Monday, December 28, 2015

How-To: Freezing Kale

Kale. What a great new healthy veggie for our table. High and vitamins and minerals, this little leaf packs a punch. And with such a budget-friendly vegetable that is so versatile, it is one staple you're going to want to keep around. One of my personal favorite things to do with kale is to turn it into kale chips (btw you can find the recipe I follow here). Since I have been buying it in large quantities of  it I have always wondered if I can freeze it. Then that day came this weekend. So when I went to the farmers market here I asked the local farmer who grew the kale if they knew if it was possible to freeze (they said yes). So since I was in the dark for so long I figured I would pass my kale freezing tips onto you.
First thing is first you will need to prep the kale. Since it normally comes so large you will need to snip the pieces off of the stalk. Just take some regular old kitchen shears and snips the pieces to desired length ( I kept mine on the larger side so that I would snip them later).  Make sure you also clip off the yellow or brown pieces.

Next, you will need to start a large pot of water. Once it starts boiling, you are going to place a few stalks in to start blanching. This will essentially clean the bacteria and dirt on the veggie. Since my kale pieces include the stalks, I am going to keep them in for 3 minutes. If you prefer to  remove the stalks on each piece, you will only need to blanch the pieces for 2 minutes each.

Next set aside a bowl of ice. Once each pot of kale has been blanched, you will need to shock the kale- to stop the cooking process. This will allow the kale to be half cooked and bright green but allow you to be able to fully cook it later on.

After you have shocked the kale, set it in a colander to drip dry while you complete the rest of the pieces you have remaining.

Once you have finished all of the kale, you will need to allow it to fully dry before placing it in freezer bags for storage. If it is not fully dried, it will be soggy and therefore will not freeze well- so ensure it is completely dry first ( I used paper towels to get excess water as well.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Whole30 - My FULL Meal Plan for the past 30 Days!

As I explained in my original Whole30 post here I was excited to show you all my progress from start to finish as well as document all I had for 90 meals for the Whole30 program. If you would like to start the program, I posted my grocery list to help get you started! If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can also follow this program, however I did not go vegetarian/vegan during my Whole30 experience.
Pre-Program: I weighed 139lbs. As this is the only time you can weigh yourself, I took the opportunity to do so! I wanted to see if my dietary changes would impact my overall weight. At my current age of 31, I am a height of 5'4", so my calculated BMI was 23.9, which is in the Normal range (18.5-24.9).  I did quit drinking soda many years ago, and have been gluten-free for the past 4 years. Considering I found out about an artificial sweetener allergy (directly linked to my IBS) years ago, I have stepped away from products that contain it, however, I have not cut out any other sweeteners before starting.
Week 1 - This part of the program is supposed to be the most difficult and most trying on someone who typically intakes soda, sugar, grains and high fat on a daily basis. I found my Day 2-3 were most trying since I was used to having some sugar but no grains or soda. I did experience headaches (similarly to when you are "hangry") during those days. In my opinion, if I was to go back, I would have increased the foods that help reduce headaches to prevent this during the first week.
Day 1 
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
This is actually my meal on Thanksgiving!!!
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Week 2 - This is the week where most people tend to quit. By Day 10, they are bored with the same old boring recipe, vegetable or fed up of having eggs every morning. The key to this week is changing up your routine and trying new recipes. If you eat the same meals over and over, it will drive you nuts. So, if you have a new recipe you have been dying to try out, this is a good opportunity to do so.  This week for me was a difficult one to overcome my urge to "snack" between meals. I had to increase some portion sizes for breakfast and lunch to keep myself fuller longer. Try adding a side salad with meals or dense fiberous vegetables to help keep you full between meal times (keep in mind not all are Whole30 approved). Just make sure it is Whole30 compliant!
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14
Week 3 - This week is you are just done and say "I'm close enough- two weeks is more than enough time to reset". They see the light at the end of the tunnel get increasingly close. And, the more you think about the end game, the more difficult the last two weeks will be! Just like other Whole30 folks before me, I have thought about what I want at the end of this to be my first meal and the jury is still out (I considered going past the initial 30 days). Even after Whole30 is over, you still cannot just incorporate all the same foods at once you were eating before. It's a day at a time process (the book goes over this in further detail). I argue this program is a great way to find your allergies. If you stick to a more raw and holistic diet during this time, it can help you pinpoint food items you may not have realized prior were problematic. Unfortunately for me, the end of week 2 and into week 3 were the roughest. My gut bacteria was finally starting to reset and there were a lot of foods that just did not settle well. However, after that was over, it was smooth sailing. So, those with IBS/IBD, prepare yourself for these times. It will be a challenge for sure!
Day 15
Day 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19
Day 20
Day 21
Week 4 - As people grow to a close on Whole30, they already figured they have come so far so why not stop. Whole30 book does go into detail as to why you should complete Whole30 than just 23 days or so. As Whole30 comes to a close for me, I have found I have a great deal more control over my cravings. I have found that most of my "snacking" has been due to thirst. However, if I let my portion sizes get too small, I will end up snacking more. I personally have found if I start with a larger meal and end on a smaller one, I am more in control of my "hunger". I found fruit to be a great way to fill the snacking void if I truly am hungry between meals or craving a slight sweet treat. I really have like having a LaraBar during those days when I am on the go or have been exteremely active at the office or hiking. It tends to be the pick me up I need. I have had tons of energy on this program and I am really thankful for it - since I have not felt this good health-wise in a very long time. No discomfort or unhappy stomach days. Overall, my mood has improved and I have energy. I still struggle with falling to sleep as I did prior to the program, but I sleep a lot deeper than I did before the program.  
Day 22
Day 23
Day 24
Day 25
Day 26
Day 27
Day 28
Week 5 - All though this is not a full week, it is another week of Whole30. This is the final stretch of Whole30, and all though I can see why most people say "eh, why not stop at 21". True, most habits form after 21 days. However, 30 days are the time that it takes your body to truly heal and recover from the effects those foods have on your body. This is why they suggest if you end up having a non-Whole30 item, they recommend you starting over. 30 days of clean eating is a walk in the park compared to a lifetime of over processed and unhealthy foods that give you inflammatory and other disease-based issues. It is like a body reset button. And, as I have personally experienced, it can completely change your gut bacteria, giving your body a healthy ecosystem to break down food properly and easily, as it was made to do. So, cut the chemicals and cut the crap and go back to the basics.
Day 29
Day 30
Post Whole30- It has been 31 days since I stepped on the scale, more afraid than anything to see what progress has been made. Unfortunately during my Whole30, I did not hit the gym- per se. That does not mean I did not get a workout - my FitBit would argue that point easily. For the past 30 days, sans gym, and eating a balanced and health diet, free of unhealthy fats and processed foods, I have never felt better. I told myself prior to this that weight loss would be a bonus if I came out feeling healthier and happier than when I started, and I do. So, mission accomplished! In the 30 days following Whole30, at 5'4", I lost 7 lbs. My calculated BMI was 23.9, which is in the Normal range (18.5-24.9), and now it is 22.7. I have had a lot of remarks regarding lost weight in other areas around the face and arms. And, most notably how looser my clothing tends to fit these days.In the 7 lbs. lost, I also dropped two jean sizes and I feel absolutely great.  I am happy with the progress.
Notably, Whole 30 is not over just yet. Post Whole30 is the second part of the journey. Next up, the reintroduction of food omitted from the first 30 day process. Stay Tuned for the second phase.

Whole 30 Day 29-30 & The Finale!!

Holy Cow!! My last two days remain! I am thankful I took my last two days of Whole30 off. Not only did I need some time to de-stress from work, but it allows me to rethink back to why I began Whole30 in the first place. I am really excited to share my last two days on Whole30. It has been an incredible journey and I have learned so very much. . *If you would like to read Why I started, go here. For Day 1, go here. For Days 2-4, go here. For Days 5-7, go here. For Days 8-10, go here. Days 11-12, go here. For Days 13-14, go here. For Days 15-17, go here! For Days 18-19, go here. For Days 20-21, go here. For Days 22-24, go here. For Days 25-28, go here!
Day 29 Monday! Ah, the ability to sleep in on a normal work day has really been kind of special. While I know not everyone is blessed with having time off around the holidays, I chose to take time simply because I needed it. It has been a very stressful time of year in my job and I really wanted to keep to my Whole30. During these last few days, I have allowed myself to be engulfed in books I have been dying to read and I have kept my focus on the whole reason I started Whole30.

Meal 85- Breakfast. I made some Date Balls (recipe here) and had those for breakfast with a new organic banana! I have not had bananas in a few days so I was really craving a banana. I prefer mine a tad startchy, just as they begin to turn from green to yellow. I find them most irresistible during that phase of their transition and they are by far my favorite time to eat a banana. I skipped my favorite almond butter and opted just for a plain banana.
Meal 86- Lunch.  I loved these date balls so much, I wanted them again. Truth be told, I was so busy reading that I didn't want to make anything. So, I opted for my Kombucha, date balls and some nut mix. I was eating when I forgot I needed to photograph it, so I went back to do so. Oops!
Meal 87 - Dinner. Since I had finished my book well before dinner, I decided to go out and grab another in hopes my next one would be at the library. As luck would have it, it was. I opted to go celebrate my Monday with mussels at a nearby bar. No worries, I did not eat the fries or the bread - I did give that to my boyfriend to enjoy with his meal. However, I did gulp down three large glasses of club soda with orange- so I am sure that is why I was so full!

Day 30 Tuesday!! LAST DAY! I have made it! I am so excited to be rounding down my Whole30 journey. I feel it has been much longer than 30 days and I cannot believe how great I feel. I woke up after only having minimal sleep (my new book kept me up until 4am - absolutely one of the best books I have ever read), so even with just a few hours of robbed sleep, I am wide awake and energized as ever. I feel great!! I have missed some of my morning smoothies, but I tell you there is nothing like waking up in the morning and feeling so good after making your own amazing breakfast. It really is rewarding.

Meal 88- Breakfast. I think I have made the best mini frittata ever! It is by far not only one of the easiest things to make, it was the quickest. I sprayed a mini ramekin with avocado oil and spiraled 1/2 a zucchini into the bowl. I added two beaten eggs, one slice of turkey breast, chipotle seasoning, shallots, garlic powder and salt and pepper. After mixing thoroughly to ensure all the egg covered all aspects of the turkey and zucchini, I placed it into a 450 degree toaster over for about 7 minutes. And viola!! Breakfast was served!
Meal 89- Lunch. I was hungry so I opted for some shrimp. It was perfect.  I used clarified butter, old bay, fine herbs and garlic. It was perfection.
Meal 90- Dinner! My last Whole30 meal. I noticed most of my meals on Whole30 consisted of red meats. So, since I found such a great deal for copper mill salmon again, it was the perfect time to grab some for dinner. Just a few seaonings of northwoods seasoning, organic capers and garlic powder and my meal was set. i had a scallop and some mini red/purple/white potatoes with rosemary and clarified butter. I ate a delicious banana and a La Croix. It was a great way to end my Whole30 30th day and I could not be happier with my meal choice.
I tell you it is no easy feat to complete all 30 days. It is a true struggle but I am thankful to finally be done and right before christmas. I did not really consider the holidays when i chose to go on Whole30 but I can say with confidence that the holidays have been a great test on my willpower and i succeeded!! I cannot wait until tomorrow to see my results and begin the next segment of Whole30: the incorporation of foods back into my diet. I MADE IT!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Recipe: Homemade LaraBars (Date Balls)

I love me a good LaraBar. I spent much of my Whole30 journey noshing on these delicious bars. And while they are a treat to some, I found them to be an amazing boost of energy for all my activities I was doing pre-Whole30. They are the closest bars you can buy that do not feel store bought. But, even with how amazing they really are to buy and grab on the go, they are twice as easy to make!
You are going to need 2 bases to make a date ball.
Depending on the type of bar you wish to make, these are Optional:
**Dates have seeds- you will need to pit the dates prior to making these balls. They are inedible!**

For my bars, I combined 2/3 cup of Raw Almonds, 2/3 cup of Cacao Powder and 8 oz. Dates (about 1 cup) in a food processor and combine until all ingredients are fully mixed. Once the mixture has gone from a powder to a thick consistency, remove from food processor and begin rolling mix into balls. Next, place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to firm. Once completed, remove and place in airtight container or ziploc bag.  My second batch I added 1/3 cup of coconut flakes to the mix (almond joy taste) and they were absolutely amazing. I really loved making these so much I had made a few for a couple of friends who were over the moon to receive such a delicious gift!! These are so easy to make and take hardly any time at all!! I hope you enjoy them!! Happy Holidays!