I've been keeping a secret from you. (No, I'm not pregnant. LOL) I've been living sugar free for a couple of weeks now. Even as I type those words, I can hardly believe it. After all, I'm a chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookie, mint chocolate chip ice cream loving kind of girl. I have mad love and appreciation for sugar. If it weren't for sugar, I wouldn't be able to make all of the sugary sweet treats for my baking business. I use so much sugar every week that my son actually nicknamed me the "sugar dealer" of our town.
Being surrounded by cookies, cupcakes and brownies every single day was never something that I considered to be a hinderance. I complain about the fact that I smell like buttercream at the end of the day but there are far worse smells. I still believe that I've got the very best job in the world. The only problem is that it's turned me into a serious sugar addict. Being surrounded by sugar is a great place to be until you realize that you can't live without it.
Being unable to finish a meal (including breakfast) without a dessert, having intense cravings for sweets and experiencing a serious sugar crash every afternoon was a wake up call for me to be more mindful of the amount of sugar that I was consuming on a daily basis. When I started to journal my food, I realized that I was eating a whole lot more sugar than I ever realized. A cookie here and a bite of buttercream there seemed pretty harmless until I added up all of those "little" bites that I was consuming throughout the day.
Sugar is so pervasive in my life that eliminating it completely seemed almost impossible. Living sugar free means something different for everyone. For me, going sugar free meant eliminated as much refined sugar from my diet as I possibly could. I also swapped out white breads for bread and snacks made exclusively of whole wheat flour. I did allow myself a small amount of natural sweeteners like honey, molasses, maple syrup and stevia. (I'm only human after all.) I also swapped out white potatoes with sweet potatoes and limited myself to one Tablespoon of ketchup with my baked sweet potato fries. (That was a HUGE sacrifice.) I had to educate myself about the hidden sugars in foods like yogurt, salad dressings and milk alternatives. It's worth noting that I also limited my dairy intake at the same time - for entirely different reasons. I started drinking and baking with milk alternatives like almond and coconut milk and eating soy yogurt.
I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't always easy to avoid sugar and my family will attest to the fact that I wasn't always pleasant to be around when I was living sugar free. The first couple of days were the worst and then the cravings and afternoon sugar crashes started to magically disappear. As I got more comfortable eating sugar free, I also found more ways to satisfy my sweet tooth with things like with fresh fruit. Did you know that fresh fruit tastes even better when you haven't eaten refined sugar for a few weeks? Still struggling with leaving the dinner table without a little sweet treat, I had to come up with creative ways to make my fruit look more like dessert. Let's just say that a bowl of strawberry whip after dinner, was a lifesaver.
Slice strawberries and freeze on a baking sheet.
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
Scoop into a plastic bag and freeze 10 minutes.
Cut a corner of the bag and squeeze into a bowl to serve.
I don't want to make blanket statements about nutrition because let's face it - I'm not here to start a nutrition war. What's best for me, may not be best for everyone else. I have no idea how long I will be able to embrace this sugar free living but I can tell you that I am feeling better than I did when I was eating refined sugar. I feel great and I'm not experiencing the sugar cravings or crashes that I did last month.
I'm still giving myself some grace for those important events that come up and absolutely MUST be celebrated with a small slice of high quality, real deal, piece of rich, decadent chocolate cake covered in creamy fudge frosting. I'm not going to feel guilty about indulging in an occasional treat because to be honest - it takes a lot less dessert to satisfy me now. My taste buds are more sensitive to sugar since I've become more sugar aware.
I'm on the search for more sugar free treats so if you have a tried and true favorite - send the recipe my way. I'd love to try it. Thanks in advance.
If there were a speed eating contest, my husband and I would both stand a chance of reigning victorious. We've got an edge up on our competition because we're both ultra competitive AND we have a lot of practice. I'm not talking about a hot dog eating or pie eating competition, I'm talking about scarfing down a regular sized meal in record time.
There is really no advantage to our accelerated eating habits - quite the opposite really. No person should ever consume their food in such hasty fashion. Eating quickly leads to poor digestion, overeating and lower satisfaction with the whole experience. Not to mention the fact that if I spend and hour preparing a meal, I want everyone at the table to enjoy every single bite that goes into their mouth. I don't want to see my culinary efforts disappear in ten minutes flat without so much as an inhale to appreciate the way the food smells.
I talk about eating as an experience A LOT. I'm mainly reminding myself to put my fork down between bites and to slow myself down while I'm eating a meal. (Regardless of who prepared it.) My goal is to experience my food instead of simply eating to satisfy my hunger. Appreciating what the food LOOKS like and how it SMELLS even before diving into that first bite.
If there was ever a food that really begs to be experienced and appreciated, it's a Caesar Salad. It's simplistic in nature and the recipe is very basic but it really stands out against all other salads. Chances are you've had one of these beloved salads at some point in your life but now I challenge you to experience your Caesar Salad. Try my Grilled Caesar salad with Sourdough Breadcrumbs for a unique twist on the class Caesar.
Grilled Caesar Salad with Sourdough Breadcrumbs
2 cups cubes whole wheat sourdough bread
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 romaine hearts, quartered lengthwise
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
Brush romaine halves with olive oil.
Place lettuce, cut side down, on a hot grill and grill until charred.
Add 1/4 c. chickpeas and 1/4 c. breadcrumbs.
Top with 2 T. Caesar dressing and parmesan cheese.
Pair this Cesar salad with a great piece of grilled fish or chicken and you've got yourself a perfect summer meal.
I'm learning to thrive in the gray areas of eating. I'm also learning to accept the fact that not all of my daily decisions can be as black and white as I would like. Sure there are some decisions that are very clear cut: Should I get out of bed? Should I each some chocolate today? I can answer YES to both of those questions without even giving them a second thought.
The problem is that black and white rules don't apply to healthy eating. These days the rules of healthy eating are constantly changing. One diet "expert" makes the claim that we should eat salmon at least once a week while another warns us to avoid it at all costs. Eat only farm raised salmon, eat only wild caught salmon, eat coho salmon, eat only Alaskan salmon. What are we supposed to believe? It's all very confusing and quite honestly - overwhelming.
Thriving in the gray area, means finding balance in my diet. Shrugging off my guilt for indulging in something "forbidden", listening to my body and allowing myself to eat the things that are right for me and not removing sugar completely from my diet to the point where I obsess over it. Thriving in the gray area. Balancing my ice cream binge sessions with some vegetables.
Today I cooked salmon tacos for dinner. Salmon is a hot topic right now in the healthy eating world and there is a LOT of information regarding both the benefits and the disadvantages of its consumption. The fact is that I enjoy salmon and eating it makes me happy so I eat it at least once a week. These Smoked Salmon Tacos are a great way to really enjoy salmon in a delicious and healthy way.
Smoked Salmon Tacos
1 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 pound salmon filet
1 cup wood chips
2 Tablespoons apricot preserves
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 small granny smith apple, peeled and chopped fine
1 celery rib, chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas
3 cups salad greens
Add salad greens.
I cook a lot of salmon and I don't like to repeat recipes. (I'm a food blogger after all.) I had explored what I thought was every possible way to prepare this delicious seafood - then I discovered the salmon taco. I wasn't sure about the idea of a salmon taco at first but I was ready for a new way to enjoy my salmon so I agreed to give it a shot. I am so glad that I did. This may just be my new favorite way to enjoy salmon.
Ben and I are so excited about the start of the Olympics that we threw an opening ceremony party for ourselves tonight. I considered making something Korean in honor of the host country but then reconsidered when I realized that I have very limited knowledge of Korean cooking. (Note to self: Learn how to cook Korean food.) I made chicken wings instead. ;)
I'm digging this healthier version of the traditional fried chicken wing. These cornflake crusted baked wings are just and juicy and delicious as their fried counterparts without all the extra grease. The simple dipping sauce is a great compliment to the wings and also doubles as a yummy vegetable dip.
Salt and Vinegar Chicken Wings
1 pound chicken wings
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon malt vinegar
1 1/2 cups crushed cornflakes
2 Tablespoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Sprinkle chicken with salt. Serve with dipping sauce.
Let the 2018 Winter Olympics begin. What's your favorite winter Olympic sport to watch? I like them all but I'm super excited to watch the bobsledding. I'm pretty sure if I hadn't decided to become a chef, I could have been and Olympic bobsledder. Never mind the fact that I don't like cold weather or anything fast. Guess I'll stick to cheffing - for now.
I am totally jumping on the spaghetti squash bandwagon. I am such a big fan of those little yellow gourds that I toss one into my cart almost every time I see them at the grocery store.
I have to admit that I wasn't an instant fan. The first few times that I tried to make spaghetti squash I pretended it was spaghetti, covered it in marinara sauce and needless to say, I was less than impressed. My brain was telling me that I was eating squash but I wanted it to have the same texture and consistency as pasta. My conflicting feelings led to a less than satisfying spaghetti squash experience.
Once I finally convinced my brain that it was acceptable for spaghetti squash to resemble pasta but be completely different in taste and texture, I was on board. Now some of my very favorite dinners are based on Spaghetti Squash. If you're a fellow spaghetti squash fan, you have to check out my Spaghetti Squash Lasagna and Southwest Spaghetti Squash recipes. You will also love this Spaghetti Squash Scampi recipe. It's super easy - and delicious.
I've made so much spaghetti squash that I've finally started to perfect my squash roasting techniques. For one thing, I've learned recently that if I cut it into rings before roasting instead of slicing it in half, I end up with longer, more appealing "spaghetti" strands. Check out this recipe for details on that.
Spaghetti Squash Scampi
1 spaghetti squash
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
1/4 crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces shrimp, peeled
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Carefully scrape out squash strands.
Add spinach and toss until wilted. Add squash and sprinkle with salt.
Serve with Naan bread.
Dial up the heat by adding more red pepper flakes to your scampi. Ben and I ate an entire squash for dinner and normally we only eat about a quarter of the squash a piece. I guess that's a sign that this recipe is a keeper. Hope you enjoy!
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