Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

It Tastes Exactly Like…


Some things really irritate me. One of those things is when people make “food swaps” and say that it tastes EXACTLY like the real thing! It also irritates me when people add healthy ingredients to recipes and say “you can’t even taste it.” That’s how I ended up making today’s recipe, zucchini pizza crust.

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A colleague at work was drinking a green smoothie…another person heard us talking about it, chimed in and made the dreaded mistake of saying that she loves green smoothies because she eats veggies she normally wouldn’t because “you can’t even taste it.” This is a lie. Face it. I am not saying that it doesn’t taste good or that you can distinctly say “oh I taste kale”, but it adds a different flavor profile than just drinking a smoothie without veggies. You know I’m right!!

Our conversation then turned to food swaps…you know those things that claim to taste like the real thing but are so much healthier. Pizza crust is a popular one. I’ve seen pizza crust recipes made from sweet potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, and about 100 different Paleo pizza crusts. I decided I wanted to prove my point and so, I came home found some frozen shredded zucchini in the freezer and got to work. I read through numerous zucchini crust recipes, developed my own from what I’d read, and jumped in.

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Now, I’m sure this is the point where you are waiting for me to tell you that I was wrong and that faux-pizza crust tastes just like real pizza crust. If you are attuned to the blog world and if you believe in all those picture perfect Pinterest recipes you dutifully pin each day…then yes, you would expect that I was wrong. But…

I was not wrong…it tasted nothing like pizza crust.

However, it did make a great base for my pizza and was a nice alternative to all that flour and carbs. In all honesty, it didn’t really taste like much of anything. I am glad I added some seasonings because this did help the flavor. I may have gotten a little carried away with trying to make it super crispy, so it looks a little dark on the bottom. (Also, what is up with these pictures??? I think a 5 year old could take better pics…I promise to work on this!)

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So my point is this…if you want to try to make “faux-foods” and swap out ingredients for healthier ones than go for it. After all, any step to being healthy is a step in the right direction. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that it is going to replace the real thing. I think all these paleo treats and food swaps just reinforce our toxic relationship with food.

My advice: if you want pizza go ahead and eat a piece…just one piece! Eat most of your meals as they are meant to be and skip the paleo brownies (more on paleo treats in an upcoming post!) and if you just absolutely want a brownie, go ahead and eat a real one (because that paleo brownie does not taste just like the brownie you want and you’ll probably end up eating a whole pan of real brownies after your “healthy” one just didn’t cut it).

It’s all about balance. I know that it’s easier said than done…trust me I have struggled with this all my life. I feel I’m doing pretty well with this now…but I am human and humans just have a hard time breaking bad habits. Just don’t give up. You can do it….and if you mess up along the way don’t give up. Get back on that horse and try again!

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Zucchini Pizza Crust

2 cups shredded zucchini, drained of all excess water

½ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 egg, beaten

  1. In a bowl combine the zucchini (make sure to squeeze out all the excess water as much as you can!), garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and shredded mozzarella cheese.
  2. Add the beaten egg a little bit at a time. You don’t want it to be too wet but if it doesn’t stick together add a little more egg.
  3. Mix it all together, spread it out on parchment paper in a nice flat layer…if you have a pizza stone I highly recommend it because it’ll get crispier.
  4. Bake on the pizza stone for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and top with pizza sauce and toppings put back in for 5-10 minutes.

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The Sweet Taste of Success!


The following post, along with my previous three posts were written back in October/November but never posted. Here is the final outcome of my 21 day sugar detox!

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November 8, 2014

The past two weeks have gone by so fast and I am happy to report that both Hubs and I completed the 21DSD successfully (with not one “cheat” or “slip-up”!). Overall this has been a major game changer in our household. We both feel great, have a lot more energy and are really happy we did this.

As for me, specifically, I can say that I feel so much better and the best part is that I do not have those crazy cravings and I no longer get hungry every two hours (nor do I have that “I’m about to pass out if I don’t eat a damn candy bar in the next 30 seconds” feeling). After the initial first week my hunger evened out and I was able to go 4-6 hours between meals and only occasionally grabbed a snack…if I was hungry. After the 21 days I lost about 5 pounds, my skin improved and I was noticeably less bloated.

The end result is that I’ve discovered a love of real food. It is so good. Even before we finished the full 21 days Hubs and I decided to get rid of all of our processed food and continue to eat real food only. Of course, we are not going to eat completely without sugar, but we will not be eating anything with refined sugar…at least not very often; and we will try to limit our sugar intake. In addition to the sugar, we’ve decided to cut out bread, pasta, traditional and whole wheat flour, etc.. These are things I have learned my body does not tolerate well.  We’ve decided to continue to eat dairy (in limited amounts….the only thing different is that we switched to “full fat” dairy so that it is less processed and I try to buy local organic cheese and milk when I can. Occasional rice or quinoa is ok, and overall we are just trying to stick to meat, fruits and vegetables.

Packed up all of our processed food to donate!

Packed up all of our processed food to donate!

I am all for living this way most of the time, but I do feel that if we want a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream, then we should not deny ourselves. Through this experience I have found that I don’t really “crave” those things anymore and when we did indulge in some molten chocolate cake to celebrate our success it tasted too sweet and was not as satisfying as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, it was freakin’ awesome! But a few bites were enough to make me happy…and then it was just too much sweetness.

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I know that by no means will I ever be perfect and eat a strict Paleo or clean diet. I won’t always shop at Whole Foods, buy organic or grass-fed. And I am ok with that! What matters the most to me is that most of the time I will do my best and try to avoid sugar and processed food and eat as close to the real thing as possible. If I do eat something I know is not the best I won’t let it get me down….those days of feeling guilty for not following a “DIET” to the letter are over. As a matter of fact I won’t feel guilty at all if I have a treat because I know that I am doing my best most of the time.

So my advice to those of you who may be a junk food junkie like me or stuck in the traditional ideas of “dieting” (i.e. low fat, fat free, processed ‘lean’ meals, whole wheat, etc.) would be to consider eating whole foods, listening to your body and finding what works right for you. Stop beating yourself up over that candy bar you ate yesterday and learn to just move on.

Eat to live and fuel your body. It’s that simple! You will love real food, trust me…

As far as completing the 21DSD, my body is definitely detoxed from sugar and I feel great. It was just the start I needed to living a better life. I would recommend this for anyone who is ready to change their ways and open to the facts about the harmful effects of sugar on the body. Do a little research, read some journals, read some blogs and choose what is right for you!

I leave you with one of my favorite recipes that I tried during the 21DSD. I love it not only because it tastes great, but because it is quick and easy! I recommend using fresh herbs (always) but I have made it both with fresh and dried and either way it tastes great! This makes a about 6-8 servings, which is more than enough for Hubs and me. However, I usually always make the full recipe because it makes great leftovers.

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Chicken and Artichoke Bake

Adapted from this recipe at Paleo Newbie.

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. dried basil (if using fresh add more)

8 oz. jarred artichokes, liquid drained

20-24 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash the tomatoes and cut in half and cut the chicken breasts into cubes or bite size pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic and basil.
  4. Add the tomatoes, artichokes, and chicken and stir to coat.
  5. Add mixture to a large glass baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve over rice or eat as is, you can’t go wrong!
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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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Bye-Bye, Sugar!


The next three blog entries were previously written in October & November, but were never posted. The truth is, I wanted to document my attempt at the 21 Day Sugar Detox (21DSD) and talk about getting fit and healthy but I was scared I would fail and I only wanted to post them if I was successful (I know, I have issues, but I also have a high failure rate when it comes to eating healthy). I wrote them as I went along and saved them to my computer….only to be completely ignored as life (and grad school) got in the way! Now that I have a few weeks off from school I felt like working on my neglected blog and I thought it was important to share some of the stuff I’ve been doing over the past few months.

October 12, 2014

My blog has been sadly ignored and abandoned. I am back today because I am about to do something extremely crazy (ok not really!) and just felt the need to write about it.

But first, over the past few months I have made some important changes in my life. Somewhere along the way I had this epiphany….I need to exercise (DUH!)! A new gym was being built close to our home and Hubs expressed an interest in joining. We thought for sure we’d be successful if we joined a facility that we had to drive past every day and was only a 2 minute drive from home. We both got excited and were ready to get our exercise on…we checked it out and I suddenly had a premonition…I would go for a month or two committed and enthusiastic…I would get on the treadmill one day, the bike the next day, I would be afraid of the weights and weight machines and then I would be bored and discouraged from lack of progress….just like every other gym experience I’ve had. This gym really had nothing to offer besides location and I just didn’t feel it was a good investment….but I wanted to do SOMETHING!

I started to give some thought to CrossFit, which is a popular trend right now. Although I hate being a conformist, it seems that I always end up on the latest fad bandwagon, whether it’s a new popular diet (pretty sure I still have some nutrisystem food lying around, which will come in handy for the end of days, that stuff will never go bad!!) or some new exercise fad (anyone need some P90X DVDS…only used one time!). That’s not to say everything that is a fad is bad and it’s important to  objectively research and learn what you can about it; which is just what I did.

Crossfit Humor

It was difficult to find objective information on Crossfit. The internet is overflowing with two types of Crossfit articles: those that are anti-Crossfit and those that are overzealous about Crossfit. Despite this, I was able to come to my own unbiased conclusion and started to look for a Crossfit program in my area. I recognized that Crossfit is not for the faint of heart…that it wouldn’t be easy…but it just felt “right” to me (try listening to your instincts some time…they work!). For the first time I felt excited about making a commitment to getting my body in top shape. So when Hubs asked what I wanted for my 35th birthday (please don’t tell anyone I’m not 24!) I told him “Crossfit!” I know he was skeptical because he knows me…Oh. So. Well. I’m sure he was thinking “here we go again…another thing for her to start and quit after a few months.” However since he is a rockin’ husband he supported me and said “of course dear” and paid for me to take the two week introductory class. I survived “On-Ramp” where I learned a lot of the basic moves and we focused on proper form….and although I literally could just barely walk for two weeks (and did you know your elbow muscles can get sore?) I knew I had made the right decision.

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I have been doing the regular Crossfit classes for about a month now. I feel good. And strong. And sometimes sore….well most of the time sore…but it has been worth it. Hubs calls me his “Little Meathead” and I take it as a compliment. I ran a half mile without stopping for the first time ever in my life (I couldn’t even run 200 meters when I started)!! I am actually starting to get a butt (bye-bye flat ass!) and my hour glass shape is slowly making a reappearance. I have more energy and actually exercise on my “off-days” by walking/running with Gemma Pooches. This may not seem like a big deal to some people who do not struggle to exercise (or just to get off the couch!)…but to me it is huge! My small victories are what keep me going. In the next year I intend to be in the best physical health I have ever been. Nothing’s going to stop me now!!

Well…maybe one thing…

My bad eating habits and love of junk food.

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The strange thing about getting fit and exercising regularly is that it actually makes your body want healthy foods…but then your brain and your emotions take over and say “ignore your body; you NEED that second slice of pizza!!” “You had a salad for lunch. You can have ice cream for dinner (or a cupcake, which I’ve done…more than once).” Even since starting Crossfit I just cannot get my act together and eat right. A lot of people in the CrossFit community eat a “Paleo” diet and so I started to look into it. Although I am not sold on following it completely I am definitely in favor of eating “real food!”

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That’s what brought me to what I am about to do in few days…the 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo. When I came across it I remembered a friend’s sister had done it and blogged about it. I went back and read her blog post and I was sold! Since I’ve known her as an acquaintance I felt that if she can do it then I can too. I purchased the book, read it in one sitting and started to prepare. The thing that I love is that the book validated all the things I suspected about myself….that my body cannot handle processed food and my blood sugar levels are on a constant roller coaster ride and as much as I do not want to admit it “I am a sugar addict.” I used to think part of me was crazy…how could I possibly eat a large McDonald’s value meal and be hungry 2 hours later…it had to be mental…but it wasn’t. I was genuinely hungry! After reading the book I understand how these processed and unnatural foods work (or actually don’t work) in the body and are keeping me overweight and still hungry! I highly recommend this book. It is written in a way that is easy to understand and you can really see the effect sugar has on the body.

I am excited, but anxious at the same time….the same way I felt when I made the decision to start Crossfit. It’s a good anxiety because I just know this is something that is going to be the start of a new me!

So with that said, I will be back with my experience and hopefully my success. In honor of healthy new habits here is a quick and yummy smoothie recipe.

Cinnamon Pear Smoothie

1 pear

½ banana (frozen optional)

½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or add up to 1 cup for a thinner smoothie)

¼ tsp. cinnamon

1 pinch nutmeg

Ice

In a blender combine all ingredients and blend well.

Serve immediately.

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