Author Archives: Catherine

Lean Mean Clean Turkey Chili and Cornbread.

Clean eating | Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Gluten-free option

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You guys. This chili. It is so easy, so flavorful, and all of my girls love it! I have to compete for leftovers with my 2-year-old, so you know that’s good!

And the cornbread? We are lovers of sweet, buttery, dessert-y, there’s-nothing-good-for-you-about-this cornbread; slathered in honey, these 100% clean muffins really do check the boxes for us! I first made them when I was still eating dairy-free and they work great that way. These muffins are absolute heaven.

Florida “fall” is finally starting to peek out its head a little around here; I got to wear jeans 2 days this week! So of course I’m pulling out all the cool-weather comfort food. And this meal is comforting without the post-comfort-food bloat and blech that I so often feel. I was sick all week, and the two dinners I needed were this (albeit with storebought tortilla chips instead of the cornbread) and my Chicken and Dumpling Soup. If I can make these while half-dying of plague, you know they’re weeknight easy!

Clean Turkey Chili

Original recipe here

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 to 1.5 lbs lean ground turkey (I often split half turkey, half lean ground beef because we don’t eat much red meat and we can always use the iron)
  • up to 4 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1, 28-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2, 15-oz cans dark red kidney beans (I always choose low sodium)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add onion and red pepper and saute a few minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic and saute and stir another couple minutes until fragrant.
  2. Push the veggies to the edges of the pan and add the meat to the middle, breaking it up to cook until no longer pink. Gradually mix it into the veggies.
  3. Stir in the spices and salt and cook 20 seconds to toast the spices.
  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes or until thickened and flavors come together. Taste to adjust salt and seasonings as necessary.
  5. Top with toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, tortilla chips, etc. and serve with cornbread! This chili tastes even better the second day!

Clean Cornbread Muffins – usually makes 12-13 muffins

Original recipe here

  • 1 1/8 (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) cup whole-wheat pastry flour (for gluten-free, use a hearty gluten-free flour of choice)
  • 7/8 cup (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp (plus a pinch, optional) salt*
  • 1 1/3 cups milk*
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled*
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup honey

*Dairy-free: 1/2 tsp salt, 1 1/3 cups unsweetened almond milk, 6 Tbsp soy-free buttery stick like Earth Balance Brand, melted (it’s usually salted, which is why we decrease the added salt in the recipe)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray wells of a muffin tin with soy-free cooking spray.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add liquid ingredients and stir until just combined; do not overmix.
  3. Ladle 1/4 cupfuls into each well of the muffin tin. Bake 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you want them a little more golden on top, place them under the broiler for a minute to brown slightly.
  4. Let cool in pan before carefully removing. Serve dripping with honey!

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CLEAN* Copycat Cafe Rio Pork Salad!

Clean eating | Nut-free | Gluten-free option

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This past weekend was General Conference for our Church: one of two weekends a year when our prophet and other Church leaders speak to members worldwide about how to be better Christians, better parents, better spouses, better neighbors, better people. These are times we look forward to a great deal, but it’s a lot of listening to lots of talks for small kids to process, so we’ve found small rituals that help them look forward to it too. One is the food. It’s like the Mormon Super Bowl: cinnamon rolls for breakfast, snacks during the sessions, Chick-Fil-A picnic lunch on the living room floor (the only time this is allowed), and Cafe Rio pork salads.

Cafe Rio (and its copycat/competitor Costa Vida, which we personally prefer slightly) is an institution in Utah and other areas with a high LDS population. Their pork barbacoa salads were one of my favorite foods when we lived there. In fact, when I had a medical problem requiring me to be on blood thinners for several months, my biggest concern wasn’t all the needle pokes every week to check my levels (though it was that too); it was the fact that I couldn’t have leafy greens, and that meant no Cafe Rio salads! And then we moved away and I haven’t had one in SIX YEARS.

So I started finding and making copycat recipes every General Conference. But have you seen some of those recipes? Half a bottle of Coke, a cup of brown sugar? That nasty Ranch dressing powder? Sugar in the rice, even? Even before I started eating clean it kinda grossed me out and left me feeling sluggish and dissatisfied.

So this time around I found clean* versions. I add the asterisk because the pork contains canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, and the dressing does contain mayonnaise, so they are not 100% clean. But they feel and taste a heck of a lot better than the other ones I’ve found. I will say that the pork by itself doesn’t taste like what I remember (go figure, since it doesn’t have Coke and brown sugar in it), but put the whole thing together and it really brings back the memories! We had the missionaries over for the Saturday afternoon session this weekend, and one of them gave me the award of “best meal so far on his mission!” So there’s your official unbiased review from a real born-and-bred Utahn.

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

Original recipe here

  • 3 1/2 to 4 lb. pork loin roast
  • 28 oz. diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 chipotle chilies (from canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce; freeze the rest for later)
  • 1 Tbsp. coarse Kosher salt
  • up to 1 Tbsp. chili powder (it was plenty of heat for us with about 2/3 Tbsp.)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey (increase to 1/2 cup if you want it sweeter, but it tastes great not as sweet as the real 6,000-calorie thing)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  1. Trim excess fat off of the pork and cut into 2 or 3 large pieces if it’s excessively large. Place in your Crock Pot and turn it on high.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour over the roast in the Crock Pot and cook 5-6 hours on high.
  3. Shred pork with 2 forks and return to slow cooker for at least 20 minutes to absorb the sauce.

Cilantro Lime Brown Rice

Adapted from here

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2-4 Tbsp. lime juice, to taste
  • 1 drop lime essential oil (or 1 tsp. lime zest)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Bring water and chicken broth to boil. Add rice, salt, and cumin, cover, and reduce heat.
  2. Simmer 45 minutes, until rice is tender and the moisture is absorbed.
  3. Add juice, essential oil, and cilantro, fluff with fork, and keep covered until ready to serve.

Cafe Rio Black Beans – triples or quadruples easily for a crowd!

Original recipe here

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/3 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (1 Tbsp. dried works great in a pinch, if you’re like me and make these all the time but don’t have fresh on hand all the time)
  1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. Saute garlic and cumin until fragrant.
  2. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt, (dried cilantro, too, if you’re using dried instead of fresh) and simmer until heated through. I prefer to let it go for 10-20 minutes so that it thickens.
  3. Stir in fresh cilantro before serving.

Cafe Rio Tomatillo Ranch Dressing

Original recipe here

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (make your own! Put less than a Tbsp. white vinegar in the bottom of a measuring cup and fill with milk to 3/4 cup, then let sit several minutes)
  • 3/4 cup mayo (NOT Miracle Whip. Also, you could try a “cleaner,” European-style mayonnaise, but I’m betting it won’t taste right.)
  • 2 small tomatillos, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 Tbsp. fresh dill (or a scant tsp. dried)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley (or a Tbsp. dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ground mustard
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Assemble the salad:

Top a whole-grain  or gluten-free tortilla with the rice, beans, and pork. Top with romaine lettuce, and dress with dressing, Mexican or cojita cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, tortilla strips–whatever you want to make it awesome!

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My favorite pizza.

Nut-free | Soy-free | Gluten-free option | Clean eating option

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We’re big pizza lovers in this house. Back in my semi-homemade days I had several pizza posts, but they were all boring pepperoni (or pepperoni and green peppers) pizza. Then we lived in Switzerland and spent 10 days in Italy. They don’t do pepperoni. They do salami, but trust me, it is NOT the same. So I got a little more adventurous.

In the 4 weeks between when we were told we were moving to Switzerland for 6 months and when we actually moved, I binge-watched Rick Steeves’ Europe on PBS–only the countries we were actually thinking of going to (sorry Estonia)–and learned, among many other things, the reported origin of our beloved pizza. It came from Naples in the early 18th or 19th centuries. Legend has it that the archetypal pizza, Pizza Margherita, was commissioned in 1889 to honor the visiting Queen Margherita with the three colors of the Italian flag: red tomatoes, green basil, and white mozzarella.

I ate this pizza a lot in Italy. And Switzerland. And interestingly, everyone does it differently. The Swiss just do it with tomato sauce. The Romans did a little sauce AND tomatoes. We never made it to Naples, so I don’t know if this really is the real way, but by far my favorite way of eating Pizza Margherita is this: garlic-infused olive oil (LOTS of garlic), fresh Roma tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmesan for a little bite, and lots of basil.

Publix, our local amazing grocery chain, has amazing Italian-style pizza dough for just a couple bucks, so I get two: I make one pepperoni for the girls, and my husband and I share this. And I eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.

No, this is not clean. This is not healthy. You can use whole-grain or gluten-free crust, and the veggies and part-skim mozzarella make it less terrible for you than delivery (or diGiorno! Ha!), but let’s keep this in the “sometimes food” category. With the chocolate frozen custard. Yum!

Pizza Margherita

Original recipe here

  • Pizza dough of choice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 10 basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 or 425, depending on the instructions for your chosen pizza dough, with a pizza stone in the oven (optional but highly recommended).
  2. Pour olive oil into a medium bowl and add garlic and salt. Add sliced tomatoes; toss to coat, and marinate 10-15 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Roll out and toss your pizza dough to desired width and thickness on a large piece of parchment paper.
  4. Brush dough evenly with about a tablespoon of garlic oil marinade. Sprinkle evenly with 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella and all of the Parmesan.
  5. Top with tomato slices, spaced evenly, and sprinkle basil over the tomatoes.
  6. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella evenly over the top of the basil and season all over with salt and pepper.
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden, and let stand 5 minutes before slicing.
  8. Enjoy!
  9. If there are leftovers, reheat in a 350-degree oven–not the microwave.

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Chicken Tikka Masala.

Gluten-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Clean-eating option

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So I’m realizing that we eat a lot of variations on chicken and rice in our house. We have several curry versions, the NYC street cart version, and a few comfort food versions from my semi-homemade days, just off the top of my head.

This is the I-used-to-live-near-an-awesome-Indian-restaurant-but-I-don’t-anymore-but-I-really-don’t-need-to-leave-the-house-anymore-for-delicious-Indian-takeout version. It’s one of my husband’s favorite meals ever. And my favorite part about it–besides how delicious it is–is that odds are good you have all of the ingredients in your spice cabinet! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to blog it!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted from here

Marinade:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I use lowfat Greek yogurt)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • up to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • up to 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

Masala:

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 cup cream

Rice:**

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  1. For the marinade, combine all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl. Add chicken and toss until coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least a couple hours (I usually do overnight).
  2. Grill chicken (original way) or cook under a broiler on high on a broiler pan (my lazy easy way). Discard marinade.
  3. Meanwhile, for the masala, melt butter in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add jalapeno and garlic and saute one minute or until fragrant. Season with spices and salt and stir to toast spices.
  4. Add tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on medium-low until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Begin cooking rice (below). Add grilled (broiled) chicken and simmer 10 minutes.
  5. Rice: bring water to boil. Add remaining ingredients, cover, and reduce heat. Cook 15 minutes, fluff, and serve topped with tikka masala.

**A couple notes about the rice: first of all, yes, I know that Basmati rice is best suited. However, I find Jasmine more economical and versatile, if less authentic. If you want a clean eating version, use brown rice and cook 45 minutes instead of 15.

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Summer Reading Party!

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The idea for this came about at the end of the school year, when moms everywhere were scrambling to think of ways to keep our kids from killing each other and forgetting everything they’d just learned. My friend Chrissy, who also can’t contain herself when it comes to planning her kids’ birthday parties, found a printable Summer Reading Bingo sheet and shared it on Facebook with a caption to the effect of, “There’s a Reading Party on here. Anyone want to join us?”

We did.

We got a couple other crafty moms together, found a date, and the Book Club Party was born.

With The BFG film coming out, and with many of these 2nd-through-4th-graders reading it or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the first time, we decided on a Roald Dahl party. Kids read either (or both) of the books, and had to have at least one Bingo on their sheet to gain entry. (My rising 2nd grader took that part very seriously.)

Chrissy had some decorations left over from her daughter’s Willy Wonka birthday party a year ago, so we were able to keep this really low-budget, low-effort operation. I also restrained myself and only printed out 5 quotes from the 2 books to put on the wall.

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You can download a Willy Wonka font for free here.

None of us got a shot of the food, but here was the theme menu:

  • Snozzberries (berries)
  • Treats dipped in the Chocolate River (fondue)
  • Miniature Wonka bars (free printable wrapped around Hershey Nuggets) IMG_9779
  • Frobscottle (vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet with green-dyed ginger ale poured over the top–I might use Sprite next time so it’s sweeter) IMG_9796
  • I tried to think of a non-messy way to serve “Human Beans,” but couldn’t come up with anything. Then my friend Wendy mentioned crunchy roasted chickpeas would be delicious. So consider that.

Activity 1: we made dream jars from the BFG (out on the lanai to contain the glitter).

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Activity 2: Juicing Violet Beauregard. I got the idea from here. I bought a few of the bluest splash balls I could find at Target, filled a punch bowl with water and a few drops of blue food coloring, and positioned a couple buckets at another end of the yard. The teams took turns filling their splash balls with “juice” running across the grass to squeeze them into their bucket. The team with the fullest bucket at the end of 3 minutes won.

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We then attempted an activity involving catching “dreams” (water balloons) in those same buckets (yes, the connection was tenuous at best; it’s hard to think of literary-based water games, trust me), but had an injury when someone missed, so I won’t recommend that one.

Then we turned on the sprinklers and just let the kids run! Because kids need unstructured play time too.

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The party was a success! It was fun to share the joy of some of our favorite childhood books with our kids, and let them share these literary experiences with their friends.

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Legendary NYC Street-Cart-Style Chicken and Rice–Clean!

Clean | Gluten-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Dairy-free option

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Half a decade ago, we lived just outside New York City, which meant we were just minutes from some of the most delicious and diverse food options in the world. When we moved to Tampa, I needed to learn to cook some of our favorites myself, and it wasn’t until just weeks ago that I found this gem. Finally our cravings for street cart chicken with yellow rice and yogurt sauce can be satiated!

Clean NYC Street-Cart-Style Chicken and Yellow Rice

Adapted from here

Chicken:

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Yogurt sauce: (you only need half of what’s below if not everyone loves it with the sauce; omit for dairy-free)

  • 1 cup plain lowfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Rice:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter, olive oil, or dairy-free buttery spread
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups basmati, jasmine, or brown (for clean) rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • optional: additional water for jasmine or brown rice (see instructions below)
  1. Toss together chicken marinade ingredients with chicken; marinate an hour.
  2. Whisk together yogurt sauce ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Heat a large saucepan on high heat with enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom. Add chicken thighs and cook in batches until done. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
  4. If there are burned bits of garlic in the bottom of the pan, remove those. Then in the same pan, add butter, rice, and spices. Stir to coat and cook on medium-high 1-2 minutes to toast the spices.
  5. Add chicken stock, and water if needed. Basmati: no additional water. Jasmine: 1 1/2 cups water. Brown: 2 1/2 cups water.
  6. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to low. Cook 15 minutes for basmati and jasmine; 45 for brown rice. Fluff when finished and remove from heat.
  7. When rice is done, dice chicken.
  8. Serve chicken atop yellow rice and drizzle with yogurt sauce. Sprinkle with harissa, sriracha, or other hot sauce if desired.

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Chocolate Frozen Custard.

Gluten-free | Nut-free

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Today is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day! Last week was National Donut Day… I tend to wonder who it is that makes these arbitrary holidays, but regardless, if it means tasty food I’m all about it.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats awhile back and pinned it for a special occasion; I think this counts, right? I love frozen custard–you know, the soft, melt-in-your-mouth creaminess that you can find at Shake Shack, Culver’s, and the like. I never understood why it was so much more expensive than normal ice cream… until I read the ingredient list. Those egg yolks! But I tell you: they make it. We’ve made quite a bit of ice cream in our little Cuisinart over the years, and this is the one homemade ice cream that doesn’t turn to a block of ice in the freezer if we don’t eat it all in one sitting. (Which, trust me, you won’t; it’s rich, even for a self-professed chocoholic and ice cream aficionado like me!)

My oldest says this tasted like “brownie ice cream.” Yep.

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Chocolate Frozen Custard

Original recipe here — recipe below doubles it because I promise you’ll want more!

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light (clear) corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa until well incorporated. Carefully whisk in cream and milk until well blended.
  2. Heat on medium-low (but closer to medium) several minutes, whisking frequently, until 170 degrees–or until thickened enough that a custard forms on a spoon when you dip it in and a finger swiped across the back of the spoon leaves a clean line. (It sounds weird, but I bet it’ll make sense when you do it.)
  3.  Stir in salt and vanilla.
  4. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a freezer-safe airtight container, and chill in the refrigerator several hours, until very cold–40 degrees or so.
  5. Churn in your ice cream maker according to your appliance’s directions.
  6. Return to your freezer-safe container and either serve immediately or freeze about 1 hour to firm up a bit.
  7. It tastes best within a couple hours of being made.
  8. Optional: if you want to make a “concrete,” finely chop toppings like M&Ms, Oreos, brownies, etc., freeze until hard, and then add to the ice cream maker during the last 2 minutes of churning. Enjoy it right away!

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