“Big Things Mixed Together to Create A Smorgasbord of Deliciousness” AKA Chicken And Mushroom Soup

Yep, you read that right.

“Big things mixed together to create a smorgasbord of deliciousness,” are the words Lance used to describe the dinner I prepared last Friday evening.  It’s not exactly the description I was expecting, but nevertheless, I took it as a compliment!

On the daily, I’m casually and consistently looking through Instagram, Pinterest, and “the Google,” in search of easy, delicious, and paleo/Whole30 recipes. I have bookmarked my favorite food bloggers i.e. ” The Regulars” on my iPhone for easy viewing.  They don’t know it, but we’re pretty good friends as far as I’m concerned and a part of my everyday life 🙂

As I was scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, late last week, this beauty popped up from this food blogger’s Insta page…

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and the rest is history.

Now, you can find her amazing recipe here and follow it exactly if you’d like…she won’t steer you wrong. I, however, in the name of making it “compliant” changed it up a bit. I will say, by making the changes I did, it’s not so “creamy,” but still very delicious and even Lance approved.

Gather your ingredients below and let’s get started!

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Ingredients 

(As listed from her site for Creamy Chicken Mushroom Soup with my adjustments)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 16 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter ghee
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced (I used 8-12 oz bag of Publix’s baby carrots and sliced those)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (I purchased (2) 2 oz pre-diced packages from Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup half and half, or more, as needed* 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary I actually, just kind of forgot to add this…oops!

Instructions

(As listed from her site with my adjustments)

  • Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, to taste. Add chicken to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 2-3 5-6 minutes; set aside.

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  • Melt butter in the stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, mushrooms, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 7-8 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.

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  • Whisk in flour until lightly browned (my coconut flour never actually browned), about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaf and chicken thighs, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

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  • Stir in half and half coconut milk until heated through, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. If the soup is too thick, add more half and half as needed until desired consistency is reached.

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  • Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and rosemary, if desired.

This was delish. It tastes more like a good ole’ homemade chicken soup that your mom would make when you were ill…well, back in those days my mom didn’t actually cook, so canned Campbell’s it was. But it still did the job and it didn’t seem to kill us. So, thanks, Mom, I still love you! 🙂

Given our current cooler temps and rain-filled weather forecast, I’d say it’s a perfect recipe! Make the soup, get in your sweats, and pretend that it’s not getting back into the 70’s again this week.

We warmed it up for lunch the following day and I had it again for lunch today. I have no problems eating leftovers on the regular, and I sort of force Lance to “not mind” eating leftovers on the regular. Just think, if I had a fancy kitchen with two ovens, I could make not only double, but triple, even quadruple a recipe and we could eat it for weeeeeeeeeeks! A girl can dream 🙂

So, what’s on the menu for this week?

Sprouts had their Boneless Beef Chuck Roast on sale for $2.99/lb this weekend, so we got greedy and grabbed three packages and with 1/3, I attempted my first roast. I am not in love with it, but I’m forcing myself to eat it again for dinner tonight. Poor Lance doesn’t know that it’s his duty in life to finish that recipe tonight. So, here’s to second chances with this crockpot roast recipe! (I hear cooking them in the oven is best, but I don’t have an oven safe pot, and I tried cooking it on the stovetop for 3 hours per directions, but ended up having to move it all to a crockpot and finish on high for 3 additional hours.)

While at Sprout’s, I also picked up the ingredients for a Lemon Garlic Chicken Zoodles recipe that I’ll make this week. While I don’t have a spiralizer, I plan on using my julienne peeler until I order this beauty.

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 Depending on how long all of that lasts us, I’ll likely be making another round of the One Sheet Pan Chicken and Veggies dinner from last week because I grabbed a pack of chicken thighs on sale at Sprout’s.

As a bonus this weekend, I also made The Best Ever Paleo Banana Bread. I was a little hesitant and unsure because I assumed it would turn out dry and I would have wasted a lot of ingredients. Ummm…wrong. It’s so flippin’ good! It was SO easy, too! You put your ingredients in a blender (mine is nothing fancy and it worked just fine) and pour into a bread pan to cook. There’s also a Paleo Pumpkin Bread that I got ingredients to make…but since I pretty much ate the entire banana bread pan by myself, I think it’d be wise to wait a bit on that pumpkin recipe! Does that count as self control? (I may or may not have “forgotten” to tell Lance that I made the bread so that I wouldn’t have to share….oh the shame!)

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The Food Hangover Remedy {Plus A Deliciously Easy Dinner Recipe!}

It happened.

We’re tired, cranky, bloated, nauseated, feel as though we need to pop an ibuprofen, incredibly thirsty, craving a Jack’s gravy biscuit (OK, not really, but it seemed fitting), and there’s a lingering headache.

No, we didn’t spend our Halloween weekend in a bar…

But we did spend it indulging in candy, sweet potato fries, and ice cream.

 Rewind to a few months ago and the portion sizes of said candy, fries, and ice cream would have been close to my body weight in volume. Fast forward to the present, and over a three day span, I had around five snack sized bags of candy, not an entire plate of sweet potato fries, and a mini sized blizzard that I really didn’t want (Dearest Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Blizzard, you were worth it and don’t let anyone tell you differently. ❤ Mal’s taste buds).

Those treats (or tricks?) themselves are not bad. Indulging in them this weekend was not bad. I did not feel guilty. And I didn’t have regret.

Want a cupcake? Cookie? Candy bar? Candy corn? Chips? Okay, that’s not the end of the world. But, why? Are you tired, stressed, fresh out of an argument and it’s just an impulse decision? Is it simply a habit to eat a salty and/or sweet treat on Halloween or another holiday? Is it a way for you to cover up what you’re actually feeling…not good enough, not pretty, unloved, a bad wife, friend, employee? The food itself is not bad and these feelings themselves are not bad, but when we use that same food as a way to “push under the rug,” our feelings and emotions, choose not to deal with them, let them grow and grow, and keep feeding our stomach instead of our soul…that is when it is unhealthy.

So, wait a few minutes, a couple hours, or even a day, drink some water, and see if you still want it. Figure out why you want it and what you’re expecting to get out of it.

If you still do, have it. If you don’t, congratulations, you don’t have to eat it because it’s there and you have your power back. If you did eat it, how did it make you feel after? How much did you need to eat to be satisfied? OR did you eat the entire Costco sized bag of mixed candy bars??

{Someone made a comment in passing this weekend that stood out to me. God gave us taste buds. If he didn’t want us to enjoy food, he wouldn’t have given us taste buds. Food was not simply given to sustain us but He also gives it to us for our enjoyment. In order to enjoy something, you can not be bound to it in such a way that it produces negative consequences. It should never make you feel like less of a person, or disgusted with yourself, or as a means to find your value as a human being. If anything other than God himself does that on your behalf, you will never measure up. Even if you never touch grains, sugar, soda, and dairy ever again.}

Give yourself a chance to think about the “why’s” of your eating habits.

Personally, for us, it’s simply about how these foods make us feel in regards to our GI system, my skin breakouts, and energy. And because of that…

Needless to say, the game face is back on. Lance and I decided we are going to “Whole30” it for 2 weeks. I realize this is not a Whole30, but that’s not the point of what we’re doing. I do think people are sometimes shocked when they see me indulge in a bite of a brownie, because they say, “What are you doing?! That’s not Whole30! What happened to Whole30?!” It’s like I got caught red handed in a love affair with the brownie bite, and at any moment the Whole30 police sirens will sound and before I know it, I’ll be face down with someone reading me my Whole30 rights while handcuffing my hands behind my back.

And to this I say…

You’re right, it’s not Whole30. But the Whole30 is just that…30. Not Whole365. We did the Whole30. And as of today, we’re doing a bit of a reset and calling it a Whole14.

As I’ve said before, we’ve seen and felt the benefits from following that lifestyle, and 95% of the time that’s how we choose to eat. If nothing else, moments filled with sugar, dairy, and fried goods make me thankful for the way I feel the other 95% and remind me why it’s worth the effort.

Speaking of effort, last week I made an incredibly easy, successful, healthy, and satisfying dinner that I’d love for you to add to your, Five Minute Prep Dinner Menu!

I got the idea from this “One Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken Dinner,” by laughing spatula.

I chose to use

Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (on sale at Publix)

2 pounds red potatoes (Sprouts)

16 oz bag of baby carrots (Publix)

Less that 2-4 T olive oil

Dried rosemary

Dried garlic

Salt

Pepper

Cutting board

Knife

1 Gallon sized, resealable plastic bag

At the same time, I opted to separately roast a few sweet potatoes using my favorite recipe of coconut oil and salt so that I’d have some for the week.

AFTER all your ingredients are gathered, (feel free to substitute other vegetables, but for simplicity of using one pan to cook at one time, I’d choose similar root vegetables. For example, broccoli will definitely burn if you follow this recipe), preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

WASH and cut your red potatoes. I like mine cut into four parts each.

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ADD cut potatoes and baby carrots into the gallon sized plastic bag.

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ADD in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, and rosemary to taste (you can always add more once in the baking pan.)

Per usual, like Taylor Swift…shake, shake, shake. 

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Tip: While you are shaking to mix ingredients, leave air in the bag, fold down the resealable portion of bag and hold the folded down portion while shaking. Otherwise, the bag may open, sending your oily vegetables flying…on your freshly mopped floor. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

ONCE combined, place those veggies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and start preparing chicken.

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There were four thighs per package, and it came out to around $1 per chicken thigh with TONS of flavor pay off…thank you very much. 

REPEAT the same method for chicken as you did for the vegetables.

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It’s not pretty, but it’s effective! (These plastic bags are from ALDI. I can’t bring myself to use my brand name bags for this method)

PLACE seasoned chicken thighs on top of the veggies placed on baking pan.

COOK in the oven for the recommended 40-50 minutes, (40 minutes for me), and before you know it…

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Dinner is served!

Last week, I made this Tuesday evening and again on Friday evening. Lance and I went to the movies Friday, but didn’t have time to grab dinner before (and let’s be real…movie/dinner dates are SO expensive overpriced these days!), so I packed this up and we ate it in the car 🙂 Fancy, I know.

I had it for lunch today as well, and it’s still just as good.

How we’re getting back to our new normal

Following a splurge weekend, like I said before, we are ready to feel “Whole30-fied” again.

So, on the menu for the week is this new crockpot butternut squash soup that is “crock potting” as we speak. I left out the sage (simply because I didn’t have it), added cinnamon, and subbed canned coconut milk for almond milk. Fingers crossed it’s edible!

I’ve already prepped the walnuts, spices, and de-thawed the pork for this old faithful of a recipe, and I plan on roasting some broccoli with this as well.

As sure as the sun rises and sets, I’ll be making cubed sweet potatoes with coconut oil and salt at some point.

From last week I have a couple more servings of the above chicken thigh recipe and some cooked ground deer meat. Yum!

Sidenote

If you are concerned about the fat of the chicken thighs, don’t be. If you are eating a healthy diet that doesn’t include grains and processed sugar, the healthy fats and their calories are what keep you satiated, full, and also energy filled.

I always say that I’ve eaten more fat from ghee, raw and seasoned nuts, avocados, and oils than I have my entire life. AND guess what????

My jeans fit better than ever. 

Yep!

{Healthy} fat in moderation doesn’t make you fat!

Now, if you’re eating too many almonds or pecans, and having too many spoonfuls of almond butter because “it’s healthy,” so, “I can eat as much as I want,” and using ghee for cooking while still munching on fries, ice cream, chocolates, bars, chips, etc…your jeans won’t fit better…even if the waistband is elastic.

Soooo, there’s that. 

P.S. My sweet, cute, fun, beautiful, and new to being a mom friend, Lexie, posted a blog today with a sweet potato shepherds pie recipe that I can basically guarantee is delicious! And it’s paleo/Whole30 approved 🙂

The Best & Easiest Whole30 Approved Butternut Squash Soup Recipe, Like, Ever

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(picture source)

Ahhhh…Fall…it’s in the air.

Wait, nope, that’s still the 90 degree heat and humidity!

Let’s try this again.

Ahhhh…Fall…it’s on the calendar.

Yep! That’s a bit more accurate 🙂

Since the first day of fall has come and gone and there is no chill in the air or Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Lattes in my near future, I decided to take matters into my own hands and bring fall into my own kitchen. I was bed/couch ridden with body aches and a cough and craving one thing. Soup. Butternut squash soup to be exact. God must have known this would happen, because at Costco Monday afternoon, I randomly picked up 6 cups of precut butternut squash. (Lance made the comment, “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to cut it ourselves?” Yes, honey, it would, but you won’t be the one cutting it, so zip it. Oops, Did I say that out loud? Actually, no, not to his face. Just in my head…and now here…with you. Don’t tell.)

Anyhow, until fall weather arrives here in the south, I’ll just turn our air way down for a self created chill (<—- there’s no way I’d actually do that, it’d be so expensive. Maybe I’ll just turn on all the ceiling fans 😉 ), put on sweats, and pretend it’s cool outside while eating my delicious butternut soup as a side to walnut encrusted pork tenderloin and of course enjoy some Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea after dinner.

If you have not yet been introduced to Celestial teas, you need to do yourself a favor and get on board. This stuff is amazing. Specifically, this:

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You’re welcome.

Whole30 approved Fall in a cup.

You guys, it really is so good! Basically, every night after dinner, you can find us sitting on the couch, drinking our hot Apple Spice Tea. This is one of those things you don’t let run out without getting a new box as backup. For the sake of our marriage I wouldn’t let that happen. Plus, Lance keeps an ongoing count, so I doubt I’ll ever have to worry about it.

Now that I’ve increased your quality of life through this tea, we can return to the soup recipe 🙂

If you, like me, crave soup and cooler weather, read on to know the incredibly simple way to make your wish come true.

Here’s all ingredients needed

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3 Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea bags steeped in 8 oz hot water (remove tea bags after steeping)

1/2 onion diced (I used food processor)

1-2 handful baby carrots

6 cups butternut squash chopped (bonus points for buying it at Costco pre chopped)

2 apples (I used honey crisp, some people prefer granny smith) peeled and chopped

1 can coconut milk at minimum (I used 1/2 of another can while blending)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

Salt to taste

(Paprika would probably be good as well and/or any other spice you’d like to add)

Crockpot

1 knife

Immersion blender or food processor

Here’s what we do with above ingredients 

Ready for the easiest recipe, like, ever?

Take all prepared ingredients (everything should be chopped, peeled, and steeped by now, so if it’s not, then get with it) and place them in your crockpot.

Stir ingredients around to mix.

Close lid and set to low heat.

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Set timer for 4-6 hours (I let mine cook for 5 hours) and simply walk away and get stuff done. Or, get back in bed, go back to sleep and pray you feel better in 5 hours. You know, whatever works.

Return to crockpot and when you can easily poke squash and apples with fork, turn off heat and let cool.

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This is where an immersion blender, which I don’t have, would come in super handy. You could, at this point, use the immersion blender while the soup is still in the crockpot and call it a day!

I, however, transferred the crockpot ingredients into a food processor. **Make sure you do this in at least TWO separate batches without overfilling.** Otherwise, if you get impatient, your food processor will overflow, leaving you with a huge mess to clean up. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

Also make sure you get equal parts of squash, apples, and liquid in each batch. Trust me. 

My first batch was great after I added a little salt to taste. My second batch was a little too runny since I left almost all of the liquid for this one, so I simply added some additional coconut milk and salt to improve.

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You can top with whatever you’d like. I chose pecans, and next time I will put some ghee in a pan with cinnamon and roast the pecans on the stovetop prior to topping the soup. Yummmmm! Bacon would be good as well!

There you have it! A Whole30 approved butternut squash recipe that couldn’t get any more simple, especially if you have an immersion blender 🙂

Sit back, relax, turn your air conditioner down for a chill, put on some sweats, light a fall candle, and enjoy the artificial fall air southern girl style!

A Losing Battle: The Perfect Whole30 & The Perfect Life

Perfection.

One word and yet so many different meanings for everyone.

Can it be attained? Can you buy it? Can you make it? Can you work hard enough for it? Can people believe that you are it?

The journey to perfection is a long, rigorous, expensive, never ending, never satisfying road.

We travel to Tegucigalpa, Honduras a couple times per year. If you’ve been there, you know the roads and traffic are a nightmare at best. What you could walk in 15 minutes might just take you 2 hours by car. There are no rules, there is no order, only chaos. Plus, it can be down right scary.

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This is what I would paint if I were trying to portray the road to perfection…chaos. No rules, no order, just everyone out for themselves, doing whatever it takes to get from point A to point B. And anyhow, WHO is to tell you what perfect is? Who sets the bar? Who is the dictator when it comes to your perception of perfection? Celebrities? Instagram? Family? Friends? Athletics? WHAT do you need to obtain in order to reach the goal of perfection and become complete? Is it clear skin? The perfect job? A certain number of followers on Instagram? The perfect diet? The perfect body? Whiter teeth? The perfect marriage? The perfect house, car or vacation home?

Whatever “it” is, you and I are handing over all our power to It, Her, or Him when we let them tell us our value and worth, and we believe them.

What does that mean?

It means that whether we realize it or not, if the world is our gauge, it’s our priority each day to do whatever it takes to make “it” possible, no matter the cost. Friendships, marriage, children, family…they’re all expendable if it means obtaining perfection. Now, you may not leave your kids, friends, or marriage, (or you may) but you’ll sacrifice time and moments with them. Perfection is like a drug. Until we have it we’re not satisfied, we’ll do anything to get it, but when we get it, the high goes away so soon, and we’re back on the prowl again. Something or someone else better will always come along, swoop up your desires, put you on the prowl thinking now you have perfection! Until, it’s not enough…and here we go again! 

What a vicious cycle. To desire and work for something that you’ll never obtain. To long for something that will never satisfy. You long to be full. It even promises to fill you, but it leaves you utterly depleted. How exhausting it is!

“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.”

Psalm 69: 1,2

Can anyone else relate to this and feeling like you’re not good enough? Thinking, “If only I were/had/looked ⎽⎽⎽⎽⎽⎽, then I’d have what it takes. Then I’d be there.”  Oh, how at times, I can fill that blank with an endless arrangement of nouns and adjectives.

So, if we’re not supposed to look to other people to tell us what our perfect is, to whom should we look?

I’m glad you asked. 

What if this were your reality:

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”

Psalm 40: 2, 3a

For me, the majority of my life, I let the popularities of the moment dictate my actions and they were my everything. I looked like world, talked liked the world, dressed like the world…I blended in. Whatever was going to leave me with the mark of approval, “acceptance,” that’s what I was going to do.

Just fit in. Don’t go against the crowd. Stay quiet and don’t cause a commotion.

Now, it is quite different. We have to look to and follow something or someone to guide us. We’re getting our standards of living from somewhere, it’s just a matter of where. We’re getting our value and self worth from someone. So, who? Instead of letting the Kardashians tell me what to wear, instead of letting Nicki Minaj have reign over my airways, and instead of letting The Real Housewives of Orange County influence how I treat my husband, I look at our Creator for comparison. The beauty of this is:

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Romans 3:23

Perfection is not something to be obtained while we are here, living on Earth.

Not for anyone, no matter how put together they seem. Thank Goodness. 

God knew and God knows that we are born into this world a sinful people. We simply can not do things right all of the time. And because of this:

“…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Romans 3:24

What we couldn’t do to earn and keep God’s love, Christ did it for us. What we lack, He gives. What we need, He provides. What we ruin, He repairs. Once and for all.

And look at that fifth word. “Freely.” You don’t earn it. You can’t. You don’t lose it. You can’t. You simply surrender.

What about that longing constantly in your heart, the one that keeps you searching for the next best thing, or more followers on social media to make you feel loved and important…yea, God put that there too:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Romans 1:20

When you wake up and have breath…that’s from Him. When you’re able to move your legs to walk and get your morning coffee…He allows you that too. When you walk outside and can see the trees and sky because of the sun’s radiance…He put that there. When a human is formed in your womb…that miracle is His gift as well. When you mess up, make a mistake, do something you know was wrong…He will forgive and remember that sin no more. He won’t allow your mistakes to define you, because He defines you.

Hence, “his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen…”

What about when you get so overwhelmed with the Goodness and Holiness of God that you allow guilt to creep in? I mean, in comparison to God’s perfection, how could someone so Holy love me?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”

Romans 8:1

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7

That’s just it. It’s no longer about you and what you’ve done, It’s about Him and what He’s done. You can’t make Him love you any more or less. That would make him fickle, and God is not fickle. He is a mighty God with an unrelenting love that is un-changing.

If I’m no longer a part of the world, then to whom or what will I belong?

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:15

This faith is a beautiful thing. It’s beautiful because it takes the focus off me, off you, away from the “I” centered mentality, and puts it on Him.

This faith is a freeing thing. I no longer have to worry about what others think of me!

“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him…”

Romans 6:8

If I have “died” then can I become offended? Or be concerned with others perception of me? Well, I haven’t seen any deceased people becoming offended as of late, have you? He is saying die to your ways, die to trying to achieve everything on your own, die to needing the approval of others. Do this so that you may live. Find life in me. Everyone and everything in this world is changing and evolving. He is constant.

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

Romans 23:19

He can be trusted. He is good. He is faithful. In Him you will be free. In Him you will be bold. In Him you will have courage. In Him you will be loved. And because of His sacrifice, You can be accepted, unblemished, and welcomed into His presence.



Now, how does this relate to my Whole30?

That “perfection” we talked about earlier…yea, that can still creep in, even in the Whole30. I found myself thinking I have to only prepare the best meals with the freshest ingredients and make it look perfect. That’s a great equation to equal stress and who needs more stress?

Well, last week, thank you Lord, a lightbulb finally went off! I do believe it’s a necessity to adhere to the rules of something like Whole30, but even they aren’t asking me to become a five star chef within a month. I am! 

No one is asking me to use only the highest quality, most time consuming ingredients possible. I am!

We can be our worst enemy and our toughest critic. 

A lot of times, people don’t have to put us down or try to make our life difficult, because we do it for them. And maybe we do it ourselves so that other people can’t. You know, punch ourselves to beat others to the punch…

Back to Whole30! Focus, Mallory.

I knew this week wouldn’t allow for lots of food prep and spending much time in the kitchen, so I kept it super simple and made it achievable. It’s not fancy, but even the husband was super satisfied with all the eats.

Lesson:

Don’t make things harder than they have to be. Work smarter not harder!

Proteins

Prior to leaving for Minnesota last Thursday, I picked up some extra meats to freeze for our return:

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(Just in case you’re wondering, all of this frozen seafood from Publix is wild-caught)

With the exception of eggs, shrimp, and chicken sausage, I bought everything before leaving on the trip. And no, I did not eat the cocktail sauce pictured with the shrimp. I repeat, I did not eat the cocktail sauce. If you do, you will be starting over on day uno! No bueno.

The Veggies

 I might as well have tasted gold after cooking the frozen stir fry from Aldi after Labor Day. Remember that one?? The one with the corn lurking around and hiding like a high schooler smoking a cigarette during a “bathroom break??”

I know fresh produce is queen, however, life happens, and sometimes THIS queen doesn’t have time to peel, cut, chop, and dice fresh veggies. Or feel like it. Just being real.

It’s like frozen produce had never crossed my mind before! I was blinded by trying to have the “perfect Whole30.” Well, I once was blind but now I see! And since I could see, I drove myself to Walmart (I know, I know, but I needed some tech-y stuff and was crunched for time…and desperate), and strolled my cart (broken wheel and all) straight to the frozen veggie section.

(I will say this and then I’ll hop down from my soap box and move right along. The customer service at stores such as Publix, Aldi, Whole Paycheck Foods, and Sprouts has spoiled me. I didn’t exactly realize this until my wonderful Walmart experience.)

Rant Over. See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Back to the frozen featured item…veggies!

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Inexpensive + Compliant = Veggie Victory! Yes, that’s a thing, or atleast it is now.

I know that most times you pay for what you get, but there was nothing lurking in these ingredients besides the approved vegetables themselves. I’m confident if I look closely to each package’s fine print, it boasts about all the time you’re going to save and this should TOTALLY be their marketing scheme.

I had made my way to Aldi and picked up

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Before you go buy the stir fry, look closely at it (because on the Whole30, you’re always looking closely at ingredients), have a panic attack, and take me out for stoning…remember that I do not use the sauce and I do not eat the corn. All five pieces of corn I remove.

I repeat: Do. Not. Eat. The. Corn. You will START OVER on Day 1…all by yourself. Again, no bueno.

That is what you call using the fear tactic.

Moving right along, once back home a couple of days, I made it to Costco and Aldi and stocked up on various veggies

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The Menu

Monday: This is the night we flew back home and I thawed tuna 3/4 of the way to attempt this recipe. Had I done it correctly, I’m confident it would have been wonderful. I poured the Great Value brand Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry in a pan with some coconut aminos for a quick side dish.

Tuesday: I guess in attempt to make up for Monday, I brought my A-game with this  pork tenderloin recipe. I got bonus points for planning ahead and mixing up the spices in a ziploc before leaving town, so prep was SUPER easy. I also left off the walnuts, because, well, I didn’t have any. This balsamic glaze poured over the finished tenderloin was amazing. We’re talking finger lickin’ good. (This is coming from a non-finger-licker, you know, because hands are super germy, but for this?  I’ll make an exception).

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For the side, whole sweet potatoes were covered in coconut oil, salt, pepper, and cinammon, placed on a separate baking sheet, and cooked with the pork. We did turn up the heat to 425 degrees and cook 10 minutes more after pork was done.

Wednesday: Why mess with a good thing? We had leftover pork tenderloin and I cooked collard greens that were part of the Veggie Victory, as well as handful of cherry tomatoes each.

 During the day, I thawed chicken breasts and swordfish steak. For the chicken, I drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and paprika. It cooked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, I flipped them, and finished cooking for 15 minutes.  For the swordfish, after pre-heating a pan to medium/high heat, I drizzled the fish with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once the pan was warm, less than a Tbsp of olive was placed in pan, and swordfish was cooked on one side for three minutes, no flipping.

While cooking, I mixed together in a blender some coconut milk, garlic, basil, olive oil, tomato paste, and crushed red pepper to a smooth consistency. (I’m not sure about measurements, because I didn’t really think it’d turn out well…I was wrong, sorry!)

After three minutes of the fish cooking, I turned heat to medium, flipped the fish, poured sauce in pan, and cooked a few minutes longer.

Thursday: We were both hangry by the time we got home, so we did a head first dive into the prepared swordfish placed over a bed of greens, and served with a side of microwaved steamed stir fry veggies from Bird’s eye. (That five minutes of microwave time might as well have been five hours. I was so impatient! I pressed my face against the microwave door, so I’m sure I have radiation poisoning.)

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Friday: We will be eating the prepared chicken breasts as protein. For sides, I’ll bake some butternut squash as well as cooking some of the Veggie Victory Kale from Walmart.

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That my friends is what an easy week of cooking looks like for us. Our lunches consisted of leftovers and I did get a few lunches out of the Costco shrimp, which I did absolutely nothing to enhance, I just put it over some salads and called it a day lunch.

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Since compliant, store-bought almond butter is EXPENSIVE, I buy bags of nuts from costco, and make my own, playing around with different recipes,

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as well as making spiced mixes for Lance.

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This is not rocket science. It does not have to be “perfect.” It does not have to consume all of your time. Life is way too short to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the kitchen. Get out there, make healthy choices, do your best, be joyful, be free, be Whole.

Until next time…

Salmon Saves The Day (And Quite Possibly Our Marriage)

I don’t know about you, but our marriage doesn’t flourish when we get home late, we’re tired, we’re hungry, and then we realize there is nothing prepared for us to eat. Especially when the days of popping some popcorn for “dinner” are long gone.

In fact, this is a recipe for disaster. Given the recipe of hunger + fatigue, I may or may not turn in to a 2 year old that just realized she’s never getting her pacifier again, she’s expected to pee pee in the potty, AND she was just told that Santa, in fact, is not real.

Say what??? No. Way.

And while Lance is generally graceful in regards to my craziness, when he is hungry, his stomach decides to munch on said grace until it’s given food, and he loses his patience with my shenanigans 🙂 Who could blame him? So, now you have not one, but two recipes for disaster.

Help.

Before having my (two year old, no longer wearing pull-ups, Christmas will never be the same) tantrum, I decide to look in the fridge, AND GUESS WHAT?! Super smart, prepared (***Now 30 year old****yikes!!), Mallory left some salmon in the fridge to be cooked when we got home. Winning! More than just a pretty face people! Now, our marriage, again, is safe 😉 Who needs counseling when you have salmon?

Thank you, Lord, for my husband, our marriage…and now, salmon. Amen.

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Can we talk about how easy this was? I never got hangry, not once.

Salmon

PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees

LINE a baking sheet with parchment paper

DRIZZLE olive oil over pieces of salmon and rub it in

SPRINKLE with salt, pepper, paprika, and turmeric (I’ve been totally obsessed with this lately)

SLICE a lemon thinly and place over salmon

COOK for 10-15 minutes depending on how you like your fish cooked. (I cooked ours 12 minutes)

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It tasted good, I promise.

Now, while salmon is really good, it’d be a LOT better served with a side or two.

No fresh veggies in the fridge…

No sweet potatoes sitting on the counter…

Wait…the freezer! 

A couple months ago at ALDI, I had purchased an “Oriental Medley” of sorts from the frozen section. I checked out the ingredients (with my fingers crossed) and they are approved…sort of. The listed vegetables look great but there’s a packaged sauce also in the bag and it’s filled with unpronounceable ingredients that I’m sure will kill me, and then I won’t even get to enjoy the above salmon. Fail.

But, wait! Luckily, the sauce was contained in a sealed package inside of the bag of veggies, so the vegetables remained unscathed and the bag of poison is now in the trash. Win.

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After dumping the vegetables in the stovetop pan, I spied with my little eye something yellow…

Do you see it?

Look close…

Look to the bottom right… 5 o’clock…

CORN!

Corn is a grain and grains are a Whole30 no-no.

The Trickery! Corn was listed at the VERY bottom of the ingredient list, after the sauce “ingredients” while the other veggies were listed at the beginning.

Did I throw out the whole pan and go to the only open source of groceries…Wal Mart? Of course not! I just started picking out pieces of corn…from the hot pan…with my hands. Way to go, Mal. Way. To. Go.

My fingertips survived, however not unscathed. Good thing I wasn’t looking forward to the corn, because they totally cheat you on the corn quantity. (Now I see why it was listed last) Beware corn lovers!

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Moving on…

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Oriental Vegetable Medley

TURN pan on medium high

ONCE hot place cooking oil in pan and let melt

TRANSFER frozen vegetables into hot pan, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes

REMOVE lid and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and 2 T coconut aminos

STIR, replace lid, and let sit 5 more minutes

REMOVE lid, stir, and remove from pan if they are thoroughly cooked. If not, continue to stir until done.

And then, ladies and gentleman, dinner is served!

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and lunch…

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and then dinner again…

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This took, at the most, 20 minutes from beginning to end and we have eaten off this for daaaaays, which I love! It’s great for breakfast (place salmon over a bed of lettuce and top with a fried egg, perhaps), lunch and dinner.

In my book, this is a win-win situation.

And in the Whole30 book, this is a win-win as well.

So there’s just a bunch of winning!

Why is salmon a must?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

High Quality Protein

Essential Amino Acids

Vitamin A

Vitamin D

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B

Vitamin E

Omega What?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 😉

Protect heart health

Reduce risk of sudden death from heart disease

Reduce risk of stroke

Reduce chance of heart disease in Type 2 Diabetes

Essential in infant brain and eye development during pregnancy and infancy

Improve blood lipid patterns

Improve blood vessel function

Improve symptoms of immune and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, Chrone’s disease and some skin conditions

Reduce the risk of some mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression

*This and more information on salmon, wild vs farm raised, and additional health benefits can be found here.

Whole30 With Half a Brain (And a Side Of Homemade Chicken Salad)

You know the saying, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed?” Yes, well, this morning, I don’t think there was a “right” side of the bed.

After being greeted by Mr. Coffee Pot, I opened the refrigerator doors to take out some chicken sausage for a pre-workout snack, and like the Hoover Dam breaking loose, it hit me right in the face. We’re almost out of food. Shut the front door! (No really, shut and bolt it. No one else is getting in to eat the food I cook!) How are we almost out of food? I could have fed an army after food prep Sunday?!

Chicken Fajita Meal? Gone.

Mashed Cauliflower? Empty.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes? Also gone.

Berries? Barely hanging on.

By the grace of God, there were a few turkey meatballs and a couple servings of crockpot chicken. For some reason, in that moment, I became so overwhelmed with figuring out how to feed this army Lance. 

Then came the crazy eyes. If you saw me today, and I looked a bit frazzled, dazed, or let’s be real, just outright crazy, It’s because I was…am?

Where do you go to feed a human that needs to consume his body weight multiplied by 37 in calories?? Dear Lord, please let Lance’s stomach shrink. Soon.

Costco!

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I dare him to eat all of this. (But, really, please don’t 🙂 )

Once home, I decided to make a compliant mayonnaise for a chicken salad. After putting in all ingredients and completing the recipe, unfortunately the next step was to taste. Ugh. Apparently, the recipe called for “light” olive oil and not “extra virgin.” Who knew there was a difference?! Now I do. So, I took my incredibly irritated behind to Publix where I proceeded to get stuck behind every slow walker in the universe. At checkout, I used a gift card (remember when I returned $22 of almond butter 🙂 ), and there should have been $22 on it. There was $7. Not OK, not today, I want my money. And my sanity (and control).

I strolled to the customer service desk where the employee spent 10 minutes trying to figure it out. Even after 5 minutes behind a locked door, where I’m assuming Publix magic happens, he couldn’t. He called someone to him over the loud speaker. She arrived and they tapped around on the keyboard a bit before calling headquarters. “Headquarters can look up every purchase on the card.” Five minutes pass and I wonder if they know I’m on the Whole30, cooking for a man who eats 75,000 calories a day, and I haven’t had gelato in 10 days…so I’m ill. I decide they don’t and just keep smiling.

He hangs up the phone, obviously to give me what’s mine, my 15 missing dollars.

“Ma’am it looks like on the day these items were returned there was a $15.11 purchase made as well and placed on this gift card.”

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh yeahhhhhhhh. 

“Would you like me to look into it further?”

Ummmm…no. Thank you.

If he knew that I’m on Whole30 and due to lack of chemically laden, sugar-filled foods, now have half a brain, surely he’d understand, right?

I didn’t wait around to find out. I apologized for taking his time and told him that I’m crazy but very appreciative of his efforts. I bought some groceries the day I returned said almond butter. 

I let the thought of having the perfect Whole30 completely stress me out! Sort of like the weight of all the world’s vegetables were on my shoulders.

The Whole30 for me is supposed to help clear brain fog, not create it. It’s suppose to relieve anxiety, not cause it. And I believe it will, it’s just a process.

I got home, put on my big girl panties and got to work.

The Fixings

A double portion of this fajita recipe.

A double portion of this mashed cauliflower, adjusted to be Whole30.

2-3 cups of this almond butter.

Early this AM, I placed a beef brisket in the crockpot with some sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and a few seasonings. It just seems too good to be true, but I’ll let you know if it’s any good 🙂

I did peel, chop into cubes, cover in coconut oil, cinnamon and salt, 3 sweet potatoes for breakfast and lunch carbs.

The Main Attraction

Whole30 Chicken Salad

I’ve never made chicken salad. Never. I used to eat my mom’s in high school but that’s been a few (hah!) years 🙂

First up: Mayonnaise.

Here’s the lineup:

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 and here’s that recipe! Please go to your closest grocery store and get “light” olive oil before you begin. Please.

Next, the “salad” portion:

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Top, left to right: 4 T chopped chives, 1 T parsley, 1/4 t dried dill, 1/2 t dried basil, salt.

Bottom: Juice of 1/2 small lemon, 1 C mayonnaise. (I didn’t use it all.)

And, of course, no chicken salad is complete without the star of the show:

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I had 3 chicken breasts that I seasoned with salt and pepper on each side, placed on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and baked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turned them over and cooked for 15 more minutes. After letting it cool, cut each breast into quarters and started pulling away, which was oddly therapeutic.

Mix it all together and BAM:

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You have Whole30 chicken salad.

Happy Hump Day! Here’s to Lance’s stomach and appetite shrinking immensely…Cheers! (With an approved LaCroix, of course.)  🙂

Prep School || Whole30 Style

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.
-Alexander Graham Bell
We’ve all heard Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Truth. Smart man, that Albert. So, if we know that quote to be a truth, why do we still talk about wanting to feel, look, act, sound, move, live differently and somehow wake up each day and make the same decision(s) over and over again like a bad version of Groundhog Day…still. Stuck. Maybe it’s not physical for you (although I’m confident we all struggle here), and its emotional or relational.
 Make a change. It’s OK to want more for yourself. It’s OK to demand more for yourself. You may feel silly, weird, out-of-place and that’s OK too! 
I’ve found that when I’m making this change because of the desire for something more, 10 out of 10 times, it involves putting myself out there, being vulnerable, open to failure, open to rejection, but also open to the possibility that it could be more than I ever imagined.
The “What if?” Game
What if I put myself out there, make plans to change known? Plans to eat better, get off meds, feel better, lower cholesterol, improve sleep and well-being, be stronger, live longer for my children? We ALL want this! The fear of failing and not being enough keeps us stuck right where we are, BP meds and all. What If I start going to the gym, try to eat healthy, but fall of the wagon and then everyone knows I failed? People will think I’m incompetent. They’ll think I’m not good enough…and I believe them.
It’s OK to think, “what if,” but don’t let that stop you from being a better version of you! Don’t let fear keep you in a tiny box where you’re comfortable letting your insecurities keep you contained. Be bold. Be unordinaryBe the best you.
 He will give me (and you) strength to replace pride with humility and proceed. Growth. 
Fear is a crazy powerful thing.
…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
2 Timothy 1:7
(My recent growth involves publishing a blog called RealigningRhodes 🙂 )
Pride Goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
Likely, you’ll be stepping outside of your comfort zone to better yourself, otherwise you would have done it long ago. Good. That allows growth! God created us. God loves us. God didn’t design us to live miserable lives. He designed us to live joyful lives. Joy can be found even in the midst of affliction, pain, sorrow, and discomfort, as well as times that aren’t so difficult. BUT joy is a choice. choose to find my joy in Him and His truth. He defines me. He makes me whole. 

Speaking of whole, back to our regularly scheduled blog now 🙂 Hah!

Whole30 Prep School
 Preparation IS the key to success in basically every aspect of life, {If you’re type A, like myself, preparation is the only option for success and all the other non-preparers out there just confuse us.}
I’ve been making these salads on Sundays for as long as I can remember. It’s so easy, pretty quick, and makes lunch much simpler throughout the week. You’re guaranteed a salad each day and you’ll be out much less denaro than buying one pre-made elsewhere, plus YOU control the ingredients! Control? Sign me up!
Needed
Cutting board
Knife
Containers to store mixed salads
10-16 oz of organic greens (spring mix, spinach…) ($4-$7, organic)
Small, pre-cut or shredded carrots ($0.99, organic)
Pre-cut celery ($2)
Grape Tomatoes ($1.50, organic)
Mini bell peppers ($1.75)
(get creative here, anything fresh can go)
Sprouts are fun
Cucumbers also a great choice
I love adding beets as well!
Gather
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Cut
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Mix
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Marvel at Your Makings
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Salad greens for the gold!  Seriously, how easy is that?? You can easily get 6-7 salads out of 16 oz spring mix container!
Grab this, some meat left over from dinner, 1/4-1/2 avocado and you are set!
You can eat healthy, give your body what it needs to feel great, feel stronger with each wise decision made and be the best you! For yourself and others! For me, that’s why I’m doing The Whole30.
Preparation always precedes success, remember that!

{Whole30} Breakfast for the Girl on the Go

Some things in life are just not an option. For me, Whole30 or not, breakfast is a non negotiable.

It goes something like this:

I wake up. I drink coffee. I eat light. I work out. I come home. I shower. I eat. Like, really eat.

Not, grab a few grapes and start the day. I have to eat. If not I become hangry (hungry + angry = hangry).

On the days I go in the office, I come in from the gym at 7 AM, turn the stove on medium/high and place a large skillet. Shortly after, I now use a Tbsp of ghee and let the hangry prevention begin.

This diced sweet potato with bell peppers and poached egg recipe is GOOD. I’ll never tire of eggs, sweet potatoes, and avocado in the AM. Never.

Here’s what we need:

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(Sweet potato, bell peppers, avocado, eggs, ghee)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and take out cookie sheet and parchment paper.

Dice sweet potato into small cubes.

Warm butter on medium/high skillet and melt.

Place potatoes in skillet and make each side touch the hot pan, 7 to 8 minutes.

Next, place peppers in pan 2 to 3 minutes.

Move potatoes and peppers onto parchment covered baking sheet and bake 10 or so minutes.

Potatoes should be easily pierced with fork.

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Eggs

Now, while that’s baking, put 2 inches of water in previous pan/skillet, 1-2t white vinegar and few dashes salt.

Place on stove over medium/high heat and bring to a boil.

While waiting, place eggs carefully in separate bowls.

Once water is boiling, carefully slide in both eggs to boiling water.

Immediately remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit 3-5 minutes.

(depending on soft or firm yolk consistency preference)

I used a spatula to move eggs from pan to plate. I broke my yolk when cracking so I had already lost pretty presentation points early on 🙂 Let’s be real, my eggs never stood a chance!

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Voila! Season to taste with salt & pepper, then breakfast is served!

I prep the sweet potato/pepper the day before and will mix up how eggs are cooked. I eat around 1/2 potato per serving and they last well for a few days in fridge. This was my first poached egg attempt and while it doesn’t look pretty, it tastes great! I also picked up this today:

AID_12oz_AN_CA-DL-FC103520-90 So, I’ll be adding this in on days I need to be out of the door quickly!

Whole30 Recipe Attempt: Stuffed Peppers {A Messy Success}

The path to success is not always neat and pretty.

Sometimes it looks like a vegetable filled bomb exploded in your kitchen and over 3 hours of preparation later, you have a meal! (And are ready to quickly prepare a few more)

If you would have told me a few years ago that I’d enjoy cooking and eating whole foods, I would have laughed while trying to keep the Zaxby’s chicken finger in my mouth. My idea of healthy was drinking a diet Mtn Dew instead of the real deal.

We’ve come a long way! We still have further to go, so below is a recipe straight out of the Whole30 Book. One good decision at a time!


Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

4 bell peppers

3 T cooking fat

1/4C finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic (or 1 t garlic powder)

4 kale leaves (I used 1/2 head broccoli)

1 pound ground meat

2 T tomato paste

1/4 t cumin

1/4 t chili powder

1/2 t salt

1/4 black pepper

1 C finely chopped winter squash

Directions

PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a deep baking dish with parchment paper.

WITH a paring knife, slice around the top of each bell pepper and gently pull up on the stem. Discard the seeded core. Place the peppers in the prepared dish. Bake for 10 minutes, until softened. Set aside.

source & source

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MEANWHILE, melt the cooking fat in a large skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat the bottom. When the fat is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the kale (Or in my case, broccoli that I pulsed in food processor until finely chopped), and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the ground meat and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon and stirring it into the vegetables, for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cook until the meat is mostly browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in the squash and cook until the squash is slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

DIVIDE the meat and squash mixture evenly among the softened bell peppers. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the peppers look wrinkly and the beef is slightly browned on top.

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Dinner is served!


Lessons Learned

Use a Large skillet. Mine filled up the largest delegated spot on the stove, but it was still overflowing, so mid-way through I swapped to a soup pot.

Carefully and thoroughly read directions. The above mishap could have been because instead of 1 C butternut squash I misread it as 1 whole butternut squash…oops!

Simplicity is your friend not your enemy. I had this going while trying to boil cauliflower for this recipe, cutting up sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts for another, and chopping walnuts and combining spices for another. Needless to say, this is too much.

Have all ingredients prepped and ready prior to beginning. Surely this recommendation wasn’t intended for me. Surely. Well it wasn’t sure was! Let’s just say I stepped right aboard the Hot Mess Express when I skipped this step. Keep your ticket for that train wreck and prep! 🙂