Veggie Chili & Whole 30

At the beginning of the year my best friend from home asked me to be in her wedding. I was honored, excited, & then totally horrified. I knew right away I would need to drop a few lbs before throwing on a bridesmaid dress & standing beside her. Is it terrible that all I could think about was her photos!!! Yikes!

So I started looking into a few different diets. I knew that I couldn’t just do a quick fad diet, but instead I need to change my lifestyle. The maid of honor, who is actually my oldest friend, gave me some tips that have helped her. She told me about a diet that she stays true to & has had a ton of success on. While researching the Keto diet I stumbled upon The Whole30 & started reading.

I saw that a lot of people had great long term results by using Whole 30. They started looking at labels more, eating fresher, & craving less sugar. My biggest weakness is carbs. Um hello, I’m Italian. So I love me a dinner full of pasta, red sauce, topped with cheese & amazing bread to dip in my sauce. AKA everything I cannot eat on this diet. So here goes nothing!

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Yesterday started my month of no carbs, no alcohol, no sugar, no dairy & no fun. This past week I have been doing Whole 30-light. We had a lot of people over this past weekend, which in turn means we had a ton of food. So once those Mexican rice, & Mac and Cheese leftovers were gone, I stopped eating carbs. I still have a few yogurts in the refrigerator that I am finishing up otherwise, it’s been all protein & veggies for me.

I have been researching a ton of Whole 30 recipes, & trying to find some of my own recipes that I could change up to make Whole 30 approved. Chris has been great. He agreed to do it with me, but I am sure he will be sneaking some of the sugars & carbs at work for lunch.

Here is one recipe that I made a few weeks ago as a clean out the refrigerator recipe, but it turns out if you pull out the beans & lay off the cheese topping, it is a great Whole 30 meal. Instead of using chili powder in this I actually used Flavor God’s Everything Spicy seasoning. It was amazing!!! Much lighter than normal chili powders & perk… they are GMO & MSG free… aka great for Whole 30 or even the Paleo diet.

Try my Veggie Chili out & let me know what you think. Also, who else has done Whole 30? What are your favorite recipes?

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4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb carrots, chopped
1 lb celery, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 head broccoli
1 pinto beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can black beans
14.5 oz petite cut tomatoes
2 cups water
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp Flavor God Everything Spicy seasoning or chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1. In a pot add vegetable oil, carrots and celery and cook on high for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Allow vegetables to get tender and add chopped garlic. Allow garlic to brown.
2. Add broccoli, and all three beans to the pot. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
3. Add diced tomatoes, water, and seasonings.
4. Lower heat to medium and cook for 45 minutes covered.
5. Top with cheese if desired.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork Sandwiches

We just spent a week in New England, freezing our butts off, visiting my family. What stinks is we both, & my entire family, ended up getting the flu. We tried to hide from it but no matter what, it came for us, knocked us on our asses & in bed for four days. We didn’t get to do too much with the 30 degree temperatures but it was great to go home, visit with everyone & catch up.

I got to meet two of my cousin’s new babies & one of my very best friends ask me to be a part of her wedding party. All & all it was a pretty successful trip.

One of my favorite parts of coming home, besides catching up with family & friends, is being able to eat at all of my favorite local restaurants that we don’t have in Orange County. (Check out my Instagram for posts from last week’s trip… & what we are eating @MeggOliver) There is my favorite burger joint, amazing Italian dinners, fabulous brunch places & of coarse… some Connecticut pizza.
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The food in Connecticut is much different than California. During the summer we are very seafood driven along the Long Island Sound. Local clams, shrimp, and even lobster can be found in any restaurant you go to. Many seafood shacks even close up for the winter before they have to resort to using frozen fish. During the winter in Connecticut most people get back to warm comfort food.

We started our trip with a topping covered pizza, was able to try out a new brewery… which was amazing… headed for Mexican & drinks to celebrate a friend’s birthday & enjoyed a beautiful brunch with friends.

When we got back from Connecticut I went straight to work for seven days straight, & with nothing in the house it was pretty rough eating take out & mall food court food for the first few days. But now we are back into the swing of things, recovered from our sickness & I am back to cooking. One easy recipe I have made a lot this fall & winter so far has been these pulled pork sandwiches. They are super easy & well yum.

My favorite part of them is not actually the meat at all. Instead I am dying over the massive amount of coleslaw I make to top the sandwich. And good news for me… Chris hates cabbage. So I make this coleslaw & literally put it on everything for a week. I top it on salads, sandwiches, as a side…anything! I love it. Try it out & let me know which you like more… the pulled pork or the coleslaw. Beware… this is a small batch recipe. The pulled pork only makes 3-4 sandwiches. But the coleslaw can go on for days.

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Pulled Pork:
1-1.5 lb. boneless pork loin
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ cup BBQ sauce
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp. honey

Cole Slaw:
½ head of purple cabbage
½ cup mayo
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
½ tsp pepper
1 carrot, shredded

1. Mix all of the coleslaw ingredients in a bowl. Toss with tongs and refrigerate. Allow to sit for until the pork is done and all of the flavors have mixed together.
2. Place the pork at the bottom of a crock pot. Top with all of the seasonings. Cook on high 4-5 hours.
3. After 4-4.5 hours shred pork inside crock using two forks. Cover and allow to cook on low for another 30 minutes.
4. Assemble sandwich by adding coleslaw on top of the meat on a sandwich bun.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

Hi friends, how is everyone’s December treating them? Can you believe that we are only 15 days away from the big day!!? 15 days & let me tell you, I have about 2 gifts actually purchased. Oh boy. How are you guys doing with holiday shopping? This year I am blaming my procrastination on this stupid cold that I have been trying to kick for the past week.

I have tried it all, tea, vitamins, OJ, sleep, the great outdoors, & finally I even succumbed to meds. Uhg I hate taking pills, especially pills that are the size of a nut. Really Mucinex, you can’t make it a little smaller?

Fun fact, I didn’t actually swallow a pill until I was 19 & had mono for three months. Swallowing pills still brings back terrible memories.

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Anyway, I pulled up my big girl panties, took some Mucinex for the past few days, slept a little longer than normal & I am hoping that will do the trick.

Since I’ve been feeling so down in the dumps, I haven’t really been in the mood to make big meals, or really even eat them. I’ve actually been so lazy that I even suggested we ordered Dominos last night. Eww. When I have been cooking, I have been sticking to small easy meals that are healthy to try to pick my immune system. Acorn squash, my new fixation, is one of those meals.

This isn’t my favorite version of this amazing little vegetable. I am keeping that one for myself for now, but this is right up there with some of the most amazing things in the world. You know, like pink ponies, meowing kittens, & never ending brownies. Truth is, you can really whip up any concoction you’d like for the filling, & as long as it is as green, & veggie filled as this is, with a little truffle oil on top, I can guarantee it will probably be just as good. Enjoy!

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1 green acrorn squash
6 green onions
1 large garlic clove
½ cup mushrooms, chopped
4 oz spinach
1 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Truffle oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400⁰.
2. Chop green onions, garlic, and mushrooms and place into small pan with olive oil. Cook until mushrooms are tender and add spinach. Cook until spinach is just starting to wilt.
3. With a sharp knife, cut the stem of the squash off and discard. Then, laying the squash on the cut edge, slice the squash down the center to half it.
4. Scrape out the seeds from the middle and throw them away. Drizzle olive oil on the inside of the squash, and salt and pepper. Spread with a brush.
5. Fill the center of both pieces of squash with mushroom and spinach mixture.
6. Place ½ Tbsp of panko bread crumbs onto each squash to cover mushroom and spinach mixture. Drizzle truffle oil onto of panko and salt and pepper.
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until top begins to brown.

My Top 6 Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

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The turkey usually takes the front seat when talking about Thanksgiving here in the U.S. but truth be told, most people are in Turkey day for the sides. Me personally… I can have an entire plate full of mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, & green beans & I’d be a happy lady!

When I found out my store would be open on Thanksgiving the first thing I thought of was, “when am I going to have my stuffing?!”

Today I put together a collection of some of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes that I am excited to have on my table for the holidays.

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1. Hellobee’s Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic and Cranberries
Every year my parents go somewhere for Thanksgiving. My mom gets an amazing amount of PTO & she always seems to have a lot left to use by the end of the year around Turkey Day. Three years ago they came out to San Francisco & drove down the coast to spend the holiday with Chris, myself, & our friends. When they pulled into the driveway of our townhouse my mom was so excited waving around the biggest stalk of fresh Brussel sprouts I have ever seen. She had made my step dad stop at all of the farm stands along PCH along the central coast & needed these Brussel sprouts. So we needed to do something with them. We found this recipe on Hellobee & it was amazing.

2. Recipe Girl’s Classic Stuffing
Everyone has a family recipe for stuffing. Some have cranberries, some have sausage, some even have pears & apples in them. Forever I thought that my mom had this amazing family recipe for her stuffing. It is delicious… apparently it’s from the back of the Pepperidge Farm stuffing package. I was crushed. And then I moved on… to this recipe. YUM. A simple, veggie stuffed stuffing with amazing Italian sausage to spice it up. Delicious.

3. My Honey Glazed Carrots


This is one of the simplest side dishes I make, with a ton of flavor. Just a few ingredients but defiantly jazzes up just boring carrots. A few years ago I became so obsessed with this dish I was making these honey carrots just about every week, with every dish I could think of pairing it with. Now, I don’t make it as often, & I am super excited to enjoy this on Thanksgiving.

4. Eat at Home’s Slow Cooker Corn Casserole
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year your kitchen will see. Everyone needs three ovens, 5 burners, 16 serving bowls & 400 utensils. Not many people actually have that though. When I saw this corn casserole that you can make in a slow cooker I fell in love. No juggling the turkey, stuffing, & veggies in the oven. No shuffling pots & pans on the stove top to make room. Just simply throwing everything in the slow cooker, sticking it in the corner & letting it do it’s job. How perfect is that?

5. Pioneer Woman’s Green Bean Casserole
Yes I know, another casserole, but is Thanksgiving, really Thanksgiving without green bean casserole? Our old roommate was all about green bean casserole, at any time of the year. We had French’s Crispy Onions in our pantry at all times. This recipe by Queen Ree Drummond is normal green bean casserole to the next level. The pimentos add a little bit of amazingness to an old favorite.

6. My Red Skinned Mashed Potatoes

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Everyone loves mashed potatoes. Some people like them super silky, some like them cheesy. I personally like them a little chunky & still with a little bit of skin on them. This is one of my favorite mashed potato recipes which I stole from my mom. Best part: it is easy to make in a pinch. Since the potatoes don’t needs to be super smooth, like a whipped mashed potato, you don’t have to cook them as long & can mash them a little less then you normally would. Which is perfect when you are cooking a ton of things at once.

Tomato Soup

It’s finally starting to feel like fall here in So Cal. Temperatures are finally in the 60s, people are pulling out their sweaters & boots, trying to embrace as much of the autumn weather that they can before temperatures go back up to the 80s, I’m sure sometime soon. I am taking this time to make as many soups as I can. I have made a little stock pile of turkey chili & veggie soups.

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Tonight I am snacking on every child’s favorite post snow playing snack. Tomato soup & grilled cheese. My favorite part of playing in the snow was coming inside & defrosting at the kitchen table with some hearty, creamy, tomato soup & grilled cheese.

Although creamy tomato soup is amazing, right now I am all about a light weight soup. Sometimes a heavy soup is a little much, especially when it is not too cold out. Now once that fun stuff starts falling from the skies, sign me up for a heavy, cream, filling soups. But for now, I will stick with light soups that are full of amazing flavors.

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6 Tbsp butter
1 large yellow onion, chopper
3 cups chicken broth
2 whole garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 small roma tomatoes
3 vine tomatoes, peeled
1 ½ Tbsp tomato paste

1. Melt butter on medium-low heat. Add in salt, pepper, onion and garlic until soft.
2. Add all tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Stir regularly to avoid burning.
3. Blend using an immersion blender, or in a blender in small batches, until smooth.
4. Return to pot and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.