Creamy Tomato Soup

This bad boy was my favorite discovery of my Whole30. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve made a batch of it every week for the past five weeks. No joke, it’s that good. And that easy–which is extremely helpful when you’re diving into a completely new way of eating and looking for anything familiar to cling to 🙂

Easy, delicious, and versatile. The inspiration recipe here is pretty basic, but I’ve given it a bit of zhoozh each week by adding extra veggies, different proteins, more/less balsamic, different herbs, etc. You can literally do anything to the basic recipe and it will remain amazing. You can even eat it cold (gazpacho, anyone?) and I bet it would serve as a great marinara over some zucchini noodles…or pasta, if you eat that stuff, you lucky bastard.

Oh, and finally, don’t fear the coconut milk here–used as the “cream” in this creamy tomato soup. It will not add a coconut flavor to your soup, you will not notice it’s presence other than the delightful silkiness it adds to the dish.
Blueberry Muffins(via)

Creamy Tomato Soup

2 tablespoons oil or cooking fat of choice
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 large stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed, diced or whole peeled tomatoes
1-1⁄2 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock if making vegetarian)
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried basil), plus more for garnish if desired
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


  • In a large soup pot that is already hot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and sauté until softened. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients, and simmer for at least 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Carefully pour a cup or two of the soup mixture into a blender (until it is only halfway full) and puree until smooth. Remove to a separate soup pot or container, and repeat with the remaining soup mixture, working in batches. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup mixture—or you can skip blending and enjoy the chunky texture of the soup.
  • Serve hot (or cold!), topped with some minced basil for garnish.

Whole30 Update 6: The End Is Near…Or Is It?

Well, that’s that. My first Whole30 is technically in the books. Why technically?

Because as I’ve been trying to figure out how to navigate the recommended reintroduction phase, I’ve become more and more apprehensive about going back to old habits–habits or foods, really, that I know were not conducive to my health and, (at this point) more importantly, my weight loss.

I have had some huge Whole30 milestones. For example, in the past 30 days: 

  • I’ve lost 23 pounds. Day 1 I weighed 335, this morning I clocked in at 312.
  • The inches have been melting off and I’m seeing new muscle definition (I’m kicking myself for not taking measurements on Day 1!)
  • I usually have crazy high energy
  • Workouts are much stronger
  • My mood feels much more stable
  • My skin is clearing up (for the most part)
  • Best of all, I don’t feel the urge to binge. Like, at all. I had a frustrating day at work on Monday and it didn’t even occur to me that I should soothe my soul with a stop at the drive-through. My brain instinctively knew it needed to workout.

So, why would I give all that up now just to enjoy a few bites of non-compliant food? 

I did decide that I would follow a revised reintroduction plan, testing a handful of foods that I “miss” or that would make life more convenient/delicious. I posted about this a bit in a previous update, but here’s my official test list:
IMG_20140318_201406The way reintroduction works is you pick one of the four groupings (for me they are sugar, dairy, gluten-free grains, and legumes), and test each for a day, eating something from that group with each meal. Then you go back to strict Whole30 for two days to see how it affects you. I’m going to be testing each group, but if I don’t notice any odd reactions, I may only wait a day or not at all before testing the next group. I’m also not even entertaining the idea of bringing gluten back. That’s gone for good.

Day 31, today, I’m testing sugar and artificial sugars. My new version of junk food. I had sugar-free creamer in my coffee this morning, sugar-free syrup on my two-ingredient pancake (two eggs, a mashed banana, SO delicious!), and I’ll be eating sugar-free balsamic vinaigrette on my salad at lunch and turkey bacon with supper.
IMG_20140318_201309I tried the creamer in my coffee this morning–the recommended serving size of 1 tablespoon…and had to dump it out after maybe half a cup. It was so incredibly and artificially sweet. The taste is still in my mouth now, a few hours after the fact. Yuck. So, no, coffee creamer will not be going back in my diet.
IMG_20140319_102211The syrup on my pancake was also sweeter than I expected, so I think I’m going to ditch the fake stuff and “invest” in some genuine maple syrup. And I’m expecting similar results from the two remaining foods. I don’t know if any of these items will be going back into regular rotation. In fact, at this point, I highly doubt they will. Sugar is in everything, but I’m going to do my damnedest to avoid it.

Tomorrow or Friday I will be testing dairy: goat cheese and Greek yogurt, maybe some froyo. Probably not, but maybe. But again, if it doesn’t work for me, it won’t be coming back. I’m not about to sacrifice this progress, not when I’m seeing such amazing outcomes.

Everything finally feels like it’s clicking again. I feel in control, I feel strong. I feel like I’m once again Manda Kay, making it. 

Whole30 Update 4: Halfway Point

As of today, I am officially at the halfway point of my first Whole30 journey…and I can’t wait to wrap up the second half. I am so over this. Don’t get me wrong: other than feeling so incredibly bloated today (thanks to a lovely combo of my lady friend and the astoundingly accurate Whole30 timeline), I am still loving the results I’m seeing and feeling. I feel in control of my eating and my cravings, and that’s (obviously) not something I’m usually good at. But I’ve grown tired of having to be so careful and restrictive. No worries–it’s only two more weeks. I can do this.

How do I know? Well, let me tell you a little story from this past weekend. On Saturday, where I danced soberly for the first time in my adult life (Change! Positive body image!), I went to a wedding where the following was placed in front of my face:
IMG_20140301_180716Now, I had come to the wedding prepared: I ate beforehand, brought a healthy snack for during the meal, and even, sadly, ate the salad sans dressing. I guzzled water all afternoon and for the rest of the night. But when this, and the subsequent cupcake, was placed in front of me on the table, I nearly lost it. I got anxious. My foot started tapping and I felt like I couldn’t sit still. I watched intently as my tablemates cut into the chicken and buttered their warm dinner rolls.

It was rough–rougher than rough–but I got through it. I also got through the following day with the temptation of my grandma’s cooking and the sinful breakfast my family devoured in front of me (how dare they!), and then I came home and meal prepped for the week.
20140302_16311220140302_16473220140302_163104Yes, I’m sick of restricting myself so intensely, but…I’m not finding it exceptionally difficult. That intense craving has finally passed. I’m not really craving the foods I “can’t” have…well, except peanut butter. I’d give up my first born for a tablespoon of peanut butter right now. But I digress. I’m feeling in control. I may have had a very vivid dream about binging on Friday night, but the fact of the matter is that I’m 15 days binge free. Huge.

I’m looking forward to seeing what battles and challenges the next 15 days help me overcome.

In little moments, day by day, change is possible. Strength is possible.


Birthday Weekend 2013 (woo hoo!) is officially over. ‘Twas a weird one, yes. But between all the tears, overwhelming emotion, and exhaustion, it was also probably the best birthday I’ve had in years.

IMG_20130920_174203Friday afternoon I headed up to St. Cloud (yes, again) to met up with my cousin, Danielle, for dinner at my favorite Mexican place. But first, disgusting birthday shots with a chocolate milk chaser with my grandma were, apparently, necessary.

IMG_3747IMG_3738Grandma ended up joining Danielle, my mom, and me for dinner. A dinner where we feasted on all of my favorites: daiquiris, chips and salsa, burritos slathered in cheese and sour cream and all things sinful, and the best of the best: Fried. Ice cream.

IMG_3764IMG_376520130920_18243320130920_18282320130920_190339Can you tell the emotional eating was still going strong? Oh, yeah.

20130920_18463320130920_18472720130920_18114720130920_18111120130920_18233720130920_182407After dinner, the four of us headed to a local bar where several more shots and cocktails were knocked back, along with some minor league gambling. Yes, my family is the coolest.IMG_20130920_225554IMG_20130920_225804 IMG_3767IMG_3790IMG_3783IMG_3784IMG_3788Grandma decided it was past her bedtime, so while she and my momma headed home, Danielle and I grabbed a few beers and stirred up a bit of trouble around town. We crashed a party at my aunt and uncles (small town shenanigans), and ended the night back at her house for a slumber party. It was delightful.
IMG_3793IMG_3794IMG_380420130920_192204IMG_3779Saturday, my actual birthday, dawned bright and beaming: endlessly blue skies, sunshine, and a chilly fall breeze. My favorite weather. Danielle and I decided it was absolutely required birthday behavior that we head to our favorite local bakery for donuts and coffee.

20130921_08463320130921_084642IMG_3821Don’t worry, I only ate one…and a half…and two coffees.

We sat outside people watching and generally enjoying the gorgeous morning, After topping off our coffees, we decided that I guess maybe we should do something to work off the excess calories we consumed, so we laced up our sneaks and headed out for a long walk. Good conversation with one of my favorite people? I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed having this girl around.
IMG_3825The day got a little heavy, then, as Danielle had to head off to a wedding, and I had to go to my grandpa’s house to help pack up all his stuff. There’s some sort of odd poetry in packing up all a person’s belongings on their birthday…

Later, I spent some time with my grandpa out at the cemetery, wishing him a happy birthday, crying some happy tears, crying a few more sad tears, remembering all the birthdays we’d shared through the years.

Finally, after a long day, I sleepily drove back to the Cities. After all, I had to get a little shut eye before my 5K race on Sunday! But, so I don’t abuse my photo privileges here, I’ll share more on that amazingness tomorrow!

Magic In Ordinary Times

This past weekend was one of those rare collections of days where everything seems to be happening for a very specific reason, like the Universe is telling you to pay attention.

The message this weekend? Well, there were plenty of them, just read on. But number one with a bullet? You are stronger than you think.
We’re all aware of what happened on Saturday…conquering fears, pushing past limits, breaking down boundaries. Well, my Sunday played out in a similar, though less dramatic, way.

The morning started with yoga in the park with one of my dearest friends. And this was no sluff of a class, either. With the Minneapolis skyline in front of me, and a soft, summer breeze blowing across my face…man, I was blissed in. It felt so amazing to just be, stretch, breathe, and connect with everything around me—especially after the frenetic pace of Saturday! After class, my friend and I were chatting when she suddenly stopped and said, “Look how big we’re both smiling right now! I love it!” That comment stuck with me throughout the day. Do more of what makes you happy.

20130804_09475620130804_09474720130804_110742After yoga, we grabbed a coffee and headed to the Animal Humane Society to play with the little cuties. Old Manda Kay would have had to go home, shower, do my hair and makeup, change, etc. New Manda Kay just changed shirts and went. Makeup-free, sweaty matted down yoga hair. Out the door. You are good enough as is. Don’t waste life worrying on the opinions of others.

We spent a few hours over lunch enjoying a healthy meal, discussing the future, and doing a little house hunting (we’re both looking to move to a new place in the city). Decide what and who to be, then go be it.

After lunch, we headed back to our garden. We weeded, watered, and thinned out. We also got to harvest lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, turnips, and zucchini.
20130804_15480120130804_15182220130804_151325 20130804_204159Later that evening, I did a little experimenting with the carrots and turnips (neither of which I’ve ever enjoyed eating) and created a simple new recipe: pan roasted honey glazed carrots and turnips (recipe coming tomorrow!). Nothing feels better than living a clean, healthy lifestyle.

It was a truly transformative weekend, one that has inspired and motivated me to push harder and keep moving forward. Your journey may be long, but it is always worth it.


Rhubarb Streusel Bread

This recipe was born out of pure necessity. But it’s delicious. So I don’t mind 🙂

While home for the Memorial Day weekend, my mom mentioned that she received a bunch of rhubarb from a neighbor and she would like me to whip up something delicious, please and thank you.
20130623_174455After some discussion and much Googling, we settled on a decadent rhubarb streusel bread from the Taste of Home website. No longer being one to cook with ingredients like oil, butter, and all-purpose flour, I put my own spin on the recipe and healthified things a bit/a lot.
IMG_20130623_183200This bread (which also, obviously,works as muffins) in so incredibly moist thanks to the Chobani—not to mention the extra punch of protein you get, too. Over the weekend, in between thunderstorms, stifling humidity, and losing power, I made a big batch in muffin-form to enjoy for breakfasts and snacks all week.



Rhubarb Streusel Bread
Makes 2 loaves or 16 muffins

1 1/2 C rhubarb, chopped (and thawed, if frozen)
1 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
1 C brown sugar (or 1 C granulated white sugar + 1 tsp. molasses)
1/2 C Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat (I always use Chobani)
1 egg
1 C milk, skim
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour (I use gluten-free)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt


3 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon


  • Add rhubarb to colander over a sink or paper towel, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. Let sit for up to one hour. This helps draw out any excess moisture and any bitterness in the rhubarb.
  • In a large bowl, combine sugar and yogurt. Beat in egg, then stir in milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into yogurt mixture until just combined. Fold in rhubarb. Pour into lined muffin tins or two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.
  •  For topping, in a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes (12-16 minutes for muffins) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.

White Chicken Chili

We’re stuck in a never ending winter here in the good old Midwest. And while it’s completely, soul-suckingly depressing (and cold), there’s not a whole lot you can do to change it (I mean, unless you move). So, if you can’t beat Mama Nature, you can at least make Mama Ruthie’s White Chicken Chili…and let the warm spiciness transport you somewhere warm.

My mom usually doubles this recipe and freezes half. I’d recommend you do the same, so that way you’ll have soup on hand for when the snow flies on Memorial Day…stupid winter…

White Chicken Chili
Makes about eight 1 1/2 cup servings

1 tbsp butter (I use light butter)
1 1/2 C celery, chopped
1 C yellow onion, diced
1  green pepper, chopped (when doubling the batch, Ruthie uses 1 green and 1 yellow/red/orange pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cans great nothern or cannellini beans (look for reduced sodium varieties)
1 C chunky salsa (I use Mama Ruthie’s salsa because it’s the best, duh)
3 C chicken, cubed (about 2-3 chicken breasts)
2 tsp cumin
2 bay leaves
1/2 C fat-free half & half
2 tbsp cornstarch
salt & pepper


  • In a large dutch oven, melt the butter and add the celery, onion, pepper, and garlic. Add a dash of salt and pepper, and saute the veggies until softened.
  • Add the chicken broth, beans, salsa, chicken, cumin, and bay leaves. Stir to combine.
  • Place the half & half and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly stir the slurry into the soup.
  • Bring the pot to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  • Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes or longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chocolate Protein Pancakes

Lazy, gray Sundays call for extra coffee, a permanent spot on the sofa…and pancakes.
stack full on

Lots of pancakes.

But these are not your average carby, fluffy, full of calories flapjacks. These babies are loaded with protein, low in calories and carbs, and just as indulgent as the real deal.


You just won’t need to full guilty all day after you scarf down a plateful. Or four.

Chocolate Protein Pancakes
Makes 6-7 smaller pancakes

1 ripe banana, smashed
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I love Designer Whey)
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp flour of choice (optional, but helps thicken the batter)
dash of salt


  • Mash the banana with a fork. Mash it real good.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients.
  • Spoon the batter into pan. These cook up pretty quickly, so watch them closely. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side (if that). Cover in maple syrup, slather in peanut butter, top with sliced strawberries…the possibilities are endless!

Eat Your Veggies!

Carbs are my weakness. Above any and everything else, I love carbs. Bread. Oh my god, I love bread. And cake and cookies. Potatoes? In every form, yes.

For some reason, I’ve always thought of cauliflower as a high-carb vegetable. It looks starchy and the white color is misleading, in my opinion. But it’s not. One cup of cauliflower has only about three grams of carbs and 25 calories. That stinky veggie has got some great stats!

Similar to when I discovered overnight oats, a lot of bloggers have been posting their recipes for cauliflower pizza crust—a super low-carb substitute for the carb-heavy, gluteny, flour-based real deal.
3 angleI’ve got to say: this stuff is legit. After several misfires, including a burned bowl of cauliflower and a crust I couldn’t get off the tinfoil, I perfected the perfect alternative pizza crust.
burnAnd the real test? I got my dad to eat it. And he even enjoyed it! Right, Dad?


Oh, and Mama Ruthie helped me perfect the recipe. Really, though, she just stood around, looking pretty…
Mom use

Now I’m intrigued to try all the other vegetable-based alternatives to some of my favorite carby dishes: cauliflower mash and rice, pumpkin brownies, almond flour in my breads. Gotta sneak those yucky vegetables into my diet any way I can!

Complex carbohydrates, I’m gonna try real hard to quit you once and for all, you delicious devil.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Makes 3 crusts

1 head of cauliflower
2 large eggs
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese (reduced-fat, if you can find it!)
1 tsp basil
1 clove garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano


  • Remove cauliflower florets from the stem, chop into small-ish pieces. Toss cauliflower into food processor and pulse until it’s the consistency of rice.
  • Cook cauliflower in a large bowl in the microwave for approx. 8 minutes. To ensure it doesn’t burn, stir it every few minutes.
  • Once cooked, let cool for several minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and scoop on to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Shape into a crust and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375° until crust is lightly browned.
  • Top with your favorite pizza toppings, making sure they’re all pre-cooked since the pizza won’t be in the oven long. Return the pizza to the oven and cook for 3-4 additional minutes.

Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

Not much has changed over here—I’m still a bit of an emotional hot mess. A little less of a hot mess, but a mess I am nonetheless 🙂

When Im feeling a little raw around the edges, one of the things that helps keep me physically on track is indulging in my favorite comfort foods–once I’ve made them over into healthier options, of course. When I’m stressed or bummed out, a giant salad is just not going to cut it. If I go that route, history has shown time and time again that I’ll be shoveling the Ben & Jerry’s into my face in a matter of minutes. So tricking myself with delish secretly good-for-me food is the way to go.

On that note, let me tell you: I love a good a meatball. Slather it in a gravy or red sauce, slap it on a hoagie bun or pop ‘em on a pile of pasta and I’m a happy girl.

Healthy? No way. But swap the ground beef for turkey, sauté some mushrooms and onions with balsamic vinegar, bake them instead of fry, and you’ve got the makings for a revamped, slimmed down meatball that you can toss in just about anything. Like a giant salad.
Photo 5Photo 7

See? Compromise. It makes the world go ‘round.

Balsamic Turkey Meatball
Makes approx. 2 dozen meatballs

½ Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 20 oz. package of extra lean ground turkey
1 large egg
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
dash of chili powder


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Add olive oil to a pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion and saute until onions are softened and translucent.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and let the mixture cook until the vinegar is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Meanwhile, mix ground turkey, egg, and spices in a large bowl. Add the cooled onion, mushrooms, and balsamic mixture and mix to combine.
  • Begin to form the mixture into balls—it will be very wet, so I wouldn’t recommend attempting to roll them into balls. Form the balls gently with your fingers, then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes and then eat up!