Monday, August 19, 2013

90 Day Weight Loss Challenge Before and After Photo

So we just finished up the 90 day weight loss challenge yesterday! I can't believe we're already done!  I have to share the results because I'm totally excited by the pictures! 

Here I am at the beginning of the 90 day challenge. I'm actually pretty embarrassed to even share this...

Here I am today. I'm down 22 lbs and 29 inches! Waaa Whoooo!!

Obviously, I'm still a work in progress, but I'm motivated more than ever to keep on the path of good health and continuing to make great healthy recipes here on the blog! How did you do? 

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Monday, August 5, 2013

Salted Caramel Almond Flour Bars...Low Carb

The Original Post on Salted Caramel Butter Bars was loaded with a pound of unhealthy butter fat,  over a pound of unhealthy caramel and sugar, and crazy blood-sugar freakin' white flour carbs. Since I started the 90 day weight loss challenge here and have lost close to 35 lbs this year, I've been really focusing on trying to "healthify" the recipes I love and make them better.  I know. That's got to be frustrating for those who really just want the crazy-delicious bars. I promise that 90% of my adventure has been still enjoying the recipes I love, never compromising on amazing flavor, but making things remarkable to eat as well as healthy.  Anyone can add a ton of sugar and fat to a recipe and make it taste good. I'm holding to the fact that it takes a really outstanding chef to make things healthy and still taste amazing!! So here it is...

I'm making these bars today with my  favorite Almond Flour.  I've got a lot of classes coming up this month (see the Class Schedule) and I'm using this flour a lot.  Why? Because it is amazing!One of the things I love about almond flour is that it is loaded with vitamin E.  Vitamin E Keeps Your Brain and Body Razor Sharp! It can keep your mind almost a decade younger and has reportedly helped prevent dementia.  Just isn't just for the kids!   Keep in mind, that even though almond flour is lower in impact carbohydrates, it is still pretty high in calories and fat. Even thought they are "good fats", they still add calories. I use these cookies as an occasional treat. Don't let them be the only source of goodness in the lunchbox.
Gluten Free Almond Flour Salted Caramel Butter Bars
3 cups  Almond Flour
3/4cup granular erythritol (truvia will work)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp  vanilla powder flavor
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (natural gluten replacement) 
3/4  tsp sea salt (to taste, but I use about 3/4 tsp)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 8 ingredients well with 1/2 cup water to form a thick dough. Divide dough into 3 equal parts. Pat 2/3 of the dough into a 9 inch by 9 inch square baking pan and bake 15 minutes.  Combine coconut sugar with 1T hot water and stir until dissolved. Remove pan from oven. Spread the coconut sugar mixture over the crust in a thin layer. Sprinkle with salt. Crumble remaining third of dough over the top of the bars in an even layer. Return to oven and bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before cutting. Cut into 30 squares.

Nutritional information :  Each cookie: 77 calories, 5 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 1.25 g fiber, 2.76 g protein, 5.8 carbohydrates (3.5 Net carbs).

There you go darlings! Make some delicious and healthy nibbles! Enjoy!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Vegetarian Quinoa Black Bean Burgers and The Health Benefits of Quinoa

The 30 day mark is approaching for the 90 Day Weight Loss Challenge!  I'm down a few more pounds and feeling much better about my energy levels.  It is a work in progress darlings!  My family has been getting really excited about quinoa! Even Ace, who doesn't really like to try new things has been fully converted to this lovely grain.  Today I taught a gluten free class on cooking with quinoa and amaranth and this new recipes has become a much requested meal around here. We first talked about cooking this amazing grain on the blog with the full Quinoa Cookery 101 Post

Great  Health Benefits of Quinoa
 adapted from the  Article by Julie Wilcox, Forbes
  • Complete Protein! Quinoa  is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
  • Fiber! Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. 
  •  Contains Iron. Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. 
  • Contains lysine. Lysine is mainly essential for tissue growth and repair.

  • Rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels, may reduce type 2 diabetes because it promotes good blood sugar levels. Benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.
  •  High in Riboflavin (B2). B2 improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells.
  •  High content of manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production as well as to protect red blood cells and other cells from injury by free radicals.
Normally we just use quinoa instead of rice and boost our fiber and protein as well as getting a really cool different texture.  I think it might be one of my all-time favo-rageous  friends.  

The quinoa black bean burgers have a really beefy texture and are full of flavor. My husband asks for them often and we especially love them drizzled with hot sauce, barbecue sauce, or homemade ketchup.  The use of the quick cook blackbeans makes them come together fast. I cook the quinoa and the black beans together on the stove and they are both ready to make into patties in as little as 20 minutes.  You can easily double or triple the recipe and make the patties ahead of time for keeping on-hand in the freezer for fast and easy meals as well. 

Tess Quinoa Black Bean Burgers 
¼ cup  organic quinoa, pre-rinsed*
1 3/4 cup water
½ cup gluten free breadcrumbs
¼ cup minced bell peppers
2T minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced

Bring the quinoa, beans and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Roughly mash the black beans with a fork leaving some whole black beans in a paste-like mixture. Add all remaining ingredients and mash well with your hands. Form the black bean mixture into 5 patties. Heat a large non-stick skillet. Cook the patties until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Nutritional Information: 
Recipe yields 5 patties. Serving size one patty. 
132 calories, 5 g fiber, 19 carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 7 g protein

*Note: Quinoa needs to be pre-rinsed to remove the natural saponin on the grain.
** If you don't have egg crystals, whole egg may be added, but reduce water by 1/4 cup. 

Serve with any side dish you love. May I suggest Cuban Grilled Sweet Potato Salad with Pineapple and Jicama

There you go my darlings! Happy and healthy ideas for a wonderful summer dish. Keep going with the weight loss challenge and eating well. Xoxo!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gluten-free Vegan Almond Flour Graham Crackers

I love graham crackers. I've made homemade graham crackers for many years instead of buying the boxed versions and I can honestly say that it has saved us a lot of money! However, as of late I've been trying to eat carbohydrates that are much lower on the glycemic index.  I have been using Blanched Almond Flour a lot more and have noticed some outstanding results.  Graham crackers were a challenge because of the light color of the flour, but the addition of balsamic vinegar and Coconut Sugar to the recipe have solved that! Plus, there is a naturally occurring caramel flavor that comes with coconut sugar that I adore!
 Palm Coconut Sugar  is supposed to be great for helping regulate blood sugar.  It is low on the glycemic index and this really affects how quickly you extract the energy from the food. It is measured and used the same as sugar in baking, but I seriously use about half. Honestly, in most baking, you can almost count on the fact that you can reduce the sugar by almost half and it will still bake pretty similarly. 
Palm Coconut Sugar was explained by Dr. Oz. He showed the benefits of using it in This Video. There are still a few people who say it isn't as healthy a choice but I'm in the group that says hey, " It still has more vitamins and minerals than regular sugar and yes, it contains natural fructose. It isn't calorie free, but it is all natural." That being said, it is also very easy to harvest and is sustainable.  Here's my recipe for these amazing graham crackers! Gluten-Free Vegan Almond Flour Graham Crackers 1 3/4 cup Almond flour 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp baking soda 1 tsp Xanthan gum 1/2 cup Coconut Sugar 1 tsp vanilla 2T balsamic vinegar ( I love Lucero blueberry balsamic vinegar) 1/4 cup water Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a full sized cookie sheet or pizza baking stone.  A baking stone will help pull moisture from your crackers and give you a crispier finished product.  In a quart-sized bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda and xanthan gum.
  In a separate bowl, combine coconut sugar, vanilla,blueberry balsamic vinegar and water.

 Stir the wet ingredients until the the coconut sugar dissolves completely.  It shouldn't have any crystals still in the bottom of the bowl.
 Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well until a nice thick dough is made.
Generally I will flatten the dough out a little by hand on a lightly greased pizza stone and then cover the dough with unbleached parchment paper. This keeps the crackers from sticking and you won't need to add any flour to roll them out. 
 Roll it to 1/8th inch thickness.
 Gingerly remove the parchment paper on top, being careful not to pull it away to quickly. 
  Lightly score the dough with a knife into 2 inch squares.
 Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crisp.  If there are thinner spots in your dough they will need to watched closely.  Remove the baking stone from oven and allow to cool on the stone.   I serve mine with a low fat version of the Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cheeseball...
There you go! Some freakishly awesome crackers that taste amazing!  Always My Very Best, Your Friend Chef Tess

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Healthy and Shelf-stable Personal-Sized Instant Chicken Salad

90 Day Weight Loss Challenge continues! How is everyone doing with making good choices?  I've had some good moments and some drag-out-fights with the devil on temptations.  I'm pretty certain that this will be one of those challenges I will never fully overcome, but it will keep me humble and make me really rely on a Higher Power to pull me through.  Granted, I've been told that it does get easier over time...but I'm not there yet.  I'm in the GRRRRR stage. Ya know the one? I'v said it before and I'll say it again, some of the greatest battles in human history will never be seen by the roaring crowd in a Colosseum  but will rage silently...within the secret confines of the human heart.  Keep fighting the good fight darlings! GRRRR!

I've been finding some great motivation just by having really simple chicken salad on hand for when I'm hungry. I'll be sharing a guest post Thursday on the  Honeyville Blog for family-sized chicken salad with 2 variations, but today I wanted to share the personal sized ones.  If you've never read about making shelf-stable meals in a jar, you'll need to read the posts that go into the details of that:

For this recipe, I use pint jars. 

Chef Tess Instant Chicken Salad
pint jar ingredients:
1/2 cups freeze-dried white meat chicken
1 T  freeze dried onion
2T  freeze dried celery
1T  buttermilk powder  or Cream Cheese Powder
1/8  tsp Chef Tess All Purpose or Italian Seasoning
2tsp ultra gel (gluten-free)

Jar directions: Layer ingredients in a clean very dry mason jar. Top with a 100 cc oxygen absorber (this must be used with freeze-dried meat for it to be safe!) or  use the  Food Saver Vacuum Packing Meals in a Jar Tutorial. Label jars clearly with preparation instructions. 

To Prepare: Remove oxygen absorber and discard. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water into the jar with the chicken mixture. Cover and let sit to hydrate 10 minutes. Add more water if you want it thinner dressing.   Chill for cold salad or immediately serve over salad greens or in between two slices of whole grain bread, rolled in a whole grain tortilla or eat with crackers. Yield 1/2 cup chicken salad.

Nutritional information: 1/2 cup chicken salad 167 calories, 3 g fat, 2 carbs, 25 grams protein.

There you go my darlings! Onward and upward! Keep fighting the good fight!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Monday, June 24, 2013

Healthy Strawberry Almond Quinoa Breakfast Salad

The 90 day weight loss challenge continues.  I'm down 8 lbs and 10 inches since we started just over 30 days ago.  I know I have a long way to go, but I'm more excited about the success along the way and am so happy with how things are going so far.  When I visited my doctor this week he said, "Don't you dare quit! Keep going!" So, that was a huge motivational push. He's a great support. Are we ready to eat then?!! Let's celebrate summer!

It is stinking hot in Arizona during the summer and I never want anything warm. So, it goes without saying that during these months I keep a nice cool breakfast salad in the fridge. My friend Melissa has been going on morning walks with me and after a wonderful chatty-chat walk, there's nothing like a healthy-health breakfast!  This is by far my favorite flavorful boost in the morning for energy and for a great amount of protein. Plus, it is vegan and gluten-free! It's full of fiber and low impact carbohydrates for an even blood sugar level throughout the day. It packs a lot of nutrition into the 200 calories it gives me and keeps me going full speed.  Go for organic berries if you can.  I love how all the fruit is in season right now. I love this salad made with fresh cherries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries as well. If you've never cooked quinoa, I have a full tutorial on Quinoa cookery  Here . Quinoa is a super-grain and one of the most nutritious things you can add to your diet.

Strawberry Almond Quinoa Breakfast Salad
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
2T agave nectar
1/4 cup toasted almonds (about 10 each)
2 tsp fresh orange zest
1/2 tsp Chef Tess Wise Woman of the East Spice blend
2T Fresh lemon juice

Directions: Combine all ingredients. Serve Chilled.

Yield 2 cups breakfast salad.
Nutritional information: Serving size 1 cup (2 servings per recipe). 201 calories, 5 g fat, 34 carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 8 g protein.

There you Go! Don't you dare quit! Keep going!!  Onward and upward my darlings!!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Healthy Chick-Nuts (Homemade Chickpea baked snacks)

Healthy Chick-Nuts. They taste like a cross between a peanut and a corn-nut. They're loaded with protein, fiber and love. 

Day 9 of the 90 Day Weight Loss Challenge. Yup. One-tenth of the way through.  At weigh-in this morning I was down 6 lbs and 3 inches.  I'm pretty excited about that. Mind you, I have a long way to go, but I am greatly encouraged by good results.  I'm not as excited about the pounds as I am the inches! We're on our way darlings!  How are things in your world? How are you doing with the working out and drinking enough water? 

Today I am sharing a new healthy recipe for an easy snack that keeps me satisfied.  I snack on veggies all day (whenever I'm hungry) and use these little nuts as a great addition of crunch.  I've loved these little nibbles for years. I've seen some very high fat varieties that use a lot of oil. Though these high fat recipes work for the cripsy snack, they also work for adding a ton of calories to an otherwise very healthy nibblet. I like this recipe here the best. It uses a lot less oil. They do take a little longer to cook in the oven because of that, but I don't mind it.

You will need 1 lb dry garbanzo beans aka chickpeas...aka GONZO beans at my house. I buy gonzo beans in bulk 25 lb bags because we use them a lot. If you don't want to cook them as directed in the recipe, you can use pre-cooked canned chickpeas (2 15 oz cans) just be sure to rinse them well and get all the goo off of 'em. 

  • Soak dry beans overnight in 8 cups hot water. Drain. Put in a heavy pot and add 8 cups more unsalted water.  Simmer over low heat 1 1/2 hours.
  •  Drain well. 
  • Pat the beans dry with a clean paper-towel or flour-cloth. 

For baking you will need: 

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  I've seen some people bake them at 400 degrees, but I've never been fond of the burny flavor that I get at that temperature.
 Drizzle garbanzo beans with with olive oil and spread out over a full sized baking sheet. 

Bake 45 minutes, stir halfway through baking.  After 45 minutes, turn off the oven and allow to sit in oven with the door closed  for 2-3 hours until very dry and crunchy.  Season to taste with a highly flavorful spice blend of your choice.
Yield 5 cups. 10 servings.  Serving size 1/2 cup.
Nutritional information:   Calories 289. Fat 2 g. Carb 45. Fiber 15 g. (30 net carbs), 15 g protein.

There you go my darlings! Make some healthy chick-nuts!  I eat them with a big glass of ice water and some veggies. Enjoy!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, May 24, 2013

Simple No-Bake Homemade vegetarian protein bars

Day 5 of the 90 Day Weight Loss Challenge and I have to share this simple no-bake recipe for homemade protein bars. There's no cooking involved on the stove either!  I've had these on-hand for snacking and so far they've been the perfect to satisfy my need for a chewy cookie-type delectable niblet of love. I love the addition of some freeze-dried raspberries and peanut butter.   Here's the recipe my darlings! 

Chef Tess' Simple No-Bake
Homemade Vegetarian Protein Bars 
1 cup soy protein isolate (or 4 scoops Chocolate shakeology)
 2 cups quick cook oatmeal or 4 grain rolled cereal
½ cup coconut, unsweetened
2T Baker's cocoa
1/2 cup Granular Erythritol (natural sugar-free calorie free sweetener)
½ cup freeze dried raspberries, crushed
1 cup unsweetened almond milk

 ½ cup natural, creamy almond butter or peanut butter ( I use Nutzo organic 7 nut and seed butter)
1. Combine first 5 ingredients in large mixing bowl. Mix well.
2. Add almond milk and nut butter to mixture. Mix well with clean hands.
3. Press mixture into 8x8-inch baking pan; cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
4. Cut into 18 bars. Store in the fridge, in an air-tight container until ready to eat.

Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories: 150, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 3mg
Sodium: 61mg, Carbohydrate: 14g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 7g

There you go! Onward and upward my darlings! How are things going with your weight loss goals?

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess