Thursday, January 30, 2014

Whole30 Complete!

It is the end of Day 30, friends! My husband spent about 8 hours smoking pork ribs for us today, so we ate like paleo kings for dinner with baked sweet potatoes that were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. All the food from dinner has been put away and the kitchen is CLOSED - which means our Whole30 is officially complete!

We are planning to do a final weigh in and measure tomorrow, so I will be sure to post our results here. I am excited to see what our "numbers" are - even though the benefits are so much more than losing a few pounds.

One of the best things I've noticed this time around is that my skin has been so much clearer! I usually have a monthly breakout and then if I eat junk food, I'll break out even more.

This month, I have only had ONE blemish pop up, and using Dragon Time & Melrose essential oil blends took care of them in one day! Before January, with the holidays and being surrounded by junk food, I was having a really hard time keeping my breakouts under control. My monthly breakouts would last a good 4-5 days if not longer, and I was getting frustrated that my face was never clear for very long. But taking a month off from sugar, dairy, and all grains (and washing my face with a homemade citrus sugar scrub) has really helped my skin, and is one of my biggest motivations to not go back to a ton of dairy and sugar in my every day diet.

I will say this last week of the challenge we kind of fizzled out. We have had a lot going on, so we have had a lot of easy meals that make big portions for leftovers. My husband was out of town a few days this week, and when it's just me, I do NOT cook. So for dinner a few nights I had a cucumber slices with mustard & turkey, and carrot chips with some wholly guacamole. Glamourous, I know. I also made a beef rump roast in the crock pot with just some seasonings & coconut aminos & banana peppers, and we were able to eat that for several days. 

Over the course of this month, we have also made plans to purchase a side of beef from some friends who raise grass-fed cattle. We are SO excited to have great quality, local, 100% grass fed, antibiotic free beef, and to be able to know and trust the people who raise it makes such a huge difference. It also didn't hurt that their prices were amazing compared to what grass-fed beef goes for these days. 

However, knowing we have several hundred pounds of beef coming means we gotta clean out the deep freeze! A few months ago, I pre-made several simple, paleo-friendly freezer meals like chicken breasts in various marinades, beef roasts with carrots & onion, and meatloaves. We have been able to eat many of them over the month if we needed a quick no-brainer dinner. It has been SO nice to have options available that are already made! 

Last year when we finished our first Whole30, the only thing I could think about was a Starbucks sugar free peppermint mocha. That was the first non-compliant thing I "ate" - and it was awful tasting. Just terrible. Fake sugar and skim milk and burnt espresso. Bleh. 

This year, the thing I'm most excited about is the block of Kerrygold cheese in my freezer! I know that I need to take it easy with dairy going forward, but I am very much looking forward to some organic, high-quality cheese & half/half as a treat! 

I apologize for the lack of recipes for you guys in this post. The only thing I really used a "recipe" for (if you can call it that) was to make some friend plantains as a snack this weekend. 

I seriously just sliced up 2 plantains, melted some coconut oil in a skillet, added the plantains and let them "fry" for about a minute on each side on med-high heat. Lower the heat if they start to burn. Season LIGHTLY with salt - a little goes a long way! Let cool & Enjoy! 

I will post again with our results and some final thoughts & tips for those doing or completing a Whole30 tomorrow! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Whole30 Week 3 Wrap Up

This is going to be one big random collection of thoughts. You were warned.

Tomorrow is the 21st, which means we have made it 3 whole weeks of our Whole30 and we only have 9 days left!

Yesterday, as I was sauteing a huge pan of diced veggies for a breakfast casserole, my husband told me he was sick to death of vegetables. Hmph.

I checked another thing off my bucket list and cooked a whole chicken this week! I did it in the crock pot and it turned out amazing. I rubbed the whole bird down with olive oil and then seasoned with sea salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and parsley. Then I cut open a lemon and squeezed the juice over the bird, and then stuffed the lemons into the cavity. Slow-cooked on low for about 8 hours and it was fall off the bone tender and fabulous.

You can't really tell by the picture, but that Pyrex bowl is about 6 cups capacity, and the chicken packed it completely full. There was a lot of chicken. 

THEN I put all the bones and fatty pieces and skin and such, chopped up an onion, and threw it back into the crock pot with some salt & pepper and garlic, and then filled it with water and turned it on low for like 15 hours. Yielded about 8 cups of rich, delicious bone broth. We did a second round and got another 8 cups of broth. Did it a third time and got a third batch out of ONE chicken! So we are swimming (ha) in bone broth around here. 

I was not forewarned about the addition of a bag of organs stuffed inside the cavity of the bird. Why, chicken people? Husband-of-the-year got it out for me. I had to leave the room. 

So I used two jars of my broth to make this Taco Soup (it's actually called something Spanish that I can't pronounce so we'll stick with Taco Soup) and it is so, so good. We obviously omitted the cornmeal and honestly, it was not needed. Then again, after our initial bowl, someone whose name starts with L and rhymes with Boren went back and added more meat. Something about being sick of vegetables. Anyway, I admit it helped a lot and made the soup more filling. So there ya go.

So we're doing really good and all with all the rules and such and I feel like we're doing a really good job at eating conscientious portions and getting enough veggies and not too much fruit, etc. 

Unfortunately the Taco Soup threw me into an "I miss cheese" pity party. I know 100% I CAN live without dairy. I just love it so much. 

Cheese - we will reunite on January 31. 

We used the crock pot a lot last week. At one point I had two crock pots going at the same time. 
That was crazy. 

We love kombucha around here now. We ran out yesterday, which was really sad. 

I used a mandolin slicer to cut some sweet potatoes and then threw them into my food dehydrator with some sea salt overnight. Not quite "chips" but close enough! I topped my taco soup with them, which was such a good idea. Didn't quite make up for no cheese, but close. 

I'm not very organized this time around about keeping track of what we're eating every day. However, I feel like we are a lot less focused on it and not living to eat our next meal. I think that is showing a healthier relationship with food. We eat within the parameters, and then we move on with other stuff and don't obsess over what we can and can't eat.

Hope you guys have a great week! All the recipes I mentioned are linked above. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have questions! 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kickin a Cold with Essential Oils

Last Saturday, I felt that little tell-tale sign of an oncoming cold - the gross bad breath and drainage feeling in the back of your throat. By Sunday, my sinuses were all congested and I was sneezing and blowing my nose like crazy.

The past several months we have been trying to eliminate as many toxins from our lives as possible. Many of you know that I have been learning about and using essential oils for all kinds of remedies. To be honest, I was a little bit excited that I was coming down with something because I really wanted to give the oils a chance and prove to myself that they really do work. I knew that if I didn't take any medicine and used only oils that I could know I'm not making this stuff up!

Not only did using oils help me get over my cold, but I got over it really fast. Everyone in my office caught the same cold somehow, and my co-workers were still sick for days after I was feeling 100% again! 

I shared on Facebook that I had been able to kick my cold in just a few days using only oils, and several people asked how I did it and what oils I used. I figured I would share here 1) so there can be a permanent link and 2) because it's a long list and I used a lot of oils! 

So here's what my "oils regimen" was from Sunday-Tuesday (yeah! you heard me. three days!):

1. Antibiotic Bomb - an oils version of antibiotics except without any of the side effects and it doesn't wipe out all the bacteria in your gut. Yay for gut health! When I started taking these capsules (thanks to the recommendation from a friend on Facebook!) is when I started noticing the most improvement with my cold. I only used 6 drops of Thieves, 4 drops of Oregano, and 3-4 drops Frankincense in each capsule - mostly because my capsules are too small to fit all the recommended drops! I took a capsule once on Sunday night, 3 times on Monday, and twice on Tuesday and by Wednesday I was feeling 99% again with just an occasional sneeze or cough. 
check out 
2. Thieves in a glass of cinnamon tea. I drank lots of hot tea, ya'll! I added a drop or two of Thieves to each glass and it helped tremendously to keep from coughing and I knew it was boosting immunity and helping to kill whatever bug I had. 

3. Thieves on the Sinus Vitaflex points on the bottoms of my feet every 2-3 hours. I think Vitaflex is so cool and I have just started researching more about it. As you can see below, the sinuses are located at the base of the 2nd-4th toes. 

3. Diffused Cedarwood while I slept for 2 nights, and applied topically to throat and underneath nose as needed. I discovered on Tuesday that Cedarwood works great for me to reduce coughing! It smells like cough syrup a little bit to me (except without the overpowering synthetic flavoring/alcohol smell), so I figured it would probably work well for helping with cough. This was totally just a "hunch" but as I used it I realized it worked really well! 

4. Applied Lemon and Cypress with carrier oil down lymph nodes 2-3x per day. Helped drain lymph nodes and worked SO well! 


5. Applied Frankincense with carrier oil to chest, and Valor to the back of my neck twice per day (morning and night). 


6. Rotated applying Melaleuca Alternifolia, Lemon, Cypress, Peppermint, and RC over my forehead, over the bridge of my nose, and over my sinuses on either side of my nose (with a carrier oil - all those oils on my face along with a runny nose was very drying). Sometimes I would do combinations like: Mel. A & Peppermint. RC & Lemon. Lemon & Cypress. Peppermint & RC. Etc. I applied roughly every 1-2 hours, sometimes more frequently. 

7. Lavender on temples and behind my ears 2x per day. 

8. Monday night took a hot bath with 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup epsom salt, and 10 drops Lavender. Tuesday took another hot bath with baking soda/epson and 10 drops RC.  

9. Drank an 8oz glass of water with a splash of OJ, and 2-3 drops each of Thieves, Lemon, and Orange oils twice per day. Also drank tons of water throughout the day. Also had green smoothies with lots of greens and veggies for a nutrition boost for breakfast each day. 

10. Diffused RC all throughout the day. 

I was so thankful to be able to treat my cold symptoms and promote immunity to allow my body to overcome this bug so quickly! And to be able to do it without any toxic products and without any side effects was amazing. If we hadn't already been doing a Whole30, I would have cut out all sugar, all dairy, and all grains from my diet until I was feeling back to normal again. Sugar weakens your immune system and all of those foods promote inflammation to some degree in your body, so it's best to avoid them entirely when you're sick. 

Are you ready to jump on board with essential oils? Getting started is super easy. Click here to sign up with Young Living and order your Premium Starter Kit! 

And please email me or send me a facebook message if you would like to learn more about Young Living essential oils. The statements I've made are my own personal experiences and are not intended to treat or diagnose any medical conditions. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Whole30 Week 2

So hard to believe that January is almost half over! This month is seriously flying by and we are doing great with the Whole30! The weight loss has leveled off a little bit this past week, but it is so so so nice to not be feeling the effects of junk food on my system. The sluggish feeling after I eat bread, the hit-by-a-bus achy feeling the morning after eating a bunch of sugar. Don't miss those things at all!

So this week in food review:

1. Had a huge massive awful terrible dinner fail at making a buffalo-inspired turkey meatloaf. All the ingredients together seemed great. However, once it was put in the oven it turned into a hot mess. Actually not hot enough in the middle. But too hot on the edges. Anyone get me? And turkey fat is a really disgusting substance that I don't EVER want to see again. It wouldn't be a Whole30 if I didn't have at least one dismal failure, right? We can't all be amazing paleo cooks all the time. We had roasted cauliflower and grapes for dinner that night.

Cauliflower never lets me down.

2. Made an awesome soup inspired by Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana. It uses sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes and coconut milk instead of heavy cream. I used italian sausage instead of ground chicken, and it turned out super yummy. Plus it made a huge batch so we were able to eat it for several meals.

3. Also my husband grills the BEST chicken breasts ever and we concocted an awesome marinade since we can't use our standby Italian dressing. Here's what we did:

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
zest from 1 large orange
juice from same orange
salt & pepper
2 tsp dijon mustard
Garlic powder

We marinated it for 24 hours in the fridge and then hubby grilled it with his magic grilling powers. We enjoyed it (with friends!) with sweet potatoes and a spring mix salad. Best meal of the week award.

4. Made my trusty spaghetti squash in the crock pot  and served it with some homemade ground pork and wilted spinach in an amazing organic pasta sauce I found at Costco. Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite things ever. I just love that there is a vegetable in Creation that mimics pasta and is a wonderfully healthy substitute for one of my favorite comfort foods. God's just good like that.

5. Made this Sweet Potato Quiche for breakfast this week and added bacon and spinach. It turned out really delicious. For some reason I had my doubts about this casserole, but it was really savory and turned out really great! The sweet potato and coconut milk made it really smooth and spongy, so it's a nice change from usual egg texture. Try it! You can personalize it any way you want with meat and veggies!

6. I dragged my family to all the natural grocery stores over the weekend and had a blast. I mean, who doesn't love finding avocados on sale, free range eggs, green juice with spirulina & chlorella, and a huge variety of kombucha? The only bummer was the lack of bacon without sugar in the ingredients.

Hope your Whole30s are going well, friends! At this point in the month it can start to feel kind of like a long road ahead, but the finish line really is so near! We've made it this far, and it already feels like a big accomplishment!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Super Green Smoothie

We love smoothies at our house. Even before we ate healthy, we would often make smoothies for breakfast or even dinner. However, we used to load our smoothies down with way too much fruit and sugary yogurt and sugary milk. Nothing healthy about a calorie-dense, sugar-packed drink!

A couple years ago, when green smoothies were just starting to boom, I started adding spinach to our smoothies. Baby steps, but an improvement nonetheless! As our nutrition has improved by leaps and bounds over the last year, I started experimenting with more and more veggies and less fruit in our smoothies.

Right after Christmas, we watched an awesome documentary called Hungry for Change (free on Netflix!)  that talked a ton about nutrition and how the SAD (Standard American Diet) is producing more and more obesity and disease and under-nourished Americans. They talked about the benefits of juicing a lot in the film, and the importance of eating lots of leafy greens and veggies to help your organs function properly.

We don't currently have a juicer and we didn't really want to buy one right after Christmas (although I'm sure there were some sales considering everyone's New Year's resolutions). But we decided if we could pack a bunch of veggies and a little bit of fruit into smoothies, we could bridge the gap. The nutrition isn't quite as accessible because it still has the pulp and fiber in it, but it also makes us full and we eat way more leafy greens and raw veggies this way than we would otherwise.

SO I thought I'd share my standard green smoothie recipe with you guys. It really is delicious and refreshing, and keeps us full for hours.

Super Green Smoothie 
Serves 2-4

3 cups organic spinach/kale/chard blend
1/2 english cucumer, cut into thick slices
1 whole avocado
3 whole ribs celery, cut into 2-3" pieces
6 large frozen strawberries
1 small-med organic banana
1/4 cup frozen organic cherries
6 cubes frozen pineapple
1 cup organic Orange Juice
3 Tbsp Chia Seeds

Add all ingredients to a good blender and mix well. If you don't have a VitaMix or comparably powerful blender, this might be difficult. You could add more OJ or water to get it to mix. When we are eating dairy, I usually add about 1/4 cup Kefir. But no dairy for us this month! 

Hope you enjoy this nutrient-packed smoothie! 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

5 Things about Whole30 Days 1-5

A list! for you! 

1. Um, so currently it's 4 degrees outside, with a wind chill of MINUS TWELVE. The forecasted windchills are -34 with a real temp of -10. NBD. I am totally bundled up in fuzzy socks and the warmest fleece pajamas I could find (Christmas jammies for the win!). Today I have had 4 cups of coffee - black, don't worry - and 2 cups of hot tea. I am also coming down with a head cold that I fully intend on kicking with my essential oils arsenal. 

Oh yeah, and we're finished with 5 days of our Whole30!! 

2. Honestly, a second time around has been a million times easier. I'm so thankful that after last year, we pretty much stayed with a Paleo diet about 75% of the time. We let ourselves indulge on weekends and on special occasions, but largely stayed away from sugar and grains. So this year, going without any grains and eliminating all sugars has really seemed like not a big deal. I was feeling a little burned out with Christmas junk food anyway, so it's been a welcome change to be without it! 

3. We have been cooking in huge quantities so we have leftovers for days. I cannot stress enough what a great, stress-saving idea this has been. I bought 2 huge briskets from Sam's Club and froze one and baked the other one on Thursday evening for dinner. We have been eating it for lunches and dinners all weekend and the hubby even made an egg casserole with it for breakfast this week!! The BBQ Beef casserole I made earlier in the week lasted all the way through Thursday for lunches. 

I also made a Paleo Ranch Dip to have with veggies that is Whole30 Compliant, and really zesty and yummy. I added an avocado to thicken it up (and because it was about to be a goner and you know how it goes with avocados), and used only 3/4 cup olive oil. Having this dip around has caused me to eat a ton of raw broccoli, carrots, and celery this weekend! It made a huge batch that I put in jars to store in the fridge for a couple weeks. 100% sure it won't last a couple weeks, so I will definitely be making another batch before this is all said and done. 

I made these paleo pumpkin pancakes for breakfast today, which technically are considered SWYPO from the Whole9 folks, but here's the thing: We don't ever make Bisquick or homemade pancakes with flour, sugar, milk, veg. oil, etc. We do make gluten free (rice flour) pancakes on occasion, and we make the paleo banana+egg+almond butter pancakes pretty frequently. To me, making these pancakes is not going to make me stumble or reconsider all my food choices or question what the point of Paleo is. I'm not stumbling over the edge of the paleo cliff or frantically making paleo-ified treats in my kitchen. So we had pancakes. Without any maple syrup and with ONE banana. And now we'll move on. 

4. Thanks to my friend Claire, I have now officially checked off "Trying Kombucha" from my crunchy bucket list - and it was YUM! She let me try a black cherry kombucha with chia seeds in it because I was feeling adventurous, and I was so relieved when it wasn't gross! The chia seeds definitely cut down on the fizz, so it was more of a tart tangy slimy drink. Apparently the ones without chia are much more sparkly and fizzy. So now that I've braved that new world, what else should I try?*

*I reserve the right to say "No" to any and all of your suggestions. 

5. The sugar dragons have really been pretty nice to me this week. I haven't had very many sugar cravings, and have been able to totally combat them by drinking a big glass water with a drop of peppermint oil. We have been pretty satisfied by eating oranges and apples if we want something sweet. 

I've also noticed that I'm not nearly as interested in snacking and I am full for hours after a meal. It's taking a long time to get hungry again, which is a great sign that my blood sugars are nice and stable. Workouts this week have already been less sluggish and more exhilerating. It's amazing to see how your body will reward you when you take good care of it with nutrient-dense food!

Also, I've already lost 2 pounds. I realize you're not supposed to weigh yourself until the end of the month, but I just can't resist. It keeps me motivated and encouraged, so I say it's good for my mental health. Also, my eczema is clearing up just like it did last year. 


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Whole 30 Day 1 (Hello 2014, Goodbye 2013!)

Can't believe it's time to say Hello 2014, Goodbye 2013!

Hello Whole30, Goodbye holiday food.

Hello super tasty, homemade, natural food! Goodbye processed-carb-laden junk food. (good riddance!)

Goodbye feeling sluggish in the mornings and in the afternoons, hello energy!

Goodbye unwanted pounds and inches, hello goal weight! (fingers crossed)

We had a great first day of our Whole30 today! We both had the day off, which was nice but also a little sad because it was our last scheduled day off until who knows when. We are thankful for our jobs, but we aren't exactly looking forward to the piles of work we have waiting for us after all our holiday time off.

Since we barely made it to midnight on NYE, following a date night to the movies and a late dinner, we took the liberty to sleep in and take the morning easy. Loren made us a pot of coffee while I made us green smoothies for breakfast.

Two things noteworthy about this:
1. Whole30 rules don't exactly endorse smoothies for meals because they are often laden with sugar and can be calorie dense without providing much nutrition or satiety. However, the smoothies I make (I will post the recipe soon) are PACKED with vegetables and I only use 6 strawberries, 1 small organic banana, and 6 cubes of frozen pineapple in a huge batch of smoothie (makes two extremely generous portions). So it's the equivalent of about 1 serving of fruit and the rest is veggies. We definitely wouldn't eat the same amount of veggies for breakfast otherwise. Plus it makes both of us very full for hours.

2. Last year, the worst and hardest part about our first Whole30 was changing the way we drink coffee. We used to go through multiple huge bottles of sugar-free coffee creamer every month. Last January, we tolerated coconut milk in our coffee, but never loved it. However, after January, sugar-free coffee creamer tasted like chemical death to me. Literally couldn't stand it any more. So...I taught myself to enjoy coffee black. (It definitely helped that my husband started roasting his own coffee and it is the best-tasting coffee ever, especially black) Eventually we discovered organic half&half, which is hands down the best way to drink coffee ever. But I actually find myself enjoying coffee black more and more and wanting to have the full flavor without anything added. I'm officially an adult, folks.

So needless to say, the coffee portion of this year's Whole30 is about 300x easier than last year because I do not have the burden of coffee creamer weighing me down!

For lunch and dinner, I made a big portion of this BBQ Beef Casserole that was seriously delicious. The only thing I did different from the recipe was drizzle the sweet potatoes in melted ghee instead of butter (since technically we aren't supposed to consume butter because it's a dairy product.)

I also cleaned out our pantry and fridge from food we can't have for the month and put it all in a box in the storage room. Always an interesting experiment seeing what kind of food you've got lurking in your pantry. I have an impressive amount of natural sweeteners, I discovered. Mostly honey, in my defense. But I know it will be so good for us to cut out all sugars for awhile and remind ourselves that we can, in fact, live without treats - even Paleo ones.

Honestly, I have not even one ounce of dread about this Whole30. Last year I was excited and determined, but it was rough and I felt kind of clueless and unprepared most of the month. Around the halfway point I really started to get a grasp on how it all worked, and how to eat enough to make yourself full, and to not be afraid of eating fat, and how to plan meals that were compliant. It was a great first round, and looking back it launched me into some of the most significant lifestyle changes I've ever made.

Not only did eating Paleo help me to lose almost another 20 pounds in 2013, it completely changed the way I look at food: through the lens of nutrition. I can honestly say I haven't counted calories in over a year, and yet have continued to lose weight eating real, whole foods. Consuming only small amounts of high quality dairy, and eliminating processed sugars and flours. I truly don't feel deprived - even when confronted with decadent desserts, because I have chosen to eat this way and I know what those things taste like. And unfortunately, I know what they make me feel like and it is not worth it. I am fully satisfied with the whole, natural foods I choose to eat, and very rarely want to go indulge in junk food because I'm so aware of how bad they are for my body.

I know I can  have any and all food. It's my choice. I can have a cupcake or a bag of cheetos or pizza anytime I want.  But I don't want it. That is a huge and important shift in thinking if you want any kind of sustainable diet change. I know how eating a bunch of processed flour and sugar makes me feel (=terrible) and I don't want to feel like that. I would rather not eat it and feel clean and healthy than eat it and feel bloated and greasy and wake up the next morning feeling sluggish and slow and gross.

So if you're ready to say "Hello" to better health and nutrition, and whole foods and "Goodbye" to processed, chemically-enhanced, zero nutrient junk food - you can start today! Take baby steps or take one giant leap into eating clean. You will be seriously amazed at how great you feel and how many health issues can be resolved and healed through food. God gave us bodies that are miraculous machines; they will start to tell us if our diet is hurting them, but by God's grace, they will also start to heal when we feed them the right things.

Happy January 1, 2014 to you!