Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

They Call It The Winter Blues


Barbecue Pulled Beef Lettuce Cups

Winter has me in a funk. It has been so cold and I feel like I only see the sun about once a week. I have no motivation. I don’t feel like doing my schoolwork. I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning. I don’t feel like going to workout. I guess you could say I don’t feel like doing much of anything. I’m trying not to allow myself to be swallowed up by this grumpy weather-induced state, but it is extremely difficult.

winter blues

Although I have been doing pretty well with my food choices these past six months, I noticed that I was definitely eating better in the summer and fall. I also cooked more. I find it harder and harder with each passing cloudy, cold day to get up early and make my breakfast and pack my lunch. It’s harder to resist those treats that inevitably show up at meetings or say no to the office birthday cake. It’s harder to stick to the dinner menu I plan for us each week.

sorry

Isn’t it weird how the weather can have such a huge impact on a person’s mood? In the winter I feel like I am walking through life in a fog…doing what is only absolutely necessary (in layman’s terms…I become lazy!). Cooking is necessary…. and even though I may not cook as much as I should, it’s during times like these I like to turn to my slow cooker.

bad mood

Slow cooker meals are great because they are typically quick and easy with both preparation and clean up. I tend to avoid those slow cooker recipes I see that involve a lot of work or separate pans. This pretty much defeats the purpose, in my opinion. (Why do you need to sear the beef first? Is there really any difference in the taste? I don’t think so.) I also like slow cooker meals because you can make enough to ensure leftovers…thus you won’t have to order out with your coworkers everyday!

Barbecue Pulled BeefI made this paleo recipe the other night with a few modifications. If you check out the original it is one of those recipes that I usually wouldn’t consider making due to all of the extra work outside of the slow cooker. I ended up making a more flavorful, simplified version. I have to say it was really good! When I made it I used flank steak because that was all I had on hand, but you can pretty much use any cut of beef you like (the original calls for brisket). It will work well with cheaper cuts of meat because of the long cooking time and the wonderful flavor of the sauce and spices. It does have some non-paleo ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, but you can easily find a recipe to make a paleo version. I used this one. I recommend tasting it after about six hours to make sure the seasoning is how you want it. You don’t want to wait until the very end to add more seasoning because you want the flavors to really be incorporated into the meat. You can serve it in lettuce cups, on a salad, by itself or on a roll.

Barbecue Pulled Beef

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pulled Beef

Modified from FedandFit.com

2-3 pounds boneless beef roast (chuck or round is ok), or beef brisket, flank steak, etc.

1 small onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic

½ tsp. black pepper

¼-1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/4 cup beef stock

½ cup organic tomato sauce

3 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. organic mustard

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. liquid smoke

1 tbsp. chili powder

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Lettuce, iceberg or bib

  • Place beef, onion and garlic in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the beef stock, tomato sauce, honey, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, chili powder, and apple cider vinegar. Pour sauce over the meat in the slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  • After about 6 hours, taste the sauce and adjust seasonings to your preference. At this time, also remove the meat from the slow cooker allow to cool for about 10 minutes and shred, using 2 forks.
  • Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and finish cooking.
  • Serve in lettuce cups or as desired.

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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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Happy Belated New Year!


I hope everyone is having a great 2015 so far….and I hope you’re all sticking to your resolutions. I haven’t made resolutions this year, but rather have extended my goals from 2014 (all of which are going quite well!) and added a few new one’s here and there. One of my main goals is to get back to cooking and blogging! Grad school will be over in just four months so there are no more excuses. I’ve had some posts written but never got around to posting so you can look forward to those in the next few weeks. The end of 2014 was full of positive changes for Hubs and me. We are regularly exercising and eating clean. Most importantly we are feeling great, better than ever before. You can look forward to some delicious recipes made with real food.

small-steps

So to kick off the return of my blog here is a quick recipe to make zucchini & carrot noodles with red sauce. I use this product to make the noodles but there are all kinds of contraptions on  the market that you can pick up. You can also just use a julienne slicer if you don’t want to buy another kitchen gadget. If you can, I recommend using organic canned crushed tomatoes or make your own.

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Zucchini & Carrot ‘Noodles’ in Red Sauce

(Makes 2 servings)

1 medium carrot

1/4-1/2 small zucchini

1 tsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup organic canned crushed tomatoes

1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt & pepper, to taste

  1. Peel the zucchini.
  2. Using a spiralizer or julienne cutter make the carrots and zucchini into noodles.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the zucchini & carrots and boil for 1-2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them; you want them to be firm and overcooking will cause them to be mushy. Remove from water and set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  6. Add sauce to the noodles and serve!

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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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It’s Been A While…


Well to say it’s been a while is pretty much an understatement. It has been almost exactly 6 months since I posted my last blog. I wish I could say that my life was so busy and amazing that I just didn’t have the time….but the truth is I just didn’t do it!

So I have no important life events or amazing news to share…but I can share that over these past few months I’ve been trying my best to work towards a healthier lifestyle. My focus now is to lose weight (hmmm….didn’t I say that before??), but overall I have come to a point in my life where I want to be healthy and stick around till I’m old and dyed blonde (no grey hair here!). To really make this lifestyle change I am approaching it with baby steps. I have adopted the attitude that every little thing helps….so even if it is just one little change it is still a change and that’s what matters. One of the first things I’ve started doing is trying to cut out as much processed food as possible (although I am starting to think I need a support group to break my Diet Coke addiction). Another step I’ve taken is to try different “health foods”. One of the foods I’ve fallen in love with is the now trendy “Quinoa”. It is very healthy and if you’d like to see why you can read it here…sorry I just don’t feel like going over why it is so good for you! I am overall a picky eater and have a lot of issues with food textures (where was Early Intervention when I was a kid??) so even though I kept seeing Quinoa recipes everywhere I turned, I was hesitant. I finally took the plunge and it’s a keeper. I use it in my salads, replace it for rice & pasta, and use it for breakfast foods like protein bars and “oatmeal” (quinoa in place of oats), etc.

Tonight I decided to modify my Creamy Chicken Piccata recipe and not only make it a “slimmed down version” but to replace the pasta with quinoa. It was so delicious…..I was inspired to sit down and get back to blogging!!!! Woohoo!!

So here it is….a slimmed down healthier version of, ironically my last post…and unfortunately since Hubby was working late I only made this for one person so the serving size is one, but you can easily alter the ingredients to make as much as you want.

Creamy Quinoa Chicken Piccata

(Serves 1)

For the chicken:

4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to 1/4″ thick

salt & pepper, to taste

1/4 -1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

For the Quinoa:

1/2 tbsp. light butter

1/2-1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup fat free half & half

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tbsp. capers

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

To make the chicken, sprinkle both sides with the lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper & garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the garlic. Brown the garlic in the butter for 30 seconds to 1 minute and add the lemon juice.

Whisk in the half & half and bring to a slow boil, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes until heated through and slightly thickened (may take longer than 5 minutes).

Add the basil, salt & pepper.

Remove from heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese. At this point, if you want a thicker sauce, return to heat and simmer until slightly more thickened. You can also add more cheese if you like.

Stir in the quinoa and the capers. Serve on a pasta plate.

Slice cooked chicken into thin strips and place over the quinoa. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, if desired and serve.20130222-204624.jpg20130222-204638.jpg20130222-204653.jpg

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Microwave Zucchini Chips « Slimming Down


Check out these yummy zucchini chips that you can make right in the microwave!

 

Microwave Zucchini Chips « Slimming Down.

via Microwave Zucchini Chips « Slimming Down.

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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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Grilled Ranch-Style Chicken


There is truly nothing like going out to your garden and getting the fresh herbs that you need for a recipe, which is exactly what I did when I made the marinade for this ranch-style grilled chicken. This recipe works best with fresh herbs but you can definitely substitute dried, just remember to use less.  Also, I like to put my marinades in the blender (I have the Cuisinart CPB-300 SmartPower 15-Piece Compact Portable Blending/Chopping System, so it’s pretty convenient) when I am using fresh herbs, personally I think it helps get all the flavors into the meat better, plus sometimes I get a little bit lazy and don’t really feel like chopping everything up, so blending it takes care of that!  So you can either just chop everything up and mix it together or throw it all in the blender. Totally your choice! I called this “ranch-style” because it is not your typical creamy ranch, but I still used all the seasonings from my Ranch Dressing.

Grilled Ranch Style Chicken

10 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. white vinegar

Salt & pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients except for chicken in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined (or put it all in a blender and blend for a few seconds). Place chicken in a Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Seal. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Grill chicken over medium high heat for about 20 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

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Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken


Well so much for getting back in the groove like I said I was last week! Since my last post I’ve been slacking all around in the diet department, the blogging department, and the cooking department. Too much eating out and a lack of fresh groceries in the house has caused me to gain 2 lbs. at this week’s weigh-in…*sigh*!  But, I have no one to blame but myself. So here is my attempt to once again get back in the groove with eating better, cooking yummy food for me & Hubby and sticking to my blogging.

 

Tonight’s dinner consisted of a simple yet very flavorful chicken dish served with a side of grilled veggies. This chicken was inspired by the Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops recipe I posted a while back. To make it “slimmed down” I eliminated the oil and used rosemary instead of thyme (only because I ran out of fresh thyme, but had the rosemary). Since there is no oil and a minimal amount of lemon juice the Weight Watchers Points Plus is equal to the amount of chicken you use. So for this recipe I used 4 ounces of boneless skinless chicken breast (weighed before grilling) which is a WWPP value of 3.

Grilled Lemon Rosemary Chicken (1 serving = 3 WWPP)

4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast

Juice of ½ lemon

1-2 cloves garlic

¼ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves

  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until well combined and garlic and rosemary is chopped.

  2. Place chicken in a glass dish and pour the mixture over the chicken. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat grill to medium high and grill chicken until done (internal temperature of 165 degrees).

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Chocolate Cake Martini


Apparently flavored vodka is all the rage right now and so I picked up a bottle of Pinnacle Cake Vodka after seeing some drink recipes on Pinterest. Unfortunately I didn’t look at those recipes carefully enough because I really didn’t have any of the other required liquors to make them. So I just ended up improvising…

Chocolate goes with cake right?? Of course!!! So here is a really quick easy and very tasty martini recipe for your Saturday night (or any other night for that matter ;)!).

Chocolate Cake Martini (Serves 1)

2 oz. Pinnacle Cake Flavored Vodka

2 oz. Godiva Chocolate Liquorer

1 splash Half & Half

Chocolate Syrup (optional)

Ice

Drizzle chocolate syrup around the inside of a martini glass.

In a shaker, add the ice and all the other ingredients. Shake for at least 30 seconds and pour into prepared glass.

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