparently, I enjoyed a few cookies before my parents found me and put me back to bed.  The next day, when they told me what I had done, I was alarmed.  Not only had I just found out that I’ve been sleepwalking, but I also realized I’d eaten multiple cookies and didn’t even recall enjoying them. What a waste!

And so the journey continued.  When I started clean eating a few years ago, sugar was by far the hardest thing for me to ditch.  Part of the problem is simply my sweet tooth, the other part is that sugar is in nearly everything we eat… even places I didn’t suspect it like pizza sauce, pasta sauce, savory dishes.  When I learned to read labels, I realized why so many people have such a bad relationship with food.  Most of the foods we eat are laced with sugar and other stuff we shouldn’t eat.  That’s also when I realized the only way to control what was going into my body was to make it myself.  The good news is, thanks to the many clean eating gurus, I’ve found replacements to traditional sugar: honey, pure maple syrup, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice (a.k.a. Sucanat), etc. and the best part is that they taste good, fulfill the sweet craving, but I don’t get that addictive need for more like I do with sugar.

And now we come to the subject of this post: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.  While I’ve found many tasty recipes for breakfasts, lunch, dinner and snacks, most of the desserts were not really doing it for me.  I still had the nostalgic craving for chocolate chip cookies, cakes, frostings, etc.  And while I could live without some of the other things, I still yearned for healthy sweets.  In my mind I thought it was an oxymoron, but at the same time thought someone had to have done it, and if they hadn’t, I was going to start experimenting.  Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.

A few weeks ago, while cruising one of the local Co-ops with a friend of mine, we ran across a sale rack of recipe books.  One in particular caught my eye, The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook by Dr. Laura Trice, M.D.  When I first spotted it, I thought it was too good to be true.  Then I started flipping through the recipes and reading the first chapter.  I couldn’t contain my excitement,  “I have to get this!  This is it! This is what I’ve been looking for!”  There are recipes for ice cream, frosting, cakes, and even chocolate chip cookies!  And the best part?  The recipes actually look good.

The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook

So I bought it.  The first recipe I made was the barbeque sauce… holy yumminess!  And now, a couple of days ago I made the chocolate chip cookies.  Now, I have to be honest, while mixing them up, I had my doubts.  And because I’ve always been pretty finicky about my chocolate chip cookies I was afraid I wouldn’t love them.  But when they were baking up they smelled… like chocolate chip cookies.  And when they came out of the oven, I tried one. Mmm…  They were as she had promised in the book.  Wonderful!

But the true test had not yet taken place.  My son.  While he’s not a picky eater at all, I was still a little worried he’s snub the cookies.  Instead, he loved them!

So if I’ve got you craving cookies, head to The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook website and there you will find some sample recipes, including Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, Chocolate Fudge Sauce and Golden-Pineapple Carrot Muffins.

So there you have it, for those of you who have been with me on the search for healthy junk food, you can now have your cake and ice cream and cookies and eat them too!


April 7, 2012

G is for Garlic Tea

For this post I’m offering a link to a recipe I found in Prevention Magazine a number of years ago and haven’t let out of my sight since.

This is my go-to recipe anytime I have a cough or cold and since I’m still battling the flu, as I was brewing-up a batch, I thought it would be a good time to post it.

What I love is this is simple, soothing and safe for the whole family. No nasty medicine taste or chemicals, just garlic, fresh lemon juice and honey. The recipe makes 4 cups of which you warm and sip 1/2 cup 3 times a day.  Usually, unless I’m battling a really tough bug, one batch will be enough.

Garlic Tea Recipe

I hope, in the case you ever need it, you find it as soothing and healing as I do.


March 11, 2012

My 4 Week Challenge Results & Favorite Clean-Eating Blogs

It’s hard to believe that the 8 Weeks To A Better You!  mini-challenge (4 Weeks To A Better You!) is over.  Yesterday marked Day 28, the last day of the challenge.

So, how did it go?  I’ll get to that, but before I do, let’s do a little refresher on what the challenge entailed.  If you recall, the challenge consisted of seven physical challenges and three emotional/spiritual challenges.

The physical challenges were:

1. Exercise at least 45 minutes a day

2. Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night (if you are short a little just squeeze a nap in to make up for it)

3. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day

4. No Sugar – eliminating sugars and white flours (which turn into sugars)

5. No soda, fast food or junk food

6. Eat at least 2 servings of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables

7. No eating after 8 p.m. (unless it’s your dinner – but try really hard to get dinner in earlier)

The emotional/spiritual challenges were:

8. Write in your journal EVERY DAY.

9. Complete at least 15 minutes of uplifting reading or scripture study
10. Complete an act of service or random act of kindness.  Whether it be a small one or a big one, do something kind for someone else that is out of your normal routine.

The challenge included one FREE DAY each week where we got the full 10 points whether or not we completed all the requirements.

Possible points earned – 10 per day, 70 per week.
And my results…
Week 1 – 69 points
I went out strong, gave it my all and got really tired.  It was a lot to think about at first – changing my diet, figuring out ways to work in exercise every day instead of just occasionally, taking time out to read and write daily.  All of it was a challenge, but the adrenalin rush kept me going.  Exercise the first week consisted of my treadmill (and a hotel treadmill).  I started out just walking at 2.5 mph and working up to 3 mph.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was enough of a challenge at the beginning.  Food – I quickly realized that I didn’t have to give up everything I love, I just needed to find substitutes and get the other stuff out of the house.  To eliminate the temptation, I gave away the white flour foods in my house (mostly pasta) and replaced them with whole wheat and whole grain.  Sugar was  my nemesis.  I love sugar.  The first 3 – 4 days were rough.  The cravings were horrible, but I didn’t give in.  After about Day 4 they were gone.  In fact the only time I ate sugar during the challenge was the first free day, after that I didn’t really have the urge.  The first week also included 2 road trips, one on the front weekend, one on the back weekend.  I don’t typically drink soda or eat fast food, but road trips are typically the exception.  Although I don’t love fast food (and it doesn’t love me) I do love a Coke and fries on the road.  To get around my traditional fast food stops it took a little planning ahead. I made wraps, brought along lots of fruit, nuts, cheese sticks, whole wheat crackers with natural peanut butter,  trail mix and water.  It ended up keeping me satisfied and not really missing the Coke and fries.
Week 2 – 61 points
Week 2 was my best week and definitely my toughest week.  The initial adrenalin rush was gone and reality had set in and I was tired.  This was the week that I thought about throwing in the towel, but believe it or not, I had already started to notice results, so that was enough motivation to keep me going.  About the middle of the week I had to change-up my exercise routine as well.  I could feel that the 3 mph on the treadmill was no longer a challenge for my body.  I knew that if I wanted to continue to feel the results I needed to kick things up a notch.  My treadmill has pre-programmed workouts so I switched to Power Walk, which is basically interval training.  After a couple of minute warm-up it gradually speeds you up for a minute or so at a time, backs you down and back up and so on until the cool-down.  The max. speed on Power Walk (P4) is 4 mph.  I also worked in a little yoga this week.
Week 3 – 63 points
I started to find a groove.  Eating the right foods became less “difficult”, I didn’t have to think about it as much and working in the exercise, journaling and reading as well as the random acts of kindness became easier each day.  Sugar, white flour, soda, fast food and junk food were not an issue.  The Power Walk P4 continued to be my buddy.  I continued to feel better, have more energy and see changes in my body.  Kiss that hail damage goodbye!
Week 4 – 63 points
The home stretch.  This week sealed the deal for me.  Groove found.  Exercise is missed if I don’t do it.  Eating healthy no longer feels “hard” and making conscious healthy choices are becoming a part of my norm, even finding good stuff on menus at restaurants is less overwhelming.  Water is almost craved.  I use mineral water with fresh lime as my treat with dinner instead of the occasional glass of wine. This week kicked up my treadmill routine to Power Walk P5.  The intervals take me from 2.5 mph, up to 5 mph and back down.  I’m not sure who can walk at 4.5 mph or 5 mph, for me it kicks into a jog, but again it’s another triumph to get this far.  At week 4 I look forward to reading, journaling and looking for ways to make someone else’s day a little brighter.  I feel good both physically and emotionally.  I continue to have more energy and feel more grounded than I used to.  An added bonus is that I continue to see progress (changes) in my body.

Total: 256 points out of a possible 280.  Perfect score?  Absolutely not, but I’m proud of my results.

In summary, I’m so grateful I decided to do this challenge.  It was the push I needed to take a good, hard look at what I’ve been doing to myself and my body over time.  It made me realize how often I veg out instead of work out.  Normally if it’s getting late, I feel a little tired, whatever the excuse may be, I get lazy and stop pushing myself, fearing it will be too hard.  This challenge helped me push on, push myself a little harder.  I made a point to do the best that I could each day and I feel that I really did.  Some days were tough, life happens. But the days that didn’t go so well I didn’t beat myself up.  Instead, I went to bed so I could get enough rest, got up the next morning and started fresh.

My plan at the beginning was to mix-up the exercise, I primarily used the treadmill, partly because we’ve had a lot of freeze-thaw here which translates to icy sidewalks and paths.  I’d also hoped to find some yoga or other classes to take part in, but didn’t find anything that seemed like a good fit.  The treadmill allowed me to work my exercise in whenever I had time, which in a lot of cases is at night after my son is in bed.

As part of replacing my traditional food loves, I have gone back to Clean Eating wholeheartedly.  I used to rely solely on Tosca Reno’s books and Clean Eating Magazine but found some great food blogs which added nice variety.  A couple of my favorites are The Gracious Pantry, which is a Clean Eating blog with daily recipes, and The Pursuit of Hippieness, which is an organic/vegan food and healthy living blog.  The recipes they offer are both clean and healthy and have yet to disappoint me.

I chose to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho as my uplifting reading.  I know I mentioned this before so I won’t go into detail here, but this was a perfect fit for me both for the challenge as well as where I’m at in my life right now.  I highly recommend it!

What will I do now that the challenge is over?  Push on.  I’ve seen such amazing results thus far and worked so hard to get to where I am.  I don’t want to go back to where I was.  With that said  I started my day today with chocolate chip pancakes and bacon cooked my son.  Tonight, I had a steak and a glass of wine for dinner and a small bowl of ice cream because I could, but I still plan on shifting back to healthy eating and the full regiment tomorrow, not because “I’m doing a challenge” anymore, but because I want to.  I’ll continue to have one “free day” a week to indulge if I want and skip exercise if I need a break, but as for the rest of the week, I can do without.  I like feeling good!

Will I do another challenge?  Absolutely.  Am I a “better” person than I was 4 weeks ago?  I think so.  Could the next challenge make me even better?  I don’t see why not.  I think we always have room for improvement.  Besides that, I wouldn’t look at myself and say I’m “fit” yet, but I’m getting there.  And I’m nearly muffin-top-less!  It can only get better from here…


December 8, 2011

Well, that was embarassing.

Have you ever made a meal so good you dream about it, drool when you think about it, crave it so much that you think you could eat it every day of your life?  Tonight was one of those meals for me.

Today was my anti-procrastination day.  I had a laundry list of things to-do that I haven’t had time for, haven’t felt like doing or have put off for some other reason.  This afternoon I made a list, pulled everything together, threw it in the car and starting running.  I went to the local Post Office, which is still from the era of only one or two desk clerks and a long line to wait in.  Thankfully that trip went pretty smoothly.  From there I ran to various stores making returns for about 10 things that didn’t work out.  In most of these stores there were more lines.  If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of lines, but I am willing to put up with them for a little extra cash in my pocket. 🙂

Mid-way through my errands I swung home, grabbed my son off the bus and took him with me.  Our first stop was the gas station for air in a low tire.  The air compressor was out-of-order.  I had to laugh.  What makes and air compressor be “out-of-order”?  Did it run out of air?  We bookmarked the air for a later stop.  From there we darted from store to store.  Mostly returns, but grabbing a couple of necessities when needed, then moving on.  One of our final stops was the grocery store.  After running all day I didn’t feel much like cooking up a big dinner, but then remembered one of my favorite recipes: Chicken with Walnuts.  It’s a recipe my mom has been making since I was in high school.  When I moved out that was one of the “must have” recipes from my mom.  I love that stuff!  I’ve made that recipe so much that I know the ingredients by heart so I knew exactly what to grab at the store so we could get home.

I think I actually started drooling in the car.  I could practically taste it. The ginger, the chicken, the crisp-tender green peppers and the toasty walnuts…  There is one thing about making this recipe though, since it’s a stir-fry it tends to be a titch smokey when it’s cooking.   Actually, that’s an understatement.  It’s always been a bit of a joke in my family.  When it’s smokey and you cough a little while it’s cooking but it tastes amazing when you eat it, we call it “a good do”.   Because of this, I always take precautions when I make this recipe.  The exhaust fan absolutely  has to be on  high before even starting and it’s best to keep windows and doors easily accessible (especially since I live in an old house so the exhaust fan really only recirculates the air.)  Usually I’ll close the kitchen door leading to the living room as well to prevent the smoke from wafting to the smoke detector.  Tonight, I didn’t.  The two dogs are just starting to hang out in the house together again since Darby’s back surgery and need to be supervised, so I left the door open.   So as I stir fried, transferred and stir fried some more, getting caught up in the smell and anxious for a bite, I lost track of the smoke that was building up in the kitchen… and the rest of the house.  It wasn’t until I was about a minute from finishing that my son said, “Wow!  There’s a lot of steam, Mom.”  I took a step back, looked up and saw the haze. “Uh, oh” I thought.  Seconds later the fire alarm went off.  I’m not talking a little battery operated smoke detector, but the full-blown fire alarm.  We have a security system in our house, which has the fire alarm wired into it, so when I say fire alarm I mean a sound blaring so loud you can’t hear yourself think.  Plus, the keypad for the alarm was blaring.  I dashed from the stove.. to the keypad.. to the detector (where I fanned wildly)…  to the keypad… to the stove… to the detector, again fanning wildly.. and back to the keypad.  Silence.  Whew!  My son and I started laughing.  That was close.

A couple of minutes later we heard sirens.  My son and I joked,  “Good thing that’s not for us!”.  But as I was putting food on our plates (keep in mind NOTHING burned, all the smoke was caused by the intense heat, oil and stir frying action in my cast iron pan) my son said, “Mom, that is for us.”  “No,” I thought, “it can’t be.”  (We live next to a busy street so we hear sirens all the time.)  That’s when I turned to look out the front window and saw flashing red lights bouncing off the windows of the house across the street.  My denial stopped.  That was for us.  A great big fire engine was now parked right in front of our house and more sirens could be heard in the distance.  As all the blood in my body rushed to my face I ran out to the fire engine and told them there was no fire. Just dinner.

Long story short, one of the fire fighters had to come in to confirm that we weren’t going to die from smoke inhalation.  Once we had all alarms reset and he confirmed I was just insane, he left.  Just after the fireman walked out our door and climbed back into the engine my son turned to me and said, “Well, that was embarrassing.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Dear Santa,

I wish for a commercial kitchen ventilation system with an external exhaust fan.

I’ll leave cookies and milk, but no stir fry.