Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cooking Clean Challenge

Last week, while hearing Jim lament some of his nutrition challenges and comment on his ambitious marathon goals for May I decided that I would issue him (and myself) the ultimate challenge.  Make the average guy undergo a nutrition make-over to get more clean, lean, and mean before May 1st.  My approach to clean eating is pretty straightforward.  You have to make it work for yourself, but everyone needs help to get started and support on the journey, so once a week Jim and I are going to be getting together so I can cook and we can chat about how to eat cleaner but still packs a flavorful punch for this fast food frequent flier.  What better way to kick it off than with some clean sweet and sour chicken (no take-out here) and chocolate raspberry cupcakes?
Check out the video of the experience and the recipes are listed below.  Try this alternative to takeout the next time you have a craving for Chinese food or rich chocolate goodness!
Check out the recipes for everything we made tonight!

Sweet and Sour Chicken
This healthy and vastly reduced sodium alternative to Chinese takeout is flavorful and filling.  With or without rice (or in this case Quinoa) you can enjoy all the tastes of the Orient without the high sodium, fried meat, and unhealthy sauces. 
Serves: 6
Hands-on time: 20 minutes.
Total time: 1 hour.
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breasts), chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 12 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, agave nectar, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Place chicken in a large shallow dish. Pour soy sauce mixture over chicken, tossing gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and marinade and sauté for 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Add bell pepper and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are slightly tender. Add pineapple and cook for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately over rice for a complete meal, if desired.
  3. Prepare quinoa according to package directions.  Generally takes about 12 minutes. 
Nutrients per serving (1 1/4 cups chicken mixture; not including rice): Calories: 161, Total Fat: 1.5 g, Sat. Fat 0.25 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.25 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5 g, Carbs: 17 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugars: 13 g, Protein: 21 g, Sodium: 404 mg, Cholesterol: 48 mg
 

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

These sneakily healthy cupcakes are about 80 calories a piece and pack a vitamin fortified punch with the pureed spinach and blueberries, whole raspberries, and Greek yogurt.  They will give you energy, satisfy your chocolate craving and keep you clean and calorically in check.  They are also kid approved!  :-)
Serves: Makes: 12 cupcakes. Hands-on time: n/a Total time: n/a
INGREDIENTS:
  • IMAG0086 1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup Sucanat, divided
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup organic Greek Yogurt
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tsp skim milk, divided
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 TBSP – 1/4 cup pureed spinach and blueberry mix
  • 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 1/3 cup frozen organic raspberries
INSTRUCTIONS:IMAG0089
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cocoa powder, 1 cup Sucanat, flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sour cream, 1/3 cup milk, oil, vanilla spinach and blueberry puree and egg white. 
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Combine everything with a rubber spatula.
  5. Add egg whites to a large clean, dry mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip whites with hand beater or whisk attachment of stand mixer until they begin to get foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup Sucanat very gradually to whites. Continue whipping whites into medium-stiff peaks. 
  6. Fold whites in thirds into cake batter, gently but assertively with rubber spatula. 
  7. Add raspberries and gently mix.
  8. Fill each of the 12 cupcake liners 3/4-full with batter. Tap bottom of filled muffin pan on countertop and transfer immediately IMAG0096to oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  9. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool completely. 
  10. When cupcakes are completely cool, combine chocolate and remaining 2 tsp milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds. Stir until melted chocolate is completely smooth. Spread a thin layer on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle additional chocolate shavings, a chocolate piece,or a fresh strawberry or raspberry on top, if desired.