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To diet or not to diet?

When I was in my teens I was totally anorexic, I think it never really leaves you completely, I always count up my intake of food each day, and roughly count the calories I have had, even now I feel its pull, but with yoga and meditation I have managed to control the need a little bit better.  I realize now the need to fuel my body with the right foods to hopefully keep me healthy and I am trying to educate my family into thinking the same way.  I have so many picky eaters its hard to fully cook a complete clean eating menu plan for each week, but I definitely try.

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I am absolutely hopeless without menu planning, I've tried not menu planning and my grocery bill goes up, my clean eating plan goes out the window and I feel terrible in myself… so for me menu planning is a way of life and will continue to be even as our children eventually move out.  I love the organization of it, I am even planning breakfast, snacks and lunch now, as Paul and I are on a semi strict carb, protein and fat diet, each meal has to contain at least one of these in healthy form, even the in-between meal snacks.

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Each week I try to focus and use recipes from different cookbooks I own, this past week I have used the Gwyneth Paltrow It's all easy cook book, one of our most surprising favorites for almost everyone was her lemon and herb pasta with cherry tomatoes, I adjusted the recipe slightly to accommodate everyones tastes, I added chopped broccoli first then added the pasta, and once I had served up the tomato haters in my house, I added them to the pan too… all in all it was a winner for the week.

 

I am all about fresh produce these days, I like to buy organic if I can, I have restarted my organic delivery just because it makes menu planning and organic shopping easier.

These rice paper wraps are a firm favorite at the moment…

Take a rice paper wrap and soak for two or three minutes in a bowl of cold water, making sure they are fully covered, whilst they are soaking chop up some crispy romaine lettuce leaves, cucumber, slice an avocado and grate some carrots, next crumble some feta cheese, and shred some chicken breast, if you want to add meat… once the wraps have softened place them onto a sheet of damp kitchen paper, fill with salad ingredients, feta and chicken if using it, wrap just like you would a burrito, keeping it as tight as you can. Serve with a dipping sauce, my favorite is sweet chili but Mabels is a balsamic glaze, the world is your dipping sauce 😋

My clean eating menu plan for this week…

Monday

Breakfast… kale, onion and feta scramble eggs

Lunch… chicken/feta Cobb style salad

Snack… fruit and almond butter

Dinner… taco style burrito bowl skillet (ground turkey and veggie version)

Tuesday

Breakfast… green smoothie with almond milk, kale and apple together with a boiled egg

Lunch… egg salad sandwich with chopped carrots on the side

Dinner vegan BBQ chili… for those meat lovers I will add shredded chicken

Snacks… Apple, celery and nuts

Wednesday

Breakfast… overnight Coconut oatmeal with berries

Lunch… protein salad

Dinner… zucchini pasta with bolognese (for those that do not like zucchini I will cook organic spaghetti

Snack… protein bites

Thursday

Breakfast… GF oatmeal blueberry waffles (easy to take out if made the day before)

Lunch… chicken quinoa salad (and a veggie version to take out with me)

Dinner… chicken/fish tacos with mango salsa and salad

Snack… protein bites

Friday

Breakfast… fruit smoothie using whatever berries and fruit I have in.

Lunch broccoli soup… yes I know it's summer, but I have a huge bag of frozen broccoli

Dinner… cheat day… Pizza Fridays

Snack fruit and nuts

Saturday

Breakfast… egg and Canadian bacon sandwiches or avaocado toast

Lunch… chickpea quinoa salad with a few fresh berries

Dinner… breakfast for dinner, GF waffles with eggs and sausages

Snack… black bean crackers and hummus

Sunday

Breakfast… overnight oats with coconut and ginger

Lunch… avocado and egg toast

Dinner… buffalo chicken and veggie pizza with salad

Snack… black bean crackers and hummus

I adapted my menu from one I found on Pinterest… wish me luck, I have never planned our eating so carefully and to every meal we eat, I am desperate to lose 10lbs, I have been doing a morning yoga session 3 days a week and now I found a simple workout program for two days, I like to give myself the weekend off, maybe just a little meditation to ease my mind and relax me… time to drink some water and start the week 😀

 

 

 

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Naturally delicious…

Is it just me or has this world become just a little bit crazier than when we were children? It’s getting back to our roots that is important… Do we really need all the convenience of modern living… I think not in many cases!

Don’t get me wrong there are many modern conveniences I could not live without… the internet, what would we do without that these days, my trusty Kitchen-aid mixer, a must have in my kitchen and air conditioning, on those hot, hot humid days when you need to just cool off, but the convenience of pre packed food is fast becoming a nightmare, why oh why do companies feel it is perfectly ok to fill our food with chemicals and dyes! What happened to good old fashioned healthy food products? Farmed salmon is full of horrible dyes and chemicals, simple products like a loaf of bread has potential cancer producing chemicals added, canola oil is advertised as a healthy oil… Well guess what? it really is not, I try to avoid this oil at all costs, I always like to use an oil that is actually derived from a plant not something that is man made… It’s all a horrible maze that has become very scarey!

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In our house I have stepped up home baking, Bread making, muffins, cookies and my ultimate favorite, Brownies all get baked and disappear as fast as they come out of the oven.
My favorite recipes…
chocolate chip muffins
This is my go to muffin recipe, I adjust it to the muffins I want to make, strawberry, apple, coconut… The options are endless!
brownies
This is my ultimate brownie recipe… To this I add whatever I feel like I fancy, a caramel swirl topping, chunks of chocolate and crispy salt… Or just as they come… Delicious!
the Pioneer Woman’s brown sugar oatmeal cookies
I recently found this recipe… Now my favorite cookie recipe ever!
Ina Garten’s shortbread cookies
With or without the chocolate these cookies are oh so good, they don’t usually make it into the tin in our house!

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I want to thank another Mom of a large family of 7 children for my new found love of easy bread baking, I do not personally know her but I follow her on Instagram and she has her own blog that I have been using for my bread recipes… A Farmhouse full … She has made me realize how easy bread making really is, especially with my Kitchen Aid mixer! Her pizza dough recipe is not only easy but delicious too!

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With Fall just around the corner, the long summer days are now numbered, I really need to get back to menu planning too, these days I seem to buy less and less pre-packaged foods and when I do just for convenience I try to buy the more natural options when I can! Yesterday I planned my menu for the week and shopped too, so here is what we are having for dinner this week, bare in mind I have two Birthdays next week, so Mabel has asked for a Pioneer Woman’s Pasta bar and Blu can’t decide between steak or ribs on the grill…

Flatbread sandwiches … This turned into chicken curry, rice and naan bread
Homemade pizzas
Pasta bar and grilled lemon chicken
Ribs… Garlic bread sticks and wedges (or steak)
Polenta brats and salad
Cous cous chicken salad
Left overs

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Whatever you are cooking this week… Have fun!

Product reviews

… My Vitamix!

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I have often stood in Costco and watched the Vitamix demonstration, wow, that is a fabulous blender, so many appliances in one machine… Hot soup, cold sorbets, thick smoothies, milkshakes, pizza dough and so much more! I could never justify the amount of money it cost though, instead I bought several blenders, each one returned because it did not live up to a great blender, I have bought a juicer, which is great but very time consuming making the juice then clean up is even more time consuming, and a food processor which sits unloved on my kitchen side… paul told me long ago to invest in the vitamix, you always pay for what you get, would I buy a cheap mixer instead of my beloved kitchen aid mixer… No, I most certainly would not, I love that machine and use it almost every day, so why is this vitamix any different, so after many hours of reading reviews and watching yet again another Costco roadshow demonstration I bit the bullet, what did I have to lose, with Costco’s fabulous return policy… Take it home and try it, if I don’t love it my money back in full!

So far so good, I have used this machine every day since the weekend, the soups are delicious and hot, if you don’t like smooth soups, save some of your ingredients and pulse at the end of the cycle for texture. I have also made fruit smoothies, this was a little more challenging as I have a freezer full of frozen fruit, I added the ingredients in the order their cookbook stated, but some of my fruit was frozen, I added carrots and kale, two vegetables I had in, switched my vitamix on, but I did have to use the muddler a few times to get my frozen products moving, I also then added a small amount of orange juice just to thin it out slightly, but my overall smoothie was delicious, packed with nutrients and went down well with my little 2 year old, who would never eat carrots or kale… So success, I am loving this vitamix!

I have not tried other features of the vitamix yet, the list is endless, pizza dough, muffins, cake breads, sorbets, ice cream, frozen cocktails… But so far for this season of warming soups I have a huge thumbs up, easy lunch time tomato soup in minutes is always a plus in my book, add a nutritious grilled cheese and avocado sandwich and then any leftovers can be used as a pizza topping later on for hungry children!

My lunchtime super easy tomato soup recipe… Courtesy of the Vitamix!
(Then use as a pizza sauce later… It worked well with no complaints)

1 can of organic chopped tomatoes
1/2 can of organic tomato purée
3/4 cup of vegetable stock/broth
1/2 chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
A small handful of fresh basil leaves sliced

Place the vegetable broth, followed by the tomatoes, purée and then onion into the vitamix set to the soup setting press start and let it run it’s cycle, when finished add salt, pepper and basil leaves, pulse several times… Then serve with whatever you fancy… Hot, yummy and nutritious!

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My first freezer baking day…

I have just found pure joy in filling my freezer to the brim, not with store bought boxed produce, well there is a little of that in there, but with home cooking trays of yummy goodies! I have always been someone who freezes leftovers, freezes excess bread, well I love to freeze anything for later really, but having a freezer baking day was something I had never thought of until recently when I started reading blogs about preparing ahead of time, so after watching another episode of the Pioneer Woman, yes I am addicted to her show, I decided it was time to fill my freezer with goodies so that my children cannot utter those famous words ever again, well just until next time my freezer looks bare… ‘There is nothing good into eat!’

I decided baked goods would be my freezer products this time around, with 5 more weeks of summer recess still on the horizon, sweet baked products are something I never have time to do along with cooking dinners, so why not fill my freezer with yummy gooey easy peasy baked goods that just need throwing into the oven, and then just for good measure I threw in some pizza dough for the odd pizza or flatbread side and two pasta tray bakes for those nights when you just need a quick dinner that’s made and ready to heat!

Here is a list in order of how I made them ready for my freezer, complete with links to the recipes…

The great British Flapjack … Melt 8oz of butter in a skillet, add 4oz of sugar and 4oz of golden syrup mix together then toss in 12oz of oats stir until combined, pack down into foil dish cover with foil and freeze. Defrost when ready to use, heat your oven to 300f and bake for 40 minutes!

Oatmeal breakfast bake … I froze this oatmeal unbaked, it is then ready to defrost then bake so it will be fresh and hot when we eat it!

Easy Brownies … I did some research and found that brownie batter does not freeze well, the butter separates when thawing, so it will not make a good brownie when baked, so for these I pre cooked them before freezing, then I will top with a chocolatey butter icing and chill before serving!

chocolate chip cookies … These I took the dough formed into balls using a small ice cream scoop and then placed each ball on a cookie sheet with parchment paper then flash froze them before placing the cookie dough balls into bags in the freezer… Add approximately 5 minutes cooking time to bake frozen cookie dough!

Chocolate, chocolate chip muffins … This is by far my most favorite muffin recipe from the great Nigella Lawson, I have made these with and without the cocoa powder and they are delicious every time! I baked these muffins before freezing in ziplock bags!

Easy, no knead cinnamon rolls … These were so good, be warned there is a lot of dough, I made three trays of gorgeous rolls, which is a good because one tray was so good it did not last in my house! I made these up to the point the rolls were made and risen in the trays, then I covered them with cling wrap and then froze them! I did cook up one tray and I changed the glaze to a more traditional cinnamon roll glaze… I added one cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of cubed room temperature butter, then add one teaspoon of vanilla essence with 3-6 tablespoons of boiling water mix until you get the desired consistency… Then pour over your lovely buns, serve and enjoy!

Easy, no knead pizza dough … This is an excellent, easy, delicious pizza dough, I made it to the point before it was risen, divided it into two balls, put them into ziplock bags and froze them, ready to defrost, then let rise in an oiled clingwrap covered bowl, roll out then bake. I have made this crust many times, it not only easy but once the dough is risen it keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days!

If you do try to fill your freezer in one day, be warned it is messy, something I don’t usually cope well with, time consuming… But totally worth doing, now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor… Well for a couple of days at least, until my hungry children get their hands on all that delicious food!

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My not so favorite things…

Menu plan for this week

California flatbread – page125 food network magazine
Green chili stew – page 152 food network magazine
Steak with spicy olive pesto – page 123 food network magazine
Big Greek salad – page 125 food network magazine
Turkey and rice stuffed peppers – page 125 food network magazine
Monday night red beans and rice – page 112 food network magazine
Spicy sausage ragu nachos with pickled onions – page 136 food network magazine

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This California flatbread was delicious, we made the pizza dough in the bread machine pizza dough recipe then instead of drizzling lemon juice over before serving I added the balsamic glaze from Trader Joes… So good, worth a try, and added a nice prelude to thoughts of Spring, coming soon!

My favorite things so far in 2013 are having my Mum here and sharing her birthday along with her, taking a photo every day so that I can look back over 2013, although some days I have forgotten (all photos can be seen on Instagram, my username is florrieflower) but I’m trying hard to keep to my resolution, my new lockable straining lid pasta pan from Costco and Trader Joes Coconut oil body butter, this is sooooo nice and so reasonably priced, after a hot shower it is wonderful to rub in over your body, the smell is divine and it leaves your skin silky smooth, something I desperately need in this freezing cold weather!

Things I am not liking so much in January is the cold snowy weather, I am so ready for spring to arrive, not being able to light a warm fire whilst we eat in the evening, due to our fireplace being under renovation, having deer standing on my doorstep when we are trying to get out our house and not having a working washing machine still… Trips to the laundromat are just not fun anymore and it is costing me lots of money, I have had friends offer me to use their machines… Thank you, but I’m not always in Madison at the moment, as you can imagine washing for 10 people can take up to 3 machines at a time in the laundromat, in fact yesterday we had 4 machines running, 2 extra large ones with dark and light colors, a red wash and then a white wash in the extra small machines, thankfully it was not busy unlike Sunday when you had to fight to get a washing machine, now that was a nightmare!

Well it’s a snow day here in a very white NJ, so after a 5.15am phone call and then a much needed lay in, I am off to put some cinnamon roll dough in my bread machine, (cinnamon roll recipe), then I am going to bake some vanilla sugar cookies… (vanilla sugar cookies)It just feels like I should be baking today and so that is what I am going to do!
Have a very warm winters Day!

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