Eat Clean Challenge, Week Two Recap

Hello All!

Today I’m going to give you a quick update on my second week of the Eat Clean Challenge of August. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out last week’s post here. Week two was pretty good.  I can’t say I feel miraculously different or anything, but remember, I’m not being super strict about this, just trying my best to really cut back on the processed foods.

Here’s what I’ve been eating during week two:

Breakfasts:  I’ve been having Overnight Oats every day for week 2.  I alternated between peanut butter and fruit (either strawberry or banana) and sliced almonds and fruit (blackberries or raspberries).  Overnight Oats are so easy and so tasty. I love that I can make them ahead of time (I make a week’s worth at a time).  You can do pretty much any flavor combo you want too, so the possibilities are endless.  Check out this super simple recipe to make your own Overnight Oats.
Overnight Oats, (healthy)Vittles&Bits

Snack: Still munching on almonds and string cheese :-)

Lunch:  For lunch this week I made a very simple Cucumber and Chicken Salad, and also packed 2 hard boiled eggs to go along with that.

photo

This was super easy.  I just used 2 cucumbers, diced, about 1 pound of chicken, shredded, about 20 cherry tomatoes, halved, 1 cup of Feta cheese, and then I used a few squirts of Gazebo Room Greek Dressing, light.  It was very fresh tasting and great to pack for lunch at work.

Dinner: I had planned on making a simple Tilapia and Roasted Brussels Sprouts dinner for this week, but honestly I had enough food left over from last week that I didn’t need to.  I ended up finishing off the Slow Cooker Thai Chicken and the Zucchini “pasta” with ground turkey from last week.
photo 1 (7)photo (31)Although, lately “Seafood Thursday” has become a fun and delicious weekly event in my house, so this Thursday the tradition continued with some delicious salmon and roasted veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant):
photo(2)

I’m looking forward to next week because Thursday is my birthday!!! So you know there will be some cheating going on (I fully plan on having S’mores for birthday dessert).  I’ve definitely been enjoying myself so far though this month. It’s nice to have something different to look forward to for lunch each week.  For about the past 6 months I had eaten the same thing each day for lunch (spinach salad with chicken, feta, and avocado), and I didn’t mind it, and I honestly looked forward to it each day because it is delicious, but it’s kind of fun to have something new each week.  And I’m definitely eating more fruits and veggies than I normally do, which I feel really good about.  I’ll fill you in next week on week 3 of the challenge!

photo(3)Here’s a fun picture of Luna for you, just because she’s so stinking cute :-)

Eat Clean Challenge, Week One Recap

Hello Friends!

As I mentioned in my last post, in August I started doing an Eat Clean Challenge. No, this isn’t some official challenge that’s going on in social media circles. It’s just something I thought I would try to see what would happen.  I’m on the lookout for any changes in my mood, skin, digestive system functioning, sleeping patterns, etc.  Also, disclaimer: I’m not being super super strict about it, but trying to do the best that I reasonably can (which is difficult at times).

So, what does “clean eating” really mean?  Well, I don’t think there’s a definitive definition, but the phrase ” clean eating” usually refers to eating primarily whole foods (ie. cutting out as much processed food as you can).  In today’s busy world, it would be pretty hard to do this 100%, as you would have to make absolutely everything from scratch, which if you’ve got a full time job and a social life, you probably don’t have time to do.  If you want a decent article that summarizes the Clean Eating movement, here’s one from Cooking Light.

In laying out my month of food, I first had to decide what I wanted to count as “processed” and as “whole”.  For me personally, I think that really, if a food has been manipulated in some way by machinery, and/or if it’s had lots of ingredients added to it (sugar, salt, preservatives, colors, etc), then it’s a processed food.  I wanted to eat mostly foods that came out of the ground (or animal) pretty much the same way that they appeared in my kitchen.  This meant lots of fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, nuts, and I allowed myself to have dairy products (cheese and plain Greek yogurt).  The dairy was kind of a confusing call for me, as honestly I don’t really consider cheese or yogurt as unprocessed, because there is some processing involved there, but I wasn’t going to be that picky about it.  Other things I let myself cheat with include dark chocolate (not candy bars or anything, but I do enjoy 1 or 2 plain dark chocolate squares a day), salad dressing (maybe someday I’ll get fancy and make my own, but not this month), butter spray (I know this is a weird one, but I use it on my popcorn, which i’ve been popping myself with my nutritional yeast flakes), spices and spice mixes (I’m not really sure where spices fall on the processing spectrum, but I can’t grow an herb to save my life, so store bought spices it is), and here and there I’ve given in and had something that was not a whole food (example, my boss brought in homemade zucchini blueberry bread, and I did have a small slice because who could resist that?).  I’m really not being crazy limited, but I am trying to really minimize the processed stuff.

Because I know myself, I knew that this did not have a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding if I didn’t spend a few hours on the weekends food prepping for the week.  So the last week in July, I sat down and planned out the first two weeks of my challenge, and came up with grocery lists.

Here was the plan for week one:

Breakfasts: Mini Crustless Quiches
Mini Crustless Quiches, (healthy)Vittles&Bits
AM snack: almonds and string cheese

Lunch: Taco Salad with ground turkey
photo (30)

Easy, Ground Turkey Taco Salad for Lunches

Easy, Ground Turkey Taco Salad for Lunches

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs lean ground turkey
  • 2 packets taco seasoning (lower sodium if desired)
  • 1-2 heads iceberg lettuce
  • grape tomatoes (at least a pint)
  • 2 green peppers
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pkg shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • light sour cream

Method:

  1. Over medium heat, brown the ground turkey. Drain off the fat. Add the taco seasoning packets and water as listed on the packet instructions and simmer for at least five minutes per packet instructions.
  2. Dice the green peppers, onion, and cucumber and mix together. Store this in a container.
  3. Each morning to assemble a salad, I tore off a wad of iceberg lettuce and shredded that with my fingers into a sizeable container. Layer a handful of the pepper/onion/cucumber mixture on top of the lettuce. Slice about a handful of grape tomatoes in half and place on top of the salad. Sprinkle 2-4 Tbsp of shredded cheddar on top of your veggies. Place a dollop of sour cream on top.
  4. In a separate container, place 4-6 oz of the ground turkey meat.
  5. Then, come lunch time, all you need to do is heat the container with the meat in the microwave and then mix it into your salad. Done!

Notes

This amount of meat and veggies made 7 huge salads for me :-)

http://www.healthyvittlesandbits.com/2014/08/12/eat-clean-challenge-week-one-recap/

Dinner: Thai Peanut Chicken with sauteed green beans
photo 1 (7)
Thai Peanut Chicken

Thai Peanut Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3 bell peppers (I did one red, one yellow, and one orange)
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar (white or rice wine)
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Method:

  1. Slice peppers into thin slices and place in crock pot.
  2. Cut chicken into relatively bite sized pieces and layer on top of peppers.
  3. Add in the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Turn your slow cooker on to low for about 6 hours or until chicken is cooked through and peppers are tender.
  5. Give everything a good stir and you're good to go!
http://www.healthyvittlesandbits.com/2014/08/12/eat-clean-challenge-week-one-recap/

photo 2 (6)For the green beans, I just used a bag of frozen beans, zapped them in the microwave for 5 minutes, then sauteed in some garlic olive oil, marjoram, salt, and lemon pepper.

OR Zucchini Pasta with Ground Turkey and tomatoes (similar to the linked recipe but with just a little garlic olive oil instead of the avocado sauce)
photo (31)
PM snack: popcorn with nutritional yeast flakes and/or dark chocolate square(s)
photo (32)This might sound weird, but I assure you it’s delicious.  You can buy plain unpopped kernels, and then you just pop them in a brown paper bag in the microwave (I do 3 Tbsp kernels for 3 minutes).  Then I love to spray some no calorie butter spray on the popcorn and shake some Nutritional Yeast Flakes on top.  Haven’t heard of NYF’s?  They look like dust and taste kind of like cheese (sounds appetizing, right?). A lot of vegans used them to give foods a cheesy flavor.   Also, they have some great nutritional benefits. If you’re curious you can read more about it here.

I am happy to report that I did pretty well staying on track my first week.  I did spend like six hours cooking on Sunday, but it was necessary so that I had easy, ready-to-go meals throughout the week.  And I even have some food leftover for week two (you’ll be getting the Week 2 Recap next week).

So, what have I found so far with my challenge?  Well, I’m not sure I feel much different.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel good, but I’m not sure I could say with certainty that I feel better than I did before.  I have had good amounts of energy this past week, and I haven’t really had any “highs” or “lows” that you get from eating really sugary foods, so that’s been nice.  Can’t say I’ve noticed changes in my mood or my skin, but I’m only a week in.  (i’ve also been tweaking my skin care routine and using more natural products, so I’ll have to report on that in a month or so). One unexpected thing that’s been nice, is that in the past two weeks I’ve actually spent less on groceries.  I thought it would be pretty pricey for all the fresh produce, but so far I’ve spent about 50 dollars each week on food. And of course I haven’t really gotten any restaurant or take out food so I haven’t spent money there like I normally might have.  I’m actually quite proud that I haven’t had any diet soda during this week. Not that I drink a ton of it normally, but probably one or two a week.  I’m drinking mostly water and tea (and the occasional glass of red wine – there are antioxidants in wine so it’s healthy, right ;-)  ).  The only thing I really miss so far, is my PB and J wrap in the mornings, but since wheat and jam are both processed, wraps are out for this month.  I’m going to see if I can squash this craving next week by having fruit and peanut butter Overnight Oats.  I’ll let you know if I’m successful :-)

So, what are your thoughts? Have you ever tried to Eat Clean? Do you think you could do it? Any tips for me???

Buffalo Chicken “Cupcakes”

‘Ello there mates!  Sorry for the weird – just in one of those moods…… anywho….

Today’s post is buffalo chicken themed, so of course it was bangin’ (yes, bangin’.  It’s a very sophisticated tasting term – look it up.)  And what could be better than buffalo chicken dip? Why of course, stuffing it into won ton wrappers that are shaped like cupcakes makes it better.  Der.

Buffalo Chicken "Cupcakes", (healthy)Vittles&Bits

Pretty, no?

The inspiration (or Pinspiration, i should say – get it?  Cause I found it on Pinterest?  Okay… you got it) for today’s recipe, came from Christy, the Girl Who Ate Everything.  I thought this was a genius idea and then just modified it a bit to suit my tastes (cause ya’ know I’m not really a big fan of blue cheese…).

It was actually really simple, and to save on cooking time for dinner, I prepped the buffalo chicken “dip” part of it the night before, so that all I needed to do for dinner when I got home from work, was to preheat the oven, stuff those little won ton wrappers into the cupcake tin, fill with the dip, and pop those babies in the oven.  Super simple.  Which is, of course, the greatest. Cause who wants to spend three hours after work making dinner?  Not this girl.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  Moving on….

Buffalo Chicken "Cupcakes", (healthy)Vittles&Bits

Look at them…just bursting with orangey goodness :-)

Buffalo Chicken “Cupcakes”

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 24 "cupcakes"

Serving Size: 1 cupcake

Buffalo Chicken “Cupcakes”

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken breast
  • 8 oz (1/3 less fat if desired) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup light (not fat free) Ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (such as Frank's Red Hot)
  • 1 (8 oz pkg) shredded cheddar cheese (reduced fat if desired)
  • 2 large celery stalks, cleaned and diced
  • 1 pkg won ton wrappers (at least 48 wrappers - usually you can find these in with the refrigerated produce)

Method:

  1. Boil chicken in a large pot of water (cover chicken breasts with water) for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Let cool. Shred the chicken into little pieces just by pulling it apart with your hands and place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the cream cheese, Ranch, hot sauce, about half of the shredded cheddar, and the diced celery to the mixing bowl. Mix together until everything is well blended and you don't have any big chunks of cream cheese or anything.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray two muffin tins with non stick spray.
  4. Carefully layer the won ton wrappers into the muffin tins. I used two won ton wrappers per "cupcake". You just want to get them in there so that you've got as much of the outside cupcake area covered as possible, so they will overlap a little in the middle. See photos below if I didn't word that as clearly as I meant to.
  5. Scoop a few spoonfuls of the "dip" mixture into each won ton cupcake. You should have just enough "dip" for 24 "cupcakes".
  6. Sprinkle a little shredded cheddar onto the tops of the cupcakes, using the rest of your cheddar cheese.
  7. Bake, uncovered in the oven for about 18-20 minutes. You want the edges of the won ton wrappers to be crispy and browned, but not burnt.
  8. Let cool for a few minutes and then use a knife if needed to pry the cupcakes easily out of the tins, and enjoy!

Notes

For 1 cupcake: 140 kcal, 5g FAT, 10g PRO, 10g CHO, 0g Fiber, 1g Sugar

http://www.healthyvittlesandbits.com/2014/07/30/buffalo-chicken-cupcakes/

Here is a photo of how I layered the won ton wrappers into the cupcake tins (as you can see, it’s not really an exact science, just try to cover as much of the cupcake area as possible, and gently press the wrappers down into the tin wells):

Buffalo Chicken "Cupcakes", (healthy)Vittles&Bits

 

Here they are filled with the innards and topped with cheddar cheese, just waiting to go into the oven:

Buffalo Chicken "Cupcakes", (healthy)Vittles&BitsAnd then here they are fresh out of the oven, cooling down before I dug in:

Buffalo Chicken "Cupcakes", (healthy)Vittles&Bits

 

I shared some of these with my coworkers, and they were a big hit.  I was also asked to bring them to the next food-worthy function we have at the office, so you know they are super tasty (and relatively healthy if you check out the nutrition info posted above with the recipe :-)  )

Buffalo Chicken "Cupcakes", (healthy)Vittles&BitsSo, what do you guys think?  Do these look tasty?
I certainly think so, but then again maybe I’m biased because I made them ;-)

Also, just a heads up, I’ve decided that for the month of August, I’m going to do an “Eat Clean Challenge”, where I try my best to eliminate as many processed foods out of my diet as I can, to see what happens.  Now, bear in mind I won’t succeed 100%, because to eat ZERO processed foods just isn’t realistic for me from a time/money stand point right now, but I’m going to do my best to cut back as much as possible.  I’ll elaborate more on this with my next post (hopefully next week, after I’ve started), and I’ll be talking about what I’m preparing/eating, how I’m feeling, my macronutrient totals (going to try track my intake in myfitnesspal to make sure I’m getting enough protein and such), and what, if any, changes I’m noticing in my mood, body, energy, skin, etc.  No, I don’t have a particular reason for doing this, I was just feeling like a change, and a challenge, and this meets both criteria.  Now….. anyone wanna join me???  If you’re on board this train to better health, leave me a comment and let me know what changes you’re going to make.  I love hearing from you guys :-)