Whole30 Days 27-30!

The last horrah!  We made it to the end…more on that later.  I again only took pictures of new or interesting meals, but take a look at what our last 4 days consisted of:

Day 27:

7.31 Whole30 breakfast
Fruit Salad and scrambled eggs with Pesto. Got the green eggs…just missing the ham!
7.31 Whole30 Dinner
Salisbury Steak, Green Beans with Balsamic Vinegar and Mashed Potatoes with Ghee

Day 28:

8.1 Whole30 Snack
First day of August and my office A/C is so frigid that I broke down and needed a mid-day hot coffee. Still struggling to drink it black, but I’m getting used to the taste.
8.1 Whole30 Dinner
Homemade taco seasoning simmered with beef, topped with salsa and guacamole inside a lettuce wrap

Day 29:

8.2 Breakfast
Breakfast on the go…banana, cashew larabar and ice water.
8.2 Whole30 Dinner2
Perusing the natural aisle we found a new brand to try, frozen spinach cakes. Brian loved them, I thought they were only ok.
8.2 Whole30 Dinner
Spinach cakes, compliant bacon, turkey meat sautéed with green peppers and sweet onions.

Day 30:

8.3 Whole30 Breakfast
Almond Butter, Banana and coconut milk smoothie with a side of fresh strawberries
8.3 Whole 30 Dinner
Stir fry with peppers, onion, broccoli, beef with a Tahini sauce dressing. Organic sweets and beats on the side.

We did it!  We made it!  We survived!  30 days was hard work…but it paid off.  First thing I splurged on was an iced coffee with cream and sugar…boy did I miss that!

Overall I lost 11 pounds and my husband lost 14.  I never once stepped foot into a gym…I didn’t do anything differently other than change my diet.  I think that is pretty impressive!  

Come back later this week for our overall impression and tips.  And if you’re participating we would love to hear your best practices as well!

Whole30 Days 20-26

As we rounded the home stretch to our first Whole30 I made my biggest mistake.  No weekly meal plan.  It resulted in last minute trips to various grocery stores, repeat meals and panicking at the last minute trying to throw something compliant together for a meal.  I learned my lesson!  In order to really follow the Whole30 you have to have a plan in place, it saves so much time, so much money, and really helps mentally prepare yourself for the coming week.

Here are some of our meals:

7.22 Whole30 Breakfast
Breakfast of fried eggs, fresh fruit and a tall glass of water

My newest favorite kitchen gadget is the mandolin I received for my birthday.  It makes perfect french fries, my most favorite food ever!  I could have eaten just a plate of french fries alone for a meal!

Whole30 French Fries
The mandolin makes the perfect french fries, we baked them in the oven to make them Whole30 compliant!
Whole30 French Fries
Potatoes sliced by the mandolin and tossed in light olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, basil, salt, pepper and a little bit of paprika. Baked to perfection in the oven
Whole30 Brunch
We re-fried left over potato medley and topped them with 2 poached eggs and complaint “faux” hollandaise sauce. A side of compliant bacon made the perfect Brunch.
Whole30 DInner
Turkey burgers topped with pineapple, mango salsa, avocado oil chips and broccoli
Whole30 Breakfast
Smoked Salmon was the perfect breakfast addition when I needed a break from eggs. I had this with a side of fresh fruit and was good to go!
Whole30 Dinner
Back to the oven baked French Fries, because they were that good! More broccoli and a perfectly grilled steak.
Whole30 Restaurant Dinner
One of the rare times we’ve braved going to a restaurant…ice burg lettuce, grilled chicken, apples and dried cranberries. Dressing on the side.
Whole30 Dinner zoodles
Back to the zoodles! We have had so so so much zucchini on this diet
Whole30 lunch
Quick stop at Whole Foods, well balanced salad with avocado dressing and a cold pressed grapefruit juice. Perfection.

Stay tuned for our last 4 days, and what our final results end up being!

Welcoming 2016

Happy New Year!  I absolutely love this time of year, for me it has always been about fresh starts and new beginnings.  I don’t usually do “New Years Resolutions” because I generally set myself up for failure.  But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a time to start fresh and a time for thinking ahead to what we can accomplish in the new year.

This year we are looking forward to many things, particularly finding a place to call our “home”.  And we have certainly started off the year full force ahead!  We visited 8 homes today.  Talk about exhausting!  In the meantime we have major budgeting goals and will be starting to put into place the debt snowball method.  We haven’t checked out Dave Ramsey’s book yet, but if you are interested in learning more about the Debt Snowball Method I would recommend checking out his book: The Total Money Makeover.

In addition having relocated Simply Living to this location, and finally purchasing our own domain, is a big New Year step!  Out with the old and in with the new!  I’m excited for the potential that this new location has to offer us and I’m excited that you are all along for the journey!

And now, here is how we ended 2015…

Homemade Donuts!
Homemade Donuts!

That’s right…we made homemade donuts!  It’s been years since we’ve done a NYE party, and tend to prefer staying in and enjoying each other’s company instead.  So this year we decided on games and appetizers, and then to try a new recipe for dessert.  Gotta check off another month, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, check out my Ravioli post where I talk about my birthday wish.

The best part is how easy this recipe was.  You would never be able to tell based on how amazing they tasted.  We only needed to purchase one ingredient, we already had the rest in the kitchen, and it took less than 20 minutes from start to finish.

Ingredients needed:

  • Pillsbury Homestyle Biscuits
  • Melted Butter (about 1 cup)
  • Cinnamon and Sugar mixed together, use judgement, we mixed until light brown.
  • Oil for frying (We used vegetable Oil)

That’s it…told you it was easy!

Step 1:

Cut the donut hole out with a cookie cutter.  We didn’t have a circle, so we used a star, and it was straight up adorable.

Star donut holes, because, why not?!
Star donut holes, because, why not?!

Step 2:

Warm oil in pan on medium high.  Add biscuits and brown on each side.  The middle still seems gooey, but I promise that will make them soft and delightful.

Brown biscuits in warm oil
Brown biscuits in warm oil

Step 3:

Dry and cool fried biscuits on a plate with a paper towel.  We fried 4 at a time, so we cooled 4 while we fried the other 4.

Cool on a plate with a paper towel. This will also absorb excess oil
Cool on a plate with a paper towel. This will also absorb excess oil

Step 4:

Once all biscuits are cooled, dip one side into melted butter.  Drip off excess butter and dip into cinnamon sugar.  Repeat on other side.

Donuts and Donut holes dipped in butter and cinnamon sugar.
Donuts and Donut holes dipped in butter and cinnamon sugar.

Step 5:

Enjoy!  OH wow they were SO good!  So good that I need to emphasize with all caps!  They were unbelievable warm, but were still soft and yummy the next morning.

Homemade Donuts!
Homemade Donuts!

I would absolutely recommend this recipe.  Not only are they delicious, but they are super easy.  They made the perfect dessert with our sparkling apple cider on NYE, but they would also make a wonderful addition to a breakfast or brunch.  No messy recipes, no deep frying, easy peasy and YUM!

What are your plans for the New Year?

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Cannoli Recipe

As we continue to cook our way through my 29th year, we came upon the biggest challenge so far… the homemade Cannoli!  For reference we used this recipe from the Food Network.  We found that some of it worked, and some of it didn’t.  Overall our biggest take away was that the dough and filling made WAY too much for us.  We could definitely have cut it in half and still had more than enough. Take a look below to see our adventure!
 

First we created the dough.  We did need to add more butter and more wine than the recipe called for to make it really form into a ball.

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We then let the dough sit for a while and made the filling.  The recipe does say to let the filling chill for 30 minutes, we found that it really needs to chill for much longer than that or it will be super runny.  Still tasted great, but after sitting all night we found that the next day it was the perfect texture.

We purchased our Cannoli cones at a local high end cooking store.  We didn’t have any luck finding them elsewhere, except for online.  They weren’t cheap, and I can’t guarantee we will be using them very often, but they got the job done!

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After rolling out the dough, with lots of flour since it was sticky,  we cut the circles.  We found a piece of tupperware that was just about the right size and improvised since we didn’t have a pastry cutter.  Worked out perfectly!

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Next we wrapped the circular dough around a cannoli cone.  We pressed the edges to seal, if it started to separate we just dabbed a little water on the edges before sealing.

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Once the cones were wrapped we fried in melted shortening.  They browed and puffed up quickly, and we just rotated with a pair of tongs.

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After frying we put on paper towels to absorb the extra grease.  We left the cones in while they cooled to keep their shape. The slipped right out nice and easily within a few minutes.

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And for the final step we filled with our filling.  As you can see it was pretty runny, it was delicious.  But if we had waited a few hours the filling texture would have been firmer.

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All things considered, this recipe was great!  It made a really tasty dessert.  It did involve purchasing the cannoli cones, and we had to improvise a little when the dough didn’t stick, and since we didn’t have a way to judge the temperature of the shortening before frying.  But those were easy fixes.  Over the next few days we ate the filling like a dip using graham crackers to scoop it up.  It was amazing!
So far this has been the most challenging recipe we have tried, but it was definitely worth the effort.

Ravioli Pasta from Scratch

This year was my 29th birthday, rather than gifts I asked my husband for two things.  1 – to train for a half marathon with me, and 2 – for us to cook a new recipe together once a month.  The half marathon training ended pretty quickly when I couldn’t recover from pretty terrible shin splits.  We managed to complete a 5K, and continue to motivate each other at the gym, but I don’t think I will be doing any long distance running any time soon.

With request 2 are currently a month behind, but have been having fun with our recipe a month.  Cooking something new and out of our comfort zone has been great, and spending the meaningful time together has been even better.  I love gifts that are experiences rather than materialistic “stuff”.

This month we decided to make ravioli from start to finish.  I referenced recipes from Taste of Home and The Food Network (Tyler Florence).  We didn’t follow either recipe exactly, but for the most part came up with an easy dough recipe.  For the filling we more or less winged it, it was a little bit on the salty side, but that’s my preference!  Below I outlined our process in photos!

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We started by creating the dough in the stand mixer.  Very easy ingredients, flour, salt,  eggs and a little olive oil.  This step can absolutely be done without the use of an electric mixer, but we chose the easy route.
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Next, we kneaded the dough on a  well floured board for 10 minutes or so, until all of the ingredients are incorporated well.
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We formed the dough into a ball, brushed with Olive Oil and wrapped in plastic wrap.  We left this out on the counter at room temperature for about a half hour.  My research informed me that this step is to allow the gluten to relax
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Here is our pasta dough “relaxing”
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Fortunately my mom has a great pasta machine, so we were able to roll the dough out easily, without a pasta machine I’m sure you can roll with a rolling pin, but it most certainly would take longer.  This was a team effort, we cut the dough into 1/4, kept the dough we weren’t using covered, floured the remainder and rolled through the machine.  We started at the highest setting and kept rolling until it was about 1/8″ thick.
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Here is what our pasta dough looked like all rolled out.  We made sure to keep it on a well floured surface so that nothing would stick.
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We created our filling with a combination of ricotta, mozzarella, egg and spices.  Lots of garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and basil.  On half the dough we put dollops of filling about and inch apart.  We then folded over the other half, and pressed out as many air bubbles as we could.
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After pressing down on the dough we cut out each square, and again tried to seal them shut by pushing out the air pockets.
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We then used a fork around the edges to seal the raviolis
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We placed them on a baking sheet that was dusted with corn meal, so that they could dry out a bit as we rolled out the rest.

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Once they were all made we placed our raviolis into a pot of boiling water.  We placed a few at a time so that they wouldn’t crowd the pot and get stuck together.  Once they float to the top they are finished, although I felt like ours floated to the top pretty quickly!
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We drained the water, and they were ready to go!
This definitely was not a fast process, it took a lot of time and patience, but it definitely paid off!  They came out delicious and we were really proud of ourselves for being able to make pasta from scratch, start to finish!
We are still thinking about what other recipes we can try and complete this year.  Do you have any specialties?