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.

Grilled Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

Welp I did it kids! Actually I am kind of surprised how long it has taken me to pop this cherry. And even more surprised how I totally lost any bragging rights on this one. No, no friends, get your minds out of the gutters. I set off the smoke alarm in our apartment for the first time.

I mean, at our last apartment I set our entire grill on fire. A grill which was set under a tree, in Southern California, in a drought. Like that’s a good story. (FYI when making bacon wrapped asparagus, put some tin foil under the bacon to catch the grease. It catches on fire & makes really high flames. Woops)

Tonight was not such an exciting story. Chris & I were rushing dinner, settling on some leftovers & easy Trader Joe’s quick fixes before we headed to Starbucks to do some work. He was having some left over pasta & I was pan frying a Mahi Mahi burger to go on top of my salad when I looked up & the entire kitchen was filled with smoke. I ran to the window but it was too late. The damage was done.

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Such a bad, bad fail. I know, you don’t want to take any cooking advice from me anymore. But it’s okay, this salad has zero protein on it at all. That means no possibility of burning the house down over a simple little salad. But it sure is full of amazing flavors & veggies.

I am obsessed with weird veggies. I love any type of vegetable that 6 year olds, or my 30 year old boyfriend, would call icky or gross. Beets, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, cabbage and collard greens are just a few of my favs. And this salad has one of my favs featured right on top. Arugula, topped with goat cheese, almond shavings & amazing grilled beets. If you want, I guess you could throw on a juicy grilled chicken breast but you in no way need to. All you need to do is have some supervision while you grill the beets for 45 minutes then throw everything together & enjoy.

Even better, if you could get your hands on some of this amazing pomegranate balsamic dressing from Temecula Olive Oil Company you should. It adds an amazing sweet tang to the salad which is perfection. Try this amazing salad, full of flavor, & if you can handle pan frying a Mahi Mahi burger from TJs, throw it on top.

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1 medium beet
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups arugula
5 oz goat cheese
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
Black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp pomegranate balsamic
1 Tbsp olive oil (for dressing)

1. Pre-heat grill to medium high heat.
2. Wash beet thoroughly and pat dry. Place on the middle of a 12 x 12 inch square of tin foil and drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Loosely close tin foil around beet and cook on grill for 45 minutes on medium high heat. Once you can pierce the beet with a fork it is done.
4. Allow the beet to cool to touch. Using a paper towel, remove the outer skin of the beet. Cut into small bite size slices and place in refrigerator to cool.
4. Assemble salad with arugula, goat cheese crumbles, sliced almond. Top with grilled beet, black pepper, balsamic and olive oil.

Simple Crock Pot French Onion Soup

Back in January, when we were in Connecticut, it was cold. Like freezing cold. Especially for us California kids, but it was even pretty cold for my cold-blooded Connecticut folks. One night my cousins, sister, mom & I drove up to northern Connecticut to visit with another cousin & her brand new baby. It was even colder up north!!!

She made us two options for soups & then my aunt showed up with a few more options. And then I needed make them all! My cousin made an amazing French onion soup, which she had all of the fixings for. Gruyere cheese & crusty bread. I died! And then went home & made it. I didn’t care that once we got back to California it was 80 degrees! I wanted the soup!

And then I made it 4 more times!

I’ve tried adding things in, & changing it up a little. But I keep coming back to that original recipe. There is literally nothing better than the smell of fresh herbs cooking throughout the house all day. I am obsessed with it. Try it out. The fragrances are amazing & it tastes even better than it smells.

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3 onions, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
14.5 oz beef broth
½ Tbsp pepper
½ tsp salt
3 cups water
3 beef bouillon cubes
2 Tbsp fresh thyme

1. Slice onions and shallots in ¼ inch slices.
2. Put olive oil, onions, and shallots in sauté pan. Add desired dashes of Worcestershire sauce to onions.
3. Cook on medium low tossing onions regularly. Allow to cook down until just about translucent.
4. Add salt and pepper. Cook for two minutes and add beef broth from can.
5. Cover and cook on low for 10 minutes.
6. Add cooked onions and broth to crock pot. Top with water and bouillon cubes and add in thyme.
7. Cook on low for 6 hours.
8. If desired top with crusty bread and cheese, or eat plain for a healthier option.

Herb Chicken Dumpling Soup with Veggies

OOhf it has been over 10 days since my last recipe post. Christmas is sneaking up on us over here in Orange County & we are not ready. On top of my crazy holiday schedule at the store, Chris has been studying for a professional exam to get a title at the end of his name, we are getting ready for a trip to Connecticut to see my family in January, & of course we had to spend our annual Christmas day at Disneyland. Oh & last week Chris had a last minute, emergency dental surgery. Oh what fun.

There has been very little time for writing & pretty much no time for cooking. The high was 58 the day we spent at DLand & it was pretty cold for us So Cal kids. After spending the entire 14 hours at the park we needed to heat up by scarfing down some herb chicken dumpling soup! Yumm!

And honestly, is there a better way to heat your house (or 800 square feet apartment) by cooking? No, nothing is better.

IMG_1733 So when I started blogging a few years ago, one of the first food bloggers I found & truly started following was Christina over at Dessert for Two. When I starting making my chicken soup this time I wanted something different. I didn’t want rice in it & honestly I was far too lazy to go to the grocery store & get a pasta.

So I started searching the internet & came across Christina’s recipe for Easy Chicken N Dumplings with Collard Greens and Confetti & I had to try to dumplings. They were amazing! A perfect carb for loaded herb chicken soup. So here is my soup recipe topped off with Dessert for Two’s fabulous dumplings & while you’re at it, check out her amazing cookbooks that came out this year here & here. I have them both & they are perfect!

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2 Tbsp olive oil
5 carrots
5 celery stalks
1 parsnip
2 cups baby spinach
48 oz chicken broth
2 cups water
1 lb chicken breast tenders
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp rosemary
1 ½ tsp thyme

Dumplings from Dessert for Two:
½ cup flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter, softened
¼ cup milk

1. Remove butter from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Set aside for later.
2. Season chicken on one side with one half the amount salt and pepper, and 1 tsp each of thyme and rosemary.
3. Chop all veggie and cook them until tender in olive oil.
4. After 8-10 minutes, add chicken broth and water.
5. Cut chicken in ½ cubes and add slowly into soup while stirring so chicken doesn’t stick together.
6. Allow to cook on medium to medium-high and pull out all ingredients for dumplings.
7. Mix flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Add room temperature butter and mix together with your hands. Make sure the butter is distributed evenly though the mixture. Add milk into mixture. I used a plastic spatula to make sure all of the flour mixture is moistened.
8. Flour a cutting board and your hands. Place dough only cutting board and shape into a thin rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Add flour to top and cut dough into small squares. Drop dough into cooking soup one at a time stirring regularly.
9. Allow to cook another 10-15 minutes, adding the remaining salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme and enjoy.

 

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.