Monday, January 25, 2016

So much cooking!

As you can imagine, we do a lot of cooking around here. We don't buy bread and haven't in many years. We make lots of bread, cookies, casseroles, and meals each week - usually on Saturdays. This weekend was particularly busy in the kitchen. Mostly because of our commitment to the Whole30 challenge.

On Saturday morning we hit up 3 grocery stores to get everything we needed for the week. We normally don't go to so many stores, but we decided to try a new place this week and it wasn't as successful as we hoped... After stocking up on everything we made:

  • 2 pans of roasted sweet potatoes and onions
  • 1 pan of roasted butternut squash
  • 1 pot of mac and cheese with butternut squash
  • 8 hard boiled eggs
  • mayonaise
  • 3.5 dozen chocolate chip cookies
  • pancakes 
  • bacon
  • chicken nuggets
  • egg casserole with roasted butternut squash, spinach, and onions
  • 2 pans of roasted brussels sprouts

It was exhausting, but now my fridge is ready for the week! I pulled some muffins I made last weekend out of the freezer and now the kids lunches are packed for the week! 

Cooking this much in one day requires some time-saving tools. Some of my favorites are:
  • A stick blender. We have this hand blender and love it. It's the only way to make your own mayo... if you're into that... 
  • KitchenAid - I don't know how I lived without this for so long. It made making chocolate chip cookies so easy. And I definitely wouldn't be able to make bread without it! We got the 5-Qt. glass bowl not long ago and it's AWESOME. It holds 3 loaves of bread easily and has a convenient lid so I can store stuff in it!
  • Griddle - I got Jarrod this square griddle for his birthday and it's awesome! He loves making pancakes for the kids and this is makes perfect ones!
  • Mixing bowls - I recently had the opportunity to get personalized mixing bowls from Personal Creations. I tossed the stained ones we got 7 years ago when we got married and replaced them with these sturdy, nesting bowls. They are heavy, dish-washer safe, and fantastic. The largest one says "Team Johnston" and would make a fantastic wedding gift for your favorite foodies. 
The bowl above is the largest and it currently holds 10 hard boiled eggs in an ice bath. I used the middle one for the dry ingredients in my chocolate chip cookies, and the smallest one got the eggs for the nuggets! They get used all the time! 
Do you cook in big batches or do you do a little at a time? 
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Whole30 - Week 3 Recap

We are almost to the end! Jarrod and I meal-planned this weekend and it included meals that will reintroduce foods we haven't had in weeks. We are very excited about the process of adding things back in and seeing how we feel. But we've really enjoyed this process and have learned a lot! We have found new recipes that will definitely become staples in our family.

This week was relatively easy for both of us. We only ate out once - a date day - and we went to Whole Foods where it's very easy to see what is compliant and what is not.

We ate a few different things this week and rotated a few things back in. I'm not tired of the food yet - we've been able to eat a lot of different things and are really enjoying the flavor of food. I had no idea bananas were do delicious!!

Here's what we ate this week:


  • Egg casserole - On Sunday evening, I baked an egg casserole with roasted butternut squash, sauteed spinach, and sausage. We ate it Monday-Thursday. 
  • Roasted vegetables and eggs - On Friday morning we ate roasted vegetables from the night before and eggs. 
  • BACON!!! - We found compliant bacon (which is surprisingly difficult because most bacon at least has brown sugar in it) and made some for breakfast on Saturday. It was really delicious. We didn't get much of it because it's much more expensive than even the expensive bacon we're used to, but it was yummy and we were grateful to have some bacon! 
  • Coconut curry chicken... again... Because I'm so obsessed. 
  • Baked potatoes - with tuna salad, chicken, ratatouille, etc. 
  • Ratatouille - I made a HUGE pot of this and we ate on it all week. We had it with baked potatoes, sausage, and meat balls
  • Turkey meatballs - we made really basic meatballs and had them with the ratatouille and salads.
  • Stuffed peppers - we brought this one back and were very thankful! We used colorful peppers this time and they were delicious!! 
  • Walnut-crusted pork tenderloin - when we purchased pork at the beginning of the month, we got a pack of two large tenderloins from Costco. We cooked one our first week and froze the second one until this past week. It was delicious
  • Roasted broccoli - one of my faves. We buy frozen broccoli at Costco and defrost a bag at a time. Toss it in olive oil, salt, and balsamic, and roast at 400 until crispy. Delicious.
  • Roasted brussels sprouts - same deal. I will eat them like candy
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Bananas
  • Walnuts and raisins
  • Clementines
We are already planning our reintroduction meals. We have one more week of meal planning exclusively on Whole30 and then we will add back in different food groups. The first week off the official plan we will add in beans for a day and then take a few days back on the plan to adjust. Then we will add in gluten-free grains. After a few days back on the plan, we'll try out dairy, and then gluten. We'll see how all of that goes and evaluate what we plan to keep out of our diets permanently. At first I prayed I'd be fine with gluten and dairy because I can't imagine life without ice cream, cheese, and bread. But now I know that if eliminating those food groups means I will feel better, I'm fine with it. 

Have you ever done an elimination diet? How did you feel adding foods back in?
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Monday, January 18, 2016

Whole30 - Week 2 Recap

We are officially more than halfway through our 30 day journey! This past week was easier than the first. We got into a groove with cooking and felt much better than week 1. I still get tired in the evenings, but I'm waking up feeling refreshed, sleeping well, and feeling energized all day.

The toughest part of this week was going out to eat. I managed to avoid this until Monday, January 11... But 11 days in and I had to face a menu. And other people ordering. It was happy hour and wine was $4. But I asked a ton of questions of our poor waiter and ended up getting a burger patty and a fruit cup. With water. And a spoonful of the table guac. It was delicious and I left feeling satisfied. It was hard, but not at all impossible.

Another tough moment was making chocolate chip cookies. I've learned this month already how difficult it is not to lick my fingers or eat crumbs when I'm making things for the kids, but making chocolate chip cookies was terrible. I couldn't lick the whisk or my fingers! It was very hard, especially when the warm cookies came out of the oven, but I didn't cheat at all. I'm proud of that!

We also celebrated Wesley's 4th birthday this week. He had pancakes for his birthday morning and ice cream with Aunt Courtney on his birthday. He brought cupcakes to school and I hope he didn't feel slighted that we didn't eat any at home. We didn't get to do a big meal celebration at a restaurant like we normally do, but we did give him some of his favorite foods this week.

Here's what we ate this week:


  • Hash - On Sunday night I chopped a TON of sweet potatoes and Jarrod turned them into hash with onions, garlic, and kale. We ate them every morning with sausage and an egg. Delicious and very easy! 
  • Tuna salad - Jarrod made mayonnaise again this week and made a fancy tuna salad with walnuts and pickles over a green salad for lunch all week. 
  • Salads - we both ate traditional green salads with a balsamic dressing
  • Pork Carnitas - Jarrod made delicious pork carnitas on Monday. We ate them on potatoes, with eggs, and with salsa. Delicious! 
  • Coconut Curry Chicken - I fell in love with this recipe last week (FromThe Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom) and made it again this week, but this time I made it in the crockpot with frozen chicken and shredded it. It was incredible. 
  • Veggie bolognese -  I make this recipe a lot and noticed it was Whole30 compatible if I just left out the sweetener... I normally leave out the sweetener, so this wasn't a big loss. I hadn't used nutritional yeast in it before, but decided to go for it this time. I ate it on spaghetti squash and potatoes all week. 
  • Ratatouille - I used the recipe fromThe Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, but it's pretty basic. I was worried about this one because it's really just vegetables, but it was delicious. We had it with sausage and on it's own. Delicious! 
We kept things very simple this week because I was teaching a class and traveled a lot. I'm looking forward to making another batch of coconut curry chicken... because when you can't eat chocolate chip cookies, it's just about the next best thing! 
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Friday, January 15, 2016

My favorite podcasts

I love listening to podcasts. They are so entertaining when I walk and keep me going! I've been listening to podcasts for years but recently have expanded my list and thought I'd share it with you!

Of course I'm a fan of Serial - who isn't? I'm not as into this season as I was the last season, but I definitely enjoy this podcast... And this one opened a whole bunch of new podcasts to me - the Serial spinoffs. Two of them stuck and are my faves...

Truth and Justice might be my new favorite. I read the books Bob recommends, I listen as if I'm in the room with him and whoever he's talking to, and just love it. I am so excited about this new season and learning more about the justice system in Texas.

Of course because I loved the first season of Serial, I'm obsessed with Undisclosed. I just listened to the last episode and don't know what I'm going to do for the next several months while they begin working on season 2. I cannot wait to hear about their new case and developments in Adnan's case! 

But I don't just listen to true crime or news show podcasts... I also love listening to interviews and women talking about life. 

I always listen to the Girl Next Door Podcast the moment it comes out. Kelsey and Erica have become close friends...they just don't know it yet. I love that they talk about simple living, adoption, raising kids, being a working mom, balancing, and sharing cocktails. They are funny, insightful, and always give me something to do to make my life better. When I first heard about this podcast I got so excited that I started from the beginning and listened to every episode. So good!

When Kelsey from the Girl Next Door Podcast started a new podcast this year with her husband, I knew I'd love it. Kelsey and Chris talk about money and marriage. It's inspiring and interesting to hear their interactions with money. 

She Percolates is another female team of podcasters that I LOVE! Danielle and Jen interview women and discuss different views of success. I've been introduced to other fantastic and inspiring women through their podcast. 

This is a newer podcast on my list, but I'm in love. The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey is fantastic. Her husband is a pastor, she's friends with Jen Hatmaker, and is totally awesome. On her show, Jamie interviews very interesting women. They talk a lot about faith and I get a lot of ideas for my own spiritual journey from this show. They are always recommending good books that I wish I had time to read. I decided this week to go back to the beginning and listen to the very first few Jamie Ivey podcasts and work my way to the present. 

And finally, This American Life. Some stories are better than others, but I generally really enjoy hearing from Ira Glass each week. If you aren't familiar with This American Life, it takes a theme each week and shares different narratives from people about that theme. It's very creative, informative, and interesting. This is also the ONLY podcast on my list that Jarrod will also listen to...

In addition to these, I've been known to listen to radio shows like Dave Ramsey, sermons from my own church or others, and random pop culture podcasts. I'm always trying out new ones, but these are the few that have made the cut!

What are you listening to?
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Friday, January 8, 2016

Whole30 - Week 1 recap

Jarrod and I decided about 2 weeks before January that we'd start the Whole30 on January 1st. We celebrated the new year with friends and great food as our last hooray. On January 1st, our precious friends cooked us breakfast that was Whole30 compliant and we began our journey.

You can read more about Whole30 on their website, but the basic idea is that we're eating lots of veggies, fruits, meats, and healthy fats. No gluten, added sugar, dairy, preservatives, additives, soy, or beans. We've done things like this in the past, but really loved the background information we found on Whole30. We got the two books from the library, picked out recipes, and planned!

We are now 7 days in and it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. On days 2 and 3 I had a big event at work where I was responsible for providing the food. I had lots of help, but I purchased dozens of donuts, scones, cheese, crackers, and cookies, and put them on platters to share. It was very hard, but I did it without taking a taste! There have been a few moments like that this week where I've wanted to take a bite, but the temptation hasn't been too bad. It helps that just about everyone knows this is what we're doing and would yell at me terribly if I cheated!

  • The toughest part of the week for sure was Sunday morning. I worked hard the night before and didn't eat enough during the evening and ate a late dinner. I woke up early Sunday morning for another big day and was shaky. I figured my blood sugar was low so I took a quick shower and got to work on breakfast: fried egg, sauteed sweet potatoes, and a chicken sausage. I warmed that all up and tried to eat it in bed. By 7am I was miserable. Shaking, sweating, and incredibly nauseated. I ended up in bed, completely still and flat, for about 3 hours. I couldn't think about food, watch the TV or sit up. It was miserable. Eventually, I was able to sit up, stand up, get ready, and got to work just a few hours late, super grateful for incredible coworkers who covered for me.

All I can think was that it was Day 3 Detox. People say it's miserable, but I didn't think it would be that miserable.

Other than that experience, I've felt really good. I still want to reward myself with a cookie or a diet coke, but the cravings are not nearly as strong as I thought they would be. We're eating delicious food, which is really helpful.

Here's what we've eaten this week:


  • Frittata - We made a big frittata with tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, sausage, and 10 eggs on Sunday night. It made enough breakfast for Jarrod and I to enjoy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings. 
  • Hash and eggs - we roasted diced and peeled sweet potatoes on Friday and ate those for several days with sausage and fried eggs. 
  • Salads - we try to keep things in the house to make all kinds of different salads. I made a vinaigrette with balsamic, olive oil, and ground mustard and we use that on everything. We also have: caramelized onions, carrots, celery, avocado, hard boiled eggs, tuna and tuna salad (with homemade mayo), walnuts, green leaf lettuce, and spinach. 
  • Coconut Curry Chicken - I used the recipe from The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom and adapted it slightly. We didn't grill the chicken but instead I cooked it on the stove and then shredded it and put it back in the sauce. So good. I dream about this chicken. We've had it with roasted veggies and a small baked potato, but I bet it would be delicious on rice. 
  • Walnut-crusted Pork Tenderloin - Also from The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom and delicious. We had this with roasted asparagus.
  • Sweet Potato Barbecue Sauce Chicken - This wasn't my fave, but it is very good. The consistency on the sauce was way too thick for me, but the flavors were there. 
  • Stuffed Peppers - This was a delicious recipe that stuffed green peppers with ground turkey, squash, and a delicious tomato sauce. 
  • Cauliflower Fried Rice - We did this with lots of veggies and it was decent. We love it with soy sauce, which is obviously off limits now, but it's still good. 
  • Vegetables - We've had roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic, asparagus roasted in clarified butter, and roasted balsamic broccoli with roasted cherry tomatoes. 
Although snacks aren't really part of the Whole30 lifestyle, I am still exercising a lot and need little in between meal/snacks. 
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Walnuts with a few raisins
  • Fruit - apples, bananas, clementines, or grapes are awesome. I try not to eat them when I'm looking for something sweet. They have been decent additions to my pre-workout routine. 

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 Goals

After taking a year off from formal goal-setting, Jarrod and I are back! Here are our 2016 goals:


  1. Fundraise $4,600 by July. Because I'll be walking in 2 Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure events this year, I'm raising $4,600. I'll need to raise that by the end of July because the first walk (Michigan) is the first weekend in August. I'd love to have both events fundraised by then so that I can enjoy the time between the two. If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation, please do so here 
  2. Walk 360 days. For the past 6 years or so, I've made walking goals. Sometimes they are mileage-based, sometimes they are based on days. Last year I walked 357 days. This year I'd like to make it 360. I have one extra day in 2016 to help me meet that goal! I consider a walk when I've put my walking shoes on and gone outside. It could be just a mile, but it is more likely 2-3 miles at least.
  3. Commit to a healthy lifestyle. Jarrod and I began the year with the Whole30 and I'm really hoping this will help with my poor choices. I generally eat healthy - our meals are healthy and the food in our house is generally healthy. However, I have a cookie problem that I need to address in 2016. I need to learn to eat only 1 cookie or no cookies at all. ;-) 
  4. Being Present. Present is my word or theme for the year. I want to put my phone down and be present more. I want to work less and enjoy my family more. This year will bring a lot of changes in our family and I want to tackle them with a clear head. 
  1. Graduate! Jarrod will graduate (God-willing!!) with his (second) masters degree in May! It has been a LONG road since he announced he'd be going back to seminary and I'm SO excited to see him (us!) reach this goal. 
  2. Begin Residency. As part of Jarrod's path to become a pastor in the United Methodist Church, he will complete a 2+ year residency program where he will continue to receive mentoring and undergo evaluation before ordination. This will (hopefully!) begin this year. 
  3. Overall health. Like me, Jarrod wants to pursue overall health. We're kicking the year off with the Whole30 and Jarrod hopes to improve his weight, exercise routine, and eating habits. Jarrod's word for the year is health. 
  4. Reading. Jarrod hopes to read more theology, fun, commentaries, and history. He recently had about 7 boxes arrive from with a whole bunch of books, so I see this being an easy goal to hit! 
I'll keep you posted this year on how we're doing with our goals! Did you make any 2016 goals or do you have a word of the year to guide your visioning this year?
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Monday, January 4, 2016

Stitch Fix: huge miss and a huge win!

I got my first Stitch Fix in August and immediately fell in love. I wrote about that experience here so if you need a refresher, hop over there first. Basically Stitch Fix is a personal stylist that reviews your pinterest board, style profile, and body type and sends you a box of 5 items on your schedule. I receive these boxes (called fixes) whenever my wardrobe needs a new item.

I received my 3rd box in December. I was really looking forward to a wintery box of plaid and sweaters. Instead I got the worst box ever. I am definitely not sharing pictures, but I did take them. I got a terrible ugly green sweater jacket circa 1989 with black and white checked trim, an asymmetrical hot pink blazer from 1983, a wool, flowered, high-waisted skirt, a pretty peach long-sleeved blouse, and a chunky silver necklace. The peach blouse was pretty and fit well, but I already have something like it and it's not at all wintery. 

I was disappointed. I took photos and shared them with my most trendy friends. They all agreed. TERRIBLE. 

So I emailed Stitch Fix customer service and they offered to give me back my $20 styling fee and try again. I requested the same stylist that I'd had previously (Leigh Ann) because she was much better. Customer service was very nice and asked me a few basic questions - where do I shop, what celebrity do I admire their style, and what is my personal style. This was frustrating because I give VERY detailed notes when I receive a box and who the heck knows what celebrities are wearing - I have 2 little kids! But I appreciated the effort and vowed to try again... attempt #2 went MUCH better and box number 4 was a big winner... In fact, I kept every item... 

I received a fantastic pair of olive pants, a cute and wintery sweater, a gorgeous crossbody purse, a fit and flare black and white striped dress, and a grey with lace tee. I made Jarrod make the decision about the items because I wanted the whole thing. He decided that was fine because I got 25% off if I got all 5 items but ended up selling a couple of them because I didn't really NEED a new bag...
While I LOVE the dress, I have one a lot like it... 3/4 length sleeves, black and white stripes... So I'm working on selling it... 

This is the grey and lace shirt. I'm in love. It's just a soft grey tee with lace over top. It's really well-made and very pretty. I wore it on Christmas eve with red jewelry, a pin-striped skirt, and red heels. When the air conditioning made me a little chilly (because it was 80 degrees outside!) I put on a grey cardigan sweater. Beautiful and SO comfortable!

I am so thankful that I emailed to let them know I was disappointed. I was thrilled with my next box and am even more excited to get another one later this month... My goal is to take actual pictures with those items and share them with here...

Do you use Stitch Fix? What do you think? If you don't, what would you hope to get in your next box?
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