Category Archives: Whole30

#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

Ingredients

  • 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

Preparation

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.

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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, ABalancedLifeCooks.com

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

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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.

Snack: LARABAR

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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

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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

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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 

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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 

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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!