Snow Day Fun (plus Meal Plan #3)

When the weather forecast says we are getting a lot of snow and we don’t get a single flurry, I feel genuine frustration and sadness. So, when I woke up Friday morning to an inch or two of beautiful snow on the ground with no end in sight, I seriously squealed and giggled like a little girl. That morning (plus the two snow days Daniel had before) turned into five full days home with my loves. We had absolutely nothing to do except enjoy one another, our cozy home, and our moments of designated alone time because we eventually started to go a little insane…

On day 1, Sam could not stop watching the snow all morning. “Snow! Momma, snow! Daddy, snow!” He loved putting on his new boots and mittens and chasing our dog around the yard. “Yay!” we thought, “He’s going to love this!” Well, that turned out to be a hilarious misconception.

On day 3, the snow was really coming down, so we decided to hurry outside just in case it suddenly stopped. This idea of getting dressed for snow in two minutes was a complete FAIL, as anyone with kids can imagine. Sam was excited at first, then bored (before even stepping out of the door), then absolutely, totally miserable. These pictures perfectly sum up our experience in the snow.

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So, what does my sweet, thoughtful, manly husband do to turn this day into everything we could have dreamed of as parents of a little adventurer? He decides to build this amazing beauty so Sam wouldn’t have to walk in the snow, which, it turns out, he is genuinely terrified of.

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I was pretty impressed. Sam, not so much. While we were moving, he was sort of calm. Each time we stopped for a mere second, he would wail hysterically. Needless to say, we didn’t go play in the snow the remainder of the weekend. Hopefully we can try again next year! Thank you, Lord, for this amazing week of family, relaxation, and sweet, sweet memories!

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 10.21.47 PMIt’s pretty clear from this post that I had ample time to put together a delicious meal plan for the last ten days of this Whole 30. So, here you go! Almost all recipes are new to me, which is a pretty exciting way to close out this challenge. I hope you enjoy!

Whole30Part3

Easy Egg Salad

Paleo Homestyle Meatloaf

Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk

Cauliflower Rice

Bacon and Butternut Squash Quiche

Asparagus Potato Hash

One-Skillet Paleo Mediterranean Chicken

Shrimp Pad Thai

Asparagus and Ham Crustless Quiche

Smoky Bacon Chicken Thighs

Baked Cinnamon Apples

The following are from Whole 30 by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig:

Southwest Scrambled Eggs

Stuffed Peppers

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Confessions of a Whole 30-er

If you have ever done a Whole 30, you know that it is not simple and definitely not always fun. For example, here are a few things I have been asking myself this week:

Why do I have to eat eggs again for about the twentieth time this week?

Why can’t I steal that waffle from my son right now?

Why am I drinking so much water that I have to go to the bathroom literally every ten minutes?

The answer to all of these questions (plus the dozen more I have on a daily basis) is because this is worth it! Being on the Whole 30 has not been easy. There have been ups, but their have definitely been downs. For starters, random cravings that pop up make me very frustrated–it’s only one piece of chocolate, right? Planning and preparing meal after meal every day can become overwhelming very quickly when you have an energetic and curious toddler with you at all times. These “difficulties,” however, are far outweighed by the rewards we have already seen these first two weeks. Keep in mind, this 30 days is just the beginning for us. We have not followed the rules to the tee every single day because of different things that have come up. I could beat myself up about this, but we see this as a complete lifestyle change for us. Every day is not going to be perfect. Car trouble will throw a wrench in our plans, dinner invitations will pop up. But, we keep going! Poor planning or the need for a quick fix has caused us to make a few less desirable choices, but these have not thrown us off course! Now, if you are wanting to reset your system and challenge yourself for just the 30 days, I very strongly recommend following every single rule exactly so that you will get the most out of the experience. (Once we have a full 30 days free of any special events we will be doing that as well). Moving on, here are just a few benefits we have seen in only 16 days of the program:

  • I go to bed at least 2-3 hours earlier than I used to and I am actually TIRED when I get in my bed! This never happens to me. I usually toss and turn for at least an hour, fretting or worrying over something, which keeps me awake even longer…Image-1
  • Rather than mindlessly eating some super unhealthy fast food meal in front of the TV, we get to spend time cooking together and eating a meal at the dinner table. We enjoy the sweet conversation with our toddler and get him to finally try some new foods!
  • My son who used to spit out every fresh fruit or fresh vegetable now chooses sliced apples over grilled cheese and will actually take a few bites of raw carrots. Amazing.
  • I don’t finish my plate at every meal. Even with having smaller portions at some meals, I have no desire to continue eating once I feel full. Seconds and desserts aren’t a thing anymore!
  • I can see my face clearing up and looking brighter than before. Dark spots under my eyes aren’t as dark and there are no pimples in sight!

While we are definitely still a work in process, this whole experience is making me so excited about the future. I hope this list encourages you to try something like a Whole 30. Trust me, it will be so worth it in the end when you no longer have cravings and you no longer feel like you need an afternoon nap every day! For some inspiration, take a look below at my second meal plan and the recipes used. Enjoy!

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Shrimp Cobb Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Spinach Sausage Scramble

Paleo Cole Slaw

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Baked Potato Wedges

The following are from Whole 30 by the Hartwigs:

Barbecue Sauce (for drumsticks)

Walnut-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Cauliflower Rice

Classic Chili

No-Fuss Salmon Cakes

Walking in the Light

IMG_5373This Whole 30 process has definitely been a physical challenge as well as a mental one. I’ve realized, though, that it is mostly a spiritual process for me. When I am not walking closely with God, when I am not in the light, when I am not in His Word, it is so easy to get off track with everything in my life. If I am not seeking Him with all of me, all of me will not be following Him. Simple enough, right? My perspective on each day, my mood, my heart are all drastically affected by my time with my closest Friend, my mighty Savior, my loving Father. That’s how it should be, and I pray that His presence would cover me each and every day. These words remind me just how important it is and how beautiful it can be when I commune with my God:

When my heart was embittered
And I was pierced
within,

Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like 
a beast before You.

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.

With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me
to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And 
besides You, I desire nothing on earth.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the
strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:21-26

My flesh will fail. My heart will fail. But God is my strength and my portion forever. He is enough for me. He sustains me and fills me like nothing else can. So, when I’m frustrated that things aren’t going how I think they should, when I feel lost or confused about God’s direction for me, when I am doubting if things like this Whole 30 are even worth it, I can say with full assurance that He is with me. And that’s all that matters. That’s what will carry me through.

I have been reading through Tim Keller’s book The Songs of Jesus. (You can purchase it here.) It walks you through one Psalm each day and gives you a simple prayer to ask of the Lord. Psalm 1 gives a perfect thought to cling to in this season of new beginnings:

His delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,

Which yields its fruit in its season

And its leaf does not wither;

This is what I desire for myself–that I would not only read God’s Word more, but that I would delight in it. Then, I will be firmly planted, grounded by this living water that He promises. I will yield fruit rather than becoming stagnant. I will not crumble at the wind and rain that comes my way, but I will remain firm in the presence of the Lord. This is beautiful. This is true. And this is what gives me hope for each day.

 

Fear, Freak-outs, and Moving Forward on the Whole 30

I have learned that, when starting a new routine, it can be somewhat overwhelming (hello, obvious). This is definitely true of following a Whole 30 eating plan. This past week as I have prepared for the next 30 days, I have felt so many things–excitement, fear, dread, anticipation to name a few. As @whole30 puts it, “You’re ready to take on this challenge, but you’re kind of freaking out. You can’t wait to try new ingredients and recipes, but you’re worried about what’s going to happen once that Sugar Dragon rears its head.” The fear of failing or struggling is a real deterrent for me, but I try to push through it to see what I can accomplish. Because we did a Whole 30 last year, I know all the ‘nitty gritty’ of a process like this. You will have hard days and you will want to pull your hair out, but it will be worth it in the end!

This week, I had my own little freak out as I checked out at Kroger. I had spent $60.33 the night before at Aldi for all of this:FullSizeRender

(I know, right?!) But, I still had to get a lot of meat and other essentials at Kroger. I knew my total cost would be pretty hefty, but I was not prepared for $129.80. Yikes! However, when I got home, I decided to do a ‘fun’ little experiment and see how much we had spent eating out. I went back ten days since the food I purchased is supposed to last ten days. Y’all, we had spent $251.86 just on food in the last ten days! That is insane. I know it was over the holidays, so it was much easier to just go get what we were in the mood for. But, still. Ridiculous. Thankfully, instead of beating myself up about making such poor food choices, I saw this as a huge motivator to be excited about the Whole 30. Deeper sleep, better digestion, more energy, and better choices are all definitely worth the $190.13 that I spent. Don’t you think?

Bottom line: I decide what my health is worth. I decide what’s important to me, and make daily choices that reflect that. I can’t say “Oh, that’s too hard” or “That will take too much of my time” or “I don’t feel like it.” I have resolved to change my life and no momentary craving will trump that.

Now, moving on to the fun part! I have found that the time I spend planning and preparing drastically increases my motivation and my overall results. So, are you ready to plan for a Whole 30? Here is what I do!

1. I spend a lot of time searching for recipes on Pinterest, reading books like this and this, and following @whole30recipes and@whole30 on Instagram.

2. Once I have gotten some inspiration, I look through my fridge and freezer to see what foods I already have. This week, I had a whole organic chicken and a pound of grass-fed ground beef to begin with. Literally, that was it. So, my slate was wiped pretty clean when it came to meal-planning. This left lots of room to pick whatever recipes I wanted. Yay!

3. Finally, I get to planning! Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 12.06.27 PM

  • For these first ten days, I picked out four breakfast options, two meals that are easily made in the mornings and two casseroles that can be eaten over several days. This means more time in my warm and cozy bed!
  • For lunch and dinner, I decided on eight options. These meals usually make four servings at least, two for us to eat for dinner and two for us to have for lunch the next day. We have found that this method works very well for us, since cooking for two with no leftovers is very difficult to do. In addition, it cuts out some cooking time so I don’t have to make a new meal every single lunch and every single dinner.
  • Things like chicken salad, and turkey roll-ups, need very little preparation. I usually keep ingredients for those items on hand anyway. The rest of the recipes incorporate some similar ingredients, so I am not wasting anything. For example, I will use the salsa from southwest scrambled eggs as a snack with raw veggies, then again with the taco salad. I will use the leftovers from the whole chicken to make chicken salad.
  • While it may seem annoying to have so many leftover meals, we actually don’t mind at all. The Whole 30 requires a LOT of effort, so anything I can do to cut down on minutes I spend cleaning and chopping vegetables, watching over a skillet, or washing and drying dishes makes it all worth it!

4. Time to shop! This is where I have had to think through what works best for me. While I would love to shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Costco we live at least 35 minutes from all of those. Instead, I have decided to shop at Aldi first (love, love, love Aldi) then stop by Kroger on my way home for things that Aldi does not carry. This has worked really well for me. For some people, going to multiple stores isn’t worth the time. But for me, I save some serious money by shopping at Aldi first, which makes all the difference for me. 

I hope this helps get you started on your Whole 30 journey! Check out the meal plan and recipes below for some ideas. I’ll be sure to let you know how they turn out!

Whole30Part1

Best Chicken Drumsticks Ever

Asparagus Potato Hash–Three ingredients. Awesome. 

Southwest Scrambled Eggs from Whole 30 

Baked Salmon with Garlic and Dijon–So good!!

Best Roasted Veggies

Bacon Butternut Squash Quiche

Paleo Chicken Tortilla Soup

Fresh Salsa from Whole 30

Stuffed Peppers from Whole 30

Roasted Tomato Sauce over Spaghetti Squash–One of Daniel’s favorites!

Easy Whole 30 Meatballs

Taco Salad w/ Avocado Dressing from It Starts with Food

The Best Whole Chicken in a Crockpot

Anytime Casserole

Whole 30 Round 2!

It’s almost 2016, which means it’s time for another Whole 30 in the Hassell home. If you have no idea what this means, here is a simple explanation from the creators of this program, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig: 

“Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system...Push the ‘reset’ button with…the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health.”

This sounds pretty great, right? But, how do you achieve this? The point is to take certain foods out of your diet, replacing them with all the healthy fats, lean protein, fruit and vegetables you can. But, is it really possible to see changes in just 30 days? Yes! Some of the benefits Daniel and I experienced:1a90ff0c72028e7c8850b41b831e0c95

1. I was tired every night at 9:00 and slept through the night. Anyone that knows me can understand that this is a HUGE deal.  (Which is why it is number 1 on my list!) I also woke up every morning refreshed rather than kicking and screaming…

2. I had a tremendous increase in energy; I didn’t feel the need to drink coffee or a coke in the afternoon to help me ‘wake up.’

3. My face completely cleared up. No more random pimples that made me feel like I was back in seventh grade. Hallelujah!

4. My teeth were whiter! What?!

5. All cravings of any kind completely vanished by the end of the 30 days. Trust me, there were days along the way when all I wanted to do was dive into a gallon of Bluebell using my hands as spoons. But, those days became less and less frequent and it got much easier.

6. I was strangely happy. Seriously, Daniel and I argued MUCH less during the month of our Whole 30. (Husbands, you might as well try it for that reason alone, amiright?)

7. We were more “regular,” if you know what I’m sayin’…

8. Together, Daniel and I lost over 25 pounds in one month. While this is definitely progress, I made this the last benefit because this is not what the Whole 30 is all about. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

So, what does all this entail? Here is what is/isn’t allowed on the program:

whole30foods

Okay, you may be thinking “That sounds crazy! That’s impossible!” I promise you, it isn’t. Daniel and I love coke and ice cream and Oreos and Reese’s, etc. Who doesn’t? But, we were able to easily complete our first Whole 30, and I know you can as well.

A few more guidelines:

  • You cannot step on the scale or take measurements during the 30 days. This can distract you or discourage you if you don’t see results. However, the lifelong benefits and complete change in how you view food far outweigh what you might see on the scale.
  • You can’t use “Whole 30 compliant” foods to twist them into the sweets and other unhealthy foods that feed your cravings (such as pancakes, cupcakes, etc.) The point is to teach your body how to handle cravings and other eating habits, changing them for the better.
  • You have to stick to it the entire 30 days. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t allow your mind to let you think it’s okay to slip up. If you do, they recommend starting over completely. Yikes! It’s a better idea to stick with the 30 days than to continuously be starting back at square one after, say, 20 days of following the rules.

If you are interested in learning more about this, I recommend you do these things:Screen-shot-2012-09-19-at-7.59.46-AM-640x422

  • Purchase the book It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. It is so good! It had a lot of science and other things I usually don’t care much about, but I couldn’t put it down.
  • Go to this website and explore all the materials and information available. There are PDF versions of shopping lists, meal plan templates, and lots more!
  • Find someone who will do the program with you. It will be much easier and a lot more fun if you have a partner walking the journey alongside you. You can swap recipes, make a meal plan together, whine over how awful it is to not be eating pizza, etc. The support you have is a huge determining factor in your success!
  • Pick a start date that works for you! If you know you have a bachelorette weekend, anniversary trip, or family reunion coming up, it’s probably not the best time to start. For us, we literally have a big event that pulls us away from home at least once a month until maybe June. This is obviously not ideal for the Whole 30! So, we decided to go ahead and start on January 1st, continuing with the plan indefinitely. This means we will most likely be eating this way all through the spring, which will hopefully make up for the times it is difficult to choose Whole 30 compliant foods.
  • Plan, plan, and plan some more! This eating plan requires a lot of food preparation and work, but it is definitely worth it. You must have a meal plan that works for your family’s schedule or it will be very easy to “just grab something while we’re out.” (I will have a whole post on how I plan for the Whole 30 coming soon.)

So, there you have it! Let me know if you want to join me on this Whole 30 at any time! I’ll be right there with you pining over some pasta, but grabbing the spaghetti squash instead…

All Things New


Oh, New Year’s Eve. The night you always imagine will be wonderful and magical, full of fun and laughter into the early morning hours. Instead, it usually involves you in pajama pants sitting on your couch watching your favorite episodes of Parks and Rec until about 11:00. At least that’s what it’s like in the Hassell home.

16f0afbd7c235b2760cdd718bb3832f4While this New Year may not begin in glittery splendor for everyone, it is, of course, the perfect time of year to make a fresh start, a clean break, a do-over, a resolution.  Something about the beginning of a new year causes us to pause and examine. What do I need to change about myself? What do I need to fix? How can my life be better? The easy thing here (which I do far too often) would be to sift through every facet of my life, making a list of what I need to do differently. I spend way too much time on the computer. I don’t spend enough time outside. I need to clean more. I need to eat less. I need to read more. I need to spend less. This list could go on and on and on…until I crumble into a pile of tears on the floor.

Yes, I am a sinner. Yes, I lack self-discipline. Yes, I make mistakes. But, there is something greater than all of these failures of mine: I have a conquering King, an almighty Savior who fights for me.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”–Isaiah 43:18-19

Ah, the sweet sound of these words! God is doing a new thing. There is such beauty in and strength from a promise such as this. The Lord says, “I am doing something new. Don’t you see it?” He beckons me to forget my times of wandering, forget my moments of doubt, forget my laziness, my anxiety, my fear. He promises to show me the way, to provide some much-needed relief. He promises to make a river in the desert. How refreshing and comforting is that? In those times of my life that feel pointless and frustrating, confusing and overwhelming, God is saying He will take care of it. He has a plan. And the beautiful thing is, when we trust Him at His word, when we actually believe He is good, when we finally stop striving for an answer, He is there to say, “I’ve got this.” This river He provides is living, it’s peaceful, it quenches thirst, it nourishes souls, and it never ends. Oh, that I would cling to this truth and soak it in. That I would be able to say with full conviction, “Great is Thy faithfulness.”

This new year is a good thing. It is a blessing from the Lord that we have another beginning, another day. While I do have many things I can work on for myself and for my family, I must strive for those under the banner of “to God be the glory.” He deserves my effort, He deserves my discipline, but He also deserves the glory. May my heart seek to love better, to do more, and to worry less. Because God provides it, I am able to “drink from a river which will never run dry” (Charles Spurgeon). So, may every day in 2016 point to His name, not mine.