Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When you think of the holiday season, does it stress you out? Come January do you remember the lethargy, the exhaustion, and the weight-gain?  Did you know it doesn’t have to be that way?

Christmas dinner, which is normally a calorie, unhealthy fat and sugar bomb, is one of the biggest culprits. Many people assume that it has to be that way, because really, who’s going to sacrifice a traditional Christmas dinner in favour of making it healthier? We can worry about the consequences later, right?

But how often do we look back on the jolly-making, and rather than remember the amazing food we enjoyed so much, we regret it because we feel gross and have gained weight?

Does it ever seem worth it in the end?

Well, I have some GOOD NEWS!  DELICIOUS Christmas dinner, and all the trimmings and desserts, can still be enjoyed. Really! The key, is to make everything in a different way, in a way that doesn’t tear down our bodies.

I chose to make roast chicken (because turkeys are too big! lol), mashed potatoes, stuffing, roasted vegetables, and gravy.  There are any number of clean versions of Christmas dinner, but this is what I chose to make.  I also made an apple berry crumble, which you can find here (my recipe on the Eat Clean site).  I forgot to take pic. ;p

The best part of this dinner?  I portioned it into three MORE Christmas dinner and froze them, so I can have Christmas dinner a few more times for lunch!!!

All the things you see in the above picture are below.  For your convenience, everything is to be cooked at the same temp, with the exception of the last few minutes of the vegetables (see the roast veg recipe below).

The order the dishes need to go into and out of the oven:

1. Chicken in (cook for about 2 hours, uncovered for half of that time)
2.  Stuffing to be added after the chicken has been cooking for about one hour (uncovered after 40 minutes) 
3.  Vegetables to be added 20 minutes after you add the stuffing.  To be turned up after the stuffing and chicken have been removed.  Keep an eye on them!

The veggies will take a few minutes to cook after the chicken and stuffing are done.  That's OK--just keep the chicken on the stovetop, covered, and the stuffing on the stovetop covered also, until the veggies are ready.  They'll keep warm and be ready when you are.  In the meantime, if you need to heat up the gravy and potatoes, you can do it while you're waiting.  

The easiest way I've found to flavour a roast chicken is with rosemary, lemon, and a bit of sea salt.  All you have to do, is spritz olive oil over the chicken, sprinkle a bit of sea salt, and cover the chicken with as much rosemary as you like.  Fresh rosemary works best, but dried is fine--just remember to use 1/2 as much if you're using dried, as it's more potent.  Then poke a bunch of holes in a lemon or two, and stick it into the chicken's cavity, along with some more rosemary.  Roast covered for about an hour on 375F, then uncover and continue roasting for about another hour (the exact time will depend on the size of the chicken--will usually be 90 minutes to around 2 hours).  Then just take it out of the oven, plate it and let it rest for a few minutes (so that the juices relax, and don't come pouring out the minute you cut into the chicken--keeps the meat moist), then serve.  Easy!

For the mushroom gravy, I used the recipe on,  but I changed it.  I thought you might like to see how a clean eater changes recipes to make them clean but still very tasty, here it is.  I changed the following in the recipe: 

*  I used more mushrooms, and also added about 6 soaked dried mushrooms to make it mushroomier. 

*  I didn't use vegan margarine,  I just spritzed the pan with olive oil.

*  I used Bragg's liquid amino's (called Bragg's All-Purpose Seasoning in Canada) instead of the soy sauce, just because I like it better with mushrooms. 

*  I used whole wheat pastry flour (sometimes called "soft" whole wheat flour) for the flour it calls for. 

*  I also made sure to cook the mushrooms on a higher heat, and for longer than it calls for, because browning the mushrooms make it mushroomier too.  AND I used the dried mushroom soaking liquid in place of about 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth it calls for, because, you guessed it--it makes it mushroomier!  The rest of the recipe was the same, including the instructions.

SO tasty!  I don't know about you, but I LOVE good gravy! 

The mashed potatoes are also a favourite of mine, so I made them too.  It's not an exact recipe, because it depends on how many servings you make, but I put it in "parts" for your convenience.  You'll note that I used a bit of butter--in mashed potatoes I find it adds a level of flavour I miss if I omit it.  It's only 1 tbsp per 4 servings, and it's organic unsalted, so I'm willing to make that concession. : )

Amacuba's Clean Mashed Potatoes
1 part russet potatoes
1 part sweet potatoes
1 tbsp organic unsalted butter (per 4 servings)
Ground sage, pinch (or to taste)
Ground thyme powder, pinch (or to taste)
Homo milk (or half and half), and chicken or vegetable stock, to make potatoes desired consistancy, whatever that is for you
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil a pot of water with some sea salt in it (sea salt makes the flavours of the potatoes come out).

Peel and chop potatoes into chunks.  Since sweet potatoes cook a little faster than white potatoes do, be sure to make the sweet potato chunks a bit bigger, so they'll be the same time cooking.  You can leave the russet potato peels on if you like (there's more nutrients that way), but be sure to peel the sweet potatoes.

Cook the potatoes until both kinds are soft.  Drain, but don't rinse--you want the starch on the potatoes.

Reduce the burner temperature to low, and put the potatoes back into the same pot (why make more dishes?!), and add butter.  With an electric hand mixer, or with a hand-held potato masher if you prefer to go old-school, mash/whip the potatoes enough that the butter is well mixed in.  Add the homo milk/half and half, and salt and pepper, and mash/whip until the potatoes are the consistency you like. 

Set aside until needed.  It can be made a few hours, or even a day before they're going to be served--just re-heat on medium-low heat, stirring/whipping until they're fluffy again.  Great time-saver!

Amacuba's Clean Stuffing (same as above, depends on how much you want to make)

Note:  Stuffing should be added to the oven with the chicken when it's about an hour from being finished.

Bread cubes, whole-grain, or Frech/Italian stick bread, whole-grain, sliced into small cubes and let to get stale over night.  (Or if you forgot like me, put on a cookie sheet in the oven on 150F for a couple of hours, mixing it up every 30 minutes or so, so it dries out evenly)

No salt added chicken or vegetable stock
Powdered sage, to taste
Rosemary, to taste
Thyme, to taste
Poultry seasoning, to taste
Green onion, chopped
Roasted garlic *
Raw garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop roasted garlic up as best you can (it's sticky!) and add to a mixing bowl.  Throw in all other ingredients, except the stock.  Toss thoroughly, making sure that all the pieces of bread are covered in the seasoning.

Add the stock, just enough that the bread soaks it up when it's tossed, and that the bread is evenly moist, but not so much that the bread is saturated. 

Place loosely in a non-stick or sprayed pan, cover with tin foil, and cook for 40 minutes.  Uncover and cook for about an additional 20 minutes.  Do not allow top to burn--it should just be crunchy, but not dry.  If you're afraid it's geting dry, check it by sticking a knife in the middle and peeking.  If the middle is moist but not overly so (like finished dressing would be), it's done.  It's OK to take it out of the oven even if the chicken isn't done yet--just re-cover it, and set it on the top of the oven.  That should keep it warm until you need it.

* To make roast garlic, chop off the top bit of a head of garlic, wrap the whole thing in tin foil, and pop into the oven at 375F.  Roast until the cloves are soft.  Allow to cool, and just squish the soft clove centers out of the skins!  They're quite sticky, so be sure to remove the white papery outer skin first, otherwise you'll have all the paper stuck to your fingers!

Roasted Root Vegetables (should be added to the oven 20 minutes after you add the stuffing)

Any root vegetable is delicious roasted, and it's the simplist and yet most nutritious way to cook vegetables!

Carrots, parsnips (in the pic), turnips, Brussels sprouts, beets etc are all delicious roasted.  Just peel if they need to be peeled (baby beets just need to be trimmed, since the skins are edible).  Brussels sprouts should have the outer leaves removed (because of pesticides), and be halved.  Chop everything else into equal bite-sized pieces.

On a baking sheet, sprayed with olive oil, arrange vegetables cut-side down.  Spritz tops with some more olive oil (don't worry--with a spritzer you're using very little) and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper.

Cook at 375F for about 40 minutes, then when you remove the chicken and stuffing (if it's still in the oven), turn the veggies over, and turn the oven up to 425F.  Allow to roast for about 10 minutes, so they start to caramalize a little.  Keep an eye on them!

I promise you this holiday meal is FULL of flavour.  I would never recommend any clean recipes, let alone a clean holiday meal, if it weren't tasty.  : )

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I’ve been thinking over the past few days about any goals I might want to accomplish by the end of 2013. I could of course do the same goals that everyone seems to do automatically, but then I thought I should give it some real thought, and find out what I REALLY want to accomplish next year. So here they are, in no particular order:

· Live my clean life, as though I’ve already reached my fitness goals. I’m sick to death of being in the head space of “I want to be this size”, “I want to be under this body fat %” etc. I’ve been thinking about that kind of thing for so long, that I don’t know anymore how to NOT think that way. So what will it mean in real life? I’ll eat cleanly automatically because that’s the life I want. I will not weigh, measure or compare myself to others, because that’s no longer my life. I will exercise because I love how it makes me feel, and because I know it will keep me healthy.

· I will do what makes me happy. I’ve spent much of the past few years making sacrifices for other people on their road to success and happiness. It’s time to do what makes ME happy too! Making other people happy makes me happy, but I would like to do stuff just for me, you know? What that will mean is getting up with the alarm, because I don’t like rushing in the morning. It means finishing my novel, and being proud of it. It means continuing to spread the clean life to others, because seeing how it changes their lives for the better makes me happy. There will be other things I’m sure, and I’ll be sure to do them too!

· I will learn about the food from different cultures. I’ve always been a foodie. Even as a child, when we were very poor (like Oprah as a kid poor—po as she called it!) I had a taste for good food. I don’t know where it came from; it’s not like I was exposed to much of it, but it’s always been that way. I’ve very recently started to learn about Turkish cuisine, and I’m pretty darned inspired already! I even already have a cookbook to start with!  I'm going to start with Susamli ve Corek Otlu Pide Ekmergi which is Pita Bread Topped with Sesame and Black Caraway seeds.  Apparently it can be made 1/2 inch thick to be ripped and eaten, or made thinner and turned into pita bread with pockets, just by making it wider and thinner!  I love the idea of making my own pita, especially if it has flavour!!!  Imagine--eating pita which tastes good all on it's own!  How NOVEL!!

It looks like most Turkish cuisine is pretty clean.  There is SO no need to be bored with Clean Eating—the whole world of delicious dishes is at my fingertips! And taste buds!! Every once in a while I forget that (we all get stuck in ruts, right?) so this should fan the flames even higher!

· Do other things that make me a better me, as I discover them!

Friday, December 14, 2012

As an official Eat Clean Ambassador I was asked a few weeks ago, to do something special for the Season of Giving this December.  To share the love as it were, and spread the joy of eating clean as well.  You can read what other Ambassadors have done this month at!

I wanted to do something different, something special for my co-workers, because it's been a very trying time for us--a couple of months ago, we said goodbye to a friend and co-worker who passed away after fighting cancer for 10 years, and we've had nearly 20% of our workforce lose their jobs.  Morale has been very low, not just because people are worried about what will happen to their own jobs, but because we're having to say goodbye to our friends, and worrying about what it will mean to their futures. 

I wanted to do something to bring a little joy into people's lives.  So, I decided to make delicious clean Christmas cookies.  I would make wee packages with 2 cookies in each, a nice festive bow, and attach a customizable "I appreciate you" tag to them, all for just $1 each! (the recipe is below)

The response was so overhwelming, that although I made nearly DOUBLE the packages last Saturday than I had orders for, by the end of the day Monday I had so many orders that not only were all the extras sold out, but I had to turn people away!  I felt bad for that, but the only time I had to make a kajillion cookies was all afternoon and evening on the Saturday! 

I had a HUGE pile of wee packages waiting to be delivered, and it really made my heart about three sizes bigger knowing that people still cared so much for each other that they'd be willing to take the time to not only order the cookies, but to write personal notes to each and every one of them.  (there are 80 packages in this pic, believe it or not!)

The icing on the cake?  The cookies not only paid for themselves (so it didn't come out of my pocket) but there was actually a decent profit--so I marched it over to our Fundraising department, and earmarked it for cooking lessons for a youth about to move to independence!  I thought that was a cool idea, because I think that a lot of the reason why people in general don't seem to cook very healthily, is because they just weren't taught how to cook properly!  I know I sure wasn't, and 10 years after moving to independence I found myself 75 pounds overweight and no idea how to cook anything healthier.  I sure had a lot of learning in my future! 

The original recipe can be seen here.  It was already a pretty clean recipe, but it still included processed white sugar, which isn't healthy at all, and processed brown sugar, which is processed white sugar with molasses spun into it.  I also changed the one egg yoke to one egg white, because I didn't want to waste half an egg to use the yoke (per recipe!) and I had clean egg whites in the carton in the fridge, so I could literally measure out one egg white.  The rest of the ingredients remained the same.

Orange Spice Molasses Cookies (picture from


Rolling Sugar

1/2 cup granulated organic cane sugar

1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

Cookie Dough

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup granulated organic cane sugar

1/3 cup packed organic brown sugar (organic cane sugar with molasses spun in)

2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest

1/2 cup light or dark molasses

7 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour


1. Preheat oven to 375. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper or a baking mat.

2. To prepare the rolling sugar: Pulse ½ cup granulated sugar and 1 tbsp orange zest in food processor until well combined. Place in a shallow dish and set aside.

3. To prepare cookie dough: Grind oats in a blender until they look like fine powder, 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides as needed.

4. Beat butter and 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and 2 tbsp orange zest and beat another 2 minutes. Add molasses, apple sauce, egg yolk, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, pepper and salt; beat on medium-high until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides and beaters as needed.

5. Turn the mixer to medium and slowly add the ground oats. Scrape down the bowl; with the mixer on medium, slowly add whole-wheat flour. (The dough will be moderately sticky)

6. Using a slightly rounded tbsp of dough, roll into balls, then roll in the rolling sugar to coat. (If necessary wet your fingertips to help roll without sticking). The zest will make the mixture slightly wet and it will clump; lightly brush off the excess so just a thin layer is on the cookie. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

7. Bake the cookies in batches until the edges are set and the tops are cracked, but the centers are still soft and puffy, about 10 minutes.

8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 8 minutes. Serve warm or cool on the wire rack.

Tip: Make ahead tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to three months.