The Annual Whole 30!

New year new… I’m just going to stop there. It’s the same old me. I’ve been doing January Whole 30s every year for a few years now. I don’t keep perfect Whole 30 February and beyond, but for me, it is the perfect reset after the crazy indulgent (and delicious) eating patterns of my birthday, Christmas and New Year’s. (Plus a wedding and honeymoon this year!)

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the Whole 30 program, it’s basically a 30-day reset where you do not eat anything processed, with added sweeteners, gluten, dairy, legumes, etc. I highly recommend checking out the Hartwig’s book, “It Starts With Food.” After 30 days, you slowly introduce the food groups that you eliminated to see how they affect you. This is how I ended up learning that cheese is delicious, but too much cow dairy (goat cheese/milk does not seem to affect me as much, likely due to the lower amount of lactose) makes me feel stuffy and sluggish.

The program is 30 days strict, though this year, I’m making one minor exception: January 6. For Christmas, I got my mom an Italian cooking class that she and I will do together. While 30 days of strict near-perfect eating will improve my health, I’m convinced that spending quality time with someone I love (and learning a bit in the process) will do that too.

Another minor adjustment I’m making to the program (OK, yes, I understand adjustments mean it is not a true Whole 30, and I’m fine with that) is snacking. As written, the program denotes that you should not snack, but instead should eat three full, square meals, with a healthy source of fat included in each. If you’re super active, you can add a fourth full meal. I’m completely fine with doing three (or four on tough workout days) meals a day, plus a few small snacks (fruit, nuts, etc.) in between. This is because I’m really weary of losing weight. It has always been much easier for me to lose weight than to gain, and after I got hurt, my body went into a hypermetabolic state for a while, and I dropped down to being very underweight. It simply was not healthy. So, Whole 30 works as a weight loss tool for many (though that’s not quite what it was intended for, it was just a side effect), but I’m looking to gain and/or maintain. And if that means snacking on half an avocado or a sweet potato between full meals, then that’s what it’ll be. And that’s fine.

I know that tons of other people do January Whole 30s (it might be the most popular month for the reset!) so I’d love to hear about other people’s journeys!

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An Update on My Sunshine Challenge

It has been about a month since I started my winter challenge to spend more time out in the sun (despite the dropping temperatures).

While I have not been so great at actually tracking each and every minute I spend outdoors, what I have been doing is getting outside almost every single day. I work in an office complex and sit at a desk for the majority of my day (sigh), and I have made a conscious effort to get outside and walk around the building, at least once, every day that it is not pouring outside. It usually takes me about 15 minutes to do one lap around the building, and I’ll usually spend that time chatting on the phone with my mom. If the conversation is particularly flowing, I’ll go for two or even three times around the building. On most weekends, I’ll try and go for at least a short walk (or bike ride, now that Mitch got me an awesome bike for my birthday!)

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There’s a small man-made pond near my office that I see on my walks! 

To be entirely honest, I’m not sure that I’m getting enough vitamin D on my outdoor excursions each day, especially since I’m usually bundled up due to the cold. However, what I am getting is a refresher in the middle of the day. Sitting at a desk for hours on end makes me super lethargic, and lethargy leads to unproductiveness and inattentiveness. I’ve definitely realized that I am less stressed and focus much better after getting out for a little while, and with that, I’m definitely going to continue!

Butternut Squash Soup in 5 Steps

Soup season (which spans more than one actual season for me) is my favorite time of year. I make at least one soup a week between October and April. Trying new soup recipes allows me to shake things up and never get bored. Here’s a butternut squash soup recipe that I tested out and ended up being a big hit!

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Ingredients: 

  • 1 butternut squash, cut up into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 green apple, also cut in 1-inch pieces
  • half a yellow onion, chopped
  • mushrooms (or any other toppings your heart desires!)
  • 1/2 cup of chicken bone broth
  • salt, black pepper, cinnamon

The how-to: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it’s heating, chop up your butternut squash, onion and apple. Throw them all into a dutch oven (it should be large enough that the apple and veggies are on one layer).
  2. Coat lightly with olive oil, then give a sprinkle of cinnamon and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the butternut squash is very tender when you poke it with a fork.  ** While the stuff is in the oven, you can saute any toppings on the stove top. Mitch and I loved it with some mushrooms, but you can also try different veggies, chicken, basically anything! 
  4. Once everything is done roasting, take it out of the oven (but keep it in the pot/dutch oven) and add about half of the bone broth. Then start mixing it with an immersion blender (transferring it all to a conventional blender will work, too, if you don’t have an immersion blender!) Slowly add the rest of the bone broth, or keep going until you’re happy with the consistency. Some like it thicker, some thinner.
  5. Add your toppings and some fresh cracked pepper and enjoy!

I’d love to hear about some other people’s favorite soup recipes!

Super Easy Bone Broth

On Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago, the turkey was being carved, as family members called out which part they wanted. Who wants white meat, who wants a drumstick, etc.

“I call the carcass!” I said, meeting my mother’s eyes which were filled with confusion mixed with a bit of skeeviness.

The health benefits of bone broth have been circulating pretty heavily in the health community over the last year or so, and at best broth is going to nourish me completely and help keep my ankle (and other joints) healthy and able to keep up. At the worst? all the painstaking time (probably less than 10 working minutes per batch) making bone broth was all for an affordable and delicious base of soups and stews. Not too shabby. I’ll typically roast a whole organic chicken at the beginning of the week and use the carcass (AKA all the remaining bones and cartilage) to make broth that I’ll either freeze or use up later in the week. So, when it came time for turkey day, I jumped at the opportunity to try something a bit different.

But turkey or chicken, the process is the same. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Strip the bones of as much actual meat as possible. This does two things: first, it allows you more meat to actually eat, and second, I found that little bits of meat remaining tend to burn in the broth, which you don’t want.
  2. Roast the bones. Admittedly, I’ve skipped this step before, and my broth comes out just fine, but oh boy the flavor that the broth has when the bones were roasted is near unbeatable. I roast them at 325 for 3-5 hours (and throw in a couple of sweet potatoes because it’s convenient).
  3. Throw the bones in the crock pot, and cover them completely with water. Give it a splash of apple cider vinegar (rumor has it, this helps break down the bones, making the broth be even more nutrient-dense). Add a few large pinches of salt.
  4. Put the crock pot on low, and walk away. I’ve heard some people say that they leave their bones in for up to 12+ hours, but I’ve found that my broth comes out best around the 8-hour range.
  5. Put your broth through a strainer to get the bones and bits out. I like to pour it over a strainer/sieve directly into a de-fatter. I’ll then pour the broth out of the de-fatter (thus taking out a bit of the fat) into jars, which go in the refrigerator. If I’m freezing the broth in glass mason jars (and yes, you can freeze glass jars), I leave a bit of room at the top so that there is room for the broth to expand as it freezes.

Bone broth is delicious, healthy and super easy to make. I’ll be compiling a list of my favorite bone broth recipes in blogs to come!

Thrive Market: Is It Worth It?

I’m still listening to the Well-Fed Women podcast almost every single day on my drive to work, and one of their long-standing sponsors is Thrive Market, which is basically a healthy food (and more) delivery service that requires a $60 membership fee. It’s obviously convenient to have stuff shipped to your doorstep instead of going out to the supermarket and that apparently there are tons of discounts you get on Thrive that you would not get in the grocery store.

I’ve considered joining (especially since I love a good subscription box), but am still on the fence. Now I’m considering asking for it as a Christmas gift from someone. I would love to hear people’s real and totally honest feedback. Particularly:

  • How eco-friendly/wasteful is their packaging?
  • Do you really save $60+ a year?
  • Does it really cut down on the number of trips to the grocery store/time spent in the grocery store? Admittedly, I actually like going to the supermarket, but sometimes, there’s just no time in my crazy schedule.
  • Would having a Thrive market membership be kind of pointless since I live near a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and have a Costco membership?

Again, I’d love to hear people’s honest feedback, whether you love (or hate, or feel indifferent about) Thrive Market. Thanks!

 

A Challenge to Get Out in the Cold

Things are getting pretty frigid pretty quick where I live, and, unfortunately, that means much less time spent outside in the sun. Not only can sunlight boost people’s moods, but it is also a crucial component in human’s vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D is hugely important for bone health, among other things, and I’m all for anything that will get and keep me strong. Not to mention, a short, mid-day walk around my office complex might just help me through the afternoon.

In addition to loving all things health-promoting in general, I also love a good challenge to keep me on track with my goals. So, starting December 1, I’m challenging myself to get at least 120 minutes per week of sunshine. This more than likely will require some bundling up (unless we’re thrown some weather-related curveballs, which I wouldn’t doubt in NJ!), but will be a great excuse to get outside, de-stress and get some vitamin D!

I’ll be posting updates here, on my blog, as well on instagram: I_Can_Stand_This

How I Reduce My Carbon Footprint, and Where I Need to Improve

Between the alarming amounts of chemicals and plastic found in sea creatures (many of which we eat) to trash islands bigger than my home state of New Jersey, I think it’s pretty clear that we could all be a bit kinder to our environment. Enter cliche: it’s the only one we’ve got.

I’m a type-A person who loves a challenge, so I was first inspired to reduce my waste about a year ago when I stumbled across a video of someone who tried to go completely waste-free for a month. While I’ll never be one of those totally waste-free people or a mason-jar’s-worth-of-trash-in-a-year gal, I have been trying to reduce my carbon footprint in small ways. Along the way I’ve also noticed that living (or trying to live) this way saves money and allows a lot fewer chemicals to come through my door.

Here are things I do to waste less: 

  • I don’t buy paper towels. I thought this one was going to be really hard. Truthfully, it wasn’t. I have a ton of Trader Joe’s kitchen cloths which I use for cleaning dishes, wiping down the counter, etc. (honestly, an old, cut-up t-shirt will do, too!) I also put a bunch of kitchen towels/rags on my registry, which I was so thankful to receive. I keep a little bin at the end of my kitchen counter, and when I’m done using a towel/cloth, I just drop it in. Then, at the end of each week I throw them all in the wash and dryer.
  • I don’t use plastic water bottles. You know, the one-and-done kind. I have two water filters in my fridge, and a couple of stainless steel water bottles that Mitch and I use. This is the easiest step toward less waste, in my opinion, and it almost instantly saves you money.
  • I don’t use plastic bags at the supermarket — and so far, nothing bad has happened as a result of oranges rolling around my cart at the supermarket, bumping into the sweet potatoes. I tried the whole reusable produce bag thing, but then honestly, kept forgetting them and ended up tossing the fruit and veggies in anyway. When it’s time to check out, I bring my own re-usable bags. These bags hold way more than your traditional supermarket plastic bags, which ends up meaning fewer trips to unpack. That’s a win-win to me!
  • I’m just starting to dabble in the world of solid shampoo bars, safety razors and conditioner bars (and obviously, unpackaged bars of soap are in use too!). I’m not too far into using this stuff yet, so I can provide and update/reviews at a later date!
  • Continuing on the soap conversation, I received a really nice glass soap dispenser for my wedding. I now fill that up with a huge jug of soap that I buy and keep under my sink. It’s not completely zero-waste, but one big bottle produces far less waste than the million other one we’d use throughout the year otherwise.
  • For my bridal shower, I kindly asked that people skip the wrapping paper. It was another small gesture, but probably prevented at least two garbage bag’s worth of waxy paper from being created that day. Plus, it just gets ripped off, anyway!

 

Where I’m still falling short: 

  • Fam, I love me some Lara bars. And they’re just so darn convenient to buy a few and keep them in your desk drawer at work, or grab on the way out of the house. I’ve made my own similar energy bites before (and they were delicious), but I’m finding that with work and school and volunteer stuff and my crazy busy schedule, I’m not able to pull out the Vitamix to make them as often as I used to.
  • I have a gas-guzzling Honda Accord that I drive every single day. And there’s tons of extra crap in it weighing it down that I should really clean out. But who wants to clean a car after a long day of work?! (If you find such a person, please send them my way, and I will welcome them in to my life with open arms)
  • Amazon shopping. Needless to say, I get my money’s worth out of my yearly Amazon Prime membership. Whenever Mitch or I need anything, it’s just so easy to click click click and have it on our doorstep in two days. But that also results in a recycling pile of boxes as big as me. Sigh.

I’d love to hear the small steps that others are taking to reduce their carbon footprint, and if they have any suggestions for my downfalls!