A month post-Whole30

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I can’t believe it has been a month since my boyfriend and I were on Whole30, but I can’t say I miss it that much! In the words of the genius Taylor Swift via her song Wonderland, “Life was never worse but never better.” Actually…I think life is indeed better, because now I don’t feel guilty for eating bread, cheese, and sweet treats like those glorious cinnamon donuts above–my first post-Whole30 treat!

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The first few days of being off Whole30 were a little bit tricky because we couldn’t follow the recommended reintroduction plan due to holidays and other long-standing plans. In a nutshell, you start by eating one new food group on your first day (i.e. gluten), then for the following two days, you eat normal Whole30. On the fourth day, you introduce a different food group (i.e. dairy), then continue with two days of Whole30 and so on. It takes about a couple of weeks to finish the reintroductions properly, and we had them done in a few days. We followed a plan which included eating gluten on the first day, then eating Whole30 until dinner on the second day (gluten), followed by Whole30 on the third day until dinner that night (gluten and dairy). I’m not sure that it really affected us, though. Chris never experienced any terribly feelings (woo!), and my body was a bit out of whack, though it had been for the last few days of Whole30 so I don’t think the new foods caused it. I think my body was just trying to be sick, but luckily it wasn’t terrible.

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Even though we are very much NOT eating Whole30 right now, there are aspects of it that we’ve kept. Sometimes we still have Whole30-approved breakfasts–eggs, avocado, and grapefruit. We like eating grapefruit with breakfast whenever possible, even if we have cereal instead of eggs. Chris has also been making some meals that are Whole30-approved if not for the grain addition. We don’t pig out for every meal, and we’ve done a great job eating leftovers and such instead of always making new meals (partially thanks to Whole30). I definitely appreciate whole foods more and try not to snack as much (I haven’t had chips and cream cheese since before Whole30; my new snack of choice is either cinnamon roasted almonds or kimchi chips). The good news is that after a month off of Whole30, neither of us feel terrible about eating the non-approved foods again. While Chris is keen on doing another Whole30, I probably won’t partake because my experience wasn’t as wonderful as I had expected. However, we often recommend the program to friends that are experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort since it helped Chris with his heartburn. I hope that sharing my experience here helps you guys in deciding whether or not to do it for yourselves. 🙂

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Top photo: Cinnamon donuts

Top middle photo: Valentine’s Day-themed “monster” cookies

Bottom middle photo: Fancy chocolate covered strawberry

Bottom photo: Cast iron margherita pizza 

{All photos are via my Instagram!}

Whole30: The grand finale

GUYS! Today is the last day of my boyfriend’s and my Whole30! Finally. I can’t wait to finally be eating more balanced meals. It’s probably because I wasn’t as strict about it as I should have been, but I don’t think it really helped me at all. If anything, I enjoy eating whole foods more and have found some great new recipes to keep in the rotation, but that’s about it. I don’t think eating cheese, bread, and wine in moderation is necessarily bad so I will happily add those back in my diet with no second thoughts.

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We are supposed to start our reintroduction tomorrow, but we have upcoming events that kind of screwed up the ideal reintroduction plan. The idea is to add back in one food group at a time so you know which group your body reacts to (if any). So, tomorrow we are supposed to add in one group, and then the following two days, we’re supposed to go back to eating entirely Whole30 to monitor how our bodies feel. The problem is that we are going out on Thursday and Friday. We’ve decided to start with gluten tomorrow (I’m FINALLY getting some donuts); the plan is to have donuts around breakfast, a bagel for lunch, and then homemade pasta for dinner. We plan to eat Whole30 until dinner on Thursday, where we are likely having burgers with buns (and cheese). Friday, we will be eating both cheese and chocolate in the evening (fondue for the win!), so we are going to try doing Whole30 for the rest of the day to minimize the impact. We’ll see how it goes. I’m actually surprisingly nervous about eating those foods again; I’m worried that I’m going to feel really sick for not having had them for so long. (I don’t think sugar will be so bad though since our vitamins have glucose in them. I didn’t take them regularly, but I took them enough that I’m hoping the sugar reintroduction won’t be so bad!)

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Feelings after second half: It got easier, for sure, but I never felt the “tiger’s blood” that most people report feeling during the last half of Whole30. I probably wasn’t eating enough filling foods (though I am not snacking as much as I used to–win). I also haven’t been good about drinking water (already failing at the New Year’s resolution); I felt really light-headed this past weekend when we went to a museum, and it was probably because I hadn’t had any water. I’m really trying to get better about it, but I hate going to the restroom. It feels like such a waste of time (weird, I know), but I really need to rethink that in order to get better about drinking water (perhaps consider it as a mini-break from work instead? haha…). Also, my gut in general doesn’t feel amazing, either.

Accidental and purposeful cheats: We use almond meal to make the “breading” for the chicken fingers (shown above), but the almond meal we just purchased this past weekend looks quite different from the normal almond meal. We may have inadvertently eaten some unapproved meal of some sort. Other than that, we’ve been doing well as far as accidents go. On the other hand, we have purposefully cheated (call the Whole30 police). While everything we ate was compliant ingredient-wise, it was not compliant in spirit. We bought and ate sweet potato chips dipped in guacamole on Super Bowl Sunday. We discovered the deliciousness that is a blended frozen banana (plus coconut milk to actually get it to blend) mixed with fresh strawberries. It resembles ice cream, so that’s a no-no. But, to be completely honest, I’m planning on eating it in addition to ice cream once we are done. It’s that good. We also had banana pancakes. It’s not the two-ingredient banana-and-egg combination–it’s probably better, honestly. I didn’t count that one as a cheat because I don’t like regular pancakes. I can only eat them with a million chocolate chips (or if it’s the only option and I’m ravenous). I actually craved these pancakes last week, which is a first for me regarding pancakes. A total win! They are also the perfect fresh strawberry delivery system. 😉

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New favorites: Besides all of the meals I’ve shown you in my posts, new favorites that I’ll definitely be keeping in the rotation include scrambled eggs with avocado, green apples dipped in almond butter, mixed nuts roasted with cinnamon (and freeze-dried strawberry “dust”–not sure if the dust will be staying around but roasted nuts is still much better than any other snack I liked before), and fresh fruit (sliced strawberries, peaches, grapefruit etc.). I liked fresh fruit before, but it’s going to become more of a snack food now and less of a I’ll-buy-this-only-because-I-crave-it type of food. We’ve been splitting a grapefruit every day for breakfast and it’s now become something I look forward to every morning. Coconut chips also proved to be quite a good snack, but I’m not sure if they’ll hang around. They’re not exactly filling or even that satisfying, haha.

Final thoughts: As I mentioned before, I’m nervous about the reintroduction phase, but at the same time, I’m SO excited to finally not have restrictions! A lot of people who do Whole30 end up not even missing the foods they aren’t eating, but I do. I don’t know if it’s because it’s what I’ve been eating my whole life and I’m used to it, or if it’s because my body feels weaker now than before I started Whole30. Chris and I both ended up losing weight, which was not part of the plan, but I guess it happens. (You’re supposed to not weigh yourself during the 30 days, but we had packages to send and needed to figure out how much they weighed.) If you’re considering doing the Whole30 and want to reap all of the possible benefits, make sure you follow their rules exactly or else you’ll probably end up like me: really indifferent and rather annoyed with the whole experience. I think the key to making this work (besides NO cheats whatsoever) is making sure your meals are super filling and satisfying. Nothing is worse than getting those hunger growls only a couple of  hours after finishing a meal! I hope these posts were at least somewhat informative; I plan to post again in about a month just to give a quick update on how the reintroductions went. 🙂

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Top photo: Kale and potato breakfast hash

Top middle photo: Mexican “breaded” chicken, roasted white potatoes, and lemon garlic green beans

Bottom middle photo: Blended frozen banana with coconut milk and strawberries

Bottom photo: Banana pancakes with strawberries

{All photos are via my Instagram!}

Whole30: Nearly halfway

Tomorrow marks day 15 of our Whole30. I’m not going to lie, it has been a rough couple of weeks. Chris and I were ready to call it quits last weekend…and then I looked up the “timeline” and realized we were right on track! I didn’t realize people felt lots of different emotions while doing the Whole30, but it totally makes sense. It’s also cool to see that enough people have chimed in about their experiences that the timeline was able to be created. Today’s post is just a quick update, including some recipes we’ve tried, setbacks, accidental and purposeful cheats, and thoughts moving forward.

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Feelings after first half: Is it February 11th yet? Seriously, I’m counting down the days. I miss everything I can’t eat. I’ve already started making a list and daydreaming about what I’m going to eat when this is done. I know you’re not supposed to jump into ALL the crap food the day after Whole30 is done, but it’s so tempting! It doesn’t help that Valentine’s Day is just a few short days after. The things I miss most are cheese, chocolate, cookies, any kind of bread, cereal, milk…and also being able to eat out. We’ve been out for breakfast but that’s all we really care to try. (Though we are going out to eat later this week and it should be interesting.) I also couldn’t get into my journal. I journaled for three days and then stopped. I should have kept track more because I had weird PMS symptoms last week (when I’m not expecting my menstrual cycle until next month). I was not expecting that at all. It’s crazy how much diet affects bodily functions that you don’t even think would that much.

Accidental and purposeful cheats: We bought freeze-dried strawberries that just had strawberries listed in the ingredients. We also bought freeze-dried peaches, thinking that it would just be peaches. Nope. We had some and then realized there was added sugar. We also made roasted potatoes last week (see bottom photo) and put seasoned salt on the potatoes, also not realizing there was sugar in it. Oops! At least we didn’t put that much on. After the first week, we both felt really weak and decided to take our gummy vitamins again even though there’s glucose in them. (Turns out the weakness we felt was normal for everyone doing the Whole30.) We don’t have them every day but I still don’t think it’s allowed. We also bought calcium gummies because of the lack of dairy. Those we’ve been having more often and they also contain glucose. I just say YOLO to that, lol.

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Greatest difficulties: Lunches and snacking. (And declining friends’ offers to eat out.) For lunch, we’ve brought leftovers as often as possible, but it kind of gets boring to bring leftovers over and over again. We’ve had a couple of successful lunches: strawberry almond arugula salad with lime vinaigrette and egg salad lettuce wraps. We tried doing turkey avocado rolls but we could only eat the organic turkey slices and they were disgusting. Never again. Snacking is quite difficult because you’re not really supposed to snack on the Whole30; you’re supposed to eat enough filling things during meals to keep you fuller for longer. While I’ve significantly cut down on snacking, it’s still something I do and there’s not a whole lot I can eat. We did make rosemary roasted almonds and those are fine. I also nibble on pecans and fruit, like peaches or strawberries. (Strawberries are nature’s potato chips, I’ve decided.) At home, I LOVE having a sliced green apple dipped in fresh almond butter. So. Good. Breakfast used to be difficult, but now we pretty much eat the same thing every day: scrambled eggs with avocado and grapefruit during the week and that plus bacon on the weekends. We add in leftover potatoes if there are any. (This week we are making a potato hash which sounds excellent for breakfast.)

Thoughts moving forward: I’m so happy we’re nearly halfway done! I feel like these past two weeks went by relatively slowly but hopefully the next two won’t be so bad. We were invited to a Super Bowl party next weekend, and that plus our one planned evening out might be the last couple of times we have to deal with making sure the food is compliant. (Thank goodness, because I hate being the person who says I’m dairy- and gluten-free when I’m not, really…) I’m eager to see how I feel by the end of it since I don’t really feel that different at this point. Also, I don’t see us continuing to eat like this forever even if it does help us both feel better because it is kind of expensive. We go to the store twice a week now and the gluten/dairy-free things are more expensive than the other things. I’m glad to have new favorite meals and snacks, though, like the apples and almond butter. I hope to try some more new recipes in the second half (we tried a lot in the first half!). Lastly, I hope we continue to fight the urge to quit. We almost quit many times over the past couple of weeks (the most major being last weekend when we felt so weak). We can do it! We’re so close!

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Top photo: lemon rosemary salmon, rosemary roasted potatoes, and sautéed garlic green beans

Middle photo: guacamole and chili “nachos” with baked russet and sweet potato chips

Bottom photo: flank steak with pineapple relish, roasted potatoes, and lemon roasted broccoli

{Follow me on Instagram to see more of my favorite Whole30-approved recipes!}

Whole30: The beginning

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Yesterday, Chris and I started the Whole30 diet. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a paleo diet–no gluten, added sugar, dairy, weird additives, and legumes–for 30 days. This is not something I was ever planning on doing. People who know me know I’m obsessed with candy, chocolate, cheese…pretty much everything you can’t eat on the Whole30. We decided to go for it because Chris has had some gastrointestinal issues that haven’t been solved and it would have been difficult for me to eat differently than him because he’s the chef out of the two of us. (Also, I was reading about Whole30 on the website and it made me feel guilty for wanting to cheat, haha.) I figured I could do it. It’s only 30 days, and yeah, it’s probably going to suck at some point but a body “reset” sounds like a good idea to me. Plus, as far as times of the year to do something like this, now seems like the best time. There aren’t any major holidays, and we have no travel planned.

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We went grocery shopping on Sunday for the week and picked up a lot of fruits and veggies, a good amount of meat, some canned goods, and likely not enough snack foods. Snacking might be the most difficult part of the next month; I’m a huge snacker, especially while I’m working. Yesterday I just had a few nuts and fruit leftover from lunch to munch on in the middle of the afternoon, only I polished it all off only an hour after I had lunch. We’re not even supposed to have tree nuts that often so hopefully I figure out some good, filling snack foods pronto! (Please let me know if you have any good Whole30 recipes or snack ideas! I’d love to hear them.)

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Over the weekend, we purchased journals so we can keep track of what we eat. I also have been writing down how I feel so I can get a hang of cravings, emotions associated with them, how filling foods are, etc. I need to remember to bring it to school with me so I can avoid having to remember how the day went once I get back home. We also boxed up all of the food in our pantry that we can’t eat (and that will still be good in a month). It was slightly depressing filling the box with some of my favorite things to eat!

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Despite the inevitable challenges, I hope the next 30 days teaches me to be more aware of what I put into my body and help me make better choices when it comes to eating things that make me feel good emotionally and physically. Also, since we are basically limited to only water as far as drinks go (no alcohol…), I think this will also help me with my resolution to drink more water!

I wasn’t planning on blogging about it that much but I hope to do some more kind of “review” posts like these just to document this process since I’ve never done a diet like this before. If you have done the Whole30 before, please let me know how it went! I’d love to hear any tips, tricks, favorite recipes, ways to combat cravings, etc. 🙂

Simple Italian with Marovato Italian Imports

A couple of months ago, I won a giveaway through Annie’s Cooking Lab, a wonderful food blog written by a friend of mine. The prize was a bag of pasta noodles, tomato puree, and cookies–all imported directly from Italy and the perfect foundation for a delicious Italian meal! Because I had never heard about Marovato Italian Imports before entering the giveaway contest, I figured I would give a review of sorts on the products I received since you all know how much I love (and miss) Italy!

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The pasta I received was a bag of armoniche tricolore by PMC. These noodles are made of 100% durum wheat semolina; the red noodles have 4% tomatoes, and the green noodles have 2% spinach. The individual noodles are about 1″ by 0.88″, and they have a little curl. They are not available on their website right now, but you can view all the other pastas here.

To go with the pasta was a large glass jar of passata di pomodoro by Dal Podere. This is literally just tomatoes and salt! It’s a very smooth puree and acted as the base to the sauce I made. You can purchase this here.

For a sweet treat following the pasta meal, I received a bag of tarallini icing cookies by Pastificio del Pellegrino. These small, frosted cookies are made up of soft wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil, olive oil, white wine, extra virgin olive oil, icing (sugar fondant, egg white, lemon), and sulfites. These are also not currently available, but here‘s the link to the baked goods, including taralli, which are the larger version of tarallini.

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Because the tomato puree is just that, I wanted to add some flavor and texture. I chopped up half a yellow onion and half a zucchini and sauteed those with olive oil. Before adding in the puree, I finely chopped garlic and added that to the pan (Chris helped me chop; he’s much better at it than I am!).

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I tasted the puree before adding it to the veggies. It tastes exactly how you would imagine: very tomato-y! I’m not a big fan of plain tomatoes, so it wasn’t my favorite, but I love how it acts as a base to whatever kind of sauce you want. After adding it to the veggies and garlic, I stirred in a tablespoon of butter and sprinkled in salt and pepper to taste.

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After the noodles were cooked and drained, I added them to the sauce. The noodles expanded a LOT more than I was expecting (I put in about half the bag), so a few of the noodles were put in a plastic container to eat later. I would recommend adding slightly less than you think you need.

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Doesn’t it look delicious?! This dish wasn’t revolutionary by any means, but it’s simple and so satisfying. There was enough for me to have it for lunch the next day!

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For dessert, I munched on the cute tarallini coookies while sipping a glass of moscato d’asti (my favorite type of wine; Trader Joe’s carries my favorite brand: Villa Alena). The cookies are crunchy (read: messy), tart thanks to the lemon, and sweet due to the icing. They have a wonderful balance!

I would definitely recommend Marovato Italian Imports if you are looking for real Italian food at a reasonable price. I’d especially be interested in trying their olive oils–mmm! They are definitely on my list next time I need a taste of Italy. 🙂 It’s also worth mentioning that they packaged the items very well; the box was large given the size of the items, but they were spread out and the box was filled with packing peanuts, so everything arrived in perfect condition.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back on Monday with a new outfit post. 🙂

Giving thanks

My boyfriend and I hosted Thanksgiving this year, and the thought of preparing and cooking all of the food really freaked us out at first! Luckily, everything went smoothly; we didn’t even have to run to the store for a forgotten ingredient!

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We gave the raw giblets to the cats, but only Rosie seemed interested in them. She absolutely LOVED them! She definitely has more expensive taste than the other two cats. She went back to her plate three or four times before napping the afternoon away.

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We hosted my dad, step mom, and two of my three brothers. It was super fun! We set out Juanitas tortilla chips (the best) and cherry pomegranate habanero sauce to dip. Of course, football was on the TV! It wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving with my dad without it.

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We cooked the turkey in a really hot oven (435 degrees F) for a little less than two hours. Only olive oil and LOTS of salt and pepper graced its skin, and we kept the apple sausage stuffing to the crock pot. Salt and pepper were also put in the cavity. We made sure we had a self-cleaning oven because it splattered EVERYWHERE! Our oven is quite a mess now, but it was so worth it. We didn’t baste it or anything and it came out juicy and delicious.

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We made everything from scratch except for the cranberry sauce. It was really hard timing everything to be done at the same time! It was basically impossible because the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts went into the oven after the turkey came out and the sweet potatoes were done sooner.

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We decided to make Brussels sprouts instead of green beans because we tried this amazing recipe a few weeks ago. My brothers didn’t enjoy them as much as the rest of us, sadly. They really are incredible with maple syrup, balsamic vinaigrette, and bacon! I’m planning on featuring them in their own post next time we make them.

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Yum! I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings! I spent a lot of time on the couch after my meal online shopping. I am so thankful for the delicious food we indulged in and spending the day with part of my family! 🙂

Creamy, dill-lectable chip dip

Ohh my gosh, you guys. This. Dip. Is. Amazing. It’s totally not my fault if you make it and end up eating the whole bowl.

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My boyfriend made this dip a few weeks ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s creamy, a little bit crunchy with the addition of scallions, and completely addictive. He makes it whenever we’re bound to have company over, like when we play a big game of Settlers of Catan, but sometimes I convince him to make it for just the two of us to gobble up.

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My pictures aren’t the best, but I promise you, it is so good. It’s the perfect dip to accompany college and pro football games (or any sports event, really–why discriminate?!). We eat it just because we can. You really don’t need an excuse to eat this dip!

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Dill-lectable Chip Dip

  • Equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream (We normally do half a cup of each for just the two of us.)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion or scallion (add more if you desire)
  • 1 teaspoon dill paste (or fresh dill–about the same amount; adjust to your taste)
  • A pinch each of salt and pepper

In a bowl, mix everything together. Then take your favorite potato chip (we love the Lay’s Wavy chips), dip it in, and enjoy!

My boyfriend made this recipe up all by himself! Let me know if you end up trying it! 🙂

Pumpkin love

I’m not the type of person who likes coffee, even when it’s pumpkin spiced. I’m actually not that big of a pumpkin fan in general. I tolerate carving them (goopy hands aren’t my favorite!). I don’t eat pumpkin pie (I know, I know). I like them best when they’re a seasonal decoration.

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Because of the fact I basically am not a huge pumpkin fan, you’d think I wouldn’t like pumpkin cookies–specifically, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. You’d be right if you asked me a month ago. My boyfriend made these incredible pumpkin chocolate chip cookies at the beginning of October, and I’ve asked for a new batch every week since then. (I’m still waiting for the next batch, honey!) They are the perfect blend of pumpkin and chocolate. They’re soft without being too gooey. They’re cakey but not sticky. They’re probably the best you’ll ever eat.

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I grab at least three each time I walk by the plate. It doesn’t help that this recipe makes over two dozen cookies (the recipe source says two dozen, but my boyfriend makes them “medium sized” as he says). Seriously, guys. You need to make these cookies if you haven’t already.

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The Best Pumpkin Cookies You’ll Ever Eat

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (* don’t use kosher salt–your cookies will be a bit crunchy!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the pumpkin, sugar, oil, and egg; set the pumpkin can aside.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

3. Pour the milk into the empty pumpkin can and dissolve the baking soda in the milk, stirring in any extra pumpkin stuck in the crevices of the can. Pour it into the bowl with the pumpkin and mix.

4. Add the dry mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir.

5. Pour in the vanilla and chocolate chips; mix again.

6. On a greased cookie sheet, drop the dough by the spoonful.

7. Bake until firm and/or lightly browned (approximately 10 minutes). My boyfriend found that it takes about 12 minutes in our oven. He first bakes a couple of test cookies to determine optimum bake time for the rest of the batch!

Recipe source

I hope you enjoy them! 🙂 Feel free to share your favorite pumpkin cookie recipe.

I’m warming up to pumpkins, one goody at a time. I’m recently intrigued by roasted pumpkin seeds and might have to give those a try, too… Tis the season!