It’s Whole 30 Time!

I’ve been eating Paleo(ish) for a little over a year now. It started when Peanut was about 3 months old. I was having some strange skin issues which seemed to be related to what I was eating. Every evening after dinner, I would experience itching all over my scalp, and sometimes my neck and face as well. I tried tracking what I ate to figure out what was causing it, but there didn’t seem to be one specific culprit. I had also just been diagnosed with rosacea, which had surfaced about 4 months into my pregnancy. Although I had hoped it would improve after Peanut was born and my hormones calmed down, it continued to worsen. I started following a Primal template in an attempt to stop the madness.

Well, flash forward a year and the food intolerances are gone! Almost as soon as I gave up gluten (which I did a week before I started eating full-blown Paleo), the reactions went from nightly to weekly. I still had reactions every now and then for the next couple of months, but they completely stopped after that. Yay!

There were other benefits as well. Even though I was pretty sleep-deprived for those first few months, my energy was pretty steady throughout the day. I was less likely to overeat the way I did when my diet was full of processed foods. As a result, I lost the ‘baby weight’ without making a huge effort or embarking on a time-consuming fitness routine.

But sadly, going Primal is not a panacea. My rosacea has actually gotten worse instead of better. And the overeating has snuck back in, too. Partly because I’ve gotten much better at making some pretty yummy Paleo ‘treats’, and partly because, well, life really sucks sometimes and I am definitely an emotional eater.

I’ve been planning on doing some sort of ‘reset’ for a while now, but due to my tendency to procrastinate, it keeps getting put off. But the time has come. No more procrastinating, no more excuses. My first Whole 30 begins tomorrow! And to really add to the excitement, my longtime Paleo-skeptic husband is joining me! Hopefully, this won’t be like the time he found out I was pregnant and vowed to give up alcohol with me for 9 months only to cave about 4 days later. (Sorry, hubby, you are the best, most supportive partner ever and I love you very, very much.:)

A friendly reminder for the fridge door :)
A friendly reminder for the fridge door 🙂

I’ve got a fridge full of delicious Whole 30-compliant meals, and I’m ready for a fresh start. My biggest challenge is going to be battling my sugar demon. I absolutely love having something sweet with my afternoon coffee. At some point in my life, this afternoon delight went from special treat to everyday necessity. Amidst the craziness when Peanut was small, this afternoon treat got phased out, but lately, it’s been back with a vengeance. Sure, instead of a huge sticky bun it may be coconut macaroons, but sugar is sugar. Even though those macaroons are sweetened with Paleo-appropriate maple syrup instead of those sweet white crystals (you know which ones I mean), my body still responds with a massive sugar crash come 4 o’clock. The reason I decided on the Whole 30 instead of some of the other ‘Paleo challenges’ out there is because of the strict prohibition of treats. I need to go cold-turkey, and I need to do it for at least 30 days. I need to throw these ingrained bad habits out the window. And I definitely need to stop having coffee in the afternoon (for so many reasons)….Wish me luck!


Root Vegetable Hash

For as long as I can remember, I have associated the first meal of the day with lovely, bready, and let’s face it, sugary foods. Cinnamon rolls. French toast. Even cereal–the ‘healthy’ option–full of sugar and low on nutrition. Since I’ve embarked on a real food/Paleo lifestyle, my morning go-to has been a banana pancake. Not so much a pancake really as a mash of banana, eggs and shredded coconut cooked in butter. Don’t get me wrong, it is super delicious, but I’m starting to feel like it has become a bit of a crutch. Instead of really shifting my mindset around having ‘sweets’ for breakfast, I’ve managed to find an acceptable Paleo substitute. Which is fine….except for me, it leaves the door open for the inevitable creeping in of other treats into my daily routine. Somehow, the occasional topping of my pancake with maple syrup turns into a much more frequent habit. That injection of sugar in the morning fuels my sweets/coffee association and reminds me of how much I’d like to have a pastry/cookie/delicious treat with my afternoon brew. And so it goes…all of this sugar, even from natural sources like maple syrup, honey or even fruit, leaves me feeling moodier and lower energy than I would like.

So, in an attempt to begin to change these associations, I’ve been looking to replace my old standby. And I’ve stumbled upon the wonderful, the incredible, the tuber-tastic–root vegetable. Now, you probably already know about the deliciousness that results from oven-roasting a sweet potato or a few sliced carrots. But, have you ever thought about grating one of those veggies into a big pile of goodness and then cooking it up in some butter/lard/other delicious fat?  I highly recommend it! The combination of the healthy carbs from the root vegetables, the generous dollop (or three) of cooking fat. and the protein-rich eggs will leave you satiated and nourish your body in a way that a bowl of Cheerios just doesn’t. Here’s a quick nutrient breakdown of both:

2 cups of Cheerios with 1 cup skim milk 1 serving of root veg hash topped with 3 eggs
Calories 300 472
Fat 4g 36.5
Carbohydrates 52g 19.2
Sugar 16g 6.9
Dietary Fiber 6g 4.8
Protein 16g 18.1
Vitamin A 15% 183%
Vitamin C 10% 25%
Calcium 25% 11.3%
Iron 45% 16.6%

Now, at first glance, you may not be blown away by this, especially if you’re a chronic calorie-counter as we’ve all been trained to be. But factor in the obligatory glass of orange juice (112 calories and 21(!) grams of sugar) that accompanies the cereal and you’re approaching the same number of calories in the hash. However, because your intake of fat and protein remain quite low, the meal is not going to feel nearly as satiating as the veggie hash. For the same reason, your blood sugar is going to take a dive in the next few hours, and it will be much more tempting to reach for that sugary cinnamon roll, donut, or danish.

Most importantly, the cereal is just not nourishing your body in the same way that the fresh vegetables, eggs and good fats are. The cereal has been highly processed and the grains have lost what vitamins and minerals they had in that process. As a result, the cereal has been enriched with most of the vitamins and minerals listed above. It doesn’t seem to me that these vitamins and minerals are likely to be as bio-available as the ones packaged naturally in the fresh veggies and eggs. But I can’t point you to any research supporting that, because, well, I don’t have time. Peanut just woke up from her nap and I have some important business to attend to. Here I come, Spot the Dog…

lovely multi-colored carrots and parsnips
lovely multi-colored carrots and parsnips




Makes 2-3 servings (for us, this fed 2 hungry adults and one toddler who loves her breakfast!)


1 small or medium sweet potato, grated

3-4 carrots, grated

3 parsnips, grated

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. freshly grated black pepper

3-4 tbsp. ghee or lard (from grass-fed or pastured sources)


Heat 3 tbsp. cooking fat on a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add grated root veggies, salt and pepper. Cook on a medium heat for 12-15 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Once veggies are tender, remove from pan. Top with fried eggs (and if you really want to get fancy, add some bacon).

Paleo Pancakes with Blueberry-Maple Topping

These pancakes have been one of my go-to breakfasts for myself and my toddler since she was about 7 months old. Not only are they delicious, but they’re packed with healthy fats and protein to keep you satiated until lunchtime, along with fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2.

About once a week, I splurge and top my pancakes with this blueberry-maple topping. It tastes divine and helps me keep my sugar intake down by using just one tablespoon of maple syrup instead of the five I would normally drown my pancakes in!

Ok, so they're not the most photographic pancakes, but they taste delicious!
Ok, so they’re not the most photographic pancakes, but they taste delicious!

Makes 1 serving



  • 3 pastured egg yolks
  • 1 banana (fair-trade, if possible)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter


Put the banana in a bowl and mash thoroughly with a fork. Beat in the 3 eggs. Add shredded coconut and cinnamon and mix with the fork. This will make a slightly lumpy batter. If you prefer a smoother batter, blend all pancake ingredients in a food processor. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a pan (I love this one) over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted, scoop pancake batter onto pan (1/4 cup for each pancake works well). Cook pancakes for 4 about minutes on each side (NOTE: Timing and heat may need to be adjusted for your particular pan and stovetop.)

Blueberry-maple topping


  •  3/4 cup of organic blueberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter (optional)


Combine blueberries and maple syrup in a pot over medium heat. Cook for 8 minutes, mashing blueberries every couple of minutes with a wooden spoon. About half of the blueberries should be cooked/smashed into liquid and half should be intact. If a buttery topping is desired, add 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter to your topping and turn the heat down to low for 2-3 minutes until butter is melted. Pour topping onto pancakes and enjoy!

Making Space: Part 1

For the past several weeks, we have been focused on identifying the excess stuff in our house and getting rid of it. Yes, it’s been a regular party around here! We’ve gone through every room and asked ourselves the following questions:

1) Do we use this on a regular basis? (We defined this in different ways depending on the type of item—for kitchen utensils, at least once a week; for cosmetics, I looked at whether I’d used it within the last month) . If not, it goes. Lots of old electronic chargers and cables, a sugar dish, and several very cute dresses that no longer fit my lifestyle (sad face) had to go. We did, however, give ourselves some breathing room. There were a few items that we use on a semi-regular basis and couldn’t agree on–my husband tends to be a ‘keeper’ and I definitely am not. We decided to pack these things away in the basement where they will live for 3 months. After that time, we’ll get rid of anything we haven’t needed badly enough to dig out.

A note on sentimental keepsakes: Obviously, most of these don’t fit the criteria here. No, we don’t use our daughter’s tiny hospital wristband on a regular basis (or at all anymore–thankfully), but we just can’t bring ourselves to throw it away. On the other hand, the entire box of goofy bar coasters and matchboxes that my husband and I collected on our travels have a certain nostalgic charm but probably don’t warrant the space they’re taking up in our small apartment. Our solution? We have a designated ‘memory box’-a small plastic box that we keep under the bed for sentimental objects and cards that we can’t bear to part with. For everything else, we use a tip from the author of Zero Waste Home. We take a photo of the object, and then get rid of it. This strategy has helped us to let go of many a trinket that we would previously have allowed to clutter our space for years!

Farewell, my lovelies...
Farewell, my lovelies…

2) Is this a duplicate? If yes, choose one and chuck the rest! I think this has made the biggest difference in our bathroom where we had inexplicably ended up with 5 different tweezers and 3 pairs of nail clippers, yet could never find any of them when we needed them. Now we have one high-quality pair of each tool and know exactly where they live. We also applied this to toiletries like body wash and sunscreen. For whatever reason, my husband and I have always had “his and hers” versions of these types of things, and since we’d added baby-specific products to the mix, things were really getting out of hand. It seems to me that our collection of ‘family-member specific’ products are just another way of accumulating stuff in a mindless way. It’s so automatic to think that you need something just because everyone has one. We’re still working on reevaluating what our true needs are, but we have decided on a few products that work for the whole family: liquid castille soap (in place of shower gel, hand soap…and toothpaste!), jojoba oil (in place of makeup remover and facial lotion), and coconut oil in place of just about everything else (deep hair conditioner, body lotion, mouthwash, diaper rash cream for the babe).

The bathroom crew
The bathroom crew

3) Does it contain any harmful ingredients? I recommend The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website or app for cosmetics. You just enter the name of the product into the search engine and it gives you a hazard score based on recent research of the ingredients. The EWG also has some great consumer guides on sunscreen, cleaning products and food. I got rid of anything that didn’t get a green light.

There are several more questions we could add–this checklist looks different for everyone. And as our family and lifestyle evolve, our criteria will inevitably shift.  These are the ones that we started with. Now…what to do with all of the things we have decided to get rid of?

Cooking Through A CSA Box

So, we finally bit the bullet and got a share in a CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture)–something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time! The basic idea behind a CSA is that members pay for their share up front in order to give the farmer a little seed (and tool and equipment) money. Then when the time comes, members receive an assortment of veggies (and sometimes fruits, eggs, etc.) once a week. They usually run through the summer and early fall. We missed out on the summer shares but decided to go for a late fall share with First Root Farm. I love the principles behind CSA’s–supporting your local small farmer, eating more locally and seasonally, but we were a bit concerned that we would end up with a refrigerator drawer full of celeriac and kohlrabi that we didn’t quite know what to do with. But, so far, so good. We’ve received a nice mix of some of the more obscure fall veggies (daikon, anyone?) and the old standards like sweet potato and even popcorn! Here’s how Week 2 with our CSA looked:

Thursday: Peanut and I walked to the pickup location, which is the front yard of a house about a mile from ours. There is no one there to hand out the shares, but everything was clearly marked and they produce a weekly ‘zine that lists the veg that members receive, as well as recipe ideas for some of the more ‘challenging’ offerings. We got:

One week's worth of veggies from our First Root Farm Late Fall Share!

hakurei turnips

a leek

4 sweet potatoes

mustard greens

purple kale!

a rutabaga

a bulb of garlic


(the chilies are leftover from last week:)

Friday: I overbought at the farmers’ market on Wednesday, so I used up the last of that veg today.

Saturday:  I had gotten Paleo By Season out from the library, so we decided to adapt the Romaine, Radish and Roasted Beet Salad recipe. We subbed our mustard greens for the romaine and used leftover roasted beets and chili from the previous week’s CSA bounty. We topped it all off with two poached eggs each. It was my first time attempting to poach eggs, but they came out pretty well, thanks to Chef Pete’s guidance!

Modified Romaine, Radish and Roasted Beet Salad from Paleo by Season

Sunday: I snipped the turnip greens off of the hakurei’s and sautéed them in lard (which makes everything taste amazing!). Peanut and I ate them with leftover beef and butternut squash stew for lunch.

For dinner, we used the kale and leek in a quiche recipe from Meaningful Eats.

Leek and Purple Kale Quiche adapted from Meaningful Eats
Leek and Purple Kale Quiche adapted from Meaningful Eats

Monday: Added some of the leftover kale to my morning bone broth.

Roasted up the sweet potatoes for lunch for Peanut and me.

For dinner, we used the garlic in a Beef Rogan Josh from Madhur Jaffrey (the goddess of Indian cuisine!! See very old-school video here) and the turnips in her Turnips with Cilantro and Mint recipe. It. was. incredible. I’m obsessed with curries right now.

Chicken bone broth with purple kale

Tuesday:  Momma took the night off and we ate leftovers from Monday night 🙂

Wednesday: Used up the last of the kale in my morning chicken broth soup.

And the last vegetable standing is…the rutabaga. Didn’t really know what to do with it, so I decided to substitute it for some of the potatoes (used for the topping) in the Shepherd’s Pie recipe from Ancestral Table. The recipe as a whole was delicious–the perfect comfort food for a cold fall evening–but the rutabaga didn’t mash in with the potatoes as smoothly as I’d hoped. If I sub rutabaga in for potatoes again, I’ll try lengthening the cooking time to get them to the desired softness.

Shepherd's Pie from Ancestral Table
Shepherd’s Pie from Ancestral Table

Conclusion: The CSA is proving to be really fun so far! It’s helped add more variety into our diet and gotten me out of a food rut. It’s forced me to try new recipes and adapt some old standards in ways I never would have thought to on my own. More importantly, this experience is making me more aware of what food is in season locally and has helped me to feel more connected to what I am eating and feeding my family (which for reasons I can’t fully articulate right now has become really important to me recently). I will admit that cooking this week has been a bit more time-intensive than usual, but I think that a lot of that has to do with trying several new recipes. I’d like to think that, similar to many of the other changes I’m trying to make, as new habits replace old ones it will get increasingly easier. Or maybe not! But for now, it’s working for me.

Check out for more info about joining a CSA.

My name is Jess. And I’m addicted to stuff.

I hate moving. And yet, over the last ten years, I’ve moved at least 12 times. From Alabama to South Korea to Poland to Kyrgyzstan to Edinburgh to…well, you get the idea. The problem is that although I despise the day of schlepping of boxes from one location to another, I secretly love the thrill of starting over. In fact, you might say that in my twenties I was addicted to the rush of throwing my possessions into a suitcase (or three) and jumping on a plane to begin a new life. Every time I left a place, I abandoned the ‘me’ that had lived there, along with her loneliness and some, shall we say, questionable decisions. (Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Along the way, I made some wonderful friends, earned my Master’s degree and met my now-husband. Not the mention the oh-so-delicious Korean food…and Polish food…and Scottish food. I freakin’ love food.)

You’d think that years of this nomadic lifestyle would have made me a ruthless minimalist who could carry everything I needed in a tiny, uber-stylish backpack. I’ve always wanted to be that person. You know, the one who travels Europe with two pieces of clothing, no bra, and somehow manages to look fabulous. But I am so not that person. Every time that I have moved over the last decade, I have ended up sifting through various pieces of furniture, clothing, and the inevitable pile of odds and ends that go straight into the trash can. I move to the next place swearing that I’ll never thoughtlessly accumulate that much ‘stuff’ again, but as soon as I walk through the door of my new apartment, I’ve already started making a mental list of IKEA furniture that I cannot do without. It’s a vicious cycle and one that, for many years, I didn’t give a second thought to: buy—consume—discard…and more often than not…replace. Years of living in Europe and East Asia taught me to be content with living in slightly smaller spaces than I had growing up in the American suburbs, but somehow my appetite for ‘stuff’ never adjusted accordingly.

Now that I am a bit older, slightly more settled, and a mom, that way of life is not working for me anymore. Setting aside the environmental consequences of all of this consumption, it’s just plain stressing me out these days. I’m sick of fighting with that big pile of miscellaneous papers in the office/dining room every night! How is it still there? And why does it seem to be growing and mutating like the pizza the Ninja Turtles put in the microwave in that one episode?

Reading Zero Waste Home, a book I’m kind of obsessed with at the moment, has really got me reevaluating my habits as a consumer and wanting to make some radical changes. Bea Johnson, the author, has adopted a lifestyle which combines the principles of minimalism and sustainability in a very stylish way (she’s French, of course—see aforementioned European traveler). She has managed to whittle the amount of waste that her household produces down to one quart of trash per year. Yes, you read that right—per year! Check out her blog here.

I’m starting out with slightly more modest goals:

1) To assess how much of what we already have is stuff that actually need and get rid of the excess.

2) To greatly reduce the amount of waste that my household produces by replacing disposables with reusables and starting to compost.

3) To become a more mindful consumer.

Yes, this is going to be a very long process, but I’m hoping that blogging about it will help me keep up the momentum!

That Sweet, Sweet Cold Brew

photo (66)As the weather cools off here in New England, I’m still hanging on to the cold brew that’s gotten me through a long, hectic summer. Things I love about cold brew:

1) Using this technique to brew coffee (and tea, for that matter) takes away that bitter aftertaste, my least favorite part of coffee-drinking. Cold brew is deliciously smooth.

2) It really goes without saying (but I”m gonna say it anyway) that on a sweltering summer day, nobody wants a steaming mug of tea or coffee…right?

3) Most important to me, now that I have an eight-month-old who is an enthusiastic and not particularly patient lover-of-breakfast…Cold brew is so easy in the mornings. I can have coffee in the time it takes me to grab a glass, unscrew a mason jar lid and pour the brew into said glass. No grinding, no waiting. Just an instant cuppa happiness!

So that you can share in the joy, here’s the recipe:

COLD BREW TEAphoto (71)

You’ll need:

a 2-quart mason jar with lid

8 organic tea bags (or 2 tbsp. loose tea)

filtered water

photo (72)


1) Put the tea bags in the mason jar and top up to the 4 cup mark with filtered water.

2) Place lid on jar and refrigerate for 12-20 hours (depending on how strong you like your tea).

3) Take out your tea bags (they can go into the compost!) and fill your jar to the top.

4) You’re done! The tea will keep in the fridge for 5-7 days…but mine doesn’t usually last that long!


You’ll need: photo (87)

a 2-quart mason jar with lid

1 cup of organic, fair-trade* coffee beans

filtered water

cold brew filter (I use a Coffee Sock)

*Check out what one of my fave farmers/food bloggers has to say about why it is important to buy fair-trade coffee here.

photo (82)Instructions:

1) Grind your beans.

2) Place beans in cold brew filter and secure (so they don’t escape!).

3) Put the filter into your mason jar and top up to the 4 cup mark (or enough to cover the coffee completely).

4) Lid your jar and let brew in the fridge for 12-16 hours.

5) Let your grounds drain into the mason jar, then remove filter and grounds from the jar.

6) Top up the jar to the 8 cup mark with filtered water. Done! Lasts for up to two weeks in the fridge.

Lazy, End-of-Summer Tomato Sauce

I’ve been craving simplicity in my life recently–streamlined routines, a curated ‘capsule wardrobe’, and recipes that require minimal ingredients. While the former two are definitely still a work in progress, I’ve been better lately about ditching complicated dishes in favor of recipes that combine a few fresh, seasonal ingredients. So imagine my glee when Peanut and I arrived at the farmers’ market yesterday and Farmer Al’s tomatoes had just been marked down to $1/lb. Yippee! Unfortunately, Peanut was in the Ergo, so I wasn’t able to take a case home (there’s always next week, though:). But I grabbed all I could carry and I set off home to pick the last of my basil for a fairly simple, lazy tomato sauce. When I get the case o’ tomatoes next week, I’ll multiply the amounts by five and make enough to freeze for the next few months.


The key to this sauce is to use the freshest ingredients that you can find–preferably local, organic tomatoes and basil. Of course, it would be wonderful if we could all grow our own, but many of us just don’t have the time, space or inclination. So…to the farmers’ market! At the end of the summer, you can often get pretty great deals on boxes or cases of tomatoes, particularly towards closing time.



4 lbs. roma or field tomatoes (heirloom are great, too, but require a longer cooking time because of higher water content)
4 cloves of garlic
1 generous handful of fresh picked basil
2 bay leaves
1 onion
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
A pat of butter

Prep it

Roughly chop your tomatoes and onions.
Finely chop garlic.
Chop basil leaves roughly (I put them in a mug and use kitchen scissors for this).

Cook it

Throw the butter in your pot on a medium-low heat. Add onions and cook for about 8 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Give it a stir every couple of minutes so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves. Cover your pan and bring to a gentle boil. Turn heat back down to a medium-low heat and let simmer uncovered for 40-55 minutes (I like to let mine go for 55 minutes for a rich, thick sauce.) Every now and then, smash the tomato bits with the back of your spoon and give the sauce a stir. About 5 minutes before the end of cooking, add the chopped basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

photo (58)

Enjoy it!

-Add ground meat or bacon and eat over spaghetti squash (my fave!)
-Add canned tuna, capers, black olives, and a chili pepper and eat over zucchini ‘noodles’
-Use as a pizza sauce (I like the Primitive Homemaker’s plantain-based pizza crust).
-Make this yummy Pizza Pie recipe

Freeze it

Leave the sauce in the fridge overnight before freezing so that the flavors have a chance to get to know each other a bit better. The sauce should last for a couple of months in the freezer in a sealed container.