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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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.

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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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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


It’s been 10 months since my last post. Very. Very. Sad. At least this time there are some excuses. The first being the adoption of our cute and crazy dog Gemma. That happened all the way back in March, but the adjustment phase for me was a bit long! Don’t worry I will dedicate an entire post to that heartwarming story in the next few posts. Let’s just say I’ve never owned a pet and being a first-time “dog-mom” was not easy some days.

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The next thing that took me away from the blog was starting graduate school. In May I decided to go for it and so far have completed two semesters. I am currently in my third semester. I never imagined working full-time and taking two grad classes would be so hard. There are days when I absolutely feel I have no life other than go to work come home and do school work….weekends are now for school work as well. But I think I’m getting better with my time management and have dramatically decreased my procrastinating ways, which has allowed time for other things.

It is strange, though, what actually made me sit down and type this post. It is due to the loss of my kitchen! Recently we were hit hard by the infamous “Polar Vortex” that has been sweeping the U.S. and we had the misfortune of a frozen pipe that burst. When you wake up and start to walk down the hall and hear what sounds like rain coming from downstairs…you know what you are about to find is not going to be good! Water was coming out of the ceiling, down through the light fixtures, down the walls, all in the cabinets and drawers! It’s been a mess, but we are thankfully moving forward, however we have to get a whole new kitchen which has left me without for almost two weeks now and will probably be without for at least another week or two.

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Hubby set me up with a makeshift work station and so we haven’t had to eat out every night, but I feel like the only food I can make is the mediocre stuff I used to make before I knew how to cook. Although that is not entirely true…I’ve managed to come up with a few great meals thanks to my Nu-Wave Oven, Nu-Wave PIC, and my crockpot.

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But it’s just not the same. I’ve come to find cooking as something that makes me feel happy and de-stressed. I love coming home on a Friday and making a great dinner for Hubs and me. It is just what I need after a long week. (Although let me be clear, our number of take-out nights has drastically increased thanks to grad school!) I like being able to use fresh herbs and ingredients and trying new recipes…something that is just not possible right now.

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So to all of you out there who’ve had to suffer through this ridiculous cold today’s recipe is for a very delicious and hearty chilli. A few things with this chilli…although I used one recipe as my base I made a lot of changes. I also poured over the internet to learn about chilli. I definitely recommend adding your own touches, changing the amount of spices and tailoring it to your own preferences. Also, based on my (limited) research I would recommend using beer as the original recipe calls for. I am certain this will give a unique dimension to the flavor. Unfortunately we do not drink beer so I had none and didn’t see the point in buying any just for this batch of chilli so I substituted beef stock. It was still delicious but I’m definitely going to try it next time…even if it means asking for a bottle from a neighbor!

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Also this makes a huge batch…my slow cooker is smaller, only 3.5 quarts, and this recipe filled it all the way to the top. I was actually worried that it wouldn’t all fit in there, but luckily it did. If you have the same size slow cooker then you may want to cut the recipe down or just make this in a large stock pot on the stove (or get a bigger slow cooker!) or if you’re a risk taker just hold your breath as you add all the ingredients and hope it all fits!  

Hearty Slow Cooker Chilli

Source: Burnt Carrots

Ingredients: 

1 lb beef stew meat, cubed

2 lb ground beef

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, diced

1 green pepper diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles 

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cumin

12 oz dark beer or 12 oz. beef stock

1 (14.5 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (or substitute diced canned tomatoes if you like chunks!)

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut beef cubes into smaller pieces. I cut each cube into fourths.
  2. Brown the beef stew meat and add to slow cooker.
  3. Brown the ground beef. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  4. Add the salt and pepper to the meat in the slow cooker. Then add the beans.
  5. Heat olive oil in the pan. Add diced onions, green peppers, and brown sugar. Cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onions, keep heat on medium low. Add garlic towards the end of cooking. Once the onion mixture is done, add the chiles, chili powder, coriander, and cumin.
  6. Add onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the cocoa powder and stir well. Add tomatoes and beer. Stir. Cook chilli on low 8-10 hours.
  7. Serve piping hot with a side of cornbread.

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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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Summer Corn Chowder


Well it’s been one hot summer so far here in the northeast…and from what I see on the news it isn’t much better throughout most parts of the U.S. The last thing you are probably thinking about during these hot summer days is hot food like soup. Despite the heat, the other day  I decided to make a big pot of summer corn chowder. It is one of my favorite ways to use fresh corn on the cob. I got this recipe from a cooking class Hubby took me to for my birthday last year.

We made it in the class and even though I HATE SOUP (chowder is soup in my book) I told myself that I was going to try all the stuff we made, as this is an important part of cooking. I tasted it and loved it! I make a huge batch and then freeze it in smaller portions. It freezes really well and I love stumbling across it in the freezer after summer is over and you can’t get corn on the cob anymore. Tasting that sweet fresh corn is the best!

So whether you make this now or freeze it for later you will not be disappointed. For a heartier meal, you can add some cooked chicken cut up into small pieces. Serve with fresh homemade French Bread (check out my Mini French Loaves recipe!) and a small salad for an amazing summer meal.

Summer Corn Chowder

4-6 ears of corn

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs fresh tarragon

2 tbsp. butter

1 large onion, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 medium red potatoes, diced

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cubed (optional)

  1. Shuck the corn and using a knife strip the kernels into a bowl. Put the cobs in a large stock pot with 4 cups of water and herb sprigs (tie the herbs together with string); bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the butter in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium high. When the butter melts, add the onion, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion soft, about 5 minutes; add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring for another 5 minutes.
  3. After the corn cobs have cooked, strain the liquid into the onion mixture. Bring to a boil, add diced potatoes, then turn the heat down so the mixture simmers. When the potatoes and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes, add the corn kernels and cream and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, garnish with parsley, and serve.* Can be made the day before or frozen.
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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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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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And the Garden Grows!!!


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Well my garden is actually growing!! Some things better than others! 🙂 The zucchini & tomato plants are flourishing! Unfortunately I didn’t know how big the zucchini plants get so they kinda hindered some of the growth of the herbs. I ended up transplanting most of my basil to pots and also planted some pots of oregano, rosemary & thyme.
I’m so proud of my little garden…can’t wait till I can start eating from it!!!

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Raised Garden Bed Part 2: Success!


Wow, am I sore today! When I started this raised garden bed project, I thought it was going to be easier than actually making a garden in the ground…it probably was, but it was still a lot of hard physical work. But totally worth it!! It came out just the way I wanted it.

I found this step-by-step guide  on how to make the garden bed. Hubby read through it to get the basic idea, but we did do it a little bit differently. I started by choosing the spot in the yard and measuring it off. Then digging up the grass and turning the soil, which was by far the hardest part.

Meanwhile, Hubby worked on cutting the wood. We used four 2x6x8 pieces for the longer sides, and two 2x6x8 pieces, both cut in half for the shorter sides. For the posts we bought one 4×4 post and cut it into four 15 inch pieces.  Hubby then assembled the longer sides only by attaching the 2x6x8 pieces to the post with 4 inches of the post above the sides to go into the ground.

We dug out only the first two holes for the posts and then put in the first side of the bed. We measured out 4 feet from the posts and dug the other two holes, repeating with the second longer side.

Once the longer sides were securely in place, we nailed the smaller sides to the posts.

Next, we lined the box with 1/4″ hardware cloth to help keep out small rodents.

Finally, we added the bags of topsoil. We used 10 bags (2 cu. ft.) of Miracle Grow Garden Soil. If you want to fill your box completely to the top you will need a few more bags. The website mentioned in the beginning of the post states that you will need 32 cu. ft. of top soil. We felt the 10 bags was adequate..it’s a good 10″ of soil in the box.  Once I start planting I may add more if it seems like this is not enough, but for now I think it will be ok.

Now all that is left is to finish planting the seeds. Due to some rain showers I am holding off on planting the seeds, but hopefully it will clear soon and I’ll get them in the bed. I plan to grow herbs and veggies (basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, zucchini, tomatoes, scallions, green beans).

I am very pleased with the final result! It definitely wasn’t difficult, but it was a lot of physical labor….and I never could have done it without my Hubby helping me out!

Hopefully in a few short months I’ll have my fresh herbs and veggies to add to my “Marvelous Meals”!  Stay tuned!!!

 

 

 

 

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