Whole30 Stuffed Peppers

As the world’s longest week winds down, I can safely say I’m grateful for a fairly empty weekend ahead.  The only things on my agenda are CrossFit followed by a Whole30 cooking class at the gym, yoga, grocery shopping, and meal prepping.  In no way do I find this lame or depressing.  After a week packed full of meetings, planning, and lots of ‘writing’ (i.e., me desperately trying to figure out how to word things I don’t really understand) – I’m looking forward to shutting down my brain.  

Plus, having a weekend like this allows me to mentally prepare for all the fun ahead next weekend.  It’s Chowderfest AND the Super Bowl – how convenient that the Whole30 is over Tuesday!  However, I’m fairly concerned about what dairy and gluten will do to my body so I think I’ll be more of an observer than a participant.  But then again, I’ll be reunited with whiskey so who knows what will happen.  Either way, I’m excited to see my friends and not have to ask waiters “what was the salmon cooked in?” anymore.

Last night I mustered up what little energy (and brain capacity) I had left to try something I’ve never made before; stuffed peppers.  These Whole30-approved peppers are lightened up with turkey and a sneaky helping of spinach.  I also made sweet potato chips as a side.

Sweet potatoes have become one of my favorite foods ever.  I eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and I can’t seem to get enough of them.  This is my favorite way to eat them:

  • Peel one large sweet potato and cut the gross ends off.
  • Thinly slice them and line them on a baking sheet.
  • Drizzle them with EVOO (only 1-2 tsp depending on the size of your potato) and season with adobo (2 tsp) and pepper (½ tsp).  Use a spatula (or your fingers) to flip them and make sure the seasonings and oil get to each slice.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes (flipping halfway) or until the edges start to turn brown.

Amazing.

And now for the peppers…

Stuffed Peppers

You’ll need:

4-5 bell peppers (depending on size)

1 tsp coconut oil

1 medium onion

1-2 lbs ground turkey

Salt & Pepper

1 cup of spinach

1 cup crushed tomatoes (or about ½ of a 28oz can)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp salt

What you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the peppers – cut the tops off and scoop out the seeds and ribs of the pepper.  Set aside.

Heat up 1 tsp coconut oil and add the chopped onion.  Season will salt & pepper and cook about 5 minutes, or until tender.  Add the ground turkey and stir to combine.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the turkey is brown, and then add the spinach and tomatoes.  Add spices and stir to combine.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so – until the spinach has cooked down – and then spoon into peppers.  Bake for 20 minutes – until peppers are tender.

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Whole30 Lunch: Tuna “Sandwiches”

One week left to go!  As I mentioned last time, I’m not feeling the omgwhenwillthishellbeover way I anticipated.  Life dairy-, sugar-, and gluten-free is actually pretty enjoyable.  But not sober…I miss you booze.

I’m also surprised that I haven’t gotten sick of my breakfasts or lunches as they’ve remained fairly the same for the past 3+ weeks.  Breakfast is typically one hardboiled egg, a banana (or other fruit I find around my office), and almonds.  Occasionally I have an apple with almond butter (plus the egg) or swap the fruit for leftover sweet potatoes and/ or brussel sprouts.  I love brussel sprouts and find them as enjoyable for breakfast and I do for dinner.

Although I typically stick to salads for the most part (arugula, chicken, olives, and balsamic vinegar with the occasional avocado), today I subbed in a new revival of an old favorite; tuna.

Even though mayo is not Whole30 approved (plus I find it disgusting), I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying some delicious chicken of the sea.  Instead, I used half of a VERY ripe avocado and a sprinkle of salt and pepper per can.

I buy White Albacore Tuna in Water because it grosses me out when it’s canned in oil – also pretty sure that’s not Whole30 approved because God knows what type of oil they use.  It took me less than 5 minutes to mix the tuna, avocado, salt, and pepper, put it in a tupperware container, and place it in my awesome new lunch tote.

You’re probably wondering what I used for bread (or not because you saw the picture)…Romaine lettuce leaves!  You just place the tuna in one of the leaves (mine were fairly large so I only needed two for one can of tuna), and roll it up like a burrito or eat it like a taco.  Quick, easy, and delicious*.

*Fun fact: tuna is surprisingly delicious with mustard! I know – I was shocked too. Just make sure it’s Whole30 approved!

Whole30: It’s the Final Countdown

Great, now “The Final Countdown” is stuck in my head as I’m sure it will be for you too now.  Sorry.  Anyway, there are 9 more days left on my Whole30 journey.  Some of my friends have been asking me things like…

  • “Are you SO excited for this to be over?”
  • “Are you going to eat everything in sight when it’s over?”
  • “You’re going to eat a whole block of cheese, aren’t you?”

And my answer…drum roll pleaseNOPE.

I know, shocking.  Believe it or not, I actually really like eating this way.  Meal prepping can be kind of annoying, but as a borderline control freak, I do enjoy knowing my meals are already decided for me (and by me).  It’s been especially helpful since work has kicked into high gear.

I also feel better overall.  Going this long without a hangover is a pretty remarkable feeling.  As is not having acid reflux, bloating, or that feeling after you eat a huge, unhealthy meal and regret everything.  It’s also really great to be free of cravings.  Although, the lara bars were getting a little too good, so I had to stop eating them.  I am committed to breaking free from my addiction to sweets.

While I’m committed to eating better, I’m certainly not committed to eating better 100% of the time.  I’m thinking 80% paleo/19% ‘healthy’/1% ‘I do what I want’. Will I have the occasional cheese plate with a friend?  Absolutely.  Will I snack of three cheese sticks at work?  No.  I actually haven’t missed dairy at all (I know – weird).  This is more about choosing when a ‘treat’ is worth it.  Instead of mindlessly snacking on jelly beans, I would rather save a sweet treat for a trip to Dough (the world’s best donut shop) when friends come to visit.  Ok let’s be real, I would totally wait on line at Dough by myself.  But the point is, it will be a special occasion and not something I build into my weekend routine.

Drinking, however, is the one thing I have missed.  Being at my company party sober was actually a lot of fun…but it would have been more fun if I could have participated in the whiskey tasting.  Or had a drink at 3:30pm when our drink cart came out.  Or had a whiskey with my boss during our bi-weekly meeting.  Geeze…we really drink a lot at my job.  The point is that I miss having a drink with coworkers, friends, or sitting on the couch with my boyfriend when we’re snowed in.  Although booze will be the first thing I’m going to reintroduce, I’m going to do it (and maintain it – hopefully) in moderation.  But I’m not eager to have dairy, gluten, or even…sugar.  Pretty much, I just want one drink.  Because I’m pretty sure that I would be buzzed off of one at this point.

We’ve got more tasty recipes on the horizon, so make sure to check back for the recipes!  This week, we’re all about the single-pan dishes:

  • Shrimp, spinach, and sweet potato skillet
  • Chicken, apple, sweet potato, and brussel sprout skillet
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Sausage with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Chicken thighs with bacon, brussel sprouts, and apple

Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but this shepherd’s pie is so delightful!  Ok that was lame, but this recipe is great for this type of weather.  We made this last night in preparation for a weekend of staying cozy while the wintery death descends upon us.

White potatoes are Whole30 approved, as long as you’re relatively active, so I got to stay true to my Irish roots for this recipe.  You could also use sweet potatoes for a slightly lighter option.  See how sweet potatoes compare to white potatoes in this potato show down.

Whether you’re team white or sweet potato, this recipe is a great lighter version of an Irish classic.  Stay warm!

Shepherd’s Pie

What you’ll need:
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 8-10 carrots, chopped into tiny pieces
  • Green beans (probably about 1/2 the bag), chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepperpepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Potatoes
  • 1 Tbs almond milk
  • Salt & pepper
What you do:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Peel and chop the potatoes.  Cook on high for 8-10 minutes, until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot.  Add the almond milk and season with salt and pepper (to taste).  Mash the potatoes (use a hand mixer if you have one) and set aside.  Add more almond milk if the potatoes are lumpy
In a skillet, cook the onion in EVOO. Add the turkey, beef broth, and seasonings. Cook all the way through.
Spoon turkey into a baking pan, leaving some of the “juices” in the skillet.  Add the veggies and cook until the veggies are slightly tender.  Poor the veggies (and any juices leftover) over the turkey.
Spread the mashed potatoes over the veggies and turkey. Put under the broiler for 2-5 minutes, until the potatoes start to brown.  Dig in!

Homemade Larabars aka Coconut Crack Bars

Larabars. Are. Crack.  Seriously, they’re super delicious and they don’t come with deep regret like candy bars do!  For those of you who don’t know, larabars are fruit and nuts bars.  That’s it.  No added sugar, no grains, no dairy; just sweet, delicious nature.

While they’re light on your figure, they’re not so light on your wallet.  At Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, they hover around $1.30/bar.  Not too bad, but if you live in New York and try to buy them at a convenience store, they can run $3.00/bar.  Because f*ck you (says New York).

The Whole30 does not allow “recreated desserts”, i.e., paleo versions of cookies, brownies, etc. (lame), but it does allow larabars as part of a meal or much needed snack.  Snacking is supposed to be avoided, but so is starving so larabars are a great way to have something that’s sweet and filling (blueberries just don’t cut it).

I made my own version of the “coconut creme pie” bars.  Eating them was a religious experience.  I highly recommend you stop what you’re doing and make these.  You don’t even need to bake them!

But keep in mind – coconut and nuts have a lot of fat in them.  While it’s true that good fat (i.e., from nature and not laboratories) is an important part of everyone’s diet, you don’t want to go overboard on these.  One bar has about 210 calories and is way more filling than it looks, so if you inhale three of them you will regret everything.  Like I did last night.

Coconut Cream Larabars

Makes 8 bars

You’ll need:

  • ⅔ cup raw almonds (I used slivered almonds)
  • ⅔ cup walnuts (or cashews)
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 ½ cups pitted dates

Process the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped (leave a few chunks).  Add the coconut, oil, and dates.  Process until everything blends together.  Press the mixture into a glass baking pan (you can use also parchment paper in a loaf pan).  Smooth out the mixture and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Cut into bars and leave them in a tupperware container until you’re ready to eat them.  Try not to eat them all at once!

Building the Wall: Healthy Living & Mental Health

Today sucks.  Nothing particularly frustrating, bad, or tragic happened, it’s just one of those days where I feel pretty bad.  I feel incompetent, depressed, and alone.  Nothing specifically brought on these feelings, which is the most frustrating part.  On days like today I curse having an open office.  I feel exposed and vulnerable.  I feel like people can see that I’m not happy or they’re checking to make sure I’m working on some stupid document that no one will ever read.  I’m sure neither are true, but that’s how it feels.

I think the sad truth is that no matter what I eat or do, I will always have these feelings.  Everyone feels down from time to time and I honor that.  I felt so happy and confident last week that I unrealistically thought it would last forever.  My energy dipped and I haven’t been sleeping well again, but that’s not because of the Whole30.  I feel fairly certain that my energy and sleep would be a lot worse without the Whole30 right now because there’s a deeper, darker culprit than sugar withdrawal (which is thankfully over); stress.

I am stressed out of my mind at work.  I bit off way more than I can chew and it looks like I won’t be getting the help (i.e., a junior writer) for much longer than I had anticipated.  Stress is so incredibly powerful, it amazes me how it quickly knocks down all the barriers I put up to protect myself.  I looked at eating well, exercise, and sleep as a kind of ‘Berlin Wall’ that protects what I think of as my ‘self’. This ‘self’ is made up of my feelings, emotions, and thoughts; it’s essentially who I am.  ‘Self’ gets beat up a lot by internal factors (like changes in my brain chemistry and hormones) and external factors, so I try to keep it safe from the inside out.  Eating good foods actually has a tremendous effect on how I feel physically and mentally; that I can say with full confidence and back it up with scientific evidence.  Exercise, sleep, being around people I love, reading good books, writing, and drawing are all things that make ‘self’ beam.  Doing these things, especially eating well, exercise, and sleep build a protective wall around ‘self’.  

I need this wall because my particular ‘self’ (we all have one), is extremely vulnerable since it has outside forces and inside forces (stupid brain chemistry) attacking it.  Stress tries to break down the wall.  When I feel extremely stressed, it feel like there’s a breach in the wall.  Stress oozes in like tar and attacks ‘self’.  Suddenly things like drawing, exercise, and even being around loved ones sound horrible.  Stress poisons the ‘self’.

But order can be restored.  I’ve realized that bingeing on candy or booze to kill the stress actually kills the ‘self’.  Eating an apple instead of a candy bar certainly doesn’t give the same relief…at least not immediately.  But in the long term, skipping the sugar and having a cup of green tea or going for a quick walk becomes and even better relief.  Sugar and alcohol screw up the positive thoughts that can rejuvenate the ‘self’.  Instead of thinking, “Stress is right, I can’t do all of these projects”, the ‘self’ can think, “F*ck off stress – I can do these things, not just all at once. I’ll find another way.”

Making healthy decisions is not bullsh*t; that’s the point of this post.  Everyone has a ‘self’ that needs a wall to protect is from stress, trauma, and other unpleasant emotions and experiences.  Some people try to build this wall with alcohol, drugs, sex, and bad foods, but that’s like trying to build a bridge with match sticks; you need a solid base if it’s going to last.

You don’t have to do a Whole30, but look at what you put into your body – do you think it will build a strong wall?  

 

Chicken Curry/Tandoori with Cauliflower Rice

After a long day of meal prepping, it seemed only right to end the day with a delicious meal that had been planned a week earlier.  The plan was to pick up some Thai red curry paste during our shopping trip, but life did not care about our plan; the grocery store didn’t have a Whole30-friendly curry paste.  With a hankering for curry, I refused to be thwarted by the insufficient supply of curry paste so my partner in healthy eating and life decided to get creative.  We bought tandoori paste and curry powder and hoped for the best.  We were not disappointed.

This recipe is the love child of chicken tandoori and chicken curry; it’s got that familiar curry taste with a tandoori kick.  It’s a perfect recipe to warm you up on a cold and frosty night (like this one)!  The cauliflower rice acts just like regular rice and makes the perfect vessel for sauce.  I’m amazed by all the ways cauliflower can morph into other foods; rice, pizza crust, mashed potatoes…want can’t it do?!

This is a great dinner that will fill you up without giving you that I-ate-way-too-much-what-have-I-done feeling.  Give it a try!  And, as always, feel free to post any questions or comments in the comment section.

Chicken Curry/Tandoori* with Cauliflower Rice

*This was supposed to be made with red curry paste, however the supermarket didn’t have one that was Whole30 compliant so we improvised.  I used this Tandoori paste and curry powder instead, and I regret nothing.

You’ll need:

  • 2 large boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ Tbs Tandoori paste
  • 1 ½ Tbs curry powder
  • 1 16 oz can light coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper

What you do:

Heat a wok or a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add the coconut oil. Once the coconut oil is melted, add the chicken and cook until it’s fully cooked (about 8 minutes). Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate.

With the heat still on, add in all the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until starting to brown slightly on the edges, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in the curry paste, and then stir in the coconut milk. Add the chicken back in, and cook for another five minutes.

Spoon the chicken curry over cauliflower rice (see recipe below) and enjoy!

Cauliflower Rice

You’ll need:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tsp coconut oil or EVOO (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (optional)

What you do:

Chop the cauliflower into florets, and pulse them in a food processor until they become grain-like.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a cheese grater.  You can eat the rice cold or heat it up in a skillet with the oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Cooking the rice will make it a bit softer so I recommend doing it, it only takes 5-8 minutes.  Heat the oil up on medium heat, add the rice, season with salt & pepper, and cover.  Give it a stir every few minutes so it doesn’t burn. I cooked mine for about 5 minutes and it still had a little crunch – I recommend cooking for 8 minutes it you like it tender.

Whole30 Meal Prep & Plan Weeks 2-3

Working for a company owned by Norwegians has its benefits.  One of the big ones being their belief in paid time off and holiday observation.  Seeing as I had the day off, thanks to the wonderful memory Dr. King, I knew what I would be doing most of the day – meal prepping and planning!

I know I forgot to post my meal plan last week (my apologies), but work kicked into high gear so I found myself having less time to write than usual.  Here’s last week in a nutshell:

  • Chicken* with broccoli (recipe at the end of this post)
  • Turkey Meatloaf
  • Sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, and blueberries – not together, I was just in the mood for each of these things.
  • Pork chops with broccoli – the pork chops are seasoned the same way as the chicken and cooked in EVOO in a cast iron pan (5 minutes on each side on high heat)
  • Turkey meatballs with zoodles (recipe will make an appearance this week)
  • Lots of salads
  • Breakfast of champions: 2 hardboiled eggs, 1 banana, leftover sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.

*this is usually dinner, but this week the chicken is being cooked as we speak for lunch time salads.  This is a VERY quick and easy thing to prep for the week and have in the fridge for lunch or dinner.

Saturday night we went out Hu Kitchen on 5th Ave by Union Square for dinner.  If you live anywhere near Manhattan, or come for visit, I HIGHLY recommend you check this place out.  It’s not a sit-down restaurant, it’s more cafeteria style with counters but there were plenty of places of to sit.  They even had a coffee bar that served organic wine, but sadly I could not partake.

I spent Sunday out and about in the city with my lovely lady friends, so by the time I got home I was not feeling the whole ‘try new recipe’ thing.  I picked up a turkey kielbasa and brussel sprouts (if you can’t tell, I really love brussel sprouts) and had that with some of the organic sauerkraut I had picked up at Whole Foods.  Quick, easy, and delicious.

For this week, breakfast and lunch will be looking pretty similar but dinner will be all new recipes!  Here’s what on deck:

  • Chicken curry with cauliflower rice
  • Chicken “cutlets” with lemon and capers, served with brussel sprouts
  • Pork chops with sweet potatoes and broccoli
  • Shepard’s pie

Make sure to check back throughout the week for the recipes!  Here’s my recipe for what I refer to as “everything chicken” as it’s good with everything!  These quantities will give you enough for a week’s worth of chicken, but feel free to change the numbers if you want more or less.

“Everything Chicken”

You’ll need:

  • 3lbs boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil or EVOO
  • 1 Tsp Adobo
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

What you do:

Heat up a frying pan with oil on medium heat and cut the chicken into bite site pieces.  Throw the chicken in the pan, toss with oil, and add the seasonings.  Cook chicken all the way through – about 8-10 minutes.  If you’re not sure, cut into one of the pieces – if it’s white and the juices run clear you’re good to go.  Serve with veggies, cauliflower rice, or on top of salad.

 

 

Whole30 Mental Check In

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve had any gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, or booze and I’ll be honest with you, I feel pretty damn good.

This past week was a historically difficult time of the month for me, if you catch my drift.  I was pretty nervous going into it.  I usually can’t stop eating sugar (or really anything) and want to punch anyone who dare make contact with me in the face.  Considering that’s how I felt the week prior due to sugar withdrawal, I thought it was going to be a disaster and I should have my resume on standby.  But I didn’t eat any sugar and I didn’t punch anyone in the face; I live to write documentation another day (yay?).  For the first time in forever I didn’t want chocolate.  I kid you not.  I know, I’m as amazed as you are.

What really blew my mind was how stable my mood was.  I’ve had trouble keeping my mood stable ever since I said so long to Lithium, but it’s something I find fairly manageable with exercise, diet, sleep, and adequate ‘down time’.  As I’ve mentioned previously, part of my interest in doing a Whole30 was to see how it affected my mood.  I’m sure it’s still too early to tell, but so far I’m impressed.  When my mood changes, either because of hormone swings of because my brain is a jerk, I can become extremely socially awkward, depressed, and anxious; a trifecta of unpleasantness.  Add outside stress to that (work, crazy neighbors, and general anxiety of city life), and I’m usually held up in the bathroom trying to make it look like I haven’t been crying or having a panic attack for the last 20 minutes.  But not this week.  This week I felt calm…well, my definition of calm.

Today I spent about a half hour shooting the breeze with a few co-workers, which is something I haven’t felt up to doing for quite a while.  My anxiety plays tricks on me and makes it hard for me to get out a coherent sentence when someone asks me a simple question like “how’s it going?”.  But today I didn’t feel any of that.  I didn’t have the thoughts racing through my mind telling me that the people I work with hate me, that my work is inadequate, or that I might have left the fridge open at home.  My mind was quiet and that never happens.  

I’ve been sleeping much better and not stressing over what I eat as much, so I must give credit to the Whole30.  Could my diet have been contributing to my mood swings?  I still have about two and half weeks to go but if this feeling lasts through then, I think I have my answer.

Stay tuned!

Mom! The (turkey) Meatloaf!!

Thanks to a five-day cold, my meal plan fell a bit off track.  Egg muffins sounded repulsive, which could also be the result of eating them for 6 days straight, and salads were pretty unappealing.  Despite my longing for chicken noodle soup and sugar-filled OJ, I stayed faithful to the Whole30 and made due with chicken broth and oranges.  Thankfully I’m feeling better and getting back to making healthy and hearty Whole30 meals.  Last night was the first time I was actually hungry since the plague descended upon me, and finally had the energy to cook.  I decided to take a healthy twist on a childhood classic; meatloaf.  

Personally, I hated meatloaf as a child, but then again I hated anything that wasn’t cheese or pasta.  As an adult, I could not get enough of this meatloaf and will be making it on a regular basis from here on out.  I looked up a few recipes and did some tweaking to make it Whole30 approved, and I must say I’m pretty pleased with the result.  Here’s the recipe:

For the Meatloaf:

  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 oz tomato sauce (from a can)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 Tbs Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

For the Topping:

  • 4 oz tomato sauce (from a can)
  • 2 tsp dried basil

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  If you don’t have Italian seasoning, you can use ½ tsp of dried basil, ½ tsp of dried oregano, and ½ tsp of dried thyme.  Place the meatloaf mixture in a greased pan.  I used Nature’s Promise Organic Olive Oil Cooking Spray to grease a large bread pan.  Drizzle with tomato sauce and dried basil.

Bake for 90 minutes – turkey takes a while to cook (unfortunately).  After 60 minutes, I took my pan out of the oven and drained the grease, then put it back in for another 30 minutes.  Make sure it’s fully cooked – if you have a meat thermometer, it should be 160 degrees.  If not, cut into the meatloaf – if it’s pink, put it back in for another 10 minutes and check again. If it’s not pink, you’re good to go!  

We had some leftover tomato sauce (from an 8oz can), so we drizzled it over the slices of meatloaf and sprinkled them with extra basil.  Enjoy!