Category Archives: 2016 Novel Goals

Whole30 – Week Two

Previous Healthy Eating Post: Whole30 РTake Four

Novel Attitude: Pre-prepared food is critical to Whole30 success.

I’m into my second week of the Whole30, and I have to be honest – there have been slip-ups. Some on “accident”, and some due to loss of will power. A big challenge for me is eating with friends. They all are extremely understanding of my desire to eat healthy, but my will power lessens exponentially when I am eating with others. It may be some sort of subconscious form of peer pressure that I create in my head, or it may purely be temptation to eat cheese curds or dessert. Overall, I still consider myself to be on the Whole30, but the true Whole30 book does not allow for any “cheating”. Personally, the fact that I have had a couple of slip-ups and still returned back to Whole30 eating is a huge positive. Previously when trying to diet, the second I cheat, I give up entirely and make several poor eating choices in a row.

I think another contributor to my slip-ups this week is I limited the variety of protein eaten during the first week. While I made several types of chicken dressings, I still ate chicken for nearly every dinner. This week I did try to expand my repotoire with salmon and pork.

Thin-Cut Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions

Huge plus with this recipe is portion control. Those five thin-cut pork chops were only .59 pounds, so even eating three of them is within one serving. It’s a good way to trick the body into eating more for less.

I replaced the butter with olive oil in this recipe, and it still turned out really well. I would definitely recommend cooking more onion than what the recipe calls for because they are super yummy. I also was challenged a bit with caramelizing the carrots; I ended up steaming them more than caramelizing. Any suggestions on how to caramelize carrots in a lower calorie way than using sugar?

Pork Chops 1

Carrots 1

Onions 1

Pork Chops 2

Baked Cilantro-Lime Salmon

Unfortunately, I did not record the official recipe I used, but this turned out wonderfully. I still have a ton of fresh cilantro leftover from a week or two ago, so I continue to incorporate it into my cooking. I also threw in the fresh parsley.

I’m a big fan of broiling salmon for a little teensy bit of crunch, especially when there is a marinade or seasoning on top. I threw this salmon into the high temperature broiler for a couple of minutes. I monitored this extremely closely as I have a higher burn rate than success rate with broiling. ūüôā

I put seasonings (black pepper, sea salt, red pepper flakes, onion powder, and garlic powder) on the salmon first, and then brushed on an olive oil, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and parsley marinade.

Salmon2

salmon 3

Uncooked and already looking good!

salmon 4

After baking, pair the salmon with some steamed broccoli, and you’ve got quite the hearty dish.

Pork Roast with Dijon Glaze

Two of my good friends came over for dinner tonight, so I decided to make pork tenderloin. Not only are pork tenderloins relatively inexpensive to purchase, but they are also pretty easy to cook. For dinner parties I love baking because you can time it, so your guests arrive a little bit before the dinner is finished cooking. This ensures a hot meal for the guests.

I was a little surprised with this recipe because it called for both a rub and a glaze. I think the glaze helped seal in the seasonings from the rub. In my next rendition, I probably will go a touch lighter on the cumin and coriander than what the recipe calls for. It was just a teensy bit overbearing. Otherwise, the flavors really accentuated the natural tenderness of the meat.

Pork Roast 1

After baking the pork for 30 minutes, I glazed them. This picture is top roast with only the rub, and bottom roast also with the brushed dijon glaze.

Pork 2

I wanted some heavier veggies for the pork, so I pan-fried carrots and cauliflower – a delicious concoction my boyfriend discovered a couple months ago. In this picture, you also see one of our new CutCo knives on display. More to come on our trial month with the fancy new knives! So far, so great! ūüôā

Second Week Attitudes

I’m pleased with discovering the deliciousness of “healthy” foods. It helps me not to miss the unhealthy junk food (like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos) as much as I have on other diets. It’s fairly taxing having to cook or plan out every meal, so I’m hoping to be able to do a little more pre-cooking for several meals than what I currently have paced out. Some people mention physical relief such as decreased swelling in joints and disappearance of aches and pains. Unfortunately, I cannot report any changes here. However, I may be sleeping better than before, so I’ll continue monitoring that.

All in all, I really like the Whole30 concept and think it’s a manageable lifestyle to incorporate into most meals. Once I’m done with the 30 days, I hope I can keep up the paleo-istic tendencies¬†for majority of my diet while also allowing the occasional cheat. As long as it’s in moderation, I think that’s necessary!

Do you have a “healthy” cheat food to recommend? ūüôā

Whole30 – Take Four

Previous Healthy Eating Post (1/8/2016): Kimmy tries more cooking

Novel Attitude: Retrying the 30 day food experiment Whole30

I felt inspired after trying three new recipes in my last post. Not only do I want to continue cooking with a larger variety of spices and protein, I also want to cook healthy meals that are also delicious. I love food in general, both healthy and unhealthy. I’ve been enjoying the healthy meals so much, I think there is a lot of room to explore tricking myself into replacing unhealthy foods with healthy ones.

Two years ago in January 2014, ¬†I read The Whole30¬†kindle book and tried this experiment on myself for the first time. I’ve written about The Whole30 in a few posts:¬†Summer Solstice Reflections, Cooking Up a Swim, and¬†Blazing Saddles. I am a big believer in the concept. ¬†Essentially, for thirty days, you eat extremely “clean”, which means very low processed carbs, no dairy, no alcohol,¬†no beans, and no sweeteners. After thirty days, slowly reintroduce the missing food groups back into your diet to understand specifically how your body responds to each food group. ¬†For instance, do you have an upset stomach as you add dairy back in? If yes, then maybe this is a food group that you should be limiting anyways. Do you have long-lasting energy after eating beans? Great! Then, maybe this is a food group that can have a little more of a presence in your weekly diet.

When I first tried eating clean for 30 days, I had days where it was no problem at all and days where I felt so deprived, I ate everything acceptable I could under the sun because of that feeling of deprivation. Ultimately, I did end up losing about 10 pounds (which I gained, lost, and re-gained periodically over the next two years). I didn’t stay true to the philosophy of the Whole30 because on the 31st day, I ate a big bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and reverted back to not-so-great habits.

This January, I will complete¬†the Whole30 again and chronicle the ups and downs. I started the Whole30 on Monday, January 11. This seemed like the best decision not only for me but also for the blog. I’ve mentioned the Whole30 to quite a few friends, and I know others are interested in how it works and how it goes. You may be questioning why I called this post “Whole 30 – Take Four”. On at least two other occasions, I have attempted the clean eating and broken down after a week or two. I’m happy to report that I have not given up on this fourth trial!

First Week Attitudes

All in all, I don’t really consider the Whole30 to be a “diet”. For the most part, I really don’t feel too deprived. If I’m writing completely honestly, I miss cheese even more than I miss wine! There are a few key adjustments I made to successfully incorporate this new lifestyle:

  • Prepare lunch every day or have a plan to eat a healthy lunch out
  • Bring oranges and bananas to work. I’d rather not snack, but I need to have something available when I do
  • Use almond milk for coffee and tea instead of diary milk
  • When I am feeling deprived, eat a nice, juicy steak
  • Nuts are good to have on hand as a sweet and salty snack as well. They’re no Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or chocolate bars, but they’ll give me an energy boost and a full stomach
  • Avocados are fair game always. I’ve already made such strides in portion control over the past year that I no longer feel the need to eat more than a quarter of an avocado at a time.

Toward the end of the week, I did start to notice the huge lack of sugar in my diet and felt quite hungry all day on Friday. I think this may partly be due to eating mostly chicken as the protein in each meal. This was eye-opening. I eat a lot of chicken because it’s cheap and easy to cook, but it is important to diversify for my health and my cooking education. Yesterday, at the store I bought thin-cut pork chops and salmon. I’m hoping the diversity helps me stay satisfied longer and curb my cravings.

I’ve got about 23 days left in this Whole30 journey. I’m feeling pretty confident I can maintain my commitment, especially since I’ve gone public with it! I’ll continue writing about how the process goes over the next 23 days. Only 24 more days to go until my big glass of wine…

Kimmy tries more cooking

Previous Healthy Eating post (10/31/2015): Not Your Standard Cupcakes

I’ve been on a bit of a cooking streak lately, and I’m finally seeing some improvement with my meals! I’ve been researching more on proper techniques, and it’s paying off. I’m no longer concerned about serving edible food for other people! ūüėČ

Novel Cooking with Split Pea and Ham Soup

For Christmas, we bought the typical pre-cooked spiral ham.¬†Reminiscing on past Christmases with my mom cooking, the main reason I wanted a ham was to¬†turn the leftovers into split pea and ham soup! My boyfriend and I managed to make it to the grocery store with two minutes to spare on Christmas Eve and picked out a ten pound bone-in ham for only 30 bucks! I checked a few specialty butcher shops prior, and they were going for as much as $15 a pound. Honestly, our ham tasted wonderful, and I’m okay knowing I got 8 extra pounds’ worth for the same price!

I based my soup recipe from a combination of the veggies I had available in my fridge, a slew of online suggestions, and my mom’s advice.¬†Not only was it delicious, but it was boyfriend-approved! I included the following ingredients: two bags of dried split peas, chicken stock, water, ham bone, cut up ham, carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, and spices to taste. Use about 3-4 cups water for each dry cup of split peas, and throw in some starchy veggies!

Lessons learned:

  1. Boil down the ham bone first, so you can easily pull apart extra meat from the bone and add to soup later.
  2. Don’t worry about having too many veggies. At first it seems like your ratio is way off, but once the peas absorb all of the water, even a large amount of veggies seems rather small.
  3. Add some fresh ham to the soup each time you reheat it (suggestion from Mom).
Mm-mm-good! Split Pea Soup.
Mm-mm-good! Split Pea Soup.
Novel Cooking with Lemon-Parsley Chicken

What do you do when you’re craving Giada de Laurentiis’s Lemon-Basil Chicken, yet¬†the drought in California caused a basil shortage (or so the store clerk says)? You turn to Martha Stewart! I tell ya, the woman may be an insider-trading crook, but she’s a great cook. I followed recipe nearly exactly for Martha Stewart’s Easy Roasted Chicken Thigh recipe.

I was incredibly pleased with this recipe, and I learned a great way to bake thighs! First, you create an olive oil, lemon juice, mixed seasoning marinade. I added chopped parsley as well.

Marinating Lemon Chicken
Marinating Lemon Chicken

After letting the marinade set for a bit, roast the chicken first skin side down for 20 minutes. Then, flip the thighs over and roast skin side up for 10 minutes. Is there actually a difference between baking and roasting? These are the knowledge tidbits about which I am not as keen РI simply used a regular baking sheet.

Mix a dijon mustard and honey glaze and brush it on the chicken. Then, broil for a few minutes to make them crispy. I love broiling for crispy skins! A year ago, I had never broiled before, and now it’s one of my favorite methods for crisping or cooking all different kinds of food.

Roasted lemon chicken with steamed broccoli and carrots
Roasted lemon chicken with steamed broccoli and carrots

Lessons Learned

  1. Try to plan ahead, so you can let the chicken marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Find a better container than the bowl for marinating. Any suggestions? Plastic bag or tupperware, maybe?
Novel Cooking with Cilantro-Lime Chicken

This next recipe is perhaps the best dinner I’ve cooked yet, or at least in a while. The funniest part is that my boyfriend ended up going to dinner with a friend, so he didn’t even get to try it! All for me – yum ūüôā

I had given up avocados for a while because we’re in a love-hate relationship. I think avocados are divine, and I am aware that they are popularly considered a “healthy” fat. However, we’ve discussed my moderation issues before…Having an avocado or two a day is definitely beyond the moderation point! After giving up avocados for a few months, I had a real craving for them the other day and discovered this Cilantro-Lime Chicken recipe.

First, mix up the marinade: cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and I added more parsley and garlic powder. I always use parsley in recipes whenever I buy it because it’s dirt cheap and SO MUCH PARSLEY. It always ends up going bad! I also do not believe there is such a thing as too much garlic. Vampires, beware!

Cilantro marinade
Cilantro marinade

Next, soak the chicken in the marinade.

Chicken marinating in cilantro and parsley spices
Chicken marinating in cilantro and parsley spices

Throw the chicken in the oven. I cooked it exactly the same way as the previous recipe – bake, flip and bake, broil. While it’s cooking, mix up some onion, tomatoes, lime juice, and avocado.

Avocado salsa - I don't think there's enough avocado to justify this as guacamole.
Avocado salsa – I don’t think there’s enough avocado to justify this as guacamole.

To finish everything, I laid the chicken and salsa on a bed of spinach and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Bon appetit!

Voila! It tasted as good as it looks. YUM!
Voila! It tasted as good as it looks. YUM!

Lesson Learned

  1. Don’t cut the avocado and tomatoes as small as I did. The texture would be better with slightly larger chunks.

If you end up trying out any of these recipes, please comment below to let me know how your concoctions turn out! I’m always interested in more healthy recipes (especially low-carb and low-dairy), so please share!

At It Again

Most Recent DIY Nightstand Post (9/27/15): Nightstand РFinal Class

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the last time I worked on my nightstand was probably in early November, and the class ended in late September. It’s been nearly complete for a few months now, and I lost the drive to finish it! Over the holidays, I found¬†renewed vigor (thank you New Year’s Resolutions!) and spent a few hours on it on Saturday and Sunday. Plus, my boyfriend and I randomly stopped by an Amish furniture store on Saturday, and the wooden furniture was¬†absolutely exquisite. The best part for me besides fantasizing about one day making masterpieces was that I could find imperfections in even professional-grade work! $2000 tables had minor gaps between the wooden boards, and they were still beautiful and well-crafted. I’ve been told by multiple woodworkers that majority of woodworking is figuring out how to adapt when cuts or joins or designs go unexpectedly throughout a project. It combines creativity, engineering, and experience, and I love that I’m entering into a world where imperfections can be the best parts of of a product. I’m going to need a few more projects before my final product only has minor imperfections in it, but my nightstand tells my story. It will be proudly displayed and used in my new home.

It’s amazing the satisfaction I receive after working on my nightstand, especially now in the finishing stages. It actually doesn’t look too different from the last picture I posted because the updates I’ve made have been minor. Yet, I know the amount of work that goes into even making the smallest tweak.

In about five to six hours of total work, I finished glueing on the front pieces and sanding the top of the nightstand. I took before and after photos of the nightstand top, and I think it’s pretty remarkable the difference sanding makes! I used a belt sander to get the roughness out of the wood and smooth over the separate boards (if you can recall, we cut a large piece of wood and reformed pieces with glue and biscuit joining to create the sides and top).

BELT SANDER
belt sander
Belt sander after about an hour and a half of use. We’ll need to replace the belt soon!
BEFORE
The top of my nightstand before sanding. You can clearly see the individual boards, lots of dried glue, and even some residual paper that was accidentally glued on.
The top of my nightstand before sanding. You can clearly see the individual boards, lots of dried glue, and even some residual paper that was accidentally glued on.
AFTER
belt sander
Believe it or not, this is the same top! The wooden boards blend much more nicely together, and you cannot really see any residual glue. If you look closely enough, you can see some scarring from the belt sander. This occurred if I sanded over one spot too much compared to another or was holding the belt sander unevenly.
I thought I'd add one more after photo of me! Sanding is a messy task! Definitely make sure you wear goggles and a ventilation mask. The breathing was fine for me, but I got the occasional sawdust in my eye.
I thought I’d add one more after photo of me! Sanding is a messy task! Definitely make sure you wear goggles and a ventilation mask. The breathing was fine for me, but I got the occasional sawdust in my eye.

What an improvement! I’ll go over the entire nightstand again with a random orbit sander – my very first woodworking tool purchase! ¬†This will help with the final smoothing over and hopefully hide any of the imperfections in the wood occurring naturally of caused by me.

I wanted to treat you as well to my boyfriend’s nearly finished nightstand. He’s a bit farther than I am, and it looks GREAT! He needs to add in some sliders for the drawer and then polyurethane for the coat. I’m going to use the same hardware for the drawer knob and style for the edges. He made his nightstand with ashy maple, and I used mahogany. Despite using different kinds of wood, I think this will match well if we place them in the same room or use them as end tables on the same couch.

This is my boyfriend's nightstand, made of ashy maple. It looks wonderful!! He did a really nice job. He's got just a few more steps to go before it's ready for use.
This is my boyfriend’s nightstand, made of ashy maple. It looks wonderful!! He did a really nice job. He’s got just a few more steps to go before it’s ready for use.

Where do you think we should use the nightstands once they’re complete?