For The Love | My Review of Jen Hatmaker’s New Book

For the Love- Social Media-5Last summer I got my hands on an advance copy of Jen Hatmaker’s newest book “For the Love” and let me just say right out of the gate that I LOVED it. I laughed, I cried, I shouted AMEN in hearty agreement. This is a book that women will enjoy most, but I know men have read it and loved it as well.

Do you know Jen Hatmaker? I don’t know her personally, but I did meet her once. In 2007, my church hosted a women’s conference called After Eve and Jen Hatmaker was one of the speakers. She was so candid and funny and relatable. She left me feeling inspired and empowered. In fact, I left that conference and started blogging because of some gentle(ish) admonishment from Jen to stop sitting on my dreams because “we aren’t getting any younger ladies!”

Jen has changed a lot since that conference. So have I. We are all in process and we should be transforming. Its a sign that we are actually living. And in “For the Love” Jen shares her perspectives from a place of wisdom and experience that can only come from years of transformation in the school of living life to the full.

She may have only been in the first few laps of what has grown to be a very public ministry when I was first introduced to her back in 2007, but even then she came across as someone whose opinion mattered. Someone who would use her influence to make a difference. She meant what she said and she was going to back it up with action. Now, years later, she takes over a decade of real, life-changing, faith altering experiences and writes a memoir of sorts encouraging us — sometimes pleading with us — to get over ourselves.

Using wit and wisdom as only Jen can, all of the essays in For the Love boil down simply to this: Be kind. Be you. Love Jesus.

For the Love- Social Media-9

If you are in a place where you are tired of the rat race, the battles fought in the courts of public opinion and urgings of the western world to have all the things and be all the things to all the people all of the time; if you are feeling slighted, overlooked, or betrayed by those who are supposed to love you; if you have a sense in your gut that society is focusing on the wrong things but you can’t pinpoint exactly what that means or what it may look like to live counter-culturally; then this book is for you. Also, if you just like sarcasm and funny stuff this book is for you. Or if you like cooking this book is for you (because there are some good recipes in there as well!).

If you are expecting this to be a Bible study type of book — its not. But it will give you a broader look into the global church and invite you to wrestle in uncomfortable tensions that will challenge you spiritually in productive ways. But rest assured, after she delivers a punch to the gut, she quickly follows with a chapter full of Jimmy Fallon style thank you notes that will launch you from ugly cry to side splitting laughter.

Permission to be honest? I was actually a part of Jen’s launch team for this book… that came out in AUGUST. And I am just getting around to writing this post today. I guess its a good thing I was launching a book about grace and forgiveness and unconditional love in a world of impossible standards, huh?

It’s already a New York Times best seller. You can catch several podcasts from Catalyst to Relevant to Happy Hour, and more to hear Jen herself speak about the book. But if you are like me and can’t seem to stay on top of ALL THE THINGS, and you haven’t read For the Love yet, I recommend you take some time to DO IT. Even better, read it with some friends and have a book club. Come around a table with friends or family or neighbors you just met and discuss the chapters. There are even videos you can tap into for book club fodder (find them here.)

And finally, if you want more Hatmaker, consider registering for one of two upcoming events that I strongly endorse. One is the IF:Gathering, a conference for women that happens February 5 – 6, 2016 or the Passion4Moms conference in DC coming up in April 2016. Jen will be speaking at both events and I am sure they will both be life-giving times of unconditional love and laughter. Side note: I will be blogging more about IF:Gathering very soon, if you are local to DC-metro, I am co-hosting an IF:Local for the third year and you’re WELCOME to join me. If you live elsewhere, click here for info on IF:Local gatherings in your area (they are WORLDWIDE!)

About Jen
Jen Hatmaker is a mom to five children, a pastor’s wife, sought-after speaker, best-selling author and star of the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV.  She is best known for her books 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. For more information, visit

Posted in Book Review, Life as I Know It, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment

ALW’s Whole30 Albondigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)


I had never heard of Albondigas until about three weeks ago. We were watching Food Network’s All-Star Academy and one of Bobby’s contestants made Albondigas for the first challenge. I went straight to google to learn more about these Albondigas and was very happy to learn it was meatball soup. The Walters love their meatballs, and Italian Wedding Soup is a staple in our house. We also love Mexican flavors so I was pretty pumped to make these. I also was very intrigued that the meatballs use cooked white rice as a binder rather than breadcrumbs or cheese. I have used coconut flour as a sub for breadcrumbs in my Italian Wedding Soup meatballs so I thought I may try some almond flour in my Albondigas to keep it Whole30.

I did my research and found several really interesting recipes for Albondigas. As I often do, I took the aspects that appealed most to me and combined them into my own little concoction, with Whole30/Paleo compliance as my goal. The result was to.die.for. Seriously. This was surprisingly good. I was a bit nervous about the mint, but it truly does make the dish. One of the recipes I read said “its not Albondigas without mint” and I believe that to be true. This comforting soup has a zesty zing that will make you so happy you have leftovers for next day’s lunch.

This is a shade on the spicy side. You can dial that back by using green bell peppers rather than poblano peppers. You can also reduce the chipotle abodo sauce to 1 tsp, but I really advise not doing that with the abodo sauce until you have tried it as written. I think you will miss some of the zesty zing without it.

Even with the spice, my 22 month old foodie really liked it! I think subbing the green bell for the poblano would be enough to make it entirely kid friendly. But my little foodie enjoyed it as written 🙂

If you make this, let me know what you think or what you would change! I love feedback!

ALW’s Whole30 Albondigas 
A quick note about ingredients: I do not specify organic/grass-fed/local but if I can afford it, I always strive for the best quality ingredients. My local Costco is now selling organic canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce which has been a huge addition to my pantry. I also get excellent quality grass-fed organic meat at my local grocery store for an excellent price. But if you can’t or don’t have access to organic/grass-fed/local ingredients don’t sweat it, these meatballs will still taste amazeballs 😉 )

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
1.2 lb chorizo, removed from casings and crumbled
2 garlic cloves
6-8 fresh mint leaves
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 c almond flour (or 1/3 c cooked white rice if not Whole30)
2 eggs
1 TBS bacon fat for searing

For the soup:
1 TBS Ghee
1/2 poblano, sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large or 2 medium carrots, diced
3 red potatoes, large diced
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 garlic cloves
2 mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can water (use the empty tomato can)
2 tsp chipotle in abodo sauce (just the sauce!)
2 quarts chicken broth (homemade is best, if using store bought check ingredients for Whole30!)
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt & pepper (more to taste)
For serving: sliced avocado, lime juice, feta or cojita cheese

I am a big fan of mise en place so recommend you start by prepping all ingredients. Get your gear in order, slice and dice your veggies, measure your spices, etc.

Make meatballs:
Gear I use: Immersion blender with bowl attachment, small ice cream scoop.

Take the mint leaves, garlic and olive oil and put into the bowl attachment of an immersion blender and chop.


If you don’t have this or similar gear, you can just chop both garlic and mint together add a tiny bit (not 1 tsp) of the olive oil to get it as grainy/pasty consistency as possible.


Add these ingredients to a medium size bowl. along with the meat, eggs and almond flour* and mix well, be careful not to over mix or your meatballs could turn out a bit dense.

(*True Albondigas call for white rice here. Make it Whole30 by subbing with almond flour or coconut flour, if using coconut flour I would do 2 TBS, just enough to help the mixture to bind.)

Once meatball ingredients are well incorporated, use a mini ice cream scoop to form them into shape.


When I make meatballs I typically just make them all at once and transfer one at a time to a paper plate for easy clean up.

Set the raw meatballs aside and start on the soup:
Gear I use: Le Crueset dutch oven, immersion blender with bowl attachment.

Heat oil of choice in dutch oven or large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. (I used 1 TBS Ghee as referenced in the ingredients.) Add carrots, celery and poblano and sauté until soft, approx. 5 minutes.

While veg is sautéing, add canned tomatoes, garlic, mint, parsley and the abode sauce to the bowl attachment of an immersion blender and crush it.


If no immersion blender, use a food processor or blender. Be sure that you only use the sauce, not the peppers or seeds from the chipotles in abodo, or your soup will be extremely spicy. Then add all that goodness into the pot with the veggies.

Give it a good stir, add the potatoes, and let simmer about 3-4 minutes.

Add all the chicken broth and turn the heat up just a bit to bring the soup just barely to boiling.

Add cilantro, oregano, chili powder, salt and pepper and stir, stir, stir!

Now turn your attention back to your meatballs. Heat a cast iron skillet or whichever skillet you use to sear, over medium low heat. Met about a TBS of your choice of fat (I used the bacon fat referenced in the ingredients. When the pan is hot, add the meatballs in batches and brown. Your goal is only to brown the meatballs at this point. They will finish cooking in the soup. My meatballs are usually 75-85% browned around the outside, its good to have some spots not browned as this helps develop more flavors while the meatballs cook in the broth.

As the meatballs are browned, add them directly to your low boiling pot. Add the can of water, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. All ingredients EXCEPT the zucchini should now be in the pot. Add the zucchini in the last 5 minutes of cook time.


Serve with sliced or diced avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime juice (do not skip the lime!!!) If you are not doing strict Whole30/Paleo add some cojita or feta cheese, just a little sprinkle goes a long way!


Click here for more recipes!

Click here to learn why and how I Whole30!

Posted in Cooking, Food, Gluten Free, Paleo, Recipes, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Whole30 Confessions

Today is the halfway point of my second Whole30 and I have a confession to make.

I am not pursuing a perfectly compliant Whole30 this time around.

Now, the hard-core Whole30 veteran in me HATES admitting this. Because I don’t want to cause my brothers and sisters to stumble. And because I know that some of my friends are doing their first Whole30 and I want them to reap all the benefits and all the non-scale victories that come with strict adherence to Whole30 compliance. The truth is that, if this is your first Whole30, and you don’t follow it completely with no cheats, there is a strong chance you will not experience the benefits promised. You may reap some — but not all — of those precious, non-scale victories, and conclude a month of hard work and great sacrifice only to find yourself underwhelmed and disappointed because it seemingly “didn’t work” for you.

The Whole30 creators would say, “if it didn’t work for you then you probably didn’t do it as instructed.” I believe in this hard-core mentality. As a life-long dieter I KNOW about the secret cheats. The “oh, this one little taste wont hurt” or “just this once” or “it was a hard day” or “i deserve this” and with the Whole30, to REALLY get what is promised, you just CANT roll that way. If you are slaying your sugar dragon, if you have pain you are hoping will subside with a change of diet, if you want the glowing skin and better night’s sleep, you really must be 100% compliant in order to experience the results you want. I know this because I was 100% compliant in January, and while I didn’t get to Tiger Blood status until around day 22/23, I GOT THERE and I know it’s because of strict adherence to the rules.

So why not go for 100% compliance for Whole30 #2?

After completing a perfect Whole30 in January, I spent February reintroducing some of the foods I had eliminated to see how I reacted. I did not reintroduce everything, I have not had a coke or cream in my coffee all year, but I did try some grains, some dairy, some gluten and some sweets. Both my husband and I had birthdays in February, plus Valentine’s Day, so I moved through February eating what I would call an 80-20 diet, 80% Whole30/Paleo and 20% not.

What I learned about myself during this time is what led me to my non-perfect second Whole30.

Despite intentional cheats (e.g. donuts on Valentine’s Day) I still lost weight in February with my 80-20 approach. But it wasn’t as much as I lost in January, which is no big surprise. But I have specific weight loss goals and have a lot to lose, so at the end of February I decided to jump back into Whole30 compliance in order to continue down a path to weight loss, and I intend to stay Whole30 compliant until I reach my weight loss goals. Well, 95% Whole30 compliant.

Here is where and why I bend the rules:

In February I began reintroducing dairy. I started with cheese because it’s my favorite food. I had no problem with sheep’s milk or goat’s milk cheese at all. I also did fine with Monterey Jack melted in the form of Queso Fundido (OMG THIS IS SO GOOD). I DID react poorly to pre-packed shredded cheese, which led me to believe that I was really reacting to the processing ingredients. So I just buy blocks of cheese and grate it myself which is much cheaper and promotes eating much smaller portions of cheese. So on this March Whole30 I am allowing myself SOME cheese. I only use Israeli sheep’s milk feta (AMAZING) on salads and Parmigiano Reggiano in soups and once I used it in a spaghetti squash carbonara. I would estimate that 1% of my diet this month has consisted of cheese. So while this is a break in the “rules” it’s not hindering my progress. I can tell I am still losing because my clothes are starting to be too big (HOORAY) and I am also still going strong with the Tiger Blood and other non-scale victories. I took what I learned in February during reintroduction and decided that adding very limited amounts of cheese on occasion would not be a big deal for me. And so far it has not been. But I would NOT have known this if I hadn’t first completed a perfect Whole30 and reintroduced foods intentionally to learn these things about my body.

I also want to point out that dairy is a tricky beast. While I had no problems with good quality cheese, I DID have HUGE problems with yogurt and sour cream. I had such severe reactions to those that I did not even attempt to reintroduce any liquid dairy, hence the no cream in the coffee. In February, I did have ice cream on my birthday and one Chick-fil-a chocolate milkshake, and the reactions were not quite as bad as the yogurt and sour cream but they were still bad. So I am staying away from all dairy except the specified cheeses.

Now lets talk about that sugar dragon. There is so much to say about sugar addiction, I have tons of blog posts in my head that I just need time to write out. But for the sake of the confession I will share my sugar exceptions for my second Whole30.

In February when I reintroduced sugar I had the head rush, my face felt numb, my legs started tingling, and I thought I was high. So maybe white sugar really is a drug! But other than the immediate effects of the sugar spike I didn’t experience any other negative responses, largely because the times I did have white sugar I had a very limited amount and surrounded the sugar indulgence with a boatload of broccoli and spinach, which I really believe helped. The indulgence in refined, white sugar, did not trigger any big cravings in me that I noticed (more on cravings later) but that could also be because I tempered the indulgence with the greens. I mean I literally ate a cup of broccoli before I ate my Valentine’s Day donuts.

So on my current Whole30 I am NOT treating myself with anything like donuts or ice cream. But here is what I AM doing: I am not going out of my way to buy purely sugar-free bacon (GASP). If I could buy (affordable) sugar-free bacon within a 10 mile radius of my house I WOULD DO IT. But I have three babies ages 3 and under, and special trips to Whole Foods for Wellshire Farms are exactly that: SPECIAL TRIPS not something I can do weekly. What I do instead is buy organic, nitrite and nitrate-free bacon with less than 2% of added sugar. These are the packs of bacon that say 0 grams of sugar, but still have the word sugar in the ingredients. For my second Whole30 I AM OK WITH THIS. For your first Whole30 I DO NOT ADVISE THIS. Or if you have a crazy strong reaction to sugar or a vicious sugar dragon do NOT fudge on this. But I learned in February that I would be OK with the bacon that has so little sugar it doesn’t even register as a gram on the nutrition label.

So food wise, the two places I am non-compliant are limited amounts of cheese and bacon that may have a TRACE of sugar. But these are the only areas where I am choosing non-compliance to the Whole30 rules. I am still doing bulletproof coffee, I am still making mayo and ghee, I am still eating eggs and sweet potatoes and spinach ALL THE TIME. And I feel GREAT. I still feel the Tiger Blood.

And about the Tiger Blood, here is something I found very interesting. With my February reintroductions and intentional off-roading, I was curious to see if I would have the same kind of “carb flu” detox I had in January as I began my first Whole30.

Guess what? NO CARB FLU in March!

I think this is because I never totally reverted to bad eating in February. Like I’ve already said, I maintained an 80-20 Whole30 approach to food as I reintroduced things and had my special birthday/holiday treats. So going back on Whole30 just meant tightening up the 20%, therefore NO carb flu which was AWESOME.

Two final cheats to admit and then I’m finished.

One is that I stepped on the scale. The Whole30 folks wish we would all throw away our scales and never weigh again. I am all for this mentality except that I really do have a lot to lose, post-lots-of-babies, and want to achieve some very realistic and attainable goals. Weighing is also a motivator for me to stay the course. And that is the motivation I needed yesterday.


I attended a baby shower for a very dear friend who is expecting her first baby in a few weeks. I knew that there would be a delicious spread of sweets for the taking, and I thought that by weighing myself beforehand, it would be a good reminder to not fall off the wagon. Weighing for this reason did help! I learned that I had already lost more weight, which was awesome, and before I left my dear husband commented that he could really tell I was losing which was even more motivation to stay the course.

The shower was lovely and the food was what you would expect for a mid-afternoon tea… and nothing was Whole30 compliant or modifiable. I knew that it was unlikely there would be something I could eat here and remain compliant so it wasn’t that unexpected. In fact, I somewhat planned to allow myself a treat or two since this wasn’t my first Whole30 rodeo, I already proved to myself I could do it in January, and your dear friend only has her first baby shower once so if I want to eat a chocolate cupcake with her to celebrate, by darn it, I’m gonna do it.

And here is the unexpected benefit of slaying the sugar dragon. When faced with these delectable afternoon delights I genuinely and sincerely felt completely in control of the situation. From the sweet spread I took a white chocolate covered strawberry, a strawberry tart, a ham biscuit, a smoked salmon bite on whole wheat cracker, and a CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE. I sat down with my treats and started at them. The great chess match had begun and I was deciding my first move.

I sat next to a friend who is pregnant who graciously taste-tested the treats to let me know which would be worth the cheats. (That’s a good friend ;)) So I ate the two strawberry treats, the salmon cracker, and the ham off the biscuit (not the biscuit). I drank water and hot tea with no sugar or cream. So far so good, no big head rush or anything and not too much of a cheat (at least they were strawberries under the white chocolate and sugar glaze).

Then it was do or die time with this cupcake. This perfectly beautiful chocolate cupcake. I cut that baby in half and told myself I would eat only the half. I took a bite and it was good. It was totally worth it. And then it hit me. CRAZY SUGAR HIGH. Yall. I felt my face going numb and my legs were tingling and I felt like my cheeks were burning. I am NOT joking. I still dutifully finished my half but DANG I did not want the other half. I had no idea sugar did that to me. I did not buffer my sugar intake that day with some broccoli either. Perhaps if I had downed a few spears before heading to the shower I wouldn’t have reacted so severely. But in any event. now I know that if I am going to eat some decadent refined sugar delicacy I need to make it count!

Finally, a word about cravings. There was one thing that triggered CRAZY cravings in me and this one thing is gluten. Other than some bread with my birthday dinner and the Valentines donuts, the only real gluten heavy meal I had in February was pizza. Brian and I LOVE homemade pizza and used to make it all the time. We are serious about our pizza and rarely buy it out anymore because we believe we have perfected it in our own kitchen. Our pizza is without additives and includes only the freshest, nitrate and nitrite free ingredients.  But that white flour yall. It did me in. The cravings elicited by that one meal lasted for DAYS. This is so sad because we so adore our pizza. Perhaps down the road once I get to a healthy weight and have maintained it, I will experiment with healthier crust options. But for now I know, if I am going to indulge in pizza, expect it to work against me for days.

You see how much you can learn on the Whole30? But again I passionately reiterate that I would NOT have known these things about myself if I had not started with a 100% compliant Whole30 and systematically reintroduced foods to discover these things. Now that I am into my second, mostly compliant Whole30 (98% compliant) I know why I am doing it and know where and how to give myself some freedom to bend the “rules” a bit.

The truth is that I like being the boss of my food. My whole life its been the other way around. Now, armed with my new understanding of how my body responds to food, I can confidently make good choices and not feel deprived, which is the best non-scale victory of all!

To read more about my first Whole30 click here!


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Whole30 Chili Recipe 

So I decided to do another Whole30 in March! I started on March 1 and have  tracked this mostly on Facebook but I decided to post some of my recipes here on my blog to spread the Whole30 recipe love 🙂

Today is a prep-work success story! I made a breakfast casserole this morning and took the opportunity to go on and make dinner: chili and zoodles 🙂 perfect for a snow day. And so very awesome to just relax all day while the goodness simmered away.

Chili Recipe:
1 lb ground beef
1 link chorizo sausage, diced
4 carrots, shredded
1/2 sweet potato, shredded
1 poblano, rough dice
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS chili powder
3 TBS cumin
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp coriander
1 14 oz can Rotel tomatoes
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can San Marzano Tomatoes, blended
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat.
Dice chorizo and add to pan. You could also use raw chorizo just remove from casing and crumble in pan.
Once brown, add ground beef. Give it all a good stir and add salt and pepper. I do roughly a tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Next add 1 TBS chili powder and 1 TBS cumin and stir well.
Once the meat is seasoned and browning, shred sweet potato and carrots and add to the pot.
While that cooks, dice peppers and add to the pot.
Note: if you prefer less spice sub the poblano with a green bell pepper.
Now add the three cloves minced garlic.
Next add the mustard powder, the coriander and 1 TBS each chili powder and cumin.
As my 3 year old says “don’t forget to stir, stir, stir!”
Open the cans of tomatoes and paste and start adding, one at a time, incorporating well before adding the next, add the paste last.
Note: if you want a less spicy chili, omit the Rotel tomatoes and add a 14 oz can diced tomatoes. For the San Marzanos you don’t have to blend them but I prefer to do it that way bc I like the smooth texture.
Now that all ingredients are in the pot add the final TBS of chili powder and cumin and stir, stir, stir! ☺️
If you plan to have it simmer all day, add two cups of water (or broth) as the chili will reduce throughout the day. If you plan to eat within an hour or two just add one cup water. If you like a super thick chili go easy on the water. This is where you really need to adjust to your preference but I say there’s nothing worse than dried out chili!
How long to cook chili is debatable. I think the longer it can simmer, the more flavors will develop. But I’ve thrown together a chili and eaten in within an hour.
We enjoyed our chili with zoodles.
Avocado would be really a nice garnish with this, but we were out.
Also, there are no onions in this bc my dear husband is allergic (really stinks!!) but if you are able to enjoy onions please add them while browning the meat.
This makes enough to easily feed 4 adults, probably could feed 6 adults if served with a side salad or veg. If you’re cooking for 1 or 2, just freeze the leftovers to make life easy later on ☺️
Posted in Cooking, Food, Life as I Know It, Recipes, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whole Scoop on My Whole30 – Part 2

keep-calm-header-360x330I had so many wonderful things to say about my Whole30 that I decided to split the blog post into two parts. Part one was a general Q and A about our experience. This post focuses on the method behind my meal planning madness!

Establishing routines in the kitchen is challenging, but changing established routines is even more challenging. I did not cook at all until I got married but over the last ten years I have learned to cook, embraced cooking and found my own cooking “style.” There are some recipes that I can cook on auto-pilot. If I need to do the week’s grocery run on the fly, I can usually do a basic grocery store sweep without a list because I am steeped in routine. So taking on the Whole30 challenge felt alot like meal planning repentance. I literally had to stop going in one direction, turn around and head 180 degrees in another direction. I realized this when I thought we could jump in the deep end and try doing the Whole30 last November.

Come on Sandy, Don’t Make Me Laugh…

I was in over my head and I knew it. So I spent the end of 2014 researching, gathering, planning and preparing for this truly radical life change.

I got the books: It Starts With Food, Against All Grain, and Meals Made Simple; I started following blogs like,, and and I also reviewed my own “staple” recipes to see if any were Whole30 compliant (I found one) and if any could be modified a bit to be compliant (there were a few).

As I found recipes I liked, I collected them in Evernote. If you do not have Evernote, get it. It’s a very easy way to keep track of recipes but you can use it for all kinds of things. I use it primarily for meal planning. I have a “stack” called Food and within that stack I have several other “notebooks” (e.g. new recipes to try, rotation, menus and lists, party food, etc.) Even before Whole30, I spent time each week intentionally searching for new recipes and saving the ones that are appealing into the corresponding Evernote notebook. Also I get a TON of food blog emails. And follow a TON of food blogs on Facebook. So whenever I see something appealing I quickly paste it to Evernote and its there waiting for me when I go to plan our weekly menus.

The bottom line is: using Evernote and Whole30 approved recipes, I made a plan and then I worked the plan. I pretty much planned all the dinners for the month before we even started. That way I could just choose from a list that I already “vetted” and decided would be a good dinner for us. This made weekly planning super easy. I typically grocery shop weekly on Fridays (my husband’s day off) and then spend the afternoon organizing and prepping for the week. This takes up a good chunk of the day but it makes life so much easier throughout the week.

On a daily basis, I try to do a little bit here and there throughout the day so I am not stuck with one big dinner effort during the “crazy hours” of 4-6 pm. While kids are eating breakfast and lunch, I will chop some veggies or get some chicken marinating or whatever. I do a little bit as I go throughout the day. For Whole30 I stepped it up significantly. Did alot more veggie prep on weekends and tried to make my sauces and ghee once a week when Brian was home to help with the kids. Most of the time, nap-time is food-prep-time. Depending on what’s for dinner and how the kids are doing it doesn’t always work that way. But once the afternoon rush quiets down and I no longer hear the Disney channel on my TV I turn off all the noise and I go to work, enjoying the sounds of only my knife against a cutting board. Cathartic, you see?

Another practical point is that it helps tremendously to have the right kitchen tools and accessories. Tools are fun and make things SO MUCH EASIER. Some kitchen tools I used during my Whole30, if not daily, then weekly include:

Immersion Blender (lovingly referred to as emulsion blender)
Ninja (for blending and processing)
Whisks of many sizes, my favorite is the mini
Meat thermometer
Cast Iron Skillet
Le Creuset 5 qt dutch oven
Good Knives (we use Shun)
Gas Grill
Mason Jars (for ghee, coconut milk, mayo, ranch catsup etc.)

Keep in mind, I did not go out and buy all this for the Whole30, I collected my tools over the last 10 years of cooking. I have written about my love of kitchen tools and gadgets on my blog many times!

Also, on Whole30 you have to be flexible, which sounds funny to write since the rules are so ridged. But here is what I am talking about: flexible on Whole30 means that sometimes you eat dinner for breakfast instead of breakfast for dinner. You may throw that left over taco meat in with some eggs for a quick scramble. Or you throw a bag of frozen broccoli in the microwave for five minutes and have that for your lunch (or breakfast). You learn to love your homemade condiments (that are already prepped and ready for use) and discover that the old lady from the Franks hot sauce commercial was right 😉

I said this on one of my photo posts but I found GREAT freedom within the rules. Once the headaches and sugar cravings subsided it felt good to stay on track and I looked forward to feeling better and better each day. It was fun to learn to make things I had never made before, like mayo and ranch dressing and frittata. It was a pain to find things without the off-limits additives (SUGAR FREE BACON HELLO) but I got good at reading labels and building my own internal database of new (Whole30 approved) go-to foods. I never would’ve thought that I would enjoy things like butter and coconut milk in my coffee or almond butter on apple slices, but I also never would’ve tried those things if not for Whole30. And now I have some new “better for me” food choices at the top of my mind. It no longer requires a lot of extra effort to make healthy choices. It is becoming more natural.

So technically speaking, I survived my first Whole30 by developing a plan, working the plan, prepping during free time and when I had extra hands around to help, and putting my kitchen tools to good use.

I will say that, other than keeping my kids fed, bathed, napped and somewhat educationally stimulated, my life was dominated by Whole30. I don’t think this was a bad thing necessarily. But I did not have time for much else and that was OK with me for a short period of time. And now that I have new routines established and a pantry and fridge with Whole30 Approved staples, it feels much more natural to continue cooking this way. I fact, it was such a big shift in so many different ways that its almost easier to continue on eating clean than “going back” to old ways.

I am 6 days into “life after Whole30” and so far I would say we have maintained a 90% Whole30 compliant diet. We started reintroducing foods, more so to see if there was a reaction rather than to reincorporate those foods on a daily basis. So far we have tried non-gluten grains, KIND bars, and a tiny bit of cheese and so far the only real reactions were to corn tortillas (for me) and the KIND bars (for both of us). I have many more thoughts on reintroducing foods, recipes I love and other Whole30 “hacks” I want to share, so it appears that I have a lot more blogging to do! Thank you for sticking with me!

Exciting update: several friends have encouraged me to start a food blog and I have decided to do just that! It has been a dream of mine for some time to narrow my blogging focus and try to do something more substantial and less self indulgent with my blogging so I am going to attempt this food blogging thing and see where it leads us. Stay tuned for more info on that!

Click here to read part one of this series.

Posted in Cooking, Food, Gluten Free, Paleo, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whole Scoop on my Whole30 – Part 1

My husband and I completed our first Whole30 on January 30 and stuck to it through to the end with no cheats. I documented the experience on Instagram and Facebook by posting a photo and a few reflective observations at the end of each day. I didn’t set out to post these daily photo updates, but as I posted I found great support from my friends on Facebook and the larger Whole30 community on Instagram, so I kept posting and appreciated the accountability of a daily check in with people who cared. I attribute a large part of our success to this online community so thank you all who cheered us on.


Many of my friends had some questions about our Whole30 challenge so to recap the month I decided to write up a two-part Q and A, today’s part 1 will discuss some basics and tomorrow’s part 2 will detail the method to my meal-planning madness! If you have a question that isn’t covered here feel free to ask — we are happy to answer!

Q. Why did you do the Whole30?

A. Initially it was about weight loss. Before I starting having babies I had some weight to lose. But then after I had my babies (3 in 3 years) I had about twice as much weight to lose. Lucky me. I had heard a little about the Whole30 from friends who follow a paleo lifestyle but I didn’t know alot about it until I got the Whole30 book “It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways.”

The book lays it all out: why and how the authors initiated this challenge, the science behind it, the benefits of it (beyond the obvious ones) and more. What really resonated with me was a section of tough love in the book and on the blog. I shared this on my Instagram and Facebook but I will post it again here because it seriously was the foundation and driving force behind my resolve:

It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.

You can read all the though love here. There is more but this is the first point and the one that stuck with me. Probably because I just birthed three babies. And that last pregnancy and delivery was a doozy. I mean it was hard. REALLY HARD. I’m talking the epidural wore off and I felt every last bit of birthing my 8 lb 11 oz bouncing baby boy with pitocin cranked up to maximum strength, hard. I think that pregnancy prepared me for the mental resolve I needed to do this challenge and stick with it to the end. Not to mention, when you are pregnant you give up and/or scale back on lots of things “for a season” because its good for you and your baby. So not only was I fresh off one of the hardest physical experiences of my life, I was also used to the whole giving up foods and drinks for pregnancy purposes. I think this helped me put on my game face with no excuses.

Q. Doesn’t Whole30 focus on organic, grass-fed, locally sourced food? Isn’t that EXPENSIVE???

A. YES. Save up and prepare to pinch your pennies. Stocking your pantry with things you have never heard of (like Coconut Aminos, which, by the way, taste like soy sauce) adds up fast. But you also are NOT buying things you normally would so it does even out a bit. We try to stick to the dirty dozen for organic produce and we have already been eating organic meat, eggs and milk. We are SO BLESSED to live a few miles away from the GREATEST GROCERY STORE IN THE USA — Wegmans. They have the BEST PRICES on organic. They match or beat Costco and Walmart (especially on shelf items). People think its expensive because they get caught up in the prepared foods section — that can add up — but if you shop smart you will get the highest quality for the lowest cost. I really should work for them. I love it there. Its crowded and crazy but its my oasis and the only place I frequent with regularity.

Q. How do you feel?

A. The Whole30 crowd talks lovingly of “tiger blood” basically the euphoric/energetic/powerful/etc feeling that comes with eating healthy. Did I feel tiger blood? I think so, as much as a worn out sleep deprived mom can feel tiger blood. I definitely roared a little more than I should have going through the first two weeks of detox but I don’t think thats what they are referring to with the whole tiger blood thing 🙂 I do notice a difference in my skin and my energy level. I do feel more focus and clarity of mind. In terms of anxiety I have a pretty sound sense of well-being. And despite not getting a full night’s sleep, I do feel more rested with what I am getting than I did before. I did experience my tiger blood a little later than the average person would according to the timeline I started really feeling a difference around day 21.

Q. Did you lose weight????

A. Burying the lead here I know, I know. But YES I did. Whole30 discourages weighing until the end, so I followed their lead and I did not step on a scale one time during the month. Today I weighed and I have lost 9 lbs, 3.5 inches off my waist and 1.5 inches off my hips. This is STRONG motivation for me to keep going. I have a goal to lose 30 pounds by April 30 (my 10 year wedding anniversary) and a longer term goal to lose 20 more lbs by my 20 year High School reunion this fall.

Q. Where did you find your recipes?

A. Many places. The Whole30 blog features recipes, the book has recipes, and I used several recipes from Danielle Walker’s cookbooks Against All Grain and Meals Made Simple. Some of the blogs I frequented include:

Q. Yeah, about those three babies… how did you do this with three babies?

A. It’s true, the Whole30 takes a great deal of planning and alot of extra work. But I knew this going into it. In fact, we attempted to do the Whole30 in November but I hadn’t done the planning and prep work needed so we postponed until I could get my act together. So I spent several weeks reading, gathering recipes, planning and preparing to radically change the way I do everything in relationship to meal planning, cooking and eating. Then I worked the plan. I took time when my husband was home to do prep work and get ahead as much as I could. And he is a great partner in crime (he cleans — EVERYTHING!) So having a partner helped tremendously.

I do have more to share on the how-to behind my Whole30 and my next blog post will detail the method to my meal-planning madness!

Posted in Cooking, Gluten Free, Life as I Know It, Paleo, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

What Should I Write?

November is the 7 year anniversary of my starting this blog. I’ve talked about it on here before, I was at the After Eve Women’s Conference at my church where I heard Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist speak for the first time. The biggest take-away from that experience was this: “If you have a dream, if there is something in your heart you have always wanted to do, DO IT. Stop waiting for it to be the “right time” because it’s never the right time and you are not getting any younger.” Can’t you just hear either of them saying this to a group of young women? LOL

Well my dream is to write. I have had this dream my whole life. I have always needed to write for my previous jobs, so in a sense I did/do write, but I had never really written for me until I started this blog. And I started it because of the exhortation received at After Eve. But for many years as I continued working in a spokesperson role, I never had the full freedom to write FOR ME because what I said would always reflect back on my employer in one way or the other. I am good (IMHO) at speaking on behalf of others, but really have not grown in my ability to write on behalf of me.

I’ve been thinking about this a whole lot lately. I feel like I still have something left in me to achieve from a writing perspective. I just don’t really know what it is. I have asked God a million times and I still am not sure that he has given me a specific direction on what to write.

This compelling urge to write, coupled with an extreme vagueness on what my topic should be, has left me paralyzed. This blog is all over the place and there is no real focus. I’ve given myself permission to just let that be as I try out different topics and styles trying to find one that fits. But I still don’t think I’ve found it.

So today as I pondered these things, I thought I would present the question here and see if those who actually still read the few things I do write had some input on this.

What do you think that I should write?

I am feeling really vulnerable putting this out there like this.  Honestly, this scares the fool out of me. I am afraid of what you will say (or won’t say) and I am afraid of being real about my struggles with this. But the fact is that fears — lots of them — are the reasons why I stay stagnant but the fear of regret is becoming stronger than the fears holding me back. I think I am now at a place where I am ready to face those fears and try to pursue writing beyond the hodgepodge, inconsistent, self-indulgent stuff I’ve been posting here.

I participate in a Bible study at my church called “Chase” by Jennie Allen. We are studying the life of King David in the Old Testament. It is really powerful and each week the questions are very thought-provoking; the kind of questions that really make you think and sometimes make you feel uncomfortable answering truthfully.

Today’s question was: If you were to meet God tomorrow, what would you regret?

At the time, I couldn’t come up with an answer, probably because I was too afraid to face it.  But this afternoon as I found myself with a few quiet moments (nap time, hooray!) I spent time reflecting on this question and here is what I came up with:

Today at Bible study, the question was “if you met God tomorrow what would you regret?” well that’s easy: Writing. I write all the time for my own enjoyment but I do have a dream to do more with my writing, and (gasp) perhaps bring in some added income to our family. I dream that my words would influence others in a positive way, that my words would validate and inspire hope in others. My biggest fear in writing is being “wrong” and being criticized. I do not receive criticism well and I don’t want to cause confusion or be misunderstood. Those are huge obstacles for me. I keep searching all my life for this “thing” that will be “my” thing. My calling. My purpose. If I met God tomorrow I would probably regret that I didn’t take the time to figure that out and actually do something significant with this talent/skill/dream that has always been in my heart. 

And not long after that, I had the idea to write this blog post and ask those of you who read my blog what YOU think about all of this.

I really do want feedback of any and all kinds. If you prefer to email me privately please do at annielauriewalters{at}gmail-dot-com. I am eager to receive your thoughts on this ever-vexing question: What Should I Write??




Posted in Courage, Writing | 5 Comments