Saturday, July 28, 2012

Egg Cups for Breakfast

Last Saturday I finally got around to making a recipe that I have been meaning to make for over two and a half years. Yep, that long. I have no idea why it took me so long. I meant to make them when I was doing my strict two week South Beach Diet cleanse and then again when Miles decided to get on board the weight loss train. The SBD recipe actually calls them Vegetable Quiche Cups To Go (if you are looking for their recipe) and mine ended up being slightly different but basically the same concept.

Easy. Convenient. Leftovers for a couple days. Freezable.

They were also very delicious and a nice change of pace from my usual egg over easy or scrambled egg or egg whites that I have been eating lately.

So here is what you do........

Start by sauteing a bit of spinach in a tiny bit of olive oil.

It wilts done pretty small so don't be alarmed. I didn't want to over do the spinach because Miles doesn't really love cooked spinach but we all know I need these kinds of things to have a little bit of green something plus it ups the nutrition value.

I used 6 regular eggs and then added about 1/2 cup egg white as well.

These were my veggies of choice. Green pepper, tomato, and onion. But all kinds of other things would work well too. Just be sure to dice it up very small.

Feta was my cheese of course. It adds such tremendous flavor. But I know some of you aren't in love with feta as much as I am so choose a low fat cheese that you do like. You could do these with a southwest flair and add reduced fat pepper jack!

I dumped all of those ingredients into the bowl with the eggs and whisked it around. Then I poured the eggs into my muffin tin. ALERT: BIG MISTAKE! I did spray the tin lightly with cooking spray but these bad boys stuck like petrified oatmeal you didn't rinse before putting in the dishwasher. TROUBLE! Even after soaking the pan for most of the day I couldn't get that pan clean. So when I looked up the recipe it says to use foil muffin cups and to spray them. I am guessing spray them heavily.
Also, next time I will add the feta individually to each cup. It sunk to the bottom of my bowl and didn't get distributed evenly among the egg cups.

Baked for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. They puffed up nicely but then did a little sinking after sitting on the counter for a few minutes. I think there is no avoiding that.

We each enjoyed a couple with a slice of sprouted grain toast topped with sugar free jam. We hadn't eaten bread in almost two weeks so it was a nice addition to our eggs.

The best part however was that I ate them for breakfast for the next two mornings.
Cook once. Eat thrice.

I think I could even make some more simple combinations that the kids would like for those busy school mornings. Well at least one of my kids. One does not care for eggs and complains that they stink every time we make them. The other would love it if I made eggs and toast every morning.

So don't be stupid and wait 2 1/2 years to make these like I did.

Now just for fun. Did you see the movie Brave? We saw it while in Spokane on vacation. This is what happened when we came home.
My own little Merida with a bit of crazy hair to match the real Merida!

This is Evan's bow and arrows. I got them at the Spokane craft fair almost 3 years ago. They really haven't been played with much but they have been resurrected now.

I actually took this picture first through the glass door so she wouldn't notice. She was being rather funny. I am sure there was some interesting conversation going on. She really had pretty good aim and was shooting it super far. I love things like this. I love to watch my kids when they don't know I am looking!

Enjoy your day!

Baked Egg Muffin Cups

1/2 - 1 cup spinach sauteed in olive oil until wilted
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
6-8 eggs + 1/2 cup egg whites optional (if using only 6 eggs use the extra egg white)
1/2 cup feta or cheese of choice
salt and pepper to taste

Crack eggs and whisk in a bowl. Add extra egg white if using and whisk. Add all other ingredients except cheese and stir gently but well. Place foil lined muffin cups into muffin tin and grease well. Pour egg mixture into each cup and then add cheese individually to each muffin. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve hot. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Clean Eating Cheesecake Tartlets

Last Friday evening we were invited to some new friends' house for dinner and a little swimming for the kids in their lake. I asked if I could please bring something so they agreed and asked if I would bring dessert. Of course I happily obliged. But I always have mixed feelings about bringing dessert. Here is the dilemma that plays in my mind. I love to bake and cook. On the one hand I make cakes for fun that people actually pay me for, but on the other I don't really eat those scrumptious desserts that I used to make anymore and so I am somewhat out of practice. Really I should be offering to bring salad. Most of my close friends just rely on me now to bring the salad or something else healthy like fruit. I am the boring one now.

So here is how I solved the problem. I made one fairly healthy and small dessert and I made cupcakes that weren't so healthy but tasted divine. Unfortunately for you I didn't take a picture of the cupcakes, but they were pineapple with a mango Swiss meringue butter cream. Very yummy and summery!

But came to the rescue for my other less sugary treat!

The recipe calls for 4oz. cream cheese and 4 oz. goat cheese but for some reason I just do not love goat cheese! Maybe I need to be made aware of the best brand or something but it just hasn't been my thing. So instead of just 4oz of cream cheese I used 8 oz. of reduced fat and skipped the goat cheese.

Mix the cream cheese with honey and vanilla. I got this honey at the farmer's market a couple Saturdays ago and it is Delicious with a capital D! I am going back for his buckwheat honey this Saturday. Also you can get this big container of pure vanilla for like $5.99 at Sam's Club. Heck of a deal!

I put the cream cheese mixture in one of my piping bags fitted with tip number 16 or 21
 I think and then put it back in the fridge to get firm enough to actually pipe. If you don't have a bag just use a Ziploc baggie and snip the end of one corner off when you are ready to pipe. Be careful not to cut too much.

Then I got to work on the lemon shortbread tartlet part of this recipe. Doesn't that just sound yummy! I have a thing for shortbread. The recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour which can be a bit tricky to find. If you are local Cub is the only store that has it and it is in the health food section. If you must substitute something use white whole wheat flour. You can't use just plain whole wheat flour. It will just be too dense.

Into the bowl went the flour, 2/3 cup unsalted butter, 1/2 cup raw honey, and 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest. I love that it is just 4 ingredients!

Mix those ingredients together with a fork until your mixture holds together nicely. You will want to start with room temperature butter to make this easier. If it is too sticky you might need to add a bit more flour......

because you will have to roll the dough into balls. I got 30 of them but the recipe says that it yields 36. I will make them slightly smaller next time.

I put a little flour on the plate and decide that my teaspoon would be the perfect thing to use to press the balls into the pan.

I did spray my pan with cooking spray for good measure first then pressed each ball firmly into the mini muffin tin. Don't be afraid to really press it in there and thin it out. The recipe said the dough should be quite thin so I really tried to be firm but they ended up being a little thick still. That is why I need to make 36 balls instead of 30.

Fill each tartlet with a 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar free jam or preserves. I picked raspberry this time because I thought it would go well with the lemon flavor in the shortbread and the little blueberries I planned to put on top.

I picked Polaner because it is all fruit plus a little fiber and is sweetened with Splenda. Splenda is not my favorite sweetener because it isn't all natural but to me it is better than the 30 million grams of sugar that is in real jam!!!! I can't even make jam because it pains me so much to add 4 cups of sugar to my 4-6 cups of berries. That is a ton of sugar!!!! But choose whatever you like since it is such a small amount of jam anyway.

Bake the tartlets for 15 minutes in the oven until they are just turning golden brown.

Then let them cool completely. That jam will be really hot!

Then take your piping bag out of the fridge and pipe a nice little swirl into each tartlet and top with a few blueberries. I do have to say that I completely ran out of filling at 28 tartlets so I think that had I actually gotten 36 of them I may have been in a bit of trouble. Although they would have been a wee bit smaller too.

Everyone loved these little treats and they were pretty fun to eat! The cupcakes were probably every one's favorite thing of the night but at least I knew at least one thing I served was fairly cleaned up. I think I will do a bit more experimenting with different flavors of jam and maybe some almond extract next time. Cherries and almond would be a good combination. I must tell you too that these were very simple to make and took me no time at all which was an excellent trick since our hosts thought they were a super fancy dessert I slaved over! That is my kind of trick!

Chocolate. Something chocolate would be good in these.
Random. I know.

If you make these let me know how you like them and what combination of flavors you choose to use!

Cheesecake Tartlets
Clean Eating Recipe (click here for the original recipe without my changes)

6 tbsp all-natural, no-sugar-added fruit preserves of your choice
36 fresh berries (raspberries, large blueberries or strawberries), quartered

8 oz low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp raw honey 
½  tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (can use white whole wheat flour also)
2/3 cup organic unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup raw honey
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest 

Prepare Cheesecake Filling: In a food processor, blend cream cheese, honey and vanilla, stopping to scrape sides of bowl, until smooth. Spoon mixture into a piping bag. (or use Ziploc bag with corner snipped off) Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up enough to pipe.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare Lemon Shortbread: In a large bowl, add flour, butter, honey and zest; mix with a fork until well blended and a dough is formed. 

Form into 36 tablespoon-size balls. Place balls in cups of a nonstick mini muffin or mini tartlet pan. Use the back of a spoon or your thumb to press each ball onto bottom and partway up side of each cup (dough should be quite thin) to make an indentation to hold preserves.

Spoon 1/2 tsp fruit preserves into each cup.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden and firm. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove tartlets from pan and let cool completely on rack, about 20 minutes.

Pipe about 1 tsp Cheesecake Filling onto each tartlet, then top with berries of choice. Refrigerate until 10-15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Few Simple Meals and Grilled Zucchini

Strict eating for us = not so interesting blog material for you! But I figured you might actually benefit from seeing how we eat when we are being really strict and trying to actually lose weight instead of just maintain. So today I thought I would share a few of the meals we ate last week and the grilled zucchini marinade that made my farmer's market zucchini oh so delicious.

One benefit to cooking this way is that it is fast. I don't need any recipes so I am not slowed down by looking back and forth at measurements and ingredients. It also takes the brain damage out of figuring out what is for dinner every night and means I don't usually need to go to the store for that one ingredient I am missing.

So without further rambling, here you go................

Salad with kale, romaine, red cabbage, and a little Parmesan. 
Zucchini sauteed in balsamic and olive oil with some Greek seasoning.
And yes I choked down some fish. It was tilapia and it came in a parchment cooking bag which was very convenient but it was just okay tasting. 

Fresh green beans steamed in some Earth Balance and pepper.
A Greek salad because that is my favorite.
And some Greek chicken that I cooked in water then drained. Then I added some tahini, a can of fire roasted tomatoes that I drained first, red onions, and Greek olives.
It was better than the fish for sure.

Grilled zucchini of course!
Turkey burgers with no bun because I really prefer it that way. I served them on a bed of lettuce and topped them with tomato, red onion, and some delicious guacamole.
And a few Trader Joe's veggie and flax seed chips. The chips were a bit of a splurge since we have been avoiding those kinds of things but since they are made from veggies we ate a few and I do mean just a few!

Look for this bag if you want to try these and are fortunate enough to live close to a Trader Joe's store. The colors are pretty too.

I scored this bad boy at the farmer's market last Saturday. They suggested I make bread with it but I had no intentions of doing that!

I chopped it up into fairly thick slices.

Then made an easy marinade. You will need about 1 cup of marinade.

I was just going to use this balsamic dressing but I didn't have enough so I added enough balsamic and olive oil to get  to my full cup.

Then I also added about a teaspoon of the garlic and herb seasoning but that wasn't enough flavor so I added a bit more basil and garlic powder too.

Put that all in a Ziploc bag and marinated them for about an hour.

This is my absolute favorite way to eat zucchini. Those grill marks are so pretty on there and the flavor was incredible! Give it try!

So the moral of the strict eating story is that we have lots of vegetables!!!!!!! Usually I serve salad and another vegetable. We eat a lean protein alongside all those veggies and we skip the carbs and actually the fruit as well. We will add fruit back in this week. Giving up the fruit for a couple weeks helps you get over your sugar addiction and helps you crave sweets less. I could care less about giving up bread, but I do miss the fruit so this week fruit will be our dessert. Except for Wednesday night when we will indulge in cake pops! Our dear friends from small group are moving to Colorado in a couple weeks and we will be having our last get together with them Wednesday evening. It is very sad and they will be missed terribly. So we must have a little celebration time with them. Cake pops are so good I might be able to convince them to stay if I promised to make them a batch every month for the next year!

Stay tuned faithful readers. I have been a little more creative. I made some egg cups in the oven this morning that were delicious and last night I made some cheesecake tartlets from the clean eating website for a dinner we were invited too.

Enjoy your Saturday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What We Like to Drink

As promised I am now ready to write about what we like to drink around here. This is probably long overdue anyway. Let me start by saying that I hate to drink my calories! I am not an avid calorie counter per say, but I am vaguely aware of it during the day because losing and maintaining weight is really a numbers game after all, and if I am going to have the calories they aren't going to come from a drink. Those kinds of calories just aren't very satisfying.

So let's begin with the most obvious zero calorie thing we like to drink.......

And that would be water of course! You have already heard me talk about getting yourself one of these cups with a straw. Remember there have been studies done proving that people drink more when they are sipping it through a straw. I also love to put a few lemon slices in my cup some days.

Water can get really boring though and sometimes we need a little flavor. I LOVE all these SOBE lifewaters and I love that they are sweetened with Pure Via rather than aspartame, which we really try to avoid. The fuji apple pear is the first one I ever tried and it is still my very favorite but I really haven't met a flavor I haven't liked and there are tons of them. Not all SOBE is created equal however so be careful not to accidentally grab the ones with calories. They also now have some coconut waters that are delicious. They are less calories but not zero.

Sometimes when water is boring, and you just aren't in the mood for SOBE these come in handy because they have carbonation!!!!! They are sweetened with sucralose which is basically Splenda so still calorie free but not all natural. I love all the flavors these come in as well, which is about 7 currently, but the new coconut pineapple is the clear winner for me. I am totally planning to shave some ice with my ancient Pampered Chef Ice Shaver that has been stuck in a box forever and pour that coconut yum over it. I will let you know how that turns out.

But then you know sometimes you just NEED some regular old pop. Like when eating pizza. Pizza and pop must go together always. Blue Sky is our favorite zero calorie pop and everyone in this house loves them. We have also tried Hansen's Diet Pops but we much prefer the taste of Blue Sky. The calorie free ones come in Cola, Root Beer, Jamaican Ginger ale, and the best Cherry Vanilla Cream that I would also like to turn into some kind of dessert. For the record we do still enjoy other pops occasionally that have aspartame. Call me crazy but I guess I would still rather drink the aspartame then the calories when I am at a restaurant or splurging and in that case I prefer Pepsi Max. I don't know what is wrong with me. Also, it is POP!
It is not soda and it is not coke and that is the law.

Sometimes I have a little more time on my hands and I like to make something refreshing like homemade lemonade. I am not an iced tea drinker so this is what I like to make instead. I have several versions that I have played around with. This one is lemon-lime with a hint of mint. The lemonade is not completely calorie free however.

It is pretty simple to make. I used 5 lemons and 5 limes but my lemons were rather large this time so if yours are small you might need a few more.

Stevia was my sweetener of choice. I used 1/2 cup.

Just a hint--Dissolve that 1/2 cup Stevia in very hot water in your pitcher first.

Then I also used about 1/2 cup agave nectar thus making it a drink with calories. Bummer. But still less than store bought lemonades with lots of nasty extra ingredients. The juice of the lemons and limes does add a few calories as well but not much.

Then add the juice you squeezed to your pitcher and enough cold water to make 2 quarts. Give it a taste and add more water if it is too tart for you or you can add a bit more Stevia or agave if you need it a bit sweeter.

I also like to add a few mint leaves to mine. It gives just a little something extra! I put several in the big pot and let them sit there for a while and then I also like to add a few fresh ones to my cup when I am ready to enjoy a glass.

But.......Blueberry lemonade is the bomb! Skip the limes and use all lemons and then puree 1 cup frozen blueberries in a blender with some water for a few minutes. You won't get all the pieces to break up completely but that is okay. Pour that into your pitcher of dissolved Stevia and fresh squeezed juice along with enough water to make 2 quarts. I promise you will totally fall in love!

The kids. You know we have a couple around here. I let them drink all the same things we drink, but I also keep these small water bottles in the door of my fridge. They grab these things all day long. It gets a bit annoying because I find them all over and some are have drunk, but at least they are drinking them. We wash the bottles and refill them and keep them handy. I SWEAR there is something to the little bottle. It is less daunting to finish these little bottles then to drink the big 8 ounce ones. Besides how many times have you picked up half drunk water bottles that adults have left?

I also like to keep these Capri Sun flavored waters for my kids. I have never been a juice parent. My kids never walked around with a sippy cup of juice. I guess I just heard about the risk of rotting teeth with apple juice and it freaked me out so I never did it. I also never buy the regular Capri Suns because there is too much sugar in them. But these are perfect and my kids have never complained that they have tasted the real thing and it is better. We have a small dorm room kind of fridge in the garage that we keep these in so they are cold and handy for the kids.

So there you have it! That is basically what we drink on a regular basis except of course for the coffee we both enjoy every morning. Me, usually one cup. Miles usually the rest of the pot. He has problems. I've gave up a long time ago trying to get him to drink less. And just in case you were wondering about tea I am working on enjoying it more because it has health benefits, but I am not in love with tea. I am from Washington state.
I must remain loyal to Starbucks.

Homemade Lemonade

10 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup Stevia, dissolved in hot water
1/2 cup agave or honey
mint leaves optional

Juice all lemons. Dissolve Stevia in about 1/2 cup very hot water. Add the fresh lemon juice to the Stevia in a pitcher. Add agave nectar. Add enough cold water to make 2 quarts of lemonade. Stir and enjoy over ice.

Add a few mint leaves for a different and fun flavor
To make lemon/limeade use 5 lemons and 5 limes.
To make blueberry (or other berry flavored lemonade) puree 1 cup frozen berries with about 1/2 cup water in a blender and add to the lemonade.