Saturday, August 29, 2015

Healthy Living Hacks - Set Yourself Up for Success

Sometimes it can feel like Healthy Eating is an all or nothing adventure. That you must change everything about the way that you are eating and that is so overwhelming for us that we end up changing nothing at all. 

It doesn't have to be like that - every small change can make a difference in a big way. Every more towards better eating habits and a healthier lifestyle can add years of life and life to your years. 

Sure, there is a lot of conflicting nutritional information out there, for everything that you read that says something is a fantastic miracle food (or diet) there are an equal number of people saying how horrible that same thing is for you. 

Stick with sound, time tested nutrition. The things that have always worked, still work. There is no magic pill or food. There are just the same building blocks that there have always been. - Eat fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains, almost no salt and sugar and stick with healthy fats. Chemicals are never going to be "good for you" and the more foods are processed them more "good things" they lose. 


Set yourself up for success

To set yourself up for success, be sure that you aren't setting yourself up to fail.  I know that sounds ridiculously confusing, but no one would ever thing of having a baby march up Mt. Everest. You can to learn to crawl before you can walk... and you have to walk before you can run.. and you have to run for a really long time before you can run a marathon. 

To set yourself up for success, think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps—like adding a salad to your diet once a day—rather than one big drastic change. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.

Prepare more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating and better monitor exactly what goes into your food.

Make the right changes. When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it’s important to replace them with healthy alternatives. Replacing animal fats with vegetables fats (such as switching butter for olive oil) will make a positive difference to your health. 

Simplify. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opting for more fresh ingredients. Especially ones in season for price and flavor. 


Read the labels. It’s important to be aware of what’s in your food as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar and salt in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy.
Focus on how you feel after eating. This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The more healthy food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or drained of energy.
Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Healthy Pie Crust


Pie crust is the holy grail of baking - I don't know, maybe it isn't. But I sure would like to make a fantastic one, and if I can make it good for us, then that is even better! 

I am really happy with how this recipe turned out for me. The technique is pretty specific, but it isn't hard. It might take a few tries to "master" it, but who doesn't want to eat a whole bunch of test pies? 



Ingredients: 

1 1/4 cups each whole-wheat pastry flour and all- purpose flour (you must use WW pasty flour) 
2 tablespoons sugar
1/ 2 teaspoon salt. 
4 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 / 4 cup reduced- fat sour cream
4 tablespoons ice water 


You'll want to start by mixing your dry ingredients together. Use a whisk or just your hands, but you want to make sure the salt and sugar are evenly mixed it - and since you don't want to over mix the dough once the butter and water are added, it is best to do it now. 

 Mix 1 1/4 cups each whole- wheat pastry flour and all- purpose flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. 


Cut 4 tablespoons cold butter into small pieces and quickly rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the pieces are small but still visible. 

You want to do this as quickly as possible, the warmth of your hands will melt the butter and you want that to happen as little as possible. - you want chunks of butter still - this is what will make the dough "rise" and give you crust a flaky texture. 


Then add 3 tablespoons canola oil and 1/4 cup reduced- fat sour cream and toss. 

Resist every urge you have to "mix it in". Don't do it.....   try... hard... 


Sprinkle 4 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and toss with a fork until evenly moist. 

Knead the dough in the bowl a few times. Then knead a few more times on a clean surface until the dough just holds together. 

Divide the dough in half and shape into 5- inch- wide disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

Then roll out and add pie filling. 



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chicken Salad Three Ways - Create a Salad





Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayonnaise  ( you can use greek yogurt as your base)
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken meat ( I always use canned chicken) 
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds 
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped finely

Directions:
mix your mayonnaise, lemon juice, & pepper, chop your veggies and add then, then add your chicken.

This is a fantastic base of a chicken salad - You can eat it just like this and it is amazing... or you can get creative.


I added basil when we had so much of it.  I just rolled the leaves and then sliced them really thin and stirred them in.  It was really good and added a nice fresh change. 


Try having it on different bread - sometimes we get special and have it on croissants. 



Or our new favorite bread to have chicken salad on - Raisin Bread.. Who would have thought that?! 


We love to add fruit to the salad - tart green apples or grapes are wonderful with chicken salad. 

Lettuce and sprouts add texture - and you can try and spicy greens that you have on hand. 

I like to make a big batch on Saturday - and make it very basic, then put it on my list of things we have to eat - Then is someone isn't too fond of dinner, looking for a bigger snack, or having lunch there is something prepared and ready to go. 


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pulled Pork Salad with Elote - Create a Salad


I just love Fancy Salads - and from the food trends that I see around - I think the rest of you do too.

It might sound a bit strange - but making a salad is a great way to use up leftovers and make them interesting again.

I made this shredded pork from a pork loin roast and we ate it in tacos. I cooked the corn as a vegetable side dish for the tacos. It is always a favorite at our house, but I try to cook two roasts when I do it.


Ingredients: 
2 cups store-bought salsa 
2 tablespoons chili powder 
2 tablespoons dried oregano 
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
 kosher salt 
1 2 1/2-pound boneless pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of excess fat

Directions
In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the salsa, chili powder, oregano, cocoa, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the pork and turn to coat.
Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

(( Or you can make your own favorite Shredded Pork ))  I do like to make it a little more Latin and less BBQ

The recipe of Elote is Here  or you can make Corn and Peppers from Here


Any other toppings that were leftover from tacos we tossed on - Olives, Green Onions, Queso Fresca,

Salads are a great way use up leftovers that there might not be enough of to feed a whole family for dinner by themselves or to mix up something that you are a bit tired of eating.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Grilled Veggie Packets


Grilling Vegetables in the summer is the happy equivalent of roasting them in the winter. 

It is easy to do and the vegetables taste fantastic when you do it. 



There isn't much of a recipe here - but a few things to keep in mind as far as technique. 

Use a Heavy Duty foil - just regular foil really isn't strong or thick enough, you'll end up burning your vegs or breaking your packet and dumping them all over. 

Layer your Veggies - I put longer cooking root veggies on the bottom, Where they can get the most heat, Vegetables that I still want al dente, I put towards the top (because I don't turn my packet)

Layer your Foil - I used two layers for the bottom, and another for the top - it was very large. 


Use good a hearty drizzling of Olive Oil on your veggies and add your seasonings. In this situation butter will burn too quickly, and you do want the flavor olive oil will lend.

You can use a large bowl or plastic bag to make sure the veggies are coated, but I just put a drizzle on the bottom, then on each layer as I added the veggies.

I used salt and lemon pepper. - I used the lemon pepper liberally, but the salt sparingly.


Then I added a layer of foil to the top of the packet and folded the edges in.  You don't have to be too meticulous about it, but you do want to make sure you get a good seal.  

You want the steam to stay inside your packet as well as all those flavorful juices - and you don't want and edge opening and dumping out everywhere - Boo!! to that!


Cook your packet 12 - 15 minutes on a hot grill  - if you sliced your veggies a bit thinner ( or you used mostly a quick cooking vegetable like summer squash) you'll want to shorten the time to perhaps 10 minutes. 


This may be nerve wracking the first time you attempt it. It was very hard to not be able to "peek" and see just how done things were getting. I was afraid I was going to char everything and make it inedible.

If you are nervous, err on the side of caution and under-cook your veggies. The worst possible thing in that scenario is that you are eating crispy veggies - Be brave, raw veggies don't kill ya.  


I wanted to be sure and include this photo - the carrots looked burned - and perhaps to some people they are, but they tasted fantastic! The natural sugars in them had caramelized and things got a little crazy about who had more carrots on their plate than someone else. (yes!! they Do fight about everything)

I even pulled the carrots out of their skin (so it was just soft cooked carrot) and gave some to the baby - he was definitely disappointed when he got to the end of his share.

I remember when I did my first roast of vegetables in the oven and the oven seemed to hot, I was sure I was going to set those veggies on fire in there, But now it is one of my favorite ways to prepare them.

Take a risk trying this - Let those summer veggies be the start and let your kitchen have a night off. You'll be very very glad you did.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Simple Chicken Kebabs


Does food on a stick always taste better? I don't know about that, but it is always funner to eat.  

These don't take long to cook because the chicken pieces are smaller and you can have them chopped and marinated the night before - so all you have to do it heat your grill and stick the meat on the sticks. 


I always at least double this recipe, If I am going to go to all this effort, then I am for sure going to get more than one meal out of it. - This makes amazing chicken salad, gyros, and casseroles.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces 
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water (If you soak them in salt water - it will make them taste even Better!)


Directions:

 Cut your chicken into pieces, 

In a bowl, toss the chicken, garlic, thyme, oil and 1/2 tsp salt and pepper each. Pour your marinade into a plastic bag and add your chicken (or just add your chicken to the bowl and cover) Let marinade over night or at least 2 hours. 

Heat grill to medium-high.

Thread the chicken on the skewers.

Grill the chicken, turning occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through 7 to 10 minutes.




Thursday, August 20, 2015

Raspberry Almond Scones


When I said I was making Scones, the news spread through the family like wildfire... 
Scones.. !  Scones.. !!!  Scones !!! 

But to my family, these aren't scones, Scones are pieces of giant fried bread that they eat with honey butter.  They looked at these things like they were from Mars. 



Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 cup raspberries

For the Almond Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
4-5 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds, for garnish


Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Quickly cut in the butter, using your hands, two knives, or a pastry blender. Mix until mixture resembles coarse meal, with larger butter lumps. 

Pour 1 cup of heavy cream and almond extract over the ingredients and stir with a spatula until dough begins to form. Don't over mix. 

Gently fold in sliced almonds and raspberries. (The raspberries will get a little smashed, but that is ok. The scones will still be pretty:)

Transfer dough to a floured counter top and knead dough by hand just until it forms a ball. 

Form scones by patting the dough into a 3/4-inch thick circle. Cut the scones into even triangles. 



Place scones on prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush scones lightly with the additional heavy cream. (This is the super secret of the delicious-ness)

Bake scones for 15-18 minutes, or until scones are light brown. Cool scones on a wire cooling rack.



While the scones are cooling, make the almond glaze. 

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, heavy cream or milk, and almond extract. Whisk until you reach desired consistency. 

Drizzle glaze over the scones. Top with additional sliced almonds. Serve!



Scones will keep in an air-tight container for up to 2-3 days, but they really are best eaten the day they are made.