Year 2014 in Review: Whole 30 Edition

I only posted for one short stint in 2014, which is abysmal by blogging standards. Granted, those postings were during a particularly influential part of 2014 for me, so at a personal level, they were pretty darn important. In March 2014, I completed my first Whole 30 challenge.

It started in early 2014 when, for reasons I can’t quite recall, I finally decided I would give the gluten-free thing a try to see if it made me feel better (and, I admit, maybe lose some weight, too). Like most projects, I embraced the gluten-free experiment with zeal. I went to Wegman’s and stocked up on all of the ingredients I would need to make gluten-free soft pretzels for a dinner party I was attending that weekend. Armed with ingredients like brown rice flour and xantham gum, I thought I was going to make a big change. Those of you who have done the Whole 30 or have switched to paleo or primal diets probably know the outcome already: these small changes to simply gluten-free made no real difference in my life, other than giving me the pleasure of trying new recipes in the kitchen.

So, February rolled around and Sam and I left our four-month old puppy in the care of two very generous (and immensely patient) friends while we flew off to the Dominican Republic for 8 days to join a few dear friends in a mission to build housing in some of the poorest mountain villages in the Dominican. While on this trip, we met a man (we’ll call him A) who had been following the primal lifestyle for quite some time. Prior to meeting him, I had never heard of eating primal, nor had I heard of the blog Mark’s Daily Apple or his book, The Primal Blueprint. But A’s overall well-being resulting from adhering to a primal lifestyle were proof enough to me that he was doing something right. All week, between house-building tasks, he graciously answered all of my questions about saturated fats, cholesterol, calories, exercise, and why peanuts were not a suggested snack. His biggest advice was to go home, read a few books, and try it for myself. He told me that the proof is in the results you see for yourself.

So, I returned home and started reading books like Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes and It Starts with Food by Melissa & Dallas Hartwig. I was convinced, at least convinced enough to give the Whole 30 a try in March, which I mostly completed. I thought like, most beginners, that after a few weeks of the Whole 30 that I had the lifestyle change down. I had more energy, I had lot several pounds, and I was feeling great. I thought that had learned enough and I could reincorporate a few things now, thereby pursuing the 80/20 healthy eating that is often suggested for paleo/primal folks.

Unfortunately, as far as my health is concerned, the rest of the year was a bit of a wash and I gained 20 pounds (some of it was weight that I had lost earlier in the year, but still). Though I would cook mostly healthy meals, I didn’t make other good choices. I walked less. I accepted that second (or third) glass of wine too often. I ate junk food (including stuff with gluten, which I had sworn off in the beginning of the year) without worrying about it too much. I told myself the same old lies: these things are okay in moderation, a little won’t kill me, what’s the big deal anyway? The rational me knew what the big deal was. These “small” decisions were happening way too often and the cumulative effect was making me more tired, feel weaker, and gain weight.

So, I’m pledging to make 2015 a better year. I’m starting the year with a Whole 30 (today is day 5!) and I hope that sets the tone for a year of better decisions… at least 80% of the time.


Whole 30: Day 4

As you might have noticed, I changed the title to include only Whole 30 and not the Primal Blueprint. This is because I’ve decided to adhere to the rules of the Whole 30 for 30 days. This means no dairy, no “Paleo cheats,” and no red wine (all allowed, to some extent, in the Primal Blueprint).

As you’ll see, I ate some goat cheese yesterday. It was a small amount, about 1 tablespoon. I was at a friend’s house and she served me salad that looked totally safe to eat, until I found some goat cheese under the leaves! I did notice that, though the goat cheese was tasty, the salad was fine without it. She had a variety of other foods at the table, but they were easy to avoid because I had recently had dinner. The evening got more difficult when I stopped by a friend’s birthday party later that evening. There was a fresh batch of homemade magic bars on the table in front of us, and they smelled so good. There were a variety of other snacks and beverages that were also not compliant with the Whole 30. I resisted all of them… even the birthday cake! Phew.

What I ate:

Breakfast: ~7 a.m., one half of an Aidells Apple & Chicken sausage (sliced), chopped green peppers, and onions sauteed with eggs in olive oil, one mug of Irish breakfast tea

Lunch: ~11:45 a.m., half of an avocado, leftover roasted butternut squash topped with the red tomato sauce with ground turkey that I made the day before (list of ingredients, but few measurements, here)

Dinner: leftover curried carrot ginger soup and more avocado, spring mix with balsamic and olive oil dressing and sunflower seeds (and a bit of goat cheese — oops!)

How I felt: Tired throughout the morning. I started to get hungry for lunch about 45 minutes before I ate. Likewise, I started to get hungry for dinner around 4:00 p.m, but waited until closer to 5:00 p.m. I’m not sure if I can trust my body to tell me if it’s truly hungry yet, so I’m really trying to avoid snacking. I ate a lot of avocado yesterday because there was very little fat the other foods that I ate.

How I slept: I slept well. I got to bed late, around 11:30 pm, and slept in until about 7:30 am (which was really 8:30 am thanks to daylight saving time).

Number of cheats: 1 – the goat cheese was a cheat (even though it was accidental).

Bulgur Wheat Pancakes

Bulgur wheat is a cracked, whole wheat grain. It’s high in fiber and low fat. It’s often used in vegetarian and vegan diets since you can make a bulgur whea salad (think couscous or quinoa). I’ve had some bulgur wheat on hand for quite a while, though I was never quite sure how I wanted to use it. Per usual, pancakes were the answer. I was only able to find one recipe for bulgur wheat pancakes, and I will repost it here. I enjoyed these pancakes. They were denser and chewier than my go-to fluffy pancakes, but in a good way. You can easily add fruit or nuts to the recipe. We only added cinnamon and then ate them with homemade maple syrup.



  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 tablespoonbaking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cinnamon, to taste


  1. Bring the water to a boil, stir in the bulgur wheat, remove from heat, and allow to rest for 30 minutes
  2. Combine the dry ingredients
  3. Combine the wet ingredients and the bulgur wheat, then stir in with the dry ingredients until combined
  4. Cook on a griddle over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes per side (these are thick, so they take a little longer than regular pancakes)



Leftovers are for Salad

Yesterday, I looked forward to lunch all morning. I wasn’t hungry all morning, I was just super excited about my salad. The best part about the salad is barely visible in photo – the leftover taco meat from dinner the previous night. My philosophy on salads is that whatever I’ve had for dinner the night before, it will be a perfect addition to a salad the next day. With the exception of soup… soupy salad wouldn’t be so appetizing.


Other ingredients in my super-exciting salad include romaine hearts (of course), red bell pepper, cucumber, grape tomatoes, black olives, and that’s homemade salsa in that little container to the side.

For those of you who don’t know about the salad-in-a-jar method, it has really helped me to keep my vegetable intake up. I pack a salad for lunch almost every day. Now, if only we had a dishwasher so I wouldn’t have to wash all of my lunch dishes by hand.

Balela Salad

A few weeks ago, I sampled balela salad at Trader Joe’s. I really liked it, so I brought some home. As delicious as balela salad is, it’s very simple to make and calls for few ingredients. Sorry, Trader Joe’s, I’ll be making my own balela salad from now on. Thanks for introducing me to it! I found this recipe at, which I adapted and halved (I skipped the jalapeno pepper and didn’t use a blender for the dressing). The simplicity of this recipe is what makes it great. It’s a cold salad, so it’s perfect for potlucks because it doesn’t need to be heated. In fact, I’m making this for a potluck meal that I’m attended next weekend. It’s also vegan, so it is friendly to many diet restrictions.


  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir until well-mixed.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Last week I saw The Milk Carton Kids, The Lumineers, and Old Crow Medicine Show perform at the 9:30 Club. I hadn’t heard of The Milk Carton Kids and was only vaguely familiar with the Lumineers, but I loved both openers a lot.  In addition to playing beautiful music, The Milk Carton Kids were really funny. Check them out, their music is free on their website right now. I really loved The Lumineers. I knew I was going to like them as soon as I saw that there was a woman in the band (the cellist & some vocals). Beyond that, The Lumineers were very upbeat and energetic. Right now they would be known for “Ho Hey,” but I think all of their stuff is great. Of course, Old Crow Medicine Show was great. The best part of my night was singing along with “Wagon Wheel” as loudly as I could.

Enough about the show. The real point of this post is that every time friends and I go to 9:30 Club for a show, we stop at Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street (which I have listed on Lori’s Guide to Food an Drink in DC). This time, I got chili cheese fries.

And Kendall got a chili cheeseburger.

Ben’s Chili Bowl never disappoints. I think that their most popular item is actually the chili half-smoke, which is a hot sausage topped with chili. I can’t eat the chili half-smoke AND chili cheese fries, so I always have to choose (or share). I could have gone ahead and eaten both, but that probably would have been a pretty uncomfortable concert.

In addition to the great food, it’s fun to peruse the photos of all of the famous people who have eaten at Ben’s Chili Bowl. A DC staple since 1958, many famous people have eaten there, including Nat King Cole, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bono, and President Obama.

Stuffed Jalapenos and Stuffed Jalepeno Dip

Yesterday I posted about the basil pesto pasta dish that I made with produce from my in-laws’ garden. Thankfully, there’s still plenty of produce where that came from. Tonight, Sam and I used up the jalapeno peppers from his parents’ garden by making stuffed jalapenos and a stuffed jalapeno dip. Unfortunately, we didn’t measure for either recipe, mostly because I’m not a fan of jalapeno peppers. If you make these, you’ll have to do everything to taste (like we did). We had 4 jalapeno peppers on hand, so both recipes were small-scale.

Stuffed Jalapenos

That cheesy stuffed jalapeno at the front of the plate was for me. Sam really wants me to love jalapeno peppers as much as he does, so he made me a less spicy stuffed pepper. I still didn’t like it much.

Stuffed Jalapenos


  • Whole Jalapeno peppers, cut in half (reserve seeds)
  • Cream cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cayenne Pepper


  1. Mix together cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and cayenne pepper (all ingredients to taste).
  2. Spoon mixture into jalapeno pepper halves
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes

Jalapeno Pepper Dip

Jalapeno Pepper Dip


  • Seeds from jalapeno peppers
  • Cream cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cayenne Pepper


  1. Mix all ingredients together (cheeses and cayenne pepper to taste).
  2. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes