Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Freezer Meals: Take 1

So, my sister and I decided we wanted to make a bunch of freezer meals to have on hand and reduce our cooking time/cleanup throughout the month. I was expecting it to be easy peasy. Turns out it takes a long time and you are exhausted after cooking all day. But, after enjoying the fruits of my labor I can now say that it was totally worth it. And I am planning on doing it again! We tried to stick with "clean eating" recipes. Next time I want to venture out into some more gluten-free options. I already am planning my menu for the next big freezer meal cooking day! So without further ado, here are the recipes we used and some tips and tricks for along the way.

Super Bean Burritoes
(Vegetarian and super yummy, great for grab and go lunches or dinners when you are really rushed for time)

Baked Manicotti
(This one was excellent and also vegetarian, my only complaint was that I wish I would have made it into 2 smaller pans instead of 1 big pan because my family is smaller)
-For this one we didn't use the sauce recipe, instead we put a pre-made sugar-free marinara sauce in its place and it was excellent and cut down on prep time. I find mine at Costco (Kirkland brand or White Linen Collection)

Chicken Parm Casserole
(I haven't had this one yet, but it did smell delicious when making it. I plan to put it over rice or noodles)
-We used a rotisserie chicken from Costco as well as marinara from there as well for this and it was probably the easiest meal to put together!

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chili
(I haven't had this one yet but it was also super easy to put together and also a vegetarian option if you use vegetable stock)
-We didn't put the quinoa in with the other ingredients. We left that out and plan on adding it when we cook it in the slow cooker the day of.

Lara's Enchiladas
(This is my sister's recipe and a super easy, quick, yummy meal. I made this in 2 small batches)

-Rotisserie chicken
-Softened block of cream cheese
-Red mild enchilada sauce
-Black olives, chopped
-1 packet taco seasoning (We used my premade seasoning from previous post)
-1 small can of green chiles
-Shredded cheese of choice (monterey jack is great, mexican blend, cheddar, its up to you)

Place all ingredients in a bowl and use a hand mixer or stand mixer to mix everything together. It isn't precise because we have never measured. Pour enough enchilada sauce to give it taste but not too much so that the filling is a runny mess. Put the filling in tortillas, roll up, and put in a pan. Freeze. Save a small can of enchilada sauce to go on top and extra cheese as well. To bake: Thaw in fridge, pour sauce and cheese over top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until the sauce and cheese is all bubbly and delicious.

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
(Um, SO good, I even forgot to add lime to mine and they still turned out amazing!)
-We used a rotisserie chicken for this one as well. I will for sure make this one again. Loved it.

Dressed Up Sloppy Joes
(I loved this one as well. It reminded me a lot of my mom's sloppy joe recipe, you could also use ground turkey if you like)

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
(I lied, this one was probably the easiest to throw together!)
-Make the coleslaw they recommend the day you make this. I hate coleslaw and I couldn't get enough of their's!

(I have made these before and they are probably my favorite meatball recipe that I have ever tried. I will probably make these every time we have a big freezer meal day because they are so yummy!)

Okay, so it took us 5 hours to do all of this (it was our first time and I think next time will go much quicker...I hope). I was able to break these up into smaller portions for my family and got about 30 meals out of all of this! It has made this month SO easy when it comes to cooking and cleaning...I HATE cleaning...

My tips:
-If a recipe calls for chicken, get a rotisserie chicken from Costco. For reals. It tastes delicious and cuts down on prep time! Plus they are so cheap!
-For sauces, find clean pre-made ones! Don't take the time to make them from scratch. It isn't worth it. Seriously pre-made marinara is amazing, USE IT!
-Make sure you label bags before you put food in. Trust me! I labeled everything and put instructions on how to cook everything on the bag, plus extras I may need to eat (such as buns for the pulled pork, etc)
-Get disposable tinfoil pans for items that won't fit in a bag. I got a few smaller (8X8) and a few larger (9X13). Because my family is smaller than my sister's (she has 5 kids), we ended up with different portion sizes. Next time I will for sure make mine into smaller portion sizes and skip using the larger pans.
-My last suggestion: Find someone to do it with you! It makes it so much easier if you have someone working on it with you because you can break down jobs and each of you could focus on 1 recipe for the both of you. Highly reccommend this one!

Have you ever done a freezer meal cooking day before? We honestly were beat by the end of the day and our feet were killing us. I also was questioning whether it was worth it. After 1 week of enjoying freezer meals, I can happily report that it was totally worth it. Now I just need a bigger freezer because I am a bit obsessed...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

DIY Seasoning Packets

I have seen these floating around Pinterest for awhile now and had good intentions of doing them myself. I just never got around to it. Today I finally crossed it off my list and I felt super accomplished afterwards. Then I took a nap. Because that is how I roll.

I chose these particular mixes because they are the ones I use the most. Taco seasoning is almost a weekly usage in this house. Dry onion soup mix is my favorite for crockpot roasts or great for dip. Ranch dressing mix because I could drink ranch dressing (and by the amount I consume, I pretty much do just drink it). And Zesty Italian Dressing mix I love for a rub on roasts or chicken. I have never actually made the dressing for that one. Basically all 4 are awesome flavor enhancers. But the packaged ones are full of MSG, sugars, and other nasty stuff that just AREN'T needed in our diet. All of mine are also gluten free (which, yes we eat gluten in this house but these DON'T need gluten so why add it??)

There are a million and one different versions of each of these but I whittled it down to ones I thought looked the best and also omitted the sugar (because, duh, we don't need more sugar in our lives). All of these are Whole30 friendly as long as you use the best spices (watch for any unwanted ingredients, like sugar or gluten, in the spices you use, only use the best!).

I scaled these recipes to fit a wide mouth pint sized jar.

Taco Seasoning 
I used Rubies and Radishes recipe. No changes. It is by far my favorite. I discovered it on Whole30 and almost ate an entire pan of taco meat before I served it to my family because it was so delicious. I just multiplied her recipe by 6 in order to get enough to fill my pint sized jar.

I would use 2 Tablespoons per pound of meat.

Dry Onion Soup Mix
I used the recipe from Stockpiling Moms, but omitted the sugar. This one smelled so good and I am really excited about the turmeric in it. I feel like it will give such an awesome added flavor boost. I would double this recipe.

4 Tablespoons equals 1 package of dry onion soup mix.

Ranch Seasoning Mix
I used the recipe from Gimme Some Oven for this one. I omitted the dried buttermilk. Because of this you are going to need to multiply the recipe by about 5 to get enough to fill your pint jar.

3 Tablespoons are equal to 1 packet.

To make homemade ranch mix 1 Tablespoon of the seasoning with 1/3 each mayo and milk.

Zesty Italian Dressing Mix
I liked the recipe from I Believe I Can Fry the best. I omitted the sugar and the red/green bell pepper mix (because it was optional and I couldn't find it).

2 Tablespoons equals 1 packet.

To make the dressing (which I never have but maybe I will now?) you mix 2 Tablespoons of the seasonings with 2 Tablespoons water, 1/4 cup vinegar, 2/3 cup oil, best if chilled in the fridge for a few hours.

So there you have it. Now stop perusing Pinterest for the best ones out there...because I already did that for you. Let me know if you try this! I would love to see! As always, you can follow me on Instagram @darcieats (where I post much more frequently but am trying to post more here too!).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Whole 30 Round 2 Day 1

I am back!! I took a hiatus for awhile because we were gone for pretty much all of July. We were also in places that didn't have internet. It was awesome. But now I am back and ready to get on my blogging train again. Good news folks...I started another Whole30! Yup, documenting it right here ladies and gents as well as new recipes coming your way. I am so excited to share it with you all again. So...why the heck am I doing another round of Whole30? A few reasons:

1. I ate like CRAP at all our family reunions this summer. I enjoyed myself but my body was NOT happy with me.
2. I LOVE the way it makes me feel.
3. I really feel like I need to reset my gut again after the sugar induced coma I put myself into multiple times in July.
4. I want to get back on track with clean eating before the busy life of Fall and Winter starts.

So are ya ready?? If you have Instagram, you can follow me @darcieats where I post daily. SO! Here we go!

Day 1:

Meal 1: Roasted veggies, hardboiled egg, avocado, strawberries

This morning I roasted a big batch of veggies and hardboiled a bunch of eggs so I used that as my meal so I didn't have to cook anything else. It was good. In other news, I am so bomb at hardboiling eggs! It is an art, I tell ya. Don't think otherwise. I used to over boil them and I had NO idea! Now I put them in the water, bring to a boil, as soon as the water is a rollling boil, put a lid on the pot and take them off of the heat. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Then plop them into some ice water for about 1-2 minutes. Bam. Perfect eggs every time.

Meal 2: Carrot fries with ranch, tuna salad over power greens

Not to be all braggy...but I make a DANG good tuna salad. Like for reals. I take pride in this baby.

Tuna Salad
-1 can of compliant tuna
-homemade paleo mayo (there are like a billion recipes out there, my favorites are HERE and HERE, I use avocado oil)
-1 large pickle, diced (if you really like pickles, add more)
-1 hard boiled egg, diced (yolk included)
-salt and pepper

Mix it all together I don't measure the mayo but just do a big spoonful, mix it up, and if you feel like it needs more, add more! I also don't measure seasonings (annoying, I KNOW), but just add a few shakes of each, mix it up, taste test, and add more if you need to. I usually add a bit more mayo than I would normally if I am going to serve it over greens just so it makes up for not having dressing.

Carrot Fries
-quarter your carrots (I used about 5 large carrots)
-2 T. Avocado oil
-1/2-1 tsp of salt

Line a baking sheet, preheat oven to 450. Toss the carrots in a bowl with the oil. Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes. These are great! They have a bit of crunch to them and are awesome dipped in ranch. My favorite ranch is from Planks, Love, and Guacamole. If you have already made your mayo, you don't have to go through the trouble of making hers. Just use her ratio of 2/3 cup mayo, 1/2 tsp each of sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, 1 T dried dill, 2 T coconut milk.

Meal 3: Leftover roast from Sunday (day before I started, had seasonings, beef broth, and veggies, slow cooked for 8 hours), cucumber, tomato, avocado salad (mix it up with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Italian Seasoning), and a side of peaches.

My Thoughts:

This round already seems SO much easier than round 1 because I know what to expect and I am SO much more confident in the kitchen. It makes a world of difference.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tami's Granola

I come from a family of good cooks but I also married into a family of good cooks. This recipe happens to be from my husband's cousin, Tami. I love Tami. She is such an amazing person and I was so excited when she shared this recipe with me because it was honestly the best granola I have ever had. Plus it is easy to switch things up to your liking. Don't like sesame seeds? Don't add them. Want it to be sweeter? Add a little more honey. Easy peasy. This also makes A LOT. It would be great to freeze a bag of it to keep it fresh and use later. My favorite way to eat it is with a little bit of milk and lots of strawberries. Mmmmm....

Tami's Granola
12 cups oats
1 Cup wheat germ or oat bran 
2 cups coconut 
2 cups raw sunflower seeds 
1 cup sesame seeds 
3 cups nuts (almonds roasted unsalted peanuts cashews walnuts pecans)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar 
1 cup water 
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey 
1/2 cup molasses 
1 1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoon cinnamon 
3 teaspoon vanilla 

I mix this together in 2 batches (just halve the recipe) because it is easier to mix and it fits in a big bowl. Preheat oven to 300 and line 2 baking sheets with tinfoil. Place both batches of granola on baking sheets. Bake for at least an hour, stirring and rotating about every 20 minutes. Bake it until the granola is to the consistency you like. 

PLG Fritatta

I have mentioned her before, but I LOVE Alanna from Planks, Love, and Guacamole. This girl is a food genius and all of her recipes are excellent. One of my favs from her is her frittata. It can be changed to whatever you have on hand and is great as leftovers. I can't seem to find her recipe online but she did post it on the @Whole30recipes instagram page. I posted her recipe HERE during my whole30. This time I used Aidell's chicken-apple sausage, red peppers, spinach, sundried tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. You can add anything really to this just make sure you saute up veggies that are uncooked (like the peppers, spinach, etc) before mixing them in. 

Pesto Chicken

One of my favorite quick and easy dinners is pesto chicken. I like to make pesto myself (that is a post for another day) but it is easy to just buy pre-made pesto from the store (I like Costco's Kirkland brand). 

Pesto Chicken
-Chicken Breasts cut in half lengthwise (or chicken tenderloins but I usually only have chicken breasts on hand)
-Pre-made pesto (check your ingredients to make sure it doesn't have anything funky added)
-Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese (optional)

Line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken on baking sheet, coat the top of the chicken with pesto. bake in the oven for 20 minutes or so (check after 15). Once the chicken is cooked through, turn your broiler on high, put cheese on top of the chicken (I like a mix of mozz and parm) and let the cheese melt. I like to serve mine over zucchini noodles (zoodles).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spicy Sweet Potato Hash

I woke up this morning wanting sweet potato hash. I love the stuff. It is filling and keeps me energized and full until lunch. I decided to go with a spicy dish this time around because I LOVE spicy food. Like for reals. Love it. Way more than anyone else in my little family. When I was pregnant with MJ I could only keep down baked potatoes. And then one month all I wanted was nachos with LOTS of jalapenos. I ate some almost every day for a month straight. Let's not even talk about the heartburn issues or the amount of Tums I went through that month. It was worth it. Maybe. Probably not. But man those pregnancy cravings are strong!

Okay, moving on.

Spicy sweet potato hash. Here ya go.

Dice 1/2 of a large white sweet potato (could use orange, I prefer white). Mince half a jalapeno.

Melt 2 big spoonfuls of ghee or heat your oil of choice in a pan. Toss in the potatoes and jalapeno. Season this as well and mix it all up to coat everything in your ghee/oil. I used chipotle chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

Saute it up until the potatoes are cooked through. I like to burn mine just a little because it gives it a caramelized taste and is super yummy. Top with an egg (I prefer runny yolk on hash). Breakfast is served.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hash

-1/2 large white sweet potato, diced
-1/2 of a jalapeno, diced
-2 large spoonfuls of ghee or oil of choice
- 1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
-onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper (add to your liking and taste)

Melt the ghee or heat the oil in your pan. Toss all the ingredients in and saute it up. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through. I like mine just a bit burnt because it caramelizes the potatoes. Top with an egg, preferably one with a runny yolk. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wrapped and Stuffed Medjool Dates

I found some Medjool Dates at Costco (duh, one of my favorite places). I wanted some for when I did Whole30 but was unable to find any at any store near me. So glad my Costco decided to step it up (found by the plums outside of the cold produce room).

Tonight USA soccer is playing in the World Cup. I am going to be real here...I don't care. And actually their team is currently playing. But Hubs wants to watch it (this is the only time he is ever interested in soccer) after he gets home from work. It is currently recording on the DVR as I type.

I have no interest in soccer. So I might as well make the meal we eat delightful so that I can enjoy something, right?

So, besides a side of veggies and possibly an arugula salad (haven't thought that far ahead yet), I am making some good stuff. First up is Lemon Pepper Buffalo Wings from Planks, Love, and Guacamole. I have mentioned this girl before. She is one of my very favorite to follow in Instagram (@planksloveandguacamole) and her food is ALWAYS delicious. Best part? Pretty much all her recipes are Whole30 approved. I followed her recipe exactly except I used drummies. I bought a huge pack of drumsticks at the grocery store today for $3. I LOVE drumsticks because they are so cheap and delicious! I am sure this would go well with any dark, bone-in chicken cut. You could do it for chicken breasts too. Such a good recipe and marinade! Go make some!! I would love to cook these up on the grill once we get one!

Now, for a creation of my own (full recipe at bottom of post). These involve the Medjool Dates I picked up at Costco. I mixed some minced jalapeno with softened cream cheese (PLEASE use full-fat cream cheese and full-fat dairy products as MUCH as you can! Fat-free or less-fat products always mean one thing: MORE CHEMICALS, better yet, use organic if you can find it and afford it!)

I sliced open the dates, took out the pit,

and stuffed them full of my cream cheese mixture. 

I then wrapped them with bacon and secured with toothpicks. My bacon was cut funny and was seriously falling apart on me. If your bacon is not falling apart on you, then I say cut it in half before you wrap. 

I then placed the wrapped dates on a rack over a lined (tinfoil) baking sheet. Place in a 425 oven for 20 minutes or until the bacon is cooked through. The great thing about these 2 recipes? They both back at 425, just different times. So you can cook at the same time, just put the dates in a little bit later.

Guys. These are sweet, spicy, and savory. They are so delicious! A great party food appetizer or fun weeknight side-dish!

Wrapped and Stuffed Medjool Dates
-6-8 medjool dates
-1/2 a block of cream cheese (4 oz), softened
-1/2 a jalapeno, minced (seeds and ribs removed)
-3-4 sliced of bacon, cut in half

Preheat oven to 425. Mix cream cheese and jalapeno. Slice open one side of a Medjool Date (hotdog bun style) and carefully remove the pit. Then fill the date with cream cheese mixture. Wrap with bacon and secure with toothpicks. Place on a rack over a lined (with tinfoil or parchment paper) baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the bacon is cooked through. Enjoy!!

Chia Pudding

I just got back from a fun weekend in Idaho with family. I ate like crap and am ready to get back on track with clean eating. So excited to be back in my own kitchen again! I am a big chia seed fan. They are great little seeds packed with nutritional goodness. I like to add some to my green smoothies to up the nutritional value. Never heard of chia seeds (besides maybe a chia pet)?

Chia seeds are good for you because:

-They are an awesome source for omega-3 fatty acid
-Great source of fiber (10 grams in about 2 tablespoons)
-Contain protein
-Contain minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium

I love these little guys! I have wanted to make chia pudding for awhile now and whipped this together last night before I headed to bed. This is a great recipe to make the night before because it is ready when you wake up.

Chia Pudding
-1 cup of milk (almond, coconut, whole, your choice)
-1/2 cup milk of choice and 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
-1/4 cup chia seeds (organic if possible)
-2 Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
-1 tsp. vanilla
-a pinch of kosher salt
-fresh fruit of your choice
-non sweetened coconut (optional)

Mix milk (or milk and yogurt), syrup, vanilla, and salt in a bowl. Cover and place in the fridge. Stir after an hour or so (if you have time). Keep in fridge for at least 4 hours, but is great to just keep overnight. Remove from fridge, mix to make sure there are no clumps. Add the pudding to a bowl with fresh fruit and other toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bob Beard's (Peperoncini Beef)

Quick reminder: Email updates directly to your inbox if you sign up for them over there --->

Also, I have a recipes page at the top and it has links to all my recipes. Okay! Now moving on...

We make this all the time in my family. One of my older sisters started making this for us and we all quickly put it into our meal rotations because it is good. It is great for a big family meal because it makes a lot of meat for pretty dang cheap. We call it Bob Beard's. The reasoning behind this is because my sister made this for her husband (I am not even sure if he is a huge fan of this dish or not). His name is Bob Beard. It stuck. Well that isn't really his name (or the name he goes by), but that is what this dish morphed in to. Now, whenever we have family dinners and someone says we are having Bob Beard's, well, we all know exactly what we are having. This is a great Sunday dish because you throw it in the slow cooker. I love slow cooker meals for Sunday because after we have gone to church we can come home to a delicious meal with minimal effort.

Get a beef chuck roast, season it with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning on both sides. Heat up some olive oil in a pan and brown both sides of the roast (you aren't cooking it through, just giving it some extra flavor and color). 

Toss the roast into a slow cooker and pour a jar of peperoncinis on top (juice included). I used the entire 16 oz jar and MJ said it was too spicy for her. Next time I will use half of the jar for her (but I prefer to use the whole thing). I like deli sliced for this recipe because when you shred the meat the peperoncinis mix in really well.

Cook on low for 8 hours. When it is done, shred the meat (it should just fall apart when touched) and place back into the slow cooker to soak up the juices. Serve. 

I served mine with this gorgeous wheat French bread I made. Recipe found HERE. I used just regular minced garlic instead of roasted because that is what I had on hand and didn't feel like roasting. It still tasted great but I would love to try it with the roasted garlic. 

I toasted the bread (no one likes soggy bread and this meat is juicy) and broiled mozzarella on top. 

The next day I had it as leftovers and made a sweet potato bun (use my sweet potato toast recipe but slice it so it is circular) so this version shown here is Whole30 approved. This meat freezes well, is great on salads, sandwiches, or on its own, not to mention full of flavor! Full recipe below.

Peperoncini Beef
2 or more lbs chuck roast (just make sure it fits in your slow cooker)
Italian Seasoning
16 oz. jar deli-sliced peperoncinis

Season roast with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning on both sides. Heat olive oil in pan and brown roast (only take 3-4 minutes per side or so). Put roast in your slow cooker. Pour peperoncinis over roast (use half if sensitive to heat). Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred when done and place meat back into slow cooker to soak up the juices. Serve. :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Crockpot Refried Beans

I really like Mexican/Tex-Mex food. I could eat it everyday. I LOVE beans and rice. Cheese smothered enchiladas and pork tacos from a legit taco truck are like heaven to me. Where Handsome and I grew up there were a lot of pretty good Mexican food joints around and they were actually owned and operated by people who knew how to cook authentic food. Oh man were they delicious! My favorite was the Taco Wagon. My friends and I would go there all.the.time. in highschool for lunch or for a midnight snack before heading home on the weekends. Their tacos were the best. And there was always the good taco wagon and the bad one. You had to make sure you went to the one that had a picture of Jesus in the window because it tasted way better than the other one. Oh I am drooling right now thinking about how awesome they are!! I love Cafe Rio and Costa Vida, but they are not real or authentic to me. They are delicious, don't get me wrong, but there truly isn't a good Mexican restaurant here in Utah. It is sad. Idaho has you on that one, Utah. Don't tell me Los Hermanos is a contender...because it isn't. Trust me.

I usually have a Mexican inspired meal on my menu every week or so. The ingredients are usually fairly healthy and cheap if you opt to make it yourself. One of my very favorite things to make is crockpot refried beans. Mmmm! These are WAY better than the canned version and they are so cheap. You can make a pot and freeze the rest for later. I like to serve mine on tostadas, tacos, burritos, as a chip or veggie dip, or on nachos. You can serve them with meat or make it a vegetarian meal (which is usually what I do, they are so yummy they deserve to be the star of the meal). Also, because this is a crockpot recipe, it makes life so easy! Set it and forget it until dinner time!

My recipe has one secret ingredient to it. I got this tip from Mel's Kitchen Cafe (great site and awesome recipes). I add a tablespoon of liquid from a jar of banana peppers to the mix. It gives a great little kick and awesome flavor!

Crockpot Refried Beans
Recipe by Darci Gardner

-2 cups dry pinto beans, washed and picked over
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. cumin
-1/2 tsp. pepper
-1/2 jalapeno (use the whole jalapeno if you like, I have little kids that don't like the extra spice), seeded and ribs removed, diced
-1 onion, cut in large chunks so you can easily remove them (I just cut mine in half usually)
-1 Tablespoon juice from a jar of banana peppers
-7 cups of water

Place all ingredients into a slow cooker. Turn on high for 8 hours. When time is up, remove onion from the crockpot. Remove extra liquid and mash everything with a potato masher or place in a blender and blend until the consistency you like. My blender is really powerful and so I usually mash these by hand. I like my beans to not be completely smooth. I am sure you could also use an immersion blender but I don't have one and have never tried it. You can reserve some of the cooking liquid and add it back in as needed to get to your desired consistency.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Almond Milk

Big announcement: The girl who thinks almond milk is disgusting MADE it herself and actually liked it.

This recipe is not mine (because I clearly have never made it before and had no idea what I was doing). I got it from the Blender Babes. It was excellent and easy. Well, I should rephrase that. It is easy if you are not a complete klutz. I was doing too much at once (helpings kids get lunch, making almond milk, doing the dishes, etc. etc.) and well...spilled mine EVERYWHERE. That is a case where crying over spilled milk is acceptable. That and pumped breast milk. Oh my gosh let's not even talk about the number of times I have spilled that liquid of gold.

Anyway, HERE is where the recipe is found. You can make it without any sweeteners or they give you options for that as well. I added honey and vanilla to mine because I mostly use mine for making smoothies and wanted a little bit of sweetness to it.

I plan on making this a lot because the store bought kind actually has a lot of extra crap in it. This one
only has almonds, water, honey, vanilla. Worth it. You can make it with only water and almonds if you prefer. It is really easy and not time consuming, but I use raw almonds and they need to be soaked for 12 hours before being blended. So really it just takes some extra planning, no real extra effort. 

So here we go!

Equipment Needed:
A good blender (I use a Blendtec)
Nut milk bag

Blender Babes Almond Milk Recipe

I would recommend using raw almonds instead of dry roasted. I feel like you get more nutrients from them that way but it is up to you!

I added 3 Tablespoons honey and 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Don't do this:

Do this:

Now, I am a self-proclaimed milk snob. I will not drink anything but whole milk if I can help it. I do not like store-bought almond milk. I think it is disgusting. This homemade version though...is growing on me. I am not going to go have a glass-full (not there yet), but I can see myself using this a lot in cooking and of course in our daily green smoothies. Give it a try!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Turkey and Black Rice Stuffed Peppers

I LOVE stuffed peppers. They remind me of home. It was always one of my favorite things that my mom would make growing up. I requested them often. So, in my quest to healthify my cooking, I wanted to conquer stuffed peppers. They are usually fairly healthy but I made a few tweaks to really up the nutritional value.

First of all, have you heard of Black Rice or its also called "Forbidden Rice" (apparently it was reserved for only Chinese Royalty back in the day, hence the name)? This superfood has more antioxidants in it than blueberries without all the sugar. HERE is an interesting article on it if you want to find out more about it. I picked it up at my local grocery store right next to the wild rice. That is saying something because my grocery store is horrible. Like seriously. So I am proud of it for actually carrying something I want!!

I cooked up a big batch of rice and stored it in my fridge earlier this week. The rice takes awhile to cook (45 minutes) so I would do this while you are cooking something else or have time to be in the kitchen for a bit. It stores well so no need to worry. Also, this rice is actually really deep purple and turns your water purple while you are cooking it. MJ thought that was awesome.

Handsome Hubs really likes this rice too. That is saying something because he is reluctantly joining me on this quest. He is a good sport and will eat anything I put in front of him but I know he is super tired of having brown rice all the time. He isn't the biggest fan. I was nervous for him to try it even! But he loved it and said he likes it way more than brown rice. It has a nice nutty flavor and doesn't get mushy as easily as brown rice. Okay, so moving on...here is the recipe! (full recipe with measurements at bottom of post)

Brown your turkey and throw your spices in with it. When your turkey is cooked through, drain if you need to (I didn't), and then throw in your rice and marinara sauce.

(Kirkland is my favorite brand of marinara sauce. It has no added sugar, all clean ingredients, its delicious and it is cheap. Thank you Costco.)

Cut your peppers lengthwise, clean them out, place in a glass pan with a bit of marinara sauce on the bottom (not much, maybe a couple tablespoons).

Fill your peppers with the filling (I pack mine in pretty full, its fine if they are heaping over a bit). Top with the marinara sauce (I used all that was left in my jar and you can then pour the rest around the peppers too).

Top with Parmesan cheese. Then cover with foil and place in your oven at 350 for an hour. 

Take the foil off for 5 minutes and let the cheese get bubbly. 

YUM! Bubbs kept saying "Mmm, mmm" every time he took a bite. And the hubs said: "These are bomb." So they must be good, right??

Turkey and Black Rice Stuffed Peppers
Recipe by Darci Gardner

1-1.5 lbs. ground turkey
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 cup cooked black rice
1 ½ cup Kirkland Marinara Sauce

2 Bell Peppers (I used red and yellow, you could use any color you like)
Kirkland Marinara
Parmesan cheese (optional)

For the filling, brown the turkey with the basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. When the turkey is cooked through, stir in the cooked black rice and marinara sauce. This just coats the filling with sauce, not drenching it. You will be putting more sauce on top so don’t worry, it won’t be dry.

Slice open 2 Bell Peppers (could do more, this filling could easily fill 4 bell peppers (8 halves), possibly more depending on size of peppers, I froze what I didn’t use). I slice my peppers from top to bottom. This allows them to cook faster and also they lay easier in the dish when cooking. I keep the stems on because well...they look pretty and it is less work for me. Clean out the seeds and ribs from the peppers. Place in a glass baking dish with a bit of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish (keeps food from sticking). Fill each pepper with filling. I really pack it in. Then dollop a bit of marinara sauce over the tops of each and, if you have any leftover, you can pour the remaining sauce around the peppers. Top the peppers with a bit of parmesan cheese if you like. Cover with tinfoil.

Bake in an oven at 350 for 60 minutes, covered with tinfoil. When peppers seem cooked through and tender, take off tinfoil and cook for another 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pantry: Clean out and beef up -- Amazon Style

I REALLY need to clean out my pantry (because it is a disaster zone and because it has a lot of foods in there that I am needing to get rid of that are FAR from "clean"). I won't toss everything out (I will allow the Hubs to keep his Oreos, and you KNOW I am not tossing our leftover Girl Scout cookies) but I am going to get rid of crackers and other things that I know I don't want anymore.

I am blessed with an amazing pantry. It was one of the reasons we bought our house. It is huge. It is bigger than our walk-in closet haha! But due to my love of cooking and hoarding of kitchen gadgets, it is getting a bit out of control. So, my goal this week is to organize, clean out, and get my pantry more "clean eating friendly".

So, the first step for me...buying more clean foods to cook with. You can't have a clean eating diet if you don't prepare yourself and set yourself up for success (which is one of the main things I learned during Whole30).

So here are a few items I have purchased (thank you Amazon) that are coming this week to fill my pantry with healthy options to cook with. My sweet friend Jess is slowly trying to change her pantry stock as well and I love her motto: "Baby steps!" It is so true. It costs a lot of money to replace what you normally use. SO I say, use what you have, and replace as you go if you need to. I am not going to throw away all of my white flour because that is just so wasteful to me and hurts my heart a bit, but I did mix it with my whole wheat flour and plan on using it up until it is out. Simple things like that can help to up your nutrition while you wait until you can purchase new things to replace your more unhealthy items.

Here are a few things I have started to fill my pantry with...

These items I already had on hand and usually always have stocked up:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown lentils
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Arrowroot Powder (Great for thickening soups, gluten-free)
  • Almond Butter (not my favorite on its own or with fruit, but is great to throw into smoothies)
  • Natural Peanut Butter (usually refrigerate this)
  • Ak Mak Sesame Crackers (I really like these with hummus or even a bit of cream cheese)
  • Onions (red and yellow)
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes
    • Sweet (orange and white)
    • Red potatoes
    • Russets
      • The hubs and I are both born and raised in Idaho. We have a deep love of potatoes and always will (especially Russets). Some people choose to not include these in their diet but they are a great and cheap source for carbs. We choose to keep them in our diet. To each their own. If you are overweight or have issues with Nightshades, you may want to avoid potatoes all together. 
  • Canned tomato products:
    • paste, sauce, diced, stewed are always in my pantry and ready to go (check ingredients!)
  • Canned tuna (I like Kirkland Albacore, check ingredients!)
  • Canned green chilies (great to add to soups or meats, especially slow cooker meats, check your ingredients!)
  • Canned blueberries
    • These were a purchase from my husband's cousin. She runs an amazing group buy and is an expert when it comes to food storage (us Mormon's are really big into food storage). These blueberries are amazing and are packed in only water. Great for baking or throwing in smoothies. I love them.
  • Honey
  • Cox's Creamed Honey
    • LOVE raw creamed honey. It makes it easy to spread on sandwiches for the kids and tastes so light and delicious. Cox is a great brand. I am still on the hunt for some local raw regular honey (to combat allergies and use in recipes).
  • Cooking Oils
    • Coconut, Avocado, Olive (light and extra virgin), ghee
  • Canned Beans
    • I want to get away from these and use dried as much as I can. I can control what goes into them and you just never really know with the canned kinds. Plus dried beans last longer (food storage-wise) and they are cheaper. But it is always good to have some canned on hand.
  • Kirkland Marinara Sauce
  • Unsweetened Applesauce (check ingredients)
  • Natural Chicken Broth (I would go for organic here but opted for natural from Costco, it fit the budget and sometimes you just can't afford to get everything organic, so I usually go for the next best thing)
  • Natural or Organic Beef broth (I have a mix of both, just check ingredients and do what is best for you)
  • And last but not least, spices and herbs GALORE. 
    • Check out your spices and read the ingredients (especially for the spice mixes). There are a lot of hidden items in there that do NOT need to be there. Some big offenders are sugar and soy. Get rid of them. Replace with better spice options.
These items I got to beef up my pantry from Amazon:

  • Almond Flour (better stored in the freezer to keep fresh)
    • I found THIS article extremely interesting. It talks about the pros and cons of almond flour and I agree with her, switch up your flours to expose yourself to different nutrients.
  • Coconut Flour (better stored in the freezer to keep fresh)
    • Health benefits of coconut flour HERE
  • White Whole Wheat flour (for those of you who aren't a gluten-free house, and that would be us)
    • This has the same nutritional value as regular whole wheat flour, it is made from white wheat berries instead of red wheat berries and has a more mild taste than the regular whole wheat flour. HERE is a great link that talks more about it.
  • Coconut Sugar
    • Can be subbed 1:1 with white sugar. This can be argued that, "Hey, it is still sugar. Sugar is sugar is sugar." And I completely agree. BUT the issue I have with white sugar is it is HIGHLY processed. In order to avoid that, I would rather have a more natural sugar. So we are going with coconut sugar. It also has a lower glycemic index than regular white sugar. Also it is the most sustainable sweetener in the world, really, was even given an award for it. The trees use limited water and fuel. Plus it is not chemically altered and has no added ingredients. Read more about it HERE.
    • All that being said, I believe it should still be used in moderation. 
  • Whole Wheat Pastas (get gluten-free pastas if you are gluten sensitive, there are tons of options to choose from, most made with corn flour or rice flour)
    • I picked up some Penne, Fusilli, as well as Spaghetti because we probably use those 3 the most. I plan on picking up more at the grocery store as I find them (sometimes they are hard to find at the stores I usually shop at, which is a bummer).
  • Organic Rolled Oats
  • Dried Beans
    • Red Lentils (I LOVE lentils and want to branch out to different kinds, will probably pick up some green lentils as well)
    • Pinto Beans (Specifically for homemade refried beans, so good and so much better than the canned stuff)
    • Black Beans
  • Canned Garbanzo beans for hummus and soups

Hopefully you found something on here that is helpful! I am by no means an expert but I am trying hard to change the way we eat as a family and the way I cook (and doing a lot of reading/research/experimenting along the way). So, whether you want to switch to 100% clean eating or just want to find healthier options for your family, that choice is up to you. I plan on posting more about what I get from other grocery stores (Costco, local stores, etc). in another post. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I Finished My Whole30, Now What??

So I am done. Here is what I wrote on my Instagram page (@darcieats) about my process so far.

"I did it! So now, my thoughts. #whole30 taught me so much. I have always loved to cook but it made me more confident in the kitchen. It taught me to read my labels and don't trust everything you think should be healthy because there are so many hidden nasty ingredients out there that have no place in our bodies! I learned that I am in charge of my health and it is empowering! Small changes can make a big difference. So, now what? I started Whole30 as a detox. I wanted to heal my body and restart my system. I feel I have accomplished that. But it also have me a deep love for #wholefoods in general. I am going to keep this account and keep my blog and continue on a #cleaneating journey to find what works best for me and my family. Through the reintroduction phase I want to be able to figure that out.

So are we going to be strict paleo? I don't know. Will we enjoy whole grains (gluten and non gluten)? Will we be dairy-free? I honestly don't know yet. Will I do another whole30 in the future? You bet. I know for sure I will continue to cook whole30 meals but I want to find moderation. I want to experiment and discover the best all-around diet for my family and I hope you guys join me! Thank you for being so supportive and the best people ever. You all lift me up and make me feel I can accomplish these food-goals! Whole30 is amazing. If you are on the fence about it, get the book It Starts With Food and just read it first. It will change your relationship with food for the better! I promise!

Oh and PS: I lost 6 lbs. what?? Wasn't planning on that but now I weigh what I did before having my first child. Added bonus!"

That being said, what are my goals now?

  • Follow reintroduction and figure out what works best for me and my family.
    • Do I handle dairy well? There is lactose intolerance in my family and I want to make sure I don't have an intolerance as well.
    • If I do handle dairy well, reintroduce it into our diet in the BEST forms.
    • Do I handle grains well (both gluten and non gluten)? Figure out what forms my body can adjust to and go from there. Try to eat the best forms (whole grains, try to make my own breads).
    • Legumes, do I do well with those? Keep a wide variety in our diet.
  • Limit the sugar consumption in our home.
  • Get out of my box and explore new recipes! I am excited to share them on here with you all as you continue to follow along on my journey!
  • What about sweets? We are still going to eat them. My goal is: If I make it I can eat it. I rarely make sweets/desserts. So when I do, I feel like it is fine for my family and myself to eat them because it means we are eating in moderation. So if I make cookies, I am going to eat some. I made them, put in the effort, and it will be a rare occasion (and most likely for a special occasion). That is fine by me. 
Thank you for all your love and support and hopefully you all can find something through my journey that has inspired or helped you! It is hard to put myself out there sometimes but I know that in the end it might be helping someone else who is in the same situation as me. So it is worth it.

Day 30

DAY 30!!!

Meal 1: Omelette (again, I know, BUT they are my fav!!) This one is green onion, bacon, and power greens topped with avocado)

Meal 2: Leftover beef stew (um, tastes even better the next day, GO TRY THIS RECIPE!), and a bowl full of delicious cherries. 

I have been SO good about not snacking through this whole30 which is a BIG accomplishment for me. But today I had a very emotional visit to my kids' pediatrician. Bubs had his 18 month checkup. He is fine but we did find some things that I felt like I should have noticed and therefore I had a severe case of Mommy Guilt. Like bad. I wanted to dive into my secret stash of Reeses eggs but instead opted for a small handful of almonds and a nap. That was a small victory for me considering I made a healthier choice all around for myself. 

Meal 3: Sorry for the horrible picture but I feel so awkward taking pictures of my food in restaurants haha! This is from Aubergine and Company (a delicious and very healthy restaurant in Orem, UT). I had the Dream Salad (beets instead of cheese). Their cilantro jalapeno dressing was awesome. I will for sure be back!! It was a great end to my Whole30 journey...because I didn't have to cook!

And here is sweet MJ enjoying her salad. She loves "leaves and veggies" with no dressing. I am bragging with this post a bit because I have worked REALLY hard to get my kids to love veggies as much as I do. It is a life-long process and started when I very first introduced food to them. We are always introducing healthy food options and discuss why we eat healthy food and how too much sugar isn't good for our bodies. I am happy to report that MJ loves to munch on spinach and her favorite foods are green beans and cucumbers. Bubbs would eat avocado for every meal if I let him and LOVES broccoli. Both kids love salmon and it just makes my heart swell when I see them munching on healthy food! Of course they eat other foods that aren't considered "whole". We aren't perfect. But I am so glad that my babies are such good eaters. It just makes a Mama proud. Hard work pays off!

My Thoughts:
I honestly felt so accomplished after today. I DID IT! I finished my first whole30! No cheats. I feel awesome.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Day 29

Day 29

Meal 1: Scrambled eggs, salsa, avocado, sauteed zucchini and yellow squash (olive oil, Italian Seasoning)

Meal 2: Chicken-Apple Sausage, carrots, cucumbers, mustard

Meal 3: Crockpot Beef Stew

I made this based on my favorite beef stew recipe. I Whole30-fied it. I will post both recipes because I think they are both great and both are healthy.

Whole30 Beef Stew
-32 oz (4 cups) compliant Beef Stock
-1.5-1 lbs. stew meat
-1 can stewed tomatoes
-1/2 white sweet potato (mine were huge, you could do a full potato if yours are smaller), diced
-1/2 regular sweet potato (again, it was huge, use a full one if yours is smaller), diced
-1 yellow onion, chopped
-3 large carrots, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, crushed in garlic press
-4 small celery stalks or 2-3 large stalks, chopped
-1/2 t salt
-1/2 t pepper
-1 t paprika
-1 bay leaf
-2 T balsamic vinegar

Sometimes I brown the meat, sometimes I don't. I didn't today and it was great still. Place everything in your crockpot (except the balsamic vinegar). Low for 10-12 hours or high for 6-8. When the soup is done, remove the bay leaf and stir in the balsamic vinegar. This adds an awesome rich flavor and depth to the stew. This stew is broth-ier than my original version but the broth is excellent and tastes amazing.

Beef and Barley Crockpot Stew (this is NOT Whole30 compliant)
-32 oz (4 cups) Beef Stock
-1.5-1 lbs. stew meat
-1 can stewed tomatoes
-1-2 russet potatoes or 3-4 small red potatoes, (or a mixture of both), diced
-1 yellow onion, chopped
-3 large carrots, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, crushed in garlic press
-4 small celery stalks or 2-3 large stalks, chopped
-1/2-3/4 cup pearled barley
-1/2 t salt
-1/2 t pepper
-1 t paprika
-1 bay leaf
-2 T balsamic vinegar

Place everything in the slow cooker (minus the balsamic vinegar). High 6-8 hours or low 10-12 hours. When soup is done, remove bay leaf and stir in balsamic vinegar. If you have never had beef and barley stew, try this one. It is awesome. I LOVE barley in my stew (and the Handsome hubs prefers it). 

Thoughts on today: I really enjoyed adapting one of my own recipes to make it whole30 compliant. I will most likely be making my Whole30 recipe again, after whole30, but adding back in the pearled barley (by husband's request). I enjoyed the sweet potatoes in the stew. They were a mild flavor and really this stew is full of yummy, comforting flavor and so very healthy for you.

TOMORROW is my last day and I am excited/nervous/anxious but so ready to start reintroduction. 

Day 28

Day 28

Meal 1: Apple with almond butter. Wasn't very hungry this morning.

Meal 2: Random Veggie Chicken Bowl {cucumbers, red onion, peppers, avocado, tomato, chicken, s+p, balsamic vinegar}

Meal 3: Bake salmon over zoodles {spiralized yellow squash and zucchini, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, red onion, and Italian seasoning} with Kirkland marinara sauce.

I got THIS spiralizer off of Amazon. It looks like it is sold out but there are tons of vegetable spiralizers on there. 

Spiralized Zoodles
-1 zuchinni
-1 yellow squash
-olive oil
-diced red onion
-2 garlic cloves, minced

Spiral about half of the squash and half of the zuchinni (or all of them, just however much you want honestly). 

 Dice up your onion and garlic, however much you want of each. More or less depending on your tastes.

Heat olive oil in a pan, toss the onion and garlic in first. Let them saute a bit (about a minute), then toss in the zoodles. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. These cook up quickly. They only take a few minutes. You still want them to be a bit crunchy so that it is a nice texture and you don't feel like you are eating a pile of mush.

I baked the salmon with just olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Thoughts on today: I LOVED my meal 3 tonight. It was bomb. I love zoodles. I am so glad that I am being pushed out of my normal food box and trying a lot of new things. I will definitely be making zoodles after Whole30 (which is so soon!). I am feel great. I am anxious for my reintroduction phase but am excited to move onto my next "health phase". I will explain more about it at the end of my Whole30!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Day 27

Day 27

Meal 1: Larabar and a waterbottle...was running out the door because we were super late for MJ's swimming lessons. I had also lost my appetite from cleaning up Bubb's puke. Let's just say it was not a good morning.

Meal 2: Leftover chicken topped with salsa, sweet potato "toast" from a fellow IGer (@thewhetappetite) topped with avocado and red pepper flakes.

Sweet Potato "Toast"
-Cut sweet potato in half, lengthwise, then cut those pieces in half lengthwise.
-oil and s+p the sweet potato pieces
-Place in baking pan in 400 F oven.
-Bake for 35-40 minutes, flip halfway through.
-Let cool for 5-10 minutes

These are yummy! I use avocado oil and white sweet potatoes because they are my fav.

Meal 3: Random concoction that was yummy. Sauteed some leftover sweet potato toast (diced), with chicken apple sausage and avocado oil. Tossed in a large handful of 7 Superfood Salad (minus dressing) from Costco.


Seasoned everything with a bit of onion powder, garlic powder, s+p. Then tossed in some Kirkland brand marinara sauce, fresh tomatoes, and avocado. And there you have it. It was good (but I really did wish I had spaghetti that the family was having because there was delicious cheese on it...oh cheese). 

Oh and I added a side of watermelon. 

My Thoughts:
I am getting good at looking in my fridge and seeing what protein I have thawed, and what veggies are about to go bad, and making something out of them. Also, this marinara sauce was SO good! I am excited to use it in a lot of other dishes. It tasted fresh and has no additives. I would highly recommend buying it if you have a Costco membership. It comes in a pack of 3 and is awesome to have on hand when you don't want to make it fresh.