Postpartum Whole30 – One week in

Naturally, this mama is a glutton for punishment. It’s my busy season at work, I’m doing Whole30, AND we picked this week to sleep train our son. Somehow all three of those things seem to be going well. Let’s be honest, I’m really on the verge of ending week two at this point, but that’s life as a mom. I’m finally getting around to writing what I planned to a few days ago. For starters, the last three meals I planned on that first week turned out well. The only one I’d definitely make again is the Burrito Bowls, since a good Butternut Squash soup really does need cream. Sorry guys, I just can’t get behind the cream-free version 100%. As an added bonus, I discovered broccoli slaw in the produce section, which I never knew existed and is such a nice veggie assortment to add to really any meal!

As much as I’d love for this to be a perfect Whole30, I’m cheating in a few ways this time around. Hubby and I had a date night at the movies last weekend, and we just really couldn’t make the trip without popcorn. We brought our own waters, and didn’t get extra butter, but we couldn’t go without popcorn! I’ve also been periodically weighing myself to see how I’m doing. I’m happy to say that as of this morning I’m down 9 lbs! I totally needed that ego boost to help keep me going.

It’s been cold and rainy this week in New England, so it was the perfect time to break out the hearty/soup recipes. I took on my favorite Sweet Potato Chili and Stuffed Acorn Squash (both found in this post: A Weekend Away), as well as Chicken Tortilla Soup. Needing a night off, we decided to order a wicked chicken from Vernon Family Farms for dinner tonight. They’re a local family-owned farm just up the road from us, and they make fresh rotisserie chicken every Friday night! We had no idea how much local agriculture there was when we moved to New Hampshire, but I’m loving every minute of being able to get fresh, local ingredients whenever we want them.

Since I have the night off from cooking, I’ll be using that time to plan out our next full week of meals. Here’s to hoping I find some fun new ideas to keep it interesting. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this picture of our little fox on his first Halloween ❤

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Me with my little fox on his first Halloween!

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!

 

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.

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 🙂