Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WHOLE30: WEEK 3




 I just finished Week 3 of my Whole30 (Week 1, Week 2) ! And honestly, this week was the toughest. Monday through about Thursday-both the husband and I were not super excited. This weekend though, things turned around and I'm starting to feel good. Like, really good.
The main reason last week was hard was because I didn't do my food prep for the week. Most weeks, on Fridays, I meal plan, do all the grocery shopping, and then do food prep for the week-make salads, cut up veggies, make any dressings/condiments we're low on. It's a bit of work, but makes a HUGE difference in our week. The Friday leading up to last week, we had a company function for my husband's battalion, which threw off all the meal prep. I had a plan, but was scrambling everyday to get it done. This past Friday, I got all the groceries, did the prep and it's already made a huge difference. Meal planning is your friend, especially on a Whole30!
This week while prepping, I tried a recipe for Whipped Coconut Cream. People. This is the stuff of legends. It is creamy and delicious and tastes like whipped cream, except that it's dairy free and full of vitamins and antioxidants. Umm...winner.
I couldn't find a recipe any where that didn't call for some sort of sugar to sweeten it. I was concerned that maybe not adding sugar or agave might mess with the consistency, but I decided to try it anyway. I used a little bit of coconut/pineapple water as a sweetener and it came out perfect.  This taste wonderful on fruit, and I don't think I'll ever go back to dairy whipped cream again.
 
 

Whipped Coconut Cream

1 can of Coconut Milk (not cream), cold (refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight-this is essential)
1 tsp. Coconut Pineapple water  (I use this brand. Make sure to read your labels for no sugar added.)
 
Open the can of Coconut Milk, from the bottom. Pour out the water that has formed there, set aside and save. Pour cream into a bowl, add coconut pineapple water. Mix in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until soft peaks form, about 10-15 minutes. Serve over fruit. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. When you pull it out of the fridge after a couple days, it might appear a bit foam like. Just stir it up and the whipped consistency will return!
Enjoy!
 


Friday, August 21, 2015

ON ROCKETSHIPS AND DRESS UP CLOTHES


 
"We're going grocery shopping today." I say.
"Okay! Let me get ready!" says Ava.
She comes down in an Elsa dress-up dress, leopard print converse, and three bracelets. She asks for a braid, of course. To complete the Elsa look. I braid her hair and we load up in the car.
We pull into the grocery store parking lot. I help Ava unbuckle from her car seat and she hops down from the car into the parking lot. We hold hands as we maneuver across the asphalt. As we get closer to the store, she always asks, "Can I sit in the rocketship cart?!"
"Of course," I say.
I reach for one of the bulky carts with the plastic rocketship seat. It's blue today, and hard to move. I manage to get it out, and pick her up and place her in front of one of the wheels.
"Blast off!" she cries, joyfully.
"Blast off!" I repeat back.
 
****
The rocketship cart is cumbersome. It's annoying, in fact. Giant and yet not enough actual cart space for all the groceries. But every week, we use it. It brings a ridiculous amount of joy to Ava. She loves grocery shopping with me; she is always happy and cheerful and polite at the store. She drives her rocketship, she writes her own lists, she helps pick produce and cereal. I am happy to give her this cart in exchange for a happy shopper. I am happy to let her ride, because it won't be long before she is too big for the rocketship cart. And I want to hold onto to these little things for as long as I can.
 
****
Ava dresses herself everyday. She's done this since she was about 2 1/2.  Many days she chooses dress up clothes. Elsa, Ariel, Rainbow. Crowns, sunglasses, gloves. Hair bows, usually more than one, mismatched socks on purpose. She inspects each outfit in detail and is always satisfied with how they turn out. "I look stylish!" is a daily refrain in our home. And with confidence like that, she's allowed to wear those clothes as we run errands.


She gets looks sometimes, and very occasionally comments. But I have no desire to take away her confidence in her choices. I have no desire to take this carefree, complete and utter happiness from my child. Not ever. Because it's likely, someday, she'll want to wear what everyone else is. She'll follow the trends of teenagers, and not want to go to the grocery store with me. But until then, we'll walk hand in hand through the grocery store parking lot, with a crown on her head and talking about choosing the color of our rocketship cart.

 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WHOLE30: WEEK 2




 
Week 2, done! So here we are, down another week of this Whole30 . (You can read about Week 1 here). There were lots of tomatoes. Lots of avocados. So many eggs. But you know what? I spent a lot of time not really wanting to eat anything. Not in a grouchy "I hate all these limits" way. I'm just not hungry.
Well, I might have been hungry for crackers. I may or may not have daydreamed about eating an entire box all by myself during nap time. But, I did not. Because I have purposely cleared my home of all crackers, because I knew these feeling would be coming.
But the food. We had some lows this week-I don't know how to make "cauliflower rice" evidently-but we also had some really good meals. No bean chili (recipe below!) and spaghetti squash are both deliciously satisfying and things we had never eaten before. The kids are doing AMAZING on cutting sugar and processed snacks. They're less grumpy, sleeping better, and not always hungry. I hadn't realized how bad we were getting about unhealthy snacks, so Whole30 has been a big wake up call on that. And I truly love eating so healthy and having my family eat healthier too. We're getting back on track and it feels great.
But I still miss crackers.
 
This chili was the highlight meal of the week. EVERYONE loved it. And it was so so simple.
 

 

Whole30 No Bean Chili

Ingredients:
2 lbs lean ground beef (grass fed if that's your thing) or ground turkey
1 large green bell peppers, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
2 cans mild Rotel
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 cups water
1-2 cups of beef stock (Kitchen Basics is Whole30 compliant)
1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
 
Toppings:
Avacado, cilantro (if desired)
 
In a large pot, brown the ground beef. Add the chopped green bell pepper and onion, cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain off grease. Add Rotel, tomato paste, water, and spices, stir. Bring to a simmer, and cook about 10 minutes, Add 1 cup of beef stock, stir. Continue cooking for 30 minutes, adding more stock to reach your desired consistency. Adjust spices as desired. Serve topped with avocados and cilantro if that's your thing. Enjoy!
 


Friday, August 14, 2015

LITTLE VINGNETTES: Cookbook Bookshelf


My living room/dining room/kitchen is part of an open floor plan. I love an open floor plan; I think that it is perfect for family living and is especially nice for entertaining. However, I have a weirdly high "breakfast bar" in the kitchen/dining area. It's too high for regular sized bar stools, but is the perfect height for this smallish book shelf to fit under. And since I have a larger and continually growing cookbook collection, I  made this little shelf my cookbook bookshelf.
 
It's also where I store my antiques tin collection (also continually growing).
 
 
 
I organize my cookbooks by color. Regular books in our house are sorted by genre (Don't you judge me. I worked in a bookstore. It's the only reasonable way to shelve books!)
 
 
At the bottom I keep copies of food magazines, my husband's grandmother's cookbooks, and the recipes that I've come up with myself/printed from the Internets/torn from magazines.
 
 
How do you store your cookbooks?
 


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

WHOLE30: WEEK 1

 
 
 
If you follow me on Instagram (@junenovember), you know that I've started a Whole30! For those of you not familiar with the Whole30, it's a nutritional reset, which basically means a person cuts out grains, sugar, dairy, legumes, and alcohol for 30 days. It's not a diet (I HATE that word) but a whole body and mind reset about food choices.
Now, you might be wondering why someone would give up cheese and wine and cookies ON PURPOSE. I know I would. But the truth is, we've slipped into bad eating habits around here. Normally, we eat healthy meals and enjoy treats moderately.  But, bad habits have starting sneaking in. Like two desserts a day. And chips with lunch. And as a snack. And one too many drinks one too many times. These are not normal things for us, but this summer has been creeping up on us. And after our vacation-which included lots of s'mores, barbeque, and biscuits and gravy-we decided to take action and do a Whole30 together. 
(The kids are not doing a Whole30, but they are cutting sugar and processed snacks drastically. Things were getting a little out of hand with the sugar consumption for them. Constantly asking for dessert, complaining about being "SO hungry!" right before bed because you refused to eat your dinner, thinking you need a snack all. day. long? Not going to work in this house.)
 
We just finished up our first week. I'll be doing weekly recaps here with recipes and grocery lists, so let's get started!
First off: Grocery List.
Trader Joe's is a big help. They have several premade things that are Whole30 compliant, plus pantry staples like nuts and ghee (clarified butter). And their produce and eggs are cheap.
 
Things on this week's Trader Joe's List:
Ghee
Organic Yukon Gold Potatoes
Frozen Turkey Burgers
Chicken Jalapeno Sausages
Frozen Shrimp
Canned Tuna
Nuts
 
At our regular grocery store (we normally shop at the Commissary) I was able to pick up:
Chicken breasts (with a humane certification)
Angus Steaks
Organic Prairie Deli Turkey Slices
 
This along with lots of produce from both stores made up our menu this week.
 
Breakfast
 
 
There were a lot eggs.
Breakfast is my favorite part of Whole30. I LOVE a hot, savory breakfast, and this eating plan insists that I have one! WIN.
Egg Cups: Grease a muffin tin or ramekins with ghee. Line with one piece of deli turkey, crack an egg into turkey cup. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red chili flakes, if desired. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
Eggs and Greens: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add a chopped red onion and two cloves of garlic, cooking until just brown. Add 4 cups baby spinach or greens of your choice. Top with two fried eggs.
Potatoes and Sausage: These potatoes are from a dinner, see recipe below. Brown sausage and potoates together with a tablespoon of ghee. Top with hot sauce (Cholula is complaint) if desired.
Eggs and Sausage: This was our go-to breakfast. Brown a Jalapeño Chicken sausage, add two beaten eggs, scramble together.
As pictured, I usually added fruit or tomatoes (I know, technically a fruit) as a little side.
 
Lunch
 
Lunch was almost always what ever meat was left over for the previous night on top of a salad.
(We have a ton of tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden, so we're enjoying those.)
Steak Salad: Steak on mixed greens, with tomatoes, cucumbers and kalamata olives. Dressing option 1: two tablespoons balsamic vinegar mixed with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Dressing option 2: Smashed up avocado with lime and salt and pepper (basically guac).
Tuna Salad: 2 cans of Trader Joe's Brand Albacore tuna in water, mixed with homemade mayo (Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipe. All Hail Queen Julia), chopped green onion, celery, and dill pickle. Makes 3 servings. I ate it on a bed of romaine and cucumbers and drizzled balsamic over it.
Shrimp and Cabbage Salad: Cabbage salad is made from half a head of green cabbage sliced thin and topped with sliced carrots and radishes. Topped with shrimp and homemade mayo mixed with apple cider vinegar and zahtar seasoning.
 
Dinner
 
Dinners really determine lunches and breakfast even. Part of what I love about this so far is I'm really using up all our groceries, where as I have been throwing out a lot of stuff that doesn't get used lately (because who wants carrots when there are chips in the pantry?)
Goose and Crispy Green Beans: My husband hunts and loves that this program embraces wild game. I sliced six goose breast in two inch pieces and sautéed them in ghee with onions and garlic, and seasoned everything with just salt and pepper. Green bean were cooked like this.
Steak and Potaotes: I love these potatoes, I like to eat them for breakfast on the mornings I run. Chop Yukon gold potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Grease a rimmed cookie sheet with ghee or olive oil. Place potatoes on cookie sheet, season liberally with smoked paprika, cumin, zahtar, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Cook for 25 minutes at 450, broil for another 7 minutes.
Lettuce Wrap Turkey Burgers: Grill Trader Joe's premade frozen turkey burgers and serve to your liking. We had roasted asparagus with these instead of our usual fries. I cook the asparagus the same way I cook the green beans.
Shrimp and Chicken with Mixed Veg and Potatoes: The shrimp are a bag of frozen precooked shrimp from Trader Joe's. I just threw them in the pan with ghee and garlic for about 5 minutes to warm them up and they were delicious! They were fantastic cold on the cabbage salad for lunch too.
 
Struggle, Week 1: I really crave cheese and crackers. They are my go to snack and lunch even.
Didn't Miss It At All, Week 1: Dessert. This didn't surprise me, as I don't have much of a sweet tooth. The only time I was a little sad was on National S'mores Day, I made the kids each one for an after dinner treat. But I realized that I didn't really want one, I just wanted the idea of one.
Surprise, Week 1: I honestly thought that I would miss wine more. I like a glass or two of wine. We get together most Saturday nights with our neighbors and have a glass together so I thought that might be hard. But I wasn't fazed at all. I still had a great evening with them without it!
 
You can read more about the Whole30 program here.
 
I'll be posting on Wednesdays with updates!
 
 


Friday, August 7, 2015

"IT FEELS LIKE HOME"


"The traffic is about to start to get heavy," I said.
My husband smirked at me from the driver's seat. I knew what he was thinking, so I just smiled back. When we were dating, I'd driven the 90 mile drive from Atlanta where I lived to the military post where he lived almost every weekend. It'd been over ten years since this drive had been part of my weekly routine. But I knew. Atlanta traffic is always a mess in the heart of the city's spaghetti junction.
Five minutes and two miles later, we're gridlocked.
 
"Well, you would know." he says with a laugh.
 
 



 Our kids have never been to Columbus, Georgia, but they've grown up on stories about it. About the alligators in the rivers and ponds, about Daddy living in the barracks at the military base with a group of wild friends, about Mama making the drive every weekend to visit them. They've heard about Daddy coming back from deployments and Mama being there to meet him off the plane, about the little apartment we lived in after we got married, and the two dogs we adopted, one who has gone to doggie heaven and one who is their pet now still. They know that we fished in the river, and that the summers were humid and hot, and that there were friends there that we loved very much.
 
So this summer we decided to take them there for vacation. To see our beginning.
 

We drove. And on the second day of our mini road trip, we pulled into town. And as we turned onto an exit that I had taken countless times, we rolled down the windows. The humid heat filled the truck. My husband sighed.
 
"Something about it just feels like home, doesn't it?" he said.
"Yes." I replied. "It feels like home."
 
 
We grew up in California. So, nothing about the South should logically feel like home. But Columbus does. We've lived on the East Coast for almost a year now, and I felt more at home the five days we were in Georgia in our tiny rented cabin then I do here most days, or even the six years we lived in Texas.
 
 
I think sometimes in a person's life, you have a perfect combination to make days never be forgotten. Love and friends and war and first puppies made a solid foundation which our whole life has been built on. The Georgia Years are never to be forgotten days.
 


 









 
 
Yes, it feels like home.




Tuesday, July 7, 2015

SCENES FROM A 4TH OF JULY WEEKEND

 
Puppy + Love
 
 
Singin' in the woods.
 
 
 
 
Light up mouth.
 
 
 Boom.
 
 Coming in for a landing.
 
 
On the Sandbar.
 
Hope your Independence Day was spectacular!