Monday, 19 January 2015

Whole30 - Week #1

Last week, I started a program called "Whole30" I've read a TON about it online and have been following them on Instagram for about a year now. The basic premise is that for 30 days, in a row, NO CHEATING, you eat a very specific diet. This means no sugar, no dairy, no legumes, no alcohol, no grains & no MSG. While I was interested in the premise I was also very skeptical. At first glance it seemed like a overly restrictive version "The Paleo Diet" and told myself I wasn't ready and moved on.

Then, after the absolute GLUTTONY of Christmas, I was really beating myself up about how much food and drink I'd consumed. Not only that, my snacking and junk intake was out of control. No lie, I could not help myself from eating junk. I was just eating, eating and eating.

After our cruise, I decided to take a closer look at this program. 

Here are some things I learned:

1. While losing weight is a pleasant side effect, it's not the ultimate goal - the goal is to eat healthfully for 30 WHOLE days (no cheating!) and help your body to come away from it's dependance on junk.
2. Another goal of the program is to help you appreciate and love good food again - vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, nuts - all wonderful things that don't really taste like much after eating junk
3. While this program IS restrictive, there are very good reasons. Something that I a found on a couple blogs was that is was very important to read the book "It Starts with Food" before beginning the program (I'm glad I did, more on that later).
4. I found a heap of bloggers (no associate with Whole30 at all) that had amazing results from doing this program (like more energy, clearer mind, more focus, enjoyed exercise more).
5. There are SO many amazing resources available to help see you through the program.

After learning all that, I decided "what the hell?" - I bought the book on my Kindle and gave it a read.

First VERY important fact - do not start this program right away. It takes a lot of planning before you'll be ready to begin. Understanding exactly what you can and cannot eat is a steep learning curve and you'll soon realize - sugar and gluten is in EVERYTHING.

In any case, the week before I started, I planned out meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner), created my grocery list and set out.

I'm now one week into the program - here is where I stand right now...
  1. I’ve tried a lot of foods that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Further to that, I've learned some new ways to prepare food. 
  2.  I eat breakfast every morning (the program requires that you do) and I have more energy when I get to work. I drink less coffee (because black coffee is gross) and have switched to herbal teas (or Green Tea). 
  3. I am tired still, but I read that it is common to experience that in the first week. Plus, I’ve heard that the cold I had leaves tiredness behind even after it’s gone. 
  4. Instead of snacking at night, I’ve been doing my nails, reading or meal planning (which I actually really enjoy). 
  5. I haven’t had any MASSIVE cravings...yesterday I saw a President's Choice Truck with the Decadent Cookies on it, and for a moment I really wanted cookies, but then it passed. I’m getting enough salt in my diet, so I haven’t been craving chips (yet)
  6. I’ve been spending most of my time in the kitchen. A lot of dishes, a lot of “pre-prep” for the next day, a lot of making sure we have enough food for the next meals. 
  7. Eating this healthfully is expensive, especially the first week when you turn over your kitchen and stock your pantry with the right ingredients. I didn't have most of what is recommended to have in your kitchen
  8. Further to that - when you find a favourite sauce (like Frank's Hot Sauce) that is compliant with the program, it pretty much makes your life
  9. Explaining this program to people is difficult. It's hard to tell them for 30 days you can't eat sugar, dairy, legumes, grains or alcohol without them thinking you're only eating salads for 30 day. The truth is, I've eat better this last week than I have in 4 years. The food tastes better, you feel more satisfied, it's actually kind of awesome.
  10. Overall, I just feel better. While I’ve been sleeping more soundly, I haven’t felt the “jump out of bed in the morning” energy, but I suspect I’ll start to feel that at the end of next week. 
  11. I have the most amazing husband who has been eating all of the meals I prepare WITHOUT complaining. 
At the end of the 30 days, I'll post & share all my favourite recipes. This week I loved:

 
  • Favourite Snack - Apples & Almond Butter

I'd LOVE to know - have you tried Whole30? What did you think? Any amazing meals you would suggest?

Until next week!

- Lisa

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Candy Cane Oreo Pretzel Bark

Good lordy! The plan was to post this about 2 weeks ago after I made it for our Holiday Party. Then...life happened.

No matter, we`re 1 week away from Christmas (EEEEEEK!) so you still have time to make this INCREDIBLY easy bark that is perfect for putting out at a party OR for making as a gift. Or to eat all yourself (I won`t judge). It`s easily doubled, tripled etc. It`s also quite scrumptious to make with regular Oreos!

Another neat thing about this bark is that the ways you can play with it are limitless! I would imagine it would be quite yummy with some other types of candy on top, or maybe some crushed up chips, or just pretzels! GAHHHH I love making desserts!



Candy Cane Oreo Pretzel Bark
by: Lisa

Ingredients:
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
20-30 Candy Cane "Oreos" (I got mine at Walmart), crushed
1 cup of crushed pretzels
1 cup of holiday mix M&Ms

Method:
Line a large pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Melt milk chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pot of water. Stir continuously so that the chocolate melts evenly. When chocolate is completely smooth, poor onto your prepared pan lined with tin foil. Spread evenly over the sheet, careful to make sure the chocolate isn't too thin. 

Sprinkle with the Oreos, crushed pretzels, M&Ms and anything else you want to add. Press toppings gently into the chocolate (you want to make sure they stick).

Put in the freezer for about 30-45 mins until completely solid. Break apart into pieces and share!

 SO easy right?!?! 

Now go and make some! Your friends/family/co-workers/spouse/anyone will love you for it!

Lisa

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Ranch Lovers Potato and Leek Soup #HiddenValleyGFChallenge

I work in the Toy Business, so basically October to December I am running around non-stop. Add into that Family Christmases, Birthdays (6 of them) and holiday parties. Either I'm at work, or I'm out running errands, buying gifts or baking. The last thing I want to do is spend an hour in the kitchen making meals on the weekend.

Enter Hidden Valley Ranch - last month they asked that I try out their new GLUTEN FREE dressings. First, who knew that Ranch dressings had gluten in them? Second, I love Ranch to dip Pizza, Veggies, Fries in, so I wanted to give it a shot. They very generously sent me 3 bottles - regular, 3 cheese and J's new favourite - SPICY (that bottle didn't last long).

Anyway, the challenge is to created a gluten free recipe using their ranch dressing. I've spent the better part of the month trying to come up with something unique, yummy, easy and BIG so that I could make multiple portions to eat over the week.

Today, I was sitting watching Ree Drummond make a potato soup for the freezer and it hit me...why not try a Potato & Leek Ranch Soup? Sounds kind of weird right? Never fear, I wouldn't dare lead you astray. I combined a variety of ingredients (including LEEK which I've never used before) with the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing in the hopes of creating a hearty, savoury soup. Guess what? This soup is SO GOOD!! Warm, comforting, easy & loaded with veggies! Plus it makes enough for about 6-8 portions, so I can freeze a bunch for later this week!


 Ranch Lovers Potato and Leek Soup
inspired by Ree Drummond

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 large red skin potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups chicken broth
2 leeks, white parts only halved & sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, halved & thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 cups half & half
3/4 cup Hidden Valley Ranch
3 tbsp Franks Red Hot (optional)
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Shredded Old Cheddar

Method:

In a large stock pot, add the cauliflower, potatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then let simmer on low heat until cauliflower and potatoes are soft.

While the potatoes and cauliflower are cooking, chop and peel your leeks, onion and carrots. Melt butter in a saucepan and add veggies. Cook on low until tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Once the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked, mash them together with a potato masher. You still want there to be a little "chunk" left, so don't puree them. Once all mashed together, add in the veggies, cream, ranch, salt & pepper and Franks. Stir together and add back to heat. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. When soup has thickened (slightly) remove from heat.

Shred some old cheddar on top if you want an added kick and serve!

Again, I know this sounds weird (Ranch Dressing in Soup?) but I promise you, it's absolutely scrumptious!

If you love Ranch (like J and I do) I highly suggest you check out the Hidden Valley Ranch Facebook Page - TONS of awesome recipes to try!

*Disclosure - I was compensated to write this post, but all opinions are my own. Also, this recipe is actually REALLY good. It sounds weird, but the soup is amazing!*