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Whole30 October

Warning: this post is going to be a bit more personal than usual, so feel free to click back to whatever you were doing before if you don’t want to step inside the workings of my mind!

whole30-picture

I’ve decided to do the Whole30 for the month of October.  That’s a pretty big statement there, because I’ve just made myself accountable to you all.  But I’m determined to do it … and I’d love any support you can give me – thoughts, prayers, recipe ideas etc!

What is the Whole30?  

For all the information you could ever want to know, check out the website at http://whole30.com/.  But in a nutshell, the Whole30 is a ‘short-term nutritional reset, designed to help put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal the digestive tract and balance the immune system’.

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Why would I want to do a Whole30?  

The reasons are pretty much two-fold:

(1)  Since we moved to the US just over 2 years ago, I have gained nearly 15 pounds in weight.  And I’m having trouble losing it.  And I’m still having digestive problems.  And I have very low energy levels that can’t totally be explained by lack of sleep at night or just getting older.

(2) My eating habits have gotten very poor.  This is pretty much the main reason why I want to do the Whole30, and here’s where all the personal, touchy-feely stuff comes in.  

I have joked around on quite a few of my blog posts and recipes about eating too much, and this is not an infrequent occurrence.  I can usually eat quite well and disciplined during the week, but when it comes to the weekend and I start baking, I have a tendency of eating way too much of both the preparation and the finished product.  And if I bake during the week as well, I can easily blow up with too much food.  You know the feeling that your stomach is never empty?  Yeah, I was getting that lots, rather than giving my stomach time to digest, I was just filling it with baked goods.

And even though I’ve made a concerted effort to reduce the amount of refined sugar in my baking, I can still eat way too much combinations of peanut butter, honey/maple syrup etc.  And I was craving it.  Every weekend … I’d get upset if I couldn’t go in the kitchen and bake (translation – eat dough).

I have tried a number of things – like calorie counting, working through an eating disorder app and talking to professionals – and every time I think I’m doing well, the weekend hits and I can justify to myself that I can be strong and not eat too much while baking multiple things.  I do feel that I’ve improved over the last month or so, but there are still too many times that I overdo it.

How does the Whole30 work?

So it comes to the Whole30.  Here’s the deal (from the Whole30 website):

whole30foodlist

  • I eat real food – meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetable, some fruits and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds, foods with very few ingredients, totally natural and unprocessed.
  • I avoid:
    • Added sugar of any kind, real or artificial
    • Alcohol
    • Grains
    • Legumes
    • Dairy
    • Carrageenan, MSG and sulfites
    • Re-created baked goods/junk food with ‘approved’ ingredients

This list of foods to avoid is to help to regain a healthy metabolism, reduce system inflammation and help discover how these foods are truly impacting my health, fitness and quality of life.  My main objective is to train my brain to not crave baking (and eating).  The secondary objective is to lose weight and become fitter.  The tertiary objective is to find out if other foods are affecting my stomach issues.

Sound simple?  Well, in case you missed it, peanuts are a legume.  Legumes are on the foods to avoid list.  And if you know anything about me at all, you will know that I LOVE peanut butter.  30 days without peanut butter, or baked goods???  That’s going to be the challenge.

Progress so far:

I was originally going to start the Whole30 this week, after a weekend of lots of chocolate and peanut butter left me feeling more bloated and heavier than normal, but as I started working through some of the normally considered healthy food I had in the house, which needed to be used, I realized that I needed to take a week just to get prepared.  Did you know that Craisins have sugar?  And that tuna often contains soy?  So this week I have used to get more familiar with the program and trying my best to adhere to the principles without worrying about a few green peas here and there.  I haven’t had anything with honey or maple syrup, or any baked goods this week.  And I made a cake for Henry’s birthday without tasting even the slightest amount of it (it was full gluten and dairy, which made it easier!).  

My stomach is feeling better and I am learning a lot about what I am capable of.  And I’ve started swimming again and loving it.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to forget you all during this month!  I’m bound to be creating new recipes for you to try and I’d love to hear any suggestions of what you recommend.  I’ve already discovered a number of new dishes that I’m dying to put up here for you guys … once I make them again and take photos!

Another challenge will be for me to still bake stuff, but get out of the habit of sampling as I go … so I’ll still be continuing to update my photos with recipes I make again.  Again, suggestions and comments on the photos are always welcome!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading all my brain dump.  I’m hoping this is the beginning of helping me to become a much healthier person.  Wish me luck!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Photography update #4

It’s been another week of making and updating recipes and photos.  I think I’ve gained 5 pounds since I committed to re-doing all of this!  Maybe I should take it a little easier this week?  Although, I know the people I share the food with have appreciated the push to improve myself.  I try not to make stuff just for the sake of photos – I try to have a purpose for making something specific.  Like someone coming around for dinner.  Like having to use up ingredients in the pantry.  Like we were going to have this for dinner this week anyway.  But then I just get a craving to make a particular recipe for no real reason.  And I enjoy it.  A little TOO much, maybe?  Oh, if only you all were here so I could share the love (and food)!

I’ve said this is now a photography update, rather than a handover, because Grant has been really busy recently, so I’ve taken most of these new photos … Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that – if you don’t like the photos I could have always blamed them on him.  But now the secret is out and I’ll take responsibility for whatever you give me!

Again, I’d love your feedback – let me know if you think I’m actually getting any better!

 

Old photos

 

New photos

 
Almond coconut cookies  -> Almond coconut cookies (800x600) Almond coconut cookies
Raw energy bars   raw-energy-bar-800x600 Raw energy bars
Egg muffins  -> egg-muffins-800x600 Egg muffins
2015-02-19 Mint chocolate brownies  -> chocolate-mint-brownies-800x600 Chocolate mint brownies
Chocolate cake - dragon -> chocolate-cake-800x600 Chocolate cake
Dairy-free chocolate peanut butter ice cream -> chocolate-peanut-butter-ice-cream-800x600 Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

Can you see an improvement at all?  Any other suggestions?

Again, if you have any suggestions as to which recipes you’d like me to re-visit, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to oblige.  And dedicate that photo (and recipe) to you!

Thanks for reading – I’d love to hear from you … just comment below, or follow me on any of the social media sites using the buttons on the side menu.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Photography handover #3

Another update of photos and recipes for you.  I spent a lot of time outside taking photos of all the recipes I’ve been re-making in the kitchen inside and updating for your enjoyment.  It’s for your enjoyment, really.  I got nothing out of having to taste all of these recipes again.  Do you believe me?!

What do you think?

 

My photos

 

Grant’s photos

 
Quinoa and roast veggie salad  -> Veggie and quinoa salad (800x600) Roast veggie & quinoa salad
Peanut butter choc chip ice cream   Peanut butter ice cream (800x600) Peanut butter choc chip ice cream
Pancakes by Grant  -> Pancakes by Grant (800x600) Pancakes by Grant
Peanut butter s'more cookies  -> Peanut butter smore cookies (800x600) Peanut butter s’more cookies
Spinach peach salad -> Spinach peach salad (800x600) Spinach peach salad
Chocolate peanut butter pie -> Best ever chocolate peanut butter cheesecake (800x600) Best ever chocolate peanut butter pie

Can you see an improvement at all?  Any other suggestions?

I’m having fun re-visiting all these recipes again … and am happy to share the results with those of you who live near me.  If you’re interested, please let me know what you’d like me to make (and take updated photos) to share with you and I’ll do what I can!

Grant bought me a new light box so hopefully I won’t be stuck taking photos outside, especially since winter is coming up.  I’ll see how the photos turn out from that … and again ask for your opinions.  Because you are the most important at liking my photos!  That’s all of you!

Thanks for reading – I’d love to hear from you … just comment below, or follow me on any of the social media sites using the buttons on the side menu.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Photography handover #2

Last time I started updating the photos on this website, using photos that I asked Grant to help me out with.  I am honestly happier with the photos that we are taking now, but would always welcome suggestions for the recipes and the photos.

Here’s the latest installment of the photos that we’ve taken, with the before (my photos) and after (Grant’s photos) shots.  As I mentioned last time, I’m updating the recipes as I go, so make sure you check back on a regular basis to see what’s been cooking at our place!

My photos

 

Grant’s photos

 
Oatmeal granola cookies  -> Oatmeal granola cookies (800x600) Oatmeal granola cookies
Almond blueberry granola   Almond blueberry granola bow (800x600) Almond blueberry granola
No-bake oats and raisin bar  -> No bake oat and raisin bar No bake oat and raisin bar
Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake  -> Chocolate pb tofu slice (800x600) Healthy chocolate peanut butter cheesecake
Oat balls  -> Oat balls (800x600) No bake oat balls

What do you think?  I’ve been getting some good comments on Instagram for my new and improved photos – but would always love to hear from you guys as well.

I kind of went a little overboard with baking and obsessing over taking photos of nearly everything over the past week, so please spare a thought for my poor family.  Yes, I’ve already got enough photos to share with you for a third installment … but you’ll have to wait for next week.  And I need to stop baking so much (and eating so much) to catch up with all the recipes.  Oh yeah, relaxing on the weekend outside of the kitchen …  What’s that again?

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Photography handover #1

My last blog post talked about how I wanted to get more involved in social media – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, as well as Twitter.  Well, it’s been a steep learning curve in the short time since then.  I have realized that my photos just aren’t up there with what’s needed to get people’s attention.  So I did what any normal person would do – and complained about it to everyone nearest and dearest to me.  Grant bore the brunt of it, I’m afraid, but being the awesome husband he is, he gave me a lot of suggestions.

I started to take them on board, and then realized that I am really not that creative with visual graphics.  Creativity in the kitchen?  Yep, not a problem.  Creativity in looking through a camera lens?  I think you’ve got the wrong person!  So I asked Grant if I could coerce him into being my ‘official website photographer’.  And he said ‘yes’!  Yay!  

I looked through all the photos on this website and realized I didn’t like really any of them.  And I told Grant that I’d be working my way through ALL of the recipes and making them again, just so we could improve on the photos.  I also told the guys at work to expect a lot of cookies and cakes since I didn’t really want all that stuff at home – it’s bad enough the amount that I eat while making them!

Anyway, we went down to the local cheapie store and bought some new dishes and placemats for accessories and here’s a few comparison photos from the first few photoshoots.  I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions for making the photos better! (I’m also happy to re-make all these recipes again if you’ve got some really good suggestions!).

 

My photos

 

Grant’s photos

 
Taco soup  -> Taco Soup P Taco soup
Gluten-free cornbread  -> Cornbread muffins red paint Cornbread muffins
Coconut peanut butter balls  -> Coconut pb balls (800x600) Coconut peanut butter balls
No oats granola  -> No oats granola P No oats granola
2015-02-24 Tortilla chips  -> Tortilla chips (800x600) Tortilla chips and red pepper hummus

I just showed the draft of this post to Grant and he thought I was blaming him for the horrible photos.  Well, he was blaming it on our ‘point and shoot’ camera mainly.  I still think they are 1000x better than my attempts!  What do you think?  And this way he may actually get the expensive camera he’s always been wanting.  I’m glad that my hobby and his desire are colliding so well!

The side effect of this is that I made a really awesome pumpkin pie on the weekend – and was going to post the recipe on this website for you all to share with me.  But, the photos looked terrible, so you’ll just have to wait until I can make it again, and get the photos to look half-way decent!

Anyway, stay tuned.  When I re-make the recipes (for the photos … the enjoyment of eating them is just secondary!), I’ll also be updating the recipes so keep checking back to see what’s new on the website.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Social media expansion

I am one of the most inept social media people out there.  I signed up for Twitter a few years ago and had a bit of success while I was doing my US National Food Day Quest (which lasted for nearly a year until I realized I wasn’t having fun any more).  Since then I’ve just been posting here and there with new recipes and getting more ideas for me to try out in the kitchen.

Until now.  After my recent experimentation with developing recipes for Veggie Fries and having success with them publishing recipes from little ol’ me, I thought I may have some further potential with developing more contacts in the industry and learning new tricks and recipes.  I had a chat with one of my friends who has a food blog which has just skyrocketed off (thanks Laura – check out her website at Joy.Food.Sunshine) and she recommended going on Instagram and Pinterest, as well as connecting with some local food bloggers on Facebook.  

So me, being the ever-interested-in-learning person that I am, took her advice and I now have accounts for each of those social media sites.  And you can follow me on them!  Here’s the details (do you see a trend in the usernames??):

Twitter: sarahcookathome

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cookathome.info

Instagram: cookathome.info

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/sarahcookathome

Or, if you don’t want to search, you can just click on the buttons on the toolbar!  To be honest, that’s what I would do …!

Anyway, any tips or tricks you can give me to continue to share all these awesome recipes would be greatly appreciated!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Veggie Fries!

I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  Why?  Well, I have just had some of my recipes chosen to be published by an honest-to-goodness food company!  

Veggie Fries are Frozen French Fries made from a blend of all natural farm grown vegetables, legumes and potatoes, chopped and blended together with herbs, spices and just a pinch of sea salt.  They are vegan, non-GMO certified and free of the top 8 allergens including gluten, soy, dairy and wheat (see eatveggiefries.com).  

veggie-fries-NEW-980x360

They sent out a request for volunteers a few weeks ago and my internal experimental cook jumped up and down and told me to do it.  So I have been trying lots of different things, and some of my recipes (see the recipe section of their website) were published on the Veggie Fries website this week.  And I am still jumping up and down with excitement!

I should point out that I was given coupons to obtain their products for my experimentation and I was sent a gift pack with some Veggie Fries swag after these were published … Grant and I had a lot of fun doing a ‘photo shoot’ to show off the swag!

But I am loving the challenge!  I’ve got some more ideas for using Veggie Fries … including in desserts.  Anyone for a peanut butter dessert using Veggie Fries?  Or chocolate and Veggie Fries?

All I know is that I’m having fun.  And helping out another company.  And that’s good enough for me!

Please feel free to check out the Veggie Fries website (repeat eatveggiefries.com) and products (if you live in the US).  And my recipes as well!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

 

Strange cookie ingredients

I had a bizarre idea a few weeks ago – what can I put in cookies that people wouldn’t necessarily think of putting in cookies.  And my brain started whirring.  Then I spent a very enjoyable day in the kitchen baking a number of different types of cookies, basically using up a whole pile of ingredients I had lying around.  And here’s the result:

2016-06 Strange ingredient cookies

Some of these I’ve just posted recipes for (i.e. the ones that worked) and some I just had to throw in the trash (those I’m not going to give you the recipe for!).  So going from the ‘Sarah’s kitchen kettle’ clockwise:

  • Pineapple cookies – recipe posted here
  • Sour cream sugar cookies – basically tasteless
  • Pistachio choc chip cookies – using instant pudding mix, recipe posted here
  • Chocolate cream cheese cookies – ok, but not dazzling

And then I remembered when I first started working in my new job, I would hold ‘guess the mystery ingredient’ competitions.  You know how it is, you want to make a good impression, meet new people etc.  And I remembered the cookies I used (funny how all of them are peanut butter based!):

  • Chickpea chocolate chip peanut butter cookies (recipe here)
  • Quinoa peanut butter cookies (recipes here for the no-refined sugar version and here for the ‘normal’ sugar version)
  • Peanut butter mystery cookies – using ketchup (recipe here)

It took a while for my colleagues to guess the ketchup and the chickpea cookies but the quinoa ones they guess within about 30 mins of the competition starting.

Anyway, I’m always looking for other interesting ingredients to make into cookies and I’d love your feedback.  Please write in the comments section below if you have any ideas for me to try, or any recipes you may have with ‘strange’ cookie ingredients.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

I bake … therefore I run

I realize I haven’t posted many new recipes recently.  Don’t worry, my dear friends.  I’ve got stacks of yummy new things for you to try out.  Things that range from spicy Thai cucumber salad to flourless tahini cookies just to name a few.  I just need to download the photos and get my butt into gear and put the recipes together.  I have been baking and cooking up a storm recently – and had a stack of fun doing it too!  And, as always, you are aware of my tendency to sample a lot of the batter while baking, so I’ve been trying to look after the eating/exercise balance again.  

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at this, I was coerced into joining a team from work to run a Ragnar relay.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, check out this link … Ragnar.  Basically it’s 12 people, running almost 200 miles overall in a relay race.  Each person runs 3 times, for varying distances and at varying difficulties.  It all takes place over about a day and a half, with very little sleep or downtime.  I’ve been training a lot, running 5-6 times a week to get my legs trained for this.  And the race was this weekend.

I did 16 miles in total – two in the heat of the day and one at night time.  And got very little sleep overnight.  But I had an awesome group of people in the van with me, and they put up with me.  

I had a great time training, and with all the running (and baking), my weight actually stayed relatively stable over the past month or so.  I now know how much exercise I need to do if I want to keep up that level of baking … maybe I should cut down on both sides!

I came home this afternoon and baked.  As I do.  And I made these awesome peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  And I’ll put up the recipe for them shortly.  But trust me, it was worth the many hours I had to think about recipes …

Anyway, just wanted to check in and let you know that I’m still around, still baking and cooking, still planning on giving you lots of options for having fun in the kitchen.  Stay tuned for the recipes!  And feel free to comment on anything you read here!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home,

Sarah

Nut allergies …

As most of you know, I love nuts.  Specifically peanuts.  My typical go-to meal for when we have guests is a peanut satay chicken stir-fry (using this sauce), followed by a chocolate pudding (recipe here).  We recently had some dinner guests where one of the kids was/is allergic to nuts.  All nuts.  My alternative go-to main course recipe is the broccoli and bacon fettucine (recipe here), but I was told that the father of the family couldn’t stand broccoli.  Add this to us trying to eat healthier, and limit sweets with sugar to just once a week (and we had already committed to a dessert later that weekend).  Now this shouldn’t have caused me to panic, but I did …

So, Abby and I looked through my recipe folder and came up with a healthy dessert, which didn’t contain any nuts.  I took my chocolate banana pie (recipe here) and adapted it.  Abby helped me, as she wants to learn how to cook ALL the recipes in my folder.  And by all, I mean ALL.  She has in her mind that we’ll knock off a few recipes each week, she’ll help me and take notes on what I change (’cause I do change, even my own recipes!).  Anyway, more on that later.

Our adaptations were:

  • Instead of walnuts in the crust, we used flaxseed meal
  • Instead of peanut butter in the filling, we used sunflower seed butter

Nothing to out of the ordinary, but gee, it was yummy!

2016-03-17 Chocolate banana pie

The funny thing was, when Abby and I were making this pie, I was encouraging her to try all the ingredients so she got a sense of what each thing tasted like.  As most of you are aware, Abby hates dried fruit.  Really hates it.  To the point that every time I give her something I’ve made I have to tell her whether it has any dried fruit in it or not.  So, making the crust with dates, flaxseed meal and cocoa, she wouldn’t eat the dates by themselves.  When they had all been processed together, she tried some.  She’s a funny girl, that one, but I love her heaps and wouldn’t want her any other way.

Oh yeah, for the main course we had ribs and veggies.  Grant cooked the ribs and is becoming quite the expert in the art.  They were VERY yummy!

Anyway, hope you’ve enjoyed reading my adventures.  Stay tuned for more cooking with kids stuff as Abby and I go through the recipes …

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

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