I don’t know about you, but I tend to make the same soups over and over come fall. This year as a part of my Autumn Bucket List I wanted to spice things up a bit — literally and figuratively — by trying my hand at making 5 New Soups! I’m getting dangerously close to the end of fall so I thought I better get crackin’!
This is a pureed soup and I have to admit, I am not always a fan of pureed soup. Something about not having chunks of meat and vegetables makes me feel like it isn’t as hearty as soup should be, but I promise, the coconut milk in this makes it incredibly hearty. You could definitely make this as a meal for two hungry people or serve it in small portions as a fancy pre-meal course.
Adapted From this recipe but with many changes because I’m stubborn like that
2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
16 oz Butternut Squash (I bought mine pre chopped at Costco, otherwise about 2 med whole squash)
2 Large Yellow Onions, chopped
1 large red/yellow pepper, or 2 small peppers
2 Jalapenos, diced with ribs and seeds removed
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 heaping tsp ginger
1 TBS coconut aminos (or liquid aminos/tamari/soy sauce)
1 TBS red curry paste
2 tsp Garam Masala
1 14 oz can Coconut Milk
2 Cups Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Cilantro for garnish
1. Roast cubed squash at 375 degrees for 45 minutes (in a single layer on a foil lined sheet pan) tossed with Extra virgin olive oil, salt at pepper.
2. When squash is halfway done roasting, get started with the base of your soup. In large heavy bottomed pot heat up extra virgin olive oil at medium heat. Add in onions, and ginger and saute until onions are translucent (about 8-10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add in red pepper(s)and jalapenos and saute for another 10 minutes. Season again as you go. This will ensure great flavor through every layer of your soup.
4. Lastly add the garlic and saute for one minute, ensuring it doesn’t burn.
5. Add in aminos, red curry paste and garam masala and stir to coat. Then add can of coconut milk, chicken stock and your butternut squash cubes.
6. Bring to a boil and then lower heat so soup simmers about 30 minutes.
7. Puree your soup in an immersion blender, or in small batches in the regular blender. Check for seasoning and amend if necessary.
So this week we are back to a more strict Paleo menu. This means a whole lot of:
A quick note about why I generally don’t include breakfast in my menus, since a reader asked. It is for a few reasons:
*I enjoy dinner leftovers for breakfast sometimes
*I make smoothies on occasion
*It’s generally a game time decision
*If I’m not working out I generally do a bit of Intermittent Fasting in the morning since I eat lunch around 11:30 usually
Intermittent Fasting (which for me means skipping the traditional breakfast) usually works phenomenally when I am not eating sugar. (I ALWAYS eat breakfast post workout on the mornings I CrossFit though, don’t worry!)
Here is a little background on it (if you’re interested) just so you don’t think I’m skipping meals willy-nilly. There is actually some rhyme + reason behind it and it generally works well when my blood sugar is super stable (ie: when I’m eating a pretty strict Primal/Paleo diet).
But having the sugar creep back in over the past few weeks means I’m very hungry in the morning and then in addition when I don’t plan breakfast I inevitably do the “What’s lurking around the office that I can eat?” scavenge and well, obviously this has been bad news lately. While I may IF a bit this week, I’ve also stocked up on some eggs to hard boil, some berries and some bacon I’ve cooked for easy grabbing, so I may work some breakfast in this week a little more since I’m getting back on the wagon. We’ll see.
Anyway, here’s what we’re eating in our neck of the woods:
Here, allow me to really get that ear worm into your head.
Anyway, the time for rearranging some of my priorities is now. I tried on 5 pairs of jeans this morning in order to find a comfortable pair to wear grocery shopping. I am a fan of stuffing and pumpkin pie, but I am not a fan of my pants feeling tight. This is the first time it has happened in 16 months and let me tell you it was a rude awakening.
The truth is my eating habits have been quite…um, lax in the past few weeks. This is to be expected with the holidays and happy hours and dinners out and working in a office where every one feels the need to celebrate with baked goods, and to be honest I find the festivities of the season a good reason to let your diet go off the rails a bit. I am all about enjoying traditions and not being too anal about every single thing you eat when things like Thanksgiving and Christmas only come once a year.
Personally, I am having trouble lately drawing the line between enjoying a seasonal treat and eating a mini snickers for breakfast because someone has brought them into the office. And since I blew breakfast, I might as well enjoy that Pumpkin Spice latte at lunch because the red cups ONLY COME AROUND ONCE PER YEAR!
And the truth is I have been having trouble for the past few weeks.
What makes the situation complex is that I am still kicking ass at the gym. Fitness is still a huge priority. I mean, I ran a 5k on Thanksgiving Day FOR FUN! (And annihilated my previous time! 2011 Goal — CHECK!) And it was fun. And I have no doubt that I will continue to workout and prioritize the sanity that exercise brings and continue to maintain my weight in a healthy way. So what is the big deal if I have a little bourbon egg nog cocktail on a Friday night, right? No need to be so regimented!
But the problem with this thinking is that I am not trying to maintain my weight right now. Next year, maybe I will have cocktails every Friday night for the entire holiday season. But currently I am in the home stretch with my goals and I would just like to get there! So I need to rearrange my priorities a bit. I have at least 40 ish lbs left to go (though I am becoming less and less attached to a particular number the fitter I get) and continuing to just maintain isn’t getting me where I want to go. And you know how much I love checking off lists and achieving goals, so — it’s time for some change.
Enter, AndreAnna. My dietary fairy godmother. Do you have one of those? I recommend it. It’s nice to have someone you can text while you are walking up and down the aisle of Costco thinking to yourself “PEPPERMINT MALT BALLS? THEY MAKE THOSE? I MUST BUY THEM ALL!” And have her remind you that bulking up on healthy stuff is going to get you where you want t be. She has put together a Look Better Naked Paleo Challenge and because I need a lifeline with my nutrition right now, I’ve decided to participate.
What I’m committing to over the next 6 weeks:
1) Strict Primal eating (no grains, sugar, legumes, processed foods, only full-fat dairy)
2) Keep dairy to a minimum
3) At least 4 Workouts Per Week
4) Sleep at least 7 hours a night, aim for 8.
5) Keep my carbohydrate intake between 50-100g per day
6) Keep the alcohol intake to special occasions
And here are my goals I’d like to see by Jan 6:
1) 5-10 lbs weight loss
2) Do pull ups in a WOD with red band (I’ve been working on this for a bit and I think a drop in lbs and re-commitment to the gym will help me nail it)
3) Get my weight loss mojo back!
How I plan to get there
1) Tracking food intake, especially carbs at first
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that I despise food tracking. I think it is a recipe for mental anguish, food obsession, and frankly it interferes with your ability to listen to your body’s natural signals. Eat when you’re hungry, don’t when you’re not. THAT is a lifestyle. Counting calories/carbs/points is not, in my opinion. ***stepping off soapbox now. sorry**** That said, I need to get back to being able to HEAR my body’s signals so I need a little structure at first.
2) Prioritizing sleep.
This means I need to plan a little better if I’m going to wake up and tackle a 5 am WOD.
3) Reduce the caffeine consumption
I have a tendency to over caffeinate when I’m feeling worn out. Who doesn’t? But I really enjoy coffee black and I think it is one of life’s small pleasures and I tend to use that as an excuse when I’m starting to use it as a crutch. “But you enjoy it, Holly! You don’t even use cream and sugar! Deprivation is not the goal!” And then I drink 5 cups a day without even thinking about it and it wreaks a bit of havoc on my body. A cup in the morning is enough. If it’s not, sleep more, silly.
4) Focus on hydration.
I’ve been super lax about hydrating lately and that is another thing that, for me, really affects the way I feel, perform and eat. It’s time to stop lazing about and drag my ass down the water cooler.
So that’s my plan for the next 6 weeks. Re-commitment to healthy habits and to do things that make feel better instead of lethargic and sorry for myself.
It’s the hardest time of year to get this all in check, but I am feeling more dedicated than ever. Um…plus it’s a competition, and no one loves a little friendly competition more than me.
I like to give you a hard time about your recommendations sometimes. I joking say rather often that I should be fired from writing here because I have a tendency to not love things that OMG EVERYONE LOVES, AND WHY AREN’T YOU LOVING THIS RIGHT THIS SECOND?
But in this instance, you were right. You were SO right.
I’ve been reading in all of the following places:
*In bed under the covers
*On the couch while football is on in the background
*In the bathtub
*In line at the grocery store
*At the stop lights on my drive home from work
*On my lunch break
*While waiting for Garrett to get ready for the gym (just a few more pages!)
And I am already looking forward to the next book! And while this is completely annoying to Garrett that I have been ignoring him for the last 24 hours (despite the fact that he was out of town Friday, Saturday and Sunday) even he knows that there is no one happier than Holly when she is engrossed in a good book.
And now I will stop talking about myself in the third person because that is weird and say thank you to all of you for your gentle nudging.
And of course try and find a way to sneakily read a book at work. Can it happen? I’ll never tell…
So, hey — let’s be honest — this is a “stick to it if you feel like it” kind of menu because this week is ALL ABOUT THANKSGIVING. I just looked at my fridge inventory and figured out some meals I could make if necessary…but there will probably be some take out eating and some leftover eating.
Lunch: Chicken Vegetable Soup — this is some protein mixed with all the leftover veggies in my fridge and our entire spice drawer. How’s that for a recipe?
Dinner: Crock Pot Honey Garlic Chicken — Pinterest made me do it + Roasted Carrots + Onions + Salad
Lunch: Taco Salad — because we have A LOT of lettuce in the house right now
Dinner: Grilled Chipotle Chicken Thighs (love affair!) + Roasted Broccoli + Salad
Lunch: Leftovers — mini Must-go (gotta make room for Thanksgiving leftovers, right? If I play my cards right)
Dinner: Take Out — With working out and prepping the food I’m bringing to Thanksgiving the next day, I don’t think I’ll feel like cooking.
Lunch: Light brunch? Leftovers? Nothing? We’ll play it by ear.
Dinner: Grilled Chicken Salads — Light! It’s all about light!
What’s cooking in your neck of the woods? Have you posted your Thanksgiving menu? If so, leave me a link!
Don’t worry, I’m going to buy The Hunger Games this weekend too. Garrett and I have decided that is going to be the next book we read together so we can see the movie when it comes out. He’s getting the audiobook from the library but the hold list is way too long for the paperback so I’m heading to Costco to FINALLY pick it up.
It’s a perfect day for reading around here. It’s crisp and cool outside but I’ve got a huge cup of hot chocolate and I’m heading out to sit in the sun and get a little Vitamin D. A good friend is coming over for dinner, my house smells like brisket, I get to pick out a new book — it’s turning into a pretty nice Saturday.
Garrett and I are celebrating our 6 year anniversary today. And as two people who do not count “gifts” as their love language AT ALL we will probably do something lame like go out to dinner at restaurant where we have a coupon and then come home and watch Beavis and Butthead on the DVR. I kind of can’t wait — it will be epic, I’m sure.
I am not going to show you lots of photos of us in love. Though I did slap up some funny photos of us last year on this date, so if that’s your bag, head on over. I’m not going to tell you how I think it is fate that we are together because I’m pretty sure I’ve told you that story once before. Yep, here it is. (Apparently this post is getting linktastic!) Instead I thought I would tell you some things that I love about Garrett that you might not know, because who doesn’t love a list? And I always like to hear this from my own friends — what is it about your main squeeze that makes you love them? So here goes.
I love Garrett because:
*He fixes things when they break. Like all things. Like there is not one thing he doesn’t know how to fix. I can’t even bring myself to fix a cocktail after a long day of work sometimes, so it goes without saying that I find this skill impressive.
*He finishes projects that I start after I get bored. Which, um…happens more than I like to admit. I planted the garden, Garrett watered it. I harvested the vegetables and cooked with them but he pulled all the plants when it was there time. You know what I’m saying here right. (Yes, I’m saying that I am lazy. But he NEVER makes me feel this way)
*He mows the lawn and does the laundry and cleans the toilets and I love him times A MILLION for all those things alone
*He lets me take pictures of him in my sunglasses and put them on the internet because I think it’s funny Garrett is a very private individual and the thought of his business being OUT THERE on THE INTERNET kind of makes him want to break out in hives sometimes. You all, he refuses to even get on Facebook! But he supports all of my passions (including the upkeep and maintenance on this website) and he has become comfortable with the idea that this may mean his face will show up a time or two. In a VERY LARGE size. And I love him for that.
*His sense of humor is very inappropriate. Like VERY inappropriate. Not like rude or asshole-ish but just very dry. His sense of humor is the Sahara effing Dessert. But also, IT IS HYSTERICAL. He just says the funniest things, you all! And half the time I can’t even blog about it because I think someone will not understand, so I don’t. But I am hoping one day The Internet will get to enjoy his silliness. (Get a twitter account, Garrett! *hint hint)
*He looks very cute while playing Baby Whisperer
I mean of course I want to have a family and raise children and all of that nice life-benchmark-y type of stuff. But honestly, there is just an overabundance of excitement when I think not only do I get to do that (hopefully) but I GET TO DO THAT WITH GARRETT! He’s going to be such a good dad!
He’s just the best thing, you guys. I feel happy every day knowing that I get to come home and rehash our days and cook dinner and work out and read books together. My simple little life is just so much better with him (and his cute scruffy beard) in it, and I think my lucky stars daily that I found him!
Yep, it tastes as good as it looks! Even on a paper plate! (Food Blogging Fail…BAHAHAHAH!)
I mentioned on this week and last week’s menu a little recipe for Maple Mustard Chicken Thighs and you all — IT IS A KEEPER!
I’m a super fan of marinades that you can easily make on hand with ingredients you normally have lying around. I’m also a fan of marinades that are man pleasing and delicious. This one satisfies all of the above.
I used chicken thighs because I am having a love affair with them. Have you enjoyed chicken thighs lately? I always thought they were kind of slimy and gross looking, but then I realized — oh wait, that’s ALL CHICKEN! But chicken thighs have the added benefit of holding up wonderfully on the grill because they are so juicy! The outside gets nice and crispy, while the inside stays completely delicious and doesn’t dry out. They are worth trying in this marinade if you haven’t! That said, it would also go lovely with chicken breasts, so never fear if you aren’t feeling adventurous.
Chicken thighs as an adventure? My life is really a Thrill-A-Minute ain’t it?
So I took the original recipe and changed a few things to make it slightly more Paleo friendly (substitutes for refined sugar and tweaked the mustards due to what I had on hand) but the truth is this recipe is a bit of a sweet treat. But the other truth is — it is AWESOME! So use that information for good or for evil!
I love this recipe is best on the grill, but it would also be enjoyable cooked in a pan or baked. I have done both and it’s quite adaptable. Also, it is November, so you know — choose the cooking method that best works for your weather situation!
9-10 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (or 4 Breasts)
1/3 Cup of Stone Ground Mustard
3 TBS Honey
3 TBS Maple Syrup
3 TBS Yellow Mustard
1/4 Onion, grated
1 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp Coconut Aminos (or Soy Sauce if you use that)
1 tsp black pepper
1. Mix up all those ingredients in a little Pyrex. It won’t look glamorous, but it will be good.
2. Marinate your chicken for 2-12 hours. (I’ve even done it the night before I grilled and left it in the fridge. Lazy man marinating!)
3. Before you grill (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) season your chicken with salt. I used probably about 1/2-1 tsp.
4. Grill! (or pan fry, or bake!)
When I grill chicken thighs I generally do it over fairly high heat and do 5 mins with the grill open, 3-5 minutes closed, flip and 5 minutes with the grill open. Depending on the size and thickness of your thighs you may need additional time, but this works pretty flawlessly.
Oh, I forgot Step 5
5. EAT THEM WITH EVERYTHING! Vegetables, salads, cold out of the fridge — it’s all delicious baby!
It’s 1995 and I am about to turn 17 years old. My parents have binders full of SAT information, transcripts and college brochures that they spend their evenings painstakingly organizing after putting in long days running their own business. We are about to embark on a week long trip to tour colleges in southern California. The thought of college paralyzes me.
I am mired in the day to day of my friends, of boys, of high school in general. All of that is already enough. I don’t do my own dishes or cook my own dinner. I have a job and a car payment but I am hardly independent. I avoid thinking about the next stage of my life at every opportunity. I want it all to stay the same so badly — I want to hit the pause button on my life. I want to scream, “WAIT! I’M NOT READY!” But the universe has other plans. The next three years of my life will be full of change. So much change, in fact, that the current life that I am dying to hold on to will almost become unrecognizable at the end. But I don’t know this, and I wait for the next step to unfold.
We pack up the family Suburban — The Urban Assault Vehicle, as my dad calls it — and we head down to Los Angeles. It is sprawling and I hate it. Too much traffic, too many people, too much asphalt. I feel a lump of panic bubble up in my throat just sitting on the 405. I don’t know where I want to end up but I know this isn’t it. Unsurprisingly, I hate UCLA. “It feels like a concrete jungle” I tell my parents. But before we leave Los Angeles we *HAVE* to drive through Brentwood. This is 1995 and my mom has spent the entire summer glued to the television watching every detail of the OJ Simpson trial unfold. She can map out all the streets and routes, she knows the time lines and the key players. She needs to see it in person instead of through the filter of Court TV.
The 10 year old Urban Assault vehicle has no hope of being incognito next to the luxury cars parked in the garages of Rockingham Avenue, and my mom with her camcorder pointed out the front seat window does nothing to help detract from our tourist vibe. Even though I want to roll my eyes because I am 16 and I know it all, and I am OBVIOUSLY way too cool for this, I allow myself to share a giddy laugh with my tiny family, our mouths hanging in awe at all of this opulence and infamy in real life. Though the scenario itself is tragic, the place itself feels a bit magical.
My dad navigates all the streets and our final drive-by includes the last place Ron Goldman was seen alive — the restaurant Mezzaluna. If only he hadn’t left his job to return that pair of sunglasses his story may have had an entirely different ending. I’m struck by the amazing power of one small decision to change the entire course of your life. I wonder if any of my big life decisions even matter at this point, or whether it all just comes down to the ticking clock of fate. When we get home I don’t apply to UCLA.
I end up at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo the fall after I graduate. I take courses in Political Science and work at the Starbucks downtown but good friends are hard to come by and lack of interest in my course work causes my grades to suffer. I am so confused about what to do next but finally during the winter quarter of 1998 I realize I do not want to finish college here. I have no other plans but I just know this isn’t where I want to be anymore, so I tell my parents. You can imagine their delight. I move home in June despite repeated discussions of alternatives because I am stubborn and it just feels right. I’m sure I will convince them it is the right move once I’m back at home. Two months later, however, my dad is gone and no more convincing is needed. The move was a blessing.
I spend the year after his death living with my mom while we piece together a new existence. It never becomes comfortable or familiar, and it certainly no longer feels like home. I don’t know what I want to do but I know I can’t stay in that town and continue to live that life. I am 20 years old and a friend attending UCLA says I should move there and try something new. In August I pack up the pieces of my life and head into Los Angeles with no money, no job and no idea what the hell I’m doing with my life. One day on a long drive alone — something I will do often during my time here — I find myself in Brentwood again. I am suddenly and profoundly aware of the Before and After of my life — a palpable emotion that will become commonplace over the next few years. At the same time that I feel such a huge loss I also feel more at home than I have in a while.
There is a Peet’s Coffee & Tea opening there. It is minutes from my house, I am unemployed and I have experience working for Starbucks. Obviously, I apply. At the last minute I almost don’t go because I figure a job in coffee is not going to pay my bills. The interview goes well and they offer me the job on the spot. The store will open in two weeks and they are not fully staffed — can I start immediately? I drop the bomb about how much money I need to make per hour in order to stay afloat here in this big city and the interviewer actually laughs out loud.
Looking back I can’t blame her, but I am 20 years old and short on life experience, so I think I am doing her a favor. Part of my behavior is ballsy. Part of it comes from a sense of entitlement that I will later feel embarrassed by, but at that point I can’t tell the difference and so I play hard ball about salary. A few phone calls are made and they agree to my magic number. I will tell this story over and over later on in my life as an illustration of the simple magic that sometimes happens when you ask for what you need.
I walk out the door excited about my new job right as a tour bus goes by. Every seat is full and all heads are cranked looking inside of my new place of employment. My face must have had questions marks written all over it because a man walking by gives the store a little head nod.
“This is the old Mezzaluna. They go by at least 10 times a day.”
And in the end, they do.
Day in and day out people will drive by gawking so often that I eventually won’t even notice unless someone points it out. My life has changed so much between the day that I was doing the gawking and now. The novelty of this event and of this place where I work now — even of the famous people who patronize it — will eventually wear off. But in this city and at this job I will begin to build a home. It will be where I begin to build my own life. For so many reasons Brentwood will end up being full of magic. And no one will be more surprised by this than me.
So that pretty much sums up MY WEEK, last week. (Allow myself to introduce…myself???) Anyway — I’m actually looking forward to Monday (I KNOW!) because now that I am back feeling 100% I can’t wait to get back to cooking and working out and generally enjoying life — instead of blowing my nose and fantasizing about crawling back in bed.
Lunch: Leftover Turkey Curry Shepherd’s Pie + Salad. We will eat it until it is gone. We can’t control ourselves.
Dinner: Bacon Wrapped Gorgonzola Stuffed Meatloaf + Sauteed Brussels Sprouts + Cucumber + Tomato Salad
Lunch: Leftover Meatloaf + Salad. We’re rocking the leftovers for lunch this week!
Dinner: TBD Burgers. Not sure what kind yet. Roasted Root Vegetable Salad
Lunch: Maple Mustard Chicken Thighs (again! They were that good!) + Green Beans
Dinner: Paleo Minestrone Soup + Roasted Garlic Broccoli
(Unless we decide to go out and do something fancy — It’s our Anniversary! To Be Determined…)
Lunch: Sauteed Sausage and Carraway Cabbage + Onions. Cabbage is about the LEAST sexy vegetable I can think of, but I could live off this side dish.
Dinner: We may reserve the Anniversary Dinner outing for tonight!
Lunch: Lazy Weekend Brunch!
Dinner: Asian Turkey Satay Burgers with Broccoli Slaw + Sweet Potato Fries + Salad