Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Just Eat It!


Just a reminder that I wrote these blog posts back in October but never got around to posting them. I thought it would be good to chronicle my 21 Day Sugar Detox experience for anyone who may be considering it.
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I’m still alive! One week without sugar and I feel fine. I thought this was going to be so much harder than it is and I really didn’t experience any terrible cravings or physical sugar withdrawal symptoms (i.e. headaches, lethargy, etc.). The only thing I really noticed was that I was hungry…all of the time! Apparently this is common and ok…however the hard part for me was to eat whenever I felt hungry. Especially because I was so hungry!! I have to keep reminding myself that the 21DSD is not about losing weight, but strictly to detox the body from sugar.

This made me reflect on everything I know about ‘diet’ and I’m referring to this term in both the aspect of the food you eat as well as how most people think of the word diet…losing weight. I felt so guilty eating when I was hungry because I felt like I was eating too much. For most of my adult life I’ve focused on calorie restriction…even skipping meals in an effort to lose weight. I recently read a blog (darn it, if I can’t remember where it was!) and the author spoke about how she basically loathes the term “clean eating” because it makes it sound like those who don’t eat clean, are eating dirty and that this just reinforces her toxic relationship with food.  I like this, because I can relate. My “food relationship” is also toxic. Whether it is overeating, eating too much junk, restricting myself, eating low-fat & nonfat chemical laden foods…the whole thing is just messed up. I mean, why do we even have a “relationship” with food? Shouldn’t we just eat when we’re hungry to fuel our bodies? Can’t we just enjoy a treat here and there without feeling bad or dirty? Maybe it’s the sugar withdrawal…but I am starting to see things in a whole new light…a much more positive light!!

This past week I’ve had to retrain my brain to recognize when I was genuinely hungry and to allow myself to satisfy this hunger. For me this first week was about truly listening to what my body was saying and not allowing myself to be driven by my thoughts about eating too much. Although it has only been a week, I feel very good and it makes me hopeful that this is a step in the right direction for me…and Hubs as well. The food we eat is so good…I’ve made a number of recipes from the 21DSD book and some that I’ve found on Pinterest. So today I share with you a recipe for Brussels Sprouts which I made as a side for steak on day 4 (is it Brussels or brussel? spell check always changes it to the city). The original recipe is from a magazine (possibly Redbook)…but I cannot remember the exact source.

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Charred Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts

2 lbs Brussels sprouts

2 garlic cloves

3 tbsp. olive oil

Salt & pepper, to taste

½ cup walnuts

2-4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven on Broil setting.

2. Clean & trim the Brussels sprouts.

3. Put the Brussels sprouts, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.

4. Spread the chopped Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and broil for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Leaves should be browned, but not burned. To prevent burning make sure you are stirring!

5. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a pan set to medium heat for about 5 minutes.

6. When Brussels sprouts are done, remove from oven and place in a bowl. Add the toasted walnuts and balsamic vinegar. Mix it up to distribute the vinegar (start with 2 tbsp. and taste; add more if desired). Taste & adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve warm or room temperature.

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Eat Your Veggies!


As a child I never really ate many vegetables. As a matter of fact I never really ate much of a variety of anything. I was a very picky eater…and very stubborn…and luckily for me Mom & Dad didn’t force such issues as eating vegetables and I got to eat a lot of PB&J for dinner growing up.

It’s strange though that as I’ve become an adult I eat more vegetables and actually really like them! Even more strange I sometimes actually crave them! Something that I started eating as an adult is edamame. It is tasty and filling, which makes it a good side dish. You can make it many different ways, but this recipe I found on Pinterest is by far my favorite. It’s super easy, full of flavor and very satisfying.

To make this recipe even easier I buy the “steam in bag” frozen edamame, but you can use any frozen edamame and just throw it in a bowl or a Ziploc bag and microwave for a few minutes to steam it.

If you don’t have or can’t find flavored olive oil you can use regular EVOO. This tastes amazing with the white truffle olive oil I picked up at my favorite specialty store!

By the way, I’m still unclear if edamame is a vegetable or a legume. A little Google research shows most people are split…some say veggie, some say legume. I say veggie, but what do you think?

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Garlic Asiago Edamame
2 cups frozen edamame, steamed
1-2 tbsp. white truffle olive oil (or flavor of your choice)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup asiago cheese, grated

1. Heat olive oil in pan.
2. Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds or just until fragrant
3. Add edamame and sauté until crisp & lightly brown.
4. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Add cheese. Stir.
5. Serve.

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Garlic Naan Bread


At one of our recent trips to Whole Foods, I picked up a pack of Naan to serve as a side for our dinner. I was surprised how good it was…better than some restaurants I’ve even been to. Maybe it was because it was flavored with garlic & herbs. I’m not sure, but I fell in love. When I ran out and I didn’t want to go to the store to get more I hit the internet to see if Naan is hard to make. Of course, since I don’t have a traditional Indian Tandoori oven I knew it wouldn’t be exactly the same, but thought it was worth a shot. I found this recipe on the Budget Bytes Blog and thought it looked pretty simple, plus it called for all ingredients I had on hand. I modified it by adding some garlic & cheese so it would be like the kind I purchased at Whole Foods. I cooked it up on the grill and it tasted almost as good as if it had been made in the traditional way. I froze what we didn’t use and when I want to use it I just take out a piece or two at a time. It freezes really well so you can definitely make a big batch if you’re feeling ambitious. You can use it as a side to kabobs and rice or an accompaniment to any meal. You can also be creative and use it for sandwiches and pizza. For plain Naan, just omit the garlic and parmesan cheese.

 

Garlic Naan

Source: www.budgetbytes.blogspot.com

(Makes 16 servings; 1 Naan = 2 servings)

2 tsp. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

½ cup water

3 cups flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup olive oil

1/3 cup plain greek yogurt (you can use either non-fat or low-fat)

1 egg

½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

3 cloves garlic, mashed

Olive oil, for brushing (optional)

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the yeast, sugar and water. Stir until the yeast and sugar dissolve and allow to sit for about 5 minutes or until it looks “frothy”.
  2. Add the oil, yogurt and egg and mix on very low speed (using the paddle attachment) until just combined.
  3. Switch the paddle attachment to the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the salt, garlic, cheese and 1 cup of floor. Continue to mix on low, adding ½ cup of flour at a time until a smooth ball is formed.
  4. Knead the ball of dough in the mixer for about 3 minutes. The dough should be smooth and very soft, but not sticky.
  5. Cover the dough loosely and allow to rise until double in size.
  6. After the dough rises, flatten the dough and cut into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a small ball.
  7. Roll out the balls of dough to about 1/4 “ thick.
  8. Preaheat the grill to medium.  Brush the dough with olive oil, if desired, and place over indirect heat. Allow the dough to cook until brown and bubbles form. Flip the dough over and allow the other side to brown and bubble. Serve hot.
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A Little Self-Loathing with a Side of Cucumber Salad


Yesterday I started writing a blog complaining about my lack of willpower and consistency when it comes to dieting and eating healthy. I am a total introvert so I was only blaming myself…and feeling pretty down about it. The problem is when it comes to weight loss and eating healthy I just can’t seem to stick with it. It’s like I am always starting over….I mean I can’t really call months of horrendous eating, a sedentary lifestyle, and gaining back almost all of the weight I had previously lost…just a set back or getting off track a little. A setback is pigging out at that July 4th barbecue…getting off track is not going to the gym for a week, right? Or am I being too hard on myself? It seems like when I read other blogs or talk to other people they talk about having a bad day or maybe a bad week…not having to start again! I truly don’t know why I never stick with it…I don’t want to say I have no willpower because I know if I really tried I could do it. So where do I go wrong???

Anyway, today I’m feeling a little better…I ate healthy yesterday and today (forcing down some nasty watermelon as I type this, which I overpaid for at the food truck). However, I just keep thinking that there is something wrong with me that I cannot stick with it for longer than a few months, or sometimes even only a few weeks.

So, earlier I had been feeling sorry for myself when I was in line at Saladworks listening to the couple behind me talk about “eating healthy” (they were invading my personal space so I couldn’t help but eavesdrop!). The woman was extremely overweight…obese… the guy appeared to be a normal weight and they were probably in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Anyway, she was telling him how much she loves eating there (if you’re not familiar with Saladworks, check them out…it is an awesome place).  Apparently it was his first time so she was telling him you can order one from the menu or create your own. She proceeded to explain it’s better to create your own because it’s much healthier. As I listened to them talk and decide what was healthy…they chose to put on top of their lettuce…pasta, buffalo chicken, cheddar cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and some other random veggies topped off with Ranch Dressing! I was absolutely blown away that they both thought this was “healthy”. Now I’m sure it is better than going to McDonald’s for lunch, but I really wanted to turn around and let them know aside from the vegetables and maybe the chicken they really weren’t doing themselves any good. It made me realize that at least I have the appropriate knowledge when it comes to eating healthy. That at least I am not fooling myself into thinking that just because I eat at a place called “Saladworks” I am on my way to weight loss.  I also realized how thankful I am that I only have 30-40 pounds to lose and not 100…because honestly if I didn’t keep trying and starting over I’d probably be much heavier!!  It is hard for me to understand how in this day in age with information readily available at our fingertips that there are still people out there who truly don’t understand what they need to do to eat healthy or lose weight. I feel grateful for the knowledge that I have, which made me feel much more positive…that I can do it if I really want to and really try hard. I also came to the conclusion that starting over is better than quitting completely and just not caring. No matter how many times you get flung off of the horse, the important thing is that you get back on, right? No matter how many times….eventually you may just be able to stay on top!

Since I’ve been doing well with my food choices these past 2 days, here is a recipe for a cucumber salad that I served as a side to some grilled pork (that’s beef in the picture though!) the other night. I am not a huge fan of cucumbers but will eat them once in a while. This is a classic sweet & tangy cucumber salad that you’ve probably had at a barbecue or somewhere along the line…and didn’t even realize it was healthy. This salad is only 1 WWPP (it makes about 4 servings). If you like a sweeter salad then you will need to add more sugar, but keep in mind this will increase the Weight Watchers Points Value. If you like it a bit more tangy then you will need to decrease the amount of sugar. You can also substitute Splenda or another sweetener for the sugar, however this will not affect the WWPP.

Sweet & Tangy Cucumber Salad (Makes 4 servings; 1WWPP per serving)

1 cucumber, sliced thin

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ small onion, sliced thin

2 tbsp. sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 tsp. dried dill

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar just to boiling. Stir until sugar dissolves and remove from heat.
  2. Place the cucumber slices, onion slices, and tomatoes in a bowl and add the vinegar. Pour the sugar water into this and stir. Add the dill.
  3. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
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Scalloped Potato Foil Packets


Sometimes I feel like we have the same side dishes for all our meals. We have rice or potatoes or pasta plus a veggie or just a veggie. I try to mix it up but sometimes I just run out of ideas or I don’t feel like putting the effort into making an elaborate side. During the summer it is a little bit easier because there are a lot of fresh veggie sides you can whip up pretty easily and of course there’s potatoes…which are great for grilling. However, after making potatoes numerous different ways I was really thinking about making something different. I love cheesy scalloped potatoes, but who wants to heat up the oven when it is 100 degrees outside!?

So I decided to make scalloped potato foil packets to cook on the grill and much to my delight they came out pretty darn good. Foil packets of any kind are great especially if you are only cooking for two…it is also a really good way to practice good portion control. It is best to make individual sized packets…you may be tempted to make one big packet or put a few servings in one packet, but trust me…it will be easier to handle, the food will cook through better and it will just make your life a lot easier. The recipe below makes two foil packets, the measurements are suggestions, you can definitely increase or decrease the cheese to your taste or use whatever cheese you like best.

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Scalloped Potato Foil Packets(Makes 2 servings)

1 medium potato, sliced thin

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup chopped onion

2 slices provolone cheese

½ cup Gruyère or swiss cheese, grated

1 tbsp. parsley, chopped

Salt & Pepper, to taste

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

  1. Using a mandolin, slice potatoes to about 1/8” thick.
  2. Cut two squares of foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Divide the sliced potatoes evenly between the two squares of foil. Top each foil square with garlic, 2 tbsp. chopped onion, ¼ cup Gruyère cheese, salt & pepper, 2 tbsp. heavy cream and one slice of provolone.
  4. Fold the edges of the foil up around the potatoes to make a packet; making sure that nothing can spill or leak out.
  5. Place on the grill potato side down for 20-30 minutes over medium direct heat. Check that the potatoes are tender and cooked through and the cheese is melted before removing from the grill.
  6. Remove from foil and transfer to a plate. Top with parsley and serve.
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Mini French Loaves


Cooking for only two people can be a challenge at times. It seems like most recipes make enough food for a family of 8!  This seems to be especially true with baking and although I’ve played around with baked good recipes to make a smaller batch…sometimes you just don’t want to do the math! Or your math is off and your final product is not what you thought it was going to be. Take this recipe for French Bread, for example. I cut the recipe in half and still got a ton of bread! Luckily my brain was actually working for once and I thought why not make some “mini-loaves”? The mini-loaves are the perfect size for 2-3 people. I only use one loaf at a time and freeze the others (I use my Food Saver for this and the bread comes out as fresh as the day it was first made!).

By the way, I’ve been making almost all of our bread & buns lately myself. I am really starting to loathe store-bought bread. If you are hesitant to make your own bread or think it is a lot of work…think again! That is part of the reason I stayed away from it for so long. I’ve also found that the bread/rolls I make myself freeze much better than store bought and so I am not wasting nearly as much as I used to. Again…only 2 people can eat so many hamburger rolls, so I would throw them in the freezer but 2 weeks later they would be freezer burned and all around nasty…and into the trash 4 or 5 rolls would go (I can’t be the only person with this problem, right??)! This is not the case with homemade bread and rolls…so not only is it cheaper to make…I promise you won’t end up wasting it!!

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This bread is yummy as a side dish for soup or other dishes. I served ours with some Summer Corn Chowder!

Mini French Bread Loaves

(Makes 4 “mini” loaves)

3  cups all-purpose flour

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

1-1/2 teaspoons cornmeal

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

  1. Using a stand mixer with the dough attachment, add all ingredients except for the flour to the mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and stir until well combined.
  2. Slowly add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time.
  3. Increase speed and allow dough to knead for a few minutes until it forms one solid ball and is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl. The dough should be smooth and elastic and should not stick to the bowl or the hook when removing it.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down and divide into four. Allow to rest on a floured surface for 10 minutes.
  6. Shape each piece of dough into a rectangle. Sprinkle a parchment lined baking sheet with the cornmeal and place the dough on the baking sheet. Using a sharp paring knife make 3 diagonal slashes in each loaf. Cover and allow to rise for 40 more minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to the 375 degrees F.
  8. Prepare the egg wash by adding the water to the egg white and gently beating with a fork.
  9. Brush the egg wash on top of each loaf and bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
  10. Allow to cool slightly before slicing. Can be served warm or room temperature.
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A Healthy Side Dish…Disguised as a Bad Guy!


So I have a confession to make….I have been eating total crap (and lots of it too) for the past few weeks! It’s weird…because as much as I love my junk food, my body is totally crying out for some healthier options like more fruits and veggies and less processed CRAP!  Blame it on the heat, stress at work, boredom, whatever…but I am not heading down a good path. However, slowly but surely I’ve been getting back in the swing of things…but of course I can’t let my junk food go to waste so I’ve still been eating it in between some of the healthier stuff. 😉  I promise next week I’ll be back on track!

One way that I’ve been trying to go the “healthier” route is that I’ve been sneaking in a lot of greek yogurt into our meals.  I haven’t told Hubby (although once he reads this he’ll know!) but it’s amazing how well it substitutes into everything. I’ve used it in pasta dishes, baking, salad dressings, etc. Let’s face it…by itself it’s disgusting, so it took me some time to try it as a substitute…but now that I have I’m totally hooked.

So here is a quick side dish that I made with pulled pork sandwiches. One serving (about 1/2 cup) is only 1 Weight Watchers Points Plus! It tastes great and all I did was substitute the mayo for greek yogurt and you would never ever know! Hubby didn’t! 😉 Also, I was feeling lazy so I bought a bag of Dole shredded red cabbage which is about 3 cups. It saved a lot of time from having to cut up an actual head of cabbage!

So go make this for your next barbecue and you can feel good knowing you served something healthier than traditional coleslaw!

Slimmed Down Red Cabbage Cole Slaw

(Makes 6 servings; 1 serving = 1/2 cup = 1 WWPP)

3 cups shredded red cabbage

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

2 tbsp. cider vinegar

2 tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. celery salt

  1. In a medium size bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except for the cabbage, until well combined.
  2. Stir in the cabbage and allow to sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving.
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Whopper of a Zucchini!!


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Today I picked my first zucchini from my garden!!! It was so huge too! Perfect in every way!! Hubby thought I was pulling a fast one until we went to the garden & I showed him my mutant zucchini!! Tonight I chopped some of it up and put it in my grilled veggies. Yummy!
Tomorrow I plan to bake up some zucchini bread!
I’m so excited to have actually grown my own food! Such a great feeling!

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Grilled (Baked) Apples


Looking for something sweet, light and easy to make to top off all those 4th of July hamburgers & hot dogs? Try making this delicious dish.

Grilled Apples…which taste exactly like the baked apples from Cracker Barrel. I usually make these as a side dish to pork, but they are great as a dessert or for topping waffles, pancakes, crepes, etc. If you don’t have a grill, you can also make this recipe on the stove.

Grilled Apples

(Makes 2-3 servings)

2 apples, sliced

2 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. corn starch

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

  1. In a foil pie pan (or any foil pan) add all the ingredients and cover with foil.
  2. Place on a medium-high preheated grill and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the foil from the pan and stir. Allow to cook for 10 more minutes or until apples are tender. 
  4. Serve warm.

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Smoked Corn Salad


This recipe is a great side dish for any summer meal. It is light, fresh and has a great blend of flavors. The original recipe is from Barefoot Contessa…I only modified it slightly. Although I highly recommend you roast the corn in your smoker (the smoke flavor in the corn is so awesome!!) you can cook the corn however you’d like. Also you should plan to make this ahead so that the flavors have an opportunity to really come through.

I love summer cooking!!!

Smoked Corn Salad

(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

3 ears of corn

1 small onion, diced

1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into strips

2 tbsp. cider vinegar

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  1. Place the corn in the preheated smoker (around 225 degrees) for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle cut the kernels off from the cob.

  2. In a medium bowl add the corn, onion, tomato, vinegar, olive oil, basil, salt & pepper and mix well.  Taste and adjust ingredients to your preference. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

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