Eating clean + feeling fab this holiday with my Top 5 December eating rules

Eat Clean Now and have a great holiday! Don't wait 'til Jan 1

OK so society says that the New Year is when we should start on all those lofty goals we set for ourselves, like eating clean.  But why wait until then? 

Were you happy with the way your New Year’s resolutions turned out in the past?  Do you want next year’s resolutions to turn out the same way?

Then do something different.

My top 5 eating clean tips for December

Forget about what society influences you to do and rather decide to do what feels right to you.  Stop telling yourself you can’t do it or you won’t be able to enjoy the holidays unless you wait until January 1st to start making positive changes to your eating habits.  It’s all lies.  Yes, your brain tells you lies as a result of subconscious brainwashing and subliminal messages.  We’re all victims of it and creating positive habits requires conscious cognitive restructuring.

The truth is, there will always be an excuse.  There’s New Year’s itself, then that awesome super bowl party, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and so on.  All year long.  Just imagine how it would feel to be better equipped to handle the temptations of all the other upcoming special occasions if you got through the ultimate holiday season eating clean.

Before you click off this post, let’s keep this all in perspective.

This is YOUR eating clean plan.  You make the rules.  Stick with the basics but then make conscious agreements with yourself for all the rest.  There is no “requirement” to deny yourself any of the flavours of the season or even the occasional treat throughout December.  Finding a balance with your “eating rules” is something that is so important no matter what time of the year it is, but especially when temptations are at their highest over the holidays.

My top 5 December eating clean rules

Most of us take indulging to ridiculous levels all month long in December – between festive party munchies, massive holiday lunches and dinners, baked goodies and tons of cookies, candy and chocolate for sharing everywhere you look, whipped cream coffees and hot chocolates, sweet cocktails and frothy beers.  The opportunities are literally endless.

So set the guidelines down for yourself now – before you get into the thick of the season.  And make a commitment to hold yourself accountable.

Here are my Top 5 December “eating rules” – I hope you’ll consider using them yourself or coming up with your very own (and sharing them in the comments!):

  1. Compensate: When I have a big festive meal or party on the agenda for the day, I compensate with my meals for the rest of that day and the day after, which could mean eating lighter than usual for breakfast and lunch. For me, this usually means eating tons of fresh salad and raw veggies. Plus remembering to carry a few healthy snacks to keep me feeling satiated throughout the day to avoid binging, such as nuts, seeded flapjacks, hummus pots, smoothies, yogurt, etc.
  2. 80% full portion control: This is always an important factor for keeping things in check, but it’s even more important in December when meals are usually a little bigger and more indulgent. At family dinners or party meals, decide to eat smaller portions and to eat slower. I find it helps me when I keep in the front of my mind that I will be eating until I feel 80% full. When I know I have a limit, this definitely helps me to enjoy every bite of food that much more. Plus, there’s always an opportunity later for a healthy snack if hunger creeps in. (Bust out the lemon hummus!).
  3. Don’t just eat it for the sake of it: Unless you really love it, don’t bother. Not a fan of mince pie? Then don’t even pick one up. That gingerbread cookie doesn’t taste as good as it looked? Discard!! If I am going for a treat, then I will be darn sure that I am seriously loving every bite of it down to the last crumb.
  4. Drink consciously: It’s so easy to go out for drinks or to a holiday party and just consume drink after drink without keeping any tabs on yourself. Parties (and the next day!) can be much more fun when you maintain that relaxed and happy “buzz” rather than letting things get out of control… and beyond! Give yourself a limit and drink water throughout the evening. Also, choose your drinks wisely to keep the calories down. A couple of glasses of wine or spirits with sparkling water and a spritz of citrus are my first choices!
  5. Limit ‘yoself with a mind-set shift trick: When it comes to eating holiday cookies, cakes, treats, hot beverages, etc. don’t just throw in the towel! You don’t have to load up to partake in the holly jolly, sampling is actually much more rewarding. First off, you’ll find that you totally savor every bite. Plus, you’ll pretty much guarantee that you won’t get that bloated and sickly feeling. But probably most importantly, you’ll feel so proud of yourself. This is a very powerful “trick” – a mind-set shift, if you will. When you are faced with that holiday cookie plate, don’t allow yourself to think about how deprived you’ll feel if you don’t get to have 3 of each kind. Instead, think about how happy and proud you will feel when you wake up tomorrow if you just have 1 or 2. Actually picture yourself waking up tomorrow with that feeling. Trust me, it works.

Ready to get a month’s start on those eating clean goals that you set for yourself?  Are you with me?

That’s the spirit!

Just imagine how fabulous you’re going to feel this festive season overflowing with happiness, clarity of mind, vibrance and lots of energy to do everything that’s merry during the holidays – carolling concerts, craft fairs, shopping, light shows, ice skating, decorating, wrapping, parties and dancing!

Roll on December!!  We got you covered.

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Corn Muffins + Thanksgiving in Ireland

Traditional Thanksgiving Corn Muffins - with tips on how to make a little healthier if you want to!

When you’re calling two places home there’s a lot more to it then just a change of scenery.  Of course, missing people is huge but it doesn’t stop there.

Between entirely different sayings like, “it’s been donkey’s years since..”  Do you know how long a donkey’s year is?  That like dog years or something?

To using the same word that has a completely different meaning:  Going out for a few scoops in Ireland does not mean grabbing an ice cream sundae at Friendly’s and “it’s grand” sure doesn’t mean something’s larger than life, in Ireland it means something is far less than even being great!

These differences are all part of the fun of being an international transplant.  But in my opinion the best part is the opportunity to see things differently, which helps to open my eyes and allows me to appreciate more.  Plus I get to share this experience with my family and friends on both sides of the pond.

I’m feeling very thankful right now to call both NY and Dublin home and to have the opportunity to experience life… real daily life.. in two vastly different and equally amazing areas of this world.

Happy Thanksgiving from Ireland!

Next weekend I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my Irish family and friends – or Tanksgiving as they would say.  Yep in case you didn’t know, the “Th” sound is pronounced as “T” on these shores, tank you very much.

It will be with a huge amount of pleasure and pride that I cook up a traditional American feast for all our guests and share the wonderful tradition of taking time to give thanks…

And eat lots of delicious food!!  Now you know I am not going to leave out any of the quintessential dishes of Thanksgiving, even if it means I am making sweet potatoes AND carrots just so I can dust off my family recipes.

There are several turkey accompaniments that go without saying like my mom’s turkey stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce – so important for those leftover turkey sandwiches –  and the all-American favourite: corn muffins.

Traditional Thanksgiving Corn Muffins - with some tips on how to lighten them up!

Tender and mildly sweet with a gritty cornmeal snap in every bite, corn muffins are seriously hard to resist.  Especially for people who have never tried them before.  Did you hear that? Never tried a corn muffin before! And I get to be in on this.  🙂 Thankful. 🙂

I like my homemade muffins less on the firm, dry and crumbly side and more on the soft, delicate and moist side so I add lots of buttermilk or natural yogurt to create that texture.

Generally with baking, the less you mix the wet and dry ingredients together, the more tender the result.  So feel free to use a handheld blender to combine the wet ingredients but then use a light touch with a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients.

Traditional Thanksgiving Corn Muffins - with some tips on how to lighten them up!

The result is beautiful yellow-hued corn muffins that are light, airy and delicious.  Everyone around your Thanksgiving table, no matter where it may be, will be grabbing for one of these.

From my home in Dublin city straight to your home, Happy Thanksgiving!!

It’s from the bottom of my heart that I want to truly thank you for visiting my online home. 🙂 I’m very thankful to share these few moments with you.

Corn Muffins + Thanksgiving in Ireland
 
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Author:
Serves: 12
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup flour (white flour or a combination of ¾ white and ¼ buckwheat)
  • 1 cup course cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup vegetable or coconut oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ cups natural yogurt (or buttermilk)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Using a hand blender, blend together the oil, honey and eggs until well combined (about 4 minutes on medium speed).
  3. Add the dry ingredients into the oil, honey and egg mixture and gently combine with a spatula.
  4. Then add the yogurt and gently fold or mix it in. Let the mixture sit while you prepare a 12-size muffin tin. Either use cup cases or generously grease each cup with butter.
  5. Fill each cup with the muffin batter and bake for 15 minutes in a pre-heated 400F oven. To check if they are done, the muffins should begin to brown on top and spring back when you touch them in the centre (or use a toothpick).
  6. Note that I put a few substitutions in the ingredients - I usually use a combination of flours so that I can get some buckwheat or other healthier flour into the mix but too much of a hearty flour could change the consistency. Also, I have used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil - and we love it - but if you are not familiar with cooking with coconut oil, you may not know that the muffins will taste a little bit coconut-y so you decide! :) Enjoy

 

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Succulent Fennel and Smoked Paprika Shredded Pork

Succulent Fennel and Paprika Shredded Pork

Now that the weather is cooling down, the cravings for slow cooked house-warming foods really starts to set in, doesn’t it?  With that familiar frosty chill beginning to swirl around in the air, I knew I just had to share one of my favourite recipes with you to satisfy this craving!

I know I talk about smells a lot mmm-but  – there is just something about that smell that slowly starts wafting around your house when you’ve put on a perfectly spiced and smoky-seasoned roast in the morning. People in your house may even get giddy with excitement for dinner as they anticipate it for hours with every “smell-binding” breath…

Pork, fennel seed and smoked paprika are a match made in heaven; you really can’t go wrong with this flavour combination.  And although the soft and succulent shredded meat will most certainly steal everyone’s heart, a slow cooked roast is actually very simple to make and requires little effort from you (and lots from your oven or slow cooker!).

The best part though?  There will be leftovers which can be used in so many different ways: Panini sandwiches, tacos, lettuce wraps, as a topping to a black bean and veggie salad, mixed with brown rice and stir-fried veggies…and so on!

To keep up your clean eating habits, be sure to get the best cut of meat you can from your butcher to make this meal – there is no shame in asking where the pork comes from and seeking out the best local sources.

Succulent Fennel and Smoked Paprika Shredded Pork
 
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Author:
Serves: 4-6
INGREDIENTS
  • 4-5 lb. bone in pork shoulder
  • 1½ teaspoons whole peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika powder
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons thick kosher salt (or 1 if using fine salt)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup water
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut several slits into the fat on the outside of the pork shoulder.
  2. Using a small food processor, pulse together the peppercorns, fennel seeds, paprika, sugar and salt until a course mixture forms.
  3. Massage the spices into the pork shoulder, cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or up to overnight. The overnight stint with the spices is not 100% necessary but it will intensify the flavours.
  4. Put the pork into a baking tray, add the garlic cloves and water. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminium foil.
  5. Roast the pork in a 200F oven for 4 hours.
  6. Remove the foil and roast for another 30-45 minutes or until the skin has crisped up.
  7. Allow to cool slightly and pull the meat apart with a fork or tongs, serve with roasting juices!

 

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Vibrant Fall Pasta Primavera

Vibrant Fall Pasta Primavera

I had to put “Fall” into the name of this recipe because not only is it absolutely delicious (goes without saying even though I just did!), it is gorgeous just like all the different colors of this season.

My favourite season!

One of the main reasons is definitely because nature is so beautiful with all it’s warmly vibrant colors: red and yellow leaves, orange pumpkins, multi-colored squash in every shape and size imaginable, deep red cranberries, an array of richly hued chrysanthemums, dark greens and hearty herbs, purple and all shades of green cabbage, bright sunny corn..!

Vibrant Fall Pasta Primavera

A fall pasta primavera is definitely in order to celebrate all the flavour that goes along with that color!

We love pasta in this house – but remember, all pasta is not created equal.  Choose the highest quality you can find: organic, locally made with locally produced flour is excellent or imported from Italy where many types of wheat are naturally cultivated and not highly processed.  Ever notice that very few Italians are wheat-intolerant? It makes a difference.

After you’ve chosen a delicious pasta, now load up on the vegetables.  This helps bulk up your meal so that you’re eating less calorie dense pasta and more nutrient rich veggies.  Plus – that’s where all the flavour is at, folks!  The vegetables in this recipe are totally inter-changeable with whatever fresh veggies you have available, so get creative with your own dinner-art interpretation of fall colors! 🙂

PS – sorry for the picture quality in this post, I need to get a new battery for my camera!  On the “to do” list for this week.

Vibrant Fall Pasta Primavera

Vibrant Fall Pasta Primavera
 
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Author:
Serves: 4-5
INGREDIENTS
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 - 4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup beet, coarsely grated
  • 3 cups of dark greens like kale and tender-stem broccoli, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ lb. orecchiette pasta, cooked al dente
  • ¾ cup pasta cooking water (very important!!!)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a large heavy bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the butternut squash cubes and sauté for about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, chili pepper, beet, greens, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and sauté for another 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the pasta and ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Stir well to combine. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes - if the water has not created a silky sauce, add the remaining ¼ cup and allow to cook another minute or two until thickened.
  5. Add the parmesan and combine well. Taste for seasoning and serve topped with extra parmesan.

 

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Why aren’t you cooking? Easy Ways to Ensure Eating Clean Dinners

Tips to get you clean eating homecooked food more often!

Why aren’t you cooking?  I know it’s hard not to let the busy-ness of life get in the way.  But hold this thought in your mind for a few seconds:  Your body is the vehicle through which you experience all aspects of life.

Therefore, making a healthy diet highly important will benefit all aspects of your life.

What you are doing today (as in RIGHT NOW THIS MOMENT, not what you plan to do tomorrow) is determining how you will feel and how healthy you are tomorrow, next year and in the next decades to come.

The mind likes to play tricks on us and often times it does a great job at convincing us that we are too lazy or unskilled to cook anything.  But cooking doesn’t have to be time consuming or complicated.

Cooking at home can be very simple when you dedicate even just a little bit of foresight into how to stock your kitchen.  If you want to eat healthy clean food on the regular, then you have to keep a few essential ingredients ready and available so that even on your busiest nights, you can whip something tasty up to eat.

Mindset Shift 1Salads are not boring when you have prepared!!!

Beet, Feta and Pistachio Salad

A diverse selection of raw veggies are essential to creating a salad that you will be excited to eat.  Take just a few minutes at the start of the week or during the weekend to prep your salad ingredients so they are ready to grab.

One of my favourite salad staples for Fall is grated raw beet – I keep a container in the fridge to liven up salads and create amazing smoothies!

Texture is very important to creating a mouth-watering meal so make sure you have some different textured ingredients, for example sprouted beans, avocado and zucchini ribbons, and various types of greens, like baby spinach, romaine, frisee, butterhead lettuce, etc.

Strawberry Balsamic Viniagrette

And, if you are really serious about being prepared, there’s even more you can do.

Roast some veggies in bulk, like asparagus, peppers, eggplant or butternut squash – they make great salad mix-ins.  Toast some nuts or pumpkin seeds.  A little bit of crumbly cheese is always nice too.  Oh and keep some quinoa, cous cous or barley all ready to grab in your fridge to help bulk up a salad.

Also, very importantly: make your own dressing.  All you need is a miniature food processor and the choices are endless.  Check out my twitter feed @ninetodivine for some of my impromptu salad dressing creations.

Mindset Shift 2: Sandwiches are perfect for dinner!!!

Mindset Shift 1: Salads are not boring when you have prepared!!!

Now that you have a whole bunch of fresh veggies available, make some sandwich fillings, pick up a loaf of natural whole-grain bread and you’ll never be without a delicious healthy dinner that can be ready in minutes.

Sandwich fillings can be very simple when you’ve prepped a little.

Poach a few chicken breasts in plain water and then use the chicken for various types of sandwiches – here is one of my favorites: mix 3 oz. of chopped poached chicken with 1/4 cup grated raw beet, 1 diced inner stalk of celery, 1/4 cup of mixed sprouted beans, and 1/2 a mashed avocado (or 1 tablespoon of mayo) and pile on top of crunchy cucumber slices.

Mindset Shift 1: Salads are not boring when you have prepared!!!

Another versatile sandwich filler that is bound to make you feel amazing, is a bean spread like hummus, white bean or black bean spreads.  Whip up a big batch and you may even start dreaming about a sandwich for dinner!  (Just me?)  Try using a toasted whole grain pita and adding spinach leaves, avocado, tomato and fresh parsley.  YUM.

Mindset Shift 3: Homemade soup is easy and worth it!!

Mexican Black Bean Soup

My blog is filled with homemade soup recipes, like the Mexican black bean soup pictured above.  Besides the fact that a steaming hot bowl of soup with endless variety is one of the best food things in life, one of the main reasons I love making soups is because they freeze well. Whether you are interested in bulk cooking and stocking up your freezer or just whipping up a 30 minute soup – both are very doable.

Soup by itself makes a nutrient rich and comforting dinner but it can also easily be paired with a salad or sandwich for a more filling meal.

Carrot Dill Soup

Regularly eating healthy does require some amount of planning and preparing, but not much.  When you’re feeling a lack of motivation creeping in, just think of the all the benefits of a healthy life that you’ll get to enjoy.

By cooking your own food at home and using some of these shortcuts for those busy nights, you are taking control of your health and well-being.

Go You!  🙂

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