What We Ate Wednesday: October 3 – 9

In case you missed it, I posted the first of these bad boys last Wednesday and it was AWESOME. This week’s is not so exciting as I was gone for dinner several nights, which is not the norm. When I have been home though I’m getting back into the groove of cooking which I really really love. I also planned out meals for the whole month for the first time in my life and it’s been SO great! At the end of the month I’ll share the whole list.

Whatever Wednesday: 

Last week I went to Charleston with my friend Jonelle for a Beautycounter workshop (and other general fun having shenanigans) and I’m not sure what exactly Marshall and the kids had for dinner on Wednesday but I think it was Five Guys. Lincoln gets a little cheeseburger from there with just cheese and a side of pickles. When I go, Em and I share the burger in the form of a bowl. She loves the ground beef, tomato and mushrooms. Also: FRIES.

We had the most amazing grits in Charleston… twice. I had the pork belly grit bowl from Hominy Grill and then later that night I had pimento cheese grits from Fleet Landing. 

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Three Piece Thursday: 

I really hate how lame the name of this is, but basically the goal is to just cook a meat and two sides. We had shredded chicken from the instant pot, broccoli and rice I think. I did not take a picture. It was not super interesting, but it did sustain us long enough to live another day. So, a win.

Fun Friday:

I got called into a birth! I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my best friends in Winston Salem and her daughter at PDQ before baby was born. I have no idea what my family ate for dinner. I had 5 grilled tenders, fries and honey mustard because they have the best honey mustard in the world.

Pizza Saturday:

Normal gluten free cheese pizza for the kiddos, 4 Meat Aldi pizza for the husband and I tried a GF cauliflower crust from Trader Joes and it was pretty awesome. I’ve never had cauliflower crust before and I loved it. I added some basil pesto sauce from Aldi, grass fed cheddar from Aldi, and pineapple (from, you guessed it…) and it was SO good. Would eat again. Many times. Over and over.

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Snacky Dinner Sunday: 

I missed this too! I normally don’t plan anything for Sunday evenings but I had the opportunity to do a brand shoot for a friend and I ended up having a bowl of Multigrain Cheerios with almond milk for dinner. It was not very exciting but I just wanted to go to bed and I can’t fall asleep if my belly is hungry.

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Salad and Smoothie Monday:

Asian salad night! Normally we add the salad mix to a bed of greens but the greens had gone bad and I didn’t know until I opened the box! Salads were a little slim but we compensated with our green smoothies (check out The Lazy Genius’ guide to smoothie making– changed everything for me). Shredded pork was a pork butt in the instant pot. Part of my flow is to cook several pounds of meat on Monday that is not seasoned to reuse throughout the week for many meals. If it is shredded chicken or pork, I’ll use my kitchen aid mixer to shred and add whatever seasoning after the fact. This pork got doused with some yummy ginger salad dressing (from Aldi… do you sense a pattern here?) and salt. I added some chopped apples and I would give it an A+. IMG_8938

Taco Tuesday Pot Roast Tuesday: 

I rescheduled tacos for Thursday to accommodate some friends that are coming over for dinner, and cooked my favorite Instant Pot meal ever. Wellness Mama’s Pot Roast is my JAM. We started out following the recipe to a T, but now we do the really lazy delicious version:  cube the meat, over season with Italian seasoning,  sauté for a few minutes until brown, add 1 cup of broth to the pot and push the meat/poultry button. I think it cooked for 45 minutes + pressurizing times. I roasted baby carrots in avocado oil in the oven at 425 the whole time the roast cooked and made  cauliflower mash (faux mashed potatoes) and my favorite shortcut baked apples in the microwave. I actually made the mash differently than I ever had and it turned out really good! I am trying to stop using the steam-in bag veggies in the microwave (suddenly I’m freaked about chemicals in those… long story) so I cooked two bags of frozen cauliflower in a stock pot on the stove. I added avocado oil and probably 1 cup of bone broth (Trader Joe’s version!) to the pot of cauliflower with a lid and let it steam them, I added salt, garlic salt and two tablespoons of Kerrygold butter once they were cooked and broke them apart with a wooden spoon. I got out the immersion blender and blended them until they were the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Seriously, pot roast + mashed potatoes + carrots is my ultimate favorite meal of all life. Can’t wait for leftovers.

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Up next: 
Sweet Potato Hash
Taco Bar Thursday
Tilapia Nachos
Breakfast for Dinner Saturday
Dinner at my in laws on Sunday

What We Ate Wednesday: The First One!

 

It’s possible I hyped up this blog post a little too much, my pictures aren’t quite as exciting as I remember them being when I took them BUT. What we ate Wednesdays. It’s a thing. It’s happening! This is the first one and the bar is set low my friends, so come back in one week.

I’m not a full week in yet because we’ve spent the last week or so traveling (and a hurricane before that) but next week. It’s on! Eating Paleoish at home! It really is possible.

A little food background for me and why we eat like we do: I don’t have any diagnosed food allergies. I’ve done the testing and I’m not allergic to anything food wise. I have not done a food sensitivity blood panel though, but based on my elimination dieting in the past few years I have a good idea of what is good for me and what isn’t. 

I’ve always had eczema but it got really awful (Topical Steroid Withdrawal style) in 2014 so in 2015 I went paleo and did autoimmune paleo and figured out what foods work well for me and what don’t. Outside of the paleo framework I haven’t done an extensive reintroduction with different grains, but in general I tolerate most gluten free grains, goat’s milk products, and occasional conventional cow dairy. For the past year I’ve been living ON THE EDGE out of pure exhaustion and laziness but I’m slowly coming out of it. Meal prepping healthy meals just wasn’t realistic for me in the season of new motherhood of two and now that I’m totally done breastfeeding (and not as hungry ha!) and am in a little bit more control over my schedule/sleep I’m getting back into it! And honestly feeling so great. I literally feel well, and I feel GOOD about eating better and serving healthier meals to my family. A win win!

Both my kids have sensitive skin and eczema (but are clear right now and have been for most of their lives!) so we avoid gluten totally for Emmeline (we’ve trial and errored and it gives her belly pain and unhappy poops) and most dairy. Lincoln tolerates a little gluten here and there but he has a patch of eczema on his face that pops up when he’s crossed the threshold of too much. End background, resume blog post. 

Our current meal rhythm is helping me so much. I hate being locked into a plan but I also NEED a plan or we throw it all away at Chick Fil A or Chipotle. Every time.

The rhythm right now is kind of boring, but we are loving the parameters. It is really fun deciding what kind of tacos to eat on a Tuesday instead of WHAT OF ALL THE MEALS WE’VE EVER EATEN SHOULD WE EAT ON TUESDAY? Ya feel me?

Mondays: salads + smoothies
Tuesdays: tacos
Wednesdays: whatever
Thursdays: three piece
Fridays: nachos or soup
Saturdays: pizza or brinner
Sundays: snacky dinner

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Pizza Saturday: Frozen pizzas, my friends! Usually with carrot sticks and/or cucumbers but this weekend we had apple slices because… we had apples slices. We’ve tried like all the different gluten free pizzas around, but the cheese pizza from Aldi is our jam. I buy two cheese pizzas for me and the kids and we usually have a few little pieces leftover, and the kids love it. Marshall likes the regular people four meat pizza that’s like a $1.99 at Aldi and ta-da! Saturday night. I love made up holidays and little family rituals and Saturday pizza nights feel SO weekend to me and give us a break from cooking. Also, once I get all the way back paleo it will be easy to swap out my cheese pizza for a paleo crust sans cheese, etc.

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Snacky Dinner Sunday: This is our favorite! We’ve done this for years, and it’s become so much fun now that both kids are eating real food. We usually buy some fun meats and cheeses from Aldi and then just throw out all the fruit, crackers and any other snacky things we have laying around. I was inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s book, Seven and Andy Crouch’s The Tech-Wise Family to light candles a few weeks ago and we had our own little special Sabbath. Again, I’m a sucker for family rituals and I love this Sunday one. We’ve usually been serving at church all day, and had weird naps and dinner on the living room floor is a great regrouping before heading upstairs for bath and bedtime. I think I like most that it will grow as the kids grow and turn into a family meeting. We try to talk about our week ahead but Lincoln and Emmeline just get louder when we try to talk to each other.

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Salad + Smoothie Monday: This week was the southwest salad mix + mixed greens and plain chicken meat from a whole chicken I cooked in the Instant Pot. Back in my best paleo days I made a weekly whole chicken for broth and used the meat for soup, nachos, lunches, etc. so I’m trying to get back into the habit of cooking a whole chicken on the reg. The kids don’t like salad so much so we throw their greens into the blender for green smoothies and we just started making ones for ourselves too. The salad comes with tortilla strips, cheese and buffalo ranch. I passed on the cheese and ranch and used our vegan ranch and added a little Sriracha on top! It was excellent. A little spicy but the smoothie (greens trio + mango + pineapple + coconut water + almond milk) was an excellent compliment.

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Taco Tuesday: Every Tuesday is taco Tuesday. And so it shall be forever! Last night we had ground beef tacos, which we almost NEVER do and I was ready to use a GF wrap from Aldi but then I ended up just eating the insides and it was amazing. I added avocado and goat cheese, diced tomatoes and greens and it was so filling and so flavorful, I could not stop talking about what a great job I did cooking. And by cooking, I mean remembering to thaw out the meat in an appropriate time and cooking it in the frying pan for like 10 minutes and throwing some spices on it. I ended up filling up my bowl twice and couldn’t quite get a photo of it full either time. Marshall ate his with cheddar cheese and regular flour tortillas, and we made the kids quesadillas with the ground beef and goat cheese. Lincoln requested a little cheddar be added to his and Emmeline ate all of hers without any complaint (she never really complains) and ate an entire avocado and a half because she is the best ever. Sidenote: my go to “taco seasoning” is some of the following: paprika, garlic salt, salt, oregano, onion powder.

Coming up!

Wednesday: I’m out of town, Lincoln picks! Most likely will be Five Guys.
Three Ingredient Thursday: Egg Roll in A Bowl
Fun Friday: Nachos
Saturday: Brinner

 

My Paleoish Pregnancy

So, I’ve only been pregnant twice. The first time, I did it like they did in the movies. I slept a lot, laid around, treated myself to milkshakes, bagels and baked brie whenever I wanted, and went to yoga class like once (you know, that one scene in the movie where they go to yoga?) and I reaped the, uh, benefits.

Benefits being, I felt pretty awful. I was sick pretty much the entire time with something (sidenote: I was also teaching K-2 Spanish at the time so par for the course probably with a lowered immune system), I was exhausted and irritable and pretty much miserable for the full 39 weeks and 4 days. I had all the classic pregnancy symptoms– swelling, insomnia, fatigue. I gained like 60 pounds. I had eczema everywhere. My face broke out. My iron was low. I had more asthma attacks during that pregnancy than in the year beforehand. The heartburn was terrible. And really, the only thing anyone ever said was “yeah… hormones” in regards to any sort of question or complaint I had. No one ever said, “well, are you eating well?” I was just eating whatever sounded good which was bread and cheese and Dr. Pepper (and also, apple juice if I remember correctly). It wasn’t until the crazy postpartum eczema days when I got serious about researching and diet and learned so much about paleo that I began to plan for my next pregnancy when I would eat better. And honestly, at the time that pregnancy didn’t seem so bad! Until I had this one and I realized how awful I felt.

This is mostly for myself, just to remind me should we ever venture down this whole pregnancy thing again (sitting here at 40 weeks + 2 days thinking probably not) that there are some serious benefits to a paleoish pregnancy. And I say paleoish because I did not adhere to any sort of strict paleo anything at all during the 40 weeks. As soon as morning sickness hit me at 6 weeks, I was all about the comfort food: Goldfish crackers, the Cheddar Bo (ew), and bagels with cream cheese. I splurged here and there throughout, a handful of times on a burger, regular people donuts or a biscuit. Most of the time though, I tried to stay gluten/dairy free in my splurges if that meant making my own, or waiting (ugh, waiting!) until I could get to a GF/DF bakery to get whatever thing it was that I had to have.

The thing that is MOST encouraging to me is that even adapting an “80/20” approach, 80% paleo, 20% whatever else… (and honestly sometimes more a 60/40 approach) was that I still felt great and seemed to reap the benefits of being totally paleo, even after a splurge. I only had eczema flare up a few times and with good moisturizing and reeling the diet back in and focusing on nutrient dense veggies and things, it almost always resolved within a day or so. Current exception is on my hands, where it has been pretty itchy and flarey for a week or two now, but I’ve had several splurges and have been eating quite a bit of dairy daily out of self pity for being pregnant for so long. I’m also “past my due date” so you know, hormones, stress on the body or whatever.

So, I’m no doctor or healthcare professional. I realize that every pregnancy is different. There are lots of different factors for me this time: I’m having a girl, I have a toddler to chase, I’m not working outside the home (although I’d tell you, all “mommy wars” aside, working from home with a two year old is the hardest job I’ve ever had– teaching kindergarteners how to use Google Drive included, although I think easier than teaching high school…). BUT! I believe that food matters. What you use to fuel your body with is über important, in fact the most important regardless of whether you are not pregnant, don’t ever plan to be pregnant, want to be pregnant, are pregnant, breastfeeding or a dude. Food matters. It absolutely matters. And I’m thankful to have experienced life post-paleo, I’ll never ever go back to the standard American diet. I’ll splurge here and there, but vegetables are forever a big part of my life because they make me feel awesome (and they make my eczema go away, and I’m not stuffy anymore, and I don’t have allergies anymore, and I don’t have asthma attacks or headaches anymore, and the list goes on and on and on and on…).

PS: And in case you’re like “wait, what is paleo again?” it is a diet without dairy, grains, legumes and refined sugar. There’s a ton of philosophies out there and different adaptations but that is the basic framework. Some people do raw grassfed dairy, some people do white rice, some people eat beans… the idea (that I LOVE) is that you are eliminating all the inflammatory/potential trouble foods for a period of time (Whole30, anyone?) and then reintroducing them slowly and one by one to see how they make you feel. If they make you feel bad in anyway, don’t eat it. If you “tolerate” it well, eat it up. Obviously, if you have food allergies/intolerances/Celiac’s Disease/Autoimmune Disorders there are some things you should probably avoid forever, BUT the idea is to give your gut/body a break and feed it great things and then see how you handle the not-so-great. I totally recommend finding a doctor/healthcare professional who values diet in treating chronic illness and picking their brain! I’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices my whole life for eczema, allergies, asthma, belly issues and it wasn’t until 2015 that I finally found a doctor who said “you don’t eat dairy and gluten right?” first thing when they met me. I literally hugged her. Check out the “we are paleo” page at the top for some of my favorite paleo bloggers and resources on the web! There are many! 

swelling
last time: Around 25 weeks I was not able to wear my wedding rings because my fingers were so swollen. I had cankles every day, I woke up every morning with puffy fingers. By the end I could only wear fake Uggs in two sizes larger than I normally wore.

this time: None until this week (40 weeks!). Literally no swelling, have been wearing my wedding rings the whole time up until this week. I honestly think it is because of the weather too, it’s been a bit warmer outside and my fingers are a little puffy and my toes are too (but Marshall says he doesn’t see it).

insomnia
last time: Basically I didn’t sleep at all during my pregnancy with Lincoln. I remember telling my friend about my insomnia and she was like “wait, I thought that was supposed to be third trimester” but it was the whole dang time.

this time: It’s been in spurts, but for the most part I’ve slept great up until the past few weeks when I’d wake up to pee and not be able to go back to sleep. Usually if I can get up to pee before 3am I am good, but after 3am I can’t get back to sleep. Probably also contributing factors is I’ve learned how to “get ready for bed”.  Maintaining good work boundaries has helped with this, relaxing in the evenings before bed and I also diffuse lavender most nights and use a humidifier. All these things help, I think.

fatigue
last time: I was so tired the whole time. Just always exhausted.

this time: I was so tired first trimester, slept for most of it. Once 16 weeks came though I felt great and did up until like 35 weeks when I got another batch of exhaustion. I was sleeping all night and going to bed way early and also napping during the day to get by. In general though, my energy level has been awesome and honestly better than when I was paleo and NOT pregnant (which I don’t freaking understand). We were out walking over the weekend and Marshall told me I was doing such a great job of “hanging in there” and I was like what are you talking about? I feel amazing! and it is so weird to me. I was literally 40 weeks pregnant walking uphill, sweating profusely and smiling and chatting with Marshall. So weird. So so so so weird. So not “me”. I really wonder if maybe I’m going to be running marathons or something crazy after this baby. Barely recognize myself.

weight gain
last time: I was ~130 when I got pregnant with Lincoln. I lost about 10 pounds first trimester from all the puking, and before I delivered at my last appointment I was 179 which freaked me out so I didn’t look at the scale again until several weeks after I delivered. So +50 pounds from pre-pregnancy weight, but 60 if you include gaining back the 10 I lost….

this time: I had been maintaining at around 120 since really going paleo (but I never weighed myself because my clothes always fit! I was never bloated! Did not used to be the case!). I weighed myself this morning and at 40 weeks + 2 I am 148. BLOWS MY MIND. Even all the emotional eating splurges lately (GF/DF treats have sugar too, you guys) I’m still on track to gain the “recommended” 30 pounds and nothing more even if I go to 42 weeks. Blows my mind. Blows my mind! Like two Sundays ago I had 4 Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in one sitting and the next day I went to Dunkin and had 3 more. And then this past Sunday I went to Rise and had a regular person biscuit (bacon egg and cheese, baby) and two doughnuts. I don’t even understand it.

eczema
last time: It was terrible. It was everywhere. My belly, my sides, my hands, my arms, my shoulders, my back, my face, my legs, my eyelids. So bad.

this time: A few localized places. I’ve had a few patches pop up on my face, but with targeted moisturizing they’ve gone away (seriously, I fell in love with the Beauty Counter Nourishing line this pregnancy because of this. So far I’ve only been able to save up enough for the face wash, but soon I’m gonna get the rest of it!). The inside of my arms have kept a patch or two the whole time, my hands are pretty flared right now but other than that no issues. After my big Rise Splurge I had a spot pop up on my cheek but it has since settled.

break outs
last time: Everywhere. My chin, cheeks and forehead. The whole time. Make up was my BFF.

this time: Not a ton! Just on my chin and cheeks some and honestly only in the past couple of weeks. Another reason I liked the Beauty Counter stuff, it helped clear my face up but improved my eczema too. So great!

low iron
last time: I had been anemic pretty much my whole life, pregnancy was no exception. Around 20 weeks I went on an iron supplement to keep my levels normal.

this time: NO ISSUES. I’ve been at 12 at every single blood draw for the first time in my whole life.

asthma
last time: I had to use my inhaler a ton, but again I was sick, it was cold/flu season and used to be pretty normal for me if I had a cold/respiratory infection.

this time: I don’t even have an inhaler anymore. I did have a few nights of I can’t breathe moments, but I realized finally that it was anxiety (yay? Ha not really) and not actually asthma. There was a perfect storm of me being a little too warm, a little too heartburney and laying down and feeling like I was being smothered from the inside by a baby in my lungs that happened a few times and we realized that is what caused it. I’d be half asleep, feel like I was suffocating and then freak the eff out, and it made everything worse. BUT factor in a good temperature for sleeping (74º on our thermostat and not a degree higher) + a humidifier right beside my bed + avoiding heartburn (no coffee or chocolate after 12noon + Maty’s Heartburn relief if needed) and diffusing lavender made a world of difference and I’ve had no issues since really. If I start to feel panicky like I can’t breathe I made sure all the things are going and sit down and breathe in the humidifier for a bit and then I’m good. No more freakouts. (Having had asthma my whole life and being forced to take swim lessons for most of my childhood makes me really really anxious when I feel like I can’t get a deep breath. Like really bad. Really really anxious.) Moral of the story: no asthma attacks, period

heartburn
last time: It started around 6 weeks and stayed until like 2 days after delivery. I thought I had strep throat a few times because it burned my throat so bad, and this was also probably a contributing factor in the insomnia because I couldn’t lay down.

this time: Like none, except for when I took the freaking prenatal vitamin. I switched to the Flintstones multi-vitamin around 20 weeks with no issues and have been HEARTBURN FREE until like the last 2 weeks. Coffee and chocolate are what kill me, and then water  makes it worse. But not bad enough to actually stop drinking coffee or eating chocolate…

So, there you have it! My anecdotal evidence of a paleoish pregnancy! I’ve been “prelaboring” off and on for a few weeks now (that whole phrase is crazy to me) so no telling when this girl will actually come or not, but I am excited to see how/if this delivery is different than with Lincoln. My hope is it’s speedy (and soon, ha!) but I’ll be super interested to see if my balanced hormones and awesome feeling play a part in early/active labor and postpartum. More posts to come!

Recipe: For Real Healthy Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies (AIP, paleo, grain free, dairy free)

One of my favorite recipes from Danielle Walker is her breakfast cookies. I’ve shared before how I’ve remixed her recipe, and I’ve now come up with a great variation that we love! 

These are a favorite of all three of us. Lincoln loves to eat them, and we love how easy it is to hand him a cookie– and we SUPER love that they are dairy, grain and refined sugar free. The sweetness comes from ripened bananas and a few dates and they are a perfect breakfast on the go, snack stand alone or companion to an afternoon cup of tea while the baby is sleeping. I like to batch cook these guys and freeze them in sandwich baggies of 4-5 cookies. They don’t stick together as much and I can just grab a little baggie and stick them in the fridge over night or grab one if we’re headed out on some errands or an adventure for the day.

This fall I plan to experiment with spices to come up with a solid pumpkin spice cookie. I shall report back! Also, if you happen to pick up a tub of the Coconut Spread at Aldi, you can spread some of that on these bad boys and try not to eat 12 in one sitting. AIP pumpkin cream cheese roll. Not kidding. Also, just a disclaimer, these are not crispy or crunchy like you may be thinking a cookie should be. They definitely are more of a soft and crumbly cookie, which make them an excellent early food for babes and toddlers.

Ingredients (makes about 30 cookies):

  • 4 super ripe bananas (mashed ~2 cups)
  • 1 can pumpkin puree (~1.5 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons palm shortening
  • 6 pitted dates 
  • 1 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • juice from half a lemon 
  • 1 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • you’ll need parchment paper or foil with coconut oil for greasing. 
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Put bananas, pumpkin puree, shortening, dates in food processor (we have/love this one) and puree until smooth (30 seconds to a minute or so– may take a minute to get the dates chopped if you don’t soak or pre-chop ahead of time)
  3. Add coconut flour, cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda and lemon juice. Pulse to combine. 
  4. Add coconut and dried cranberries. Pulse to combine. 
  5. Scoop golf ball sized balls of dough onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil greased with coconut oil to keep from sticking. Flatten balls and shape into the size cookie you want, they will not expand in the oven. 
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes or until cookies are brown all over and slightly firm to the touch. Cool on wire rack and store in airtight container in the fridge or freezer. 
  7. Try not to eat them all in one sitting. 

Recipe: Comfy Chicken Casserole (AIP/Paleo, grain free, dairy free)

Four score and a couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon this recipe in the depths of Google. We made it pretty much per the directions and it turned out a little watery, but overall we were happy with the taste (so good) and decided we’d add it into our rotation of paleo dinners. It’s pretty simple, basically just steamed broccoli and mushrooms chicken and bacon with a garlicky cauliflower puree and some herbs, baked all together.

A couple of days ago we revisited it, and this time left out some stuff, and changed it up a bit and it was AMAZING. All three of us cleaned our plates (even the 18 month old!) and Marshall went back for seconds and cleaned his plate again. This is definitely a recipe we will be doubling in the future and making when friends come to visit!

It has the taste and texture of comfort food, but made completely grain and dairy free and therefore nutrient dense and delicious for you and your people.

Some quick facts about my kitchen and how we cook:
1) I rarely have fresh spices/herbs. I currently have basil and rosemary growing in my garden (aka I haven’t killed them yet) but I am forever using dried spices/herbs. So do that if you don’t have fresh.
2) We don’t really measure stuff.
3) We prefer steam in bag veggies to fresh, because EASY.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil or fat of choice (we usually use coconut or olive oil, or bacon fat) 
  • 2-3 pounds of chicken, cubed/shredded and cooked 
  • 1 bag of steam in bag frozen broccoli 
  • 1 bag of steam in bag frozen cauliflower 
  • 1 cup baby bella sliced/chopped mushrooms 
  • 3 pieces of bacon cooked and crumbled into pieces 
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk (or just coconut cream) 
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic 
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil (or a couple of leaves fresh if you have them)
  • 1 tbsp dried/fresh parsley 
  • some sea salt 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375º.
  2. Cook the chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, bacon! Heat oil/fat in a large size skillet/pan on the stove over medium heat. If you haven’t cooked your chicken yet, add it to the pan first with the 1 tbsp fat and salt. Once it’s cooked thoroughly drain and set aside. Microwave your bacon, broccoli and cauliflower while chicken cooks.
  3. Cook the mushrooms and combine everything in baking dish. In the skillet, add the last tbsp of fat and sauté the mushrooms. Once softened add the already steamed broccoli to the pan, careful not to add excess water. Add the chicken back to the pan, as well as the bacon pieces and thyme and basil. Sauté and combine for several minutes then add to a baking dish (8x11ish) careful not to add any liquid from the pan. 
  4. Make the creamy cauliflower sauce! In a food processor (we splurged on this one for ourselves for Valentine’s Day) add the cooked bag of steamed cauliflower (and any liquid that’s in it) and the minced garlic. Puree until smooth (it will look kinda like mashed potatoes). Start with the cream from the canned coconut milk and add to the food processor. Add coconut milk as desired to make the sauce creamy. Creamy is good, but watery is not. Add up to an entire can of coconut milk, but we’ve had best results with half a can. Save the other half for a latte!
  5. Add the sauce to the baking dish, garnish and bake! Spoon the cauliflower sauce over the broccoli, mushrooms + chicken. Sprinkle the top with parsley and bake at 375º for 30 minutes. 
  6. Eat it up! Serve larger portions solo, or stretch it a little with a salad and a sweet potato. 

Lincoln’s First Fiesta

Several months ago, my sweet baby boy turned 1! I remember right before my OB broke my water in the hospital, she said “you’re about to run a marathon!” and I thought she was referring to the childbirth part. Did not really realize she was referring to the next 12 months (or 18 years, because it doesn’t really seem to be calming down…).It was all a whirlwind, the labor, delivery and subsequent 12 months. So hard to believe that he’s walking, talking and more communicative than ever! 
So, I love to throw a theme party. I just love the chance to get creative and crafty. I decided on the fiesta theme when Lincoln was about 9 months old. I had done monthly pictures with a little piñata that my friend Meghan gave me at a baby shower (with a teeny sombrero!) and I had a ton of stickers and random Spanish things from my classroom that I had collected over the years. This included like one million “feliz cumpleaños” stickers, too!  It was a natural progression, and I loved that his little monthly pictures were tied into the theme. This is definitely something that I will do for future kids, for sure! 
Decorations in general were just a hodge podge of things we had laying around. As his birthday came in between Christmas and New Year’s, the day after Christmas we took down all the Christmas decor and put up Fiesta things! We let it hang out for weeks (and his chalk board decoration stayed up until I recently erased it for Easter…). Turns out, we really love to celebrate! Or we really hate to clean up…

We made the muchacho shirt with printable iron-on paper onto a basic black 12mo tee from Target. 

I found this amazing paleo cupcake recipe, that was super easy. It does carry a dozen eggs, and because of this we found out that L has a bit of an egg sensitivity and broke out in eczema all over (which is an indicator that it’s a trouble food for me too— eeek!) BUT, for an occasional treat, I’d prefer these cupcakes to typical flour ones any day. Just, not a good choice for multiple cupcakes days in a row +  2 eggs for breakfast every day. I tried a few different frostings, but ultimately went with a dairy and gluten free option from Target (with a whopping 19 grams of sugar per tablespoon! I digress…) and regular people sprinkles. A total win, these cupcakes were absolutely amazing. 

Our sweet friend/sister in law-law, Jamie made him the UNO hat which was absolutely perfect. 

It took some convincing but he learned to like the frosting. He definitely preferred the cupcakes sans frosting, which is TOTALLY fine by me for future birthdays. 

Surprised face! 

We made these faux piñata letters with diaper boxes (M cut them into the correct letter shapes) and streamers. Took a while, but I love how they turned out. 
And this pretty much sums up being one. Frosting all over his face, hand on a balloon, finger up his nose. The life. 

Such a wonderful day celebrating our boy (and our survival through his first year)! Thank you to everyone who helped make it so special. We are so thankful for you! And happy super late birthday blog post to my little boy: you make my world just so incredibly wonderful. 

More Veggies in March Challenge + Giveaway!


Since going paleo last August, I’ve been learning a ton about my body and what foods work the best for me to set me up for success. I’m coming out of 5 strict weeks of AIP (I’ve had coffee and chocolate since entering week 6…sigh, another story, another day) and have really come to realize that my health is truly less about what I cut out, and more about what I add in. 

That being said, I’m not ready to dive back in to a Standard American Diet, but I honestly haven’t been eating copious amounts of vegetables. I have at least one veggie per meal usually (not always at breakfast though), but I am a far cry from the USDA’s recommendation of 2-3 servings a day and even farther from the widely accepted paleo frame work of 5-9 servings a day. Eeep. I truly wonder what my health would be like today had I been eating 9 servings of veggies a day this whole time! 
It’s strange though, once you make your own health journey “public”, people in similar situations start coming out of the woodwork. I have had countless conversations both in real life and via social media lately with friends with their own health struggles as of late. Struggles ranging from suspected food sensitivities, GI troubles, thyroid issues, extreme fatigue, eczema or dry itchy skin… It’s just kinda crazy how all the women I seem to come into contact with in my general age group are all dealing with these things in one way or another and have either under the guide of a doctor or dietician or their own research (thanks, Internet) decided that cutting out various food groups may be the answer they are looking for. 
So I’m neither a doctor, or a dietician but here’s what I’ve gleaned from my own experience: 
1) Sugar ruins us. 
2) Vegetables save us. 
I don’t think there’s a doctor or a dietician that would argue for sugar or against vegetables (except obviously in allergy situations, but– obviously). 
All that to say, in March I am challenging myself (as part of my monthly goals) to eat more vegetables and I want you to do it with me! Don’t give up anything, so if you eat a donut for breakfast every morning keep doing your Krispy Kreme thing but pair it a sweet potato or a green smoothie or something. (Side note: Juicing is kind of a gray area because the fiber is part of what makes vegetables awesome so I recommend eating the actual vegetables and not just drinking them, but again– Not a dietician or doctor, so do you. )
So here’s the challenge: 
  • Plan your 2-3 (or more!, I’m personally shooting for 5) servings of vegetables a day, raw, cooked, however you like them.
  • Eat them all up!
  • But, before you eat them– take a picture of them and post on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with the tag #moreveggiesinmarch so we can be inspired for meal planning by each other! 
  • Follow me (@weareblog) and my friend Lauren (@almostcasual) on Instagram to be entered into an awesome veggie giveaway (you don’t have to eat a single green thing to be eligible, just follow us):
    • Super cute custom veggie watercolor print by Lauren at Almost Casual 
    • Reusable veggie cooler tote
    • $20 giftcard to Whole Foods 
Periodically throughout the month I’ll be posing on IG and here on my blog to “check in” and see how you’re feeling. Is eating veggies breaking the bank? Do you feel any different? Is your family on board? 
And as always, I would love to hear from you on Instagram or in the comments here. 
Happy Veggie Eating! 

The ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of Going Paleo: Less Sugar, More Vegetables

It has been a gradual process, but we have been eating what the internet refers to as paleo for almost six months now. I haven’t been super open about my health struggles on Instagram or Facebook (let’s be real, those are the highlight reels, and there was nothing about eczema on my earlobes that I wanted to remember) but I have been posting a lot about food we make, which has prompted many questions from friends and followers. So here’s a few non-reasons we went paleo:
  1. because I wanted to lose the baby weight 
  2. because it is trendy and I like to post pictures of my food with #hashtags 
  3. because we have so much money we wanted to eat steak 3x a day
I’ve shared some about my eczema explosion postpartum but diet was one of the ways we did an overhaul on our life, mainly for my benefit. I was covered in raw, weeping eczema sores from my knees to my earlobes and conventional medicine couldn’t offer me anything but oral or topical steroids that nearly guaranteed a rebound effect. So I went to the depths of the internet and came back with Paleo.
Most healthcare professionals will tell you that unless you test positive for a food allergy, eczema is not related to or caused by certain foods that you eat. This is somewhat true. Some people have true food allergies and have a reaction when they consume foods, this reaction being eczema. We see this all the time in infants. Breastfeeding moms cut out eggs, dairy, soy, etc. from their diets and some babies see almost immediate improvement within days. I do not have any food allergies. I’ve been tested several times throughout my life and I have none. I did go “gluten free” for a spell in college and “felt great” and did a Whole 30 during my first few years post-grad and had “tiger blood”, but nothing diagnosed ever from a healthcare professional that says I should avoid any foods. So, eventually I was back on the Standard American Diet as I was for most of my life.
I can report, however, that for most of my life I have felt bloated, had a bellyache, been tired, been sick, had eczema patches, been grumpy and not slept well. So I diagnosed myself: unhealthy. How do you get healthy? You eat less sugar, more vegetables.
So we began eating these things: meat, fruit, veggies, fish, nuts, seeds, and natural sugars only. I am definitely an ‘all or nothing’ personality and struggle with “in moderation” so it is a lot better for me to just say: I do not eat ________. I eat before I go to parties, we don’t really go out to eat without researching and planning ahead of time (which has saved us a ton of money), and we have invested in a total of three cookbooks that rock.
So at almost 6 months (with a little splurging around the holidays) paleo I am almost totally clear from eczema, and at least 80% healed compared to where I was this summer. The insides of my arms, hands, right wrist and the backs of my legs still have spots that just will not go away, but I know that eventually they will. I am not bloated, or have a belly ache, or am hungry in between or after meals, or grumpy for no good reason (I actually got my husband to admit this). The most striking of them all is that I’ve gotten over two colds in like 3 days or less which is really uncharacteristic for me. Especially in the winter, I usually get sick and stay sick for the entirety of the season, needing no less than 3 z-packs. I literally have woken up with a stuffy nose and two days later been totally normal. 
 I don’t believe that Paleo is the answer to all the things (and I really hate ‘labels’, so I cringe every time I say ‘I’m paleo’) for all the people, but I do think that our world would be a lot different if everybody ate a little less sugar and a lot more vegetables. I honestly think people would be a lot nicer to each other, and would probably feel a little better. So, back to my non-reasons:
  1. I did totally lose the baby weight (and quite a bit more) and bought a pair of pants a few weeks ago in a size that I haven’t seen since middle school and it totally freaked me out. The weight loss was a nice distraction from my eczema this summer, I will admit since I gained 70 (yep, that’s SEVENTY) pounds while I ate baked brie for nine months growing baby Lincoln.  I have stopped losing and have maintained the same weight for two months now so I’m feeling good about that, definitely think this is ‘my size’. I am most definitely not depriving myself of anything as I am eating super nutrient dense foods and lots of them. So if you are wanting to lose weight, I defer back to the “less sugar, more vegetables” statement above. Also, I still don’t really exercise intentionally, but I do chase a toddler around and carry him all over every day. 
  2. #whole30 is so trendy and you know #vegan and #organic and #pastured and #freerange and #paleo and #dairyfree and #sugarfree #holistic and all  the other foodie health buzz words that actually really drive me crazy. My account on both hashtag relevant social media sites is private, so I don’t do a lot of tagging because no one can see my pictures if they are looking for #paleo anything. Occasionally I’ll post a picture of say, a chocolate chip cookie, and I’ll #paleo it, but really it’s just to avoid the “is this paleo?” question that will inevitably follow. If it’s #notpaleo I’ll hashtag that as well, just you know, so nobody thinks I’ve got some magical recipe for #paleotequila. And sometimes I just make up dumb unrelated hashtags for funsies. But yes, you’re totally right, it is a health food trend that can be misunderstood and used inappropriately, but I really believe at the heart of the paleo movement are really good things: less sugar, more vegetables. 
  3.  We do 90% of our grocery shopping at Aldi (there are not enough words for how much I love that store) and on Wednesdays they do “special meat buys” where you can get like 5 pounds of chicken for like 7 dollars. It’s unbelievable. Steaks are discounted 50 cent a pound and I actually bought two boxes of organic spring mix (I realize, not meat) for 50 cents each and I have no idea why. The dates were great on it, I think it was just overstocked, but seriously. I will bring a quarter and my own bags all day every day to spend ~$100 a week on groceries to feed us real food. And we used to do steaks once a week, but that was expensive so now we do it once a month and it’s great. It is amazing how inexpensive it is to eat less sugar, more vegetables. 

2016 Goals: part two

(Read my 2016 goals part one, review of 2015 goals)


“If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry 

and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, 

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, 

your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. 

I will always show you where to go.

  I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— 

firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden, 

a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” 

Isaiah 58: 9-12 | The Message translation


This year my word is thrive. I kind of forgot that I had chosen this for my word a few weeks ago until today when I was talking to Marshall about a verse I was looking for. It seems like a perfect successor to 2015’s (newly appointed) word of survive. This is going to be a great year, for sure. We’re a bit more settled into our lives as parents. I have found a good groove with working from home and being the primary caregiver for our Lincoln guy. We have some friends expecting their first babies (at least three that we know about already! eee!) and Marshall’s brother plans to get married this fall. There is so much to look forward to, especially with our teeny little jokester who is turning into a toddler right before our eyes. It is amazing how much he has grown and changed in just the past two weeks, I can’t really fathom how quickly he’ll be two and telling me ‘no’. Marshall and I were reflecting on the year a few weeks ago, discussing what worked well and what did not work so great and I mentioned that I really wanted to thrive in 2016. I want to grow as a mom (to match the demands of my growing boy!), as a wife, and in my role as an online teacher. 

This season of new parenthood has changed me completely. My whole perspective on everything is just plain different. My heart change paired with my health struggles last year have really made me realize the importance of self care and what it means to care for myself so I can be the best mom, best wife and best person I can be. For me, the biggest foundational block is food. What I put into my body is super important and really affects me physically. In anticipation of frustration and temptation of doing the autoimmune protocol diet for a few months I asked Marshall to help me find a verse, quote or word that would help me to re-focus on why I’m doing this in the first place. He did some Googling (does it seem more spiritual if I say ‘researching’….?) and read a few to me and Isaiah 58:11 stuck out to me: 

You’ll be like a well-watered garden, 

a gurgling spring that never runs dry.


I immediately got this mental picture of the Garden of Eden (or what I imagine it looks like) before all the illegal apple picking went down. Lush, green fruits and vegetables growing with waterfalls and flowers, sunshine, blue skies, 60º perfection… a picture of the word thrive. I want to be a well-watered garden! 
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places– firm muscles, strong bones.

Our father is the best. A full life in the emptiest of places. Nothing about my life is empty, that is for sure. I have so much. A home, a job, a family, my health (although I’d like it to improve in some areas, I can sing, dance, walk and jump!). My life is full, for sure. But what a promise, to give us life in the emptiest of places, whatever that may look like.
So here’s to 2016! I’ve got some lofty goals (looking at you, dentist and reading list) and some loose ones (moving and blogging), and I’m excited! I also have absolutely zero goals for myself this year professionally (except for one, which will be easy), which I think may be the most exciting thing about this list. 
  • Complete (at minimum) 8 weeks of the Autoimmune Protocol Paleo Diet and keep a food journal of food reintroduction to identify potential sensitivities (including: eggs, sugars, dairy, chocolate, coffee) 
  • Take “real camera” photos each month of day-to-day life, Lincoln or family/friends events. Take LESS photos, but MORE intentional photos with a focus on improving technique. Blog each month for accountability. 
  • Develop a workflow for personal photos in Lightroom; at the end of each month take time to edit, save (delete RAW files), and print and/or add to photo book. 
  • Complete Lincoln’s baby book before he is 18 months old. Complete and order Lincoln Grows Volume 3 from Chatbooks. 
  • Move every day. Go for a walk, wear and meet FitBit goal, Mommy + Me classes, Kinect Yoga or Just Dance. Plan each week with meals. 
  • Blog once a week. Participate and learn from local blogger groups (Peony Project and TriFabb)
  • Read for a minimum of 10 minutes every night before bed.  
  • Pay off the bottom Sallie Mae loan (~$4k left), get the last one under $5k (currently ~$8k)!
  • Go to the dentist at least once. Bonus points for going twice. Double bonus points for getting husband to go, too. Quadruple double bonus points if he goes twice. 
  • Meet our neighbors on all sides, learn their names. Attend at least one HOA meeting. 
  • Utilize social media to build an online teacher presence through Periscope, Instagram and *gulp* Snapchat. 
Loose and lofty, that’s how I like it! Happy New Year, friends! 

The Truth About Our Christmas Card

Tonight I posted some family pictures of us on Instagram and Facebook. We got connected to a photographer couple at our new church and they were doing fall sessions for Christmas cards, so we decided to have some taken of us with our sweet baby boy. I love this season, both life season and season season. This fall and incoming winter have been really sweet for me, as I am coming out of what was a really tough, dark, scary and unhappy summer season.

So, this season was hard. It was really dark, scary and hopeless for what felt like a really long time. I was in a lot of heart pain and physical pain. Now, on what feels like coming up on the other side of it, I can’t help but look back with sheer gratitude. I can’t even begin to really put into words how much God shaped me through that process. He held me, he carried me, kept me in one piece and somehow shaped a real person out of that mess.

As I’ve referenced in social media posts and a few entries here, I’ve been dealing with some pretty severe eczema since delivering my son in December of last year. The emotions and physical pain of dealing with that on top of just general postpartum hormones and feelings associated with new motherhood really sent me to a really, terrible place. I never considered taking my own life, but I knew I needed help when I told Marshall it would probably be okay if I died, because Lincoln deserved a better mom than me and he deserved a better wife than me. And I believed all of those statements with my whole heart.

I felt compelled to share this part of my heart, because this time of year it is so easy to compare what we have to what everybody else has. I love seeing pictures of my friends and their growing families and the joy on their faces, but I know firsthand it is quite hard on the heart sometimes to see those pictures and Christmas cards come in the mail when your life, your current situation, is not Christmas card worthy. It’s not even Instagram worthy. It’s not even Camera Roll worthy. It feels worthless, pointless and unnecessary and you wish it would pass as quickly as possible.

2015 has been that for me. We welcomed Lincoln on December 28, 2014, just in time to bring in the new year and not long after that my body started attacking itself. I had open sores from head to toe (actually, it never went lower than my knees… so we’ll say scalp to knee) and eczema is a total jerk and itches like crazy. I would scratch in my sleep and wake up with blood all over the place, and that was if I could sleep. Most nights I would lie awake in between feedings trying to ignore the itch so I could sleep. When I was in the worst of my flare my face had hardened around my mouth and I couldn’t smile. It was around the time that Lincoln had started smiling and so every time he grinned at me, I would open my mouth since smiling would crack the skin around my mouth. This made me cry a lot. Sometimes I wonder now when he does his “surprised” face if it was because for so long that’s the face I made at him.

This year, this summer, especially, I just wanted to be done with it. I wanted to fast-forward to when I was healing and feeling better and when my face wasn’t ugly, red and weeping and when I wasn’t in pain anymore. And then it hit me: Lincoln wouldn’t be a baby anymore. If I checked out, mentally, and just waited for this season to pass then I would miss the first year of my first child’s life in favor of a pity party for myself… and that didn’t seem right, either.

So, thanks to my wonderful husband, my perceptive OBGYN, an amazing general physician who respected my feelings about topical steroids, and an even more amazing dermatologist who allows me  to pay a fraction of the cost for UV light therapy (and loves on my baby three times a week when we come)…we made it out alive. Well, all those people, plus a ton of tears, some Zoloft and many hours spent listening to really encouraging sermons from Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Lysa Terkheurst and prayer from my handpicked prayer team (you know who you are).

So what do you do? When a season is the worst and the best and you want it to pass so quickly, but don’t want to miss the good stuff? What do you do when you need your sickness to end, and you know healing is coming, but how do you reconcile the two? How do you simultaneously hate and enjoy the same season?

I don’t know. All I can tell you is what worked for me. At some point I felt God tell me to let it go, and I did, and then it started to get better. I let go. I let go of breastfeeding (I still to this very day feel the occasional twinge of guilt and regret about this, even though it has proved to be the best choice over and over and over…fickle heart). I let go of pride. I let go of trying so hard to be the woman I thought I should be, and just let myself be the woman I am. I let go of social media and deleted Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from my life for a few weeks and it healed my heart (and my skin, I think). I let go of following people on those platforms that did not build me up. If I looked at their feed and wanted what they had, or was jealous of their business/kids/money/beauty/followers, I stopped following. I let go of staying up late and getting up early. I let go of wearing make-up and washing my hair (this was not really a choice, as more of a by-product of my skin falling off…). I let go of unhealthy foods that did not give me energy, nutrients or good feelings in my belly. I let go of trying to meet expectations for myself that I got from nowhere.  I just, stopped trying and let God do the heavy lifting. I decided to let God use this time to teach, grow and use me. And how he has done all of these things!

So, I’ll be sharing more about my experience with eczema, my immune system and diet and nutrition in the coming year, but this post is more of an explanation about those family pictures I posted tonight. These pictures represent so much to me, like how faithful God is. He didn’t leave me, and he never will! I am not nor will I ever be a hopeless case to him.

Life isn’t always Christmas card worthy. I think it is probably easy for other people to look at my posts on Instagram, Facebook and see those pictures of us smiling and think that this first year of Lincoln’s life has been a lot of sunshine and rainbows. There has been a lot of sunshine (have you seen his surprised face?) and there has been a fair amount of rain. Thankfully, sometimes if you’re lucky enough to be outside when the rain stops and the sunshine comes out, there’s a rainbow. I’m totally in my rainbow right now, and I am savoring every single color.

(The biggest hug and shoutout to our friends at Langhoff Creative for these pictures– we treasure them!)