The Whole Life Challenge

Thank God the Whole Life Challenge ended before Thanksgiving…er, Christmas (I’m a little behind). Thursday would have been miserable; me and my pile of turkey eyeing everyone else and their starches and pies. I’m not kidding; not a single item on that table was compliant (besides the avocado deviled eggs I made that nobody else ate). It’s not that I was overly interested in the green bean casserole and mashed potatoes, but I would have been downright hangry if I hadn’t been able to eat anything besides meat.

Now let me back up a few months, I decided to participate in the Whole Life Challenge with my coworkers. I don’t do diets, but I had been wanting to cut out white sugar and this seemed like a good way to keep me accountable. I was also curious — I wanted to gauge my current eating habits against a Paleo-inspired diet. Would it make me feel amazing? Would my skin start glowing, instead of just sparkling (get the vampire reference)? Would I have more energy? Would I lose weight? Cutting out white potatoes, white sugar and cheese seemed doable. Cutting out milk and honey sounded miserable. There’s nothing better than a bowl of banana-peanut butter oatmeal covered in whole milk. And if I couldn’t have honey, how on earth was I going to satisfy my sweet tooth (because you know I have one ugly monster of a sweet tooth)? No dark chocolate, no Stoneyfield After Dark Chocolate frozen yogurt, no PB&Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams… damn you, sugar.

Now all of those things are what I consider “better-for-you” treats. There is a butt load of research on the benefits of dark chocolate. Would I like to protect my skin against the sun? Improve brain function? Lower my risk of cardiovascular disease? Yes, please. I can eat the entire container of Stoneyfeld frozen yogurt for 400 calories. YES, I SAID 400 CALORIES. I don’t, but the point is that I could and I’d still feel better about myself than when I indulge in a Scratch cupcake. And this treat, my friends, tastes like a Fudgesicle from Schwan’s. Mmm…childhood… Anyone out there know what I’m talking about? Lastly, Dark Chocolate Dreams is a-mazing on bananas, toast, a spoon — it could probably even make celery taste good. Because let’s be honest, even with a heaping amount of peanut butter and raisins, it’s still stringy and chewy and pretty much completely unsatisfying.

After my chocolate-white sugar-white potato-soybean-milk-cottage cheese-artificial flavor-preservative abstinence I lost a whopping ZERO pounds. Yes, you read that right, not a single pound was shed in eight weeks (I was suppose to lose 7 lbs and 6% body fat). To be fair, I had my cheat moments, but they were mostly for things like milk and peanut butter banana toast (link to my fave); things I should not have to feel guilty about. So all of this to come back to where I started: Enjoy things in moderation, steer clear from long ingredient lists, fuel your body with what it needs, eat as “whole” as possible and indulge when necessary. Because your weight is just a number and the formulas are not one size fits all.

… and when someone tells you to lose 6% of your body fat, tell them you like the way your jeans fit (if you’re nice).

On a good note, the WLC did motivate me to try some of the 842 recipes I have pinned. Some of them needed some small tweaks — like swapping white sugar for coconut sugar — but most are WLC compliant. To find more recipes that I have tested and approved, visit my Pinterest board.

Peanut Butter Cookies // Swap white sugar for coconut sugar and you’re golden. These were a LIFESAVER.

Guacamole Deviled Eggs (or Grunder family fail) from I Wash You Dry

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Vanilla Poppyseed Cake Doughnuts from the Urban Poser. They look too good to be true, right? They are actually very easy to make — don’t be intimidated!

stacked doughnuts 2

 

Paleo Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes from My Whole Food Life // The first time we made these we were really confused. They are nothing like a cupcake — they’re mushy — so don’t be alarmed when you pull them out of the oven. I never bothered to make the frosting because they were so good mixed in plain greek yogurt with a few slices of banana on top. I also heard they are basically the bomb.com when frozen.

 Sweet Potato Cornbread from Leite Culinaria // Two things: 1) I tried baking the cornbread in muffin tins and they turned out dry. It really does taste better in cast iron skillet. 2) It works best to puree the sweet potato and butter in a small blender before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients.

Sweet and Spicy Sausage Stuffed Peppers from Fast Paleo // This sausage mix is fantastic and can be eaten with over easy eggs in the morning or plain.

Taco Pie from Paleo Newbie

Southwestern Grilled Sweet Potato Salad from Two Peas and Their Pod

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Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast Casserole from Cooking Quinoa // It’s weird that you don’t cook the quinoa, but you get over it once you taste it.

 

See ya later, Texas (hopefully).

I’m sitting in the airport as I write this. We left the hotel at 4:30 AM expecting to catch a 6 AM flight, only to arrive at the airport to see our plane was delayed by FIVE hours. Thanks for the heads up United/American/US Airways. Five hours would have gotten me four more hours of sleep, a workout and breakfast. I would have been a lot more pleasant to those customer service agents I waited four, five, and two minutes*, respectively, to talk with — after, of course, the really fun game of yelling into the phone:

“What would you like to do?”

“Check reservations.”

“Ok, would you like to change existing or cancel?”

(Thought: Neither, I want neither of those options. I just want to know if I can get out of Texas.)

“No.”

“I don’t understand. Would you like to change existing or cancel?”

“Customer service.”

“It sounds like you want to talk to customer service, but what about these options?”

(Thought: Screw you, I want a real person.)

“CUSTOMER SERVICE.”

… and the phone goes silent. Repeat x2.

I’ve spent the last four hours reading, thinking about whether I want a parfait with 45 grams (!) of sugar or a suspicious looking egg patty on an oversized bagel**, updating my Pinterest boards, writing this and people watching. People watching can be fascinating, especially at airports.

One thing I will never, ever understand is why women wear heels in airports. I love a nice pair of heels, but you wouldn’t find me in even the most comfortable Clark wedges (Yes, I have Clarks. Don’t judge, they’ve really upped their game for the younger crowd). It’s just not practical when you have to walk a mile between terminals. I wonder who they are trying to impress — the pilot, TSA, fellow fliers? What happens when they have 5 minutes to catch their next flight and the terminal is in another state? I’m pretty sure running in heels is only safe for Hollywood (and even then, I wonder if they use stunt doubles — I would fall on my face). I just want to shout, “For the love of God, woman, wear some flip flops and change when you get there!”

So west Texas is flat. Like, really flat. And dry. And most unexpectedly, dilapidated. The landscape is littered with forgotten homes in states of unimaginable disrepair and businesses that look like they haven’t been touched since they were built in the 60’s. But the people are nice and they say things like “britches” and drink sweet tea. I’m happy they finally got some rain to give their crops some life. Something needs to look lively down here.

My greens report: I managed to eat something green every day we were here — and none of it was fried. Although I won’t lie to you, a lot of it came in the form of guacamole. Our options were basically Mexican, steak and potatoes or something fried — they don’t really do “light” meals in Texas***. I can’t wait to get home and eat an apple… a baked sweet potato… or brussel sprouts… or greek yogurt… hunger is setting in…

And our flight just got delayed another 70 minutes. American Airlines, we aren’t friends right now.

* I shouldn’t complain about the wait time. I’ve waited much, much longer for an airline customer service rep.

** Instead, I opted for Sabra hummus and pretzels. It was literally, the most unprocessed, edible looking thing in the airport (the banana-bread ripe bananas made me gag). But I’m getting hungry again and we haven’t boarded for our flight yet.

*** I did have something called Mexi-Cauli at The Crafthouse Pub in Lubbock (that place is amazing if you ever make your way down here). They used very small pieces of cauliflower (shredded or finely chopped) as the base, then added black beans, corn, pico, cheese, roasted chicken and avocado. I’m totally going to make this at home. Maybe I’ll even trick Jay into eating it. 🙂

Something Green

[Prologue]

I’m a goal-oriented person but I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because in 2010 I made a simple resolution: floss once day. And I did…until May. Finals came around and flossing was apparently at the bottom of the priority list, which doesn’t even make sense — it’s good for you, it takes all of twenty seconds, and it takes zero mental capacity. Seriously, I’m a dentist’s daughter. What’s wrong with me?

– – –

I have a new goal. Actually I have three.

1) I’m going to eat something green every day, even if some days that means green frosting.

Here’s the deal: vegetables are hard for me. Sure, I get my 2-3 servings of dairy, I drink plenty of water, I pop blueberries like candy and I fuel my body with nuts and lean protein BUT I can go days without eating a green vegetable. This is a problem. Sunday I decided to do something about it. I made a meal plan, went to the store and bought some green stuff. I came back with avocado, spinach, zucchini, broccoli, peppers and brussel sprouts. Let’s do this…

Sunday I made Creamy Southwest Quesadillas, but I swapped the cream cheese for Neufchâtel (and only used 4 oz), pepper jack for sharp cheddar, sautéed spinach to replace corn and added chicken. They were freakin’ delicious. And I should give myself double points for this because I added avocado on top. YUM. You can find the actual recipe here: http://chocolateandcarrots.com/2014/01/creamy-southwest-quesadillas

Monday night I made Spaghetti Bake, but I added mushrooms, green pepper and sautéed spinach in place of some of the noodles. Speaking of noodles, I used Ezekiel elbow macaroni; they look questionable and leave your water kind of grainy (and your stove a mess — I let my water boil over twice…oops), but you can’t tell the difference from regular whole wheat pasta. I should have cut back on the ricotta though, this one turned out a little cheesy: http://chocolateandcarrots.com/2014/02/easy-baked-spaghetti

Tuesday night I had a massive kale Caesar salad with salmon from Table 128. It was a whole lotta kale. (PS If you live in Des Moines you should check this place out. It’s GOOD.)

Wednesday I had leftover quesadillas. Yes, they were still delicious.

And on those frosting days, maybe it’s buttercream with green food coloring, or maybe it’s chocolate avocado frosting. 😉

  • 1 perfectly ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup good unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate mini chips (optional)

2) I’m going to make a significant effort to “be (more) present”… which means not thinking about the million other things I should be doing and enjoying what I’m doing right now.

Yeah, yeah, this is hippie-granola-yogi Kayla talking, but for real, this is something we should all try to be better at. Do you ever think about how good it feels to take a deep breath? Try it. You’ll like it.

3) Floss

Yep, I’m going to try again. I’m a grown-ass woman. I can do this.

And my #tbt for the day. I can’t help it, we are 30 days from our first-year anniversary! xo

Image

 

Things I have learned in England

1. Tea is also another word for dinner. How do I know this? One night Jay got home later than usual from soccer. I asked what the occasion was and he replied, “My ride made his wife tea tonight so he was able to stay out later.” I was seriously confused. If it only took a cup of tea for an Englishman to make his wife happy, they must think America is full of… Jay quickly explained that “making tea” is the same as “making dinner”.

2. It’s not “Mom”, it’s “Mum”. I’m not sure what they call the flower. I suppose they use the proper English term, Chrysanthemum.

3. I feel like a complete and utter slob when I eat around English people. They are masters with their forks and knives. I tried to imitate them once, but after a few dropped utensils and the pile of food in my lap I gave up; it’s quite clear that my left hand is worthless.

4. An example of how they use “whack” in a sentence: “We’ll just whack it in the oven.” No, they are not referring to hitting a baseball into the oven (they were actually talking about mozzarella sticks).

5. Last night we got wankered, not hammered, at the Christmas party.

6. English breakfast is literally a heart attack on a plate: eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, and a tomato (thrown in for good measure).

7. Everything is called pudding: All desserts are called puddings (yes, even cheesecakes and brownies and ice cream). Yet, they also have black pudding (so not a dessert), white pudding and Yorkshire pudding.

Black pudding = a hockey puck of dried animal blood

White pudding = a hockey puck of dried animal fat

Yorkshire pudding = they say it’s pancake batter in a muffin tin, but it don’t taste like my Momma’s pancake batter (it tastes more like a Pillsbury roll). Either way, this is the best of the three.

8. They expect you to walk on the left side, drive on the left side, but stand on the right side when you are on an escalator. WTF.

9. Boxing Day is the December 26 in England. It’s a bank holiday (as in everyone gets the day off), but nobody actually knows what the holiday is about…

10. A Christmas cracker is not a cracker at all. It’s actual a candy-shaped cardboard container that has a small bit of explosives in it (hence the “cracker”), as well as a tissue paper crown and a Cracker Jack toy.

Notice how using the oven is not on here?

See you all soon! xo

It’s Time

1. I had a minor meltdown a few days ago. It started with kale:

Kale chips have been on my list of to-try’s for awhile now. Even though I knew I would hear some moaning and groaning from Jay, I had decided that last night was the night. Mostly because of the “best by” date on the package, not because I couldn’t put off the excitement of trying salad chips and hearing Jay complain that “real” chips taste better.

I followed the simple instructions and stuck them in the oven, then busied myself with the BBQ chicken. After about 10 minutes something didn’t smell right, so I checked the “chips”. Yep, you guessed it, they were burnt. No, apparently I still haven’t figured out how to work the oven. Instead of getting upset about it, I just turned off the oven and shut the door on them. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Then I tried to improvise and create a kale salad, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the oven. I wasn’t mad (it’s not like I burnt chocolate chip cookies); I was annoyed.  I gave up on the salad and threw it in the trash. My heart wasn’t in it.

As I was hastily putting the ingredients away, the blueberries fell out of the fridge. The day before, the grated parmesan had fallen out of the fridge. Both spilled all over the floor. That was it. It’s one thing to spill cheese, but the blueberries put me over the edge. I LOVE blueberries.

I wasn’t a crying kind of meltdown, but I said some bad words…

“#$&**@ *#%%$ &@$#”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“%^$@”

“I need to go home.”

“I need an oven — 0ne I can work.” (You don’t really need subtext on this one…)

“I need a normal sized fridge. This fridge is stupid.” (Subtext: If you put the fridge temperature up too high it leaves a nice 3″ thick coating of frost on the back, but turn the fridge down and nothing stays cold. Leave it somewhere in the middle, and the stuff in the back freezes. AKA both the parmesan and the blueberries were near the front to avoid the freezing and too close to the edge).

“I need a dishwasher.” (Subtext: Not just a normal-sized dishwasher, but a working one. Our dishwasher hasn’t work for over three weeks.)

“I just need to go hooooooome.”

2. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days now. Sort of. I’m trying to avoid laundry. Now you are probably thinking to yourself, “who doesn’t avoid laundry?” But I feel like I’m starting to smell like the people at the gym…

3. On another high note, I’ve resorted to stealing body wash from the gym. I am soooo not buying another bottle of Dove.

4. I just ate noodles, frozen (it was too close to the back) shredded cheese, and tuna for dinner. Our food supply is quickly dwindling and I refuse to eat take-out every night.

Barcelona

We had a rough start to our Barcelona trip…

Our flight was delayed and the abnormally loud noise coming from the airplane during take off was a little disconcerting. I made sure to read the emergency card from the seat pocket in front of me.

The taxi driver ripped us off by about $20; he claimed “no habla ingles” when it came time to pay the bill. How convenient.

The tapas restaurant recommended to us by the hotel charged us $10 PER scallop. I’m thinking there are some kick backs going on — send over the dumb Americans who can’t argue what the menu says (sorry Senora, my Spanish failed me) and we will give you 10%. They weren’t even that good.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

On the upside, the trip did get better. Barcelona is beautiful and surprisingly clean (cleaner than Reading), considering their steep unemployment rates. No worries, I won’t get political on you. No one wants to talk about the Eurozone crisis or the fiscal cliff or global warming on this blog.

We started our Saturday off by finding a small bakery for breakfast. This, of course, came after a 10 minute debate and four menu checks; I really just wanted oatmeal, but I had to settle for white bread, ham and cheese. I know, I know… the poor girl traipsing all over Europe is complaining… But seriously, you don’t understand, it took me a week to get right (if you know what I mean) after France. No one wants that. On a side note, I’m convinced the only reason Europeans actually stay fairly slim is because they have to walk EVERYWHERE (because they definitely don’t eat healthy). Besides the fact that cars tend to just be a hassle in the city, have you seen how people drive here? Walking is safer.

After our meal we walked to La Sagrada Familia, but just as the tourist books had said, the line was unbearably long. We just weren’t motivated enough to get up early to beat the crowd. Our bad.

DSCN0514

It was a monstrosity.

It was a monstrosity.

DSCN0536

Instead of wasting half our day in line, we walked through the park next to the church; apparently it’s the place to be on Saturday mornings for anyone over 60. The old men were so cute, I just had to take some pictures. This first game looked like a combination of horseshoes and bowling, but they also had some mean games of bocce ball going on as well.

BocceMen

We wandered down to the water after that. Jay loves the ocean. Personally, I don’t like any bodies of water in which I can’t see the bottom. It’s partly a texture thing; I’ve never been fond of stepping on slimy things. It’s also a shark thing (for oceans anyway). I blame this (somewhat irrational) fear on a memory I have from visiting my great-grandparents in Florida. I was out on the beach playing at dusk and someone said, “Don’t go into the water, the sharks come out now.” That may not sound like such a bad thing to say, but it was terrifying for my four-year old self. This fear is constantly reinforced when I hear of people getting their arms bitten off, or worse, DYING from shark attacks. I don’t care what the chances are. Yes, I know lighting kills more people. But have you seen shark teeth?

Speaking of fish, we stumbled upon a very cool (but smelly) fish and fresh food market.

I prefer my fish without their eyes... or heads... basically I don't want to be reminded they were alive.

I prefer my fish without their eyes… or heads… basically I don’t want to be reminded they were alive.

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The first night there we also had shrimp with our over-priced scallops. They had brown juice dripping out of them that smelled awful; I could barely choke the thing down. Shrimp may be one thing that I prefer bleached and processed.

The first night there we also had shrimp with our over-priced scallops. They had brown juice dripping out of them that smelled awful; I could barely choke the thing down. Shrimp may be one thing that I prefer bleached and processed.

These looked tasty.

These looked tasty.

I should have taken a picture of all the fruit. That was my favorite — the mango was a-mazing! Once we had our fill we walked back to the hotel to take a load off and shower before dinner… turns out Barcelona is kind of big… and we got a little lost… and European maps suck (because there are no grid structures, just a lot of stupid round abouts).

That evening we were ready to leave for dinner at 6:30 in hopes that we could eat in an hour and then catch the fountain show. Plans had to be altered when we walked to the restuarant and realized nothing even opens before 7-8 o’clock because no one in Spain eats that early. Damn. I was hungry and the old guys were laughing at us. After a snack at the hotel bar we decided to reverse our plans, fountains then food. Even though Jay complained the whole way down to the fountains, and I had a headache, they were definitely one of the coolest things we saw in Barcelona. Our pictures will not do it justice, but the smaller fountains line the road leading up the big fountain at the end (you can see it’s pink in this photo). Behind the large fountain there are three different sets of stairs leading up to the art museum, a wonderfully old building that looks quite grand at the top of the hill.

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I found this kind of amusing.

I found this kind of amusing. Convenient placement.

 

At the Olympic Park

At the Olympic Park

 

Olympic track stadium.

Olympic track stadium.


Small Victories

With less than three weeks (yes, only three weeks!) left of our trip I finally made it back from the grocery store without pretending to check my phone or hoping for a red light at the crosswalk (just so I could set my over-stuffed bags down and rest). Which means I finally figured it out or I’ve gotten stronger, either way, it’s a victory for me. I can’t count the times that I broke a sweat and got finger cramps from carrying those damn grocery bags. You know, they really shouldn’t even make the bags that big, they are at least twice the size of the ones we use back home and are just asking to be stuffed full of healthy goodness. Of course, Jay doesn’t always appreciate my choices (today I came home with kale, eggplant, cous cous, mushrooms…); my favorite is when he comes home after I’ve brought back two big bags of groceries and can’t find anything “good” to snack on. 🙂

I’ll be posting pictures of our trips to Italy and Spain soon! xo