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My Whole 30 Experience

Mini Squash

Going into the Whole 30, I wasn’t really expecting to learn much of anything.  In fact, I wasn’t expecting anything about myself to change at all regarding food.  We eat really well and already eat a mostly primal diet with a few treats here and there.  I thought I knew everything about myself and the Whole 30 showed me that I was wrong.

I went into this challenge to start the year off by eating super clean and to work on losing the bloat and the few pounds I gained over the last few months. (A beer job means you have to drink beer which means that needs to be balanced out somehow. Lesson learned.)

Spoiler Alert: It worked.  Really well.

But during these 30 days I learned a lot about myself and how food affects so many different things aside from my waistline.  I’m already pretty intuitive when it comes to food and how it makes me feel.  The Whole 30 multiplied that by 100.  I’m in awe and completely inspired.  Here are just a few things that I’m coming away with from doing this challenge:

Take It Black

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I’m now drinking my coffee black, this is still the case. I have no desire for any sweetened almond milk added to my coffee.  The craziest I get is adding a little ground spice to the ground beans and brewing for a little extra flavor.

Added Sugar Is Everywhere

It was hard to find things like deli meats and sausages that did not have some form of added sugar to them.  While the amount is small, it is not allowed during the challenge.  This was my biggest frustration because we love sausages and eat them often.  I did find some compliant ones and they were alright.  I don’t want to see another chicken and apple sausage for a very long time though.

Cheese? What Is Cheese?

I was talking with another challenger about missing bacon and she mentioned that she missed cheese. This stopped me dead in my tracks because up until that point I hadn’t even given cheese a second thought. I did not miss it or even thought about it once during this challenge.  WHOA  I had considered myself a lover of cheese yet I completely forgot about it. I’ve had a nibble since the end of the challenge and it was – OK.  Just OK.  I’m currently questioning who I am and the meaning of life at this point.

Yogurt Is In

Yogurt I can handle in small amounts and I’m OK with that.  I do love yogurt and it’s also one of the things I missed during this challenge.  I’m happy to have it back in my life.

Sleep Is Amazing

My sleep, which had been spotty for a while now (and by while, I mean years), has returned to normal. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I can easily fall back asleep.  I’m not restless and I don’t have night sweats (which I get from wheat and alcohol).

Energy

I had plenty of energy and was able to handle working out just fine.  I felt a little tired towards the end of the day but in a natural, I’m-Ready-For-Bed way and not from feeling run down.

Empty Food Is Empty

I’ve had a few snack items, like some chips and they were completely unsatisfying. They didn’t even taste as good as they used to.  It’s completely true that in 1 month you can change your approach, taste, and relationship with food.  I don’t want to reach for junk because it does not satisfy and does not provide my body with anything good.  I’d much rather have real food.

Meal planning and prepping has also become a part of my regular routine.  This has helped so much during the busy work week that I don’t know why I didn’t start this sooner.

Even my husband’s tastes and attitude towards food has changed and for the better.  Aside from a few items added back in we’ll be sticking with a mostly paleo/primal diet.  There were times I got really annoyed and frustrated with this challenge but in the end I’m so glad that we did it.  I walked away learning that much more about food, nutrition, and my own body.

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Whole 30 Week 2 and 3 Recap

Tuna salad in a collard wrap with side salad.

 

I just wrapped up Week 3 of the Whole 30 Challenge.  So far things have been going really well.  The diet isn’t that hard to maintain and while it seems restrictive, the reality is that this challenge is not that hard. Fill your plate with veggies and some protein, that’s the basic concept.  That’s pretty easy when you can simplify it like that.

Things that I’ve learned so far during Week 2 and Week 3:

Prepping Protein Is Important

With my work schedule and busy off days, having protein ready to go for lunch is an important meal prepping step. There were a few times where I didn’t have any ready so carving out time to make some put me behind schedule.  Lesson learned, I need to have lots of protein prepped and in the fridge.

Re-heatable Breakfasts Is Key

Making a large fritatta to have ready for the week is also an important step for my schedule.  I did not make one this week and on the days I worked, having to make breakfast for myself and Scott put me a little behind schedule as well.

Prep Dinner The Night Before

On the days I work, I have to take dinner with me.  Leftovers are the easiest thing for me to pack up and take to work. I need to make sure that the night before I pack up my dinner so that it’s ready to go the next day. If I have to spend time packing it up before I leave for work that cuts into my schedule when I could be doing something else.

The biggest lesson these past two weeks has been to make sure that I meal plan and prep for the coming week.  Otherwise I’m scrambling to get stuff made for meals and that takes away from time I could be spending on other things that need my attention.  For this last week, I fully plan on prepping and planning a great deal this weekend so that the 4th week is successful.

I’ve learned a lot along the way and I’ll be sharing all about that when the challenge is completed.

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Whole 30 Week 1 Recap

Mahi Mahi, green beans, sweet potato

I started doing the #JanuaryWhole30 because I wanted to kickstart my healthy lifestyle right from the beginning this year.  2016 is ALL ABOUT ME.  Last year was supposed to be that way but I got derailed and let things slide. I didn’t really fall off the wagon but I wasn’t being as proactive as I should have been.

This year is going to be different.  I’ve started Crossfit, which I adore.  And along with that it was time to really dial in my nutrition and get on the right track for all the performance goals I have this year.  We eat pretty well but it could be better.  Whole 30 was a way to put the goal into motion.

I’ve been doing strict Whole 30 for a little over a week now.  This is my first official Whole 30 so I’m following the rules to a T. There are things I thought would be challenging and things that I thought would be easy.  So far, my perceptions were way off.

Black Coffee

Normally I take my coffee with a splash of vanilla almond milk.  I thought that switching to black coffee with a little coconut oil would be difficult.  I even thought that I might have to give up coffee for a month.  This was a breeze. I probably won’t even go back to creamer in my coffee after this.  After a week of having coconut oil blended with my coffee, I can now just have my coffee straight up black.  This is HUGE for me.

No Added Sugar

This is HARD. I’m not a sugar junkie and don’t have issues with sugar in items. I don’t even have a sweet tooth. However sugar is in everything! Finding compliant items like sausages is very challenging. Even breakfast sausage has added sugar.  And you can’t add natural sugars to items so no honey in salad dressings.  This would be the part that I find more frustrating. I really miss breakfast sausage. Boo.

Energy and Sleep

Right now I feel amazing. I don’t know if I would consider this the Tiger Blood mode because I’m still pretty tired and worn out come 4pm.  However, I think that’s because of Crossfit and not diet.  Crossfit just wears me out but in a good way.  I’m tired from working hard not because of diet.

Sleep has been amazing! Night time anxiety has gone way down and I’m able to fall asleep a lot easier when I wake up during the night.

Doing the Whole 30 has finally got me into meal planning and prepping habit.  I’ve tried to do a little before but never really embraced it.  Now, on Sundays I prep a bunch of foods for the week and have my meals planned out. This makes life so much easier, and saves so much time during the week.  Especially in the mornings when I can just reheat stuff for breakfast.

I’m not doing this for weightloss but if that is one of the results, I’m not going to complain.  I have already lost a lot of bloat and a few inches which I’m basing on the way I feel and how my clothes fit, not because I weighted or measured myself.  Saving that for the end of the challenge!

So far I’m happy to have started this challenge and am looking forward to seeing how I feel at the end.

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Smoked Salmon and Blue Cheese Ball

This smoked salmon and blue cheese ball is full of bold flavors and pairs perfectly with the 2013 Cultivar Oak Knoll Chardonnay that I received as part of their Cultivar Wine Bloggers.

Smoked Salmon and Blue Cheese Ball

 

During the holidays when I was a kid, one of the things that I looked forward to the most was the cheese ball and salmon ball that my mom made as part of the holiday table.  We only had it once a year and it was glorious.  I liked the cheese ball a lot but the salmon ball was my jam.  It was the only time I enjoyed eating salmon (I’m a grown adult now so things have clearly changed) and I lived for that salmon ball.

My mom was a proper 1960s-70s housewife so of course we had cheese ball when entertaining.  Sometimes jello molds as well but we don’t talk about those.

The cheese ball has died away and I’m not sure why.  Oh sure you may see some store bought concoction with it’s bright orange color and dotted with almonds sitting all alone on a table at a random gathering, but a cheese ball that someone made that’s actually delicious is no where to be found.

I decided to change that this year and created a dressed up version of the salmon ball my mom used to make.  This makes a lot which is perfect if you’re hosting a party or bringing a dish to one.  You can easily cut this recipe in half to create a smaller ball for smaller gatherings.

I used smoked salmon and blue cheese and paired this with 2013 Cultivar Wine Oak Knoll Chardonnay.  The butteriness of this wine balances out the sharp smoke of the salmon and brings out it’s briny bite.  The crisp citrus notes help tone down the blue cheese and helps cut through the creaminess of the spread.

This dish is great for entertaining or just to have as a snack while you binge some Netflix. No judgment here.

Andrea’s Smoked Salmon and Blue Cheese Ball

  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 C Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • 6 oz Smoked Salmon* (see note at bottom)
  • 2 Green Onions, chopped, both white and green parts
  • 1 TBSP Prepared Horseradish
  • 2 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 TBSP Dried Dill
  • Sliced almonds for garnish
  • Dried cranberries for garnish

Add all ingredients except salmon and green onions, to a food processor and process until smooth.  Remove mixture from processor and add to a bowl.  Add in the salmon and green onion, mix till everything is combined.

Place mixture on some plastic wrap and shape into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge.  Allow to set up for at least 4 hours before serving.  Best if made the day before.

Carefully remove from wrap and place on a plate.  Stud with sliced almonds and dried cranberries.  Serve with crackers and veggies.  Keeps for 4 days.

*The smoked salmon I used is from the Honey Smoked Fish Company so it’s not the typical thinly sliced looks almost raw smoked salmon that you’re probably used to seeing.  I personally love this kind of smoked salmon and eat it all the time.  If you can’t find this style of smoked salmon you can certainly try using the other version.  You’ll want to chop that up before adding it to the mixture.  I can’t guarantee the outcome though since I haven’t tested that out.

Dried cranberries are a great addition to this recipe so I recommended being generous when adding them at the end.  That punch of sweetness is a lovely pairing with the blue cheese.

If you’re interested in trying out Cultivar Wine, as a reader of Food Embrace, you will be given 10% off your order.  Use the code, FoodEmbrace at checkout.

Disclaimer: I’m required to disclose a sponsored partnership between our site, Food Embrace, and Cultivar Wine. I have been compensated in exchange for this post in the form of product or experience. All opinions and recipes presented are my own.

 

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On Starting Crossfit

Crossfit

If you follow me on Instagram, then you have probably seen that I’ve started doing Crossfit.  I needed a change up.  Running was OK but I was still having some hip issues that were frustrating.  I was stuck at 2 miles because of it.

I’m also pursuing a big career change, one that is more manual labor focused.  You would think these would be unrelated but they are not.  New career would require me to carry and lift 50lbs at a time along with other heavy labor stuffs.  I want to be able to do this on my own without asking for help.  I also want to be stronger so I can handle my job safely as possible.

I have tried Crossfit before and had a really bad experience with it.  I lasted about a month and then wiped my hands clean of the whole situation.  I vowed to never do Crossfit again.

Never say never, is the big life lesson that I learned this year.  Sounds cliche as hell but it’s true.

On paper Crossfit is exactly what I am looking for in a workout.  Varied workouts each session, strength training, and something that is going to kick my butt.  Workouts that are scalable to all levels.  This was not my experience the first time I tried it out but that was three years ago.

I have come to realize that not all gyms are the same, each is going to have it’s own dynamic and community.  Because of this new mindset and determination, I set out to find a gym that fits me and my needs.

Fort Collins is not lacking in Crossfit gyms, that’s for sure.  I checked out gyms that are close to where I live because that plays a big factor in motivation.  I’m not going to go to a gym that’s 1/2 an hour away, I have no desire to spend that much time in the car just to workout. Plus that is a huge demotivator (yup, I’m using this word). If it’s snowy or pouring rain, who wants to drive 1/2 an hour to work out? No one.

I found some gyms that were just like the one I tried before.  I had some gyms that didn’t even respond to emails.  Those were immediately crossed off the list.  Then I found MY gym.  And man do I love this gym.  Ask Scott, because I tell him every time I come back from working out how much I love my gym.

It is everything that I was looking for in a Crossfit gym. The workouts are different each time and the coach is great at making sure that they are scaled to each athlete’s level. I look forward to working out and leave each session with the desire to get better the next time I workout.

Oh, so this is what loving Crossfit is like.  Now I get it.

I will also be starting a Whole 30 on January 1st.  Joining Crossfit and doing a Whole 30 are related in an unrelated way.  I’m not doing the Whole 30 because of Crossfit.  I’m doing it because I want to kickstart my new fitness and health journey this year from the beginning.  I want to start clean and eat well because then I preform better in the gym.  This is my year to get fit and strong, Andrea 2.0, now with muscles is my goal for this year.  I don’t want to just lose weight and be fit, but I want to be STRONG.

If you want to kickstart your health in 2016 and are interested in joining my Whole 30 group, just let me know and I’ll add you in! The group is free and there’s a bunch of us starting on the 1st.

Here’s to a new year and starting things off with a bang!

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Bourbon Barrel Maple Vanilla Scones

Bourbon Barrel Maple Vanilla Scones

I was recently contacted by Kite Hill to review their almond milk based yogurts. They are the only company that I’ve come across that makes almond milk based products and I have been wanting to try them out for quite some time.  This gave me the perfect reason to finally dive in!

I know a lot of people who are dairy free for a number of reasons and these products seemed like a nice alternative to dairy based cheeses and yogurts.

I admit that I did go in with some hesitation.  I’ve tried non-dairy yogurts in the past and it hasn’t gone well.  The texture was off and the flavor was a little astringent with a fake sweetness to it.  I put my previous experience aside and went in with optimism.

Kite Hill sent me all of their flavors:

  • Plain
  • Vanilla
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Peach

The strawberry I gave to Scott since I’m allergic but all of the other flavors I was able to test out.  I tried it as I normally eat yogurt, by making a yogurt bowl for breakfast.

I have to say this yogurt is pretty spectacular for a dairy free yogurt.  It is a little on the thinner side texture-wise but not by much. It’s creamy and rich with tons of fruit flavor.  It is lightly sweetened and if I had to give a critique, it would be to lessen the sweetness just a tad.

Kite Hill’s yogurts are hands-down the best non-dairy yogurts that I have tried.  These are perfect for those that are avoiding dairy or are looking for an alternative.  Plus there’s no soy in these products either which is a lovely added bonus!

I wanted to see how well these yogurts would work with baking so I decided to make some sweet scones with the vanilla yogurt. These scones are dairy-free, egg-free, grain-free, and vegan.

I win blogger bingo for that!

I also used bourbon barrel aged maple syrup in the recipe.  (drops mic)

Andrea’s Bourbon Barrel Maple Vanilla Scones

  • 2.5 C Almond Flour
  • 1/2 C Tapicoa Flour
  • 1/4 C Coconut Flour
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 TBSP Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup* (see note at bottom)
  • 5 oz Kite Hill  Vanilla Yogurt
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 C Powdered Sugar
  • 4 TBSP Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (If you live at sea level, reduce heat to 375) and line a baking sheet with either parchment or silicone.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients for the scones and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Sprinkle the counter with a little extra coconut flour and place the dough on top.  Shape dough into a square about 1/2 an inch in thickness.  Cut dough into 8 triangles and place those on the baking sheet.

Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool before adding the glaze.  For the glaze, mix the sugar with the syrup and spread over scones.  This is a thicker glaze, if you want a thinner glaze add more syrup or a splash of almond milk to the mix.

*I purchased the bourbon barrel aged maple syrup at Trader Joe’s.  If you can’t find any or don’t want to use that, regular maple syrup will work just fine.

These scones are great as a breakfast treat or a little nighttime snack.  If you want to freeze them, then do not glaze them until you are ready to serve.

The yogurt did great in these scones providing a nice little sweetness along with enough acid to kickstart the baking soda.  It also provided enough moisture that I didn’t need to add any eggs to the mix.

Kite Hill yogurts are great straight up or you can use them in recipes in place of dairy yogurt.  I believe that currently these are only available at Whole Foods so you’ll have to swing by your local store to check them out.  Definitely try their products to see what you think!

Disclaimer: Kite Hill sent me these products for review.  All opinions are my own and I was not further compensated for this post.

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Planning For Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving dinner

I’m currently planning out our Thanksgiving feast and creating my shopping list.  Both Scott and I have work commitments the week of the official holiday so we’ll be celebrating a little early this year.

Of course there’s the basics like turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes that we always have, but I want to try a few new dishes as well.  Things we haven’t had for a while that I’m going to recreate in a more healthy and primal way.

The above picture was taken several years ago (and yes Off Her Cork was an old site of mine) and features items we don’t have at the Thanksgiving table now.

No rolls, while delightful we have found we’d rather eat more food than bread.  That means stuffing is out as well. Sweet potatoes are saved for dessert in the form of pie.  There’s always fresh whipped cream to go with it!

This year I’m hoping to create a more primal inspired Thanksgiving dinner. Alcohol, while not primal at all, will be around.  It’s the holidays and that makes for a great time to experiment with cocktails and recipes!

Our holidays are always laid back.  The table and presentation might look fancy, but I assure you we are sitting down to dinner in our PJs.  Comfort is most important here at the HQ!

I’ll be sharing more about our holiday later and what was on the table.  So tell me, what is your favorite dish for Thanksgiving?

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October Update

Morning Light

Welcome to October! The months are flying by but I can’t say that I’m upset about this.  Fall is my favorite time of year and I’m completely in my element right now.

The blog has been silent for about a month at this point and that was half unintentional and half intentional. I needed a break from blogging to get grounded and gain some stability.

I started a new job in August. A job that I have been working towards and trying to get ever since we moved to Fort Collins over 3 years ago.  While I have a passion for healthy living, I also have a huge passion for craft beer and everything involved with it.  Once I realized that I could actually work at a brewery (this was a new concept to me 3 years ago), I have been doing everything I can in order to help build my resume and my craft beer knowledge.

In August I got a job at a brewery.  Whoo hoo!  Hard work does pay off! I work in the taproom and it’s been a huge adjustment.  Not just learning the work but also getting used to a new schedule.  The change in schedule was the biggest challenge to get used to.

I love my job (seriously cannot stress this enough) and the people I work for, they have been amazingly awesome to me right from the start.  Plus they encourage my desire to learn more and patiently put up with my never ending questions.

After two months I feel a lot more grounded and solid.

Which means that I hopefully can get back to blogging regularly.  Don’t worry, the blog is going to still be about healthy living but with a slight twist.  It’s going to be about how I still maintain a healthy lifestyle while working at a brewery and working nontraditional hours and days.

My goal is to blend these two passions and showcase them a little more.

Cheers!

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Mussels with Pesto and White Wine

 

Mussels with 2014 Cultivar Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc

I went to the 2014 Cultivar Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc  immediately because I will admit up front, I’m not a huge sauvignon blanc fan so I was curious about what this wine was going to be like.  Sauv Blancs that I’ve had in the past have been really tart with some strong grapefruit flavors, which are off-putting flavors for me.

The 2014 Rutherford is not even close to tasting that way. In fact, this wine blew me away and has made me rethink Sauv Blancs, willing to give them more of a chance.  This wine has some deep and complex characteristics to it.  The oak shines through but doesn’t over power.  There is some light citrus notes but they are mellow and smooth. This is a great wine for sipping and savoring.

To balance out the oak I thought this wine would be great paired with some steamed mussels. I added some pesto and sun dried tomatoes for some added depth.  The slight salty nuttiness of the pesto enhanced the richness of the wine.

This meal looks fancy but comes together in about 15 minutes.  Quick and delicious!

Andrea’s Mussels with Pesto and White Wine

  • I used this recipe for pesto. You can sub in spinach for kale if you like.
  • 2lbs of Fresh PEI Mussels, cleaned
  • 1/4C Chicken Stock
  • 1/4C White Wine
  • 1/4C Pesto
  • 1/2C Chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • 2TBSP Olive Oil for cooking

In a large high sided sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the pesto, stock, wine, and tomatoes. Gently stir then add in the mussels.  Cover and allow the mussels to steam until they open and are cooked.  About 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve with crusty bread.  Garnish with parsley and additional parmesan if desired.

I also sliced up a baguette and spread some of the pesto on the slices.  Baked at 400 for about 10 minutes until the slices of bread were crispy and the pesto had become bubbly.

The wine worked beautifully with this dish!  The slight sweet brininess of the mussels combined with the rich and oaky wine made for a fantastic date night dinner.

If you’re interested in trying out Cultivar Wine, as a reader of Food Embrace, you will be given 10% off your order.  Use the code, FoodEmbrace at checkout.

I am part of the Cultivar Wine Bloggers Club and receive some bottles of wine quarterly to sample and pair with recipes and foods.  This time I decided to pair the 2014 Cultivar Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc with fresh PEI mussels.

 

Disclaimer: I’m required to disclose a sponsored partnership between our site, Food Embrace, and Cultivar Wine. I have been compensated in exchange for this post in the form of product or experience. All opinions and recipes presented are my own.

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Running Free

Horsetooth Reservoire

Last week I decided to kick running up a notch to see how I would handle back-to-back runs.  I accidentally (trails were blocked off and so I ran more than planned) ran just shy of three miles on Wednesday and then ran 2 miles on Thursday.  I did well!

The three miles went really smoothly.  My hip wasn’t any more sore than after a 2 mile run so I’m considering that a gain.  I stretched really well afterwards and was pleased with how my hip was holding up.

After the run the following day, my hip was a little tight and a little more sore but nothing that would cause me any concern.  I really was hoping that I could push it and go for another run on Friday but that wasn’t going to happen.  When I woke up, my hip was tight and a little stiff.  I didn’t want to risk a run so I went on a 4 mile hike instead.

So far I’m very happy with the progress that I’ve made with this stupid hip issue.  I can still run and even though there is some slight soreness afterwards it’s not a big deal.   As long as I continue to work on stretching it out and do strength exercises I should be back in tip top shape pretty soon.  I’m also going to start rotating in some three miles runs.  It may sound silly but I’m super excited about that!

Hopefully I’ll be able to add running back to my routine full time!  I love working out but nothing makes me feel as awesome as running does.