Chicken Pesto Vegetable Soup

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The following post is a bit lengthy, as I describe my experience on the Whole 30 this time around. If you didn’t come here for insight into the aforementioned diet, skip to the bottom of the post for the DELICIOUS recipe details for Chicken Pesto Vegetable Soup which I got from The Scramble*!!!

Whole 30 complete! In full disclosure. I did not accomplish the Whole 30. I had far too many slip-ups to call it such. The rules of the Whole 30 are that if you have a “mistake”– any sugar, any grain, any dairy– and you are to restart your 30 day countdown. That’s right, back to zero.

I didn’t restart. I just kept going. If I were to quantify how much clean eating I accomplished versus how many taboo ingredients I consumed, I’d say I ate clean 98% of the time. So the 2% was my downfall. These “mistakes” were all on the weekend, all with friends, all social missteps from my diet. I don’t intend to justify my fall off the wagon on the weekend.

The triumph for me in my not-a-Whole-30 has been that during what has been a super-busy, super-stressful, super-time scarce moment in my life I was STILL ABLE TO EAT CLEAN. I was still able to meal prep every day. I was still able prove to myself that it is possible to set and keep healthy eating habits even during times when food may not have normally been the focus. For that reality, I AM STOKED!

So the following are some of my take-aways from this round of the Whole 30. First of all, I am always so glad that clean eating shows me the quiet dietary extras I sometimes allow to get out of hand. It starts with breakfast. When I’m not Whole 30ing I almost always have Greek yogurt and a few tablespoons of granola for breakfast. These are my go-tos out of ease. It’s easy to grab a packaged container of yogurt and store a bag of granola in my desk at school.

But what is the nutritional value of yogurt and granola? If I am honest with myself, it isn’t very high. 150 calories with 13 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein. Augmented by 230 milligrams of potassium. However, the calcium is minimal, the vitamin content nonexistent. Don’t stop eating Greek yogurt on my account. I’m sure I won’t. But there are better choices for breakfast.

On the Whole 30 I ate half of a roasted sweet potato, two eggs, and one sausage most mornings. I haven’t calculated the nutritional content, but I know for a fact that the sugar content in that meal is WAY lower in my Whole 30 breakfast meals than it is in a pile of yogurt and granola.

The Whole 30 also helps me to evaluate my snacking. I am prone to pick up handfuls of high carb, low nutritional content munch several times a day. While those bites might not add up to much in one palm-full, they do equate to more empty calories overall, everyday. Over time, those bites and bits at times become binges, and herein is where the problem really lies.

Whole 30 always reminds me that WHOLE food, REAL food, has the ability to satiate not only my appetite, but actually all of my body’s cravings. If a donut and an avocado had the same affect on my body, I could eat a donut a day for the rest of my days. The reality is that constant intake of processed sugars and fats equates to unwanted after-effects on my body each time I consume them. This reminder is key to eating clean and staying clean. It doesn’t mean I’ll never eat a donut again, but it does mean that I’d rather eat an avocado. Truth!

I always see the positive affects of the Whole 30, not only in my diet, but the eating habits of my entire family. My kiddos end up eating a whole lot LESS of the processed crap I sometimes allow to sneak up on the table and into their mouths (yes, this is the stuff they are eating whilst I am being apathetic). I love that we dispense with desert in favor of a piece of fruit. I love that the treats that sometimes linger on the shelves are absent because I’m not buying the for myself or for anyone else. I am pleased when my chicken little tells me that the pesto soup I made (the recipe below) ROCKED his socks off.

To me, these are all positive affects of the Whole 30. Including things like increased intake of ALL vegetables. Learning and remembering that flavor can come from herbs, spices, garlic, and the like is a dream come true for my taste buds. And speaking of taste buds, I feel as though my mouth always undergoes this shift where at some point in the Whole 30 I start to notice that my taste buds are really alive again, as I have previously saturated them with so much sugar that they fail to respond properly to whole foods!

So while my Whole 30 cannot rightfully be called a Whole 30 this time around, it is most certainly they way that I want to continue to eat on a daily basis. In fact, that is another thing that I was reminded of during this not-a-Whole-30. As I neared day 30 for the second time, I remembered my first Whole 30– how excited I was to eat a sandwich, how I couldn’t wait to bite into an ice cream cone, how tempting a donut sounded until the bitter end. This time I started to think about how I didn’t want my diet to change and shift and morph into something else. I still want to eat sweet potato hash and eggs. I still want to consume more vegetables and lean protein. I still want to be able to say that I went the entire week without desert. Not because I forced or convinced myself I didn’t need sugar, but because I didn’t even WANT it!

One indulgent meal once and a while will not keep me from my health goals, but allowing myself simple sugars, and over-processed food day-in and day-out will eventually derail my health and fitness goals. My plan is to complete a mistake-free Whole 30 when we return from vacation in April. At this point, I feel confident in my ability to stay on the train without looking back! On with the recipe! (And your day, if you really hung in here for the entire play-by-play!) Happy Thursday!

XX, Megan

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 15 oz. extra-firm tofu, drained and diced, or use 1 lb. chicken breast, diced
  • 28 oz. diced tomatoes, with their liquid
  • 32 oz. reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. basil pesto, or more to taste

Directions:

 Heat a large saucepan or stockpot over medium to medium-high heat, and add the oil. When it is hot, add the carrots, celery and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tofu (if using chicken add it about 6 – 8 minutes before the soup is done), tomatoes and broth, cover it and bring it to a boil.
Remove the cover and simmer the soup for 15 – 20 minutes until the vegetables are very tender. Stir in the parsley and pesto and let the flavors meld for about 1 minute before removing from the heat. Serve it immediately or refrigerate it for up to 3 days.
This recipe’s original side was a loaf of Italian bread. Instead of bread, I opted for Roasted Spicy Sweet Potato Bites.
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into one, two, or even three inch cubes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp rosemary (or you can use thyme or basil or parsley)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Preheat your oven to 450. Chop the sweet potatoes and put them into a medium sized bowl. Add the olive oil. Mix the dry ingredients together. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil and herbs. Bake for 35-45 minutes turning once halfway through baking. Enjoy!!
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*The Six O’Clock Scramble is a meal planning service to which you can subscribe here. For a fantastic price you will receive 8 weekly meals which means 8 recipes (main course plus a side dish), complete grocery list, the ability to tweak the number of people you are making for, and full nutrition facts.

PLUS tips as to how best to PREP your meal beforehand, add a punch of FLAVOR, and how to SLOW COOK almost every recipe if you’re especially slammed that night. This wonderful service really does live up to it’s name. You can come home at 6 p.m. and be sitting down to a DELICIOUS, HEALTHY, HOME COOKED meal by 6:30 p.m. most nights.

Workwear Wednesday

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Friends, readers, blog followers, HELLO! What a month it has been, and maybe even a little longer than that since I last posted. The beginning of my school year has been a whirlwind– equal parts exciting and overwhelming. I am really loving my time in the classroom. It has been a joy to be able to teach, listen, read, discuss, and see my students growing already!!

I have yet to figure out how this blog will play out in the shape of my current life. The real kicker at this point is TIME. Time for it all. I am sure that many of you can relate to having so much to do, and seemingly so little time to do it all! I am also trying to be conscious of balance! Does that even exist? I posted about BALANCE in the past, and I am echoing my past thoughts when I say that finding that groove, that perfect mix-of-it all is nearly impossible.

However, I also want to eschew BUSINESS or saying that I am busy for the sake of begin busy! I really loath the word busy. I think it has become an excuse for EVERYTHING. Perhaps I will succeed in my effort to label my life and my work inside the home and outside as ENGAGED. At this point it feels as though we are ENGAGED in working on something AT. ALL. TIMES.

I told a close friend that I have felt that if I am sitting down at any point in the day, twiddling my thumbs, I am most definitely missing the point because the TO-DO list is longer than the good folks on Santa’s scrolls!!! 🙂

In this spirit of hanging on to my little piece of the inter-webs, I wanted to give you a little look at my Work Wardrobe. Some of these items are in my closet, some of them are on my wish list, some of them are simply pieces that I think are great in a capsule workwear collection.

I’ve linked all of them below for your shopping pleasure, and I hope to see you back here in the next week or so with some more daily lifestyle inspiration!! Wishing you a Happy Wednesday, and a wonderful rest of your week!

XX, Megan

Toppers: jacket, cardigan, scarf, leather jacket, long cardigan

Shirts: ballet, ruffles, stripe, peplum, swiss dot

Pants: wide leg, leather, pencil skirt, ankle length, straight leg

Bags: burgundy satchel, transport tote, leopard cross-body, backpack, cross-body saddle bag

Shoes: mules, brogues, wedges, flats, boots

Packing (for the Beach): 5 Real Life Tips

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Packing has never been something I look forward to, per se. But I have to admit that the chance to project forward a few days and style up what I’ll be wearing has become more enjoyable for me as I have traveled more in general.

However, if you’re not keen on packing here are some of my tips for keeping it easy and stress-free! Beach, mountains, plains, metropolitan area, or small town– your trip could be long or short. If you stick these 5 easy tips I think it takes some of the pain out of packing.

  1. Pack in advance. 
  2. Make real outfits. 
  3. Choose a neutral color palate. 
  4. Don’t forget your non-clothing items. 
  5. Always go light on the shoes.

Let’s break some of these tips and tricks down a little further.

Pack in Advance

Sometimes I pack up to a week in advance if I already know what I am going to wear. I understand that you packing this far ahead can lead to clothing wrinkle, so you do have to think about that. But I have found that if I pack in advance then I tend not to forget things.

It is on those trips where I have tried to throw everything into my carry-on late the night before that I wind up forgetting my pajamas, swimsuit, underwear, or my toothbrush! Life is busy, at the very least, pack the day before!

Make Real Outfits

This one is relatively new to me, but it has probably been the biggest packing game-changer for me personally. Have you ever shown up to a business trip and somehow ended up packing casual wear rather than the needed business attire? I have.

Have you ever gone on vacation and realized that all those pretty dresses you brought are simply WAY. TOO. DRESSY for the beach house you rented or the resort you’re staying at? I have. Have you gotten to your parent’s house with a HUGE BAG and somehow the random collection of crap that you shoved into that enormous duffle just doesn’t seem to go together?!? I have.

Solution: make real outfits when you pack. This top with this bottom, etc. This dress with these flats. Mix and match to save space all you want, but really try to image the actual outfit you’ll be wearing.

Choose a Neutral Color Palate

Now my tip here is the choose a neutral color palate because neutrals are so easy to mix and match. I really am going to pack black and white and denim for my trip to California, but if you don’t love neutrals you can CHOOSE ANY COLOR PALATE!!!

Do you love blues and greens? Then pack in primarily those colors. Do you favor red or have an abundance of green in your wardrobe? Pack those colors. Choosing a color palate simply helps you to narrow down your choices beforehand. Check and check!

Don’t Forget Non-clothing Items

I no so very guilty of this, but I have a very close friend who happens to be the wife of a dentist who perpetually forgets her toothbrush! The irony is real. However, I have gotten somewhere and realized that if I had done a little prior planning I would have brought my own sunscreen, or I would have made sure to have facial cleansing wipes.

It is these items you would do well to think about in advance. Plus, don’t forget sunglasses, a good book, jewelry (if you wear any), electronic devices and their chargers, and any bags you might need to have when you arrive at your destination. For example, I am heading to the beach, I am going to bring a beach bag with me because I don’t need to buy one once I get there.

Always Go Light on the Shoes

I love shoes. I have many pairs, but when it comes to packing- EVEN IF YOU ARE ROAD TRIPPING- leave the majority of your shoe closet where it is. The main reason being that shoes are bulky, they take up a lot of space, and really how many shoes do you REALLY wear during a weeks’ time?

Ditch the stilettos, sub in your favorite espadrilles, and don’t forget to bring your running shoes!

There you have it. Five friendly packing tips that have made my experiences packing a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable. Wishing you safe travels and happy trails wherever your suitcase, carry-on, duffle, or weekender takes you!

XX, Megan

Links: Sweaters Summerstich Pullover, Black and White Boatneck, Summer Beach Sweater; Leopard Crossbody; Shoes Lace-up Sandals, Espadrilles, Birkenstocks (not pictured); Blouses 1, 2, 3, 4; Tees 1, 2, 3; Shorts 1, 2, 3, 4; Pants 1, 2; Swimsuits 1, 2; Hat 1, 2 (not pictured); Dress 1 (not pictured);

Just White

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I get warm and happy just looking at these pictures. The sun has returned, and this was really the first warm day we’ve had in two weeks! We’re supposed to get more rain and gray this weekend, but those forecasts seem to change even hourly. So maybe we’ll have a little sunshine for Mother’s Day despite the weather report.

Lovin’ an all-white outfit this fine Thursday. I hope you all have a beautiful Cinco de Mayo. My boys will be kite flying and eating as much salsa and chips as their tummies can handle. Tacos for dinner and drinks on the deck. Yay!

Have a fantastic Thursday, friends!

XX, Megan

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Shirt: Banana Republic, Flares: Joe’s Jeans, Cardigan: Splendid, Bag: Madewell, Shoes: Splendid (or here), Sunglasses: Karen Walker Super Duper, Necklace: Gorjana Knox, NARS: Orgasm Lipgloss

Land Locked

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This outfit is the epitome of easy-casual. That’s right, it’s not just casual, it goes further into the EASY casual realm. Basically what I’m saying is that this rig is one step away from scrubs, or an all-velvet track suit. Yes, that’s all that separates me from the category of a pajama dressing. Which is a thing, if you’ve kept any sort of tabs on Spring 2016 runways.

I shouldn’t do such a disservice to these uber comfortable linen pants. Maybe I should have begun by stating that they are the epitome of casual-cool. That’s better. Now I’ve brought this entire ensemble more street cred.

The best part about an outfit this effortless is that it will take you through an entire day of running, writing, cooking, choring, carpooling, cleaning with complete ease. So here’s to Tuesday, and the fact that it is no longer Monday!!

XX, Megan

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Shirt: H&M, Pants: Ann Taylor (similar, similar, similar, similar), Bag: J.Crew (similarsimilar, similar, similar), Shoes: Birkenstock, Sunglasses: Karen Walker Super Duper, Watch: Pope Watch Co., Cuff: Madewell, Bracelets: J.Crew, Earrings: Madewell, Lips: NARS Barebella

Spring Dress: Take 2

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As I write this, the snow falls like white confetti, tossed by bitter Spring winds to the ground. Brrrrrr! I’d rather remember the warmth of these sunshiny shots than admit that I’ve turned the heater up twice this morning! LOL!

I wore this dress earlier in the Spring, here, and it is such an easy piece I couldn’t help packing it up for my little vacation in Scottsdale, Arizona. It proved to be the perfect day to night dress, and I’ll be wearing all Spring and through the summer I’m sure.

I’ve shopped some other Spring dresses below, so be sure to check those out. I hope you are all having a blessed Tuesday, whatever your week has presented to you!

XX, Megan

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Dress: Madewell, Watch: Pope Watch Co., Bag: Madewell, Cuff: Madewell, Sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, Sandals: J.Crew (similar), Earrings: Anthropologie, Hat: Gap, Lips: NARS Cruising

Saturday Night Special

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We’ll be eating out as a family this Valentine’s day, but I couldn’t resist posting a date-night look for those of you who will be hitting the town tomorrow (or tonight).

It stands to reason that I always opt for the most unreasonable, unseasonable clothing for date nights. In this case, probably the skirt. You know what Cake says, “Short skirt, long jacket.”

And speaking of jackets, I’ve had this baby since college and I just gave her a refresh with all new buttons last week. What do you think? I’ve linked some other camel coats below in the details as this one’s time stamp makes it a true vintage piece.

May your Saturday be full of happiness!

XX, Megan

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Coat: Vintage J.Crew (similar, similar, save, splurge, splurge, splurge), Shirt: Madewell, Skirt: Lucky (on sale!), Shoes: Nine West, Bag: Hobo, Sunglasses: Karen Walker Super Duper, Necklace: J.Crew, Earrings: J.Crew, Lips: Stila Beso

Already Sweater

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Yes, this year is already sweater. I can’t help myself. Comfy, cozy, cuddly, warm, fuzzy, wooly. I want them all!!!!!!

I featured this sweater in a more festive outfit earlier in December. It is warm staples like these that will carry those of us in mountain climes through the winter.

However, if your climate is more temperate– maybe even ranging into balmy– remember that there is a witching hour each morning and evening where an extra layer is a MUST. This sweater is the perfect throw on after dinner for a walk in the city, or cozy up on the couch with the windows open in the evening.

Or if, like me, you are experiencing drops into the teens, tens, and negatives, this you’ll probably be wearing this sweater layered with something even more warm and puffy!

Here’s to clothing as temperature control, and wearing your favorite pieces in every climate! Happy Tuesday, gang!

XX, Megan

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Sweater: Joie (here, similar, save, splurge), Bodysuit: American Apparel, Pants: Lucky, Belt: Target, Boots: Joan of Arctic, Socks: J.Crew, Necklace: Vintage, Earrings: Vintage, Cuffs: Vintage and Banana Republic, Ring: Target