Whole 30 Summer Edition

Whole 30 Summer Edition

After a super-successful Whole 30 in January of this year, we’ve decided to bite the bullet and do it again during the month of August. Take a look at my 2015 health timeline and you’ll see why:

January– Felt great, lost 17 pounds. Not only that, but James and I began the practice of making Sunday our family day where we do fun things out of the house together. Whole 9 life style in full swing!

February, March and April– kept up the good work while allowing a few indulgences, and still lost another 10 pounds. Skipped a few of our Sunday outings, but on the whole these were good, healthy months.

May– took our mega trip to England and Wales. We had a blast! And we ignored all healthy eating habits and tried all the food. Because Europe.

tea
Afternoon Tea in Bath. OMG those scones.

June and July– Despite my best efforts, the sugar dragon is back! Lots of parties and a few long weekend vacations did not help (even though they were super fun!). Sunday family day outings have all but disappeared. Gained 10 pounds. Decide it’s time to take action.

What’s different this time:

It’s summer! That means we have way more access to in-season fruits and veggies than we did on our January Whole 30. We’re grilling almost every night, and we’re enjoying more sunshine and Vitamin D. We’ve resumed our Sunday family day outings, and we’ve gone ahead and scheduled them a month in advance. Being summer, this means we’ll be doing things like fossil-hunting at Calvert Cliffs, visiting the zoo, and watching our beloved O’s at Camden Yards. And we’re eating crabs. Because Maryland. (Honestly, if crabs weren’t Whole 30, I don’t think I could do this during the summer). In fact, we celebrated the start of our adoption process and the start of our Whole 30 with crabs.

crabs

Based on my 3 months of good eating after the January Whole 30, I’m expecting August to carry me into the holidays, and I’ll probably need another Whole 30 in January 2016. I don’t have any idea if I’ll lose any weight this time, but I’m really hoping to at least make a dent in those 10 pounds I gained this summer. And I’m hoping the energy I get from this food will help me to get the house in order for our home study. Maybe the positive attitude this lifestyle brings will give me the boost I need to get my career in order too. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.

Here’s to Round 2!

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Why I’m Doing the Whole 30

Why I’m Doing the Whole 30

As someone who has struggled with weight loss since elementary school, food is such a sensitive issue. I hate counting calories. I hate exercising on machines. I’m sure I have real psychological wounds from 20+ years of worrying about what I eat. That being said…

Last summer I tried eating Paleo for a while, and I loved it. Experimenting with new ingredients, making almond flour baked goods and trying new veggies was fun! I felt wonderful and full of energy. It was a lifestyle change that I could truly embrace. As a bonus, I lost 9 pounds in the first couple of weeks, and the weight stayed off- that is, until I came home from vacation and unintentionally went back to dairy and grains over the holidays (Oh, December, the best of times and the worst).

On January 1, James and I started the Whole 30. Basically, it’s a very strict Paleo program (no grains, no dairy, no legumes- AND no Paleo desserts) where you eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit, good quality proteins and no sugar for 30 days straight, no excuses.

Today is Day 16, and I feel great. The best part of this program has been that James is doing it with me. Having my husband by my side is HUGE! There is no way I could do this without him. He feels great too, and says he would like to continue eating this way, long-term. We love clean food!

The hardest part about this program has been the social engagements. Having to ask my mother-in-law and now my sister-in-law to please excuse us while we eat our own food we bring to their house is kind of uncomfortable. I feel rude and awkward and weird. This is the one part of this program I will not sustain after day 30. Starting in February, I will allow myself to be a nice house-guest again.

What do I plan to sustain after day 30? Everything else. Here’s how:

1. I WILL REMEMBER how much energy I have when I eat Paleo.

2. I WILL REMEMBER how rewarding it feels to know you are making healthy choices.

3. I WILL REMEMBER that a “healthy” American diet doesn’t work for me, and that the sugars in dairy and whole grain foods make me crave more food and make my body feel weighed down.

4. I WILL REMEMBER that even if I do not lose weight, the “happy healthy energy” feeling of Paleo/Whole30 is a reward in itself, and that my body deserves to feel this way. And my soul deserves to know that I am eating as healthily as possible.

And finally,

5. I WILL REMEMBER that if I lose my way, there will always be the Whole 30 to get me back on track.

 

 

On the 11th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me…

On the 11th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me…

…enough wonderful memories to last a lifetime, and I’m only 26.

Starting with our movie party the day after Thanksgiving, we had a party at our house every other week. James’s birthday, Christmas, and a very happy New Year’s day with my brother and sister-in-law and their 3 kiddos.

Christmas at our house, 2013
Christmas at our house, 2013

Oh and we went to Williamsburg, VA the weekend after Christmas to celebrate my birthday. Oh and we saw The King and I at the Olney Theater on New Year’s eve, staring Paolo Montalban (who was also the prince in ABC’s Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Brandy, Whitney Houston, Jason Alexander, and Whoopie Goldberg).

Today was my first real day to myself in over a month, and oh what a beautiful day it was. The bright sun shining down on the 5 inches of snow on our deck made everything look so cheerful. First I made eggnog bread pudding (and eggnog ice cream later in the evening). Then I went to Home Goods and got this lovely table runner to update my kitchen from Christmas to Winter:

January 2014 Table

I love it. It reminds me of Williamsburg, and the way the world looks today: nothing but sky and snow. With the sky as bright as it was today, the stage was set for daydreams. I started thinking, if we’re not going to adopt just yet, what is it that I would like to do? What are some things I have always wanted to do, but never got around to? Maybe 2014 is the year I will do some archaeology work, or finally take that 2 week road trip around Merry Old England, or fly to Florence with my love. Dreams are what this new year is made of, and the only limit is that big bright beautiful blue sky.

How to Know He’s Perfect For You, Part 23

This weekend I was in desperate need of some retail therapy. Engagement is an emotional adjustment because every single relationship in your life is changing. Even your relationship with yourself is changing as you take on a new identity.

Like most women, I tend to drown my sorrows at the mall. What’s better than new shoes and the choice between Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, and Chick Fil A? Having just lost all my fun money (see my previous post), this isn’t an option anymore. And window shopping isn’t as much fun when you know you can’t buy the stuff. So, what is Nature’s remedy for an emotionally distressed engaged woman with no more spending money?

THE REGISTRY.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I lost my disposable income during my engagement. God’s timing is usually en pointe. Thursday evening we went to a “Sip and Scan” event at Macy’s, and registered for a few things, but it wasn’t so great, only because there wasn’t a lot of stuff that I wanted. I almost cried at one point, and James had to pull me back from the brink of a bridal meltdown (blame it on the sleep deprivation). SATURDAY, though, I wised up and went to my favorite wish-I-could-buy-everything store: WILLIAMS-SONOMA.

James came with me, which was a very brave move considering my almost-tear fest 2 days before. Poor guy, I don’t think he was expecting what was about to happen. I literally registered for almost everything. It was a frenzied display of “Ooo click that one! Did you get this one? We need 6 of these! I want this pan! And this pan! And don’t forget the ocean blue Le Creuset Dutch oven!” I was so excited. Sure, there were moments of stress: “Connie, why do we need a Paella pan?” “James, I’ve been dreaming of this day my whole life, and I would love a Paella pan.” But there were also moments of sheer glee, like when I found the French onion soup bowls. And the Ruffoni hammered copper au gratin pan.

At the end of a few hours, we handed the scanner back to the employee and ate a few samples of pumpkin thingies. That was the moment James turned to me and asked if I would like to split an Auntie Anne’s pretzel on our way back to the car. I do. Happily Ever After, Amen.

Awesome Easy Portobello Panini

I was in the mood for a Portobello burger today around lunch time, so I came up with this amazing sandwich. It feels like you’re eating a ton of food because the mushroom is so big, but at the same time, it’s all veggies so it’s good for you and relatively low-cal depending on how you do it. Here’s what I used:

1 Portobello mushroom cap

1/2 small avocado, sliced

2 slices honey wheat bread

1 slice tomato

a little lettuce

salt/pepper

And for the chipotle mayo:

1 chipotle in adobo sauce

about 1/4 cup mayo

Here’s what you do:

1. Drizzle a little oil (i prefer olive oil) in a grill pan on the stove, and turn it up to medium high heat. While that’s heating up, make the chipotle mayo. Basically, slice open the chipotle pepper, scrape out the seeds (this cuts down on some of the heat) and chop the pepper into tiny little pieces. Then add your chopped pepper to the mayo, and there you go, chipotle mayo (and enough for tomorrow, too). You can play around with the pepper to mayo ratio to suit your taste.

2. Grill the mushroom. You can scrape the gills out first, but it doesn’t matter too much. It also doesn’t matter which side you place on the grill pan first: I’ve tried it both ways. It needs to cook about 3-5 minutes each side.

3. While that’s happening, spread margarine (or butter) on one side of each slice. Place the slices butter-side down in the grill pan. They’ll get really soft right away. After about a minute, when the cooking side is getting nice grill marks, flip the bread to toast the un-buttered side. This will just make the bread a little stiffer and stronger so it can hold the sandwich. This only takes about a minute so be careful not to burn it.

4. One the mushroom is just about done, place a piece of cheese on it while it’s on the grill pan so the cheese has time to melt.

5. Build your sandwich. Spread chipotle mayo on the bread. The stack the mushroom, avocado slices, lettuce, tomato slices, a little pepper and salt, then the second slice of bread. Cut it in half so you can admire the amazing looking cross-section and Bon Appetit 🙂

American Cooks may be the Ones to Beat, Finally.

Tonight I just made Giada’s Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce. It was delicious. A pound of penne and a pound of shrimp–what could be better? The sauce involved cream, white wine, clam juice, tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley. My family fell in love with it too. “Dinner was Dynamite,” I believe is what my father said. “Connie Ann, anytime you want to cook, it will be fully funded” – my mom’s words.

I saw the picture on foodnetwork.com and decided to make it. I’ve been wanting to do something special with penne lately, and in today’s 100 degree heat, seafood sounded fantastic. So, off I went to Harris Teeter. I love H.T., really. I fell in love the moment I stepped in the door. The selection there is amazing. It’s catnip for foodies like myself.

I was thinking today, and really it’s true that the Food Network has really done an amazing job of elevating the quality of food in American home kitchens today. While it might have been Julia Child who started the movement, the Food Network has become the primary light-bearer in a dark world of boring processed food. The real exciting part is this:  

The Food Network is creating a definable American cuisine.

Not that we didn’t have American cuisine before the Food Network, but it was hard to define (or else the box was too small?). Yes, there was apple pie and regionally-influenced hot dogs, but (while those are still delicious) that was the America of the past. Today’s American food is the fulfillment of the “melting pot” metaphor. The Food Network has created awareness among every-day cooks about ingredients and dishes from across the country. Thanks to new ingredients, whimsical combinations, and good ol’ American ingenuity, modern American cuisine is the world’s most exciting culinary frontier (however unexpected and unorthodox that statement might be).

So to all you American cooks out there, in the words of Jaques, ” ‘Appy Cooking!” and may the force be with you.

My Love-Hate Relationship with St. Patrick’s Day

My feelings about St. Patrick’s day have gone up and down a lot over the years. When I was in kindergarten and early elementary school , it was fun because we got to watch a cartoon movie about St. Patrick and eat green sugar cookies, and when I got home, my mom had a cake ready for desert. Later on, in Catholic middle school, I had my first encounter with a few stubborn and ignorant people. “St. Patrick was Italian, you know,” I said (which was true). Then they cried, “No he wasn’t! He was Irish!” “No,” I countered, “He was sent to the Irish to convert them to Christianity. He wasn’t Irish himself.” “No that can’t be right!” they responded, frantically. “He has to be Irish! It’s our Irish holiday!”

I think that was how it started. Yep. I’ve never been very patient with people who insist on continuing in ignorance. That encounter really made me hate St. Patrick’s day. There are many Irish-Americans who are proud of their heritage and do their best to continue their Irish traditions throughout the year. I respect those people. On the other hand, there are many so-called “Irish-Americans” who ignore all semblance of Irish heritage except on March 17, when they dress up in green and drink as much green beer and whiskey as possible in 24 hours. That is despicable. (The same goes for people of any ethnicity in America. Love your heritage every day and that’s fine. Use it once a year to make a fool of yourself and your people, and I can’t stand you.)

The fights continued into college. “Corned beef and cabbage aren’t Irish, they’re Polish. The Irish in America at it because it was all they could afford. That’s why they remember it on St. Patrick’s day.” –Another true fact that the once-a-year-Irish like to ignore.

Couple these fights with green-wearing drunk people throwing up in my classes on St. Patrick’s day, and it’s easy to see why anyone could learn to hate that day.

It wasn’t until I met a particular Irish friend of mine that I began to love St. Patrick’s day. This girl’s half Irish and half Italian, and she loves both her blood-lines. She’s Irish-American everyday, and proud of it. One year she invited me to her St. Patrick’s Day party, and I have to say that I look forward to that holiday now more than I ever thought I could. It’s not a beer-fest. It’s an Irish fest. Banoffee pie, salt and vinegar chips, cheddar and Dubliner cheese, soda bread, and Guinness, of course. She converted me. I’m hooked. I will now be celebrating St. Patrick’s day from now on.

3 Steps to a Perfect Valentine’s Day (or any date, really)

Valentine’s Day 2010 was a smash-hit… probably thanks to “Snowmageddon”. Being snowed in for over a week and not being able to see James for almost 2 weeks wasn’t too much fun. But it did make Valentine’s day even more special. For future reference, however, I’ve realized that there are 3 easy steps for a perfect valentine’s day, or any memorable date, for that matter.

1. Do something different for a change

James picked me up in the morning and took me to brunch at this fun French place in Columbia, MD called “Cafe de Paris”. Very original, I know, but the owner really is French, we met him, and French is clearly his first language. The decor was fun, faux plaster/stucco-ish walls with vintage French posters and big comfy red leather couches. The Crepe Cafe was the section of the place that served breakfast. I had a crepe filled with eggs and ham, and James had one with brie, tomatoes, and onions. The onions were a little heavy and he didn’t like it very much, but he was a good sport about it, and I gave him some of mine.

2. Have a thoughtful and heartfelt surprise planned

The best surprise of Valentine’s day this year was the gift James gave me. He made a CD of all the love songs he sings to me in the car. You know, those classic 90’s love songs like Brian McKnight’s “Back at One” and All 4 One’s “I Swear” (best re-make in pop history, in my opinion). I love it. He couldn’t have done anything else that would have made me so happy. What made it so great was that it really means something to us. He was so thoughtful.

3. Make it clear, you love spending time together

After brunch, we spent the day together. We ended up going to the mall and walking around for a while, before heading back to my house just to hang out. Sometimes it’s really nice just to be together. Later on around 7:30 we watched a movie and ate pizza for dinner. Maybe that doesn’t sound special, but it’s the attitude that matters. Sometimes there’s nothing better than cuddling on the couch with take-out. Love stories aren’t about fancy restaurants and expensive presents. They’re about hearts.♥

Following Jaques…

I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately. When I was supposed to be working on a writing assignment, I ended up making salad dressing instead. Strange, I know, but it was really fun.

Inspired by my new idol, Jaques Pepin, I pulled out all my spices and base ingredients and began work on creating 3 salad dressings: Creamy Southwestern, Honey-Dijon, and Honey Sesame Vinegarette.

For the Creamy Southwestern, I had vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, cilantro, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and a little sugar. I can’t tell you the exact measurements because I kept adding a little of this and little of that until it tasted PERFECT.

My Honey-Dijon began with olive oil, vegetable oil, and a touch of apple cider vinegar. Then I added a big squirt of dijon mustard, some honey, black pepper, and (here’s the most important part) Oregano and Garlic. At the end I added a little more oil and sugar to cut down on the bite of the mustard, and then at the very end, a tiny tiny bit of mayo for texture. It was perfect.

Honey Sesame Vinegarette was the easiest – Vegetable oil base, tiny bit of sesame oil (a little goes a LONG way), a small amount of apple cider vinegar, a squirt of honey, black pepper, and a bit of hoisin sauce and sugar. I didn’t have any sesame seeds, but i would have added them as well, mostly for cosmetic reasons. Anyways it tasted perfect.

Salad dressing took up my morning, so I didn’t really get any work done. Hours later, I’m just now settling down by my computer with beautiful looking cup of coffee. Being a rainy day, I decided to get fancy with my drink, just to have a little fun. I actually used white chocolate mocha flavored creamer and a squirt of chocolate syrup, and topped the whole thing off with whipped cream and red sprinkles – smells like Christmas. Sometimes a girl’s gotta do little things like this.