Whole 30+5

This past weekend, I have officially completed my 35th lap around the sun! About a month ago, I made the decision to explore Whole30 before my 35th birthday.

At this point Whole30 is not a new subject. There are about a bajillion blogs, articles and opinions covering what I had previously considered to be the “NO this, NO that” program. I’ve done my fair share of eye-rolling when my sister did it last year, when my friends have done it in the past, and I’ve even cheered along, cynically, when said friends bailed half-way through.

I’ve never been one for dieting. One of my life mantras has been “everything in moderation”…especially when it comes to food. Growing up in a culture of body-shaming, fashionable eating disorders and the like, I’ve tried to maintain a healthy mindset when it comes to my body and the food I consume. Food is meant to be life-giving, to provide sustenance and to help maintain our health. My love affair with cooking truly began when I started to really understand food, it’s purpose and how to prepare it. I found SO much joy in cooking, in plating and definitely in eating food when it’s beautiful and delicious. So, when it comes to diets, or anything marketed as the ONLY or the BEST or the ANSWER to all your problems, I quickly run the other way.

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Now, over the past few years, I have read more and more about integrative health, and specifically had my interest piqued by the study of how different foods can effect your body and your health. These studies are individualized and tailored to YOUR body and YOUR health. Long story short, my mom got a somewhat worrisome health report, and her doctor prescribed an elimination diet to isolate and pinpoint the issue. She suggested Whole30. Mom calls me, her resident recipe-finder, and I jumped right in to helping her. I knew the best way for me to help her would be for me to be an accountability partner and do the program alongside her. Sure, I rolled my eyes at first too, but the more I read, the more I understood. My mom needed to do this and I, too, could benefit from this 30-day nutrition reset. The goal being to restore a healthy metabolism, heal the digestive tract and balance the immune system.

Being a (borderline psychotic) planner, I read and researched everything about Whole30 in a matter of days. The resources provided for FREE on the Whole30 website are pretty incredible. There’s no gimmick, there’s no “pay a fee to access the content,” there’s no secret riddle to figuring it all out. They spell it out, clear as day:

For 30 days, eat WHOLE foods. Meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, natural fats, herbs, etc. Do NOT eat/consume dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, alcohol, additives/MSG, etc.

I’ve given up one thing or another for a time (for Lent, etc.), but I’ve never had to give up multiple things at the same time. I knew this would be difficult. Not impossible, but definitely difficult, and mostly annoying.

So I made a plan, searched for ALL. THE. THINGS. Whole30…breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack recipes, and then planned for the month. I cleared out my cabinets of the guilty pleasures such as my midnight cereal, chips & salsa, etc…and had to preload a few Whole30-compliant staples such as avocado oil, avocado mayo, salad dressing, etc. I think all-in-all, I spent around $25 on Whole30-specific items to last me through the month.

I found it to be almost impossible to dine out without being the annoying customer asking too many questions and a laundry list of substitutions, but now that I’m done with it, I can say it was all worth it.

It felt great to recalibrate my body, and now I can slowly start to add things back in and really see how different foods make me feel. In celebration of my completion of Whole30 and my birthday week, my husband and I ate our weight in sushi at Rusan’s lunch buffet. Ha! Probably not the BEST idea food-wise, but DANG was it delicious, I enjoyed every bite and THAT’s what it’s all about.

So I’m technically officially “done” with Whole30, but here are four thoughts and habits that will remain:

  • Little to No Sugar: Kisses, yes, always:) Straight up sugar, no. One of the most eye-opening parts of this process was the realization of how much sugar is in EVERYTHING. It’s crazy. Even things that don’t really need sugar, it’s there. Talk about a hidden epidemic…we are all addicted to sugar and have no idea. So, from here on out, I’m LOOKING for that sneaky sweetness and deciding for myself when and how I will consume it.
  • Little “Fails”, Don’t Bail: Just because I might choose to have a beer here or a cupcake there, does NOT mean I have to bail on my newly discovered food goals. I want to still enjoy everything, in moderation, so that means I don’t have to feel bad over little “fails” (read: too many nachos) because they aren’t really fails. It just means that I can choose to make different food choices afterwards and continue on the journey.
  • Intentionality for All: I’ve decided to be more intentional about the things I consume. This habit of intentionality has been seeping it’s way into various parts of my life and here, now, with food and drinks. I want to avoid mindlessly eating (or drinking) just because…I appreciate and enjoy beautiful things, so why not choose quality over quantity? If I want bread, I’m not going to buy the mass-produced kind…I’m hitting up my neighbor for that incredibly delicious, homemade Verdant Bread loaf and I will feel MUCH better, inside and out, for it.
  • Plans are Worthless, but Planning is Everything (Thanks, Eisenhower): Making plans is all about establishing a goal, which is great! But better than the ability to plan is the ability to adapt and be flexible. Sure, I planned the ENTIRE month of Whole30 with recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But did I stick to that plan 100%? No way. Do I feel bad about it or bail completely when something didn’t go according to my “plan”? Absolutely not. For me now, this is SUPER important. Now that I’ve detoxed and reset my body over the past 30 days, where do I go from here? I make plans, but also know that those plans coupled with my ability to adapt and be flexible are going to be the keys to an actual lifestyle change vs. just a fad.

If you’re looking to do something similar or you’ve contemplated Whole30, feel free to leave a comment or message me. I’d love to help you through your journey. In fact, if you need a little more helping on the planning front, I’m available to come help you meal plan, grocery shop and get started on your journey. Seriously, let me know, I’d LOVE to help, <3


Side Note: Tickets are still available for my next Sobremesa dinner — this will sellout and there are only a few limited seats, so don’t wait to buy yours! Click here for details & tickets.


Now for a recipe! I just have to share one of my favorites from the past 30 days. This Barramundi dish was SO light, SO savory and SO refreshing. Enjoy <3

Whole30 Roasted Barramundi w/Lemon Olive Relish

Adapted from an older Bon Appetit recipe, the quick-picked red onions paired with the savory green olives and acid from the lemons all pairs beautifully with my choice of a sustainable white fish, Barramundi. You might even find yourself licking the plate...I sure did:)
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: barramundi, fish, Whole30
Servings: 4
Author: jess masanotti

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Lemon (or 2 medium)
  • 1 Cup Manzanilla Olives Sliced
  • 1 Shallot Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Tbsp Capers Drained
  • 1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 Barramundi Filets
  • 1 Tsp Tarragon
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  • Quick Pickle Shallots: Add a pinch of salt and the thinly sliced shallot rings to a bowl, massage and let sit for at least 10minutes.
  • Zest lemon. Cut the ends off the lemon and peel the remaining white parts, using a sharp pairing knife. Cut lemon slices (away from the membranes) into nice, clean pith-free supremes. (Keep the lemon skins and pieces to squeeze on the fish before roasting.)
  • Combine shallots, lemon supremes, sliced Manzanilla olives, capers, lemon zest and 3/4 cup of EVOO into the bowl. Cover and chill in refrigerator.
  • Using a paper towel, dry the Barramundi filets. 
    In a shallow glass baking dish, coat the filets with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, add a dash of salt & pepper and tarragon to each side. 
    Squeeze the remaining lemon pieces on the fish and place in the oven to roast for 30 minutes. 
    *Note: At the 20min mark, remove the relish from the refrigerator to bring up to room temp.
  • Once fish is cooked through, remove and add to serving platter and top with the relish. 

Simplify Your Life: Meal Planning

This month, I wrote a blog on Meal Planning for my friends at Simplicity Organizers. They have been the organizing experts in Charlotte for more than 10+ years, and specialize in all things home & office organization. My favorite area of organization includes the kitchen (duh) and meal planning, so I was honored to write a few tips I’ve picked up through the years. 


 

Simplify Your Life: Meal Planning

It all started almost 12 years ago. I was a newlywed and the only thing I knew how to cook was scrambled eggs (and “fancy” ramen, where you add in vegetables to those $0.29 packs of noodles, but I don’t think that really counts). I wanted to learn how to cook, but more importantly, I was also trying to manage our newlywed finances as well, so I wanted to learn how to cook efficiently. Thus began my love affair with meal planning.

Fast forward to the present where I find myself trying to balance work, married life and the manic whims of a precious 3-year-old. Once again, I’m in a place where meal planning is ESSENTIAL for our finances, for our health and also for our sanity.

So, how can we simplify our meals and routines? How can we reclaim peace and joy in cooking?

Do a quick Google search and you will find hundreds of websites giving you “7 Tips” here and “10 Steps” there to simplify your meal planning. Hours and hours go by, hundreds of clicks to and from sites on Pinterest, and you might still end up totally confused and unsure of how to actually get started. I’ve been meal planning now for 12+ years, and I feel like I’ve tried it all. Through it all, I’ve discovered a few successful ways to simplify our lives (& our food budget) by meal planning:

Plan One Week at a Time: Gather your family calendar and decide how many nights you can cook at home vs. take-out/going out to eat. Everyone’s schedules are “so busy” these days, so plan which nights you WILL cook…aiming for at least 3-4 per week.

If you’re really ambitious, try meal-planning for two weeks. Calendars, practices, appointments, etc., are typically set in stone for at least two weeks at a time. I am usually at my MOST efficient financially and with groceries (avoiding food waste) when I plan a couple weeks at a time. Flexibility is key, groceries can carry over, and impromptu nights out don’t matter as much because you can move that night’s meal to the next open night.

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Take Stock: What items do you already have? A huge part of simplifying your meals, is simplifying your ingredient list. Try to cook 5-6 ingredient meals. Use healthy, whole ingredients when possible; simple, unprocessed and whatever produce is on sale that week.

NOTE: Taking stock of your pantry and fridge are a LOT easier to do if they are organized ahead of time. Before you get started with meal planning, take an hour to go through and organize; dispose of expired food and group by “like-items” (cans, grains, breakfast stuff, etc., in the pantry and fruit, veggies, dairy in the refrigerator). Store items in clear bins or baskets for easy visibility.

Click here to read the complete blog over at Simplicity Organizers.


Sobremesa | Summer Dinner Party

Last month I had the honor of hosting the first Sobremesa dinner party in Charlotte. Sobremesa is a global dinner concept created by the lovely minds at Sunday Suppers in New York.

I wanted to start small for my first dinner, just to make sure I was equipped with space, and it turned out to be perfect. The ladies at Sunday Suppers thought of EVERYTHING. They sent a wonderful host guide, complete with recipes, printouts of the menu, beautiful photos of what the food should look like, resources for the obscure ingredients like the squid ink, all the seasonings/spices for the recipes, and a highly enjoyable Spotify playlist for the evening’s festivities.  I felt so supported and so prepared to host, it made it so enjoyable for me.

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Typically at a dinner party, I revert from my extroverted tendencies and end up hiding away in the kitchen — cooking, prepping and avoiding small talk like the introvert I’m not:) There’s something about the kitchen that calls me, and it’s where I feel the MOST comfortable and at ease. The sounds of stress and the hustle of getting the meal together are my love song. Weird, I know.

My favorite part of the hosting kit was the prepping/cooking guide they provided. The attention to detail in laying out when I should start prepping and cooking the different components of the meal was absolutely incredible and so helpful. At no point was I stressed. It was probably the first large meal I’ve made without stressing out one bit, and that made it so much more enjoyable for me…from beginning to end. I could ACTUALLY sit and enjoy the meal myself.

What I loved most about this dinner is that it brought together people from all over. New faces, familiar faces from all walks of life. Dear friends and new friends, we all were lovers of food, conversation and enjoying a meal together, and that’s really what made the evening SO incredible. A communal meal shared over great conversation is what beautiful food was made for!

If you missed this one, no worries, I’m planning to host more of these dinner parties — the next Sobremesa night will be in the Fall, so stay tuned!

As for the menu, here’s what was served:

  • Frutas w/Lime & Sumac
  • Sopa de Lima (my FAV!)
  • Roasted Curried Cauliflower & Pickled Veggies w/Handmade Squid Ink Tortillas
  • Cacao Black Beans w/Queso Fresca
  • Charred Tomatillo & Jalapeno Guacamole
  • Chocolate Avocado Pudding w/Toasted Hazelnuts

Since hosting this first meal, my gears are grinding and I’ve got some great ideas for the next dinner, so stay tuned for more info as we get closer.

<3 Jess

*On another note, I’m grossly behind in posting and I think up next will be my recap of my summer week of freedom. It WAS amazing in so many ways, so I think I’m ready to put it all into words….soon:)