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

guacamole-eggs-watermark

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

Southwestern-Grilled-Sweet-Potato-Salad-6

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.

 

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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

 

Our vacuum smells like barf.

I have never liked vacuuming. It’s probably my least favorite household chore. Which is silly, I know, there seem to be so many worse things:

• pulling slimy hair out of the shower drain (this actually might put vacuuming at my second least favorite)

• sticking a hand down the garbage disposal (only then do you realize you should have thrown that oatmeal* in the trash instead)

• cleaning behind the toilet (because you have to get your body so close to the actual toilet — always a good idea to sanitize from front to back)

• tearing down spider webs (because you know the spider it belongs to is still out there crawling around your house and will probably be seeking vengeance in the middle of the night)

• cleaning the stove top (this one is mainly just infuriating, who can ever get that thing completely clean?)

I bet you all can name 12 more, but I’ll stop there. I think my distaste for the vacuum stems from childhood. While my Mom will tell you that she vacuumed often (ahem, every day) because of our allergies and it was good for the carpet, I will argue that she just really enjoyed it; that, or it was her dirty way of trying to get us to turn off the TV and play outside (which usually didn’t work). Either way, that vacuum was so loud and it was always conveniently in use during one of my favorite TV shows (Full House, Saved by the Bell, Boy Meets World*). This inevitably led to words being exchanged about the TV volume. I couldn’t miss a word that Zack Morris was saying, so I had to turn it up when she turned on the vacuum. But you know how vacuuming goes, you have to turn it on and off, switch outlets, move furniture… which meant that Zack Morris often went from volume 20 to 50 every 45 seconds. This usually didn’t make either one of us happy. Needless to say, I wasn’t quick to get out the vacuum when we moved into the flat, but after two weeks of ignoring the blue Goblin in the closet I knew it was time. While it looked a little questionable (most things here did at first), I was not prepared for what happened next. After about 15 seconds of use I couldn’t take it anymore. It literally smelled like someone had vacuumed up their barf. Of course Jay didn’t believe me — I have very sensitive olfactory system — and he thought I was overreacting. So I let him do it. He didn’t last much longer than I did before he decided to empty it out. It helped for a while, but then we vacuumed again yesterday (don’t worry, it has been used more than twice since we have been here… but not much more than that… sorry, Mom), and it made the whole apartment smell. I had to light a candle and only use it for small amounts of time.

It didn’t really matter anyway. It’s not like it actually works. Worst vacuum ever.

Sorry Mike and Andy, we tried.

*Seriously, don’t put oatmeal down the drain. Even though it unclogs your pipes, It will clog your sink’s. True story.

*Did anyone else read that Disney is talking about a new Boy Meets World based on Corey’s son? Heck yes.

On a side note, my recent posts have made it very clear I can’t bake (in England), but I can cook (sort of). I wanted to share some recent success stories. Don’t laugh at how easy these are…

BBQ Chicken Quesadilla (it’s kind of like a lower calorie version of BBQ chicken pizza, and who can resist that?)

Whole Wheat Tortillas – you pick how many

Shredded BBQ Chicken

Mozzarella Cheese

Onion (mine was already in my BBQ chicken)

Minced Garlic (already in BBQ chicken)

Corn

Black Beans

Your Favorite BBQ Sauce

Greek Yogurt

Avocado

I made BBQ chicken in the crockpot and had a significant amount of leftovers. I also had a crap ton of tortillas to use in the fridge — everything goes bad much more quickly here — it reminds me that we must have way too many preservatives in our food back home. Anyway, because I only have one pan to use that isn’t rusted out, I could only make half a quesadilla. So I tossed one tortilla into the pan with a little butter (real butter, not fake stuff) and then mixed up my sauce. I used (roughly) a 1:3 ratio with my BBQ and Greek yogurt (the more greek yogurt, the tangier it is) and then spread a small amount (too much and the toppings will slide out) on my tortilla. Then I layered my cheese, chicken, black beans, corn, a little more cheese and then folded my tortilla over to cook. Once it was browned on both sides and the cheese was melted I took it off the stove and topped it with avocado and more yogurt sauce. Delicious!

Cheeseburger Quesadilla

Lean Ground Beef

Onion

Minced Garlic

Cherry Tomatoes

Avocado

Mozzarella (or any other cheese)

I told you I had a lot of tortillas. This one is even easier. Ground your beef with onion and garlic and slice your tomatoes (smaller the better). Put your tortilla in the pan and let it heat up with some of your mozzarella. Add your beef and tomatoes then top with more cheese. Once the shell is browned (crispy) and your cheese is melted top with avocado and dip in ketchup — or anything else you like to eat on your burger!

I can’t really take full credit for either of these, I was inspired by a local restaurant and Pinterest, but I’m positive my version is better. 🙂

Kitchen 2, Kayla 1

I told you they kind of looked like poop…

When we first got here, baking was not high on my list; I was more worried about just making something edible. But once we settled in, and I started spending more time on Pinterest, I got the itch to make something sweet. For any of you who haven’t heard of this phenomenon sweeping America, Pinterest is a girl’s best friend (next to diamonds, of course) — it has everything — from recipes, to crafts, to fashion. You can even plan your dream wedding before you have a boyfriend. It’s kind of like the wedding board game I had when I was 8, but for grown-ups. Yes, there was such a thing as a wedding board game. Funny, right? I’m actually surprised my Mom let me play with it, being the strong feminist she is… “a girl doesn’t need a boy to make her happy”… which is true, but it’s nice to have one anyway. Must have been a gift… 🙂

Anyway, as I’m drooling over my “food board” on Pinterest a couple Fridays ago I realize that not only do I not have the ingredients to make most of these items, I was pretty much missing every basic baking utensil; I had no measuring cups, no mixing bowl, no muffin tin, no cookie sheet, no 9 x 13 pan, no mixer, no whisk, no spatula… How did someone survive in this place?! Serioussssssly. So I narrowed my search. I needed to bake something. Anything. Luckily, I found some peanut butter oatmeal no-bake cookies that my friend Ellie had pinned. Now, I don’t usually go the no-bake route, they just never seem to be as good as the real thing. But as you can probably tell, I was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. These cookies called for six ingredients, a pot and a spoon; that, it seemed, would be all I could handle.

I made myself a short list, I already had half of the ingredients (love when that happens!), and walked to the grocery store. I found organic butter (don’t tell Jay), brown sugar, and few other items in under 15 minutes, possibly my best time yet (I suppose my sugar fix was good motivation). Even though Jay would have grumbled because it wasn’t on my list, I got really excited when I stumbled upon the Nutella. While I would have been happy with any kind of cookie, I really wanted something with chocolate, and Nutella was the answer to my prayers.

I got back to the flat and I realized I had forgotten the vanilla. Crap. There was no time to go back, so I went ahead and got a little creative. Here’s what I did (just in case any of you end up in a place with no measuring cups, no mixing bowl, no muffin tin, no cookie sheet, no 9 x 13 pan, no mixer, no whisk, no spatula):

3 C Oatmeal

4 T Peanut Butter

1 T Nutella

Dash of Cinnamon

2 C Brown Sugar

1/2 C Milk

1/4 C Butter (also known as 57 grams here… it’s super helpful that it comes in 50 g chunks… not)

Put the first 4 ingredients in a bowl and set aside (or a pot, if that’s all you have). Cook brown sugar, milk and butter until it comes to a rapid boil — allow to boil for one minute. Pour mixture over oats and stir. Pour onto foil or wax paper.

Beware: it looks little bit like poop, but tastes delicious! They hit the spot. In fact, even Jay said they were good. I win. Kayla 1 Kitchen 0

I got a little cocky after my good luck with those cookies. The following week I thought it would be a good idea to make a half batch with the leftover ingredients and add some ripe bananas. Terrible idea. Three problems: 1) Halving the batch without measuring cups proved to be more difficult than I originally thought 2) I didn’t compensate enough with the dry ingredients to account for the bananas. 3) The bananas were too ripe — it was more like a mushy banana cookie with a little chocolate and peanut butter, rather than the other way around. We ate them with a fork for awhile, then I decided to just chalk it up as a loss. Rats. Kayla 1 Kitchen 1

Last weekend we were invited to play volleyball/picnic in the park with the Spikeopaths (a local volleyball club). The invite mentioned bringing a dish to share and I love a good potluck. Once again, I scanned pinterest for a recipe that would require very little utensils and ingredients. I finally decided on box brownies, marshmallows and chocolate frosting. I figured it would be hard to mess box brownies up. And they would be super tasty. But…

After 40 minutes of baking in a small glass dish I pulled out the brownies, checked them with a fork, and decided they had to be done. I worried I had overcooked them and fell asleep cursing myself for it. How was I going to dazzle my new mates with burnt brownies?

The next morning I got up and made the chocolate frosting. Yum. I usually try to hold off eating chocolate before 11 AM, but I couldn’t help myself. The buttery, chocolatey goodness was just too much to resist — I was covered in chocolate after licking both spoons and the pot clean. After that I patted myself on the back for the great self-control, then we packed up and left for the park. After a 20 minute walk and 20 minutes wandering in the park we finally found our group. Sidenote: we were on time and they were late. The English haven’t proved to be all that prompt. Once I set the brownies down I realized the frosting had melted in the heat. It had been so crappy for so many days that it didn’t cross my mind that it would be hot enough for anything to melt. Considering it was almost lunch time, and I had already broken my no chocolate before 11 rule, I decided to cut into the brownies. It was really for everyone’s benefit; once one piece is gone it’s like giving permission for everyone else to dig in, right? Well… I dug in, but to my dismay the brownies were stuck to the foil (I had used foil to avoid cleaning the dish by hand. I know. Super lazy.). Hoping that maybe it was just the corner that I would have issues with I continued to dig.

Crap.

Pretty sure the sun didn’t melt my brownies back into brownie batter.

Pretty sure no one is going to eat these.

But geez, they still taste really, really good.

Damn.

How embarassing. How could I mess up box brownies? Ugh.

All this chocolate goodness will go to waste. What ashame.

Now I’m just angry.

Kitchen 2, Kayla 1

We will meet again.

*BTW for you chocolate lovers out there I did not let them all go to waste. I probably ate 2/3 of the pan before I made myself throw them away. Yes, it took a lot of willpower. Brownie batter is damn good.