Trying to lose that last baby weight

Our son is now eight months old, and it’s becoming painfully clear that those last pounds of weight gain seem pretty comfortable where they are. I’ve been getting back into a steady workout routine over the last couple of months, but workouts alone don’t seem to be making much progress. I’ve decided it’s time for me to take matters into my own hands and address my diet. My husband and I have done Whole30 a number of times, but I was too afraid to make such a drastic change while I was still breastfeeding. Now that our son is eating solids, I feel like it’s the right time to take another plunge.

We started this challenge on Sunday, knowing that we had dinner plans with friends on Saturday that would be our last indulgent meal for a while. In preparation, I made roasted potatoes to go with our morning eggs. It’s a simple recipe, but honestly it doesn’t disappoint and starts the day off right! I diced a mix of sweet and red potatoes, then seasoned them generously with chili powder, smoked paprika, turmeric, and onion powder. Then they’re roasted for about 40 minutes at 375. I’m sure they could stay in the oven longer, but I like to keep them from getting overcooked. Plus, we’ll throw them in the egg pan in the morning to warm them up, and that gives them the final crisp.

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Being veterans of the Whole30 plan, I also spent Saturday morning planning out our meals for the next five days and building the shopping list. The last thing you want is for hunger to hit and not have a clear plan of what is both quick and compliant. Here’s what our week looks like:

Sunday: Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai (my favorite find from our first Whole30)

Monday: Pot Roast with Balsamic Onion Gravy

Tuesday: Burrito Bowls

Wednesday: Butternut Squash Soup

Thursday: Coconut Lime Chicken

Now I know that’s not the full week and means I’m making a big assumption that we’ll have time to figure it out the rest before Friday hits. I’m really hoping we’re in good shape with leftovers by that point that it can be an easy night and we’ll reset with planning Saturday morning. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in motherhood, it’s that planning your meals in advance really is important if you don’t want to get stuck ordering takeout nearly every night!

Stay tuned…I’ll definitely be sharing the rest of those recipes if they’re successful!

 

Meal Planning and Freezer Meals

It started when I was pregnant, I scoured the internet looking for easy crock-pot meals that could be frozen in advance for those frantic early days of parenthood. I took the month prior to my due date off from work (big thanks to my company being a leader in benefits for new parents), and kept myself busy preparing what I thought was a sizable stockpile of meals. We have a chest freezer in our garage, making plenty of room for everything I’d prepared. After I returned to work, it seemed like our own dinner took a back seat to feedings, bath time, bed time, our dogs needs, and anything else you can imagine that popped up. It took meeting with a new parent career coach to realize setting aside time each week to meal plan really would help our schedule. I’d known it before, but let’s be honest, baby brain is no joke. Lately, it’s been out of necessity, we’ve been without our gas cooktop for over two weeks! You don’t realize how much you use an appliance until it’s suddenly cut off. Ours had to be disconnected to make repairs on the vent fan, which turned into a much bigger undertaking to completely replace the vent. We should be on schedule to have it up and running by the weekend, but oh how I’ve missed it in the meantime. Through each of those periods, being able to prepare meals in advance has truly kept our family eating healthy and feeling good about what we’re eating.

Whatever your reasoning for doing meal prep, there are things I’ve learned along the way that I hope can help each of you. I’ve put together the lists below to pass on those recommendations. Happy meal planning!

Meal planning suggestions:

  • Set aside time each week to write out your plan for dinner each night, then put together your grocery list based off this plan. This will help keep you on track to buy only what you need, and as a bonus, will keep you organized if you use a grocery pick-up or delivery service.
  • Keep that meal plan somewhere visible, like your fridge or a whiteboard. This way, whoever is preparing the day’s meal can quickly see what you had in mind. This is especially helpful in the days and weeks after a new baby’s arrival, anyone stopping in can help you stay on track!
  • Don’t forget about breakfast! It’s easy to focus on dinner only, and leftovers can easily be reheated for lunch, but what about breakfast? If you’re a hot breakfast family like we are, you might love whipping up a batch of muffin tin eggs. We make ours by the dozen (recipe here).
  • If you’re building up a stockpile of freezer meals, for say new baby or back to school, try to make one or two a week. It won’t feel overwhelming, and your budget for groceries won’t take a major hit either. Remember that meals can safely be kept in the freezer for about 4 months (check to be sure, based on each protein), giving you plenty of time to build up your stash.

A few key suggestions for crock-pot freezer meals:

  • Put your veggies in the bottom, sauce ingredients next, and meat in last. This will keep the meat on the bottom of the crock-pot when you dump everything in, and the veggies will soak up the sauce/seasonings so nothing gets stuck in the bag.
  • Mark all bags with the preparation date, low and high recommended cook times. You might be ahead of the game and able to set your meal to low, but in my experience sometimes it was a scramble just to dump it all in with enough time to thoroughly cook the meal on high.
  • Use crock-pot liners!!! This sounds sort of lazy, but when you have an infant at home, really anything that saves on cleanup time is a life saver.
  • Know what freezer meals you have in stock, keep a list somewhere within easy access so you aren’t digging around looking for ideas at the last minute.
  • Keep an assortment of frozen vegetables on hand that can be mixed in the day of with any meat-only recipes.

Last, but most certainly not least, a few of my favorite freezer meal recipes:

When being gluten free means missing out

I like to think there aren’t many things that I’m missing out on since going gluten free. For the most part, shopping has gotten easier in recent years and I feel like I can cook most things that I miss (and can’t easily be found from trustworthy restaurants). There are some times though when there is just no substitute, and frankly, it stinks.

This will be our third New England fall. The foliage is absolutely breathtaking, the weather is comfortable and calming – yes, I actually enjoy when we have overcast and rainy days. Here’s the thing though, there are certain delicacies that New England is known for, especially in the fall, that I just can’t enjoy. One of them is the whoopie pie, which up until last winter I had never had the opportunity to try. I heard all about them as we visited the area, and once we were officially moved up, but I couldn’t find gluten free whoopie pies anywhere. I FINALLY had the chance when planning for our baby shower. We were going to be hosting over 20 family members and friends from out of town at our home, which meant everything on the menu had to be gluten free. I was lucky enough to find Andi’s Gluten Free Kitchen, and she was absolutely amazing getting us a variety of delicious desserts. Naturally, I requested whoopie pies in both the original and pumpkin pie flavors. They were to die for!

That leaves me with probably the most famous item of all….the cider donut. Each year I feel like I go through the same frustration. I search every corner of the internet looking for someone/somewhere that will make these gluten free! I’ve called bakeries, farms, apple orchards, literally anything I can think of with no luck. I went through a phase growing up where I couldn’t even stand the smell of donuts, apparently the universe is getting back at me for that. I would LOVE to try one this year, especially as the weather is chilling and it sounds wonderful to sit down with a cider donut and hot cider…maybe even after apple picking (could I get any more New Englander than that?!).

I know I’m not the only one that gets frustrated when it feels like you’re missing out. What have you not been able to find or substitute? It would be wonderful if we could crowd source helping each other out 🙂 For now, I’d settle for anyone within driving distance of Seacoast New Hampshire that’s willing to make me a gluten free donut…please, send me your recommendations!!

Celiac and Pregnancy

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I’ve always wondered how celiac would impact a pregnancy, the unfortunate thing is that there isn’t a ton of information out there. I remember asking my doctor about it when my husband and I started talking about children…I’d made the mistake of googling it, and had only come across references to infertility. My doctor assured me that everyone is different, and that the time to discuss infertility would be years down the road only if we had challenges conceiving. Plus, I’d been gluten free for years, which should have helped my chances for success.

Recognizing that I couldn’t find much information about pregnant celiacs was one of the main things that brought me back to blogging. While I know a number of other celiacs, I don’t personally know any that have children and could provide insight. Before I go any further, this post is all about my own personal experiences, everyone and every pregnancy is different. That being said, I would LOVE comments and responses about other celiac experiences! Let’s get information out there to help each other out.

So the first trimester…woof 🤢 let’s be honest, “morning” sickness is quite possibly the worst characterization of what really occurs. I felt absolutely fine until about week six or seven, and then it hit me like a semi truck. I had no appetite at all, and felt nauseous all day. At any given moment I felt like I was going to throw up, but through my entire pregnancy I only actually got sick a handful of times. The nausea was so intense that I could barely be in the kitchen. My poor husband had no help from me when my parents visited early in my pregnancy. They all were amazing though, and from what I heard, they ate well that week. The foods that sustained me through that period were ice chips, cucumbers, watermelon, and Outshine popsicles. That’s right folks, all high water content. Some meals were just completely skipped.

During that time, my husband had to travel a few times for work. Not being able to stomach the kitchen made it pretty difficult to keep my nutrition up. With that in mind we stocked up on gluten free chicken nuggets, cereal, and anything else bland that could pretty much be microwaved or eaten straight from the packaging.

I had wonderful friends that passed along countless ideas to counteract the nausea, and trust me, I tried them all….teas, bath soaks, ginger in various forms, and sea bands. I reached a point where if one more person told me to try ginger ale I was going to smack them across the face (inappropriate, I know, but I was a very uncomfortable pregnant woman). In the end the only things that ever helped were sea bands and running. Dead serious, the days that were the most bearable were the ones that started with 4-5 miles run at 6am with my neighbor. We kept that up through a majority of my pregnancy, though each run became slower than the previous until eventually they were all walks.

Now for the worst part…I’m sure each celiac has a tell, that one reaction that tells you that you’ve definitely had gluten. Mine happens to begin with ridiculously uncomfortable burping, that feeling that if you opened your mouth you couldn’t guarantee that you wouldn’t vomit. Throughout my entire pregnancy I had this same feeling, without ANY contamination. We quickly realized I had no way of knowing whether I’d had gluten or not. Let me tell you, this may have been the most stressful experience during my entire pregnancy. Imagine being worried about your own nutritional intake, eating healthy for baby, fighting nausea, and NEVER knowing if that nausea was caused by your pregnancy or something that could be much worse. On top of that, I was terrified of what being contaminated would do to my child. We quickly all but eliminated eating out. The worst of my nausea tapered off sometime after week 16, but I never could tell when I’d been contaminated for the remainder of my pregnancy.

As we started filling out our hospital registration I had another worry, how would they know that I couldn’t have gluten? I must have confirmed with my doctor at every visit that yes, my chart included celiac, and that would be sent to the hospital as soon as I was on my way. I reiterated this information with the family center when we went through preregistration. As soon as we walked in the day my son was born, my husband and I both checked that the information had been provided to the hospital staff. I’m happy to report our hospital was amazing. The food was surprisingly delicious, and well marked with allergy alerts each time it was delivered. Best of all, my daily menus included only what I could safely eat, and the staff confirmed my gluten free status every time I called down my order. I may have had a difficult delivery (a story for another day), but it was such a relief not to worry about what was eating while I recovered.

I couldn’t tell you how my experience differs from that of a woman without celiac, as this was my first child and I’ve been gluten free for about seven years now. Did it feel like hell at times? Of course. Was it worth it to see that little face for the first time? ABSOLUTELY!! I hope this helps at least one other person to know they’re not alone, because the googling can be maddening. If you have a celiac pregnancy story, please share it!

Is this thing on?

As I sit here writing this, I’m finally unwinding after an evening of dancing to Motown while wearing my son in his baby carrier and making another batch of lactation cookies. To say that a lot has changed since my last post would be one of the biggest understatements. About three years ago my husband and I were restless. We were starting to think about settling down and buying a home. We loved our closer to the city condo, but it was time to expand. The problem was, moving to suburbia in the DC metro area meant long commutes to and from work, and the work life balance just wasn’t there. After months of soul searching, research, and a long weekend away, we decided to relocate to the seacoast of New Hampshire…we like to joke that we threw a dart on the wall, but trust me, there was so much more discussion that got us here. Without our jobs figured out, we came back up to meet with our realtor and put an offer on a home. Talk about a leap of faith. The next four months seemed like the longest of our lives, trying to make our careers work so we could actually move in. Eventually we both worked through remote arrangements and began to pack the biggest suitcases of our lives….everything we owned was going 500 miles north!

Mere weeks after moving in we adopted the pup we’d always wanted. He was a rescue at four months old, and we named him after the bar where we’d first met. Another year down the road and we were preparing for our first child… due in the dead of winter in New England! As I’m adjusting to this new role of motherhood, I’m reflecting on how we got here, and what’s next. It was finally time to dust off the blog and start writing again. The title might not seem the most appropriate for my life right now, but my love for traveling, culture and understanding remains unchanged. Over the next few months, I’ll be revamping the blog, and finding a way to bring it back into my life. Bear with me folks, we seem to be adjusting to a lot these days so any recommendations and requests are welcome! I’ve added an Instagram account so you can keep up with me even when I’m not writing, so please check it out and follow along for this crazy ride 🙂

A Weekend Away

Usually I only have to worry about food for myself when we go away for the weekend, but thanks to this year’s Whole30, we spent an entire day prepping food for both of us before heading out of town to visit family. I know I’ve written about traveling with freezer meals before, but I always love sharing recipes that are easy to make, and freeze/travel well. I’m sure it makes me a little selfish, but it was nice to have someone else that could only eat food brought from home for a change. I’m sure it was extra difficult for my hubby, since he doesn’t usually have to restrict himself so much.

Trying to keep things simple, we chose three meals to make in larger quantities. This ensured we had enough food for our planned three days away. We also decided we’d stop at Chipotle on our drive home, so we wouldn’t need to worry about reheating food. That meant cooking and freezing each of these so all of our meals were set!

The first thing we got cooking was Chicken Masala. Trying to minimize our efforts, we chose this since it’s a crock-pot meal and always turns out perfect.

 

 

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons curry
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (usually in the international aisle of the grocery store)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 5 large chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes (no sugar added)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (no sugar added)
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish
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Best part of crock-pot recipes, getting to throw all the ingredients in and leave it alone!

After getting that going, we riced a head of cauliflower to go along with the chicken. It was only enough for two servings, but there was plenty of chicken for at least six meals!

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Finished product….Chicken Masala

Our next major task was to get the chili going. This recipe was one we found a while ago, and loved it so much that it’s now a regular in our menu.

Sweet Potato Chili

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large can (29.5 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 small can (15 oz) fire roasted petite diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 5 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Dash oregano
  • Dash red pepper flakes
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Cooking the beef and onions before adding the remaining ingredients

In a large pot, brown the beef, onions, and garlic. Drain the fat when browned. Add remaining ingredients to pot, mixing well before bringing to a boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. By the way, that little green thing in the pot below actually belongs there! It holds the bay leaves, so you can easily pull them out of the pot when it’s cooked.

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Simmering the pot of chili

While the chili was simmering, we started chopping up sweet and red potatoes for our usual morning side dish. Along with eggs, we start every morning with sauteed potatoes. My go-to spices are chili powder, turmeric, smoked paprika, and a little salt and pepper to taste.

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Looks tasty, right?!

Branching out to something new, our final task was to take on Stuffed Acorn Squash. This was a completely new recipe for us, and thanks to the ease of the crock-pot chicken and simmering chili, most of our efforts were focused on this.

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Acorn squash, ready to be frozen for the trip

We really lucked out with the temperatures for this trip too! Go figure, we managed to see the coldest temperatures I’ve ever seen while we were up in New York that weekend…all the way down to -20°F!!! Thankfully, that meant we could leave the cooler in the car and not worry about anything thawing too quickly. As we bounced around visiting everyone, all we had to do was bring in the cooler to start defrosting and cooking our next meal 🙂

 

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.