Almost Thanksgiving! Plus last-minute side-dish ideas

Thanksgiving is only a few days away and I still have to figure out what I will be bringing to family dinner. Homemade bread (the no-knead, no-fail kind) has been requested, but I also need to figure out a side dish and maybe a dessert.

If we weren’t already having several potato dishes, I would definitely make our favorite side dish: Sweet potato, brussel sprouts, and bacon. It is really easy to make and all the flavors taste great. There is a nice balance of sweet and salty and the brussel sprouts pair nicely with both the sweet potatoes and bacon.

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I have also compiled a list of 15 healthified traditional Thanksgiving sides, which you can find HERE.

I’m looking forward to enjoying great food and company and kick-off the start of the holiday season! This year I am also even more Thankful for the blessings in my life; my son, my husband, our home, and my new job working at an elementary school library đŸ™‚

What are you making this week? What are you thankful for this year?

 

You may also enjoy:

recipes and meal plans

 

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Healthy pumpkin pancakes – Low-carb and full of protein (and fluffy!)

This week I had a request from the husband to make a healthy pancake with protein, that was low-carb and grain-free. I’ve had some success with grain-free, healthy pancakes, but I’ve also had a few failures. This time I lucked out and ended up with a great recipe I’ve already made a few times. I even made a double-batch and stuck them in freezer for quick breakfasts or snacks.

Find the recipe after the jump!

proteinpancakes

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Simple and satisfying side-dish

About two years ago my husband found a recipe for a sweet potato and bacon “salad;” it was a little too rich for me, but my husband loved it. The other day we were going to a friend’s house for dinner and charged with bringing a side. For some reason, I thought that the sweet potato and bacon salad had brussel sprouts, which my husband assured me did not. But brussel sprouts, bacon, and sweet potatoes sounded like a fabulous combo, so we decided to give it a try and create something new.

Sweet potatoes, salty bacon, savory brussels; sounds perfect to me! I imagined something hearty and satisfying, yet still somewhat green and my husband wanted to make sure we made something paleo or primal. I also did not want to make a dish that had a million ingredients. I’m the type of girl who wants simple, wholesome ingredients, and not need a huge list for the grocery store.

Anyways. We whipped the sweet potato, bacon, and brussel sprout salad up and it turned out great! It was a hit at the party and something we will definitely make again, probably for a 4th of July BBQ!

So here’s the recipe – simple, and very forgiving! If you change the quantity of the ingredients here or there, it should still be pretty tasty.

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Crustless pesto mini-quiches with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

I’ve never been a huge egg fan, but they are pretty much the perfect food, so I am learning to like them, especially since we eat them pretty much every day. For our household of 3 adults, we usually go through about 4 dozen eggs a week! In my quest to cook some things out of our normal routine, I thought that making mini pesto quiches would be a good idea. And you all know I love pesto. Making these quiches was also a good way to use the leftover goat cheese/pesto/spinach mixture from the stuffed chicken breasts I posted yesterday.

I looked up a million different quiche recipes, all different, yet all very similar, so I just winged it. One recipe said to add Parmesan cheese at the bottom of the cups, as it acts like a little crust, but I was all out. I meant to add a little heavy cream, but I totally forgot about it and they turned out fine. So fine I actually ate two out of the oven the night I made them instead of waiting until the morning. My favorite were the ones with the sun-dried tomatoes. These were great to make ahead. I wish I would have made a few different kinds for Lenten Fridays. The next morning I popped a few in the toaster oven and they were just as good as they were fresh! I really loved the ones with the sun-dried tomatoes, so I think I will make another batch and put in the freezer for weekends we don’t feel like making breakfast… or if we don’t feel like cooking dinner, either.

mini quiches

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April’s Whole Food Challenge

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend! And lucky to all you non-USAers who have Easter Monday off! We enjoyed great weather for most of the day, family, fresh food and desserts, and then some Spring storms!

It’s now Monday, April 1st, and the start of my eat clean month long challenge. I learned a lot about myself and eating habits this last month and I’m hoping to continue to grow and learn this month as well.

A few people I know are challenging themselves this month to eat better, and while our eating changes may differ for each individual, we are all doing this to improve our health and create or reinforce healthy habits.

whole food challenge

What does my particular Whole Food Challenge look like?

  • No counting calories (counting calories these last couple weeks have made me neurotic!)
  • Eat non-processed, natural, foods
  • No refined sugar or starches
  • No hydrogenated oils or soy
  • Limited “healthy” desserts, such as paleo treats
  • Non-cured linguica and bacon are exceptions

What does your Whole Foods Challenge look like?

My fat-loss journey with the Paleo diet

How are those health and fitness resolutions coming along?

I’m going to share my fat-loss journey with you. I haven’t worked up the courage for “before” pictures just yet, but I’m getting there.

I’ve actually just started a Tumblr (or a Fitblr some might call it…). Find me at Mama Looking for Health for fitness and health motivations and my fat-loss/get fit journey.

Marc and I have been committed to eating clean and cut-out sugary treats and too many “cheats.” We have been eating very clean and 90% of it being Paleo foods. We have had great success with weight-loss and an overall feeling of well-being. We have been followers of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle (with a little Weston A Price in there) for some time now (about 2 years) but this is the first time we really cut-out a lot of “cheating.”

The last two weeks I have only had a few non-primal foods (we do eat some dairy) and I’ve dropped 4 pounds. I haven’t been counting calories, just eating good foods when I’m hungry and not over-indulging. I went from 131 pounds to 127 and size 4 pants are getting too big.

I exclusively breast-feed my baby (who eats some food but has been sick and teething so only wants to nurse lately), and my milk supply is still going strong. I haven’t had issues with supply (probably due to eating plenty and nursing on demand  and every hour those first few weeks).

I don’t want to be stick-thin, just lose body fat and gain muscle. I have a sad, almost non-existent butt I want to grow, too. We bought a bunch of weights for a fantastic deal on Craigslist, so I’ve started lifting weights and doing body weight exercises (push-ups, lunges, squats, etc).

We are exploring a few different schools of fitness, so I will share my journey with you as I go.

But here’s the quick stats:

August 2011: 133 pounds, 25 years old
Always being a bit chubby (I’m only 5’3) this was my lowest weight since middle school!
Lost the weight following a paleo/primal lifestyle and got pregnant during the middle of doing the Whole30 program after having fertility issues.

May 2012: Gave birth. Gained 45 lbs during pregnancy and my diet was definitely lacking due to food and smell aversions.

December 2012: Back down to 133 through diet improvements and breast-feeding.

February 14: 127 pounds. Less food cheats, and adding a little bit of exercise. My scale says I have a high body fat % though, so I’m working on losing fat and gaining muscle

Easy Paleo treats and healthier sweets

We usually have a ton of candy around during the holidays, but all that has changed! My husband and I are really working to keeping our foods clean and healthy and not keeping junk around. Not to say that we can’t have a treat, but I would rather splurge on something truly delicious than eat 12 crappy heart-shaped candies.

My husband also has no desire to be tempted with store-bought candy that has an ingredient list long and hard to pronounce. So this year I am not loading up his gift basket with high-fructose corn syrup; I’m making my own sweets!

Most Paleo (and GAPS, Primal, and other healthier grain-free/sugar-free options) usually contain the following ingredients: coconut, coconut oil, coconut butter, dark chocolate, cocoa, honey or pure maple syrup, almond flour, almond butter, and coconut flour. There are a lot of healthier options out there that taste just as good.

Here are a few simple treats you can make for your sweet heart or yourself!

mounds truffles

Homemade Mounds (or Almond Joy) from Detoxinista: I’ve made these before and they taste like the real thing! I had to use a bit more coconut oil then the recipe called for, but maybe my coconut was stale. I might also try and put the filling in cute molds before freezing and coating in chocolate.

fudge

Paleo Fudge from Practical Paleo: I have a friend who loves this stuff, and it is super easy to make!

Paleo-Chocolate-Cupcakes-5875

Paleo Chocolate Cupacakes from Elana’s Pantry: And chocolate frosting! I want to make these!

coconut klondite bites

Coconut Klondike Bites from PaleOMG: I really need to get some coconut butter so I can try these out. I love mint.

white fudge

Coconut Orange White Fudge from The Nourishing Gourmet: This looks so good. Like I said, I really need some coconut butter.

Chocolate-Covered-Cookie-Dough-Bites

Chocolate Covered Cookie Dough Bites from The Unrefined Kitchen – These seem easy to make and a nice chewy treat.

reeses hearts

Almost Reeses’ Candy from Whole New Mom: My husband loves Reeses, so I really want to try these.

Don’t forget about chocolate covered strawberries! Melt some dark chocolate with a little coconut oil and dip the berries, drizzle the chocolate on top, or look for other creative ways. Chocolate fondue and mixed berries is a fun dessert, too!

 

You can find more Paleo treats on my Pinterest Board “Healthified Sweets”

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Italian chili recipe

We have a new dish at our house; we call it “Italian Chili.” It’s a little bit Pasta e Fagioli, a little spaghetti sauce, and a little bit chili, edited and added together. It’s easy, it’s tasty, and it fits our version of healthy, too!

If you are counting carbs or you aren’t a bean or grain eater, this recipe has no beans and is grain-free. It doesn’t have dairy in it either, but it tastes great with shredded Parmesan or mozzarella cheese on top… I really like Parmesan cheese on top…

Italian Chili

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Protein powder review and smoothie recipe

I enjoy drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement. I think they are yummy and easy and it helps me not to make bad food choices when I don’t the motivation to eat leftovers. Is a shake the healthiest option for a meal? Maybe not, but I’m not sure. It works for me and I like it. I’m not a health professional and everybody is different, but drinking a smoothie for breakfast or lunch helps me out.

My husband Marc is getting into power-lifting and gaining muscle-mass, so he is very interested in using protein powders. I like getting enough protein in my diet and protein powder is an easy way to do it. Marc came across True Nutrition’s website (through a variety of blog sources he follows) and we wanted to give it a try. A lot of protein powders (probably most of them) have undesirable ingredients like bad oils and preservatives and the like. It can be hard to find a protein that is “clean,” but True Nutrition seems to be pretty clean.

I went to pick the protein I wanted, and there are a million different choices. You can choose what type of protein (they have all sorts of different kinds) and you can mix them if you would like. You can also customize your mix with carbs, fats, or supplements. Then you can choose a flavor and sweetener from a very long list of options.

I’m breast-feeding and my little guy has issues with dairy, so I wanted to try a vegetarian protein source. I chose a pea protein, but because I really like whey, I made it 20% grass-fed whey protein as well. Marc chose the 100% grass-fed whey protein in double-chocolate mint, mine was orange creamsiscle. There was 54 flavors to choose from! The unsweetened chocolate or vanilla, or the plain, are the cleanest flavors, but we decided to go with the artificial flavorings. We aren’t perfect.

Trying out 2 of many flavor and mix combinations

Trying out 2 of many flavor and mix combinations

The Double Chocolate Mint? AMAZING. It is really tasty. The mintiness of it actually reminds me of the taste of too much Torani chocolate syrup. I know that sounds weird and not really all that great, but it does taste good. I find that a lot of chocolate protein powders taste like minty hotdogs (which I do not like)… but that could just be me. The point is, this protein does not taste like hot dogs and I like the flavor.

I can actually mix this protein in my banana and almond butter smoothie and it doesn’t give off a minty taste, it’s more of the chocolate syrup taste.

The other protein was the Orange Creamciscle flavor, 80% pea protein, 20% whey.

It was disappointing. You can actually taste the peas, and the orange doesn’t come through as much as you would hope. If I ordered it again, I would get the flavor “heavy” (you can specify the concentration of the flavor; light, normal, heavy). When I made my smoothie I ended up adding orange oil to it, which made it much better. I think adding the juice of an orange would make it pretty tasty as well, but by itself, I wasn’t a fan.

What is my favorite way to use protein powder? A smoothie! Or shake, whatever you would like to call it.

Here is my favorite recipe:

almond butter banana chocolate shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk or milk substitute – I use 1 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp almond or other nut butter
  • 1/2 banana (better if frozen in chunks)
  • 1/2 or 1 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder
  • 1 or 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • A few ice cubes
  • Optional additions – greens, avocado, coconut oil

I use a hand blender now, so I no longer freeze most of the milk. Because only my banana is frozen, it is not a very thick consistency. If you want a thick, frozen-shake consistency, freeze half of the milk in ice cube trays and use that.

I also blend all the ingredients, except the ice, until completely blended. I then add the ice and blend it last.

Enjoy!

Note: I am using this as a meal-replacement. This is not a 100-calorie shake. Nor am I a dietician. Make sure you find out what works for you, even if it includes talking with a professional.

*I am in no way, being compensated for this review. I bought the protein myself and I am sharing my experience.

Macadamia-crusted chicken

I have a huge bag of macadamia nuts in my pantry. Personally, I am more of a pistachio  girl and those macadamia nuts were just not eating themselves (how weird would that be). I needed to use those nuts before they went bad! So I decided to throw them into my food processor and make them into a crust for chicken. It turned out pretty good.

Macadamia chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup roasted macadamia nuts
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried onion flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten or 1/4 cup milk
  • Fat of choice to cook chicken

Directions:

  • Add nuts and seasonings to food processor and process until course. Do not over-process. Pour onto plate or other dish.
  • Dip chicken in egg or milk mixture then into the nut coating.
  • Pan fry coated chicken breasts until coating is crunchy and chicken is cooked through (about 5-7 minutes on each side).

The darker bits of the macadamia breading was actually the best. Next time I might strive to get it all that dark; the crispy, nutty crust was delicious!