Clean Eating Taco Soup

 From the get-go I knew it was going to be a busy day, so I pulled out my trusty Crockpot and started throwing in ingredients for taco soup. I got a recipe for taco soup from one of those neighborhood recipe exchanges years ago. I can't find it anymore, but I remember it was really simple - cooked ground beef, canned vegetables and beans with a taco seasoning packet in a slow cooker and you've got yourself some taco soup. I thought about that recipes as I rummaged through the fridge and pantry.The taco soup I was making wouldn't involve quite so many cans, it may have taken a few extra minutes to slice vegetables and blend spices, but it would be gluten free, clean eating, healthy, and tasty."Clean eating" is a kind of a funny term for food if you think about it. I mean, I assume any edible product is made in a clean facility with proper sanitary regulations practiced. That's not what clean eating means though.What is Clean Eating?It means the food is as unprocessed as possible and free of artificial ingredients or production methods that drastically alter the original form (man-made, chemically altered,  or genetically engineered/modified). In other words grown organically. This doesn't just mean that you stick with whole foods, but also that the source of your whole foods has been grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides, animals are grass-fed, free-range, and not given growth hormones or antibiotics. Our clean eating list also includes gluten free too.In other words that packet of taco seasoning with it's preservatives and, yes, gluten fillers isn't clean eating.Does that seem like a lot to remember to you too?It did to me at first too. So I just started paying attention more to labels (something that I already did anyway when shopping for gluten free food). Here's my Clean Eating & Gluten Free Costco Shopping List to help narrow down some of the confusion at everyone's favorite warehouse store.I made my taco soup for our meatless Monday meal, but you can add some ground beef to yours if you like.

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Spiced Apple Cider Chicken

"So long as you have food in your mouth you have solved all questions for the time being."  - Franz KafkaAmen, Franz. Amen.It's so easy to be swept up in the extraordinarily mundane or struggle for composure during the turbulent times of life. But both routine and stress melt away for just a moment when you're enjoying a homemade meal. For me, the preparation is part of my release. I've learned to love the process.Sure it's nice to throw everything into a crock pot once in a while, but more often than not I truly unwind when I spend a half hour and just cook. I savor the smells, often sniffing as I go until it's just right. I kind of get in a zone where I don't mind the little 1 year old at my feet pulling every pot and pan out of the cupboard and filling them with plastic cups from the other cupboard, or the kitchen table covered in homework, artwork, and puzzles.I sometimes turn on my favorite Pandora station and let myself get carried away. You know the rat on Ratatouille? I must look just like that when I cook.Tonight I lost myself in the smells and tastes of this Spiced Apple Cider Chicken. It's savory with a hint of sweet that my whole family devoured. And while our mouths were full all the questions were solved...if just for that moment.

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Chicken Tikki Masala & Coconut Mint Yogurt Sauce

There's a little restaurant tucked away in the middle of town called the Bombay Cafe. The hubby and I enjoyed some delicious coconut curry and tikki masala, along with some very friendly service. A week later and I'm craving Indian food again. Some people shy away from ethnic food when they're preparing a meal for their kids. Not me. I figure the more flavors I expose them to now, the more willingly they'll enjoy a variety of cultural cuisines all throughout their life. Now I just need to come up with a gluten free naan bread recipe...mmmm. Anyway, there are some fantastic health benefits to curry spices.

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Apple Turkey Burger Sliders on Gluten Free Rolls

Anything that can pack a full-sized punch of flavor into a miniature fit-in-one-hand package is bound to be a hit. These seasoned turkey burger sliders with caramelized onions and apples over melted provolone cheese on homemade gluten free rolls are perfect for a Labor Day barbeque or to kick off a new season of football. Making the rolls before hand makes this bitesized meal come together even quicker, too.Serve them along with some Fresh Veggie Southwestern Salsa and corn tortilla chips, Cantaloupe Caprese or Watermelon Bruschetta With Marinated Basil Cucumbers & Feta, and some GF Double Chocolate Brownies for dessert."Wait. Wait. Is this healthy party food you're suggesting?"YES! We humans are social eaters, but wouldn't it be awesome if no one had to make compromises when they got together with friends? Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy one anothers company while eating yummy food, and not feel sluggish, bloated or otherwise exhausted from the simple act of digestion?I didn't think I had any problem with how I ate until I did a little purification. Our house is gluten-free now, and although I can and do eat wheat when I'm out with friends, I've found that eating refined, bleached wheat and sugars makes me feel kind of sick. I never knew how much that stuff was effecting me until I stopped eating it.The point is, eating clean (unprocessed/unrefined) while accommodating food allergies doesn't mean you have to sacrifice taste or make 10 different meals. You can have the best of both worlds, trust me!For starters, having some gluten free rolls in the freezer ready for whenever is just a good idea. Gluten Free Quick Roll recipe coming soon! Now for the sliders...Using a nonstick skillet works best for turkey burger. I made the mistake of using my stainless steel pan and ended up scraping the bottom a lot. A nonstick will help eliminate that issue. Also I didn't bother coring the apples. I just rinsed, sliced, and popped out the seeds. Steaming them over the onions helps to soften any tough middle parts.Enjoy! 

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Zucchini Paleo Pizza Crust!

PIZZA! I may be wrong, but I think even the most health conscious person still harbors a secret love of pizza. Whether you're uber-healthy - following a gluten free, Paleo, or clean eating diet - you can still have your pizza! This is especially true for families like ours that follow such a diet. My kids LOVE pizza. This healthy and simple crust curbs our pizza craving for sure!

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Seared Balsamic Chicken (Paleo)

 

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Gluten Free Stir-Fry With Zucchini Noodles & Spicy Peanut Sauce

I love Asian cuisine, especially sushi...mmmm, sushi...

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Chilled Tomato Basil & Roasted Squash Soup (Gluten Free)

Soup seems like a silly thing to make in the heat of the summer...but not this soup. This soup utilizes fresh vegetables from your summer garden. And the best part is, it can be served chilled. I know what you may be thinking, "Umm, I don't do cold soup." Well, I used to think the same thing. Then, as I was enjoying some catered appetizers at a wedding reception recently I picked up a little bowl of cool tomato basil soup. And what do you know? I really liked it!So I set out to recreate my version of this cool summer soup that can also be served warm on a crisp fall night. The problem was I had eaten all but 4 of the fresh tomatoes I'd gotten from grandma's garden. As I paced around my kitchen, taking inventory of what I had to work with, I passed by for the upteenth time this week a huge banana squash that had been given to me. Hmmmm....this could work. I had been wondering how to get my kids to eat up this squash. Hiding it in a tasty soup could be just the trick. Turns out it, that was a good choice!* If you don't have a banana squash you could also use any other year round squash like butternut or cushaw. Or if you're making this in the fall try pumpkin or acorn squash. No matter what squash you use, follow the same roasting directions.I paired it up with some Seared Balsamic Chicken for a filling and healthy dinner. Yummy!

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Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

Maybe it has something to do with sensory development or something, but seriously what is it about  finger foods and kids? I'm not complaining, I'm just wondering why my children opt to use their hands to eat instead of their forks (and I'm not just talking about my 1 year old). Most of the time I demand table manners and the use of modern eating utensils, but to curb whatever primal need they have to use their hands to eat, I make finger food. Over the last several years we've come a long way in teaching our children how to make good, healthy food choices. (Here is our family's 5 Philosophies for Raising Healthy Eaters). No more mystery meat chicken nuggets or bleached wheat flour pizza dripping with cheese. Now-a-days I make made-from-scratch, gluten free finger food that tastes good and is good for you too! Having fun eating it is a bonus ;) 

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Cajun Chicken Kabobs

The deep South is known for it's great barbecues and after my visit to the south recently, I got inspired to make some Cajun-style kabobs! This dinner was light, flavorful, fun (cause my kids love finger food), and yummy. Plus, this dinner just has summer written all over it! 

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Poached Egg on Kale Caprese Salad

Eggs never look so good as when they're sitting atop a pile of sauteed veggies and greens! Poached eggs are one of the simplest ways to enjoy some protein and when you set it on top of these caprese style sauteed kale, tomato, and mushrooms you'll forget you're eating something healthy. Alright I know what you're thinking...Poached eggs? Simple? Yeah right! Trust me, you don't need any special egg poaching utensils or pans; just a little practice to get the yoke just the way you like it. 

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Thai Coconut Carrot and Corn Soup (Gluten Free)

 

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GF Chicken Tacos with Garlic Lime Black Beans & Guacamole

   Do you know what I've discovered over the last few years? It's that happily ever after is a pretty relative term. Happiness in its simplest form is being at peace despite the circumstances of your present situation. It's being okay with the imperfections, the mess, the not-so-happy predicaments we find ourselves in, but finding joy in the midst of it all anyway. Not in spite of it, but in it. Not a roll your eyes, grit your teeth, and pretend you're fine superficial happiness, but a sincere inner peace. That's why I make dinner from scratch and use a slow cooker. So I don't have to waist my time standing in the kitchen preparing food all day when I have my happily ever after to enjoy.

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Stuffed Smashed Potatoes

I love eating whole, unprocessed, real food. Eating gluten free and subsequently discovering all the wonderful benefits from eating food that is as close to it’s natural, original state has been an enlightening and …but let’s be honest here…sometimes I mourn for the loss of my ignorance.  (*Beware: venting in process)

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Gluten Free Spanish Pork Paella

 Ah, Spain! Warm Mediterranean breezes, siestas in the middle of the day...okay, so I've never been to Spain. In fact, I've never even left the country! Ugh, lame! Man, I need a vacation. It doesn't matter who you are there is nothing like getting away from the routine of everyday life and experiencing something new. Alex and I would love to do some serious traveling. Honestly, if I could, I would live in a different country every year. How amazing would it be to immerse yourself in Italian, Irish, or French culture for a whole year? (I hear there is a lot of gluten free awareness in Ireland.) But the reality is...that's not going to happen any time soon...or ever.So how do you break up the norm? Keep your enthusiasm and a sense of adventure? If you would have asked me that a year ago I probably would have told you lots of great things that all would have begun with the word "I". "I need...", "I want..." Yes, taking care of your own needs and wants is very important - I absolutely need some time to myself to pray, to read, to workout, to get lost playing the piano, to think, to just sit still and breath. Now, however, I think my answer would also include serving others. There is so much joy, and self-fulfillment when you help others fulfill their needs and wants. It seems like a counterintuitive notion doesn't it? But I've been on the giving and receiving end of selfless service and no matter how you slice, service is key.So even though I hope to one day, I won't be going to Europe in the near future. I can, however, keep my passion, adventurous spirit, and excitement for life alive and encourage my kids to do the same. Dream big. Hope. Aspire. Work for it. Until we get there though, there is one way to experience a taste of it. Eat it!    So last night we visited Spain ...at least during dinner (gluten free, Food L'amor style!) Fancy right?! No, this wasn't a dinner for two. I wish! This Spanish Pork Paella has a easy going mild, all-around, tasty flavor and the kiddos liked it too. Even without the peaceful siesta's and ocean breezes it was perfect!Paella is just the Spaniards version of comfort food using meat, veggies, and rice. There are a ton of different ways to make it and you could still call it paella. So here's my gluten free version...

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Marinated "Rockstar" Drumsticks (gluten free)

  Is chicken part of your weekly diet? Ours too.  I like to change it up and have chicken one night, pork, fish, or beef another (organic, free of hormones and antibiotics if you can)- except 1-3 days a week when I prepare a meatless meal. This saves money (because meat can be $$$), plus it's healthy to give it a rest and just eat veggies, beans, rice, or other gluten free grains once in a while.

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Poached Salmon Indian Curry with Quinoa

  Eating out with kids is always an adventure. And by adventure I mean the poor restaurant staff probably breathe a sigh of relief when we leave. It's not always that dramatic, but anyone with young kids know what I'm talking about. It can get a little hairy. So, even though I love to give my kids the the experience of eating out every once in a while sometimes it's just as fun to make an ethnic restaurant style meal at home. It's fun to really go all out and have a whole themed dinner. The kids get to experience something new, learn about another culture, and I don't go all mama bear while interrogating the chef about their "gluten free" menu. 

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Tex-Mex Gluten Free Turkey Burgers

 Have you ever had a turkey burger? It's not just about the burger, it's about the toppings -- tomato, avocado, mango, sauteed onions and bell peppers! I kept mine dairy free, but you could certainly melt a slice of pepper jack cheese on top. 

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Gluten Free Creamy Hummus Soup

 So you know when you have all these good intentions for making something homemade and yummy and it just doesn't turn out? Yeah, that happens to me all the time. I've had to learn to improvise so I don't waste food that didn't "turn out". That's what happened today with the hummus I was trying to make. Maybe it was because I was distracted by a fussy baby or the kids that were arguing over the rules of the board game they were trying to play. Whatever the reason the hummus was too garlicky and not the right consistency.

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Slow Cooker Carnitas!

Looking for a game day dinner that will feed a crowd? When it comes to feeding a big group, anything you can stuff into a corn tortilla is going to be convenient. Anything you can throw into the slow cooker and forget about until you're hungry is better. Not to mention that everything is made from scratch so you'll know it's gluten free and it's still pretty quick and simple to put together before everyone gets there.I first made these carnitas when my grandma came for a visit all the way from Arkansas. Of course, my parents, siblings and their families, and my hubby's family all came for dinner too! It was great to have everyone together and have my grandma meet her tenth great grandbaby. These carnitas were a hit and I got to enjoy myself without being stuck cooking instead of visiting. If you've got a crowd coming over for the big game, these carnitas have been tried, tested, and approved. I used a dry rub on the meat and then braised it before putting it in the slow cooker.The Rub:

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Melissa Cornwall has spent years researching and implementing nutritionally-based approaches to health and wellness. Her lifelong love of food and health evolved from a hobby to a passion when her daughter was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease.

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