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Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Kale

Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Kale

Holy smokes. This dish is something I had made for a few years- it’s semi-healthy comfort food at its finest. But, I’m not exactly on the gluten or dairy train anymore, so I haven’t touched it for awhile. Yesterday, I decided to give it a whirl with a handful of changes- and man, was it amazing! That is one of the things I’ve learned over the past 8 months or so- with a few changes, I can still make food that I love. Kirk loved it, Sydney tried it and seemed semi-impressed, Reid wouldn’t touch it (he’s 4, so don’t go by his judgment). I love using chickpea pasta for this because aside from bacon, there’s no meat. Chickpeas add so much protein (and fiber!) to make this truly filling. To make this truly dairy-free involves some planning and effort since dairy-free creme fraiche takes some time. It’s not complicated, just takes time in the fridge overnight. BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT. Trust me. I wouldn’t steer you wrong!

Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon and Kale (adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 5 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (small size works best)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 12 ounces short-shaped chickpea or lentil pasta, such as fusilli, farfalle, or ziti
  • 4 cups shopped kale
  • 4 bacon slices (look for nitrate-free)
  • 2 cups vertically-sliced yellow onion
  • 1 t. salt, divided
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (or more if you love it. I won’t judge)
  • 2 cups organic, good quality chicken broth, divided (I apologize for sounding like Ina Garten)
  • 2 T. arrowroot starch
  • 1 cup dairy-free creme fraiche (such as this)
  • 1/3 cup vegan parmesan cheese (such as this), optional


  1. The night before, make the creme fraiche if necessary. If you don’t give AF about dairy, just use regular creme fraiche. That’s cool too.
  2. While you’re at it, chop up the squash and onion the night before too. Trust me, this is a huge time-saver. DO IT.
  3. When you’re ready to make the dish, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Toss squash (that you’ve already chopped up, look at you!) and olive oil together to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes or until squash is tender. Don’t be scared if it gets a little browned. That’s the good stuff.
  5. Cook pasta according to package directions until almost al dente. Throw the kale in for the last 2 minutes or so. Drain the pasta mixture.
  6. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Seriously, get it CRISP. Nobody likes chewy bacon in a casserole- give the people what they want. Remove bacon from pan and let cool on paper towels. Enjoy the bacon-y smell of your kitchen.
  7. Add onion to bacon drippings in pan (oh yeahhh) and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 teaspoon sale and the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Crumble bacon, try not to eat it right now.
  9. Bring 1 3/4 cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine remaining 1/4 cup broth and arrowroot starch in a small bowl, stirring until starch is dissolved. Add starch mixture and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in creme fraiche. Taste it because it’s magical.
  10. Combine squash, pasta mixture, bacon, onion mixture, and amazing sauce in a large bowl and toss gently to coat. Throw it in a 9×13 glass baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes (if using parmesan cheese) or 25 minutes (if not using cheese).
  11. If you are adding cheese, remove dish from oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Then throw it back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  12. Voila! Eat it all. Serve it to friends and impress them. Bring it to your friend that just had a baby and can’t eat dairy because her newborn gets cranky when she does. Just make this thing immediately!

I also think a good variation would be to reduce kale to 3 cups and add in 1 cup of zucchini, broccoli, or cauliflower rice. More veggies and you probably won’t even notice their presence. My favorite!

Sidenote: you can totally make this ahead and freeze it. Do everything up to putting it in the oven and freeze. When you want to use it, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake when you’re ready. So easy!


Greetings from Cloud 9

Greetings from Cloud 9

So, I don’t want to beat a dead horse. Everyone has been talking about how hot it’s been the past few days. But…it’s hot. Like, seriously hot. I have been sweating non-stop for 72 hours. We have no air conditioning in the house, and it also broke in my car. Luckily we have access to a pool, so that’s where we lived this weekend. Yesterday we took the boat out with some friends, and despite the child:adult ratio being a little off, it was a great time. Syd’s first boat ride, and she was awesome.

Then we all went to the pool and the kids barely left the water. Sydney was about 3 hours late for her nap, so I tried rocking her to sleep in 90 degree heat. Fun times.


Regardless, we had a fabulous weekend. I am normally not somebody that absolutely loves summer, since I have a four degree range where I’m comfortable, but this weekend made me happy that it’s here.

Anyway- today I had a follow up with my functional medicine doctor at the Cleveland Clinic. I love it there- I leave feeling so great about the direction my health is taking. We basically just chatted about the supplements/meds I’m taking, what we should switch up or stop, and where to go from here. I was pretty happy with how I’m feeling, until she read my body composition test numbers- I went from happy to ecstatic. I had done the test in January at my initial appointment, and then again today. The body comp test measures your hydration level, body fat percentage, and lean muscle mass. My hydration level increased by a lot. I went from 97# of muscle to 119#. My body fat percentage went from 42% (yikes) to 19%. NINETEEN. Now, I’m not suggesting this is totally accurate. But it’s probably half of what it used to be. I feel so incredible with this information. To see the results on paper is an indescribable feeling. Sometimes I kick myself for not doing this sooner.

One of the first people I called after my appointment was my crossfit coach. He was, of course, super happy with these results. He reminded me of where I was when we first started working together- 35 weeks pregnant, tired, frustrated, ready to give up. I felt like I could barely do anything. Now- I feel pretty damn unstoppable most of the time. I haven’t done anything that crazy, either- just cut out a lot of crap. I’m not suggesting this is easy, but it IS worth it. I’ve said this before, but I cannot emphasize enough how much of an effect this has had on my self-confidence. I am actually, legitimately, happy.

And I’m not done yet.

44 Days

44 Days

Three months ago, I had my initial appointment at the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I left my appointment feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure if I would follow all of these recommendations. It seemed like a lot to take on, and this is coming from someone who has experimented with elimination-style diets before. I own tons of healthy cookbooks, and have a decent grasp on nutrition. But this wasn’t just going gluten-free: I was to eliminate a lot of favorites for a long time, and perhaps permanently. With the encouragement of my husband, family, and friends, I made the leap. This seems a little trivial, so be so concerned about my diet, but food is pretty emotional for me. It’s associated with happiness, holidays, fun family gatherings, traditions, and is my go-to way of connecting with others. You are new in town? Come over for dinner and drinks! You just had a baby? Here’s a quiche, casserole, and dessert! You had a bad day? I made you cookies. And so on.

So, for 6 weeks and 2 days (but who’s counting?) I didn’t have any gluten, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, refined sugar, eggs, beef, pork, or alcohol. The first few days were tough. I had a lot of cravings, and the habit of having a glass of wine (or two, or three) in the evening was still strong. I missed having dessert after dinner (and lunch, and the more-than-occasional breakfast cookies). I struggled with what to eat for breakfast without eggs or cereal, which is what I usually had. I wanted to stop by Starbucks on the way home from Crossfit for a latte, like I did a few times a week. This sucked. So I made a countdown on my bathroom mirror like a prisoner counting down his sentence. This was helpful.

Then, around the 2 week mark, I noticed that my pants fit better. I stepped on the scale and realized I’d lost a couple pounds, but more importantly- I wasn’t as puffy and bloated anymore. I didn’t think I was bloated at all, but apparently I had been that way for so long, I assumed it was extra weight. So, maybe this diet is worth it, I thought. Seeing some results definitely provided some motivation to keep going.

Around week 3, I noticed that my mood and energy had improved. I was consistently happier, joking around, not as impatient with the kids. I felt really happy at the end of the day when Kirk got home from work- not because I was exhausted and ready to hand the kids over to him, but because I missed him and wanted to talk. It was a feeling I hadn’t had in about 4 years, since Reid was born. And, I was continuing to deflate like a balloon. Some friends commented on how I was looking, which was super validating for my efforts. These feelings continued through the completion of the diet, which ended on April 4th when I met with my doctor and dietician again.

There’s so much I could say about my experience, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll try to summarize it.

  • Weight loss: This wasn’t my primary goal (easing my anxiety and boosting energy were) but I figured I’d lose a few pounds. I did not anticipate losing THIRTEEN. I haven’t seen that number on the scale since I got married. I know that the scale isn’t reflective of overall health, but damn. This feels good. I did this without counting calories or macros which was so freeing.
  • Confidence: This is probably related to the weight loss, but I’m so much more confident in my own skin. I even bought a two-piece bathing suit that I might actually keep! And wear! IN PUBLIC!
  • Mood: This was the big one for me. Previously, I was sort of happy. Pretty pessimistic, sarcastic, kind of just making it through the day. I was happy if there was something to actually be happy about, like a fun party coming up, Sydney sleeping well, etc. Now, I feel generally happy most of the time. Of course there are still times I am irritated (I do have 2 small children after all) or upset, but I’m able to get over it/snap out of it fairly quickly. It doesn’t drag me down like it did before.
  • Palate: This was unexpected. My palate has changed a bit. I now happily drink my coffee black, no cream or sugar. A great treat for me is a cashew-raisin-toasted coconut mix, or maybe a rice cake with some almond butter. Sure, I still love the smell of a cake or cookies baking (I’m only human) but I don’t crave these things like I did before. This is huge- I was the kind of person who literally couldn’t walk by a dessert without sampling some. Cookies and brownies didn’t stand a chance in our house. We’ve had m&m’s in our house for several weeks (Reid’s treat for potty related stuff) and I haven’t even thought about them.
  • Energy: My energy levels definitely improved, as did my motivation to do things. I still think there’s room for improvement here, but things are better. I started lifting heavier at crossfit, completing workouts more quickly and with less rest in between rounds, and no longer wanted to just sit on the couch in the afternoon.
  • Habits: Still a work in progress, but a lot of habits have changed. I don’t have a drink every night anymore, nor do I feel the urge to pour a big glass of wine to destress at the end of the day. I don’t search for a snack before sitting down to watch TV, and I don’t always have a snack in between meals. I have a better sense of when I’m legitimately hungry versus when I’m just associating an activity with eating. Frequently, dinner is the last time I eat for the day- no snack before bed. I was unable to do this before.

At my appointment this week, the doctor and nutritionist discussed with me the plan from here on out. Over the next 10 weeks or so, I’ll reintroduce 4 foods: eggs, beef, pork, and soy. I can have some clear liquors and if those are tolerated well, a little red wine is ok. I have ordered a few more supplements to help balance things out, plus a thyroid medication to really help my body feel 100%. I’m so pleased with the results, and think most people could benefit from a diet like this to see how you truly tolerate certain foods. Especially if you feel tired, or bloated, or anxious- it’s worth it. Food is so, so integral to how we think and feel every day!

I would love to hear about others’ stories with elimination diets or how you’ve changed your life. What have you done to feel better?


Two Weeks

Two Weeks

I seriously hate hot weather. I’m not one of those people who can lay out on the beach for hours- first, because I instantly become a hot/sweaty mess, and second, because I have a horrible tendency to get sunburned. Once, Kirk and I were driving in a convertible during the summer to a friend’s wedding, which was about an hour away. I totally forgot that I could get sunburned in the car, and ended up with a seatbelt outline across my chest, which was only accented by my strapless dress that I wore. It was terrible.

That said, one nice part about the summer is that my family is relatively healthy. It’s not a continuous stream of runny noses, coughs, ear infections, and visits to the doctor, with the occasional serious ailment thrown in. That is the season we’re currently in- and I am over it. I would love 24 hours free of coughing and nose wiping. Spring can’t come soon enough.

So as of yesterday, I’m officially 1/3 of the way through the elimination diet. Yes, I am keeping a countdown on my bathroom mirror like I’m in prison. Honestly though, I *think* it’s getting easier. Some of the habits, like a nightly glass (or two, or three) of wine are slowly fading. That’s not to say I don’t still want a little cabernet stress-reliever, but the habitual part of that is fading away. Some habits are still very much there, like having a snack after dinner. Still can’t break that one, although the food has changed from cookies/brownies/ice cream/garbage to a rice cake with cashew or almond butter. So, I suppose that’s an improvement! The hardest part of this is still giving up eggs. My breakfast options are pretty limited without eggs- I think this will be the first food I’ll reintroduce when the diet is over.

I’ve noticed an improvement in my energy, especially that afternoon 2pm-3pm slump. I do think the lack of sugar and booze is helping me sleep better. I think the 5 month old baby is helping me sleep worse, sadly. But, usually after I get up with her (for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time) I fall back asleep quickly which didn’t happen before this diet. I’m also down about 3-ish pounds, which is a nice perk. Weight loss wasn’t my main goal here (although with the absence of wine and sugar, I figured I’d shed at least a couple lb’s) but I’m happy to see some of it go.

One improvement I’d still like to make is getting more veggies in my diet. Usually, if I’m looking for veggies in the morning, I’ll make a veggie frittata or veggie hash with some over-easy eggs. Not an option here. So this is something I’d really like to focus on in the next few weeks!

Off to go shove some carrots down my throat, although they are really just a vehicle for baba ganoush.


Week One

Week One

One week down, five to go with this elimination diet. This week has been hard- staring at the bag of candy we use for potty training and NOT shoveling any into my mouth has been difficult. And not being able to unwind with a glass of wine at the end of the day is a habit that’s going to be hard to break. I stare at the wine rack above the fridge and whisper “I’ll see you soon” like a totally normal and well-functioning adult.

But, I made it. I’ve gone an entire week without cheese, booze, or sugar, among other things. Not having eggs in the morning is tough, but I’ve embraced oatmeal (sort of).

I’m really looking forward to how I’ll look and feel at the end of this- I’m guessing limitless energy and supermodel body? Seems reasonable for giving up sugar and wine for 6 weeks. Especially while raising a tyrant preschooler and a baby. The Oscars are tonight and instead of my standard glass of champagne while red carpet watching, I’m having grapefruit flavored sparkling water in a champagne glass.

My taste buds aren’t fooled.

And while we’re on the subject, quinoa mac & cheese is NOT a good substitute for the real thing. Neither is cauliflower rice for regular rice, cauliflower mash for mashed potatoes, or really cauliflower anything. I have nothing against cauliflower, but honestly- it does NOT taste “just like mashed potatoes.” You know what does? Potatoes. With cream, and butter, and some garlic.

5 more weeks, 5 more weeks…

The diet starts tomorrow

The diet starts tomorrow

No, seriously. It does. The elimination diet, which appears to eliminate all fun, starts tomorrow. I feel semi-prepared, which is good. Super-prepared would be better, although I don’t think I’ll ever get there.

I keep reminding myself of why I am doing this. Because I’m tired of not feeling well. I’m tired of being anxious most of the time, about something. I’m tired of feeling like I don’t have control over my emotions. I’m tired of being tired.

Mothers tend to cut themselves a lot of slack, which isn’t necessarily bad. We do a LOT. Our jobs are 24/7, and we are some of the most badass and efficient creatures on earth. I don’t know what I did with my time before I had kids- how did I think I was “busy?” But I have found myself indulging at the end of the day- wine, treats, sitting on the couch- nearly every day. Just because I made it to the end of the day and kept us all alive. Granted, many days, this is no easy task. I have a small baby who must be with someone at all times or she flips out, and a preschooler who they wrote those “strong-willed child” books for. Strong-willed is the nice way of putting it.

But this has become the norm rather than the exception. One glass of Cabernet turns into two, sometimes three. Chocolate after dinner turns into a treat after lunch AND dinner. And it doesn’t make me feel better- often, the opposite.

I am excited to see how this experiment goes. It’s only 6 weeks of my life.

Happy mama=happy family.