Blueberry Almond White Chocolate Clusters

I know you're probably wondering why I'm posting this yummy goodness right at the tail end of my Whole 30 journey. I assure you, I have NOT fallen off the wagon! These blueberry-almond white chocolate clusters are going straight to my freezer to enjoy during the upcoming labor day weekend. I told myself I would ease back into sugar after the Whole 30. And by ease, I mean bite size, perfectly portioned, partially whole food goodies like these. It's just a little white chocolate with some almonds and dried blueberries. No harm in my book!

Making these could not be any easier. Simply melt your chocolate, pour into silicone ice cube molds and cover with blueberry almonds and dried blueberries. Now if I can just resist temptation for a few more days!

// Ingredients //

2 (4 oz.) packages of Bakers white chocolate baking squares
1/2 cup Blue Diamond Blueberry Almonds
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1 silicone ice cube traysilicone ice cube tray

// Instructions //

Melt chocolate according to package directions. Pour into trays and tap the tray to allow the melted chocolate to settle. Next sprinkle almonds and blueberries over the top of the chocolate clusters. Freeze until chocolate is set or until ready to serve.

*This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. All opinions are my own. 
** Recipe development, styling and photography by Amy Mikkelsen

Lemon and Thyme Chicken (Whole 30 Approved)

lemon thyme chicken

This recipe was one of my go-to weeknight recipes before Whole 30 and now I love it even more! It has tons of flavor and is so refreshing, particularly in the warmer months.  I've been making this Lemon and Thyme Chicken in bulk on the weekends to eat for lunch during the week. Sometimes I eat it warm with roasted veggies but most of the time I eat it cold over a salad.

I snagged the original recipe from Kelly at Eat Yourself Skinny, which is a lower fat/lower calorie version but I've added some healthy oil to the recipe for two reasons. Number one, Whole 30 requires us to eat healthy fats so that we have enough calories to sustain ourselves (plus, healthy fats ARE good for us) and number two, the marinade later becomes a delicious salad dressing. One quick note on that. The oil in the marinade does solidify a bit in the refrigerator but a few seconds in the microwave will fix it.

I only have one more week left on this Whole 30 journey and I will give you another recap soon. If you missed my earlier posts, Why I chose Whole 30 and The first two weeks on Whole 30, feel free to read those if you're interested.

Lemon and Thyme Chicken

// Ingredients //

3 organic chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Juice from two lemons
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon chopped thyme

// Instructions //

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, combine olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice salt, pepper, garlic and thyme.

2. Place chicken in shallow baking dish. Pour marinade over the chicken breasts and juiced lemons. (You can eat the lemons too! The baking process makes them deliciously sweet.)

3. Bake the chicken for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving. If you're placing it in the refrigerator to eat later, be sure to allow the chicken to cool completely first.

The first two weeks on Whole 30

If you missed my post yesterday on why I chose Whole 30, you may want to read it first. If not, keep reading. It may sound crazy but after only 14 days on Whole 30, I feel like this journey will forever change how I eat and how I think about food. For the sake of documentation and my own memory or lack thereof, I wanted to share a few things about my first two weeks. Perhaps if you are considering the program, you will find this helpful, informative or inspiring.

1. First it's not as difficult as I imagined. I thought it would be the worst month of my life but that is not the case. Unless you live in a hole, I promise you have done harder things in life than the Whole 30. It's just food. Yes we need it, but it's still just food. The Whole 30 simply asks us to eat really wholesome food and there is nothing hard about that. Yes, it takes a little extra time and effort to plan and cook your meals but the results are so worth it.

2. The thing I love most about Whole 30 is the simplicity. It is very black and white. No tracking or weighing food. There are no cheat days or "extra points" or "activity points." At first it felt very restrictive but now I appreciate how cut and dry the program is. It makes grocery shopping super easy too! Grab your produce, your meats, your healthy fats and your La Croix and you're done. Boom.

3. I realized after just two days on Whole 30 that I have been fueling my body all wrong.  I've always had trouble regulating my blood sugar and would try to eat several smaller meals throughout the day or incorporate snacks but I still felt hungry. I have not been hungry once since following Whole 30. It's so awesome to leave the house and not have to grab a handful of "protein" bars in case my blood sugar crashes.

4. I realized a lot of my indulgences are not consumed out of desire but rather habit. For instance, Friday night Mexican and margaritas, ice cream with the kiddos on the weekend or pizza night for the sake of convenience. After Whole 30, I will indulge in these things but it will be done more consciously and it will be enjoyed to the fullest and without guilt. If you're wondering what foods I've craved the most, see above. (Pizza, margaritas, and chocolate ice cream.) All the other "junk" I can most likely live without.

5. I've always been pretty good at reading my nutritional labels but often failed at reading through the ingredients. WOW, there is sugar and soy in everything...along with a bunch of other "ingredients" I cannot pronounce. Going forward I will consciously purchase brands that use more wholesome ingredients, not only for myself but for the entire family. I've already switched things like our spaghetti sauce and our butter.

6. Physically I can tell I've lost weight which is great! I'm noticing other big changes too. My sleep cycle feels completely different. I get naturally sleepy (vs a cocktail induced sleepy) at 10:30pm and wake well rested, except for the nights I'm up with Ben! (He has regressed with his sleep but that's another story.) While I did experience the infamous fatigue and Whole 30 hangover during the first few weeks, it was hard for me to tell whether it was diet induced or due to middle of the night awakenings with Ben.  Either way, each day I'm feeling more energized and stronger both mentally and physically. My nails look amazing so I'm hoping my hair is benefiting too. My night sweats are gone and the swelling in my knees and ankles are gone too. I don't have anymore lightheadedness associated with the highs and lows of blood sugar which is something I've struggled with since I was a teen. Overall feeling a lot more healthy and happy!

*photos by Amy Mikkelsen

Why I chose Whole 30

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I embarked on a Whole 30 journey a few weeks ago, 14 days to be exact. If you aren't familiar with Whole 30, it's an elimination eating progarm (not a diet) where you consume ONLY meat, veggies, fruit, nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, olives, avocado and nut butters. That means for 30 days (or longer if you choose), you consume absolutely no dairy, no legumes, no grains, no sugar (real or artificial) and NO alcohol. After the 30 days, you slowly reintroduce certain foods back into your diet and assess how your body responds to them both mentally and physically. Yes, it is radical and yes it sounds crazy. I know. For a girl that loves her food and cocktails, I never imagined myself doing something so "restrictive." Let me explain.

After Ben was born, I gave myself some time to adjust to life with three kids. I didn't rush myself into dieting or push myself back into the gym. I was no stranger to postpartum weight loss and had lost 25+ pounds after both of my previous pregnancies. I knew how to lose weight and when the time was right, I would march back to Weight Watchers and start counting points and working out again. But this time around, I felt different. There was something more than just losing the baby weight. Ben was four months old and I was still having terrible night sweats, my hair started falling out, my ankle and knee joints were swollen and I was stress eating at every turn. Simply put, I just did not feel healthy. I felt terrible. 

I had heard about Whole 30 before but knew NOTHING about it. I just thought it was some radical "diet" that people did when they were trying to uncover food allergies or help with stomach issues. One  desperate night, I read some reviews on Amazon for "It Starts With Food", a book about discovering the Whole 30. There were so many people raving about how this "diet" changed their life or made them feel so much better. I had no idea if it would help balance my hormones or heal my achy joints or get my sugar cravings under control, but I bought the book anyway and it was delivered via Amazon Prime a few days later. I began reading the book and 10 minutes into it, I knew I had to begin my own journey. On page 24, the Whole 30 "Good Food Standards" states the food we eat should:

1. Promote a healthy psychological response (there's my stress eating!)
2. Promote a healthy hormonal response (check that box too.)
3. Support a healthy gut (sure, why not?)
4. Support immune function and minimize inflammation (heal my achy joints and feel healthy..yes!)

So, here I am 14 days in and you want to know what I think about the Whole 30? I absolutely love it! Already I feel so much healthier and happier AND I'm conditioning my mind and body to eat really good food. Do I miss certain foods or the occassional margarita? Absolutely, and they'll eventually make their way back into my life. But not for these 30 days. These 30 days are about taking care of me and giving my body what it needs to get back on track to feel good. So, there it is. Why I chose Whole 30 in a nutshell. Tomorrow I'll be recapping my first two weeks on Whole 30 and sharing details like what foods I've been eating, why I like the program, what I've been craving, tips/tricks for staying on track and what changes I've seen since begining the program.