Monday, August 31, 2009

Mom's Chicken Pot Pie to end a hectic day

Today was a little rough. I've been working the last week to really get set up to prep a good bit of my food in advance and decided on last night to really get going on it. So I prepped my chicken pot pie filling to cook overnight in my crockpot.

And it turned to be a really good thing!

An eight am check up for the little guy turned into an all day affair when the dr suspected a heart murmur and sent us immeadiately down to Nashville to Vanderbuilt Children's Hospital Pediatric Cardiac clinic (by the way- those folks were wonderful, every single one of them). It was a rough, nerve wracking, emotional day. But it all ended up ok. The little guy is just fine. He has a very small hole in his heart that is common in little ones born early and develops when they hit a growth spurt. The Cardiologist expects to close by itself with zero longterm effects. *whew*

As to that growth spurt- he's now 8 lbs 10 ozs and 22.5" long.

Thanks to my prepping, we are enjoying some serious comfort food with minimal effort tonight.

Mom's Chicken Pot Pie- straight from the source
Stew 1 chicken or you can use 2-3 chicken breasts in large pot with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder, and parsley. When finished cooking take out chicken and remove all bones. Dice chicken and set aside.
In the chicken broth, add diced potatoes, celery, carrots, and onion. You can add some frozen or fresh peas if you like. When vegetables are fork tender, add the diced chicken to the mixture. (if you stop here , this is a great chicken soup).Then I thicken it by using flour mixed with cold water (to prevent lumping) until I get it like a thick soup consistency. This needs to be room temperature before adding to the pie crust.
Meanwhile I have preheated the oven to 375. You can use any kind of pan you want to make this end. It looks good in a pie dish and if you use the prepared pie crusts, it fits the pie pan. But you can either make your own pie crust or buy two boxes of the prepared pie crust and cut then to fit together to use any pan.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

it's been a busy week...

This week was Kevin's first full week back at work and new the position requires some looong hours. So, besides finding a new routine for GM and I, I am having to adjust my plan for meals. With dinner time very much up in the air, flexible dishes are a must.

I'm going to be working on reviewing the recipes that I used during the last week, but it will probably take me a few days :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday night Baked Chicken

The little man was still a little on the fussy side, so a quick prep time was on order. I had decided on baked chicken in my weekly menu, leaving me some flexibility as to what that entailed.

I decided on a honey mustard chicken. I recently reworked my receipe to make it even healthier- it's undergone several renovations over the last couple years as I adjusted my lifestyle to fit my goals. This is definitely the version I am happiest with.

Honey Mustard Chicken
Mustard (dijon, stone ground, etc)
Yogurt, Plain non or low fat
Wheat Germ (or Oatmeal, Crushed cereal flakes, anything crunchy in your pantry)
1 lb chicken breasts, sliced into tenders

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Combine 3 tbsp mustard, 3 tbsp yogurt, and 1 tbsp honey and mix well.
  3. Spray 13"x9" baking sheet or pan with non stick spray
  4. Dredge chicken in mustard mix and lay in single layer on baking sheet
  5. Sprinkle wheat germ (or crunch ingredient of choice) over top of chicken tenders
  6. Bake for approximately 40 minutes depending on thickness and your oven.

This is one of my go to quick recipes as I can make it one handed as long as I've already cut up the chicken- which I usually do that morning to make dinner quick. I really prefer a good stone ground mustard for this recipe as I don't think yellow mustard can match the flavor when baked- but it could definitely substitute in a pinch. I like Wheat Germ as the crunch factor for added nutritional value. I served this with quinoa seasoned with oregano, parsley and basil (all dried), and had a large mixed salad while dinner was cooking.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Treasure! The local Amish Market

Today we decided to venture over the Kentucky state line to find the Amish market that I'd heard about. It took a little while to get there, but was definitely worth the drive! After enjoying the surrounding cornfields and blue skies, we found the store a bit of a small treasure. Ingredients that I haven't been able to find locally since leaving Ft lewis were available in bulk- wheat germ, quinoa, barley, flours from several different specialty grains, organic milk/cheese/butter, homemade jams without granulated sugar, organic sucanet, buckwheat pancake mix, organic fudges, and more! Kevin was thrilled by finding Adirondack colas and ginger ale- which he drank growing up in NY and hadn't had in years. I was thrilled with the prices!

Our haul?
2 liter of Adirondack Ginger Ale
12 oz can Adirondack Cola
12 oz can Adirondack Ginger Ale
1 lb of Almonds
1 lb of Wasabi Peas
2 lbs organic sharp cheddar cheese
2 lbs organic mozzarella
1 lb wheat germ
5 lbs quinoa
1 lb organic sucanet

For less than $20.

I will definitely be going back! Regularly! The Amish ladies working in the back store room packing herbs were thrilled with GM, coming out to say how cute he was, and were very sweet in general. It was an altogether pleasant shopping experience, with addition of benefiting local farmers and companies and fitting in with my clean eating goals. Next time we'll also visit the bakery.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork Sandwhich

I'm so very glad that I decided to get going on my intention to make use of my crock pot today. GM kept me up all night (and is sleeping very peacefully even now), so it was an excellent day for an easy dinner.

Slow Cooked Pork BBQ
1 boneless pork loin roast (3-4 lbs), cut in half
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt (I used kosher salt and a 1/2 tsp of a "clean" seasoning mix)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup BBQ Sauce
1 cup cola
Sand which rolls

  1. Place roast in a 5 qt slow cooker.
  2. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and garlic powder.
  3. Cover and cook on low for four hours or until meat is tender
  4. Remove meat
  5. Skim fat from cooking juices
  6. Shred meat with a fork and return to the slow cooker.
  7. Combine BBQ sauce and cola; pour over meat.
  8. Cover and cook on high for 1-2 hours or until sauce is thickened. Serve on rolls.

This turned out really well. Both Kevin and I liked it, despite my not usually liking pulled pork or BBQ. I used a seasoning mix that I make from dried herbs that I know I like. The pork by itself, after step 4, was really good. So I pulled out 1/4 of the roast to use this week in my lunches. Because I'd pulled out some of the meat, I also cut down the BBQ sauce and cola to 3/4 cup each. I used a Jack Daniels BBQ sauce that I had in the fridge from some dish Kevin had made himself (I don't eat the stuff). It had some ingredients that I don't care for, so for next time, I will research making my own "clean" sauce. I was surprised at the large amount of pork this made. So, for next time, I will probably pull out half the roast after step four to use later in the week. It was a super convenient way to roast a pork loin! This is definitely one that I will repeat.

Weekly Menu

In the process of easing myself step by step back into fitness, today is the day I start sticking to a food plan. For the last week, I was tracking everything I ate. I always try to make smart food choices but I was still indulging a bit. The goal this week is to make every meal clean and work on eating every 3 or so hours. I'm continuing to work on increasing my water intake. Next week, we'll start the exercise!

Breakfast- Grits and Scrambled Egg Whites
Lunch- baked chicken, salad
Dinner-Pulled Pork Sandwhiches ( slow cooker)

Breakfast- whole grain Cream of Wheat
Lunch- Pulled Pork left overs
Dinner- Baked Chicken, Quinoa, green beans

Breakfast- Grits and Scrambled Egg Whites
Lunch- Baked Chicken leftovers, salad
Dinner- Baked Ziti, mixed salad, green beans

Breakfast- Egg White Omelet
Lunch- Leftover Ziti
Dinner- Stirfry with brown rice

Breakfast- Whole Grain Cream of Wheat
Lunch- Chunk Tuna on salad
Dinner- tilapia & veggie packet

Breakfast- Grits and Scrambled Egg Whites
Lunch- Salad with hard-boiled egg whites
Dinner-chicken tenders with oatmeal crust, salad

Lunch- out
Dinner- Macademia Nut Crusted Pork Chops with brown rice.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Baked Chicken

I needed an easy dinner because G.M. has been fussy today so I made this one up.

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
* 2 tbsp olive oil

* 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
* 1/2 tbsp course ground black pepper
* 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
* 1/2 tbsp Red Pepper flakes
* 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat over to 425 degrees.
Combine the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic powder (seasoning mixture).
Place chicken presentation side down in a baking dish.
Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the chicken.
Sprinkle half of the seasoning mixture over the chicken.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the grated parmesan cheese over the chicken and bake for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, turn chicken over and repeat the earlier steps (oil, seasoning, cheese). Bake for 20 more minutes.

I served the chicken with spaghetti lightly tossed with marinara and a large mixed salad.

Satisfying a chocolate craving

Great day today! Despite having a fussy little one who didn't let me sleep much last night, today is good. I decided that I really needed at least one pair of pants that really fit. I have one pair of non-maternity jeans that I can wear, but they are now too big. But I still can't quite fit into my pre-weight gain clothes comfortably.

And I found out that I have already dropped a size! Whoohoo! Major affirmation for my efforts to eat well and get going on my workout plan.

Good thing too because I came home with a serious chocolate craving. My clean answer? Chocolate Mousse. :)

Chocolate Mousse
Mix 3 tbsp melted dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) with1 tsp of organic honey or agave necter (I used agave). Whisk into 1 cup of yogurt cheese. Blend well and refridgerate.

For those who haven't made it:

Yogurt Cheese
2 quarts low fat plain yogurt

  1. Place 4 layers of damp cheesecloth in a fine mesh sieve or colander. Place colander over a bowl.
  2. Add yogurt and let it drain overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. What's left in the cheesecloth is a soft, creamy cheese-like dairy.
I've used this to make dips, chocolate mouse, to thicken sauces, anywhere I'd use cream cheese or sour cream. It's healthy and very versatile.

Recipe from Clean Eating Cookbook

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Leftovers Plus

Dinner tonight was the last of the leftover Roast, sliced thin and warmed. I was very excited at the commissary this week to find Red Mills Quinoa. Quinoa was the first really clean food that kevin willingly embraced. So to go with our leftovers, I sauteed some garlic and onion in olive oil spray and added the quinoa. For a vegetable, I had plenty of my homemade salad mix left from my tuna on salad at lunch.

It was healthy, satisfying, and used up leftovers! What more could I want in a meal?

Who needs exercise?- according to TIME

Just about every blogger who occasionally mentions fitness or nutrition has discussed this article. There is no doubt that the idea that exercise does NOT work is appealing on one level. There are plenty of days were the walk from my couch to the fridge seems daunting enough, let alone going for a run! It is also true that many, many people in this country would benefit from a nutritional make over- and that healthy eating is an essential part of weight loss.

But let's get real, shall we?

There is so much more to being healthy than weight loss alone. A healthy lifestyle is a multidimensional way of living: eating choices, activity level, sleep, self-awareness and more. Of course, that "way of living" requires that we actively consider the consequences of the decisions we make everyday, that we be deliberate in those decisions.

In this article, John Cloud wittily observes that exercise makes you hungrier!

Stop the presses. Really?!

Does the man realize that calories represent a measurement of energy? As in fuel? Or any of the other scientifically tested aspects of exercise, nutrition, weight loss, etc? Of course not! Because what would boost readership and coverage in other medias like telling people that they are overweight BECAUSE of exercise- that thing they hate but feel obligated to do, or at least say they do?

Cloud's casual dismissal of the complicated physiological processes involved in weight loss is unfortunate. On one hand, there is an excellent message buried in the refuse of this article. It is absolutely true that diet (as in what you ingest, not how a starlet starves herself) is an essential building for healthy living and weight loss. Imagine the possibilities for the health of America if everyone took an extra half hour a week to really plan their nutrition! But it is NOT the ONLY component of weight loss or healthy living.

I thought about posting links to a couple articles written about the benefits of strength training, fitness in general and other healthy living components. But there were so many valid, peer-reviewed, relevant studies and articles that I was really struggling with choosing which to link to! Instead, I'll offer this- if you are inclined to believe Cloud's take that exercise hinders weight loss, I challenge you to an experiment. For a month, give up exercise and focus only on your diet. Then, for a month, take a broader approach. A balanced diet, appropriate exercise, enough sleep, hydration. Just see what happens, how you feel.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Apricot Almond Chicken

Trying out a new recipe from a slow cooker cookbook . I liked the look of this recipe because it was already pretty clean and healthy as long as I used natural apricot preserves. I had a bit of a sweet craving today so thought this would satisfy it.

Apricot Almond Chicken

2 1/4 cups chicken broth (I used homemade I had)
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 small onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 tsp salt, optional
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 lb)
4 tbsp apricot preserves
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a greased casserole dish (13"x 9"), combine broth, rice, onion, peppers, salt if desired, thyme and marjoram. Top with chicken.

Cover and bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until rice is tender. Uncover and stir rice. Place 1 tbsp of preserves on each chicken breast. Bake for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 5 minutes longer or until meat juices run clear. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

I used only red peppers, because that's what I had (Kevin doesn't care for the green ones so I don't buy them). I chose to omit the salt because I find that thyme usually adds a salty enough taste for me. I used simply fruit apricot preserves which I always have as its a personal favorite, one of the few really sweet things that I like. I also didn't toast my almonds before hand. Just tossed slivered almonds on top and put it back in the oven.
I found that 350 in my oven wasn't hot enough to cook the rice. I increased the heat to 400 and everything was ready in 20 minutes. Also, the preserves slid off in large part. For next time, I would combine the preserves and almonds and see if that creates more of a crust.
Taste was great, it was filling and Kevin liked it. I served the chicken and rice with a large green salad. My serving was approx 6 ozs of chicken, 1/2 c of rice, and 1 1/2 c of salad with 1 tbsp of Ceasar dressing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Huevos Rancheros- the clean version

Yesterday, we went out for an approximately 40 minute mini-hike that left me out of breath and ridiculously sweaty, renewing my commitment to eat correctly and get going on some more regular exercise. I'm limited on the amount of exercise I can do, for now sticking mainly to bodyweight moves and walking at the request of my doctor. I'm looking at this next few weeks until I can workout more as an opportunity to really get my nutrition on track before adding the demands of working out on top of breast feeding and the lack of sleep.

Kevin very generously cooked dinner last night- a roast with mashed potatoes. While I generally prefer to limit my beef consumption (too much over the course of a week upsets my stomach), sticking with a smaller portion size and adding some veggie munchies afterward made for an excellent dinner.

Despite a fussy night last night, I pushed myself out of bed this morning and into real clothes (as in- not having elastic or previously belonging to my husband) to attend coffee with some friends. The little man cooperated by sleeping the entire time, which made me wish I'd brought a pillow. The energy boost from not-male, sympathetic conversation helped more than I expected- allowing me to actually get some things done around the house.

For dinner, I decided to try out a recipe in the sept/oct issue of Clean Eating, with a few modifications.

Huevos Rancheros
with chicken, black beans, and roasted potatoes

1 med onion
1 jalapeno (I didn't use)
Cooking Spray
15 oz can of black beans
3 med, diced russet or idaho potatoes
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lb chicken breast
Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste
3 tomatoes
6 egg whites
4 whole wheat tortillas

  1. Combine 3 tbsp onion, 1 tbsp jalapeno, 1 tbsp cilantro, and 1 clove garlic and set aside.
  2. Preheat medium sauce pan over medium high heat for 2 minutes and mist with cooking spray. Add onion-jalapeno mix and saute for 2 minutes. Add beans plus 1 tbsp water and reduce heat to low. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring occaisionally.
  3. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line a medium sized pan or baking dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix potatoes with 1 tbsp cilantro, 1 clove garlic, cumin, and oregano. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes so potatoes evenly brown. Remove potatoes and leave oven on at the same temp.
  5. Line another medium sized baking dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Add chicken and season both sides with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at 350, turning occaisionally with tongs. Remove from over and let cook for 5 minutes. Chop.
  6. Heat a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium high heat for 2 minutes. Mist with cooking spray. Add remaining onion, jalapeno, and garlic- saute for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and saute for another minute. Add remaining cilantro and chopped chicken and saute for another minute. Add egg whites and saute, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until cooked.
  7. To assemble, place 1 tortilla on each plate. Divide beans among plate, top with egg-chicken-vegetable mixture. Serve potatoes aslongside and enjoy.
Serving- 1/2 c potatoes, 1/2 c black beans, 3/4 c egg-chicken-vegetable mixture, 1 tortilla
Calories- 480. Total Fat- 5 g. Carbs 74 g. Fiber 11g. Protein 36 g. Sodium 660 mg.

**Modifications- I made a few changes to this recipe mostly to use up leftovers. Instead of chicken, I subbed approximately 6 ozs of roast from last night. Instead of dried oregano and cilantro, I used fresh oregano, chives and basil from my garden. I also prepared three cups of dried black beans in my slow cooker instead of using canned as I use black bean quite a bit during the week for lunches and such. I didn't have any jalapeno or tortillas. And I served four eggs over easy in deference to Kevin's tastes. I also cooked everything on the stove top instead of in the oven. :) It turned out well although for next time I will do the scrambled egg whites as I think that would be better. This would be a great use for left over chicken although I don't think I would make it if I had to bake the chicken. Almost all of the main ingredients (black beans, eggs, chicken and potatoes) are items that I usually have in my kitchen and f=often have leftovers of. This is a great use-up-leftovers dinner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eating Clean

I am a huge believer in the power of nutrition. It is an art and a science. The art of cooking and preparing food in all its varied forms. The science of fueling the body for maximum performance and health. For me, the power of food manifests itself in the prevention of my migraines. I suffered from intense headaches and migraines from childhood. In my 20s, I discovered that by reducing or eliminating packaged foods with their preservatives and dyes from my diet I also reduced my migraines and generally felt better.

As I attempt to regain my fitness post-baby and make myself into the healthiest role model possible, I find myself again looking to nutrition. The eating style that I have found matches up most closely to my own ideas and opinions I found in a body building magazine. The concept of "eating clean" appealed to my sense of preferring food in its original form.

I am now embarking on a new adventure of combining eating clean with eating with attached infant. :) One of my projects for the next few months is adapting slow cooker recipes that I have liked to be healthier.

The basics of Clean Eating:
  • Eat five to six times a day- three meals plus two to three snacks. Including lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a complex carb at each meal.
  • Drink plenty of H2O- I aim for half my body weight in ozs
  • Get label savy- Aiming for whole foods and avoiding chemicals and preservatives.
  • Avoid processed and refined foods- white flour, sugar, bread and pasta, and most foods that come in a box
  • Know your enemies- avoiving foods high in saturated and trans fat, fried foods, foods high in sugar
  • Shop with a conscience-consume humanely raised and local meats and produce
  • Consume healthy fats- a balanced diet is vital, and includes fat. EFAs are a basic building block
  • Learn about portion sizes- and learn to recognize and respect them
  • Reduce your carbon footprint- eat seasonal and local
  • Moderation is key- limit alcohol to a treat
  • Slow down and savor- food tastes best and is best absorbed when eaten slowly and enjoyed!
  • Take it to go- pack a cooler for work or outings so healthy options are always available.
  • Make it a family affair- food is social glue that should be shared. Improve the quality of your family's life (and set yourself up for success) by sharing the benefits of eating clean

**My first post-baby goal- to consistently fit in five to six balanced meal/snacks, with at least 64 ozs of water. **

Monday, August 10, 2009

A New Page

"There are only two choices- make progress or make excuses." - Ellen Mikesell

Garrett Michael Smith made his entrance into the world almost four weeks early at 5:57 am on July 27, 2009. He was in a considerable hurry to join us, as I was in active labor for only about four hours. He made his entrance weighing in at 6 lbs 14 ozs and measuring 19 inches, with a head full of dark hair.

Aside from a brief elevation of his billirubin levels, requiring a hospital overnight under light therapy, he is a happy, healthy, easy going infant.

Today was Garrett's two week well baby checkup. He has exceeded the goal of regaining his birthweight and now weighs in at 7 lbs flat, as well as growing to 20.5 inches. It will be interesting to see where he's at by the time we reach his due date of August 23rd.

I was incredibly fortunate that my mom was able to come out and help me for the first two weeks of his life. It was amazing- and not just because she got up with him in the middle of the night so I could sleep a little more. Having her there to reassure me, to answer questions to recount memories of my childhood and hers- it made the experience of bringing my first child home so much more complete. It really makes me wonder how much we lose by being as spread out as our culture is now.

So, now to look forward. Enjoy this time with the little man, work on getting fit again, and making this new house really feel like home.