Welcome!Hey there! I'm Holly. A 40+ year old insurance-nerd wife, mom, beauty lover, and about a million other things in between. This is the place where I share about our lives, what I'm currently loving, books I'm reading, plus-size style, beauty recommendations, health + fitness endeavors and anything else I'm finding interesting at the moment. Thanks for stopping by!
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Category Archives: Food
I am slowly emerging from a serious food rut.
AND THEN WE HAD A BABY.
I did well stocking my freezer before he came, and we literally ate for months from only our freezer, meal delivery, and the generosity of friends. And right about the time we emptied the freezer, I went back to work – which meant we mostly just ate a lot more takeout. Do you know how quickly take out gets old? For a while, the thought of Chipotle made me actually gag a little. And I used to LOVE CHIPOTLE! But you can only have so much.
We slowly began to add in convenience proteins — rotisserie chickens, Costco pulled pork (YUM!), etc. But we were still just kind of slapping food together. We relied a lot on bagged salads and frozen vegetables, and ate lots of things that we had spent years avoiding because they were easy: pasta, frozen pizza, you know the drill.
It was survival times around our house, and HEY LOOK — we survived! Sweet. But also about 6 months ago we both had a little come to Jesus meeting in our kitchen and said “We have to get meals under control here.”
I’m not quite sure what “Under Control” means just yet. We aren’t adhering to any particular diet, we don’t really have any specific “food goals” (that sounds weird but I think you guys know what I’m saying) and hell yes we still have frozen pizzas in our freezer and I AM NOT AFRAID TO USE THEM. 🙂 But we are being more mindful about homemade food, and trying to stick to a protein/veggie format that we both know and love. And hopefully our eating habits will improve from here.
All that said, I thought I’d share a few recipes that have made it into our rotation. These are meals that were relatively easy to fit into our lives with a kid, commutes, full time jobs outside the home, and limited time to prep.
PaleOMG: Instant Pot Creamy Gnocchi Soup – I’ve had an instant pot for almost two years, but only recently have I begun to embrace it. This uses Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi (which is LIFE! yum yum yum) and can be customized with other veg/meat combos as you see fit. It’s a great recipe by itself, or a template for quick soup.
If you also love TJ’s Cauliflower Gnocchi (or maybe more importantly if you DON’T,) Iowa Girl Eats just posted a great primer on some recipes worth trying that completely eschew the TJ’s cooking instructions. (The instructions are awful! Nom Nom Paleo also has a great Instagram PSA that helps.)
Skinnytaste: Slow Cooker Banh Mi Rice Bowls – The flavor of this recipe is an 11 out of 10. OMG. I am a person who loves “Bowl Dinners” and I also love anything with lots of “toppings” and this recipe includes both of these things. It’s also a Slow Cooker recipe, so I enjoy the hands off time. Throw the ingredients in, make your pickled carrots, chop up the other toppings, and then forget about it for a few hours. It’s good over rice/cauliflower rice/ even quinoa is pretty good. Garrett is a huge fan of Asian flavors, so I can always talk him into experimenting with new recipes like this. So complex and flavorful for very little effort. That’s my love language right now when it comes to food.
Eat Yourself Skinny: One Skillet Cashew Chicken Stir Fry – My other love language? ONE SKILLET/POT MEALS! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAS. Dishes are so overrated. Ugh. This recipe is one that I make with only a slight alteration, and that is adding more heat. It’s a very rich and creamy dish, but seriously so tasty. To me, a little spice cuts through the richness. I’ve been just adding red pepper flakes, but I recently tried adding a little bit of Yai’s Thai Chili Garlic Hot Sauce. Flavor was amazing, but the heat was off the charts, so use sparingly! Have you tried any of the Yai’s Thai Sauces? Their curry sauces are THE BOMB, and all their hot sauce bottles are fun and flavorful too. I haven’t tried the Thai Almond Sauce but it’s on my list. The ingredients are all super clean (I think all their products are Whole 30 approved?) but mostly importantly, they taste GREAT!
The Recipe Critic: Cajun Shrimp Sausage and Vegetable Sheet Pan – Have I mentioned that I am so happy that I had a child during the time when “Sheet Pan Meals” became a full on food trend. This has saved my bacon, more times than I can count. I love shrimp as a quick protein, and like Garrett is a sucker for Asian flavors, I usually love anything Cajun, so this recipe always delivers. So easy, it almost feels criminal.
So that’s a little peek into what’s happening around our kitchen these days. What go-to recipes are you all making? I want to get my kitchen mojo back this year SOMETHING FIERCE, so I am very much open to suggestion!
Is it weird that this hand-me-down grill from my mom has brought my kitchen mojo back in a major way? I’m not exaggerating when I say we are using it at least 5 nights a week. NUTS. I wasn’t joking when I said that grill is my happy place!
Some of my favorite things to grill lately:
*Trader Joe’s Uncured All Beef Hot Dogs – Holy Crap you guys, these are the best hot dogs ever, hands down, end of story.
Speaking of Trader Joe’s – have you hopped on the frozen cauli rice craze yet? Our TJ’s has been sold out of it for weeks, and last night when I stopped in for some other groceries I spied the (tiny) bags in the freezer section and snatched up a few. I’m excited to see if it’s #worththehype
*Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip — OMG, tri tip in the oven is good, but tri-tip on the grill is WHERE IT’S AT! That rub recipe is just a great, classic seasoning to have on hand. It’s good on anything you want to grill.
*Grilled Salad – If you haven’t ever grilled your salad, it’s just one of those things you’ve got to try. It’s so fun, and tasty!
Anyway, that’s what we’ve been grubbing on. I am not unhappy about it. It’s amazing how easy it is to just enjoy meat + veg in the summer time. The abundance of produce, the smell of the grill — I’ve been looking forward to cooking dinner just about every night.
And not to jinx it, but I may have gotten a little workout mojo back. I’ve worked out 5+ times in the last 3 weeks, and am on track to do the same this week. My sanity stays in tact so much more regularly when I am up and working out every morning.
I don’t know if it is the time of day, or if it is just the regularity of a consistent routine, but the other day Garrett told me that all this exercise has made me visibly mellowed. Ha! I think sometimes when I’m not in a good workout routine I start to act like a caged animal. (Don’t you wish you lived with me? heh 😛 I’m really selling it here.)
I know it’s kind of weird to call fitness a hobby, but man — I just really enjoy spending time getting stronger, and healthier. Call me crazy, but the pursuit of those things actually makes me happier. I need to start treating my fitness like I treat my career.
Tangentially related (and still a little stuck in my craw) – I thought this article called “Let’s Stop Calling Weight Loss A Journey” was really thought provoking. Especially this part:
Still, I swore I’d never “let myself” get fat again. Like many people in our culture, I’d always regarded people who gained back the weight they’d lost as failures. After all, people who successfully lose weight are supposed to have made “permanent lifestyle changes” — which is a weight loss cliché, because it’s what we all claim we’re making when we embark on a diet. It’s what we all really believe we’re making. In reality, new exercise habits and subtle palate changes developed during a course of deliberate weight loss might last a lifetime (hooray!), but few among us can continue eating a highly restrictive diet — whether said restriction is focused on calories, carbs, fat, or whatever else is fashionable at the moment — for the rest of our natural lives.
After a couple of years, I started realizing I might not have as much choice in the matter as I imagined. The pounds started coming back, not because I sat on the couch eating cheeseburgers all day, but because I’d allowed myself to focus on things like my career and relationships instead of obsessing about my body all the time. I blamed myself for the regain, but I also didn’t seem to have the power to stop it.
Anyway, this topic is so interesting to me as someone who has lost weight and gained a lot of it back. I haven’t processed all my thoughts on the topic, or on this article, but I did find myself nodding through quite a bit of it and it has definitely struck a chord.
I’m just going to leave that link right here if you’re interested.
The first week of Whole 30 I just went with a basic frittata. Frittatas are easy, portable (which is great during the work week), and can pack an awesome flavor/nutrient punch depending on what you put in them. This week I made mine with chorizo, onions, kale, black olives and spices. I thought I had the perfect combo and was totally excited to make it, then I popped it in the oven and promptly FORGOT TO SET THE TIMER.
More than an hour later Garrett asked me why the oven was on and I almost started crying! All of that work! All of those ingredients! Overcooked and unusable! (I am skeeved out by overcooked eggs.) But it turns out, this frittata might even taste BETTER overcooked. The kale edges got super crispy, and overall it was awesome!
I’ve been on a little bit of a chorizo kick lately (clearly) and so I decided to try my hand a deconstructed Jambalaya. Shrimp and spices cooked in ghee mixed with chorizo and served over cauliflower dirty rice. IT WAS GREAT! So great we had it again a couple nights later. 🙂
There has also been taco salad because OF COURSE THERE’S BEEN TACO SALAD. This is me we are talking about. Can’t Stop/Won’t Stop.
One of my favorite things I’ve been eating though has been tuna salad with pepper “chips.” I really like crunch with my tuna and sometimes celery isn’t enough. My favorite thing to have with tuna is some tamari rice crackers but obviously those are off limits. Desperate for MOAR CRUNCH the other day, I grabbed a pepper and sliced it into scoops. Totally worked!
And that’s most of the highlights!
*We’re doing a February Whole 30. I know I told you that in the title, but you know — I thought I’d just reiterate for clarity. 🙂
*Well, a Whole 30+. We are going to start in February and go until March 9. What is March 9, you ask? Our engagement photos. And the second we set the date Garrett was like “Hey, let’s Whole 30!” ha! He says he feels chubby. He is NOT chubby.
*Upside though, is I like the idea of feeling bright eyed and being clear skinned in those photos and all, so I agreed. Knowing my luck I’ll still wake up the day of with a giant, visible blemish.
*Sidebar: Do you think there is a wedding planning gene? If so, mine clearly has a mutation. My mom said to me the other day that this wedding I am planning almost seemed like a second job. And YES, MOTHER YOU ARE CORRECT! It totally is! Except instead of getting paid I get to PAY OTHER PEOPLE. #grumble
*So, I know there are people out there who use Whole 30 as a diet (ahem, Garrett – YOU’RE BUSTED!) which is all controversial and stuff, but I promise you I am not doing that. What I am making no secret of doing though, is using the Whole 30 as a budgeting tool. We always spend SO MUCH LESS on groceries when we do a Whole 30 and since groceries are one of our biggest expenses it’s always something that shows a noticeable return. After making deposits on all sorts of wedding related crap and a MUCHO EXPENSIVO trip to the vet with Buster, February seemed like a GREAT time to just Whole 30 that shit up! YAY. More money to spend on a wedding! #grumblegrumble
*Tangentially related: I’m thinking about jumping on the What I Ate Wednesday bandwagon. I actually don’t think it is a bandwagon at all, but you know what I mean — sharing some everyday photos of what I’ve been eating. I like the idea for accountability (this is where people who don’t blog are like — YOU TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR FOOD? whut? WHY?) But also to inspire a little creativity in the kitchen.
*Oh! Oh! And this is my other reason for doing a Whole 30 — I find when I have parameters to work within, I am SO MUCH MORE creative. This makes me sound RULL SQUARE. But alas, it is true! Right now I’m in a bit of a cooking rut. We’re having good meals, but I’m not like, excited or jazzed about too many of them. It’s just kind of the Greatest Hits on repeat. I am someone who likes cooking to be a creative outlet and usually when I do a Whole 30 I get jazz-hands-obnoxious about recipes and trying new things. Also there’s the added bonus that about 15 days in even super boring/plain food tastes AMAZEBALLS (yeah, I just used that word) because my taste buds are back to normal.
*But let’s be honest, some weeks it is hard enough for me to even just get here and post bullet pointed lists of my thoughts. So to remember to be creative in the kitchen, take pictures and post them once a week may be a tad ambitious. We shall see.
Anyone else doing a February Whole 30?
Before I get into THE AFTERMATH (and yes, it deserves all caps) or talk about some of the good coffee replacements I’ve found, I just wanted to make a quick disclaimer about yesterday’s post: I don’t thinking giving up caffeine is necessary for everyone. Coffee lovers out there, fret not 🙂 I wasn’t trying to be alarmist and I don’t think drinking it makes you inherently unhealthier, but like most things — it all depends on what’s going on with YOUR body. Mine was not at all happy with it, so I stopped, and this is only my experience. Your mileage may vary.
So quitting coffee: I want to tell you it was no big deal, that I just swapped in some good herbal teas and all was well, but honestly the only way I can explain it is to say it was A DARK TIME. I have literally never felt so exhausted and depressed and I completely doubted why I was doing this. I remember having a conversation with my nutritionist fairly early on, totally pissed off and accusatory, and telling her that I didn’t think things were going to work — I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to make this change or if subjecting myself to such a shitty quality of life was worth it. I was DRAMATIC, y’all, and really not myself. And I felt a little freaked out. Like, life would forever be awful and exhausting and WAAAAAAH LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING WITHOUT COFFEE.
She reminded me that the body is always sending us signals and my test results (which I oversimplified in yesterday’s post) were clearly showing that my adrenals were taxed which was causing all sorts of other downstream problems. What I felt in those first couple of days was just how bad my caffeine habit was masking the signals my body was sending. Shortly after I started my adrenal protocol it felt like I was coming out of the dark. Little by little I am feeling better and I am feeling more clued into my body’s signals but I don’t think I would have kicked the habit if I didn’t have the encouragement and guidance of a “coach.” Those first few days were rough and I’m not sure I would have persisted without her promises that things would get better. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.
In the meantime though, I needed a stand in. While I enjoyed the stimulant effects, I wasn’t only drinking coffee for the caffeine. Anyone who drinks it knows that it’s a comforting ritual and you can’t just substitute any old hot drink in a cup. I’ve done a lot of experimenting with herbal teas (Not all are not created equal!) and most of them don’t have the same robustness as coffee so you have to make sure you find ones that have a flavor that you like or give you an experience that replicates the comfort and decadence of that morning cup. Here are a couple I have really come to enjoy:
1) Yogi Tea Decaf Green Tea Kombucha
This is a mild green tea that is not at all grassy and it as a really delicious! There is a lemongrass and plum-like flavor that is just so freaking tasty I can drink it all day. DELISH!
2)Teecino Dandelion Caramel Nut Coffee Alternative “Tee Bag”
This is a fun substitute if you like a latte or a flavored coffee drink. While it’s great on it’s own, I’ve also found it to be a good base for a fun frou frou drink. Here’s a great recipe I’ve made, but you could easily just add a little cream and a few drops of stevia and it tastes SUPAH FANCY!
3)Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Herbal Tea
Seriously run, DO NOT WALK, and pick up as many boxes of this as you can fit in your cart! Cinnamon, ginger, hibiscus, chamomile, chicory, orange peel and apple. It is autumn in a cup and it is AH-MAY-ZING!
4)Teavana Caramel Chai Rooibos
This is more of a dessert tea in my opinion, but it is so sweet, spicy and indulgent it had to make the list!
5)David’s Tea Earl Grey Rooibos with Bergamot Oil
Strong, citrusy and with a little kick. This really tastes like TEA and not watered down herbs. LOVE!
Honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. My herbal tea collection has grown and I don’t feel like my days lack a fun or comforting cup. I hope some day I can go back to enjoying coffee here and there in a more responsible way when my body is more in balance but right now it’s not in the cards so I’m doing what I can to make the best of my beverages. And it turns out, they’re still pretty tasty!
Ten weeks ago I stopped drinking coffee.
Just like that.
One day I had a cup and the next day I didn’t. The day after that I just kept telling myself don’t break the chain and now here it is three months later.
The only way I can think to describe the whole process is that it was as unceremonious as it was dramatic. Some of you will read that I’ve quit coffee and think “Oh cool” and some of you will probably feel The Panic creep up into your throat just considering what it would take to give up that morning cup. I was firmly in the latter camp, proclaiming that you would have to pry my coffee cup from my cold, dead hand — never being willing to deal with the consequences — and yet here we are.
The consequences are probably a good place to start since the most asked question I have gotten when mentioning that I’m no longer drinking coffee is a wide eyed “Why the hell would you want to do that?” Well, I got to a point where the consequences were outweighing the benefits — which in my experience is really the only reason anyone ever changes a behavior.
I mentioned that about 4 months ago I began seeing a Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist Practitioner. That is a lot of fancy words, right? What it means in real life is that I hired someone who could help me in a coaching capacity to help me tailor my diet and exercise to my body’s own needs. When I say coaching I don’t mean in a “Rah Rah! GO TEAM!” kind of way, but basically I wanted to work with someone on a regular basis who was a knowledgeable nutrition professional who could look at my individual situation at this particular time in my life and help design a nutrition and lifestyle protocol that would help me give my body the tools it needs to get me back on track to health.
Whoa that sounded pretty hippy dippy. But that basically sums it up. No way to de-hipp-ify that. Guess it is what it is. 🙂
The truth is my body has gone through a lot in the past few years. I’ve changed the way I eat, I’ve dropped a lot of weight, I took on a super stressful job change, I had lots of stressful life events go on, I’ve re-gained some weight and in the meantime life has gone on. Not a lot of homeostasis here on the health front, ya know? I have learned a lot about who I am and how how I deal with stress and how that affects my body. Some of the consequences of my poor stress management had me backsliding down this health hill that I worked so hard to get to the top of. Hiring this nutritionist was a tool that I really hoped could help me get back up on my feet again and start climbing.
To get a baseline she ran a battery of tests that I will probably talk about in another post but there were two major results that led me to kick my caffeine habit pretty quickly. The first: I was dealing with Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue. (More good info about all of that here, here and here if you are interested in taking a deeper dive.) I have so much to say about adrenal fatigue, but I can probably sum it up by saying: If you are a person who is ever tired, anxious, depressed or having hormone issues it is worth looking into.
So I was basically firing on all cylinders with no gas in the tank. Wait — am I trying to use a car analogy here. That is a terrible idea. I know nothing about cars. The bottom line is, I was artificially elevating my cortisol levels with coffee and this wasn’t helping solve the problem. In fact, it was probably contributing to it at that point. My nutritionist recommended that I cut out the caffeine so we could really get a baseline for how my body was functioning without all this artificially elevated cortisol, but I wasn’t on board at first. (Can ya blame me? LOL I mean frankly I was a little scared.) I sat on the idea for a week or so and then I got some more tests back.
The second motivator, and really what pushed me over the edge to just really deal with the consequences of life with no caffeine, was getting the results of a food sensitivities test. It was lots of good information and thankfully it wasn’t only bad news – I found out that me and dairy really get along quite well! GREEN LIGHT! WOOT! (Well except for cottage cheese, but really there’s no love loss there) But on the list of foods that were causing me some serious inflammatory response (RED LIGHT!) was among other things caffeine (in any form) and coffee (regular and/or decaf.) I was paying all of this money to have a professional take a serious, personalized interest in my specific symptoms, so how could I keep turning my nose up at the idea of removing one of the most obvious speed bumps in my pursuit to health.
UGH. THE TRUTH HURTS.
The day I got all of that info that I decided I was just going to have to give it a go and quit coffee. This post has gotten crazy long and I wasn’t really anticipating that so I think maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about the aftermath of getting rid of my daily cup of Joe and some of the awesome replacements I’ve found that keep me from feeling completely deprived. Sound good? Ok, great. Let’s do this again tomorrow. 🙂
I asked for book recommendations the other day and you guys totally came through. Thank you! So much good fodder for my library hold list! My To Be Read list is super long right now but my library queue was low. Then the other day I stopped by and there was a jackpot of awesome material available for checking out. I love when that happens! Here are a few that came home with me:
*Paris: The Novel by Edward Rutherford — I was thumbing through an old issue of People Magazine and Tim McGraw said this was the best book he read all year. Random, yes? Did I totally add it to my library hold list? Also yes.
*Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without A Date by Katie Heaney — I keep hearing rumblings about this book and it was on the New Books shelf the other day so it came home with me. I always love a good story about a late bloomer. This could go so many ways.
I’ve also been having fun scouring Pinterest for new recipes to try — I always find it exciting when I feel inspired to cook! I’m also have a bit of a Pork Moment (that sounded weird, but I can’t think of another way to describe it. Also, PORK HAS BEEN ON SALE, so there.)
Here are some of the recipes that have piqued my interest
*Pork Chili Verde — Because I love just about anything with Pork and Verde in the title. GUARANTEED.
*Sticky Balsamic Ribs — I’m intrigued by the balsamic addition, and also I LOVE LOVE LOVE cooking ribs low and slow on a cold, rainy day. It’s perfection!
*Southwest Chorizo Burgers — Chorizo is my love language, hands down. And I’m looking for the perfect flavored burger in which to incorporate it. I hope this is it (though I don’t have any venison, so I’ll definitely be using Grass Fed Beef.) Confession: I have a giant bag of sweet potato tots (TOTS!!!!) in my freezer so I’m thinking the two might be a match made in heaven.
It’s supposed to rain over the next week so I’ll give you one guess as to what I’ll be doing! I anticipate lots of Instagram food photos. You’ve been warned. 🙂 You cooking or reading anything fun?