International Travel Advice

Does anyone have any go-to travel accessories they recommend for long international trips (specifically to Europe)?  Any really important travel tips?

My trip is about 2 weeks long to Italy specifically, and I want to make sure I am prepared!

Your help is appreciated!

XOXO

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NIAW- You Are Not Alone

Infertility has changed me. It has tested me in many ways. It has caused me to breakdown at times. It has had an effect on how I feel about my body, and how I treat my body. It has taught me to never take anything for granted. It has reminded me that sometimes life is unfair, and there is nothing I can do about that. It has caused unspeakable pain and sadness. I’ve felt depressed and frustrated. It has caused friction in my relationships including my marriage.

BUT……but…..

It has made me so much more compassionate. It has helped me understand that being there for someone going through a hard time is invaluable. It has taught me how to support other people even when the circumstances are hard or awkward. It has made me more open to people. It has taught me how to show grace. I have learned to accept my flaws, and how striving to be better than I am today is way more important than trying to be perfect. I have learned the importance of standing up for myself and my feelings without putting someone else down for their own.

Because of infertility I am a better wife, a better friend, and a better person. And I have learned that I am most definitely not alone in this struggle and neither are you.

My Whole30 Kitchen- Rewards

The Whole30 isn’t easy. It takes serious effort, planning, and work. Most importantly, it takes will power and determination. At the beginning you feel like you have no energy, you are doing like 10 times the cooking and dishes that you are used to doing, and you feel MISERABLE as your body goes through withdrawal. I swear the first seven days you wonder if you have gone insane because WHY, OH WHY are you doing this to yourself!?!

There are a lot of reasons you have made this commitment, most of them probably going back to trying to take control of your body and focus on your health. The good news is that it gets easier. When you turn the corner to feeling like a new and much improved version of yourself the feeling of misery is so very worth it. But how do you keep yourself motivated?

In the past if I ate (what I considered to be) perfectly all week long I would reward myself with some kind of treat on Friday night or Saturday. Maybe that was a happy hour with friends or a special dessert. During Whole30 this is not an option. There are no cheat days for the whole 30 days……but you definitely deserve a reward for your hard work and for not caving in during a week moment.

Here are a list of things that I used as rewards for myself during my first Whole30.

A new Paleo Cookbook- There are a lot of really great ones on Amazon for around $20, and what better way to keep you motivated than more fun recipes to try. I recommend Performance Paleo, Well Fed, Against All Grain (both books are good), Nom Nom Paleo, or The Paleo Kitchen.

A fun kitchen gadget- There are a lot of cool things to add to your kitchen collection. Last time I bought a spiralizer on Amazon for $15 so I could make zoodles (zucchini noodles), spiral sliced cucumber and sweet potato.

A massage- You can go all out at a spa or just get a chair massage. Our local mall has a great little place that does a 30 minute chair massage for less than $30 (plus tip). Hopefully you have also started exercising during the Whole30 so this can do double duty to feel great but also help sore muscles!

A manicure or pedicure. Who doesn’t love to be pampered a little?!?!

I celebrated the end of my Whole30 with some new running tights because I LOVE new workout clothes. On a smaller scale you could get a new headband or some good socks.

Obviously you it would be impossible to reward yourself everyday with one of the things above unless you have a serious bank account, but if you happen to have a particularly hard day in your 30 and you make it through without a cheat there are small things you can do for yourself as a reward. One might be to buy a magazine at the grocery store that you normally wouldn’t buy. This will only put you out $5 or so, and for me this would be a fun treat because I rarely buy magazines. You can also get cute grocery store flower bouquets for under $10 to treat yourself. I recommend displaying them in the kitchen so you can enjoy them during your food prep. I actually did this on Sunday because I knew I was in for a long day in the kitchen, and seeing my mini bouquet displayed in a simple mason jar on the counter made me happy!

My Whole30 Kitchen-Slow Cooker Chicken and Pork Meatloaf

Happy Monday and happy National Infertility Awareness Week! I have seen so many great posts today on this year’s theme, you are not alone. More on that later.

Today is day 9 of my second Whole30. I can tell you without a doubt this time is easier so far. And I feel better earlier. I know I still have a ways to go before I feel as great as I did on Day 30, but over the weekend my energy levels rose dramatically.

After a great Saturday spent at a local lake hanging out on the beach with another family I decided to get adventurous and try some new recipes yesterday. I am happy to report that they both turned out to be phenomenal. One of them is a super easy chicken dish that requires very little hands on time. The other is a pork meatloaf that turned out to be a lot of work, but honestly for the end product it was totally worth it. Both are derived from Nom Nom Paleo recipes.

Slow Cooker Chicken with Gravy

3 table spoons olive oil (or fat of choice)

3 large leeks. White parts only, chopped medium (you could probably use a yellow onion if you can’t find leaks, but the flavor would be slightly different)

10 garlic cloves, diced

1 teaspoon tomato paste

½ cup chicken stock

1 Whole chicken

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Poultry Seasoning (or other herb blend of choice)

In a large skillet bring fat to medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir in to combine. Cook until leeks are soft. Deglaze pan with chicken stock. Add the mixture to your slow cooker.

Coat chicken inside in and out with poultry seasoning. Add salt and pepper (probably a teaspoon each sprinkled over the bird). Place the chicken in the slow cooker breast side down.

Cook on low for 6 hours. (If your chicken is less than 4 lbs you can reduce time to 5 hours.

After it has cooked take the chicken out of the crockpot and transfer to a platter. Tent with foil and leave out for 20-30 minutes.

Defat the liquid in the bottom of the slow cooker, and transfer the rest to an immersion blender container. I had to do mine in batches because there was more than what would fit in the container. Use your immersion blender to blend ingredients until smooth. Makes a rich amazing gravy for the chicken. Can be stored in a seal container for a week, or frozen!

After chicken has cooled pull apart for amazing moist shredded chicken. Discard bones or save them in the freezer to make chicken stock. Honestly, I have made several chickens in the crockpot and I have never had one so easy to take apart. It literally took 5 minutes because the meat just came off into my hands.

I reheated today for lunch in the microwave at work chicken with gravy on top and it was AMAZING. It was so moist with excellent flavor. This is going to be a regular in my rotation from now on, and it’s so darn easy!

Pork Meatloaf

It has been years since I have had any kind of meatloaf, but this one caught my eye because I love ground pork and this seemed like a great way to use it. It turned out really well, but it was more work than I anticipated. In the end since I had the time to prepare it ahead of time, it was worth it.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon of olive oil or ghee

1 small yellow onion diced small

½ lb cremini mushrooms minced

2 medium celery sticks

½ Italian parsley

¼ cup coconut cream (place a can of coconut milk in the fridge the day before. The milk will separate and the cream will rise to the top).

½ lb ground pork

½ lb ground beef

1 lb fresh spinach chopped small (frozen will also work, thawed and squeezed dry)

½ red bell pepper diced

¼ cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons black pepper

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 large eggs beaten

5 bacon slices

In a large skillet heat fat to medium temperature. Add onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, and ½ of the garlic. Cook until onions are cooked through and translucent.

In an immersion blender cup add celery, Italian parsley, and coconut cream. Blend to smooth with the immersion blender.

In a large bowl combine pork and beef with onion mixture, coconut cream mixture, coconut flower, spinach, salt, pepper, the rest of the garlic, and the eggs. Work through with your hands to thoroughly combine.

Pack into a 9×5 meatloaf pan to about ½” from the top. Top with bacon slices.

Place in a 350 degree oven on top of a foil lined baking sheet for 70-80 minutes.

I actually prepared two meatloaves because my husband hates mushrooms, but honestly I could not taste them at all. I also left out the bell pepper from his. Since I was preparing two loaves I decided to combine the beef and pork, but you could definitely do all ground pork. You can serve with some warm compliant marinara sauce, but I think it tastes fantastic on its own!

You can also prepare the mixture and place in the pan in the fridge up to one day in advance.

Enjoy!

Whole30 Round Two-Day Six

With a little motivation from Dawn at Our Greatest Desire I decided to do another round of Whole30 before I go to Italy next month.  She set up an awesome closed Facebook group for a few other bloggers/friends that are also doing it to share recipes, thoughts, and so on.  It’s been really fun to have other people to share this with besides my husband.

So far things are going really well. Having some go-to recipes to rely on has made things a lot easier than last time so far. The only difference for me is that this time I have not given up caffeine. I have started drinking Americanos instead of my normal beloved vanilla latte, literally just to avoid the withdrawal headaches. I tried the first day to go without and ended up nearly getting a migraine. I will say that I am down to 1 shot of expresso per day which is a huge improvement. The fact that I don’t actually enjoy the Americano is helping me cut way back. Otherwise the sugar withdrawal has not been nearly as bad as last time. I will attribute that to the fact that I have eaten WAY less processed food since finishing my first Whole30. I have definitely been feeling exhausted the past few days which is pretty normal at this point. I am hoping in another week I will be back to having great energy. I also need to start doing more regular and more intense exercise. This week has been insane with work and my stepson’s sports and by the time I get home, make dinner, juice, and clean up and am ready for bed. It is my goal to start again with running this weekend.

I have heard from a few friends that doing Whole30 for a second time can actually be harder than the first time because mentally you can find more reasons to veer off of the path.  In the name of full disclosure I had a trip planned to Oregon on days 22 and 23, and it will be almost impossible for me to be 100% during those two days.  While I don’t plan to cheat, I will be giving myself a break considering the options I will have for some meals will be limited.  The people we are visiting and staying with are actually vegetarians meaning they get most of their protein from things that I cannot have on Whole30.  With that said, I actually have not found it hard to stay within the guidelines.  I actually like having established rules for something like this.  I do well with drawing a clear line between what is on the plan and what is not.  I also know that there are situations that you have to just give yourself a break.  I think there is a huge difference between cheating and being understanding of the situation you are in and cutting yourself some slack.

Example:

Today I had a work lunch at a chain restaurant.  There was literally nothing on the menu that I could order that would comply, but knowing this ahead of time I packed a very small container of homemade salad dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon). I ordered a salad with no dressing and asked them to hold the wontons. This particular salad came with grilled chicken, and it is very common for a chain restaurant’s chicken to be comprised of more than just chicken (IE preservatives and probably sugar).  I could have ordered it sans chicken, but I would have been starving an hour later because I need protein with my meals.  I literally made the best choice possible in the situation, and I am not going to sweat it over a few ounces of chicken.

Had I ordered dessert, or a soda, or gobbled up the Reece’s peanut butter cups hiding in my desk drawer….well that would be making a conscious decision to cheat.

During my first Whole30 I had to eat at Five Guys Burgers for another work lunch.  I literally ordered 2 plain burgers with grilled mushrooms, tomato, and wrapped in lettuce.  While I am positive there were unauthorized ingredients in that meal, I did the best I could and at the end of the 30 days I still felt great.  I think a lot of people look at the 30 days thinking “I can’t do this because of…..”. I think you have to go in thinking I am going to do this 100%, and when you are put in one of those situations you just do the very best you can and move on. Don’t let your social and professional obligations scare you away.

With that said, during our first Whole30 we had to have dinner at someone’s house and they served clam chowder as the main course with a side of fruit and bread. This was probably the worst situation I was in and I declined the soup and just ate fruit. They were very understanding of why we weren’t eating (it was a large group of people having dinner), but I can definitely see where this would be very awkward.

If you are looking to radically take control of your eating habits I really recommend trying Whole30.  It seems really overwhelming and crazy, but it is so worth it.

My Whole30 Kitchen- Kitchen Sink Tuna or Chicken Salad

On travel days (when I don’t have access to a microwave during the work day) Tuna or Chicken Salad is my go-to lunch. I like to keep it interesting and full of flavor so here is a list of what I put in my salad:

THE BASICS

Approximately ½ cup of Tuna or shredded chicken

About 1-1 ½ tablespoons of homemade Mayo

THE OPTIONS– Pick what you like and throw it in!

THE SPICES

Pinch of Salt and Pepper

Paprika

Hot Sauce

Teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

THE CRUNCH

Chopped Celery

Chopped Red, Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper

Chopped cucumber

Raw Almond slivers

Chopped Radish

THE FLARE

Chopped Roasted Red Pepper

Chopped Artichoke Hearts

Dill Relish

Sliced grape/cherry tomatoes

Pomegranate Seeds

Sliced red grapes

Hard Boiled Egg

I actually really look forward to this meal and sometimes even pack it when I am planning to be in the office (Like today!)!

What do you put in your tuna or chicken salad to zest it up??

My fav is Tuna/Mayo/Roasted Red Pepper/Artichoke/Tomato/Dill/Salt/Celery/Cucumber/Red Bell Pepper but I change it up depending on what is on hand and to keep things interesting!

My Whole30 Kitchen-Paleo Mayo

When I am not doing Whole30 I actually rarely eat Mayo, but since there are so few options for “cold lunches” I rely on Tuna and Chicken Salad for days that I am traveling for work.  Here is my recipe for Paleo Mayo.  Even though I have made it several times it can still be tricky and every now and then it totally fails, so if you don’t get it on the first time don’t feel bad.

Ingredients:

1 yolk of a large egg

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon white vinegar

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard (make sure it does not have sugar in it!)

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup avocado oil

You NEED an immersion blender for this.   I tried it with a whisk and good ole elbow grease once, and my arm almost fell off and it never thickened properly. I also tried using a mini food processor and that didn’t work either.

You will also need a tall container with a width of about 4”. I have a Kitchen Aid brand immersion blender (purchased at Target) that came with the perfect container for this. You need something that is wide enough to fit the head of the blender but will keep the ingredients from spreading out to far. I would not go over 4”.

Place all ingredients EXCEPT for the oil in the bottom of the container. Place the head of the immersion blender into the bottom of the container and blend on high speed for about 30 seconds-1 minute until the ingredients create an emulsion.

Slowly start adding oil into your emulsion. I usually start with a very small drizzle. Continue to add more every 30 seconds or so in small quantities. You should see the mixture thicken and turn white when you are about half way through adding the oil. Do not add it in too fast. As you add more oil move the blender up and down slowly to keep everything mixing in.

When you have finished adding in the last bit you should be left with a thick white mayo. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 7-10 days.

You can add in different things to make aioli blends, use in chicken or tuna salad, or this is the base for paleo “ranch” dressings.

My Whole30 Kitchen-Breakfast

Breakfast was by far the hardest part of the Whole30 for me, because I don’t usually eat breakfast and I don’t like eggs. When I first started my Whole30 I knew that having breakfast was going to be really important but it was difficult to figure out what to eat since most breakfast food I like contains grains, and during the week since I work full time I did not have time to actually cook up anything, so my breakfast had to be easy on-the-go. After about a week and a half of eating I don’t even remember what in the mornings (and not enough to keep me full until lunch), I had completed the book It Starts With Food, and realized that I really needed to eat more protein for breakfast.

I tried to step outside my box and I had my husband make me a few egg frittatas. I put in a bunch of veggies I like such as artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, raw red/yellow/orange bell pepper, mini heirloom tomatoes or grape tomatoes chopped, chopped garlic, chopped shallot, spinach, ect. Sort of whatever I had in the fridge that sounded good. We also added in some of the pork from my previous blog entry recipe. It was so full of veggies and meat that I didn’t notice the egg too much and it was actually pretty good. It was definitely better fresh than reheated but add a little hot sauce or salsa and it was definitely a good breakfast! The downside was that it had to be made in advance and reheated, but still something I recommend.

Other than bacon I have never been super into meat at breakfast, but I also found that I liked having some Aidell’s chicken apple sausage or the Aidell’s meatballs. Costco has both for a good price, but make sure you check your labels as not all flavors are Whole30 compliant. Aidell’s is a popular brand I have seen their products at other grocery stores too, but I buy at Costco because it’s more cost efficient. I have also heard that Applegate Farms makes a compliant sausage but I have not yet found those in any of my local stores. Both the sausages and meatballs can be easily heated in my office’s microwave as they are fully cooked when you buy them.

On the weekends when we were actually home my husband would make breakfast. I would usually have him make me a frittata with compliant bacon. He is less adventurous with the veggies that I am so he would make himself an omelet using ghee. Another favorite for him was to put a fried egg over sweet potato hash (a recipe I will share in a few days).

I also discovered that I can handle hardboiled egg whites in moderation. On days that I was working out of the office with no access to a microwave I would take 2-3 hardboiled eggs and eat them with a little salt and paprika. For some reason I just can’t eat the yolk though.

After incorporating more protein into my morning I noticed a huge difference in the way I felt. I was definitely fuller longer and had more energy throughout the day.

My Whole30 Kitchen-The Juice

If you have read It Starts with Food you may or may not remember the author’s view on juicing. For those who haven’t read it, she discourages it. This is where I go a little rogue. Her view is to just eat the fruit in its whole form to get the benefits of the fiber. I don’t find this to be bad advice, however I have a few reasons for including juice in my daily Whole30 regiment.

First, I don’t just use fruit in my juice blend. There are small exceptions to this, such as when I have a few fruits on the edge of going bad that need to be consumed quickly. Or on a Sunday morning as a special treat I might made a pineapple/orange/apple blend. Otherwise I usually use a lemon, orange, and/or apple just to sweeten my blend. The rest is all greens. And honestly I could never consume the amount of spinach, kale, ect that I can drink in one glass of green juice. I just don’t like salad that much.

Secondly, fresh juice gives me an incredible amount of energy. Usually I only have it once a day, first thing in the morning. During Whole30 it’s sort of my replacement for coffee. It totally hits the spot, and gives me a great morning boost.

There is nothing in my go-to juice blend that does not meet the Whole30 ingredient criteria, and I am not using it as a replacement for dessert or sugar so for me I think it is okay to have. If you are really trying to cut your sugar addiction while doing Whole30 I would recommend eating as little fruit as possible, but don’t be afraid to use it when you really need it……like if its 3pm and you feel like you are going to cave in to a snickers craving if you don’t get something sweet. In that case, have some fruit, but don’t let it be the majority of what you are eating every day.

A few things to note about juice

  • Fresh made juice typically lasts about 3 days.  It is not pasteurized so the shelf life is short.
  • It’s best to have juice on an empty stomach.  I usually have it first thing in the morning, but if you are going to have it later, wait 2-3 hours after eating, and try not to eat anything for an hour after you have had it.
  • Juicing takes some time.  I try to prep as many things as possible ahead of time, like making sure all of my greens are washed.  I also keep a container of washed/cut celery sticks in the fridge.  Even so it does take a while because there are just some things you can’t prep ahead, like cutting apples.   And it is very important to clean your machine immediately, which adds to the time.  I always fill my sink with hot soapy water before I start so I can throw the parts in immediately.  I also use a Target bag in the waste bin which is a huge help with clean up.
  • If you don’t have a juicer make a smoothie in the blender….and add your greens!  There are some really awesome smoothie recipes out there, but for me there is a textural issue with them that sometimes doesn’t go over well.  In my opinion it’s also harder to do smoothies on the Whole30 because you can’t use dairy and unless you make your own finding a compliant almond milk is tough.  You do have the option of using coconut milk (out of the can….not the kind in the carton unless you found some that has no preservatives or sugar).  I personally find it way easier to make a veggie heavy juice than a veggie heavy smoothie.
  • Store your juice in glass.  It will stain/ruin plastic bottles.  I suggest getting a large glass bottle at Ikea or buying a single serving drink that comes in glass at a convenience store and reuse the bottle.  There is a tea that has the perfect size and its less than $3 per bottle.  That is WAY cheaper than buying a glass water bottle at target ect.

Here is my go-to juice recipe.  I make juice every other day and this makes about 4 portions (which is perfect for my husband and me).  If you are just juicing for you, I would cut it in half because you don’t want your juice to go bad.  Also, I would recommend going softest to hardest as you put the items thru the juicer.

4-6 cups Greens (spinach, kale, chard, romaine, spring mix, ANY GREENS)

2-3 cucumbers

6-8 stalks of celery

1 lemon (peeled)

2 Green apples or 2 oranges (or 1 of both!)

2 cups of filtered water

 

Optional

1”-2” knob of ginger (peeled)

Handful of parsley

Enjoy

My Whole30 Kitchen: Recipe-Kalua Pork

After finally getting over the stomach flu I am going to start Whole30 round 2 this weekend. I cleaned out my fridge last night and got some pork out of the freezer. I like to start this meal on Saturday since it has to cook for 16 hours, the timing can be tricky as to when to start so you don’t end up having to get up in the middle of the night to put it away when it’s done cooking. I have actually done this before and it’s not super fun, so if you can time it to finish on Sunday around noon it works out perfectly.

I am sharing this recipe first because not only is it absolutely delish, it’s also only 4 ingredients, incredibly simple to make, and can be used in a number of different ways. One of the keys for my first Whole30 was to make ahead a protein on the weekend that would last until at least Wednesday. This really cut down on the time I had to spend in the kitchen during the week, which was a huge plus since I generally don’t get home from work until around 6pm.

This particular meat is good by itself with a steamed or roasted veggie on the side, or in a lettuce bowl which could be paired with avocado, tomato, and Whole30 friendly salsa for a Mexi-style dish. I also added it in to an egg frittata with some other veggies. You can also throw it on a salad or use it in an omelet.

This recipe is from Nom Nom Paleo. There IPad app was essential in my Whole30 success. I highly recommend spending the $7, or just buying the whole cook book which is also amazing.

Recipe:

Ingredients

3-5 slices of bacon

5 lb Boston Butt pork roast (bone in or out)

1 ½ tablespoons of Hawaiian Sea Salt (kosher salt will also work)

5 Garlic cloves (we used more like 10-12)

Directions:

Line the bottom of the crock pot with bacon

Stuff the pork with the garlic cloves

Evenly salt every nook of the pork

Place the pork on top of the bacon in the crockpot

Cook on low for 16 hours (do not add any liquid)

After it has cooked for 16 hours remove it from the crockpot and use two forks to shred (do not shred in the crock pot)

Taste and if you wish to add seasoning spoon some liquid from the crockpot over the meat

Enjoy

To reheat:

The best way I have found to reheat is by steaming. This keeps it the juiciest. You can also use a microwave, or reheat in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil. The skillet method will give it a little bit of a crispy quality kind of like carnitas which is good if you are using it for lettuce tacos!