August 24, 2016

8 Kitchen Staples & How I Use Them Each Week

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Today, I am sharing some of my kitchen staples – items that are always on my grocery list, no matter what is on our meal plan! I’m also sharing how I use these items throughout the week.

I cook at home a lot. If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I am also a pretty big fan of meal planning. We make dinner at home 5-6 days a week, and eat breakfast and lunch at home most days. While my dinners are planned in advance, I like to leave some staples in the kitchen for breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and easy dinners.

My go-to Kitchen Staples
  • avocados
  • bananas
  • quinoa
  • canned diced tomatos
  • nut butters (usually peanut and almond!)
  • frozen fruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • eggs
This is what I do with these items:

Avocados| Love these for avocado toast, or as a topped on almost any meal. Its also fun to throw together some guacamole as a dip while we are cooking together or when we have unexpected guests. We go through several avocados a week. Anyone else?

Bananas| Confession: I eat a banana a day. I eat these with nut butter for a snack, in oatmeal, on top of yogurt, or in a smoothie. If they start to look like they are going bad, I peel them, place them in a plastic bag, and freeze them for smoothies.

Quinoa| My grain of choice. I use this as a base for stir-fry, or along with dishes that normally require rice. In a pinch, I’ll cook it with almond milk and cinnamon for a creamy breakfast. Its also a yummy side when cooked with a can of diced tomatoes and broth.

Diced Tomatoes| So many recipes require these…. so I just keep them on hand. If veggies in the fridge look like they are on their way out, I’ll cook them with spices, onion, and the canned diced tomatoes for an easy veggie soup.

Nut Butters| If AR was writing this, he would tell you that I am obsessed 😉 I eat some every day. On toast, on a banana, whatever. A personal favorite? almond butter and cinnamon on top of a roasted sweet potato. These also make great fillers in smoothies.

Frozen Fruit| In addition to all the frozen bananas, I keep frozen berries and pineapple for smoothies. Sometimes our fruit is gone early in the week, so frozen fruit helps us avoid an extra trip to the store. Mixed with some almond milk and even a little protein powder, these make for a fresh and healthy meal when our refrigerator is looking empty.

Sweet Potato| My favorite food. Baked, roasted, mashed, whatever! We love to use these for a morning hash on the weekend, and top them with a fried egg (we just sauté a little bell pepper and onion with the sweet potatoes. so so good). These last forever in the pantry, but don’t store them with onions! 

Eggs| Eggs are my go-to protein for many meals. I love a frittata for an easy dinner, and we enjoy scramblers several times a week.

What are you kitchen must-haves?
I’d love to know any meals or items you recommend!

image via

August 9, 2016

Our Experience with Home Chef Meal Delivery

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I’ll be honest. I didn’t really understand the meal delivery phenomenon. I mean, I like to meal plan, and I love to grocery shop. So why would I pay to have someone meal prep and grocery shop for me?

I was so wrong.

A few weeks ago, AR and I tried Home Chef, a meal delivery service. With a my intense study schedule and his hectic work hours, we thought it would be an easy way keep cooking at home, without the stress of meal planning.

After exploring the website for a few minutes, I filled in our meal preferences. The Home Chef system allows you to build a profile and specify your dietary preferences (low fat, low carb, vegetarian, gluten free, etc.). Then you select how many meals you want to receive that week, and push order.

At that point, Home Chef picks out the meals for you. You have the options to alter these and select new ones, or you can go with their selection. I went with Home Chef’s selection, because they all looked yummy.

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Meal 1: Parmesan-Crusted Salmon
Meal 2: Penne Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato Cream
Meal 3: Farmhouse Fried Chicken

Confession: Before ordering, I spent some time researching whether meat mailed through a meal delivery service would show up contaminated. Apparently this isn’t a problem.

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A few days later, a box arrived at my door with all of our meals! Home Chef lets you select the delivery date. I was so impressed with the packaging: Each meal was in a compact bag, and each container was labeled with the meal and ingredient. The meat was packaged separately with ice packs.

The recipe cars were printed with photos for each step, and organized in a nice binder. This was actually one of my favorite features. The recipes were very clear and easy to follow, and the photos made it simple to follow along.

Thoughts on the Meals:

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Parmesan-Crusted Salmon: This recipe was really simple, and I loved the homemade dressing. I also thought the portions were really large, which surprised me. This meal was light and fresh.

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Penne Pasta with Dun-Dried Tomato Cream: We loved this recipe. The method was new to me – we sautéed the mushrooms before cooking the noodles in the sauce with tomatoes, broth, and cream. The result was creamy, and rich, and wonderful. We had lots of leftovers from this meal (again, larger portions), and AR enjoyed the leftovers at lunch the next day. So good.

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Farmhouse Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Green Onion Gravy, & Corn: Another new-to-me-method. I’ve never actually tried to fry chicken on my own, but this was so easy and yummy. Surprisingly, we mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and made gravy, all in under thirty minutes. The corn was probably my favorite part – we cut it fresh off the cob, and sautéed it in butter for just a few minutes, so it was still crispy and cook.

Overall Conclusion:

Surprisingly, this non-believer is now a huge believer in meal delivery. AR and I loved cooking these meals together, and the convenience just can’t be beat. I think the best parts of Home Chef were the new methods and ingredients we tried. Having the meals delivered really got us out of a meal rut, and made cooking exciting. It was also so incredibly convenient. Everything was ready to use, and it made cooking and clean-up a snap.

I don’t think there were any major downsides to the system, except for perhaps the nutrition of the meals. The calorie count and fat content in these meals were very high. Now, the portions were large, and neither one of us ate a full portion of any meal. And we also had some of the less-healthy meals as our deliver (I mean… fried chicken). I think this could be avoided by selecting healthier options or making “low calories” one of my preferences.

AR and I plan to use this again. We both think that this will keep us from ordering takeout on busy nights – and the cost isn’t much different. Each meal was about $10. We look forward to using this again soon!

Have you tried any meal delivery systems? What did you think?

June 3, 2016

Fri-yay! {6/3}

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Y’all, how is it already June? Where has my life gone? Graduation was almost a month ago. Popping in to link up with Heather & April to get the weekend started! I’d love to hear what you are doing this weekend too – let me know!

This Weekend…

|1| Eating: Dinner at Cooks & Soldiers this weekend! The restaurant has been on our list for a while, so I am excited to try a new spot.

|2| Wearing: I am loving these running tops from Lululemon, not just when I am running. I snagged a few of these at the Lululemon warehouse sale and I love the fit & feel. All I do is study for the bar right now, so I can wear workout clothes all the time, right? 😉

|3| Excited about: My camera class tomorrow morning! I shared recently that I got a new camera. I am so excited about it, but not very good at using it, so I am taking a class at my local camera store for some help.

|4| Reading: I finished Eligible last weekend, which was on my Summer Reading List. I thought the book was really entertaining, and I liked the modern spin on Pride & Prejudice, but… I wouldn’t send it to my mom to read because there were a few modern-but-tacky twists, you might say. Now if I can convince AR to watch Pride & Prejudice with me this weekend!

|5| Running: My mileage is still low in the early weeks of marathon training, but I am running Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This plan has me running 6 days a week, which is actually kind of nice. Sadly, with Atlanta weather, I have to run by 8am or the heat is unbearable. Do you exercise outside in the summer? How do you get over the heat? 

If you are meal planning…

+ This Quinoa Taco Meat from the Minimalist Baker looks perfect for a meatless-Monday meal

+ I wish I had an excuse to make these Chocolate Chunk Blondies from the Barefoot Contessa

+ I tried this homemade pizza dough on Wednesday (subbing 1/2 whole wheat flour, and active, rather than instant, yeast) and loved the results!

Have a good weekend!

May 25, 2016

A 3 Day Juice Cleanse & Thoughts on “Detoxing”

A few weeks ago, I shared an article on the non-detoxing impact of juicing. After the article, I received some comments and emails about the benefits of juicing… several women told me that juicing had been a positive experience for them, and they every recommended I try it.

So I did.

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I started with a 3 day pack of juices from Kale Me Crazy, and planned to cleanse Monday-Wednesday, eating mostly vegan the two days leading up to the cleanse. My sweet husband agreed to juice with me for the first…. day 9 hours, but after that, I was on my own.

I want to be totally clear: I did eat a few raw fruits and vegetables. My juice bar said this was “okay” and for me, I needed it. Eating that bit of carrot/apple/spinach/banana allowed me to maintain workouts and sanity.

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Below are my day-to-day reactions, but here is my overall takeaway:

Juicing was a lot for my body. My body needs food, and skipping food is hard. I felt lower energy on days 1 & 2, and had a hard time focusing. Post cleanse, I do find myself craving more fruits and veggies, and drinking a lot more liquid – both positives. A week later, and I am still starting my day with lemon water instead of coffee and enjoying a mostly-vegetarian diet. 

Yet I am not sure I would recommend doing such a cleanse. Instead, I think choosing a vegan diet for a few days would better maintain energy and focus, while still giving your body only clean foods. Even more importantly, I think focusing on maintaining a diet rich in produce is better than having a diet you feel the need to “detox” from.


Day 1.

7:30am – With no workout, I slept in late. I got up, drank a glass of water, and made some warm lemon water for AR & I. I sipped on the lemon water while checking emails.

8:30am – I took the first drink – a Painkiller Shot of Ginger, Lime, Turmeric, and Raw Honey. To be honest, it was horrible. AR got his all down in one shot, but it took me 3 sips and it BURNED all the way down. About 15 minutes later, I felt amazing though.

9:00am – I reached for my first drink. Juice 1 was The Glow [Pineapple, Grapefruit, Turmeric]. It was a little sour, but not bad. At this point, I decided not to open instagram because I didn’t want to look at any photos of eggs or oatmeal.

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I wasn’t thirsty for my next juice until around 12. I sipped it while I ran errands – Juice 2 was a blend of Beets, Apple, Ginger, and Lemon. AR texted me to say it tasted like “sweetened dirt.”

I wasn’t really hungry the rest of the day – just craving something other than juice. Every time I thought about opening another bottle, I was just uninterested. I spent the afternoon reading about juice cleanses, which only further reinforced my belief that these can’t be a great wellness tool. I was so unproductive and unmotivated. Juice 3 was Pear-adise: Pear, Pineapple, Spinach, and Ginger.”

I munched on some raw cucumber slices (per the advice of my juice bar) and made it through 2 more bottles of juice before bed. Juice 4 was the Fire Fighter [Carrot, Apple, Celery, Ginger, Cayenne]. I kind of liked it, despite the burn. I just couldn’t get the last kale juice in. 5/6 isn’t bad. Juice 5 was a watery, unsweetened almond milk.

AR repeatedly asked me to stop while he enjoyed a big salad & a crunchy roll for dinner. Apparently his juice cleanse ended at 7pm.


Day 2.

I slept almost 10 hours, which is surprising. I thought I would wake up in the night starving, but I really wasn’t even hungry when I woke up. I made lemon water and grabbed my Painkiller Shot, which was easier the second go around. Aaron stopped getting ready to come out and watch me chug it, because apparently my reaction was “hilarious.”

I opened juice 1 [Kale Yeah: Kale, Spinach, Cucumber, Apple, Lemon] around 9:30am and slipped slowly. Everything tastes like some combo of lemon/apple/ginger to me right now. Everything.

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I kept busier on Day 2, and even survived a gentle yoga class. Before class, I chugged Juice 2 [Beet Up: Beet, Apple, Lemon, Ginger], which I liked a lot more than I did the day before. I felt tired during yoga, but okay. At home, I sipped Juice 3 [Revive: Kale, Cucumber, Pineapple, Ginger] And ate some carrot and apple slices.

I was only on Juice 4 by 5pm and drank the Apple, Carrot, Beet, Celery, Lime, Ginger drink on the way to a Junior League meeting.

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Confession: They handed out cupcakes at the end of the meeting and when I got home, I licked the frosting off mine. I completely understand that this is likely a failed juice cleanseBut the frosting was excellent and I was not feeling so hot after all that juice.

I drank one more juice before bed, again only 5/6, and this one was terrible. Juice 5 was Go Green [Kale, Spinach, Cucumber, Chard, Celery]. It tasted SO green and that, combined with the frosting, was a terrible mix.

Overall, I did not feel good on Day 2 was was generally sad about my choice to do a juice cleanse.


Day 3.

AR begged me to be done on Day 3, but I decided to drink my juices and eat a few more raw fruits and veggies. I drank more Beet’l Juice and Kale Juice in the morning, along with my Painkiller shot and hot lemon water.

At lunch, I took my almond milk juice and blended it with ice, spinach, and a banana. Again, this is not part of the juice cleanse procedure. But it was so filling and left me energized for the day. Because the juice bar said raw fruits and veggies could be incorporated, I felt this wasn’t a complete loss, but some purest would disagree with me. Frankly, without the addition of some cucumber and apple slices, I can’t imagine surviving this thing.

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I met a friend for coffee in the afternoon and sipped on some herbal tea. I didn’t even miss the coffee, or want a pastry.

By late afternoon, I was still feeling full of energy. I chugged another spicy Fire Fighter juice and went to hot flow yoga. Yep, Day 3 of the juice cleanse, and I am powering through yoga in a 98* room with added humidity. The most surprising part? I felt really strong and comfortable. For dinner, I grabbed another Green Juice and some more carrot sliced.

 

 

Juice Cleanse Done. 


So you want to do a juice cleanse?

  • Think about your motivation. If you are doing this to lose weight, pick a different method. Starving doesn’t create good weight loss, and people generally put the weight back on.
  • If you want to do this as a “reset,” consider incorporating raw fruits and veggies as a way to keep up your energy and allow you to keep working out.
  • Think about your schedule. I could not have survived day 1 while going to work. I would have produced nothing of value at the office. Perhaps do your cleanse Saturday-Monday, so your two hardest days aren’t at work, because it will be harder to focus.
  • “Detoxing” may not be a good reason to juice cleanse. Odds are, your body is already detoxing sufficiently on its own, and unlike a clogged sink, doesn’t need to be cleared. If for some reason, your body is not removing toxins effectively, you should seek medical attention rather than juice. Note that breakouts and weight gain are not a sign of toxins.
  • Post juice cleanse, I am still skipping coffee (except for a cup on Saturday!). I think a cleanse can be a great way to refocus on health foods and remind yourself you don’t need a bunch of caffeine or sugar for energy.

If you are looking for more reading on juice cleanses:

What are your thoughts on juice cleanses?