A Sweet Treat To Ring In the New Year

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Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bacon Bark.

Yup. That second to last word is BACON.

Some of you just read that and think I’ve seriously lost my mind. Others read it and are thinking GENIUS! Either way, you really should read the rest of this post – and as my mother used to say, “don’t yuck it ’till you try it!!!”

Yesterday, I picked up a copy of the book Practical Paleo while I was at Costco. Since I’ve already had to go gluten-free, I’m thinking that trying out paleo is probably the next step in my health and nutrition journey. I have one recipe simmering away in my crockpot for dinner, but I wanted to try something a little out of the ordinary for a treat…

I’ve seen many recipes with chocolate and bacon, and I always thought it would be…well…gross. Wow. I thought wrong!

This recipe was SUPER easy, and it’s delicious! A small piece is definitely enough to satisfy the craving. I did alter it a bit from the book, but I’m sure it would come out just as well if you followed the recipe to a T. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m notorious for “doctoring” things up! Here’s my version…

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bacon Bark with Sea Salt

2 cups dark chocolate chips (I used Guittard Extra Dark – found them at Whole Foods)

2 tsp. bacon drippings

1 cup toasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off and roughly chopped

4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped

1/4 tsp. flaked sea salt

 

Melt chocolate chips with bacon drippings in the microwave – 30 seconds at a time, stirring every 30 seconds, until just about melted (a total of 2 – 3 minutes). Pour the chocolate out on a sheet of parchment paper laid on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the hazelnuts, bacon, and sea salt over the chocolate and let set. (Yes – you really have to wait.) Break into chunks.

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Oh yes. This will be a very happy new year.

Marvelous In My Monday – New Year’s Eve!

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I can’t  believe it’s already New Year’s Eve. The end of 2012. This year seriously flew by in the blink of an eye!

First, I need to say thanks to Katie over at Healthy Diva Eats for hosting this super-fun Monday meetup for all of us healthy living bloggers! I’ve been introduced to some great people this year through our weekly MIMM get togethers! Plus, Katie’s got lots of fun stuff going on over at her site (including a new baby-to-be!!) so make sure to go check her out!

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Okay – here are some of the marvelous things in my life right now…

Marvelous is my awesome and amazing friend and Zumba instructor Eva! This is us at Zumba Master Class back in October!

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She has totally gotten me addicted to this incredibly fun way to torch calories! I have made some new friends, and now I can hardly listen to the radio without choreographing songs in my head! You can check her out over at her blog Committed2Nutrition  – and if you’re local, feel free to join us for some seriously fun workouts!

Marvelous is my love of experimentation with healthy foods. I’ve found so many new things to love this year – especially now that I have to be gluten-free. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m figuring it out little by little – just like everything else! Here are a few of my favorite finds!

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Marvelous is my new cookbook – Practical Paleo!

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I love the way this book is set up – it has a lot of great information, meal plans, and some delicious looking recipes! I am making my first recipe from it as I type… I decided that dinner tonight would be Balsamic Braised Shortribs (YUM!!), so they are simmering away in my slow cooker. They’ve only been in there for an hour, and the house is already starting to smell good! I’m planning on serving them the suggested side from the book – carrots with dates. I’m also going to try making a couple of other things from the book before I have to go back to work on Wednesday so we have some healthy things ready to eat when life gets busy again!

Marvelous is my awesome hubby!

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This is us a couple of weeks ago while visiting my in-laws in Florida. This picture was taken in front of a ginormous Christmas tree at the Grand Floridian hotel at Disney World. My hubby is marvelous for so many reasons… We’ve been together for 19 years now – married for 10 of them. We’ve been through so many ups and downs, but somehow we always seem to make it. We work hard at our relationship – and we don’t take anything for granted. I’m so lucky to have him – and I hope he feels the same about me!

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So…Happy New Year from us to you – here’s to a happy, healthy 2013 for all!

I Survived My First Week Gluten-Free!

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So…I made it! This was my first full week of going gluten-free! I have to say, I definitely feel a difference. I’m not sure whether it’s a placebo effect or what, but I definitely feel better. I’m not having as many issues with my stomach, and the typical “brain fog” I’ve been experiencing lately also seems to have disappeared. I know it takes a while for everything to settle down, but if this week is any indication, this was definitely the right way to go.

I’ve found plenty of things I can eat – and have been really surprised by the number of things I can’t! My in-laws (the other ones) were here for the weekend and my mother-in-law (hubby’s mom) LOVES Special K. She brought a box with her for breakfast since I didn’t have any last time, and I took a look at the ingredients. Wheat gluten – right there in the ingredients! There goes another cereal… I had to explain to her why I couldn’t have it – and that touched off the “What is gluten?” and the “What else can’t you have?” conversation. I find it really hard to explain – since I’m not so sure yet myself. I gave her the big picture – no wheat, rye, or barley, and I have to read the labels of everything pretty carefully. She was so funny – I listed so many things I can’t have that she loves – she said she didn’t think she could do it. I told her I am just learning how to do without, and how to make substitutions.

In fact, that brings me to what I wanted to share with you. Whenever we have company on a Sunday morning, I like to have some kind of a nice breakfast or brunch. Today I made a crustless quiche type of thing (eggs with scallions, tomatoes, cheese, and turkey bacon), and I tried making gluten-free muffins for the first time. I was really nervous that they would turn out like hockey pucks and I would have nothing to serve with the eggs – all of my other GF stuff is frozen! Little did I know that my muffins would be morsels of yumminess, and that they would get rave reviews from everyone! To quote my dear MIL, “If you didn’t tell me, I would never have known these were gluten-free!” SCORE!!

Here’s how I made them…

Gluten-Free Mixed Berry Muffins

1 1/2 cups King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour

3/4 cup organic cane sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 cup canola oil (maybe melted coconut oil…will definitely try that next time)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup milk (I’m sure you could use almond milk)

1 cup frozen mixed berries (I used the Welch’s Frozen Berry mix but took out the strawberries – leaving blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

 

Preheat the oven to 400F. Either spray 12 cup muffin tin with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients, mixing well. Fold in berries (I used them just frozen). Fill muffin tins about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 20-25 minutes (will depend on your oven) until they are golden brown on the top.

Here is what they looked like:

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YUM!!

So glad that my first attempt at making gluten-free muffins was a success! I’m sure I will mess up at other points along the way – there will certainly be a lot of experimentation. At least I know I have one recipe I can fall back on now!

Hope you all had a great weekend – and had a chance to relax and recharge! Time to start another week already…

What’s your favorite Sunday brunch food??

 

Marvelous in my Monday #3

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Welcome to Marvelous in my Monday! Many thanks, as always, go to Katie at Healthy Diva Eats for hosting!

This Monday is marvelous for many reasons, but the biggest one is that I HAVE THE DAY OFF!!! 🙂 I’ve been working practically non-stop for the past several weeks, so to have a three day weekend is a real gift! Granted, most of what I’m doing is catching up on laundry and cleaning up around the house, but at least I have some time to do that! My laundry pile has not been completely tackled for weeks. My poor hubby even ran out of socks yesterday!

The weather is pretty marvelous today, too! It’s beautiful and sunny here in Southern CT today after a couple of days of overcast skies and a combination of drizzles and downpours. The leaves are starting to turn – but I think we’re a good couple of weeks from peak foliage. I really love this time of year – the mornings are chilly, the days are still warmish, and it’s cool enough in the house to start baking!!

Speaking of baking…I made some marvelous muffins yesterday, and I wanted to share that recipe with you today! I got the recipe from Jenn over at Peas and Crayons. She calls this recipe Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Zucchini Brownie Bread – definitely a mouthful! I followed it to the letter, but without the glaze. This was the first time I had ever used flax seeds to sub for eggs. Here goes…

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Zucchini Brownie Bread
1 cup of zucchini [1 used 1 1/2 small zucchini]
15oz pureed pumpkin [one can – not the pumpkin pie mix]
1 box of devil’s food cake mix
2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds
6 Tablespoons water
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts [optional] plus extra for topping
1 cup of dark chocolate chips [I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips]

The ingredients…

Preheat the oven to 350F and get started on your flax “eggs”.  You’ll need two of them for this recipe, so simply scoop 2 tablespoons of ground flax into a small bowl and add 6 tablespoons of water, whisking to combine.  Place in the fridge for a minimum of 15-20 minutes.  When you remove the “eggs” from the fridge, stir gently with a fork. Once it reaches an eggy consistency you’re good to go! They should look like this:

When you “whip” these, they should have the texture of beaten eggs.

Coarsely grate your zucchini with box grater (I used the small side), gather into a pile, and chop into teeny pieces.  Pat dry with paper towels to remove any moisture. (This is important…there’s a LOT of water in there! I let it sit for a bit, then squeezed it in the towel.) Next pour your cake mix in a large bowl [make sure you use chocolate cake mix, not brownie mix!] and add your can of pumpkin, flax eggs [see above] and zucchini.  Stir until just moistened, then fold in your chocolate chips and walnuts.

I don’t see pumpkin or zucchini…do you?? Just chocolatey goodness!

Pour batter into paper lined muffin tins or foil loaf pans spritzed with a little oil.  [Fill each a little over half-way] Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes for muffins, 35-45 minutes for mini loaves [my favorite!] and approx 45-55 minute for a giant loaf.

Ready to go in…

As always, insert a toothpick in the center to test for a fluffy center and keep your oven’s variation in mind.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. (Note: I used the paper lined muffin tins and got 18 good sized muffins out of this recipe. They took 30 minutes in my oven).

The finished product…YUM!!

I have to say, these are YUMMY!! They are moist and very brownie-like. Even the husband – who despises both pumpkin AND zucchini said he really liked these. He was really surprised to find out that there was no oil, and especially no eggs! According to MyFitnessPal‘s recipe calculator, these have 176 calories, 25 g carbs, 9 g fat, and 3 g protein each. Not bad considering the fact that they could easily take the place of a much more calorie dense, fat laden dessert!

Hope you all have a marvelous Monday! Now for today’s questions…

What are you up to on this marvelous Monday?

Have you found a healthier substitute for a favorite dessert?

Have you ever hidden fruits and/or veggies in a recipe?

Sunday Prep Day and Pollo Sudado

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To say that I am glad this is a three-day weekend is a major understatement. The last few weeks have been incredibly busy. I’m so glad that I had a chance to finally unwind a bit. Even though I’m off tomorrow, I wanted to stick to my routine and get my shopping and prep done today. Hubby had to go to the office for a while, so I took advantage and hit the grocery store. As you know from last week, my goal is to get out of the store with a bill of $100 or under. Today I flunked. I spent $125 – but I did stock up on a few things, and it included $16 in cat litter which I typically don’t include in my grocery category. So really, I didn’t do too badly. Here is my loot from today:

Not everything made it into the picture either. I had a few other veggies that I had already put away. Now you probably notice one thing that is not typical for me – and there were actually two things that don’t usually make it into my shopping cart. I made a side trip to a small, local produce market that specializes in Latin American foods. I have spent a lot of time in Colombia, so there are times when I get cravings for food from my “second home” (more about that in another post!). I’m sure you see the tomatoes, scallions, and avocados – those are typical fare, along with these two things:

Arepas – corn cakes

Quesito Casero Colombiano – Colombian style fresh white cheese

Arepas are delicious – but very plain all by themselves. I happen to like them toasted with butter  – like you would have regular toast, or with mashed avocado and a little bit of salt. I like to serve them alongside eggs scrambled with tomato, scallions, and cilantro. They can also be topped in lots of different ways, or stuffed with cheese. The queso (cheese) is like what I have there in my scrambled eggs. It’s also great just crumbled on top of a toasted arepa. These are two of the things that help me with my Colombian “homesickness.”

One of the other things that helps me is cooking traditional Colombian food. One of my favorite places to find recipes is a blog called My Colombian Recipes, written by Erica, who was born and raised in Colombia. I have made many of her recipes including Arroz con Pollo (anything with chicken and rice is a hit at my house) and Ajiaco Bogotano (Colombian chicken and potato soup). This was the first time I tried Pollo Sudado – a traditional Colombian chicken stew. As it was cooking, all I could think was “This smells like Colombia!” I made a few variations – but nothing that changed the character of the recipe…just the amounts of veggies. All credit for this one definitely goes to Erica – and it was a real winner with my hubby!

Pollo Sudado (Serves 4)

8 chicken drumsticks or thighs without the skin (I used 6 boneless, skinless thighs because that’s what I had on hand)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped sweet onion (1/2 large onion)

1 cup chopped red pepper (1 medium pepper)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chopped tomato (I used fresh – you could probably use canned diced, but the flavor won’t be the same)

1 cube chicken bouillon

1 packet Sazón Goya with azafran (typically in the international foods aisle)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (plus more for garnish)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

8 small potatoes, peeled and cut in half (I used baby reds – that’s what I had)

3 cups water

The ingredients…

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the red pepper and sauté until onions are translucent – about 3 minutes.

Step 1 – Sauté

Then add the tomatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper and sauté for about 5 more minutes.

Step 2 – Sauté some more!

Add the chicken, water, chicken bouillon, Sazón Goya, and cumin. Bring to a boil and then turn heat to low. Cover and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3 – Add the liquid, seasonings, and chicken.

Add the potatoes and cilantro and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Step 4 – Add potatoes and cilantro.

Serve over white rice. Add more fresh chopped cilantro if desired. I also like to add some fresh avocado chunks!

The finished product!

One of the things I love about this is that it is so simple, yet it is really delicious and it reminds me so much of “home”. Plus, there aren’t too many times when eating potatoes AND rice in the same bowl is actually considered okay!

I hope you enjoy this recipe – and be on the lookout for my post about Colombia, and why I love it so much. It’s going to take me a while to get that all written down… 🙂

What I Ate Wednesday…

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Okay…so I’m starting to get into these “link-up” things! This is my second one this week. (Want to check out my first “Marvelous In My Monday” post – go here!)

“What I Ate Wednesday” has been around for a while, but I’m just jumping on the bandwagon now! Thanks to Jenn over at Peas and Crayons for hosting! And a major thanks to Eva, my most awesome Zumba instructor, for introducing me to all of these link-ups, and for encouraging me to keep blogging! Check her out at Committed2Nutrition!

If you’ve never been part of #WIAW or seen one of these posts before, it’s basically a way to share some ideas for healthy eats, recipes, and it’s also a pretty darned nifty accountability tool! Taking pictures of what you eat all day long is no easy feat! It’s a bit awkward when you’re with people who aren’t used to eating with healthy living/eating bloggers who take pictures of EVERYTHING! Thus, there is no picture of my lunch today! Oh well…can’t be perfect all the time!

Here’s what I remembered to actually take pictures of today…

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts EVER! I shared the recipe a little while ago here. I know that flavored Greek yogurt isn’t the best, but to me it’s a treat! Generally I eat the plain stuff with some fresh fruit, cocoa powder, or PB2 (which ROCKS by the way!) in it. This key lime flavor from Oikos is A-MA-ZING! I love key lime, and this is just the right balance of sweet, tart, and tangy and totally kills the craving for the pie version. Added a few Trader Joe’s Roasted Coconut Chips to the top and it was heaven! Dinner was one of my go-to quickie dinner recipes – Tempeh-Veggie Fried Rice. I tell the story of how this one came to be, and also share the recipe here. I’m telling you – you could make this with just about anything you have in the house and it will taste good!

Tonight I’ll probably just have my usual decaf tea – been getting into the fruity/herbal flavors at night. The hubby brought home an apple cinnamon one the other night that tastes just like hot apple cider – without all the sugar and calories! A perfect treat… 🙂

I know this is a pretty crummy WIAW post, but I promise I’ll do better next Wednesday…I’m going to ask for newbie forgiveness on this one!

What’s one of your favorite go-to meals for busy nights?

Any other ideas for sweet but low-cal treats with a fall-ish twist?

Making Something from Nothing

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Tonight was one of those nights. I had a meeting at work until almost 5:30, hit traffic on my commute home, headed to my trainer for a workout, and finally got home a little after 8:00 – and I was HUNGRY!

I looked in the fridge and even though I just went shopping, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in there. That was on purpose. I have a terrible habit of overbuying things at the store, and as a result, I have been known to throw out a lot of food. Not only am I trying to get my health on track, but my hubby and I have been working really hard at keeping our finances on track as well. This means budgeting, and trying to make the most of every dollar. We went through all of the cabinets over the weekend and took inventory of what we have, decided to donate some of the things we know we won’t use, and organize things so we can find them.

What I did have was the rotisserie chicken I bought at Costco the other day – cut up into pieces. I also had half of a red onion, some garlic, a few sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, frozen broccoli, and frozen brown rice. Oh yes…I can do something with this.

I sautéed the onion and garlic in a little bit of olive oil while I rehydrated the sundried tomatoes in hot water. Then I drained the tomatoes and added them to the olive oil. While all this was going on, I microwaved the rice and the broccoli. I added some black pepper, crushed red pepper, and oregano, then tossed in the broccoli and rice. The last thing I added was a little sprinkle of feta.

This is what I wound up with. Seems like I’ve been making a lot of veggie-infused rice lately, huh?? 🙂

I heated up a piece of the rotisserie chicken, put it on a plate with some of the rice, and dinner was on the table (so to speak) in a matter of about 10 minutes. Quick, inexpensive, and healthy. Can’t beat that!

Have you ever made something from nothing for dinner?