Friday, January 31, 2014

Planning for a Busy Day

Thursday this week was our really busy day. I had to work in Columbus and go to a few client meetings, which means dropping the kids off at the sitter at a specific time to make sure I get there in time (my time management skills could always use some improvement, oops). In addition to working in Columbus for the day, I needed to stop at the mall on my way home and return some shoes and at Costco to get some water (for Tim) and Peanut Butter (for L&L). I then needed to get home, pick up the boys from the sitter and go to swim lessons. So, my food/eating plan for the day was as follows:

Breakfast: Smoothie
Snack: apple & PB
Lunch: Panera
Snack: Snack Bar
Dinner: Crockpot Veggie Stew

Here was my actual:
Breakfast: Smoothie
Snack: Trail Mix
Lunch: 2 pieces of Chicken Thai Pizza on whole grain crust (from CPK)....this was kind of a fail
Snack: a few samples of stuff at Costco
Dinner: Crockpot Veggie Stew + apple and PB

So....I totally splurged on the lunch item above, but other than that (and the samples at Costco) I did alright for running around all day. The crockpot veggie stew was super yummy, though, so I'm really glad I had that ready to go when we got home from swim lessons. It helped me avoid eating fast food, which was bonus!

I went with super simple this time and used the canned veggie soup that my mom and I made this past summer. So I only had to sear the beef (2nd half of "stew meat" that I used in my Gyros on Tuesday), and threw it in the crockpot with a can of low sodium beef broth, half a chopped onion, smashed garlic clove and a bay leaf. I let just the beef cook all day while I was gone. When I got home from work (around 5pm) I threw in a Quart sized jar of homemade canned veggie soup into the crockpot and let that cook until we got home from swim. It turned out great! I typically make beef-veggie crockpot stew with all the random veggies I have in the fridge, a can of diced tomatoes and sometimes a can of tomato sauce as well, but this was quicker, easier and still really healthy since it was all veggies and homemade canned soup from the summer (and my mom's garden). I was still a little hungry though, so also ate an apple with some peanut butter, one of my favorite foods/snacks! I forgot to take a picture of the stew, so here is a picture of the canned soup I keep for quick/easy dinners. Love this stuff!

Homemade Veggie Soup (and my sad little herbs behind it)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's Hump Day

Day 3 was upon us and we ended up having a really good dinner that we don't include in our normal rotation very often - seafood.  My cousin's wife recently posted a link for "Kids Eat Right" and included a recipe for Almond Crusted Tilapia. I have made various tilapia and seafood recipes, but I would say that I shy away from them being a regular part of our meal rotation. I'm not sure why, because we always end up enjoying it, but I think it just makes me nervous because I grew up with rarely eating seafood at home or preparing it and I have not found a recipe that I really truly loved....until tonight that is! I am so impressed with how tasty these "fish sticks" were! Tim even gave them a two-thumbs up and said that it's the best fish I have ever prepared. Well done, thank you, thank you :)

Anywho, this recipe was tasty, healthier than just using plain old bread crumbs and made a nice crispy "breaded" fish that was not fried. It was actually pretty easy too, and you could make it even easier by thawing out the fish ahead of time in the fridge overnight and prepping the "breading" a few days ahead and throwing it in a plastic bag until you're ready to make this dinner.

Let's see, what else did I like about this dinner..... 1) I got to use the oven and keep the stove off for all components of this meal - main dish, side dishes and dessert - baked tilapia, roasted veggies and muffins 2) I finally roasted some broccoli and was surprised that it was pretty good (we are not broccoli people, my husband has a whole complex about broccoli derived from one incident when he was a small child that involved sitting at the table for hours and eating very cold steamed broccoli before he was allowed to get up) 3) the oven heated up the WHOLE living/kitchen area which was a huge bonus on this sub-zero temperature day 4) I could use my home-made tzatziki sauce that I made last night as a dipping sauce tonight, nice healthy substitute for tarter sauce.

In addition to the dinner I made, I also decided to make a quick sweet treat for dessert. I had a few old bananas that were brown and I had been wanting to do some sort of banana bread of muffin and I came across this really yummy muffin recipe that also included zucchini. I also added very little sweetener (a little honey and maple syrup combo) and decided to last minute add in some new mini chocolate chips I bought that are dairy, nut and soy free, just for fun. They taste very good, you should try them!The boys absolutely loved the finished product and it was a nice healthier version of dessert for them, since they would love to opt for chocolate candy and cookies if given the choice.

Just a side note, these past two days have been a little rough for me at the Clouse house. I don't know if the boys have cabin fever since we haven't left due to really cold, windy temps, or just that I'm so tired of being cooped up this winter myself, but I have been a bear and they have been extra ornery lately. So, I'm kind of glad I'll be heading to Columbus on Thursday to work for a bit. I LOVE spending time with my boys, but I don't think I would be happy to be home 24/7 and am very blessed to have \super flexible job and a loving husband who wants me to be happy and balanced - between family, career and self-satisfaction as well!  It's also nice that he puts up with me pretty well when I'm a bear....thanks dear! Here are a few shots from our stay in doors over the last few days.

Try to guess what Logan is doing in this pic....
Monkey See

Monkey Do!

Cabin Fever is upon us!

Didn't get the pic of them both hanging on the bar!

Logan Selfie #1

Logan Selfie #2

Almond Crusted Tilapia

1/2 Cup of Finely Chopped Almonds (in a mini-chopper/food processor)
1/8 to 1/4 Cup of Panko Bread Crumbs
1/4 tsp. Emeril Essence Seasoning
1/4 tsp. Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
Pinch of Salt & Pepper
1/4 of Flour
1 Egg, beaten
3 large Tilapia Filets

Prep. the breading. Chop the almonds in a mini food processor so that they are finely chopped, like a grainy sand texture. Mix together the almonds, bread crumbs, and seasoning and either store in a plastic bag until use, or put in a shallow dish. If you are preparing the dish (and not storing the breading mixture), then you can also add in a small scoop of grated parmesan cheese to the breading mixture for added flavor, totally optional, but very yummy! Set the oven to Bake at 425 Degrees. Thaw out and then cut the Tilapia Filets in half lengthwise. One at a time, coat lightly in flour. Dip in the beaten egg. to the Then roll in the breading mixture and lightly pat in the breading to ensure it sticks to the fish. Place each piece of fish on a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper. (side note: parchment paper is amazing!). At this point you can let the fish rest on the oven until your ready to bake them, or throw them in the fridge for a little while. You can prep. these ahead of time, but wouldn't let them in the fridge all day or overnight. Then chop up whatever veggies you want to roast. We chose baby yellow potatoes quartered and broccoli. Then drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. Pop the veggies in the oven first if you like them a little extra crispy as they will take a little longer to roast. I put them in for 15 minutes, then popped in the fish for another 15 minutes. Once the veggies are browning on the edges pull those out. After 15 minutes the fish should be nice and crispy on the outside and flaky if you want to check for doneness. If they aren't too thick they should definitely be done after 15 minutes. Now enjoy!!

Before baking and roasting
All done!

I might have gotten a little hungry and couldn't wait to try the fish...

Banana Zucchini Crumb Muffins (with mini chocolate chips!)


  • 1-1/2 cups flour - I used 1 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup white
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 zucchini, shredded
  • 2 Tbsps. real maple syrup, 1 Tbsp. Honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil (can replace with butter if desired)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. flour of choice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil (can replace with butter if desired)
  1. Preheat oven to 375*F. Spray a 24-cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas and shredded zucchini. Beat in egg, syrup/honey and 1/2 cup melted coconut oil.
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the banana-zucchini mixture. Don't overmix! Gently fold in mini-chocolate chips if you want to at this time. Spoon batter into mini muffin tins.
  5. In a small bowl, melt 1 Tbsp. coconut oil. Stir in 2 Tbsp. flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle crumb mixture over the tops of each muffin.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes or until tops spring back when pressed. Let cool on wire rack and then pop out and enjoy!

Bananas & Zucchini with a side of chocolate :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Greek Night

Day # 2 of the week I had my favorite smoothie for breakfast, shared with my little minions of course, they love it! Lunch is always busy and I feel like I never have time to make a great lunch, so I went with leftover chicken salad from the weekend. I found this great recipe on Pinterest that does not use mayonnaise and is loaded with good stuff like blueberries, grapes, almonds, almond butter and a little bit of reduce fat Feta....sounds a little strange but it was really good! We then stuck to the plan and had Greek for dinner. Just a quick tip, I do have a Pinterest board labeled "Yummy things I've Tried" so if you're looking for more good recipes that I have actually made and liked, you can check it out here!

So, back to the Greek. We choose to source our beef locally so that we can support local farmers, know where our beef comes from, know that we are eating lean beef and just feel overall better about the food we are putting in our bodies. I happened to have a pack of "stew meat" in the freezer  which is basically just pieces of sirloin. There is enough in a pack for two meals (bonus for us, for the time being....I'm sure soon enough my 3 boys will be gobbling up more than I can make!), so I let it thaw out in the fridge overnight, then took half out of the back and threw it in a hot skillet with a little bit of olive oil. Once it was browned on most sides, I threw it in a crock-pot on a bed of thinly sliced yellow onions (the kind I usually keep on hand in the pantry), and then threw on the marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano and garlic. I let that go for 4 to 6 hours - I didn't get around to having this ready until 10 or was a long morning! You could of course slow cook the beef all day if you wanted. I also prepped some really yummy and healthy homemade tzatziki sauce. You can follow the recipe here or you can but the pre-made stuff at the store. Either way, if you get the kind made with plain non-fat greek yogurt it's pretty good, and adds some good protein for you. A little bit before dinner I chopped up tomatoes, thinly sliced some red onion and chopped up some iceberg lettuce. For dinner then the boys packed their pitas into whole-grain pita pocket and I threw all the toppings on a bed of quinoa I had cooked earlier this week and store in the fridge for various meals throughout the week. Quinoa packs a good punch of protein as well and is a whole grain rather than a pasta, thus gluten free and considered a complex carbohydrate. 

Overall, it was really yummy, and there was just enough of the toppings and and meat left for me to eat for lunch on Wednesday! noted above, I don't like to spend a lot of time/dishes on lunch, so try to clean out the fridge of leftovers. I've included a few pictures and the recipe I used below. Also, I'll leave you with a dance video of my little guys. We have been cooped up in the house quite a bit lately with the sub-zero temps and last week we decided to have a little dance party. Enjoy the sophisticated dancing of L&L :)

Beef Gyros & Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

For Beef:
1 lb. of stew beef or sirloin pieces chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Warmed pita folds
Sliced tomatoes, red onion and lettuce, for serving

1.  Heat 1 T olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet while slicing the beef.  Pat beef dry with paper towels to remove any moisture.
2.  When oil is warmed add beef to skillet being careful to place in one row only.
3.  Brown beef for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.  Drain off any excess liquid.  Transfer meat to slow cooker.
4.  While beef is browning combine ¼ cup olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Place sliced onions in bottom of slower cooker, then top with browned meat. Pour over the meat and toss to coat, in the slow cooker.
5.  Cover and cook on LOW for 6-10 hours (depending on your slow cooker) or until beef is extremely tender.  (If it’s not tender, it’s not done yet).
6.  Remove lid and salt and pepper to taste.  If desired, break up the meat into smaller bite-size pieces.
7.  Serve beef over pita folds with Tzatziki sauce, onions, tomatoes and lettuce.

Tzatziki Sauce Recipe - Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Sauce
1 to 1 ½  cups Greek Yogurt (strained with a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer for 2 hours)
Juice of ½ a lemon (about 1 to 2 Tbsp.)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 small to medium cucumber, seeded and diced
about 1 T kosher salt for salting cucumbers
1 T finely chopped fresh dill
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Strain the yogurt in a cheesecloth or in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl for a few hours to get rid of all excess liquid. Peel cucumber, then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out seeds. Discard seeds. (If you use the small seedless or European cucumbers with few seeds, you can skip this step.) Slice cucumber, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 T salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel.

In food processor with steel blade, add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Meal Planning - A week in the life of the Clouse's!

Alright wish me luck... I'm going to try and post what we eat each day this week! A lot of people want to know how to cook healthy for their families and I thought I would try to share what works for us! It's not perfect and we don't always succeed 100%, but the key is planning ahead, making a grocery list for the week and trying to pick up most of your stuff so you aren't running out all week to get stuff, or running out of things in your pantry/fridge and turning to good old reliable junk food :) So here is our menu planned for the week:

Monday - 
Breakfast - eggs & bacon, 
Lunch - leftover chicken, kale, quinoa soup, and/or chicken salad
Supper -  Balsamic Glazed Steak Rolls & Caramelized Brussels Sprouts (baked potatoes for all the boys)

Tuesday - 
Breakfast - smoothie 
Lunch - leftover chicken, kale, quinoa soup, and/or chicken salad
Supper -  Gyros with slow cooker beef, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, little bit of Feta cheese, and homemade tzatiki sauce; will probably also roast some cabbage steaks as well

Breakfast- either eggs and bacon or breakfast smoothie or Meal Replacement Shake
Lunch - Avocado Egg Salad with tomato and Bacon
Supper - Almond Crusted Tilapia, quinoa/rice, and roasted broccoli

Breakfast- either breakfast smoothie or Meal Replacement Shake
Lunch - Leftovers - packing lunch, working in Cbus
Supper - Veggie Stew with Beef

Breakfast-Eggs & Bacon or SHake
Lunch - Leftover Stew
Supper - Tator Tot Casserole for BOYS, I'm going to try some kind of casserole with sweet potatoes or sweet potatoe fries, maybe healthier version of the tator tot casserole??

Ok - so as you can see - I have a rotation of a few things loaded with protein I like to eat for breakfast, tend to eat leftovers, or use leftovers to make my lunch and then plan new things/meals for supper. So below is my recipe and pictures from dinner on Monday night. Stay tuned for the rest of the week!

Balsamic Glazed Steak Rolls

Ingredients: (makes 8-10 rolls)
* 1 1/2 – 2 lb skirt steak/ 8-10 thin sliced sirloin or Cube Steak (this is what I used last time, it's what was in the freezer!)* Salt & Pepper (according to taste)* 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce* Any steak seasoning you like - I used Montreal!* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 1 carrot
* 1 bell pepper - red and green
* 1/2 a zucchini (depending on size)
* 5-6 green onions
* 2 cloves of garlic
* 1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
* 1/2 - 1 Tablespoon Butter
* 2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
* 1/2 to 1 Tbsp. Honey
* 1/4 cup beef broth

Prep the Steak:
Start by prepping the steak. I trimmed as much fat as I could and cut the steak into 3 inch wide strips. I managed 8 strips and used the odd shapped ends to taste test my marinade and balsamic glaze. You can then tenderize or pound the meat so it's very thin with a meat hammer.Season the steak pieces generously on both sides with salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce. And let them sit in the marinade for atleast 30 mins if not a couple hours.

Prep the Veggies:
While the steak is marinating you can prep the filling for them. Chop up the carrot, bell peppers and zucchini into matchstick size pieces, little longer than the width of the steak strips. You can use a mandolin slicer to jet thin sliced and hand cut them to make matchsticks. I then cut the green onion in a similar size and sliced them in half length wise. For the garlic, simply peel and crush the cloves with the flat side of your knife, just enough to bruise them.

Make the Sauce:
Now for the sauce, melt the butter in a small sauce pan on medium heat. 
Add the finely chopped shallot and saute it for a minute or 2 until they turn soft and translucent. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey and beef stock and stir to mix everything well. Allow the sauce to come to a boil and reduce to almost half its volume. You’ll notice it starts becoming thicker and have the consistency of syrup. The butter also starts separating and comes to the top. Turn the heat off and transfer the sauce to a bowl.

Cook the Veggies:
In the same pan (no need to wash it) add a touch of olive oil and toss in the garlic cloves to allow them to flavor the oil for a few minutes. Turn the heat up to high and toss in the carrots, bell pepper and zucchini (there’s no need to cook the green onion) and stir fry the veggies for no longer than 2-3 minutes. Season them with the the Italian herb seasoning and salt and transfer the veggies to a bowl. 

Assemble and Cook the Rolls:
To assemble the steak rolls, simply take a strip of the marinated steak and lay it with the short side towards you. Place the veggies (don't forget the green onion!) in the middle and roll the beef up over the filling, securing it with toothpick. Repeat the same with the other rolls. 
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a touch of oil swirling to coat bottom. When hot, add beef rolls, seam side down, not touching and pan fry for a couple minutes.  Baste the steak rolls with some of the sauce while your cooking to caramelize it. Turn the rolls and cook it on all sides in the same way. Cook until you’re desired done-ness. I cooked mine medium well and seasoned it with some montreal steak seasoning.

Remove the toothpick and serve with the balsamic glaze sauce spooned over the top (if you want) of each roll.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

**Brrrrr** Baby it's Cold Outside!

It has been super duper cold here this week (like -15 temps and -45 wind chills)! Which has resulted in spending two full days (Monday-Tuesday) where I really did not leave the house. The boys were pretty good during this duration and played well (thankfully!). However...based on their overall behavior I'm considering changing my blog name to "Just Another Day in the Circus". What do you think? I feel like I have so many ridiculous stories from them on a daily basis....some are very bad and should not be shared, but a few are cute, so I'll share here:

  • Logan pretended to be Daddy and grabbed a pail put somem "food" in it and came to tell Luke and I "Bye Bye" and give us kisses, like he was leaving for work....super cute, especially when he kissed Luke goodbye. 
  • They dumped Special K on the floor in front of their barn so they could farm it with their tractors
  • Broke open a bag of flour and spilled some on floor...again drove our tractors and trucks through it
  • They can count out loud to two, so when there are more than two things it goes like this..." One, two, One, two, one....." LOL :)
  • Their favorite color is BLUE, so when we give them each blue suckers they stick their tongues out and try to see how blue their tongues get. 
  • We dance and play games together, including Ring Around the Rosey (where we all hold hands :) and Duck, Duck Duck (no Goose here)
The boys have been growing up so much lately, really starting to repeat our words frequently which is nice since they are late talkers and reduces the "Uh uh uh uh" whining that is a constant around here. It also helps us know what they want and reduces frustration, so we are definitely working on words.

With the new year I am working on normal trips to the gym and teaching my group fitness classes in the morning before everyone wakes up. I also am going to be getting my personal training certification so I can be official :) Since things are getting back to normal around here, thought I would leave you with one of my favorite morning smoothies. Enjoy!

Breakfast Smoothie
1/2 Cup Frozen berries
1/2 Banana
Handful of Baby Spinach
1 Tablespoon of Almond Butter
1 to 2 Tablespoons Ground Oats
Unsweeteened Vanilla Almond Milk -

Put all the ingredients into the blender together, ending with almond milk. I just eyeball most of the ingredients so you can add enough almond milk to make it the consistency you want in a smoothie. If you use frozen berries you don't have to add ice, and it's better!

Farming Special K

Watching Veggie Tales

Sitting by the door, posing for a picture for Holly


Farming Flour

Monday, January 6, 2014's 2014?

Well, I was looking back and my last post was November 5th....and it's now January 6th....where does time go? I know during the holidays it seems to just **poof**. We really had a wonderful time hanging out with all of our families and the boys absolutely loved getting to open presents this year. They enjoyed most of the presents too, but really liked opening them!

But, I'm ready to get back into a normal routine and I think the boys are too. I can tell my patience has been wearing thin lately and I'm pretty sure it's been all the craziness of the holidays and running around! Anyways, this week will be time to re-set. I have some goals for the new year, but mostly, just want to settle back in and enjoy time with my family, friends and myself :) I'm really going to try and enjoy each moment, even though I know I'm counting down the months, weeks, days.....seconds until the house building takes place. I'm so excited for it, but trying not to wish time to go to fast, I already can't believe how big the boys are getting and don't want all the fun times together to go by too quickly! A few of my goals for the new year are as follows:
  • reduce discretionary/personal spending
  • enjoy time with the boys just playing and learning (i.e. put down the phone!)
  • get my Personal Training certification (as part of my quest to stay fit and healthy!)
I have included a really yummy Mexican 9-layer dip that I made that is pretty healthy and a little different than the normal recipe. I just made this for my Father-in-Law's birthday and was pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was. I will definitely be making it again. Also, you can cut out the cheese and use non-fat plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make it extra healthy, with pretty much the same flavors/taste! I will have a follow-up post with a bunch of Christmas pictures for you all!

The Freshest 9 - Layer Dip
Link to original recipe - Lauren's Latest

1-15 oz. can black beans
1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt (or  light sour cream if you prefer)
1 cup  salsa
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (optional)
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 large Avocado, diced
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 scallion, chopped {green & white parts}
1/2 cup diced green and/or red bell pepper
1. Open can of black beans, rinse and drain well. Pour beans onto serving platter and mash coarsely with fork. Spread beans evenly over entire platter.
2. Spread sour cream over top beans.
3. Spoon salsa by the tablespoon over top sour cream layer and then spread gently to coat but not mix into the sour cream.
4. Sprinkle grated cheese over top salsa layer.
5. Top with diced tomatoes.
6. Cut avocado in half, open and remove pit. Scoop out flesh with large spoon. Dice into small pieces and squeeze lime juice over avocado. Stir lightly to coat all sides with lime juice. Sprinkle pieces over top tomatoes.
7. Sprinkle green onions over top entire dish.
8. Sprinkle green peppers over top entire dish.
9. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over top entire dish.
Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

A few fun pics of the boys for you all!