Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies

Superbowl Sunday has arrived! I am cheering for the Seahawks – but really I would just love to see a great game! (Haha, like I will be watching for anything but the commercials.)

My love for this day is mainly due to the fact that I can make a BUTT LOAD (technical measurement term) of food and seem relatively normal. I also just love all appetizer foods. I would always prefer to order a gazillion appetizers and get to try each one, rather than PICK JUST ONE MEAL TO EAT. I feel like that is a fair statement, if you disagree though…well, we will just have to work that out at a later time.

Over the past couple of weeks we have tried a couple of different Paleo “treats” out. Some have been great and others have been…not so great. I cannot seem to get the whole Paleo chocolate chip cookie thing together. Maybe someday. One thing that I was pleasantly surprised by were the Sweet Potato Brownies we made. Now, don’t get scared just yet. They were the most decadent brownies I have literally ever had in my life and they were COMPLETELY sweetened naturally. SCORE! I was worried that they would mess with the texture, but once they are baked you literally do not even know that the potatoes are in there. It is a strange but awesome phenomenon.

The recipe is from Eat Drink Paleo and as with most of the blogs I use for recipes, I think hers is another one you should add to your rotation. Her recipes are fairly simple, but do not lack pizazz by any means! This brownie recipe intrigued me because of the picture on the site, I mean look at it…I want to eat my computer screen. Since that seemed slightly idiotic, I decided I would just try to make them myself! (And it’s titled perfectly…Chocolate Brownies That Blew Me Away – couldn’t be more fitting.) So if you need something sweet to make for a Super Bowl party or you just have a sweet tooth sometimes like I do – try these out!

Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium raw white sweet potato, peeled and grated (using the larger holes of the grater) – 2 to 2 1/2 cups of shredded sweet potato
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (the real kind)
  • 1/2 cup of raw honey, melted in the microwave if it’s too thick
  • generous 1/2 cup of virgin olive oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp of gluten free baking powder
  • ½ tbsp of baking soda
  • 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (Paleo approved!)

Directions

Check out the full directions on Eat Drink Paleo’s site!

Enjoy your chocolate coma!🙂

Honey Balsamic-Onion Chicken Skillet w/ Brussels Sprouts

Happy February!

My favorite month of the year! Not only because it is my birthday month (however, that is the main factor) but also because it’s when it seems that there will be an end in sight for Winter. Granted, many a time in Iowa the snow continues FAR past February…but you can at least PRETEND the end is near. As I sit here, in Oregon, writing this though the sun is shining and it is a crisp 49 degrees outside. Can you say perfection? Especially since there is some chili cooking away in the crockpot and a couple of bottles of pinot nior on the counter with my name on them.

Let’s take a minute though to talk about our favorite foods. My favorite food for most of my life was peas, with doritios coming in at a close second. However, peas I could usually have whenever I wanted and it was pretty easy to talk myself into adding it into basically any meal since it was a veggie. Doritos on the other hand, they were a “forbidden” love. Anyway, peas are no longer a staple in my freezer due to them being a legume making them a no-no in the paleo world and surprisingly enough I haven’t “splurged” on them yet. Yet being the key word in that sentence. So my favorite food/veggie spot has been open for some time now and I am pleased to report the job has finally been filled. Enter – BRUSSELS SPROUTS. My god, how did I not know how delicious these things were for the past 23 years? And ummm SO easy to cook. Like it blows my mind that I didn’t start making them until a few weeks ago. I don’t know if I was intimated by them or if my only knowledge of them was from childhood movies where the parents are basically force feeding them to their children. Whatever the reason, I avoided them like the plague. Then, as with most other new food items I have tried in the recent past, I began to see more and more recipes for brussels floating around pinterest and they looked GOOD – we had to give them a try! And what do you know, Costco carries them – score!

Anyway, I will go into the details for cooking them below – but these babies are REALLY versatile. Sweeten them up with some honey/balsamic vinegar or just roast with some olive oil and you are good to go. We have paired them with basically everything ranging from chicken to meatloaf to sausage. My weekly shopping trip is now not complete unless I have AT LEAST one bag of brussels sprouts. I suggest you pick some up the next time your out and give this recipe a whirl!

The recipe I want to highlight is from one of my FAVORITE blogs. I don’t know why it took me so long to get on the bandwagon for this either (I am sensing a pattern…) but if you haven’t checked out Iowa Girl Eats blog, go to it RIGHT NOW. While her meals are not advertised as Paleo, plenty of them either can be modified to fit the diet or only contain paleo ingredients to begin with. This Honey Balsamic-Onion Chicken Skillet caught my eye because it is the latter – only contains Paleo ingredients. WHOO HOO! It also falls into one of our favorite meal categories…E.A.S.Y.! I thought the perfect accompaniment to this chicken dish would be, what do you know, brussels sprouts. Except I had some pomegranate seeds in the fridge that I wanted to use really badly so I scoured the World Wide Web for some ideas. This recipe seemed like an A+ match.

Honey Balsamic-Onion Chicken Skillet

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Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, cut in half then sliced
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin then cut in half
garlic salt
pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
1-1/2 Tablespoons honey

Directions: 

  1. Check out Iowa Girl Eats for the Full Recipe!

Brussels Sprouts w/ Pomegranate Seeds

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Ingredients:

6 cups Brussels sprouts
1 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
olive oil

Method:

  1. Wash the brussels sprouts then cut the tough end off the sprout and cut in half length wise. Remove and any leaves that have fallen off.
  2. Place in a greased rimmed baking sheet, cut side down, and sprinkled with some olive oil.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven (375 degrees F) , until they appear to be golden brown, and tender when pierced with the fork.
  4. Mix together the maple syrup, the balsamic vinegar and the kosher salt  in a small bowl.
  5. When the sprouts are removed from the oven coat them with the maple syrup- vinegar mixture and returned for another 5 minutes baking.
  6. When done baking, transfer the brussels sprouts to a large bowl and add the pomegranate seeds. Stir well to combine and ENJOY!

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Look at this purrrrty meal! Have a fabulous Saturday and I will be back tomorrow with some DELECTABLE treats for you!

Crock Pot Sausage and Peppers

As 2013 is officially beginning to wind down, I have taken some extra time to take a step back and think about how truly amazing this year has been for me. I always find it interesting to see how far a year can really take you – whether that be in a relationship, your job, your health, etc… This year I lived in two very opposite states, made the decision to move in with R (easily the best decision of the last decade of my life), and chose to stop making excuses about my weight and make a serious change. I couldn’t be happier than where I am at right now, and I have 2013 to thank for that.

This year, among all the great things that happened, I lost my grandfather. I know, without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, that he is in a better place – out of the pain and suffering that he had been going through for the past couple of years. But that didn’t make it any easier for the rest of us that had to say good-bye, in what seemed like a very abrupt way. 7 months later, I can look back at that day and see what an amazing thing it was for so many people to come pay their respects to such a wonderful man, whom I got to call Poppy. It made me realize, more than ever, that I want to live a life in which I am helping others and making a difference in people’s lives. That is what Poppy did and I am so lucky that I got to have him for a grandfather for 23 years. I hope you all take the time to look at where you have come in the past year – some things may not be big, life changing moments and some may be things that were difficult to go through but in the end made you stronger.

2013 was also my introduction to a lifestyle that I had never heard of before – PALEO. I am not sure where I would be on my weight-loss/health journey had R and I not began our Paleo journey in August. At this point, I am not looking back. Yes – we have plenty of times where we eat things that are not Paleo (i.e. weddings, out-of-town visitors, holidays, etc…) but the overall concept is something that we have really stuck to and are enjoying, which to me is the most important part. Over the past 4 months we have experimented and tested tons of recipes – many that we loved, some that we hated. But it has all been an experiment to help better ourselves in the end. If you haven’t bought into this whole she-bang, I challenge you to give it a try. Give it 30 days – that’s it. Commit to challenging yourself and start a Whole30. I promise you, your life will not be the same. Maybe you will decide it isn’t for you – and that is FINE. But I think we all owe it to ourselves and our bodies to see what happens.

This recipe is PERFECT for a busy weeknight AND is Whole30 approved. I think I have mentioned before that I love sausage and peppers – like a lot. It’s one of my favorite meals that my mom makes when I am home, but especially when she knows I will have friends stopping by the house because it is such a crowd pleaser. Now, traditionally we would eat sausage and peppers in large, toasted hoagie buns. (mmm…so good) But for obvious reasons, I left those out this time. This meal can literally be thrown together in 5 minutes, will cook for 6-7 hours and then be ready to serve!

Sausage and Peppers

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Ingredients

  • 1 package of chicken sausage (italian style) – really any sausage will work
  • 3 peppers, sliced (orange, red, yellow) – your choice of color
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 T italian seasoning
  • 1 T of garlic salt

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large crock pot
  2. Stir
  3. Let cook on low for 6-7 hours
  4. Prepared a side of your choice – we used roasted broccoli but you could do sweet potatoes, cauliflower, butternut squash, really whatever you have in the kitchen.
  5. Enjoy!

Buffalo Turkey Meatloaf

What can I say? I am bad at multi tasking? Whatever – no excuses. 19 days is just too dang long to go without posting. I am sure you have all been on the edge of your seats waiting for the next recipe. Well, today is your lucky day!

Today officially begins my first adult winter break. Something I never knew if I would see again but am welcoming with open arms! R and I both have off today through the 2nd – bring on the new recipes and episodes of Shameless! (Seriously that’s really all I care about doing this week. Oh yea, and trying to get ready for this 10k on New Year’s – yikes!) Quick update on life here in PDX: still going strong with yoga (our month ends on the 29th and then we have to decide if we can handle paying $120 a month for it AHHH!), decorated our apartment for christmas, got some AWESOME new appliances (more to come on that later), enjoyed time with my family in Pittsburgh for a wedding, still working hard on the CSC website and trying to figure out (sooner rather than later of course) where our next move will be to. That’s about it! Other than that – same old, same old. I have a TON of new recipes ready to try out over “winter break” so I am excited to get back into the groove of things.

This recipe I made a few weeks back, actually now that I think about it we made it before Thanksgiving even rolled around. (Yeeeesh.) It is 3 of my favorite things: easy, quick and GOOD. I got the recipe from one of my favorite blogs PaleOMG. Julie (the author) writes kind of all over the place (similar to another beginning blogger I know…) so her posts are always fun to read. Not to mention she has GREAT recipes, whether you are just dipping your toes into the Paleo pond or if you are ready to cannon ball right in – she will have something for you. If you are looking for something to impress some guests that stop in over the holidays – but don’t want to spend the whole night in the kitchen, the Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf  (I changed it to turkey because I didn’t have chicken…) is a great one to try out. All you have to do is mix the ingredients in a bowl (most of which you probably already have in your pantry/fridge), plop it in a loaf pan and let it bake! I meant it when I said easy…

So here you go – enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf (link is to the original recipe – below is my altered version)

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Ingredients
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 3-4 tablespoons hot sauce (I used Red Hot)
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • ¼ small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients in a bowl and use your hands to mix thoroughly.
  3. Plop mixture into  one large loaf pan.
  4. Bake for 25-35 or until chicken is completely cooked through.

Yep…THAT’S REALLY IT! I put some sriracha on top before baking and served it with a side of mashed sweet potatoes! Just delightful!

I wish you and your family/friends a wonderful holiday and a happy and healthy new year! Remember, today is the day to make a change for the better, even if it is something small – every little bit counts.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

I’M BACK!

Did you think I forgot how to post a recipe? To be honest, I thought I might have. It’s slightly insane how quickly a week goes by when you have visitors in town and are celebrating one of the best holidays EVER…Thanksgiving. And add to that the amount of time it takes to get yourself back on track after the big event. Well, it leaves me with the reason that I haven’t posted for two weeks. But, I finally feel back in the swing of our normal routine (you know – work, eat, run, sleep and repeat) except we added one more thing…HOT YOGA. As promised, we started our 30 day pass last week and I will admit – the first couple of classes were, how do I put this…r-o-u-g-h. I spent more time trying to convince myself that I wasn’t going to die during the second class than doing any actual yoga. But I am quite pleased to report that in our 4th class I was able to do the entire set (90 whole sweaty minutes) without taking a rest! Who woulda thought. My main goal now is to make sure that I keep hydrating enough during the day – as you maybe can imagine, it makes a huge difference. Hopefully we see some results after the month end, but we will have to wait and see!

While R’s family was in town, I was off cooking duty – helping where I could but R’s mom is a whiz in the kitchen and had great meals planned for the whole week! When we got back to the apartment after they left, I was so glad that we had some crockpot minestrone soup in the freezer that could be reheated! Definitely the easy way to get back into our Paleo eating.

This soup was super easy to throw together once you get passed the chopping part. I knew I wanted to cook it in the crockpot while I was working. I also knew that there was no freaking way I was going to wake up early enough to chop all the veggies and get to work on time (I am already a walking zombie when my alarm goes off at 5:30). SO I chopped everything the night before, stored it in a ziploc bag and then was able to literally toss everything in the crockpot in a few short minutes.

I got this recipe from Mellow Momma’s blog. The only changes I made was leaving out the kale (didn’t have any!) and adding chicken (protein!!!). Other than that, I followed it pretty exactly…and I ain’t mad about it! If you are looking for a hearty soup to warm you up in this weather but want to be careful of the additives and SODIUM from the store bought kind – this is the recipe for you.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

Ingredients:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 whole carrots peeled and chopped
  • 4 small zucchinis chopped
  • 2 bell peppers chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 T parsley
  • 2 T basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Chop veggies
  2. Add chicken, veggies and ALL other ingredients to the crock pot
  3. Stir and cook on low for 8 hours
  4. Shred the chicken and serve!

 

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Honey Mustard Chicken

Can you say SUN?!?! That’s what I saw when I first opened my eyes this morning! (Okay not first, the first time it was dark when R was leaving for work – the second time the sun was actually up.) After a full week of cloudy, rainy weather it was quite the nice surprise! I think that will be the great thing about having a rainy winter season – I will appreciate the sun much, MUCH more when it decides to peak out. Unlike when I was in Arizona and all we wanted was a day that was not 85 and sunny so we could just sit around on the couch and not feel bad about it – ha!

R’s family is officially on their way here! And since today is my day off this week I am working on getting the apartment ready for visitors (i.e. laundry, vacuuming, actual cleaning…that sort of thing!) plus trying to get any errands done I need to before we head off to Seattle on Friday. R and I were going over all of our plans for the week, and MAN do we have a lot planned. It is going to be so great! I am also hoping (more like praying) that if I can keep up with my running that it will off-put some (keyword: some) of the eating I will be DEFINITELY doing. I mean…it’s THANKSGIVING!

So I mentioned this recipe like a million weeks ago it seems like, and I have FINALLY caught up with all the other things I needed to share. I think you will all be very excited about this one. I know that most of the recipes I have tried on here I label as easy and quick – and they are. But there is a significant difference between easy and stupid easy. This honey mustard chicken falls under the stupid easy category. And the best part? No one who eats it will be able to tell!

This recipe (titled originally Holy Yum Chicken and I understand why!) is originally from Table for Two. This blog is great, especially for people who are looking for recipes other than just paleo. A lot of recipes (from this blog and others) can be altered to follow paleo guidelines – it’s just about being creative! With that being said, this honey mustard chicken is actually COMPLETELY 100% paleo without any substitutions. Awesome!

Honey Mustard Chicken – I made a few slight changes based on things I had in the apartment, so check out the original link to see how it was initially made AND to see why you should follow the instructions

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. arrowroot powder (or any thickening agent)
  • 2 tsp. chives for garnishing

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 8×8″ oven-proof pan with 2 layers of tin foil.
  2. In small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.
  3. Place the chicken breasts (pound to the same thickness if needed) in the foil layered pan then pour the mixture on top of it. Turn the chicken around in the sauce to make sure it gets all coated.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let chicken sit for 5 minutes then transfer to a plate. Do NOT discard the liquid.
  6. Immediately after plating chicken, whisk in the 1 tbsp. of arrowroot into the liquid in the pan. You’ll create a nice, thick sauce to drizzle over your chicken.
  7. Sprinkle chives on top before serving.

I am going to try and post another recipe before the weekend – but then I will be on hiatus until probably after Thanksgiving! Hope you have a wonderful Wednesday – and seriously, make this chicken!

 

Buffalo Chicken Soup

Well, well…Sunday has arrived, yet again.

During my college years, which by the way seems like yesterday, Sunday was my least favorite day of the week. There were two main reasons that played into this: I had to start getting myself prepared to be a real person for 5 straight days (school and work) AND any visitors that we had in town were usually preparing to leave (always a bummer). As I’ve gotten older and slightly more mature (sometimes this is a debatable topic…) I have come to L-O-V-E Sundays. Especially Sundays when I don’t have a gosh darn thing to do. I can leisurely do whatever random chores need to get done around the apartment, sit around and plan our meals/food prep (which I enjoy more than most people I think), and in general just unwind before getting back into the swing of things on Monday. Do I miss my crazy weekends with my girlfriends – most of which consisted of multiple sleepovers and not leaving each other’s  sides for a minimum of 48 hours? Of course I do! More than I can even say! But…I like this new relationship I’ve developed with Sundays, they really just aren’t that bad!

As promised, there was a decent amount of food and beer that was had this weekend. All of which was not Paleo. Shun me if you must – BUT, as I have said before, my life does not revolve around Paleo. There are too many great foods and beverages out there for me to ignore. With that being said, we had some QUALITY craft brews this weekend – there is no way I can even tell you my favorite because I probably tried at least 35 (that is not a joke). We also tried a new breakfast place that was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (if you haven’t watched this show yet, please do it) – it’s called Pine State Biscuits. I have never been a huge biscuits and gravy person, but MY GOD – they had the best biscuits I have ever put in my mouth. I was in a food coma for a good 2 hours after, but it was well worth it.

We did make a trip to the coast yesterday, regardless of our hungover state, to check out the scenery. It was raining pretty hard when we first got there, but once that let up the sky started letting some sunlight through the clouds and it really made for some gorgeous pictures. We only stayed for a couple of hours, but definitely plan on making another trip out there for a weekend.

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Today we are back on the grind – I ran my longest run to date this afternoon, which was 5 miles. Still have a little ways to go before I am going to be comfortable about the half marathon in February, but I feel like I am at a good place for the 10k on New Years! Progress is slow sometimes, but it’s a really great sense of accomplishment to see that my body is continuing to push itself a little further each time. (Even if I did eat bread AND beer this weekend, haha!)

As this weather is continuing to cool down, I find myself craving soup and I have been wanting to try new recipes instead of going with the same ol’ chicken and vegetables. Where do you think I went while on this recipe search? If you guessed Pinterest you are RIGHT ON! I had seen recipes for Buffalo Chicken Soup floating around and I knew that it required you to puree cauliflower for some of the thickness and now that I had a trusty immersion blender in my kitchen army, I figured I better try it out! The recipe itself is very simple – the only thing I would mention is to make sure that your cauliflower is cooked enough. A few of my pieces didn’t blend and while it wasn’t the end of the world, it did surprise R who didn’t even know there was cauliflower in the soup at all haha.

Buffalo Chicken Soup – original recipe is from Paleoaholic

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 4 Organic chicken breast
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp Organic raw honey
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 1 cup Franks red hots sauce
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1/2 Tbsp chives
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried dill
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions:

  1. Using a large stock pot, add 6 cups of water and 2 cups of chicken broth, cauliflower and chicken breast.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat.
  3. Once chicken is cooked remove and set aside.
  4. Add coconut milk, chicken stock, spices, honey, and franks red hot sauce.
  5. Use a stick blender and puree.
  6. Shred the chicken with a fork and add to the pot.
  7. Chop the celery and onion and add to the pot
  8. Stir in the parsley, chives and cilantro and simmer for 20 min.
  9. Serve and Enjoy!

The picture below shows the cauliflower (and there is chicken breasts underneath it) cooking in the water/broth mixture. And then the finished product! This is a perfect meal to make ahead of time and let simmer for awhile, the flavors all combine really nicely.

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