Author Archives: Paige Greenfield

Mom & Dad Visit Chicago and We Did STUFF

IMG_5781Earlier this week, my Mom and Dad flew from New York to Chicago to hang out for a few days. On Monday night, Robert joined us for dinner at Revolution Brewing, but had to catch a flight that evening for work (sadface). Still, the three of us (and Remy and Pippa!) managed to have the BEST time so I thought I’d share a few highlights from their short visit.

We didn’t have any solid plans for their trip. I was hoping they could help me take care of a few odd projects around the house. Nothing major. They’re just so good at organizing and making spaces more functional. They’ve lived in four homes in the past six years and each has been flawless, so I figured they could offer some advice.

Well, before I knew it they were measuring things, making lists, and pulling items out of kitchen cabinets. I realized I hadn’t made any major updates to my kitchen since we moved into our home over a year ago. But this week I learned that as time goes by, it’s great to reevaluate how you can make your spaces work even better for you. Armed with our lists and measuring tape, we headed out the door.

First, we needed sustenance so I took my parents to one of my favorite places in Chicago: Protein Bar. You guys, I’m obsessed. I go at least once a week. I just can’t get enough so I had to share the goodness with them. They loved it too! And then we took a selfie.


Next, we hit up Bed Bath & Beyond and The Container Store. Do we know how to have a good time or what? The truth is, my parents make everything fun–even tedious tasks like running errands. Finally, we went to Whole Foods and picked up ingredients to cook for dinner. And gelato.

Back at the homestead THIS happened. It may look completely discombobulated to you, but to me it says progress. We (okay my mom, mostly) reorganized the kitchen so everything is a heck of a lot easier to grab when we need it. She also scrubbed shelves and pots and pans that had been somewhat neglected (oops) and taught me how to do this kind of stuff properly. Looks like I still have a lot of learning to do.


One of the updates I’m most excited about is absolutely ridiculous. I finally got a Simple Human trashcan. Besides its functionality and sleek design, here’s why I love it: It meant we could move the trash out from under the sink, which allowed us to move the recycling bin from the pantry to the sink, and the dog food, which was awkwardly placed in a tiny utility closet, to the floor of the pantry. I also got new containers for their food that are so much easier to access. Feeding time at the Fowler Zoo is now so much faster and easier. I realize how absurdly boring all of this sounds, yet I learned a lot this week about carefully considering how your spaces work for you. If you can move things around or find an item that makes your life just a little bit easier, it makes a world of difference for everyday tasks.

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Pippa approves (and she loves my parents, too).


While my mom continued her cleaning and organizing mission (gah, she’s the best!) my dad got started on dinner.


On the menu: homemade shrimp cocktail and cocktail sauce.


Grilled BBQ pork chops and corn (wrapped in foil with butter, salt, and pepper and then grilled and omg it’s insane). I made a salad.


And finally, pie from Bang Bang Pie. Two slices of Key Lime, Peanut Butter Vengeance, and Mixed Berry Plum. It was sooo good.


Wednesday, we continued our errand/home improvement spree with stops at Target and Home Depot. It seems silly that we’d spend our short time together doing this kind of stuff instead of, say, bopping around downtown. But to me, there’s something pretty special about doing completely ordinary things when my family is here. It makes them feel more like family than guests. This is the kind of priceless stuff they’d occasionally help with if we lived closer together. So we just packed it into a few short days.

Plus, I’ve spent my whole life witnessing my parents build an awesome home for my sister and me. I love that Robert and I get to do that now, but I still have a lot of learning and growing to do. It’s a process. Although at this stage of life my parents feel like friends (they’re my favorite people to hang out with), I also love that they were able to visit and Mom and Dad me for a few days.

After way too short a visit, Wednesday afternoon they were off and I was so sad to see them go. I get teary any time I leave them or they leave me. I love living in Chicago and know it’s where we belong right now, but living so far away from my family is the pits. I hope the distance doesn’t last forever. I’m so grateful I got to spend a few days hanging out with the coolest people I know. They never cease to amaze me with their knowledge, experience, and ability to turn what may seem like dull tasks into the happiest memories. Thanks Mom and Dad!

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Soup

Three posts in one week! It’s a miracle! After being away from this blog during our whirlwind spring of weddings and travel it is soooo good to be back. I hope I’m not boring you too much with the Whole 30 thing. I promise not to talk about it allllll the time. Really, I’m just making good, clean food here. You can label it whatever you want or don’t label it at all. Just make it, enjoy it, and feel good. That’s all anyone can ask for, right?

This week I had a mega hankering for my favorite slow cooker chicken tortilla soup. It was a little chillier here in Chicago (though still nice) so I knew it would be great for lunches. I’m happy to say it did not disappoint.

I updated my favorite slow cooker chicken tortilla soup recipe by ditching the beans and corn and packing in even more veggies than before. The result was stellar. It has all of the same kick and flavors as my beloved recipe with an even greater nutritional bonus. That’s what I call a win-win.

Soup’s on!

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, mined
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup salsa (read the label to make sure it doesn’t contain any funky ingredients like sugar)
  • 2 to 3 handfuls baby spinach
  • Juice of 1 lime


Place the chicken breasts, tomatoes, and chicken broth in the slow cooker. In a microwave-safe glass bowl add the carrots, celery, red bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, garlic, olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Mix to coat everything evenly in oil and spices. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 2 more minutes. Stir. If veggies aren’t softened, microwave 1-2 more minutes. Dump the veggies into the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. When it’s done cooking, remove chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return chicken to slow cooker. Mix in salsa and spinach. Continue cooking on low for 15 to 30 minutes more. Right before serving, squeeze juice of one lime.

9 #Whole30 Inspired Dishes

I’m back today with nine Whole-30 inspired drinks and dishes. These have been some of my favorites lately so I’m excited to share them with you. To give you an idea of how this program fits into my life so far, I try to make all of my weekday meals and snacks Whole-30 approved. I’m a little more lax on the weekends and when we eat out (which we only do once or twice per week and usually only on the weekends.) Still, I take a moment to scan the menu at restaurants and if there’s something that can be made to meet the Whole 30 standards and it appeals to me then I go for it. But I don’t put any pressure on myself to abide by it 100 percent when someone else is cooking.

I feel like this comes out to eating “clean” about 80 to 85 percent of the time, which so far feels like just the right amount of balance for me without ever feeling deprived. After all, I’m not trying to cure any condition or overhaul any mega issue. I’m merely focused on eating as well as I can in order to feel my best at all times.

Here we go!

Iced Coffee with Almond Milk

Homemade iced coffee concentrate and homemade almond milk

I love that coffee (in moderation) is A-OK on the Whole 30. I have about a cup per day. I’ve wanted to make homemade iced coffee concentrate and homemade almond milk for a while, but put it off because I thought it was too much effort. Wrong! It’s so simple and fun–it kind of feels like a science experiment in my kitchen. Now I make a batch of each on Sundays to enjoy throughout the week. Yes, you can buy almond milk in the store, but have you read the label? There are some questionable ingredients in there (I’m looking at you carrageenan and sunflower lecithin.) Almond milk only needs two ingredients: almonds and water.  Here are the recipes I used:

Cold brew iced coffee concentrate from Gimme Some Oven 
Homemade almond milk from Stupid Easy Paleo 

Breakfast: Steak & Sweet Potato Hash, Fried Egg, Mixed Berries with Watermelon 

Whole 30 Day 1,

In a cast-iron skillet with 1 Tbsp coconut oil, I cooked 1/4 of a peeled, cubed sweet potato until browned and cooked through. I added leftover grilled steak from dinner the night before and cooked until warm. I removed the steak and sweet potato from the pan and then fried an egg. I finished it off with a bowl of berries and watermelon on the side.

Breakfast: Chicken-turkey sausage scramble, sweet potato & avocadoIMG_5159

I’ve been eating some version of this every morning. Saute 1/2 – 3/4 of a diced Applegate chicken & turkey sausage (this is my favorite lately) in 1 Tbsp coconut oil. Once browned, scramble two eggs in a bowl and add them to the skillet. If you have some greens (I added leftover roasted brussels sprouts) throw those in there, too. Serve with roasted sweet potato & sliced avocado. Many mornings I have a small bowl of berries instead of sweet potato.

Snack: Celery & almond butter


So simple and so delicious. This is one of my favorites. Check the label on your almond butter to make sure it just has almonds (and possibly salt) and no funny stuff like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.


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Although the Whole 30 is all about eating whole, unprocessed foods, it’s nice to have something in your bag (or pocket, or car, or desk, or pantry) for those times when you’re starving and need something to hold you over until you can get your hands on some REAL food. Most Larabars fit the Whole-30 bill (I believe Peanut Butter and Jelly is the only one that doesn’t). So far my favorites are Apple Pie and Carrot Cake.

Lunch: Salad with shrimp


I often repurpose whatever leftovers we have from dinner the night before into a big salad for lunch. If you’ve seen my Instagram feed then you know I’ll put anything on top of lettuce (even strange combinations) and call it a salad. Here’s whats in this bowl: Romaine lettuce, red bell pepper, grape tomatoes (from our garden!), red onion, white button mushrooms, avocado, blueberries, and grilled shrimp (tossed in some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper before grilling on the grill pan.) I made a simple dressing with olive oil, cilantro, fresh lime juice, minced garlic clove, salt & pepper.

Dinner: Chipotle Carnitas Salad


Goodness I love Chipotle, but I always feel so stuffed and bloated after eating it. Not this time! Here’s what I ordered: Salad (no dressing) with carnitas, peppers and onions, mild salsa, and guacamole. It’s my new go-to whenever we eat there.

Dinner: Zucchini noodles with turkey mushroom tomato sauce 


So easy. So filling. So delicious. I love my spiralizer and use it all the time (especially now that zucchini is in season and we tend to get heaps of it with our weekly CSA.) I followed the recipe in the link below, but made two small changes: I added a big handful of arugula and topped the sauce with fresh basil from our garden. Find the recipe here.

Dinner: Greek grilled chicken with grilled vegetables 


It doesn’t get more summery than this!!! The Greek chicken in this recipe is incredible and has given me a new appreciation for fresh dill. I followed the recipe for the marinade and grilled the chicken on my grill pan along with thinly sliced zucchini, squash, and sweet potato. I also roasted kale and tomatoes in the oven (preheat to 425 degrees, cook tomatoes in an aluminum foil packet with some olive oil for 20-30 minutes and cook kale for 10 minutes until crispy.)

Introducing #Whole30 Inspiration

Bellagio at Lake Como – one of my favorite places of our entire trip

Hello friends! I hope you’re having a fantastic July!

We returned from our trip to Switzerland & Italy a few weeks ago. It was everything I dreamed it would be and so much more. I fell deeply in love with both countries and have so many memories I’ll cherish forever. Even with all of our scheduled activities (four words: double-sided laminated itinerary) we still found plenty of time to wander, relax, and soak up the uniqueness of each place. I hope to post a trip update soon with photos and some of our favorite recommendations.

However, today I’m jumping on here to write about something else entirely. Since our return, I’ve become intrigued with a program called the Whole 30 and wanted to share my experience and experiments with you so far.

In recent months, I’ve felt like my meals could use some cleaning up. While I don’t believe in the idea of “good” and “bad” foods (in my book everything is okay in moderation), I can definitely tell the difference between foods that make me feel good and foods that make me feel not so good. Maybe it’s the whole turning 30 thing, but I know that what I eat directly impacts how I feel in my body and in my mind. I’ve learned I feel best when there’s protein and vegetables on my plate. When I eat too many carbs or too much sugar I tend to overeat and feel heavier, puffier, and more sluggish. And yet I still want more of them (?!?!?) This doesn’t make carbs and sweets bad. It just means I need to eat less of them.

After lots of deep thought, research, and contemplation I was drawn to the Whole 30 program. Trendy though it may be, I support the fact that it relies on whole, clean foods such as meats, seafood, eggs, lots of vegetables, some fruit, and healthy fats.

To be clear, I’m not 100 percent following the Whole 30 plan. Some may argue this approach misses the point, but I disagree. I’m using the Whole 30 as inspiration and a template for many of my meals. It helps me plan my meals around nourishing foods that make me feel my very best. While the majority of my meals have been Whole-30 approved lately, I’ve also enjoyed an occasional treat like a piece of dark chocolate or chips & guac. This blog isn’t called A Balanced Life Cooks for nothing!

While it’s only been two weeks and I’m not exclusively eating this way, I have noticed several changes. The biggest change has to do with eating significantly more protein and significantly less sugar. Before, when I was eating more sugar (such as Greek yogurt with homemade granola and berries for breakfast), I’d stay full for a while, but all of a sudden my blood sugar would drop and I’d be ravenous. Now, with eggs, chicken sausage, and avocado for breakfast most mornings I stay full for many hours and then gradually feel hunger creep in. In other words, I experience true hunger rather than a blood sugar crash. As a result, my mood and energy are more stable throughout the day and I’ve noticed fewer cravings. I thought it would be difficult to give up dessert after lunch and dinner (I had fallen into the habit of having a treat after both), but many times I’m so satisfied from my meal I don’t even want something sweet. It’s kind of miraculous!

Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Whole 30 meals, drinks, and snacks that I’ve been enjoying lately (warning: it’s a long post). I’ll continue to share Whole-30 inspired dishes as I forge ahead down this delicious, protein-packed path along with the usual fare you’re used to seeing around these parts. I hope to see you again tomorrow!

Here We Go!

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Hello, friends! Long time no see. I’m doing a little drive-by on my deeply loved, but lately neglected blog to tell you about an exciting adventure we have coming up….TONIGHT!

Robert and I are leaving for a two-week long vacation! We’re flying to Zurich tonight. We’ll be spending one week in Switzerland and one week in Northern Italy. To say we’re excited would be a tremendous understatement. We’re going to be on the move A LOT. We’ll be in a new city almost every day with the exception of two nights in Lucerne and then three nights in Venice at the end of our trip. We’re taking all of our stuff in big travel backpacks {pictured above. How did I wind up with the smaller one?} and I’m kind of thrilled about them. Of course, I have yet to pack so my opinion on the matter could soon change : ) Though the backpacks may seem rugged, rest assured we’ll be shacking up in hotels and not hostels #thisisthirty

This trip is also a big deal for me because I won’t be working at all for the full 16 days–no laptop, no e-mail–nothing. I may even go social-media free. Anyone who owns his or her own business knows how difficult it is to step away. You worry about work you’re missing out on that will get assigned to someone else. You wonder if you truly tied up all loose ends or whether you’re going to let someone down while you’re away. You wonder whether your editors {or clients or other business contacts} will replace you with a newer, shinier model in your absence. Whenever these moments of worry strike, I try to trust all of the hard work I’ve put into my career up to this point and believe it will be enough to help me pick back up when we return.

Of course, I know that even more than experiencing the awesome adventures, dreamy landscapes, and delicious food,I need this time away to clear my mind, hang out with my husband, and recharge. It’s so important and I’m beyond grateful that I get to do it in such a fun and grand way.

So here we go! And a huge thank you to Robert. He’s spent countless hours carefully planning every single day {his itineraries are epic} to make this the vacation we’ve both been dreaming about since before we got married. I actually have no idea what to expect so I can’t wait for each day to bring new adventures and surprises.

See you all in July!!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffins

Chocolate Chip Banana MuffinsToday is a BIG day in the Fowler household.

Mr. Remy The Goldendoodle Fowler (yes, he changed his last name too) turns 7 years old. That’s crazy! Somehow, I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that he’s 7. It just sounds so much older to me. And this year I feel more nostalgic than most. Remy is my best buddy. We’ve been through so much together. This little-big man brings so much joy into our lives. He’s the goofiest, snuggliest beast there ever was. You can’t watch him for more than a few seconds without laughing. One of my favorite things in the entire world is taking Remy for walks. Our daily hour-long trek is easily a highlight of most days. Remy has taught me so much about myself, too. Above all, I’ve learned that one of my best qualities is my ability to nurture the people (and dogs) I love most. Few things bring me more joy than caring for them and watching them thrive (even if they occasionally eat tissues, paper towels, and napkins). So here’s to Remy, my silly furry pup that I absolutely cannot imagine my life without. Thank you for making life so much fuller and happier because you’re in it. I love you so much.
The day I brought him home & now
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Oh yeah, today happens to be my birthday, too! The big 3-0! (Cue minor freakout). A new decade is a serious milestone and I think it will take me some time to wrap my mind around it. But what a year I’ve had and I’m beyond excited for the year ahead. Robert and I plan to celebrate with a date night tonight. We’re flying to New York tomorrow where we’ll see my family and he’s surprising me with a bunch of activities Friday and Saturday (no idea what he has up his sleeve!) Saturday night we’re going to a wedding. Happily, we’ll be in town to celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday with my family, too.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffins

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older, but lately I’ve been on the hunt for recipes to end all recipes. By that I mean building up a repertoire of go-to recipes that are the best of the best. As much as I love experimenting with foods, I also love having an arsenal I can dig into whether we’re hosting a party or I’m bringing something to someone else’s table. Well, these chocolate chip banana bread muffins hit the jackpot for me. I’ve made them several times over the past few weeks (our freezer is stockpiled with them) and they really are the best I’ve ever had. They’re easy to make, light and fluffy, and the perfect balance of banana and chocolate flavor. You can use this recipe to bake muffins or traditional loaves (I’ve made both). They’re also extremely versatile–Robert eats them for breakfast and I love cutting up one or two for dessert.

While I’m sure I’ll down plenty of ice cream and cake over the next few days, I’m happy to kick off the birthday celebrations today with these muffins. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffins

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffins

Makes 24 muffins, 12 muffins and 1 loaf, or 2 loaves


  • 3/4 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp milk
  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, plus extra for sprinkling on top


Preheat oven to 350. In the bowl of a stand or electric mixer, whip together butter and sugar, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, cinnamon, milk, and bananas. Mix until completely combined. The batter will appear curdled, but it’s okay. Add the whole wheat flower, mix slowly until combined. Add the all-purpose flour and baking soda, mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into greased muffin tins (or use cups) or greased loaf pan. Sprinkle extra chocolate chips on top. Bake muffins for 15 to 25 minutes and loaves for 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool 15 to 30 minutes before removing from pans.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla SoupWell, shucks. I’m a day late posting a Cinco de Mayo recipe. But once you make this soup you won’t care what day it is, what time it is, or what year it is. You’ll just be focused on shoveling it into your mouth quickly enough. This recipe completely took me by surprise in the best possible way. I dumped the ingredients into the slow cooker Sunday morning and hoped for the best. I was absolutely thrilled when I lifted the lid, took a taste, and discovered it was bursting with flavor. A happy dance in the kitchen ensued. It’s among the best tortilla soups I’ve ever had!

My love for tortilla soup is well established. I order it everywhere. I even have a vegetarian tortilla soup recipe here. And oh man do I still love that recipe. But THIS. This one is a keeper, too. Sometimes you just want some chicken in your tortilla soup and you want to use the convenience of a slow cooker. Feel free to top your soup with whatever you like–cilantro, chunks of avocado, fresh lime juice, or some cheese all work great. I kept it suuuuper simple and just crumbled some tortilla chips on top. It’s so easy and tasty. I’m already planning to continue the fiesta and put it on our menu for next week. I think you should, too!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup salsa (I recommend one that says “fire-roasted” or “chipotle” for a smoky taste)
  • 1 15 oz can (or box) of kidney beans or black beans, undrained
  •  1 cup frozen corn
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Any toppers of your choice: cilantro, avocado, cheese, sour cream, lime juice
  • Tortilla chips for topping/dipping/snacking


Place the chicken breasts through the bay leaf in the slow cooker. Combine onion, garlic, jalapeño, and olive oil in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave in 1 to 2 minute increments, stirring after each one until onion is softened, about 4 to 5 minutes total. Add to slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. When it’s done cooking, remove chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return chicken to slow cooker. Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve in bowls with toppings of your choice such as cilantro, diced avocado, cheese, sour cream, or lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips.