Kitchen Confessions

We all have that one go-to source when it comes to the kitchen. A lot of my recipes and inspiration come from Pinterest, but there’s one source I just can’t live without! Years ago, I can’t even remember when, my mom bought my sister and I the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Seriously. I don’t often use actual recipes from the book, but the reference and cooking basics it includes are invaluable. Each section in the binder style book includes cooking references based on the section (fish, poultry, meat, vegetables, etc). I can look up whatever we’re making for dinner, and get the oven temperature and cooking time needed for just about everything! Even if I already know approximations, this gives me the comfort that I’m doing it right. I know, I know, Google is faster, but there’s something so comforting about knowing just where I can find the information.

The other night, I stumbled into the easiest recipe I never knew existed. We were making a tomato soup with chicken, but I wasn’t willing to wait the time required to slow cook the soup (recipe loosely followed from here). We’d just gone grocery shopping, and hunger was hitting hard. I quickly threw together all of the ingredients, except for the chicken, and went to my trusty cookbook to see what options I had. Flipping to the poultry section, I realized I could broil chicken breasts in a casserole dish, giving the soup plenty of time to simmer. I covered the chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper, cooking it for a total of 30 minutes (flipping halfway through). As I took the chicken out to chop, I was surprised by how much moisture it had retained. Why had I never done this before?

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Our finished chicken tomato soup

Using this new found way to cook our chicken, I gave it another shot last night. This time, I opted for more spices to dress it up, including smoked paprika and a barbecue rub from Salt Lick BBQ in Austin, TX. For our sides, I roasted broccoli with salt and pepper, and mashed potatoes with ranch seasonings. I have to say, this is one of the most “normal” and delicious meals we’ve had since starting the whole30 this year. Take a look for yourself 🙂

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Broiled chicken, broccoli, and mashed potatoes

What’s your kitchen confession?

Note – we were using thicker (2 – 3 inch thick) boneless skinless chicken breast. 15 minutes per side may be too long for thinner cuts.

My body isn’t standard, so why are my clothes?

Before I start this post, let me forewarn all of you that it’s not exactly on topic. Rather, this has been something that’s weighing on my mind lately. As I drove into work today, I debated how to post the results of our Whole30 Challenge. Would I post how much I’d lost, give my actual weight, or just leave it alone? That sparked an entirely different internal debate for me…hopefully my train of thought isn’t completely off the wall, so here goes…

Why am I afraid to post my actual weight for the world to see? Men share their weights all the time, especially in the world of athletics where it’s posted on every roster and TV screen before a game. Why should it be so taboo for women? Personally, I’m average height and have an athletic build. I’ve run two full marathons, but also go through periods where I won’t run at all for a few weeks. I’m a healthy person, yet because of my muscle mass, most people are floored by my weight; it’s much higher than they’d expect. The biggest problem I have with this is that we’re conditioned to believe that my weight is not normal. I’d be willing to bet most women are in the same ballpark I am, so why do we have to be so embarrassed by weight?! For the record, I’m 5’5″ and weighed 151.4 pounds before we started the Whole30.

As my drive continued, I started to think about the suit I was wearing. My jacket fit alright, but the pants were starting to look a little loose on me. I’m not saying I’m upset about losing a little weight, but that got me thinking about why they fit so poorly. Women’s clothes have no standard measurement, nor is there any direct correlation to the measurements of your body. Designers use arbitrary numbers that vary as much as the designs themselves. I can wear anything from a 2 to an 8, an extra small through a medium. Why can’t the women’s fashion industry have logical standard sizing? I’m not the only person to notice this phenomenon either; Time released an article on the basis and origin of women’s sizes a couple years ago, though we haven’t seen drastic improvements (article here).

I began thinking about my husband’s clothes, and his typical work ensemble includes separate sizes for each of the following: his neck size, sleeve length, shirt size, waist, and inseam. His suit jackets and sport coats? They’re sized by his chest measurement. All of these sizes are done in exact measurements rather than arbitrary numbers. While men can walk into any store and find clothes nearly perfectly tailored to their body off the rack, there’s nothing comparable in the women’s market. Is our own insecurity in being honest about our weight and measurements driving the fashion industry to use these arbitrary sizes?

Think about yourself for a second. You’re unique, you may have curves or may not. You’ve got your own sleeve length, inseam, waist and bra size. Each of these measurements impacts how clothing will fit you, yet I’m not aware of any designers that take these factors into account, and include them in their sizing. Wouldn’t it be incredible to be able to walk into any store with the ability to find clothing tailored to you with the kind of precision and measurements that men benefit from?

Unfortunately, I don’t have some great new conclusion or revelation to resolve this issue. I wrote this as a way to get my own thoughts out there, and to spark the debate. But wouldn’t it be great if we as women could break through those insecurities, going behind the curtain of Oz to put ourselves and our sizes out there honestly? Could we have enough impact to truly change the market for the better?

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Me, after finishing my second Marine Corps Marathon

Super Bowl Recap

What were we thinking?! For the second year in a row, we’ve been on Whole30 during the Super Bowl. Shockingly, it’s turned out well both years. If the Steelers had been in the game (or Giants for hubby), I think all bets would have been off. Wanting to still make the day fun and full of great food, I scoured Pinterest for new ideas. Putting together the grocery list once we had our snack recipes was pretty simple, and because we weren’t buying the typical Super Bowl snacks, we had no issues buying everything the day before.

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Our Super Bowl Spread

Without further ado, here was our menu:

  • Bacon Wrapped Butternut Squash
  • Homemade Sweet Potato Chips and Guacamole
  • Bacon and Sweet Potato Jalapeño Boats
  • Buffalo Ranch Stuffed Peppers

Bacon Wrapped Butternut Squash

I can’t stress how incredible this appetizer was, and on top of that, it was easy to prepare too! The only thing that took up time was getting the squash peeled and cubed. With only a handful of ingredients (bacon, butternut squash, olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt) it was a simple yet incredibly delicious course. I will say, they flipped much easier with the bacon sealed on the bottom…so don’t take that step lightly!

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Bacon Wrapped Squash…finished and ready to devour!

Homemade Sweet Potato Chips and Guacamole

Unfortunately, I don’t really have a recipe for this one; however, I will say it’s made much easier by a couple clutch Pampered Chef tools. A couple years ago, a Pampered Chef consultant hosted a party for my Team in Training race team, with proceeds benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I stocked up on a few unique tools, and have used them more times than I can count! We make our sweet potato chips by slicing the potatoes using the Simple Slicer and baking them with the Microwave Chip Maker….seriously, that’s all it takes. The slicer has multiple thickness settings, so you can make them as thin or thick as you’d like, and the chip maker quickly turns them into the perfect crispy snack.

For the guacamole, I don’t have a recipe either…it’s just the following ingredients chopped and mixed together until you get the texture you want:

  • 2-3 avocados
  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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Guacamole…the chips didn’t last long enough for a picture!!

Bacon and Sweet Potato Jalapeño Boats

True confession…we found this recipe last year during our first Whole30. Turns out, it’s a HUGE hit with everyone on or off the Whole30. These have made appearances at Easter, The Walking Dead premier, New Years, and pretty much any other time that called for a great appetizer.

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A couple quick variations we’ve made along the way are only loosely scooping out the seeds (can’t help it…we like things spicy), and cooking the bacon first and setting it aside. This will keep it crispy, rather than leaving it in the pan while the sweet potato cooks. Trust me, it makes a difference!

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work in progress…see the seeds we left behind, and the bacon on the side

Buffalo Ranch Stuffed Peppers

The last recipe, and main dish for our Super Bowl Sunday, was this fun new recipe. It’s no substitute for hot wings, but was a great way to get that buffalo taste for the game. All of the recipes we picked were as simple as possible, but really packed a punch of flavor. We tried to minimize clean-up, and spread it out leading up to the game…that way we didn’t have to miss a moment!

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cooked chicken and onions to stuff the peppers

Learning all of the spices that go into a ranch flavor from this recipe was great…I’ve since been dressing up other veggies on regular week nights to have that ranch flavor while still sticking to Whole30.

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adding the cubed chicken to the buffalo sauce mixture

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finished product! seriously so great!

Hopefully we’re the only crazy people that do this to ourselves during such a big event, but if we’re not…hopefully these will help you plan for a Whole30 safe party!

Dining In

Very few diet plans or cleanses can truly get you excited for what you’ll be eating next…but Whole 30 never ceases to amaze me. I think it’s the lack of simple sauces or dressings we can grab from the fridge, or that we can’t make our typical easy fix meals, that get us to really think outside the box. Each time Hubby and I do another Whole 30 challenge, we get adventurous at the grocery store. Anything from the lollipop lamb chop recipe we found last year to the simple veal we had the other night. Dinner every night this week has felt like a gourmet meal out. Here are our highlights!

First off, a few tips in tracking down the right recipe. I usually start with Pinterest, and searching on major ingredients I know we have. Disclaimer, I don’t always measure, or freak out if we don’t have every ingredient on hand. Cooking isn’t always a precision science, and with a working family, you can’t make everything perfect! When something looks good, we just go for it 🙂

Dinner Day 2 – Veal and Veggies

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This was a ridiculously simple dinner! All the veal needed was olive oil, salt, and pepper. It was pan seared for a little less than two minutes on each side, and we drizzled aged balsamic vinegar on top. The veggies were a blend of eggplant and asparagus, seasoned with Italian spices. Also cooked quickly in a pan, we added tomatoes once the eggplant was soft.

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Dinner Day 3 – Chicken Pad Thai

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Like I said earlier, even if we don’t have every ingredient…that won’t scare me away from a recipe. This one called for sprouts and scallions as well, but who thinks to buy sprouts in advance? And why would I stop myself from making delicious Pad Thai (recipe here) just because we didn’t have the right type of onions?? We made ours work with carrots, mushrooms and a yellow onion…the spaghetti squash made up for the lack in additional veggies.

Dinner Day 4 – Avocado Stuffed Meatballs

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Tonight’s dinner was a nice surprise! I came home and Hubby was already in the kitchen chopping everything for a recipe he’d found for Avocado Stuffed Meatballs. We didn’t have Whole 30 compliant mustard, so we swapped it out for 2 tsp dry ground mustard. While he was getting those ready, I seasoned potato wedges with salt, pepper, onion powder, and smoked paprika. To top it off, we sauteed green beans with salt and pepper.

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Hope these give you some great inspiration…happy cooking!!

Resolutions

It’s been an entire year since my last post…yikes! For the past year, I’ve been letting life get in the way, and haven’t focused on what’s the most important to me. This year, my only resolution was to put myself first. No specific parameters, just making a conscious decision to prioritize my own goals.

Like last year, my husband and I are doing another Whole 30 Challenge. Last year’s went so well, that we continued eating Whole 30 a few days a week, and did a mid-year challenge last year as well (without cutting out alcohol :)). With so many events planned for January, we decided to do this year’s challenge in February.

So here we are at Day 1! I would’ve prepped some yesterday, but I was glutened by an unknown source. Frustrating as it was, all I could do all day was sleep. This morning, I was determined not to miss our first day. I pan fried a mix of yukon gold and sweet potatoes, fried brown eggs, and had my first cup of coffee. I’ve actually been drinking it black since our first Whole 30 Challenge, so I’m already ahead of the game!

After finishing breakfast, I started chopping veggies to make a quick salad lunch, complete with applesauce and fruit sides.

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Salad: Tuna, romaine lettuce, spinach, chopped carrots, celery, cucumber, olive oil, vinegar, and spices (salt, pepper, cumin) Sides: Applesauce with blueberries, blackberries, almonds, and cinnamon; Clementine

Mid-morning, I reached out to my Whole 30 group for dinner ideas. Hubby and I had picked up okra over the weekend, and I had no idea what to do with it. Thank god for southern friends! One of my best running buddies suggested Jambalaya, and it was exactly what we needed on a rainy day. After picking up the final ingredients on my way home, I gave my first batch a shot. No rice? No problem! We riced a head of cauliflower with Cajun spices to go with the Jambalaya. Trust me on this one…this recipe is super easy, and truly can’t be screwed up! Even if you aren’t a seasoned chef, give it a go 🙂

Whole 30 Jambalaya

1 lb Cajun Andouille Sausage, sliced
1 lb frozen uncooked shrimp (buy the peeled and deveined to save some time)
20 fresh whole okra, sliced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cans of diced tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small can of green chiles
1 carton of chicken broth (make sure it’s compliant!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder

  1. Add the sausage, okra, peppers, and onion to a large pot.
  2. Add the cans of diced tomatoes and green chiles, do not drain anything! Make sure everything from the can gets into the pot.
  3. Stir in the carton of chicken broth, adding in the minced garlic, and all seasonings as you stir.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the temperature to simmer for at least one hour.
  5. 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add in the frozen shrimp. Jambalaya will be ready when the shrimp are pink!
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Whole 30 Jambalaya and Riced Cauliflower (seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and chipotle pepper)

Here’s to a successful start to our 2016 Whole 30 Challenge!! Bon Appetite 🙂