Whole30 – 1 day at a time

Yesterday was my first day of our Whole30 diet. It ended up being a looong day, which I think can be partially attributed to the start of Daylight Saving Time and the late-setting sun, but it’s also because I spent nearly the whole day in our kitchen.

After church, I set to work making breakfast for us to eat for the first half of the week (Egg, Bacon, and Sweet Potato cups), then moved to lunch (Bacon-Wrapped Chicken and carrots sautéed in ghee), followed by snack prep: washing and cutting fruits and veggies and making Whole30 compliant mayonnaise and ranch dressing for the first time. Finally, when I was desperate to go chill on the couch, I realized it was getting late, and quickly threw together our dinner (meatloaf and baked potatoes). Luckily, I was able to spend quality time with my couch for the hour that dinner baked in the oven. 🙂

All told, our day was full of eggs, bacon, sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, chicken, carrots, and meatloaf, with no grains, dairy, or sugar in sight. And we survived!

FullSizeRender

The Whole30 Timeline refers to Day 1 as the “So what’s the big deal?” day. I saw glimpses of that yesterday, but all that meal prep was work. I see where our bad habits with convenience foods and eating out originated: I don’t think I have time to eat right. But yesterday, I proved that wrong.

Now that I’m cruising into Day 2, I want to remember the satisfaction I felt yesterday after making good choices all day long. I want to remember how delicious my homemade, dairy-free ranch tasted right out of the jar I’d blended it in. I want to remember all the colors of my foods strewn across my countertop and my plate. I want to remember the guilt I didn’t have when I climbed into bed last night.

Day 2, I’m coming for you.

Why Whole30?

We Davidsons plan our meals every week. I make a 7-day plan on Sundays after church, write up the grocery list while Chris takes a Sunday afternoon catnap (usually with actual cat accompaniments), and then he makes a run to Kroger and drops off our week’s worth of recycling along the way. We usually stick to our meal plan with about 85% accuracy; Chris has pointed out that, as long as we start strong early in the week, we can rock that meal plan. Then, it starts all over again the next Sunday afternoon.

This week, our meal plan looks different. It’s full of protein, roasted veggies, and far too many baked potatoes. Cheeses and pastas, typical Davidson meal plan staples, are conspicuously absent. There are no sandwich days planned for lunches. I’m not planning to bake any treats for my coworkers.

Smells like Whole30.

This Sunday, we are starting a thirty-day diet of whole foods, with no grains, no dairy, no sugar, and no legumes. (“No alcohol” is also on the list, but that is not a concern for us, because we don’t partake.) It will be an exceptionally difficult change for us.

There are lots of reasons to do a Whole30. But all those reasons don’t apply to me. My list is relatively short:

  1. To examine my bad habits and gain self-control. I am an emotional eater. Most of the time that emotion is “boredom;” when I’m trying to relax at home on a weeknight, it’s comforting to munch on tortilla chips or split a row of Oreos with Chris when we’re catching up on our DVR. Or, after a stressful day at work, although we had a meal planned, we’ll end up at a restaurant and obviously I’m getting dessert because I earned it by suffering through the horrors of being a middle manager in an office setting. Whole30 will bring all those to light, painfully. But the thirty days will be just long enough to help me start new and improved habits of making good choices when in a tough spot.
  2. To gain a new perspective on meal planning. Real, whole foods were not a priority in previous meal plans. We rely more and more on convenience foods as we grow busier at work and life in general. I have been in a meal planning rut for a while now, and I no longer enjoy the task. I used to try recipes all the time (my Made It & Ate It board on Pinterest has almost 250 pins) but now I stick to recipes that I can cook with my eyes closed/while listening to Netflix in the kitchen. How will Whole30 help that? It’s forcing me to try all-new, compliant recipes (I have a board full of ’em), and new methods of cooking old staples but also new components, such as Brussels sprouts. Next week alone we will be trying ten new recipes. Watch out, world! My Pinterest board will hit 250 in no time!
  3. To have more energy and generally feel better. Speaking of being busy at work? We come home tuckered out every day. I’m ready for bed by nine o’clock every night, and we sure as heck don’t ever feel like exercising. (I’m lucky to make it through a Zumba class once a week.) Eating whole, goodful foods for thirty days can serve to balance out all the mysterious inner workings of my body. A reset in my digestive system will be a delightful and well-fought perk as well.

I will need to remember these reasons when I’m five days into the Whole30 regimen and feeling unsatisfied, restless, and tempted to quit. But from what I understand, the hard days will be crazy hard, but the good days in the second half of the thirty will be crazy great. And if I can meet the three goals I’ve set for myself, I will come out on the other side a happier, healthier me.

Have you ever done a Whole30?

Davidsons Watch Oscar Films IV

Hi friends!

This year, Chris and I embarked on our fourth annual Oscar movie watch! This year was rather different; instead of waiting for the nominations in January, we got a head start. We’ve basically been watching movies most of the year, with Chris diligently reading articles and blog posts with Oscars predictions since the fall began! This year, we simply didn’t have time to squeeze 10+ movies into an approximately six-week span. But I’m glad we took this approach, because I had way more fun without stressing about the time crunch!

Another reason this Oscar watch was different is that we only watched the nominees for Best Picture (and then, by default, those for Best Director). In years past, we’ve had enough time to fill in the additional categories for acting and writing; you can read about my experience in previous years here, here, and here. But, with a whopping spread of nineteen movies nominated for such categories, and our full-time jobs and (loosely-defined) social lives, we just couldn’t make that happen. But, honestly, after seeing all the Best Picture nominees, I looked at the list of additional movies and realized I wasn’t excited to see any of them. The Best Picture list this year was just excellent enough to make me feel like I wasn’t missing anything worth my time.

I stared typing this on my phone from a hotel room in Raleigh, and I’m finishing it up in the car on the way to Trader Joe’s, because we’re having a weekend away and I kind of forgot to blog until just now. So, I’ll be keeping this short and sweet, just like this year’s #davidsonoscarwatch!

  
This year I posted a micro-review on Twitter after seeing each film, using the probably-too-long hashtag #davidsonoscarwatch16. This was incredibly helpful for remembering my immediate thoughts after the credits rolled! (The only one I didn’t tweet about, I’m realizing, is Mad Max: Fury Road, because we saw it way back the day it was released and the Academy Awards weren’t on my mind so early in the year; suffice it to say, I would’ve given it A+!) Here’s this year’s list of nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture, listed in the order that we saw them, and with the letter grade I awarded it via tweet:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road. A+
  2. Bridge of Spies. B
  3. Spotlight. A
  4. Brooklyn. A
  5. Room. A-
  6. The Big Short. A-
  7. The Martian. B+
  8. The Revenant. A

When I list them all out like that, I’m reminded that over half of these films have one-word titles (articles excluded), a fact I noticed sometime last year when Chris and I lost two hours of our lives watching movie trailers when we discovered a program called, and this is not a joke, Nothing But Trailers on our Dish guide, and far too many of the films had one-word titles. (This is probably not a story I should have shared because, at the time, we were horrified to realize that we had actually spent so long literally just ingesting three-minute movie promos, and we should probably be embarrassed by this fact even know. Oh well!)

  
I honestly don’t know what else to say about these films. I know I could die happy if Mad Max won the Oscar for Best Picture, but it’s such a long shot and will likely sweep many of the technical awards (those effects though!). Chris’s prediction is that Spotlight or The Big Short could win because they are about Important Real Things. I enjoyed watching Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, and The Martian, but none of them were the best film of the year. The Revenant was excellent, if not a bit painful to watch.And I’ve not kept my love of Room, an artfully dramatic movie, a secret, but it wasn’t the overall Best Picture of this Oscar cycle, though Brie Larson was arguably the Best Actress in a Leading Role (having not seen all the performances in this category). That film haunted me for days after we saw it.

So I guess instead of having strong opinions that don’t matter, I’ll just wait for the results to roll in on my phone, because Chris and I will be driving back from North Carolina tonight when the ceremony begins. And then we can get a jump start on next year’s #davidsonoscarwatch!

Thankful for What I Have: November Decluttering Challenge

I love our home.

I love the skylight and the floral wallpaper in the kitchen. I love the little window in the bathroom that makes it feel bigger. I love our tall dining table that fits perfectly in its spot. I love the way the afternoon sun pours into the bedroom through the windows.

What I don’t love is the clutter.

whatisallthisjunk whenwasthelasttimeiworethat whydoistillhavethesetextbooks

We Davidsons have problem spots: closets, cabinets, drawers, bookshelves. There’s hidden clutter in every room. It causes me anxiety when I know I need to find something cute to decorate for fall that’s buried in our entryway closet; I get frustrated when I can’t find a food item in our pantry and end up buying a replacement. Our clutter drains our time, money, and personal energy.

doievenknowwhatsinhere couldntfindanythingifitried

I’m over it. I’m going to show my clutter who’s boss this November.

To celebrate Thanksgiving, I am embarking on a decluttering challenge with the theme of thankfulness. In springtime, Ann Marie Heasley of White House Black Shutters does 40 Bags in 40 Days, a “decrapifying” challenge wherein participants remove a bag (typically a grocery bag, but overachievers can do a trash bag) of clutter from their homes each day of Lent. I have loved participating in 40 Bags in 40 Days, but I can’t wait until February – the clutter has got to go now. In the month of November, I’ll be using the hashtag #thankfulfordecluttering on social media while I purge the junk from our problem spots.

Want to join me?

Later this week, I will share my personal plan to declutter my home and be Thankful for What I Have. To get started, I’ve created a calendar to help me keep track of each area that needs to be decluttered this month! If you would like to use it, you can download it at the link below!

freecalendarprintable1

Click here to download the free November Decluttering Challenge calendar!

Need some ideas for areas in your life that need to be decluttered? Ann Marie has a pair of helpful lists that helped me get started! See Areas to Declutter and Non-Stuff Things to Organize to get going.

If you want to come along for the ride, follow me on Instagram or Twitter and use the hashtag #thankfulfordecluttering! I’m already so excited for a cleaner, tidier home and happier us.

thankfulforwhatihave

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

Hey everybody!

I’m fresh off a three-day weekend and feeling great. Chris and I did almost nothing for three days. (Okay, we did run some errands, clean the apartment, go to church, hang out with some friends… but it was restful, man.) I’m expecting to have a somewhat exciting week at work as I’m training for a brand new position, so I really needed the break! I hope you and yours had a relaxing Labor Day weekend, too!

This post is the first of a few which I am going to be sort of migrating over from my old blog. This recipe is based on a pseudo-recipe I found on Pinterest and recreated a few years ago. The original MarthaStewart.com recipe was not super helpful for me at the time, because here’s a secret: as a newlywed, I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen. I was still learning how to cook, so the vague list of ingredients on Martha’s recipe made me wary. But I’ve learned a ton in the intervening years, and I now want to share the reworked recipe with you!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Yes, this is a one-pot recipe perfect for feeding two adult humans! The ingredients amounts listed here are super simple to double or halve for however many people you need to feed. Don’t like broccoli? Sick of eating chicken? Make sure to check the end of the post where I’ve shared some ideas for altering this super adaptable recipe!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Ready to dive in? Here’s what you’ll need!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

At its most basic, this recipe only calls for some protein, a veggie, a pasta, garlic, and a bit of cheese. I went with some boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a head of broccoli, some Parmesan cheese, and some whole wheat penne, because that’s what was in the pantry! Not pictured: you also need some oil (I used extra virgin olive) and salt and pepper (I used grinders because they are the best).

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Start by heating the oil over medium heat! This is your titular Pot, so make it a good one. It needs to be plenty big for cooking the pasta and veggies.

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Next, mince your garlic. Garlic and I have a thing together. “Too much garlic” in a pasta dish is a foreign concept to me. You can use one garlic clove if you want, but I used… five. Yep.

I prefer to crush fresh garlic in my garlic press, but I’ve been known to use the jarred stuff too. Use what you have lying around!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Dice your chicken breasts too! The smaller the pieces, the quicker they cook.

Toss the chicken and garlic into the pot with the hot oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and give it all a good stir…

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

…and cook the chicken all the way through.

I like my chicken to be deliciously browned, so toward the end of the cook time, I crank up the heat and stir very little!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

That is the good stuff, y’all. I could eat it all by itself. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep it warm; I threw it on a paper plate with a paper towel over it because I am very wasteful.

With the chicken set aside, you can get the water boiling in your Pot for the pasta and broccoli. Salt the water!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Give the broccoli a good chop! Broccoli is a good-lookin’ vegetable, don’t you think?

Now, while I was taking these pictures, I kind of got a little carried away and ended up cooking my broccoli a smidge too long. The best way to cook the pasta and broccoli is to throw the pasta in the boiling water, and when there’s just five minutes left in the cooking time, add the broccoli. Or else it will get mushy. Trust me.

Luckily for me, my husband likes his broccoli over-done. If you prefer broccoli with a bite to it, add it toward the end.

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

When the broccoli is bright green and the pasta is al dente, drain it all!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Try not to eat it all right there. It will be tempting while it sits there steaming.

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

I am a firm believer in using freshly-shredded cheese; the packaged stuff has anti-caking agents that prevent the cheese from melting smoothly. However, since you’re not making a sauce with this recipe, bagged cheese works fine. Freshly-shredded is always better, though.

Toss your cooked, drained pasta and broccoli back in your Pot…

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

…and add the cheese and the chicken.

Seriously, you guys. This is so good and so easy. Please try it!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta (serves: 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup of dry shaped pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Dice chicken breasts. Mince or crush garlic cloves. Add chicken and garlic to pot when oil is hot; add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Cook chicken thoroughly. When chicken is almost cooked, turn heat up to medium high and brown the chicken for one minute, stirring minimally but not allowing it to burn. Remove chicken from pot and keep warm.
  3. Add water to pot and bring it to a boil. Add pasta to pot and cook according to package instructions. With five minutes left in pasta cook time, add chopped broccoli. Cook until broccoli is bright green and pasta is al dente.
  4. Drain pasta and broccoli in a colander. Add back to pot and toss with shredded cheese and cooked chicken.
  5. Enjoy!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Like I said previously, there are so many ways you can adapt this recipe to suit your tastes!

  • Change the meat! Try it with ground turkey or even shrimp.
  • Change the veggie! This recipe works great with asparagus, cauliflower, or carrots; frozen veggies work fine! You can also make a “southwest” version with a drained can each of corn and black beans and tossing with a few spoonfuls of salsa!
  • Change the pasta! Don’t have penne on hand? Use what’s in your pantry! Shaped pasta works best because it takes a little longer to cook and that gives the broccoli (or veggie of choice) plenty of time to cook. But if you want to use angel hair pasta or something similar, just give the package instructions a glance and adapt the cook time!
  • Change the cheese! Shred your own cheddar, or add a little slice of cream cheese while everything is still hot!
  • Add a splash of lemon juice or your favorite dressing or sauce! Pair a few tablespoons of your favorite marinara or even pizza sauce with some mozzarella. Seriously. Pizza pasta.

Can you think of any other cool ways to change this recipe up?