Tag: healthy food

Fruit Trays

So everyone knows I love entertaining and making food look beautiful.  The item I’ve probably had the most practice on over the years are fruit and vegetable trays.  I used to work for BYU catering where we made hundreds of fruit trays.  It was there I learned how to cut a pineapple and could get a pineapple cored and cut in about a minute.

Soon after college I got introduced to the Barefoot Contessa and her amazing fruit platters always filled me with glee.  They just looked so pretty :).  Granted she has food stylists and a bevy of helpers (not too mention quite the budget) but I think if you invited Ina Garten to a party she’d bring about as pretty a fruit tray as shown in the pictures.   Incidentally I wonder if Ina Garten’s friends are terrified to invite her over to eat.  How could you measure up?

Anyway, I started a diet on Monday and had to bring a treat to activity days for the young girls at church.  (Age 8-10).  I couldn’t think of anything that wouldn’t derail my diet and as I had been a slacker leader the last few months store bought seemed too lame.  So I decided to put together a fruit tray with my famous chocolate yogurt dip (so good!).

I must say I think it is my finest fruit tray creation yet:

Isn’t it pretty? White platters are easy to use for any occasion. The best entertaining tip my Mom gave me.

The fruit tray included strawberries, cherries, envy apples, banana and just for fun star fruit.  I had my chocolate dip (recipe below) and some store-bought caramel sauce (I’ve never quite mastered homemade caramel sauce).

I didn’t know if the girls would like the dark chocolate sauce but I think you can tell from this after shot that they liked it!

That’s what you call a plate licked clean!

Here are Ina Garten’s fruit tray tips:

“Once the base is set, you can add any kind of fruit that’s available.

I like to have one thing that is taller than the rest, such as a large bunch of grapes or a decoratively cut papaya, to give the platter height.

Then I add raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and fresh figs in casual but organized groups. The platter can look like a bowl of M&M’s if there are too many colors scattered with no order.

Visually, your eye needs to have a focal point and to be able to see each type of fruit.

After all the fruit is arranged, I add flat green leaves around the outside of the fruit, to set off the colors. Use lemon and galax leaves from your florist, or fig leaves and grape leaves  from your garden. Make sure they are pesticide-free and well washed.”

Some day I will be so on the ball I have lemon leaves on my trays but I’m proud of my attempt.  I think even kids respond better to something that is presented beautifully and it really doesn’t taken any more effort than throwing it on a plate.   Ok maybe a tiny bit more effort but hardly anything.

Here’s the recipe for the chocolate sauce.  Its super good.  This makes a lot of sauce.

Chocolate Yogurt Sauce

3 Lindt Dark Chocolate Bars- Lindt has tons of flavors including roasted almond, sea salt, chili, mint etc.  They are the best!

1/2 cup 2% greek yogurt

2-3 tbsp whole milk

heat chocolate over double boiler until melted.  Add milk, mix together over heat.   Will get a little thicker as it heats up.

Add yogurt once its cooled down.

Since I was making this for kids I added about a tsp of agave to make it a little sweeter.

You can add chopped nuts, toffee bits or whatever you like.  Can dip anything in it.  Shortbread is amazing!

ingredients for sauce

I made enough this time that I am setting little servings of it aside and freezing them for a quick treat.

single servings of sauce

As best as I can calculate on myfitnesspal.com these servings have 120 calories, 18 carbs, 8 grams fat, 6 grams protein, 11 grams sugar.

Enjoy!

I love sauces and dips. It makes me very happy
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Thank you Granola

Tomorrow is the big race! All the preparation has been done and I think I am ready. Ready as I will ever be! It won’t be the fastest swim but I’ll get it done.  It will be super exciting when I finish but also a huge relief.  I wonder if I will ever be 100% confident that I can do these great things? Until I am every finish will mean excitement and relief.

Anyway, my trainer has kindly agreed to paddle for me and as it is somewhat of a thankless task I wanted to do something to say thank you.  But what do you get your trainer as a gift?  Tough question.  Certainly I couldn’t make her cookies or brownies! She also has a pretty strict diet (gluten and dairy free etc).

So after some thought I decided to make homemade granola for her.  I looked at a bunch of recipes online and then added my own tweaks. Next time I will probably make it a little bit sweeter but I think that is better for my trainer because she isn’t a big sweet fan.  Its a super easy process.

Homemade Vanilla Granola

Heat to 350

2 c rolled oats

1/4 c flax seed

1/4 c honey (I would probably put in more next time because it wasn’t quite sweet enough)

1 c diced almonds

3.5 tbsp canola oil

2 tbsp vanilla (I used my homemade vanilla)

1 tsp cinnamon

If you have dried fruit or coconut that would be good.

Mix all ingredients.  Lay out on cookie sheet with silpat or parchment.  Stir the granola every 5 minutes and cook until it looks golden brown.

 

It’s honestly as easy as that and to think how much people can charge for it!

spread them out on a cookie sheet and then bake
Finished granola (this batch had some dried cherries)
The finished package

 

 

Smoothie Cubes

So recently I made an exciting purchase.  I finally got a blendtec fancy blender. I’ve been watching craigslist for years to try and find a deal and finally last week one came up.  The lady selling it had only had it for a year but said she never really used it and so she gave me a deal.  I got about a $450 blender for $285.  It’s still a lot of money but well worth it.

My new toy. Blendtec!

But as I started to use my blender I came up with a problem because I couldn’t drink an entire blender of smoothie without going crazy on the calories.  However, I didn’t want to throw away half a pitcher of smoothie.  (Since I live alone I must solely consume all of the food I make unless I have company.)

Hmmmm…what’s a girl to do?

Here’s my solution-

Smoothie Cubes

Pour some for a snack/lunch. Still have a lot left over? What to do?

Take leftover smoothie and put it in silicon ice cube trays

Use silicon ice cube trays to put the smoothie in. The silicon ice cube trays I got at TJ Maxx 2 for $9.95

Takes longer than regular ice to get solid enough.Once it is frozen, press cube out of silicon and put into ziploc or other freezer container.

Smoothie cubes!

Then they are perfect for a quick treat or to make a new smoothie with a little bit of orange juice or coconut water added.

Perfect for a little poppable frozen summer treat!
Delicious!

Ah, best idea ever!

 

Perfect Saturday

So I’m a very social person but to me the perfect day is one that combines activities and ‘veg’ time as I like to call it.  Today is a perfect example.  I woke up early and then went to pick up my bountiful basket.  The last few have been a bit skimpy but not this week.  It is huge!  We went with the tropical and blackberry addition but it ended up being still just under $40.  Pretty incredible.  The tropical basket has little tiny coconuts.  I’m not sure how to use them but that’s part of the fun. The blackberries are divine.  I’ve already eaten 2 containers!

All of this for under $40!

It was funny when I was picking up my basket a girl looked at the artichoke and said ‘What the heck is that?’.  I guess spending a lot of time in California I was introduced to artichokes from an early age.  I can understand never having tried them but to have no idea what they are?  Funny.

After picking up my basket I went to Boxing is for Girls and it was intense but awesome.  They have you do around a half hour of circuit training and this time it was relays with various tasks.  Its amazing how something that looks so easy like moving on your feet and hands with your but in the air is super hard. Wow! The last half of the class is punching practice and its my favorite.  You do some sets to practice your form and then they bring out the punching bags and you can go at it.  It really is a blast.  My friend Polly came last week and I didn’t know if she was really liking it but after the punching she was psyched.  She even signed up for a pass.

Love this photo
Jab Jab!

After boxing I came home, made lunch and watched my DVR of Say Yes to the Dress (the Atlanta version really isn’t as good!).  Then I made some almond flour cheese crackers.  I was reminded of them by my friend Jill who had them when I taught my class on low glycemic cooking.   This time I didn’t have quite enough almond flour so I had to use some brown rice flour.  I also tried a spin on the recipe and added some Tabasco.   Yum!

cheese crackers. Loaded with protein and flavor. Don’t overdo it because they do have a lot of calories from the almond flour. Still delicious.

Cheese Crackers with Almond Flour (Gluten Free)
(Makes about 30 crackers, recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam. This recipe is half the amount in the book, so double it and make the full recipe if you prefer.)

2 1/2 cup blanched almond flour (not the same as almond meal) (I use honeyville farms made right here in Utah).
1/4 tsp. salt (I used fine grind sea salt)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese (I used extra sharp cheddar and lightly packed it into measuring cup)
3  T  grapeseed oil (or olive oil works great if you don’t have  grapeseed)
2 large egg

 Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Grate 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda and cheese. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg and oil. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until well-combined.Cut two pieces of parchment paper the size of your baking sheet. Put one piece of parchment on cutting board and put dough on top, or half the dough if baking on small baking sheet. (I made the dough into the shape of the parchment.) Put second piece of parchment on top of the dough and roll out with rolling pin until dough covers the parchment sheet.Remove top parchment and cut dough into pieces 2 inches square.  Slide the parchment with the cut dough onto baking sheet and bake crackers 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.Let crackers cool on the baking sheet for 30 minutes (or if you need to bake another batch like I did, carefully slide first batch off to cutting board to cool while you use baking sheet to bake the second batch.)

I had kind of gotten out of my low glycemic baking.  Not sure why but I think I’m going to dive into it again.  Elana Amsterdam certainly has lots of recipes for me to try! :).

Now I have the rest of the day to relax, rub essential oils on my wounds (another banner exercise week, 4 workouts.  Next week I have one planned every day except Sunday.  If I can pull it off it will be one of the only times I’ve done that.  It’s the home stretch.  My swim is coming in 14 days!)

To me this is the perfect Saturday.  Got enough busyness to feel productive but enough relax time to feel relaxed.  After the week I’ve had I need to feel relaxed. Maybe I will even read for a while.  Luxury!

(I was just reading over the post and wondered- who is interested in the various activities of my Saturday?  Well, maybe nobody but there it is. Enjoy!)

Sugar Fast 2.0

Yes you read right.  I have to go on the sugar fast again.  Urgh, groan, sigh…I went to the doctor’s today and I’ve been gaining weight since starting the thyroid meds (I know most people lose but leave it to my body to be weird).  Basically sugar is just problematic.  Especially with all the training I’m doing.  I have to make sure that I am eating the right kinds of food because my metabolism is all messed up.

On the plus side, I feel good.  I feel strong.  My pain is improving.  I know the meds are working.  My times are getting better and better.  I know I am a healthy person.

I just have to help them out by being extra strict.  I’m not going to lie to you- I’m not looking forward to it.  I’m starting slow- just perfect until next Saturday (I already have treat ordered for book club).

I just wish I could get to the point where I can be less intense.  I don’t think I can keep up perfection forever.  It makes me crazy! I’ve worked too hard to mess it up at this stage.  Just got to press on through.

Please accept my apologies in advance for the moaning and groaning I will assuredly do.

So, no sugar except for fruit, no white carbs…Sigh

This sucks but I’ve worked too hard to screw it up soon.  I just wish my body could behave like a normal human being and less of a freak show.  I’m so tired of getting a look of confusion from my doctor saying ‘Hmmm…This is unexpected?’.

Anyway, its been a frustrating day.  AHHHHHHH!

Rachel’s Homemade Salsa

So I’ve become a fan of making my own sauces.  Since I can’t eat much processed food making my own sauces gives me the ability to customize the flavors that I like to my dietary needs.  So far I’ve tackled vanilla, barbeque sauce, marinara (didn’t turn out great so no post on that), and today SALSA!

Last week Kate and I got a mexican addition to our bountiful basket.  This included an array of peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and tomatillos.  With these ingredients I made 2 different kinds of salsa- traditional red and a pineapple salsa verde.  I’m super happy with the way they turned out.   I have put the salsa in jars and then my grandma is going to let me borrow her canning pot so I can seal them.  There will be salsa for months to come!

The finished collection of salsa!
pineapple salsa verde

pineapple salsa verde

3 peppers (I’m actually not sure what kind they were), seeds, stem removed (depending how hot you like)

12 tomatillos husks removed. (canned works too.  I doubled the batch with 3 cans of tomatillos and it tasted the same to me.)

lime juice

2 small onions

1 ripe pineapple diced

1 bunch cilantro

salt

put everything in food processor or blender and blend.   That’s it!

original salsa

Original salsa

6 cans S and W stewed tomatoes mexican style drained (this saves a ton of time)

2 small onions

2 poblano peppers stem removed but I left the seeds

lime juice

Put all in the food processor (in 2 rounds) and blend.

I was going to put diced tomatoes in but it really didn’t need it but if you like it more chunky go for it.

tomorrow I’m going to put cilantro diced and green onion so its fresh and not soggy.

It tastes really good and couldn’t be easier.  Tomorrow I’m having my grandma and family over for a Mother’s Day dinner and hopefully they like a Mexican fiesta! I’m doing crockpot chicken tacos with salsa, guac, toppings and it should be pretty delicious. Happy Mother’s Day friends and family, especially my own Mom.

Feliz Dia de las Madres!

 

 

Twin Cakes

As all my facebook friends know I’ve found a new obsession.  Twin Cakes raw gluten-free snack bites.  These delectable ‘cookies’ are low glycemic, low sugar, low carb and despite their small size they pack a ton of flavor.  I like them so much that I emailed the owner (one of the twins Lori) and she agreed to give me a bulk rate.  I now have 16 bags coming this week- that’s 160 balls in various flavors:

the brownie bites are very rich. Under 100 calories, 6 gr sugar, 9 carbs. For strong chocolate lovers only.
mint chocolate coconut bites
spiced hazelnut dough balls

And I ordered the Cinnamon Coconut bites which they do not have a photo for on their site.  I will sell bags to anyone who is interested at cost. This is really just a way for me to get healthy goodies at a discount.  I’m not making anything. Call me for the prices. They are between 8-10.

Spiced hazelnut dough ball –  4 bags for
Brownie bite – 4 bags
Cinnamon coconut bite – 4 bags
Mint Chip coconut bite –  4 bags

There are 10 bites/balls per bag.

If you are lucky enough to live near certain stores that carry their product I am very envious.  I can’t say how delicious I think they are.  I just love them so much!   If someone tried to tell me I couldn’t eat them I think the fangs would come out.

Ingredients for brownie bites (as an example) maple syrup, cocoa powder, coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut flour (all organic).

Ingredients for cinnamon coconut bites- coconut flakes, maple syrup, coconut oil, coconut butter, cinnamon (all organic).

Most ‘healthy sweets’ taste just awful which leaves me craving for the bad stuff.  These bites are full of flavor.  You really don’t need to eat more than one.  Plus they last forever.  If refrigerated could have them for many months. They are also vegan for anyone interested in that.

It actually means something to me to be able to eat something sweet and have it not ruin my diet.  Something sweet that actually tastes GOOD! It really does add to the quality of my life.  The first time I tried one I literally had a few tears. I had just finished the sugar fast and it was like yes! This I can live with.  This is delicious! This is the sweet life!

Now, you cant eat bags and bags.  They are still a sweet but they are all pretty strong.  The temptation to eat more than 1 is usually not there for me.

If you come by my place ask to try one.  I want to get as many of my friends hooked as I can so I can make more bulk orders, possibly lowering costs even more or convincing Whole Foods or someplace around here to stock them.  They make me very happy.

So, if you are interested in any of the above items at the above prices let me know.  Again, I’m not making anything on this.  In fact, I will absorb the minor shipping charge.  No pressure because any that aren’t sold will be saved for me to gladly eat but if you want let me know.

I applaud people like the twins at Twin Cakes and Elana Amsterdam at Elana’s Pantry because they make good tasting products/recipes despite their dietary restrictions.  They aren’t happy with a ‘kinda, sorta, tastes like the real thing’ treat.  No,  they wanted something genuinely delicious.

I admire that type of thinking.  Too often I feel discouraged because something has been removed from my diet.  I don’t think ‘how could I make it work and make it still taste delicious’.  People like this inspire me to do better and be more adventurous.

I’ve got sweets coming…Life is good! :).

Btw- anyone who comes new to book club will get to try them.  This should definitely entice you to come!  (It sure would entice me!)