Bakin’ at home

About a month ago, it felt like coronavirus hit the United States all at once. Everyone suddenly took it seriously and hit the grocery stores for some very specific items – including bread. I came home from my normal work travel a day early during this time and figured bread would be one of the first things to clear from the grocery shelves, so I immediately made a sourdough starter that night in anticipation of having to bake my own bread.

Sourdough starter can be used for a lot more than just bread, as well – I’ve made sourdough pasta, cinnamon rolls, pizza dough, and various other foods from starter in the past. It’s also super easy to maintain, even if you’re like me and kill orchids.

I’m not an awesome baker, but this is how I made my sourdough starter (below). If you want precise instructions, this is a friend of a friend’s Instagram; she’s a professional baker. She has an awesome, detailed bread guide and tons of tips on her Insta – send her a donation on Venmo to get her detailed bread guide for precise, professional instructions and troubleshooting help. It’s definitely worth it!

Sourdough Starter Recipe

  • Mix a cup of flour with a half cup of water in a container (glass bowl is best) with a yeast packet (fastest method) or a tablespoon of sugar (to just use wild yeast) and leave uncovered on the counter for 24 hours.
  • The next 2-5 days, add a cup of flour and half a cup of water and mix. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
  • By the end of 5 days, your starter should have bubbles to indicate the yeast is alive and well.
  • Going forward, feed starter 1-2 times a day (twice if you’re baking daily) by discarding half of the starter (throw it away or bake, doesn’t matter) and adding a cup of flour and half a cup of water. You discard half the starter to make the remaining half more active.
  • If you don’t want to bake often, you can put your starter in the fridge and feed it weekly. Bring it out on the counter and feed it 1-2x daily for a couple of days before you bake if you do this to get it activated.

I’ve made sourdough bread a couple of times so far over the past few weeks, but realized today I had a bunch of bananas that I fully intended to eat, but had not touched. They were starting to go bad. I also had a lot of sourdough starter… so, sourdough banana bread was on the menu. I used this recipe but changed some of the ingredients + steps to suit my own tastes.

Sourdough Banana Bread
Time to prep: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, plus a few tablespoons extra for greasing the bread pan
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (if you don’t have white or brown sugar, just use a whole cup of either or a cup of honey)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup very ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • 1 1/4 cups sourdough starter (not fed yet that day)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla
  • As much cinnamon as you want
  • As much nutmeg as you want
Get the ingredients ready ahead of time and put them away as you use them!


First, pre-heat your oven to bake at 350 degrees. If your butter is cold, rub the wrapped stick in your hands until it softens. Don’t melt it in the microwave – it’ll change the texture of the bread!

If your brown sugar is hard, use something heavy to break it into chunks, put it in a bowl with a wet paper towel on top, and microwave in 10-15 second spurts until you can break it apart more easily.

Combine your butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until it’s creamy, then add an egg and mix. Beat in the bananas — if they’re very ripe, it shouldn’t matter if you pre-mash them or not.

Once this is mixed well, add in the sourdough starter and keep mixing. Add flour in 1/2 cup increments while stirring in between; on the last 1/2 cup, sprinkle in salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla across the mixture.

I did eat a little bit of this raw.

Finish mixing everything together until it’s well-blended.

Use the extra few tablespoons of butter to grease a bread pan thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the pan, and bake for about 1 hour or until your preferred doneness.

Finish this recipe off by slathering the warm banana bread in butter and eating the entire loaf without sharing… and blame it on social distancing rules.

It’s beautiful!

2018 Whole30 Kickoff

A lot has happened in the past 14 months: a move to Chicago, several new roles at work, some travel, and a few life changes. After moving to Chicago in October 2016, I lost focus on my health through a combination of long hours at work (hello, office pizza deliveries), Chicago winter making the walk to/from the grocery store unpleasant, and being faced with an entire city full of new food to try. I ended up gaining more weight inside of two months than I ever had before, and it sucked.

On a New Year’s trip to Florida, I realized how miserable I felt and how clothing simply didn’t fit properly anymore. When I got back to Chicago, I resolved to put more focus on taking care of myself. That meant drinking less, making better food choices, and making time for exercise.

The easiest step was to simply make better food choices. Instead of having a Red Bull and a candy bar for breakfast every day (yes, really), I switched to water and fruits, granola, yogurt, or a cheese stick. At lunch, I began to limit portions to reasonable sizes and chose to focus more on vegetables than on desserts or cheesy, carb-y foods. One of the largest shifts was dinner — instead of ordering pizza or whatever sounded awesome to my frazzled brain in the moment, I began ordering comparatively lighter options like poke, sashimi, soup, etc.

I experimented with several workout routines for the first few months of the year, including a really embarrassing SoulCycle incident during which I was off-beat, out of breath, and eventually gave up and laid down on my handlebars. The instructor turned the lights down, cranked the volume, and actually came over to my bike to ask if I was dying. Needless to say, cycling to Justin Bieber tunes is not my thing.

Eventually, I discovered pole fitness and fell in love. It was everything I was looking for — dance, acrobatics, strength, and fun. I ended up attending classes regularly until the gym closed in October, then continued taking classes sporadically at other studios. Most days, I would walk the 2 miles home after class to help extend the physical activity a bit.

All said and done, I ended up losing around 25lbs within a year and gaining quite a bit of strength. Plus, I can do some cool tricks involving street signs now!

I’m planning to be more intentional about health and fitness this year, which means more meal planning, more cooking at home, and cutting drinking down considerably. To kick it off, I’ve planned a January Whole30. If you’d like to use the meal plan/recipe list/grocery list I’ve put together, feel free to check it out here.

Now for the first recipe in 14 months!

Chicken Bacon Chili Zoodles
Prep to plate time: 40 min
Servings: 10-12 cups-ish


  • 3-6 zucchini squash
  • 2-4 tbsp red chili paste (read the ingredients to make sure to grab one without sugar)
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1lb bacon (read the ingredients to get bacon cured without sugar, nitrites, or nitrates)
  • 4 grilled chicken drumsticks (I broiled these in bulk on Sunday)
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • Bunch o’ salt

Spiralize (or julienne) the zucchini and place in a strainer in the sink. Heavily salt the zucchini, mixing it up to ensure even coverage. Let it set in the sink to drain for about 20 minutes.

While noodles are resting, sauté garlic in olive oil and set aside.
Chop up bacon and cook in a large frying pan. Simultaneously, pull the meat off of the 4 chicken drumsticks and start simmering that in a separate pan.
When the bacon is cooked and the noodles are finished resting, mix the garlic/olive oil combo with the chicken, add the red chili paste, and simmer on low heat. Rinse the zucchini noodles well and pat dry with a paper towel, then sauté the zucchini noodles in the bacon pan. Then, mix it all together and serve.

1 Month Later…

Today’s workout concluded my first four weeks of Crossfit and paleo. While I haven’t been blogging throughout the past month, I have continued going to the gym 3x a week and mainly sticking with paleo (recipes below).

One interesting thing has happened throughout my month of Crossfit/paleo: I gained weight. The first week, I lost 4lbs. That’s pretty typical of every other time I’ve restarted paleo, and weight loss generally continues until I hit about 115lbs. This time, I started gaining weight in the 2nd week and I now weigh a pound more than I did when I started. However, my stomach is flatter, my clothes fit better, and I feel stronger than I ever have before.

After an initial freakout, I did some research and found that it’s typical to gain weight while fat is being lost and muscle’s being built (articles explaining why are here, here, and here). Long story short, working out is causing me to build muscle while eating clean foods has caused fat loss, resulting in a denser but still smaller body.

This experience has made me reconsider how I view health. In the past, I considered myself successful if I lost weight. Now, I can see that weight is less important than being strong and fit. Next week, I’ll do my “test out” of the Crossfit program to measure progress and will share the results via blog.

Now, on to the paleo part. I’d give myself a “B-” on the clean eating part of this challenge. I haven’t obsessed about it like I have in the past. For example, I’m not carrying Tupperware full of vegetables and almond butter around this time, and I have had beers with friends on the weekends. It’s been a lot easier to stick with it most of the time simply because I don’t want to negate my workouts with empty calories and terrible food.

Here are a couple of fall-inspired paleo recipes that I’ve really enjoyed:

Slow Cooker Pineapple Pork Curry

Prep to table: 6 hourspaleo pork curry


1 package pork tenderloins
1 cup chopped pineapple
1 can coconut milk
1-2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
Garam masala spices to taste

Place pork, jalapeno peppers, spices, and pineapple in the slow cooker. Set to high heat, and cook for ~3 hours.
Drain most of the liquid from the slow cooker, then add coconut milk. Set to low heat, and cook for another ~3 hours.

When I made this recipe, I didn’t drain the liquid before adding coconut milk and ended up with a spicy pork stew. It was still awesome.


pumpkin pie paleo smoothiePumpkin Pie Smoothie
Prep to table: 10 min

1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 cup almond milk
1 banana
Nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves to taste

Blend it all in a blender. Drink it. PUMPKIN EVERYTHING.

Crossfit + Back to Paleo

If I start Crossfit and don’t tell anyone about it, does it really count? Answer: no.

Earlier this year, I lost ~10 lbs while in Brazil. A lot of the weight loss was because I spent a ton of solo time in Brazil, and thus focused on working out almost every day. When I got back to the US and dove back into a normal social life, exercise went to the wayside and my weight crept back up over the following months.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing Facebook and saw an advertisement for a 6-week Crossfit class hosted by a gym near my apartment. I knew nothing about Crossfit other than that they promote a paleo diet, so obviously I made the logical choice and went to the gym the next morning to sign up.

This past Monday, I kicked off Crossfit AND another go at paleo. I figured if I’m going to put the effort in for these 6 weeks, I might as well go all out. So, to help stick with everything for fear of public shaming, I’m back to blogging.

The first week of Crossfit was HARD. I didn’t realize how out of shape I was until I spent the Tuesday and Wednesday after the first workout barely able to climb up or down stairs. Between running, learning how to deadlift a kettle bell, and doing five million squats, I’m pretty confident that this class is exactly what I needed to get back in shape.

Since I am unfamiliar with Crossfit but very familiar with paleo, I’m going to continue focusing on paleo recipes and tips in my writing.

Meal Prep 101

As I’ve learned through my various rounds of paleo and Whole30, meal prep is the only way to stick with a drastic dietary change. This past week, I was in Cincinnati helping to launch UberEATS without having prepped any paleo meals and definitely didn’t stick to the plan.


Today, I made up a meal plan and headed to the grocery store to get as much prepped for the week as possible. For around $200, I was able to get ingredients for roughly 50 meals. For anyone trying to eat better on a budget – that’s roughly $4 per meal. The list was:

  • Avocadoimg_8713
  • Cauliflower
  • White onions
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Garlic
  • Lemons
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Portobello mushroom caps
  • Jalapeños
  • Strawberries
  • Ginger root
  • Green onions
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Bananas
  • Pumpkin
  • Ground beef
  • Ribeye steaks
  • Bacon
  • Applegate hot dogs
  • Chicken breasts
  • Pork chops
  • Applesauce
  • Coconut milk
  • Chicken broth
  • Almond milk
  • Eggs
  • Shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • Almond flour
  • 100% maple syrup

From the above list of ingredients, I’m going to make (and blog recipes for) the following meals this week:

  • Sweet potato bars
  • Pumpkin pie breakfast smoothies
  • Avocado eggs
  • Portobello mushroom-bun hot dogs
  • Portobello burgers
  • Portobello tacos
  • White chicken chili
  • Steak + cauliflower mash
  • Thai curry
  • Pineapple-jalapeño pork chops & cauliflower mash


White Chicken Chili Recipe
Total time from prep to eating: 25 min
Yields: ~8 small bowls of soup (nutritional info below)

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeño
1/2 white onion
3 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
Olive oil for cooking
Cumin, chili powder, and cayenne powder to taste

  1. Chop peppers, jalapeños, onion, and garlic; throw them in a medium-sized pot on medium heat with a little bit of olive oil.
  2. While the vegetables are cooking, chop the chicken into small pieces and then throw that in the pot to cook as well.
  3. Cook the mixture for about 7 minutes, stirring periodically.
  4. Add chicken broth, coconut milk, and spices to taste.
  5. Let it simmer for 10-15 min and eat it.

According to, the nutrition info per serving is as follows:

Calories per serving: 177.4
Fat: 10.4g
Saturated fat: 7.7g
Polyunsaturated fat: .3g
Monounsaturated fat: 1.2g
Cholesterol: 40mg
Sodium: 311mg
Potassium: 59.2mg
Carbohydrates: 5.5g
Dietary fiber: .9g
Sugars: 1.4g



Whole30: Misconceptions and Concerns


There are many misconceptions about what a paleo/Whole30 diet means – and those misconceptions can lead to your friends, family members, and coworkers expressing genuine concern about your new, “drastic” diet. Here are a few points I run into each time I restart paleo (and how to quell them):

Eliminating entire food groups means you won’t get the proper nutrients!

It is true that a paleo diet eliminates entire food groups – grains, alcohol, soy, dairy, processed foods, sugar, and legumes (in the most strict versions). First and foremost, let’s be real – you don’t need alcohol, soy, processed foods, or sugar to get all of your dietary needs. In fact, you’d almost certainly be better off without three of those four items.

So what about dairy and legumes? Will we suffer from a lack of calcium and other nutrients? To put it simply: no. When I go paleo, I eat a huge variety of produce and meats – much moreso than many other people. Sardines, kale, broccoli, spinach, and many other non-dairy food sources provide plenty of calcium; I’m going to eat all of those things this week and in the weeks following. In other words, there’s more than one way to get the right amount of nutrients.

You can’t go out to eat with people anymore – are you going to become a hermit?

I’ve never been to a restaurant where I couldn’t find something to eat, and I’ve done paleo/Whole30 off and on since early 2013. If a restaurant has vegetables, eggs, meat, or fruit – you can eat there. Even fast casual restaurants are generally more than happy to provide you with vinegar or olive oil for a salad. To put it bluntly, if your friends are annoyed that you ask for vegetables in place of bread or rice, that’s a them problem and not a you problem. It’s no more annoying to make that small request than to ask for an extra side of something or to remove a topping from a burger.

This does, however, mean you can’t complain about eating clean while you’re out with your friends. You’re choosing this lifestyle, and you’re going to reap the benefits — don’t whine. No one likes a whiner, bro.

But you’re already so thin! Why are you dieting?

Weight loss isn’t the only reason why people choose a paleo lifestyle — the benefits go far beyond that (and in fact, some people gain weight while on paleo). I’ve personally experienced: more energy spread evenly from wake-up to bed time (no need for an alarm), clearer skin, more tone and definition in the abdominal and arms regions, an overall better mood, feeling healthier, and a lower monthly grocery bill (yes, it’s possible). When people remark on my weight and apparent lack of need for a “diet,” I just say, “I’m doing this for fitness and health,” and leave it at that.

You won’t be able to maintain this. Diets are stupid.

There are many variations of the above, but they all come back to one thing: negativity. First, the Whole30 is not meant to last a lifetime — it’s to eliminate foods that may affect you negatively and then reintroduce them slowly to observe effects and manage accordingly. Second, many people do live a completely paleo lifestyle 365 days a year. Third, people who say this type of thing generally say it due to their own insecurity regarding food, health, and fitness. Ignore this one entirely and be a living testament to your own dedication to health.

One little cheat won’t hurt…

Except it will. In order for the Whole30 to have the best possible health effects, you need to be strictly compliant for 30 days. That’s barely more than 4 weeks — you can make it. Don’t let this comment mess up all of the hard work and planning you’ve put into this lifestyle change!

It’s all meat! You’re not meant to eat this much meat!

This is one of the most common concerned exclamations I receive regarding paleo. It’s simply not true. My meals consist of a palm-sized portion of lean meat and a huge amount of vegetables. In fact, not all of my meals even contain meat — many are egg-based or feature nuts like almonds or walnuts instead. I agree that eating meat as the main part of your diet would be cause for concern, but people who believe that this is what paleo is all about have simply not looked at a typical paleo meal plan.

Aren’t you hungry all the time?

Nope. The amount of protein, fiber, and fats I’m eating actually break down pretty slowly. Today at noon, I ate a couple of eggs with an avocado, grapes, and a sweet potato. I’m still feeling pretty satiated. I also tend to eat much more on a paleo diet than if I were just left to my own devices. When I’m not on paleo, sometimes I’ll just eat olives or cheese for dinner – not exactly a paragon of health. When I’m on paleo, I plan my meals much more carefully to make sure I’m getting the correct amount of nutrients; the increased planning leads to full meals, not just snack-meals as an afterthought.

You’re just doing this because it’s trendy.

Not entirely untrue – I probably heard of paleo because it’s trendy and gaining so much popularity. However, I’ve continued completing Whole30s because of the results I see each time. If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t have kept doing it over and over since 2013.

Oh, this is just like Atkins.

Paleo and Atkins do share similarities in that they restrict gluten/grains. However, Atkins is much more carb-focused and allows unlimited amounts of things like cheese and other super-fatty foods. Paleo is more about balance and focusing your diet on produce and lean meats (with a huge emphasis on produce).

So… what can and can’t you eat?

Choose to eat:
Lean meats
Natural oils (coconut, olive; there are others, but I choose not to use those)

Choose not to eat:
Grains & gluten (corn, rice, quinoa, rye, barley, wheat – it all makes the no list)
Legumes (though some paleo peeps do eat legumes)
Processed foods (Personally, this includes anything paleo-approved but processed; I don’t do paleo wraps, anything pre-made and frozen, etc. If I’m going to eat clean, damn it, I’m going to go as close to natural for all foods as possible!)
Sugar from sources other than produce or naturally occurring (some people eat agave, stevia, honey, or dark chocolate – I cut it all out)
Oils aside from the ones listed above

Back to Whole30: Prep Work


It’s been about nine months since my last completed Whole30 (I did ~Whole15 over the summer, but we won’t count that). In that time, I’ve noticed the effects of paleo living wearing off… so it’s time to start again! This time around, I’m going to try to make it last for the rest of the year so I can begin the new year feeling fabulously healthy on a trip to South America — and not feel guilty about eating pretty much everything that I encounter while there.

Yesterday was my official paleo restart day, and the timing worked out perfectly with grocery shopping. I’m a notoriously infrequent grocery shopper; I’d rather get a bunch of food with no real meal plan once a month than plan out my meals and get the appropriate amount week by week. As you can probably imagine, I throw a lot of food away and generally feel pretty guilty about it. As of yesterday, I hadn’t been to Kroger in right around 3-4 weeks, and my refrigerator contents were dwindling down to a giant bag of carrots and a few grapes. This time around, I didn’t have to go through a huge starting process – but here’s how I would have gone about it had I needed to.

Remove temptations

It’s so much more difficult to stay on track with paleo if you know there are candy bars hiding in the pantry. Each time I renew my commitment to eating clean, I go through my pantry and refrigerator to remove everything that isn’t compliant prior to going grocery shopping for the first time. Leftover pasta? Trash. Ice cream? Trash. Pasta sauce with added sugar? Trashhhhhh. If you feel guilty about throwing away food, set aside suitable items that can be given to friends that same day. It doesn’t matter where the food goes as long as it’s not in your home.

Once your fridge and pantry are both cleared of non-paleo food, organize what’s remaining. I put fruit in one drawer; vegetables in the second drawer; meat goes on one side of the bottom shelf; eggs, unopened large packages or items like squash go on the other side of the bottom shelf; the top shelf is reserved for leftovers so I can clearly see what’s in the fridge.

Make a list

I’ve listed a handful of recipes on this blog that adhere to paleo, but there are dozens (hundreds?) of awesome websites out there that do nothing but list Whole30 and paleo recipes every single day. Personally, I’ve found that if I set up a meal plan and buy groceries according to that meal plan (with a few random things like nuts or fruit for emergency snacks), I’m much more likely to stick with paleo. Does that require a lot of pre-work? Not as much as you’d think. Is it worth it? Duh.

Pick meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (keeping how much time you can commit to cooking in mind), then make your grocery list. There are literally three sections on a paleo grocery list: meat, produce, and other [coconut flour, coconut milk, almond meal, etc.]. I’m always surprised to see how much longer the produce list is than anything else.

Avoid grocery store blues

Once you get to the grocery store, you’ll need to avoid basically 3/4 of the store. The only sections you’ll need will be around the perimeter – produce, meat/eggs, and a quick pit stop in what (surprisingly) is usually the ethnic foods section to pick up coconut milk. You’ll just be sad if you go down any other aisle; the first couple of times I did a Whole30, I wandered down each aisle like a depressed ghost, picking up random foods I don’t even generally buy just to read the label and put it back on the shelf when a quick scan revealed 4 types of sugar and 230498 types of preservatives in the ingredients.

Another thing to remember is to stick to your grocery list. Your list probably contains many more perishable items now than it would have previously; if you end up picking up extra produce, you’ll likely find that it’s going to go bad because it doesn’t fit into your meal plan anywhere.

Return home & feast

Just kidding. It is helpful to cook a meal or two based on your groceries when you get home and package them in tupperware for the days when you a) don’t feel like cooking, b) wake up late, or c) hate the world and everything to do with paleo (which will happen sometime within the first 2 weeks of starting your lifestyle change). Yesterday, I put some vegetables in ziploc baggies and called it a night — but tonight, I’m planning on making 2 meals to pre-portion and freeze for this week and next.

Whole30: Coming to a Close

It’s now the end of day 22 for my whole30, and it’s time to start planning on how this will carry over into a long term nutrition plan. 

The Whole30 plan is extremely restrictive for several reasons: to promote a healthier relationship with food, to detox from sugar, to heal the gut, and to eliminate potentially irritating foods from your diet so that you can test them one at a time later. Obviously, it’s a difficult thirty days and is not intended to be followed forever and ever.

As it stands, I’ve experienced excellent results from this Whole30 – lost pounds, pants are fitting more loosely, more energy and focus, etc. As a result, I plan to follow these guidelines for my long term diet:

  • Continue to base meals on vegetables, cooking at home at least 5 days a week
  • Allow honey back into my diet (sparingly and probably as the only form of added sugar)
  • Continue to forgo fast food, frozen food, and other forms of over-processed food
  • Allow dairy back into my diet (sparingly – based on my first Whole30’s food reintroduction, dairy had no real effect on my body)
  • Eat whatever I want once during the week (when at brunch or out)
  • Allow paleo-ified versions of food (paleo cakes, cookies, pizzas, etc.)
  • Allow grains like quinoa and brown rice

I’ll continue blogging recipes and experiences as they arise.

Zucchini Noodles + Buffalo Meatballs
Total prep to plate time: 40 minutes



4 zucchini squash
1 lb buffalo meat
4 cans tomato sauce (make sure there’s no sugar added)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs coconut flour
1 egg
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper


Preheat your oven to 430 degrees.

Using a mandolin or knife, cut zucchini squash into long strips and place in a colander (make sure it’s in the sink). Cover the strips with salt and let them set for twenty minutes to draw out all of the moisture and prevent zoodles from getting mushy.

While the strips are in the colander, mix together the meat, coconut flour, egg, red pepper flakes (however much you want), one half of a can of tomato sauce, and any other seasonings you like in meatballs. If the meat won’t stick together in balls, add a little bit more coconut flour. Roll in balls, place in a glass casserole dish, and cover with tomato sauce. Place them in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After the zoodles have drained in the colander for 20 minutes, rinse VERY well with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Place the olive oil and minced garlic cloves into a sauce/frying pan (or a wok if you have it), and heat (medium-high) until you can smell the garlic. Add the zoodles and saute for approximately 4 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. I like the zoodles to remain somewhat firm.

Remove meatballs from oven, add meatballs and sauce to zoodles, and eat. NOMNOMNOM.

Whole30: How to Dine Out

Embarking on a Whole30/paleo adventure can be intimidating enough within the safe confines of your own kitchen – dining out is a whole other ball game. In fact, I didn’t eat anything I had not prepared myself (aside from a nearby salad bar) for almost the entirety of my first Whole30. My first experience dining out with in New Orleans… and let’s just say it went something like this:

Me: Can I get a po’boy with no bread or sauce – just vegetables and grilled shrimp?
Server: … What?
Me: Can I get the contents of the sandwich minus sauce and bread on a plate?
Server: … Why?
Me: 😦

I ended up getting several pieces of shrimp on a small plate with no vegetables at all. It’s safe to say that I failed in effectively communicating my dietary needs that time (paired with the fact that this was the worst response I’d ever received from a server).

However, I have gotten better at ordering in restaurants and dealing with questions from servers and fellow diners alike – and it doesn’t have to be a monumental, scary experience! There are several steps you can take to make dining out a pleasant experience while maintaining a paleo lifestyle:

Research ahead of time. If at all possible, scope out the menu of where you’ll be dining ahead of time. Most restaurants have their full menus available online, so you’ll be able to see which  menu items are already gluten/legume/sugar/dairy/soy free (or can be altered easily). For instance, most restaurants have a grilled chicken or seafood dish – swap out starchy sides like rice, pasta, or potatoes for vegetables, and you’re good to go. If you want to make sure something like this is possible, call the restaurant ahead of time to ask questions about substitutions, dietary restrictions, and oil usage.

Don’t be nervous. Servers and chefs encounter many, many diners with dietary restrictions on a daily basis. If you explain your restrictions, they should be able to help you come up with a meal that will fit perfectly – but they can’t help unless they know what you need to avoid, so speak up!

It’s okay to lie a little. While I don’t tell restaurants I have food allergies/am diabetic (though that does work for some people), I do not ever simply say that I’m on a diet. As a former restaurant worker, I can say with confidence that most people will treat diets far less seriously than you will need. Instead, I just say, “I have a few dietary restrictions,” before I even begin my order. While this isn’t technically a lie, it sounds a lot better and more serious than saying, “I’m on a diet.”

Don’t be a punching bag. Inevitably, your fellow diners will have questions about your dietary restrictions; answer them, but don’t allow the questions to turn into an attack on your eating habits. If the questions about what you do/do not consume, why you are paleo, etc. begin to turn into jabs, deflect and steer the conversation towards something else. When this happens to me, there are a couple of approaches I take: one is to remind my dining companion(s) about the positive changes I’ve experienced since beginning paleo, and the other is to simply smile and then change the subject.

Carry a snack. I try to carry apples, dates, sweet potato bars, carrots, and other similarly small snacks in my coat pocket, purse, or car at all times for occasions such as these. If you are able to eat something before going into the restaurant (or even bring your snack into the restaurant with you), you’ll be a lot less likely to stress out about finding enough food on the menu. Staying on track with paleo is difficult if you’re hangry (so hungry, you’re angry)!

That all being said, it’s still best to make as much of your food yourself as possible – only then will you have 100% control of what goes into your food. So, here’s a recipe that Tony created all on his own this weekend:

Tony’s Steak and Spinach/Green Bean/Almond/Bacon Deliciousness
Prep to plate time: 25 min



Steak (any cut)
Bacon (several slices)
Green beans (yes, these are Whole30 approved – they are considered more “pod” than “legume”)
Salt & pepper


Preheat two pans for sauteing. Cube steak while waiting. Place bacon in one pan and steak in the other; saute for 4-6 minutes. Remove steak and bacon, place on a plate. Place green beans in the bacon pan, using the bacon grease as cooking oil. Saute for approximately 4 minutes or until green beans reach desired tenderness. Place everything on plate, and top with chopped spinach, celery, almond, and crumbled bacon strips. Salt and pepper as desired.

Note: I have had intense cravings for very strong flavors for the past week, so I topped my green beans, bacon, and steak with brown mustard, tons of sauerkraut, and raw white onions.

photo 2

Whole30: Cravings and Addiction

I’m writing this post from the inside of a McDonald’s – there are trays of cookies, “coffee” drinks with more chocolate/caramel than actual coffee, and burgers that are disgusting while also addictive (and would definitely satisfy this intense craving I’ve been having for cheese and bread). But, I’m sitting here with a black coffee and essentially ignoring all of the Ally McBeal moments I’m having in which I would jump the counter and start eating everything I could reach.

On New Year’s Eve, I saw a Hershey’s Kiss on the floor of a movie theater and wanted to eat it and run away to find more.

Tony has mentioned that all he daydreams about Kit Kats during conversations.

What do all of these things tell me? The more I practice a paleo lifestyle, the more I can see that nearly everyone is addicted to sugar (including me). It’s in bread, drinks, marinades, frozen vegetables, canned foods, soup, salad dressing – and that’s just the beginning. We consume this substance nearly all day every day for much of our lives; take it away, and you’ll experience symptoms very similar to those of a drug addict in withdrawals. Insomnia, headaches, irritability, restlessness, nausea, and fatigue until a week or so without sugar.

You might think this doesn’t apply to you – until you try a sugar detox. I invite anyone and everyone to truly remove added sugar (and limit natural fruit sugar) in their diets to see these effects firsthand. Remove grains, honey, sugar, agave, Stevia, and all sugar substitutes from your diet for a week to experience the extent to which sugar affects your life.

While the first week without sugar sucks, you will come out on the other side. Cravings will begin to subside the longer you bar sugar from your diet; they will subside more quickly if you don’t use fruit and juices as a crutch. With the above eliminations, many people will see a reduction in weight, better quality sleep, more energy throughout the day, and a better overall sense of well being. In fact, proponents of Whole30 often call the other side of their sugar addiction the “Tiger Blood” phase because they feel better than Charlie Sheen does on blow.

So as you begin 2014, reflect on what you put into your body. Should your food cause withdrawal symptoms when you choose more natural foods?

On a side note, here’s a pretty delicious recipe that can be made entirely vegan/vegetarian by omitting the bacon. It also heats up in the microwave well the next day!

Spaghetti Squash & Bacon

whole30 spaghetti squash

3 small cans tomato sauce (make sure it doesn’t have added sugar)
2 minced garlic cloves
2-3 tablespoons oregano
1-2 tablespoons red pepper
2 teaspoons garlic salt
as much bacon as you can handle
one spaghetti squash
1/4 cup minced onions

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and place in a baking dish with about a half inch of water. Place in oven and set timer for 30 minutes.

Put tomato sauce, garlic cloves, oregano, red pepper, and garlic sauce in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Fry bacon, put a couple tablespoons of bacon grease and a few pieces of chopped bacon into the sauce. Put the rest of the bacon to the side for snacking.

Remove spaghetti squash from oven/pan, shred into strands with fork. Mix with the sauce and top with a few slices of bacon.

Paleo at Work

I think it’s safe to say that nearly everyone has neglected to pack a lunch for work at one time or another. Before paleo, I would order a sandwich, pizza, or hit a drive through when I didn’t have time (or completely forgot) to prepare and bring food. On Whole30, it’s imperative to plan for instances like this; the good news is it doesn’t have to take much time.

At the beginning of the week, I bring a couple of bananas, a small tub of mayo (recipe below), a can or two of tuna, almond butter, and some sweet potato bars to work. I store it all in my desk (other than the mayo), then take it home at the end of the week if I haven’t needed to eat it. This way, if I wake up 30 minutes late and don’t have time for breakfast or lunch prep, I can still eat well in a variety of ways: sweet potato bars with almond butter, tuna salad, bananas and almond butter. I would encourage anyone who is completing a Whole30 or even just trying to save cash and eat better to bring extra food to work at the beginning of the week just in case.

What about lunch meetings? Today, I’m eating a banana and tuna salad prior to heading to a lunch meeting at Panera Bread this afternoon; that way, I won’t be tempted to gorge on macaroni and cheese or sandwiches. If that’s not an option, there are always options at just about every restaurant. Chipotle? Get a salad bowl with carnitas, all of the salsas, lettuce, and guac. Panera? Get a salad with grilled chicken, no cheese, ask for olive oil instead of dressing, and add some pepper. Fast food? Ask that they load up your salad with fresh vegetables and grilled chicken (hold the cheese and dressing). Sushi joint? Sashimi with lemon juice is actually really good!

There are many ways to stay on track with the Whole30 – it just requires a little bit of planning and creativity.


Paleo Mayo
Total prep to plate time: 10 minutes

2 eggs, room temperature
half a lemon
2 cups of olive oil (extra light-tasting is best)
1/2 tsp. salt

Put the two room-temp eggs, salt, and the juice from the half lemon into a blender or processor. Blend for about ten seconds. Begin VERY slowly adding the oil (a few drops at a time for the first cup; a steady, thin stream for the second cup) to your blender or food processor while it blends, making sure that the oil is completely absorbed/mixed in. After the first cup of olive oil, your mayo should begin to thicken a bit; after the second cup, it should look like normal, white mayo.

I like to use this as a base for tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, and numerous dips for vegetables. You can add mustard, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, etc. to change the flavor; try sectioning out the mayo into four half cups with different flavors added to find what you enjoy the best.

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