Chewy Chocolate Chia Cookies

These "cookies" rock. But before I get to that . . . not surprisingly I've failed to do a timely update about finishing our 4-week detox. We hit the 4-week mark about a week ago. This week we've started adding back wheat and diary into our diet, fairly slowly. As for the effects of the detox, overall, I felt really good. I didn't really struggle with cravings, I had a lot of energy, was in a good mood, and a cold/allergy flare up that I had been fighting (and losing to) for months subsided. While all that was great, the most substantial benefit for me was that my face cleared up drastically. I had struggled with really bad break outs for about 7 months and had tried lots of solutions, including prescriptions, with little improvement. This has been by far the most encouraging improvement since the break outs started. I was encouraged to find that it has even stood up pretty well to reincorporating whole wheat and small amounts of dairy this week.  But, because of the crazy mess that my face had become before the detox, I'm pretty motivated to stick to the 80/20 plan as a lifestyle thing.

Ok, now to the recipe.

I found this recipe on Pinterest a while ago, and I really wish I had tried it earlier. It was so easy and delicious, a perfect snack that satisfies the craving for sweets and chocolate. It's also hearty enough for breakfast or a pre-run energy boost. I'll make a double batch next time.

Continue reading for my modifications, but you can find the original recipe here. I found that the date paste alone was not enough to hold the cookies together for me. After following the recipe, before shaping them into cookies, I mixed together about a teaspoon of ground flax seeds and a tablespoon of water to make a gel which I added to the mix along with about a tablespoon of coconut oil. Oh, and I also added pecans because I like them :) These additions really improved the consistency and flavor of the cookies.


Brown-Rice Spinach Spaghetti with Chicken & Spicy Tomato Sauce with Capers

I love capers. Anyone else?

(I'm kind of depressed about how crappy these food pictures are, but I pretty much only cook in the evening  during the week, so there is not natural light to work with. Any easy tips?)

This was another recipe that helped us make it through week 3 without even feeling like we were eating detox food. I am beginning to see how this could be an 80/20 (80% eating like this, 20% eating whatever) lifestyle after the official 4-weeks is over. Here's the recipe!

Brown-Rice Spinach Spaghetti with Chicken & Spicy Tomato Sauce with Capers

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp or more red pepper flakes
1/2 yellow or white onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato sauce
1-2 Tbsp capers
shredded rotisserie chicken breast meat
brown rice spaghetti

Get water boiling to cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add red repper flakes, onions, and garlic to the oil. Cook until the vegetables are translucent and soft. Stir in tomatoes and tomato sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer. Reduce until it is the thickness you would like. Add the capers and chicken. When the pasta is aldente, transfer it directly from the pot to the sauce with a slotted pasta spoon. Turn off heat and toss until everything is incorporates. Serve immediately and enjoy!

I think this sauce would also work well with seafood. Olives would be a nice touch as well,  but Keith hates them :)


And you thought there was no such thing . . .

 . . . As wheat-free, cheese-free pizza. 

Well friends, so did I until a few days ago. Then, I attempted the unthinkable and was rewarded for my daring conquest with a delicious, quick, frozen-pizza-craving-satisfying meal.

We're a little more than half way through this detox thing, and it has been really good. We're having fun participating with friends, trying new foods, and enjoying the benefits of putting good stuff in our bodies. I've noticed improvements in my skin and energy, and I've just generally been in a good mood. Don't know if it's related or not, but I'll take it!

We probably do frozen pizzas about once a week in our house. Even before the detox, I had taken to just buying frozen crusts and making my own sauce and toppings with whatever was in the fridge. Some favorite combos have been basil pesto with rotisserie chicken, spinach, mozzarella; sun dried tomato pesto with bacon, kale, and goat cheese; and simple, spicy tomato sauce with chicken sausage, red onions, and mozzarella, and feta. It's different every time. This time I was obviously limited by the no-cheese factor, but I used the same crust we've been using. It's awesome.

Here's the combo we went with this weekend:

Gluten-Free, Cheese-Free "Frozen" Pizza
(sorry for the not-at-all precise measurements)

Preheat oven according to the directions on the crust.

1/2 cup fresh grape tomatoes
1 small handful julienned sun dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 small handful almonds
salt to taste
a few pinches fresh or dried herbs of your choice (optional)
red-pepper flakes (optional)
olive oil

Combine the first seven ingredients in a food processor. Start pulsing them, adding the olive oil slowly  until you have reached the desired consistency. I like mine fairly thick.

Fresh Spinach
Shredded rotisserie chicken

Spread the sauce over the crust. (It doesn't matter if the crust is frozen or thawed.) Cover the sauce with a layer of spinach, then top with the chicken. Bake until the edges of the crust are golden and the spinach has wilted. You could also try any combination of greens, onions, peppers, sausage, mushrooms . . . go crazy!

I mean, you are making gluten-free, cheese-free pizza after all.


Clean Snacking: Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Dip

I love to snack. One of the most difficult things about eating healthily is finding something that will satisfy that after-school catharsis of an easy-to-reach for, satisfying snack. Unfortunately, normally some of my go-to snacks are chips and salsa or cheese dip, cheese quesadillas, tortillas with peanut butter (or all of the above). Fortunately, once you figure out some better stuff to put in your body, snacking can actually be a good thing as it keeps your metabolism going throughout the day.

Some easy and tasty snacks that are working for me are nuts, rice or nut crackers with almond butter, fruit smoothies, and veggies with hummus. I found a container of romain hearts this weekend, and I have really enjoyed making little lettuce boats with hummus and veggies to spice up the old hummus and veggies a bit.

This weekend I was called on to make a veggie tray for a baby shower and I made a huge batch of roasted red pepper  and almond dip so we could enjoy some ourselves at home too. This is one of my all-time favorite dips and it was a huge hit at the party. The first time I tasted it (thanks Steph) I couldn't believe it was made out of such simple, healthy ingredients. The sum of its parts so creamy and satisfying. I've been loving it this weekend on nut crackers, rice cakes, or veggies.

Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Dip
(Recipe from epicurious)

1/2 cup whole natural almonds (about 3 ounces), toasted (I chose skinless slivered almonds)

1 cup drained roasted red peppers from jar (or roast your own by broiling them in the oven until the skin is charred then removing the skin with clean towel.)
2 teaspoons red wine or sherry vinegar
1 large garlic clove, peeled (you could also roast the garlic if you don't prefer raw garlic)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Very finely chop almonds in processor. Add roasted peppers, vinegar, and garlic; process to coarse puree. With machine running, pour olive oil through feed tube and process until puree thickens slightly. Season dip to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to small bowl. (Dip can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)


Greek Chicken, Spinach, and Quinoa Bake

When I said I would post about some recipes later this week, I hadn't planned on coming up with one on my own. Tonight, I planned on making this recipe and adding in some chicken and black beans. But on Friday night, before my sister left and before we started this, I made a dish inspired by a recipe that I literally snapped a picture of in a magazine from the rack in Publix (is that illegal?), and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. What I made was a variation on this recipe from Clean Eating Magazine for Spanakopita Casserole. If you're not restricting gluten or dairy, you should make it this week but add some shredded rotisserie chicken like I did. It was awesome.

So, a little cilantro-ed out, and still dreaming of the greek chickeny, spinachy goodness, I devised a plan. I took the basic flavor profile of the casserole, a little of this and that from the fridge, some techniques from another grain-based casserole, and voila! This comforting dish totally satisfied my craving!

Greek Chicken, Spinach, and Quinoa Bake

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, diced (I used a handful of baby carrots)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 9 oz bag fresh spinach
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup feta*
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1 tsp dried oregano
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Get your quinoa going. If you have already cooked quinoa left over, use that. You could also use brown rice. Anyway, cook the quinoa according to package instructions with the mix of chicken stock and water and generous pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion and carrot with a pinch of salt until the vegetables are tender and translucent, adding the garlic about halfway through. Add the spinach a handful at a time so you can fit it all in the pan and cook until all the spinach is wilted. 

Transfer the vegetables to a bowl. Add the quinoa, chicken, mint, oregano, and a few cranks of black pepper to the bowl. *(If I wasn't avoiding dairy I would 100% add feta at this step.) Taste and add salt if needed. Mix in two eggs and transfer to a round or 9x9 inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until it is bubbly and beginning to brown on top. Let it cool and settle for 5-10 minutes. Serve. 

Words of Wisdom

From the illustrated version of Michael Pollen's Food Rules.


Isn't Pinterest Lovely?

To help get me started and inspired I've created a board on Pinterest for Fresh Start approved recipes called "Does A Body Good".

A couple days ago I made Heidi of 101cookbook.com's Carrot Almond Salad but slightly roasted the carrots and asparagus rather than blanching them. I also added lime to the dressing because I have seen that in some of her other recipes.

I could use the cilanto-lime dressing on everything. It is so good. It's a simple blend of garlic, half a jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, a little salt and olive oil whirred together in the blender or food processor. I hadn't decided to blog about this at that point, so I didn't take pictures, but I'll post some more recipe reviews and pictures later this week!


A Clean Start

A favorite photo from Scotland my sophmore year of college.
This week Keith and I are embarking on a 4-week clean-eating routine. One of my favorite things about being more intentional about what I eat is that I end up trying a lot of new foods and recipes, which I hope to share here. I also thought I'd blog about our 4-weeks for some accountability and mutual support. First, here are some things I'd like for you to know going into it.

My current relationship with food:

I have pretty much bought into the whole-food, clean eating basic idea for the past year or so. (My husband is an organic urban gardener for crying out loud). At this point, I don't feel particularly compelled to completely eliminate any entire food group from my diet permanently. In general, I think sugar, refined wheat, trans fats, processed foods, and excessive amounts of meat should be greatly limited, and I try to do that.

 I don't think healthy eating is everything, but I do think it's important. Food is not just fuel, its also something that God has given us to fellowship around, remind us of Him, and to enjoy. Having said that, I believe it glorifies him for us to be good stewards of our bodies and our family's bodies by eating, cooking, and living in a way that aims for health and balance, not JUST pleasure. It was in the context of a meal that Jesus said "do this in remembrance of me" and I believe it honors him for us to eat in a spirit of thankfulness, joy, and self-control while putting something truly good in our bodies (not in the way that I often find myself eating: out of laziness, boredom, or gluttony).

You've probably caught on to this in my years of sporadic posting and periods of blog absence, but I tend towards phases of excitement and commitment, and then swing back to apathy, rarely finishing anything I start or really making something habit. This is true in many areas of my life, and as I focus on some true discipline in the area of eating over the next few weeks, I hope to develop healthy habits in other areas as well.

What I hope to get out of this (okay fine, let's just call them goals):
  • To finish something I've started
  • To develop some healthy true habits, rather than phases (nutritionally, with exercise, and spiritually)
  • About 8 months ago I started having some major issues with my skin, and without going into a long story about all the things I've tried to treat it, I'm hoping to either rule our or conclude whether the breakouts are food related.
  • Try new vegetables and cooking methods
  • Eat a vegetable with every meal and most snacks
  • Run 3x weekly as I train for a half marathon in April
  • Stick with a Bible reading plan
The basic outline of the plan: (The framework of the plan, with some of my own modifications, is from the Arbonne FreshStart plan)
  • No wheat, gluten, rye, barley, or refined grains (brown rice, quinoa, and millet are some grains that are permissible.)
  • No dairy
  • No soy
  • No sugar (small amounts of stevia or agave nectar are okay.)
  • No coffee (gasp!) or alcohol or fruit juice (green tea is my new best friend)
  • No pork, red meat limited to 1x weekly. 
  • LOTS of vegetables
  • LOTS of low-glycemic fruits such as berries
  • MORE good fats found in fish and some nuts
  • Run right after school twice a week and once on weekends.
  • Follow the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan
What you can do for me:
  • Comment and let me know that you're out there. I think it would be fun, and added motivation, to post recipes, tips, and track my thoughts throughout the 4 weeks. Maybe I'll even make regular posting into a habit! But I know myself, and feedback really helps keep me going in the blog world.