Thursday, August 25, 2016

CREAMY TOMATOES & CHICKEN OVER SPAGHETTI SQUASH


One of my absolute favorite foods is pasta with cream sauce. I will 100% go to a fancy Italian restaurant with dozens of authentic, delicious, farm to table dishes and be that person who orders Fettuccine Alfredo. I will order anything that claims to be "three cheese." I will use bread to mop up all the extra creamy sauce on my dish. I love it all-gnocchi, tortellini, parma rosa, the before mentioned Alfredo sauce. 
The problem is, as I get older, I've (sadly) gotten wiser. I do silly things like run for exercise and say no to things I don't want to do and listen to my body about things that I eat that make me feel like crap. Which means I really really really limit both dairy and gluten. The key elements to my pasta with cream sauce love.
Luckily, this growing older has also taught me to embrace things I love, one of which is cooking and coming up with recipes. This past year, I've really worked at taking meals we love and turning them into things that are Whole 30 compliant. This creamy tomato and chicken dish is both dairy free and grain free but creamy and decadent tasting. 

(It's also basically one pot, which means less clean up, thank-you-Jesus-and-the-universe, we could all use less time doing dishes, can I get an Amen?)

Cast of Characters:


 Tomatoes, chicken, olive oil, chicken stock, coconut cream and tapioca flour are the base of this dish. Fresh basil and rosemary, plus garlic and onions give this dish a ton of flavor. Salt and pepper, of course, plus a little crushed red pepper for a tiny kick.


First we're going to roast a spaghetti squash to serve all this creaminess over.


While the squash is roasting, we brown the chicken in olive oil.


Once the chicken is cooked up, set it aside. Add a little more oil and the onions to the pan and brown them. Toss in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Finally, add the tomatoes. Cook it all up. Your kitchen is starting to smell divine.


We add the broth and bring everything to a boil and then simmer it all together. Toss in that basil and the rosemary. And the key to the creaminess: coconut cream and a little tapioca starch diluted in water. We season everything with salt and pepper and add that kick of red pepper flakes. Add the chicken back in and warm everything up. Now your kitchen smells like Italian heaven (and if you're having a dinner party this is when your guests should show up and shower you with praise like "It smells so good in here!" and there is dinner all in one pot with nary a dish to wash and you feeling all chef like! *Praise hands*). 


Run a fork through that spaghetti squash to make "noodles". Top that squash with a piece of chicken and creamy tomatoes. Eat, enjoy, and don't feel a bit guilty. 

Creamy Tomatoes and Chicken Over Spaghetti Squash
2 Tbsp chopped basil
1/2 Tbsp chopped rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 lbs of fresh tomatoes, chopped OR 1 28oz can chopped tomatoes
2 lbs chicken breasts
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 cup chicken stock
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp of tapioca flour*, dissolved in 2 Tbsp of cold water 
Big Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper, to taste.
1 large spaghetti squash

*Tapioca flour can be found in the "health food " section in most grocery stores. This part is OPTIONAL. It makes the sauce a little thicker/creamier, but if you can't find it don't worry about it!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and place on a rimmed cookie sheet, cut side up. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until flesh is soft (if you can stick a fork in it with little resistance, it's ready).

While the squash is roasting, make your sauce. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper, and when the oil is hot but not smoking, add the chicken to the pan. Cook for about 7 minutes, each side, until the chicken is nicely browned and cooked through. Remove from the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate; leave the brown juices in the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and return the pan to the burner. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pan. Add the onions to the pan and cooking until soft and slightly brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. 

Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the chopped herbs and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the tomatoes for 5-7 minutes. Stir in the coconut cream and 2 Tbsp of the dissolved tapioca starch, if using. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add in the crushed red pepper flakes. If you'd like the sauce a little thicker, add more of the dissolved tapioca starch, 1 Tbsp at a time until desired thickness is achieved. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer another 5-7 minutes to warm the chicken.

Shredded the spaghetti squash with a fork. Serve the chicken and sauce over the spaghetti squash.  

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

HOW TO START A WHOLE 30


I don't know where I first heard about Whole 30-Pinterest or a blog or Instagram, I'm sure. But I was both intrigued by it-everyone seemed to rave about it, to have fantastic results, to not be sad that they gave up wine and cheese and sugar. So last year when we decided to try and get back to healthy eating, I thought why not give this Whole 30 thing a shot. So we did. And not to be all dramatic, but it was life changing. I lost weight, I ran better, but,  more then that, I retrained my body and brain about how I perceive food. A year ago, when I did my first Whole 30, I would NEVER have thought I would give up bread and cheese. I was a pro at looking past sugar and additives in processed foods that we were consuming -things that look healthy and not like treats (made with fruit juice! 10% less sugar! organic!). I have literally changed my tastes and it was simple.
Simple, but NOT EASY. It's simple to buckle down and realize you need to eat better, I mean duh. But it's not easy though. It's not easy to change the way you eat and the ideas behind how you consume food. It's not easy to pass up convenience food in a life that is filled with schedules and not so much time. It's not easy to not want a glass of wine or a piece of cake after a rough day at work. It's not easy to not eat all the cheese and crackers at a party. But the changes are SO WORTH IT. I did and you can too! Here are my own tips on how to get started:

1. Read up. Read all of this. In fact, go through the whole Whole30 website. Print out the printables. I suggest picking up The Whole 30 Book (but the website is an EXCELLENT resource if you're not ready to spend the money for the book it's self). The basic rules: meat, veggies, fruit, seeds, nuts and good fats = yes; dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, legumes =  no. For 30 days. No cheating. That's it.



2. Decide when you want to start. So you're all motivated reading about this program. You want to start right now, like by dinner time. I suggest taking a minute and thinking about that :). Do you already eat pretty healthy? Or are you surviving on fast food and microwave pizza? If you're the latter, you might want to take a week and detox a little bit before plowing into this.
But no matter what-go through your fridge and pantry and put everything you won't be eating away. Spaghetti, rice, processed foods, sugar and flour-get it all out. If you don't want to throw it out, put it in a cupboard where you can't see it. Go grocery shopping (you might want to MEAL PLAN :)). And keep it as simple as possible the first time around-especially if eating healthy is new for you!

3. Decide just who will be participating. Is it just you who wants to try this out? Or do you have a spouse that's willing to get on board with you? Or a friend? Are you having your whole family attempt eating Whole 30? My husband and I always do Whole 30's together, but our kids still ate a moderate amount of whole grains and dairy and a little sugar. It is beneficially to have a partner in this; it's great to have the accountability and someone to work towards a goal with-but not necessary. There are also a ton of Facebook groups you can join for support!

4. Get started, and do it. Work as hard as you can to maintain the rules of the program. For us, this meant not eating out (yep, all 30 days) and taking food when we went to a social gathering that we knew we could eat. It also meant not being rude about those things-we weren't out to lecture anyone about eating right or turn our nose up at someone's thoughtfully prepared cupcakes or looking down on people for offering us a glass of wine. A simple "no, thank you" is a perfectly adequate response to offers of things you aren't eating. Don't make excuses and don't over complicate things. It's only 30 days of your entire life and you can totally do this!
And, if you do eat something that isn't in the rules of the program? Don't freak out. Move on. Start over. You'll get there!

Starting Sept 5, the Whole 30 community is coming together for September Whole 30-it's going to have a ton of people doing it, sharing recipes, scale and non scale victories. If you've been thinking of doing one, now is a great time! I plan on being a part of #septemberwhole30 so I'll be sharing lots of Whole 30 compliant recipes, meal plans, and ideas over the whole month of September!

I hope these tips help! Make sure to check out the Whole 30 website (http://whole30.com/) for all the details. I hope that it can make a difference in how you eat and feel too.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

POWER BREAKFAST: GROUND BEEF, SNAP PEAS & EGGS (IRI IRI PAN PAN)


Earlier this summer, I read the book Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Toyko Kitchen by Naomi Moriyama, which, despite the ridiculous title, was a very interesting look at the day to day cooking in a Japanese home kitchen. The diet "secrets" are the usual-eat smaller portions, walk more, eat at home- but I found this book to be a very good introduction to Japanese home cooking, and it included several recipes plus lists of ingredients and cookware essentials for a Tokyo kitchen.
The Japanese diet in this book focuses on small portions, light cooking, beautiful presentation, "power breakfasts" and is based around eating fish, vegetables, soy, noodles, rice, tea, and fruit. I can get behind fish, veggies, tea and fruit-those are staples in my kitchen-but soy, rice, and noodles are not often in my pantry, since I try to maintain a mostly Whole 30ish way of eating. So I thought I'd try to convert some of the recipes in this book to Whole 30 complaint versions. 
This Japanese power breakfast is a combination of ground beef, snap peas and scrambled eggs called Iri Iri Pan Pan. By making just a couple changes (no soy sauce, no rice, no sugar) I made a version that is Whole 30 compliant AND delicious! Guys, Japanese food for breakfast is a thing and you should try it.


Iri Iri Pan Pan Power Breakfast

A (very) generous single serving or two small servings  

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp seasme oil, divided
1/2 lb. of ground beef (see note below)
1/2 an onion, diced
2 Tbsp coconut aminos (or tamari or soy sauce if you eat soy)
12 snap peas, string removed and split (if desired)
1 Tbsp ghee (or butter)
2 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a bowl, whisk eggs with salt and pepper, set aside
Heat 1 tbsp of sesame oil in a large skillet pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef, season with salt and pepper and cook until brown. Add the onion and the coconut aminos. Cook until onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Remove meat and onions from pan. Wipe out pan and return to burner.
Add the rest of the sesame oil to pan. When the oil is hot, add the snap peas to the pan and flash cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove the peas from the pan. Return pan to the stove, add the ghee and reduce the heat to low. Add the eggs to the pan. Let eggs sit for 30 seconds, then gently stir. Repeat this process until eggs are fully cooked, about 2-3 minutes. The eggs should look like small curds. 
Place the beef, snap peas, and eggs on a plate to serve. Enjoy!



Note: I make a big batch (like, 2 lbs) of this ground beef on my meal prep Sundays and then just reheat it in the pan for this meal. A pre-made hamburger patty would also work well for a single serving of this meal.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

HOW TO START MEAL PLANNING

Thinking about what you are going to have for dinner shouldn't start at 7 PM. That's the kind of thinking that usually ends up with ordering pizza. Again.

Meal planning is one the simplest and best ways you can eat healthy and save money. But, despite it being simple and straight forward, it can feel daunting to start if you've never done it before. But here's the thing: you can totally make meal planning fit to YOUR life and once you start, you can't really mess it up. Promise.


I'm going to walk you through simple ways to get started meal planning. It's going to be fun! Really.

Step One: Assessment

Think about these things before you get started:

-What do you and your family like to eat? A key to my meal planning is I have a list of food I know everyone likes and will eat. I change this list seasonally-for example, right now in the summer we eat a lot of big salads, grill regularly, and eat tons of squash and tomatoes. In contrast, during the fall and winter, I use my slow cooker twice a week to make soups and chili. Make a list of the things you like and take from that every week.

Not sure about what to add to your list? Or maybe you're trying to change your eating habits? Look through cookbooks, websites and blogs, and Pinterest for inspiration and ideas



-Who are you cooking for? Every week is different. You might have family visiting. You might have a kid away at camp. You might be going away for a weekend. Plan for this! 

-What kind of time do you have and what is your budget? There are times and seasons where things are hectic. If you have a a crazy busy week ahead, plan accordingly. (I use my slow cooker religiously during the months of April, May, and June when we have baseball three nights a week.) Try to keep meals simple most nights, especially during the week. On the weekends, I'll try new recipes and make a big meal that requires more time.
Also, consider your budget and be realistic. Make your mantra "eat healthy for less."

Step Two: Make Your Plan

It's time, Take a deep breath, You can do this!

-Check your pantry and fridge. See what you already have on hand. Go from there.


-Things You Need: Pen. Paper. Write down what you want to make each night. A good starting point:  Aim to cook 4-5 meals, add in a day or two of leftovers, and a night to eat out. As you write out your meals, think about what ingredients you'll need. Make your grocery list concurrently as you make your plan. 

So if you're planning grilled chicken seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika, green beans with walnuts, and a nice loaf of bread for Monday's dinner, write down all your ingredients on your grocery list: chicken, green beans, walnuts, bread, butter. Wait, do you already have butter in your fridge? Don't put it on the list! Are you running low on salt? Write that down!

And then move on to the next meal!

I write my meal plans in my bullet journal. I find it very effective to be able to go back and see what we've been eating over the past few weeks. A notebook is certainly not necessary to meal plan, but I think it's helpful.




Step Three: Shop

-There is truly only one "rule" for this part: Take your list. Shop from your list. Ignore the candy aisle (unless candy is on your list).

Step Four: Cook and Enjoy!


A Couple Tips:

-Keep your meals simple. I can't stress this enough. Keeping things simple, but delicious, is the way to make your meal planning successful. 

-Meal Prep. I've talked about how much meal prep is essential to my week. If there are things you can do to help make your week easier-cut up veggies, wash fruit, marinate meat-it is super helpful to take an hour on Sunday and get it done.





There! Four steps to an easier week, healthier eating, and money saving. 

Look for more posts about meal planning and food prep soon!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

ALMOND SAUCE

Let's all be honest: sauces and dips can make a meal. A good sauce can change the whole flavor of your food. You take basic grilled chicken breasts and add salsa or pesto, and you have two completely different meals. Completely differentdelicious meals. They make veggies extra tasty and add a kick to lunch. I love making sauces and dips during my weekly food prep to have on hand all week to add to meals. 
We love Thai food and the husband is especially fond of chicken satay. And the peanut dipping sauce is what makes it. I came up with this peanut free, soy free, and Whole 30 compliant version and guys, it is SO GOOD. We put it on everything: chicken, salad, we even use it as dip for raw veggies, And it's so easy! 
(Seriously, everyone at my house loves this sauce; when I make it it never lasts longer than three days, and once it's gone I daily hear, "Where did the almond sauce go?!" as people stare sadly into the fridge.)
Plus, the great thing about this is you can always change it up to suit your tastes. Don't like heat? Cut the hot sauce (add one more tsp of OJ).  If you eat soy, feel free to use tamari or soy sauce. Chose your preferences. Make it yours!


Almond Sauce

1/2 cup almond butter, smooth
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp sesame oil
4 Tbsp coconut aminos (you can also use tamari, which is gluten free, or traditional soy sauce)
2 tsp orange juice
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 tbsp hot sauce (I use Frank's Red Hot Chile 'n Lime)

Salt, to taste
Mix all ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate for up to two weeks (it won't last that long, but it could.)
That's it! Enjoy!

Monday, August 1, 2016

B+ GOALS: AUGUST 2016

August is here. I love summer, and August feels like the beginning of the end. It's extra hot, the flowers are fading, the garden is going nuts like it can feel the frosts of fall coming, the days are getting just a bit shorter. The air here in the east is heavier somehow than the west coast, and everything feels a little worn out. These waning days of summer are some of my favorites, with the anticipation of back to school and work, but still filled with sunshine and pool days and ice cream.

And of course, new B+ Goals.

Let's check in with July's goals first. I had a REALLY good month goal wise. Keeping it at three made it pretty easy.

1. Get in a Date Night. We got in two, one a dinner out while Neal's folks were in town, and then a work night (we had an Army ball). A

2. Tone It Up Bikini Series, Round 2. I've been getting up and working out 3-5 times a week! I just love Tone It Up. A

3. Clean Out The Kids Closets.  YES. I ended up deep cleaning the whole house and it felt fantastic. A+


Now for August:

1. Apply for passports. Because we need them, and this has been on my to-do list since January.

2. Figure out what clothes/shoes I want for work, and get them. I start back at work in September (I work at a school in the office), and I'd like to have a couple new things.

3. Fix my watch(es) or get a new one. I have two watched that I wear regularly and I managed to lose a pin on one and have the battery die in the other in about a two week space right before school got out. I've been wearing an old digital watch of the hubs, but it's too big (and I kind of hate it). I need to get mine fixed or buy a new one before I head back to school. I think it might actually be more cost effective to just pick up a new one at Target.

4. Make a weekly blog post plan. I want to blog more, especially since I'm moving toward a more recipe based blog, and I think a weekly plan will help me immensely with this.

5. Start getting back on our sleep schedule. July in general was a super busy month: we had family in town, we did a weekend away, Dylan went to sleep away camp. Our schedule is completely non-existent right now. So we are slowly going to start working toward earlier bedtimes and a more steady wake up time so school is not a complete shock to our systems. I'm figuring this will take all month to really readjust.

Be sure to check out Sarah R Bagley and E over at Sam and Scout to check out their B+ Goals!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

WHAT TO EAT ON A MORNING WHEN YOU MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT...

Breakfast on the day of an announcement should be an especially good one.


Hash browns, perfect scrambled egg, avocado, Gimme Some Oven restaurant style salsa

This announcement has been a long time coming, and isn't even that exciting (spoiler alert: not a baby, not a move).

I'm officially closing my Etsy shop.

I've been on "vacation mode" all summer, but have been thinking about this since March. There are many reasons behind this. First and foremost, it's not enjoyable anymore. In the words of KonMari, it's not sparking any joy. Part of the reason I initially loved my little shop was I loved making orders for people, I loved working up new ideas and shipping them off to my customers. But now, I do not. There are a lot of politics at Etsy these days. "Handmade" is not always what it seems. The site's updated rules allowed sellers to use mass production and only the "idea" needs to be handmade. And frankly, I can't compete with that-and I don't even want to. I have two kids and a husband and a job-I don't have time to produce 20 shirts a week, let alone 100+. And that's the other thing-between both kids in school and Neal and me at work, the time we have at home is our time and as the shop became more successful it felt like that time was being given over to me working on things for the shop-and I just don't want it that bad. It was not making enough for me to quit my day job, but it was enough to take away the down time I do have. 

I'm still happy to make things for friends and family-but because I want to and as gifts. But the commercial part of it I've never been good at and what it comes down to is this: I'm done. The end.

I do love this blog though! And you might have noticed that I've been posting mostly recipes lately, and that's because that is what I love. I love cooking and eating healthy and meal planning and my home. And that's what this space is going to be dedicated to: food, family, and a good life. I hope you'll stick around. 

And thank you to all my customers over the years: I truly loved making things for you and hope you loved them. I loved being part of baby announcements and baby showers and celebrating your children. Thank you so very much for letting me be a part of that.

-Michelle