Wow! Where has the time gone??? I can't believe it's been over TWO WEEKS since finishing the 10 Day Pledge (aka - the last time I blogged.) My girls went back to school last week and....well...you know! Since finishing the Pledge my family has had good days and we've had really, really bad days. One thing is for sure, my husband and I agree that most food we've eaten in restaurants since finishing the Pledge was not good - not good at all. This caused us to be:
1) Frustrated because sometimes you want a night off from cooking
2) Angry because we spent good money on these meals
3) But mostly we feel PROUD because we've successfully changed our taste buds and curbed our cravings for junky, processed foods! It amazed me how my favorite dish from my favorite restaurant now tastes like Chef Boyardee to me :)
One thing we splurged on over the past two weeks was a visit to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams while in Columbus, Ohio. I'd heard about Jeni's from Food Network, but wondered if it was worth all the hype. Let me say this - IT WAS! Every. Single. Bite! Oh my! Now, I can't eat Jeni's on a regular basis (which is probably a good thing!) but I CAN make my own wholesome, clean ice cream at home anytime I want! This ice cream is a basic vanilla, but by using high quality ingredients the vanilla and honey flavors really shine through. I used Orange Blossom honey from a local farmer, but imagine the possibilities by changing up the honey flavor! I feel fairly confident that you could serve this to unknowing guests and they'd never guess it was 'clean'!
Honey Vanilla Ice Cream
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk, grass-fed organic if possible
1/2 cup good quality honey, local if possible
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (homemade or pure)
In a medium saucepan combine cream, milk and honey over medium heat. Bring the mixture to just boiling, while stirring frequently (this prevents the mixture from burning). As soon as the mixture boils, turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Cover the saucepan and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. After 1 hour, place the saucepan in the refrigerator until completely cool.
**I usually make the mixture after dinner and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Once the mixture is completely cool, give it a quick whisk to break up any large lumps that may have formed. Don't worry about getting it completely smooth - the little chunks will taste great in the finished product! Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's directions. Once the mixture becomes soft-serve ice cream, transfer it to a freezer-safe container and place in the freezer. I've found that these long, shallow containers seem to provide the most even freezing and allow for easier scooping.
After 1 hour in the freezer, take out the ice cream and give it a stir. Place it back in the freezer for another 4-6 hours before serving. If you add a bit of honey to your serving it hardens a little and tastes like a little bite of caramel! Yum!
Adapted from Thank Heavens
We did it!!! We made it 10 full days of following the Rules and eating real, unprocessed foods! We kept it local as much as possible and made tons of stuff from scratch. All four of us had our moments of weakness but we all stayed strong. I'm very proud of my daughters because I know this was no easy task for them. When I asked them what they are most excited about eating tomorrow once the Pledge is over Brecken said Stinger Waffles (a once-a-week treat I put in her lunchbox). Jordan's response was M&Ms and Skittles.....ok, then! Mike and I are looking forward to a little bit of balance and flexibility, especially when we are away from home. That and being able to dip our fish nuggets in some organic ketchup!
Unfortunately (or fortunately), neither of us noticed a big change in the way we felt or how our clothes fit. We think it's because we already were eating clean 80+% of the time. I used to have a voracious sweet tooth (hence, the earlier days of this blog!) but it seems to have subsided quite a bit since the beginning of 2014. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if I found myself indulging in a cupcake or macaron tomorrow from the local bakery!
The Pledge was fun and I'm so glad we did it as a family! Honestly, the hardest part for me was photographing everything I ate and blogging (almost!) every day. It was a great experience for me because I learned a few tips on food photography with an iPhone and I'm hoping to learn even more with my DSLR going forward.
So, without further ado, here's what I ate on my final day of the Pledge!
Breakfast was, of course, Iced Coffee with a little Yogurt Granola Parfait. I layered plain whole milk yogurt with some frozen blueberries and my favorite granola. I let it sit about 5 minutes so the blueberries defrosted enough to eat. This was a great treat! I'll be making this again tomorrow!
You can tell that Saturday is our grocery day because we are super light on produce. Lunch today was an egg sandwich my hubby make me with my homemade Whole Wheat Bread, a farmer's market egg and a piece of organic cheese. He is such a great cook! This sandwich was light years better than the one I made the other day!
My afternoon snack was some more Ak Mak Crackers with homemade butter and local honey. What a treat!
Dinner was a Black Bean Pattu served over sauteed Swiss Chard and Tomatoes. I used to make these patties as burgers and serve them on hamburger buns. They were mushy and fell apart. This is a way better way to enjoy them!
Thank you so much for following along during our 10 Day Pledge to eat real food! We had fun! If you took the Pledge yourself, let me know how you did! Do you feel any different? Will you continue to eat this way? I'd love your feedback!
Look for some new recipes on the blog coming soon like Honey Ice Cream, Whole Wheat Bread, Homemade Butter and Granola!
It's Day #9 and we are in the home stretch! I can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel! A little over 24 hours until our 10 Day Pledge to eat Real, Unprocessed Food is over! All 4 of us are still going strong and loving the real, wholesome, healthy food we've been eating. But we are ready to add a little flexibility back into our lives. I'm so, so, SO proud of my daughters! They are questioning every single thing they put in their mouth and that speaks volumes to me! They are learning! I'm slightly nervous about how they will act on Friday when the Rules are lifted. I've already promised my 9-year-old a trip to Barnes & Noble Cafe to redeem her free birthday cupcake. They are quite big, very rich and filled with bad things. Luckily, the girls have a tradition of always splitting their birthday cupcakes with each other so hopefully we won't fall too far off the wagon.
Today actually brought minimal challenges for us as far at the Rules are concerned. We stayed home all day so temptations were low. I made some whole wheat bread and Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites to stock the freezer for back-to-school lunches next week. Since it was another rainy day in Pittsburgh, I decided to try a Make Your Own Butter recipe we got from one of the teachers at school back in May. I took pictures and plan to share details with you all soon. The girls had a blast and the butter came out sinfully good! We smeared it on Ak Mak crackers and fresh bread. So yummy! I stayed true to the Pledge today but I definitely ate way too many carbs :)
Today started with Iced Coffee, as usual. Because it was so dark and gloomy outside I couldn't get a good picture so I used yesterday's picture for you.
Breakfast was plain yogurt with granola. You'll see this make another appearance today :)
Lunch was some salad greens with tomatoes and ground cherries and some fresh Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites. I also had a cracker with that fresh butter we made. Let's be honest...I had way more than 1 cracker!
Like I said, there's another cracker with fresh butter as my afternoon snack!
I washed down the buttered cracker with some Coconut Water from Whole Foods. I like this brand because it has no added sugar or natural flavors. If you like coconut water, take a look at this investigation by Food Babe. Not all coconut water is created equal! I really like the refreshing taste of coconut water every once in a while, but it's not something I drink all the time.
Dinner tonight was breaded fish nuggets made by my husband with the Walleye he caught in Lake Erie a few weeks ago. I made a side dish of glazed carrots using orange juice, butter and honey. The girls loooooved their veggies tonight!
'Dessert' tonight was another small helping of yogurt and granola. It's the salty/sweet/tangy-ness that keeps me going back for more!
Tomorrow is our last day and our plans involve my younger daughter spending a few hours with my parents. I'm planning on packing some snacks for her as well as a few pieces of bread so my mom can make her a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. This is one of those times that the option of flexibility would be a nice treat to have!
One thing I'm finding for sure during this 10 Day Pledge, is that it's very hard to document and blog about every single thing I eat! Yesterday was the hardest day for sure! I stayed on the Pledge and followed The Rules just fine, but I totally forgot to take pictures of any of my food after lunch! Other than that, yesterday was a relatively low-temptation day for all of us. We found ourselves at the grocery store at 5:00 while we were hungry, but we made the right decision and bought only the things we needed and went home and had dinner. I had planned to make Salmon Salad, but that eventually got changed to Black Bean Burgers over a bed of lettuce (for budgetary reasons). At the last minute I realized I just didn't have the time to make the Black Bean Burgers so we settled on a quick Mexican Quinoa. Sorry - this is where my picture-taking failed me :)
The rest of Day 7 looked like this:
Once again, breakfast was Iced Coffee with whole milk and a Banana Pecan Muffin from the freezer.
Lunch was the last of the Eggplant Parm. Again, not a pretty dish to photograph, but oh so yummy!
Dinner was Mexican Quinoa which is a quick, easy recipe I'll have to share with you soon. It's one of our go-to meals when we are in a time-crunch. I also found myself sampling pieces of cheese, leftover grilled cheese from my daughter's lunch plate and many, many spoonfuls of my second batch of the to-die-for Honey Vanilla Ice Cream. I'm really hoping to have that recipe on the blog for you later this week!
Last night I made a fresh batch of my favorite granola so for breakfast this morning I took a big scoop of that and served it on top of Plain Whole Milk Yogurt. Of course, I had to get my coffee fix!
Lunch was a Grilled Cheese sandwich. I used some of my homemade bread, an egg, a slice of organic cheese and a tomato slice. Honestly, this sandwich was just 'meh'. The bread was the end pieces so it was extra thick and the cheese just wouldn't melt. I had a few Ground Cherries on the side. Yum!
I had a quick snack before dinner - Homemade Spicy Hummus with a few Ak Mak crackers and some pepper slices.
Dinner tonight was a creamy Mac & Cheese with whole wheat pasta and peas. This dish is off-the-charts! My kids devour it - peas and all! I do have to admit, I think I overdid it with the cheese a bit tonight. Can you ever overdo it with cheese? Hmm...I think not!
Day 6 is almost done and I think today may have been the hardest one yet - for me and my husband that is. Our girls did surprisingly well under the circumstances! See, today is Sunday which normally means a lazy-ish day for us. We had a pretty un-planned day planned. Though that sounded nice in theory, it didn't work out so well while doing the 10 Day Pledge. Let me share:
Breakfast was Iced Coffee in a dark and dreary living room - thank you unseasonably cool Pennsylvania summer! A few hours later I made a Green Smoothie and paired it with a Whole Wheat Banana Pecan Muffin from the freezer.
This is where it all fell apart for me. We were out shopping when hunger hit and hit hard. Luckily, I had almonds in my purse so I had a handful of them to hold me over. I knew our next stop was at Whole Foods for some food shopping so I figured I'd grab some lunch there. When we got there I was thrilled to see that all of their Prepared Foods have the ingredients listed on the label so I was able to find something that followed The Rules. I am still leery of most meat that I don't buy from the farmer's market and prepare myself so I stuck to vegetarian dishes. I did manage to find some options for my girls, but honestly, I feel their Prepared Foods are so overpriced that I wasn't willing to pay for sub-par food for me when I knew I could eat at home in an hour. The girls got Mustard Mashed Potatoes, Cooked Peas and Carrots and some fresh veggies from the salad bar. They totally loved their food! I had a few bites of their dishes and they tasted fine but I found them to be bland and, well, overpriced. My husband decided to hold himself over with a GT Synergy Citrus Kombucha, which we shared. Though it's pricey, I love this stuff and it follows The Rules! Once we were on our way home I broke open my emergency stash - A Banana Bread Lara Bar. Man! I did so good yesterday all because I planned! All day today I kept thinking of this phrase I heard often back during my Weight Watcher days: Failure to plan, is planning to fail.
When we finally got home I heated up some pizza from last night and had some hummus on Ak Mak crackers. Ahh....no longer hungry!
Dinner tonight was a quick Eggplant Parm. It was so tasty and satisfying, but not very pretty to photograph! I've made this dish a few times now and I think it's time to put a formal recipe together for you so you can have quick Eggplant Parm on a weeknight!
I'm so happy today is over. That trip to Whole Foods almost broke me. They have lots of good things to eat but so few items that follow The Rules. I'll be happy when the 10 Day Pledge is over and I can go back to my 80/20-ish way of Clean Eating!
Today is Day #5 of the 10 Day Pledge and I'm so excited to say we are HALF WAY DONE!! We are all doing great and our temptations were actually pretty low today, but it is hard to eat this way 100% of the time. It involves a ton of planning! Today we went to the zoo and I'm actually really happy to say that most of what tempted my girls was useless junky toys rather than low-quality food! I know...small victory there, huh?
Our day started with my husband and younger daughter heading off to the farmer's market to pick up our weekly supply of milk, eggs, meat and some veggies. As a special treat for her, he bought her a piece of honeycomb. How cool! The taste was unreal, but the texture was not for me. It was very waxy - apparently you can eat the wax but....eh...not my thing. I couldn't get past it. But my 6-year-old loved it! When they got home from the farmer's market he whipped up some over-easy eggs with some whole wheat bread from Mediterra Bakehouse.
While they were gone I got ready and drank my Iced Coffee. Since we were out of whole milk I opted for a splash of heavy cream. Wow....quite different. It was acceptable for my coffee but too rich for an everyday thing.
After I was ready I prepped our picnic lunch to take to the zoo. Here's what it looked like after it was prepped and when it was ready for the cooler. I'm quite proud of myself :)
My husband and I had wraps made with whole wheat, homemade tortillas, hummus, cheese, cucumbers, peppers and carrots. My girls had sandwiches made with homemade whole wheat bread and a variety of veggies from our wraps. We also had a cut up peach, an apple, some carrot sticks, some cucumber, more hummus (for dipping) some Ak Mak crackers and some plain almonds. This was a TON of food and we didn't eat it all.
Here is my lunch. Word of warning - if you wrap your wrap in a paper towel be VERY careful not to take a bit from the paper towel that may have softened up while in the cooler. Not that I know this from experience or anything! :)
I had a small snack before dinner - a scoop of homemade granola with some whole milk.
It was warm enough to eat dinner outside again tonight!! We had homemade pizza made with whole wheat dough, this pizza sauce, a provolone/mozzarella mixture of cheese and some veggies we had on hand. And of course, since it's the weekend, some more red wine to wash it all down!
At the halfway point of the Pledge I can honestly say that my husband and I are doing great as far as temptations. We are pretty satisfied with the wholesome food we've been eating and don't really have any cravings. My younger daughter is 110% committed and is constantly asking questions about what is or isn't allowed during the Pledge. My older daughter will always be a little bit more challenging. She is on board with what we are doing for the short term but is starting to make comments about all the junk she gets to eat when the Pledge is over (ummm....I don't think so!) I know school will be starting soon and I will have less control over what she eats. My goal is to provide the best food possible at home so that when she does indulge in a treat at school it truly is a 'sometimes treat'.
Day 4 is almost over and I think this may have been our easiest day so far! Luckily, our travels today to the pediatrician did not include any unsolicited snacks for my girls! Hooray for small victories! Today's food was a little boring until dinnertime - mmmmm.....cheeseburgers and red wine! Since the buns were homemade, whole wheat and the burger was local, grass-fed meat everything still followed 'the rules'! I'm a little nervous about tomorrow. We are heading to the zoo for the day and though I plan to take snacks and veggie wraps I'm worried about the abundance of tempting goodies my girls will want! I'm going to hold my ground and stay strong...it's only for 10 days!
Before I share my meals for today, I want to share my 6-year-old's breakfast. She was so proud that her breakfast choice was allowed on the Pledge that she wanted me to take a picture of it! Melt my heart!
She had a bowl of Puffed Barley cereal with whole milk and honey.
My breakfast was more Iced Coffee and some homemade granola served 'cereal-style' with whole milk.
Lunch was more leftovers from earlier this week. Pasta Salad with Tahini Dressing and Quiche.
My after-lunch snack was a fresh peach from the farmer's market.
I patiently waited for dinner with my stomach grumbling but it was soooo worth it! Cheeseburgers made with local, grass-fed beef, organic cheese and homemade whole wheat buns. We served it with farmer's market tomatoes and an Italian Chianti. Yummm! Cheers to Clean Eating!
I didn't want to go the entire 10 days of the Pledge without sharing a new recipe with you! I thought this one would be perfect for any weekend entertaining or movie nights you may have planned. These Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites are the product of a slightly modified recipe from King Arthur Flour. For most of my baking I use KAF's White Whole Wheat Flour, but for these pretzel bites I really love using the darker, red Whole Wheat Flour. Feel free to use whatever you like or whatever you have on hand.
When I typically make these we wind up 'sampling' quite a few before they make it to the freezer. For the ones that do make it to freezer bags, I've eaten them several different ways:
I have often heated up a few Pretzel Bites and added them to my lunch. Here I had them with a salad and some red pepper slices. On my 'To Try' list is finding a good, clean cheese dip to serve with these yummy nuggets!
Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites
Makes about 6 dozen
10 1/2 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon honey
7/8 - 1 cup warm water*
*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer and somewhere in the middle in the spring and fall.
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt - I use kosher salt and some black salt from the bulk section of my grocery store
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Place all dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until combined. Switch the mixer to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
While the dough is rising, combine the boiling water and baking soda and stir until the baking soda is dissolved. Pour into a 13x9 brownie pan and allow to cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with a silicon making mat or parchment paper and set aside.
Transfer the dough to a large cutting board and divide into 6 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into 12" to 15" ropes. Cut each rope into 12-15 equal-sized nuggets. Once all the bites are cut, place them in the baking soda solution and 'swish' the nuggets around so they are evenly covered. Allow to sit in the solution for 3-4 minutes. Remove the nuggets from the solution (draining slightly) and place on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with the melted butter. After a few minutes, transfer the pretzels to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days or in the freezer in freezer-safe bags. Reheat in the oven for a few minutes or enjoy thawed from the freezer at room temperature.
Adapted from King Arthur's Flour
Today was Pledge Day #3 and it came with more challenges. Mostly for my girls, not so much for me. Today was a calm day where we found ourselves at home for all of our meals, but a quick trip to Costco almost derailed all of my 9-year-old's efforts so far! We went in there for one thing...ONE THING! We found ourselves wandering around for over a half hour looking at all the new things they have in stock. Without fail, we found ourselves walking past sample after sample. None of the highly-processed, over-sugared 'food' tempted me at all and my 6-year-old really held strong, but the sights of the treats nearly broke my 9-year-old. She wanted everything! I don't think she even knew what they were giving out, it was just the sheer fact of having the forbidden food that lured her. I thought we'd be ok walking down the dry goods aisles (honey, nuts, etc), but all she saw were the giant boxes of Goldfish Crackers and Oreos that were sitting just one aisle over! I realized I had to get her out of there so I quickly took her over to the books and movies so she could browse and...suddenly....all the junk food she just wanted a minute....was a thing of the past! Way to go J!! I know it's hard for them and I can't say enough how PROUD I am of them for sticking with me on this!
Once again I had Iced Coffee with Overnight Oatmeal and a dollop of Almond Butter. I tried to make the oatmeal a little prettier for you, but I'm not sure I succeeded! Tomorrow I think I'm going to eat something different!
Lunch was leftover Quiche from dinner last night, a little bit of arugula and a quick bruschetta-type toast. I diced up some tomatoes and parsley and put it on top of a piece of Whole Wheat bread from a local bakery. They told me they only use 3 ingredients in this bread! They don't even use yeast!
My husband and I indulged in a seriously TINY scoop of last night's ice cream after lunch. I really wanted to have a scoop to see how the texture held up and I'm thrilled to say it was simply perfect! This ice cream recipe may become an unhealthy obsession of mine!
My mid-afternoon snack was a handful of Ground Cherries from our garden and a Plain Rice Cake topped with more Almond Butter a few defrosted strawberries and a drizzle of honey.
Dinner tonight was perfection! Not only was the entire meal local from Pennsylvania, but it was entirely cooked by my hubby! Whew! I needed a night off! He breaded a piece of Walleye (from his fishing trip to Lake Erie last week) with some homemade, whole wheat breadcrumbs from the freezer. He served the fish was some sauteed Green Beans and a slice of tomato from our farmer's market last night.
My evening snack was a few Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites (recipe coming at you tomorrow!) with some stone ground mustard. See the mustard? Right there in the left-hand corner of the bowl? That little tablespoon got me in trouble. Like a rookie, I squeezed some mustard into the bowl and enjoyed my little snack. Only AFTER I finished the pretzels did it dawn on me that I forgot to read the label on the mustard! Yikes!! I immediately ran to the refrigerator to look at the label only to find....sugar!! Why?? Why does sugar have to be in everything???? *sigh* I try so hard all day, every day to avoid sugar and it sneaks into my MUSTARD???? Live and learn. The next time I go to Whole Foods I'll be sure to look for a tasty mustard that doesn't have sugar in it!
Day 2 of the 10 Day Pledge is almost over and I have to say...so far, so good! Today the girls and I were out for a few hours right smack at lunchtime! We made it through our hunger with some snacks - a Lara Bar for me and homemade granola for them. We ate a late lunch, which led to a really late dinner. Their shining moment today was when they politely declined a free fudge sample at the farmer's market! I'm so, SO proud of them!
Breakfast was the usual Overnight Oatmeal with Iced Coffee. I realize that Overnight Oatmeal in a jar is pretty ugly to photograph. I'll see if I can come up with something more interesting for you tomorrow :)
My snack while we were out was a Cashew Cookie Lara Bar. What I love about these bars is they only have a handful of ingredients and most of them have no added sugar. This one has only 2 ingredients - dates and cashews. These are perfect to slide into your bag for when an unexpected stomach grumble hit!
When we finally got home for lunch I had whole wheat pasta salad with tahini dressing and a cup of organic applesauce. It's funny how reintroducing a simple food to kids really gets them going. We haven't had applesauce in quite a while and they went nuts over it! They both had seconds!
Our very late dinner consisted of a simple cheese quiche with a side of arugula. I love this dish! My older daughter still fights me on this one. When did she stop loving eggs???
Ok, this is it! This is the star of our show! Remember that ice cream I was 'taste testing' last night? Well earlier today I threw the cooled mixture into my ice cream maker and whipped it up for tonight. Wow! This stuff is amazing! Seriously amazing! I've been making ice cream for a few years but I've never really been able to nail the texture - it always comes out rock hard and/or grainy. I think this recipe may be the one I've been looking for my whole life! It's a simple vanilla, but rather than using sugar to sweeten it, it's sweetened with honey. I used local honey and....wow! Best part of Clean Eating. Ever! Now that I've talked it up, you guys probably want the recipe? Let me tweak a few things but I'll be sure to get it up on the blog before the end of summer!
Time to rest and relax and get ready for Day #3!
Pittsburgh area mom striving to provide clean, healthy, REAL food for her family!