Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Grain-Free Blueberry Muffins


It's taken a lot of trial and error to learn how to bake using non-grain flours, however with my latest trial of blueberry muffins I can see how far I've come in my baking. When I first tried to use coconut flour for muffins, they turned out like crumbly hockey pucks. Now I am finally able to make muffins as tender as white flour ones, and though they don't taste exactly like wheat-based ones, they are still tasty in their own right. I have found the secret to cooking with coconut flour is to use plenty of eggs and add enough liquid to allow the fiber of the coconut to soak it up and yield the same batter texture as a wheat batter. I am particularly liking the addition of almond milk because it adds more richness than plain water would. Plus almond milk helps make the muffins soft inside and not too crumbly. Here is my favorite version of blueberry muffins, and thanks to frozen blueberries they can be made any time of the year! 

Grain-Free Blueberry Muffins 
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 eggs
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (warm, but not piping hot)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries
coconut oil for greasing or silicone muffin liners

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by greasing with coconut oil or lining with silicone muffin liners.
2. Using a fork, blend all the ingredients except the blueberries until smooth.
3. Gently fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula in a few quick moves so the blueberries don't bleed into the batter and stain it blue. Then, divide the batter evenly amongst the muffin cups.
4. Bake for 35-40 min or until the tops are golden brown and spring back at the touch. Serve warm or cooled. Store cooled leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for best results.
  • Servings per recipe: 12
  • Per serving:
  • Calories:159.1
  • Fat: 12.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 8.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 92.5 mg
  • Sodium: 168.3 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 8.6 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugars: 5.3 g
  • Protein: 3.8 g

Friday, November 23, 2012

End of the Week Review of Once a Week Cooking

Here are the latter meals I had in my week of once a week cooking, and my review of the experience:

Wednesday's meals included:

Breakfast: Scramble of 2 eggs+4 egg whites (been trying to get more protein into my day, so I have been adding egg whites), 1 sausage (I cooked it along with a couple others that morning, then re-used the pan for the eggs), and 4 roasted asparagus spears
Snack: celery with sunflower seed butter and raisins (ants on a log!)
Lunch: Burger with lettuce, tomato, and brown mustard with 4 oz each roasted broccoli and sweet potato fries
Dinner: Grain-free Chicken Cordon Bleu (7 oz), 4 oz roasted asparagus
Snack: dried apple chips and a slice of turkey and cheese




Thursday's Meals included:
Breakfast:  Scramble of 2 eggs+4 egg whites, 3 pieces of bacon, and 4 roasted asparagus spears
Lunch: Burger with lettuce, tomato, and brown mustard with 4 oz each roasted broccoli and sweet potato fries
Snack: Larabar
Dinner: Green Chili Taco Salad
Snack: Pumpkin yogurt without the apples

At this point I ran out of lettuce and tomato except for the salad I packed for the next day, meaning I didn't have enough veggies left for the last serving of green chili meat. Next time I need to buy more lettuce and tomatoes!

Friday:
Breakfast: two pork sausages with two eggs fried in pastured butter and homemade raw fermented sauerkraut
Lunch: Green Chili Taco Salad
Snack: 6 oz Greek yogurt with 4 oz frozen blueberries
Dinner: Grain-free Chicken Cordon Bleu (7 oz), 4 oz roasted asparagus
Snack: raisins and cashews

Saturday:
Breakfast: pork sausages with scrambled eggs
Lunch: Grain-free Chicken Cordon Bleu, sweet potatoes, broccoli
Dinner: out (Freebird's)
Snack: raisins and cashews

Sunday:
Breakfast: pork sausages with scrambled eggs
Lunch: Grain-free Chicken Cordon Bleu, sweet potatoes, broccoli
Dinner: this is the point I start with newly prepared food

I really loved this method for maintaining healthy meals in the week. I had plenty of proteins and side dishes to mix-and-match with. I ended the week with one chicken breast and one serving of green chili beef, which I thought meant that I planned pretty well. I felt less frazzled last week, which is a really good thing, and I also noticed I was able to get out the door in the morning a little earlier. I will try this method again and will hopefully streamline it so that my meal prep takes minimal time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Green Chili Beef Taco Salad


Here is one of my recipes from my first attempt at once a week cooking. The inspiration for this recipe was from a salad I had at a new Tex-Mex restaurant in town called Chuy's. It was a chicken salad with fajita meat, but one unique topping was green chilies. They weren't spicy but they added a unique touch to what would otherwise be a normal Tex-Mex chicken salad. For my version, I used ground beef, because that's what I felt like having, and mixed in a bunch of spices and canned Hatch green chilies (the best canned green chilies, in my opinion). You can add whatever you want to the salad; these are just my favorite ingredients. I make a simpler version some nights, and one topping that may seem weird but tastes really good is adding a dollop of Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Sour cream would be fine, but I like how smooth and fluffy the yogurt is---plus I never typically buy sour cream. This is probably one of the most comforting meals I make for myself. I know it may seem weird to find comfort in a salad, but there's something nice about being able to eat such a big bowl of food that is also pretty healthy. I think it's all those warming spices that make me feel so comforted, too.


Green Chili Beef Taco Salad
Printable Recipe

For the meat:
1/2 tbsp oil (I used bacon grease rendered from nitrite-free bacon)
1 lb ground beef
1 4-oz can green chilies, mild or hot
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried cilantro
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup prepared salsa
salt and pepper, to taste

For the salad:
1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded
2 tomatoes, diced
2 2.25-oz cans sliced black olives
2 small or 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 cup of salsa
8 tbsp Greek yogurt or sour cream

1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and add the ground beef. Cook until halfway done, then add the chilies and spices. Cook until completely browned.
2. Add the salsa and simmer for 10 min longer, until the flavors are well combined.
3. While the meat is cooking, prepare the salad: arrange the lettuce, tomato, olives, and avocado decoratively between 4 dinner plates or in one large bowl.
3. Place the cooked meat on top of each salad. Garnish with salsa and yogurt or sour cream. Serve immediately. 
  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 340.2
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Saturated fat: 5.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 57.8 mg
  • Sodium: 545.5 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 19.6 g
  • Fiber: 8.1 g
  • Sugars: 1.4 g
  • Protein: 24.3 g

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First Try at Once a Week Cooking

In an attempt to make my last full week of classes before Thanksgiving break easier, I tried a new tactic for meal prep. It's called once a week cooking, and it is what it sounds like: you set aside a couple hours over the weekend to do the bulk of your meal prep. Many sources inspired me to try this. I had heard of once a month cooking, where you cook a whole bunch in one weekend, freeze most of it, then have all your meals done for a month, but I haven't tried that for several reasons. While it sounds helpful and may work for some, I didn't think it would work for me. One, I don't have that many hours to dedicate to meal prep because as a graduate student I work pretty much seven days a week. I can set aside 3 hours to prep, but not a whole morning or afternoon. Also, I like to eat fresh ingredients frequently, and if freezing is obligatory then that means no salads for a month. Finally, I have tried using my freezer to store extra meals, but in that past I would pack away meals and then forget about them.

My original inspiration for once a week meal prep was Amber from Ex-Soy-Cise. She has a blog and youtube channel dedicated to removing soy from her diet and also eating clean, which means her diet plan is pretty much on track with mine. While I am at it I should also recommend her banana omelet recipe, which I also morphed into chocolate banana omelet. They sound weird but are so good!





But I digress...other sources of inspiration included the youtube channels of Hungry, Healthy, Happy and Lean Secrets, all of which have their own versions of what they like to prepare ahead of time.

So, on Saturday I made a meal plan with various meals and snacks broken down so I would know I had enough servings (though I will allow flexibility to change based on my activity level and what sounds good). On my menu were:

Roasted broccoli, sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries, and asparagus
Burgers with lettuce and tomato
Taco Salad with green chili beef (no tortillas) (recipe to come!)
Grain-free Chicken Cordon Bleu (recipe to come!)

I made my shopping list and went shopping on Sunday. I actually made two stops and ended up buying more than anticipated based on awesome sales, so I may have more food at the end of the week than anticipated. I got some extra fruit, Larabars, Greek yogurt, chicken breast, and sausages.

So thankful to have been able to get so much!

Though I was tired in after the shopping (I had been studying most of the day) I forced myself to do the prep, and I have to say, I had a lot of fun! I didn't even put the groceries away; I just jumped in and started cooking. I mentally worked out that I would start with the vegetables, mainly because if I started with proteins then I would have to worry about disinfecting surfaces before moving onto the vegetables which would only mean and extra step and more time. I don't mind using unwashed cutting boards and knives that prepped veggies first on my meat, but I do mind using them the other away around! So, veggies were prepped first. I had two cookie sheets going, each covered with foil for easy cleanup. I staggered prepping long-cooking veggies (sweet potatoes) and short-cooking vegetables (asparagus and broccoli) so I would always have a tray to be working on. Here is a rough broken down list of my order of prep:

1) Chop two large sweet potatoes, season on baking tray with salt, pepper, and coconut oil and  pop into a 450 degree F oven (at which point I realized I was out of coconut oil...bummer, I was just at the store!)
2) While the sweet potatoes bake, prep two bundles asparagus, seasoning with salt, pepper, and olive oil on the other pan and place into oven.
3) Chop the four crowns of broccoli; remove the cooked asparagus from the oven and re-use the asparagus pan for the broccoli. Place the asparagus in a storage container. Season the broccoli and place in the oven.
4) Chop the remaining two sweet potatoes, this time into fries. Remove the original sweet potato pan from the oven and re-use the pan for the new batch of sweet potatoes, seasoning with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, paprika and olive oil for spicy fries. Place in the oven. Stash the cooked sweet potatoes in a storage container.
5) Prep lettuce, tomato, and celery while the last batch of sweet potatoes and the broccoli finish cooking. Store the celery in water to keep it crisp and fresh.
6) Remove the broccoli from the oven and place in a storage container; replace the foil and move on to protein prep. Lay on a 12 oz package of nitrite-free bacon and place in the oven.
7) Prep chicken breasts by stuffing with ham and cheese; remove sweet potatoes from the oven, replace the foil, and place the chicken breasts on. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F. Bake 40 min or until 160 degrees F internally. Flip the bacon and put the fries in a container (I split the same container with the roasted cubed potatoes and the fries).
8) Prepare the ground beef for taco salads on the stove top.
9) Prep four burgers.
10) Remove the bacon from the oven. Drain excess grease. I re-used the same foil to bake my burgers on, but you could use a new piece if you prefer. Place the burgers on the pan and put in the oven.
11) After the chicken and burgers are cooked through, remove from the oven and stash in containers. Remove taco meat from stove top and place in a container.
12) Clean up and marvel at the wonderful spread of food you will be enjoying this week!

I chose not to pack my meals into individual containers so I could give myself more flexibility. Placing a few items into a container to take to campus with me isn't really a big deal for me.

Here are my first observations: I was surprised at how few dishes I dirtied with this method. I use two cutting boards to prepare roughly a week's worth of food---I usually use two cutting boards in one day! Therefore, I think my dish duty will decrease (good thing, because I dislike doing dishes) and also maybe water usage, which is also a good thing in arid Texas. I was able to clean everything up except the hot pans, which I left to cool, within my 3 hour time window (I started at 6 and was done by 9).

I think the time of my meal prep would be reduced if I relied on more frozen vegetables and salads. While the oven did most of the work, it still took time to chop everything up. Frozen vegetables are flash cooked and just need re-heated. In the future I may add two types of frozen veggies and the sweet potatoes.

I also noticed so far that I feel less frazzled in the morning. Breakfast is done if I want bacon and fruit. I didn't prep sausages and eggs because those are quick in the morning, but if I want veggies with my eggs those are cooked too! My lunch has been a breeze to pack, and I have been getting to campus significantly earlier.

I have been enjoying my lunches a lot more these past two days. When I don't pre-prep, sometimes my combos of food are really weird just because I run out of stuff or am too tired at the end of the day to cook myself extra. Or I just stop by the grocery store salad bar and then haven't made anything for my lunch the next day. It's just such a relief to be able to open the fridge and have a variety to choose from. 

I feel more energetic these past couple of days, perhaps partially because my meals are well thought out and nutritionally-balanced, and partially because I don't feel so much stress to prepare my food. I even feel like I not only have the time to exercise a bit more, but have the energy to do so! It's an all-round good stress reliever. 

Monday's meals included:

Breakfast: 3 pieces bacon and a tangerine (I wasn't too hungry)
Lunch: Burger with lettuce, tomato, and brown mustard with 4 oz each roasted broccoli and sweet potato fries
Snack: 6 oz Fage Greek yogurt and 4 oz frozen blueberries topped with a dash of stevia
Dinner: Last serving of leftover Autumn Lamb Stew
Snack: turkey slices with cheese




Tuesday's meals included:
Breakfast: 2 over easy eggs cooked in pastured butter, 3 slices bacon, and homemade raw fermented sauerkraut
Lunch: Grain-free Chicken Cordon Bleu (7 oz), 4 oz each roasted asparagus and sweet potatoes
Snack: 6 oz Fage Greek yogurt and 4 oz frozen blueberries topped with a dash of stevia
Dinner:  Burger with brown mustard, big salad (lettuce, tomato, avocado) with honey mustard dressing, and a homemade raw fermented pickle spear
Snack: celery and sunflower seed butter and a few dried apple chips

 



I will write another review at the end of the week, posting my meals and observations!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Autumn Lamb Stew


One of the best ways I have found to save money is look for discounted meat in the meat section of my grocery store. Usually they decrease the price of items that have an sell-by date two days away, so they reduce the prices a lot. There's nothing wrong with these cuts of meat, so I snatch up several packages of them and use some for the week immediately and then store some in the freezer. I have acquired quite a bit of lamb this way. Lamb is pretty expensive where I live, but if I buy thrift meat I can get lamb for $5/lb or less, which is really affordable compared to the original price. Most of the thrift pieces are quite small, so I have many packages of the meat so I can combine them in one recipe. On my latest venture to the thrift section, I acquired a small leg of lamb roast---about 1 lb of meat, plus the leg bone. It really was too small to cook as a roast and I didn't want to make it into kebabs because leg roast is really ideal for braising and stewing. Therefore, I chose to cut it up and use it in my first lamb stew. I haven't eaten lamb stew, though I have had my share of beef stew, which I love. One of the biggest issues with making stew without using flour is that there really isn't a thickener...so you just end up with soup. One way to help give the soup more texture is to add gelatin, which can form in homemade broth. Another easy way to add gelatin is to put a bone into the soup you are making (which I did, and it did add more unctuousness to the broth). Another way I added texture to the soup was by using pureed vegetables. I had part of a can of pumpkin in the fridge, and that combined with other pureed vegetables yielded the perfect stew texture! I don't think many people would tell the difference between my vegetable-thickened sauce and a flour-based sauce. Plus it's a good way to fit in one of my favorite fall veggies, pumpkin!


Autumn Lamb Stew
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp olive oil
l lb cubed lamb stew meat (if the meat came from a leg roast, save the leg bone to add to the stew)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 large carrot, sliced
1 large white sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed dried rosemary
1 tsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken or beef broth
1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Season the meat, and the bone, if using, with salt and pepper, and brown thoroughly. Remove the meat and bone from the pan and add to the crock of the slow cooker.
2. Add the tomato paste to the skillet and stir into the pan drippings to soften. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, stirring the wine and tomato paste together. Pour the mixture over the meat, then add the rest of the ingredients except the pumpkin. Cook for 6-8 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.
3. Before serving, remove about 1/2 cup each of the broth and some of the potatoes, carrots, and onions. Add them to the base of a blender or a bowl and use an immersion blender. Blend the broth and vegetables. Add the pumpkin to the puree and blend again until combined; add more broth if needed. Transfer the vegetable puree to the crockpot and stir to combine. Cover and re-warm, about 20 min. Remove the bone and bay leaf and serve immediately.


  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 245.6
  • Fat: 8.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 55.3 mg
  • Sodium: 300.4 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 20 g
  • Fiber: 4.1 g
  • Protein: 23.4
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