Thursday, February 28, 2013

Food in the News #1

The last few weeks have been pretty crazy. I will go into it more later, but lets just say that I have not been too motivated to do much blogging. I have, however, been coming across some really interesting articles pertaining to food in the news lately. I think I want to start sharing what I'm reading on a weekly basis. So, here is the very first installment of Food in the News:

1. Philadelphia School Lunches: Goodbye Fries, Hello Fennel

I'm a sucker for anything concerning kids, and this story is a total heart warmer! Local celebrity chef, Marc Vetri, has developed a school lunch program called "Eatiquette". According to Vetri, this program has been designed to teach students how to eat healthy and, "interact with each other."  The picture shows a student at People for People Charter School (one of 4 schools currently participating the program) serving dessert to his fellow students. This student is acting as the Table Captain, who's duties are to set the round lunch table with a tablecloth and place settings for his peers. Then he sets out their first-course salads and glasses of water before they arrive. The Table Captain serves his peers throughout lunch, bringing the other courses to them and serving them. The meals are healthy, family-style dishes that include fresh, seasonal ingredients. All canned, processed, and frozen items have been removed from the cafeteria kitchen. There are some accompanying articles on the program that question whether or not the Philadelphia school system can afford the program as plans move forward to implement Eatiquette in several other schools in the city. You obviously know what my opinion is - they can't afford NOT to! For many of these children (80% of whom at the school pictured above) are on a free meal program and never get the opportunity to have meals like this. The personal and social skills these children are learning through this program with stay with them for their entire lives.

2. Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward off Heart Attack and Stroke

The most comprehensive study on a given diet has published some really great results (and is probably causing a lot of Paleo and Nourishing Foods believers to say "I told you so!"). After completing a 5 year study on 7500 participants between the ages of 55 and 80, researchers have concluded that eating a Mediterranean diet (a diet consisting of good fats and proteins from olives, nuts, avocados, and fish, and low in carbohydrates and sugars derived from bread and sweets) can lower symptoms pointing to heart attack and stroke in high risk people by 30%. There are a few things about this study that excites me. One is that there the other diet studied was a typical low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet with lots of calorie counting and, frankly, little success. Many of the participants could not stick to the low-fat diet (which was a part of the study). The Mediterranean Diet, however, consisted of roughly 200 more calories per day, but had no calorie counting involved whatsoever. They only lost 7% of their Mediterranean Diet participants over 2 years.  The other point that makes me smile is that the Mediterranean diet is naturally low in wheat, sugar, and processes foods. Yay!!!! Now we know FOR A FACT that eating whole foods is ACTUALLY good for you! Thank God for scientists, aka the true captains of the obvious :)

So that's all I have for today! Tune in next week for more Food in the News!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Whole30: My Post-Whole30 far

It's been 4 weeks since my Hubby and I completed the Whole30 Program. Hubby has lost 20 pounds so far, and I've lost about 12! We are more energetic, less "puffy", and we both sleep way better! Life has been pretty awesome, I can't even lie :)

We have reintroduced dairy into our regular diet (mostly just cheese and butter). We have also added chocolate and Paleo-Approved sweets. On occasion, we eat non-paleo foods, but we have learned a lot about what our bodies can and cannot handle on those occasions.

For starters, my body does NOT like wheat. Wheat does really awful things to my tummy, and it wrecks my sleep. It also gives be the loathed sugar high and crash. I am, however, tolerant of the occasional rice dish! That makes me happy because I love rice. I won't be eating it all the time because I'm still on a weight loss journey, but I'm glad it won't make me feel sick!  I don't crave sweets the same way I used to. I still like to have a piece of chocolate after a meal, but that usually does the trick!

~ Side Note: I bought Enjoy Life's Soft Baked Double Chocolate Cookies at Whole Foods last night (they are on sale!) and they are DELICIOUS! And be proud of me, I only ate one :) ~

The biggest challenge I have experienced so far is being prepared. I need to make sure I have protein-packed choices ready for lunches and snacks at work, and my dinners when Hubby works nights. Protein is expensive, so I'm learning how to keep good meal and snack solutions around without breaking the bank. My CSA had stewing chickens for sale last week, so I prepared one over the weekend and shred the meat for different meal applications. I also tried my hand at baking last weekend with some Coconut Flour Muffins, which turned out really well! That weekend I also made Apple Butter, which is amazing! (I honestly want to eat it straight of the jar with a spoon...but I won't...) Both of these recipes are inexpensive, simple, and very satisfying for breakfast or a snack.

My other challenge is saying "No". Saying "No" to the lady at the food court Chinese food stand asking if I want rice with my meal.  I didn't, but I said "Yes" anyway.  Saying "No" to people offering me candy, or treats.  I don't want to be rude, but in all honesty I'm not!  I can refuse junk food and still be considered polite. Saying "No" is something I've been working on for a while now, but I can say that I'm better than I used to be.

What surprised me most about the last month is how forgiving the body is. Even with all my cheats and adjusting, I still kept losing weight! Those off-days certainly slowed my weight-loss down, but I was expecting it to stop all together. I guess cutting wheat, legumes, (most) grains and refined sugars have really changed the way my body burns fat, just like the research said it would!

(I should mention, too, that I have only exercised ONCE in the last 2 months. I'm not proud of this, but the fact that I have still lost weight shows how effective cutting grains, legumes, and refined sugars can be to in a weight loss journey.)

So the goal for next month is to BE PREPARED! I want to have meats and veggies on standby at all times for lunches, snacks, and dinners when Hubby is at work.  I want to pack lunches the night before because Lord knows I hate getting out of bed earlier than I absolutely have to.  I want to batch cook on the weekends in preparation for the week. I'm so excited to check in again next month with my goals completed!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My (Current) Kitchen Wishlist

I love kitchen gadgets! I could probably spend an entire day in William Sonoma or Bed Bath & Beyond, for real.  I'm also a newlywed, so I don't have the most equipped kitchen. I finally bought my first muffin pan LAST WEEK!

Yeah, it's like that.

So, as I am trying to live a more natural and holistic lifestyle, my kitchen needs are changing. Here's a list of 5...ish items that I feel could make my life much productive and efficient in the kitchen:

1. A(nother) slow cooker.
Yep, I need more than one slow cooker. Why, you ask? For broth, of course! I need a slow cooker than can practically run all the time for the sole purpose of preparing broth and keeping warn broth available for drinking anytime. This may sound weird to some, but broth is super healthy (Jewish penicillin, hello!). Plus I've been threatened by my CSA coordinator that if I don't drink broth every day, then....well...I'm crazy!  Finally, when I'm not making broth. I could always use this to batch cook on the weekends for the coming week! Since slow cookers are so inexpensive, I'm sure I'll be adding another one to my arsenal pretty soon.

2. A Food Processor
Doesn't this make EVERY home cook's life easier? Something that will do all that redundant slicing and dicing for you?  Well, I honestly don't mind the slicing and dicing because I'm trying to develop Iron Chef knife skills (watch out, Marimoto!). But there are a couple things I would be constantly using this awesome thing for. One would be seed and nut butters! It would also be super useful when I'm whipping up some Paleo-Friendly cookies by Kelly Bjelly. Then there's pesto, salsa, cauliflower "rice", SO many things I could do with this thing! Hopefully it won't be too long before I have one of these.

3. A new set of knives.
So, back to the Iron Chef knife skills...I want them. And not Iron Chef America skills. I want the skills of the O.G.s from Iron Chef Japan! I want to julienne a carrot perfectly in seconds. I want to be able to butcher an entire pig beautifully.  I don't want to go to chef school anymore, but I would LOVE to take some knife skills classes. I mean, there's no getting around using knives when being a home cook, so why not have some serious skills...and a super sharp set of knives! Yes, I'm talking about cuts-through-paper-with-one-fail-swoop sharp! Did you know that working with sharp knives is actually SAFER than working with dull ones? Yep, it allows you to make precise cuts with minimal effort, instead of hacking away at something with your poor fingers trying to stay out of the way! Yes, new knives would be a wonderful thing.

4. A Vitamix!!
OMG, I WANT ONE OF THESE SO BAD!!!  The Vitamix is the ultimate blender, used by the worlds best chefs and home cooks. From the speed controlling dial, to the tamper that allows you to push down food while blending, and the insanely powerful motor that will actually heat up pureed soups while blending!  This masterpiece is the perfect blend of art and science - a sleek design that stands the test of time. I have so many plans for this thing. Not only can I make nut butters, purees, soups, smoothies, coconut milk, coconut flour, etc, but I can also work on my skin and hair care line with this thing! And I'd me more than comfortable using it for both because they are a breeze to clean! Just put warm, soapy water in the container and blend! VOILA! With the price tag of over $500, purchasing one of these will take a while, but I'm willing to wait in order to get the best.


{source 1}                                                                                                 {source 2}

5. A cast iron dutch oven and skillet
Okay, I know this is cheating a little bit, but I want them both for the same reasons - they are both oven safe! I want to make beautiful frittatas and seared steaks in the skillet, while making delicious braised meat dishes in the dutch oven. I love my new cooking ware (especially the fact that it was all less than $50!), but none if it is oven safe. Cast iron is the ultimate in cooking ware. It last forever. It is easy to clean. It's a beautiful presentation all in its own. They don't leak yucky chemicals into your food, and the skillet would even ADD iron to my dishes! It's the gift that keeps on giving!  The dutch oven could essentially be yet ANOTHER slow cooker when I'm home and can watch the oven. So many uses for both of these amazing products - I can't wait to have one or two in my kitchen!

This list is not necessarily complete, but I feel they are definitely the essentials. In the blogs I read, these items come up regularly in recipes and posts.  Please do not misunderstand - I am extremely thankful for what I have. My tiny apartment has a great gas stove that I don't know what I would do without. My current slow cooker doubles as a pressure cooker, which makes amazing stews! My hubby and I bought a Nutribullet not to long ago, and it works well for making smoothies, nut butters (with a little extra texture), and blending batters.  My life will go on if I never own any of these things, but it's good for me to have a wishlist. This process has allowed me to really compare the gadgets I desire to the list of tasks I'd actually perform with them and weed out the fluff. These items would be used on a very regular basis, and that's why they made the wishlist.

What kitchen items are currently on your wishlist?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Recipe: Mushroom and Snap Peas Stir-Fry with Glass Noodles

Hey, bloggy friends!! I'm sorry I've been MIA lately... It's been one of those low energy weeks.  But I'm back with a DELICIOUS stir-fry recipe inspired by The Parsley Thief's version from a couple years back. I made a few tweaks (as I always do) to match my tastes and the ingredients I had on hand. I also want to share an awesome noodle that has become my saving grace on the Paleo Diet so far:

Korean Glass Noodles, or Japchae, are made from sweet potato starch, making them a great way to satisfy a persistant noodle craving such as mine.  It's definitely not an every day thing - they are very high in carbohydrates - but it's an awesome treat! These noodles about the same thickness as spaghetti, but are much longer and are traditionally cut up a bit before serving. Also, they have a very slippery, springy texture, making them lots of fun to slurp! Finally, you must cook your glass noodles thoroughly. Al Dente will mean very chewy pasta. You can find these noodles at any Asian market, or at an extremely well stocked (and perhaps high-end) supermarket.

Mushroom and Snap Peas Stir Fry with Glass Noodles

2 tbsp coconut oil, separated
1 tsp of sesame oil
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb chicken livers (optional, I just like to sneak them in wherever I can)
Sesame seeds
1 onion, diced
1 16oz pkg of mushrooms, quartered
1 12oz pkg of snap peas, sliced
1 bunch of green onions, sliced and separated
2 tbsp of tamari sauce
1 tbsp of Sriracha sauce
1 tsp honey
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 lb of korean glass noodles
Water for boiling noodles


  1. Fill pot with water and a couple tablespoons of salt and set on stove to boil.
  2. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil to a deep skillet or wok on medium high heat. When oil is hot, drop in ground beef and livers and cook until browned. Make sure livers are chopped up well and mixed in with beef if you have any leery eaters. Remove meat from pan and set aside.
  3. When water is boiling, add noodles. Will cook for about 10 minutes, but taste noodles often to check texture and doneness.
  4. Add 2nd tablespoon of coconut oil in your hot pan, along with the sesame oil, and add your onions and mushrooms. Cook until onions are translucent and mushrooms have shrunken. Next add in your snap peas and 1/2 of your green onions. Cook for a couple minutes more.
  5. When noodles are done, drain and set colander over empty pot. With kitchen shears, cut noodles roughly until they are easier to manage.
  6. Add meat back in your pan, along with the remaining ingredients. Cook for a couple more minutes, until all seasonings are mixed well.
  7. To serve, place noodles down first, then stir-fry. Top stir fry with green onions, sesame seeds, and more sriracha, if preferred.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili

(This recipe is a contribution to Nourishing Gourmet's Pennywise Thursday Link-Up. Please click the link to find more great inexpensive whole food recipes and other homesteading tips)

This Butternut Squash Chili recipe is probably one of the easiest and most satisfying recipes I came up with while on the Whole30 program. There are many variations on this dish you can find on the Internet, but this combo best suited my budget and time restrictions. I can prepare this chili before I go to work in the morning, and its ready to eat by the time I get home. I recently added chicken livers to this recipe because it stretches the meal a bit, and it also adds nutritional value. Feel free to adjust this recipe to your own palate by changing spices, meats, or vegetables.

1 lbs ground beef (I prefer 80/20)
1/2 lbs chicken livers
1 16oz bag of frozen butternut squash
1 10oz bag of frozen onion and pepper blend
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp chili sauce
2 tbsp hot sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cheese, Avocados, Chopped Onions, or whatever else you like to dress your chili with


1. Brown ground beef and livers with salt and pepper in slow cooker (if you have a "brown" setting), or in a skillet over medium-high heat
2. If browned in a skillet, return meat to slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients to slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low setting.
3. Taste chili and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve with preferred toppings and eat up!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hair Success! How to Accomplish a Simple Braid Out

     Hey y'all! This is me...on a REALLLY good hair day! How did I achieve this hair day? Very simply! In fact, it was probably the most simple hair experience I have ever had!

     I have approximately 4A hair. It's pretty coarse, but it's not every thick (that will make sense to some). My hair gets very dry and tangles easily, so I usually struggle for hours to detangle it before I wash it!

This time I skipped the pre-wash, detangling, and shampoo all together!  Here's what you'll need:

  1. Before hopping in the shower, fill your empty bottle 1/3 of the way with your apple cider vinegar. Once in the shower, fill the bottle the rest of the way with the warm shower water, then proceed to pour the mixture over your hair, close to the scalp. The plus to having a product bottle is that you can squeeze the mixture over the hair slowly, thus making it easier to cover the whole head without pouring it into one place.
  2. After you've poured the entire mixture on your hair, begin massaging the mixture into your hair, and carefully running your fingers through your hair. Do this for about 10 minutes, or until you can easily run your fingers through your hair.
  3. At this point you can either rinse out the apple cider vinegar, or put your conditioner directly on top of it! Just fill your palm with some conditioner, and apply it to your ends. Comb your fingers through the ends, distributing it thoroughly. Let the conditioner stay in your hair for about 10 minutes, or however long it takes to finish washing the rest of your body. At the end of your shower, rinse your hair thoroughly, then wrap it up in a T-Shirt to dry.
  4. Once hair is no longer dripping, but still damp, section the hair off into six sections. Take one section, put on some aloe vera gel then some jojoba oil, then proceed to braid. Repeat until all 6 sections are braided. Leave your hair in this style overnight, and wear a satin cap while you sleep.
  5. In the morning (or whenever you're ready) oil your hands with jojoba, and begin to gently take out your braids. After all the braids are out, work your oiled hands through your hair until you achieve the desired volume. And voila, you've got a gorgeous, and easy, braid-out do!

     The biggest trick to all of this is to make sure you use a mild washing agent, lots of moisture, and only manipulate damp hair. That's what I've found works for me, and I hope it'll will work for you too!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


     That's right, folks! My Hubby and I completed our Whole30 experience on Friday, which meant this weekend was a celebration of that accomplishment!  Guess how the celebration began??


     I got up Saturday morning and headed to Meg Berg's "Zumba Fabulous" zumba class! It was 50 minutes of dancing and then 10 minutes of ab work. The saddest part was that I was probably one of two women still in my twenties, and I simply could not keep up!! I just knew I was about to pass out after just 10 minutes of dancing! But I didn't quit, I would just bring my intensity level down and kept moving. The awesome thing is that I felt great after the class was over! I was energized and alert and ready for the day!  I also had one of these waiting in the car for me...

     CHOCOLATE!!! I had a little square on my way home while I blasted Sam Sparro's "Happiness" and bopped like a fool!  Once I got home, Hubby and I prepared our brunch - Churros and Cheesy Scrambled Eggs. YUM!!  Every single bit was delicious!  All of my treats truly tasted like treats!

     After brunch, Hubby and I took our "after" pictures, and I honestly couldn't believe the changes in our bodies. I have lost about 10 lbs and could really see the difference in my face and upper body. Hubby lost about 20 lbs and looks incredible! Even if I didn't reap one benefit in my own body from the Whole30, seeing the changes that have taken place in my husband still would've made the process worth it.  He's happier, more energized, more focus, and overall healthier! It's truly a blessing.

     I must skip ahead a little and share what we did on Sunday, because it was awesome! Sunday morning (late), we got up and went to a restaurant called Poole's Diner for brunch with friends. This place is one of our FAVORITE restaurants in the area and a major treat for us. Here is the menu for that morning:

     Yes, that's a real chalkboard. Poole's menus change daily, so they write them on chalkboards all over the tiny restaurant instead of printing paper menus!  But don't think this place is some greasy spoon! Ashley Christensen, the head chef and owner, has been on multiple cooking shows - including Iron Chef America - and has won multiple culinary awards.  She is a true artist and her food speaks for itself. Here's one of her specialties and something I got to enjoy on Sunday:

     Poole's has the best Mac & Cheese in town! It's gooey and custardy, the macaroni is cooked perfectly, and I crusty top makes my eyes roll! Thankfully, we shared this delectable beauty among four people. But you better believe there wasn't a noodle left!

     The great thing about going downtown is that everything that you need is within walking distance. We were all able to work off a bit of sugar during our walk to a local bar, where we had a couple drinks and talked...and talked and talked! How wonderful! No schedule, just quality time. I love friends like that :)  Soon, however, we had to leave the bar due to a staff party they were preparing for, so one friend suggest we go to a ritzy Mexican restaurant called Jibarra.  This place was beautiful!  The owner (who apparently goes way back with one of friends we were with that day) was a sweet, generous man, and he prepared some delicious snacks to go along with our drinks. One of those snacks was a lovely Tilapia and Scallop Ceviche. OHHH MY GOODNESS!!! I cannot tell you how fresh and amazing it tasted! If that wasn't enough, the owner then brings each of us one of these...

     I honestly can't even tell you what this thing was called, because the chef just made it up!! But it was similar to a tostada, Asian style. There was shredded beef with bulgogi sauce on the bottom, tomatoes and purple cabbage, then a cool mayo and shiracha sauce on top with some black sesame seeds.  Can you say FLAVOR EXPLOSION!! I was truly blown away by the artistry of that beautiful little dish.

     In conclusion - Sunday was a very satisfying ending to an incredible experience. The food was great, and the company was even better!  If I was still eating the way I was, Sunday wouldn't have been nearly as special as it should have been. So I look forward to making good choices 80 percent of the time, so that the 20 percent can be decadent and memorable.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Whole30 Update: Day #30 ~ The Beginning and The End

     I can hardly believe that this is the very last day of my Whole30 Experience. It's bittersweet...mainly because my mind is literally putting the taste of dark chocolate in my mouth in anticipation for the real thing :)

     Honestly, I have learned so much about myself and my body over the last 30 days... 

  1. I have learned that I probably have some moderate intolerance to wheat. I remember when my Mom would give me cereal as a kid, my stomach would hurt SO BAD afterwards. I didn't think a lot of it, but it was definitely a sign that I didn't need to be eating that stuff. I'm glad to know that, if I avoid wheat, I will avoid those uncomfortable moments. 
  2. I have learned that sleeping is not hard when tons of sugar isn't coursing through my veins!  I've never been a good sleeper...ever. It would be anything from stomach trouble, to nightmares, to going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, to random thoughts racing through my head at a neck-breaking pace. Learning how to eat better (cutting out that pesky refined sugar and wheat), and also learning to de-stress WITHOUT food, I have been sleeping wonderfully!!!  It's been a great discovery and I'm forever indebted to Dallas and Melissa Hartwig for that.
  3. I have learned that I can start something and finish it strong. I can say "No!" to my cravings, no matter how loudly the scream, in order to encourage health in my body. I believe that living a holistic life demands this ability, because wellness must be more important than convenience. But I also feel like I have a stronger resolve now. I have shown my body who's boss. "No" means "no" again!
  4. I have learned that I really like to blog!! Sharing this experience through my blog has added joy and value to it. The friends I have made along the way encouraged me to the end. I'm so grateful to Kelly @ A Girl Worth Saving for her inspiring words! (and I CAN'T WAIT to make your yummy cookies!)
     And so begins a new month and a new way of life. My Hubby and I will be "one of those paleo couples" from now on!  I have learned to cook nourishing, delicious, and inexpensive meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am ready to start working out again (yay for Zumba on Saturday!!). I am ready to prepare this body to house little ones! I'm so excited about the future and all the changes it will bring. And I'm excited about sharing the future with you here on my blog!

     I love you, bloggy family! Have a GREAT weekend!! And GO RAVENS!