CARDAMOM SWIRL BREAD

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*Adapted from a recipe in Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann

My favorite thing from my trip to Sweden last year was the incredible tradition of Fika.  Fika is like a coffee break but is focused on slowing down rather than speeding up.  It’s about taking a moment to enjoy the company of a friend, a cup of coffee, and (most importantly) a sweet treat.  My favorite pastry was the kardemummabullar (in English, cardamom bun). Unlike a traditional cinnamon roll, which is rolled and sliced and looks like a snail’s shell, the cardamom buns are cut in strips and wrapped into something resembling a ball of yarn.  This formation disperses the cardamom filling generously throughout the bun.

My aim in creating this cardamom bread was to make something like the cardamom bun, but in a loaf, so it could be easily served in slices.  It also seemed easier than forming all those yarn balls.

This recipe can be made as a cinnamon bread instead of cardamom: just sub out the cardamom for cinnamon in the dough, filling, and topping, swap the granulated sugar for light brown sugar in the filling, and omit the orange zest.

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Ingredients

Dough 
2 1/4 tsp. Active dry yeast (should be one packet, but measure it just in case)
1 c. Milk, warmed (about 110 degrees)
1 Egg
425 g. All-purpose flour (3 1/2 cups)
50 g. Sugar (1/4 cup)
1 tsp. Cardamom
1/4 tsp. Salt
75 g. Softened butter, cut into pieces

Filling 
100 g. Butter, softened (7 tbl.)
75 g. Sugar (1/3 c.)
2 tsp. Cardamom
1 tbl. Orange zest

Topping
2 tbl sugar
1 tsp. Cardamom

Method

Add the warmed milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the yeast and whisk just to break up the yeast a little.  Let the mixture stand for about five minutes until the yeast starts to activate (it will look a little foamy).  Add the egg and whisk to incorporate.  Switch the whisk attachment for the dough hook.  Add the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt and mix on medium until the dough starts to form. Add the butter a few pieces at a time and turn the mixer up to high.  Let the mixer knead the dough for about 8 minutes.  The dough will be smooth and all pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Scrape the dough off the hook, cover the bowl, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours to rise.

Make the filling by mixing butter, sugar, cardamom, and zest in a bowl until the mixture is the consistency of cake frosting.  It should be soft and easily spreadable.  Leave it at room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 9 x 16.  Spread the filling on the dough in an even layer.  Fold it in fourths — think of folding a letter, but with one more fold. It should be about the size of the loaf pan.   The dough is really soft and stretchy, so work quickly to avoid stretching it out too much.  Cut the folded dough into thirds length-wise.  Braid the strips, tuck the ends under, and plop it into a pan.

 

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Sprinkle the dough with with the cardamom-sugar mix.  Bake at 350° F for 45-55 minutes.  Test with an instant-read thermometer; the internal temperature should be around 200° F.  Let it cool before turning it out of the pan.

 

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Helpful Tools: 

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Bench Scraper, Loaf Pan, Instant Read Thermometer, Scale 

Living with Less Plastic

 

 

Living with Less Plastic: 

Single-use plastics are a huge problem causing irreversible damage to our environment. I’ve always made the effort to recycle as much as I can, but I know that just using less period is the best way to cut down on plastic. 

Here are some ways I’ve been trying to curb my own plastic use: 

BYOB always.

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Baggu makes great reusable shopping bags

I keep reusable shopping bags in my purse, in my car, in Rob’s car— I always have them on hand. And if I still forget a bag I just hand carry my items. It can be a tough habit to get into, but now I am really used to it. Reusable bags are also sturdier than their plastic counterpart. It’s much easier to carrying groceries when the bag has a shoulder strap.   

 

 

 

 

No more single-use coffee cups. 

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12 oz Hydroflask

I try to make my coffee at home and bring it in a 12-oz Hydroflask. Honestly I think 12 oz is enough. If I go to a coffee shop and don’t have a reusable cup, I just order for here and savor the drink and the moment I get to myself, instead of just taking the coffee and rushing to the next task in my day.  

 

 

 

 

 

Reusable water bottle 

This is a no-brainer, right? I have a few reusable water bottles and I always keep them filled up and in the fridge. I always take water with me so I’m never tempted to buy single use plastic bottles. If i do need to buy a water on the go I’ll buy a Pellegrino in glass, and then reuse the glass bottle for regular water. 

Bring your own container spices 

I just reuse old jars and fill up at the co-op. It’s honestly way cheaper, too.  I like customizing the sizes of container I use for each spice so I can buy a large quantity of what I use frequently and just a small bit of something I might only need for one recipe. 

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Save every glass jar 

Any good glass container with a nice lid I will save and reuse. I have a whole arsenal of old Bonne Maman jars that I use for packing lunches, storing spices, etc. 

Waste free lunches 

I try to pack my lunches from home with as little to no waste. I bring my own utensils, a cloth napkin, and pack my food in reusable containers.  

Refuse 

I refuse plastic utensils and straws as often as I can. 

Buy bulk and decant around the house: 

In addition to buying in bulk and decanting my spice cabinet, I also do this for cleaning supplies and personal care products. I also try to opt for things packaged without plastic. I opt for wooden cleaning tools and toothbrushes. 

Make food from scratch  

Something I’m working on is making more food from scratch and buying less pre-made food and take out. I’m hoping to try and make my own granola bars and yogurt this year.  

Just Buy Less

It’s so hard to buy things without any plastic.  A t-shirt bought online might be wrapped in a plastic bag, a plastic tag, things in plastic boxes, plastic zip-ties that fix products to a piece of cardboard, plastic used in packaging, shipping, transport before it gets to a consumer, etc.  I ask, do I really need this?  I’ve been living without it for how long?  Can I get by with what I have? 

I’m not perfect but I do the best I can. Every little bit helps. It takes more effort to reuse things and make granola bars from scratch than it does to just buy single-use, but I know it’s worth it for me to try. I have a lot of work to do and still buy and use plastic a lot more than I want to, but I’m not ready to make my own toothpaste and cleaning products. 

Granola Bars

 

Granola Bars

I’m trying to cut back on individually packaged foods, and the two last hold outs for me are yogurt and granola bars.  While I don’t think these are perfect, I do think I’m off to a pretty good start with the granola bars.  I did some research and I think it culminated in something that is definitely a granola bar.  Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

2 cups quick oats (not instant oats)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon flakey sea salt
Zest of 1 medium orange
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup

 

Method: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8 x 8” baking dish with parchment and spray with cooking spray.  I used a 6.5 X 8.5” pyrex refrigerator dish because that was the closest thing I had, just do your best.

Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine with a wooden spoon.  Add the honey and maple syrup and stir until mixture is all coated.  Transfer into the prepared baking dish and press firmly into the pan until it is well packed.


Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Let it rest at room temperature for at least an hour before cutting into bars.  If you don’t wait, it will all crumble apart.  If it does all crumble apart, don’t worry, now it’s just regular granola, which is pretty great.

This recipe can be easily adapted to suit different tastes / to use up what you have in the cabinet.  I already had most of the ingredients on hand which is why I went for cranberry-orange.  The nuts, dried fruit, and other flavorings are totally flexible.

If anyone has any great granola bar tips or recipes please send them my way!

Balanced Breakfast Smoothie

When I’m working early it’s so hard for me to eat before work.  I’m definitely one of those people who just isn’t hungry at 6:45 in the morning.  However, I know how important it is to start the day with something.  My solution has been a basic yet balanced smoothie.

 

Ingredients

1 sliced, frozen banana
1 cup almond milk
1 tbl almond butter
1 scoop protein powder
2 cups spinach

Method 

Blend it all in a blender! Layer frozen banana pieces and almond milk beneath spinach leaves for best results.

 

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Apple Tart

Apple Tart 

Recently I made an apple tart that I really liked.  It wasn’t too sweet and the thin layer of apples made for a great balance of crust and filling.  Another reason why I like the tart format is because it is less indulgent than a piece of pie, because there is a little less crust and filling.  Aside from the time it takes to peel the apples, the tart came together very quickly.  This is a pretty adaptable recipe so if you want it more or less sweet, feel free to adjust the amount of sugar.

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Ingredients 

Crust

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 c butter (1 stick), cubed
1/4 c cold water

Filling

4-5 Granny Smith or other Tart Apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbl of brown sugar
1 tbl of butter, cut in pieces
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Topping

4 tbl butter, cubbed
3/4 c flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Flakey sea salt
Method 

Start with the crust.  I cube the butter first, then, put it in a bowl and stick it in the freezer while I measure out the other ingredients.  It won’t freeze while it hangs out there for a few minutes, but it will stay nicely chilled.  Next, mix the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the butter and either with your hands, a mixer, a pastry blender, a food processor, etc.  incorporate the butter until the mixture is course, but some pea-sized pieces of butter remain.  Add the water and mix until it holds together.  Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and pop it into the fridge for about an hour to chill.

In the same bowl that I use to make the crust, I will start to make the topping.  The topping recipe is pretty… open to interpretation.  The key elements are flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt, but I add to the crumble until it looks, feels, and tastes right. Sometimes I add oatmeal, different spices (maybe some cardamom, or cloves?), nuts, etc. In this case, I think walnuts work really well. The end result is sort of like wet sand.  If it’s too wet, add flour, and if it’s too floury, add butter.  I use a similar method to the pie crust – first add all the dry ingredients and mix well, then incorporate the butter.  Once a good consistency and taste is achieved, cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge.

Peeling and prepping the apples is probably the most time consuming task.  I really think it is worth it to put effort into slicing the apples into reasonably equal pieces and arranging them in the tart, even though it will be covered with topping.  After peeling the apples, I cut 1/4” slices.  I piled all the slices into a bowl and doused them with brown sugar, pieces of butter, cinnamon, and a tiny pinch of salt.  After stirring to incorporate, I let the apples macerate for at least 30 minute, stirring occasionally.

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Finally, it’s time to assemble the pie.  Start by pre-heating the oven to 350F.  Roll out the dough into a disc about two inches larger than the pan.  Then, roll it back onto the rolling pin and slowly unfurl it over the pan.  I gently lift the overhang and use my fingers to make sure the dough is nestled in the fluted edges of the pan, and finish by trimming the excess. Arrange the apples.  I think of the tart like the face of a clock and start by putting a few at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock and then filling in the gaps.  Repeat with the inner circle.  This also makes it really easy to cut and serve.  Drizzle the apples with the juices left from maceration and add crumble topping.  Bakes at 350F for 45-55 minutes.

 

Helpful Tools: 

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Baking Mat, Oven Thermometer, Tart Pan.

Cooking with My Paris Kitchen

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Some of my favorite recipes have come from David Lebovitz’s blog, but truthfully I have never cracked open one of his many books.  I love the writing on his blog, and the food is always excellent.  His Tomato Tart is my favorite way to use the best-of-summer tomatoes.  David also has great Instagram stories.  I love seeing the messy honesty of his recipe testing, antiquing, and exploring.  

I read his cookbook cover to cover, because My Paris Kitchen is much more than lists of ingredients and instructions.  His stories about traditions, dinner parties, lessons learned, and his life in France make the book worth reading, even without the recipes.  After studying French during high school and college and doing a study abroad, France has had a special place in my heart.  Lebovitz’s anecdotes about French culture brought back a lot of my special memories.  My Paris Kitchen is worth reading, even if you don’t plan on cooking any of the recipes.  

The cooking is a little advanced with a lot of specialty ingredients, but Lebovitz encourages readers to used their judgement and focus on intuition and senses rather than precisely following exact details.  Which I did, liberally.  It took me a while to pick the recipes I wanted to cook, but ultimately I ended up going for recipes that included ingredients I already had on hand to cut down on the shopping I’d have to do.  

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The Israeil Couscous has become a fast favorite for us, but I did have to make two major substitutions.  While I always have plenty of lemons on hand, I have never preserved one.  Rather than letting a lemon brine in salt for a week, I just used zest and extra salt.  I’m sure it’s not as complex of a flavor, but it was still delicious.  Next, I substituted walnuts for pistachios.  Honestly, I just wasn’t going to shell any amount of pistachios, and I already had walnuts on hand.  I am curious to try the recipe as Lebovitz intended, but I hope he would be proud of my ingenuity.  And it turned out great.  I have already made the salad again.  I like to make it on a day off and bring it to work for lunch.  

The chocolate mousse recipe has often been hailed as one of Lebovitz’s best.  He recently demonstrated the recipe on Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street.  During my time in France, I remember buying cups of Mousse au Chocolat from the grocery store.  It was stocked near the yogurt in little plastic cups.  It’s one of my favorite desserts and only takes a few ingredients.  Honestly I don’t know why I never made it before.  The hardest part is waiting for the mousse to set (it needs to sit for eight hours).  Lebovitz’s version is way better than anything found in a plastic cup. 

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I have never made dry caramel before, and it was a little nerve wrecking.  It took two tires to get it right, but the payoff was worth it.  The caramel and salted butter made the chocolate mousse so much more interesting than it would have been as just a chocolate one.  The mousse is so light in texture but extremely rich — an intense and delicious dessert.  Eating the mousse was so indulgent, it was like eating chocolate frosting.  Because it is so rich, a little goes a long way.  We divided it into six portions but should have done eight.

 

I found that the recipes in My Paris Kitchen are better suited to special occasions and weekend projects than everyday cooking.  Many of the recipes required specialty ingredients that would take some effort to hunt down.  The food is also very indulgent -lots of fat, butter, cream, meat, cheese, etc – not foods I want to eat every day.  Lebovitz tells a story with each recipe that compels the reader to try it out, no matter how complicated or expensive or caloric it might be.  

Cooking from Magnolia Table

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On a recent trip to the library, I spotted Magnolia Table: a collection of recipes for gathering on the best-seller shelf.  The cookbook is a recent project from Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper.  I love to unwind by watching a few episodes, and I am always amazed by how Joanna and her husband, Chip, spin old shacks into gold in Waco, Texas.  The couple has expanded their brand, Magnolia, beyond flipping houses.  Besides all their business ventures, they have published a few books, including Magnolia Table.

After flipping through the pages, I found that most of the food in this book is opposite to what I cook day to day.  Jo’s recipes are her takes on classic southern food. I tend to cook meals that are lighter and more vegetable-forward.  She advocates for shortcuts, like opting for store-bought pie crust and chicken stock.  The raspberry-chipotle pork tenderloin recipe simply calls for marinating the pork in Fischer & Weiser’s Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.  I was a little disappointed, hoping to find a recipe for an original sauce.

The handful of recipes that connect to Jo’s heritage surprised me the most.  She shares just a few recipes passed down from her family, and those are the ones I wanted to cook.  In her recipe for Syrian donuts, she included a photo of the original version, typed up by her grandfather before he passed away, which I thought was so sweet. 

  There were two recipes that I wanted to cook. The first recipe in the book is for buttermilk biscuits, something I happen to make regularly.  She wrote that she tweaked her biscuit recipe every Sunday until they were just right.  Her pride in this recipe made me eager to make the biscuits myself.  I also decided I’d try out her mother’s bulgogi, a type of Korean barbecue. She said that while growing up, her mom mostly cooked American food but learned traditional Korean dishes later in life. Bulgogi is something I wouldn’t have made if I saw the recipe on a website, but the story of her mom learning to cook from her Korean friends compelled me to try it.  

The bulgogi was easier to prepare than I thought.  The recipe calls for slicing, marinating, and grilling beef.  It is served on a bed of rice with a cucumber-kimchi salad on the side.  I decided to make a few adjustments to be practical.  Because I’m just cooking for two, I made about a third of what the recipe called for (it calls for 4-5 pounds of beef tenderloin). I also used a cheaper cut of meat.  The kimchi salad calls for gochugaru, a Korean chili flake (I had to google that).  While I probably could have picked some up from a Korean market (there are a few in Pittsburgh), I decided just to use regular chili flakes I had on hand.

The marinade was simple to put together, and I already had all the ingredients in the house (soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, green onions… all pretty basic).  The recipe called for three cups of sugar, and I felt a little guilty putting so much in.  When it came time to cook up the beef slices, I used a cast-iron skillet because we don’t have a grill. This worked out really well except for my first few slices, which burned because the heat was too high and all the sugar caramelized too quickly.  The flavor was excellent – sweet and salty and earthy.  The spicy and crunchy cucumber-kimchi salad paired well with the rich beef slices.  It also reheats very well and would be great for batch-cooking or meal prep.

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The biscuits, on the other hand, were not as successful as the bulgogi.  I followed the recipe to the letter, but my first batch fell flat.  They lacked the fluffy texture I expect in a biscuit.  She calls for a lot of butter and buttermilk, which I think added too much liquid to the dough. She brushes them with both egg and buttermilk, which made the biscuits taste too eggy and left a sickly yellow film on top. 

I made a second batch, omitting the egg wash and using the cubed butter method instead of the grated butter method.  I also used about 20 percent less buttermilk than the original recipe calls for.  Joanna’s dough contains an egg, giving the final product a more cake-like crumb than I want from a biscuit.  The second batch did come out better, but even after a few adjustments, I’ve made way better biscuits (specifically using the recipe from Dining In, Alison Roman’s cookbook).  I prefer a lighter, saltier biscuit with a better rise, something that looks more like a snowball than a hockey puck in shape.

 

I’m not the right audience for this cookbook.   Magnolia Table delivers crowd-pleasing dishes that make more sense for a big family than someone like me, who only ever prepares weeknight dinners for two.  While I like to have leftovers, I had to cut both the recipes I tried in half or more (most of them serve 6-8 people, and some serve more like 12-14).  It is, after all, a collection of recipes for gathering and not a collection of recipes for an urban couple. While the food didn’t click with me, I did enjoy reading about her history and how cooking has connected the generations of her family.  

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All About My Kitchen

Our Kitchen

As a passionate cook, I was really hoping for a better kitchen in our Squirrel Hill apartment, but we moved out on really short notice and had to make some compromises.  Our apartment is wonderful with a great view and lots of space. We are very comfortable.  While it isn’t much to look at, I’ve made our kitchen work for us with just a few adjustments and some organization.  It’s a work in progress, but so far I’m pretty happy with how we are using the space.  

When I’m cooking, I like to have easy access to the most important tools and ingredients. When we first moved in, I knew I wanted to use the walls to help organize and keep the kitchen user-friendly.  My favorite addition has been the Ikea peg board above the sink.  We’ve re-arranged it a lot as we get used to the space.  I have so much fun changing up what we hang on the board.  Ikea sells so many different hooks and holders, so these peg boards are infinitely customizable. 

Kitchen Peg Board
Ikea SKÅDIS Peg Board Collection, All-Clad Pans Williams Sonoma Fish Spatual, Measuring Spoons, Whisk, Peeler, Microplane, Kitchen Aid Tongs, Williams Sonoma Dish Soap Bottle, Redecker Scrub Brush and Bottle Brush, Ikea Tumbler (to hold brush), Williams Sonoma Pop-up Sponges, PUR Water Filter

Counter StorageI like to have things I use frequently on hand: Trader Joe’s Olive Oil, Maldon Sea Salt, and tasting spoons.  I used to put my blender away every time I use it, but it is so heavy I started to leave it out all the time.  The knife rack just went up this weekend. The shelves in our cabinet gave us plenty of space for our pretty extensive collection of glassware, jars and mugs.  We picked up the shelves at The Container Store, they only cost $7 a piece and made a world of difference.  In the other set of cabinets we store spices and other ingredients that I mix into smoothies.  The second shelf houses our collection of storage containers and mixing bowls.  Admittedly, this area could use a little more organization.  

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By hanging things on the walls, we opened up our drawer space.  We use the drawer closest to the sink for flatware, spoons and spatulas.  The drawer next to the oven hold more tools, things like plastic wrap, foil, and trivets. The left most drawer has cooking tools and a tin that holds all those little things that are nice to have on hand in the kitchen: a pad of paper, pens, a measuring tape, phone charger, scissors, rubber bands etc.  We use the main lower cabinets to hold most of our All-Clad collection.  I made the small cabinet into something that is really special to me: a baking cabinet.  It is pretty packed with most of my decanted baking ingredients, specialty pans and tools, and my Kitchen-Aid mixer.  

The kitchen as it stands features a lot of beige.  I wanted to make it more modern by incorporating a lot of stainless steel with the knife rack, the hanging pans, and the tea pot on the stove.  I’m looking for some sort of art or decoration to customize the kitchen and make it feel more homey.  It would be nice to use the wall in the entryway for some organization and storage for mail and keys.

The Pantry is small but we’ve made it work.  The bottom holds our garbage and recycling, and the shelves above hold dry goods.  I installed hanging baskets from Ikea for kitchen linens – pot holders, aprons, and a huge stack of my favorite Ikea kitchen towels.

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For additional storage, I bought a small sideboard for the dining room.  The cabinets and drawers hold things that aren’t used very frequently like our 12-quart stock pot and specialty things for serving.  The sideboard mostly functions as a coffee bar for my Nespresso Machine and collection of analogue coffee makers (a French press, a moka pot, and a pressure espresso maker).  We also store wine in one cabinet and can convert the sideboard to a bar or buffet for entertaining.

One of the keys to making it work in a small kitchen is making sure everything always gets put away and the counters stay clear.  I like to minimize clutter and only have what I need.  It makes the small kitchen not feel so small.

Whole 30

A few words on my experience with Whole 30

A little two years ago I started hearing a lot of buzz about a diet called Whole 30.  Well, diet is the wrong word.  Whole 30 is less of a diet and more of a reset button on eating habits.  This reset button comes with non-scale victories like clearer skin, better sleep, more energy, etc.  After researching the diet I decided to give it a try.  After all, it’s only 30 days.  My boyfriend and I were looking for some antidote to months of feeling pudgy and sluggish. I won’t go over all the specific rules of the diet, because all the information is available on the Whole 30 website.

At first I tried to do it without eating meat – only limited fish – but quickly caved and started to add some meat to the diet.  This was tough for me because I have avoided meat for the past several years of my life.  The key thing for me was that the diet embraces responsibly sourced protein which I feel less guilty about eating.  The main reason I stopped eating meat was because I do not believe in factory farming because of it’s negative effects on the environment, the animals, and the people working in that industry.

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Day One 2 allowed me to track my experiences with Whole 30.  I can’t say enough about how easy and convenient it was to use.

On my second go around I feel much more prepared and I know how to combat the obstacles that make this diet difficult.  I recommend doing Whole 30 with a buddy.  It is nice to be accountable to and share meal ideas with someone.  Another thing that helped me was keeping a journal of my experience.  I used the App Day One 2 to track my meals, moods, sleep, and how my body was responding the the changes in my diet.  I tried to take a picture of every meal, snack, cup of coffee, etc. that I ate.  This was great because if I didn’t know what to make myself I could just flip through my pictures until I saw something that looked good.  And the essential thing, I found, to successfully completing this diet is planning and cooking in advance. Cooking Whole 30 compliant meals can be tough.  There is a lot of chopping, marinading, roasting, shopping, prepping involved in cooking all fresh foods.  Last but not least: guacamole. on. everything.

The best unintended result of Whole 30 was that it helped me develop my cooking skills.  Cooking has probably become my favorite hobby over the past two years and this really pushed me outside of my cooking comfort zone.  I saw it as a challenge and found the constraints helped me be even more creative.

A typical day.  

I usually start my day with an egg, a salad of mixed greens dressed with salt, pepper, and a small drizzle of olive oil, and a smoothie (they say not really to have smoothies but I think mine is okay!) of spinach, coconut milk and a few pineapple and orange chunks (I think the smoothie is acceptable because it is mostly spinach and the coconut milk is my breakfast fat).  Once I got sick of eggs I started making coconut-almond crusted chicken nuggets to have with salad for breakfast.  Sometimes I also ate diced roasted potatoes or other vegetables on the side like peppers and onions or something.  I also always have at least one espresso or cup of coffee to start my day.  I’m absolutely not ready to ditch caffeine.

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Breakfast today: one egg, a salad of mixed greens dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper, a small smoothie (spinach, coconut milk, a few cubes of pineapple and orange), an espresso, and a large glass of water.

Eating lunch and dinner at a regular time can sometimes be difficult because I typically work from 1-10.  Usually I pack lunch and dinner eating lunch at 3 and dinner around 6 or 6:30.  This is usually some combination of salads, protein, soups, fruit, and vegetables which I prep ahead and take.  Usually I eat the soup at 3 and eat the salad, protein and fruit during the evening break.  I definitely mix it up and bring a ton of food to work so I’m not tempted by break room snacks or baked goods at coffee shops.  Here are some of the meals I packed:

 

Dinners at home I tried to make fancy and fun whenever I had the time.  This was great and the meals were some of the best dinners we ever made.  My favorite was probably salmon with a side salad – simple but delicious.  We also made a great dish with cod, steak and potatoes, and hamburgers without the bun.  Whatever we had time to cook.  Here are some memorable dinners:

While it could be challenging at times, I ate some of the best food of my life during Whole 30.  I’m so excited for my second time around this month.  I’ll continue to post updates, tips, recipes, etc. during this month.  If you want even more content on my Whole 30 follow me on instagram (@ingeboooo) I post each meal to my Instagram story.

 

 

Potted Herbs

Potted herbs for our window sill
Potted herbs in the window sill

The days growing longer and buds popping up on trees and blooming into bright leaves inspired me to add some fresh herbs to my bedroom.  So far the little guys have endured pretty well on my window sill.  I love the way they look and smell.  The pots come from a little flower shop in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood called Toadflax.  The store offers fresh flowers, luxury beauty products, and chic home goods.  It’s an endless supply of perfect hostess gifts- the shop is packed from floor to ceiling with things like gourmet chocolates, jams, and teas, candles, beautiful cashmere socks, home decorations, and specialty one-of-a-kind teams.  It’s the kind of place that sells natural bristled tooth brushes and Marvis Toothpaste, which I reviewed awhile back, you can read about more about the toothpaste here.

At Toadflax the pots were displayed empty
At Toadflax the pots were displayed empty.  They might make nice bathroom or kitchen organizers.

I walked by these charming pots sitting in the window of Toadflax a few times before I bought them.  I love how they look a little lopsided as if they were actually hand crafted.  They are made by a California company called HomArt.  Unfortunately I’m not sure how they could be procured online (but I also have not put a lot of effort into it).  I thought herbs would be a good filler and the green leaves of Rosemary and Sage would look nice in them.  As a nice bonus the herbs add a nice fresh smell to my room.  Because there is no opening on the bottom I added rocks to the bottom before transferring the herbs into the pots.  So far I have been really on top of watering them and I hope they last at least through the summer.  I’d love to use the Rosemary for cooking.  Right now I’m just really please with how they look.

 

 

 

Here is a picture of the plants potted out on the deck.  I also took some pictures of the pots on the window sill but the lighting does not do them justice.

 

 

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I am absolutely not a gardener so if anyone has advice about how to keep these alive please let me know!