Thursday, March 22, 2012

Clean[er] Eating: Week 3

Week 3

Cauliflower curry. Brown rice and vegetables. Vegetable lasagna. Asian stir-fry. Sweet potato fries. It's been a good week.

I made this cauliflower curry under the suggestion of my sister, Katy, and it was quite tasty. I served it over brown rice, and there was enough left over for lunch the next day. I want to make a few more Indian and Thai dishes over the next month...I really like the combination of flavors and textures in the ones I've tried. I found a great Thai Sweet Potato and Lentil recipe I may try this weekend. We'll see...

While I did cook a lot, I didn't have a chance to bake any gluten-free bread. I'm making some gluten-free banana yogurt muffins this afternoon, and if they turn out well I'll post a recipe next week. I did have a chance to sprout some lentils that I'll use in a salad this evening, a stir-fry for lunch tomorrow, and a brown rice and veggie mix this weekend. They are so good and soooooo easy to make! Why sprouted lentils? Well, for some reason sprouting lentils makes the protein and vitamins more digestable, and decreases the number of calories per cup from 678 to 82. No, seriously.

Next week is the last week of our Clean[er] Eating challenge, but I think John and I both plan to keep going. We're set to save about $100 on groceries (that includes spending a bit more this month on a select number of gluten-free items), the food we're eating is healthy and delicious, and we feel great. It's the real deal.

Sprouting Lentils (makes a lot!)

You will need:

  • 3/4 cup brown lentils
  • a small colander
  • a bowl that the colander can easily fit inside
  • a thin dish towel

Step 1: Rinse the lentils well and put them in a bowl with water about 3 inches above the top of the lentils. Let sit for 12 hours (I typically do this while I'm preparing dinner, and then drain them the next morning).

Step 2: Pour the water and the lentils into a small colander. Rinse well (at least a full minute). Let drain for another minute. Put the colander into the larger bowl and cover with a thin dish towel. Set somewhere out of direct sunlight and at room temperature.

Step 3: 12 hours later, rinse the lentils again, let dry, and put back in the larger bowl, covering it all with the thin dish towel. Place back in a location out of sunlight and at room temperature.

Step 4: Repeat step 3 at least twice more.

When your lentils have sprouted 1/4 - 1/2 inch, you're done! Do not rinse again, simply put in a Tupperware container and transfer to the fridge until use. You can steam them, saute them, or use them raw in salads.They are delicious, cheap, and ridiculously healthy!!!

Sprouted Lentils!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Clean[er] Eating - Week 2

John: "Why do I have so much energy?!?!!"
Me: (half-asleep) "Mmmmfffrpmm..."
John: "This is amazing! I'm not even a little bit tired!!!"
Me: .....
John: "I'm gonna read Hunger Games for a while, because I AM NOT TIRED!!!"
Me: "MmmmmrrrrrKatniss...."

it was once my book to read....


This has been a pretty typical scene at the Peterson household lately. Two months ago, we were both in bed and asleep by 9:30 (don't judge), exhausted from work and life and general lack of energy. Now, John comes home smiling and energetic and joyful and talkative and ohmygoodness it's awesome.

Why do I mention this? Because the only change we've made is eating cleaner. We haven't been taking new super-expensive vitamins or getting up at 5am to strike some awesome yoga poses or downing protein shakes every two hours. We've just been eating cleaner, and John specifically has been eating gluten-free. 

So what do we eat? Well, because we're participating in Rice & Beans month (learn more about it here) we eat a lot of....rice and beans (both are gluten-free). We also eat a lot of veggies and fruits. For example:

Sunday: Pinto beans and rice with tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, garlic, basil, and oregano
Monday: Baked sweet potatoes with garlicky lentils and a side of brown rice and broccoli
Tuesday: Corn tortilla tacos with refried pinto beans and Spanish rice
Wednesday: Sweet potato chili w/ kidney and pinto beans
Thursday: (community group night) Chili dogs w/ gluten free hot dog buns
Friday:  a stop at Chick-fil-a (they have GF salads, and their waffle fries are GF!)
Saturday: whatever's leftover from the week....

(By the way, most of these recipes were vastly improved by the addition of cheese. Ya just can't tell a guy raised in Wisconsin that he can't have cheese...)

In addition to Pinterest and Google, I'm also taking advantage of the recipes you all have sent me, as well as the recipes posted by some of my favorite bloggers! My sister sent me an Indian cauliflower curry recipe that I'm planning to try out next week, and my dear friend Jen sent me a bean soup recipe that is going to be GREAT for the stormy weather coming up next week. And, of course, my friend Heidi over at The Busy Nothings has TONS of resources for gluten-free eating. 

Next week, a post about sprouting your own lentils, attempting GF bread, and what John thinks of The Hunger Games....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Clean[er] Eating - Week 1

We may never go back to our old ways...

Ok, I know it's a bit presumptuous to claim right now,  but John and I both feel SO much better after a week of clean[er] eating. It's crazy awesome.

We managed to eat rice and beans every single day this week - even when we went to Tulsa to see Gungor at Cain's Ballroom. We got there early and, after a bit of a discussion, landed at a nearby Mexican restaurant where we shared a plate of stacked blue corn enchiladas with Spanish rice and beans. It was really cool to continue our challenge even while traveling. I've found that eating rice and beans (plus veggies) is not nearly as monotonous as I had feared. Because they're a staple of nearly every country in the world, there are thousands of recipes from all across the globe using rice and beans. You can do spicy or subtle, creamy or textured, black beans or lentils, soups or casseroles...there's a lot of variety. Not to mention the fact that several wonderful friends have sent me recipes :)

And I've been cooking so much more. I love it. Not just following a recipe, but intentionally soaking and preparing dried beans, using regular brown rice instead of instant, making oatmeal breakfast muffins instead of buying Clif's fantastic. I love the feeling of standing over a pot of simmering vegetables and beans. To me there is something slightly therapeutic about it all, mixing and chopping, stirring and watching, smelling and's rhythmic. 

One night this week, I realized my dinner consisted of lentils I sprouted myself, fresh vegetables, brown rice, and a slice of seven-grain bread that I made from scratch. It was one of the healthiest meals I'd ever eaten, incredibly simple, and prepared by my own hands from start to finish. It was an awesome feeling. 

In addition to rice and beans,  we're also eating more veggies. We tried out a local organic delivery service this week (since the farmers' market isn't open yet) and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of our box. It was a really good value! The apples and clementines have a ton of flavor, and the carrots were delicious. I plan to use the rest in next week's meals, so it's definitely a good investment for us, at least this month. 
lettuce, shiitake mushrooms, apples, oranges, clementines, bananas,
zucchini, green beans, onions, broccoli, lemon, mango, carrots, and potatoes.  

We're definitely excited for week two. I'm looking forward to making gluten-free pancakes at some point, as well as three-bean chili, jambalaya, and possibly gluten-free bread (fingers crossed...). Thanks for reading and cheering me on! If you have any other recipes or ideas, let me know!

Here are some of the other things I've made this week:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Eating Rice and Beans

John and I are changing things up this month.

We've been talking for a while now about how to live healthier. Obviously I've played around with vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian tendencies for a while, but I've really been wondering what we as a couple can do to improve our health, increase our energy, and combat the stress that seems to be ever-increasing in our lives. So for the month of March we're going to try to eat cleaner, better meals, incorporating waaaaay more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits while decreasing the amount of processed food we consume.

Mmmm...fresh tomato soup w/ spaghetti squash

I've come up with four main reasons for this month of better eating:

1. Health. Neither John nor I have been feeling 100% lately. We're mentally exhausted and physically drained most of the time, and I know that eating veggies and fruits can really help combat fatigue and illness. For example, I personally feel much better in the afternoons if I eat a healthy lunch like brown rice w/ veggies and a salad (like today) as compared to days when I only have time for a microwaveable entree and apple. If I can make healthier meals for us, why spend money on convenience foods that aren't nutritious or filling? Oh, and by the way, we're also going to steer clear of foods with gluten this month. Ya know, just to make this extra fun ;)

2. Budget. By removing processed foods from our diet and eating more vegetables, grains, and fruits, we can drastically reduce our food budget. The most expensive things we tend to buy include meat (we'll still eat some, but not a lot), packaged snacks and soups, and breads (pitas, whole grain breads, etc). By comparison, vegetables really don't cost much at all: a package of carrots is around 82 cents, and squash (winter and summer) comes in under $1 a pound right now. Sweet potatoes are cheap and incredibly nutritious, as are seasonal fruits like oranges, bananas, and apples. Throw in some brown rice (under $1 a bag) and some beans (super cheap when you buy them dried), and you're set for the week. Now, I know it will take a lot longer to prepare these meals, but I've already been working up a pretty effective method of cooking in large batches and separating the leftovers into individual containers for lunches. For example, on Monday I made a huge batch of brown rice and Asian-style vegetables, and it ended up being lunch for John at least two other days this week. It was pretty cool.

3. Lahash. We recently heard about this organization called Lahash, who has organized something called "Rice & Beans Month" (you can check it out here). The premise is to invite as many people as possible to eat simple meals of rice and beans throughout the month of March. Then, donate the money you save to the Lahash organization so that they can buy rice and beans for children and families in East Africa. This seems like the perfect chance to try this, since rice and beans are inexpensive and gluten-free! Woo-hoo! Plus I love the idea that small changes like this can mean food for a family in East Africa!!!

4. Faith. Now, it may seem weird to add faith into this post (however, I did manage to discuss faith and Crock-Pots in my last post), but it's something I think actually fits quite well into our goals this month. We're called to treat our bodies as temples: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I feel like I honor God more when I'm eating nourishing foods that provide energy and sustenance than when I'm inhaling McDonald's cheeseburgers or a bag of potato chips. I also feel like it's showing good stewardship of what God has given me, taking care of the body He's provided me in such a way that I am physically and mentally able to serve others more genuinely. So this month of clean eating will hopefully provide an opportunity for me to gain physical and spiritual strength.

The guidelines are simple: we'll eat meals based around rice and beans any night we're home (typically 3-4 nights a week). I'll try to make enough for those meals that they transfer over into lunches for us. On nights when we aren't home, either for community group or other events that provide food, we'll choose healthy, gluten-free options. If we eat out, we'll do the same.

I'll be posting every Thursday of this month to let you know how things are going. Right now, I have plans to make spend the afternoon prepping some lunches of brown rice w/ zucchini, shredded carrots, kale, chunks of sweet potatoes, and black beans. Yum! I'll also be meal planning for next week, so if you have any tips, advice, prayers, or recipes, PLEASE share them with me!

Thanks  :)