Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tuna Noodle Casserole from Scratch

I don't know if anyone has noticed (probably not :) but my recipes lately have deviated from Paleo more than normal. In general I am going to keep it grain-free, but as my diet and thought process has changed, but recipes will as well. Here's the "why"...

The Past...

 Well the main goal of me eating the way I do is health, second goal is fitness. So let's backtrack a bit... Although criticized by a lot of people (especially those that hate CrossFit as well) the Paleo Diet, or "eating like a caveman," has a focus on not consuming processed foods, and only eating things that come out of the ground or from an animal- no grains, dairy, refined sugar, artificial ingredients, etc. I think this was a great place to start for me as I moved away from a vegetarian diet. Re-thinking the foods I was eating and re-setting my body to move away from, specifically for me, sugar and grains, helped me feel waaaaaay better, stronger, more awake and really got my diet in a better place. As a vegetarian I ate a lot of processed foods- trying to mimic meat. Although I made my own "seiten" and other "meat" products, my diet was incredibly high in grains, soy and more gluten found in the fake-meat as vital wheat gluten. If you are starting to transition your diet I would highly suggest going cold turkey with something like Whole30... it is a more extreme version of Paleo and gets you to start reading ingredient labels, clearing out your pantry and thinking about your food. 

So why move away from Paleo? 

One of my biggest issues is the portions, or lack there of, therefore high caloric intake. In general, Paleo baked goods are usually extremely high in calories and fat compared to their non-Paleo counter parts. Although there are guidelines of how much of each food you should eat, like more lean meat than nuts, there is basically no portion control in Paleo. If it fits the parameters of the diet you are good to go! I found myself eating way too much fat, and therefore way too many calories, but not calories readily available for my body when I train. 
Second issue stemming from the first- I was also reading about other diets used by athletes and thought that I was probably not eating enough carbohydrates which are essential for fitness because they are the most readily available source of energy. I love sweet potatoes, but watching Matt eat 3 cups of rice in one meal made me long for something on the "no-no" list of Paleo. It was becoming mentally not sustainable to me. Long story short I started on RP Strength- a diet many of my friends were following- you can read about how it went here. Although I didn't care for the diet as a whole, I learned a lot about food-timing when I train. I also started thinking that eating bread and sugar are not the devil, in moderation and of higher quality- what I mean is eating toast with jelly before a workout (sugar, therefore carbs) won't kill me. Sugar is used quickly by the body and my body knows what to do with it, it is not stored like say high-fructose corn syrup which is still on my "don't consume" list. 

So how do I eat now? 

I eat far more carbs (I was eating almost none) and way less fat... still a lot of protein (my body weight in grams spread throughout the day basically.) The result has been what I wanted. It is more sustainable to enjoy rice, condiments (I still read labels for processed oils and junk), etc. again and the lower calorie intake has made me leaner. If you want to give a name to what I am doing, it is a lot closer to "macro counting." Although I am currently not "counting" :) But in macro counting ("If it fits your Macros" IIFYM) you are allotted a certain amount of grams of carbs, fat and protein (your macromolecules)- there are programs/people to help you figure it out if you are interested- and you eat clean and what you want as long as it fits with your macros. If you want a donut? Do it, but you are using a lot of your carbs for the day! Although I won't be eating donuts, you get the idea... carbs aren't evil, they help when you train... fat isn't evil, monounsaturated fats like an avocado won't make you fat, but keep you full... protein is delicious, how am I supposed to get "too bulky" without it? :) 

Us at the new penguin aquarium at the Detroit Zoo- the lighting was fabulous ;)

What will happen with blog recipes? 

Although some of my most popular recipes are Paleo, recipes in the future will contain gluten and things like ketchup sometimes, but I will still steer clear of processed oils, refined ingredients, etc. You are welcome to substitute with your homemade version of the ingredient or I can help you find a Paleo, or gluten-free substitute. I will still focus on non-processed, fresh ingredients- I hope you guys don't mind :) 
So food prep now looks more like this... lots of veggies, lots of rice, lots of meat. 

Based on the above paragraphs, this week's recipe and next week's are lightened up versions of some favorite comfort foods. Starting with Tuna Noodle Casserole usually made with condensed Campbell's soup- still not something I want to eat based on the ingredients on the label... ew.

Tuna Noodle Casserole from Scratch

-  1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Sweet Onion, finely chopped
- 1 Garlic Clove, minced
- 8-oz White Button Mushrooms, sliced
- 1/3 Cup Arrowroot Powder (Cornstarch if you aren't Paleo and probably 3 Tbsp)
- 4 Cups Milk (your choice) (or half chicken stock, half milk)
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme 
- 2 Cups Frozen Peas
- 12+ oz Canned Tuna, in water, drained
- 16 oz Dried Pasta (I used gluten-free rotini)
- 1 Cup Dried Bread Crumbs (I used gluten-free Panko)

Preheat to 375 degrees
1. Boil the pasta in salted water according to the directions. Drain and set aside. While it is cooking you can start on the sauce part of the recipe.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, drizzle in the olive oil and add the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Cook until soft, about 7-10 minutes. 

3. Add the arrowroot powder and spices. Stir. Using a whisk and whisking constantly, add the milk one cup at a time- when you add the first cup whisk fast so there are no lumps, the sauce will already start to thicken. Add the rest of the milk slowly whisking the whole time until smooth. 

When the sauce has begun to thicken add the peas, tuna, and pasta. Taste for salt. 

4. In a greased 9x13 baking dish, pour the entire mixture. 

Top with the bread crumbs. Bake 20-25 minutes until bubbly. 

Macro content of my version with 2% milk, gluten free pasta and panko as listed above:
Nutrition Facts
Servings 8.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 329
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6 g9 %
Saturated Fat 2 g10 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 29 mg10 %
Sodium 647 mg27 %
Potassium 270 mg8 %
Total Carbohydrate 48 g16 %
Dietary Fiber 4 g14 %
Sugars 11 g
Protein 20 g40 %
Vitamin A8 %
Vitamin C8 %
Calcium18 %
Iron10 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Peanut Butter Cookies- Smore and Chocolate Kiss Versions

I got married :) I am a puddle of gush and love right now so I will spare you the details, but it was perfect. We got married on a Tuesday, exactly one year after it all began, at Van Hoosen Farms, Rochester, MI in front of just immediate family. 

The small ceremony was followed by dinner at the restaurant where we had our first date. It was just what I pictured- I looked like me, he looked like him- it was personal and small. 

As much as I would've loved to have friends there, neither of us wanted the large wedding we had the first time, therefore, we are throwing a pool party at our house this weekend for a few close friends and calling it good. I am overwhelmed with the amount of love and support we have received from our friends and family- we get that it was a fast road to the alter, but in the word's of my cousin, "When you know, you know." 

I could go on and on about the day and my feelings, but all I will say is that I am incredibly grateful of the broken road that led me to Matt and I couldn't be more excited about our future as a family of three... for now... 

 Because I am feeling "sweet" and lovey this week's recipe is sweet as well. I was trying to recreate a moist peanut butter cookie, because I love them... and thought, why not make them like ooey, gooey smores? Or better yet, add chocolate kisses and make them like a childhood favorite cookie?? 

*Notes on the recipe.... can use all one type of "butter"...
- If you use all peanut butter- they may be more oily, but as they cool this should subside
- If you use all almond butter they may be drier... you might want to add a tablespoon or so of coconut oil or ghee 
... you HAVE to let them cool before eating them...
I am talking like an hour, or better yet, in the fridge or over night. They firm up and become chewy this way
... you can omit the coconut...
but you are losing out on some flavor :)
... you can use flax-egg....
this just changes the flavor slightly

Peanut Butter Cookies (base recipe)

(Makes about 40 mini-cookie muffins or small cookies)
- 1 Cup Peanut Butter (find the kind with no added junky oils or sugar)
- 1 Cup Almond Butter
- 2 tsp Aluminum-free Baking Powder
- 3/4 Cup Shredded Coconut
- 2 Eggs
- 2 Cups Coconut Sugar (you can use regular or brown if that's all you have)
- 2 tsp Vanilla
- Pinch of Salt

Add ins...
Mini Marshmallows
Chocolate Chips
Hershey Kisses

Pre-heat Oven to 350 Degrees

1. In a large bowl, or stand mixer, combine all of the ingredients except the add ins. Using a hand-mixer, or your super strong muscles if you're desperate, and beat the ingredients until well combined. 

- you should be able to grab a tablespoon or so and press it together with your fingers- if you can't and it is too dry, add a tablespoon at a time of coconut oil or ghee. 
- If you are adding chocolate chips or marshmallows, now is the time to fold them in by hand. 

2. In a greased mini-muffin pan, or parchment lined cookie sheet, place tablespoon-sized mounds. 

Using your fingers, press them into the pan or into a 1/2" thick disc on the cookie sheet. 

I made a "well" in my mini-muffins to add the marshmallows and or hershey kisses. 

3. Bake 8-10 Minutes for muffins and 10-12 minutes for cookies. They will be VERY soft when they come out... resist the urge to touch them and LET THEM COOL COMPLETELY before grabbing one. They are honestly better after sitting for hours or overnight in the fridge :)

Base Recipe- per cookie-
Nutrition Facts
Servings 40.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 131
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8 g13 %
Saturated Fat 2 g11 %
Monounsaturated Fat 4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 9 mg3 %
Sodium 59 mg2 %
Potassium 101 mg3 %
Total Carbohydrate 13 g4 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g5 %
Sugars 11 g
Protein 3 g7 %
Vitamin A0 %
Vitamin C0 %
Calcium5 %
Iron4 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Glazed Flank Steak- for quesadillas, salads and more!

This summer I am finally being productive. It is about time I got my shit together, right? I noticed this year I have an abundance of crafts and art from my creative toddler- not that I am insensitive (ok, maybe I am a little) but I don't want to keep everything she does. So I started taking pictures of her art, then throwing it away. Using Shutterfly, I set out to make a book of her art from age 3- there it would be preserved without cluttering my house. As I started I thought, why not put in main events from the year?? What do you really do with all the pictures you take anyway? So I made categories- adventures, her birthday, vacations we took, etc. Each section themed with a color. 75 pages later and I had a book condensing the third year of my Charlie's life! It is perfect. Now that I have done it once I feel like I should go back and do it for her first two years, and definitely will be doing it from now on. It can be something of an album of books when she is 18 and something to look back on when she has her own kids. Mom of the year right here... first time I have had a "mom win" in a while. Maybe I am secretly a Pinterest mom after all...??... nah... did you see her birthday party? lol. Oops. 

Other than the one moment of productivity I have been busy floating in the pool, working out, and de-stressing. Not a shabby day when you have a puppy, a happy child, some Starbucks and some sunshine! 

Okay, okay, I have been a little more productive than that... if you want workout ideas I have been posting a 2 min video on my FB page of some ideas... this week we hit the pool! It was too hot for anything else. 

You know what rivals marinating? Glazing. Mmmm. It creates that usually sticky, gooey gloriousness on the outside of meat that makes you want to lick your fingers. This glaze is Asian-inspired and would also be great on pork or chicken. I cook the meat for a few minutes on each side first before applying the glaze- so nearer the end of the whole cooking process. 

Glazed Flank Steak

- 1/4 Cup Coconut Aminos (or gluten free soy sauce)
- 1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 2 Tbsp Honey (or coconut sugar)
- Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
- 1.5-2lbs Flank Steak (or skirt steak)
- 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil

Pre-heat the grill
1. In a small saucepan, combine the first four ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes- stirring frequently. Until it thickens slightly- you should have 1/3+ cups left.
2. Rub the steak with the sesame oil, place it on the grill, after a few minutes (depending on how done you want it) flip it once before brushing on the glaze. Make sure to glaze both sides!

Ideas for use....


Matt and I grilled some bell peppers, jalapeno and onions from our garden and made quesadillas! We also tested out our grill pan and even grilled the quesadillas. 

I also made a quick guacamole by using a ripe avocado, lime juice, tomatoes from the garden, and garlic salt... I just eye-balled it and went off taste! Yum!!

Matt love his little Annie-girl


I made a quick salad with veggies from my garden, sliced steak and a homemade avocado dressing
Spicy Avocado Dressing
- 1 Avocado
- 1/4 Cup Frank's Red Hot
- 1/4 Cup Mayo (I used homemade)
- 1 Green Onion
- 1/2 Lime Juice (about 2-3 Tbsp)
- Dash of Cayenne depending on how spicy you want it
- Splash of Milk to thin it out
- Salt and Pepper

Combine all of the above in a blender or food processor. Thin it out with milk (or even better would be buttermilk!) as much as you want. Store in a air-tight container for up to 5 days.