Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Quick, Healthy and Yummy Crab Dip

We tend to do a lot of Holiday meals in this house as a big old snacky food spread. For us, it makes a lot of sense when you do a middle of the day big holiday meal to just have some appetizers and other things that work to make small plates when you get a little bit hungry later on.

Now the problem with that is, typically, appetizers are not the healthiest of foods. Sure they tend to be bite sized but my problem around bite sized food is that I tend to end up eating way more than I would if it was all just normal sized. A nibble here, a handful there and pretty soon I have eaten triple
what I planned on eating.

One way to combat this issue....taking my old standby, unwaistline friendly foods and cleaning them up. This year I was totally craving crab dip like I crazy person. So I decided to clean it up, add artichokes for loads of flavor (and adding artichoke hearts to anything always makes me feel like it's  fancy and indulgent) and embrace my crab dip craving. Plus if you are trying sticking to the 21 Day Fix meal plan, artichokes are a green container. So bumping this dip up with loads of them totally helps fill up those green containers while packing a boat load of nutritional benefits. They are loaded with fiber, help promote healthy digestion and help stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. They are also loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C and folic acid.

Even after cleaning it up, this dip totally hit the spot. It was yummy and super easy to put together. I served it with whole grain crackers and celery sticks.

Here's what I did:

2 cans of artichoke hearts (small, quartered work best)

16 oz crab (I used canned)

6 TBS greek yogurt

6 TBS mayonnaise (I always use homemade. Seriously it will rock your world.)

Juice of half a lemon (about 1 1/2 TBS)

1 cup shredded cheddar (divided into two half cups)

Old Bay Seasoning to taste

Coconut Oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 pan or baking dish with coconut oil.

Drain the artichoke hearts and spread across the bottom of the dish. Add the crab. Season with Old Bay to taste.

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, greek yogurt and lemon juice. Add to the artichoke/crab dish. Add 1/2 cup of the shredded cheddar. Mix well.

Top with remaining shredded cheddar.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Enjoy!

Easy Breezy (and rock your world worthy) Homemade Mayo

I never liked mayonnaise much. It was super easy for me to leave it off of things because it totally grossed me out. I hated buying big jars of it for recipes to use a tablespoon here or half a cup there and then end up throwing out the entire thing. (Just because I don't like it doesn't mean I didn't feel bad about wasting it.)

When I started this whole clean eating journey and really started paying attention to labels and what was in all the food, I was appalled at the ingredient lists on condiments. Salad dressings, mayonnaise, sauces....they all seemed to have HUGE ingredient lists of stuff I couldn't pronounce. It totally shocked me. I expected it from things like poptarts and fritos but salad dressing is pretty much oil, vinegar and spices.....why did we need to have all that other stuff in there?

This lead me to start to figure out what I could make on my own and for things like salad dressing and mayonnaise....well it's easier, cheaper and tastes way better when you make your own. Who knew it was super easy to make mayo and it actually tasted good. It was completely different from the stuff on the grocery store shelves. Because mayonnaise is actually yellow, not white. And it can be flavored a billion different ways depending on your taste.

This is the recipe I use for basic mayonnaise. It is pretty good for when mayo is called for in other recipes. It doesn't have a crazy strong flavor that will alter what your dish is supposed to taste like. (Because no one wants bossy mayo that steals the show and takes over when it isn't supposed to!)

I also like to halve this recipe when I need just a little bit for something I am making (like my clean and easy crab dip).

2 egg yolks**
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 TBS dijon mustard (I use Annie's Horseradish mustard)
1 1/2 cups oil (I use cold pressed olive oil)
Salt to taste

Place the egg yolks in the food processor or immersion blender cup. Add the vinegar and mustard. Turn on the blending device you are using and slowly start to add the oil as you are blending. Once it starts to thicken you can be more liberal with how fast you are adding the oil. Salt to taste.

** This recipe contains raw eggs. Use caution when consuming raw eggs due to the slight risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness.  For more information on the risks and prevention and minimizing your risks click the links below:




Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Favorite Winter Salad - Orange and Pomegranate Green Salad

Holiday Parties.....

Not only are they a great way to catch up with friends and family, get dressed up in something sparkly and have a super fun time but they are typically teeming with yummy treats and festive cocktails. AND they seem to fall one after another.

So what's a girl who is trying to stay on track with her health to do?

Bring a killer dish that allows you to help out your hostess AND have a healthy option to load up your plate.

I made this salad as a side for Thanksgiving dinner this year and am looking forward to making it over Christmas as well. There is something about the combination of the sweetness of the pomegranates, the creaminess of the blue cheese, and the tartness of the oranges that combine with the crunch of the romaine that make me really happy. This is one of the best salads I've had in a while. AND it is full of antioxidants and vitamin C--and at this time of year who couldn't use a immune system bump this time of year?

Pomegranates are packed with some crazy healthy benefits (and they are one of my favorite things to eat this time of year too!)

Health Benefits of the Pomegranate
  • Most powerful anti-oxidant of all fruits
  • Potent anti-cancer and immune supporting effects
  • Inhibits abnormal platelet aggregation that could cause heart attacks, strokes and embolic disease
  • Lowers cholesterol and other cardiac risk factors
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Shown to promote reversal of atherosclerotic plaque in human studies
  • May have benefits to relieve or protect against depression and osteoporosis

Oranges too have been touted as having a huge benefit to the immune system. Feel al cold coming on? Better take your vitamin C. I remember as a kid my dad forcing me to take extra vitamin C tablets. Especially in the winter. Because it would help me not to get sick.

But oranges have more to them that just a concentrated dose of vitamin C. They are a good source of fiber, potassium, which is good for your heart, beta-carotene which is awesome for your skin and are rich in carotenoid compounds which are converted to vitamin A and help prevent macular degeneration. (And since macular degeneration runs in my family...I was super excited to learn about this benefit. Oranges aren't my favorite but I may be adding them to my plate a little bit more often now!)  To learn more about oranges and your health click here and here

On top of this salad being loaded with some killer health benefits.... it is really pretty. The red and the green are super festive and bright. It looks great in the bowl and tastes pretty amazing too.

So here is what I did:


1 head of romaine lettuce--chopped
2 cups of leafy lettuce*
Seeds of 1 pomegranate--about 2 cups
4 large oranges--chopped, peels removed
1/2 of 1 a large red onion--chopped
Crumbled blue cheese


1/3 cup orange juice
2/3 cup red wine vinegar*
4 TBS  olive oil
zest of one orange
1 TBS honey
1 TBS Dijon Mustard
1 clove garlic - minced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine romaine, leaf lettuce, pomegranate seeds, oranges and red onion. Mix well.

In a shaker cup or blender combine the dressing ingredients. Shake or blend until mixed. (I had better luck and flavor using an immersion blender to make the dressing. I also tend to like my dressing more on the acidic side so I always cut back on the oil. If the ratio isn't' right for you add a little more oil to the mix.)

*I used a power greens mix but you could use arugula, baby kale, or another kind of baby lettuce

** The second time I made this I used a pomegranate balsamic vinegar and wow was it amazing. So if you have a balsamic or a flavored vinegar that would work well with the orange juice feel free to sub it in!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dabbling in Paleo -- Grain Free Wedding Soup (21 Day Fix approved!)

There is something about winter...it being cold outside or maybe being stressed and crazy over all the Christmas to-do....but it makes me want to eat soup. It must be a deep rooted comfort thing because I want to make it all the time. Soup and a big old loaf of crusty bread for dinner sounds like perfection.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately and feel like I need to cut back on the eating of grains thing. This past summer I was having a lot of issues dropping weight no matter what meal plan and workout I was doing. I wondered if food allergies were to blame. I set out to do an elimination diet and shortly after that found out I was preggers. So following my doctor's advice, I am putting that off until the baby is here and my hormones settle down. Until then I am dabbling in different ways of eating. Following the 21 Day Fix meal plan (with the added calories I need for a healthy pregnancy) and just generally cutting back on grains as a whole. I am trying to stick to 2-3 servings a day. Many of my pregnancy cravings have revolved around white bread and bagels and that has thrown me down a slippery slope to wanting to eat more of those than fresh veggies.

Not to mention the fact that when I am not pregnant....I tend to crave (and really want) to eat more of a plant based diet. Meat just doesn't appeal to me. There is something going on with my hormones that is totally making me want to eat things like steak....at every meal. Since this is a healthy craving (as opposed to chocolate and donuts) I decided to go with it and am incorporating more animal based protein into my diet, at least for now. Post baby I am probably going to go back to my plant based tendencies but we will figure that out when we are there. Right now I am taking things one day at a time.

Last night I was able to finally use the homemade chicken stock I made back in September. It has been sitting in my freezer for months waiting for the perfect recipe to make use of it's golden goodness and this one was a winner. In fact it made such a difference in this recipe that I never want to go back to buying store bought stock again. Not only is the color totally different but the flavor of homemade stock is amazing. I used to think I hated soup but in reality I never really had good soup until I started eating homemade soup. No more cans of soup for this girl. Ever. And making my own stock was one of the easiest things I have ever done. I am not going to be that weird relative that asks to take home the turkey or chicken carcass from family dinners and stores them in my freezer until I have time to make stock. I never want to let the amazingness of them go to waste again. Who knew the secret to the best soup ever was in a typically discarded carcass of chicken bones?

Anyway....my aunt made a recipe similar to this when we were visiting in Texas and I also picked up a new (totally awesome) cookbook by Danielle Walker, Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple and am slightly obsessed with it. So this recipe is kind of a fusion between her soup and my aunt's. (Although my aunt added tortellini to hers and it was kind of awesome.) And if you have a recipe for grandma's or great grandma's mini meatballs for wedding soup....feel free to sub it and use that instead. Unlike most of my friends, I do not have Italian roots so I don't have attachments to things like sauce and meatballs. If you are trying to do the Paleo or gluten free thing there are so many substitutes for breadcrumbs you can try until you get it just right. Gluten free oats, almond meal, quinoa, minced veggies....as long as you get it to bind.

I opted out of adding any type of noodle and honestly this soup was so full of flavor and other goodies I didn't miss it. At all. (Which for my bread addicted self, that is kind of a big deal.) You can also use parmesan cheese instead of nutritional yeast. I don't do well on dairy so I try to only have it when it makes a HUGE difference in a recipe (or because I just really want to eat a hunk of cheese.)

So here is what I did:


(for the meatballs)
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 large egg - scrambled
2 cloves of garlic - minced or grated
2 teaspoons of coconut flour
2 1/2 teaspoons of nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb of grass fed ground beef
1/2 lb of ground lamb

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 cups peeled and diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
10 cups of chicken stock
3 cups of baby spinach

To make the meatballs:

1. Grate or mince the onion
2. Combine onion, egg, garlic, coconut flour, nutritional yeast, salt pepper, and ground meat.
3. Mix well and roll into bite size meatballs
4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use

To make the Soup:

1. Heat the coconut oil in a large pot until melted. Saute carrots and celery until slightly cooked (maybe about 5 minutes)

2. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil

3. Turn the heat down to medium and add the meatballs. Cook until the meatballs are cooked through (about 10 minutes) and start to float to the top.

4. Turn the heat down to low. When ready to serve add the spinach and let cook about five minutes or until wilted.

5. Season to taste

I didn't add any additional salt to my soup but if you feel that it needs salt and pepper feel free to add. You can also play with the type of meat used in the meatballs too. Subbing in turkey or ground pork for the lamb. And I feel like this recipe could be made easily in the slow cooker. Adding the spinach just before serving. There is something that is awesome about coming home to a house that smells like dinner after a long day (and having very little to do before you can eat!)

21 Day Fix containers used: (per 2 cup serving)

1 red
1 green
1/2 teaspoon*

*There is very little oil used in this recipe once portioned out. Technically less than half a teaspoon....so if you are over on your teaspoons for the day, I wouldn't sweat it.

Here is what Autumn has to say about soup and the containers. I was pretty close. Since this soup has no grain in it but is loaded with spinach and other veggies I swapped out the yellow container for the green.

Happy Eating!

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