Not only do I have a new recipe to share today, I also have a new cookbook that will change your life. Okay, that might be a little melodramatic, but for real, it’s amazing.
It’s not just another paleo cookbook. A dear friend recommended it to me, touting 8 full weeks of meal plans (all gluten-free, dairy-free) complete with recipes + shopping lists, and it efficiently utilizes all the ingredients for several of the meals throughout the week, so minimal food waste. It’s all very simple, but very appealing. At the time I learned about the cookbook, we were 6 weeks out from our Mexico vaca, so I ordered the book to use as a guide to help us eat healthier before the trip.
We’re now 3 weeks in and loving it. Most of the recipes are pretty easy, and all have been delicious. We’ve been mixing and matching the meals a bit depending on our schedules for the week and our likes/dislikes, but if you wanted an exact meal plan for every day of the week with an exact list to take to the grocery store, this book is for you.
Every meal we’ve made has been delicious, but this Minestrone Soup has been one of our favorites. It was so good on a cold, rainy day this week and we’ve been eating on it for a few days now! You could kick up the cayenne pepper a bit for a little more kick, but this has such good flavor as is.
M I N E S T R O N E S O U P
2lb ground beef, turkey or chicken (we used beef this time, but will try turkey or chicken next!)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 cups shredded carrots
32oz chicken stock
15oz tomato sauce
10oz diced tomatoes with green chilies
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon parsley
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 lb yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
S&P to taste
- Brown the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until cooked through. use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a slow cooker insert, leaving the fat in the pan.
- Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots to the pan and sauce over medium heat for 8 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly tender. Drain and add the vegetables to the slow cooker.
- Add the remaining ingredients, except the squash and basil. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 8 hours.
- Add the squash and basil during the last 30 minutes if cooking on high or 1 hour if cooking on low.
- Adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve with a garnish of fresh basil.
I’ve done Whole30 twice now, and it’s worked both times. I lost weight, and felt better in so many ways. But here’s the thing – it’s not practical.
Both times after I stopped Whole30 I went back to my old eating habits. Sure it took a few weeks, but it happened. I made some healthier choices overall, like eating more veggies and drinking more water, but I still ate crap way too often. And I realized, I can’t just keep doing Whole 30 every 3 months and thinking it’s going to stick. What’s that definition about insanity?
So I’m here to share with you the new plan that Husband and I developed and are starting together this week.
We love Whole30 aka Paleo and how it makes us feel. However, we know it’s not practical to eat healthy 100% of the time, yet don’t have enough self control to say “we’ll eat paleo majority of the time” without any specific guidelines.
I remember my friend Samantha telling me (via her friend Jillian Michaels) you should use the 80/20 rule for eating healthy – 80% healthy, 20% not. If there are 21 available meals to eat in a week that means 4 of those can be cheat meals. These are numbers I can work with. That sounds totally doable, right? That means I could eat 1 cheat meal Friday, Saturday and Sunday and still have 1 left over to use during the week. I don’t feel restricted like I can never eat pizza or ice cream again, but I have guardrails in place.
We also set up a few other rules – unhealthy snacks or desserts count as 1/2 a meal; if you don’t use ANY of your cheat meals for the week you get to spend $X (still undecided) on something you want, like new clothes, shoes, etc.
This is in our kitchen, and should be updated accordingly via the honor system. And if I needed any extra inspiration about looking good in a bathing suit, I can see how many days until vacation we have. (yay!)
What do you think? The hope is that this will help us turn healthy eating into a lifestyle instead of just a fad or a diet.
Have any other tips or ideas to share? I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!
Okay, technically this time it’s Whole20: Jan. 4 – Jan. 23.
(Why Jan. 23? That’s the start of my birthday WEEK. Another post for another day.)
I went back and read my blog posts from my last Whole30 and remembered how amazing I felt while I was doing it. As I said in one post, I was a walking infomercial about clean eating – my cravings diminished, I slept better, I had more energy, I lost weight, etc. etc.
So, here we are again. 1 trip to Europe, 2 fattening holidays, and countless cocktails later, I need a cleanse. Meat, veggies, fruit, water, coffee. No grains, no sugars, no dairy, no alcohol.
Tonight I’m making Spaghetti Squash Carbonara for the first time, and can’t wait to try it. (Who knew it took spaghetti squash an hour and a half to cook though?!)
I’m currently on Day 4 and feeling good. I’m not joking when I say I’ve already seen and felt a difference in my body and weight.
The hard part will come tomorrow night, when all I’ll want is a glass of cabernet …
But instead I will drink my Pellegrino and remind myself, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
Or some BS like that.
I officially finished Whole30, and it changed my life.
Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but really, it changed a lot. I’ve been writing weekly updates about Whole30, and you can see how my thinking has changed over just 3 weeks.
At this point, I honestly feel like I could be an infomercial for clean eating – it makes you feel so much better, your cravings will decrease, you’ll lose weight, you’ll have more energy, yada, yada, yada.
I’ve been slowly adding in some more foods, and a few strange things have happened since I’ve finished Whole30 –
Some foods haven’t tasted as good. I had my first cappuccino and it wasn’t as amaaazing as I thought it would be. As I was drinking it, I honestly missed my black coffee. Granted, husband and I have become a coffee snob – only drinking high quality, locally roasted coffee with an aeropress, but I was still surprised. But, I will, of course, have to drink a PSL when Fall decides to show.
I haven’t missed some foods. Like, bread or beans or rice or pasta. Some bread, yes, like Sister Schubert’s rolls, but a basic sandwich? Never again. I’d much rather eat a good salad for lunch. I looove me some mexican food, but I could easily skip the beans and rice and just eat tacos (all day, every day). And of course I will eat some really good pasta, but it just seems so heavy thinking about it, which leads me to …
I’m not eating as much because I know when I’m full. I’m not eating just to eat anymore. I’ve learned more about my body and what I need. We had pizza last night for the first time, but instead of over-indulging because it’s so delicious, I ate some salad with my pizza and was happily full.
Some things I HAVE missed though … wine, pizza, desserts, cheese … and I will eat and drink those things to my heart’s content.
Overall, I am so glad I did Whole30, and could definitely see myself doing it again if I ever strayed too far away from my current habits of mostly clean eating. I plan on continuing to share good, clean recipes on this blog and would love to hear any tips or recipes from you as well!
Confession: I ate Cool Ranch Doritos last night. And they were soooo good. And they were soooo not Whole30 compliant.
Okay, I feel so much better with that off my chest now! I’m halfway through the program and that was the first non-compliant thing I’ve had (excluding alcohol, which I’m giving myself a cheat day for 1 day/week) and I felt so guilty!
Honestly, the second week was harder than the first. I started craving things more, like sweets and a really good cappuccino. Oh what I wouldn’t do for a macaroon (or 5) and a skinny cap! And cooking every single night is really hard and time-consuming and draining, and sometimes all I want is just to order a pizza.
However, I can feel a huge difference in my body. I’m on track with my weight goal, I have more energy and just overall feel better.
We are also getting into a good rhythm with the food. My latest favorite thing to eat for breakfast is canadian bacon with some fig on top – yum! Lunches have still been salads. And for dinner we’ve been trying some new recipes for dinner (thank you, Pinterest). I’ve been specifically looking for things other than chicken to eat, which can get so boring so fast. Unfortunately we don’t eat seafood, so I think it makes it a little harder for us, but last week we cooked some delicious steaks and made bun-less bacon burgers and tonight I have some pork chops in the crockpot that already smell amaaazing! (I’ll share that recipe in next week’s recap)
This week I want to share this amazing one-pan chicken dish. It was seriously so easy and so good that I’ll probably make it once a week from now on. It says it yields 3-4 servings, so I was hoping we would have some leftover for lunches, but nope. We ate it all up!
O N E – P A N B A L S A M I C C H I C K E N
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp Italian salad dressing (I recommend using Kraft light Italian it’s the perfect consistency for this and it’s what I used)
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp honey (okay, so this is not Whole30 compliant, but I think it will be okay!)
- 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste – be careful, this can make your dish really spicy really fast)
- 1 1/4 lbs chicken breast tenderloins
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed of tough ends, chopped into 2-inch pieces (look for thinner stalks. Green beans are another good option)
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- In a mixing bowl whisk together salad dressing, balsamic vinegar, honey and red pepper flakes, set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste, then place chicken evenly in skillet. Cook about 6 – 7 minutes, rotating once halfway through cooking, until chicken has cooked through (meanwhile, chop asparagus and tomatoes). Add half the dressing mixture to skillet and rotate chicken to evenly coat. Transfer chicken to a large plate or a serving platter while leaving sauce in skillet. Add asparagus to skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer veggies to plate or platter with chicken.
- Add remaining dressing mixture to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes to chicken and asparagus and drizzle dressing mixture in pan over top (or return chicken and veggies to pan and toss to coat).
Whole30: a month-long clean eating program similar to Paleo diet (low carb, high protein), stripping away hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups, considered to be grains, sugar, dairy, alcohol, and legumes.
Last night I was tempted by Mellow Mushroom Pizza and two different kinds of homemade cake, and I did not give in! I’ll take a pat on the back now, please.
That being said, this has definitely been the easiest diet I’ve ever done. I’m 7 days in and can honestly say I haven’t been hungry once. I’m eating enough to satisfy my body, but not overindulging which is so easy to do with unhealthy foods. It’s a lot easier to not indulge when your only options to eat are meat, veggies and fruit. They taste great, but I’m not going to eat 3 bowls of salad.
Let me back up for a second – why am I doing this? Husband and I have been talking a lot lately about doing some sort of healthy eating re-start. We are only 2 months out from our European vacation, and I wanted to lose some weight and eat better, so that I can indulge on the trip and feel less guilty about it!
Mom gave me the book It Starts With Food and it was fascinating. After the first chapter I was convinced this is what we needed to do instead of some ridiculous juice cleanse. The program touts higher energy, better sleep, reduction of cravings and even helping with some chronic issues, which for me is headaches, and you’re eating REAL FOOD.
My thoughts so far …
– Since it’s super strict, you know what you can and can’t eat. There’s no guessing, which makes it easier.
– The food is delicious! There are some amazing recipes on Pinterest.
– I can honestly say I’m already starting to feel better, and eating healthier makes me want to exercise more, which gives me more energy.
– It’s harder to eat out, so we’re saving money by staying in.
– You have to plan, and cook a LOT, so it’s very time-consuming.
– You don’t get any cheat days. It’s only 30 days so you shouldn’t need to cheat. (I AM allowing myself alcohol once/week, but no cheating on the food – see first sentence about what I didn’t eat last night!!)
– Did I mention you have to really plan? And cook every night?
What I’ve been eating so far …
Breakfast: I’ve been eating fruit and almond butter, Husband’s been eating eggs and sometimes canadian bacon, and we’re drinking (black) coffee. There’s no way I could give that up. Saturday we tried a new recipe with this Breakfast Pizza Quiche I found on Pinterest. The site claimed it would take away your pizza cravings – HA, not exactly, but it was pretty good. We’ll definitely make it again with a few ingredient changes.
Lunch: I pretty much eat salad every day, which gets kind of boring, but it’s not bad. My mason jar salads make it a little more fun.
Dinner: Dinner is the hardest since by the end of the day the last thing I want to do is to cook. We’re still building up our easy Whole30 compliant recipe collection. My favorite thing we made this week was these lettuce wraps with ground turkey, spices, and salsa. Also, huge shoutout to our friends the Hotarys who had us over for dinner and made an amazing Whole30 meal!
Well onward we go into the second week! Keep us in your thoughts, share your recipes and pleeease don’t offer me any chocolate.