How To Cook : Egg Roll in a Bowl

We’ve been celebrating the filling-of-the-freezer with pork lately. It’s like Christmas! So I’m going to try and hit you with some of my favorite pork recipes.

But first, a story…

Over a year-and-a-half ago, Olivia and I did a Whole 30 diet. You can read about my experience with that here. As you’ll read in that blog post, Matt did not participate with us.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2016. Liv was experiencing some skin and gut issues that she was trying to resolve through changing her diet. (“I want to treat the cause, not just the symptoms,” she said, which is a whole other blog post.) She was basically following a “Paleo” eating program, which is similar to Whole 30, just a little less restrictive. While she was home for Thanksgiving break, Matt decided to eat Paleo with her to be supportive.

And then he just kept on eating that way.

Being a power lineman, and a former high school football player, achy joints were just “life”. Or so he thought. Since he started eating this way, those everyday aches and pains are gone. Now he really only experiences them on days when he’s done a lot of tough physical stuff at work, or when he’s eaten something with gluten in it. Eating gluten also affects his sinuses, making him feel like he has allergies, or even makes him feel like he has a hangover. Now he sleeps better, he thinks clearer, he has way more energy, and he lost 20 pounds.

So how we cook has changed a bit. Some of the ingredients we use may sound weird, but they’ve become our new normal and replaced things that we no longer buy. This “Egg Roll in a Bowl” recipe is a good example. Coconut sugar replaces brown sugar, and coconut aminos replace soy sauce. But if you decide to use soy sauce, be sure and use the low-sodium kind. Or start with half the amount and adjust to taste. I speak from experience – I once subbed soy sauce 1-for-1 for coconut aminos in a soup and it was so salty we couldn’t eat it. Oops.

You start with by browning 2 pounds of Sugar Creek Farm ground pork in a large frying pan and dicing 2 red onions.

Once the pork is browned, add the onions to the pan along with 2 T sesame oil.  Cook until onions are soft.

Then add powdered ginger, ground black pepper, minced garlic, sea salt, coconut sugar and chicken broth.

Mix well into the pork/onion mixture.

Chop up a medium-sized head of cabbage

and add as much of it as you can to your pan. As I said, you’ll need a large pan!

Cover and let the cabbage wilt down.

In the meantime, shred 4 medium carrots. Does anyone else still have one of these things hanging around?

We got our Salad Shooter as a wedding gift and I still love it so much. I sure hope it outlives me. So shred those carrots, and about the time your cabbage/onion/pork mixture looks like this:

give it a stir, add in the rest of the cabbage that didn’t fit the first time, and add in the shredded carrots.

Cover and cook a few more minutes, until the carrots are soft and the rest of the cabbage is wilted down. Add the coconut aminos, give it a final stir, and it’s done!

Since Whole 30/Paleo preclude grains of any kind, we like to use cauliflower rice. It’s pretty easy to make from fresh cauliflower, if you have a good food processor. In fact I made some from our garden cauliflower this summer and froze it for winter. But I also really like Trader Joe’s brand.

Cauliflower rice is so quick and easy! Just throw it, still frozen, in a pan and saute it 2 or 3 minutes until the “rice” is hot and the water is cooked out of it. Then serve your egg roll mixture over the rice.

So yummy! Tastes exactly like the inside of an egg roll!

How To Cook : Egg Roll in a Bowl

How To Cook : Egg Roll in a Bowl


  • 2 pounds Sugar Creek Farm ground pork
  • 1 medium cabbage, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, shredded
  • 2 medium red onions, diced
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 2 t powdered ginger
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 2 t salt
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 2 T coconut aminos


  1. Place meat in large pan and cook until browned.
  2. On medium high heat, add the onions and sesame oil. Cook until onions are soft.
  3. Reduce heat to medium.
  4. Add spices, sweetener, and broth to the pan and stir well.
  5. Add cabbage (or as much as will fit).
  6. Cover and cook until cabbage is wilted.
  7. Add any remaining cabbage and carrots.
  8. Cook 2-3 minutes more, or until carrots are soft and remaining cabbage is wilted.
  9. Stir in coconut aminos.
  10. Serve plain or over cauliflower rice.

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New fence, new start

After 2 long years, the old cattle shed site is cleaned up and ready for new fencing. Matt took a few days off work to get started on it. I helped him stake out the flags, and did some really helpful picture taking of the cats.

Seems a little silly, maybe, but new fence seems like a fresh start in a way. Structurally, it will be nice to have that paddock and the water hydrant available to use again. Mentally, that clean landscape feels like a clean slate, and kind of matches up to how we’re feeling about the farm business these days. We tried so hard for so many years, but the local food scene just wasn’t as far ahead as our vision. And we burned out. We took a hard look at the numbers and finally acquiesced that what we were doing wasn’t sustainable anymore. We scaled back. We came back slowly. The local food scene started to grow. And finally the farm feels like it’s working for us, rather than the other way around.

We have some things coming down the pike I can’t wait to announce. One thing about grass fed beef, it takes almost 2 years to finish an animal so developing product and markets takes time and patience. But having that time allows us to be thoughtful and intentional about what’s right for us and our farm and this stage of our life, and what’s not. Finally, after 13 years.

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Ava :: April 2006 – August 2017

Our Ava passed away yesterday in one of her favorite spots… in the garage in front of the open back door, where she could catch a breeze and keep an eye on the pasture to the west and the driveway to the east.

She’d slowed down to a senior dog pace the last few years, but still made sure Titus remembered she was boss. Even though she couldn’t chase after him anymore, she would stand on the porch and bark at him, making him run circles around her.

She was the best farm dog, always keeping an eye on things. She never barked for no reason, so if I heard her barking I knew that someone had come in the driveway, or a cow, pig or chicken was not where it was supposed to be. I loved that her mere presence was intimidating to strangers and prevented most from exiting their car until one of us came to the door, but in reality she was just a big welcome wagon. There was never a vicious bone in her body.

She was actually Madeline’s dog. She picked Ava out as a puppy in hopes of training her in obedience and agility. They did one summer of that thru 4-H, but it worried Ava so to be away from the farm.  Show dog life was not for her. She just wanted to be at home with her little herd. 

In tribute, here are some of my favorite Ava photos and blog posts (click on the blue links) from the past 11 years…

With no sheep on this farm to herd, Ava takes work wherever she can find it.

Madeline & Ava, 3 months

Olivia & Ava

Rafe & Ava

Ava & Titus making sure the front porch is secure

Today Ava is napping on Rafe’s new beanbag. Ahem.

Ava lives to herd pigs. Sometimes she’s more helpful than others. Pig herder

Ava, on the job. Worry

Cow dog in training

Ava surely loves her pigs. Pig love.

5 minutes in the life of a dog

Winter pig chores


Ava stops eating snow long enough to pose for me

We tried to include Ike & Ava in the Christmas card pic, lol

Madeline & Ava.

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Scrapbook storytelling

I was thinking about my last post, and my love of storytelling. Our oldest daughter has inherited this, and typically when I answer a phone call from her I hear, “Mom, I have stories.” She then proceeds to give me the blow-by-blow of her encounters and adventures of the day.

I think I inherited my own interest in storytelling from my Grandma Carter, the one whose old typewriter enabled me to publish that single issue newspaper. She was the torchbearer of family history, amassing all of the family photos, genealogical records and personal narratives. When I was in high school, she and I went through a huge box of old photographs. Most of them weren’t written on, and I remarked that she should identify the people in the pictures for me. We decided to number each picture, and then as she had time she went through them and wrote on sheets of paper the photo number and the people in the photo. To my great delight, she went a step further and wrote stories about the people in the photos and anecdotes that the photos reminded her of.

Grandma on the left, with her “boy bob” hairstyle

“When I was about 12 it was a fad to have what they called ‘boy bobs’. My uncle Mike Metz was a barber in Stacyville so I went to him and said I wanted my hair cut that way. He asked if my parents knew and I said, ‘They won’t care.’ Well, my mother was very upset and threatened to leave me home all summer when they went places. It wasn’t very becoming to me.”

“We had a potluck at school. I didn’t like what my mother was taking. We had a lady who didn’t have a reputation as being very clean. Mother said to me, ‘I hope you get some of Mrs. Young’s.’ So when we were eating I told this to the people sitting around us. I was in the doghouse for that.”

Many of her stories end with a wry one-liner.

Grandma (left) and her sister Viola

“Viola and I walked to school together and she was never ready to go when I was. She would cry for me to wait as I went ahead of her up the road. I think I can say I was never late for school.”

“My mother’s Aunt Mina was quite tall, stood very straight and always looked very regal. I wanted to be straight and tall like her. I didn’t reach my goal.”

And there are some tragic stories, also told in her matter-of-fact style.

Grandma (right) and her sister Ada

“Of course the death that affected me most was my sister, Ada. She was a couple months past 5 and I was 7-1/2. She died in winter of 1923. She some way got spinal meningitis, the only one in town who had it. People were very afraid of it and we were quarantined. She was in the bedroom on one side of the house. Grandma Metz had Viola (she was 18 months old) and me in the kitchen part. The two Dr.’s in town (Stacyvillle) came and took care of her. She died in two weeks. It was quite a while I couldn’t go to school. The only dream I remember is one I had for a while after my sister died. I would dream a big ball I thought was as big as the world was rolling after me and I was running from it. It would break open and bears would come out and chase me. I would wake crying. They had me sleep with Grandma Metz as I had always slept with sister Ada.”

I gathered up the pictures, genealogical records, and her stories and put everything into scrapbooks. Between her Ruesink/Metz side of the family, and my grandpa’s Bishop/Carter side of the family, I’ve got 5 large scrapbooks covering all of the old family pictures she had, going through her high school graduation. And I’ve made one of them into a printed photo album. I wanted my brother and his family to have their own copy of the stories and photos, plus it serves as a digitized backup in case anything ever happens to the original scrapbook.

Other family storytelling projects I want to tackle:

1. Work with my mom to pick up where Grandma left off, documenting the photos and stories from after my grandparents were married.
2. Get my mom to do the same with the photos from my childhood.
3. Digitizing the rest of the family history scrapbooks I have, so that they can easily be shared with others and so that there are backups of them in case something happens to the physical albums.
4. Getting my own family photos off my computer and into albums, along with all the little stories and quotes from the kids that I have recorded in various places.
5. Scrapbooking Matt’s childhood photos.
6. Documenting family “treasures” – some are in my possession, some are in my mom’s possession or in her safe deposit box. A picture of each item and a description/history.
7. Mini albums for trips and special events.

I’ll be sharing some of my projects here as I work on them. My first order of business is to finish several “works in progress”, some of which I started years ago.

Tell me, do you scrapbook? Do you print your photos or do they all live on your computer? Do you have old family photos?

11 years ago:

Doin’ a “little” raking

7 years ago:

Installment #9 : One of these things just doesn’t belong here

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When I grow up

The typewriter that started it all for me

I mentioned in my last post that I’m exploring the possibilities for a future that will be here sooner or later. Our youngest has started high school. We’ve already got two teenage daughters through high school (and lived to tell about it!), so I know how fast these next 4 years are going to fly.

Thinking about the empty nest possibilities in my own future makes me feel a little bit like I’m back in those high school freshman shoes. What do I want to be when I grow up?

The experts say to mine your past for future career ideas. What did you like to do when you were a little kid? We were laughing one night at our oldest daughter, as she sat on the couch writing lesson plans and putting together folders for the students in the summer reading program for which she worked as program coordinator. When she was little, she would spend hours teaching her imaginary classroom. She had stacks of folders and notebooks, each with a made-up student’s name on it. She would give an assignment, she and her younger sister would actually do the assignment for each kid, and then she’d jump back into teacher mode and correct the assignments. I’m not kidding when I say this went on for hours, for days on end. Next spring she’ll graduate with a degree in Child, Adult and Family Services and go on for her masters in School Guidance Counseling. Given how she spent her childhood playtime, I’d say she’s in the right field.

When I think back to my own childhood, the theme of “storytelling” comes to mind. I must have been 11 or 12 when I conscripted my younger brother (the joys of being the oldest sibling!) and my best friend to write a newspaper with me. We each wrote articles, and I typed them up on my grandma’s old typewriter. My grandparents had a friend named Tom to whom they’d sold a little piece of ground, across the road from their farm next to the river. He would camp there and he called the property “River Run Campground”. Tom loved to write poetry, and editorials in the Globe Gazette, so he was excited and supportive of my young interest in journalism. So much so that he purchased an ad in my “newspaper” for 50 cents. My interest in journalism only lasted that one summer, and that one edition of my newspaper. Probably because it took me all summer to get it “published”.

I loved my composition classes in high school, and my teachers always seemed pretty enthusiastic and supportive of my writing, even sending some of my work in for contests and publications (which I never won.) But I didn’t really think much of it. Teachers are paid to be enthusiastic and supportive of their students, right?

My freshman year of college I took a class called “History of American Music”. Anyone who knows me is not surprised that this was a class I thoroughly enjoyed. The professor was a fun, knowledgeable Jerry Garcia look-alike. Of course some of the assignments involved listening to various songs and artists, and these were the days long, long before iTunes. So I would go to the library, check out the assigned album (on vinyl!), and listen with the provided headphones and turntable in the library.

The culmination of the class was an assigned term paper on any subject of our choice, as long as it related to American music in some way. I chose to write about music censorship. This was 1989-1990, on the heels of the controversial Parent Music Resource Center successfully lobbying the RIAA to slap “Parental Advisory” stickers on album covers. The day the professor handed back our papers, he asked me to stay after class. Um, what? That had never happened before, I’d always been a model student, what in the world did I do?

What he wanted was to ask my permission to use my paper as an example to future classes on how to write a term paper for his class. He liked it. And what he said next I’ve never forgotten. He said, “I want you to take this paper over to the English department and show it to them. This is a really, really good paper. I know you’re a computer science major, but I think you need to be in the English department.”

Well, I was flattered, and I even walked over to the building where the English department was housed. But once I got there I chickened out. I mean, who was I supposed to talk to, exactly? He didn’t give me a name or a contact there. And what was I supposed to say? “Hey, here’s a paper my music professor seems to really dig.” Was I really going to change my major because of one person’s opinion about one paper?

Looking back, I don’t know that I wish I had followed through with it. I don’t feel regret about the situation. Curiosity, yes, but not regret. I’ve loved being a computer programmer. A big part of my identity is in being a “nerd”.


The older I get, after all the years I’ve spent in left-brain mode, the more intrigued I am by my right brain and what might be in it. I think this blog was born as much out of my desire to write as it was about marketing the farm business. But without a farm business to market, I’m left wondering if I even have a story to tell anymore? My life has been pretty vanilla. And I’m not complaining about that. I know a lot of people would gladly trade me their life for my plain vanilla life. But what kind of writer can I be without a story?

I believe that people are placed into your life at certain times, in certain places and contexts, for a reason. This year when a lifelong member of our church returned for his annual summer visit, I had the opportunity to sit down and catch up with him when we got together to collaborate on some music for a church service. After we updated each other on what our kids and spouses were up to, he looked at me and said, “What about you? Are you finding time for your art? Your photography and your writing are gifts. You can’t ever give that up.”

It was like a slap upside the head from the universe, another in a long line of breadcrumbs scattered on the trail of my life. I felt like he had been sent to deliver that message to me at a time when I most needed to hear it.

And then school started, and I got busy with football games and musical rehearsals, and here we are. But. And. I’m just going to keep plinking away at the keyboard when I can and throw stuff out there. Because you just never know what will happen.

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Right now

the road ahead

Hello, it’s been a while. So I thought I’d give an update to any longtime readers that are still hanging around, and my farmers market peeps that I’m not seeing this summer.

Taking this year off from markets has been a good thing. I do miss our customers and the other vendors that have become friends over the years. But getting back the time that not only being at the market takes, but the time that preparation, travel, marketing, etc. takes has made this summer really, really enjoyable. And summer is my most favorite season of the year, so I’m grateful for that. There’s been camping, kayaking, a music festival. I can’t say right now where the farm will or won’t go in the future. For now we’re just going to let it evolve as it will.

As I write this, we’re preparing to send our second born off to college for the first time. Shopping lists are being made, things are being packed into totes, the occasional tear is being shed. (By me, of course. Definitely not by her!) But I think the fact that she’ll be at the same school as her older sister makes it easier on me, plus I’m just super excited to see where life takes her. She’s interested in nutrition, health coaching, and journalism… the sky’s the limit.

Do you remember being that age where the sky’s the limit? I do. And then you get to the season of life of raising your family – and it’s wonderful – but things seem a little more set in stone, and the possibilities seem a little more limited.

I’m looking forward to the next 4 years of having just our youngest at home. He’ll be starting high school, and I’m excited for the new things that will bring for him academically, athletically, musically, socially (and learning how to manage his many interests and talents!) It will be a brave new boy world for me, as the boy-to-girl ratio in this house shifts against me. Fortunately, at least so far, he’s an easy and enjoyable kid to have around, and he still doles out the hugs to his mama freely.

But at the same time, I don’t want to get to the end of these next 4 years, drop him off at college, and then ask, “Now what?” So I’m starting to explore the possibilities again, dreaming a bit, and starting to get back that “sky’s the limit” feeling.

10 years ago:

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The year the music died

The Grim Reaper has been on a tear with musicians in 2016. And it’s only April. At this point people have had enough already and I’m seeing tweets like, “That the universe would form a protective layer around Paul McCartney, we pray.” (@unvirtuousabbey)

But none hit me as hard as the news that Prince had died. I’ve had the all-Prince iHeartRadio station on non-stop ever since, taped the airing of Purple Rain on VH1, read every Rolling Stone article, watched every video I’ve seen shared on Facebook. The depth of grief I felt took me by surprise, and I’ve been thinking about why the past 4 days.

My grandparents gave my parents a stereo the first Christmas after they were married. In 1969, a stereo was a rather large piece of furniture. It took up a lot of real estate in the living room of the tiny farmhouse they rented near New Haven. When I came along almost a year later, they wedged my crib alongside it, end-to-end, because the upstairs bedrooms were too cold for a winter baby. My mom says when I was fussy they’d put me in my crib, put a Johnny Cash or Elvis record on the stereo, and I’d settle down and go to sleep.

“Or maybe we just couldn’t hear you crying over the music. Either way,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders.


When I was 15 months old they moved to the farm on River Road where I grew up. There I got an upstairs bedroom, and the stereo lived in the dining room, smack dab in the middle of the house. The soundtrack to my childhood was The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Captain & Tennille. Later it was Willie, Waylon, and Kenny Rogers. Those three still take me back to the farm crisis of the 80’s, and I can feel again the cloud of worry that hung over my parents and the uncertain future of our own farm.

Me in front of the stereo, Christmas 1972

There was always music on, whether it was on that stereo, or the 8-track cassette player in their avocado green Pontiac, or on Saturday morning “American Bandstand” when my mom would have a dance party with me in the living room in front of the tv. I give my parents credit for always being pretty tolerant about what music I listened to. The only albums my mom ever banned from the house were the Violent Femmes and 2 Live Crew (which was actually my friend Susan’s album I had borrowed.) Even then, she just asked that I only play them in my car.

(Although when I brought this up to her she said, “Oh, was the Purple Rain album bad? I guess I never noticed.” Better listen to the song “Darling Nikki” again, Mom.)

When I was 13, the first album I ever bought for myself with my hard-earned babysitting money was Purple Rain on vinyl. I had a little record player of my own in my bedroom. But I preferred to play it on the big stereo in the dining room, lying on the blue-and-brown shag carpet, my ear right up to the speaker so that I could catch every lyric, every instrument, every riff. I had never heard anything like it. The funk style, the raw lyrics that flowed like poetry, the openly sexual themes. My dramatic 13-year-old-self related (or wanted to) so deeply to his frustrations with his parents, with love, and the simultaneous beauty and desperation that is life.

That, I realize, is the reason his death has hit me so hard. His was the first music that was my music and not my parents’ music. And it feels like the end of an era, as I imagine Elvis’s death felt to my parents. Prince was so insanely talented, and creative, and original. Does it make me old and crotchety that, in this moment, I can’t identify that same level of creativity in any of today’s music? Probably.

So I pulled out that Purple Rain vinyl I bought in 1984, and played it on the little record player I have now. I sang along, every lyric still rolling off my tongue as easily as they did at 13. And I said a prayer of protection for Sir Paul McCartney.

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What’s next

So without the farm business to share here, I’ve been left wondering what exactly to do in this space. I still have the desire to write. But what to write about now? As much as I like food, and I will continue to share the occasional recipe, I’m not interested in turning this into a food blog.

So I hope you’ll bear with me as I figure it out. The topics here will likely get a bit random for a while.

For one, there’s my long-standing fascination with all things Ma Ingalls, pioneer women in general, and the Amish. I’m not entirely sure why (although this gives a little background). Their lives were (are) simpler in some respects, but more complicated in others – or at the least, a hell of a lot more work. But I find myself drawn to ideas of simplicity as my life becomes evermore full.

And then there’s connection. Sure, they were often isolated for days or weeks, even months on end. But they had deep connections with their children, their extended families, their neighbors. They took time to write letters. They came together as a community for church and barn raisings. For all the talk of how connected we are now as a society and across the globe, thanks to modern technology, is it true connection or just surface connection? I find myself craving true connection.

My mother is as (or more) surprised as anyone at my interest in the domestic arts. Although given the number of hours I spent dressed up as Laura Ingalls, making her braid my hair, making Dad set up the pop-up camper in the yard as my log cabin… should she really be surprised? Really?

But there is the fact that I lived on cheese & crackers, and cereal, and crab rangoons from the mall during college, and Hamburger Helper in our early married years. There’s my general lack of interest in a perfectly clean house and lack of skill in keeping a neat and organized household. And the whole not-making-my-bed thing. There is that.

But thanks to my mom and my grandma and 4-H, I did learn some skills – how to bake snickerdoodles; how to comparison shop; how to refinish a wooden footstool; how to sew a sassy pair of shorts.

So over the years I’ve become interested in gardening, and sewing, canning and preserving, and bread baking.

So I’ll likely go delving into the lives of my foremothers to glean what I can for my own modern domestic bliss. Among the many other things that interest me… memory keeping, zen, time management, living with intention… stay tuned!

11 years ago:
Happiness is…

10 years ago:
Take 2

9 years ago:

8 years ago:
How to Cook : Ground Pork

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A new normal

Chicken nuggets were the star of supper tonight!

2 weeks post-Whole30, and I’ve fallen into a new normal. A really good new normal. And by “really good”, I mean really tasty.

I decided to take the approach of eating “clean” on days 1, 3, 5 and 7. On days 2, 4, and 6 I allow myself some leeway.

For me, “clean” means a modified Whole30. It means butter, and natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup; baked goods like chocolate chip cookies made with Whole30 approved ingredients, or all-fruit smoothies.

Days 2, 4 and 6 are for ice cream. And a bun for my hamburger. A piece of whole wheat toast with my eggs. Oatmeal and yogurt. Dark chocolate. Seriously, those are the few things I look forward to on even-numbered days. Other than these, I haven’t really missed most of the things that are prohibited on Whole30. If anything, my cravings are now for the foods we ate on the Whole30.

So far this has worked well. Having days 7/1 back-to-back gives me a nice mini-reset every week. If it’s an odd-numbered day and ice cream sounds good, it’s easy to tell myself I can have it tomorrow. And most days I do have the ice cream. But sometimes, by the time tomorrow rolls around, I don’t even want it anymore. The even numbered days allow for “life” to happen – life things like potlucks, and track meets with concession stands.

The internet makes it easy, with so many great Whole30 and Paleo recipes to try. Tonight Liv made these chicken nuggets, and they were so so so good. Like, I can’t even put enough “so”s in front of the word “good” to tell you just how good they were. We paired them up with some of our favorite Whole30 and Paleo sauces – the Basic Ranch dressing from the Whole30 website, this honey mustard sauce (Paleo if you use homemade or approved mayo) and this ketchup (Paleo, or Whole30 if you omit the honey). Did I mention it was so good?!

If you’d like to follow my Pinterest boards and see what we’re cooking up these days, I have a Whole30 board and a Clean Eating board.

What finger-lickin’ good thing have you made this week? Please share!

11 years ago:
Today I am…

10 years ago:

7 years ago:
Happy Easter!

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My Whole 30 Experience

Sweet potato sausage hash

I don’t remember how I even heard of the Whole 30 program, but I’d been thinking about trying it for a while now. I felt like my brain just wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, and my energy levels were terrible. I kept thinking, “I’m too young to feel this old!” And I was pretty sure the culprit was my diet. I felt absolutely addicted to sugar and was deep in that cycle of eating carbs and sugar, only to crash a couple of hours later. The Whole 30 plan sounded like just what I needed to detox myself and establish some better eating habits in the process.


In a nutshell, you eliminate dairy, grains (including the gluten-free ones), alcohol, sweeteners (including the natural ones like maple syrup and honey), and beans, peas and legumes. And there are other rules about not eating foods that may technically be in compliance because they’re made with approved ingredients, but they’re not allowed because they are the types of things we typically eat mindlessly. Like dessert, and anything deep fried.

In other words, you give up everything good and cry for 30 days. Matt said, “I give you a Whole 3 days.” Such a supportive husband. (He obviously knows me well.)

Stuffed peppers

Of course taking on something like this is easier when you have a partner. So I enlisted Olivia, because she has a keen interest in health, nutrition, and all-around wellness. She’s thinking of majoring in nutritional science next fall. She’s always chastising me for buying potato chips and granola bars. I knew she’d be game for it.

We decided we wanted to get through Valentine’s Day and the state wrestling tournament before we started, so we settled on March 1st as a start date. I did some planning, gathered recipes, did some shopping – and we began.

My breakfasts definitely got more colorful this month

Day 1 was easy. The enthusiasm was high, and I felt great about the healthier choices I was making. It was a piece of cake!

A piece of cake I couldn’t eat.

Steamed mushrooms, zucchini, and carrots with ghee and dill

Days 2 through 10 were harder. These were the days my body was detoxing all the crap I’ve put into it recently. I was hungry a lot. I craved sugar a lot. The brain fog did start to lift, which was nice, but I kept asking Matt, “where is all this energy I’m supposed to be feeling?!” Some days were akin to having PMS. I just wanted to bite the head off anyone around me. Especially if they were a chocolate rabbit.

Tuna for lunch

About day 10 I finally started feeling that promised surge of energy. I’d read that it’s more typically day 16 before that happens, so I felt lucky there. I didn’t fight to stay awake in the afternoons anymore, which was awesome. It was tempting to call it good at that point and turn it into a Whole 10 program.

But the second half of the program is when your body starts to make a physiological change and adjusts to burning protein and fat for energy instead of it’s old standby carbs and sugar. As the month went on I wasn’t hungry all the time, and I felt like I needed less food to stay satisfied. I was shedding pounds. Most days I felt fantastic.

Meat sauce over cauliflower rice

And then there’s the process of ditching those eating habits that are more psychological. For example, I realized I use eating as a procrastination tool. “I need to do this, but I’m going to sit down and eat something first.” Or after my morning walk, it was habit to go to Kwik Star and get a muffin or a mocha (or both!), totally defeating the point of walking 3 miles.

I thought the hardest part of the plan would be not eating all the foods I couldn’t have. Sure, sometimes I really craved a chocolate chip cookie, or I’d catch a whiff of the sour cream and cheddar potato chips Matt was eating and they would sound good to me in that moment. But for the most part, what I couldn’t have didn’t really bother me. I didn’t think that much about what I couldn’t eat, and focused on what I could eat. I enjoyed trying new recipes. It was actually kind of a fun challenge for me to follow the rules.

I’m not sure what that says about me.

Easter deviled eggs

It was good that I had asked Olivia to join me. Because she’s a stickler. When I suggested we allow ourselves a cheat day so that we could partake in the brownie sundaes at her cheerleading banquet, she replied, “Mother! It’s only 30 days. If you want to go back to eating crap the rest of your life afterwards you can, but I think we can get through 30 days without cheating.” After that I never felt tempted to cheat. I would have felt too guilty disappointing Olivia like that.

(Okay, confession time. I did cheat a few times. On Day 1 I had a mint, just popped it in my mouth without thinking about it until figuring out later that it was off limits. Olivia had a piece of gum on Day 1, too. She thought we should start over at Day 1 the next day. I told her I would karate chop her in the shins if she made me start over because of a mint and a piece of gum. On Day 17 I made a “dessert” for my Bunco group. It was terrible, the only thing I made this whole month that I didn’t like. So I’m not counting that, either, but I do need to make that one up to my friends. Finally, on Day 27, Easter, I made Olivia and I dessert. A fruit tart, of sorts, made with approved ingredients. It was fabulous and I will definitely be making it again. #sorrynotsorry)

Zucchini noodles – loved these in place of pasta!

The whole experience definitely kept the scientific part of my brain engaged, observing how I felt going through the physical detox, observing some of the habits and routines I’d built around eating, figuring out how to adjust recipes to follow the rules. There was only that horrible dessert that I didn’t like. Otherwise the whole family liked everything I made and I’ll continue to make those recipes in the future.

The hardest part was the increase in time I spent cooking. I remember saying to Olivia at one point, “I don’t want to be hungry because I don’t want to eat because I don’t want to cook.” I enjoy cooking, but I wasn’t used to preparing a meal for myself 3 times a day. Prior to this, if I even ate breakfast, it was something fast and easy and processed. Lunch was leftovers, or a repeat of breakfast. But at least, working from home, it’s not as much of a chore to fix myself breakfast and lunch. Olivia had it harder than me. She had to be at school early most days, so she had to fix herself a breakfast before she left. And pack a lunch to take to school. There were a number of special school events during the month where she couldn’t eat what everyone else was eating. But she’s a trooper. And a stickler.

Meatballs marinara over zucchini noodles

So the 30 days is over. I have my brain back, I have my energy back, I’ve shed some lbs. Now what? Part of me is scared to go off the plan because I feel so fantastic. Part of me just wants some Ben and Jerry’s. So the next challenge is finding my new normal. I’ll report back on that one.

Would I do it again? Yes, if I need to. I can’t argue with the results. But I’m hoping to forge new eating habits so that I don’t have to do it again. I have lots of recipes pinned that I haven’t gotten around to trying yet, so I’m looking forward to those. And I’m going to learn more about things like “carb cycling” and “intuitive eating”.

What do you think? Have you done a Whole 30, or is it something you’d think about trying?

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