Hi, guys! We have been invited to join the ranks at ChicagoNow, so bear with us as we make this transition over the next few days. We will try to get all of the previous posts on there, so we can have the same archives. The new address will be www.chicagonow.com/blogs/clean-convenient-cuisine
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Sunday, September 12, 2010
Tips For The Perfect Fridge
1. The first obvious tip is only buy what you need for a few days or the entire week. Take a menu with you to the grocery store, so you are aptly prepared. If you know it's unrealistic for you to buy for the whole week, plan out 2-3 days or breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It doesn't have to be complicated. When you get home, cut up veggies or do your "prep" work. Sundays are great days for this, and then store your prepared snacks or meals in the proper bins or shelves.
2. Before you go to the store, clean out your fridge. Think of it as "spring cleaning," something you should do every few months to make sure you're not holding on to almost empty containers of salad dressings and ketchup bottles. Clear out the inside of any half-open jars, old condiments or moldy veggies. Get rid of leftovers if they have been in the fridge more than 48 hours. Think about how you will organize your fridge when you return.
3. Do not overcrowd fridge, as this prevents proper air circulation.
Contents Of The Perfect Fridge
At the store, try to concentrate on the following:
Nuts, seeds, peanut butter
Chicken, fish, turkey, tofu
Yogurt, cheese, milk
Oatmeal, brown rice, bread
Work around the perimeter of the store and only pop into the aisles when you need to pick up jars or boxed grains.
Organizing The Perfect Fridge
1. Store vegetables and fruits separately. Store veggies in GREEN BAGS, so you don't have to keep them in the crisper. They do best in a warmer part of the fridge (around 50 degrees). Often times, when we put foods in the crisper, they go bad, because we forget about them. Use a lower shelf and keep them visible, so you know when to use them. Look at your menu. Position the fruits and veggies you will be using that day at the forefront, and then rotate to the next batch for the next day. Lettuce and herbs often go bad when they come in contact with plastic, so wrap them in paper towels first before putting them back in plastic bags. Apples also emit a gas that can cause other produce to spoil, so keep them out of the crisper drawer or store them by themselves.
2. Keep similar foods together, so you know where they are.
3. Store yogurt, cheese, dips, butter and smaller items on the top shelf, so they are at eye level.
4. Store meat at the bottom of the fridge on a "meats-only" tray, as some products can drip in their natural packaging.
5. Position eggs in their original carton near the top of the fridge, as the temperature is cooler here than in the egg tray.
6. Store drinks, bottles, jars and condiments on shelves near the inside of the refrigerator door, but only those that you will use. Don't buy in bulk. Make sure all lids are tightly closed.
Clean your refrigerator. Use common sense when storing cooked meats and leftovers (use glass containers instead of plastic).
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/12/2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
A type of winter squash, butternut squash tastes similar to pumpkin and can be roasted, toasted or pureed to make a variety of dishes. A natural way to reduce inflammation, it can help those with joint pain. It is also high in beta-carotene, which can help reduce the severity of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
So, the next time you are craving fries, check out this nutty, sweet indulgence.
1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
spices (paprika, curry, cayenne, etc.)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Use a sharp knife to cut away the peel from the squash. Cut the squash into sticks like French fries and throw into a bowl. Toss with olive oil and spices, place a lid on the bowl and shake until evenly coated. Arrange squash pieces on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, turing halfway through baking. Fries are done when they start to brown and become crispy. (Cooking times may vary.)
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/10/2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Gluten allergies are becoming more common, but it is one of the easiest ingredients to stay away from without affecting your overall health or diet. In fact, you are likely to improve your diet, because most foods with gluten are processed.
What exactly is gluten? A mixture of two proteins, present in cereal, grains and wheat, gluten is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. Some people are unable to digest it, hence a gluten allergy (or celiac disease). Luckily, numerous store bought foods now come gluten-free. When you have a gluten allergy, the main things to stay away from are wheat, rye and barley, though gluten is often unassumingly present in numerous foods. (If you suspect you might have an intolerance, you can ask for a complete gluten intolerance test at the doctor - or simply eliminate foods with gluten to see if you feel better.)
Foods safe to eat in the "grain" variety are corn, potato, rice, soybeans, arrowroot, carob, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa. Always look at the package label to determine the ingredients. This is a chance to comprise your diet full of whole, natural foods with lots of fresh veggies, proteins, healthy grains and fruits.
However, if you do have this allergy and you occasionally want to bake something sweet, there are many wonderful options (entire shops and blogs are now dedicated to a gluten-free lifestyle). Below is a delicious, gluten-free recipe to make on those days when you want something sweet but healthy!
Pumpkin Quinoa Cookies
1 cup Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes
1 cup sorghum flour (or fine brown rice flour)
1/4 cup millet flour
1 tbs. tapioca starch or potato starch
1 tsp. xantham gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups organic light brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup spectrum organic shortening
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 tbs. pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp. light tasting vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup golden raisins or currants
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (quinoa flakes down to cloves). Add in shortening and combine the mixture until it's crumbly. Add in the pumpkin down to the lemon juice and beat to combine. Stir in chocolate chips, raisins and nuts and drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the parchment paper. Bake until golden and firm.
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/09/2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this healthy, delectable entree. I first discovered sweet potato quesadillas at The Chicago Diner and have been hooked on them ever since. If you need a little extra protein, you can use ground turkey, chicken, or like the Diner, seitan (derived from the protein portion of wheat). I enjoy them just with the black beans and sweet potatoes. It's an easy, quick recipe ready in about 15 minutes that can be enjoyed any night of the week!
Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas
1 25 oz. can organic black beans
2 large sweet potatoes
4 large spinach or wheat tortillas
1 cup spinach
1 bag soy cheese
1 avocado, mashed
soy sour cream (tastes exactly like the real thing)
homemade salsa (or diced tomatoes and onions)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Microwave the sweet potatoes until tender. Peel and mash by hand. Rinse the beans in cold water and heat on stove. Right before they are done, mash lightly with a fork. Spread the sweet potato and bean mixture on 4 tortillas, sprinkle with soy cheese and a few leaves of spinach. Fold each tortilla in half and heat in oven until tortillas are crispy. Cut each into four equal squares and serve with mashed avocado, salsa and soy sour cream. A healthy, enjoyable treat for the whole family!
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/08/2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Making your own protein bars allows you to control what goes into them, based on your own personal preferences and dietary needs. And the best part is most of them don't even have to be baked - just refrigerated for a few hours. In our case, Alex and I want something that can be eaten as a snack, has a little healthy fat, a good ratio of carbs and protein, and organic ingredients. As you will note, most of these contain oats, peanut butter and whey, so if you don't want any of these ingredients, play around with different types of protein and nut butters to come up with your own perfect recipe.
No-Bake Energy Bars
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
1 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
1 cup dried, chopped fruit
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup organic honey
Mix all ingredients well and freeze, then cut into bars.
Quick Protein Bars
3 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup skim milk (or whatever milk you prefer)
4 scoops protein powder
dash of cinnamon
Mix until a sticky batter is formed. Use a large spoon to spread the mixture into the bottom of a glass or metal cooking tray sprayed with Pam. Put in the fridge overnight and cut into 8 equal bars.
285 calories, 11 g fat (good monounsaturated fats), 26 carbs, 21 g protein
Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars
1 cup oat flour
1 1/2 cups whey protein powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 cup stevia blend (or organic sugar)
2 egg whites
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9x9 baking pan with wax paper. Combine all dry ingredients in a blender. Process for about two minutes. In a bowl, beat eggs and peanut butter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. With an electric mixer, slowly add the water until dough becomes gooey. Pour batter in lined pan, pressing dough to an even thickness. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool, first on wax paper, then on a plate. Cut into 8 bars.
250 calories, 7 g fat, 24 carbs, 24 g protein
3 Ingredient Protein Bar
1/4 cup natural nut butter
40 ml Half-n-half
25 g chocolate whey protein
Combine whey and nut butter in a bowl. Mix slightly and then add half-n-half. Remove from bowl and shape into a bar!
A Little Bit of Heaven Protein Bar
3 cups organic raw oats
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened organic shredded coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
2 cups organic nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup + 2 tbs. raw agave nectar or honey
1/2 cup organic peanut butter or almond butter
1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic coconut oil, melted
1 bar of organic dark chocolate, chopped or 1 cup organic dark chocolate chips
1 cup organic chopped seeds or nuts
1/2 cup chopped dates, raisins, figs or other dried fruit (optional)
1 cup vanilla or chocolate whey protein powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread a 9x13 inch baking dish with coconut oil or cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients (oats through brown sugar) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients (greek yogurt through coconut oil). Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, and then mix in the chocolate. Taste and add more peanut butter, fruit or protein powder. Mix well using clean hands.
Spread the mixture into prepared dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove, let cool and then slice them. Spread the bars on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 more minutes. Allow to cool and then wrap and store in refrigerator.
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/07/2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
1. It's Too Salty! If you've over salted sauces or soups, add a raw, sliced potato to the mixture. Potatoes absorb excess salt. Just be sure to toss before serving. You can also add more liquid, sugar or vinegar to equal out the mixture.
2. It's Too Spicy! If there's too much heat, add more of the other ingredients in the dish, or hot water to tame the heat. Adding tomatoes, ketchup, sugar or even a dollop of plain yogurt can help as well.
3. It's Too Sweet! Add a spoonful of cider vinegar, a bit of lemon juice or a dash of olive oil to reduce sweetness.
4. It's Too Acidic! Try adding a bit of baking soda or salt to reduce acidity.
5. It's Too Thin! If you're cooking a sauce and it's too thin, try adding a bit of flour or cornstarch to thicken it up. Use sparingly, however, as a little goes a very long way.
6. It's Too Thick! It might seem obvious, but adding a bit of liquid will work. However, add only a bit at a time not to thin out the mixture too much.
7. It's Too Mushy! If you've overcooked vegetables, turn them into a puree or a soup, by combining with a broth or cream in a blender. You can also mash the veggies with a little milk, especially if the veggies are potatoes, cauliflower or carrots.
8. It's Too Bland! If you feel like your dish is missing something, remove a small part of it, and play around with adding different spices to that small section, before you add seasoning to the entire dish.
9. It's Too Dry! If you've made fish or a meat that's dried out, simply whip up a sauce to cover it, or just mash up the meat to make salmon cakes (or a chicken or turkey burger).
10. It's Too Burnt! If you've burned a sauce or rice, you know it can take on a different flavor altogether. The first tip is to move the burnt food to a new pot. If you have burned rice, wipe two or three onions with a clean, damp cloth and remove the papery outer peels. Take those peels and spread them over the unburned rice. Cover the pot and let sit for 15 minutes. The onion peels absorb the bitterness. Discard before serving.
The bottom line is not to panic if you've made a cooking mistake. Get creative, remember these tips and come up with some of your own!
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/06/2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
COMMON PANTRY ITEMS
1. Canned tomato products
2. Canned vegetables
3. Canned meats (salmon, tuna, chicken)
5. Low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
6. Peanut butter
7. Olive oil
Start thinking about these items in different ways. What can you pair together to make a quick and easy meal? What canned item can you combine with a fresh item to make something quick and tasty?
1. Combine canned meat with greek yogurt and chopped veggies for a quick chicken or tuna salad.
2. Add peanut butter and banana to bread for a quick sandwich and grill the bread for added texture (see below for peanut butter french toast recipe).
3. Short on time? Make a protein shake and throw in yogurt, oatmeal or berries... whatever you have lying around the house.
4. Have dried fruit, nuts, healthy cereal or chocolate? Make a healthy trail mix by throwing together these options and portioning into ziplocs to take to work.
5. Pair a pantry item with something fresh. Nuts with fresh fruit or canned meat with a fresh salad.
1. Mix canned tomato products, veggies, tuna, beans with low-sodium chicken or veggie broth for a thick, tasty soup. Make sure you drain and rinse the veggies and beans to get rid of all the salt.
2. Make a quick tasty pasta dish by cooking noodles, adding canned tomatoes and canned tuna or salmon in a skillet. Once the noodles are ready, scoop them into the skillet with the sauce and mix well.
3. Make a quick meal of beans, veggies and rice. Need some protein? Add canned chicken or tuna for a quick, healthy meal.
4. Don't forget about spices. Spices go a long way in adding flavor without calories. Making chicken? Add curry or ginger. Start thinking of how you can punch up plain foods with added flavors.
5. Don't be afraid to try different combinations of flavors. Try something with peanut butter and chicken, or tuna and tomato. You might surprise yourself at how creative you can get with using materials you already own.
PANTRY PEANUT BUTTER FRENCH TOAST
2 egg whites
1 dash vanilla extract
2 tbs. peanut butter
1 small banana, sliced
Cooking spray or 1 tbs. olive oil
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg whites and vanilla together. Spread 1 tbs. peanut butter on top of each slice of bread. Place the banana slices on top of one of the slices of bread. Place the other slice of bread on top of the first to make a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Heat a skillet with cooking spray or olive oil. Dip the sandwich into the egg white mixture and place in heated skillet. Cook until brown on both sides.
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/04/2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Homemade Turkey Sausage
1 pound lean ground turkey
3/4 tsp. AlsoSalt (optional)
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
Crumble turkey into a large bowl. Add spices. Shape into eight two-inch patties. In a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook patties over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side (or until no longer pink).
Healthy Turkey Meatloaf
1 pound ground turkey
2 egg whites
1/2 cup salsa (low-sodium)
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and in a large bowl, combine turkey, eggs, salsa, peppers, onions and bread crumbs, and pepper. Mix well with hands and then press into a loaf pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
Pumpkin Turkey Chili
1 tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped red bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 can organic black beans (slightly drained)
1 can diced tomatoes (low salt)
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup greek yogurt or sour cream (optional)
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the onion, pepper and garlic until tender. Stir in the turkey and cook until brown. Drain and mix in black beans, tomato and pumpkin. Season with chili powder and cayenne. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream.
1 package ground turkey (93/7)
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup egg whites or egg beaters
2 tsp. minced onion
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/5 tsp. garlic powder
pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the ground turkey in a large bowl and add 1 1/2 to 2 cups bread crumbs. Add the egg whites and spices and mix together with two spoons, so you are constantly folding in the spices. Make 1 inch balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with foil (and sprayed with cooking spray), about 1 inch apart. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until the turkey gets a brown crust on top. Throw them in a pasta sauce and simmer, or eat them with veggies or a yogurt dip for a clean snack.
Sweet Potato Turkey Shephard's Pie
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, grated
4 ribs celery from the heart, chopped
4 tsp. olive oil
2 tbs. flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (low-sodium)
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 10-ounce box frozen organic peas
1/3 ripe banana, sliced
a few dashes hot pepper sauce
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or vegan cheese)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large pan, combine sweet potatoes and enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving the pot. In a deep skillet, heat the extra-virgin olive oil over high heat. Add the turkey and cook. Stir in the onion, carrots and celery. Season with pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
In another small pan, heat 2 tsp. olive oil over medium heat. Whisk in flour for 1 minute, then whisk in broth and season with worcestershire sauce. Simmer for a few minutes until thick, then stir into the turkey mixture. Stir in the peas and remove from heat. Add remaining 2 tsp. olive oil to the sweet potato pot and melt over medium-low. Add the sweet potatoes back to this pot with banana. Add hot sauce and mash until combined.
Top the turkey with the sweet potato mixture and smooth the top. Cover the sweet potatoes with cheese and bake until the cheese is completely melted, about 5 minutes.
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/03/2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Vegan Spinach and Artichoke Dip
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 package frozen chopped spinach (thawed, drained and patted dry)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 tbs. olive oil
1 package firm silken tofu
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
3 garlic cloves
2-3 tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/3 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute onion, spinach and artichoke hearts in olive oil until onion is soft, around 5 minutes. Blend together tofu, yeast, garlic, vinegar and spices in blender until smooth. Combine all ingredients. Smooth into nonstick baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm with pita bread.
Peanut Butter Yogurt
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tbs. all-natural peanut butter
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
1 tsp sucanat
Mix or whisk all ingredients together until smooth.
1 package silken soft tofu, drained
4 tbs plain nonfat greek yogurt
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 tbs + 1tsp white wine Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes white pepper
1 dash cayenee pepper
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs honey
In a blender or a food processor, whip all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Heat sauce on low to medium heat and spoon immediately over veggies (or meat).
Healthy Ranch Dressing
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. fresh pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. vegenaise (or organic mayo)
1 tsp. fresh parsley
2 tbs. grated Parmesan
1 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
Combine all ingredients and chill before serving.
2 8 oz. cans of organic tomato paste
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup honey
Bring ingredients to a boil on the stove. Simmer for 15 minutes, then take off heat for 10 minutes. Pour into condiment jar and refrigerate.
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/02/2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Healthy Pumpkin Pudding
1 can pure pumpkin
2 scoops vanilla whey or soy protein *
2 cups soy or skim milk (if you don't have time to let it "set" in the fridge, use yogurt instead)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
crushed pecans (optional)
1 tbs. whipped cream (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a blender and pour into bowls. Pop in the fridge until cold (or freezer for less time). Take pecans, throw in a ziploc with some cinnamon and grind the nuts with a rolling pin (or the bottom of a glass). Sprinkle on top, along with the whipped cream before serving.
Want to make your own whipped cream?
1 1/2 cups very cold organic heavy cream
2 tsp. organic sugar
1-2 tsp. vanilla
Put cold heavy cream into a mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer, starting with a low speed and then speeding up as the cream thickens. Once it gets soft peaks, stop. Fold in sugar and vanilla and serve!
* In a recent consumer report (July issue), many protein powders are said to contain metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Among the popular brands, EAS Myoplex, Dessert, and Muscle Milk were some of the worst.
Posted by Rea and Alex at 9/01/2010