Eggplant Pizza

Today is Day 8 of my clean eating challenge. I am down 3.6lbs, I can go 30 minutes on my exercise bike at resistance number 3, I am lifting 10lb weights, and I still want to eat everything in sight.

Seriously. I am so freaking hungry like 75% of the time. Not for anything good though, so I guess its not hunger, just cravings. I want pasta, and bread, and anything with gluten and carbs and sugar. But I am standing strong as of now.

We have been pretty busy for the past few days. I took the girls shopping for summer clothes, we did a work out at the park one morning, we did the grocery shopping, etc. etc. This weekend was extra fun because Wonderful Husband got to come home and we took the girls to a spring carnival at the school they will be attending when they are older.

The school is very small, only about 10 rooms total. Their cafeteria is also their gymnasium and auditorium. It was nice to see where the girls will go and meet some of the people and teachers they will be around. We didn’t stay long but Little Darling won some tokens for prizes and got a lollipop. She was happy. Afterwards we ran a few errands and came home so the kids could nap.

Sunday was an awesome day! We went to church in the morning, and then in the afternoon- My dad and I got matching tattoos!

The tattoo parlor that we always go to was having a fundraiser for a local music program called Popshop, they were doing walk in tattoos and the proceeds went to the program. They had about 25 different designs to choose from, all music themed. We went down, there wasn’t any wait, and we got a music note with a heart. It was so fun! Afterwards, we let the girls nap at his house and then we went to the Chinese buffet where I got to try sushi. I actually liked it (despite being terrified of it for years) and ate 4 pieces!

Today we had some catching up to do since we were away most of the weekend. I still had to get the car inspected since we had transferred the registration to West Virginia, we had laundry and dishes and general tidying. Not to mention, there was a smoke alarm in the living room that has been chirping since Friday night.

Took the car in first thing, only took about 30 minutes and $15 for an inspection- score! We came home and pulled in the garage, as I was getting the girls out of the car I noticed it. The BIGGEST spider I have ever seen. Literally, the size of my palm. Perched on the wall by my car door. You can imagine the scene I caused. When I went back later to try and capture and relocate, he ran away. Another sweaty scene of me screaming like a small child. Now it’s somewhere in the garage, hiding, waiting for its revenge I’m sure. And probably breeding. Yuck.

After the spider incident, it was time for the smoke alarm. I got the ladder out, carried it upstairs, set it up, climbed 12 ft in the air (the only time I have hated our vaulted ceilings) and popped the battery out. Climbed down, folded up the ladder, and heard a chirp. What.

After an investigation, I realized it was actually the carbon monoxide detector that was chirping. You know, the one the is plugged into the wall, a foot off the ground. So I climbed back up the ladder, plugged the battery back in the smoke alarm, took the ladder down, carried it to the basement, put it away, and came back upstairs.

Chirp.

You’ve got to be kidding. Both batteries were going in both devices and I hadn’t noticed. Repeat ladder getting, battery popping, cursing. Hopefully the great room doesn’t catch on fire or fill up with poison gas, because we won’t know.

By that time I was exhausted and didn’t even want to think about dinner. Little Darling was begging for pizza all day, so I decided to indulge her. I made eggplant pizzas. They weren’t too bad, pretty similar to zucchini pizzas. Definitely not the same as gooey, delicious, bad-for-you pizza, but pretty ok. And even more than ok when you are on a calorie restricted, clean diet and are craving something cheesy and delicious.

I sliced my eggplant pretty early this morning, around 10am and let it sit, salted, on paper towels all day to try and combat the mushiness I often get when I make zucchini pizzas.

Enjoy!

Eggplant Pizza

1 Eggplant
Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella
Cheddar

  1. Slice your eggplant into 1/2in slices, sprinkle with salt and set on a paper towel for at least 20 minutes. Blot with paper towels to remove excess water.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with oil, lay your eggplant in a single layer and spray the tops with oil.
  3. Bake 20 minutes.
  4. Spoon sauce onto the tops of the eggplant and top with Mozzarella and cheddar (we also did a few with pepperoni)
  5. Bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is melty.

Enjoy! If I did my calorie counting correctly, you get 4 slices for about 250 calories. I am hoping I can stay strong this week and keep on track with my diet. The work outs are getting much easier, and I don’t dread them as much. The cravings are intense at times, but mostly manageable. Wish me luck!

Maple Mustard

Yes.

This recipe tastes as exactly as amazing as you would think it does.

As I am sitting here, scooping it down by the pretzel-full, I got to thinking that I should probably share this with the world. No need to be greedy (more like I want you to make your own because I ain’t sharin’).

It definitely could use some tweaks and improvements, so I am totally open to tips and tricks.

A few weeks ago, MIL and I took the girls on the Maple Taste and Tour. You drive around to all the local Sugar Camps (places where people tap maple trees and make maple syrup), to learn the different processes everyone uses and taste their specialties. It is really fun, and education. Not to mention, free food. Some camps had maple sugar cookies, maple fudge, kielbasa, beer, popcorn, etc. Only one camp had maple mustard.

It was AMAZING. We bought a jar and had it almost gone within just a few days. Now sugar season is over, and I am in a different state with no hope of buying more. But, I NEED IT. So I had to try and make my own. They made theirs with vinegar, egg yolks, dry mustard, and maple syrup (it was on the label) . I didn’t have access to dry mustard and FIL is constantly preaching about the dangers of raw eggs in food so I decided to play with it and this is what I came up with.

It does not disappoint.

Maple Mustard

2tbsp Spicy Brown Mustard
2tbsp Yellow Mustard
4tbsp Maple syrup
1/4 cup Sour Cream

Whisk together.

Devour like a starving African orphan.

It’s still pretty runny, so I need to find a way to thicken it up without detracting from the flavor which is on point. You can obviously add or subtract any amounts you want. Sometimes the spicy mustard gets a little overpowering and I have to add in a little extra syrup, most of the time I just dump the ingredients in without measuring and taste test until I get it how I like it.

Not only do I dip my pretzels in it, but I also recently used it as a marinade for chicken breasts and they were delicious! I added some garlic and salt/pepper to that recipe. It is so versatile and yummy! Not to mention super easy and keeps in the fridge for quite a while (not that I would know because I eat it all immediately)

I am already thinking that this will probably be in my Christmas baskets this year if I can figure out how to preserve it so it doesn’t need refrigerated.

So, go whip yourself up a batch, grab your closest dippable object, and enjoy!

Crockpot Apple Butter

With all my ventures into jelly making this summer, I never got the chance to make any type of butters. I have grape juice in my freezer that is for grape butter, and my FIL told me that I could use some of the apples he gave me to make apple butter, the pears for pear butter etc. But to me, “butter” is a scary term. Like it is somehow harder than making jelly, more time consuming, easier to mess up?

I don’t know, maybe I am just scared because FIL and Nana make apple butter to sell at the local craft festival every year and I don’t think mine would be up to par? (as my food is so rarely up to par with these people who have been doing it for decades)

However, I still had about 30 apples in my kitchen and they were getting to that sad soft state where neither the peeler nor the corer want to go through them easily and they are mushing everywhere. Little Darling has been eating apples for breakfast and lunch and snack for weeks now, and I couldn’t handle to peeling and coring and slicing necessary to continue with the dehydrator much longer. So, I decided to make apple butter.

I, obviously, found my recipe on Pinterest. You can find the original link here.

It was easy, straight forward, and I had all of the ingredients already hanging out in my kitchen. Yay!

Ingredients:

  • 6 apples of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar

 

Recipe:

  1. Core the apples and give them a rough chop.
  2. Place in slow cooker.
  3. Add cinnamon, water and both sugars.
  4. Gently stir.
  5. Close the lid and let this cook away for about 4½ hours on low.
  6. Check it periodicaly to make sure it is still moist and the apples are not dried out. Add more water as needed.
  7. Remove from Crock Pot after 4½ hours and place in a food processor or blender.
  8. Add a squeeze of lemon juice if you like.
  9. Puree until smooth.
  10. If the apple butter looks more like applesauce and doesn’t have the rich brown color, just place back in the crock pot and cook for another hour or so on high heat. Leave the Crock uncovered and check it often.

 

I doubled the recipe and used about 15 smallish apples. I let it go in my slow cooker almost all day on a low/warm setting. I didn’t have to add any extra water and I even ended up leaving my lid off for a couple hours to let some of the steam evaporate and get it to thicken up. It browned up perfectly and looked like a delicious crock full of awesome when I realized that our blender broke last week and I had no way to puree the apples. Whoops.

It still tasted amazing, and I am so excited to use it in the future. I bagged it in a gallon ziplock bag and made a note on the baggie to blend it before we use it. Then I stuck it in the freezer for later.

So happy I didn’t have to waste any apples and very glad that I found a yummy, easy recipe to use them on! In the future I won’t be as scared to make butters. Pear season next year will be DELICIOUS!

 

 

The Roasty Toasty Bake and Freeze Day

I know it will come as absolutely no shock to anyone here that my in-laws gave me more food this weekend.

We are seriously so lucky. Our freezer is packed full and we have tons of dried goods in the cupboards. It is so nice to have family that is so willing to share their garden harvest with us, and to share their super market deals with us.

I never could have kept up with all of these things while I was working, so I count myself incredibly lucky to be home and be able to dedicate time to prepping food to freeze or dry and store. It truly saves us a fortune in groceries.

This week it was pumpkins and squash. I got two large pink pumpkins, two large spaghetti squash, and one small thing that might be a pumpkin or might be a squash but no one was really sure.

I also had my own pumpkin that I had grown in my garden.

Today I decided it was time to prep all the squash varieties living in my house and get them stored for winter.

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That huge green pumpkin? It is supposed to be pink, but for some reason it never turned. No one is really sure why, or even if it is going to taste ok. But far be it for me to turn down anything green.. or free… or pumpkin flavored.

I absolutely forgot to take any pictures after this. I got so involved in the process and getting things done that before I knew it the last pumpkin was in the oven and I don’t have a single picture to prove what I did. #firstworldproblems

I chopped the tops off the spaghetti squash and then split them in half and cleaned out the seeds. I roasted them for about an hour in the oven at 350 degrees

I did the same thing with the small pumpkin that nobody is even sure if it is a pumpkin.

When they were done and cooled I scraped the flesh out of the spaghetti squash and froze it, and I pureed the small pumpkin and froze it.

The large orange pumpkin got sliced and skinned and de-seeded and chopped into small pieces which I coated with a lemon salt/pink Himalayan salt mixture and put into the dehydrator. It isn’t done yet, so I have no idea if it is going to taste good or not.

The two pink pumpkins got cut in half (I had to have Wonderful Husband do this for me, and he actually chipped our super nice, expensive ceramic knife, so be careful!), cleaned out, and roasted at 400 degrees for an hour each. Then they got pureed and frozen.

I saved a small amount of seeds from each vegetable and put them in baggies to be planted next spring. The rest of the seeds are drying and will get roasted tomorrow. Yummmm!

Now, this winter I can make a pumpkin soup, and pumpkin pies and really anything else pumpkin I need or want to make. And we can have spaghetti squash for dinner several nights! We will have a nice satisfying snack with the seeds, and If the dried pumpkin works out then we will have a healthy snack food, if not then I will know not to dry pumpkin ever again.

I am so excited that I was able to use these pumpkins and squash! It makes me feel so good to know that they didn’t go to waste and that we were able to save some money by being self sufficient. It is truly worth the time and effort (although, my fingers are really aching from cleaning so many seeds out of all those pumpkin guts) to know where your food is coming from and to use every possible part of a food.

These pumpkins would have been $4 a piece at the store, and spaghetti squash is a dollar a piece itself. That is a savings of about $20, just from the generosity of my family. And the ability to make snacks, meals, desserts, and more.

I will make sure I report back on the dried pumpkin and whether or not it is worth trying again!

Dried Bananas

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My mom and I have been having a wonderful time with our dehydrators. I never knew the satisfaction you could get out simply drying food. It is just so wonderful to know that you are preserving food that would otherwise go to waste and you are going to be able to store it and keep it and eat it in the future instead of throwing it away. When you see a good deal you can snatch up a lot and not have to worry about eating it before it goes bad.

Last week my mom ended up at a grocery store that was having a huge produce sale so she brought me bananas, oranges, and limes. I immediately dehydrated all of the bananas.

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They are freaking delicious. My mother and FIL hated them, but I have been snacking on them regularly and really wish I had more bananas to dry!

I am still working my way through all of the apples we have, I load up the dehydrator almost every night before bed and let it run for about 12 hours, then all I do is take the contents out and put them in bags. It is so easy! and this food is good for, like, ever.

I would definitely say a dehydrator is worth the money, although we didn’t have to pay for ours, it was given to us by Wonderful Husbands parents. Even if we had paid for it ourselves it has more than paid for itself already because I use it almost every night and have saved a ton of money on fruits that otherwise would have been in the trash.

What are some of your favorite dried foods?

 

 

Cake Bakin’ Stepford

I have had an amazing day! Sometimes, life just comes together in beautiful symmetry and you are in the mood to do stuff and you have the ingredients to make stuff and the baby is behaving and it all just works.

This morning did not start out that way at all…

We got up at our normal time but instead of having our morning bottle in bed, I brought Little Darling downstairs to her highchair and let her have some Cheerios and her bottle there. I have been starting to mix some whole milk into her morning and evening bottle to get her ready to wean at the end of the year. Breakfast went well. She was happy, I was happy.

After breakfast I decided we needed to get a shower. I have been introducing her to showers since they are slightly less messy than baths and easy for us to take together, thus answering the question of what to do with the baby while I shower on the days she wakes up before I do. She loves playing in the water and splashing around on the bottom of the tub, I enjoy not wondering what she is getting into while I am indisposed. Everybody wins.

I got the shower going and started undressing Little Darling. After she was down to her diaper, I went about getting myself ready to get in. I took my eyes off of her for all of about 3 seconds while I took my shirt off. She managed to flip the full length mirror onto herself, its not hung because the bathroom isn’t finished yet. Thankfully, it isn’t really heavy and it mostly just scared her, but she fell backwards and hit her head on the floor and the mirror landed on her arm. She was screaming and crying and shaking and holding on to me like the world was ending. It was fun. Let me tell you.

I managed to get my clothes and her diaper off and we got into the shower. She instantly perked up and began playing in the shower spray and completely forgot that just two minutes she was near death. I finally unglued her from my hip and got her to play on the tub floor while I indulged in some hot water and shampoo. As I am rinsing my hair, she crawls in between my legs and looked up. Shampoo right in the eyes, of course. More screaming, more crying. It just wasn’t my morning.

Everything got better after her morning nap. She was much happier and had completely forgotten the disasters of the morning. I was in the mood to work on some food so we got to work. I got my butternut squash in the oven to roast. All I did was slice it in half, clean out the guts and seeds, sprinkled each half with some lemon salt and put a slice of butter on top.

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In the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour. Then all I had to do was remove the skin, chop up the flesh, and get it into the freezer. I now have 4 squashes in my freezer to make some delicious soups this winter.

After the squash, I still wasn’t satisfied with my kitchen time, so I cleaned all the pomegranates I had bought at the Aldi sale and put those in the freezer too. Then I got to thinking that I should bake something with those pomegranate anils.

I poked around on Pinterest for a while looking for an easy recipe and finally decided to just make one up. The result was delicious, moist, protein packed pomegranate cranberry cake!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup greek yogurt (I used vanilla because that is what we had)
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 -1.5 cups pomegranate anils

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Recipe:

  • Mix it all together and put it in an 8×8 pan
  • Bake for 45 min to 1 hour

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This cake was delicious! It was so moist and flavorful. I would love to use unsweetened cranberry juice and plain greek yogurt next time to cut down on the sugar, and use cranberries instead of pomegranates to make it a true cranberry cake. Maybe as a holiday dessert? I may also try putting it into a 9×13 pan because the 8×8 took FOREVER to bake and I was concerned the edges were getting to dark while the inside was still complete goo. I added a glaze to the top, just powdered sugar with some melted butter and a few splashes of milk, to make it pretty.

The vanilla yogurt has 20 grams of protein per cup, so you are getting a healthy dose of protein when you eat it, you can almost feel good about taking a second slice. Which I guarantee you, you will want to. It was all I could do not to eat it all in one sitting.

Chicken Fried Rice

I was feeling really hungry last night for dinner. Since I spent most of the week sick and living on hot tea and saltine crackers I was craving something good and delicious from dinner. What I really wanted was for Wonderful Husband to stop at the Chinese place on the way home and bring home several orders of deep fried grease general tso’s with pork fried rice and crab rangoon. Instead, I decided to make chicken fried rice.

Healthier, cheaper, and arguably easier.

Here’s what I used:
Coconut Oil3 Chicken Breasts
1 onion
1 spoon of garlic
1 bag frozen peas
1.5 sweet potatoes (diced)
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 cups cooked rice

Here’s what I did:
I put some coconut oil in my largest frying pan, put the three chicken breasts into a medium sized pan, and the rice into the microwave. I sauteed the chicken with a little bit of butter and salt and pepper. I put the garlic, onion, peas, and sweet potatoes into the large frying pan with the oil and sauteed them, covered, until the potatoes were tender.

When the chicken was done, I cut it up into little chunks and added it to the frying pan with the veggies. When the rice was done I added it as well. When everything was all mixed up, I dumped in the soy sauce.

This turned out dramatically well. We both ate two platefuls. I would actually have liked it to have had more soy sauce, but it was really good as it was.

I will definitely make this again, and it is totally customize-able with whatever you have on hand. A much better alternative to wasting half a pay check on take out!